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Dark Night of The Soul

An expression originating with Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross) and used to describe a condition sometimes experienced by mystics who have had an experience of Cosmic Consciousness and then, at some time later, have been plunged into the darkness of despair when the state of ecstasy or illumination seems to have left them. As St. John says, “They feel that God has abandoned them.”

True mystics see it as a time of testing, a sort of necessary purging of the illusion of self.

John of the Cross speaks of two kinds of dark night: one of the senses and the other of the spirit. The dark night of the senses refers to the purification or purgation process when one gets gradually freed from desires or attachments to the objects of sense. This stage is more common to beginning aspirants. The second dark night, that of the spirit, may take years before it commences. After the purgation of the senses, the soul is able to enter into the inner joys of the spirit. But the spirit is still stained by the habits of old, which prevent it from entering into Divine Union. Thus the contemplative enters into this second night where apprehensions and joys cease, and one has to “walk in dark and pure faith.” The soul feels pain, torment and being abandoned even by God. The aridity is such that one apparently even loses one’s appetite for God. In truth, according to St. John, this dark night is a necessary process to bring to the soul Divine Light, after which opens up the possibility of union with the Divine.


John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Ascent to Mount Carmel.

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