Question: Could you tell us something about suffering on the path to enlightenment? I mean, what really goes on during the two dark nights of the soul?
Jan: Sure! What do you want to know?
Q: Is it unavoidable, or is it just something, that a few experience? And if it is unavoidable, how long will it last?
J: He, he! What you are worried about is really if you will experience it or not! But OK. To answer the crux of your question: yes, it is unavoidable, and no: it is not something that just a few will experience. Everyone will have to go through both the dark night of the mind and the dark night of the soul. The first night is more of a crisis, while the second night is more of a regular depression.
Q: So how do you distinguish between the two?
J: First night happens while your identification mechanism is still intact and is caused by your realization that all identities are invalid. Second night happens after the identification mechanism has broken down and vanished and its suffering is caused by the disintegration of remaining identities in the mind and soul. Second night is far more severe and long lasting than the first.
Q: So how do I know if I am in the first or the second?
J: If you ask this question, you are probably in the first. Believe me, if your identification mechanism has broken down and vanished, you know, because you are absolutely nobody what so ever, -
Q: I feel I am not my mind and I have realized the relativety of all identifications. Isn't that a sign of Self-
J: No. What you describe is exactly the situation in the first night. We say Self-
Q: What goes on during the first dark night?
J: In the first dark night, you undergo a destructiuon of your fundamental beliefs about who you are, about the nature of the mind-
Q: Yes, I recognise that. In fact I think this is what most sincere western seekers are going through.
J: Yes exactly. But sadly most seekers try to solve it by replacing one identification structure with another in fairly rapid sucession in the big illusion that this is spiritual progress and evolutionary growth. Hence they never make it to Self-
Q: What's the quickest way through the first dark night of the mind?
J: Ha, ha! I wish I knew! And isn't that just the question, we all have asked: How does one get Selfrealized as fast as possible? Shaktipat is always recommended. But regarding what you can do yourself, you should do radical self enquiry in the manner of Ramana Maharishi. Question any identification, you discover in yourself, and let go. Talking about letting go, you should of course meditate and remember proper meditation is a matter of sensing the absolute, then letting go and falling into it. Please see the meditation page on this website.
Q: So if that's the essense of the first dark night, what's the essense of the second dark night?
J: The second night is the real dark night of the soul, -
Q: Would taking antidepressants harm the process going on in the dark nights?
J: They will do no harm, for sure. But you will find that they are not a full and satisfying solution. In other words they will alleviate the suffering, but not put an end to the spiritual dimension of it, that is, the purgation will still go on. If the suffering becomes too great, then you can take medication; it will do no harm. The process is not driven by the depression or anxiety -
Q: So what's the solution? The end point?
J: Total breakdown and disappearance of all remaining identification-
Q: How can we aid that process?
J: Awaken kundalini. The shaktipat initiation is perfect for taking you through the second dark night. Practice radical Self-
Q: This sounds a bit like the first dark night. What's the difference?
J: The first dark night ends when the identification mechanism breaks down and vanishes and you have no identification with anything anymore. You can't say you identify with Pure Being, because that would imply a duality and there is no longer any duality. You ARE Pure Being and that is of course unmanifest ... so you are unmanifest and no longer a somebody. Yet many of the old identity-
Q: Would you recommend reading St. John of the Cross's book: The Dark Night of the Soul?
J: Well, yes and no. Remember he wrote under the threat of the inquisition, so he had to talk about enlightenment in terms that the church could accept. You could also read The Cloud of Unknowing.
Q: What part does karma play in all this?
J: A huge part. Clearing away residual identification complexes is just a contemporary way of saying you are clearing away residual karma. Identities are the product of karma, nothing else, they have no reality in themselves. Karma creates impressions in the mind which act as selfperpetuating structures that channel energy and consciousness. These structures add up and form an identity complex.
Q: Could we alleviate the second dark night by breaking down identity structures as a kind of sadhana? So that when the second night comes, it will be less severe and of shorter duration?
J: No. What you are describing is the first dark night. For the second dark night to come, you have to stop identifying with the identity structures, and then they begin breaking down by themselves. The second dark night is this automatic breakdown and falling-
Q: So can't we do anything to get through the second night?
J: Get kundalini awakened and into the brain. Shaktipat will help here.
Q: If all identities are equally valueless, then we are all equal with respect to Self-
Q: But some personalities are more conducive to spirituality than others. I mean some people meditate and strive, others don't. And very few get Selfrealized. Surely the speed of your progress has something to do with who you were before you got Selfrealized.
J: No, not at all. Realize the enormous humility this insight generates in you if you ponder it.
J: You see, spirituality is not a matter of who you are, it is a matter of unbecomming -
Q: But what is the process of unbecomming after Self-
J: Yes, unmanifest pure being. And with that realization, Self-
Q: The mind fights back.
J: No, not really, there is no fight involved.
Q: But there is resistance to letting go certain things.
J: That is in the first night, yes. In the second night there is nothing to let go of since you are not holding on to anything anymore. In reality, in both nights, the pain is there because identity-
Q: Can the suffering be usefull in some way, or is it just unavoidable, senseless pain?
J: When the identification structures break down, suffering arises, but in this situation the illusory nature of identity becomes more easy to see than when you are happy. The cracks become apparent and the cracks are voids where beingness can be perceived, where the unmanifest can relate to itself as separate from manifest structures of identity. And so if one understands the nature of what is going on in the dark nights, then the suffering itself can be a sadhana.
Q: One last question: Can the bliss or lovebliss coexist with the suffering of the dark nights? If so how can that be? I thought bliss was the absense of suffering and vice versa.
J: Oh, yes, they can coexist and usually do. The two are not opposite poles. In fact they are not related at all so one does not exclude the other. There can be tremendous suffering and tremendous bliss at the same time.