Many a Dark Night of the Soul

(Vincent van Gogh, “In the Asylum,” 1889)

How many of us can honestly say we have not seen ourselves in such a painting at one time or another? Maybe that common experience is what allows us to empathize with those who are seeing themselves in such a painting now…and pray for those who do so chronically. In many traditional religious traditions, compassion is seen as a moral virtue, worthy of reward, as we sacrifice something of ourselves for what others need. In mystical traditions, however, compassion is the natural result of experiencing ourselves as “One” with all of reality. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” (John Donne)

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