false teaching

Dark Night of the Soul

The phrase “dark night of the soul” is usually quoted in association with St. John of the Cross. But he didn’t mean just going through a tough time. It’s a level/stage/time in contemplative prayer (mantra meditation) and/or possibly in the general contemplative life. Supposedly one has to pass through this to reach the goal: union with the divine (that is, recognizing our own divinity). And this “dark night” is dark indeed. Mystic Evelyn Underhill describes it as a “painful and negative state . . . in which the self . . . is forced . . . to leave the Light.” (Mysticism pp. 387, 388) John of the Cross says the person senses that “[God] has cast [the soul] away into darkness as an abominable thing,” that  . . . the “torments of hell are most acutely felt.” (pp. 389, 390) Underhill says the anguish “rises to the heights of a negative rapture, an ecstasy of deprivation.” (p. 394)

Scripture says nothing of this dark night that we should seek—in which God himself, it seems, is pulling away, inflicting torments of a sadistic nature and preventing our drawing near. Rather, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8) “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) We can’t avoid normal tough times in life. But we can avoid this dark night of the soul.

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