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 The Dark Night of the Soul

The dark night of the soul is not something pleasant to go through and does not end with a fellowship supper after church on a Sunday night. It is a grueling experience that requires an absolutely strict detachment from everything that you normally rely on so that you are only left with Christ.

The dark night of the soul separates those who are genuinely interested in following Christ from those who just have a curiosity about the deep things of God. We surely want God to do His work in our lives, but we want the lights left on. We want God to do in our hearts and lives that which will bring Him honoring glory, but we want to know and understand every step that He takes in our lives.

Darkness speaks of not knowing. We want God to do, but we want Him to do what He does within the scope of our comprehension. The dark night of the soul, however, is a work of the Holy Spirit that exceeds the ability of any man or woman to understand. When we come through the dark night of the soul, we do not know what has really happened to us, but we do know what has made it happen (A.W.Tozer)

Tozer is here talking about the dark night of the soul. This is a concept well-known to the Body of Christ. Tozer describes it very well in the above quote. I would say that for centuries men here and there have went through this experience and they have had a profound effect on the Body of Christ. It is a kind of refiners fire that purges away reliance upon anything else other than God. It has happened to individuals and small groups of people but now I want to suggest that God is taking the Body of Christ, the genuine saints, the remnant, through a dark night of the soul corporately so to speak. He is and has been and is continuing to separate his children from ailing and compromised institutions. He is drawing them out. And as they come out He is drawing them into the desert. Now the desert is typically a place of death but the saints in their dark nights of the soul, in their journey to complete dependence upon Him will find life in the desert.

Perhaps you are being drawn out? It is scary. You are full of doubt, you are surrounded by darkness, you cannot hear from the Lord or discern His purpose for your life but you are being driven. As much as you cannot see the way ahead you know you cannot stay in a place of compromise and lukewarmness. No one understands you where you are. When you speak of deeper things and desiring to take up your cross for Christ people look at you like you are an alien. So you are driven. Driven into darkness and solitude and loneliness. Driven to a place where your only fellowship is the Lord Himself and His word. This is alien at first but the longer you journey into this place the more you realize the wonder and the glory of complete dependence upon the Lord for all of your spiritual needs. He is establishing your feet upon a broad place. He is equipping you to be a light in the gross darkness to come. He is enabling you to be a source of encouragement to the Body of Christ in the age in which we live.

As the saints come out of this desert I believe God is drawing them to each other. All around the world in the days to come God is drawing His Body together after they have come through the darkness and complete separation from the world and now completely rely on Him. He is and will continue to equip the saints in every generation for what they have to face. I believe our generation will face the greatest darkness that has ever faced the Body of Christ universally. Men and woman of the past whom the Lord brought through the dark night of the soul, as few as they were, had a tremendous effect on the Body of Christ. Imagine what effect the Body of Christ will have on the world when the Lord has finished His work of taking His Church through this experience.

But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:2-5)

 2016/3/27 17:08

Joined: 2016/3/9
Posts: 74
Garland, TX

 Re: The Dark Night of the Soul

Thank you for this, brother Frank. I have this book of Tozer's, and this particular passage is highlighted.

You said, "As the saints come out of this desert I believe God is drawing them to each other. All around the world in the days to come God is drawing His Body together after they have come through the darkness and complete separation from the world and now completely rely on Him." This is certainly my experience as of late, as it pleased the Lord to lead me to a small house church fellowship after 5 years of being alone, sitting at His feet. I depend on no one or nothing but HIM. I am excited to see what the Lord will do. Thank you for another timely word.


 2016/3/27 18:46Profile


Thank you brother Frank. Here is more of the same from Tozer.

"I am convinced that in New Testament Christianity the object of the Holy Spirit is twofold. First, He wants to convince Christians that it is actually possible for us to know the beauty and perfection of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. Second, it is His desire to lead us forward into victory and blessing even as Joshua once led Israel into the promised land.

The first is not too difficult. Most Christians will honestly confess that there are still spiritual frontiers before them which they have not been willing to explore. There is still ground to be taken if our object is to know Christ, to win Christ, to know the power of His resurrection, to be conformed to His death. If our object is to experience within our beings all of those things that we have in Christ judicially, we must come to the place of counting all things loss for the excellency of this knowledge.

We know our lack, but we are very slow in allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us into deeper Christian life and experience, that place where the intent of our heart is so cleansed that we may perfectly love God and worthily praise Him. In spite of our hesitation and delay and holding back God does not give up, because the Holy Spirit is faithful and kind and patient and ever seeks to lead us forward into the life of the special kind of Christian.

I well remember the caution of one of the old saints I have read who pointed out that “a persuaded mind and even a well intentioned heart may be far from exact and faithful practice” and “nothing has been more common than to meet souls who are perfect and saintly in speculation.”

Jesus did not say, “You will be my disciples by speculation.” He did say that by your fruit and by your behavior you will be known. This is one rule that is never deceiving, and it is by this that we should judge ourselves.

God will sift out those who only speculate about the claims of Christ and He will lead forward those who by His grace see Him in His beauty and seek Him in His love.

The story of Gideon is an illustration of how God seeks His qualities within us and is not concerned with us just as numbers or statistics. Gideon was about to face the enemy and he had an army of 32,000 soldiers. But the Lord said to Gideon, "“You have too many, —let all who are afraid go back". When this sifting was all done, Gideon had an army of 300 men.

God seeks out those who are willing that their lives should be fashioned according to His own grace and love. He sifts out those who cannot see God’s purpose and design for our blessing.

Some of you know something of that which has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, “How long can this go on?”

Let me remind you of the journey of Jesus Christ to immortal triumph. Remember the garden where He sweat blood. Remember Pilate’s hall where they put on Him the purple robe and smote Him. Remember His experience with His closest disciples as they all forsook Him and fled. Remember the journey up the hill to Calvary. Remember how they nailed Him to a cross, those six awful hours, the hiding of the Father’s face.

Remember the darkness and remember the surrender of His spirit in death.

This was the path that Jesus took to immortal triumph and everlasting glory, and as He is, so are we in this world! "

 2016/3/27 20:27


More from Tozer. I think the 3rd paragraph down describes my life right now, if I was to be brutally honest.

"Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night. In The Cloud of Unknowing, we have been told: “This work asketh no long time before it be truly done, as some men think, for it is the shortest work of all that men may imagine. It is neither longer nor shorter, but even according to the stirring that is within thee, even thy will.”

The stirring within us often is not enough. There are too many other factors; —there is not yet a vacuum within, a prepared place into which the Holy Spirit may come and be at home.

I think the more we learn of God and His ways and of man and his nature we are bound to reach the conclusion that we are all just about as holy as we want to be. We are all just about as full of the Spirit as we want to be. Thus when we tell ourselves that we want to be more holy but we are really as holy as we care to be, it is small wonder that the dark night of the soul takes so long!

The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they have not yet come to the end of themselves. We are still giving some of the orders, and we are still interfering with God’s working within us.

We struggle to keep up a good front, forgetting that God says the most important thing is for us to be humble and meek as Christ gave us example. It seems that Christians are obsessed with keeping up that good front. We say we want to go to heaven when we die to see old Jordan roll, but we spend most of our time and energy down here just putting on that good front. It seems that many of us say to God, as did King Saul the apostate before us, “Oh God, honor me now before these people!” "

 2016/3/27 20:34


Great quotes bro Mark, one of my favorite authors.

I had a vision one time. I could see folks getting into covered wagons back in the 19th century in Independence Missouri ( not to far from where I live now and where the settlers used to take off from) They would struggle through all the different states as they headed towards California. I could see each state and their names were something like pride, lust, unforgiveness, ambition and so on. A last great effort got them over the mountains and to the coast. All along they had been following well worn paths and were aided by maps. They finally arrived at the pacific ocean which, in my vision was called the sea of dependence.

So they had come from Independence, struggled through storms and trials of various kinds and overcome certain obstacles and here they were at he sea of dependence. They set up temporary accommodations. After a season a boat appears and the Lord is the captain and He calls to the people on shore to come and join Him and continue the journey. He told them there would be no maps for this part and they would just have to trust him beyond the horizon.

Only a few took Him up on His offer, some because of fear but many had become comfortable in their " temporary accommodations." Jesus would come in the boat every day and most ignored Him. Then He did not come as often and His voice was faint to those on the shore. Finally the boat did not show up anymore and this pleased the people and their temporary accommodations became their permanent dwellings. The Lord showed me that this was Christendom............bro Frank

 2016/3/27 22:20

Joined: 2011/10/23
Posts: 1903


I used to read Saint John of the cross, and other Mystics,,the dark night of the soul was completely different to what frank is talking about if I rember correctly,,and achieved through medatation ,a state where the presence of the holy spirt completely leaves the person for a season , and despair sets in ..........., I know tozer spoke highly of those saints ,that's my only issue with tozer ,,,,I see the mystic path way as not being taught in scripture but closer to budisim ,then Christianity ....

 2016/3/28 1:05Profile

Joined: 2011/10/23
Posts: 1903


Just info from wiki

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Dark Night of the Soul
For the album by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, see Dark Night of the Soul (album).
Dark Night of the Soul (Spanish: La noche oscura del alma) is the title given to a poem by 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. The author himself did not title the poem, on which he wrote two book-length commentaries: The Ascent of Mount Carmel (Subida del Monte Carmelo), and The Dark Night (Noche Oscura).

Poem and treatise by Saint John of the Cross
Spiritual term in the Roman Catholic tradition
In culture
See also
Further reading
External links
Poem and treatise by Saint John of the Cross Edit

John of the Cross
Saint John of the Cross' poem, in 8 stanzas of 5 lines each, narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. The journey is called "The Dark Night" in part because darkness represents the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable (as in the 14thc. mystic classic The Cloud of Unknowing—which goes back, as does John's poem, to the 6th century writings of Dionysius the Areopagite), and the path is unknowable. salí sin ser notada, estando ya mi casa sosegada, John writes in the first verse of the poem, which verse in its entirety is translated:[1]

In an obscure night
Fevered with love’s anxiety
(O hapless, happy plight!)
I went, none seeing me
Forth from my house, where all things quiet be

—that is, the body and the mind, with their cares, being stilled. At the beginning of the treatise Dark Night, (the Declaración) John writes, "In this first verse, the soul tells the mode and manner in which it departs, as to its affection, from itself and from all things, dying through a true mortification to all of them and to itself, to arrive at a sweet and delicious life with God." The "dark night of the soul" does not refer to the hardships and difficulties of life in general, although the phrase has understandably been taken to refer to such trials. The nights which the soul experiences are the necessary purgations on the path to divine union, of which there are two: the first is of the sensory or sensitive part of the soul, the second of the spiritual part (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Ch.1.2). Such Purgations comprise the first of the three stages of the mystic journey, followed by Illumination and Union.[2] John does not actually use the term "dark night of the soul". His term is "dark night, noche oscura."

There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the joyful experience of being guided to God. The only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul. And that is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun: Aquésta me guiaba, más cierto que la luz del mediodía. This light leads the soul engaged in the mystic journey to divine union.

The Ascent of Mount Carmel is divided into three books that reflect the two phases of the dark night. The first is a purification of the senses (It is titled "The Active Night of the Senses"). The second and third books describe the more intense purification of the spirit (Titled "The Active Night of the Spirit"). Dark Night of the Soul further describes the ten steps on the ladder of mystical love, previously described by Saint Thomas Aquinas and in part by Aristotle. The time or place of composition are not certain. It is likely the poem was written between 1577–79, and has been held that it was composed while John was imprisoned in Toledo, although the few explicit statements in this regard are not very convincing nor first hand.[3]

The treatises, written some time between 1578–85, are commentaries on the poem, explaining its meaning line by line. Padre Lucinio del SS. Sacramento, who edited the critical edition (edition 5), with extremely thorough notes, of John of the Cross's Complete Works in the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos series,[4] writes that "The idea of the 'night' to analyse the complex psychology of the soul under the purifying influence of grace is the most original and fruitful symbolic creation of the Mystic Doctor's doctrine." [5] The Ascent and the Dark Night should be considered as forming a single body as P. Lucinio states,[6] quoting Andrés de la Incarnación and P. Silverio de Santa Teresa. Both works were left uncompleted.

Spiritual term in the Roman Catholic tradition Edit

Main article: Spiritual dryness
The term "dark night (of the soul)" is used in Roman Catholicism for a spiritual crisis in a journey towards union with God, like that described by Saint John of the Cross.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a 19th-century French Carmelite, wrote of her own experience. Centering on doubts about the afterlife, she reportedly told her fellow nuns, "If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into."[7]

While this crisis is usually temporary in nature, it may last for extended periods. The "dark night" of Saint Paul of the Cross in the 18th century lasted 45 years, from which he ultimately recovered. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, according to letters released in 2007, "may be the most extensive such case on record", lasting from 1948 almost up until her death in 1997, with only brief interludes of relief in between.[8] Franciscan Friar Father Benedict Groeschel, a friend of Mother Teresa for a large part of her life, claims that "the darkness left" towards the end of her life.[9]

In culture Edit

Ernest Dowson alludes to the 'obscure night of the soul' in his absinthe poem, Absinthia Taetra.

In The Crack-Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald penned his famous line, "In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning".

As a comment on the shallowness of modern spirituality, author and humorist Douglas Adams parodied the phrase with the title of his 1988 science fiction novel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

English electronic band Depeche Mode make a clear reference in their song "I Feel Loved", the second single released from the album Exciter, in which Dave Gahan sings, "It's the dark night of my soul and temptation's taking hold, but through the pain and the suffering, through the heartache and trembling I feel loved...".

Alternative rock band Sparklehorse, along with producer Danger Mouse and director and visual artist David Lynch, collaborated with a number of other artists — including Vic Chesnutt, Jason Lytle, and Wayne Coyne — on an audio-visual project entitled "Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present: Dark Night of the Soul."

The phrase has also been used as a song title by several other bands and music artists, including Steve Bell, The Get Up Kids, Ulver, Mayhem, and Shai Linne in The Solus Christus Project.

Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt set the poem to music on her album The Mask and Mirror.

Composer Ola Gjeilo has written a choral setting with piano and string quartet, fourteen minutes long, influenced by the phrase.

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison writes about the "dark night of the soul" in two of his songs, "Tore Down a la Rimbaud" on A Sense of Wonder, and "Give Me My Rapture" on Poetic Champions Compose.

In his novel, "Insomnia," Stephen King makes a reference to the F. Scott Fitzgerald usage when his protagonist first begins experiencing the signs of insomnia following the death of his [the character's] wife.

See also Edit

Ascent of Mount Carmel
Ego death
Existential crisis
Stages of ego development
Theory of Positive disintegration
Lawrence Kohlberg
Stages of moral development
Psychology of religion
References Edit

^ Underhill, Evelyn. (1974). Mysticism. 12th ed., New York: New American Library. [1930], p.83
^ Underhill, Mysticism, Ch. 4
^ Lucinio del SS. Sacramento, Nota Introductoria a la 'Subida' y la 'Noche' in Vida y Obras completas de San Juan de la Cruz, 5th ed., Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1954, p. 358.
^ Vida y Obras de San Juan de la Cruz, 5th ed. Lucinio del Ss. Sacramento, Ed. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1964.
^ Lucinio del SS. Sacramento, Nota Introductoria, p. 359.
^ Nota Introductoria, p. 357.
^ Martin, James (29 August 2007). "A Saint's Dark Night". The New York Times.
^ David van Biema (23 August 2007). "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith". Time Magazine.
^ Groeschel, Father Benedict (9 September 2007). "The Mother Teresa I Knew" (RM). EWTN Sunday Night Live.
The chapter titled "The Dark Night of the Soul" from Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism at Gnostic

 2016/3/28 1:14Profile


Why cast aspersions on Tozers writings quoted here? What do you hope to accomplish? To discredit Tozer? All this will do is distract from the discussion and breed contention, which tends to happen way too often on this forum.

This is a very good thread about a very important topic and has nothing to do with mystical meditation or whatever you are alluding to.

The dark night of the soul that Tozer wrote about many times deals with the seasons in a persons life when it seems that God is far from them. When Gods presence is apparently nowhere to be found. It is not a matter of if, but when this will occur in a believers life. The problem with many people is that they give up "during the night" and never make it through to the morning light.

This is very common. I know many people who used to walk with God with a bright step and now it seems that their faith is cold and formal. Perhaps the dark night came upon them, but they wrestled not until the morning light?

It would do us all well to learn from such greats as Tozer and Wilkerson and others who have walked the walk and been through the fires of affliction. We can learn much from them.

 2016/3/28 2:10

Joined: 2011/10/23
Posts: 1903


Well as frank would understand ,it's worth deciphering ,where this teachings comes from ,and how it can lead people in to the wide road of Catholic romon teachings , of mysticism and what ever else that is falsely called knowlage .............

Tozer would be possibly be my favourite teacher , Iv listend to more sermons from tozer then any one else bar Paul washer possibly....

I'm being honest when I say ,that I struggle at his love for the righting of the saints of the romon church ,

It can be a stumbling block to the weak ,,,,,,I tripped up on teachings on mystasisim and medatation, years ago ,so I know what I'm talking about , for the sake of the weaker saints ,it's worth mentioning ,this won't cause contention ,unless you want it to , your better then that ...

 2016/3/28 4:10Profile

 Re: brothergary

achieved through medatation ,a state where the presence of the holy spirt completely leaves the person for a season , and despair sets in

I have studied the Christian mystic writers extensively, in order to understand the strange dealings of God that I had been through, and must disagree with this statement. It might be common in non Christian writings, the aim of 'meditation' being an activity whereby one becomes detached from everything and enters 'Nivarna' or nothingness, which can be related to Christian writings, but it is not the same thing at all.

The process one goes through to become entirely sanctified, or possess a pure heart, is not something that one can decide to embark upon as the motivation will more than likely be from one's flesh and not for the glory of God. The suffering involved will soon put an end to that endeavor.

It is usually a response to the longings in ones heart for purity and righteousness.

As the writing shows, both believers and unbelievers will claim to be going through it or have gone through it, but the fruit of it does not show in their lives. They are not transformed by it, and if it were the true dark night, as John the Cross says, they will barely be able to recount it as it is so terrible. Many 'dark nights' are due to the human condition and probably depression.

It is entirely biblical as the Lord has provided us with an example in scripture, that is to say, in the story of Job.

Job's reaction to sudden and profound loss, was to accept it with grace as if from the hand of God, with thanksgiving and praise. We are presented with a man who walks in the Spirit, a faithful servant of Almighty God. Later he would lament:

Oh that I were as in the months of old
as in the days when God watched over me
when his lamp shone over my head and by his light
I walked through darkness when I was in my prime. 29.2-4.

'It did not matter whether deep darkness might be around him for, by the light of God, he saw the path, and was able to walk with him through darkness' explains J. Penn-Lewis.

For Job, each successive blow is accepted magnanimously: The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 1.21. On recounting his past experiences 29.23, Job does not speak of his worldly loss, but expresses his grief about his loss of light, or in other words, the presence of God.

Job is shown to be a holy man, walking in the light, having put on the righteousness of God.

The thing which he had dreaded the most, had occurred, leaving him speechless: The heavens were silent; God had departed, and creation has seemingly been reversed. The deserted lover in this case is not at fault and sought him but found him not, Song of Solomon 3.1. Likewise from J.S. Bach:

If each day is filled with sorrow
And lamentation does not vanish
Ah, then this pain must
Pave the way to death
My dearest God lets me
Still call in vain. (cantecals)

Job pleads, Make me know my transgressions and my sin, 13.23. All of the understanding of his past dealings with God were being demolished because there is silence regarding his request and readiness to repent, had he inadvertently sinned. His claim to righteousness was due to light given, but now, circumstances lead him to believe that his convictions are in doubt, which brought extreme confusion and despair.

Job feels that God has become his enemy and is attacking him, the name YHWH being changed to El-Shaddai denoting destruction Is. 13.6, in the poetic section of the book 3.1- 42.6. To deal with El-Shaddai is a bitter and terrible experience, as in: Call me Mara (bitter) for El-Shaddai has dealt bitterly with me, Ruth 1.20.

The human condition is such that man will only accept what he has experienced himself, so he will deny it. Most of the great evangelists and preachers of the past, recount a period of having gone through this devastation where they seem to lose everything that is dear to them.

The feelings of alienation from a dry and lifeless church does not necessarily mean it is the dark night.

Just because the world hears about these things and tries to emulate it, does not mean that it is not experiencially Christian and anyone who has been through the dark night and then reads St John, will recognise every little thing he describes so magnificently. He was a master if his craft and l side with Tozer in his admiration of him. Don't forget he was imprisoned because of his beliefs.

 2016/3/28 4:16

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