Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 19, 2013

Bk. II, Ch. V: Sets down the first line and begins to explain how this dark contemplation is not only night for the soul but is also grief and torment.“This dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul…” and contemplatives refer to this process as “infused contemplation or mystical theology.” Well, things are getting heavy now. First, I don’t fully understand how God, who is everywhere, can not already be in the soul. We may deny that, but if God is truly everywhere, our denial means nothing. Now this “grace(?)” (I’m thinking that St. John must mean something like grace here) helps to purge the soul of imperfections, and prepares it for union with God. Now as I understand mysticism, it is a path that bypasses reason. As people of the word (in this case, I mean literate people – people who read books and enjoy ideas), we are largely rational beings. That does not mean that we don’t sometimes get insight from some other path, but our preferred path is that of reason. And mysticism involves taking a different path. And as this is “infused,” it suggests that it is God who is short circuiting our rational brain to get past it. But that is a rational exposition, so, how can one pierce mysticism with reason?
St. John also talks in this chapter about why this is called a Dark Night, when it involves the illumination of the soul. And his explanation is interesting. As the soul itself is not quite ready, it all remains dark to the soul, and because of the soul’s imperfections, the process is painful as well, and that is darkness too.
Here he compares the soul in this darkness to our eyes if we look at the sun for too long. Our system cannot keep that up, and, if we do it for too long, we will find ourselves in darkness.
At another point, St. John notes that this light assails the soul to expel its impurity, but that once illumined, that impurity seems so dark by comparison that the soul feels that God must be against it. Some of this sounds a lot like dealing with one’s ego, which is determined to protect itself, and so, when one’s faults are illumined, the ego goes into denial mode.
And when the soul realizes its impurity, it can see that it cannot do this alone (ego pride wounded). Accepting that allows for the inflow of divine grace.
I notice that St. John quotes the Book of Job here quite a few times, suggesting that it is something of the sort that Job is feeling. I don’t know – it seems to me that Job is very poorly treated in that book, and has a lot to be justly angry about.

1 Response to “Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 19, 2013”

  1. 1 ben b.
    February 27, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Thank you for this inspiring comment

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