Lessons to Learn from Chaos or the Dark Night

In acknowledging the reality of the dark night of our species, we can prepare ourselves to learn from it and eventually move beyond it.  The first lesson of the dark night is not to run. 

“Hafez: Spiritual Poet, Mystic”
Image by Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi, on Wikimedia Commons

The Sufi poet Hafiz teaches us how the spiritual warrior refuses to run. 

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, break all our teacup talk of God….The Beloved sometimes wants to do us a great favor: hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.  But when we hear He is in such a ‘playful drunken mood’ most everyone I know quickly packs their bags and hightails it out of town.

Darkness has a lot to teach us.  We need to stick around in order to learn.  And we as a species have a lot to learn in this time of chaos about the deeper lessons of living and of being human.  Among the lessons to learn are the following:

The Dark Night as a Learning Place
The Softening and Watering of the Heart
The Awakening of Imagination, Play, and the Quest for Repose
The Purification of Our Longing—What We Truly Cherish, Truly Long For
The Sacrifices We Are Willing to Undergo for the Beloved, the Object of Our Longing
The Wisdom of Compassion
Image by David Chethlahe Paladin, on the artist’s website

The Navajo artist David Paladin went through a radical dark night experience as a young man when he joined the army and was captured by the Nazis. He was put in a concentration camp for four years where he underwent supreme torture and agony.  When the allies liberated the camp, Paladin was comatose, paraplegic and weighed sixty-four pounds.  After coming out of a coma two years later, and being cured by the medicine of his elders, he lived a full and productive life as a painter, writer and eventually a minister. 

Toward the end of his life he shared what his elders had taught him: That his extreme suffering in the concentration camp was a school or initiation to teach him to become a shaman.  He said:

“Shamans know that those wounds are not theirs but the world’s.  Those pains are not theirs but Mother Earth’s. You can gift the world as shaman because you’re a wounded warrior.  A wounded healer and a wounded warrior are one.” 

“Phoenix Phoenix”
Image by: skylarvision on Pixabay

So instead of returning pain for pain and action with reaction, the warrior-shaman rises above his own dead body and says: ‘I have died, too.  Now let’s dance.  We’re free.  The spirit is ours because we have died.  Now we are resurrected from the ashes.’

We may be involved as a species today in a collective dark night–an agony and a torture–because we must learn the lesson of becoming shamans and healers.

Adapted from:
Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, p. 417. 
Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, p. 171.
Banner image: Ghostly trees. Photo by Cocoparisienne on Pixabay

Are you a “wounded warrior and wounded healer”?  What follows from that?  Do you imagine rising from the ashes of the current state of our culture?  How can you contribute to that resurrection?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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2 thoughts on “Lessons to Learn from Chaos or the Dark Night”

  1. Carol Kilby

    AHA! This morning’s chaos has just been transformed into an invitation to trust my creativity! So, as Philosopher Queen I go forward riding my steed called, Evolutionary Yes! Laughing at how my own morning meditation found answers in your Daily Meditation, Matthew. Thank you.

  2. Avatar

    Dear Rev. Dr. Rev. Matthew Fox,

    How would you recommend teaching contemplation, one of a number of spiritual practices, to disadvantaged Christian youth ages 12 thru 17 to more proactively prepare them for their eventual transition to adulthood. My first inclination was to make use of Centering Prayer as taught by Fr. Thomas Keating. However, in my communications with Contemplation Outreach, Ltd, I have been informed learned that Centering Prayer is only taught by them to adults for insurance purposes.

    Recently, I founded a nonprofit organization with the intention of assisting youth with their initiation/transition to adulthood. As a former foster youth I am aware that such guidance/mentoring is not within reach of every youth. I want to do something helpful about that. Below I have outlined what we’re all about.

    N Good Company, Inc.


    To partner with and provide youth, their families, church leadership, schools and other vital resources throughout the local community with the highest example of love, hope and purpose by acting in ways that promote integrity, motivate youth to pursue a productive life for themselves that is good and that will be meaningful, and to ensure that they are guided by role models who demonstrate everyday, in every way how to act responsibly and how to practice engaging in personal and corporate spiritual practices that will help a person to be able to cope with difficult challenges, complete important tasks, be resilient, and to know completely and inwardly that they are capable of utilizing critical thinking, decision-making, personal life skills, and social skills all of which have been undergirded by their spiritual values thereby making it possible for them to reimagine, thrive, and flourish no matter what life may possibly throw at them at one time or another.

    The following is a list of the activities, practices and skills that N Good Company, Inc has set its sights on advancing, demonstrating and nurturing in youth between the ages 12 and 17 years old to ensure that they broadly mature and masterfully transition into adulthood:

    Personal Life Skills/Spiritual Practices:

    Active/Deep listening/ Asking Probing questions
    Guided relaxation/Visualization
    Journaling/Writing/Writing poetry
    Keeping Sabbath/Sacred gathering
    Listening to Christian Hip Hop/Spiritual Jazz
    Walking meditation
    Washing dishes/Being present in the moment

    Group Workshop Offerings:

    Antiracism/Social justice work
    Caring for an ailing parent/Random acts of kindness
    Drum circle
    Educational/Nature walks
    Hiking up a mountain
    Life balance and stress reduction
    Making pottery
    Personally valued and relevant goal setting
    Positive thinking/Self Talk
    Spending time in a park
    Spiritual/Sacred Space Tourism

    Online Social Media Offerings:

    Content specific website
    Quarterly Online Newsletter
    Monthly Audio Podcast/Topical discussion w/guest speakers

    It would be a tremendous honor and very informative for me to learn how with your great wisdom you would suggest that one consider addressing such spiritual concerns and practices.

    Thank you and many blessings sir.

    Jonathan Dunnemann
    President and Director
    ‘N Good Company, Inc
    22 Winding River Court
    Lakewood, NJ 08701
    (732) 908-0587

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