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The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth
Author: Gerald G. May
Publisher: Published February 1st 2005 by HarperOne (first published February 3rd 2004)
ISBN: 9780060750558
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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A distinguished psychiatrist, spiritual counsellor and bestselling author shows how the dark sides of the spiritual life are a vital ingredient in deep, authentic, healthy spirituality. Gerald G. May, MD, one of the great spiritual teachers and writers of our time, argues that the dark 'shadow' side of the true spiritual life has been trivialised and neglected to our seri A distinguished psychiatrist, spiritual counsellor and bestselling author shows how the dark sides of the spiritual life are a vital ingredient in deep, authentic, healthy spirituality. Gerald G. May, MD, one of the great spiritual teachers and writers of our time, argues that the dark 'shadow' side of the true spiritual life has been trivialised and neglected to our serious detriment. Superficial and naively upbeat spirituality does not heal and enrich the soul. Nor does the other tendency to relegate deep spiritual growth to only mystics and saints. Only the honest, sometimes difficult encounters with what Christian spirituality has called and described in helpful detail as 'the dark night of the soul' can lead to true spiritual wholeness. May emphasises that the dark night is not necessarily a time of suffering and near despair, but a time of deep transition, a search for new orientation when things are clouded and full of mystery. The dark gives depth, dimension and fullness to the spiritual life.

30 review for The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth

  1. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    This entire book made me think of St. Paul’s, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has waiting for those who love Him.” How could a book about darkness contain so much light? Perhaps it is partially exemplified by the book’s cover of black trees against a midnight blue sky. Strange though it seems, in total darkness, how is that we still ‘see’? Dr. May combines his 25 years of psychiatric medical practice with a deep appreciation for the poetry and personalities of John of the Cross and This entire book made me think of St. Paul’s, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has waiting for those who love Him.” How could a book about darkness contain so much light? Perhaps it is partially exemplified by the book’s cover of black trees against a midnight blue sky. Strange though it seems, in total darkness, how is that we still ‘see’? Dr. May combines his 25 years of psychiatric medical practice with a deep appreciation for the poetry and personalities of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, the great Spanish Reformation mystical writers on prayer and communal life. The book is organized like a dream. It begins with brief biographies of John and Teresa, continues with a quick layman’s explanation of their theology, then tells how we are liberated from our attachments. Dr. May provides a simple, straightforward differentiation between meditation and contemplation, three signs to look for if you believe you are going through the Dark Night and describes three spirits to be aware of in yourself. He concludes with bringing the thoughts of John and Teresa into our age and offers spiritual companions some cautions. I will be keeping this book on my Carmelite shelf and recommending it to my OCDS (officially Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum Saecularis) Community when we study John’s Dark Night. Incredibly uplifting book. Highly recommended! Recommended by my friend, Carmen, I am reading it now in preparation for our study of John of the Cross. Interestingly, today, February 27th, came across a reference to Brother Lawrence and his treatise, The Practice of the Presence of God where he says, "People would be surprised if they knew what their souls said to God sometimes." Showed the consistency among Brother Lawrence, Teresa and John. Chapter 3, the one I am reading now, is called, A Deeper Longing, The Liberation of Desire. It is about our attachments to all the things which do not satisfy, only substitute for God. Going back and forth between this and Practice which I listened to this afternoon.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Deanna

    The writings of St. John and St. Theresa can be hard to digest for two reasons. Their writings are hundreds of years old and in Spanish. They were poets and saints, so their wording is not easily translated into English while maintaining it's original nuances and mystical meaning. What Dr. May does is break down the basic map of their spiritual journeys without getting hung up on debatable meanings. He explores St. Theresa's Interior Castle and compares it to St. John's Dark Night of the Soul. H The writings of St. John and St. Theresa can be hard to digest for two reasons. Their writings are hundreds of years old and in Spanish. They were poets and saints, so their wording is not easily translated into English while maintaining it's original nuances and mystical meaning. What Dr. May does is break down the basic map of their spiritual journeys without getting hung up on debatable meanings. He explores St. Theresa's Interior Castle and compares it to St. John's Dark Night of the Soul. He chronicles the history of their lives and examines their relationship with one another. Part history, part theology, and part psychology, Dr. May's Dark Night is a must read for any counselor whose patients may be bring up the concept of spirituality. As third worlds enter a new age which Sartre warns of the possibility of an existential crises, counselors must be aware of how dark night symptoms may present, and be prepared to discuss the prognosis with their patient or client.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Andrew

    I'm a dark night of the soul junkie, if there is such a thing--I have more books on the dark night than King Arthur stories, if you can believe that! But this treasure by Gerald May, subtitled A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection between Darkness and Spiritual Growth, is far and away the best I've ever read. I've spent the morning rereading and copying out passages, and my heart is fluttering with excitement. I so admire how May has studied both the lives and writings of Teresa of Avila and St I'm a dark night of the soul junkie, if there is such a thing--I have more books on the dark night than King Arthur stories, if you can believe that! But this treasure by Gerald May, subtitled A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection between Darkness and Spiritual Growth, is far and away the best I've ever read. I've spent the morning rereading and copying out passages, and my heart is fluttering with excitement. I so admire how May has studied both the lives and writings of Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross; he's a scholar but also a spiritual seeker who's privy to the inner lives of his clients, so he's able to summarize Teresa's and John's teachings and apply them to contemporary life. The big gift I take from this book is his reframing of the dark night as THE spiritual path. It's not a period of despair after hardship; it's the slow, obscure, inner release that reveals what's always existed: our union with divinity. I'm tremendously grateful to Gerald May for the generosity, humanity, and clarity with which he conveys these important insights. "Teresa and John both say that we easily become so attached to feelings of and about God that we equate them with God. We forget that these sensations are only speaking to us of the divine One. They are only messengers. Instead, we take them for the whole of God’s self, and thus we wind up worshiping our own feelings. This is perhaps the most common idolatry of the spiritual life." --Gerald May, The Dark Night of the Soul 93

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Hartono

    As a spiritual director, I found ‘The Dark Night of the Soul,’ by Psychiatrist Gerald G. May, M.D. incredibly helpful for the work of discernment between spiritual, philosophical, and scientific psychology. I wish I could give it more than five stars! The author beautifully weaves St. John of The Cross’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ to St. Teresa of Avila’s ‘Interior Castle,’ and shows the reader how these two saints “demonstrate an understanding of human psychology that seems uncanny for their era. As a spiritual director, I found ‘The Dark Night of the Soul,’ by Psychiatrist Gerald G. May, M.D. incredibly helpful for the work of discernment between spiritual, philosophical, and scientific psychology. I wish I could give it more than five stars! The author beautifully weaves St. John of The Cross’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ to St. Teresa of Avila’s ‘Interior Castle,’ and shows the reader how these two saints “demonstrate an understanding of human psychology that seems uncanny for their era. They knew the working of the human unconscious four centuries before Sigmund Freud. With amazing accuracy they described psychological phenomena that would later be called defense mechanism, behavioral conditioning, addictive and affective disorders, and psychosis.” The book begins demonstrating how the love and friendship between Teresa and John led to their understanding the person, soul, and our divine nature. “More than a century before Isaac Newton explained gravity, John said that the soul is attracted to the deepest center of God like the stone is attracted to the deepest center of the earth—and that this attraction is mutual.” The author then writes about attachment, addiction, and idolatry that are “always robbing us of our freedom. We act not because we have chosen to, but because we have to. We cling to things, people, beliefs, and behaviors not because we love them, but because we are terrified of losing them.” Where the body needs light to find its way, the soul needs darkness to find her lover. The intimacy described in this theology can only be likened to the intimacy of marriage. It is in the darkness that the soul finds freedom from past attachments. In the darkness the soul is free to realize her deepest desires for love. The book continues to describe the active attention and vigilance within passive contemplation. Darkness empties the intellect, hope frees the memory, and love liberates the will. But then we experience idolatry of the spiritual life. We start worshipping our own feelings and are not free for non-mediated or immediate love. The soul then continues searching for union with God within the Interior Castle. Just as she feels she has reached the center of her being, she realizes that she has barely scratched the surface. As she sees the dawn of a new day, she finds herself longing for the darkness of the night. And so her desire for her Lover only grows.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Glen Grunau

    Two books considered to be among the top Christian books of all time, include Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross and Interior Castles by St. Teresa of Avila, both Christian mystics from the 16th century. I have read the latter and have long had the former on my “to read” list. This book by Gerald May makes more accessible for contemporary readers the timeless truths discovered by these ancient lovers of God. This book has been on my shelf for a couple of years. I was waiting to read Two books considered to be among the top Christian books of all time, include Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross and Interior Castles by St. Teresa of Avila, both Christian mystics from the 16th century. I have read the latter and have long had the former on my “to read” list. This book by Gerald May makes more accessible for contemporary readers the timeless truths discovered by these ancient lovers of God. This book has been on my shelf for a couple of years. I was waiting to read it during one of my often dark and melancholic January-February seasons when the meaning of my life often seems so illusive. But I picked it up this September instead. I was both fascinated and delighted with how clearly it spoke to what I now see as my own dark night of the soul. Over the past 10 years of my life, I have become increasingly disillusioned with so much of what evangelical Christianity is offering to me – with all of its dogma, certainty, intellectual knowledge (a.k.a. known as “systematic” theology), productivity, and achievement. I know that some of this has served me well during the first half of my life when I needed a solid foundation in God and in Christian truth. Yet more recently, I have become aware of a slow dawning of a deeper longing and desire to know God in my heart and my soul. I have come to see how much of my life with God did not go deeper than my intellect. It is this desire that has ultimately led me to the contemplative tradition that is so well represented in this book by these two mystics. May explains well how the dark night of the soul allows for a necessary “purgation” from various sensory attachments, rigid beliefs and ways of thinking, and a compulsive and controlling approach to life in general. There is invariably (but not necessarily) suffering involved in this purgation, as there was for me with my degenerative back condition with its multiple surgeries and my loss of identity that accompanied the loss of virtually all of my roles and titles both at work and in my ministries in my church. I found the resulting emptiness to be at times excruciatingly painful. This was the most evident beginning of my dark night of the soul (although I can trace elements of it through to my childhood). It is a process that is continuing to this day. May emphasizes: “Contrary to popular assumptions, the dark night is not a single event in one’s life that one undergoes and then somehow moves beyond (but) the ongoing spiritual process of our lives. We have periodic conscious experiences of it, but it continues at all times, hidden within us” (p. 186). It is this obscure nature of the dark night that makes it so difficult at times for progress and achievement oriented people like me. I seem to have an insatiable need for reassurance that I am getting somewhere, as if the spiritual journey had a destination or an arrival point. But God’s design to make this process “dark” is a necessary component to severing us from this attachment to success and progress. Otherwise, it will not be possible to replace a willful, striving approach to life with a more willing and at times “blind faith” that His work of transformation is ongoing, deep within me, although I may not often recognize it. May finishes his book with a chapter on “Daybreak”. Again, this is not so much of an “arrival” as the periodic glimpses we are given into the depths of our desire and perhaps a brief, momentary contemplative awareness of our union with the divine. May concludes by suggesting that “with repeated experiences of touching that desire, we do learn to recognize it, claim it, and know it as who we really are”.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I read this thinking it was going to give me some insight about how depression can link us closer to our soul but found there was MUCH MORE to this book. My brief synopsis is that Gerald May (basing on John of the Cross and Teresa of Aliva 16th century writing) provides insights into how we can find God in our selves. This is incredibly thought provoking and I know I will buy this book and add it to my library and read it many more times.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gary Patton

    I highly recommend Dr. May's book to those who wish to understand what God may be doing in their lives that doesn't seem to make sense and may even be painful to endure. I tried to read the original "Dark Night of the Soul" by the 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic, Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) at least three times. I always get bogged down in the Mediaeval Catholic theology which, for me, doesn't reflect the Jesus of the New Covenant. Dr. May helped me understand, what I n I highly recommend Dr. May's book to those who wish to understand what God may be doing in their lives that doesn't seem to make sense and may even be painful to endure. I tried to read the original "Dark Night of the Soul" by the 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic, Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) at least three times. I always get bogged down in the Mediaeval Catholic theology which, for me, doesn't reflect the Jesus of the New Covenant. Dr. May helped me understand, what I now call "Isolation", is usually about. Isolation is not just because the heavens seem, as they did to John, sometimes to be dark, foreboding, and blocked by an impenetrable wall. After 40 years of watching God isolate me and Jesus Followers whom I know well, I've decided so-called “Dark Nights of the Soul” are a standard "modus operandi" of our loving heavenly Father, “God, The One & Only”, in the lives of Jesus' true followers. For me: “‘Isolation’ are periods of varying lengths in the spiritual growth of Jesus Followers that some describe as dark and when “the heavens seem like brass”. To me, they are times of enforced setting-aside. The result is miraculous but confusing-for-the-moment guidance during which Holy Spirit keeps His Hebrews 13:5 (b) promise: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Plus His 1 Corinthians 10:13 promise that He'll never let anything touch us that doesn't first pass through His fingers so we can know that we can handle it in His power.” ~ © gfp '42 John may not have felt the latter promises were operative for him ...for whatever reason! I recommend Dr. May’s book highly to Protestants. I’m only sad that he died just before I was led to his book by Holy Spirit in his timing, I sense. I would have loved to connect and chat with Dr. May about some of his insights. Maybe we'll do that in the hereafter. After 40 years of watching God isolate me and Jesus Followers whom I know well, I've decided so-called “Dark Nights of the Soul” are a standard "modus operandi" of our loving heavenly Father, “God, The One & Only”, in the lives of Jesus' true followers. For me: “‘Isolation’ are periods of varying lengths in the spiritual growth of Jesus Followers that some describe as dark and when “the heavens seem like brass”. To me, they are times of enforced setting-aside. The result is miraculous but confusing-for-the-moment guidance during which Holy Spirit keeps His Hebrews 13:5 (b) promise: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Plus His 1 Corinthians 10:13 promise that He'll never let anything touch us that doesn't first pass through His fingers so we can know that we can handle it in His power.” ~ © gfp '42 John may not have felt the latter promises were operative for him ...for whatever reason! I also strongly recommend this book for Catholics who don't want to be depressed by reading John of the Cross' book and wish to understand what he was actually saying. John's mentor and mystical teacher, Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), a nun, was much more in tune with God, in my opinion, and a blessing to read. Enjoy and blessings... GaryFPatton (2013-06-21 gfp '42™)

  8. 4 out of 5

    adllto

    I picked this book up over 3 years ago and started it then. At the time it was interesting but I wasn't ready for it. A week ago I picked it up again. Some books we are really receptive to them only in certain stages or circumstances of our lives. I found it challenging and it gave a counter reading of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila suggesting that we should not see their writings about the spiritual journey in linear sequential terms. What was most convicting was the closing section which I picked this book up over 3 years ago and started it then. At the time it was interesting but I wasn't ready for it. A week ago I picked it up again. Some books we are really receptive to them only in certain stages or circumstances of our lives. I found it challenging and it gave a counter reading of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila suggesting that we should not see their writings about the spiritual journey in linear sequential terms. What was most convicting was the closing section which was so personal as he was writing out of personal experience. So in the end I am left only with hope. I hope the nights really are transformative. I hope every dawn brings deeper love, for each of us individually and for the world as a whole. I hope that John of the Cross was right when he said the intellect is transformed into faith and the will into love, and the the memory into...hope.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David

    I have enjoyed reading the works of Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross in the past few years, so when I saw this book I was excited to read it. May is a psychologist and analyzes the work of John and Theresa from a contemporary psychological perspective. He shows that these spiritual writers from long ago are not just engaging in esoteric mumbo-jumbo but are actually deeply in touch with the human condition. I highly recommend this book. If you have wanted to read some of those medieval myst I have enjoyed reading the works of Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross in the past few years, so when I saw this book I was excited to read it. May is a psychologist and analyzes the work of John and Theresa from a contemporary psychological perspective. He shows that these spiritual writers from long ago are not just engaging in esoteric mumbo-jumbo but are actually deeply in touch with the human condition. I highly recommend this book. If you have wanted to read some of those medieval mystics but find them a bit challenging, this book could be a good introduction. On the other hand, if like me you have read them and found yourself struggling to grasp the depth of what they were saying, this book helps bring some clarity to their work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    Reflecting on the writings of Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, Dr. May offers a detailed look at the purpose and meaning of the dark night of the soul. It is a sensitive and positive look at this oft-misunderstood moment of spiritual growth, with insights from the fields of modern psychiatry and psychology. I appreciated that he approached the topic with a large dose of necessary humility, more as a guide than an instructor.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Gerald May offers an easy-to-follow overview of the lives and major spiritual contributions of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Perfect primer for anyone interested in who these two were and how their insights are relevant for today. May also offers his own insights as a psychologist, psychiatrist, spiritual director, and fellow struggler on the path. One idea in particular that has helped me is May's insistence that the 'dark night of the soul' is not a one-time experience, but rather a w Gerald May offers an easy-to-follow overview of the lives and major spiritual contributions of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Perfect primer for anyone interested in who these two were and how their insights are relevant for today. May also offers his own insights as a psychologist, psychiatrist, spiritual director, and fellow struggler on the path. One idea in particular that has helped me is May's insistence that the 'dark night of the soul' is not a one-time experience, but rather a way of experiencing God throughout one's journey. This really resonates with me. Instead of fighting the darkness and confusion of life and God, I need to embrace it and let it carry me, wound me, and lead me out of my small self into the life and personhood that I was created to inhabit. Wonderful, wonderful book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sophfronia Scott

    Reading "The Dark Night of the Soul" has been a profound, thought-provoking experience. Author May shows us the opportunity to seek spiritual growth not only during times of deep suffering, but also during times of vague or obscure discomfort--important but quiet moments that are easily overlooked in our hectic, cluttered lives. He does this using his own enlightening interpretations of the work of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross that make these saints more accessible and relevant to our m Reading "The Dark Night of the Soul" has been a profound, thought-provoking experience. Author May shows us the opportunity to seek spiritual growth not only during times of deep suffering, but also during times of vague or obscure discomfort--important but quiet moments that are easily overlooked in our hectic, cluttered lives. He does this using his own enlightening interpretations of the work of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross that make these saints more accessible and relevant to our modern world. I would recommend this book to any seeker looking for a fresh take on the changing faces of prayer and spirituality in his or her life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Drick

    This book is a good companion and explanation to the classic spiritual work by St. John of the Cross by the same name. Gerald speaks as a cancer survivor, a psychiatrist and a spiritual guide (in that order) to elucidate the meaning of John's sometimes difficult concepts. He also brings in the insights of John's spiritual companion Theresa of Avila. An excellent resource for anyone seeking to understand this fundamental and important spiritual concept. There are many insights I take from this bo This book is a good companion and explanation to the classic spiritual work by St. John of the Cross by the same name. Gerald speaks as a cancer survivor, a psychiatrist and a spiritual guide (in that order) to elucidate the meaning of John's sometimes difficult concepts. He also brings in the insights of John's spiritual companion Theresa of Avila. An excellent resource for anyone seeking to understand this fundamental and important spiritual concept. There are many insights I take from this book, the most important is that the dark night is not a one time experience, but an ongoing experience in the life of the Spirit.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Wilcox

    This was not the book I was expecting, but I think it was actually better. I am not usually big on Carmelites or contemplative prayer. They confuse me. This book made sense. It helped apply concrete terms and organization to something I thought was much more ambiguous, difficult to grasp, and vaguely New Age-sounding but not actually New Age. I hope to be able to revisit this book in the future and take a deeper dive. Then maybe I can move on to Teresa and John's original writing, and in Spanish This was not the book I was expecting, but I think it was actually better. I am not usually big on Carmelites or contemplative prayer. They confuse me. This book made sense. It helped apply concrete terms and organization to something I thought was much more ambiguous, difficult to grasp, and vaguely New Age-sounding but not actually New Age. I hope to be able to revisit this book in the future and take a deeper dive. Then maybe I can move on to Teresa and John's original writing, and in Spanish! Read my full review at ATX Catholic.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Gerald May is one of my favorite contemporary authors on spirituality, and this book is no exception. He tackles the hard spiritual topic of the dark night of the soul from his perspective, and gives excellent explanations for current day. For anyone seeking to understand this concept, who thinks they might be experiencing a spiritual dark night, read this book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Apryl Anderson

    I'm going to keep this little book handy for when I'm feeling steamrolled by powerful people. For such a long time, I believed that I was wrong to see a different reality. Dr. May seems to think that I'm a lot more credible than the mainstream accepts. (So, call me an artist, and everybody's happy.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Very clear--deceptively simple--but far from simplistic this really suggests that the dark night is 1) a gift and 2) the fundamental stage of the spiritual way,

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    I'm newly open to re-exploring lots of spiritual questions and this book, bare minimum, would be of service to anyone looking to do the same general thing. It didn't send me to the heights of religious ecstasy or anything, but May does a good job simplifying the work of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross plus explaining its lasting vitality for we of the 20th-21st centuries. I've always been intrigued by Catholic/Christian mysticism and this whet my appetite to study the subject even more. Wh I'm newly open to re-exploring lots of spiritual questions and this book, bare minimum, would be of service to anyone looking to do the same general thing. It didn't send me to the heights of religious ecstasy or anything, but May does a good job simplifying the work of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross plus explaining its lasting vitality for we of the 20th-21st centuries. I've always been intrigued by Catholic/Christian mysticism and this whet my appetite to study the subject even more. Whether or not you're a person of faith or spirituality, this book still has a lot of interesting stuff to convey from a purely psychological standpoint. Whether these dark nights of the soul are merely the work of our unconscious, some divine force or both working in tandem is, in my opinion at least, an impossible question to definitively answer. But for myself and most people I've discussed this sort of thing with, it's an indisputable fact times of confusion, suffering and/or disillusionment somehow yield a deeper, more joyful understanding of the universe and our place in it. The dawn is brighter after these "dark night" experiences. At least for me, that's how it's been when I've had faith in the God of these saints, when I haven't and when I've been somewhere in between too.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    I have grown to appreciate the work of many of the great mystics and spiritual writers of the Church, with John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila being two of my favorites. This book is an analysis and commentary on their works from the perspective of a psychologist. The best thing about this book is to see how these spiritual writings from centuries ago resonate with contemporary psychology. In other words, Theresa and John did not just explore the depths of the human condition, but hit on much I have grown to appreciate the work of many of the great mystics and spiritual writers of the Church, with John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila being two of my favorites. This book is an analysis and commentary on their works from the perspective of a psychologist. The best thing about this book is to see how these spiritual writings from centuries ago resonate with contemporary psychology. In other words, Theresa and John did not just explore the depths of the human condition, but hit on much that is still proven helpful today. If you never read John or Theresa and want to, this book could be a good introduction. If, like me, you have read them and often felt out of your depth, this book is helpful. There is so much here that I was challenged and moved by and I think the Church as a whole and individual Christians can only benefit by reclaiming the writings of thoughtful people like John and Theresa.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I found this an interesting read discussing the spiritual importance of what is often described as darkness. May's mixes theology and psychology in a resonate and captivating voice. I personally deeply appreciated his work around faith, hope and love.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Dark Night of the Soul is a complex mystical journey. Dr Gerald May had done an excellent job in putting this dark journey into understandable easy to read writing. It helped me a go through this dark uneasy journey by satisfying my conscious mind.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Yarbrough

    Not an easy read and at times confusing but May tackles an interesting thought process coming from Teresa and John of the Cross. Coming into the Dark Night of the Soul is not some depress bent experience but one of extreme intimacy and connection with God and the Spirit. You may come to it after depression, addiction/recovery, poor health or searching - and this mountain experience doesn't come often. It becomes a place of refreshment from God. A group of us tackled the book and not sure we comp Not an easy read and at times confusing but May tackles an interesting thought process coming from Teresa and John of the Cross. Coming into the Dark Night of the Soul is not some depress bent experience but one of extreme intimacy and connection with God and the Spirit. You may come to it after depression, addiction/recovery, poor health or searching - and this mountain experience doesn't come often. It becomes a place of refreshment from God. A group of us tackled the book and not sure we completely grasped it all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen Ross

    I'm disappointed in this book. It promised to be interesting. It argues that the Dark Night of the soul will stay with us as part of our spiritual development. The wounding and the confusion are part of God's plan, which should be embraced rather than fought. Other than the lives of saints I would have liked to read what is transformative about depression and spiritual growth drawing on psychiatric experience. Tedious and repetitive in places.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary Shore

    The title is great, but the book did not seem to me to be about what it promised. It is a psychiatrist reading St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila--but not for how their writings connect with psychiatric diagnoses or experiences. I didn't see his background as a psychiatrist made a difference in his exegesis of these writers.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Atkins

    This was a deep dive into Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Gerald May discussed the writings of both then looked at how their spiritual insights are still true today-400 years later. I learned quite a bit from this book and recommend it highly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Swaboda

    Just beautiful. <3 If you are looking for a beautiful book about spiritual growth. you've found it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    José Glezeche

    Easy to read, but difficult to apply in the spiritual life. That is precisely the main point of the dark night of the soul !

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mellissa

    Beautiful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Garland Vance

    Over the last two months, I have read several works that have referenced the Dark Night of the Soul and given insights into it. May's book is the first that I have read which concentrates on the topic for the whole book. May has done extensive research into John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, the two earliest writers who reference and write extensively about the dark night of the soul. Simply put, the dark night is a time in which one feels as if God has left (or even abandoned) a person. In Over the last two months, I have read several works that have referenced the Dark Night of the Soul and given insights into it. May's book is the first that I have read which concentrates on the topic for the whole book. May has done extensive research into John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, the two earliest writers who reference and write extensively about the dark night of the soul. Simply put, the dark night is a time in which one feels as if God has left (or even abandoned) a person. In reality, though, it is a time in which God is removing idolatrous attachments from a person's life in order to bring them to a greater love of God and the world and greater freedom to be more fully human. May takes a different approach to the dark night than others that I have read. Most others describe the dark night as an experience or period of time that occurs in a person's life. May says that the dark night is actually the ongoing process of spiritual growth--one that it always present; there are times, however, that a person is more aware of the dark night. From what I can tell (and I am no expert), whichever view you choose to espouse will make little difference in the insights gained. May's book has several strengths: 1. The hope filled approach to the dark night. Often the dark night is considered a horrible experience and people want to avoid it. May, however, shows the hope and grace that God uses in the dark night. He states that people normally need light so that they do not stumble. But in spiritual matters, it is when we think we know where we are going that we are most likely to stumble. God, therefore, darkens our awareness in order to protect us. Over and over May demonstrates that the dark night is not a time to be dreaded but one that is filled with grace as we are (a) liberated from our idolatrous attachments and (b) made more free to enjoy and celebrate God and the life that he intended us to have. 2. May gives excellent thought to the dark night and current psychological issues like depression and addiction. His examination of the dark night from a psychologist's perspective is unique and very insightful. 3. May espouses a humble approach to spiritual growth and the dark night. Guided by John of the Cross, he reminds the reader that God's work in an individual's life will be mysterious and cannot be predicted or ultimately guided by a spiritual director, mentor or discipler. This does not mean that those people cannot provide rich insights, but they must keep from meddling too much. Toward the end of the book, May states that he would love to give greater insights to the practical ways to experience a dark night but humbly states that this would be negating the mysterious nature of the dark night. May's only weakness, in my opinion is his thought that faith, hope and love, will not ultimately be attached to something when the work of the dark night is complete. It seems that faith, hope and love must be attached to the Triune God. While one might be more humble in their claims of knowing everything about God or even be less assertive in the expression of what God is like, this does not mean that our faith, hope and love will be unattached. Faith, hope and love must be attached to something or someone, and the dark night should produce faith, hope and love that attached to Christ, the wellspring of our faith, hope and love for all of creation. I would certainly recommend this book to two groups of people: 1. I would recommend it to those interested in experiences of spiritual growth that are rarely talked about in ministry today. Pastors and spiritual directors would benefit greatly from not only understanding the dark night but also talking about it regularly with their parishioners. 2. I would also recommend it to those who think they might be going through a dark night. It would be highly beneficial to read alongside your loved ones as May gives insights for recognizing a dark night but states that it is often for others to diagnose when a person is experiencing this. It could provide rich fodder for discussion by those who have a loved one or friend experiencing this dark but grace-filled time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    This is one of the best books I have ever read on a spiritual topic. Dr. May introduces us to two 16th century Spaniards who tend to scare me because I think how serious they must be, how humorless, how detached, how profound, how totally beyond me, how weird. These are Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Both were Carmelites - that is, members of one of the most cloistered and strict monastic orders. Both were mystics. John devised the scary term "dark night of the soul". Well, Dr. May reveal This is one of the best books I have ever read on a spiritual topic. Dr. May introduces us to two 16th century Spaniards who tend to scare me because I think how serious they must be, how humorless, how detached, how profound, how totally beyond me, how weird. These are Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Both were Carmelites - that is, members of one of the most cloistered and strict monastic orders. Both were mystics. John devised the scary term "dark night of the soul". Well, Dr. May reveals these two as persons whom I would recognize and understand. Not only were they cloistered, but both had to deal with extensive organizational and management duties and problems. Both were in touch with the world outside the walls of their monasteries, if only through letters. Both wrote clearly about their spiritual journeys. I am reminded of Thomas Merton, a Trappist, who seems to have known everyone, to have read everything, to have worked with his hands, and to have written numbers of books and essays and poems. Also, I would add that John was tested through imprisonment. Dr. May took the term "dark night of the soul" and dispelled its gloom and, well, darkness. I will repeat his message very simply. And, of course, it is the message that I heard as an individual. Dr. May informs me that what John meant by "the dark night" is that reality is obscure to us, or in shadows. What we must do is to pay attention so that we dispel the obscurity, at least at times, and achieve a glimpse of what is always present behind the shadow that my human nature casts. This "always-present" is God who is, even at the start of my life, to be identified with me and also beyond me. The purpose of Teresa and John is simple: to sensitize us so that we can recognize the moments when God shines through. Now, that was not so scary. Rather, it was positive and hopeful. I fear that, all my life till now, I thought that Teresa was weird because of that sexualized sculptured tableau by Bernini - the one in which a cupid-like angel is casting arrows into the ecstatic nun. I wanted nothing to do with that diva. But I like very much Dr. May's Teresa and his John. They're nice!

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