"There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were."
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
There’s a concept called the 'Dark Night of the Soul’, which describes the experience of the metamorphosis from who you thought you were, to who you are becoming. It can be one of the most harrowing, painful, lonely experiences in one’s life and ultimately, the most rewarding and transformative. The process of Awakening can also be known as the Hero's Journey.
This article from 2018 in the Apeiron Blog lays it out pretty succinctly -
“The dark night of the soul is a stage in personal development when a person undergoes a difficult and significant transition to a deeper perception of life and their place in it. This enhanced awareness is accompanied by a painful shedding of previous conceptual frameworks such as an identity, relationship, career, habit, or belief system that previously allowed them to construct meaning in their life. The dark night of the soul might sound unfamiliar, but it has various relative conceptions in religion, mythology, and psychology. Some commonly associated conditions like ‘existential crisis’, and forms of depression are more recognizable.”
“The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of utter spiritual desolation, disconnection, and emptiness in which one feels totally separated from the Divine. Those who experience the Dark Night feel completely lost, hopeless, and consumed with melancholy. The Dark Night of the Soul can be likened to severe spiritual depression.”
Suffice it to say that the journey of awakening is not for the faint of heart. Why do it then? one might ask. Good question. How long can one sleep until one must awaken? Forever? Perhaps. But is that living?
It’s quite understandable that many choose not to awaken. Opening your eyes to reality can be harsh. Some opt to only awaken to the reality they choose, often refusing to acknowledge the harsher aspects. This is one of the aspects of the current term, ‘Woke’.
The issues is that often, those who are ‘Woke’ seem to think they are dealing with reality, when what they’re dealing with is the watered-down, more-or-less comfortable version. The worst part is many of these ‘Woke Ones’ have also developed a sense of self-righteousness that can be very destructive to themselves and those around them.
I suppose Woke can be the first step to awakening, but many are using the concept to suit their own purposes. You don't just get woke and then you're good. The awakening process is arduous and on-going.
Not unlike a Shamanic Quest or the Hero’s Journey, awakening alters not only how we perceive the world, but also our awareness of self. There is a distinction between who we think we are and who we actually are. The Who that we think we are has been molded and tempered by our life experience. The Who that we actually are is what we are here to re-discover or re-member.
Our pseudo identities are molded as children. Our minds are indoctrinated by our parents, our circumstances, and by the world’s Collective Consciousness. Ultimately, each of us chooses our life path by determination or default. Do we live as We desire, or do we accept the life that is been dictated to us? Decisions, decisions. Sometimes it seems we are damned whether we do or don’t.
One of the greatest secrets in the awakening process is to let go of any preconceived notions you may have held. Most of us cling so tightly to the lives we think we want or seem to have, that it leaves no opportunity to consider other possibilities. Ever heard the saying, 'Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone'?
Here's a quick video called the 'Parable of the Reluctant Messiah' from Richard Bach’s book, ‘Illusions – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah’. The gist of it is that we must let go of our lives in order to live. Scariest, most rewarding thing you will ever do. In truth, that is only the beginning.
So much of our so-called entertainment is based on the concept of the Hero’s Journey. The Matrix; Star Wars; The Wizard of Oz; The Last Samurai; The Peaceful Warrior; Rango; and a million other movies and stories are about the journey one must make, against all odds, back to the Self.
Awakening is the Hero’s Journey, and once you have taken that journey and returned, you may still need to master the art of living in both worlds.
“a Master of two worlds: We see the hero achieve a balance between who he was before his journey and who he is now. Often, this means balancing the material world with the spiritual enlightenment he’s gained.”
The Dark Night of the Soul is intrinsic to the Awakening experience. You may feel you are dying, but it is really the pains of re-birth. Your journey is an individual thing and once it has begun, there is no going back and no blue pill that will return you to the way you were.
No one can tell you how to do it or what will be the results. What you need to know is you are never truly alone, and what awaits you on the other side is what living is really about. You may be able to deny it, but you will never be the same. Why would you want to be?
Have Courage! Be the Hero of Your Life!