A conversation

It happened again. A friend mentions a book, I download the book. That book mentions another book, which I download. It feels like I’m conversing with Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Barbara Brown Taylor–and now you–in a cozy little room without walls called cyberspace. It’s also a timeless room. We’re in a conversation begun by Juan de Yepes y Álvarez (1542-1591), a Spanish Carmelite friar known as John of the Cross. He has invited us to explore the “dark night of the soul.” I’m grateful for friends who are connected with “the ancients” but who also are modern enough to speak a language that resonates with me.

The dark night of the soul is an experience of darkness, doubt or loneliness that can be depressing or terrifying. The “dark night” was introduced to me is in seminary. I promptly put it into a mental file folder labeled “AVOID.” Since then, I’ve been through at least one dark night, aka divorce, and plenty of twilight zones. This time, at my ripe old age, with significant change occurring in culture, religion, and politics, and amid an economic crisis and global pandemic, it feels right to be in a conversation about the dark night of the soul. In the next few posts, I’ll share what I’m gleaning from my reading. Here’s Barbara:

“… (John of the Cross) says that the dark night is God’s best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is about freeing you from your ideas about God, your fears about God, your attachment to all the benefits you have been promised for believing in God, your devotion to the spiritual practices that are supposed to make you feel closer to God, your dedication to doing and believing all the right things about God, your positive and negative evaluations of yourself as a believer in God, your tactics for manipulating God, and your sure cures for doubting God. All of these are substitutes for God, John says. … Gerald May (1940-2005) called them ‘addictions.'”

Of her own dark nights, Barbara said, “...what remained when everything else was gone was more real than anything I could have imagined. … God puts out our lights to keep us safe, John says, because we are never more in danger of stumbling than when we think we know where we are going.”

From “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” Velveteen Rabbi Blog, April 20, 2017

2 thoughts on “A conversation”

  1. That quote explained what the dark night is all about so much better than anything else I have read. I certainly have all those addictions.


    1. It may be that the classical explanations expressed a moralistic worldview that associated the dark night with guilt. Richard, Brian and Barbara are coming it from a relational worldview that focuses more on healing (wholeness) and union (with one’s self and with others). I think that’s one reason I always had difficulty with classical theological formulations.


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