The Dark Night of the Soul

Rev. Prof. Harvey Egan S.J.
Professor of Systematic and Mystical Theology
Boston College

This lecture discusses the darker sides of Christian mysticism, as it is found to struggle with the trials of the body and soul that the mystic must pass through to reach the revelation of divine love. The focus is on the figure St. John of the Cross, the most celebrated Christian mystic who created a model of purification which passed through stages of apparent death. This is the dark night of the soul. Christian mystics often portray intense interest with this dark side of the mysterious, conjoined with suffering and penance. The story of Jesus, who lived, died, and was reborn serves as the model for the mystic experience who lives, dies spiritually, and is reborn in a loving unity with God. With humans as the image of the divine, one is forced to ask just how we can allow this image, God himself, to suffer. Liberation theology picks up on this issue, reminding us that God is killed again and again in all the wars and murders humans perpetrate.