Getting Used to the Dark Night of the Soul

"Dark Night of the Soul" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Dark Night of the Soul” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

We go through several spiritual stages.

Here’s the trick though:

As you proceed through these various stages, the voice of that which we call “God” may become quieter and quieter until, as in my experience, it goes completely silent.

You see, in the past as I grew closer to what I thought was God, this God helped me proceed. He guided me. I heard things like, “I’m here. Turn right. Turn left. Stop. Rest. Go.”

Then, later in my journey, I heard such things like, “I’m with you. You won’t hear from me much, but I’m with you always.” This was the place where I heard the well-worn phrase, “The teacher doesn’t talk while you’re writing the test.”

But then, in 2009 I had a profound spiritual experience where my theology took a sudden turn. In fact, it disappeared. And “God” went completely silent.

Theology, as useful as it was to me at the time, became… well…  you know the story of Buddha’s raft… once he crossed the stream it was no longer needed. He was grateful for it, but it had served its purpose.

This Buddha’s raft story described exactly what happened to me.

I now know what it is to have peace of mind in regards to this. Yes, the mind can be at peace. It can be at rest. In repose. Tranquil. Always. Finally.

The cloud of unknowing, the dark night of the soul, isn’t a passage, but a place. It’s a state of being. It’s here. Now. Always.

You learn to appreciate where you are, to enjoy the beauty of this place, to be embraced by the Mystery without words and without images.

What if there is no Examiner, and there never was a test, and all this was a fabrication of my mind to concoct and adopt stories that made sense… for a time… and that all I ever needed to do was live in the Blessing of the Benediction of Here and Now?

Last night I stood outside in the bitter cold and looked up at the stars. In that one moment all eternity stood with me. It was full, rich, and enough.

The darkness has become my friend. We’re learning how to adjust to one another.

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6 Replies to “Getting Used to the Dark Night of the Soul”

  1. So by spiritual stages you are making an allusion to Fowler’s stages of faith, traditionally faith in God or could faith in something else – a person, and ideology, philosophy, political movement etc. Then the idea of something not being of use being discarded just as the raft.

    With regards to theology I remember being in a charismatic church where I often heard “this is not just theology” as if to imply theology was second place to “the kingdom” which within that movement was about healing. I often thought it odd that there would be a deconstruction of theology to then be replaced with theology about these things without calling it theology.

    I get it David from what you have said before and what you seem to be alluding to now is the you perceive “God” as thoughts about God with what you say about fabrication of your mind.

    I hear what you say about the Dark Night of the Soul and the Cloud of Unknowing and I am very familiar with these as a state of being. The sense that our thoughts about God are not God, they are our thoughts and any theology associated with them are not God either. Whether we call it theology or not, we can have something that give us a sense of our being.

    With what you share and talk of with losing faith at other times sounds reminiscent to me of the journey Nietzsche had as the son of a pastor, and as a man of his time in the period of the enlightenment losing his faith and having a positive optimism about human endeavour. While at the same time saying “God is dead” and then spending his life trying to fil the vacuum left by God culminating in his “Will to Power” and unfortunately for him, going insane in the last years of his life.

    So if there is no examiner, no test and all there was is to live in the blessing, and there can be a standing with eternity and be enough why is it that life seems so testing oftentimes? In the midst of suffering, I need to know that there is a purpose to the suffering and that good can come out of it. And when I witness injustice, I need to know that truth and justice will prevail. Only then can perfect love cast out my fears and I be free to be, and have a sense of connection with the universe and eternity. And how can love exist perfectly unless it comes from a perfect source?

  2. Hello Donna,

    Thanks for your concern.

    I’m not sure how you have informed the impression of “loss of infilling” from what you have read. Please explain what you mean by “infilling” and why you have come to that conclusion.

  3. By the way Jack I’ve heard many convoluted reaches to explain what terribleness happens to us but the truth is suffering and injustice is utterly pointless and meaningless. For example a Christian mom lost her life fleeing the floods to safety with her baby. She swam as far and as long as she could clutching her baby girl and that’s how the baby was found clutching her cold dead mom. God could have saved both. Pointless. No silver lining, just unimaginable indifference.

  4. Ah you were referring to David’s text.

    In response to what I wrote “in the midst of suffering, I need to know that there is a purpose to the suffering and that good can come out of it” you say “the truth is suffering and injustice is utterly pointless and meaningless.” Why did you respond like that to an expression of need?

    You say “God could have saved” and that God had “unimaginable indifference” in the example you gave. My understanding of what you mean by “infilling” is an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As in Christian teaching, the Holy Spirt, Jesus and the Father are all God, surely if God is as indifferent about suffering as you say, then why would anyone want to have any “infilling” or other intimacy with God in the midst of suffering?

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