Dark Night of the Soul
Often, sinking as low as I can sink comforts me. Hitting the bottom. If I can feel the floor, then at least I know that’s as low as I’ll ever go, and I do not have to fear falling down or sinking any deeper than this. It’s a sobering, numbing, and leveling feeling. I have found myself curled up in fetal position upon the black depths of the ocean floor more than a few times. I am safe there, because I know that I can go no lower. I can sleep there, because I am not filled with hopes or expectations to distract me or fill my mind with the fear of not attaining them. My nerves can rest, because once living in the state of my fear and dread confirmed, I have nothing to fear any longer.
Some have said that I needed medication or therapy for depression at these times. I used to try both until I realized that, despite what society believes, my soul needed these experiences. Now, I gladly choose depression, if that is the direction my heart is taking at a given time. When it wants to come back to me, I open the door, and say, “Welcome back, old friend. Come in, and sit with me. Teach me something new.” For one who walks in the dark gains excellent night vision, and can navigate through darkness much more easily than one who only goes out in daylight. So I’ll let the sad or dark times tether me down to the floor for at least a little while. If I can make it to the floor without drowning, then I shall never drown.
The dark night of the soul must come upon all of us, especially those of us who are deeply aware of our own spiritual quests. For how can we live in true, natural balance if we have not had our own personal struggles, sufferings, and sorrows? If we are never faced with total aloneness or even neglect, how and when will we ever learn to introspect and look solely to our own selves (or Higher Self) for comfort, love, wisdom, and guidance?
I am grateful for the era of the dark night in my life, for it was in this time that I discovered Wicca. Without the dark night of the soul, I would have never wanted to look deeper. Without the dark night, I may never have felt the need to seek for answers. Without my aloneness, I would have had others to look to, and would have never had to face myself, to look to my own heart, and learn to introspect and find my true spirit. My true face would not have shown its light to guide me through. And I’d still be living on the surface, trying desperately to block out fear of the unknown depths of the ocean, never finding my true face at the floor of my spirit, nor discovering my own capabilities and potential.
The dark night of the soul taught me how to hold and soothe my own self. And perhaps most significantly, the dark experiences of my past made me who I am today. Truly, I would not be half the person I have become if it was not for my wounds and sorrows. This realization has taught me to believe that every experience, even what we perceive as the darkest or most negative, is actually yet another learning experience, an experiment of our existence, and something through which we can gain knowledge and wisdom. There is truly no such thing as objective negativity; all is subjective.
In the Christian theology, and indeed within our mainstream society, we must never transgress over into darkness, for darkness is always “evil.” But to me, and to most practitioners of Earth-based spirituality, darkness is just as necessary as light, and is a healthy, natural, and educational component of the human experience. As well, balance and moderation are the keys to enlightenment. The dark is there to balance the light, not necessarily to be at war with it, thus the dark itself can still bring about enlightenment. And besides, in every great tale of mythology or lore, the great hero’s journey always includes descending into the underworld. It is my belief that we all must descend into our own underworld in order to get the most out of our journey here. I truly believe that darkness and pain is not an evil monster or devil to be feared, but instead a force that has an alternate method of helping us, of blessing us, and of teaching us some of life’s most important lessons.
And strangely, I have even found now, after my journey through deeper waters, that even though I have come out and into bright light again, and all is fairly well in my life, I somehow still seek aloneness. I somehow still wish to retreat to myself, to remember my sorrows, and to find my bed in darkness. I want to curl up in the fetal position on the lowest, most numbing floor of my pain, deep down where I am entirely by myself, just to feel and remember the sensations of sadness. Sadness is a universally shared aspect of existence and humanity, thus I will embrace it as a testament to my aliveness. And when I see it this way, it actually feels good to me when I hit rock bottom. It’s comforting to level myself with the lowest of sorrows and wallow in them for a while. It is part of the natural range of human emotions, part of the human experience. It even gives me a strangely sickening feeling, which somehow paradoxically alleviates my fears by confirming them.
I once read that to be a Witch is to be alone. Indeed, my loneliest times were when I was most attracted to the idea of being a Witch, and the most involved in seeking my own spirituality through Wicca. I find Wicca and Paganism so refreshing for their non-resistance to the range in human emotions, including the ones that may not feel as “good, ” with the understanding that aliveness and life itself is to be embraced and felt with the senses, and for their stressing of natural objective balance over subjective human judgment. A Witch understands that experiences are not objectively “good” or “bad, ” but depend upon one’s perspective. Both sides of all dualities (light and dark, yin and yang, male and female) are equal and necessary, not to be fought against one another nor made into a “versus.” I could not agree with this philosophy more.
In conclusion, I believe that dualities can, do, and must coexist… and that we can learn to not only deal with, but also be comfortable with and even benefit from both sides of every coin, both ends of any spectrum. So while although the light is usually seen as what’s “good, ” this does not make darkness “bad” by default; darkness is simply a necessary part of one’s spiritual journey, a balancer to the light. Like everything, it can be used for positive growth and for drawing inner-strength and spiritual enlightenment in an entirely new, different, and challenging way.
This is what the dark night of the soul has taught me… because I did not fight it, I let it in, and I let it teach me. What has the dark night of your soul taught you?