31.3.09

Dark Night of the Soul


Over at Gorilla vs. Bear, one of my favorite music blogs, they have received a poster for a potential future album presented by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse. click on the photo of the poster to see a larger image (look at the line up of musicians. genius!)

I am so intrigued, not only because the listing of musicians seems pretty epic, but I am so interested in seeing where this album goes conceptually.

This past summer and fall I spent a lot of time thinking about "The Dark Night of the Soul."
The phrase originates from the writings of Saint John of the Cross in the 16th century. It is such a fascinating idea. I myself believe that it is something that does happen to certain people, though I don't think a lot of people are aware of it or believe in it. (I am Christian, but would never say I am Evangelical Christian. ever. I am a bit of a mystic...) The Dark Night of the Soul isn't just something that has been spoken of in the old Christian world, but has been referenced in Buddhism and on a secular journey as well.

As explained in good old Wikipedia...
The "dark night" might clinically or secularly be described as the letting go of one's ego as it holds back the psyche, thus making room for some form of transformation, perhaps in one's way of defining oneself or one's relationship to God. This interim period can be frightening, hence the perceived "darkness."

In the Christian tradition, one who has developed a strong prayer life and consistent devotion to God suddenly finds traditional prayer extremely difficult and unrewarding for an extended period of time during this "dark night." The individual may feel as though God has suddenly abandoned them or that his or her prayer life has collapsed. In the most pronounced cases, belief is lost in the very existence of God and/or validity of religion, rendering the individual an atheist, even if they bravely continue with the outward expressions of faith.

Rather than resulting in devastation, however, the dark night is perceived by mystics and others to be a blessing in disguise, whereby the individual is stripped (in the dark night of the senses) of the spiritual ecstasy associated with acts of virtue. Although the individual may for a time seem to outwardly decline in their practices of virtue, they in reality become more virtuous, as they are being virtuous less for the spiritual rewards (ecstasies in the cases of the first night) obtained and more out of a true love for God. It is this purgatory, a purgation of the soul, that brings purity and union with God.

Entering this dark night of the soul is commonly referred to in Buddhism as "raising the Great Doubt".


I can definitely say that i specifically remember going through this at a particular point in my life, or i guess, during a certain span of my lifetime. I have always felt a dark stirring in my soul when it comes to trying to really understand concept of God. I have believed in God deeply throughout my life, though i have always felt like i have teetered on the very edge of a giant circle of belief and trust, always feeling like I was on the verge of falling off into disbelief and Atheism. When I have believed in God most deeply, I have at the same time felt like i was on the edge of total disbelief. It is rather frightening, but very powerful.

There was one time that i distinctly remember rejecting my faith, or at least, thinking i rejected all of my set beliefs. It was during a time that my life was extremely turbulent, and I was in dialogue with others about God and faith more than I had ever been in my life. I was praying more than I ever had in my life. But i suddenly felt complete abandonment from God. I felt like he completely disappeared. And I really felt to be an Atheist for that period of time. There was no bitterness towards God because I suddenly felt like there just was no God.
It was about 3 years of really deep dark rumbling in my soul that lead up to that complete quite from God. It really started getting dark and quite my senior year of high school, and fruitioned in the middle of my junior year of college. I only told maybe 3 of my closest friends about it (rejecting my faith completely for a few months) at the apex of it all.

I do say now that I believe in God, and I deeply feel it too. I feel more and more at peace with God each day, but at the same time, revel more and more in his mystery. The more at peace I feel, the less I feel I know about God, or will ever understand about him. I most definitely feel like I have experienced the Dark Night of the Soul. And am thankful for it. I know I would be lacking so much passion and revelry in mystery that I now have if I had not experienced this mysterious, quite wandering of the soul.


all that being said, I just have on question for Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse: Do you know what you are delving into conceptually? I am so intruiged.

6 comments:

Schlaeps said...

Oooh. That does look intriguing! I wonder if you could possibly pick an album title like that (with a lineup like that) without grasping the symbolism behind it. Very very interesting.

p.s.- (I love the new look of your blog)

p.s.s.- (Have you heard the new Decemberists album? I fell in love with it recently and the style strikes me as something you would like too)

Margaret said...

I love you because you are like me. I read that during this summer, The Dark Night of the Soul. And I read it in highschool. I love it. I'm closer to God because of it.

I'm so excited about this album. I've been excited about it for awhile!

Madeline said...

oh my goodness. that album sounds amazing! I can't wait

obsessed with moss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
obsessed with moss said...

I just read Mother Teresa's book "Come Be My Light". Its a collection of diary entries and correspondence with her confessors which she asked to be destroyed. It was really fascinating, it outlines how she experienced a profound separation from God for the majority of her life as a nun. I think it is unifying feature of most Saints and great figures of faith, that they persevere through this apparent abandonment by God, mirroring Christ's own passion.

-Just- said...

dude, that album sounds siiiiick