The Dark NIght of the Soul

Upon the darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest
Shrouded by the night
and by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead

Oh Night, Thou was my guide
Oh Night more loving than the rising sun--
Oh Night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart

That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come

Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for Him
He fell into His sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
And by the fortress walls
the wind would brush His hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow

I lost myself to Him
and laid my face upon my lover's breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the mornings mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
Adapted and set to music by Loreena McKennitt

“That which this anguished soul feels most deeply is the conviction that God has abandoned it, of which it has no doubt; that He has cast it away into darkness as an abominable thing . . . and this comes from the sense of being abandoned by God, being chastised and cast out by His wrath and heavy displeasure. All this and even more the soul feels now, for a terrible apprehension has come upon it that thus this despair will be with it for ever. It has also the same sense of abandonment with respect to all creatures, and that it is an object of contempt to all, especially to its friends.” The "Dark Night" got its name from John of the Cross, but something like it happens on almost every mystic path. Meister Eckhart talks about "leaving God for God", losing your personal, tribal concepts of the divine so they can be replaced by something closer to the Real, but sometimes that means God pushes you down the stairs with a helpful hand in the small of your back. Religious bigots like bin Laden or Dobson never feel abandoned at all, never question, and so stay stuck as spiritual infants convinced they have God's unlisted phone number and God (who strangely resembles them in a mirror) "sits up nights to admire them." Their concept of the Divine will always be small and mean and hunched by their own limitations.

Some dark comfort that the talons griping my soul in the dark once drew blood from the shoulder of Athene. If Jesus isn't abandoned in the garden when God ran from the po-pos to let him die screaming desolate on the cross, if some small part of his consciousness thinks he's going to get out of this, he's not really going to die, then it doesn't really count, does it? In shamanic experience, the Dark Night means your helper spirits leave you to have your body get torn apart, eaten and shat out by wild animals, and the task-- unless you decide to just lie there and stay dead-- is to reassemble the bloody chunks into something resembling a human being. One of the northern nations (Cree, I think) used to leave those exhibiting bizarre behavior alone in a lean-to for the winter-- if you reconstituted and were still alive in the Spring, then you were meant to be a shaman, but if you starved or froze to death, then it was just a schizophrenic episode and not a mystic experience at all. Odin lost an eye messing with this stuff, and probably counted himself lucky that it wasn't his left nut.

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