It is an undisputed fact that when one begins to work under an occult discipline, sooner or later you will hit the dreaded ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.
Sometime known as ‘The Dweller on the Threshold’, this event can make or break the individual. Nor do they come but once as you continue in the Great Work, but appear like pot-holes, with great regularity throughout one’s journey.
At first they are fairly minor, disruptions to one family life, an unexpected set back in health, or at work, or in one’s career. Decisions have to be made and promises kept. It can appear as a sudden reversion of attention, the desire to study the arcane leaves you and life takes a different turning. Then, often many years later , experience has been assimilated and the path of the Hearth fire has loosened some of its demands, the desire to study returns.
All these, and many other reasons can be seen as a Dark Night, but on a minor scale. There always comes a time, just when everything seems to be going well when those who guide our destiny decide it is time to apply REAL pressure. One can imagine that somewhere, some kind of committee meets to discuss the merits of the journey so far, and, having added up all the marks both plus and minus, decide on how hard, how devastating, how potentially destructive this lesson will be for the soul.
The soul in question, unaware of what lies ahead, continues with its life as usual, unsuspecting of its imminent fall into darkness. It can happen quickly and with force, or it can develop slowly with subtle clues and hints left in one’s path. All too often, lulled by the seeming success of one’s progress such clues are ignored.
Why are we tested in this way? Why, when devotion and dedication are offered on a daily basis and the soul is striving to live in a way commensurate with its beliefs is it suddenly flung into a pit of despair? It is almost always because there is a lesson that has been studiously ignored in the past. A weakness that has not been faced and dealt with, a mistake, even if made in good faith, that has been overlooked and allowed to grown out of all proportion. The inner balance of the soul has been disturbed and must be redressed. The cosmic forces combine in that moment, to enforce a re-balancing. That re-balancing is The Dark Night of the Soul, and once it has begun it cannot be halted, the experience must be endured to the end, no matter what that end may be.
Can one fail such an experience? Oh yes, and if that happens it will re-occur until there is victory. If necessary such an edict will follow beyond death and re-occur in the next life.
Because we must learn from our mistakes, willingly or unwillingly, because perfection in mind, body, and spirit is what our life here on earth is all about. Because, as Dion Fortune once said, ‘ nothing but the best is good enough for The Masters’ and through them for The Creator. Like children we must learn to grow up and behave like adults, or, in this case, like the potential divinities we are all destined to become. The more mistakes we make and fail to rectify the more they will add up. The more they add up the more Dark Nights we have to endure.
Students of the SOL often balk at the nightly exercise in which they are asked to review the activities of their day. To look and see what, if anything has gone wrong, where they may have misjudged something or someone, if there is anything that can be re-assessed the next day. In short, tidying up the small mistakes that, if left, can grow in to much bigger mistakes. It will not prevent a Dark night catching up with you….but it will certainly lesson the impact and the depth of it.
Have I been there and done that…..? Yes, several times, a few fairly minor, and one that drove to the edge of endurance. What is it like? A miasma of despair, sorrow, anger at oneself and others, isolation from everything one has believed in up to that point .Worst of all is the loss of faith. It is the last point of light in the darkness and when it goes out, there is nothing left to hold on to.
Is there any help? Yes. But it takes time for you to realise it, and even longer to find the courage to reach out for it. It is not always found, or offered, in the same way. Before that faint glimmer of hope is seen there is much to be endured. Nothing seems worth while, nothing you have done before matters, there is a loss of self esteem, of interest in life around you, often, of simply living. This culminates in a desire to sink deeper into the darkness, it becomes a place to hide.
But in all this despair the human spirit is still resilient thought the mind may have given up. The tiny spark lies waiting for the final moment to arrive, the point where the darkness is finally plumbed and the only way is up. The value of the work that has gone before now begins the act of re-balance.
However this is also a moment of danger, for the mind may overpower the spark and decide to stay where it is and wallow in self pity. It is ready to accept the nothingness in which it finds itself and declines all help.
If however the spark is seen as a guide things begin to happen. Something from the past begins to emerge as a ladder by which the beleaguered spirit can begin its ascent.
For me it was a study of the Hebrew Letters. Clinging desperately to meditation as a form of self control I saw them dance before me like golden fireflies against the blackness of my Dark Night. One, the Aleph, came closer and become more than simply a letter, it became what it really is, a Being of power, beauty, and compassion. Its intent and that of its companion letters was to help me, an offer I accepted with joy.
For a year I lived, worked, and bathed in the strength and Light of these Beings. I learned to pray again and wrote one for each letter, in which I sought to express my understanding of what the letter offered me. My reward was a restoration of Faith, first in what was before me, then in myself, and finally in a future where I could once again to the work I loved. It was as if 22 hands had reached out to lift me out of the darkness.
Restored and renewed, with a new balance within me I talked with others who had endured the same kind of trial. I wanted to set down my own experience so that it might help others to understand the value of a Dark night of the Soul. Value?
Yes, they have great value, they are lessons you never forget, lessons you experience at both a depth and a height un-attainable in any other way. You come out of it stronger and more resilient. We are always stronger than we think, and such lessons prove it to us. We can say to others with perfect truth,
” I have been through this, I came out of it and you can do the same. I will help you”. I found in the letters of the Aleph-Bet an Illumination I could not have found in any other way. I was written to help others understand that, a Dark Night of the Soul is a gift, not a punishment, a gift of Self Knowledge, Self Understanding and Enlightenment.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. Jersey. July 2003