Mysticism-Dark Night of the Soul





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Published on Feb 3, 2010

"When Love has carried us above all things into the Divine Dark, there we are transformed by the Eternal Word Who is the image of the Father; and as the air is penetrated by the Sun, thus we receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, enfolding us, and penetrating us.'

This video is a part of a series on the seminal work by Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: The Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, 1911.

The Dark Night of the Soul

Underhill's greatest book, Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual
Consciousness, was published in 1911, and is distinguished by the very qualities which make it
inappropriate as a straightforward textbook. The spirit of the book is romantic, engaged, and
theoretical rather than historical or scientific. Underhill has little use for theoretical explanations and
the traditional religious experience, formal classifications or analysis. She dismisses William James'
pioneering study, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), and his "four marks of the mystic
state" (ineffability, noetic quality, transcience, and passivity). James had admitted that his own
constitution shut him off almost entirely from the enjoyment of mystical states thus his treatment was
purely objective. Underhill substituted (1) mysticism is practical, not theoretical, (2) mysticism is an
entirely spiritual activity, (3) The business and method of mysticism is love. (4) mysticism entails a
definite psychological experience.

Librivox recording by:
Joy Chan

I think with this Underhill is speaking of those mystics for whom real effort is expended, an active mysticism as opposed to a passive state. The dark night then is characterized by continued effort but with little result, and although she doesn't clarify it clearly in this portion of the reading (only 9 mins of a 45 min discussion) it is ego involvement which causes clouded perception, pain, intense loneliness, and suffering. Being unable to experience the true joy of the illuminated state until a sort of critical mass of ego involvement implodes on itself freeing the higher consciousness. While Underhill seems to describe the Christian mystic, the occurence of the dark night is described in many different spiritual traditions. For example, this might be compared with anatta of Buddhist doctrine.


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