The Dark Night of the Soul (what Is the Truth Hidden In Thes Words)

saint-john-of-the-crossI love this work by Saint John of the Cross and in particular this translation which Loreena McKennitt used for a beautiful song in her album The Mask and the Mirror.

The words resonate within me; because there is something there which I can’t quite put my finger on, perhaps I simply need to reveal its secret for myself and the act of seeking answers to something that is not easily understood is what intrigues me. What ever the motivation, this poem has hidden depth – I would love to hear what other people have understood from their own investigations…

I have read the first book which explains this wonderful poem but keep going back to the poem itself looking for something more….

The Dark Night of the Soul

Upon a darkened night

The flame of love was burning in my breast

And by a lantern light

I fled my house while in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night

And by the secret stair I quickly fled

The fail concealed my eyes

While all within lay quiet as the dead

Oh night thou was guide

Oh night more loving than the rising sun

Oh night that joined the lover

To the one beloved

Transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night

In secrecy, beyond such mortal sight

Without a guide or light

Than that which burned so deeply in my heart

That fire ‘twas led me on

And shone more brightly than the midnight sun

To where he waited still

It was a place where no one else could come

Within my pounding heart

Which kept itself entirely for him

He fell into his sleep

Beneath the ceders all my love I gave

From o’er the fortress walls

The wind would brush his hair against his brow

And with its smoothest hand

Caressed my every sense if would allow

I lost myself to him

And laid my face upon my lovers breast

And care and grief grew dim

As in the morning’s mist became the light

There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

GnosticWill GnosticWill
41-45, M
6 Responses Jul 5, 2009

thank you all for your comments... <br />
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BiffaB, i really like the way you understand this. particularly this comment "People who havent had these experiences may think its neat and read their own meanings into it or be confused by it. "<br />
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in putting this type of thing for us to read, Masters, offer us the ability to gain our own knowledge all spiritual text only have value if the reader uses them to search, to verify and to directly experience...<br />
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thanks again BiffaB for you insightful comment, i wish you strength for you search...<br />
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I think like the Song of Solomon in the bible this is mystical allegory. Advanced mystics (I'm not one yet) know it describes experiences of internal changes along the mystical path (the buddha way etc). People who havent had these experiences may think its neat and read their own meanings into it or be confused by it. <br />
I was taught what Christian mystics experience as the Long Dark Night of the Soul is called Shakti Pad in yoga - its the 'killing off' of part of your ego (which fights back big time) and just about the last step on the path to enlightenment. Its supposed to be an truly awful upsetting experience but well worth going through for the joy of egoless living. This process seems to be the same whether you believe in god and supernatural energies and entities or not.

Oh I haven't seen this poem before, it's really nice. I feel it is about love, the experience of love, and of memory and imagination. It has many depths of meaning to it and I can understand why it is posted here on mysticism. The immediate la<x>yer of it is that it’s about once having loved and how the earth-shattering experience of loving someone lives like a flame in your chest always even though the lover is not there. Not talking about the big lettered Love with no faults or greediness near it's boarders, I'm talking about this feeling between people, a deep connection, that makes you feel like you're never really alone even if the physical side of it is but a memory..You have belonged to someone, someone has belonged to you and in the darkness of the night you are with him/her again. When secluded to your inner self the feeling you once had, the images and your imagination lives and becomes real, this is your reality. When dark and there are no distractions, no voices, no people, he is there. <br />
I think deeply experiencing love is stronger than any religion, it can transcend everything. In comparison to religion or searching for enlightenment, where you often end up searching for some light to follow (the reason why I don't like religion) you will not come close to enlightenment in this way as it is not something you can find by searching. You have to experience it. Love lives inside you in the deepest because it is a personal experience. <br />
The poem shows here a deeper la<x>yer of meaning too I think, in the way that this love doesn't need to be from a connection with an actual person, the core of it is that it is something deeply personal, it is an experience, some people claim to experience God, some experience an overwhelming love for the world, for life in its deepest beauty (which is god to me),. This is something completely different from the outer concepts of religion, which really is bullshit. What you believe, you have to deeply experience,<br />
that's when something lives on like a flame inside you in the darkest of hours,through sorrow and loss and cruelty it lives on because you have really felt it, the transcendence of ego in a way...And how can you ever question something you have felt, that's like questioning, doubting if you live or have ever lived.

In parts of this poem, the author seems to say that he was having an awakening, realization, or enlightenment experience one night. The rest of it I don't understand yet.

thank for the comment Toni...<br />
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for me i feel he is talking about his mystical experiences and about love (divine love) the is so much symbolism in this. i love the the first sentence. the flame of love burning brightly in his breast...<br />
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this speaks to of hope and love.

I read St John of God a long, long time ago so my memory of his writings is now very faint. As a teenager I was an avid reader of spiritual books. I think the reason he is considered so great is that his writings inspire what you have said you find - that you keep going back for more. If you read him one day you will "see" differently to the previous day. <br />
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To me, in the poem you have transcribed he seems to be telling us that it is in the darkness of the soul - that terrible blackness of no longer being able to find God - that we do indeed find Him. I have always had difficulty with this blackness that so often comes to those who search for "the Light". It was so often portrayed in Biblical stories as God's test. But I don't believe God is like that. I don't think He puts us to the test. That is a human interpretation. And yet - the more one searches for the truth and tries to live a life according to the creeds this encompasses, the more struggles seem to intervene. It is easy to see how the idea came that evil forces are at war with those of good, or evil spirits at war with good i.e. the devil versus God.<br />
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I believe - and at the current reading, this is what I interpret in this poem - that it is when we "let go and let God" that is when we find the light. When we don't use human interpretations and human attempts; when we don't fight the darkness but simply have faith even if we don't feel it - that is when the light comes blazing down on us.