Sunday, March 1, 2009

43. Dark night of the soul, fifth installment

We were talking of the other imperfections of the travelers such as lust and gold. Please read posting 42 first

And there are others temptations and attachments; power, greed, family ties, fame, etc. The reason that they are not mentioned in the imperfections which were discussed in the last installments is that these are weakness of the body, and had already been brought under fair (but not full) control by these beginners.
Otherwise, God would not have selected them for the two purification processes. St John was supervising nuns and monks; the people who had taken vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience. He was dealing with persons who had already forsaken wealth, marriage, family and many other worldly desires.

Here let me disclose a point, based on my own experience and of one other person, and not mentioned in spiritual literature that I have come across, and that is the observation that as one proceeds on spiritual journey (enters second stage )one becomes a better person without any extra effort of one’s own. It is a free gift that he gets. His defects gradually go away or come under good control.

This worthless mote lost most of his desire for money very early, I think during the first year. Next to leave was the desire to have powerful position in life. I soon started saying (vain silly boasting) that if God Himself offers to make me ruler of the world, I would beg Him to excuse me, because I neither want it nor am worthy of such honor . As I remember, next, fame lost its attraction. Lust was never completely gone but lost its hold. Next to last to go was jealousy and it took a long time for control over jealousy. Last was anger, which is still not under fair control, but it is better than before.

Sometimes during this journey one acquires truthfulness and humility. However, it should be noted that imperfections thought to have been conquered, often come back to humble the soul.

I have discussed it with some other travelers, and they verify this observation that one’s character improves. Love of God, drives other loves out.

Now let me describe the first night

First dark night, or purgation of the sensual part of soul.

I had thought that the first night begins with the second stage (when one starts meditation). But if one reads carefully what St John has written, it appears to start during the 3rd stage, after the first glimpse of Reality has already taken place. Part of the disparity lies in the staging systems. Most of the Western mystic literature consider stage I, or start of spiritual journey, the point at which first glimpse of Reality occurs (see Underhill’s classic book on mysticism )(1). I have called it stage 3a. According to their staging, a person suddenly gets contact with Divine current (like Mayorga did) and realizes what a tremendous event has taken place. He or she now wants it again, and so starts the quest of God.

What happens in the first dark night?

The answer is in two words : aridity and trials.

Aridity or dryness occurs during meditation and other spiritual practices. There is no joy, no consolation, no reward, and no sweetness. Whereas before, with spiritual exercises they used to get pleasure, now they don’t. On the contrary the practices result in blandness or even bitterness. The reason is that these beginners were indulging in self-love and were following their inclinations (gratification of their senses); God wants to lead them away from it.

To be continued
1. Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill

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