DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth

Gerald G. May, Author . Harper San Francisco $23.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-06-055423-1

"Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again ." These lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's famous song could be the guiding theme of this excellent offering by psychiatrist and spiritual counselor May. As May delves into the meaning and purpose of "the dark night of the soul," we come to see it as a comforting and necessary friend, ushering in a time of transformation, rather than a gloomy blackness to avoid. In order to illuminate the dark night, May draws upon the lives of the Carmelite mystics, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, as well as psychiatric research and scripture. Like the contemporary scholars of psychiatry, both Teresa and John had early insights into the unconscious dimension of life that goes on beneath our awareness—an obscure and mysterious arena that they both called "the dark." Since humans are so skilled at denial—especially denying the power of their compulsions and attachments—they would never enter into this spiritual night of reckoning if they could see in advance what it would entail. This is why we need the darkness in front of us. May, who also wrote Addiction and Grace , eventually moves into a strong discussion about depression and addiction, showing why the dark night is necessary to overcome both. Ultimately, he becomes a messenger of hope, reminding readers that every dark night brings the sweet dawn of awakening. With its clear writing and strong psychological foundation, this is a relevant resource for readers of all spiritual persuasions. (Feb.)

Forecast: Readers gravitate toward May's ability to combine sound psychiatric guidance with spiritual insights and accessible writing; Addiction and Grace has sold more than 200,000 copies.

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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