You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world,
for the fire makes a circle
so that no one sees you anymore.
But darkness holds it all:
the shape and the flame,
the animal and myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight —
and it is possible: its great strength
is breaking into my body.
I have faith in the night.--Rilke
THE DARK NIGHT
REMINDERS; I’m always doing my very intentional best to be talking from direct experience. Not theory or philosophy. Not dogma.
Please listen with Open field listening. The mind will start to question, argue, debate, oppose. But beyond the mind is an open field of listening-ness of unknowingness.
Always, always, always follow one’s own direct experience and path. Don’t give over one’s authority.
Using the word God to denote Source. The Ground of Being. That which animates. THAT from which “I” comes. UNCAUSED LOVE
Many many accounts of the dark night. And people use the term differently. And the dark night itself continues to evolve. There is no finish line. The dark night itself is like an evolutionary spiral that every time we get settled or comfortable or thinking that we have somehow landed, the dark night comes to shroud what we have previously known and move us off our ledge back into the Unknowingness, the mystery, the free fall into the depth of the Ground.
Begin with history of the term: St John of the Cross. The patron saint of mystics. 1542-1591. Christian mystic poet. Meaning someone who is experiencing God without images or concepts. Source as an essential mystery. The 16th century was a time of great upheaval. Great changes in the fabric of society. Reformation. Collaborator with Teresa of Avila to return the order of the Carmelites back to the roots. Very practical every day working priest. He called himself a guide rather than a spiritual director. He encouraged everyday acts of kindness rather than experiences to satisfy personal needs and not for God. God is not some object out there but an inexpressible mystery who is both near to us and beyond us and our imaginings and thought. John says that the Father (Parent of All) spoke one Word, which was his/her/its Son (THE BODY OF EXISTENCE), and this Word is spoken always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul. John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God.
Is sometimes delineated into sense, soul and spirit and/or passive and active. Active being phases when we are actively seeking God and passive being phases when God is transforming us. I hesitate to say first dark night or second dark night. Or use categories that would encourage the mind to narrow, categorize and delineate. We all know that Reality is fluid, dynamic and creative. And we are the expressions of that dynamic creative eternal flow.
What do we mean by the dark night? Some of us will equate darkness with the shadow of the psyche. The unconscious. Or we sometimes will use the phrase dark night of the soul to describe a time of challenge such as grief or depression.
But the way we are using this phrase today is rather to indicate a radical process and shift or dislodging of one’s sense of identity or self. A transformation in who we feel ourselves to be. Losing who we thought we were. Radical ontological shift. Our questioning begins to permeate the foundations of our existence. Who am I? What am I? Where am I?
Existential in nature. A complete transformation and transmutation of one’s felt sense of identity. The felt sense of “myself” is permanently changed. And there is an ever deepening experiential Unknowingness at the center and beyond.
FROM MIRABAI STARR:The soul in the dark night cannot, by definition, understand what is happening to her. Accustomed to feeling and conceiving of the Beloved in her own way, she does not realize that the darkness is a blessing. She perceives God’s gentle touch as an unbearable burden. She feels miserable and unworthy, convinced that God has abandoned her, afraid she may herself be turning against him. In her despair, the soul does not recognize that God is teaching her in a secret way now, a way with which the faculties of sense and reason cannot interfere.
At the same time that the soul in the night of spirit becomes paralyzed in spiritual practice, her love-longing for God begins to intensify. In the stillness left behind by its broken-open senses and intellect, a quality of abundance starts to grow inside the emptied soul. It turns out that the Beloved is longing for union with the lover as fervently as she has been yearning for him. . . . God will whisper to the soul in the depth of darkness and guide it through the wilderness of the Unknown until it is annihilated in the flames of perfect love.------ Mirabai Starr
There is for many of us an event. An experience of chaos, tragedy, hitting bottom, deep grief, heart rendering, crisis. Where we are unable to prop up our world by the regular means. That prompts us to hit rock bottom and therefore seek solace in a new way. We start seeking God in earnest. Almost always in response to a sudden event or crisis. Most people will refer to the event itself as the dark night. And it certainly is a part of it , a catalyst you might say. A door way into. It prompts us to look for a better way, change our habits our conditioning, take moral inventories, discover patterns. We set out to uncover the programming of the ego-self, the me at the center of experience. Exposes the “juice” of ego system. (Eg, when this happens, I inevitably respond by doing this, and it inevitably leads me down a road of disharmony and so I want to make different choices.) So its a relentless process of becoming aware of our conditions, programs, agendas for happiness. It is an act of radical sincerity and honesty. Discipline and courage. The center of will is still intact and still making choices. Is still identified as the self. The self that is seeking GOD. Active night of the senses = How we can bring our ego selves in closer proximity to the goodness of GOD. (“Ego consciousness is that in man which goes in pursuit of GOD”—Bernadette Roberts.)
Many of us will find beautiful road maps during this phase. Like the enneagram, astrology, archetypes, sacred contracts, yoga, mystical literature, intelligent design…..etc. this is the phase of healing, reprogramming, expanding into a greater view of oneself. A phase of deepening compassion for oneself and others through truth telling and forgiveness. Takes a lot of courage and stamina! Conversion experiences and infusions of Grace, flow states are like bread crumbs that keep us going. Divine sweetener replacing ego juice so that we have the energy to keep going. Most books and teachers are geared towards helping this phase of spiritual development.
We are beginning to realize and experience ourselves as something beyond this center of thought, belief, feeling, doing ego self.
Ego self : The me that is making its way back to Source or connecting with Source or becoming closer to Source is eroded in this uncovering. The center that maintains the separate me.The center of energy that is experienced as the center of life, and being. Not the energy that energizes the senses or the processes of the body/thought/feeling. The center of will power and volition. The center that we sometimes refer to as soul. Center of bodily existence. The center me that is somehow separate from Source is becoming less and less consolidated. Its breaking apart, cracking open.
The passive night of the senses is when the divine sweetener, Grace, is not directly perceived. The big experiences of conversion and flow are suspended. Our journey can seem dry, arid, meaningless. The path or the tools of the path (mantra, yoga poses, rote prayer methods of all kinds) come up empty. They no longer give us the experience of divine infusion. This prompts one to explore why they are on the spiritual journey. For pleasure, for heightened states, for ego inflation, for righteousness? The spiritual ego has a wonderful image of itself and likes to maintain it. And many will find new, improved and more glamorous paths at this point. New teachers, new systems and methods anything to distract and occupy oneself from this dark night of senses (passive). One either moves beyond “what’s in it for me” or not.
All the while we are seeking our SOURCE, simultaneously, in the dark, in the quiet, SOURCE is drawing more and more near. The experience of God deepens. One’s devotion and commitment deepens. And it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate in the old way of a solid “me and everything else”, including God. That operating system, way of seeing, has been enough eroded, diminished, broken down that we find ourselves able to be fairly quiet at the center. Able to sink-in to silence, the Presence of Source and commune. Able to feel the stability and joy and peace of Source.
At some point this sincerity and willingness has eroded enough of the “me” center that the center actually gives way. and suddenly in a lot of cases is shattered or burst open. I say shattered because it leaves a lot of raw edges. What do I mean given-way at the center? The area of experience, usually found somewhere between the navel and the belly button. A center of gravity with purpose and will. The pick myself up by my bootstraps area. The “I need to get centered area”. The area that seeks. Including the seeker of Source, the area that goes in search of betterment, and connection with higher power. The area of personal will, personal seeking, personal referencing, the doer is returned to its Source. The knowing mind is plunged into darkness. In this case I couldn’t read or name or reference. The operating system had gone off-line. And there is an experience of direct, unmediated, unified reality. We are no longer living on our own terms or using our personal will to formulate and initiate plans. We have succumbed, given-way at the center. Where there used to be an ego self and a God there is now an empty no-thing-ness.
Also the shattering of the personal will is an experience of one’s helplessness. Humility. A bomb has gone off in the center and now everything in the psyche and therefore the life is transformed according to Divine will. Very humbling.
Everything begins to be consumed by the fire of unitive Love. Cremation and transformation that is not of the ego’s will or plan. The journey is beyond the intellectual mind. Takes years to adjust. Its an upheaval. Radical, essential shift at the existential level of experience. Life circumstances often radically change. Relationships, locations, occupations, orientations all may all shift according to the soul’s plan. This can be excruciating on many levels. The somebody we thought we were, the somebody we have been improving, is now gone. And we are faced with emptiness, no-thing-ness at the center. And life can look like a chaotic, painful mess for awhile.
This can be very painful for some folks who have had a very deep relationship with Source as an other. And also the realization that everything so far has been done for the ego’s sake not God’s is a painful revelation. That the felt center was actually the personal self, the ego self, not Source. Can actually be excruciating to see nothing at the center. The felt absence can be very painful. We are coming to terms with the impermanence of the ego self. The ego self has literally died.
Simultaneously, a sense of born again. New, fresh Very disorienting. Like waking up and having up be down. Radical change in the felt sense of identity. Change in occupancy. But the dark center is actually the presence of God without the overlay of the ego self. So it is felt as an absence, a darkness but is really a radiance beyond all notions of dark and light. Like when you stare directly at the sun your vision goes dark. We become more and more able to navigate in the dark. That is, without personal will and ego self.
FROM RAM DASS:If you have spent your whole life becoming somebody and having something and then with awakening you turn around and you start the journey in the other direction of becoming nothing becoming nobody and having nothing it would seem to make the whole first part of life meaningless or some sort of error. But its important to see that this sequence is a necessary sequence, that when one take incarnation in an evolutionary moment when one is going to awaken, you still have to become somebody and become grounded on earth before you can do the spiritual work. Part of the experience of living richly has been identification with the desires and emotions, with the passions of life, with the hatreds and the joys, with the mellow drama. Each of us has an intense drama going on around ourselves. Will we , won’t we, can we, can’t we, should we, shouldn’t we? And with awakening one begins to see the way one has been trapped in one’s story line. But it doesn’t mean the story ends. The Ram Dass story is alive and well. The only question is, Who’s living it?—Ram Dass
A time of fire. We become aware of ourselves as One with God. The realization, the experience is that God is no longer a thing outside of oneself, but an inexpressible mystery living AS oneself and everything else in existence. The flame continues to burn. And continues to light up and burn through the roots of the ego self, one’s precious pearls of identity. The process is often excruciating. One’s illusions, expectations and conditions about oneself are burned through. One’s illusions, expectations, and conditions about God are stripped away and burned through. As are One’s illusions, expectations and conditions about Reality. One becomes soberingly aware of reality as Reality actually IS on Reality’s terms.
We burn in the Holy Fire, the Divine flame. And the flame of the Eternal Heart, the Holy Fire burns and shines and illuminates all the dross, the obscurations, the false notions, the mistaken identities. Process of purification or cremation. Burns the mistaken self to the ground. Its a time of deep surrender and radical awakening. Oneness. Love. Union. My creator and I are One.
As expanded as and empty as the center has become, the remnants of a “me” are still intact and the center continues to dilate. The holy dark continues to permeate. This is where folks might start hanging out with the idea of co-creation. Two distinct things co-creating. Me and my divine co-pilot. Good servants. I experienced a compelling craving for quiet and opportunities to rest in silence in this phase. Many, many hours of sitting in silence while the fire burned through the conditions of me-ness.
The Dark Night of the Spirit is when the flame goes out. We’ve been burning with the flame of God. Standing and purifying in the divine fire. And the center has been becoming increasingly clear of identifications and “me”nesss. A majority of the edges of the shattering have been returned to Love. And then at a certain moment of Grace, unsought, unexpected and undreamed by the ego…….the self-conscious, reflexive mechanism you might call the doer or the narrator or the feeler is cut off. The dark night of the spirit is in the dark, empty center. We don’t have any stories to tell. We don’t know what is in need of purification or how it will be purified. No Narrating. No doing. There is no will. No path. No map. No explanation. No insight. No revelation. No intuition. God works in mysterious ways. In the Unknowing. Now there is no center. No outside or inside. No edges. No circumference. No self. An awake gaze remains. Its not that two things come together to be reunited its that we realize that separateness has never existed. We are THAT. Identity radically shifts to THAT. The Love that lights the world. All of existence. IS AS. Oneness, two becoming One shifts to Wholeness or Fullness. Or more accurately, to THAT which has no notion of division. THAT which is prior to all experience, existence, opposites and therefore can’t be described in any way. Simply IS without opposite. IS without other.
There is an adjustment period to this absolutely new condition or way of Being. Which is the understatement of all time!!!!! Lol.
Whoever knows how to die in all will have life in all. St John
And even after the No Self condition the dark night can come round. Ash and bone phase. Felt as if I was walking through knee deep ashes. All the beauty and shine, the experience of illuminated existence stopped. Even my most cherished love objects held no meaning. Even Love itself, the experience of creation As Love went dark. Stark void experience. All sense of Grace stopped, while the Great Mystery of Ineffable Love silently filled the void. This phase involved the rewiring of the affective nervous system.
And now the Way is almost completely in the dark. There is only immediacy. Free falling immediacy. Embodied Simplicity. Unadorned and naked living of this particularity of extraordinary ordinariness.
By Farid ud-Din Attar
(1120? - 1220?). English version by Coleman Barks
The sun can only be seen by the light
of the sun. The more a man or woman knows,
the greater the bewilderment, the closer
to the sun the more dazzled, until a point
is reached where one no longer is.
A mystic knows without knowledge, without
intuition or information, without contemplation
or description or revelation. Mystics
are not themselves. They do not exist
in selves. They move as they are moved,
talk as words come, see with sight
that enters their eyes. I met a woman
once and asked her where love had led her.
"Fool, there's no destination to arrive at.
Loved one and lover and love are infinite.”
Can we experience what is happening today, with all of the upheaval and dissolution, as a collective dark night? A collective transmutation/evolution, of the Earth and THE BODY? A time of deep unknowing where our previous understanding of reality is being dislodged and the mysterious workings of the Ground/Source are shrouded from the mind’s reason? How can we learn to trust this journey of dark Unknowing to lead us beyond sense and reason to a new expression of Love? And still play a vital, authentic role in the transmutation? If there truly is a Participative Reality, it is lived in the Unknown. In the clouds of forgetfulness and unknowingness. The origin of miracles is in Originality/Genesis itself. The one WORD that is eternally spoken in the Ground of silence. This is not a bringing to consciousness as "bringing something to light”. But is rather lived in the unknowing dark as a devoted simplicity of immediate response-ability.
JUST AS THE WINGED ENERGY OF DELIGHT - Ranier Maria Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)
Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the daringly imagined arch
holding up the astounding bridges.
Miracle doesn't lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.
To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words;
denser and denser the pattern becomes––
being carried along is not enough.
Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.