The Dark Night of the Soul is the Gift of Illumination in Higher Consciousness

By Dr. Darryl Pokea

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Pain is never permanent.
St. Theresa of Avila 
…the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light.
St. John of the Cross
As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
Carl Gustav Jung

The Dark Night of the Soul is a lonely painful process in which consciousness is clouded by uncertainty to unravel the entanglements of ego within the self. As the pain and suffering within self and the world are faced and embraced, eventually the heart-beat of love is freed to express its many rhythms of service to others, God, and self, one and the same. We can only enter the dark corridors of this purification of consciousness if we accept the courage that comes from our Spirit. Courage sustains our mind and body on our journey through the deepest agony, suffering and pain. The Dark Night of the Soul is entering a cloud of unknowing, through which profound illumination in consciousness may emerge. By entering and accepting the intense pain and emptiness that accompany this state, liberation, enlightenment, and participation in Mystical Consciousness replace the ego’s distorted clouded perceptions with clear flowing light. The anguish and suffering within the self and the world can be transformed to profound understanding and joy.

During the Dark Night, the deepest understandings of our true Self unfold. Awareness slowly surfaces that we are a uniquely tuned instrument of service and compassion to true Self and this attunes us to the true Self in others. In this liberation of consciousness, we become free to know the multiplicity and unity of the One, the Divine, the Self that encompasses all Selves. This state opens us to understanding the interdependence and interconnectedness to everyone and everything as we lucidly begin to witness the timeless flow of Divine Consciousness in the Eternal Now. Through realization and acceptance, Divine Consciousness may begin again to fully resonate in the empty spaces and places within the self. The person passing through the dark night receives lessons that reverberate with everyone as the experience resounds through the collective consciousness of our species.

The dark night of the soul is an avenue for reintegration first through disintegration. Western conditioning and socialization has created a false perception within us all that we are an absolute independent self. During the dark night of the soul we mourn as this notion of self is mourned. Through a painful de-conditioning, we begin to understand that reconnection to our true Self is not a singular process but a reconnection to everyone including our self and God. False notions of a separate self are being burned up by the fires of the mind. We begin to recognize that the feeling of abandonment by God, common to the experience of the dark night, is really abandoning the false sense of self and others we have developed. A realization unfolds that service to Self, others and God are all the same. An understanding emerges that you are an ever-changing relative self within One Self and other selves in the continuum of consciousness.

This de-conditioning is not easy and is a lonely and desolate place of suffering. You may feel that you are caught between two worlds, the perceived painful world where you and other people helplessly suffer, and the enlightened world where unlimited higher consciousness and Divine Love reigns. The ego knows nothing of “let go, let God,” during the process so it jolts and jabs the thoughts and emotions continuously with its daggers as it tries to cut and separate. The process is painfully stressful to the body and agonizing to the mind as the ego interferes and keeps you perceiving a hopeless never-ending battle between these worlds. The whole ego system is in the process of being shattered as one recognizes that the ego’s many strategies are from the ways of the world, not the love of God. All the discordant noises, disharmonious rhythms, repertoire of illusions, cacophony of prejudices, preconceptions, conditionings, socializations, false images of self and others are being called to task by the higher consciousness. One may feel that one’s own voice is unsupported by God and simultaneously unheard in the wilderness of the world. This cloud of unknowing is antithetical to the ego that desperately fights and wants to remain part of us as we enter mystical consciousness and enlightenment.

All duality perpetrated by the ego is being dissolved and disintegrated during this most painful emptying process. Out of this lonely internal battle deep within, begins to flow the wisdom of living purely for virtue’s sake, free of the previous ego’s distortion that everything you do must be rewarded. Eventually the feelings of alienation and rejection by the world subside and you are no longer between two worlds, but start to come home (Om). A lucid illumination begins that all compassion and service are for the same Self, your relative self, Universal Comprehensive Self (God) and every One. Through this state of real being, you more fully realize that you can be in the world, not of the world. You can be in the suffering, not of suffering.

There are many reasons that a dark night of the soul experience presents itself. Each of the reasons is ultimately a matter between your Spirit and what you came into this existence to learn. The dark night may occur to salvage the remainder of your life when living has become full of disharmonious habits and you are no longer living consciously or virtuously. The dark night may be an offering by your spirit to meet the challenge of purification and regeneration of your being before the end of your life. Whatever the reason, within such a conversion process, a person must muster every ounce of their conscious energy to accept this deeply painful transmuting of ego energy back to meaning, purpose and service as they are one and the same. Some of us may have to endure several periods of the dark night of the soul throughout life. Others may be guided by their Spirit to stay in this state for intense work the remainder of their life before they die. Many reject the gift of the dark night repeatedly throughout their life as they follow their ego’s perception that Spirituality should bring instant gratification and should feel good. True transformation is a painful process and takes time. When St. Paul was blinded and knocked off his horse, at least a decade passed before he began his service. It is time consuming to face and embrace all suffering, but it leads to understanding with the mind and viscerally with the body.

It is difficult to know that your heart is not beating freely if the weight of the ego upon it is all you’ve ever known. Almost everyone suffers the same ailment. When we pass through the Dark Night we realize “I am a free Self and still connected to the world.” We each have the heart of Self that beats freely in the infinite space of Self and that Self is connected and alive in the world. This is the liberation, the enlightened, mystical consciousness that comes through enduring the painful transformation of the dark night. The enlightenment frees the mind to really see with illuminated perception. As the mind is free from the entrapments and cages of the ego, it frees the body as well from “dis ease” and sickness that was previously being passed onto it by the ego-influenced mind.

In a psychological sense the dark night of the soul may be understood as a dissonance between the ego and higher consciousness that have reached critical mass. The ego does not wish full spectrum higher consciousness to illuminate its illusions, denials and projections as it maintains an entangled web of violence towards the self and the self of others. Intellectually, you may have the insight that the ego never was your true Self, but this provides no emotional relief from the feelings of emptiness during the process. This state is like living in a cloistered monastery surrounded by spiritual sightedness with no comforting insight within as to what is happening to one’s self. The Self has never fully emerged independent of the ego and the ego provocatively generates terror and fear in this state of uncertainty. New constellations of thoughts are beginning to be comprehended and integrated, while simultaneously old perceptions and discordant emotions are also being dissolved and transmuted to harmonious ones. The mind is in a composition phase for its understandings of a new melody with full un-impeded heart-felt beat in its dance with Spirit, and the mind will soon stabilize and equalize to have healthier biorhythms within the body again.

Mother Theresa was in a dark night of the soul the later half of her life through her death. She realized throughout her life that the poverty of disconnecting from one’s Spirit was more destitute than the most intense poverty and suffering she could view physically in the world. She knew the heart of Spirituality with her consciousness and that the ego attempts to bribe us by offering its illusion that the process of enlightenment and salvation “feels so good.” Many today, through the lens of ego perception, would like us to fantasize that Mother Theresa was in a state of spiritual ecstasy, high on God that made her immune to placing her self in situations among those living in agonizing poverty and suffering. There were no spiritual endorphins that lifted Mother Theresa away from compassionately feeling the suffering of those she was serving. She was not held up by any spiritual narcoticized state. Her mystical consciousness was arrived at by entering poverty of Spirit within herself, seeing it in others in the world and through her consciously continuing service to the destitute and dying. She knew the many expressions of Dark Night of the Soul, within herself and in those she served in the world. She exemplifies what has been called the consciousness of the mystics. The last three phrases from her commentary, Do It Anyway, radiate the chosen determination and reverberations of her mystical consciousness:

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!

People really need help but may attack you if you help them. Help people anyway!

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!

You cannot learn to love God with ego. Your ego has nothing to do with learning to love yourself or others. Higher consciousness is entered freely for its own sake and its illumination emerges by facing and embracing any darkness within self. Herein is the fundamental lesson that loving the Divine, Self and Others unconditionally, are one and the same. To enter higher mystical consciousness we experience directly all the pain and suffering within and without. This consciousness reflects and reminds us of the poverty of Spirit that remains collectively among all human beings. This is not material poverty, but the poverty of loosing touch with meaning and purpose, knowing true Self within and with others, and real service to each other.

William of St. Thierry, a monastic writer during the 12th. Century said that love is the eye in which we see God. Love itself is the understanding. St. John of the Cross said that he felt closer to God during his passing through the dark night. We each can know the deepest joy by embracing the greatest sadness consciously with love. The dark night of the soul is offered as a gift of illumination to every One of us. We are all reminded, beat-to-beat in the longing of our soul for the Divine. The full spectrum of higher consciousness is available in both our personal and collective evolution. As one of us participates, it may be shared in consciousness for all the same.

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