Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church

StJohnCross.jpg (15650 bytes)

1542- 1591


Translated and edited, with an Introduction, by E. ALLISON PEERS from the critical edition of P. SILVERIO DE SANTA TERESA, C.D.

Electronic edition scanned and edited by Harry Plantinga This text is in the public domain.





















PROLOGUE   Introduction and the beginning of The Dark Night of the Soul.
CHAPTER I    Sets down the first line and begins to treat of the imperfections of beginners.
CHAPTER II  Of certain spiritual imperfections which beginners have with respect to the habit of pride.
CHAPTER III  Of some imperfections which some of these souls are apt to have, with respect to the second capital sin, which is avarice, in the spiritual sense.
CHAPTER IV   Of other imperfections which these beginners are apt to have with respect to the third sin, which is luxury.
CHAPTER V  Of the imperfections into which beginners fall with respect to the sin of wrath.
CHAPTER VI  Of imperfections with respect to spiritual gluttony.
CHAPTER VII  Of imperfections with respect to spiritual envy and sloth.
CHAPTER VIII Wherein is expounded the first line of the first stanza, and a beginning is made of the explanation of this dark night.
CHAPTER IX    Of the signs by which it will be known that the spiritual person is walking along the way of this night and purgation of sense.
CHAPTER X  Of the way in which these souls are to conduct themselves in this dark night.
CHAPTER XI  Wherein are expounded the three lines of the stanza.
CHAPTER XII Of the benefits which this night causes in the soul.
CHAPTER XIII Of other benefits which this night of sense causes in the soul.
CHAPTER XIV Expounds this last verse of the first stanza.






CHAPTER I Which begins to treat of the dark night of the spirit and says at what time it begins.
CHAPTER II  Describes other imperfections which belong to these proficients.
CHAPTER III  Annotation for that which follows.
CHAPTER IV Sets down the first stanza and the exposition thereof.
CHAPTER V Sets down the first line and begins to explain how this dark contemplation is not only night for the soul but is also grief and purgation.
CHAPTER VI Of other kinds of pain that the soul suffers in this night.
CHAPTER VII Continues the same matter and considers other afflictions and constraints of the will.
CHAPTER VIII Of other pains which afflict the soul in this state.
CHAPTER IX How, although this night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so in order to illumine it and give it light.
CHAPTER X Explains this purgation fully by a comparison.
CHAPTER XI  Begins to explain the second line of the first stanza. Describes how, as the fruit of these rigorous constraints, the soul finds itself with the vehement passion of Divine love.
CHAPTER XII Shows how this horrible night is purgatory, and how in it the Divine wisdom illumines men on earth with the same illumination that purges and illumines the angels in Heaven.
CHAPTER XIII Of other delectable effects which are wrought in the soul by this dark night of contemplation.
CHAPTER XIV  Wherein are set down and explained the last three lines of the first stanza.
CHAPTER XV Sets down the second stanza and its exposition.
CHAPTER XVI Explains how, though in darkness, the soul walks securely.
CHAPTER XVII Explains how this dark contemplation is secret.
CHAPTER XVIII Explains how this secret wisdom is likewise a ladder.
CHAPTER XIX Begins to explain the ten steps of the mystic ladder of Divine love, according to Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas. The first five are here treated.
CHAPTER XX Wherein are treated the other five steps of love.
CHAPTER XXI Which explains this word 'disguised,' and describes the colours of the disguise of the soul in this night.
CHAPTER XXII  Explains the third line of the second stanza.
CHAPTER XXIII  Expounds the fourth line and describes the wondrous hiding-place wherein the soul is set during this night. Shows how, although the devil has an entrance into other places that are very high, he has none into this.
CHAPTER XXIV Completes the explanation of the second stanza.
CHAPTER XXV Wherein is expounded the third stanza.






This electronic edition (v 0.9) has been scanned from an uncopyrighted 1959 Image Books third edition of the Dark Night and is therefore in the public domain. The entire text and some of the footnotes have been reproduced. Nearly 400 footnotes (and parts of footnotes) describing variations among manuscripts have been omitted. Page number references in the footnotes have been changed to chapter and section where possible. This edition has been proofread once, but additional errors may remain.

Harry Plantinga University of Pittsburgh planting@cs.pitt.edu July 19, 1994.


FOR at least twenty years, a new translation of the works of St. John of the Cross has been an urgent necessity. The translations of the individual prose works now in general use go back in their original form to the eighteen-sixties, and, though the later editions of some of them have been submitted to a certain degree of revision, nothing but a complete retranslation of the works from their original Spanish could be satisfactory. For this there are two reasons. First, the existing translations were never very exact renderings of the original Spanish text even in the form which held the field when they were first published. Their great merit was extreme readableness: many a disciple of the Spanish mystics, who is unacquainted with the language in which they wrote, owes to these translations the comparative ease with which he has mastered the main lines of St. John of the Cross's teaching. Thus for the general reader they were of great utility; for the student, on the other hand, they have never been entirely adequate. They paraphrase difficult expressions, omit or add to parts of individual sentences in order (as it seems) to facilitate comprehension of the general drift of the passages in which these occur, and frequently retranslate from the Vulgate the Saint's Spanish quotations from Holy Scripture instead of turning into English the quotations themselves, using the text actually before them. A second and more important reason for a new translation, however, is the discovery of fresh manuscripts and the consequent improvements which have been made in the Spanish text of the works of St. John of the Cross, during the present century. Seventy years ago, the text chiefly used was that of the collection known as the Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles (1853), which itself was based, as we shall later see, upon an edition going back as far as 1703, published before modern methods of editing were so much as imagined. Both the text of the B.A.E. edition and the unimportant commentary which accompanied it were highly unsatisfactory, yet until the beginning of the present century nothing appreciably better was attempted. In the last twenty years, however, we have had two new editions, each based upon a close study of the extant manuscripts and each representing a great advance upon the editions preceding it. The three-volume Toledo edition of P. Gerardo de San Juan de la Cruz, C.D. (1912-14), was the first attempt made to produce an accurate text by modern critical methods. Its execution was perhaps less laudable than its conception, and faults were pointed out in it from the time of its appearance, but it served as a new starting-point for Spanish scholars and stimulated them to a new interest in St. John of the Cross's writings. Then, seventeen years later, came the magnificent five-volume edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D. (Burgos, 1929-31), which forms the basis of this present translation. So superior is it, even on the most casual examination, to all its predecessors that to eulogize it in detail is superfluous. It is founded upon a larger number of texts than has previously been known and it collates them with greater skill than that of any earlier editor. It can hardly fail to be the standard edition of the works of St. John of the Cross for generations. Thanks to the labours of these Carmelite scholars and of others whose findings they have incorporated in their editions, Spanish students can now approach the work of the great Doctor with the reasonable belief that they are reading, as nearly as may be, what he actually wrote. English-reading students, however, who are unable to master sixteenth-century Spanish, have hitherto had no grounds for such a belief. They cannot tell whether, in any particular passage, they are face to face with the Saint's own words, with a translator's free paraphrase of them or with a gloss made by some later copyist or early editor in the supposed interests of orthodoxy. Indeed, they cannot be sure that some whole paragraph is not one of the numerous interpolations which has its rise in an early printed edition -- i.e., the timorous qualifications of statements which have seemed to the interpolator over-bold. Even some of the most distinguished writers in English on St. John of the Cross have been misled in this way and it has been impossible for any but those who read Spanish with ease to make a systematic and reliable study of such an important question as the alleged dependence of Spanish quietists upon the Saint, while his teaching on the mystical life has quite unwittingly been distorted by persons who would least wish to misrepresent it in any particular. It was when writing the chapter on St. John of the Cross in the first volume of my Studies of the Spanish Mystics (in which, as it was published in 1927, I had not the advantage of using P. Silverio's edition) that I first realized the extent of the harm caused by the lack of an accurate and modern translation. Making my own versions of all the passages quoted, I had sometimes occasion to compare them with those of other translators, which at their worst were almost unrecognizable as versions of the same originals. Then and there I resolved that, when time allowed, I would make a fresh translation of the works of a saint to whom I have long had great devotion -- to whom, indeed, I owe more than to any other writer outside the Scriptures. Just at that time I happened to visit the Discalced Carmelites at Burgos, where I first met P. Silverio, and found, to my gratification, that his edition of St. John of the Cross was much nearer publication than I had imagined. Arrangements for sole permission to translate the new edition were quickly made and work on the early volumes was begun even before the last volume was published.


These preliminary notes will explain why my chief preoccupation throughout the performance of this task has been to present as accurate and reliable a version of St. John of the Cross's works as it is possible to obtain. To keep the translation, line by line, au pied de la lettre, is, of course, impracticable: and such constantly occurring Spanish habits as the use of abstract nouns in the plural and the verbal construction 'ir + present participle' introduce shades of meaning which cannot always be reproduced. Yet wherever, for stylistic or other reasons, I have departed from the Spanish in any way that could conceivably cause a misunderstanding, I have scrupulously indicated this in a footnote. Further, I have translated, not only the text, but the variant readings as given by P. Silverio,1 except where they are due merely to slips of the copyist's pen or where they differ so slightly from the readings of the text that it is impossible to render the differences in English. I beg students not to think that some of the smaller changes noted are of no importance; closer examination will often show that, however slight they may seem, they are, in relation to their context, or to some particular aspect of the Saint's teaching, of real interest; in other places they help to give the reader an idea, which may be useful to him in some crucial passage, of the general characteristics of the manuscript or edition in question. The editor's notes on the manuscripts and early editions which he has collated will also be found, for the same reason, to be summarized in the introduction to each work; in consulting the variants, the English-reading student has the maximum aid to a judgment of the reliability of his authorities. Concentration upon the aim of obtaining the most precise possible rendering of the text has led me to sacrifice stylistic elegance to exactness where the two have been in conflict; it has sometimes been difficult to bring oneself to reproduce the Saint's often ungainly, though often forceful, repetitions of words or his long, cumbrous parentheses, but the temptation to take refuge in graceful paraphrases has been steadily resisted. In the same interest, and also in that of space, I have made certain omissions from, and abbreviations of, other parts of the edition than the text. Two of P. Silverio's five volumes are entirely filled with commentaries and documents. I have selected from the documents those of outstanding interest to readers with no detailed knowledge of Spanish religious history and have been content to summarize the editor's introductions to the individual works, as well as his longer footnotes to the text, and to omit such parts as would interest only specialists, who are able, or at least should be obliged, to study them in the original Spanish. The decision to summarize in these places has been made the less reluctantly because of the frequent unsuitability of P. Silverio's style to English readers. Like that of many Spaniards, it is so discursive, and at times so baroque in its wealth of epithet and its profusion of imagery, that a literal translation, for many pages together, would seldom have been acceptable. The same criticism would have been applicable to any literal translation of P. Silverio's biography of St. John of the Cross which stands at the head of his edition (Vol. I, pp. 7-130). There was a further reason for omitting these biographical chapters. The long and fully documented biography by the French Carmelite, P. Bruno de Jesus-Marie, C.D., written from the same standpoint as P. Silverio's, has recently been translated into English, and any attempt to rival this in so short a space would be foredoomed to failure. I have thought, however, that a brief outline of the principal events in St. John of the Cross's life would be a useful preliminary to this edition; this has therefore been substituted for the biographical sketch referred to. In language, I have tried to reproduce the atmosphere of a sixteenth-century text as far as is consistent with clarity. Though following the paragraph divisions of my original, I have not scrupled, where this has seemed to facilitate understanding, to divide into shorter sentences the long and sometimes straggling periods in which the Saint so frequently indulged. Some attempt has been made to show the contrast between the highly adorned, poetical language of much of the commentary on the 'Spiritual Canticle' and the more closely shorn and eminently practical, though always somewhat discursive style of the Ascent and Dark Night. That the Living Flame occupies an intermediate position in this respect should also be clear from the style of the translation. Quotations, whether from the Scriptures or from other sources, have been left strictly as St. John of the Cross made them. Where he quotes in Latin, the Latin has been reproduced; only his quotations in Spanish have been turned into English. The footnote references are to the Vulgate, of which the Douai Version is a direct translation; if the Authorized Version differs, as in the Psalms, the variation has been shown in square brackets for the convenience of those who use it. A word may not be out of place regarding the translations of the poems as they appear in the prose commentaries. Obviously, it would have been impossible to use the comparatively free verse renderings which appear in Volume II of this translation, since the commentaries discuss each line and often each word of the poems. A literal version of the poems in their original verse- lines, however, struck me as being inartistic, if not repellent, and as inviting continual comparison with the more polished verse renderings which, in spirit, come far nearer to the poet's aim. My first intention was to translate the poems, for the purpose of the commentaries, into prose. But later I hit upon the long and metrically unfettered verse-line, suggestive of Biblical poetry in its English dress, which I have employed throughout. I believe that, although the renderings often suffer artistically from their necessary literalness, they are from the artistic standpoint at least tolerable.


The debts I have to acknowledge, though few, are very large ones. My gratitude to P. Silverio de Santa Teresa for telling me so much about his edition before its publication, granting my publishers the sole translation rights and discussing with me a number of crucial passages cannot be disjoined from the many kindnesses I have received during my work on the Spanish mystics, which is still proceeding, from himself and from his fellow- Carmelites in the province of Castile. In dedicating this translation to them, I think particularly of P. Silverio in Burgos, of P. Florencio del Nino Jess in Madrid, and of P. Crisogono de Jess Sacramentado, together with the Fathers of the 'Convento de la Santa' in vila. The long and weary process of revising the manuscript and proofs of this translation has been greatly lightened by the co- operation and companionship of P. Edmund Gurdon, Prior of the Cartuja de Miraflores, near Burgos, with whom I have freely discussed all kinds of difficulties, both of substance and style, and who has been good enough to read part of my proofs. From the quiet library of his monastery, as well as from his gracious companionship, I have drawn not only knowledge, but strength, patience and perseverance. And when at length, after each of my visits, we have had to part, we have continued our labours by correspondence, shaking hands, as it were, 'over a vast' and embracing 'from the ends of opposd winds.' Finally, I owe a real debt to my publishers for allowing me to do this work without imposing any such limitations of time as often accompany literary undertakings. This and other considerations which I have received from them have made that part of the work which has been done outside the study unusually pleasant and I am correspondingly grateful.


University of Liverpool. Feast of St. John of the Cross, November 24, 1933.

NOTE. -- Wherever a commentary by St. John of the Cross is referred to, its title is given in italics (e.g. Spiritual Canticle); where the corresponding poem is meant, it is placed between quotation marks (e.g. 'Spiritual Canticle'). The abbreviation 'e.p.' stands for editio princeps throughout.


DURING the sixteen years which have elapsed since the publication of the first edition, several reprints have been issued, and the demand is now such as to justify a complete resetting. I have taken advantage of this opportunity to revise the text throughout, and hope that in some of the more difficult passages I may have come nearer than before to the Saint's mind. Recent researches have necessitated a considerable amplification of introductions and footnotes and greatly increased the length of the bibliography. The only modification which has been made consistently throughout the three volumes relates to St. John of the Cross's quotations from Scripture. In translating these I still follow him exactly, even where he himself is inexact, but I have used the Douia Version (instead of the Authorized, as in the first edition) as a basis for all Scriptural quotations, as well as in the footnote references and the Scriptural index in Vol. III. Far more is now known of the life and times of St. John of the Cross than when this translation of the Complete Works was first published, thanks principally to the Historia del Carmen Descalzo of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D, now General of his Order, and to the admirably documented Life of the Saint written by P. Crisogono de Jesus Sacramentado, C.D., and published (in Vida y Obras de San Juan de la Cruz) in the year after his untimely death. This increased knowledge is reflected in many additional notes, and also in the 'Outline of the Life of St. John of the Cross' (Vol. I, pp. xxv-xxviii), which, for this edition, has been entirely recast. References are given to my Handbook to the Life and Times of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, which provides much background too full to be reproduced in footnotes and too complicated to be compressed. The Handbook also contains numerous references to contemporary events, omitted from the 'Outline' as being too remote from the main theme to justify inclusion in a summary necessarily so condensed. My thanks for help in revision are due to kindly correspondents, too numerous to name, from many parts of the world, who have made suggestions for the improvement of the first edition; to the Rev. Professor David Knowles, of Cambridge University, for whose continuous practical interest in this translation I cannot be too grateful; to Miss I.L. McClelland, of Glasgow University, who has read a large part of this edition in proof; to Dom Philippe Chevallier, for material which I have been able to incorporate in it; to P. Jose Antonio de Sobrino, S.J., for allowing me to quote freely from his recently published Estudios; and, most of all, to M.R.P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D., and the Fathers of the International Carmelite College at Rome, whose learning and experience, are, I hope, faintly reflected in this new edition.


June 30, 1941.

The footnotes are P. Silverio's except where they are enclosed in square brackets.


A.V.--Authorized Version of the Bible (1611). D.V.--Douai Version of the Bible (1609). C.W.S.T.J.--The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D. London, Sheed and Ward, 1946. 3 vols. H.--E. Allison Peers: Handbook to the Life and Times of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. London, Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1953. LL.--The Letters of Saint Teresa of Jesus, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D. London, Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1951. 2 vols. N.L.M.--National Library of Spain (Biblioteca Nacional), Madrid. Obras (P. Silv.)--Obras de San Juan de la Cruz, Doctor de la Iglesia, editadas y anotadas por el P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D. Burgos, 1929-31. 5 vols. S.S.M.--E. Allison Peers: Studies of the Spanish Mystics. Vol. I, London, Sheldon Press, 1927; 2nd ed., London, S.P.C.K., 1951. Vol. II, London, Sheldon Press, 1930. Sobrino.--Jose Antonio de Sobrino, S.J.: Estudios sobre San Juan de la Cruz y nuevos textos de su obra. Madrid, 1950.



SOMEWHAT reluctantly, out of respect for a venerable tradition, we publish the Dark Night as a separate treatise, though in reality it is a continuation of the Ascent of Mount Carmel and fulfils the undertakings given in it:

The first night or purgation is of the sensual part of the soul, which is treated in the present stanza, and will be treated in the first part of this book. And the second is of the spiritual part; of this speaks the second stanza, which follows; and of this we shall treat likewise, in the second and the third part, with respect to the activity of the soul; and in the fourth part, with respect to its passivity.[1]

This 'fourth part' is the Dark Night. Of it the Saint writes in a passage which follows that just quoted:

And the second night, or purification, pertains to those who are already proficient, occurring at the time when God desires to bring them to the state of union with God. And this latter night is a more obscure and dark and terrible purgation, as we shall say afterwards.[2]

In his three earlier books he has written of the Active Night, of Sense and of Spirit; he now proposes to deal with the Passive Night, in the same order. He has already taught us how we are to deny and purify ourselves with the ordinary help of grace, in order to prepare our senses and faculties for union with God through love. He now proceeds to explain, with an arresting freshness, how these same senses and faculties are purged and purified by God with a view to the same end--that of union. The combined description of the two nights completes the presentation of active and passive purgation, to which the Saint limits himself in these treatises, although the subject of the stanzas which he is glossing is a much wider one, comprising the whole of the mystical life and ending only with the Divine embraces of the soul transformed in God through love. The stanzas expounded by the Saint are taken from the same poem in the two treatises. The commentary upon the second, however, is very different from that upon the first, for it assumes a much more advanced state of development. The Active Night has left the senses and faculties well prepared, though not completely prepared, for the reception of Divine influences and illuminations in greater abundance than before. The Saint here postulates a principle of dogmatic theology--that by himself, and with the ordinary aid of grace, man cannot attain to that degree of purgation which is essential to his transformation in God. He needs Divine aid more abundantly. 'However greatly the soul itself labours,' writes the Saint, 'it cannot actively purify itself so as to be in the least degree prepared for the Divine union of perfection of love, if God takes not its hand and purges it not in that dark fire.'[3] The Passive Nights, in which it is God Who accomplishes the purgation, are based upon this incapacity. Souls 'begin to enter' this dark night when God draws them forth from the state of beginners--which is the state of those that meditate on the spiritual road--and begins to set them in the state of progressives--which is that of those who are already contemplatives--to the end that, after passing through it, they may arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of the Divine union of the soul with God.[4]

Before explaining the nature and effects of this Passive Night, the Saint touches, in passing, upon certain imperfections found in those who are about to enter it and which it removes by the process of purgation. Such travellers are still untried proficients, who have not yet acquired mature habits of spirituality and who therefore still conduct themselves as children. The imperfections are examined one by one, following the order of the seven deadly sins, in chapters (ii-viii) which once more reveal the author's skill as a director of souls. They are easy chapters to understand, and of great practical utility, comparable to those in the first book of the Ascent which deal with the active purgation of the desires of sense. In Chapter viii, St. John of the Cross begins to describe the Passive Night of the senses, the principal aim of which is the purgation or stripping of the soul of its imperfections and the preparation of it for fruitive union. The Passive Night of Sense, we are told, is 'common' and 'comes to many,' whereas that of Spirit 'is the portion of very few.'[5] The one is 'bitter and terrible' but 'the second bears no comparison with it,' for it is 'horrible and awful to the spirit.'[6] A good deal of literature on the former Night existed in the time of St. John of the Cross and he therefore promises to be brief in his treatment of it. Of the latter, on the other hand, he will 'treat more fully . . . since very little has been said of this, either in speech or in writing, and very little is known of it, even by experience.'[7] Having described this Passive Night of Sense in Chapter viii, he explains with great insight and discernment how it may be recognized whether any given aridity is a result of this Night or whether it comes from sins or imperfections, or from frailty or lukewarmness of spirit, or even from indisposition or 'humours' of the body. The Saint is particularly effective here, and we may once more compare this chapter with a similar one in the Ascent (II, xiii)--that in which he fixes the point where the soul may abandon discursive meditation and enter the contemplation which belongs to loving and simple faith. Both these chapters have contributed to the reputation of St. John of the Cross as a consummate spiritual master. And this not only for the objective value of his observations, but because, even in spite of himself, he betrays the sublimity of his own mystical experiences. Once more, too, we may admire the crystalline transparency of his teaching and the precision of the phrases in which he clothes it. To judge by his language alone, one might suppose at times that he is speaking of mathematical, rather than of spiritual operations. In Chapter x, the Saint describes the discipline which the soul in this Dark Night must impose upon itself; this, as might be logically deduced from the Ascent, consists in 'allowing the soul to remain in peace and quietness,' content 'with a peaceful and loving attentiveness toward God.'[8] Before long it will experience enkindlings of love (Chapter xi), which will serve to purify its sins and imperfections and draw it gradually nearer to God; we have here, as it were, so many stages of the ascent of the Mount on whose summit the soul attains to transforming union. Chapters xii and xiii detail with great exactness the benefits that the soul receives from this aridity, while Chapter xiv briefly expounds the last line of the first stanza and brings to an end what the Saint desires to say with respect to the first Passive Night. At only slightly greater length St. John of the Cross describes the Passive Night of the Spirit, which is at once more afflictive and more painful than those which have preceded it. This, nevertheless, is the Dark Night par excellence, of which the Saint speaks in these words: 'The night which we have called that of sense may and should be called a kind of correction and restraint of the desire rather than purgation. The reason is that all the imperfections and disorders of the sensual part have their strength and root in the spirit, where all habits, both good and bad, are brought into subjection, and thus, until these are purged, the rebellions and depravities of sense cannot be purged thoroughly.'[9] Spiritual persons, we are told, do not enter the second night immediately after leaving the first; on the contrary, they generally pass a long time, even years, before doing so,[10] for they still have many imperfections, both habitual and actual (Chapter ii). After a brief introduction (Chapter iii), the Saint describes with some fullness the nature of this spiritual purgation or dark contemplation referred to in the first stanza of his poem and the varieties of pain and affliction caused by it, whether in the soul or in its faculties (Chapters iv-viii). These chapters are brilliant beyond all description; in them we seem to reach the culminating point of their author's mystical experience; any excerpt from them would do them an injustice. It must suffice to say that St. John of the Cross seldom again touches those same heights of sublimity. Chapter ix describes how, although these purgations seem to blind the spirit, they do so only to enlighten it again with a brighter and intenser light, which it is preparing itself to receive with greater abundance. The following chapter makes the comparison between spiritual purgation and the log of wood which gradually becomes transformed through being immersed in fire and at last takes on the fire's own properties. The force with which the familiar similitude is driven home impresses indelibly upon the mind the fundamental concept of this most sublime of all purgations. Marvellous, indeed, are its effects, from the first enkindlings and burnings of Divine love, which are greater beyond comparison than those produced by the Night of Sense, the one being as different from the other as is the body from the soul. 'For this (latter) is an enkindling of spiritual love in the soul, which, in the midst of these dark confines, feels itself to be keenly and sharply wounded in strong Divine love, and to have a certain realization and foretaste of God.'[11] No less wonderful are the effects of the powerful Divine illumination which from time to time enfolds the soul in the splendours of glory. When the effects of the light that wounds and yet illumines are combined with those of the enkindlement that melts the soul with its heat, the delights experienced are so great as to be ineffable. The second line of the first stanza of the poem is expounded in three admirable chapters (xi-xiii), while one short chapter (xiv) suffices for the three lines remaining. We then embark upon the second stanza, which describes the soul's security in the Dark Night--due, among other reasons, to its being freed 'not only from itself, but likewise from its other enemies, which are the world and the devil.'[12] This contemplation is not only dark, but also secret (Chapter xvii), and in Chapter xviii is compared to the 'staircase' of the poem. This comparison suggests to the Saint an exposition (Chapters xviii, xix) of the ten steps or degrees of love which comprise St. Bernard's mystical ladder. Chapter xxi describes the soul's 'disguise,' from which the book passes on (Chapters xxii, xxiii) to extol the 'happy chance' which led it to journey 'in darkness and concealment' from its enemies, both without and within. Chapter xxiv glosses the last line of the second stanza--'my house being now at rest.' Both the higher and the lower 'portions of the soul' are now tranquillized and prepared for the desired union with the Spouse, a union which is the subject that the Saint proposed to treat in his commentary on the five remaining stanzas. As far as we know, this commentary was never written. We have only the briefest outline of what was to have been covered in the third, in which, following the same effective metaphor of night, the Saint describes the excellent properties of the spiritual night of infused contemplation, through which the soul journeys with no other guide or support, either outward or inward, than the Divine love 'which burned in my heart.' It is difficult to express adequately the sense of loss that one feels at the premature truncation of this eloquent treatise.[13] We have already given our opinion[14] upon the commentaries thought to have been written on the final stanzas of the 'Dark Night.' Did we possess them, they would explain the birth of the light--'dawn's first breathings in the heav'ns above'-- which breaks through the black darkness of the Active and the Passive Nights; they would tell us, too, of the soul's further progress towards the Sun's full brightness. It is true, of course, that some part of this great gap is filled by St. John of the Cross himself in his other treatises, but it is small compensation for the incomplete state in which he left this edifice of such gigantic proportions that he should have given us other and smaller buildings of a somewhat similar kind. Admirable as are the Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame of Love, they are not so completely knit into one whole as is this great double treatise. They lose both in flexibility and in substance through the closeness with which they follow the stanzas of which they are the exposition. In the Ascent and the Dark Night, on the other hand, we catch only the echoes of the poem, which are all but lost in the resonance of the philosopher's voice and the eloquent tones of the preacher. Nor have the other treatises the learning and the authority of these. Nowhere else does the genius of St. John of the Cross for infusing philosophy into his mystical dissertations find such an outlet as here. Nowhere else, again, is he quite so appealingly human; for, though he is human even in his loftiest and sublimest passages, this intermingling of philosophy with mystical theology makes him seem particularly so. These treatises are a wonderful illustration of the theological truth that grace, far from destroying nature, ennobles and dignifies it, and of the agreement always found between the natural and the supernatural-- between the principles of sound reason and the sublimest manifestations of Divine grace.

Manuscripts of the DARK NIGHT

The autograph of the Dark Night, like that of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, is unknown to us: the second seems to have disappeared in the same period as the first. There are extant, however, as many as twelve early copies of the Dark Night, some of which, though none of them is as palaeographically accurate as the best copy of the Ascent, are very reliable; there is no trace in them of conscious adulteration of the original or of any kind of modification to fit the sense of any passage into a preconceived theory. We definitely prefer one of these copies to the others but we nowhere follow it so literally as to incorporate in our text its evident discrepancies from its original. MS. 3,446. An early MS. in the clear masculine hand of an Andalusian: MS. 3,446 in the National Library, Madrid. Like many others, this MS. was transferred to the library from the Convento de San Hermenegildo at the time of the religious persecutions in the early nineteenth century; it had been presented to the Archives of the Reform by the Fathers of Los Remedios, Seville--a Carmelite house founded by P. GreciAn in 1574. It has no title and a fragment from the Living Flame of Love is bound up with it. This MS. has only two omissions of any length; these form part respectively of Book II, Chapters xix and xxiii, dealing with the Passive Night of the Spirit. It has many copyist's errors. At the same time, its antiquity and origin, and the good faith of which it shows continual signs, give it, in our view, primacy over the other copies now to come under consideration. It must be made clear, nevertheless, that there is no extant copy of the Dark Night as trustworthy and as skilfully made as the Alcaudete MS. of the Ascent. MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Toledo. Written in three hands, all early. Save for a few slips of the copyist, it agrees with the foregoing; a few of its errors have been corrected. It bears no title, but has a long sub-title which is in effect a partial summary of the argument. MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid. This famous convent, which was one of St. Teresa's foundations, is very rich in Teresan autographs, and has also a number of important documents relating to St. John of the Cross, together with some copies of his works. That here described is written in a large, clear hand and probably dates from the end of the sixteenth century. It has a title similar to that of the last-named copy. With few exceptions it follows the other most important MSS. MS. Alba de Tormes. What has been said of this in the introduction to the Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. 6-7) applies also to the Dark Night. It is complete, save for small omissions on the part of the amanuensis, the 'Argument' at the beginning of the poem, the verses themselves and a few lines from Book II, Chapter vii. MS. 6,624. This copy is almost identical with the foregoing. It omits the 'Argument' and the poem itself but not the lines from Book II, Chapter vii. MS. 8,795. This contains the Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle, Living Flame of Love, a number of poems by St. John of the Cross and the Spiritual Colloquies between Christ and the soul His Bride. It is written in various hands, all very early and some feminine. A note by P. Andres de la Encarnacion, on the reverse of the first folio, records that the copy was presented to the Archives of the Reform by the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Baeza. This convent was founded in 1589, two years before the Saint's death, and the copy may well date from about this period. On the second folio comes the poem 'I entered in--I knew not where.' On the reverse of the third folio begins a kind of preface to the Dark Night, opening with the words: 'Begin the stanzas by means of which a soul may occupy itself and become fervent in the love of God. It deals with the Dark Night and is divided into two books. The first treats of the purgation of sense, and the second of the spiritual purgation of man. It was written by P. Fr. Juan de la Cruz, Discalced Carmelite.' On the next folio, a so-called 'Preface: To the Reader' begins: 'As a beginning and an explanation of these two purgations of the Dark Night which are to be expounded hereafter, this chapter will show how narrow is the path that leads to eternal life and how completely detached and disencumbered must be those that are to enter thereby.' This fundamental idea is developed for the space of two folios. There follows a sonnet on the Dark Night,[15] and immediately afterwards comes the text of the treatise. The copy contains many errors, but its only omission is that of the last chapter. There is no trace in it of any attempt to modify its original; indeed, the very nature and number of the copyist's errors are a testimony to his good faith. MS. 12,658. A note by P. Andres states that he acquired it in Madrid but has no more detailed recollection of its provenance. 'The Dark Night,' it adds, 'begins on folio 43; our holy father is described simply as ''the second friar of the new Reformation,"[16] which is clear evidence of its antiquity.' The Codex contains a number of opuscules, transcribed no doubt with a devotional aim by the copyist. Its epoch is probably the end of the sixteenth century; it is certainly earlier than the editions. There is no serious omission except that of six lines of the 'Argument.' The authors of the other works copied include St. Augustine, B. Juan de Avila, P. Baltasar Alvarez and P. TomAs de Jesus. The copies which remain to be described are all mutilated or abbreviated and can be disposed of briefly: MS. 13,498. This copy omits less of the Dark Night than of the Ascent but few pages are without their omissions. In one place a meticulous pair of scissors has removed the lower half of a folio on which the Saint deals with spiritual luxury. MS. of the Carmelite Friars of Toledo. Dates from early in the seventeenth century and has numerous omissions, especially in the chapters on the Passive Night of the Spirit. The date is given (in the same hand as that which copies the title) as 1618. This MS. also contains an opuscule by Suso and another entitled 'Brief compendium of the most eminent Christian perfection of P. Fr. Juan de la Cruz.' MS. 18,160. The copyist has treated the Dark Night little better than the Ascent; except from the first ten and the last three chapters, he omits freely. MS. 12,411. Entitled by its copyist 'Spiritual Compendium,' this MS. contains several short works of devotion, including one by Ruysbroeck. Of St. John of the Cross's works it copies the Spiritual Canticle as well as the Dark Night; the latter is headed: 'Song of one soul alone.' It also contains a number of poems, some of them by the Saint, and many passages from St. Teresa. It is in several hands, all of the seventeenth century. The copy of the Dark Night is most unsatisfactory; there are omissions and abbreviations everywhere. M.S. of the Carmelite Nuns of Pamplona. This MS. also omits and abbreviates continually, especially in the chapters on the Passive Night of Sense, which are reduced to a mere skeleton.

Editio princeps. This is much more faithful to its original in the Dark Night than in the Ascent. Both the passages suppressed[17] and the interpolations[18] are relatively few and unimportant. Modifications of phraseology are more frequent and alterations are also made with the aim of correcting hyperbaton. In the first book about thirty lines are suppressed; in the second, about ninety. All changes which are of any importance have been shown in the notes.

The present edition. We have given preference, as a general rule, to MS. 3,446, subjecting it, however, to a rigorous comparison with the other copies. Mention has already been made in the introduction to the Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. lxiii- lxvi) of certain apparent anomalies and a certain lack of uniformity in the Saint's method of dividing his commentaries. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the Dark Night. Instead of dividing his treatise into books, each with its proper title, the Saint abandons this method and uses titles only occasionally. As this makes comprehension of his argument the more difficult, we have adopted the divisions which were introduced by P. Salablanca and have been copied by successive editors. M. Baruzi (Bulletin Hispanique, 1922, Vol. xxiv, pp. 18-40) complains that this division weighs down the spiritual rhythm of the treatise and interrupts its movement. We do not agree. In any case, we greatly prefer the gain of clarity, even if the rhythm occasionally halts, to the other alternative--the constant halting of the understanding. We have, of course, indicated every place where the title is taken from the editio princeps and was not the work of the author.

The following abbreviations are adopted in the footnotes:

A = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Alba. B = MS. 6,624 (National Library, Madrid). Bz. = MS. 8,795 (N.L.M.). C = MS. 13,498 (N.L.M.). G = MS. 18,160 (N.L.M.). H = MS. 3,446 (N.L.M.). M = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Toledo. Mtr. = MS. 12,658. P = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Toledo. V = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid. E.p. = Editio princeps (1618).

MS. 12,411 and the MS. of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Pamplona are cited without abbreviations.




[1] Ascent, Bk. I, chap. i, Sect. 2. [2] Op, cit., Sect. 3. [3] Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. iii, Sect. 3. [4] Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. i, Sect. 1. [5] Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. viii, Sect. 1. [6] Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. viii, Sect. 2. [7] Ibid. [8] Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. x, Sect. 4. [9] Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. iii, Sect. 1. [10] Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. i, Sect. 1. [11] Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xi, Sect. 1. [12] Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xvi, Sect. 2. [13] [On this, see Sobrino, pp. 159-66.] [14] Cf. pp. lviii-lxiii, Ascent of Mount Carmel (Image Books edition). [15] [It contains a series of paradoxical statements, after the style of those in Ascent, Bk. I, chap. xiii, and is of no great literary merit. P. Silverio reproduces it in Spanish on p. 302 (note) of his first volume.] [16] The 'first friar' would be P. Antonio de Jesus, who was senior to St. John of the Cross in the Carmelite Order, though not in the Reform. [17] The longest of these are one of ten lines in Bk. I, chap. iv, [in the original] and those of Bk. II, chaps. vii, viii, xii, xiii, which vary from eleven to twenty-three lines. Bk. II, chap. xxiii, has also considerable modifications. [18] The chief interpolation is in Bk. I, chap. x. [19] St. Matthew vii, 14. [20] [More exactly: 'purificative.'] [21] St. Luke xviii, 11-12. [22] St. Matthew vii, 3. [23] St. Matthew xxiii, 24. [24] [Lit., 'Presuming.'] [25] [The original merely has: 'and are often eager.'] [26] [Lit., 'a thousand envies and disquietudes.'] [27] St. Matthew xxv, 8. [Lit., 'who, having their lamps dead, sought oil from without.'] [28] [Lit., 'to have.'] [29] [Lit., 'these fervours.'] [30] [Lit., 'into something of this.'] [31] The agnusdei was a wax medal with a representation of the lamb stamped upon it, often blessed by the Pope; at the time of the Saint such medals were greatly sought after, as we know from various references in St. Teresa's letters. [32] [The word nomina, translated 'token,' and normally meaning list, or 'roll,' refers to a relic on which were written the names of saints. In modern Spanish it can denote a medal or amulet used superstitiously.] [33] [No doubt a branch of palm, olive or rosemary, blessed in church on Palm Sunday, like the English palm crosses of to-day. 'Palm Sunday' is in Spanish Domingo de ramos: 'Branch Sunday.'] [34] [Lit., 'recreation.'] [35] [Lit., 'recreation.'] [36] [Lit., 'of everything.'] [37] All writers who comment upon this delicate matter go into lengthy and learned explanations of it, though in reality there is little that needs to be added to the Saint's clear and apt exposition. It will be remembered that St. Teresa once wrote to her brother Lorenzo, who suffered in this way: 'As to those stirrings of sense. . . . I am quite clear they are of no account, so the best thing is to make no account of them' (LL. 168). The most effective means of calming souls tormented by these favours is to commend them to a discreet and wise director whose counsel they may safely follow. The Illuminists committed the grossest errors in dealing with this matter. [38] St. John iii, 6. [39] [Lit. 'they even do it.'] [40] [Lit., 'spiritual road.'] [41] [Lit., 'these persons.'] [42] [Lit., 'and treat this as their God.'] [43] [The Spanish is impersonal: 'immediately this is taken from them,' etc.] [44] [Lit., 'and opinion.'] [45] [Lit., 'anyhow.'] [46] [Lit, 'the other boldnesses are.'] [47] [Lit., 'they strive to obtain this, as they say, by the strength of their arms.' The phrase is, of course, understood in the Spanish to be metaphorical, as the words 'as they say' clearly indicate.] [48] [Lit., 'who are not influenced, neither act by reason, but from pleasure.'] [49] [Lit., 'which we shall give.'] [50] [Aspero: harsh, rough, rugged.] [51] [Lit., 'against all the sweetlessness of self-denial.'] [52] [Lit., 'causing them to enter.'] [53] [Lit., 'and, as they say, their eye (el ojo) grows'--a colloquial phrase expressing annoyance.] [54] 1 Corinthians xiii, 6. The Saint here cites the sense, not the letter, of the epistle. [55] St. Matthew xvi, 25. [56] [Lit., 'they are very weak for the fortitude and trial of perfection.'] [57] St. Matthew vii, 14. [58] [Lit., 'say.'] [59] [Lit., 'say.'] [60] [plAtica: the word is frequently used in Spanish to denote an informal sermon or address.] [61] [Lit., 'low'; the same word recurs below and is similarly translated .] [62] [Lit., 'to the better time.'] [63] [Lit., 'And in this it is known very probably.'] [64] Numbers xi, 5-6. [65] [Lit., 'makes us to desire our miseries.'] [66] [Lit., 'incommunicable.'] [67] Canticles vi, 4 [A.V., vi, 5]. [68] [Lit., 'satisfactory and pacific.'] [69] Psalm lxxxiv, 9 [A.V., lxxxv, 8]. [70] [The stress here is evidently on the transience of the distempers whether they be moral or physical.] [71] [Lit., 'spoiling themselves in the one.'] [72] [Lit., 'because they seek their spirit.'] [73] [Lit., 'without doing anything themselves.'] [74] [Lit., 'which it may then wish to have.'] [75] Psalm lxxii, 21 [A.V., lxxiii, 21-2]. [76] [Lit., 'livingness': cf. the quotation below.] [77] Psalm xli, 3 [A.V., xlii, 2]. [78] [Lit., 'and chance': the same word as in the verse-line above.] [79] St. Matthew vii, 14. [80] Genesis xxi, 8. [81] Exodus xxxiii, 5. [82] [Job ii, 7-8]. [83] [Lit., 'the deep heights.'] [84] Isaias lviii, 10. [85] Isaias xxviii, 19. [The author omits the actual text.] [86] To translate this passage at all, we must read the Dios como of P. Silverio (p. 403, 1. 20), which is also found in P. Gerardo and elsewhere, as como Dios. [87] Isaias xxviii, 9. [88] Habacuc ii, 1. [89] St. Augustine: Soliloq., Cap. ii. [90] Psalm lxii, 3 [A.V., lxiii, 1-2]. [91] Psalm xxxviii, [A.V., xxxix, 2]. [92] Psalm lxxvi, 4 [A.V., lxxvii, 3-4]. [93] Psalm lxxvi, 7 [A.V., lxxvii, 6]. [94] Psalm l, 19 [A.V., li, 17] [95] [The 'spirit of giddiness' of D.V., and 'perverse spirit' of A.V., Isaias xix, 14.] [96] Ecclesiasticus xxxiv, 9-10. [97] Jeremias xxxi, 18. [98] [Lit., 'for certain days.'] [99] [Lit., 'from a narrow prison.'] [100] [i.e., between sense and spirit.] [101] Psalm cxlvii, 17 [D.V. and A.V.]. [102] Wisdom ix, 15. [103] [Lit., 'Continues with other imperfections.'] [104] [i.e., 'deadening of the mind.'] [105] Osee ii, 20. [106] 1 Corinthians xiii, 11. [107] [Ephesians iv, 24.] [108] Psalm xcvi, 2 [A.V., xcvii, 2]. [109] [Lit., 'not attaining.'] [110] Psalm xvii, 13 [A.V., xviii, 12]. [111] Job vii, 20. [112] Psalm xxxviii, 12 [A.V., xxxix, 11]. [113] Job xxiii, 6. [114] Job xix, 21. [115] [There is a reference here to Job vii, 20: cf. Sect. 5, above.] [116] Jonas ii, 1. [117] Psalm xvii, 5-7 [A.V., xviii, 4-5]. [118] Psalm lxxxvii, 6-8 [A.V., lxxxviii, 5-7]. [119] Psalm lxxxvii, 9 [A.V., lxxxviii, 8]. [120] Jonas ii, 4-7 [A.V., ii, 3-6]. [121] Ezechiel xxiv, 10. [122] Ezechiel xxiv, 11. [123] Wisdom iii, 6. [124] Psalm lxviii, 2-4 [A.V., lxix, 1-3]. [125] [i.e., purgatory.] [126] Job xvi, 13-17 [A.V., xvi, 12-16]. [127] Lamentations iii, 1-20. [128] Job xii, 22. [129] Psalm cxxxviii, 12 [A.V., cxxxix, 12]. [130] [Lit., 'like to the dead of the world (or of the age).'] [131] Psalm cxlii, 3 [A.V., cxliii, 3-4]. [132] Psalm xxix, 7 [A.V., xxx, 6]. [133] [Lit., 'and play his tricks upon it.'] [134] B. Bz., C, H. Mtr. all have this long passage on the suffering of the soul in Purgatory. It would be rash, therefore, to deny that St. John of the Cross is its author, [or to suppose, as P. Gerardo did, that he deleted it during a revision of his works]. An admirably constructed synthesis of these questions will be found in B. Belarmino, De Purgatorio, Bk. II, chaps. iv, v. He asks if souls in Purgatory are sure of their salvation. This was denied by Luther, and by a number of Catholic writers, who held that, among the afflictions of these souls, the greatest is this very uncertainty, some maintain that, though they have in fact such certainty, they are unaware of it. Belarmino quotes among other authorities Denis the Carthusian De quattuor novissimis, Gerson (Lect. I De Vita Spirituali) and John of Rochester (against Luther's 32nd article); these writers claim that, as sin which is venial is only so through the Divine mercy, it may with perfect justice be rewarded by eternal punishment, and thus souls that have committed venial sin cannot be confident of their salvation. He also shows, however, that the common opinion of theologians is that the souls in Purgatory are sure of their salvation, and considers various degrees of certainty, adding very truly that, while these souls experience no fear, they experience hope, since they have not yet the Beatific vision. Uncertainty as to their salvation, it is said, might arise from ignorance of the sentence passed upon them by the Judge or from the deadening of their faculties by the torments which they are suffering. Belarmino refutes these and other suppositions with great force and effect. St. John of the Cross seems to be referring to the last named when he writes of the realization of their afflictions and their deprivation of God not allowing them to enjoy the blessings of the theological virtues. It is not surprising if the Saint, not having examined very closely this question, of which he would have read treatments in various authors, thought of it principally as an apt illustration of the purifying and refining effects of passive purgation; and an apt illustration it certainly is. [135] Lamentations iii, 44. [136] [Lamentations iii, 9.] [137] Lamentations iii, 9. [138] Lamentations iii, 28. [139] [Lit., 'at the Divine things.'] [140] Psalm lxxii, 22 [A.V., lxxiii, 22]. [141] 1 Corinthians ii, 10. [Lit., 'penetrates all things.'] [142] Wisdom vii, 24. [143] 2 Corinthians vi, 10. [144] [Lit., 'with a certain eminence of excellence.'] [145] [Lit., '. . . sweetness, with great eminence.'] [146] Exodus xvi, 3. [147] Wisdom xvi, 21. [148] [Lit., 'from every kind.' But see Tobias viii, 2. The 'deprived' of e.p. gives the best reading of this phrase, but the general sense is clear from the Scriptural reference.] [149] Tobias viii, 2. [150] Isaias lxiv, 4 [1 Corinthians ii, 9]. [151] [Lit., 'be made thin.'] [152] Isaias xxvi, 17-18. [153] [Philippians iv, 7.] [154] [We have here split up a parenthesis of about seventy words.] [155] [Lit., 'and wept.'] [156] Lamentations iii, 17. [157] Psalm xxxvii, 9 [A.V., xxxviii, 8]. [158] [Lit., '. . . sees itself, it arises and is surrounded with pain and affliction the affections of the soul, that I know not how it could be described.' A confused, ungrammatical sentence, of which, however, the general meaning is not doubtful.] [159] Job iii, 24. [160] Job xxx, 17. [161] Job xxx, 16. [162] Lamentations iii, 17. [163] Wisdom vii, 11. [164] Ecclesiasticus li, 28-9 [A.V., li, 19-21]. [165] [Lit., 'more delicate.'] [166] [Lit., 'fury.'] [167] [The sudden change of metaphor is the author's. The 'assault' is, of course, the renewed growth of the 'root.'] [168] [Lit., '. . . from the soul, with regard to that which has already been purified.'] [169] [Lit., 'not enlightened': the word is the same as that used just above.] [170] [The word translated 'over' is rendered 'gone' just above.] [171] [Lit., 'in loves'; and so throughout the exposition of this line.] [172] [Lit., 'cling,' 'adhere.'] [173] [Lit., 'shut up.'] [174] [Here, and below, the original has recogidos, the word normally translated 'recollected'] [175] Psalm lviii, 10 [A V., lix, 9]. [176] Deuteronomy vi, 5. [177] Psalm lviii, 15-16 [A.V., lix, 14-15]. [178] Psalm lxii, 2 [A.V., lxiii, 1]. [179] [Lit., as in the verses, 'in loves.'] [180] [For cievro, hart, read siervo, servant, and we have the correct quotation from Scripture. The change, however, was evidently made by the Saint knowingly. In P. Gerardo's edition, the Latin text, with cervus, precedes the Spanish translation, with ciervo.] [181] Job vii, 2-4. [182] [No cabe: Lit., 'it cannot be contained,' 'there is no room for it.'] [183] Isaias xxvi, 9. [184] Psalm l, 12 [A.V., li, 10]. [185] [Lit., 'enamoured.'] [186] Lamentations i, 13. [187] Psalm xi, 7 [A.V., xii, 6]. [188] The Schoolmen frequently assert that the lower angels are purged and illumined by the higher. Cf. St. Thomas, Summa, I, q. 106, a. 1, ad. 1. [189] [Lit., 'and softens.'] [190] [More literally, 'is sick.'] [191] Psalm xxxviii, 4 [A.V., xxxix, 3]. [192] [Lit., 'the beginnings.'] [193] The Saint here treats a question often debated by philosophers and mystics--that of love and knowledge. Cf. also Spiritual Canticle, Stanza XVII, and Living Flame, Stanza III. Philosophers generally maintain that it is impossible to love without knowledge, and equally so to love more of an object than what is known of it. Mystics have, however, their own solutions of the philosophers' difficulty and the speculative Spanish mystics have much to say on the matter. (Cf., for example, the Medula Mistica, Trat. V, Chap. iv, and the Escuela de Oracion, Trat. XII, Duda v.) [194] St. John i, 5. [195] [Lit., 'the yearning to think of it.'] [196] [The word translated 'estimation' might also be rendered 'reverent love.' The 'love of estimation,' which has its seat in the understanding, is contrasted with the 'enkindling' or the 'love of desire,' which has its seat in the will. So elsewhere in this paragraph.] [197] St. John xx, 1 [St. Matthew xxvii, 62-6]. [198] St. John xx, 15. [199] [Lit., 'outskirts,' 'suburbs.'] [200] Canticles v, 8. [201] Genesis xxx, 1. [202] Ephesians iv, 4. [203] Canticles viii, 1. [204] St. Matthew x, 36. [205] [Lit., 'The line, then, continues, and says thus.' In fact, however, the author is returning to the first line of the stanza.] [206] [Lit., 'taste.'] [207] Some have considered this description exaggerated, but it must be borne in mind that all souls are not tested alike and the Saint is writing of those whom God has willed to raise to such sanctity that they drain the cup of bitterness to the dregs. We have already seen (Bk. I, chap. xiv, Sect. 5) that 'all do not experience (this) after one manner . . . for (it) is meted out by the will of God, in conformity with the greater or the smaller degree of imperfection which each soul has to purge away, (and) in conformity, likewise, with the degree of love of union to which God is pleased to raise it' (Bk. I, chap xiv, above). [208] Osee xiii, 9. [209] Psalm xvii, 12 [A.V., xviii, 11]. [210] Psalm xvii, 13 [A.V., xviii, 12]. [211] Isaias v, 30. [212] Psalm xxx, 21 [A.V., xxxi, 20]. [213] 'Propter hoc Gregorius (Hom. 14 in Ezech.) constituit vitam contemplativam in charitate Dei.' Cf. Summa Theologica, 2a, 2ae, q. 45, a. 2. [214] Jeremias i, 6. [215] Exodus iv, 10 [cf. iii, 2]. [216] Acts vii, 32. [217] [Or: 'and they know not how to say it nor are able to do so.'] [218] [Lit., 'to him that rules them.'] [219] [Lit., 'that is set most far away and most remote from every creatures.'] [220] Baruch iii, 31. [221] Psalm lxxvi, 19-20 [A.V., lxxvii, 18-19]. [222] [Lit., 'of the roundness of the earth.'] [223] Job xxxvii, 16. [224] [Lit., 'rises to scale, know and possess.'] [225] Psalm lxxxiii, 6 [A.V., lxxxiv, 7]. [226] St. Luke xiv, 11. [227] Proverbs xviii, 12. [228] Genesis xxviii, 12. [229] [Lit., 'and annihilating oneself.'] [230] 'Ut dicit Bernardus, Magna res est amor, sed sunt in eo gradus. Loquendo ergo aliquantulum magis moraliter quam realiter, decem amoris gradus distinguere possumus' (D. Thom., De dilectione Dei et proximi, cap. xxvii. Cf. Opusc. LXI of the edition of Venice, 1595). [231] [The word translated 'step' may also (and often more elegantly) be rendered 'degree.' The same word is kept, however, throughout the translation of this chapter except where noted below.] [232] Canticles v, 8. [233] Psalm cxlii, 7 [A.V., cxliii, 7]. [234] Psalm lxvii, 10 [A.V., lxviii, 9]. [235] [Lit., 'to enter (upon).'] [236] Canticles iii, 2. [237] Psalm civ, 4 [A.V., cv, 4]. [238] St. John xx. [239] [The word in the Spanish is that elsewhere translated 'step.'] [240] Psalm cxi, 1 [A.V., cxii, 1]. [241] [Lit., 'makes in him this labour of eagerness.'] [242] Genesis xxix, 20. [243] [Lit., 'how much God merits.'] [244] Canticles viii, 5. [245] Jeremias ii, 2. [246] Psalm lxxxiii, 2 [A.V., lxxxiv, 2]. [247] Genesis xxx, 1. [248] [Lit., 'On this hungering step.'] [249] Isaias xl, 31. [250] Psalm xli, 2 [A.V., xlii, 1]. [251] Psalm lviii, [A.V., lix, 4]. [252] Psalm cxviii, 32 [A.V., cxix, 32]. [253] 1 Corinthians xiii, 7. [254] Exodus xxxii, 31-2. [255] Psalm xxxvi, 4 [A.V., xxxvii, 4]. [256] Canticles i, 1. [257] Canticles iii, 4. [258] [Lit., 'attain to setting their foot.'] [259] Daniel x, 11. [260] 'Dum Deum in ignis visione suscipiunt, per amorem suaviter arserunt' (Hom. XXX in Evang.). [261] [i.e., direct, not mediate.] [262] St. Matthew v, 8. [263] St. John iii, 2. [264] St. John xvi, 23. [265] [Lit., 'that it dislocates the sight of all understanding.'] [2661 St. Peter v, 9. [267] [Lit., 'a better undershirt and tunic.'] [268] [Lit., 'this whiteness.'] [269] Osee, ii, 20. [270] Psalm xvi, 4 [A.V., xvii, 4]. [271] 1 Thessalonians v, 8. [272] Psalm xxiv, 15 [A.V., xxv, 15]. [273] Psalm cxxii, 2 [A.V., cxxiii, 2]. [274] Canticles iv, 9. [275] Lamentations iii, 29. [276] Ibid. [For the quotation, see Bk. II, chap. viii, Sect. 1, above.] [277] Canticles i, 3. [A.V., i, 4.] [For 'chambers' the Spanish has 'bed.'] [278] Canticles iii, 10. [279] [Or 'health.'] [280] Romans viii, 24. [281] i.e., in the original Spanish and in our verse rendering of the poem in The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Ed. by E. Allison Peers, Vol. II (The Newman Press, Westminster, Md.). [282] i.e., in the original Spanish and in our verse rendering of the poem in The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Ed. by E. Allison Peers, Vol. II (The Newman Press, Westminster, Md.). [283] [The Spanish also admits of the rendering: 'remain shut off from it by darkness.'] [284] Matthew vi, 3. [285] Canticles iii, 7-8. [286] Canticles vi, 10 [A.V., vi, 11-12]. [287] Job i, 1-11. [288] Such is the unanimous opinion of theologians. Some, with St. Thomas (Pt. III, q. 57, a. 6), suppose that the appearance which converted St. Paul near Damascus was that of Our Lord Jesus Christ in person. [289] Exodus vii, 11-22; viii, 7. [290] Job xli, 25. [291] [Lit., 'step.' Cf. Bk. II, chap. xix, first note, above.] [292] Canticles i, 1. [293] Canticles viii, 1. [294] The word translated 'at rest' is a past participle: more literally, 'stilled.' [295] [Lit., 'twice repeats'--a loosely used phrase.] [296] H omits this last phrase, which is found in all the other Codices, and in e.p. The latter adds: 'notwithstanding that the soul is not wholly free from the temptations of the lower part.' The addition is made so that the teaching of the Saint may not be confused with that of the Illuminists, who supposed the contemplative in union to be impeccable, do what he might. The Saint's meaning is that for the mystical union of the soul with God such purity and tranquillity of senses and faculties are needful that his condition resembles that state of innocence in which Adam was created, but without the attribute of impeccability, which does not necessarily accompany union, nor can be attained by any, save by a most special privilege of God. Cf. St. Teresa's Interior Castle, VII, ii. St. Teresa will be found occasionally to explain points of mystical doctrine which St. John of the Cross takes as being understood. [297] [Lit., 'twice repeated.'] [298] Wisdom xviii, 14. [299] Canticles v, 7. [300] Canticles iii, 1. [301] Thus end the majority of the MSS. Cf. pp. lxviii-lxiii, Ascent of Mount Carmel (Image Books edition), 26-27, on the incomplete state of this treatise. The MSS. say nothing of this, except that in the Alba de Tormes MS. we read: 'Thus far wrote the holy Fray John of the Cross concerning the purgative way, wherein he treats of the active and the passive [aspect] of it as is seen in the treatise of the Ascent of the Mount and in this of the Dark Night, and, as he died, he wrote no more. And hereafter follows the illuminative way, and then the unitive.' Elsewhere we have said that the lack of any commentary on the last five stanzas is not due to the Saint's death, since he lived for many years after writing the commentary on the earlier stanzas.







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