The Dark Night of the Soul
The mystical journey through spiritual crisis
The dark night of the soul – or spiritual emergency – is the underbelly of awakening, an aspect of deep inner transformation that is often minimised, denied or misunderstood. When the dark night comes calling, our lives are turned upside down as we descend into the depths of our being. It is a cry from the soul, a yearning to return to our real selves.
My dark night began in 2007. Before it started, I had a vague sense that the persona I had become was not who I really was. As I descended, this outer persona or mask began falling apart. I longed to connect with others who knew this landscape. I wanted to know I was not alone or going mad. I looked for friends or companions who could walk with me at least part of the way. There were few to be found.
In The Dark Night of the Soul: A Journey from Absence to Presence, I act as guide and companion, a soul friend or anam cara who knows the terrain. By weaving my own story together with those of others who have spent time in the underworld, I hope to give succour to all those who find themselves in this place. If that is you, know that you are not alone; we have also experienced the anguish, ecstasy, confusion and clarity, the visceral intensity of spiritual emergency.
The dark night has its own pace and rhythm. It cannot be second-guessed, problem-solved or hurried. At the beginning, it is natural that we do our best to stop it, because it can feel terrifying, shameful and deeply disorientating. We find ourselves no longer able to function as the person we thought we were. Yet there is often a subtle sense of relief at no longer having to keep it all up. This is the journey of becoming our real selves, of becoming truly and deeply present to ourselves.
“During the dark night, I fell apart and was repeatedly broken open. A dynamic deepening into aliveness began, and it continues to this day, albeit in an evolving form. Even though I felt totally unprepared – for none of us can rehearse or prepare for this – I gradually realised there was a profound intelligence at work. Be assured the soul’s call comes only when we are ready, despite our pleas to the contrary. Each of us experiences a unique version of the dark night. For some, it involves a complete upending of life, a cataclysmic falling apart. For others, it is less obviously dramatic; external life continues on relatively unruffled, but seismic changes are nevertheless taking place below the surface. Whatever the particular nature of your experience, know that it is every bit as valid as anything described in these pages.”
Introduction, page 7.
“This falling apart rarely conforms to our notion of how things should be. It is not neat, predictable or orderly. Some of us cannot keep it from infiltrating every aspect of our lives. It does not wait for an invitation..,”
Chapter Two, Falling, page 28
“’Even though some people were supportive, I had never seen anyone go through this. It would have been so helpful at the beginning for someone to say, “You are going through a dark night of the soul. You’re going to think it’s going to be endless. You’re going to want to die to get out of the pain. But this is age-old. This is what the spiritual masters have talked about. You will come out of it better.” Even though I had the inner knowing of that, I questioned it.'”