Dark Night of the Soul is a term used to describe a specific phase in a person’s spiritual life. It is used as a metaphor to describe the experience of loneliness and desolation that can occur during psychic or spiritual growth.
The term and metaphysicality of the phrase “dark night of the soul” is taken from the writings of the Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic, Saint John of the Cross, a Carmelite priest of the 16th century.
Dark Night of the Soul is the name of both a poem, and a commentary on that poem, and are among the Carmelite priest’s most famous writings. They tell of his mystic development and the stages he went through on his quest for holiness.
Spiritual purification is a process in which the soul is opened to receive the light of God. As it does so, it lets go of the darkness, that of all worldly attachments.
This emptying of the spirit, known in later centuries as kenosis, literally meaning self-emptying and can be very painful and entail profound suffering for those to attached to the material world.
Everything that links us to the realm of human perception and its way of being, needs to be expurgated. Saint John of the Cross elucidated to this process in that all who embark upon the spiritual path shall endure, and likens it to a dark night of the soul, in which the human spirit slowly transforms into a vessel for the divine.
The “dark night” can generally be described as a letting go of our ego’s hold on the psyche, making room for change that can bring about a complete transformation of a person’s Way of defining his/her self and their relationship to God.
In the Christian tradition, during the “dark night,” one who has developed a strong prayer life and consistent devotion to God suddenly finds traditional prayer extremely difficult or unrewarding for an extended period of time.
The seeker may begin to feel as though God has suddenly either abandoned them, that their prayer life has collapsed, or they may begin to feel that perhaps God doesn’t even exist.
But rather than being a negative event, the dark night is believed by mystics and others to be a blessing in disguise. The individual is trained to grow from a vocal or mental prayer, to a more contemplative prayer from deep within the soul.
The Dark Night comes in two phases: a first the “Night of the Senses,” and the second “Night of the Spirit.” Both are seen as the ultimate test of one’s faith and spiritual understanding.
The Dark Night of the Soul is the ultimate expression for the adept seeker. It details the often difficult journey of estranged spiritual despair to a blissful reunion with the Holy and the Divine. –