ADVANTAGES

FEW of the perils which beset the path of the serious aspirant are more depressing in their nature, more fatal in their effects, than what is called spiritual darkness - the gloom which descends on the heart and brain, wrapping the whole nature in its sombre folds, blotting out all memories of past peace, all hopes of future progress. As a dense fog pervades a great city, stealing into every nook and corner, effacing every familiar landmark, shutting off every vista, blurring into dimness even the brilliant lights, until, to the bewildered wayfarer, nothing seems left save himself and the stifling mephitic vapour that enfolds him, so is it when the fog of spiritual darkness comes down on the aspirant or the disciple. All his landmarks disappear, and the way vanishes in the gloom; his wonted lights are shorn of their lustre, and human beings are mere shadows that now and again push up against him out of the night and into the night again disappear. He is alone and lost; a sense of terrible isolation shuts him in, and no one shares his solitude. The human faces that smiled on him have vanished; the human voices that cheered him are silent: the human love that caressed him has grown chill. His “lovers and friends are put away from” him; and no words of comfort reach him across the deadly stillness. To move forward, when the ground on which the foot must be planted is invisible, feels as if he were stepping over a precipice, and a dull surging of waves at a far depth seems to threaten destruction, while their very distance below intensifies the nearer silence. Heaven is shut out as well as earth; sun, moon and stars have vanished, and no glimmer of their radiance pierces the gloom from above. He feels as though suspended in an abyss of nothingness, and as though he would shortly pass into that nothingness himself; his flame of life seems to flicker in the darkness, as though, in sympathy with the universal gloom, it would itself cease to shine. The “horror of great darkness” is upon him, paralysing every energy, crushing every hope. God and man have deserted him - he is alone, alone.

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