What is The Dark Night of the Soul?
The concept the “dark night of the soul” is being used by many to describe a long and painful crisis where they undergo a deep transformation. Roberto Assagioli also speaks about the “dark night of the soul” but in a much more specific way, than many do today. I have collected most of his quotes here: Dark Night of The Soul.
However, the crisis is not only related to intense pain and depression but a death experience we undergo before entering the most intense spiritual light. The concept was made famous by the mystic St. John of the Cross, and Assagioli quotes him a lot when dealing with this theme:
“Before the full and final victory, however, the soul has to undergo another test: it must pass through the ‘dark night’ which is a new and deeper experience of annihilation, or a crucible in which all the human elements that go to make it up are melted together. But the darkest nights are followed by the most radiant dawns and the soul, perfect at last, enters into complete, constant and inseparable communion with the Spirit, so that – to use the bold statement employed by St John of the Cross – ‘it seems to be God himself and has the same characteristics as him’. (Transpersonal Development, p 146-147)
And in this quote, we see that the “dark night of the soul” is related to the crisis before Nirvana:
“After the “dark night of the soul”, that new period of shadow, labor and sorrow, comes the glorious goal, the transfiguration of the soul in God, the conscious communion of the individual with the universal Spirit. The Orientals call this Moksha and Vinmuhti (liberation, Nirvana) and the Occidentals the Mystic Marriage and the Unified life.” (Assagioli in the article Spiritual Joy)
It seems to be the case that the “dark night of the soul” is related to the final stages of spiritual psychosynthesis and is about disidentifying – letting go of our attachment to the superconscious ecstasy.
Assagioli says: “The purpose of the “dark night” is very clearly explained by Evelyn Underhill: “The function of this process upon the Mystic Way is to cure the soul of the innate tendency to seek and rest in spiritual joys; to confuse Reality with the joy given by the contemplation of Reality.” (Transpersonal Development, p 146-147)
There are many types of dark crisis; some happen before the personality has been formed and are related with “normal depressions” due to many personal reasons, others happen in relation to the awakening process of the soul, where there is an existential crisis between the values of the ego and the awakening soul. None of these crises is the real “dark night of the soul”, but might be considered preparations for the final relinquishment of attachment to the separated ego.
Whenever we let go of an attachment to false identifications, which enslaves us to be less than we could be, we undergo a minor initiation, which prepares us of for the great renunciation, where we enter into the Life of the Spirit – whatever that might be.
I recommend that you read the groundbreaking article by Assagioli from 1932; Spiritual Development and Nervous Diseases for a full introduction to:
1. Crises preceding the spiritual awakening.
2. Crises determined by the spiritual awakening.
3. Reactions to the spiritual awakening.
4. Phases of the process of transmutation.
5. The “Dark Night of the Soul.”
Blessings to all …