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Author Topic: Dark night of the soul  (Read 2299 times)

Setnakht

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Dark night of the soul
« on: July 07, 2011, 01:52:01 pm »
In a number of threads over the past few years as well as more recently,
people have spoken of their hitting an invisible wall, so to speak, where they just don't get anything at all out of doing ritual anymore. They experience lack of motivation, loss of interest, sadness, confusion, doubt, even hopelessness. Sometimes an individual interprets this as abandonment by the gods, or as the anger of a god for some unknown offence or imperfection. Some people get scared; some abandon ritual or prayer; others start to search elseware for that lost feeling of happiness and purpose--someplace that "makes sense" to replace the feeling of confusion, dryness, and doubt.
     This spiritual state has been described as "the dark night of the soul."
Here is what Wikipedia says about it:
"Typically for a believer in the dark night of the soul, spiritual disciplines (such as prayer and consistent devotion to God) suddenly seem to lose all their experiential value; traditional prayer is extremely difficult and unrewarding for an extended period of time during this 'dark night.' The individual may feel as though God has suddenly abandoned them or that his or her prayer life has collapsed."
      The article continues:
"Rather than resulting in permanent devastation, the dark night is regarded by mystics and others as a blessing in disguise, whereby the individual is stripped (in the dark night of the senses) of the spiritual ecstasy associated with acts of virtue. Although the individual may for a time seem to outwardly decline in his or her practices of virtue, in reality he becomes more virtuous, as she is being virtuous less for the spiritual rewards (ecstasies in the cases of the first night) obtained and more out of a true love for God. It is this purgatory, a purgation of the soul, that brings purity and union with God."
     For more about this topic see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Night_of_the_Soul
     I have done daily ritual for Amun-Ra for about fourteen years. I definitely have gone through some very arid times when I had the feeling that I was going through the motions. I did not get any satisfaction out
ritual. But I also thought about my marriage and how it went through some tough and dry periods. I did not abandon my wife and children just because of it, and I decided I would not abandon service to the gods.
I just toughed it out. And I am glad I did.
     I think that most of us can expect to hit that wall at some point in our spiritual lives. The novelty of ritual wears off. The predictability of ritual might get boring. The lack of any spiritual "high" (or emotional payoff) might tempt us to abandon what we've started. But I believe that we can work our way through that spiritual desert. Once in a while a little oasis
of satisfaction and joy will provide refreshment, but only so we can continue our journey of service to the gods.

Nehet

Re: Dark night of the soul
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2011, 09:22:33 pm »
Quote from: Setnakht;2580
I think that most of us can expect to hit that wall at some point in our spiritual lives. The novelty of ritual wears off. The predictability of ritual might get boring. The lack of any spiritual "high" (or emotional payoff) might tempt us to abandon what we've started. But I believe that we can work our way through that spiritual desert.

Once in a while a little oasis of satisfaction and joy will provide refreshment, but only so we can continue our journey of service to the gods.

 
Thanks for posting this, Setnakht.  It's important to recognize that we've all been in "dry" periods in our spirituality.  This isn't unique to any of us.  It's a known phenomenon on pretty much any path :)

Here's what I think:  many of us have gotten unhelpful programming from two sources:

-Negative ideas from some versions of Christianity.  Domini Non Sum Dignus.  Lord, I am not worthy.  As much as I have tried to get this refrain out of my head, it sometimes still comes up for me.  This concept is about as Un-Kemetic as it gets.  Ritual texts, funerary texts and autobiographies written on tombs all include declarations of worthiness.  We are created from the tears of the Eye of Ra.  I know, I say this a lot, but it bears repeating.  I, myself need to hear it every now and again.  

-Pagan/new age ideas of "whatever feels right"  I don't see much emphasis placed on commitment.  How many Llewellyn books talk about what to do when the going gets rough?   We aren't taught how to deal with fear, self-doubt, boredom and other things that come up.  

All of the above feelings are just that:  feelings.  I do not believe in placing value judgement on ourselves for having feelings.  They are what make us alive, and human.  They teach us valuable things about ourselves, and our universe.  Actually, if we're created from the tears of the eye of Ra, then our emotions are Divine.  

That said, I think it's important to recognize that emotions don't always reflect objective reality.  Just because we feel lonely doesn't mean we're alone.  Just because we feel inadequate doesn't mean we will fail in our spiritual practice.  Just because we are bored doesn't mean religion no longer has anything to offer us.  

There's something to be said for taking a break, stepping back and getting perspective.  Sometimes we all have to do that.  There has to be a difference, though, between taking a healthy, necessary break and cutting ourselves off from spirituality completely.   I'm in favor of consciously taking breaks:  thinking about the how and why of taking a break before doing it.  The answers are going to be different for everybody but I think it's important to ask the questions.

One time our new temple member talked to me about how he was courting Heru and getting no response.  I thought about how to address this for a minute, and finally said "Just because he isn't talking doesn't mean he isn't listening."

For me, that's been important to remember.
See, life is but a movement of eternal return.  Even Trees fall ~ Berlin papyrus 3024, (A man tired of life).

Live, Ausir, for all time and all eternity! Ankh Neheh Djet!

Nehet

Re: Dark night of the soul
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2011, 11:54:25 pm »
Quote from: Nehet;2783

 
Oh, and, there's a song about this.

I looked up the original poem by St. John of the Cross.  It's actually quite beautiful.   Very much "Deity as lover" sort of thing.  It might resonate with folks on here who frame their relationships with the Gods in such terms.  

Also, Laureena McKennitt does a beautiful version of it:  

[video=youtube;MclLF473XtA]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MclLF473XtA[/video]

So many gorgeous things from my birth religion.  Have I mentioned I have a love/hate relationship with Catholicism?
See, life is but a movement of eternal return.  Even Trees fall ~ Berlin papyrus 3024, (A man tired of life).

Live, Ausir, for all time and all eternity! Ankh Neheh Djet!

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