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.
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 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
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.”
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.
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 Fundamentalism, Living in Sin