Insight to Dark Night, Insight to the Soul
For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (Cor 2 4:6)
Dark Night of the Soul is Christian mystic St. John of the Cross’ classic work, it denotes the Passage of Purification for the Soul to be in ultimate union with God. While other Christian mystics write about the light of bliss in their union in the love of God, St. John’s usage of the wordings “Dark Night” and “darkness” does not necessarily suggest the context of melancholy. St. John surmises two principal kinds of night, active and passive dark nights of the senses and the spirit, which spiritual persons call “purifications of the soul”. They are called “nights”, for in both of them the soul journeys, as it were in darkness by night. The Passage of Purification From the theological point of view there is a true self that is made in the image of God, and it is people’s vocation to realize it more fully. The true self is an integral part of the spiritual life, rather than an impediment to it.1 In the broader dogmatic perspective, the central Christian theme of salvation is to restore wholeness with God from the separated state between man and God, due to man’s inherent imperfection (sin) after the Fall; in the individual spiritual perspective, relieving the repression imposed by the False Self enables the True Self to ascend and encounter God in his religious experience. In Lonergan terms, “false self” parallels the human infancy stage of knowledge (“false” might not be read in the ethical-moral context, but as the “non-true” self), through the operations of the conscious subject, introduces one to a world mediated by meaning and motivated by value; “enabling and cultivating the true-self” parallels the self-appropriation heightening of consciousness to reach human authenticity. However, Lonergan does not deny “weakness” in the infancy stage within the context of “false-self”. Jung contends that man in his collective consciousness has always known God. The Self’s (the psychic totality of the individual consciousness and unconsciousness which comprises instincts, physiological and semi-physiological phenomena2) reaching out to Ego (the centre of consciousness) is an appropriation of God’s act of Incarnation as Christ in His reaching out to humanity, and Christ is the Symbol of the Self. As man searches for God, 1 Fraser Watts, Rebecca Nye, and Sara Savage, Psychology for Christian Ministry (New York: Routledge,
2 C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), p.502. 1
God searches for man. Christ’s coming to the world is to empathize fully with human consciousness by Incarnation as human. Lonergan shares a similar concept of man’s natural desire to understand God.3 There exists a natural desire to understand. Its range is set by the adequate object of intellect. Its proper fulfillment is obtained by the reception of a form proportionate to the object understood. This natural desire extends to understanding God. Ontology of the Soul, Consciousness, and the Divine Christian view of the soul is that the soul is the essence of the human, a creation by God, and an extension of God (Genesis: God breathed His spirit of life into the human body made of dust from the ground and human gained life at that moment). Watts in Theology and Psychology gives a psychological definition of the soul: the soul is a qualitative aspect of a person.4 The soul differentiates from consciousness in that there is a collective consciousness in the human psyche, but there isn’t a ‘collective soul’. Soul is the individuality accorded with the Ego and the Self; and to the Christian, with God. For the paper’s discussion focusing on the individual, and not in collective existential terms, St. John’s “soul” could be applied and understood ontologically as Lonergan’s “consciousness”. Edith Stein’s “the inner being” is probably a more accommodative bridging term.5 Grace of Infusion as Foundation to Consciousness and Knowing ‘Contemplation’ refers to the process of reflecting on knowledge, and within Aquinas’ view this term on its own can be applied to two distinct things. One is meditation, where the person studies and reflects on his subject and learns; the other is infused or supernatural – in which the knowledge comes directly from God to inspire and inform the person. It is called ‘infused’ because it is placed directly into union with the human intellect, without that intellect having done anything to receive it. It is superior to reasoning, and comes from ‘love’, that is a desire for union with God because it is God who places the knowledge of himself into the human intellect. St. John states that, “Contemplation…is the science of love. It is an infused and loving knowledge of God.” 6 Infused contemplation is knowledge of God and his works 3 Bernard Lonergan, Collection (Montreal: Palm Publishers, 1967), p.87. 4 Fraser Watts, Theology and Psychology (Burlington: Ashgate, 2002), p.72. 5 Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross, trans. Hilda Graef (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1960), p.120.
St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Image Books, 1990), Book II Ch. XVIII #5. Abbrev. Dark Night.
given by God directly to man, in order that man may direct himself to God via a clearer path than the human reason can allow for. For Lonergan, revelation is the entry of divine meaning into the human situation.7 Lonergan’s General Transcendental Knowledge (knowing God by reason), and Special Transcendental Knowledge (knowledge of God that eludes reason), correspond with St. John’s Natural Contemplation/Meditation and Infused/Supernatural Contemplation. Lonergan affirms that grace is not an achievement of our knowing and choosing, but the fruit of the love with which God gives himself to us. Out of this love, this supreme meaningful reality, arises the knowing that is faith. “The infusion of grace…is a change from one spontaneity to another,..placing his higher faculties in subordination to God and his lower faculties in subordination to reason.” 8 Conversions in the Dark Night The Soul’s operations and Lonergan’s “conscious operations” of Knowing All contemplation is intellectual in nature, it is knowledge of God in man - whether it is attained by man via study, or infused into man by God, to the attainment of the transforming union in which the soul experiences to the fullest the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Yet to reach that goal the soul must travel through the active and passive dark nights of the senses and the spirit. Ascent of Mount Carmel describes the ‘active’ night of the spirit, the human side of the process: what we can do to identify and interpret this condition, the habits of the mind we must cultivate, the dangers we must avoid. The sequel to Ascent, The Dark Night of the Soul, explains that the ‘passive’ night is the empirical level of God’s purifying activity. Since cognitional activities are multi-layered (re: Lonergan’s differentiation of consciousness), Dark Night could be understood as the condition, the dimension in which the ladders exist, where the ascending up the 10 ladder steps take place.9 Thus Jesus’ description of “My Father has many rooms..” could also mean one person who engages in different rooms during his spiritual stages, and to accommodate the individual’s differentiated consciousness, in Lonergan terms. According to St John, the soul has three
7 See Neil Omerod, Method, Meaning and Revelation (Lanham: University Press of America, 2000), p.163. 8 Lonergan, Grace and Freedom. Operative Grace in the Thoughts of St. Thomas Aquinas. Ed J. Patout Burns
(London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1971), p.57.
9 Dark Night, Book II Ch. XIX. Here St. John and Lonergan differ in that St. John’s intensive intimacy is
revealed in the ten ladder steps, and Lonergan mostly employs academic language.
operations: intellect, memory and will (or love).10 Lonergan’s conscious-heightening encounters are respectively the intellectual conversion, moral conversion and religious conversion. The discussion will follow St. John’s soul operations order in relating the two theologians’ concepts. Intellectual Conversion in Suffering The elements of intellectual understanding corresponds to Lonergan’s Intellectual Conversion:
How, although this night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so in order to illumine it and give it light. ..3. And thus it is fitting that, if the understanding is to be united with that light and become Divine in the state of perfection, it should first of all be purged and annihilated as to its natural light, and, by means of this dark contemplation, be brought actually into darkness. This darkness should continue for as long as is needful in order to expel and annihilate the habit which the soul has long since formed in its manner of understanding, and the Divine light and illumination will then take its place. And thus, inasmuch as that power of understanding which it had aforetime is natural, it follows that the darkness which it here suffers is profound and horrible and most painful, for this darkness, being felt in the deepest substance of the spirit, seems to be substantial darkness. Similarly, since the affection of love which is to be given to it in the Divine union of love is Divine, and therefore very spiritual, subtle and delicate, and very intimate, transcending every affection and feeling of the will, and every desire thereof, it is fitting that, in order that the will may be able to attain to this Divine affection and most lofty delight, and to feel it and experience it through the union of love,...11 Describes how, as the fruit of these rigorous constraints, the soul finds itself with the vehement passion of Divine love This takes place to a great extent, as has already been said, in this dark purgation, for God has so weaned all the inclinations and caused them to be so recollected that they cannot find pleasure in anything they may wish. All this is done by God to the end that, when He withdraws them and recollects them in Himself, the soul may have more strength and fitness to receive this strong union of love of God, which He is now beginning to give it through this purgative way, wherein the soul must love with great strength and with all its desires and powers both of spirit and of sense..12
St. John’s approach is: From suffering we are aware of our own being from the conscious operations: “to feel it and experience it through the union of love…, and that the understanding is to be united with the Divine...” Should I add brackets to the 2nd quotation: “wherein the soul must (judge and decide to) love with great strength and with all its desires and powers both of spirit and of sense…”, we see Lonergan’s conscious elements in motion. 10 Kieran Kavanaugh, John of the Cross: Selected Writings (New York: Pauline Press, 1987), p.143 11 Dark Night, Book II, Chapter IX p. 119, 121. 12 Dark Night, Book II, Chapter X p. 132. 4
Memory, Experience as guidelines for Moral Conversion According to Lonergan’s Law of the Cross, the Cross is the icon of dramatic transformational grace and depth. Lonergan’s Law of the Cross articulates that the Cross is a medium of transformation. The heart of Lonergan's understanding of the law of the cross is the transformation of darkness into light. The law of the cross gives the new covenant the basic law governing its economy of salvation: The power and wisdom of God are to be discerned in Christ crucified, not in some new order in which no injustices are perpetrated on the good,13 in the moral perspective. “Accordingly, an account of freedom has to turn to a study of intellect and will….human courses of action emerge inasmuch as they are understood by intelligent consciousness, evaluated by rational consciousness, and willed by a rational self-consciousness”, “that imposition of further intelligible order is the work of intelligence, of rational reflection, and of ethically guided will.14 (Recall Quotation 11 St. John’s soul operations: intellect, memory and will.) The two theologians share similar ideas. For St. John, although Darkness exists because of the Fall, if darkness has to exist due to the unavoidable consequence of the Fall, we can transpire ourselves from darkness, because in self-acknowledging, remembering our experiences of dark inclinations, we still encounter hope in God’s consolation, we still encounter the mystery of grace in God’s Salvation. The surrendering moment of encountering intimate hope arising from the darkness, is Grace. “Freedom…arises from in the order of spirit, of intelligent grasp, rationally reflection, and morally guided will.”15 Lonergan’s Law of the Cross mediates freedom into transformation: if there is no darkness, there is no transformation to Salvation and Grace; if sin is there because of freewill/freedom, moral transformation from sin can also be realized because of freedom. Religious Conversion and Religious Experience of Will and Love The purpose of the Incarnation was redemption. Redemption is a restoration of our original capacity, the nature of pure innocence before the fall. In addition, redemption in the boarder terms of Salvation, is an uplifting of our natural capacities and enabling us empowering in our communion with God. 13 Thomas J. Farrell, Paul A. Soukup ed., Communication and Lonergan (Kansas City: Seed and Ward, 1993),
p. 324. Further see Lonergan, De Verbo Incarnato Ch. 4 and 5, particularly Art. 23 (Rome: Gregorian University, 1961). 14 Lonergan, Insight, Ed. Frederick E. Crowe, Robert Doran (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992), 2.6 Freedom [616-19] p.640, 642. By the connection, the notion of Dark Night is an articulation of freedom in its exercise and realization, in Lonergan understanding.
15 Insight. p.642 5
As God-created beings, we have a vocation for communion (Jung: man in his nature knows God; and Lonergan: man has natural desire to understand God), but it is beyond our natural capacity. God uplifted us by grace into that communion. We are made into the original likeness of God. Conformity to God does not mean conformity to the perceived anthropomorphic image of God, nor does it mean a transformation into God-like substance.. Conformity to God is to be with God, be led by God, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14) Religious conversion is fermented by religious love. When religious love enters the horizon of a human being, the entire horizon is transformed. The self becomes a different self, because the horizon within which all reality is considered has been radically altered. Christian religious conversion experiences the salvation in Jesus Christ, the distinct manifestation of the Divine through humanness in the incarnation. In experiencing the darkness and light like Christ, we are imitating Christ; when we are imitating Christ, we are in union with Christ in our Religious Experience. Interiority-Shifts in the Conscious Operations during the Dark Night The Divine is usually connected with images of light, love, wisdom (refer to the themes of the Hebrew Bible books Genesis, Psalms and the Wisdom writings). According to St. John, we climb up to darkness by the ladder of faith. In appropriating the soul as an extension of God, interiority shift is the transition from consciousness of self to knowledge of self.16 Interiority is the foundation of consciousness, reflectivity, and agency, which in turn are the moving forces of the human person’s innate directionality toward the authenticity of life, exemplified by an integrated life of prayer, worship, community, and self-giving service. Critical appropriation of interiority is essential to discernment of one’s own and others’ spiritual choices.17 To Lonergan, the ground of interiority is simply self-awareness in the midst of the conscious operations. In understanding how the realms of meaning relate to each other: common sense (undifferentiated consciousness), theory, scholarship, aesthetics, and religious transcendence, one achieves this understanding by an interiority analysis of the subjective conscious operations that intend objects i.e. differentiated consciousness.18 16 Consciousness refers to the experience of knowing in general consisting of both sensation and intellection,
while knowledge of the self is knowing the dynamic foundations of knowing.
17 Mary Frohlich, “Critical Interiority”, Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, Vol. 7, No 1, Spring
2007, pp. 77-81.
Lonergan presents interiority as a science of consciousness;19 Edith Stein also discusses consciousness in The Science of the Cross. For Lonergan, Experience is divided into external and internal. External experience is the presence of objects to the subject (sensation), while internal experience is the presence of the subject to itself (intention). “When I know what I am doing when I am doing it”, one has consciously appropriated the inner faculty of consciousness at work. Edith Stein also comments on the exterior and interior of the soul: the exterior is the sensation towards objects rising from the depth; the interior, the innermost being is where souls are called by grace and drawn to, and “enter into themselves” – this is equivalent to Lonergan’s self-appropriation. “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and follow in my steps.” (Mark 8:34-35). In modern interpretation, we understand Christ requires a transformation of the Self. There is a transcendence of the Old Self to the New Self after the Nights passage: from preoccupation of particular mundane knowledge, matters, and idols (not necessarily in the religious sense e.g. earthly pleasures) by their finite, superficial services to God’s finite, fulfilled Truth, Love and Hope.20 Applying Lonergan terms, interiority-shift occurs to a faithful person who willingly goes through the Night exercises and passages, as one heightens the existential ways of experiencing, understanding, judging, and deciding, moving towards the human authenticity of life. The state of perfection corresponds with religious experience beyond religious conversion:
The reason for this is that, as the state of perfection, which consists in the perfect love of God and contempt for self, cannot exist unless it have these two parts, which are the knowledge of God and of oneself, the soul has of necessity to be practised first in the one and then in the other, now being given to taste of the one—that is, exaltation—and now being made to experience the other—that is, humiliation—until it has acquired perfect habits; and then this ascending and descending will cease, since the soul will have attained to God and become united with Him…
Psychic Conversion to articulate Purgatory If illumination is mediated as knowledge, from infancy-ignorance to knowledge in the Night passages, there is a cognitive reconstruction to mediate existential questions, and 18 See Eugene Webb, The Philosophers of Consciousness: Polanyi, Lonergan, Voegelin, Ricoeur, Girard,
Kierkegaard (Seattle: University of Washington, 1988), p.73 Interiority.
19 Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1971), pp. 327, 328. Also see
The Science of the Cross, p.119. Edith Stein is quoted to complement St. John of the Cross in the Carnelite spirituality perspective.
20 David B. Perrin, For Love of the World (San Francisco: Catholic Scholars Press, 1997), pp.45-50, 74-91. 7
Purgatory is one of them. It is reasonable to assume that as a Catholic, Lonergan believes the existence of Hell, Purgatory, the Devil…Lonergan and St. John differ that Lonergan does not entertain the concepts in their physical presence in his theology, yet his theology does reflect the analogical existence of suffering on Earth, tarnishes in the psyche, sin and weakness in humanity that are certainly not attributed to God.21 In addition, “demons that are [encountered] in the individual’s dwelling, imagination, or heart” 22 could be commonly recognized. A soul that went through a Dark Night parallels to the heightening of consciousness after conversions. Here Doran’s “psychic conversion” is a more corresponding term supplementing the other three conversions established by Lonergan, in articulating the state of the soul that undergoes purification from imperfectness. One of the processes is Purgatory to help the soul in readiness to be in union with God.
….we can learn here incidentally in what manner souls are afflicted in purgatory. For the fire would have no power over them, even though they came into contact with it, if they had no imperfections for which to suffers. These are the material upon which the fire of purgatory seizes; when that material is consumed there is naught else that can burn. So here, when the imperfections are consumed, the affliction of the soul ceases and its fruition remains. ….we shall learn here is the manner wherein the soul, as it becomes purged and purified by means of this fire of love 23
Dark Night Book I Chapter 1-7 generally discusses the Imperfections of Spiritual Pride, Greed, Lust, and Wrath... And Doran observes the distortion within the human spirit:
For the psyche is the locus of the embodiment of inquiry, insight, reflection, judgment, deliberation, and decision, just as it is the place of embodiment of oppressive force from which we can be released by such intentional operations. … Patterns of experience are either the distorted and alienated, or the integral and the creative, embodiment of the human spirit.24
Doran does not physically describe the “sins”,25 yet we see the relationship between the imperfections described by St. John as symptoms, or as consequence, of distortion. Perhaps if we adopt a promising view to the Purgatory not as post-mortem punishment, but as a tenure of healing by God’s grace, it then parallels Doran’s 21 Basic sin and moral evil. See Lonergan, Insight, p.689 22 Gary W. Moon, and David G. Benner Ed. Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls (Downer’s Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 2004), p.59.
23 Dark Night, pp. 127-131. Book II, Chapter X. Quoted from p.129. 24 Robert Doran, Theology and the Dialectics of History (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1990), p.62, see
59-63. Psychic conversion could be considered as the “precursory zeroth” before the other three conversions take place: “Psychic conversion affects the first level…..” p.59. 25 Robert Doran, What is Systematic Theology? (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 2005), p.185: “neglect in the psyche and intentionality” forms basic sin.
“healing of the psyche” and the addressed benefits of re-constitution of intentionality, accessing one’s symbolic system in apprehension of values in self-transcendence. . Individual Horizons in the Wholeness The notion of salvation by Christ is to restore the integrated wholeness since man’s fall and separation from God.
The first night or purgation is of the sensual part of the soul, And this first night pertains to beginners, occurring at the time when God begins to bring them into the state of contemplation; in this night the spirit likewise has a part, as we shall say in due course. And the second night, or purification, pertains to those who are already proficient, occurring at the time when God desires to bring them to the state of union with God.…Briefly, then, the soul means by this stanza that it went forth (being led by God) for love of Him alone, enkindled in love of Him, upon a dark night,…. … And it was a happy chance that God should lead it into this night, from which there came to it so much good; for of itself the soul would not have succeeded in entering therein, because no man of himself can succeed in voiding himself of all his desires in order to come to God.26
St John contemplates that darkness is an extension of light, darkness is a reflection of light. The sun shines on the evil and the good, the rain showers upon the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). The light of the Divine permeates and shines through the darkness. God’s boundless love can be mediated according to each person’s disposition; in Lonergan terms, each individual’s unique psyche and horizons.27
Conclusion - The Duality of Dark Night
“…the Lord my God shall make my darkness to be light.” (Psalms 18:28) “…when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8)
Both Lonergan’s and St. John’s Theological Method are summarized in this common theme: In our faith, and by God’s grace, we ascend to the threshold reaching the bliss of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8) St. John of the Cross depicts the "dark night of the soul" as "an 26 St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, trans. E. Allison Peers (Garden City: Image Books, 1958),
pp. 104-105. 27 Robert Doran’s materials are categorically identified as Lonergan’s theological understanding for the paper’s discussion. For Each person’s unique horizons - The experience of one's consciousness is always the unique experience. Method, pp. 235 – 237.
inflowing of God into the soul, which purges it from its ignorance and imperfections, habitual, natural, and spiritual."28 Through the Word, all life appeared on the earth, and in the Word this life has its perfect fulfillment. Christ himself announcing that he was the light of the world: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light” (John 12:36). St Paul writes: “Walk always as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Eph 5:8-9). Humans tend to see things in dualistic exclusive terms, either this or that, either true or false. St. John of the Cross is ahead of the times, surpassing the ordinary human pragmatic understanding of fragmentary dualistic relationships. In Lonergan’s notion of transformation – from one polar point to the other, the notion of duality is implied, and also resolved gracefully as St. John’s. The goal of life is to realize the Self. The self is an archetype that represents the transcendence of all opposites, so that every aspect of one’s personality is expressed equally. Self-realization, or Self-appropriation, is about reaching that self-transcendence, attaining St. John’s non-dualistic notion of light and darkness. For Lonergan, Religious Experience allows us to mediate possible dualistic elements not as incongruous ones; but in our freedom we see the dynamic revelation of the power and grace of God in transcending beyond the faculty of reason. Acknowledging the perspectives of evil and our weak nature, and in humility reaching out and succumbing to the grace of God, is the very point of transcendence and heightened consciousness of our lives, Lonergan and St. John complements each other in their theological constructs. That we become better persons after the Night passages, we also become better qualitative persons in reaching our human and Christian authenticity.
28 Dark Night, Book II Chapter V #1 p.100. 10