I have wondered if/how the desolation vs consolation paradigm of st Ignatius of Loyola is related to the active/passive nights of senses/spirit of st John of the cross.
I have a sense that the desolation/consolation thing is much more common/universal regardless of what interior stage a believer is in. The nights are like long phases which each end definitively more or less, when the next begins. I think I can relate to the desolation/consolation paradigm which seem to be constant, one always following the other, than the nights. I think also, the desolation/consolation has a lot to do with successive shifts in perspectives in the believer over various paths one walks than objective changes in the circumstances although the shifts to the positive (consolation) are brought about by the intervention of the light of faith or grace. A bit like God suddenly lighting a torch on one's path while they were in the dark. Suddenly, despair and loss of faith are not related to, as God seems true and present. One understands the path one just traveled in a new light. Like having woken up from a brief nightmare. But then somewhere down the line, when the torch disappears either through the person foolishly wandering away from the light it shines forth or circumstances intervening to obscure it, one then totally forgets the realness/trueness of God. He becomes the dream-world and the dark place becomes the real world. Despair, pain, suffering result.
In the desolation, one can easily fall into despair which lead to sin. One seems to forget the goodness of God or the efficacy of prayer or realness of grace.One loses hope, faith and then charity begins to take a hit too. A horrible thing. It is therefore not a positive thing at all. The night, by contrast, is always positive though it may be experienced as suffering.I think people like me may be experiencing some form of desolation but not knowing how to deal because it doesn't fit st John's model at all, which is most known, authoritative and expected. I also wonder why the saints describe the interior life so diversely.
I think you make some very good points, St. Rubia. There's not a precise correlation between SJC's nights and Ignatius' idea of desolation. Generally, the Night of the Senses is characterized more by aridity than desolation, though the latter can surely occur during this Night. One accustomed to consolations might regret their loss during this Night, but the shift from consolation to aridity is not what Ignatius means by desolation, which can be a time of deep gloom.
It's important to note that Ignatius did not consider all desolations to be spiritual in nature -- i.e., a consequence of sin. Some might be caused by illness, others what we would now call depression. It was understood that during times of desolation, one is usually disinclined to prayer and other spiritual disciplines. This is especially problematic when the root cause is sin, as the lifting of such a desolation can come only through repentance, confession, and restoration of right relationship with God.
The Nights, on the other hand, seem more about a shift from relating to God out of one's psychological Ego (self-image) to a deeper awareness of oneself in union with God, more of a spirit-Spirit relationship. It often happens that this shift takes place suddenly, and without warning. One awakens and knows something has changed, and yet everything is still basically OK. The peace of Christ remains. This sense of peace can seem to be absent in times of desolation.
I am of the opinion that dark nights are a work of God, drawing us into deeper union, but desolations are of a different cause -- biology, circumstances, even perhaps evil spirit. God is still present and loving during times of desolation, but such a conviction is held primarily in the intellect, which is where the light of faith is sustained during dark times. That's one reason why I'm such a stickler for theological formation.
I think our old friend BR hits the nail on the head when she says:
"I don't think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else's retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights."
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