Monday, June 25, 2007

Seducing the Darkness

For many years, darkness was my closest friend. I sought it out, chased it, found ways to entice it into my life. Darkness was my mistress. That was a while ago. But recently the darkness has returned and rather than flee from it, I have courted her again, seduced her, offered her a place of honor in my life.

There are times when the soul seeks suffering.

Darkening the darkness need not be done consciously -- night will come to us of its own accord. But perhaps it eases us to have a map: to know that, whether by fate or by our own act, night deepens and the ordeal of our initiation becomes more thorough. Darkening always has the edge of something uncontrollable about it. This is what makes it terrifying and fascinating. Yet without this edge it couldn't function: what hasn't truly gone down cannot rise.

~ John Tarrant, The Light Inside the Dark

I don't know that suffering heals anything. Certainly it runs counter to the aspirations of spirit. But the soul seeks darkness, the darknening of the dark. Soul goes underground, like Persephone, captive and offering both.

The soul shares much in common with the snake -- it is both of this world and not of this world. Like the snake, it is as comfortable above ground as it is below ground. It does not fear darkness -- it is at home in darkness. It does not fear descent -- it seeks descent.

While spirit is all about the rising above this world, soul is all about dirt, earth, shadows, night. We can no more deny this element within ourselves than we can deny our need for oxygen.

Whether fate carries us off or we actively seek the night, a time comes when we identify with the dark, however involuntarily -- when we marry and serve it. At such periods, we may intensify our sorrows, as if to find a way through.

~ Tarrant

For the last six weeks or so, I have been married to the darkness. I have been her servant and slave. I have sought out pain and found ways to amplify its impact on my psyche -- as if the pain of loss was not enough.

Soul drag us into shadow, into darkness, so that we may face our deepest fears, and by facing them, become more whole, more balanced.

But even the darkness shall recede, and the light shall return.

I needed that time in the abyss -- I needed to wallow in loss, let it permeate every pore of my body, let it seep beneath my skin. In embracing the darkness, I have rediscovered who I am. I can't say how this happened, but I do know that I have been rejecting the life of the soul for a long time.

Soul connects us to this world, to each other. It's too easy to live within the cool certainty of spirit and neglect the messy uncertainty of the soul. We like things that are absolute. But soul is not about knowledge and absolutes -- it is about uncertainty, doubt, darkness, paradox.

I can still love a woman who has broken my heart. I can feel freedom within the painful loss of her presence in my life. I can honor my own pain as a teacher and learn how to love more deeply, to feel more compassion, more empathy.

Life doesn't have clear lessons -- it's messy. It is filled with gray areas. And most all, life is both spirit and soul.

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