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                     Saint John of the Cross
                      DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

                      THIRD REVISED EDITION

                     Translated and edited,
                 with a General Introduction, by
                        E. ALLISON PEERS

                  from the critical edition of
                P. SILVERIO DE SANTA TERESA, C.D.


                        CENSOR DEPVTATVS


                       VICARIVS GENERALIS


                             TO THE



                  IN MADRID, AVILA AND BURGOS,


                    SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS,




                     ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL


                             BOOK I

      CHAPTER I.--Sets down the first stanza. Describes two
different nights through which spiritual persons pass, according
to the two parts of man, the lower and the higher. Expounds the
stanza which follows
     CHAPTER II.--Explains the nature of this dark night through
which the soul says that it has passed on the road to union
     CHAPTER III.--Speaks of the first cause of this night, which
is that of the privation of the desire in all things, and gives
the reason for which it is called night
     CHAPTER IV.--Wherein is declared how necessary it is for the
soul truly to pass through this dark night of sense, which is
mortification of desire, in order that it may journey to union
with God
     CHAPTER V.--Wherein the aforementioned subject is treated and
continued, and it is shown by passages and figures from Holy
Scripture how necessary it is for the soul to journey to God
through this dark night of the mortification of desire in all
     CHAPTER VI.--Wherein are treated two serious evils caused in
the soul by the desires, the one evil being privative and the
other positive
     CHAPTER VII.--Wherein is shown how the desires torment the
soul. This is proved likewise by comparisons and quotations
     CHAPTER VIII.--Wherein is shown how the desires darken and
blind the soul
     CHAPTER IX.--Wherein is described how the desires defile the
soul. This is proved by comparisons and quotations from Holy
     CHAPTER X.--Wherein is described how the desires weaken the
soul in virtue and make it lukewarm
     CHAPTER XI.--Wherein it is proved necessary that the soul that
would attain to Divine union should be free from desires, however
slight they be
     CHAPTER XII.--Which treats of the answer to another question,
explaining what the desires are that suffice to cause the evils
aforementioned in the soul
     CHAPTER XIII.--Wherein is described the manner and way which
the soul must follow in order to enter this night of sense
     CHAPTER XIV.--Wherein is expounded the second line of the
     CHAPTER XV.--Wherein are expounded the remaining lines of the
aforementioned stanza

                             BOOK II

     CHAPTER II.--Which begins to treat of the second part of cause
of this night, which is faith. Proves by two arguments how it is
darker than the first and then the third
     CHAPTER III.--How faith is dark night to the soul. This is
proved with arguments and quotations and figures from Scripture
     CHAPTER IV.--Treats in general of how the soul likewise must
be in darkness, in so far as this rests with itself, to the end
that it may be effectively guided by faith to the highest
     CHAPTER V.--Wherein is described what is meant by union of the
soul with God. A comparison is given
     CHAPTER VI.--Wherein is described how it is the three
theological virtues that perfect the three faculties of the soul,
and how the said virtues produce emptiness and darkness within
     CHAPTER VII.--Wherein is described how strait is the way that
leads to eternal life and how completely detached and
disencumbered must be those that will walk in it. We begin to
speak of the detachment of the understanding
     CHAPTER VIII.--Which describes in a general way how no
creature and no knowledge that can be comprehended by the
understanding can serve as a proximate means of Divine union with
     CHAPTER IX.--How faith is the proximate and proportionate
means of the understanding whereby the soul may attain to the
Divine union of love. This is proved by passages and figures from
Divine Scripture
     CHAPTER X.--Wherein distinction is made between all
apprehensions and types of knowledge which can be comprehended by
the understanding
     CHAPTER XI.--Of the hindrance and harm that may be caused by
apprehensions of the understanding which proceed from that which
is supernaturally represented to the outward bodily senses; and
how the soul is to conduct itself therein
     CHAPTER XII.--Which treats of natural imaginary apprehensions.
Describes their nature and proves that they cannot be a
proportionate means of attainment to union with God. Shows the
harm which results from inability to detach one self from them
     CHAPTER XIII.--Wherein are set down the signs which the
spiritual person will find in himself whereby he may know at what
season it behoves him to leave meditation and reasoning and pass
to the state of contemplation
     CHAPTER XIV.--Wherein is proved the fitness of these signs,
and the reason is given why that which has been said in speaking
of them is necessary to progress
     CHAPTER XV.--Wherein is explained how it is sometimes well for
progressives who are beginning to enter upon this general
knowledge of contemplation to make use of natural reasoning and
the work of the natural faculties
     CHAPTER XVI.--Which treats of the imaginary apprehensions that
are supernaturally represented in the fancy. Describes how they
cannot serve the soul as a proximate means to union with God
     CHAPTER XVII.--Wherein is described the purpose and manner of
God in His communication of spiritual blessings to the soul by
means of the senses. Herein is answered the question which has
been referred to
     CHAPTER XVIII.--Which treats of the harm that certain
spiritual masters may do to souls when they direct them not by a
good method with respect to the visions aforementioned. Describes
also how these visions may cause deception even though they be of
     CHAPTER XIX.--Wherein is expounded and proved how, although
visions and locutions which come from God are true, we may be
deceived about them. This is proved by quotations from Divine
     CHAPTER XX.--Wherein is proved by passages from Scripture how
the sayings and words of God, though always true, do not always
rest upon stable causes.
     CHAPTER XXI.--Wherein is explained how at times, although God
answers the prayers that are addressed to Him, He is not pleased
that we should use such methods. It is also shown how, although He
condescend to us and answer us, He is oftentimes wroth
     CHAPTER XXII.--Wherein is solved a difficulty -- namely, why
it is not lawful, under the law of grace, to ask anything of God
by supernatural means, as it was under the old law. This solution
is proved by a passage from Saint Paul
     CHAPTER XXIII.--Which begins to treat of the apprehensions of
the understanding that come in a purely spiritual way, and
describes their nature
     CHAPTER XXIV.--Which treats of two kinds of spiritual vision
that come supernaturally
     CHAPTER XXV.--Which treats of revelations, describing their
nature and making a distinction between them
     CHAPTER XXVI.--Which treats of the intuition of naked truths
in the understanding, explaining how they are of two kinds and how
the soul is to conduct itself with respect to them
     CHAPTER XXVII.--Which treats of the second kind of revelation,
namely, the disclosure of hidden secrets. Describes the way in
which these may assist the soul toward union with God, and the way
in which they may be a hindrance; and how the devil may deceive
the soul greatly in this matter
     CHAPTER XXVIII.--Which treats of interior locutions that may
come to the spirit supernaturally. Says of what kinds they are
     CHAPTER XXIX.--Which treats of the first kind of words that
the recollected spirit sometimes forms within itself. Describes
the cause of these and the profit and the harm which there may be
in them
     CHAPTER XXX.--Which treats of the interior words that come to
the spirit formally by supernatural means. Warns the reader of the
harm which they may do and of the caution that is necessary in
order that the soul may not be deceived by them
     CHAPTER XXXI.--Which treats of the substantial words that come
interiorly to the spirit. Describes the difference between them
and formal words, and the profit which they bring and the
resignation and respect which the soul must observe with regard to
     CHAPTER XXXII.--Which treats of the apprehensions received by
the understanding from interior feelings which come supernaturally
to the soul. Describes their cause, and the manner wherein the
soul must conduct itself so that they may not obstruct its road to
union with God

                            BOOK III

     CHAPTER II.--Which treats of the natural apprehensions of the
memory and describes how the soul must be voided of them in order
to be able to attain to union with God according to this faculty
     CHAPTER III.--Wherein are described three kinds of evil which
come to the soul when it enters not into darkness with respect to
knowledge and reflections in the memory. Herein is described the
     CHAPTER IV.--Which treats of the second kind of evil that may
come to the soul from the devil by way of the natural
apprehensions of the memory
     CHAPTER V.--Of the third evil which comes to the soul by way
of the distinct natural knowledge of the memory
     CHAPTER VI.-Of the benefits which come to the soul from
forgetfulness and emptiness of all thoughts and knowledge which it
may have in a natural way with respect to the memory
     CHAPTER VII.--Which treats of the second kind of apprehension
of the memory -- namely, imaginary apprehensions -- and of
supernatural knowledge
     CHAPTER VIII.--Of the evils which may be caused in the soul by
the knowledge of supernatural things, if it reflect upon them.
Says how many these evils are
     CHAPTER IX.--Of the second kind of evil, which is the peril of
falling into self-esteem and vain presumption
     CHAPTER X.--Of the third evil that may come to the soul from
the devil, through the imaginary apprehensions of the memory
     CHAPTER XI.--Of the fourth evil that comes to the soul from
the distinct supernatural apprehensions of the memory, which is
the hindrance that it interposes to union
     CHAPTER XII.--Of the fifth evil that may come to the soul in
supernatural imaginary forms and apprehensions, which is a low and
unseemingly judgment of God
     CHAPTER XIII.--Of the benefits which the soul receives through
banishing from itself the apprehensions of the imagination. This
chapter answers a certain objection and describes a difference
which exists between apprehensions that are imaginary, natural and
     CHAPTER XIV.--Which treats of spiritual knowledge in so far as
it may concern the memory
     CHAPTER XV.--Which sets down the general method whereby the
spiritual person must govern himself with respect to this sense
     CHAPTER XVI.--Which begins to treat of the dark night of the
will. Makes a division between the affections of the will
     CHAPTER XVII.--Which begins to treat of the first affection of
the will. Describes the nature of joy and makes a distinction
between the things in which the will can rejoice
     CHAPTER XVIII.--Which treats of joy with respect to temporal
blessings. Describes how joy in them must be directed to God
     CHAPTER XIX.--Of the evils that may befall the soul when it
sets its rejoicing upon temporal blessings
     CHAPTER XX.--Of the benefits that come to the soul from its
withdrawal of joy from temporal things
     CHAPTER XXI.--Which describes how it is vanity to set the
rejoicing of the will upon the good things of nature, and how the
soul must direct itself, by means of them, to God
     CHAPTER XXII.--Of the evils which come to the soul when it
sets the rejoicing of its will upon the good things of nature
     CHAPTER XXIII.--Of the benefits which the soul receives from
not setting its rejoicing upon the good things of nature
     CHAPTER XXIV.--Which treats of the third kind of good thing
whereon the will may set the affection of rejoicing, which kind
pertains to sense. Indicates what these good things are and of how
many kinds, and how the will has to be directed to God and purged
of this rejoicing
     CHAPTER XXV.--Which treats of the evils that afflict the soul
when it desires to set the rejoicing of its will upon the good
things of sense
     CHAPTER XXVI.--Of the benefits that come to the soul from
self-denial in rejoicing as to things of sense, which benefits are
spiritual and temporal
     CHAPTER XXVII.--Which begins to treat of the fourth kind of
good -- namely, the moral. Describes wherein this consists, and in
what manner joy of the will therein is lawful
     CHAPTER XXVIII.--Of seven evils into which a man may fall if
he set the rejoicing of his will upon moral good
     CHAPTER XXIX.--Of the benefits which come to the soul through
the withdrawal of its rejoicing from moral good
     CHAPTER XXX.--Which begins to treat of the fifth kind of good
thing wherein the will may rejoice, which is the super natural.
Describes the nature of these supernatural good things, and how
they are distinguished from the spiritual, and how joy in them is
to be directed to God
     CHAPTER XXXI.--Of the evils which come to the soul when it
sets the rejoicing of the will upon this kind of good
     CHAPTER XXXII.--Of two benefits which are derived from the
renunciation of rejoicing in the matter of the supernatural graces
     CHAPTER XXXIII.--Which begins to treat of the sixth kind of
good wherein the soul may rejoice, Describes its nature and makes
the first division under this head
     CHAPTER XXXIV.--Of those good things of the spirit which can
be distinctly apprehended by the understanding and the memory.
Describes how the will is to behave in the matter of rejoicing in
     CHAPTER XXXV.--Of the delectable spiritual good things which
can be distinctly apprehended by the will. Describes the kinds of
     CHAPTER XXXVI.--Which continues to treat of images, and
describes the ignorance which certain persons have with respect to
     CHAPTER XXXVII.--Of how the rejoicing of the will must be
directed, by way of the images, to God, so that the soul may not
go astray because of them or be hindered by them
     CHAPTER XXXVIII.--Continues to describe motive good. Speaks of
oratories and places dedicated to prayer
     CHAPTER XXXIX.--Of the way in which oratories and churches
should be used, in order to direct the spirit to God.
     CHAPTER XL.--Which continues to direct the spirit to interior
recollection with reference to what has been said
     CHAPTER XLI.--Of certain evils into which those persons fall
who give themselves to pleasure in sensible objects and who
frequent places of devotion in the way that has been described
     CHAPTER XLII.--Of three different kinds of places of devotion
and of how the will should conduct itself with regard to them
     CHAPTER XLIII.--Which treats of other motives for prayer that
many persons use -- namely, a great variety of ceremonies
     CHAPTER XLIV.--Of the manner wherein the rejoicing and
strength of the will must be directed to God through these
     CHAPTER XLV.--Which treats of the second kind of distinct
good, wherein the will may rejoice vainly


     This electronic edition (v 0.9) has been scanned from an
uncopyrighted 1962 Image Books third edition of the Ascent and is
therefore in the public domain. The entire text and some of the
footnotes have been reproduced.  Nearly 1000 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
                                       July 1, 1994.

                      TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
                      TO THE FIRST EDITION

     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
     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
     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 Jesus in Madrid, and of P.
Crisogono de Jesus Sacramentado, together with the Fathers of the
'Convento de la Santa' in Avila.
     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 opposed 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.

                        E. ALLISON PEERS.

                    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.

                      TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
                      TO THE SECOND EDITION

     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.

                     PRINCIPAL ABBREVIATIONS

     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 Washburne,
1951. 2 vols.

     N.L.M.--National Library of Spain (Biblioteca Nacional),

     Obras (P. Silv.)--Obras de San Juan de la Cruz, Doctor de la
Iglesia, editadas y anotadas pot 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.

                          OF THE CROSS[2]

     1542. Birth of Juan de Yepes at Fontiveros (Hontiveros), near
     The day generally ascribed to this event is June 24 (St.
John Baptist's Day). No documentary evidence for it, however,
exists, the parish registers having been destroyed by a fire in
1544. The chief evidence is an inscription, dated 1689, on the
font of the parish church at Fontiveros.
     ? c. 1543. Death of Juan's father. 'After some years' the
mother removes, with her family, to Arevalo, and later to Medina
del Campo.
     ? c. 1552-6. Juan goes to school at the Colegio de los Ninos
de la Doctrina, Medina.
     c. 1556-7. Don Antonio Alvarez de Toledo takes him into a
Hospital to which he has retired, with the idea of his (Juan's)
training for Holy Orders under his patronage.
     ? c. 1559-63. Juan attends the College of the Society of
Jesus at Medina.
     c. 1562. Leaves the Hospital and the patronage of Alvarez de
     1563. Takes the Carmelite habit at St. Anne's, Medina del
Campo, as Juan de San Matias (Santo Matia).
     The day is frequently assumed (without any foundation)
to have been the feast of St. Matthias (February 24), but P.
Silverio postulates a day in August or September and P. Crisogono
thinks February definitely improbable.
     1564. Makes his profession in the same priory -- probably in
August or September and certainly not earlier than May 21 and not
later than October.
     1564 (November). Enters the University of Salamanca as an
artista. Takes a three-year course in Arts (1564-7).
     1565 (January 6). Matriculates at the University of
     1567. Receives priest's orders (probably in the summer).
     1567 (? September). Meets St. Teresa at Medina del Campo.
Juan is thinking of transferring to the Carthusian Order. St.
Teresa asks him to join her Discalced Reform and the projected
first foundation for friars. He agrees to do so, provided the
foundation is soon made.
     1567 (November). Returns to the University of Salamanca,
where he takes a year's course in theology.
     1568. Spends part of the Long Vacation at Medina del Campo.
On August 10, accompanies St. Teresa to Valladolid. In September,
returns to Medina and later goes to Avila and Duruelo.
     1568 (November 28). Takes the vows of the Reform Duruelo as
St. John of the Cross, together with Antonio de Heredia (Antonio
de Jesus), Prior of the Calced Carmelites at Medina, and Jose de
Cristo, another Carmelite from Medina.
     1570 (June 11). Moves, with the Duruelo community, to Mancera
de Abajo.
     1570 (October, or possibly February 1571). Stays for about a
month at Pastrana, returning thence to Mancera.
     1571 (? January 25). Visits Alba de Tormes for the
inauguration of a new convent there.
     1571 (? April). Goes to Alcala de Henares as Rector of the
College of the Reform and directs the Carmelite nuns.
     1572 (shortly after April 23). Recalled to Pastrana to
correct the rigours of the new novice-master, Angel de San
     1572 (between May and September). Goes to Avila as confessor
to the Convent of the Incarnation. Remains there till 1577.
     1574 (March). Accompanies St. Teresa from Avila to Segovia,
arriving on March 18. Returns to Avila about the end of the month.
     1575-6 (Winter of: before February 1576). Kidnapped by the
Calced and imprisoned at Medina del Campo. Freed by the
intervention of the Papal Nuncio, Ormaneto.
     1577 (December 2 or 3). Kidnapped by the Calced and carried
off to the Calced Carmelite priory at Toledo as a prisoner.
     1577-8. Composes in prison 17 (or perhaps 30) stanzas of the
'Spiritual Canticle' (i.e., as far as the stanza: 'Daughters of
Jewry'); the poem with the refrain 'Although 'tis night'; and the
stanzas beginning 'In principio erat verbum.' He may also have
composed the paraphrase of the psalm Super flumina and the poem
'Dark Night.' (Note: All these poems, in verse form, will be found
in Vol. II of this edition.)
     1578 (August 16 or shortly afterwards). Escapes to the
convent of the Carmelite nuns in Toledo, and is thence taken to
his house by D. Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, Canon of Toledo.
     1578 (October 9). Attends a meeting of the Discalced
superiors at Almodovar. Is sent to El Calvario as Vicar, in the
absence in Rome of the Prior.
     1578 (end of October). Stays for 'a few days' at Beas de
Segura, near El Calvario. Confesses the nuns at the Carmelite
Convent of Beas.
     1578 (November). Arrives at El Calvario.
     1578-9 (November-June). Remains at El Calvario as Vicar. For
a part of this time (probably from the beginning of 1579), goes
weekly to the convent of Beas to hear confessions. During this
period, begins his commentaries entitled The Ascent of Mount
Carmel (cf. pp. 9-314, below) and Spiritual Canticle (translated
in Vol. II).
     1579 (June 14). Founds a college of the Reform at Baeza.
1579-82. Resides at Baeza as Rector of the Carmelite college.
Visits the Beas convent occasionally. Writes more of the prose
works begun at El Calvario and the rest of the stanzas of the
'Spiritual Canticle' except the last five, possibly with the
commentaries to the stanzas.
     1580. Death of his mother.
     1581 (March 3). Attends the Alcala Chapter of the Reform.
Appointed Third Definitor and Prior of the Granada house of Los
Martires. Takes up the latter office only on or about the time of
his election by the community in March 1582.
     1581 (November 28). Last meeting with St. Teresa, at Avila.
On the next day, sets out with two nuns for Beas (December 8-
January 15) and Granada.
     1582 (January 20). Arrives at Los Martires.
     1582-8. Mainly at Granada. Re-elected (or confirmed) as Prior
of Los Martires by the Chapter of Almodovar, 1583. Resides at Los
Martires more or less continuously till 1584 and intermittently
afterwards. Visits the Beas convent occasionally. Writes the last
five stanzas of the 'Spiritual Canticle' during one of these
visits. At Los Martires, finishes the Ascent of Mount Carmel and
composes his remaining prose treatises. Writes Living Flame of
Love about 1585, in fifteen days, at the request of Dona Ana de
     1585 (May). Lisbon Chapter appoints him Second Definitor and
(till 1587) Vicar-Provincial of Andalusia. Makes the following
foundations: Malaga, February 17, 1585; Cordoba, May 18, 1586; La
Manchuela (de Jaen), October 12, 1586; Caravaca, December 18,
1586; Bujalance, June 24, 1587.
     1587 (April). Chapter of Valladolid re-appoints him Prior of
Los Martires. He ceases to be Definitor and Vicar-Provincial.
     1588 (June 19). Attends the first Chapter-General of the
Reform in Madrid. Is elected First Definitor and a consiliario.
     1588 (August 10). Becomes Prior of Segovia, the central house
of the Reform and the headquarters of the Consulta. Acts as deputy
for the Vicar-General, P. Doria, during the latter's absences.
     1590 (June 10). Re-elected First Definitor and a consiliario
at the Chapter-General Extraordinary, Madrid.
     1591 (June 1). The Madrid Chapter-General deprives him of his
offices and resolves to send him to Mexico. (This latter decision
was later revoked.)
     1591 (August 10). Arrives at La Penuela.
     1591 (September 12). Attacked by fever. (September Leaves La
Penuela for Ubeda. (December 14) Dies at Ubeda.
     January 25, 1675. Beatified by Clement X.
     December 26, 1726. Canonized by Benedict XIII.
     August 24, 1926. Declared Doctor of the Church Universal by
Pius XI.



                     GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

     WITH regard to the times and places at which the works of St.
John of the Cross were written, and also with regard to the number
of these works, there have existed, from a very early date,
considerable differences of opinion. Of internal evidence from the
Saint's own writings there is practically none, and such external
testimony as can be found in contemporary documents needs very
careful examination.
     There was no period in the life of St. John of the Cross in
which he devoted himself entirely to writing. He does not, in
fact, appear to have felt any inclination to do so: his books were
written in response to the insistent and repeated demands of his
spiritual children. He was very much addicted, on the other hand,
to the composition of apothegms or maxims for the use of his
penitents and this custom he probably began as early as the days
in which he was confessor to the Convent of the Incarnation at
Avila, though his biographers have no record of any maxims but
those written at Beas. One of his best beloved daughters however,
Ana Maria de Jesus, of the Convent of the Incarnation, declared in
her deposition, during the process of the Saint's canonization,
that he was accustomed to 'comfort those with whom he had to do,
both by his words and by his letters, of which this witness
received a number, and also by certain papers concerning holy
things which this witness would greatly value if she still had
them.' Considering, the number of nuns to whom the Saint was
director at Avila, it is to be presumed that M. Ana Maria was not
the only person whom he favoured. We may safely conclude, indeed,
that there were many others who shared the same privileges, and
that, had we all these 'papers,' they would comprise a large
volume, instead of the few pages reproduced elsewhere in this
     There is a well-known story, preserved in the documents of
the canonization process, of how, on a December night of 1577, St.
John, of the Cross was kidnapped by the Calced Carmelites of Avila
and carried off from the Incarnation to their priory.[3] Realizing
that he had left behind him some important papers, he contrived,
on the next morning, to escape, and returned to the Incarnation to
destroy them while there was time to do so. He was missed almost
immediately and he had hardly gained his cell when his pursuers
were on his heels. In the few moments that remained to him he had
time to tear up these papers and swallow some of the most
compromising. As the original assault had not been unexpected,
though the time of it was uncertain, they would not have been very
numerous. It is generally supposed that they concerned the
business of the infant Reform, of which the survival was at that
time in grave doubt. But it seems at least equally likely that
some of them might have been these spiritual maxims, or some more
extensive instructions which might be misinterpreted by any who
found them. It is remarkable, at any rate, that we have none of
the Saint's writings belonging to this period whatever.
     All his biographers tell us that he wrote some of the stanzas
of the 'Spiritual Canticle,' together with a few other poems,
while he was imprisoned at Toledo. 'When he left the prison,' says
M. Magdalena del Espiritu Santo, 'he took with him a little book
in which he had written, while there, some verses based upon the
Gospel In principio erat Verbum, together with some couplets which
begin: "How well I know the fount that freely flows, Although 'tis
night," and the stanzas or liras that begin "Whither has
vanished?" as far as the stanzas beginning "Daughters of Jewry."
The remainder of them the Saint composed later when he was Rector
of the College at Baeza. Some of the expositions were written at
Beas, as answers to questions put to him by the nuns; others at
Granada. This little book, in which the Saint wrote while in
prison, he left in the Convent of Beas and on various occasions I
was commanded to copy it. Then someone took it from my cell --
who, I never knew. The freshness of the words in this book,
together with their beauty and subtlety, caused me great wonder,
and one day I asked the Saint if God gave him those words which
were so comprehensive and so lovely. And he answered: "Daughter,
sometimes God gave them to me and at other times I sought them."'[4]
     M. Isabel de Jesus Maria, who was a novice at Toledo when the
Saint escaped from his imprisonment there, wrote thus from Cuerva
on November 2, 1614. 'I remember, too, that, at the time we had
him hidden in the church, he recited to us some lines which he had
composed and kept in his mind, and that one of the nuns wrote them
down as he repeated them. There were three poems -- all of them
upon the Most Holy Trinity, and so sublime and devout that they
seem to enkindle the reader. In this house at Cuerva we have some
which begin:

     "Far away in the beginning,
     Dwelt the Word in God Most High."'[5]

     The frequent references to keeping his verses in his head and
the popular exaggeration of the hardships (great though these
were) which the Saint had to endure in Toledo have led some
writers to affirm that he did not in fact write these poems in
prison but committed them to memory and transferred them to paper
at some later date. The evidence of M. Magdalena, however, would
appear to be decisive. We know, too, that the second of St. John
of the Cross's gaolers, Fray Juan de Santa Maria, was a kindly man
who did all he could to lighten his captive's sufferings; and his
superiors would probably not have forbidden him writing materials
provided he wrote no letters.[6]
     It seems, then, that the Saint wrote in Toledo the first
seventeen (or perhaps thirty) stanzas of the 'Spiritual Canticle,'
the nine parts of the poem 'Far away in the beginning . . .,' the
paraphrase of the psalm Super flumina Babylonis and the poem 'How
well I know the fount . . .' This was really a considerable output
of work, for, except perhaps when his gaoler allowed him to go
into another room, he had no light but that of a small oil-lamp or
occasionally the infiltration of daylight that penetrated a small
interior window.
     Apart from the statement of M. Magdalena already quoted,
little more is known of what the Saint wrote in El Calvario than
of what he wrote in Toledo. From an amplification made by herself
of the sentences to which we have referred it appears that almost
the whole of what she had copied was taken from her; as the short
extracts transcribed by her are very similar to passages from the
Saint's writings we may perhaps conclude that much of the other
material was also incorporated in them. In that case he may well
have completed a fair proportion of the Ascent of Mount Carmel
before leaving Beas.
     It was in El Calvario, too, and for the nuns of Beas, that
the Saint drew the plan called the 'Mount of Perfection' (referred
to by M. Magdalena[7] and in the Ascent of Mount Carmel and
reproduced as the frontispiece to this volume) of which copies
were afterwards multiplied and distributed among Discalced houses.
Its author wished it to figure at the head of all his treatises,
for it is a graphical representation of the entire mystic way,
from the starting-point of the beginner to the very summit of
perfection. His first sketch, which still survives, is a
rudimentary and imperfect one; before long, however, as M.
Magdalena tells us, he evolved another that was fuller and more
     Just as we owe to PP. Gracian and Salazar many precious
relics of St. Teresa, so we owe others of St. John of the Cross to
M. Magdalena. Among the most valuable of these is her own copy of
the 'Mount,' which, after her death, went to the 'Desert'[8] of Our
Lady of the Snows established by the Discalced province of Upper
Andalusia in the diocese of Granada. It was found there by P.
Andres de la Encarnacion, of whom we shall presently speak, and
who immediately made a copy of it, legally certified as an exact
one and now in the National Library of Spain (MS. 6,296).
     The superiority of the second plan over the first is very
evident. The first consists simply of three parallel lines
corresponding to three different paths -- one on either side of
the Mount, marked 'Road of the spirit of imperfection' and one in
the centre marked 'Path of Mount Carmel. Spirit of perfection.' In
the spaces between the paths are written the celebrated maxims
which appear in Book I, Chapter xiii, of the Ascent of Mount
Carmel, in a somewhat different form, together with certain
others. At the top of the drawing are the words 'Mount Carmel,'
which are not found in the second plan, and below them is the
legend: 'There is no road here, for there is no law for the
righteous man,' together with other texts from Scripture.
     The second plan represents a number of graded heights, the
loftiest of which is planted with trees. Three paths, as in the
first sketch, lead from the base of the mount, but they are traced
more artistically and have a more detailed ascetic and mystical
application. Those on either side, which denote the roads of
imperfection, are broad and somewhat tortuous and come to an end
before the higher stages of the mount are reached. The centre
road, that of perfection, is at first very narrow but gradually
broadens and leads right up to the summit of the mountain, which
only the perfect attain and where they enjoy the iuge convivium --
the heavenly feast. The different zones of religious perfection,
from which spring various virtues, are portrayed with much greater
detail than in the first plan. As we have reproduced the second
plan in this volume, it need not be described more fully.
     We know that St. John of the Cross used the 'Mount' very,
frequently for all kinds of religious instruction. 'By means of
this drawing,' testified one of his disciples, 'he used to teach
us that, in order to attain to perfection, we must not desire the
good things of earth, nor those of Heaven; but that we must desire
naught save to seek and strive after the glory and honour of God
our Lord in all things . . . and this "Mount of Perfection" the
said holy father himself expounded to this Witness when he was his
superior in the said priory of Granada.'[9]
     It seems not improbable that the Saint continued writing
chapters of the Ascent and the Spiritual Canticle while he was
Rector at Baeza,[10] whether in the College itself, or in El
Castellar, where he was accustomed often to go into retreat. It
was certainly here that he wrote the remaining stanzas of the
Canticle (as M. Magdalena explicitly tells us in words already
quoted), except the last five, which he composed rather later, at
Granada. One likes to think that these loveliest of his verses
were penned by the banks of the Guadalimar, in the woods of the
Granja de Santa Ann, where he was in the habit of passing long
hours in communion with God. At all events the stanzas seem more
in harmony with such an atmosphere than with that of the College.
     With regard to the last five stanzas, we have definite
evidence from a Beas nun, M. Francisca de la Madre de Dios, who
testifies in the Beatification process (April 2, 1618) as follows:

     And so, when the said holy friar John of the Cross was in
this convent one Lent (for his great love for it brought him here
from the said city of Granada, where he was prior, to confess the
nuns and preach to them) he was preaching to them one day in the
parlour, and this witness observed that on two separate occasions
he was rapt and lifted up from the ground; and when he came to
himself he dissembled and said: 'You saw how sleep overcame me!'
And one day he asked this witness in what her prayer consisted,
and she replied: 'In considering the beauty of God and in
rejoicing that He has such beauty.' And the Saint was so pleased
with this that for some days he said the most sublime things
concerning the beauty of God, at which all marvelled. And thus,
under the influence of this love, he composed five stanzas,
beginning 'Beloved, let us sing, And in thy beauty see ourselves
portray'd.' And in all this he showed that there was in his breast
a great love of God.

     From a letter which this nun wrote from Beas in 1629 to P.
Jeronimo de San Jose, we gather that the stanzas were actually
written at Granada and brought to Beas, where

     . . . with every word that we spoke to him we seemed to be
opening a door to the fruition of the great treasures and riches
which God had stored up in his soul.

     If there is a discrepancy here, however, it is of small
importance; there is no doubt as to the approximate date of the
composition of these stanzas and of their close connection with
     The most fruitful literary years for St. John of the Cross
were those which he spent at Granada. Here he completed the Ascent
and wrote all his remaining treatises. Both M. Magdalena and the
Saint's closest disciple, P. Juan Evangelista, bear witness to
this. The latter writes from Granada to P. Jeronimo de San Jose,
the historian of the Reform:

     With regard to having seen our venerable father write the
books, I saw him write them all; for, as I have said, I was ever
at his side. The Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night he
wrote here at Granada, little by little, continuing them only with
many breaks. The Living Flame of Love he also wrote in this house,
when he was Vicar-Provincial, at the request of Dona Ana de
Penalosa, and he wrote it in fifteen days when he was very busy
here with an abundance of occupations. The first thing that he
wrote was Whither hast vanished? and that too he wrote here; the
stanzas he had written in the prison at Toledo.[11]

     In another letter (February 18, 1630), he wrote to the same

     With regard to our holy father's having written his books in
this home, I will say what is undoubtedly true -- namely, that he
wrote here the commentary on the stanzas Whither hast vanished?
and the Living Flame of Love, for he began and ended them in my
time. The Ascent of Mount Carmel I found had been begun when I
came here to take the habit, which was a year and a half after the
foundation of this house; he may have brought it from yonder
already begun. But the Dark Night he certainly wrote here, for I
saw him writing a part of it, and this is certain, because I saw

     These and other testimonies might with advantage be fuller
and more concrete, but at least they place beyond doubt the facts
that we have already set down. Summarizing our total findings, we
may assert that part of the 'Spiritual Canticle,' with perhaps the
'Dark Night,' and the other poems enumerated, were written in the
Toledo prison; that at the request of some nuns he wrote at El
Calvario (1578-79) a few chapters of the Ascent and commentaries
on some of the stanzas of the 'Canticle'; that he composed further
stanzas at Baeza (1579-81), perhaps with their respective
commentaries; and that, finally, he completed the Canticle and the
Ascent at Granada and wrote the whole of the Dark Night and of the
Living Flame -- the latter in a fortnight. All these last works he
wrote before the end of 1585, the first year in which he was
     Other writings, most of them brief, are attributed to St.
John of the Cross; they will be discussed in the third volume of
this edition, in which we shall publish the minor works which we
accept as genuine. The authorship of his four major prose works --
the Ascent, Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle and Living Flame -- no
one has ever attempted to question, even though the lack of extant
autographs and the large number of copies have made it difficult
to establish correct texts. To this question we shall return

     The characteristics of the writings of St. John of the Cross
are so striking that it would be difficult to confuse them with
those of any other writer. His literary personality stands out
clearly from that of his Spanish contemporaries who wrote on
similar subjects. Both his style and his methods of exposition
bear the marks of a strong individuality.
     If some of these derive from his native genius and
temperament, others are undoubtedly reflections of his education
and experience. The Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, then at the
height of its splendour, which he learned so thoroughly in the
classrooms of Salamanca University, characterizes the whole of his
writings, giving them a granite-like solidity even when their
theme is such as to defy human speculation. Though the precise
extent of his debt to this Salamancan training in philosophy has
not yet been definitely assessed, the fact of its influence is
evident to every reader. It gives massiveness, harmony and unity
to both the ascetic and the mystical work of St. John of the Cross
-- that is to say, to all his scientific writing.
     Deeply, however, as St. John of the Cross drew from the
Schoolmen, he was also profoundly indebted to many other writers.
He was distinctly eclectic in his reading and quotes freely
(though less than some of his Spanish contemporaries) from the
Fathers and from the mediaeval mystics, especially from St.
Thomas, St. Bonaventura, Hugh of St. Victor and the pseudo-
Areopagite. All that he quotes, however, he makes his own, with
the result that his chapters are never a mass of citations loosely
strung together, as are those of many other Spanish mystics of his
     When we study his treatises -- principally that great
composite work known as the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark
Night -- we have the impression of a master-mind that has scaled
the heights of mystical science and from their summit looks down
upon and dominates the plain below and the paths leading upward.
We may well wonder what a vast contribution to the subject he
would have made had he been able to expound all the eight stanzas
of his poem since he covered so much ground in expounding no more
than two. Observe with what assurance and what mastery of subject
and method he defines his themes and divides his arguments, even
when treating the most abstruse and controversial questions. The
most obscure phenomena he appears to illumine, as it were, with
one lightning flash of understanding, as though the explanation of
them were perfectly natural and easy. His solutions of difficult
problems are not timid, questioning and loaded with exceptions,
but clear, definite and virile like the man who proposes them. No
scientific field, perhaps, has so many zones which are apt to
become vague and obscure as has that of mystical theology; and
there are those among the Saint's predecessors who seem to have
made their permanent abode in them. They give the impression of
attempting to cloak vagueness in verbosity, in order to avoid
being forced into giving solutions of problems which they find
insoluble. Not so St. John of the Cross. A scientific dictator, if
such a person were conceivable, could hardly express himself with
greater clarity. His phrases have a decisive, almost a chiselled
quality; where he errs on the side of redundance, it is not with
the intention of cloaking uncertainty, but in order that he may
drive home with double force the truths which he desires to
     No less admirable are, on the one hand, his synthetic skill
and the logic of his arguments, and, on the other, his subtle and
discriminating analyses, which weigh the finest shades of thought
and dissect each subject with all the accuracy of science. To his
analytical genius we owe those finely balanced statements,
orthodox yet bold and fearless, which have caused clumsier
intellects to misunderstand him. It is not remarkable that this
should have occurred. The ease with which the unskilled can
misinterpret genius is shown in the history of many a heresy.
     How much of all this St. John of the Cross owed to his
studies of scholastic philosophy in the University of Salamanca,
it is difficult to say. If we examine the history of that
University and read of its severe discipline we shall be in no
danger of under-estimating the effect which it must have produced
upon so agile and alert an intellect. Further, we note the
constant parallelisms and the comparatively infrequent (though
occasionally important) divergences between the doctrines of St.
John of the Cross and St. Thomas, to say nothing of the close
agreement between the views of St. John of the Cross and those of
the Schoolmen on such subjects as the passions and appetites, the
nature of the soul, the relations between soul and body. Yet we
must not forget the student tag: Quod natura non dat, Salamtica
non praestat. Nothing but natural genius could impart the vigour
and the clarity which enhance all St. John of the Cross's
arguments and nothing but his own deep and varied experience could
have made him what he may well be termed -- the greatest
psychologist in the history of mysticism.

     Eminent, too, was St. John of the Cross in sacred theology.
The close natural connection that exists between dogmatic and
mystical theology and their continual interdependence in practice
make it impossible for a Christian teacher to excel in the latter
alone. Indeed, more than one of the heresies that have had their
beginnings in mysticism would never have developed had those who
fell into them been well grounded in dogmatic theology. The one
is, as it were, the lantern that lights the path of the other, as
St. Teresa realized when she began to feel the continual necessity
of consulting theological teachers. If St. John of the Cross is
able to climb the greatest heights of mysticism and remain upon
them without stumbling or dizziness it is because his feet are
invariably well shod with the truths of dogmatic theology. The
great mysteries -- those of the Trinity, the Creation, the
Incarnation and the Redemption -- and such dogmas as those
concerning grace, the gifts of the Spirit, the theological
virtues, etc., were to him guide-posts for those who attempted to
scale, and to lead others to scale, the symbolic mount of
     It will be remembered that the Saint spent but one year upon
his theological course at the University of Salamanca, for which
reason many have been surprised at the evident solidity of his
attainments. But, apart from the fact that a mind so keen and
retentive as that of Fray Juan de San Matias could absorb in a
year what others would have failed to imbibe in the more usual two
or three, we must of necessity assume a far longer time spent in
private study. For in one year he could not have studied all the
treatises of which he clearly demonstrates his knowledge -- to say
nothing of many others which he must have known. His own works,
apart from any external evidence, prove him to have been a
theologian of distinction.
     In both fields, the dogmatic and the mystical he was greatly
aided by his knowledge of Holy Scripture, which he studied
continually, in the last years of his life, to the exclusion, as
it would seem, of all else. Much of it he knew by heart; the
simple devotional talks that he was accustomed to give were
invariably studded with texts, and he made use of passages from
the Bible both to justify and to illustrate his teaching. In the
mystical interpretation of Holy Scripture, as every student of
mysticism knows, he has had few equals even among his fellow
Doctors of the Church Universal.
     Testimonies to his mastery of the Scriptures can be found in
abundance. P. Alonso de la Madre de Dios, el Asturicense, for
example, who was personally acquainted with him, stated in 1603
that 'he had a great gift and facility for the exposition of the
Sacred Scripture, principally of the Song of Songs,
Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes, the Proverbs and the Psalms of
David.'[13] His spiritual daughter, that same Magdalena del
Espiritus Santo to whom we have several times referred, affirms
that St. John of the Cross would frequently read the Gospels to
the nuns of Beas and expound the letter and the spirit to them.[14]
Fray Juan Evangelista says in a well-known passage:

     He was very fond of reading in the Scriptures, and I never
once saw him read any other books than the Bible,[15] almost all of
which he knew by heart, St. Augustine Contra Haereses and the Flos
Sanctorum. When occasionally he preached (which was seldom) or
gave informal addresses [platicas], as he more commonly did, he
never read from any book save the Bible. His conversation, whether
at recreation or at other times, was continually of God, and he
spoke so delightfully that, when he discoursed upon sacred things
at recreation, he would make us all laugh and we used greatly to
enjoy going out. On occasions when we held chapters, he would
usually give devotional addresses (platicas divinas) after supper,
and he never failed to give an address every night.[16]

     Fray Pablo de Santa Maria, who had also heard the Saint's
addresses, wrote thus:

     He was a man of the most enkindled spirituality and of great
insight into all that concerns mystical theology and matters of
prayer; I consider it impossible that he could have spoken so well
about all the virtues if he had not been most proficient in the
spiritual life, and I really think he knew the whole Bible by
heart, so far as one could judge from the various Biblical
passages which he would quote at chapters and in the refectory,
without any great effort, but as one who goes where the Spirit
leads him.[17]

     Nor was this admiration for the expository ability of St.
John of the Cross confined to his fellow-friars, who might easily
enough have been led into hero-worship. We know that he was
thought highly of in this respect by the University of Alcala de
Henares, where he was consulted as an authority. A Dr. Villegas,
Canon of Segovia Cathedral, has left on record his respect for
him. And Fray Jeronimo de San Jose relates the esteem in which he
was held at the University of Baeza, which in his day enjoyed a
considerable reputation for Biblical studies:

     There were at that time at the University of Baeza many
learned and spiritually minded persons, disciples of that great
father and apostle Juan de Avila.[18] . . . All these doctors . . .
would repair to our venerable father as to an oracle from heaven
and would discuss with him both their own spiritual progress and
that of souls committed to their charge, with the result that they
were both edified and astonished at his skill. They would also
bring him difficulties and delicate points connected with Divine
letters, and on these, too, he spoke with extraordinary energy and
illumination. One of these doctors, who had consulted him and
listened to him on various occasions, said that, although he had
read deeply in St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom and other
saints, and had found in them greater heights and depths, he had
found in none of them that particular kind of spirituality in
exposition which this great father applied to Scriptural

     The Scriptural knowledge of St. John of the Cross was, as
this passage makes clear, in no way merely academic. Both in his

literal and his mystical interpretations of the Bible, he has what
we may call a 'Biblical sense,' which saves him from such
exaggerations as we find in other expositors, both earlier and
contemporary. One would not claim, of course, that among the many
hundreds of applications of Holy Scripture made by the Carmelite
Doctor there are none that can be objected to in this respect; but
the same can be said of St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory or
St. Bernard, and no one would assert that, either with them or
with him, such instances are other than most exceptional.

     To the three sources already mentioned in which St. John of
the Cross found inspiration we must add a fourth -- the works of
ascetic and mystical writers. It is not yet possible to assert
with any exactness how far the Saint made use of these; for,
though partial studies of this question have been attempted, a
complete and unbiased treatment of it has still to be undertaken.
Here we can do no more than give a few indications of what remains
to be done and summarize the present content of our knowledge.[20]
     We may suppose that, during his novitiate in Medina, the
Saint read a number of devotional books, one of which would almost
certainly have been the Imitation of Christ, and others would have
included works which were translated into Spanish by order of
Cardinal Cisneros. The demands of a University course would not
keep him from pursuing such studies at Salamanca; the friar who
chose a cell from the window of which he could see the Blessed
Sacrament, so that he might spend hours in its company, would
hardly be likely to neglect his devotional reading. But we have
not a syllable of direct external evidence as to the titles of any
of the books known to him.
     Nor, for that matter, have we much more evidence of this kind
for any other part of his life. Both his early Carmelite
biographers and the numerous witnesses who gave evidence during
the canonization process describe at great length his
extraordinary penances, his love for places of retreat beautified
by Nature, the long hours that he spent in prayer and the tongue
of angels with which he spoke on things spiritual. But of his
reading they say nothing except to describe his attachment to the
Bible, nor have we any record of the books contained in the
libraries of the religious houses that he visited. Yet if, as we
gather from the process, he spent little more than three hours
nightly in sleep, he must have read deeply of spiritual things by
night as well as by day.
     Some clues to the nature of his reading may be gained from
his own writings. It is true that the clues are slender. He cites
few works apart from the Bible and these are generally liturgical
books, such as the Breviary. Some of his quotations from St.
Augustine, St. Gregory and other of the Fathers are traceable to
these sources. Nevertheless, we have not read St. John of the
Cross for long before we find ourselves in the full current of
mystical tradition. It is not by means of more or less literal
quotations that the Saint produces this impression; he has studied
his precursors so thoroughly that he absorbs the substance of
their doctrine and incorporates it so intimately in his own that
it becomes flesh of his flesh. Everything in his writings is fully
matured: he has no juvenilia. The mediaeval mystics whom he uses
are too often vague and undisciplined; they need someone to select
from them and unify them, to give them clarity and order, so that
their treatment of mystical theology may have the solidity and
substance of scholastic theology. To have done this is one of the
achievements of St. John of the Cross.
     We are convinced, then, by an internal evidence which is
chiefly of a kind in which no chapter and verse can be given, that
St. John of the Cross read widely in mediaeval mystical theology
and assimilated a great part of what he read. The influence of
foreign writers upon Spanish mysticism, though it was once denied,
is to-day generally recognized. It was inevitable that it should
have been considerable in a country which in the sixteenth century
had such a high degree of culture as Spain. Plotinus, in a diluted
form, made his way into Spanish mysticism as naturally as did
Seneca into Spanish asceticism. Plato and Aristotle entered it
through the two greatest minds that Christianity has known -- St.
Augustine and St. Thomas. The influence of the Platonic theories
of love and beauty and of such basic Aristotelian theories as the
origin of knowledge is to be found in most of the Spanish mystics,
St. John of the Cross among them.
     The pseudo-Dionysius was another writer who was considered a
great authority by the Spanish mystics. The importance attributed
to his works arose partly from the fact that he was supposed to
have been one of the first disciples of the Apostles; many
chapters from mystical works of those days all over Europe are no
more than glosses of the pseudo-Areopagite. He is followed less,
however, by St. John of the Cross than by many of the latter's
     Other influences upon the Carmelite Saint were St. Gregory,
St. Bernard and Hugh and Richard of St. Victor, many of whose
maxims were in the mouths of the mystics in the sixteenth century.
More important, probably, than any of these was the Fleming,
Ruysbroeck, between whom and St. John of the Cross there were
certainly many points of contact. The Saint would have read him,
not in the original, but in Surius' Latin translation of 1552,
copies of which are known to have been current in Spain.[21]
Together with Ruysbroeck may be classed Suso, Denis the
Carthusian, Herp, Kempis and various other writers.
     Many of the ideas and phrases which we find in St. John of
the Cross, as in other writers, are, of course, traceable to the
common mystical tradition rather than to any definite individual
influence. The striking metaphor of the ray of light penetrating
the room, for example, which occurs in the first chapter of the
pseudo-Areopagite's De Mystica Theologia, has been used
continually by mystical writers ever since his time. The figures
of the wood consumed by fire, of the ladder, the mirror, the flame
of love and the nights of sense and spirit had long since become
naturalized in mystical literature. There are many more such
     The originality of St. John of the Cross is in no way
impaired by his employment of this current mystical language: such
an idea might once have been commonly held, but has long ceased to
be put forward seriously. His originality, indeed, lies precisely
in the use which he made of language that he found near to hand.
It is not going too far to liken the place taken by St. John of
the Cross in mystical theology to that of St. Thomas in dogmatic;
St. Thomas laid hold upon the immense store of material which had
accumulated in the domain of dogmatic theology and subjected it to
the iron discipline of reason. That St. John of the Cross did the
same for mystical theology is his great claim upon our admiration.
Through St. Thomas speaks the ecclesiastical tradition of many
ages on questions of religious belief; through St. John speaks an
equally venerable tradition on questions of Divine love. Both
writers combined sainthood with genius. Both opened broad channels
to be followed of necessity by Catholic writers through the ages
to come till theology shall lose itself in that vast ocean of
truth and love which is God. Both created instruments adequate to
the greatness of their task: St. Thomas' clear, decisive reasoning
processes give us the formula appropriate to each and every need
of the understanding; St. John clothes his teaching in mellower
and more appealing language, as befits the exponent of the science
of love. We may describe the treatises of St. John of the Cross as
the true Summa Angelica of mystical theology.



     THE profound and original thought which St. John of the Cross
bestowed upon so abstruse a subject, and upon one on which there
was so little classical literature in Spanish when he wrote, led
him to clothe his ideas in a language at once energetic, precise
and of a high degree of individuality. His style reflects his
thought, but it reflects the style of no school and of no other
writer whatsoever.
     This is natural enough, for thought and feeling were always
uppermost in the Saint: style and language take a place entirely
subordinate to them. Never did he sacrifice any idea to artistic
combinations of words; never blur over any delicate shade of
thought to enhance some rhythmic cadence of musical prose.
Literary form (to use a figure which he himself might have coined)
is only present at all in his works in the sense in which the
industrious and deferential servant is present in the ducal
apartment, for the purpose of rendering faithful service to his
lord and master. This subordination of style to content in the
Saint's work is one of its most eminent qualities. He is a great
writer, but not a great stylist. The strength and robustness of
his intellect everywhere predominate.
     This to a large extent explains the negligences which we find
in his style, the frequency with which it is marred by repetitions
and its occasional degeneration into diffuseness. The long,
unwieldy sentences, one of which will sometimes run to the length
of a reasonably sized paragraph, are certainly a trial to many a
reader. So intent is the Saint upon explaining, underlining and
developing his points so that they shall be apprehended as
perfectly as may be, that he continually recurs to what he has
already said, and repeats words, phrases and even passages of
considerable length without scruple. It is only fair to remind the
reader that such things were far commoner in the Golden Age than
they are to-day; most didactic Spanish prose of that period would
be notably improved, from a modern standpoint, if its volume were
cut down by about one-third.
     Be that as it may, these defects in the prose of St. John of
the Cross are amply compensated by the fullness of his
phraseology, the wealth and profusion of his imagery, the force
and the energy of his argument. He has only to be compared with
the didactic writers who were his contemporaries for this to
become apparent. Together with Luis de Granada, Luis de Leon, Juan
de los Angeles and Luis de la Puente,[22] he created a genuinely
native language, purged of Latinisms, precise and eloquent, which
Spanish writers have used ever since in writing of mystical
     The most sublime of all the Spanish mystics, he soars aloft
on the wings of Divine love to heights known to hardly any of
them. Though no words can express the loftiest of the experiences
which he describes, we are never left with the impression that
word, phrase or image has failed him. If it does not exist, he
appears to invent it, rather than pause in his description in
order to search for an expression of the idea that is in his mind
or be satisfied with a prolix paraphrase. True to the character of
his thought, his style is always forceful and energetic, even to a
     We have said nothing of his poems, for indeed they call for
no purely literary commentary. How full of life the greatest of
them are, how rich in meaning, how unforgettable and how
inimitable, the individual reader may see at a glance or may learn
from his own experience. Many of their exquisite figures their
author owes, directly or indirectly, to his reading and
assimilation of the Bible. Some of them, however, have acquired a
new life in the form which he has given them. A line here, a
phrase there, has taken root in the mind of some later poet or
essayist and has given rise to a new work of art, to many lovers
of which the Saint who lies behind it is unknown.
     It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that the verse and
prose works combined of St. John of the Cross form at once the
most grandiose and the most melodious spiritual canticle to which
any one man has ever given utterance. It is impossible, in the
space at our disposal, to quote at any length from the Spanish
critics who have paid tribute to its comprehensiveness and
profundity. We must content ourselves with a short quotation
characterizing the Saint's poems, taken from the greatest of these
critics, Marcelino Menendez Pelayo, who, besides referring
frequently to St. John of the Cross in such of his mature works as
the Heterodoxos, Ideas Esteticas and Ciencia Espanola, devoted to
him a great part of the address which he delivered as a young man
at his official reception into the Spanish Academy under the title
of 'Mystical Poetry.'
     'So sublime,' wrote Menendez Pelayo, 'is this poetry [of St.
John of the Cross] that it scarcely seems to belong to this world
at all; it is hardly capable of being assessed by literary
criteria. More ardent in its passion than any profane poetry, its
form is as elegant and exquisite, as plastic and as highly figured
as any of the finest works of the Renaissance. The spirit of God
has passed through these poems every one, beautifying and
sanctifying them on its way.'



     The outstanding qualities of St. John of the Cross's writings
were soon recognized by the earliest of their few and privileged
readers. All such persons, of course, belonged to a small circle
composed of the Saint's intimate friends and disciples. As time
went on, the circle widened repeatedly; now it embraces the entire
Church, and countless individual souls who are filled with the
spirit of Christianity.
     First of all, the works were read and discussed in those loci
of evangelical zeal which the Saint had himself enkindled, by his
word and example, at Beas, El Calvario, Baeza and Granada. They
could not have come more opportunely. St. Teresa's Reform had
engendered a spiritual alertness and energy reminiscent of the
earliest days of Christianity. Before this could in any way
diminish, her first friar presented the followers of them both
with spiritual food to nourish and re-create their souls and so to
sustain the high degree of zeal for Our Lord which He had bestowed
upon them.
     In one sense, St. John of the Cross took up his pen in order
to supplement the writings of St. Teresa; on several subjects, for
example, he abstained from writing at length because she had
already treated of them.[23] Much of the work of the two Saints,
however, of necessity covers the same ground, and thus the great
mystical school of the Spanish Carmelites is reinforced at its
very beginnings in a way which must be unique in the history of
mysticism. The writings of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross,
though of equal value and identical aim, are in many respects very
different in their nature; together they cover almost the entire
ground of orthodox mysticism, both speculative and experimental.
The Carmelite mystics who came after them were able to build upon
a broad and sure foundation.
     The writings of St. John of the Cross soon became known
outside the narrow circle of his sons and daughters in religion.
In a few years they had gone all over Spain and reached Portugal,
France and Italy. They were read by persons of every social class,
from the Empress Maria of Austria, sister of Philip II, to the
most unlettered nuns of St. Teresa's most remote foundations. One
of the witnesses at the process for the beatification declared
that he knew of no works of which there existed so many copies,
with the exception of the Bible.
     We may fairly suppose (and the supposition is confirmed by
the nature of the extant manuscripts) that the majority of the
early copies were made by friars and nuns of the Discalced Reform.
Most Discalced houses must have had copies and others were
probably in the possession of members of other Orders. We gather,
too, from various sources, that even lay persons managed to make
or obtain copies of the manuscripts.
     How many of these copies, it will be asked, were made
directly from the autographs? So vague is the available evidence
on this question that it is difficult to attempt any calculation
of even approximate reliability. All we can say is that the copies
made by, or for, the Discalced friars and nuns themselves are the
earliest and most trustworthy, while those intended for the laity
were frequently made at third or fourth hand. The Saint himself
seems to have written out only one manuscript of each treatise and
none of these has come down to us. Some think that he destroyed
the manuscripts copied with his own hand, fearing that they might
come to be venerated for other reasons than that of the value of
their teaching. He was, of course, perfectly capable of such an
act of abnegation; once, as we know, in accordance with his own
principles, he burned some letters of St. Teresa, which he had
carried with him for years, for no other reason than that he
realized that he was becoming attached to them.[24]
     The only manuscript of his that we possess consists of a few
pages of maxims, some letters and one or two documents which he
wrote when he was Vicar-Provincial of Andalusia.[25] So numerous
and so thorough have been the searches made for further autographs
during the last three centuries that further discoveries of any
importance seem most unlikely. We have, therefore, to console
ourselves with manuscripts, such as the Sanlucar de Barrameda
Codex of the Spiritual Canticle, which bear the Saint's autograph
corrections as warrants of their integrity.
     The vagueness of much of the evidence concerning the
manuscripts to which we have referred extends to the farthest
possible limit -- that of using the word 'original' to indicate
'autograph' and 'copy' indifferently. Even in the earliest
documents we can never be sure which sense is intended.
Furthermore, there was a passion in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries for describing all kinds of old manuscripts as
autographs, and thus we find copies so described in which the hand
bears not the slightest resemblance to that of the Saint, as the
most superficial collation with a genuine specimen of his hand
would have made evident. We shall give instances of this in
describing the extant copies of individual treatises. One example
of a general kind, however, may be quoted here to show the extent
to which the practice spread. In a statement made, with reference
to one of the processes, at the convent of Discalced Carmelite
nuns of Valladolid, a certain M. Maria de la Trinidad deposed
'that a servant of God, a Franciscan tertiary named Ana Maria,
possesses the originals of the books of our holy father, and has
heard that he sent them to the Order.' Great importance was
attached to this deposition and every possible measure was taken
to find the autographs -- needless to say, without result.[26]

     With the multiplication of the number of copies of St. John
of the Cross's writings, the number of variants naturally
multiplied also. The early copies having all been made for
devotional purposes, by persons with little or no palaeographical
knowledge, many of whom did not even exercise common care, it is
not surprising that there is not a single one which can compare in
punctiliousness with certain extant eighteenth-century copies of
documents connected with St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa.
These were made by a painstaking friar called Manuel de Santa
Maria, whose scrupulousness went so far that he reproduced
imperfectly formed letters exactly as they were written, adding
the parts that were lacking (e.g., the tilde over the letter n)
with ink of another colour.
     We may lament that this good father had no predecessor like
himself to copy the Saint's treatises, but it is only right to say
that the copies we possess are sufficiently faithful and numerous
to give us reasonably accurate versions of their originals. The
important point about them is that they bear no signs of bad
faith, nor even of the desire (understandable enough in those
unscientific days) to clarify the sense of their original, or even
to improve upon its teaching. Their errors are often gross ones,
but the large majority of them are quite easy to detect and put
right. The impression to this effect which one obtains from a
casual perusal of almost any of these copies is quite definitely
confirmed by a comparison of them with copies corrected by the
Saint or written by the closest and most trusted of his disciples.
It may be added that some of the variants may, for aught we know
to the contrary, be the Saint's own work, since it is not
improbable that he may have corrected more than one copy of some
of his writings, and not been entirely consistent.
     There are, broadly speaking, two classes into which the
copies (more particularly those of the Ascent and the Dark Night)
may be divided. One class aims at a more or less exact
transcription; the other definitely sets out to abbreviate. Even
if the latter class be credited with a number of copies which
hardly merit the name, the former is by far the larger, and, of
course, the more important, though it must not be supposed that
the latter is unworthy of notice. The abbreviators generally omit
whole chapters, or passages, at a time, and, where they are not
for the moment doing this, or writing the connecting phrases
necessary to repair their mischief, they are often quite faithful
to their originals. Since they do not, in general, attribute
anything to their author that is not his, no objection can be
taken, on moral grounds, to their proceeding, though, in actual
fact, the results are not always happy. Their ends were purely
practical and devotional and they made no attempt to pass their
compendia as full-length transcriptions.
     With regard to the Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame of
Love, of each of which there are two redactions bearing
indisputable marks of the author's own hand, the classification of
the copies will naturally depend upon which redaction each copy
the more nearly follows. This question will be discussed in the
necessary detail in the introduction to each of these works, and
to the individual introductions to the four major treatises we
must refer the reader for other details of the manuscripts. In the
present pages we have attempted only a general account of these
matters. It remains to add that our divisions of each chapter into
paragraphs follow the manuscripts throughout except where
indicated. The printed editions, as we shall see, suppressed these
divisions, but, apart from their value to the modern reader, they
are sufficiently nearly identical in the various copies to form
one further testimony to their general high standard of



     THE principal lacuna in St. John of the Cross's writings, and,
from the literary standpoint, the most interesting, is the lack of
any commentary to the last five stanzas[27] of the poem 'Dark
Night.' Such a commentary is essential to the completion of the
plan which the Saint had already traced for himself in what was to
be, and, in spite of its unfinished condition, is in fact, his
most rigorously scientific treatise. 'All the doctrine,' he wrote
in the Argument of the Ascent, 'whereof I intend to treat in this
Ascent of Mount Carmel is included in the following stanzas, and
in them is also described the manner of ascending to the summit of
the Mount, which is the high estate of perfection which we here
call union of the soul with God.' This leaves no doubt but that
the Saint intended to treat the mystical life as one whole, and to
deal in turn with each stage of the road to perfection, from the
beginnings of the Purgative Way to the crown and summit of the
life of Union. After showing the need for such a treatise as he
proposes to write, he divides the chapters on Purgation into four
parts corresponding to the Active and Passive nights of Sense and
of Spirit. These, however, correspond only to the first two
stanzas of his poem; they are not, as we shall shortly see,
complete, but their incompleteness is slight compared with that of
the work as a whole.
     Did St. John of the Cross, we may ask, ever write a
commentary on those last five stanzas, which begin with a
description of the state of Illumination:

     'Twas that light guided me,
     More surely than the noonday's brightest glare --

     and end with that of the life of Union:

     All things for me that day
     Ceas'd, as I slumber'd there,
     Amid the lilies drowning all my care?

     If we suppose that he did, we are faced with the question of
its fate and with the strange fact that none of his contemporaries
makes any mention of such a commentary, though they are all
prolific in details of far less importance.
     Conjectures have been ventured on this question ever since
critical methods first began to be applied to St. John of the
Cross's writings. A great deal was written about it by P. Andres
de la Encarnacion, to whom his superiors entrusted the task of
collecting and editing the Saint's writings, and whose findings,
though they suffer from the defects of an age which from a modern
standpoint must be called unscientific, and need therefore to be
read with the greatest caution, are often surprisingly just and
accurate. P. Andres begins by referring to various places where
St. John of the Cross states that he has treated certain subjects
and proposes to treat others, about which nothing can be found in
his writings. This, he says, may often be due to an oversight on
the writer's part or to changes which new experiences might have
brought to his mode of thinking. On the other hand, there are
sometimes signs that these promises have been fulfilled: the sharp
truncation of the argument, for example, at the end of Book III of
the Ascent suggests that at least a few pages are missing, in
which case the original manuscript must have been mutilated,[28] for
almost all the extant copies break off at the same word. It is
unthinkable, as P. Andres says, that the Saint 'should have gone
on to write the Night without completing the Ascent, for all these
five books[29] are integral parts of one whole, since they all treat
of different stages of one spiritual path.'[30]
     It may be argued in the same way that St. John of the Cross
would not have gone on to write the commentaries on the 'Spiritual
Canticle' and the 'Living Flame of Love' without first completing
the Dark Night. P. Andres goes so far as to say that the very
unwillingness which the Saint displayed towards writing
commentaries on the two latter poems indicates that he had already
completed the others; otherwise, he could easily have excused
himself from the later task on the plea that he had still to
finish the earlier.
     Again, St. John of the Cross declares very definitely, in the
prologue to the Dark Night, that, after describing in the
commentary on the first two stanzas the effects of the two passive
purgations of the sensual and the spiritual part of man, he will
devote the six remaining stanzas to expounding 'various and
wondrous effects of the spiritual illumination and union of love
with God.' Nothing could be clearer than this. Now, in the
commentary on the 'Living Flame,' argues P. Andres, he treats at
considerable length of simple contemplation and adds that he has
written fully of it in several chapters of the Ascent and the
Night, which he names; but not only do we not find the references
in two of the chapters enumerated by him, but he makes no mention
of several other chapters in which the references are of
considerable fullness. The proper deductions from these facts
would seem to be, first, that we do not possess the Ascent and the
Night in the form in which the Saint wrote them, and, second, that
in the missing chapters he referred to the subject under
discussion at much greater length than in the chapters we have.
     Further, the practice of St. John of the Cross was not to
omit any part of his commentaries when for any reason he was
unable or unwilling to write them at length, but rather to
abbreviate them. Thus, he runs rapidly through the third stanza of
the Night and through the fourth stanza of the Living Flame: we
should expect him in the same way to treat the last three stanzas
of the Night with similar brevity and rapidity, but not to omit
them altogether.
     Such are the principal arguments used by P. Andres which have
inclined many critics to the belief that St. John of the Cross
completed these treatises. Other of his arguments, which to
himself were even more convincing, have now lost much weight. The
chief of these are the contention that, because a certain Fray
Agustin Antolinez (b. 1554), in expounding these same poems, makes
no mention of the Saint's having failed to expound five stanzas of
the Night, he did therefore write an exposition of them;[31] and the
supposition that the Living Flame was written before the Spiritual
Canticle, and that therefore, when the prologue to the Living
Flame says that the author has already described the highest state
of perfection attainable in this life, it cannot be referring to
the Canticle and must necessarily allude to passages, now lost,
from the Dark Night.[32]
     Our own judgment upon this much debated question is not
easily delivered. On the one hand, the reasons why St. John of the
Cross should have completed his work are perfectly sound ones and
his own words in the Ascent and the Dark Night are a clear
statement of his intentions. Furthermore, he had ample time to
complete it, for he wrote other treatises at a later date and he
certainly considered the latter part of the Dark Night to be more
important than the former. On the other hand, it is disconcerting
to find not even the briefest clear reference to this latter part
in any of his subsequent writings, when both the Living Flame and
the Spiritual Canticle offered so many occasions for such a
reference to an author accustomed to refer his readers to his
other treatises. Again, his contemporaries, who were keenly
interested in his work, and mention such insignificant things as
the Cautions, the Maxims and the 'Mount of Perfection,' say
nothing whatever of the missing chapters. None of his biographers
speaks of them, nor does P. Alonso de la Madre de Dios, who
examined the Saint's writings in detail immediately after his
death and was in touch with his closest friends and companions. We
are inclined, therefore, to think that the chapters in question
were never written.[33] Is not the following sequence of probable
facts the most tenable? We know from P. Juan Evangelista that the
Ascent and the Dark Night were written at different times, with
many intervals of short or long duration. The Saint may well have
entered upon the Spiritual Canticle, which was a concession to the
affectionate importunity of M. Ann de Jesus, with every intention
of returning later to finish his earlier treatise. But, having
completed the Canticle, he may equally well have been struck with
the similarity between a part of it and the unwritten commentary
on the earlier stanzas, and this may have decided him that the
Dark Night needed no completion, especially as the Living Flame
also described the life of Union. This hypothesis will explain all
the facts, and seems completely in harmony with all we know of St.
John of the Cross, who was in no sense, as we have already said, a
writer by profession. If we accept it, we need not necessarily
share the views which we here assume to have been his. Not only
would the completion of the Dark Night have given us new ways of
approach to so sublime and intricate a theme, but this would have
been treated in a way more closely connected with the earlier
stages of the mystical life than was possible in either the Living
Flame or the Canticle.
     We ought perhaps to notice one further supposition of P.
Andres, which has been taken up by a number of later critics: that
St. John of the Cross completed the commentary which we know as
the Dark Night, but that on account of the distinctive nature of
the contents of the part now lost he gave it a separate title.[34]
The only advantage of this theory seems to be that it makes the
hypothesis of the loss of the commentary less improbable. In other
respects it is as unsatisfactory as the theory of P. Andres,[35] of
which we find a variant in M. Baruzi,[36] that the Saint thought the
commentary too bold, and too sublime, to be perpetuated, and
therefore destroyed it, or, at least, forbade its being copied. It
is surely unlikely that the sublimity of these missing chapters
would exceed that of the Canticle or the Living Flame.

     This seems the most suitable place to discuss a feature of
the works of St. John of the Cross to which allusion is often made
-- the little interest which he took in their division into books
and chapters and his lack of consistency in observing such
divisions when he had once made them. A number of examples may be
cited. In the first chapter of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, using
the words 'part' and 'book' as synonyms, he makes it clear that
the Ascent and the Dark Night are to him one single treatise. 'The
first night or purgation,' he writes, '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.'[37] The author's intention
here is evident. Purgation may be sensual or spiritual, and each
of these kinds may be either active or passive. The most logical
proceeding would be to divide the whole of the material into four
parts or books: two to be devoted to active purgation and two to
passive.[38] St. John of the Cross, however, devotes two parts to
active spiritual purgation -- one to that of the understanding and
the other to that of the memory and the will. In the Night, on the
other hand, where it would seem essential to devote one book to
the passive purgation of sense and another to that of spirit, he
includes both in one part, the fourth. In the Ascent, he divides
the content of each of his books into various chapters; in the
Night, where the argument is developed like that of the Ascent, he
makes a division into paragraphs only, and a very irregular
division at that, if we may judge by the copies that have reached
us. In the Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame he dispenses
with both chapters and paragraphs. The commentary on each stanza
here corresponds to a chapter.
     Another example is to be found in the arrangement of his
expositions. As a rule, he first writes down the stanzas as a
whole, then repeats each in turn before expounding it, and repeats
each line also in its proper place in the same way. At the
beginning of each treatise he makes some general observations --
in the form either of an argument and prologue, as in the Ascent;
of a prologue and general exposition, as in the Night; of a
prologue alone, as in the first redaction of the Canticle and in
the Living Flame; or of a prologue and argument, as in the second
redaction of the Canticle. In the Ascent and the Night, the first
chapter of each book contains the 'exposition of the stanzas,'
though some copies describe this, in Book III of the Ascent, as an
'argument.' In the Night, the book dealing with the Night of Sense
begins with the usual 'exposition'; that of the Night of the
Spirit, however, has nothing to correspond with it.
     In the first redaction of the Spiritual Canticle, St. John of
the Cross first sets down the poem, then a few lines of
'exposition' giving the argument of the stanza, and finally the
commentary upon each line. Sometimes he comments upon two or three
lines at once. In the second redaction, he prefaces almost every
stanza with an 'annotation,' of which there is none in the first
redaction except before the commentary on the thirteenth and
fourteenth stanzas. The chief purpose of the 'annotation' is to
link the argument of each stanza with that of the stanza preceding
it; occasionally the annotation and the exposition are combined.
     It is clear from all this that, in spite of his orderly mind,
St. John of the Cross was no believer in strict uniformity in
matters of arrangement which would seem to demand such uniformity
once they had been decided upon. They are, of course, of secondary
importance, but the fact that the inconsistencies are the work of
St. John of the Cross himself, and not merely of careless
copyists, who have enough else to account for, is of real moment
in the discussion of critical questions which turn on the Saint's
     Another characteristic of these commentaries is the
inequality of length as between the exposition of certain lines
and stanzas. While some of these are dealt with fully, the
exposition of others is brought to a close with surprising
rapidity, even though it sometimes seems that much more needs to
be said: we get the impression that the author was anxious to push
his work forward or was pressed for time. He devotes fourteen long
chapters of the Ascent to glossing the first two lines of the
first stanza and dismisses the three remaining lines in a few
sentences. In both the Ascent and the Night, indeed, the stanzas
appear to serve only as a pretext for introducing the great wealth
of ascetic and mystical teaching which the Saint has gathered
together. In the Canticle and the Living Flame, on the other hand,
he keeps much closer to his stanzas, though here, too, there is a
considerable inequality. One result of the difference in nature
between these two pairs of treatises is that the Ascent and the
Night are more solidly built and more rigidly doctrinal, whereas
in the Canticle and the Flame there is more movement and more



     IT seems strange that mystical works of such surpassing value
should not have been published till twenty-seven years after their
author's death, for not only were the manuscript copies
insufficient to propagate them as widely as those who made them
would have desired, but the multiplication of these copies led to
an ever greater number of variants in the text. Had it but been
possible for the first edition of them to have been published
while their author still lived, we might to-day have a perfect
text. But the probability is that, if such an idea had occurred to
St. John of the Cross, he would have set it aside as presumptuous.
In allowing copies to be made he doubtless never envisaged their
going beyond the limited circle of his Order.
     We have found no documentary trace of any project for an
edition of these works during their author's lifetime. The most
natural time for a discussion of the matter would have been in
September 1586, when the Definitors of the Order, among whom was
St. John of the Cross, met in Madrid and decided to publish the
works of St. Teresa.[39] Two years earlier, when he was writing the
Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross had expressed a desire
for the publication of St. Teresa's writings and assumed that this
would not be long delayed.[40] As we have seen, he considered his
own works as complementary to those of St. Teresa,[41] and one would
have thought that the simultaneous publication of the writings of
the two Reformers would have seemed to the Definitors an excellent
     After his death, it is probable that there was no one at
first who was both able and willing to undertake the work of
editor; for, as is well known, towards the end of his life the
Saint had powerful enemies within his Order who might well have
opposed the project, though, to do the Discalced Reform justice,
it was brought up as early as ten years after his death. A
resolution was passed at the Chapter-General of the Reform held in
September 1601, to the effect 'that the works of Fr. Juan de la
Cruz be printed and that the Definitors, Fr. Juan de Jesus Maria
and Fr. Tomas [de Jesus], be instructed to examine and approve
them.'[42] Two years later (July 4, 1603), the same Chapter, also
meeting in Madrid, 'gave leave to the Definitor, Fr. Tomas [de
Jesus], for the printing of the works of Fr. Juan de la Cruz,
first friar of the Discalced Reform.'[43]
     It is not known (since the Chapter Book is no longer extant)
why the matter lapsed for two years, but Fr. Tomas de Jesus, the
Definitor to whom alone it was entrusted on the second occasion,
was a most able man, well qualified to edit the works of his
predecessor.[44] Why, then, we may wonder, did he not do so? The
story of his life in the years following the commission may partly
answer this question. His definitorship came to an end in 1604,
when he was elected Prior of the 'desert' of San Jose de las
Batuecas. After completing the customary three years in this
office, during which time he could have done no work at all upon
the edition, he was elected Prior of the Discalced house at
Zaragoza. But at this point Paul V sent for him to Rome and from
that time onward his life followed other channels.
     The next attempt to accomplish the project was successful.
The story begins with a meeting between the Definitors of the
Order and Fr. Jose de Jesus Maria, the General, at Velez-Malaga,
where a new decision to publish the works of St. John of the Cross
was taken and put into effect (as a later resolution has it)
'without any delay or condition whatsoever.'[45] The enterprise
suffered a setback, only a week after it had been planned, in the
death of the learned Jesuit P. Suarez, who was on terms of close
friendship with the Discalced and had been appointed one of the
censors. But P. Diego de Jesus (Salablanca), Prior of the
Discalced house at Toledo, to whom its execution was entrusted,
lost no time in accomplishing his task; indeed, one would suppose
that he had begun it long before, since early in the next year it
was completed and published in Alcala. The volume, entitled
Spiritual Works which lead a soul to perfect union with God, has
720 pages and bears the date 1618. The works are preceded by a
preface addressed to the reader and a brief summary of the
author's 'life and virtues.' An engraving of the 'Mount of
Perfection' is included.[46]
     There are several peculiarities about this editio princeps.
In the first place, although the pagination is continuous, it was
the work of two different printers; the reason for this is quite
unknown, though various reasons might be suggested. The greatest
care was evidently taken so that the work should be well and truly
approved: it is recommended, in terms of the highest praise, by
the authorities of the University of Alcala, who, at the request
of the General of the Discalced Carmelites, had submitted it for
examination to four of the professors of that University. No doubt
for reasons of safety, the Spiritual Canticle was not included in
that edition: it was too much like a commentary on the Song of
Songs for such a proceeding to be just then advisable.

     We have now to enquire into the merits of the edition of P.
Salablanca, which met with such warm approval on its publication,
yet very soon afterwards began to be recognized as defective and
is little esteemed for its intrinsic qualities to-day.
     It must, of course, be realized that critical standards in
the early seventeenth century were low and that the first editor
of St. John of the Cross had neither the method nor the available
material of the twentieth century. Nor were the times favourable
for the publication of the works of a great mystic who attempted
fearlessly and fully to describe the highest stages of perfection
on the road to God. These two facts are responsible for most of
the defects of the edition.
     For nearly a century, the great peril associated with the
mystical life had been that of Illuminism, a gross form of pseudo-
mysticism which had claimed many victims among the holiest and
most learned, and of which there was such fear that excessive,
almost unbelievable, precautions had been taken against it. These
precautions, together with the frequency and audacity with which
Illuminists invoked the authority and protection of well-known
contemporary ascetic and mystical writers, give reality to P.
Salablanca's fear lest the leaders of the sect might shelter
themselves behind the doctrines of St. John of the Cross and so
call forth the censure of the Inquisition upon passages which
seemed to him to bear close relation to their erroneous teaching.
It was for this definite reason, and not because of an arbitrary
meticulousness, that P. Salablanca omitted or adapted such
passages as those noted in Book I, Chapter viii of the Ascent of
Mount Carmel and in a number of chapters in Book II. A study of
these, all of which are indicated in the footnotes to our text, is
of great interest.
     Less important are a large number of minor corrections made
with the intention of giving greater precision to some theological
concept; the omission of lines and even paragraphs which the
editor considered redundant, as in fact they frequently are; and
corrections made with the aim of lending greater clearness to the
argument or improving the style. A few changes were made out of
prudery: such are the use of sensitivo for sensual, the
suppression of phrases dealing with carnal vice and the omission
of several paragraphs from that chapter of the Dark Night -- which
speaks of the third deadly sin of beginners. There was little
enough reason for these changes: St. John of the Cross is
particularly inoffensive in his diction and may, from that point
of view, be read by a child.
     The sum total of P. Salablanca's mutilations is very
considerable. There are more in the Ascent and the Living Flame
than in the Dark Night; but hardly a page of the editio princeps
is free from them and on most pages they abound. It need not be
said that they are regrettable. They belong to an age when the
garments of dead saints were cut up into small fragments and
distributed among the devout and when their cells were decked out
with indifferent taste and converted into oratories. It would not
have been considered sufficient had the editor printed the text of
St. John of the Cross as he found it and glossed it to his liking
in footnotes; another editor would have put opposite
interpretations upon it, thus cancelling out the work of his
predecessor. Even the radical mutilations of P. Salablanca did not
suffice, as will now be seen, to protect the works of the Saint
from the Inquisition.



     NEITHER the commendations of University professors nor the
scissors of a meticulous editor could save the treatises of St.
John of the Cross from that particular form of attack which, more
than all others, was feared in the seventeenth century. We shall
say nothing here of the history, nature and procedure of the
Spanish Inquisition, which has had its outspoken antagonists and
its unreasoning defenders but has not yet been studied with
impartiality. It must suffice to set down the facts as they here
affect our subject.
     Forty propositions, then, were extracted from the edition of
1618 and presented to the Holy Office for condemnation with the
object of causing the withdrawal of the edition from circulation.
The attempt would probably have succeeded but for the warm,
vigorous and learned defence put up by the Augustinian Fray
Basilio Ponce de Leon, a theological professor in the University
of Salamanca and a nephew of the Luis de Leon who wrote the Names
of Christ and took so great an interest in the works of St.
     It was in the very convent of San Felipe in Madrid where
thirty-five years earlier Fray Luis had written his immortal
eulogy of St. Teresa[48] that Fray Basilio, on July 11, 1622, signed
a most interesting 'Reply' to the objections which had been raised
to the Alcala edition of St. John of the Cross. Although we
propose, in our third volume, to reproduce Fray Basilio's defence,
it is necessary to our narrative to say something of it here, for
it is the most important of all extant documents which reveal the
vicissitudes in the history of the Saint's teaching.
     Before entering upon an examination of the censured
propositions, the learned Augustinian makes some general
observations, which must have carried great weight as coming from
so high a theological authority. He recalls the commendations of
the edition by the professors of the University of Alcala 'where
the faculty of theology is so famous,' and by many others,
including several ministers of the Holy Office and two Dominicans
who 'without dispute are among the most learned of their Order.'
Secondly, he refers to the eminently saintly character of the
first friar of the Discalced Reform: 'it is not to be presumed
that God would set a man whose teaching is so evil . . . as is
alleged, to be the comer-stone of so great a building.' Thirdly,
he notes how close a follower was St. John of the Cross of St.
Teresa, a person who was singularly free from any taint of
unorthodoxy. And finally he recalls a number of similar attacks on
works of this kind, notably that on Laredo's Ascent of Mount
Sion,[49] which have proved to be devoid of foundation, and points
out that isolated 'propositions' need to be set in their context
before they can be fairly judged.
     Fray Basilio next refutes the charges brought against the
works of St. John of the Cross, nearly all of which relate to his
teaching on the passivity of the faculties in certain degrees of
contemplation. Each proposition he copies and afterwards defends,
both by argument and by quotations from the Fathers, from the
medieval mystics and from his own contemporaries. It is noteworthy
that among these authorities he invariably includes St. Teresa,
who had been beatified in 1614, and enjoyed an undisputed
reputation. This inclusion, as well as being an enhancement of his
defence, affords a striking demonstration of the unity of thought
existing between the two great Carmelites.
     Having expounded the orthodox Catholic teaching in regard to
these matters, and shown that the teaching of St. John of the
Cross is in agreement with it, Fray Basilio goes on to make clear
the true attitude of the Illuminists and thus to reinforce his
contentions by showing how far removed from this is the Saint's
     Fray Basilio's magnificent defence of St. John of the Cross

appears to have had the unusual effect of quashing the attack
entirely: the excellence of his arguments, backed by his great
authority, was evidently unanswerable. So far as we know, the
Inquisition took no proceedings against the Alcala edition
whatsoever. Had this at any time been prohibited, we may be sure
that Llorente would have revealed the fact, and, though he refers
to the persecution of St. John of the Cross during his lifetime,[50]
he is quite silent about any posthumous condemnation of his

     The editio princeps was reprinted in 1619, with a different
pagination and a few corrections, in Barcelona.[51] Before these two
editions were out of print, the General of the Discalced
Carmelites had entrusted an able historian of the Reform, Fray
Jeronimo de San Jose, with the preparation of a new one. This was
published at Madrid, in 1630. It has a short introduction
describing its scope and general nature, a number of new and
influential commendations and an admirable fifty-page 'sketch' of
St. John of the Cross by the editor which has been reproduced in
most subsequent editions and has probably done more than any other
single work to make known the facts of the Saint's biography. The
great feature of this edition, however, is the inclusion of the
Spiritual Canticle, placed (by an error, as a printer's note
explains) at the end of the volume, instead of before the Living
Flame, which is, of course, its proper position.
     The inclusion of the Canticle is one of the two merits that
the editor claims for his new edition. The other is that he
'prints both the Canticle and the other works according to their
original manuscripts, written in the hand of the same venerable
author.' This claim is, of course, greatly exaggerated, as what
has been said above with regard to the manuscripts will indicate.
Not only does Fray Jeronimo appear to have had no genuine original
manuscript at all, but of the omissions of the editio princeps it
is doubtful if he makes good many more than one in a hundred. In
fact, with very occasional exceptions, he merely reproduces the
princeps -- omissions, interpolations, well-meant improvements and
     In Fray Jeronimo's defence it must be said that the reasons
which moved his predecessor to mutilate his edition were still
potent, and the times had not changed. It is more surprising that
for nearly three centuries the edition of 1630 should have been
followed by later editors. The numerous versions of the works
which saw the light in the later seventeenth and the eighteenth
century added a few poems, letters and maxims to the corpus of
work which he presented and which assumed great importance as the
Saint became better known and more deeply venerated. But they did
no more. It suffices, therefore, to enumerate the chief of them.
     The Barcelona publisher of the 1619 edition produced a new
edition in 1635, which is a mere reproduction of that of 1630. A
Madrid edition of 1649, which adds nine letters, a hundred maxims
and a small collection of poems, was reproduced in 1672 (Madrid),
1679 (Madrid), 1693 (Barcelona) and 1694 (Madrid), the last
reproduction being in two volumes. An edition was also published
in Barcelona in 1700.
     If we disregard a 'compendium' of the Saint's writings
published in Seville in 1701, the first eighteenth-century edition
was published in Seville in 1703 -- the most interesting of those
that had seen the light since 1630. It is well printed on good
paper in a folio volume and its editor, Fr. Andres de Jesus Maria,
claims it, on several grounds, as an advance on preceding
editions. First, he says, 'innumerable errors of great importance'
have been corrected in it; then, the Spiritual Canticle has been
amended according to its original manuscript 'in the hand of the
same holy doctor, our father, kept and venerated in our convent of
Discalced Carmelite nuns at Jaen'; next, he adds two new poems and
increases the number of maxims from 100 to 365; and lastly, the
letters are increased from nine to seventeen, all of which are
found in P. Jeronimo de San Jose's history. The first of these
claims is as great an exaggeration as was P. Jeronimo's; to the
second we shall refer in our introduction to the Spiritual
Canticle. The third and fourth, however, are justified, and for
these, as for a few minor improvements, the editor deserves every
     The remaining years of the eighteenth century produced few
editions; apart from a reprint (1724) of the compendium of 1701,
the only one known to us is that published at Pamplona in 1774,
after which nearly eighty years were to pass before any earlier
edition was so much as reprinted. Before we resume this
bibliographical narrative, however, we must go back over some
earlier history.



     WE remarked, apropos of the edition of 1630, that the reasons
which led Fray Diego de Jesus to mutilate his texts were still in
existence when Fray Jeronimo de San Jose prepared his edition some
twelve years later. If any independent proof of this statement is
needed, it may be found in the numerous apologias that were
published during the seventeenth century, not only in Spain, but
in Italy, France, Germany and other countries of Europe. If
doctrines are not attacked, there is no occasion to write vigorous
defences of them.
     Following the example of Fray Basilio Ponce de Leon, a
professor of theology in the College of the Reform at Salamanca,
Fray Nicholas de Jesus Maria, wrote a learned Latin defence of St.
John of the Cross in 1631, often referred to briefly as the
Elucidatio.[53] It is divided into two parts, the first defending
the Saint against charges of a general kind that were brought
against his writings, and the second upholding censured
propositions taken from them. On the general ground, P. Nicholas
reminds his readers that many writers who now enjoy the highest
possible reputation were in their time denounced and unjustly
persecuted. St. Jerome was attacked for his translation of the
Bible from Hebrew into Latin; St. Augustine, for his teaching
about grace and free-will. The works of St. Gregory the Great were
burned at Rome; those of St. Thomas Aquinas at Paris. Most
mediaeval and modern mystics have been the victims of persecution
-- Ruysbroeck, Tauler and even St. Teresa. Such happenings, he
maintains, have done nothing to lessen the eventual prestige of
these authors, but rather have added to it.
     Nor, he continues, can the works of any author fairly be
censured, because misguided teachers make use of them to propagate
their false teaching. No book has been more misused by heretics
than Holy Scripture and few books of value would escape if we were
to condemn all that had been so treated. Equally worthless is the
objection that mystical literature is full of difficulties which
may cause the ignorant and pusillanimous to stumble. Apart from
the fact that St. John of the Cross is clearer and more lucid than
most of his contemporaries, and that therefore the works of many
of them would have to follow his own into oblivion, the same
argument might again be applied to the Scriptures. Who can
estimate the good imparted by the sacred books to those who read
them in a spirit of uprightness and simplicity? Yet what books are
more pregnant with mystery and with truths that are difficult and,
humanly speaking, even inaccessible?
     But (continues P. Nicolas), even if we allow that parts of
the work of St. John of the Cross, for all the clarity of his
exposition, are obscure to the general reader, it must be
remembered that much more is of the greatest attraction and profit
to all. On the one hand, the writings of the Saint represent the
purest sublimation of Divine love in the pilgrim soul, and are
therefore food for the most advanced upon the mystic way. On the
other, every reader, however slight his spiritual progress, can
understand the Saint's ascetic teaching: his chapters on the
purgation of the senses, mortification, detachment from all that
belongs to the earth, purity of conscience, the practice of the
virtues, and so on. The Saint's greatest enemy is not the
obscurity of his teaching but the inflexible logic with which he
deduces, from the fundamental principles of evangelical
perfection, the consequences which must be observed by those who
would scale the Mount. So straight and so hard is the road which
he maps out for the climber that the majority of those who see it
are at once dismayed.
     These are the main lines of P. Nicolas' argument, which he
develops at great length. We must refer briefly to the chapter in
which he makes a careful synthesis of the teaching of the
Illuminists, to show how far it is removed from that of St. John
of the Cross. He divides these false contemplatives into four
classes. In the first class he places those who suppress all their
acts, both interior and exterior, in prayer. In the second, those
who give themselves up to a state of pure quiet, with no loving
attention to God. In the third, those who allow their bodies to
indulge every craving and maintain that, in the state of spiritual
intoxication which they have reached, they are unable to commit
sin. In the fourth, those who consider themselves to be
instruments of God and adopt an attitude of complete passivity,
maintaining also that they are unable to sin, because God alone is
working in them. The division is more subtle than practical, for
the devotees of this sect, with few exceptions, professed the same
erroneous beliefs and tended to the same degree of licence in
their conduct. But, by isolating these tenets, P. Nicolas is the
better able to show the antithesis between them and those of St.
John of the Cross.
     In the second part of the Elucidatio, he analyses the
propositions already treated by Fray Basilio Ponce de Leon,
reducing them to twenty and dealing faithfully with them in the
same number of chapters. His defence is clear, methodical and
convincing and follows similar lines to those adopted by Fray
Basilio, to whom its author acknowledges his indebtedness.

     Another of St. John of the Cross's apologists is Fray Jose de
Jesus Maria (Quiroga), who, in a number of his works,[54] both
defends and eulogizes him, without going into any detailed
examination of the propositions. Fray Jose is an outstanding
example of a very large class of writers, for, as Illuminism gave
place to Quietism, the teaching of St. John of the Cross became
more and more violently impugned and almost all mystical writers
of the time referred to him. Perhaps we should single out, from
among his defenders outside the Carmelite Order, that Augustinian
father, P. Antolinez, to whose commentary on three of the Saint's
works we have already made reference.
     As the school of mystical writers within the Discalced
Carmelite Reform gradually grew -- a school which took St. John of
the Cross as its leader and is one of the most illustrious in the
history of mystical theology -- it began to share in the same
persecution as had befallen its founder. It is impossible, in a
few words, to describe this epoch of purgation, and indeed it can
only be properly studied in its proper context -- the religious
history of the period as a whole. For our purpose, it suffices to
say that the works of St. John of the Cross were once more
denounced to the Inquisition, though, once more, no notice appears
to have been taken of the denunciations, for there exists no
record ordering the expurgation or prohibition of the books
referred to. The Elucidatio was also denounced, together with
several of the works of P. Jose de Jesus Maria, at various times
in the seventeenth century, and these attacks were of course
equivalent to direct attacks on St. John of the Cross. One of the
most vehement onslaughts made was levelled against P. Jose's
Subida del Alma a Dios ('Ascent of the Soul to God'), which is in
effect an elaborate commentary on St. John of the Cross's
teaching. The Spanish Inquisition refusing to censure the book, an
appeal against it was made to the Inquisition at Rome. When no
satisfaction was obtained in this quarter, P. Jose's opponents
went to the Pope, who referred the matter to the Sacred
Congregation of the Index; but this body issued a warm eulogy of
the book and the matter thereupon dropped.
     In spite of such defeats, the opponents of the Carmelite
school continued their work into the eighteenth century. In 1740,
a new appeal was made to the Spanish Inquisition to censure P.
Jose's Subida. A document of seventy-three folios denounced no
less than one hundred and sixty-five propositions which it claimed
to have taken direct from the work referred to, and this time,
after a conflict extending over ten years, the book (described as
'falsely attributed' to P. Jose[55]) was condemned (July 4, 1750),
as 'containing doctrine most perilous in practice, and
propositions similar and equivalent to those condemned in Miguel
de Molinos.'
     We set down the salient facts of this controversy, without
commenting upon them, as an instance of the attitude of the
eighteenth century towards the mystics in general, and, in
particular, towards the school of the Discalced Carmelites. In
view of the state and tendencies of thought in these times, the
fact of the persecution, and the degree of success that it
attained, is not surprising. The important point to bear in mind
is that it must be taken into account continually by students of
the editions of the Saint's writings and of the history of his
teaching throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.



     WHAT has just been said will fully explain the paucity of the
editions of St. John of the Cross which we find in the eighteenth
century. This century, however, was, scientifically speaking, one
of great progress. Critical methods of study developed and became
widespread; and there was a great desire to obtain purer and more
nearly perfect texts and to discover the original sources of the
ideas of great thinkers. These tendencies made themselves felt
within the Discalced Carmelite Order, and there also arose a great
ambition to republish in their original forms the works both of
St. Teresa and of St. John of the Cross. The need was greater in
the latter case than in the former; so urgent was it felt to be as
to admit of no delay. 'There have been discovered in the works [of
St. John of the Cross],' says a document of about 1753, 'many
errors, mutilations and other defects the existence of which
cannot be denied.'[56] The religious who wrote thus to the Chapter-
General of the Reform set out definite and practical schemes for a
thorough revision of these works, which were at once accepted.
There thus comes into our history that noteworthy friar, P. Andres
de la Encarnacion, to whom we owe so much of what we know about
the Saint to-day. P. Andres was no great stylist, nor had he the
usual Spanish fluency of diction. But he was patient, modest and
industrious, and above all he was endowed with a double portion of
the critical spirit of the eighteenth century. He was selected for
the work of investigation as being by far the fittest person who
could be found for it. A decree dated October 6, 1754 ordered him
to set to work. As a necessary preliminary to the task of
preparing a corrected text of the Saint's writings, he was to
spare no effort in searching for every extant manuscript;
accordingly he began long journeys through La Mancha and
Andalusia, going over all the ground covered by St. John of the
Cross in his travels and paying special attention to the places
where he had lived for any considerable period. In those days,
before the religious persecutions of the nineteenth century had
destroyed and scattered books and manuscripts, the archives of the
various religious houses were intact. P. Andres and his amanuensis
were therefore able to copy and collate valuable manuscripts now
lost to us and they at once began to restore the phrases and
passages omitted from the editions. Unhappily, their work has
disappeared and we can judge of it only at second hand; but it
appears to have been in every way meritorious. So far as we can
gather from the documents which have come down to us, it failed to
pass the rigorous censorship of the Order. In other words, the
censors, who were professional theologians, insisted upon making
so many corrections that the Superiors, who shared the enlightened
critical opinions of P. Andres, thought it better to postpone the
publication of the edition indefinitely.
     The failure of the project, however, to which P. Andres
devoted so much patient labour, did not wholly destroy the fruits
of his skill and perseverance. He was ordered to retire to his
priory, where he spent the rest of his long life under the burden
of a trial the magnitude of which any scholar or studiously minded
reader can estimate. He did what he could in his seclusion to
collect, arrange and recopy such notes of his work as he could
recover from those to whom they had been submitted. His defence of
this action to the Chapter-General is at once admirable in the
tranquillity of its temper and pathetic in the eagerness and
affection which it displays for the task that he has been
forbidden to continue:

     Inasmuch as I was ordered, some years ago . . . to prepare an
exact edition of the works of our holy father, and afterwards was
commanded to suspend my labours for just reasons which presented
themselves to these our fathers and prevented its accomplishment
at the time, I obeyed forthwith with the greatest submissiveness,
but, as I found that I had a rich store of information which at
some future time might contribute to the publication of a truly
illustrious and perfect edition, it seemed to me that I should not
be running counter to the spirit of the Order if I gave it some
serviceable form, so that I should not be embarrassed by seeing it
in a disorderly condition if at some future date it should be
proposed to carry into effect the original decisions of the Order.
     With humility and submissiveness, therefore, I send to your
Reverences these results of my private labours, not because it is
in my mind that the work should be recommended, or that, if this
is to be done, it should be at any particular time, for that I
leave to the disposition of your Reverences and of God, but to the
end that I may return to the Order that which belongs to it; for,
since I was excused from religious observances for nearly nine
years so that I might labour in this its own field, the Order
cannot but have a right to the fruits of my labours, nor can I
escape the obligation of delivering what I have discovered into
its hand. . . .[57]

     We cannot examine the full text of the interesting memorandum
to the Censors which follows this humble exordium. One of their
allegations had been that the credit of the Order would suffer if
it became known that passages of the Saint's works had been
suppressed by Carmelite editors. P. Andres makes the sage reply:
'There is certainly the risk that this will become known if the
edition is made; but there is also a risk that it will become
known in any case. We must weigh the risks against each other and
decide which proceeding will bring the Order into the greater
discredit if one of them materializes.' He fortifies this argument
with the declaration that the defects of the existing editions
were common knowledge outside the Order as well as within it, and
that, as manuscript copies of the Saint's works were also in the
possession of many others than Carmelites, there was nothing to
prevent a correct edition being made at any time. This must
suffice as a proof that P. Andres could be as acute as he was
     Besides collecting this material, and leaving on record his
opposition to the short-sighted decision of the Censors, P. Andres
prepared 'some Disquisitions on the writings of the Saint, which,
if a more skilful hand should correct and improve their style,
cannot but be well received.' Closely connected with the
Disquisitions are the Preludes in which he glosses the Saint's
writings. These studies, like the notes already described, have
all been lost -- no doubt, together with many other documents from
the archives of the Reform in Madrid, they disappeared during the
pillaging of the religious houses in the early nineteenth century.
     The little of P. Andres' work that remains to us gives a
clear picture of the efforts made by the Reform to bring out a
worthy edition of St. John of the Cross's writings in the
eighteenth century; it is manifestly insufficient, however, to
take a modern editor far along the way. Nor, as we have seen, are
his judgments by any means to be followed otherwise than with the
greatest caution; he greatly exaggerates, too, the effect of the
mutilations of earlier editors, no doubt in order to convince his
superiors of the necessity for a new edition. The materials for a
modern editor are to be found, not in the documents left by P.
Andres, but in such Carmelite archives as still exist, and in the
National Library of Spain, to which many Carmelite treasures found
their way at the beginning of the last century.

     The work sent by P. Andres to his superiors was kept in the
archives of the Discalced Carmelites, but no new edition was
prepared till a hundred and fifty years later. In the nineteenth
century such a task was made considerably more difficult by
religious persecution; which resulted in the loss of many valuable
manuscripts, some of which P. Andres must certainly have examined.
For a time, too, the Orders were expelled from Spain, and, on
their return, had neither the necessary freedom, nor the time or
material means, for such undertakings. In the twenty-seventh
volume of the well-known series of classics entitled Biblioteca de
Autores Espanoles (1853) the works of St. John of the Cross were
reprinted according to the 1703 edition, without its engravings,
indices and commendations, and with a 'critical estimate' of the
Saint by Pi y Margall, which has some literary value but in other
respects fails entirely to do justice to its subject.
     Neither the Madrid edition of 1872 nor the Barcelona edition
of 1883 adds anything to our knowledge and it was not till the
Toledo edition of 1912-14 that a new advance was made. This
edition was the work of a young Carmelite friar, P. Gerardo de San
Juan de la Cruz, who died soon after its completion. It aims,
according to its title, which is certainly justified, at being
'the most correct and complete edition of all that have been
published down to the present date.' If it was not as successful
as might have been wished, this could perhaps hardly have been
expected of a comparatively inexperienced editor confronted with
so gigantic a task -- a man, too, who worked almost alone and was
by temperament and predilection an investigator rather than a
critic. Nevertheless, its introductions, footnotes, appended
documents, and collection of apocryphal works of the Saint, as
well as its text, were all considered worthy of extended study and
the edition was rightly received with enthusiasm. Its principal
merit will always lie in its having restored to their proper
places, for the first time in a printed edition, many passages
which had theretofore remained in manuscript.
     We have been anxious that this new edition [Burgos, 1929-31]
should represent a fresh advance in the task of establishing a
definitive text of St. John of the Cross's writings. For this
reason we have examined, together with two devoted assistants,
every discoverable manuscript, with the result, as it seems to us,
that both the form and the content of our author's works are as
nearly as possible as he left them.
     In no case have we followed any one manuscript exclusively,
preferring to assess the value of each by a careful preliminary
study and to consider each on its merits, which are described in
the introduction to each of the individual works. Since our
primary aim has been to present an accurate text, our footnotes
will be found to be almost exclusively textual. The only edition
which we cite, with the occasional exception of that of 1630, is
the princeps, from which alone there is much to be learned. The
Latin quotations from the Vulgate are not, of course, given except
where they appear in the manuscripts, and, save for the occasional
correction of a copyist's error, they are reproduced in exactly
the form in which we have found them. Orthography and punctuation
have had perforce to be modernized, since the manuscripts differ
widely and we have so few autographs that nothing conclusive can
be learned of the Saint's own practice.[58]

                     ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL


     AS will be seen from the biographical outline which we have
given of the life of St. John of the Cross, this was the first of
the Saint's treatises to be written; it was begun at El Calvario,
and, after various intervals, due to the author's preoccupation
with the business of government and the direction and care of
souls, was completed at Granada.
     The treatise presents a remarkable outline of Christian
perfection from the point at which the soul first seeks to rise
from the earth and soar upward towards union with God. It is a
work which shows every sign of careful planning and great
attention to detail, as an ascetic treatise it is noteworthy for
its detailed psychological analysis; as a contribution to mystical
theology, for the skill with which it treats the most complicated
and delicate questions concerning the Mystic Way.
     Both the great Carmelite reformers pay close attention to the
early stages of the mystical life, beyond which many never pass,
and both give the primacy to prayer as a means of attaining
perfection. To St. Teresa prayer is the greatest of all blessings
of this life, the channel through which all the favours of God
pass to the soul, the beginning of every virtue and the plainly
marked highroad which leads to the summit of Mount Carmel. She can
hardly conceive of a person in full spiritual health whose life is
not one of prayer. Her coadjutor in the Carmelite Reform writes in
the same spirit. Prayer, for St. John of the Cross as for St.
Teresa, is no mere exercise made up of petition and meditation,
but a complete spiritual life which brings in its train all the
virtues, increases all the soul's potentialities and may
ultimately lead to 'deification' or transformation in God through
love. It may be said that the exposition of the life of prayer,
from its lowest stages to its highest, is the common aim of these
two Saints, which each pursues and accomplishes in a peculiarly
individual manner.
     St. John of the Cross assumes his reader to be familiar with
the rudiments of the spiritual life and therefore omits detailed
description of the most elementary of the exercises incumbent upon
all Christians. The plan of the Ascent of Mount Carmel (which,
properly speaking, embraces its sequel, the Dark Night) follows
the lines of the poem with the latter title (p. 10). Into two
stanzas of five lines each, St. John of the Cross has condensed
all the instruction which he develops in this treatise. In order
to reach the Union of Light, the soul must pass through the Dark
Night -- that is to say, through a series of purifications, during
which it is walking, as it were, through a tunnel of impenetrable
obscurity and from which it emerges to bask in the sunshine of
grace and to enjoy the Divine intimacy.
     Through this obscurity the thread which guides the soul is
that of 'emptiness' or 'negation.' Only by voiding ourselves of
all that is not God can we attain to the possession of God, for
two contraries cannot co-exist in one individual, and creature-
love is darkness, while God is light, so that from any human heart
one of the two cannot fail to drive out the other.[59]
     Now the soul, according to the Saint's psychology, is made up
of interior and exterior senses and of the faculties. All these
must be free from creature impurities in order to be prepared for
Divine union. The necessary self-emptying may be accomplished in
two ways: by our own efforts, with the habitual aid of grace, and
by the action of God exclusively, in which the individual has no
part whatsoever. Following this order, the Ascent is divided into
two parts, which deal respectively with the 'Active' night and the
'Passive.' Each of these parts consists of several books. Since
the soul must be purified in its entirety, the Active Night is
logically divided into the Night of Sense and the Night of the
Spirit; a similar division is observed in treating of the Passive
Night. One book is devoted to the Active Night of Sense; two are
needed for the Active Night of the Spirit. Unhappily, however, the
treatise was never finished; not only was its author unable to
take us out of the night into the day, as he certainly intended to
do, but he has not even space to describe the Passive Night in all
the fullness of its symbolism.
     A brief glance at the outstanding parts of the Ascent of
Mount Carmel will give some idea of its nature. The first obstacle
which the pilgrim soul encounters is the senses, upon which St.
John of the Cross expends his analytical skill in Book I. Like any
academic professor (and it will be recalled that he had undergone
a complete university course at Salamanca), he outlines and
defines his subject, goes over the necessary preliminary ground
before expounding it, and treats it, in turn, under each of its
natural divisions. He tells us, that is to say, what he
understands by the 'dark night'; describes its causes and its
stages; explains how necessary it is to union with God; enumerates
the perils which beset the soul that enters it; and shows how all
desires must be expelled, 'however small they be,' if the soul is
to travel through it safely. Finally he gives a complete synthesis
of the procedure that must be adopted by the pilgrim in relation
to this part of his journey: the force of this is intensified by
those striking maxims and distichs which make Chapter xiii of Book
I so memorable.
     The first thirteen chapters of the Ascent are perhaps the
easiest to understand (though they are anything but easy to put
into practice) in the entire works of St. John of the Cross. They
are all a commentary on the very first line of the poem. The last
two chapters of the first book glance at the remaining lines,
rather than expound them, and the Saint takes us on at once to
Book II, which expounds the second stanza and enters upon the
Night of the Spirit.
     Here the Saint treats of the proximate means to union with
God -- namely, faith. He uses the same careful method of
exposition, showing clearly how faith is to the soul as a dark
night, and how, nevertheless, it is the safest of guides. A
parenthetical chapter (v) attempts to give some idea of the nature
of union, so that the reader may recognize from afar the goal to
which he is proceeding. The author then goes on to describe how
the three theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- must
'void and dispose for union' the three faculties of the soul --
understanding, memory and will.
     He shows how narrow is the way that leads to life and how
nothing that belongs to the understanding can guide the soul to
union. His illustrations and arguments are far more complicated
and subtle than are those of the first book, and give the reader
some idea of his knowledge, not only of philosophy and theology,
but also of individual souls. Without this last qualification he
could never have written those penetrating chapters on the
impediments to union -- above all, the passages on visions,
locutions and revelations -- nor must we overlook his description
(Chapter xiii) of the three signs that the soul is ready to pass
from meditation to contemplation. It may be doubted if in its own
field this second book has ever been surpassed. There is no mystic
who gives a more powerful impression than St. John of the Cross of
an absolute mastery of his subject. No mistiness, vagueness or
indecision clouds his writing: he is as clear-cut and definite as
can be.
     In his third book St. John of the Cross goes on to describe
the obstacles to union which come from the memory and the will.
Unlike St. Thomas, he considered the memory as a distinct and
separate faculty of the soul. Having written, however, at such
length of the understanding, he found it possible to treat more
briefly of that other faculty, which is so closely related to
it.[60] Fourteen chapters (ii-xv) describe the dark night to be
traversed by the memory; thirty (xvi-xlv) the passage of the will,
impelled by love.[61] The latter part is the more strikingly
developed. Four passions -- joy, hope, sorrow and fear -- invade
the will, and may either encompass the soul's perdition, or, if
rightly directed, lead it to virtue and union. Once more St. John
of the Cross employs his profound familiarity with the human soul
to turn it away from peril and guide it into the path of safety.
Much that he says, in dealing with passions so familiar to us all,
is not only purely ascetic, but is even commonplace to the
instructed Christian. Yet these are but parts of a greater whole.
     Of particular interest, both intrinsically and as giving a
picture of the Saint's own times, are the chapters on ceremonies
and aids to devotion -- the use of rosaries, medals, pilgrimages,
etc. It must be remembered, of course, that he spent most of his
active life in the South of Spain, where exaggerations of all
kinds, even to-day, are more frequent than in the more sober
north. In any case there is less need, in this lukewarm age, to
warn Christians against the abuse of these means of grace, and
more need, perhaps, to urge them to employ aids that will
stimulate and quicken their devotion.
     In the seventeenth chapter of this third book, St. John of
the Cross enumerates the 'six kinds of good' which can give rise
to rejoicing and sets down his intention of treating each of them
in turn. He carries out his purpose, but, on entering his last
division, subdivides it at considerable length and subsequently
breaks off with some brusqueness while dealing with one of these
sub-heads, just as he is introducing another subject of particular
interest historically -- namely, pulpit methods considered from
the standpoint of the preacher. In all probability we shall never
know what he had to say about the hearers of sermons, or what were
his considered judgments on confessors and penitents -- though of
these judgments he has left us examples elsewhere in this
treatise, as well as in others.
     We cannot estimate of how much the sudden curtailment of the
Ascent of Mount Carmel has robbed us.[62] Orderly as was the mind of
St. John of the Cross, he was easily carried away in his
expositions, which are apt to be unequal. No one would have
suspected, for example, that, after going into such length in
treating the first line of his first stanza, he would make such
short work of the remaining four. Nor can we disregard the
significance of his warning that much of what he had written on
the understanding was applicable also to the memory and the will.
He may, therefore, have been nearer the end of his theme than is
generally supposed. Yet it is equally possible that much more of
his subtle analysis was in store for his readers. Any truncation,
when the author is a St. John of the Cross, must be considered

                       THE MANUSCRIPTS[63]

     Unfortunately there is no autograph of this treatise extant,
though there are a number of early copies, some of which have been
made with great care. Others, for various reasons, abbreviate the
original considerably. The MSS. belonging to both classes will be
     Alba de Tormes. The Discalced Carmelite priory of Alba de
Tormes has a codex which contains the four principal treatises of
St. John of the Cross (Ascent, Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle and
Living Flame). This codex belonged from a very early date (perhaps
from a date not much later than that of the Saint's death) to the
family of the Duke of Alba, which was greatly devoted to the
Discalced Carmelite Reform and to St. Teresa, its foundress. It
remained in the family until the beginning of the eighteenth
century, when it came into the hands of a learned Carmelite, Fray
Alonso de la Madre de Dios, who presented it to the Alba monastery
on April 15, 1705. The details of this history are given by Fray
Alonso himself in a note bearing this date.
     For over half a century the MS. was believed to be an
autograph, partly, no doubt, on account of its luxurious binding
and the respect paid to the noble house whence it came. In
February 1761, however, it was examined carefully by P. Manuel de
Santa Maria, who, by his Superiors' orders, was assisting P.
Andres de la Encarnacion in his search for, and study of,
manuscripts of the Saint's writings. P. Manuel soon discovered
that the opinion commonly held was erroneous -- greatly, it would
seem, to the disillusionment of his contemporaries. Among the
various reasons which he gives in a statement supporting his
conclusions is that in two places the author is described as
'santo' -- a proof not only that the MS. is not an autograph but
also that the copyist had no intention of representing it as such.
     Although this copy is carefully made and richly bound --
which suggests that it was a gift from the Reform to the house of
Alba -- it contains many errors, of a kind which indicate that the
copyist, well educated though he was, knew little of ascetic or
mystical theology. A number of omissions, especially towards the
end of the book, give the impression that the copy was finished
with haste and not compared with the original on its completion.
There is no reason, however, to suppose that the errors and
omissions are ever intentional; indeed, they are of such a kind as
to suggest that the copyist had not the skill necessary for
successful adulteration.
     MS. 6,624. This copy, like the next four, is in N.L.M.
[National Library of Spain, Madrid], and contains the same works
as that of Alba de Tormes. It was made in 1755, under the
direction of P. Andres de la Encarnacion, from a manuscript, now
lost, which was venerated by the Benedictines of Burgos: this
information is found at the end of the volume. P. Andres had
evidently a good opinion of the Burgos MS., as he placed this copy
in the archives of the Discalced Reform, whence it passed to the
National Library early in the nineteenth century.
     As far as the Ascent is concerned, this MS. is very similar
to that of Alba. With a few notable exceptions, such as the
omission of the second half of Book I, Chapter iv, the errors and
omissions are so similar as to suggest a definite relationship, if
not a common source.
     MS. 13,498. This MS., which gives us the Ascent and the Dark
Night, also came from the Archives of the Reform and is now in the
National Library. The handwriting might be as early as the end of
the sixteenth century. The author did not attempt to make a
literal transcription of the Ascent, but summarized where he
thought advisable, reducing the number of chapters and
abbreviating many of them -- this last not so much by the method
of paraphrase as by the free omission of phrases and sentences.
     MS. 2,201. This, as far as the Ascent is concerned, is an
almost literal transcription of the last MS., in a seventeenth-
century hand; it was bound in the eighteenth century, when a
number of other treatises were added to it, together with some
poems by St. John of the Cross and others. The variants as between
this MS. and 13,498 are numerous, but of small importance, and
seem mainly to have been due to carelessness.
     MS. 18,160. This dates from the end of the sixteenth century
and contains the four treatises named above, copied in different
hands and evidently intended to form one volume. Only the first
four chapters of the Ascent are given, together with the title and
the first three lines of the fifth chapter. The transcription is
poorly done.
     MS. 13,507. An unimportant copy, containing only a few odd
chapters of the Ascent and others from the remaining works of St.
John of the Cross and other writers.
     Pamplona. A codex in an excellent state of preservation is
venerated by the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Pamplona. It was
copied, at the end of the sixteenth century, by a Barcelona
Carmelite, M. Magdalena de la Asuncion, and contains a short
summary of the four treatises enumerated above, various poems by
St. John of the Cross and some miscellaneous writings. The Ascent
is abbreviated to the same extent as in 13,498 and 2,201 and by
the same methods; many chapters, too, are omitted in their
     Alcaudete. This MS., which contains the Ascent only, was
copied by St. John of the Cross's close friend and companion, P.
Juan Evangelista, as a comparison with manuscripts (N.L.M.,
12,738) written in his well-known and very distinctive hand, puts
beyond all doubt. P. Juan, who took the habit of the Reform at
Christmas 1582, knew the Saint before this date; was professed by
him at Granada in 1583; accompanied him on many of his journeys;
saw him write most of his books; and, as his close friend and
confessor, was consulted repeatedly by his biographers.[64] It is
natural that he should also have acted as the Saint's copyist,
and, in the absence of autographs, we should expect no manuscripts
to be more trustworthy than copies made by him. Examination of
this MS. shows that it is in fact highly reliable. It corrects
none of those unwieldy periods in which the Saint's work abounds,
and which the editio princeps often thought well to amend, nor,
like the early editions and even some manuscripts, does it omit
whole paragraphs and substitute others for them. Further, as this
copy was being made solely for the use of the Order, no passages
are omitted or altered in it because they might be erroneously
interpreted as illuministic. It is true that P. Juan Evangelista
is not, from the technical standpoint, a perfect copyist, but,
frequently as are his slips, they are always easy to recognize.
     The Alcaudete MS. was found in the Carmelite priory in that
town by P. Andres de la Encarnacion, who first made use of it for
his edition. When the priory was abandoned during the religious
persecutions of the early nineteenth century, the MS. was lost.
Nearly a hundred years passed before it was re-discovered by P.
Silverio de Santa Teresa in a second-hand bookshop [and forms a
most important contribution to that scholar's edition, which
normally follows it]. It bears many signs of frequent use; eleven
folios are missing from the body of the MS. (corresponding
approximately to Book III, Chapters xxii to xxvi) and several more
from its conclusion.
     In the footnotes to the Ascent, the following abbreviations
are used:

     A = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Alba.
     Alc. = Alcaudete MS.
     B = MS. of the Benedictines of Burgos.
     C = N.L.M., MS. 13,498.
     D = N.L.M., MS. 2,201.
     P = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Pamplona.
     E.p. = Editio princeps (Alcala, 1618).

     Other editions or manuscripts cited are referred to without

                     ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL

     Treats of how the soul may prepare itself in order to attain
in a short time to Divine union. Gives very profitable counsels
and instruction, both to beginners and to proficients, that they
may know how to disencumber themselves of all that is temporal and
not to encumber themselves with the spiritual, and to remain in
complete detachment and liberty of spirit, as is necessary for
Divine union.


     ALL the doctrine whereof I intend to treat in this Ascent of
Mount Carmel is included in the following stanzas, and in them is
also described the manner of ascending to the summit of the Mount,
which is the high estate of perfection which we here call union of
the soul with God. And because I must continually base upon them
that which I shall say, I have desired to set them down here
together, to the end that all the substance of that which is to be
written may be seen and comprehended together; although it will be
fitting to set down each stanza separately before expounding it,
and likewise the lines of each stanza, according as the matter and
the exposition require. The poem, then, runs as follows:[65]


     Wherein the soul sings of the happy chance which it had in
passing through the dark night of faith, in detachment and
purgation of itself, to union with the Beloved.

     1. On a dark night, Kindled[67] in love with yearnings -- oh,
happy chance! --
     I went forth without being observed, My house being now
at rest.[68]

     2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised
-- oh, happy chance! --
     In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at

     3. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,
     Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that
which burned in my heart.

     4. This light guided me More surely than the light of
     To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me
-- A place where none appeared.

     5. Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the
     Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover
transformed in the Beloved!

     6. Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,
     There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the
fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

     7. The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;
     With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all
my senses to be suspended.

     8. I remained, lost in oblivion;[69] My face I reclined on
the Beloved.
     All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.


     IN order to expound and describe this dark night, through
which the soul passes in order to attain to the Divine light of
the perfect union of the love of God, as far as is possible in
this life, it would be necessary to have illumination of knowledge
and experience other and far greater than mine; for this darkness
and these trials, both spiritual and temporal, through which happy
souls are wont to pass in order to be able to attain to this high
estate of perfection, are so numerous and so profound that neither
does human knowledge suffice for the understanding of them, nor
experience for the description of them; for only he that passes
this way can understand it, and even he cannot describe it.
     2. Therefore, in order to say a little about this dark night,
I shall trust neither to experience nor to knowledge, since both
may fail and deceive; but, while not omitting to make such use as
I can of these two things, I shall avail myself, in all that, with
the Divine favour, I have to say, or at the least, in that which
is most important and dark to the understanding, of Divine
Scripture; for, if we guide ourselves by this, we shall be unable
to stray, since He Who speaks therein is the Holy Spirit. And if
aught I stray, whether through my imperfect understanding of that
which is said in it or of matters uncollected with it, it is not
my intention to depart from the sound sense and doctrine of our
Holy Mother the Catholic Church; for in such a case I submit and
resign myself wholly, not only to her command, but to whatever
better judgment she may pronounce concerning it.
     3. To this end I have been moved, not by any possibility that
I see in myself of accomplishing so arduous a task, but by the
confidence which I have in the Lord that He will help me to say
something to relieve the great necessity which is experienced by
many souls, who, when they set out upon the road of virtue, and
Our Lord desires to bring them into this dark night that they may
pass through it to Divine union, make no progress. At times this
is because they have no desire to enter it or to allow themselves
to be led into it; at other times, because they understand not
themselves and lack competent and alert directors[70] who will guide
them to the summit. And so it is sad to see many souls to whom God
gives both aptitude and favour with which to make progress (and
who, if they would take courage, could attain to this high
estate), remaining in an elementary stage[71] of communion with God,
for want of will, or knowledge, or because there is none who will
lead them in the right path or teach them how to get away from
these beginnings. And at length, although Our Lord grants them
such favour as to make them to go onward without this hindrance or
that, they arrive at their goal very much later, and with greater
labour, yet with less merit, because they have not conformed
themselves to God, and allowed themselves to be brought freely
into the pure and sure road of union. For, although it is true
that God is leading them, and that He can lead them without their
own help, they will not allow themselves to be led; and thus they
make less progress, because they resist Him Who is leading them,
and they have less merit, because they apply not their will, and
on this account they suffer more. For these are souls who, instead
of committing themselves to God and making use of His help, rather
hinder God by the indiscretion of their actions or by their
resistance; like children who, when their mothers desire to carry
them in their arms, start stamping and crying, and insist upon
being allowed to walk, with the result that they can make no
progress; and, if they advance at all, it is only at the pace of a
     4. Wherefore, to the end that all, whether beginners or
proficients, may know how to commit themselves to God's guidance,
when His Majesty desires to lead them onward, we shall give
instruction and counsel, by His help, so that they may be able to
understand His will, or, at the least, allow Him to lead them. For
some confessors and spiritual fathers, having no light and
experience concerning these roads, are wont to hinder and harm
such souls rather than to help them on the road; they are like the
builders of Babel, who, when told to furnish suitable material,
gave and applied other very different material, because they
understood not the language, and thus nothing was done. Wherefore,
it is a difficult and troublesome thing at such seasons for a soul
not to understand itself or to find none who understands it. For
it will come to pass that God will lead the soul by a most lofty
path of dark contemplation and aridity, wherein it seems to be
lost, and, being thus full of darkness and trials, constraints and
temptations, will meet one who will speak to it like Job's
comforters, and say that it is suffering from melancholy, or low
spirits, or a morbid disposition, or that it may have some hidden
sin, and that it is for this reason that God has forsaken it. Such
comforters are wont to declare immediately that that soul must
have been very evil, since such things as these are befalling it.
     5. And there will likewise be those who tell the soul to
retrace its steps, since it is finding no pleasure or consolation
in the things of God as it did aforetime. And in this way they
double the poor soul's trials; for it may well be that the
greatest affliction which it is feeling is that of the knowledge
of its own miseries, thinking that it sees itself, more clearly
than daylight, to be full of evils and sins, for God gives it that
light of knowledge in that night of contemplation, as we shall
presently show. And, when the soul finds someone whose opinion
agrees with its own, and who says that these things must be due to
its own fault, its affliction and trouble increase infinitely and
are wont to become more grievous than death. And, not content with
this, such confessors, thinking that these things proceed from
sin, make these souls go over their lives and cause them to make
many general confessions, and crucify them afresh; not
understanding that this may quite well not be the time for any of
such things, and that their penitents should be left in the state
of purgation which God gives them, and be comforted and encouraged
to desire it until God be pleased to dispose otherwise; for until
that time, no matter what the souls themselves may do and their
confessors may say, there is no remedy for them.
     6. This, with the Divine favour, we shall consider hereafter,
and also how the soul should conduct itself at such a time, and
how the confessor must treat it, and what signs there will be
whereby it may be known if this is the purgation of the soul; and,
in such case, whether it be of sense or of spirit (which is the
dark night whereof we speak), and how it may be known if it be
melancholy or some other imperfection with respect to sense or to
spirit. For there may be some souls who will think, or whose
confessors will think, that God is leading them along this road of
the dark night of spiritual purgation, whereas they may possibly
be suffering only from some of the imperfections aforementioned.
And, again, there are many souls who think that they have no
aptitude for prayer, when they have very much; and there are
others who think that they have much when they have hardly any.
     7. There are other souls who labour and weary themselves to a
piteous extent, and yet go backward, seeking profit in that which
is not profitable, but is rather a hindrance; and there are still
others who, by remaining at rest and in quietness, continue to
make great progress. There are others who are hindered and
disturbed and make no progress, because of the very consolations
and favours that God is granting them in order that they may make
progress. And there are many other things on this road that befall
those who follow it, both joys and afflictions and hopes and
griefs: some proceeding from the spirit of perfection and others
from imperfection. Of all these, with the Divine favour, we shall
endeavour to say something, so that each soul who reads this may
be able to see something of the road that he ought to follow, if
he aspire to attain to the summit of this Mount.
     8. And, since this introduction relates to the dark night
through which the soul must go to God, let not the reader marvel
if it seem to him somewhat dark also. This, I believe, will be so
at the beginning when he begins to read; but, as he passes on, he
will find himself understanding the first part better, since one
part will explain another. And then, if he read it a second time,
I believe it will seem clearer to him and the instruction will
appear sounder. And if any persons find themselves disagreeing
with this instruction, it will be due to my ignorance and poor
style; for in itself the matter is good and of the first
importance. But I think that, even were it written in a more
excellent and perfect manner than it is, only the minority would
profit by it, for we shall not here set down things that are very
moral and delectable[72] for all spiritual persons who desire to
travel toward God by pleasant and delectable ways, but solid and
substantial instruction, as well suited to one kind of person as
to another, if they desire to pass to the detachment of spirit
which is here treated.
     9. Nor is my principal intent to address all, but rather
certain persons of our sacred Order of Mount Carmel of the
primitive observance, both friars and nuns -- since they have
desired me to do so -- to whom God is granting the favour of
setting them on the road to this Mount; who, as they are already
detached from the temporal things of this world, will better
understand the instruction concerning detachment of spirit.

                         BOOK THE FIRST

     Wherein is described the nature of dark night and how
necessary it is to pass through it to Divine union; and in
particular this book describes the dark night of sense, and
desire, and the evils which these work in the soul.[73]

                            CHAPTER I

     Sets down the first stanza. Describes two different nights
through which spiritual persons pass, according to the two parts
of man, the lower and the higher. Expounds the stanza which

                        STANZA THE FIRST

     On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings -- oh, happy
chance! --
     I went forth without being observed, My house being now at

     IN this first stanzas the soul sings of the happy fortune and
chance which it experienced in going forth from all things that
are without, and from the desires[74] and imperfections that are in
the sensual[75] part of man because of the disordered state of his
reason. For the understanding of this it must be known that, for a
soul to attain to the state of perfection, it has ordinarily first
to pass through two principal kinds of night, which spiritual
persons call purgations or purifications of the soul; and here we
call them nights, for in both of them the soul journeys, as it
were, by night, in darkness.
     2. 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,[76] with
respect to the activity of the soul; and in the fourth part, with
respect to its passitivity.
     3. And this first night pertains to beginners, occurring at
the time when God begins to bring them into the state of
contemplation; in this night the spirit likewise has a part, as we
shall say in due course. 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.
     4. Briefly, then, the soul means by this stanza that it went
forth (being led by God) for love of Him alone, enkindled in love
of Him, upon a dark night, which is the privation and purgation of
all its sensual desires, with respect to all outward things of the
world and to those which were delectable to its flesh, and
likewise with respect to the desires of its will. This all comes
to pass in this purgation of sense; for which cause the soul says
that it went forth while its house was still at rest;[77] which
house is its sensual part, the desires being at rest and asleep in
it, as it is to them.[78] For there is no going forth from the pains
and afflictions of the secret places of the desires until these be
mortified and put to sleep. And this, the soul says, was a happy
chance for it -- namely, its going forth without being observed:
that is, without any desire of its flesh or any other thing being
able to hinder it. And likewise, because it went out by night --
which signifies the privation of all these things wrought in it by
God, which privation was night for it.
     5. And it was a happy chance that God should lead it into
this night, from which there came to it so much good; for of
itself the soul would not have succeeded in entering therein,
because no man of himself can succeed in voiding himself of all
his desires in order to come to God.
     6. This is, in brief, the exposition of the stanza; and we
shall now have to go through it, line by line, setting down one
line after another, and expounding that which pertains to our
purpose. And the same method is followed in the other stanzas, as
I said in the Prologue[79] -- namely, that each stanza will be set
down and expounded, and afterwards each line.

                           CHAPTER II

     Explains the nature of this dark night through which the soul
says that it has passed on the road to union.

                         On A Dark Night

     WE may say that there are three reasons for which this
journey[80] made by the soul to union with God is called night. The
first has to do with the point from which the soul goes forth, for
it has gradually to deprive itself of desire for all the worldly
things which it possessed, by denying them to itself;[81] the which
denial and deprivation are, as it were, night to all the senses of
man. The second reason has to do with the mean,[82] or the road
along which the soul must travel to this union -- that is, faith,
which is likewise as dark as night to the understanding. The third
has to do with the point to which it travels -- namely, God, Who,
equally, is dark night to the soul in this life. These three
nights must pass through the soul -- or, rather, the soul must
pass through them -- in order that it may come to Divine union
with God.
     2. In the book of the holy Tobias these three kinds of night
were shadowed forth by the three nights which, as the angel
commanded, were to pass ere the youth Tobias should be united with
his bride. In the first he commanded him to burn the heart of the
fish in the fire, which signifies the heart that is affectioned
to, and set upon, the things of the world; which, in order that
one may begin to journey toward God, must be burned and purified
from all that is creature, in the fire of the love of God. And in
this purgation the devil flees away, for he has power over the
soul only when it is attached to things corporeal and temporal.
     3. On the second night the angel told him that he would be
admitted into the company of the holy patriarchs, who are the
fathers of the faith. For, passing through the first night, which
is self-privation of all objects of sense, the soul at once enters
into the second night, and abides alone in faith to the exclusion,
not of charity, but of other knowledge acquired by the
understanding, as we shall say hereafter, which is a thing that
pertains not to sense.
     4. On the third night the angel told him that he would obtain
a blessing, which is God; Who, by means of the second night, which
is faith, continually communicates Himself to the soul in such a
secret and intimate manner that He becomes another night to the
soul, inasmuch as this said communication is far darker than those
others, as we shall say presently. And, when this third night is
past, which is the complete accomplishment of the communication of
God in the spirit, which is ordinarily wrought in great darkness
of the soul, there then follows its union with the Bride, which is
the Wisdom of God. Even so the angel said likewise to Tobias that,
when the third night was past, he should be united with his bride
in the fear of the Lord; for, when this fear of God is perfect,
love is perfect, and this comes to pass when the transformation of
the soul is wrought through its love.
     5. These three parts of the night are all one night; but,
after the manner of night, it has three parts. For the first part,
which is that of sense, is comparable to the beginning of night,
the point at which things begin to fade from sight. And the second
part, which is faith, is comparable to midnight, which is total
darkness. And the third part is like the close of night, which is
God, the which part is now near to the light of day. And, that we
may understand this the better, we shall treat of each of these
reasons separately as we proceed.

                           CHAPTER III

     Speaks of the first cause of this night, which is that of the
privation of the desire in all things, and gives the reason for
which it is called night.

     WE here describe as night the privation of every kind of
pleasure which belongs to the desire; for, even as night is naught
but the privation of light, and, consequently, of all objects that
can be seen by means of light, whereby the visual faculty remains
unoccupied[83] and in darkness, even so likewise the mortification
of desire may be called night to the soul. For, when the soul is
deprived of the pleasure of its desire in all things, it remains,
as it were, unoccupied and in darkness. For even as the visual
faculty, by means of light, is nourished and fed by objects which
can be seen, and which, when the light is quenched, are not seen,
even so, by means of the desire, the soul is nourished and fed by
all things wherein it can take pleasure according to its
faculties; and, when this also is quenched, or rather, mortified,
the soul ceases to feed upon the pleasure of all things, and thus,
with respect to its desire, it remains unoccupied and in darkness.
     2. Let us take an example from each of the faculties. When
the soul deprives its desire of the pleasure of all that can
delight the sense of hearing, the soul remains unoccupied and in
darkness with respect to this faculty. And, when it deprives
itself of the pleasure of all that can please the sense of sight,
it remains unoccupied and in darkness with respect to this faculty
also. And, when it deprives itself of the pleasure of all the
sweetness of perfumes which can give it pleasure through the sense
of smell, it remains equally unoccupied and in darkness according
to this faculty. And, if it also denies itself the pleasure of all
food that can satisfy the palate, the soul likewise remains
unoccupied and in darkness. And finally, when the soul mortifies
itself with respect to all the delights and pleasures that it can
receive from the sense of touch, it remains, in the same way,
unoccupied and in darkness with respect to this faculty. So that
the soul that has denied and thrust away from itself the pleasures
which come from all these things, and has mortified its desire
with respect to them, may be said to be, as it were, in the
darkness of night, which is naught else than an emptiness within
itself of all things.
     3. The reason for this is that, as the philosophers say, the
soul, as soon as God infuses it into the body, is like a smooth,
blank board[84] upon which nothing is painted; and, save for that
which it experiences through the senses, nothing is communicated
to it, in the course of nature, from any other source. And thus,
for as long as it is in the body, it is like one who is in a dark
prison and who knows nothing, save what he is able to see through
the windows of the said prison; and, if he saw nothing through
them, he would see nothing in any other way. And thus the soul,
save for that which is communicated to it through the senses,
which are the windows of its prison, could acquire nothing, in the
course of nature, in any other way.
     4. Wherefore, if the soul rejects and denies that which it
can receive through the senses, we can quite well say that it
remains, as it were, in darkness and empty; since, as appears from
what has been said, no light can enter it, in the course of
nature, by any other means of illumination than those
aforementioned. For, although it is true that the soul cannot help
hearing and seeing and smelling and tasting and touching, this is
of no greater import, nor, if the soul denies and rejects the
object, is it hindered more than if it saw it not, heard it not,
etc. Just so a man who desires to shut his eyes will remain in
darkness, like the blind man who has not the faculty of sight. And
to this purpose David says these words: Pauper sum ego, et in
laboribus a indenture mea.[85] Which signifies: I am poor and in
labours from my youth. He calls himself poor, although it is clear
that he was rich, because his will was not set upon riches, and
thus it was as though he were really poor. But if he had not been
really poor and had not been so in his will, he would not have
been truly poor, for his soul, as far as its desire was concerned,
would have been rich and replete. For that reason we call this
detachment night to the soul, for we are not treating here of the
lack of things, since this implies no detachment on the part of
the soul if it has a desire for them; but we are treating of the
detachment from them of the taste and desire, for it is this that
leaves the soul free and void of them, although it may have them;
for it is not the things of this world that either occupy the soul
or cause it harm, since they enter it not, but rather the will and
desire for them, for it is these that dwell within it.
     5. This first kind of night, as we shall say hereafter,
belongs to the soul according to its sensual part, which is one of
the two parts, whereof we spoke above, through which the soul must
pass in order to attain to union.
     6. Let us now say how meet it is for the soul to go forth
from its house into this dark night of sense, in order to travel
to union with God.

                           CHAPTER IV

     Wherein is declared how necessary it is for the soul truly to
pass through this dark night of sense, which is mortification of
desire, in order that it may journey to union with God.

     THE reason for which it is necessary for the soul, in order
to attain to Divine union with God, to pass through this dark
night of mortification of the desires and denial of pleasures in
all things, is because all the affections which it has for
creatures are pure darkness in the eyes of God, and, when the soul
is clothed in these affections, it has no capacity for being
enlightened and possessed by the pure and simple light of God, if
it first cast them not from it; for light cannot agree with
darkness; since, as Saint John says: Tenebroe eam non
comprehenderunt.[86] That is: The darkness could not receive the
     2. The reason is that two contraries (even as philosophy
teaches us) cannot coexist in one person; and that darkness, which
is affection set upon the creatures, and light, which is God, are
contrary to each other, and have no likeness or accord between one
another, even as Saint Paul taught the Corinthians, saying: Quoe
conventio luci ad tenebras?[87] That is to say: What communion can
there be between light and darkness? Hence it is that the light of
Divine union cannot dwell in the soul if these affections first
flee not away from it.
     3. In order that we may the better prove what has been said,
it must be known that the affection and attachment which the soul
has for creatures renders the soul like to these creatures; and,
the greater is its affection, the closer is the equality and
likeness between them; for love creates a likeness between that
which loves and that which is loved. For which reason David,
speaking of those who set their affections upon idols, said thus:
Similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea: et omnes qui confidunt in
eis.[88] Which signifies: Let them that set their heart upon them be
like to them. And thus, he that loves a creature becomes as low as
that creature, and, in some ways, lower; for love not only makes
the lover equal to the object of his love, but even subjects him
to it. Hence in the same way it comes to pass that the soul that
loves anything else becomes incapable of pure union with God and
transformation in Him. For the low estate of the creature is much
less capable of union with the high estate of the Creator than is
darkness with light. For all things of earth and heaven, compared
with God, are nothing, as Jeremias says in these words: Aspexi
terram, et ecce vacua erat, et nihil; et coelos, et non erat lux
in eis.[89] 'I beheld the earth,' he says, 'and it was void, and it
was nothing; and the heavens, and saw that they had no light.' In
saying that he beheld the earth void, he means that all its
creatures were nothing, and that the earth was nothing likewise.
And, in saying that he beheld the heavens and saw no light in
them, he says that all the luminaries of heaven, compared with
God, are pure darkness. So that in this way all the creatures are
nothing; and their affections, we may say, are less than nothing,
since they are an impediment to transformation in God and the
privation thereof, even as darkness is not only nothing, but less
than nothing, since it is privation of light. And even as he that
is in darkness comprehends not the light, so the soul that sets
its affection upon creatures will be unable to comprehend God;
and, until it be purged, it will neither be able to possess Him
here below, through pure transformation of love, nor yonder in
clear vision. And, for greater clarity, we will now speak in
greater detail.
     4. All the being of creation, then, compared with the
infinite Being of God, is nothing. And therefore the soul that
sets its affection upon the being of creation is likewise nothing
in the eyes of God, and less than nothing; for, as we have said,
love makes equality and similitude, and even sets the lover below
the object of his love. And therefore such a soul will in no wise
be able to attain to union with the infinite Being of God; for
that which is not can have no communion with that which is. And,
coming down in detail to some examples, all the beauty of the
creatures, compared with the infinite beauty of God, is the height
of deformity[90] even as Solomon says in the Proverbs: Fallax
gratia, et vana est pulchritudo.[91] 'Favour is deceitful and beauty
is vain.' And thus the soul that is affectioned to the beauty of
any creature is the height of deformity in the eyes of God. And
therefore this soul that is deformed will be unable to become
transformed in beauty, which is God, since deformity cannot attain
to beauty; and all the grace and beauty of the creatures, compared
with the grace of God, is the height of misery[92] and of

uncomeliness. Wherefore the soul that is ravished by the graces
and beauties of the creatures has only supreme[93] misery and
unattractiveness in the eyes of God; and thus it cannot be capable
of the infinite grace and loveliness of God; for that which has no
grace is far removed from that which is infinitely gracious; and
all the goodness of the creatures of the world, in comparison with
the infinite goodness of God, may be described as wickedness. 'For
there is naught good, save only God.'[94] And therefore the soul
that sets its heart upon the good things of the world is supremely
evil in the eyes of God. And, even as wickedness comprehends not
goodness, even so such a soul cannot be united with God, Who is
supreme goodness.
     5. All the wisdom of the world and all human ability,
compared with the infinite wisdom of God, are pure and supreme
ignorance, even as Saint Paul writes ad Corinthios, saying:
Sapientia hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum.[95] 'The wisdom of
this world is foolishness with God.' Wherefore any soul that makes
account of all its knowledge and ability in order to come to union
with the wisdom of God is supremely ignorant in the eyes of God
and will remain far removed from that wisdom; for ignorance knows
not what wisdom is, even as Saint Paul says that this wisdom seems
foolishness to God; since, in the eyes of God, those who consider
themselves to be persons with a certain amount of knowledge are
very ignorant, so that the Apostle, writing to the Romans, says of
them: Dicentes enim se esse sapientes, stulti facti sunt. That is:
Professing themselves to be wise, they became foolish.[96] And those
alone acquire wisdom of God who are like ignorant children, and,
laying aside their knowledge, walk in His service with love. This
manner of wisdom Saint Paul taught likewise ad Corinthios: Si quis
videtur inter vos sapiens esse in hoc soeculo, stultus fiat ut sit
sapiens. Sapientia enim hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum.[97]
That is: If any man among you seem to be wise, let him become
ignorant that he may be wise; for the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with God. So that, in order to come to union with the
wisdom of God, the soul has to proceed rather by unknowing than by
knowing; and all the dominion and liberty of the world, compared
with the liberty and dominion of the Spirit of God, is the most
abject[98] slavery, affliction and captivity.
     6. Wherefore the soul that is enamoured of prelacy,[99] or of
any other such office, and longs for liberty of desire, is
considered and treated, in the sight of God, not as a son, but as
a base slave and captive, since it has not been willing to accept
His holy doctrine, wherein He teaches us that whoso would be
greater must be less, and whoso would be less must be greater. And
therefore such a soul will be unable to attain to that true
liberty of spirit which is attained in His Divine union. For
slavery can have no part with liberty; and liberty cannot dwell in
a heart that is subject to desires, for this is the heart of a
slave; but it dwells in the free man, because he has the heart of
a son. It was for this cause that Sara bade her husband Abraham
cast out the bondwoman and her son, saying that the son of the
bondwoman should not be heir with the son of the free woman.[100]
     7. And all the delights and pleasures of the will in all the
things of the world, in comparison with all those delights which
are God, are supreme affliction, torment and bitterness. And thus
he that sets his heart upon them is considered, in the sight of
God, as worthy of supreme affliction, torment and bitterness; and
thus he will be unable to attain to the delights of the embrace of
union with God, since he is worthy of affliction and bitterness.
All the wealth and glory of all creation, in comparison with the
wealth which is God, is supreme poverty and wretchedness. Thus the
soul that loves and possesses creature wealth is supremely poor
and wretched in the sight of God, and for that reason will be
unable to attain to that wealth and glory which is the state of
transformation in God; for that which is miserable and poor is
supremely far removed from that which is supremely rich and
     8. And therefore Divine Wisdom, grieving for such as these,
who make themselves vile, low, miserable and poor, because they
love the things in this world which seem to them so rich and
beautiful, addresses an exclamation to them in the Proverbs,
saying: O viri, ad vos clamito, et vox mea ad filios hominum.
Intelligite, parvuli, astutiam, et insipientes, animadvertite.
Audite quia de rebus magnis locutura sum. And farther on he
continues: Mecum sunt divitoe, et gloria, opes superboe et
justicia. Melior est fructus meus auro, et lapide pretioso, et
genimina mea argento electo. In viis justitioe ambulo, in medio
semitarum judicii, ut ditem diligentes me, et thesauros eorum
repleam.[101] Which signifies: O ye men, to you I call, and my voice
is to the sons of men. Attend, little ones, to subtlety and
sagacity; ye that are foolish, take notice. Hear, for I have to
speak of great things. With me are riches and glory, high riches
and justice. Better is the fruit that ye will find in me than gold
and precious stones; and my generation -- namely, that which ye
will engender of me in your souls -- is better than choice silver.
I walk in the ways of justice, in the midst of the paths of
judgment, that I may enrich those that love me and fill their
treasures perfectly. -- Herein Divine Wisdom speaks to all those
that set their hearts and affections upon anything of the world,
according as we have already said. And she calls them 'little
ones,' because they make themselves like to that which they love,
which is little. And therefore she tells them to be subtle and to
take note that she is treating of great things and not of things
that are little like themselves. That the great riches and the
glory that they love are with her and in her, and not where they
think. And that high riches and justice dwell in her; for,
although they think the things of this world to be all this, she
tells them to take note that her things are better, saying that
the fruit that they will find in them will be better for them than
gold and precious stones; and that which she engenders in souls is
better than the choice silver which they love; by which is
understood any kind of affection that can be possessed in this

                            CHAPTER V

     Wherein the aforementioned subject is treated and continued,
and it is shown by passages and figures from Holy Scripture how
necessary it is for the soul to journey to God through this dark
night of the mortification of desire in all things.

     FROM what has been said it may be seen in some measure how
great a distance there is between all that the creatures are in
themselves and that which God is in Himself, and how souls that
set their affections upon any of these creatures are at as great a
distance as they from God; for, as we have said, love produces
equality and likeness. This distance was clearly realized by Saint
Augustine, who said in the Sololoquies, speaking with God:
'Miserable man that I am, when will my littleness and imperfection
be able to have fellowship with Thy uprightness? Thou indeed art
good, and I am evil; Thou art merciful, and I am impious; Thou art
holy, I am miserable; Thou art just, I am unjust; Thou art light,
I am blind; Thou, life, I, death; Thou, medicine, I, sick; Thou,
supreme truth, I, utter vanity.' All this is said by this
     2. Wherefore, it is supreme ignorance for the soul to think
that it will be able to pass to this high estate of union with God
if first it void not the desire of all things, natural and
supernatural, which may hinder it, according as we shall explain
hereafter;[103] for there is the greatest possible distance between
these things and that which comes to pass in this estate, which is
naught else than transformation in God. For this reason Our Lord,
when showing us this path, said through Saint Luke: Qui non
renuntiat omnibus quoe possidet, non potest meus esse
discipulus.[104] This signifies: He that renounces not all things
that he possesses with his will cannot be My disciple. And this is
evident; for the doctrine that the Son of God came to teach was
contempt for all things, whereby a man might receive as a reward
the Spirit of God in himself. For, as long as the soul rejects not
all things, it has no capacity to receive the Spirit of God in
pure transformation.
     3. Of this we have a figure in Exodus, wherein we read that
God gave not the children of Israel the food from Heaven, which
was manna, until the flour which they had brought from Egypt
failed them. By this is signified that first of all it is meet to
renounce all things, for this angels' food is not fitting for the
palate that would find delight in the food of men. And not only
does the soul become incapable of receiving the Divine Spirit when
it stays and pastures on other strange pleasures, but those souls
greatly offend the Divine Majesty who desire spiritual food and
are not content with God alone, but desire rather to intermingle
desire and affection for other things. This can likewise be seen
in the same book of Holy Scripture,[105] wherein it is said that,
not content with that simplest of food, they desired and craved
fleshly food.[106] And that Our Lord was greatly wroth that they
should desire to intermingle a food that was so base and so coarse
with one that was so noble[107] and so simple; which, though it was
so, had within itself the sweetness and substance of all foods.[108]
Wherefore, while they yet had the morsels in their mouths, as
David says likewise: Ira Dei descendit super eos.[109] The wrath of
God came down upon them, sending fire from Heaven and consuming
many thousands of them; for God held it an unworthy thing that
they should have a desire for other food when He had given them
food from Heaven.
     4. Oh, did spiritual persons but know how much good and what
great abundance of spirit they lose through not seeking to raise
up their desires above childish things, and how in this simple
spiritual food they would find the sweetness of all things, if
they desired not to taste those things! But such food gives them
no pleasure, for the reason why the children of Israel received
not the sweetness of all foods that was contained in the manna was
that they would not reserve their desire for it alone. So that
they failed to find in the manna all the sweetness and strength
that they could wish, not because it was not contained in the
manna, but because they desired some other thing. Thus he that
will love some other thing together with God of a certainty makes
little account of God, for he weighs in the balance against God
that which, as we have said, is at the greatest possible distance
from God.
     5. It is well known by experience that, when the will of a
man is affectioned to one thing, he prizes it more than any other;
although some other thing may be much better, he takes less
pleasure in it. And if he wishes to enjoy both, he is bound to
wrong the more important, because he makes an equality between
them. Wherefore, since there is naught that equals God, the soul
that loves some other thing together with Him, or clings to it,
does Him a grievous wrong. And if this is so, what would it be
doing if it loved anything more than God?
     6. It is this, too, that was denoted by the command of God to
Moses that he should ascend the Mount to speak with Him: He
commanded him not only to ascend it alone, leaving the children of
Israel below, but not even to allow the beasts to feed over
against the Mount.[110] By this He signified that the soul that is
to ascend this mount of perfection, to commune with God, must not
only renounce all things and leave them below, but must not even
allow the desires, which are the beasts, to pasture over against
this mount -- that is, upon other things which are not purely God,
in Whom -- that is, in the state of perfection -- every desire
ceases. So he that journeys on the road and makes the ascent to
God must needs be habitually careful to quell and mortify the
desires; and the greater the speed wherewith a soul does this, the
sooner will it reach the end of its journey. Until these be
quelled, it cannot reach the end, however much it practise the
virtues, since it is unable to attain to perfection in them; for
this perfection consists in voiding and stripping and purifying
the soul of every desire. Of this we have another very striking
figure in Genesis, where we read that, when the patriarch Jacob
desired to ascend Mount Bethel, in order to build an altar there
to God whereon he should offer Him sacrifice, he first commanded
all his people to do three things: one was that they should cast
away from them all strange gods; the second, that they should
purify themselves; the third, that they should change their
     7. By these three things it is signified that any soul that
will ascend this mount in order to make of itself an altar whereon
it may offer to God the sacrifice of pure love and praise and pure
reverence, must, before ascending to the summit of the mount, have
done these three things aforementioned perfectly. First, it must
cast away all strange gods -- namely, all strange affections and
attachments; secondly, it must purify itself of the remnants which
the desires aforementioned have left in the soul, by means of the
dark night of sense whereof we are speaking, habitually denying
them and repenting itself of them; and thirdly, in order to reach
the summit of this high mount, it must have changed its garments,
which, through its observance of the first two things, God will
change for it, from old to new, by giving it a new understanding
of God in God, the old human understanding being cast aside; and a
new love of God in God, the will being now stripped of all its old
desires and human pleasures, and the soul being brought into a new
state of knowledge and profound delight, all other old images and
forms of knowledge having been cast away, and all that belongs to
the old man, which is the aptitude of the natural self, quelled,
and the soul clothed with a new supernatural aptitude with respect
to all its faculties. So that its operation, which before was
human, has become Divine, which is that that is attained in the
state of union, wherein the soul becomes naught else than an altar
whereon God is adored in praise and love, and God alone is upon
it. For this cause God commanded that the altar whereon the Ark of
the Covenant was to be laid should be hollow within;[112] so that
the soul may understand how completely empty of all things God
desires it to be, that it may be an altar worthy of the presence
of His Majesty. On this altar it was likewise forbidden that there
should be any strange fire, or that its own fire should ever fail;
and so essential was this that, because Nadab and Abiu, who were
the sons of the High Priest Aaron, offered strange fire upon His
Altar, Our Lord was wroth and slew them there before the altar.[113]
By this we are to understand that the love of God must never fail
in the soul, so that the soul may be a worthy altar, and so that
no other love must be mingled with it.
     8. God permits not that any other thing should dwell together
with Him. Wherefore we read in the First Book the Kings that, when
the Philistines put the Ark of the Covenant into the temple where
their idol was, the idol was cast down upon the ground at the dawn
of each day, and broken to pieces.[114] And He permits and wills
that there should be only one desire where He is, which is to keep
the law of God perfectly, and to bear upon oneself the Cross of
Christ. And thus naught else is said in the Divine Scripture to
have been commanded by God to be put in the Ark, where the manna
was, save the book of the Law,[115] and the rod Moses,[116] which
signifies the Cross. For the soul that aspires naught else than
the keeping of the law of the Lord perfectly and the bearing of
the Cross of Christ will be a true Ark, containing within itself
the true manna, which is God, when that soul attains to a perfect
possession within itself of this law and this rod, without any
other thing soever.

                           CHAPTER VI

     Wherein are treated two serious evils caused in the soul by
the desires, the one evil being privative and the other positive.

     IN order that what we have said may be the more clearly and
fully understood, it will be well to set down here and state how
these desires are the cause of two serious evils in the soul: the
one is that they deprive it of the Spirit of God, and the other is
that the soul wherein they dwell is wearied, tormented, darkened,
defiled and weakened, according to that which is said in Jeremias,
Chapter II: Duo mala fecit Populus meus: dereliquerunt fontem
aquoe vivoe, et foderunt sibi cisternas, dissipatas, quoe
continere non valent aquas. Which signifies: They have forsaken
Me, Who am the fountain of living water, and they have hewed them
out broken cisterns, that can hold no water.[117] Those two evils --
namely, the privative and the positive -- may be caused by any
disordered act of the desire. And, speaking first of all, of the
privative, it is clear from the very fact that the soul becomes
affectioned to a thing which comes under the head of creature,
that the more the desire for that thing fills the soul,[118] the
less capacity has the soul for God; inasmuch as two contraries,
according to the philosophers, cannot coexist in one person; and
further, since, as we said in the fourth chapter, affection for
God and affection for creatures are contraries, there cannot be
contained within one will affection for creatures and affection
for God. For what has the creature to do with the Creator? What
has sensual to do with spiritual? Visible with invisible? Temporal
with eternal? Food that is heavenly, spiritual and pure with food
that is of sense alone and is purely sensual? Christlike poverty
of spirit with attachment to aught soever?
     2. Wherefore, as in natural generation no form can be
introduced unless the preceding, contrary form is first expelled
from the subject, which form, while present, is an impediment to
the other by reason of the contrariety which the two have between
each other; even so, for as long as the soul is subjected to the
sensual spirit, the spirit which is pure and spiritual cannot
enter it. Wherefore our Saviour said through Saint Matthew: Non
est bonum sumere panem filiorum, et mittere canibus.[119] That is:
It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to the
dogs. And elsewhere, too, he says through the same Evangelist:
Nolite sanctum dare canibus.[120] Which signifies: Give not that
which is holy to the dogs. In these passages Our Lord compares
those who renounce their creature-desires, and prepare themselves
to receive the Spirit of God in purity, to the children of God;
and those who would have their desire feed upon the creatures, to
dogs. For it is given to children to eat with their father at
table and from his dish, which is to feed upon His Spirit, and to
dogs are given the crumbs which fall from the table.
     3. From this we are to learn that all created things are
crumbs that have fallen from the table of God. Wherefore he that
feeds ever upon[121] the creatures is rightly called a dog, and
therefore the bread is taken from the children, because they
desire not to rise above feeding upon the crumbs, which are
created things, to the Uncreated Spirit of their Father.
Therefore, like dogs, they are ever hungering, and justly so,
because the crumbs serve to whet their appetite rather than to
satisfy their hunger. And thus David says of them: Famem patientur
ut canes, et circuibunt civitatem. Si vero non fuerint saturati,
et murmurabunt.[122] Which signifies: They shall suffer hunger like
dogs and shall go round about the city, and, if they find not
enough to fill them, they shall murmur. For this is the nature of
one that has desires, that he is ever discontented and
dissatisfied, like one that suffers hunger; for what has the
hunger which all the creatures suffer to do with the fullness
which is caused by the Spirit of God? Wherefore this fullness that
is uncreated cannot enter the soul, if there be not first cast out
that other created hunger which belongs to the desire of the soul;
for, as we have said two contraries cannot dwell in one person,
the which contraries in this case are hunger and fullness.
     4. From what has been said it will be seen how much greater
is the work of God[123] in the cleansing and the purging of a soul
from these contrarieties than in the creating of that soul from
nothing. For thee contrarieties, these contrary desires and
affections, are more completely opposed to God and offer Him
greater resistance than does nothingness; for nothingness resists
not at all. And let this suffice with respect to the first of the
important evils which are inflicted upon the soul by the desires
-- namely, resistance to the Spirit of God -- since much has been
said of this above.
     5. Let us now speak of the second effect which they cause in
the soul. This is of many kinds, because the desires weary the
soul and torment and darken it, and defile it and weaken it. Of
these five things we shall speak separately, in their turn.
     6. With regard to the first, it is clear that the desires
weary and fatigue the soul; for they are like restless and
discontented children, who are ever demanding this or that from
their mother, and are never contented. And even as one that digs
because he covets a treasure is wearied and fatigued, even so is
the soul weary and fatigued in order to attain that which its
desires demand of it; and although in the end it may attain it, it
is still weary, because it is never satisfied; for, after all, the
cisterns which it is digging are broken, and cannot hold water to
satisfy thirst. And thus, as Isaias says: Lassus adhuc sitit, et
anima ejus vacua est.[124] Which signifies: His desire is empty. And
the soul that has desires is wearied and fatigued; for it is like
a man that is sick of a fever, who finds himself no better until
the fever leaves him, and whose thirst increases with every
moment. For, as is said in the Book of Job: Cum satiatus fuerit,
arctabitur, oestuabit, et omnis dolor irruet super eum.[125] Which
signifies: When he has satisfied his desire, he will be the more
oppressed and straitened; the heat of desire hath increased in his
soul and thus every sorrow will fall upon him. The soul is wearied
and fatigued by its desires, because it is wounded and moved and
disturbed by them as is water by the winds; in just the same way
they disturb it, allowing it not to rest in any place or in any
thing soever. And of such a soul says Isaias: Cor impii quasi mare
fervens.[126] 'The heart of the wicked man is like the sea when it
rages.' And he is a wicked man that conquers not his desires. The
soul that would fain satisfy its desires grows wearied and
fatigued; for it is like one that, being an hungered, opens his
mouth that he may sate himself with wind, whereupon, instead of
being satisfied, his craving becomes greater, for the wind is no
food for him. To this purpose said Jeremias: In desiderio animoe
sum attraxit ventum amoris sui.[127] As though he were to say: In
the desire of his will he snuffed up the wind of his affection.
And he then tries to describe the aridity wherein such a soul
remains, and warns it, saying: Prohibe pedem tuum a nuditate, et
guttur tuum a siti.[128] Which signifies: Keep thy foot (that is,
thy thought) from being bare and thy throat from thirst (that is
to say, thy will from the indulgence of the desire which causes
greater dryness); and, even as the lover is wearied and fatigued
upon the day of his hopes, when his attempt has proved to be vain,
so the soul is wearied and fatigued by all its desires and by
indulgence in them, since they all cause it greater emptiness and
hunger; for, as is often said, desire is like the fire, which
increases as wood is thrown upon it, and which, when it has
consumed the wood, must needs die.
     7. And in this regard it is still worse with desire; for the
fire goes down when the wood is consumed, but desire, though it
increases when fuel is added to it, decreases not correspondingly
when the fuel is consumed; on the contrary, instead of going down,
as does the fire when its fuel is consumed, it grows weak through
weariness, for its hunger is increased and its food diminished.
And of this Isaias speaks, saying: Declinabit ad dexteram, et
esuriet: et comedet ad sinistram, et non saturabitur.[129] This
signifies: He shall turn to the right hand, and shall be hungry;
and he shall eat on the left hand, and shall not be filled. For
they that mortify not their desires, when they 'turn,' justly see
the fullness of the sweetness of spirit of those who are at the
right hand of God, which fullness is not granted to themselves;
and justly, too, when they eat on the left hand,[130] by which is
meant the satisfaction of their desire with some creature comfort,
they are not filled, for, leaving aside that which alone can
satisfy, they feed on that which causes them greater hunger. It is
clear, then, that the desires weary and fatigue the soul.

                           CHAPTER VII

     Wherein is shown how the desires torment the soul. This is
proved likewise by comparison and quotations.

     THE second kind of positive evil which the desires cause the
soul is in their tormenting and afflicting of it, after the manner
of one who is in torment through being bound with cords from which
he has no relief until he be freed. And of these David says: Funes
peccatorum circumplexi sunt me.[131] The cords of my sins, which are
my desires, have constrained me round about. And, even as one that
lies naked upon thorns and briars is tormented and afflicted, even
so is the soul tormented and afflicted when it rests upon its
desires. For they take hold upon it and distress it and cause it
pain, even as do thorns. Of these David says likewise:
Circumdederunt me sicut apes: et exarserunt sicut ignis in
spinis.[132] Which signifies: They compassed me about like bees,
wounding me with their stings, and they were enkindled against me,
like fire among thorns; for in the desires, which are the thorns,
increases the fire of anguish and torment. And even as the
husbandman, coveting the harvest for which he hopes, afflicts and
torments the ox in the plough, even so does concupiscence afflict
a soul that is subject to its desire to attain that for which it
longs. This can be clearly seen in that desire which Dalila had to
know whence Samson derived his strength that was so great, for the
Scripture says that it fatigued and tormented her so much that it
caused her to swoon, almost to the point of death, and she said:
Defecit anima ejus, et ad mortem usque lassata est.[133]
     2. The more intense is the desire, the greater is the torment
which it causes the soul. So that the torment increases with the
desire; and the greater are the desires which possess the soul,
the greater are its torments; for in such a soul is fulfilled,
even in this life, that which is said in the Apocalypse concerning
Babylon, in these words: Quantum glorificavit se, et in deliciis
fuit, tantum date illi tormentum, et luctum.[134] That is: As much
as she has wished to exalt and fulfil her desires, so much give ye
to her torment and anguish. And even as one that falls into the
hands of his enemies is tormented and afflicted, even so is the
soul tormented and afflicted that is led away by its desires. Of
this there is a figure in the Book of the Judges, wherein it may
be read that that strong man, Samson, who at one time was strong
and free and a judge of Israel, fell into the power of his
enemies, and they took his strength from him, and put out his
eyes, and bound him in a mill, to grind corn,[135] wherein they
tormented and afflicted him greatly;[136] and thus it happens to the
soul in which these its enemies, the desires, live and rule; for
the first thing that they do is to weaken the soul and blind it,
as we shall say below; and then they afflict and torment it,
binding it to the mill of concupiscence; and the bonds with which
it is bound are its own desires.
     3. Wherefore God, having compassion on these that with such
great labour, and at such cost to themselves, go about
endeavouring to satisfy the hunger and thirst of their desire in
the creatures, says to them through Isaias: Omnes sitientes,
venite ad aquas; et qui non habetis argentum, properate, emite, el
comedite: venite, emite absque argento vinum et lac. Quare
appenditis argentum non in panibus, et laborem vestrum non in
saturitate?[137] As though He were to say: All ye that have thirst
of desire, come to the waters, and all ye that have no silver of
your own will and desires, make haste; buy from Me and eat; come
and buy from Me wine and milk (that is, spiritual sweetness and
peace) without the silver of your own will, and without giving Me
any labour in exchange for it, as ye give for your desires.
Wherefore do ye give the silver of your will for that which is not
bread -- namely, that of the Divine Spirit -- and set the labour
of your desires upon that which cannot satisfy you? Come,
hearkening to Me, and ye shall eat the good that ye desire and
your soul shall delight itself in fatness.
     4. This attaining to fatness is a going forth from all
pleasures of the creatures; for the creatures torment, but the
Spirit of God refreshes. And thus He calls us through Saint
Matthew, saying: Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati
estis, et ego reficiam vos, et invenietis requiem animabus
vestris.[138] As though He were to say: All ye that go about
tormented, afflicted and burdened with the burden of your cares
and desires, go forth from them, come to Me, and I will refresh
you and ye shall find for your souls the rest which your desires
take from you, wherefore they are a heavy burden, for David says
of them: Sicut onus grave gravatoe sunt super me.[139]


     Wherein is shown how the desires darken and blind the soul.

     THE third evil that the desires cause in the soul is that
they blind and darken it. Even as vapours darken the air and allow
not the bright sun to shine; or as a mirror that is clouded over
cannot receive within itself a clear image; or as water defiled by
mud reflects not the visage of one that looks therein; even so the
soul that is clouded by the desires is darkened in the
understanding and allows neither[140] the sun of natural reason nor
that of the supernatural Wisdom of God to shine upon it and
illumine it clearly. And thus David, speaking to this purpose,
says: Comprehenderunt me iniquitates meoe, et non potui, ut
viderem.[141] Which signifies: Mine iniquities have taken hold upon
me, and I could have no power to see.
      2. And, at this same time, when the soul is darkened in the
understanding, it is benumbed also in the will, and the memory
becomes dull and disordered in its due operation. For, as these
faculties in their operations depend upon the understanding, it is
clear that, when the understanding is impeded, they will become
disordered and troubled. And thus David says: Anima mea turbata
est valde.[142] That is: My soul is sorely troubled. Which is as
much as to say, 'disordered in its faculties.' For, as we say, the
understanding has no more capacity for receiving enlightenment
from the wisdom of God than has the air, when it is dark, for
receiving enlightenment from the sun; neither has the will any
power to embrace God within itself in pure love, even as the
mirror that is clouded with vapour has no power to reflect clearly
within itself any visage,[143] and even less power has the memory
which is clouded by the darkness of desire to take clearly upon
itself the form of the image of God, just as the muddled water
cannot show forth clearly the visage of one that looks at himself
      3. Desire blinds and darkens the soul; for desire, as such,
is blind, since of itself it has no understanding in itself, the
reason being to it always, as it were, a child leading a blind
man. And hence it comes to pass that, whensoever the soul is
guided by its desire, it becomes blind; for this is as if one that
sees were guided by one that sees not, which is, as it were, for
both to be blind. And that which follows from this is that which
Our Lord says through Saint Matthew: Si coecus coeco ducatum
proestet, ambo in foveam cadunt.[144] 'If the blind lead the blind,
both fall into the pit.' Of little use are its eyes to a moth,
since desire for the beauty of the light dazzles it and leads it
into the flame.[145] And even so we may say that one who feeds upon
desire is like a fish that is dazzled, upon which the light acts
rather as darkness, preventing it from seeing the snares which the
fishermen are preparing for it. This is very well expressed by
David himself, where he says of such persons: Supercecidit ignis,
et non viderunt solem.[146] Which signifies: There came upon them
the fire, which burns with its heat and dazzles with its light.
And it is this that desire does to the soul, enkindling its
concupiscence and dazzling its understanding so that it cannot see
its light. For the cause of its being thus dazzled is that when
another light of a different kind is set before the eye, the
visual faculty is attracted by that which is interposed so that it
sees not the other; and, as the desire is set so near to the soul
as to be within the soul itself, the soul meets this first light
and is attracted by it; and thus it is unable to see the light of
clear understanding, neither will see it until the dazzling power
of desire is taken away from it.
     4. For this reason one must greatly lament the ignorance of
certain men, who burden themselves with extraordinary penances and
with many other voluntary practices, and think that this practice
or that will suffice to bring them to the union of Divine Wisdom;
but such will not be the case if they endeavour not diligently to
mortify their desires. If they were careful to bestow half of that
labour on this, they would profit more in a month than they profit
by all the other practices in many years. For, just as it is
necessary to till the earth if it is to bear fruit, and unless it
be tilled it bears naught but weeds, just so is mortification of
the desires necessary if the soul is to profit. Without this
mortification, I make bold to say, the soul no more achieves
progress on the road to perfection and to the knowledge of God of
itself, however many efforts it may make, than the seed grows when
it is cast upon untilled ground. Wherefore the darkness and
rudeness of the soul will not be taken from it until the desires
be quenched. For these desires are like cataracts, or like motes
in the eye, which obstruct the sight until they be taken away.
     5. And thus David, realizing how blind are these souls, and
how completely impeded from beholding the light of truth, and how
wroth is God with them, speaks to them, saying: Priusquam
intelligerent spinoe vestroe rhamnum: sicut viventes, sic in ira
absorber eos.[147] And this is as though He had said: Before your
thorns (that is, your desires) harden and grow, changing from
tender thorns into a thick hedge and shutting out the sight of God
even as oft-times the living find their thread of life broken in
the midst of its course, even so will God swallow them up in His
wrath. For the desires that are living in the soul, so that it
cannot understand Him,[148] will be swallowed up by God by means of
chastisement and correction, either in this life or in the next,
and this will come to pass through purgation. And He says that He
will swallow them up in wrath, because that which is suffered in
the mortification of the desires is punishment for the ruin which
they have wrought in the soul.
     6. Oh, if men but knew how great is the blessing of Divine
light whereof they are deprived by this blindness which proceeds
from their affections and desires, and into what great hurts and
evils these make them to fall day after day, for so long as they
mortify them not! For a man must not rely upon a clear
understanding, or upon gifts that he has received from God, and
think that he may indulge his affection or desire, and will not be
blinded and darkened, and fall gradually into a worse estate. For
who would have said that a man so perfect in wisdom and the gifts
of God as was Solomon would have been reduced to such blindness
and torpor of the will as to make altars to so many idols and to
worship them himself, when he was old?[149] Yet no more was needed
to bring him to this than the affection which he had for women and
his neglect to deny the desires and delights of his heart. For he
himself says concerning himself, in Ecclesiastes, that he denied
not his heart that which it demanded of him.[150] And this man was
capable of being so completely led away by his desires that,
although it is true that at the beginning he was cautious,
nevertheless, because he denied them not, they gradually blinded
and darkened his understanding, so that in the end they succeeded
in quenching that great light of wisdom which God had given him,
and therefore in his old age he foresook God.
     7. And if unmortified desires could do so much in this man
who knew so well the distance that lies between good and evil,
what will they not be capable of accomplishing by working upon our
ignorance? For we, as God said to the prophet Jonas concerning the
Ninivites, cannot discern between[151] our right hand and our
left.[152] At every step we hold evil to be good, and good, evil,
and this arises from our own nature. What, then, will come to pass
if to our natural darkness is added the hindrance of desire?[153]
Naught but that which Isaias describes thus: Palpavimus, sicut
coeci parietem, et quasi absque oculis attreetavimus: impegimus
meridie, quasi in tenebris.[154] The prophet is speaking with those
who love to follow these their desires. It is as if he had said:
We have groped for the wall as though we were blind, and we have
been groping as though we had no eyes, and our blindness has
attained to such a point that we have stumbled at midday as though
it were in the darkness. For he that is blinded by desire has this
property, that, when he is set in the midst of truth and of that
which is good for him, he can no more see them than if he were in

                           CHAPTER IX

     Wherein is described how the desires defile the soul. This is
proved by comparisons and quotations from Holy Scripture.

     THE fourth evil which the desires cause in the soul is that
they stain and defile it, as is taught in Ecclesiasticus, in these
words: Qui tetigerit picem, inquinabitur ab ea.[155] This signifies:
He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled with it. And a man touches
pitch when he allows the desire of his will to be satisfied by any
creature. Here it is to be noted that the Wise Man compares the
creatures to pitch; for there is more difference between
excellence of soul and the best of the creatures[156] than there is
between pure diamond,[157] or fine gold, and pitch. And just as gold
or diamond, if it were heated and placed upon pitch, would become
foul and be stained by it, inasmuch as the heat would have cajoled
and allured the pitch, even so the soul that is hot with desire
for any creature draws forth foulness from it through the heat of
its desire and is stained by it. And there is more difference
between the soul and other corporeal creatures than between a
liquid that is highly clarified and mud that is most foul.
Wherefore, even as such a liquid would be defiled if it were
mingled with mud, so is the soul defiled that clings to creatures,
since by doing this it becomes like to the said creatures. And in
the same way that traces of soot would defile a face that is very
lovely and perfect, even in this way do disordered desires befoul
and defile the soul that has them, the which soul is in itself a
most lovely and perfect image of God.
     2. Wherefore Jeremias, lamenting the ravages of foulness
which these disordered affections cause in the soul, speaks first
of its beauty, and then of its foulness, saying: Candidiores sunt
Nazaroei ejus nive, nitidiores lacte, rubicundiores ebore antiquo,
sapphiro pulchriores. Denigrata est super carbones facies eorum,
et non sunt cogniti in plateis.[158] Which signifies: Its hair --
that is to say, that of the soul -- is more excellent in whiteness
than the snow, clearer[159] than milk, and ruddier than old ivory,
and lovelier than the sapphire stone. Their face has now become
blacker than coal and they are not known in the streets.[160] By the
hair we here understand the affections and thoughts of the soul,
which, ordered as God orders them -- that is, in God Himself --
are whiter than snow, and clearer[161] than milk, and ruddier than
ivory, and lovelier than the sapphire. By these four things is
understood every kind of beauty and excellence of corporeal
creatures, higher than which, says the writer, are the soul and
its operations, which are the Nazarites or the hair
aforementioned; the which Nazarites, being unruly,[162] with their
lives ordered in a way that God ordered not -- that is, being set
upon the creatures -- have their face (says Jeremias) made and
turned blacker than coal.
     3. All this harm, and more, is done to the beauty of the soul
by its unruly desires for the things of this world; so much so
that, if we set out to speak of the foul and vile appearance that
the desires can give the soul, we should find nothing, however
full of cobwebs and worms it might be, not even the corruption of
a dead body, nor aught else that is impure and vile, nor aught
that can exist and be imagined in this life, to which we could
compare it. For, although it is true that the unruly soul, in its
natural being, is as perfect as when God created it, yet, in its
reasonable being, it is vile, abominable, foul, black and full of
all the evils that are here being described, and many more. For,
as we shall afterwards say, a single unruly desire, although there
be in it no matter of mortal sin, suffices to bring a soul into
such bondage, foulness and vileness that it can in no wise come to
accord with God in union[163] until the desire be purified. What,
then, will be the vileness of the soul that is completely
unrestrained with respect to its own passions and given up to its
desires, and how far removed will it be from God and from His
     4. It is impossible to explain in words, or to cause to be
understood by the understanding, what variety of impurity is
caused in the soul by a variety of desires. For, if it could be
expressed and understood, it would be a wondrous thing, and one
also which would fill us with pity, to see how each desire, in
accordance with its quality and degree, be it greater or smaller,
leaves in the soul its mark and deposit of impurity and vileness,
and how one single disorder of the reason can be the source of
innumerable different impurities, some greater, some less, each
one after its kind. For, even as the soul of the righteous man has
in one single perfection, which is uprightness of soul,
innumerable gifts of the greatest richness, and many virtues of
the greatest loveliness, each one different and full of grace
after its kind according to the multitude and the diversity of the
affections of love which it has had in God, even so the unruly
soul, according to the variety of the desires which it has for the
creatures, has in itself a miserable variety of impurities and
meannesses, wherewith it is endowed[164] by the said desires.
     5. The variety of these desires is well illustrated in the
Book of Ezechiel, where it is written that God showed this
Prophet, in the interior of the Temple, painted around its walls,
all likenesses of creeping things which crawl on the ground, and
all the abomination of unclean beasts.[165] And then God said to
Ezechiel: 'Son of man, hast thou not indeed seen the abominations
that these do, each one in the secrecy of his chamber?'[166] And God
commanded the Prophet to go in farther and he would see greater
abominations; and he says that he there saw women seated, weeping
for Adonis, the god of love.[167] And God commanded him to go in
farther still, and he would see yet greater abominations, and he
says that he saw there five-and-twenty old men whose backs were
turned toward the Temple.[168]
     6. The diversity of creeping things and unclean beasts that
were painted in the first chamber of the Temple are the thoughts
and conceptions which the understanding fashions from the lowly
things of earth, and from all the creatures, which are painted,
just as they are, in the temple of the soul, when the soul
embarrasses its understanding with them, which is the soul's first
habitation. The women that were farther within, in the second
habitation, weeping for the god Adonis, are the desires that are
in the second faculty of the soul, which is the will; the which
are, as it were, weeping, inasmuch as they covet that to which the
will is affectioned, which are the creeping things painted in the
understandings. And the men that were in the third habitation are
the images and representations of the creatures, which the third
part of the soul -- namely memory -- keeps and reflects upon[169]
within itself. Of these it is said that their backs are turned
toward the Temple because when the soul, according to these three
faculties, completely and perfectly embraces anything that is of
the earth, it can be said to have its back turned toward the
Temple of God, which is the right reason of the soul, which admits
within itself nothing that is of creatures.
     7. And let this now suffice for the understanding of this
foul disorder of the soul with respect to its desires. For if we
had to treat in detail of the lesser foulness which these
imperfections and their variety make and cause in the soul, and
that which is caused by venial sins, which is still greater than
that of the imperfections, and their great variety, and likewise
that which is caused by the desires for mortal sin, which is
complete foulness of the soul, and its great variety, according to
the variety and multitude of all these three things, we should
never end, nor would the understanding of angels suffice to
understand it. That which I say, and that which is to the point
for my purpose, is that any desire, although it be for but the
smallest imperfection, stains and defiles the soul.

                            CHAPTER X

     Wherein is described how the desires weaken the soul in
virtue and make it lukewarm.

     THE fifth way in which the desires harm the soul is by making
it lukewarm and weak, so that it has no strength to follow after
virtue and to persevere therein. For as the strength of the
desire, when it is set upon various aims, is less than if it were
set wholly on one thing alone, and as, the more are the aims
whereon it is set, the less of it there is for each of them, for
this cause philosophers say that virtue in union is stronger than
if it be dispersed. Wherefore it is clear that, if the desire of
the will be dispersed among other things than virtue, it must be
weaker as regards virtue. And thus the soul whose will is set upon
various trifles is like water, which, having a place below wherein
to empty itself, never rises; and such a soul has no profit. For
this cause the patriarch Jacob compared his son Ruben to water
poured out, because in a certain sin he had given rein to his
desires. And he said: +Thou art poured out like water; grow thou
not.'[170] As though he had said: Since thou art poured out like
water as to the desires, thou shalt not grow in virtue. And thus,
as hot water, when uncovered, readily loses heat, and as aromatic
spices, when they are unwrapped, gradually lose the fragrance and
strength of their perfume, even so the soul that is not
recollected in one single desire for God loses heat and vigour in
its virtue. This was well understood by David, when he said,
speaking with God: I will keep my strength for Thee.[171] That is,
concentrating the strength of my desires upon Thee alone.
     2. And the desires weaken the virtue of the soul, because
they are to it like the shoots that grow about a tree, and take
away its virtue so that it cannot bring forth so much fruit. And
of such souls as these says the Lord: Voe proegnantibus, et
nutrientibus in illis diebus.[172] That is: Woe to them that in
those days are with child and to them that give suck. This being
with child and giving suck is understood with respect to the
desires; which, if they be not pruned, will ever be taking more
virtue from the soul, and will grow to the harm of the soul, like
the shoots upon the tree. Wherefore Our Lord counsels us, saying:
Have your loins girt about[173] -- the loins signifying here the
desires. And indeed, they are also like leeches, which are ever
sucking the blood from the veins, for thus the Preacher terms them
when he says: The leeches are the daughters -- that is, the
desires -- saying ever: Daca, daca.[174]
     3. From this it is clear that the desires bring no good to
the soul but rather take from it that which it has; and, if it
mortify them not, they will not cease till they have wrought in it
that which the children of the viper are said to work in their
mother; who, as they are growing within her womb, consume her and
kill her, and they themselves remain alive at her cost. Just so
the desires that are not mortified grow to such a point that they
kill the soul with respect to God because it has not first killed
them. And they alone live in it. Wherefore the Preacher says:
Aufer a me Domine ventris concupiscentias.[175]
     4. And, even though they reach not this point, it is very
piteous to consider how the desires that live in this poor soul
treat it, how unhappy it is with regard to itself, how dry with
respect to its neighbours, and how weary and slothful with respect
to the things of God. For there is no evil humour that makes it as
wearisome and difficult for a sick man to walk, or gives him a
distaste for eating comparable to the weariness and distaste for
following virtue which is given to a soul by desire for creatures.
And thus the reason why many souls have no diligence and eagerness
to gain virtue is, as a rule, that they have desires and
affections which are not pure and are not fixed upon God.[176]

                           CHAPTER XI

     Wherein it is proved necessary that the soul that would
attain to Divine union should be free from desires, however slight
they be.

     I EXPECT that for a long time the reader has been wishing to
ask whether it be necessary, in order to attain to this high
estate of perfection, to undergo first of all total mortification
in all the desires, great and small, or if it will suffice to
mortify some of them and to leave others, those at least which
seem of little moment. For it appears to be a severe and most
difficult thing for the soul to be able to attain to such purity
and detachment that it has no will and affection for anything.
     2. To this I reply: first, that it is true that all the
desires are not equally hurtful, nor do they all equally embarrass
the soul. I am speaking of those that are voluntary, for the
natural desires hinder the soul little, if at all, from attaining
to union, when they are not consented to nor pass beyond the first
movements (I mean,[177] all those wherein the rational will has had
no part, whether at first or afterward); and to take away these --
that is, to mortify them wholly in this life -- is impossible. And
these hinder not the soul in such a way as to prevent its
attainment to Divine union, even though they be not, as I say,
wholly mortified; for the natural man may well have them, and yet
the soul may be quite free from them according to the rational
spirit. For it will sometimes come to pass that the soul will be
in the full[178] union of the prayer of quiet in the will at the
very time when these desires are dwelling in the sensual part of
the soul, and yet the higher part, which is in prayer, will have
nothing to do with them. But all the other voluntary desires,
whether they be of mortal sin, which are the gravest, or of venial
sin, which are less grave, or whether they be only of
imperfections, which are the least grave of all, must be driven
away every one, and the soul must be free from them all, howsoever
slight they be, if it is to come to this complete union; and the
reason is that the state of this Divine union consists in the
soul's total transformation, according to the will, in the will of
God, so that, there may be naught in the soul that is contrary to
the will of God, but that, in all and through all, its movement
may be that of the will of God alone.
     3. It is for this reason that we say of this state that it is
the making of two wills into one -- namely, into the will of God,
which will of God is likewise the will of the soul. For if this
soul desired any imperfection that God wills not, there would not
be made one will of God, since the soul would have a will for that
which God has not. It is clear, then, that for the soul to come to
unite itself perfectly with God through love and will, it must
first be free from all desire of the will, howsoever slight. That
is, that it must not intentionally and knowingly consent with the
will to imperfections, and it must have power and liberty to be
able not so to consent intentionally. I say knowingly, because,
unintentionally and unknowingly, or without having the power to do
otherwise, it may well fall into imperfections and venial sins,
and into the natural desires whereof we have spoken; for of such
sins as these which are not voluntary and surreptitious it is
written that the just man shall fall seven times in the day and
shall rise up again.[179] But of the voluntary desires, which,
though they be for very small things, are, as I have said,
intentional venial sins, any one that is not conquered suffices to
impede union.[180] I mean, if this habit be not mortified; for
sometimes certain acts of different desires have not as much power
when the habits are mortified. Still, the soul will attain to the
stage of not having even these, for they likewise proceed from a
habit of imperfection. But some habits of voluntary imperfections,
which are never completely conquered, prevent not only the
attainment of Divine union, but also progress in perfection.
     4. These habitual imperfections are, for example, a common
custom of much speaking, or some slight attachment which we never
quite wish to conquer -- such as that to a person, a garment, a
book, a cell, a particular kind of food, tittle-tattle, fancies
for tasting, knowing or hearing certain things, and suchlike. Any
one of these imperfections, if the soul has become attached and
habituated to it, is of as great harm to its growth and progress
in virtue as though it were to fall daily into many other
imperfections and usual venial sins which proceed not from a
habitual indulgence in any habitual and harmful attachment, and
will not hinder it so much as when it has attachment to anything.
For as long as it has this there is no possibility that it will
make progress in perfection, even though the imperfection be
extremely slight. For it comes to the same thing whether a bird be
held by a slender cord or by a stout one; since, even if it be
slender, the bird will be well held as though it were stout, for
so long as it breaks it not and flies not away. It is true that
the slender one is the easier to break; still, easy though it be,
the bird will not fly away if it be not broken. And thus the soul
that has attachment to anything, however much virtue it possess,
will not attain to the liberty of Divine union. For the desire and
the attachment of the soul have that power which the sucking-
fish[181] is said to have when it clings to a ship; for, though but
a very small fish, if it succeed in clinging to the ship, it makes
it incapable of reaching the port, or of sailing on at all. It is
sad to see certain souls in this plight; like rich vessels, they
are laden with wealth and good works and spiritual exercises, and
with the virtues and the favours that God grants them; and yet,
because they have not the resolution to break with some whim or
attachment or affection (which all come to the same thing), they
never make progress or reach the port of perfection, though they
would need to do no more than make one good flight and thus to
snap that cord of desire right off, or to rid themselves of that
sucking-fish of desire which clings to them.
     5. It is greatly to be lamented that, when God has granted
them strength to break other and stouter cords[182] -- namely,
affections for sins and vanities -- they should fail to attain to
such blessing because they have not shaken off some childish thing
which God had bidden them conquer for love of Him, and which is
nothing more than a thread or a hair.[183] And, what is worse, not
only do they make no progress, but because of this attachment they
fall back, lose that which they have gained, and retrace that part
of the road along which they have travelled at the cost of so much
time and labour; for it is well known that, on this road, not to
go forward is to turn back, and not to be gaining is to be losing.
This Our Lord desired to teach us when He said: 'He that is not
with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me
scattereth.'[184] He that takes not the trouble to repair the
vessel, however slight be the crack in it, is likely to spill all
the liquid that is within it. The Preacher taught us this clearly
when he said: He that contemneth small things shall fall by little
and little.[185] For, as he himself says, a great fire cometh from a
single spark.[186] And thus one imperfection is sufficient to lead
to another; and these lead to yet more; wherefore you will hardly
ever see a soul that is negligent in conquering one desire, and
that has not many more arising from the same weakness and
imperfection that this desire causes. In this way they are
continually filling; we have seen many persons to whom God has
been granting the favour of leading them a long way, into a state
of great detachment and liberty, yet who, merely through beginning
to indulge some slight attachment, under the pretext of doing
good, or in the guise of conversation and friendship, often lose
their spirituality and desire for God and holy solitude, fall from
the joy and wholehearted devotion which they had in their
spiritual exercises, and cease not until they have lost
everything; and this because they broke not with that beginning of
sensual desire and pleasure and kept not themselves in solitude
for God.
     6. Upon this road we must ever journey in order to attain our
goal; which means that we must ever be mortifying our desires and
not indulging them; and if they are not all completely mortified
we shall not completely attain. For even as a log of wood may fail
to be transformed in the fire because a single degree of heat is
wanting to it, even so the soul will not be transformed in God if
it have but one imperfection, although it be something less than
voluntary desire; for, as we shall say hereafter concerning the
night of faith, the soul has only one will, and that will, if it
be embarrassed by aught and set upon by aught, is not free,
solitary, and pure, as is necessary for Divine transformation.
     7. Of this that has been said we have a figure in the Book of
the Judges, where it is related that the angel came to the
children of Israel and said to them that, because they had not
destroyed that forward people, but had made a league with some of
them, they would therefore be left among them as enemies, that
they might be to them an occasion of stumbling and perdition.[187]
And just so does God deal with certain souls: though He has taken
them out of the world, and slain the giants, their sins, and
destroyed the multitude of their enemies, which are the occasions
of sin that they encountered in the world, solely that they may
enter this Promised Land of Divine union with greater liberty, yet
they harbour friendship and make alliance with the insignificant
peoples[188] -- that is, with imperfections -- and mortify them not
completely; therefore Our Lord is angry, and allows them to fall
into their desires and go from bad to worse.
     8. In the Book of Josue, again, we have a figure of what has
just been said -- where we read that God commanded Josue, at the
time that he had to enter into possession of the Promised Land, to
destroy all things that were in the city of Jericho, in such wise
as to leave therein nothing alive, man or woman, young or old, and
to slay all the beasts, and to take naught, neither to covet
aught, of all the spoils.[189] This He said that we may understand
how, if a man is to enter this Divine union, all that lives in his
soul must die, both little and much, small and great, and that the
soul must be without desire for all this, and detached from it,
even as though it existed not for the soul, neither the soul for
it. This Saint Paul teaches us clearly in his epistle ad
Corinthios, saying: 'This I say to you, brethren, that the time is
short; it remains, and it behoves you, that they that have wives
should be as if they had none; and they that weep for the things
of this world, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as
if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed
not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not.'[190]
This the Apostle says to us in order to teach us how complete must
be the detachment of our soul from all things if it is to journey
to God.

                           CHAPTER XII

     Which treats of the answer to another question, explaining
what the desires are that suffice to cause the evils
aforementioned in the soul.

     WE might write at greater length upon this matter of the
night of sense, saying all that there is to say concerning the
harm which is caused by the desires, not only in the ways
aforementioned, but in many others. But for our purpose that which
has been said suffices; for we believe we have made it clear in
what way the mortification of these desires is called night, and
how it behoves us to enter this night in order to journey to God.
The only thing that remains, before we treat of the manner of
entrance therein, in order to bring this part to a close, is a
question concerning what has been said which might occur to the
     2. It may first be asked if any desire can be sufficient to
work and produce in the soul the two evils aforementioned --
namely, the privative, which consists in depriving the soul of the
grace of God, and the positive, which consists in producing within
it the five serious evils whereof we have spoken. Secondly, it may
be asked if any desire, however slight it be and of whatever kind,
suffices to produce all these together, or if some desires produce
some and others produce others. If, for example, some produce
torment; others, weariness; others, darkness, etc.
     3. Answering this question, I say, first of all, that with
respect to the privative evil -- which consists in the soul's
being deprived of God -- this is wrought wholly, and can only be
wrought, by the voluntary desires, which are of the matter of
mortal sin; for they deprive the soul of grace in this life, and
of glory, which is the possession of God, in the next. In the
second place, I say that both those desires which are of the
matter of mortal sin, and the voluntary desires, which are of the
matter of venial sin, and those that are of the matter of
imperfection, are each sufficient to produce in the soul all these
positive evils together; the which evils, although in a certain
way they are privative, we here call positive, since they
correspond to a turning towards the creature, even as the
privative evils correspond to a turning away from God. But there
is this difference, that the desires which are of mortal sin
produce total blindness, torment, impurity, weakness, etc. Those
others, however, which are of the matter of venial sin or
imperfection, produce not these evils in a complete and supreme
degree, since they deprive not the soul of grace, upon the loss of
which depends the possession of them, since the death of the soul
is their life; but they produce them in the soul remissly,
proportionately to the remission of grace which these desires
produce in the soul.[191] So that desire which most weakens grace
will produce the most abundant torment, blindness and defilement.
     4. It should be noted, however, that, although each desire
produces all these evils, which we here term positive, there are
some which, principally and directly, produce some of them, and
others which produce others, and the remainder are produced
consequently upon these. For, although it is true that one sensual
desire produces all these evils, yet its principal and proper
effect is the defilement of soul and body. And, although one
avaricious desire produces them all, its principal and direct
result is to produce misery. And, although similarly one
vainglorious desire produces them all, its principal and direct
result is to produce darkness and blindness. And, although one
gluttonous desire produces them all, its principal result is to
produce lukewarmness in virtue. And even so is it with the rest.
     5. And the reason why any act of voluntary desire produces in
the soul all these effects together lies in the direct contrariety
which exists between them and all the acts of virtue which produce
the contrary effects in the soul. For, even as an act of virtue
produces and begets in the soul sweetness, peace, consolation,
light, cleanness and fortitude altogether, even so an unruly
desire causes torment, fatigue, weariness, blindness and weakness.
All the virtues grow through the practice of any one of them, and
all the vices grow through the practice of any one of them
likewise, and the remnants[192] of each grow in the soul. And
although all these evils are not evident at the moment when the
desire is indulged, since the resulting pleasure gives no occasion
for them, yet the evil remnants which they leave are clearly
perceived, whether before or afterwards. This is very well
illustrated by that book which the angel commanded Saint John to
eat, in the Apocalypse, the which book was sweetness to his mouth,
and in his belly bitterness.[193] For the desire, when it is carried
into effect, is sweet and appears to be good, but its bitter taste
is felt afterwards; the truth of this can be clearly proved by
anyone who allows himself to be led away by it. Yet I am not
ignorant that there are some men so blind and insensible as not to
feel this, for, as they do not walk in God, they are unable to
perceive that which hinders them from approaching Him.
     6. I am not writing here of the other natural desires which
are not voluntary, and of thoughts that go not beyond the first
movements, and other temptations to which the soul is not
consenting; for these produce in the soul none of the evils
aforementioned. For, although a person who suffers from them may
think that the passion and disturbance which they then produce in
him are defiling and blinding him, this is not the case; rather
they are bringing him the opposite advantages. For, in so far as
he resists them, he gains fortitude, purity, light and
consolation, and many blessings, even as Our Lord said to Saint
Paul: That virtue was made perfect in weakness.[194] But the
voluntary desires work all the evils aforementioned, and more.
Wherefore the principal care of spiritual masters is to mortify
their disciples immediately with respect to any desire soever, by
causing them to remain without the objects of their desires, in
order to free them from such great misery.

                          CHAPTER XIII

     Wherein is described the manner and way which the soul must
follow in order to enter this night of sense.

     IT now remains for me to give certain counsels whereby the
soul may know how to enter this night of sense and may be able so
to do. To this end it must be known that the soul habitually
enters this night of sense in two ways: the one is active; the
other passive. The active way consists in that which the soul can
do, and does, of itself, in order to enter therein, whereof we
shall now treat in the counsels which follow. The passive way is
that wherein the soul does nothing, and God works in it, and it
remains, as it were, patient. Of this we shall treat in the fourth
book, where we shall be treating of beginners. And because there,
with the Divine favour, we shall give many counsels to beginners,
according to the many imperfections which they are apt to have
while on this road, I shall not spend time in giving many here.
And this, too, because it belongs not to this place to give them,
as at present we are treating only of the reasons for which this
journey is called a night, and of what kind it is, and how many
parts it has. But, as it seems that it would be incomplete, and
less profitable than it should be, if we gave no help or counsel
here for walking in this night of desires, I have thought well to
set down briefly here the way which is to be followed: and I shall
do the same at the end of each of the next two parts, or causes,
of this night, whereof, with the help of the Lord, I have to
     2. These counsels for the conquering of the desires, which
now follow, albeit brief and few, I believe to be as profitable
and efficacious as they are concise; so that one who sincerely
desires to practice them will need no others, but will find them
all included in these.
     3. First, let him have an habitual desire[195] to imitate
Christ in everything that he does, conforming himself to His life;
upon which life he must meditate so that he may know how to
imitate it, and to behave in all things as Christ would behave.
     4. Secondly, in order that he may be able to do this well,
every pleasure that presents itself to the senses, if it be not
purely for the honour and glory of God, must be renounced and
completely rejected for the love of Jesus Christ, Who in this life
had no other pleasure, neither desired any, than to do the will of
His Father, which He called His meat and food.[196] I take this
example. If there present itself to a man the pleasure of
listening to things that tend not to the service and honour of
God, let him not desire that pleasure, nor desire to listen to
them; and if there present itself the pleasure of looking at
things that help him not Godward, let him not desire the pleasure
or look at these things; and if in conversation or in aught else
soever such pleasure present itself, let him act likewise. And
similarly with respect to all the senses, in so far as he can
fairly avoid the pleasure in question; if he cannot, it suffices
that, although these things may be present to his senses, he
desires not to have this pleasure. And in this wise he will be
able to mortify and void his senses of such pleasure, as though
they were in darkness. If he takes care to do this, he will soon
reap great profit.
     5. For the mortifying and calming of the four natural
passions, which are joy, hope, fear and grief, from the concord
and pacification whereof come these and other blessings, the
counsels here following are of the greatest help, and of great
merit, and the source of great virtues.
     6. Strive always to prefer, not that which is easiest, but
that which is most difficult;
     Not that which is most delectable, but that which is most
     Not that which gives most pleasure, but rather that which
gives least;
     Not that which is restful, but that which is wearisome;
     Not that which is consolation, but rather that which is
     Not that which is greatest, but that which is least;
     Not that which is loftiest and most precious, but that which
is lowest and most despised;
     Not that which is[197] a desire for anything, but that which is
a desire for nothing;
     Strive to go about seeking not the best of temporal things,
but the worst.
     Strive thus to desire to enter into complete detachment and
emptiness and poverty, with respect to everything that is in the
world, for Christ's sake.
     7. And it is meet that the soul embrace these acts with all
its heart and strive to subdue its will thereto. For, if it
perform them with its heart, it will very quickly come to find in
them great delight and consolation, and to act with order and
     8. These things that have been said, if they be faithfully
put into practice, are quite sufficient for entrance into the
night of sense; but, for greater completeness, we shall describe
another kind of exercise which teaches us to mortify the
concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes, and
the pride of life, which, says Saint John,[198] are the things that
reign in the world, from which all the other desires proceed.
     9. First, let the soul strive to work in its own despite, and
desire all to do so. Secondly, let it strive to speak in its own
despite and desire all to do so. Third, let it strive to think
humbly of itself, in its own despite, and desire all to do so.
     10. To conclude these counsels and rules, it will be fitting
to set down here those lines which are written in the Ascent of
the Mount, which is the figure that is at the beginning of this
book; the which lines are instructions for ascending to it, and
thus reaching the summit of union. For, although it is true that
that which is there spoken of is spiritual and interior, there is
reference likewise to the spirit of imperfection according to
sensual and exterior things, as may be seen by the two roads which
are on either side of the path of perfection. It is in this way
and according to this sense that we shall understand them here;
that is to say, according to that which is sensual. Afterwards, in
the second part of this night, they will be understood according
to that which is spiritual.[199]
     11. The lines are these:
     In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything,
Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
     In order to arrive at possessing everything,
Desire to possess nothing.
     In order to arrive at being everything,
Desire to be nothing.
     In order to arrive at knowing everything,
Desire to know nothing.[200]
     In order to arrive at that wherein thou hast no pleasure,
Thou must go by a way wherein thou hast no pleasure.
     In order to arrive at that which thou knowest not,
Thou must go by a way that thou knowest not.
     In order to arrive at that which thou possessest not,
Thou must go by a way that thou possessest not.
     In order to arrive at that which thou art not,
Thou must go through that which thou art not.

     12. When thy mind dwells upon anything,
     Thou art ceasing to cast thyself upon the All.
     For, in order to pass from the all to the All,
Thou hast to deny thyself wholly[201] in all.
     And, when thou comest to possess it wholly,
Thou must possess it without desiring anything.
     For, if thou wilt have anything in having all,[202]
Thou hast not thy treasure purely in God.

     13. In this detachment the spiritual soul finds its quiet and
repose; for, since it covets nothing, nothing wearies it when it
is lifted up, and nothing oppresses it when it is cast down,
because it is in the centre of its humility; but when it covets
anything, at that very moment it becomes wearied.

                           CHAPTER XIV

     Wherein is expounded the second line of the stanza.

      Kindled in love with yearnings.

     NOW that we have expounded the first line of this stanza,
which treats of the night of sense, explaining what this night of
sense is, and why it is called night; and now that we have
likewise described the order and manner which are to be followed
for a soul to enter therein actively, the next thing to be treated
in due sequence is its properties and effects, which are
wonderful, and are described in the next lines of the stanza
aforementioned, upon which I will briefly touch for the sake of
expounding the said lines, as I promised in the Prologue;[203] and I
will then pass on at once to the second book, treating of the
other part of this night, which is the spiritual.
      2. The soul, then, says that, 'kindled in love with
yearnings,' it passed through this dark night of sense and came
out thence to the union of the Beloved. For, in order to conquer
all the desires and to deny itself the pleasures which it has in
everything, and for which its love and affection are wont to
enkindle the will that it may enjoy them, it would need to
experience another and a greater enkindling by an other and a
better love, which is that of its Spouse; to the end that, having
its pleasure set upon Him and deriving from Him its strength, it
should have courage and constancy to deny itself all other things
with ease. And, in order to conquer the strength of the desires of
sense, it would need, not only to have love for its Spouse, but
also to be enkindled by love and to have yearnings. For it comes
to pass, and so it is, that with such yearnings of desire the
sensual nature is moved and attracted toward sensual things, so
that, if the spiritual part be not enkindled with other and
greater yearnings for that which is spiritual, it will be unable
to throw off the yoke of nature[204] or to enter this night of
sense, neither will it have courage to remain in darkness as to
all things, depriving itself of desire for them all.
     3. And the nature and all the varieties of these yearnings of
love which souls experience in the early stages of this road to
union; and the diligent means and contrivances which they employ
in order to leave their house, which is self-will, during the
night of the mortification of their senses; and how easy, and even
sweet and delectable, these yearnings for the Spouse make all the
trials and perils of this night to appear to them, this is not the
place to describe, neither is such description possible; for it is
better to know and meditate upon these things than to write of
them. And so we shall pass on to expound the remaining lines in
the next chapter.

                           CHAPTER XV

     Wherein are expounded the remaining lines of the
aforementioned stanza.

     . . . oh, happy chance! --
     I went forth without being observed, My house being now at

     THESE lines take as a metaphor the miserable estate of
captivity, a man's deliverance from which, when none of the
gaolers' hinder his release, he considers a 'happy chance.' For
the soul, on account of[205] original sin, is truly as it were a
captive in this mortal body, subject to the passions and desires
of nature, from bondage and subjection to which it considers its
having gone forth without being observed as a 'happy chance' --
having gone forth, that is, without being impeded or engulfed[206]
by any of them.
     2. For to this end the soul profited by going forth upon a
'dark night' -- that is, in the privation of all pleasures and
mortification of all desires, after the manner whereof we have
spoken. And by its 'house being now at rest' is meant the sensual
part, which is the house of all the desires, and is now at rest
because they have all been overcome and lulled to sleep. For until
the desires are lulled to sleep through the mortification of the
sensual nature, and until at last the sensual nature itself is at
rest from them, so that they make not war upon the spirit, the
soul goes not forth to true liberty and to the fruition of union
with its Beloved.

                      END OF THE FIRST BOOK

                         BOOK THE SECOND

                  OF THE ASCENT OF MT. CARMEL'

     Wherein is treated the proximate means of ascending to union
with God, which is faith; and wherein therefore is described the
second part of this night, which, as we said, belongs to the
spirit, and is contained in the second stanza, which is as

                        STANZA THE SECOND

                            CHAPTER I

     In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised --
oh, happy chance! --
     In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.

     IN this second stanza the soul sings of the happy chance
which it experienced in stripping the spirit of all spiritual
imperfections and desires for the possession of spiritual things.
This was a much greater happiness to, by reason of the greater
difficulty that there is in putting to rest this house of the
spiritual part, and of being able to enter this interior darkness,
which is spiritual detachment from all things, whether sensual or
spiritual, and leaning on pure faith alone and an ascent thereby
to God. The soul here calls this a 'ladder,' and 'secret,' because
all the rungs and parts of it[207] are secret and hidden from all
sense and understanding. And thus the soul has remained in
darkness as to all light of sense and understanding, going forth
beyond all limits of nature and reason in order to ascend by this
Divine ladder of faith, which attains[208] and penetrates even to
the heights[209] of God. The soul says that it was travelling
'disguised,' because the garments and vesture which it wears and
its natural condition are changed into the Divine, as it ascends
by faith. And it was because of this disguise that it was not
recognized or impeded, either by time or by reason or by the
devil; for none of these things can harm one that journeys in
faith. And not only so, but the soul travels in such wise
concealed and hidden and is so far from all the deceits of the
devil that in truth it journeys (as it also says here) 'in
darkness and in concealment' -- that is to say, hidden from the
devil, to whom the light of faith is more than darkness.
     2. And thus the soul that journeys through this night, we may
say, journeys in concealment and in hiding from the devil, as will
be more clearly seen hereafter. Wherefore the soul says that it
went forth 'in darkness and secure'; for one that has such
happiness as to be able to journey through the darkness of faith,
taking faith for his guide, like to one that is blind,[210] and
leaving behind all natural imaginings and spiritual reasonings,
journeys very securely, as we have said. And so the soul says
furthermore that it went forth through this spiritual night, its
'house being now at rest' -- that is to say, its spiritual and
rational parts. When, therefore, the soul attains to union which
is of God, its natural faculties are at rest, as are likewise its
impulses and yearnings of the senses, in its spiritual part. For
this cause the soul says not here that it went forth with
yearnings, as in the first night of sense. For, in order to
journey in the night of sense, and to strip itself of that which
is of sense, it needed yearnings of sense-love so that it might go
forth perfectly; but, in order to put to rest the house of its
spirit, it needs no more than denial[211] of all faculties and
pleasures and desires of the spirit in pure faith. This attained,
the soul is united with the Beloved in a union of simplicity and
purity and love and similitude.
     3. And it must be remembered that the first stanza, speaking
of the sensual part, says that the soul went forth upon 'a dark
night,' and here, speaking of the spiritual part, it says that it
went forth 'in darkness.' For the darkness of the spiritual part
is by far the greater, even as darkness is a greater obscurity
than that of night. For, however dark a night may be, something
can always be seen, but in true darkness nothing can be seen; and
thus in the night of sense there still remains some light, for the
understanding and reason remain, and are not blinded. But this
spiritual night, which is faith, deprives the soul of everything,
both as to understanding and as to sense. And for this cause the
soul in this night says that it was journeying 'in darkness and
secure,' which it said not in the other. For, the less the soul
works with its own ability, the more securely it journeys, because
it journeys more in faith. And this will be expounded at length in
the course of this second book, wherein it will be necessary for
the devout reader to proceed attentively, because there will be
said herein things of great importance to the person that is truly
spiritual.[212] And, although they are somewhat obscure, some of
them will pave the way to others, so that I believe they will all
be quite clearly understood.

                           CHAPTER II

     Which begins to treat of the second part or cause of this
night, which is faith. Proves by two arguments how it is darker
than the first and than the third.

     WE now go on to treat of the second part of this night, which
is faith; this is the wondrous means which, as we said, leads to
the goal, which is God, Who, as we said,[213] is also to the soul,
naturally, the third cause or part of this night. For faith, which
is the means,[214] is compared with midnight. And thus we may say
that it is darker for the soul either than the first part or, in a
way, than the third; for the first part, which is that of sense,
is compared to the beginning of night, or the time when sensible
objects can no longer be seen, and thus it is not so far removed
from light as is midnight. The third part, which is the period
preceding the dawn, is quite close to the light of day, and it,
too, therefore, is not so dark as midnight; for it is now close to
the enlightenment and illumination of the light of day, which is
compared with God. For, although it is true, if we speak after a
natural manner, that God is as dark a night to the soul as is
faith, still, when these three parts of the night are over, which
are naturally night to the soul, God begins to illumine the soul
by supernatural means with the ray of His Divine light; which is
the beginning of the perfect union that follows, when the third
night is past, and it can thus be said to be less dark.
     2. It is likewise darker than the first night, for this
belongs to the lower part of man, which is the sensual part, and,
consequently, the more exterior; and this second part, which is of
faith, belongs to the higher part of man, which is the rational
part, and, in consequence, more interior and more obscure, since
it deprives it of the light of reason, or, to speak more clearly,
blinds it;[215] and thus it is aptly compared to midnight, which is
the depth of night and the darkest part thereof.
     3. We have now to prove how this second part, which is faith,
is night to the spirit, even as the first part is night to sense.
And we shall then also describe the things that are contrary to
it, and how the soul must prepare itself actively to enter it.
For, concerning the passive part, which is that which God works in
it, when He brings it into that night, we shall speak in its
place, which I intend shall be the third book.

                           CHAPTER III

     How faith is dark night to the soul. This is proved with
arguments and quotations and figures from Scripture.

     FAITH, say the theologians, is a habit of the soul, certain
and obscure. And the reason for its being an obscure habit is that
it makes us believe truths revealed by God Himself, which
transcend all natural light, and exceed all human understanding,
beyond all proportion. Hence it follows that, for the soul, this
excessive light of faith which is given to it is thick darkness,
for it overwhelms greater things and does away with small things,
even as the light of the sun overwhelms all other lights
whatsoever, so that when it shines and disables our visual faculty
they appear not to be lights at all. So that it blinds it and
deprives it of the sight that has been given to it, inasmuch as
its light is great beyond all proportion and transcends the
faculty of vision. Even so the light of faith, by its excessive
greatness, oppresses and disables that of the understanding; for
the latter, of its own power, extends only to natural knowledge,
although it has a faculty[216] for the supernatural, whenever Our
Lord is pleased to give it supernatural activity.
     2. Wherefore a man can know nothing by himself, save after a
natural manner,[217] which is only that which he attains by means of
the senses. For this cause he must have the phantasms and the
forms of objects present in themselves and in their likenesses;
otherwise it cannot be, for, as philosophers say: Ab objecto et
potentia paritur notitia. That is: From the object that is present
and from the faculty, knowledge is born in the soul. Wherefore, if
one should speak to a man of things which he has never been able
to understand, and whose likeness he has never seen, he would have
no more illumination from them whatever than if naught had been
said of them to him. I take an example. If one should say to a man
that on a certain island there is an animal which he has never
seen, and give him no idea of the likeness of that animal, that he
may compare it with others that he has seen, he will have no more
knowledge of it, or idea of its form, than he had before, however
much is being said to him about it. And this will be better
understood by another and a more apt example. If one should
describe to a man that was born blind, and has never seen any
colour, what is meant by a white colour or by a yellow, he would
understand it but indifferently, however fully one might describe
it to him; for, as he has never seen such colours or anything like
them by which he may judge them, only their names would remain
with him; for these he would be able to comprehend through the
ear, but not their forms or figures, since he has never seen them.
     3. Even so is faith with respect to the soul; it tells us of
things which we have never seen or understood, nor have we seen or
understood aught that resembles them, since there is naught that
resembles them at all. And thus we have no light of natural
knowledge concerning them, since that which we are told of them
bears no relation to any sense of ours; we know it by the ear
alone, believing that which we are taught, bringing our natural
light into subjection and treating it as if it were not.[218] For,
as Saint Paul says, Fides ex auditu.[219] As though he were to say:
Faith is not knowledge which enters by any of the senses, but is
only the consent given by the soul to that which enters through
the ear.
     4. And faith far transcends even that which is indicated by
the examples given above. For not only does it give no information
and knowledge, but, as we have said, it deprives us of all other
information and knowledge, and blinds us to them, so that they
cannot judge it well. For other knowledge can be acquired by the
light of the understanding; but the knowledge that is of faith is
acquired without the illumination of the understanding, which is
rejected for faith; and in its own light, if that light be not
darkened, it is lost. Wherefore Isaias said: Si non credideritis,
non intelligetis.[220] That is: If ye believe not, ye shall not
understand. It is clear, then, that faith is dark night for the
soul, and it is in this way that it gives it light; and the more
the soul is darkened, the greater is the light that comes to it.
For it is by blinding that it gives light, according to this
saying of Isaias. For if ye believe not, ye shall not (he says)
have light.[221] And thus faith was foreshadowed by that cloud which
divided the children of Israel and the Egyptians when the former
were about to enter the Red Sea, whereof Scripture says: Erat
nubes tenebrosa, et illuminans noctem.[222] This is to say that that
cloud was full of darkness and gave light to the night.
     5. A wondrous thing it is that, though it was dark, it should
give light to the night. This was said to show that faith, which
is a black and dark cloud to the soul (and likewise is night,
since in the presence of faith the soul is deprived of its natural
light and is blinded), can with its darkness give light and
illumination to the darkness of the soul, for it was fitting that
the disciples should thus be like the master. For man, who is in
darkness, could not fittingly be enlightened save by other
darkness, even as David teaches us, saying: Dies diei eructat
verbum et nox nocti indicat scientiam.[223] Which signifies: Day
unto day uttereth and aboundeth in speech, and night unto night
showeth knowledge. Which, to speak more clearly, signifies: The
day, which is God in bliss, where it is day to the blessed angels
and souls who are now day, communicates and reveals to them the
Word, which is His Son, that they may know Him and enjoy Him. And
the night, which is faith in the Church Militant, where it is
still night, shows knowledge is night to the Church, and
consequently to every soul, which knowledge is night to it, since
it is without clear beatific wisdom; and, in the presence of
faith, it is blind as to its natural light.
     6. So that which is to be inferred from this that faith,
because it is dark night, gives light to the soul, which is in
darkness, that there may come to be fulfilled that which David
likewise says to this purpose, in these works: Et nox illuminatio
mea in deliciis meis.[224] Which signifies: the night will be
illumination in my delights. Which is as much as to say: In the
delights of my pure contemplation and union with God, the night of
faith shall be my guide. Wherein he gives it clearly to be
understood that the soul must be in darkness in order to have
light for this road.

                           CHAPTER IV

     Treats in general of how the soul likewise must be in
darkness, in so far as this rests with itself, to the end that it
may be effectively guided by faith to the highest contemplation.

     IT is now, I think, becoming clear how faith is dark night to
the soul, and how the soul likewise must be dark, or in darkness
as to its own light so that it may allow itself to be guided by
faith to this high goal of union. But, in order that the soul may
be able to do this, it will now be well to continue describing, in
somewhat greater detail, this darkness which it must have, in
order that it may enter into this abyss of faith. And thus in this
chapter I shall speak of it in a general way; and hereafter, with
the Divine favour, I shall continue to describe more minutely the
way in which the soul is to conduct itself that it may neither
stray therein nor impede this guide.
     2. I say, then, that the soul, in order to be effectively
guided to this state by faith, must not only be in darkness with
respect to that part that concerns the creatures and temporal
things, which is the sensual and the lower part (whereof we have
already treated), but that likewise it must be blinded and
darkened according to the part which has respect to God and to
spiritual things, which is the rational and higher part, whereof
we are now treating. For, in order that one may attain
supernatural transformation, it is clear that he must be plunged
into darkness and carried far away from all contained in his
nature that is sensual and rational. For the word supernatural
means that which soars above the natural self; the natural self,
therefore, remains beneath it. For, although this transformation
and union is something that cannot be comprehended by human
ability and sense, the soul must completely and voluntarily void
itself of all that can enter into it, whether from above or from
below -- I mean according to the affection and will -- so far as
this rests with itself. For who shall prevent God from doing that
which He will in the soul that is resigned, annihilated and
detached? But the soul must be voided of all such things as can
enter its capacity, so that, however many supernatural experiences
it may have, it will ever remain as it were detached from them and
in darkness. It must be like to a blind man, leaning upon dark
faith, taking it for guide and light, and leaning upon none of the
things that he understands, experiences, feels and imagines. For
all these are darkness, which will cause him to stray; and faith
is above all that he understands and experiences and feels and
imagines. And, if he be not blinded as to this, and remain not in
total darkness, he attains not to that which is greater -- namely,
that which is taught by faith.
     3. A blind man, if he be not quite blind, refuses to be led
by a guide; and, since he sees a little, he thinks it better to go
in whatever happens to be the direction which he can distinguish,
because he sees none better; and thus he can lead astray a guide
who sees more than he, for after all it is for him to say where he
shall go rather than for the guide. In the same way a soul may
lean upon any knowledge of its own, or any feeling or experience
of God, yet, however great this may be, it is very little and far
different from what God is; and, in going along this road, a soul
is easily led astray, or brought to a standstill, because it will
not remain in faith like one that is blind, and faith is its true
     4. It is this that was meant by Saint Paul when he said:
Accedentem ad Deum oportet credere quod est.[225] Which signifies:
He that would journey towards union with God must needs believe in
His Being. As though he had said: He that would attain to being
joined in a union with God must not walk by understanding, neither
lean upon experience or feeling or imagination, but he must
believe in His being, which is not perceptible to the
understanding, neither to the desire nor to the imagination nor to
any other sense, neither can it be known in this life at all. Yea,
in this life, the highest thing that can be felt and experienced
concerning God is infinitely remote from God and from the pure
possession of Him. Isaias and Saint Paul say: Nec oculus vidit,
nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, qua praeparavit
Deus iis, qui diligunt illum.[226] Which signifies: That which God
hath prepared for them that love Him neither eye hath seen, nor
ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart or thought of
man. So, however much the soul aspires to be perfectly united
through grace in this life with that to which it will be united
through glory in the next (which, as Saint Paul here says, eye
hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the
heart of man in the flesh), it is clear that, in order perfectly
to attain to union in this life through grace and through love, a
soul must be in darkness with respect to all that can enter
through the eye, and to all that can be received through the ear,
and can be imagined with the fancy, and understood with the heart,
which here signifies the soul. And thus a soul is greatly impeded
from reaching this high estate of union with God when it clings to
any understanding or feeling or imagination or appearance or will
or manner of its own, or to any other act or to anything of its
own, and cannot detach and strip itself of all these. For, as we
say, the goal which it seeks lies beyond all this, yea, beyond
even the highest thing that can be known or experienced; and thus
a soul must pass beyond everything to unknowing.
     5. Wherefore, upon this road, to enter upon the road is to
leave the road; or, to express it better, it is to pass on to the
goal and to leave one's own way,[227] and to enter upon that which
has no way, which is God. For the soul that attains to this state
has no longer any ways or methods, still less is it attached to
ways and methods, or is capable of being attached to them. I mean
ways of understanding, or of perception, or of feeling.
Nevertheless it has within itself all ways, after the way of one
that possesses nothing, yet possesses all things.[228] For, if it
have courage to pass beyond its natural limitations, both
interiorly and exteriorly, it enters within the limits of the
supernatural, which has no way, yet in substance has all ways.
Hence for the soul to arrive at these limits is for it to leave
these limits, in each case going forth out of itself a great way,
from this lowly state to that which is high above all others.
     6. Wherefore, passing beyond all that can be known and
understood, both spiritually and naturally, the soul will desire
with all desire to come to that which in this life cannot be
known, neither can enter into its heart. And, leaving behind all
that it experiences and feels, both temporally and spiritually,
and all that it is able to experience and feel in this life, it
will desire with all desire to come to that which surpasses all
feeling and experience. And, in order to be free and void to that
end, it must in no wise lay hold upon that which it receives,
either spiritually or sensually, within itself[229] (as we shall
explain presently, when we treat this in detail), considering it
all to be of much less account. For the more emphasis the soul
lays upon what it understands, experiences and imagines, and the
more it esteems this, whether it be spiritual or no, the more it
loses of the supreme good, and the more it is hindered from
attaining thereto. And the less it thinks of what it may have,
however much this be, in comparison with the highest good, the
more it dwells upon that good and esteems it, and, consequently,
the more nearly it approaches it. And in this wise the soul
approaches a great way towards union, in darkness, by means of
faith, which is likewise dark, and in this wise faith wondrously
illumines it. It is certain that, if the soul should desire to
see, it would be in darkness much more quickly, with respect to
God, than would one who opens his eyes to look upon the great
brightness of the sun.
     7. Wherefore, by blinding itself in its faculties upon this
road, the soul will see the light, even as the Saviour says in the
Gospel, in this wise: In judicium veni in hunc mundum: ut qui non
vident, videant, et qui vident, caeci fiant.[230] That is: I am come
into this world for judgment; that they which see not may see, and
that they which see may become blind. This, as it will be
supposed, is to be understood of this spiritual road, where the
soul that is in darkness, and is blinded as regards all its
natural and proper lights, will see supernaturally; and the soul
that would depend upon any light of its own will become the
blinder and will halt upon the road to union.
     8. And, that we may proceed with less confusion, I think it
will be necessary to describe, in the following chapter, the
nature of this that we call union of the soul with God; for, when
this is understood, that which we shall say hereafter will become
much clearer. And so I think the treatment of this union comes
well at this point, as in its proper place. For, although the
thread of that which we are expounding is interrupted thereby,
this is not done without a reason, since it serves to illustrate
in this place the very thing that is being described. The chapter
which follows, then, will be a parenthetical one, placed, as it
were, between the two terms of an enthymeme, since we shall
afterwards have to treat in detail of the three faculties of the
soul, with respect to the three logical virtues, in relation to
this second night.

                            CHAPTER V

     Wherein is described what is meant by union of the soul with
God. A comparison is given.[231]

     FROM what has been said above it becomes clear to some extent
what we mean by union of the soul with God; what we now say about
it, therefore, will be the better understood. It is not my
intention here to treat of the divisions of this union, nor of its
parts, for I should never end if I were to begin now to explain
what is the nature of union of the understanding, and what is that
of union according to the will, and likewise according to the
memory; and likewise what is transitory and what permanent in the
union of the said faculties; and then what is meant by total
union, transitory and permanent, with regard to the said faculties
all together. All this we shall treat gradually in our discourse
-- speaking first of one and then of another. But here this is not
to the point in order to describe what we have to say concerning
them; it will be explained much more fittingly in its place, when
we shall again be treating the same matter, and shall have a
striking illustration to add to the present explanation, so that
everything will then be considered and explained and we shall
judge of it better.
     2. Here I treat only of this permanent and total union
according to the substance of the soul and its faculties with
respect to the obscure habit of union: for with respect to the
act, we shall explain later, with the Divine favour, how there can
be no permanent union in the faculties, in this life, but a
transitory union only.
     3. In order, then, to understand what is meant by this union
whereof we are treating, it must be known that God dwells and is
present substantially in every soul, even in that of the greatest
sinner in the world. And this kind of union is ever wrought
between God and all the creatures, for in it He is preserving
their being: if union of this kind were to fail them, they would
at once become annihilated and would cease to be. And so, when we
speak of union of the soul with God, we speak not of this
substantial union which is continually being wrought, but of the
union and transformation of the soul with God, which is not being
wrought continually, but only when there is produced that likeness
that comes from love; we shall therefore term this the union of
likeness, even as that other union is called substantial or
essential. The former is natural, the latter supernatural. And the
latter comes to pass when the two wills -- namely that of the soul
and that of God -- are conformed together in one, and there is
naught in the one that repugnant to the other. And thus, when the
soul rids itself totally of that which is repugnant to the Divine
will and conforms not with it, it is transformed in God through
     4. This is to be understood of that which is repugnant, not
only in action, but likewise in habit, so that not only must the
voluntary acts of imperfection cease, but the habits of any such
imperfections must be annihilated. And since no creature
whatsoever, and none of its actions or abilities, can conform or
can attain to that which is God, therefore must the soul be
stripped of all things created, and of its own actions and
abilities -- namely, of its understanding, perception and feeling
-- so that, when all that is unlike God and unconformed to Him is
cast out, the soul may receive the likeness of God; and nothing
will then remain in it that is not the will of God and it will
thus be transformed in God. Wherefore, although it is true that,
as we have said, God is ever in the soul, giving it, and through
His presence conserving within it, its natural being, yet He does
not always communicate supernatural being to it. For this is
communicated only by love and grace, which not all souls possess;
and all those that possess it have it not in the same degree; for
some have attained more degrees of love and others fewer.
Wherefore God communicates Himself most to that soul that has
progressed farthest in love; namely, that has its will in closest
conformity with the will of God. And the soul that has attained
complete conformity and likeness of will is totally united and
transformed in God supernaturally. Wherefore, as has already been
explained, the more completely a soul is wrapped up in[232] the
creatures and in its own abilities, by habit and affection, the
less preparation it has for such union; for it gives not God a
complete opportunity to transform it supernaturally. The soul,
then, needs only to strip itself of these natural dissimilarities
and contrarieties, so that God, Who is communicating Himself
naturally to it, according to the course of nature, may
communicate Himself to it supernaturally, by means of grace.
     5. And it is this that Saint John desired to explain when he
said: Qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex
voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt.[233] As though he had said: He
gave power to be sons of God -- that is, to be transformed in God
-- only to those who are born, not of blood -- that is, not of
natural constitution and temperament -- neither of the will of the
flesh -- that is, of the free will of natural capacity and ability
-- still less of the will of man -- wherein is included every way
and manner of judging and comprehending with the understanding. He
gave power to none of these to become sons of God, but only to
those that are born of God -- that is, to those who, being born
again through grace, and dying first of all to everything that is
of the old man, are raised above themselves to the supernatural,
and receive from God this rebirth and adoption, which transcends
all that can be imagined. For, as Saint John himself says
elsewhere: Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua, et Spiritu Sancto,
non potest videre regnum Dei.[234] This signifies: He that is not
born again in the Holy Spirit will not be able to see this kingdom
of God, which is the state of perfection; and to be born again in
the Holy Spirit in this life is to have a soul most like to God in
purity, having in itself no admixture of imperfection, so that
pure transformation can be wrought in it through participation of
union, albeit not essentially.
     6. In order that both these things may be the better
understood, let us make a comparison. A ray of sunlight is
striking a window. If the window is in any way stained or misty,
the sun's ray will be unable to illumine it and transform it into
its own light, totally, as it would if it were clean of all these
things, and pure; but it will illumine it to a lesser degree, in
proportion as it is less free from those mists and stains; and
will do so to a greater degree, in proportion as it is cleaner
from them, and this will not be because of the sun's ray, but
because of itself; so much so that, if it be wholly pure and
clean, the ray of sunlight will transform it and illumine it in
such wise that it will itself seem to be a ray and will give the
same light as the ray. Although in reality the window has a nature
distinct from that of the ray itself, however much it may resemble
it, yet we may say that that window is a ray of the sun or is
light by participation. And the soul is like this window,
whereupon is ever beating (or, to express it better, wherein is
ever dwelling) this Divine light of the Being of God according to
nature, which we have described.
     7. In thus allowing God to work in it, the soul (having rid
itself of every mist and stain of the creatures, which consists in
having its will perfectly united with that of God, for to love is
to labour to detach and strip itself for God's sake of all that is
not God) is at once illumined and transformed in God, and God
communicates to it His supernatural Being, in such wise that it
appears to be God Himself, and has all that God Himself has. And
this union comes to pass when God grants the soul this
supernatural favour, that all the things of God and the soul are
one in participant transformation; and the soul seems to be God
rather than a soul, and is indeed God by participation; although
it is true that its natural being, though thus transformed, is as
distinct from the Being of God as it was before, even as the
window has likewise a nature distinct from that of the ray, though
the ray gives it brightness.
     8. This makes it clearer that the preparation of the soul for
this union, as we said, is not that it should understand or
perceive or feel or imagine anything, concerning either God or
aught else, but that it should have purity and love -- that is,
perfect resignation and detachment from everything for God's sake
alone; and, as there can be no perfect transformation if there be
not perfect purity, and as the enlightenment, illumination and
union of the soul with God will be according to the proportion of
its purity, in greater or in less degree; yet the soul will not be
perfect, as I say, if it be not wholly and perfectly[235] bright and
     9. This will likewise be understood by the following
comparison. A picture is truly perfect, with many and most sublime
beauties and delicate and subtle illuminations, and some of its
beauties are so fine and subtle that they cannot be completely
realized, because of their delicacy and excellence. Fewer beauties
and less delicacy will be seen in this picture by one whose vision
is less clear and refined; and he whose vision is somewhat more
refined will be able to see in it more beauties and perfections;
and, if another person has a vision still more refined, he will
see still more perfection; and, finally, he who has the clearest
and purest faculties will see the most beauties and perfections of
all; for there is so much to see in the picture that, however far
one may attain, there will ever remain higher degrees of
     10. After the same manner we may describe the condition of
the soul with relation to God in this enlightenment or
transformation. For, although it is true that a soul, according to
its greater or lesser capacity, may have attained to union, yet
not all do so in an equal degree, for this depends upon what the
Lord is pleased to grant to each one. It is in this way that souls
see God in Heaven; some more, some less; but all see Him, and all
are content, for their capacity is satisfied.
     11. Wherefore, although in this life here below we find
certain souls enjoying equal peace and tranquillity in the state
of perfection, and each one of them satisfied, yet some of them
may be many degrees higher than others. All, however, will be
equally satisfied, because the capacity of each one is satisfied.
But the soul that attains not to such a measure of purity as is in
conformity with its capacity never attains true peace and
satisfaction, since it has not attained to the possession of that
detachment and emptiness in its faculties which is required for
simple union.

                           CHAPTER VI

     Wherein is described how it is the three theological virtues
that perfect the three faculties of the soul, and how the said
virtues produce emptiness and darkness within them.

     HAVING now to endeavour to show how[236] the three faculties of
the soul -- understanding, memory and will -- are brought into
this spiritual night, which is the means to Divine union, it is
necessary first of all to explain in this chapter how the three
theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- which have
respect to the three faculties aforesaid as their proper
supernatural objects, and by means whereof the soul is united with
God according to its faculties, produce the same emptiness and
darkness, each one in its own faculty. Faith, in the
understanding; hope, in the memory; and charity, in the will. And
afterwards we shall go on to describe how the understanding is
perfected in the darkness of faith; and the memory in the
emptiness of hope; and likewise how the will must be buried by
withdrawing and detaching every affection so that the soul may
journey to God. This done, it will be clearly seen how necessary
it is for the soul, if it is to walk securely on this spiritual
road, to travel through this dark night, leaning upon these three
virtues, which empty it of all things and make it dark with
respect to them. For, as we have said, the soul is not united with
God in this life through understanding, nor through enjoyment, nor
through the imagination, nor through any sense whatsoever; but
only through faith, according to the understanding; and through
hope, according to the memory; and through love, according to the
     2. These three virtues, as we have said, all cause emptiness
in the faculties: faith, in the understanding, causes an emptiness
and darkness with respect to understanding; hope, in the memory,
causes emptiness of all possessions; and charity causes emptiness
in the will and detachment from all affection and from rejoicing
in all that is not God. For, as we see, faith tells us what cannot
be understood with the understanding. Wherefore Saint Paul spoke
of it ad Hebraeos after this manner: Fides est sperandarum
substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium.[237] This we interpret
as meaning that faith is the substance of things hoped for; and,
although the understanding may be firmly and certainly consenting
to them, they are not things that are revealed to the
understanding, since, if they were revealed to it, there would be
no faith. So faith, although it brings certainty to the
understanding, brings it not clearness, but obscurity.
     3. Then, as to hope, there is no doubt but that it renders
the memory empty and dark with respect both to things below and to
things above. For hope always relates to that which is not
possessed; for, if it were possessed, there would be no more hope.
Wherefore Saint Paul says ad Romanos: Spes, quae videtur, non est
spes: nam quod videt quis, quid sperat?[238] That is to say: Hope
that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth -- that is, what a
man possesseth -- how doth he hope for it? This virtue, then, also
produces emptiness, for it has to do with that which is not
possessed and not with that which is possessed.
     4. Similarity, charity causes emptiness in the will with
respect to all things, since it obliges us to love God above them
all; which cannot be unless we withdraw our affection from them in
order to set it wholly upon God. Wherefore Christ says, through
Saint Luke: Qui non renuntiat omnibus quae possidet, non potest
meus esse discipulus.[239] Which signifies: He that renounces not
all that he possesses with the will cannot be My disciple. And
thus all these three virtues set the soul in obscurity and
emptiness with respect to all things.
     5. And here we must consider that parable which our Redeemer
related in the eleventh chapter of Saint Luke, wherein He said
that a friend had to go out at midnight in order to ask his friend
for three loaves;[240] the which loaves signify these three virtues.
And he said that he asked for them at midnight in order to signify
that the soul that is in darkness as to all things must acquire
these three virtues according to its faculties and must perfect
itself in them in this night. In the sixth chapter of Isaias we
read that the two seraphim whom this Prophet saw on either side of
God had each six wings; with two they covered their feet, which
signified the blinding and quenching of the affections of the will
with respect to all things for the sake of God; and with two they
covered their face, which signified the darkness of the
understanding in the presence of God; and with the other two they
flew.[241] This is to signify the flight of hope to the things that
are not possessed, when it is raised above all that it can
possess, whether below or above, apart from God.
     6. To these three virtues, then, we have to lead the three
faculties of the soul, informing each faculty by each one of them,
and stripping it and setting it in darkness concerning all things
save only these three virtues. And this is the spiritual night
which just now we called active; for the soul does that which in
it lies in order to enter therein. And even as, in the night of
sense, we described a method of voiding the faculties of sense of
their sensible objects, with regard to the desire, so that the
soul might go forth from the beginning of its course to the
mean,[242] which is faith; even so, in this spiritual night, with
the favour of God, we shall describe a method whereby the
spiritual faculties are voided and purified of all that is not
God, and are set in darkness concerning these three virtues,
which, as we have said, are the means and preparation for the
union of the soul with God.
     7. In this method is found all security against the crafts of
the devil and against the efficacy of self-love and its
ramifications, which is wont most subtly to deceive and hinder
spiritual persons on their road, when they know not how to become
detached and to govern themselves according to these three
virtues; and thus they are never able to reach the substance and
purity of spiritual good, nor do they journey by so straight and
short a road as they might.
     8. And it must be noted that I am now speaking particularly
to those who have begun to enter the state of contemplation,
because as far as this concerns beginners it must be described
somewhat more amply, as we shall note in the second book, God
willing, when we treat of the properties of these beginners.

                           CHAPTER VII

     Wherein is described how strait is the way that leads to
eternal life and how completely detached and disencumbered must be
those that will walk in it. We begin to speak of the detachment of
the understanding.

     WE have now to describe the detachment and purity of the
three faculties of the soul and for this are necessary a far
greater knowledge and spirituality than mine, in order to make
clear to spiritual persons how strait is this road which, said Our
Saviour, leads to life; so that, persuaded of this, they may not
marvel at the emptiness and detachment to which, in this night, we
have to abandon the faculties of the soul.
     2. To this end must be carefully noted the words which Our
Saviour used, in the seventh chapter of Saint Matthew, concerning
this road, as follows: Quam angusta porta, et arcta via est, quae
ducit ad vitam, et pauci sunt, qui inveniunt eam.[243] This
signifies: How strait is the gate and how narrow the way that
leadeth unto life, and few there are that find it! In this passage
we must carefully note the emphasis and insistence which are
contained in that word Quam. For it is as if He had said: In truth
the way is very strait, more so than you think. And likewise it is
to be noted that He says first that the gate is strait, to make it
clear that, in order for the soul to enter by this gate, which is
Christ, and which comes at the beginning of the road, the will
must first be straitened and detached in all things sensual and
temporal, and God must be loved above them all; which belongs to
the night of sense, as we have said.
     3. He then says that the way is narrow -- that is to say, the
way of perfection -- in order to make it clear that, to travel
upon the way of perfection, the soul has not only to enter by the
strait gate, emptying itself of things of sense, but has also to
straiten[244] itself, freeing and disencumbering itself completely
in that which pertains to the spirit. And thus we can apply what
He says of the strait gate to the sensual part of man; and what He
says of the narrow road we can understand of the spiritual or the
rational part; and, when He says 'Few there are that find it,' the
reason of this must be noted, which is that there are few who can
enter, and desire to enter, into this complete detachment and
emptiness of spirit. For this path ascending the high mountain of
perfection leads upward, and is narrow, and therefore requires
travellers that have no burden weighing upon them with respect to
lower things, neither aught that embarrasses them with respect to
higher things: and, as this is a matter wherein we must seek after
and attain to God alone, God alone must be the object of our
search and attainment.
     4. Hence it is clearly seen that the soul must not only be
disencumbered from that which belongs to the creatures, but
likewise, as it travels, must be annihilated and detached from all
that belongs to its spirit. Wherefore Our Lord, instructing us and
leading us into this road, gave, in the eighth chapter of St.
Mark, that wonderful teaching of which I think it may almost be
said that, the more necessary it is for spiritual persons, the
less it is practised by them. As this teaching is so important and
so much to our purpose, I shall reproduce it here in full, and
expound it according to its genuine, spiritual sense. He says,
then, thus: Si quis vult me sequi, deneget semetipsum: et tollat
crucem suam, et sequatur me. Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam
facere, perdet eam: qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me. .
. salvam lacier eam.[245] This signifies: If any man will follow My
road, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
For he that will save his soul shall lose it; but he that loses it
for My sake, shall gain it.
     5. Oh, that one could show us how to understand, practise and
experience what this counsel is which our Saviour here gives us
concerning self-denial,[246] so that spiritual persons might see in
how different a way they should conduct themselves upon this road
from that which many of them think proper! For they believe that
any kind of retirement and reformation of life suffices; and
others are content with practising the virtues and continuing in
prayer and pursuing mortification; but they attain not to
detachment and poverty or selflessness[247] or spiritual purity
(which are all one), which the Lord here commends to us; for they
prefer feeding and clothing their natural selves with spiritual
feelings and consolations, to stripping themselves of all things,
and denying themselves all things, for God's sake. For they think
that it suffices to deny themselves worldly things without
annihilating and purifying themselves of spiritual attachment.
Wherefore it comes to pass that, when there presents itself to
them any of this solid and perfect spirituality, consisting in the
annihilation of all sweetness in God, in aridity, distaste and
trial, which is the true spiritual cross, and the detachment of
the spiritual poverty of Christ, they flee from it as from death,
and seek only sweetness and delectable communion with God. This is
not self-denial and detachment of spirit, but spiritual gluttony.
Herein, spiritually, they become enemies of the Cross of Christ;
for true spirituality seeks for God's sake that which is
distasteful rather than that which is delectable; and inclines
itself rather to suffering than to consolation; and desires to go
without all blessings for God's sake rather than to possess them;
and to endure aridities and afflictions rather than to enjoy sweet
communications, knowing that this is to follow Christ and to deny
oneself, and that the other is perchance to seek oneself in God,
which is clean contrary to love. For to seek oneself in God is to
seek the favours and refreshments of God; but to seek God in
oneself is not only to desire to be without both of these for
God's sake, but to be disposed to choose, for Christ's sake, all
that is most distasteful, whether in relation to God or to the
world; and this is love of God.
     6. Oh, that one could tell us how far Our Lord desires this
self-denial to be carried! It must certainly be like to death and
annihilation, temporal, natural and spiritual, in all things that
the will esteems, wherein consists all self-denial. And it is this
that Our Lord meant when He said: 'He that will save his life, the
same shall lose it.' That is to say: He that will possess anything
or seek anything for himself, the same shall lose it; and he that
loses his soul for My sake, the same shall gain it. That is to
say: He who for Christ's sake renounces all that his will can
desire and enjoy, and chooses that which is most like to the Cross
(which the Lord Himself, through Saint John, describes as hating
his soul[248]), the same shall gain it. And this His Majesty taught
to those two disciples who went and begged Him for a place on His
right hand and on His left; when, giving no countenance to their
request for such glory, He offered them the chalice which He had
to drink, as a thing more precious and more secure upon this earth
than is fruition.[249]
     7. This chalice is death to the natural self, a death
attained through the detachment and annihilation of that self, in
order that the soul may travel by this narrow path, with respect
to all its connections with sense, as we have said, and according
to the spirit, as we shall now say; that is, in its understanding
and in its enjoyment and in its feeling. And, as a result, not
only has the soul made its renunciation as regards both sense and
spirit, but it is not hindered, even by that which is spiritual,
in taking the narrow way, on which there is room only for self-
denial (as the Saviour explains), and the Cross, which is the
staff wherewith one may reach one+s goal, and whereby the road is
greatly lightened and made easy. Wherefore Our Lord said through
Saint Matthew: 'My yoke is easy and My burden is light'; which
burden is the cross. For if a man resolve to submit himself to
carrying this cross -- that is to say, if he resolve to desire in
truth to meet trials and to bear them in all things for God's
sake, he will find in them all great relief and sweetness
wherewith he may travel upon this road, detached from all things
and desiring nothing. Yet, if he desire to possess anything --
whether it come from God or from any other source -- with any
feeling of attachment, he has not stripped and denied himself in
all things; and thus he will be unable to walk along this narrow
path or to climb upward by it.
     8. I would, then, that I could convince spiritual persons
that this road to God consists not in a multiplicity of
meditations nor in ways or methods of such, nor in consolations,
although these things may in their own way be necessary to
beginners; but that it consists only in the one thing that is
needful, which is the ability to deny oneself truly, according to
that which is without and to that which is within, giving oneself
up to suffering for Christ's sake, and to total annihilation. For
the soul that practises this suffering and annihilation will
achieve all that those other exercises can achieve, and that can
be found in them, and even more. And if a soul be found wanting in
this exercise, which is the sum and root of the virtues, all its
other methods are so much beating about the bush, and profiting
not at all, although its meditations and communications may be as
lofty as those of the angels. For progress comes not save through
the imitation of Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life,
and no man comes to the Father but by Him, even as He Himself says
through Saint John.[250] And elsewhere He says: 'I am the door; by
Me if any man enter he shall be saved.'[251] Wherefore, as it seems
to me, any spirituality that would fain walk in sweetness and with
ease, and flees from the imitation of Christ, is worthless.
     9. And, as I have said that Christ is the Way, and that this
Way is death to our natural selves, in things both of sense and of
spirit, I will now explain how we are to die, following the
example of Christ, for He is our example and light.
     10. In the first place, it is certain that He died as to
sense, spiritually, in His life, besides dying naturally, at His
death. For, as He said, He had not in His life where to lay His
head, and at His death this was even truer.
     11. In the second place, it is certain that, at the moment of
His death, He was likewise annihilated in His soul, and was
deprived of any relief and consolation, since His Father left Him
in the most intense aridity, according to the lower part of His
nature. Wherefore He had perforce to cry out, saying: 'My God! My
God! 'Why hast Thou forsaken Me?'[252] This was the greatest
desolation, with respect to sense, that He had suffered in His
life. And thus He wrought herein the greatest work that He had
ever wrought, whether in miracles or in mighty works, during the
whole of His life, either upon earth or in Heaven, which was the
reconciliation and union of mankind, through grace, with God. And
this, as I say, was at the moment and the time when this Lord was
most completely annihilated in everything. Annihilated, that is to
say, with respect to human reputation; since, when men saw Him
die, they mocked Him rather than esteemed Him; and also with
respect to nature, since His nature was annihilated when He died;
and further with respect to the spiritual consolation and
protection of the Father, since at that time He forsook Him, that
He might pay the whole of man's debt and unite him with God, being
thus annihilated and reduced as it were to nothing. Wherefore
David says concerning Him: Ad nihilum redactus sum, et nescivi.[253]
This he said that the truly spiritual man may understand the
mystery of the gate and of the way of Christ, and so become united
with God, and may know that, the more completely he is annihilated
for God's sake, according to these two parts, the sensual and the
spiritual, the more completely is he united to God and the greater
is the work which he accomplishes. And when at last he is reduced
to nothing, which will be the greatest extreme of humility,
spiritual union will be wrought between the soul and God, which in
this life is the greatest and the highest state attainable. This
consists not, then, in refreshment and in consolations and
spiritual feelings, but in a living death of the Cross, both as to
sense and as to spirit -- that is, both inwardly and outwardly.
     12. I will not pursue this subject farther, although I have
no desire to finish speaking of it, for I see that Christ is known
very little by those who consider themselves His friends: we see
them seeking in Him their own pleasures and consolations because
of their great love for themselves, but not loving His bitter
trials and His death because of their great love for Him. I am
speaking now of those who consider themselves His friends; for
such as live far away, withdrawn from Him, men of great learning
and influence, and all others who live yonder, with the world, and
are eager about their ambitions and their prelacies, may be said
not to know Christ; and their end, however good, will be very
bitter. Of such I make no mention in these lines; but mention will
be made of them on the Day of Judgment, for to them it was fitting
to speak first this word of God,[254] as to those whom God set up as
a target for it,[255] by reason of their learning and their high
     13. But let us now address the understanding of the spiritual
man, and particularly that of the man to whom God has granted the
favour of leading him into the state of contemplation (for, as I
have said, I am now speaking to these in particular), and let us
say how such a man must direct himself toward God in faith, and
purify himself from contrary things, constraining himself that he
may enter upon this narrow path of obscure contemplation.

                          CHAPTER VIII

     Which describes in a general way how no creature and no
knowledge that can be comprehended by the understanding can serve
as a proximate means of Divine union with God.

     BEFORE we treat of the proper and fitting means of union with
God, which is faith, it behoves us to prove how no thing, created
or imagined, can serve the understanding as a proper means of
union with God; and how all that the understanding can attain
serves it rather as an impediment than as such a means, if it
should desire to cling to it. And now, in this chapter, we shall
prove this in a general way, and afterwards we shall begin to
speak in detail, treating in turn of all kinds of knowledge that
the understanding may receive from any sense, whether inward or
outward, and of the inconveniences and evils that may result from
all these kinds of inward and outward knowledge, when it clings
not, as it progresses, to the proper means, which is faith.
     2. It must be understood, then, that, according to a rule of
philosophy, all means must be proportioned to the end; that is to
say, they must have some connection and resemblance with the end,
such as is enough and sufficient for the desired end to be
attained through them. I take an example. A man desires to reach a
city; he has of necessity to travel by the road, which is the
means that brings him to this same city and connects[256] him with
it. Another example. Fire is to be combined and united with wood;
it is necessary that heat, which is the means, shall first prepare
the wood, by conveying to it so many degrees of warmth that it
will have great resemblance and proportion to fire. Now if one
would prepare the wood by any other than the proper means --
namely, with heat -- as, for example, with air or water or earth,
it would be impossible for the wood to be united with the fire,
just as it would be to reach the city without going by the road
that leads to it. Wherefore, in order that the understanding may
be united with God in this life, so far as is possible, it must of
necessity employ that means that unites it with Him and that bears
the greatest resemblance to Him.
     3. Here it must be pointed out that, among all the creatures,
the highest or the lowest, there is none that comes near to God or
bears any resemblance to His Being. For, although it is true that
all creatures have, as theologians say, a certain relation to God,
and bear a Divine impress (some more and others less, according to
the greater or lesser excellence of their nature), yet there is no
essential resemblance or connection between them and God -- on the
contrary, the distance between their being and His Divine Being is
infinite. Wherefore it is impossible for the understanding to
attain to God by means of the creatures, whether these be
celestial or earthly, inasmuch as there is no proportion or
resemblance between them. Wherefore, when David speaks of the
heavenly creatures, he says: 'There is none among the gods like
unto Thee, O Lord';[257] meaning by the gods the angels and holy
souls. And elsewhere: 'O God, Thy way is in the holy place. What
God is there so great as our God?'[258] As though he were to say:
The way of approach to Thee, O God, is a holy way -- that is, the
purity of faith. For what God can there be so great? That is to
say: What angel will there be so exalted in his being, and what
saint so exalted in glory, as to be a proportionate and sufficient
road by which a man may come to Thee? And the same David, speaking
likewise of earthly and heavenly things both together, says: 'The
Lord is high and looketh on lowly things, and the high things He
knoweth afar off'[259] As though he had said: Lofty in His own
Being, He sees that the being of things here below is very low in
comparison with His lofty Being; and the lofty things, which are
the celestial creatures, He sees and knows to be very far from His
Being. All the creatures, then, cannot serve as a proportionate
means to the understanding whereby it may reach God.
     4. Just so all that the imagination can imagine and the
understanding can receive and understand in this life is not, nor
can it be, a proximate means of union with God. For, if we speak
of natural things, since understanding can understand naught save
that which is contained within, and comes under the category of,
forms and imaginings of things that are received through the
bodily senses, the which things, we have said, cannot serve as
means, it can make no use of natural intelligence. And, if we
speak of the supernatural (in so far as is possible in this life
of our ordinary faculties), the understanding in its bodily prison
has no preparation or capacity for receiving the clear knowledge
of God; for such knowledge belongs not to this state, and we must
either die or remain without receiving it. Wherefore Moses, when
he entreated God for this clear knowledge, was told by God that he
would be unable to see Him, in these words: 'No man shall see Me
and remain alive.'[260] Wherefore Saint John says: 'No man hath seen
God at any time,[261] neither aught that is like to Him.' And Saint
Paul says, with Isaias: 'Eye hath not seen Him, nor hath ear heard
Him, neither hath it entered into the heart of man.'[262] And it is
for this reason that, as is said in the Acts of the Apostles,[263]
Moses, in the bush, durst not consider for as long as God was
present; for he knew that his understanding could make no
consideration that was fitting concerning God, corresponding to
the sense which he had of God's presence. And of Elias, our
father, it is said that he covered his face on the Mount in the
presence of God[264] -- an action signifying the blinding of his
understanding, which he wrought there, daring not to lay so base a
hand upon that which was so high, and seeing clearly that
whatsoever he might consider or understand with any precision
would be very far from God and completely unlike Him.
     5. Wherefore no supernatural apprehension or knowledge in
this mortal state can serve as a proximate means to the high union
of love with God. For all that can be understood by the
understanding, that can be tasted by the will, and that can be
invented by the imagination is most unlike to God and bears no
proportion to Him, as we have said. All this Isaias admirably
explained in that most noteworthy passage, where he says: 'To what
thing have ye been able to liken God? Or what image will ye make
that is like to Him? Will the workman in iron perchance be able to
make a graven image? Or will he that works gold be able to imitate
Him[265] with gold, or the silversmith with plates of silver?'[266] By
the workman in iron is signified the understanding, the office of
which is to form intelligences and strip them of the iron of
species and images. By the workman in gold is understood the will,
which is able to receive the figure and the form of pleasure,
caused by the gold of love. By the silversmith, who is spoken of
as being unable to form[267] Him with plates of silver, is
understood the memory, with the imagination, whereof it may be
said with great propriety that its knowledge and the imaginings
that it can invent[268] and make are like plates of silver. And thus
it is as though he had said: Neither the understanding with its
intelligence will be able to understand aught that is like Him,
nor can the will taste pleasure and sweetness that bears any
resemblance to that which is God, neither can the memory set in
the imagination ideas and images that represent Him. It is clear,
then, that none of these kinds of knowledge can lead the
understanding direct to God; and that, in order to reach Him, a
soul must rather proceed by not understanding than by desiring to
understand; and by blinding itself and setting itself in darkness,
rather than by opening its eyes, in order the more nearly to
approach the ray Divine.
     6. And thus it is that contemplation, whereby the
understanding has the loftiest knowledge of God, is called
mystical theology, which signifies secret wisdom of God; for it is
secret even to the understanding that receives it. For that reason
Saint Dionysius calls it a ray of darkness. Of this the prophet
Baruch says: 'There is none that knoweth its way, nor any that can
think of its paths.'[269] It is clear, then, that the understanding
must be blind to all paths that are open to it in order that it
may be united with God. Aristotle says that, even as are the eyes
of the bat with regard to the sun, which is total darkness to it,
even so is our understanding to that which is greater light in
God, which is total darkness to us. And he says further that, the
loftier and clearer are the things of God in themselves, the more
completely unknown and obscure are they to us. This likewise the
Apostle affirms, saying: 'The lofty things of God are the least
known unto men.'[270]
     7. But we should never end if we continued at this rate to
quote authorities and arguments to prove and make clear that among
all created things, and things that can be apprehended by the
understanding, there is no ladder whereby the understanding can
attain to this high Lord. Rather it is necessary to know that, if
the understanding should seek to make use of all these things, or
of any of them, as a proximate means to such union, they would be
not only a hindrance, but even an occasion of numerous errors and
delusions in the ascent of this mount.

                           CHAPTER IX

     How faith is the proximate and proportionate means to the
understanding whereby the soul may attain to the Divine union of
love. This is proved by passages and figures from Divine

     FROM what has been said it is to be inferred that, in order
for the understanding to be prepared for this Divine union, it
must be pure and void of all that pertains to sense, and detached
and freed from all that can clearly be apprehended by the
understanding, profoundly hushed and put to silence, and leaning
upon faith, which alone is the proximate and proportionate means
whereby the soul is united with God; for such is the likeness
between itself and God that there is no other difference, save
that which exists between seeing God and believing in Him. For,
even as God is infinite, so faith sets Him before us as infinite;
and, as He is Three and One, it sets Him before us as Three and
One; and, as God is darkness to our understanding, even so does
faith likewise blind and dazzle our understanding. And thus, by
this means alone, God manifests Himself to the soul in Divine
light, which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater
is the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God.
It is this that Saint Paul meant in the passage which we quoted
above, where he says: 'He that will be united with God must
believe.'[271] That is, he must walk by faith as he journeys to Him,
the understanding being blind and in darkness, walking in faith
alone; for beneath this darkness the understanding is united with
God, and beneath it God is hidden, even as David said in these
words: 'He set darkness under His feet. And He rose upon the
cherubim, and flew upon the wings of the wind. And He made
darkness, and the dark water, His hiding-place.'[272]
     2. By his saying that He set darkness beneath His feet, and
that He took the darkness for a hiding-place, and that His
tabernacle round about Him was in the dark water, is denoted the
obscurity of the faith wherein He is concealed. And by his saying
that He rose upon the cherubim and flew upon the wings of the
winds, is understood His soaring above all understanding. For the
cherubim denote those who understand or contemplate. And the wings
of the winds signify the subtle and lofty ideas and conceptions of
spirits, above all of which is His Being, and to which none, by
his own power, can attain.
     3. This we learn from an illustration in the Scriptures. When
Solomon had completed the building of the Temple, God came down in
darkness and filled the Temple so that the children of Israel
could not see; whereupon Solomon spake and said: 'The Lord hath
promised that He will dwell in darkness'.[273] Likewise He appeared
in darkness to Moses on the Mount, where God was concealed. And
whensoever God communicated Himself intimately, He appeared in
darkness, as may be seen in Job, where the Scripture says that God
spoke with him from the darkness of the air.[274] All these mentions
of darkness signify the obscurity of the faith wherein the
Divinity is concealed, when It communicates Itself to the soul;
which will be ended when, as Saint Paul says, that which is in
part shall be ended,[275] which is this darkness of faith, and that
which is perfect shall come, which is the Divine light. Of this we
have a good illustration in the army of Gedeon, whereof it is said
all the soldiers had lamps in their hands, which they saw not,
because they had them concealed in the darkness of the pitchers;
but, when these pitchers were broken, the light was seen.[276] Just
so does faith, which is foreshadowed by those pitchers, contain
within itself Divine light; which, when it is ended and broken, at
the ending and breaking of this mortal life, will allow the glory
and light of the Divinity, which was contained in it, to appear.
     4. It is clear, then, that, if the soul in this life is to
attain to union with God, and commune directly with Him, it must
unite itself with the darkness whereof Solomon spake, wherein God
had promised to dwell, and must draw near to the darkness of the
air wherein God was pleased to reveal His secrets to Job, and must
take in its hands, in darkness, the jars of Gedeon, that it may
have in its hands (that is, in the works of its will) the light,
which is the union of love, though it be in the darkness of faith,
so that, when the pitchers of this life are broken, which alone
have kept from it the light of faith, it may see God face to face
in glory.
     5. It now remains to describe in detail all the types of
knowledge and the apprehensions which the understanding can
receive; the hindrance and the harm which it can receive upon this
road of faith; and the way wherein the soul must conduct itself so
that, whether they proceed from the senses or from the spirit,
they may cause it, not harm, but profit.

                            CHAPTER X

     Wherein distinction is made between all apprehensions and
types of knowledge which can be comprehended by the understanding.

     IN order to treat in detail of the profit and the harm which
may come to the soul, with respect to this means to Divine union
which we have described -- namely, faith -- through the ideas and
apprehensions of the understanding, it is necessary here to make a
distinction between all the apprehensions, whether natural or
supernatural, that the soul may receive, so that then, with regard
to each of them in order, we may direct the understanding with
greater clearness into the night and obscurity of faith. This will
be done with all possible brevity.
     2. It must be known, then, that the understanding can receive
knowledge and intelligence by two channels: the one natural and
the other supernatural. By the natural channel is meant all that
the understanding can understand, whether by means of the bodily
senses or by its own power.[277] The supernatural channel is all
that is given to the understanding over and above its natural
ability and capacity.
     3. Of these kinds of supernatural knowledge, some are
corporeal and some are spiritual. The corporeal are two in number:
some are received by means of the outward bodily senses; others,
by means of the inward bodily senses, wherein is comprehended all
that the imagination can comprehend, form and conceive.
     4. The spiritual supernatural knowledge is likewise of two
kinds: that which is distinct and special in its nature, and that
which is confused, general and dark. Of the distinct and special
kind there are four manners of apprehension which are communicated
to the spirit without the aid of any bodily sense: these are
visions, revelations, locutions and spiritual feelings. The
obscure and general type of knowledge is of one kind alone, which
is contemplation that is given in faith. To this we have to lead
the soul by bringing it thereto through all these other means,
beginning with the first and detaching it from them.

                           CHAPTER XI

     Of the hindrance and harm that may be caused by apprehensions
of the understanding which proceed from that which is
supernaturally represented to the outward bodily senses; and how
the soul is to conduct itself therein.

     THE first kinds of knowledge whereof we have spoken in the
preceding chapter are those that belong to the understanding and
come through natural channels. Of these, since we have treated
them already in the first book, where we led the soul into the
night of sense, we shall here say not a word, for in that place we
gave suitable instruction to the soul concerning them. What we
have to treat, therefore, in the present chapter, will be solely
those kinds of knowledge and those apprehensions which belong to
the understanding and come supernaturally, by way of the outward
bodily senses -- namely, by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and
touching. With respect to all these there may come, and there are
wont to come, to spiritual persons representations and objects of
a supernatural kind. With respect to sight, they are apt to
picture figures and forms of persons belonging to the life to come
-- the forms of certain saints, and representations of angels,
good and evil, and certain lights and brightnesses of an
extraordinary kind. And with the ears they hear certain
extraordinary words, sometimes spoken by those figures that they
see, sometimes without seeing the person who speaks them. As to
the sense of smell, they sometimes perceive the sweetest perfumes
with the senses, without knowing whence they proceed. Likewise, as
to taste, it comes to pass that they are conscious of the sweetest
savours, and, as to touch, they experience great delight --
sometimes to such a degree that it is as though all the bones and
the marrow rejoice and sing[278] and are bathed in delight; this is
like that which we call spiritual unction, which in pure souls
proceeds from the spirit and flows into the very members. And this
sensible sweetness is a very ordinary thing with spiritual
persons, for it comes to them from their sensible affection and
devotion,[279] to a greater or a lesser degree, to each one after
his own manner.
     2. And it must be known that, although all these things may
happen to the bodily senses in the way of God, we must never rely
upon them or accept them, but must always fly from them, without
trying to ascertain whether they be good or evil; for, the more
completely exterior and corporeal they are, the less certainly are
they of God. For it is more proper and habitual to God to
communicate Himself to the spirit, wherein there is more security
and profit for the soul, than to sense, wherein there is
ordinarily much danger and deception; for bodily sense judges and
makes its estimate of spiritual things by thinking that they are
as it feels them to be, whereas they are as different as is the
body from the soul and sensuality[280] from reason. For the bodily
sense is as ignorant of spiritual things as is a beast of rational
things, and even more so.
     3. So he that esteems such things errs greatly and exposes
himself to great peril of being deceived; in any case he will have
within himself a complete impediment to the attainment of
spirituality. For, as we have said, between spiritual things and
all these bodily things there exists no kind of proportion
whatever. And thus it may always be supposed that such things as
these are more likely to be of the devil than of God; for the
devil has more influence in that which is exterior and corporeal,
and can deceive a soul more easily thereby than by that which is
more interior and spiritual.
     4. And the more exterior are these corporeal forms and
objects in themselves, the less do they profit the interior and
spiritual nature, because of the great distance and the lack of
proportion existing between the corporeal and the spiritual. For,
although there is communicated by their means a certain degree of
spirituality, as is always the case with things that come from
God, much less is communicated than would be the case if the same
things were more interior and spiritual. And thus they very easily
become the means whereby error and presumption and vanity grow in
the soul; since, as they are so palpable and material, they stir
the senses greatly, and it appears to the judgment of the soul
that they are of greater importance because they are more readily
felt. Thus the soul goes after them, abandoning faith and thinking
that the light which it receives from them is the guide and means
to its desired goal, which is union with God. But the more
attention it pays to such things, the farther it strays from the
true way and means, which are faith.
     5. And, besides all this, when the soul sees that such
extraordinary things happen to it, it is often visited,
insidiously and secretly by a certain complacency, so that it
thinks itself to be of some importance in the eyes of God; which
is contrary to humility. The devil, too, knows how to insinuate
into the soul a secret satisfaction with itself, which at times
becomes very evident; wherefore he frequently represents these
objects to the senses, setting before the eyes figures of saints
and most beauteous lights; and before the ears words very much
dissembled; and representing also sweetest perfumes, delicious
tastes[281] and things delectable to the touch; to the end that, by
producing desires for such things, he may lead the soul into much
evil. These representations and feelings, therefore, must always
be rejected; for, even though some of them be of God, He is not
offended by their rejection, nor is the effect and fruit which He
desires to produce in the soul by means of them any the less
surely received because the soul rejects them and desires them
     6. The reason for this is that corporeal vision, or feeling
in respect to any of the other senses, or any other communication
of the most interior kind, if it be of God, produces its effect
upon the spirit at the very moment when it appears or is felt,
without giving the soul time or opportunity to deliberate whether
it will accept or reject it. For, even as God gives these things
supernaturally, without effort on the part of the soul, and
independently of its capacity, even so likewise, without respect
to its effort or capacity, God produces in it the effect that He
desires by means of such things; for this is a thing that is
wrought and brought to pass in the spirit passively; and thus its
acceptance or non-acceptance consists not in the acceptance or the
rejection of it by the will. It is as though fire were applied to
a person's naked body: it would matter little whether or no he
wished to be burned; the fire would of necessity accomplish its
work. Just so is it with visions and representations that are
good: even though the soul desire it not, they work their effect
upon it, chiefly and especially in the soul, rather than in the
body. And likewise those that come from the devil (without the
consent of the soul) cause it disturbance or aridity or vanity or
presumption in the spirit. Yet these are not so effective to work
evil as are those of God to work good; for those of the devil can
only set in action the first movements of the will,[282] and move it
no farther, unless the soul be consenting thereto; and such
trouble continues not long unless the soul's lack of courage and
prudence be the occasion of its continuance. But the visions that
are of God penetrate the soul and move the will to love, and
produce their effect, which the soul cannot resist even though it
would, any more than the window can resist the sun's rays when
they strike
     7. The soul, then, must never presume to desire to receive
them, even though, as I say, they be of God; for, if it desire to
receive them, there follow six inconveniences.
     The first is that faith grows gradually less; for things that
are experienced by the senses derogate from faith; since faith, as
we have said, transcends every sense. And thus the soul withdraws
itself from the means of union with God when it closes not its
eyes to all these things of sense.
     Secondly, if they be not rejected, they are a hindrance to
the spirit, for the soul rests in them and its spirit soars not to
the invisible. This was one of the reasons why the Lord said to
His disciples that it was needful for Him to go away that the Holy
Spirit might come; so, too, He forbade Mary Magdalene to touch His
feet, after His resurrection, that she might be grounded in faith.
     Thirdly, the soul becomes attached to these things and
advances not to true resignation and detachment of spirit.
     Fourthly, it begins to lose the effect of them and the inward
spirituality which they cause it, because it sets its eyes upon
their sensual aspect, which is the least important. And thus it
receives not so fully the spirituality which they cause, which is
impressed and preserved more securely when all things of sense are
rejected, since these are very different from pure spirit.
     Fifthly, the soul begins to lose the favours of God, because
it accepts them as though they belonged to it and profits not by
them as it should. And to accept them in this way and not to
profit by them is to seek after them; but God gives them not that
the soul may seek after them; nor should the soul take upon itself
to believe that they are of God.[283]
     Sixthly, a readiness to accept them opens the door to the
devil that he may deceive the soul by other things like to them,
which he very well knows how to dissimulate and disguise, so that
they may appear to be good; for, as the Apostle says, he can
transform himself into an angel of light.[284] Of this we shall
treat hereafter, by the Divine favour, in our third book, in the
chapter upon spiritual gluttony.
     8. It is always well, then, that the soul should reject these
things, and close its eyes to them, whencesoever they come. For,
unless it does so, it will prepare the way for those things that
come from the devil, and will give him such influence that, not
only will his visions come in place of God's, but his visions will
begin to increase, and those of God to cease, in such manner that
the devil will have all the power and God will have none. So it
has happened to many incautious and ignorant souls, who rely on
these things to such an extent that many of them have found it
hard to return to God in purity of faith; and many have been
unable to return, so securely has the devil rooted himself in
them; for which reason it is well to resist and reject them all.
For, by the rejection of evil visions, the errors of the devil are
avoided, and by the rejection of good visions no hindrance is
offered to faith and the spirit harvests the fruit of them. And
just as, when the soul allows them entrance, God begins to
withhold them because the soul is becoming attached to them and is
not profiting by them as it should, while the devil insinuates and
increases his own visions, where he finds occasion and cause for
them; just so, when the soul is resigned, or even averse to them,
the devil begins to desist, since he sees that he is working it no
harm; and contrariwise God begins to increase and magnify His
favours in a soul that is so humble and detached, making it ruler
over[285] many things, even as He made the servant who was faithful
in small things.[286]
     9. In these favours, if the soul be faithful and humble,[287]
the Lord will not cease until He has raised it from one step to
another, even to Divine union and transformation. For Our Lord
continues to prove the soul and to raise it ever higher, so that
He first gives it things that are very unpretentious and exterior
and in the order of sense, in conformity with the smallness of its
capacity; to the end that, when it behaves as it should, and
receives these first morsels with moderation for its strength and
sustenance, He may grant it further and better food. If, then, the
soul conquer the devil upon the first step, it will pass to the
second; and if upon the second likewise, it will pass to the
third; and so onward, through all seven mansions,[288] which are the
seven steps of love, until the Spouse shall bring it to the cellar
of wine of His perfect charity.
     10. Happy the soul that can fight against that beast of the
Apocalypse,[289] which has seven heads, set over against these seven
steps of love, and which makes war therewith against each one, and
strives therewith against the soul in each of these mansions,
wherein the soul is being exercised and is mounting step by step
in the love of God. And undoubtedly if it strive faithfully
against each of these heads, and gain the victory, it will deserve
to pass from one step to another, and from one mansion to another,
even unto the last, leaving the beast vanquished after destroying
its seven heads, wherewith it made so furious a war upon it. So
furious is this war that Saint John says in that place[290] that it
was given unto the beast to make war against the saints and to be
able to overcome them upon each one of these steps of love,
arraying against each one many weapons and munitions of war. And
it is therefore greatly to be lamented that many who engage in
this spiritual battle against the beast do not even destroy its
first head by denying themselves the sensual things of the world.
And, though some destroy and cut off this head, they destroy not
the second head, which is that of the visions of sense whereof we
are speaking. But what is most to be lamented is that some, having
destroyed not only the first and the second but even the third,
which is that of the interior senses, pass out of the state of
meditation, and travel still farther onward, and are overcome by
this spiritual beast at the moment of their entering into purity
of spirit, for he rises up against them once more, and even his
first head comes to life again, and the last state of those souls
is worse than the first, since, when they fall back, the beast
brings with him seven other spirits worse then himself.[291]
     11. The spiritual person, then, has to deny himself all the
apprehensions, and the temporal delights, that belong to the
outward senses, if he will destroy the first and the second head
of this beast, and enter into the first chamber of love, and the
second, which is of living faith, desiring neither to lay hold
upon, nor to be embarrassed by, that which is given to the senses,
since it is this that derogates most from faith.
     12. It is clear, then, that these sensual apprehensions and
visions cannot be a means to union, since they bear no proportion
to God; and this was one of the reasons why Christ desired that
the Magdalene and Saint Thomas should not touch Him. And so the
devil rejoices greatly when a soul desires to receive revelations,
and when he sees it inclined to them, for he has then a great
occasion and opportunity to insinuate errors and, in so far as he
is able, to derogate from faith; for, as I have said, he renders
the soul that desires them very gross, and at times even leads it
into many temptations and unseemly ways.
     13. I have written at some length of these outward
apprehensions in order to throw and shed rather more light on the
others, whereof we have to treat shortly. There is so much to say
on this part of my subject that I could go on and never end. I
believe, however, that I am summarizing it sufficiently by merely
saying that the soul must take care never to receive these
apprehensions, save occasionally on another person's advice, which
should very rarely be given, and even then it must have no desire
for them. I think that on this part of my subject what I have said
is sufficient.

                           CHAPTER XII

     Which treats of natural imaginary apprehensions. Describes
their nature and proves that they cannot be a proportionate means
of attainment to union with God. Shows the harm which results from
inability to detach oneself from them.

     BEFORE we treat of the imaginary visions which are wont to
occur supernaturally to the interior sense, which is the
imagination and the fancy, it is fitting here, so that we may
proceed in order, to treat of the natural apprehensions of this
same interior bodily sense, in order that we may proceed from the
lesser to the greater, and from the more exterior to the more
interior, until we reach the most interior[292] recollection wherein
the soul is united with God; this same order we have followed up
to this point. For we treated first of all the detachment of the
exterior senses from the natural apprehensions of objects, and, in
consequence, from the natural power of the desires -- this was
contained in the first book, wherein we spoke of the night of
sense. We then began to detach these same senses from supernatural
exterior apprehensions (which, as we have just shown in the last
chapter, affect the exterior senses), in order to lead the soul
into the night of the spirit.
     2. In this second book, the first thing that has now to be
treated is the interior bodily sense -- namely, the imagination
and the fancy; this we must likewise void of all the imaginary
apprehensions and forms that may belong to it by nature, and we
must prove how impossible it is that the soul should attain to
union with God until its operation cease in them, since they
cannot be the proper and proximate means of this union.
     3. It is to be known, then, that the senses whereof we are
here particularly speaking are two interior bodily senses which
are called imagination and fancy, which subserve each other in due
order. For the one sense reasons, as it were, by imagining, and
the other forms the imagination, or that which is imagined, by
making use of the fancy.[293] For our purpose the discussion of the
one is equivalent to that of the other, and, for this reason, when
we name them not both, it must be understood that we are speaking
of either, as we have here explained. All the things, then, that
these senses can receive and fashion are known as imaginations and
fancies, which are forms that are represented to these senses by
bodily figures and images. This can happen in two ways. The one
way is supernatural, wherein representation can be made, and is
made, to these senses passively, without any effort of their own;
these we call imaginary visions, produced after a supernatural
manner, and of these we shall speak hereafter. The other way is
natural, wherein, through the ability of the soul, these things
can be actively fashioned in it through its operation, beneath
forms, figures and images. And thus to these two faculties belongs
meditation, which is a discursive action wrought by means of
images, forms and figures that are fashioned and imagined by the
said senses, as when we imagine Christ crucified, or bound to the
column, or at another of the stations; or when we imagine God
seated upon a throne with great majesty; or when we consider and
imagine glory to be like a most beauteous light, etc.; or when we
imagine all kinds of other things, whether Divine or human, that
can belong to the imagination. All these imaginings must be cast
out from the Soul, which will remain in darkness as far as this
sense is concerned, that it may attain to Divine union; for they
can bear no proportion to proximate means of union with God, any
more than can the bodily imaginings, which serve as objects to the
five exterior senses.
     4. The reason of this is that the imagination cannot fashion
or imagine anything whatsoever beyond that which it has
experienced through its exterior senses -- namely, that which it
has seen with the eyes, or heard with the ears, etc. At most it
can only compose likenesses of those things that it has seen or
heard or felt, which are of no more consequence than those which
have been received by the senses aforementioned, nor are they even
of as much consequence. For, although a man imagines palaces of
pearls and mountains of gold, because he has seen gold and pearls,
all this is in truth less than the essence of a little gold or of
a single pearl, although in the imagination it be greater in
quantity and in beauty. And since, as has already been said, no
created things can bear any proportion to the Being of God, it
follows that nothing that is imagined in their likeness can serve
as proximate means to union with Him, but, as we say, quite the
     5. Wherefore those that imagine God beneath any of these
figures, or as a great fire or brightness, or in any other such
form, and think that anything like this will be like to Him, are
very far from approaching Him. For, although these considerations
and forms and manners of meditation are necessary to beginners, in
order that they may gradually feed and enkindle their souls with
love by means of sense, as we shall say hereafter, and although
they thus serve them as remote means to union with God, through
which a soul has commonly to pass in order to reach the goal and
abode of spiritual repose, yet they must merely pass through them,
and not remain ever in them, for in such a manner they would never
reach their goal, which does not resemble these remote means,
neither has aught to do with them. The stairs of a staircase have
naught to do with the top of it and the abode to which it leads,
yet are means to the reaching of both; and if the climber left not
behind the stairs below him until there were no more to climb, but
desired to remain upon any one of them, he would never reach the
top of them nor would he mount to the pleasant[294] and peaceful
room which is the goal. And just so the soul that is to attain in
this life to the union of that supreme repose and blessing, by
means of all these stairs of meditations, forms and ideas, must
pass though them and have done with them, since they have no
resemblance and bear no proportion to the goal to which they lead,
which is God. Wherefore Saint Paul says in the Acts of the
Apostles: Non debemus aestimare, auro, vel argento, aut lapidi
sculpturae artis, et cogitationis hominis, Divinum esse
similem.[295] Which signifies: We ought not to think of the Godhead
by likening Him to gold or to silver, neither to stone that is
formed by art, nor to aught that a man can fashion with his
     6. Great, therefore, is the error of many spiritual persons
who have practised approaching God by means of images and forms
and meditations, as befits beginners. God would now lead them on
to[296] further spiritual blessings, which are interior and
invisible, by taking from them the pleasure and sweetness of
discursive meditation; but they cannot, or dare not, or know not
how to detach themselves from those palpable methods to which they
have grown accustomed. They continually labour to retain them,
desiring to proceed, as before, by the way of consideration and
meditation upon forms, for they think that it must be so with them
always. They labour greatly to this end and find little sweetness
or none; rather the aridity and weariness and disquiet of their
souls are increased and grow, in proportion as they labour for
that earlier sweetness. They cannot find this in that earlier
manner, for the soul no longer enjoys that food of sense, as we
have said; it needs not this but another food, which is more
delicate, more interior and partaking less of the nature of sense;
it consists not in labouring with the imagination, but in setting
the soul at rest, and allowing it to remain in its quiet and
repose, which is more spiritual. For, the farther the soul
progresses in spirituality, the more it ceases from the operation
of the faculties in particular acts, since it becomes more and
more occupied in one act that is general and pure; and thus the
faculties that were journeying to a place whither the soul has
arrived cease to work, even as the feet stop and cease to move
when their journey is over. For if all were motion, one would
never arrive, and if all were means, where or when would come the
fruition of the end and goal?
     7. It is piteous, then, to see many a one who[297] though his
soul would fain tarry in this peace and rest of interior quiet,
where it is filled with the peace and refreshment of God, takes
from it its tranquillity, and leads it away to the most exterior
things, and would make it return and retrace the ground it has
already traversed, to no purpose, and abandon the end and goal
wherein it is already reposing for the means which led it to that
repose, which are meditations. This comes not to pass without
great reluctance and repugnance of the soul, which would fain be
in that peace that it understands not, as in its proper place;
even as one who has arrived, with great labour, and is now
resting, suffers pain if he is made to return to his labour. And,
as such souls know not the mystery of this new experience, the
idea comes to them that they are being idle and doing nothing; and
thus they allow not themselves to be quiet, but endeavor to
meditate and reason. Hence they are filled with aridity and
affliction, because they seek to find sweetness where it is no
longer to be found; we may even say of them that the more they
strive the less they profit, for, the more they persist after this
manner, the worse is the state wherein they find themselves,
because their soul is drawn farther away from spiritual peace; and
this is to leave the greater for the less, and to retrace the
ground already traversed, and to seek to do that which has been
     8. To such as these the advice must be given to learn to
abide attentively and wait lovingly upon God in that state of
quiet, and to pay no heed either to imagination or to its working;
for here, as we say, the faculties are at rest, and are working,
not actively, but passively, by receiving that which God works in
them; and, if they work at times, it is not with violence or with
carefully elaborated meditation, but with sweetness of love, moved
less by the ability of the soul itself than by God, as will be
explained hereafter. But let this now suffice to show how fitting
and necessary it is for those who aim at making further progress
to be able to detach themselves from all these methods and manners
and works of the imagination at the time and season when the
profit of the state which they have reached demands and requires
     9. And, that it may be understood how this is to be, and at
what season, we shall give in the chapter following certain signs
which the spiritual person will see in himself and whereby he may
know at what time and season he may freely avail himself of the
goal mentioned above, and may cease from journeying by means of
meditation and the work of the imagination.

                          CHAPTER XIII

     Wherein are set down the signs which the spiritual person
will find in himself whereby he may know at what season it behoves
him to leave meditation and reasoning and pass to the state of

     IN order that there may be no confusion in this instruction
it will be meet in this chapter to explain at what time and season
it behoves the spiritual person to lay aside the task of
discursive meditation as carried on through the imaginations and
forms and figures above mentioned, in order that he may lay them
aside neither sooner nor later than when the Spirit bids him; for,
although it is meet for him to lay them aside at the proper time
in order that he may journey to God and not be hindered by them,
it is no less needful for him not to lay aside the said
imaginative meditation before the proper time lest he should turn
backward. For, although the apprehensions of these faculties serve
not as proximate means of union to the proficient, they serve
nevertheless as remote means to beginners in order to dispose and
habituate the spirit to spirituality by means of sense, and in
order to void the sense, in the meantime, of all the other low
forms and images, temporal, worldly and natural. We shall
therefore speak here of certain signs and examples which the
spiritual person will find in himself, whereby he may know whether
or not it will be meet for him to lay them aside at this season.
     2. The first sign is his realization that he can no longer
meditate or reason with his imagination, neither can take pleasure
therein as he was wont to do aforetime; he rather finds aridity in
that which aforetime was wont to captivate his senses and to bring
him sweetness. But, for as long as he finds sweetness in
meditation, and is able to reason, he should not abandon this,
save when his soul is led into the peace and quietness[298] which is
described under the third head.
     3. The second sign is a realization that he has no desire to
fix his mediation or his sense upon other particular objects,
exterior or interior. I do not mean that the imagination neither
comes nor goes (for even at times of deep[299] recollection it is
apt to move freely), but that the soul has no pleasure in fixing
it of set purpose upon other objects.
     4. The third and surest sign is that the soul takes pleasure
in being alone, and waits with loving attentiveness upon God,
without making any particular meditation, in inward peace and
quietness and rest, and without acts and exercises of the
faculties -- memory, understanding and will -- at least, without
discursive acts, that is, without passing from one thing to
another; the soul is alone, with an attentiveness and a knowledge,
general and loving, as we said, but without any particular
understanding, and adverting not to that which it is
     5. These three signs, at least, the spiritual person must
observe in himself, all together, before he can venture safely to
abandon the state of meditation and sense,[300] and to enter that of
contemplation and spirit.
     6. And it suffices not for a man to have the first alone
without the second, for it might be that the reason for his being
unable to imagine and meditate upon the things of God, as he did
aforetime, was distraction on his part and lack of diligence; for
the which cause he must observe in himself the second likewise,
which is the absence of inclination or desire to think upon other
things; for, when the inability to fix the imagination and sense
upon the things of God proceeds from distraction or lukewarmness,
the soul then has the desire and inclination to fix it upon other
and different things, which lead it thence altogether. Neither
does it suffice that he should observe in himself the first and
second signs, if he observe not likewise, together with these, the
third; for, although he observe his inability to reason and think
upon the things of God, and likewise his distaste for thinking
upon other and different things, this might proceed from
melancholy or from some other kind of humour in the brain or the
heart, which habitually produces a certain absorption and
suspension of the senses, causing the soul to think not at all,
nor to desire or be inclined to think, but rather to remain in
that pleasant state of reverie.[301] Against this must be set the
third sign, which is loving attentiveness and knowledge, in peace,
etc., as we have said.
     7. It is true, however, that, when this condition first
begins, the soul is hardly aware of this loving knowledge, and
that for two reasons. First, this loving knowledge is apt at the
beginning to be very subtle and delicate, and almost imperceptible
to the senses. Secondly, when the soul has been accustomed to that
other exercise of meditation, which is wholly perceptible, it is
unaware, and hardly conscious, of this other new and imperceptible
condition, which is purely spiritual; especially when, not
understanding it, the soul allows not itself to rest in it, but
strives after the former, which is more readily perceptible; so
that abundant though the loving interior peace may be, the soul
has no opportunity of experiencing and enjoying it. But the more
accustomed the soul grows to this, by allowing itself to rest, the
more it will grow therein and the more conscious it will become of
that loving general knowledge of God, in which it has greater
enjoyment than in aught else, since this knowledge causes it
peace, rest, pleasure and delight without labour.
     8. And, to the end that what has been said may be the
clearer, we shall give, in this chapter following, the causes and
reasons why the three signs aforementioned appear to be necessary
for the soul that is journeying to pure spirit.[302]

                           CHAPTER XIV

     Wherein is proved the fitness of these signs, and the reason
is given why that which has been said in speaking of them is
necessary to progress.

     WITH respect to the first sign whereof we are speaking --
that is to say, that the spiritual person who would enter upon the
spiritual road (which is that of contemplation) must leave the way
of imagination and of meditation through sense when he takes no
more pleasure therein and is unable to reason -- there are two
reasons why this should be done, which may almost be comprised in
one. The first is, that in one way the soul has received all the
spiritual good which it would be able to derive from the things of
God by the path of meditation and reasoning, the sign whereof is
that it can no longer meditate or reason as before, and finds no
new sweetness or pleasure therein as it found before, because up
to that time it had not progressed as far as the spirituality
which was in store for it; for, as a rule, whensoever the soul
receives some spiritual blessing, it receives it with pleasure, at
least in spirit, in that means whereby it receives it and profits
by it; otherwise it is astonishing if it profits by it, or finds
in the cause of it that help and that sweetness which it finds
when it receives it. For this is in agreement with a saying of the
philosophers, Quod sapit, nutrit. This is: That which is palatable
nourishes and fattens. Wherefore holy Job said: Numquid poterit
comedi insulsum, quod non est sale conditum?[303] Can that which is
unsavory perchance be eaten when it is not seasoned with salt? It
is this cause that the soul is unable to meditate or reason as
before: the little pleasure which the spirit finds therein and the
little profit which it gains.
     2. The second reason is that the soul at this season has now
both the substance and the habit of the spirit of meditation. For
it must be known that the end of reasoning and meditation on the
things of God is the gaining of some knowledge and love of God,
and each time that the soul gains this through meditation, it is
an act; and just as many acts, of whatever kind, end by forming a
habit in the soul, just so, many of these acts of loving knowledge
which the soul has been making one after another from time to time
come through repetition to be so continuous in it that they become
habitual. This end God is wont also to effect in many souls
without the intervention of these acts (or at least without many
such acts having preceded it), by setting them at once in
contemplation. And thus that which aforetime the soul was gaining
gradually through its labour of meditation upon particular facts
has now through practice, as we have been saying, become converted
and changed into a habit and substance of loving knowledge, of a
general kind, and not distinct or particular as before. Wherefore,
when it gives itself to prayer, the soul is now like one to whom
water has been brought, so that he drinks peacefully, without
labour, and is no longer forced to draw the water through the
aqueducts of past meditations and forms and figures[304] So that, as
soon as the soul comes before God, it makes an act of knowledge,
confused, loving, passive and tranquil, wherein it drinks of
wisdom and love and delight.
     3. And it is for this cause that the soul feels great
weariness and distaste, when, although it is in this condition of
tranquillity, men try to make it meditate and labour in particular
acts of knowledge. For it is like a child, which, while receiving
the milk that has been collected and brought together for it in
the breast, is taken from the breast and then forced to try to
gain and collect food by its own diligent squeezing and handling.
Or it is like one who has removed the rind from a fruit, and is
tasting the substance of the fruit, when he is forced to cease
doing this and to try to begin removing the said rind, which has
been removed already. He finds no rind to remove, and yet he is
unable to enjoy the substance of the fruit which he already had in
his hand; herein he is like to one who leaves a prize[305] which he
holds for another which he holds not.
     4. And many act thus when they begin to enter this state;
they think that the whole business consists in a continual
reasoning and learning to understand particular things by means of
images and forms, which are to the spirit as rind. When they find
not these in that substantial and loving quiet wherein their soul
desires to remain, and wherein it understands nothing clearly,
they think that they are going astray and wasting time, and they
begin once more to seek the rind of their imaginings and
reasonings, but find it not, because it has already been removed.
And thus they neither enjoy the substance nor make progress in
meditation, and they become troubled by the thought that they are
turning backward and are losing themselves. They are indeed losing
themselves, though not in the way they think, for they are
becoming lost to their own senses and to their first manner of
perception; and this means gain in that spirituality which is
being given them. The less they understand, however, the farther
they penetrate into the night of the spirit, whereof we are
treating in this book, through the which night they must pass in
order to be united with God, in a union that transcends all
     5. With respect to the second sign, there is little to say,
for it is clear that at this season the soul cannot possibly take
pleasure in other and different objects of the imagination, which
are of the world, since, as we have said, and for the reasons
already mentioned, it has no pleasure in those which are in
closest conformity with it -- namely, those of God. Only as has
been noted above, the imaginative faculty in this state of
recollection is in the habit of coming and going and varying of
its own accord; but neither according to the pleasure nor at the
will of the soul, which is troubled thereby, because its peace and
joy are disturbed.
     6. Nor do I think it necessary to say anything here
concerning the fitness and necessity of the third sign whereby the
soul may know if it is to leave the meditation aforementioned,
which is a knowledge of God or a general and loving attentiveness
to Him. For something has been said of this in treating of the
first sign, and we shall treat of it again hereafter, when we
speak in its proper place of this confused and general knowledge,
which will come after our description of all the particular
apprehensions of the understanding. But we will speak of one
reason alone by which it may clearly be seen how, when the
contemplative has to turn aside from the way of meditation and
reasoning, he needs this general and loving attentiveness or
knowledge of God. The reason is that, if the soul at that time had
not this knowledge of God or this realization of His presence, the
result would be that it would do nothing and have nothing; for,
having turned aside from meditation (by means whereof the soul has
been reasoning with its faculties of sense), and being still
without contemplation, which is the general knowledge whereof we
are speaking, wherein the soul makes use of its spiritual
faculties[306] -- namely, memory, understanding and will -- these
being united in this knowledge which is then wrought and received
in them, the soul would of necessity be without any exercise in
the things of God, since the soul can neither work, nor can it
receive that which has been worked in it, save only by way of
these two kinds of faculty, that of sense and that of spirit. For,
as we have said, by means of the faculties of sense it can reason
and search out and gain knowledge of things and by means of the
spiritual faculties it can have fruition of the knowledge which it
has already received in these faculties aforementioned, though the
faculties themselves take no part herein.
     7. And thus the difference between the operation of these two
kinds of faculty in the soul is like the difference between
working and enjoying the fruit of work which has been done; or
like that between the labour of journeying and the rest and quiet
which comes from arrival at the goal; or, again, like that between
preparing a meal and partaking and tasting of it, when it has been
both prepared and masticated, without having any of the labour of
cooking it, or it is like the difference between receiving
something and profiting by that which has been received. Now if
the soul be occupied neither with respect to the operation of the
faculties of sense, which is meditation and reasoning, nor with
respect to that which has already been received and effected in
the spiritual faculties, which is the contemplation and knowledge
whereof we have spoken, it will have no occupation, but will be
wholly idle, and there would be no way in which it could be said
to be employed. This knowledge, then, is needful for the
abandonment of the way of meditation and reasoning.
     8. But here it must be made clear that this general knowledge
whereof we are speaking is at times so subtle and delicate,
particularly when it is most pure and simple and perfect, most
spiritual and most interior, that, although the soul be occupied
therein, it can neither realize it nor perceive it. This is most
frequently the case when we can say that it is in itself most
clear, perfect and simple; and this comes to pass when it
penetrates a soul that is unusually pure and far withdrawn from
other particular kinds of knowledge and intelligence, which the
understanding or the senses might fasten upon. Such a soul, since
it no longer has those things wherein the understanding and the
senses have the habit and custom of occupying themselves, is not
conscious of them, inasmuch as it has not its accustomed powers of
sense. And it is for this reason that, when this knowledge is
purest and simplest and most perfect, the understanding is least
conscious of it and thinks of it as most obscure. And similarly,
in contrary wise, when it is in itself least pure and simple in
the understanding, it seems to the understanding to be clearest
and of the greatest importance, since it is clothed in, mingled
with or involved in certain intelligible forms which understanding
or sense may seize upon.[307]
     9. This will be clearly understood by the following
comparison. If we consider a ray of sunlight entering through a
window, we see that, the more the said ray is charged with atoms
and particles of matter, the more palpable, visible and bright it
appears to the eye of sense;[308] yet it is clear that the ray is in
itself least pure, clear, simple and perfect at that time, since
it is full of so many particles and atoms. And we see likewise
that, when it is purest and freest from those particles and atoms,
the least palpable and the darkest does it appear to the material
eye; and the purer it is, the darker and less apprehensible it
appears to it. And if the ray were completely pure and free from
all these atoms and particles, even from the minutest specks of
dust, it would appear completely dark and invisible to the eye,
since everything that could be seen would be absent from it --
namely, the objects of sight. For the eye would find no objects
whereon to rest, since light is no proper object of vision, but
the means whereby that which is visible is seen; so that, if there
be no visible objects wherein the sun's ray or any light can be
reflected, nothing will be seen. Wherefore, if the ray of light
entered by one window and went out by another, without meeting
anything that has material form, it would not be seen at all; yet,
notwithstanding, that ray of light would be purer and clearer in
itself than when it was more clearly seen and perceived through
being full of visible objects.
     10. The same thing happens in the realm of spiritual light
with respect to the sight of the soul, which is the understanding,
and which this general and supernatural knowledge and light
whereof we are speaking strikes so purely and simply. So
completely is it detached and removed from all intelligible forms,
which are objects of the understanding, that it is neither
perceived nor observed. Rather, at times (that is, when it is
purest), it becomes darkness, because it withdraws the
understanding from its accustomed lights, from forms and from
fancies, and then the darkness is more clearly felt and realized.
But, when this Divine light strikes the soul with less force, it
neither perceives darkness nor observes light, nor apprehends
aught that it knows, from whatever source; hence at times the soul
remains as it were in a great forgetfulness, so that it knows not
where it has been or what it has done, nor is it aware of the
passage of time. Wherefore it may happen, and does happen, that
many hours are spent in this forgetfulness, and, when the soul
returns to itself, it believes that less than a moment has passed,
or no time at all.
     11. The cause of this forgetfulness is the purity and
simplicity of this knowledge which occupies the soul and
simplifies, purifies and cleanses it from all apprehensions and
forms of the senses and of the memory, through which it acted when
it was conscious of time,[309] and thus leaves it in forgetfulness
and without consciousness of time.[310] This prayer, therefore,
seems to the soul extremely brief, although, as we say, it may
last for a long period; for the soul has been united in pure
intelligence, which belongs not to time; and this is the brief
prayer which is said to pierce the heavens, because it is brief
and because it belongs not to time.[311] And it pierces the heavens,
because the soul is united in heavenly intelligence; and when the
soul awakens, this knowledge leaves in it the effects which it
created in it without its being conscious of them, which effects
are the lifting up of the spirit to the heavenly intelligence, and
its withdrawal and abstraction from all things and forms and
figures and memories thereof. It is this that David describes as
having happened to him when he returned to himself out of this
same forgetfulness, saying: Vigilavi, et factus sum sicut passer
solitarius in tecto.[312] Which signifies: I have watched and I have
become like the lonely bird[313] on the house-top. He uses the word
'lonely' to indicate that he was withdrawn and abstracted from all
things. And by the house-top he means the elevation of the spirit
on high; so that the soul remains as though ignorant of all
things, for it knows God only, without knowing how. Wherefore the
Bride declares in the Songs that among the effects which that
sleep and forgetfulness of hers produced was this unknowing. She
says that she came down to the garden, saying: Nescivi.[314] That
is: I knew not whence. Although, as we have said, the soul in this
state of knowledge believes itself to be doing nothing, and to be
entirely unoccupied, because it is working neither with the senses
nor with the faculties, it should realize that it is not wasting
time. For, although the harmony of the faculties of the soul may
cease, its intelligence is as we have said. For this cause the
Bride, who was wise, answered this question herself in the Songs,
saying: Ego dormio et cor meum vigilat.[315] As though she were to
say: Although I sleep with respect to my natural self, ceasing to
labour, my heart waketh, being supernaturally lifted up in
supernatural knowledge.[316]
     12. But, it must be realized, we are not to suppose that this
knowledge necessarily causes this forgetfulness when the soul is
in the state that we are here describing: this occurs only when
God suspends in the soul the exercise of all its faculties, both
natural and spiritual, which happens very seldom, for this
knowledge does not always fill the soul entirely. It is sufficient
for the purpose, in the case which we are treating, that the
understanding should be withdrawn from all particular knowledge,
whether temporal or spiritual, and that the will should not desire
to think with respect to either, as we have said, for this is a
sign that the soul is occupied. And it must be taken as an
indication that this is so when this knowledge is applied and
communicated to the understanding only, which sometimes happens
when the soul is unable to observe it. For, when it is
communicated to the will also, which happens almost invariably,
the soul does not cease to understand in the very least degree, if
it will reflect hereon, that it is employed and occupied in this
knowledge, inasmuch as it is conscious of a sweetness of love
therein, without particular knowledge or understanding of that
which it loves. It is for this reason that this knowledge is
described as general and loving; for, just as it is so in the
understanding, being communicated to it obscurely, even so is it
in the will, sweetness and love being communicated to it
confusedly, so that it cannot have a distinct knowledge of the
object of its love.
     13. Let this suffice now to explain how meet it is that the
soul should be occupied in this knowledge, so that it may turn
aside from the way of spiritual meditation, and be sure that,
although it seem to be doing nothing, it is well occupied, if it
discern within itself these signs. It will also be realized, from
the comparison which we have made, that if this light presents
itself to the understanding in a more comprehensible and palpable
manner, as the sun's ray presents itself to the eye when it is
full of particles, the soul must not for that reason consider it
purer, brighter and more sublime. It is clear that, as Aristotle
and the theologians say, the higher and more sublime is the Divine
light, the darker is it to our understanding.
     14. Of this Divine knowledge there is much to say, concerning
both itself and the effects which it produces upon contemplatives.
All this we reserve for its proper place,[317] for, although we have
spoken of it here, there would be no reason for having done so at
such length, save our desire not to leave this doctrine rather
more confused than it is already, for I confess it is certainly
very much so. Not only is it a matter which is seldom treated in
this way, either verbally or in writing, being in itself so
extraordinary and obscure, but my rude style and lack of knowledge
make it more so. Further, since I have misgivings as to my ability
to explain it, I believe I often write at too great length and go
beyond the limits which are necessary for that part of the
doctrine which I am treating. Herein I confess that I sometimes
err purposely; for that which is not explicable by one kind of
reasoning will perhaps be better understood by another, or by
others yet; and I believe, too, that in this way I am shedding
more light upon that which is to be said hereafter.
     15. Wherefore it seems well to me also, before completing
this part of my treatise, to set down a reply to one question
which may arise with respect to the continuance of this knowledge,

and this shall be briefly treated in the chapter following.

                           CHAPTER XV

     Wherein is explained how it is sometimes well for
progressives who are beginning to enter upon this general
knowledge of contemplation to make use of natural reasoning and
the work of the natural faculties.

     WITH regard to that which has been said, there might be
raised one question -- if progressives (that is, those whom God is
beginning to bring into this supernatural knowledge of
contemplation whereof we have spoken) must never again, because of
this that they are beginning to experience, return to the way of
meditation and reasoning and natural forms. To this the answer is
that it is not to be understood that such as are beginning to
experience this loving knowledge must, as a general rule, never
again try to return to meditation; for, when they are first making
progress in proficiency, the habit of contemplation is not yet so
perfect that they can give themselves to the act thereof
whensoever they wish, nor, in the same way, have they reached a
point so far beyond meditation that they cannot occasionally
meditate and reason in a natural way, as they were wont, using the
figures and the steps that they were wont to use, and finding
something new in them. Rather, in these early stages, when, by
means of the indications already given, they are able to see that
the soul is not occupied in that repose and knowledge, they will
need to make use of meditation until by means of it they come to
acquire in some degree of perfection the habit which we have
described. This will happen when, as soon as they seek to
meditate, they experience this knowledge and peace, and find
themselves unable to meditate and no longer desirous of doing so,
as we have said. For until they reach this stage, which is that of
the proficient in this exercise, they use sometimes the one and
sometimes the other, at different times.
     2. The soul, then, will frequently find itself in this loving
or peaceful state of waiting upon God[318] without in any way
exercising its faculties -- that is, with respect to particular
acts -- and without working actively at all, but only receiving.
In order to reach this state, it will frequently need to make use
of meditation, quietly and in moderation; but, when once the soul
is brought into this other state, it acts not at all with its
faculties, as we have already said. It would be truer to say that
understanding and sweetness work in it and are wrought within it,
than that the soul itself works at all, save only by waiting upon
God and by loving Him without desiring to feel or to see anything.
Then God communicates Himself to it passively, even as to one who
has his eyes open, so that light is communicated to him passively,
without his doing more than keep them open. And this reception of
light which is infused supernaturally is passive understanding. We
say that the soul works not at all, not because it understands
not, but because it understands things without taxing its own
industry and receives only that which is given to it, as comes to
pass in the illuminations and enlightenments or inspirations of
     3. Although in this condition the will freely receives this
general and confused knowledge of God, it is needful, in order
that it may receive this Divine light more simply and abundantly,
only that it should not try to interpose other lights which are
more palpable, whether forms or ideas or figures having to do with
any kind of meditation; for none of these things is similar to
that pure and serene light. So that if at this time the will
desires to understand and consider particular things, however
spiritual they be, this would obstruct the pure and simple general
light of the spirit, by setting those clouds in the way; even as a
man might set something before his eyes which impeded his vision
and kept from him both the light and the sight of things in front
of him.
     4. Hence it clearly follows that, when the soul has
completely purified and voided itself of all forms and images that
can be apprehended, it will remain in this pure and simple light,
being transformed therein into a state of perfection. For, though
this light never fails in the soul, it is not infused into it
because of the creature forms and veils wherewith the soul is
veiled and embarrassed; but, if these impediments and these veils
were wholly removed (as will be said hereafter), the soul would
then find itself in a condition of pure detachment and poverty of
spirit, and, being simple and pure, would be transformed into
simple and pure Wisdom, which is the Son of God. For the enamoured
soul finds that that which is natural has failed it, and it is
then imbued with that which is Divine, both naturally and
supernaturally, so that there may be no vacuum in its nature.
     5. When the spiritual person cannot meditate, let him learn
to be still in God, fixing his loving attention upon Him, in the
calm of his understanding, although he may think himself to be
doing nothing. For thus, little by little and very quickly, Divine
calm and peace will be infused into his soul, together with a
wondrous and sublime knowledge of God, enfolded in Divine love.
And let him not meddle with forms, meditations and imaginings, or
with any kind of reasoning, lest his soul be disturbed, and
brought out of its contentment and peace, which can only result in
its experiencing distaste and repugnance. And if, as we have said,
such a person has scruples that he is doing nothing, let him note
that he is doing no small thing by pacifying the soul and bringing
it into calm and peace, unaccompanied by any act or desire, for it
is this that Our Lord asks of us, through David, saying: Vacate,
et videte quoniam ego sum Deus.[319] As though he had said: Learn to
be empty of all things (that is to say, inwardly and outwardly)
and you will see that I am God.

                           CHAPTER XVI

     Which treats of the imaginary apprehensions that are
supernaturally represented in the fancy. Describing how they
cannot serve the soul as a proximate means to union with God.

     NOW that we have treated of the apprehensions which the soul
can receive within itself by natural means, and whereon the fancy
and the imagination can work by means of reflection, it will be
suitable to treat here of the supernatural apprehensions, which
are called imaginary visions, which likewise belong to these
senses, since they come within the category of images, forms and
figures, exactly as do the natural apprehensions.
     2. It must be understood that beneath this term 'imaginary
vision' we purpose to include all things which can be represented
to the imagination supernaturally by means of any image, form,
figure and species. For all the apprehensions and species which,
through all the five bodily senses, are represented to the soul,
and dwell within it, after a natural manner, may likewise occur in
the soul after a supernatural manner, and be represented to it
without any assistance of the outward senses. For this sense of
fancy, together with memory, is, as it were, an archive and
storehouse of the understanding, wherein are received all forms
and images that can be understood; and thus the soul has them
within itself as it were in a mirror, having received them by
means of the five senses, or, as we say, supernaturally; and thus
it presents them to the understanding, whereupon the understanding
considers them and judges them. And not only so, but the soul can
also prepare and imagine others like to those with which it is
     3. It must be understood, then, that, even as the five
outward senses represent the images and species of their objects
to these inward senses, even so, supernaturally, as we say,
without using the outward senses, both God and the devil can
represent the same images and species, and much more beautiful and
perfect ones. Wherefore, beneath these images, God often
represents many things to the soul, and teaches it much wisdom;
this is continually seen in the Scriptures, as when Isaias saw God
in His glory beneath the smoke which covered the Temple, and
beneath the seraphim who covered their faces and their feet with
wings;[320] and as Jeremias saw the rod watching,[321] and Daniel a
multitude of visions,[322] etc. And the devil, too, strives to
deceive the soul with his visions, which in appearance are good,
as may be seen in the Book of the Kings, when he deceived all the
prophets of Achab, presenting to their imaginations the horns
wherewith he said the King was to destroy the Assyrians, which was
a lie.[323] Even such were the visions of Pilate's wife, warning him
not to condemn Christ;[324] and there are many other places where it
is seen how, in this mirror of the fancy and the imagination,
these imaginary visions come more frequently to proficients than
do outward and bodily visions. These, as we say, differ not in
their nature (that is, as being images and species) from those
which enter by the outward senses; but, with respect to the effect
which they produce, and in the degree of their perfection, there
is a great difference; for imaginary visions are subtler and
produce a deeper impression upon the soul, inasmuch as they are
supernatural, and are also more interior than the exterior
supernatural visions. Nevertheless, it is true that some of these
exterior bodily visions may produce a deeper impression; the
communication, after all, is as God wills. We are speaking,
however, merely as concerns their nature, and in this respect they
are more spiritual.
     4. It is to these senses of imagination and fancy that the
devil habitually betakes himself with his wiles -- now natural,
now supernatural;[325] for they are the door and entrance to the
soul, and here, as we have said, the understanding comes to take
up or set down its goods, as it were in a harbour or in a store-
house where it keeps its provisions. And for this reason it is
hither that both God and the devil always come with their jewels
of supernatural forms and images, to offer them to the
understanding; although God does not make use of this means alone
to instruct the soul, but dwells within it in substance, and is
able to do this by Himself and by other methods.
     5. There is no need for me to stop here in order to give
instruction concerning the signs by which it may be known which
visions are of God and which not, and which are of one kind and
which of another; for this is not my intention, which is only to
instruct the understanding herein, that it may not be hindered or
impeded as to union with Divine Wisdom by the good visions,
neither may be deceived by those which are false.
     6. I say, then, that with regard to all these imaginary
visions and apprehensions and to all other forms and species
whatsoever, which present themselves beneath some particular kind
of knowledge or image or form, whether they be false and come from
the devil or are recognized as true and coming from God, the
understanding must not be embarrassed by them or feed upon them,
neither must the soul desire to receive them or to have them, lest
it should no longer be detached, free, pure and simple, without
any mode or manner, as is required for union.
     7. The reason of this is that all these forms which we have
already mentioned are always represented, in the apprehension of
the soul, as we have said, beneath certain modes and manners which
have limitations; and that the Wisdom of God, wherewith the
understanding is to be united, has no mode or manner, neither is
it contained within any particular or distinct kind of
intelligence or limit, because it is wholly pure and simple. And
as, in order that these two extremes may be united -- namely, the
soul and Divine Wisdom -- it will be necessary for them to attain
to agreement, by means of a certain mutual resemblance, hence it
follows that the soul must be pure and simple, neither bounded by,
nor attached to, any particular kind of intelligence, nor modified
by any limitation of form, species and image. As God comes not
within any image or form, neither is contained within any
particular kind of intelligence, so the soul, in order to reach
God,[326] must likewise come within no distinct form or kind of
     8. And that there is no form or likeness in God is clearly
declared by the Holy Spirit in Deuteronomy, where He says: Vocem
verborum ejus audistis, et formam penitus non vidistis.[327] Which
signifies: Ye heard the voice of His words, and ye saw in God no
form whatsoever. But He says that there was darkness there, and
clouds and thick darkness, which are the confused and dark
knowledge whereof we have spoken, wherein the soul is united with
God. And afterwards He says further: Non vidistis aliquam
similitudinem in die, qua locutus est vobis Dominus in Horeb de
medio ignis. That is: Ye saw no likeness in God upon the day when
He spoke to you on Mount Horeb, out of the midst of the fire.[328]
     9. And that the soul cannot reach the height of God, even as
far as is possible in this life, by means of any form and figure,
is declared likewise by the same Holy Spirit in the Book of
Numbers, where God reproves Aaron and Miriam, the brother and
sister of Moses, because they murmured against him, and, desiring
to convey to them the loftiness of the state of union and
friendship with Him wherein He had placed him, said: Si quis inter
vos fuerit Propheta Domini, in visione apparebo ei, vel per
somnium loquar ad illum. At non talis servus meus Moyses, qui in
omni domo mea fidelissimus est: ore enim ad os loquor ei, et
palem, et non per aenigmata, et figuras Dominum videt.[329] Which
signifies: If there be any prophet of the Lord among you, I will
appear to him in some vision or form, or I will speak with him in
his dreams; but there is none like My servant Moses, who is the
most faithful in all My house, and I speak with him mouth to
mouth, and he sees not God by comparisons, similitudes and
figures. Herein He says clearly that, in this lofty state of union
whereof we are speaking, God is not communicated to the soul by
means of any disguise of imaginary vision or similitude or form,
neither can He be so communicated; but mouth to mouth -- that is,
in the naked and pure essence of God, which is the mouth of God in
love, with the naked and pure essence of the soul, which is the
mouth of the soul in love of God.
     10. Wherefore, in order to come to this essential union of
love in God, the soul must have a care not to lean upon[330]
imaginary visions, nor upon forms or figures or particular objects
of the understanding; for these cannot serve it as a proportionate
and proximate means to such an end; rather they would disturb it,
and for this reason the soul must renounce them and strive not to
have them. For if in any circumstances they were to be received
and prized, it would be for the sake of profit which true visions
bring to the soul and the good effect which they produce upon it.
But, for this to happen, it is not necessary to receive them;
indeed, for the soul's profit, it is well always to reject them.
For these imaginary visions, like the outward bodily visions
whereof we have spoken, do the soul good by communicating to it
intelligence or love or sweetness; but for this effect to be
produced by them in the soul it is not necessary that it should
desire to receive them; for, as has also been said above, at this
very time when they are present to the imagination, they produce
in the soul and infuse into it intelligence and love, or
sweetness, or whatever effect God wills them to produce. And not
only do they produce this joint effect, but principally, although
not simultaneously, they produce their effect in the soul
passively, without its being able to hinder this effect, even if
it so desired, just as it was also powerless to acquire it,
although it had been able previously to prepare itself. For, even
as the window is powerless to impede the ray of sunlight which
strikes it, but, when it is prepared by being cleansed, receives
its light passively without any diligence or labour on its own
part, even so the soul, although against its will, cannot fail to
receive in itself the influences and communications of those
figures, however much it might desire to resist them. For the will
that is negatively inclined cannot, if coupled with loving and
humble resignation, resist supernatural infusions; only the
impurity and imperfections of the soul can resist them even as the
stains upon a window impede the brightness of the sunlight.[331]
     11. From this it is evident that, when the soul completely
detaches itself, in its will and affection, from the apprehensions
of the strains of those forms, images and figures wherein are
clothed the spiritual communications which we have described, not
only is it not deprived of these communications and the blessings
which they cause within it, but it is much better prepared to
receive them with greater abundance, clearness, liberty of spirit
and simplicity, when all these apprehensions are set on one side,
for they are, as it were, curtains and veils covering the
spiritual thing that is behind them. And thus, if the soul desire
to feed upon them, they occupy spirit and sense in such a way that
the spirit cannot communicate itself simply and freely; for, while
they are still occupied with the outer rind, it is clear that the
understanding is not free to receive the substance. Wherefore, if
the soul at that time desires to receive these forms and to set
store by them, it would be embarrassing itself, and contenting
itself with the least important part of them -- namely, all that
it can apprehend and know of them, which is the form and image and
particular object of the understanding in question. The most
important part of them, which is the spiritual part that is
infused into the soul, it can neither apprehend nor understand,
nor can it even know what it is, or be able to express it, since
it is purely spiritual. All that it can know of them, as we say,
according to its manner of understanding, is but the least part of
what is in them -- namely, the forms perceptible by sense. For
this reason I say that what it cannot understand or imagine is
communicated to it by these visions, passively, without any effort
of its own to understand and without its even knowing how to make
such an effort.
     12. Wherefore the eyes of the soul must ever be withdrawn
from all these apprehensions which it can see and understand
distinctly, which are communicated through sense, and do not make
for a foundation of faith, or for reliance on faith, and must be
set upon that which it sees not, and which belongs not to sense,
but to spirit, which can be expressed by no figure of sense; and
it is this which leads the soul to union in faith, which is the
true medium, as has been said. And thus these visions will profit
the soul substantially, in respect of faith, when it is able to
renounce the sensible and intelligible part of them, and to make
good use of the purpose for which God gives them to the soul, by
casting them aside; for, as we said of corporeal visions, God
gives them not so that the soul may desire to have them and to set
its affection upon them.
     13. But there arises here this question: If it be true that
God gives the soul supernatural visions, but not so that it may
desire to have them or be attached to them or set store by them,
why does He give them at all, since by their means the soul may
fall into many errors and perils, or at the least may find in them
such hindrances to further progress as are here described,
especially since God can come to the soul, and communicate to it,
spiritually and substantially, that which He communicates to it
through sense, by means of the sensible forms and visions
     14. We shall answer this question in the following chapter:
it involves important teaching, most necessary, as I see it, both
to spiritual persons and to those who instruct them. For herein is
taught the way and purpose of God with respect to these visions,
which many know not, so that they cannot rule themselves or guide
themselves to union, neither can they guide others to union,
through these visions. For they think that, just because they know
them to be true and to come from God, it is well to receive them
and to trust them, not realizing that the soul will become
attached to them, cling to them and be hindered by them, as it
will by things of the world, if it know not how to renounce these
as well as those. And thus they think it well to receive one kind
of vision and to reject another, causing themselves, and the souls
under their care, great labour and peril in discerning between the
truth and the falsehood of these visions. But God does not command
them to undertake this labour, nor does He desire that sincere and
simple souls should be led into this conflict and danger; for they
have safe and sound teaching, which is that of the faith, wherein
they can go forward.
     15. This, however, cannot be unless they close their eyes to
all that is of particular and clear intelligence and sense. For,
although Saint Peter was quite certain of that vision of glory
which he saw in Christ at the Transfiguration, yet, after having
described it in his second canonical Epistle, he desired not that
it should be taken for an important and sure testimony, but rather
directed his hearers to faith, saying: Et habemus firmiorem
propheticum sermonem: cui benefacitis attendentes, quasi lucernoe
lucenti in caliginoso loco, donec dies elucescat.[332] Which
signifies: And we have a surer testimony than this vision of Tabor
-- namely, the sayings and words of the prophets who bear
testimony to Christ, whereunto ye must indeed cling, as to a
candle which gives light in a dark place. If we will think upon
this comparison, we shall find therein the teaching which we are
now expounding. For, in telling us to look to the faith whereof
the prophets spake, as to a candle that shines in a dark place, he
is bidding us remain in the darkness, with our eyes closed to all
these other lights; and telling us that in this darkness, faith
alone, which likewise is dark, will be the light to which we shall
cling; for if we desire to cling to these other bright lights --
namely, to distinct objects of the understanding -- we cease to
cling to that dark light, which is faith, and we no longer have
that light in the dark place whereof Saint Peter speaks. This
place, which here signifies the understanding, which is the
candlestick wherein this candle of faith is set, must be dark
until the day when the clear vision of God dawns upon it in the

life to come, or, in this life, until the day of transformation
and union with God to which the soul is journeying.

                          CHAPTER XVII

     Wherein is described the purpose and manner of God in His
communication of spiritual blessings to the soul by means of the
senses. Herein is answered the question which has been referred

     THERE is much to be said concerning the purpose of God, and
concerning the manner wherein He gives these visions in order to
raise up the soul from its lowly estate to His Divine union. All
spiritual books deal with this and in this treatise of ours the
method which we pursue is to explain it; therefore I shall only
say in this chapter as much as is necessary to answer our
question, which was as follows: Since in these supernatural
visions there is so much hindrance and peril to progress, as we
have said, why does God, Who is most wise and desires to remove
stumbling-blocks and snares from the soul, offer and communicate
them to it?
     2. In order to answer this, it is well first of all to set
down three fundamental points. The first is from Saint Paul ad
Romanos, where he says: Quae autem sunt, a Deo ordinatoe sunt.[333]
Which signifies: The works that are done are ordained of God. The
second is from the Holy Spirit in the Book of Wisdom, where He
says: Disponit omnia suaviter.[334] And this is as though He had
said: The wisdom of God, although it extends from one end to
another -- that is to say, from one extreme to another -- orders
all things with sweetness. The third is from the theologians, who
say that Omnia movet secundum modum eorum. That is, God moves all
things according to their nature.
     3. It is clear, then, from these fundamental points, that if
God is to move the soul and to raise it up from the extreme depth
of its lowliness to the extreme height of His loftiness, in Divine
union with Him, He must do it with order and sweetness and
according to the nature of the soul itself. Then, since the order
whereby the soul acquires knowledge is through forms and images of
created things, and the natural way wherein it acquires this
knowledge and wisdom is through the senses, it follows that, if
God is to raise up the soul to supreme knowledge, and to do so
with sweetness, He must begin to work from the lowest and extreme
end of the senses of the soul, in order that He may gradually lead
it, according to its own nature, to the other extreme of His
spiritual wisdom, which belongs not to sense. Wherefore He first
leads it onward by instructing it through forms, images and ways
of sense, according to its own method of understanding, now
naturally, now supernaturally, and by means of reasoning, to this
supreme Spirit of God.
     4. It is for this reason that God gives the soul visions and
forms, images and other kinds of sensible and intelligible
knowledge of a spiritual nature; not that God would not give it
spiritual wisdom immediately, and all at once, if the two extremes
-- which are human and Divine, sense and spirit -- could in the
ordinary way concur and unite in one single act, without the
previous intervention of many other preparatory acts which concur
among themselves in order and sweetness, and are a basis and a
preparation one for another, like natural agents; so that the
first acts serve the second, the second the third, and so onward,
in exactly the same way. And thus God brings man to perfection
according to the way of man's own nature, working from what is
lowest and most exterior up to what is most interior and highest.
First, then, He perfects his bodily senses, impelling him to make
use of good things which are natural, perfect and exterior, such
as hearing sermons and masses, looking on holy things, mortifying
the palate at meals and chastening the sense of touch by penance
and holy rigour. And, when these senses are in some degree
prepared, He is wont to perfect them still further, by bestowing
on them certain supernatural favours and gifts, in order to
confirm them the more completely in that which is good, offering
them certain supernatural communications, such as visions of
saints or holy things, in corporeal shape, the sweetest perfumes,
locutions, and exceeding great delights of touch, wherewith sense
is greatly continued in virtue and is withdrawn from a desire for
evil things. And besides this He continues at the same time to
perfect the interior bodily senses, whereof we are here treating,
such as imagination and fancy, and to habituate them to that which
is good, by means of considerations, meditations, and reflections
of a sacred kind, in all of which He is instructing the spirit.
And, when these are prepared by this natural exercise, God is wont
to enlighten and spiritualize them still more by means of certain
supernatural visions, which are those that we are here calling
imaginary; wherein, as we have said, the spirit, at the same time,
profits greatly, for both kinds of vision help to take away its
grossness and gradually to reform it. And after this manner God
continues to lead the soul step by step till it reaches that which
is the most interior of all; not that it is always necessary for
Him to observe this order, and to cause the soul to advance
exactly in this way, from the first step to the last; sometimes He
allows the soul to attain one stage and not another, or leads it
from the more interior to the less, or effects two stages of
progress together. This happens when God sees it to be meet for
the soul, or when He desires to grant it His favours in this way;
nevertheless His ordinary method is as has been said.
     5. It is in this way, then, that God instructs[335] the soul
and makes it more spiritual, communicating spirituality to it
first of all by means of outward and palpable things, adapted to
sense, on account of the soul's feebleness and incapacity, so
that, by means of the outer husk of those things which in
themselves are good, the spirit may make[336] particular acts and
receive so many spiritual communications[337] that it may form a
habit as to things spiritual, and may acquire actual and
substantial spirituality, which is completely removed from every
sense. To this, as we have said, the soul cannot attain except
very gradually, and in its own way -- that is, by means of sense
-- to which it has ever been attached. And thus, in proportion as
the spirit attains more nearly to converse with God, it becomes
ever more detached and emptied of the ways of sense, which are
those of imaginary meditation and reflection. Wherefore, when the
soul attains perfectly to spiritual converse with God, it must of
necessity have been voided of all that relates to God and yet
might come under the head of sense. Even so, the more closely a
thing grows attracted to one extreme, the farther removed and
withdrawn[338] it becomes from the other; and, when it comes to rest
perfectly in the one, it will also have withdrawn itself perfectly
from the other. Wherefore there is a commonly quoted spiritual
adage which says: Gustato spiritu, desipit omni caro. Which
signifies: After the taste and sweetness of the spirit have been
experienced, everything carnal is insipid. That is: No profit or
enjoyment is afforded by all the ways of the flesh, wherein is
included all communication of sense with the spiritual. And this
is clear: for, if it is spirit, it has no more to do with sense;
and, if sense can comprehend it, it is no longer pure spirit. For,
the more can be known of it by natural apprehension and sense, the
less it has of spirit and of the supernatural, as has been
explained above.
     6. The spirit that has become perfect, therefore, pays no
heed to sense, nor does it receive anything through sense, nor
make any great use of it, neither does it need to do so, in its
relations with God, as it did aforetime when it had not grown
spiritually. It is this that is signified by that passage from
Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians which says: Cum essem
parvulus, loquebar ut parvulus, sapiebam ut parvulus, cogitabam ut
parvulus. Quando autem factus sum vir, evacuavi quae erant
parvuli.[339] This signifies: When I was a child, I spake as a
child, I knew as a child, I thought as a child; but, when I became
a man, I put away[340] childish things. We have already explained
how the things of sense, and the knowledge that spirit can derive
from them, are the business of a child. Thus, if the soul should
desire to cling to them for ever, and not to throw them aside, it
would never be aught but a little child; it would speak ever of
God as a child, and would know of God as a child, and would think
of God as a child; for, clinging to the outer husk of sense, which
pertains to the child, it would never attain to the substance of
the spirit, which pertains to the perfect man. And thus the soul
must not desire to receive the said revelations in order to
continue in growth, even though God offer them to it, just as the
child must leave the breast in order to accustom its palate to
strong meat, which is more substantial.
     7. You will ask, then, if, when the soul is immature, it must
take these things, and, when it is grown, must abandon them; even
as an infant must take the breast, in order to nourish itself,
until it be older and can leave it. I answer that, with respect to
meditation and natural reflection by means of which the soul
begins to seek God, it is true that it must not leave the breast
of sense in order to continue taking in nourishment until the time
and season to leave it have arrived, and this comes when God
brings the soul into a more spiritual communion, which is
contemplation, concerning which we gave instruction in the
eleventh chapter of this book.[341] But, when it is a question of
imaginary visions, or other supernatural apprehensions, which can
enter the senses without the co-operation of man's free will, I
say that at no time and season must it receive them, whether the
soul be in the state of perfection, or whether in a state less
perfect -- not even though they come from God. And this for two
reasons. The first is that, as we have said, He produces His
effect in the soul, without its being able to hinder it, although,
as often happens, it can and may hinder visions; and consequently
that effect which was to be produced in the soul is communicated
to it much more substantially, although not after that manner.
For, as we said likewise, the soul cannot hinder the blessings
that God desires to communicate to it, since it is not in the
soul's power to do so, save when it has some imperfection and
attachment; and there is neither imperfection nor attachment in
renouncing these things with humility and misgiving. The second
reason is that the soul may free itself from the peril and effort
inherent in discerning between evil visions and good, and in
deciding whether an angel be of light or of darkness. This effort
brings the soul no advantage; it merely wastes its time, and
hinders it, and becomes to it an occasion of many imperfections
and of failure to make progress. The soul concerns not itself, in
such a case, with what is important, nor frees itself of trifles
in the shape of apprehensions and perceptions of some particular
kind. This has already been said in the discussion of corporeal
visions; and more will be said on the subject hereafter.
     8. Let it be believed, too, that, if Our Lord were not about
to lead the soul in a way befitting its own nature, as we say
here, He would never communicate to it the abundance of His Spirit
through these aqueducts, which are so narrow -- these forms and
figures and particular perceptions -- by means whereof He gives
the soul enlightenment by crumbs. For this cause David says:
Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas.[342] Which is as much as to
say: He sent His wisdom to the souls as in morsels. It is greatly
to be lamented that, though the soul has infinite capacity, it
should be given its food by morsels conveyed through the senses,
by reason of the small degree of its spirituality and its
incapacitation by sense. Saint Paul was also grieved by this lack
of preparation and this incapability of men for receiving the
Spirit, when he wrote to the Corinthians, saying: 'I, brethren,
when I came to you, could not speak to you as to spiritual
persons, but as to carnal; for ye could not receive it, neither
can ye now.' Tamquam parvulis in Christo lac potum vobis dedi, non
escam.[343] That is: I have given you milk to drink, as to infants
in Christ, and not solid food to eat.
     9. It now remains, then, to be pointed out that the soul must
not allow its eyes to rest upon that outer husk -- namely, figures
and objects set before it supernaturally. These may be presented
to the exterior senses, as are locutions and words audible to the
ear; or, to the eyes, visions of saints, and of beauteous
radiance; or perfumes to the sense of smell; or tastes and
sweetnesses to the palate; or other delights to the touch, which
are wont to proceed from the spirit, a thing that very commonly
happens to spiritual persons. Or the soul may have to avert its
eyes from visions of interior sense, such as imaginary visions,
all of which it must renounce entirely. It must set its eyes only
upon the spiritual good which they produce, striving to preserve
it in its works and to practise that which is for the due service
of God, paying no heed to those representations nor desiring any
pleasure of sense. And in this way the soul takes from these
things only that which God intends and wills -- namely, the spirit
of devotion -- for there is no other important purpose for which
He gives them; and it casts aside that which He would not give if
these gifts could be received in the spirit without it, as we have
said -- namely, the exercise and apprehension of the senses.

                          CHAPTER XVIII

     Which treats of the harm that certain spiritual masters may
do to souls when they direct them not by a good method with
respect to the visions aforementioned. Describes also how these
visions may cause deception even though they be of God.

     IN this matter of visions we cannot be as brief as we should
desire, since there is so much to say about them. Although in
substance we have said what is relevant in order to explain to the
spiritual person how he is to behave with regard to the visions
aforementioned, and to the master who directs him, the way in
which he is to deal with his disciple, yet it will not be
superfluous to go into somewhat greater detail about this
doctrine, and to give more enlightenment as to the harm which can
ensue, either to spiritual souls or to the masters who direct
them, if they are over-credulous about them, although they be of
     2. The reason which has now moved me to write at length about
this is the lack of discretion, as I understand it, which I have
observed in certain spiritual masters. Trusting to these
supernatural apprehensions, and believing that they are good and
come from God, both masters and disciples have fallen into great
error and found themselves in dire straits, wherein is fulfilled
the saying of Our Saviour: Si coecus coeco ducatum praestet, ambo
in foveam cadunt.[344] Which signifies: If a blind man lead another
blind man, both fall into the pit. And He says not 'shall fall,'
but 'fall.' For they may fall without falling into error, since
the very venturing of the one to guide the other is going astray,
and thus they fall in this respect alone, at the very least. And,
first of all, there are some whose way and method with souls that
experience these visions cause them to stray, or embarrass them
with respect to their visions, or guide them not along the road in
some way (for which reason they remain without the true spirit of
faith) and edify them not in faith, but lead them to speak highly
of those things. By doing this they make them realize that they
themselves set some value upon them, or make great account of
them, and, consequently, their disciples do the same. Thus their
souls have been set upon these apprehensions, instead of being
edified in faith, so that they may be empty and detached, and
freed from those things and can soar to the heights of dark faith.
All this arises from the terms and language which the soul
observes its master to employ with respect to these apprehensions;
somehow it very easily develops a satisfaction and an esteem for
them, which is not in its own control, and which averts its eyes
from the abyss of faith.
     3. And the reason why this is so easy must be that the soul
is so greatly occupied with these things of sense that, as it is
inclined to them by nature, and is likewise disposed to enjoy the
apprehension of distinct and sensible things, it has only to
observe in its confessor, or in some other person, a certain
esteem and appreciation for them, and not merely will it at once
conceive the same itself, but also, without its realizing the
fact, its desire will become lured away by them, so that it will
feed upon them and will be ever more inclined toward them and will
set a certain value upon them. And hence arise many imperfections,
at the very least; for the soul is no longer as humble as before,
but thinks that all this is of some importance and productive of
good, and that it is itself esteemed by God, and that He is
pleased and somewhat satisfied with it, which is contrary to
humility. And thereupon the devil secretly sets about increasing
this, without the soul's realizing it, and begins to suggest ideas
to it about others, as to whether they have these things or have
them not, or are this or are that; which is contrary to holy
simplicity and spiritual solitude.
     4. There is much more to be said about these evils, and of
how such souls, unless they withdraw themselves, grow not in
faith, and also of how there are other evils of the same kind
which, although they be not so palpable and recognizable as these,
are subtler and more hateful in the Divine eyes, and which result
from not living in complete detachment. Let us, however, leave
this subject now, until we come to treat of the vice of spiritual
gluttony and of the other six vices, whereof, with the help of
God, many things will be said, concerning these subtle and
delicate stains which adhere to the spirit when its director
cannot guide it in detachment.
     5. Let us now say something of this manner wherein certain
confessors deal with souls, and instruct them ill. And of a truth
I could wish that I knew how to describe it, for I realize that it
is a difficult thing to explain how the spirit of the disciple
grows in conformity with that of his spiritual father, in a hidden
and secret way; and this matter is so tedious that it wearies me,
for it seems impossible to speak of the one thing without
describing the other also, as they are spiritual things, and the
one corresponds with the other.
     6. But it is sufficient to say here that I believe, if the
spiritual father has an inclination toward revelations of such a
kind that they mean something to him, or satisfy or delight his
soul, it is impossible but that he will impress that delight and
that aim upon the spirit of his disciple, even without realizing
it, unless the disciple be more advanced than he; and, even in
this latter case, he may well do him grievous harm if he continue
with him. For, from that inclination of the spiritual father
toward such visions, and the pleasure which he takes in them,
there arises a certain kind of esteem for them, of which, unless
he watch it carefully, he cannot fail to communicate some
indication or impression to other persons; and if any other such
person is like-minded and has a similar inclination, it is
impossible, as I understand, but that there will be communicated
from the one to the other a readiness to apprehend these things
and a great esteem for them.
     7. But we need not now go into detail about this. Let us
speak of the confessor who, whether or no he be inclined toward
these things, has not the prudence that he ought to have in
disencumbering the soul of his disciple and detaching his desire
from them, but begins to speak to him about these visions and
devotes the greater part of his spiritual conversation to them, as
we have said, giving him signs by which he may distinguish good
visions from evil. Now, although it is well to know this, there is
no reason for him to involve the soul in such labour, anxiety and
peril. By paying no heed to visions, and refusing to receive them,
all this is prevented, and the soul acts as it should. Nor is this
all, for such confessors, when they see that their penitents are
receiving visions from God, beg them to entreat God to reveal them
to themselves also, or to say such and such things to them, with
respect to themselves or to others, and the foolish souls do so,
thinking that it is lawful to desire knowledge by this means. For
they suppose that, because God is pleased to reveal or say
something by supernatural means, in His own way or for His own
purpose, it is lawful for them to desire Him to reveal it to them,
and even to entreat Him to do so.
     8. And, if it come to pass that God answers their petition
and reveals it, they become more confident, thinking that, because
God answers them, it is His will and pleasure to do so; whereas,
in reality, it is neither God's will nor His pleasure. And they
frequently act or believe according to that which He has revealed
to them, or according to the way wherein He has answered them;
for, as they are attached to that manner of communion with God,
the revelation makes a great impression upon them and their will
acquiesces in it. They take a natural pleasure in their own way of
thinking and therefore naturally acquiesce in it; and frequently
they go astray. Then they see that something happens in a way they
had not expected; and they marvel, and then begin to doubt if the
thing were of God,[345] since it happens not, and they see it not,
according to their expectations. At the beginning they thought two
things: first, that the vision was of God, since at the beginning
it agreed so well with their disposition, and their natural
inclination to that kind of thing may well have been the cause of
this agreement, as we have said; and secondly that, being of God,
it would turn out as they thought or expected.
     9. And herein lies a great delusion, for revelations or
locutions which are of God do not always turn out as men expect or
as they imagine inwardly. And thus they must never be believed or
trusted blindly, even though they are known to be revelations or
answers or sayings of God. For, although they may in themselves be
certain and true, they are not always so in their causes, and
according to our manner of understanding, as we shall prove in the
chapter following. And afterwards we shall further say and prove
that, although God sometimes gives a supernatural answer to that
which is asked of Him, it is not His pleasure to do so, and
sometimes, although He answers, He is angered.

                           CHAPTER XIX

     Wherein is expounded and proved how, although visions and
locutions which come from God are true, we may be deceived about
them. This is proved by quotations from Divine Scripture.

     FOR two reasons we have said that, although visions and
locutions which come from God are true, and in themselves are
always certain, they are not always so with respect to ourselves.
One reason is the defective way in which we understand them; and
the other, the variety of their causes. In the first place, it is
clear that they are not always as they seem, nor do they turn out
as they appear to our manner of thinking. The reason for this is
that, since God is vast and boundless, He is wont, in His
prophecies, locutions and revelations, to employ ways, concepts
and methods of seeing things which differ greatly from such
purpose and method as can normally be understood by ourselves; and
these are the truer and the more certain the less they seem so to
us. This we constantly see in the Scriptures. To many of the
ancients many prophecies and locutions of God came not to pass as
they expected, because they understood them after their own
manner, in the wrong way, and quite literally. This will be
clearly seen in these passages.
     2. In Genesis, God said to Abraham, when He had brought him
to the land of the Chanaanites: Tibi dabo terram hanc.[346] Which
signifies, I will give thee this land. And when He had said it to
him many times, and Abraham was by now very Domine, unde scire
possum, quod possessurus sim eam? That old, and He had never given
it to him, though He had said this to him, Abraham answered God
once again and said: Lord, whereby or by what sign am I to know
that I am to possess it? Then God revealed to him that he was not
to possess it in person, but that his sons would do so after four
hundred years; and Abraham then understood the promise, which in
itself was most true; for, in giving it to his sons for love of
him, God was giving it to himself. And thus Abraham was deceived
by the way in which he himself had understood the prophecy. If he
had then acted according to his own understanding of it, those
that saw him die without its having been given to him might have
erred greatly; for they were not to see the time of its
fulfilment. And, as they had heard him say that God would give it
to him, they would have been confounded and would have believed it
to have been false.
     3. Likewise to his grandson Jacob, when Joseph his son
brought him to Egypt because of the famine in Chanaan, and when he
was on the road, God appeared and said: Jacob, Jacob, noli timere,
descende in Aegiptum, quia in gentem magnam faciam te ibi. Ego
descendam tecum illuc. . . . Et inde adducam te revertentem.[347]
Which signifies: Jacob, fear not; go down into Egypt, and I will
go down there with thee; and, when thou goest forth thence again,
I will bring thee out and guide thee. This promise, as it would
seem according to our own manner of understanding, was not
fulfilled, for, as we know, the good old man Jacob died in Egypt
and never left it alive. The word of God was to be fulfilled in
his children, whom He brought out thence after many years, being
Himself their guide upon the way. It is clear that anyone who had
known of this promise made by God to Jacob would have considered
it certain that Jacob, even as he had gone to Egypt alive, in his
own person, by the command and favour of God, would of a certainty
leave it, alive and in his own person, in the same form and manner
as he went there, since God had promised him a favourable return;
and such a one would have been deceived, and would have marvelled
greatly, when he saw him die in Egypt, and the promise, in the
sense in which he understood it, remain unfulfilled. And thus,
while the words of God are in themselves most true, it is possible
to be greatly mistaken with regard to them.
     4. In the Judges, again, we read that, when all the tribes of
Israel had come together to make war against the tribe of
Benjamin, in order to punish a certain evil to which that tribe
had been consenting, they were so certain of victory because God
had appointed them a captain for the war, that, when twenty-two
thousand of their men were conquered and slain, they marvelled
very greatly; and, going into the presence of God, they wept all
that day, knowing not the cause of the fall, since they had
understood that the victory was to be theirs. And, when they
enquired of God if they should give battle again or no, He
answered that they should go and fight against them. This time
they considered victory to be theirs already, and went out with
great boldness, and were conquered again the second time, with the
loss of eighteen thousand of their men. Thereat they were greatly
confused, and knew not what to do, seeing that God had commanded
them to fight and yet each time they were vanquished, though they
were superior to their enemies in number and strength, for the men
of Benjamin were no more than twenty-five thousand and seven
hundred and they were four hundred thousand. And in this way they
were mistaken in their manner of understanding the words of God.
His words were not deceptive, for He had not told them that they
would conquer, but that they should fight; for by these defeats
God wished to chastise a certain neglect and presumption of
theirs, and thus to humble them. But, when in the end He answered
that they would conquer, it was so, although they conquered only
after the greatest stratagem and toil.[348]
     5. In this way, and in many other ways, souls are oftentimes
deceived with respect to locutions and revelations that come from
God, because they interpret them according to their apparent
sense[349] and literally; whereas, as has already been explained,
the principal intention of God in giving these things is to
express and convey the spirit that is contained in them, which is
difficult to understand. And the spirit is much more pregnant in
meaning than the letter, and is very extraordinary, and goes far
beyond its limits. And thus, he that clings to the letter, or to a
locution or to the form or figure of a vision, which can be
apprehended, will not fail to go far astray, and will forthwith
fall into great confusion and error, because he has guided himself
by sense according to these visions, and not allowed the spirit to
work in detachment from sense. Littera enim occidit, spiritus
autem vivificat,[350] as Saint Paul says. That is: The letter
killeth and the spirit giveth life. Wherefore in this matter of
sense the letter must be set aside, and the soul must remain in
darkness, in faith, which is the spirit, and this cannot be
comprehended by sense.
     6. For which cause, many of the children of Israel, because
they took the sayings and prophecies of the prophets according to
the strict letter, and these were not fulfilled as they expected,
came to make little account of them and believed them not; so much
so, that there grew up a common saying among them -- almost a
proverb, indeed -- which turned prophets into ridicule. Of this
Isaias complains, speaking and exclaiming in the manner following:
Quem docebit Dominus scientiam? et quem intelligere faciet
auditum? ablactatos a lacte, avulsos ab uberibus. Quia manda
remanda, manda remanda, expecta reexpecta, expecta reexpecta,
modicum ibi, modicum ibi. In loquela enim labii, et lingua altera
loquetur ad populum istum.[351] This signifies: To whom shall God
teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand His word and
prophecy? Only them that are already weaned from the milk and
drawn away from the breasts. For all say (that is, concerning the
prophecies): Promise and promise again; wait and wait again; wait
and wait again;[352] a little there, a little there; for in the
words of His lips and in another tongue will He speak to this
people. Here Isaias shows quite clearly that these people were
turning prophecies into ridicule, and that it was in mockery that
they repeated this proverb: 'Wait and then wait again.' They meant
that the prophecies were never fulfilled for them, for they were
wedded to the letter, which is the milk of infants, and to their
own sense, which is the breasts, both of which contradict the
greatness of spiritual knowledge. Wherefore he says: To whom shall
He teach the wisdom of His prophecies? And whom shall He make to
understand His doctrine, save them that are already weaned from
the milk of the letter and from the breasts of their own senses?
For this reason these people understand it not, save according to
this milk of the husk and letter, and these breasts of their own
sense, since they say: Promise and promise again; wait and wait
again, etc. For it is in the doctrine of the mouth of God, and not
in their own doctrine, and it is in another tongue than their own,
that God shall speak to them.
     7. And thus, in interpreting prophecy, we have not to
consider our own sense and language, knowing that the language of
God is very different from ours, and that it is spiritual
language, very far removed from our understanding and exceedingly
difficult. So much so is it that even Jeremias, though a prophet
of God, when he sees that the significance of the words of God is
so different from the sense commonly attributed to them by men, is
himself deceived by them and defends the people, saying: Heu, heu,
heu, Domine Deus, ergone decipisti populum istum et Jerusalem,
dicens: Pax erit vobis; et ecce pervenit gladius usque ad
animam?[353] Which signifies: Ah, ah, ah, Lord God, hast Thou
perchance deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, 'Peace will
come upon you,' and seest Thou here that the sword reacheth unto
their soul? For the peace that God promised them was that which
was to be made between God and man by means of the Messiah Whom He
was to send them, whereas they understood it of temporal peace;
and therefore, when they suffered wars and trials, they thought
that God was deceiving them, because there befell them the
contrary of that which they expected. And thus they said, as
Jeremias says likewise: Exspectavimus pacem, et non erat bonum.[354]
That is: We have looked for peace and there is no boon of peace.
And thus it was impossible for them not to be deceived, since they
took the prophecy merely in its literal sense. For who would fail
to fall into confusion and to go astray if he confined himself to
a literal interpretation of that prophecy which David spake
concerning Christ, in the seventy-first Psalm, and of all that he
says therein, where he says: Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare;
et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.[355] That is: He
shall have dominion from one sea even to the other sea, and from
the river even unto the ends of the earth. And likewise in that
which he says in the same place: Liberabit pauperem a potente, et
pauperem, cui non erat adjutor.[356] Which signifies: He shall
deliver the poor man from the power of the mighty, and the poor
man that had no helper. But later it became known that Christ was
born[357] in a low state and lived in poverty and died in misery;
not only had He no dominion over the earth, in a temporal sense,
while He lived, but He was subject to lowly people, until He died
under the power of Pontius Pilate. And not only did He not deliver
poor men -- namely, His disciples -- from the hands of the mighty,
in a temporal sense, but He allowed them to be slain and
persecuted for His name's sake.
     8. The fact is that these prophecies concerning Christ had to
be understood spiritually, in which sense they were entirely true.
For Christ was not only Lord of earth alone, but likewise of
Heaven, since He was God; and the poor who were to follow Him He
was not only to redeem and free from the power of the devil, that
mighty one against whom they had no helper, but also to make heirs
of the Kingdom of Heaven. And thus God was speaking, in the most
important sense, of Christ, and of the reward of His followers,[358]
which was an eternal kingdom and eternal liberty; and they
understood this, after their own manner, in a secondary sense, of
which God takes small account, namely that of temporal dominion
and temporal liberty, which in God's eyes is neither kingdom nor
liberty at all. Wherefore, being blinded by the insufficiency of
the letter, and not understanding its spirit and truth, they took
the life of their God and Lord, even as Saint Paul said in these
words: Qui enim habitabant Jerusalem, et principes ejus, hunc
ignorantes et voces prophetarum, quae per omne Sabbatum leguntur,
judicantes impleverunt.[359] Which signifies: They that dwelt in
Jerusalem, and her rulers, not knowing Who He was, nor
understanding the sayings of the prophets, which are read every
Sabbath day, have fulfilled them by judging Him.
     9. And to such a point did they carry this inability to
understand the sayings of God as it behoved them, that even His
own disciples, who had gone about with Him, were deceived, as were
those two who, after His death, were going to the village of
Emmaus, sad and disconsolate, saying: Nos autem sperabamus quod
ipse esset redempturus Israel.[360] We hoped that it was He that
should have redeemed Israel. They, too, understood that this
dominion and redemption were to be temporal; but Christ our
Redeemer, appearing to them, reproved them as foolish and heavy
and gross of heart as to their belief in the things that the
prophets had spoken.[361] And, even when He was going to Heaven,
some of them were still in that state of grossness of heart, and
asked Him, saying: Domine, si in tempore hoc restitues Regnum
Israel.[362] That is: Lord, tell us if Thou wilt restore at this
time the kingdom of Israel. The Holy Spirit causes many things to
be said which bear another sense than that which men understand;
as can be seen in that which he caused to be said by Caiphas
concerning Christ: that is was meet that one man should die lest
all the people should perish.[363] This he said not of his own
accord; and he said it and understood it in one sense, and the
Holy Spirit in another.
     10. From this it is clear that, although sayings and
revelations may be of God, we cannot always be sure of their
meaning; for we can very easily be greatly deceived by them
because of our manner of understanding them. For they are all an
abyss and a depth of the spirit, and to try to limit them to what
we can understand concerning them, and to what our sense can
apprehend, is nothing but to attempt to grasp the air, and to
grasp some particle in it that the hand touches: the air
disappears and nothing remains.
     11. The spiritual teacher must therefore strive that the
spirituality of his disciple be not cramped by attempts to
interpret all supernatural apprehensions, which are no more than
spiritual particles, lest he come to retain naught but these, and
have no spirituality at all. But let the teacher wean his disciple
from all visions and locutions, and impress upon him the necessity
of dwelling in the liberty and darkness of faith, wherein are
received spiritual liberty and abundance, and consequently the
wisdom and understanding necessary to interpret sayings of God.
For it is impossible for a man, if he be not spiritual, to judge
of the things of God or understand them in a reasonable way, and
he is not spiritual when he judges them according to sense; and
thus, although they come to him beneath the disguise of sense, he
understands them not. This Saint Paul well expresses in these
words: Animalis autem homo non percipit ea quoe sunt spiritus Dei:
stultitia enim est illi, et non potest intelligere: quia de
spiritualibus examinatur. Spiritualis autem judicat omnia.[364]
Which signifies: The animal man perceives not the things which are
of the Spirit of God, for unto him they are foolishness and he
cannot understand them because they are spiritual; but he that is
spiritual judges all things. By the animal man is here meant one
that uses sense alone; by the spiritual man, one that is not bound
or guided by sense. Wherefore it is temerity to presume to have
intercourse with God by way of a supernatural apprehension
effected by sense, or to allow anyone else to do so.
     12. And that this may be the better understood let us here
set down a few examples. Let us suppose that a holy man is greatly
afflicted because his enemies persecute him, and that God answers
him, saying: I will deliver thee from all thine enemies. This
prophecy may be very true, yet, notwithstanding, his enemies may
succeed in prevailing, and he may die at their hands. And so if a
man should understand this after a temporal manner he would be
deceived; for God might be speaking of the true and principal
liberty and victory, which is salvation, whereby the soul is
delivered, free and made victorious[365] over all its enemies, and
much more truly so and in a higher sense than if it were delivered
from them here below. And thus, this prophecy was much more true
and comprehensive than the man could understand if he interpreted
it only with respect to this life; for, when God speaks, His words
are always to be taken in the sense which is most important and
profitable, whereas man, according to his own way and purpose, may
understand the less important sense, and thus may be deceived.
This we see in that prophecy which David makes concerning Christ
in the second Psalm saying: Reges eos in virga ferrea, et tamquam
vas figuli confringes eos.[366] That is: Thou shalt rule all the
people with a rod of iron and thou shalt dash them in pieces like
a vessel of clay. Herein God speaks of the principal and perfect
dominion, which is eternal dominion; and it was in this sense that
it was fulfilled, and not in the less important sense, which was
temporal, and which was not fulfilled in Christ during any part of
His temporal life.
     13. Let us take another example. A soul has great desires to
be a martyr. It may happen that God answers him, saying: Thou
shalt be a martyr. This will give him inwardly great comfort and
confidence that he is to be martyred; yet it may come to pass that
he dies not the death of a martyr, and notwithstanding this the
promise may be true. Why, then, is it not fulfilled literally?
Because it will be fulfilled, and is capable of being fulfilled,
according to the most important and essential sense of that saying
-- namely, in that God will have given that soul the love and the
reward which belong essentially to a martyr; and thus in truth He
gives to the soul that which it formally desired and that which He
promised it. For the formal desire of the soul was, not that
particular manner of death, but to do God a martyr's service, and
to show its love for Him as a martyr does. For that manner of
death is of no worth in itself without this love, the which love
and the showing forth thereof and the reward belonging to the
martyr may be given to it more perfectly by other means. So that,
though it may not die like a martyr, the soul is well satisfied
that it has been given that which it sired. For, when they are
born of living love, such desires, and others like them, although
they be not fulfilled in the way wherein they are described and
understood, are fulfilled in another and a better way, and in a
way which honours God more greatly than that which they might have
asked. Wherefore David says: Desiderium pauperum exaudivit
Dominus.[367] That is: The Lord has granted the poor their desire.
And in the Proverbs Divine Wisdom says: Desiderium suum justis
dabitur.[368] 'The just shall be given their desire.' Hence, then,
since we see that many holy men have desired many particular
things for God's sake, and that in this life their desires have
not been granted them, it is a matter of faith that, as their
desires were just and true, they have been fulfilled for them
perfectly in the next life. Since this is truth, it would also be
truth for God to promise it to them in this life, saying to them:
Your desire shall be fulfilled; and for it not to be fulfilled in
the way which they expected.
     14. In this and other ways, the words and visions of God may
be true and sure and yet we may be deceived by them, through being
unable to interpret them in a high and important sense, which is
the sense and purpose wherein God intends them. And thus the best
and surest course is to train souls in prudence so that they flee
from these supernatural things, by accustoming them, as we have
said, to purity of spirit in dark faith, which is the means of

                           CHAPTER XX

     Wherein is proved by passages from Scripture how the sayings
and words of God, though always true, do not always rest upon
stable causes.

     WE have now to prove the second reason why visions and words
which come from God, although in themselves they are always true,
are not always stable in their relation to ourselves. This is
because of their causes, whereon they are founded; for God often
makes statements founded upon creatures and their effects, which
are changeable and liable to fail, for which reason the statements
which are founded upon them are liable also to be changeable and
to fail; for, when one thing depends on another, if one fails, the
other fails likewise. It is as though God should say: In a year's
time I shall send upon this kingdom such or such a plague; and the
cause and foundation for this warning is a certain offence which
has been committed against God in that kingdom. If the offence
should cease or change, the punishment might cease; yet the threat
was true because it was founded upon the fault committed at the
time, and, if this had continued, it would have been carried out.
     2. This, we see, happened in the city of Ninive, where God
said: Adhuc quadraginta dies, et Ninive subvertetur.[369] Which
signifies: Yet forty days and Ninive shall be destroyed. This was
not fulfilled, because the cause of the threat ceased -- namely,
the sins of the city, for which it did penace -- but, if this had
not been so, the prophecy would have been carried into effect. We
read likewise in the Third Book of the Kings that, when King Achab
had committed a very great sin, God sent to phophesy[370] a great
punishment -- our father Elias being the messenger -- which should
come upon his person, upon his house and upon his kingdom.[371] And,
because Achab rent his garments with grief and clothed himself in
haircloth and fasted, and slept in sackcloth and went about in a
humble and contrite manner, God sent again, by the same prophet,
to declare to him these words: Quia igitur humiliatus est mei
causa, non inducam malum in diebus ejus, sed in diebus filii
sui.[372] Which signifies: Inasmuch as Achab has humbled himself for
love of Me, I will not send the evil whereof I spake in his days,
but in the days of his son. Here we see that, because Achab
changed his spirit and his former affection, God likewise changed
His sentence.
     3. From this we may deduce, as regards the matter under
discussion, that, although God may have revealed or affirmed
something to a soul, whether good or evil, and whether relating to
that soul itself or to others, this may, to a greater or a lesser
extent, be changed or altered or entirely withdrawn, according to
the change or variation in the affection of this soul, or the
cause whereon God based His judgment, and thus it would not be
fulfilled in the way expected, and oftentimes none would have
known why, save only God. For God is wont to declare and teach and
promise many things, not that they may be understood or possessed
at the time, but that they may be understood at a later time, when
it is fitting that a soul may have light concerning them, or when
their effect is attained. This, as we see, He did with His
disciples, to whom He spake many parables, and pronounced many
judgments, the wisdom whereof they understood not until the time
when they had to preach it, which was when the Holy Spirit came
upon them, of Whom Christ had said to them that He would explain
to them all the things that He had spoken to them in His life.
And, when Saint John speaks of that entry of Christ into
Jerusalem, he says: Haec non cognoverunt discipuli ejus primum:
sed quando glorificatus est Jesus, tunc recordati sunt quia haec
erant scripta de eo.[373] And thus there may pass through the soul
many detailed messages from God which neither the soul nor its
director will understand until the proper time.
     4. Likewise, in the First Book of the Kings, we read that,
when God was wroth against Heli, a priest of Israel, for his sins
in not chastising his sons, he sent to him by Samuel to say, among
other words, these which follow: Loquens locutus sum, ut domus
tua, et domus patris tui, ministraret in conspectu meo, usque in
sempiternum. Verumtamen absit hoc a me. And this is as though He
had said:[374] In very truth I said aforetime that thy house and the
house of thy father should serve Me continually in the priesthood
in my presence for ever, but this purpose is far from Me; I will
not do this thing. For this office of the priesthood was founded
for giving honour and glory to God, and to this end God has
promised to give it to the father of Heli for ever if he failed
not. But, when Heli failed in zeal for the honour of God (for, as
God Himself complained when He sent him the message, he honoured
his sons more than God, overlooking their sins so as not to offend
them), the promise also failed which would have held good for ever
if the good service and zeal of Heli had lasted for ever. And thus
there is no reason to think that, because sayings and revelations
come from God, they must invariably come to pass in their apparent
sense, especially when they are bound up with human causes which
may vary, change, or alter.
     5. And when they are dependent upon these causes God Himself
knows, though He does not always declare it, but pronounces the
saying, or makes the revelation, and sometimes says nothing of the
condition, as when He definitely told the Ninivites that they
would be destroyed after forty days.[375] At other times, he lays
down the condition, as He did to Roboam, saying to him: 'If thou
wilt keep My commandments, as my servant David, I will be with
thee even as I was with him, and will set thee up a house as I did
to My servant David'.[376] But, whether He declares it or no, the
soul must not rely upon its own understanding; for it is
impossible to understand the hidden truths of God which are in His
sayings, and the multitude of their meanings. He is above the
heavens, and speaks according to the way of eternity;[377] we blind
souls are upon the earth and understand only the ways of flesh and
time. It was for that reason, I believe, that the Wise Man said:
'God is in Heaven, and thou are upon earth; wherefore be not thou
lengthy or hasty in speaking.'[378]
     6. You will perhaps ask me: Why, if we are not to understand
these things, or to play any part in them, does God communicate
them to us? I have already said that everything will be understood
in its own time by the command of Him Who spake it, and he whom
God wills shall understand it, and it will be seen that it was
fitting; for God does naught save with due cause and in truth. Let
it be realized, therefore, that there is no complete understanding
of the meaning of the sayings and things of God, and that this
meaning cannot be decided by what it seems to be, without great
error, and, in the end, grievous confusion. This was very well
known to the prophets, into whose hands was given the word of God,
and who found it a sore trial to prophesy concerning the people;
for, as we have said, many of the people saw that things came not
to pass literally, as they were told them, for which cause they
laughed at the prophets and mocked them greatly; so much that
Jeremias went as far as to say: 'They mock me all the day long,
they scorn and despise me every one, for I have long been crying
against evil and promising them destruction; and the word of the
Lord has been made a reproach and a derision to me continually.
And I said, I must not remember Him, neither speak any more in His
name.'[379] Herein, although the holy prophet was speaking with
resignation and in the form of a weak man who cannot endure the
ways and workings of God, he clearly indicates the difference
between the way wherein the Divine sayings are fulfilled and the
ordinary meaning which they appear to have; for the Divine
prophets were treated as mockers, and suffered so much from their
prophecy that Jeremias himself said elsewhere: Formido et laqueus
facta est nobis vaticinatio et contritio.[380] Which signifies:
Prophecy has become to us fear and snares and contradiction of
     7. And the reason why Jonas fled when God sent him to preach
the destruction of Ninive was this, namely, that he knew the
different meanings of the sayings of God with respect to the
understanding of men and with respect to the causes of the
sayings. And thus, lest they should mock him when they saw that
his prophecy was not fulfilled, he went away and lied in order not
to prophesy; and thus he remained waiting all the forty days
outside the city, to see if his prophecy was fulfilled; and, when
it was not fulfilled, he was greatly afflicted, so much so that he
said to God: Obsecro, Domine, numquid non hoc est verbum meum, cum
adhuc essem in terra mea? propter hoc praeoccupavi, ut fugerem in
Tharsis.[381] That is: I pray Thee, O Lord, is not this what I said
when I was yet in my own country? Therefore was I vexed, and fled
away to Tharsis. And the saint was wroth and besought God to take
away his life.
     8. Why, then, must we marvel that God should speak and reveal
certain things to souls which come not to pass in the sense
wherein they understand them? For, if God should affirm or
represent such or such a thing to the soul, whether good or evil,
with respect to itself or to another, and if that thing be founded
upon a certain affection or service or offence of that soul, or of
another, at that time, with respect to God, so that, if the soul
persevere therein, it will be fulfilled; yet even then its
fulfillment is not certain, since it is not certain that the soul
will persevere. Wherefore we must rely, not upon understanding,
but upon faith.

                           CHAPTER XXI

     Wherein is explained how at times, although God answers the
prayers that are addressed to Him, He is not pleased that we
should use such methods. It is also shown how, although He
condescend to us and answer us, He is oftentimes wroth.

     CERTAIN spiritual men, as we have said, assure themselves
that it is a good thing to display curiosity, as they sometimes
do, in striving to know certain things by supernatural methods,
thinking that, because God occasionally answers their importunity,
this is a good method and pleasing to Him. Yet the truth is that,
although He may answer them, the method is not good, neither is it
pleasing to God, but rather it is displeasing to Him; and not only
so, but oftentimes He is greatly offended and wroth. The reason
for this is that it is lawful for no creature to pass beyond the
limits that God has ordained for its governance after the order of
nature. He has laid down rational and natural limits for man's
governance; wherefore to desire to pass beyond them is not lawful,
and to desire to seek out and attain to anything by supernatural
means is to go beyond these natural limits. It is therefore an
unlawful thing, and it is therefore not pleasing to God, for He is
offended by all that is unlawful. King Achaz was well aware of
this, since, although Isaias told him from God to ask for a sign,
he would not do so, saying: Non petam, et non tentabo Dominum.[382]
That is: I will not ask such a thing, neither will I tempt God.
For it is tempting God to seek to commune with Him by
extraordinary ways, such as those that are supernatural.
     2. But why, you will say, if it be a fact that God is
displeased, does He sometimes answer? I reply that it is sometimes
the devil who answers. And, if it is God Who answers, I reply that
He does so because of the weakness of the soul that desires to
travel along that road, lest it should be disconsolate and go
backward, or lest it should think that God is wroth with it and
should be overmuch afflicted; or for other reasons known to God,
founded upon the weakness of that soul, whereby God sees that it
is well that He should answer it and deigns to do so in that way.
In a like manner, too, does He treat many weak and tender souls,
granting them favours and sweetness in sensible converse with
Himself, as has been said above; this is not because He desires or
is pleased that they should commune with Him after that manner or
by these methods; it is that He gives to each one, as we have
said, after the manner best suited to him. For God is like a
spring, whence everyone draws water according to the vessel which
he carries. Sometimes a soul is allowed to draw it by these
extraordinary channels; but it follows not from this that it is
lawful to draw water by them, but only that God Himself can permit
this, when, how and to whom He wills, and for what reason He
wills, without the party concerned having any right in the matter.
And thus, as we say, He sometimes deigns to satisfy the desire and
the prayer of certain souls, whom, since they are good and
sincere, He wills not to fail to succour, lest He should make them
sad, but it is not because He is pleased with their methods that
He wills it. This will be the better understood by the following
     3. The father of a family has on his table many and different
kinds of food, some of which are better than others. A child is
asking him for a certain dish, not the best, but the first that
meets its eye, and it asks for this dish because it would rather
eat of it than any other; and as the father sees that, even if he
gives it the better kind of food, it will not take it, but will
have that which it asks for, since that alone pleases it, he gives
it that, regretfully, lest it should take no food at all and be
miserable. In just this way, we observe, did God treat the
children of Israel when they asked Him for a king: He gave them
one, but unwillingly, because it was not good for them. And thus
He said to Samuel: Audi vocem populi in omnibus quae loquuntur
tibi: non enim te objecerunt, sed me.[383] Which signifies: Hearken
unto the voice of this people and grant them the king whom they
ask of thee, for they have not rejected thee but Me, that I should
not reign over them. In this same way God condescends to certain
souls, and grants them that which is not best for them, because
they will not or cannot walk by any other road. And thus certain
souls attain to tenderness and sweetness of spirit or sense; and
God grants them this because they are unable to partake of the
stronger and more solid food of the trials of the Cross of His
Son, which He would prefer them to take, rather than aught else.
     4. I consider, however, that the desire to know things by
supernatural means is much worse than the desire for other
spiritual favours pertaining to the senses; for I cannot see how
the soul that desires them can fail to commit, at the least,
venial sin, however good may be its aims, and however far advanced
it may be on the road to perfection; and if anyone should bid the
soul desire them, and consent to it, he sins likewise. For there
is no necessity for any of these things, since the soul has its
natural reason and the doctrine and law of the Gospel, which are
quite sufficient for its guidance, and there is no difficulty or
necessity that cannot be solved and remedied by these means, which
are very pleasing to God and of great profit to souls; and such
great use must we make of our reason and of Gospel doctrine that,
if certain things be told us supernaturally, whether at our desire
or no, we must receive only that which is in clear conformity with
reason and Gospel law. And then we must receive it, not because it
is revelation, but because it is reason, and not allow ourselves
to be influenced by the fact that it has been revealed. Indeed, it
is well in such a case to look at that reason and examine it very
much more closely than if there had been no revelation concerning
it; inasmuch as the devil utters many things that are true, and
that will come to pass, and that are in conformity with reason, in
order that he may deceive.
     5. Wherefore, in all our needs, trials and difficulties,
there remains to us no better and surer means than prayer and hope
that God will provide for us, by such means as He wills. This is
the advice given to us in the Scriptures, where we read that, when
King Josaphat was greatly afflicted and surrounded by enemies, the
saintly King gave himself to prayer, saying to God: Cum ignoremus
quid facere debeamus, hoc solum habemus residue, ut oculos nostros
dirigamus ad re.[384] Which is as though he had said: When means
fail and reason is unable to succour us in our necessities, it
remains for us only to lift up our eyes to Thee, that Thou mayest
succour us as is most pleasing to Thee.
     6. And further, although this has also been made clear, it
will be well to prove, from certain passages of Scripture, that,
though God may answer such requests, He is none the less sometimes
wroth. In the First Book of the Kings it is said that, when King
Saul begged that the prophet Samuel, who was now dead, might speak
to him, the said prophet appeared to him, and that God was wroth
with all this, since Samuel at once reproved Saul for having done
such a thing, saying: Quare inquietasti me, ut suscitarer?[385] That
is: Why hast thou disquieted me, in causing me to arise? We also
know that, in spite of having answered the children of Israel and
given them the meat that they besought of Him, God was
nevertheless greatly incensed against them; for He sent fire from
Heaven upon them as a punishment, as we read in the Pentateuch,
and as David relates in these words: Adhuc escape eorum erant in
ore ipsorum, et ira Dei descendit super cos.[386] Which signifies:
Even as they had the morsels in their months, the wrath of God
came down upon them. And likewise we read in Numbers that God was
greatly wroth with Balaam the prophet, because he went to the
Madianites when Balac their king sent for him, although God had
bidden him go, because he desired to go and had begged it of God;
and while he was yet in the way there appeared to him an angel
with a sword, who desired to slay him, and said to him: Perversa
est via tua, mihique contraria.[387] 'Thy way is perverse and
contrary to Me.' For which cause he desired to slay him.
     7. After this manner and many others God deigns to satisfy
the desires of souls though He be wroth with them. Concerning this
we have many testimonies in Scripture, and, in addition, many
illustrations, though in a matter that is so clear these are
unnecessary. I will merely say that to desire to commune with God
by such means is a most perilous thing, more so than I can
express, and that one who is affectioned to such methods will not
fail to err greatly and will often find himself in confusion.
Anyone who in the past has prized them will understand me from his
own experience. For over and above the difficulty that there is in
being sure that one is not going astray in respect of locutions
and visions which are of God, there are ordinarily many of these
locutions and visions which are of the devil; for in his converse
with the soul the devil habitually wears the same guise as God
assumes in His dealings with it, setting before it things that are
very like to those which God communicates to it, insinuating
himself, like the wolf in sheep's clothing, among the flock, with
a success so nearly complete that he can hardly be recognized.
For, since he says many things that are true, and in conformity
with reason, and things that come to pass as he describes them,[388]
it is very easy for the soul to be deceived, and to think that,
since these things come to pass as he says, and the future is
correctly foretold, this can be the work of none save God; for
such souls know not that it is a very easy thing for one that has
clear natural light to be acquainted, as to their causes, with
things, or with many of them, which have been or shall be. And
since the devil has a very clear light of this kind, he can very
easily deduce effect from cause, although it may not always turn
out as he says, because all causes depend upon the will of God.
Let us take an example.
     8. The devil knows that the constitution of the earth and the
atmosphere, and the laws ruling the sun, are disposed in such
manner and in such degree that, when a certain moment has arrived,
it will necessarily follow, according to the laws of nature laid
down for these elements, that they will infect people with
pestilence, and he knows in what places this will be more severe
and in what places less so. Here you have a knowledge of
pestilence in respect of its causes. What a wonderful thing it
seems when the devil reveals this to a soul, saying: 'In a year or
in six months from now there will be pestilence,' and it happens
as he says! And yet this is a prophecy of the devil. In the same
way he may have a knowledge of earthquakes, and, seeing that the
bowels of the earth are filling with air, will say: 'At such a
time there will be an earthquake.' Yet this is only natural
knowledge, for the possession of which it suffices for the spirit
to be free from the passions of the soul, even as Boetius says in
these words: Si vis claro lumine cernere verum, gaudia pelle,
timorem, spemque fugato, nec dolor adsit.[389] That is: If thou
desire to know truths with the clearness of nature, cast from thee
rejoicing and fear and hope and sorrow.
     9. And likewise supernatural events and happenings may be
known, in their causes, in matters concerning Divine Providence,
which deals most justly and surely as is required by their good or
evil causes as regards the sons of men. For one may know by
natural means that such or such a person, or such or such a city,
or some other place, is in such or such necessity, or has reached
such or such a point, so that God, according to His providence and
justice, must deal with such a person or thing in the way required
by its cause, and in the way that is fitting for it, whether by
means of punishment or of reward, as the cause merits. And then
one can say: 'At such a time God will give you this, or will do
this, or that will come to pass, of a surety.' It was this that
holy Judith said to Holofernes,[390] when, in order to persuade him
that the children of Israel would without fail be destroyed, she
first related to him many of their sins and the evil deeds that
they did. And then she said: Et, quoniam haec faciunt, certum est
quod in perditionem dabuntur. Which signifies: Since they do these
things, it is certain that they will be destroyed. This is to know
the punishment in the cause, and it is as though she had said: It
is certain that such sins must be the cause of such punishments,
at the hand of God Who is most just. And as the Divine Wisdom
says: Per quae quis peccat, per haec et torquetur.[391] With respect
to that and for that wherein a man sins, therein is he punished.
     10. The devil may have knowledge of this, not only naturally,
but also by the experience which he has of having seen God do
similar things, and he can foretell it and do so correctly. Again,
holy Tobias was aware of the punishment of the city of Ninive
because of its cause, and he thus admonished his son, saying:
'Behold, son, in the hour when I and thy mother die, go thou forth
from this land, for it will not remain.' Video enim quia iniquitas
ejus finem dabit ei.[392] I see clearly that its own iniquity will
be the cause of its punishment, which will be that it shall be
ended and destroyed altogether. This might have been known by the
devil as well as by Tobias, not only because of the iniquity of
the city, but by experience, since they had seen that for the sins
of the world God destroyed it in the Flood, and that the
Sodomites, too, perished for their sins by fire; but Tobias knew
it also through the Divine Spirit.
     11. And the devil may know that one Peter[393] cannot, in the
course of nature, live more than so many years, and he may
foretell this; and so with regard to many other things and in many
ways that it is impossible to recount fully -- nor can one even
begin to recount many of them, since they are most intricate and
subtle -- he insinuates falsehoods; from which a soul cannot free
itself save by fleeing from all revelations and visions and
locutions that are supernatural. Wherefore God is justly angered
with those that receive them, for He sees that it is temerity on
their part to expose themselves to such great peril and
presumption and curiosity, and things that spring from pride, and
are the root and foundation of vainglory, and of disdain for the
things of God, and the beginning of many evils to which many have
come. Such persons have succeeded in angering God so greatly that
He has of set purpose allowed them to go astray and be deceived
and to blind their own spirits and to leave the ordered paths of
life and give rein to their vanities and fancies, according to the
word of Isaias, where he says: Dominus miscuit in medio ejus
spiritum vertiginis.[394] Which is as much to say: The Lord hath
mingled in the midst thereof the spirit of dissension and
confusion. Which in our ordinary vernacular signifies the spirit
of misunderstanding. What Isaias is here very plainly saying is to
our purpose, for he is speaking of those who were endeavouring by
supernatural means to know things that were to come to pass. And
therefore he says that God mingled in their midst the spirit of
misunderstanding; not that God willed them, in fact, to have the
spirit of error, or gave it to them, but that they desired to
meddle with that to which by nature they could not attain. Angered
by this, God allowed them to act foolishly, giving them no light
as to that wherewith He desired not that they should concern
themselves. And thus the Prophet says that God mingled that spirit
in them, privatively. And in this sense God is the cause of such
an evil -- that is to say, He is the privative cause, which
consists in His withdrawal of His light and favour, to such a
point that they must needs fall into error.
     12. And in this way God gives leave to the devil to blind and
deceive many, when their sins and audacities merit it; and this
the devil can do and does successfully, and they give him credence
and believe him to be a good spirit; to such a point that,
although they may be quite persuaded that he is not so, they
cannot undeceive themselves, since, by the permission of God,
there has already been insinuated into them the spirit of
misunderstanding, even as we read was the case with the prophets
of King Achab, whom God permitted to be deceived by a lying
spirit, giving the devil leave to deceive them, and saying:
Decipies, et praevalebis; egredere, et fac ita.[395] Which
signifies: Thou shalt prevail with thy falsehood, and shalt
deceive them; go forth and do so. And so well was he able to work
upon the prophets and the King, in order to deceive them, that
they would not believe the prophet Micheas, who prophesied the
truth to them, saying the exact contrary of that which the others
had prophesied, and this came to pass because God permitted them
to be blinded, since their affections were attached to that which
they desired to happen to them, and God answered them according to
their desires and wishes; and this was a most certain preparation
and means for their being blinded and deceived, which God allowed
of set purpose.
     13. Thus, too, did Ezechiel prophesy in the name of God.
Speaking against those who began to desire to have knowledge
direct from God, from motives of curiosity, according to the
vanity of their spirit, he says: When such a man comes to the
prophet to enquire of Me through him, I, the Lord, will answer him
by Myself, and I will set my face in anger against that man; and,
as to the prophet, when he has gone astray in that which was asked
of him, Ego Dominus decepi prophetam illum.[396] That is: I, the
Lord, have deceived that prophet. This is to be taken to mean, by
not succouring him with His favour so that he might not be
deceived; and this is His meaning when He says: I the Lord will
answer him by Myself in anger[397] -- that is, God will withdraw His
grace and favour from that man. Hence necessarily follows
deception by reason of his abandonment by God. And then comes the
devil and makes answer according to the pleasure and desire of
that man, who, being pleased thereat, since the answers and
communications are according to his will, allows himself to be
deceived greatly.
     14. It may appear that we have to some extent strayed from
the purpose that we set down in the title of this chapter, which
was to prove that, although God answers, He sometimes complains.
But, if it be carefully considered, all that has been said goes to
prove or intention; for it all shows that God desires not that we
should wish for such visions, since He makes it possible for us to
be deceived by them in so many ways.

                          CHAPTER XXII

     Wherein is solved a difficulty -- namely, why it is not
lawful, under the law of grace, to ask anything of God by
supernatural means, as it was under the old law. This solution is
proved by a passage from Saint Paul.

     DIFFICULTIES keep coming to our mind, and thus we cannot
progress with the speed that we should desire. For as they occur
to us, we are obliged of necessity to clear them up, so that the
truth of this teaching may ever be plain and carry its full force.
But there is always this advantage in these difficulties, that,
although they somewhat impede our progress, they serve
nevertheless to make our intention the clearer and more
explicit,[398] as will be the case with the present one.
     2. In the previous chapter, we said that it is not the will
of God that souls should desire to receive anything distinctly, by
supernatural means, through visions, locutions, etc. Further, we
saw in the same chapter, and deduced from the testimonies which
were there brought forward from Scripture, that such communion
with God was employed in the Old Law and was lawful; and that not
only was it lawful, but God commanded it. And when they used not
this opportunity, God reproved them, as is to be seen in Isaias,
where God reproves the children of Israel because they desired to
go down to Egypt without first enquiring of Him, saying: Et os
meum non interrogastis.[399] That is: Ye asked not first at My own
mouth what was fitting. And likewise we read in Josue that, when
the children of Israel themselves are deceived by the Gabaonites,
the Holy Spirit reproves them for this fault, saying: Susceperunt
ergo de cibariis eorum, et os Domini non interrogaverunt.[400] Which
signifies: They took of their victuals and they enquired not at
the mouth of God. Furthermore, we see in the Divine Scripture that
Moses always enquired of God, as did King David and all the kings
of Israel with regard to their wars and necessities, and the
priests and prophets of old, and God answered and spake with them
and was not wroth, and it was well done; and if they did it not it
would be ill done; and this is the truth. Why, then, in the new
law -- the law of grace -- may it not now be as it was aforetime?
     3. To this it must be replied that the principal reason why
in the law of Scripture the enquiries that were made of God were
lawful, and why it was fitting that prophets and priests should
seek visions and revelations of God, was because at that time
faith had no firm foundation, neither was the law of the Gospel
established; and thus it was needful that men should enquire of
God and that He should speak, whether by words or by visions and
revelations or whether by figures and similitudes or by many other
ways of expressing His meaning. For all that He answered and spake
and revealed belonged to the mysteries of our faith and things
touching it or leading to it. And, since the things of faith are
not of man, but come from the mouth of God Himself, God Himself
reproved them because they enquired not at His mouth in their
affairs, so that He might answer, and might direct their affairs
and happenings toward the faith, of which at that time they had no
knowledge, because it was not yet founded. But now that the faith
is founded in Christ, and in this era of grace, the law of the
Gospel has been made manifest, there is no reason to enquire of
Him in that manner, nor for Him to speak or to answer as He did
then. For, in giving us, as He did, His Son, which is His Word --
and He has no other -- He spake to us all together, once and for
all, in this single Word, and He has no occasion to speak further.
     4. And this is the sense of that passage with which Saint
Paul begins, when he tries to persuade the Hebrews that they
should abandon those first manners and ways of converse with God
which are in the law of Moses, and should set their eyes on Christ
alone, saying: Multifariam multisque modis olim Deus loquens
patribus in Prophetis: novissime autem diebus istis Iocutus est
nobis in Filio.[401] And this is as though he had said: That which
God spake of old in the prophets to our fathers, in sundry ways
and divers manners, He has now, at last, in these days, spoken to
us once and for all in the Son. Herein the Apostle declares that
God has become, as it were, dumb, and has no more to say, since
that which He spake aforetime, in part to the prophets, He has now
spoken altogether in Him, giving us the All, which is His Son.
     5. Wherefore he that would now enquire of God, or seek any
vision or revelation, would not only be acting foolishly, but
would be committing an offence against God, by setting his eyes
altogether upon Christ, and seeking no new thing or aught beside.
And God might answer him after this manner, saying: If I have
spoken all things to thee in My Word, Which is My Son, and I have
no other word, what answer can I now make to thee, or what can I
reveal to thee which is greater than this? Set thine eyes on Him
alone, for in Him I have spoken and revealed to thee all things,
and in Him thou shalt find yet more than that which thou askest
and desirest. For thou askest locutions and revelations, which are
the part; but if thou set thine eyes upon Him, thou shalt find the
whole; for He is My complete locution and answer, and He is all My
vision and all My revelation; so that I have spoken to thee,
answered thee, declared to thee and revealed to thee, in giving
Him to thee as thy brother, companion and master, as ransom and
prize. For since that day when I descended upon Him with My Spirit
on Mount Tabor, saying: Hic est filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi
bene complacui, ipsum audite[402] (which is to say: This is My
beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him), I have left
off all these manners of teaching and answering, and I have
entrusted this to Him. Hear Him; for I have no more faith to
reveal, neither have I any more things to declare. For, if I spake
aforetime, it was to promise Christ; and, if they enquired of Me,
their enquiries were directed to petitions for Christ and
expectancy concerning Him, in Whom they should find every good
thing (as is now set forth in all the teaching of the Evangelists
and the Apostles); but now, any who would enquire of Me after that
manner, and desire Me to speak to him or reveal aught to him,
would in a sense be asking Me for Christ again, and asking Me for
more faith, and be lacking in faith, which has already been given
in Christ; and therefore he would be committing a great offence
against My beloved Son, for not only would he be lacking in faith,
but he would be obliging Him again first of all to become
incarnate and pass through life and death. Thou shalt find naught
to ask Me, or to desire of Me, whether revelations or visions;
consider this well, for thou shalt find that all has been done for
thee and all has been given to thee -- yea, and much more also --
in Him.
     6. If thou desirest Me to answer thee with any word of
consolation, consider My Son, Who is subject to Me, and bound by
love of Me, and afflicted, and thou shalt see how fully He answers
thee. If thou desirest Me to expound to thee secret things, or
happenings, set thine eyes on Him alone, and thou shalt find the
most secret mysteries, and the wisdom and wondrous things of God,
which are hidden in Him, even as My Apostle says: In quo sunt
omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae Dei absconditi.[403] That is:
In this Son of God are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge of God. These treasures of wisdom shall be very much
more sublime and delectable and profitable for thee than the
things that thou desiredst to know. Herein the same Apostle
gloried, saying: That he had not declared to them that he knew
anything, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.[404] And if thou
shouldst still desire other Divine or bodily revelations and
visions, look also at Him made man, and thou shalt find therein
more than thou thinkest, for the Apostle says likewise: In ipso
habitat omnis plenitudo Divinitatis corporaliter.[405] Which
signifies: In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead
     7. It is not fitting, then, to enquire of God by supernatural
means, nor is it necessary that He should answer; since all the
faith has been given us in Christ, and there is therefore no more
of it to be revealed, nor will there ever be. And he that now
desires to receive anything in a supernatural manner, as we have
said, is, as it were, finding fault with God for not having given
us a complete sufficiency in His Son. For, although such a person
may be assuming the faith, and believing it, nevertheless he is
showing a curiosity which belongs to faithlessness. We must not
expect, then, to receive instruction, or aught else, in a
supernatural manner. For, at the moment when Christ gave up the
ghost upon the Cross, saying, Consummatum est,[406] which signifies,
'It is finished,' an end was made, not only of all these forms,
but also of all those other ceremonies and rites of the Old Law.
And so we must now be guided in all things by the law of Christ
made man, and by that of His Church, and of His ministers, in a
human and a visible manner, and by these means we must remedy our
spiritual weaknesses and ignorances, since in these means we shall
find abundant medicine for them all. If we leave this path, we are
guilty not only of curiosity, but of great audacity: nothing is to
be believed in a supernatural way, save only that which is the
teaching of Christ made man, as I say, and of His ministers, who
are men. So much so that Saint Paul says these words: Quod si
Angelus de coelo evengelizaverit, praterquam quod evangelizavimus
vobis, anathema sit.[407] That is to say: If any angel from Heaven
preach any other gospel unto you than that which we men preach
unto you, let him be accursed and excommunicate.
     8. Wherefore, since it is true that we must ever be guided by
that which Christ taught us, and that all things else are as
nothing, and are not to be believed unless they are in conformity
with it, he who still desires to commune with God after the manner
of the Old Law acts vainly. Furthermore, it was not lawful at that
time for everyone to enquire of God, neither did God answer all
men, but only the priests and prophets, from whose mouths it was
that the people had to learn law and doctrine; and thus, if a man
desire to know anything of God, he enquired of Him through the
prophet or the priest and not of God Himself. And, if David
enquired of God at certain times upon his own account, he did this
because he was a prophet, and yet, even so, he did it not without
the priestly vestment as it is clear was the case in the First
Book of the Kings, where he said to Abimelech the priest: Applica
ad me Ephod[408] -- which ephod was one of the priestly vestments,
having which he then spake with God. But at other times he spake
with God through the prophet Nathan and other prophets. And by the
mouths of these prophets and of the priests men were to believe
that that which was said to them came from God; they were not to
believe it because of their own opinions.
     9. And thus, men were not authorized or empowered at that
time to give entire credence to what was said by God, unless it
were approved by the mouths of priests and prophets. For God is so
desirous that the government and direction of every man should be
undertaken by another man like himself, and that every man should
be ruled and governed by natural reason, that He earnestly desires
us not to give entire credence to the things that He communicates
to us supernaturally, nor to consider them as being securely and
completely confirmed until they pass through this human aqueduct
of the mouth of man. And thus, whenever He says or reveals
something to a soul, He gives this same soul to whom He says it a
kind of inclination to tell it to the person to whom it is fitting
that it should be told. Until this has been done, it is not wont
to give entire satisfaction, because the man has not taken it from
another man like himself. We see in the Book of the Judges that
the same thing happened to the captain Gedeon, to whom God had
said many times that he should conquer the Madianites, yet he was
fearful and full of doubts (for God had allowed him to retain that
weakness) until he heard from the mouth of men what God had said
to him. And it came to pass that, when God saw he was weak, He
said to him: 'Rise up and go down to the camp.' Et cum audieris
quid loquantur, tunc confortabuntur manus tuae, et securior ad
hostium castra descendes.[409] That is: When thou shalt hear what
men are saying there, then shalt thou receive strength in that
which I have said to thee, and thou shalt go down with greater
security to the hosts of the enemy. And so it came to pass that,
having heard a dream related by one of the Madianites to another,
wherein the Madianite had dreamed that Gedeon should conquer them,
he was greatly strengthened, and began to prepare for the battle
with great joy. From this it can be seen that God desired not that
he should feel secure, since He gave him not the assurance by
supernatural means alone, but caused him first to be strengthened
by natural means.
     10. And even more surprising is the thing that happened in
this connection to Moses, when God had commanded him, and given
him many instructions, which He continued with the signs of the
wand changed into a serpent and of the leprous hand, enjoining him
to go and set free the children of Israel. So weak was he and so
uncertain[410] about this going forward that, although God was
angered, he had not the courage to summon up the complete faith
necessary for going, until God encouraged him through his brother
Aaron, saying: Aaron frater tuus Levites, scio quod eloquent sit:
ecce ipse egredietur in occursum tuum, vidensque te, laetabitur
corde. Loquere ad eum, en pone verba mea in ore ejus: et ego ero
in ore tuo, et in ore illius, etc.[411] Which is as though He had
said: I know that thy brother Aaron is an eloquent man: behold, he
will come forth to meet thee, and, when he seeth thee, he will be
glad at heart; speak to him and tell him all My words, and I will
be in thy mouth and in his mouth, so that each of you shall
believe that which is in the mouth of the other.
     11. Having heard these words, Moses at once took courage, in
the hope of finding consolation in the counsel which his brother
was to give him; for this is a characteristic of the humble soul,
which dares not converse alone with God, neither can be completely
satisfied without human counsel and guidance. And that this should
be given to it is the will of God, for He draws near to those who
come together to converse of truth, in order to expound and
confirm it in them, upon a foundation of natural reason, even as
He said that He would do when Moses and Aaron should come together
-- namely, that He would be in the mouth of the one and in the
mouth of the other. Wherefore He said likewise in the Gospel that
Ubi fuerint duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo, ibi sum ego in
medio eorum.[412] That is: Where two or three have come together, in
order to consider that which is for the greater honour and glory
of My name, there am I in the midst of them. That is to say, I
will make clear and confirm in their hearts the truths of God. And
it is to be observed that He said not: Where there is one alone,
there will I be; but: Where there are at least two. In this way He
showed that God desires not that any man by himself alone should
believe his experiences to be of God,[413] or should act in
conformity with them, or rely upon them, but rather should believe
the Church and[414] her ministers, for God will not make clear and
confirm the truth in the heart of one who is alone, and thus such
a one will be weak and cold.
     12. Hence comes that whereon the Preacher insists, where he
says: Vae soli, quia cum ceciderit, non habet sublevantem se. Si
dormierint duo, fovebuntur mutuo; unus quomodo calefiet? et si
quispiam praevaluerit contra unum, duo resistent ei.[415] Which
signifies: Woe to the man that is alone, for when he falleth he
hath none to raise him up. If two sleep together, the one shall
give warmth to the other (that is to say: with the warmth of God
Who is between them); but one alone, how shall he be warm? That is
to say: How shall he be other than cold as to the things of God?
And if any man can fight and prevail against one enemy (that is,
the devil, who can fight and prevail against those that are alone
and desire to be alone as regards the things of God), two men
together will resist him -- that is, the disciple and the
master[416] who come together to know and dost the truth. And until
this happens such a man is habitually weak and feeble in the
truth, however often he may have heard it from God; so much so
that, despite the many occasions on which Saint Paul preached the
Gospel, which he said that he had heard, not of men, but of God,
he could not be satisfied until he had gone to consult with Saint
Peter and the Apostles, saying: Ne forte in vacuum currerem, aut
cucurrissem.[417] Which signifies: Perchance he should run, or had
run, in vain, having no assurance of himself, until man had given
him assurance. This seems a noteworthy thing, O Paul, that He Who
revealed to thee this Gospel could not likewise reveal to thee the
assurance of the fault which thou mightest have committed in
preaching the truth concerning Him.
     13. Herein it is clearly shown that a man must not rely upon
the things that God reveals, save in the way that we are
describing; for, even in cases where a person is in possession of
certainty, as Saint Paul was certain of his Gospel (since he had
already begun to preach it), yet, although the revelation be of
God, man may still err with respect to it, or in things relating
to it. For, although God reveals one thing, He reveals not always
the other; and oftentimes He reveals something without revealing
the way in which it is to be done. For ordinarily He neither
performs nor reveals anything that can be accomplished by human
counsel and effort, although He may commune with the soul for a
long time, very lovingly. Of this Saint Paul was very well aware,
since, as we say, although he knew that the Gospel was revealed to
him by God, he went to take counsel with Saint Peter. And we see
this clearly in the Book of Exodus, where God had communed most
familiarly with Moses, yet had never given him that salutary
counsel which was given him by his father-in-law Jethro -- that is
to say, that he should choose other judges to assist him, so that
the people should not be waiting from morning till night.[418] This
counsel God approved, though it was not He Who had given it to
him, for it was a thing that fell within the limits of human
judgment and reason. With respect to Divine visions and
revelations and locutions, God is not wont to reveal them, for He
is ever desirous that men should make such use of their own reason
as is possible, and all such things have to be governed by reason,
save those that are of faith, which transcend all judgment and
reason, although these are not contrary to faith.
     14. Wherefore let none think that, because it may be true
that God and the saints commune with him familiarly about many
things, they will of necessity explain to him the faults that he
commits with regard to anything, if it be possible for him to
recognize these faults by other means. He can have no assurance
about this; for, as we read came to pass in the Acts of the
Apostles, Saint Peter, though a prince of the Church, who was
taught directly by God, went astray nevertheless with respect to a
certain ceremony that was in use among the Gentiles, and God was
silent. So far did he stray that Saint Paul reproved him, as he
affirms, saying: Cum vidissem, quod non recte ad veritatem
Evangelii ambularent, dixi coram omnibus: Si tu judaeus cum sis,
gentiliter vivis, quomodo Gentes cogis judaizare?[419] Which
signifies: When I saw (says Saint Paul) that the disciples walked
not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to
Peter before them all: If thou, being a Jew, as thou art, livest
after the manner of the Gentiles, how feignest thou to force the
Gentiles to live as do the Jews? And God reproved not Saint Peter
Himself for this fault, for that stimulation was a thing that had
to do with reason, and it was possible for him to know it by
rational means.
     15. Wherefore on the day of judgment God will punish for
their many faults and sins many souls with whom He may quite
habitually have held converse here below, and to whom He may have
given much light and virtue; for, as to those things that they
have known that they ought to do, they have been neglectful, and
have relied upon that converse that they have had with God and
upon the virtue that He has given them. And thus, as Christ says
in the Gospel, they will marvel at that time, saying: Domine,
Domine, nonne in nomine tuo prophetavimus, et in nomine tuo
daemonia ejecimus, et in nomine tuo virtutes multas fecimus?[420]
That is: Lord, Lord, were the prophecies that Thou spakest to us
perchance not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast we not
out devils? And in Thy name performed we not many miracles and
mighty works? And the Lord says that He will answer them in these
words: Et tunc confitebor illis, quia numquam novi vos: discedite
a me omnes qui operamini iniquitatem.[421] That is to say: Depart
from Me, ye workers of iniquity, for I never knew you. Of the
number of these was the prophet Balaam and others like to him,
who, though God spake with them and gave them thanks, were
sinners. But the Lord will likewise give their proportion of
reproof to His friends and chosen ones, with whom He communed
familiarly here below, as to the faults and sins of neglect that
they may have committed; whereof there was no need that God should
Himself warn them, since He had already warned them through the
natural reason and law that He had given to them.
     16. In concluding this part of my subject, therefore, I say,
and I infer from what has already been said, that anything, of
whatsoever kind, received by the soul through supernatural means,
must clearly and plainly, fully and simply, be at once
communicated to the spiritual director. For although there may
seem no reason to speak of it, or to spend time upon doing so,
since the soul is acting safely, as we have said, if it rejects it
and neither pays heed to it nor desires it -- especially if it be
a question of visions or revelations or other supernatural
communications, which are either quite clear or very nearly so --
nevertheless, it is very necessary to give an account of all
these, although it may seem to the soul that there is no reason
for so doing. And this for three causes. First, because, as we
have said, God communicates many things, the effect, power, light
and certainty whereof He confirms not wholly in the soul, until,
as we have said, the soul consults him whom God has given to it as
a spiritual judge, which is he that has the power to bind or to
loose, and to approve or to blame, as we have shown by means of
the passages quoted above; and we can show it clearly by
experience, for we see humble souls to whom these things come to
pass, and who, after discussing them with the proper persons,
experience a new satisfaction, power, light and certainty; so much
so that to some it seems that they have no effect upon them, nor
do they even belong to them, until they have communicated them to
the director, whereupon they are given to them anew.
     17. The second cause is that the soul habitually needs
instruction upon the things that come to pass within it, so that
it may be led by that means to spiritual poverty and detachment,
which is the dark night. For if it begins to relinquish this
instruction -- even when it desires not the things referred to --
it will gradually, without realizing it, become callous as it
treads the spiritual road, and draw near again to the road of
sense; and it is partly with respect to this that these distinct
things happen.
     18. The third cause is that, for the sake of the humility and
submission and mortification of the soul, it is well to relate
everything to the director, even though he make[422] no account of
it all and consider it of no importance. There are some souls who
greatly dislike speaking of such things, because they think them
to be unimportant, and know not how the person to whom they should
relate them will receive them; but this is lack of humility, and
for that very reason it is needful for them to submit themselves
and relate these things. And there are others who are very timid
in relating them, because they see no reason why they should have
these experiences, which seem to belong to saints, as well as
other things which they are sorry to have to describe; for which
cause they think there is no reason to speak of them because they
make no account of them; but for this very reason it is well for
them to mortify themselves and relate them, until in time they
come to speak of them humbly, unaffectedly, submissively and
readily, and after this they will always find it easy to do so.
     19. But, with respect to what has been said, it must be
pointed out that, although we have insisted so much that such
things should be set aside, and that confessors should not
encourage their penitents to discuss them, it is not well that
spiritual fathers should show displeasure in regard to them, or
should seek to avoid speaking of them or despise them, or make
their penitents reserved and afraid to mention them, for it would
be the means of causing them many inconveniences if the door were
closed upon their relating them. For, since they are a means and
manner whereby God guides such souls, there is no reason for
thinking ill of them or for being alarmed or scandalized by them;
but rather there is a reason for proceeding very quietly and
kindly, for encouraging these souls and giving them an opportunity
to speak of these things; if necessary, they must be exhorted to
speak; and, in view of the difficulty that some souls experience
in describing such matters, this is sometimes quite essential. Let
confessors direct their penitents into faith,[423] advising them
frankly to turn away their eyes from all such things, teaching
them how to void the desire and the spirit of them, so that they
may make progress, and giving them to understand how much more
precious in God's sight is one work or act of the will performed
in charity than are all the visions and communications that they
may receive from Heaven, since these imply neither merit nor
demerit. Let them point out, too, that many souls who have known
nothing of such things have made incomparably greater progress
than others who have received many of them.

                          CHAPTER XXIII

     Which begins to treat of the apprehensions of the
understanding that come in a purely spiritual way, and describes
their nature.

     ALTHOUGH the instruction that we have given with respect to
the apprehensions of the understanding which come by means of
sense is somewhat brief, in comparison with what might be said
about them, I have not desired to write of them at greater length;
I believe, indeed, that I have already been too lengthy for the
fulfillment of my present intention, which is to disencumber the
understanding of them and direct the soul into the night of faith.
Wherefore we shall now begin to treat of those other four
apprehensions of the understanding, which, as we said in the tenth
chapter,[424] are purely spiritual -- namely, visions, revelations,
locutions and spiritual feelings. These we call purely spiritual,
for they do not (as do those that are corporeal and imaginary)
communicate themselves to the understanding by way of the
corporeal senses; but, without the intervention of any inward or
outward corporeal sense, they present themselves to the
understanding, clearly and distinctly, by supernatural means,
passively -- that is to say, without the performance of any act or
operation on the part of the soul itself, at the least actively.
     2. It must be known, then, that, speaking broadly and in
general terms, all these four apprehensions may be called visions
of the soul; for we term the understanding of the soul also its
sight. And since all these apprehensions are intelligible to the
understanding, they are described, in a spiritual sense, as
'visible.' And thus the kinds of intelligence that are formed in
the understanding may be called intellectual visions. Now, since
all the objects of the other senses, which are all that can be
seen, and all that can be heard, and all that can be smelt and
tasted and touched, are objects of the understanding in so far as
they fall within the limits of truth or falsehood, it follows
that, just as to the eyes of the body all that is visible in a
bodily way causes bodily vision, even so, to the spiritual eyes of
the soul -- namely, the understanding -- all that is intelligible
causes spiritual vision; for, as we have said, for the soul to
understand is for it to see. And thus, speaking generally, we may
call these four apprehensions visions. This cannot be said,
however, of the other senses, for no one of them is capable, as
such, of receiving the object of another one.
     3. But, since these apprehensions present themselves to the
soul in the same way as they do to the various senses, it follows
that, speaking properly and specifically, we shall describe that
which the understanding receives by means of sight (because it can
see things spiritually, even as the eyes can see bodily) as a
vision; and that which it receives by apprehending and
understanding new things (as it were through the hearing, when it
hears things that are not heard) we describe as revelation; and
that which it receives by means of hearing we call locution; and
that which it receives through the other senses, such as the
perception of sweet spiritual fragrance, and spiritual taste and
of spiritual delight which the soul may joy supernaturally, we
call spiritual feelings. From all these the soul derives spiritual
vision or intelligence, without any kind of apprehension
concerning form, image or figure of natural fancy or imagination;
these things are communicated to the soul directly by supernatural
means and a supernatural process.
     4. Of these, likewise (even as we said of the other imaginary
corporeal apprehensions), it is well that we should here
disencumber the understanding, leading and directing it by means
of them into the spiritual night of faith, to the Divine and
substantial union of God; lest, by letting such things encumber
and stultify it, it should be hindered upon the road to solitude
and detachment from all things, which is necessary to that end.
For, although these apprehensions are nobler and more profitable
and much more certain than those which are corporeal and
imaginary, inasmuch as they are interior and purely spiritual, and
are those which the devil is least able to counterfeit, since they
are communicated to the soul more purely and subtly without any
effort of its own or of the imagination, at least actively, yet
not only may the understanding be encumbered by them upon this
road, but it is possible for it, through its own imprudence, to be
sorely deceived.
     5. And although, in one sense, we might conclude with these
four kinds of apprehension, by treating them all together and
giving advice which applies to them all, as we have given
concerning all the others -- namely, that they should neither be
desired nor aspired to -- yet, since we shall presently throw more
light upon the way in which this is to be done, and certain things
will be said in connection with them, it will be well to treat of
each one of them in particular, and thus we shall now speak of the
first apprehensions, which are intellectual or spiritual visions.

                          CHAPTER XXIV

     Which treats of two kinds of spiritual vision that come

     SPEAKING now strictly of those visions which are spiritual,
and are received without the intervention of any bodily sense, I
say that there are two kinds of vision than can be received by the
understanding: the one kind is of corporeal substances; the other,
of incorporeal or separated substances. The corporeal visions have
respect to all material things that are in Heaven and on earth,
which the soul is able to see, even while it is still in the body,
by the aid of a certain supernatural illumination, derived from
God, wherein it is able to see all things that are not present,

both in Heaven and on earth, even as Saint John saw, as we read in
the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse, where he describes and
relates the excellence of the celestial Jerusalem, which he saw in
Heaven. Even so, again, we read of Saint Benedict that in a
spiritual vision he saw the whole world.[425] This vision, says
Saint Thomas in the first of his Quodlibets, was in the light that
is derived from above, as we have said.
     2. The other visions, which are of incorporeal substances,
cannot be seen by the aid of this derived illumination, whereof we
are here speaking, but only by another and a higher illumination
which is called the illumination of glory. And thus these visions
of incorporeal substances, such as angels and soul, are not of
this life, neither can they be seen in the mortal body; for, if
God were pleased to communicate them to the soul, in essence as
they are, the soul would at once go forth from the flesh and would
be loosed from this mortal life. For this reason God said to
Moses, when he entreated Him to show him His Essence: Non videbit
me homo, et vivet.[426] That is: Man shall not see Me and be able to
remain alive. Wherefore, when the children of Israel thought that
they were to see God, or had seen Him, or some angel, they feared
death, as we read in the Book of Exodus, where, fearing these
things, they said: Non loquatur nobis Dominus, ne forte
moriamur.[427] As if they had said: Let not God communicate Himself
to us openly, lest we die. And likewise in the Book of Judges,
Manue, father of Samson, thought that he and his wife had seen in
essence the angel who spake with them (and who had appeared to
them in the form of a most beautiful man) and he said to his wife:
Morte moriemur, quida vidimus Dominum.[428] Which signifies: We
shall die, because we have seen the Lord.[429]
     3. And thus these visions occur not in this life, save
occasionally and fleetingly, when, making an exception to the
conditions which govern our natural life, God so allows it. At
such times He totally withdraws the spirit from this life, and the
natural functions of the body are supplied by His favour. This is
why, at the time when it is thought that Saint Paul saw these
(namely, the incorporeal substances in the third heaven), that
Saint says: Sive in corpore, nescio, sive extra corpus, nescio,
Deus scit.[430] That is, he was raptured, and of that which he saw
he says that he knows not if it was in the body or out of the
body, but that God knows. Herein it is clearly seen that the
limits of natural means of communication were passed, and that
this was the work of God. Likewise, it is believed that God showed
His Essence to Moses, for we read that God said to him that He
would set him in the cleft of the rock, and would protect him, by
covering him with His right hand, and protecting him so that he
should not die when His glory passed; the which glory passed
indeed, and was shown to him fleetingly, and the natural life of
Moses was protected by the right hand of God.[431] But these visions
that were so substantial -- like that of Saint Paul and Moses, and
that of our father Elias, when he covered his face at the gentle
whisper of God -- although they are fleeting, occur only very
rarely -- indeed, hardly ever and to very few; for God performs
such a thing in those that are very strong in the spirit of the
Church and the law of God, as were the three men named above.
     4. But, although these visions of spiritual substances cannot
be unveiled and be clearly seen in this life by the understanding,
they can nevertheless be felt in the substance of the soul, with
the sweetest touches and unions, all of which belongs to spiritual
feelings, whereof, with the Divine favour, we shall treat
presently; for our pen is being directed and guided to these --
that is to say, to the Divine bond and union of the soul with
Divine Substance. We shall speak of this when we treat of the dark
and confused mystical understanding which remains to be described,
wherein we shall show how, by means of this dark and loving
knowledge, God is united with the soul in a lofty and Divine
degree;[432] for, after some manner, this dark and loving knowledge,
which is faith, serves as a means to Divine union in this life,
even as, in the next life, the light of glory serves as an
intermediary to the clear vision of God.
     5. Let us, then, now treat of the visions of corporeal
substances, received spiritually in the soul, which come after the
manner of bodily visions. For, just as the eyes see bodily visions
by means of natural light, even so does the soul, through the
understanding, by means of supernaturally derived light, as we
have said, see those same natural things inwardly, together with
others, as God wills; the difference between the two kinds of
vision is only in the mode and manner of them. For spiritual and
intellectual visions are much clearer and subtler than those which
pertain to the body. For, when God is pleased to grant this favour
to the soul, He communicates to it that supernatural light whereof
we speak, wherein the soul sees the things that God wills it to
see, easily and most clearly, whether they be of Heaven or of
earth, and the absence or presence of them is no hindrance to the
vision. And it is at times as though a door were opened before it
into a great brightness, through which the soul sees a light,
after the manner of a lightning flash, which, on a dark night,
reveals things suddenly, and causes them to be clearly and
distinctly seen, and then leaves them in darkness, although the
forms and figures of them remain in the fancy. This comes to pass
much more perfectly in the soul, because those things that the
spirit has seen in that light remain impressed upon it in such a
way that whensoever it observes them it sees them in itself as it
saw them before; even as in a mirror the forms that are in it are
seen whensoever a man looks in it, and in such a way that those
forms of the things that he has seen are never wholly removed from
his soul, although in course of time they become somewhat remote.
     6. The effect which these visions produce in the soul is that
of quiet, illumination, joy like that of glory, sweetness, purity
and love, humility and inclination or elevation of the spirit in
God; sometimes more so, at other times less; with sometimes more
of one thing, at other times more of another, according to the
spirit wherein they are received and according as God wills.
     7. The devil likewise can produce these visions, by means of
a certain natural light, whereby he brings things clearly before
the mind, through spiritual suggestion, whether they be present or
absent. There is that passage in Saint Matthew, which says of the
devil and Christ: Ostendit omnia regna mundi, et gloriam eorum.[433]
That is so say: He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and
the glory of them. Concerning this certain doctors say that he did
it by spiritual suggestion,[434] for it was not possible to make Him
see so much with the bodily eyes as all the kingdoms of the world
and the glory of them. But there is much difference between these
visions that are caused by the devil and those that are of God.
For the effects produced in the soul by the devil's visions are
not like those produced by good visions; the former produce
aridity of spirit as to communion with God and an inclination to
esteem oneself highly, and to receive and set store by the visions
aforesaid, and in no wise do they produce the gentleness of
humility and love of God. Neither do the forms of such visions
remain impressed upon the soul with the sweetness and brightness
of the others; nor do they last, but are quickly effaced from the
soul, save when the soul greatly esteems them, in which case this
high esteem itself causes it to recall them naturally, but with
great aridity of spirit, and without producing that effect of love
and humility which is produced by good visions when the soul
recalls them.
     8. These visions, inasmuch as they are of creatures,
wherewith God has no essential conformity or proportion, cannot
serve the understanding as a proximate means to union with God.
And thus the soul must conduct itself in a purely negative way
concerning them, as in the other things that we have described, in
order that it may progress by the proximate means -- namely, by
faith. Wherefore the soul must make no store of treasure of the
forms of such visions as remain impressed upon it, neither must it
lean upon them; for to do this would be to be encumbered with
those forms, images and persons which remain inwardly within it,
and thus the soul would not progress toward God by denying itself
all things. For, even if these forms should be permanently set
before the soul, they will not greatly hinder this progress, if
the soul has no desire to set store by them. For, although it is
true that the remembrance of them impels the soul to a certain
love of God and contemplation, yet it is impelled and exalted much
more by pure faith and detachment in darkness from them all,
without its knowing how or whence it comes to it. And thus it will
come to pass that the soul will go forward, enkindled with
yearnings of purest love for God, without knowing whence they come
to it, or on what they are founded. The fact is that, while faith
has become ever more deeply rooted and infused in the soul by
means of that emptiness and darkness and detachment from all
things, or spiritual poverty, all of which may be spoken of as one
and the same thing, at the same time the charity of God has become
rooted and infused in the soul ever more deeply also. Wherefore,
the more the soul desires obscurity and annihilation with respect
to all the outward or inward things that it is capable of
receiving, the more is it infused by faith, and, consequently, by
love and hope, since all these three theological virtues go
     9. But at certain times the soul neither understands this
love nor feels it; for this love resides, not in sense, with its
tender feelings, but in the soul, with fortitude and with a
courage and daring that are greater than they were before, though
sometimes it overflows into sense and produces gentle and tender
feelings. Wherefore, in order to attain to that love, joy and
delight which such visions produce and cause in the soul, it is
well that soul should have fortitude and mortification and love,
so that it may desire to remain in emptiness and darkness as to
all things, and to build its love and joy upon that which it
neither sees nor feels, neither can see nor feel in this life,
which is God, Who is incomprehensible and transcends all things.
It is well, then, for us to journey to Him by denying ourselves
everything. For otherwise, even if the soul be so wise, humble and
strong that the devil cannot deceive it by visions or cause it to
fall into some sin of presumption, as he is wont to do, he will
not allow it to make progress; for he set obstacles in the way of
spiritual detachment and poverty of spirit and emptiness in faith,
which is the essential condition for union of the soul with God.
     10. And, as the same teaching that we gave in the nineteenth
and twentieth chapters, concerning supernatural apprehensions and
visions of sense, holds good for these visions, we shall not spend
more time here in describing them.

                           CHAPTER XXV

     Which treats of revelations, describing their nature and
making a distinction between them.

     ACCORDING to the order which we are here following, we have
next to treat of the second kind of spiritual apprehension, which
we have described above as revelations, and which properly belongs
to the spirit of prophecy. With respect to this, it must first be
known that revelation is naught else than the discovery of some
hidden truth or the manifestation of some secret or mystery. Thus
God may cause the soul to understand something by making clear to
the understanding the truth concerning it, or He may reveal to the
soul certain things which He is doing or proposes to do.
     2. Accordingly, we may say that there are two kinds of
revelation. The first is the disclosure to the understanding of
truths which are properly called intellectual knowledge or
intelligence; the second is the manifestation of secrets, which
are called revelations with more propriety than the others. For
the first kind cannot strictly be called revelations, since they
consist in this, that God causes the soul to understand naked
truths, not only with respect to temporal things, but likewise
with respect to spiritual things, revealing them to the soul
clearly and openly. These I have desired to treat under the
heading of revelations: first, because they have close kinship and
similarity with them: secondly, in order not to multiply
     3. According to this method, then, we shall now be well able
to divide revelations into two kinds of apprehension. The one kind
we shall call intellectual knowledge, and the other, the
manifestation of secrets and hidden mysteries of God. With these
we shall conclude in two chapters as briefly as we may, and in
this chapter following we shall treat of the first.

                          CHAPTER XXVI

     Which treats of the intuition of naked truths in the
understanding, explaining how they are of two kinds and how the
soul is to conduct itself with respect to them.

     IN order to speak properly of this intuition of naked truths
which is conveyed to the understanding, the writer would need God
to take his hand and to guide his pen; for know, dear reader, that
what they are to the soul cannot be expressed in words. But, since
I speak not of them here of set purpose, but only that through
them I may instruct the soul and lead it to Divine union, I shall
suffer myself to speak of them here in a brief and modified form,
as is sufficient for the fulfillment of that intention.
     2. This kind of vision (or, to speak more properly, of
knowledge of naked truths) is very different from that of which we
have just spoken in the twenty-fourth chapter. For it is not like
seeing bodily things with the understanding; it consists rather in
comprehending and seeing with the understanding the truths of God,
whether of things that are, that have been or that will be, which
is in close conformity with the spirit of prophecy, as perchance
we shall explain hereafter.
     3. Here it is to be observed that this kind of knowledge is
distinguishable according to two divisions: the one kind comes to
the soul with respect to the Creator; the other with respect to
creatures, as we have said. And, although both kinds are very
delectable to the soul, yet the delight caused in it by the kind
that relates to God is comparable to nothing whatsoever, and there
are no words or terms wherein it can be described. This kind of
knowledge is of God Himself, and the delight is in God Himself,
whereof David says: 'There is naught soever like to Him.'[435] For
this kind of knowledge comes to the soul in direct relation to
God, when the soul, after a most lofty manner, has a perception of
some attribute of God -- of His omnipotence, of His might, of His
goodness and sweetness, etc.; and, whensoever it has such a
perception, that which is perceived cleaves to the soul. Inasmuch
as this is pure contemplation, the soul clearly sees that there is
no way wherein it can say aught concerning it, save to speak in
certain general terms, of the abundance of delight and blessing
which it has felt, and this is expressed by souls that experience
it; but not to the end that what the soul has experienced and
perceived may be wholly apprehended.
     4. And thus David, speaking for himself when something of
this kind had happened to him, used only common and general terms,
saying: Judicia Domini vera, justificata in semetipsa.
Desiderabilia super aurum et lapidem pretiosum multum; et dulciora
super mel et favum.[436] Which signifies: The judgments of God --
that is, the virtues and attributes which we perceive in God --
are in themselves true, justified, more to be desired than gold
and very much more than precious stones, and sweeter than the
honeycomb and honey. And concerning Moses we read that, when God
gave him a most lofty manifestation of knowledge from Himself on
an occasion when He passed before him, he said only that which can
be expressed in the common terms above mentioned. And it was so
that, when the Lord passed before him in that manifestation of
knowledge, Moses quickly prostrated himself upon the ground,
saying: Dominator Domine Deus, misericors et clemens, patiens, et
multae miserationis, ac verax. Qui custodis misericordiam in
millia.[437] Which signifies: Ruler,[438] Lord, God, merciful and
clement, patient, and of great compassion, and true, that keepest
mercy promised unto thousands. Here it is seen that Moses could
not express that which he had learned from God in one single
manifestation of knowledge, and therefore he expressed and gave
utterance to it in all these words. And although at times, when
such knowledge is given to a soul, words are used, the soul is
well aware that it has expressed no part of what it has felt; for
it knows that there is no fit name by which it can name it. And
thus Saint Paul, when he was granted that lofty knowledge of God,
made no attempt to describe it, saying only that it was not lawful
for man to speak of it.
     5. These Divine manifestations of knowledge which have
respect to God never relate to particular matters, inasmuch as
they concern the Chief Beginning, and therefore can have no
particular reference, unless it be a question of some truth
concerning a thing less than God, which is involved in the
perception of the whole; but these Divine manifestations
themselves -- no, in no way whatsoever. And these lofty
manifestations of knowledge can come only to the soul that attains
to union with God, for they are themselves that union; and to
receive them is equivalent to a certain contact with the Divinity
which the soul experiences, and thus it is God Himself Who is
perceived and tasted therein. And, although He cannot be
experienced manifestly and clearly, as in glory, this touch of
knowledge and delight is nevertheless so sublime and profound that
it penetrates the substance of the soul, and the devil cannot
meddle with it or produce any manifestation like to it, for there
is no such thing, neither is there aught that compares with it,
neither can he infuse pleasure or delight that is like to it; for
such kinds of knowledge savour of the Divine Essence and of
eternal life, and the devil cannot counterfeit a thing so lofty.
     6. Nevertheless he might make some pretence of imitating it,
by representing to the soul certain great matters and things which
enchant the senses and can readily be perceived by them, and
endeavoring to persuade the soul that these are God; but he cannot
do this in such wise that they enter into the substance of the
soul and of a sudden renew it and enkindle it with love, as do the
manifestations of God. For there are certain kinds of knowledge,
and certain of these touches effected by God in the substance of
the soul, which enrich it after such wise that not only does one
of them suffice to take from the soul once and for all the whole
of the imperfections that it had itself been unable to throw off
during its whole life, but it leaves the soul full of virtues and
blessings from God.
     7. And these touches are so delectable to the soul, and the
delight they produce is so intimate, that if it received only one
of them it would consider itself well rewarded for all the trials
that it had suffered in this life, even had they been innumerable;
and it is so greatly encouraged and given such energy to suffer
many things for God's sake that it suffers especially in seeing
that it is not suffering more.
     8. The soul cannot attain to these lofty degrees of knowledge
by means of any comparison or imagination of its own, because they
are loftier than all these; and so God works them in the soul
without making use of its own capacities. Wherefore, at certain
times, when the soul is least thinking of it and least desiring
it, God is wont to give it these Divine touches, by causing it
certain remembrances of Himself. And these are sometimes suddenly
caused in the soul by its mere recollection of certain things --
sometimes of very small things. And they are so readily perceived
that at times they cause not only the soul, but also the body, to
tremble. But at other times they come to pass in the spirit when
it is very tranquil, without any kind of trembling, but with a
sudden sense of delight and spiritual refreshment.
     9. At other times, again, they come when the soul repeats or
hears some word, perhaps from Scripture or possibly from some
other source; but they are not always equally efficacious and
sensible, for oftentimes they are extremely faint; yet, however
faint they may be, one of these recollections and touches of God
is more profitable to the soul than many other kinds of knowledge
or many meditations upon the creatures and the works of God. And,
since these manifestations of knowledge come to the soul suddenly,
and independently of its own free will, it must neither desire to
have them, nor desire not to have them; but must merely be humble
and resigned concerning them, and God will perform His work how
and when He wills.
     10. And I say not that the soul should behave in the same
negative manner with regard to these apprehensions as with regard
to the rest, for, as we have said, they are a part of the union
towards which we are leading the soul, to which end we are
teaching it to detach and strip itself of all other apprehensions.
And the means by which God will do this must be humility and
suffering for love of God with resignation as regards all reward;
for these favours are not granted to the soul which still
cherishes attachments, inasmuch as they are granted through a very
special love of God toward the soul which loves Him likewise with
great detachment. It is to this that the Son of God referred, in
Saint John, when He said: Qui autem diligit rag, diligetur a Patre
meo, et ego diligam eum, et manifestabo ei me ipsum.[439] Which
signifies: He that loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I
will love him and will manifest Myself to him. Herein are included
the kinds of knowledge and touches to which we are referring,
which God manifests to the soul that truly loves Him.
     11. The second kind of knowledge or vision of interior truths
is very different from this that we have described, since it is of
things lower than God. And herein is included the perception of
the truth of things in themselves, and that of the events and
happenings which come to pass among men. And this knowledge is of
such a kind that, when the soul learns these truths, they sink
into it, independently of any suggestion from without, to such an
extent that, although it may be given a different interpretation
of them, it cannot make inward assent to this, even though it
endeavor to do so by putting forth a great effort; for within the
spirit it is learning otherwise through the spirit that is
teaching it that thing, which is equivalent to seeing it clearly.
This pertains to the spirit of prophecy and to the grace which
Saint Paul calls the gift of the discernment of spirits.[440] Yet,
although the soul holds something which it understands to be quite
certain and true, as we have said, and although it may be unable
to cease giving it that passive interior consent, it must not
therefore cease to believe and to give the consent of reason to
that which its spiritual director tells it and commands it, even
though this may be quite contrary to its own feelings, so that it
may be directed in faith to Divine union, to which a soul must
journey by believing rather than by understanding.
     12. Concerning both these things we have clear testimonies in
Scripture. For, with respect to the spiritual knowledge of things
that may be acquired, the Wise Man says these words: Ipse dedit
mihi horum, quae sunt, scientiam veram, ut sciam dispositionem
orbis terrarum, et virtutes elementorum, initium et consummationem
temporum, viccissitudinum permutationes, et consummationes
temporum, et morum mutationes, divisiones temporum, et anni
cursus, et stellarum dispositiones, naturas animalium et iras
bestiarum, vim ventorum, et cogitationes hominum, differentias
virgultorum, et virtutes radicum, et quaecumque sunt abscondita,
et improvisa didici: omnium enim artifex docuit me sapientia.[441]
Which signifies: God hath given me true knowledge of things that
are: to know the disposition of the round world[442] and the virtues
of the elements; the beginning, and ending, and midst of the
times, the alterations in the changes and the consummations of the
seasons, and the changes of customs, the divisions of the seasons,
the courses of the year and the dispositions of the stars; the
natures of animals, and the furies of the beasts, the strength and
virtue of the winds, and the thoughts of men; the diversities in
plants and trees and the virtues of roots and all things that are
hidden, and those that are not foreseen: all these I learned, for
Wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me. And although
this knowledge which the Wise Man here says that God gave him
concerning all things was infused and general, the passage quoted
furnishes sufficient evidence for all particular kinds of
knowledge which God infuses into souls, by supernatural means,
when He wills. And this not that He may give them a general habit
of knowledge as He gave to Solomon in the matters aforementioned;
but that He may reveal to them at times certain truths with
respect to any of all these things that the Wise Man here
enumerates. Although it is true that into many souls Our Lord
infuses habits which relate to many things, yet these are never of
so general a kind as they were in the case of Solomon. The
differences between them are like to those between the gifts
distributed by God which are enumerated by Saint Paul; among these
he sets wisdom, knowledge, faith, prophecy, discernment or
knowledge of spirits, understanding of tongues, interpretation of
spoken words, etc.[443] All these kinds of knowledge are infused
habits, which God gives freely to whom He will, whether naturally
or supernaturally; naturally, as to Balaam, to other idolatrous
prophets and to many sybils, to whom He gave the spirit of
prophecy; and supernaturally, as to the holy prophets and apostles
and other saints.
     13. But over and above these habits or graces freely
bestowed,[444] what we say is that persons who are perfect or are
making progress in perfection are wont very commonly to receive
enlightenment and knowledge of things present or absent; these
they know through their spirit, which is already enlightened and
purged. We can interpret that passage from the Proverbs in this
sense, namely: Quomodo in aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium
sic corda hominum manifesta sunt proudentibus.[445] Even as there
appear in the waters the faces of those that look therein, so the
hearts of men are manifest to the prudent. This is understood of
those that have the wisdom of saints, which the sacred Scripture
calls prudence. And in this way these spirits sometimes learn of
other things also, although not whensoever they will; for this
belongs only to those that have the habit, and even to these it
belongs not always and with respect to all things, for it depends
upon God's will to help them.
     14. But it must be known that those whose spirits are purged
can learn by natural means with great readiness, and some more
readily than others, that which is in the inward spirit or heart,
and the inclinations and talents of men, and this by outward
indications, albeit very slight ones, as words, movements and
other signs. For, even as the devil can do this, since he is
spirit, even so likewise can the spiritual man, according to the
words of the Apostle, who says: Spiritualis autem judicat
omnia.[446] 'He that is spiritual judgeth all things.' And again he
says: Spiritus enim omnia scrutatur, etiam profunda Dei.[447] 'The
spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.'
Wherefore, although spiritual persons cannot by nature know
thoughts, or things that are in the minds of others,[448] they may
well interpret them through supernatural enlightenment or by
signs. And, although they may often be deceived in their
interpretation of signs, they are more generally correct. Yet we
must trust neither to the one means nor to the other, for the
devil meddles herein greatly, and with much subtlety, as we shall
afterwards say, and thus we must ever renounce such kinds of
     15. And that spiritual persons may have knowledge of the
deeds and happenings of men, even though they be elsewhere, we
have witness and example in the Fourth Book of the Kings, where
Giezi, the servant of our father Eliseus, desired to hide from him
the money which he had received from Naaman the Syrian, and
Eliseus said: Nonne cor meum in praesenti erat, quando reversus
est homo de curru suo in occursum tui?[449] 'Was not my heart
perchance present, when Naaman turned back from his chariot and
went to meet thee? This happens spiritually; the spirit sees it as
though it were happening in its presence. And the same thing is
proved in the same book, where we read likewise of the same
Eliseus, that, knowing all that the King of Syria did with his
princes in his privy chamber, he told it to the King of Israel,
and thus the counsels of the King of Syria were of no effect; so
much so that, when the King of Syria saw that all was known, he
said to his people: Why do ye not tell me which of you is
betraying me to the King of Israel? And then one of his servants
said: Nequaquam, Domine mi Rex, sed Eliseus Propheta, qui est in
Israel, indicat Regi Israel omnia verba, quaecumque locutus fueris
in conclavi tuo.[450] 'It is not so, my lord, O King, but Eliseus,
the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel all the
words that thou speakest in thy privy chamber.'
     16. Both kinds of this knowledge of things, as well as other
kinds of knowledge, come to pass in the soul passively, so that
for its own part it does naught. For it will come to pass that,
when a person is inattentive to a matter and it is far from his
mind, there will come to him a vivid understanding of what he is
hearing or reading, and that much more clearly than could be
conveyed by the sound of the words; and at times, though he
understand not the words, as when they are in Latin and he knows
not that tongue, the knowledge of their meaning comes to him,
despite his not understanding them.
     17. With regard to the deceptions which the devil can bring
about, and does bring about, concerning this kind of knowledge and
understanding, there is much that might be said, for the
deceptions which he effects in this way are very great and very
difficult to unmask. Inasmuch as, through suggestion, he can
represent to the soul many kinds of intellectual knowledge and
implant them so firmly that it appears impossible that they should
not be true, he will certainly cause the soul to believe
innumerable falsehoods if it be not humble and cautious. For
suggestion has sometimes great power over the soul, above all when
it is to some extent aided by the weakness of sense, causing the
knowledge which it conveys to sink into the soul with such great
power, persuasiveness and determination that the soul needs to
give itself earnestly to prayer and to exert great strength if it
is to cast it off. For at times the devil is accustomed to
represent to the soul the sins of others, and evil consciences and
evil souls, falsely but very vividly, and all this he does to harm
the soul, trusting that it may spread abroad his revelations, and
that thus more sins may be committed, for which reason he fills
the soul with zeal by making it believe that these revelations are
granted it so that it may commend the persons concerned to God.
Now, though it is true that God sometimes sets before holy souls
the necessities of their neighbours, so that they may commend them
to God or relieve them, even as we read that He revealed to
Jeremias the weakness of the prophet Baruch, that he might give
him counsel concerning it,[451] yet it is more often the devil who
does this, and speaks falsely about it, in order to cause infamy,
sin and discouragement, whereof we have very great experience. And
at other times he implants other kinds of knowledge with great
assurance, and persuades the soul to believe them.
     18. Such knowledge as this, whether it be of God or no, can
be of very little assistance to the progress of the soul on its
journey to God if the soul desire it and be attached to it; on the
contrary, if it were not scrupulous in rejecting it, not only
would it be hindered on its road, but it would even be greatly
harmed and led far astray. For all the perils and inconveniences
which, as we have said, may be involved in the supernatural
apprehensions whereof we have treated up to this point, may occur
here, and more also. I will not, therefore, treat more fully of
this matter here, since sufficient instruction about it has
already been given in past chapters; I will only say that the soul
must always be very scrupulous in rejecting these things, and seek
to journey to God by the way of unknowing; and must ever relate
its experiences to its spiritual confessor, and be ever attentive
to his counsel. Let the confessor guide the soul past this, laying
no stress upon it, for it is of no kind of importance for the road
to union; for when these things are granted to the soul passively
they always leave in it such effect as God wills shall remain,
without necessity for the soul to exert any diligence in the
matter. And thus it seems to me that there is no reason to
describe here either the effect which is produced by true
knowledge, or that which comes from false knowledge, for this
would be wearisome and never-ending. For the effects of this
knowledge cannot all be described in a brief instruction, the
knowledge being great and greatly varied, and its effects being so
likewise, since good knowledge produces good effects, and evil
knowledge, evil effects, etc. In saying that all should be
rejected, we have said sufficient for the soul not to go astray.

                          CHAPTER XXVII

     Which treats of the second kind of revelation, namely, the
disclosure of hidden secrets. Describes the way in which these may
assist the soul toward union with God, and the way in which they
may be a hindrance; and how the devil may deceive the soul greatly
in this matter.

     WE were saying that the second kind of revelation was the
manifestation of hidden mysteries and secrets. This may come to
pass in two ways. The first with respect to that which God is in
Himself, wherein is included the revelation of the mystery of the
Most Holy Trinity and Unity of God. The second is with respect to
that which God is in His works, and herein are included the other
articles of our Catholic faith, and the propositions deducible
from them which may be laid down explicitly as truths. In these
are included and comprised a great number of the revelations of
the prophets, of promises and threatenings of God, and of other
things which have happened and shall happen concerning this matter
of faith. Under this second head we may also include many other
particular things which God habitually reveals, both concerning
the universe in general as also in particular concerning kingdoms,
provinces and states and families and particular persons. Of these
we have examples in abundance in the Divine writings, both of the
one kind and of the other, especially in all the Prophets, wherein
are found revelations of all these kinds. As this is a clear and
plain matter, I will not here spend time in quoting these
examples, but will only say that these revelations do not come to
pass by word alone, but that God gives them in many ways and
manners, sometimes by word alone, sometimes by signs and figures
alone, and by images and similitudes alone, sometimes in more than
one way at once, as is likewise to be seen in the Prophets,
particularly throughout the Apocalypse, where we find not only all
the kinds of revelation which we have described, but likewise the
ways and manners to which we are here referring.
     2. As to these revelations which are included under our
second head, God grants them still in our time to whom He will. He
is wont, for example, to reveal to some persons how many days they
still have to live, or what trials they are to suffer, or what is
to befall such and such a person, or such and such a kingdom, etc.
And even as regards the mysteries of our faith, He will reveal and

expound to the spirit the truths concerning them, although, since
this has already been revealed once, it is not properly to be
termed revelation, but is more correctly a manifestation or
explanation of what has been revealed already.
     3. In this kind of revelation the devil may meddle freely.
For, as revelations of this nature come ordinarily through words,
figures and similitudes, etc., the devil may very readily
counterfeit others like them, much more so than when the
revelations are in spirit alone. Wherefore, if with regard to the
first and the second kind of revelation which we are here
describing, as touching our faith, there be revealed to us
anything new, or different, we must in no wise give our consent to
it, even though we had evidence that it was spoken by an angel
from Heaven. For even so says Saint Paul, in these words: Licet
nos, gut Angelus de coelo evangelizet vobis praeterquam quod
evangelizavimus vobis, anathema sit.[452] Which signifies: Even
though an angel from Heaven declare or preach unto you aught else
than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema.
     4. Since, then, there are no more articles to be revealed
concerning the substance of our faith than those which have
already been revealed to the Church, not only must anything new
which may be revealed to the soul concerning this be rejected, but
it behoves the soul to be cautious and pay no heed to any
novelties implied therein, and for the sake of the purity of the
soul it behoves it to rely on faith alone. Even though the truths
already revealed to it be revealed again, it will believe them,
not because they are now revealed anew, but because they have
already been sufficiently revealed to the Church: indeed, it must
close its understanding to them, holding simply to the doctrine of
the Church and to its faith, which, as Saint Paul says, enters
through hearing.[453] And let not its credence and intellectual
assent be given to these matters of the faith which have been
revealed anew, however fitting and true they may seem to it, if it
desire not to be deceived. For, in order to deceive the soul and
to instil falsehoods into it, the devil first feeds it with truths
and things that are probable in order to give it assurance and
afterwards to deceive it. He resembles one that sews leather with
a bristle, first piercing the leather with the sharp bristle,
after which enters the soft thread; the thread could not enter
unless the bristle guided it.
     5. And let this be considered carefully; for, even were it
true that there was no peril in such deception, yet it greatly
behoves the soul not to desire to understand clearly things that
have respect to the faith, so that it may preserve the merit of
faith, in its purity and entirety, and likewise that it may come,
in this night of the understanding, to the Divine light of Divine
union. And it is equally necessary to consider any new revelation
with ones eyes closed, and holding fast the prophecies of old, for
the Apostle Saint Peter, though he had seen the glory of the Son
of God after some manner on Mount Tabor, wrote, in his canonical
epistle, these words: Et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem;
cui bene factitis attendentes, etc.[454] Which is as though he had
said: Although the vision that we have seen of Christ on the Mount
is true, the word of the prophecy that is revealed to us is firmer
and surer, and, if ye rest your soul upon it, ye do well.
     6. And if it is true that, for the reasons already described,
it behoves the soul to close its eyes to the aforementioned
revelations which come to it, and which concern the propositions
of the faith, how much more necessary will it be neither to
receive nor to give credit to other revelations relating to
different things, wherein the devil habitually meddles so freely
that I believe it impossible for a man not to be deceived in many
of them unless he strive to reject them, such an appearance of
truth and security does the devil give them? For he brings
together so many appearances and probabilities, in order that they
may be believed, and plants them so firmly in the sense and the
imagination, that it seems to the person affected that what he
says will certainly happen; and in such a way does he cause the
soul to grasp and hold them, that, if it have not humility, it
will hardly be persuaded to reject them and made to believe the
contrary. Wherefore, the soul that is pure, cautious, simple and
humble must resist revelations and other visions with as much
effort and care as though they were very perilous temptations. For
there is no need to desire them; on the contrary, there is need
not too desire them, if we are to reach the union of love. It is
this that Solomon meant when he said: 'What need has a man to
desire and seek things that are above his natural capacity?'[455] As
though we were to say: He has no necessity, in order to be
perfect, to desire supernatural things by supernatural means,
which are above his capacity.
     7. And as the objections that can be made to this have
already been answered, in the nineteenth and twentieth chapter of
this book, I refer the reader to these, saying only that the soul
must keep itself from all revelations in order to journey, in
purity and without error, in the night of faith, to union.

                         CHAPTER XXVIII

     Which treats of interior locutions that may come to the
spirit supernaturally. Says of what kinds they are.

     THE discreet reader has ever need to bear in mind the intent
and end which I have in this book, which is the direction of the
soul, through all its apprehensions, natural and supernatural,
without deception or hindrance, in purity of faith, to Divine
union with God. If he does this, he will understand that, although
with respect to apprehensions of the soul and the doctrine that I
am expounding I give not such copious instruction neither do I
particularize so much or make so many divisions as the
understanding perchance requires, I am not being over-brief in
this matter. For with respect to all this I believe that
sufficient cautions, explanations and instructions are given for
the soul to be enabled to behave prudently in every contingency,
outward or inward, so as to make progress. And this is the reason
why I have so briefly dismissed the subject of prophetic
apprehensions and the other subjects allied to it; for there is so
much more to be said of each of them, according to the differences
and the ways and manners that are wont to be observed in each,
that I believe one could never know it all perfectly. I am content
that, as I believe, the substance and the doctrine thereof have
been given, and the soul has been warned of the caution which it
behoves it to exercise in this respect, and also concerning all
other things of the same kind that may come to pass within it.
     2. I will now follow the same course with regard to the third
kind of apprehension, which, we said, was that of supernatural
locutions, which are apt to come to the spirits of spiritual
persons without the intervention of any bodily sense. These,
although they are of many kinds, may, I believe, all be reduced to
three, namely: successive, formal and substantial. I describe as
successive certain words and arguments which the spirit is wont to
form and fashion when it is inwardly recollected. Formal words are
certain clear and distinct words[456] which the spirit receives, not
from itself, but from a third person, sometimes when it is
recollected and sometimes when it is not. Substantial words are
others which also come to the spirit formally, sometimes when it
is recollected and sometimes when it is not; these cause in the
substance of the soul that substance and virtue which they
signify. All these we shall here proceed to treat in their order.

                          CHAPTER XXIX

     Which treats of the first kind of words that the recollected
spirit sometimes forms within itself. Describes the cause of these
and the profit and the harm which there may be in them.

     These successive words always come when the spirit is
recollected and absorbed very attentively in some meditation; and,
in its reflections upon that same matter whereon it is thinking,
it proceeds from one stage to another, forming words and arguments
which are very much to the point, with great facility and
distinctiveness, and by means of its reasoning discovers things
which it knew not with respect to the subject of its reflections,
so that it seems not to be doing this itself, but rather it seems
that another person is supplying the reasoning within its mind or
answering its questions or teaching it. And in truth it has good
cause for thinking this, for the soul itself is reasoning with
itself and answering itself as though it were two persons
convening together; and in some ways this is really so; for,
although it is the spirit itself that works as an instrument, the
Holy Spirit oftentimes aids it to produce and form those true
reasonings, words and conceptions. And thus it utters them to
itself as though to a third person. For, as at that time the
understanding is recollected and united with the truth of that
whereon it is thinking, and the Divine Spirit is likewise united
with it in that truth, as it is always united in all truth, it
follows that, when the understanding communicates in this way with
the Divine Spirit by means of this truth, it begins to form within
itself, successively, those other truths which are connected with
that whereon it is thinking, the door being opened to it and
illumination being given to it continually by the Holy Spirit Who
teaches it. For this is one of the ways wherein the Holy Spirit
     2. And when the understanding is illumined and taught in this
way by this master, and comprehends these truths, it begins of its
own accord to form the words which relate to the truths that are
communicated to it from elsewhere. So that we may say that the
voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hand of Esau.[457]
And one that is in this condition will be unable to believe that
this is so, but will think that the sayings and the words come
from a third person. For such a one knows not the facility with
which the understanding can form words inwardly, as though they
came from a third person, and having reference to conceptions and
truths which have in fact been communicated to it by a third
     3. And although it is true that, in this communication and
enlightenment of the understanding, no deception is produced in
the soul itself, nevertheless, deception may, and does, frequently
occur in the formal words and reasonings which the understanding
bases upon it. For, inasmuch as this illumination which it
receives is at times very subtle and spiritual, so that the
understanding cannot attain to a clear apprehension of it, and it
is the understanding that, as we say, forms the reasonings of its
own accord, it follows that those which it forms are frequently
false, and on other occasions are only apparently true, or are
imperfect. For since at the outset the soul began to seize the
truth, and then brought into play the skilfulness or the
clumsiness of its own weak understanding, its perception of the
truth may easily be modified by the instability of its own
faculties of comprehension, and act all the time exactly as though
a third person were speaking.
     4. I knew a person who had these successive locutions: among
them were some very true and substantial ones concerning the most
holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, but others were sheer heresy. And
I am appalled at what happens in these days -- namely, when some
soul with the very smallest experience[458] of meditation, if it be
conscious of certain locutions of this kind in some state of
recollection, at once christens them all as coming from God, and
assumes that this is the case, saying: 'God said to me . . .';
'God answered me . . .'; whereas it is not so at all, but, as we
have said, it is for the most part they who are saying these
things to themselves.
     5. And, over and above this, the desire which people have for
locutions, and the pleasure which comes to their spirits from
them, lead them to make answer to themselves and then to think
that it is God Who is answering them and speaking to them. They
therefore commit great blunders unless they impose a strict
restraint upon themselves, and unless their director obliges them
to abstain from these kinds of reflection. For they are apt to
gain from them mere nonsensical talk and impurity of soul rather
than humility and mortification of spirit, if they think, 'This
was indeed a great thing' and 'God was speaking'; whereas it will
have been little more than nothing, or nothing at all, or less
than nothing. For, if humility and charity be not engendered by
such experiences, and mortification and holy simplicity and
silence, etc., what can be the value of them? I say, then, that
these things may hinder the soul greatly in its progress to Divine
union because, if it pay heed to them, it is led far astray from
the abyss of faith, where the understanding must remain in
darkness, and must journey in darkness, by love and in faith, and
not by much reasoning.
     6. And if you ask me why the understanding must be deprived
of these truths, since through them it is illumined by the Spirit
of God, and thus they[459] cannot be evil, I reply that the Holy
Spirit illumines the understanding which is recollected, and
illumines it according to the manner of its recollection,[460] and
that the understanding cannot find any other and greater
recollection than in faith; and thus the Holy Spirit will illumine
it in naught more than in faith. For the purer and the more
refined in faith is the soul, the more it has of the infused
charity of God; and the more charity it has, the more is it
illumined and the more gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated
to it, for charity is the cause and the means whereby they are
communicated to it. And although it is true that, in this
illumination of truths, the Holy Spirit communicates a certain
light to the soul, this is nevertheless as different in quality
from that which is in faith, wherein is no clear understanding, as
is the most precious gold from the basest metal; and, with regard
to its quantity, the one is as much greater than the other as the
sea is greater than a drop of water. For in the one manner there
is communicated to the soul wisdom concerning one or two or three
truths, etc., but in the other there is communicated to it all the
wisdom of God in general, which is the Son of God, Who
communicates Himself to the soul in faith.
     7. And if you tell me that this is all good, and that the one
impedes not the other, I reply that it impedes it greatly if the
soul sets store by it; for to do this is to occupy itself with
things which are clear and of little importance, yet which are
sufficient to hinder the communication of the abyss of faith,
wherein God supernaturally and secretly instructs the soul, and
exalts it in virtues and gifts in a way that it knows not. And the
profit which these successive communications will bring us cannot
come by our deliberately applying the understanding to them, for
if we do this they will rather lead us astray, even as Wisdom says
to the soul in the Songs: 'Turn away thine eyes from me, for they
make me to fly away.'[461] That is so say: They make me to fly far
away from thee and to set myself higher. We must therefore not
apply the understanding to that which is being supernaturally
communicated to it, but simply and sincerely apply the will to God
with love, for it is through love that these good things are
communicated and through love they will be communicated in greater
abundance than before. For if the ability of the natural
understanding or of other faculties be brought actively to bear
upon these things which are communicated supernaturally and
passively, its imperfect nature will not reach them, and thus they
will perforce be modified according to the capacity of the
understanding, and consequently will perforce be changed; and thus
the understanding will necessarily go astray and begin to form
reasonings within itself, and there will no longer be anything
supernatural or any semblance thereof, but all will be merely
natural and most erroneous and unworthy.
     8. But there are certain types of understanding so quick and
subtle that, when they become recollected during some meditation,
they invent conceptions, and begin naturally, and with great
facility, to form these conceptions into the most lifelike words
and arguments, which they think, without any doubt, come from God.
Yet all the time they come only from the understanding, which,
with its natural illumination, being to some extent freed from the
operation of the senses, is able to effect all this, and more,
without any supernatural aid. This happens very commonly, and many
persons are greatly deceived by it, thinking that they have
attained to a high degree of prayer and are receiving
communications from God, wherefore they either write this down or
cause it to be written. And it turns out to be nothing, and to
have the substance of no virtue, and it serves only to encourage
them in vanity.
     9. Let these persons learn to be intent upon naught, save
only upon grounding the will in humble love, working diligently,
suffering and thus imitating the Son of God in His life and
mortifications, for it is by this road that a man will come to all
spiritual good, rather than by much inward reasoning.
     10. In this type of locution -- namely, in successive
interior words -- the devil frequently intervenes, especially in
the case of such as have some inclination or affection for them.
At times when such persons begin to be recollected, the devil is
accustomed to offer them ample material for distractions, forming
conceptions or words by suggestion in their understanding, and
then corrupting[462] and deceiving it most subtly with things that
have every appearance of being true. And this is one of the
manners wherein he communicates with those who have made some
implicit or expressed compact with him; as with certain heretics,
especially with certain heresiarchs, whose understanding he fills
with most subtle, false and erroneous conceptions and arguments.
     11. From what has been said, it is evident that these
successive locutions may proceed in the understanding from three
causes, namely: from the Divine Spirit, Who moves and illumines
the understanding; from the natural illumination of the same
understanding; and from the devil, who may speak to the soul by
suggestion. To describe now the signs and indications by which a
man may know when they proceed from one cause and when from
another would be somewhat difficult, as also to give examples and
indications. It is quite possible, however, to give some general
signs, which are these. When in its words and conceptions the soul
finds itself loving God, and at the same time is conscious not
only of love but also of humility and reverence, it is a sign that
the Holy Spirit is working within it, for, whensoever He grants
favours, He grants them with this accompaniment.[463] When the
locutions proceed solely from the vivacity and brilliance of the
understanding, it is the understanding that accomplishes
everything, without the operation of the virtues (although the
will, in the knowledge and illumination of those truths, may love
naturally); and, when the meditation is over, the will remains
dry, albeit inclined neither to vanity nor to evil, unless the
devil should tempt it afresh about this matter. This, however, is
not the case when the locutions have been prompted by a good
spirit; for then, as a rule, the will is afterwards affectioned to
God and inclined to well-doing. At certain times, nevertheless, it
will happen that, although the communication has been the work of
a good spirit, the will remains in aridity, since God ordains it
so for certain causes which are of assistance to the soul. At
other times the soul will not be very conscious of the operations
or motions of those virtues, yet that which it has experienced
will be good. Wherefore I say that the difference between these
locutions is sometimes difficult to recognize, by reason of the
varied effects which they produce; but these which have now been
described are the most common, although sometimes they occur in
greater abundance and sometimes in less. But those that come from
the devil are sometimes difficult to understand and recognize,
for, although it is true that as a rule they leave the will in
aridity with respect to love of God, and the mind inclined to
vanity, self-esteem or complacency, nevertheless they sometimes
inspire the soul with a false humility and a fervent affection of
the will rooted in self-love, so that at times a person must be
extremely spiritually-minded to recognize it. And this the devil
does in order the better to protect himself; for he knows very
well how sometimes to produce tears by the feelings which he
inspires in a soul, in order that he may continue to implant in it
the affections that he desires. But he always strives to move its
will so that it may esteem those interior communications, attach
great importance to them, and, as a result, give itself up to them
and be occupied in that which is not virtue, but is rather the
occasion of losing virtue as the soul may have.
     12. Let us remember, then, this necessary caution, both as to
the one type of locution and as to the other, so that we may not
be deceived or hindered by them. Let us treasure none of them, but
think only of learning to direct our will determinedly to God,
fulfilling His law and His holy counsels perfectly, which is the
wisdom of the Saints, and contenting ourselves with knowing the
mysteries and truths
      with the simplicity and truth wherewith the Church sets them
before us. For this is sufficient to enkindle the will greatly, so
that we need not pry into other deep and curious things wherein it
is a wonder if there is no peril. For with respect to this Saint
Paul says: It is not fitting to know more than it behoves us[464] to
know.[465] And let this suffice with respect to this matter of
successive words.

                           CHAPTER XXX

     Which treats of the interior words that come to the spirit
formally by supernatural means. Warns the reader of the harm which
they may do and of the caution that is necessary in order that the
soul may not be deceived by them.

     THE interior words belonging to the second type are formal
words, which at certain times come to the spirit by supernatural
means, without the intervention of any of the senses, sometimes
when the spirit is recollected and at other times when it is not.
I call them formal because they are communicated to the spirit
formally by a third person, the spirit itself playing no part in
this. And they are therefore very different from those which we
have just described; because not only is there this difference,
that they come without any such intervention of the spirit itself
as takes place in the other case; but also, as I say, they
sometimes come when the spirit is not recollected and even when it
is far from thinking of the subject of what is being said to it.
This is not so in the first type of locution -- namely, that of
successive words -- which always has some relation to the subject
which the soul is considering.
     2. These words are sometimes very clearly formed and
sometimes less so; for they are frequently like conceptions in
which something is said to the spirit, whether in the form of a
reply to it or in that of another manner of address. Sometimes
there is only one word; sometimes there are two or more; sometimes
the words succeed one another like those already described, for
they are apt to be continuous, either instructing the soul or
discussing something with it; and all this comes to pass without
any part being played therein by the spirit, for it is just as
though one person were speaking with another. In this way, we
read, it came to pass with Daniel, who says that the angel spoke
within him.[466] This was a formal and successive discourse within
his spirit, which instructed him, even as the angel declared at
the time, saying that he had come to instruct him.
     3. When these words are no more than formal, the effect which
they produce upon the soul is not great. For ordinarily they serve
only to instruct or illumine with respect to one thing; and, in
order to produce this effect, it is not necessary that they should
produce any other effect more efficacious than the purpose to
which they are leading. And when they are of God they invariably
work this in the soul; for they make it ready and quick to do that
which it is commanded or instructed to do; yet at times they take
not from it the repugnance or the difficulty which it feels, but
are rather wont to increase these, according as God ordains for
the better instruction, increased humility and greater good of the
soul. And this repugnance most commonly occurs when the soul is
commanded to do things of a high order, or things of a kind that
may exalt it; when things are commanded it that conduce to its
greater lowliness and humility, it responds with more readiness
and ease. And thus we read in Exodus that, when God commanded
Moses to go to Pharao and driver the people, he showed such great
repugnance that He had to command him three times to do it and to
perform signs for him; and all this was of no avail until God gave
him Aaron for a companion to take part of the honour.[467]
     4. When, on the other hand, the words and communications are
of the devil, it comes to pass that the soul responds with more
ease and readiness to things that are of greater weight,[468] and
for lowlier things it conceives repugnance. The fact is that God
so greatly abhors seeing souls attracted by high position that,
even when He commands and obliges them to accept such positions,
He desires them not to be ready and anxious to command. It is this
readiness which God commonly inspires in the soul, through these
formal words, that constitutes one great difference between them
and those other successive words: the latter move not the spirit
so much, neither do they inspire it with such readiness, since
they are less formal, and since the understanding has more to do
with them. Nevertheless successive words may sometimes produce a
greater effect by reason of the close communication that there is
at times between the Divine Spirit and the human. It is in the
manner of their coming that there is a great difference between
the two kinds of locution. With respect to formal words the soul
can have no doubt as to whether or no it is pronouncing them
itself, for it sees quite ready that it is not, especially when it
has not been thinking of the subject of that which has been said
to it; and even when it has been so thinking it feels very clearly
and distinctly that the words come from elsewhere.
     5. The soul must no more attach importance to all these
formal words than to the other, or successive, words; for, apart
from the fact that to do so would occupy the spirit with that
which is not a legitimate and proximate means to union with God --
namely, faith -- it might also very easily cause it to be deceived
by the devil. For sometimes it is hardly possible to know what
words are spoken by a good spirit, and what by an evil spirit. By
their effects they can hardly be distinguished at all, since
neither kind produces effects of much importance: sometimes,
indeed, with imperfect souls, words which come from the devil have
more efficacy than have these others, which come from a good
spirit, with souls that are spiritual. The soul, then, must take
no account of what these words may express, nor attach any
importance to them, whether the spirit from which they come be
good or evil. But the words must be repeated to an experienced
confessor, or to a discreet and learned person, that he may give
instruction and see what it is well to do, and impart his advice;
and the soul must behave, with regard to them, in a resigned and
negative way. And, if such an expert person cannot be found, it is
better to attach no importance to these words and to repeat them
to nobody; for it is easy to find persons who will ruin the soul
rather than edify it. Souls must not be given into the charge of
any kind of director, since in so grave a matter it is of the
greatest importance whether one goes astray or acts rightly.
     6. And let it be carefully noted that a soul should never act
according to its own opinion or accept anything of what these
locutions express, without much reflection and without taking
advice of another. For strange and subtle deceptions may arise in
this matter; so much so that I myself believe that the soul that
does not set itself against accepting such things cannot fail to
be deceived by many of them.
     7. And since we have treated of these deceptions and perils,
and of the caution to be observed with regard to them, in Chapters
seventeen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty of this book, I refer the
reader to these and say no more on this matter here; I only repeat
that my chief instruction is that the soul should attach no
importance to these things in any way.

                          CHAPTER XXXI

     Which treats of the substantial words that come interiorly to
the spirit. Describes the difference between them and formal
words, and the profit which they bring and the resignation and
respect which the soul must observe with regard to them.[469]

     THE third kind of interior words, we said, is called
substantial. These substantial words, although they are likewise
formal, since they are impressed upon the soul in a definitely
formal way, differ, nevertheless, in that substantial words
produce vivid and substantial effects upon the soul, whereas words
which are merely formal do not. So that, although it is true that
every substantial word is formal, every formal word is not
therefore substantial, but only, as we said above, such a word as
impresses substantially on the soul that which it signifies. It is
as if Our Lord were to say formally to the soul: 'Be thou good';
it would then be substantially good. Or as if He were to say to
it: 'Love thou Me'; it would then have and feel within itself the
substance of love for God. Or as if it feared greatly and He said
to it: 'Fear thou not'; it would at once feel within itself great
fortitude and tranquility. For the saying of God, and His word, as
the Wise Man says, is full of power;[470] and thus that which He
says to the soul He produces substantially within it. For it is
this that David meant when he said: 'See, He will give to His
voice a voice of virtue.'[471] And even so with Abraham, when He
said to him: 'Walk in My presence and be perfect':[472] he was then
perfect and walked ever in the fear of God. And this is the power
of His word in the Gospel, wherewith He healed the sick, raised
the dead, etc., by no more than a word. And after this manner He
gives certain souls locutions which are substantial; and they are
of such moment and price that they are life and virtue and
incomparable good to the soul; for one of these words works
greater good within the soul than all that the soul itself has
done throughout its life.
     2. With respect to these words, the soul should do nothing.
It should neither desire them nor refrain from desiring them; it
should neither reject them nor fear them. It should do nothing in
the way of executing what these words express, for these
substantial words are never pronounced by God in order that the
soul may translate them into action, but that He may so translate
them within the soul; herein they differ from formal and
successive words. And I say that the soul must neither desire nor
refrain from desiring, since its desire is not necessary for God
to translate these words into effect, nor is it sufficient for the
soul to refrain from desiring in order for the said effect not to
be produced. Let the soul rather be resigned and humble with
respect to them. It must not reject them, since the effect of
these words remains substantially within it and is full of the
good which comes from God. As the soul receives this good
passively, its action is at no time of any importance. Nor should
it fear any deception; for neither the understanding nor the devil
can intervene herein, nor can they succeed in passively producing
this substantial effect in the soul, in such a way that the effect
and habit of the locution may be impressed upon it, unless the
soul should have given itself to the devil by a voluntary compact,
and he should have dwelt in it as its master, and impressed upon
it these effects, not of good, but of evil. Inasmuch as that soul
would be already voluntarily united to him in perversity, the
devil might easily impress upon it the effects of his sayings and
words with evil intent. For we see by experience that in many
things and even upon good souls he works great violence, by means
of suggestion, making his suggestions very efficacious; and if
they were evil he might work in them the consummation of these
suggestions. But he cannot leave upon a soul effects similar to
those of locutions which are good; for there is no comparison
between the locutions of the devil and those of God. The former
are all as though they were not, in comparison with the latter,
neither do they produce any effect at all compared with the effect
of these. For this cause God says through Jeremias: 'What has the
chaff to do with the wheat? Are not My words perchance as fire,
and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?'[473] And thus
these substantial words are greatly conducive to the union of the
soul with God; and the more interior they are, the more
substantial are they, and the greater is the profit that they
bring. Happy is the soul to whom God addresses these words. Speak,
Lord, for Thy servant heareth.[474]

                          CHAPTER XXXII

     Which treats of the apprehensions received by the
understanding from interior feelings which come supernaturally to
the soul. Describes their cause, and the manner wherein the soul
must conduct itself so that they may not obstruct its road to
union with God.

     IT is now time to treat of the fourth and last kind of
intellectual apprehension which we said might come to the
understanding through the spiritual feelings which are frequently
produced supernaturally in the souls of spiritual persons and
which we count amongst the distinct apprehensions of the
     2. These distinct spiritual feelings may be of two kinds. The
first kind is in the affection of the will. The second, in the
substance of the soul. Each of these may be of many kinds. Those
of the will, when they are of God, are most sublime; but those
that are of the substance of the soul are very high and of great
good and profit. As to these, neither the soul nor he that treats
with it can know or understand the cause whence they proceed, or
what are the acts whereby God may grant it these favours; for they
depend not upon any works performed by the soul, nor upon its
meditations, although both these things are a good preparation for
them: God grants these favours to whom He wills and for what
reason He wills.[475] For it may come to pass that a person will
have performed many good works, yet that He will not give him
these touches of His favour; and another will have done far fewer
good works, yet He will give him them to a most sublime degree and
in great abundance. And thus it is not needful that the soul
should be actually employed and occupied in spiritual things
(although it is much better that it should be so employed if it is
to have these favours) for God to give it these touches in which
the soul experiences the said feelings; for in the majority of
cases the soul is completely heedless of them. Of these touches,
some are distinct and pass quickly away; others are less distinct
and last longer.
     3. These feelings, inasmuch as they are feelings only, belong
not to the understanding but to the will; and thus I refrain, of
set purpose, from treating of them here, nor shall I do so until
we treat of the night and purgation of the will in its affections:
this will be in the third book, which follows this.[476] But since
frequently, and even in the majority of cases, apprehensions and
knowledge and intelligence overflow from them into the
understanding, it would be well to make mention of them here, for
that reason only. It must be known, then, that from these
feelings, both from those of the will and from those which are in
the substance of the soul, whether they are caused suddenly by the
touches of God, or are durable and successive, an apprehension of
knowledge or intelligence frequently overflows, as I say, into the
understanding; and this is normally a most sublime perception of
God, most delectable to the understanding, to which no name can be
given, any more than to the feeling whence it overflows. And these
manifestations of knowledge are sometimes of one kind and
sometimes of another; sometimes they are clearer and more sublime,
according to the nature of the touches which come from God and
which produce the feelings whence they proceed, and according also
to their individual characteristics.
     4. It is unnecessary here to spend a great store of words in
cautioning and directing the understanding, through these
manifestations of knowledge, in faith, to union with God. For
albeit the feelings which we have described are produced passively
in the soul, without any effective assistance to that end on its
own part, even so likewise is the knowledge of them received
passively in the understanding, in a way called by the
philosophers 'passible,' wherein the understanding plays no part.
Wherefore, in order not to go astray on their account nor to
impede the profit which comes from them, the understanding must do
nothing in connection with these feelings, but must conduct itself
passively, and not interfere by applying to them its natural
capacity. For, as we have said is the case with successive
locutions, the understanding, with its activity, would very easily
disturb and ruin the effect of these delicate manifestations of
knowledge, which are a delectable supernatural intelligence that
human nature cannot attain or apprehend by its own efforts, but
only by remaining in a state of receptivity.[477] And thus the soul
must not strive to attain them or desire to receive them, lest the
understanding should form other manifestations of its own, or the
devil should make his entry with still more that are different
from them and false. This he may very well do by means of the
feelings aforementioned, or of those which he can himself infuse
into the soul that devotes itself to these kinds of knowledge. Let
the soul be resigned, humble and passive herein, for, since it
receives this knowledge passively from God, He will communicate it
whensoever He is pleased, if He sees the soul to be humble and
detached. And in this way the soul will do nothing to counteract
the help which these kinds of knowledge give it in its progress
toward Divine union, which help is great; for these touches are
all touches of union, which is wrought passively in the soul.[478]
     5. What has been said concerning this suffices, for no matter
what may happen to the soul with respect to the understanding,
cautions and instructions have been given it in the sections
already mentioned. And although a case may appear to be different
and to be in no way included herein, there is none that cannot be
referred to one of these, and thus may be deduced the instruction
necessary for it.[479]

                         BOOK THE THIRD

     Which treats of the purgation of the active night of the
memory and will. Gives instruction how the soul is to behave with
respect to the apprehensions of these two faculties, that it may
come to union with God, according to the two faculties
aforementioned, in perfect hope and charity.

                            CHAPTER I

     THE first faculty of the soul, which is the understanding,
has now been instructed, through all its apprehensions, in the
first theological virtue, which is faith, to the end that,
according to this faculty, the soul may be united with God by
means of the purity of faith. It now remains to do likewise with
respect to the other two faculties of the soul, which are memory
and will, and to purify them likewise with respect to their
apprehensions, to the end that, according to these two faculties
also, the soul may come to union with God in perfect hope and
charity. This will briefly be effected in this third book. We have
now concluded our treatment of the understanding, which is the
receptacle of all other objects according to its mode of
operation; and in treating of this we have gone a great part of
the whole way. It is therefore unnecessary for us to write at
equal length with respect to these faculties; for it is not
possible that, if the spiritual man instructs his understanding in
faith according to the doctrine which has been given him, he
should not, in so doing, instruct the other two faculties in the
other two virtues likewise; for the operations of each faculty
depend upon the others.
     2. But since, in order to follow our manner of procedure, and
in order, too, that we may be the better understood, we must
necessarily speak of the proper and determinate matter, we shall
here be obliged to set down the apprehensions proper to each
faculty, and first, those of the memory, making here such
distinction between them as suffices for our purpose. This we
shall be able to deduce from the distinction between their
objects, which are three: natural, imaginary and spiritual;
according to which there are likewise three kinds of knowledge
which come from the memory, namely: natural and supernatural,[480]
imaginary and spiritual.
     3. All these, by the Divine favour, we shall treat here in
due course, beginning with natural knowledge, which pertains to
the most exterior objects. And we shall then treat of the
affections of the will, wherewith we shall conclude this third
book of the active spiritual night.

                           CHAPTER II

     Which treats of the natural apprehensions of the memory and
describes how the soul must be voided of them in order to be able
to attain to union with God according to this faculty.

     IT is necessary that, in each of these books, the reader
should bear in mind the purpose of which we are speaking. For
otherwise there may arise within him many such questions with
respect to what he is reading as might by this time be occurring
to him with respect to what we have said of the understanding, and
shall say now of the memory, and afterwards shall say of the will.
For, seeing how we annihilate the faculties with respect to their
operations, it may perhaps seem to him that we are destroying the
road of spiritual practice rather than constructing it.
     2. This would be true if we were seeking here only to
instruct beginners, who are best prepared through these
apprehensible and discursive apprehensions. But, since we are here
giving instruction to those who would progress farther in
contemplation, even to union with God, to which end all of these
means and exercises of sense concerning the faculties must recede
into the background, and be put to silence, to the end that God
may of His own accord work Divine union in the soul, it is
necessary to proceed by this method of disencumbering and emptying
the soul, and causing it to reject the natural jurisdiction and
operations of the faculties, so that they may become capable of
infusion and illumination from supernatural sources; for their
capacity cannot attain to so lofty an experience, but will rather
hinder it, if it be not disregarded.
     3. And thus, if it be true, as it is, that the soul must
proceed in its growing knowledge of God by learning that which He
is not rather than that which He is, in order to come to Him, it
must proceed by renouncing and rejecting, to the very uttermost,
everything in its apprehensions that it is possible to renounce,
whether this be natural or supernatural. We shall proceed with
this end in view with regard to the memory, drawing it out from
its natural state and limitations, and causing it to rise above
itself -- that is, above all distinct knowledge and apprehensible
possession -- to the supreme hope of God, Who is incomprehensible.
     4. Beginning, then, with natural knowledge, I say that
natural knowledge in the memory consists of all the kinds of
knowledge that the memory can form concerning the objects of the
five bodily senses -- namely: hearing, sight, smell, taste and
touch -- and all kinds of knowledge of this type which it is
possible to form and fashion. Of all these forms and kinds of
knowledge the soul must strip and void itself, and it must strive
to lose the imaginary apprehension of them, so that there may be
left in it no kind of impression of knowledge, nor trace of aught
soever, but rather the soul must remain barren and bare, as if
these forms had never passed through it, and in total oblivion and
suspension. And this cannot happen unless the memory be
annihilated as to all its forms, if it is to be united with God.
For it cannot happen save by total separation from all forms which
are not God; for God comes beneath no definite form or kind of
knowledge whatsoever, as we have said in treating of the night of
the understanding. And since, as Christ says, no man can serve two
masters,[481] the memory cannot be united both with God and with
forms and distinct kinds of knowledge and, as God has no form or
image that can be comprehended by the memory, it follows that,
when the memory is united with God (as is seen, too, every day by
experience), it remains without form and without figure, its
imagination being lost and itself being absorbed in a supreme
good, and in a great oblivion, remembering nothing. For that
Divine union voids its fancy and sweeps it clean of all forms and
kinds of knowledge and raises it to the supernatural.
     5. Now there sometimes comes to pass here a notable thing;
for occasionally, when God brings about these touches of union in
the memory, the brain (where memory has its seat) is so
perceptibly upset that it seems as if it becomes quite inert, and
its judgment and sense are lost. This is sometimes more
perceptible and sometimes less so, according to the strength of
this touch, and then, by reason of this union, the memory is
voided and purged, as I say, of all kinds of knowledge. It remains
in oblivion -- at times in complete oblivion -- so that it has to
put forth a great effort and to labour greatly in order to
remember anything.
     6. And sometimes this oblivion of the memory and suspension
of the imagination reach such a point, because of the union of the
memory with God, that a long time passes without the soul's
perceiving it, or knowing what has taken place during that period.
And, as the imaginative faculty is then in suspension, it feels
naught that is done to it, not even things that cause pain; for
without imagination there is no feeling, not even coming through
thought, since this exists not. And, to the end that God may bring
about these touches of union, the soul must needs withdraw its
memory from all apprehensible kinds of knowledge. And it is to be
noted that these suspensions come not to pass in those that are
already perfect, since they have attained to perfect union, and
these suspensions belong to the beginnings of union.
     7. Someone will remark that all this seems very well, but
that it leads to the destruction of the natural use and course of
the faculties, and reduces man to the state of a beast -- a state
of oblivion and even worse -- since he becomes incapable of
reasoning or of remembering his natural functions and necessities.
It will be argued that God destroys not nature, but rather
perfects it; and that from this teaching there necessarily follows
its destruction, when that which pertains to morality and reason
is not practised and is forgotten, neither is that which is
natural practised; for (it will be said) none of these things can
be remembered, as the soul is deprived of forms and kinds of
knowledge which are the means of remembrance.
     8. To this I reply that, the more nearly the memory attains
to union with God, the more do distinct kinds of knowledge become
perfected within it, until it loses them entirely -- namely, when
it attains to the state of union in perfection. And thus, at the
beginning, when this is first taking place, the soul cannot but
fall into great oblivion with respect to all things, since forms
and kinds of knowledge are being erased from it; and therefore it
is very negligent concerning its outward behaviour and usage --
forgetting to eat or drink, and being uncertain if it has done
this or no, if it has seen this or no, if it has said this or no
-- because of the absorption of the memory in God. But when once
it attains to the habit of union, which is a supreme blessing, it
no longer has these periods of oblivion, after this manner, in
that which pertains to natural and moral reason; actions which are
seemly and necessary, indeed, it performs with a much greater
degree of pection, although it performs them no longer by means of
forms and manners of knowledge pertaining to the memory. For, when
it has the habit of union, which is a supernatural state, memory
and the other faculties fail it completely in their natural
functions, and pass beyond their natural limitations, even to God,
Who is supernatural. And thus, when the memory is transformed in
God, it cannot receive impressions of forms or kinds of knowledge.
Wherefore the functions of the memory and of the other faculties
in this state are all Divine; for, when at last God possesses the
faculties and has become the entire master of them, through their
transformation into Himself, it is He Himself Who moves and
commands them divinely, according to His Divine Spirit and will;
and the result of this is that the operations of the soul are not
distinct, but all that it does is of God, and its operations are
Divine, so that, even as Saint Paul says, he that is joined unto
God becomes one spirit with Him.[482]
     9. Hence it comes to pass that the operations of the soul in
union are of the Divine Spirit and are Divine. And hence it comes
that the actions of such souls are only those that are seemly and
reasonable, and not those that are ill-beseeming. For the Spirit
of God teaches them that which they ought to know, and causes them
to be ignorant of that which it behoves them not to know, and to
remember that which they have to remember, with or without forms,
and to forget that which they should forget; and it makes them
love that which they have to love, and not to love that which is
not in God. And thus, all the first motions of the faculties of
such souls are Divine and it is not to be wondered at that the
motions and operations of these faculties should be Divine, since
they are transformed in the Divine Being.[483]
     10. Of these operations I will give a few examples. Let this
be one. A person asks another who is in this state to commend him
to God. This person will not remember to do so by means of any
form or kind of knowledge that remains in his memory concerning
that other person; if it be right that he should recommend him to
God (which will be if God desires to receive a prayer for that
person), He will move his will and give him a desire to pray for
him; and if God desires not such prayer, that other person will
not be able nor will desire to pray,' though he make great efforts
to do so; and at times God will cause him to pray for others of
whom he has no knowledge nor has ever heard. And this is because,
as I have said, God alone moves the faculties of these souls to do
those works which are meet, according to the will and ordinance of
God, and they cannot be moved to do others; and thus the works and
prayers of these souls are always effectual. Such were those of
the most glorious Virgin Our Lady, who, being raised to this high
estate from the beginning, had never the form of any creature
imprinted in her soul, neither was moved by such, but was
invariably guided by the Holy Spirit.
     11. Another example. At a certain time a person in this state
has to attend to some necessary business. He will remember it by
no kind of form, but, without his knowing how, it will come to his
soul, at the time and in the manner that it ought to come, and
that without fail.
     12. And not only in these things does the Holy Spirit give
such persons light, but also in many others, relating both to the
present and to the future, and even, in many cases, as regards
those absent from them; and although at times this comes to pass
through intellectual forms, it frequently happens without the
intervention of any forms that can be apprehended, so that these
persons know not how they know. But this comes to them from the
Divine Wisdom; for, since these souls exercise themselves in
knowing and apprehending nothing with the faculties, they come in
general, as we have said in the Mount,[484] to know everything,
according to that which the Wise Man says: 'The worker of all
things, who is Wisdom, taught me all things.'[485]
     13. You will say, perhaps, that the soul will be unable to
void and deprive its memory of all forms and fancies to such an
extent as to be able to attain to so lofty a state; for there are
two things so difficult that their accomplishment surpasses human
ability and strength, namely, to throw off with one's natural
powers that which is natural, which is hard enough,[486] and to
attain and be united to the supernatural, which is much more
difficult -- indeed, to speak the truth, is impossible with
natural ability alone. The truth, I repeat, is that God must place
the soul in this supernatural state; but the soul, as far as in it
lies, must be continually preparing itself; and this it can do by
natural means, especially with the help that God is continually
giving it. And thus, as the soul, for its own part, enters into
this renunciation and self-emptying of forms, so God begins to
give it the possession of union; and this God works passively in
the soul, as we shall say, Deo dante, when we treat of the passive
night of the soul. And thus, when it shall please God, and
according to the manner of the soul's preparation, He will grant
it the habit of perfect and Divine union.
     14. And the Divine effects which God produces in the soul
when He has granted it this habit, both as to the understanding
and as to the memory and will, we shall not describe in this
account of the soul's active purgation and night, for this alone
will not bring the soul to Divine union. We shall speak of these
effects, however, in treating of the passive night, by means of
which is brought about the union of the soul with God.[487] And so I
shall speak here only of the necessary means whereby the memory
may place itself actively in this night and purgation, as far as
lies in its power. And these means are that the spiritual man must
habitually exercise caution, after this manner. All the things
that he hears, sees, smells, tastes, or touches, he must be
careful not to store up or collect in his memory, but he must
allow himself to forget them immediately, and this he must
accomplish, if need be, with the same efficacy as that with which
others contrive to remember them, so that there remains in his
memory no knowledge or image of them whatsoever. It must be with
him as if they existed not in the world, and his memory must be
left free and disencumbered of them, and be tied to no
consideration, whether from above or from below; as if he had no
faculty of memory; he must freely allow everything to fall into
oblivion as though all things were a hindrance to him; and in fact
everything that is natural, if one attempt to make use of it in
supernatural matters, is a hindrance rather than a help.
     15. And if those questions and objections which arose above
with respect to the understanding should also arise here (the
objections, that is to say, that the soul is doing nothing, is
wasting its time and is depriving itself of spiritual blessings
which it might well receive through the memory), the answer to
this has already been given, and will be given again farther on,
in our treatment of the passive night; wherefore there is no need
for us to dwell upon it here. It is needful only to observe that,
although at certain times the benefit of this suspension of forms
and of all knowledge may not be realized, the spiritual man must
not for that reason grow weary, for in His own time God will not
fail to succour him. To attain so great a blessing it behoves the
soul to endure much and to suffer with patience and hope.
     16. And, although it is true that hardly any soul will be
found that is moved by God in all things and at all times, and has
such continual union with God that, without the mediation of any
form, its faculties are ever moved divinely, there are
nevertheless souls who in their operations are very habitually
moved by God, and these are not they that are moved of themselves,
for, as Saint Paul says, the sons of God who are transformed and
united in God, are moved by the Spirit of God,[488] that is, are
moved to perform Divine work in their faculties. And it is no
marvel that their operations should be Divine, since the union of
the soul is Divine.

                           CHAPTER III

     Wherein are described three kinds of evil which come to the
soul when it enters not into darkness with respect to knowledge
and reflections in the memory. Herein is described the first.

     TO three kinds of evil and inconvenience the spiritual man is
subject when he persists in desiring to make use of all natural
knowledge and reflections of the memory in order to journey toward
God, or for any other purpose: two of these are positive and one
is privative. The first comes from things of the world; the
second, from the devil; the third, which is privative, is the
impediment and hindrance to Divine union caused and effected in
the soul.
     2. The first evil, which comes from the world, consists in
the subjection of the soul, through knowledge and reflection, to
many kinds of harm, such as falsehoods, imperfections, desires,
opinions, loss of time, and many other things which breed many
kinds of impurity in the soul. And it is clear that the soul must
of necessity fall into many perils of falsehood, when it admits
knowledge and reasoning; for oftentimes that which is true must
appear false, and that which is certain, doubtful; and
contrariwise; for there is scarcely a single truth of which we can
have complete knowledge. From all these things the soul is free if
the memory enters into darkness with respect to every kind of
reflection and knowledge.
     3. Imperfections meet the soul at every step if it sets its
memory upon that which it has heard, seen, touched, smelt and
tasted; for there must then perforce cling to it some affection,
whether this be of pain, of fear, of hatred, of vain hope, vain
enjoyment, vainglory, etc.; for all these are, at the least,
imperfections, and at times are downright[489] venial sins; and they
leave much impurity most subtly in the soul, even though the
reflections and the knowledge have relation to God. And it is also
clear that they engender desires within the soul, for these arise
naturally from the knowledge and reflections aforementioned, and
if one wishes only to have this knowledge and these reflections,
even that is a desire. And it is clearly seen that many occasions
of judging others will come likewise; for, in using its memory,
the soul cannot fail to come upon that which is good and bad in
others, and, in such a case, that which is evil oftentimes seems
good, and that which is good, evil. I believe there is none who
can completely free himself from all these kinds of evil, save by
blinding his memory and leading it into darkness with regard to
all these things.
     4. And if you tell me that a man is well able to conquer all
these things when they come to him, I reply that, if he sets store
by knowledge, this is simply and utterly impossible; for countless
imperfections and follies insinuate themselves into such
knowledge, some of which are so subtle and minute that, without
the soul's realization thereof, they cling to it of their own
accord, even as pitch clings to the man that touches it; so that
it is better to conquer once for all by denying the memory
completely. You will say likewise that by so doing the soul
deprives itself of many good thoughts and meditations upon God,
which are of great profit to it and whereby God grants it favours.

I reply that to this end purity of soul is of the greatest profit,
which means that there clings to the soul no creature affection,
or temporal affection, or effective advertence; which I believe
cannot but cling to the soul because of the imperfection which the
faculties have in their own operations. Wherefore it is best to
learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still, so
that God may speak. For, as we have said, in order to attain to
this state the natural operations must be completely disregarded,
and this happens, as the Prophet says, when the soul comes into
solitude, according to these its faculties, and God speaks to its
     5. And if you again reply, saying that the soul will have no
blessing unless it meditates upon God and allows its memory to
reflect upon Him, and that many distractions and negligences will
continually enter it, I say that it is impossible, if the memory
be recollected with regard both to things of the next life and to
things here below, that evils or distractions should enter it, nor
any other follies or vices (the which things always enter when the
memory wanders), since there is no exit or entrance for them. This
would come to pass if, when we had shut the door upon
considerations and reflections concerning things above, we opened
it to things below; but in this state we shut the door to all
things whence distraction may come,[491] causing the memory to be
still and dumb, and the ear of the spirit to be attentive, in
silence, to God alone, saying with the Prophet: 'Speak, Lord, for
Thy servant heareth.'[492] It was thus that the Spouse in the Songs
said that his Bride should be, in these words: 'My sister is a
garden enclosed and a fountain sealed up'[493] -- that is to say,
enclosed and sealed up against all things that may enter.
     6. Let the soul, then, remain 'enclosed,' without anxieties
and troubles, and He that entered in bodily form to His disciples
when the doors were shut, and gave them peace,[494] though they
neither knew nor thought that this was possible nor knew how it
was possible, will enter spiritually into the soul, without its
knowing how He does so, when the doors of its faculties -- memory,
understanding and will -- are enclosed against all apprehensions.
And He will fill them with peace, coming down upon the soul, as
the prophet says, like a river of peace,[495] and taking it from all
the misgivings and suspicions, disturbances and darknesses which
caused it to fear that it was lost or was on the way to being so.
Let it not grow careless about prayer, and let it wait in
detachment and emptiness, for its blessings will not tarry.

                           CHAPTER IV

     Which treats of the second kind of evil that may come to the
soul from the devil by way of the natural apprehensions of the

     THE second positive evil that may come to the soul by means
of the knowledge of the memory proceeds from the devil, who by
this means obtains great influence over it. For he can continually
bring it new forms, kinds of knowledge and reflections, by means
whereof he can taint the soul with pride, avarice, wrath, envy,
etc., and cause it unjust hatred, or vain love, and deceive it in
many ways. And besides this, he is wont to leave impressions,[496]
and to implant them in the fancy, in such wise that those that are
false appear true, and those that are true, false, And finally all
the worst deceptions which are caused by the devil, and the evils
that he brings to the soul, enter by way of knowledge and
reflections of the memory, Thus if the memory enter into darkness
with respect to them all, and be annihilated in its oblivion to
them, it shuts the door altogether upon this evil which proceeds
from the devil, and frees itself from all these things, which is a
great blessing. For the devil has no power over the soul unless it
be through the operations of its faculties, principally by means
of knowledge, whereupon depend almost all the other operations of
the other faculties. Wherefore, if the memory be annihilated with
respect to them, the devil can do naught; for he finds no
foothold, and without a foothold he is powerless.[497]
     2. I would that spiritual persons might clearly see how many
kinds of harm are wrought by evil spirits in their souls by means
of the memory, when they devote themselves frequently to making
use of it, and how many kinds of sadness and affliction and vain
and evil joys they have, both with respect to their thoughts about
God, and also with respect to the things of the world; and how
many impurities are left rooted in their spirits; and likewise how
greatly they are distracted from the highest recollection, which
consists in the fixing of the whole soul, according to its
faculties, upon the one incomprehensible Good, and in withdrawing
it from all things that can be apprehended, since these are not
incomprehensible Good. This is a great good (although less good
results from this emptiness than from the soul's fixing itself
upon God), simply because it is the cause whereby the soul frees
itself from any griefs and afflictions and sorrows, over and above
the imperfections and sins from which it is freed.


     Of the third evil which comes to the soul by way of the
distinct natural knowledge or the memory.

     THE third evil which comes to the soul through the natural
apprehensions of the memory is privative; for these apprehensions
can hinder moral good and deprive us of spiritual good. And, in
order that we may first of all explain how these apprehensions
hinder moral good in the soul, it must be known that moral good
consists in the restraining of the passions and the curbing of
disorderly desires, from which restraint there come to the soul
tranquillity, peace and rest, and moral virtues, all of which
things are moral good. This restraining and curbing of the
passions cannot be truly accomplished by the soul that forgets not
and withdraws not itself from things pertaining to itself, whence
arise the affections; and no disturbances ever arise in the soul
save through the apprehensions of the memory. For, when all things
are forgotten, there is naught that can disturb peace or that
moves the desires; since, as they say, that which the eye sees not
the heart desires not.
     2. This we are constantly learning by experience; for we
observe that, whenever the soul begins to think of any matter, it
is moved and disturbed, either much or little, with respect to
that thing, according to the nature of its apprehension. If it be
a troublesome and grievous matter, the soul finds sadness in it;
if pleasant, desire and joy, and so forth. Wherefore the result of
the changing of that apprehension is necessarily disturbance; and
thus the soul is now joyful, now sad; now it hates, now loves; and
it cannot continue in one and the same attitude (which is an
effect of moral tranquillity save when it strives to forget all
things. It is clear, then, that knowledge greatly hinders the good
of the moral virtues in the soul.
     3. Again, what has been said clearly proves that an
encumbered memory also hinders spiritual good; for the soul that
is disturbed, and has no foundation of moral good, is to that
extent incapable of spiritual good, which impresses itself only
upon souls that are restrained and at peace. And besides this, if
the soul pays attention and heed to the apprehensions of the
memory -- seeing that it can attend to but one thing at a time --
and busies itself with things that can be apprehended, such as the
knowledge of the memory, it is not possible for it to be free to
attend to the incomprehensible, which is God. For, in order to
approach God, the soul must proceed by not comprehending rather
than by comprehending; it must exchange the mutable and
comprehensible for the immutable and incomprehensible.

                           CHAPTER VI

     Of the benefits which come to the soul from forgetfulness and
emptiness of all thoughts and knowledge which it may have in a
natural way with respect to the memory.

     FROM the evils which, as we have said, come to the soul
through the apprehensions of the memory, we can likewise infer the
benefits which are contrary to them and come to the soul as a
result of its forgetting them and emptying itself of them. For, as
natural philosophy puts it, the same doctrine which serves for one
thing serves likewise for the contrary. In the first place, the
soul enjoys tranquillity and peace of mind, since it is freed from
the disturbance and the changeableness which arise from thoughts
and ideas of the memory, and consequently, which is more
important, it enjoys purity of conscience and soul. And herein the
soul has ample preparation for the acquiring of Divine and human
wisdom, and of the virtues.
     2. In the second place, it is freed from many suggestions,
temptations and motions of the devil, which he infuses into the
soul by means of thoughts and ideas, causing it to fall into many
impurities and sins, as David says in these words: 'They have
thought and spoken wickedness.'[498] And thus, when these thoughts
have been completely removed, the devil has naught wherewith to
assault the soul by natural means.
     3. In the third place, the soul has within itself, through
this recollection of itself and this forgetfulness as to all
things, a preparedness to be moved by the Holy Spirit and taught
by Him, for, as the Wise Man says, He removes Himself from
thoughts that are without understanding.[499] Even if a man received
no other benefit from this forgetfulness and emptiness of the
memory than being freed thereby from troubles and disturbances, it
would be a great gain and good for him. For the troubles and
storms which adverse things and happenings arouse in the soul are
of no use or help for bringing peace and calm;[500] indeed, as a
rule, they make things worse and also harm the soul itself.
Wherefore David said: 'Of a truth every man is disquieted in
vain.'[501] For it is clear that to disquiet oneself is always vain
since it brings profit to none. And thus, even if everything came
to an end and were destroyed, and if all things went wrong and
turned to adversity, it would be vain to disturb oneself; for such
disturbance hurts a man rather than relieves him. Whereas to bear
everything with equable and peaceful tranquillity not only brings
the soul the profit of many blessings, but likewise causes it,
even in the midst of its adversities, to form a truer judgment
about them and to find a fitting remedy.
     4. For this reason Solomon, being well acquainted both with
the evil and with the benefit of which we are speaking, said: 'I
knew that there was naught better for man than to rejoice and to
do good in his life.'[502] By this he meant that, in everything that
happens to us, howsoever adverse it be, we should rejoice rather
than be disturbed, so that we may not lose a blessing which is
greater than any kind of prosperity -- namely, tranquillity and
peace of mind in all things, which, whether they bring adversity
or prosperity, we must bear in the same manner. This a man would
never lose if he were not only to forget all kinds of knowledge
and put aside all thoughts, but would even withdraw himself from
hearing, sight and commerce with others, in so far as was possible
for him. Our nature is so frail and unstable that, however well it
be disciplined, it will hardly fail to stumble upon the
remembrance of things which will disturb and change a mind that
was in peace and tranquillity when it remembered them not. For
this cause said Jeremias: 'With memory I will remember, and my
soul will fail me for pain.'[503]

                           CHAPTER VII

     Which treats or the second kind or apprehension of the memory
-- namely, imaginary apprehensions -- and of supernatural

     ALTHOUGH in writing of natural apprehensions of the first
kind we also gave instruction concerning the imaginary, which are
likewise natural, it was well to make this division because of the
love which the memory always has for other forms and kinds of
knowledge, which are of supernatural things, such as visions,
revelations, locutions and feelings which come in a supernatural
way. When these things have passed through the soul, there is wont
to remain impressed upon it some image, form, figure or idea,
whether in the soul or in the memory or fancy, at times very
vividly and effectively. Concerning these images it is also
needful to give advice, lest the memory be encumbered with them
and they be a hindrance to its union with God in perfect and pure
     2. I say that the soul, in order to attain that blessing,
must never reflect upon the clear and distinct objects which may
have passed through its mind by supernatural means, in such a way
as to preserve within itself the forms and figures and knowledge
of those things. For we must ever bear in mind this principle: the
greater heed the soul gives to any clear and distinct
apprehensions, whether natural or supernatural, the less capacity
and preparation it has for entering into the abyss of faith,
wherein are absorbed all things else. For, as has been said, no
supernatural forms or kinds of knowledge which can be apprehended
by the memory are God, and, in order to reach God, the soul must
void itself of all that is not God. The memory must also strip
itself of all these forms and kinds of knowledge, that it may
unite itself with God in hope. For all possession is contrary to
hope, which, as Saint Paul says, belongs to that which is not
possessed.[504] Wherefore, the more the memory dispossesses itself,
the greater is its hope; and the more it has of hope, the more it
has of union with God; for, with respect to God, the more the soul
hopes, the more it attains. And it hopes most when it is most
completely dispossessed; and, when it shall be perfectly
dispossessed, it will remain with the perfect possession of God,
in Divine union. But there are many who will not deprive
themselves of the sweetness and delight which memory finds in
those forms and notions, wherefore they attain not to supreme
possession and perfect sweetness. For he that renounces not all
that he possesses cannot be the disciple of Christ.[505]

                          CHAPTER VIII

     Of the evils which may be caused in the soul by the knowledge
of supernatural things, if it reflect upon them. Says how many
these evils are.

     THE spiritual man incurs the risk of five kinds of evil if he
pays heed to, and reflects upon, these forms and ideas which are
impressed upon him by the things which pass through his mind in a
supernatural way.
     2. The first is that he is frequently deceived, and mistakes
one thing for another. The second is that he is like to fall, and
is exposed to the danger of falling, into some form of presumption
or vanity. The third is that the devil has many occasions of
deceiving him by means of the apprehensions aforementioned. The
fourth is that he is hindered as to union in hope with God. The
fifth is that, for the most part, he has a low judgment of God.
     3. As to the first evil, it is clear that, if the spiritual
man pays heed to these forms and notions, and reflects upon them,
he must frequently be deceived in his judgment of them; for, as no
man can have a complete understanding of the things that pass
through his imagination naturally, nor a perfect and certain
judgment about them, he will be much less able still to have this
with respect to supernatural things, which are above our capacity
to understand, and occur but rarely. Wherefore he will often think
that what comes but from his fancy pertains to God; and often,
too, that what is of God is of the devil, and what is of the devil
is of God. And very often there will remain with him deap-seated
impressions of forms and ideas concerning the good and evil of
others, or of himself, together with other figures which have been
presented to him: these he will consider to be most certain and
true, when in fact they will not be so, but very great falsehoods.
And others will be true, and he will judge them to be false,
although this error I consider safer, as it is apt to arise from
     4. And, even if he be not deceived as to their truth, he may
well be deceived as to their quantity or quality, thinking that
little things are great, and great things, little. And with
respect to their quality, he may consider what is in his
imagination to be this or that, when it is something quite
different; he may put, as Isaias says, darkness for light, and
light for darkness, or bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.[506]
And finally, even though he be correct as to one thing, it will be
a marvel if he goes not astray with respect to the next; for,
although he may not desire to apply his judgment to the judging of
them, yet, if he apply it in paying heed to them, this will be
sufficient to make some evil to cling to him as a result of it, at
least passively; if not evil of this kind, then of one of the four
other kinds of which we shall shortly speak.
     5. It behoves the spiritual man, therefore, lest he fall into
this evil of being deceived in his judgment, not to desire to
apply his judgment in order to know the nature of his own
condition or feelings, or the nature of such and such a vision,
idea or feeling; neither should he desire to know it or to pay
heed to it. This he should only desire in order to speak of it to
his spiritual father, and to be taught by him how to void his
memory of these apprehensions. For, whatever may be their
intrinsic nature, they cannot help him to love God as much as the
smallest act of living faith and hope performed in the emptiness
and renunciation of all things.

                           CHAPTER IX

     Of the second kind of evil, which is the peril of falling
into self-esteem and vain presumption.

     THE supernatural apprehensions of the memory already
described are also a frequent occasion to spiritual persons of
falling into some kind of presumption or vanity, if they give heed
to them and set store by them. For, even as he who knows nothing
of them is quite free from falling into this vice, since he sees
in himself no occasion of presumption, even so, in contrary wise,
he that has experience of them has close at hand an occasion for
thinking himself to be something, since he possesses these
supernatural communications. For, although it is true that he may
attribute them to God, hold himself to be unworthy of them, and
give God the thanks, yet nevertheless there is wont to remain in
his spirit a certain secret satisfaction, and a self-esteem and a
sense of their value, from which, without his knowledge, there
will come to him great spiritual pride.
     2. This may be observed very clearly by such as will consider
the dislike and aversion caused them by any who do not praise
their spirituality, or esteem the experiences which they enjoy,
and the mortification which they suffer when they think or are
told that others have just those same experiences, or even
superior ones. All this arises from secret self-esteem and pride,
and they can never quite realize that they are steeped in pride up
to their very eyes. For they think that a certain degree of
recognition of their own wretchedness suffices, and, although they
have this, they are full of secret self-esteem and self-
satisfaction, taking more delight in their own spirituality and
spiritual gifts than in those of others. They are like the
Pharisee who gave thanks to God that he was not as other men, and
that he practised such and such virtues, whereat he was satisfied
with himself and presumed thereon.[507] Such men, although they may
not use the Pharisee's actual words, habitually resemble him in
spirit. And some of them even become so proud that they are worse
than the devil. For, observing in themselves, as they imagine,
certain apprehensions and feelings concerning God which are devout
and sweet, they become self-satisfied to such an extent that they
believe themselves to be very near God; and those that are not
like themselves they consider very low and despise them after the
manner of the Pharisee.
     3. In order to flee from this pestilent evil, abhorrent in
the eyes of God, they must consider two things. First, that virtue
consists not in apprehensions and feelings concerning God,
howsoever sublime they be, nor in anything of this kind that a man
can feel within himself; but, on the contrary, in that which has
nothing to do with feeling -- namely, a great humility and
contempt of oneself and of all that pertains to oneself, firmly
rooted in the soul and keenly felt by it; and likewise in being
glad that others feel in this very way concerning oneself and in
not wishing to be of any account in the esteem[508] of others.
     4. Secondly, it must be noted that all visions, revelations
and feelings coming from Heaven, and any thoughts that may proceed
from these, are of less worth than the least act of humility. And
humility is one of the effects of charity, which esteems not its
own things nor strives to attain them; nor thinks evil, save of
itself; nor thinks any good thing of itself, but only of others.
It is well, therefore, that these supernatural apprehensions
should not attract men's eyes, but that they should strive to
forget them in order that they may be free.

                            CHAPTER X

     Of the third evil that may come to the soul from the devil,
through the imaginary apprehensions of the memory.

     FROM all that has been said above it may be clearly
understood and inferred how great is the evil that may come to the
soul from the devil by way of these supernatural apprehensions.
For not only can he represent to the memory and the fancy many
false forms and ideas, which seem true and good, impressing them
on spirit and sense with great effectiveness and certifying them
to be true by means of suggestion (so that it appears to the soul
that it cannot be otherwise, but that everything is even as he
represents it; for, as he transfigures himself into an angel of
light, he appears as light to the soul); but he may also tempt the
soul in many ways with respect to true knowledge, which is of God,
moving its desires and affections, whether spiritual or sensual,
in unruly fashion with respect to these; for, if the soul takes
pleasure in such apprehensions, it is very easy for the devil to
cause its desires and affections to grow within it, and to make it
fall into spiritual gluttony and other evils.
     2. And, in order the better to do this, he is wont to suggest
and give pleasure, sweetness and delight to the senses with
respect to these same things of God, so that the soul is corrupted
and bewildered[509] by that sweetness, and is thus blinded with that
pleasure and sets its eyes on pleasure rather than on love (or, at
least, very much more than upon love), and gives more heed to the
apprehensions than to the detachment and emptiness which are found
in faith and hope and love of God. And from this he may go on
gradually to deceive the soul and cause it to believe his
falsehoods with great facility. For to the soul that is blind
falsehood no longer appears to be falsehood, nor does evil appear
to be evil, etc.; for darkness appears to be light, and light,
darkness; and hence that soul comes to commit a thousand foolish
errors, whether with respect to natural things, or to moral
things, or to spiritual things; so that that which was wine to it
becomes vinegar. All this happens to the soul because it began
not, first of all, by denying itself the pleasure of those
supernatural things. At first this is a small matter, and not very
harmful, and the soul has therefore no misgivings, and allows it
to continue, and it grows, like the grain of mustard seed, into a
tall tree. For a small error at the beginning, as they say,
becomes a great error in the end.
     3. Wherefore, in order to flee from this great evil, which
comes from the devil, the soul must not desire to have any
pleasure in such things, because such pleasure will most surely
lead it to become blind and to fall. For of their own nature, and
without the help of the devil, pleasure and delight and sweetness
blinds the soul. And this was the meaning of David when he said:
'Perhaps darkness shall blind me in my delights and I shall have
the night for my light.'[510]

                           CHAPTER XI

     Of the fourth evil that comes to the soul from the distinct
supernatural apprehensions of the memory, which is the hindrance
that it interposes to union.

     CONCERNING this fourth evil there is not much to be said,
since it has already been treated again and again in this third
book, wherein we have proved how, in order that the soul may come
to union with God in hope, it must renounce every possession of
the memory; for, in order that its hope in God may be perfect, it
must have naught in the memory that is not God. And, as we have
likewise said, no form or figure or image or other kind of
knowledge that may come to the memory can be God, neither can be
like Him, whether it be of heaven or of earth, natural or
supernatural, even as David teaches, when he says: 'Lord, among
the gods there is none like unto Thee.'[511]
     2. Wherefore, if the memory desires to pay heed to any of
these things, it hinders the soul from reaching God; first,
because it encumbers it, and next because, the more the soul has
of possession, the less it has of hope. Wherefore it is needful
for the soul to be stripped of the distinct forms and the
knowledge of supernatural things, and to become oblivious to them,
so that the memory may cause no hindrance to its union with God in
perfect hope.

                           CHAPTER XII

     Of the fifth evil that may come to the soul in supernatural
imaginary forms and apprehensions, which is a low and unseemly
judgment or God.

     NO less serious is the fifth evil that comes to the soul from
its desire to retain in the memory and imagination the said forms
and images of things that are supernaturally communicated to it,
above all if it desires to use them as a means to Divine union.
For it is a very easy thing to judge of the Being and greatness of
God less worthily and nobly than befits His incomprehensible
nature; for, although our reason and judgment may form no express
conception that God is like any one of these things, yet the very
esteeming of these apprehensions, if in fact the soul esteems
them, makes and causes it not to esteem God, or not to feel
concerning Him, as highly as faith teaches, since faith tells us
that He is incomparable, incomprehensible, and so forth. For,
quite apart from the fact that the soul takes from God all that it
gives to the creature, it is natural that its esteem of these
apprehensible things should lead it to make a certain inward
comparison between such things and God, which would prevent it
from judging and esteeming God as highly as it ought. For the
creatures, whether terrestrial or celestial, and all distinct
images and kinds of knowledge, both natural and supernatural, that
can be encompassed by the faculties of the soul, however lofty
they be in this life, have no comparison or proportion with the
Being of God, since God falls within no genus and no species,
whereas the creatures do, or so the theologians tell us. And the
soul in this life is not capable of receiving in a clear and
distinct manner aught save that which falls within genus and
species. For this cause Saint John says that no man hath seen God
at any time.[512] And Isaias says it has not entered into the heart
of man what God is like.[513] And God said to Moses that he could
not see Him while he was in this mortal state.[514] Wherefore he
that encumbers his memory and the other faculties of the soul with
that which they can comprehend cannot esteem God, neither feel
concerning Him, as he ought.
     2. Let us make a comparison on a lower level. It is clear
that the more a man fixes his eyes upon the servants of a king,
and the more notice he takes of them, the less notice does he take
of the king himself, and the less does he esteem him; for,
although this comparison may not be formally and distinctly
present in the understanding, it is inherent in the act, since,
the more attention the man gives to the servants, the more he

takes from their lord; and he cannot have a very high opinion of
the king if the servants appear to him to be of any importance
while they are in the presence of the king, their lord. Even so
does the soul treat its God when it pays heed to the creatures
aforementioned. This comparison, however, is on a very low level,
for, as we have said, God is of another being than His creatures
in that He is infinitely far from them all. For this reason they
must all be banished from sight, and the soul must withdraw its
gaze from them in all their forms, that it may yet gaze on God
through faith and hope.
     3. Wherefore those who not only pay heed to the imaginary
apprehensions aforementioned, but suppose God to be like some of
them, and think that by means of them they will be able to attain
to union with God, have already gone far astray and will ever
continue to lose the light of faith in the understanding, through
which this faculty is united with God; neither will they grow in
the loftiness of hope, by means whereof the memory is united with
God in hope, which must be brought about through disunion from all
that is of the imagination.

                          CHAPTER XIII

     Of the benefits which the soul receives through banishing
from itself the apprehensions of the imagination. This chapter
answers a certain objection and explains a difference which exists
between apprehensions that are imaginary, natural and

     THE benefits that come from voiding the imagination of
imaginary forms can be clearly observed in the five evils
aforementioned which they inflict upon the soul, if it desires to
retain them, even as we also said of the natural forms. But, apart
from these, there are other benefits for the spirit -- namely,
those of great rest and quiet. For, setting aside that natural
rest which the soul obtains when it is free from images and forms,
it likewise becomes free from anxiety as to whether they are good
or evil, and as to how it must behave with respect to the one and
to the other. Nor has it to waste the labour and time of its
spiritual masters by requiring them to decide if these things are
good or evil, and if they are of this kind or of another; for the
soul has no need to desire to know all this if it pays no heed to
them. The time and energies which it would have wasted in dealing
with these images and forms can be better employed in another and
a more profitable exercise, which is that of the will with respect
to God, and in having a care to seek detachment and poverty of
spirit and sense, which consists in desiring earnestly to be
without any consoling support that can be apprehended, whether
interior or exterior. This we practise well when we desire and
strive to strip ourselves of these forms, since from this there
will proceed no less a benefit than that of approach to God (Who
has no image, neither form nor figure), and this will be the
greater according as the soul withdraws itself the more completely
from all forms, images and figures of the imagination.
     2. But perchance you will say: 'Why do many spiritual persons
counsel the soul to strive to profit by the communications and
feelings which come from God, and to desire to receive them from
Him, that it may have something to give Him; since, if He gives us
nothing, we shall give Him nothing likewise? And wherefore does
Saint Paul say: 'Quench not the spirit?"[515] And the Spouse to the
Bride: "Set Me as a seal upon thy heart and as a seal upon thine
arm?"[516] This certainly denotes some kind of apprehension. And,
according to the instruction given above, not only must all this
not be striven after, but, even though God sends it, it must be
rejected and cast aside. But surely it is clear that, since God
gives it, He gives it to a good purpose, and it will have a good
effect. We must not throw away pearls. And it is even a kind of
pride to be unwilling to receive the things of God, as if we could
do without them and were self-sufficient.'
     3. In order to meet this objection it is necessary to recall
what we said in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters[517] of the
second book, where to a great extent the difficulty is solved. For
we said there that the good that overflows in the soul from
supernatural apprehensions, when they come from a good source, is
produced passively in the soul at that very instant when they are
represented to the senses, without the working of any operation of
the faculties. Wherefore it is unnecessary for the will to perform
the act of receiving them; for, as we have also said, if at that
time the soul should try to labour with its faculties, the effect
of its own base and natural operation would be to hinder the
supernatural graces[518] which God is even then working in it rather
than that, through these apprehensions, God should cause it to
derive any benefit from its active labour. Nay, rather, as the
spirituality coming from those imaginary apprehensions is given
passively to the soul, even so must the soul conduct itself
passively with respect to them, setting no store by its inward or
outward actions. To do this is to preserve the feelings that have
their source in God, for in this way they are not lost through the
soul's base manner of working. And this is not quenching the
spirit; for the spirit would be quenched by the soul if it desired
to behave in any other manner than that whereby God is leading it.
And this it would be doing if, when God had given it spiritual
graces[519] passively, as He does in these apprehensions, it should
then desire to exert itself actively with respect to them, by
labouring with its understanding or by seeking to find something
in them. And this is clear because, if the soul desires to labour
at that time with its own exertions, its work cannot be more than
natural, for of itself it is capable of no more; for
supernaturally it neither moves itself nor can move itself -- it
is God that moves it and brings it to this state. And thus, if the
soul at that time desires to labour with its own exertions (as far
as lies in its power), its active working will hinder the passive
work that God is communicating to it, which is spirit.[520] It will
be setting itself to its own work, which is of another and an
inferior kind than that which God communicates to it; for the work
of God is passive and supernatural, and that of the soul is active
and natural; and in this way the soul would therefore be quenching
the spirit.
     4. That this activity of the soul is an inferior one is also
clear from the fact that the faculties of the soul cannot, of
their own power, reflect and act, save upon some form, figure and
image, and this is the rind and accident of the substance and
spirit which lie beneath this rind and accident. This substance
and spirit unite not with the faculties of the soul in true
understanding and love, save when at last the operation of the
faculties ceases. For the aim and end of this operation is only
that the substance which can be understood and loved and which
lies beneath these forms may come to be received in the soul. The
difference, therefore, between active and passive operation, and
the superiority of the latter, corresponds to the difference
between that which is being done and that which is done already,
or between that which a man tries to attain and effect and that
which is already effected. Hence it may likewise be inferred that,
if the soul should desire to employ its faculties actively on
these supernatural apprehensions, wherein God, as we have said,
bestows the spirit of them passively, it would be doing nothing
less than abandoning what it had already done, in order to do it
again, neither would it enjoy what it had done, nor could it
produce any other result by these actions of its own, save that of
impeding what had been done already. For, as we say, the faculties
cannot of their own power attain to the spirituality which God
bestows upon the soul without any operation of their own. And thus
the soul would be directly quenching the spirituality[521] which God
infuses through these imaginary apprehensions aforementioned if it
were to set any store by them; wherefore it must set them aside,
and take up a passive and negative attitude with regard to them.
For at that time God is moving the soul to things which are above
its own power and knowledge. For this cause the Prophet said: 'I
will stand upon my watch and set my step upon my tower, and I will
watch to see that which will be said to me.'[522] This is as though
he were to say: I will stand on guard over my faculties and I will
take no step forward as to my actions, and thus I shall be able to
contemplate that which will be said to me -- that is, I shall
understand and enjoy that which will be communicated to me
     5. And the passage which has been quoted concerning the
Spouse is to be understood as referring to the love that He
entreats of the Bride, the office of which love between two lovers
is to make one like to the other in the most vital part of them.
Wherefore He tells her to set Him as a seal upon her heart,[523]
where all the arrows strike that leave the quiver of love, which
arrows are the actions and motives of love. So they will all
strike Him Who is there as a mark for them; and thus all will be
for Him, so that the soul will become like Him through the actions
and motions of love, until it be transformed in Him. Likewise he
bids her set Him as a seal upon her arm, because the arm
performs[524] the exercise of love, for by the arm the Beloved is
sustained and comforted.
     6. Therefore all that the soul has to endeavour to do with
respect to all the apprehensions which come to it from above,
whether imaginary or of any other kind -- it matters not if they
be visions, locutions, feelings or revelations -- is to make no
account of the letter or the rind (that is, of what is signified
or represented or given to be understood), but to pay heed only to
the possession of the love of God which they cause interiorly
within the soul. And in this case the soul will make account, not
of feelings of sweetness or delight, nor of figures, but of the
feelings of love which they cause it. And with this sole end in
view it may at times recall that image and apprehension caused it
by love, in order to set the spirit on its course of love. For,
though the effect of that apprehension be not so great afterwards,
when it is recalled, as it was on the first occasion when it was
communicated, yet, when it is recalled, love is renewed, and the
mind is lifted up to God, especially when the recollection is of
certain figures, images or feelings which are supernatural, and
are wont to be sealed and imprinted upon the soul in such a way
that they continue for a long time -- some of them, indeed, never
leave the soul. And those that are thus sealed upon the soul
produce in it Divine effects of love, sweetness, light and so
forth, on almost every occasion when the soul returns to them,
sometimes more so and sometimes less; for it was to this end that
they were impressed upon it. And thus this is a great favour for
the soul on which God bestows it, for it is as though it had
within itself a mine of blessings.
     7. The figures which produce effects such as these are deeply
implanted in the soul, and are not like other images and forms
that are retained in the fancy. And thus the soul has no need to
have recourse to this faculty when it desires to recall them, for
it sees that it has them within itself, and that they are as an
image seen in the mirror. When it comes to pass that any soul has
such figures formally within itself, it will then do well to
recall them to the effect of love to which I have referred, for
they will be no hindrance to the union of love in faith, since the
soul will not desire to be absorbed in the figure, but only to
profit by the love; it will immediately set aside the figure,
which thus will rather be a help to it.
     8. Only with great difficulty can it be known when these
images are imprinted upon the soul, and when upon the fancy. For
those which touch the fancy are as apt to occur very frequently as
are the others; for certain persons are accustomed habitually to
have imaginary visions in their imagination and fancy, which are
presented to them in one form with great frequency; sometimes
because the apprehensive power of the organ concerned is very
great, and, however little they reflect upon it, that habitual
figure is at once presented to, and outlined upon, their fancy;
sometimes because it is the work of the devil; sometimes, again,
because it is the work of God; but the visions are not formally
imprinted upon the soul. They may be known, however, by their
effects. For those that are natural, or that come from the devil,
produce no good effect upon the soul, however frequently they be
recalled, nor work its spiritual renewal, but the contemplation of
them simply produces aridity. Those that are good, however,
produce some good effect when they are recalled, like that which
was produced in the soul upon the first occasion. But the formal
images which are imprinted upon the soul almost invariably produce
some effect in it, whensoever they are remembered.
     9. He that has experienced these will readily distinguish the
one kind from the other, for the great difference between them is
very clear to anyone that has experience of them. I will merely
say that those which are formally and durably imprinted upon the
soul are of very rare occurrence. But, whether they be of this
kind or of that, it is good for the soul to desire to understand
nothing, save God alone, through faith, in hope. And if anyone
makes the objection that to reject these things, if they are good,
appears to be pride, I reply that it is not so, but that it is
prudent humility to profit by them in the best way, as has been
said, and to be guided by that which is safest.

                           CHAPTER XIV

     Which treats of spiritual knowledge in so far as it may
concern the memory.

     WE classed spiritual forms of knowledge as the third division
of the apprehensions of the memory, not because they belong to the
bodily sense of the fancy, as do the others, for they have no
bodily form and image, but because they are likewise apprehensible
by spiritual memory and reminiscence. Now, after the soul has had
experience of one of these apprehensions, it can recall it
whensoever it will; and this is not by the effigy and image that
the apprehension has left in the bodily sense, for, since this is
of bodily form, as we say, it has no capacity for spiritual forms;
but because it recalls it, intellectually and spiritually, by
means of that form which it has left impressed upon the soul,
which is likewise a formal or spiritual form or notion or image,
whereby it is recalled, or by means of the effect that it has
wrought. It is for this reason that I place these apprehensions
among those of the memory, although they belong not to the
apprehensions of the fancy.
     2. What these kinds of knowledge are, and how the soul is to
conduct itself with respect to them in order to attain to union
with God, are sufficiently described in the twenty-fourth
chapter[525] of the second book, where we treated this knowledge as
apprehensions of the understanding. Let this be referred to, for
we there described how it was of two kinds: either uncreated or of
the creatures. I speak now only of things relating to my present
purpose -- namely, how the memory must behave with respect to them
in order to attain to union. And I say, as I have just said of

formal knowledge in the preceding chapter (for this, being of
created things, is of the same kind), that these apprehensions my
be recalled when they produce good effects, not that they may be
dwelt upon, but that they may quicken the soul's love and
knowledge of God. But, unless the recollection of them produces
good effects, let the memory never give them even passing
attention. With regard to uncreated knowledge, I say that the soul
should try to recall it as often as possible, for it will produce
most beneficial effects. As we said above, it produces touches and
impressions of union with God, which is the aim towards which we
are directing the soul. And by no form, image or figure which can
be impressed upon the soul does the memory recall these (for these
touches and impressions of union with the Creator have no form),
but only by the effects which they have produced upon it of light,
love, joy and spiritual renewal, and so forth, some of which are
wrought anew in the soul whensoever they are remembered.

                           CHAPTER XV

     Which sets down the general method whereby the spiritual
person must govern himself with respect to this sense.

     IN order to conclude this discussion on the memory, it will
be well at this point to give the spiritual reader an account of
the method which he must observe, and which is of universal
application, in order that he may be united with God according to
this sense. For, although what has been said makes the subject
quite clear, it will nevertheless be more easily apprehended if we
summarize it here. To this end it must be remembered that, since
our aim is the union of the soul with God in hope, according to
the memory, and since that which is hoped for is that which is not
possessed, and since, the less we possess of other things, the
greater scope and the greater capacity have we for hoping, and
consequently the greater hope, therefore, the more things we
possess, the less scope and capacity is there for hoping, and
consequently the less hope have we. Hence, the more the soul
dispossesses the memory of forms and things which may be recalled
by it, which are not God, the more will it set its memory upon
God, and the emptier will its memory become, so that it may hope
for Him Who shall fill it. What must be done, then, that the soul
may live in the perfect and pure hope of God is that, whensoever
these distinct images, forms and ideas come to it, it must not
rest in them, but must turn immediately to God, voiding the memory
of them entirely, with loving affection. It must neither think of
these things nor consider them beyond the degree which is
necessary for the understanding and performing of its obligations,
if they have any concern with these. And this it must do without
setting any affection or inclination upon them, so that they may
produce no effects in the soul. And thus a man must not fail to
think and recall that which he ought to know and do, for, provided
he preserves no affection or attachments, this will do him no
harm. For this matter the lines of the Mount, which are in the
thirteenth chapter of the first book, will be of profit.
     2. But here it must be borne in mind that this doctrine ours
does not agree, nor do we desire that it should agree, with the
doctrine of those pestilent men, who, inspired by Satanic pride
and envy, have desired to remove from the eyes of the faithful the
holy and necessary use, and the worthy[526] adoration, of images of
God and of the saints. This teaching of ours is very different
from that; for we say not here, as they do, that images should not
exist, and should not be adored; we simply explain the difference
between images and God. We exhort men to pass beyond that which is
superficial[527] that they may not be hindered from attaining to the
living truth beneath it, and to make no more account of the former
than suffices for attainment to the spiritual. For means are good
and necessary to an end; and images are means which serve to
remind us of God and of the saints. But when we consider and
attend to the means more than is necessary for treating them as
such, they disturb and hinder us as much, in their own way, as any
different thing; the more so, when we treat of supernatural
visions and images, to which I am specially referring, and with
respect to which arise many deceptions and perils. For, with
respect to the remembrance and adoration and esteem of images,
which the Catholic Church sets before us, there can be no
deception or peril, because naught is esteemed therein other than
that which is represented; nor does the remembrance of them fail
to profit the soul, since they are not preserved in the memory
save with love for that which they represent; and, provided the
soul pays no more heed to them than is necessary for this purpose,
they will ever assist it to union with God, allowing the soul to
soar upwards (when God grants it that favour) from the superficial
image[528] to the living God, forgetting every creature and
everything that belongs to creatures.

                           CHAPTER XVI

     Which begins to treat of the dark night of the will. Makes a
division between the affections of the will.

     WE should have accomplished nothing by the purgation of the
understanding in order to ground it in the virtue of faith, and by
the purgation of the memory in order to ground it in hope, if we
purged not the will also according to the third virtue, which is
charity, whereby the works that are done in faith live and have
great merit, and without it are of no worth. For, as Saint James
says: 'Without works of charity, faith is dead.'[529] And, now that
we have to treat of the active detachment and night of this
faculty, in order to form it and make it perfect in this virtue of
the charity of God, I find no more fitting authority than that
which is written in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, where Moses
says: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and
with thy whole soul and with thy whole strength.'[530] Herein is
contained all that the spiritual man ought to do, and all that I
have here to teach him, so that he may truly attain to God,
through union of the will, by means of charity. For herein man is
commanded to employ all the faculties and desires and operations
and affections of his soul in God, so that all the ability and
strength of his soul may serve for no more than this, according to
that which David says, in these words: Fortitudinem meam ad te
     2. The strength of the soul consists in its faculties,
passions and desires, all of which are governed by the will. Now
when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the
will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God, then
the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus the soul is
able to love God with all its strength. And, to the end that the
soul may do this, we shall here treat of the purgation from the
will of all its unruly affections, whence arise unruly operations,
affections and desires, and whence also arises its failure to keep
all its strength for God. These affections and passions are four,
namely: Joy, hope, grief and fear. These passions, when they are
controlled by reason according to the way of God, so that the soul
rejoices only in that which is purely the honour and glory of God,
and hopes for naught else, neither grieves save for things that
concern this, neither fears aught save God alone, it is clear that
the strength and ability of the soul are being directed toward God
and kept for Him. For, the more the soul rejoices in any other
thing than God, the less completely will it centre its rejoicing
in God;[532] and the more it hopes in aught else, the less will it
hope in God; and so with the other passions.
     3. And in order to give fuller instructions concerning this,
we shall treat, in turn and in detail, as is our custom, of each
of these four passions and of the desires of the will. For the
whole business of attaining to union with God consists in purging
the will from its affections and desires; so that thus it may no
longer be a base, human will, but may become a Divine will, being
made one[533] with the will of God.
     4. These four passions have the greater dominion in the soul,
and assail it the more vehemently, when the will is less strongly
attached to God and more dependent on the creatures. For then it
rejoices very readily at things that merit not rejoicing, hopes in
that which brings no profit, grieves over that in which perchance
it ought to rejoice, and fears where there is no reason for
     5. From these affections, when they are unbridled, arise in
the soul all the vices and imperfections which it possesses, and
likewise, when they are ordered and composed, all its virtues. And
it must be known that, if one of them should become ordered and
controlled by reason, the rest will become so likewise; for these
four passions of the soul are so closely and intimately united to
one another that the actual direction of one is the virtual
direction of the others; and if one be actually recollected the
other three will virtually and proportionately be recollected
likewise. For, if the will rejoice in anything it will as a result
hope for the same thing to the extent of its rejoicing, and herein
are virtually included grief and fear with regard to the same
thing; and, in proportion as desire for these is taken away, fear
and grief concerning them are likewise gradually lost, and hope
for them is removed. For the will, with these four passions, is
denoted by that figure which was seen by Ezechiel, of four beasts
with one body, which had four faces; and the wings of the one were
joined to those of the other, and each one went straight before
his face, and when they went forward they turned not back.[534] And
thus in the same manner the wings of each one of these affections
are joined to those of each of the others, so that, in whichever
direction one of them turns -- that is, in its operation -- the
others of necessity go with it virtually also; and, when one of
them descends, as is there said, they must all descend, and, when
one is lifted up, they will all be lifted up. Where thy hope is,
thither will go thy joy and fear and grief; and, if thy hope
returns, the others will return, and so of the rest.
     6. Wherefore thou must take note that, wheresoever one of
these passions is, thither will go likewise the whole soul and the
will and the other faculties, and they will all live as captives
to this passion, and the other three passions will be living in it
also, to afflict the soul with their captivity, and not to allow
it to fly upward to the liberty and rest of sweet contemplation
and union. For this cause Boetius told thee that, if thou shouldst
desire to understand truth with clear light, thou must cast from
thee joys, hope, fear and grief.[535] For, as long as these passions
reign, they allow not the soul to remain in the tranquillity and
peace which are necessary for the wisdom which, by natural or
supernatural means, it is capable of receiving.

                          CHAPTER XVII

     Which begins to treat of the first affections of the will.
Describes the nature of joy and makes a distinction between the
things in which the will can rejoice.

     THE first of the passions of the soul and affections of the
will is joy, which, in so far as concerns that which we propose to
say about it, is naught else than a satisfaction of the will
together with esteem for something which it considers desirable;
for the will never rejoices save when an object affords it
appreciation and satisfaction. This has reference to active joy,
which arises when the soul clearly and distinctly understands the
reason for its rejoicing, and when it is in its own power to
rejoice or not. There is another and a passive joy, a condition in
which the will may find itself rejoicing without understanding
clearly and distinctly the reason for its rejoicing, and which
also occurs at times when it does understand this; but it is not
in the soul's power to rejoice or not. Of this condition we shall
speak hereafter. For the present we shall speak of joy when it is
active and voluntary and arises from things that are distinct and
     2. Joy may arise from six kinds of good things or
blessings,[536] namely: temporal, natural, sensual, moral,
supernatural and spiritual. Of these we shall speak in their
order, controlling the will with regard to them so that it may not
be encumbered by them and fail to place the strength of its joy in
God. To this end it is well to presuppose one fundamental truth,
which will be as a staff whereon we should ever lean as we
progress; and it will be well to have understood it, because it is
the light whereby we should be guided and whereby we may
understand this doctrine, and direct our rejoicing in all these
blessings to God. This truth is that the will must never rejoice
save only in that which is to the honour and glory of God; and
that the greatest honour we can show to Him is that of serving Him
according to evangelical perfection; and anything that has naught
to do with this is of no value and profit to man.

                          CHAPTER XVIII

     Which treats of joy with respect to temporal blessings.
Describes how joy in them must be directed to God.

     THE first kind of blessing of which we have spoken is
temporal. And by temporal blessings we here understand riches,
rank, office and other things that men desire; and children,
relatives, marriages, etc.: all of which are things wherein the
will may rejoice. But it is clear how vain a thing it is for men
to rejoice in riches, titles, rank, office and other such things
which they are wont to desire; for, if a man were the better
servant of God for being rich, he ought to rejoice in riches; but
in fact they are rather a cause for his giving offence to God,
even as the Wise Man teaches, saying: 'Son, if thou be rich, thou
shalt not be free from sin.'[537] Although it is true that temporal
blessings do not necessarily of themselves cause sin, yet, through
the frailty of its affections, the heart of man habitually clings
to them and fails God (which is a sin, for to fail God is sin); it
is for this cause that the Wise Man says: 'Thou shalt not be free
from sin.' For this reason the Lord described riches, in the
Gospel, as thorns,[538] in order to show that he who touches them[539]
with the will shall be wounded by some sin. And that exclamation
which He makes in the Gospel, saying: 'How hardly shall they that
have riches enter the Kingdom of the heavens' -- that is to say,
they that have joy in riches -- clearly shows that man must not
rejoice in riches, since he exposes himself thereby to such great
peril.[540] And David, in order to withdraw us from this peril, said
likewise: 'If riches abound, set not your heart on them.'[541] And I
will not here quote further testimony on so clear a matter.
     2. For in that case I should never cease quoting Scripture,
nor should I cease describing the evils which Solomon imputes to
riches in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was a man who had possessed great
riches, and, knowing well what they were, said: 'All things that
are under the sun are vanity of vanities, vexation of spirit and
vain solicitude of the mind.'[542] And he that loves riches, he
said, shall reap no fruit from them.[543] And he adds that riches
are kept to the hurt of their owner,[544] as we see in the Gospel,
where it was said from Heaven to the man that rejoiced because he
had kept many fruits for many years: 'Fool, this night shall thy
soul be required of thee to give account thereof, and whose shall
be that which thou has provided?'[545] And finally, David teaches us
the same, saying: 'Let us have no envy when our neighbour becomes
rich, for it will profit him nothing in the life to come;'[546]
meaning thereby that we might rather have pity on him.
     3. It follows, then, that a man must neither rejoice in
riches when he has them, nor when his brother has them, unless
they help them to serve God. For if ever it is allowable to
rejoice in them, it will be when they are spent and employed in
the service of God, for otherwise no profit will be derived from
them. And the same is to be understood of other blessings (titles,
offices, etc.), in all of which it is vain to rejoice if a man
feel not that God is the better served because of them and the way
to eternal life is made more secure. And as it cannot be clearly
known if this is so (if God is better served, etc.), it would be a
vain thing to rejoice in these things deliberately, since such a
joy cannot be reasonable. For, as the Lord says: 'If a man gain
all the world, he may yet lose his soul.'[547] There is naught,
then, wherein to rejoice save in the fact that God is better
     4. Neither is there cause for rejoicing in children because
they are many, or rich, or endowed with natural graces and talents
and the good things of fortune, but only if they serve God. For
Absalom, the son of David, found neither his beauty nor his riches
nor his lineage of any service to him because he served not
God.[548] Hence it was a vain thing to have rejoiced in such a son.
For this reason it is also a vain thing for men to desire to have
children, as do some who trouble and disturb everyone with their
desire for them, since they know not if such children will be good
and serve God. Nor do they know if their satisfaction in them will
be turned into pain; nor if the comfort and consolation which they
should have from them will change to disquiet and trial; and the
honour which they should bring them, into dishonour; nor if they
will cause them to give greater offence to God, as happens to
many. Of these Christ says that they go round about the sea and
the land to enrich them and to make them doubly the children of
perdition which they are themselves.[549]
     5. Wherefore, though all things smile upon a man and all that
he does turns out prosperously, he ought to have misgivings rather
than to rejoice; for these things increase the occasion and peril
of his forgetting God. For this cause Solomon says, in
Ecclesiastes, that he was cautious: 'Laughter I counted error and
to rejoicing I said, "Why art thou vainly deceived?"'[550] Which is
as though he had said: When things smiled upon me I counted it
error and deception to rejoice in them; for without doubt it is a
great error and folly on the part of a man if he rejoice when
things are bright and pleasant for him, knowing not of a certainty
that there will come to him thence some eternal good. The heart of
the fool, says the Wise Man, is where there is mirth, but that of
the wise man is where there is sorrow.[551] For mirth blinds the
heart and allows it not to consider things and ponder them; but
sadness makes a man open his eyes and look at the profit and the
harm of them. And hence it is that, as he himself says, anger is
better than laughter.[552] Wherefore it is better to go to the house
of mourning than to the house of feasting; for in the former is
figured the end of all men,[553] as the Wise Man says likewise.
     6. It would therefore be vanity for a woman or her husband to
rejoice in their marriage when they know not clearly that they are
serving God better thereby. They ought rather to feel confounded,
since matrimony is a cause, as Saint Paul says, whereby each one
sets his heart upon the other and keeps it not wholly with God.
Wherefore he says: 'If thou shouldst find thyself free from a
wife, desire not to seek a wife; while he that has one already
should walk with such freedom of heart as though he had her
not.'[554] This, together with what we have said concerning temporal
blessings, he teaches us himself, in these words: 'This is
certain; as I say to you, brethren, the time is short; it
remaineth that they also who have wives be as if they had none;
and they that weep, as them that weep not; and they that rejoice,
as them that rejoice not; and they that buy, as them that possess
not; and they that use this world, as them that use it not.'[555]
All this he says to show us that we must not set our rejoicings
upon any other thing than that which tends to the service of God,
since the rest is vanity and a thing which profits not; for joy
that is not according to God can bring the soul no profit.[556]

                           CHAPTER XIX

     Of the evils that may befall the soul when it sets its
rejoicing upon temporal blessings.

     IF we had to describe the evils which encompass the soul when
it sets the affections of its will upon temporal blessings,
neither ink nor paper would suffice us and our time would be too
short. For from very small beginnings a man may attain to great
evils and destroy great blessings; even as from a spark of fire,
if it be not quenched, may be enkindled great fires which set the
world ablaze. All these evils have their root and origin in one
important evil of a privative kind that is contained in this joy
-- namely, withdrawal from God. For even as, in the soul that is
united with Him by the affection of its will, there are born all
blessings, even so, when it withdraws itself from Him because of
this creature affection, there beset it all evils and disasters
proportionately to the joy and affection wherewith it is united
with the creature; for this is inherent in[557] withdrawal from God.
Wherefore a soul may expect the evils which assail it to be
greater or less according to the greater or lesser degree of its
withdrawal from God. These evils may be extensive or intensive;
for the most part they are both together.
     2. This privative evil, whence, we say, arise other privative
and positive evils, has four degrees, each one worse than the
other. And, when the soul compasses the fourth degree, it will
have compassed all the evils and depravities that arise in this
connection.[558] These four degrees are well indicated by Moses in
Deuteronomy in these words, where he says: 'The beloved grew fat
and kicked. He grew fat and became swollen and gross. He forsook
God his Maker and departed from God his Salvation.'[559]
     3. This growing fat of the soul, which was loved before it
grew fat, indicates absorption in this joy of creatures. And hence
arises the first degree of this evil, namely the going backward;
which is a certain blunting of the mind with regard to God, an
obscuring of the blessings of God like the obscuring of the air by
mist, so that it cannot be clearly illumined by the light of the
sun. For, precisely when the spiritual person sets his rejoicing
upon anything, and gives rein to his desire for foolish things, he
becomes blind as to God, and the simple intelligence of his
judgment becomes clouded, even as the Divine Spirit teaches in the
Book of Wisdom, saying: 'the use and association of vanity and
scorn obscureth good things, and inconstancy of desire overturneth
and perverteth the sense and judgment that are without malice.'[560]
Here the Holy Spirit shows that, although there be no malice
conceived in the understanding of the soul, concupiscence and
rejoicing in creatures suffice of themselves to create in the soul
the first degree of this evil, which is the blunting of the mind
and the darkening of the judgment, by which the truth is
understood and each thing honestly judged as it is.
     4. Holiness and good judgment suffice not to save a man from
falling into this evil, if he gives way to concupiscence or
rejoicing in temporal things. For this reason God warned us by
uttering these words through Moses: 'Thou shalt take no gifts,
which blind even the prudent.'[561] And this was addressed
particularly to those who were to be judges; for these have need
to keep their judgment clear and alert, which they will be unable
to do if they covet and rejoice in gifts. And for this cause
likewise God commanded Moses to appoint judges from those who
abhorred avarice, so that their judgment should not be blunted
with the lust of the passions.[562] And thus he says not only that
they should not desire it, but that they should abhor it. For, if
a man is to be perfectly defended from the affection of love, he
must preserve an abhorrence of it, defending himself by means of
the one thing against its contrary. The reason why the prophet
Samuel, for example, was always so upright and enlightened a judge
is that (as he said in the Book of the Kings) he had never
received a gift from any man.[563]
     5. The second degree of this privative evil arises from the
first, which is indicated in the words following the passage
already quoted, namely: 'He grew fat and became swollen and
gross.'[564] And thus this second degree is dilation of the will
through the acquisition of greater liberty in temporal things;
which consists in no longer attaching so much importance to them,
nor troubling oneself about them, nor esteeming so highly the joy
and pleasure that come from created blessings. And this will have
arisen in the soul from its having in the first place given rein
to rejoicing; for, through giving way to it, the soul has become
swollen with it, as is said in that passage, and that fatness of
rejoicing and desire has mused it to dilate and extend its will
more freely toward the creatures. And this brings with it great
evils. For this second degree causes the soul to withdraw itself
from the things of God, and from holy practices, and to take no
pleasure in them, because it takes pleasure in other things and
devotes itself continually to many imperfections and follies and
to joys and vain pleasures.
     6. And when this second degree is consummated, it withdraws a
man wholly from the practices which he followed continually and
makes his whole mind and covetousness to be given to secular
things. And those who are affected by this second degree not only
have their judgment and understanding darkened so that they cannot
recognize truth and justice, like those who are in the first
degree, but they are also very weak and lukewarm and careless in
acquiring knowledge of, and in practising, truth and justice, even
as Isaias says of them in these words: 'They all love gifts and
allow themselves to be carried away by rewards, and they judge not
the orphan, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them
that they may give heed to it.'[565] This comes not to pass in them
without sin, especially when to do these things is incumbent upon
them because of their office. For those who are affected by this
degree are not free from malice as are those of the first degree.
And thus they withdraw themselves more and more from justice and
virtues, since their will reaches out more and more in affection
for creatures. Wherefore, the characteristics of those who are in
this second degree are great lukewarmness in spiritual things and
failure to do their duty by them; they practise them from
formality or from compulsion or from the habit which they have
formed of practising them, rather than because they love them.
     7. The third degree of this privative evil is a complete
falling away from God, neglect to fulfil His law in order not to
lose worldly things and blessings, and relapse into mortal sin
through covetousness. And this third degree is described in the
words following the passage quoted above, which says: 'He forsook
God his Maker.'[566] In this degree are included all who have the
faculties of the soul absorbed in things of the world and in
riches and commerce, in such a way that they care nothing for
fulfilling the obligations of the law of God. And they are very
forgetful and dull with respect to that which touches their
salvation, and have a correspondingly greater ardour and
shrewdness with respect to things of the world. So much so that in
the Gospel Christ calls them children of this world, and says of
them that they are more prudent and acute in their affairs than
are the children of light in their own.[567] And thus they are as
nothing in God's business, whereas in the world's business they
are everything. And these are the truly avaricious, who have
extended and dispersed their desire and joy on things created, and
this with such affection that they cannot be satisfied; on the
contrary, their desire and their thirst grow all the more because
they are farther withdrawn from the only source that could satisfy
them, which is God. For it is of these that God Himself speaks
through Jeremias, saying: 'They have forsaken Me, Who am the
fountain of living water, and they have digged to themselves
broken cisterns that can hold no water.'[568] And this is the reason
why the covetous man finds naught among the creatures wherewith he
can quench his thirst, but only that which increases it. These
persons are they that fall into countless kinds of sin through
love of temporal blessings and the evils which afflict them are
innumerable. And of these David says: Transierunt in affectum
     8. The fourth degree of this privative evil is indicated in
the last words of our passage, which says: 'And he departed from
God his Salvation.'[570] To this degree come those of the third
degree whereof we have just spoken. For, through his not giving
heed to setting his heart upon the law of God because of temporal
blessings, the soul of the covetous man departs far from God
according to his memory, understanding and will, forgetting Him as
though He were not his God, which comes to pass because he has
made for himself a god of money and of temporal blessings, as
Saint Paul says when he describes avarice as slavery to idols.[571]
For this fourth degree leads a man as far as to forget God, and to
set his heart, which he should have set formally upon God,
formally upon money, as though he had no god beside.
     9. To this fourth degree belong those who hesitate not to
subject Divine and supernatural things to temporal things, as to
their God, when they ought to do the contrary, and subject
temporal things to God, if they considered Him as their God, as
would be in accordance with reason. To these belonged the
iniquitous Balaam, who sold the grace that God had given to
him.[572] And also Simon Magus, who thought to value the grace of
God in terms of money, and desired to buy it.[573] In doing this he
showed a greater esteem for money; and he thought there were those
who similarly esteemed it, and would give grace for money. There
are many nowadays who in many other ways belong to this fourth
degree; their reason is darkened to spiritual things by
covetousness; they serve money and not God, and are influenced by
money and not by God, putting first the cost of a thing and not
its Divine worth and reward, and in many ways making money their
principal god and end, and setting it before the final end, which
is God.
     10. To this last degree belong also those miserable souls who
are so greatly in love with their own goods that they take them
for their god, so much so that they scruple not to sacrifice their
lives for them, when they see that this god of theirs is suffering
some temporal harm. They abandon themselves to despair and take
their own lives for their miserable ends, showing by their own
acts how wretched is the reward which such a god as theirs
bestows. For when they can no longer hope for aught from him he
gives them despair and death; and those whom he pursues not to
this last evil of death he condemns to a dying life in the griefs
of anxiety and in many other miseries, allowing no mirth to enter
their heart, and naught that is of earth to bring them
satisfaction. They continually pay the tribute of their heart to
money by their yearning for it and hoarding of it for the final
calamity of their just perdition, as the Wise Man warns them,
saying: 'Riches are kept to the hurt of their owner.'[574]
     11. And to this fourth degree belong those of whom Saint Paul
says: Tradidit illos in reprobum sensum.[575] For joy, when it
strives after possessions as its final goal, drags man down to
these evils. But those on whom it inflicts lesser evils are also
to be sorely pitied, since, as we have said, their souls are
driven far backward upon the way of God. Wherefore, as David says:
Be not thou afraid when a man shall be made rich: that is, envy
him not, thinking that he outstrips thee, for, when he dieth, he
shall carry nothing away, neither shall his glory nor his joy
descend with him.[576]

                           CHAPTER XX

     Of the benefits that come to the soul from its withdrawal of
joy from temporal things.

     THE spiritual man, then, must look carefully to it that his
heart and his rejoicing begin not to lay hold upon temporal
things; he must fear lest from being little it should grow to be
great, and should increase from one degree to another. For little
things, in time, become great; and from a small beginning there
comes in the end a great matter, even as a spark suffices to set a
mountain on fire and to burn up the whole world. And let him never
be self-confident because his attachment is small, and fail to
uproot it instantly because he thinks that he will do so later.
For if, when it is so small and in its beginnings, he has not the
courage to make an end of it, how does he suppose, and presume,
that he will be able to do so when it is great and more deeply
rooted. The more so since Our Lord said in the Gospel: 'He that is
unfaithful in little will be unfaithful also in much.'[577] For he
that avoids the small sin will not fall into the great sin; but
great evil is inherent in the small sin,[578] since it has already
penetrated within the fence and wall of the heart; and as the
proverb says: Once begun, half done. Wherefore David warns us,
saying: 'Though riches abound, let us not apply our heart to
     2. Although a man might not do this for the sake of God and
of the obligations of Christian perfection, he should nevertheless
do it because of the temporal advantages that result from it, to
say nothing of the spiritual advantages, and he should free his
heart completely from all rejoicing in the things mentioned above.
And thus, not only will he free himself from the pestilent evils
which we have described in the last chapter, but, in addition to
this, he will withdraw his joy from temporal blessings and acquire
the virtue of liberality, which is one of the principal attributes
of God, and can in no wise coexist with covetousness. Apart from
this, he will acquire liberty of soul, clarity of reason, rest,
tranquillity and peaceful confidence in God and a true reverence
and worship of God which comes from the will. He will find greater
joy and recreation in the creatures through his detachment from
them, for he cannot rejoice in them if he look upon them with
attachment to them as to his own. Attachment is an anxiety that,
like a bond, ties the spirit down to the earth and allows it no
enlargement of heart. He will also acquire, in his detachment from
things, a clear conception of them, so that he can well understand
the truths relating to them, both naturally and supernaturally. He
will therefore enjoy them very differently from one who is
attached to them, and he will have a great advantage and
superiority over such a one. For, while he enjoys them according
to their truth, the other enjoys them according to their
falseness; the one appreciates the best side of them and the other
the worst; the one rejoices in their substance; the other, whose
sense is bound to them, in their accident. For sense cannot grasp
or attain to more than the accident, but the spirit, purged of the
clouds and species of accident, penetrates the truth and worth of
things, for this is its object. Wherefore joy, like a cloud,
darkens the judgment, since there can be no voluntary joy in
creatures without voluntary attachment, even as there can be no
joy which is passion when there is no habitual attachment in the
heart; and the renunciation and purgation of such joy leave the
judgment clear, even as the mists leave the air clear when they
are scattered.
     3. This man, then, rejoices in all things -- since his joy is
dependent upon none of them -- as if he had them all; and this
other, through looking upon them with a particular sense of
ownership, loses in a general sense all the pleasure of them all.
This former man, having none of them in his heart, possesses them
all, as Saint Paul says, in great freedom.[580] This latter man,
inasmuch as he has something of them through the attachment of his
will, neither has nor possesses anything; it is rather they that
have possessed his heart, and he is, as it were, a sorrowing
captive. Wherefore, if he desire to have a certain degree of joy
in creatures, he must of necessity have an equal degree of
disquietude and grief in his heart, since it is seized and
possessed by them. But he that is detached is untroubled by
anxieties, either in prayer or apart from it; and thus, without
losing time, he readily gains great spiritual treasure. But the
other man loses everything, running to and fro upon the chain by
which his heart is attached and bound; and with all his diligence
he can still hardly free himself for a short time from this bond
of thought and rejoicing by which his heart is bound. The
spiritual man, then, must restrain the first motion of his heart
towards creatures, remembering the premiss which we have here laid
down, that there is naught wherein a man must rejoice, save in his
service of God, and in his striving for His glory and honour in
all things, directing all things solely to this end and turning
aside from vanity in them, looking in them neither for his own joy
nor for his consolation.
     4. There is another very great and important benefit in this
detachment of the rejoicing from creatures -- namely, that it
leaves the heart free for God. This is the dispositive foundation
of all the favours which God will grant to the soul, and without
this disposition He grants them not. And they are such that, even
from the temporal standpoint, for one joy which the soul renounces
for love of Him and for the perfection of the Gospel, He will give
him a hundred in this life, as His Majesty promises in the same
Gospel.[581] But, even were there not so high a rate of interest,
the spiritual man should quench these creature joys in his soul
because of the displeasure which they give to God. For we see in
the Gospel that, simply because that rich man rejoiced at having
laid up for many years, God was so greatly angered that He told
him that his soul would be brought to account on that same
night.[582] Therefore, we must believe that, whensoever we rejoice
vainly, God is beholding us and preparing some punishment and
bitter draught according to our deserts, so that the pain which
results from the joy may sometimes be a hundred times greater than
the joy. For, although it is true, as Saint John says on this
matter, in the Apocalypse, concerning Babylon, that as much as she
had rejoiced and lived in delights, so much torment and sorrow
should be given her,[583] yet this is not to say that the pain will
not be greater than the joy, which indeed it will be, since for
brief pleasures are given eternal torments. The words mean that
there shall be nothing without its particular punishment, for He
Who will punish the idle word will not pardon vain rejoicing.

                           CHAPTER XXI

     Which describes how it is vanity to set the rejoicing of the
will upon the good things of nature, and how the soul must direct
itself, by means of them, to God.

     BY natural blessings we here understand beauty, grace,
comeliness, bodily constitution and all other bodily endowments;
and likewise, in the soul, good understanding, discretion and
other things that pertain to reason. Many a man sets his rejoicing
upon all these gifts, to the end that he himself, or those that
belong to him, may possess them, and for no other reason, and
gives no thanks to God Who bestows them on him so that He may be
better known and loved by him because of them. But to rejoice for
this cause alone is vanity and deception, as Solomon says in these
words: 'Deceitful is grace and vain is beauty; the woman who fears
God, she shall be praised.'[584] Here he teaches us that a man ought
rather to be fearful because of these natural gifts, since he may
easily be distracted by them from the love of God, and, if he be
attracted by them, he may fall into vanity and be deceived. For
this reason bodily grace is said to be deceptive because it
deceives a man in the ways and attracts him to that which beseems
him not, through vain joy and complacency, either in himself or in
others that have such grace. And it is said that beauty is vain
because it causes a man to fall in many ways when he esteems it
and rejoices in it, for he should rejoice only if he serves God or
others through it. But he ought rather to fear and harbour
misgivings lest perchance his natural graces and gifts should be a
cause of his offending God, either by his vain presumption or by
the extreme affection with which he regards them. Wherefore he
that has such gifts should be cautious and live carefully, lest,
by his vain ostentation, he give cause to any man to withdraw his
heart in the smallest degree from God. For these graces and gifts
of nature are so full of provocation and occasion of evil, both to
him that possesses them and to him that looks upon them, that
there is hardly any who entirely escapes from binding and
entangling his heart in them. We have heard that many spiritual
persons, who had certain of these gifts, had such fear of this
that they prayed God to disfigure them, lest they should be a
cause and occasion of any vain joy or affection to themselves or
to others, and God granted their prayer.
     2. The spiritual man, then, must purge his will, and make it
to be blind to this vain rejoicing, bearing in mind that beauty
and all other natural gifts are but earth, and that they come from
the earth and will return thither; and that grace and beauty are
the smoke and vapour belonging to this same earth; and that they
must be held and esteemed as such by any man who desires not to
fall into vanity, but will direct his heart to God in these
matters, with rejoicing and gladness, because God is in Himself
all these beauties and graces in the most eminent degree, and is
infinitely high above all created things. And, as David says, they
are all like a garment and shall grow old and pass away, and He
alone remains immutable for ever.[585] Wherefore, if in all these
matters a man direct not his rejoicing to God, it will ever be
false and deceptive. For of such a man is that saying of Solomon
to be understood, where he addresses joy in the creatures, saying:
'To joy I said: "Why art thou vainly deceived?"'[586] That is, when
the heart allows itself to be attracted by the creatures.

                          CHAPTER XXII

     Of the evils which come to the soul when it sets the
rejoicing of its will upon the good things of nature.

     ALTHOUGH many of these evils and benefits that I am
describing in treating of these kinds of joy are common to all,
yet, because they follow directly from joy and detachment from joy
(although comprised under any one of these six divisions which I
am treating), therefore I speak under each heading of some evils
and benefits which are also found under another, since these, as I
say, are connected with that joy which belongs to them all. But my
principal intent is to speak of the particular evils and benefits
which come to the soul, with respect to each thing, through its
rejoicing or not rejoicing in it. These I call particular evils,
because they are primarily and immediately caused by one
particular kind of rejoicing, and are not, save in a secondary and
mediate sense, caused by another. The evil of spiritual
lukewarmness, for example, is caused directly by any and every
kind of joy, and this evil is therefore common to all these six
kinds; but fornication is a particular evil, which is the direct
result only of joy in the good things of nature of which we are
     2. The spiritual and bodily evils, then, which directly and
effectively come to the soul when it sets its rejoicing on the
good things of nature are reduced to six principal evils. The
first is vainglory, presumption, pride and disesteem of our
neighbour; for a man cannot cast eyes of esteem on one thing
without taking them from the rest. From this follows, at the
least, a real disesteem for everything else; for naturally, by
setting our esteem on one thing, we withdraw our heart from all
things else and set it upon the thing esteemed; and from this real
contempt it is very easy to fall into an intentional and voluntary
contempt for all these other things, in particular or in general,
not only in the heart, but also in speech, when we say that such a
thing or such a person is not like such another. The second evil
is the moving of the senses to complacency and sensual delight and
lust. The third evil comes from falling into adulation and vain
praise, wherein is deception and vanity, as Isaias says in these
words: 'My people, he that praises thee deceives thee.'[587] And the
reason is that, although we sometimes speak the truth when we
praise grace and beauty, yet it will be a marvel if there is not
some evil enwrapped therein or if the person praised is not
plunged into vain complacency and rejoicing, or his imperfect
intentions and affections are not directed thereto. The fourth
evil is of a general kind: it is a serious[588] blunting of the
reason and the spiritual sense, such as is effected by rejoicing
in temporal good things. In one way, indeed, it is much worse. For
as the good things of nature are more closely connected with man
than are temporal good things, the joy which they give leaves an
impression and effect and trace upon the senses more readily and
more effectively, and deadens them more completely. And thus
reason and judgment are not free, but are clouded with that
affection of joy which is very closely connected with them; and
from this arises the fifth evil, which is distraction of the mind
by created things. And hence arise and follow lukewarmness and
weakness of spirit, which is the sixth evil, and is likewise of a
general kind; this is apt to reach such a pitch that a man may
find the things of God very tedious and troublesome, and at last
even come to abhor them. In this rejoicing purity of spirit is
invariably lost -- at least, in its essence. For, if any
spirituality is discerned, it will be of such a gross and sensual
kind as to be hardly spiritual or interior or recollected at all,
since it will consist rather in pleasure of sense than in strength
of spirit. Since, then, the spirituality of the soul is of so low
and weak a character at that time as not to quench the habit of
this rejoicing (for this habit alone suffices to destroy pure
spirituality, even when the soul is not consenting to the acts of
rejoicing), the soul must be living, so to say, in the weakness of
sense rather than in the strength of the spirit. Otherwise, it
will be seen in the perfection and fortitude which the soul will
have when the occasion demands it. Although I do not deny that
many virtues may exist together with serious imperfections, no
pure or delectable inward spirituality can exist while these joys
are not quenched; for the flesh reigns within, warring against the
spirit, and, although the spirit may be unconscious of the evil,
yet at the least it causes it secret distraction.
     3. Returning now to speak of that second evil, which contains
within itself innumerable other evils, it is impossible to
describe with the pen or to express in words the lengths to which
it can go, but this is not unknown or secret, nor is the extent of
the misery that arises from the setting of our rejoicing on
natural beauty and graces. For every day we hear of its causing
numerous deaths, the loss by many of their honour, the commission
of many insults, the dissipation of much wealth, numerous cases of
emulation and strife, of adultery, rape and fornication, and of
the fall of many holy men, comparable in number to that third part
of the stars of Heaven which was swept down by the tail of the
serpent on earth.[589] The fine gold has lost its brilliance and
lustre and is become mire; and the notable and noble men of Sion,
who were clothed in finest gold, are counted as earthen pitchers
that are broken and have become potsherds.[590] How far does the
poison of this evil not penetrate?
     4. And who drinks not, either little or much, from this
golden chalice of the Babylonian woman of the Apocalypse?[591] She
seats herself on that great beast, that had seven heads and ten
crowns, signifying that there is scarce any man, whether high or
low, saint or sinner, who comes not to drink of her wine, to some
extent enslaving his heart thereby, for, as is said of her in that
place, all the kings of the earth have become drunken with the
wine of her prostitution. And she seizes upon all estates of men,
even upon the highest and noblest estate -- the service of the
sanctuary and the Divine priesthood -- setting her abominable cup,
as Daniel says, in the holy place,[592] and leaving scarcely a
single strong man without making him to drink, either little or
much, from the wine of this chalice, which is vain rejoicing. For
this reason it is said that all the kings of the earth have become
drunken with this wine, for very few will be found, however holy
they may have been, that have not been to some extent stupefied
and bewildered by this draught of the joy and pleasure of natural
graces and beauty.
     5. This phrase 'have become drunken' should be noted. For,
however little a man may drink of the wine of this rejoicing, it
at once takes hold upon the heart, and stupefies it and works the
evil of darkening the reason, as does wine to those who have been
corrupted by it. So that, if some antidote be not at once taken
against this poison, whereby it may be quickly expelled, the life
of the soul is endangered. Its spiritual weakness will increase,
bringing it to such a pass that it will be like Samson, when his
eyes were put out and the hair of his first strength was cut off,
and like Samson it will see itself grinding in the mills, a
captive among its enemies;[593] and afterwards, peradventure, it
will die the second death among its enemies, even as did he, since
the drinking of this rejoicing will produce in them spiritually
all those evils that were produced in him physically, and does in
fact produce them in many persons to this day. Let his enemies
come and say to him afterwards, to his great confusion: Art thou
he that broke the knotted cords, that tore asunder the lions, slew
the thousand Philistines, broke down the gates and freed himself
from all his enemies?
     6. Let us conclude, then, by giving the instruction necessary
to counteract this poison. And let it be this: As soon as thy
heart feels moved by this vain joy in the good things of nature,
let it remember how vain a thing it is to rejoice in aught save
the service of God, how perilous and how pernicious. Let it
consider how great an evil it was for the angels to rejoice and
take pleasure in their natural endowments and beauty, since it was
this that plunged them into the depths of shame.[594] Let them
think, too, how many evils come to men daily through this same
vanity, and let them therefore resolve in good time to employ the
remedy which the poet commends to those who begin to grow
affectioned to such things. 'Make haste now,' he says, 'and use
the remedy at the beginning; for when evil things have had time to
grow in the heart, remedy and medicine come late.' Look not upon
the wine, as the Wise Man says, when its colour is red and when it
shines in the glass; it enters pleasantly and bites like a viper
and sheds abroad poison like a basilisk.[595]

                          CHAPTER XXIII

     Of the benefits which the soul receives from not setting its
rejoicing upon the good things of nature.

     MANY are the benefits which come to the soul through the
withdrawal of its heart from this rejoicing; for, besides
preparing itself for the love of God and the other virtues, it
makes a direct way for its own humility, and for a general charity
toward its neighbours. For, as it is not led by the apparent good
things of nature, which are deceitful, into affection for anyone,
the soul remains free and able[596] to love them all rationally and
spiritually, as God wills them to be loved. Here it must be
understood that none deserves to be loved, save for the virtue
that is in him. And, when we love in this way, it is very pleasing
to the will of God, and also brings great freedom; and if there be
attachment in it, there is greater attachment to God. For, in that
case, the more this love grows, the more grows our love toward
God; and, the more grows our love toward God, the greater becomes
our love for our neighbour. For, when love is grounded in God, the
reason for all love is one and the same and the cause of all love
is one and the same also.
     2. Another excellent benefit comes to the soul from its
renunciation of this kind of rejoicing, which is that it fulfils
and keeps the counsel of Our Saviour which He gives us through
Saint Matthew. 'Let him that will follow Me', He says, 'deny
himself.'[597] This the soul could in no wise do if it were to set
its rejoicing upon the good things of nature; for he that makes
any account of himself neither denies himself nor follows Christ.
     3. There is another great benefit in the renunciation of this
kind of rejoicing, which is that it produces great tranquillity in
the soul, empties it of distractions and brings recollection to
the senses, especially to the eyes. For the soul that desires not
to rejoice in these things desires neither to look at them nor to
attach the other senses to them, lest it should be attracted or
entangled by them. Nor will it spend time or thought upon them,
being like the prudent serpent, which stops its ears that it may
not hear the charmers lest they make some impression upon it.[598]
For, by guarding its doors, which are the senses, the soul guards
itself safely and increases its tranquillity and purity.
     4. There is another benefit of no less importance to those
that have become proficient in the mortification of this kind of
rejoicing, which is that evil things and the knowledge of them
neither make an impression upon them nor stain them as they do
those to whom they still give any delight. Wherefore the
renunciation and mortification of this rejoicing result in
spiritual cleanness of soul and body; that is, of spirit and
sense; and the soul comes to have an angelical conformity with
God, and becomes, both in spirit and in body, a worthy temple of
the Holy Spirit. This cannot come to pass if the heart rejoices in
natural graces and good things. For this reason it is not
necessary to have given consent to any evil thing, or to have
remembrance of such; for that rejoicing suffices to stain the soul
and the senses with impurity by means of the knowledge of evil;
for, as the Wise Man says, the Holy Spirit will remove Himself
from thoughts that are without understanding -- that is, without
the higher reason that has respect to God.[599]
     5. Another benefit of a general kind follows, which is that,
besides freeing ourselves from the evils and dangers
aforementioned, we are delivered also from countless vanities, and
from many other evils, both spiritual and temporal; and especially
from falling into the small esteem in which are held all those
that are seen to glory or rejoice in the said natural gifts,
whether in their own or in those of others. And thus these souls
are held and esteemed as wise and prudent, as indeed are all those
who take no account of these things, but only of that which
pleases God.
     6. From these said benefits follows the last, which is a
generosity of the soul, as necessary to the service of God as is
liberty of spirit, whereby temptations are easily vanquished and
trials faithfully endured, and whereby, too, the virtues grow and
become prosperous.

                          CHAPTER XXIV

     Which treats of the third kind of good thing whereon the will
may set the affection of rejoicing, which kind pertains to sense.
Indicates what these good things are and of how many kinds, and
how the will has to be directed to God and purged of this

     WE have next to treat of rejoicing with respect to the good
things of sense, which is the third kind of good thing wherein we
said that the will may rejoice. And it is to be noted that by the
good things of sense we here understand everything in this life
that can be apprehended by the senses of sight, hearing, smell,
taste or touch, and by the interior fashioning of imaginary
reflections, all of which things belong to the bodily senses,
interior and exterior.
     2. And, in order to darken the will and purge it of rejoicing
with respect to these sensible objects, and direct it to God by
means of them, it is necessary to assume one truth, which is that,
as we have frequently said, the sense of the lower part of man
which is that whereof we are treating, is not, neither can be,
capable of knowing or understanding God as God is. So that the eye
cannot see Him, or aught that is like Him; neither can the ear
hear His voice, or any sound that resembles it; neither can the
sense of smell perceive a perfume so sweet as He; neither can the
taste detect a savour so sublime and delectable; neither can the
touch feel a movement so delicate and full of delight, nor aught
like to it; neither can His form or any figure that represents Him
enter into the thought or imagination. Even as says Isaias: 'Eye
hath not seen Him, nor hath ear heard Him, neither hath it entered
into the heart of man.'[600]
     3. And here it must be noted that the senses may receive
pleasure and delight, either from the spirit, by means of some
communication that it receives from God interiorly, or from
outward things communicated to them. And, as has been said,
neither by way of the spirit nor by that of sense can the sensual
part of the soul know God. For, since it has no capacity for
attaining to such a point, it receives in the senses both that
which is of the spirit and that which is of sense, and receives
them in no other way. Wherefore it would be at the least but
vanity to set the rejoicing of the will upon pleasure caused by
any of these apprehensions, and it would be hindering the power of
the will from occupying itself with God and from setting its
rejoicing upon Him alone. This the soul cannot perfectly
accomplish, save by purging itself and remaining in darkness as to
rejoicing of this kind, as also with respect to other things.
     4. I said advisedly that if the rejoicing of the will were to
rest in any of these things it would be vanity. But, when it does
not rest upon them, but, as soon as the will finds pleasure in
that which it hears, sees and does, soars upward to rejoice in God
-- so that its pleasure acts as a motive and strengthens it to
that end -- this is very good. In such a case not only need the
said motions not be shunned when they cause this devotion and
prayer, but the soul may profit by them, and indeed should so
profit, to the end that it may accomplish this holy exercise. For
there are souls who are greatly moved by objects of sense to seek
God. But much circumspection must be observed herein and the
resulting effects must be considered; for oftentimes many
spiritual persons indulge in the recreations of sense
aforementioned under the pretext of offering prayer and devotion
to God; and they do this in a way which must be described as
recreation rather than prayer, and which gives more pleasure to
themselves than to God. And, although the intention that they have
is toward God, the effect which they produce is that of recreation
of sense, wherein they find weakness and imperfection, rather than
revival of the will and surrender thereof to God.
     5. I wish, therefore, to propose a test whereby it may be
seen when these delights of the senses aforementioned are
profitable and when they are not. And it is that, whensoever a
person hears music and other things, and sees pleasant things, and
is conscious of sweet perfumes, or tastes things that are
delicious, or feels soft touches, if his thought and the affection
of his will are at once centred upon God and if that thought of
God gives him more pleasure than the movement of sense which
causes it, and save for that he finds no pleasure in the said
movement, this is a sign that he is receiving benefit therefrom,
and that this thing of sense is a help to his spirit. In this way
such things may be used, for then such things of sense subserve
the end for which God created and gave them, which is that He
should be the better loved and known because of them. And it must
be known, furthermore, that one upon whom these things of sense
cause the pure spiritual effect which I describe has no desire for
them, and makes hardly any account of them, though they cause him
great pleasure when they are offered to him, because of the
pleasure which, as I have said, they cause him in God. He is not,
however, solicitous for them, and when they are offered to him, as
I say, his will passes from them at once and he abandons it to God
and sets it upon Him.
     6. The reason why he cares little for these motives, although
they help him on his journey to God, is that the spirit which is
ready to go by every means and in every way to God is so
completely nourished and prepared and satisfied by the spirit of
God that it lacks nothing and desires nothing; or, if it desires
anything to that end, the desire at once passes and is forgotten,
and the soul makes no account of it. But one that feels not this
liberty of spirit in these things and pleasures of sense, but
whose will rests in these pleasures and feeds upon them, is
greatly harmed by them and should withdraw himself from the use of
them. For, although his reason may desire to employ them to
journey to God, yet, inasmuch as his desire finds pleasure in them
which is according to sense, and their effect is ever dependent
upon the pleasure which they give, he is certain to find hindrance
in them rather than help, and harm rather than profit. And, when
he sees that the desire for such recreation reigns in him, he must
mortify it; for, the stronger it becomes, the more imperfection he
will have and the greater will be his weakness.
     7. So whatever pleasure coming from sense presents itself to
the spiritual person, and whether it come to him by chance or by
design, he must make use of it only for God, lifting up to Him the
rejoicing of his soul so that his rejoicing may be useful and
profitable and perfect; realizing that all rejoicing which implies
not renunciation[601] and annihilation of every other kind of
rejoicing, although it be with respect to something apparently
very lofty, is vain and profits not, but is a hindrance towards
the union of the will in God.

                           CHAPTER XXV

     Which treats of the evils that afflict the soul when it
desires to set the rejoicing of its will upon the good things of

     IN the first place, if the soul does not darken and quench
the joy which may arise within it from the things of sense, and
direct its rejoicing to God, all the general kinds of evil which
we have described as arising from every other kind of rejoicing
follow from this joy in the things of sense: such evils are
darkness in the reason, lukewarmness, spiritual weariness, etc.
But, to come to details, many are the evils, spiritual, bodily and
sensual, into which the soul may fall through this rejoicing.
     2. First of all, from joy in visible things, when the soul
denies not itself therein in order to reach God, there may come to
it, directly, vanity of spirit and distraction of the mind, unruly
covetousness, immodesty, outward and inward unseemliness, impurity
of thought, and envy.
     3. From joy in hearing useless things there may directly
arise distraction of the imagination, gossiping, envy, rash
judgements and vacillating thoughts; and from these arise many
other and pernicious evils.
     4. From joy in sweet perfumes, there arise loathing of the
poor, which is contrary to the teaching of Christ, dislike of
serving others, unruliness of heart in humble things, and
spiritual insensibility, at least to a degree proportionate with
its desire for this joy.
     5. From joy in the savour of meat and drink, there arise
directly such gluttony and drunkenness, wrath, discord and want of
charity with one's neighbours and with the poor, as had that
Epulon, who fared sumptuously every day, with Lazarus.[602] Hence
arise bodily disorders, infirmities and evil motions, because the
incentives to luxury become greater. Directly, too, there arises
great spiritual torpor, and the desire for spiritual things is
corrupted, so that the soul can derive no enjoyment or
satisfaction from them nor can even speak of them. From this joy
is likewise born distraction of the other senses and of the heart,
and discontent with respect to many things.
     6. From joy in the touch of soft things arise many more evils
and more pernicious ones, which more quickly cause sense to
overflow into spirit, and quench all spiritual strength and
vigour. Hence arises the abominable vice of effeminacy, or the
incentives thereto, according to the proportion of joy of this
kind which is experienced. Hence luxury increases, the mind
becomes effeminate and timid, and the senses grow soft and
delicate and are predisposed to sin and evil. Vain gladness and
joy are infused into the heart; the tongue takes to itself licence
and the eyes roam unrestrainedly; and the remaining senses are
blunted and deadened, according to the measure[603] of this desire.
The judgment is put to confusion, being nourished by spiritual
folly and insipidity; moral cowardice and inconstancy increase;
and, by the darkness of the soul and the weakness of the heart,
fear is begotten even where no fear is. At times, again, this joy
begets a spirit of confusion, and insensibility with respect to
conscience and spirit; wherefore the reason is greatly enfeebled,
and is affected in such a way that it can neither take nor give
good counsel, and remains incapable of moral and spiritual
blessings and becomes as useless as a broken vessel.
     7. All these evils are caused by this kind of rejoicing -- in
some more intensely, according to the intensity of their
rejoicing, and also according to the complacency or weakness or
variableness of the person who yields to it. For there are natures
that will receive more detriment from a slight occasion of sin
than will others from a great one.
     8. Finally, from joy of this kind in touch, a person may fall
into as many evils and perils as those which we have described as
concerning the good things of nature; and, since these have
already been described, I do not detail them here; neither do I
describe many other evils wrought thus, such as a falling-off in
spiritual exercises and bodily penance and lukewarmness and lack
of devotion in the use of the sacraments of penance and of the

                          CHAPTER XXVI

     Of the benefits that come to the soul from self-denial in
rejoicing as to things of sense, which benefits are spiritual and

     MARVELLOUS are the benefits that the soul derives from self-
denial in this rejoicing: some of these are spiritual and some
     2. The first is that the soul, by restraining its rejoicing
as to things of sense, is restored from the distraction into which
it has fallen through excessive use of the senses, and is
recollected in God. The spirituality and the virtues that it has
acquired are preserved; nay, they are increased and increase
     3. The second spiritual benefit which comes from self-denial
in rejoicing as to things of sense is exceeding great. We may say
with truth that that which was sensual becomes spiritual, and that
which was animal becomes rational; and even that the soul is
journeying from a human life to a portion which is angelical; and
that, instead of being temporal and human, it becomes celestial
and divine. For, even as a man who seeks the pleasure of things of
sense and sets his rejoicing upon them neither merits nor deserves
any other name than those which we have given him -- that is,
sensual, animal, temporal, etc. -- even so, when he exalts his
rejoicing above these things of sense, he merits all those other
names -- to wit, spiritual, celestial, etc.
     4. And it is clear that this is true; for, although the use
of the senses and the power of sensuality are contrary, as the
Apostle says, to the power and the exercises of spirituality,[605]
it follows that, when the one kind of power is diminished and
brought to an end, the other contrary kinds, the growth of which
was hindered by the first kinds, are increased. And thus, when the
spirit is perfected (which is the higher part of the soul and the
part that has relations with God and receives His communications),
it merits all these attributes aforementioned, since it is
perfected in the heavenly and spiritual gifts and blessings of
God. Both these things are proved by Saint Paul, who calls the
sensual man (namely, the man that directs the exercise of his will
solely to sense) the animal man, who perceives not the things of
God. But this other man, who lifts up his will to God, he calls
the spiritual man, saying that this man penetrates and judges all
things, even the deep things of God.[606] Therefore the soul gains
herein the marvellous benefit of a disposition well able to
receive the blessings and spiritual gifts of God.
     5. The third benefit is that the pleasures and the rejoicing
of the will in temporal matters are very greatly increased; for,
as the Saviour says, they shall receive an hundredfold in this
life.[607] So that, if thou deniest thyself one joy, the Lord will
give thee an hundredfold in this life, both spiritually and
temporally; and likewise, for one joy that thou hast in these
things of sense, thou shalt have an hundredfold of affliction and
misery. For, through the eye that is purged from the joys of
sight, there comes to the soul a spiritual joy, directed to God in
all things that are seen, whether Divine or profane. Through the
ear that is purged from the joy of hearing, there comes to the
soul joy most spiritual an hundredfold, directed to God in all
that it hears, whether Divine or profane. Even so is it with the
other senses when they are purged. For, even as in the state of
innocence all that our first parents saw and said and ate in
Paradise furnished them with greater sweetness of contemplation,
so that the sensual part of their nature might be duly subjected
to, and ordered by, reason; even so the man whose senses are
purged from all things of sense and made subject to the spirit
receives, in their very first motion, the delight of delectable
knowledge and contemplation of God.
     6. Wherefore, to him that is pure, all things, whether high
or low, are an occasion of greater good and further purity; even
as the man that is impure is apt to derive evil from things both
high and low, because of his impurity. But he that conquers not
the joy of desire will not enjoy the serenity of habitual
rejoicing in God through His creatures and works. In the man that
lives no more according to sense, all the operations of the senses
and faculties are directed to Divine contemplation. For, as it is
true in good philosophy that each thing operates according to its
being, and to the life that it lives, so it is clear, beyond
contradiction, that, if the soul lives a spiritual life, the
animal life being mortified, it must be journeying straight to
God, since all its spiritual actions and motions pertain to the
life of the spirit. Hence it follows that such a man, being pure
in heart, finds in all things a knowledge of God which is joyful
and pleasant, chaste, pure, spiritual, glad and loving.
     7. From what has been said I deduce the following doctrine --
namely that, until a man has succeeded in so habituating his
senses to the purgation of the joys of sense that from their first
motion he is gaining the benefit aforementioned of directing all
his powers to God, he must needs deny himself joy and pleasure
with respect to these powers, so that he may withdraw his soul
from the life of sense. He must fear that since he is not yet
spiritual, he may perchance derive from the practice of these
things a pleasure and an energy which is of sense rather than of
spirit; that the energy which is of sense may predominate in all
his actions; and that this may lead to an increase of sensuality
and may sustain and nurture it. For, as Our Saviour says, that
which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the
spirit is spirit.[608] Let this be closely considered, for it is the
truth. And let not him that has not yet mortified his pleasure in
things of sense dare to make great use of the power and operation
of sense with respect to them, thinking that they will help him to
become more spiritual; for the powers of the soul will increase
the more without the intervention of these things of sense -- that
is, if it quench the joy and desire for them rather than indulge
its pleasure in them.
     8. There is no need to speak of the blessings of glory that,
in the life to come, result from the renunciation of these joys.
For, apart from the fact that the bodily gifts of the life of
glory, such as agility and clarity, will be much more excellent
than in those souls who have not denied themselves, there will be
an increase in the essential glory of the soul corresponding to
its love of God, for Whose sake it has renounced the things of
sense aforementioned. For every momentary, fleeting joy that has
been renounced, as Saint Paul says, there shall be laid up an
exceeding weight of glory eternally.[609] And I will not here
recount the other benefits, whether moral, temporal or spiritual,
which result from this night of rejoicing; for they all are those
that have already been described, and to a more eminent degree;
since these joys that are renounced are more closely linked to the
natural man, and therefore he that renounces them acquires thereby
a more intimate purity.

                          CHAPTER XXVII

     Which begins to treat of the fourth kind of good -- namely,
the moral. Describes wherein this consists, and in what manner joy
of the will therein is lawful.

     THE fourth kind of good wherein the will may rejoice is
moral. By this we here understand the virtues, and the habits of
the virtues, in so far as these are moral, and the practice of any
virtue, and the practice of works of mercy, the keeping of the law
of God, and of that of the commonweal,[610] and the putting into
practice of all good intentions and inclinations.
     2. These kinds of moral good, when they are possessed and
practised, deserve perhaps more than any of the other kinds
aforementioned that the will should rejoice in them. For a man may
rejoice in his own affairs for one of two reasons, or for both
reasons together -- namely, for that which they are in themselves,
or for the good which they imply and bring with them as a means
and instrument. We shall find that the possession of the three
kinds of good already mentioned merits no rejoicing of the will.
For of themselves, as has been said, they do no good to man, nor
in themselves have they any good, since they are so fleeting and
frail; rather, as we have likewise said, they cause and bring him
trouble and grief and affliction of spirit. Now, although they
might merit that man should rejoice in them for the second reason
-- which is that he may profit by them for journeying to God --
this is so uncertain that, as we commonly see, they more often
harm man than bring him profit. But good things of a moral kind
merit a certain degree of rejoicing in him that possesses them,
and this for the first reason -- namely, for their intrinsic
nature and worth. For they bring with them peace and tranquillity,
and a right and ordered use of the reason and actions that are
consistent therewith, so that a man cannot, humanly speaking, have
anything better in this life.
     3. Thus, since these virtues deserve to be loved and
esteemed, humanly speaking, for their own sakes, a man may well
rejoice in the possession of them, and may practise them for that
which they are in themselves, and for the blessing which they
bring to man in human and temporal form. In this way and for this
reason philosophers and wise men and princes of old esteemed and
praised them, and endeavoured to possess and practise them; and,
although they were heathen, and regarded them only in a temporal
manner, merely considering the blessings which they knew would
result from them -- temporal, corporeal and natural -- they not
only obtained by means of them the temporal renown and benefits
which they sought, but, apart from this, God, Who loves all that
is good (even in barbarians and heathen) and, as the Wise Man
says, hinders the doing of naught that is good,[611] gave them
longer life, greater honour, dominion and peace (as He did for
example to the Romans), because they made just laws; for He
subjected nearly the whole world to them, and gave rewards of a
temporal kind for their good customs to those who because of their
unbelief were incapable of eternal reward. For God loves moral
good so much that, merely because Solomon asked wisdom of Him that
he might teach his people, govern them justly and bring them up in
good customs, God Himself was greatly pleased with him, and told
him that, because he had asked for wisdom to that end, this should
be given him, and there should also be given him that which he had
not asked, namely, riches and honour, so that no king, either in
the past or in the future, should be like him.[612]
     4. But, although the Christian should rejoice in this first
way in the moral good that he possesses and in the good works of a
temporal kind which he does, since they lead to the temporal
blessings which we have described, he must not allow his joy to
stop at this first stage (as we have said the heathen did, because
their spiritual sight extended not beyond the things of this
mortal life); but, since he has the light of faith, wherein he
hopes for eternal life, without which nothing that belongs to this
life and the next will be of any value to him, he must rejoice
principally and solely in the possession and employment of this
moral good after the second manner -- namely, in that by doing
these works for the love of God he will gain eternal life. And
thus he should set his eyes and his rejoicing solely on serving
and honouring God with his good customs and virtues. For without
this intention the virtues are of no worth in the sight of God, as
is seen in the ten virgins of the Gospel, who had all kept their
virginity and done good works; and yet, because the joy of five of
them was not of the second kind (that is, because they had not
directed their joy to God), but was rather after the first and
vain kind, for they rejoiced in the possession of their good
works, they were cast out from Heaven with no acknowledgement or
reward from the Bridegroom. And likewise many persons of old had
many virtues and practised good works, and many Christians have
them nowadays and accomplish great acts, which will profit them
nothing for eternal life, because they have not sought in them the
glory and honour which belong to God alone. The Christian, then,
must rejoice, not in the performing of good works and the
following of good customs, but in doing them for the love of God
alone, without respect too aught else soever. For, inasmuch as
good works that are done to serve God alone will have the greater
reward in glory, the greater will be the confusion in the presence
of God of those who have done them for other reasons.
     5. The Christian, then, if he will direct his rejoicing to
God with regard to moral good, must realize that the value of his
good works, fasts, alms, penances, etc., is based, not upon the
number or the quality of them, but upon the love of God which
inspires him to do them; and that they are the more excellent when
they are performed with a purer and sincerer love of God, and when
there is less in them of self-interest, joy, pleasure, consolation
and praise, whether with reference to this world or to the next.
Wherefore the heart must not be set upon pleasure, consolation and
delight, and the other interests which good works and practices
commonly bring with them, but it must concentrate its rejoicing
upon God. It must desire to serve Him in its good works, and purge
itself from this other rejoicing, remaining in darkness with
respect to it and desiring that God alone shall have joy in its
good works and shall take secret pleasure therein, without any
other intention and delight than those relating to the honour and
glory of God. And thus, with respect to this moral good, the soul
will concentrate all the strength of its will upon God.

                         CHAPTER XXVIII

     Of seven evils into which a man may fall if he set the
rejoicing of his will upon moral good.

     THE principal evils into which a man may fall through vain
rejoicing in his good works and habits I find to be seven; and
they are very hurtful because they are spiritual.
     2. The first evil is vanity, pride, vainglory and
presumption; for a man cannot rejoice in his works without
esteeming them. And hence arise boasting and like things, as is
said of the Pharisee in the Gospel, who prayed and congratulated
himself before God,[613] boasting that he fasted and did other good
     3. The second evil is usually linked with this: it is our
judging others, by comparison with ourselves, as wicked and
imperfect, when it seems to us that their acts and good works are
inferior to our own; we esteem them the less highly in our hearts,
and at times also in our speech. This evil was likewise that of
the Pharisee, for in his prayer he said: 'I thank Thee that I am
not as other men are: robbers, unjust and adulterers.'[614] So that
by one single act he fell into these two evils, esteeming himself
and despising others, as do many nowadays, saying: I am not like
such a man, nor do I do this and that, as does such or such a man.
And many of these are even worse than the Pharisee. He, it is
true, not only despised others, but also pointed to an individual,
saying: 'Nor am I like this publican.' But they, not satisfied
with either of these things, go so far as to be angry and envious
when they see that others are praised, or do more, or are of
greater use, than themselves.
     4. The third evil is that, as they look for pleasure in their
good works, they usually perform them only when they see that some
pleasure and praise will result from them. And thus, as Christ
says, they do everything ut videantur ab hominibus,[615] and work
not for the love of God alone.
     5. The fourth evil follows from this. It is that they will
have no reward from God, since they have desired in this life to
have joy or consolation or honour or some other kind of interest
as a result of their good works: of such the Saviour says that
herein they have received their reward.[616] And thus they have had
naught but the labour of their work and are confounded, and
receive no reward. There is so much misery among the sons of men
which has to do with this evil that I myself believe that the
greater number of good works which they perform in public are
either vicious or will be of no value to them, or are imperfect in
the sight of God, because they are not detached from these human
intentions and interests. For what other judgment can be formed of
some of the actions which certain men perform, and of the
memorials which they set up, when they will not perform these
actions at all unless they are surrounded by human respect and
honour, which are the vanity of life, or unless they can
perpetuate in these memorials their name, lineage or authority,
even setting up their emblems and escutcheons in the very
churches, as if they wished to set themselves, in the stead of
images, in places where all bend the knee? In these good works
which some men perform, may it not be said that they are
worshipping[617] themselves more than God? This is certainly true if
they perform them for the reason described and otherwise would not
perform them at all. But leaving aside these, which are the worst
cases, how many are there who fall into these evils in their good
works in many ways? Some wish to be praised, others to be thanked,
others enumerate their good works and desire that this person and
that shall know of them, and indeed the whole world; and sometimes
they wish an intermediary to present their alms, or to perform
other of their charitable deeds,[618] so that more may be known of
them; and some desire all these things. This is the sounding of
the trumpet, which, says the Saviour in the Gospel, vain men do,
for which reason they shall have no reward for their works from
     6. In order to flee from this evil, such persons must hide
their good works so that God alone may see them, and must not
desire anyone to take notice of them. And they must hide them, not
only from others, but even from themselves. That is to say, they
must find no satisfaction in them, nor esteem them as if they were
of some worth, nor derive pleasure from them at all. It is this
that is spiritually indicated in those words of Our Lord: 'Let not
thy left hand know what they right hand doeth.[620] Which is as much
to say: Esteem not with thy carnal and temporal eye the work that
thou doest spiritually. And in this way the strength of the will
is concentrated upon God, and a good deed bears fruit in His
sight; so that not only will it not be lost, but it will be of
great merit. And in this sense must be understood that passage
from Job: 'If I have kissed my hand with my mouth, which is a
great sin and iniquity, and my heart hath rejoiced in secret.'[621]
Here by the hand is understood good works, and by the mouth is
understood the will which finds satisfaction in them. And since
this is, as we say, finding satisfaction in oneself, he says: If
my heart hath rejoiced in secret, which is a great iniquity
against God and a denial of Him. And this is as though he were to
say that he had no satisfaction, neither did his heart rejoice in
     7. The fifth of these evils is that such persons make no
progress on the road of perfection. For, since they are attached
to the pleasure and consolation which they find in their good
works, it follows that, when they find no such pleasure and
consolation in their good works and exercises, which ordinarily
happens when God desires to lead them on, by giving them the dry
bread of the perfect and taking from them the milk of babes, in
order to prove their strength and to purge their delicate
appetites so that they may be able to enjoy the food of grown men,
they commonly faint and cease to persevere, because their good
works give them no pleasure. In this way may be spiritually
understood these words of the Wise Man: 'Dying flies spoil the
sweetness of ointment.'[622] For, when any mortification comes to
these persons, they die to their good works and cease to practise
them; and thus they lose their perseverance, wherein are found
sweetness of spirit and interior consolation.
     8. The sixth of these evils is that such persons commonly
deceive themselves, thinking that the things and good works which
give them pleasure must be better than those that give them none.
They praise and esteem the one kind and depreciate the other; yet
as a rule those works whereby a man is most greatly mortified
(especially when he is not proficient in perfection) are more
acceptable and precious in the sight of God, by reason of the
self-denial which a man must observe in performing them, than are
those wherein he finds consolation and which may very easily be an
occasion of self-seeking. And in this connection Micheas says of
them: Malum manuum suarum dicunt bonum.[623] That is: That which is
bad in their works they call good. This comes to them because of
the pleasure which they take in their good works, instead of
thinking only of giving pleasure to God. The extent to which this
evil predominates, whether in spiritual men or in ordinary
persons, would take too long to describe, for hardly anyone can be
found who is moved to do such works simply for God's sake, without
the attraction of some advantage of consolation or pleasure, or
some other consideration.
     9. The seventh evil is that, in so far as a man stifles not
vain rejoicing in moral works, he is to that extent incapable of
receiving reasonable counsel and instruction with regard to good
works that he should perform. For he is lettered by the habit of
weakness that he has acquired through performing good works with
attachment to vain rejoicing; so that he cannot consider the
counsel of others as best, or, even if he considers it to be so,
he cannot follow it, through not having the necessary strength of
mind. Such persons as this are greatly weakened in charity toward
God and their neighbour; for the self-love with respect to their
good works in which they indulge causes their charity to grow

                          CHAPTER XXIX

     Of the benefits which come to the soul through the withdrawal
of its rejoicing from moral good.

     VERY great are the benefits which come to the soul when it
desires not to set the vain rejoicing of its will on this kind of
good. For, in the first place, it is freed from falling into many
temptations and deceits of the devil, which are involved in
rejoicing in these good works, as we may understand by that which
is said in Job, namely: 'He sleepeth under the shadow, in the
covert of the reed and in moist places.'[624] This he applies to the
devil, who deceives the soul in the moisture of rejoicing and in
the vanity of the reed -- that is, in vain works. And it is no
wonder if the soul is secretly deceived by the devil in this
rejoicing; for, apart altogether from his suggestions, vain
rejoicing is itself deception. This is especially true when there
is any boasting of heart concerning these good works, as Jeremias
well says in these words: Arrogantia tua decepit te.[625] For what
greater deception is there than boasting? And from this the soul
that purges itself from this rejoicing is freed.
     2. The second benefit is that the soul performs its good
works with greater deliberation and perfection than it can if
there be in them the passion of joy and pleasure. For, because of
this passion of joy, the passions of wrath and concupiscence are
so strong that they will not submit to reason,[626] but ordinarily
cause a man to be inconsistent in his actions and purposes, so
that he abandons some and takes up others, and begins a thing only
to abandon it without completing any part of it. For, since he
acts under the influence of pleasure, and since pleasure is
variable, being much stronger in some natures than in others, it
follows that, when this pleasure ceases, both the action and its
purpose cease, important though they may be. To such persons the
joy which they have in their work is the soul and the strength
thereof; and, when the joy is quenched, the work ceases and
perishes, and they persevere therein no longer. It is of such
persons that Christ says: 'They receive the word with joy, and
then the devil taketh it away from them, lest they should
persevere.'[627] And this is because they have no strength and no
roots save in the joy aforementioned. To take and to withdraw
their will, therefore, from this rejoicing is the cause of their
perseverance and success. This benefit, then, is a great one, even
as the contrary evil is great likewise. The wise man sets his eyes
upon the substance and benefit of his work, not upon the pleasure
and delight which it gives him; and so he is not beating the air,
but derives from his work a stable joy, without any meed of
     3. The third benefit is divine. It is that, when vain joy in
these good works is quenched, the soul becomes poor in spirit,
which is one of the blessings spoken of by the Son of God when He
says: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom
of Heaven.'[628]
     4. The fourth benefit is that he that denies himself this joy
will be meek, humble and prudent in his actions. For he will not
act impetuously and rapidly, through being impelled by the wrath
and concupiscence which belong to joy; neither presumptuously,
through being affected by the esteem of his own work which he
cherishes because of the joy that he has in it; neither
incautiously, through being blinded by joy.
     5. The fifth benefit is that he becomes pleasing to God and
man, and is freed from spiritual sloth, gluttony and avarice, and
from spiritual envy and from a thousand other vices.

                           CHAPTER XXX

     Which begins to treat of the fifth kind of good wherein the
will may rejoice, which is the supernatural. Describes the nature
of these supernatural good things, and how they are distinguished
from the spiritual, and how joy in them is to be directed to God.

     IT now behoves us to treat of the fifth kind of good thing
wherein the soul may rejoice, which is the supernatural. By this
term we here understand all the gifts and graces given by God
which transcend natural virtue and capacity and are called gratis
datae. Such as these are the gifts of wisdom and knowledge which
God gave to Solomon, and the graces whereof Saint Paul speaks[629]
-- namely, faith, gifts of healing, the working of miracles,
prophecy, knowledge and discernment of spirits, interpretation of
words and likewise the gift of tongues.
     2. These good things, it is true, are also spiritual, like
those of the same kind of which we have to speak presently; yet,
since the two are so different, I have thought well to make a
distinction between them. The practice of these has an intimate
relation with the profit of man, and it is with a view to this
profit and to this end that God gives them. As Saint Paul says:
'The spirit is given to none save for the profit of the rest;'[630]
this is to be understood of these graces. But the use and practice
of spiritual graces has to do with the soul and God alone, and
with God and the soul, in the communion of understanding and will,
etc., as we shall say hereafter. And thus there is a difference in
their object, since spiritual graces have to do only with the
Creator and the soul; whereas supernatural graces have to do with
the creature, and furthermore differ in substance, and therefore
in their operation, and thus of necessity the instruction which we
give concerning them differs also.
     3. Speaking now of supernatural graces and gifts as we here
understand them, I say that, in order to purge ourselves of vain
joy in them, it is well here to notice two benefits which are
comprised in this kind of gift -- namely, temporal and spiritual.
The temporal benefits are the healing of infirmities, the
receiving of their sight by the blind, the raising of the dead,
the casting out of devils, prophesying concerning the future so
that men may take heed to themselves, and other things of the
kind. The spiritual and eternal benefit is that God is known and
served through these good works by him that performs them, or by
those in whom and in whose presence they are performed.
     4. With respect to the first kind of benefit -- namely, the
temporal -- supernatural works and miracles merit little or no
rejoicing on the part of the soul; for, without the second kind of
benefit, they are of little or no importance to man, since they
are not in themselves a means for uniting the soul with God, as
charity is. And these supernatural works and graces may be
performed by those who are not in a state of grace and charity,
whether they truly give thanks and attribute their gifts to
God,[631] as did the wicked prophet Balaam, and Solomon, or whether
they perform them falsely, through the agency of the devil, as did
Simon Magus, or by means of other secrets of nature. These works
and marvels, if any of them were to be of any profit to him that
worked them, would be true works given by God. And Saint Paul
teaches us what these are worth without the second kind of
benefit, saying: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding bell or
metal. And though I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all
knowledge; and though I have all faith, even as much as may
remove[632] mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing, etc.'[633]
Wherefore Christ will refuse the requests of many who have
esteemed their good works in this way, when they beg Him for glory
because of them, saying: Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name
and worked many miracles? Then Christ will say to them: 'Depart
from Me, workers of iniquity.'[634]
     5. A man, then, should rejoice, not when he has such graces
and makes use of them, but when he reaps from them the second
spiritual fruit, namely that of serving God in them with true
charity, for herein is the fruit of eternal life. For this cause
Our Saviour reproved the disciples who were rejoicing because they
cast out devils, saying: 'Desire not to rejoice in this, that
devils are subject to you, but rather because your names are
written in the book of life.'[635] This, according to good theology,
is as much as to say: Rejoice if your names are written in the
book of life. By this it is understood that a man should not
rejoice save when he is walking in the way of life, which he may
do by performing good works in charity; for where is the profit
and what is the worth in the sight of God of aught that is not
love of God? And this love is not perfect if it be not strong and
discreet in purging the will of joy in all things, and if it be
not set upon doing the will of God alone. And in this manner the
will is united with God through these good things which are

                          CHAPTER XXXI

     Of the evils which come to the soul when it sets the
rejoicing of the will upon this kind of good.

     THEE principal evils, it seems to me, may come to the soul
when it sets its rejoicing upon supernatural good. These are: that
it may deceive and be deceived; that it may fall away from the
faith; and that it may indulge in vainglory or some other such
     2. As to the first of these, it is a very easy thing to
deceive others, and to deceive oneself, by rejoicing in this kind
of operation. And the reason is that, in order to know which of
these operations are false and which are true, and how and at what
time they should be practised, much counsel and much light from
God are needful, both of which are greatly impeded by joy in these
operations and esteem for them. And this for two reasons: first,
because joy blunts and obscures the judgment; second, because,
when a man has joy in these things, not only does he the more
quickly become eager for them, but he is also the more impelled to
practise them out of the proper season. And even supposing the
virtues and operations which are practised to be genuine, these
two defects suffice for us to be frequently deceived in them,
either through not understanding them as they should be
understood, or through not profiting by them and not using them at
the times and in the ways that are most meet. For, although it is
true that, when God gives these gifts and graces, He gives light
by which to see them, and the impulse whereby a man may know at
what times and in what ways to use them; yet these souls, through
the attachment and imperfection which they may have with regard to
them, may greatly err, by not using them with the perfection that
God desires of them therein, and in the way and at the time that
He wills. We read that Balaam desired to do this, when, against
the will of God, he determined to go and curse the people of
Israel, for which reason God was wroth and purposed to slay
him.[636] And Saint James and Saint John desired to call down fire
from Heaven upon the Samaritans because they gave not lodging to
Our Saviour, and for this He reproved them.[637]
     3. Here it is evident that these persons were led to
determine to perform these works, when it was not meet for them to
do so, by a certain imperfect passion, which was inherent in their
joy in them and esteem for them. For, when no such imperfection
exists, the soul is moved and determined to perform these virtues
only in the manner wherein God so moves it, and at His time, and
until then it is not right that they should be performed. It was
for this reason that God complained of certain prophets, through
Jeremias, saying: 'I sent not the prophets, and they ran; I spake
not to them, and they prophesied.'[638] And later He says: 'They
deceived My people by their lying and their miracles, when I had
not commanded them, neither had I sent them.'[639] And in that place
He says of them likewise: 'They see the visions of their heart,
and speak of them'[640]; which would not happen if they had not this
abominable attachment to these works.
     4. From these passages it is to be understood that the evil
of this rejoicing not only leads men to make wicked and perverse
use of these graces given by God, as did Balaam and those of whom
the prophet here says that they worked miracles whereby they
deceived the people, but it even leads them to use these graces
without having been given them by God, like those who prophesied
their own fancies and published the visions which they invented or
which the devil represented to them. For, when the devil sees them
affectioned to these things, he opens a wide field to them, gives
them abundant material and interferes with them in many ways;
whereupon they spread their sails and become shamelessly audacious
in the freedom wherewith they work these marvels.
     5. Nor does the evil stop here. To such a point does their
joy in these works and their eagerness for them extend that, if
before they had a secret compact with the devil (and many of them
do in fact perform these works by such secret compacts), it now
makes them bold enough to work with him by an explicit and
manifest compact, submitting themselves to him, by agreement, as
his disciples and allies. Hence we have wizards, enchanters,
magicians, soothsayers and sorcerers. And so far does the joy of
these persons in their works carry them that, not only do they
seek to purchase gifts and graces with money, as did Simon Magus,
in order to serve the devil, but they even strive to obtain sacred
things, and (which cannot be said without trembling) Divine
things, for even the very Body[641] of our Lord Jesus Christ has
been seen to be usurped for the use of their wicked deeds and
abominations. May God here extend and show to them His great
     6. Everyone will clearly understand how pernicious are such
persons to themselves and how prejudicial to Christianity. It may
be noted here that all those magicians and soothsayers who lived
among the children of Israel, whom Saul destroyed out of the land,
because they desired to imitate the true prophets of God, had
fallen into such abominations and deceits.
     7. He, then, that has supernatural gifts and graces ought to
refrain from desiring to practise them, and from rejoicing in so
doing, nor ought he to care to exercise them; for God, Who gives
Himself to such persons, by supernatural means, for the profit of
His Church and of its members, will move them likewise
supernaturally in such a manner and at such time as He desires. As
He commanded His faithful ones to take no thought as to what they
were to say, or as to how they were to say it, since this is the
supernatural business of faith, it will likewise be His will (as
these operations are no less a supernatural matter) that a man
should wait and allow God to work by moving his heart, since it is
in the virtue of this working that there will be wrought all
virtue. The disciples (so we read in the Acts of the Apostles),
although these graces and gifts had been infused within them,
prayed to God, beseeching Him to be pleased to stretch forth His
hand in making signs and performing works of healing through them,
that they might introduce the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ into
men's hearts.[642]
     8. From this first evil may proceed the second, which is a
falling away from the faith; this can come to pass after two
manners. The first has respect to others; for, when a man sets
out, unseasonably and needlessly, to perform a marvel or a mighty
work, apart from the fact that this is tempting God, which is a
great sin, it may be that he will not succeed, and will engender
in the hearts of men discredit and contempt for the faith. For,
although at times such persons may succeed because for other
reasons and purposes God so wills it, as in the case of Saul's
witch[643] (if it be true that it was indeed Samuel who appeared on
that occasion), they will not always so succeed; and, when they do
so, they go astray none the less and are blameworthy for having
used these graces when it was not fitting. The second manner in
which we may fall away is in ourselves and has respect to the
merit of faith; for, if a man make much account of these miracles,
he ceases to lean upon the substantial practice of faith, which is
an obscure habit; and thus, where signs and witnesses abound,
there is less merit in believing. In this way Saint Gregory says
that faith has no merit when human reason provides experience.[644]
And thus these marvels are never worked by God save when they are
really necessary for belief. Therefore, to the end that His
disciples should not be without merit, though they had experience
of His resurrection, He did many things before He showed Himself
to them, so that they should believe Him without seeing Him. To
Mary Magdalene, first of all, He showed the empty tomb, and
afterwards bade the angels speak to her[645] (for, as Saint Paul
says, faith comes by hearing);[646] so that, having heard, she
should believe before she saw. And, although she saw Him, it was
as an ordinary man,[647] that, by the warmth of His presence, He
might completely instruct her in the belief which she lacked. And
He first sent to tell His disciples, with the women, and
afterwards they went to see the tomb. And, as to those who went to
Emmaus, He first of all enkindled their hearts in faith so that
they might see Him, dissembling with them as He walked.[648] And
finally He reproved them all because they had not believed those
who had announced to them His resurrection.[649] And He reproved
Saint Thomas because he desired to have the witness of His wounds,
by telling him that they who saw Him not and yet believed Him were
     9. And thus it is not the will of God that miracles should be
wrought: when He works them, He does so, as it were, because He
cannot do otherwise. And for this cause He reproved the Pharisees
because they believed not save through signs, saying: 'Unless ye
see marvels and signs, ye believe not.'[651] Those, then, who love
to rejoice in these supernatural works lose much in the matter of
     10. The third evil is that, because of their joy in these
works, men commonly fall into vainglory or some other vanity. For
even their joy in these wonders, when it is not, as we have said,
purely in God and for God, is vanity; which is evident in the
reproof given by Our Lord to the disciples because they had
rejoiced that devils were subject to them;[652] for which joy, if it
had not been vain, He would not have reproved them.

                          CHAPTER XXXII

     Of two benefits which are derived from the renunciation of
rejoicing in the matter of the supernatural graces.

     BESIDES the benefits which the soul gains by being delivered
from the three evils aforementioned through its renunciation of
this joy, it acquires two excellent benefits. The first is that it
magnifies and exalts God: the second is that it exalts itself. For
God is exalted in the soul after two manners: first, by the
withdrawal of the heart and the joy of the will from all that is
not God, in order that they may be set upon Him alone. This David
signified in the verse which we quoted when we began to speak of
the night of this faculty; namely: 'Man shall attain to a lofty
heart, and God shall be exalted.'[653] For, when the heart is raised
above all things, the soul is exalted above them all.
     2. And, because in this way the soul centres itself in God
alone, God is exalted and magnified, when He reveals to the soul
His excellence and greatness; for, in this elevation of joy, God
bears witness of Who He Himself is. This cannot be done save if
the will be voided of joy and consolation with respect to all
things, even as David said also, in these words: 'Be still and see
that I am God.'[654] And again he says: 'In a desert land, dry and
pathless, have I appeared before Thee, to see Thy power and Thy
glory.'[655] And, since it is true that God is exalted by the fixing
of the soul's rejoicing upon detachment from all things, He is
much more highly exalted when the soul withdraws itself from the
most wondrous of these things in order to fix its rejoicing on Him
alone. For these, being supernatural, are of a nobler kind; and
thus for the soul to cast them aside, in order to set its
rejoicing upon God alone, is for it to attribute greater glory and
excellence to God than to them. For, the more and the greater
things a man despises for the sake of another, the more does he
esteem and exalt that other.
     3. Furthermore, God is exalted after the second manner when
the will is withdrawn from this kind of operation; for, the more
God is believed and served without testimonies and signs, the more
He is exalted by the soul, for it believes more concerning God
than signs and miracles can demonstrate.
     4. The second benefit wherein the soul is exalted consists in
this, that, withdrawing the will from all desire for apparent
signs and testimonies, it is exalted in purest faith, which God
increases and infuses within it much more intensely. And, together
with this, He increases in it the other two theological virtues,
which are charity and hope, wherein the soul enjoys the highest
Divine knowledge by means of the obscure and detached habit of
faith; and it enjoys great delight of love by means of charity,
whereby the will rejoices in naught else than in the living God;
and likewise it enjoys satisfaction in the memory by means of
hope. All this is a wondrous benefit, which leads essentially and
directly to the perfect union of the soul with God.

                         CHAPTER XXXIII

     Which begins to treat of the sixth kind of good wherein the
soul may rejoice. Describes its nature and makes the first
division under this head.

     SINCE the intention of this work of ours is to lead the
spirit through these good things of the spirit even to the Divine
union of the soul with God, it will not behove both myself and the
reader to give our consideration to this matter with particular
care. For, in speaking of this sixth kind of good, we have to
treat of the good things of the spirit, which are those that are
of the greatest service to this end. For it is quite certain, and
quite an ordinary occurrence,[656] that some persons, because of
their lack of knowledge, make use of spiritual things with respect
only to sense, and leave the spirit empty. There will scarcely be
anyone whose spirit is not to a considerable degree corrupted by
sweetness of sense; since, if the water be drunk up before it
reaches the spirit, the latter becomes dry and barren.
     2. Coming to this matter, then, I say that by good things of
the spirit I understand all those that influence and aid the soul
in Divine things and in its intercourse with God, and the
communications of God to the soul.
     3. Beginning by making a division between these supreme kinds
of good, I say that good things of the spirit are of two kinds:
the one kind is delectable and the other painful. And each of
these kinds is likewise of two manners; for the delectable kind
consists of clear things that are distinctly understood, and also
of things that are not understood clearly or distinctly. The
painful kind, likewise, may be of clear and distinct things, or of
things dark and confused.
     4. Between all these we may likewise make distinctions with
respect to the faculties of the soul. For some kinds of spiritual
good, being of knowledge, pertain to the understanding; others,
being of affection, pertain to the will; and others, inasmuch as
they are imaginary, pertain to the memory.
     5. We shall leave for later consideration those good things
that are painful, since they pertain to the passive night, in
treating of which we shall have to speak of them; and likewise the
delectable blessings which we described as being of things
confused and not distinct, of which we shall treat hereafter,
since they pertain to that general, confused and loving knowledge
wherein is effected the union of the soul with God, and which we
passed over in the second book, deferring it so that we might
treat of it later[657] when we should make a division between the
apprehensions of the understanding. We shall speak here and now of
those delectable blessings which are of things clear and distinct.

                          CHAPTER XXXIV

     Of those good things of the spirit which can be distinctly
apprehended by the understanding and the memory. Describes how the
will is to behave in the matter of rejoicing in them.

     WE might spend much time here upon the multitude of the
apprehensions of the memory and the understanding, teaching how
the will is to conduct itself with regard to the joy that it may
have in them, had we not treated of this at length in the second
and the third book. But, since we there spoke of the manner
wherein it behoves these two faculties to act with respect to
them, in order that they may take the road to Divine union, and
since it behoves the will to conduct itself likewise as regards
rejoicing in them, it is unnecessary to go over this here; for it
suffices to say that wheresoever we there said that those
faculties should void themselves of this or that apprehension, it
is to be understood also that the will should likewise be voided
of joy in them. And in the way wherein it is said that memory and
understanding are to conduct themselves with regard to all these
apprehensions, the will must conduct itself likewise; for, since
the understanding and the other faculties cannot admit or reject
anything unless the will intervene therein, it is clear that the
same teaching that serves for the one will serve also for the
     2. It may there be seen, then, what is requisite in this
case, for the soul will fall into all the evils and perils to
which we there referred if it cannot direct the rejoicing of the
will to God in all those apprehensions.

                          CHAPTER XXXV

     Of the delectable spiritual good things which can be
distinctly apprehended by the will. Describes the kinds of these.

     WE can reduce all the kinds of good which can distinctly
cause joy to the will to four: namely, motive, provocative,
directive and perfective. Of these we shall speak in turn, each in
its order; and first, of the motive kind -- namely, images and
portraits of saints, oratories and ceremonies.
     2. As touching images and portraits, there may be much vanity
and vain rejoicing in these. For, though they are most important
for Divine worship and most necessary to move the will to
devotion, as is shown by the approval given to them and the use
made of them by our Mother Church (for which reason it is always
well that we should employ them, in order to awaken our
lukewarmness), there are many persons who rejoice rather in the
painting and decoration of them than in what they represent.
     3. The use of images has been ordained by the Church for two
principal ends -- namely, that we may reverence the saints in
them, and that the will may be moved and devotion to the saints
awakened by them. When they serve this purpose they are beneficial
and the use of them is necessary; and therefore we must choose
those that are most true and lifelike, and that most move the will
to devotion, and our eyes must ever be fixed upon this motive
rather than upon the value and cunning of their workmanship and
decoration. For, as I say, there are some who pay more attention
to the cunning with which an image is made, and to its value, than
to what it represents; and that interior devotion which they ought
to direct spiritually to the saint whom they see not, forgetting
the image at once, since it serves only as a motive, they squander
upon the cunning and the decoration of its outward workmanship. In
this way sense is pleased and delighted, and the love and
rejoicing of the will remain there. This is a complete hindrance
to true spirituality, which demands annihilation of the affections
as to all particular things.
     4. This will become quite clear from the detestable custom
which certain persons observe with regard to images in these our
days. Holding not in abhorence the vain trappings of the world,
they adorn images with the garments which from time to time vain
persons invent in order to satisfy their own pleasures and

vanities. So they clothe images with garments reprehensible even
in themselves, a kind of vanity which was, and is still, abhorrent
to the saints whom the images represent. Herein, with their help,
the devil succeeds in canonizing his vanities, by clothing the
saints with them, not without causing them great displeasure. And
in this way the honest and grave devotion of the soul, which
rejects and spurns all vanity and every trace of it, becomes with
them little more than a dressing of dolls; some persons use images
merely as idols upon which they have set their rejoicing. And thus
you will see certain persons who are never tired of adding one
image to another, and wish them to be of this or that kind and
workmanship, and to be placed in this or that manner, so as to be
pleasing to sense; and they make little account of the devotion of
the heart. They are as much attached to them as was Michas to his
idols,[658] or as was Laban;[659] for the one ran out of his house
crying aloud because they were being taken from him; and the
other, having made a long journey and been very wroth because of
them, disturbed all the household stuff of Jacob, in searching for
     5. The person who is truly devout sets his devotion
principally upon that which is invisible; he needs few images and
uses few, and chooses those that harmonize with the Divine rather
than with the human, clothing them, and with them himself, in the
garments of the world to come, and following its fashions rather
than those of this world. For not only does an image belonging to
this world in no way influence his desire; it does not even lead
him to think of this world, in spite of his having before his eyes
something worldly, akin to the world's interests. Nor is his heart
attached to the images that he uses; if they are taken from him,
he grieves very little, for he seeks within himself the living
image, which is Christ crucified, for Whose sake he even desires
that all should be taken from him and he should have nothing. Even
when the motives and means which lead him closest to God are taken
from him, he remains in tranquility. For the soul is nearer
perfection when it is tranquil and joyous, though it be deprived
of these motives, than if it has possession of them together with
desire and attachment. For, although it is good to be pleased to
have such images as assist the soul to greater devotion (for which
reason it is those which move it most that must always be chosen),
yet it is something far removed from perfection to be so greatly
attached to them as to possess them with attachment, so that, if
they are taken away from the soul, it becomes sad.
     6. Let the soul be sure that, the more closely it is attached
to an image or a motive, the less will its devotion and prayer
mount to God. For, although it is true that, since some are more
appropriate than others, and excite devotion more than others, it
is well, for this reason alone, to be more affectioned to some
than to others, as I have just now said, yet there must be none of
the attachment and affection which I have described. Otherwise,
that which has to sustain the spirit in its flight to God, in
total forgetfulness, will be wholly occupied by sense, and the
soul will be completely immersed in a delight afforded it by what
are but instruments. These instruments I have to use, but solely
in order to assist me in devotion; and, on account of my
imperfection, they may well serve me as a hindrance, no less so
than may affection and attachment to anything else.
     7.[660] But, though perhaps in this matter of images you may
think that there is something to be said on the other side, if you
have not clearly understood how much detachment and poverty of
spirit is required by perfection, at least you cannot excuse the
imperfection which is commonly indulged with regard to rosaries;
for you will hardly find anyone who has not some weakness with
regard to these, desiring them to be of this workmanship rather
than of that, or of this colour or metal rather than of that, or
decorated in some one style or in some other. Yet no one style is
better than another for the hearing of a prayer by God, for this
depends upon the simple and true heart, which looks at no more
than pleasing God, and, apart from the question of indulgences,
cares no more for one rosary than for another.
     8. Our vain concupiscence is of such a nature and quality
that it tries to establish itself in everything; and it is like
the worm which destroys healthy wood, and works upon things both
good and evil. For what else is your desire to have a rosary of
cunning workmanship, and your wish that it shall be of one kind
rather than of another, but the fixing of your rejoicing upon the
instrument? It is like desiring to choose one image rather than
another, and considering, not if it will better awaken Divine love
within you, but only if it is more precious and more cunningly
made. If you employed your desire and rejoicing solely in the love
of God, you would care nothing for any of these considerations. It
is most vexatious to see certain spiritual persons so greatly
attached to the manner and workmanship of these instruments and
motives, and to the curiosity and vain pleasure which they find in
them: you will never see them satisfied; they will be continually
leaving one thing for another, and forgetting and forsaking
spiritual devotion for these visible things, to which they have
affection and attachment, sometimes of just the same kind as that
which a man has to temporal things; and from this they receive no
small harm.

                          CHAPTER XXXVI

     Which continues to treat of images, and describes the
ignorance which certain persons have with respect to them.

     THERE is much that might be said of the stupidity which many
persons display with regard to images; their foolishness reaches
such a point that some of them place more confidence in one kind
of image than in another, believing that God will hear them more
readily because of these than because of those, even when both
represent the same thing, as when there are two of Christ or two
of Our Lady. And this happens because they have more affection for
the one kind of workmanship than for the other; which implies the
crudest ideas concerning intercourse with God and the worship and
honour that are owed to Him, which has solely to do with the faith
and the purity of heart of him that prays. For if God sometimes
grants more favours by means of one image rather than by another
of the same kind, it is not because there is more virtue to this
effect in one than in another (however much difference there may
be in their workmanship), but because some persons better awaken
their own devotion by one than by another. If they had the same
devotion for the one as for the other (or even without the use of
either), they would receive the same favours from God.
     2. Hence the reason for which God works[661] miracles and
grants favours by means of one kind of image rather than by
another is not that these should be esteemed more than those, but
to the end that, by means of the wonder that they cause, there may
be awakened sleeping devotion and the affection of the faithful
for prayer. And hence it comes that, as the contemplation of the
image at that time enkindles devotion and makes us to continue in
prayer (both these being means whereby God hears and grants that
which is asked of Him), therefore, at that time and by means of
that same image, God continues to work favours and miracles
because of the prayer and affection which are then shown; for it
is certain that God does it not because of the image, which in
itself is no more than a painted thing, but because of the
devotion and faith which the person has toward the saint whom it
represents. And so, if you had the same devotion and faith in Our
Lady before one image representing her as before another, since
the person represented is the same (and even, as we have said, if
you had no such image at all), you would receive the same favours.
For it is clear from experience that, when God grants certain
favours and works miracles, He does so as a rule by means of
certain images which are not well carved or cunningly formed or
painted, so that the faithful may attribute nothing to the figure
or the painting.
     3. Furthermore, Our Lord is frequently wont to grant these
favours by means of those images that are most remote and
solitary. One reason for this is that the effort necessary to
journey to them causes the affections to be increased and makes
the act of prayer more earnest. Another reason is that we may
withdraw ourselves from noise and from people when we pray, even
as did the Lord. Wherefore he that makes a pilgrimage does well if
he makes it at a time when no others are doing so, even though the
time be unusual. I should never advise him to make a pilgrimage
when a great multitude is doing so; for, as a rule, on these
occasions, people return in a state of greater distraction than
when they went. And many set out on these pilgrimages and make
them for recreation rather than for devotion. Where there is
devotion and faith, then, any image will suffice; but, if there is
none, none will suffice. Our Saviour was a very living image in
the world; and yet those that had no faith, even though they went
about with Him and saw His wondrous works, derived no benefit from
them. And this was the reason why, as the Evangelist says, He did
few mighty works in His own country.[662]
     4. I desire also to speak here of certain supernatural
effects which are sometimes produced by certain images upon
particular persons. To certain images God gives a particular
spiritual influence upon such persons, so that the figure of the
image and the devotion caused by it remain fixed in the mind, and
the person has them ever present before him; and so, when he
suddenly thinks of the image, the spiritual influence which works
upon him is of the same kind as when he saw it -- sometimes it is
less, but sometimes it is even greater -- yet, from another image,
although it be of more perfect workmanship, he will not obtain the
same spiritual effect.
     5. Many persons, too, have devotion to one kind of
workmanship rather than to another, and to some they will have no
more than a natural inclination and affection, just as we prefer
seeing one person's face to another's. And they will naturally
become more attracted to a particular image, and will keep it more
vividly in their imagination, even though it be not as beautiful
as others, just because their nature is attracted to that kind of
form and figure which it represents. And some persons will think
that the affection which they have for such or such an image is
devotion, whereas it will perhaps be no more than natural
inclination and affection. Again, it may happen that, when they
look at an image, they will see it move, or make signs and
gestures and indications, or speak. This, and the variety of
supernatural effects caused by images of which we have here been
speaking, are, it is true, quite frequently good and true effects,
produced by God either to increase devotion or so that the soul
may have some support on which to lean, because it is somewhat
weak, and so that it may not be distracted. Yet frequently, again,
they are produced by the devil in order to cause deception and
harm. We shall therefore give instruction concerning this in the
chapter following.

                         CHAPTER XXXVII

     Of how the rejoicing of the will must be directed, by way of
the images, to God, so that the soul may not go astray because of
them or be hindered by them.

     JUST as images are of great benefit for remembering God and
the saints, and for moving the will to devotion when they are used
in the ordinary way, as is fitting, so they will lead to great
error if, when supernatural happenings come to pass in connection
with them, the soul should not be able to conduct itself as is
fitting for its journey to God. For one of the means by which the
devil lays hold on incautious souls, with great ease, and
obstructs the way of spiritual truth for them, is the use of
extraordinary and supernatural happenings, of which he gives
examples by means of images, both the material and corporeal
images used by the Church, and also those which he is wont to fix
in the fancy in relation to such or such a saint, or an image of
him, transforming himself into an angel of light that he may
deceive. For in those very means which we possess for our relief
and help the astute devil contrives to hide himself in order to
catch us when we are least prepared. Wherefore it is concerning
good things that the soul that is good must ever have the greatest
misgivings, for evil things bear their own testimony with them.
     2. Hence, in order to avoid all the evils which may happen to
the soul in this connection, which are its being hindered from
soaring upward to God, or its using images in an unworthy and
ignorant manner, or its being deceived by them through natural or
supernatural means, all of which are things that we have touched
upon above; and in order likewise to purify the rejoicing of the
will in them and by means of them to lead the soul to God, for
which reason the Church recommends their use, I desire here to set
down only one warning, which will suffice for everything; and this
warning is that, since images serve us as a motive for invisible
things, we must strive to set the motive and the affection and the
rejoicing of our will only upon that which in fact they represent.
Let the faithful soul, then, be careful that, when he sees the
image, he desire not that his senses should be absorbed by it,
whether the image be corporeal or imaginary, whether beautifully
made, whether richly adorned, whether the devotion that it causes
be of sense or of spirit, whether it produce supernatural
manifestations or no. The soul must on no account set store by
these accidents, nor even regard them, but must raise up its mind
from the image to that which it represents, centering the
sweetness and rejoicing of its will, together with the prayer and
devotion of its spirit, upon God or upon the saint who is being
invoked; for that which belongs to the living reality and to the
spirit should not be usurped by sense and by the painted object.
If the soul do this, it will not be deceived, for it will set no
store by anything that the image may say to it, nor will it occupy
its sense or its spirit in such a way that they cannot travel
freely to God, nor will it place more confidence in one image than
in another. And an image which would cause the soul devotion by
supernatural means will now do so more abundantly, since the soul
will now go with its affections directly to God. For, whensoever
God grants these and other favours, He does so by inclining the
affection of the joy of the will to that which is invisible, and
this He wishes us also to do, by annihilating the power and
sweetness of the faculties with respect to these visible things of

                         CHAPTER XXXVIII

     Continues to describe motive good. Speaks of oratories and
places dedicated to prayer.

     I THINK it has now been explained how the spiritual person
may find as great imperfection in the accidents of images, by
setting his pleasure and rejoicing upon them, as in other
corporeal and temporal things, and perchance imperfection more
perilous still. And I say perchance more perilous, because, when a
person says that the objects of his rejoicing are holy, he feels
more secure, and fears not to cling to them and become attached to
them in a natural way. And thus such a person is sometimes greatly
deceived, thinking himself to be full of devotion because he
perceives that he takes pleasure in these holy things, when,
perchance, this is due only to his natural desire and temperament,
which lead him to this just as they lead him to other things.
     2. Hence it arises (we are now beginning to treat of
oratories) that there are some persons who never tire of adding to
their oratories images of one kind and then of another, and take
pleasure in the order and array in which they set them out, so
that these oratories may be well adorned and pleasing to behold.
Yet they love God no more when their oratories are ornate than
when they are simple -- nay, rather do they love Him less, since,
as we have said, the pleasure which they set upon their painted
adornments is stolen from the living reality. It is true that all
the adornment and embellishment and respect that can be lavished
upon images amounts to very little, and that therefore those who
have images and treat them with a lack of decency and reverence
are worthy of severe reproof, as are those who have images so ill-
carved that they take away devotion rather than produce it, for
which reason some image-makers who are very defective and
unskilled in this art should be forbidden to practise it. But what
has that to do with the attachment and affection and desire which
you have [663] for these outward adornments and decorations, when
your senses are absorbed by them in such a way that your heart is
hindered from journeying to God, and from loving Him and
forgetting all things for love of Him? If you fail in the latter
aim for the sake of the former, not only will God not esteem you
for it, but He will even chasten you for not having sought His
pleasure in all things rather than your own. This you may clearly
gather from the description of that feast which they made for His
Majesty when He entered Jerusalem. They received Him with songs
and with branches, and the Lord wept;[664] for their hearts were
very far removed from Him and they paid Him reverence only with
outward adornments and signs. We may say of them that they were
making a festival for themselves rather than for God; and this is
done nowadays by many, who, when there is some solemn festival in
a place, are apt to rejoice because of the pleasure which they
themselves will find in it -- whether in seeing or in being seen,
or whether in eating or in some other selfish thing -- rather than
to rejoice at being acceptable to God. By these inclinations and
intentions they are giving no pleasure to God. Especially is this
so when those who celebrate festivals invent ridiculous and
undevout things to intersperse in them, so that they may incite
people to laughter, which causes them greater distraction. And
other persons invent things which merely please people rather than
move them to devotion.
     3. And what shall I say of persons who celebrate festivals
for reasons connected with their own interests? They alone, and
God Who sees them, know if their regard and desire are set upon
such interests rather than upon the service of God. Let them
realize, when they act in any of these ways, that they are making
festivals in their own honour rather than in that of God. For that
which they do for their own pleasure, or for the pleasure of men,
God will not account as done for Himself. Yea, many who take part
in God's festivals will be enjoying themselves even while God is
wroth with them, as He was with the children of Israel when they
made a festival, and sang and danced before their idol, thinking
that they were keeping a festival in honour of God; of whom He
slew many thousands.[665] Or again, as He was with the priests Nabad
and Abiu, the sons of Aaron, whom He slew with the censers in
their hands, because they offered strange fire.[666] Or as with the
man that entered the wedding feast ill-adorned and ill-garbed,
whom the king commanded to be thrown into outer darkness, bound
hand and foot.[667] By this it may be known how ill God suffers
these irreverences in assemblies that are held for His service.
For how many festivals, O my God, are made Thee by the sons of men
to the devil's advantage rather than to Thine! The devil takes a
delight in them, because such gatherings bring him business, as
they might to a trader. And how often wilt Thou say concerning
them: 'This people honoureth Me with their lips alone, but their
heart is far from Me, for they serve Me from a wrong cause!'[668]
For the sole reason for which God must be served is that He is Who
He is, and not for any other mediate ends. And thus to serve Him
for other reasons than solely that He is Who He is, is to serve
Him without regard for Him as the Ultimate Reason.
     4. Returning now to oratories, I say that some persons deck
them out for their own pleasure rather than for the pleasure of
God; and some persons set so little account by the devotion which
they arouse that they think no more of them than of their own
secular antechambers; some, indeed, think even less of them, for
they take more pleasure in the profane than in the Divine.
     5. But let us cease speaking of this and speak only of those
who are more particular[669] -- that is to say, of those who
consider themselves devout persons. Many of these centre their
desire and pleasure upon their oratory and its adornments, to such
an extent that they squander on them all the time that they should
be employing in prayer to God and interior recollection. They
cannot see that, by not arranging their oratory with a view to the
interior recollection and peace of the soul, they are as much
distracted by it as by anything else, and will find the pleasure
which they take in it a continual occasion of unrest, and more so
still if anyone endeavors to deprive them of it.

                          CHAPTER XXXIX

     Of the way in which oratories and churches should be used, in
order to direct the spirit to God.

     WITH regard to the direction of the spirit to God through
this kind of good, it is well to point out that it is certainly
lawful, and even expedient, for beginners to find some sensible
sweetness and pleasure in images, oratories and other visible
objects of devotion, since they have not yet weaned or detached
their desire[670] from things of the world, so that they can leave
the one pleasure for the other. They are like a child holding
something in one of its hands; to make it loosen its hold upon it
we give it something else to hold in the other hand lest it should
cry because both its hands are empty. But the spiritual person
that would make progress must strip himself of all those pleasures
and desires wherein the will can rejoice, for pure spirituality is
bound very little to any of those objects, but only to interior
recollection and mental converse with God. So, although he makes
use of images and oratories, he does so only fleetingly; his
spirit at once comes to rest in God and he forgets all things of
     2. Wherefore, although it is best to pray where there is most
decency, yet notwithstanding one should choose the place where
sense and spirit are least hindered from journeying to God. Here
we should consider that answer made by Our Saviour to the
Samaritan woman, when she asked Him which was the more fitting
place wherein to pray, the temple or the mountain, and He answered
her that true prayer was not connected with the mountain or with
the temple, but that those who adored the Father and were pleasing
to Him were those that adored Him in spirit and in truth.[671]
Wherefore, although churches and pleasant places are set apart and
furnished for prayer (for a church must not be used for aught
else), yet, for a matter as intimate as converse held with God,
one should choose that place which gives sense the least
occupation and the least encouragement. And thus it must not be a
place that is pleasant and delectable to sense (like the places
that some habitually contrive to find), for otherwise, instead of
the recollection of the spirit in God, naught will be achieved
save recreation and pleasure and delight of sense. Wherefore it is
good to choose a place that is solitary, and even wild, so that
the spirit may resolutely and directly soar upward to God, and not
be hindered or detained by visible things; for, although these
sometimes help to raise up the spirit, it is better to forget them
at once and to rest in God. For this reason Our Saviour was wont
to choose solitary places for prayer, and such as occupied the
senses but little, in order to give us an example. He chose places
that lifted up the soul to God, such as mountains, which are
lifted up above the earth, and are ordinarily bare, thus offering
no occasion for recreation of the senses.
     3. The truly spiritual man, then, is never tied to a place of
prayer because of its suitability in this way or in that, nor does
he even consider such a thing, for, if he did so, he would still
be tied to sense. But, to the end that he may attain interior
recollection, and forget everything, he chooses the places most
free from sensible objects and attractions, withdrawing his
attention from all these, that he may be able to rejoice in his
God and be far removed from all things created. But it is a
remarkable thing to see some spiritual persons, who waste all
their time in setting up oratories and furnishing places which
please their temperaments or inclinations, yet make little account
of interior recollection, which is the most important thing, but
of which they have very little. If they had more of it, they would
be incapable of taking pleasure in those methods and manners of
devotion, which would simply weary them.

                           CHAPTER XL

     Which continues to direct the spirit to interior recollection
with reference to what has been said.

     THE reason, then, why some spiritual persons never enter
perfectly into the true joys of the spirit is that they never
succeed in raising their desire for rejoicing above these things
that are outward and visible. Let such take note that, although
the visible oratory and temple is a decent place set apart for
prayer, and an image is a motive to prayer, the sweetness and
delight of the soul must not be set upon the motive or the visible
temple, lest the soul should forget to pray in the living temple,
which is the interior recollection of the soul. The Apostle, to
remind us of this, said: 'See that your bodies are living temples
of the Holy Spirit, Who dwelleth in you.'[672] And this thought is
suggested by the words of Christ which we have quoted, namely that
they who truly adore God must needs adore Him in spirit and in
truth.[673] For God takes little heed of your oratories and your
places set apart for prayer if your desire and pleasure are bound
to them, and thus you have little interior detachment, which is
spiritual poverty and renunciation of all things that you may
     2. In order, then, to purge the will from vain desire and
rejoicing in this matter, and to lead it to God in your prayer,
you must see only to this, that your conscience is pure, and your
will perfect with God, and your spirit truly set upon Him. Then,
as I have said, you should choose the place that is the farthest
withdraw and the most solitary that you can find, and devote all
the rejoicing of the will to calling upon God and glorifying Him;
and you should take no account of those whims about outward
things, but rather strive to renounce them. For, if the soul be
attached to the delight of sensible devotion, it will never
succeed in passing onward to the power of spiritual delight, which
is found in spiritual detachment coming through interior

                           CHAPTER XLI

     Of certain evils into which those persons fall who give
themselves to pleasure in sensible objects and who frequent places
of devotion in the way that has been described.

     MANY evils, both interior and exterior, come to the spiritual
person when he desires to follow after sweetness of sense in these
matters aforementioned. For, as regards the spirit, he will never
attain to interior spiritual recollection, which consists in
neglecting all such things, and in causing the soul to forget all
this sensible sweetness, and to enter into true recollection, and
to acquire the virtues by dint of effort. As regards exterior
things, he will become unable to dispose himself for prayer in all
places, but will be confined to places that are to his taste; and
thus he will often fail in prayer, because, as the saying goes, he
can understand no other book than his own village.
     2. Furthermore, this desire leads such persons into great
inconstancy. Some of them never continue in one place or even
always in one state: now they will be seen in one place, now in
another; now they will go to one hermitage, now to another; now
they will set up this oratory, now that. Some of them, again, wear
out their lives in changing from one state or manner of living to
another. For, as they possess only the sensible fervour and joy to
be found in spiritual things, and have never had the strength to
attain spiritual recollection by the renunciation of their own
will, and submitting to suffering inconveniences, whenever they
see a place which they think well suited for devotion, or any kind
of life or state well adapted to their temperament and
inclination, they at once go after it and leave the condition or
state in which they were before. And, as they have come under the
influence of that sensible pleasure, it follows that they soon
seek something new, for sensible pleasure is not constant, but
very quickly fails.

                          CHAPTER XLII

     Of three different kinds of place for devotion and of how the
will should conduct itself with regard to them.

     I CAN think of three kinds of place by means of which God is
wont to move the will to devotion. The first consists in certain
dispositions of the ground and situation, which, by means of a
pleasing effect of variety, whether obtained by the arrangement of
the ground or of trees, or by means of quiet solitude, naturally
awaken devotion. These places it is beneficial to use, if they at
once lead the will to God and cause it to forget the places
themselves, even as, in order to reach one's journey's end, it is
advisable not to pause and consider the means and motive of the
journey more than is necessary. For those who strive to refresh
their desires and to gain sensible sweetness will rather find
spiritual aridity and distraction; for spiritual sweetness and
satisfaction are not found save in interior recollection.
     2. When they are in such a place, therefore, they should
forget it and strive to be inwardly with God, as though they were
not in that place at all. For, if they be attached to the pleasure
and delight of the place, as we have said, they are seeking
refreshment of sense and instability of spirit rather than
spiritual repose. The anchorites and other holy hermits, who in
the most vast and pleasing wildernesses selected the smallest
places that sufficed for them, built there the smallest cells and
caves, in which to imprison themselves. Saint Benedict was in such
a place for three years, and another -- namely, Saint Simon[674] --
bound himself with a cord that he might have no more liberty nor
go any farther than to places within its reach; and even so did
many who are too numerous ever to be counted. Those saints
understood very clearly that, if they quenched not the desire and
eagerness for spiritual sweetness and pleasure, they could not
attain to spirituality.
     3. The second kind is of a more special nature, for it
relates to certain places (not necessarily deserts, but any places
whatsoever) where God is accustomed to grant to a few special
persons certain very delectable spiritual favours; ordinarily,
such a place attracts the heart of the person who has received a
favour there, and sometimes gives him great desires and yearnings
to return to it; although, when he goes there, what happened to
him before is not repeated, since this is not within his control.
For God grants these favours when and how and where He pleases,
without being tied to any place or time, nor to the free-will of
the person to whom He grants them. Yet it is good to go and pray
in such places at times if the desire is free from attachment; and
this for three reasons. First, because although, as we said, God
is not bound to any place, it would seem that He has willed to be
praised by a soul in the place where He has granted it a favour.
Secondly, because in that place the soul is more mindful to give
thanks to God for that which it has received there. Thirdly,
because, by remembering that favour, the soul's devotion is the
more keenly awakened.
     4. It is for these reasons that a man should go to such
places, and not because he thinks that God is bound to grant him
favours there, in such a way as to be unable to grant them
wheresoever He wills, for the soul is a fitter and more comely
place for God than any physical place. Thus we read in Holy
Scripture that Abraham built an altar in the very place where God
appeared to him, and invoked His holy name there, and that
afterwards, coming from Egypt, he returned by the same road where
God had appeared to him, and called upon God there once more at
the same altar which he had built.[675] Jacob, too, marked the place
where God had appeared to him, leaning upon a ladder, by raising
there a stone which he anointed with oil.[676] And Agar gave a name
to the place where the angel had appeared to her, and prized it
highly, saying: 'Of a truth I have here seen the back of Him that
seeth me.'[677]
     5. The third kind consists of certain special places which
God chooses that He may be called upon and served there, such as
Mount Sinai, where He gave the law to Moses.[678] And the place that
He showed Abraham, that he might sacrifice his son there.[679] And
likewise Mount Horeb, where He appeared to our father Elias.[680]
     6. The reason for which God chooses these places rather than
others, that He may be praised there, is known to Himself alone.
What it behoves us to know is that all is for our advantage, and
that He will hear our prayers there, and also in any place where
we pray to Him with perfect faith; although there is much greater
opportunity for us to be heard in places dedicated to His service,
since the Church has appointed and dedicated those places to that

                          CHAPTER XLIII

     Which treats of other motives for prayer that many persons
use -- namely, a great variety of ceremonies.

     THE useless joys and the imperfect attachment which many
persons have to the things which we have described are perhaps to
some extent excusable, since these persons act more or less
innocently with regard to them. But the great reliance which some
persons place in many kinds of ceremonies introduced by
uninstructed persons who lack the simplicity of faith is
intolerable. Let us here disregard those which bear various
extraordinary names or use terms that signify nothing, and also
other things that are not sacred which persons who are foolish and
gross and mistrustful in spirit are wont to interpolate in their
prayers. For these are clearly evil, and involve sin, and many of
them imply a secret compact with the devil; by such means these
persons provoke God to wrath and not to mercy, wherefore I treat
them not here.
     2. I wish to speak solely of those ceremonies into which
enters nothing of a suspicious nature, and of which many people
make use nowadays with indiscreet devotion, attributing such
efficacy and faith to these ways and manners wherein they desire
to perform their devotions and prayers, that they believe that, if
they fail to the very slightest extent in them, or go beyond their
limits, God will not be served by them nor will He hear them. They
place more reliance upon these methods and kinds of ceremony than
upon the reality of their prayer, and herein they greatly offend
and displease God. I refer, for example, to a Mass at which there
must be so many candles, neither more nor fewer; which has to be
said by the priest in such or such a way; and must be at such or
such an hour, and neither sooner nor later; and must be after a
certain day, neither sooner nor later; and the prayers and
stations must be made at such and such times, with such or such
ceremonies, and neither sooner nor later nor in any other manner;
and the person who makes them must have such or such qualities or
qualifications. And there are those who think that, if any of
these details which they have laid down be wanting, nothing is
     3. And, what is worse, and indeed intolerable, is that
certain persons desire to feel some effect in themselves, or to
have their petitions fulfilled, or to know that the purpose of
these ceremonious prayers of theirs will be accomplished. This is
nothing less than to tempt God and to anger Him greatly, so much
so that He sometimes gives leave to the devil to deceive them,
making them feel and understand things that are far removed from
the benefit of their soul, which they deserve because of the
attachment that they show in their prayers, not desiring God's
will, rather than their own desires, to be done therein; and thus,
because they place not their whole confidence in God, nothing goes
well with them.[681]

                          CHAPTER XLIV

     Of the manner wherein the rejoicing and strength of the will
must be directed to God through these devotions.

     LET these persons, then, know that, the more reliance they
place on these things and ceremonies, the less confidence they
have in God, and that they will not obtain of God that which they
desire. There are certain persons who pray for their own ends
rather than for the honour of God. Although they suppose that a
thing will be done if it be for the service of God, and not
otherwise, yet, because of their attachment to it and the vain
rejoicing which they have in it, they multiply a large number of
petitions for a thing, when it would be better for them to
substitute others of greater importance to them, such as for the
true cleansing of their consciences, and for a real application to
things concerning their own salvation, leaving to a much later
season all those other petitions of theirs which are not of this
kind. And in this way they would attain that which is of the
greatest importance to them, and at the same time all the other
things that are good for them (although they might not have prayed
for them), much better and much earlier than if they had expended
all their energy on those things. For this the Lord promised,
through the Evangelist, saying: 'Seek ye first and principally the
Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things
shall be added unto you.'[682]
     2. This is the seeking and the asking that is most pleasing
to God, and, in order to obtain the fulfilment of the petitions
which we have in our hearts, there is no better way than to direct
the energy of our prayer to the thing that most pleases God. For
then not only will He give that which we ask of Him, which is
salvation, but also that which He sees to be fitting and good for
us, although we pray not for it. This David makes clear in a psalm
where he says: 'The Lord is nigh unto those that call upon Him in
truth,[683] that beg Him for the things that are in the highest
degree true, such as salvation; for of these he then says: 'He
will fulfill the will of them that fear Him, and will hear their
cries, and will save them. For God is the guardian of those that
truly love Him.'[684] And thus, this nearness to God of which David
here speaks is naught else than His being ready to satisfy them
and grant them even that which it has not passed through their
minds to ask. Even so we read that, because Solomon did well in
asking God for a thing that was pleasing to Him -- namely, wisdom
to lead and rule his people righteously -- God answered him,
saying: 'Because more than aught else thou didst desire wisdom,
and askedst not victory over thine enemies, with their deaths, nor
riches, nor long life, I will not only give thee the wisdom that
thou askest to rule My people righteously, but I will likewise
give thee that which thou hast not asked -- namely, riches and
substance and glory -- so that neither before thee nor after thee
shall there be any king like unto thee.'[685] And this He did,
giving him peace also from his enemies, so that all around him
should pay tribute to him and trouble him not: We read of a
similar incident in Genesis, where God promised Abraham to
increase the generation of his lawful son, like the stars of
Heaven, even as he had asked of Him, and said to him: 'Likewise I
will increase the son of the bondwoman, for he is thy son.'[686]
     3. In this way, then, the strength of the will and its
rejoicing must be directed to God in our petitions, and we must
not be anxious to cling to ceremonial inventions which are not
used or approved by the Catholic Church. We must leave the method
and manner of saying Mass to the priest, whom the Church sets
there in her place, giving him her orders as to how he is to do
it. And let not such persons use new methods, as if they knew more
than the Holy Spirit and His Church. If, when they pray in their
simplicity, God hears them not, let them not think that He will
hear them any the more however many may be their inventions. For
God is such that, if they behave towards Him as they should, and
conformably to His nature, they will do with Him whatsoever they
will; but, if they act from selfish ends, they cannot speak with
     4. With regard to further ceremonies connected with prayer
and other devotions, let not the will be set upon other ceremonies
and forms of prayer than those which Christ taught us.[687] For it
is clear that, when His disciples besought Him that He would teach
them to pray, He would tell them all that is necessary in order
that the Eternal Father may hear us, since He knew the Father's
nature so well. Yet all that He taught them was the Pater Noster,
with its seven petitions, wherein are included all our needs, both
spiritual and temporal; and He taught them not many other kinds of
prayer, either in words or in ceremonies. On the contrary, He told
them that when they prayed they ought not to desire to speak much,
since our heavenly Father knows well what is meet for us. He
charged them only, but with great insistence, that they should
persevere in prayer (that is, in the prayer of the Pater Noster),
saying elsewhere: 'It behoves us always to pray and never to
fail.'[688] But He taught not a variety of petitions, but rather
that our petitions should be repeated frequently and with fervour
and care. For, as I say, in them is contained all that is the will
of God and all that is meet for us. Wherefore, when His Majesty
drew near three times to the Eternal Father, He prayed all these
three times, using those very words of the Pater Noster, as the
Evangelists tell us, saying: 'Father, if it cannot be but that I
must drink this cup, Thy will be done.'[689] And the ceremonies
which He taught us to use in our prayers are only two. Either we
are to pray in the secret place of our chamber, where without
noise and without paying heed to any we can pray with the most
perfect and pure heart, as He said in these words: 'When thou
shalt pray, enter into thy chamber and shut the door and pray.'[690]
Or else He taught us to go to a solitary and desert place, as He
Himself did, and at the best and quietest time of night. And thus
there is no reason to fix any limit of time, or any appointed
days, or to set apart one time more than another for our
devotions, neither is there any reason to use other forms, in our
words and prayers, nor phrases with double meanings, but only
those which the Church uses and in the manner wherein she uses
them; for all are reduced to those which we have described --
namely, the Pater Noster.
     5. I do not for this reason condemn -- nay, I rather approve
-- the fixing of days on which certain persons sometimes arrange
to make their devotions, such as novenas, or other such things. I
condemn only their conduct as concerns the fixity of their methods
and the ceremonies with which they practise them. Even so did
Judith rebuke and reprove the people of Bethulia because they had
limited God as to the time wherein they awaited His mercy, saying:
'Do ye set God a time for his mercies?' To do this, she says, is
not to move God to clemency, but to awaken His wrath.[691]

                           CHAPTER XLV

     Which treats of the second kind of distinct good, wherein the
will may rejoice vainly.

     THE second kind of distinct and delectable good wherein the
will may rejoice vainly is that which provokes or persuades us to
serve God and which we have called provocative. This class
comprises preachers, and we might speak of it in two ways, namely,
as affecting the preachers themselves and as affecting their
hearers. For, as regards both, we must not fail to observe that
both must direct the rejoicing of their will to God, with respect
to this exercise.
     2. In the first place, it must be pointed out to the
preacher, if he is to cause his people profit and not to embarrass
himself with vain joy and presumption, that preaching is a
spiritual exercise rather than a vocal one. For, although it is
practised by means of outward words, its power and efficacy reside
not in these but in the inward spirit. Wherefore, however lofty be
the doctrine that is preached, and however choice the rhetoric and
sublime the style wherein it is clothed, it brings as a rule no
more benefit than is present in the spirit of the preacher. For,
although it is true that the word of God is of itself efficacious,
according to those words of David, 'He will give to His voice a
voice of virtue,'[692] yet fire, which has also a virtue -- that of
burning -- will not burn when the material is not prepared.
     3. To the end that the preacher's instruction may exercise
its full force, there must be two kinds of preparation: that of
the preacher and that of the hearer; for as a rule the benefit
derived from a sermon depends upon the preparation of the teacher.
For this reason it is said that, as is the master, so is wont to
be the disciple. For, when in the Acts of the Apostles those seven
sons of that chief priest of the Jews were wont to cast out devils
in the same form as Saint Paul, the devil rose up against them,
saying: 'Jesus I confess and Paul I know, but you, who are ye?'[693]
And then, attacking them, he stripped and wounded them. This was
only because they had not the fitting preparation, and not because
Christ willed not that they should do this in His name. For the
Apostles once found a man, who was not a disciple, casting out a
devil in the name of Christ, and they forbade him, and the Lord
reproved them for it, saying: 'Forbid him not, for no man that has
done any mighty works in My name shall be able to speak evil of Me
after a brief space of time.'[694] But He is angry with those who,
though teaching the law of God, keep it not, and, which preaching
spirituality, possess it not. For this reason God says, through
Saint Paul: 'Thou teachest others and teachest not thyself. Thou
who preachest that men should not steal, stealest.'[695] And through
David the Holy Spirit says: 'To the sinner, God said: "Why dost
thou declare My justice and take My law in thy mouth, when thou
hast hated discipline and cast My words behind thee?"'[696] Here it
is made plain that He will give them no spirituality whereby they
may bear fruit.
     4. It is a common matter of observation that, so far as we
can judge here below, the better is the life of the preacher, the
greater is the fruit that he bears, however undistinguished his
style may be, however small his rhetoric and however ordinary his
instruction. For it is the warmth that comes from the living
spirit that clings; whereas the other kind of preacher will
produce very little profit, however sublime be his style and his
instruction. For, although it is true that a good style and
gestures and sublime instruction and well-chosen language
influence men and produce much effect when accompanied by true
spirituality, yet without this, although a sermon gives pleasure
and delight to the sense and the understanding, very little or
nothing of its sweetness remains in the will. As a rule, in this
case, the will remains as weak and remiss with regard to good
works as it was before. Although marvelous things may have been
marvellously said by the preacher, they serve only to delight the
ear, like a concert of music or a peal of bells; the spirit, as I
say, goes no farther from its habits than before, since the voice
has no virtue to raise one that is dead from his grave.
     5. Little does it matter that one kind of music should sound
better than another if the better kind move me not more than the
other to do good works. For, although marvellous things may have
been said, they are at once forgotten if they have not fired the
will. For, not only do they of themselves bear little fruit, but
the fastening of the sense upon the pleasure that it finds in that
sort of instruction hinders the instruction from passing to the
spirit, so that only the method and the accidents of what has been
said are appreciated, and the preacher is praised for this
characteristic or for that, and followed from such motives as
these rather than because of the purpose of amendment of life
which he has inspired. This doctrine is well explained to the
Corinthians by Saint Paul, where he says: 'I, brethren, when I
came to you, came not preaching Christ with loftiness of
instruction and of wisdom, and my words and my preaching consisted
not in the rhetoric of human wisdom, but in the showing forth of
the spirit and of the truth.'[697]
     6. Although the intention of the Apostle here, like my own
intention, is not to condemn good style and rhetoric and
phraseology, for, on the contrary, these are of great importance
to the preacher, as in everything else, since good phraseology and
style raise up and restore things that are fallen and ruined, even
as bad phraseology ruins and destroys good things . . .[698]

     "the greatest of all mystical theologians"

     Thus has Thomas Merton described St. John of the Cross,
echoing the considered judgment of most authorities on the
spiritual life; and here in this volume is the great mystic's most
widely appealing work. Ascent of Mount Carmel is an incomparable
guide to the spiritual life -- because its author has lived his
own counsel. Addressed to informed Christians who aspire to grow
in union with God, it examines every category of spiritual
experience, the spurious as well as the authentic. With rare
insight into human psychology it not only tells how to become more
closely united with God, but spells out in vivid detail the
pitfalls to avoid.
     In his Apostolic Letter proclaiming St. John of the Cross a
Doctor of the Church, Pope Pius XI wrote that he "points out to
souls the way of perfection as though illumined by light from on
high, in his limpidly clear analysis of mystical experience. And
although [his works] deal with difficult and hidden matters, they
are nevertheless replete with such lofty spiritual doctrine and
are so well adapted to the understanding of those who study them
that they can rightly be called a guide and handbook for the man
of faith who proposes to embrace a life of perfection."
     This translation by E. Allison Peers was hailed by the London
Times as "the most faithful that has appeared in any European

     ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS was perhaps the greatest mystical writer
the world has ever known. Bossuet's famous tribute -- that his
writings "possess the same authority in mystical theology as the
writings of St. Thomas possess in dogmatic theology" -- remains
the most fitting testimonial to his august place among spiritual
     John was born in Castile in 1542 -- eve of Spain's century of
greatness, to which he himself was to add such lustre. He studied
under the Jesuits and worked for six years in a hospital. Entering
the Carmelites in 1563, he was professed a year later and sent to
the great University of Salamanca. He was ordained in 1567 but,
shrinking from the apostolate of a priest in the world, considered
entering the Carthusians, a hermitical order.
     Then came the turning point in his life. He met St. Teresa of
Avila, who was pursuing her epic work of restoring the pristine,
stricter observance of the Carmelite rule. John and two other
members of the order took the vows of the Discalced (or reformed)
Carmelites the following year, binding themselves to a more
rigorous way of life which included daily (and nightly) recitation
of the Divine Office in choir, perpetual abstinence from meat, and
additional fasting.
     Yet his religious vows were but a part of the rigors John was
to undergo. The main branch of the order, the Calced Carmelites,
so opposed the Reform that they twice had John kidnapped and
jailed -- providentially, so it proved, for much of his writing
was done in prison.
     The greater part of his twenty-three years as a Discalced
Carmelite, however, was spent in filling a number of important
posts in the order, among them Rector of two colleges, Prior,
Definator, and Vicar-Provincial. But it was in one of his lesser
offices that he was to spend the most decisive years of his life:
he was confessor to the Carmelite nuns at Avila, where St. Teresa
was Superior.
     The secret of St. John's unique contribution to mystical
theology was not simply his mysticism, for there have been other
mystics; not even his profound grasp of Scripture, dogma, Thomism,
and spiritual literature, for there have also been learned
mystics. What sets him apart is his extraordinary poetic vision.
To write of mystical experience is to try to express the
inexpressible. Because he was a great poet St. John of the Cross
was able, in the realm of mysticism, to push the frontiers of
human expression beyond where any writer has succeeded in
venturing before or since. This poetic intensity is found even in
his prose, the major works of which are Ascent of Mount Carmel,
Dark Night of the Soul, Spiritual Canticle, and Living Flame of
     St. John of the Cross died in 1591, was beatified less than a
century later in 1675, was canonized in 1726, and was named a
Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

[1]  The footnotes are P. Silverio's except where they are enclosed in
square brackets.
[2]  Cf. Translator's Preface to the First Edition, Sect. II.
[3]  [H., III, ii.]
[4]  M. Magdalena is a very reliable witness, for she was not only a
most discreet and able woman, but was also one of those who were
very near to the saint and gained most from his spiritual
direction. The quotation is from MS. 12,944.
[5]  MS. 12,738, fol. 835. Ft. Jeronimo de S. Jose, too, says that the
nuns of Toledo also copied certain poems from the Saint's
dictation. M. Ana de S. Alberto heard him say of his imprisonment:
'God sought to try me, but His mercy forsook me not. I made some
stanzas there which begin: "Whither hast vanished, Beloved"; and
also those other verses, beginning "Far above the many rivers That
in Babylon abound." All these verses I sent to Fray Jose de Jesus
Maria, who told me that he was interested in them and was keeping
them in his memory in order to write them out.'
[6]  [H., III, ii.]
[7]  MS. 12,944. 'He also occasionally wrote spiritual things that
were of great benefit. There, too, he composed the Mount and drew
a copy with his own hand for each of our breviaries; later, he
added to these copies and made some changes.'
[8]  [See, on this term, S.S.M., II, 282, and Catholic Encyclopedia,
sub. 'Carmelites.']
[9]  Fray Martin de San Jose in MS. 12,738, fol. 125.
[10]  [H., IV, i.]
[11]  MS. 12,738, fol. 1,431. The letter is undated as to the year.
[12]  MS. 12,738, fol. 1,435.
[13]  MS. 12,738, fol. 3. Cf. a letter of April 28, 1614, by the same
friar (ibid., fol. 865), which describes the Saint's knowledge of
the Holy Scriptures, and skill in expounding them, as 'inspired'
and 'Divine.'
[14]  Ibid., fol. 18.
[15]  Jeronimo de la Cruz (ibid., fol. 639) describes the Saint on his
journeys as 'frequently reading the Bible' as he went along on his
[16]  MS. 12,738, fol. 559. P. Alonso writes similarly in a letter to
Fray Jeronimo de San Jose: 'And in this matter of speaking of God
and expounding passages from Scripture he made everyone marvel,
for they never asked him about a passage which he could not
explain in great detail, and sometimes at recreation the whole
hour and much more went by in the explanation of passages about
which they asked him' (fol. 1,431).
[17]  Ibid., fol. 847.
[18]  [Cf. S.S.M., II, 123-48.]
[19]  Vida, Bk. IV, Chap. xiv, Sect. 1.
[20]  [On this subject cf. P. Crisogono de Jesus Sacramentado: San
Juan de la Cruz, Madrid, 1929, Vol. II, pp. 17-34 et passim.]
[21]  On Flemish influences on Spanish mysticism, see P. Groult: Les
Mystiques des Pays-Bas et la litterature espagnole du seizieme
siecle, Louvain, 1927 [, and Joaquin Sanchis Alventosa, O.F.M.: La
Escuela mistica alemana y sus relaciones con nuestros misticos del
Siglo de Oro, Madrid, 1946].
[22]  [Cf. S.S.M., I (1927), 33-76, 291-405; (1951), 25-61, 235-328;
II (1930), 309-43.]
[23]  One well-known example will be found in the commentary on the
'Spiritual Canticle,' Chap. xii (cf. Sect. V below).
[24]  MS. 12,738, fol. 639.
[25]  To these we shall refer in the third volume of this edition.
[26]  If any single person could have spoken from knowledge of this
matter it would be P. Alonso de la Madre de Dios, as all papers
connected with St. John of the Cross passed through his hands and
he took hundreds of depositions in connection with the
Beatification process. His statements, however (MS. 19,404, fol.
176 [P. Silverio, I, 179]), are as vague as any others. Rather
more reliable are the Saint's two early biographers, P. Jose de
Jesus Maria (Quiroga) and P. Jeronimo de San Jose. The former
states in one place that he is using an autograph on the Ascent of
Mount Carmel, but again it seems likely that he was mistaken,
since the archives of the Reform were still intact in the next
century and no genuine autograph of any length was found in them.
[27]  [The commentary on the third stanza is begun in ii, xxv of Dark
Night. If this be not counted, the number of stanzas left
uncommented is six.]
[28]  This is not so unlikely as it may seem, for the early
manuscripts were all either unbound, or very roughly stitched
together, and several of the extant copies have leaves missing. It
was not till the time of the Beatification Process that greater
care began to be taken of the Saint's writings, and they were
bound strongly and even luxuriously.
[29]  I.e., the three books of the Ascent and the two of the Night.
[30]  MS. 3,180, Adicion B.
[31]  It would be natural enough, of course, for Fray Agustin
Antolinez to have noted this fact, but, as he makes no mention of
St. John of the Cross at all, nothing can be safely inferred from
his silence. It may be added that Fray Agustin's commentary is to
be published by the Spanish Augustinians [and that P. Silverio (I,
190-3 ) gives a specimen of it which shows how well it deserves
[32]  As we shall later see, the Living Flame was written after the
first redaction of the Spiritual Canticle, but before the second
redaction, which mentions the Living Flame in the exposition of
Stanza XXXI, thus misleading P. Andres as to its date. There is no
doubt, in our mind, that the reference in the preface to the
Living Flame is to the Canticle: the description fits it exactly.
[33]  [P. Silverio's words are: 'For my own part, I think it very
probable that he never composed them.' I myself give a little less
weight to the negative evidence brought forward, and, though I too
am inclined to the negative solution, I should hold the scales
between the two rather more evenly.]
[34]  If this were so, we might even hazard a guess that the title was
that given in the Living Flame (I, 21) and not exactly applicable
to any of the existing treatises, viz. The Dark Night of the
Ascent of Mount Carmel.
[35]  Memorias Historiales, C. 1 3.
[36]  Saint Jean de la Croix, pp. 1 3-15.
[37]  Cf. Ascent, I, i, below.
[38]  Some manuscripts do in fact divide the treatise in this way; but
apart from the fact that we have the authority of St. John of the
Cross himself, in the passage just quoted (confirmed in Ascent, I,
xiii), for a different division, the Alcaudete MS., which we
believe to be the most reliable, follows the division laid down by
the Saint. We may add that St. John of the Cross is not always a
safe guide in these matters, no doubt because he trusted too much
to his memory; in Ascent, II, xi, for example, he calls the fourth
book the third.
[39]  [H., V, iii.]
[40]  Spiritual Canticle, Stanza XII, Sect. 6 [Second Redaction, XIII,
Sect. 7].
[41]  In the same passage as that referred to in the last note he
declares his intention of not repeating what she has said (cf.
General Introduction, III, above ).
[42]  Our authority for this statement is P. Andres de la Encarnacion
(Memorias Historiales, B. 32), who found the Chapter Book in the
General Archives of the Reform at Madrid.
[43]  Op. cit. (B. 33).
[44]  [For a study of Tomas de Jesus, see S.S.M., II, 281-306.]
[45]  Memorias Historiales, B. 35.
[46]  Cf. General Introduction, I, above.
[47]  [Cf. S.S.M., I (1927), 291-344; (1951), 235-79. An abridged
English edition of the Names of Christ, translated by a
Benedictine of Stanbrook, was published by Messrs. Burns Oates and
Washbourne in 1926.]
[48]  [Cf. S.S.M., I (1927), 295-6; (1951), 240.]
[49]  [Cf. S.S.M., II, 41-76.]
[50]  Historia critica de la Inquisicion de Espana, Vol. V, Chap. xxx,
and elsewhere. [The original of this work is in French: Histoire
critique de l'Incluisition d'Espagne, 1817-18.]
[51]  Here we have a curious parallelism with the works of St. Teresa,
first published at Salamanca in 1588 and also reprinted in
Barcelona in the year following.
[52]  He also supplies the Latin text of Scriptural quotations which
St. John of the Cross gives in the vernacular, corrects the
punctuation and spelling of the princeps and substitutes his
'Sketch' of the Saint's life for the biographical notes of that
edition. The treatise in which he corrects most of the defects of
the princeps is the Ascent of Mount Carmel.
[53]  Phrasium mysticae Theologiae V.P. Fr. Joannis a Cruce,
Carmelitarum excalceatorum Parentis primi elucidatio. Compluti,
[54]  Subida del Alma a Dios; Apologia mistica en defensa de la
contemplacion divina; Don que tuvo San Juan de la Cruz para guiar
las almas, etc.
[55]  This phrase, no doubt, was inserted in order to save the
reputation of P. Jose's earlier supporters, and out of respect to
his uncle, who had been a Cardinal and Inquisitor-General.
[56]  Quoted by P. Andres de la Encarnacion (MS. 3,653, Previo 1).
[57]  MS. 3,653, Previo 1.
[58]  [The last two paragraphs form P. Silverio's description of his
own edition. The lines followed in the present translation have
been described in the Translator's Preface.]
[59]  Ascent, Bk. III, Chap. ii.
[60]  Ascent, Bk. III, Chap. iii, Sect. 1.
[61]  Cf. Ascent, Bk. III, Chap. xvi, Sect.Sect. 1-2.
[62]  [On the question of the curtailment of the Ascent, see Sobrino,
pp. 159-66.]
[63]  [On MSS. not described by P. Silverio, see Ephemerides
Carmeliticae, Florence, 1950, IV, 95-148, and in particular p.
103, n. 9. As the variants and annotations in these MSS. will be
of interest only to specialists, and few of them can be reproduced
in a translation, those who wish to study them are referred to
that article.]
[64]  [H, sub Juan Evangelista (2)]
[65]  [Lit.: 'It says, then, thus.']
[66]  For a verse translation in the metre of the original, see Vol.
[67]  [The adjectives are feminine throughout.]
[68]  [The word translated 'at rest' is a past participle: more
literally, +stilled.']
[69]  [Lit.: 'I remained and forgot.']
[70]  [Lit. 'and wideawake guides.']
[71]  [Lit., 'a low manner.']
[72]  Needless to say, the Saint does not here mean that he will not
write in conformity with moral standards -- no writer is more
particular in this respect -- nor that he will deal with no
delectable matters at all, but rather that he will go to the very
roots of spiritual teaching and expound the 'solid and substantial
instruction,' which not only forms its basis but also leads the
soul toward the most intimate union with God in love.
[73]  The Codices give neither title nor sub-title: both were inserted
in e.p. ['Desire' is to be taken as the direct object of
'describes'; 'these' refers to 'sense' and 'desire,' not to the
dark night.]
[74]  [Lit., 'appetites,' but this word is uniformly translated
'desires,' as the Spanish context frequently will not admit the
use of the stronger word in English.]
[75]  [The word translated 'sensual' is sometimes sensual, and
sometimes, as here, sensitivo. The meaning in either case is
simply 'of sense.']
[76]  So Alc. The other authorities read: 'and of this we shall treat
likewise, in the second part with respect to the activity [of the
soul] [these last three words are not contained in the Spanish of
any authority], and in the third and the fourth part with respect
to its passivity.' E.p. follows this division. Alc., however,
seems to correspond more closely with the Saint's intentions; for
he did not divide each of his 'books' into 'parts' and appears
therefore to indicate by 'part' what we know as 'book.' Now Book I
is in fact devoted to the active purgation of sense, as are Books
II and III to the active purgation of the spirit. For the 'fourth
book,' see General Introduction, IV above.
[77]  [The word translated 'at rest' is a past participle: more
literally, +stilled.']
[78]  [Lit., 'and it in them.' This 'it' means the soul; the preceding
'it,' the house.]
[79]  I.e., in the 'Argument.'
[80]  [More exactly, this 'passage' or 'transition' (transito).]
[81]  [Lit., 'in negation of them.']
[82]  [By 'the mean' is meant the middle, or main part, of the
[83]  [Lit., 'without anything (sc. to do).']
[84]  ['Blank board': Sp., tabla rasa; Lat., tabula rasa.]
[85]  Psalm lxxxvii, 16 [A.V. lxxxviii, 15].
[86]  St. John i, 5.
[87]  2 Corinthians vi, 14.
[88]  Psalm cxiv, 9 [A.V. cxv, 8].
[89]  Jeremias iv, 23.
[90]  [The words often translated 'deformity,' 'deformed,' or
'vileness,' 'vile,' are the ordinary contraries of 'beauty,'
'beautiful,' and might be rendered, more literally but less
elegantly, 'ugliness,' 'ugly.']
[91]  Proverbs xxxi, 30.
[92]  [For 'grace . . . misery' the Spanish has gracia . . .
desgracia. The latter word, however, does not, as might be
supposed, correspond to English 'disgrace.']
[93]  E.p. omits 'supreme'; the Spanish word [having a more literally
superlative force than the English] can hardly be applied, save in
a restricted sense, to what is finite.
[94]  St. Luke xviii, 19.
[95]  1 Corinthians iii, 19.
[96]  Romans i, 22.
[97]  1 Corinthians iii, 18-19.
[98]  [Lit., 'is supreme.']
[99]  [The word is applicable to any kind of preferential position.]
[100]  Genesis xxi, 10.
[101]  Proverbs viii, 4-6, 18-21.
[102]  Soliloq., chap. ii (Migne: Patr. lat., Vol. XL, p. 866).
[103]  So Alc. The other authorities have merely: 'which may pertain
to it,' and e.p. adds to this: 'through self-love.' Even when
softened by Diego de Pesus this phrase of the Saint did not escape
denunciation, and it was the first of the 'propositions' condemned
in his writings (cf. General Introduction, VI, above). It was
defended by P. Basilio Ponce de Leon in his Reply (p. lx), and
more extensively by P. Nicolas de Jesus Maria (Elucidatio, Pt. II,
Chap i, pp. 125-40). In reality, little defence is needed other
than that contained in the last chapters of the Ascent of Mount
Carmel, which clearly show the harm caused by supernatural
favours, when these are abused, to the memory, the understanding
and the will. Who, after all, can doubt that we may abuse 'things
supernatural' and by such abuse hinder the soul from attaining
union with God?
[104]  St. Luke xiv, 33.
[105]  E.p. alters this to: 'in the same Scripture.' [It does not, in
fact, occur in the same book.]
[106]  Numbers xi, 4.
[107]  [Lit., 'so high.']
[108]  [Wisdom xvi, 20.]
[109]  Psalm lxxvii, 31 [A.V. lxxviii, 31].
[110]  [Exodus xxxiv, 2-3.] E.p.: 'within sight of the Mount.' A, B:
'near the Mount.'
[111]  Gen. xxxv, 2.
[112]  Exodus xxvii, 8.
[113]  Leviticus x, 1-2.
[114]  1 Kings [A.V., I Samuel] v, 3-5.
[115]  Deut. xxxi, 26.
[116]  Numbers xvii, 10. [More properly, 'the rod of Aaron.']
[117]  Jeremias ii, 13.
[118]  [Lit., 'the greater the bulk that that desire has in the
[119]  St. Matthew xv, 26.
[120]  St. Matthew vii, 6.
[121]  [Lit., 'he that goes feeding upon.']
[122]  Psalm lviii, 15-16 [A.V., lix, 14-15].
[123]  [Lit., 'how much more God does.']
[124]  Isaias xxix, 8. The editions supply the translation of the
first part of the Latin text, which the Saint and the Codices
omitted: 'After being wearied and fatigued, he yet thirsteth,'
[125]  Job xx, 22.
[126]  Isaias lvii, 20.
[127]  Jeremias ii, 24.
[128]  Jeremias ii, 25.
[129]  Isaias ix, 20.
[130]  Thus Alc. [with 'run' for 'eat']. A, B, e.p. read: '. . . when
they turn from the way of God (which is the right hand) are justly
hungered, for they merit not the fullness of the sweetness of
spirit. And justly, too, when they eat on the left hand,' etc.
[While agreeing with P. Silverio that Alc. gives the better
reading, I prefer 'eat' to 'run': it is nearer the Scriptural
passage and the two Spanish words, comen and corren, could easily
be confused in MS.]
[131]  Psalm cxviii, 61 [A.V., cxix, 61].
[132]  Psalm cxvii, 12 [A.V., cxviii, 12].
[133]  Judges xvi, 16. [Actually it was Samson, not Dalila, who was
'wearied even until death.']
[134]  Apocalypse xviii, 7.
[135]  [Lit., 'bound him to grind in a mill.']
[136]  Judges xvi, 21.
[137]  Isaias lv, 1-2.
[138]  St. Matthew xi, 28-9.
[139]  Psalm xxxvii, 5 [A.V., xxxviii, 4].
[140]  [Lit., 'gives no occasion either for,' etc.]
[141]  Psalm xxxix, 13 [A.V., xl, 12.]
[142]  Psalm vi, 4 [A.V., vi, 3].
[143]  [Lit., 'the present visage.']
[144]  St. Matthew xv, 14.
[145]  [hoguera. More exactly: 'fire,' 'bonfire,' 'blaze.']
[146]  Psalm lvii, 9 [cf. A.V., lviii, 8].
[147]  Psalm lvii, 10 [A.V., lviii, 9].
[148]  [Lit., 'before it can understand God.']
[149]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] xi, 4.
[150]  Ecclesiastes ii, 10.
[151]  [Lit., 'we ... know not what there is between.']
[152]  Jonas iv, 11.
[153]  [Lit., +is added desire.+]
[154]  Isaias lix, 10.
[155]  Ecclesiasticus xiii, 1.
[156]  [More literally: 'and all the best that is of the creatures.'
'Best' is neuter and refers to qualities, appurtenances, etc.]
[157]  [Lit., 'bright diamond.']
[158]  Lamentations iv, 7-8.
[159]  [Lit., mas resplandecientes, 'more brilliant,' 'more
[160]  [Lit., plazas (derived from the Latin plateas), which now,
however, has the meaning of 'squares,' '(market) places.']
[161]  ['Clearer' here is mas claros; the adjective is rendered
'bright' elsewhere.]
[162]  [The words translated 'unruly,' 'disordered,' here and
elsewhere, and occasionally 'unrestrained,' are the same in the
original: desordenado.]
[163]  [The Spanish of the text reads literally: 'in a union.']
[164]  [The verb is pintar, 'paint': perhaps 'corrupt' is intended.
The same verb occurs in the following sentence.]
[165]  Ezechiel viii, 10.
[166]  [Ezechiel viii, 12.]
[167]  Ezechiel viii, 14.
[168]  Ezechiel viii, 16.
[169]  [Lit., 'revolves'--'turns over in its mind' in our common
[170]  Genesis xlix, 4.
[171]  Psalm lviii, 10 [A.V., lix, 9].
[172]  St. Matthew xxix, 19.
[173]  St. Luke xii, 25.
[174]  Proverbs xxx, 15.
[175]  Ecclesiasticus xxiii, 6. [In the original the last two
sentences are transposed.]
[176]  [Lit., +not pure on (or +in+) God.+]
[177]  [The original has no such explanatory phrase.]
[178]  [That is, will be enjoying all the union that the prayer of
quiet gives.]
[179]  Proverbs xxiv, 16.
[180]  [The original omits +union.+]
[181]  [Or +remora.+]
[182]  [cordeles: a stronger word than that used above (hilo), which,
if the context would permit, might better be translated 'string'
-- its equivalent in modern speech. Below, hilo is translated
[183]  [Hilo, rendered 'thread,' as explained in n. 4 above, can also
be taken in the stronger sense of 'cord.']
[184]  St. Matthew xii, 30.
[185]  Ecclesiasticus xix, 1.
[186]  [Lit., 'the fire is increased by a single spark.']
Ecclesiasticus xi, 34 [A.V., xi, 32].
[187]  Judges ii, 3.
[188]  [The original phrase (gente menuda) means 'little folk.' It is
used of children and sometimes also of insects and other small
creatures. There is a marked antithesis between the 'giants,' or
sins, and the 'little folk,' or imperfections.]
[189]  Josue vi, 21.
[190]  1 Corinthians vii, 29-31.
[191]  [The word here translated 'remissness' is rendered 'remission'
in the text, where it seems to have a slightly different meaning.]
[192]  [The word translated 'remnants' also means 'after-taste.']
[193]  Apocalypse x, 9.
[194]  2 Corinthians xii, 9. ['Virtue' had often, in the author's day,
much of the meaning of the modern word 'strength.']
[195]  [The word used for desire is apetito, which has been used in
the past chapters for desires of sense (cf. chap. I, above).]
[196]  [St. John iv, 34.]
[197]  Lit., 'Not that which is to desire anything, etc.']
[198]  [1 St. John ii, 16.]
[199]  The Saint does not, however, allude to these lines again. The
order followed below is that of Alc., which differs somewhat from
that followed in the diagram.
[200]  [This line, like ll. 6, 8 of the paragraph, reads more
literally: 'Desire not to possess (be, know) anything in
anything.' It is more emphatic than l. 2.]
[201]  [There is a repetition here which could only be indicated by
translating 'all-ly.' So, too, in the next couplet.]
[202]  [Lit. +anything in all.+]
[203]  This confirms our point (Bk. I, chap. ii, Sect. 6, above) that
the Saint considers the Argument as part of the Prologue.
[204]  Lit., 'to conquer the natural yoke.']
[205]  [Lit., +after.+]
[206]  [Lit., +comprehended.+]
[207]  [Lit., 'all the steps and articles that it has.']
[208]  [Lit., 'climbs': the verb (escala) is identical with the noun
'ladder' (escala).]
[209]  [Lit., 'to the depths.']
[210]  [The literal translation is shorter, viz. 'taking faith for a
blind man's guide.']
[211]  [Lit., 'negation.'] This is the reading of Alc. 'Affirmation'
is found in A, B, C, D, e.p. Though the two words are
antithetical, they express the same underlying concept. [The
affirmation, or establishment, of all the powers and desires of
the spirit upon pure faith, so that they may be ruled by pure
faith alone, is equivalent to the denial, or negation, of those
powers and desires in so far as they are not ruled by pure faith.]
[212]  [Lit., 'to true spirit.']
[213]  [I, ii, above.]
[214]  [Cf. I, ii, above.]
[215]  This was another of the propositions which were cited by those
who denounced the writings of St. John of the Cross to the Holy
Office. It is interpretable, nevertheless, in a sense that is
perfectly true and completely in conformity with Catholic
doctrine. The Saint does not, in these words, affirm that faith
destroys nature or quenches the light of human reason (St. Thomas,
Summa, Pt. 1, q. 1, a. 8, et alibi); what he endeavors to show is
that the coming of knowledge through faith excludes a simultaneous
coming of natural knowledge through reason. It is only in this way
that, in the act of faith, the soul is deprived of the light of
reason, and left, as it were, in blindness, so that it may be
raised to another nobler and sublimer kind of knowledge, which,
far from destroying reason, gives it dignity and perfection.
Philosophy teaches that the proper and connatural object of the
understanding, in this life, is things visible, material and
corporeal. By his nature, man inclines to knowledge of this kind,
but cannot lay claim to such knowledge as regards the things which
belong to faith. For, to quote a famous verse of Scripture: Fides
est sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparientium
(Hebrews xi, 1 ). This line of thought is not confined to St. John
of the Cross, but is followed by all the mystics and is completely
in agreement with theological doctrine. Cf. Respuesta [Reply] of
P. Basilio Ponce de Leon and Dilucidatio, Pt. II, Chap. ii, and
also the following chapter in this present book.
[216]  E .p.: 'an obediential faculty' [potencia obediencial]: this
phrase is borrowed from the Schoolmen. Among the various divisions
of the faculty are two, natural and obediential. The first is that
which is directed towards an act within the sphere of nature, such
as the cooling action of water and the heating action of fire; the
second is directed towards an act which exceeds these powers,
brought about by God, Who is outside the laws of nature and can
therefore work outside the natural domain. This obediential
faculty (called also 'receptive' or 'passive') frequently figures
in mystical theology, since it is this that disposes the faculties
of the soul for the supernatural reception of the gifts of grace,
all of which exceed natural capacity.
[217]  E.p.: 'a natural manner which has its beginning in the senses.'
Here the Saint expounds a principle of scholastic philosophy
summarized in the axiom: Nihil est in intellectu quin prius non
fuerit in sensu. This principle, like many other great
philosophical questions, has continually been debated. St. John of
the Cross will be found as a rule to follow the philosophy most
favored by the Church and is always rigidly orthodox.
[218]  [Lit., 'subjecting and blinding our natural light.']
[219]  Romans x, 17.
[220}  Isaias vii, 9. So Alc. The passage seems to be taken from the
Septuagint. [The Vulgate has non permanebitis.]
[221]  [Lit., 'If ye believe not, that is, ye shall not have light.']
[222]  Exodus xiv, 20.
[223]  Psalm xviii, 3 [A.V., xix, 2].
[224]  Psalm cxxxviii, 11 [A.V., cxxxix, 11].
[225]  Hebrews xi, 6.
[226]  Isaias lxiv, 4; 1 Corinthians ii, 9.
[227]  [The word translated 'way' is modo, which, in the language of
scholastic philosophy, would rather be translated 'mode.']
[228]  [2 Corinthians vi, 10.]
[229]  [Lit., 'either spiritually or sensually, in its soul.']
[230]  St. John ix, 39.
[231]  As the Saint has explained above, this is a parenthetical
chapter necessary to an understanding of the following chapters on
the active purification of the three faculties of the soul; for,
in order to make an intelligent use of the means to an end, it is
important to know what that end is. St. John of the Cross begins
by setting aside the numerous divisions under which the mystics
speak of union with God and deals only with that which most
usually concerns the soul, namely union which is active, and
acquired by our own efforts, together with the habitual aid of
grace. This is the kind of union which is most suitably described
in this treatise, which deals with the intense activity of the
soul as regards the purgation of the senses and faculties as a
necessary means for the loving transformation of the soul in God
-- the end and goal of all the Saint's writings. In order to
forestall any grossly erroneous pantheistic interpretations, we
point out, with the author of the Medula Mistica (Trat. V, Chap.
i, No. 2), that by union the Saint understands 'a linking and
conjoining of two things which, though united, are still
different, each, as St. Thomas teaches (Pt. III, q. 2, a. 1),
keeping its own nature, for otherwise there would not be union but
identity. Union of the soul with God, therefore, will be a linking
and conjoining of the soul with God and of God with the soul, for
the one cannot be united with the other if the other be not united
with the one, so that the soul is still the soul and God is still
God. But just as, when two things are united, the one which has
the most power, virtue and activity communicates its properties to
the other, just so, since God has greater strength, virtue and
activity than the soul, He communicates His properties to it and
makes it, as it were, deific, and leaves it, as it were,
divinized, to a greater or a lesser degree, corresponding to the
greater or the lesser degree of union between the two.' This
conception, which is a basic one in Christian mysticism, is that
of St. John of the Cross. Had all his commentators understood that
fact, some of them would have been saved from making ridiculous
comparisons of him with Gnostics, Illuminists or even the Eastern
seekers after Nirvana. Actually, this Saint and Doctor of the
Church applies the tenets of Catholic theology to the union of the
soul with God, presenting them in a condensed and vigorous form
and keeping also to strict psychological truth, as in general do
the other Spanish mystics. This is one of his greatest merits. In
this chapter he is speaking, not of essential union, which has
nothing to do with his subject, but (presupposing the union worked
through sanctifying grace received in the substance of the soul,
which is the source of the infused virtues, such as faith, hope
and charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit) of active actual
union, after which we can and should strive, so that we may will
what God wills and abhor what He abhors. Though not the only kind
of union, it is this which chiefly concerns the soul; and, when
once this is attained, God readily grants all other mystical
gifts. Cf. St. Teresa's Interior Castle, V, iii [C.W.S.T.J., II,
[232]  [Lit., 'is clothed with.']
[233]  St. John i, 13.
[234]  St. John iii, 5.
[235]  [Lit., 'wholly perfect and...']
[236]  [Lit., 'to lead... into,' as at the beginning of Sect. 6,
[237]  Hebrews xi, 1.
[238]  Romans viii, 24.
[239]  St. Luke xiv, 33.
[240]  Luke xi, 5.
[241]  Isaias vi, 2.
[242]  [Or 'middle.' Cf. Bk. I, chap. ii, above.]
[243]  St. Matthew vii, 14.
[244]  [The Spanish verb, used also at the end of the preceding
paragraph, is derived from the adjective.]
[245]  St. Mark viii, 34-5.
[246]  [Lit., 'the denial of ourselves to our very selves.']
[247]  [enagenacion, a word which to-day means 'alienation,'
'rapture,' 'derangement (of mind),' but in Covarrubias' dictionary
(1611) is also defined as 'giving to another what is one's own.']
[248]  St. John xii, 25.
[249]  St. Matthew xx, 22.
[250]  John xiv, 6.
[251]  St. John x, 9.
[252]  St. Matthew xxvii, 46.
[253]  Psalm lxxii, 22 [A.V., lxxiii, 22].
[254]  [The reference seems to be to Acts xiii, 46, the point of it
being in the second part of that verse. The Spanish will also bear
the interpretation: 'for them it behoved first (i.e., before
others) to speak this word of God, as (being) those whom God set
up as guides, etc.']
[255]  [By this vivid phrase the author seems to mean: 'whom God held
to be suitable recipients of it.']
[256]  [Lit., 'unite.']
[257]  Psalm lxxxv, 8 [A.V., lxxxvi, 8].
[258]  Psalm lxxvi, 14 [A.V., lxxvii, 13] [lit., 'in that which is
[259]  Psalm cxxxvii, 6 [A.V., cxxxviii, 6].
[260]  Exodus xxxiii, 20.
[261]  St. John i, 18.
[262]  1 Corinthians ii, 9; Isaias lxiv, 4.
[263]  Acts vii, 32.
[264]  3 Kings [A.V. 1 Kings] xix, 13.
[265]  [Lit., 'feign Him.']
[266]  Isaias xl, 18-19.
[267]  [All authorities read 'form' (or 'figure') here. Cf. n. 7,
[268]  [This is the word (fingir, 'feign'), translated above as
'imitate.' Cf. n. 7, above.]
[269]  Baruch iii, 23.
[270]  [Possibly a further reference to 1 Corinthians ii, 9-10, quoted
[271]  Hebrews xi, 6.
[272]  Psalm xvii, 10-12 [A.V., xviii, 9-11].
[273]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] viii, 12.
[274]  Job xxxviii, 1; xl, 1.
[275]  1 Corinthians xiii, 10.
[276]  Judges viii, 16.
[277]  [Lit., +by itself.+]
[278]  [Lit., 'and blossom.']
[279]  [Lit., 'from the affection and devotion of the sensible
[280]  [P. Silverio remarks here that] we must understand [as
frequently elsewhere] 'sensibility' and not sensuality in the
grosser sense.
[281]  [Lit., 'and sweetnesses in the mouth.']
[282]  E.p.: 'for those of the devil stop at the first movements and
cannot move the will.' This, no doubt, was the Saint's meaning,
for the Church teaches that the devil cannot influence the will
directly, though he may do so indirectly, principally through the
senses and the imagination.
[283]  St. John of the Cross means that the soul should not rely upon
its own judgment in such matters but upon some discreet and
learned director.
[284]  2 Corinthians xi, 14.
[285]  [Lit., 'making it over.'] E.p. has: 'setting it and placing it
[286]  [St. Matthew xxv, 21.]
[287]  [Lit., 'and retired.']
[288]  [The phrase is suggestive of St. Teresa, though the Spanish
word is not moradas, but mansiones.]
[289]  [Apocalypse xiii, 1.]
[290]  [Apocalypse xiii, 7.]
[291]  [St. Luke xi, 26.]
[292]  [Lit., 'the intimate'; but the superlative idea is clearly
[293]  [Lit., 'by fancying.']
[294]  [Lit., 'the level' -- i.e., by contrast with the steep stairs.]
[295]  Acts xvii, 29.
[296]  [The verb, recoger, of which the derived noun is translated
'recollection,' has more accurately the meaning of 'gather,' 'take
[297]  [Lit., 'to see that there are many who.']
[298]  E.p. omits: 'and quietness.' The Saint's description of this
first sign at which a soul should pass from meditation to
contemplation was denounced as disagreeing with Catholic doctrine,
particularly the phrase: 'that he can no longer meditate or reason
with his imagination, neither can take pleasure therein as he was
wont to do aforetime.' This language, however, is common to
mystics and theologians, not excluding St. Thomas (2a 2ae, q. 180,
a. 6) and Suarez (De Oratione, Bk. II, Chap. x), as is proved,
with eloquence and erudition, by P. Basilio Ponce de Leon and the
Elucidatio, in their refutations of the Saint's critics. All agree
that, in the act of contemplation of which St. John of the Cross
here speaks, the understanding must be stripped of forms and
species of the imagination and that the reasonings and reflections
of meditation must be set aside. This is to be understood, both of
the contemplation that transcends all human methods, and also of
that which is practised according to these human methods with the
ordinary aid of grace. But there is this important difference,
that those who enjoy the first kind of contemplation set aside all
intellectual reasoning as well as processes of the fancy and the
imagination, whereas, for the second kind, reasoning prior to the
act of contemplation is normally necessary, though it ceases at
the act of contemplation, and there is then substituted for it
simple and loving intuition of eternal truth. It should be clearly
understood that this is not of habitual occurrence in the
contemplative soul, but occurs only during the act of
contemplation, which is commonly of short duration. St. Teresa
makes this clear in Chap. xxvii of her Life, and treats this same
doctrinal question in many other parts of her works--e.g., Life,
Chaps. x, xii; Way of Perfection, Chap. xxvi; Interior Castle, IV,
Chap. iii, etc.
[299]  [Lit., 'much.']
[300]  E.p. omits: 'and sense.' Since sense plays so great a part in
meditation, St. John of the Cross places it in contradistinction
to contemplation, which, the more nearly it attains perfection,
becomes the more sublime and spiritual and the more completely
freed from the bonds of nature. Cf. Elucidatio, Pt. II, Chap. iii,
p. 180.
[301]  [embelesamiento, a word denoting a pleasurable condition
somewhere between a reverie and a swoon.]
[302]  [Lit., 'appear to be necessary in order to journey to spirit.']
[303]  Job vi, 6.
[304]  [Cf. the simile of the Waters in St. Teresa, Life, Chap. xi,
and Interior Castle, IV, ii, iii.]
[305]  [Lit., +booty,' 'prey.']
[306]  [Lit., +the soul keeps in act its spiritual facilities.+]
[307]  [The verb is tropezar en, which may mean either 'stumble upon'
-- i.e., 'come across (and make use of),' or 'stumble over' --
i.e., the forms may be a stumbling-block, or a snare. I think
there is at least a suggestion of the latter meaning.]
[308]  [Lit., +to the sight of sense.+]
[309]  [Or: 'when it was dependent on time.' Lit., 'acted in time.']
[310]  [Or: 'and independent of time.' Lit., 'without time.']
[311]  E.p. modifies these lines thus: '. . . it has been in pure
intelligence, which is the brief prayer that is said to pierce the
heavens. Because it is brief and because the soul is not conscious
or observant of time.' P. Jose de Jesus Maria comments thus upon
this passage: +In contemplation the soul withdraws itself from the
seashore, and entirely loses sight of land, in order to whelm
itself in that vast sea and impenetrable abyss of the Divine
Essence; hiding itself in the region of time, it enters within the
most extensive limits of eternity. For the pure and simple
intelligence whereinto the soul is brought in this contemplation,
as was pointed out by the ancient Dionysius (Myst. Theol., Chap.
ii), and by our own Father, is not subject to time. For, as St.
Thomas says (Pt. I, q. 118, a. 3, et alibi), the soul is a
spiritual substance, which is above time and superior to the
movements of the heavens, to which it is subject only because of
the body. And therefore it seems that, when the soul withdraws
from the body, and from all created things, and by means of pure
intelligence whelms itself in eternal things, it recovers its
natural dominion and rises above time, if not according to
substance, at least according to its most perfect being; for the
noblest and most perfect being of the soul resides rather in its
acts than in its faculties. Wherefore St. Gregory said (Morals,
Bk. VIII): "The Saints enter eternity even in this life, beholding
the eternity of God."'
[312]  Psalm ci, 8 [A.V. cii, 7].
[313]  [The Spanish pajaro, 'bird,' is derived from passer,
[314]  Canticles vi, 11.
[315]  Canticles v, 2.
[316]  The words which conclude this paragraph in the edition of 1630
('The sign by which we may know if the soul is occupied in this
secret intelligence is if it is seen to have no pleasure in
thinking of aught, whether high or low') are not found either in
the Codices or in e.p. When St. John of the Cross uses the words
'cessation,' 'idleness' [ocio, Lat. otium], 'quiet,'
'annihilation,' 'sleep' (of the faculties), etc., he does not
mean, as the Illuminists did, that the understanding and will in
the act of contemplation are so passive as to have lost all their
force and vitality, and that the contemplative is therefore
impeccable, although he commit the grossest sins. The soul's vital
powers, according to St. John of the Cross, are involved even in
the highest contemplation; the understanding is attentive to God
and the will is loving Him. They are not working, it is true, in
the way which is usual and natural with them -- that is, by reason
and imagination -- but supernaturally, through the unction of the
Holy Spirit, which they receive passively, without any effort of
their own. It is in this sense that such words as those quoted
above ('cessation,' 'idleness,' etc.) are both expressively and
appropriately used by the Saint, for what is done without labour
and effort may better be described by images of passivity than by
those of activity. Further, the soul is unaware that its faculties
are working in this sublime contemplation, though they undoubtedly
do work.
     St. John of the Cross, philosopher as well as mystic, would
not deny the vital and intrinsic activity of the understanding and
the will in contemplation. His reasoning is supported by P. Jose
de Jesus Maria (Apologia Mistica de la Contemplacion Divina, Chap.
ix) [quoted at length by P. Silverio, Obras, etc., Vol. II, p.
130, note].
[317]  In spite of this promise, the Saint does not return to this
subject at such length as his language here would suggest.
[318]  [Lit., 'in this loving or peaceful presence,' the original of
'presence' having also the sense of 'attendance.']
[319]  Psalm xlv, 11 [A.V., xlvi, 10].
[320]  Isaias vi, 4.
[321]  Jeremias i, 11.
[322]  Daniel viii, 10.
[323]  Kings xxii, 11 [A.V., 1 Kings xxii, 11].
[324]  [St. Matthew xxvii, 19.]
[325]  E.p. omits: 'now natural, now supernatural.' The Saint employs
this last word, in this passage, with the sense of
'preternatural.' Only God can transcend the bounds of nature, but
the devil can act in such a way that he appears to be doing so,
counterfeiting miracles, and so forth.
[326]  [Lit., 'to come within God.'] E.p.: 'to be united with God.'
[327]  Deuteronomy iv, 12.
[328]  Deuteronomy iv, 15.
[329]  Numbers xii, 6-8, [D.V. has 'Mary' for 'Miriam'.]
[330]  [The progressive form is used in the Spanish: 'not to go (or
'be') leaning upon.']
[331]  [Lit., 'impede the brightness.']
[332]  St. Peter i, 19.
[333]  Romans xiii, 1.
[334]  Wisdom viii, 1.
[335]  [The verb is progressive ('goes (on) instructing').]
[336]  [This verb also is progressive: 'may go (on) making.']
[337]  [Lit., 'mouthfuls of spiritual communication.']
[338]  [All the verbs in the last two clauses are in the progressive
[339]  1 Corinthians xiii, 11.
[340]  [Lit., 'I emptied.']
[341]  In reality, this instruction is given in Chap. xiii.
[342]  Psalm cxlvii, 17.
[343]  1 Corinthians iii, 1-2.
[344]  St. Matthew xv, 14.
[345]  [Lit., 'if it were of God.']
[346]  Genesis xv, 7.
[347]  Genesis xlvi, 3-4.
[348]  Judges xx, 12 ff.
[349]  [Lit., 'according to the rind.' Cf. bk. II ch. viii, above.]
[350]  2 Corinthians iii, 6.
[351]  Isaias xxviii, 9-11.
[352]   [For 'wait,' we may also read 'hope,' the Spanish word
(esperar) here used expressing both these ideas.]
[353]  Jeremias iv, 10.
[354]  Jeremias viii, 15.
[355]  Psalm lxxi, 8 [A.V., lxxii, 8].
[356]  Psalm lxxi, 12 [A.V., lxxii, 12.]
[357]  [Lit., 'seeing Him later to be born.']
[358]  [Lit., 'of Christ and of His followers.' The addition is
necessary to the sense.]
[359]  Acts xiii, 27.
[360]  St. Luke xxiv, 21.
[361]  St. Luke xxiv, 25.
[362]  Acts i, 6.
[363]  St. John xi, 50.
[364]  1 Corinthians ii, 14.
[365]  [Lit., 'free and victorious.']
[366]  Psalm ii, 9.
[367]  Psalm ix, 17 [A.V., x, 18].
[368]  Proverbs x, 24.
[369]  Jonas iii, 4.
[370]  [Lit., 'to promise.']
[371]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] xxi, 21.
[372]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] xxi, 27-9.
[373]  St. John xii, 16.
[374]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] ii, 30.
[375]  Jonas iii, 4.
[376]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] xi, 38. [Actually it was to Jeroboam
that this was said.]
[377]  [Lit., 'on the road of eternity.']
[378]  Ecclestiastes v, 1 [A.V. v, 2].
[379]  Jeremias xx, 7-9.
[380]  Lamentations iii, 47.
[381]  Jonas iv, 2.
[382]  Isaias vii, 12. [The Spanish has 'Achab' for 'Achaz.']
[383]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] viii, 7.
[384]  2 Paralipomenon [A.V., 2 Chronicles] xx, 12.
[385]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] xxviii, 15.
[386]  Psalm lxxvii, 30-1 [A.V., lxxviii, 30-1].
[387]  Numbers xxii, 32.
[388]  [Lit., 'that come out true.']
[389]  The exact reading in Boetius is: 'Tu quoque si vis lumine claro
cernere vernum -- Tramite recto carpere callem -- Gaudia pelle --
Pelle timorem -- Spemque fugato -- Nec dolor adsit' (Migne, Vol.
LXXV, p. 122).
[390]  Judith xi, 12.
[391]  Wisdom xi, 17 [A.V., xi, 16].
[392]  Tobias xiv, 13.
[393]  [i.e., any individual.]
[394]  Isaias xix, 14.
[395]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] xxii, 22.
[396]  Ezechiel xiv, 7-9.
[397]  [Ezechiel xiv, 7.]
[398]  [Lit., 'they serve nevertheless for the greater doctrine and
clearness of our intention.']
[399]  Isaias xxx, 2.
[400]  Josue ix, 14.
[401]  Hebrews i, 1.
[402]  St. Matthew xvii, 5.
[403]  Colossians ii, 3.
[404]  1 Corinthians ii, 2.
[405]  Colossians ii, 9.
[406]  St. John xix, 30.
[407]  Galatians i, 8.
[408]  [It was to Abiathar that this was said.] 1 Kings [A.V., 1
Samuel] xxiii, 9.
[409]  Judges vii, 11.
[410]  [Lit., 'and so dark.']
[411]  Exodus iv, 14-15.
[412]  St. Matthew xviii, 20.
[413]  [Lit., 'the things which he has to be of God.']
[414]  [Lit., '... with them, without the Church or...']
[415]  Ecclesiasties iv, 10-12.
[416]  [i.e., the penitent and the confessor or director.]
[417]  Galatians ii, 2.
[418]  Exodus xviii, 21-2.
[419]  Galatians ii, 14.
[420]  St. Matthew vii, 22.
[421]  St. Matthew vii, 23.
[422]  [The Spanish phrase equally admits the reading: 'even though
the soul make.']
[423]  [i.e., into the night of faith: cf. Chap. xxiii, Sect. 4,
[424]  It is in Chapter x (and not in viii, as is said in A, B and
e.p.) that the author treats of these spiritual apprehensions.
[425]  St. Gregory: Dial., Bk. 11, Chap. xxxv. 'Omnis etiam mundus
velut sub uno solis radio collectus, ante oculos eius adductus
[426]  Exodus xxxiii, 20.
[427]  Exodus xx, 19.
[428]  Judges xiii, 22.
[429]  E.p. abbreviates this paragraph thus: 'The other visions, which
are of incorporeal substances, demand another and a higher
illumination; and thus these visions of incorporeal substances,
such as angels and souls, do not occur habitually, nor are they
proper to this life; still less is that of the Divine Essence,
which is proper to the Blessed in Heaven, save that it may be
communicated to a soul fleetingly and as in passing.' The next two
paragraphs are omitted from e.p. P. Jeronimo de San Jose, in the
edition of 1630, copies from e.p. the lines given in this note
above, and then continues: '[save when] God so allows, in spite of
the condition of our natural life, withdrawing the spirit from it
occasionally, as happened to the apostle Saint Paul, when he says
that he saw unspeakable secrets in the third heaven.' The
adjustments made by P. Salablanca and amplified by P. Jeronimo in
the rest of the paragraph [cf. notes below] follow the most usual
scholastic doctrine. Among the Discalced Carmelite writers who
deal most fully and competently with this doctrine of spiritual
visions are the authors of the Cursas Theologiae Mysticae, Vol.
IV, Disp. xx, xxi; Felipe de la Santisima Trinidad: Summa
Theologiae Mysticae, Pt. II, Tract. III, Disc. iv; Medula Mistica,
Trat. VI. St. Thomas (I p., q. 88, a. 1) says that we cannot
quidditative know separated substances.
[430]  2 Corinthians xii, 2.
[431]  Exodus xxxiii, 22.
[432]  This description the Saint probably accomplished, or intended
to accomplish, in his commentaries on the last five stanzas of the
Dark Night, which have not come down to us.
[433]  St. Matthew iv, 8.
[434]  E.p.: '. . . by intelligible suggestion.' On this passage, cf.
Cornelius a Lapide (Commentaria in Matthaeum, Cap. IV) and St.
Thomas (III p., q. 41, ad. 3).
[435]  [Psalm xxxix, 6: cf. A.V., xl, 5.]
[436]  Psalm xviii, 10-11 [A.V., xix, 9-10].
[437]  Exodus xxxiv, 6-7.
[438]  [Lit., 'Emperor.']
[439]  St. John xiv, 21.
[440]  1 Corinthians xii, 10.
[441]  Wisdom vii, 17-21.
[442]  [Lit., 'of the roundness of the lands.']
[443]  [Lit., 'exposition of words'; the reference is clearly to 1
Corinthians xii, 8-10.]
[444]  [The original has gratis datas.]
[445]  Proverbs xxvii, 19.
[446]  1 Corinthians ii, 15.
[447]  1 Corinthians ii, 10.
[448]  [Lit., 'in the interior.']
[449]  4 Kings [A.V., 2 Kings] v, 26.
[450]  4 Kings [A.V., 2 Kings] vi, 12.
[451]  Jeremias xlv, 3.
[452]  Galatians i, 8.
[453]  Romans x, 17.
[454]  2 St. Peter i, 19.
[455]  Ecclesiastes vii, 1.
[456]  [Lit., 'certain distinct and formal words.']
[457]  Genesis xxvii, 22.
[458]  [Lit., 'with four maravedis' worth of experience.' The maravedi
was a small coin, worth 1/375 of a gold ducat, the unit of coinage
at this time in Castile.]
[459]  [Lit., 'and thus it.']
[460]  This profound and important principle, which has often been
developed in mystical theology, is well expounded by P. Jose de
Jesus Maria in a treatise called Reply to a question [Respuesta a
una duda]. Here, among other things, he says: 'As St. Thomas
proves (De Veritate, q. 12, a. 6), Divine illumination, like every
other spiritual form, is communicated to the soul after the manner
of the receiver of it, whether according to sense or according to
spirit, to the particular or to the universal. And thus, he that
receives it must prepare himself for it to be communicated to him
further, whether in small measure (as we say) or according to
sense, or in large measure or intellectually.'
[461]  [Canticles vi, 4.]
[462]  [Lit., 'and then throwing it down.']
[463]  [Lit., 'He grants them wrapped up in this.']
[464]  [The verbs used in the Spanish for 'is fitting' and behoves'
are the same.]
[465]  Romans xii, 3.
[466]  Daniel ix, 22.
[467]  Exodus iii, iv.
[468]  [Lit., 'greater worth.']
[469]  This chapter is notable for the hardly surpassable clarity and
precisions with which the Saint defines substantial locutions.
Some critics, however, have found fault with him for saying that
the soul should not fear these locutions, but accept them humbly
and passively, since they depend wholly on God. The reply is that,
when God favours the soul with these locutions, its own restless
effort can only impede His work in it, as has already been said.
The soul is truly co-operating with God by preparing itself with
resignation and humble affection to receive His favours: it should
not, as some critics have asserted, remain completely inactive. As
to the fear of being deceived by these locutions, both St. Thomas
and all the principal commentators are in conformity with the
Saint's teaching. St. Teresa, too, took the same attitude as St.
John of the Cross. Cf. her Life, Chap. xxv, and Interior Castle,
VI, iii.
[470]  Ecclesiastes viii, 4.
[471]  Psalm lxvii, 34 [A.V., lxviii, 33].
[472]  Genesis xvii, 1.
[473]  Jeremias xxiii, 28-9.
[474]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] iii, 10.
[475]  A, B: 'and how He wills.' Note that the Saint does not
deprecate good works, as did the Illuminists [alumbrados], who
bade the perfect soul set them aside for contemplation, even
though they were works of obligation. On the contrary, he asserts
that good works have a definite, though a preparatory, part to
play in the life of a contemplative.
[476]  Alc. alone has: 'which follows this.' The Saint does not, in
fact, return to this matter, either in the third book or
[477]  [Lit., 'or apprehend by doing, but by receiving.']
[478]  Some editions here add a long paragraph, which, however, is the
work of P. Jeronimo de San Jose, who was responsible for the
edition of 1630. It appears neither in the MSS. nor in e.p. It
runs as follows:
     All the instruction which has been given in this book on
total abstraction and passive contemplation, wherein, oblivious to
all created things and detached from images and figures, we allow
ourselves to be guided by God, dwelling with simple regard upon
supreme truth, is applicable not only to that act of most perfect
contemplation, the lofty and wholly supernatural repose of which
is still prevented by the daughters of Jerusalem (namely, good
reflections and meditations), if at that time the soul desires
them, but also to the whole of the time during which Our Lord
communicates the simple, general and loving attentiveness
aforementioned, or during which the soul, aided by grace, places
itself in that state. For at that time the soul must always strive
to keep its understanding in repose, without the interference of
other forms, figures or particular kinds of knowledge, save very
fleetingly and quite superficially; and it must have a loving
sweetness which will enkindle it ever more. But, except at this
time, in all its exercises, acts and works, the soul must make use
of good meditations and remembrances, so as to experience the
greater devotion and profit, most of all with respect to the life,
passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that its actions,
practices and life may be made like to His.
[479]  Thus Alc. A, B, e.p. read: 'This suffices to conclude (our
treatment of) the supernatural apprehensions of the understanding,
so far as concerns the guidance of the understanding, by their
means, in faith, to Divine union. And I think that what has been
said with regard to this suffices, for, no matter what happens to
the soul with respect to the understanding, instructions and
cautions concerning it will be found in the sections already
mentioned. And, if something should happen, apparently so
different that none of them deals with it (although I think there
will be nothing relating to the understanding which cannot be
referred to one of the four kinds of distinct knowledge),
instructions and cautions concerning it can be deduced from what
has been said of others similar to it. And with this we will pass
to the third book, where, with the Divine favour, we shall treat
of the interior spiritual purgation of the will with regard to its
interior affections which we here call active night.'
     C, D have: 'From what has been said may be deduced
instructions and cautions for guidance in whatever may happen to
the soul with regard to the understanding, even if it seem so
different that it includes none of the four distinct kinds,
although I think there will be nothing relating to the
understanding which cannot be referred to one of them. And so we
will pass to the third book.'
     The edition of 1630 follows A, B and e.p., and adds further:
'I therefore beg the discreet reader to read these things in a
benevolent and simple spirit; for, when this spirit is not
present, however sublime and perfect be the instruction, it will
not yield the profit that it contains, nor will it earn the esteem
that it merits. How much truer is this in the present case, since
my style is in so many ways deficient!'
[480]  It will be seen from what follows that in practice the Saint
preserves the strictly tripartite division given in the text
above, supernatural knowledge being found in each of the sections.
[481]  [St. Matthew vi, 24.]
[482]  1 Corinthians vi, 17.
[483]  P. Jose de Jesus Maria, in his Vida y excelencias de la
Santisima Virgen Maria (I, xl), quotes this and part of the last
paragraph from what he claims to be an original MS. of St. John of
the Cross, but his text varies considerably from that of any MS.
now known. [P. Silverio considers that this and other similar
citations are quite untrustworthy.]
[484]  The reference is to the drawing of the Mount of Perfection. Cf.
The General Introduction, I, above.
[485]  Wisdom vii, 21.
[486]  [Lit., 'which cannot be' (que no puede ser), but this is a
well-known Spanish hyperbole describing what is extremely
[487]  E.p. omits all the rest of this paragraph, substituting the
following passage, which it introduces in order [says P. Silverio]
to describe the scope of the Saint's teaching, and which is copied
in the edition of 1630:
     In [treating of] this purgation of the memory, I speak here
only of the necessary means whereby the memory may place itself
actively in this night and purgation, as far as lies in its power.
And these means are that the spiritual man must habitually
exercise caution, after this manner. Of all the things that he
sees, hears, smells, tastes or touches he must make no particular
store in the memory, or pay heed to them, or dwell upon them, but
must allow them to pass and must remain in holy oblivion without
reflecting upon them, save when necessary for some good reflection
or meditation. And this care to forget and forsake knowledge and
images is never applicable to Christ and His Humanity. For,
although occasionally, at the height of contemplation and simple
regard of the Divinity, the soul may not remember this most sacred
Humanity, because God, with His own hand, has raised the soul to
this, as it were, confused and most supernatural knowledge, yet it
is in no wise seemly to study to forget it, since looking and
meditating lovingly upon it will aid the soul to [attain] all that
is good, and it is by its means that the soul will most readily
rise to the most lofty state of union. And it is clear that,
although other bodily and visible things are a hindrance and ought
to be forgotten, we must not include among these Him Who became
man for our salvation, and Who is the truth, the door, the way and
the guide to all good things. This being assumed, let the soul
strive after complete abstraction and oblivion, so that, in so far
as is possible, there may remain in its memory no more knowledge
or image of created things than though they existed not in the
world; and let it leave the memory free and disencumbered for God,
and, as it were, lost in holy oblivion.
[488]  Romans viii, 14.
[489]  [Lit., 'good.']
[490]  Osee ii, 14.
[491]  [Lit., 'whence that may come.']
[492]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] iii, 10.
[493]  Canticles iv, 12.
[494]  [St. John xx, 19].
[495]  Isaiah xlviii, 18.
[496]  [Lit., 'to leave things.']
[497]  [Lit., 'he finds nothing to seize upon, and with nothing he can
do nothing.']
[498]  Psalm lxxii, 8 [A.V., lxxiii, 8].
[499]  Wisdom i, 5.
[500]  [Lit., 'for the peace and calm of the same things and
[501]  Psalm xxxviii, 7 [A.V. xxxix, 6].
[502]  Ecclesiastes iii, 12.
[503]  Lamentations iii, 20.
[504]  Hebrews xi, 1.
[505]  St. Luke xiv, 33.
[506]  Isaias v, 20.
[507]  St. Luke xviii, 11-12.
[508]  [Lit., 'in the heart.']
[509]  [The two verbs, in the original, have very definite and
concrete meanings, 'sweetened with honey' and 'dazzled by a lamp'
[510]  Psalm cxxxviii, 11 [A.V., cxxxix, 11].
[511]  Psalm lxxxv, 8 [A.V., lxxxvi, 8].
[512]  St. John i, 18.
[513]  Isaias lxiv, 4.
[514]  Exodus xxxiii, 20.
[515]  1 Thessalonians v, 19.
[516]  Canticles viii, 6.
[517]  More correctly, in Chaps. xvi and xvii.
[518]  [Lit., 'the supernatural.']
[519]  [Lit., 'had given it spirit' (or 'spirituality').]
[520]  [Or 'spirituality.']
[521]  [Or 'the spirit.']
[522]  Habacuc ii, 1. [The original has 'munition' for 'tower' and
'contemplate' for 'watch and see.']
[523]  Canticles viii, 6.
[524]  [Lit., 'because in the arm is.']
[525]  Really the chapter is the twenty-sixth.
[526]  [The Spanish word, inclita, is stronger than this, meaning
'distinguished,' 'illustrious.']
[527]  [Lit., 'which is painted.']
[528]  [Lit., 'the painted image.']
[529]  St. James ii, 20.
[530]  Deuteronomy vi, 5.
[531]  Psalm lviii, 10 [A.V., lix, 9].
[532]  [Lit., 'the less strongly will its rejoicing be employed in
[533]  [The original is stronger: 'one same thing.']
[534]  Ezechiel i, 5-9.
[535]  Cf. Bk. III, ch. XVI, above.
[536]  [Lit., 'things or blessings.' The word here translated
'blessings' is bienes, often rendered 'goods.' I use 'blessings'
or 'good things' in the following chapters, according as best
suits the context.]
[537]  Ecclesiasticus xi, 10.
[538]  St. Matthew xiii, 22; St. Luke viii, 14.
[539]  [Lit., 'handles them.']
[540]  St. Matthew xix, 23; St. Luke xviii, 24.
[541]  Psalm lxi, 11 [A.V., lxii, 10].
[542]  Ecclesiastes i, 14.
[543]  Ecclesiastes v, 9.
[544]  Ecclesiastes v, 12.
[545]  St. Luke xii, 20.
[546]  Psalm xlviii, 17-18 [A.V., xlix, 16-17].
[547]  St. Matthew xvi, 26.
[548]  2 Kings [A.V. 2 Samuel] xiv, 25.
[549]  St. Matthew xxiii, 15.
[550]  Ecclesiastes ii, 2.
[551]  Ecclesiastes vii, 5.
[552]  Ecclesiastes vii, 4.
[553]  Ecclesiastes vii, 3.
[554]  1 Corinthians vii, 27.
[555]  1 Corinthians vii, 29-30.
[556]  [Lit., 'bring it no profit.']
[557]  [Lit., 'for this is.']
[558]  [Lit., 'that can be told in this case.']
[559]  Deuteronomy xxxii, 15.
[560]  Wisdom iv, 12.
[561]  Exodus xxiii, 8.
[562]  Exodus xxiii, 21-2.
[563]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] xii, 3.
[564]  Deuteronomy xxxii, 15.
[565]  Isaiah i, 23.
[566]  Deuteronomy xxxii, 15.
[567]  St. Luke xvi, 8.
[568]  Jeremias ii, 13.
[569]  ['They have passed into the affection of the heart.'] Psalm
lxxii, 7 [A.V. lxxiii, 7].
[570]  Deuteronomy xxxii, 15.
[571]  Colossians iii, 5.
[572]  Numbers xxii, 7.
[573]  Acts viii, 18-19.
[574]  Ecclesiastes v, 11-12.
[575]  ['He delivered them up to a reprobate sense.'] Romans i, 28.
[576]  Psalm xlviii, 17-18 [A.V., xlix, 16-17].
[577]  St. Luke xvi, 10.
[578]  [The word 'sin' is not in the original of this sentence, which
reads 'the small . . . the great . . .' etc.]
[579]  Psalm lxi, 11 [A.V., lxii, 10].
[580]  2 Corinthians vi, 10.
[581]  St. Matthew xix, 29.
[582]  St. Luke xii, 20.
[583]  Apocalypse xviii, 7.
[584]  Proverbs xxxi, 30.
[585]  Psalm ci, 27 [A.V., cii, 26-7].
[586]  Ecclesiastes ii, 2.
[587]  Isaias iii, 12.
[588]  [Lit., 'the great.']
[589]  Apocalypse xii, 4.
[590]  Lamentations iv, 1-2.
[591]  Apocalypse xvii, 3-4.
[592]  Daniel ix, 27.
[593]  Judges xvi.
[594]  [Lit., 'since it was through this they fell into the vile
[595]  Proverbs xxiii, 31-2.
[596]  [Lit., 'free and clear.']
[597]  St. Matthew xvi, 24.
[598]  Psalm lvii, 5 [A.V., lviii, 4-5].
[599]  Wisdom i, 5.
[600]  Isaias lxiv, 4; 1 Corinthians ii, 9.
[601]  [Lit., 'that is not in renunciation . . .']
[602]  St. Luke xvi, 19.
[603]  [Lit., 'to the quantity.']
[604]  [Lit., 'and gain continually.']
[605]  Galatians v, 17.
[606]  1 Corinthians ii, 9, 10, 14.
[607]  St. Matthew xix, 29.
[608]  St. John iii, 6.
[609]  2 Corinthians iv, 17.
[610]  [Lit., politica, the 'political' virtue of Aristotle and St.
Thomas -- i.e., the 'social,' as opposed to the 'moral,'
'intellectual' and 'theological' virtues. P. Silverio glosses the
word as meaning 'good government in the commonweal, courtesy and
other social virtues.']
[611]  Wisdom vii, 22.
[612]  3 Kings [A.V. 1 Kings] iii, 11-13.
[613]  St. Luke xviii, 11-12.
[614]  St. Luke xviii, 11.
[615]  St. Matthew xxiii, 5.
[616]  St. Matthew vi, 2.
[617]  [Lit., 'are adoring.']
[618]  [Lit., 'to present their alms or that which they do.']
[619]  St. Matthew vi, 2.
[620]  St. Matthew vi, 3.
[621]  Job xxxi, 27-8.
[622]  Ecclesiastes x, 1.
[623]  Micheas vii, 3.
[624]  Job xl, 16 [A.V., xl, 21].
[625]  Jeremias xlix, 16. E.p. adds the translation: 'Thy arrogance
hath deceived thee.'
[626]  [Lit., 'will not give place to the weight of reason.']
[627]  St. Luke viii, 12.
[628]  St. Matthew v, 3.
[629]  1 Corinthians xii, 9-10.
[630]  1 Corinthians xii, 7.
[631]  [Lit., 'give thanks and gifts to God.']
[632]  [traspasar: lit., 'go over,' 'go through.']
[633]  1 Corinthians xiii, 1-2.
[634]  St. Matthew vii, 22-3.
[635]  St. Luke x, 20.
[636]  Numbers xxii, 22-3.
[637]  St. Luke ix, 54-5.
[638]  Jeremias xxiii, 21.
[639]  Jeremias xxiii, 32.
[640]  Jeremias xxiii, 26.
[641]  [Lit., 'the awful Body.']
[642]  Acts iv, 29-30.
[643]  1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] xxviii, 7, ff.
[644]  'Nec fides habet meritum cui humana ratio praebet
experimentum.' St. Gregory, Hom. 26 in Evang. (Migne, Vol. LXXVI,
p. 1,137).
[645]  [St. Luke xxiv, 6; St. John xx, 2.]
[646]  [Romans x, 17.]
[647]  [St. John xx, 15].
[648]  St. Luke xxiv, 15.
[649]  [St. Luke xxiv, 25-6.]
[650]  St. John xx, 29.
[651]  St. John iv, 48.
[652]  St. Luke x, 20.
[653]  Psalm lxiii, 7 [A.V., lxiv, 6-7].
[654]  Psalm xlv, 11 [A.V., xlvi, 10].
[655]  Psalm lxii, 3 [A.V., lxii, 1-2].
[656]  [Lit., 'thing.']
[657]  [In spite of this promise, the Saint does not return to this
subject at such length as his language here would suggest.]
[658]  Judges xviii, 22-4.
[659]  Genesis xxxi, 34-7.
[660]  [In this and the next paragraph the Saint is more than usually
personal in his approach to the reader. The word tu(you) is
repeated many times, and placed in emphatic positions, in a way
which cannot be exactly reproduced in English.]
[661]  [Lit., 'awakens.' Cf. the use of the same metaphor below.]
[662]  St. Luke iv, 24. [Rather St. Matthew xiii, 58 or St. Mark vi,
[663]  [Again the Saint begins, repeatedly and emphatically, to employ
the pronoun tu. Cf. Bk. III, chap. xxxvi, Sect. 7, above.]
[664]  St. Matthew xxi, 9. [Cf. St. Luke xix, 41.]
[665]  Exodus xxxii, 7-28.
[666]  Leviticus x, 1-2.
[667]  St. Matthew xxii, 12-13.
[668]  St. Matthew xv, 8. [Lit., 'they serve Me without cause.']
[669]  [Lit., 'that spin more finely' -- a common Spanish metaphor.]
[670]  [Lit., 'their palate.']
[671]  St. John iv, 23-4.
[672]  1 Corinthians iii, 16.
[673]  St. John iv, 24.
[674]  E.p. omits: 'namely, Saint Simon.' The allusion is, of course,
to Saint Simon Stylites.
[675]  Genesis xii, 8; xiii, 4.
[676]  Genesis xxviii, 13-19.
[677]  Genesis xvi, 13.
[678]  Exodus xxiv, 12.
[679]  Genesis xxii, 2.
[680]  3 Kings [A.V., 1 Kings] xix, 8.
[681]  With the last word of this chapter, which is also the last word
of the page in Alc., the copy of P. Juan Evangelista comes to an
end. The remainder of Alc. comes from another very early copy
which, in the time of P. Andres, existed at Duruelo (cf. Outline
of the Life of St.John of the Cross, above).
[682]  St. Matthew vi, 33.
[683]  Psalm cxliv, 18 [A.V., cxlv, 18].
[684]  Psalm cxliv, 19-20 [A.V., cxlv, 19-20].
[685]  2 Paralipomenon [A.V., 2 Chronicles] i, 11-12.
[686]  Genesis xxi, 13.
[687]  St. Luke xi, 1-4.
[688]  St. Luke xviii, 1.
[689]  St. Matthew xxvi, 39.
[690]  St. Matthew vi, 6.
[691]  Judith viii, 11-12.
[692]  Psalm lxvii, 34 [A.V., lxviii, 33].
[693]  Acts xix, 15.
[694]  St. Mark ix, 38-9.
[695]  Romans ii, 21.
[696]  Psalm xlix, 16-17 [A.V., l, 16-17].
[697]  1 Corinthians ii, 1-4.
[698]  E.p. adds: 'End of the Ascent of Mount Carmel.' The treatise
thus remains incomplete, the chapter on the preacher being
unfinished and no part of any chapter upon the hearer having come
down to us. Further, the last two divisions of the four mentioned
in Chap. xxxv, Sect. 1 are not treated in any of the MSS. or early
     The fragments which P. Gerardo [Obras, etc., I, 402-10] added
to the Ascent, forming two chapters, cannot be considered as a
continuation of this book. They are in reality a long and
admirable letter [Letter XI in The Complete Works of St. John of
the Cross: Vol. III, p. 255], written to a religious, who was one
of the Saint's spiritual sons, and copied by P. Jeronimo de San
Jose in his History of St. John of the Cross (Bk. VI, Chap. vii).
There is not the slightest doubt that the letter which was written
at Segovia, and is fully dated, is a genuine letter, and not an
editor's maltreatment of part of a treatise. Only the similarity
of its subject with that of these last chapters is responsible for
its having been added to the Ascent. It is hard to see how P.
Gerardo could have been misled about a matter which is so clear.
     [This question was re-opened, in 1950, by P. Sobrino (see
Vol. III, p. 240), who adds TG and a codex belonging to the
Discalced Carmelite Fathers of Madrid to the list of the MSS.
which give the fragments as part of the Ascent, making six
authorities in all, against which can be set only the proved and
admitted reliability of P. Jeronimo de San Jose. P. Sobrino, who
discusses the matter (Estudios, etc., pp. 166-93) in great detail,
hazards a plausible and attractive solution, which he reinforces
with substantial evidence -- that of a 'double redaction.'
According to this theory, the Saint, in writing to the religious
of Letter XI, made use, for the substance of his instruction, of
two fragments which were to have gone into the Ascent. Considering
how often in his writings he doubled passages, to say nothing of
whole works, it is quite understandable that he should have
utilized two unincorporated, and indeed unfinished, passages for a
private letter.]

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occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

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Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races