Thursday, September 27, 2007

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

A severe test of one's faith or beliefs that is a common psychic crisis or passage in a person's midlife.

Christians typically reframe as tests of faith everything that might seem to be incontrovertible evidence of there not being a divine entity. Just like victims of natural disasters, what could logically be perceived as acts of a cruel and unjust god, the focus is on the baby who survives against the odds beneath the rubble: the evidence of the miracle. Mother Theresa suffered her dark night of the soul for the last 45 years of her long life - and in reality was much more likely to be the dull unconscious regret made up of a lifetime's lack of gratification, and of pointless self-sacrifice for the benefit not only of an illusory non-existent divine being but also a cabal of degenerate and cynical clergymen.

Since so much of our personae is constructed upon our acquired beliefs and worldviews (by definition an extremely shaky foundation), and which we cling to stubbornly and defiantly often against all reason, it seems perfectly natural that there should come a time in our lives when we, at least on an unconscious level, critically question ourselves in this way, and in a way which gives a deep sense of unease. The so-called dark night of the soul.

As a teenager, one of the best philosophical lessons I learned from the divine marquis (and to an extent ancient Greek philosophy) was the desire to avoid the human arrogance of the fixed idea, of the rigid sense of moral purpose. And to me, there's an important distinction between that and being amoral or immoral, which incidentally is similar to my mild personal discomfort at the label atheist as I see atheism as essentially a Christian construct. Therefore, I don't believe in any god, neither am I an atheist; my attitude is the same regards morality.

4 comments:

David said...

Nietzsche also tried to make the point about moving beyond morality/good and evil, and he actually did incredibly well considering the time that he was writing in. He had to keep returning to Jesus though, even as a figure to fight against.

De Sade was interesting for (among other reasons) only using religion as something to (literally or figuratively) piss on, and he never seemed to tut tut about the hypocrisy of his perverted priests, but revelled in it.

Alexander said...

Mother Theresa suffered her dark night of the soul for the last 45 years of her long life - and in reality was much more likely to be the dull unconscious regret made up of a lifetime's lack of gratification, and of pointless self-sacrifice for the benefit not only of an illusory non-existent divine being but also a cabal of degenerate and cynical clergymen.

I don't see how you arrived at this conclusion. How is God (real or fictional) the beneficiary of Mother Theresa's actions? I guess she believed she was doing "the Lord's work" - bringing help to those who felt forsaken. I'd nominate those people as the main beneficiaries of her work.

If a person like that chooses to take the "dark night of the soul" as a test of faith, then great. That's a better viewpoint than deciding that the main driving force behind all the good aspects of her being was complete fallacy. What would she have done then? Would she have been better off writing in a blog about how religion is illusory bullshit?

I don't share your obvious distaste for Christians but I have to say that a person whose life was devoted to help and healing is one of the worst examples you could choose to justify it.

You should be proud that you've found a system of belief you can live by, and I hope you'd use it to be a basically good person. Your post suggests that you have your own ways of coping with these dark times. Wouldn't some find those ideas of yours gutting and crippling? How are they supposed to cope? What about the people who have an abstract, irrational system that helps them to be genuinely charitable and virtuous? I just don't see the good in them losing that faith, spiralling into depression and killing themselves (for instance).

In short, your post appears to presuppose that there are fixed right and wrong answers in that time of self-questioning. I really disagree.

William Bennett said...

Alexander, my post is merely a discussion of the midlife phenomenon of the title - any allusion to my admitted distaste of Christianity is entirely incidental and gratuitous; nor am I commenting on the net effect of Mother Theresa's deeds but of the extraordinarily long duration of this crisis in her life. Furthermore, the presupposition is, contrary to your interpretation, one we agree upon: fixed answers do not exist, and that furthermore neither are they requisite. Gail Sheehy's book 'Passages' is a remarkable exploration of these themes.

Nick Talbot said...

Yes; I prefer the term 'non-religious' to 'atheist'. The term 'God' has neither a private nor shared meaning for me. I have no real idea of what the word refers to. When people argue about it, I'm rarely convinced any of them are on the same page.