Book Reviews · Dark Night of the Soul

Out of the Darkness: Book Review

Out of the Darkness by Steve Taylor is an inspiring collection of stories about people who have undergone the ultimate transformation – spiritual rebirth. This often occurs after intense trauma or turmoil, and Taylor expertly reveals what can happen if an individual is willing to surrender at the point of greatest darkness. Most of the people featured have transformed themselves after suffering in extreme ways, and their stories offer hope to anyone going through something similar.

To focus on suffering may seem morbid or gloomy, but it is only by pushing beyond our limits that we can discover our strengths. Not many people would choose to suffer as some in this book have, but it is reassuring to know, should we find our lives being turned upside down, that there is a way through. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The human spirit has an infinite capacity for regeneration and renewal. Our consciousness is wired for transcendence and transformation, if we are willing to open ourselves to its rigours. The stories in Out of the Darkness inspire a willingness to look into the darkness rather than turn away in fear.

From Turmoil

The first part of the book recounts the stories of transformation from various shifters. Alongside interviews with spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle, Russell Williams and Byron Katie, Taylor also tells the stories of ordinary people who have undergone extraordinary experiences. One that really stood out for me was Michael Hutchison, author of Megabrain, which is about using technology to induce higher states of consciousness. He seemed to have everything life could offer, but then tragedy stuck. A fire at his home destroyed all his possessions, including the new book he was working on. This was bad enough, but then it got worse.

While out running during a snowstorm, he slipped on a patch of ice and ended up in a freezing river. The fall broke his spine, he was paralysed from the neck down and unable to escape the icy water. He couldn’t even call for help because he couldn’t breathe.

He died.

Someone must have pulled him out of the river, because he was resuscitated, and then underwent a further series of near death experiences as the doctors did what they could with his injuries. He spent months trapped in one position, unable to move, staring at one spot on the ceiling directly above his bed. He couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t even read. The boredom was agonising.

Then his money ran out.

He had to leave the hospital because his insurance wouldn’t cover it anymore. Still mostly paralysed, he ended up in the grimmest nursing home you can imagine. Old people wandering about, screaming. It was like hell and he believed his life was over. But then he began to accept reality. He started to let go.

…as they wheeled me back to my room I suddenly found things began to happen. It was as if my entire being had been clenched in a tight fist and suddenly the fist opened up and let go completely. Everything dropped away. I began seeing and experiencing a kind of upwelling or emanation inside me. It was in front of my eyes, but also inside my eyes and inside my body, and it started flowing upward. It was emptiness, the void, but it was luminous. It was just a current of bliss.

Despite the pain of being paralysed he realised there was a basic joy to being alive. Since then, until his physical death earlier this year, he was in a state of continual bliss and saw the whole universe as filled with spiritual radiance.

To Transformation

The second part of the book looks at encounters with death, and the third part asks why these experiences occur. Why do some people undergo a shift in consciousness due to trauma, and others do not?

Finally, Steve Taylor suggests it may not be necessary to experience such extreme suffering in order to have a spiritual awakening. If we can learn from the experiences of others and practise detachment, we may find we have more freedom than we ever imagined.

In fact, this book demonstrates how normal the process of awakening is, and that a transformed consciousness is our birthright if the challenge of the Dark Night is embraced.

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