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Paul Brunton on the Dark night

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Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/23/17 6:31 AM
Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 3: The Dark Night of The Soul

The upward flights of the aspirant's novitiate are bought at the cost of downward falls. It is as much a part of his experience of this quest to be deprived at times of all feeling that the divine exists and is real, as it is to have the sunny assurance of it.At first the experience of reality comes only in flashes. Actually it is not the higher self which tantalizingly appears and disappears before the aspirant's gaze in this way, causing him alternating conditions of happy fruition and miserable sterility, but the higher self's loving Grace. Each time this is shed, the aspirant's first reaction is a strong sense of spiritual lack, dryness, darkness, and longing. This brings much unhappiness, self-discontent, and frustration. But it also brings both increased and intensified aspiration for the unearthly and distaste for the earthly. This phase passes away, however, and is followed by one as illuminative as the other was dark, as joyous as the other was unhappy, as productive as the other was barren, and as close to reality as the other seemed far from it. In that sacred presence a purifying process takes place. The old familiar and faulty self drops away like leaves from a tree in autumn. He makes the radiant discovery in his heart of its original goodness. But alas, when the presence departs, the lower self returns and resumes sovereignty. The period of illumination is often followed by a period of darkness. A spiritual advance which comes unexpectedly is usually succeeded by a period of recoil. Jubilation is followed by depression.
A greater trial still awaits him. The Overself demands a sacrifice upon its altar so utter, so complete that even the innocent natural longing for personal happiness must be offered up. As no novice and few intermediates could bear this dark night of the soul, and as even proficients cannot bear it without murmuring, it is reserved for the last group alone--which means that it happens at an advanced stage along the path, between a period of great illumination, and another of sublime union.During this period the mystic will feel forsaken, emotionally fatigued and intellectually bored to such a degree that he may become a sick soul. Meditation exercises will be impossible and fruitless, aspirations dead and uninviting. A sense of terrible loneliness will envelop him. Interest in the subject may fall away or the feeling that further progress is paralysed may become dominant. Yet in spite of contrary appearances, this is all part of his development, which has taken a turn that will round it out and make it fuller. Most often the student is plunged into new types of experience during the dark period. The Overself sends him forth to endure tests and achieve balance.The most dangerous feature of the "dark night" is a weakening of the will occurring at the same time as a reappearance of old forgotten evil tendencies. This is the point where the aspirant is really being tested, and where a proportion of those who have reached this high grade fail in the test and fall for several years into a lower one.Even Muhammed had to undergo this experience of the dark night of the soul. It lasted three years and not a single illumination or revelation came to brighten his depressed heart. Indeed he even considered the idea of killing himself to put an end to it; and yet his supreme realization and world-shaking task were still ahead of him.He who has passed through this deepest and longest of the "dark nights" which precedes mature attainment can never again feel excessive emotional jubilation. The experience has been like a surgical operation in cutting him off from such enjoyments. Moreover, although his character will be serene always, it will be also a little touched by that melancholy which must come to one who not only has plumbed the depths of life's anguish himself, but also has been the constant recipient of other people's tales of sorrow.The aspirant can rest in the passive self-absorbed state for a short time only, for a few hours at most. The relentless dictates of Nature compel him to return to his suppressed ordinary state of active life.This intermittent swinging to and fro between rapt self-absorption and the return to ordinary consciousness will tantalize him until he realizes what is the final goal. It will end only when his egoism has ended. Up to now he has succeeded in overcoming it fully in the contemplative state only. He must now overcome it in his ordinary active state. But the ego will not leave him here unless the purpose of its own evolution has been fulfilled. Therefore he must complete its all-round development, bring it to poise and balance, and then renounce it utterly. With the ego's complete abnegation, perfect, unbroken, and permanent oneness with the Overself ensues.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.


http://paulbrunton.org/notebooks/23

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/24/17 7:07 AM as a reply to Gunnar Johansson.
                                                                                            2
After a deeply felt Glimpse or Rapture or Spirit in Development there may be a reaction. This takes the form of a temporary and minor Dark Night of the Soul. But this phenomenon is more certain to appear, and in its most dramatic form, after the second stage of meditation has been achieved but before the third (contemplation) is
practised.

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/27/17 7:40 AM as a reply to Gunnar Johansson.
Possibly related:
http://alkemiskaakademin.se/Initiation%20and%20death.pdf

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/27/17 10:23 PM as a reply to Pål R.
Pål R:
Possibly related:
http://alkemiskaakademin.se/Initiation%20and%20death.pdf

Thanks for posting this, (and the above sections from Gunnar). It's interesting to see how the maps/stages from the various traditions have so much in common though the terminology changes somewhat. One thing that stands out in this last one though is how he mentions social isolation as a possible way of making the dark night less overwhelming. However, other discussions or maps have suggested social isolation can be a factor in causing the dark night to occur.

I've found that isolation can cause unpleasant emotions and feelings to come to the surface (loneliness, shame, depression etc) but at the same time those are interesting sensations to investigate. Can anyone clarify this somewhat?

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/28/17 3:48 PM as a reply to Lars.
I think that in isolation it is easier to remain "transparent" to experience.  You can let even extraordinary emotions arise and pass away with out attachment to them if you have a strong practice and or significant realization.  In social environments you are conditioned to identify with those emotions by the people you interact with and so it is more difficult to remain equanimous as they arise.  I beleive that is why they arise more frequently in isolation - your mind lets them - and why people with out realization find isolation so difficult. Think prison solitary confinment vs a hermit monk. 

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/29/17 2:17 AM as a reply to Lars.
I don't think this tradition really means the same thing as the pragmatic dharma community with the term DN of the soul. The cycling Isis, Apophis nd Osiros phases seem to corespond quite well to the progress of insight, but I don't know about anything similiar to the deeper "true" Dark Night of the Soul.

Paul Brunton is interesting. I wonder if his idea/experience of an Overself can occur from dry vipassana too.

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
8/29/17 11:28 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I think that in isolation it is easier to remain "transparent" to experience.  You can let even extraordinary emotions arise and pass away with out attachment to them if you have a strong practice and or significant realization.  In social environments you are conditioned to identify with those emotions by the people you interact with and so it is more difficult to remain equanimous as they arise.  I beleive that is why they arise more frequently in isolation - your mind lets them - and why people with out realization find isolation so difficult. Think prison solitary confinment vs a hermit monk. 


Makes sense, i've noticed family and close friends (or current/ex girlfriends) in particular tend to reinforce the usual emotional responses and habits.

Anyhow, don't mean to threadjack, thanks for the responses and the DN info.

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
9/1/17 11:56 AM as a reply to Pål R.
Here's yet another perspective on DN.

https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
9/1/17 1:40 PM as a reply to Lars.
I wonder if the order of realization makes a difference.  If one sees meaninglessness before selflessness - dark night.  If one sees selflessness before meaninglessness, maybe no dark night.  What do you think? 

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
9/1/17 5:06 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I wonder if the order of realization makes a difference.  If one sees meaninglessness before selflessness - dark night.  If one sees selflessness before meaninglessness, maybe no dark night.  What do you think? 


The way Tolle tells it, he one night woke up in a total existential crisis where his whole life felt like suffering, and life had no meaning etc. He then went to sleep and upon waking found that his concept of self had abandoned him, and was now in utter peace and equanimity.

Lately it seems as if it's the ownership or concept of agency that leads to DN, not the lack of meaning or suffering involved from falling away from A&P (and the increase in sensory "volume" which accompanies it). Equanimity arises when I let go of any sense of ownership/agency in my sensory experience, and then I fall back if I start clinging or showing aversion again. Getting a taste of equanimity is helping though, each run through DN is getting a little less intense and i'm not so bothered by flipping back and forth (or any percieved "lack of progress").

So, realizing selflessness and lack of agency first would likely result in a much less bumpy ride, since there's no solid sense of self to respond with clinging/aversion to any sense of meaninglessness (or progress).

I guess my new question is how would you see selflessness before meaninglessness? Seems like an inversion of the usual path. When life seems to have meaning and stability, people tend to be quite happy with their sense of self. It's usually only when things come crashing down that we start to think about agency, the nature of suffering and all the rest of it.    emoticon

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
9/1/17 5:42 PM as a reply to Lars.
I have never really experienced a dark night, so I am just bullshitting.  The most intense emotional/spiritual pain I can experience is the idea of being forever alone.  To have no contact with an other, ever.  If I identify with a continuous self, this is terrifying.  In my imagination this is what is at the root of Dark Night.  

 If I dont identify with a seperate self, then this same realization is liberating and so seeing emptiness and lack of consequnce brings Piti and contenment not loneliness.  Thats what I was thinking.   

RE: Paul Brunton on the Dark night
Answer
9/1/17 9:16 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I have never really experienced a dark night, so I am just bullshitting.  The most intense emotional/spiritual pain I can experience is the idea of being forever alone.  To have no contact with an other, ever.  If I identify with a continuous self, this is terrifying.  In my imagination this is what is at the root of Dark Night. 

I think we're essentially saying the same thing. By ownership/agency I mean a tendency to attribute "I am this/I did this" to sensory experience (including piti, stress, meditation states etc.), which is just another form of clinging to a seperate concept of self (and by inference, other). The idea of there being "no other" is only really stressful if you continue to insist that you were correct in assuming there was one. How can you be stressed by losing something that never really existed?

But i'm pretty newby with all this, so it's entirely possible i'm missing a distinction here. Gonna investigate this a little.  emoticon

Update: Realized i'm just falling back into the trap of intellectualizing way too much about this stuff lol. Just going to return to noting/investigating whatever arises, whether it's DN or otherwise. Similarly, i'll continue experimenting with intention without being too concerned about the "reality" of agency at this point. Self, not-self, whatever... it will work itself out.