Archive for category Dark Nights of the Soul

Part 6: Regeneration/ Re-incorporation/ Return – The Sidpa Bardo

The Universe is Change; every Change is the
Effect of an Act of Love; All Acts of Love
contain Pure Joy. Die daily.
Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life:
Behold all opposites as necessary compliments,
And rejoice
– Aleister Crowley

(3) The Sidpa Bardo (or Srid-pa’i Bar-do) or Inter-mediate period of rebirth. During this bardo the consciousness descends and chooses a new body to be born into. (Buddhists do not accept the existence of a single continuing entity which “reincarnates”, and refer instead to the “rebirth” of the consciousness-stream in a new body).

We arrive at this part of the Dark Night either unconsciously or consciously. The third stage of the transformative process calls us to regenerate and renew. To the extend that we do not understand the necessity of imagining and preparing for something new during the third stage, our experience will be one of heaven or hell; rage or self-destruction. In the Western world we have little or no preparation, or guidance for for the process of transformation. We enter our transitions in from one phase in life, with no real preparation. From childhood to teenager, from teenager to adult only being prepared to fit into society and working life. We are told the rules of our culture, and that we have to find a way to make money, but little else really, unless we were very fortunate to have had elders, or a teacher to prepare us. We are told reach for our dreams but we are given no understanding our guidance to truly understand where our dreams rise from. As a result we only learn through the school of hard knocks. Even in this we are told to avoid mistakes and failure at all costs. We are applauded for our successes, and punished for our mistakes.

Nicholas Molina, reflects about the irony of success in his article “The Failure of Success”
Eighteen years of a lack of failure teaches Harvard students to avoid it at all costs; we become extremely risk-averse. Ironically, classes might teach about the risk-reward relationship, but students who are too afraid to fail can only understand the former part of that relationship after experiencing it … Even those golden children who sail through Harvard as they’ve sailed through high school fail, in a sense. They’ve failed to experience failure, and their education is impoverished as a result. I’ve learned, sometimes painfully, to accept that it’s not possible to achieve everything and that only when we risk failure, are great gains possible … In the end, I realized that the criteria I’d been using to judge my education at Harvard were all off the mark. Even if the lessons that will be most valuable in the next chapter of my life have been those I’ve learned outside the classroom, my time at Harvard has been well spent. My only regret is that I didn’t learn the importance of taking risks earlier. That’s probably the most important lesson of all.

We are not shown that our mistakes and failures can show us new opportunities, new undiscovered potentials, and we hide our failures in the recesses of our past. With the result, young people look at those who have succeeded and see only the success, and do not know what it took to get there. The pain of growth is seen in itself as a failure, a lack of strength, an unworthiness. If a dark night comes upon anyone, we feel that either we are punished, are just a failure, or that life is just cruel and unfair. We have no understanding of the process of growth. We do not know, we have forgotten, that chaos is the very source of creation.

So we enter one transition to another, one rebirth to another with more and more accumulated shadow material, and begin to live more and more on the surface, for to go any deeper would mean to access and face the monster of the deep. We can of course just continue living like this, and numb the aching pain of surface living, of never truly accessing our depths and real potential, through the many tools available today, but sooner or later we will have to face our shadow. If we ignore the gently nudges, one day the rhino will come and give you the big knock. However , as we say here in Africa; If you think of a Rhino, you must also think of a tree. Thus if you think of a big problem you must also think about a solution. This essentially why I am writing this series on the dark night.

During this stage of the transformation process, we encounter power in its awesome properties, which we can use both to destroy and create. The mythological god associated with this stage is Pluto, husband to Persephone, who rules the underworld. This god penetrates to our core in order to reveal our deepest root issues; he destroys in order to renew, and he holds the power to transform and effect change. During this stage we make the descent into our unconscious, into our shadow.

One of my most favourite descriptions of how the shadow develops is by Bill Plotkin;The American poet Robert Bly says our first twenty years are spent stuffing 90 percent of ourselves into “the long black bag we drag behind us” and the rest of our life attempting to retrieve those items … Our Loyal Soldier, of course, is the subpersonality who shoveled all those aspects of self into the long bag in the first place. Think of the Loyal Soldier as a sort of psychic bouncer who throws out any part of self not deemed respectable by the management. The boss, in this case, is the child’s immediate family and cultural setting. When the boss spots an undesirable the Loyal Soldier starts shoveling.

Thus the shadow designates aspects of ourselves that we cannot accept; these aspects do not agree with our ego ideal, and are often in disagreement with the values established by society. We therefore repress them and prefer to see them projected onto other people, where we can fight them.

Projection is defined as “the situation in which one unconsciously invests another person (or object) with notions or characteristics of one’s own: e.g. a man, fascinated by a woman because she corresponds to his anima, falls in love with her. Feelings, images, and thoughts can be projected onto others. One also projects negative feelings: e.g. a woman has a grudge against a friend, so she imagines that her friend is angry with her.”

If an individual shows no inclination to recognise his projections, then the projection-making factor has a free hand and can realise its object, or bring about a situation characteristic of its power. Again is should be noted that it is not the conscious mind, but the unconscious which does the projecting. The projections are not made, they are encountered. The effect of a projection is to isolate a person from their environment as instead of a real relation to it there is only an illusory one. Projections change the world into a replica of one’s own unknown face – the Shadow – and lead to an auto-erotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable. The resulting feeling of sterility are in turn explain by projection as the malevolence of the environment, and by means of this viscous circle the isolation is intensified.

Our shadow has a reservoir of tightly coiled, focused, and concentrated energy at its disposal, which can either be used to harm others, and ourselves, or transform ourselves. It is said that should the shadow develop more energy than the ego, it will erupt in us as an overpowering rage or depression; “the shadow gone autonomous is a terrible monster in our psychic house.” During this phase of the dark night this is typically what happens and it is normally this condition that forces people to seek help. To become conscious of the Shadow takes considerable moral effort, recognising the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. Jung contended that this act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge. In the ogham the ivy represents the spiral of the self, the search for the self, to see through the eyes of the soul. The maze or labyrinth is also linked to the ivy, it too symbolizes the wandering of the soul, circling inward and outward. The spirit turns inward, like Theseus following his thread into the labyrinth. The exploration for the secret center of his own being, which may appear monstrous, lying hidden most of the time.

“We still attribute to the other fellow all the evil and inferior qualities that we do not like to recognize in ourselves, and therefore have to criticize and attack him, when all that has happened is that an inferior “soul” has emigrated from one person to another. The world is still full of betes noires and scapegoats, just as it formerly teemed with witches and werewolves” – Jung

As Jung describes the Projection of the Shadow, it refers to as the principle that “[changes] the world into a replica of one’s own unknown face”. We most often become aware of our shadow through our dreams. During this phase of the dark night it is exactly this unknown face of ourselves that we need to uncover in order to reap the most benefit of the process of transformation.

“The Kingdom is like a man who had a treasure hidden in his field without knowing it. When he died, he left it to his son. The son did not know about the treasure. He inherited the field and sold it. And the one who bought it went plowing and found the treasure…” Gospel of Thomas

” … look in the deepest of your wounds, for there lies the gold of your being.” Emerald Tablet

Another way of perceiving the dark shadow is seeing it as poison.

In terms of the transmutation of poison, first one must recognize the poison – is it envy or jealousy, or is it fear or anger, or is it pride or arrogance, or is it greed or lust, or is it insecurity or doubt? It is like a person bitten by a venomous snake. When they go to the doctor seeking the antidote, the first question the doctor will ask is, “What kind of snake bit you?” The anti-venom is made from the venom; the antidote is made from the poison itself. In order to transmute the poison I must look and see exactly what kind of poison it is, for that will determine the proper response.

Whatever the poison is, the antidote is in it. Whatever form of negativity arises, it contains the holy spark of the positive in it. For example, consider jealousy. If I am jealous of someone, then it means that I see that person’s talents and virtues, and the good that is in them. Instead of remaining in jealousy, I can celebrate their talents and virtues, and honor the good that is in them – I can give praise and thanks to God, and uplift this person to God, and glorify God. Of course, when I do this, I will be drawing upon the good that is in me, and I will also serve to uplift myself as I uplift another. We receive exactly what we give!

Now we can say the same of any form of negativity we might name, even the darkest and most evil thought – all contain the holy spark of what is positive and good, and we need only look and see the good in it to draw it out. In this way we transmute the poison into an elixir of life – it is a spiritual alchemy, all in the mind.

You will note, in this we are not struggling against anything, but rather we are moving with what is happening and we are using exactly what arises to cleave to the Anointed and Mother Spirit. In this process of we must be playful and creative. Obviously, depending on the poison, there are many ways to go about transmuting it. With jealousy as our example we have given only one way – but there are many others ways and we ourselves must find exactly how it works for us in real life situations. In other words, it is an ongoing practice of the spiritual life.

In this light we may view the negativity that arises as an opportunity to refine and develop our soul, just as the challenges we face in life are opportunities for the development and evolution of our soul – all of life is filled with opportunities and possibilities, and it is we who choose the direction we will go … lust and greed, fear and hatred – wonderful, no problem! If self-grasping, attachment and aversion cease, what are these? They are pure energy, pure radiance, no longer bound up in the forms labeled “lust” or “murder.” The key becomes recognizing vital and mental energy is just that – *energy*, and therefore may be transformed from one form to another based upon this awareness. There are many ways to embrace and transform any negative thought or emotion that may arise, but all are based up this recognition. Thus, through practices like the silent witness and primordial meditation, we must seek to establish ourselves in this recognition.

As negativity arises, rather than avoiding it or pushing it away, calmly abide and look into it, examine it, and seek to find the holy spark that is in it, the light-power in it; just as with jealousy, all have something good in them, something luminous in them. Consider greed, in greed there is the knowledge of what is good to give, for knowing what you desire to keep for yourself, you know what is truly good to give; in the midst of lust, you recognize the beauty and desirability of another, and there is much energy suddenly at your disposal – noticing beauty can invoke awe and wonder of the source that gives rise to such glory, and the energy aroused can be directed into any activity, or it may be directed inward and upward, Godward, remembering our true Beloved: Divine or Enlightened Being. Fear has wakefulness in it, and anger is innate concentration – after all, when we are afraid we don’t exactly fall asleep very easily, and when we are angry we are very concentrated and capable of the most detailed visualization; if we direct wakefulness or concentration differently, there is no more fear, or no more anger! How wonderful! No problem!

Of course, we could point out many other qualities to these same forms of negativity – it is all about becoming intimately acquainted with the negativity arising in one’s own experience and seeking to embrace it, relate with it, and work with it creatively. If there is a specific situation, with a specific individual, a tzaddik may well be able to suggest a specific method, akin to a prescription for medicine by a doctor that may serve as a remedy for an ailment; but speak in general terms, if we are willing to embrace the negativity that arises in our experience and seek to relate with it in a different way, becoming playful and creative with it, we will find a way to transform most of the negativity that arises – we just need to remember that whatever arises is empty by nature, having no substantial or independent self-existence.

What we are talking about, of course, requires a different view and attitude regarding negativity – instead of meeting it with judgment, we need to meet it with awareness and with curiosity, and see it as an opportunity for creative practice, an opportunity to play with the energy arising and see what can be done with it that is positive and productive, actually beneficial to ourselves and others.

Essentially, we are talking about embracing and integrating the Shadow Self; unfortunately, just religious views in many forms of spirituality suggest that enjoyment is “wrong” or “sinful,” they also propose that there is something inherently “wrong” or “evil” with the Shadow Self. Yet, integrating it, we find that it is a source of immeasurable power for a greater good, a source of energy that may support the Great Work. It is all a question of creative and skillful means – using whatever arises in a way that is beneficial and helpful, rather than counterproductive to our well-being and welfare, or to the well-being and welfare of others.

Some individuals may suggest that this is “dangerous,” but look into religions in which the Shadow Self is rejected and oppressed, and notice the violent eruptions of the Shadow Self that are prevalent with those practicing such a view; then look into forms of spirituality that embrace and integrate the Shadow Self, and you will find that they are not as prone to externalize the violent inclination in such wild and unconscious outbursts. Essentially, like or not, the Shadow Self is present, and negativity will arise – the question is how to relate with it, from a Sophian perspective, rather than attempting to cut it off…

You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world
for the fire makes a circle
for everyone
so that no one sees you anymore

But darkness holds it all;
the shape and the flame,
the animal and myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight –
and it is possible; its great strength
is breaking into my body.

I have faith in the night. – Rainer Maria Rilke

To have faith in the night is to have night vision. The wanderer bravely enters the darkness to discover what is there and what has drawn you.

I proceeded down the hill and came to an old hotel. As I walked inside I remembered that I have been there in my youth. I looked inside the rooms and was surprised to find heaps and heaps of empty white shells on top of the chest of drawers even inside the cupboards. I noticed old clothes of mine in one room; clothes that I thought lost. It was as if I left it yesterday. I picked up the clothes and folded it intending to take it with me. I wondered when I left it and why it seemed as if I left in a hurry. Why could I not remember? The shells puzzled me.

I heard my name called again and I looked to see who was calling me. A beautiful black girl made a graceful leap from the balcony above me to right next to me. She said:” I remember you …” I could not remember but thought that I could question her on why I had to leave so unexpectedly. Maybe she will know what the hidden secret was.

We went back inside the hotel to her room. She was recalling what fun we had. I observed that her room was not full of shells like mine. I was still straining to remember what she was recalling, when suddenly in the ceiling I saw a small vortex appear. Swirling like a universe. Out of this appeared what looked like an orange sea anemone. Intense fear arose in me as I suddenly remembered why I left in such a hurry. I tried to warn her but the thing sucked her up. I remembered that it only took live things and I held out some red and white flowers that was in the room to give me enough time to escape through the door. I now knew why there were so many empty shells.

Little Swan flew through the Dream time. Looking for the future. She rested for a moment in the coolness of the pond, looking for a way to find the entry point to the future. This was a moment of confusion for Swan, as she knew that she had happened into the Dream time by accident. As Swan looked high above Sacred Mountain, she saw the biggest swirling black hole she had ever see. Dragonfly came flying by, and Swan stopped to ask about the black hole. Dragonfly said, “Swan that is the doorway to the other planes of imagination. I have been guardian of illusion for many, many moons. If you want to enter there, you would have to ask permission and earn the right.”

Swan was not so sure that she wanted to enter the black hole. She asked Dragonfly what was necessary for her to earn entry. Dragonfly replied, “ You must be willing to accept whatever the future holds as it is presented, without trying to change Great Spirit plan.” Swan looked at her ugly little duckling body and then answered, “I will be happy to abide by Great Spirit’s plan. I won’t fight the currents of the black hole. I will surrender to the flow of the spiral and trust what I am shown.”

Dragonfly was very happy with Swan’s answer and began to spin the magic to break the pond’s illusion. Suddenly, Swan was engulfed by a whirlpool in the centre of the pond.

Swan reappeared many days later, but now she was graceful and white and long-necked. Dragonfly was stunned! “ Swan what happened to you!” he exclaimed. Swan smiled and said, “Dragonfly, I learned to surrender my body to the power of the Great Spirit and was taken to where the future lives. I saw many wonders high on Sacred Mountain and because of my faith and acceptance I have been changed. I learned to accept the state of grace.”- Sun Bear – The Animal Medicine Cards

If you want to know who you were in your past life, look to your present circumstances. If you want to know who you will be in your future life, look to your present actions.” – Buddhist

The Maori pattern of the koru depicts the relationship of the past and the future. One spiral comes up from the past, coiling in to a central point, which is the present moment, before changing direction and spiralling up into the future. The magic point, the only point where change can occur is the centre point, the point where the certainty of the past touches the uncertainty of the future.

When talking about the koru, I described time as a vortex. We see time as moving from the past to the present and to the future. The past and the future swirl around continuously changing, creating a present moment that is always different. Even though the present moment is always changing, it also remains the same just as the whirlpool is always changing, but retains a stable shape. We live in an ever changing present moment.

When we see time in this way, we realise that we do not move through time from yesterday to today to tomorrow, but rather we stand in the present moment while time moves through us.

Everything from our past has happened is certain and cannot be changed. If we place our identity in the past, we live for what was, for our past achievements, for people and events which have gone, for things that are fixed and cannot be changed, then the present can have no meaning or power.

Similalrly, if we place our identity in the future, we live for what will be, for our future achievements, for what people around us will be, then again, the present has no meaning or power.

In addition to that, the future is full of uncertainty, so, it is always possible, in fact, likely, that those thing in the future in which we invest our identity in will not come to pass and therefore we again place our identity in something that has no reality…

The present moment is balanced on the edge between the certain past and the uncertain future. Sitting right in the edge of certainty and uncertainty is the present moment; not restricted by the past and free to create the future. If we place our consciousness in the past or the future, we place it in the turbulent swirling winds of the vortex, where we are buffeted about and have little control over our lives. If, instead, we place ourselves at the still centre of the present moment, there is a calmness we find within ourselves. It doesn’t mean we avoid the difficulties of the world. It doesn’t mean we ignore the past or future, but we see them from the still point and remain calm. We are actually at the only place where true change can be made, certain enough to allow stability, uncertain enough to allow growth.

The vortex is something we see in nature appearing out of nowhere and mysteriously disappearing again. They exist as obvious forms as a tornado or whirlpool, but also in more subtle forms such as human beings and human identity. By learning to ride the edge of the interactions at the still point, we open ourselves to the full richness of what it is to be a person and a full child of the universe.

The Edge of Chaos is a key concept in chaos and complexity. If a system is too unstable it lacks the ability to work as a coherent whole and lapses into deep chaos. If a system is too stable, it becomes rigid and unable to adapt to a changing environment. There is a critical balance point called the Edge of Chaos, just before the point of lapsing into deep chaos, where the system is not only stable enough to maintain coherence, but can self organise such that new levels of organisation and stability can emerge. The Edge of Chaos is not a static equilibrium, but rather a dynamic balance, like the balance of a tightrope walker, who is constantly using feedback loops of balance to stay on the rope.
Victor McGill

The sign of the end of the putrefaction step is the peacock’s tail (the coat of many colors) symbolizing unlimited potential.

This where the dark night of the soul has been drawing us towards, drawing us into being fully present stripped bare of the past perceptions and future ones not yet formed. Into the bosom of dark Nox and Erebus, entwined rising out of chaos, on the edge of utter chaos. Nox the unconscious form of nature and Erebus, the latent divine potency. From their first cosmic and elemental embrace, Eros was born from a silver egg. He who is the driving force behind the entire theogonia, the unfoldment of thought, the liberating agent who releases and activates the creative process of the mind. He who awakens the ego to its true nature.

The current English word “soul” may have originated from the Old English sawol, documented in 970 AD. “Sawol” has possible etymological links with a Germanic root from which we also get the word “sea”. The old German word is called ‘se(u)la’, which means: belonging to the sea (ancient Germanic conceptions involved the souls of the unborn and of the dead “living” being part of a medium, similar to water), or perhaps, “living water” – Wikkipedia

“The cosmic ocean pervades space and time. It is the basis of all things; the energies of the visible world originate from the primordial energy that is inherent in its creative potentials.” Gopi Krishna

In your dark night you may have a sensation you would call ‘oceanic’ – being in the sea, at sea, or immersed in the waters of the womb. The sea is the vast potential of life, but it it is also your dark night, which may force you to surrender some knowledge you have achieved. It helps to regularly undo the hard-won ego development over the years, to unravel the self of culture you have woven over the years. The night sea journey takes you back to your primordial self, not the heroic self that burns out and falls to judgement, but to your original self, yourself as a sea of possibility, your greater and deeper being … You return to the womb of imagination so that your pregnancy can recycle. You are always being born, always dying to the day to find the restorative waters of the night. – Thomas Moore

We are drawn down and under, as surely as the moon draws the waters of the ocean, by an irresistible ancient longing. Here in the deep depths of our soul lies the undifferentiated waters of the vast cosmic ocean of unity. In this space between worlds and time, between incarnations, bardo, the dark night provides an opening into the underworld of our unconscious, where we can access the entire universe of past, present and future flowing into our psyche. In this intermediate state of now, the present eternal moment, in this dark night, we are linked to the past and the future through the present. We have access to hidden memories of both past failures and successes, here our angels and demons are intertwined, here we meet both our angels (our highest potentials) and our demons (our fears); the guardians of the thresholds.

The dark dimension, which lies hidden beneath the surface of our conscious awareness, holds the storehouse of forgotten memories from the past, and the potentialities of future possibilities. It contains both our personal storehouse, and deeper into the transpersonal stratum of the collective unconscious. Our dark shadow has an equal counterpart: the bright or golden shadow which contains our highest potentials and abilities, the inner aspect of ourselves which is our best and brightest aspect, our finest potential. In the Kabbalah this is reflected in Da’at, which appear according to the state of mind of one who approaches it. Thus it can appear as a great angel or a great demon. A demon carries one further away from enlightenment, and an angel is something that brings us closer to the divine. Da’at is also called The Abyss,or the Bridal Chamber.

This exactly what this stage of the dark night represents, if you cling to past fears, judgments an outworn concepts you will face the angel of wrath, if you courageously face what you have been trying to avoid all these years, you face the angel of your divine potential, hidden in the depths of your soul.

Now you find yourself having to face your shadow; both the bright and dark aspects of it. This is the stage in bardo, between lives that is also called The Judgment. At this point one can enter either heaven or hell. From here the future will germinate from a seed capsule which we create during this stage. Into this seed capsule are placed three things;

  1. The distillation of our wisdom essence from the past cycle
  2. Our unfinished karma and unconscious habits
  3. Our commitments for the future cycle

If you had no limitations and possibilities were wide open; imagine there were no obstacles whatsoever – money, education, training, degree, age, sex, race, health – What would you put into that seed pod? If you could do anything you want, what would it be? It may not be possible for us to actualize our ideal images, perhaps not yet, but it is important to have a glimmer into the farthest outreaches of our potentialities .… an awakening to a greater reality.

In East the term bodhissattva describes the being who has achieved enlightenment through having fulfilled and completed his or her karma. However rather than remaining in the clear light, this person chooses to continue incarnating in this dualistic dimension for the purpose of benefiting others. The bodhisattva’s life is motivated by the desire to relieve suffering and guide others towards healing and liberation. Our dark phase energies can point to our communities to emulate the bodhisattva ideal. On the level where the Law of Grace, or oneness is operative, the burdens of pain and suffering are not karmic retribution but rather additional responsibility we have voluntarily taken on in order to help others. – Demetra George

Always we have a choice. Shall we let our aversions, our demons shape our future, or shall we let our possibilities, our angels shape our future?

I see the moon reflecting on the mirror surface of the pool. A ribbon of cloth floats towards me. What bigger piece is it from? I feel its texture with my fingertips, run it across my face to feel what it stirs in my soul. Who was the weaver of the cloth? Who spun the thread, where did the raw material feel the first ray of light, to bear forth that, which in the hands of the master spinner and weaver becomes the myth of its origin? Where from this ribbon of cloth? I hold it too my face and fill my breath with its essence. I dive into the dark depths of the pool, as if I am diving into the radiating source of light. In this source of light I feel myself purified the deeper I swim. I swim until I feel there is no more need, for I will never reach the end, I allow myself just to drift, wrapped in bliss. Slowly I float back to the surface. I open my eyes; the warm breeze cooling the water drops on my skin.

“To reach and grasp, and to suffer the release of the grasp, and then to reach some more, past the known frontiers of body, mind, heart and soul”.

Drifting in the Dark Sea
Formless potency of the Primordial Night
Chaos envelops me
and I surrender
In this night
a dream arose
Images rising from
the dark depths
of my soul
and stirs fathomless

What image will you choose
to represent those desires stirring
in the womb of the night
What will be the colours
of your wings?

What do your voice cry out for
in longing
in the night?
Come Beloved,
Join me,
so that together we may
weave a bright new dream
Let us play for a while longer
in the starry night skies
of our imagination
before we give birth to a new dawn.


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Part 5: Bardo – Purification/ Liminality/ Initiation

Imagine you awoke one day to find yourself in a strange land. You remember who you were and what you have done, where you used to live, even your dreams and longings, but now it seems so far away. So out of reach it all seems in this strange land. Here it is as if nothing that once was familiar matters any longer, all that matters is that you find yourself where you are right now. You cannot return to what once was, neither do you know where to go from here. Now there are no distractions. You have to look closely at what has been revealed.

Hermetic Vessel

Before I continue I want to plant a seed of imagination, which is for me central in navigating a Dark Night of the Soul. In the second stage of the dark night, you find yourself isolated within a Hermetic Vessel of transformation. Whatever situation has caused the onset of the dark night, you find yourself in a paradoxical situation – you are no longer what you were, neither are you what you are becoming – held between the two poles of masculine and feminine. Yet the vessel itself that holds the paradox is feminine – the womb and the tomb. The feminine can hold paradox, but the masculine needs to discriminate, between black and white. Thus during this stage, you have to surrender your desire to decide. When we find ourselves in a situation where we feel torn between two desires, you can either use the masculine energy; the sword of discrimination, and decide to go for one or the other, or use the feminine energy to contain paradox. This is what a dark night of the soul is; to abide within the paradox until the false – thus that which is not true to your soul’s individual nature gets stripped from the tree, by autumn’s winds of change, and it is ready to bring forth new leaves. The very situation that causes your conflict becomes the container for your transformation.

The following quote by James Hillman illustrates the psychological approach with which one has to face this part of the Dark Night;

That word “entertain” means to hold in between. What you do with an idea is hold it between–between your two hands. On the other hand, acting or applying it in the world and on the other hand, forgetting it, judging it, ignoring it, etc. So when these crazy things come in on you unannounced the best you can do for them is think them, holding them, turning them over, wondering awhile. Not rushing into practice. Not rushing into associations. This reminds of that: this is just like that. Off we go, away from the strange ideas to things we already know. Not judging. Rather than judging them as good and bad, true or false, we might first spend a little time with them.

We tend to want to engineer a solution for every problem, not willing to let the situation unfold organically. Within that container of paradox, your soul’s desires will rise to the surface, so that you can know what you authentically desire. There are however many layers of that desire and by just letting them surface, feeling them, experiencing them in depth, you will eventually get to the basis of those desires, and then even beyond them – to the mother core. By surrender in this situation, I mean to allow yourself to feel what you feel, let the full fantasy unfold, without judging it, as good or bad, or acting on the impulses. While one is in the storm, it is not a good time to make any choices, for really it is only when you have gone right through the emotion to its core that a real imaginative solution can present itself. The tension of the paradox one has to live in can feel unbearable at times, but it is often more of the resistance to the surrender that is unbearable.

In the vessel you entertain the many possibilities of being. It is a realm of pure possibility where novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise. It is the realm of the creative womb, as well as the tomb of staid ideas and concepts. One of the most basic characteristics of creativity is be able to hold conflicting ideas until a a creative solution presents itself. Any creative person can describe what is like to be possessed by their daemon. Where it is as if for a while as if the outside world cease to exist until you finally give birth to whatever creation, You may even forget to eat or sleep so driven you feel within that container, that womb of creation. You may not necessarily feel depressed in a dark night, but during this stage you do find yourself within the vessel of transformation, the womb and the tomb.

It is in this stage that we encounter most resistance. It is ironic that most hover on the outside, or beginning of this phase and do not realize that by trying to avoid the pain, they will remain in an empty, defensive, and fallow period, because they think that going deeper will be even more painful. By not fully understanding the process, most continue to hold on, and in so doing, retain the old, no longer appropriate, emotional patterns, thus also continue to hold on to the pain that these patterns have created. The overriding experience becomes one of anguish and delusion, set in the denial of what is. Basically it is the ego trying to hold onto an identity that no longer is appropriate for your renewal. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

The very resistance in us that arises when we hear of the dark night of the soul is, itself, the cause of the dark night – this desire to avoid the grief and pain, and the desire for only the pleasure and joy, this is attachment and aversion, rooted in self-grasping, and it is this that precipitates the dark nights of the soul.

Essentially, passage beyond the dark nights comes through a complete acceptance and surrender to the dark nights – a complete surrender to the Divine Mother, to Reality as It Is, to God.

We do not come to such surrender without the full realization of the necessity for surrender, and the only way we come to this realization is through the experiential level – through actual experience; the experience of the dark nights leads to this, and they are an integral part of an organic and holistic process, the depths into which we seem to fall being integral to the heights into which we seem to ascend.

Consider the story of Christ after the crucifixion, according to the tradition, first he descends into Hades and hell realms, and then he is raised up from the dead and ascends to the heavens; there is the suffering of death and the suffering of hell, and then the joy of the resurrection and ascension. Now we may speak of the love and mercy of Christ in his descent, seeking to extend the Divine Light into all realms, descending into the depths for the salvation of souls; yet we may also speak of a simple truth in the self-realization process: You will ascend into the heights only to the extend that you are willing to descend into the depths; to ascend, first we must descend, and our ascent in consciousness will be equal to our descent – they are integral to one another. There is no way around this, now way of avoiding this – it is the nature of Reality as It Is.

When we hear provisional teachings on the enlightenment and liberation of the soul it can only sound to us as though it is some fixed or static state, as though at some point we “arrive” and that’s it, it is all well and wonderful, no more sorrow, no more suffering – that’s what the egoistic self wants to hear. We want the rewards of heaven, not the suffering of hell; but this is the cause of our bondage to the heavens and hells of the demiurge, this play of attachment and aversion – until it is brought into cessation the soul remains in its bondage. – Tau Malachi

The Dark Night is basically a process of dying for the ego. The ego reflecting what we think we are, thus the fear and aversion felt by most for the dark night reflects our fear of death, since we attach a lot of value and identity with name and form, and with the material world and possessions. If we think that death is the end of all that we identify with, we will attach a lot of fear to it. Just like dreams reflect our lives, so death reflects our lives, in that it will assume an appearance relative to the observer, or the one experiencing it, relative to our state of consciousness. According to some esoteric traditions the process of death begins the moment the cause of death is contacted. So one may well say that our process of death, the death of what we think we are, begins the moment we are born. So where does life begin and where does it end; are life and death really separate? If we think that life only has meaning when we attain our successes, or are in our youthful peak, or in our joyful moments, dark nights will be very hard, as we cannot see that we are always in transition from one state of consciousness to another. Nothing is static or fixed in creation. So in truth we are always in a bardo state.

The Bardo Thodel, or “Book of the Intermediate State” (popularly but known in the West as “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”) Thodol means “liberation through understanding,” or “Great Liberation Through Hearing”

Bardo means a “between state,” an interval or transition between two mental states, whether experienced in life or after death. Hence the work’s Tibetan title (which might be translated more literally as Liberation through Understanding the Between) alludes to bardo states that may be experienced at any point over the cycle of life, death and rebirth, yet the work itself overtly discusses only the bardo states experienced during death, offering explicit instruction on how to navigate them. In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva.

A single life span is itself a bardo state, a transitional zone in a larger cycle of rebirths. Dreams are bardo states that occur within the daily round, in the interval between falling asleep and waking; feelings of uncertainty, paranoia, and delusion are sometimes grouped with dreams on a looser interpretation of this second bardo state. A meditative trance is a third type of bardo state, an intermediate zone between ordinary consciousness and enlightened awareness. These are the main bardo states of life.

Although the Bardo Thodol is a guide to the bardo states experienced after death, it can only be read by the living. It may be read in preparation for one’s own death, or at the deathbed of another. Because the weaknesses attributed to the dead are all experienced by the living as well, a person learning to traverse the bardo states of death will learn to navigate better the bardo experiences of life as well. In this sense the book is a guide to liberation across the entire cycle of human existence as conceived in Tibetan Buddhism.

Could it be said any clearer, what possibilities the Dark Night of the Soul contain? That which we try and avoid with all our strength contains our very Liberation, our deepest desire. So many see the Dark Night of the Soul as a curse, something to be feared, just as much as we fear death, yet it is indeed a great blessing when we find ourselves in a Dark Night of the Soul, or indeed experiencing the trials of life. If we can in the midst of our trials, see beyond our attachments and aversion, we can indeed be liberated from our suffering.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:12).

I find the three states of Bardo as described in Bardo Thodol in itself illuminating as relating to the process of the stages of transformation of the Dark Night.

  1. The Chikai Bardo (or hChi-kha Bar-do ) or Intermediate period of the moment of death. This includes the process of dying; and the dissolution of the elements; earth – form, water – feeling, fire – perception, and air – intellect, that make up the physical body. According to the Gnostic tradition earth dissolves into water, water into fire, fire into air, and air dissolves into spirit space. Then spirit-space dissolves into itself, into its inmost nature. During this period one experiences the “Clear Light”, one’s own innate Buddha-nature. This is therefore a very favourable moment for the attainment of Enlightenment and liberation from the wheel of rebirth.

The experience of the death point, the moment at which the soul loses consciousness of objects and becomes aware only of itself. The experience is described as a vivid formless light emanating from all sides. At this moment, enlightenment lies close at hand, although one’s capacity to attain it depends on the extent to which one has achieved lucidity and detachment in one’s previous existence. For most individuals the vision of light can only be sustained for a brief interval, after which the soul, caught in desire and delusion, regresses toward lower levels of existence

The Tibetan account of the Chikai Bardo shows striking parallels with the so-called “Near Death Experience” of people who have died, experienced themselves floating out of their bodies, and so on, and then been revived.

The process of dying, breaking down into the elements, relates to the alchemical process of purification. During this stage you are within the vessel of transformation, in alchemy it is called the process of nigredo or the ‘darkening.’ The Dark Night is itself is a vessel of transformation that allows our putrefaction, the breaking apart of a life that once made sense but needed reviving.

As operations allied to death, dissolution and putrefaction produce images of weakness and sickness for the sake of psychic movement and soul-making. Such images were of major concern to the alchemist who believed that the Gods force themselves symptomatically into awareness, and that pathologizing was a divine process working in the human soul. Therefore, by reverting the pathology to the God, they recognised the divinity of pathology. Furthermore, pathologizing is a way of seeing, of gaining ‘psychological insight,’ which may explain why alchemists, like many great artists and writers, often suffered for their art

The initial nigredo or ‘blackening’ stage of alchemy tells us that it starts with a ‘mess’, the prima materia being the symptom that may drive one to seek therapeutic help. It is the crisis, issue, wound and failure that forces one to begin to question one’s nature, examine life, and explore deeper meanings. ‘Washing out’ the immersed ‘shadow’ matter can therefore be read as a metaphor for breaking down old habits, attitudes and beliefs that obscure psychic insight, and have lost psychic significance. Withdrawal of psychologically naive projections and the loosening of resistances is also the decay (putrefaction) of idealisations that have moulded our reality. By dissolving rigid ego boundaries, we can begin to challenge the ideas we carry about ourselves and the world, questioning the ‘truths’ we unequivocally take to be reality.

The alchemical vessel was seen as both womb and tomb, a place for birth and a place for decay, but also a place for containment. In us the retort is the vessel of memory and imagination, holding events and fantasies where they can be subjected to the heat of passion and feeling or to the simmering of thought and reflection. In this retort, events of life decay, losing their literal form; but they also ferment, acquiring taste, bite, and body – a good cook of the psyche knowing the best combinations of temperature and time, when to let things simmer and when to bring them to the boil.

Crow transformation

The experience of the “Clear Light” also relates for me to the peak experiences of live – the so-called Summer periods, which precedes the onset of a Dark Night; such as the bliss of early youth, completion of studies, the successful career, the first stage of being in love, and in the spiritual life, the attainments.

Consider the dawn of faith and where it may lead us if we are willing to follow – when faith in enlightenment or God dawns, it leads us to seek. Perhaps with the dawn of faith some spiritual and mystical experiences may occur in our spiritual conversation; yet, truly, with the emergence of faith we have not found, rather a sacred quest is begun and we are seeking enlightenment or God. This can lead to low grades of a long dark night of the soul that lasts our entire life – we may seek to ignore it by covering it up with vital sentiments of “belief” or various mental concepts of religion, or else we may actively engage it and pursue the sacred quest, allowing our yearning, our longing, to increase and intensify, seeking something of the direct experience of enlightenment or God, and being willing to the pain and grief that arises along the way, and willing to the amplification of this sorrow and suffering until there is a genuine surrender and breakthrough, and we “find.”

This finding, or course, could lead to a self-intoxication, a self-deception as it were; many radical spiritual and mystical experiences might unfold, and even psychic and magic-powers, and these may be mistaken for the fruition of realization. Following a long dark night of seeking, finding can be extremely blissful; however, if we are open and honest with ourselves, when the initial bliss fades, regardless of how lofty the peaks to which we have arisen, we will notice how far away from actual enlightenment we are, or how far removed from the Divine we are, and we will look and see that, in truth, not all that much has actually changed …
– Tau Malachi

A friend of mine, who are finding herself in a Dark Night of the Soul described to me what she felt the onset of her Dark Night was; “ I was standing in the passage of my home, and suddenly I realized the vastness of all, and in that moment, I felt I knew nothing. After more than 20 years of a being a practicing healer, I felt I knew nothing. In that moment I surrendered and it felt as if suddenly dark walls fell down around me. Since then I felt as if I lost all my powers and I can no longer be a healer.”

Whatever the attainments, they will have to be sacrificed if we are to enter into full enlightenment or full union with God; we will have to let go of it all to bring our self-realization to fruition – the intensity of the pain and grief of this apparent “distance” and the release of the apparent “attainments” cannot be described, but perhaps the image of the Christ-bearer on the cross might reflect something of it, understanding the spiritual and mental-emotional anguish as far more sever than that of the physical; hence the words of the Lord on the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” – Tau Malachi

haunted moon

Harley Lever  – Haunted Moon


One of the major symptoms that is described in this part of the dark night is that of feeling very alone. Contained within this vessel you are alone.

You begin to enter the dark night in earnest when you feel completely stranded. In the fullness of the dark night you don’t know where you are spiritually. You’re separate from God and man. You do not know where to turn. Your friends love you and wish you well but your condition does not improve.

The dark night is a very private matter. The person in the dark night is generally able to function quite well despite inner suffering. Often your acquaintances never suspect that you are going through the dark night — they probably do not even know what it is. Only people close to you — especially friends along the path — can recognize your pain.

You feel like a hollow person doing the activities of life with no motivation except expediency. Your eyes seem deeper in your head. You are profoundly aware of the suffering of humanity and the cruelty of one person to another. You feel that cruelty and negativity far outweigh love and constructive action.

Alone, and not wishing to be, unable even to express yourself to others, you enter midnight and the greatest intensity of the dark night. Here you have finally come to the time of sovereign solitude. In this precious time, which has no apparent prospects of love or happiness, you clearly perceive that nothing in the outer world has proven adequate to heal your condition.

Nobody, not even your dearest friends and loved ones, can make you whole. Even if they have tried, and love you enough to try loving you forever, they can’t give you peace. In your loneliness, you next — in a seemingly random process — notice that none of your thoughts have proven adequate to your suffering. Not one — even repeated fifty thousand times — breaks the inner storm and lets in light. God and higher consciousness seem so far away that perhaps they are unreal. Neither one has, despite your protracted exposure of yourself, done anything to ease or remove your agony. Nothing appears efficacious. Nothing works. – Anonymous

As for the help that we might receive or offer – we can speak of the divine assistance we receive, and we can speak of the encouragement and support we may receive, but nevertheless, on a certain level we experience and pass through the dark nights alone, and it is this recognition of the truth of our aloneness that is part and parcel of these dark nights. It is just as with the time of death – even in a room full of loving people offering us their encouragement and support, and even with the presence of holy and shinning ones offering their assistance in our crossing; still, no one else is dying, and no one can die for us or remove from us the pain and grief innate in the process of dying and death. In a room full of people we will die alone – in a world full of people we will pass through the cycles of mystical death alone; this aloneness is a simple truth of our experience, whether we like it or not. – Tau Malachi

(2) The Chonyid Bardo (or Chos-nidd Bar-do) or Intermediate period of visions of deities. This refers to the state where one experiences visions of deities, Heaven and Hell, Judgment, and so on. Modern writers have been struck by the parallels with the psychedelic and psychotic states, and experiences of “astral travelling” and the “astral plane” The soul has visions involving a succession of deities: a series of beatific Buddhas in the first seven days, a series of terrifying deities in the next seven. The text describes these visions as projections of the mind’s own consciousness, often involving a tension within the mind itself. For example, the dazzling visions of the beatific deities are accompanied by duller visions of other beings that distract from the splendor of the former. To be thus distracted is to give in to anger, terror, pride, egotism, jealousy, and other weaknesses. In contrast, to ignore the minor visions and to embrace the more awe-inspiring deities is to attain spiritual salvation through the very act.

A mind that fails to overcome these weaknesses encounters the darker, more horrific deities of the latter seven days. Many of these visions are merely aspects of the Buddhas encountered in the first seven days, now made terrifying by the mind’s own weakness. Liberation is still possible here simply by recognizing these beings for who they are. Yet the act is also more difficult now because terror forces the mind to flee rather than to examine its experiences.

In the alchemical process this is reflected in the poisonous gasses that rises during the stage of nigredo.

Alchemy’s operations were principally designed to liberate the soul from material entrapment. As Heraclitus of Ephesos (535-475 BCE) long ago observed, “it is death to become earth,” where literal fixations in earthbound problems stop the soul’s movement. What kills the flow and buries the soul needs dissolving in order to loosen and allow to rise into awareness our congealed fantasies, images and feelings. Alchemy’s dissolution, like a baptism, involved a purification, a washing away of debris, allowing a clearer perception of essentials. This is similar to cathartic release of emotions, where tears give way to fresh insights

The boy during his initiation is told that neither his mother nor father are his real parents, and he can do nothing but accept the situation as is. He has to let go of all that was and await rebirth. In the process he also learns what his strengths and weaknesses are.

As above so below. Even in the most basic level of experience of a dark night the same process is reflected.

The second stage of the transformative process calls us to surrender, heal, and transcend the boundaries of finite form in order to merge with a larger whole. The onset of this stage may be marked by panic settling into a stage of despair and feelings of helplessness. We have a sense that our identity and security from the past are gone and there nothing to replace them. There is nothing stable, certain, or dependable that we can count upon for assurance. The purpose of this second stage is to dissolve and wash away the remains of our past. To the extend that we are able to surrender to and accept what is, our experience can be one of transcendence and merging. In the first stage we are challenged to let go of our concepts; in this second stage our challenge is to purify our emotions and to release our pain…

We feel unconnected to others and increasingly lonely in our isolation. We may feel as if our neediness is greater than ever and that we are not receiving the love and support from others whom we feel should be there for us. In our victimization we take on the role of the sacrificial goat or the martyr. We may loose the companionship or try the patience of friends, who become tired of hearing us complain about our misery, especially if we ignore or reject their advice; we may feel as if they are spurning us.

As we become lost in the darkness and confusion of non-knowing, we may feel melancholy, morbid and pessimistic. There seems to be no hope, no vision, nothing that feels good. Mentally we are foggy, nothing is clear. Sometimes frightening, distorted shape-shifting images take over our mind by day, and similarly bizarre images may invade our dreams at night. We may become paranoid and develop a variety of phobias, feelings as if others are out to deceive or take advantage of us. We evade those who try to pin us down or get final decisions.  – Demetra George

In a dream, I found myself on a mountain top with a group of people. Each of us were selected to bring an “offering”, a special gift to the gods. We stood in a straight line, each next to the other. There were about ten of us. There was an air of joyful expectation. The first one stepped forward to present the offering. Suddenly the clouds parted, and a huge hand reached down and simply squashed most of the people gathered. We were absolutely shocked and I was glad I was not noticed. Then a thunderous voice spoke and said “You will remember the Nuir.”

Then they started to throw houses and buildings around like it was mere toys but with absolutely disastrous consequences to the Earth’s population. I then found myself with many refugees of all population groups men, women and children. Every now and then we had to run for cover as houses came flying through the air. It was like finding myself in an exodus all trying to make their way to new beginnings. Among these people were also shape-shifters who appear like an animal and turn into humans. There were a horse-, dog-, eagle- and lion shape shifters. I specifically remember an old woman who were a crow-shape shifter pushing a load of belonging on a cart, others came to help her, while all just moved to what appeared an unknown destination, through the decimation of an Armageddon.

Armageddon itself in popular culture reflects our perception of death, and transformation. The Apocalypse actually means “revelation.”

Apocalypse is an apt term for dying and death, as the process of dying and death is a progressive revelation of our inmost being when the gross and subtle levels of consciousness dissolve, which are akin to veils that conceal our true nature. – Tau Malachi

This is also reflected in what Bill Plotkin calls ‘soul initiation’;
Soul initiation transforms our lives by the power of the truth at the center of our soul image. Embracing that truth results in a radical simplification of our lives. Activities and relationships not supportive of our soul purpose begin to fall away. Our former agendas are discarded, half-completed projects abandoned. Many old problems are not solved but outgrown. Old ways of presenting and defending ourselves become less appealing, and less necessary. … our lives are changed forever, irreversibly.

The anthropologist Victor Turner gave a special importance to the middle phase of liminality. He said, “It is like death; like being in the womb; like invisibility, darkness, bisexuality, the wilderness, and an eclipse of the sun or moon.” Any of these qualities may make your dark night seem unusual, even uncanny. Your external life may not have changed, but suddenly you find yourself in a twilight zone. Turner describes how, in traditional societies, where rites of passage are carried out in graphic form, the initiate may be naked or dressed in simple, skimpy clothes … These ancient rituals have echoes in common experiences of passage today. People in transition often disregard their appearance. They may let their hair go and not wash or shower … A dark night may take you away from the cultivation and persona you have developed in your education and from family learning. You may slip back into a degree of wildness that allows you to start over, perhaps at a new level. Teenagers sometimes make a lifestyle out of personal disregard. They are going through one of the most prolonged and serious rites of passage they may ever experience. It may not feel like a dark night of the soul to them, but their families see it for what it is. – Thomas Moore

During this stage just like in dying, or the caterpillar entering the cocoon, the outside world shrinks in importance compared to intensity of the inward dissolving. If we look at the mental, physical, and psychological conditions experienced typically during this phase, as described by Demetra George, we can also clearly see the reflection of what is said occurs during the process of dying.

Physically we feel tired, weak, devoid of energy, and don’t feel like moving or doing anything. We may feel zombie-like, sleepwalking through a dreamlike phantasmal existence. We may sleep a lot; there does not seem to be any good reason for getting up. The emptiness of the outer life mirrors the confusion of our inner mind. In order to avoid the reality of our increasingly meaningless or painful existence, many of us are tempted to find solace in the numbing qualities of addictive substances – alcohol, drugs, sex, food, television. Self-defeated, we spiral into self-destructive activities.

The reason we experience the isolation, exhaustion, pain, and delusion during the second stage of the transformative process is that the guidance of this stage is to heal our emotions through retreat, rest, purification, and opening our hearts to others. In the lunation cycle, when the waning crescent dissolves into blackness, the movement of the lunar energy is withdrawal from the outer world of manifest activities. In the same way, we can voluntarily welcome this opportunity for retreat and rest as the work of healing optimally occurs in the darkness in the same way our bodies regenerate each night while we sleep. We must acknowledge our need for sleep and rest and not allow our own or other’s expectations to pressure us to decide, act, perform, achieve, and accomplish.

Ideally this is a time to allow the waters of dissolution to cleanse and wash away the past, both physically and emotionally. We can purify our bodies with cleansing diets and fast, drinking large amounts of water, taking saunas and mineral baths. We can cleanse our living environments by giving things away, especially those items that stimulate our memories and attachments that we are trying to release. On a mental level, we need to give up our hope that we can go back to what was and to give up our despair about the future.

And emotionally we need to understand how it is that our feelings of anger, hatred, pride, excessive desire, greed, jealousy, and envy continue to perpetuate our pain. When we are taken over by these negative emotional states, biochemical toxins are created in our bodies that contribute to our confused and deluded states of mind. … We can surrender to the reality of what is, accept the inevitability of our loss, and possibly even the idea that this may have been a necessary and ultimately beneficial loss. … However, if our fears and delusions have prevented us from integrating this process, and we are not able to let go of our old negative emotional patterns, another set of difficulties will arise in the third phase that force us, to confront our resistance.

Just as the masters says of the after-life expierence – bardo, this cycle of the death process can last for years until the soul lets go of the past life and is ready to move on. If we accept our loss, we are now able to enter into an even deeper state, in mythical terms what is described as the underworld. It must be remembered, however, as the masters points out, that at any point of the dying process, one can transform the dying process into a vehicle of self-realization. Most of us though are not sufficiently prepared, and must continue with the process.

James Berry says that when we arrive in the dark realm of the underworld, “One is, so to speak, deeper than one’s emotion. One is beneath the depression, the black mood, by having gone down through it to the point where it no longer is.” You discover that there is a place deeper than depression. (It can be helpful to distinguish between the feeling of depression and the sense of existential emptying.) You arrive at the point where your sadness or sense of loss no longer dominate. They don’t have the reality they used to have. You have finally fallen lower. You are now beneath all the emotion that has disturbed you for so long. Things are not better, but you are in a different state. – Thomas Moore

You are now truly in the bosom of the Dark Goddess. Beyond emotions and what appears to be reality; the invisible, unchanging core. It is Her purpose to keep the way to your depth clear of debris and to inspire you to renew yourself eternally in the emptiness of your being. You are now where the dark night has been trying to take you. Now you are almost ready for new life, and that is the purpose of Bardo both in life and death. You are ready to receive a vision of your deeper self, just as the caterpillar has died and chrysalis in its cocoon awaits the vision of the butterfly, thus to awaken to a greater reality.

…By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not …
– David Whyte

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Part 4: Call For Descent

As I have discussed in my previous articles on the Dark Night of the Soul, all of us will encounter and has experienced a Dark Night of the Soul. If all goes well, after each dark night the ego has matured a little more and moved up another step, and sees a little wider picture of the world; entered a new paradigm of understanding. However, for those of us that seeks more than the ordinary illumination, a particular Dark Night will be the only way to go beyond ordinary consciousness.

For as long as you can remember you have searched, you have wandered that lonely path. Indeed the path has not been without its rewards and many wonderful breakthroughs had been made, lighting up your understanding with joyful illumination. At times the going had been tough, and at other times you hardly felt the gravity, spurred along by with excitement of your discoveries. You may even have had some wonderful visions and experiences. You have tried to live your life according to your beliefs, looked at your mistakes with honesty and compassions, and slowly you have made progress, until you could see that you really have made a lot of progress from what now seem such a distant past, when you first began your journey consciously.

Then one day, you find yourself utterly lost. Catapulted into the abyss by circumstances you could not have foreseen, for it emerged from your blindside. You try everything you can think of to get yourself out of the abyss, but nothing helps. You find yourself more and more lost. It feels as if even the wild power that had spurred you onto the quest has left you, even the gods are silent. You feel yourself utterly abandoned, even among the encouragement of others, and even though others try to reach you with their love. You feel as if you are enclosed in an impenetrable cocoon where no one or nothing can reach you. There in your isolation you try and think desperately what could light you up again, what could bring you joy again. But it is as even your feelings have abandoned you. Your thoughts may even turn to suicide, but you have come too far to to except that as an option. Yet, you feel that you want to die; you cannot return to your old life, and you cannot imagine a new life that will bring a solution to your feelings of desolation.

Your ego has reached its nemesis. All your life your ego has been able to do something to pull you out of any difficult situations. Your ego has even assisted you to bring you this far. You realize now that your ego actually wanted to to bring about your transformation, so that it can claim the credit for your enlightenment. Has it not assisted you in your spiritual practices, had it not had a hand in acknowledging the areas where you needed growth? Here in the abyss, in the darkest night, the ego has to admit that it cannot do anything to bring about that transformation you so deeply long for. There is nothing it can do, no skill it can apply, nothing it can will, nowhere it can go, nothing it can buy to bring about that which you so long for. Finally your ego has found something it cannot do. Finally your ego has reached its darkest night, and it recognizes that it itself is standing in the way of your transformation. It has to let go of any hope to bring about the transformation you so desire. Finally your ego realizes that it has to die; at least what it perceives as death, letting go of doing and surrender to a higher force. Let go of all it thought it was, for nothing it thought it was can now help in any way. In this dark night no intellectual reasoning, no matter of what high order will suffice. It has come as far as it can. The wholeness of being that you seek, is unimaginable to your present state of ego.

Nothing that the caterpillar thought it was can prepare it for what it can potentially become. What it thought it was, has served its purpose and brought it to full maturation of its first stage, even helped it survive all the dangers it faced, but now to go forward it must die to what it thought it was. In fact, it has to go against all its survival instincts, forget about all it has learned about survival, and growth in the physical world. What once brought meaning to its life, is now meaningless. Willingly it has to spin its own cocoon, its coffin, using the last of its reserves, surrender to the Dark Goddess, and then to wait upon grace.

Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

In a strange dark land I find myself. Yet, as my eyes become accustomed to the dark, a strong feeling of deja vu fills me. As I look around, some landmarks trigger almost forgotten memories of an ancient map I once saw. From somewhere, perhaps inside me, I hear the stirrings of a once familiar song, and I am drawn deeper …

Entering a dark night is like entering an unknown terrain, or going on a vision quest in the wilderness. When you are journeying in an unknown wild area it helps to have a map, so that you will at least know where you are. You may not know what you will encounter there, or exactly how long the journey will take you, but you will know the direction.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the Heroes of all time have gone before us.”
Joseph Campbell

One may feel utterly alone upon finding oneself within a dark Night of the Soul, many have gone before us, and have left behind maps of the terrain; through myths and legends, ancient initiatory rites, the Kabbalah, and in modern times what depth psychologists calls, depth maps of the psyche. All agree that the human personality is always on a journey of soul making, or maturing the ego. Although the adventures may be outer, they are really inner, into psyche’s depth realm. The ego, emissary of the daylight world of consciousness, must encounter the unknown zone of its own origins and secret destiny. Only after this nekyia, underworld journey, or dark night of the soul, comes the rebirth and return, of the solar hero. It is a timeless adventure, ever, yet never the same, for each hero is also an individual.

Because we are unable to experience and understand all of reality at once, we must take ‘bites’ of reality the size we can ‘chew’. We then form an image based on our best guesses as to the nature of the whole ‘pie’. The image formed is much like a map of a poorly charted territory.

We use this map to navigate the events and situations encountered in the world, just as an explorer uses a map to find their way through a jungle they have never previously encountered.

All the impressions, images, thoughts, events and situations the individual has experienced come together in that person’s mind. There they interact with each other to create an internally consistent, dynamic image of the world that provides the individual a means by which to cope with the environment. Even though the map will be generally internally consistent, it may or may not be consistent with the external world it is attempting to map.

Sometimes the map will be accurate and reliable, while at other times, the map will not provide the necessary accuracy and the underlying fears and distress that had been allayed will re-emerge.

Included in the ‘map’ of reality, must be a map of the individual themselves. Just as the whole map must form a coherent and consistent image, the map of themselves must be similarly coherent and consistent. I must be able to link who I was yesterday, who I am today, and will be tomorrow or my ability to interact collapses. Memory is thus an integral part of creating an identity that persists over time.

Whenever a situation is experienced, it must be compared to the map. There are four possible responses to any experience. Firstly, we can find it consistent with the existing map and absorb the experience into our being. Secondly, we can find it unacceptable and reject it, thereby relegating it to our ‘shadow’. Thirdly, we can distort or reinterpret the experience so it can remain congruent with the map and then absorb it into our being, or finally, find the experience so disturbing that the map breaks down, leaving us unable to relate to our world.

Our identity is therefore created from our past and how we interpret it.”
– Victor McGill

We know that memory itself is an imaginal process, what we think we are and what we think our past is, is an imaginative reinterpretation of events, so that our world will make sense to us.. The key in any process of transformation is indeed the imagination. The deeper part of ourselves works more with images and emotions than with thoughts and words. Imagination is far more than idle fantasy, it is actually a manifesting power, The hero faces seemingly impossible odds but is rescued with the aid of magical guide. Often when you enter into the creative process you can become lost in the chaos of choices, and get stuck in uncertainty. It is then that you have to establish the attractor, and define what it is one wants to create, which then set in motion the process of bifurcation, which magically resolves the situation.

In a dark night you receive an image of your true nature, which you could not have imagined before. Just like the caterpillar dies to its former image, before it receives a new image of what it will become, and is then formed according to that image. When you are stuck in a dark night, your ego has not let go completely yet, and the image not received.

The stages of transformation applies to all dark nights; from the rites of initiations, little deaths, transitions into adulthood, and all life changing situations, including the mystical dark night. Just like having a map of an unknown terrain, knowing the stages of the dark night may help you understand what is going on when you feel the darkness of transition.

Stage 1: Disintegration/ Separation/ Departure

Just as with boy in story of initiation, you unexpectedly find yourself in a situation, where the old form of your life no longer functions well. This part of the process is marked by a cracking and shattering of the old form. This may happen suddenly, or there may be a gradual disintegration. This a time when major structures in our lives, such as our relationships, family, job, health, home, or belief systems, begin to break down and no longer function well or serve our sense of purpose. Some kind of truth about the reality of our situation is trying to break through our habitual conditioned mindset, and this overriding force acts to break up our situation.

The purpose of this stage is to break up the old and this occurs via the process of disintegration

This phase includes what is known as the Call.

That which has to be faced, and is somehow profoundly familiar to the unconscious – though unknown, surprising, and even frightening to the conscious personality – makes itself known; and what formerly was meaningful may become strangely emptied of value … This first stage of the mythological journey – which we have designated the “call to adventure” – signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.
– Joseph Campbell

You can say no to the call, but it will turn your world into a meaningless wasteland. To say yes, to the call may indeed feel like facing the storm. In the western culture the Call almost always involves a traumatic event, or life-changing event. The soul waits for, or creates, a trauma, something extreme that will loosen the ego’s grip on its old way of belonging in the world. The soul has been waiting for this moment, the moment the ego was ripe enough for the descent, developed well enough to withstand the experience of dissolution, yet still vulnerable enough to be dissolvable. The call is almost always unexpected, and unwanted, even if you have lived a spiritual life, death is never easy, though this is exactly what is required. The soul tricks us through various means to undergo an ego death, she knows exactly what would force us into descent. You simply cannot deny its call, and still be “alive” afterwards. The outcome of the call itself is however also not predictable, and what prompted the initial irresistible impulse, often just a decoy for beginning the descend, for the wanderer to begin its journey.

When we do not fully understand the cyclical process of change leading to death and rebirth, we desperately try to hold on to what was and is no longer. Most of do not really understand for we have not been prepared, so this is a common reaction that leads to shock, a disruption that leaves us feeling shattered.

Demetra George describes the symptoms of this stage;

We have a sense of unreality as we move through each day. We can’t believe that this is really happening to us. We may be overcome with panic and anxiety attacks because of our sudden precarious and insecure position. We don’t know how we are going to be able to manage and carry on. We may alternate between a state of numb denial and hysterical instability. Frantically running to and fro, we may try to bargain and make a deal with our partner, our parent, our child, our boss, or our banker in the attempt to “save or salvage what we can” from the relationship, homestead, or whatever life structure is in jeopardy.

Outbursts of anger and rage about the unfairness of our situation are common and are often directed toward those who we think caused our difficulties, toward fate, or toward God. Mentally we feel disorientated, fragmented, unable to concentrate or make decisions. Physically we may feel nervous, anxious, jittery, or have difficulty sleeping and eating. Insomnia, indigestion, shaking, sweating, and heart palpitations are all physical symptoms that frequently occur during this stage. … The more we try to hold onto the old form and deny what is occurring, the greater the disruptive force we unconsciously create in order to break us free from our attachments.

While it is theoretically possible for some super conscious individuals to achieve liberation and instant transformation during this first stage, most of us struggle with our various attachments, and have to move to the next stage of transformation;

You must leave the home of your former identity, and then prepare yourself for the descent – soul initiation.

Next;  Purification/ Liminality/ Initiation

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Part 3: Prelude to the Call for Descent

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought;
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth
– T.S. Eliot

Although we speak of the Dark Night of the Soul, it would be a misunderstanding of the experience to say that it is the soul that is undergoing a dark night; it is actually the ego that experience the dark night. The term ego has become the scapegoat for most of humanities evils, demonized in fact. The ego in my understanding is simply what we think we are. The word ego simply means “I” in Latin. I mean the conscious self while in its normal, everyday state of consciousness. The ego is only one aspect of a larger self. One’s ego is born from the matrix of culture-language-family.

Human identity is relational. Unless we can compare ourselves to what is around us, we cannot understand why we are special and individual. We are therefore formed and sculpted by all those external influences much as a sculptor turns a block of clay, wood or stone into the desired image. We are moulded by events and our identity takes the shape we are given.

At the same time, however, we have an ability to evaluate our experiences, reject external events, and form our own views. We are all at once the sculptor and the sculpted, the creator and the created.

Our identity is not based on who we are, but on who we perceive ourselves to be. If a very physically beautiful person perceives themselves to be ugly, their identity will be formed around their perception of their ugliness.
– Victor McGill

The reason there are so many negative connotations attached to the ego is because most egos have not matured. The ego at its inception – around the age of four – is naturally narcissistic.

A mature ego understands the occasional necessity of surrendering to – or being defeated by – a force greater than itself, sometimes during the death-rebirth of soul encounter (when the ego surrenders to soul) and other times during ego transcendence (when ego surrenders to spirit). Ego obstructs personal development when it gets stuck, lost, or entrenched at any life stage – when it resists change, loss, grief, or radical transformation at the hands of the gods and goddesses.” – Bill Plotkin

So it can be seen that the narcissistic qualities so often attached to the ego is really a reflection of an immature ego, stuck in an early life phase. A person who is for example always acting defensively is identifying with a narrow perspective of an early phase. The inner child has become enmeshed in the mature environment and feels insecure. Even in the highest stages of human development, an enlightened person chooses and act from ego – from an everyday conscious self – but has an expanded ego, so expanded that it is quite different from what most of us experience as ego. It is thus the ego that needs to undergo a death during the rites of passage in order to change its perception of itself, and so to embrace a wider perspective of reality, a new paradigm of understanding. The old ego requires you go through the dark night in order to be transformed.

“One cannot become a butterfly by remaining a caterpillar.”

I can think of no better metaphor for humanity than that of the butterfly. Just like the butterfly humanity is a being in transition. It is therefore no co-incidence that the ancient Greek word for soul – Psyche also means ‘butterfly’ or ‘moth’. The soul it is said, contains the destiny of the ego. The Ancient Greeks also used the same word for ‘alive’ as for ‘ensouled’. Aristotle defined the soul as the core essence of a being, but did however argued against its having a separate existence. For instance, if a knife had a soul, the act of cutting would be that soul, because ‘cutting’ is the essence of what it is to be a knife. The soul indeed contains the core essence of a being, or what some call our unique ecological role. To be alive is to be ensouled and have a unique ecological role. If we look at the caterpillar, and say that its everyday consciousness is aware of its soul’s purpose; That is to eat, to devour virtually non-stop what it knows its source of nourishment is, until it reaches full maturity of that stage, then we could say that the caterpillar’s soul purpose is to eat. If it did have an ego, its ego would think it is a caterpillar. Now comes its rite of passage, its dark night of the soul and its ego must surrender to a greater force, the caterpillar must in fact prepare to die to what it thought it was, and what it thought its purpose was . The caterpillar does not resist even though it could have no idea of what it will become. Does the caterpillar’s soul die too since the soul contains its ecological role?

If we did not know that a caterpillar will be transformed into a butterfly, our perception of what its core essence is would indeed be limited. Just like with the caterpillar our soul will only reveal to our egos what our purpose is in a very stage specific way. Its soul knows what its ultimate transformation will be, and knows too the timing of the unfoldment. Because the caterpillar does not have a reasoning ego, it surrenders without a fight, or resistance to its soul’s prompting.

The caterpillar is to the the butterfly as an uninitiated ego is to an initiated one. “

What distinguish our souls from our fellow entities that constitutes the natural world, is that our souls have a capacity to reflect on itself. Unlike most inhabitants of the natural world we are not innately conscious of our purpose, which is the double edge sword of being conscious. The ability to reflect is a creative ability engaged by the ego through the imagination. So it comes as no surprise to me that the final stage of the caterpillar’s transformation is called Imago – to image. Psychologists use the word imago to mean an idealized image of a loved one, including the self, which relates directly to the story of Eros and Psyche. Psyche had to undergo a Dark Night of the Soul before she was finally united with her beloved and so finally had a true image of her soul.

… be it an idea, or be it life in becoming?”

The thirteenth century,Persian mystic Aziz Nasafi wrote that the spiritual world, standing like a light behind the bodily world, shines as through a window through every creature that comes into being. According to the type and size of the window, more or less light enters the world. Each one of us is a window on the Universe, the whole of understanding. Physicist Raynor Johnson even suggest that while in ordinary states of awareness we view the world through five slits in the tower, our ordinary senses, there are states of consciousness in which we open the roof to the sky. It is in these moments of consciousness that a new paradigm is born. Suddenly a light is lit in the darkness of our understanding.

And here we can see why the same paradigm, such as the Aristotelian or Newtonian, is perceived as a liberation at one time and then a constriction, a prison, at another. For the birth of every new paradigm is also the conception in a new conceptual matrix, which begins the process of gestation, growth, crisis, and revolution all over again. Each paradigm is a stage in an unfolding evolutionary sequence, and when that paradigm has fulfilled its purpose, when it has been developed and exploited to its fullest extent, then it loses its numinosity, it ceases to be libidinanlly charged, it becomes felt as oppressive, limiting, opaque, something to be overcome – while the new paradigm that is emerging is felt as a liberating birth into a new, luminously intelligible universe.
The Passion Of The Western Mind – Richard Tarnas

Within each of us, we progress from paradigm to paradigm in our personal self-evolution. Each stage of this evolution is brought about by a personal crisis, a turning point, a dark night of the soul, a soul encounter. Our personal evolutionary shifts reflects the evolutionary shifts of the greater whole. Within each stage is contained a germ of “betrayal” that will be the wound that causes the Dark Night of transition for our next level of understanding. Our ego must undergo a death to what it thought it was to find the new image of itself; it must enter into the chaos of the dark night.

In 1977, Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel prize in theoretical chemistry for his discovery of dissipative structures. Prigogine described how every natural system grows in a nonlinear way: the organizing structure of a system is at some point no longer useful and has to disintegrate before the new structure can emerge. A prime example of this principle is the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. A caterpillar does not really become a butterfly in the cocoon. Rather, it turns into into a chaotic molecular mesh. Out of this chaos, the structure of the butterfly spontaneously emerges.

Another finding of chaos theory is bifurcation theory. A bifurcation is a place or point of branching or forking into qualitatively new types of behavior. It is usually a sudden change, rather than a slow and gradual evolution. Furthermore, it is a transition of a non-linear system into a realm where new laws dictate what will occur to the system (Barrow, 1988).

Dixon (1993) calls bifurcations, sensitive decision points, or SDP’s. He points out that, far away from an SDP, a system can be well behaved, but as an SDP is approached, the system’s trajectory becomes random and unpredictable.

Complex systems (dynamic systems with numerous interrelated parts) tend to encounter bifurcations, which when amplified, can lead either to order or to chaos (Briggs & Peat, 1989). As a complex system functions, over time, tiny changes or perturbations (such as a single photon of energy, or a slight fluctuation in temperature) can be iterated (repeated) to a size that will result in a bifurcation and the system will then take a new direction.

Bifurcations can be considered as critical points (SDPs) in the life of a complex system. They points can either cascade toward chaos, through a process called period doubling, or stabilize the system in a new behavior through a series of feedback loops (such as autocatalysis, cross catalysis, and autoinhibition) so that the system once again is in harmony with its environment.
If we consider the ego as a complex system, then when a person reaches a critical decision point in their life where they must decide which of two possible choices to make, either consciously or unconsciously, they will have encountered a bifurcation point. The number of the primary bifurcations of the psyche, caused by the archetypes as attractors, are limited in number for each of us. Just as everything has a soul, so one can say that even a particular paradigm has a soul and an ego. Just reflect on how this relates to the state of our outer world.

Our identity shows self similarity. All aspects of our identity must be interactive and congruent. Even flaws in our character are reflected fractally through all aspects of our being. If we have a violent identity, it will be expressed through all the aspects of our being. The violence acts as an attractor for violent images, attitudes, and values and draws them in to become integrated implicitly throughout the entire personality.

It is not only individuals who form identities. While the physical boundary of an individual is generally obvious, the boundaries of a group are more difficult to define.

As we humans evolved, we often found existing social structures to be unable to meet our needs. Small family groups gradually grew in size until the group cohesion was threatened. A more complex tribal structure was needed to restore stability. Again, when too many tribal groups exist in close proximity, the level of conflict rises. Historically, one of the tribes has tended to conquer the others and the tribal leader has become instituted as a King or Queen of the empire. As education levels and individuals’ expectations increased, democratic forms of government formed nations as the most effective social structure. Each level has its own, appropriate corresponding identity. We each have an individual identity, a family identity, a community/tribal identity a national identity, and a planetary identity.

Identity form as nested levels, including the previous level as we progress to a new level (Wilber, 1996). The levels have a fractal relationship. Identity is formed in the same nested way as our brain. Our basic survival functions are controlled in the hindbrain (also called reptilian brain) at the centre of the brain. The paleomammalian midbrain wrapped around it controlling our emotions and the neomammalian neo-cortex is wrapped around all those formations controlling higher brain functions. (Eysenck, 1970: 84). Evolution does not do away with existing structures, but instead forms new structures to modify earlier ones. We do not do away with the need of a family level when we move to a tribal identity and so on. All the levels are interactive. Any level not fully functioning affects the whole organism.
By Victor McGill

The caterpillar is a voracious consumer that devotes its life to gorging itself on nature’s bounty. When it has had its fill, it fastens itself to a convenient twig and encloses itself in a chrysalis. Once snug inside, it undergoes a crisis as the structures of its cellular tissue begin to dissolve in an organic soup.The Great Turning – David Korten

Yet guided by some deep inner wisdom, a number of organizer cells begin to rush around gathering other cells to form imaginal buds, multi-cellular structures that give form to the organs of a new creature. Correctly perceiving a threat to the old order, but misdiagnosing the source, the caterpillar’s immune system attributes the threat to the imaginal buds and attacks them as alien intruders.

The imaginal buds prevail by linking up with one another in a cooperative effort that brings forth a new being of great beauty, wondrous possibilities, and little identifiable resemblance to its progenitor. In its rebirth, the monarch butterfly lives lightly on the earth, serves as a pollinator, and migrates thousands of miles to experience life’s possibilities in ways that the earthbound caterpillar could not imagine.”

In my dream, I found myself in a strange land, so strange that I cannot describe it, neither did I know how I got to be there. Yet, I knew I did not belong there, and the customs were strange to me. I saw a lot of delusional entrapment in the way of life, and wanted to speak out to say there is another way, you do not have to live like that, but the authorities tried to silence me, and I escaped. I then found myself in an ancient tomb where there were a lot of decaying bodies, and I saw four green and white butterflies emerge from a body. I knew that when the transition of death was complete four of these butterflies, which was host specific, thus human hosts, would emerge. I walked outside and saw swarms of these butterflies. Someone said to me, if you see so many there will be a lot of deaths.

In the dark night, the lifelong ego sense dies: impotent. Having fulfilled its part, now weak and incompetent, it is dissolved — transmuted. From a higher sense now awakening within you, you slough off your false sense of self. You now know yourself to be a different person than you thought you were. Your ego was merely experiencing some of the attributes, some of the qualities, of your true nature, while at the same time obstructing others.

Inside the cocoon, you will come to understand what the butterfly knows; in answering the call, you prepare to die in order for something new to be born – and to take flight, when the Other reaches for you, but first you must face the storm.

You are not surprised at the force of the storm –
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know;
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The tree’s blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

To be continued; Part 4

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Part 2: Stages of the Dark Night

A Dark Night of the soul is always a rite of passage. In ancient times, and cultures rites of passage were honoured with ritual. Not all made it through the various rites, but I would say, looking around me in the world that today even less makes it through a rite of passage. Although it may not result in actual physical death, many lose their will to live, and are living a life of the living dead. Some just decline deeper and deeper into depression, just waiting for death, or engage in mindless activities, or uses some form of chemical substance just to numb the nagging pain, while others are walking time-bombs. How many do I wonder, are stillborn in their rites of passage? With all the knowledge that there is today about our minds, our brains, the millions of books on psychology, the Self Help books, still the rite of passage , a Dark Night of the Soul, is viewed by most as an anomaly, not a seen as a natural part of growth, yet, all of us will experience it during the course of our lives to some degree, and through many seemingly unrelated external events.

Although we strive for happiness and success, our mistakes and failures, and our sorrows, forms the shadows; the creative darkness out which our strivings rises.

Here lies another paradoxical secret of the soul: That which seems to have twisted your life or personality for the worst is the very thing that will heal you and give you meaning … Heraclitus said, ‘ Your daimon is your fate. ‘ I might interpret this to mean that when you feel possessed and out of control, you may do things for better or worse, that define you, that give you the basic structures of your life. Because they are largely unconscious and unwilled, they may come to you as a dark night of the soul. Still they are precious to you and offer you material for reflection and serious conversation fot the rest of your life.” – Thomas Moore

We may think that we can separate our emotions into the desired ones and the undesired ones, the light and the dark ones, but really they are inseparable, without the one the other would not exist. If you have always been been brave and courageous, you will one day find yourself in a position where you will be forced to experience the opposite. To live only one side of an emotion is to remain incomplete. I knew a doctor who was a wonderful strong man, who spent all his life helping others, then he got cancer. It was not the pain and suffering that was hardest for him, but it was to for the first time in his life be totally helpless and reliant on others. Before his death, he confessed as much and said he was filled with gratitude and compassion. I have often seen men who were strong all their lives, die very soon after they realize that they will have to live dependent on others caused by an illness. It struck me as if, they would rather die than live helpless. I saw that with my father too.

Chiaroscuro (Italian. Light-dark) As generally used, chiaroscuro (or the French clair-obscur) means the balance of light and shadow in a picture, and the skill shown by the painter in the management of shadows. One can also say that we are each a painting expressing a view of the world through the complex combinations of light and dark, we are indeed uniquely what we are through the skillful use of shadows in our lives.

In musical terms, the minor key, is a refreshing alternative to the brighter major key. “When people approve only of major tonalities they become simplistic, not only in their thinking, but in their very being. Today many of the conflicts that threaten the peace, both at home, and around the world, stem from raw, naïve, and unintelligent prejudices and reactions. Passions routinely break out in violence. It takes a complex view of yourself and your fellow human being to hold back on hatreds and fears. A mature person is complicated and has complex ideas and values. The minor tonality of a dark night adds a significant and valuable complexity to your personality and way of life.” – Thomas Moore

In that way a Dark Night is predictable in hindsight; the pendulum will swing. Many goal setting courses and systems have at their basis the circle of balance; where you examine the areas in your life, or the roles you play, and see which one has been neglected. In those areas you can predict a breakdown will happen sooner or later, and some work must be put into it. If we don’t a Dark Night will force us. However, I have yet to meet a person who actually is completely balanced in all areas of their lives, in all of their emotional experiences. Even Saints and Enlightened men and women, have had to go through some kind of rite of passage into what appeared darkness.

Most African Shamans that I know, came to their calling through some kind of illness, or what appeared a madness. They are then put through a series of initiations until they are a fully fledged shaman, and thus are reintegrated into their society as valuable contributing members. In today’s world, the western culture, most of those people would have been locked up, put on medication, rejected as unstable members, the inner voices stilled as soon as possible, so that they could fit into the formulated model of what is considered normal. Where then today are our structures to guide us through our rites of passage, in whatever form they come, for come they will, as without what appears to be chaotic crisis, there will be no growth. In ancient cultures and myth, the Dark Nights are represented by the underworld journey. The descent into the underworld always begins with a death, either the physical death of the body, or the psychological death of an aspect of ourselves.

According to James Hillman, “ The underworld has gone into the unconscious; even become the unconscious. Depth psychology is where today we find the initiatory mysteries, the long journey of psychic learning, ancestor worship, the encounter with demons and shadows, and the sufferings of Hell.”

Because we no longer understand the role of death in cyclical process, and instead have come to believe that it represents a state of absolute finality, we fear our modern initiations of psychological transformation. We resist any kind of change that brings the loss of what we know as security, and we shirk from recalling any event that holds traumatic memories that crystallize us into negative, self-defeating patterns of behavior. And in our resistance to change, which is the very source of renewal, we stagnate and truly die.” – Demetra George

Here is another interesting dynamic that you may find in all kinds of dark nights. You have to distinguish resistance against the dark night from the dark night itself. People trying to avoid the pain, remain in an empty, defensive, and fallow period precisely because they won’t let the dark night happen. The real dark night is not as bad as the resistance to it; a dark night has more life in it and less ego.” – Thomas Moore

The Vision Quest is a very well known initiatory rite for those experiencing a dark night of the soul, and within it lies another clue of what a dark night hold for us. Often being stuck means that you have reached the limits of your imagination, and that is exactly what a dark night does; It throws out of our usual patterns and forces us to re-imagine our lives. With this in mind lets look at the stages of the dark night, the stages of transformation.

Although dark nights may appear chaotic, it is not as chaotic as it appears. Ancient rites of passage gives us very example of the structure of a dark night. In looking at rites of passage you will find three stages;

  1. Disintegration/ Separation/ Departure
  2. Purification/ Liminality/ Initiation
  3. Regeneration/ Re-incorporation/ Return

This will be clearly seen in the following rite of passage of a boy into manhood, described by Don and Jeanne Elium.

Disintegration/ Separation/ Departure

A boy is born, and the tribe rejoices. The infant spends his first months wrapped snugly on his mother’s body. He has no sense of where he ends and she begins. Mother is his universe. He rides on her back as she works; he sleeps with her; he learns to mimic her daily household tasks; he plays at her feet. He will remain unnamed until the tribe understands his nature, but his mother calls him Solee.

As Solee grows, he explores the boundaries between himself and his mother, and his world expands to perhaps twenty feet from her. He develops relationships with others of the tribe, especially the one called “Father.” Father has been nearby since his son’s birth and takes an active interest in his development. Although he is involved in tribal business and is often gone on the hunt, he spends as much time as he can with his small son. Under the eyes of his parents Solee grows strong, plays with his friends, and turns mischievous. Soon he grows taller than his mother, and his tricks on friends and adults are more risky and dangerous. He is becoming a problem.

Then one day, there is a different air of activity among the women of the tribe. All day they labor to make new shelters. They work long and hard, uninterrupted because the men are away on a hunt. The children are shooed from underfoot, and the older boys are put to work. That night all go to bed early, exhausted. In the middle of the night, strange shouts and frenzied chants awaken the sleepers. They can see torches lighting the sky, winding their way down the mountain toward the village, borne by wild-looking men. The women and children defend themselves with rocks and spears, but it is useless. The crazy men in masks drpping blood into each home and take all of the boys who are nine to twelve years old. “Don’t take my baby the mothers scream, to no avail. The boys, Solee among them, are gone.

Purification/ Liminality/ Initiation

They are taken into the hills to a cave where a fierce fire burns. The sounds of drums fill the night and shake the ground. The boys are placed in a circle around the fire. The wild men in the crazy masks dance to the drums. All at once, some mysterious force quiets the drums, each dancer takes his place in front of one of the boys. Solee is terrified. Knives are pulled. Solee screams with the other boys in panic. Suddenly the masks are removed and the boys scream again, this time in astonishment – ‘Father’ – as each sees his father’s face emerge from behind the monstrous mask.

Father, why did you do this? Mother’s really upset back there. She could have killed you!” The father responds, “Son, I had to steal you away. She is not your real mother.” “What do you mean, not my real mother? Are you drunk or something? Enough of this. Let’s go home, “ says the incredulous Solee. The father replies, “Don’t get me wrong. She is a very good woman, but I will introduce you to your true mother in one year.”

The boy, who really has no choice in the matter, resigns himself to living for a year with his father and elders of the tribe, to be counseled about life and what it means to be a man. His strengths and weaknesses are determined, and he receives a new name that reflects his calling in life, Selu, The Wild Runner. He crafts a shield that symbolizes his unique skills and contributions to his tribe. His skin is scored and permanently dyed to indicate that he has become a man. He is carefully taught how to hunt, to fish, to fight, and to love. He learns to seek guidance from the stories of his ancestors and to honor the life-affirming forces that protect him and his tribe.

One day about halfway along, Selu and his father are making arrowheads, and his father says, “Oh, son. There is one more thing I forgot to tell you. I am not your true father.” “What? You are not my father? Who are you?” The father replies, “Don’t worry. I am a good man, and in few months, I will introduce you to your true father and your true mother.” Again, the boy has no choice but to continue. By now his body has filled out; his muscles are shaped; his skills are more refined. He has passed many of the tests required to be a man in the world of his tribe.

Regeneration/ Re-incorporation/ Return

One night the boys are told that the next day they will meet their true mother and true father. They go to sleep anxious and excited. Before the sun rises, the eldest male of of the tribe is assisted by other men to the mountain top. The boys are roused and told to follow. In this ancient culture the young were protected because they were the hope for the future, and the old were honored because the held the life wisdom from the past. And so it is an elder who says to the boys with the rising sun: “It is time to meet your true mother and father. Feel the earth beneath you. See the sky and sun above you. These are your true parents. Love them and learn their ways, and they will always support you and guide you. Now go to the village and take your places as warriors and hunters. And from this day, depend only upon your true parents.

A cheer rises as camp is broken, and the boys-made-men go down the mountain to their village. Selu sees his mother by the river. His first thought is, Oh no. She’s gonna be mad! She hated me to get dirty, and now look at my skin. He gazes at the permanent stripe of color that marks him a man. When Selu’s mother sees her son, she moans hysterically, “My son is dead. My son is dead!” Now the boy thinks, Even my mother doesn’t know me. I am no longer her son. I am a man. He takes his place in the tribe and continues to learn while he hunts for, protects, and gives life to his community. Eventually he takes a wife and has children of his own. When his son reaches that difficult age, Selu the father pulls out the mask and heads for the hills in preparation for the making of a man.

Within this composite story of a native male initiation is clearly contained all the elements required for navigating a dark night of the soul. Next I will expand on the elements contained within each phase.

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Navigating a Dark Night of the Soul; Part 1


You ask my thoughts
through the long night?
I spent it listening
to the heavy rain
beating against my window.
-Izumi Shikibu

I awoke and I did not know where I was. Is it the middle of the night, early morning? What day is it, weekday, weekend? What woke me up? In the distance I hear rumbling thunder.

I started to write this blog because I was searching for the Meaning of Life, finding myself in a particularly Dark Night of the Soul. I saw both my parents die in quick succession, saw all I had strived for, fall to pieces, and even spiritually I encountered some devastatingly disillusionments. I was abruptly thrown out of my comfort zones, and found myself in what appeared an impossible situation, with only Selchie’s choices facing me. I was seriously challenged in every area of my life, and saw no guiding lights to aid me through what I had to face. All my dreams just collapsed into impossibles. I had to re-revalue all my beliefs, and all that I thought was good or bad.

I looked at my parents lives, and at those of my ancestors, and was filled with its irony. How could something that started so brightly, with such good intentions, end so tragically? I looked at my own life and asked myself how is it possible that I could have been so wrong, so deluded, and yet so deeply felt that I was doing the right thing, and even though I truly walked my talk? I even started to question my own sanity. I looked at life around me and so no better examples to guide me through the dark night. Even the wonderful promise and the miracle of what happened in my country; South Africa, was now revealing its darker side, shattering the euphoric hope that the peaceful marriage of the conflicting parties brought. The hard realities of our transformation was revealed in all its ugliness, with seemingly impossible challenges facing our newly united country. Yet what I saw in the rest of the world looked even worse, and quite clearly the environmental degradation was even worse than originally thought.

Is there any meaning to life, I asked myself. Does all of life end in bitter tragedy? Even those who have lived a good and successful life, are doomed to die the slow and painful death of old age. For so many years, I kept a positive outlook, no matter what happened, and did indeed believe that everything happens for the best, but now I felt my innocent trust shattered. Like Persephone, I found myself abruptly torn from Spring’s innocent wonder, and thrown into the dark world of Hades. I was filled with despair, and could see no way out. I ran this way and that way, searching frantically for a way out. Every way I tried only ended in a dead end. I cried for help but no help came. I had to admit to myself that I was trapped, and did not know the way out, neither could I expect any rescue. No bitter tears I cried, nor hopeful inspirations could free me from the Dark Night I found myself in. All I could do was to surrender and wait; I had reached the limits of my imagination. Painfully, and slowly, from the ashes of my life started to emerge the meaning of life, my personal philosophy. Even though I knew the night could still get a lot more cold and dark, and even though I stopped saying a long time ago that it at least could not get worse, because it certainly can, I could sense meaning in the chaos. Slowly my scintilla * started to sparkle.

There is no danger to life from a blizzard as long as you keep your head. The fact that so many white men freeze to death in the North is chiefly due to another of their superstitions about cold, to the effect that when you are caught in a storm without shelter you must keep moving continually, because if you stop and sit down, and especially if you go to sleep, you are sure to freeze to death. The Eskimo rule, which is exactly the opposite of this, is a sensible one. Just as soon as you make up your mind that you lost. And don’t move until you know where you are going. A white man, following his principle, will walk about until he is thoroughly exhausted and usually until his clothes are wet with perspiration. The time finally comes when he has to stop through weariness and sleepiness. His powers of resistance have been brought so low that freezing to death is the common, and in fact the nearly universal, outcome.

Of course the best thing when you are lost in a winter storm is to put up a snow-house, but that is sometimes impossible, either because a man does not know how, or else because the snow is too soft and cannot be cut into blocks. The thing to do then is to find a small stone or a piece of sod or anything else that can be brushed free of snow. Sit on this with your back toward the wind; rest your head on your knees and go to sleep if you can. Sleeping will help you to pass the time away, and there is no danger in it, for as soon as you begin to get cold the chill will wake you up – always provided that your clothes are dry and that you are not exhausted before you sit down….

On one of his caribou-hunts from this camp Natkusiak was caught by just such a blizzard as that in which I had been about a week before, and was away for two days. A man fully dressed at this season of the year wears two coats – a thick outer one and an inner one made of fawn-skin. Natkusiak on this occasion was wearing only the thin fawn-skin, and we were therefore considerably worried about him; but on the third morning he came home all safe and smiling, saying that he had had the best sleep of the winter. My Life With The Eskimos – Vilhjalmur Stefansson 129-130

How often do we in the western culture not keep on walking until when caught in one of winter’s blizzards? We rant and rave against the elements, at the unfairness of our situation, but we do stop until we fall asleep exhausted, our resources spent. Could not this be equated to the Dark Nights of the Soul, life’s disturbances, and crisis? Do we in this world, at this time not find ourselves in one of winter’s blizzards? We know the writing is on the wall, but we believe we must just keep on walking, until we find our direction. Above all do stop and sleep and dream of the way ahead.

Thomas Moore writes; “ … the body in distress reveals the state of the soul. In William Blake’s language, the body is the soul.” The earth also is our wider body and in distress, reflecting the state of humanity’s soul. Illness itself, reflects Thomas Moore, is a Dark Night of the soul. “ Illness uncovers a world of meaningful issues that you may have covered over with lively preoccupations of your active life. Now there are no distractions. You have to look closely at what has been revealed.”

Today the rate of change in our society is faster than ever before. People can no longer expect a predictable future and, in many cases, not even a safe one or secure one. This lack of stability in individual lives and social structures is forcing people in every stratum of our existence through an accelerated process of change where they must face the death of the old. As a culture we have been conditioned to fear this great dark unknown and have little knowledge and few tools that teach us the mysteries of this rite of passage. Because we do not understand the purpose of this dark phase and are ignorant of its terrain, we resist death and letting go of some aspects of the past in order to embrace the new. We are filled with terror and panic when we consider the physical death of a the body and planet, or the psychological death of a relationship, way of life, addictions, identity, or belief system. The stress of the dark times in our lives can make us dependent on chemical addictions or compel us to take desperate actions. People are searching for guidance as they struggle with feelings of grief, depression, anxiety, anger, and madness in coping with their losses – both the immediate ones in the fabric of daily life, and the ultimate loss of a loved one or their own imminent death.” Demetra George

What is a successful life? What is my unique purpose, what is the purpose of humanity? Just as Persephone had to lose her innocence, to find her power in Dark Hades, where she ruled as queen, and where she found her unique ability to inhabit both the Dark World and the Bright World, so I had to lose my naive innocence, to find my strength. I see a world of pain, horror, suffering and death, but I also see a world of joy, beauty, wonder and love and purpose. I know that although I do not know all the answers, I know the meaning, or rather I sense the meaning that arises out of the chaotic darkness, like a miraculous birth.

The Western culture is a solar culture based on active masculine heroic qualities, inactivity and surrender feels alien in this environment. Our inner lunar qualities regulates that which is unseen and mysterious to the solar eye, yet it works in conjunction with the active principles, both are needed for life to flourish, each in its own timing. Day and night, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. In the western culture the soulful aspects of our being has been seriously neglected. The soul itself is deep and mysterious; no intellectual discussion will bring any understanding to the soul. The soul’s language is that of Images, music and poetry

Each that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides.
Emily Dickinson

Dark Nights of the Soul, are a reflection of the inactive feminine principle, the dark moon cycle, and is essentially mysterious. When I reflect on the subject and my personal experiences in it, I feel a strong urge to lapse into poetry, and images and symbols, myths and stories fills my mind. There is a lot of interest today in the goddess aspects, however there is still very little understanding of the Dark Goddess, the Dark Mother, yet she has never stopped to influence our lives in a very direct way, whether seen in a real or symbolic way.

We tend to search for the answers to our life’s challenges in the outer realms, yet the outer realms, the material world, are like symbols in the night sky, clues of a treasure hunt to find the jewel that lies inside us; a Divine archetypal image dormant within us. Some calls our inner guide the daemon or daïmon, to express an inner guiding presence that escorts and inspires our search for truth on our spiritual journey. It is said that the daemon is an invisible presence linked to each one of us from birth, whose purpose and bond with us remains sacred and mysterious, since it is linked to our spiritual awakening process. However, at the beginning of our spiritual quest, the daemon, as an inspiring initiator, guides and attunes our consciousness towards our ideal model. Because the ideal model is our spiritual counterpart, our ego needs to recognize it, and the daemon is that inner presence that shows us the way. However, for the ego to recognize this Divine Archetypal Image inside us, it first has to shed the illusions, and conditioning we acquired in our growing up. This where the dark night comes in …

Dark Nights of the Soul can come upon one in many ways, through, illness through the loss of a loved one, betrayal, love itself, loss of a job, life’s transitions, or just an inexplicable depression where indeed you find yourself lost, and the way ahead obscured in dark confusion. Whatever the cause, it stops you dead in the tracks, as if caught in a winter’s blizzard.

How do know whether you have experienced a dark night of the soul? Just as with love, you know you have experienced a Dark Night of the Soul, when you had been transformed by the experience. The word experience is the key element of the Dark Night, you will have no clue what it is if you had not experienced it. In that aspect alone it is a reflection of the mystery of spiritual transformation, and it is therefore also an experience of creation in process. In reality nothing has any real meaning if it had not been experienced. It is only through experience that any transformation can occur. The alchemists takes raw elements and through active processess breaks down the elements into their pure form, then combine them through the Hieros Gamos out of which is born the fabled philosopher’s egg. What the alchemists do on the outside, they also do on the inside, so that they themselves go through a process of purification, to be transformed through process and be reborn as a new transformed being, a glittering Phoenix, burning with Fiery Intelligence – Divine Genuis. What is experience – that which is felt in your body, thus reaches the soul through emotions.

What is the human being? The human being is a transitional being.

When we speak of mystics and prophets, enlightened beings and magicians, we are really speaking of individuals who are emerging from the bestial state of humanity toward a new and divine state of humanity, something more than our present humanity – what one might call super humanity. As we look and see this, we realize that our present state is a transitional state of being, something in between what we have been and something else that we are in the process of becoming.

Within and behind all of the encrustation of religious dogma and creed … there is this message of a fiery intelligence and a conscious evolution toward a divine or super humanity. This fiery intelligence, the being-consciousness-force from which creation emerges and that tends to generate increasingly higher and more refined life-forms of increasingly greater intelligence is essentially, what the Kabbalah calls ‘God’ ..The process of working out what is necessary for continued progress in a conscious evolution is called tikkune in the Kabbalah, which means correction, repair, mending, or healing. When it (that which is in the process of creative evolution) is ready, it passes into a cycle of progress, what is not ready goes into a cycle of regress to work out what is needed for progress … ” – Tau Malachi

I think that one can say that both from a metaphysical and scientific point of view we are indeed beings in transition towards a super-humanity, yet we understand so little about the process of transformation from a psychological point of view. What happens to the ‘mind’ of a caterpillar undergoing a metamorphosis? It is now quite widely accepted that thoughts directly influence the physical, however, this knowledge is mainly used to bring about better health, better material conditions and to be happy. But something is missing here, we have forgotten the Chaos Theory, the importance of the seemingly chaotic state within which change occurs. We see chaos as an aberration, an unnatural state of being, something that one must make every effort to escape, yet chaos is the natural agent of transformation, of the process of creation, and evolution.

What appears as chaotic, meaningless is a part of a cycle of growth. What really appears to us as meaningless is that which we do not understand. Nothing in my experience is meaningless.

Expansion and contraction is within every cycle of life. We have great difficulty in excepting contraction as a natural part of life, we want to be forever expanding, forever happy, forever in the light, but this cycle is in both the macrocosm and microcosm . Why can’t we just be always happy expanding, always happy? Why must we breathe in and out?

It is a matter of digestion. Every organism must digest everything it receives properly, rhythmically. What is true for the biological world is also true for the psychological. Our anxieties, emotions, sense impressions, griefs, and sorrows, have to be properly digested. If the pressure of undigested experience overwhelms the system, our biorhythms slip out of gear. Likewise, the major experiences and crisis which comprise our biography must be adequately digested before they can unite with the core of our being. Only when the psyche has digested the ‘nutritional’ experiences which come to it can a fresh cycle of impulses trigger a new phase of action. Any imbalance in the digestive process, whether physiological or psychological, will eventually unleash the energies which produce the crisis needed to restore the equilibrium.” William Bryant

The same can also be said of societies that must also go through these stages and indeed, societies also have their dark nights of the soul. Like individuals nations must properly digest their experiences – especially their disasters. The key to this mystery are the cycles of expansion and contraction, in which growth is interrupted and suspended while new refinements of form and function are introduced. These moments reveal phases of interiorization and reorganization which eventually create the super-organized essence, the idea, of the plants contained in the new seeds. In us these ‘contractions are the critical periods between assimilation of experience and the new impulses released for future change – they are our crises.

In the macro-cosmic cycles we know the same processes occurs, where the vessels of former universes are shattered in the process of the creation of new universes – one form of life being transformed into another. The stories of Armageddon and the Apocalypse also reflects this – hence the process of radical transformation that supports the emergence of what amounts to a new specie of humanity, a divine or supernal being.

The Black Mother is not easily understood – she is, perhaps, the most veiled or concealed aspect of Sophia. She is at the very heart of the creative process, and while she may be clearly experienced in the body and life process, yet she may also be experienced as completely disembodied rather than incarnate – completely transcendental. She is the primordial manifestation of the Divine Feminine – the Deep of the Void and Chaos from which all things arise and come into being. In her essence and nature she is unthinkable – completely inconceivable and incomprehensible; and yet she is the very primordial ground from which all being-consciousness-force emerges.

Although transcendental, and such things as beauty and horror are one and the same to her; yet, she is brooding and immanent, ever present in our experience of a constantly changing reality – and as the motivator of constant change or transformation, her immense power goes without saying. Equally, the Dark Mother is the Great Virgin, completely self-contained and hidden in herself, and though the very principle of change, often called ‘Destruction,’ which is the power behind all Creation, yet is she, in her essence and nature, never changed.

Chaotic and unpredictable, uncertainty and unknowing, dread and terrible – these are words that describe her; yet, so also are words such as sweet and all-giving, liberating and uplifting, and illuminating. She is the core of the Creative Process – the journey into Void and Chaos and Destruction from which a New Creation arise: Mother of the Apocalypse!

Yeshua says, “One must be reborn of the Holy Spirit to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” This, in truth, is a mystical death – passing back into the womb of the Deep of Void and Chaos, those Bitter Waters (Marah), to arise as a child of Light. As any woman can bear witness, the fullness of the womb leads to an explosive and chaotic event of giving birth, so that with birth both mother and child pass through a great ordeal – in this the Black Mother is perfectly known by women. Indeed! She is innately known by women within their own deep and unspoken but natural and instinctual qualities.

Here, of course, we speak of the Dark Night of the Soul and the Cloud of Unknowing – which leads to the realization of the True Light. Yet, until there is a mystical death, and the embrace of the depth of Darkness, how shall the Bright Mother, the Queen of Heaven or Enlightement be known? My dear Tzaddik in these matters, Mother Sarah, would often say, “Those who say they know the Bright Mother, never having embraced her Dark Splendor, do not know her, and cannot unite with her in full until they are willing to the Darkness.” …

Kali Imma and Kali Kallah are not well accepted in our society and culture – rather they are ignored and avoided, demonized, as it were, because they cannot be defined and packaged by finite and linear reason, or controlled when invoked. Few women truly embrace her, and even fewer men – yet, it is she who brings about a true and full metanoia (spiritual transformation or conversion).

The difficulty is this – she is the honest truth of life, much of which is deemed unacceptible or undesirable. You see, the Black Mother/Bride is enigmatic, for while she brings into the Light, she also is among monstrous, horrific and demonic things. She is present in everything without exception, and empowers the entire play of cosmic forces – divine, admixed and demonic.

I’m reminded of the truth that action of creation is at one and the same time the action of destruction. This is reflected in the transition of the Maiden to the Mother, for example. The state of the Maiden is shattered as she comes into being as the Mother – that which was passing away as that which shall be comes into being. This is the reality of the present moment, always. This seems directly connected to the twofold action of purification and consecration

She may reveal delights of the senses, yet also the error of grasping at them; she can guide through unseen spaces, revealing deep secrets, and lead us into new horizons; she can heal and nurture, and she can cut straight through our deepest delusions and shatter the bonds of our self-grasping – she becomes so many things to us, and yet she is none of them, for she is the Great Void itself!Tau Malachi

Indeed! She is the Supreme Trickster, operating quite outside of the confines of conventional wisdom and the dullness of unenlightened society – but how can one not love her, she is the perfect delight of liberation! “  –

Next I will explore the stages of a Dark Night of the Soul. In truth this is just a brief introduction…

That sweet night: a secret,
Nobody saw me;
I did not see a thing,
No other light, no other guide
Than the one burning in my heart.
– John of the Cross

*Medieval theologians described the personal brilliance in the Latin word scintilla, the spark that lies at the heart of a person.

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