Evelyn Underhill: The Dark Night is a deeply human process

 

The Dark Night, then, is really a deeply human process, in which the self which thought itself so spiritual, so firmly established upon the supersensual plane, is forced to turn back, to leave the Light, and pick up those qualities which it had left behind.

Only thus, by the transmutation of the whole man, not by a careful and departmental cultivation of that which we like to call his “spiritual” side, can Divine Humanity be formed: and the formation of Divine Humanity—the remaking of man “according to the pattern showed him in the mount”—is the mystic’s only certain ladder to the Real.

“My humanity,” said the Eternal Wisdom to Suso, “is the road which all must tread who would come to that which thou seekest.” This “hard saying” might almost be used as a test by which to distinguish the genuine mystic life from its many and specious imitations.

The self in its first purgation has cleansed the mirror of perception; hence, in its illuminated life, has seen Reality. In so doing it has transcended the normal perceptive powers of “natural” man, immersed in the illusions of sense.

Now, it has got to be reality: a very different thing. For this a new and more drastic purgation is needed—not of the organs of perception, but of the very shrine of self: that “heart” which is the seat of personality, the source of its love and will.

In the stress and anguish of the Night, when it turns back from the vision of the Infinite to feel again the limitations of the finite the self loses the power to Do; and learns to surrender its will to the operation of a larger Life, that it may Be.

“At the end of such a long and cruel transition,” says Lucie Christine, “how much more supple the soul feels itself to be in the Hand of God, how much more detached from all that is not God! She sees clearly in herself the fruits of humility and patience, and feels her love ascending more purely and directly to God in proportion as she has realized the Nothingness of herself and all things.”

– Evelyn Underhill in Mysticism, Chapter 9, The Dark Night of the Soul

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