Long before mental health became a hot topic, desperate souls were said to be going through the dark night of the soul. Poetic, cryptic and eye-catching: what is it, and are you currently travelling through it?
The term was coined by a poem of 16th century’s St John of the Cross. Describing the steps of the soul from darkness of the body to the light of God, St John speaks of the purification of the senses and the spirit throughout.
The dark night is desperation, a disconnect from the material world where a loss of security, power and control is experienced while the ego slowly dies. The journey to God requires solitude and safety in unknowing.
“So what, you’re enlightened now?” asked my friend when I explained the term.
“Compared to who I used to be, yes.”
How else would you describe realising life is worth all suffering?
I first heard of the term when listening to Eckhart Tolle, writer of the bestseller The Power of Now. In the spiritual community, the dark night of the soul commonly describes a depression lasting 2-3 years, a collapse of all perceived meaning and purpose of our prior life.
In order to go through a rebirth and spiritual awakening he says, we must first give up our old world view which brought us to our knees. This can be triggered by an external event at times, and is comparable to the rock bottom that brings an addict to ask help.
We must be able to hold our hands up, quiet for once, and instead of imposing our conditioned and cultural meaning onto our world: just stop and take it in. This clean slate allows us to re-connect with the exterior world without relying on explanations and concepts given to us.
The dark night of the soul is painful just as far as we cling to our old life: as long as we’re trying to get out of it, we won’t be able to. A shift of our state of consciousness will be disorientating no doubt. There is no death, only metamorphosis, and the dark night allowed me to really see what world I am choosing to be living in.
Confused whether you’re experiencing the dark night of the soul?
Check out this video by Jamie Munday that I found useful!
How has depression taught me to live again? Check out my vlog about this!