The Four Dark Nights & Awakenings
What is the Dark Night of the Soul?
Dark night of the soul is a metaphor used in spiritual circles. The term describes a phase in one’s spiritual process, often marked by a sense of loneliness, desolation, and feeling of wanting to die and sometimes with the feeling of going crazy. It is common phenomena experienced on one’s soul journey of becoming spiritual, or of going from bodily identification to union with one’s higher self. What I define as dark night of the soul is like the story of Job in the bible where he feels that everything he loved has been taken away from him, his wife, his children, his farm and his way to make a living. You feel as if all is taken away from you and you cry for days on end, and you can feel like you no longer want to live anymore without what ‘was lost’, you feel you can’t go on and you might come near to the edge and think about ending your life.
I think a better name for this phenomenon would be dark night of the ego. This is because the soul or spirit represents the deepest energetic layer of true self, and the cause of this symptom has nothing to do with the soul. Rather the cause of this symptom is due to one’s attachment to an energetic layer of ego. Ego as used in this article is a synonym for ‘me’, my personality, bodily representation of self, how one views oneself or self-image. Ego is held together through identification with physical manifest aspects of self (that which we can observe or see), which exist at different vibration or energetic levels. As we move through each level of transformation of self, we encounter the next vibration level.
Having gone through a long process of transformation with hindsight I realized there was more than one dark night. The second time it happened, I noticed that all the issues that came up the first time were coming up again; nearly identical to the first time which I thought I had gone beyond. I felt like I was repeating, that I had been walking in circles for years and felt like a failure. When it happened the third time, then I knew for sure I was progressing, and could see that each dark night corresponded to a different set of issues, representing a different layer of identification with the personality.
On our journey of awakening there are four dark nights of the soul and three awakenings that happen between them, where each happens as one passes through the stage of dropping identification with one of the energetic layers of ego. There is then the 4th stage of awakening at the end of the process which can be seen as full enlightenment. The ego is held together from the three main ways that we attach to and identify with manifested energetic aspects of self. The three layers that make up the ego and to which we identify with are mind, emotions and body, where spirit is the base of all of them.
The journey to become our true self in body is like a healing of the personality, which happens in reverse order of how these layers were laid down in the building up of our personality. The first layer is cognitive (mental imprinting) which we learn approximately from the ages of 3 to 26 years, to the end of physical growing of the body and mind. The second layer is precognitive (emotional or fetal imprinting) which we learn approximately from the ages of conception to 3 years, before we have highly developed cognitive mind, and exist at a deep unconscious level. The last layer is the physical body at the DNA level, which we amassed over many lifetimes and also has ancestral imprinting influences due to our inherited genes from our mother and father.
Why are there 4 stages of physical transformation?
The reason why there are 4 stages of personal transformation is based on the fundamentals of how something is created. The journey of personal transformation is all about transmuting one’s personality into full awareness, it is all about recreating yourself as a new entity, thus it goes through the same steps of creation. We know how to create something as a human being in the world of objects:
1. We observe an object in the physical world using our sensory apparatus.
2. We process internally thinking about what we have seen and ask questions about it. We then decide what we want to do with it, of which answer to our question can come either from inspiration or from thinking itself, depending upon our ability. Having made the decision this forms our intention and direction for the use of our energy with action.
3. Once we have decided what to do, we need one more step and that is to use our will to actually do it. With our idea and will to do it, intention gets set and energy follows our focus. Energy charges move from the brain to the appropriate body muscles, allowing us to move our energy from thought to feeling to action or doing in the external world.
4. We move and do the action and the desired thing is created in the physical world.
Being an individual, as personality in a body, one might say one is created as that when one is born. To transform ourselves as we are in a body, we have to recreate that body by ourselves using the same principles of how we create some other object. This time the object we focus on is ourselves.
Pattern of transformation: Awakening and dark night cycles
Each layer of personal transformation goes through distinct phases. First there is identification or attachment with that layer of self. Due to this attachment misery and dissatisfaction eventually becomes the norm and because of this pain one becomes ready to give up another layer of attachment. At this point, you are on the verge of letting go of identification with the ego layer you are hanging onto. How many of the four cycles you will experience in your lifetime is not certain, it depends upon your starting point, from all you have learned so far and your current state of evolution. One can spend an entire lifetime in any one or these cycles.
In the instant one truly is able to stop clinging, spiritual awakening or rising of being happens, and a huge amount of energy you were previously holding in ‘tension’ as that energetic form is released. A transformation process ensues which is being fueled by this huge amount of energy, which is the biological aspect of awakening accompanied with profound healing and spiritual reactions. One feels elated and joyous for many days following the spiritual awakening. It is typical you encounter your true self as a spiritual being and you feel fully awake. You normally experience many charismatic symptoms such as tones, flashing lights, rushes of internal wind, numbness, tingling, going out of body, insights, crystal clarity, visions, repressed memories, telepathy, hyper-hearing, enhanced vision, loss in weight, elation, laughing, etc. The majority of these symptoms are a side-effect due to a biological transformation process going on in your body which is changing your nervous system including your mind.
The awakening energy settles down
After the big high and thrill of spiritual awakening, the released energy will continue to work strongly in the brain and body, going into deeper layers which will go on for many months. As this happens ego tends to activate strongly as old memories and emotions are stirred up from the depths. As the healing process intensifies you start to feel heavy and tired, you feel pains in the body, strong emotions are common, weird thoughts, old memories, dreams and memories of past lives start to flood in to your awareness. Because of this side-effect, one tends to identify strongly with the ego side of self again. It is common that many new and false ideas and beliefs are adopted during this stage, as ways to explain what is happening and what one is receiving. One tends to interpret many of the insights one receives, inventing a story and reason for them and thus tends to go into a kind of head trip. Because you are stronger energetically, a larger amount of energy is now getting diverted into making an ego much stronger than before. It is largely due to these phenomena, that one can get deeply enmeshed in the dark night of the soul.
Eventually, the big energy that was released appears to settle and one starts to feel like normal again. But one is not the same; one now knows oneself as essentially spiritual and through the process many revelations and insights have increased one’s knowledge which one will never forget. With this deepening of the healing and a feeling of return to normalcy, there is a growing sense that what was gained is now lost. It is typical that your entire value system changes after an awakening event, due to new information you receive. You reprocess everything known with the new information, and arrive at a new set of values, you see everything differently. Because of this one tends to let go of identification with all objects that were associated with the level you are going through. It is normal that one loses interest in old friends, family values, geographical location, money, possessions, beliefs, religious attachments, habits and career interest, to name the most common.
The Dark Night begins
As one comes back down to earth, one starts to feel normal again, and the elation of the spiritual high seems to be gone. Then it seems like one gave up so much and now has nothing left, that one starts to feel very alone and desolate. You start to wonder if you have a reason left to live. It is normal that a depression develops and one’s thinking and feelings started to become dominate. One’s thinking tends to get heavy and dark, and crying can often be non-stop for days on end. Prior to this event you had strong attachment to ego and could get some strong reactions out of it, but after this event you have more energy thus can get even stronger ego reactions than you could before. If you allow the old habit to be identified with thinking and feelings (chattering and emoting) to go on unabated, then the ego will get stronger and stronger. It seems when we feel we’ve lost something then we cling even stronger to what is known and familiar to us. Thus we start clinging to our mind and emotions again, and in a sense we start to get crazy, extremely sad, dark, we are getting lost in the mind and emotions again. At this moment we are firmly entrenched in the dark night of the soul. Even though this stage feels dark it is actually still part of the metamorphosis. Your level of energy vibration in the body and your awareness level remain higher than before your awakening, it is just working at deeper layers of blockages and elements of your personality. The dark night of the soul phenomena is actually a cleansing process, during it a huge amount of energy held in tension in the body, mind and emotions is released. Crying is often the form that this huge energy is released from personality. Crying frees tension from the mind and the heart. You will notice when you cry hard, your heart and your head hurts. Know that when it gets the darkest, the light is very near, just hang in there.
How to get through the Dark Night of the Soul
What has happened in the awakening event is your body and mind, and your entire nervous system has been changed due to that explosion of energy. How you process information and respond and react to happenings in daily life is now different due to those changes. However what hasn’t happened yet is you do not know how to use the new tools that you have been given and that are growing capacities in you. You are still used to the old habit of attaching to the object you are now in the process of letting go of. At this moment the amount of energy you have at your disposal is much greater than before the awakening, but you do not know how to direct this energy yet.
The way to get through this most efficiently and with least amount of pain is to seek center as much as you can, no matter which phase you are experiencing. The reason this is so, is to know that changes are being done to the brain itself, and thus thinking and feelings are very unreliable during this phase. The best thing to do is not to cling to the edges – meaning the symptoms happening (that which is visible and formed), which includes mind, emotions and body. One must seek center over and over to the space that provoked this event and that which is the source of everything. Being as one with your center, in your place of stillness, is like riding out the hurricane force that is happening now in your body and mind, by staying safely in the calm center which is like the eye of the hurricane.
There are many meditation tools that can help one go to center or achieve ‘quiet mind’ state so as to ride out this storm. Which tools works for you are partly personal preference, part experimentation and part what has worked for you in the past. Indeed before the awakening happened you were able to achieve quiet mind state and be fully in center, because that is how a surge in energy happens and what precedes an awakening event. Try to do that again. To repeat, the most I can say about it is to know you can’t trust your thinking and feelings at this point in time and to do everything you can to tune them out and get quiet. The more you practice with meditation tools, the better you will get at going to center, and the easier it will be to ride out this storm. On another note, each dark night you pass through will require a deeper level of getting quiet.
The 4 Dark Nights & 4 Awakenings
1st Dark Night – I think therefore I am
The first dark night can last a long time. It is the reality of the majority of humanity that has not yet awaked to one’s true self. In this stage, one is primarily identified with objects, where thought is the main object. Everything ones does and receives in life is filtered through thinking. One lives one’s life totally in one’s mind. While in the waking state, there is a non-stop chatter, or constant inner dialogue that is happening all day long. This often carries into one’s night where difficulty to sleep is an indication that one has little ability to turn off the mind. The personality is nearly always fully energized night and day. One is still in the process of building up the ego, and fully identified with one’s ability to think and self-reflect. In this state, there is no capability to be able to objectively observe the internal chatter. Because thinking is invisible to us, we and the thinker are one. I think therefore I am. While in this mindset, everything one does has the underlying purpose to gain validation and properties to build up one’s self-image in one’s own and others eyes. How one sees oneself and how one perceives that others see oneself is of primary importance. Everything is done to grow one’s personality to larger proportions, to amass more attributes. Attributes are widely varied as much as individuals vary, so even being seen as a bad egg, can be valuable to some and they will cultivate this property to the maximum. The negative side of this state is that nearly all actions coming out of it are harmful to self or others, because the main motivation is to gain for oneself, and this can only be done is somebody else loses. It’s the dog eat dog world we know today, full of violence, destruction, stealing, killing, fighting and sickness. One can actually be happy for quite some time in this state, as long as one is gaining properties and getting a sense of satisfaction from it. The dark night starts when the game no longer satisfies and problems of all kinds start.
1st Awakening –Being arises as mind
Eventually after enough possessions have been amassed to build up one’s self-image, one comes to realize that our activities in life are not resulting in a profound feeling of happiness and well being. We start to admit the reality that we are miserable inside and that getting things is not making us happy. This is a big turning point, where we withdraw our attention from our busy activities in the outside world to the inside world and start to look for answers from other sources. The old game of getting more has worn out, and we seek for something else. This stage is also known as the seeking stage. We start to investigate spirituality, read self help books, seek for a closer connection with God, or do things like therapy or spiritual exercise to get to the bottom of the problem. Innately we want to be happy and what we have determined is getting things doesn’t make us happy, so we are ready to try something else. This stage can take a long time, and there are many intermediate steps within it. It’s a lot like unraveling the layers of mind that make up the personality. It’s a time of self-questioning, observing oneself and gaining self-knowledge.
Awakening happens by itself when we fully stop the internal chatter, which can happen in many different ways. We can suddenly go quiet after an accident or great trauma, after a sudden insight, after seeing something beautiful or awe inspiring, or while sitting in one’s mediation. What is significant is for a moment we got quiet in mind, long enough to release held energy being imprisoned by our non-stop internal chatter. During that space of total quiet, our true self arises into our mind and we see our true nature and know we are not the thinker. We know we see we are the source behind the thinking, we have seen beyond the veil, beyond that which was blinding us. It is the first glimpse of our energetic self and we realize we are god-like creatures, we have awakened to our true nature.
2nd Dark Night – I am Spiritual & The Head Trip
The first time one has seen one’s true nature and is awakened, a flood of insights comes into one’s awareness as well a vision of one’s life purpose. It’s like receiving all the wisdom you need to go on, and giving you information of why you are here and what are your special gifts. As being first arises into the mind, all this information comes and one will also feel like they are like a super computer, the thinking goes so fast. The problem with information given at this point of time is that you tend to add your own level of interpretation to it, to be able to understand it. It’s like receiving pure information, but you are still the story teller, so you add your own words to connect the pieces of pure information together. This old habit of interpreting what we receive creates a lot of weird and wacky stories of why we are here and what is our life mission. We tend to go into a head trip after the first awakening, and many people never get out of it. The mental wards are full of people who have spiritually awakened and got stuck in the head trip, which is another appropriate name for this dark night. We come out of it thinking we are God’s chosen one, or we are Jesus reincarnated, or some other famous person. Now we want to save the world and while our intention is good, it is misguided, as we don’t know any better. We tend to get carried away with our new found meaning and purpose in life. It becomes our new identification.
As we drop identification with one object, it is still our nature to grab the next one, the newest one, and so we do. This can be another long dark night, but not as long as the previous one, each dark night gets shorter over time. After awakening one identifies now with one’s spiritual aspect and tends to totally ignore one’s mind and emotions, which results in creating a split in ones identity. This is very similar to what happens when people go crazy, just with normal craziness one tends to identify fully with the mind, while here it’s with the spirit. The split that is created, is one of non-reality where one is not really in the world, rather one is floating on a pink and fluffy cloud of spirituality which is not based in reality. One feels awake, one feels enlightened as one knows they went through the previous steps, it all feels so real, but it’s not. This is a hard phase to get out of, because one doesn’t trust the viewpoints of others. One doesn’t believe others, because one feels special having awakened and tends to think they can see better clearer than anyone else. If someone tells you that you’re acting crazy or irrational you will tend to dismiss it.
Hopefully, luckily, the message gets through and you see the new split you’ve created, you let it go and then come crashing down from the pink fluffy cloud you were on back to earth and into the 2nd dark night of the soul. And you will cry harder than you’ve ever cried before, but is this crying has a purpose it is releasing a ton of held emotional energy, it is cleaning old beliefs and values, it is very healing. After that big release of energy you will feel very spiritual. It’s like coasting downhill, as your awareness is high and as long as you keep working at it, insights continue to come and slowly you whittle away more cognitive layers of your personality and as you do your awareness keeps rising.
2nd awakening – Being arises as vibration in muscles – emotional
This step can be a long period of time, indeed an entire lifetime, and it seems the hardest one for spiritual people to go beyond.Because of this there are not too many people around today who have done this step, as they were not successful to go beyond all the myriad tricks that ego creates to keep the pretending game going. There are many steps within this phase to slowly unravel the cognitive layers of personality, and to continuously identify new games the ego has created to reinvent oneself as another new self-image. There are several common conceptual games that are tested out, and usually they are so satisfying, that one rarely questions them and drops them. The most common denominator of all of them is to develop the new self image as being spiritual, it can greatly help to keep this new identity in place by joining with other like minded people. The same confirmation games then are played in groups of people, giving validation for each other’s spirituality. Conceptual games that are tried out are acting like an authority, giving advice, becoming a spiritual teacher or guru, developing a technique for self and others to follow, and others. These activities are generally quite satisfying and therefore don’t encourage the seeker to look deeper, question oneself and let go of more of one’s attachments. One tends to believe one is fully awakened and there is not anything more to do along these lines.
If one stays on the path and does one’s spiritual work daily and keeps up the self-questioning and desire to get to the truth, these games will be seen in due time and one will drop each one as they are discovered. But then it is normal, that one will adopt a new one after having dropped the last one, and so it can go on like this for many years. This process during this time is like having mini awakenings and dark nights as one receives new insights and then eventually crashes later when one sees that they still aren’t fully aware. With each mini cycle in this phase, ones awareness is steadily rising and one’s personality is being reduced in its influence, a metamorphosis is happening.
Eventually one’s awareness will be high enough to be able to discover the root cause, which is fueling this endless game of adopting new ideas and trying to make them into one’s self-image or way of being. Then one will see that what is driving all this behavior is our tendency to believe that what we tell ourselves is truth. We are primarily attached to our version of happenings or our story. We are attached to our story, because it gives us the feeling that we know. When one recognizes this and realizes one is fooling oneself by listening to this made up story, eventually one starts to drop one’s story, to willingly quiet one’s mind over and over.
After many repetitions of practicing like this, awareness grows much stronger and will rise up strongly again. One encounters oneself again, but this time differently, not through an understanding that one is not one’s mind, but as a VIBRATION or FEELING, you know yourself to be the energetic vibration. When you realize this, you’re old way of being as the story maker, provoking your environment to be able to react with strong emotion you see is what was fooling you. You thought this was what was meant to be alive, when you see through the ruse by encountering your true vibration self, then you no longer are interested in getting your kick this way. The part of you that wanted to be the pretending one has died. After that you will be elated again and many more insights will come, it is much like the first awakening, but this time more insight comes about one’s own true nature where previously it is more like you are given general knowledge and your vision.
You see the game and now know there is no way to trust anything the story teller is telling you, there is only one thing left to do, and it is to go into quiet mind every opportunity you get. You know if you only do this then you will continue to grow. There is nothing more to learn about how to grow spiritually, there is no more concept you need to try out, there is no new identity to adopt, you are done with seeking and with all games. There is nothing more for you to do except to meditate as much as possible.
3rd dark night – Pretending, emoting, the story teller, am I crazy?
After the 2nd awakening if one is doing meditation effectively, then one starts to make huge gains in awareness levels. Insights continue to pour in, and now one is strong enough to drop one’s attachment to the emotional layer at the root of the personality, the earliest level of learning that was laid down from infancy and childhood. This is a period of transition where one feels like they are between the two worlds of physicality and spirituality, belonging in neither. One doesn’t yet know how to be and know in a world that doesn’t use the mind, there is no place of known comfort to rest. Like Jesus said, there is no place to lay your head. At this point you know you are not fully aware and you have lost all sense of knowing. You don’t yet have reliable access to intuition and you don’t trust your own story and even less the story of others. It is a period of becoming independent from all authorities, you must get your answers directly from source, and there is no way to get an answer by thinking it out… It also happens during this phase that very strong emotions are provoked from nearly any outside event. This is part of the healing process you are now within after the 2nd awakening event. Your emotions start to rage, and you start to feel very crazy. You start to seriously question your sanity and wonder if you have made any progress at all when you observe how crazy and emotional you are becoming. You start to think you are repeating and haven’t learned anything. That is a hard pill to swallow when you’ve been working so hard for so many years and think you are progressing. Once again you feel like you’ve lost everything and you enter the dark void. Another big cleansing is happening with lots of crying, much stronger than the prior one. The dark gets very dark, but also the light grows by leaps and bounds. When you see the deep emotional imprint clear, you understand why you’ve been acting the way you have for all of your life. After clearing this out, there is a huge freedom and independence from any person, place or thing.
3rd awakening – Being arises as springy light-energy in nervous system
After the emotional cleansing there is a huge gain in one’s energy and one’s meditation gets deeper very quickly and soon healing reactions start to happen sporadically in the body. These are pre-kundalini awakening symptoms. The only thing one wants to do with one’s free time is to meditate, to speed up the transformation process. During this phase ones energetic vibration is growing by leaps and bounds and one becomes very sensitive to energy inside and outside of oneself. It doesn’t take too long before one starts to feel springy and light inside one’s body, and being arises the 3rd time, but this time one feels it all over one’s body and each day it gets stronger. Eventually the full blown kundalini process is triggered, and one enters into the 4th dark night of the soul, which is a long transformation process, building the new brain and body.
4th dark night – dropping all identification, the physical death & transformation
When there is enough energy withdrawn from the old structure of personality, a latent DNA growing instruction is triggered to start the growth of the new body. This trigger point is what I call full blown kundalini awakening.
After a few months of preparatory nervous system changes to the body, then eventually the changes move up through the chest and into the neck to make changes into the physical structure of the skull and brain. The fourth dark night at its most intense is experienced as a physical death. To be reborn in the flesh, you truly will have to die in the flesh. When dying you gasp as you take your last breath of air and make gurgling and choking sounds as the air is compressed out of you, as energy moves up the chest into deep tissues of body. You will stop breathing when this happens, now the challenge is to allow this death and go to center as the observer, knowing you are dying and allowing it. All physical changes are made this way. You can only get through the 4th dark night with a total physical surrender. But don’t worry when you reach this step you are strong enough to do it, all you have done before has prepared you for this step. In this step you are present as the observer, and of course you live through it… After you have passed through the physical death, then you are at the end of being ‘this personality’. You will never go back to having that personality in any future life, you are now well on your way to growing the new structure which will serve you for the next part of your journey. There is no going back, and no reason to do so.
4th awakening – Full awareness in new light body
It takes some time for the new body to grow, but when it is done the full transformation will be complete. The end of the 4th dark night and the 4th awakening will happen in the same moment, in the blink of an eye, as they are in truth happening together each day as the old is giving way to create the new. When complete, then you will physically be alive in a light body.
December 6, 2010
Updated version of this article from my book: Our Light Body, Chapter 5: Four Stages Of Human Metamorphosis
Wikipedia: Kundalini Syndrome