Posted by: Isidora | April 19, 2014

Isis & the Dark Night of the Soul

A depiction of the Dark Night of the Soul: Ce Que Je Suis by angelitonegro on Deviant Art

A depiction of the Dark Night of the Soul: Ce Que Je Suis by angelitonegro on Deviant Art

I read a short blog post the other day that made me sad…and sympathetic. It was by a young woman who felt she had lost the mystery of her Pagan path. The power of the rites had flown. She doubted. Her anguish was palpable in what she wrote.

This may have been the first time that had happened to her.

Yet I can guarantee that, if we follow any spiritual path for a sufficient length of time, this same thing will happen to each of us. At some point, the mystery dries up. The excitement dies down. The thrill of discovery is not as thrilling as it once was. Usually, this doesn’t happen all of a sudden and usually not in the early part of our journey with Isis. Rather, it’s a slow erosion that we don’t even notice. We just don’t feel like tending Her shrine or meditating or making offering today. We find we have other things to do. Practice slips away. That wonderful sense of Isis being with us in every step of our lives slips away. But we hardly notice.

Isis giving sustenance to the ba in the Otherworld

Isis giving sustenance to the ba in the Otherworld

Until we do. Notice, that is. Then, we might panic a bit. Especially if we have chosen a priest/essly relationship with Isis. O my Goddess, O my Goddess, O my Goddess! What happened? Where is She? What have I (not!) done?

If we’re not careful—and forget to breathe—thoughts and feelings can quickly escalate from there. Why am I even doing this? What if it’s all a lie? Where is She? Where is She? Where is She? We ask questions, but get no answers. It isn’t like it was before. We don’t seem to be who we were before, either. We may feel like strangers to ourselves just as we feel like strangers to Isis. We feel alone, cut off from the Goddess, perhaps even cut off from other human beings and from other pleasures in our lives.

The first thing we must understand about such periods in the spiritual life is that, though we feel desperately alone, we are not. Spiritual people throughout the ages have had this experience. Prehistoric shamans probably had it. There’s even a term for it, a term you probably know. It’s the “dark night of the soul,” which is the title of a poem and a treatise written by the 16th century Christian Mystic known as Saint John of the Cross. He writes of it as a necessary part of the soul’s journey to union with God. The phrase is so perfectly evocative that it has been adopted by many spiritual traditions today.

A man and his ba greeting each other

A man and his ba greeting each other

There’s even an ancient Egyptian precedent. It’s generally known as A Man Tired of Life in Dispute with His Soul (Ba) and is found in Berlin Papyrus 3024. The papyrus itself has no title. What we have left is the last part of the work; the first part is missing. In it, a scribe is arguing with his ba, trying to convince his ba to die with him. The man berates himself and declares the world around him to be a horrible place. The ba argues that the scribe should live and die only when it truly is his time. Egyptologists consider the papyrus very obscure and difficult. As a result, there are many different translations of the papyrus and they differ widely in their interpretation.

We do not know the purpose of the papyrus or the period to which it is dated. Most scholars put it in the First Intermediate Period, a time of confusion between the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Some have theorized that the author’s despair is a reflection of the chaos of that Intermediate Period. Bika Reed, who is of the Schwaller de Lubicz school of Egyptology, has interpreted it as an initiatic text, essentially dealing with the dark night of the soul.

We don’t know for sure, but the point is, this happens—and it has always happened. But what do we do when it happens?

A beautiful statue of a ba

A beautiful statue of a ba

Having just had a birthday, and feeling rather ancient of days, I can tell you that I have had more than one dark night of the ba in my life with Isis. I have learned that patience and persistence are the keys to survival (as they are in so much of life). In these dark and dry places, we must be patient with ourselves and with the Goddess; we must persist in our practice. Even if we don’t feel anything happen when we meditate with Isis or when we place flowers upon Her altar, we must continue to do so. But we must also give ourselves a break. It’s okay if we don’t feel anything right now. It doesn’t mean Isis has abandoned us. It only means we are in a period of transition, even of initiation. Some consider a dark night to be part of the process of ego death that must precede a deeper relationship with the Divine, in our case, with Isis.

We may even give ourselves another type of break. If it had been our practice to meditate daily, perhaps we do so once every few days or once a week. That’s okay, too. The important thing is not to stop altogether, even if the sense of connection isn’t there. We just persist. Eventually—in a month, or even a year—something will change. The shell surrounding our hearts will crack. Like the Child Horus, our hearts will struggle out of the egg and be born. Eventually, we will return to our practice and find that it, too, is transformed. It is deeper, richer, juicier.

Held in Her wings, we are Becoming, even when we don’t know it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Reblogged this on Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess and commented:
    Excellent!

  3. […] The post is here: Isis and the Dark Night of the Soul […]

  4. Reblogged this on justme0486 and commented:
    I go through this every so often, I am in one of these periods right now however I still trust and love Isis and all the other Gods I work with/ follow.

  5. Thank you. I too am going through my dark Night with Ba. I cannot understand how the Goddess has bought so many physical deaths to my family in such a short time. many times I wish she had chosen me to go with them on their journey. Especially when my husband and mother recently died.

    The two people closest to me, have left; leaving me in a state of darkness and indecision. How could Isis be so cruel?

    I can only think she is making room for me to grow and follow another path? Bring new people into my life? make me appreciate how important my time here is and not to leave with any regrets?

    As I pray to her before sleep tonight I know she is busy with her plans and I, the little ‘I’ of my raging ego, must be patient.

    blessings in Her Name,

    Daughters of Qetesh Lyceum x

  6. Your words are honest and inspiring. Thank you.

  7. Oh, sister Q…that is a hard road. I have lost my mother, but not my husband, so I cannot know that sorrow. It is hard, deep. It is a sorrow that makes the knees buckle, a horrible emptiness, and worse in spring, when everything is coming to life but us. I love you. More important, She loves you. I await your blossoming, for I know it will happen…

  8. Again, I’m just stunned. Your post couldn’t be more apropos nor beautifully explained. After what can only be described as a transcendent beginning, I feel at times almost abandoned. Yet the change correlates with a return of ego which had previously been smashed.

    Thank you again, Isadora.


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