Thursday April 18, 2013 9:15 a.m.

Terms dark night of soul and night of spirit are not used consistently.

Dark night of the soul  is an overarching term containing two fragments:

1. dark night of sense – has to do with purification of our false self, moving away from emotional programs for happiness, hidden agendas, conditioned automatic defensiveness, and compensatory behaviours which always wind up with you shooting yourself in the foot

2. dark night of spirit – Jim Marion Putting on the Mind of Christ gets dark night of spirit completely mixed up. Even Keating doesn’t get to it throughout when he says it is a more systemic purification of deep cultural roots, he tends to see it as a further purgation at a deeper level than the dark night of sense.

What this is really about is that any kind of identity is up. You no longer squeeze the cactus.

What the dark night of spirit really has to do with is best described in operating system technology – brain mechanism is being deconstructed and rewired so we no longer perceive the perceptual field from that fixed separated viewing platform which we call “my self” – that is no longer the basis for our identity. The ego is simply the constructed experience of self that emerges out of using the egoic operating system. It is the way we come into life wired, perceiving by differentiation and separation.

According to the egoic operating system a thing has identity by virtue of the fact that it is not like the other. We construct our identities on the basis of difference. What makes me unique is what makes me different. But the root of unique is from unitas. To be unique is to be in relationship with origin. But the egoic operating system is skewed to picking up identity by differentiation.

Your egoic self, which you spend 90% of your life defending, exploring and improving, doesn’t exist. Or to put it another way, it exists provisionally. It is a function of your egoic operating system. As long as you operate this way you have an illusion of a solid self. As long as you are working in the egoic operating system you can’t go beyond that.

All the concepts we have about memory, impasse, victim solidarity are all a function of looking at the world through the lens of an egoic operating system and its product the self as an objective reality which in fact it isn’t. Until you move to this next level you will never see this, because you can’t look at that which you are looking through.

The egoic operation system is deconstructed through dark night of spirit so another sense of identity can come to the fore as the functional centre of your identity.

The egoic operating system is effective for navigating on the horizontal axis. We would be useless without an egoic operating system. It is not inherently bad. We need an egoic operating system. We need to play it and play it well in order to experience the music. It is not an enemy. It is a first path of life.

There is lots of spiritual by-passing if you have not developed a good healthy egoic operating system. In normal maturation of the human being there comes a time when the ego has taught the being to live and it has done its duty and no longer needs to be the master of the household and you can hold the beams of love without it.

Typical attributes of dark night of spirit are: vertigo, dizziness, disorientation. You don’t know how to rescue yourself. Sometimes you can’t draw energy any more from those things that used to energize you.

All these things that used to be so reverent and holy to you, you could care less. You simply don’t get kicks out of them anymore. This is the source of phrase, “If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him.” It is not because objects are bad, but your consciousness, you attention is learning how to live beyond the subject/object polarity. Anything you make an object, you are distancing. There is no subject/object dichotomy. You see the uselessness of doing it this way.

The other key feature of this is the de-linking of memory. Constance Fitzgerald writes:

Let me sketch in my own words the basic dynamics in this process of purifi –
cation. In the deeper reaches of a contemplative life, a kind of unraveling or loss
of memory occurs which can be more or less conscious. Then one’s usual way of
harboring memories is incapacitated. 7 A person’s past becomes inaccessible as a
basis for fi nding meaning. The experience seems to be not so much an emptying
of memory, as John describes it, as an unraveling or de-linking of it. A person
continues to have memories of the past, she may be bombarded with them, but
they are somehow uncoupled from the self. Their significance is altered. Memories
do not mean what one thought they did. In a mysterious way there is a cutting off
of both past and memory that is inimical to one’s personhood. The capacity one
loses is the ability to “re-member”; that is, to “member” again, bringing past elements
together, forward to the present, reconstructed into a newly relevant whole.
When memory is “de-constructed” in the dark night, the past can no longer weave
its thread of meaning through the person’s lived experience into the future.

Think about how routinely we use our past as the way of establishing meanings. Parker Palmer is all based on the idea of using your past and discovering that the past is the source of your dysfunction in the present.

Waiting for Godot – “When you die, your life flashes before you eyes.” “That sounds pretty boring; when I die I want someone else’s life to pass before my eyes.”

The practice of Centering Prayer is not grabbing on to thoughts, memories. In Centering Prayer the training is always “Don’t grab on to whatever comes up”. If you grab on, back you go into your psychological existence. Centering Prayer is training in the de-coupling of memory.

A lot of what apophatic practice does is that it lays the ground work for this natural maturation and growth beyond the egoic mechanism. There is a growing sense of “so what?”

What happens when you are in Centering Prayer and you let go of a thought (thought = anything that serves as a focal point for your attention – idea, emotion, itch on your nose), we are taking our attention from a subject/object configuration and moving back from subject/object configuration and gathering it into this undifferentiated ground of subjectivity which is an energy field in itself. When that energy field contains enough energy of its own we gain the capacity to perceive reality holistically without having to split it.

We have a powerful profound teaching on beginning to hold an energetic field of obejctless consciousness. We begin to abide in a world of objectless awareness, which is known in Christian tradition as recollection.

Letting go is completely counter-intuitive.

The egoic system is not good for answering the questions: “Who is God?” or “Who am I?” These questions can only be perceived through unity.

Once you have learned to comfortably rest, confide your identity in this state of obejctless awareness, a deeper sense of selfhood begins to emerge which doesn’t depend upon a linear sequence of things happening to it. It is not under the conditions of time. There is a different sense of selfhood that emerges on the basis of which a whole set of actions are possible that are not possible to the egoic self.

Contemplative practice gives you the opportunity to practice what you are going to have to do in the last 30 seconds of your life anyway. (Thomas Keating)

Experiences of great loss can catapult people into this – but it is dicey because they can go one way or the other. Sometimes they fall into completely unboundaried grace, other times into bitterness.

As you begin to practice in little ways in the daily irritations of your lives you begin to gradually imprint a program that says,  “Respond to each new event in life by opening, yielding, softening, receiving, non-constriction. Don’t let external circumstances of life push you into trying to solve things using the egoic operating system.”

As you stay open to that wider field you begin to learn how to receive resources from the Infinite in a way that allows you to perceive different outcomes. The egoic operating system is always bound to expected outcomes.

It is with the irritations that the constant practice of relaxing allows you to imprint and re-wire. That increases the odds that when you are up against something where the gun is really up against your head you will be able to bring that new disposition into play.

Constricting, bracing, judging, always throw the brain and heart out of entrainment (“To pull or draw along after itself”).

The Eastern Orthodox tradition insists, the heart is the location of the spirit. God dwells in the human heart and the human heart dwells in God.

We receive assistance when we open to the heart. Clutching and bracing inwardly is lethal. It sometimes takes a whole lifetime to learn that it never works.

We think there are certain things we need to brace and defend about. But spiritual tradition is continually pushing the envelope – we will still serve those things better that are most important to us if we approach every circumstance with opening.

We need to learn to de-program, dis-arm the clutching and bracing response. Keep the inner parts of our being in alignment with openness and then choose what we are going to do.

The horizontal axis is our life in time, under laws that define the earth plane, the law of linear causality, rules that are particularly characteristic of earth plane.

Vertical = connection with realms that are not under these same laws – our connection with the will, the reality , the beingness of God – imaginal reality. This dimension is not under the laws of linear causality. Time is like rings growing out from a centre of intentionality.

Inner traditions have always said that the self, the core of your identity, actually belongs to a different realm, a higher realm (if you can forgive that shorthand), a realm that is of lighter materiality. Our self lives there.

There is an angel of yourself which is your self as it actually lives in wholeness and is guarded/protected in another realm of being to which you have access. When things are working rightly what we do in this realm is in coherence with the self as it acts and moves in the material realm with the fullness of the self that is always held in another realm.

Image of newborn crescent moon – look behind and there is the full of the moon outlined behind it. Both and-ishness. The little moon is there, but it is growing to actualize and match that which is already outlined behind it. But the fullness is never lacking. You grow to fulness from fullness. The whole idea is that remembering means being in touch with that fullness. Vertical remembering.

A conscious re-union and connection of the part with the whole, so that you stand on your feet and remember who you are from fullness rather than from partiality.

Greek aletheia – truth = non-forgetting. Forgetting who you are means taking your identity from the horizontal axis.

What our culture calls remembering is actually what spiritual tradition calls forgetting or “sleep”. To sleep, to fall under the poppy dust of the horizontal axis. It means to take your identity only from the horizontal axis.

Our cultural way of looking at the world is that our memories make us who we are – spiritual tradition says our memories cause us to forget and make us incapable of reaching to the true source of our identity which doesn’t lie in time but behind it.

From the vertical axis we receive the fullness of our moon and draw on that fullness to work on the horizontal axis to heal in both directions. Healing radiates from the centre into future and into past.

It is a case of mistaken identity from egoic consciousness, that can’t be addressed from mind which can’t even pick up the true self because it can only be picked up in the heart.

We need the deep capacity to remember, to restore within ourself bi-axial fullness.

The sign of the cross we make signifies – the vertical axis crosses the horizontal axis in the place of the heart in the time of the present. Anything that posits the horizontal axis as the fullness of humanity is doomed to failure and to being incapable of the great movements of the spiritual life which are forgiveness and compassion.

But don’t fall into cheap easy polarization or spiritual by-passing. The culture gets stuck in the “What next?” It gets confused because we remember and remember but nothing happens; we don’t get better. There is another step. Fitzgerald insists on a full paradigm. It is not like the horizontal is wrong; it’s just not full.

We must gradually disarm our addiction to story not by repressing but beginning to learn through sensation that we can connect with a larger field of aliveness that contains within it the larger modality of compassion.