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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines traditional descriptions of challenging stages of Jewish, Christian, and Islamicate meditative paths and some of the ways in which contemporary teachers and students in the West interpret them. It explores how these “dark nights” are understood in some contemplative systems as part of an oscillatory trajectory between expansive and constricting states of consciousness that ultimately lead to traditional goals. These contemporary traditions often draw upon classical mystical texts to appraise such challenging experiences but translate their medieval frameworks of purification into the arena of depth psychology. In introducing the conception of “non-linear paths,” this chapter seeks to highlight the ways in which certain meditation-related difficulties are interpreted and normalized even as individual variability and the unpredictable nature of these paths has been acknowledged for centuries in these traditions.

Keywords: meditation experiences, adverse effects, meditation-related difficulties, dark night, non-linear path, meditative path

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