Ascent of the soul are brought at the cost of downward falls. It is much a part of the journey to be deprived at times of aspiration, desire and to have no assurance of a happy life. The first realization of the soul come in flashes, the higher self appear and disappear causing the seeker alternating conditions of happiness and sadness. Each time the ego is shed, the seekers first reaction is not relief or freedom but dryness, lack, darkness and longing.
This phase passes away and is followed by one as illuminative as the other was dark, as joyous as the other was unhappy, and as close to reality as the other seemed far from it. The familiar self begins to drop away like leaves from a tree in autumn and the seeker begins to make discovery of his original goodness. But alas, when the presence depart again the lower self returns and the period of light is followed by a period of darkness. A spiritual development which is not complete is usually succeeded by multiple period of recoil.
A greater trial await each seeker, the soul soon demand a sacrifice upon its altar so complete that even the innocent natural longing for personal happiness must be offered up. As no novice or even few intermediates could bear this dark night of soul, and even proficients cannot bear it without murmuring, it is reserved for the last group alone. This means it happens at an advanced stage between a period of great illumination and sublime union. During this period the seeker feels forsaken, emotionally fatigued and intellectually bored to such a degree that he may become a sick soul.
All spiritual exercises will be impossible and fruitless, aspiration dead and uninviting. A sense of terrible loneliness will envelop him, interest in any subject may fall away or feeling of personal progress being paralyzed will become dominant. Yet, in spite of contrary appearance this is all part of the development which has taken a turn that will round it out and make enlightenment fuller.
The most dangerous feature of the “dark night of soul” is a weakening of the will, occurring at the same time is a reappearance of old forgotten evil tendencies. This is the point where the seeker is really being tested and where a proportion of those who have reached this high level fail in the test and fall for several years into a lower one. Even Mohammed had to undergo this experience of the dark night of soul. It lasted three years and not a single illumination or revelation came to brighten his despondent heart; yet his supreme realization and world shaking task was still ahead of him.
He who has passed through the deepest and longest of the “dark nights” which precede mature spiritual attainment can never again feel excessive emotional jubilation. The experience acts like a surgical procedure in cutting out of him all attachment to worldly excitement and enjoyment. His character will become serene under all experience but his countenance will have a little touch of that melancholy which must come when one has plumbed the depths of life’s anguish and have been a recipient of sorrow and loss in what the world hold dear.
The seeker can engage in this state only for a short period or a few hours at most. The relentless dictate of earthly life and activity will compel him to return to his ordinary state of consciousness. The intermittent swinging to and fro between rapt self contemplation and the return to ordinary consciousness will tantalize him until he realizes what is the final goal of his life. It will come only when his egoism is ended. Up to this point he has succeeded in overcoming the ego fully in a contemplative state only. He must now overcome it in his ordinary active state of living.
The ego does not dissolve easily until the purpose of its own evolution has been fulfilled. Therefore each seeker must complete its circle and all round development in passing through each and every experience brought by the ego in daily life. At the climax of spiritual development the seeker who is now ripe find it natural to bring all such experience to poise and balance, then renounces them utterly. With the egos circle finally completed; perfect, unbroken oneness with the Oversoul ensue and the dark nights will dawn into everlasting light.
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