Thirteen years ago a series of unexpected events came out of nowhere and began to change the entire course of my life. Although it started slowly at first, each experience was more than enough to bring my fears to the surface. And yet, life was still manageable, still salvageable. Things hadn't gotten out of control yet. I managed to pull myself together, prayed to God, took a deep breath and brought a renewed sense energy to my career and personal life. That always worked before. I was confident things would fall into place as they had during other times in my life.

It was all short-lived. Without warning, a new wave of more unexpected events found their way into my life during the spring of 1991. Over the next seven years these experiences intensified and picked up pace to such a degree that I found myself reaching out to God in ways I never thought possible. I did this to hold onto my sanity and to prevent myself from slipping into a state of permanent hopelessness and despair. This was uncharted territory for me and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was scared. For the first time, it seemed that no matter what I did or how hard I tried I had lost control of my life.

As I questioned why these things were happening to me, I began to establish a personal relationship with God. In the process, I went through an extremely profound and radical spiritual awakening, for which I was totally unprepared. And yet it has had a miraculous effect on me. For the first time in my life, I began to discover who I really am, and, more importantly, who I really want to be.

It took an awful lot to move me in that direction. Before it all started I was reasonably comfortable with life. Things were going well. I was able to plan and build for the future. A rewarding career, a nice home in the country, the joy my children gave me, a loving mother for those children, my love affair with the sea and a wonderful family circle were softening the effects of a weakening marriage. It could have been a lot worse. Through it all, I considered myself very fortunate. Compromised as it was, I could have spent the rest of my life this way.

Then "it" happened by storming out of nowhere and catching me totally by surprise. When I thought my crisis had reached full strength, I fell to my knees and prayed to God for answers, for guidance, for an end to the suffering and pain. Incredibly, it got worse over the next seven years. Without warning, the world I once knew and enjoyed began to crumble all around me. Hard as I tried, I couldn't prevent it from coming to an end. 

Crises can come in different forms any one of which can bring on pain, suffering and the real threat of mental and physical breakdown. Financial ruin, a bitter divorce, loss of one's home, business failures, loss of one's career, lack of employment, loss of control over one's life, runaway debt, back taxes unpaid, qualifying for bankruptcy, loss of family life, lack of purpose and fulfillment, profound loneliness and despair, years of intense depression, loss of confidence and self-esteem, loss of identity, major decisions going wrong, borrowing from family for my daily needs or any combination of the above. I've been through all of them over the past seven years and each experience was more than enough to get my undivided attention. When added together in such a short period of time, the weight of it all suffocated me, became unbearable and brought me to the point where it was extremely difficult to function normally in everyday reality.

As my crisis began to intensify during the spring 1991, my sister gave me a spiritual-new age book to read hoping it would settle me down and take my mind off things. Even though the words "new age" were completely foreign to me at that time, I decided to give it a try. As I began to read the book, "something" big inside began to stir and awaken I never knew existed before. It was a very profound experience and I was totally unprepared for it. It seemed that another part of me had been sleeping for a long, long time and it wanted nothing more than to open its eyes and be free again.

I continued reading more of these books with a hunger I just couldn't seem to satisfy. Today, I've read well over three hundred of them and still can't get enough of the truth and wisdom that they contain. Each book brought on more inner change and, not surprisingly, I found myself viewing the outside world in a totally new and different way. I was going through an intense spiritual awakening and it was the most exciting experience of my life.

There has been nothing gentle or subtle about my inner change and personal  transformation. It has been a powerful, complete, expansive and breathtaking experience that has touched and embraced my soul in a very deep way. In its wake, the "me" I once knew has been thoroughly rearranged and it will never be the same again. It is irreversible. I've been reborn. And it feels so good. 

Most importantly, it opened my eyes to what I'm really doing here on this beautiful planet that is not my real home. And yet, this sudden inner change, happening as it did over a short period of time and with such great force, was also very alarming and quite confusing at times. Why? Because the false beliefs I'd been conditioned to live by since birth - the ones that keep us anchored and attached to a way of life generation after generation - begin to die rapidly along with the ego. Just as quickly, new truths emerged and quickly filled the void created as the old beliefs passed on. Then the challenge of living these new truths on a day-to-day basis presented itself, because I took it all very seriously.

Adjusting to all the inner changes was complicated by the many devastating events taking place in my outside (external) world. Each had more than enough force to rock my sensibilities to their very foundation. But when the inner and outer experiences combined to overwhelm me at the same time, I just don't know how to adequately describe the overall impact it had on me with words. One thing is certain. The two together created a serious and pervasive dark night of the soul experience for me that has yet to run its entire course as I write these words during the of the fall of 1998. 

I'm quite sure that I came down with all of the symptoms of spiritual crisis, which makes it a very painful, exhausting and agonizing experience, that no amount of human intervention can change. And yet many choose this kind of path as part of their awakening process.   
Throughout most of my crisis, nothing made much sense to me. Too often it seemed so heartless and insane as it turned my world and my family's world upside down and inside out destroying everything we had known in the process. 

No matter how hard I tried to earn a living, and there were many, many paths I explored to take advantage of my professional experience, all of my efforts led to eventual brick walls or totally unexpected dead-ends. Everything that worked in the past to guarantee survival and provide a substantial income to support my family, failed miserably time and time again. Nothing seemed to fall smoothly into place, as it always had in previous years when I put my mind to something. 

Over time I began to lose heart. I became seriously depressed. I isolated myself more and more. My self-confidence suffered terribly. At times my anxieties and frustrations showed themselves in different ways, some of which I am not very proud of.

Regardless of what I tried, personally or professionally, it felt as though something else was in charge and that this force was determined to take me down a new path that needed to be followed for some reason. Eventually, the entire experience shattered the way of life I had known for so many years. I assure you, breaking that mold was a very painful process. 

I cried for my family's hurt, their confusion and the pain I know they went through during their quiet moments. After all, they had always depended upon me and I truly enjoyed providing for them. Although I didn't let on, especially in front of the children, the weight of it all gradually crushed my spirit and shattered my psyche into many pieces. Why all of these unexpected events and everything else that went with it occurred, after asking God for help, are questions I surrender to my Source. Suffice it to say that God's agenda and our expectations can be quite different.

I can also say with complete and utter confidence that this entire experience has left me a completely different person. I'll never be the same again and, quite honestly, I don't want to be. It's not that I was a bad person before this all began. On the contrary I was well liked and respected both professionally and personally, and I cared about people immensely. Yes, I had my warts, we all do. But this whole thing called life is about spiritual growth and remembering who we really are. That has to be our first priority and our real path in life. It wasn't mine years ago.

Like so many of us I was caught up in the material world and all the madness that goes with surviving, getting ahead, having the comforts and securities of life and looking forward to the golden years with a large nest egg to grow old with. But as I kept pressing for answers to who I really was and what my real purpose might be while on this planet, my old way of life began to fade in importance and no longer held much interest for me. I'm not talking about abandoning my fatherhood or my responsibilities, nor would I stop caring about the people I love. Rather, the old ways I'm referring to had more to do with the false beliefs I'd been programmed with during the early years of my life.

These false beliefs created fears that I eventually plugged into later on in life. You know, the struggles, the rat race to survive in a materialistic world, the price to pay for it, the false sense of security and temporary happiness often found in money, my expectations of marriage, anxieties from fear- based religious dogmas, and many other misguided belief systems that no longer had the right feel for me. Now, my heart tells me something else and that bigger something, which has awakened inside me, is confirming it with such passion that I just can't ignore it any more.
In the process of facing my fears and letting go of the false beliefs, I lost the structure and makeup of my identity. It's as though the definition I once had of myself has gradually been erased and, slowly but surely, it is being replaced by something new, something wonderful and at times something beyond description.

Think about it. What gives you your identity? It's probably things like your name, home, address, job, family, car, clothes, bank accounts, social security number, credit cards, passport, relationships, and so on. All of these things and more combine to define the "you" that goes through an ordinary day, day after day, year after year. But that other "you," the real you, the one that wants to be set free, can't do so because your current identity/ego is too focused on fear, survival and the need to have the material comforts and pleasures of life. 

Don't feel badly, from an early age we've all been conditioned to believe that this is what real success and happiness is all about. You know, the American dream. And yet, just take a look at the world around you. Somehow we've gotten seriously out of balance here and it's about to wake us up both individually and as a global family.

As I began to "lose my life," I gradually experienced a profound sense of detachment. Slowly but surely, the material things I had accumulated over the years lost their value and meaning. Somehow I no longer belonged to them. Interestingly, their absence brought on feelings of peace and an awareness of simplicity and freedom I had never known before. My material world is now down to my clothes, several unimportant possessions, an old car and a small cottage I rent in the country (all financed by loving brotherly support) as well as some cardboard boxes that contain the leftovers of my life.

For some reason, I'm being asked to travel lightly and live far more simply these days. After all these years its an interesting place to be. More than anything I've been brought to a state of mind I've never experienced before. I find myself in new, uncharted territory, as though I'm in this material world but no longer attached to it the way I once was. In its place, is a greater sense of closeness to my Source. Yes, I'm not the least bit ashamed to say that, regardless of all that has happened, for the first time in my life I've fallen deeply in love with God.

In spite of my closeness to God, it has yet to bring an end to the dark night experience I've been going through for so long, and, for the time being, it has become a way of life for me. 

Waking up to massive debt, back taxes, lack of  income for myself, my children and my former wife, suggesting bankruptcy to my creditors, but lacking the funds and stomach to go through the legal aggravation, no health insurance, no life insurance, no employment, unable to revive my career, unable to help pay for my children's education, having to borrow for all of my needs, unable to concentrate or focus on much of anything, struggling to get out from under the covers on most mornings where I lay in darkness for hours at a time, suffocating emptiness, dread and despair, straining to write these words, and the most agonizing of all, is the pervasive feeling of still being abandoned by God. There just seems to be no purpose anywhere or in anything.

It's as though I've been painted into a corner and have been reduced to nothingness so that I can stand naked in front of God. The more I read and research the more I understand that this is part of the crucial ego death experience, which we will all have to go through someday in order to re-center ourselves with the consciousness of God.

Yes, a severe spiritual crisis can leave one troubled, overwhelmed, utterly lonely, frightened, debilitated, extremely emotional, deeply depressed, and separated from the world within and the world around you. But the most devastating of all, is the loss of control of over one's life. It feels as if no matter what you do it leads to failure, dead-ends and brick walls. In a final act of  desperation, we pray to God for help with an intensity we never thought possible. When that fails, when nothing works in life, when the dark night continues hour after hour, day after day, the devastation is complete. The emptiness and loneliness is without measure or description. Yes, that is what a serious dark night of the soul is about; a massive test of faith that will strain every aspect of your being.

I have read a fair amount of books on spiritual crisis and related topics trying to understand the seeming insanity and what it is trying to accomplish. Some dark nights can be subtle or minor, others can be all consuming and then there is everything in-between. What is very encouraging, what really keeps me hanging on, is the fact that this spiritual crisis will end at some point. Mercifully, the conclusion brings with it a newfound, lasting inner change.

There are a number of case histories cited in "The Stormy Search for Self" by Christina and Stanislov Grof and "Anatomy of the Spirit" by Caroline Myss of people who have experienced the "dark night."

Caroline Myss says the following...

"Always, a shift in awareness includes a period of isolation and loneliness as one gets accustomed to the new level of truth. And then always, new companions are found. No one is left alone for long."

"... and above all, hold onto the truth that all dark nights end with a light illuminating a new path."

Christina and Stanislov Grof had this to say...

"The vividness of your experience will fade, but its memory and impact will never leave you."

"In the Okinawan culture such a state (spiritual crisis/divine madness) is called kamidari. It is a period when a person's spirit suffers, a time of trial during which he or she cannot operate rationally. The community supports such an individual, recognizing the distraught condition as a sign that he or she is close to God. Afterward, such a person is regarded as one who has a divine mission, perhaps that of a healer or teacher."

The key to spiritual crisis, especially the all-consuming kind, is that these tests of faith are meant to bring one to a state of surrender... to God. I am convinced that this is the end-point, with detachment and a deep desire to serve humanity, being the major side effects.

There is nothing easy about the profound inner change brought on by the dark night. Incredibly, there is a simple way out but it is not as easy as it sounds... releasing it all to God, not with resignation but with joy and gratitude. Saying it requires little effort. Living it hour after hour, day after day is where the real challenge lies. Blind trust, faith and acceptance is not easy to achieve but it is the end-point of spiritual crisis.

As you go through your test, there will also be a period of waiting. This is another difficult lesson, a very big challenge indeed... waiting for the test to end, waiting for God's help and then waiting for your life to become meaningful and purposeful once again."   

Here is Caroline Myss once more...

"I have yet to find a person pursuing a path of conscious awakening who has not experienced a time of 'waiting,' during which his or her interior is reconstructed."

"So many people struggling to find their way are in that necessary but confusing state of waiting. A part of each of them is eager to allow the Divine will to direct their lives, yet they remain tormented by the fear that they will lose all comfort on the physical plane should they actually surrender to it. So they are held in a waiting position until they are strong enough to release that fear and embrace the deeper truth that 'all will be well' -- not 'well' by our definition, perhaps, but by God's."

"One may experience the painful ending of many phases of life, such as a marriage or occupation. But I have yet to meet the person who felt that the real end result of uniting with Divine authority was not worth the price."                   

Here's another very useful insight by Ron Roth who also endured a dark night before finding his real path in life...

"The significance of abandonment, I now realize, is that it represents a question from God: 'Are you capable of believing in Me even in the darkest night?'

"Your own spirit breaks during the abandonment, and you realize that the only way through that hell is to turn back to God and accept the terms of the Divine, regardless of what heaven asks of you from that point forward. The memory of the 'dark night' remains in your consciousness as a reference point, keeping you aligned to God, humble and forever aware that your resurrection can come at any time, no matter how dark the night."

Yes, the dark night is an incredible experience. It brings one to a state of seeming insanity and a frightening awareness that life is out of control and will never make sense again. It reaches a point where it's just you and God. Then there are two choices: succumb to "holy madness" or fall to your knees and ask God to help you.

I look back on the past seven years now and shake my head in sheer amazement. I am also in a deep state of awe and humility. When I asked God for help so long ago, little did I know what was to come. And yet, for all that I have learned and for all the inner change I've gone through, I am eternally thankful to my Source for answering my prayer, even though, in my wildest dreams, I did not expect what happened. God has different priorities for us, especially if we are caught up in the material world. Ask for help, if you wish, and then "let go" of the expectations.

The purpose for writing about my spiritual crisis has nothing to do with sympathy. That is the farthest thing on my mind. My real desire is to share this experience with others who may be going through the same demanding challenges of the dark night with loving hope that my story will help you in some way.

Here is one last inspirational quote I would like to leave you with.

"You cannot hope to grow spiritually unless you are prepared to change. Those changes may come in small ways to begin with, but as you move further and further into the new, they will become more drastic and vital. Sometimes it needs a complete upheaval to bring about a new way of life."

Given to Eileen Caddy... by God
Flight Into Freedom (1998)

Written, Fall of 1998.

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