Explaining Mysticism’s Dark Night of the Soul

Thomas Cotterill

Saint John of the Cross The dark night of the soul is a lengthy period of deeply troubling doubt and hesitation. It ends when a sufficient level of acceptance has been reached to allow the final enlightenment to dawn. (Image: public domain)

In their book, Buddhism and Jungian Psychology, analysts J. Marvin Spiegelman and Mokusen Miyuki (who is also a Buddhist priest), mention the danger of “stagnation” following the integration of unconscious contents. This sounds a lot like the stage on the journey to enlightenment the mystics have famously called “the dark night of the soul.” It is the point where a seeker has seen the light, so to speak, but cannot quite believe it yet. This period of deeply troubling doubt and hesitation lasts for an indeterminate length of time until a sufficient level of acceptance has been reached to allow the final enlightenment to dawn, whereupon the ability to feel confident and to…

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