The Dark Nights of the Soul

Book Review by Derek Ayre


I found there was something extremely "Zen-like" in Thomas Moore's book, Dark Night of the Soul  in the way he is very reassuring as he describes the experiences of the blackness in life that appears from time to time.

He indicates that a sufferer is not alone in times of despair, despite feelings to the contrary - we all have our "Dark Nights" of the soul. The experience of a Dark Night of the soul is not there to be understood in an intellectual, superficial way as this would make the entire experience very un-transformative.

The Dark Night is there to assist our souls to grow and develop.

To feel "normal and bright" is rarely a time of learning or advancement for our soul, but a time of rest and recreation. It is during the soul's Dark Night's battle through strife and conflict, that we develop an awareness of our soul that otherwise goes unnoticed. And what is more, I can fully agree with the author when he says that despair is as natural a part of life as joy and happiness.

What makes some Dark Nights exasperating is the fact that they don't seem to have any sort of answer or resolution - they are just present and the more we fight against them, the more they persist. Such incidents are known as impasses that are powerful parts of life's lessons, and not for the sufferer, but for the souls of those around him/her.

Moore goes on to state the many Dark Nights of the soul are an "initiation into a realm that nothing in a culture that is preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for".

As a Zen practitioner I would add that if you are prepared for a Dark Night of the soul too much, then any lessons to be learned would be somewhat shallow, so there has to be an element of newness in the experience.

And furthermore, I would say that you need to give up trying to understand a stubborn predicament - just totally accept it and then, paradoxically, you will understand and move through it a lot easier! "A real dark night," states Moore, "leaves a lasting effect that alters you for good." The soul cares little for the physical realm and is only interested in its growth potential.

The growth potential of the essence of who we really are. Mind and language are not adequate for they are concerned with duality, and desire - the "root of all suffering", as Buddha discovered.

Imagine being trapped in a predicament from which you can't escape. Any solution you consider will only cause you more problems. This is something Moore terms an "incubation" period. A time in which you just have to wait like an unborn baby in the womb to be born.

In this situation, you are re-born into a new revelation in life. Then, joy may arise at the time of such revelation, but don't cling to it, you will soon get inured to the joyful experience, and then drift back into another experience of death and rebirth - a concept often referred to by Zen masters the world over.

You are "dying" to your old self, ready to be born to your new self. But dying is something the ego will resist with tremendous fervour! But the soul doesn't die!

The Soul Gets Reborn.

The whole process becomes much easier with total surrender as you die into a state of recuperation that prepares you for the next phase of your life.

Feeling trapped is a really apt word that Moore uses in his description and yet at the same time, reading his words can produce a feeling of encouragement to those who are suffering. If you feel trapped. Really feel trapped to its deepest depths!

I recall a saying, "these things are meant to try us" and after reading The Dark Night of the Soul, this saying seemed to make more sense.

We, as souls wouldn't be without these "things that are meant to try us" because they are the very essence of our growth and development as human beings. Like it or not, that is what we are about - we grow.

As beings we need to learn to experience ourselves as potential - the "space" in which things manifest. And what exactly does manifest in our existence is down to our willingness to look closely at the lessons that are presenting ourselves.

Questions?  I encourage you to....

End of Article




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