Eckhart says, “The ground of the soul is dark.”
Ninety-five percent of the Universe is a mystery that we call “dark matter” and “dark energy.” Apparently our psychic life is similar. Consider our dreams that come at night. I often ask, “Where do dreams come from?” I recently asked a good friend of mine who wrote several powerful books on dreams: “Without using the world unconscious, tell us where dreams come from.” I think dreams come from the Universe.
Scientist Rupert Sheldrake says: “At the time of the Big Bang, the Universe….was ‘a burning world of darkness,’ as the physicist Heinz Pagels put it….Through the discovery of dark matter cosmology has, as it were, recognized the existence of the cosmic unconscious….The kinds of matter and energy that we know about are floating on the surface of a vast, unknown ocean of darkness—just as the conscious mind floats on the unconscious mind.”
In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Christ who is light comes into the world and “the darkness does not overcome it.” Also the Christ comes at the dark time of the year, Christmas. All of these archetypes are inescapable in the Western tradition and indeed, from what I know, all spiritual traditions.
Mystics teach us that we are illuminated, or enlightened, and the light in us increases and, paradoxically so, as we go more deeply into the dark, as we sink. This Via Negativa theme of the mystics teaches that illumination often comes at the end of the bottoming out in the darkness experience. The experience of the dark night of the soul and suffering as darkness is something we do not have control over, something we can’t really name but which is big for us–the Great Mystery once again.
Our culture tries to intervene with quick remedies, whether it’s drugs or palliatives of some kind. A lot of our addictions are efforts to intervene with the darkness that’s happening. But the mystical traditions would all say there’s something deep to be learned by making the journey into the darkness. Let darkness be darkness.
Silence is to sound as darkness is to light. In the West we tend to honor sound and light at the expense of silence and darkness. But my understanding is that the Big Bang was no bang at all, that it was utterly silent at that time, that there was no noise and, as Rupert says, no light; yet there was a burning.
Adapted from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science, pp. 134-139.
See also See also Matthew Fox, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, p. 60
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Queries for Contemplation
Sit and enter into the darkness and silence. Do you also experience them breaking through into light and sound?
Does the naming of the birth of the universe as a “burning world of darkness” speak to your own personal experiences? Do you undergo at times a burning world of darkness? What comes of that?
Biologist Rupert Sheldrake and theologian Matthew Fox show that not only is the synthesis of science and spirituality possible, it is to be celebrated when one considers the extraordinary insights they have come upon in their work. The chasm between science and religion has been a source of intellectual and spiritual tension for centuries, but in these ground breaking dialogues there is a remarkable resonance between these once opposing camps.
In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.