I love this time of year. I love the long quiet nights, the candles, the turning inward. For me, the winter solstice, when the days begin to grow longer, always comes too soon. I want more time to immerse myself in the darkness.
I know this is a difficult season for many people, when the lengthening nights seem to evoke feelings of despair and dread. Yet I find the darkness beautiful. I experience it as the Mystery, the Unknown, the Numinous that is so much vaster than my conscious awareness can fathom.
This morning I got up early, before the first daylight. The crescent moon cradled itself toward the eastern horizon and the morning star gleamed in the pre-dawn sky—and it was the darkness that bestowed upon them their beauty.
I am awed by the fact that the universe is comprised mostly of dark matter. It is overwhelmingly made up of something that is hidden to us, undetectable to us, and yet unmistakably present.
That’s the way I experience the darkness. There is a Presence in it that transcends the reach of my ordinary senses. In the darkness I perceive the limitations of my knowing. I bow before the Mystery.
I suppose it is our fear of the unknown that makes us fear the darkness and want to drive it away, dispel it with whatever feeble torches we can fashion. We are so afraid of not knowing.
And yet turning toward the Mystery is so essential. To apprehend that there is so much we do not know is the beginning of wisdom, the portal to awe.
I had a dream once, years ago, in which I am out in the wilderness, in the mountains, staying at a lodge. It is night, and I step out onto a balcony and look up. When I see the canopy of the Milky Way overhead, a deep relief washes over me, and I realize that, having lived for so long in the city, I have been suffering from star-vation.
As a culture we are starved for Mystery, starved for the awe that comes when we accept our inability to comprehend the vastness of our existence, starved for the parts of ourselves that linger beyond the light of our awareness.
In the winter months, we sometimes don’t get enough sunlight to meet our body’s need for vitamin D. But in our contemporary society, in which we go to such great lengths to banish the night, there is another sort of deficiency that inflicts our spirits: darkness deprivation.
This alienation from the Unknown, this estrangement from Mystery, is making this planetary time so much more difficult than it needs to be.
We find ourselves collectively in a time of darkness, of unknowing. Having watched in shock the sunset of our certainties, we no longer know what to expect, and we cannot see what is before us.
And yet Love encompasses All. It is as present in the darkness as it is in the light.
In this season, many of us celebrate the incarnation of Christ-consciousness. And while traditionally that consciousness has been ascribed to a single individual, it is a consciousness that lies within us all. Dormant perhaps, as the seed lies dormant in the dark soil, but present nonetheless.
Christ-consciousness has been described as the awareness of existing in relationship with All That Is, which means being aware of existing in relationship with the darkness as well as the light, the unknown as well as the known. This is the awareness that flowers into trust, into faith.
May this season of the long nights bestow upon you the blessing of the darkness. May you experience awe in the face of the unknown, and bow before the Mystery of your existence with All That Is.