I wanted to share some information I found today regarding what is termed as 'The Dark Night of the Soul', I think this piece explains it extremely well (from the Peaceful Planet website):
The Dark Night
The Dark Night reveals itself as a deeply human process, in which the self, that has until this moment, thought of itself as spiritual and thus impregnable by the abstractions of an average life, is forced to take a second or third look. Sometimes the soul (as personality) must even turn back in opposition to where it believed it was going, in order to retrieve the necessary qualities it overlooked or left behind. Your soul is interested in unifying the whole and will not settle for less. All are subject to the unraveling that is the Dark Night, and even the most carefully crafted and cultivated life is no exception. The spiritually well read and studied and those who have sat at the footsteps of their master for a lifetime or two seem to respond to this natural law with particular harshness, lashing out against others or inflicting the wound upon themselves as the drama inevitably plays out. Although difficult and precarious, the Dark Night is a journey worth undertaking as far as the soul is concerned. One can emulate the journey of the Initiate while the path is broad, but when it eventually narrows, only the true seeker will endure what is asked.
The very thing that brought on the ecstasy so desired by the personality, now offers itself differently; the gift is the same, but is not received so. Spiritual awakenings are the result of the self, choosing to emerge as the Self. They are opportunities to experience reality rather than illusion perceiving itself as real. Imagine an image in a mirror stepping outside of that mirror for the first time and turning to look back upon the reflection it has called itself, can you see how profound the experience might be for the Self, and at the same time how devastating to the smaller self?
The smaller self, unprepared for the experience, perceives only the falseness and insignificance it believes it has lived rather than the grander opportunity that is presented. The distance between the self and the Self defines both the Dark Night and how long it will last. It now falls upon the "seat" of the soul, or the purified heart, to see its way through the dimness of its human condition until it is able to see in the dark and eventually through it. In this state, the self feels every limitation as finite and final, thus losing its power to do or be anything that is creative or original. Cruel as this transition may seem, there will come a time when the soul and the personality will emerge as one, and will know clearly once for always where the hand of God is, as well as what moves It.
The Withdrawal of Spirit
In this New Age, where avatar-like enlightenment and the art of receiving transmissions from Spirit are all too commonplace, the Dark Night often manifests in the removal of that same companionship. Master Spirit Teachers as objective ideas of evolved consciousness have become central points of assistance. When these are withdrawn by the higher laws of Spirit they leave behind a perfumed residue that is all too quickly substituted with an impenetrable wall of obscurity. What could be the replacement for such intimacy and mutual love of and for Spirit? All too soon the thought arises that only that which is unworthy of being loved could so easily be set aside. And there the anguish begins.
For the sensitive and the intuively organized, this spiritual loss is most difficult to bear, the absence more bitter because the presence had been so sweet. This withdrawal is often both personal and impersonal. For instance, if the channel [Pepper Lewis] whose pen now offers Gaia's words were to fall into a Dark Night, it would more than likely silence the pen, as well. Many more than imagined fall into the despair described herein, clinging with unfortunate results to the ego for its supply of conditioned and extorted words. With spiritual contact all but obliterated, the self is left to recover itself as if from the dead. In deprivation, the self returns to its place of innocence and simplicity, sometimes even crying out in child-like fashion not to be forsaken any longer. There the self must begin as if anew, for even those who believe they have nothing still have everything in perpetuity, and this is the very thing they must set about rediscovering. Gods and teachers that flatter the self or the soul are not God enough, which is why a truer sense of divinity often follows such experiences of sadness and privation.
Those who believe themselves most innocent and pure in their thoughts and deeds suffer a different Night. These individuals, self-exiled into perpetual torture, are almost compelled to see a constant parade of less deserving individuals rewarded for every lesser deed. It seems to them that they, who are so deserving of God's love and fortune stand as if in last place, forgotten, fallen and ignored. Dumbstruck by such a turn in circumstances, and in spite of their attempted self-corrections, they begin to think and speak ill thoughts as regards the bounty and resources of others. Overcome by their own bad luck, ill omens and continued misfortunes continue to be their almost daily experience. The more good deeds they perform the more it seems that they fall deeper into the darkness from which they cannot seem to emerge. At this point many will begin to believe that God indeed favors the dark and those who think for and of them selves first. As events turn from bad to worse, their struggle now becomes whether to be as others are, and to receive as they do, or to live ostracized and alone in a world that no longer receives them.
In the Dark Night process, the soul purifies itself through the experience its own imperfections. The soul, accompanied by the personality, revisits every real or imagined sin. Every particle and atom is enlarged to enormous proportion so that no detail can be overlooked. With such distortion the self cannot help but see its wretchedness and its creaturehood. As the distance between self and soul increases, so does the distance between Light and Dark, making the comforts of life little more than abstractions and distractions, both heavily laid burdens upon shoulders now frail and uncertain.
The Perpetual Night
It is human nature to have regrets over the inevitable, to look backward at one's errors rather than forward to the unknown, and to think that good will should be permanent and ill will temporary. It is a greater truth, however, that all things are temporal and temporary. That being said, your Beingness, that which is your soul's presence, is eternal. That which is temporary is an aspect of that which is permanent, but that which is permanent is not as aspect of that which is eternal. It is this truth (also a Universal Law) that the self-personality/Self-Soul forgets during its descent into the Dark Night.
Permanence is detected in that which endures forever or for a very long time. It applies to all that is never-changing or not expected to undergo significant change. Permanence relates to all that is physical. It can apply to Stonehenge, as well as to your physical body. Stonehenge is believed to have been standing for many thousands of years and one can imagine it standing for many more. It seems almost as if it could be a permanent fixture, but as it was purposefully created it will one day be uncreated when its purpose no longer exists. The same is true of your physical body. It seems solid and permanent because it is purposeful in its being. One day when its higher purpose is other than it is today you may choose to surrender it or remake it into another form. For the time being, permanence and purpose have made it yours.
Eternity is a non-physical quality. It is timeless, and therefore unaffected by the passage of time. Your soul is made of this everlasting quality. It is what makes your soul destined to discover its own divinity. One of the paths by which your soul follows its destined journey is through the experience of human incarnation. That which is permanent and that which is eternal have a very unique relationship. Both obey the same laws, one by its physical manifestation, and the other by its contrast. The self and the Self (not lower and higher) obey the same laws, and while the two complement one another, it is often their contrast that challenges humanity most.
This little understood contrast is a contributing factor in the separation that is most often described in the Dark Night process. The soul, recognizing itself as eternal, welcomes the Dark Night as an opportunity to revisit its more insecure experiences. The soul seeks to enhance its journey and sees the Dark Night as little more than a pre-dawn. The personality self, believing its purpose is associated with one lifetime, fears to falter or even to delay. The personality sees the Dark Night as a failed examination, one in which it has been tried and found lacking; it awaits only the earned castigation for its sin, which is no other than human nature.
The Restoration of Light
The Dark Night lasts only as long as there is a perceived sin. If one can see a spiritual awakening as no more than a progression of eternal moments, than a dark night will not last longer than the night itself, do you see? A spiritual awakening is cause to celebrate, but it is not a reward that is given one day (or one year) and then taken back the next. Even so, it is appropriate to adapt oneself to dine sumptuously one evening and to partake of a simpler fare the next. Day moves into night as surely as night moves back into day, and the same could not be truer of your experiences.
Confusion, disarray and anxiety reign when separation is most present. If you are separate from the breath you draw then you will heave upon the in-breath and sigh upon the out-breath. If your awareness is not upon your physical well-being then your body's insistence for nourishment will go unmet, and if you fear that you lack the courage to persist and overcome obstacles, your body will not rest and will not yield to the peace that sleep brings. Emotional stability is the result of the trust one feels for the next moment and the next experience. Depression is the insistent, but unsuccessful demand of the self that it alone is in control. Without the cooperation and recognition of both hemispheres of the brain, equilibrium will remain at an unattainable distance. Spiritual balance will be restored as rigid beliefs dissolve into new possibilities.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a phenomenon associated with spiritual awakening, and should not be feared. A dark night does not necessarily follow or precede a spiritual awakening as either is but an experience of the soul's expansion. Yet beware those who promise a path that journeys away from your own center and to that of another. These experiences all too often result in a different sort of pain and suffering. Be patient as you move through these experiences and surround yourself with those who will grant you the same understanding. Step slowly and gently, as your path may remain obscure during this cycle. Pity yourself if you must, but do not dwell therein. Accustom your eyes to see in dim light that you may assist others in doing the same when asked to do so.
When your current experience returns you to similar moments that seem to have crept right out of your past, acknowledge them as such. Face them directly and honorably. The Sun (son) returns at its appointed hour, and the light will shed its shadow soon enough. When mired in quicksand do not struggle. Yield your density until it becomes buoyant enough to reach the shore; muddied you may be, but defeated not. Your only sin is forgetting the laws by which nature prevails upon the third dimension; these laws apply as well to human nature. The remedy is in remembering, and forgiving where necessary. The Light is never absent, yet shadow often defines it.
Gentle Readers in both body and spirit, these words are for you and for the child within that still believes in a separation that is naught but a fear, but still real, at least to the perception. It is yesterdays old but will locate itself in your today and will attempt to follow you to your tomorrows. Remember that when you forge a new path it is sometimes slow going. That being said, a slower new path is better suited than a worn-out old one that offers no new panoramas or vistas. If lack of direction is a primary concern, then begin with the Valley of Peace. Many have overlooked this oasis on their quest for the quickest path to Shamballa, only to double-back later when its healing meadows were most welcome. Perhaps I will visit you there and we will sit a spell together, as it too is my home.