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Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals Hardcover – May 3, 2004

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Amazon.com Review

When it comes to spiritual growth, we humans are solar-seeking beings; eager for the bright lights of clarity and the bliss of illumination. Paradoxically, we all need to walk through the shadow of the dark night in order to discover a life worth living, according to psychotherapist and spiritual commentator Thomas Moore. Unlike depression, which is more of an emotional state, Moore calls the dark night a slow transformation process, which is fueled by a profound period of doubt, disorientation and questioning. Ultimately, a journey into the dark night will reshape the very meaning of your life. As a self-proclaimed "lunar type," Moore is comfortable leading his clients and readers into the shadows, where ambiguities and mysteries lurk around every corner. He describes the dark night journey in stages, starting with feeling distant from your life even as you continue to go through the motions. The second phase is "liminality," meaning living on the threshold between the known self and the unknown self. This is perhaps the most uncomfortable phase as the dark night may "take you away from the cultivation and persona you have developed in your education and from family learning," he explains. After dwelling in this murky darkness, there's a stage of "re-incorporation," in which one integrates the profound inner transitions into daily life. Like a tour guide to the underworld, Moore leads readers through all these phases, offering tools and rituals for making the journey more tolerable or at least more meaningful. He also speaks to the many arenas and stages of life in which we might find ourselves stumbling through the dark, with chapters on marriage, parenting, sexuality, creativity and health. The scope is ambitious, and at times the structure seems disjointed—but this is perhaps Moore’s best contribution since Care of the Soul, proving once again that he is a wise and formidable spiritual teacher. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

There's an old saying that a devil is appealing at first but leaves you in despair, while an angel appears terrifying at first but leaves you refreshed and hopeful. This eighth book since Moore's extraordinarily successful Care of the Soul considers loss, pain, conflict, confusion, anger, excess, deviance and other disturbing feelings and behaviors not as devils to be exorcised but as angelic opportunities for deepening and altering the self. Derived from a chapter of the first book titled "The Gifts of Depression," the idea is not that suffering per se is good for the soul, but that to regard such visitations merely as suffering is to miss their point and meaning. Art and religion feature more prominently here than psychology, which Moore, a Catholic monk turned therapist, finds too mechanical and fix-it oriented to serve the soul. He adopts F. Scott Fitzgerald's phrase "the real dark night of the soul" to refer to anything from a short episode to an entire marriage and sees it as an invitation to spiritual cultivation, work that can be intellectual, creative or even physical, but which the monastically trained Moore tends to depict as quiet, solitary reflection. All this is set forth in a fluent, unflaggingly earnest style. Moore, who has an exceptional arsenal of literary and religious lore at his disposal, scatters allusions to figures as various as Madame Bovary, Gandhi, Thomas More and Glenn Gould (no Luther or Malcolm X, though) with dexterity. Short on detail, long on evocation, this book coveys the important if familiar message that spiritual growth entails darkness as well as light. While not exactly a substitute for reading Dostoyevski or Keats, this is perhaps an inducement to give them a chance.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592400671
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592400676
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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287 of 293 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo on October 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John of the Cross's writings show the total intensity and detachment of one who has reached a point of union with God that is a sheer gift of grace. The Dark Night of the Soul is among the greatest writings of mystic theology and experience, and highly recommended for those who have some understanding of the concepts of which he writes. The total turning of the will to God, to a point where nothing on earth can satisfy the lover except union with the Beloved, is a marvellous and deeply moving "sight" - and the exquisite poetry here is one of the best expressions in the history of Christianity.
This said, it is essential that one have background in order to understand this work. (More easily understood introductions, such as Thomas Dubay's "Fire Within," should precede reading the Dark Night.) John is by no means writing of depression or misery, nor is his path one which is common to all (or indeed many) Christians. Let the serious Christian seeker approach this work with humility - it pre-supposes knowledge and an openness to divine love that is far from universal. And, above all, take John's cautions against self-deception to heart as much as he did.
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166 of 170 people found the following review helpful By ecclesia_semper_reformanda_est on October 22, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
By Sister Elizabeth Ruth, O.D.C., Carmel of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk
St. John of the Cross is known as the Mystical Doctor, because in a pre-eminent way he is the director of men on their interior journey towards God. As a spiritual guide and deeply religious man, trained in theology at the best Spanish universities of his day, he was able, as few others, to elucidate scripturally and doctrinally the ways of the Lord.
Primarily, though, he is a poet, and his poetry speaks for itself in deeply symbolic language, the language of love. He is also a man of his country and era. His two poles Toda-Nada, All-Nothing, no doubt were associated for him with the rugged beauty of Castile--the blazing Spanish sky above arid ground, with the sun glinting upon walled cities, the freezing night with brigands concealed in the darkness.
John and Spain speak the language of extremes, just as St. Francis of Assisi was a man of the Umbrian hills set with flowers and vines among shaded valleys. There is a tendency to contrast the harshness of one with the sweetness of the other, but this is to do a disservice to both. Both at heart are similar because they see the way to God as the way of giving all-desiring nothing but him, and letting the rest go: "My God and my All."
In this, Jesus Christ is the model, and there is no spiritual growth apart from the earnest imitation of him. "Be continually careful and earnest in imitating Christ in everything, making your life conform to his," John writes in The Ascent of Mount Carmel, almost as a key sentence. Only in this light can we understand his insistence on the denial of desires.
What he has in mind are all those selfish and self-seeking ways we go about trying to have God and what we want as well.
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125 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on January 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, I don't understand why anybody would complain about the language of this translation. The work is about an excrutiating and almost indescribable journey, and a book about such a subject should by no means be a light afternoon read. The very language of Dark Night of the Soul calls for intense engagement and is a fruitful exercise in itself. Furthermore, this language has an extraordinarily authentic quality that conveys something of the mystery St John of the Cross is pursuing.

The work also gives so much to think about. I don't know that I agree with everything, but that's fine, and St John himself notes that each journey toward God will be somewhat different. But there is a lot that appeals to me. Truly, the journey toward God can be difficult. Reading about any character in the Bible from Abraham to David to Jesus confirms this. Life is such a strange mixture of the presence of God and the (at least seeming) absense, and persevering toward union with God means getting through these agonizing periods. In this book, St John of the Cross gives great hope as he accounts for those dark times and provides a framework for getting through them. This isn't a light read, and it is certainly a book that needs multiple readings. Nevertheless, it gives you a lot to think about and is ultimately well worth the effort.
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108 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on April 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
In this book, profound but obscure like the material with which it deals, psychiatrist Gerald May describes a process of spiritual growth that is operational in the difficult seasons of life.

Drawing from the experiences of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, he explores a journey of consciousness that leads us into the recognition of "our deep and irrevocable communion with the Divine".

It is a path through darkness, a path of letting go, a path of abandoning oneself, losing oneself, and in so doing ultimately finding what is real. The following quotes reveal something of this journey:

* The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding.

* Although not knowing may itself seem like a bad thing, I am convinced it is one of the great gifts of the dark night of the soul.

* The spiritual life for Theresa and John has nothing to do with actually getting closer to God. Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized, and in that sense it is something that can be yearned for, sought after, and - with God's grace - found.

* The dark night helps us to become what we are created to be: lovers of God and one another.

* ...we are not only born with God at our center, but we are born with a heart full of desire for God. This yearning is our fundamental motive force; it is the human spirit. It is the energy behind everything we seek and aspire to.

* Liberation, whether experienced pleasurably or painfully, always involves relinquishment, some kind of loss.

* Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we are going.

* ...
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