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.” [….] 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.
– Evelyn Underhill, from the Dark Night chapter in Mysticism.
As I have mentioned here a few times, the process Evelyn Underhill outlines in Mysticism fits closely what’s happened for me. (1) First, a dark night of the senses (I was an atheist at the time so didn’t have a prior phase of interest/seeking). (2) Then, a longer unitive phase with the typical characteristics: All as God, yet happening to an “I”. Passion. Energy. Luminosity. Inspiration. Insights. A sense of everything “on track”. And then (3) a dark night of the soul which, in many ways, is a reversal of the previous phase. (Unity falls away. The ability to meditate/pray is reduced. Confusion reigns. Illness. Loss of friends. Projects and plans fail. Emotional turmoil. Anxiety. Depression. Regret. Despair. Fatigue. Loss of inner guidance. Darkness.)
As Evelyn Underhill writes, the second dark night is a process of inviting more of my human self to reorganize and align with reality. It’s a process of stirring up wounds, what’s very young in me, and shadow material in general. It brings me face to face with my most basic beliefs. It’s a shift from recognizing and seeing reality, to being it. A shift from an “I” recognizing reality, to reality recognizing itself. It’s a significant and all-encompassing shift that can be a bloody mess (Adya) and a monumental train wreck (Barry), as I have noticed. And yet, it’s also just a small adjustment. What’s not true, what never was true, surfaces so it can be recognized.