Dark Night of the Soul- An Initiation into a Better Life
Are you feeling lost or sad or meaningless or hopeless, or all of them? Almost everyone experiences something like this at least once in their lifetime. You are going through something known as the Dark Night of the Soul. During a spiritual journey, it is common for people to go through this. The dark night can last for a week or twenty years. However long it lasts, the whole purpose of this is to help you reach your spiritual destination- a union with God.
This event is like a curtain on your soul. It is one of the darkest periods of life anyone can go through. Here, you suffer an existential crisis. However, all this happens only to bring you to light. When you feel null and void, you see a grander meaning to life; you see the ‘good’ in life, and you appreciate it more than anything else. It makes you compassionate and kind and humble and thankful for the things you have.
Origin of the concept and the term
The dark night is an age-old Roman Catholic concept, which they referred to as spiritual dryness. For Catholics, this phase is a kind of spiritual crisis which is meant to make you stronger. And it is when you are strong enough that you can continue your journey towards attaining God. One of the most common examples everyone refers to is St. Teresa. Her diaries explicitly state that she felt empty and worthless. Mother Teresa’s is the most extensive case on record. She went through the phase from 1948 to almost until she died (1997).
The other best-documented case is that of the 16th-century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross. His poem is what gave us the name Dark Night of the Soul. In his poem, he talks about the journey of the soul towards a magical reunion with God. He calls the dark night a necessity if one is on the path to Divine Union. And for this journey, he mentions two phases- purification of senses and cleaning of the soul.
Soul Signs and Symptoms of a Dark Night
One of the most common signs that you are experiencing a dark night is a loss of reality. You feel lost and feel like everything you have ever lived for is baseless. You feel unworthy of all kinds of positivity in life. You feel utterly hopeless; all these feelings make you doubt your entire existence. You begin questioning everything in life. The deeper you go into the darkness, the more lost you get. You reject the idea of God, distrusting His/ Her existence. The willingness to live is gone. You start craving for something, but you don’t know what. Most of these are symptoms of depression as well, but when the feelings have no base whatsoever to them, you know it is more philosophical than psychological.
Why do you experience the darkness?
One of the most common things people ask when stuck in a situation like this is, “Why so much darkness?” Spiritual gurus have listed out the reasons why darkness becomes imperative. The major one is the fact that a person needs to know what night feels like for them to believe in the light. If the Devil did not exist, God wouldn’t be considered divine. It is the same formula that works for artists- feeling the pain makes them value all the other emotions. A dark night is required to make you want the good things in life. Your vision of a perfect world can exist only when you know the imperfect. Basically, how can you wake up if you never experience the night? Buddha’s story is such an excellent example of this. For someone who knew no pain, the world was beautiful. But when he did feel and realize the tragedies of life, things changed- Buddha became disillusioned and questioned everything that ever existed. Once he metabolized all the pain, his life transformed entirely. Dark Night of the Soul does that to you.
Another reason why the dark night occurs is for us to realize our actual reality. When you are on your spiritual path, you start realizing that there is a reality beyond the physical form. You experience the mighty awareness that our identity- our physical self, our worth, our desires- is baseless (and this requires one major blow in life). Nothing of what we know and work for is permanent. This realization leads us to question our self-worth. When we lose our “self,” we are moving towards a new reality. This new reality is nothing like anything we know. It is scary. You feel like you have woken up from a dream only to enter a darker one. And because we know zero about the new reality, we are afraid of it. The fear of the unknown makes us go through a lot of negative feelings- guilt, shame, unworthy of love.
Astrology of Dark Night
As per Indian Vedic Astrology, the dark night is a period caused by the negative impact of Saturn (Shani). Because Saturn is cold, heavy, and moody, you feel the same way. During your dark night, you go through all kinds of negative experiences. The Saturn period cleanses the body of all emotional and physical pains. At the end of it, you would have suffered the consequences of your karma and will be ready to start a brand-new life. The best part about this is that Saturn is associated with artistic genius and wisdom. You will suffer a lot but will come out wiser.
How to come out of it successfully?
Yes, the dark night will make you go through hell. But, in the end, you will come out as a better person. To make the transition smooth, one must realize that whatever they are going through is normal. They must embrace the darkness. They should accept all the negative emotions within them. Enduring them is the only way to move on. You will face one major drawback in your life before you start questioning the base of all reality. It can be an abuse (like Maya Angelou and Oprah) or a war (Abraham Lincoln) or anything strong enough to shake you internally. You need to live through it and respect those feelings. Negating your darker feelings will only push you farther in the hole. To come out, you need to accept them and grow from them. Have courage and be kind, and most importantly, love yourselves. Choose love over hate and see the magic.
When you begin to do that, things will get brighter. You will realize that even though you are alone, you are never really lonely- you are a part of something greater. You will have a newfound appreciation for life, along with a new purpose. You will want to be independent and will disregard all the social constructs- a concept coined as anomie by Emile Durkheim. But the best of all, you will break and pull yourselves together. And that is the greatest strength anyone can have. In the end, it’s all about finding your way back home to God.
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With Ganesha’s Grace,
The GaneshaSpeaks Team