“In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up
The Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross has become the sine qua non of mystic reverie and I hesitate to reference it. The book is one of those mysterious texts that almost opens itself late at night when I feel a certain emptiness inside. John wrote the book to confront his own anguish when he was not able to feel the presence of God. He was in prison at the time – incarcerated by his fellow Carmelite brothers who opposed reforms that John supported.
The Christian faith is built on the Presence of God – the moving finger, burning bush, pillar of fire, and even the Son of God himself have been there to warn and guide. This Presence marks the Believer.
C.S. Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed”. “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” The dark night of John of the Cross was this total silence, the loss of Presence, and the terrifying emptiness of prayer. This was the challenge to his faith that prompted his meditations.
In my work, in my art, I feel the Presence, or at least the echo of the Presence. But in my real life, my long late nights, there is only silence. But actually not quite silence, something else. A voice in my heart says “See, there is only Nothing. There is no God.” But if it were only a voice that my ears might hear, not just my heart! It would be a presence of some kind, even the presence of a demon, but that might imply that God exists.
How I would love to wrestle with an angel instead of the silence. I want to believe, but I can’t find it. I need it – I feel that – but I can’t find it.