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                   Saint John of the Cross

                    DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

         Translated and edited, with an Introduction,
                     by E. ALLISON PEERS
                from the critical edition of

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

                 IN MADRID, AVILA AND BURGOS,
                   SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS,



                            BOOK I

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

                           BOOK II

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


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

                                   Harry Plantinga
                                   University of Pittsburgh
                                   July 19, 1994.


     FOR at least twenty years, a new translation of the works of
St. John of the Cross has been an urgent necessity. The
translations of the individual prose works now in general use go
back in their original form to the eighteen-sixties, and, though
the later editions of some of them have been submitted to a
certain degree of revision, nothing but a complete retranslation
of the works from their original Spanish could be satisfactory.
For this there are two reasons.
     First, the existing translations were never very exact
renderings of the original Spanish text even in the form which
held the field when they were first published. Their great merit
was extreme readableness: many a disciple of the Spanish mystics,
who is unacquainted with the language in which they wrote, owes to
these translations the comparative ease with which he has mastered
the main lines of St. John of the Cross's teaching. Thus for the
general reader they were of great utility; for the student, on the
other hand, they have never been entirely adequate. They
paraphrase difficult expressions, omit or add to parts of
individual sentences in order (as it seems) to facilitate
comprehension of the general drift of the passages in which these
occur, and frequently retranslate from the Vulgate the Saint's
Spanish quotations from Holy Scripture instead of turning into
English the quotations themselves, using the text actually before
     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 Jess in Madrid, and of P.
Crisogono de Jess Sacramentado, together with the Fathers of the
'Convento de la Santa' in vila.
     The long and weary process of revising the manuscript and
proofs of this translation has been greatly lightened by the co-
operation and companionship of P. Edmund Gurdon, Prior of the
Cartuja de Miraflores, near Burgos, with whom I have freely
discussed all kinds of difficulties, both of substance and style,
and who has been good enough to read part of my proofs. From the
quiet library of his monastery, as well as from his gracious
companionship, I have drawn not only knowledge, but strength,
patience and perseverance. And when at length, after each of my
visits, we have had to part, we have continued our labours by
correspondence, shaking hands, as it were, 'over a vast' and
embracing 'from the ends of opposd winds.'
     Finally, I owe a real debt to my publishers for allowing me
to do this work without imposing any such limitations of time as
often accompany literary undertakings. This and other
considerations which I have received from them have made that part
of the work which has been done outside the study unusually
pleasant and I am correspondingly grateful.

                                 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.


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


                                     June 30, 1941.

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


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

                    DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL


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

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

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

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

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

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

                  Manuscripts of the DARK NIGHT

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

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

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

     The following abbreviations are adopted in the footnotes:

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

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

                          DARK NIGHT

     Exposition of the stanzas describing the method followed by
the soul in its journey upon the spiritual road to the attainment
of the perfect union of love with God, to the extent that is
possible in this life. Likewise are described the properties
belonging to the soul that has attained to the said perfection,
according as they are contained in the same stanzas.


     IN this book are first set down all the stanzas which are to
be expounded; afterwards, each of the stanzas is expounded
separately, being set down before its exposition; and then each
line is expounded separately and in turn, the line itself also
being set down before the exposition. In the first two stanzas are
expounded the effects of the two spiritual purgations: of the
sensual part of man and of the spiritual part. In the other six
are expounded various and wondrous effects of the spiritual
illumination and union of love with God.

                     STANZAS OF THE SOUL

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

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

     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

     4. This light guided me
           More surely than the light of noonday
        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 dawn,
        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;
           My face I reclined on the Beloved.
        All ceased and I abandoned myself,
           Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

     Begins the exposition of the stanzas which treat of the way
and manner which the soul follows upon the road of the union of
love with God.
     Before we enter upon the exposition of these stanzas, it is
well to understand here that the soul that utters them is now in
the state of perfection, which is the union of love with God,
having already passed through severe trials and straits, by means
of spiritual exercise in the narrow way of eternal life whereof
Our Saviour speaks in the Gospel, along which way the soul
ordinarily passes in order to reach this high and happy union with
God. Since this road (as the Lord Himself says likewise) is so
strait, and since there are so few that enter by it,[19] the soul
considers it a great happiness and good chance to have passed
along it to the said perfection of love, as it sings in this first
stanza, calling this strait road with full propriety 'dark night,'
as will be explained hereafter in the lines of the said stanza.
The soul, then, rejoicing at having passed along this narrow road
whence so many blessings have come to it, speaks after this

                        BOOK THE FIRST

              Which treats of the Night of Sense.

                      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 rest.


     IN this first stanza the soul relates the way and manner
which it followed in going forth, as to its affection, from itself
and from all things, and in dying to them all and to itself, by
means of true mortification, in order to attain to living the
sweet and delectable life of love with God; and it says that this
going forth from itself and from all things was a 'dark night,' by
which, as will be explained hereafter, is here understood
purgative contemplation, which causes passively in the soul the
negation of itself and of all things referred to above.
     2. And this going forth it says here that it was able to
accomplish in the strength and ardour which love for its Spouse
gave to it for that purpose in the dark contemplation
aforementioned. Herein it extols the great happiness which it
found in journeying to God through this night with such signal
success that none of the three enemies, which are world, devil and
flesh (who are they that ever impede this road), could hinder it;
inasmuch as the aforementioned night of purgative[20]
contemplation lulled to sleep and mortified, in the house of its
sensuality, all the passions and desires with respect to their
mischievous desires and motions. The line, then, says:

        On a dark night

                          CHAPTER I

     Sets down the first line and begins to treat of the
imperfections of beginners.

     INTO this dark night souls begin to enter when God draws them
forth from the state of beginners--which is the state of those
meditate on the spiritual road--and begins to set them in the
of progressives--which is that of those who are already
contemplatives--to the end that, after passing through it, they
arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of the Divine
union of the soul with God. Wherefore, to the end that we may the
better understand and explain what night is this through which the
soul passes, and for what cause God sets it therein, it will be
well here to touch first of all upon certain characteristics of
beginners (which, although we treat them with all possible
brevity, will not fail to be of service likewise to the beginners
themselves), in order that, realizing the weakness of the state
wherein they are, they may take courage, and may desire that God
will bring them into this night, wherein the soul is strengthened
and confirmed in the virtues, and made ready for the inestimable
delights of the love of God. And, although we may tarry here for a
time, it will not be for longer than is necessary, so that we may
go on to speak at once of this dark night.
     2. It must be known, then, that the soul, after it has been
definitely converted to the service of God, is, as a rule,
spiritually nurtured and caressed by God, even as is the tender
child by its loving mother, who warms it with the heat of her
bosom and nurtures it with sweet milk and soft and pleasant food,
and carries it and caresses it in her arms; but, as the child
grows bigger, the mother gradually ceases caressing it, and,
hiding her tender love, puts bitter aloes upon her sweet breast,
sets down the child from her arms and makes it walk upon its feet,
so that it may lose the habits of a child and betake itself to
more important and substantial occupations. The loving mother is
like the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by
its new warmth and fervour for the service of God, He treats it in
the same way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and
delectable, in all the things of God, without any labour of its
own, and also great pleasure in spiritual exercises, for here God
is giving to it the breast of His tender love, even as to a tender
     3. Therefore, such a soul finds its delight in spending long
periods--perchance whole nights--in prayer; penances are its
pleasures; fasts its joys; and its consolations are to make use of
the sacraments and to occupy itself in Divine things. In the which
things spiritual persons (though taking part in them with great
efficacy and persistence and using and treating them with great
care) often find themselves, spiritually speaking, very weak and
imperfect. For since they are moved to these things and to these
spiritual exercises by the consolation and pleasure that they find
in them, and since, too, they have not been prepared for them by
the practice of earnest striving in the virtues, they have many
faults and imperfections with respect to these spiritual actions
of theirs; for, after all, any man's actions correspond to the
habit of perfection attained by him. And, as these persons have
not had the opportunity of acquiring the said habits of strength,
they have necessarily to work like feebler children, feebly. In
order that this may be seen more clearly, and likewise how much
these beginners in the virtues lacks with respect to the works in
which they so readily engage with the pleasure aforementioned, we
shall describe it by reference to the seven capital sins, each in
its turn, indicating some of the many imperfections which they
have under each heading; wherein it will be clearly seen how like
to children are these persons in all they do. And it will also be
seen how many blessings the dark night of which we shall
afterwards treat brings with it, since it cleanses the soul and
purifies it from all these imperfections.

                         CHAPTER II

     Of certain spiritual imperfections which beginners have with
respect to the habit of pride.

     AS these beginners feel themselves to be very fervent and
diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, from this
prosperity (although it is true that holy things of their own
nature cause humility) there often comes to them, through their
imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride, whence they come to
have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with
themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise a certain
desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak
of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even
to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn
others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of
devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say
this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of
himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the
     2. In these persons the devil often increases the fervour
that they have and the desire to perform these and other works
more frequently, so that their pride and presumption may grow
greater. For the devil knows quite well that all these works and
virtues which they perform are not only valueless to them, but
even become vices in them. And such a degree of evil are some of
these persons wont to reach that they would have none appear good
save themselves; and thus, in deed and word, whenever the
opportunity occurs, they condemn them and slander them, beholding
the mote in their brother's eye and not considering the beam which
is in their own;[22] they strain at another's gnat and themselves
swallow a camel.[23]
     3. Sometimes, too, when their spiritual masters, such as
confessors and superiors, do not approve of their spirit and
behavior (for they are anxious that all they do shall be esteemed
and praised), they consider that they do not understand them, or
that, because they do not approve of this and comply with that,
their confessors are themselves not spiritual. And so they
immediately desire and contrive to find some one else who will fit
in with their tastes; for as a rule they desire to speak of
spiritual matters with those who they think will praise and esteem

what they do, and they flee, as they would from death, from those
who disabuse them in order to lead them into a safe road--
they even harbour ill-will against them. Presuming thus,[24] they
are wont to resolve much and accomplish very little. Sometimes
they are anxious that others shall realize how spiritual and
devout they are, to which end they occasionally give outward
evidence thereof in movements, sighs and other ceremonies; and at
times they are apt to fall into certain ecstasies, in public
rather than in secret, wherein the devil aids them, and they are
pleased that this should be noticed, and are often eager that it
should be noticed more.[25]
     4. Many such persons desire to be the favourites of their
confessors and to become intimate with them, as a result of which
there beset them continual occasions of envy and disquiet.[26]
They are too much embarrassed to confess their sins nakedly, lest
their confessors should think less of them, so they palliate them
and make them appear less evil, and thus it is to excuse
themselves rather than to accuse themselves that they go to
confession. And sometimes they seek another confessor to tell the
wrongs that they have done, so that their own confessor shall
think they have done nothing wrong at all, but only good; and thus
they always take pleasure in telling him what is good, and
sometimes in such terms as make it appear to be greater than it is
rather than less, desiring that he may think them to be good, when
it would be greater humility in them, as we shall say, to
depreciate it, and to desire that neither he nor anyone else
should consider them of account.
     5. Some of these beginners, too, make little of their faults,
and at other times become over-sad when they see themselves fall
into them, thinking themselves to have been saints already; and
thus they become angry and impatient with themselves, which is
another imperfection. Often they beseech God, with great
yearnings, that He will take from them their imperfections and
faults, but they do this that they may find themselves at peace,
and may not be troubled by them, rather than for God's sake; not
realizing that, if He should take their imperfections from them,
they would probably become prouder and more presumptuous still.
They dislike praising others and love to be praised themselves;
sometimes they seek out such praise. Herein they are like the
foolish virgins, who, when their lamps could not be lit, sought
oil from others.[27]
     6. From these imperfections some souls go on to develop[28]
many very grave ones, which do them great harm. But some have
fewer and some more, and some, only the first motions thereof or
little beyond these; and there are hardly any such beginners who,
at the time of these signs of fervour,[29] fall not into some of
these errors.[30] But those who at this time are going on to
perfection proceed very differently and with quite another temper
of spirit; for they progress by means of humility and are greatly
edified, not only thinking naught of their own affairs, but having
very little satisfaction with themselves; they consider all others
as far better, and usually have a holy envy of them, and an
eagerness to serve God as they do. For the greater is their
fervour, and the more numerous are the works that they perform,
and the greater is the pleasure that they take in them, as they
progress in humility, the more do they realize how much God
deserves of them, and how little is all that they do for His sake;
and thus, the more they do, the less are they satisfied. So much
would they gladly do from charity and love for Him, that all they
do seems to them naught; and so greatly are they importuned,
occupied and absorbed by this loving anxiety that they never
notice what others do or do not; or if they do notice it, they
always believe, as I say, that all others are far better than they
themselves. Wherefore, holding themselves as of little worth, they
are anxious that others too should thus hold them, and should
despise and depreciate that which they do. And further, if men
should praise and esteem them, they can in no wise believe what
they say; it seems to them strange that anyone should say these
good things of them.
     7. Together with great tranquillity and humbleness, these
souls have a deep desire to be taught by anyone who can bring them
profit; they are the complete opposite of those of whom we have
spoken above, who would fain be always teaching, and who, when
others seem to be teaching them, take the words from their mouths
as if they knew them already. These souls, on the other hand,
being far from desiring to be the masters of any, are very ready
to travel and set out on another road than that which they are
actually following, if they be so commanded, because they never
think that they are right in anything whatsoever. They rejoice
when others are praised; they grieve only because they serve not
God like them. They have no desire to speak of the things that
they do, because they think so little of them that they are
ashamed to speak of them even to their spiritual masters, since
they seem to them to be things that merit not being spoken of.
They are more anxious to speak of their faults and sins, or that
these should be recognized rather than their virtues; and thus
they incline to talk of their souls with those who account their
actions and their spirituality of little value. This is a
characteristic of the spirit which is simple, pure, genuine and
very pleasing to God. For as the wise Spirit of God dwells in
these humble souls, He moves them and inclines them to keep His
treasures secretly within and likewise to cast out from themselves
all evil. God gives this grace to the humble, together with the
other virtues, even as He denies it to the proud.
     8. These souls will give their heart's blood to anyone that
serves God, and will help others to serve Him as much as in them
lies. The imperfections into which they see themselves fall they
bear with humility, meekness of spirit and a loving fear of God,
hoping in Him. But souls who in the beginning journey with this
kind of perfection are, as I understand, and as has been said, a
minority, and very few are those who we can be glad do not fall
into the opposite errors. For this reason, as we shall afterwards
say, God leads into the dark night those whom He desires to purify
from all these imperfections so that He may bring them farther

                         CHAPTER III

     Of some imperfections which some of these souls are apt to
have, with respect to the second capital sin, which is avarice, in
the spiritual sense.

     MANY of these beginners have also at times great spiritual
avarice. They will be found to be discontented with the
spirituality which God gives them; and they are very disconsolate
and querulous because they find not in spiritual things the
consolation that they would desire. Many can never have enough of
listening to counsels and learning spiritual precepts, and of
possessing and reading many books which treat of this matter, and
they spend their time on all these things rather than on works of
mortification and the perfecting of the inward poverty of spirit
which should be theirs. Furthermore, they burden themselves with
images and rosaries which are very curious; now they put down one,
now take up another; now they change about, now change back again;
now they want this kind of thing, now that, preferring one kind of
cross to another, because it is more curious. And others you will
see adorned with agnusdeis[31] and relics and tokens,[32] like
children with trinkets. Here I condemn the attachment of the
heart, and the affection which they have for the nature, multitude
and curiosity of these things, inasmuch as it is quite contrary to
poverty of spirit which considers only the substance of devotion,
makes use only of what suffices for that end and grows weary of
this other kind of multiplicity and curiosity. For true devotion
must issue from the heart, and consist in the truth and substances
alone of what is represented by spiritual things; all the rest is
affection and attachment proceeding from imperfection; and in
order that one may pass to any kind of perfection it is necessary
for such desires to be killed.
     2. I knew a person who for more than ten years made use of a
cross roughly formed from a branch[33] that had been blessed,
fastened with a pin twisted round it; he had never ceased using
it, and he always carried it about with him until I took it from
him; and this was a person of no small sense and understanding.
And I saw another who said his prayers using beads that were made
of bones from the spine of a fish; his devotion was certainly no
less precious on that account in the sight of God, for it is clear
that these things carried no devotion in their workmanship or
value. Those, then, who start from these beginnings and make good
progress attach themselves to no visible instruments, nor do they
burden themselves with such, nor desire to know more than is
necessary in order that they may act well; for they set their eyes
only on being right with God and on pleasing Him, and therein
consists their covetousness. And thus with great generosity they
give away all that they have, and delight to know that they have
it not, for God's sake and for charity to their neighbour, no
matter whether these be spiritual things or temporal. For, as I
say, they set their eyes only upon the reality of interior
perfection, which is to give pleasure to God and in naught to give
pleasure to themselves.
     3. But neither from these imperfections nor from those others
can the soul be perfectly purified until God brings it into the
passive purgation of that dark night whereof we shall speak
presently. It befits the soul, however, to contrive to labour, in
so far as it can, on its own account, to the end that it may purge
and perfect itself, and thus may merit being taken by God into
that Divine care wherein it becomes healed of all things that it
was unable of itself to cure. Because, however greatly the soul
itself labours, it cannot actively purify itself so as to be in
the least degree prepared for the Divine union of perfection of
love, if God takes not its hand and purges it not in that dark
fire, in the way and manner that we have to describe.

                          CHAPTER IV

     Of other imperfections which these beginners are apt to have
with respect to the third sin, which is luxury.

     MANY of these beginners have many other imperfections than
those which I am describing with respect to each of the deadly
sins, but these I set aside, in order to avoid prolixity, touching
upon a few of the most important, which are, as it were, the
origin and cause of the rest. And thus, with respect to this sin
of luxury (leaving apart the falling of spiritual persons into
this sin, since my intent is to treat of the imperfections which
have to be purged by the dark night), they have many imperfections
which might be described as spiritual luxury, not because they are
so, but because the imperfections proceed from spiritual things.
For it often comes to pass that, in their very spiritual
exercises, when they are powerless to prevent it, there arise and
assert themselves in the sensual part of the soul impure acts and
motions, and sometimes this happens even when the spirit is deep
in prayer, or engaged in the Sacrament of Penance or in the
Eucharist. These things are not, as I say, in their power; they
proceed from one of three causes.
     2. The first cause from which they often proceed is the
pleasure which human nature takes in spiritual things. For when
the spirit and the sense are pleased, every part of a man is moved
by that pleasure[34] to delight according to its proportion and
nature. For then the spirit, which is the higher part, is moved to
pleasure[35] and delight in God; and the sensual nature, which is
the lower part, is moved to pleasure and delight of the senses,
because it cannot possess and lay hold upon aught else, and it
therefore lays hold upon that which comes nearest to itself, which
is the impure and sensual. Thus it comes to pass that the soul is
in deep prayer with God according to the spirit, and, on the other
hand, according to sense it is passively conscious, not without
great displeasure, of rebellions and motions and acts of the
senses, which often happens in Communion, for when the soul
receives joy and comfort in this act of love, because this Lord
bestows it (since it is to that end that He gives Himself), the
sensual nature takes that which is its own likewise, as we have
said, after its manner. Now as, after all, these two parts are
combined in one individual, they ordinarily both participate in
that which one of them receives, each after its manner; for, as
the philosopher says, everything that is received is in the
recipient after the manner of the same recipient. And thus, in
these beginnings, and even when the soul has made some progress,
its sensual part, being imperfect, oftentimes receives the Spirit
of God with the same imperfection. Now when this sensual part is
renewed by the purgation of the dark night which we shall
describe, it no longer has these weaknesses; for it is no longer
this part that receives aught, but rather it is itself received
into the Spirit. And thus it then has everything after the manner
of the Spirit.
     3. The second cause whence these rebellions sometimes proceed
is the devil, who, in order to disquiet and disturb the soul, at
times when it is at prayer or is striving to pray, contrives to
stir up these motions of impurity in its nature; and if the soul
gives heed to any of these, they cause it great harm. For through
fear of these not only do persons become lax in prayer--which is
the aim of the devil when he begins to strive with them--but some
give up prayer altogether, because they think that these things
attack them more during that exercise than apart from it, which is
true, since the devil attacks them then more than at other times,
so that they may give up spiritual exercises. And not only so, but
he succeeds in portraying to them very vividly things that are
most foul and impure, and at times are very closely related to
certain spiritual things and persons that are of profit to their
souls, in order to terrify them and make them fearful; so that
those who are affected by this dare not even look at anything or
meditate upon anything, because they immediately encounter this
temptation. And upon those who are inclined to melancholy this
acts with such effect that they become greatly to be pitied since
they are suffering so sadly; for this trial reaches such a point
in certain persons, when they have this evil humour, that they
believe it to be clear that the devil is ever present with them
and that they have no power to prevent this, although some of
these persons can prevent his attack by dint of great effort and
labour. When these impurities attack such souls through the medium
of melancholy, they are not as a rule freed from them until they
have been cured of that kind of humour, unless the dark night has
entered the soul, and rids them of all impurities, one after
     4. The third source whence these impure motions are apt to
proceed in order to make war upon the soul is often the fear which
such persons have conceived for these impure representations and
motions. Something that they see or say or think brings them to
their mind, and this makes them afraid, so that they suffer from
them through no fault of their own.

     5. There are also certain souls of so tender and frail a
nature that, when there comes to them some spiritual consolation
or some grace in prayer, the spirit of luxury is with them
immediately, inebriating and delighting their sensual nature in
such manner that it is as if they were plunged into the enjoyment
and pleasure of this sin; and the enjoyment remains, together with
the consolation, passively, and sometimes they are able to see
that certain impure and unruly acts have taken place. The reason
for this is that, since these natures are, as I say, frail and
tender, their humours are stirred up and their blood is excited at
the least disturbance. And hence come these motions; and the same
thing happens to such souls when they are enkindled with anger or
suffer any disturbance or grief.[37]
     6. Sometimes, again, there arises within these spiritual
persons, whether they be speaking or performing spiritual actions,
a certain vigour and bravado, through their having regard to
persons who are present, and before these persons they display a
certain kind of vain gratification. This also arises from luxury
of spirit, after the manner wherein we here understand it, which
is accompanied as a rule by complacency in the will.
     7. Some of these persons make friendships of a spiritual kind
with others, which oftentimes arise from luxury and not from
spirituality; this may be known to be the case when the
remembrance of that friendship causes not the remembrance and love
of God to grow, but occasions remorse of conscience. For, when the
friendship is purely spiritual, the love of God grows with it; and
the more the soul remembers it, the more it remembers the love of
God, and the greater the desire it has for God; so that, as the
one grows, the other grows also. For the spirit of God has this
property, that it increases good by adding to it more good,
inasmuch as there is likeness and conformity between them. But,
when this love arises from the vice of sensuality aforementioned,
it produces the contrary effects; for the more the one grows, the
more the other decreases, and the remembrance of it likewise. If
that sensual love grows, it will at once be observed that the
soul's love of God is becoming colder, and that it is forgetting
Him as it remembers that love; there comes to it, too, a certain
remorse of conscience. And, on the other hand, if the love of God
grows in the soul, that other love becomes cold and is forgotten;
for, as the two are contrary to one another, not only does the one
not aid the other, but the one which predominates quenches and
confounds the other, and becomes strengthened in itself, as the
philosophers say. Wherefore Our Saviour said in the Gospel: 'That
which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the
Spirit is spirit.'[38] That is to say, the love which is born of
sensuality ends in sensuality, and that which is of the spirit
ends in the spirit of God and causes it to grow. This is the
difference that exists between these two kinds of love, whereby we
may know them.
     8. When the soul enters the dark night, it brings these kinds
of love under control. It strengthens and purifies the one, namely
that which is according to God; and the other it removes and
brings to an end; and in the beginning it causes both to be lost
sight of, as we shall say hereafter.

                          CHAPTER V

     Of the imperfections into which beginners fall with respect
to the sin of wrath.

     BY reason of the concupiscence which many beginners have for
spiritual consolations, their experience of these consolations is
very commonly accompanied by many imperfections proceeding from
the sin of wrath; for, when their delight and pleasure in
spiritual things come to an end, they naturally become embittered,
and bear that lack of sweetness which they have to suffer with a
bad grace, which affects all that they do; and they very easily
become irritated over the smallest matter--sometimes, indeed, none
can tolerate them. This frequently happens after they have been
very pleasantly recollected in prayer according to sense; when
their pleasure and delight therein come to an end, their nature is
naturally vexed and disappointed, just as is the child when they
take it from the breast of which it was enjoying the sweetness.
There is no sin in this natural vexation, when it is not permitted
to indulge itself, but only imperfection, which must be purged by
the aridity and severity of the dark night.
     2. There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who
fall into another kind of spiritual wrath: this happens when they
become irritated at the sins of others, and keep watch on those
others with a sort of uneasy zeal. At times the impulse comes to
them to reprove them angrily, and occasionally they go so far as
to indulge it[39] and set themselves up as masters of virtue. All
this is contrary to spiritual meekness.
     3. There are others who are vexed with themselves when they
observe their own imperfectness, and display an impatience that is
not humility; so impatient are they about this that they would
fain be saints in a day. Many of these persons purpose to
accomplish a great deal and make grand resolutions; yet, as they
are not humble and have no misgivings about themselves, the more
resolutions they make, the greater is their fall and the greater
their annoyance, since they have not the patience to wait for that
which God will give them when it pleases Him; this likewise is
contrary to the spiritual meekness aforementioned, which cannot be
wholly remedied save by the purgation of the dark night. Some
souls, on the other hand, are so patient as regards the progress
which they desire that God would gladly see them less so.

                          CHAPTER VI

     Of imperfections with respect to spiritual gluttony.

     WITH respect to the fourth sin, which is spiritual gluttony,
there is much to be said, for there is scarce one of these
beginners who, however satisfactory his progress, falls not into
some of the many imperfections which come to these beginners with
respect to this sin, on account of the sweetness which they find
at first in spiritual exercises. For many of these, lured by the
sweetness and pleasure which they find in such exercises, strive
more after spiritual sweetness than after spiritual purity and
discretion, which is that which God regards and accepts throughout
the spiritual journey.[40] Therefore, besides the imperfections
into which the seeking for sweetness of this kind makes them fall,
the gluttony which they now have makes them continually go to
extremes, so that they pass beyond the limits of moderation within
which the virtues are acquired and wherein they have their being.
For some of these persons, attracted by the pleasure which they
find therein, kill themselves with penances, and others weaken
themselves with fasts, by performing more than their frailty can
bear, without the order or advice of any, but rather endeavouring
to avoid those whom they should obey in these matters; some,
indeed, dare to do these things even though the contrary has been
commanded them.
     2. These persons are most imperfect and unreasonable; for
they set bodily penance before subjection and obedience, which is
penance according to reason and discretion, and therefore a
sacrifice more acceptable and pleasing to God than any other. But
such one-sided penance is no more than the penance of beasts, to
which they are attracted, exactly like beasts, by the desire and
pleasure which they find therein. Inasmuch as all extremes are
vicious, and as in behaving thus such persons[41] are working
their own will, they grow in vice rather than in virtue; for, to
say the least, they are acquiring spiritual gluttony and pride in
this way, through not walking in obedience. And many of these the
devil assails, stirring up this gluttony in them through the
pleasures and desires which he increases within them, to such an
extent that, since they can no longer help themselves, they either
change or vary or add to that which is commanded them, as any
obedience in this respect is so bitter to them. To such an evil
pass have some persons come that, simply because it is through
obedience that they engage in these exercises, they lose the
desire and devotion to perform them, their only desire and
pleasure being to do what they themselves are inclined to do, so
that it would probably be more profitable for them not to engage
in these exercises at all.

     3. You will find that many of these persons are very
insistent with their spiritual masters to be granted that which
they desire, extracting it from them almost by force; if they be
refused it they become as peevish as children and go about in
great displeasure, thinking that they are not serving God when
they are not allowed to do that which they would. For they go
about clinging to their own will and pleasure, which they treat as
though it came from God;[42] and immediately their directors[43]
take it from them, and try to subject them to the will of God,
they become peevish, grow faint-hearted and fall away. These
persons think that their own satisfaction and pleasure are the
satisfaction and service of God.
     4. There are others, again, who, because of this gluttony,
know so little of their own unworthiness and misery and have
thrust so far from them the loving fear and reverence which they
owe to the greatness of God, that they hesitate not to insist
continually that their confessors shall allow them to communicate
often. And, what is worse, they frequently dare to communicate
without the leave and consent[44] of the minister and steward of
Christ, merely acting on their own opinion, and contriving to
conceal the truth from him. And for this reason, because they
desire to communicate continually, they make their confessions
carelessly,[45] being more eager to eat than to eat cleanly and
perfectly, although it would be healthier and holier for them had
they the contrary inclination and begged their confessors not to
command them to approach the altar so frequently: between these
two extremes, however, the better way is that of humble
resignation. But the boldness referred to is[46] a thing that does
great harm, and men may fear to be punished for such temerity.
     5. These persons, in communicating, strive with every nerve
to obtain some kind of sensible sweetness and pleasure, instead of
humbly doing reverence and giving praise within themselves to God.
And in such wise do they devote themselves to this that, when they
have received no pleasure or sweetness in the senses, they think
that they have accomplished nothing at all. This is to judge God
very unworthily; they have not realized that the least of the
benefits which come from this Most Holy Sacrament is that which
concerns the senses; and that the invisible part of the grace that
it bestows is much greater; for, in order that they may look at it
with the eyes of faith, God oftentimes withholds from them these
other consolations and sweetnesses of sense. And thus they desire
to feel and taste God as though He were comprehensible by them and
accessible to them, not only in this, but likewise in other
spiritual practices. All this is very great imperfection and
completely opposed to the nature of God, since it is Impurity in
     6. These persons have the same defect as regards the practice
of prayer, for they think that all the business of prayer consists
in experiencing sensible pleasure and devotion and they strive to
obtain this by great effort,[47] wearying and fatiguing their
faculties and their heads; and when they have not found this
pleasure they become greatly discouraged, thinking that they have
accomplished nothing. Through these efforts they lose true
devotion and spirituality, which consist in perseverance, together
with patience and humility and mistrust of themselves, that they
may please God alone. For this reason, when they have once failed
to find pleasure in this or some other exercise, they have great
disinclination and repugnance to return to it, and at times they
abandon it. They are, in fact, as we have said, like children, who
are not influenced by reason, and who act, not from rational
motives, but from inclination.[48] Such persons expend all their
effort in seeking spiritual pleasure and consolation; they never
tire therefore, of reading books; and they begin, now one
meditation, now another, in their pursuit of this pleasure which
they desire to experience in the things of God. But God, very
justly, wisely and lovingly, denies it to them, for otherwise this
spiritual gluttony and inordinate appetite would breed in
numerable evils. It is, therefore, very fitting that they should
enter into the dark night, whereof we shall speak,[49] that they
may be purged from this childishness.
     7. These persons who are thus inclined to such pleasures have
another very great imperfection, which is that they are very weak
and remiss in journeying upon the hard[50] road of the Cross; for
the soul that is given to sweetness naturally has its face set
against all self-denial, which is devoid of sweetness.[51]
     8. These persons have many other imperfections which arise
hence, of which in time the Lord heals them by means of
temptations, aridities and other trials, all of which are part of
the dark night. All these I will not treat further here, lest I
become too lengthy; I will only say that spiritual temperance and
sobriety lead to another and a very different temper, which is
that of mortification, fear and submission in all things. It thus
becomes clear that the perfection and worth of things consist not
in the multitude and the pleasantness of one's actions, but in
being able to deny oneself in them; this such persons must
endeavour to compass, in so far as they may, until God is pleased
to purify them indeed, by bringing them[52] into the dark night,
to arrive at which I am hastening on with my account of these

                         CHAPTER VII

     Of imperfections with respect to spiritual envy and sloth.

     WITH respect likewise to the other two vices, which are
spiritual envy and sloth, these beginners fail not to have many
imperfections. For, with respect to envy, many of them are wont to
experience movements of displeasure at the spiritual good of
others, which cause them a certain sensible grief at being
outstripped upon this road, so that they would prefer not to hear
others praised; for they become displeased at others' virtues and
sometimes they cannot refrain from contradicting what is said in
praise of them, depreciating it as far as they can; and their
annoyance thereat grows[53] because the same is not said of them,
for they would fain be preferred in everything. All this is clean
contrary to charity, which, as Saint Paul says, rejoices in
goodness.[54] And, if charity has any envy, it is a holy envy,
comprising grief at not having the virtues of others, yet also joy
because others have them, and delight when others outstrip us in
the service of God, wherein we ourselves are so remiss.
     2. With respect also to spiritual sloth, beginners are apt to
be irked by the things that are most spiritual, from which they
flee because these things are incompatible with sensible pleasure.
For, as they are so much accustomed to sweetness in spiritual
things, they are wearied by things in which they find no
sweetness. If once they failed to find in prayer the satisfaction
which their taste required (and after all it is well that God
should take it from them to prove them), they would prefer not to
return to it: sometimes they leave it; at other times they
continue it unwillingly. And thus because of this sloth they
abandon the way of perfection (which is the way of the negation of
their will and pleasure for God's sake) for the pleasure and
sweetness of their own will, which they aim at satisfying in this
way rather than the will of God.
     3. And many of these would have God will that which they
themselves will, and are fretful at having to will that which He
wills, and find it repugnant to accommodate their will to that of
God. Hence it happens to them that oftentimes they think that that
wherein they find not their own will and pleasure is not the will
of God; and that, on the other hand, when they themselves find
satisfaction, God is satisfied. Thus they measure God by
themselves and not themselves by God, acting quite contrarily to
that which He Himself taught in the Gospel, saying: That he who
should lose his will for His sake, the same should gain it; and he
who should desire to gain it, the same should lose it.[55]
     4. These persons likewise find it irksome when they are
commanded to do that wherein they take no pleasure. Because they
aim at spiritual sweetness and consolation, they are too weak to
have the fortitude and bear the trials of perfection.[56] They
resemble those who are softly nurtured and who run fretfully away
from everything that is hard, and take offense at the Cross,
wherein consist the delights of the spirit. The more spiritual a
thing is, the more irksome they find it, for, as they seek to go
about spiritual matters with complete freedom and according to the
inclination of their will, it causes them great sorrow and
repugnance to enter upon the narrow way, which, says Christ, is
the way of life.[57]
     5. Let it suffice here to have described these imperfections,
among the many to be found in the lives of those that are in this
first state of beginners, so that it may be seen how greatly they
need God to set them in the state of proficients. This He does by
bringing them into the dark night whereof we now speak; wherein He
weans them from the breasts of these sweetnesses and pleasures,
gives them pure aridities and inward darkness, takes from them all
these irrelevances and puerilities, and by very different means
causes them to win the virtues. For, however assiduously the
beginner practises the mortification in himself of all these
actions and passions of his, he can never completely succeed--very
far from it--until God shall work it in him passively by means of
the purgation of the said night. Of this I would fain speak in
some way that may be profitable; may God, then, be pleased to give
me His Divine light, because this is very needful in a night that
is so dark and a matter that is so difficult to describe and to
     The line, then, is:

        In a dark night.

                         CHAPTER VIII

     Wherein is expounded the first line of the first stanza, and
a beginning is made of the explanation of this dark night.

     THIS night, which, as we say, is contemplation, produces in
spiritual persons two kinds of darkness or purgation,
corresponding to the two parts of man's nature--namely, the
and the spiritual. And thus the one night or purgation will be
sensual, wherein the soul is purged according to sense, which is
subdued to the spirit; and the other is a night or purgation which
is spiritual, wherein the soul is purged and stripped according to
the spirit, and subdued and made ready for the union of love with
God. The night of sense is common and comes to many: these are the
beginners; and of this night we shall speak first. The night of
the spirit is the portion of very few, and these are they that are
already practised and proficient, of whom we shall treat
     2. The first purgation or night is bitter and terrible to
sense, as we shall now show.[58] The second bears no comparison
with it, for it is horrible and awful to the spirit, as we shall
show[59] presently. Since the night of sense is first in order and
comes first, we shall first of all say something about it briefly,
since more is written of it, as of a thing that is more common;
and we shall pass on to treat more fully of the spiritual night,
since very little has been said of this, either in speech[60] or
in writing, and very little is known of it, even by experience.
     3. Since, then, the conduct of these beginners upon the way
of God is ignoble,[61] and has much to do with their love of self
and their own inclinations, as has been explained above, God
desires to lead them farther. He seeks to bring them out of that
ignoble kind of love to a higher degree of love for Him, to free
them from the ignoble exercises of sense and meditation
(wherewith, as we have said, they go seeking God so unworthily and
in so many ways that are unbefitting), and to lead them to a kind
of spiritual exercise wherein they can commune with Him more
abundantly and are freed more completely from imperfections. For
they have now had practice for some time in the way of virtue and
have persevered in meditation and prayer, whereby, through the
sweetness and pleasure that they have found therein, they have
lost their love of the things of the world and have gained some
degree of spiritual strength in God; this has enabled them to some
extent to refrain from creature desires, so that for God's sake
they are now able to suffer a light burden and a little aridity
without turning back to a time[62] which they found more pleasant.
When they are going about these spiritual exercises with the
greatest delight and pleasure, and when they believe that the sun
of Divine favour is shining most brightly upon them, God turns all
this light of theirs into darkness, and shuts against them the
door and the source of the sweet spiritual water which they were
tasting in God whensoever and for as long as they desired. (For,
as they were weak and tender, there was no door closed to them, as
Saint John says in the Apocalypse, iii, 8). And thus He leaves
them so completely in the dark that they know not whither to go
with their sensible imagination and meditation; for they cannot
advance a step in meditation, as they were wont to do afore time,
their inward senses being submerged in this night, and left with
such dryness that not only do they experience no pleasure and
consolation in the spiritual things and good exercises wherein
they were wont to find their delights and pleasures, but instead,
on the contrary, they find insipidity and bitterness in the said
things. For, as I have said, God now sees that they have grown a
little, and are becoming strong enough to lay aside their
swaddling clothes and be taken from the gentle breast; so He sets
them down from His arms and teaches them to walk on their own
feet; which they feel to be very strange, for everything seems to
be going wrong with them.
     4. To recollected persons this commonly happens sooner after
their beginnings than to others, inasmuch as they are freer from
occasions of backsliding, and their desires turn more quickly from
the things of the world, which is necessary if they are to begin
to enter this blessed night of sense. Ordinarily no great time
passes after their beginnings before they begin to enter this
night of sense; and the great majority of them do in fact enter
it, for they will generally be seen to fall into these aridities.
     5. With regard to this way of purgation of the senses, since
it is so common, we might here adduce a great number of quotations
from Divine Scripture, where many passages relating to it are
continually found, particularly in the Psalms and the Prophets.
However, I do not wish to spend time upon these, for he who knows
not how to look for them there will find the common experience of
this purgation to be sufficient.

                          CHAPTER IX

     Of the signs by which it will be known that the spiritual
person is walking along the way of this night and purgation of

     BUT since these aridities might frequently proceed, not from
the night and purgation of the sensual desires aforementioned, but
from sins and imperfections, or from weakness and lukewarmness, or
from some bad humour or indisposition of the body, I shall here
set down certain signs by which it may be known if such aridity
proceeds from the aforementioned purgation, or if it arises from
any of the aforementioned sins. For the making of this distinction
I find that there are three principal signs.
     2. The first is whether, when a soul finds no pleasure or
consolation in the things of God, it also fails to find it in any
thing created; for, as God sets the soul in this dark night to the
end that He may quench and purge its sensual desire, He allows it
not to find attraction or sweetness in anything whatsoever. In
such a case it may be considered very probable[63] that this
aridity and insipidity proceed not from recently committed sins or
imperfections. For, if this were so, the soul would feel in its
nature some inclination or desire to taste other things than those
of God; since, whenever the desire is allowed indulgence in any
imperfection, it immediately feels inclined thereto, whether
little or much, in proportion to the pleasure and the love that it
has put into it. Since, however, this lack of enjoyment in things
above or below might proceed from some indisposition or melancholy
humour, which oftentimes makes it impossible for the soul to take
pleasure in anything, it becomes necessary to apply the second
sign and condition.
     3. The second sign whereby a man may believe himself to be
experiencing the said purgation is that the memory is ordinarily
centred upon God, with painful care and solicitude, thinking that
it is not serving God, but is backsliding, because it finds itself
without sweetness in the things of God. And in such a case it is
evident that this lack of sweetness and this aridity come not from
weakness and lukewarmness; for it is the nature of lukewarmness
not to care greatly or to have any inward solicitude for the
things of God. There is thus a great difference between aridity
and lukewarmness, for lukewarmness consists in great weakness and
remissness in the will and in the spirit, without solicitude as to
serving God; whereas purgative aridity is ordinarily accompanied
by solicitude, with care and grief as I say, because the soul is
not serving God. And, although this may sometimes be increased by
melancholy or some other humour (as it frequently is), it fails
not for that reason to produce a purgative effect upon the desire,
since the desire is deprived of all pleasure and has its care
centred upon God alone. For, when mere humour is the cause, it
spends itself in displeasure and ruin of the physical nature, and
there are none of those desires to sense God which belong to
purgative aridity. When the cause is aridity, it is true that the
sensual part of the soul has fallen low, and is weak and feeble in
its actions, by reason of the little pleasure which it finds in
them; but the spirit, on the other hand, is ready and strong.
     4. For the cause of this aridity is that God transfers to the
spirit the good things and the strength of the senses, which,
since the soul's natural strength and senses are incapable of
using them, remain barren, dry and empty. For the sensual part of
a man has no capacity for that which is pure spirit, and thus,
when it is the spirit that receives the pleasure, the flesh is
left without savour and is too weak to perform any action. But the
spirit, which all the time is being fed, goes forward in strength,
and with more alertness and solicitude than before, in its anxiety
not to fail God; and if it is not immediately conscious of
spiritual sweetness and delight, but only of aridity and lack of
sweetness, the reason for this is the strangeness of the exchange;
for its palate has been accustomed to those other sensual
pleasures upon which its eyes are still fixed, and, since the
spiritual palate is not made ready or purged for such subtle
pleasure, until it finds itself becoming prepared for it by means
of this arid and dark night, it cannot experience spiritual
pleasure and good, but only aridity and lack of sweetness, since
it misses the pleasure which aforetime it enjoyed so readily.
     5. These souls whom God is beginning to lead through these
solitary places of the wilderness are like to the children of
Israel, to whom in the wilderness God began to give food from
Heaven, containing within itself all sweetness, and, as is there
said, it turned to the savour which each one of them desired. But
withal the children of Israel felt the lack of the pleasures and
delights of the flesh and the onions which they had eaten
aforetime in Egypt, the more so because their palate was
accustomed to these and took delight in them, rather than in the
delicate sweetness of the angelic manna; and they wept and sighed
for the fleshpots even in the midst of the food of Heaven.[64] To
such depths does the vileness of our desires descend that it makes
us to long for our own wretched food[65] and to be nauseated by
the indescribable[66] blessings of Heaven.
     6. But, as I say, when these aridities proceed from the way
of the purgation of sensual desire, although at first the spirit
feels no sweetness, for the reasons that we have just given, it
feels that it is deriving strength and energy to act from the
substance which this inward food gives it, the which food is the
beginning of a contemplation that is dark and arid to the senses;
which contemplation is secret and hidden from the very person that
experiences it; and ordinarily, together with the aridity and
emptiness which it causes in the senses, it gives the soul an
inclination and desire to be alone and in quietness, without being
able to think of any particular thing or having the desire to do
so. If those souls to whom this comes to pass knew how to be quiet
at this time, and troubled not about performing any kind of
action, whether inward or outward, neither had any anxiety about
doing anything, then they would delicately experience this inward
refreshment in that ease and freedom from care. So delicate is
this refreshment that ordinarily, if a man have desire or care to
experience it, he experiences it not; for, as I say, it does its
work when the soul is most at ease and freest from care; it is
like the air which, if one would close one's hand upon it,
     7. In this sense we may understand that which the Spouse said
to the Bride in the Songs, namely: 'Withdraw thine eyes from me,
for they make me to soar aloft.'[67] For in such a way does God
bring the soul into this state, and by so different a path does He
lead it that, if it desires to work with its faculties, it hinders
the work which God is doing in it rather than aids it; whereas
aforetime it was quite the contrary. The reason is that, in this
state of contemplation, which the soul enters when it forsakes
meditation for the state of the proficient, it is God Who is now
working in the soul; He binds its interior faculties, and allows
it not to cling to the understanding, nor to have delight in the
will, nor to reason with the memory. For anything that the soul
can do of its own accord at this time serves only, as we have
said, to hinder inward peace and the work which God is
accomplishing in the spirit by means of that aridity of sense. And
this peace, being spiritual and delicate, performs a work which is
quiet and delicate, solitary, productive of peace and
satisfaction[68] and far removed from all those earlier pleasures,
which were very palpable and sensual. This is the peace which,
says David, God speaks in the soul to the end that He may make it
spiritual.[69] And this leads us to the third point.
     8. The third sign whereby this purgation of sense may be
recognized is that the soul can no longer meditate or reflect in
the imaginative sphere of sense as it was wont, however much it
may of itself endeavour to do so. For God now begins to
communicate Himself to it, no longer through sense, as He did
aforetime, by means of reflections which joined and sundered its
knowledge, but by pure spirit, into which consecutive reflections
enter not; but He communicates Himself to it by an act of simple
contemplation, to which neither the exterior nor the interior
senses of the lower part of the soul can attain. From this time
forward, therefore, imagination and fancy can find no support in
any meditation, and can gain no foothold by means thereof.
     9. With regard to this third sign, it is to be understood
that this embarrassment and dissatisfaction of the faculties
proceed not from indisposition, for, when this is the case, and
the indisposition, which never lasts for long,[70] comes to an
end, the soul is able once again, by taking some trouble about the
matter, to do what it did before, and the faculties find their
wonted support. But in the purgation of the desire this is not so:
when once the soul begins to enter therein, its inability to
reflect with the faculties grows ever greater. For, although it is
true that at first, and with some persons, the process is not as
continuous as this, so that occasionally they fail to abandon
their pleasures and reflections of sense (for perchance by reason
of their weakness it was not fitting to wean them from these
immediately), yet this inability grows within them more and more
and brings the workings of sense to an end, if indeed they are to
make progress, for those who walk not in the way of contemplation
act very differently. For this night of aridities is not usually
continuous in their senses. At times they have these aridities; at
others they have them not. At times they cannot meditate; at
others they can. For God sets them in this night only to prove
them and to humble them, and to reform their desires, so that they
go not nurturing in themselves a sinful gluttony in spiritual
things. He sets them not there in order to lead them in the way of
the spirit, which is this contemplation; for not all those who
walk of set purpose in the way of the spirit are brought by God to
contemplation, nor even the half of them--why, He best knows. And
this is why He never completely weans the senses of such persons
from the breasts of meditations and reflections, but only for
short periods and at certain seasons, as we have said.

                          CHAPTER X

     Of the way in which these souls are to conduct themselves in
this dark night.

     DURING the time, then, of the aridities of this night of
sense (wherein God effects the change of which we have spoken
above, drawing forth the soul from the life of sense into that of
the spirit--that is, from meditation to contemplation--wherein it
longer has any power to work or to reason with its faculties
concerning the things of God, as has been said), spiritual persons
suffer great trials, by reason not so much of the aridities which
they suffer, as of the fear which they have of being lost on the
road, thinking that all spiritual blessing is over for them and
that God has abandoned them since they find no help or pleasure in
good things. Then they grow weary, and endeavour (as they have
been accustomed to do) to concentrate their faculties with some
degree of pleasure upon some object of meditation, thinking that,
when they are not doing this and yet are conscious of making an
effort, they are doing nothing. This effort they make not without
great inward repugnance and unwillingness on the part of their
soul, which was taking pleasure in being in that quietness and
ease, instead of working with its faculties. So they have
abandoned the one pursuit,[71] yet draw no profit from the other;
for, by seeking what is prompted by their own spirit,[72] they
lose the spirit of tranquillity and peace which they had before.
And thus they are like to one who abandons what he has done in
order to do it over again, or to one who leaves a city only to re-
enter it, or to one who is hunting and lets his prey go in order
to hunt it once more. This is useless here, for the soul will gain
nothing further by conducting itself in this way, as has been
     2. These souls turn back at such a time if there is none who
understands them; they abandon the road or lose courage; or, at
the least, they are hindered from going farther by the great
trouble which they take in advancing along the road of meditation
and reasoning. Thus they fatigue and overwork their nature,
imagining that they are failing through negligence or sin. But
this trouble that they are taking is quite useless, for God is now
leading them by another road, which is that of contemplation, and
is very different from the first; for the one is of meditation and
reasoning, and the other belongs neither to imagination nor yet to
     3. It is well for those who find themselves in this condition
to take comfort, to persevere in patience and to be in no wise
afflicted. Let them trust in God, Who abandons not those that seek
Him with a simple and right heart, and will not fail to give them
what is needful for the road, until He bring them into the clear
and pure light of love. This last He will give them by means of
that other dark night, that of the spirit, if they merit His
bringing them thereto.
     4. The way in which they are to conduct themselves in this
night of sense is to devote themselves not at all to reasoning and
meditation, since this is not the time for it, but to allow the
soul to remain in peace and quietness, although it may seem clear
to them that they are doing nothing and are wasting their time,
and although it may appear to them that it is because of their
weakness that they have no desire in that state to think of
anything. The truth is that they will be doing quite sufficient if
they have patience and persevere in prayer without making any
effort.[73] What they must do is merely to leave the soul free and
disencumbered and at rest from all knowledge and thought,
troubling not themselves, in that state, about what they shall
think or meditate upon, but contenting themselves with merely a
peaceful and loving attentiveness toward God, and in being without
anxiety, without the ability and without desired to have
experience of Him or to perceive Him. For all these yearnings
disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quiet and sweet
ease of contemplation which is here granted to it.
     5. And although further scruples may come to them--that they
are wasting their time, and that it would be well for them to do
something else, because they can neither do nor think anything in
prayer--let them suffer these scruples and remain in peace, as
there is no question save of their being at ease and having
freedom of spirit. For if such a soul should desire to make any
effort of its own with its interior faculties, this means that it
will hinder and lose the blessings which, by means of that peace
and ease of the soul, God is instilling into it and impressing
upon it. It is just as if some painter were painting or dyeing a
face; if the sitter were to move because he desired to do
something, he would prevent the painter from accomplishing
anything and would disturb him in what he was doing. And thus,
when the soul desires to remain in inward ease and peace, any
operation and affection or attentions wherein it may then seek to
indulge[74] will distract it and disquiet it and make it conscious
of aridity and emptiness of sense. For the more a soul endeavours
to find support in affection and knowledge, the more will it feel
the lack of these, which cannot now be supplied to it upon that
     6. Wherefore it behoves such a soul to pay no heed if the
operations of its faculties become lost to it; it is rather to
desire that this should happen quickly. For, by not hindering the
operation of infused contemplation that God is bestowing upon it,
it can receive this with more peaceful abundance, and cause its
spirit to be enkindled and to burn with the love which this dark
and secret contemplation brings with it and sets firmly in the
soul. For contemplation is naught else than a secret, peaceful and
loving infusion from God, which, if it be permitted, enkindles the
soul with the spirit of love, according as the soul declares in
the next lines, namely:

        Kindled in love with yearnings.

                          CHAPTER XI

     Wherein are expounded the three lines of the stanza.

     THIS enkindling of love is not as a rule felt at the first,
because it has not begun to take hold upon the soul, by reason of
the impurity of human nature, or because the soul has not
understood its own state, as we have said, and has therefore given
it no peaceful abiding-place within itself. Yet sometimes,
nevertheless, there soon begins to make itself felt a certain
yearning toward God; and the more this increases, the more is the
soul affectioned and enkindled in love toward God, without knowing
or understanding how and whence this love and affection come to
it, but from time to time seeing this flame and this enkindling
grow so greatly within it that it desires God with yearning of
love; even as David, when he was in this dark night, said of
himself in these words,[75] namely: 'Because my heart was
enkindled (that is to say, in love of contemplation), my reins
also were changed': that is, my desires for sensual affections
were changed, namely from the way of sense to the way of the
spirit, which is the aridity and cessation from all these things
whereof we are speaking. And I, he says, was dissolved in nothing
and annihilated, and I knew not; for, as we have said, without
knowing the way whereby it goes, the soul finds itself annihilated
with respect to all things above and below which were accustomed
to please it; and it finds itself enamoured, without knowing how.
And because at times the enkindling of love in the spirit grows
greater, the yearnings for God become so great in the soul that
the very bones seem to be dried up by this thirst, and the natural
powers to be fading away, and their warmth and strength to be
perishing through the intensity[76] of the thirst of love, for the
soul feels that this thirst of love is a living thirst. This
thirst David had and felt, when he said: 'My soul thirsted for the
living God.'[77] Which is as much as to say: A living thirst was
that of my soul. Of this thirst, since it is living, we may say
that it kills. But it is to be noted that the vehemence of this
thirst is not continuous, but occasional although as a rule the
soul is accustomed to feel it to a certain degree.
     2. But it must be noted that, as I began to say just now,
this love is not as a rule felt at first, but only the dryness and
emptiness are felt whereof we are speaking. Then in place of this
love which afterwards becomes gradually enkindled, what the soul
experiences in the midst of these aridities and emptinesses of the
faculties is an habitual care and solicitude with respect to God,
together with grief and fear that it is not serving Him. But it is
a sacrifice which is not a little pleasing to God that the soul
should go about afflicted and solicitous for His love. This
solicitude and care leads the soul into that secret contemplation,
until, the senses (that is, the sensual part) having in course of
time been in some degree purged of the natural affections and
powers by means of the aridities which it causes within them, this
Divine love begins to be enkindled in the spirit. Meanwhile,
however, like one who has begun a cure, the soul knows only
suffering in this dark and arid purgation of the desire; by this
means it becomes healed of many imperfections, and exercises
itself in many virtues in order to make itself meet for the said
love, as we shall now say with respect to the line following:

        Oh, happy chance!

     3. When God leads the soul into this night of sense in order
to purge the sense of its lower part and to subdue it, unite it
and bring it into conformity with the spirit, by setting it in
darkness and causing it to cease from meditation (as He afterwards
does in order to purify the spirit to unite it with God, as we
shall afterwards say), He brings it into the night of the spirit,
and (although it appears not so to it) the soul gains so many
benefits that it holds it to be a happy chance to have escaped
from the bonds and restrictions of the senses of or its lower
self, by means of this night aforesaid; and utters the present
line, namely: Oh, happy chance! With respect to this, it behoves
us here to note the benefits which the soul finds in this night,
and because of which it considers it a happy chance to have passed
through it; all of which benefits the soul includes in the next
line, namely:

        I went forth without being observed.

     4. This going forth is understood of the subjection to its
sensual part which the soul suffered when it sought God through
operations so weak, so limited and so defective as are those of
this lower part; for at every step it stumbled into numerous
imperfections and ignorances, as we have noted above in writing of
the seven capital sins. From all these it is freed when this night
quenches within it all pleasures, whether from above or from
below, and makes all meditation darkness to it, and grants it
other innumerable blessings in the acquirement of the virtues, as
we shall now show. For it will be a matter of great pleasure and
great consolation, to one that journeys on this road, to see how
that which seems to the soul so severe and adverse, and so
contrary to spiritual pleasure, works in it so many blessings.
These, as we say, are gained when the soul goes forth, as regards
its affection and operation, by means of this night, from all
created things, and when it journeys to eternal things, which is
great happiness and good fortune:[78] first, because of the great
blessing which is in the quenching of the desire and affection
with respect to all things; secondly, because they are very few
that endure and persevere in entering by this strait gate and by
the narrow way which leads to life, as says Our Saviour.[79] The
strait gate is this night of sense, and the soul detaches itself
from sense and strips itself thereof that it may enter by this
gate, and establishes itself in faith, which is a stranger to all
sense, so that afterwards it may journey by the narrow way, which
is the other night--that of the spirit--and this the soul
enters in order in journey to God in pure faith, which is the
means whereby the soul is united to God. By this road, since it is
so narrow, dark and terrible (though there is no comparison
between this night of sense and that other, in its darkness and
trials, as we shall say later), they are far fewer that journey,
but its benefits are far greater without comparison than those of
this present night. Of these benefits we shall now begin to say
something, with such brevity as is possible, in order that we may
pass to the other night.

                         CHAPTER XII

     Of the benefits which this night causes in the soul.

     THIS night and purgation of the desire, a happy one for the
soul, works in it so many blessings and benefits (although to the
soul, as we have said, it rather seems that blessings are being
taken away from it) that, even as Abraham made a great feast when
he weaned his son Isaac,[80] even so is there joy in Heaven
because God is now taking this soul from its swaddling clothes,
setting it down from His arms, making it to walk upon its feet,
and likewise taking from it the milk of the breast and the soft
and sweet food proper to children, and making it to eat bread with
crust, and to begin to enjoy the food of robust persons. This
food, in these aridities and this darkness of sense, is now given
to the spirit, which is dry and emptied of all the sweetness of
sense. And this food is the infused contemplation whereof we have
     2. This is the first and principal benefit caused by this
arid and dark night of contemplation: the knowledge of oneself and
of one's misery. For, besides the fact that all the favours which
God grants to the soul are habitually granted to them enwrapped in
this knowledge, these aridities and this emptiness of the
faculties, compared with the abundance which the soul experienced
aforetime and the difficulty which it finds in good works, make it
recognize its own lowliness and misery, which in the time of its
prosperity it was unable to see. Of this there is a good
illustration in the Book of Exodus, where God, wishing to humble
the children of Israel and desiring that they should know
themselves, commanded them to take away and strip off the festal
garments and adornments wherewith they were accustomed to adorn
themselves in the Wilderness, saying: 'Now from henceforth strip
yourselves of festal ornaments and put on everyday working dress,
that ye may know what treatment ye deserve.'[81] This is as though
He had said: Inasmuch as the attire that ye wear, being proper to
festival and rejoicing, causes you to feel less humble concerning
yourselves than ye should, put off from you this attire, in order
that henceforth, seeing yourselves clothed with vileness, ye may
know that ye merit no more, and may know who ye are. Wherefore the
soul knows the truth that it knew not at first, concerning its own
misery; for, at the time when it was clad as for a festival and
found in God much pleasure, consolation and support, it was
somewhat more satisfied and contented, since it thought itself to
some extent to be serving God. It is true that such souls may not
have this idea explicitly in their minds; but some suggestion of
it at least is implanted in them by the satisfaction which they
find in their pleasant experiences. But, now that the soul has put
on its other and working attire--that of aridity and abandonment--
and now that its first lights have turned into darkness, it
possesses these lights more truly in this virtue of self-
knowledge, which is so excellent and so necessary, considering
itself now as nothing and experiencing no satisfaction in itself;
for it sees that it does nothing of itself neither can do
anything. And the smallness of this self-satisfaction, together
with the soul's affliction at not serving God, is considered and
esteemed by God as greater than all the consolations which the
soul formerly experienced and the works which it wrought, however
great they were, inasmuch as they were the occasion of many
imperfections and ignorances. And from this attire of aridity
proceed, as from their fount and source of self-knowledge, not
only the things which we have described already, but also the
benefits which we shall now describe and many more which will have
to be omitted.
     3. In the first place, the soul learns to commune with God
with more respect and more courtesy, such as a soul must ever
observe in converse with the Most High. These it knew not in its
prosperous times of comfort and consolation, for that comforting
favour which it experienced made its craving for God somewhat
bolder than was fitting, and discourteous and ill-considered. Even
so did it happen to Moses, when he perceived that God was speaking
to him; blinded by that pleasure and desire, without further
consideration, he would have made bold to go to Him if God had not
commanded him to stay and put off his shoes. By this incident we
are shown the respect and discretion in detachment of desire
wherewith a man is to commune with God. When Moses had obeyed in
this matter, he became so discreet and so attentive that the
Scripture says that not only did he not make bold to draw near to
God, but that he dared not even look at Him. For, having taken off
the shoes of his desires and pleasures, he became very conscious
of his wretchedness in the sight of God, as befitted one about to
hear the word of God. Even so likewise the preparation which God
granted to Job in order that he might speak with Him consisted not
in those delights and glories which Job himself reports that he
was wont to have in his God, but in leaving him naked upon a dung-
hill,[82] abandoned and even persecuted by his friends, filled
with anguish and bitterness, and the earth covered with worms. And
then the Most High God, He that lifts up the poor man from the
dunghill, was pleased to come down and speak with him there face
to face, revealing to him the depths and heights[83] of His
wisdom, in a way that He had never done in the time of his
     4. And here we must note another excellent benefit which
there is in this night and aridity of the desire of sense, since
we have had occasion to speak of it. It is that, in this dark
night of the desire (to the end that the words of the Prophet may
be fulfilled, namely: 'Thy light shall shine in the
darkness'[84]), God will enlighten the soul, giving it knowledge,
not only of its lowliness and wretchedness, as we have said, but
likewise of the greatness and excellence of God. For, as well as
quenching the desires and pleasures and attachments of sense, He
cleanses and frees the understanding that it may understand the
truth; for pleasure of sense and desire, even though it be for
spiritual things, darkens and obstructs the spirit, and
furthermore that straitness and aridity of sense enlightens and
quickens the understanding, as says Isaias.[85] Vexation makes us
to understand how the soul that is empty and disencumbered, as is
necessary for His Divine influence, is instructed supernaturally
by God in His Divine wisdom, through this dark and arid night of
contemplation,[86] as we have said; and this instruction God gave
not in those first sweetnesses and joys.
     5. This is very well explained by the same prophet Isaias,
where he says: 'Whom shall God teach His knowledge, and whom shall
He make to understand the hearing?' To those, He says, that are
weaned from the milk and drawn away from the breasts.[87] Here it
is shown that the first milk of spiritual sweetness is no
preparation for this Divine influence, neither is there
preparation in attachment to the breast of delectable meditations,
belonging to the faculties of sense, which gave the soul pleasure;
such preparation consists rather in the lack of the one and
withdrawal from the other. Inasmuch as, in order to listen to God,
the soul needs to stand upright and to be detached, with regard to
affection and sense, even as the Prophet says concerning himself,
in these words: I will stand upon my watch (this is that
detachment of desire) and I will make firm my step (that is, I
will not meditate with sense), in order to contemplate (that is,
in order to understand that which may come to me from God).[88] So
we have now arrived at this, that from this arid night there first
of all comes self-knowledge, whence, as from a foundation, rises
this other knowledge of God. For which cause Saint Augustine said
to God: 'Let me know myself, Lord, and I shall know Thee.'[89]
For, as the philosophers say, one extreme can be well known by
     6. And in order to prove more completely how efficacious is
this night of sense, with its aridity and its desolation, in
bringing the soul that light which, as we say, it receives there
from God, we shall quote that passage of David, wherein he clearly
describes the great power which is in this night for bringing the
soul this lofty knowledge of God. He says, then, thus: 'In the
desert land, waterless, dry and pathless, I appeared before Thee,
that I might see Thy virtue and Thy glory.'[90] It is a wondrous
thing that David should say here that the means and the
preparation for his knowledge of the glory of God were not the
spiritual delights and the many pleasures which he had
experienced, but the aridities and detachments of his sensual
nature, which is here to be understood by the dry and desert land.
No less wondrous is it that he should describe as the road to his
perception and vision of the virtue of God, not the Divine
meditations and conceptions of which he had often made use, but
his being unable to form any conception of God or to walk by
meditation produced by imaginary consideration, which is here to
be understood by the pathless land. So that the means to a
knowledge of God and of oneself is this dark night with its
aridities and voids, although it leads not to a knowledge of Him
of the same plenitude and abundance that comes from the other
night of the spirit, since this is only, as it were, the beginning
of that other.
     7. Likewise, from the aridities and voids of this night of
the desire, the soul draws spiritual humility, which is the
contrary virtue to the first capital sin, which, as we said, is
spiritual pride. Through this humility, which is acquired by the
said knowledge of self, the soul is purged from all those
imperfections whereinto it fell with respect to that sin of pride,
in the time of its prosperity. For it sees itself so dry and
miserable that the idea never even occurs to it that it is making
better progress than others, or outstripping them, as it believed
itself to be doing before. On the contrary, it recognizes that
others are making better progress than itself.
     8. And hence arises the love of its neighbours, for it
esteems them, and judges them not as it was wont to do aforetime,
when it saw that itself had great fervour and others not so. It is
aware only of its own wretchedness, which it keeps before its eyes
to such an extent that it never forgets it, nor takes occasion to
set its eyes on anyone else. This was described wonderfully by
David, when he was in this night, in these words: 'I was dumb and
was humbled and kept silence from good things and my sorrow was
renewed.'[91] This he says because it seemed to him that the good
that was in his soul had so completely departed that not only did
he neither speak nor find any language concerning it, but with
respect to the good of others he was likewise dumb because of his
grief at the knowledge of his misery.
     9. In this condition, again, souls become submissive and
obedient upon the spiritual road, for, when they see their own
misery, not only do they hear what is taught them, but they even
desire that anyone soever may set them on the way and tell them
what they ought to do. The affective presumption which they
sometimes had in their prosperity is taken from them; and finally,
there are swept away from them on this road all the other
imperfections which we noted above with respect to this first sin,
which is spiritual pride.

                         CHAPTER XIII

     Of other benefits which this night of sense causes in the

     WITH respect to the soul's imperfections of spiritual
avarice, because of which it coveted this and that spiritual thing
and found no satisfaction in this and that exercise by reason of
its covetousness for the desire and pleasure which it found
therein, this arid and dark night has now greatly reformed it.
For, as it finds not the pleasure and sweetness which it was wont
to find, but rather finds affliction and lack of sweetness, it has
such moderate recourse to them that it might possibly now lose,
through defective use, what aforetime it lost through excess;
although as a rule God gives to those whom He leads into this
night humility and readiness, albeit with lack of sweetness, so
that what is commanded them they may do for God's sake alone; and
thus they no longer seek profit in many things because they find
no pleasure in them.
     2. With respect to spiritual luxury, it is likewise clearly
seen that, through this aridity and lack of sensible sweetness
which the soul finds in spiritual things, it is freed from those
impurities which we there noted; for we said that, as a rule, they
proceeded from the pleasure which overflowed from spirit into
     3. But with regard to the imperfections from which the soul
frees itself in this dark night with respect to the fourth sin,
which is spiritual gluttony, they may be found above, though they
have not all been described there, because they are innumerable;
and thus I will not detail them here, for I would fain make an end
of this night in order to pass to the next, concerning which we
shall have to pronounce grave words and instructions. Let it
suffice for the understanding of the innumerable benefits which,
over and above those mentioned, the soul gains in this night with
respect to this sin of spiritual gluttony, to say that it frees
itself from all those imperfections which have there been
described, and from many other and greater evils, and vile
abominations which are not written above, into which fell many of
whom we have had experience, because they had not reformed their
desire as concerning this inordinate love of spiritual sweetness.
For in this arid and dark night wherein He sets the soul, God has
restrained its concupiscence and curbed its desire so that the
soul cannot feed upon any pleasure or sweetness of sense, whether
from above or from below; and this He continues to do after such
manner that the soul is subjected, reformed and repressed with
respect to concupiscence and desire. It loses the strength of its
passions and concupiscence and it becomes sterile, because it no
longer consults its likings. Just as, when none is accustomed to
take milk from the breast, the courses of the milk are dried up,
so the desires of the soul are dried up. And besides these things
there follow admirable benefits from this spiritual sobriety, for,
when desire and concupiscence are quenched, the soul lives in
spiritual tranquillity and peace; for, where desire and
concupiscence reign not, there is no disturbance, but peace and
consolation of God.
     4. From this there arises another and a second benefit, which
is that the soul habitually has remembrance of God, with fear and
dread of backsliding upon the spiritual road, as has been said.
This is a great benefit, and not one of the least that results
from this aridity and purgation of the desire, for the soul is
purified and cleansed of the imperfections that were clinging to
it because of the desires and affections, which of their own
accord deaden and darken the soul.
     5. There is another very great benefit for the soul in this
night, which is that it practices several virtues together, as,
for example, patience and longsuffering, which are often called
upon in these times of emptiness and aridity, when the soul
endures and perseveres in its spiritual exercises without
consolation and without pleasure. It practises the charity of God,
since it is not now moved by the pleasure of attraction and
sweetness which it finds in its work, but only by God. It likewise
practises here the virtue of fortitude, because, in these
difficulties and insipidities which it finds in its work, it
brings strength out of weakness and thus becomes strong. All the
virtues, in short--the theological and also the cardinal and
both in body and in spirit, are practised by the soul in these
times of aridity.
     6. And that in this night the soul obtains these four
benefits which we have here described (namely, delight of peace,
habitual remembrance and thought of God, cleanness and purity of
soul and the practice of the virtues which we have just
described), David tells us, having experienced it himself when he
was in this night, in these words: 'My soul refused consolations,
I had remembrance of God, I found consolation and was exercised
and my spirit failed.'[92] And he then says: 'And I meditated by
night with my heart and was exercised, and I swept and purified my
spirit'--that is to say, from all the affections.[93]
     7. With respect to the imperfections of the other three
spiritual sins which we have described above, which are wrath,
envy and sloth, the soul is purged hereof likewise in this aridity
of the desire and acquires the virtues opposed to them; for,
softened and humbled by these aridities and hardships and other
temptations and trials wherein God exercises it during this night,
it becomes meek with respect to God, and to itself, and likewise
with respect to its neighbour. So that it is no longer disturbed
and angry with itself because of its own faults, nor with its
neighbour because of his, neither is it displeased with God, nor
does it utter unseemly complaints because He does not quickly make
it holy.
     8. Then, as to envy, the soul has charity toward others in
this respect also; for, if it has any envy, this is no longer a
vice as it was before, when it was grieved because others were
preferred to it and given greater advantage. Its grief now comes
from seeing how great is its own misery, and its envy (if it has
any) is a virtuous envy, since it desires to imitate others, which
is great virtue.
     9. Neither are the sloth and the irksomeness which it now
experiences concerning spiritual things vicious as they were
before. For in the past these sins proceeded from the spiritual
pleasures which the soul sometimes experienced and sought after
when it found them not. But this new weariness proceeds not from
this insuffficiency of pleasure, because God has taken from the
soul pleasure in all things in this purgation of the desire.
     10. Besides these benefits which have been mentioned, the
soul attains innumerable others by means of this arid
contemplation. For often, in the midst of these times of aridity
and hardship, God communicates to the soul, when it is least
expecting it, the purest spiritual sweetness and love, together
with a spiritual knowledge which is sometimes very delicate, each
manifestation of which is of greater benefit and worth than those
which the soul enjoyed aforetime; although in its beginnings the
soul thinks that this is not so, for the spiritual influence now
granted to it is very delicate and cannot be perceived by sense.
     11. Finally, inasmuch as the soul is now purged from the
affections and desires of sense, it obtains liberty of spirit,
whereby in ever greater degree it gains the twelve fruits of the
Holy Spirit. Here, too, it is wondrously delivered from the hands
of its three enemies--devil, world and flesh; for, its pleasure
delight of sense being quenched with respect to all things,
neither the devil nor the world nor sensuality has any arms or any
strength wherewith to make war upon the spirit.
     12. These times of aridity, then, cause the soul to journey
in all purity in the love of God, since it is no longer influenced
in its actions by the pleasure and sweetness of the actions
themselves, as perchance it was when it experienced sweetness, but
only by a desire to please God. It becomes neither presumptuous
nor self-satisfied, as perchance it was wont to become in the time
of its prosperity, but fearful and timid with regard to itself,
finding in itself no satisfaction whatsoever; and herein consists
that holy fear which preserves and increases the virtues. This
aridity, too, quenches natural energy and concupiscence, as has
also been said. Save for the pleasure, indeed, which at certain
times God Himself infuses into it, it is a wonder if it finds
pleasure and consolation of sense, through its own diligence, in
any spiritual exercise or action, as has already been said.
     13. There grows within souls that experience this arid night
concern for God and yearnings to serve Him, for in proportion as
the breasts of sensuality, wherewith it sustained and nourished
the desires that it pursued, are drying up, there remains nothing
in that aridity and detachment save the yearning to serve God,
which is a thing very pleasing to God. For, as David says, an
afflicted spirit is a sacrifice to God.[94]
     14. When the soul, then, knows that, in this arid purgation
through which it has passed, it has derived and attained so many
and such precious benefits as those which have here been
described, it tarries not in crying, as in the stanza of which we
are expounding the lines, 'Oh, happy chance!--I went forth without
being observed.' That is, 'I went forth' from the bonds and
subjection of the desires of sense and the affections, 'without
being observed'--that is to say, without the three enemies
aforementioned being able to keep me from it. These enemies, as we
have said, bind the soul as with bonds, in its desires and
pleasures, and prevent it from going forth from itself to the
liberty of the love of God; and without these desires and
pleasures they cannot give battle to the soul, as has been said.
     15. When, therefore, the four passions of the soul--which are
joy, grief, hope and fear--are calmed through continual
mortification; when the natural desires have been lulled to sleep,
in the sensual nature of the soul, by means of habitual times of
aridity; and when the harmony of the senses and the interior
faculties causes a suspension of labour and a cessation from the
work of meditation, as we have said (which is the dwelling and the
household of the lower part of the soul), these enemies cannot
obstruct this spiritual liberty, and the house remains at rest and
quiet, as says the following line:

        My house being now at rest.

                         CHAPTER XIV

     Expounds this last line of the first stanza.

     WHEN this house of sensuality was now at rest--that is, was
mortified--its passions being quenched and its desires put to rest
and lulled to sleep by means of this blessed night of the
purgation of sense, the soul went forth, to set out upon the road
and way of the spirit, which is that of progressives and
proficients, and which, by another name, is called the way of
illumination or of infused contemplation, wherein God Himself
feeds and refreshes the soul, without meditation, or the soul's
active help. Such, as we have said, is the night and purgation of
sense in the soul. In those who have afterwards to enter the other
and more formidable night of the spirit, in order to pass to the
Divine union of love of God (for not all pass habitually thereto,
but only the smallest number), it is wont to be accompanied by
formidable trials and temptations of sense, which last for a long
time, albeit longer in some than in others. For to some the angel
of Satan presents himself--namely, the spirit of fornication--that
he may buffet their senses with abominable and violent
temptations, and trouble their spirits with vile considerations
and representations which are most visible to the imagination,
which things at times are a greater affliction to them than death.
     2. At other times in this night there is added to these
things the spirit of blasphemy, which roams abroad, setting in the
path of all the conceptions and thoughts of the soul intolerable
blasphemies. These it sometimes suggests to the imagination with
such violence that the soul almost utters them, which is a grave
torment to it.
     3. At other times another abominable spirit, which Isaias
calls Spiritus vertiginis,[95] is allowed to molest them, not in
order that they may fall, but that it may try them. This spirit
darkens their senses in such a way that it fills them with
numerous scruples and perplexities, so confusing that, as they
judge, they can never, by any means, be satisfied concerning them,
neither can they find any help for their judgment in counsel or
thought. This is one of the severest goads and horrors of this
night, very closely akin to that which passes in the night of the
     4. As a rule these storms and trials are sent by God in this
night and purgation of sense to those whom afterwards He purposes
to lead into the other night (though not all reach it), to the end
that, when they have been chastened and buffeted, they may in this
way continually exercise and prepare themselves, and continually
accustom their senses and faculties to the union of wisdom which
is to be bestowed upon them in that other night. For, if the soul
be not tempted, exercised and proved with trials and temptations,
it cannot quicken its sense of Wisdom. For this reason it is said
in Ecclesiasticus: 'He that has not been tempted, what does he
know? And he that has not been proved, what are the things that he
recognizes?'[96] To this truth Jeremias bears good witness,
saying: 'Thou didst chastise me, Lord, and I was instructed.'[97]
And the most proper form of this chastisement, for one who will
enter into Wisdom, is that of the interior trials which we are
here describing, inasmuch as it is these which most effectively
purge sense of all favours and consolations to which it was
affected, with natural weakness, and by which the soul is truly
humiliated in preparation for the exaltation which it is to
     5. For how long a time the soul will be held in this fasting
and penance of sense, cannot be said with any certainty; for all
do not experience it after one manner, neither do all encounter
the same temptations. For this is meted out by the will of God, in
conformity with the greater or the smaller degree of imperfection
which each soul has to purge away. In conformity, likewise, with
the degree of love of union to which God is pleased to raise it,
He will humble it with greater or less intensity or in greater or
less time. Those who have the disposition and greater strength to
suffer, He purges with greater intensity and more quickly. But
those who are very weak are kept for a long time in this night,
and these He purges very gently and with slight temptations.
Habitually, too, He gives them refreshments of sense so that they
may not fall away, and only after a long time do they attain to
purity of perfection in this life, some of them never attaining to
it at all. Such are neither properly in the night nor properly out
of it; for, although they make no progress, yet, in order that
they may continue in humility and self-knowledge, God exercises
them for certain periods and at certain times[98] in those
temptations and aridities; and at other times and seasons He
assists them with consolations, lest they should grow faint and
return to seek the consolations of the world. Other souls, which
are weaker, God Himself accompanies, now appearing to them, now
moving farther away, that He may exercise them in His love; for
without such turnings away they would not learn to reach God.
     6. But the souls which are to pass on to that happy and high
estate, the union of love, are wont as a rule to remain for a long
time in these aridities and temptations, however quickly God may
lead them, as has been seen by experience. It is time, then, to
begin to treat of the second night.

                       BOOK THE SECOND

              Of the Dark Night of the Spirit.

                          CHAPTER I

     Which begins to treat of the dark nights of the spirit and
says at what time it begins.

     THE soul which God is about to lead onward is not led by His
Majesty into this night of the spirit as soon as it goes forth
from the aridities and trials of the first purgation and night of
sense; rather it is wont to pass a long time, even years, after
leaving the state of beginners, in exercising itself in that of
proficients. In this latter state it is like to one that has come
forth from a rigorous imprisonment;[99] it goes about the things
of God with much greater freedom and satisfaction of the soul, and
with more abundant and inward delight than it did at the beginning
before it entered the said night. For its imagination and
faculties are no longer bound, as they were before, by meditation
and anxiety of spirit, since it now very readily finds in its
spirit the most serene and loving contemplation and spiritual
sweetness without the labour of meditation; although, as the
purgation of the soul is not complete (for the principal part
thereof, which is that of the spirit, is wanting, without which,
owing to the communication that exists between the one part and
the other,[100] since the subject is one only, the purgation of
sense, however violent it may have been, is not yet complete and
perfect), it is never without certain occasional necessities,
aridities, darknesses and perils which are sometimes much more
intense than those of the past, for they are as tokens and heralds
of the coming night of the spirit, and are not of as long duration
as will be the night which is to come. For, having passed through
a period, or periods, or days of this night and tempest, the soul
soon returns to its wonted serenity; and after this manner God
purges certain souls which are not to rise to so high a degree of
love as are others, bringing them at times, and for short periods,
into this night of contemplation and purgation of the spirit,
causing night to come upon them and then dawn, and this
frequently, so that the words of David may be fulfilled, that He
sends His crystal--that is, His contemplation--like morsels,[101]
although these morsels of dark contemplation are never as intense
as is that terrible night of contemplation which we are to
describe, into which, of set purpose, God brings the soul that He
may lead it to Divine union.
     2. This sweetness, then, and this interior pleasure which we
are describing, and which these progressives find and experience
in their spirits so easily and so abundantly, is communicated to
them in much greater abundance than aforetime, overflowing into
their senses more than was usual previously to this purgation of
sense; for, inasmuch as the sense is now purer, it can more easily
feel the pleasures of the spirit after its manner. As, however,
this sensual part of the soul is weak and incapable of
experiencing the strong things of the spirit, it follows that
these proficients, by reason of this spiritual communication which
is made to their sensual part endure therein many frailties and
sufferings and weaknesses of the stomach, and in consequence are
fatigued in spirit. For, as the Wise Man says: 'The corruptible
body presseth down the soul.'[102] Hence comes it that the
communications that are granted to these souls cannot be very
strong or very intense or very spiritual, as is required for
Divine union with God, by reason of the weakness and corruption of
the sensual nature which has a part in them. Hence arise the
raptures and trances and dislocations of the bones which always
happen when the communications are not purely spiritual--that is,
are not given to the spirit alone, as are those of the perfect who
are purified by the second night of the spirit, and in whom these
raptures and torments of the body no longer exist, since they are
enjoying liberty of spirit, and their senses are now neither
clouded nor transported.
     3. And in order that the necessity for such souls to enter
this night of the spirit may be understood, we will here note
certain imperfections and perils which belong to these

                          CHAPTER II

     Describes other imperfections[103] which belong to these

     THESE proficients have two kinds of imperfection: the one
kind is habitual; the other actual. The habitual imperfections are
the imperfect habits and affections which have remained all the
time in the spirit, and are like roots, to which the purgation of
sense has been unable to penetrate. The difference between the
purgation of these and that of this other kind is the difference
between the root and the branch, or between the removing of a
stain which is fresh and one which is old and of long standing.
For, as we said, the purgation of sense is only the entrance and
beginning of contemplation leading to the purgation of the spirit,
which, as we have likewise said, serves rather to accommodate
sense to spirit than to unite spirit with God. But there still
remain in the spirit the stains of the old man, although the
spirit thinks not that this is so, neither can it perceive them;
if these stains be not removed with the soap and strong lye of the
purgation of this night, the spirit will be unable to come to the
purity of Divine union.
     2. These souls have likewise the hebetudo mentis[104] and the
natural roughness which every man contracts through sin, and the
distraction and outward clinging of the spirit, which must be
enlightened, refined and recollected by the afflictions and perils
of that night. These habitual imperfections belong to all those
who have not passed beyond this state of the proficient; they
cannot coexist, as we say, with the perfect state of union through
     3. To actual imperfections all are not liable in the same
way. Some, whose spiritual good is so superficial and so readily
affected by sense, fall into greater difficulties and dangers,
which we described at the beginning of this treatise. For, as they
find so many and such abundant spiritual communications and
apprehensions, both in sense and in spirit wherein they oftentimes
see imaginary and spiritual visions (for all these things,
together with other delectable feelings, come to many souls in
this state, wherein the devil and their own fancy very commonly
practise deceptions on them), and, as the devil is apt to take
such pleasure in impressing upon the soul and suggesting to it the
said apprehensions and feelings, he fascinates and deludes it with
great ease unless it takes the precaution of resigning itself to
God, and of protecting itself strongly, by means of faith, from
all these visions and feelings. For in this state the devil causes
many to believe in vain visions and false prophecies; and strives
to make them presume that God and the saints are speaking with
them; and they often trust their own fancy. And the devil is also
accustomed, in this state, to fill them with presumption and
pride, so that they become attracted by vanity and arrogance, and
allow themselves to be seen engaging in outward acts which appear
holy, such as raptures and other manifestations. Thus they become
bold with God, and lose holy fear, which is the key and the
custodian of all the virtues; and in some of these souls so many
are the falsehoods and deceits which tend to multiply, and so
inveterate do they grow, that it is very doubtful if such souls
will return to the pure road of virtue and true spirituality. Into
these miseries they fall because they are beginning to give
themselves over to spiritual feelings and apprehensions with too
great security, when they were beginning to make some progress
upon the way.
     4. There is much more that I might say of these imperfections
and of how they are the more incurable because such souls consider
them to be more spiritual than the others, but I will leave this
subject. I shall only add, in order to prove how necessary, for
him that would go farther, is the night of the spirit, which is
purgation, that none of these proficients, however strenuously he
may have laboured, is free, at best, from many of those natural
affections and imperfect habits, purification from which, we said,
is necessary if a soul is to pass to Divine union.
     5. And over and above this (as we have said already),
inasmuch as the lower part of the soul still has a share in these
spiritual communications, they cannot be as intense, as pure and
as strong as is needful for the aforesaid union; wherefore, in
order to come to this union, the soul must needs enter into the
second night of the spirit, wherein it must strip sense and spirit
perfectly from all these apprehensions and from all sweetness, and
be made to walk in dark and pure faith, which is the proper and
adequate means whereby the soul is united with God, according as
Osee says, in these words: 'I will betroth thee--that is, I will
unite thee--with Me through faith.'[105]

                         CHAPTER III

     Annotation for that which follows.

     THESE souls, then, have now become proficients, because of
the time which they have spent in feeding the senses with sweet
communications, so that their sensual part, being thus attracted
and delighted by spiritual pleasure, which came to it from the
spirit, may be united with the spirit and made one with it; each
part after its own manner eating of one and the same spiritual
food and from one and the same dish, as one person and with one
sole intent, so that thus they may in a certain way be united and
brought into agreement, and, thus united, may be prepared for the
endurance of the stern and severe purgation of the spirit which
awaits them. In this purgation these two parts of the soul, the
spiritual and the sensual, must be completely purged, since the
one is never truly purged without the other, the purgation of
sense becoming effective when that of the spirit has fairly begun.
Wherefore the night which we have called that of sense may and
should be called a kind of correction and restraint of the desire
rather than purgation. The reason is that all the imperfections
and disorders of the sensual part have their strength and root in
the spirit, where all habits, both good and bad, are brought into
subjection, and thus, until these are purged, the rebellions and
depravities of sense cannot be purged thoroughly.
     2. Wherefore, in this night following, both parts of the soul
are purged together, and it is for this end that it is well to
have passed through the corrections of the first night, and the
period of tranquillity which proceeds from it, in order that,
sense being united with spirit, both may be purged after a certain
manner and may then suffer with greater fortitude. For very great
fortitude is needful for so violent and severe a purgation, since,
if the weakness of the lower part has not first been corrected and
fortitude has not been gained from God through the sweet and
delectable communion which the soul has afterwards enjoyed with
Him, its nature will not have the strength or the disposition to
bear it.
     3. Therefore, since these proficients are still at a very low
stage of progress, and follow their own nature closely in the
intercourse and dealings which they have with God, because the
gold of their spirit is not yet purified and refined, they still
think of God as little children, and speak of God as little
children, and feel and experience God as little children, even as
Saint Paul says,[106] because they have not reached perfection,
which is the union of the soul with God. In the state of union,
however, they will work great things in the spirit, even as grown
men, and their works and faculties will then be Divine rather than
human, as will afterwards be said. To this end God is pleased to
strip them of this old man and clothe them with the new man, who
is created according to God, as the Apostle says,[107] in the
newness of sense. He strips their faculties, affections and
feelings, both spiritual and sensual, both outward and inward,
leaving the understanding dark, the will dry, the memory empty and
the affections in the deepest affliction, bitterness and
constraint, taking from the soul the pleasure and experience of
spiritual blessings which it had aforetime, in order to make of
this privation one of the principles which are requisite in the
spirit so that there may be introduced into it and united with it
the spiritual form of the spirit, which is the union of love. All
this the Lord works in the soul by means of a pure and dark
contemplation, as the soul explains in the first stanza. This,
although we originally interpreted it with reference to the first
night of sense, is principally understood by the soul of this
second night of the spirit, since this is the principal part of
the purification of the soul. And thus we shall set it down and
expound it here again in this sense.

                         CHAPTER IV

     Sets down the first stanza and the exposition thereof.

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


     INTERPRETING this stanza now with reference to purgation,
contemplation or detachment or poverty of spirit, which here are
almost one and the same thing, we can expound it after this manner
and make the soul speak thus: In poverty, and without protection
or support in all the apprehensions of my soul--that is, in the
darkness of my understanding and the constraint of my will, in
affliction and anguish with respect to memory, remaining in the
dark in pure faith, which is dark night for the said natural
faculties, the will alone being touched by grief and afflictions
and yearnings for the love of God--I went forth from myself--that
is, from my low manner of understanding, from my weak mode of
loving and from my poor and limited manner of experiencing God,
without being hindered therein by sensuality or the devil.
     2. This was a great happiness and a good chance for me; for,
when the faculties had been perfectly annihilated and calmed,
together with the passions, desires and affections of my soul,
wherewith I had experienced and tasted God after a lowly manner, I
went forth from my own human dealings and operations to the
operations and dealings of God. That is to say, my understanding
went forth from itself, turning from the human and natural to the
Divine; for, when it is united with God by means of this
purgation, its understanding no longer comes through its natural
light and vigour, but through the Divine Wisdom wherewith it has
become united. And my will went forth from itself, becoming
Divine; for, being united with Divine love, it no longer loves
with its natural strength after a lowly manner, but with strength
and purity from the Holy Spirit; and thus the will, which is now
near to God, acts not after a human manner, and similarly the
memory has become transformed into eternal apprehensions of glory.
And finally, by means of this night and purgation of the old man,
all the energies and affections of the soul are wholly renewed
into a Divine temper and Divine delight.
     There follows the line:

        On a dark night.

                          CHAPTER V

     Sets down the first line and begins to explain how this dark
contemplation is not only night for the soul but is also grief and

     THIS dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul, which
purges it from its ignorances and imperfections, habitual natural
and spiritual, and which is called by contemplatives infused
contemplation, or mystical theology. Herein God secretly teaches
the soul and instructs it in perfection of love without its doing
anything, or understanding of what manner is this infused
contemplation. Inasmuch as it is the loving wisdom of God, God
produces striking effects in the soul for, by purging and
illumining it, He prepares it for the union of love with God.
Wherefore the same loving wisdom that purges the blessed spirits
and enlightens them is that which here purges the soul and
illumines it.
     2. But the question arises: Why is the Divine light (which as
we say, illumines and purges the soul from its ignorances) here
called by the soul a dark night? To this the answer is that for
two reasons this Divine wisdom is not only night and darkness for
the soul, but is likewise affliction and torment. The first is
because of the height of Divine Wisdom, which transcends the
talent of the soul, and in this way is darkness to it; the second,
because of its vileness and impurity, in which respect it is
painful and afflictive to it, and is also dark.
     3. In order to prove the first point, we must here assume a
certain doctrine of the philosopher, which says that, the clearer
and more manifest are Divine things in themselves the darker and
more hidden are they to the soul naturally; just as, the clearer
is the light, the more it blinds and darkens the pupil of the owl,
and, the more directly we look at the sun, the greater is the
darkness which it causes in our visual faculty, overcoming and
overwhelming it through its own weakness. In the same way, when
this Divine light of contemplation assails the soul which is not
yet wholly enlightened, it causes spiritual darkness in it; for
not only does it overcome it, but likewise it overwhelms it and
darkens the act of its natural intelligence. For this reason Saint
Dionysius and other mystical theologians call this infused
contemplation a ray of darkness--that is to say, for the soul that
is not enlightened and purged--for the natural strength of the
intellect is transcended and overwhelmed by its great supernatural
light. Wherefore David likewise said: That near to God and round
about Him are darkness and cloud;[108] not that this is so in
fact, but that it is so to our weak understanding, which is
blinded and darkened by so vast a light, to which it cannot
attain.[109] For this cause the same David then explained himself,
saying: 'Through the great splendour of His presence passed
clouds'[110]--that is, between God and our understanding. And it
for this cause that, when God sends it out from Himself to the
soul that is not yet transformed, this illumining ray of His
secret wisdom causes thick darkness in the understanding.
     4. And it is clear that this dark contemplation is in these
its beginnings painful likewise to the soul; for, as this Divine
infused contemplation has many excellences that are extremely
good, and the soul that receives them, not being purged, has many
miseries that are likewise extremely bad, hence it follows that,
as two contraries cannot coexist in one subject--the soul--it must
of necessity have pain and suffering, since it is the subject
wherein these two contraries war against each other, working the
one against the other, by reason of the purgation of the
imperfections of the soul which comes to pass through this
contemplation. This we shall prove inductively in the manner
     5. In the first place, because the light and wisdom of this
contemplation is most bright and pure, and the soul which it
assails is dark and impure, it follows that the soul suffers great
pain when it receives it in itself, just as, when the eyes are
dimmed by humours, and become impure and weak, the assault made
upon them by a bright light causes them pain. And when the soul
suffers the direct assault of this Divine light, its pain, which
results from its impurity, is immense; because, when this pure
light assails the soul, in order to expel its impurity, the soul
feels itself to be so impure and miserable that it believes God to
be against it, and thinks that it has set itself up against God.
This causes it sore grief and pain, because it now believes that
God has cast it away: this was one of the greatest trials which
Job felt when God sent him this experience, and he said: 'Why hast
Thou set me contrary to Thee, so that I am grievous and burdensome
to myself?'[111] For, by means of this pure light, the soul now
sees its impurity clearly (although darkly), and knows clearly
that it is unworthy of God or of any creature. And what gives it
most pain is that it thinks that it will never be worthy and that
its good things are all over for it. This is caused by the
profound immersion of its spirit in the knowledge and realization
of its evils and miseries; for this Divine and dark light now
reveals them all to the eye, that it may see clearly how in its
own strength it can never have aught else. In this sense we may
understand that passage from David, which says: 'For iniquity Thou
hast corrected man and hast made his soul to be undone and
consumed: he wastes away as the spider.'[112]
     6. The second way in which the soul suffers pain is by reason
of its weakness, natural, moral and spiritual; for, when this
Divine contemplation assails the soul with a certain force, in
order to strengthen it and subdue it, it suffers such pain in its
weakness that it nearly swoons away. This is especially so at
certain times when it is assailed with somewhat greater force; for
sense and spirit, as if beneath some immense and dark load, are in
such great pain and agony that the soul would find advantage and
relief in death. This had been experienced by the prophet Job,
when he said: 'I desire not that He should have intercourse with
me in great strength, lest He oppress me with the weight of His
     7. Beneath the power of this oppression and weight the soul
feels itself so far from being favoured that it thinks, and
correctly so, that even that wherein it was wont to find some help
has vanished with everything else, and that there is none who has
pity upon it. To this effect Job says likewise: 'Have pity upon
me, have pity upon me, at least ye my friends, because the hand of
the Lord has touched me.'[114] A thing of great wonder and pity is
it that the soul's weakness and impurity should now be so great
that, though the hand of God is of itself so light and gentle, the
soul should now feel it to be so heavy and so contrary,[115]
though it neither weighs it down nor rests upon it, but only
touches it, and that mercifully, since He does this in order to
grant the soul favours and not to chastise it.

                          CHAPTER VI

     Of other kinds of pain that the soul suffers in this night.

     THE third kind of suffering and pain that the soul endures in
this state results from the fact that two other extremes meet here
in one, namely, the Divine and the human. The Divine is this
purgative contemplation, and the human is the subject--that is,
soul. The Divine assails the soul in order to renew it and thus to
make it Divine; and, stripping it of the habitual affections and
attachments of the old man, to which it is very closely united,
knit together and conformed, destroys and consumes its spiritual
substance, and absorbs it in deep and profound darkness. As a
result of this, the soul feels itself to be perishing and melting
away, in the presence and sight of its miseries, in a cruel
spiritual death, even as if it had been swallowed by a beast and
felt itself being devoured in the darkness of its belly, suffering
such anguish as was endured by Jonas in the belly of that beast of
the sea.[116] For in this sepulchre of dark death it must needs
abide until the spiritual resurrection which it hopes for.
     2. A description of this suffering and pain, although in
truth it transcends all description, is given by David, when he
says: 'The lamentations of death compassed me about; the pains of
hell surrounded me; I cried in my tribulation.'[117] But what the
sorrowful soul feels most in this condition is its clear
perception, as it thinks, that God has abandoned it, and, in His
abhorrence of it, has flung it into darkness; it is a grave and
piteous grief for it to believe that God has forsaken it. It is
this that David also felt so much in a like case, saying: 'After
the manner wherein the wounded are dead in the sepulchres,' being
now cast off by Thy hand, so that Thou rememberest them no more,
even so have they set me in the deepest and lowest lake, in the
dark places and in the shadow of death, and Thy fury is confirmed
upon me and all Thy waves Thou hast brought in upon me.'[118] For
indeed, when this purgative contemplation is most severe, the soul
feels very keenly the shadow of death and the lamentations of
death and the pains of hell, which consist in its feeling itself
to be without God, and chastised and cast out, and unworthy of
Him; and it feels that He is wroth with it. All this is felt by
the soul in this condition--yea, and more, for it believes that it
is so with it for ever.
     3. It feels, too, that all creatures have forsaken it, and
that it is contemned by them, particularly by its friends.
Wherefore David presently continues, saying: 'Thou hast put far
from me my friends and acquaintances; they have counted me an
abomination.'[119] To all this will Jonas testify, as one who
likewise experienced it in the belly of the beast, both bodily and
spiritually. 'Thou hast cast me forth (he says) into the deep,
into the heart of the sea, and the flood hath compassed me; all
its billows and waves have passed over me. And I said, "I am cast
away out of the sight of Thine eyes, but I shall once again see
Thy holy temple" (which he says, because God purifies the soul in
this state that it may see His temple); the waters compassed me,
even to the soul, the deep hath closed me round about, the ocean
hath covered my head, I went down to the lowest parts of the
mountains; the bars of the earth have shut me up for ever.'[120]
By these bars are here understood, in this sense, imperfections of
the soul, which have impeded it from enjoying this delectable
     4. The fourth kind of pain is caused in the soul by another
excellence of this dark contemplation, which is its majesty and
greatness, from which arises in the soul a consciousness of the
other extreme which is in itself--namely, that of the deepest
poverty and wretchedness: this is one of the chiefest pains that
it suffers in this purgation. For it feels within itself a
profound emptiness and impoverishment of three kinds of good,
which are ordained for the pleasure of the soul which are the
temporal, the natural and the spiritual; and finds itself set in
the midst of the evils contrary to these, namely, miseries of
imperfection, aridity and emptiness of the apprehensions of the
faculties and abandonment of the spirit in darkness. Inasmuch as
God here purges the soul according to the substance of its sense
and spirit, and according to the interior and exterior faculties,
the soul must needs be in all its parts reduced to a state of
emptiness, poverty and abandonment and must be left dry and empty
and in darkness. For the sensual part is purified in aridity, the
faculties are purified in the emptiness of their perceptions and
the spirit is purified in thick darkness.
     5. All this God brings to pass by means of this dark
contemplation; wherein the soul not only suffers this emptiness
and the suspension of these natural supports and perceptions,
which is a most afflictive suffering (as if a man were suspended
or held in the air so that he could not breathe), but likewise He
is purging the soul, annihilating it, emptying it or consuming in
it (even as fire consumes the mouldiness and the rust of metal)
all the affections and imperfect habits which it has contracted in
its whole life. Since these are deeply rooted in the substance of
the soul, it is wont to suffer great undoings and inward torment,
besides the said poverty and emptiness, natural and spiritual, so
that there may here be fulfilled that passage from Ezechiel which
says: 'Heap together the bones and I will burn them in the fire;
the flesh shall be consumed and the whole composition shall be
burned and the bones shall be destroyed.'[121] Herein is
understood the pain which is suffered in the emptiness and poverty
of the substance of the soul both in sense and in spirit. And
concerning this he then says: 'Set it also empty upon the coals,
that its metal may become hot and molten, and its uncleanness may
be destroyed within it, and its rust may be consumed.'[122] Herein
is described the grave suffering which the soul here endures in
the purgation of the fire of this contemplation, for the Prophet
says here that, in order for the rust of the affections which are
within the soul to be purified and destroyed, it is needful that,
in a certain manner, the soul itself should be annihilated and
destroyed, since these passions and imperfections have become
natural to it.
     6. Wherefore, because the soul is purified in this furnace
like gold in a crucible, as says the Wise Man,[123] it is
conscious of this complete undoing of itself in its very
substance, together with the direst poverty, wherein it is, as it
were, nearing its end, as may be seen by that which David says of
himself in this respect, in these words: 'Save me, Lord (he cries
to God), for the waters have come in even unto my soul; I am made
fast in the mire of the deep and there is no place where I can
stand; I am come into the depth of the sea and a tempest hath
overwhelmed me; I have laboured crying, my throat has become
hoarse, mine eyes have failed whilst I hope in my God.'[124] Here
God greatly humbles the soul in order that He may afterwards
greatly exalt it; and if He ordained not that, when these feelings
arise within the soul, they should speedily be stilled, it would
die in a very short space; but there are only occasional periods
when it is conscious of their greatest intensity. At times,
however, they are so keen that the soul seems to be seeing hell
and perdition opened. Of such are they that in truth go down alive
into hell, being purged here on earth in the same manner as there,
since this purgation is that which would have to be accomplished
there. And thus the soul that passes through this either enters
not that place[125] at all, or tarries there but for a very short
time; for one hour of purgation here is more profitable than are
many there.

                         CHAPTER VII

     Continues the same matter and considers other afflictions end
constraints of the will.

     THE afflictions and constraints of the will are now very
great likewise, and of such a kind that they sometimes transpierce
the soul with a sudden remembrance of the evils in the midst of
which it finds itself, and with the uncertainty of finding a
remedy for them. And to this is added the remembrance of times of
prosperity now past; for as a rule souls that enter this night
have had many consolations from God, and have rendered Him many
services, and it causes them the greater grief to see that they
are far removed from that happiness and unable to enter into it.
This was also described by Job, who had had experience of it, in
these words: 'I, who was wont to be wealthy and rich, am suddenly
undone and broken to pieces; He hath taken me by my neck; He hath
broken me and set me up for His mark to wound me; He hath
compassed me round about with His lances; He hath wounded all my
loins; He hath not spared; He hath poured out my bowels on the
earth; He hath broken me with wound upon wound; He hath assailed
me as a strong giant; I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin and have
covered my flesh with ashes; my face is become swollen with
weeping and mine eyes are blinded.'[126]
     2. So many and so grievous are the afflictions of this night,
and so many passages of Scripture are there which could be cited
to this purpose, that time and strength would fail us to write of
them, for all that can be said thereof is certainly less than the
truth. From the passages already quoted some idea may be gained of
them. And, that we may bring the exposition of this line to a
close and explain more fully what is worked in the soul by this
night, I shall tell what Jeremias felt about it, which, since
there is so much of it, he describes and bewails in many words
after this manner: 'I am the man that see my poverty in the rod of
His indignation; He hath threatened me and brought me into
darkness and not into light. So far hath He turned against me and
hath converted His hand upon me all the day! My skin and my flesh
hath He made old; He hath broken my bones; He hath made a fence
around me and compassed me with gall and trial; He hath set me in
dark places, as those that are dead for ever. He hath made a fence
around me and against me, that I may not go out; He hath made my
captivity heavy. Yea, and when I have cried and have entreated, He
hath shut out my prayer. He hath enclosed my paths and ways out
with square stones; He hath thwarted my steps. He hath set
ambushes for me; He hath become to me a lion in a secret place. He
hath turned aside my steps and broken me in pieces, He hath made
me desolate; He hath bent His bow and set me as a mark for His
arrow. He hath shot into my reins the daughters of His quiver. I
have become a derision to all the people, and laughter and scorn
for them all the day. He hath filled me with bitterness and hath
made me drunken with wormwood. He hath broken my teeth by number;
He hath fed me with ashes. My soul is cast out from peace; I have
forgotten good things. And I said: "Mine end is frustrated and cut
short, together with my desire and my hope from the Lord. Remember
my poverty and my excess, the wormwood and the gall. I shall be
mindful with remembrance and my soul shall be undone within me in
     3. All these complaints Jeremias makes about these pains and
trials, and by means of them he most vividly depicts the
sufferings of the soul in this spiritual night and purgation.
Wherefore the soul that God sets in this tempestuous and horrible
night is deserving of great compassion. For, although it
experiences much happiness by reason of the great blessings that
must arise on this account within it, when, as Job says, God
raises up profound blessings in the soul out of darkness, and
brings up to light the shadow of death,[128] so that, as David
says, His light comes to be as was His darkness;[129] yet
notwithstanding, by reason of the dreadful pain which the soul is
suffering, and of the great uncertainty which it has concerning
the remedy for it, since it believes, as this prophet says here,
that its evil will never end, and it thinks, as David says
likewise, that God set it in dark places like those that are
dead,[130] and for this reason brought its spirit within it into
anguish and troubled its heart,[131] it suffers great pain and
grief, since there is added to all this (because of the solitude
and abandonment caused in it by this dark night) the fact that it
finds no consolation or support in any instruction nor in a
spiritual master. For, although in many ways its director may show
it good reason for being comforted because of the blessings which
are contained in these afflictions, it cannot believe him. For it
is so greatly absorbed and immersed in the realization of those
evils wherein it sees its own miseries so clearly, that it thinks
that, as its director observes not that which it sees and feels,
he is speaking in this manner because he understands it not; and
so, instead of comfort, it rather receives fresh affliction, since
it believes that its director's advice contains no remedy for its
troubles. And, in truth, this is so; for, until the Lord shall
have completely purged it after the manner that He wills, no means
or remedy is of any service or profit for the relief of its
affliction; the more so because the soul is as powerless in this
case as one who has been imprisoned in a dark dungeon, and is
bound hand and foot, and can neither move nor see, nor feel any
favour whether from above or from below, until the spirit is
humbled, softened and purified, and grows so keen and delicate and
pure that it can become one with the Spirit of God, according to
the degree of union of love which His mercy is pleased to grant
it; in proportion to this the purgation is of greater or less
severity and of greater or less duration.
     4. But, if it is to be really effectual, it will last for
some years, however severe it be; since the purgative process
allows intervals of relief wherein, by the dispensation of God,
this dark contemplation ceases to assail the soul in the form and
manner of purgation, and assails it after an illuminative and a
loving manner, wherein the soul, like one that has gone forth from
this dungeon and imprisonment, and is brought into the recreation
of spaciousness and liberty, feels and experiences great sweetness
of peace and loving friendship with God, together with a ready
abundance of spiritual communication. This is to the soul a sign
of the health which is being wrought within it by the said
purgation and a foretaste of the abundance for which it hopes.
Occasionally this is so great that the soul believes its trials to
be at last over. For spiritual things in the soul, when they are
most purely spiritual, have this characteristic that, if trials
come to it, the soul believes that it will never escape from them,
and that all its blessings are now over, as has been seen in the
passages quoted; and, if spiritual blessings come, the soul
believes in the same way that its troubles are now over, and that
blessings will never fail it. This was so with David, when he
found himself in the midst of them, as he confesses in these
words: 'I said in my abundance: "I shall never be moved."'[132]
     5. This happens because the actual possession by the spirit
of one of two contrary things itself makes impossible the actual
possession and realization of the other contrary thing; this is
not so, however, in the sensual part of the soul, because its
apprehension is weak. But, as the spirit is not yet completely
purged and cleansed from the affections that it has contracted
from its lower part, while changing not in so far as it is spirit,
it can be moved to further afflictions in so far as these
affections sway it. In this way, as we see, David was afterwards
moved, and experienced many ills and afflictions, although in the
time of his abundance he had thought and said that he would never
be moved. Just so is it with the soul in this condition, when it
sees itself moved by that abundance of spiritual blessings, and,
being unable to see the root of the imperfection and impurity
which still remain within it, thinks that its trials are over.
     6. This thought, however, comes to the soul but seldom, for,
until spiritual purification is complete and perfected, the sweet
communication is very rarely so abundant as to conceal from the
soul the root which remains hidden, in such a way that the soul
can cease to feel that there is something that it lacks within
itself or that it has still to do. Thus it cannot completely enjoy
that relief, but feels as if one of its enemies were within it,
and although this enemy is, as it were, hushed and asleep, it
fears that he will come to life again and attack it.[133] And this
is what indeed happens, for, when the soul is most secure and
least alert, it is dragged down and immersed again in another and
a worse degree of affliction which is severer and darker and more
grievous than that which is past; and this new affliction will
continue for a further period of time, perhaps longer than the
first. And the soul once more comes to believe that all its
blessings are over for ever. Although it had thought during its
first trial that there were no more afflictions which it could
suffer, and yet, after the trial was over, it enjoyed great
blessings, this experience is not sufficient to take away its
belief, during this second degree of trial, that all is now over
for it and that it will never again be happy as in the past. For,
as I say, this belief, of which the soul is so sure, is caused in
it by the actual apprehension of the spirit, which annihilates
within it all that is contrary to it.
     7. This is the reason why those who lie in purgatory suffer
great misgivings as to whether they will ever go forth from it and
whether their pains will ever be over. For, although they have the
habit of the three theological virtues--faith, hope and charity--
present realization which they have of their afflictions and of
their deprivation of God allows them not to enjoy the present
blessing and consolation of these virtues. For, although they are
able to realize that they have a great love for God, this is no
consolation to them, since they cannot think that God loves them
or that they are worthy that He should do so; rather, as they see
that they are deprived of Him, and left in their own miseries,
they think that there is that in themselves which provides a very
good reason why they should with perfect justice be abhorred and
cast out by God for ever.[134] And thus although the soul in this
purgation is conscious that it has a great love for God and would
give a thousand lives for Him (which is the truth, for in these
trials such souls love their God very earnestly), yet this is no
relief to it, but rather brings it greater affliction. For it
loves Him so much that it cares about naught beside; when,
therefore, it sees itself to be so wretched that it cannot believe
that God loves it, nor that there is or will ever be reason why He
should do so, but rather that there is reason why it should be
abhorred, not only by Him, but by all creatures for ever, it is
grieved to see in itself reasons for deserving to be cast out by
Him for Whom it has such great love and desire.

                         CHAPTER VIII

     Of other pains which afflict the soul in this state.

     BUT there is another thing here that afflicts and distresses
the soul greatly, which is that, as this dark night has hindered
its faculties and affections in this way, it is unable to raise
its affection or its mind to God, neither can it pray to Him,
thinking, as Jeremias thought concerning himself, that God has set
a cloud before it through which its prayer cannot pass.[135] For
it is this that is meant by that which is said in the passage
referred to, namely: 'He hath shut and enclosed my paths with
square stones.'[136] And if it sometimes prays it does so with
such lack of strength and of sweetness that it thinks that God
neither hears it nor pays heed to it, as this Prophet likewise
declares in the same passage, saying: 'When I cry and entreat, He
hath shut out my prayer.'[137] In truth this is no time for the
soul to speak with God; it should rather put its mouth in the
dust, as Jeremias says, so that perchance there may come to it
some present hope,[138] and it may endure its purgation with
patience. It is God Who is passively working here in the soul;
wherefore the soul can do nothing. Hence it can neither pray nor
pay attention when it is present at the Divine offices,[139] much
less can it attend to other things and affairs which are temporal.
Not only so, but it has likewise such distractions and times of
such profound forgetfulness of the memory that frequent periods
pass by without its knowing what it has been doing or thinking, or
what it is that it is doing or is going to do, neither can it pay
attention, although it desire to do so, to anything that occupies
     2. Inasmuch as not only is the understanding here purged of
its light, and the will of its affections, but the memory is also
purged of meditation and knowledge, it is well that it be likewise
annihilated with respect to all these things, so that that which
David says of himself in this purgation may by fulfilled, namely:
'I was annihilated and I knew not.'[140] This unknowing refers to
these follies and forgetfulnesses of the memory, which
distractions and forgetfulnesses are caused by the interior
recollection wherein this contemplation absorbs the soul. For, in
order that the soul may be divinely prepared and tempered with its
faculties for the Divine union of love, it would be well for it to
be first of all absorbed, with all its faculties, in this Divine
and dark spiritual light of contemplation, and thus to be
withdrawn from all the affections and apprehensions of the
creatures, which condition ordinarily continues in proportion to
its intensity. And thus, the simpler and the purer is this Divine
light in its assault upon the soul, the more does it darken it,
void it and annihilate it according to its particular
apprehensions and affections, with regard both to things above and
to things below; and similarly, the less simple and pure is it in
this assault, the less deprivation it causes it and the less dark
is it. Now this is a thing that seems incredible, to say that, the
brighter and purer is supernatural and Divine light, the more it
darkens the soul, and that, the less bright and pure is it, the
less dark it is to the soul. Yet this may readily be understood if
we consider what has been proved above by the dictum of the
philosopher--namely, that the brighter and the more manifest in
themselves are supernatural things the darker are they to our
     3. And, to the end that this may be understood the more
clearly, we shall here set down a similitude referring to common
and natural light. We observe that a ray of sunlight which enters
through the window is the less clearly visible according as it is
the purer and freer from specks, and the more of such specks and
motes there are in the air, the brighter is the light to the eye.
The reason is that it is not the light itself that is seen; the
light is but the means whereby the other things that it strikes
are seen, and then it is also seen itself, through its reflection
in them; were it not for this, neither it nor they would have been
seen. Thus if the ray of sunlight entered through the window of
one room and passed out through another on the other side,
traversing the room, and if it met nothing on the way, or if there
were no specks in the air for it to strike, the room would have no
more light than before, neither would the ray of light be visible.
In fact, if we consider it carefully, there is more darkness where
the ray is, since it absorbs and obscures any other light, and yet
it is itself invisible, because, as we have said, there are no
visible objects which it can strike.
     4. Now this is precisely what this Divine ray of
contemplation does in the soul. Assailing it with its Divine
light, it transcends the natural power of the soul, and herein it
darkens it and deprives it of all natural affections and
apprehensions which it apprehended aforetime by means of natural
light; and thus it leaves it not only dark, but likewise empty,
according to its faculties and desires, both spiritual and
natural. And, by thus leaving it empty and in darkness, it purges
and illumines it with Divine spiritual light, although the soul
thinks not that it has this light, but believes itself to be in
darkness, even as we have said of the ray of light, which although
it be in the midst of the room, yet, if it be pure and meet
nothing on its path, is not visible. With regard, however, to this
spiritual light by which the soul is assailed, when it has
something to strike--that is, when something spiritual presents
itself to be understood, however small a speck it be and whether
of perfection or imperfection, or whether it be a judgment of the
falsehood or the truth of a thing--it then sees and understands
much more clearly than before it was in these dark places. And
exactly in the same way it discerns the spiritual light which it
has in order that it may readily discern the imperfection which is
presented to it; even as, when the ray of which we have spoken,
within the room, is dark and not itself visible, if one introduce
a hand or any other thing into its path, the hand is then seen and
it is realized that that sunlight is present.
     5. Wherefore, since this spiritual light is so simple, pure
and general, not appropriated or restricted to any particular
thing that can be understood, whether natural or Divine (since
with respect to all these apprehensions the faculties of the soul
are empty and annihilated), it follows that with great
comprehensiveness and readiness the soul discerns and penetrates
whatsoever thing presents itself to it, whether it come from above
or from below; for which cause the Apostle said: That the
spiritual man searches all things, even the deep things of
God.[141] For by this general and simple wisdom is understood that
which the Holy Spirit says through the Wise Man, namely: That it
reaches wheresoever it wills by reason of its purity;[142] that is
to say, because it is not restricted to any particular object of
the intellect or affection. And this is the characteristic of the
spirit that is purged and annihilated with respect to all
particular affections and objects of the understanding, that in
this state wherein it has pleasure in nothing and understands
nothing in particular, but dwells in its emptiness, darkness and
obscurity, it is fully prepared to embrace everything to the end
that those words of Saint Paul may be fulfilled in it: Nihil
habentes, et omnia possidentes.[143] For such poverty of spirit as
this would deserve such happiness.

                          CHAPTER IX

     How, although this night brings darkness to the spirit, it
does so in order to illumine it and give it light.

     IT now remains to be said that, although this happy night
brings darkness to the spirit, it does so only to give it light in
everything; and that, although it humbles it and makes it
miserable, it does so only to exalt it and to raise it up; and,
although it impoverishes it and empties it of all natural
affection and attachment, it does so only that it may enable it to
stretch forward, divinely, and thus to have fruition and
experience of all things, both above and below, yet to preserve
its unrestricted liberty of spirit in them all. For just as the
elements, in order that they may have a part in all natural
entities and compounds, must have no particular colour, odour or
taste, so as to be able to combine with all tastes odours and
colours, just so must the spirit be simple, pure and detached from
all kinds of natural affection, whether actual or habitual, to the
end that it may be able freely to share in the breadth of spirit
of the Divine Wisdom, wherein, through its purity, it has
experience of all the sweetness of all things in a certain pre-
eminently excellent way.[144] And without this purgation it will
be wholly unable to feel or experience the satisfaction of all
this abundance of spiritual sweetness. For one single affection
remaining in the spirit, or one particular thing to which,
actually or habitually, it clings, suffices to hinder it from
feeling or experiencing or communicating the delicacy and intimate
sweetness of the spirit of love, which contains within itself all
sweetness to a most eminent degree.[145]
     2. For, even as the children of Israel, solely because they
retained one single affection and remembrance--namely, with
to the fleshpots and the meals which they had tasted in
Egypt[146]--could not relish the delicate bread of angels, in the
desert, which was the manna, which, as the Divine Scripture says,
held sweetness for every taste and turned to the taste that each
one desired;[147] even so the spirit cannot succeed in enjoying
the delights of the spirit of liberty, according to the desire of
the will, if it be still affectioned to any desire, whether actual
or habitual, or to particular objects of understanding, or to any
other apprehension. The reason for this is that the affections,
feelings and apprehensions of the perfect spirit, being Divine,
are of another kind and of a very different order from those that
are natural. They are pre-eminent, so that, in order both actually
and habitually to possess the one, it is needful to expel and
annihilate the other, as with two contrary things, which cannot
exist together in one person. Therefore it is most fitting and
necessary, if the soul is to pass to these great things, that this
dark night of contemplation should first of all annihilate and
undo it in its meannesses, bringing it into darkness, aridity,
affliction and emptiness; for the light which is to be given to it
is a Divine light of the highest kind, which transcends all
natural light, and which by nature can find no place in the
     3. And thus it is fitting that, if the understanding is to be
united with that light and become Divine in the state of
perfection, it should first of all be purged and annihilated as to
its natural light, and, by means of this dark contemplation, be
brought actually into darkness. This darkness should continue for
as long as is needful in order to expel and annihilate the habit
which the soul has long since formed in its manner of
understanding, and the Divine light and illumination will then
take its place. And thus, inasmuch as that power of understanding
which it had aforetime is natural, it follows that the darkness
which it here suffers is profound and horrible and most painful,
for this darkness, being felt in the deepest substance of the
spirit, seems to be substantial darkness. Similarly, since the
affection of love which is to be given to it in the Divine union
of love is Divine, and therefore very spiritual, subtle and
delicate, and very intimate, transcending every affection and
feeling of the will, and every desire thereof, it is fitting that,
in order that the will may be able to attain to this Divine
affection and most lofty delight, and to feel it and experience it
through the union of love, since it is not, in the way of nature,
perceptible to the will, it be first of all purged and annihilated
in all its affections and feelings, and left in a condition of
aridity and constraint, proportionate to the habit of natural
affections which it had before, with respect both to Divine things
and to human. Thus, being exhausted, withered and thoroughly tried
in the fire of this dark contemplation, and having driven away
every kind[148] of evil spirit (as with the heart of the fish
which Tobias set on the coals[149]), it may have a simple and pure
disposition, and its palate may be purged and healthy, so that it
may feel the rare and sublime touches of Divine love, wherein it
will see itself divinely transformed, and all the contrarieties,
whether actual or habitual, which it had aforetime, will be
expelled, as we are saying.
     4. Moreover, in order to attain the said union to which this
dark night is disposing and leading it, the soul must be filled
and endowed with a certain glorious magnificence in its communion
with God, which includes within itself innumerable blessings
springing from delights which exceed all the abundance that the
soul can naturally possess. For by nature the soul is so weak and
impure that it cannot receive all this. As Isaias says: 'Eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of
man, that which God hath prepared, etc.'[150] It is meet, then,
that the soul be first of all brought into emptiness and poverty
of spirit and purged from all help, consolation and natural
apprehension with respect to all things, both above and below. In
this way, being empty, it is able indeed to be poor in spirit and
freed from the old man, in order to live that new and blessed life
which is attained by means of this night, and which is the state
of union with God.
     5. And because the soul is to attain to the possession of a
sense, and of a Divine knowledge, which is very generous and full
of sweetness, with respect to things Divine and human, which fall
not within the common experience and natural knowledge of the soul
(because it looks on them with eyes as different from those of the
past as spirit is different from sense and the Divine from the
human), the spirit must be straitened[151] and inured to hardships
as regards its common and natural experience, and be brought by
means of this purgative contemplation into great anguish and
affliction, and the memory must be borne far from all agreeable
and peaceful knowledge, and have an intimated sense and feeling
that it is making a pilgrimage and being a stranger to all things,
so that it seems to it that all things are strange and of a
different kind from that which they were wont to be. For this
night is gradually drawing the spirit away from its ordinary and
common experience of things and bringing it nearer the Divine
sense, which is a stranger and an alien to all human ways. It
seems now to the soul that it is going forth from its very self,
with much affliction. At other times it wonders if it is under a
charm or a spell, and it goes about marvelling at the things that
it sees and hears, which seem to it very strange and rare, though
they are the same that it was accustomed to experience aforetime.
The reason of this is that the soul is now becoming alien and
remote from common sense and knowledge of things, in order that,
being annihilated in this respect, it may be informed with the
Divine--which belongs rather to the next life than to this.
     6. The soul suffers all these afflictive purgations of the
spirit to the end that it may be begotten anew in spiritual life
by means of this Divine inflowing, and in these pangs may bring
forth the spirit of salvation, that the saying of Isaias may be
fulfilled: 'In Thy sight, O Lord, we have conceived, and we have
been as in the pangs of labour, and we have brought forth the
spirit of salvation.'[152] Moreover, since by means of this
contemplative night the soul is prepared for the attainment of
inward peace and tranquillity, which is of such a kind and so
delectable that, as the Scripture says, it passes all
understanding,[153] it behoves the soul to abandon all its former
peace. This was in reality no peace at all, since it was involved
in imperfections; but to the soul aforementioned it appeared to be
so, because it was following its own inclinations, which were for
peace. It seemed, indeed, to be a twofold peace--that is, the soul
believed that it had already acquired the peace of sense and that
of spirit, for it found itself to be full of the spiritual
abundance of this peace of sense and of spirit--as I say, it is
still imperfect. First of all, then, it must be purged of that
former peace and disquieted concerning it and withdrawn from
it.[154] Even so was Jeremias when, in the passage which we quoted
from him, he felt and lamented[155] thus, in order to express the
calamities of this night that is past, saying: 'My soul is
withdrawn and removed from peace.'[156]
     7. This is a painful disturbance, involving many misgivings,
imaginings, and strivings which the soul has within itself,
wherein, with the apprehension and realization of the miseries it
which it sees itself, it fancies that it is lost and that its
blessings have gone for ever. Wherefore the spirit experiences
pain and sighing so deep that they cause it vehement spiritual
groans and cries, to which at times it gives vocal expression;
when it has the necessary strength and power it dissolves into
tears, although this relief comes but seldom. David describes this
very aptly, in a Psalm, as one who has had experience of it, where
he says: 'I was exceedingly afflicted and humbled; I roared with
the groaning of my heart.'[157] This roaring implies great pain;
for at times, with the sudden and acute remembrance of these
miseries wherein the soul sees itself, pain and affliction rise up
and surround it, and I know not how the affections of the soul
could be described[158] save in the similitude of holy Job, when
he was in the same trials, and uttered these words: 'Even as the
overflowing of the waters, even so is my roaring.'[159] For just
as at times the waters make such inundations that they overwhelm
and fill everything, so at times this roaring and this affliction
of the soul grow to such an extent that they overwhelm it and
penetrate it completely, filling it with spiritual pain and
anguish in all its deep affections and energies, to an extent
surpassing all possibility of exaggeration.
     8. Such is the work wrought in the soul by this night that
hides the hopes of the light of day. With regard to this the
prophet Job says likewise: 'In the night my mouth is pierced with
sorrows and they that feed upon me sleep not.'[160] Now here by
the mouth is understood the will, which is transpierced with these
pains that tear the soul to pieces, neither ceasing nor sleeping,
for the doubts and misgivings which transpierce the soul in this
way never cease.
     9. Deep is this warfare and this striving, for the peace
which the soul hopes for will be very deep; and the spiritual pain
is intimate and delicate, for the love which it will possess will
likewise be very intimate and refined. The more intimate and the
more perfect the finished work is to be and to remain, the more
intimate, perfect and pure must be the labour; the firmer the
edifice, the harder the labour. Wherefore, as Job says, the soul
is fading within itself, and its vitals are being consumed without
any hope.[161] Similarly, because in the state of perfection
toward which it journeys by means of this purgative night the soul
will attain to the possession and fruition of innumerable
blessings, of gifts and virtues, both according to the substance
of the soul and likewise according to its faculties, it must needs
see and feel itself withdrawn from them all and deprived of them
all and be empty and poor without them; and it must needs believe
itself to be so far from them that it cannot persuade itself that
it will ever reach them, but rather it must be convinced that all
its good things are over. The words of Jeremias have a similar
meaning in that passage already quoted, where he says: 'I have
forgotten good things.'[162]
     10. But let us now see the reason why this light of
contemplation, which is so sweet and blessed to the soul that
there is naught more desirable (for, as has been said above, it is
the same wherewith the soul must be united and wherein it must
find all the good things in the state of perfection that it
desires), produces, when it assails the soul, these beginnings
which are so painful and these effects which are so disagreeable,
as we have here said.
     1l. This question is easy for us to answer, by explaining, as
we have already done in part, that the cause of this is that, in
contemplation and the Divine inflowing, there is naught that of
itself can cause affliction, but that they rather cause great
sweetness and delight, as we shall say hereafter. The cause is
rather the weakness and imperfection from which the soul then
suffers, and the dispositions which it has in itself and which
make it unfit for the reception of them. Wherefore, when the said
Divine light assails the soul, it must needs cause it to suffer
after the manner aforesaid.

                          CHAPTER X

     Explains this purgation fully by a comparison.

     FOR the greater clearness of what has been said, and of what
has still to be said, it is well to observe at this point that
this purgative and loving knowledge or Divine light whereof we
here speak acts upon the soul which it is purging and preparing
for perfect union with it in the same way as fire acts upon a log
of wood in order to transform it into itself; for material fire,
acting upon wood, first of all begins to dry it, by driving out
its moisture and causing it to shed the water which it contains
within itself. Then it begins to make it black, dark and
unsightly, and even to give forth a bad odour, and, as it dries it
little by little, it brings out and drives away all the dark and
unsightly accidents which are contrary to the nature of fire. And,
finally, it begins to kindle it externally and give it heat, and
at last transforms it into itself and makes it as beautiful as
fire. In this respect, the wood has neither passivity nor activity
of its own, save for its weight, which is greater, and its
substance, which is denser, than that of fire, for it has in
itself the properties and activities of fire. Thus it is dry and
it dries; it is hot and heats; it is bright and gives brightness;
and it is much less heavy than before. All these properties and
effects are caused in it by the fire.
     2. In this same way we have to philosophize with respect to
this Divine fire of contemplative love, which, before it unites
and transforms the soul in itself, first purges it of all its
contrary accidents. It drives out its unsightliness, and makes it
black and dark, so that it seems worse than before and more
unsightly and abominable than it was wont to be. For this Divine
purgation is removing all the evil and vicious humours which the
soul has never perceived because they have been so deeply rooted
and grounded in it; it has never realized, in fact, that it has
had so much evil within itself. But now that they are to be driven
forth and annihilated, these humours reveal themselves, and become
visible to the soul because it is so brightly illumined by this
dark light of Divine contemplation (although it is no worse than
before, either in itself or in relation to God); and, as it sees
in itself that which it saw not before, it is clear to it that not
only is it unfit to be seen by God, but deserves His abhorrence,
and that He does indeed abhor it. By this comparison we can now
understand many things concerning what we are saying and purpose
to say.
     3. First, we can understand how the very light and the loving
wisdom which are to be united with the soul and to transform it
are the same that at the beginning purge and prepare it: even as
the very fire which transforms the log of wood into itself, and
makes it part of itself, is that which at the first was preparing
it for that same purpose.
     4. Secondly, we shall be able to see how these afflictions
are not felt by the soul as coming from the said Wisdom, since, as
the Wise Man says, all good things together come to the soul with
her.[163] They are felt as coming from the weakness and
imperfection which belong to the soul; without such purgation, the
soul cannot receive its Divine light, sweetness and delight, even
as the log of wood, when the fire acts upon it, cannot immediately
be transformed until it be made ready; wherefore the soul is
greatly afflicted. This statement is fully supported by the
Preacher, where he describes all that he suffered in order that he
might attain to union with wisdom and to the fruition of it,
saying thus: 'My soul hath wrestled with her and my bowels were
moved in acquiring her; therefore it shall possess a good
     5. Thirdly, we can learn here incidentally in what manner
souls are afflicted in purgatory. For the fire would have no power
over them, even though they came into contact with it, if they had
no imperfections for which to suffers. These are the material upon
which the fire of purgatory seizes; when that material is consumed
there is naught else that can burn. So here, when the
imperfections are consumed, the affliction of the soul ceases and
its fruition remains.
     6. The fourth thing that we shall learn here is the manner
wherein the soul, as it becomes purged and purified by means of
this fire of love, becomes ever more enkindled in love, just as
the wood grows hotter in proportion as it becomes the better
prepared by the fire. This enkindling of love, however, is not
always felt by the soul, but only at times when contemplation
assails it less vehemently, for then it has occasion to see, and
even to enjoy, the work which is being wrought in it, and which is
then revealed to it. For it seems that the worker takes his hand
from the work, and draws the iron out of the furnace, in order
that something of the work which is being done may be seen; and
then there is occasion for the soul to observe in itself the good
which it saw not while the work was going on. In the same way,
when the flame ceases to attack the wood, it is possible to see
how much of it has been enkindled.
     7. Fifthly, we shall also learn from this comparison what has
been said above--namely, how true it is that after each of these
periods of relief the soul suffers once again, more intensely and
keenly than before. For, after that revelation just referred to
has been made, and after the more outward imperfections of the
soul have been purified, the fire of love once again attacks that
which has yet to be consumed and purified more inwardly. The
suffering of the soul now becomes more intimate, subtle and
spiritual, in proportion as the fire refines away the finer,[165]
more intimate and more spiritual imperfections, and those which
are most deeply rooted in its inmost parts. And it is here just as
with the wood, upon which the fire, when it begins to penetrate it
more deeply, acts with more force and vehemence[166] in preparing
its most inward part to possess it.
     8. Sixthly, we shall likewise learn here the reason why it
seems to the soul that all its good is over, and that it is full
of evil, since naught comes to it at this time but bitterness; it
is like the burning wood, which is touched by no air nor by aught
else than by consuming fire. But, when there occur other periods
of relief like the first, the rejoicing of the soul will be more
interior because the purification has been more interior also.
     9. Seventhly, we shall learn that, although the soul has the
most ample joy at these periods (so much so that, as we said, it
sometimes thinks that its trials can never return again, although
it is certain that they will return quickly), it cannot fail to
realize, if it is aware (and at times it is made aware) of a root
of imperfection which remains, that its joy is incomplete, because
a new assault seems to be threatening it;[167] when this is so,
the trial returns quickly. Finally, that which still remains to be
purged and enlightened most inwardly cannot well be concealed from
the soul in view of its experience of its former
purification;[168] even as also in the wood it is the most inward
part that remains longest unkindled,[169] and the difference
between it and that which has already been purged is clearly
perceptible; and, when this purification once more assails it most
inwardly, it is no wonder if it seems to the soul once more that
all its good is gone, and that it never expects to experience it
again, for, now that it has been plunged into these most inward
sufferings, all good coming from without is over.[170]
     10. Keeping this comparison, then, before our eyes, together
with what has already been said upon the first line of the first
stanza concerning this dark night and its terrible properties, it
will be well to leave these sad experiences of the soul and to
begin to speak of the fruit of its tears and their blessed
properties, whereof the soul begins to sing from this second line:

        Kindled in love[171] with yearnings,

                          CHAPTER XI

     Begins to explain the second line of the first stanza.
Describes how, as the fruit of these rigorous constraints, the
soul finds itself with the vehement passion of Divine love.

     IN this line the soul describes the fire of love which, as we
have said, like the material fire acting upon the wood, begins to
take hold upon the soul in this night of painful contemplation.
This enkindling now described, although in a certain way it
resembles that which we described above as coming to pass in the
sensual part of the soul, is in some ways as different from that
other as is the soul from the body, or the spiritual part from the
sensual. For this present kind is an enkindling of spiritual love
in the soul, which, in the midst of these dark confines, feels
itself to be keenly and sharply wounded in strong Divine love, and
to have a certain realization and foretaste of God, although it
understands nothing definitely, for, as we say, the understanding
is in darkness.
     2. The spirit feels itself here to be deeply and passionately
in love, for this spiritual enkindling produces the passion of
love. And, inasmuch as this love is infused, it is passive rather
than active, and thus it begets in the soul a strong passion of
love. This love has in it something of union with God, and thus to
some degree partakes of its properties, which are actions of God
rather than of the soul, these being subdued within it passively.
What the soul does here is to give its consent; the warmth and
strength and temper and passion of love--or enkindling, as the
here calls it--belong[172] only to the love of God, which enters
increasingly into union with it. This love finds in the soul more
occasion and preparation to unite itself with it and to wound it,
according as all the soul's desires are the more recollected,[173]
and are the more withdrawn from and disabled for the enjoyment of
aught either in Heaven or in earth.
     3. This takes place to a great extent, as has already been
said, in this dark purgation, for God has so weaned all the
inclinations and caused them to be so recollected[174] that they
cannot find pleasure in anything they may wish. All this is done
by God to the end that, when He withdraws them and recollects them
in Himself, the soul may have more strength and fitness to receive
this strong union of love of God, which He is now beginning to
give it through this purgative way, wherein the soul must love
with great strength and with all its desires and powers both of
spirit and of sense; which could not be if they were dispersed in
the enjoyment of aught else. For this reason David said to God, to
the end that he might receive the strength of the love of this
union with God: 'I will keep my strength for Thee;'[175] that is,
I will keep the entire capacity and all the desires and energies
of my faculties, nor will I employ their operation or pleasure in
aught else than Thyself.
     4. In this way it can be realized in some measure how great
and how strong may be this enkindling of love in the spirit,
wherein God keeps in recollection all the energies, faculties and
desires of the soul, both of spirit and of sense, so that all this
harmony may employ its energies and virtues in this love, and may
thus attain to a true fulfilment of the first commandment, which
sets aside nothing pertaining to man nor excludes from this love
anything that is his, but says: 'Thou shalt love thy God with all
thy heart and with all thy mind, with all thy soul and with all
thy strength.'[176]
     5. When all the desires and energies of the soul, then, have
been recollected in this enkindling of love, and when the soul
itself has been touched and wounded in them all, and has been
inspired with passion, what shall we understand the movements and
digressions of all these energies and desires to be, if they find
themselves enkindled and wounded with strong love and without the
possession and satisfaction thereof, in darkness and doubt? They
will doubtless be suffering hunger, like the dogs of which David
speaks as running about the city[177]; finding no satisfaction in
this love, they keep howling and groaning. For the touch of this
love and Divine fire dries up the spirit and enkindles its
desires, in order to satisfy its thirst for this Divine love, so
much so that it turns upon itself a thousand times and desires God
in a thousand ways and manners, with the eagerness and desire of
the appetite. This is very well explained by David in a psalm,
where he says: 'My soul thirsted for Thee: in how many manners
does my soul long for Thee!'[178]--that is, in desires. And
version reads: 'My soul thirsted for Thee, my soul is lost (or
perishes) for Thee.'
     6. It is for this reason that the soul says in this line that
it was 'kindled in love with yearnings.'[179] For in all the
things and thoughts that it revolves within itself, and in all the
affairs and matters that present themselves to it, it loves in
many ways, and also desires and suffers in the desire in many
ways, at all times and in all places, finding rest in naught, and
feeling this yearning in its enkindled wound, even as the prophet
Job declares, saying: 'As the hart[180] desireth the shadow, and
as the hireling desireth the end of his work, so I also had vain
months and numbered to myself wearisome and laborious nights. If I
lie down to sleep, I shall say: "When shall I arise?" And then I
shall await the evening and shall be full of sorrows even until
the darkness of night.'[181] Everything becomes cramping to this
soul: it cannot live[182] within itself; it cannot live either in
Heaven or on earth; and it is filled with griefs until the
darkness comes to which Job here refers, speaking spiritually and
in the sense of our interpretation. What the soul here endures is
afflictions and suffering without the consolation of a certain
hope of any light and spiritual good. Wherefore the yearning and
the grief of this soul in this enkindling of love are greater
because it is multiplied in two ways: first, by the spiritual
darkness wherein it finds itself, which afflicts it with its
doubts and misgivings; and then by the love of God, which
enkindles and stimulates it, and, with its loving wound, causes it
a wondrous fear. These two kinds of suffering at such a season are
well described by Isaias, where he says: 'My soul desired Thee in
the night'[183]--that is, in misery.
     7. This is one kind of suffering which proceeds from this
dark night; but, he goes on to say, with my spirit, in my bowels,
until the morning, I will watch for Thee. And this is the second
way of grieving in desire and yearning which comes from love in
the bowels of the spirit, which are the spiritual affections. But
in the midst of these dark and loving afflictions the soul feels
within itself a certain companionship and strength, which bears it
company and so greatly strengthens it that, if this burden of
grievous darkness be taken away, it often feels itself to be
alone, empty and weak. The cause of this is that, as the strength
and efficacy of the soul were derived and communicated passively
from the dark fire of love which assailed it, it follows that,
when that fire ceases to assail it, the darkness and power and
heat of love cease in the soul.

                         CHAPTER XII

     Shows how this horrible night is purgatory, and how in it the
Divine wisdom illumines men on earth with the same illumination
that purges and illumines the angels in Heaven.

     FROM what has been said we shall be able to see how this dark
night of loving fire, as it purges in the darkness, so also in the
darkness enkindles the soul. We shall likewise be able to see
that, even as spirits are purged in the next life with dark
material fire, so in this life they are purged and cleansed with
the dark spiritual fire of love. The difference is that in the
next life they are cleansed with fire, while here below they are
cleansed and illumined with love only. It was this love that David
entreated, when he said: Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, etc.[184]
For cleanness of heart is nothing less than the love and grace of
God. For the clean of heart are called by our Saviour 'blessed';
which is as if He had called them 'enkindled with love',[185]
since blessedness is given by nothing less than love.
     2. And Jeremias well shows how the soul is purged when it is
illumined with this fire of loving wisdom (for God never grants
mystical wisdom without love, since love itself infuses it), where
he says: 'He hath sent fire into my bones, and hath taught
me.'[186] And David says that the wisdom of God is silver tried in
fire[187]--that is, in purgative fire of love. For this dark
contemplation infuses into the soul love and wisdom jointly, to
each one according to his capacity and need, enlightening the soul
and purging it, in the words of the Wise Man, from its ignorances,
as he said was done to himself.
     3. From this we shall also infer that the very wisdom of God
which purges these souls and illumines them purges the angels from
their ignorances, giving them knowledge, enlightening them as to
that which they knew not, and flowing down from God through the
first hierarchies even to the last, and thence to men.[188] All
the works, therefore, which are done by the angels, and all their
inspirations, are said in the Scriptures, with truth and
propriety, to be the work of God and of themselves; for ordinarily
these inspirations come through the angels, and they receive them
likewise one from another without any delay--as quickly as a ray
sunshine is communicated through many windows arranged in order.
For although it is true that the sun's ray itself passes through
them all, still each one passes it on and infuses it into the
next, in a modified form, according to the nature of the glass,
and with rather more or rather less power and brightness,
according as it is nearer to the sun or farther from it.
     4. Hence it follows that, the nearer to God are the higher
spirits and the lower, the more completely are they purged and
enlightened with more general purification; and that the lowest of
them will receive this illumination very much less powerfully and
more remotely. Hence it follows that man, who is the lowest of all
those to whom this loving contemplation flows down continually
from God, will, when God desires to give it him, receive it
perforce after his own manner in a very limited way and with great
pain. For, when the light of God illumines an angel, it enlightens
him and enkindles[189] him in love, since, being pure spirit, he
is prepared for that infusion. But, when it illumines man, who is
impure and weak, it illumines him, as has been said above,
according to his nature. It plunges him into darkness and causes
him affliction and distress, as does the sun to the eye that is
weak;[190] it enkindles him with passionate yet afflictive love,
until he be spiritualized and refined by this same fire of love;
and it purifies him until he can receive with sweetness the union
of this loving infusion after the manner of the angels, being now
purged, as by the help of the Lord we shall explain later. But
meanwhile he receives this contemplation and loving knowledge in
the constraint and yearning of love of which we are here speaking.
     5. This enkindling and yearning of love are not always
perceived by the soul. For in the beginning, when this spiritual
purgation commences, all this Divine fire is used in drying up and
making ready the wood (which is the soul) rather than in giving it
heat. But, as time goes on, the fire begins to give heat to the
soul, and the soul then very commonly feels this enkindling and
heat of love. Further, as the understanding is being more and more
purged by means of this darkness, it sometimes comes to pass that
this mystical and loving theology, as well as enkindling the will,
strikes and illumines the other faculty also--that of the
understanding--with a certain Divine light and knowledge, so
delectably and delicately that it aids the will to conceive a
marvellous fervour, and, without any action of its own, there
burns in it this Divine fire of love, in living flames, so that it
now appears to the soul a living fire by reason of the living
understanding which is given to it. It is of this that David
speaks in a Psalm, saying: 'My heart grew hot within me, and, as I
meditated, a certain fire was enkindled.'[191]
     6. This enkindling of love, which accompanies the union of
these two faculties, the understanding and the will, which are
here united, is for the soul a thing of great richness and
delight; for it is a certain touch of the Divinity and is already
the beginning[192] of the perfection of the union of love for
which it hopes. Now the soul attains not to this touch of so
sublime a sense and love of God, save when it has passed through
many trials and a great part of its purgation. But for other
touches which are much lower than these, and which are of ordinary
occurrence, so much purgation is not needful.
     7. From what we have said it may here be inferred how in
these spiritual blessings, which are passively infused by God into
the soul, the will may very well love even though the
understanding understand not; and similarly the understanding may
understand and the will love not. For, since this dark night of
contemplation consists of Divine light and love, just as fire
contains light and heat, it is not unbefitting that, when this
loving light is communicated, it should strike the will at times
more effectively by enkindling it with love and leaving the
understanding in darkness instead of striking it with light; and,
at other times, by enlightening it with light, and giving it
understanding, but leaving the will in aridity (as it is also true
that the heat of the fire can be received without the light being
seen, and also the light of it can be seen without the reception
of heat); and this is wrought by the Lord, Who infuses as He

                         CHAPTER XIII

     Of other delectable effects which are wrought in the soul by
this dark night of contemplation.

     THIS type of enkindling will explain to us certain of the
delectable effects which this dark night of contemplation works in
the soul. For at certain times, as we have just said, the soul
becomes enlightened in the midst of all this darkness, and the
light shines in the darkness;[194] this mystical intelligence
flows down into the understanding and the will remains in dryness-
I mean, without actual union of love, with a serenity and
simplicity which are so delicate and delectable to the sense of
the soul that no name can be given to them. Thus the presence of
God is felt, now after one manner, now after another.
     2. Sometimes, too, as has been said, it wounds the will at
the same time, and enkindles love sublimely, tenderly and
strongly; for we have already said that at certain times these two
faculties, the understanding and the will, are united, when, the
more they see, the more perfect and delicate is the purgation of
the understanding. But, before this state is reached, it is more
usual for the touch of the enkindling of love to be felt in the
will than for the touch of intelligence to be felt in the
     3. But one question arises here, which is this: Why, since
these two faculties are being purged together, are the enkindling
and the love of purgative contemplation at first more commonly
felt in the will than the intelligence thereof is felt in the
understanding? To this it may be answered that this passive love
does not now directly strike the will, for the will is free, and
this enkindling of love is a passion of love rather than the free
act of the will; for this heat of love strikes the substance of
the soul and thus moves the affections passively. And so this is
called passion of love rather than a free act of the will, an act
of the will being so called only in so far as it is free. But
these passions and affections subdue the will, and therefore it is
said that, if the soul conceives passion with a certain affection,
the will conceives passion; and this is indeed so, for in this
manner the will is taken captive and loses its liberty, according
as the impetus and power of its passion carry it away. And
therefore we can say that this enkindling of love is in the will--
that is, it enkindles the desire of the will; and thus, as we say,
this is called passion of love rather than the free work of the
will. And, because the receptive passion of the understanding can
receive intelligence only in a detached and passive way (and this
is impossible without its having been purged), therefore until
this happens the soul feels the touch of intelligence less
frequently than that of the passion of love. For it is not
necessary to this end that the will should be so completely purged
with respect to the passions, since these very passions help it to
feel impassioned love.
     4. This enkindling and thirst of love, which in this case
belongs to the spirit, is very different from that other which we
described in writing of the night of sense. For, though the sense
has also its part here, since it fails not to participate in the
labour of the spirit, yet the source and the keenness of the
thirst of love is felt in the superior part of the soul--that is,
in the spirit. It feels, and understands what it feels and its
lack of what it desires, in such a way that all its affliction of
sense, although greater without comparison than in the first night
of sense, is as naught to it, because it recognizes within itself
the lack of a great good which can in no way be measured.
     5. But here we must note that although, at the beginning,
when this spiritual night commences, this enkindling of love is
not felt, because this fire of love has not begun to take a hold,
God gives the soul, in place of it, an estimative love of Himself
so great that, as we have said, the greatest sufferings and trials
of which it is conscious in this night are the anguished thoughts
that it[195] has lost God and the fears that He has abandoned it.
And thus we may always say that from the very beginning of this
night the soul is touched with yearnings of love, which is now
that of estimation,[196] and now again, that of enkindling. And it
is evident that the greatest suffering which it feels in these
trials is this misgiving; for, if it could be certified at that
time that all is not lost and over, but that what is happening to
it is for the best--as it is--and that God is not wroth, it would
care naught for all these afflictions, but would rejoice to know
that God is making use of them for His good pleasure. For the love
of estimation which it has for God is so great, even though it may
not realize this and may be in darkness, that it would be glad,
not only to suffer in this way, but even to die many times over in
order to give Him satisfaction. But when once the flame has
enkindled the soul, it is wont to conceive, together with the
estimation that it already has for God, such power and energy, and
such yearning for Him, when He communicates to it the heat of
love, that, with great boldness, it disregards everything and
ceases to pay respect to anything, such are the power and the
inebriation of love and desire. It regards not what it does, for
it would do strange and unusual things in whatever way and manner
may present themselves, if thereby its soul might find Him Whom it
     6. It was for this reason that Mary Magdalene, though as
greatly concerned for her own appearance as she was aforetime,
took no heed of the multitude of men who were at the feast,
whether they were of little or of great importance; neither did
she consider that it was not seemly, and that it looked ill, to go
and weep and shed tears among the guests provided that, without
delaying an hour or waiting for another time and season, she could
reach Him for love of Whom her soul was already wounded and
enkindled. And such is the inebriating power and the boldness of
love, that, though she knew her Beloved to be enclosed in the
sepulchre by the great sealed stone, and surrounded by soldiers
who were guarding Him lest His disciples should steal Him
away,[197] she allowed none of these things to impede her, but
went before daybreak with the ointments to anoint Him.
     7. And finally, this inebriating power and yearning of love
caused her to ask one whom she believed to be a gardener and to
have stolen Him away from the sepulchre, to tell her, if he had
taken Him, where he had laid Him, that she might take Him
away;[198] considering not that such a question, according to
independent judgment and reason, was foolish; for it was evident
that, if the other had stolen Him, he would not say so, still less
would he allow Him to be taken away. It is a characteristic of the
power and vehemence of love that all things seem possible to it,
and it believes all men to be of the same mind as itself. For it
thinks that there is naught wherein one may be employed, or which
one may seek, save that which it seeks itself and that which it
loves; and it believes that there is naught else to be desired,
and naught wherein it may be employed, save that one thing, which
is pursued by all. For this reason, when the Bride went out to
seek her Beloved, through streets and squares,[199] thinking that
all others were doing the same, she begged them that, if they
found Him, they would speak to Him and say that she was pining for
love of Him.[200] Such was the power of the love of this Mary that
she thought that, if the gardener would tell her where he had
hidden Him, she would go and take Him away, however difficult it
might be made for her.
     8. Of this manner, then, are the yearnings of love whereof
this soul becomes conscious when it has made some progress in this
spiritual purgation. For it rises up by night (that is, in this
purgative darkness) according to the affections of the will. And
with the yearnings and vehemence of the lioness or the she-bear
going to seek her cubs when they have been taken away from her and
she finds them not, does this wounded soul go forth to seek its
God. For, being in darkness, it feels itself to be without Him and
to be dying of love for Him. And this is that impatient love
wherein the soul cannot long subsist without gaining its desire or
dying. Such was Rachel's desire for children when she said to
Jacob: 'Give me children, else shall I die.'[201]
     9. But we have now to see how it is that the soul which feels
itself so miserable and so unworthy of God, here in this purgative
darkness, has nevertheless strength, and is sufficiently bold and
daring, to journey towards union with God. The reason is that, as
love continually gives it strength wherewith it may love indeed,
and as the property of love is to desire to be united, joined and
made equal and like to the object of its love, that it may perfect
itself in love's good things, hence it comes to pass that, when
this soul is not perfected in love, through not having as yet
attained to union, the hunger and thirst that it has for that
which it lacks (which is union) and the strength set by love in
the will which has caused it to become impassioned, make it bold
and daring by reason of the enkindling of its will, although in
its understanding, which is still dark and unenlightened, it feels
itself to be unworthy and knows itself to be miserable.
     10. I will not here omit to mention the reason why this
Divine light, which is always light to the soul, illumines it not
as soon as it strikes it, as it does afterwards, but causes it the
darkness and the trials of which we have spoken. Something has
already been said concerning this, but the question must now be
answered directly. The darkness and the other evils of which the
soul is conscious when this Divine light strikes it are not
darkness or evils caused by this light, but pertain to the soul
itself, and the light illumines it so that it may see them.
Wherefore it does indeed receive light from this Divine light; but
the soul cannot see at first, by its aid, anything beyond what is
nearest to it, or rather, beyond what is within it--namely, its
darknesses or its miseries, which it now sees through the mercy of
God, and saw not aforetime, because this supernatural light
illumined it not. And this is the reason why at first it is
conscious of nothing beyond darkness and evil; after it has been
purged, however, by means of the knowledge and realization of
these, it will have eyes to see, by the guidance of this light,
the blessings of the Divine light; and, once all these darknesses
and imperfections have been driven out from the soul, it seems
that the benefits and the great blessings which the soul is
gaining in this blessed night of contemplation become clearer.
     11. From what has been said, it is clear that God grants the
soul in this state the favour of purging it and healing it with
this strong lye of bitter purgation, according to its spiritual
and its sensual part, of all the imperfect habits and affections
which it had within itself with respect to temporal things and to
natural, sensual and spiritual things, its inward faculties being
darkened, and voided of all these, its spiritual and sensual
affections being constrained and dried up, and its natural
energies being attenuated and weakened with respect to all this (a
condition which it could never attain of itself, as we shall
shortly say). In this way God makes it to die to all that is not
naturally God, so that, once it is stripped and denuded of its
former skin, He may begin to clothe it anew. And thus its youth is
renewed like the eagle's and it is clothed with the new man,
which, as the Apostle says, is created according to God.[202] This
is naught else but His illumination of the understanding with
supernatural light, so that it is no more a human understanding
but becomes Divine through union with the Divine. In the same way
the will is informed with Divine love, so that it is a will that
is now no less than Divine, nor does it love otherwise than
divinely, for it is made and united in one with the Divine will
and love. So, too, is it with the memory; and likewise the
affections and desires are all changed and converted divinely,
according to God. And thus this soul will now be a soul of heaven,
heavenly, and more Divine than human. All this, as we have been
saying, and because of what we have said, God continues to do and
to work in the soul by means of this night, illumining and
enkindling it divinely with yearnings for God alone and for naught
else whatsoever. For which cause the soul then very justly and
reasonably adds the third line to the song, which says:

             . . . oh, happy chance!--
        I went forth without being observed.

                         CHAPTER XIV

     Wherein are set down and explained the last three lines of
the first stanza.

     THIS happy chance was the reason for which the soul speaks,
in the next lines, as follows:

        I went forth without being observed,
           My house being now at rest.

     It takes the metaphor from one who, in order the better to
accomplish something, leaves his house by night and in the dark,
when those that are in the house are now at rest, so that none may
hinder him. For this soul had to go forth to perform a deed so
heroic and so rare--namely to become united with its Divine
Beloved--and it had to leave its house, because the Beloved is not
found save alone and without, in solitude. It was for this reason
that the Bride desired to find Him alone, saying: 'Who would give
Thee to me, my brother, that I might find Thee alone, without, and
that my love might be communicated to Thee.'[203] It is needful
for the enamoured soul, in order to attain to its desired end, to
do likewise, going forth at night, when all the domestics in its
house are sleeping and at rest--that is, when the low operations,
passions and desires of the soul (who are the people of the
household) are, because it is night, sleeping and at rest. When
these are awake, they invariably hinder the soul from seeking its
good, since they are opposed to its going forth in freedom. These
are they of whom Our Saviour speaks in the Gospel, saying that
they are the enemies of man.[204] And thus it would be meet that
their operations and motions should be put to sleep in this night,
to the end that they may not hinder the soul from attaining the
supernatural blessings of the union of love of God, for, while
these are alive and active, this cannot be. For all their work and
their natural motions hinder, rather than aid, the soul's
reception of the spiritual blessings of the union of love,
inasmuch as all natural ability is impotent with respect to the
supernatural blessings that God, by means of His own infusion,
bestows upon the soul passively, secretly and in silence. And thus
it is needful that all the faculties should receive this infusion,
and that, in order to receive it, they should remain passive, and
not interpose their own base acts and vile inclinations.
     2. It was a happy chance for this soul that on this night God
should put to sleep all the domestics in its house--that is, all
the faculties, passions, affections and desires which live in the
soul, both sensually and spiritually. For thus it went forth
'without being observed'--that is, without being hindered by these
affections, etc., for they were put to sleep and mortified in this
night, in the darkness of which they were left, that they might
not notice or feel anything after their own low and natural
manner, and might thus be unable to hinder the soul from going
forth from itself and from the house of its sensuality. And thus
only could the soul attain to the spiritual union of perfect love
of God.
     3. Oh, how happy a chance is this for the soul which can free
itself from the house of its sensuality! None can understand it,
unless, as it seems to me, it be the soul that has experienced it.
For such a soul will see clearly how wretched was the servitude in
which it lay and to how many miseries it was subject when it was
at the mercy of its faculties and desires, and will know how the
life of the spirit is true liberty and wealth, bringing with it
inestimable blessings. Some of these we shall point out, as we
proceed, in the following stanzas, wherein it will be seen more
clearly what good reason the soul has to sing of the happy chance
of its passage from this dreadful night which has been described

                          CHAPTER XV

     Sets down the second stanza and its exposition.

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

     IN this stanza the soul still continues to sing of certain
properties of the darkness of this night, reiterating how great is
the happiness which came to it through them. It speaks of them in
replying to a certain tacit objection, saying that it is not to be
supposed that, because in this night and darkness it has passed
through so many tempests of afflictions, doubts, fears and
horrors, as has been said, it has for that reason run any risk of
being lost. On the contrary, it says, in the darkness of this
night it has gained itself. For in the night it has freed itself
and escaped subtly from its enemies, who were continually
hindering its progress. For in the darkness of the night it
changed its garments and disguised itself with three liveries and
colours which we shall describe hereafter; and went forth by a
very secret ladder, which none in the house knew, the which
ladder, as we shall observe likewise in the proper place, is
living faith. By this ladder the soul went forth in such complete
hiding and concealment, in order the better to execute its
purpose, that it could not fail to be in great security; above all
since in this purgative night the desires, affections and passions
of the soul are put to sleep, mortified and quenched, which are
they that, when they were awake and alive, consented not to this.
     The first line, then, runs thus:[205]

        In darkness and secure.

                         CHAPTER XVI

     Explains how, though in darkness, the soul walks securely.

     THE darkness which the soul here describes relates, as we
have said, to the desires and faculties, sensual, interior and
spiritual, for all these are darkened in this night as to their
natural light, so that, being purged in this respect, they may be
illumined with respect to the supernatural. For the spiritual and
the sensual desires are put to sleep and mortified, so that they
can experience[206] nothing, either Divine or human; the
affections of the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they
can neither move nor find support in anything; the imagination is
bound and can make no useful reflection; the memory is gone; the
understanding is in darkness, unable to understand anything; and
hence the will likewise is arid and constrained and all the
faculties are void and useless; and in addition to all this a
thick and heavy cloud is upon the soul, keeping it in affliction,
and, as it were, far away from God.[207] It is in this kind of
'darkness' that the soul says here it travelled 'securely.'
     2. The reason for this has been clearly expounded; for
ordinarily the soul never strays save through its desires or its
tastes or its reflections or its understanding or its affections;
for as a rule it has too much or too little of these, or they vary
or go astray, and hence the soul becomes inclined to that which
behoves it not. Wherefore, when all these operations and motions
are hindered, it is clear that the soul is secure against being
led astray by them; for it is free, not only from itself, but
likewise from its other enemies, which are the world and the
devil. For when the affections and operations of the soul are
quenched, these enemies cannot make war upon it by any other means
or in any other manner.
     3. It follows from this that, the greater is the darkness
wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of
its natural operations, the greater is its security. For, as the
Prophet says,[208] perdition comes to the soul from itself alone--
that is, from its sensual and interior desires and operations; and
good, says God, comes from Me alone. Wherefore, when it is thus
hindered from following the things that lead it into evil, there
will then come to it forthwith the blessings of union with God in
its desires and faculties, which in that union He will make Divine
and celestial. Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul
considers the matter, it will see very clearly how little its
desire and its faculties are being diverted to things that are
useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vainglory and pride
and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things.
It follows clearly, then, that, by walking in darkness, not only
is the soul not lost, but it has even greatly gained, since it is
here gaining the virtues.
     4. But there is a question which at once arises here--namely,
since the things of God are of themselves profitable to the soul
and bring it gain and security, why does God, in this night,
darken the desires and faculties with respect to these good things
likewise, in such a way that the soul can no more taste of them or
busy itself with them than with these other things, and indeed in
some ways can do so less? The answer is that it is well for the
soul to perform no operation touching spiritual things at that
time and to have no pleasure in such things, because its faculties
and desires are base, impure and wholly natural; and thus,
although these faculties be given the desire and interest in
things supernatural and Divine, they could not receive them save
after a base and a natural manner, exactly in their own fashion.
For, as the philosopher says, whatsoever is received comes to him
that receives it after the manner of the recipient. Wherefore,
since these natural faculties have neither purity nor strength nor
capacity to receive and taste things that are supernatural after
the manner of those things, which manner is Divine, but can do so
only after their own manner, which is human and base, as we have
said, it is meet that its faculties be in darkness concerning
these Divine things likewise. Thus, being weaned and purged and
annihilated in this respect first of all, they may lose that base
and human way of receiving and acting, and thus all these
faculties and desires of the soul may come to be prepared and
tempered in such a way as to be able to receive, feel and taste
that which is Divine and supernatural after a sublime and lofty
manner, which is impossible if the old man die not first of all.
     5. Hence it follows that all spiritual things, if they come
not from above and be not communicated by the Father of lights to
human desire and free will (howsoever much a man may exercise his
taste and faculties for God, and howsoever much it may seem to the
faculties that they are experiencing these things), will not be
experienced after a Divine and spiritual manner, but after a human
and natural manner, just as other things are experienced, for
spiritual blessings go not from man to God, but come from God to
man. With respect to this (if this were the proper place for it)
we might here explain how there are many persons whose many tastes
and affections and the operations of whose faculties are fixed
upon God or upon spiritual things, and who may perhaps think that
this is supernatural and spiritual, when it is perhaps no more
than the most human and natural desires and actions. They regard
these good things with the same disposition as they have for other
things, by means of a certain natural facility which they possess
for directing their desires and faculties to anything whatever.
     6. If perchance we find occasion elsewhere in this book, we
shall treat of this, describing certain signs which indicate when
the interior actions and motions of the soul, with respect to
communion with God, are only natural, when they are spiritual, and
when they are both natural and spiritual. It suffices for us here
to know that, in order that the interior motions and acts of the
soul may come to be moved by God divinely, they must first be
darkened and put to sleep and hushed to rest naturally as touching
all their capacity and operation, until they have no more
     7. Therefore, O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire
obscured, thy affections arid and constrained, and thy faculties
bereft of their capacity for any interior exercise, be not
afflicted by this, but rather consider it a great happiness, since
God is freeing thee from thyself and taking the matter from thy
hands. For with those hands, howsoever well they may serve thee,
thou wouldst never labour so effectively, so perfectly and so
securely (because of their clumsiness and uncleanness) as now,
when God takes thy hand and guides thee in the darkness, as though
thou wert blind, to an end and by a way which thou knowest not.
Nor couldst thou ever hope to travel with the aid of thine own
eyes and feet, howsoever good thou be as a walker.
     8. The reason, again, why the soul not only travels securely,
when it travels thus in the darkness, but also achieves even
greater gain and progress, is that usually, when the soul is
receiving fresh advantage and profit, this comes by a way that it
least understands--indeed, it quite commonly believes that it is
losing ground. For, as it has never experienced that new feeling
which drives it forth and dazzles it and makes it depart
recklessly from its former way of life, it thinks itself to be
losing ground rather than gaining and progressing, since it sees
that it is losing with respect to that which it knew and enjoyed,
and is going by a way which it knows not and wherein it finds no
enjoyment. It is like the traveller, who, in order to go to new
and unknown lands, takes new roads, unknown and untried, and
journeys unguided by his past experience, but doubtingly and
according to what others say. It is clear that such a man could
not reach new countries, or add to his past experience, if he went
not along new and unknown roads and abandoned those which were
known to him. Exactly so, one who is learning fresh details
concerning any office or art always proceeds in darkness, and
receives no guidance from his original knowledge, for if he left
not that behind he would get no farther nor make any progress; and
in the same way, when the soul is making most progress, it is
travelling in darkness, knowing naught. Wherefore, since God, as
we have said, is the Master and Guide of this blind soul, it may
well and truly rejoice, once it has learned to understand this,
and say: 'In darkness and secure.'
     9. There is another reason why the soul has walked securely
in this darkness, and this is because it has been suffering; for
the road of suffering is more secure and even more profitable than
that of fruition and action: first, because in suffering the
strength of God is added to that of man, while in action and
fruition the soul is practising its own weaknesses and
imperfections; and second, because in suffering the soul continues
to practise and acquire the virtues and become purer, wiser and
more cautious.
     10. But there is another and a more important reason why the
soul now walks in darkness and securely; this emanates from the
dark light or wisdom aforementioned. For in such a way does this
dark night of contemplation absorb and immerse the soul in itself,
and so near does it bring the soul to God, that it protects and
delivers it from all that is not God. For this soul is now, as it
were, undergoing a cure, in order that it may regain its health--

its health being God Himself. His Majesty restricts it to a diet
and abstinence from all things, and takes away its appetite for
them all. It is like a sick man, who, if he is respected by those
in his house, is carefully tended so that he may be cured; the air
is not allowed to touch him, nor may he even enjoy the light, nor
must he hear footsteps, nor yet the noise of those in the house;
and he is given food that is very delicate, and even that only in
great moderation--food that is nourishing rather than delectable.
     11. All these particularities (which are for the security and
safekeeping of the soul) are caused by this dark contemplation,
because it brings the soul nearer to God. For the nearer the soul
approaches Him, the blacker is the darkness which it feels and the
deeper is the obscurity which comes through its weakness; just as,
the nearer a man approaches the sun, the greater are the darkness
and the affliction caused him through the great splendour of the
sun and through the weakness and impurity of his eyes. In the same
way, so immense is the spiritual light of God, and so greatly does
it transcend our natural understanding, that the nearer we
approach it, the more it blinds and darkens us. And this is the
reason why, in Psalm xvii, David says that God made darkness His
hiding-place and covering, and His tabernacle around Him dark
water in the clouds of the air.[209] This dark water in the clouds
of the air is dark contemplation and Divine wisdom in souls, as we
are saying. They continue to feel it is a thing which is near Him,
as the tabernacle wherein He dwells, when God brings them ever
nearer to Himself. And thus, that which in God is supreme light
and refulgence is to man blackest darkness, as Saint Paul says,
according as David explains in the same Psalm, saying: 'Because of
the brightness which is in His presence, passed clouds and
cataracts'[210]--that is to say, over the natural understanding,
the light whereof, as Isaias says in Chapter V: Obtenebrata est in
caligine ejus.[211]
     12. Oh, miserable is the fortune of our life, which is lived
in such great peril and wherein it is so difficult to find the
truth. For that which is most clear and true is to us most dark
and doubtful; wherefore, though it is the thing that is most
needful for us, we flee from it. And that which gives the greatest
light and satisfaction to our eyes we embrace and pursue, though
it be the worst thing for us, and make us fall at every step. In
what peril and fear does man live, since the very natural light of
his eyes by which he has to guide himself is the first light that
dazzles him and leads him astray on his road to God! And if he is
to know with certainty by what road he travels, he must perforce
keep his eyes closed and walk in darkness, that he may be secure
from the enemies who inhabit his own house--that is, his senses
     13. Well hidden, then, and well protected is the soul in
these dark waters, when it is close to God. For, as these waters
serve as a tabernacle and dwelling-place for God Himself, they
will serve the soul in the same way and for a perfect protection
and security, though it remain in darkness, wherein, as we have
said, it is hidden and protected from itself, and from all evils
that come from creatures; for to such the words of David refer in
another Psalm, where he says: 'Thou shalt hide them in the hiding-
place of Thy face from the disturbance of men; Thou shalt protect
them in Thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues.'[212]
Herein we understand all kinds of protection; for to be hidden in
the face of God from the disturbance of men is to be fortified
with this dark contemplation against all the chances which may
come upon the soul from men. And to be protected in His tabernacle
from the contradiction of tongues is for the soul to be engulfed
in these dark waters, which are the tabernacle of David whereof we
have spoken. Wherefore, since the soul has all its desires and
affections weaned and its faculties set in darkness, it is free
from all imperfections which contradict the spirit, whether they
come from its own flesh or from other creatures. Wherefore this
soul may well say that it journeys 'in darkness and secure.'
     14. There is likewise another reason, which is no less
effectual than the last, by which we may understand how the soul
journeys securely in darkness; it is derived from the fortitude by
which the soul is at once inspired in these obscure and afflictive
dark waters of God. For after all, though the waters be dark, they
are none the less waters, and therefore they cannot but refresh
and fortify the soul in that which is most needful for it,
although in darkness and with affliction. For the soul immediately
perceives in itself a genuine determination and an effectual
desire to do naught which it understands to be an offence to God,
and to omit to do naught that seems to be for His service. For
that dark love cleaves to the soul, causing it a most watchful
care and an inward solicitude concerning that which it must do, or
must not do, for His sake, in order to please Him. It will
consider and ask itself a thousand times if it has given Him cause
to be offended; and all this it will do with much greater care and
solicitude than before, as has already been said with respect to
the yearnings of love. For here all the desires and energies and
faculties of the soul are recollected from all things else, and
its effort and strength are employed in pleasing its God alone.
After this manner the soul goes forth from itself and from all
created things to the sweet and delectable union of love of God,
'In darkness and secure.'

        By the secret ladder, disguised.

                       CHAPTER XVII

     Explains how this dark contemplation is secret.

     THREE things have to be expounded with reference to three
words contained in this present line. Two (namely, 'secret' and
'ladder') belong to the dark night of contemplation of which we
are treating; the third (namely, 'disguised') belongs to the soul
by reason of the manner wherein it conducts itself in this night.
As to the first, it must be known that in this line the soul
describes this dark contemplation, by which it goes forth to the
union of love, as a secret ladder, because of the two properties
which belong to it--namely, its being secret and its being a
ladder. We shall treat of each separately.
     2. First, it describes this dark contemplation as 'secret,'
since, as we have indicated above, it is mystical theology, which
theologians call secret wisdom, and which, as Saint Thomas says is
communicated and infused into the soul through love.[213] This
happens secretly and in darkness, so as to be hidden from the work
of the understanding and of other faculties. Wherefore, inasmuch
as the faculties aforementioned attain not to it, but the Holy
Spirit infuses and orders it in the soul, as says the Bride in the
Songs, without either its knowledge or its understanding, it is
called secret. And, in truth, not only does the soul not
understand it, but there is none that does so, not even the devil;
inasmuch as the Master Who teaches the soul is within it in its
substance, to which the devil may not attain, neither may natural
sense nor understanding.
     3. And it is not for this reason alone that it may be called
secret, but likewise because of the effects which it produces in
the soul. For it is secret not only in the darknesses and
afflictions of purgation, when this wisdom of love purges the
soul, and the soul is unable to speak of it, but equally so
afterwards in illumination, when this wisdom is communicated to it
most clearly. Even then it is still so secret that the soul cannot
speak of it and give it a name whereby it may be called; for,
apart from the fact that the soul has no desire to speak of it, it
can find no suitable way or manner or similitude by which it may
be able to describe such lofty understanding and such delicate
spiritual feeling. And thus, even though the soul might have a
great desire to express it and might find many ways in which to
describe it, it would still be secret and remain undescribed. For,
as that inward wisdom is so simple, so general and so spiritual
that it has not entered into the understanding enwrapped or
cloaked in any form or image subject to sense, it follows that
sense and imagination (as it has not entered through them nor has
taken their form and colour) cannot account for it or imagine it,
so as to say anything concerning it, although the soul be clearly
aware that it is experiencing and partaking of that rare and
delectable wisdom. It is like one who sees something never seen
before, whereof he has not even seen the like; although he might
understand its nature and have experience of it, he would be
unable to give it a name, or say what it is, however much he tried
to do so, and this in spite of its being a thing which he had
perceived with the senses. How much less, then, could he describe
a thing that has not entered through the senses! For the language
of God has this characteristic that, since it is very intimate and
spiritual in its relations with the soul, it transcends every
sense and at once makes all harmony and capacity of the outward
and inward senses to cease and be dumb.
     4. For this we have both authorities and examples in the
Divine Scripture. For the incapacity of man to speak of it and
describe it in words was shown by Jeremias,[214] when, after God
had spoken with him, he knew not what to say, save 'Ah, ah, ah!'
This interior incapacity--that is, of the interior sense of the
imagination--and also that of the exterior sense corresponding to
it was also demonstrated in the case of Moses, when he stood
before God in the bush;[215] not only did he say to God that after
speaking with Him he knew not neither was able to speak, but also
that not even (as is said in the Acts of the Apostles)[216] with
the interior imagination did he dare to meditate, for it seemed to
him that his imagination was very far away and was too dumb, not
only to express any part of that which he understood concerning
God, but even to have the capacity to receive aught therefrom.
Wherefore, inasmuch as the wisdom of this contemplation is the
language of God to the soul, addressed by pure spirit to pure
spirit, naught that is less than spirit, such as the senses, can
perceive it, and thus to them it is secret, and they know it not,
neither can they say it,[217] nor do they desire to do so, because
they see it not.
     5. We may deduce from this the reason why certain persons--
good and fearful souls--who walk along this road and would like to
give an account of their spiritual state to their director,[218]
are neither able to do so nor know how. For the reason we have
described, they have a great repugnance in speaking of it,
especially when their contemplation is of the purer sort, so that
the soul itself is hardly conscious of it. Such a person is only
able to say that he is satisfied, tranquil and contented and that
he is conscious of the presence of God, and that, as it seems to
him, all is going well with him; but he cannot describe the state
of his soul, nor can he say anything about it save in general
terms like these. It is a different matter when the experiences of
the soul are of a particular kind, such as visions, feelings,
etc., which, being ordinarily received under some species wherein
sense participates, can be described under that species, or by
some other similitude. But this capacity for being described is
not in the nature of pure contemplation, which is indescribable,
as we have said, for the which reason it is called secret.
     6. And not only for that reason is it called secret, and is
so, but likewise because this mystical knowledge has the property
of hiding the soul within itself. For, besides performing its
ordinary function, it sometimes absorbs the soul and engulfs it in
its secret abyss, in such a way that the soul clearly sees that it
has been carried far away from every creature and; has become most
remote therefrom;[219] so that it considers itself as having been
placed in a most profound and vast retreat, to which no human
creature can attain, such as an immense desert, which nowhere has
any boundary, a desert the more delectable, pleasant and lovely
for its secrecy, vastness and solitude, wherein, the more the soul
is raised up above all temporal creatures, the more deeply does it
find itself hidden. And so greatly does this abyss of wisdom raise
up and exalt the soul at this time, making it to penetrate the
veins of the science of love, that it not only shows it how base
are all properties of the creatures by comparison with this
supreme knowledge and Divine feeling, but likewise it learns how
base and defective, and, in some measure, how inapt, are all the
terms and words which are used in this life to treat of Divine
things, and how impossible it is, in any natural way or manner,
however learnedly and sublimely they may be spoken of, to be able
to know and perceive them as they are, save by the illumination of
this mystical theology. And thus, when by means of this
illumination the soul discerns this truth, namely, that it cannot
reach it, still less explain it, by common or human language, it
rightly calls it secret.
     7. This property of secrecy and superiority over natural
capacity, which belongs to this Divine contemplation, belongs to
it, not only because it is supernatural, but also inasmuch as it
is a road that guides and leads the soul to the perfections of
union with God; which, as they are things unknown after a human
manner, must be approached, after a human manner, by unknowing and
by Divine ignorance. For, speaking mystically, as we are speaking
here, Divine things and perfections are known and understood as
they are, not when they are being sought after and practised, but
when they have been found and practised. To this purpose speaks
the prophet Baruch concerning this Divine wisdom: 'There is none
that can know her ways nor that can imagine her paths.'[220]
Likewise the royal Prophet speaks in this manner concerning this
road of the soul, when he says to God: 'Thy lightnings lighted and
illumined the round earth; the earth was moved and trembled. Thy
way is in the sea and Thy paths are in many waters; and Thy
footsteps shall not be known.'[221]
     8. All this, speaking spiritually, is to be understood in the
sense wherein we are speaking. For the illumination of the round
earth[222] by the lightnings of God is the enlightenment which is
produced by this Divine contemplation in the faculties of the
soul; the moving and trembling of the earth is the painful
purgation which is caused therein; and to say that the way and the
road of God whereby the soul journeys to Him is in the sea, and
His footprints are in many waters and for this reason shall not be
known, is as much as to say that this road whereby the soul
journeys to God is as secret and as hidden from the sense of the
soul as the way of one that walks on the sea, whose paths and
footprints are not known, is hidden from the sense of the body.
The steps and footprints which God is imprinting upon the souls
that He desires to bring near to Himself, and to make great in
union with His Wisdom, have also this property, that they are not
known. Wherefore in the Book of Job mention is made of this
matter, in these words: 'Hast thou perchance known the paths of
the great clouds or the perfect knowledges?'[223] By this are
understood the ways and roads whereby God continually exalts souls
and perfects them in His Wisdom, which souls are here understood
by the clouds. It follows, then, that this contemplation which is
guiding the soul to God is secret wisdom.

                        CHAPTER XVIII

     Explains how this secret wisdom is likewise a ladder.

     IT now remains to consider the second point--namely, how this
secret wisdom is likewise a ladder. With respect to this it must
be known that we can call this secret contemplation a ladder for
many reasons. In the first place, because, just as men mount by
means of ladders and climb up to possessions and treasures and
things that are in strong places, even so also, by means of this
secret contemplation, without knowing how, the soul ascends and
climbs up to a knowledge and possession of[224] the good things
and treasures of Heaven. This is well expressed by the royal
prophet David, when he says: 'Blessed is he that hath Thy favour
and help, for such a man hath placed in his heart ascensions into
the vale of tears in the place which he hath appointed; for after
this manner the Lord of the law shall give blessing, and they
shall go from virtue to virtue as from step to step, and the God
of gods shall be seen in Sion.'[225] This God is the treasure of
the strong place of Sion, which is happiness.
     2. We may also call it a ladder because, even as the ladder
has those same steps in order that men may mount, it has them also
that they may descend; even so is it likewise with this secret
contemplation, for those same communications which it causes in
the soul raise it up to God, yet humble it with respect to itself.
For communications which are indeed of God have this property,
that they humble the soul and at the same time exalt it. For, upon
this road, to go down is to go up, and to go up, to go down, for
he that humbles himself is exalted and he that exalts himself is
humbled.[226] And besides the fact that the virtue of humility is
greatness, for the exercise of the soul therein, God is wont to
make it mount by this ladder so that it may descend, and to make
it descend so that it may mount, that the words of the Wise Man
may thus be fulfilled, namely: 'Before the soul is exalted, it is
humbled; and before it is humbled, it is exalted.'[227]
     3. Speaking now in a natural way, the soul that desires to
consider it will be able to see how on this road (we leave apart
the spiritual aspect, of which the soul is not conscious) it has
to suffer many ups and downs, and how the prosperity  which it
enjoys is followed immediately by certain storms and trials; so
much so, that it appears to have been given that period of calm in
order that it might be forewarned and strengthened against the
poverty which has followed; just as after misery and torment there
come abundance and calm. It seems to the soul as if, before
celebrating that festival, it has first been made to keep that
vigil. This is the ordinary course and proceeding of the state of
contemplation until the soul arrives at the state of quietness; it
never remains in the same state for long together, but is
ascending and descending continually.
     4. The reason for this is that, as the state of perfection,
which consists in the perfect love of God and contempt for self,
cannot exist unless it have these two parts, which are the
knowledge of God and of oneself, the soul has of necessity to be
practised first in the one and then in the other, now being given
to taste of the one--that is, exaltation--and now being made to
experience the other--that is, humiliation--until it has acquired
perfect habits; and then this ascending and descending will cease,
since the soul will have attained to God and become united with
Him, which comes to pass at the summit of this ladder, for the
ladder rests and leans upon Him. For this ladder of contemplation,
which, as we have said, comes down from God, is prefigured by that
ladder which Jacob saw as he slept, whereon angels were ascending
and descending, from God to man, and from man to God, Who Himself
was leaning upon the end of the ladder.[228] All this, says Divine
Scripture, took place by night, when Jacob slept, in order to
express how secret is this road and ascent to God, and how
different from that of man's knowledge. This is very evident,

since ordinarily that which is of the greatest profit in it--
namely, to be ever losing oneself and becoming as nothing[229]--is
considered the worst thing possible; and that which is of least
worth, which is for a soul to find consolation and sweetness
(wherein it ordinarily loses rather than gains), is considered
     5. But, speaking now somewhat more substantially and properly
of this ladder of secret contemplation, we shall observe that the
principal characteristic of contemplation, on account of which it
is here called a ladder, is that it is the science of love. This,
as we have said, is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which
enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love,
until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator. For
it is love alone that unites and joins the soul with God. To the
end that this may be seen more clearly, we shall here indicate the
steps of this Divine ladder one by one, pointing out briefly the
marks and effects of each, so that the soul may conjecture hereby
on which of them it is standing. We shall therefore distinguish
them by their effects, as do Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas,[230]
for to know them in themselves is not possible after a natural
manner, inasmuch as this ladder of love is, as we have said, so
secret that God alone is He that measures and weighs it.

                         CHAPTER XIX

     Begins to explain the ten steps[231] of the mystic ladder of
Divine love, according to Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas. The
first five are here treated.

     WE observe, then, that the steps of this ladder of love by
which the soul mounts, one by one, to God, are ten. The first step
of love causes the soul to languish, and this to its advantage.
The Bride is speaking from this step of love when she says: 'I
adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, that, if ye find my Beloved,
ye tell Him that I am sick with love.'[232] This sickness,
however, is not unto death, but for the glory of God, for in this
sickness the soul swoons as to sin and as to all things that are
not God, for the sake of God Himself, even as David testifies,
saying: 'My soul hath swooned away'[233]--that is, with respect to
all things, for Thy salvation. For just as a sick man first of all
loses his appetite and taste for all food, and his colour changes,
so likewise in this degree of love the soul loses its taste and
desire for all things and changes its colour and the other
accidentals of its past life, like one in love. The soul falls not
into this sickness if excess of heat be not communicated to it
from above, even as is expressed in that verse of David which
says: Pluviam voluntariam segregabis, Deus, haereditati tuae, et
infirmata est,[234] etc. This sickness and swooning to all things,
which is the beginning and the first step on the road to God, we
clearly described above, when we were speaking of the annihilation
wherein the soul finds itself when it begins to climb[235] this
ladder of contemplative purgation, when it can find no pleasure,
support, consolation or abiding-place in anything soever.
Wherefore from this step it begins at once to climb to the second.
     2. The second step causes the soul to seek God without
ceasing. Wherefore, when the Bride says that she sought Him by
night upon her bed (when she had swooned away according to the
first step of love) and found Him not, she said: 'I will arise and
will seek Him Whom my soul loveth.'[236] This, as we say, the soul
does without ceasing as David counsels it, saying: 'Seek ye ever
the face of God, and seek ye Him in all things, tarrying not until
ye find Him;'[237] like the Bride, who, having enquired for Him of
the watchmen, passed on at once and left them. Mary Magdalene did
not even notice the angels at the sepulchre.[238] On this step the
soul now walks so anxiously that it seeks the Beloved in all
things. In whatsoever it thinks, it thinks at once of the Beloved.
Of whatsoever it speaks, in whatsoever matters present themselves,
it is speaking and communing at once with the Beloved. When it
eats, when it sleeps, when it watches, when it does aught soever,
all its care is about the Beloved, as is said above with respect
to the yearnings of love. And now, as love begins to recover its
health and find new strength in the love of this second step, it
begins at once to mount to the third, by means of a certain
degree[239] of new purgation in the night, as we shall afterwards
describe, which produces in the soul the following effects.
     3. The third step of the ladder of love is that which causes
the soul to work and gives it fervour so that it fails not.
Concerning this the royal Prophet says: 'Blessed is the man that
feareth the Lord, for in His commandments he is eager to labour
greatly.'[240] Wherefore if fear, being the son of love, causes
within him this eagerness to labour,[241] what will be done by
love itself? On this step the soul considers great works
undertaken for the Beloved as small; many things as few; and the
long time for which it serves Him as short, by reason of the fire
of love wherein it is now burning. Even so to Jacob, though after
seven years he had been made to serve seven more, they seemed few
because of the greatness of his love.[242] Now if the love of a
mere creature could accomplish so much in Jacob, what will love of
the Creator be able to do when on this third step it takes
possession of the soul? Here, for the great love which the soul
bears to God, it suffers great pains and afflictions because of
the little that it does for God; and if it were lawful for it to
be destroyed a thousand times for Him it would be comforted.
Wherefore it considers itself useless in all that it does and
thinks itself to be living in vain. Another wondrous effect
produced here in the soul is that it considers itself as being,
most certainly, worse than all other souls: first, because love is
continually teaching it how much is due to God;[243] and second,
because, as the works which it here does for God are many and it
knows them all to be faulty and imperfect, they all bring it
confusion and affliction, for it realizes in how lowly a manner it
is working for God, Who is so high. On this third step, the soul
is very far from vainglory or presumption, and from condemning
others. These anxious effects, with many others like them, are
produced in the soul by this third step; wherefore it gains
courage and strength from them in order to mount to the fourth
step, which is that that follows.
     4. The fourth step of this ladder of love is that whereby
there is caused in the soul an habitual suffering because of the
Beloved, yet without weariness. For, as Saint Augustine says, love
makes all things that are great, grievous and burdensome to be
almost naught. From this step the Bride was speaking when,
desiring to attain to the last step, she said to the Spouse: 'Set
me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love--
that is, the act and work of love--is strong as death, and
emulation and importunity last as long as hell.'[244] The spirit
here has so much strength that it has subjected the flesh and
takes as little account of it as does the tree of one of its
leaves. In no way does the soul here seek its own consolation or
pleasure, either in God, or in aught else, nor does it desire or
seek to pray to God for favours, for it sees clearly that it has
already received enough of these, and all its anxiety is set upon
the manner wherein it will be able to do something that is
pleasing to God and to render Him some service such as He merits
and in return for what it has received from Him, although it be
greatly to its cost. The soul says in its heart and spirit: Ah, my
God and Lord! How many are there that go to seek in Thee their own
consolation and pleasure, and desire Thee to grant them favours
and gifts; but those who long to do Thee pleasure and to give Thee
something at their cost, setting their own interests last, are
very few. The failure, my God, is not in Thy unwillingness to
grant us new favours, but in our neglect to use those that we have
received in Thy service alone, in order to constrain Thee to grant
them to us continually. Exceeding lofty is this step of love; for,
as the soul goes ever after God with love so true, imbued with the
spirit of suffering for His sake, His Majesty oftentimes and quite
habitually grants it joy, and visits it sweetly and delectably in
the spirit; for the boundless love of Christ, the Word, cannot
suffer the afflictions of His lover without succouring him. This
He affirmed through Jeremias, saying: 'I have remembered thee,
pitying thy youth and tenderness, when thou wentest after Me in
the wilderness.'[245] Speaking spiritually, this denotes the
detachment which the soul now has interiorly from every creature,
so that it rests not and nowhere finds quietness. This fourth step
enkindles the soul and makes it to burn in such desire for God
that it causes it to mount to the fifth, which is that which
     5. The fifth step of this ladder of love makes the soul to
desire and long for God impatiently. On this step the vehemence of
the lover to comprehend the Beloved and be united with Him is such
that every delay, however brief, becomes very long, wearisome and
oppressive to it, and it continually believes itself to be finding
the Beloved. And when it sees its desire frustrated (which is at
almost every moment), it swoons away with its yearning, as says
the Psalmist, speaking from this step, in these words: 'My soul
longs and faints for the dwellings of the Lord.'[246] On this step
the lover must needs see that which he loves, or die; at this step
was Rachel, when, for the great longing that she had for children,
she said to Jacob, her spouse: 'Give me children, else shall I
die.'[247] Here men suffer hunger like dogs and go about and
surround the city of God. On this step, which is one of
hunger,[248] the soul is nourished upon love; for, even as is its
hunger, so is its abundance; so that it rises hence to the sixth
step, producing the effects which follow.

                          CHAPTER XX

     Wherein are treated the other five steps of love.

     ON the sixth step the soul runs swiftly to God and touches
Him again and again; and it runs without fainting by reason of its
hope. For here the love that has made it strong makes it to fly
swiftly. Of this step the prophet Isaias speaks thus: 'The saints
that hope in God shall renew their strength; they shall take wings
as the eagle; they shall fly and shall not faint,'[249] as they
did at the fifth step. To this step likewise alludes that verse of
the Psalm: 'As the hart desires the waters, my soul desires Thee,
O God.'[250] For the hart, in its thirst, runs to the waters with
great swiftness. The cause of this swiftness in love which the
soul has on this step is that its charity is greatly enlarged
within it, since the soul is here almost wholly purified, as is
said likewise in the Psalm, namely: Sine iniquitate cucurri.[251]
And in another Psalm: 'I ran the way of Thy commandments when Thou
didst enlarge my heart';[252] and thus from this sixth step the
soul at once mounts to the seventh, which is that which follows.
     2. The seventh step of this ladder makes the soul to become
vehement in its boldness. Here love employs not its judgment in
order to hope, nor does it take counsel so that it may draw back,
neither can any shame restrain it; for the favour which God here
grants to the soul causes it to become vehement in its boldness.
Hence follows that which the Apostle says, namely: That charity
believeth all things, hopeth all things and is capable of all
things.[253] Of this step spake Moses, when he entreated God to
pardon the people, and if not, to blot out his name from the book
of life wherein He had written it.[254] Men like these obtain from
God that which they beg of Him with desire. Wherefore David says:
'Delight thou in God and He will give thee the petitions of thy
heart.'[255] On this step the Bride grew bold, and said: Osculetur
me osculo oris sui.[256] To this step it is not lawful for the
soul to aspire boldly, unless it feel the interior favour of the
King's sceptre extended to it, lest perchance it fall from the
other steps which it has mounted up to this point, and wherein it
must ever possess itself in humility. From this daring and power
which God grants to the soul on this seventh step, so that it may
be bold with God in the vehemence of love, follows the eighth,
which is that wherein it takes the Beloved captive and is united
with Him, as follows.
     3. The eighth step of love causes the soul to seize Him and
hold Him fast without letting Him go, even as the Bride says,
after this manner: 'I found Him Whom my heart and soul love; I
held Him and I will not let Him go.'[257] On this step of union
the soul satisfies her desire, but not continuously. Certain souls
climb some way,[258] and then lose their hold; for, if this state
were to continue, it would be glory itself in this life; and thus
the soul remains therein for very short periods of time. To the
prophet Daniel, because he was a man of desires, was sent a
command from God to remain on this step, when it was said to him:
'Daniel, stay upon thy step, because thou art a man of
desires.'[259] After this step follows the ninth, which is that of
souls now perfect, as we shall afterwards say, which is that that
     4. The ninth step of love makes the soul to burn with
sweetness. This step is that of the perfect, who now burn sweetly
in God. For this sweet and delectable ardour is caused in them by
the Holy Spirit by reason of the union which they have with God.
For this cause Saint Gregory says, concerning the Apostles, that
when the Holy Spirit came upon them visibly they burned inwardly
and sweetly through love.[260] Of the good things and riches of
God which the soul enjoys on this step, we cannot speak; for if
many books were to be written concerning it the greater part would
still remain untold. For this cause, and because we shall say
something of it hereafter, I say no more here than that after this
follows the tenth and last step of this ladder of love, which
belongs not to this life.
     5. The tenth and last step of this secret ladder of love
causes the soul to become wholly assimilated to God, by reason of
the clear and immediate[261] vision of God which it then
possesses; when, having ascended in this life to the ninth step,
it goes forth from the flesh. These souls, who are few, enter not
into purgatory, since they have already been wholly purged by
love. Of these Saint Matthew says: Beati mundo corde: quoniam ipsi
Deum videbunt.[262] And, as we say, this vision is the cause of
the perfect likeness of the soul to God, for, as Saint John says,
we know that we shall be like Him.[263] Not because the soul will
come to have the capacity of God, for that is impossible; but
because all that it is will become like to God, for which cause it
will be called, and will be, God by participation.
     6. This is the secret ladder whereof the soul here speaks,
although upon these higher steps it is no longer very secret to
the soul, since much is revealed to it by love, through the great
effects which love produces in it. But, on this last step of clear
vision, which is the last step of the ladder whereon God leans, as
we have said already, there is naught that is hidden from the
soul, by reason of its complete assimilation. Wherefore Our
Saviour says: 'In that day ye shall ask Me nothing,' etc.[264]
But, until that day, however high a point the soul may reach,
there remains something hidden from it--namely, all that it lacks
for total assimilation in the Divine Essence. After this manner,
by this mystical theology and secret love, the soul continues to
rise above all things and above itself, and to mount upward to
God. For love is like fire, which ever rises upward with the
desire to be absorbed in the centre of its sphere.

                         CHAPTER XXI

     Which explains the word 'disguised,' and describes the
colours of the disguise of the soul in this night.

     Now that we have explained the reasons why the soul called
this contemplation a 'secret ladder,' it remains for us to explain
likewise the word 'disguised,' and the reason why the soul says
also that it went forth by this 'secret ladder' in 'disguise.'
     2. For the understanding of this it must be known that to
disguise oneself is naught else but to hide and cover oneself
beneath another garb and figure than one's own--sometimes in order
to show forth, under that garb or figure, the will and purpose
which is in the heart to gain the grace and will of one who is
greatly loved; sometimes, again, to hide oneself from one's rivals
and thus to accomplish one's object better. At such times a man
assumes the garments and livery which best represent and indicate
the affection of his heart and which best conceal him from his
     3. The soul, then, touched with the love of Christ the
Spouse, and longing to attain to His grace and gain His goodwill,
goes forth here disguised with that disguise which most vividly
represents the affections of its spirit and which will protect it
most securely on its journey from its adversaries and enemies,
which are the devil, the world and the flesh. Thus the livery
which it wears is of three chief colours--white, green and purple-
denoting the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity.
By these the soul will not only gain the grace and goodwill of its
Beloved, but it will travel in security and complete protection
from its three enemies: for faith is an inward tunic of a
whiteness so pure that it completely dazzles the eyes of the
understanding.[265] And thus, when the soul journeys in its
vestment of faith, the devil can neither see it nor succeed in
harming it, since it is well protected by faith--more so than by
all the other virtues--against the devil, who is at once the
strongest and the most cunning of enemies.
     4. It is clear that Saint Peter could find no better
protection than faith to save him from the devil, when he said:
Cui resistite fortes in fide.[266] And in order to gain the grace
of the Beloved, and union with Him, the soul cannot put on a
better vest and tunic,[267] to serve as a foundation and beginning
of the other vestments of the virtues, than this white
garment[268] of faith, for without it, as the Apostle says, it is
impossible to please God, and with it, it is impossible to fail to
please Him. For He Himself says through a prophet: Sponsabo te
mihi in fide.[269] Which is as much as to say: If thou desirest, O
soul, to be united and betrothed to Me, thou must come inwardly
clad in faith.
     5. This white garment of faith was worn by the soul on its
going forth from this dark night, when, walking in interior
constraint and darkness, as we have said before, it received no
aid, in the form of light, from its understanding, neither from
above, since Heaven seemed to be closed to it and God hidden from
it, nor from below, since those that taught it satisfied it not.
It suffered with constancy and persevered, passing through those
trials without fainting or failing the Beloved, Who in trials and
tribulations proves the faith of His Bride, so that afterwards she
may truly repeat this saying of David, namely: 'By the words of
Thy lips I kept hard ways.'[270]
     6. Next, over this white tunic of faith the soul now puts on
the second colour, which is a green vestment. By this, as we said,
is signified the virtue of hope, wherewith, as in the first case,
the soul is delivered and protected from the second enemy, which
is the world. For this green colour of living hope in God gives
the soul such ardour and courage and aspiration to the things of
eternal life that, by comparison with what it hopes for therein,
all things of the world seem to it to be, as in truth they are,
dry and faded and dead and nothing worth. The soul now divests and
strips itself of all these worldly vestments and garments, setting
its heart upon naught that is in the world and hoping for naught,
whether of that which is or of that which is to be, but living
clad only in the hope of eternal life. Wherefore, when the heart
is thus lifted up above the world, not only can the world neither
touch the heart nor lay hold on it, but it cannot even come within
sight of it.
     7. And thus, in this green livery and disguise, the soul
journeys in complete security from this second enemy, which is the
world. For Saint Paul speaks of hope as the helmet of
salvation[271]--that is, a piece of armour that protects the whole
head, and covers it so that there remains uncovered only a visor
through which it may look. And hope has this property, that it
covers all the senses of the head of the soul, so that there is
naught soever pertaining to the world in which they can be
immersed, nor is there an opening through which any arrow of the
world can wound them. It has a visor, however, which the soul is
permitted to use so that its eyes may look upward, but nowhere
else; for this is the function which hope habitually performs in
the soul, namely, the directing of its eyes upwards to look at God
alone, even as David declared that his eyes were directed, when he
said: Oculi mei semper ad Dominum.[272] He hoped for no good thing
elsewhere, save as he himself says in another Psalm: 'Even as the
eyes of the handmaid are set upon the hands of her mistress, even
so are our eyes set upon our Lord God, until He have mercy upon us
as we hope in Him.'[273]
     8. For this reason, because of this green livery (since the
soul is ever looking to God and sets its eyes on naught else,
neither is pleased with aught save with Him alone), the Beloved
has such great pleasure with the soul that it is true to say that
the soul obtains from Him as much as it hopes for from Him.
Wherefore the Spouse in the Songs tells the Bride that, by looking
upon Him with one eye alone, she has wounded His heart.[274]
Without this green livery of hope in God alone it would be
impossible for the soul to go forth to encompass this loving
achievement, for it would have no success, since that which moves
and conquers is the importunity of hope.
     9. With this livery of hope the soul journeys in disguise
through this secret and dark night whereof we have spoken; for it
is so completely voided of every possession and support that it
fixes its eyes and its care upon naught but God, putting its mouth
in the dust,[275] if so be there may be hope--to repeat the
quotation made above from Jeremias.[276]
     10. Over the white and the green vestments, as the crown and
perfection of this disguise and livery, the soul now puts on the
third colour, which is a splendid garment of purple. By this is
denoted the third virtue, which is charity. This not only adds
grace to the other two colours, but causes the soul to rise to so
lofty a point that it is brought near to God, and becomes very
beautiful and pleasing to Him, so that it makes bold to say:
'Albeit I am black, O daughters of Jerusalem, I am comely;
wherefore the King hath loved me and hath brought me into His
chambers.'[277] This livery of charity, which is that of love, and
causes greater love in the Beloved, not only protects the soul and
hides it from the third enemy, which is the flesh (for where there
is true love of God there enters neither love of self nor that of
the things of self), but even gives worth to the other virtues,
bestowing on them vigour and strength to protect the soul, and
grace and beauty to please the Beloved with them, for without
charity no virtue has grace before God. This is the purple which
is spoken of in the Songs,[278] upon which God reclines. Clad in
this purple livery the soul journeys when (as has been explained
above in the first stanza) it goes forth from itself in the dark
night, and from all things created, 'kindled in love with
yearnings,' by this secret ladder of contemplation, to the perfect
union of love of God, its beloved salvation.[279]
     11. This, then, is the disguise which the soul says that it
wears in the night of faith, upon this secret ladder, and these
are its three colours. They constitute a most fit preparation for
the union of the soul with God, according to its three faculties,
which are understanding, memory and will. For faith voids and
darkens the understanding as to all its natural intelligence, and
herein prepares it for union with Divine Wisdom. Hope voids and
withdraws the memory from all creature possessions; for, as Saint
Paul says, hope is for that which is not possessed;[280] and thus
it withdraws the memory from that which it is capable of
possessing, and sets it on that for which it hopes. And for this
cause hope in God alone prepares the memory purely for union with
God. Charity, in the same way, voids and annihilates the
affections and desires of the will for whatever is not God, and
sets them upon Him alone; and thus this virtue prepares this
faculty and unites it with God through love. And thus, since the
function of these virtues is the withdrawal of the soul from all
that is less than God, their function is consequently that of
joining it with God.
     12. And thus, unless it journeys earnestly, clad in the
garments of these three virtues, it is impossible for the soul to
attain to the perfection of union with God through love.
Wherefore, in order that the soul might attain that which it
desired, which was this loving and delectable union with its
Beloved, this disguise and clothing which it assumed was most
necessary and convenient. And likewise to have succeeded in thus
clothing itself and persevering until it should obtain the end and
aspiration which it had so much desired, which was the union of
love, was a great and happy chance, wherefore in this line the
soul also says:

        Oh, happy chance!

                         CHAPTER XXII

     Explains the third[281] line of the second stanza.

     IT is very clear that it was a happy chance for this soul to
go forth with such an enterprise as this, for it was its going
forth that delivered it from the devil and from the world and from
its own sensuality, as we have said. Having attained liberty of
spirit, so precious and so greatly desired by all, it went forth
from low things to high; from terrestrial, it became celestial;
from human, Divine. Thus it came to have its conversation in the
heavens, as has the soul in this state of perfection, even as we
shall go on to say in what follows, although with rather more
     2. For the most important part of my task, and the part which
chiefly led me to undertake it, was the explanation of this night
to many souls who pass through it and yet know nothing about it,
as was said in the prologue. Now this explanation and exposition
has already been half completed. Although much less has been said
of it than might be said, we have shown how many are the blessings
which the soul bears with it through the night and how happy is
the chance whereby it passes through it, so that, when a soul is
terrified by the horror of so many trials, it is also encouraged
by the certain hope of so many and such precious blessings of God
as it gains therein. And furthermore, for yet another reason, this
was a happy chance for the soul; and this reason is given in the
following line:

        In darkness and in concealment.

                        CHAPTER XXIII

     Expounds the fourth line[282] and describes the wondrous
hiding place wherein the soul is set during this night. Shows how,
although the devil has an entrance into other places that are very
high, he has none into this.

     'IN concealment' is as much as to say 'in a hiding-place,' or
'in hiding'; and thus, what the soul here says (namely, that it
went forth 'in darkness and in concealment') is a more complete
explanation of the great security which it describes itself in the
first line of the stanza as possessing, by means of this dark
contemplation upon the road of the union of the love of God.
     2. When the soul, then, says 'in darkness and in
concealment,' it means that, inasmuch as it journeyed in darkness
after the manner aforementioned, it went in hiding and in
concealment from the devil and from his wiles and stratagems. The
reason why, as it journeys in the darkness of this contemplation,
the soul is free, and is hidden from the stratagems of the devil,
is that the infused contemplation which it here possesses is
infused into it passively and secretly, without the knowledge of
the senses and faculties, whether interior or exterior, of the
sensual part. And hence it follows that, not only does it journey
in hiding, and is free from the impediment which these faculties
can set in its way because of its natural weakness, but likewise
from the devil; who, except through these faculties of the sensual
part, cannot reach or know that which is in the soul, nor that
which is taking place within it. Wherefore, the more spiritual,
the more interior and the more remote from the senses is the
communication, the farther does the devil fall short of
understanding it.
     3. And thus it is of great importance for the security of the
soul that its inward communication with God should be of such a
kind that its very senses of the lower part will remain in
darkness[283] and be without knowledge of it, and attain not to
it: first, so that it may be possible for the spiritual
communication to be more abundant, and that the weakness of its
sensual part may not hinder the liberty of its spirit; secondly
because, as we say, the soul journeys more securely since the
devil cannot penetrate so far. In this way we may understand that
passage where Our Saviour, speaking in a spiritual sense, says:
'Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.'[284] Which
is as though He had said: Let not thy left hand know that which
takes place upon thy right hand, which is the higher and spiritual
part of the soul; that is, let it be of such a kind that the lower
portion of thy soul, which is the sensual part, may not attain to
it; let it be a secret between the spirit and God alone.
     4. It is quite true that oftentimes, when these very intimate
and secret spiritual communications are present and take place in
the soul, although the devil cannot get to know of what kind and
manner they are, yet the great repose and silence which some of
them cause in the senses and the faculties of the sensual part
make it clear to him that they are taking place and that the soul
is receiving a certain blessing from them. And then, as he sees
that he cannot succeed in thwarting them in the depth of the soul,
he does what he can to disturb and disquiet the sensual part--that
part to which he is able to attain--now by means of afflictions,
now by terrors and fears, with intent to disquiet and disturb the
higher and spiritual part of the soul by this means, with respect
to that blessing which it then receives and enjoys. But often,
when the communication of such contemplation makes its naked
assault upon the soul and exerts its strength upon it, the devil,
with all his diligence, is unable to disturb it; rather the soul
receives a new and a greater advantage and a securer peace. For,
when it feels the disturbing presence of the enemy, then--wondrous
thing!--without knowing how it comes to pass, and without any
efforts of its own, it enters farther into its own interior
depths, feeling that it is indeed being set in a sure refuge,
where it perceives itself to be most completely withdrawn and
hidden from the enemy. And thus its peace and joy, which the devil
is attempting to take from it, are increased; and all the fear
that assails it remains without; and it becomes clearly and
exultingly conscious of its secure enjoyment of that quiet peace
and sweetness of the hidden Spouse, which neither the world nor
the devil can give it or take from it. In that state, therefore,
it realizes the truth of the words of the Bride about this, in the
Songs, namely: 'See how threescore strong men surround the bed of
Solomon, etc., because of the fears of the night.'[285] It is
conscious of this strength and peace, although it is often equally
conscious that its flesh and bones are being tormented from
     5. At other times, when the spiritual communication is not
made in any great measure to the spirit, but the senses have a
part therein, the devil more easily succeeds in disturbing the
spirit and raising a tumult within it, by means of the senses,
with these terrors. Great are the torment and the affliction which
are then caused in the spirit; at times they exceed all that can
be expressed. For, when there is a naked contact of spirit with
spirit, the horror is intolerable which the evil spirit causes in
the good spirit (I mean, in the soul), when its tumult reaches it.
This is expressed likewise by the Bride in the Songs, when she
says that it has happened thus to her at a time when she wished to
descend to interior recollection in order to have fruition of
these blessings. She says: 'I went down into the garden of nuts to
see the apples of the valleys, and if the vine had flourished. I
knew not; my soul troubled me because of the chariots'--that is,
because of the chariots and the noise of Aminadab, which is the
     6. At other times it comes to pass that the devil is
occasionally able to see certain favours which God is pleased to
grant the soul when they are bestowed upon it by the mediation of
a good angel; for of those favours which come through a good angel
God habitually allows the enemy to have knowledge: partly so that
he may do that which he can against them according to the measure
of justice, and that thus he may not be able to allege with truth
that no opportunity is given him for conquering the soul, as he
said concerning Job.[287] This would be the case if God allowed
not a certain equality between the two warriors--namely, the good
angel and the bad--when they strive for the soul, so that the
victory of either may be of the greater worth, and the soul that
is victorious and faithful in temptation may be the more
abundantly rewarded.
     7. We must observe, therefore, that it is for this reason
that, in proportion as God is guiding the soul and communing with
it, He gives the devil leave to act with it after this manner.
When the soul has genuine visions by the instrumentality of the
good angel (for it is by this instrumentality that they habitually
come, even though Christ reveal Himself, for He scarcely ever
appears[288] in His actual person), God also gives the wicked
angel leave to present to the soul false visions of this very type
in such a way that the soul which is not cautious may easily be
deceived by their outward appearance, as many souls have been. Of
this there is a figure in Exodus,[289] where it is said that all
the genuine signs that Moses wrought were wrought likewise in
appearance by the magicians of Pharao. If he brought forth frogs,
they brought them forth likewise; if he turned water into blood,
they did the same.
     8. And not only does the evil one imitate God in this type of
bodily vision, but he also imitates and interferes in spiritual
communications which come through the instrumentality of an angel,
when he succeeds in seeing them, as we say (for, as Job said[290]:
Omne sublime videt). These, however, as they are without form and
figure (for it is the nature of spirit to have no such thing), he
cannot imitate and counterfeit like those others which are
presented under some species or figure. And thus, in order to
attack the soul, in the same way as that wherein it is being
visited, his fearful spirit presents a similar vision in order to
attack and destroy spiritual things by spiritual. When this comes
to pass just as the good angel is about to communicate spiritual
contemplation to the soul, it is impossible for the soul to
shelter itself in the secrecy and hiding-place of contemplation
with sufficient rapidity not to be observed by the devil; and thus
he appears to it and produces a certain horror and perturbation of
spirit which at times is most distressing to the soul. Sometimes
the soul can speedily free itself from him, so that there is no
opportunity for the aforementioned horror of the evil spirit to
make an impression on it; and it becomes recollected within
itself, being favoured, to this end, by the effectual spiritual
grace that the good angel then communicates to it.
     9. At other times the devil prevails and encompasses the soul
with a perturbation and horror which is a greater affliction to it
than any torment in this life could be. For, as this horrible
communication passes direct from spirit to spirit, in something
like nakedness and clearly distinguished from all that is
corporeal, it is grievous beyond what every sense can feel; and
this lasts in the spirit for some time, yet not for long, for
otherwise the spirit would be driven forth from the flesh by the
vehement communication of the other spirit. Afterwards there
remains to it the memory thereof, which is sufficient to cause it
great affliction.
     10. All that we have here described comes to pass in the soul
passively, without its doing or undoing anything of itself with
respect to it. But in this connection it must be known that, when
the good angel permits the devil to gain this advantage of
assailing the soul with this spiritual horror, he does it to
purify the soul and to prepare it by means of this spiritual vigil
for some great spiritual favour and festival which he desires to
grant it, for he never mortifies save to give life, nor humbles
save to exalt, which comes to pass shortly afterwards. Then,
according as was the dark and horrible purgation which the soul
suffered, so is the fruition now granted it of a wondrous and
delectable spiritual contemplation, sometimes so lofty that there
is no language to describe it. But the spirit has been greatly
refined by the preceding horror of the evil spirit, in order that
it may be able to receive this blessing; for these spiritual
visions belong to the next life rather than to this, and when one
of them is seen this is a preparation for the next.
     11. This is to be understood with respect to occasions when
God visits the soul by the instrumentality of a good angel,
wherein, as has been said, the soul is not so totally in darkness
and in concealment that the enemy cannot come within reach of it.
But, when God Himself visits it, then the words of this line are
indeed fulfilled, and it is in total darkness and in concealment
from the enemy that the soul receives these spiritual favours of
God. The reason for this is that, as His Majesty dwells
substantially in the soul, where neither angel nor devil can
attain to an understanding of that which comes to pass, they
cannot know the intimate and secret communications which take
place there between the soul and God. These communications, since
the Lord Himself works them, are wholly Divine and sovereign, for
they are all substantial touches of Divine union between the soul
and God; in one of which the soul receives a greater blessing than
in all the rest, since this is the loftiest degree[291] of prayer
in existence.
     12. For these are the touches that the Bride entreated of Him
in the Songs, saying: Osculetur me osculo oris sui.[292] Since
this is a thing which takes place in such close intimacy with God,
whereto the soul desires with such yearnings to attain, it esteems
and longs for a touch of this Divinity more than all the other
favours that God grants it. Wherefore, after many such favours
have been granted to the Bride in the said Songs, of which she has
sung therein, she is not satisfied, but entreats Him for these
Divine touches, saying: 'Who shall give Thee to me, my brother,
that I might find Thee alone without, sucking the breasts of my
mother, so that I might kiss Thee with the mouth of my soul, and
that thus no man should despise me or make bold to attack
me.'[293] By this she denotes the communication which God Himself
alone makes to her, as we are saying, far from all the creatures
and without their knowledge, for this is meant by 'alone and
without, sucking, etc.'--that is, drying up and draining the
breasts of the desires and affections of the sensual part of the
soul. This takes place when the soul, in intimate peace and
delight, has fruition of these blessings, with liberty of spirit,
and without the sensual part being able to hinder it, or the devil
to thwart it by means thereof. And then the devil would not make
bold to attack it, for he would not reach it, neither could he
attain to an understanding of these Divine touches in the
substance of the soul in the loving substance of God.
     13. To this blessing none attains save through intimate
purgation and detachment and spiritual concealment from all that
is creature; it comes to pass in the darkness, as we have already
explained at length and as we say with respect to this line. The
soul is in concealment and in hiding, in the which hiding-place,
as we have now said, it continues to be strengthened in union with
God through love, wherefore it sings this in the same phrase,
saying: 'In darkness and in concealment.'
     14. When it comes to pass that those favours are granted to
the soul in concealment (that is, as we have said, in spirit
only), the soul is wont, during some of them, and without knowing
how this comes to pass, to see itself so far with drawn and
separated according to the higher and spiritual part, from the
sensual and lower portion, that it recognizes in itself two parts
so distinct from each other that it believes that the one has
naught to do with the other, but that the one is very remote and
far withdrawn from the other. And in reality, in a certain way,
this is so; for the operation is now wholly spiritual, and the
soul receives no communication in its sensual part. In this way
the soul gradually becomes wholly spiritual; and in this hiding-
place of unitive contemplation its spiritual desires and passions
are to a great degree removed and purged away. And thus, speaking
of its higher part, the soul then says in this last line:

        My house being now at rest.[294]

                         CHAPTER XXIV

     Completes the explanation of the second stanza.

     THIS is as much as to say: The higher portion of my soul
being like the lower part also, at rest with respect to its
desires and faculties, I went forth to the Divine union of the
love of God.
     2. Inasmuch as, by means of that war of the dark night, as
has been said, the soul is combated and purged after two manners--
namely, according to its sensual and its spiritual part--with its
senses, faculties and passions, so likewise after two manners--
namely, according to these two parts, the sensual and the
spiritual--with all its faculties and desires, the soul attains to
an enjoyment of peace and rest. For this reason, as has likewise
been said, the soul twice pronounces this line--namely,[295] in
this stanza and in the last--because of these two portions of the
soul, the spiritual and the sensual, which, in order that they may
go forth to the Divine union of love, must needs first be
reformed, ordered and tranquillized with respect to the sensual
and to the spiritual, according to the nature of the state of
innocence which was Adam's.[296] And thus this line which, in the
first stanza, was understood of the repose of the lower and
sensual portion, is, in this second stanza, understood more
particularly of the higher and spiritual part; for which reason it
is repeated.[297]
     3. This repose and quiet of this spiritual house the soul
comes to attain, habitually and perfectly (in so far as the
condition of this life allows), by means of the acts of the
substantial touches of Divine union whereof we have just spoken;
which, in concealment, and hidden from the perturbation of the
devil, and of its own senses and passions, the soul has been
receiving from the Divinity, wherein it has been purifying itself,
as I say, resting, strengthening and confirming itself in order to
be able to receive the said union once and for all, which is the
Divine betrothal between the soul and the Son of God. As soon as
these two houses of the soul have together become tranquillized
and strengthened, with all their domestics--namely, the faculties
and desires--and have put these domestics to sleep and made them
be silent with respect to all things, both above and below, this
Divine Wisdom immediately unites itself with the soul by making a
new bond of loving possession, and there is fulfilled that which
is written in the Book of Wisdom, in these words: Dum quietum
silentium contineret omnia, et nox in suo cursu medium iter
haberet, omnipotens sermo tuus Domine a regalibus sedibus.[298]
The same thing is described by the Bride in the Songs,[299] where
she says that, after she had passed by those who stripped her of
her mantle by night and wounded her, she found Him Whom her soul
     4. The soul cannot come to this union without great purity,
and this purity is not gained without great detachment from every
created thing and sharp mortification. This is signified by the
stripping of the Bride of her mantle and by her being wounded by
night as she sought and went after the Spouse; for the new mantle
which belonged to the betrothal could not be put on until the old
mantle was stripped off. Wherefore, he that refuses to go forth in
the night aforementioned to seek the Beloved, and to be stripped
of his own will and to be mortified, but seeks Him upon his bed
and at his own convenience, as did the Bride,[300] will not
succeed in finding Him. For this soul says of itself that it found
Him by going forth in the dark and with yearnings of love.

                       CHAPTER XXV

     Wherein is expounded the third stanza.

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


     THE soul still continues the metaphor and similitude of
temporal night in describing this its spiritual night, and
continues to sing and extol the good properties which belong to
it, and which in passing through this night it found and used, to
the end that it might attain its desired goal with speed and
security. Of these properties it here sets down three.
     2. The first, it says, is that in this happy night of
contemplation God leads the soul by a manner of contemplation so
solitary and secret, so remote and far distant from sense, that
naught pertaining to it, nor any touch of created things, succeeds
in approaching the soul in such a way as to disturb it and detain
it on the road of the union of love.
     3. The second property whereof it speaks pertains to the
spiritual darkness of this night, wherein all the faculties of the
higher part of the soul are in darkness. The soul sees naught,
neither looks at aught neither stays in aught that is not God, to
the end that it may reach Him, inasmuch as it journeys unimpeded
by obstacles of forms and figures, and of natural apprehensions,
which are those that are wont to hinder the soul from uniting with
the eternal Being of God.
     4. The third is that, although as it journeys it is supported
by no particular interior light of understanding, nor by any
exterior guide, that it may receive satisfaction therefrom on this
lofty road--it is completely deprived of all this by this thick
darkness--yet its love alone, which burns at this time, and makes
its heart to long for the Beloved, is that which now moves and
guides it, and makes it to soar upward to its God along the road
of solitude, without its knowing how or in what manner.
     There follows the line:

        In the happy night.[301]


[1] Ascent, Bk. I, chap. i, Sect. 2.
[2] Op, cit., Sect. 3.
[3] Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. iii, Sect. 3.
[4] Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. i, Sect. 1.
[5] Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. viii, Sect. 1.
[6] Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. viii, Sect. 2.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. x, Sect. 4.
[9] Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. iii, Sect. 1.
[10] Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. i, Sect. 1.
[11] Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xi, Sect. 1.
[12] Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xvi, Sect. 2.
[13] [On this, see Sobrino, pp. 159-66.]
[14] Cf. pp. lviii-lxiii, Ascent of Mount Carmel (Image Books
[15] [It contains a series of paradoxical statements, after the
style of those in Ascent, Bk. I, chap. xiii, and is of no great
literary merit. P. Silverio reproduces it in Spanish on p. 302
(note) of his first volume.]
[16] The 'first friar' would be P. Antonio de Jesus, who was
senior to St. John of the Cross in the Carmelite Order, though not
in the Reform.
[17] The longest of these are one of ten lines in Bk. I, chap. iv,
[in the original] and those of Bk. II, chaps. vii, viii, xii,
xiii, which vary from eleven to twenty-three lines. Bk. II, chap.
xxiii, has also considerable modifications.
[18] The chief interpolation is in Bk. I, chap. x.
[19] St. Matthew vii, 14.
[20] [More exactly: 'purificative.']
[21] St. Luke xviii, 11-12.
[22] St. Matthew vii, 3.
[23] St. Matthew xxiii, 24.
[24] [Lit., 'Presuming.']
[25] [The original merely has: 'and are often eager.']
[26] [Lit., 'a thousand envies and disquietudes.']
[27] St. Matthew xxv, 8. [Lit., 'who, having their lamps dead,
sought oil from without.']
[28] [Lit., 'to have.']
[29] [Lit., 'these fervours.']
[30] [Lit., 'into something of this.']
[31] The agnusdei was a wax medal with a representation of the
lamb stamped upon it, often blessed by the Pope; at the time of
the Saint such medals were greatly sought after, as we know from
various references in St. Teresa's letters.
[32] [The word nomina, translated 'token,' and normally meaning
list, or 'roll,' refers to a relic on which were written the names
of saints. In modern Spanish it can denote a medal or amulet used
[33] [No doubt a branch of palm, olive or rosemary, blessed in
church on Palm Sunday, like the English palm crosses of to-day.
'Palm Sunday' is in Spanish Domingo de ramos: 'Branch Sunday.']
[34] [Lit., 'recreation.']
[35] [Lit., 'recreation.']
[36] [Lit., 'of everything.']
[37] All writers who comment upon this delicate matter go into
lengthy and learned explanations of it, though in reality there is
little that needs to be added to the Saint's clear and apt
exposition. It will be remembered that St. Teresa once wrote to
her brother Lorenzo, who suffered in this way: 'As to those
stirrings of sense. . . . I am quite clear they are of no account,
so the best thing is to make no account of them' (LL. 168). The
most effective means of calming souls tormented by these favours
is to commend them to a discreet and wise director whose counsel
they may safely follow. The Illuminists committed the grossest
errors in dealing with this matter.
[38] St. John iii, 6.
[39] [Lit. 'they even do it.']
[40] [Lit., 'spiritual road.']
[41] [Lit., 'these persons.']
[42] [Lit., 'and treat this as their God.']
[43] [The Spanish is impersonal: 'immediately this is taken from
them,' etc.]
[44] [Lit., 'and opinion.']
[45] [Lit., 'anyhow.']
[46] [Lit, 'the other boldnesses are.']
[47] [Lit., 'they strive to obtain this, as they say, by the
strength of their arms.' The phrase is, of course, understood in
the Spanish to be metaphorical, as the words 'as they say' clearly
[48] [Lit., 'who are not influenced, neither act by reason, but
from pleasure.']
[49] [Lit., 'which we shall give.']
[50] [Aspero: harsh, rough, rugged.]
[51] [Lit., 'against all the sweetlessness of self-denial.']
[52] [Lit., 'causing them to enter.']
[53] [Lit., 'and, as they say, their eye (el ojo) grows'--a
colloquial phrase expressing annoyance.]
[54] 1 Corinthians xiii, 6. The Saint here cites the sense, not
the letter, of the epistle.
[55] St. Matthew xvi, 25.
[56] [Lit., 'they are very weak for the fortitude and trial of
[57] St. Matthew vii, 14.
[58] [Lit., 'say.']
[59] [Lit., 'say.']
[60] [plAtica: the word is frequently used in Spanish to denote an
informal sermon or address.]
[61] [Lit., 'low'; the same word recurs below and is similarly
translated .]
[62] [Lit., 'to the better time.']
[63] [Lit., 'And in this it is known very probably.']
[64] Numbers xi, 5-6.
[65] [Lit., 'makes us to desire our miseries.']
[66] [Lit., 'incommunicable.']
[67] Canticles vi, 4 [A.V., vi, 5].
[68] [Lit., 'satisfactory and pacific.']
[69] Psalm lxxxiv, 9 [A.V., lxxxv, 8].
[70] [The stress here is evidently on the transience of the
distempers whether they be moral or physical.]
[71] [Lit., 'spoiling themselves in the one.']
[72] [Lit., 'because they seek their spirit.']
[73] [Lit., 'without doing anything themselves.']
[74] [Lit., 'which it may then wish to have.']
[75] Psalm lxxii, 21 [A.V., lxxiii, 21-2].
[76] [Lit., 'livingness': cf. the quotation below.]
[77] Psalm xli, 3 [A.V., xlii, 2].
[78] [Lit., 'and chance': the same word as in the verse-line
[79] St. Matthew vii, 14.
[80] Genesis xxi, 8.
[81] Exodus xxxiii, 5.
[82] [Job ii, 7-8].
[83] [Lit., 'the deep heights.']
[84] Isaias lviii, 10.
[85] Isaias xxviii, 19. [The author omits the actual text.]
[86] To translate this passage at all, we must read the Dios como
of P. Silverio (p. 403, 1. 20), which is also found in P. Gerardo
and elsewhere, as como Dios.
[87] Isaias xxviii, 9.
[88] Habacuc ii, 1.
[89] St. Augustine: Soliloq., Cap. ii.
[90] Psalm lxii, 3 [A.V., lxiii, 1-2].
[91] Psalm xxxviii, 3 [A.V., xxxix, 2].
[92] Psalm lxxvi, 4 [A.V., lxxvii, 3-4].
[93] Psalm lxxvi, 7 [A.V., lxxvii, 6].
[94] Psalm l, 19 [A.V., li, 17]
[95] [The 'spirit of giddiness' of D.V., and 'perverse spirit' of
A.V., Isaias xix, 14.]
[96] Ecclesiasticus xxxiv, 9-10.
[97] Jeremias xxxi, 18.
[98] [Lit., 'for certain days.']
[99] [Lit., 'from a narrow prison.']
[100] [i.e., between sense and spirit.]
[101] Psalm cxlvii, 17 [D.V. and A.V.].
[102] Wisdom ix, 15.
[103] [Lit., 'Continues with other imperfections.']
[104] [i.e., 'deadening of the mind.']
[105] Osee ii, 20.
[106] 1 Corinthians xiii, 11.
[107] [Ephesians iv, 24.]
[108] Psalm xcvi, 2 [A.V., xcvii, 2].
[109] [Lit., 'not attaining.']
[110] Psalm xvii, 13 [A.V., xviii, 12].
[111] Job vii, 20.
[112] Psalm xxxviii, 12 [A.V., xxxix, 11].
[113] Job xxiii, 6.
[114] Job xix, 21.
[115] [There is a reference here to Job vii, 20: cf. Sect. 5,
[116] Jonas ii, 1.
[117] Psalm xvii, 5-7 [A.V., xviii, 4-5].
[118] Psalm lxxxvii, 6-8 [A.V., lxxxviii, 5-7].
[119] Psalm lxxxvii, 9 [A.V., lxxxviii, 8].
[120] Jonas ii, 4-7 [A.V., ii, 3-6].
[121] Ezechiel xxiv, 10.
[122] Ezechiel xxiv, 11.
[123] Wisdom iii, 6.
[124] Psalm lxviii, 2-4 [A.V., lxix, 1-3].
[125] [i.e., purgatory.]
[126] Job xvi, 13-17 [A.V., xvi, 12-16].
[127] Lamentations iii, 1-20.
[128] Job xii, 22.
[129] Psalm cxxxviii, 12 [A.V., cxxxix, 12].
[130] [Lit., 'like to the dead of the world (or of the age).']
[131] Psalm cxlii, 3 [A.V., cxliii, 3-4].
[132] Psalm xxix, 7 [A.V., xxx, 6].
[133] [Lit., 'and play his tricks upon it.']
[134] B. Bz., C, H. Mtr. all have this long passage on the
suffering of the soul in Purgatory. It would be rash, therefore,
to deny that St. John of the Cross is its author, [or to suppose,
as P. Gerardo did, that he deleted it during a revision of his
works]. An admirably constructed synthesis of these questions will
be found in B. Belarmino, De Purgatorio, Bk. II, chaps. iv, v. He
asks if souls in Purgatory are sure of their salvation. This was
denied by Luther, and by a number of Catholic writers, who held
that, among the afflictions of these souls, the greatest is this
very uncertainty, some maintain that, though they have in fact
such certainty, they are unaware of it. Belarmino quotes among
other authorities Denis the Carthusian De quattuor novissimis,
Gerson (Lect. I De Vita Spirituali) and John of Rochester (against
Luther's 32nd article); these writers claim that, as sin which is
venial is only so through the Divine mercy, it may with perfect
justice be rewarded by eternal punishment, and thus souls that
have committed venial sin cannot be confident of their salvation.
He also shows, however, that the common opinion of theologians is
that the souls in Purgatory are sure of their salvation, and
considers various degrees of certainty, adding very truly that,
while these souls experience no fear, they experience hope, since
they have not yet the Beatific vision.
        Uncertainty as to their salvation, it is said, might arise
from ignorance of the sentence passed upon them by the Judge or
from the deadening of their faculties by the torments which they
are suffering. Belarmino refutes these and other suppositions with
great force and effect. St. John of the Cross seems to be
referring to the last named when he writes of the realization of
their afflictions and their deprivation of God not allowing them
to enjoy the blessings of the theological virtues. It is not
surprising if the Saint, not having examined very closely this
question, of which he would have read treatments in various
authors, thought of it principally as an apt illustration of the
purifying and refining effects of passive purgation; and an apt
illustration it certainly is.
[135] Lamentations iii, 44.
[136] [Lamentations iii, 9.]
[137] Lamentations iii, 9.
[138] Lamentations iii, 28.
[139] [Lit., 'at the Divine things.']
[140] Psalm lxxii, 22 [A.V., lxxiii, 22].
[141] 1 Corinthians ii, 10. [Lit., 'penetrates all things.']
[142] Wisdom vii, 24.
[143] 2 Corinthians vi, 10.
[144] [Lit., 'with a certain eminence of excellence.']
[145] [Lit., '. . . sweetness, with great eminence.']
[146] Exodus xvi, 3.
[147] Wisdom xvi, 21.
[148] [Lit., 'from every kind.' But see Tobias viii, 2. The
'deprived' of e.p. gives the best reading of this phrase, but the
general sense is clear from the Scriptural reference.]
[149] Tobias viii, 2.
[150] Isaias lxiv, 4 [1 Corinthians ii, 9].
[151] [Lit., 'be made thin.']

[152] Isaias xxvi, 17-18.
[153] [Philippians iv, 7.]
[154] [We have here split up a parenthesis of about seventy
[155] [Lit., 'and wept.']
[156] Lamentations iii, 17.
[157] Psalm xxxvii, 9 [A.V., xxxviii, 8].
[158] [Lit., '. . . sees itself, it arises and is surrounded with
pain and affliction the affections of the soul, that I know not
how it could be described.' A confused, ungrammatical sentence, of
which, however, the general meaning is not doubtful.]
[159] Job iii, 24.
[160] Job xxx, 17.
[161] Job xxx, 16.
[162] Lamentations iii, 17.
[163] Wisdom vii, 11.
[164] Ecclesiasticus li, 28-9 [A.V., li, 19-21].
[165] [Lit., 'more delicate.']
[166] [Lit., 'fury.']
[167] [The sudden change of metaphor is the author's. The
'assault' is, of course, the renewed growth of the 'root.']
[168] [Lit., '. . . from the soul, with regard to that which has
already been purified.']
[169] [Lit., 'not enlightened': the word is the same as that used
just above.]
[170] [The word translated 'over' is rendered 'gone' just above.]
[171] [Lit., 'in loves'; and so throughout the exposition of this
[172] [Lit., 'cling,' 'adhere.']
[173] [Lit., 'shut up.']
[174] [Here, and below, the original has recogidos, the word
normally translated 'recollected']
[175Psalm lviii, 10 [A V., lix, 9].
[176] Deuteronomy vi, 5.
[177] Psalm lviii, 15-16 [A.V., lix, 14-15].
[178] Psalm lxii, 2 [A.V., lxiii, 1].
[179] [Lit., as in the verses, 'in loves.']
[180] [For cievro, hart, read siervo, servant, and we have the
correct quotation from Scripture. The change, however, was
evidently made by the Saint knowingly. In P. Gerardo's edition,
the Latin text, with cervus, precedes the Spanish translation,
with ciervo.]
[181] Job vii, 2-4.
[182] [No cabe: Lit., 'it cannot be contained,' 'there is no room
for it.']
[183] Isaias xxvi, 9.
[184] Psalm l, 12 [A.V., li, 10].
[185] [Lit., 'enamoured.']
[186] Lamentations i, 13.
[187] Psalm xi, 7 [A.V., xii, 6].
[188] The Schoolmen frequently assert that the lower angels are
purged and illumined by the higher. Cf. St. Thomas, Summa, I, q.
106, a. 1, ad. 1.
[189] [Lit., 'and softens.']
[190] [More literally, 'is sick.']
[191] Psalm xxxviii, 4 [A.V., xxxix, 3].
[192] [Lit., 'the beginnings.']
[193] The Saint here treats a question often debated by
philosophers and mystics--that of love and knowledge. Cf. also
Spiritual Canticle, Stanza XVII, and Living Flame, Stanza III.
Philosophers generally maintain that it is impossible to love
without knowledge, and equally so to love more of an object than
what is known of it. Mystics have, however, their own solutions of
the philosophers' difficulty and the speculative Spanish mystics
have much to say on the matter. (Cf., for example, the Medula
Mistica, Trat. V, Chap. iv, and the Escuela de Oracion, Trat. XII,
Duda v.)
[194] St. John i, 5.
[195] [Lit., 'the yearning to think of it.']
[196] [The word translated 'estimation' might also be rendered
'reverent love.' The 'love of estimation,' which has its seat in
the understanding, is contrasted with the 'enkindling' or the
'love of desire,' which has its seat in the will. So elsewhere in
this paragraph.]
[197] St. John xx, 1 [St. Matthew xxvii, 62-6].
[198] St. John xx, 15.
[199] [Lit., 'outskirts,' 'suburbs.']
[200] Canticles v, 8.
[201] Genesis xxx, 1.
[202] Ephesians iv, 4.
[203] Canticles viii, 1.
[204] St. Matthew x, 36.
[205] [Lit., 'The line, then, continues, and says thus.' In fact,
however, the author is returning to the first line of the stanza.]
[206] [Lit., 'taste.']
[207] Some have considered this description exaggerated, but it
must be borne in mind that all souls are not tested alike and the
Saint is writing of those whom God has willed to raise to such
sanctity that they drain the cup of bitterness to the dregs. We
have already seen (Bk. I, chap. xiv, Sect. 5) that 'all do not
experience (this) after one manner . . . for (it) is meted out by
the will of God, in conformity with the greater or the smaller
degree of imperfection which each soul has to purge away, (and) in
conformity, likewise, with the degree of love of union to which
God is pleased to raise it' (Bk. I, chap xiv, above).
[208] Osee xiii, 9.
[209] Psalm xvii, 12 [A.V., xviii, 11].
[210] Psalm xvii, 13 [A.V., xviii, 12].
[211] Isaias v, 30.
[212] Psalm xxx, 21 [A.V., xxxi, 20].
[213] 'Propter hoc Gregorius (Hom. 14 in Ezech.) constituit vitam
contemplativam in charitate Dei.' Cf. Summa Theologica, 2a, 2ae,
q. 45, a. 2.
[214] Jeremias i, 6.
[215] Exodus iv, 10 [cf. iii, 2].
[216] Acts vii, 32.
[217] [Or: 'and they know not how to say it nor are able to do
[218] [Lit., 'to him that rules them.']
[219] [Lit., 'that is set most far away and most remote from every
[220] Baruch iii, 31.
[221] Psalm lxxvi, 19-20 [A.V., lxxvii, 18-19].
[222] [Lit., 'of the roundness of the earth.']
[223] Job xxxvii, 16.
[224] [Lit., 'rises to scale, know and possess.']
[225] Psalm lxxxiii, 6 [A.V., lxxxiv, 7].
[226] St. Luke xiv, 11.
[227] Proverbs xviii, 12.
[228] Genesis xxviii, 12.
[229] [Lit., 'and annihilating oneself.']
[230] 'Ut dicit Bernardus, Magna res est amor, sed sunt in eo
gradus. Loquendo ergo aliquantulum magis moraliter quam realiter,
decem amoris gradus distinguere possumus' (D. Thom., De dilectione
Dei et proximi, cap. xxvii. Cf. Opusc. LXI of the edition of
Venice, 1595).
[231] [The word translated 'step' may also (and often more
elegantly) be rendered 'degree.' The same word is kept, however,
throughout the translation of this chapter except where noted
[232] Canticles v, 8.
[233] Psalm cxlii, 7 [A.V., cxliii, 7].
[234] Psalm lxvii, 10 [A.V., lxviii, 9].
[235] [Lit., 'to enter (upon).']
[236] Canticles iii, 2.
[237] Psalm civ, 4 [A.V., cv, 4].
[238] St. John xx.
[239] [The word in the Spanish is that elsewhere translated
[240] Psalm cxi, 1 [A.V., cxii, 1].
[241] [Lit., 'makes in him this labour of eagerness.']
[242] Genesis xxix, 20.
[243] [Lit., 'how much God merits.']
[244] Canticles viii, 5.
[245] Jeremias ii, 2.
[246] Psalm lxxxiii, 2 [A.V., lxxxiv, 2].
[247] Genesis xxx, 1.
[248] [Lit., 'On this hungering step.']
[249] Isaias xl, 31.
[250] Psalm xli, 2 [A.V., xlii, 1].
[251] Psalm lviii, 5 [A.V., lix, 4].
[252] Psalm cxviii, 32 [A.V., cxix, 32].
[253] 1 Corinthians xiii, 7.
[254] Exodus xxxii, 31-2.
[255] Psalm xxxvi, 4 [A.V., xxxvii, 4].
[256] Canticles i, 1.
[257] Canticles iii, 4.
[258] [Lit., 'attain to setting their foot.']
[259] Daniel x, 11.
[260] 'Dum Deum in ignis visione suscipiunt, per amorem suaviter
arserunt' (Hom. XXX in Evang.).
[261] [i.e., direct, not mediate.]
[262] St. Matthew v, 8.
[263] St. John iii, 2.
[264] St. John xvi, 23.
[265] [Lit., 'that it dislocates the sight of all understanding.']
[2661 St. Peter v, 9.
[267] [Lit., 'a better undershirt and tunic.']
[268] [Lit., 'this whiteness.']
[269] Osee, ii, 20.
[270] Psalm xvi, 4 [A.V., xvii, 4].
[271] 1 Thessalonians v, 8.
[272] Psalm xxiv, 15 [A.V., xxv, 15].
[273] Psalm cxxii, 2 [A.V., cxxiii, 2].
[274] Canticles iv, 9.
[275] Lamentations iii, 29.
[276] Ibid. [For the quotation, see Bk. II, chap. viii, Sect. 1,
[277] Canticles i, 3. [A.V., i, 4.] [For 'chambers' the Spanish
has 'bed.']
[278] Canticles iii, 10.
[279] [Or 'health.']
[280] Romans viii, 24.
[281] i.e., in the original Spanish and in our verse rendering of
the poem in The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Ed. by E.
Allison Peers, Vol. II (The Newman Press, Westminster, Md.).
[282] i.e., in the original Spanish and in our verse rendering of
the poem in The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Ed. by E.
Allison Peers, Vol. II (The Newman Press, Westminster, Md.).
[283] [The Spanish also admits of the rendering: 'remain shut off
from it by darkness.']
[284] Matthew vi, 3.
[285] Canticles iii, 7-8.
[286] Canticles vi, 10 [A.V., vi, 11-12].
[287] Job i, 1-11.
[288] Such is the unanimous opinion of theologians. Some, with St.
Thomas (Pt. III, q. 57, a. 6), suppose that the appearance which
converted St. Paul near Damascus was that of Our Lord Jesus Christ
in person.
[289] Exodus vii, 11-22; viii, 7.
[290] Job xli, 25.
[291] [Lit., 'step.' Cf. Bk. II, chap. xix, first note, above.]
[292] Canticles i, 1.
[293] Canticles viii, 1.
[294] The word translated 'at rest' is a past participle: more
literally, 'stilled.'
[295] [Lit., 'twice repeats'--a loosely used phrase.]
[296] H omits this last phrase, which is found in all the other
Codices, and in e.p. The latter adds: 'notwithstanding that the
soul is not wholly free from the temptations of the lower part.'
The addition is made so that the teaching of the Saint may not be
confused with that of the Illuminists, who supposed the
contemplative in union to be impeccable, do what he might. The
Saint's meaning is that for the mystical union of the soul with
God such purity and tranquillity of senses and faculties are
needful that his condition resembles that state of innocence in
which Adam was created, but without the attribute of
impeccability, which does not necessarily accompany union, nor can
be attained by any, save by a most special privilege of God. Cf.
St. Teresa's Interior Castle, VII, ii. St. Teresa will be found
occasionally to explain points of mystical doctrine which St. John
of the Cross takes as being understood.
[297] [Lit., 'twice repeated.']
[298] Wisdom xviii, 14.
[299] Canticles v, 7.
[300] Canticles iii, 1.
[301] Thus end the majority of the MSS. Cf. pp. lxviii-lxiii,
Ascent of Mount Carmel (Image Books edition), 26-27, on the
incomplete state of this treatise. The MSS. say nothing of this,
except that in the Alba de Tormes MS. we read: 'Thus far wrote the
holy Fray John of the Cross concerning the purgative way, wherein
he treats of the active and the passive [aspect] of it as is seen
in the treatise of the Ascent of the Mount and in this of the Dark
Night, and, as he died, he wrote no more. And hereafter follows
the illuminative way, and then the unitive.' Elsewhere we have
said that the lack of any commentary on the last five stanzas is
not due to the Saint's death, since he lived for many years after
writing the commentary on the earlier stanzas.

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