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Interpreting Dark Night of the Soul

Interpreting Dark Night of the SoulUpdated on October 18, 2020 | Published on February 6, 2020
Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD, Psychiatrist

Dark Night of the Soul Explained

Have you ever gone through a difficult phase in life that felt so suffocating that all meaning and purpose seemed to have lost? The hours seemed to be ever-lasting with it’s heaviness and you had even questioned the reason for your existence! Has life ever appeared to you like a feverish dream with neither reason nor joy? Most people go through this stage once in their lifetime. This has been philosophically referred to as the Dark Night of the Soul.

What is the Dark Night Of The Soul?

SUMMARY
A phase comes in life where we are left in despair. There is so much suffering that life becomes unbearable. This situation is often said to be the Dark Night of the Soul. 

We are but energy beings. Our physical body is a part of us but it’s not who we are. For if we were just the body then a living body and a corpse would have no difference! Therefore, we have a life source that keeps us alive and when it leaves the body, death is said to have occurred. Spiritually, Soul is a term for this source of life. It is said that a soul has it’s a journey and on this journey, it learns and grows.

In life each one of us will have to pass through a phase of doom and despair. This phase would be so pathetic that we might feel that we are caught at the dead end of a tunnel for a long time. We would feel stuck, miserable and frustrated. This phase of life is called as the Dark Night of the Soul. 

This phase can arise because of a near one’s death, extreme poverty, an illness, betrayal, mishap, injustice, abuse, assault, or being a victim to any kind of cruelty. Often in this phase, your family and friends might even abandon your side so that you would be left alone. This phase turns into the darkest hours of your life! But this time also will teach you a valuable lesson, if you are open to receive it.

Many would want to numb their feelings by addictions, lowering their values, becoming selfish, dishonest or careless. But in this phase, some men and women would grip the deep sense of life. These people are said to have a spiritual awakening. 

Depression & the Dark Night Of The Soul – Are they same?

SUMMARY
Both are different although apparently it appears to be the same. Depression might lead to Dark Night but not always.

Although the darkest hours of the Night of the soul seem to be like having depression, both are not the same. Also, depression can lead to the Night of the soul but not for everyone. Depression can happen as an after-effect to an incident or it could be also an inborn nature for some. The Dark Night Of The Soul, on the other hand, might start because of a reason but it goes deeper.

Here, a person thinks not only about himself or the condition he is going through. He starts questioning about life. The person goes through a spiritual crisis. Philosophical questions such as these might arise – Who am I beyond my body? Why do we live after all, if death is a reality? What is there after death? Do relationships really matter? Is there re-birth? Why am I here? Does my existence really matter? 

It could be said that the Dark Night is a spiritual depression.

Soul Journey – The purpose of the Soul

SUMMARY
This is an age old concept and it signifies a spiritual journey in which the Soul unites with the Source.

Dark Night of the Soul is an old concept. Early in the 16th century, the Spanish mystic and poet, St. John of the cross thought deeply on this subject. He had wonderfully expressed his views on this matter in his poem named Dark Night of the Soul. The poem narrates the purpose of the Soul.  The purpose is to start it’s own journey – a journey to unite with God.

This Soul journey is referred to as “The Dark Night” because the journey leads towards an unknown destination. The Dark Night of the Soul is not about the challenges of life; St. John refers to experiencing the dark night with a mystical journey that will lead to the union with God. In this dark night, the only light is that which burns in the soul.

Interpreting Dark Night of the Soul
Interpreting Dark Night of the Soul

Dark Night Of The Soul Symptoms

Here are 7 symptoms that indicate that you might be going through a Dark Night of the Soul –

  1. You are going through a phase of extreme pain.
  2. Life seems to be monotonous and meaningless to you.
  3. There is no direction or purpose in life.
  4. A sense of hopelessness and powerlessness is gripping you.
  5. You ponder on the deeper, finer aspects of life.
  6. A belief is developing or strengthening about a higher power and you are surrendering to it.
  7. Drastic changes are happening in life that you were not prepared for! One or more of such incidents can happen – Loss of job, a break up with your romantic partner, close friends leaving you, sudden health issue, death of a loved one, financial crisis etc.

Why Pain Could Be the Best Teacher of Life?

SUMMARY
Pain is a teacher that prepares us for the life journey. It makes us humble and pushes us towards our bigger purpose.

When you are loved, supported and comforted you stay happy in your own world. But when pain pays a visit to you, your entire life shifts! Extreme pain brings enormous changes. At first, you will feel lost but gradually you will reach the stage of life where an awakening process starts to happen. Vishad Yoga, (Vishad means despair or depression) a chapter in Bhagwad Gita discusses how to deal with crisis. It depicts how the human mind should ignore the mundane things of the world to transcend to the divine. Simply put, oneness with the higher power or God is not possible until you pass through an existential crisis. 

Pain is inevitable but sometimes deep and prolonged pain can become unbearable. But instead of trying to curb it down, we must try to embrace it and pray to the higher power to show us the path. Because our soul’s true purpose is hidden in the painful experience. Pain can modify our conceptual framework and steer the soul towards a higher purpose.

How to Walk in the Path of Soul Purpose?

SUMMARY
Even in that dark phase when you surrender to God, your Soul would be guided to its purpose.

Each Soul has a purpose. Often when we talk about purpose we think it as our vocation or profession. But in reality the purpose of the Soul is much bigger than we can even imagine. Some souls are here to uplift others, some are here to save the world, and some souls will protect or assist others.

Most importantly, your Soul has a higher purpose. It cannot be that you are here to earn some money or do a particular job. You are here to serve in a greater way than you can think. When you don’t give up on your struggle and surrender to God, your path will be shown to you.

What is Happiness, Really?

SUMMARY
Happiness doesn’t lie in external objects. It is found within.

In this age of consumerism we are made to think that happiness comes with a price tag! Most of us believe that things can give us happiness. People acquire stuff to feel pleasure. But does this happiness stay for long? As the new version of smartphone is launched, new designer dresses unveiled or the latest model of a TV set comes to the market –what happens? Your happiness evaporates! Why? Because you were not happy in the first place! Commodities can give you instant gratification but not happiness.

So, where to get happiness? Where should you go? Nowhere! Because happiness lies within. You don’t have to search it anywhere. It is already in your heart. You just have to feel it and stay content. Just stay still and feel it!

The Harsh Truth

SUMMARY
Truth is none of us will live eternally. That is why, we should seek for the divine power instead of bothering about ordinary things.

The harshest truth is that you will die. None of us are here to stay forever. So, instead of acquiring materialistic things, start your spiritual journey. It all starts with seeking the unknown. About 2600 years ago a young Prince left the comfort of his palace and prospect of becoming a King, to seek this unknown.

He realized that the worldly stuff would not provide him everlasting happiness nor could it protect him from his sufferings. After experiencing the dark night he went to a long spiritual journey. This journey led him to the path of enlightenment. Name of the prince? Gautama Buddha

Why Dark Night of the Soul is a Life Savior?

Spiritual teachers of the world think that the Dark Night comes to save the soul. The path to true wisdom will always emerge from difficulties. If you do not accept defeat the darkness in your life will lead you towards the light.

1. The answers to Life

The answers to Life
The answers to Life

Life is unpredictable, complicated and apparently unfair. But its uncertainty and unevenness makes it marvelous! As you allow your soul to progress towards its truest purpose, the real answers to life will be unveiled to you. The answers are different for different souls as each soul has a unique journey.

2. Your Spiritual Journey begins with the Dark Night of the Soul

Your Spiritual Journey begins with the Dark Night of the Soul
Your Spiritual Journey begins with the Dark Night of the Soul

When you realize the significance of experiencing the dark night your spiritual awakening happens. Your soul will gradually find the answers to its questions. Most importantly, your soul will learn and grow in its spiritual journey.

3. Meditation & Mindful living

Meditation & Mindful living
Meditation & Mindful living

Life changes dramatically as you implement the practices of Meditation and mindful living. As you practice these for long you will arise from the state of consciousness and move into the realm of spirituality. Besides that,  meditation calms your mind and channels it toward the higher consciousness and mindful living would heighten your sensory awareness and prevent the mind to wander aimlessly.

Also read -> Transcendental Meditation & its various benefits

Dark Night of The Soul Quotes

1. “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald
“In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.”

– John of the Cross
“In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.” – John of the Cross

3. Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.

– Christine Caine
Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted. – Christine Caine

4. The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.

– Joseph Campbell
"The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed." – Joseph Campbell

5. “having nothing and possessing all things,”

St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul
“having nothing and possessing all things,” – St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

6. “There is a season for everything under the sun—even when we can’t see the sun.”

Jared Brock
“There is a season for everything under the sun—even when we can’t see the sun.” – Jared Brock

7. Only those willing to walk through the dark night will be able to see the beauty of the moon and the brilliance of the stars.

– Archbishop Socrates Vilegas
"Only those willing to walk through the dark night will be able to see the beauty of the moon and the brilliance of the stars." – Archbishop Socrates Vilegas

8. “Being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!”

– Friedrich Nietzsche
“Being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!” – Friedrich Nietzsche

9. “The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation.”

– Joseph Campbell
“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation.” – Joseph Campbell

10. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

– Carl Jung
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung

11. “Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.”

– Flannery O’Connor
“Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.” – Flannery O’Connor

12. “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Friedrich Nietzsche
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

13. “To heal the wound, you have to go into the dark night of the soul.”

– Tori Amos
“To heal the wound, you have to go into the dark night of the soul.” – Tori Amos

14. “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”

– Carl Jung
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” – Carl Jung

15. “I believe that the dark night of the soul is a common spiritual experience. I believe, too, that the answer is continued seeking and perseverance. It helps to know that others have endured a loss of faith.”

– Julia Cameron
“I believe that the dark night of the soul is a common spiritual experience. I believe, too, that the answer is continued seeking and perseverance. It helps to know that others have endured a loss of faith.” – Julia Cameron

Dark Night of The Soul Poem

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

SOURCE – POETSEERS.ORG

Final Thoughts

In this lifetime you might have to go through a really tough phase. A phase that would test your character and willpower. If you accept defeat and try to numb yourself in despair you will miss the opportunity to grow and nourish your soul.

But if you seek answers by asking the right questions you would be shown your true path. It will awaken your soul and lead to its journey towards a higher purpose. Surrendering to God or the higher power will pave the way to your destination.