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The Purification of the Nights
Q: I am currently undergoing the dark night of the soul for the 2nd /3rd time. I have read a lot about John of the Cross and other authors. I am wondering who at CO has gone through the experience's. I know Fr Thomas must have had at some stage, as he speaks beyond intellectual knowledge, more from an inner knowing. Thank you in advance as this journey can be horrendous with the ego suggesting all sorts.
A: We have all experienced the Nights many times. The nights are not a stage or step on the spiritual journey but different phases of purification, where we are encouraged to let go of various things in order to be truly free. This purification takes a while because we are all so wounded. With each experience, we are becoming the likeness of Christ within as we let go of attachments, pride, unforgiveness, judgments – the burdens of life.
Have you ever been in a glass elevator that has a view of the interior of the building? As the elevator stops at different floors, you lose the view for a moment, but the same view comes back again but at a different angle and level. That could be a metaphor for the Nights that St John of the Cross talks about. You will keep recycling through stuff - seeing it over and over again - until your reach the ground floor and walk out of the night (the elevator) and be at the ground of your being, the Divine Presence.
I recommend reading Fr. Thomas Keating’s book Intimacy with God, chapter 8 “The Psychology of Centering Prayer,” which has some diagrams of the dig and the spiral staircase that illustrate this process well. Keep faithful to the practice and let go of trying to figure out what is going on – TRUST!