Dark Night of the Soul
(Posted on August 27, 2014 by David McMillin)
[NOTE: While serving as mentor for an online version of “A Search For God” study group and working on the Day and Night lesson, a class member wrestled with the concept of “separation from God”, sharing some rather dark, depressive feelings and a previous experience in which he felt the darkness of separation as a depressive “winter experience” which, in retrospect, he found healing. The following series of replies provides a good example of how a discussion can evolve and yet focus on a central issue relevant to the core of the lesson. – David McMillin]
… as you have noticed, this course is personal – at work, with family, friends, neighbors AND inner attunement. God within and God without – like Day and Night. Two sides of the same coin – yet the coin is one. This lesson is about that aspect of Oneness – how even Day and Night (which can appear to be opposite) are simply part of the same Oneness.
When you have a chance to look over the material for this lesson a little closer, you may want to check out the “Separate Yet One” exercise and see if it relates in any way to your observation that you “often find my opinions at odds with those around me.” That might also be helpful as you continue to reflect on the meaning of “sweet and bitter” that you have been exploring.
With regard to the question of whether we are evolving (collectively), I sometimes find myself pondering the nature of this classroom and whether the point is to work on the lessons or change the classroom. Usually I have found that when I have made progress with the lessons (at the personal level) my PERCEPTION of this classroom (our collective experience on planet earth) seems to shift as well. Like Day and Night, it’s not so much a question of Either/Or – rather Both. Just as the apparent Separation/Oneness duality need not be Either/Or – rather Both.
“This then the final end of each individual soul or being in its evolution to that from which it (the soul) radiated in the beginning, for through the various phases [classrooms] as have been given we find each building, little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept, becoming one WITH the whole, yet not the whole within itself, but within itself wholly within the whole.” (900-348)
So there are many classrooms in our educational experience as souls. Thus we seek to become One with the Whole (God) and yet still retain our individuality – BOTH – like the Oneness of Day and Night.
As usual, your post provides much to think about (and APPLY). Blessings, Dave
That’s a great attitude to have about how to be separate yet one with others who have a different consciousness. Just recognizing that we are all one, regardless how extreme some of us have pushed the envelope of separation, we can just do the best we can to be loving to everyone and leave it with God.
Like you I struggle with the extremes – not so much the suicide bomber who is sincerely confused (but well-intentioned from their own perspective). With the power-trippers and such – I can be lovingly indifferent (“Loving Indifference” exercise from the Love lesson). For me the biggest interpersonal challenge of Oneness is with those who are consciously hurtful of the helpless and innocent (such as serial child molesters). But even there, I can put my psychologist hat on and realize that as children they may well have been victims of such evil themselves.
Fortunately, as part of our soul-development educational plan, a way has been prepared for those of us who have pushed the envelope of separation to its limit. Included in the plan are Opportunities of multiple incarnations in this realm and other planes of consciousnesses within this system (particularly Saturn for the most extreme). And of course we have the examples provided by our Elder Brother and other teachers who have paved the way before us.
At a daily practical level, I really have empathy for my brothers and sisters who are dealing with the extremes of separation and Oneness. For me (and probably for most in this group), the primary daily challenge is to realize Oneness with those closest to us – in the home, at work, at church, etc. Like your situation with your co-workers – separate – different in consciousness – yet part of the same Whole. Challenging, yes – but beautiful too, I think.
Thanks for sharing from your own experience. Blessings, Dave
"As given from the beginning, by becoming aware in a material world IS – or was – the only manner or way through which spiritual forces might become aware of their separation from the spiritual atmosphere, the spiritual surroundings, of the Maker." (262-56)
It seems that you have tapped into the awareness of separation that this material world can provide. Apparently that awareness is necessary and part of the plan. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Fortunately there is always the Opportunity to choose Oneness – with God and others. Then the separation has a purpose – that we may know ourselves to be ourselves, and yet one with the Whole – Separate yet One.
Brighten up my friend – its a new day with plenty of Opportunities to express Oneness. Blessings, Dave
… thanks for sharing more of your deep thoughts on this lesson.
This classroom of earthly experience (with its cycles of Day and Night – light and dark) is GOOD – God created it with purpose and it declares his Glory, BOTH Day and Night:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” (Psalms 19: 1-2)
Day and Night – they are distinct, yet One in God’s purpose. There is meaning, even in the Night phase of this experience. If we miss the Oneness and focus too much on the apparent duality (opposition of light and dark), we can easily end up with heaven and hell, God and the devil, and an eternity of burning in a lake of fire for most of humanity (or its materialistic equivalent as evident is the world around us). That’s the fruit of dualistic thinking. On the other hand, if approached from the perspective of Oneness – then we all make it back to the Source, with our Individuality intact (but PURIFIED) so as to be better companions and co-creators with our Creator. Separate yet One.
The PURIFICATION aspect of our earthly sojourn can be painful if we resist the lessons of life. As you have noticed, it can be a pretty dark experience if we rebel and insist on separation from the Whole. The ASFG lessons to this point have provided us with tools for soul development and gaining KNOWLEDGE of our spiritual Source. Thus even the apparent darkness of extreme separation that this earthly experience affords has a purpose in the soul’s journey back to its Source.
By the way, this lesson is setting the stage for the Destiny trilogy (and especially the Destiny of the Soul). In understanding our Destiny, it is helpful to know from whence we came (our Source in Spirit of which the material realm is only a shadow, per the Faith lesson in ASFG I).
More deep thoughts for you to ponder. Again, thanks for sharing. Blessings, Dave
… your “winter experience” is sometimes called a “dark night of the soul” on the spiritual path. The phrase comes from a 16th-century Spanish poem written by the Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. A lot has been written about this concept and here is a bit from Wikipedia that ties it in very nicely with one of the themes for this lesson:
“Saint John of the Cross' poem narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. The journey is called "The Dark Night", because darkness represents the hardships and difficulties the soul meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator… The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem is divided into two books that reflect the two phases of the dark night. The first is a purification of the senses. The second and more intense of the two stages is that of the purification of the spirit, which is the less common of the two.”
The poem was based on the personal experience of John of the Cross which included imprisonment by his Carmelite brothers, who opposed his reformations to the Order. Many other famous mystics throughout the ages have also commented on the dark, depressive nature of such experiences. In contemporary times, the term “spiritual emergency” has been used in reference to the “dark night of soul”, which is just another way of expressing the “winter experience” that you have noted.
Within the ASFG book text you will find the metaphysical basis for the experience stated like this:
“Before light there was darkness, the darkness of our separation from God. In this night the souls gained knowledge of universal laws through suffering. A way of redemption was prepared through, and out of, this state of separation…
“In each of us there is the pattern of the original state of separation. With the night, there comes to us an opportunity for rest, reflection, meditation, and inspiration; or a time for sin, misery, and mental torture.” (ASFG, Book II)
So the “dark night of the soul” experience can represent part of the soul’s educational Opportunity in this earthly experience of Day and Night. It depends upon what we make of the Opportunity. It does hold the possibility of healing and restoration if we use the Opportunity to focus on Oneness with our Source.
With regard to depression – as a common experience during the soul’s journey through materiality – yes, being in a physical body in a material world can sometimes be depressing. If you recall, we touched upon the potential for utilizing the healing power of depression in the comments during the Opportunity lesson:
“Your experience with the healing power of depression reminds me of a chapter from a book by Thomas Moore: “Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life” (Chapter 7, Gifts of Depression). Just as you have noted, sometimes even challenging psychological states (like mild or moderate depression) can be an opportunity for healing where we can withdraw, rest, take stock of our life, make changes or adjustments as needed, and then move forward. Healing can come in many forms.”
Certainly, depression can be an extremely serious health problem and Edgar Cayce gave over a hundred readings for persons experiencing various forms and degrees of depression. So I encourage anyone seeking more information on this aspect of the “dark night of the soul” to check out the lectures and other resources that are available on my website, particularly the free video on Anxiety and Depression on the Free page:
Thanks so much for sharing from your own very personal experience of Day and Night. Blessings, Dave