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Dark Night of the Soul: The Perilous Path of Spiritual Death and Transformation

By: A. W. Finnegan [This is part II of These Eyes (Have Seen)]

In the 16th Century, Spanish catholic priest, John of the Cross, wrote a poem, “Dark Night (Noche Oscura),” that would become the origins behind a more modern term, “Dark Night of the Soul.” A term that signifies a very dark period of life wherein one first undergoes a process of extreme disillusionment and disconnection with life and its meaning, its purpose, and especially one’s connection with the Divine. A state of spiritual blindness, disorientation, withdrawal from life and Divinity. It is a steep descent through the underworld so commonly referred to in mythology. One has entered the land of death, losing all sense of meaning, purpose, plan, and hope. Instead of merely becoming an automation of life, one becomes immersed in darkness, on the threshold of life, veering toward non-existence.

Its most definitive aspect, however, is what happens in its final stage, a kind of death and rebirth occurs, a complete transformation or spiritual reunion with the Divine, a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, a figurative shedding of old skin, the old layers of life that no longer serve you, the formerly unhealthy ways of life that accelerated or fueled the onset of the Dark Night of the Soul. This process or journey is by no means safe or ensured that one will make it to its final stages. Almost certainly, many have been swallowed up by the dark ocean of the abyss and perished crossing the Dark Night of the Soul.

I have lived through a Dark Night of the Soul. It was a dark and terrible journey, a living nightmare, hell's wrath, living through me. This Dark Night of the Soul was profound beyond words. I beheld a darkness that makes me shutter to recollect. Nevertheless, it is part of my story and its something that will always stain my reputation, because events in it were picked up in the media and my name is forever damaged by these events from 2012, but its what occurred during my Dark Night of the Soul, an agonizing journey back to the Light of the Divine, and it was very dangerous, fraught with peril. I came very close to death in the process.

I was not expecting to survive this dark period. In fact, death to me was a certainty. Of course, at that time, I did not see or understand this as the Dark Night of the Soul, because in my mind, I was hurling myself into the void with the understanding that there was no return, and certainly no positive transformation to take place. This is that stage of the Dark Night of the Soul where one loses all hope, cut off from the Divine. It was pure insanity, because of the state I was in and what was going on at the time.

I was very reluctant to write this article, because in all honesty, I do not like to put the darkest period of my life in the spotlight. It is not fun for me to write any of this, but since it was picked up by the media at the time (2012), I think its better for me to explain myself than for people to draw their own conclusions based on limited information. I spoke about it somewhat in my other article, These Eyes (Have Seen).

The point I was at during that time was a long progression, it took several years for me to get to that stage. I was completely immersed in a darkness too horrible to describe. It was deep, the terrifying kind of deep like being thrown overboard in the deepest ocean without any rescue efforts coming to save you. Dark. Profound. Terrifying.

At this time, my life was a mess and I was suffering immensely, I began questioning everything about my existence, seeking answers to life’s perennial questions, why are we here? What is my purpose? Where did we come from? Where was it all heading? Why is life such a merciless struggle and what did I do to deserve such a miserable existence? I began to search for answers, but all this was initiated at the darkest period of my life and it gravitated the forces of darkness instead of Light.

It was at a time when I was trying to rid myself of horrible prescription medications that I was put on starting in high school, like benzodiazepines, prescription opiates, etc. I made many attempts to break free, all to no avail. It made my life such a living Hell that eventually I decided that I would run my life into the ground in every excess until it killed me. I hated living at the mercy of these medications so much, that I saw death as the better option.

Part of me did not want to die, but I could not break free from these horrible chains and there were a lot of other problems going on in my life at the time. It was an agonizing and painful existence, I was living in a shallow grave, half-dead, barely living, suffering immensely. Eventually a quickening began to occur, and life was getting much darker as I begin to give up hope of ever making it out alive.

In July of 2012, I recall this one time a monarch butterfly flew down and sat on the ground in front of me, not moving. I picked it up and it sat on my hand. It wouldn’t fly away and was not afraid of me, it just sat on my hand resting. I put it back on the ground and watched it for a while. It wouldn’t fly away. It was as if it were trying to tell me something. I took a photo of it at the time, because it seemed significant and rare. The monarch is a great symbol of transformation and metamorphosis. It truly felt like some kind of strange omen of things to come.

At that time, I was a train wreck, like a train with no brakes, spiritually blind and cut off from God and the Divine. To say that life became dark is an understatement. I was completely immersed in darkness, self-destructing and without guidance. I was staying up for days and days with no sleep, fueled by these medications in excess, because in my mind, I felt that if had to be a slave to these demons, let it be the death of me. Eventually I lost touch with reality from excessive doses of medication and sleep deprivation, eventually a drug-induced psychosis occurred. It is very difficult to convey to the average person, the kind of Hell that I was truly in.

At the height of this awful descent, in November 2012, I got in big trouble for a fire that occurred at the dead of night. No one was inside or around it, and no one was hurt, but it destroyed a lot of property. It was a local church, and this was not something planned or done against religion. It was something that occurred in the midst of pure insanity, and my recollection of it, along with much of the prior year, is a blur to me. I was totally cut off from the Divine, desperate, hopeless, and in my mind, those were my final hours on Earth.

I was very close to death when I was arrested because I had swallowed a fatal cocktail of pills shortly before. I was actually on my way to the Freetown State Forest to Profile Rock, a place coined the "cursed forest" of Massachusetts, said to be the most haunted forest in America. I truly felt cursed, which is why I felt a connection to it in the first place. I had been going there in the months preceding the event. It is even said that "Many people believe that the forest exerts a dark influence that drives people to suicide." [1] I was heading there so that I could die looking out over a beautiful scenery on Profile Rock. I never made it that far, but I did stop breathing in custody and had to be rushed to the hospital and was revived in the ambulance.

At the moment I realized I was still alive, I knew I had to face the music and make a sincere recovery and change my entire life, starting from scratch. It was going to be a very long and painful road, I knew that much, but I had to do it. This was the profound, soul-trembling Dark Night of the Soul unfolding, with the transformation occurring at the depths of its darkness, locked up, with my name being dragged in the mud publicly in the news and press coverage. It was a profound experience to endure, to say the least. I got locked up and went away for two and a half years because of this event. However, the truth is that I needed to be locked up, it was the best thing for me at the time.

Through it all, the parishioners of the church and I were never enemies, there was no bad blood or tensions between us. In fact, it was quite the opposite. They prayed for me through it all, it was terrible to happen, but they understood that it was not personal and that I was in a dark hell when it occurred. I am forever indebted to them for their forgiveness of me, and their prayers. It was done at a time when I was completely lost, immersed in darkness, a train with no brakes fast approaching total wreckage. I was out of touch with reality from the excessive doses of pills and sleep deprivation. It had nothing to do with religion. It was something that occurred amidst pure insanity, something between me and God, but it was not planned, it just happened, I was out of touch with reality, I had been up for many days, wrecked on pills, alcohol, and my memory of it is very blurry, much of it I don't have any memory of. I have little memory of that whole preceding year, and this was the train wreck event from me running myself into the ground.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Today, I am very friendly with the Bible Alliance Church; they have forgiven me, and we have been able to move forward together. I corresponded with several of the parishioners during my sentence and became very friendly with them. When I got out, I met with the pastor many times and we talked and had coffee on many occasions, he is a great man and I appreciate his forgiveness and kindness. When their church was rebuilt, I helped them move in, I helped them with the landscaping, along with other detail jobs. I continued meeting with the pastor, and I have attended some of their church services just to be around them because they are very kind and have empathy for me. I am in the process of responding to one of their Christmas cards as we speak. They continue to support me and encourage my journey under the care of God and the Divine.

As I said in These Eyes (Have Seen), that was the point where I decided to make a conscious decision, a sincere effort to do them and myself a great service by getting my act together and reforming my entire life to live morally and good, so that something like this never happens again. This journey has never stopped. I was fortunate to be forced off those medications and when I was, I began to recover not only my sanity but the light of my true self. Breaking free of those chains occurred during a Dark Night of the Soul. My spiritual transformation occurred from behind bars, and it was gradual, because going through all that was challenging enough, but then without freedom was another matter entirely. A lot of painful processes were taking place within me so that I could reach the Light. I completely lost myself in the process leading up to it, and it was so dark that I saw death as a certainty and came very close to it.

With all that time on my hands, I began to read a lot and started educating myself while doing time, taking in vast amounts of knowledge. Because of this, my brain has become like a virtual encyclopedia, and I learned how to put a non-fiction book together by reading so many of them. I was also writing and doing artwork. I was getting my true self back, I was Me again, it was such a blessing. I could not believe I was actually free from those awful medications and I was still alive. I had a second chance. God and the Divine gave me a second chance and I took that opportunity and gave it my all. It was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But all I had to do was Try. I had to Try my best each day, and that’s the motto I live by, because at the end of the day, all we can do is Try our best.

Gradually, I began to transform my life, build character, while gaining the upper hand over my lower natures, those layers of our being controlled by the qarīn, our personal jinni or shaitan, some call it the daimon. It has dominion of our lower natures and can become very problematic when we neglect personal responsibilities and abandon Divine Law. Our Creator put them with us for a reason, so that if we don’t follow Divine Law, we find a personal Hell instead, and the qarīn is there to bring it to us and make our life Hell for disobeying Divine Law. When we live in line with Divine Law, we can make good use of the qarīn. Our Guardian Angel, on the other hand, is there to assist with our higher divine aspects and aspirations, to help when we have a sincere desire to align with the Divine to reach Soul Illumination.

This is one example of the Dark Night of the Soul unfolding, but of course, we all have a different story, each one is unique, some of them might be more profound than others, but at their most essential qualities, profound and painful struggles occur, intense darkness is felt before reconnecting with the Light. Some of us nearly lose our life in the process. Each person has his or her own threshold of what they can normally handle, and this process will always stretch one’s limits profoundly. Perhaps by telling of my own Dark Night of the Soul, it can help someone else before they end up at a place like I was at. Because without any guidance, one will begin to question everything about their place in the world, one’s entire existence is taken into account, and they enter the dark ages of Self. A tipping point occurs, a crossroads event or moment occurs, and if they cross it with their life, they reconnect with the Light of the Divine and they find a complete transformation occurs. It is a spiritual alchemy of the soul.


[1] Mitrokostas, S. (2022, August 24). The most haunted forest in America is right here in Massachusetts. Only In Your State. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from

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