What is the dark night that St John of the Cross talks about in his classic work Dark Night of the Soul? Yesterday in the comments section Sylvia over at http://www.sylvrpen.com wrote, “Am I finally getting the definition of the “dark night” as the time of deep trouble that sends us into complete and total dependence on God?”It has taken John till Chapter VIII to address this issue so, being at Chapter VIII, I will try to begin to answer that question today, but not as a theologian. St John of the Cross does a beautiful job of talking about the dark night in theological terms, but being a nurse, let me begin by using nursing theory.
When I was in nursing school, I learned many theories of nursing. Depending on how one viewed the individual, the environment around the individual, and what health and wellness meant to the nurse, the nurse would practice in very different ways. For example, if a nurse believed that illness was caused by spirits coming from the west that could be overpowered by spirits coming from the east, she would see her role as the nurse to be sure the individual was placed in the proper position to best receive the healing spirits. She would have a plan of care to insure proper positioning. This is the value of nursing theory because it is the foundation of practice.
Margaret Newman is a nurse theorist whom I really like. She is a Christian and her Theory of Expanding Consciousness can enlighten the value of the dark night in St. John of the Cross’s writings. Dr. Newman sees human life as a pattern in the universe which we weave as we live. She says our pattern is fairly stable a lot of the time, but once in awhile we hit a bump in the road. The bump is a period of disorganization, unpredictability and uncertainty. In these moments we “lose our way”. We become disorganized. The good news is that it is during these “bumpy” moments that we can grow the most. We are thrown out of our comfort zones and we are forced to find new ways to operate; we must enlarge our boundaries to find these new ways and we must stretch to reach them. Sometimes we have to leave behind some of the old ways in order to pick up the new ones and we often times find the new ways are better ways. Dr. Newman says we emerge from such times at a higher level of organization. We have expanded our consciousness and are more whole (healthy).
Below is a Power Point slide from Dr. Margaret Newman’s presentation of the foundations of her nursing theory Health as Expanding Consciousness based on Prigogine’s Theory of Dissipative Structure.
From Margaret Newman’s Power Point of her theory that can be found in a PDF file at http://nursing.clayton.edu/eichelberger/nursing.htm
The first sentence of Chapter IX in Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross says aridities can result from “sins and imperfections, or from weakness and lukewarmness, or from some bad humour (the basis of illness in John’s day) or indisposition of the body” (p.65) He says these instances are not the dark night and he gives 3 ways the person can know whether they are experiencing just a “bad day” or if they, indeed, are in the midst of a “dark night”.
So which “bumps in the road” are bad days and which are dark nights? Please join me next week as we explore (hopefully together) the differences John gives us between the bad day and the dark night. Remember, you can read Dark Night of the Soul right along with me at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.toc.html. I will write my thoughts next week in my posts linking to the Ann Voskamp communities of Multitudes on Monday and Walk with Him Wednesday.
This weekend I join Katie Lloyd and Ashley Sisk in the world of photography. See their links on my side bar.
Have a blessed weekend,