I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you which shall be the darkness of God.
— T.S. Elliot
We here in the Northern Hemisphere are in the deepest darkness of the year, with the arrival of yesterday’s New Moon and then the Winter Solstice less than a week away. At this time of year, when everything can be so rushed and busy, darkness and quiet and calm can be especially precious. During the Halcyon Days, we are taking some time to honor the silence and even the Dark, both within and without.
The mystical pull toward darkness is something that former priest Matthew Fox calls the via negativa, or, the negative way. Mirroring this time of the darkened Moon, the last days before Winter Solstice and even our Tarot card of the week this week, Fox explains that illumination of the soul may often come “at the end of the bottoming out in the darkness experience.” Allowing ourselves to experience the dark is, in itself, a vital manifestation of Mystery within us. In such times, we surrender our control to something very big within us that we cannot even name.
Yet he goes on to point out that so much of our culture shuns this experience by fleeing from darkness, dreading winter and honoring summer, rushing away from depression toward lightness and brightness. “Our culture would try to intervene with quick remedies, whether it’s drugs or palliatives of some kind. A lot of our addictions are efforts to intervene with the darkness that’s happening. But the mystical traditions would all say there’s something deep to be learned by making the journey into darkness.
“Many people today,” he points out, “are channeling their restlessness of spirit into consuming the variety of goodies that our consumer culture promises, making uncountable visits to the shopping malls and watching uncountable television programs.”
Instead, as this dark time of year makes itself noticed, even if some of that may be sorrow, I encourage you to sit with it and allow it to be present. Listen to the voice that may even sound like despair. As sociologist and author Philip Slater says in his classic Earthwalk, “Despair is the only cure for illusion. Without despair we cannot transfer our allegiance to reality… it is a kind of mourning period for our fantasies. Some people do not survive despair, but no major change within a person can occur without it.”
Do you have some thoughts on how the Dark is important or challenging for you? I welcome your musings, experiences, and ideas. Please share them with us, as we make this journey into the deepest dark of the year. Together, I know we can make this our most authentic, fulfilling winter holiday ever.