In this book, profound but obscure like the material with which it deals, psychiatrist Gerald May describes a process of spiritual growth that is operational in the difficult seasons of life.
Drawing from the experiences of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, he explores a journey of consciousness that leads us into the recognition of "our deep and irrevocable communion with the Divine".
It is a path through darkness, a path of letting go, a path of abandoning oneself, losing oneself, and in so doing ultimately finding what is real. The following quotes reveal something of this journey:
* The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding.
* Although not knowing may itself seem like a bad thing, I am convinced it is one of the great gifts of the dark night of the soul.
* The spiritual life for Theresa and John has nothing to do with actually getting closer to God. Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized, and in that sense it is something that can be yearned for, sought after, and - with God's grace - found.
* The dark night helps us to become what we are created to be: lovers of God and one another.
* ...we are not only born with God at our center, but we are born with a heart full of desire for God. This yearning is our fundamental motive force; it is the human spirit. It is the energy behind everything we seek and aspire to.
* Liberation, whether experienced pleasurably or painfully, always involves relinquishment, some kind of loss.
* Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we are going.
* ...in worldly matters it is good to have light so we know where to go without stumbling. But in spiritual matters it is precisely when we do think we know where to go that we are most likely to stumble.
* When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God's protection, and the darkness becomes a "guiding night," a "night more kindly than the dawn."
* We cannot achieve our own liberation or fulfillment; we would not even know where to begin. But neither does God reach down from the sky and manipulate us like puppets. ...the process of the dark night is neither accomplished on our own nor worked within us by God alone.
* Though we don't realize it at the time, when habitual senses of God do disappear in the process of the dark night, it is surely because it is time for us to relinquish our attachment to them. We have made an idol of our images and feelings of God, giving them more importance than the true God that they represent.
* The darkness, the holy unknowing that characterizes this freedom, is the opposite of confusion and ignorance. Confusion happens when mystery is an enemy and we feel we must solve it to master our destinies. And ignorance is not knowing that we do not know. In the liberation of the night we are freed from having to figure things out, and we find delight in knowing that we do not know.
It is comforting to come to understand that what we may experience as painful, dry, and difficult periods of life are often seasons of deep becoming. It is another way by which we learn that, as the Lord said it to St. Paul, "My grace is sufficient; my power is made perfect in weakness".