Bhagavan, with his cute wit, says there is good news and bad news concerning the Dark Night of the Soul. The bad news is that you will go through it. The good news is that you won’t until you become enlightened.
The Dark Night of the Soul and Brain Science:
A Scientific Commentary on the Transformational Process Induced by Diksha
by Christian Opitz
In 1977, Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel prize in theoretical chemistry for his discovery of dissipative structures. Prigogine described how every natural system grows in a nonlinear way: the organizing structure of a system is at some point no longer useful and has to disintegrate before the new structure can emerge. A prime example of this principle is the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. A caterpillar does not really become a butterfly in the cocoon. Rather, it turns into into a chaotic molecular mesh. Out of this chaos, the structure of the butterfly spontaneously emerges.
Mystics have always been aware of this principle. The dissolution of the current sense of self and God before one can experience the true self and God is a common theme in the spiritual teachings of the ages. The medieval Christian mystic Meister Eckhart expressed this knowing in his famous prayer: “Lord free me from you so that I can truly find you.” Christian mystics called this passage of losing oneself before finding absolute truth the Dark Night of the Soul.
The term Dark Night does not necessarily refer to a horrible experience, rather the word Dark implies that one does not see anymore where one is going or how to get there. While every person and every diksha is unique, this process seems to be a very common one for those how have received diksha.
From a scientific point of view, the diksha is a uniquely effective means of not only inducing the Dark Night experience but more importantly to actually make it fruitful. Many people experience some kind of crisis and loss of identity in their spiritual journey, but until now very few have emerged out of such experiences into full enlightenment. In my opinion, the diksha process is the first ever means to make this transition possible for all of humanity.
There are two primary factors that make the diksha process far more effective than anything else to guide people through the Dark Night into full enlightenment:
1. The activation of the quiescence and arousal system. Sri Kalki Bhagavan says that everything fully experienced turns into joy.
There are two basic systems of awareness in the brain, the quiescence and the arousal system. When someone can experience something with a fully functional quiescence system, which means total awareness, the arousal system becomes activated and joy is experienced. Thus Sri Kalki’s statement is fully supported by neuroscientific insight. This also matches the Taoist teaching that at their end points, ying and yang transform into each other.
However, the normal human brain does not have a functional quiescence system and therefore we tend to recoil from so much of our experiences in life because the do not become joyful. When the parietal lobes are chronically overactive, as I described in a recent article [Enlightenment and the Brain], the quiescence system of the brain is severely handicapped.
Likewise, with the chronic under activity in the frontal lobes, the arousal system of the brain is equally underactive. This leads to a biological urge to never fully experience anything, thus preventing the transformation of any experience into joy. Without fully experiencing the inner sense of disorientation and chaos in the Dark Night phase, one cannot pass through it fully. The caterpillar does not resist its own dissolution and can therefore emerge as the butterfly out of its own destruction.
Human consciousness however does resist these experiences as long as the brain is functioning the way that has been normal for human beings until now. Biological urges are simply stronger than conscious intentions. Imagine someone told you that you get fully enlightened if you just don’t sleep for six months–there goes your enlightenment. No matter how dedicated you are, the biological urge to sleep will be stronger. Therefore spiritual practices that are performed while the brain is stuck in the limited patterns of an underactive quiescence-arousal system can only give temporary states of enhanced awareness and joy, but for most people this cannot lead to a dissolution of the old sense of self and the emergence of enlightenment.
If our brain is biologically wired to the pattern of not experiencing with full awareness, the best intentions to change this are quite powerless. However, a direct attunement to the original design of the brain can effortlessly activate the natural functioning of the quiescence-arousal system. This is what the dikshas seem to cause very effectively. Then one can naturally surrender to whatever one’s experience is, because there is a biological base for such surrender.
To illustrate the difference in effectiveness between intention-based change and a biological change via direct attunement, let’s take a look at strength. Strength is a neurological function, not a quality of muscles. The factor that limits a person’s physical strength are neurological inhibitions. That’s why a person during an epileptic seizure can have superhuman strength, because the neurological inhibitions fall away. These inhibitions affect other brain areas other than the inhibitions that keep a person from being naturally enlightened, but otherwise they both are really the same process.
The world record for the bench press is 897 American pounds (lbs). This is the result of an extremely talented athlete working very hard with all his desire and intention to be super strong. A gorilla shares 99% of the genetic makeup of a human being, yet without any intention or training or effort, the average gorilla has the strength that equal a 4000 lb bench press. All a gorilla does is that he is attuned to his natural design. Gorillas don’t try to be strong, they just are what they are.
A human being disconnected from the original design can never match the natural strength that comes effortlessly to a gorilla. Since the biochemical process of neurological inhibition is the same, whether it’s the inhibition of physical strength or of the quiescence-arousal system, this example can show us why the diksha as a given attunement to our original brain design is so much more powerful than intention-based efforts.
2. The activation and regeneration of the septum pellucidum. In the 1950s, neuroscientists discovered that the activation of the septum pellucidum, a brain center right in the middle of the brain, can instantly heal chronic pain, depression and anxiety, give a sense of deep peace and above all of joy.
However, due to the neurological overactivity in the parietal lobes and the resulting lack of neurological energy for the rest of the brain, the septum pellucidum of almost everyone is chronically underactive. This actually leads to a shrinking of the size of this important brain center, which in turn makes joy and aliveness less and less available to a person. This then activates a person’s search for experiences that induce joy, because joy is natural and we are biologically wired to experience it. However, once the septum pellucidum is shrunk, only extreme stimulation can activate it to produce some joy.
This is the real biological base of addictions to drugs, overstimulation of the senses and all things of a rajasic or tamasic nature.
The septum pellucidum is the brain’s reward center and when it is not functioning naturally, we experience reward or joy mostly through unnatural means. Even in people who live a very pure lifestyle, the experience of joy is often dependent on conditions. One of the most common descriptions of the enlightened state is that of unconditional joy. In other words, a truly enlightened person has a naturally functioning reward center which is always “on,” not just under certain circumstances. A naturally functioning septum pellucidum makes the experience of life rewarding, no matter what it is.
As Sri Kalki says, everything fully experienced turns into joy. A healthy septum pellucidum allows us to experience joy in everything, making everything rewarding, including the experience of the Dark Night. This makes it possible to actually go through such experiences of inner chaos without a biological urge trying to direct us away from them.
For the last seven years, I have invented and investigated methods for activating the septum pellucidum. Looking at the brain changes in people who undergo the diksha process, I have come to the conclusion that this is by far the most powerful means to activate and regenerate the septum pellucidum available today.
This alone makes the diksha process incredibly effective as a means for total inner transformation.
From a scientific point of view, the diksha process is unsurpassed in its effectiveness and logic, because it works according to the natural design of human beings. The old way of trying to transform oneself against the momentum of biological urges and programming that manifest the experience of separation and suffering was never based in natural principles, and has therefore only worked for few people.
If enlightenment is our natural state, as so many mystics have said, then only a natural process will be effective in awakening humanity to it. Our search for the solution to humanity’s suffering must come from a different foundation than the reality of suffering. Working against biological urges with intention-based effort is part of the reality of suffering, not part of its solution. Being given an attunement to our original design through Divine Grace is the way of nature and all other life forms already participating in this natural way.
I am currently conducting further research into the effects of the diksha process. This includes investigating factors that could perhaps make the human brain more receptive to the diksha energy. It is an exciting new horizon for science that might finally bring science and spirituality together in a whole new way where both complement and support each other for the sake of humanity.
* * *Christian Opitz is a neurophysicist, biochemist, herbalist and author. He has developed a new paradigm of healing called Radiant Life that combines whole brain functioning, raw food nutrition, exercise and nature awareness. Christian has taught in Europe and the United States since the early ’90s.
Reprinted here with permission of the author.