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About – Dark Nights White Soul

La Noche Oscura de Alma is a Spanish expression which refers to a deep and almost traumatic spiritual experience, called The Dark Night of the Soul. It is commonly associated with the spiritual writings of the 16th Century Christian, Spanish monk and mystic – Saint John of the Cross  or San Juan de la Cruz (24 June 1542 — 14 December 1591).

La Noche Oscura describes a spiritual and emotional state when a faithful religious devotee finds the usual feelings of spiritual comfort and consolation absent from their lives. Rather than experiencing the closeness, warmth and illumination they normally associate with devotion to God, they in fact find themselves in a state of distance, absence and darkness. The pilgrim’s religious experience is transformed from feelings of God’s presence to a profound sense of God’s absence. It is as if the religious believer enters a period of depression, abandonment and aridity – another analogy for the Dark Night being the Desert. This process of spiritual and emotional transformation is usually perceived by the religious devotee as a ‘negative’ one and the believer often assumes something has gone wrong in their relationship with the Divinity. Although a sense of God’s absence can often be triggered by conscious or unconscious immoral behaviour, in the case of the Dark Night this is a mistaken assumption, something else is at work. In fact, according to some of the great mystics, what is actually happening is a new stage of intimacy with the Divine. The process though painful is a purification of the believer’s physical and emotional senses and a purging of the person’s faith – i.e. trust in God. As one writer in the Bible states, describing ‘faith’:

  

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

 

When we walk in darkness we naturally cannot see what is ahead or around us, we must trust, have faith that we walk on the right path.I think La Noche Oscura is a helpful metaphor for explaining not only the individual person’s experience of painful spiritual transformation, but also the bleakness of my brother’s question to organised religion – why?

(See La Noche Oscura – Why?)

My thesis is that, not only may many Christians and non-Christians be experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, but that the Christian Church and perhaps other religious traditions as well, are also ‘lost at sea’ in the seemingly impenetrable darkness of a Night of the Soul. In Dark Nights White Soul, I argue that it is only by embracing the apparent harshness and hostility of the circumstances towards traditional Christian belief that a fruitful and fresh, life giving expression of contemporary, yet faithfully traditional religion can be founded. I argue, that La Noche Oscura is where we are at. We cannot escape it. Therefore, open wide your arms to the black, night of faith and leap out into a new world where God has been, if not wholly, well partially, eclipsed and discover if there is something beyond the harshness of daily circumstances. Might there not be an unknown, yet somehow knowable some-thing (Is that the right word?), out there that can carry the heavy existential weight of your soul? Perhaps, by throwing ourselves into the barren Night of faith we might be lead to new shores in the adventure of Life, Death and God.

2 comments

  1. I think Mother Teresa experienced a Dark Night of her soul, which went on for years. There is a biography of hers called “Come be my light” which is based on some of her letters to a spiritual advisor. It’s very interesting. You have described this process very well. Cheers, Sonia.


    • Yes, I have heard this from several friends. It’s amazing really to know that Mother Teresa could be so faithful and productive for so many years in helping the vulnerable, weak and poor, yet be going through a dark night of the soul for so long. It is encouraging and inspiring. I have heard of the book Come be my light I will look out for it. Thanks, Sonia, for your encouragement. David



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