Dark Night of the Soul
"Dark Night of the Soul" (Spanish: La noche oscura del alma) is the title of a poem written by 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross, and of a treatise he wrote later, commenting on the poem.
Poem and treatise by Saint John of the Cross 
Saint John of the Cross' poem narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. The journey is called "The Dark Night", because darkness represents the hardships and difficulties the soul meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem is divided into two books that reflect the two phases of the dark night. The first is a purification of the senses. The second and more intense of the two stages is that of the purification of the spirit, which is the less common of the two. 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 text was written in 1578 or 1579, while John of the Cross was imprisoned by his Carmelite brothers, who opposed his reformations to the Order.
The treatise, written in 1584-5, is a theological commentary on the poem, explaining its meaning by stanza.
Spiritual term in the Christian tradition 
The term "dark night (of the soul)" is used in Christianity 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."
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 between. 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.
In popular culture 
Alternative rock band Sparklehorse along with producer Danger Mouse and director and visual artist David Lynch collaborated with a plethora 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."
Composer Ola Gjeilo has written a 14-minute choral setting with piano and string quartet.
In the final episode of Father Ted, "Going to America," depressed priest Father Kevin explains to Ted that he is experiencing the "dark night of the soul."
In episode 5371 of US soap series The Bold and the Beautiful, Bridget Forrester (Ashley Jones) and Brooke Logan (Katherine Kelly Lang) discuss spirituality and the purpose of human existence through reference and direct quotation of "Dark Night of the Soul."
Screenwriting guru Blake Snyder uses the phrase in his Save The Cat! series to describe scenes in which the hero rebounds from a moment when all seems lost, contemplates their actions, and ultimately settles on an action which will drive the film to its climax.
See also 
Ernest Dowson alludes to the 'obscure night of the soul' in his absinthe poem absinthia taetra
- The chapter titled "The Dark Night of the Soul" from Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism at Gnostic.org.
- Underhill, Evelyn. (re-issue 1999). Mysticism Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-85168-196-5.
Further reading 
- May, Gerald G. (2004). The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0-06-055423-1.
- McKee, Kaye P. (2006). When God Walks Away: A Companion to the Dark Night of the Soul. Crossroad Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8245-2380-0.
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- When God Walks Off the Stage: A Simple Explanation of the Dark Night of the Soul
- Dark Night of the Soul verse translation of the poem.
- Text of Dark Night of the Soul from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- Original and Translation of Dark Night of the Soul From The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross