To know the dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,

and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,

and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Wendell Berry

I don’t know whether this applies to all who hunger for God and take prayer seriously – I know it has applied to many, like Thérese of Lisieux, Simone Weil, Thomas Merton – that, after early mystical experiences, the lights go out and an all-enveloping darkness, or dense fog descends. Whether darkness or fog, the result is the same. Where before there were perspectives, illumination, above all awareness of a union that transcended bodily boundaries, now there is isolation, solitude, alone in the dark. This is hard to take. It is bewildering and disorientating. One is constantly searching for some chink, some glimmer in the darkness, for reassurance. And occasionally, very occasionally, there might be the briefest of glimmers, but never enough to lift the all-pervading gloom.

Discovering Wendell Berry’s poem above made me realise that the constant searching and yearning for light in the darkness is a failure to recognise reality as it presents itself to us. It is a failure to move on, to realise that the time of illuminating experiences was simply the beginning of the journey. It is a failure to realise that the illuminating experiences were not REALITY. An awareness, yes. An awareness of the horizon of this reality and in being aware of the horizon one is aware of a beyond but not of the beyond itself. That has been left behind now and one should not be constantly looking back, wishing that one was not where one is. The darkness is the new reality and it has much, much more to reveal.


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