dark night of the soul

Sunday inspiration: when bad planets happen to good people

dark night of the soul

Art by Willow Arlenea

I mean the title as a bit of a joke – an homage to the self-help book from the 1970s by Harold Kushner.  But it’s no joke when tragic events happen in our own lives or to someone we love.

Over the past five years of such intense planetary drama these stories seem to occur more frequently, at least in my life.  The bride-to-be whose fiance dies of a heart attack five days before the wedding.  The parents who lose two children in the space of a year.  The friend who waited over 40 years to find her soulmate and build their dream house, only to have him die of a brain tumor less than five years into their marriage.  Another friend in a difficult marriage who loses her husband and father within six months.  All of you have your own stories, perhaps from your own lives.

This kind of event that turns our world upside down generally occurs under the auspices of Saturn or Pluto.  And sometimes both.  My sister was an astrology skeptic until I started my blog under her tutelage, and then she became curious.  I’m still not sure she’s convinced in its accuracy, but she is interested enough to want to know what the planets are doing when things get rough.

Over the past few years she has had a ridiculous lineup of planetary transits and progressions including a big lineup of planets to Pluto in her progressed chart and her second Saturn return.  During that time she lost a job, found another one, her husband lost his job, couldn’t find another one, our mother ended up in the hospital with a chronic illness and died, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, one of their cats (with no kids, their cats are their children) died, her husband was diagnosed with a rare brain disease and then died of that, and most recently her second cat died just as the Pluto lineup was finishing.

We can’t say that Pluto itself causes these events, and Pluto cycles don’t always bring this sort of devastation.  Pluto is the principle of Shiva – the destroyer who wipes the decks clean so that a new beginning can occur.  Sometimes Pluto transits bring powerful new experiences without annihilating our former life.  But sometimes the annihilation occurs and all we can do is watch as the tsunami comes and our lives are swept away, never to return.

Religions teach that if people are good and follow the rules of the religion, bad things won’t happen to them.  Of course this is not the case – life happens and sometimes brings happiness and sometimes great pain.  So how are we to find faith and hope in the midst of our personal agony?

Buddhism teaches that attachment is the root of suffering – if we can only let go of our attachment to things then we will achieve peace.  This is far easier said than done – we live in the world and we are of this world, and unless we renounce the world to meditate in a cave these attachments do inform our lives and everything in it.  We have children, husbands, family members, friends that we love.  We have homes that we live in and pets that give us joy.  We have jobs that we need to put food on the table.  The loss of any of these things leaves us feeling less than who we were, and not knowing who we are to become.

During these times we experience a true “dark night of the soul,” when we find ourselves alone and not knowing where to turn.  Theologians advise turning to their god during these times, and for believers this can be a powerful time of faith.  But unless we are able to broaden our understanding of what our incarnation means  and who we are underneath the trappings and associations of our lives, any superficial faith serves as a lifeboat but does not lift us out of the ocean of pain. The sense of being stripped of anything that is outside of ourselves and being left alone and isolated with only our true and core self falls under the domain of Pluto.

During these dark nights we find ourselves alone and crying out in the wilderness. Whether we or not we believe in the Judaeo-Christian idea of God, or the Islamic Allah, or the many Hindu gods and goddesses, or the Celtic or Nordic or Santeria pantheons, each of us is deeply connected to a spiritual source – a source of love and comfort that exists both within and outside of us.  Some of us call this god or goddess, some call it the “higher self,” some call it our guardian angel or spirit guides.  We have all heard this voice speaking within us although we sometimes confuse it with our own minds.

When we find ourselves in darkness and great pain we are the most receptive to the voice of the soul which calls to us in its own language if we can let go of our story and listen. In the end, this is all that is real – it is all we can count on.  We love our family, our children – we find joy in our lifestyles and our pleasures.  But Pluto reminds us that at the core, beyond the story of our lives and beyond the story of our pain, lies the magnificence of life itself and the experience of absolute love that is hidden deep within our own hearts.



By | 2017-04-01T09:22:33+00:00 February 2nd, 2014|Favorite posts, Inspiration|8 Comments

Andrew Harvey’s Dark Night of the Soul

While I was on vacation I happened on a radio interview with Andrew Harvey, a mystic and Shakespearean scholar who believes as many do that the earth is heading for some troubled times. I was very impressed by the depth of his commitment to the spiritual life and his eloquence in describing the twists and turns that are required on the path to becoming one with the divine.

Harvey’s recent book is entitled The Sun at Midnight, written about his long journey through the dark night of the soul. In the opposition from Saturn to Neptune, many of us are experiencing such a “dark night” in the form of the ending (Saturn) of our illusions (Neptune). Although Pluto is now associated with death and the principle of rebirth, before Pluto was discovered Saturn ruled over death’s domain. Death under Saturn is a cold hard ending as we come face to face with the fragility of our spiritual connections under Neptune. Although Saturn is a stern teacher, the rewards are great and when we face the hard lessons that Saturn brings we are given great rewards. In its opposition to Neptune, adopting or deepening the discipline (Saturn) of a spiritual practice (Neptune) will help to facilitate the progression of our cosmic education.

But there is a deeper death in Harvey’s writings: the death and regeneration that we associate with Pluto. The reclassification of Pluto into a new category along with Ceres and now Eris adds a new complexity to our concept of this transformation that we may not yet have the capacity to understand. Perhaps there is a clue in Harvey’s words from an interview he gave in San Francisco last year:

[Regarding St. John’s “night of the senses” and “night of the soul”] This first dark night purifies all of the senses so that they can become the vehicle of the inner divine self. This first dark night is extreme, but it’s not as extreme as the second dark night. It’s a purification that enables the ordinary senses to start registering the divine world. Through devotion, through meditation, through intense mystical practice, you start to see the divine light. At first it just flashes, and then when the process is complete, you have an overwhelming experience in which you see the entire creation as a manifestation of the light, and your consciousness is one with that. This is not enlightenment. This begins what is called the state of illumination. Although the senses are purified, and although they’re able now to register the divinity of the world, the ego is still subtly present. So there has to be a second death on the path, which is the death of the personal identity. . . .The entire world is now going through a massive crucifixion on all levels. It’s going through an environmental crucifixion — hundreds of species are vanishing every month. It’s going through a personal crucifixion. There are two billion people living on less than a dollar a day. It’s going through a crucifixion of all the patriarchal systems — look at Enron and what it has shown us about Corporate America. Look at the Catholic Churches’ scandals of pedophilia and what it shows us about authority. Look at the growing disillusionment of politicians of all kinds. All of the systems are being exposed as illusory and as fantasy ridden — as deeply corrupt and exploitative.

There’s another kind of crucifixion going on — crucifixion of purpose and hope. Everybody is totally bewildered. They know that the world is potentially on the brink of total apocalypse. There’s a tremendous danger that as people wake up to the horror of what is going on, they will run into political extremism or into fundamentalism of one kind or another. So it’s extremely important that the wisdom of the dark night gets across because if people understand the necessity for this crucifixion, and understand that it’s preparing the resurrection and the birth and an empowerment, then they will be prepared to go through it without fear — or without too much fear — trusting in the logic of the divine transformation.

See, the power that is doing this to us is coming towards us simultaneously with terrifying destruction and extreme grace and prosperity [emphasis added]. The destruction is, in fact, a form of that extreme grace. It’s quite clear that humanity is now terminally ill, and can only be transfigured by a totally shocking revelation of its shadow side. And this is what we’re living through, these shadow sides exploding in every direction because we have done nothing but betray the sacred in us.

We have lacerated the sacred in others. We have betrayed the sacred in an orgy of fundamentalism. We have brutalized the sacred in nature. We are now terminally destructive. . . .

You can lose hope. But if you know the wisdom of the dark night, then you are looking out for protection. You’re aware that through this terror, protection will be given. This is the universal testimony. They mystics have gone through this process. It’s the testimony of Rumi. It’s the testimony of the great shamans. It’s the testimony of St. John of the Cross, and it’s the testimony that I gave in this book. And it’s, of course, the testimony of Bede Griffiths. You are given tremendous divine protection, because as the human is being destroyed, the divine consciousness comes up. So one side of you is being annihilated, but the other side is stronger than ever in the ashes. So great dreams will come and light will become more and more vibrant. The divinity of life will become more and more naked to you. Miracles will take place to protect you. To anybody who comes to this path, the divine is both extremely ferocious and extremely tender. Ferocious to destroy the illusions, but tender to give the human being the courage to hang in there and do the work.

It’s becoming more and more clear to me that the newly tripartite nature of Pluto embodies the symbolism of this process: Eris creates the discord and strife that begins the death of the ego under Pluto, and Ceres presides over our emergence from the underworld and the regeneration of our lives.

By | 2017-04-02T09:41:14+00:00 September 26th, 2006|Consciousness|Comments Off on Andrew Harvey’s Dark Night of the Soul