The topic of dark nights came up for me again, and as I am slipping out of the tail end of one, they continue to appear a little different to me.
What is common for any dark night is the sense of loss, of life showing up differently from how we want it to. And in this is the opportunity for old beliefs and identifications to wear off.
In the conventional dark nights, where the term is used in a very lose sense, there may or may not be this wearing off of beliefs. Sometimes, we may just use them to cling even more solidly to them, although we can also use them to break open.
In the dark nights of the senses and soul, there isn’t much sense of a choice. Beliefs are worn off whether we want it or not, and we usually fight it with what we have. And the suffering is proportional to how much fight we put up. (Not that we have a choice there either.)
It seems that the dark night of the senses leads into a sense of oneness with God, and the dark night of the soul into the possibility of realized selflessness. After the first one, there is still a sense of a center and a subtle I that is one with God and everything else. And following the second one, even the subtlest sense of a center and an I with an Other tends to fall away.
The dark night of the senses is a release/relaxation of identification with the senses, which allows us to perceive all as God. The dark night of the soul is a release/relaxation of identification with the soul, which allows what we are to notice itself, inherently free of an I with an Other. (“Soul” here can refer to the soul, the alive presence, and most likely also our human self still used as an anchor for a sense of a separate self, a center.)
For me, the first one was an experience of being pulled apart and put together in a different way, of extremes of bliss and pain woven together, and lots of “paranormal” stuff such as continuous and amazing synchronicities (which others couldn’t help noticing), seeing auras, healing abilities, and so on.
The second one was the polar opposite in most ways… a sense of incredible loss, of the oneness with God falling away, not being able to do any practice as much as I wanted to and tried, my ambitions in the world going down the drain, and generally life showing up in exactly the ways my remaining and deep seated beliefs said they shouldn’t.