This great negation is the sorting-house of the spiritual life

The great contemplatives, those destined to attain the full stature of the mystic, emerge from this period of destitution, however long and drastic it may be, as from a new purification. It is for them the gateway to a higher state. But persons of a less heroic spirituality, if they enter the Night at all may succumb to its dangers and pains. This “great negation” is the sorting-house of the spiritual life. Here we part from the “nature mystics,” the mystic poets, and all who shared in and were contented with the illuminated vision of reality. Those who go on are the great and strong spirits, who do not seek to know, but are driven to be.
– Evelyn Underhill in the chapter on the Dark Night of the Soul, in Mysticism

Most people entering the dark night of the soul may have these fears. Will it ever end? Will I be among those who succumb to its dangers and pains? I know I do.

Here are some of my fears and thoughts, for later inquiry:

It will never end. It will keep going like this.

I am not up to the task. Life chose the wrong person.

I should be through it by now. I should “get” it by now. It should be over by now.

I am too caught up in fears. I recoil/indulge too much. I am not doing it right.

The worst that can happen is….

It will last. I will die before I am through it. I am not doing it right. It will be a downward spiral. The train wreck will continue. People won’t understand. People will judge me. I will be alone, lost, confused, suffering.

I am not through it because…

I am not up to the task. I am too caught up in fears. I don’t do what I need to do. It will never end. Life chose the wrong person. I am slow. I don’t have the support I need. Life wants me to go deeper.

And why is it the best that could happen if it lasts, if it’s still here?

It’s humbling. It helps me see “I” don’t have absolute control. It invites me to align more consciously with God’s will, what is.

There is still more to see for me. More thoughts to examine and find clarity around. More wounds and primal fears to be met.

It gives me time and opportunity to explore further. I get more familiar with this phase, this territory.

Also, what’s the worst that can happen if the dark night is over?

I’ll be disappointed. It didn’t give me what I expected. I didn’t go as deep as I hoped. I didn’t do a good job with it. God will be disappointed in me. I didn’t make the most out of it.

I won’t have an excuse. I won’t have time to be with myself. I won’t have time to explore.

I’ll be ordinary. I won’t have a cool label to put on it. I’ll have to face ordinary life.

The dark night is….

Special. Dark. A night. Makes me go deep. Brings me clarity. Makes me more mature.

Investigating a fuller spectrum of thoughts

I notice it’s helpful to (a) find the gifts in the dark night, and also (b) question my thoughts about the dark night, including that it is a dark night, and the ways it’s valuable. Finding the genuine gifts in it helps release resistance to it. Questioning that it is a dark night helps shift out of taking it as something solid or real. And investigating and questioning my thoughts around it’s value helps me say good bye to it.

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