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Hope Springs Eternal – But Spring Never Comes

This post was written by Elysia
on March 23, 2011 | Comments (1)

This past weekend we marked Ostara, the vernal equinox – the first day of spring. But it turns out – especially if you live in Minnesota – there can be many definitions of spring. Astrologically speaking, I’m positive the Sun is in Aries and “spring” is upon us. However, driving to work today in several inches of icy, slushy snow, witnessing multiple accidents and spun-out cars, you’d think it was December.

The view outside my cube - Woodbury, MN

Last week it seemed winter really was over…we had temps in the 50s, gentle rain, and almost all of our snow melted. (Well, I’m still parking 5 feet away from the curb because of the huge amount of ice still there, but at least that ice is less than a foot high now. It used to be a solid 4-foot snow bank due to all the plowing this winter.) But just as quickly as it came, spring is gone… for another week, at least.

This got me to thinking about spirituality, and the “dark night of the soul” in particular. Many religious traditions have recognized this stage in spiritual development even though it was originally coined by Saint John of the Cross. According to Wikipedia (which we won’t let our authors use as a reference in their books, but hey, I’m blogging so I’m cutting myself some slack), there are parallels in Buddhism and Islam as well. And last week when reading a manuscript, I learned for the first time that Mother Teresa lived her life in almost perpetual blackness. She had beautiful communication with Jesus in 1947 directing her to start working with the poor in the slums, and as soon as her mission was approved by the Church in 1948, “Jesus took himself away again.” From that point on until her death she was almost continually feeling the acute anguish of spiritual impoverishment. She wrote:

When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart? – From Time Magazine, Aug. 23, 2007

Did it surprise me to learn that a woman who tirelessly worked with the poor in India doubted in her work and doubted in her God? Yes, it really did. I wonder how many people are able to go on in their works (or prayers, or rituals) when they don’t get any spiritual satisfaction out of them. I wonder if they are just waiting for spring to finally arrive, even though year after year… it never does.

I would expect that since in many forms of Paganism we depend on direct communication with a whole array of beings – deities, ancestors, land spirits, magical beings – as part of our spiritual practice, we are perhaps at a greater risk of experiencing the dark night of the soul when those voices go silent than, say, a regular churchgoer who doesn’t expect to have those earth-shaking, sublime, transcendent kinds of experiences in the first place.

So, I put the question to you, dear readers – have you ever experienced a dark night of the soul? One where “neither God nor the soul nor the self as we knew them are any longer to be found”? Have those voices ever gone silent, or have you failed to hear them in the first place? How does your particular Pagan, Wiccan, Druid, or other branch of faith help you through those times?

And finally – is it ever going to stop snowing here?

Spring in Minnesota - you can't tell by this picture, but it's still snowing at a good clip

Reader Comments

Written By Clea Danaan
on March 24th, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

That’s interesting to think of the Dark Night as a lack of felt connection with Deity. I’ve always thought of it as a sort of existential depression. Could be the same – but not necessarily. I guess the latter would be a dark night of the senses? Jim Marion writes a lot about both from a (mystical) Christian perspective.

I see both Dark Nights as similar to Shamanic death, where our ego dies or we face our own death and are reborn, like in Simon Buxton’s bee shaman book. But in some cases, these deaths/dark nights take years.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about weather and how it connects to our souls or emotions or both. All of us go through a sort of dark night every year – and when we attune with the Wheel of the Year we can honor that dark night as natural and even necessary rather than something to fear or avoid. But then, I think of that darkness as communicating with the Dark Lady (or whatever one names that energy) rather than a spiritual emptiness.

I’m going through a sort of wasteland as a mother right now – and have been for the last five and a half years. The sense of being on my own, lost, pushed to the brink, coming up empty – these constantly plague me. I know I am becoming stronger and deeper for it.

I can’t even imagine not being able to connect with Deity. Doubt my convictions – yes – doubt my belief in and connection to elementals and unseen energies – yes – not getting answers when I ache for them – yes. But Goddess is always there, like a background hum I can feel by tuning in. But I guess that hasn’t always been true for me. There has been a lot of doubt along the way.

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