This is a topic I want to explore further, including through the obvious starting point: reading The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross.
A hunch of what the terms may refer to:
The dark night of the senses
The dark night of the senses may refer to the loss of previous identity as a small self, and an awakening as the Absolute and then Big Mind. I withdraw my exclusive identification with the small self and the senses of the small self. And in the process, I see the world of phenomena as a fluid whole (no separate self), and I see the larger whole of experiencer and experienced. I function with a more transdual view.
I find myself as space and capacity for whatever arises – internal and external to the small self.
The dark night of the soul
The dark night of the soul is a little unclear to me. It may refer to being space also for the preferences and the “will” of the small self, although this seems included in the previous phase. It may more likely refer to a sense of complete surrender to what is – to the larger whole of Existence. To a full appreciation of what is as an expression of “divine will”, as a complete and perfect manifestation of God. A deep realization of “who am I to disagree”. A profound humility.
Here, the last bit of exclusive or fixed identity is washed away. What is left is just Existence, as it manifests in the present. As capacity for what arises, and as what arises – both as complete, perfect, new, fresh and profoundly delightful manifestations of God.
The shift between the two seem subtle, although also a big shift in our experience. In the first case, there is still a sense of a “local” center of gravity, while in the second case, the center of gravity is moved out to the totality of what is.
Going back to the previous posting on 1st, 2nd and 3rd person relationships with God/Big Mind, I see that an fully alive second person relationship with God may be an especially important part of the dark night of the soul shift – in addition to the 3rd and 1st person relationships.