Conscious Living: Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

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Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

“You are mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are!” – Alice in Wonderland

Childhood fantasy fiction often provides many enriched metaphors and allegories that can be extrapolated to our spiritual journey and life experiences. Two renowned books which provide examples of this are The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. They are replete with soul lessons and archetypes that are commonly encountered on life’s journey.

In this article, we will focus on Alice and her experience of falling down the rabbit hole as a metaphor for slipping down to a denser vibration; ‘spiritual madness’ as coined by Carolyn Myss; and the dark night of the soul and transformation as understood by the mystical saint, St. John of the Cross, and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung. Since these concepts hold gravitas and are heavy, I thought I would add some light-heartedness by noting whimsical quotes from Lewis Carroll’s novel that can seem nonsensical, but actually reflect spiritual wisdom.

We all know that the world has seemed ‘mad’ lately, whether it is the relentless and exhausting news cycle with reoccurring terrorist acts, or the antics of political caricatures. As usual, the macrocosm of the world often reflects the microcosm of our inner process. My friends and colleagues attest to inner struggles being more challenging than ever before. Just as we can go through a dark night of the soul, so can humanity as a whole.

A Downward Slippery Slope
Falling down the rabbit hole is akin to feeling like you are on a downward slippery slope and cannot climb back up. Once you land, you may feel that you are in an alternate universe, and some things don’t feel the same or make sense. Lewis Carroll states, “Little Alice fell down the hole, bumped her head and bruised her soul.” Universal law as you have come to know it does not seem to work in this situation. The practice of psychotherapy emphasizes that we always have a choice, but when you are in this state it may feel like you have no choice at all.

In the dark night of the soul, we go into a denser, lower vibration within, and hence are not able to manifest or create as usual. We are meant to delve into our shadow to cleanse, heal, and transform it. It is a difficult process to go through, but this is what your soul wants for you to evolve. Your inner guidance system can get blocked from the density, and the compass that you use to navigate your journey may feel askew.

Alice said to the Queen of Hearts, “What a strange world we live in.” And she declared to the Mad Hatter, “You are mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are!” This indeed is true, because if your soul boldly chooses to venture here, you know that you have strength, courage, and willingness to change. The good news is that you will wake up again, like Alice, climb out of the rabbit hole, and transform into a higher way of being.

Expansion and Contraction 
When you are in the dark night, you can have the sense that you are expanding and contracting at the same time. As Grace Slick sings, “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.” In the first two chapters of Alice, she shrinks and then grows so much that her head hits the ceiling.

While we are in transformation, we can have the feeling that on some days we are shrinking and going backwards and on other days we feel that we are expanding rapidly. It can feel very confusing because of the inconsistency and oscillation of our experience. We contract to go inward to our shadow and then we expand as we are making “the unconscious, conscious” (Carl Jung) and learning from our demanding lessons. The Gryphon, however, tells Alice that “The reason they are called lessons is because they lessen from day to day,” as does the intensity of the dark night.

Alice refers to the changing nature of transformation when she reveals to the Caterpillar, who is smoking the hookah, “At least I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but I have changed several times since then.” Alice reflects on the notion that we cannot go back to who we once were when we begin to transform. As she proclaims, “It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

Time Warp
While we are in the process of transformation and our frequency or vibration is vacillating, our sense of time can vary. Sometimes we will have the feeling that time is speeding up or not moving very much at all.  We can also have this feeling when we meditate. Often my students have asked how long were they meditating and I would tell them a half-hour. They would say ‘it only felt like five minutes’.  Our sense of time changes when our energy and focus is in different dimensions or frequencies. Alice asks the White Rabbit: “How long is forever?” He replies, “Sometimes just one second.” The Mad Hatter tells Alice, “No wonder you’re late. Why, this watch is exactly two days slow.”

Dare to Dream
One of the biggest gifts of transformation and the dark night of the soul is this: once we have expanded into more of our potential, we become more creative, manifest more easily, and ‘live the dream.’ What seemed impossible can be made possible. One of my favourite quotes from Alice in Wonderland is stated when the Queen of Hearts tells Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Alice conveys to the Mad Hatter, “This is impossible,” and he retorts, “Only if you believe it is.” He also says “A dream is not reality, but who’s to say which is which?” Sometimes, we can be ridiculed for dreaming big – The Cheshire Cat says, “I’m not crazy, my reality is just different from yours.”

Purpose or Porpoise
Another gift of transformation is the enhanced ability to live our higher purpose. The Mock Turtle states: “No fish would go anywhere without a porpoise,” and “Why, if a fish came to me, and told me he was going on a journey, I should say ‘With what porpoise?’” Sometimes we can get too serious about our journey, over-analyze our higher purpose, and forget about just living and being. A sense of humour about our spirituality can surely lighten things and help…or you can always just “Go and ask Alice.”


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  1. HM
    May 03, 16:34 HM

    Really enjoyed your article! Thank-you!

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