Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Divine Darkness: At the intersection of Art, Religion and Psychology

It might seem preposterous writing about such a deep topic (divine darkness) only 24 hours after yesterday’s post where I said “I got nothing.” But sometimes I think we have to admit we have nothing—that we are empty—before we can be filled again.

Last night I went to a friend’s house for “wine and whine.” We spent a sumptuous two and a half hours visiting (over a few glasses of wine and some tasty baked dates, stuffed with feta cheese, wrapped in bacon) and I was so happy to discover that our whining was really minimal. Sure, we shared a few of our current struggles, but somehow we seemed to focus on the good things in our lives for most of the evening. (I attribute this nice direction to my friend, an amazing, nurturing woman.) As I drove home, I thought about how sometimes when we acknowledge our “dark sides” we find balance, healing, wholeness. And we can do this without “whining.”


So, this morning, after my morning prayers in front of my icons, and two cups of coffee, I found myself reflecting on a book I just started reading recently—“Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power & Creativity of Your Dark Side”—by David Richo. A few years ago I read Richo’s wonderfully helpful book, “How To Be An Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration” and recently I discovered this second book. It’s meant to be a workbook, with suggested written exercises throughout, so it may take me a while to get through it. I mention the book here because it’s all about how to “taste” our shadows (the dark, unowned sides of our egos, in Jungian terms) in “bite-size chunks that surprise us by how nourishing they are.” His book is about befriending our shadows. It’s really a dance, and one that I’m learning slowly.

As an Orthodox Christian, I embrace psychology at the intersection of the mind and the soul—where it “fits” with Orthodox spirituality. A few years ago I discovered a book by Saint Gregory of Nyssa called “The Life of Moses.” In it, St. Gregory talks about what he calls “divine darkness.” For most of my Christian life I had heard that the place for spiritual growth and healing was in the light, not in the darkness, so this was new to me. And it’s much too complex to represent well in a paragraph or two… my intent is to introduce the concept here. Nyssa’s theology isn’t just about finding God in the darkness—it’s a procession. As he says in his work, “From Glory to Glory”:

“Moses’ vision of God began with light; afterwards God spoke to him in a cloud. But when Moses rose higher and became more perfect, he saw God in the darkness.”

As I was remembering these ideas this morning, I clicked on Facebook to find this wonderful entry by one of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas (Story People). I have two of Andreas’ prints framed and hanging on the wall just above my computer screen. Today he posted a beautiful, short video, which illustrates one of his pieces:

“opening a door to the mysteries, hoping to shed a little dark on all the stuff we think we know.”


Watch the video here.


And as Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

2 comments:

ficwriter said...

Glad to see you are back. That was the shortest "nothing" spell I've ever witnessed. :)

Dr. Par said...

Mother Theresa also talked about her "period of darkness" in her journal. It is easy to be a believer when everything is rosey, but a bit difficult when the sky is gloomy.