being born again, darkness, Evelyn Underhill, experience, following Jesus, illumination, pain, psychology, purification, sanctification, the dark night of the soul, the dark night of the spirit, unbelief, unification with God, walking by faith
If there was another way to encounter the Living God and to stay in His holy and pure presence 24/7 here on earth and eternally too, I would have immediately said, “No, thank you, I am content as it is, no more death in my life needed.” Well, having been plunged into the second part of the dark night of the soul, the dark night of the spirit, in fall 2013, yet without interruption only one year ago, I today gave in after so many struggles with and against God since I saw it makes no sense to pray to God that I might have it my own way any longer. That means, if this death will continue to last for years in which I neither have any interest in God nor in spiritual things and in which God gives me more and more sickness and pain, then so be it. Period.
In order to display a bit what I am speaking of here, I offer you an excerpted description of that mystical dying process below. Michael Clark from A Wilderness Voice brought that article to my attention and I found myself in it perfectly described. Indeed, it was not all fun to read it but the truth hurts at times, doesn’t it? Now here’s one part of the text from Evelyn Underhill’s book “Mysticism” . If you like to read more of it, see http://www.sacred-texts.com/myst/myst/myst20.htm.
IX. The Dark Night of the Soul
But the mystic, like other persons of genius, is man first and artist afterwards. We shall make a grave though common mistake if we forget this and allow ourselves to be deflected from our study of his growth in personality by the wonder and interest of his art. Being, not Doing, is the first aim of the mystic; and hence should be the first interest of the student of mysticism. We have considered for convenience’ sake all the chief forms of mystical activity at the half-way house of the transcendental life: but these activities are not, of course, peculiar to any one stage of that life. Ecstasy, for instance, is as common a feature of mystical conversion as of the last crisis, or “mystic marriage” of the soul: whilst visions and voices—in selves of a visionary or auditive type—accompany and illustrate every phase of the inward development. They lighten and explain the trials of Purgation as often as they express the joys of Illumination, and frequently mark the crisis of transition from one mystic state to the next.
One exception, however, must be made to this rule. The most intense period of that great swing-back into darkness which usually divides the “first mystic life,” or Illuminative Way, from the “second mystic life,” or Unitive Way, is generally a period of utter blankness and stagnation, so far as mystical activity is concerned. The “Dark Night of the Soul,” once fully established, is seldom lit by visions or made homely by voices. It is of the essence of its miseries that the once-possessed power of orison or contemplation now seems wholly lost. The self is tossed back from its hard-won point of vantage. Impotence, blankness, solitude, are the epithets by which those immersed in this dark fire of purification describe their pains. It is this episode in the life-history of the mystic type to which we have now come. […]
We may look at the Dark Night, as at most other incidents of the Mystic Way, from two points of view: (1) We may see it, with the psychologist, as a moment in the history of mental development, governed by the more or less mechanical laws which so conveniently explain to him the psychic life of man: or (2) with the mystic himself, we may see it in its spiritual aspect as contributing to the remaking of character, the growth of the “New Man”; his “transmutation in God.”
(1) Psychologically considered, the Dark Night is an example of the operation of the law of reaction from stress. It is a period of fatigue and lassitude following a period of sustained mystical activity. […] Each great step forward will entail lassitude and exhaustion for that mental machinery which he has pressed unto service and probably overworked. When the higher centres have been submitted to the continuous strain of a developed illuminated life, with its accompanying periods of intense fervour, lucidity, deep contemplation—perhaps of visionary and auditive phenomena—the swing-back into the negative state occurs almost of necessity.
This is the psychological explanation of those strange and painful episodes in the lives of great saints—indeed, of many spiritual persons hardly to be classed as saints—when, perhaps after a long life passed in faithful correspondence with the transcendental order, growing consciousness of the “presence of God,” the whole inner experience is suddenly swept away, and only a blind reliance on past convictions saves them from unbelief. 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.
(Attention, below are three sentences which I found further below in that text which really hit me.)
Now “trials,” taken en bloc, mean a disharmony between the self and the world with which it has to deal. Nothing is a trial when we are able to cope with it efficiently. Things try us when we are not adequate to them: when they are abnormally hard or we abnormally weak.
Oh my, reading that last paragraph above, I thought it must be a wonderful state of maturity when we are able to cope with ANY trial we might have to go through. Certainly, as long as something that belongs to our old man hurts as God, or anyone He uses, pinches us, we find ourselves not yet at the point of no return, i.e., at the peak of the sanctification process which is described in the following Scripture.
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” (Ps 24:3-6 ESV)
I knew it was quite a long excerpt I had chosen and I really wanted to keep that article way shorter, but I thought since I do not write that often on the internet at the moment, I dare to publish it kind of lengthily, though. 😉
Every blessing to all of you ❤