Gerald May 2 dark night
“Maybe, sometimes, in the midst of things going terribly wrong, something is going just right.”
Gerald G. May, The Dark Night of the Soul
Gerald May’s profound discussion of the difference between clinical depression and the dark night of the soul in this book and Care of Mind, Care of Spirit speaks to the need to recommend immediate help in clinical depression but sees the dark night as a normal part of the spiritual journey to be “seen through rather than worked through,” a cloud of the unknowing where there is a subtraction of prior “knowings” rather than an addition. The dark night is usually not associated with loss of effectiveness in life or work. The sense of humor is usually retained. Compassion for others is enhanced after the dark night experience. There is a sense of rightness about it all. There is not a pleading for help. The director of one in the dark night is generally not frustrated, resentful or annoyed. May describes clinical depression as the opposite of these explanations. May’s book on spiritual direction is extensive with so many examples of good spiritual direction as well as reminders of pitfalls and how easily we can get off track.
When I pick up his book, I am reminded to approach this ministry of being a spiritual friend with “fear and trembling.” Over and over May teaches us that we will only be good spiritual directors and friends as long as we stay connected to a spiritual path ourselves and realize that we are simply a vessel, and that we ourselves must stay connected to God as best we can especially during our visit or time together.