I just watched a movie about Mother Teresa called, "The Letters." The title refers to Mother Teresa's letters she wrote to her confessor over a period of many years. They reveal how alone & abandoned by God she felt for much of her life.
A beautifully made movie that still resounds in my heart. When she was quite young about 12 years old she knew she wanted to "help." She thought she was going to be a Missionary, but ended up becoming a nun and a teacher in India. Her biography is fascinating, and her inner humility and piety shine through in the film version of her life. The movie shows her life as a teacher and then pinpoints when she receives a CLEAR INNER CALLING (she says it was a calling within a calling) when she was on a train. "I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith."
She comes back from her yearly retreat and speaks with her Mother Superior who does not support this new direction. Nevertheless, Sister Teresa has friends in the Catholic system that help her. As we know, her call to right-livelihood is answered and for almost 30 years she creates missions of charity all over the world. But as we know one of the hallmarks of a true devotee will go through the "dark night of the soul." For Mother Teresa, it went on most of her life. She had doubts and felt that God had abandoned her. This is revealed through the letters she writes her confessor.
The Dark Night of the Soul made famous by Spanish poet and mystic St. John of the Cross in 16th-century who was Roman Catholic. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the joyful experience of being guided to God. The only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul. And that is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun: Aquésta me guiaba, más cierto que la luz del mediodía. This light leads the soul engaged in the mystic journey to divine union. Typically the Dark Night comes before the inner enlightenment.
In the Alchemy tradition the Nigredo or Blackness means putrefaction or decomposition. the alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the Philosopher's stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter.
In analytical psychology, the term became a metaphor 'for the dark night of the soul, when an individual confronts the shadow within.
Many people have periods in life when the Dark Night descends unconsciously. Millions of them end up in therapy, new age spirituality, manifold forms of group work, mid-life crisis, accidents, divorce or illness. They also may sink into despair or depression, alcohol, sex or drug abuse. Can you imagine the inner strength Saint Teresa must have endured and striven to not collapse into self pity, depression or doubt and simply give up? In America we complain about a hurt, depression or anxiety and we go to the doctor and take a pill. I don't want to feel anything. ( I am not talking about brain chemistry issues that medication may be necessary for heath)
Years ago, I was doing an arts internship at a Northern Californian college and while working with the students doing a practice of drawing a particular dream that had meaning. When we pinned up almost 40 drawings using charcoal on 18 x20 pieces of paper, many of these students had the courage to reveal many traumatic dramas being lived. I heard so many of these 18-21 year old youth share they were on xanax or other anti-anxiety drugs. I was shocked. We are human beings and supposed to feel. I can't imagine shutting down so young, and now they are prescribing for children!
Each major religion or spiritual tradition tells us that life is suffering. We must feel our feelings- all the messy ones and glorious ones. The Darkness: Doubt, despair, fear, dread, terror, anxiety, meaness, anger, rage, depression, dislike, hatred, death. The Lightness: Laughter, joy, release, creativity, motion, freedom, ease, peace, bliss, sleep, rest, relaxation, meditation, dance, fun, frolic, silliness, play, birth.
I have no doubt that each of us has come to the earth with a destiny or right-livelihood, and in our biography if we pay attention we each receive "our calling." Many times it's a small voice within our heart, or a longing that does not go away, or it can come as a dream, or a heard voice, or what other people tell you about yourself.
In James Hillman's book, "The Soul's Code," he tells stories of five well-known individuals destiny by looking back at their youth. By viewing the child's biography Hillmans shows us definite "pictures of destiny" that lie like gems within.
I concur with this view as I have witnessed it over and over. For instance, when I was very young seven or eight years old, my cousin and I would draw ARCHIE & VERONICA cartoons and mail them to one another. She always drew a yellow submarine with her doing adventures under water. Now- we could translate that the lowest common denominator as the Beatles hit- but she grew up to be a Ph.D. Marine Biologist and Guess What? She has had at her disposal a Yellow Submersible! that she goes down in the depths of the sea on adventures.
So the destiny can be seen in the spiritual "pictures" of the biography. St Teresa at 12 years old "Knew" what she was going to do. That is her karma arising, as the "call within the call."
The Dark Night of the Soul she suffered for most of her life is a valid initiatory path in the Christian tradition. If one is devoted to discovering God within, they commit to following the Christ in His path of Suffering. If the Christ took on the sins of the world, like the sin-eater, than a nun surely will suffer as well to be lead through this trial to the Lord. Saint Teresa, was probably too humble to assume she might be carrying the doubt, fear, dread, and darkness of the thousands of people she was helping. She was not only physically helping their bodily health, she was also helping to alleveate their spiritual suffering. And somehow, thank God, she had the strength to go through to the end of her life. And I am heartened to think her great soul is well on it's way to becoming the shining Diamond of the Philosopher's Stone.