Dark Night of the Soul

Nobody is free from the adversity of life. As long as we live in this world, various kinds of ups and downs are unavoidable. Consciously or unconsciously, we seek pleasures and avoid pains as if that is the default status in our lives.

Sooner or later, however, we realize that pleasures are elusive, and pains are inevitable.

Seeking pleasures, it seems people can never get satisfied. Knowing when enough is enough should be one of the virtues, but then we seldom see such best practice. The bloody history of human civilizations has demonstrated the endless greediness of our nature. We all know that anything we achieved as a result of seeking pleasure is short-lived, even disappoints us.

Avoiding pains, it seems people can never be free from them. We even experience pains in seeking pleasures. What we experience in and after seeking pleasures could often be a series of pain. We also notice that some “successful” and “happy” people suffer, even end their lives.

Seeking pleasures is painful. In reality, we are merely avoiding pains in seeking pleasures. These are two sides of the same coin. We are endlessly flipping this coin, called life, as if we are its slave.

Unfortunately, most of the activities in our lives are on this coin. Often, the motivation for studying and working hard is from this coin-flipping. We produce and consume things in this world for the same motive. We suffer and kill one another, even ourselves, for the same reason.

People often claim that they went through the adversity of life and finally found the joy of real life, saying they experienced the dark night of the soul and eventually discovered the dawn.

That is misleading.

The adversity of life is not the dark night of the soul. The pleasure of life is not the bright day of the soul, either. The dark night should not symbolize the pain of life. The bright day should not be the pleasure of life, either.

So, what is the dark night of the soul?

It is the coin of our lives as such. When and if we are endlessly experiencing the flipping of pleasures and pains, we are in the dark night of the soul. We are in the cycle of karma. We are unaware and blind in the prison of the illusory living for seeking pleasures and avoiding pains. We are unconsciously in despair. We don’t know that we don’t know who we are.

As long as we seek pleasures and avoid pains, we can never get out of this karmic darkness. Our ego can never see the dawn for the real daylight. Mistakenly and erroneously, our ego believes that the darkness represents pains and the brightness does pleasures. The truth is that both pains and pleasures are indeed the dark night of the soul as such. Thus, we can never see the real dawn unless and until we eliminate our ego of seeking and avoiding.

We must forget ourselves.

Saint John of the Cross expressed in the poem, Dark Night of the Soul, as follows:

I lost myself. Forgot myself.
I lay my face against the Beloved’s face.
Everything fell away and I left myself behind,
Abandoning my cares
Among the lilies, forgotten.

For Saint John of the Cross, the dark night means his humble realization of where the real dawn and true light would come from. Only such dark night should guide him to God’s underserved love that we have received but often never noticed. So, he expressed:

O night, that guided me!
O night, sweeter than sunrise!
O night, that joined lover with Beloved!
Lover transformed in Beloved!

To see the light, we must surrender ourselves, as our flesh can never see this light.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:4-5

Indeed, the light shines in the darkness. But the darkness can never comprehend the light. We can never understand God’s will as long as we are in this world seeing the false light and dark in life by flipping a coin. The Apostle Paul also beseeches us as follows:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2

Beyond the false day and night in this world, realizing the dark night of the soul where we were unconsciously in despair, only then, we could finally surrender ourselves into the will of God. And we can walk as children of true light.

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

Ephesians 5:8

Image by DarkWorkX

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