"the greatest of al l mysti cal theol ogi ans

"
Thus has Thomas Merton descri bed St. John of the Cross, echoi ng the consi dered
judgment of most authori ti es on the spi ri tual l i fe; and here i n thi s vol ume i s the
great mysti c's most wi del y appeal i ng work. Ascent of Mount Carmel i s an
i ncomparabl e gui de to the spi ri tual l i fe -- because i ts author has lived hi s own
counsel . Addressed to i nformed Chri sti ans who aspi re to grow i n uni on wi th God, i t
exami nes every category of spi ri tual experi ence, the spuri ous as wel l as the
authenti c. Wi th rare i nsi ght i nto human psychol ogy i t not onl y tel l s how to become
more cl osel y uni ted wi th God, but spel l s out i n vi vi d detai l the pi tfal l s to avoi d.
I n hi s Apostol i c Letter procl ai mi ng St. John of the Cross a Doctor of the
Church, Pope Pi us XI wrote that he "poi nts out to soul s the way of perfecti on as
though i l l umi ned by l i ght from on hi gh, i n hi s l i mpi dl y cl ear anal ysi s of mysti cal
experi ence. And al though [hi s works] deal wi th di ffi cul t and hi dden matters, they
are neverthel ess repl ete wi th such l ofty spi ri tual doctri ne and are so wel l adapted to
the understandi ng of those who study them that they can ri ghtl y be cal l ed a gui de
and handbook for the man of fai th who proposes to embrace a l i fe of perfecti on."
Thi s transl ati on by E. Al l i son Peers was hai l ed by the London Times as "the
most fai thful that has appeared i n any European l anguage."
2
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS was perhaps the greatest mysti cal wri ter the worl d has
ever known. Bossuet's famous tri bute -- that hi s wri ti ngs "possess the same
authori ty i n mysti cal theol ogy as the wri ti ngs of St. Thomas possess i n dogmati c
theol ogy" -- remai ns the most fi tti ng testi moni al to hi s august pl ace among spi ri tual
wri ters.
John was born i n Casti l e i n 1542 -- eve of Spai n's century of greatness, to
whi ch he hi msel f was to add such l ustre. He studi ed under the Jesui ts and worked
for si x years i n a hospi tal . Enteri ng the Carmel i tes i n 1563, he was professed a year
l ater and sent to the great Uni versi ty of Sal amanca. He was ordai ned i n 1567 but,
shri nki ng from the apostol ate of a pri est i n the worl d, consi dered enteri ng the
Carthusi ans, a hermi ti cal order.
Then came the turni ng poi nt i n hi s l i fe. He met St. Teresa of Ávi l a, who was
pursui ng her epi c work of restori ng the pri sti ne, stri cter observance of the
Carmel i te rul e. John and two other members of the order took the vows of the
Di scal ced (or reformed) Carmel i tes the fol l owi ng year, bi ndi ng themsel ves to a more
ri gorous way of l i fe whi ch i ncl uded dai l y (and ni ghtl y) reci tati on of the Di vi ne Offi ce
i n choi r, perpetual absti nence from meat, and addi ti onal fasti ng.
Yet hi s rel i gi ous vows were but a part of the ri gors John was to undergo. The
mai n branch of the order, the Cal ced Carmel i tes, so opposed the Reform that they
twi ce had John ki dnapped and jai l ed -- provi denti al l y, so i t proved, for much of hi s
wri ti ng was done i n pri son.
The greater part of hi s twenty-three years as a Di scal ced Carmel i te, however,
was spent i n fi l l i ng a number of i mportant posts i n the order, among them Rector of
two col l eges, Pri or, Defi nator, and Vi car-Provi nci al . But i t was i n one of hi s l esser
offi ces that he was to spend the most deci si ve years of hi s l i fe: he was confessor to
the Carmel i te nuns at Ávi l a, where St. Teresa was Superi or.
The secret of St. John's uni que contri buti on to mysti cal theol ogy was not
si mpl y hi s mysti ci sm, for there have been other mysti cs; not even hi s profound
grasp of Scri pture, dogma, Thomi sm, and spi ri tual l i terature, for there have al so
been l earned mysti cs. What sets hi m apart i s hi s extraordi nary poeti c vi si on. To
wri te of mysti cal experi ence i s to try to express the i nexpressi bl e. Because he was a
great poet St. John of the Cross was abl e, i n the real m of mysti ci sm, to push the
fronti ers of human expressi on beyond where any wri ter has succeeded i n venturi ng
before or si nce. Thi s poeti c i ntensi ty i s found even i n hi s prose, the major works of
whi ch are Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, Spiritual Canticle, and
Living Flame of Love.
St. John of the Cross di ed i n 1591, was beati fi ed l ess than a century l ater i n
1675, was canoni zed i n 1726, and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pi us
XI i n 1926.
3
ASCENT OF
MOUNT CARMEL
by
Saint J ohn of the Cross
DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
THI RD REVI SED EDI TI ON
Translated and edited,
with a General I ntroduction, by
E. ALLI SON PEERS
from the critical edition of
P. SI LVERI O DE SANTA TERESA, C.D.
NI HI L OBSTAT: CEORGI VS SMI TH, S.T.D., PH.D.
CENSOR DEPVTATVS
I MPRI MATVR: E. MORROGH BERNARD
VI CARI VS GENERALI S
WESTMONASTERI I : DI E XXI V SEPTEMBRI S MCMLI I
4
TO THE
DI SCALCED CARMELI TES OF CASTI LE,
WI TH ABI DI NG MEMORI ES OF THEI R HOSPI TALI TY AND KI NDNESS
I N MADRI D, AVI LA AND BURGOS,
BUT ABOVE ALL OF THEI R DEVOTI ON TO
SAI NT JOHN OF THE CROSS,
I DEDI CATE THI S TRANSLATI ON
5
CONTENTS
PREFACE TO THE ELECTONI C EDI TI ON
TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE TO THE FI RST EDI TI ON
TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDI TI ON
PRI NCI PAL ABBREVI ATI ONS
AN OUTLI NE OF THE LI FE OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
GENERAL I NTRODUCTI ON TO THE WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
I NTRODUCTI ON
ARGUMENT
PROLOGUE
BOOK I
CHAPTER I .--Sets down the fi rst stanza. Descri bes two di fferent ni ghts through
whi ch spi ri tual persons pass, accordi ng to the two parts of man, the l ower
and the hi gher. Expounds the stanza whi ch fol l ows
CHAPTER I I .--Expl ai ns the nature of thi s dark ni ght through whi ch the soul says
that i t has passed on the road to uni on
CHAPTER I I I .--Speaks of the fi rst cause of thi s ni ght, whi ch i s that of the pri vati on
of the desi re i n al l thi ngs, and gi ves the reason for whi ch i t i s cal l ed ni ght
CHAPTER I V.--Wherei n i s decl ared how necessary i t i s for the soul trul y to pass
through thi s dark ni ght of sense, whi ch i s morti fi cati on of desi re, i n order
that i t may journey to uni on wi th God
CHAPTER V.--Wherei n the aforementi oned subject i s treated and conti nued, and i t i s
shown by passages and fi gures from Hol y Scri pture how necessary i t i s for
the soul to journey to God through thi s dark ni ght of the morti fi cati on of
desi re i n al l thi ngs
CHAPTER VI .--Wherei n are treated two seri ous evi l s caused i n the soul by the
desi res, the one evi l bei ng pri vati ve and the other posi ti ve
CHAPTER VI I .--Wherei n i s shown how the desi res torment the soul . Thi s i s proved
l i kewi se by compari sons and quotati ons
CHAPTER VI I I .--Wherei n i s shown how the desi res darken and bl i nd the soul
CHAPTER I X.--Wherei n i s descri bed how the desi res defi l e the soul . Thi s i s proved by
compari sons and quotati ons from Hol y Scri pture
CHAPTER X.--Wherei n i s descri bed how the desi res weaken the soul i n vi rtue and
make i t l ukewarm
CHAPTER XI .--Wherei n i t i s proved necessary that the soul that woul d attai n to
6
Di vi ne uni on shoul d be free from desi res, however sl i ght they be
CHAPTER XI I .--Whi ch treats of the answer to another questi on, expl ai ni ng what the
desi res are that suffi ce to cause the evi l s aforementi oned i n the soul
CHAPTER XI I I .--Wherei n i s descri bed the manner and way whi ch the soul must
fol l ow i n order to enter thi s ni ght of sense
CHAPTER XI V.--Wherei n i s expounded the second l i ne of the stanza
CHAPTER XV.--Wherei n are expounded the remai ni ng l i nes of the aforementi oned
stanza
BOOK I I
CHAPTER I
CHAPTER I I .--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the second part of cause of thi s ni ght, whi ch
i s fai th. Proves by two arguments how i t i s darker than the fi rst and then the
thi rd
CHAPTER I I I .--How fai th i s dark ni ght to the soul . Thi s i s proved wi th arguments
and quotati ons and fi gures from Scri pture
CHAPTER I V.--Treats i n general of how the soul l i kewi se must be i n darkness, i n so
far as thi s rests wi th i tsel f, to the end that i t may be effecti vel y gui ded by
fai th to the hi ghest contempl ati on
CHAPTER V.--Wherei n i s descri bed what i s meant by uni on of the soul wi th God. A
compari son i s gi ven
CHAPTER VI .--Wherei n i s descri bed how i t i s the three theol ogi cal vi rtues that
perfect the three facul ti es of the soul , and how the sai d vi rtues produce
empti ness and darkness wi thi n them
CHAPTER VI I .--Wherei n i s descri bed how strai t i s the way that l eads to eternal l i fe
and how compl etel y detached and di sencumbered must be those that wi l l
wal k i n i t. We begi n to speak of the detachment of the understandi ng
CHAPTER VI I I .--Whi ch descri bes i n a general way how no creature and no
knowl edge that can be comprehended by the understandi ng can serve as a
proxi mate means of Di vi ne uni on wi th God
CHAPTER I X.--How fai th i s the proxi mate and proporti onate means of the
understandi ng whereby the soul may attai n to the Di vi ne uni on of l ove. Thi s
i s proved by passages and fi gures from Di vi ne Scri pture
CHAPTER X.--Wherei n di sti ncti on i s made between al l apprehensi ons and types of
knowl edge whi ch can be comprehended by the understandi ng
CHAPTER XI .--Of the hi ndrance and harm that may be caused by apprehensi ons of
the understandi ng whi ch proceed from that whi ch i s supernatural l y
represented to the outward bodi l y senses; and how the soul i s to conduct i tsel f
therei n
CHAPTER XI I .--Whi ch treats of natural i magi nary apprehensi ons. Descri bes thei r
nature and proves that they cannot be a proporti onate means of attai nment
to uni on wi th God. Shows the harm whi ch resul ts from i nabi l i ty to detach one
sel f from them
7
CHAPTER XI I I .--Wherei n are set down the si gns whi ch the spi ri tual person wi l l fi nd
i n hi msel f whereby he may know at what season i t behoves hi m to l eave
medi tati on and reasoni ng and pass to the state of contempl ati on
CHAPTER XI V.--Wherei n i s proved the fi tness of these si gns, and the reason i s gi ven
why that whi ch has been sai d i n speaki ng of them i s necessary to progress
CHAPTER XV.--Wherei n i s expl ai ned how i t i s someti mes wel l for progressi ves who
are begi nni ng to enter upon thi s general knowl edge of contempl ati on to make
use of natural reasoni ng and the work of the natural facul ti es
CHAPTER XVI .--Whi ch treats of the i magi nary apprehensi ons that are
supernatural l y represented i n the fancy. Descri bes how they cannot serve the
soul as a proxi mate means to uni on wi th God
CHAPTER XVI I .--Wherei n i s descri bed the purpose and manner of God i n Hi s
communi cati on of spi ri tual bl essi ngs to the soul by means of the senses.
Herei n i s answered the questi on whi ch has been referred to
CHAPTER XVI I I .--Whi ch treats of the harm that certai n spi ri tual masters may do to
soul s when they di rect them not by a good method wi th respect to the vi si ons
aforementi oned. Descri bes al so how these vi si ons may cause decepti on even
though they be of God.
CHAPTER XI X.--Wherei n i s expounded and proved how, al though vi si ons and
l ocuti ons whi ch come from God are true, we may be decei ved about them.
Thi s i s proved by quotati ons from Di vi ne Scri pture
CHAPTER XX.--Wherei n i s proved by passages from Scri pture how the sayi ngs and
words of God, though al ways true, do not al ways rest upon stabl e causes.
CHAPTER XXI .--Wherei n i s expl ai ned how at ti mes, al though God answers the
prayers that are addressed to Hi m, He i s not pl eased that we shoul d use such
methods. I t i s al so shown how, al though He condescend to us and answer us,
He i s oftenti mes wroth
CHAPTER XXI I .--Wherei n i s sol ved a di ffi cul ty -- namel y, why i t i s not l awful , under
the l aw of grace, to ask anythi ng of God by supernatural means, as i t was
under the ol d l aw. Thi s sol uti on i s proved by a passage from Sai nt Paul
CHAPTER XXI I I .--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the apprehensi ons of the understandi ng
that come i n a purel y spi ri tual way, and descri bes thei r nature
CHAPTER XXI V.--Whi ch treats of two ki nds of spi ri tual vi si on that come
supernatural l y
CHAPTER XXV.--Whi ch treats of revel ati ons, descri bi ng thei r nature and maki ng a
di sti ncti on between them
CHAPTER XXVI .--Whi ch treats of the i ntui ti on of naked truths i n the understandi ng,
expl ai ni ng how they are of two ki nds and how the soul i s to conduct i tsel f
wi th respect to them
CHAPTER XXVI I .--Whi ch treats of the second ki nd of revel ati on, namel y, the
di scl osure of hi dden secrets. Descri bes the way i n whi ch these may assi st the
soul toward uni on wi th God, and the way i n whi ch they may be a hi ndrance;
and how the devi l may decei ve the soul greatl y i n thi s matter
CHAPTER XXVI I I .--Whi ch treats of i nteri or l ocuti ons that may come to the spi ri t
8
supernatural l y. Says of what ki nds they are
CHAPTER XXI X.--Whi ch treats of the fi rst ki nd of words that the recol l ected spi ri t
someti mes forms wi thi n i tsel f. Descri bes the cause of these and the profi t and
the harm whi ch there may be i n them
CHAPTER XXX.--Whi ch treats of the i nteri or words that come to the spi ri t formal l y
by supernatural means. Warns the reader of the harm whi ch they may do
and of the cauti on that i s necessary i n order that the soul may not be
decei ved by them
CHAPTER XXXI .--Whi ch treats of the substanti al words that come i nteri orl y to the
spi ri t. Descri bes the di fference between them and formal words, and the
profi t whi ch they bri ng and the resi gnati on and respect whi ch the soul must
observe wi th regard to them
CHAPTER XXXI I .--Whi ch treats of the apprehensi ons recei ved by the understandi ng
from i nteri or feel i ngs whi ch come supernatural l y to the soul . Descri bes thei r
cause, and the manner wherei n the soul must conduct i tsel f so that they may
not obstruct i ts road to uni on wi th God
BOOK I I I
CHAPTER I
CHAPTER I I .--Whi ch treats of the natural apprehensi ons of the memory and
descri bes how the soul must be voi ded of them i n order to be abl e to attai n to
uni on wi th God accordi ng to thi s facul ty
CHAPTER I I I .--Wherei n are descri bed three ki nds of evi l whi ch come to the soul
when i t enters not i nto darkness wi th respect to knowl edge and refl ecti ons i n
the memory. Herei n i s descri bed the fi rst
CHAPTER I V.--Whi ch treats of the second ki nd of evi l that may come to the soul from
the devi l by way of the natural apprehensi ons of the memory
CHAPTER V.--Of the thi rd evi l whi ch comes to the soul by way of the di sti nct natural
knowl edge of the memory
CHAPTER VI .-Of the benefi ts whi ch come to the soul from forgetful ness and
empti ness of al l thoughts and knowl edge whi ch i t may have i n a natural way
wi th respect to the memory
CHAPTER VI I .--Whi ch treats of the second ki nd of apprehensi on of the memory --
namel y, i magi nary apprehensi ons -- and of supernatural knowl edge
CHAPTER VI I I .--Of the evi l s whi ch may be caused i n the soul by the knowl edge of
supernatural thi ngs, i f i t refl ect upon them. Says how many these evi l s are
CHAPTER I X.--Of the second ki nd of evi l , whi ch i s the peri l of fal l i ng i nto sel f-esteem
and vai n presumpti on
CHAPTER X.--Of the thi rd evi l that may come to the soul from the devi l , through the
i magi nary apprehensi ons of the memory
CHAPTER XI .--Of the fourth evi l that comes to the soul from the di sti nct
supernatural apprehensi ons of the memory, whi ch i s the hi ndrance that i t
i nterposes to uni on
9
CHAPTER XI I .--Of the fi fth evi l that may come to the soul i n supernatural i magi nary
forms and apprehensi ons, whi ch i s a l ow and unseemi ngl y judgment of God
CHAPTER XI I I .--Of the benefi ts whi ch the soul recei ves through bani shi ng from
i tsel f the apprehensi ons of the i magi nati on. Thi s chapter answers a certai n
objecti on and descri bes a di fference whi ch exi sts between apprehensi ons that
are i magi nary, natural and supernatural
CHAPTER XI V.--Whi ch treats of spi ri tual knowl edge i n so far as i t may concern the
memory
CHAPTER XV.--Whi ch sets down the general method whereby the spi ri tual person
must govern hi msel f wi th respect to thi s sense
CHAPTER XVI .--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the dark ni ght of the wi l l . Makes a di vi si on
between the affecti ons of the wi l l
CHAPTER XVI I .--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the fi rst affecti on of the wi l l . Descri bes the
nature of joy and makes a di sti ncti on between the thi ngs i n whi ch the wi l l
can rejoi ce
CHAPTER XVI I I .--Whi ch treats of joy wi th respect to temporal bl essi ngs. Descri bes
how joy i n them must be di rected to God
CHAPTER XI X.--Of the evi l s that may befal l the soul when i t sets i ts rejoi ci ng upon
temporal bl essi ngs
CHAPTER XX.--Of the benefi ts that come to the soul from i ts wi thdrawal of joy from
temporal thi ngs
CHAPTER XXI .--Whi ch descri bes how i t i s vani ty to set the rejoi ci ng of the wi l l upon
the good thi ngs of nature, and how the soul must di rect i tsel f, by means of
them, to God
CHAPTER XXI I .--Of the evi l s whi ch come to the soul when i t sets the rejoi ci ng of i ts
wi l l upon the good thi ngs of nature
CHAPTER XXI I I .--Of the benefi ts whi ch the soul recei ves from not setti ng i ts
rejoi ci ng upon the good thi ngs of nature
CHAPTER XXI V.--Whi ch treats of the thi rd ki nd of good thi ng whereon the wi l l may
set the affecti on of rejoi ci ng, whi ch ki nd pertai ns to sense. I ndi cates what
these good thi ngs are and of how many ki nds, and how the wi l l has to be
di rected to God and purged of thi s rejoi ci ng
CHAPTER XXV.--Whi ch treats of the evi l s that affl i ct the soul when i t desi res to set
the rejoi ci ng of i ts wi l l upon the good thi ngs of sense
CHAPTER XXVI .--Of the benefi ts that come to the soul from sel f-deni al i n rejoi ci ng
as to thi ngs of sense, whi ch benefi ts are spi ri tual and temporal
CHAPTER XXVI I .--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the fourth ki nd of good -- namel y, the
moral . Descri bes wherei n thi s consi sts, and i n what manner joy of the wi l l
therei n i s l awful
CHAPTER XXVI I I .--Of seven evi l s i nto whi ch a man may fal l i f he set the rejoi ci ng of
hi s wi l l upon moral good
CHAPTER XXI X.--Of the benefi ts whi ch come to the soul through the wi thdrawal of
i ts rejoi ci ng from moral good
10
CHAPTER XXX.--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the fi fth ki nd of good thi ng wherei n the
wi l l may rejoi ce, whi ch i s the super natural . Descri bes the nature of these
supernatural good thi ngs, and how they are di sti ngui shed from the spi ri tual ,
and how joy i n them i s to be di rected to God
CHAPTER XXXI .--Of the evi l s whi ch come to the soul when i t sets the rejoi ci ng of the
wi l l upon thi s ki nd of good
CHAPTER XXXI I .--Of two benefi ts whi ch are deri ved from the renunci ati on of
rejoi ci ng i n the matter of the supernatural graces
CHAPTER XXXI I I .--Whi ch begi ns to treat of the si xth ki nd of good wherei n the soul
may rejoi ce, Descri bes i ts nature and makes the fi rst di vi si on under thi s head
CHAPTER XXXI V.--Of those good thi ngs of the spi ri t whi ch can be di sti nctl y
apprehended by the understandi ng and the memory. Descri bes how the wi l l
i s to behave i n the matter of rejoi ci ng i n them
CHAPTER XXXV.--Of the del ectabl e spi ri tual good thi ngs whi ch can be di sti nctl y
apprehended by the wi l l . Descri bes the ki nds of these
CHAPTER XXXVI .--Whi ch conti nues to treat of i mages, and descri bes the i gnorance
whi ch certai n persons have wi th respect to them
CHAPTER XXXVI I .--Of how the rejoi ci ng of the wi l l must be di rected, by way of the
i mages, to God, so that the soul may not go astray because of them or be
hi ndered by them
CHAPTER XXXVI I I .--Conti nues to descri be moti ve good. Speaks of oratori es and
pl aces dedi cated to prayer
CHAPTER XXXI X.--Of the way i n whi ch oratori es and churches shoul d be used, i n
order to di rect the spi ri t to God.
CHAPTER XL.--Whi ch conti nues to di rect the spi ri t to i nteri or recol l ecti on wi th
reference to what has been sai d
CHAPTER XLI .--Of certai n evi l s i nto whi ch those persons fal l who gi ve themsel ves to
pl easure i n sensi bl e objects and who frequent pl aces of devoti on i n the way
that has been descri bed
CHAPTER XLI I .--Of three di fferent ki nds of pl aces of devoti on and of how the wi l l
shoul d conduct i tsel f wi th regard to them
CHAPTER XLI I I .--Whi ch treats of other moti ves for prayer that many persons use --
namel y, a great vari ety of ceremoni es
CHAPTER XLI V.--Of the manner wherei n the rejoi ci ng and strength of the wi l l must
be di rected to God through these devoti ons
CHAPTER XLV.--Whi ch treats of the second ki nd of di sti nct good, wherei n the wi l l
may rejoi ce vai nl y
11
PREFACE TO THE ELECTONI C EDI TI ON
Thi s el ectroni c edi ti on (v 0.9) has been scanned from an uncopyri ghted 1962
I mage Books thi rd edi ti on of the Ascent and i s therefore i n the publ i c domai n. The
enti re text and some of the footnotes have been reproduced. Nearl y 1000 footnotes
(and parts of footnotes) descri bi ng vari ati ons among manuscri pts have been
omi tted. Page number references i n the footnotes have been changed to chapter and
secti on where possi bl e. Thi s edi ti on has been proofread once, but addi ti onal errors
may remai n.
Harry Pl anti nga
Uni versi ty of Pi ttsburgh
pl anti ng@cs.pi tt.edu
Jul y 1, 1994.
12
TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
TO THE FI RST EDI TI ON
FOR at l east twenty years, a new transl ati on of the works of St. John of the Cross
has been an urgent necessi ty. The transl ati ons of the i ndi vi dual prose works now i n
general use go back i n thei r ori gi nal form to the ei ghteen-si xti es, and, though the
l ater edi ti ons of some of them have been submi tted to a certai n degree of revi si on,
nothi ng but a compl ete retransl ati on of the works from thei r ori gi nal Spani sh coul d
be sati sfactory. For thi s there are two reasons.
Fi rst, the exi sti ng transl ati ons were never very exact renderi ngs of the
ori gi nal Spani sh text even i n the form whi ch hel d the fi el d when they were fi rst
publ i shed. Thei r great meri t was extreme readabl eness: many a di sci pl e of the
Spani sh mysti cs, who i s unacquai nted wi th the l anguage i n whi ch they wrote, owes
to these transl ati ons the comparati ve ease wi th whi ch he has mastered the mai n
l i nes of St. John of the Cross's teachi ng. Thus for the general reader they were of
great uti l i ty; for the student, on the other hand, they have never been enti rel y
adequate. They paraphrase di ffi cul t expressi ons, omi t or add to parts of i ndi vi dual
sentences i n order (as i t seems) to faci l i tate comprehensi on of the general dri ft of
the passages i n whi ch these occur, and frequentl y retransl ate from the Vul gate the
Sai nt's Spani sh quotati ons from Hol y Scri pture i nstead of turni ng i nto Engl i sh the
quotati ons themsel ves, usi ng the text actual l y before them.
A second and more i mportant reason for a new transl ati on, however, i s the
di scovery of fresh manuscri pts and the consequent i mprovements whi ch have been
made i n the Spani sh text of the works of St. John of the Cross, duri ng the present
century. Seventy years ago, the text chi efl y used was that of the col l ecti on known as
the Biblioteca de Autores Españoles (1853), whi ch i tsel f was based, as we shal l l ater
see, upon an edi ti on goi ng back as far as 1703, publ i shed before modern methods of
edi ti ng were so much as i magi ned. Both the text of the B.A.E. edi ti on and the
uni mportant commentary whi ch accompani ed i t were hi ghl y unsati sfactory, yet
unti l the begi nni ng of the present century nothi ng appreci abl y better was
attempted.
I n the l ast twenty years, however, we have had two new edi ti ons, each based
upon a cl ose study of the extant manuscri pts and each representi ng a great advance
upon the edi ti ons precedi ng i t. The three-vol ume Tol edo edi ti on of P. Gerardo de
San Juan de l a Cruz, C.D. (1912-14), was the fi rst attempt made to produce an
accurate text by modern cri ti cal methods. I ts executi on was perhaps l ess l audabl e
than i ts concepti on, and faul ts were poi nted out i n i t from the ti me of i ts
appearance, but i t served as a new starti ng-poi nt for Spani sh schol ars and
sti mul ated them to a new i nterest i n St. John of the Cross's wri ti ngs. Then,
seventeen years l ater, came the magni fi cent fi ve-vol ume edi ti on of P. Si l veri o de
Santa Teresa, C.D. (Burgos, 1929-31), whi ch forms the basi s of thi s present
transl ati on. So superi or i s i t, even on the most casual exami nati on, to al l i ts
predecessors that to eul ogi ze i t i n detai l i s superfl uous. I t i s founded upon a l arger
number of texts than has previ ousl y been known and i t col l ates them wi th greater
ski l l than that of any earl i er edi tor. I t can hardl y fai l to be the standard edi ti on of
the works of St. John of the Cross for generati ons.
Thanks to the l abours of these Carmel i te schol ars and of others whose
fi ndi ngs they have i ncorporated i n thei r edi ti ons, Spani sh students can now
approach the work of the great Doctor wi th the reasonabl e bel i ef that they are
13
readi ng, as nearl y as may be, what he actual l y wrote. Engl i sh-readi ng students,
however, who are unabl e to master si xteenth-century Spani sh, have hi therto had no
grounds for such a bel i ef. They cannot tel l whether, i n any parti cul ar passage, they
are face to face wi th the Sai nt's own words, wi th a transl ator's free paraphrase of
them or wi th a gl oss made by some l ater copyi st or earl y edi tor i n the supposed
i nterests of orthodoxy. I ndeed, they cannot be sure that some whol e paragraph i s
not one of the numerous i nterpol ati ons whi ch has i ts ri se i n an earl y pri nted edi ti on
-- i .e., the ti morous qual i fi cati ons of statements whi ch have seemed to the
i nterpol ator over-bol d. Even some of the most di sti ngui shed wri ters i n Engl i sh on
St. John of the Cross have been mi sl ed i n thi s way and i t has been i mpossi bl e for
any but those who read Spani sh wi th ease to make a systemati c and rel i abl e study
of such an i mportant questi on as the al l eged dependence of Spani sh qui eti sts upon
the Sai nt, whi l e hi s teachi ng on the mysti cal l i fe has qui te unwi tti ngl y been
di storted by persons who woul d l east wi sh to mi srepresent i t i n any parti cul ar.
I t was when wri ti ng the chapter on St. John of the Cross i n the fi rst vol ume
of my Studies of the Spanish Mystics (i n whi ch, as i t was publ i shed i n 1927, I had
not the advantage of usi ng P. Si l veri o's edi ti on) that I fi rst real i zed the extent of the
harm caused by the l ack of an accurate and modern transl ati on. Maki ng my own
versi ons of al l the passages quoted, I had someti mes occasi on to compare them wi th
those of other transl ators, whi ch at thei r worst were al most unrecogni zabl e as
versi ons of the same ori gi nal s. Then and there I resol ved that, when ti me al l owed, I
woul d make a fresh transl ati on of the works of a sai nt to whom I have l ong had
great devoti on -- to whom, i ndeed, I owe more than to any other wri ter outsi de the
Scri ptures. Just at that ti me I happened to vi si t the Di scal ced Carmel i tes at Burgos,
where I fi rst met P. Si l veri o, and found, to my grati fi cati on, that hi s edi ti on of St.
John of the Cross was much nearer publ i cati on than I had i magi ned. Arrangements
for sol e permi ssi on to transl ate the new edi ti on were qui ckl y made and work on the
earl y vol umes was begun even before the l ast vol ume was publ i shed.
I I
These prel i mi nary notes wi l l expl ai n why my chi ef preoccupati on throughout
the performance of thi s task has been to present as accurate and rel i abl e a versi on
of St. John of the Cross's works as i t i s possi bl e to obtai n. To keep the transl ati on,
l i ne by l i ne, au pied de la lettre, i s, of course, i mpracti cabl e: and such constantl y
occurri ng Spani sh habi ts as the use of abstract nouns i n the pl ural and the verbal
constructi on 'ir + present parti ci pl e' i ntroduce shades of meani ng whi ch cannot
al ways be reproduced. Yet wherever, for styl i sti c or other reasons, I have departed
from the Spani sh i n any way that coul d concei vabl y cause a mi sunderstandi ng, I
have scrupul ousl y i ndi cated thi s i n a footnote. Further, I have transl ated, not onl y
the text, but the vari ant readi ngs as gi ven by P. Si l veri o,
1
except where they are due
merel y to sl i ps of the copyi st's pen or where they di ffer so sl i ghtl y from the readi ngs
of the text that i t i s i mpossi bl e to render the di fferences i n Engl i sh. I beg students
not to thi nk that some of the smal l er changes noted are of no i mportance; cl oser
exami nati on wi l l often show that, however sl i ght they may seem, they are, i n
rel ati on to thei r context, or to some parti cul ar aspect of the Sai nt's teachi ng, of real
i nterest; i n other pl aces they hel p to gi ve the reader an i dea, whi ch may be useful to
hi m i n some cruci al passage, of the general characteri sti cs of the manuscri pt or
edi ti on i n questi on. The edi tor's notes on the manuscri pts and earl y edi ti ons whi ch
1
The footnotes are P. Si l veri o's except where they are encl osed i n square brackets.
14
he has col l ated wi l l al so be found, for the same reason, to be summari zed i n the
i ntroducti on to each work; i n consul ti ng the vari ants, the Engl i sh-readi ng student
has the maxi mum ai d to a judgment of the rel i abi l i ty of hi s authori ti es.
Concentrati on upon the ai m of obtai ni ng the most preci se possi bl e renderi ng
of the text has l ed me to sacri fi ce styl i sti c el egance to exactness where the two have
been i n confl i ct; i t has someti mes been di ffi cul t to bri ng onesel f to reproduce the
Sai nt's often ungai nl y, though often forceful , repeti ti ons of words or hi s l ong,
cumbrous parentheses, but the temptati on to take refuge i n graceful paraphrases
has been steadi l y resi sted. I n the same i nterest, and al so i n that of space, I have
made certai n omi ssi ons from, and abbrevi ati ons of, other parts of the edi ti on than
the text. Two of P. Si l veri o's fi ve vol umes are enti rel y fi l l ed wi th commentari es and
documents. I have sel ected from the documents those of outstandi ng i nterest to
readers wi th no detai l ed knowl edge of Spani sh rel i gi ous hi story and have been
content to summari ze the edi tor's i ntroducti ons to the i ndi vi dual works, as wel l as
hi s l onger footnotes to the text, and to omi t such parts as woul d i nterest onl y
speci al i sts, who are abl e, or at l east shoul d be obl i ged, to study them i n the ori gi nal
Spani sh.
The deci si on to summari ze i n these pl aces has been made the l ess rel uctantl y
because of the frequent unsui tabi l i ty of P. Si l veri o's styl e to Engl i sh readers. Li ke
that of many Spani ards, i t i s so di scursi ve, and at ti mes so baroque i n i ts weal th of
epi thet and i ts profusi on of i magery, that a l i teral transl ati on, for many pages
together, woul d sel dom have been acceptabl e. The same cri ti ci sm woul d have been
appl i cabl e to any l i teral transl ati on of P. Si l veri o's bi ography of St. John of the
Cross whi ch stands at the head of hi s edi ti on (Vol . I , pp. 7-130). There was a further
reason for omi tti ng these bi ographi cal chapters. The l ong and ful l y documented
bi ography by the French Carmel i te, P. Bruno de Jésus-Mari e, C.D., wri tten from the
same standpoi nt as P. Si l veri o's, has recentl y been transl ated i nto Engl i sh, and any
attempt to ri val thi s i n so short a space woul d be foredoomed to fai l ure. I have
thought, however, that a bri ef outl i ne of the pri nci pal events i n St. John of the
Cross's l i fe woul d be a useful prel i mi nary to thi s edi ti on; thi s has therefore been
substi tuted for the bi ographi cal sketch referred to.
I n l anguage, I have tri ed to reproduce the atmosphere of a si xteenth-century
text as far as i s consi stent wi th cl ari ty. Though fol l owi ng the paragraph di vi si ons of
my ori gi nal , I have not scrupl ed, where thi s has seemed to faci l i tate understandi ng,
to di vi de i nto shorter sentences the l ong and someti mes straggl i ng peri ods i n whi ch
the Sai nt so frequentl y i ndul ged. Some attempt has been made to show the contrast
between the hi ghl y adorned, poeti cal l anguage of much of the commentary on the
'Spi ri tual Canti cl e' and the more cl osel y shorn and emi nentl y practi cal , though
al ways somewhat di scursi ve styl e of the Ascent and Dark Night. That the Living
Flame occupi es an i ntermedi ate posi ti on i n thi s respect shoul d al so be cl ear from
the styl e of the transl ati on.
Quotati ons, whether from the Scri ptures or from other sources, have been l eft
stri ctl y as St. John of the Cross made them. Where he quotes i n Lati n, the Lati n has
been reproduced; onl y hi s quotati ons i n Spani sh have been turned i nto Engl i sh. The
footnote references are to the Vul gate, of whi ch the Douai Versi on i s a di rect
transl ati on; i f the Authori zed Versi on di ffers, as i n the Psal ms, the vari ati on has
been shown i n square brackets for the conveni ence of those who use i t.
A word may not be out of pl ace regardi ng the transl ati ons of the poems as
they appear i n the prose commentari es. Obvi ousl y, i t woul d have been i mpossi bl e to
use the comparati vel y free verse renderi ngs whi ch appear i n Vol ume I I of thi s
transl ati on, si nce the commentari es di scuss each l i ne and often each word of the
15
poems. A l i teral versi on of the poems i n thei r ori gi nal verse-l i nes, however, struck
me as bei ng i narti sti c, i f not repel l ent, and as i nvi ti ng conti nual compari son wi th
the more pol i shed verse renderi ngs whi ch, i n spi ri t, come far nearer to the poet's
ai m. My fi rst i ntenti on was to transl ate the poems, for the purpose of the
commentari es, i nto prose. But l ater I hi t upon the l ong and metri cal l y unfettered
verse-l i ne, suggesti ve of Bi bl i cal poetry i n i ts Engl i sh dress, whi ch I have empl oyed
throughout. I bel i eve that, al though the renderi ngs often suffer arti sti cal l y from
thei r necessary l i teral ness, they are from the arti sti c standpoi nt at l east tol erabl e.
I I I
The debts I have to acknowl edge, though few, are very l arge ones. My
grati tude to P. Si l veri o de Santa Teresa for tel l i ng me so much about hi s edi ti on
before i ts publ i cati on, granti ng my publ i shers the sol e transl ati on ri ghts and
di scussi ng wi th me a number of cruci al passages cannot be di sjoi ned from the many
ki ndnesses I have recei ved duri ng my work on the Spani sh mysti cs, whi ch i s sti l l
proceedi ng, from hi msel f and from hi s fel l ow-Carmel i tes i n the provi nce of Casti l e.
I n dedi cati ng thi s transl ati on to them, I thi nk parti cul arl y of P. Si l veri o i n Burgos,
of P. Fl orenci o del Ni ño Jesús i n Madri d, and of P. Cri sógono de Jesús
Sacramentado, together wi th the Fathers of the 'Convento de l a Santa' i n Ávi l a.
The l ong and weary process of revi si ng the manuscri pt and proofs of thi s
transl ati on has been greatl y l i ghtened by the co-operati on and compani onshi p of P.
Edmund Gurdon, Pri or of the Cartuja de Mi rafl ores, near Burgos, wi th whom I have
freel y di scussed al l ki nds of di ffi cul ti es, both of substance and styl e, and who has
been good enough to read part of my proofs. From the qui et l i brary of hi s monastery,
as wel l as from hi s graci ous compani onshi p, I have drawn not onl y knowl edge, but
strength, pati ence and perseverance. And when at l ength, after each of my vi si ts, we
have had to part, we have conti nued our l abours by correspondence, shaki ng hands,
as i t were, 'over a vast' and embraci ng 'from the ends of opposèd wi nds.'
Fi nal l y, I owe a real debt to my publ i shers for al l owi ng me to do thi s work
wi thout i mposi ng any such l i mi tati ons of ti me as often accompany l i terary
undertaki ngs. Thi s and other consi derati ons whi ch I have recei ved from them have
made that part of the work whi ch has been done outsi de the study unusual l y
pl easant and I am correspondi ngl y grateful .
E. ALLI SON PEERS.
Uni versi ty of Li verpool .
Feast of St. John of the Cross,
November 24, 1933.
NOTE. -- Wherever a commentary by St. John of the Cross i s referred to, i ts
ti tl e i s gi ven i n i tal i cs (e.g. Spiritual Canticle); where the correspondi ng poem i s
meant, i t i s pl aced between quotati on marks (e.g. 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e'). The
abbrevi ati on 'e.p.' stands for editio princeps throughout.
16
TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
TO THE SECOND EDI TI ON
DURI NG the si xteen years whi ch have el apsed si nce the publ i cati on of the fi rst
edi ti on, several repri nts have been i ssued, and the demand i s now such as to justi fy
a compl ete resetti ng. I have taken advantage of thi s opportuni ty to revi se the text
throughout, and hope that i n some of the more di ffi cul t passages I may have come
nearer than before to the Sai nt's mi nd. Recent researches have necessi tated a
consi derabl e ampl i fi cati on of i ntroducti ons and footnotes and greatl y i ncreased the
l ength of the bi bl i ography.
The onl y modi fi cati on whi ch has been made consi stentl y throughout the three
vol umes rel ates to St. John of the Cross's quotati ons from Scri pture. I n transl ati ng
these I sti l l fol l ow hi m exactl y, even where he hi msel f i s i nexact, but I have used the
Doui a Versi on (i nstead of the Authori zed, as i n the fi rst edi ti on) as a basi s for al l
Scri ptural quotati ons, as wel l as i n the footnote references and the Scri ptural i ndex
i n Vol . I I I .
Far more i s now known of the l i fe and ti mes of St. John of the Cross than
when thi s transl ati on of the Complete Works was fi rst publ i shed, thanks pri nci pal l y
to the Historia del Carmen Descalzo of P. Si l veri o de Santa Teresa, C.D, now
General of hi s Order, and to the admi rabl y documented Li fe of the Sai nt wri tten by
P. Cri sógono de Jesus Sacramentado, C.D., and publ i shed (i n Vida y Obras de San
J uan de la Cruz) i n the year after hi s unti mel y death. Thi s i ncreased knowl edge i s
refl ected i n many addi ti onal notes, and al so i n the 'Outl i ne of the Li fe of St. John of
the Cross' (Vol . I , pp. xxv-xxvi i i ), whi ch, for thi s edi ti on, has been enti rel y recast.
References are gi ven to my Handbook to the Life and Times of St. Teresa and St.
J ohn of the Cross, whi ch provi des much background too ful l to be reproduced i n
footnotes and too compl i cated to be compressed. The Handbook al so contai ns
numerous references to contemporary events, omi tted from the 'Outl i ne' as bei ng
too remote from the mai n theme to justi fy i ncl usi on i n a summary necessari l y so
condensed.
My thanks for hel p i n revi si on are due to ki ndl y correspondents, too
numerous to name, from many parts of the worl d, who have made suggesti ons for
the i mprovement of the fi rst edi ti on; to the Rev. Professor Davi d Knowl es, of
Cambri dge Uni versi ty, for whose conti nuous practi cal i nterest i n thi s transl ati on I
cannot be too grateful ; to Mi ss I .L. McCl el l and, of Gl asgow Uni versi ty, who has read
a l arge part of thi s edi ti on i n proof; to Dom Phi l i ppe Cheval l i er, for materi al whi ch I
have been abl e to i ncorporate i n i t; to P. José Antoni o de Sobri no, S.J., for al l owi ng
me to quote freel y from hi s recentl y publ i shed Estudios; and, most of al l , to M.R.P.
Si l veri o de Santa Teresa, C.D., and the Fathers of the I nternati onal Carmel i te
Col l ege at Rome, whose l earni ng and experi ence, are, I hope, fai ntl y refl ected i n thi s
new edi ti on.
E.A.P.
June 30, 1941.
17
PRI NCI PAL ABBREVI ATI ONS
A.V.--Authori zed Versi on of the Bi bl e (1611).
D.V.--Douai Versi on of the Bi bl e (1609).
C.W.S.T.J .--The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of J esus, transl ated and
edi ted by E. Al l i son Peers from the cri ti cal edi ti on of P. Si l veri o de Santa Teresa,
C.D. London, Sheed and Ward, 1946. 3 vol s.
H.-E. Al l i son Peers: Handbook to the Life and Times of St. Teresa and St.
J ohn of the Cross. London, Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1953.
LL.--The Letters of Saint Teresa of J esus, transl ated and edi ted by E. Al l i son
Peers from the cri ti cal edi ti on of P. Si l veri o de Santa Teresa, C.D. London, Burns
Oates and Washburne, 1951. 2 vol s.
N.L.M.--Nati onal Li brary of Spai n (Bi bl i oteca Naci onal ), Madri d.
Obras (P. Silv.)--Obras de San J uan de la Cruz, Doctor de l a I gl esi a, edi tadas
y anotadas pot el P. Si l veri o de Santa Teresa, C.D. Burgos, 1929-31. 5 vol s.
S.S.M.--E. Al l i son Peers: Studies of the Spanish Mystics. Vol . I , London,
Shel don Press, 1927; 2nd ed., London, S.P.C.K., 1951. Vol . I I , London, Shel don
Press, 1930.
Sobri no.-José Antoni o de Sobri no, S.J.: Estudios sobre San J uan de la Cruz y
nuevos textos de su obra. Madri d, 1950.
18
AN OUTLI NE OF THE LI FE OF ST. JOHN
OF THE CROSS
2
1542. Bi rth of Juan de Yepes at Fonti veros (Honti veros), near Ávi l a.
The day general l y ascri bed to thi s event i s June 24 (St. John Bapti st's Day).
No documentary evi dence for i t, however, exi sts, the pari sh regi sters havi ng
been destroyed by a fi re i n 1544. The chi ef evi dence i s an i nscri pti on, dated
1689, on the font of the pari sh church at Fonti veros.
? c. 1543. Death of Juan's father. 'After some years' the mother removes, wi th her
fami l y, to Aréval o, and l ater to Medi na del Campo.
? c. 1552-6. Juan goes to school at the Col egi o de l os Ni ños de l a Doctri na, Medi na.
c. 1556-7. Don Antoni o Ál varez de Tol edo takes hi m i nto a Hospi tal to whi ch he has
reti red, wi th the i dea of hi s (Juan's) trai ni ng for Hol y Orders under hi s
patronage.
? c. 1559-63. Juan attends the Col l ege of the Soci ety of Jesus at Medi na.
c. 1562. Leaves the Hospi tal and the patronage of Ál varez de Tol edo.
1563. Takes the Carmel i te habi t at St. Anne's, Medi na del Campo, as Juan de San
Matí as (Santo Matí a).
The day i s frequentl y assumed (wi thout any foundati on) to have been the
feast of St. Matthi as (February 24), but P. Si l veri o postul ates a day i n August
or September and P. Cri sógono thi nks February defi ni tel y i mprobabl e.
1564. Makes hi s professi on i n the same pri ory -- probabl y i n August or September
and certai nl y not earl i er than May 21 and not l ater than October.
1564 (November). Enters the Uni versi ty of Sal amanca as an artista. Takes a three-
year course i n Arts (1564-7).
1565 (January 6). Matri cul ates at the Uni versi ty of Sal amanca.
1567. Recei ves pri est's orders (probabl y i n the summer).
1567 (? September). Meets St. Teresa at Medi na del Campo. Juan i s thi nki ng of
transferri ng to the Carthusi an Order. St. Teresa asks hi m to joi n her
Di scal ced Reform and the projected fi rst foundati on for fri ars. He agrees to do
so, provi ded the foundati on i s soon made.
1567 (November). Returns to the Uni versi ty of Sal amanca, where he takes a year's
course i n theol ogy.
1568. Spends part of the Long Vacati on at Medi na del Campo. On August 10,
accompani es St. Teresa to Val l adol i d. I n September, returns to Medi na and
l ater goes to Avi l a and Duruel o.
1568 (November 28). Takes the vows of the Reform Duruel o as St. John of the Cross,
together wi th Antoni o de Heredi a (Antoni o de Jesus), Pri or of the Cal ced
Carmel i tes at Medi na, and José de Cri sto, another Carmel i te from Medi na.
2
Cf. Transl ator's Preface to the Fi rst Edi ti on, § I I .
19
1570 (June 11). Moves, wi th the Duruel o communi ty, to Mancera de Abajo.
1570 (October, or possi bl y February 1571). Stays for about a month at Pastrana,
returni ng thence to Mancera.
1571 (? January 25). Vi si ts Al ba de Tormes for the i naugurati on of a new convent
there.
1571 (? Apri l ). Goes to Al cal á de Henares as Rector of the Col l ege of the Reform and
di rects the Carmel i te nuns.
1572 (shortl y after Apri l 23). Recal l ed to Pastrana to correct the ri gours of the new
novi ce-master, Angel de San Gabri el .
1572 (between May and September). Goes to Ávi l a as confessor to the Convent of
the I ncarnati on. Remai ns there ti l l 1577.
1574 (March). Accompani es St. Teresa from Ávi l a to Segovi a, arri vi ng on March 18.
Returns to Ávi l a about the end of the month.
1575-6 (Wi nter of: before February 1576). Ki dnapped by the Cal ced and i mpri soned
at Medi na del Campo. Freed by the i nterventi on of the Papal Nunci o,
Ormaneto.
1577 (December 2 or 3). Ki dnapped by the Cal ced and carri ed off to the Cal ced
Carmel i te pri ory at Tol edo as a pri soner.
1577-8. Composes i n pri son 17 (or perhaps 30) stanzas of the 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e'
(i .e., as far as the stanza: 'Daughters of Jewry'); the poem wi th the refrai n
'Al though 'ti s ni ght'; and the stanzas begi nni ng 'I n pri nci pi o erat verbum.' He
may al so have composed the paraphrase of the psal m Super flumina and the
poem 'Dark Ni ght.' (Note: Al l these poems, i n verse form, wi l l be found i n Vol .
I I of thi s edi ti on.)
1578 (August 16 or shortl y afterwards). Escapes to the convent of the Carmel i te
nuns i n Tol edo, and i s thence taken to hi s house by D. Pedro Gonzál ez de
Mendoza, Canon of Tol edo.
1578 (October 9). Attends a meeti ng of the Di scal ced superi ors at Al modóvar. I s sent
to El Cal vari o as Vi car, i n the absence i n Rome of the Pri or.
1578 (end of October). Stays for 'a few days' at Beas de Segura, near El Cal vari o.
Confesses the nuns at the Carmel i te Convent of Beas.
1578 (November). Arri ves at El Cal vari o.
1578-9 (November-June). Remai ns at El Cal vari o as Vi car. For a part of thi s ti me
(probabl y from the begi nni ng of 1579), goes weekl y to the convent of Beas to
hear confessi ons. Duri ng thi s peri od, begi ns hi s commentari es enti tl ed The
Ascent of Mount Carmel (cf. pp. 9-314, bel ow) and Spiritual Canticle
(transl ated i n Vol . I I ).
1579 (June 14). Founds a col l ege of the Reform at Baeza. 1579-82. Resi des at Baeza
as Rector of the Carmel i te col l ege. Vi si ts the Beas convent occasi onal l y.
Wri tes more of the prose works begun at El Cal vari o and the rest of the
stanzas of the 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e' except the l ast fi ve, possi bl y wi th the
commentari es to the stanzas.
1580. Death of hi s mother.
20
1581 (March 3). Attends the Al cal á Chapter of the Reform. Appoi nted Thi rd
Defi ni tor and Pri or of the Granada house of Los Márti res. Takes up the l atter
offi ce onl y on or about the ti me of hi s el ecti on by the communi ty i n March
1582.
1581 (November 28). Last meeti ng wi th St. Teresa, at Ávi l a. On the next day, sets
out wi th two nuns for Beas (December 8-January 15) and Granada.
1582 (January 20). Arri ves at Los Márti res.
1582-8. Mai nl y at Granada. Re-el ected (or confi rmed) as Pri or of Los Márti res by
the Chapter of Al modóvar, 1583. Resi des at Los Márti res more or l ess
conti nuousl y ti l l 1584 and i ntermi ttentl y afterwards. Vi si ts the Beas convent
occasi onal l y. Wri tes the l ast fi ve stanzas of the 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e' duri ng one
of these vi si ts. At Los Márti res, fi ni shes the Ascent of Mount Carmel and
composes hi s remai ni ng prose treati ses. Wri tes Living Flame of Love about
1585, i n fi fteen days, at the request of Doña Ana de Peñal osa.
1585 (May). Li sbon Chapter appoi nts hi m Second Defi ni tor and (ti l l 1587) Vi car-
Provi nci al of Andal usi a. Makes the fol l owi ng foundati ons: Mál aga, February
17, 1585; Córdoba, May 18, 1586; La Manchuel a (de Jaén), October 12, 1586;
Caravaca, December 18, 1586; Bujal ance, June 24, 1587.
1587 (Apri l ). Chapter of Val l adol i d re-appoi nts hi m Pri or of Los Márti res. He ceases
to be Defi ni tor and Vi car-Provi nci al .
1588 (June 19). Attends the fi rst Chapter-General of the Reform i n Madri d. I s
el ected Fi rst Defi ni tor and a consiliario.
1588 (August 10). Becomes Pri or of Segovi a, the central house of the Reform and the
headquarters of the Consul ta. Acts as deputy for the Vi car-General , P. Dori a,
duri ng the l atter's absences.
1590 (June 10). Re-el ected Fi rst Defi ni tor and a consiliario at the Chapter-General
Extraordi nary, Madri d.
1591 (June 1). The Madri d Chapter-General depri ves hi m of hi s offi ces and resol ves
to send hi m to Mexi co. (Thi s l atter deci si on was l ater revoked.)
1591 (August 10). Arri ves at La Peñuel a.
1591 (September 12). Attacked by fever. (September Leaves La Peñuel a for Úbeda.
(December 14) Di es at Úbeda.
January 25, 1675. Beati fi ed by Cl ement X.
December 26, 1726. Canoni zed by Benedi ct XI I I .
August 24, 1926. Decl ared Doctor of the Church Uni versal by Pi us XI .
21
GENERAL I NTRODUCTI ON TO THE WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF
THE CROSS
I
DATES AND METHODS OF COMPOSI TI ON.
GENERAL CHARACTERI STI CS
WI TH regard to the ti mes and pl aces at whi ch the works of St. John of the Cross
were wri tten, and al so wi th regard to the number of these works, there have
exi sted, from a very earl y date, consi derabl e di fferences of opi ni on. Of i nternal
evi dence from the Sai nt's own wri ti ngs there i s practi cal l y none, and such external
testi mony as can be found i n contemporary documents needs very careful
exami nati on.
There was no peri od i n the l i fe of St. John of the Cross i n whi ch he devoted
hi msel f enti rel y to wri ti ng. He does not, i n fact, appear to have fel t any i ncl i nati on
to do so: hi s books were wri tten i n response to the i nsi stent and repeated demands
of hi s spi ri tual chi l dren. He was very much addi cted, on the other hand, to the
composi ti on of apothegms or maxi ms for the use of hi s peni tents and thi s custom he
probabl y began as earl y as the days i n whi ch he was confessor to the Convent of the
I ncarnati on at Ávi l a, though hi s bi ographers have no record of any maxi ms but
those wri tten at Beas. One of hi s best bel oved daughters however, Ana Marí a de
Jesús, of the Convent of the I ncarnati on, decl ared i n her deposi ti on, duri ng the
process of the Sai nt's canoni zati on, that he was accustomed to 'comfort those wi th
whom he had to do, both by hi s words and by hi s l etters, of whi ch thi s wi tness
recei ved a number, and al so by certai n papers concerni ng hol y thi ngs whi ch thi s
wi tness woul d greatl y val ue i f she sti l l had them.' Consi deri ng, the number of nuns
to whom the Sai nt was di rector at Ávi l a, i t i s to be presumed that M. Ana Marí a
was not the onl y person whom he favoured. We may safel y concl ude, i ndeed, that
there were many others who shared the same pri vi l eges, and that, had we al l these
'papers,' they woul d compri se a l arge vol ume, i nstead of the few pages reproduced
el sewhere i n thi s transl ati on.
There i s a wel l -known story, preserved i n the documents of the canoni zati on
process, of how, on a December ni ght of 1577, St. John, of the Cross was ki dnapped
by the Cal ced Carmel i tes of Ávi l a and carri ed off from the I ncarnati on to thei r
pri ory.
3
Real i zi ng that he had l eft behi nd hi m some i mportant papers, he contri ved,
on the next morni ng, to escape, and returned to the I ncarnati on to destroy them
whi l e there was ti me to do so. He was mi ssed al most i mmedi atel y and he had
hardl y gai ned hi s cel l when hi s pursuers were on hi s heel s. I n the few moments that
remai ned to hi m he had ti me to tear up these papers and swal l ow some of the most
compromi si ng. As the ori gi nal assaul t had not been unexpected, though the ti me of
i t was uncertai n, they woul d not have been very numerous. I t i s general l y supposed
that they concerned the busi ness of the i nfant Reform, of whi ch the survi val was at
that ti me i n grave doubt. But i t seems at l east equal l y l i kel y that some of them
mi ght have been these spi ri tual maxi ms, or some more extensi ve i nstructi ons whi ch
mi ght be mi si nterpreted by any who found them. I t i s remarkabl e, at any rate, that
3
[H., I I I , i i .]
22
we have none of the Sai nt's wri ti ngs bel ongi ng to thi s peri od whatever.
Al l hi s bi ographers tel l us that he wrote some of the stanzas of the 'Spi ri tual
Canti cl e,' together wi th a few other poems, whi l e he was i mpri soned at Tol edo.
'When he l eft the pri son,' says M. Magdal ena del Espí ri tu Santo, 'he took wi th hi m a
l i ttl e book i n whi ch he had wri tten, whi l e there, some verses based upon the Gospel
I n principio erat Verbum, together wi th some coupl ets whi ch begi n: "How wel l I
know the fount that freel y fl ows, Al though 'ti s ni ght," and the stanzas or liras that
begi n "Whi ther has vani shèd?" as far as the stanzas begi nni ng "Daughters of
Jewry." The remai nder of them the Sai nt composed l ater when he was Rector of the
Col l ege at Baeza. Some of the exposi ti ons were wri tten at Beas, as answers to
questi ons put to hi m by the nuns; others at Granada. Thi s l i ttl e book, i n whi ch the
Sai nt wrote whi l e i n pri son, he l eft i n the Convent of Beas and on vari ous occasi ons
I was commanded to copy i t. Then someone took i t from my cel l -- who, I never
knew. The freshness of the words i n thi s book, together wi th thei r beauty and
subtl ety, caused me great wonder, and one day I asked the Sai nt i f God gave hi m
those words whi ch were so comprehensi ve and so l ovel y. And he answered:
"Daughter, someti mes God gave them to me and at other ti mes I sought them."'
4
M. I sabel de Jesús Marí a, who was a novi ce at Tol edo when the Sai nt escaped
from hi s i mpri sonment there, wrote thus from Cuerva on November 2, 1614. 'I
remember, too, that, at the ti me we had hi m hi dden i n the church, he reci ted to us
some l i nes whi ch he had composed and kept i n hi s mi nd, and that one of the nuns
wrote them down as he repeated them. There were three poems -- al l of them upon
the Most Hol y Tri ni ty, and so subl i me and devout that they seem to enki ndl e the
reader. I n thi s house at Cuerva we have some whi ch begi n:
"Far away i n the begi nni ng,
Dwel t the Word i n God Most Hi gh."'
5
The frequent references to keepi ng hi s verses i n hi s head and the popul ar
exaggerati on of the hardshi ps (great though these were) whi ch the Sai nt had to
endure i n Tol edo have l ed some wri ters to affi rm that he di d not i n fact wri te these
poems i n pri son but commi tted them to memory and transferred them to paper at
some l ater date. The evi dence of M. Magdal ena, however, woul d appear to be
deci si ve. We know, too, that the second of St. John of the Cross's gaol ers, Fray Juan
de Santa Marí a, was a ki ndl y man who di d al l he coul d to l i ghten hi s capti ve's
sufferi ngs; and hi s superi ors woul d probabl y not have forbi dden hi m wri ti ng
materi al s provi ded he wrote no l etters.
6
I t seems, then, that the Sai nt wrote i n Tol edo the fi rst seventeen (or perhaps
thi rty) stanzas of the 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e,' the ni ne parts of the poem 'Far away i n
the begi nni ng . . .,' the paraphrase of the psal m Super flumina Babylonis and the
poem 'How wel l I know the fount . . .' Thi s was real l y a consi derabl e output of work,
4
M. Magdal ena i s a very rel i abl e wi tness, for she was not onl y a most di screet and abl e woman, but
was al so one of those who were very near to the sai nt and gai ned most from hi s spi ri tual di recti on.
The quotati on i s from MS. 12,944.
5
MS. 12,738, fol . 835. Ft. Jeróni mo de S. José, too, says that the nuns of Tol edo al so copi ed certai n
poems from the Sai nt's di ctati on. M. Ana de S. Al berto heard hi m say of hi s i mpri sonment: 'God
sought to try me, but Hi s mercy forsook me not. I made some stanzas there whi ch begi n: "Whi ther
hast vani shèd, Bel oved"; and al so those other verses, begi nni ng "Far above the many ri vers That i n
Babyl on abound." Al l these verses 1 sent to Fray José de Jesús Marí a, who tol d me that he was
i nterested i n them and was keepi ng them i n hi s memory i n order to wri te them out.'
6
[H., I I I , i i .]
23
for, except perhaps when hi s gaol er al l owed hi m to go i nto another room, he had no
l i ght but that of a smal l oi l -l amp or occasi onal l y the i nfi l trati on of dayl i ght that
penetrated a smal l i nteri or wi ndow.
Apart from the statement of M. Magdal ena al ready quoted, l i ttl e more i s
known of what the Sai nt wrote i n El Cal vari o than of what he wrote i n Tol edo. From
an ampl i fi cati on made by hersel f of the sentences to whi ch we have referred i t
appears that al most the whol e of what she had copi ed was taken from her; as the
short extracts transcri bed by her are very si mi l ar to passages from the Sai nt's
wri ti ngs we may perhaps concl ude that much of the other materi al was al so
i ncorporated i n them. I n that case he may wel l have compl eted a fai r proporti on of
the Ascent of Mount Carmel before l eavi ng Beas.
I t was i n El Cal vari o, too, and for the nuns of Beas, that the Sai nt drew the
pl an cal l ed the 'Mount of Perfecti on' (referred to by M. Magdal ena
7
and i n the
Ascent of Mount Carmel and reproduced as the fronti spi ece to thi s vol ume) of whi ch
copi es were afterwards mul ti pl i ed and di stri buted among Di scal ced houses. I ts
author wi shed i t to fi gure at the head of al l hi s treati ses, for i t i s a graphi cal
representati on of the enti re mysti c way, from the starti ng-poi nt of the begi nner to
the very summi t of perfecti on. Hi s fi rst sketch, whi ch sti l l survi ves, i s a
rudi mentary and i mperfect one; before l ong, however, as M. Magdal ena tel l s us, he
evol ved another that was ful l er and more comprehensi ve.
7
MS. 12,944. 'He al so occasi onal l y wrote spi ri tual thi ngs that were of great benefi t. There, too, he
composed the Mount and drew a copy wi th hi s own hand for each of our brevi ari es; l ater, he added to
these copi es and made some changes.'
24
Just as we owe to PP. Graci án and Sal azar many preci ous rel i cs of St. Teresa,
so we owe others of St. John of the Cross to M. Magdal ena. Among the most
val uabl e of these i s her own copy of the 'Mount,' whi ch, after her death, went to the
'Desert'
8
of Our Lady of the Snows establ i shed by the Di scal ced provi nce of Upper
Andal usi a i n the di ocese of Granada. I t was found there by P. Andrés de l a
Encarnaci ón, of whom we shal l presentl y speak, and who i mmedi atel y made a copy
of i t, l egal l y certi fi ed as an exact one and now i n the Nati onal Li brary of Spai n (MS.
6,296).
The superi ori ty of the second pl an over the fi rst i s very evi dent. The fi rst
consi sts si mpl y of three paral l el l i nes correspondi ng to three di fferent paths -- one
on ei ther si de of the Mount, marked 'Road of the spi ri t of i mperfecti on' and one i n
the centre marked 'Path of Mount Carmel . Spi ri t of perfecti on.' I n the spaces
between the paths are wri tten the cel ebrated maxi ms whi ch appear i n Book I ,
Chapter xi i i , of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, i n a somewhat di fferent form, together
wi th certai n others. At the top of the drawi ng are the words 'Mount Carmel ,' whi ch
are not found i n the second pl an, and bel ow them i s the l egend: 'There i s no road
here, for there i s no l aw for the ri ghteous man,' together wi th other texts from
Scri pture.
The second pl an represents a number of graded hei ghts, the l ofti est of whi ch
8
[See, on thi s term, S.S.M., I I , 282, and Catholic Encyclopedia, sub. 'Carmel i tes.']
25
i s pl anted wi th trees. Three paths, as i n the fi rst sketch, l ead from the base of the
mount, but they are traced more arti sti cal l y and have a more detai l ed asceti c and
mysti cal appl i cati on. Those on ei ther si de, whi ch denote the roads of i mperfecti on,
are broad and somewhat tortuous and come to an end before the hi gher stages of the
mount are reached. The centre road, that of perfecti on, i s at fi rst very narrow but
gradual l y broadens and l eads ri ght up to the summi t of the mountai n, whi ch onl y
the perfect attai n and where they enjoy the iuge convivium -- the heavenl y feast.
The di fferent zones of rel i gi ous perfecti on, from whi ch spri ng vari ous vi rtues, are
portrayed wi th much greater detai l than i n the fi rst pl an. As we have reproduced
the second pl an i n thi s vol ume, i t need not be descri bed more ful l y.
We know that St. John of the Cross used the 'Mount' very, frequentl y for al l
ki nds of rel i gi ous i nstructi on. 'By means of thi s drawi ng,' testi fi ed one of hi s
di sci pl es, 'he used to teach us that, i n order to attai n to perfecti on, we must not
desi re the good thi ngs of earth, nor those of Heaven; but that we must desi re naught
save to seek and stri ve after the gl ory and honour of God our Lord i n al l thi ngs . . .
and thi s "Mount of Perfecti on" the sai d hol y father hi msel f expounded to thi s
Wi tness when he was hi s superi or i n the sai d pri ory of Granada.'
9
I t seems not i mprobabl e that the Sai nt conti nued wri ti ng chapters of the
Ascent and the Spiritual Canticle whi l e he was Rector at Baeza,
10
whether i n the
Col l ege i tsel f, or i n El Castel l ar, where he was accustomed often to go i nto retreat.
I t was certai nl y here that he wrote the remai ni ng stanzas of the Canticle (as M.
Magdal ena expl i ci tl y tel l s us i n words al ready quoted), except the l ast fi ve, whi ch he
composed rather l ater, at Granada. One l i kes to thi nk that these l ovel i est of hi s
verses were penned by the banks of the Guadal i mar, i n the woods of the Granja de
Santa Ann, where he was i n the habi t of passi ng l ong hours i n communi on wi th
God. At al l events the stanzas seem more i n harmony wi th such an atmosphere
than wi th that of the Col l ege.
Wi th regard to the l ast fi ve stanzas, we have defi ni te evi dence from a Beas
nun, M. Franci sca de l a Madre de Di os, who testi fi es i n the Beati fi cati on process
(Apri l 2, 1618) as fol l ows:
And so, when the sai d hol y fri ar John of the Cross was i n thi s convent
one Lent (for hi s great l ove for i t brought hi m here from the sai d ci ty of
Granada, where he was pri or, to confess the nuns and preach to them) he was
preachi ng to them one day i n the parl our, and thi s wi tness observed that on
two separate occasi ons he was rapt and l i fted up from the ground; and when
he came to hi msel f he di ssembl ed and sai d: 'You saw how sl eep overcame me!'
And one day he asked thi s wi tness i n what her prayer consi sted, and she
repl i ed: 'I n consi deri ng the beauty of God and i n rejoi ci ng that He has such
beauty.' And the Sai nt was so pl eased wi th thi s that for some days he sai d the
most subl i me thi ngs concerni ng the beauty of God, at whi ch al l marvel l ed.
And thus, under the i nfl uence of thi s l ove, he composed fi ve stanzas,
begi nni ng 'Bel oved, l et us si ng, And i n thy beauty see oursel ves portray'd.'
And i n al l thi s he showed that there was i n hi s breast a great l ove of God.
From a l etter whi ch thi s nun wrote from Beas i n 1629 to P. Jeróni mo de San
José, we gather that the stanzas were actual l y wri tten at Granada and brought to
Beas, where
9
Fray Marti n de San José i n MS. 12,738, fol . 125.
10
[H., I V, i .]
26
. . . wi th every word that we spoke to hi m we seemed to be openi ng a door to
the frui ti on of the great treasures and ri ches whi ch God had stored up i n hi s
soul .
I f there i s a di screpancy here, however, i t i s of smal l i mportance; there i s no doubt
as to the approxi mate date of the composi ti on of these stanzas and of thei r cl ose
connecti on wi th Beas.
The most frui tful l i terary years for St. John of the Cross were those whi ch he
spent at Granada. Here he compl eted the Ascent and wrote al l hi s remai ni ng
treati ses. Both M. Magdal ena and the Sai nt's cl osest di sci pl e, P. Juan Evangel i sta,
bear wi tness to thi s. The l atter wri tes from Granada to P. Jeróni mo de San José, the
hi stori an of the Reform:
Wi th regard to havi ng seen our venerabl e father wri te the books, I saw
hi m wri te them al l ; for, as I have sai d, I was ever at hi s si de. The Ascent of
Mount Carmel and the Dark Night he wrote here at Granada, l i ttl e by l i ttl e,
conti nui ng them onl y wi th many breaks. The Living Flame of Love he al so
wrote i n thi s house, when he was Vi car-Provi nci al , at the request of Doña
Ana de Peñal osa, and he wrote i t i n fi fteen days when he was very busy here
wi th an abundance of occupati ons. The fi rst thi ng that he wrote was Whither
hast vanishèd? and that too he wrote here; the stanzas he had wri tten i n the
pri son at Tol edo.
11
I n another l etter (February 18, 1630), he wrote to the same correspondent:
Wi th regard to our hol y father's havi ng wri tten hi s books i n thi s home,
I wi l l say what i s undoubtedl y true -- namel y, that he wrote here the
commentary on the stanzas Whither hast vanishèd? and the Living Flame of
Love, for he began and ended them i n my ti me. The Ascent of Mount Carmel I
found had been begun when I came here to take the habi t, whi ch was a year
and a hal f after the foundati on of thi s house; he may have brought i t from
yonder al ready begun. But the Dark Night he certai nl y wrote here, for I saw
hi m wri ti ng a part of i t, and thi s i s certai n, because I saw i t.
12
These and other testi moni es mi ght wi th advantage be ful l er and more
concrete, but at l east they pl ace beyond doubt the facts that we have al ready set
down. Summari zi ng our total fi ndi ngs, we may assert that part of the 'Spi ri tual
Canti cl e,' wi th perhaps the 'Dark Ni ght,' and the other poems enumerated, were
wri tten i n the Tol edo pri son; that at the request of some nuns he wrote at El
Cal vari o (1578-79) a few chapters of the Ascent and commentari es on some of the
stanzas of the 'Canti cl e'; that he composed further stanzas at Baeza (1579-81),
perhaps wi th thei r respecti ve commentari es; and that, fi nal l y, he compl eted the
Canticle and the Ascent at Granada and wrote the whol e of the Dark Night and of
the Living Flame -- the l atter i n a fortni ght. Al l these l ast works he wrote before the
end of 1585, the fi rst year i n whi ch he was Vi car-Provi nci al .
Other wri ti ngs, most of them bri ef, are attri buted to St. John of the Cross;
they wi l l be di scussed i n the thi rd vol ume of thi s edi ti on, i n whi ch we shal l publ i sh
11
MS. 12,738, fol . 1,431. The l etter i s undated as to the year.
12
MS. 12,738, fol . 1,435.
27
the mi nor works whi ch we accept as genui ne. The authorshi p of hi s four major prose
works -- the Ascent, Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle and Living Flame -- no one has
ever attempted to questi on, even though the l ack of extant autographs and the l arge
number of copi es have made i t di ffi cul t to establ i sh correct texts. To thi s questi on
we shal l return l ater.
The characteri sti cs of the wri ti ngs of St. John of the Cross are so stri ki ng that
i t woul d be di ffi cul t to confuse them wi th those of any other wri ter. Hi s l i terary
personal i ty stands out cl earl y from that of hi s Spani sh contemporari es who wrote on
si mi l ar subjects. Both hi s styl e and hi s methods of exposi ti on bear the marks of a
strong i ndi vi dual i ty.
I f some of these deri ve from hi s nati ve geni us and temperament, others are
undoubtedl y refl ecti ons of hi s educati on and experi ence. The Ari stotel i an-Thomi sti c
phi l osophy, then at the hei ght of i ts spl endour, whi ch he l earned so thoroughl y i n
the cl assrooms of Sal amanca Uni versi ty, characteri zes the whol e of hi s wri ti ngs,
gi vi ng them a grani te-l i ke sol i di ty even when thei r theme i s such as to defy human
specul ati on. Though the preci se extent of hi s debt to thi s Sal amancan trai ni ng i n
phi l osophy has not yet been defi ni tel y assessed, the fact of i ts i nfl uence i s evi dent to
every reader. I t gi ves massi veness, harmony and uni ty to both the asceti c and the
mysti cal work of St. John of the Cross -- that i s to say, to al l hi s sci enti fi c wri ti ng.
Deepl y, however, as St. John of the Cross drew from the School men, he was
al so profoundl y i ndebted to many other wri ters. He was di sti nctl y ecl ecti c i n hi s
readi ng and quotes freel y (though l ess than some of hi s Spani sh contemporari es)
from the Fathers and from the medi aeval mysti cs, especi al l y from St. Thomas, St.
Bonaventura, Hugh of St. Vi ctor and the pseudo-Areopagi te. Al l that he quotes,
however, he makes hi s own, wi th the resul t that hi s chapters are never a mass of
ci tati ons l oosel y strung together, as are those of many other Spani sh mysti cs of hi s
ti me.
When we study hi s treati ses -- pri nci pal l y that great composi te work known
as the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night -- we have the i mpressi on of a
master-mi nd that has scal ed the hei ghts of mysti cal sci ence and from thei r summi t
l ooks down upon and domi nates the pl ai n bel ow and the paths l eadi ng upward. We
may wel l wonder what a vast contri buti on to the subject he woul d have made had
he been abl e to expound al l the ei ght stanzas of hi s poem si nce he covered so much
ground i n expoundi ng no more than two. Observe wi th what assurance and what
mastery of subject and method he defi nes hi s themes and di vi des hi s arguments,
even when treati ng the most abstruse and controversi al questi ons. The most
obscure phenomena he appears to i l l umi ne, as i t were, wi th one l i ghtni ng fl ash of
understandi ng, as though the expl anati on of them were perfectl y natural and easy.
Hi s sol uti ons of di ffi cul t probl ems are not ti mi d, questi oni ng and l oaded wi th
excepti ons, but cl ear, defi ni te and vi ri l e l i ke the man who proposes them. No
sci enti fi c fi el d, perhaps, has so many zones whi ch are apt to become vague and
obscure as has that of mysti cal theol ogy; and there are those among the Sai nt's
predecessors who seem to have made thei r permanent abode i n them. They gi ve the
i mpressi on of attempti ng to cl oak vagueness i n verbosi ty, i n order to avoi d bei ng
forced i nto gi vi ng sol uti ons of probl ems whi ch they fi nd i nsol ubl e. Not so St. John of
the Cross. A sci enti fi c di ctator, i f such a person were concei vabl e, coul d hardl y
express hi msel f wi th greater cl ari ty. Hi s phrases have a deci si ve, al most a chi sel l ed
qual i ty; where he errs on the si de of redundance, i t i s not wi th the i ntenti on of
cl oaki ng uncertai nty, but i n order that he may dri ve home wi th doubl e force the
truths whi ch he desi res to i mpress.
28
No l ess admi rabl e are, on the one hand, hi s syntheti c ski l l and the l ogi c of hi s
arguments, and, on the other, hi s subtl e and di scri mi nati ng anal yses, whi ch wei gh
the fi nest shades of thought and di ssect each subject wi th al l the accuracy of
sci ence. To hi s anal yti cal geni us we owe those fi nel y bal anced statements, orthodox
yet bol d and fearl ess, whi ch have caused cl umsi er i ntel l ects to mi sunderstand hi m.
I t i s not remarkabl e that thi s shoul d have occurred. The ease wi th whi ch the
unski l l ed can mi si nterpret geni us i s shown i n the hi story of many a heresy.
How much of al l thi s St. John of the Cross owed to hi s studi es of schol asti c
phi l osophy i n the Uni versi ty of Sal amanca, i t i s di ffi cul t to say. I f we exami ne the
hi story of that Uni versi ty and read of i ts severe di sci pl i ne we shal l be i n no danger
of under-esti mati ng the effect whi ch i t must have produced upon so agi l e and al ert
an i ntel l ect. Further, we note the constant paral l el i sms and the comparati vel y
i nfrequent (though occasi onal l y i mportant) di vergences between the doctri nes of St.
John of the Cross and St. Thomas, to say nothi ng of the cl ose agreement between
the vi ews of St. John of the Cross and those of the School men on such subjects as
the passi ons and appeti tes, the nature of the soul , the rel ati ons between soul and
body. Yet we must not forget the student tag: Quod natura non dat, Salamtica non
praestat. Nothi ng but natural geni us coul d i mpart the vi gour and the cl ari ty whi ch
enhance al l St. John of the Cross's arguments and nothi ng but hi s own deep and
vari ed experi ence coul d have made hi m what he may wel l be termed -- the greatest
psychol ogi st i n the hi story of mysti ci sm.
Emi nent, too, was St. John of the Cross i n sacred theol ogy. The cl ose natural
connecti on that exi sts between dogmati c and mysti cal theol ogy and thei r conti nual
i nterdependence i n practi ce make i t i mpossi bl e for a Chri sti an teacher to excel i n
the l atter al one. I ndeed, more than one of the heresi es that have had thei r
begi nni ngs i n mysti ci sm woul d never have devel oped had those who fel l i nto them
been wel l grounded i n dogmati c theol ogy. The one i s, as i t were, the l antern that
l i ghts the path of the other, as St. Teresa real i zed when she began to feel the
conti nual necessi ty of consul ti ng theol ogi cal teachers. I f St. John of the Cross i s abl e
to cl i mb the greatest hei ghts of mysti ci sm and remai n upon them wi thout stumbl i ng
or di zzi ness i t i s because hi s feet are i nvari abl y wel l shod wi th the truths of
dogmati c theol ogy. The great mysteri es -- those of the Tri ni ty, the Creati on, the
I ncarnati on and the Redempti on -- and such dogmas as those concerni ng grace, the
gi fts of the Spi ri t, the theol ogi cal vi rtues, etc., were to hi m gui de-posts for those who
attempted to scal e, and to l ead others to scal e, the symbol i c mount of sancti ty.
I t wi l l be remembered that the Sai nt spent but one year upon hi s theol ogi cal
course at the Uni versi ty of Sal amanca, for whi ch reason many have been surpri sed
at the evi dent sol i di ty of hi s attai nments. But, apart from the fact that a mi nd so
keen and retenti ve as that of Fray Juan de San Matí as coul d absorb i n a year what
others woul d have fai l ed to i mbi be i n the more usual two or three, we must of
necessi ty assume a far l onger ti me spent i n pri vate study. For i n one year he coul d
not have studi ed al l the treati ses of whi ch he cl earl y demonstrates hi s knowl edge --
to say nothi ng of many others whi ch he must have known. Hi s own works, apart
from any external evi dence, prove hi m to have been a theol ogi an of di sti ncti on.
I n both fi el ds, the dogmati c and the mysti cal he was greatl y ai ded by hi s
knowl edge of Hol y Scri pture, whi ch he studi ed conti nual l y, i n the l ast years of hi s
l i fe, to the excl usi on, as i t woul d seem, of al l el se. Much of i t he knew by heart; the
si mpl e devoti onal tal ks that he was accustomed to gi ve were i nvari abl y studded
wi th texts, and he made use of passages from the Bi bl e both to justi fy and to
i l l ustrate hi s teachi ng. I n the mysti cal i nterpretati on of Hol y Scri pture, as every
29
student of mysti ci sm knows, he has had few equal s even among hi s fel l ow Doctors of
the Church Uni versal .
Testi moni es to hi s mastery of the Scri ptures can be found i n abundance. P.
Al onso de l a Madre de Di os, el Asturicense, for exampl e, who was personal l y
acquai nted wi th hi m, stated i n 1603 that 'he had a great gi ft and faci l i ty for the
exposi ti on of the Sacred Scri pture, pri nci pal l y of the Song of Songs, Eccl esi asti cus,
Eccl esi astes, the Proverbs and the Psal ms of Davi d.'
13
Hi s spi ri tual daughter, that
same Magdal ena del Espí ri tus Santo to whom we have several ti mes referred,
affi rms that St. John of the Cross woul d frequentl y read the Gospel s to the nuns of
Beas and expound the l etter and the spi ri t to them.
14
Fray Juan Evangel i sta says i n
a wel l -known passage:
He was very fond of readi ng i n the Scri ptures, and I never once saw
hi m read any other books than the Bi bl e,
15
al most al l of whi ch he knew by
heart, St. Augusti ne Contra Haereses and the Flos Sanctorum. When
occasi onal l y he preached (whi ch was sel dom) or gave i nformal addresses
[pláticas], as he more commonl y di d, he never read from any book save the
Bi bl e. Hi s conversati on, whether at recreati on or at other ti mes, was
conti nual l y of God, and he spoke so del i ghtful l y that, when he di scoursed
upon sacred thi ngs at recreati on, he woul d make us al l l augh and we used
greatl y to enjoy goi ng out. On occasi ons when we hel d chapters, he woul d
usual l y gi ve devoti onal addresses (pláticas divinas) after supper, and he
never fai l ed to gi ve an address every ni ght.
16
Fray Pabl o de Santa Marí a, who had al so heard the Sai nt's addresses, wrote thus:
He was a man of the most enki ndl ed spi ri tual i ty and of great i nsi ght
i nto al l that concerns mysti cal theol ogy and matters of prayer; I consi der i t
i mpossi bl e that he coul d have spoken so wel l about al l the vi rtues i f he had
not been most profi ci ent i n the spi ri tual l i fe, and I real l y thi nk he knew the
whol e Bi bl e by heart, so far as one coul d judge from the vari ous Bi bl i cal
passages whi ch he woul d quote at chapters and i n the refectory, wi thout any
great effort, but as one who goes where the Spi ri t l eads hi m.
17
Nor was thi s admi rati on for the exposi tory abi l i ty of St. John of the Cross confi ned
to hi s fel l ow-fri ars, who mi ght easi l y enough have been l ed i nto hero-worshi p. We
know that he was thought hi ghl y of i n thi s respect by the Uni versi ty of Al cal á de
Henares, where he was consul ted as an authori ty. A Dr. Vi l l egas, Canon of Segovi a
Cathedral , has l eft on record hi s respect for hi m. And Fray Jeróni mo de San José
rel ates the esteem i n whi ch he was hel d at the Uni versi ty of Baeza, whi ch i n hi s day
13
MS. 12,738, fol . 3. Cf. a l etter of Apri l 28, 1614, by the same fri ar (ibid., fol . 865), whi ch descri bes
the Sai nt's knowl edge of the Hol y Scri ptures, and ski l l i n expoundi ng them, as 'i nspi red' and 'Di vi ne.'
14
I bid., fol . 18.
15
Jeróni mo de l a Cruz (ibid., fol . 639) descri bes the Sai nt on hi s journeys as 'frequentl y readi ng the
Bi bl e' as he went al ong on hi s 'beast.'
16
MS. 12,738, fol . 559. P. Al onso wri tes si mi l arl y i n a l etter to Fray Jeróni mo de San José: 'And i n
thi s matter of speaki ng of God and expoundi ng passages from Scri pture he made everyone marvel ,
for they never asked hi m about a passage whi ch he coul d not expl ai n i n great detai l , and someti mes
at recreati on the whol e hour and much more went by i n the expl anati on of passages about whi ch
they asked hi m' (fol . 1,431).
17
I bid., fol . 847.
30
enjoyed a consi derabl e reputati on for Bi bl i cal studi es:
There were at that ti me at the Uni versi ty of Baeza many l earned and
spi ri tual l y mi nded persons, di sci pl es of that great father and apostl e Juan de
Ávi l a.
18
. . . Al l these doctors . . . woul d repai r to our venerabl e father as to an
oracl e from heaven and woul d di scuss wi th hi m both thei r own spi ri tual
progress and that of soul s commi tted to thei r charge, wi th the resul t that
they were both edi fi ed and astoni shed at hi s ski l l . They woul d al so bri ng hi m
di ffi cul ti es and del i cate poi nts connected wi th Di vi ne l etters, and on these,
too, he spoke wi th extraordi nary energy and i l l umi nati on. One of these
doctors, who had consul ted hi m and l i stened to hi m on vari ous occasi ons, sai d
that, al though he had read deepl y i n St. Augusti ne and St. John Chrysostom
and other sai nts, and had found i n them greater hei ghts and depths, he had
found i n none of them that parti cul ar ki nd of spi ri tual i ty i n exposi ti on whi ch
thi s great father appl i ed to Scri ptural passages.
19
The Scri ptural knowl edge of St. John of the Cross was, as thi s passage makes
cl ear, i n no way merel y academi c. Both i n hi s l i teral and hi s mysti cal
i nterpretati ons of the Bi bl e, he has what we may cal l a 'Bi bl i cal sense,' whi ch saves
hi m from such exaggerati ons as we fi nd i n other exposi tors, both earl i er and
contemporary. One woul d not cl ai m, of course, that among the many hundreds of
appl i cati ons of Hol y Scri pture made by the Carmel i te Doctor there are none that
can be objected to i n thi s respect; but the same can be sai d of St. Augusti ne, St.
Ambrose, St. Gregory or St. Bernard, and no one woul d assert that, ei ther wi th
them or wi th hi m, such i nstances are other than most excepti onal .
To the three sources al ready menti oned i n whi ch St. John of the Cross found
i nspi rati on we must add a fourth -- the works of asceti c and mysti cal wri ters. I t i s
not yet possi bl e to assert wi th any exactness how far the Sai nt made use of these;
for, though parti al studi es of thi s questi on have been attempted, a compl ete and
unbi ased treatment of i t has sti l l to be undertaken. Here we can do no more than
gi ve a few i ndi cati ons of what remai ns to be done and summari ze the present
content of our knowl edge.
20
We may suppose that, duri ng hi s novi ti ate i n Medi na, the Sai nt read a
number of devoti onal books, one of whi ch woul d al most certai nl y have been the
I mitation of Christ, and others woul d have i ncl uded works whi ch were transl ated
i nto Spani sh by order of Cardi nal Ci sneros. The demands of a Uni versi ty course
woul d not keep hi m from pursui ng such studi es at Sal amanca; the fri ar who chose a
cel l from the wi ndow of whi ch he coul d see the Bl essed Sacrament, so that he mi ght
spend hours i n i ts company, woul d hardl y be l i kel y to negl ect hi s devoti onal
readi ng. But we have not a syl l abl e of di rect external evi dence as to the ti tl es of any
of the books known to hi m.
Nor, for that matter, have we much more evi dence of thi s ki nd for any other
part of hi s l i fe. Both hi s earl y Carmel i te bi ographers and the numerous wi tnesses
who gave evi dence duri ng the canoni zati on process descri be at great l ength hi s
extraordi nary penances, hi s l ove for pl aces of retreat beauti fi ed by Nature, the l ong
18
[Cf. S.S.M., I I , 123-48.]
19
Vida, Bk. I V, Chap. xi v, § 1.
20
[On thi s subject cf. P. Cri sógono de Jesús Sacramentado: San J uan de la Cruz, Madri d, 1929, Vol .
I I , pp. 17-34 et passim.]
31
hours that he spent i n prayer and the tongue of angel s wi th whi ch he spoke on
thi ngs spi ri tual . But of hi s readi ng they say nothi ng except to descri be hi s
attachment to the Bi bl e, nor have we any record of the books contai ned i n the
l i brari es of the rel i gi ous houses that he vi si ted. Yet i f, as we gather from the
process, he spent l i ttl e more than three hours ni ghtl y i n sl eep, he must have read
deepl y of spi ri tual thi ngs by ni ght as wel l as by day.
Some cl ues to the nature of hi s readi ng may be gai ned from hi s own wri ti ngs.
I t i s true that the cl ues are sl ender. He ci tes few works apart from the Bi bl e and
these are general l y l i turgi cal books, such as the Brevi ary. Some of hi s quotati ons
from St. Augusti ne, St. Gregory and other of the Fathers are traceabl e to these
sources. Neverthel ess, we have not read St. John of the Cross for l ong before we fi nd
oursel ves i n the ful l current of mysti cal tradi ti on. I t i s not by means of more or l ess
l i teral quotati ons that the Sai nt produces thi s i mpressi on; he has studi ed hi s
precursors so thoroughl y that he absorbs the substance of thei r doctri ne and
i ncorporates i t so i nti matel y i n hi s own that i t becomes fl esh of hi s fl esh. Everythi ng
i n hi s wri ti ngs i s ful l y matured: he has no juveni l i a. The medi aeval mysti cs whom
he uses are too often vague and undi sci pl i ned; they need someone to sel ect from
them and uni fy them, to gi ve them cl ari ty and order, so that thei r treatment of
mysti cal theol ogy may have the sol i di ty and substance of schol asti c theol ogy. To
have done thi s i s one of the achi evements of St. John of the Cross.
We are convi nced, then, by an i nternal evi dence whi ch i s chi efl y of a ki nd i n
whi ch no chapter and verse can be gi ven, that St. John of the Cross read wi del y i n
medi aeval mysti cal theol ogy and assi mi l ated a great part of what he read. The
i nfl uence of forei gn wri ters upon Spani sh mysti ci sm, though i t was once deni ed, i s
to-day general l y recogni zed. I t was i nevi tabl e that i t shoul d have been consi derabl e
i n a country whi ch i n the si xteenth century had such a hi gh degree of cul ture as
Spai n. Pl oti nus, i n a di l uted form, made hi s way i nto Spani sh mysti ci sm as
natural l y as di d Seneca i nto Spani sh asceti ci sm. Pl ato and Ari stotl e entered i t
through the two greatest mi nds that Chri sti ani ty has known -- St. Augusti ne and
St. Thomas. The i nfl uence of the Pl atoni c theori es of l ove and beauty and of such
basi c Ari stotel i an theori es as the ori gi n of knowl edge i s to be found i n most of the
Spani sh mysti cs, St. John of the Cross among them.
The pseudo-Di onysi us was another wri ter who was consi dered a great
authori ty by the Spani sh mysti cs. The i mportance attri buted to hi s works arose
partl y from the fact that he was supposed to have been one of the fi rst di sci pl es of
the Apostl es; many chapters from mysti cal works of those days al l over Europe are
no more than gl osses of the pseudo-Areopagi te. He i s fol l owed l ess, however, by St.
John of the Cross than by many of the l atter's contemporari es.
Other i nfl uences upon the Carmel i te Sai nt were St. Gregory, St. Bernard and
Hugh and Ri chard of St. Vi ctor, many of whose maxi ms were i n the mouths of the
mysti cs i n the si xteenth century. More i mportant, probabl y, than any of these was
the Fl emi ng, Ruysbroeck, between whom and St. John of the Cross there were
certai nl y many poi nts of contact. The Sai nt woul d have read hi m, not i n the
ori gi nal , but i n Suri us' Lati n transl ati on of 1552, copi es of whi ch are known to have
been current i n Spai n.
21
Together wi th Ruysbroeck may be cl assed Suso, Deni s the
Carthusi an, Herp, Kempi s and vari ous other wri ters.
Many of the i deas and phrases whi ch we fi nd i n St. John of the Cross, as i n
21
On Fl emi sh i nfl uences on Spani sh mysti ci sm, see P. Groul t: Les Mystiques des Pays-Bas et la
littérature espagnole du seizième siècle, Louvai n, 1927 [, and Joaquí n Sanchi s Al ventosa, O.F.M.: La
Escuela mística alemana y sus relaciones con nuestros místicos del Siglo de Oro, Madri d, 1946].
32
other wri ters, are, of course, traceabl e to the common mysti cal tradi ti on rather than
to any defi ni te i ndi vi dual i nfl uence. The stri ki ng metaphor of the ray of l i ght
penetrati ng the room, for exampl e, whi ch occurs i n the fi rst chapter of the pseudo-
Areopagi te's De Mystica Theologia, has been used conti nual l y by mysti cal wri ters
ever si nce hi s ti me. The fi gures of the wood consumed by fi re, of the l adder, the
mi rror, the fl ame of l ove and the ni ghts of sense and spi ri t had l ong si nce become
natural i zed i n mysti cal l i terature. There are many more such exampl es.
The ori gi nal i ty of St. John of the Cross i s i n no way i mpai red by hi s
empl oyment of thi s current mysti cal l anguage: such an i dea mi ght once have been
commonl y hel d, but has l ong ceased to be put forward seri ousl y. Hi s ori gi nal i ty,
i ndeed, l i es preci sel y i n the use whi ch he made of l anguage that he found near to
hand. I t i s not goi ng too far to l i ken the pl ace taken by St. John of the Cross i n
mysti cal theol ogy to that of St. Thomas i n dogmati c; St. Thomas l ai d hol d upon the
i mmense store of materi al whi ch had accumul ated i n the domai n of dogmati c
theol ogy and subjected i t to the i ron di sci pl i ne of reason. That St. John of the Cross
di d the same for mysti cal theol ogy i s hi s great cl ai m upon our admi rati on. Through
St. Thomas speaks the eccl esi asti cal tradi ti on of many ages on questi ons of rel i gi ous
bel i ef; through St. John speaks an equal l y venerabl e tradi ti on on questi ons of
Di vi ne l ove. Both wri ters combi ned sai nthood wi th geni us. Both opened broad
channel s to be fol l owed of necessi ty by Cathol i c wri ters through the ages to come ti l l
theol ogy shal l l ose i tsel f i n that vast ocean of truth and l ove whi ch i s God. Both
created i nstruments adequate to the greatness of thei r task: St. Thomas' cl ear,
deci si ve reasoni ng processes gi ve us the formul a appropri ate to each and every need
of the understandi ng; St. John cl othes hi s teachi ng i n mel l ower and more appeal i ng
l anguage, as befi ts the exponent of the sci ence of l ove. We may descri be the treati ses
of St. John of the Cross as the true Summa Angelica of mysti cal theol ogy.
I I
OUTSTANDI NG QUALI TI ES AND DEFECTS OF THE SAI NT'S STYLE
THE profound and ori gi nal thought whi ch St. John of the Cross bestowed upon so
abstruse a subject, and upon one on whi ch there was so l i ttl e cl assi cal l i terature i n
Spani sh when he wrote, l ed hi m to cl othe hi s i deas i n a l anguage at once energeti c,
preci se and of a hi gh degree of i ndi vi dual i ty. Hi s styl e refl ects hi s thought, but i t
refl ects the styl e of no school and of no other wri ter whatsoever.
Thi s i s natural enough, for thought and feel i ng were al ways uppermost i n the
Sai nt: styl e and l anguage take a pl ace enti rel y subordi nate to them. Never di d he
sacri fi ce any i dea to arti sti c combi nati ons of words; never bl ur over any del i cate
shade of thought to enhance some rhythmi c cadence of musi cal prose. Li terary form
(to use a fi gure whi ch he hi msel f mi ght have coi ned) i s onl y present at al l i n hi s
works i n the sense i n whi ch the i ndustri ous and deferenti al servant i s present i n
the ducal apartment, for the purpose of renderi ng fai thful servi ce to hi s l ord and
master. Thi s subordi nati on of styl e to content i n the Sai nt's work i s one of i ts most
emi nent qual i ti es. He i s a great wri ter, but not a great styl i st. The strength and
robustness of hi s i ntel l ect everywhere predomi nate.
Thi s to a l arge extent expl ai ns the negl i gences whi ch we fi nd i n hi s styl e, the
frequency wi th whi ch i t i s marred by repeti ti ons and i ts occasi onal degenerati on
i nto di ffuseness. The l ong, unwi el dy sentences, one of whi ch wi l l someti mes run to
the l ength of a reasonabl y si zed paragraph, are certai nl y a tri al to many a reader.
33
So i ntent i s the Sai nt upon expl ai ni ng, underl i ni ng and devel opi ng hi s poi nts so
that they shal l be apprehended as perfectl y as may be, that he conti nual l y recurs to
what he has al ready sai d, and repeats words, phrases and even passages of
consi derabl e l ength wi thout scrupl e. I t i s onl y fai r to remi nd the reader that such
thi ngs were far commoner i n the Gol den Age than they are to-day; most di dacti c
Spani sh prose of that peri od woul d be notabl y i mproved, from a modern standpoi nt,
i f i ts vol ume were cut down by about one-thi rd.
Be that as i t may, these defects i n the prose of St. John of the Cross are
ampl y compensated by the ful l ness of hi s phraseol ogy, the weal th and profusi on of
hi s i magery, the force and the energy of hi s argument. He has onl y to be compared
wi th the di dacti c wri ters who were hi s contemporari es for thi s to become apparent.
Together wi th Lui s de Granada, Lui s de León, Juan de l os Ángel es and Lui s de l a
Puente,
22
he created a genui nel y nati ve l anguage, purged of Lati ni sms, preci se and
el oquent, whi ch Spani sh wri ters have used ever si nce i n wri ti ng of mysti cal
theol ogy.
The most subl i me of al l the Spani sh mysti cs, he soars al oft on the wi ngs of
Di vi ne l ove to hei ghts known to hardl y any of them. Though no words can express
the l ofti est of the experi ences whi ch he descri bes, we are never l eft wi th the
i mpressi on that word, phrase or i mage has fai l ed hi m. I f i t does not exi st, he
appears to i nvent i t, rather than pause i n hi s descri pti on i n order to search for an
expressi on of the i dea that i s i n hi s mi nd or be sati sfi ed wi th a prol i x paraphrase.
True to the character of hi s thought, hi s styl e i s al ways forceful and energeti c, even
to a faul t.
We have sai d nothi ng of hi s poems, for i ndeed they cal l for no purel y l i terary
commentary. How ful l of l i fe the greatest of them are, how ri ch i n meani ng, how
unforgettabl e and how i ni mi tabl e, the i ndi vi dual reader may see at a gl ance or may
l earn from hi s own experi ence. Many of thei r exqui si te fi gures thei r author owes,
di rectl y or i ndi rectl y, to hi s readi ng and assi mi l ati on of the Bi bl e. Some of them,
however, have acqui red a new l i fe i n the form whi ch he has gi ven them. A l i ne here,
a phrase there, has taken root i n the mi nd of some l ater poet or essayi st and has
gi ven ri se to a new work of art, to many l overs of whi ch the Sai nt who l i es behi nd i t
i s unknown.
I t i s perhaps not an exaggerati on to say that the verse and prose works
combi ned of St. John of the Cross form at once the most grandi ose and the most
mel odi ous spi ri tual canti cl e to whi ch any one man has ever gi ven utterance. I t i s
i mpossi bl e, i n the space at our di sposal , to quote at any l ength from the Spani sh
cri ti cs who have pai d tri bute to i ts comprehensi veness and profundi ty. We must
content oursel ves wi th a short quotati on characteri zi ng the Sai nt's poems, taken
from the greatest of these cri ti cs, Marcel i no Menéndez Pel ayo, who, besi des
referri ng frequentl y to St. John of the Cross i n such of hi s mature works as the
Heterodoxos, I deas Estéticas and Ciencia Española, devoted to hi m a great part of
the address whi ch he del i vered as a young man at hi s offi ci al recepti on i nto the
Spani sh Academy under the ti tl e of 'Mysti cal Poetry.'
'So subl i me,' wrote Menéndez Pel ayo, 'i s thi s poetry [of St. John of the Cross]
that i t scarcel y seems to bel ong to thi s worl d at al l ; i t i s hardl y capabl e of bei ng
assessed by l i terary cri teri a. More ardent i n i ts passi on than any profane poetry, i ts
form i s as el egant and exqui si te, as pl asti c and as hi ghl y fi gured as any of the fi nest
works of the Renai ssance. The spi ri t of God has passed through these poems every
one, beauti fyi ng and sancti fyi ng them on i ts way.'
22
[Cf. S.S.M., I (1927), 33-76, 291-405; (1951), 25-61, 235-328; I I (1930), 309-43.]
34
I I I
DI FFUSI ON OF THE WRI TI NGS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS -- LOSS OF THE
AUTOGRAPHS -- GENERAL CHARACTERI STI CS OF THE MANUSCRI PTS
The outstandi ng qual i ti es of St. John of the Cross's wri ti ngs were soon recogni zed
by the earl i est of thei r few and pri vi l eged readers. Al l such persons, of course,
bel onged to a smal l ci rcl e composed of the Sai nt's i nti mate fri ends and di sci pl es. As
ti me went on, the ci rcl e wi dened repeatedl y; now i t embraces the enti re Church, and
countl ess i ndi vi dual soul s who are fi l l ed wi th the spi ri t of Chri sti ani ty.
Fi rst of al l , the works were read and di scussed i n those l oci of evangel i cal zeal
whi ch the Sai nt had hi msel f enki ndl ed, by hi s word and exampl e, at Beas, El
Cal vari o, Baeza and Granada. They coul d not have come more opportunel y. St.
Teresa's Reform had engendered a spi ri tual al ertness and energy remi ni scent of the
earl i est days of Chri sti ani ty. Before thi s coul d i n any way di mi ni sh, her fi rst fri ar
presented the fol l owers of them both wi th spi ri tual food to nouri sh and re-create
thei r soul s and so to sustai n the hi gh degree of zeal for Our Lord whi ch He had
bestowed upon them.
I n one sense, St. John of the Cross took up hi s pen i n order to suppl ement the
wri ti ngs of St. Teresa; on several subjects, for exampl e, he abstai ned from wri ti ng at
l ength because she had al ready treated of them.
23
Much of the work of the two
Sai nts, however, of necessi ty covers the same ground, and thus the great mysti cal
school of the Spani sh Carmel i tes i s rei nforced at i ts very begi nni ngs i n a way whi ch
must be uni que i n the hi story of mysti ci sm. The wri ti ngs of St. Teresa and St. John
of the Cross, though of equal val ue and i denti cal ai m, are i n many respects very
di fferent i n thei r nature; together they cover al most the enti re ground of orthodox
mysti ci sm, both specul ati ve and experi mental . The Carmel i te mysti cs who came
after them were abl e to bui l d upon a broad and sure foundati on.
The wri ti ngs of St. John of the Cross soon became known outsi de the narrow
ci rcl e of hi s sons and daughters i n rel i gi on. I n a few years they had gone al l over
Spai n and reached Portugal , France and I tal y. They were read by persons of every
soci al cl ass, from the Empress Mari a of Austri a, si ster of Phi l i p I I , to the most
unl ettered nuns of St. Teresa's most remote foundati ons. One of the wi tnesses at the
process for the beati fi cati on decl ared that he knew of no works of whi ch there
exi sted so many copi es, wi th the excepti on of the Bi bl e.
We may fai rl y suppose (and the supposi ti on i s confi rmed by the nature of the
extant manuscri pts) that the majori ty of the earl y copi es were made by fri ars and
nuns of the Di scal ced Reform. Most Di scal ced houses must have had copi es and
others were probabl y i n the possessi on of members of other Orders. We gather, too,
from vari ous sources, that even l ay persons managed to make or obtai n copi es of the
manuscri pts.
How many of these copi es, i t wi l l be asked, were made di rectl y from the
autographs? So vague i s the avai l abl e evi dence on thi s questi on that i t i s di ffi cul t to
attempt any cal cul ati on of even approxi mate rel i abi l i ty. Al l we can say i s that the
copi es made by, or for, the Di scal ced fri ars and nuns themsel ves are the earl i est and
most trustworthy, whi l e those i ntended for the l ai ty were frequentl y made at thi rd
23
One wel l -known exampl e wi l l be found i n the commentary on the 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e,' Chap. xi i (cf.
§ V bel ow).
35
or fourth hand. The Sai nt hi msel f seems to have wri tten out onl y one manuscri pt of
each treati se and none of these has come down to us. Some thi nk that he destroyed
the manuscri pts copi ed wi th hi s own hand, feari ng that they mi ght come to be
venerated for other reasons than that of the val ue of thei r teachi ng. He was, of
course, perfectl y capabl e of such an act of abnegati on; once, as we know, i n
accordance wi th hi s own pri nci pl es, he burned some l etters of St. Teresa, whi ch he
had carri ed wi th hi m for years, for no other reason than that he real i zed that he
was becomi ng attached to them.
24
The onl y manuscri pt of hi s that we possess consi sts of a few pages of maxi ms,
some l etters and one or two documents whi ch he wrote when he was Vi car-
Provi nci al of Andal usi a.
25
So numerous and so thorough have been the searches
made for further autographs duri ng the l ast three centuri es that further di scoveri es
of any i mportance seem most unl i kel y. We have, therefore, to consol e oursel ves wi th
manuscri pts, such as the Sanl úcar de Barrameda Codex of the Spiritual Canticle,
whi ch bear the Sai nt's autograph correcti ons as warrants of thei r i ntegri ty.
The vagueness of much of the evi dence concerni ng the manuscri pts to whi ch
we have referred extends to the farthest possi bl e l i mi t -- that of usi ng the word
'ori gi nal ' to i ndi cate 'autograph' and 'copy' i ndi fferentl y. Even i n the earl i est
documents we can never be sure whi ch sense i s i ntended. Furthermore, there was a
passi on i n the seventeenth and ei ghteenth centuri es for descri bi ng al l ki nds of ol d
manuscri pts as autographs, and thus we fi nd copi es so descri bed i n whi ch the hand
bears not the sl i ghtest resembl ance to that of the Sai nt, as the most superfi ci al
col l ati on wi th a genui ne speci men of hi s hand woul d have made evi dent. We shal l
gi ve i nstances of thi s i n descri bi ng the extant copi es of i ndi vi dual treati ses. One
exampl e of a general ki nd, however, may be quoted here to show the extent to whi ch
the practi ce spread. I n a statement made, wi th reference to one of the processes, at
the convent of Di scal ced Carmel i te nuns of Val l adol i d, a certai n M. Marí a de l a
Tri ni dad deposed 'that a servant of God, a Franci scan terti ary named Ana Marí a,
possesses the ori gi nal s of the books of our hol y father, and has heard that he sent
them to the Order.' Great i mportance was attached to thi s deposi ti on and every
possi bl e measure was taken to fi nd the autographs -- needl ess to say, wi thout
resul t.
26
Wi th the mul ti pl i cati on of the number of copi es of St. John of the Cross's
wri ti ngs, the number of vari ants natural l y mul ti pl i ed al so. The earl y copi es havi ng
al l been made for devoti onal purposes, by persons wi th l i ttl e or no pal aeographi cal
knowl edge, many of whom di d not even exerci se common care, i t i s not surpri si ng
that there i s not a si ngl e one whi ch can compare i n puncti l i ousness wi th certai n
extant ei ghteenth-century copi es of documents connected wi th St. John of the Cross
and St. Teresa. These were made by a pai nstaki ng fri ar cal l ed Manuel de Santa
Marí a, whose scrupul ousness went so far that he reproduced i mperfectl y formed
24
MS. 12,738, fol . 639.
25
To these we shal l refer i n the thi rd vol ume of thi s edi ti on.
26
I f any si ngl e person coul d have spoken from knowl edge of thi s matter i t woul d be P. Al onso de l a
Madre de Di os, as al l papers connected wi th St. John of the Cross passed through hi s hands and he
took hundreds of deposi ti ons i n connecti on wi th the Beati fi cati on process. Hi s statements, however
(MS. 19,404, fol . 176 [P. Si l veri o, I , 179]), are as vague as any others. Rather more rel i abl e are the
Sai nt's two earl y bi ographers, P. José de Jesús Marí a (Qui roga) and P. Jeróni mo de San José. The
former states i n one pl ace that he i s usi ng an autograph on the Ascent of Mount Carmel, but agai n i t
seems l i kel y that he was mi staken, si nce the archi ves of the Reform were sti l l i ntact i n the next
century and no genui ne autograph of any l ength was found i n them.
36
l etters exactl y as they were wri tten, addi ng the parts that were l acki ng (e.g., the
tilde over the l etter ñ) wi th i nk of another col our.
We may l ament that thi s good father had no predecessor l i ke hi msel f to copy
the Sai nt's treati ses, but i t i s onl y ri ght to say that the copi es we possess are
suffi ci entl y fai thful and numerous to gi ve us reasonabl y accurate versi ons of thei r
ori gi nal s. The i mportant poi nt about them i s that they bear no si gns of bad fai th,
nor even of the desi re (understandabl e enough i n those unsci enti fi c days) to cl ari fy
the sense of thei r ori gi nal , or even to i mprove upon i ts teachi ng. Thei r errors are
often gross ones, but the l arge majori ty of them are qui te easy to detect and put
ri ght. The i mpressi on to thi s effect whi ch one obtai ns from a casual perusal of
al most any of these copi es i s qui te defi ni tel y confi rmed by a compari son of them
wi th copi es corrected by the Sai nt or wri tten by the cl osest and most trusted of hi s
di sci pl es. I t may be added that some of the vari ants may, for aught we know to the
contrary, be the Sai nt's own work, si nce i t i s not i mprobabl e that he may have
corrected more than one copy of some of hi s wri ti ngs, and not been enti rel y
consi stent.
There are, broadl y speaki ng, two cl asses i nto whi ch the copi es (more
parti cul arl y those of the Ascent and the Dark Night) may be di vi ded. One cl ass ai ms
at a more or l ess exact transcri pti on; the other defi ni tel y sets out to abbrevi ate.
Even i f the l atter cl ass be credi ted wi th a number of copi es whi ch hardl y meri t the
name, the former i s by far the l arger, and, of course, the more i mportant, though i t
must not be supposed that the l atter i s unworthy of noti ce. The abbrevi ators
general l y omi t whol e chapters, or passages, at a ti me, and, where they are not for
the moment doi ng thi s, or wri ti ng the connecti ng phrases necessary to repai r thei r
mi schi ef, they are often qui te fai thful to thei r ori gi nal s. Si nce they do not, i n
general , attri bute anythi ng to thei r author that i s not hi s, no objecti on can be taken,
on moral grounds, to thei r proceedi ng, though, i n actual fact, the resul ts are not
al ways happy. Thei r ends were purel y practi cal and devoti onal and they made no
attempt to pass thei r compendi a as ful l -l ength transcri pti ons.
Wi th regard to the Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame of Love, of each of
whi ch there are two redacti ons beari ng i ndi sputabl e marks of the author's own
hand, the cl assi fi cati on of the copi es wi l l natural l y depend upon whi ch redacti on
each copy the more nearl y fol l ows. Thi s questi on wi l l be di scussed i n the necessary
detai l i n the i ntroducti on to each of these works, and to the i ndi vi dual i ntroducti ons
to the four major treati ses we must refer the reader for other detai l s of the
manuscri pts. I n the present pages we have attempted onl y a general account of
these matters. I t remai ns to add that our di vi si ons of each chapter i nto paragraphs
fol l ow the manuscri pts throughout except where i ndi cated. The pri nted edi ti ons, as
we shal l see, suppressed these di vi si ons, but, apart from thei r val ue to the modern
reader, they are suffi ci entl y nearl y i denti cal i n the vari ous copi es to form one
further testi mony to thei r general hi gh standard of rel i abi l i ty.
I V
I NTEGRI TY OF THE SAI NT'S WORK -- I NCOMPLETE CONDI TI ON OF THE
'ASCENT' AND THE 'NI GHT' -- DI SPUTED QUESTI ONS
THE pri nci pal l acuna i n St. John of the Cross's wri ti ngs, and, from the l i terary
standpoi nt, the most i nteresti ng, i s the l ack of any commentary to the l ast fi ve
37
stanzas
27
of the poem 'Dark Ni ght.' Such a commentary i s essenti al to the
compl eti on of the pl an whi ch the Sai nt had al ready traced for hi msel f i n what was
to be, and, i n spi te of i ts unfi ni shed condi ti on, i s i n fact, hi s most ri gorousl y
sci enti fi c treati se. 'Al l the doctri ne,' he wrote i n the Argument of the Ascent,
'whereof I i ntend to treat i n thi s Ascent of Mount Carmel i s i ncl uded i n the fol l owi ng
stanzas, and i n them i s al so descri bed the manner of ascendi ng to the summi t of the
Mount, whi ch i s the hi gh estate of perfecti on whi ch we here cal l uni on of the soul
wi th God.' Thi s l eaves no doubt but that the Sai nt i ntended to treat the mysti cal l i fe
as one whol e, and to deal i n turn wi th each stage of the road to perfecti on, from the
begi nni ngs of the Purgati ve Way to the crown and summi t of the l i fe of Uni on. After
showi ng the need for such a treati se as he proposes to wri te, he di vi des the chapters
on Purgati on i nto four parts correspondi ng to the Acti ve and Passi ve ni ghts of Sense
and of Spi ri t. These, however, correspond onl y to the fi rst two stanzas of hi s poem;
they are not, as we shal l shortl y see, compl ete, but thei r i ncompl eteness i s sl i ght
compared wi th that of the work as a whol e.
Di d St. John of the Cross, we may ask, ever wri te a commentary on those l ast
fi ve stanzas, whi ch begi n wi th a descri pti on of the state of I l l umi nati on:
'Twas that light guided me,
More surely than the noonday's brightest glare --
and end wi th that of the l i fe of Uni on:
All things for me that day
Ceas'd, as I slumber'd there,
Amid the lilies drowning all my care?
I f we suppose that he di d, we are faced wi th the questi on of i ts fate and wi th the
strange fact that none of hi s contemporari es makes any menti on of such a
commentary, though they are al l prol i fi c i n detai l s of far l ess i mportance.
Conjectures have been ventured on thi s questi on ever si nce cri ti cal methods
fi rst began to be appl i ed to St. John of the Cross's wri ti ngs. A great deal was wri tten
about i t by P. Andrés de l a Encarnaci ón, to whom hi s superi ors entrusted the task
of col l ecti ng and edi ti ng the Sai nt's wri ti ngs, and whose fi ndi ngs, though they suffer
from the defects of an age whi ch from a modern standpoi nt must be cal l ed
unsci enti fi c, and need therefore to be read wi th the greatest cauti on, are often
surpri si ngl y just and accurate. P. Andrés begi ns by referri ng to vari ous pl aces
where St. John of the Cross states that he has treated certai n subjects and proposes
to treat others, about whi ch nothi ng can be found i n hi s wri ti ngs. Thi s, he says, may
often be due to an oversi ght on the wri ter's part or to changes whi ch new
experi ences mi ght have brought to hi s mode of thi nki ng. On the other hand, there
are someti mes si gns that these promi ses have been ful fi l l ed: the sharp truncati on of
the argument, for exampl e, at the end of Book I I I of the Ascent suggests that at
l east a few pages are mi ssi ng, i n whi ch case the ori gi nal manuscri pt must have been
muti l ated,
28
for al most al l the extant copi es break off at the same word. I t i s
27
[The commentary on the thi rd stanza i s begun i n i i , xxv of Dark Night. I f thi s be not counted, the
number of stanzas l eft uncommented i s si x.]
28
Thi s i s not so unl i kel y as i t may seem, for the earl y manuscri pts were al l ei ther unbound, or very
roughl y sti tched together, and several of the extant copi es have l eaves mi ssi ng. I t was not ti l l the
ti me of the Beati fi cati on Process that greater care began to be taken of the Sai nt's wri ti ngs, and they
were bound strongl y and even l uxuri ousl y.
38
unthi nkabl e, as P. Andrés says, that the Sai nt 'shoul d have gone on to wri te the
Night wi thout compl eti ng the Ascent, for al l these fi ve books
29
are i ntegral parts of
one whol e, si nce they al l treat of di fferent stages of one spi ri tual path.'
30
I t may be argued i n the same way that St. John of the Cross woul d not have
gone on to wri te the commentari es on the 'Spi ri tual Canti cl e' and the 'Li vi ng Fl ame
of Love' wi thout fi rst compl eti ng the Dark Night. P. Andrés goes so far as to say that
the very unwi l l i ngness whi ch the Sai nt di spl ayed towards wri ti ng commentari es on
the two l atter poems i ndi cates that he had al ready compl eted the others; otherwi se,
he coul d easi l y have excused hi msel f from the l ater task on the pl ea that he had sti l l
to fi ni sh the earl i er.
Agai n, St. John of the Cross decl ares very defi ni tel y, i n the prol ogue to the
Dark Night, that, after descri bi ng i n the commentary on the fi rst two stanzas the
effects of the two passi ve purgati ons of the sensual and the spi ri tual part of man, he
wi l l devote the si x remai ni ng stanzas to expoundi ng 'vari ous and wondrous effects
of the spi ri tual i l l umi nati on and uni on of l ove wi th God.' Nothi ng coul d be cl earer
than thi s. Now, i n the commentary on the 'Li vi ng Fl ame,' argues P. Andrés, he
treats at consi derabl e l ength of si mpl e contempl ati on and adds that he has wri tten
ful l y of i t i n several chapters of the Ascent and the Night, whi ch he names; but not
onl y do we not fi nd the references i n two of the chapters enumerated by hi m, but he
makes no menti on of several other chapters i n whi ch the references are of
consi derabl e ful l ness. The proper deducti ons from these facts woul d seem to be,
fi rst, that we do not possess the Ascent and the Night i n the form i n whi ch the Sai nt
wrote them, and, second, that i n the mi ssi ng chapters he referred to the subject
under di scussi on at much greater l ength than i n the chapters we have.
Further, the practi ce of St. John of the Cross was not to omi t any part of hi s
commentari es when for any reason he was unabl e or unwi l l i ng to wri te them at
l ength, but rather to abbrevi ate them. Thus, he runs rapi dl y through the thi rd
stanza of the Night and through the fourth stanza of the Living Flame: we shoul d
expect hi m i n the same way to treat the l ast three stanzas of the Night wi th si mi l ar
brevi ty and rapi di ty, but not to omi t them al together.
Such are the pri nci pal arguments used by P. Andrés whi ch have i ncl i ned
many cri ti cs to the bel i ef that St. John of the Cross compl eted these treati ses. Other
of hi s arguments, whi ch to hi msel f were even more convi nci ng, have now l ost much
wei ght. The chi ef of these are the contenti on that, because a certai n Fray Agustí n
Antol í nez (b. 1554), i n expoundi ng these same poems, makes no menti on of the
Sai nt's havi ng fai l ed to expound fi ve stanzas of the Night, he di d therefore wri te an
exposi ti on of them;
31
and the supposi ti on that the Li vi ng Fl ame was wri tten before
the Spi ri tual Canti cl e, and that therefore, when the prol ogue to the Li vi ng Fl ame
says that the author has al ready descri bed the hi ghest state of perfecti on attai nabl e
i n thi s l i fe, i t cannot be referri ng to the Canti cl e and must necessari l y al l ude to
passages, now l ost, from the Dark Ni ght.
32
29
I .e., the three books of the Ascent and the two of the Night.
30
MS. 3,180, Adi ci ón B.
31
I t woul d be natural enough, of course, for Fray Agustí n Antol í nez to have noted thi s fact, but, as he
makes no menti on of St. John of the Cross at al l , nothi ng can be safel y i nferred from hi s si l ence. I t
may be added that Fray Agustí n's commentary i s to be publ i shed by the Spani sh Augusti ni ans [and
that P. Si l veri o (I , 190-3 ) gi ves a speci men of i t whi ch shows how wel l i t deserves publ i cati on].
32
As we shal l l ater see, the Living Flame was wri tten after the fi rst redacti on of the Spiritual
Canticle, but before the second redacti on, whi ch menti ons the Living Flame i n the exposi ti on of
Stanza XXXI , thus mi sl eadi ng P. Andrés as to i ts date. There i s no doubt, i n our mi nd, that the
reference i n the preface to the Living Flame i s to the Canticle: the descri pti on fi ts i t exactl y.
39
Our own judgment upon thi s much debated questi on i s not easi l y del i vered.
On the one hand, the reasons why St. John of the Cross shoul d have compl eted hi s
work are perfectl y sound ones and hi s own words i n the Ascent and the Dark Night
are a cl ear statement of hi s i ntenti ons. Furthermore, he had ampl e ti me to compl ete
i t, for he wrote other treati ses at a l ater date and he certai nl y consi dered the l atter
part of the Dark Night to be more i mportant than the former. On the other hand, i t
i s di sconcerti ng to fi nd not even the bri efest cl ear reference to thi s l atter part i n any
of hi s subsequent wri ti ngs, when both the Living Flame and the Spiritual Canticle
offered so many occasi ons for such a reference to an author accustomed to refer hi s
readers to hi s other treati ses. Agai n, hi s contemporari es, who were keenl y
i nterested i n hi s work, and menti on such i nsi gni fi cant thi ngs as the Cautions, the
Maxims and the 'Mount of Perfecti on,' say nothi ng whatever of the mi ssi ng
chapters. None of hi s bi ographers speaks of them, nor does P. Al onso de l a Madre de
Di os, who exami ned the Sai nt's wri ti ngs i n detai l i mmedi atel y after hi s death and
was i n touch wi th hi s cl osest fri ends and compani ons. We are i ncl i ned, therefore, to
thi nk that the chapters i n questi on were never wri tten.
33
I s not the fol l owi ng
sequence of probabl e facts the most tenabl e? We know from P. Juan Evangel i sta
that the Ascent and the Dark Night were wri tten at di fferent ti mes, wi th many
i nterval s of short or l ong durati on. The Sai nt may wel l have entered upon the
Spiritual Canticle, whi ch was a concessi on to the affecti onate i mportuni ty of M. Ann
de Jesús, wi th every i ntenti on of returni ng l ater to fi ni sh hi s earl i er treati se. But,
havi ng compl eted the Canticle, he may equal l y wel l have been struck wi th the
si mi l ari ty between a part of i t and the unwri tten commentary on the earl i er
stanzas, and thi s may have deci ded hi m that the Dark Night needed no compl eti on,
especi al l y as the Living Flame al so descri bed the l i fe of Uni on. Thi s hypothesi s wi l l
expl ai n al l the facts, and seems compl etel y i n harmony wi th al l we know of St. John
of the Cross, who was i n no sense, as we have al ready sai d, a wri ter by professi on. I f
we accept i t, we need not necessari l y share the vi ews whi ch we here assume to have
been hi s. Not onl y woul d the compl eti on of the Dark Night have gi ven us new ways
of approach to so subl i me and i ntri cate a theme, but thi s woul d have been treated i n
a way more cl osel y connected wi th the earl i er stages of the mysti cal l i fe than was
possi bl e i n ei ther the Living Flame or the Canticle.
We ought perhaps to noti ce one further supposi ti on of P. Andrés, whi ch has
been taken up by a number of l ater cri ti cs: that St. John of the Cross compl eted the
commentary whi ch we know as the Dark Night, but that on account of the
di sti ncti ve nature of the contents of the part now l ost he gave i t a separate ti tl e.
34
The onl y advantage of thi s theory seems to be that i t makes the hypothesi s of the
l oss of the commentary l ess i mprobabl e. I n other respects i t i s as unsati sfactory as
the theory of P. Andrés,
35
of whi ch we fi nd a vari ant i n M. Baruzi ,
36
that the Sai nt
thought the commentary too bol d, and too subl i me, to be perpetuated, and therefore
destroyed i t, or, at l east, forbade i ts bei ng copi ed. I t i s surel y unl i kel y that the
subl i mi ty of these mi ssi ng chapters woul d exceed that of the Canticle or the Living
Flame.
33
[P. Si l veri o's words are: 'For my own part, I thi nk i t very probabl e that he never composed them.' I
mysel f gi ve a l i ttl e l ess wei ght to the negati ve evi dence brought forward, and, though I too am
i ncl i ned to the negati ve sol uti on, I shoul d hol d the scal es between the two rather more evenl y.]
34
I f thi s were so, we mi ght even hazard a guess that the ti tl e was that gi ven i n the Living Flame (I ,
21) and not exactl y appl i cabl e to any of the exi sti ng treati ses, vi z. The Dark Night of the Ascent of
Mount Carmel.
35
Memorias Historiales, C. 1 3.
36
Saint J ean de la Croix, pp. 1 3-15.
40
Thi s seems the most sui tabl e pl ace to di scuss a feature of the works of St.
John of the Cross to whi ch al l usi on i s often made -- the l i ttl e i nterest whi ch he took
i n thei r di vi si on i nto books and chapters and hi s l ack of consi stency i n observi ng
such di vi si ons when he had once made them. A number of exampl es may be ci ted. I n
the fi rst chapter of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, usi ng the words 'part' and 'book' as
synonyms, he makes i t cl ear that the Ascent and the Dark Night are to hi m one
si ngl e treati se. 'The fi rst ni ght or purgati on,' he wri tes, 'i s of the sensual part of the
soul , whi ch i s treated i n the present stanza, and wi l l be treated i n the fi rst part of
thi s book. And the second i s of the spi ri tual part; of thi s speaks the second stanza,
whi ch fol l ows; and of thi s we shal l treat l i kewi se, i n the second and the thi rd part,
wi th respect to the acti vi ty of the soul ; and i n the fourth part, wi th respect to i ts
passi vi ty.'
37
The author's i ntenti on here i s evi dent. Purgati on may be sensual or
spi ri tual , and each of these ki nds may be ei ther acti ve or passi ve. The most l ogi cal
proceedi ng woul d be to di vi de the whol e of the materi al i nto four parts or books: two
to be devoted to acti ve purgati on and two to passi ve.
38
St. John of the Cross,
however, devotes two parts to acti ve spi ri tual purgati on -- one to that of the
understandi ng and the other to that of the memory and the wi l l . I n the Night, on
the other hand, where i t woul d seem essenti al to devote one book to the passi ve
purgati on of sense and another to that of spi ri t, he i ncl udes both i n one part, the
fourth. I n the Ascent, he di vi des the content of each of hi s books i nto vari ous
chapters; i n the Night, where the argument i s devel oped l i ke that of the Ascent, he
makes a di vi si on i nto paragraphs onl y, and a very i rregul ar di vi si on at that, i f we
may judge by the copi es that have reached us. I n the Spiritual Canticle and the
Living Flame he di spenses wi th both chapters and paragraphs. The commentary on
each stanza here corresponds to a chapter.
Another exampl e i s to be found i n the arrangement of hi s exposi ti ons. As a
rul e, he fi rst wri tes down the stanzas as a whol e, then repeats each i n turn before
expoundi ng i t, and repeats each l i ne al so i n i ts proper pl ace i n the same way. At the
begi nni ng of each treati se he makes some general observati ons -- i n the form ei ther
of an argument and prol ogue, as i n the Ascent; of a prol ogue and general exposi ti on,
as i n the Night; of a prol ogue al one, as i n the fi rst redacti on of the Canticle and i n
the Living Flame; or of a prol ogue and argument, as i n the second redacti on of the
Canticle. I n the Ascent and the Night, the fi rst chapter of each book contai ns the
'exposi ti on of the stanzas,' though some copi es descri be thi s, i n Book I I I of the
Ascent, as an 'argument.' I n the Night, the book deal i ng wi th the Ni ght of Sense
begi ns wi th the usual 'exposi ti on'; that of the Ni ght of the Spi ri t, however, has
nothi ng to correspond wi th i t.
I n the fi rst redacti on of the Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross fi rst sets
down the poem, then a few l i nes of 'exposi ti on' gi vi ng the argument of the stanza,
and fi nal l y the commentary upon each l i ne. Someti mes he comments upon two or
three l i nes at once. I n the second redacti on, he prefaces al most every stanza wi th an
'annotati on,' of whi ch there i s none i n the fi rst redacti on except before the
commentary on the thi rteenth and fourteenth stanzas. The chi ef purpose of the
37
Cf. Ascent, I , i , bel ow.
38
Some manuscri pts do i n fact di vi de the treati se i n thi s way; but apart from the fact that we have
the authori ty of St. John of the Cross hi msel f, i n the passage just quoted (confi rmed i n Ascent, I , xi i i ),
for a di fferent di vi si on, the Al caudete MS., whi ch we bel i eve to be the most rel i abl e, fol l ows the
di vi si on l ai d down by the Sai nt. We may add that St. John of the Cross i s not al ways a safe gui de i n
these matters, no doubt because he trusted too much to hi s memory; i n Ascent, I I , xi , for exampl e, he
cal l s the fourth book the thi rd.
41
'annotati on' i s to l i nk the argument of each stanza wi th that of the stanza precedi ng
i t; occasi onal l y the annotati on and the exposi ti on are combi ned.
I t i s cl ear from al l thi s that, i n spi te of hi s orderl y mi nd, St. John of the Cross
was no bel i ever i n stri ct uni formi ty i n matters of arrangement whi ch woul d seem to
demand such uni formi ty once they had been deci ded upon. They are, of course, of
secondary i mportance, but the fact that the i nconsi stenci es are the work of St. John
of the Cross hi msel f, and not merel y of carel ess copyi sts, who have enough el se to
account for, i s of real moment i n the di scussi on of cri ti cal questi ons whi ch turn on
the Sai nt's accuracy.
Another characteri sti c of these commentari es i s the i nequal i ty of l ength as
between the exposi ti on of certai n l i nes and stanzas. Whi l e some of these are deal t
wi th ful l y, the exposi ti on of others i s brought to a cl ose wi th surpri si ng rapi di ty,
even though i t someti mes seems that much more needs to be sai d: we get the
i mpressi on that the author was anxi ous to push hi s work forward or was pressed for
ti me. He devotes fourteen l ong chapters of the Ascent to gl ossi ng the fi rst two l i nes
of the fi rst stanza and di smi sses the three remai ni ng l i nes i n a few sentences. I n
both the Ascent and the Night, i ndeed, the stanzas appear to serve onl y as a pretext
for i ntroduci ng the great weal th of asceti c and mysti cal teachi ng whi ch the Sai nt
has gathered together. I n the Canticle and the Living Flame, on the other hand, he
keeps much cl oser to hi s stanzas, though here, too, there i s a consi derabl e
i nequal i ty. One resul t of the di fference i n nature between these two pai rs of
treati ses i s that the Ascent and the Night are more sol i dl y bui l t and more ri gi dl y
doctri nal , whereas i n the Canticle and the Flame there i s more movement and more
poetry.
V
HI STORY OF THE PUBLI CATI ON OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS'S WRI TI NGS --
THE FI RST EDI TI ON
I T seems strange that mysti cal works of such surpassi ng val ue shoul d not have
been publ i shed ti l l twenty-seven years after thei r author's death, for not onl y were
the manuscri pt copi es i nsuffi ci ent to propagate them as wi del y as those who made
them woul d have desi red, but the mul ti pl i cati on of these copi es l ed to an ever
greater number of vari ants i n the text. Had i t but been possi bl e for the fi rst edi ti on
of them to have been publ i shed whi l e thei r author sti l l l i ved, we mi ght to-day have a
perfect text. But the probabi l i ty i s that, i f such an i dea had occurred to St. John of
the Cross, he woul d have set i t asi de as presumptuous. I n al l owi ng copi es to be
made he doubtl ess never envi saged thei r goi ng beyond the l i mi ted ci rcl e of hi s
Order.
We have found no documentary trace of any project for an edi ti on of these
works duri ng thei r author's l i feti me. The most natural ti me for a di scussi on of the
matter woul d have been i n September 1586, when the Defi ni tors of the Order,
among whom was St. John of the Cross, met i n Madri d and deci ded to publ i sh the
works of St. Teresa.
39
Two years earl i er, when he was wri ti ng the Spiritual
Canticle, St. John of the Cross had expressed a desi re for the publ i cati on of St.
Teresa's wri ti ngs and assumed that thi s woul d not be l ong del ayed.
40
As we have
39
[H., V, i i i .]
40
Spiritual Canticle, Stanza XI I , § 6 [Second Redacti on, XI I I , § 7].
42
seen, he consi dered hi s own works as compl ementary to those of St. Teresa,
41
and
one woul d have thought that the si mul taneous publ i cati on of the wri ti ngs of the two
Reformers woul d have seemed to the Defi ni tors an excel l ent i dea.
After hi s death, i t i s probabl e that there was no one at fi rst who was both
abl e and wi l l i ng to undertake the work of edi tor; for, as i s wel l known, towards the
end of hi s l i fe the Sai nt had powerful enemi es wi thi n hi s Order who mi ght wel l have
opposed the project, though, to do the Di scal ced Reform justi ce, i t was brought up as
earl y as ten years after hi s death. A resol uti on was passed at the Chapter-General
of the Reform hel d i n September 1601, to the effect 'that the works of Fr. Juan de l a
Cruz be pri nted and that the Defi ni tors, Fr. Juan de Jesús Marí a and Fr. Tomás [de
Jesús], be i nstructed to exami ne and approve them.'
42
Two years l ater (Jul y 4,
1603), the same Chapter, al so meeti ng i n Madri d, 'gave l eave to the Defi ni tor, Fr.
Tomás [de Jesús], for the pri nti ng of the works of Fr. Juan de l a Cruz, fi rst fri ar of
the Di scal ced Reform.'
43
I t i s not known (si nce the Chapter Book i s no l onger extant) why the matter
l apsed for two years, but Fr. Tomás de Jesús, the Defi ni tor to whom al one i t was
entrusted on the second occasi on, was a most abl e man, wel l qual i fi ed to edi t the
works of hi s predecessor.
44
Why, then, we may wonder, di d he not do so? The story
of hi s l i fe i n the years fol l owi ng the commi ssi on may partl y answer thi s questi on.
Hi s defi ni torshi p came to an end i n 1604, when he was el ected Pri or of the 'desert' of
San José de l as Batuecas. After compl eti ng the customary three years i n thi s offi ce,
duri ng whi ch ti me he coul d have done no work at al l upon the edi ti on, he was
el ected Pri or of the Di scal ced house at Zaragoza. But at thi s poi nt Paul V sent for
hi m to Rome and from that ti me onward hi s l i fe fol l owed other channel s.
The next attempt to accompl i sh the project was successful . The story begi ns
wi th a meeti ng between the Defi ni tors of the Order and Fr. José de Jesús Marí a, the
General , at Vél ez-Mál aga, where a new deci si on to publ i sh the works of St. John of
the Cross was taken and put i nto effect (as a l ater resol uti on has i t) 'wi thout any
del ay or condi ti on whatsoever.'
45
The enterpri se suffered a setback, onl y a week
after i t had been pl anned, i n the death of the l earned Jesui t P. Suárez, who was on
terms of cl ose fri endshi p wi th the Di scal ced and had been appoi nted one of the
censors. But P. Di ego de Jesús (Sal abl anca), Pri or of the Di scal ced house at Tol edo,
to whom i ts executi on was entrusted, l ost no ti me i n accompl i shi ng hi s task; i ndeed,
one woul d suppose that he had begun i t l ong before, si nce earl y i n the next year i t
was compl eted and publ i shed i n Al cal á. The vol ume, enti tl ed Spiritual Works which
lead a soul to perfect union with God, has 720 pages and bears the date 1618. The
works are preceded by a preface addressed to the reader and a bri ef summary of the
author's 'l i fe and vi rtues.' An engravi ng of the 'Mount of Perfecti on' i s i ncl uded.
46
There are several pecul i ari ti es about thi s editio princeps. I n the fi rst pl ace,
al though the pagi nati on i s conti nuous, i t was the work of two di fferent pri nters; the
reason for thi s i s qui te unknown, though vari ous reasons mi ght be suggested. The
greatest care was evi dentl y taken so that the work shoul d be wel l and trul y
41
I n the same passage as that referred to i n the l ast note he decl ares hi s i ntenti on of not repeati ng
what she has sai d (cf. General I ntroducti on, I I I , above ).
42
Our authori ty for thi s statement i s P. Andres de l a Encarnaci ón (Memorias Historiales, B. 32), who
found the Chapter Book i n the General Archi ves of the Reform at Madri d.
43
Op. ci t. (B. 33).
44
[For a study of Tomás de Jesús, see S.S.M., I I , 281-306.]
45
Memorias Historiales, B. 35.
46
Cf. General I ntroducti on, I , above.
43
approved: i t i s recommended, i n terms of the hi ghest prai se, by the authori ti es of
the Uni versi ty of Al cal á, who, at the request of the General of the Di scal ced
Carmel i tes, had submi tted i t for exami nati on to four of the professors of that
Uni versi ty. No doubt for reasons of safety, the Spiritual Canticle was not i ncl uded
i n that edi ti on: i t was too much l i ke a commentary on the Song of Songs for such a
proceedi ng to be just then advi sabl e.
We have now to enqui re i nto the meri ts of the edi ti on of P. Sal abl anca, whi ch
met wi th such warm approval on i ts publ i cati on, yet very soon afterwards began to
be recogni zed as defecti ve and i s l i ttl e esteemed for i ts i ntri nsi c qual i ti es to-day.
I t must, of course, be real i zed that cri ti cal standards i n the earl y seventeenth
century were l ow and that the fi rst edi tor of St. John of the Cross had nei ther the
method nor the avai l abl e materi al of the twenti eth century. Nor were the ti mes
favourabl e for the publ i cati on of the works of a great mysti c who attempted
fearl essl y and ful l y to descri be the hi ghest stages of perfecti on on the road to God.
These two facts are responsi bl e for most of the defects of the edi ti on.
For nearl y a century, the great peri l associ ated wi th the mysti cal l i fe had
been that of I l l umi ni sm, a gross form of pseudo-mysti ci sm whi ch had cl ai med many
vi cti ms among the hol i est and most l earned, and of whi ch there was such fear that
excessi ve, al most unbel i evabl e, precauti ons had been taken agai nst i t. These
precauti ons, together wi th the frequency and audaci ty wi th whi ch I l l umi ni sts
i nvoked the authori ty and protecti on of wel l -known contemporary asceti c and
mysti cal wri ters, gi ve real i ty to P. Sal abl anca's fear l est the l eaders of the sect
mi ght shel ter themsel ves behi nd the doctri nes of St. John of the Cross and so cal l
forth the censure of the I nqui si ti on upon passages whi ch seemed to hi m to bear
cl ose rel ati on to thei r erroneous teachi ng. I t was for thi s defi ni te reason, and not
because of an arbi trary meti cul ousness, that P. Sal abl anca omi tted or adapted such
passages as those noted i n Book I , Chapter vi i i of the Ascent of Mount Carmel and
i n a number of chapters i n Book I I . A study of these, al l of whi ch are i ndi cated i n
the footnotes to our text, i s of great i nterest.
Less i mportant are a l arge number of mi nor correcti ons made wi th the
i ntenti on of gi vi ng greater preci si on to some theol ogi cal concept; the omi ssi on of
l i nes and even paragraphs whi ch the edi tor consi dered redundant, as i n fact they
frequentl y are; and correcti ons made wi th the ai m of l endi ng greater cl earness to
the argument or i mprovi ng the styl e. A few changes were made out of prudery: such
are the use of sensitivo for sensual, the suppressi on of phrases deal i ng wi th carnal
vi ce and the omi ssi on of several paragraphs from that chapter of the Dark Night --
whi ch speaks of the thi rd deadl y si n of begi nners. There was l i ttl e enough reason for
these changes: St. John of the Cross i s parti cul arl y i noffensi ve i n hi s di cti on and
may, from that poi nt of vi ew, be read by a chi l d.
The sum total of P. Sal abl anca's muti l ati ons i s very consi derabl e. There are
more i n the Ascent and the Living Flame than i n the Dark Night; but hardl y a page
of the editio princeps i s free from them and on most pages they abound. I t need not
be sai d that they are regrettabl e. They bel ong to an age when the garments of dead
sai nts were cut up i nto smal l fragments and di stri buted among the devout and
when thei r cel l s were decked out wi th i ndi fferent taste and converted i nto oratori es.
I t woul d not have been consi dered suffi ci ent had the edi tor pri nted the text of St.
John of the Cross as he found i t and gl ossed i t to hi s l i ki ng i n footnotes; another
edi tor woul d have put opposi te i nterpretati ons upon i t, thus cancel l i ng out the work
of hi s predecessor. Even the radi cal muti l ati ons of P. Sal abl anca di d not suffi ce, as
wi l l now be seen, to protect the works of the Sai nt from the I nqui si ti on.
44
VI
DENUNCI ATI ON OF THE 'WORKS' TO THE I NQUI SI TI ON -- DEFENCE OF
THEM MADE BY FR. BASI LO PONCE DE LEÓN -- EDI TI ONS OF THE
SEVENTEENTH AND EI GHTEENTH CENTURI ES
NEI THER the commendati ons of Uni versi ty professors nor the sci ssors of a
meti cul ous edi tor coul d save the treati ses of St. John of the Cross from that
parti cul ar form of attack whi ch, more than al l others, was feared i n the seventeenth
century. We shal l say nothi ng here of the hi story, nature and procedure of the
Spani sh I nqui si ti on, whi ch has had i ts outspoken antagoni sts and i ts unreasoni ng
defenders but has not yet been studi ed wi th i mparti al i ty. I t must suffi ce to set down
the facts as they here affect our subject.
Forty proposi ti ons, then, were extracted from the edi ti on of 1618 and
presented to the Hol y Offi ce for condemnati on wi th the object of causi ng the
wi thdrawal of the edi ti on from ci rcul ati on. The attempt woul d probabl y have
succeeded but for the warm, vi gorous and l earned defence put up by the
Augusti ni an Fray Basi l i o Ponce de León, a theol ogi cal professor i n the Uni versi ty of
Sal amanca and a nephew of the Lui s de León who wrote the Names of Chri st and
took so great an i nterest i n the works of St. Teresa.
47
I t was i n the very convent of San Fel i pe i n Madri d where thi rty-fi ve years
earl i er Fray Lui s had wri tten hi s i mmortal eul ogy of St. Teresa
48
that Fray Basi l i o,
on Jul y 11, 1622, si gned a most i nteresti ng 'Repl y' to the objecti ons whi ch had been
rai sed to the Al cal á edi ti on of St. John of the Cross. Al though we propose, i n our
thi rd vol ume, to reproduce Fray Basi l i o's defence, i t i s necessary to our narrati ve to
say somethi ng of i t here, for i t i s the most i mportant of al l extant documents whi ch
reveal the vi ci ssi tudes i n the hi story of the Sai nt's teachi ng.
Before enteri ng upon an exami nati on of the censured proposi ti ons, the
l earned Augusti ni an makes some general observati ons, whi ch must have carri ed
great wei ght as comi ng from so hi gh a theol ogi cal authori ty. He recal l s the
commendati ons of the edi ti on by the professors of the Uni versi ty of Al cal á 'where
the facul ty of theol ogy i s so famous,' and by many others, i ncl udi ng several
mi ni sters of the Hol y Offi ce and two Domi ni cans who 'wi thout di spute are among
the most l earned of thei r Order.' Secondl y, he refers to the emi nentl y sai ntl y
character of the fi rst fri ar of the Di scal ced Reform: 'i t i s not to be presumed that
God woul d set a man whose teachi ng i s so evi l . . . as i s al l eged, to be the comer-
stone of so great a bui l di ng.' Thi rdl y, he notes how cl ose a fol l ower was St. John of
the Cross of St. Teresa, a person who was si ngul arl y free from any tai nt of
unorthodoxy. And fi nal l y he recal l s a number of si mi l ar attacks on works of thi s
ki nd, notabl y that on Laredo's Ascent of Mount Sion,
49
whi ch have proved to be
devoi d of foundati on, and poi nts out that i sol ated 'proposi ti ons' need to be set i n
thei r context before they can be fai rl y judged.
Fray Basi l i o next refutes the charges brought agai nst the works of St. John of
47
[Cf. S.S.M., I (1927), 291-344; (1951), 235-79. An abri dged Engl i sh edi ti on of the Names of Christ,
transl ated by a Benedi cti ne of Stanbrook, was publ i shed by Messrs. Burns Oates and Washbourne i n
1926.]
48
[Cf. S.S.M., I (1927), 295-6; (1951), 240.]
49
[Cf. S.S.M., I I , 41-76.]
45
the Cross, nearl y al l of whi ch rel ate to hi s teachi ng on the passi vi ty of the facul ti es
i n certai n degrees of contempl ati on. Each proposi ti on he copi es and afterwards
defends, both by argument and by quotati ons from the Fathers, from the medi eval
mysti cs and from hi s own contemporari es. I t i s noteworthy that among these
authori ti es he i nvari abl y i ncl udes St. Teresa, who had been beati fi ed i n 1614, and
enjoyed an undi sputed reputati on. Thi s i ncl usi on, as wel l as bei ng an enhancement
of hi s defence, affords a stri ki ng demonstrati on of the uni ty of thought exi sti ng
between the two great Carmel i tes.
Havi ng expounded the orthodox Cathol i c teachi ng i n regard to these matters,
and shown that the teachi ng of St. John of the Cross i s i n agreement wi th i t, Fray
Basi l i o goes on to make cl ear the true atti tude of the I l l umi ni sts and thus to
rei nforce hi s contenti ons by showi ng how far removed from thi s i s the Sai nt's
doctri ne.
Fray Basi l i o's magni fi cent defence of St. John of the Cross appears to have
had the unusual effect of quashi ng the attack enti rel y: the excel l ence of hi s
arguments, backed by hi s great authori ty, was evi dentl y unanswerabl e. So far as we
know, the I nqui si ti on took no proceedi ngs agai nst the Al cal á edi ti on whatsoever.
Had thi s at any ti me been prohi bi ted, we may be sure that Ll orente woul d have
reveal ed the fact, and, though he refers to the persecuti on of St. John of the Cross
duri ng hi s l i feti me,
50
he i s qui te si l ent about any posthumous condemnati on of hi s
wri ti ngs.
The editio princeps was repri nted i n 1619, wi th a di fferent pagi nati on and a
few correcti ons, i n Barcel ona.
51
Before these two edi ti ons were out of pri nt, the
General of the Di scal ced Carmel i tes had entrusted an abl e hi stori an of the Reform,
Fray Jeróni mo de San José, wi th the preparati on of a new one. Thi s was publ i shed
at Madri d, i n 1630. I t has a short i ntroducti on descri bi ng i ts scope and general
nature, a number of new and i nfl uenti al commendati ons and an admi rabl e fi fty-
page 'sketch' of St. John of the Cross by the edi tor whi ch has been reproduced i n
most subsequent edi ti ons and has probabl y done more than any other si ngl e work to
make known the facts of the Sai nt's bi ography. The great feature of thi s edi ti on,
however, i s the i ncl usi on of the Spiritual Canticle, pl aced (by an error, as a pri nter's
note expl ai ns) at the end of the vol ume, i nstead of before the Living Flame, whi ch i s,
of course, i ts proper posi ti on.
The i ncl usi on of the Canticle i s one of the two meri ts that the edi tor cl ai ms
for hi s new edi ti on. The other i s that he 'pri nts both the Canticle and the other
works accordi ng to thei r ori gi nal manuscri pts, wri tten i n the hand of the same
venerabl e author.' Thi s cl ai m i s, of course, greatl y exaggerated, as what has been
sai d above wi th regard to the manuscri pts wi l l i ndi cate. Not onl y does Fray
Jeróni mo appear to have had no genui ne ori gi nal manuscri pt at al l , but of the
omi ssi ons of the editio princeps i t i s doubtful i f he makes good many more than one
i n a hundred. I n fact, wi th very occasi onal excepti ons, he merel y reproduces the
princeps -- omi ssi ons, i nterpol ati ons, wel l -meant i mprovements and al l .
52
50
Historia crítica de la I nquisición de España, Vol . V, Chap. xxx, and el sewhere. [The ori gi nal of thi s
work i s i n French: Histoire critique de l'I ncluisition d'Espagñe, 1817-18.]
51
Here we have a curi ous paral l el i sm wi th the works of St. Teresa, fi rst publ i shed at Sal amanca i n
1588 and al so repri nted i n Barcel ona i n the year fol l owi ng.
52
He al so suppl i es the Lati n text of Scri ptural quotati ons whi ch St. John of the Cross gi ves i n the
vernacul ar, corrects the punctuati on and spel l i ng of the princeps and substi tutes hi s 'Sketch' of the
Sai nt's l i fe for the bi ographi cal notes of that edi ti on. The treati se i n whi ch he corrects most of the
defects of the princeps i s the Ascent of Mount Carmel.
46
I n Fray Jeróni mo's defence i t must be sai d that the reasons whi ch moved hi s
predecessor to muti l ate hi s edi ti on were sti l l potent, and the ti mes had not changed.
I t i s more surpri si ng that for nearl y three centuri es the edi ti on of 1630 shoul d have
been fol l owed by l ater edi tors. The numerous versi ons of the works whi ch saw the
l i ght i n the l ater seventeenth and the ei ghteenth century added a few poems, l etters
and maxi ms to the corpus of work whi ch he presented and whi ch assumed great
i mportance as the Sai nt became better known and more deepl y venerated. But they
di d no more. I t suffi ces, therefore, to enumerate the chi ef of them.
The Barcel ona publ i sher of the 1619 edi ti on produced a new edi ti on i n 1635,
whi ch i s a mere reproducti on of that of 1630. A Madri d edi ti on of 1649, whi ch adds
ni ne l etters, a hundred maxi ms and a smal l col l ecti on of poems, was reproduced i n
1672 (Madri d), 1679 (Madri d), 1693 (Barcel ona) and 1694 (Madri d), the l ast
reproducti on bei ng i n two vol umes. An edi ti on was al so publ i shed i n Barcel ona i n
1700.
I f we di sregard a 'compendi um' of the Sai nt's wri ti ngs publ i shed i n Sevi l l e i n
1701, the fi rst ei ghteenth-century edi ti on was publ i shed i n Sevi l l e i n 1703 -- the
most i nteresti ng of those that had seen the l i ght si nce 1630. I t i s wel l pri nted on
good paper i n a fol i o vol ume and i ts edi tor, Fr. Andrés de Jesús Marí a, cl ai ms i t, on
several grounds, as an advance on precedi ng edi ti ons. Fi rst, he says, 'i nnumerabl e
errors of great i mportance' have been corrected i n i t; then, the Spiritual Canticle
has been amended accordi ng to i ts ori gi nal manuscri pt 'i n the hand of the same hol y
doctor, our father, kept and venerated i n our convent of Di scal ced Carmel i te nuns at
Jaén'; next, he adds two new poems and i ncreases the number of maxi ms from 100
to 365; and l astl y, the l etters are i ncreased from ni ne to seventeen, al l of whi ch are
found i n P. Jeróni mo de San José's hi story. The fi rst of these cl ai ms i s as great an
exaggerati on as was P. Jeróni mo's; to the second we shal l refer i n our i ntroducti on
to the Spiritual Canticle. The thi rd and fourth, however, are justi fi ed, and for these,
as for a few mi nor i mprovements, the edi tor deserves every commendati on.
The remai ni ng years of the ei ghteenth century produced few edi ti ons; apart
from a repri nt (1724) of the compendi um of 1701, the onl y one known to us i s that
publ i shed at Pampl ona i n 1774, after whi ch nearl y ei ghty years were to pass before
any earl i er edi ti on was so much as repri nted. Before we resume thi s bi bl i ographi cal
narrati ve, however, we must go back over some earl i er hi story.
VI I
NEW DENUNCI ATI ONS AND DEFENCES -- FRAY NI COLÁS DE JESÚS MARÍ A
-- THE CARMELI TE SCHOOL AND THE I NQUI SI TI ON
WE remarked, apropos of the edi ti on of 1630, that the reasons whi ch l ed Fray Di ego
de Jesús to muti l ate hi s texts were sti l l i n exi stence when Fray Jeróni mo de San
José prepared hi s edi ti on some twel ve years l ater. I f any i ndependent proof of thi s
statement i s needed, i t may be found i n the numerous apol ogi as that were publ i shed
duri ng the seventeenth century, not onl y i n Spai n, but i n I tal y, France, Germany
and other countri es of Europe. I f doctri nes are not attacked, there i s no occasi on to
wri te vi gorous defences of them.
Fol l owi ng the exampl e of Fray Basi l i o Ponce de León, a professor of theol ogy
i n the Col l ege of the Reform at Sal amanca, Fray Ni chol ás de Jesús Marí a, wrote a
l earned Lati n defence of St. John of the Cross i n 1631, often referred to bri efl y as
47
the Elucidatio.
53
I t i s di vi ded i nto two parts, the fi rst defendi ng the Sai nt agai nst
charges of a general ki nd that were brought agai nst hi s wri ti ngs, and the second
uphol di ng censured proposi ti ons taken from them. On the general ground, P.
Ni chol ás remi nds hi s readers that many wri ters who now enjoy the hi ghest possi bl e
reputati on were i n thei r ti me denounced and unjustl y persecuted. St. Jerome was
attacked for hi s transl ati on of the Bi bl e from Hebrew i nto Lati n; St. Augusti ne, for
hi s teachi ng about grace and free-wi l l . The works of St. Gregory the Great were
burned at Rome; those of St. Thomas Aqui nas at Pari s. Most medi aeval and modern
mysti cs have been the vi cti ms of persecuti on -- Ruysbroeck, Taul er and even St.
Teresa. Such happeni ngs, he mai ntai ns, have done nothi ng to l essen the eventual
presti ge of these authors, but rather have added to i t.
Nor, he conti nues, can the works of any author fai rl y be censured, because
mi sgui ded teachers make use of them to propagate thei r fal se teachi ng. No book has
been more mi sused by hereti cs than Hol y Scri pture and few books of val ue woul d
escape i f we were to condemn al l that had been so treated. Equal l y worthl ess i s the
objecti on that mysti cal l i terature i s ful l of di ffi cul ti es whi ch may cause the i gnorant
and pusi l l ani mous to stumbl e. Apart from the fact that St. John of the Cross i s
cl earer and more l uci d than most of hi s contemporari es, and that therefore the
works of many of them woul d have to fol l ow hi s own i nto obl i vi on, the same
argument mi ght agai n be appl i ed to the Scri ptures. Who can esti mate the good
i mparted by the sacred books to those who read them i n a spi ri t of upri ghtness and
si mpl i ci ty? Yet what books are more pregnant wi th mystery and wi th truths that
are di ffi cul t and, humanl y speaki ng, even i naccessi bl e?
But (conti nues P. Ni col ás), even i f we al l ow that parts of the work of St. John
of the Cross, for al l the cl ari ty of hi s exposi ti on, are obscure to the general reader, i t
must be remembered that much more i s of the greatest attracti on and profi t to al l .
On the one hand, the wri ti ngs of the Sai nt represent the purest subl i mati on of
Di vi ne l ove i n the pi l gri m soul , and are therefore food for the most advanced upon
the mysti c way. On the other, every reader, however sl i ght hi s spi ri tual progress,
can understand the Sai nt's asceti c teachi ng: hi s chapters on the purgati on of the
senses, morti fi cati on, detachment from al l that bel ongs to the earth, puri ty of
consci ence, the practi ce of the vi rtues, and so on. The Sai nt's greatest enemy i s not
the obscuri ty of hi s teachi ng but the i nfl exi bl e l ogi c wi th whi ch he deduces, from the
fundamental pri nci pl es of evangel i cal perfecti on, the consequences whi ch must be
observed by those who woul d scal e the Mount. So strai ght and so hard i s the road
whi ch he maps out for the cl i mber that the majori ty of those who see i t are at once
di smayed.
These are the mai n l i nes of P. Ni col ás' argument, whi ch he devel ops at great
l ength. We must refer bri efl y to the chapter i n whi ch he makes a careful synthesi s
of the teachi ng of the I l l umi ni sts, to show how far i t i s removed from that of St.
John of the Cross. He di vi des these fal se contempl ati ves i nto four cl asses. I n the
fi rst cl ass he pl aces those who suppress al l thei r acts, both i nteri or and exteri or, i n
prayer. I n the second, those who gi ve themsel ves up to a state of pure qui et, wi th no
l ovi ng attenti on to God. I n the thi rd, those who al l ow thei r bodi es to i ndul ge every
cravi ng and mai ntai n that, i n the state of spi ri tual i ntoxi cati on whi ch they have
reached, they are unabl e to commi t si n. I n the fourth, those who consi der
themsel ves to be i nstruments of God and adopt an atti tude of compl ete passi vi ty,
mai ntai ni ng al so that they are unabl e to si n, because God al one i s worki ng i n them.
53
Phrasium mysticae Theologiae V.P. Fr. J oannis a Cruce, Carmelitarum excalceatorum Parentis
primi elucidatio. Compl uti , 1631.
48
The di vi si on i s more subtl e than practi cal , for the devotees of thi s sect, wi th few
excepti ons, professed the same erroneous bel i efs and tended to the same degree of
l i cence i n thei r conduct. But, by i sol ati ng these tenets, P. Ni col ás i s the better abl e
to show the anti thesi s between them and those of St. John of the Cross.
I n the second part of the Elucidatio, he anal yses the proposi ti ons al ready
treated by Fray Basi l i o Ponce de León, reduci ng them to twenty and deal i ng
fai thful l y wi th them i n the same number of chapters. Hi s defence i s cl ear,
methodi cal and convi nci ng and fol l ows si mi l ar l i nes to those adopted by Fray
Basi l i o, to whom i ts author acknowl edges hi s i ndebtedness.
Another of St. John of the Cross's apol ogi sts i s Fray José de Jesús Marí a
(Qui roga), who, i n a number of hi s works,
54
both defends and eul ogi zes hi m, wi thout
goi ng i nto any detai l ed exami nati on of the proposi ti ons. Fray José i s an outstandi ng
exampl e of a very l arge cl ass of wri ters, for, as I l l umi ni sm gave pl ace to Qui eti sm,
the teachi ng of St. John of the Cross became more and more vi ol entl y i mpugned and
al most al l mysti cal wri ters of the ti me referred to hi m. Perhaps we shoul d si ngl e
out, from among hi s defenders outsi de the Carmel i te Order, that Augusti ni an
father, P. Antol í nez, to whose commentary on three of the Sai nt's works we have
al ready made reference.
As the school of mysti cal wri ters wi thi n the Di scal ced Carmel i te Reform
gradual l y grew -- a school whi ch took St. John of the Cross as i ts l eader and i s one of
the most i l l ustri ous i n the hi story of mysti cal theol ogy -- i t began to share i n the
same persecuti on as had befal l en i ts founder. I t i s i mpossi bl e, i n a few words, to
descri be thi s epoch of purgati on, and i ndeed i t can onl y be properl y studi ed i n i ts
proper context -- the rel i gi ous hi story of the peri od as a whol e. For our purpose, i t
suffi ces to say that the works of St. John of the Cross were once more denounced to
the I nqui si ti on, though, once more, no noti ce appears to have been taken of the
denunci ati ons, for there exi sts no record orderi ng the expurgati on or prohi bi ti on of
the books referred to. The Elucidatio was al so denounced, together wi th several of
the works of P. José de Jesús Marí a, at vari ous ti mes i n the seventeenth century,
and these attacks were of course equi val ent to di rect attacks on St. John of the
Cross. One of the most vehement onsl aughts made was l evel l ed agai nst P. José's
Subida del Alma a Dios ('Ascent of the Soul to God'), whi ch i s i n effect an el aborate
commentary on St. John of the Cross's teachi ng. The Spani sh I nqui si ti on refusi ng to
censure the book, an appeal agai nst i t was made to the I nqui si ti on at Rome. When
no sati sfacti on was obtai ned i n thi s quarter, P. José's opponents went to the Pope,
who referred the matter to the Sacred Congregati on of the I ndex; but thi s body
i ssued a warm eul ogy of the book and the matter thereupon dropped.
I n spi te of such defeats, the opponents of the Carmel i te school conti nued thei r
work i nto the ei ghteenth century. I n 1740, a new appeal was made to the Spani sh
I nqui si ti on to censure P. José's Subida. A document of seventy-three fol i os
denounced no l ess than one hundred and si xty-fi ve proposi ti ons whi ch i t cl ai med to
have taken di rect from the work referred to, and thi s ti me, after a confl i ct extendi ng
over ten years, the book (descri bed as 'fal sel y attri buted' to P. José
55
) was
condemned (Jul y 4, 1750), as 'contai ni ng doctri ne most peri l ous i n practi ce, and
proposi ti ons si mi l ar and equi val ent to those condemned i n Mi guel de Mol i nos.'
54
Subida del Alma a Dios; Apología mística en defensa de la contemplación divina; Don que tuvo San
J uan de la Cruz para guiar las almas, etc.
55
Thi s phrase, no doubt, was i nserted i n order to save the reputati on of P. José's earl i er supporters,
and out of respect to hi s uncl e, who had been a Cardi nal and I nqui si tor-General .
49
We set down the sal i ent facts of thi s controversy, wi thout commenti ng upon
them, as an i nstance of the atti tude of the ei ghteenth century towards the mysti cs
i n general , and, i n parti cul ar, towards the school of the Di scal ced Carmel i tes. I n
vi ew of the state and tendenci es of thought i n these ti mes, the fact of the
persecuti on, and the degree of success that i t attai ned, i s not surpri si ng. The
i mportant poi nt to bear i n mi nd i s that i t must be taken i nto account conti nual l y by
students of the edi ti ons of the Sai nt's wri ti ngs and of the hi story of hi s teachi ng
throughout the ei ghteenth and ni neteenth centuri es.
VI I I
FURTHER HI STORY OF THE EDI TI ONS -- P. ANDRÉS DE LA ENCARNACI ÓN
-- EDI TI ONS OF THE NI NETEENTH AND TWENTI ETH CENTURI ES
WHAT has just been sai d wi l l ful l y expl ai n the pauci ty of the edi ti ons of St. John of
the Cross whi ch we fi nd i n the ei ghteenth century. Thi s century, however, was,
sci enti fi cal l y speaki ng, one of great progress. Cri ti cal methods of study devel oped
and became wi despread; and there was a great desi re to obtai n purer and more
nearl y perfect texts and to di scover the ori gi nal sources of the i deas of great
thi nkers. These tendenci es made themsel ves fel t wi thi n the Di scal ced Carmel i te
Order, and there al so arose a great ambi ti on to republ i sh i n thei r ori gi nal forms the
works both of St. Teresa and of St. John of the Cross. The need was greater i n the
l atter case than i n the former; so urgent was i t fel t to be as to admi t of no del ay.
'There have been di scovered i n the works [of St. John of the Cross],' says a
document of about 1753, 'many errors, muti l ati ons and other defects the exi stence of
whi ch cannot be deni ed.'
56
The rel i gi ous who wrote thus to the Chapter-General of
the Reform set out defi ni te and practi cal schemes for a thorough revi si on of these
works, whi ch were at once accepted. There thus comes i nto our hi story that
noteworthy fri ar, P. Andrés de l a Encarnaci ón, to whom we owe so much of what we
know about the Sai nt to-day. P. Andrés was no great styl i st, nor had he the usual
Spani sh fl uency of di cti on. But he was pati ent, modest and i ndustri ous, and above
al l he was endowed wi th a doubl e porti on of the cri ti cal spi ri t of the ei ghteenth
century. He was sel ected for the work of i nvesti gati on as bei ng by far the fi ttest
person who coul d be found for i t. A decree dated October 6, 1754 ordered hi m to set
to work. As a necessary prel i mi nary to the task of prepari ng a corrected text of the
Sai nt's wri ti ngs, he was to spare no effort i n searchi ng for every extant manuscri pt;
accordi ngl y he began l ong journeys through La Mancha and Andal usi a, goi ng over
al l the ground covered by St. John of the Cross i n hi s travel s and payi ng speci al
attenti on to the pl aces where he had l i ved for any consi derabl e peri od. I n those
days, before the rel i gi ous persecuti ons of the ni neteenth century had destroyed and
scattered books and manuscri pts, the archi ves of the vari ous rel i gi ous houses were
i ntact. P. Andrés and hi s amanuensi s were therefore abl e to copy and col l ate
val uabl e manuscri pts now l ost to us and they at once began to restore the phrases
and passages omi tted from the edi ti ons. Unhappi l y, thei r work has di sappeared and
we can judge of i t onl y at second hand; but i t appears to have been i n every way
meri tori ous. So far as we can gather from the documents whi ch have come down to
us, i t fai l ed to pass the ri gorous censorshi p of the Order. I n other words, the
censors, who were professi onal theol ogi ans, i nsi sted upon maki ng so many
56
Quoted by P. Andrés de l a Encarnaci ón (MS. 3,653, Previ o 1).
50
correcti ons that the Superi ors, who shared the enl i ghtened cri ti cal opi ni ons of P.
Andrés, thought i t better to postpone the publ i cati on of the edi ti on i ndefi ni tel y.
The fai l ure of the project, however, to whi ch P. Andrés devoted so much
pati ent l abour, di d not whol l y destroy the frui ts of hi s ski l l and perseverance. He
was ordered to reti re to hi s pri ory, where he spent the rest of hi s l ong l i fe under the
burden of a tri al the magni tude of whi ch any schol ar or studi ousl y mi nded reader
can esti mate. He di d what he coul d i n hi s secl usi on to col l ect, arrange and recopy
such notes of hi s work as he coul d recover from those to whom they had been
submi tted. Hi s defence of thi s acti on to the Chapter-General i s at once admi rabl e i n
the tranqui l l i ty of i ts temper and patheti c i n the eagerness and affecti on whi ch i t
di spl ays for the task that he has been forbi dden to conti nue:
I nasmuch as I was ordered, some years ago . . . to prepare an exact
edi ti on of the works of our hol y father, and afterwards was commanded to
suspend my l abours for just reasons whi ch presented themsel ves to these our
fathers and prevented i ts accompl i shment at the ti me, I obeyed forthwi th
wi th the greatest submi ssi veness, but, as I found that I had a ri ch store of
i nformati on whi ch at some future ti me mi ght contri bute to the publ i cati on of
a trul y i l l ustri ous and perfect edi ti on, i t seemed to me that I shoul d not be
runni ng counter to the spi ri t of the Order i f I gave i t some servi ceabl e form,
so that I shoul d not be embarrassed by seei ng i t i n a di sorderl y condi ti on i f at
some future date i t shoul d be proposed to carry i nto effect the ori gi nal
deci si ons of the Order.
Wi th humi l i ty and submi ssi veness, therefore, I send to your
Reverences these resul ts of my pri vate l abours, not because i t i s i n my mi nd
that the work shoul d be recommended, or that, i f thi s i s to be done, i t shoul d
be at any parti cul ar ti me, for that I l eave to the di sposi ti on of your
Reverences and of God, but to the end that I may return to the Order that
whi ch bel ongs to i t; for, si nce I was excused from rel i gi ous observances for
nearl y ni ne years so that I mi ght l abour i n thi s i ts own fi el d, the Order
cannot but have a ri ght to the frui ts of my l abours, nor can I escape the
obl i gati on of del i veri ng what I have di scovered i nto i ts hand. . . .
57
We cannot exami ne the ful l text of the i nteresti ng memorandum to the
Censors whi ch fol l ows thi s humbl e exordi um. One of thei r al l egati ons had been that
the credi t of the Order woul d suffer i f i t became known that passages of the Sai nt's
works had been suppressed by Carmel i te edi tors. P. Andrés makes the sage repl y:
'There i s certai nl y the ri sk that thi s wi l l become known i f the edi ti on i s made; but
there i s al so a ri sk that i t wi l l become known i n any case. We must wei gh the ri sks
agai nst each other and deci de whi ch proceedi ng wi l l bri ng the Order i nto the
greater di scredi t i f one of them materi al i zes.' He forti fi es thi s argument wi th the
decl arati on that the defects of the exi sti ng edi ti ons were common knowl edge outsi de
the Order as wel l as wi thi n i t, and that, as manuscri pt copi es of the Sai nt's works
were al so i n the possessi on of many others than Carmel i tes, there was nothi ng to
prevent a correct edi ti on bei ng made at any ti me. Thi s must suffi ce as a proof that
P. Andrés coul d be as acute as he was submi ssi ve.
Besi des col l ecti ng thi s materi al , and l eavi ng on record hi s opposi ti on to the
short-si ghted deci si on of the Censors, P. Andrés prepared 'some Disquisitions on the
wri ti ngs of the Sai nt, whi ch, i f a more ski l ful hand shoul d correct and i mprove thei r
57
MS. 3,653, Previ o 1.
51
styl e, cannot but be wel l recei ved.' Cl osel y connected wi th the Disquisitions are the
Preludes i n whi ch he gl osses the Sai nt's wri ti ngs. These studi es, l i ke the notes
al ready descri bed, have al l been l ost -- no doubt, together wi th many other
documents from the archi ves of the Reform i n Madri d, they di sappeared duri ng the
pi l l agi ng of the rel i gi ous houses i n the earl y ni neteenth century.
The l i ttl e of P. Andrés' work that remai ns to us gi ves a cl ear pi cture of the
efforts made by the Reform to bri ng out a worthy edi ti on of St. John of the Cross's
wri ti ngs i n the ei ghteenth century; i t i s mani festl y i nsuffi ci ent, however, to take a
modern edi tor far al ong the way. Nor, as we have seen, are hi s judgments by any
means to be fol l owed otherwi se than wi th the greatest cauti on; he greatl y
exaggerates, too, the effect of the muti l ati ons of earl i er edi tors, no doubt i n order to
convi nce hi s superi ors of the necessi ty for a new edi ti on. The materi al s for a modern
edi tor are to be found, not i n the documents l eft by P. Andrés, but i n such Carmel i te
archi ves as sti l l exi st, and i n the Nati onal Li brary of Spai n, to whi ch many
Carmel i te treasures found thei r way at the begi nni ng of the l ast century.
The work sent by P. Andrés to hi s superi ors was kept i n the archi ves of the
Di scal ced Carmel i tes, but no new edi ti on was prepared ti l l a hundred and fi fty
years l ater. I n the ni neteenth century such a task was made consi derabl y more
di ffi cul t by rel i gi ous persecuti on; whi ch resul ted i n the l oss of many val uabl e
manuscri pts, some of whi ch P. Andrés must certai nl y have exami ned. For a ti me,
too, the Orders were expel l ed from Spai n, and, on thei r return, had nei ther the
necessary freedom, nor the ti me or materi al means, for such undertaki ngs. I n the
twenty-seventh vol ume of the wel l -known seri es of cl assi cs enti tl ed Biblioteca de
Autores Españoles (1853) the works of St. John of the Cross were repri nted
accordi ng to the 1703 edi ti on, wi thout i ts engravi ngs, i ndi ces and commendati ons,
and wi th a 'cri ti cal esti mate' of the Sai nt by Pi y Margal l , whi ch has some l i terary
val ue but i n other respects fai l s enti rel y to do justi ce to i ts subject.
Nei ther the Madri d edi ti on of 1872 nor the Barcel ona edi ti on of 1883 adds
anythi ng to our knowl edge and i t was not ti l l the Tol edo edi ti on of 1912-14 that a
new advance was made. Thi s edi ti on was the work of a young Carmel i te fri ar, P.
Gerardo de San Juan de l a Cruz, who di ed soon after i ts compl eti on. I t ai ms,
accordi ng to i ts ti tl e, whi ch i s certai nl y justi fi ed, at bei ng 'the most correct and
compl ete edi ti on of al l that have been publ i shed down to the present date.' I f i t was
not as successful as mi ght have been wi shed, thi s coul d perhaps hardl y have been
expected of a comparati vel y i nexperi enced edi tor confronted wi th so gi ganti c a task
-- a man, too, who worked al most al one and was by temperament and predi l ecti on
an i nvesti gator rather than a cri ti c. Neverthel ess, i ts i ntroducti ons, footnotes,
appended documents, and col l ecti on of apocryphal works of the Sai nt, as wel l as i ts
text, were al l consi dered worthy of extended study and the edi ti on was ri ghtl y
recei ved wi th enthusi asm. I ts pri nci pal meri t wi l l al ways l i e i n i ts havi ng restored
to thei r proper pl aces, for the fi rst ti me i n a pri nted edi ti on, many passages whi ch
had theretofore remai ned i n manuscri pt.
We have been anxi ous that thi s new edi ti on [Burgos, 1929-31] shoul d
represent a fresh advance i n the task of establ i shi ng a defi ni ti ve text of St. John of
the Cross's wri ti ngs. For thi s reason we have exami ned, together wi th two devoted
assi stants, every di scoverabl e manuscri pt, wi th the resul t, as i t seems to us, that
both the form and the content of our author's works are as nearl y as possi bl e as he
l eft them.
I n no case have we fol l owed any one manuscri pt excl usi vel y, preferri ng to
assess the val ue of each by a careful prel i mi nary study and to consi der each on i ts
52
meri ts, whi ch are descri bed i n the i ntroducti on to each of the i ndi vi dual works.
Si nce our pri mary ai m has been to present an accurate text, our footnotes wi l l be
found to be al most excl usi vel y textual . The onl y edi ti on whi ch we ci te, wi th the
occasi onal excepti on of that of 1630, i s the princeps, from whi ch al one there i s much
to be l earned. The Lati n quotati ons from the Vul gate are not, of course, gi ven except
where they appear i n the manuscri pts, and, save for the occasi onal correcti on of a
copyi st's error, they are reproduced i n exactl y the form i n whi ch we have found
them. Orthography and punctuati on have had perforce to be moderni zed, si nce the
manuscri pts di ffer wi del y and we have so few autographs that nothi ng concl usi ve
can be l earned of the Sai nt's own practi ce.
58
58
[The l ast two paragraphs form P. Si l veri o's descri pti on of hi s own edi ti on. The l i nes fol l owed i n the
present transl ati on have been descri bed i n the Transl ator's Preface.]
53
ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
I NTRODUCTI ON
AS wi l l be seen from the bi ographi cal outl i ne whi ch we have gi ven of the l i fe of St.
John of the Cross, thi s was the fi rst of the Sai nt's treati ses to be wri tten; i t was
begun at El Cal vari o, and, after vari ous i nterval s, due to the author's preoccupati on
wi th the busi ness of government and the di recti on and care of soul s, was compl eted
at Granada.
The treati se presents a remarkabl e outl i ne of Chri sti an perfecti on from the
poi nt at whi ch the soul fi rst seeks to ri se from the earth and soar upward towards
uni on wi th God. I t i s a work whi ch shows every si gn of careful pl anni ng and great
attenti on to detai l , as an asceti c treati se i t i s noteworthy for i ts detai l ed
psychol ogi cal anal ysi s; as a contri buti on to mysti cal theol ogy, for the ski l l wi th
whi ch i t treats the most compl i cated and del i cate questi ons concerni ng the Mysti c
Way.
Both the great Carmel i te reformers pay cl ose attenti on to the earl y stages of
the mysti cal l i fe, beyond whi ch many never pass, and both gi ve the pri macy to
prayer as a means of attai ni ng perfecti on. To St. Teresa prayer i s the greatest of al l
bl essi ngs of thi s l i fe, the channel through whi ch al l the favours of God pass to the
soul , the begi nni ng of every vi rtue and the pl ai nl y marked hi ghroad whi ch l eads to
the summi t of Mount Carmel . She can hardl y concei ve of a person i n ful l spi ri tual
heal th whose l i fe i s not one of prayer. Her coadjutor i n the Carmel i te Reform wri tes
i n the same spi ri t. Prayer, for St. John of the Cross as for St. Teresa, i s no mere
exerci se made up of peti ti on and medi tati on, but a compl ete spi ri tual l i fe whi ch
bri ngs i n i ts trai n al l the vi rtues, i ncreases al l the soul 's potenti al i ti es and may
ul ti matel y l ead to 'dei fi cati on' or transformati on i n God through l ove. I t may be sai d
that the exposi ti on of the l i fe of prayer, from i ts l owest stages to i ts hi ghest, i s the
common ai m of these two Sai nts, whi ch each pursues and accompl i shes i n a
pecul i arl y i ndi vi dual manner.
St. John of the Cross assumes hi s reader to be fami l i ar wi th the rudi ments of
the spi ri tual l i fe and therefore omi ts detai l ed descri pti on of the most el ementary of
the exerci ses i ncumbent upon al l Chri sti ans. The pl an of the Ascent of Mount
Carmel (whi ch, properl y speaki ng, embraces i ts sequel , the Dark Night) fol l ows the
l i nes of the poem wi th the l atter ti tl e (p. 10). I nto two stanzas of fi ve l i nes each, St.
John of the Cross has condensed al l the i nstructi on whi ch he devel ops i n thi s
treati se. I n order to reach the Uni on of Li ght, the soul must pass through the Dark
Ni ght -- that i s to say, through a seri es of puri fi cati ons, duri ng whi ch i t i s wal ki ng,
as i t were, through a tunnel of i mpenetrabl e obscuri ty and from whi ch i t emerges to
bask i n the sunshi ne of grace and to enjoy the Di vi ne i nti macy.
Through thi s obscuri ty the thread whi ch gui des the soul i s that of 'empti ness'
or 'negati on.' Onl y by voi di ng oursel ves of al l that i s not God can we attai n to the
possessi on of God, for two contrari es cannot co-exi st i n one i ndi vi dual , and creature-
l ove i s darkness, whi l e God i s l i ght, so that from any human heart one of the two
cannot fai l to dri ve out the other.
59
Now the soul , accordi ng to the Sai nt's psychol ogy, i s made up of i nteri or and
exteri or senses and of the facul ti es. Al l these must be free from creature i mpuri ti es
59
Ascent, Bk. I I I , Chap. i i .
54
i n order to be prepared for Di vi ne uni on. The necessary sel f-emptyi ng may be
accompl i shed i n two ways: by our own efforts, wi th the habi tual ai d of grace, and by
the acti on of God excl usi vel y, i n whi ch the i ndi vi dual has no part whatsoever.
Fol l owi ng thi s order, the Ascent i s di vi ded i nto two parts, whi ch deal respecti vel y
wi th the 'Acti ve' ni ght and the 'Passi ve.' Each of these parts consi sts of several
books. Si nce the soul must be puri fi ed i n i ts enti rety, the Acti ve Ni ght i s l ogi cal l y
di vi ded i nto the Ni ght of Sense and the Ni ght of the Spi ri t; a si mi l ar di vi si on i s
observed i n treati ng of the Passi ve Ni ght. One book i s devoted to the Acti ve Ni ght of
Sense; two are needed for the Acti ve Ni ght of the Spi ri t. Unhappi l y, however, the
treati se was never fi ni shed; not onl y was i ts author unabl e to take us out of the
ni ght i nto the day, as he certai nl y i ntended to do, but he has not even space to
descri be the Passi ve Ni ght i n al l the ful l ness of i ts symbol i sm.
A bri ef gl ance at the outstandi ng parts of the Ascent of Mount Carmel wi l l
gi ve some i dea of i ts nature. The fi rst obstacl e whi ch the pi l gri m soul encounters i s
the senses, upon whi ch St. John of the Cross expends hi s anal yti cal ski l l i n Book I .
Li ke any academi c professor (and i t wi l l be recal l ed that he had undergone a
compl ete uni versi ty course at Sal amanca), he outl i nes and defi nes hi s subject, goes
over the necessary prel i mi nary ground before expoundi ng i t, and treats i t, i n turn,
under each of i ts natural di vi si ons. He tel l s us, that i s to say, what he understands
by the 'dark ni ght'; descri bes i ts causes and i ts stages; expl ai ns how necessary i t i s
to uni on wi th God; enumerates the peri l s whi ch beset the soul that enters i t; and
shows how al l desi res must be expel l ed, 'however smal l they be,' i f the soul i s to
travel through i t safel y. Fi nal l y he gi ves a compl ete synthesi s of the procedure that
must be adopted by the pi l gri m i n rel ati on to thi s part of hi s journey: the force of
thi s i s i ntensi fi ed by those stri ki ng maxi ms and di sti chs whi ch make Chapter xi i i of
Book I so memorabl e.
The fi rst thi rteen chapters of the Ascent are perhaps the easi est to
understand (though they are anythi ng but easy to put i nto practi ce) i n the enti re
works of St. John of the Cross. They are al l a commentary on the very fi rst l i ne of
the poem. The l ast two chapters of the fi rst book gl ance at the remai ni ng l i nes,
rather than expound them, and the Sai nt takes us on at once to Book I I , whi ch
expounds the second stanza and enters upon the Ni ght of the Spi ri t.
Here the Sai nt treats of the proxi mate means to uni on wi th God -- namel y,
fai th. He uses the same careful method of exposi ti on, showi ng cl earl y how fai th i s to
the soul as a dark ni ght, and how, neverthel ess, i t i s the safest of gui des. A
parentheti cal chapter (v) attempts to gi ve some i dea of the nature of uni on, so that
the reader may recogni ze from afar the goal to whi ch he i s proceedi ng. The author
then goes on to descri be how the three theol ogi cal vi rtues -- fai th, hope and chari ty
-- must 'voi d and di spose for uni on' the three facul ti es of the soul -- understandi ng,
memory and wi l l .
He shows how narrow i s the way that l eads to l i fe and how nothi ng that
bel ongs to the understandi ng can gui de the soul to uni on. Hi s i l l ustrati ons and
arguments are far more compl i cated and subtl e than are those of the fi rst book, and
gi ve the reader some i dea of hi s knowl edge, not onl y of phi l osophy and theol ogy, but
al so of i ndi vi dual soul s. Wi thout thi s l ast qual i fi cati on he coul d never have wri tten
those penetrati ng chapters on the i mpedi ments to uni on -- above al l , the passages
on vi si ons, l ocuti ons and revel ati ons -- nor must we overl ook hi s descri pti on
(Chapter xi i i ) of the three si gns that the soul i s ready to pass from medi tati on to
contempl ati on. I t may be doubted i f i n i ts own fi el d thi s second book has ever been
surpassed. There i s no mysti c who gi ves a more powerful i mpressi on than St. John
of the Cross of an absol ute mastery of hi s subject. No mi sti ness, vagueness or
55
i ndeci si on cl ouds hi s wri ti ng: he i s as cl ear-cut and defi ni te as can be.
I n hi s thi rd book St. John of the Cross goes on to descri be the obstacl es to
uni on whi ch come from the memory and the wi l l . Unl i ke St. Thomas, he consi dered
the memory as a di sti nct and separate facul ty of the soul . Havi ng wri tten, however,
at such l ength of the understandi ng, he found i t possi bl e to treat more bri efl y of that
other facul ty, whi ch i s so cl osel y rel ated to i t.
60
Fourteen chapters (i i -xv) descri be
the dark ni ght to be traversed by the memory; thi rty (xvi -xl v) the passage of the
wi l l , i mpel l ed by l ove.
61
The l atter part i s the more stri ki ngl y devel oped. Four
passi ons -- joy, hope, sorrow and fear -- i nvade the wi l l , and may ei ther encompass
the soul 's perdi ti on, or, i f ri ghtl y di rected, l ead i t to vi rtue and uni on. Once more St.
John of the Cross empl oys hi s profound fami l i ari ty wi th the human soul to turn i t
away from peri l and gui de i t i nto the path of safety. Much that he says, i n deal i ng
wi th passi ons so fami l i ar to us al l , i s not onl y purel y asceti c, but i s even
commonpl ace to the i nstructed Chri sti an. Yet these are but parts of a greater whol e.
Of parti cul ar i nterest, both i ntri nsi cal l y and as gi vi ng a pi cture of the Sai nt's
own ti mes, are the chapters on ceremoni es and ai ds to devoti on -- the use of
rosari es, medal s, pi l gri mages, etc. I t must be remembered, of course, that he spent
most of hi s acti ve l i fe i n the South of Spai n, where exaggerati ons of al l ki nds, even
to-day, are more frequent than i n the more sober north. I n any case there i s l ess
need, i n thi s l ukewarm age, to warn Chri sti ans agai nst the abuse of these means of
grace, and more need, perhaps, to urge them to empl oy ai ds that wi l l sti mul ate and
qui cken thei r devoti on.
I n the seventeenth chapter of thi s thi rd book, St. John of the Cross
enumerates the 'si x ki nds of good' whi ch can gi ve ri se to rejoi ci ng and sets down hi s
i ntenti on of treati ng each of them i n turn. He carri es out hi s purpose, but, on
enteri ng hi s l ast di vi si on, subdi vi des i t at consi derabl e l ength and subsequentl y
breaks off wi th some brusqueness whi l e deal i ng wi th one of these sub-heads, just as
he i s i ntroduci ng another subject of parti cul ar i nterest hi stori cal l y -- namel y, pul pi t
methods consi dered from the standpoi nt of the preacher. I n al l probabi l i ty we shal l
never know what he had to say about the hearers of sermons, or what were hi s
consi dered judgments on confessors and peni tents -- though of these judgments he
has l eft us exampl es el sewhere i n thi s treati se, as wel l as i n others.
We cannot esti mate of how much the sudden curtai l ment of the Ascent of
Mount Carmel has robbed us.
62
Orderl y as was the mi nd of St. John of the Cross, he
was easi l y carri ed away i n hi s exposi ti ons, whi ch are apt to be unequal . No one
woul d have suspected, for exampl e, that, after goi ng i nto such l ength i n treati ng the
fi rst l i ne of hi s fi rst stanza, he woul d make such short work of the remai ni ng four.
Nor can we di sregard the si gni fi cance of hi s warni ng that much of what he had
wri tten on the understandi ng was appl i cabl e al so to the memory and the wi l l . He
may, therefore, have been nearer the end of hi s theme than i s general l y supposed.
Yet i t i s equal l y possi bl e that much more of hi s subtl e anal ysi s was i n store for hi s
readers. Any truncati on, when the author i s a St. John of the Cross, must be
consi dered i rreparabl e.
THE MANUSCRI PTS
63
60
Ascent, Bk. I I I , Chap. i i i , § 1.
61
Cf. Ascent, Bk. I I I , Chap. xvi , §§ 1-2.
62
[On the questi on of the curtai l ment of the Ascent, see Sobri no, pp. 159-66.]
63
[On MSS. not descri bed by P. Si l veri o, see Ephemerides Carmeliticae, Fl orence, 1950, I V, 95-148,
and i n parti cul ar p. 103, n. 9. As the vari ants and annotati ons i n these MSS. wi l l be of i nterest onl y
56
Unfortunatel y there i s no autograph of thi s treati se extant, though there are
a number of earl y copi es, some of whi ch have been made wi th great care. Others, for
vari ous reasons, abbrevi ate the ori gi nal consi derabl y. The MSS. bel ongi ng to both
cl asses wi l l be enumerated.
Alba de Tormes. The Di scal ced Carmel i te pri ory of Al ba de Tormes has a
codex whi ch contai ns the four pri nci pal treati ses of St. John of the Cross (Ascent,
Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle and Living Flame). Thi s codex bel onged from a very
earl y date (perhaps from a date not much l ater than that of the Sai nt's death) to the
fami l y of the Duke of Al ba, whi ch was greatl y devoted to the Di scal ced Carmel i te
Reform and to St. Teresa, i ts foundress. I t remai ned i n the fami l y unti l the
begi nni ng of the ei ghteenth century, when i t came i nto the hands of a l earned
Carmel i te, Fray Al onso de l a Madre de Di os, who presented i t to the Al ba
monastery on Apri l 15, 1705. The detai l s of thi s hi story are gi ven by Fray Al onso
hi msel f i n a note beari ng thi s date.
For over hal f a century the MS. was bel i eved to be an autograph, partl y, no
doubt, on account of i ts l uxuri ous bi ndi ng and the respect pai d to the nobl e house
whence i t came. I n February 1761, however, i t was exami ned careful l y by P. Manuel
de Santa Marí a, who, by hi s Superi ors' orders, was assi sti ng P. Andrés de l a
Encarnaci ón i n hi s search for, and study of, manuscri pts of the Sai nt's wri ti ngs. P.
Manuel soon di scovered that the opi ni on commonl y hel d was erroneous -- greatl y, i t
woul d seem, to the di si l l usi onment of hi s contemporari es. Among the vari ous
reasons whi ch he gi ves i n a statement supporti ng hi s concl usi ons i s that i n two
pl aces the author i s descri bed as 'santo' -- a proof not onl y that the MS. i s not an
autograph but al so that the copyi st had no i ntenti on of representi ng i t as such.
Al though thi s copy i s careful l y made and ri chl y bound -- whi ch suggests that
i t was a gi ft from the Reform to the house of Al ba -- i t contai ns many errors, of a
ki nd whi ch i ndi cate that the copyi st, wel l educated though he was, knew l i ttl e of
asceti c or mysti cal theol ogy. A number of omi ssi ons, especi al l y towards the end of
the book, gi ve the i mpressi on that the copy was fi ni shed wi th haste and not
compared wi th the ori gi nal on i ts compl eti on. There i s no reason, however, to
suppose that the errors and omi ssi ons are ever i ntenti onal ; i ndeed, they are of such
a ki nd as to suggest that the copyi st had not the ski l l necessary for successful
adul terati on.
MS. 6,624. Thi s copy, l i ke the next four, i s i n N.L.M. [Nati onal Li brary of
Spai n, Madri d], and contai ns the same works as that of Al ba de Tormes. I t was
made i n 1755, under the di recti on of P. Andrés de l a Encarnaci ón, from a
manuscri pt, now l ost, whi ch was venerated by the Benedi cti nes of Burgos: thi s
i nformati on i s found at the end of the vol ume. P. Andrés had evi dentl y a good
opi ni on of the Burgos MS., as he pl aced thi s copy i n the archi ves of the Di scal ced
Reform, whence i t passed to the Nati onal Li brary earl y i n the ni neteenth century.
As far as the Ascent i s concerned, thi s MS. i s very si mi l ar to that of Al ba.
Wi th a few notabl e excepti ons, such as the omi ssi on of the second hal f of Book I ,
Chapter i v, the errors and omi ssi ons are so si mi l ar as to suggest a defi ni te
rel ati onshi p, i f not a common source.
MS. 13,498. Thi s MS., whi ch gi ves us the Ascent and the Dark Night, al so
came from the Archi ves of the Reform and i s now i n the Nati onal Li brary. The
handwri ti ng mi ght be as earl y as the end of the si xteenth century. The author di d
to speci al i sts, and few of them can be reproduced i n a transl ati on, those who wi sh to study them are
referred to that arti cl e.]
57
not attempt to make a l i teral transcri pti on of the Ascent, but summari zed where he
thought advi sabl e, reduci ng the number of chapters and abbrevi ati ng many of them
-- thi s l ast not so much by the method of paraphrase as by the free omi ssi on of
phrases and sentences.
MS. 2,201. Thi s, as far as the Ascent i s concerned, i s an al most l i teral
transcri pti on of the l ast MS., i n a seventeenth-century hand; i t was bound i n the
ei ghteenth century, when a number of other treati ses were added to i t, together
wi th some poems by St. John of the Cross and others. The vari ants as between thi s
MS. and 13,498 are numerous, but of smal l i mportance, and seem mai nl y to have
been due to carel essness.
MS. 18,160. Thi s dates from the end of the si xteenth century and contai ns the
four treati ses named above, copi ed i n di fferent hands and evi dentl y i ntended to
form one vol ume. Onl y the fi rst four chapters of the Ascent are gi ven, together wi th
the ti tl e and the fi rst three l i nes of the fi fth chapter. The transcri pti on i s poorl y
done.
MS. 13,507. An uni mportant copy, contai ni ng onl y a few odd chapters of the
Ascent and others from the remai ni ng works of St. John of the Cross and other
wri ters.
Pamplona. A codex i n an excel l ent state of preservati on i s venerated by the
Di scal ced Carmel i te nuns of Pampl ona. I t was copi ed, at the end of the si xteenth
century, by a Barcel ona Carmel i te, M. Magdal ena de l a Asunci ón, and contai ns a
short summary of the four treati ses enumerated above, vari ous poems by St. John of
the Cross and some mi scel l aneous wri ti ngs. The Ascent i s abbrevi ated to the same
extent as i n 13,498 and 2,201 and by the same methods; many chapters, too, are
omi tted i n thei r enti rety.
Alcaudete. Thi s MS., whi ch contai ns the Ascent onl y, was copi ed by St. John
of the Cross's cl ose fri end and compani on, P. Juan Evangel i sta, as a compari son
wi th manuscri pts (N.L.M., 12,738) wri tten i n hi s wel l -known and very di sti ncti ve
hand, puts beyond al l doubt. P. Juan, who took the habi t of the Reform at
Chri stmas 1582, knew the Sai nt before thi s date; was professed by hi m at Granada
i n 1583; accompani ed hi m on many of hi s journeys; saw hi m wri te most of hi s books;
and, as hi s cl ose fri end and confessor, was consul ted repeatedl y by hi s
bi ographers.
64
I t i s natural that he shoul d al so have acted as the Sai nt's copyi st,
and, i n the absence of autographs, we shoul d expect no manuscri pts to be more
trustworthy than copi es made by hi m. Exami nati on of thi s MS. shows that i t i s i n
fact hi ghl y rel i abl e. I t corrects none of those unwi el dy peri ods i n whi ch the Sai nt's
work abounds, and whi ch the editio princeps often thought wel l to amend, nor, l i ke
the earl y edi ti ons and even some manuscri pts, does i t omi t whol e paragraphs and
substi tute others for them. Further, as thi s copy was bei ng made sol el y for the use
of the Order, no passages are omi tted or al tered i n i t because they mi ght be
erroneousl y i nterpreted as i l l umi ni sti c. I t i s true that P. Juan Evangel i sta i s not,
from the techni cal standpoi nt, a perfect copyi st, but, frequentl y as are hi s sl i ps, they
are al ways easy to recogni ze.
The Al caudete MS. was found i n the Carmel i te pri ory i n that town by P.
Andrés de l a Encarnaci ón, who fi rst made use of i t for hi s edi ti on. When the pri ory
was abandoned duri ng the rel i gi ous persecuti ons of the earl y ni neteenth century,
the MS. was l ost. Nearl y a hundred years passed before i t was re-di scovered by P.
Si l veri o de Santa Teresa i n a second-hand bookshop [and forms a most i mportant
contri buti on to that schol ar's edi ti on, whi ch normal l y fol l ows i t]. I t bears many
64
[H, sub Juan Evangel i sta (2)]
58
si gns of frequent use; el even fol i os are mi ssi ng from the body of the MS.
(correspondi ng approxi matel y to Book I I I , Chapters xxi i to xxvi ) and several more
from i ts concl usi on.
I n the footnotes to the Ascent, the fol l owi ng abbrevi ati ons are used:
A = MS. of the Di scal ced Carmel i te Fri ars of Al ba.
Al c. = Al caudete MS.
B = MS. of the Benedi cti nes of Burgos.
C = N.L.M., MS. 13,498.
D = N.L.M., MS. 2,201.
P = MS. of the Di scal ced Carmel i te Nuns of Pampl ona.
E.p. = Editio princeps (Al cal á, 1618).
Other edi ti ons or manuscri pts ci ted are referred to wi thout abbrevi ati on.
59
ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
Treats of how the soul may prepare itself in order to attain in a short time to Divine
union. Gives very profitable counsels and instruction, both to beginners and to
proficients, that they may know how to disencumber themselves of all that is
temporal and not to encumber themselves with the spiritual, and to remain in
complete detachment and liberty of spirit, as is necessary for Divine union.
ARGUMENT
ALL the doctri ne whereof I i ntend to treat i n thi s Ascent of Mount Carmel i s
i ncl uded i n the fol l owi ng stanzas, and i n them i s al so descri bed the manner of
ascendi ng to the summi t of the Mount, whi ch i s the hi gh estate of perfecti on whi ch
we here cal l uni on of the soul wi th God. And because I must conti nual l y base upon
them that whi ch I shal l say, I have desi red to set them down here together, to the
end that al l the substance of that whi ch i s to be wri tten may be seen and
comprehended together; al though i t wi l l be fi tti ng to set down each stanza
separatel y before expoundi ng i t, and l i kewi se the l i nes of each stanza, accordi ng as
the matter and the exposi ti on requi re. The poem, then, runs as fol l ows:
65
65
[Lit.: 'I t says, then, thus.']
60
STANZAS
66
Wherei n the soul si ngs of the happy chance whi ch i t had i n passi ng through
the dark ni ght of fai th, i n detachment and purgati on of i tsel f, to uni on wi th the
Bel oved.
1. On a dark night, Kindled
67
in love with yearnings -- oh,
happy chance! --
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at
rest.
68
2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised -- oh,
happy chance! --
In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at
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 heart.
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;
69
My face I reclined on the
Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.
66
For a verse transl ati on i n the metre of the ori gi nal , see Vol . I I .
67
[The adjecti ves are femi ni ne throughout.]
68
[The word transl ated 'at rest' i s a past parti ci pl e: more l i teral l y, ‘sti l l ed.']
69
[Lit.: 'I remai ned and forgot.']
61
PROLOGUE
I N order to expound and descri be thi s dark ni ght, through whi ch the soul passes i n
order to attai n to the Di vi ne l i ght of the perfect uni on of the l ove of God, as far as i s
possi bl e i n thi s l i fe, i t woul d be necessary to have i l l umi nati on of knowl edge and
experi ence other and far greater than mi ne; for thi s darkness and these tri al s, both
spi ri tual and temporal , through whi ch happy soul s are wont to pass i n order to be
abl e to attai n to thi s hi gh estate of perfecti on, are so numerous and so profound that
nei ther does human knowl edge suffi ce for the understandi ng of them, nor
experi ence for the descri pti on of them; for onl y he that passes thi s way can
understand i t, and even he cannot descri be i t.
2. Therefore, i n order to say a l i ttl e about thi s dark ni ght, I shal l trust nei ther
to experi ence nor to knowl edge, si nce both may fai l and decei ve; but, whi l e not
omi tti ng to make such use as I can of these two thi ngs, I shal l avai l mysel f, i n al l
that, wi th the Di vi ne favour, I have to say, or at the l east, i n that whi ch i s most
i mportant and dark to the understandi ng, of Di vi ne Scri pture; for, i f we gui de
oursel ves by thi s, we shal l be unabl e to stray, si nce He Who speaks therei n i s the
Hol y Spi ri t. And i f aught I stray, whether through my i mperfect understandi ng of
that whi ch i s sai d i n i t or of matters uncol l ected wi th i t, i t i s not my i ntenti on to
depart from the sound sense and doctri ne of our Hol y Mother the Cathol i c Church;
for i n such a case I submi t and resi gn mysel f whol l y, not onl y to her command, but
to whatever better judgment she may pronounce concerni ng i t.
3. To thi s end I have been moved, not by any possi bi l i ty that I see i n mysel f of
accompl i shi ng so arduous a task, but by the confi dence whi ch I have i n the Lord
that He wi l l hel p me to say somethi ng to rel i eve the great necessi ty whi ch i s
experi enced by many soul s, who, when they set out upon the road of vi rtue, and Our
Lord desi res to bri ng them i nto thi s dark ni ght that they may pass through i t to
Di vi ne uni on, make no progress. At ti mes thi s i s because they have no desi re to
enter i t or to al l ow themsel ves to be l ed i nto i t; at other ti mes, because they
understand not themsel ves and l ack competent and al ert di rectors
70
who wi l l gui de
them to the summi t. And so i t i s sad to see many soul s to whom God gi ves both
apti tude and favour wi th whi ch to make progress (and who, i f they woul d take
courage, coul d attai n to thi s hi gh estate), remai ni ng i n an el ementary stage
71
of
communi on wi th God, for want of wi l l , or knowl edge, or because there i s none who
wi l l l ead them i n the ri ght path or teach them how to get away from these
begi nni ngs. And at l ength, al though Our Lord grants them such favour as to make
them to go onward wi thout thi s hi ndrance or that, they arri ve at thei r goal very
much l ater, and wi th greater l abour, yet wi th l ess meri t, because they have not
conformed themsel ves to God, and al l owed themsel ves to be brought freel y i nto the
pure and sure road of uni on. For, al though i t i s true that God i s l eadi ng them, and
that He can l ead them wi thout thei r own hel p, they wi l l not al l ow themsel ves to be
l ed; and thus they make l ess progress, because they resi st Hi m Who i s l eadi ng
them, and they have l ess meri t, because they appl y not thei r wi l l , and on thi s
account they suffer more. For these are soul s who, i nstead of commi tti ng themsel ves
to God and maki ng use of Hi s hel p, rather hi nder God by the i ndi screti on of thei r
acti ons or by thei r resi stance; l i ke chi l dren who, when thei r mothers desi re to carry
them i n thei r arms, start stampi ng and cryi ng, and i nsi st upon bei ng al l owed to
70
[Lit. 'and wi deawake gui des.']
71
[Lit., 'a l ow manner.']
62
wal k, wi th the resul t that they can make no progress; and, i f they advance at al l , i t
i s onl y at the pace of a chi l d.
4. Wherefore, to the end that al l , whether begi nners or profi ci ents, may know
how to commi t themsel ves to God's gui dance, when Hi s Majesty desi res to l ead
them onward, we shal l gi ve i nstructi on and counsel , by Hi s hel p, so that they may
be abl e to understand Hi s wi l l , or, at the l east, al l ow Hi m to l ead them. For some
confessors and spi ri tual fathers, havi ng no l i ght and experi ence concerni ng these
roads, are wont to hi nder and harm such soul s rather than to hel p them on the
road; they are l i ke the bui l ders of Babel , who, when tol d to furni sh sui tabl e
materi al , gave and appl i ed other very di fferent materi al , because they understood
not the l anguage, and thus nothi ng was done. Wherefore, i t i s a di ffi cul t and
troubl esome thi ng at such seasons for a soul not to understand i tsel f or to fi nd none
who understands i t. For i t wi l l come to pass that God wi l l l ead the soul by a most
l ofty path of dark contempl ati on and ari di ty, wherei n i t seems to be l ost, and, bei ng
thus ful l of darkness and tri al s, constrai nts and temptati ons, wi l l meet one who wi l l
speak to i t l i ke Job's comforters, and say that i t i s sufferi ng from mel anchol y, or l ow
spi ri ts, or a morbi d di sposi ti on, or that i t may have some hi dden si n, and that i t i s
for thi s reason that God has forsaken i t. Such comforters are wont to decl are
i mmedi atel y that that soul must have been very evi l , si nce such thi ngs as these are
befal l i ng i t.
5. And there wi l l l i kewi se be those who tel l the soul to retrace i ts steps, si nce
i t i s fi ndi ng no pl easure or consol ati on i n the thi ngs of God as i t di d aforeti me. And
i n thi s way they doubl e the poor soul 's tri al s; for i t may wel l be that the greatest
affl i cti on whi ch i t i s feel i ng i s that of the knowl edge of i ts own mi seri es, thi nki ng
that i t sees i tsel f, more cl earl y than dayl i ght, to be ful l of evi l s and si ns, for God
gi ves i t that l i ght of knowl edge i n that ni ght of contempl ati on, as we shal l presentl y
show. And, when the soul fi nds someone whose opi ni on agrees wi th i ts own, and
who says that these thi ngs must be due to i ts own faul t, i ts affl i cti on and troubl e
i ncrease i nfi ni tel y and are wont to become more gri evous than death. And, not
content wi th thi s, such confessors, thi nki ng that these thi ngs proceed from si n,
make these soul s go over thei r l i ves and cause them to make many general
confessi ons, and cruci fy them afresh; not understandi ng that thi s may qui te wel l not
be the ti me for any of such thi ngs, and that thei r peni tents shoul d be l eft i n the
state of purgati on whi ch God gi ves them, and be comforted and encouraged to desi re
i t unti l God be pl eased to di spose otherwi se; for unti l that ti me, no matter what the
soul s themsel ves may do and thei r confessors may say, there i s no remedy for them.
6. Thi s, wi th the Di vi ne favour, we shal l consi der hereafter, and al so how the
soul shoul d conduct i tsel f at such a ti me, and how the confessor must treat i t, and
what si gns there wi l l be whereby i t may be known i f thi s i s the purgati on of the
soul ; and, i n such case, whether i t be of sense or of spi ri t (whi ch i s the dark ni ght
whereof we speak), and how i t may be known i f i t be mel anchol y or some other
i mperfecti on wi th respect to sense or to spi ri t. For there may be some soul s who wi l l
thi nk, or whose confessors wi l l thi nk, that God i s l eadi ng them al ong thi s road of
the dark ni ght of spi ri tual purgati on, whereas they may possi bl y be sufferi ng onl y
from some of the i mperfecti ons aforementi oned. And, agai n, there are many soul s
who thi nk that they have no apti tude for prayer, when they have very much; and
there are others who thi nk that they have much when they have hardl y any.
7. There are other soul s who l abour and weary themsel ves to a pi teous
extent, and yet go backward, seeki ng profi t i n that whi ch i s not profi tabl e, but i s
rather a hi ndrance; and there are sti l l others who, by remai ni ng at rest and i n
qui etness, conti nue to make great progress. There are others who are hi ndered and
63
di sturbed and make no progress, because of the very consol ati ons and favours that
God i s granti ng them i n order that they may make progress. And there are many
other thi ngs on thi s road that befal l those who fol l ow i t, both joys and affl i cti ons and
hopes and gri efs: some proceedi ng from the spi ri t of perfecti on and others from
i mperfecti on. Of al l these, wi th the Di vi ne favour, we shal l endeavour to say
somethi ng, so that each soul who reads thi s may be abl e to see somethi ng of the
road that he ought to fol l ow, i f he aspi re to attai n to the summi t of thi s Mount.
8. And, si nce thi s i ntroducti on rel ates to the dark ni ght through whi ch the
soul must go to God, l et not the reader marvel i f i t seem to hi m somewhat dark al so.
Thi s, I bel i eve, wi l l be so at the begi nni ng when he begi ns to read; but, as he passes
on, he wi l l fi nd hi msel f understandi ng the fi rst part better, si nce one part wi l l
expl ai n another. And then, i f he read i t a second ti me, I bel i eve i t wi l l seem cl earer
to hi m and the i nstructi on wi l l appear sounder. And i f any persons fi nd themsel ves
di sagreei ng wi th thi s i nstructi on, i t wi l l be due to my i gnorance and poor styl e; for
i n i tsel f the matter i s good and of the fi rst i mportance. But I thi nk that, even were i t
wri tten i n a more excel l ent and perfect manner than i t i s, onl y the mi nori ty woul d
profi t by i t, for we shal l not here set down thi ngs that are very moral and
del ectabl e
72
for al l spi ri tual persons who desi re to travel toward God by pl easant
and del ectabl e ways, but sol i d and substanti al i nstructi on, as wel l sui ted to one ki nd
of person as to another, i f they desi re to pass to the detachment of spi ri t whi ch i s
here treated.
9. Nor i s my pri nci pal i ntent to address al l , but rather certai n persons of our
sacred Order of Mount Carmel of the pri mi ti ve observance, both fri ars and nuns --
si nce they have desi red me to do so -- to whom God i s granti ng the favour of setti ng
them on the road to thi s Mount; who, as they are al ready detached from the
temporal thi ngs of thi s worl d, wi l l better understand the i nstructi on concerni ng
detachment of spi ri t.
72
Needl ess to say, the Sai nt does not here mean that he wi l l not wri te i n conformi ty wi th moral
standards -- no wri ter i s more parti cul ar i n thi s respect -- nor that he wi l l deal wi th no del ectabl e
matters at al l , but rather that he wi l l go to the very roots of spi ri tual teachi ng and expound the 'sol i d
and substanti al i nstructi on,' whi ch not onl y forms i ts basi s but al so l eads the soul toward the most
i nti mate uni on wi th God i n l ove.
64
BOOK THE FI RST
Wherein is described the nature of dark night and how necessary it is to pass through
it to Divine union; and in particular this book describes the dark night of sense, and
desire, and the evils which these work in the soul.
73
CHAPTER I
Sets down the first stanza. Describes two different nights through which spiritual
persons pass, according to the two parts of man, the lower and the higher. Expounds
the stanza which follows.
STANZA THE FI RST
On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings -- oh, happy
chance! --
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at
rest.
I N thi s fi rst stanzas the soul si ngs of the happy fortune and chance whi ch i t
experi enced i n goi ng forth from al l thi ngs that are wi thout, and from the desi res
74
and i mperfecti ons that are i n the sensual
75
part of man because of the di sordered
state of hi s reason. For the understandi ng of thi s i t must be known that, for a soul
to attai n to the state of perfecti on, i t has ordi nari l y fi rst to pass through two
pri nci pal ki nds of ni ght, whi ch spi ri tual persons cal l purgati ons or puri fi cati ons of
the soul ; and here we cal l them ni ghts, for i n both of them the soul journeys, as i t
were, by ni ght, i n darkness.
2. The fi rst ni ght or purgati on i s of the sensual part of the soul , whi ch i s
treated i n the present stanza, and wi l l be treated i n the fi rst part of thi s book. And
the second i s of the spi ri tual part; of thi s speaks the second stanza, whi ch fol l ows;
and of thi s we shal l treat l i kewi se, i n the second and the thi rd part,
76
wi th respect
to the acti vi ty of the soul ; and i n the fourth part, wi th respect to i ts passi ti vi ty.
3. And thi s fi rst ni ght pertai ns to begi nners, occurri ng at the ti me when God
begi ns to bri ng them i nto the state of contempl ati on; i n thi s ni ght the spi ri t l i kewi se
has a part, as we shal l say i n due course. And the second ni ght, or puri fi cati on,
73
The Codi ces gi ve nei ther ti tl e nor sub-ti tl e: both were i nserted i n e.p. ['Desi re' i s to be taken as the
di rect object of 'descri bes'; 'these' refers to 'sense' and 'desi re,' not to the dark ni ght.]
74
[Lit., 'appeti tes,' but thi s word i s uni forml y transl ated 'desi res,' as the Spani sh context frequentl y
wi l l not admi t the use of the stronger word i n Engl i sh.]
75
[The word transl ated 'sensual ' i s someti mes sensual, and someti mes, as here, sensitivo. The
meani ng i n ei ther case i s si mpl y 'of sense.']
76
So Al c. The other authori ti es read: 'and of thi s we shal l treat l i kewi se, i n the second part wi th
respect to the acti vi ty [of the soul ] [these last three words are not contained in the Spanish of any
authority], and i n the thi rd and the fourth part wi th respect to i ts passi vi ty.' E.p. fol l ows thi s
di vi si on. Al c., however, seems to correspond more cl osel y wi th the Sai nt's i ntenti ons; for he di d not
di vi de each of hi s 'books' i nto 'parts' and appears therefore to i ndi cate by 'part' what we know as
'book.' Now Book I i s i n fact devoted to the acti ve purgati on of sense, as are Books I I and I I I to the
acti ve purgati on of the spi ri t. For the 'fourth book,' see General I ntroducti on, I V above.
65
pertai ns to those who are al ready profi ci ent, occurri ng at the ti me when God desi res
to bri ng them to the state of uni on wi th God. And thi s l atter ni ght i s a more obscure
and dark and terri bl e purgati on, as we shal l say afterwards.
4. Bri efl y, then, the soul means by thi s stanza that i t went forth (bei ng l ed by
God) for l ove of Hi m al one, enki ndl ed i n l ove of Hi m, upon a dark ni ght, whi ch i s the
pri vati on and purgati on of al l i ts sensual desi res, wi th respect to al l outward thi ngs
of the worl d and to those whi ch were del ectabl e to i ts fl esh, and l i kewi se wi th
respect to the desi res of i ts wi l l . Thi s al l comes to pass i n thi s purgati on of sense; for
whi ch cause the soul says that i t went forth whi l e i ts house was sti l l at rest;
77
whi ch
house i s i ts sensual part, the desi res bei ng at rest and asl eep i n i t, as i t i s to them.
78
For there i s no goi ng forth from the pai ns and affl i cti ons of the secret pl aces of the
desi res unti l these be morti fi ed and put to sl eep. And thi s, the soul says, was a
happy chance for i t -- namel y, i ts goi ng forth wi thout bei ng observed: that i s,
wi thout any desi re of i ts fl esh or any other thi ng bei ng abl e to hi nder i t. And
l i kewi se, because i t went out by ni ght -- whi ch si gni fi es the pri vati on of al l these
thi ngs wrought i n i t by God, whi ch pri vati on was ni ght for i t.
5. And i t was a happy chance that God shoul d l ead i t i nto thi s ni ght, from
whi ch there came to i t so much good; for of i tsel f the soul woul d not have succeeded
i n enteri ng therei n, because no man of hi msel f can succeed i n voi di ng hi msel f of al l
hi s desi res i n order to come to God.
6. Thi s i s, i n bri ef, the exposi ti on of the stanza; and we shal l now have to go
through i t, l i ne by l i ne, setti ng down one l i ne after another, and expoundi ng that
whi ch pertai ns to our purpose. And the same method i s fol l owed i n the other
stanzas, as I sai d i n the Prol ogue
79
-- namel y, that each stanza wi l l be set down and
expounded, and afterwards each l i ne.
CHAPTER I I
Explains the nature of this dark night through which the soul says that it has passed
on the road to union.
On A Dark Night
WE may say that there are three reasons for whi ch thi s journey
80
made by the soul
to uni on wi th God i s cal l ed ni ght. The fi rst has to do wi th the poi nt from whi ch the
soul goes forth, for i t has gradual l y to depri ve i tsel f of desi re for al l the worl dl y
thi ngs whi ch i t possessed, by denyi ng them to i tsel f;
81
the whi ch deni al and
depri vati on are, as i t were, ni ght to al l the senses of man. The second reason has to
do wi th the mean,
82
or the road al ong whi ch the soul must travel to thi s uni on --
that i s, fai th, whi ch i s l i kewi se as dark as ni ght to the understandi ng. The thi rd has
to do wi th the poi nt to whi ch i t travel s -- namel y, God, Who, equal l y, i s dark ni ght to
the soul i n thi s l i fe. These three ni ghts must pass through the soul -- or, rather, the
soul must pass through them -- i n order that i t may come to Di vi ne uni on wi th God.
77
[The word transl ated 'at rest' i s a past parti ci pl e: more l i teral l y, ‘sti l l ed.']
78
[Lit., 'and i t i n them.' Thi s 'i t' means the soul ; the precedi ng 'i t,' the house.]
79
I .e., i n the 'Argument.'
80
[More exactl y, thi s 'passage' or 'transi ti on' (tránsito).]
81
[Lit., 'i n negati on of them.']
82
[By 'the mean' i s meant the mi ddl e, or mai n part, of the journey.]
66
2. I n the book of the hol y Tobi as these three ki nds of ni ght were shadowed
forth by the three ni ghts whi ch, as the angel commanded, were to pass ere the
youth Tobi as shoul d be uni ted wi th hi s bri de. I n the fi rst he commanded hi m to
burn the heart of the fi sh i n the fi re, whi ch si gni fi es the heart that i s affecti oned to,
and set upon, the thi ngs of the worl d; whi ch, i n order that one may begi n to journey
toward God, must be burned and puri fi ed from al l that i s creature, i n the fi re of the
l ove of God. And i n thi s purgati on the devi l fl ees away, for he has power over the
soul onl y when i t i s attached to thi ngs corporeal and temporal .
3. On the second ni ght the angel tol d hi m that he woul d be admi tted i nto the
company of the hol y patri archs, who are the fathers of the fai th. For, passi ng
through the fi rst ni ght, whi ch i s sel f-pri vati on of al l objects of sense, the soul at once
enters i nto the second ni ght, and abi des al one i n fai th to the excl usi on, not of
chari ty, but of other knowl edge acqui red by the understandi ng, as we shal l say
hereafter, whi ch i s a thi ng that pertai ns not to sense.
4. On the thi rd ni ght the angel tol d hi m that he woul d obtai n a bl essi ng,
whi ch i s God; Who, by means of the second ni ght, whi ch i s fai th, conti nual l y
communi cates Hi msel f to the soul i n such a secret and i nti mate manner that He
becomes another ni ght to the soul , i nasmuch as thi s sai d communi cati on i s far
darker than those others, as we shal l say presentl y. And, when thi s thi rd ni ght i s
past, whi ch i s the compl ete accompl i shment of the communi cati on of God i n the
spi ri t, whi ch i s ordi nari l y wrought i n great darkness of the soul , there then fol l ows
i ts uni on wi th the Bri de, whi ch i s the Wi sdom of God. Even so the angel sai d
l i kewi se to Tobi as that, when the thi rd ni ght was past, he shoul d be uni ted wi th hi s
bri de i n the fear of the Lord; for, when thi s fear of God i s perfect, l ove i s perfect, and
thi s comes to pass when the transformati on of the soul i s wrought through i ts l ove.
5. These three parts of the ni ght are al l one ni ght; but, after the manner of
ni ght, i t has three parts. For the fi rst part, whi ch i s that of sense, i s comparabl e to
the begi nni ng of ni ght, the poi nt at whi ch thi ngs begi n to fade from si ght. And the
second part, whi ch i s fai th, i s comparabl e to mi dni ght, whi ch i s total darkness. And
the thi rd part i s l i ke the cl ose of ni ght, whi ch i s God, the whi ch part i s now near to
the l i ght of day. And, that we may understand thi s the better, we shal l treat of each
of these reasons separatel y as we proceed.
CHAPTER I I I
Speaks of the first cause of this night, which is that of the privation of the desire in
all things, and gives the reason for which it is called night.
WE here descri be as ni ght the pri vati on of every ki nd of pl easure whi ch bel ongs to
the desi re; for, even as ni ght i s naught but the pri vati on of l i ght, and, consequentl y,
of al l objects that can be seen by means of l i ght, whereby the vi sual facul ty remai ns
unoccupi ed
83
and i n darkness, even so l i kewi se the morti fi cati on of desi re may be
cal l ed ni ght to the soul . For, when the soul i s depri ved of the pl easure of i ts desi re i n
al l thi ngs, i t remai ns, as i t were, unoccupi ed and i n darkness. For even as the vi sual
facul ty, by means of l i ght, i s nouri shed and fed by objects whi ch can be seen, and
whi ch, when the l i ght i s quenched, are not seen, even so, by means of the desi re, the
soul i s nouri shed and fed by al l thi ngs wherei n i t can take pl easure accordi ng to i ts
facul ti es; and, when thi s al so i s quenched, or rather, morti fi ed, the soul ceases to
83
[Lit., 'wi thout anythi ng (sc. to do).']
67
feed upon the pl easure of al l thi ngs, and thus, wi th respect to i ts desi re, i t remai ns
unoccupi ed and i n darkness.
2. Let us take an exampl e from each of the facul ti es. When the soul depri ves
i ts desi re of the pl easure of al l that can del i ght the sense of heari ng, the soul
remai ns unoccupi ed and i n darkness wi th respect to thi s facul ty. And, when i t
depri ves i tsel f of the pl easure of al l that can pl ease the sense of si ght, i t remai ns
unoccupi ed and i n darkness wi th respect to thi s facul ty al so. And, when i t depri ves
i tsel f of the pl easure of al l the sweetness of perfumes whi ch can gi ve i t pl easure
through the sense of smel l , i t remai ns equal l y unoccupi ed and i n darkness accordi ng
to thi s facul ty. And, i f i t al so deni es i tsel f the pl easure of al l food that can sati sfy the
pal ate, the soul l i kewi se remai ns unoccupi ed and i n darkness. And fi nal l y, when the
soul morti fi es i tsel f wi th respect to al l the del i ghts and pl easures that i t can recei ve
from the sense of touch, i t remai ns, i n the same way, unoccupi ed and i n darkness
wi th respect to thi s facul ty. So that the soul that has deni ed and thrust away from
i tsel f the pl easures whi ch come from al l these thi ngs, and has morti fi ed i ts desi re
wi th respect to them, may be sai d to be, as i t were, i n the darkness of ni ght, whi ch
i s naught el se than an empti ness wi thi n i tsel f of al l thi ngs.
3. The reason for thi s i s that, as the phi l osophers say, the soul , as soon as God
i nfuses i t i nto the body, i s l i ke a smooth, bl ank board
84
upon whi ch nothi ng i s
pai nted; and, save for that whi ch i t experi ences through the senses, nothi ng i s
communi cated to i t, i n the course of nature, from any other source. And thus, for as
l ong as i t i s i n the body, i t i s l i ke one who i s i n a dark pri son and who knows
nothi ng, save what he i s abl e to see through the wi ndows of the sai d pri son; and, i f
he saw nothi ng through them, he woul d see nothi ng i n any other way. And thus the
soul , save for that whi ch i s communi cated to i t through the senses, whi ch are the
wi ndows of i ts pri son, coul d acqui re nothi ng, i n the course of nature, i n any other
way.
4. Wherefore, i f the soul rejects and deni es that whi ch i t can recei ve through
the senses, we can qui te wel l say that i t remai ns, as i t were, i n darkness and empty;
si nce, as appears from what has been sai d, no l i ght can enter i t, i n the course of
nature, by any other means of i l l umi nati on than those aforementi oned. For,
al though i t i s true that the soul cannot hel p heari ng and seei ng and smel l i ng and
tasti ng and touchi ng, thi s i s of no greater i mport, nor, i f the soul deni es and rejects
the object, i s i t hi ndered more than i f i t saw i t not, heard i t not, etc. Just so a man
who desi res to shut hi s eyes wi l l remai n i n darkness, l i ke the bl i nd man who has
not the facul ty of si ght. And to thi s purpose Davi d says these words: Pauper sum
ego, et in laboribus a indenture mea.
85
Whi ch si gni fi es: I am poor and i n l abours
from my youth. He cal l s hi msel f poor, al though i t i s cl ear that he was ri ch, because
hi s wi l l was not set upon ri ches, and thus i t was as though he were real l y poor. But
i f he had not been real l y poor and had not been so i n hi s wi l l , he woul d not have
been trul y poor, for hi s soul , as far as i ts desi re was concerned, woul d have been ri ch
and repl ete. For that reason we cal l thi s detachment ni ght to the soul , for we are not
treati ng here of the l ack of thi ngs, si nce thi s i mpl i es no detachment on the part of
the soul i f i t has a desi re for them; but we are treati ng of the detachment from them
of the taste and desi re, for i t i s thi s that l eaves the soul free and voi d of them,
al though i t may have them; for i t i s not the thi ngs of thi s worl d that ei ther occupy
the soul or cause i t harm, si nce they enter i t not, but rather the wi l l and desi re for
them, for i t i s these that dwel l wi thi n i t.
84
['Bl ank board': Sp., tabla rasa; Lat., tabula rasa.]
85
Psal m l xxxvi i , 16 [A.V. l xxxvi i i , 15].
68
5. Thi s fi rst ki nd of ni ght, as we shal l say hereafter, bel ongs to the soul
accordi ng to i ts sensual part, whi ch i s one of the two parts, whereof we spoke above,
through whi ch the soul must pass i n order to attai n to uni on.
6. Let us now say how meet i t i s for the soul to go forth from i ts house i nto
thi s dark ni ght of sense, i n order to travel to uni on wi th God.
CHAPTER I V
Wherein is declared how necessary it is for the soul truly to pass through this dark
night of sense, which is mortification of desire, in order that it may journey to union
with God.
THE reason for whi ch i t i s necessary for the soul , i n order to attai n to Di vi ne uni on
wi th God, to pass through thi s dark ni ght of morti fi cati on of the desi res and deni al
of pl easures i n al l thi ngs, i s because al l the affecti ons whi ch i t has for creatures are
pure darkness i n the eyes of God, and, when the soul i s cl othed i n these affecti ons, i t
has no capaci ty for bei ng enl i ghtened and possessed by the pure and si mpl e l i ght of
God, i f i t fi rst cast them not from i t; for l i ght cannot agree wi th darkness; si nce, as
Sai nt John says: Tenebroe eam non comprehenderunt.
86
That i s: The darkness coul d
not recei ve the l i ght.
2. The reason i s that two contrari es (even as phi l osophy teaches us) cannot
coexi st i n one person; and that darkness, whi ch i s affecti on set upon the creatures,
and l i ght, whi ch i s God, are contrary to each other, and have no l i keness or accord
between one another, even as Sai nt Paul taught the Cori nthi ans, sayi ng: Quoe
conventio luci ad tenebras?
87
That i s to say: What communi on can there be between
l i ght and darkness? Hence i t i s that the l i ght of Di vi ne uni on cannot dwel l i n the
soul i f these affecti ons fi rst fl ee not away from i t.
3. I n order that we may the better prove what has been sai d, i t must be
known that the affecti on and attachment whi ch the soul has for creatures renders
the soul l i ke to these creatures; and, the greater i s i ts affecti on, the cl oser i s the
equal i ty and l i keness between them; for l ove creates a l i keness between that whi ch
l oves and that whi ch i s l oved. For whi ch reason Davi d, speaki ng of those who set
thei r affecti ons upon i dol s, sai d thus: Similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea: et omnes qui
confidunt in eis.
88
Whi ch si gni fi es: Let them that set thei r heart upon them be l i ke
to them. And thus, he that l oves a creature becomes as l ow as that creature, and, i n
some ways, l ower; for l ove not onl y makes the l over equal to the object of hi s l ove,
but even subjects hi m to i t. Hence i n the same way i t comes to pass that the soul
that l oves anythi ng el se becomes i ncapabl e of pure uni on wi th God and
transformati on i n Hi m. For the l ow estate of the creature i s much l ess capabl e of
uni on wi th the hi gh estate of the Creator than i s darkness wi th l i ght. For al l thi ngs
of earth and heaven, compared wi th God, are nothi ng, as Jeremi as says i n these
words: Aspexi terram, et ecce vacua erat, et nihil; et coelos, et non erat lux in eis.
89
'I
behel d the earth,' he says, 'and i t was voi d, and i t was nothi ng; and the heavens,
and saw that they had no l i ght.' I n sayi ng that he behel d the earth voi d, he means
that al l i ts creatures were nothi ng, and that the earth was nothi ng l i kewi se. And, i n
86
St. John i , 5.
87
2 Cori nthi ans vi , 14.
88
Psal m cxi v, 9 [A.V. cxv, 8].
89
Jeremi as i v, 23.
69
sayi ng that he behel d the heavens and saw no l i ght i n them, he says that al l the
l umi nari es of heaven, compared wi th God, are pure darkness. So that i n thi s way al l
the creatures are nothi ng; and thei r affecti ons, we may say, are l ess than nothi ng,
si nce they are an i mpedi ment to transformati on i n God and the pri vati on thereof,
even as darkness i s not onl y nothi ng, but l ess than nothi ng, si nce i t i s pri vati on of
l i ght. And even as he that i s i n darkness comprehends not the l i ght, so the soul that
sets i ts affecti on upon creatures wi l l be unabl e to comprehend God; and, unti l i t be
purged, i t wi l l nei ther be abl e to possess Hi m here bel ow, through pure
transformati on of l ove, nor yonder i n cl ear vi si on. And, for greater cl ari ty, we wi l l
now speak i n greater detai l .
4. Al l the bei ng of creati on, then, compared wi th the i nfi ni te Bei ng of God, i s
nothi ng. And therefore the soul that sets i ts affecti on upon the bei ng of creati on i s
l i kewi se nothi ng i n the eyes of God, and l ess than nothi ng; for, as we have sai d, l ove
makes equal i ty and si mi l i tude, and even sets the l over bel ow the object of hi s l ove.
And therefore such a soul wi l l i n no wi se be abl e to attai n to uni on wi th the i nfi ni te
Bei ng of God; for that whi ch i s not can have no communi on wi th that whi ch i s. And,
comi ng down i n detai l to some exampl es, al l the beauty of the creatures, compared
wi th the i nfi ni te beauty of God, i s the hei ght of deformi ty
90
even as Sol omon says i n
the Proverbs: Fallax gratia, et vana est pulchritudo.
91
'Favour i s decei tful and
beauty i s vai n.' And thus the soul that i s affecti oned to the beauty of any creature i s
the hei ght of deformi ty i n the eyes of God. And therefore thi s soul that i s deformed
wi l l be unabl e to become transformed i n beauty, whi ch i s God, si nce deformi ty
cannot attai n to beauty; and al l the grace and beauty of the creatures, compared
wi th the grace of God, i s the hei ght of mi sery
92
and of uncomel i ness. Wherefore the
soul that i s ravi shed by the graces and beauti es of the creatures has onl y supreme
93
mi sery and unattracti veness i n the eyes of God; and thus i t cannot be capabl e of the
i nfi ni te grace and l ovel i ness of God; for that whi ch has no grace i s far removed from
that whi ch i s i nfi ni tel y graci ous; and al l the goodness of the creatures of the worl d,
i n compari son wi th the i nfi ni te goodness of God, may be descri bed as wi ckedness.
'For there i s naught good, save onl y God.'
94
And therefore the soul that sets i ts heart
upon the good thi ngs of the worl d i s supremel y evi l i n the eyes of God. And, even as
wi ckedness comprehends not goodness, even so such a soul cannot be uni ted wi th
God, Who i s supreme goodness.
5. Al l the wi sdom of the worl d and al l human abi l i ty, compared wi th the
i nfi ni te wi sdom of God, are pure and supreme i gnorance, even as Sai nt Paul wri tes
ad Corinthios, sayi ng: Sapientia hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum.
95
'The
wi sdom of thi s worl d i s fool i shness wi th God.' Wherefore any soul that makes
account of al l i ts knowl edge and abi l i ty i n order to come to uni on wi th the wi sdom of
God i s supremel y i gnorant i n the eyes of God and wi l l remai n far removed from that
wi sdom; for i gnorance knows not what wi sdom i s, even as Sai nt Paul says that thi s
wi sdom seems fool i shness to God; si nce, i n the eyes of God, those who consi der
90
[The words often transl ated 'deformi ty,' 'deformed,' or 'vi l eness,' 'vi l e,' are the ordi nary contrari es
of 'beauty,' 'beauti ful ,' and mi ght be rendered, more l i teral l y but l ess el egantl y, 'ugl i ness,' 'ugl y.']
91
Proverbs xxxi , 30.
92
[For 'grace . . . mi sery' the Spani sh has gracia . . . desgracia. The l atter word, however, does not, as
mi ght be supposed, correspond to Engl i sh 'di sgrace.']
93
E.p. omi ts 'supreme'; the Spani sh word [havi ng a more l i teral l y superl ati ve force than the Engl i sh]
can hardl y be appl i ed, save i n a restri cted sense, to what i s fi ni te.
94
St. Luke xvi i i , 19.
95
1 Cori nthi ans i i i , 19.
70
themsel ves to be persons wi th a certai n amount of knowl edge are very i gnorant, so
that the Apostl e, wri ti ng to the Romans, says of them: Dicentes enim se esse
sapientes, stulti facti sunt. That i s: Professi ng themsel ves to be wi se, they became
fool i sh.
96
And those al one acqui re wi sdom of God who are l i ke i gnorant chi l dren,
and, l ayi ng asi de thei r knowl edge, wal k i n Hi s servi ce wi th l ove. Thi s manner of
wi sdom Sai nt Paul taught l i kewi se ad Corinthios: Si quis videtur inter vos sapiens
esse in hoc soeculo, stultus fiat ut sit sapiens. Sapientia enim hujus mundi stultitia
est apud Deum.
97
That i s: I f any man among you seem to be wi se, l et hi m become
i gnorant that he may be wi se; for the wi sdom of thi s worl d i s fool i shness wi th God.
So that, i n order to come to uni on wi th the wi sdom of God, the soul has to proceed
rather by unknowi ng than by knowi ng; and al l the domi ni on and l i berty of the
worl d, compared wi th the l i berty and domi ni on of the Spi ri t of God, i s the most
abject
98
sl avery, affl i cti on and capti vi ty.
6. Wherefore the soul that i s enamoured of prel acy,
99
or of any other such
offi ce, and l ongs for l i berty of desi re, i s consi dered and treated, i n the si ght of God,
not as a son, but as a base sl ave and capti ve, si nce i t has not been wi l l i ng to accept
Hi s hol y doctri ne, wherei n He teaches us that whoso woul d be greater must be l ess,
and whoso woul d be l ess must be greater. And therefore such a soul wi l l be unabl e
to attai n to that true l i berty of spi ri t whi ch i s attai ned i n Hi s Di vi ne uni on. For
sl avery can have no part wi th l i berty; and l i berty cannot dwel l i n a heart that i s
subject to desi res, for thi s i s the heart of a sl ave; but i t dwel l s i n the free man,
because he has the heart of a son. I t was for thi s cause that Sara bade her husband
Abraham cast out the bondwoman and her son, sayi ng that the son of the
bondwoman shoul d not be hei r wi th the son of the free woman.
100
7. And al l the del i ghts and pl easures of the wi l l i n al l the thi ngs of the worl d,
i n compari son wi th al l those del i ghts whi ch are God, are supreme affl i cti on, torment
and bi tterness. And thus he that sets hi s heart upon them i s consi dered, i n the si ght
of God, as worthy of supreme affl i cti on, torment and bi tterness; and thus he wi l l be
unabl e to attai n to the del i ghts of the embrace of uni on wi th God, si nce he i s worthy
of affl i cti on and bi tterness. Al l the weal th and gl ory of al l creati on, i n compari son
wi th the weal th whi ch i s God, i s supreme poverty and wretchedness. Thus the soul
that l oves and possesses creature weal th i s supremel y poor and wretched i n the
si ght of God, and for that reason wi l l be unabl e to attai n to that weal th and gl ory
whi ch i s the state of transformati on i n God; for that whi ch i s mi serabl e and poor i s
supremel y far removed from that whi ch i s supremel y ri ch and gl ori ous.
8. And therefore Di vi ne Wi sdom, gri evi ng for such as these, who make
themsel ves vi l e, l ow, mi serabl e and poor, because they l ove the thi ngs i n thi s worl d
whi ch seem to them so ri ch and beauti ful , addresses an excl amati on to them i n the
Proverbs, sayi ng: O viri, ad vos clamito, et vox mea ad filios hominum. I ntelligite,
parvuli, astutiam, et insipientes, animadvertite. Audite quia de rebus magnis
locutura sum. And farther on he conti nues: Mecum sunt divitoe, et gloria, opes
superboe et justicia. Melior est fructus meus auro, et lapide pretioso, et genimina mea
argento electo. I n viis justitioe ambulo, in medio semitarum judicii, ut ditem
diligentes me, et thesauros eorum repleam.
101
Whi ch si gni fi es: O ye men, to you I
96
Romans i , 22.
97
1 Cori nthi ans i i i , 18-19.
98
[Lit., 'i s supreme.']
99
[The word i s appl i cabl e to any ki nd of preferenti al posi ti on.]
100
Genesi s xxi , 10.
101
Proverbs vi i i , 4-6, 18-21.
71
cal l , and my voi ce i s to the sons of men. Attend, l i ttl e ones, to subtl ety and sagaci ty;
ye that are fool i sh, take noti ce. Hear, for I have to speak of great thi ngs. Wi th me
are ri ches and gl ory, hi gh ri ches and justi ce. Better i s the frui t that ye wi l l fi nd i n
me than gol d and preci ous stones; and my generati on -- namel y, that whi ch ye wi l l
engender of me i n your soul s -- i s better than choi ce si l ver. I wal k i n the ways of
justi ce, i n the mi dst of the paths of judgment, that I may enri ch those that l ove me
and fi l l thei r treasures perfectl y. -- Herei n Di vi ne Wi sdom speaks to al l those that
set thei r hearts and affecti ons upon anythi ng of the worl d, accordi ng as we have
al ready sai d. And she cal l s them 'l i ttl e ones,' because they make themsel ves l i ke to
that whi ch they l ove, whi ch i s l i ttl e. And therefore she tel l s them to be subtl e and to
take note that she i s treati ng of great thi ngs and not of thi ngs that are l i ttl e l i ke
themsel ves. That the great ri ches and the gl ory that they l ove are wi th her and i n
her, and not where they thi nk. And that hi gh ri ches and justi ce dwel l i n her; for,
al though they thi nk the thi ngs of thi s worl d to be al l thi s, she tel l s them to take
note that her thi ngs are better, sayi ng that the frui t that they wi l l fi nd i n them wi l l
be better for them than gol d and preci ous stones; and that whi ch she engenders i n
soul s i s better than the choi ce si l ver whi ch they l ove; by whi ch i s understood any
ki nd of affecti on that can be possessed i n thi s l i fe.
CHAPTER V
Wherein the aforementioned subject is treated and continued, and it is shown by
passages and figures from Holy Scripture how necessary it is for the soul to journey
to God through this dark night of the mortification of desire in all things.
FROM what has been sai d i t may be seen i n some measure how great a di stance
there i s between al l that the creatures are i n themsel ves and that whi ch God i s i n
Hi msel f, and how soul s that set thei r affecti ons upon any of these creatures are at
as great a di stance as they from God; for, as we have sai d, l ove produces equal i ty
and l i keness. Thi s di stance was cl earl y real i zed by Sai nt Augusti ne, who sai d i n the
Sololoquies, speaki ng wi th God: 'Mi serabl e man that I am, when wi l l my l i ttl eness
and i mperfecti on be abl e to have fel l owshi p wi th Thy upri ghtness? Thou i ndeed art
good, and I am evi l ; Thou art merci ful , and I am i mpi ous; Thou art hol y, I am
mi serabl e; Thou art just, I am unjust; Thou art l i ght, I am bl i nd; Thou, l i fe, I , death;
Thou, medi ci ne, I , si ck; Thou, supreme truth, I , utter vani ty.' Al l thi s i s sai d by thi s
Sai nt.
102
2. Wherefore, i t i s supreme i gnorance for the soul to thi nk that i t wi l l be abl e
to pass to thi s hi gh estate of uni on wi th God i f fi rst i t voi d not the desi re of al l
thi ngs, natural and supernatural , whi ch may hi nder i t, accordi ng as we shal l
expl ai n hereafter;
103
for there i s the greatest possi bl e di stance between these thi ngs
102
Soliloq., chap. i i (Mi gne: Patr. lat., Vol . XL, p. 866).
103
So Al c. The other authori ti es have merel y: 'whi ch may pertai n to i t,' and e.p. adds to thi s:
'through sel f-l ove.' Even when softened by Di ego de Pesús thi s phrase of the Sai nt di d not escape
denunci ati on, and i t was the fi rst of the 'proposi ti ons' condemned i n hi s wri ti ngs (cf. General
I ntroducti on, VI , above). I t was defended by P. Basi l i o Ponce de León i n hi s Reply (p. l x), and more
extensi vel y by P. Ni col ás de Jesús Marí a (Elucidatio, Pt. I I , Chap i , pp. 125-40). I n real i ty, l i ttl e
defence i s needed other than that contai ned i n the l ast chapters of the Ascent of Mount Carmel,
whi ch cl earl y show the harm caused by supernatural favours, when these are abused, to the memory,
the understandi ng and the wi l l . Who, after al l , can doubt that we may abuse 'thi ngs supernatural '
and by such abuse hi nder the soul from attai ni ng uni on wi th God?
72
and that whi ch comes to pass i n thi s estate, whi ch i s naught el se than
transformati on i n God. For thi s reason Our Lord, when showi ng us thi s path, sai d
through Sai nt Luke: Qui non renuntiat omnibus quoe possidet, non potest meus esse
discipulus.
104
Thi s si gni fi es: He that renounces not al l thi ngs that he possesses wi th
hi s wi l l cannot be My di sci pl e. And thi s i s evi dent; for the doctri ne that the Son of
God came to teach was contempt for al l thi ngs, whereby a man mi ght recei ve as a
reward the Spi ri t of God i n hi msel f. For, as l ong as the soul rejects not al l thi ngs, i t
has no capaci ty to recei ve the Spi ri t of God i n pure transformati on.
3. Of thi s we have a fi gure i n Exodus, wherei n we read that God gave not the
chi l dren of I srael the food from Heaven, whi ch was manna, unti l the fl our whi ch
they had brought from Egypt fai l ed them. By thi s i s si gni fi ed that fi rst of al l i t i s
meet to renounce al l thi ngs, for thi s angel s' food i s not fi tti ng for the pal ate that
woul d fi nd del i ght i n the food of men. And not onl y does the soul become i ncapabl e
of recei vi ng the Di vi ne Spi ri t when i t stays and pastures on other strange pl easures,
but those soul s greatl y offend the Di vi ne Majesty who desi re spi ri tual food and are
not content wi th God al one, but desi re rather to i ntermi ngl e desi re and affecti on for
other thi ngs. Thi s can l i kewi se be seen i n the same book of Hol y Scri pture,
105
wherei n i t i s sai d that, not content wi th that si mpl est of food, they desi red and
craved fl eshl y food.
106
And that Our Lord was greatl y wroth that they shoul d desi re
to i ntermi ngl e a food that was so base and so coarse wi th one that was so nobl e
107
and so si mpl e; whi ch, though i t was so, had wi thi n i tsel f the sweetness and
substance of al l foods.
108
Wherefore, whi l e they yet had the morsel s i n thei r mouths,
as Davi d says l i kewi se: I ra Dei descendit super eos.
109
The wrath of God came down
upon them, sendi ng fi re from Heaven and consumi ng many thousands of them; for
God hel d i t an unworthy thi ng that they shoul d have a desi re for other food when
He had gi ven them food from Heaven.
4. Oh, di d spi ri tual persons but know how much good and what great
abundance of spi ri t they l ose through not seeki ng to rai se up thei r desi res above
chi l di sh thi ngs, and how i n thi s si mpl e spi ri tual food they woul d fi nd the sweetness
of al l thi ngs, i f they desi red not to taste those thi ngs! But such food gi ves them no
pl easure, for the reason why the chi l dren of I srael recei ved not the sweetness of al l
foods that was contai ned i n the manna was that they woul d not reserve thei r desi re
for i t al one. So that they fai l ed to fi nd i n the manna al l the sweetness and strength
that they coul d wi sh, not because i t was not contai ned i n the manna, but because
they desi red some other thi ng. Thus he that wi l l l ove some other thi ng together wi th
God of a certai nty makes l i ttl e account of God, for he wei ghs i n the bal ance agai nst
God that whi ch, as we have sai d, i s at the greatest possi bl e di stance from God.
5. I t i s wel l known by experi ence that, when the wi l l of a man i s affecti oned to
one thi ng, he pri zes i t more than any other; al though some other thi ng may be much
better, he takes l ess pl easure i n i t. And i f he wi shes to enjoy both, he i s bound to
wrong the more i mportant, because he makes an equal i ty between them. Wherefore,
si nce there i s naught that equal s God, the soul that l oves some other thi ng together
wi th Hi m, or cl i ngs to i t, does Hi m a gri evous wrong. And i f thi s i s so, what woul d i t
be doi ng i f i t l oved anythi ng more than God?
104
St. Luke xi v, 33.
105
E.p. al ters thi s to: 'i n the same Scri pture.' [I t does not, i n fact, occur i n the same book.]
106
Numbers xi , 4.
107
[Lit., 'so hi gh.']
108
[Wi sdom xvi , 20.]
109
Psal m l xxvi i , 31 [A.V. l xxvi i i , 31].
73
6. I t i s thi s, too, that was denoted by the command of God to Moses that he
shoul d ascend the Mount to speak wi th Hi m: He commanded hi m not onl y to ascend
i t al one, l eavi ng the chi l dren of I srael bel ow, but not even to al l ow the beasts to feed
over agai nst the Mount.
110
By thi s He si gni fi ed that the soul that i s to ascend thi s
mount of perfecti on, to commune wi th God, must not onl y renounce al l thi ngs and
l eave them bel ow, but must not even al l ow the desi res, whi ch are the beasts, to
pasture over agai nst thi s mount -- that i s, upon other thi ngs whi ch are not purel y
God, i n Whom -- that i s, i n the state of perfecti on -- every desi re ceases. So he that
journeys on the road and makes the ascent to God must needs be habi tual l y careful
to quel l and morti fy the desi res; and the greater the speed wherewi th a soul does
thi s, the sooner wi l l i t reach the end of i ts journey. Unti l these be quel l ed, i t cannot
reach the end, however much i t practi se the vi rtues, si nce i t i s unabl e to attai n to
perfecti on i n them; for thi s perfecti on consi sts i n voi di ng and stri ppi ng and
puri fyi ng the soul of every desi re. Of thi s we have another very stri ki ng fi gure i n
Genesi s, where we read that, when the patri arch Jacob desi red to ascend Mount
Bethel , i n order to bui l d an al tar there to God whereon he shoul d offer Hi m
sacri fi ce, he fi rst commanded al l hi s peopl e to do three thi ngs: one was that they
shoul d cast away from them al l strange gods; the second, that they shoul d puri fy
themsel ves; the thi rd, that they shoul d change thei r garments.
111
7. By these three thi ngs i t i s si gni fi ed that any soul that wi l l ascend thi s
mount i n order to make of i tsel f an al tar whereon i t may offer to God the sacri fi ce of
pure l ove and prai se and pure reverence, must, before ascendi ng to the summi t of
the mount, have done these three thi ngs aforementi oned perfectl y. Fi rst, i t must
cast away al l strange gods -- namel y, al l strange affecti ons and attachments;
secondl y, i t must puri fy i tsel f of the remnants whi ch the desi res aforementi oned
have l eft i n the soul , by means of the dark ni ght of sense whereof we are speaki ng,
habi tual l y denyi ng them and repenti ng i tsel f of them; and thi rdl y, i n order to reach
the summi t of thi s hi gh mount, i t must have changed i ts garments, whi ch, through
i ts observance of the fi rst two thi ngs, God wi l l change for i t, from ol d to new, by
gi vi ng i t a new understandi ng of God i n God, the ol d human understandi ng bei ng
cast asi de; and a new l ove of God i n God, the wi l l bei ng now stri pped of al l i ts ol d
desi res and human pl easures, and the soul bei ng brought i nto a new state of
knowl edge and profound del i ght, al l other ol d i mages and forms of knowl edge
havi ng been cast away, and al l that bel ongs to the ol d man, whi ch i s the apti tude of
the natural sel f, quel l ed, and the soul cl othed wi th a new supernatural apti tude
wi th respect to al l i ts facul ti es. So that i ts operati on, whi ch before was human, has
become Di vi ne, whi ch i s that that i s attai ned i n the state of uni on, wherei n the soul
becomes naught el se than an al tar whereon God i s adored i n prai se and l ove, and
God al one i s upon i t. For thi s cause God commanded that the al tar whereon the Ark
of the Covenant was to be l ai d shoul d be hol l ow wi thi n;
112
so that the soul may
understand how compl etel y empty of al l thi ngs God desi res i t to be, that i t may be
an al tar worthy of the presence of Hi s Majesty. On thi s al tar i t was l i kewi se
forbi dden that there shoul d be any strange fi re, or that i ts own fi re shoul d ever fai l ;
and so essenti al was thi s that, because Nadab and Abi u, who were the sons of the
Hi gh Pri est Aaron, offered strange fi re upon Hi s Al tar, Our Lord was wroth and
sl ew them there before the al tar.
113
By thi s we are to understand that the l ove of
110
[Exodus xxxi v, 2-3.] E.p.: 'wi thi n si ght of the Mount.' A, B: 'near the Mount.'
111
Gen. xxxv, 2.
112
Exodus xxvi i , 8.
113
Levi ti cus x, 1-2.
74
God must never fai l i n the soul , so that the soul may be a worthy al tar, and so that
no other l ove must be mi ngl ed wi th i t.
8. God permi ts not that any other thi ng shoul d dwel l together wi th Hi m.
Wherefore we read i n the Fi rst Book the Ki ngs that, when the Phi l i sti nes put the
Ark of the Covenant i nto the templ e where thei r i dol was, the i dol was cast down
upon the ground at the dawn of each day, and broken to pi eces.
114
And He permi ts
and wi l l s that there shoul d be onl y one desi re where He i s, whi ch i s to keep the l aw
of God perfectl y, and to bear upon onesel f the Cross of Chri st. And thus naught el se
i s sai d i n the Di vi ne Scri pture to have been commanded by God to be put i n the Ark,
where the manna was, save the book of the Law,
115
and the rod Moses,
116
whi ch
si gni fi es the Cross. For the soul that aspi res naught el se than the keepi ng of the l aw
of the Lord perfectl y and the beari ng of the Cross of Chri st wi l l be a true Ark,
contai ni ng wi thi n i tsel f the true manna, whi ch i s God, when that soul attai ns to a
perfect possessi on wi thi n i tsel f of thi s l aw and thi s rod, wi thout any other thi ng
soever.
CHAPTER VI
Wherein are treated two serious evils caused in the soul by the desires, the one evil
being privative and the other positive.
I N order that what we have sai d may be the more cl earl y and ful l y understood, i t
wi l l be wel l to set down here and state how these desi res are the cause of two
seri ous evi l s i n the soul : the one i s that they depri ve i t of the Spi ri t of God, and the
other i s that the soul wherei n they dwel l i s weari ed, tormented, darkened, defi l ed
and weakened, accordi ng to that whi ch i s sai d i n Jeremi as, Chapter I I : Duo mala
fecit Populus meus: dereliquerunt fontem aquoe vivoe, et foderunt sibi cisternas,
dissipatas, quoe continere non valent aquas. Whi ch si gni fi es: They have forsaken
Me, Who am the fountai n of l i vi ng water, and they have hewed them out broken
ci sterns, that can hol d no water.
117
Those two evi l s -- namel y, the pri vati ve and the
posi ti ve -- may be caused by any di sordered act of the desi re. And, speaki ng fi rst of
al l , of the pri vati ve, i t i s cl ear from the very fact that the soul becomes affecti oned to
a thi ng whi ch comes under the head of creature, that the more the desi re for that
thi ng fi l l s the soul ,
118
the l ess capaci ty has the soul for God; i nasmuch as two
contrari es, accordi ng to the phi l osophers, cannot coexi st i n one person; and further,
si nce, as we sai d i n the fourth chapter, affecti on for God and affecti on for creatures
are contrari es, there cannot be contai ned wi thi n one wi l l affecti on for creatures and
affecti on for God. For what has the creature to do wi th the Creator? What has
sensual to do wi th spi ri tual ? Vi si bl e wi th i nvi si bl e? Temporal wi th eternal ? Food
that i s heavenl y, spi ri tual and pure wi th food that i s of sense al one and i s purel y
sensual ? Chri stl i ke poverty of spi ri t wi th attachment to aught soever?
2. Wherefore, as i n natural generati on no form can be i ntroduced unl ess the
precedi ng, contrary form i s fi rst expel l ed from the subject, whi ch form, whi l e
present, i s an i mpedi ment to the other by reason of the contrari ety whi ch the two
114
1 Ki ngs [A.V., I Samuel ] v, 3-5.
115
Deut. xxxi , 26.
116
Numbers xvi i , 10. [More properl y, 'the rod of Aaron.']
117
Jeremi as i i , 13.
118
[Lit., 'the greater the bul k that that desi re has i n the soul .']
75
have between each other; even so, for as l ong as the soul i s subjected to the sensual
spi ri t, the spi ri t whi ch i s pure and spi ri tual cannot enter i t. Wherefore our Savi our
sai d through Sai nt Matthew: Non est bonum sumere panem filiorum, et mittere
canibus.
119
That i s: I t i s not meet to take the chi l dren's bread and to cast i t to the
dogs. And el sewhere, too, he says through the same Evangel i st: Nolite sanctum dare
canibus.
120
Whi ch si gni fi es: Gi ve not that whi ch i s hol y to the dogs. I n these
passages Our Lord compares those who renounce thei r creature-desi res, and
prepare themsel ves to recei ve the Spi ri t of God i n puri ty, to the chi l dren of God; and
those who woul d have thei r desi re feed upon the creatures, to dogs. For i t i s gi ven to
chi l dren to eat wi th thei r father at tabl e and from hi s di sh, whi ch i s to feed upon
Hi s Spi ri t, and to dogs are gi ven the crumbs whi ch fal l from the tabl e.
3. From thi s we are to l earn that al l created thi ngs are crumbs that have
fal l en from the tabl e of God. Wherefore he that feeds ever upon
121
the creatures i s
ri ghtl y cal l ed a dog, and therefore the bread i s taken from the chi l dren, because
they desi re not to ri se above feedi ng upon the crumbs, whi ch are created thi ngs, to
the Uncreated Spi ri t of thei r Father. Therefore, l i ke dogs, they are ever hungeri ng,
and justl y so, because the crumbs serve to whet thei r appeti te rather than to sati sfy
thei r hunger. And thus Davi d says of them: Famem patientur ut canes, et circuibunt
civitatem. Si vero non fuerint saturati, et murmurabunt.
122
Whi ch si gni fi es: They
shal l suffer hunger l i ke dogs and shal l go round about the ci ty, and, i f they fi nd not
enough to fi l l them, they shal l murmur. For thi s i s the nature of one that has
desi res, that he i s ever di scontented and di ssati sfi ed, l i ke one that suffers hunger;
for what has the hunger whi ch al l the creatures suffer to do wi th the ful l ness whi ch
i s caused by the Spi ri t of God? Wherefore thi s ful l ness that i s uncreated cannot
enter the soul , i f there be not fi rst cast out that other created hunger whi ch bel ongs
to the desi re of the soul ; for, as we have sai d two contrari es cannot dwel l i n one
person, the whi ch contrari es i n thi s case are hunger and ful l ness.
4. From what has been sai d i t wi l l be seen how much greater i s the work of
God
123
i n the cl eansi ng and the purgi ng of a soul from these contrari eti es than i n
the creati ng of that soul from nothi ng. For thee contrari eti es, these contrary desi res
and affecti ons, are more compl etel y opposed to God and offer Hi m greater resi stance
than does nothi ngness; for nothi ngness resi sts not at al l . And l et thi s suffi ce wi th
respect to the fi rst of the i mportant evi l s whi ch are i nfl i cted upon the soul by the
desi res -- namel y, resi stance to the Spi ri t of God -- si nce much has been sai d of thi s
above.
5. Let us now speak of the second effect whi ch they cause i n the soul . Thi s i s
of many ki nds, because the desi res weary the soul and torment and darken i t, and
defi l e i t and weaken i t. Of these fi ve thi ngs we shal l speak separatel y, i n thei r turn.
6. Wi th regard to the fi rst, i t i s cl ear that the desi res weary and fati gue the
soul ; for they are l i ke restl ess and di scontented chi l dren, who are ever demandi ng
thi s or that from thei r mother, and are never contented. And even as one that di gs
because he covets a treasure i s weari ed and fati gued, even so i s the soul weary and
fati gued i n order to attai n that whi ch i ts desi res demand of i t; and al though i n the
end i t may attai n i t, i t i s sti l l weary, because i t i s never sati sfi ed; for, after al l , the
ci sterns whi ch i t i s di ggi ng are broken, and cannot hol d water to sati sfy thi rst. And
119
St. Matthew xv, 26.
120
St. Matthew vi i , 6.
121
[Lit., 'he that goes feedi ng upon.']
122
Psal m l vi i i , 15-16 [A.V., l i x, 14-15].
123
[Lit., 'how much more God does.']
76
thus, as I sai as says: Lassus adhuc sitit, et anima ejus vacua est.
124
Whi ch si gni fi es:
Hi s desi re i s empty. And the soul that has desi res i s weari ed and fati gued; for i t i s
l i ke a man that i s si ck of a fever, who fi nds hi msel f no better unti l the fever l eaves
hi m, and whose thi rst i ncreases wi th every moment. For, as i s sai d i n the Book of
Job: Cum satiatus fuerit, arctabitur, oestuabit, et omnis dolor irruet super eum.
125
Whi ch si gni fi es: When he has sati sfi ed hi s desi re, he wi l l be the more oppressed and
strai tened; the heat of desi re hath i ncreased i n hi s soul and thus every sorrow wi l l
fal l upon hi m. The soul i s weari ed and fati gued by i ts desi res, because i t i s wounded
and moved and di sturbed by them as i s water by the wi nds; i n just the same way
they di sturb i t, al l owi ng i t not to rest i n any pl ace or i n any thi ng soever. And of
such a soul says I sai as: Cor impii quasi mare fervens.
126
'The heart of the wi cked
man i s l i ke the sea when i t rages.' And he i s a wi cked man that conquers not hi s
desi res. The soul that woul d fai n sati sfy i ts desi res grows weari ed and fati gued; for
i t i s l i ke one that, bei ng an hungered, opens hi s mouth that he may sate hi msel f
wi th wi nd, whereupon, i nstead of bei ng sati sfi ed, hi s cravi ng becomes greater, for
the wi nd i s no food for hi m. To thi s purpose sai d Jeremi as: I n desiderio animoe sum
attraxit ventum amoris sui.
127
As though he were to say: I n the desi re of hi s wi l l he
snuffed up the wi nd of hi s affecti on. And he then tri es to descri be the ari di ty
wherei n such a soul remai ns, and warns i t, sayi ng: Prohibe pedem tuum a nuditate,
et guttur tuum a siti.
128
Whi ch si gni fi es: Keep thy foot (that i s, thy thought) from
bei ng bare and thy throat from thi rst (that i s to say, thy wi l l from the i ndul gence of
the desi re whi ch causes greater dryness); and, even as the l over i s weari ed and
fati gued upon the day of hi s hopes, when hi s attempt has proved to be vai n, so the
soul i s weari ed and fati gued by al l i ts desi res and by i ndul gence i n them, si nce they
al l cause i t greater empti ness and hunger; for, as i s often sai d, desi re i s l i ke the fi re,
whi ch i ncreases as wood i s thrown upon i t, and whi ch, when i t has consumed the
wood, must needs di e.
7. And i n thi s regard i t i s sti l l worse wi th desi re; for the fi re goes down when
the wood i s consumed, but desi re, though i t i ncreases when fuel i s added to i t,
decreases not correspondi ngl y when the fuel i s consumed; on the contrary, i nstead
of goi ng down, as does the fi re when i ts fuel i s consumed, i t grows weak through
weari ness, for i ts hunger i s i ncreased and i ts food di mi ni shed. And of thi s I sai as
speaks, sayi ng: Declinabit ad dexteram, et esuriet: et comedet ad sinistram, et non
saturabitur.
129
Thi s si gni fi es: He shal l turn to the ri ght hand, and shal l be hungry;
and he shal l eat on the l eft hand, and shal l not be fi l l ed. For they that morti fy not
thei r desi res, when they 'turn,' justl y see the ful l ness of the sweetness of spi ri t of
those who are at the ri ght hand of God, whi ch ful l ness i s not granted to themsel ves;
and justl y, too, when they eat on the l eft hand,
130
by whi ch i s meant the sati sfacti on
of thei r desi re wi th some creature comfort, they are not fi l l ed, for, l eavi ng asi de that
124
I sai as xxi x, 8. The edi ti ons suppl y the transl ati on of the fi rst part of the Lati n text, whi ch the
Sai nt and the Codi ces omi tted: 'After bei ng weari ed and fati gued, he yet thi rsteth,' etc.
125
Job xx, 22.
126
I sai as l vi i , 20.
127
Jeremi as i i , 24.
128
Jeremi as i i , 25.
129
I sai as i x, 20.
130
Thus Al c. [wi th 'run' for 'eat']. A, B, e.p. read: '. . . when they turn from the way of God (whi ch i s
the ri ght hand) are justl y hungered, for they meri t not the ful l ness of the sweetness of spi ri t. And
justl y, too, when they eat on the l eft hand,' etc. [Whi l e agreei ng wi th P. Si l veri o that Al c. gi ves the
better readi ng, I prefer 'eat' to 'run': i t i s nearer the Scri ptural passage and the two Spani sh words,
comen and corren, coul d easi l y be confused i n MS.]
77
whi ch al one can sati sfy, they feed on that whi ch causes them greater hunger. I t i s
cl ear, then, that the desi res weary and fati gue the soul .
CHAPTER VI I
Wherein is shown how the desires torment the soul. This is proved likewise by
comparison and quotations.
THE second ki nd of posi ti ve evi l whi ch the desi res cause the soul i s i n thei r
tormenti ng and affl i cti ng of i t, after the manner of one who i s i n torment through
bei ng bound wi th cords from whi ch he has no rel i ef unti l he be freed. And of these
Davi d says: Funes peccatorum circumplexi sunt me.
131
The cords of my si ns, whi ch
are my desi res, have constrai ned me round about. And, even as one that l i es naked
upon thorns and bri ars i s tormented and affl i cted, even so i s the soul tormented and
affl i cted when i t rests upon i ts desi res. For they take hol d upon i t and di stress i t
and cause i t pai n, even as do thorns. Of these Davi d says l i kewi se: Circumdederunt
me sicut apes: et exarserunt sicut ignis in spinis.
132
Whi ch si gni fi es: They compassed
me about l i ke bees, woundi ng me wi th thei r sti ngs, and they were enki ndl ed agai nst
me, l i ke fi re among thorns; for i n the desi res, whi ch are the thorns, i ncreases the
fi re of angui sh and torment. And even as the husbandman, coveti ng the harvest for
whi ch he hopes, affl i cts and torments the ox i n the pl ough, even so does
concupi scence affl i ct a soul that i s subject to i ts desi re to attai n that for whi ch i t
l ongs. Thi s can be cl earl y seen i n that desi re whi ch Dal i l a had to know whence
Samson deri ved hi s strength that was so great, for the Scri pture says that i t
fati gued and tormented her so much that i t caused her to swoon, al most to the poi nt
of death, and she sai d: Defecit anima ejus, et ad mortem usque lassata est.
133
2. The more i ntense i s the desi re, the greater i s the torment whi ch i t causes
the soul . So that the torment i ncreases wi th the desi re; and the greater are the
desi res whi ch possess the soul , the greater are i ts torments; for i n such a soul i s
ful fi l l ed, even i n thi s l i fe, that whi ch i s sai d i n the Apocal ypse concerni ng Babyl on,
i n these words: Quantum glorificavit se, et in deliciis fuit, tantum date illi
tormentum, et luctum.
134
That i s: As much as she has wi shed to exal t and ful fi l her
desi res, so much gi ve ye to her torment and angui sh. And even as one that fal l s i nto
the hands of hi s enemi es i s tormented and affl i cted, even so i s the soul tormented
and affl i cted that i s l ed away by i ts desi res. Of thi s there i s a fi gure i n the Book of
the Judges, wherei n i t may be read that that strong man, Samson, who at one ti me
was strong and free and a judge of I srael , fel l i nto the power of hi s enemi es, and
they took hi s strength from hi m, and put out hi s eyes, and bound hi m i n a mi l l , to
gri nd corn,
135
wherei n they tormented and affl i cted hi m greatl y;
136
and thus i t
happens to the soul i n whi ch these i ts enemi es, the desi res, l i ve and rul e; for the
fi rst thi ng that they do i s to weaken the soul and bl i nd i t, as we shal l say bel ow; and
then they affl i ct and torment i t, bi ndi ng i t to the mi l l of concupi scence; and the
bonds wi th whi ch i t i s bound are i ts own desi res.
131
Psal m cxvi i i , 61 [A.V., cxi x, 61].
132
Psal m cxvi i , 12 [A.V., cxvi i i , 12].
133
Judges xvi , 16. [Actual l y i t was Samson, not Dal i l a, who was 'weari ed even unti l death.']
134
Apocal ypse xvi i i , 7.
135
[Lit., 'bound hi m to gri nd i n a mi l l .']
136
Judges xvi , 21.
78
3. Wherefore God, havi ng compassi on on these that wi th such great l abour,
and at such cost to themsel ves, go about endeavouri ng to sati sfy the hunger and
thi rst of thei r desi re i n the creatures, says to them through I sai as: Omnes sitientes,
venite ad aquas; et qui non habetis argentum, properate, emite, el comedite: venite,
emite absque argento vinum et lac. Quare appenditis argentum non in panibus, et
laborem vestrum non in saturitate?
137
As though He were to say: Al l ye that have
thi rst of desi re, come to the waters, and al l ye that have no si l ver of your own wi l l
and desi res, make haste; buy from Me and eat; come and buy from Me wi ne and
mi l k (that i s, spi ri tual sweetness and peace) wi thout the si l ver of your own wi l l , and
wi thout gi vi ng Me any l abour i n exchange for i t, as ye gi ve for your desi res.
Wherefore do ye gi ve the si l ver of your wi l l for that whi ch i s not bread -- namel y,
that of the Di vi ne Spi ri t -- and set the l abour of your desi res upon that whi ch cannot
sati sfy you? Come, hearkeni ng to Me, and ye shal l eat the good that ye desi re and
your soul shal l del i ght i tsel f i n fatness.
4. Thi s attai ni ng to fatness i s a goi ng forth from al l pl easures of the
creatures; for the creatures torment, but the Spi ri t of God refreshes. And thus He
cal l s us through Sai nt Matthew, sayi ng: Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati
estis, et ego reficiam vos, et invenietis requiem animabus vestris.
138
As though He
were to say: Al l ye that go about tormented, affl i cted and burdened wi th the burden
of your cares and desi res, go forth from them, come to Me, and I wi l l refresh you and
ye shal l fi nd for your soul s the rest whi ch your desi res take from you, wherefore
they are a heavy burden, for Davi d says of them: Sicut onus grave gravatoe sunt
super me.
139
CHAPTER VI I I
Wherein is shown how the desires darken and blind the soul.
THE thi rd evi l that the desi res cause i n the soul i s that they bl i nd and darken i t.
Even as vapours darken the ai r and al l ow not the bri ght sun to shi ne; or as a mi rror
that i s cl ouded over cannot recei ve wi thi n i tsel f a cl ear i mage; or as water defi l ed by
mud refl ects not the vi sage of one that l ooks therei n; even so the soul that i s cl ouded
by the desi res i s darkened i n the understandi ng and al l ows nei ther
140
the sun of
natural reason nor that of the supernatural Wi sdom of God to shi ne upon i t and
i l l umi ne i t cl earl y. And thus Davi d, speaki ng to thi s purpose, says:
Comprehenderunt me iniquitates meoe, et non potui, ut viderem.
141
Whi ch si gni fi es:
Mi ne i ni qui ti es have taken hol d upon me, and I coul d have no power to see.
2. And, at thi s same ti me, when the soul i s darkened i n the understandi ng, i t
i s benumbed al so i n the wi l l , and the memory becomes dul l and di sordered i n i ts
due operati on. For, as these facul ti es i n thei r operati ons depend upon the
understandi ng, i t i s cl ear that, when the understandi ng i s i mpeded, they wi l l
become di sordered and troubl ed. And thus Davi d says: Anima mea turbata est
valde.
142
That i s: My soul i s sorel y troubl ed. Whi ch i s as much as to say, 'di sordered
137
I sai as l v, 1-2.
138
St. Matthew xi , 28-9.
139
Psal m xxxvi i , 5 [A.V., xxxvi i i , 4].
140
[Lit., 'gi ves no occasi on ei ther for,' etc.]
141
Psal m xxxi x, 13 [A.V., xl , 12.]
142
Psal m vi , 4 [A.V., vi , 3].
79
i n i ts facul ti es.' For, as we say, the understandi ng has no more capaci ty for
recei vi ng enl i ghtenment from the wi sdom of God than has the ai r, when i t i s dark,
for recei vi ng enl i ghtenment from the sun; nei ther has the wi l l any power to embrace
God wi thi n i tsel f i n pure l ove, even as the mi rror that i s cl ouded wi th vapour has no
power to refl ect cl earl y wi thi n i tsel f any vi sage,
143
and even l ess power has the
memory whi ch i s cl ouded by the darkness of desi re to take cl earl y upon i tsel f the
form of the i mage of God, just as the muddl ed water cannot show forth cl earl y the
vi sage of one that l ooks at hi msel f therei n.
3. Desi re bl i nds and darkens the soul ; for desi re, as such, i s bl i nd, si nce of
i tsel f i t has no understandi ng i n i tsel f, the reason bei ng to i t al ways, as i t were, a
chi l d l eadi ng a bl i nd man. And hence i t comes to pass that, whensoever the soul i s
gui ded by i ts desi re, i t becomes bl i nd; for thi s i s as i f one that sees were gui ded by
one that sees not, whi ch i s, as i t were, for both to be bl i nd. And that whi ch fol l ows
from thi s i s that whi ch Our Lord says through Sai nt Matthew: Si coecus coeco
ducatum proestet, ambo in foveam cadunt.
144
'I f the bl i nd l ead the bl i nd, both fal l
i nto the pi t.' Of l i ttl e use are i ts eyes to a moth, si nce desi re for the beauty of the
l i ght dazzl es i t and l eads i t i nto the fl ame.
145
And even so we may say that one who
feeds upon desi re i s l i ke a fi sh that i s dazzl ed, upon whi ch the l i ght acts rather as
darkness, preventi ng i t from seei ng the snares whi ch the fi shermen are prepari ng
for i t. Thi s i s very wel l expressed by Davi d hi msel f, where he says of such persons:
Supercecidit ignis, et non viderunt solem.
146
Whi ch si gni fi es: There came upon them
the fi re, whi ch burns wi th i ts heat and dazzl es wi th i ts l i ght. And i t i s thi s that
desi re does to the soul , enki ndl i ng i ts concupi scence and dazzl i ng i ts understandi ng
so that i t cannot see i ts l i ght. For the cause of i ts bei ng thus dazzl ed i s that when
another l i ght of a di fferent ki nd i s set before the eye, the vi sual facul ty i s attracted
by that whi ch i s i nterposed so that i t sees not the other; and, as the desi re i s set so
near to the soul as to be wi thi n the soul i tsel f, the soul meets thi s fi rst l i ght and i s
attracted by i t; and thus i t i s unabl e to see the l i ght of cl ear understandi ng, nei ther
wi l l see i t unti l the dazzl i ng power of desi re i s taken away from i t.
4. For thi s reason one must greatl y l ament the i gnorance of certai n men, who
burden themsel ves wi th extraordi nary penances and wi th many other vol untary
practi ces, and thi nk that thi s practi ce or that wi l l suffi ce to bri ng them to the uni on
of Di vi ne Wi sdom; but such wi l l not be the case i f they endeavour not di l i gentl y to
morti fy thei r desi res. I f they were careful to bestow hal f of that l abour on thi s, they
woul d profi t more i n a month than they profi t by al l the other practi ces i n many
years. For, just as i t i s necessary to ti l l the earth i f i t i s to bear frui t, and unl ess i t
be ti l l ed i t bears naught but weeds, just so i s morti fi cati on of the desi res necessary
i f the soul i s to profi t. Wi thout thi s morti fi cati on, I make bol d to say, the soul no
more achi eves progress on the road to perfecti on and to the knowl edge of God of
i tsel f, however many efforts i t may make, than the seed grows when i t i s cast upon
unti l l ed ground. Wherefore the darkness and rudeness of the soul wi l l not be taken
from i t unti l the desi res be quenched. For these desi res are l i ke cataracts, or l i ke
motes i n the eye, whi ch obstruct the si ght unti l they be taken away.
5. And thus Davi d, real i zi ng how bl i nd are these soul s, and how compl etel y
i mpeded from behol di ng the l i ght of truth, and how wroth i s God wi th them, speaks
to them, sayi ng: Priusquam intelligerent spinoe vestroe rhamnum: sicut viventes, sic
143
[Lit., 'the present vi sage.']
144
St. Matthew xv, 14.
145
[hoguera. More exactl y: 'fi re,' 'bonfi re,' 'bl aze.']
146
Psal m l vi i , 9 [cf. A.V., l vi i i , 8].
80
in ira absorber eos.
147
And thi s i s as though He had sai d: Before your thorns (that
i s, your desi res) harden and grow, changi ng from tender thorns i nto a thi ck hedge
and shutti ng out the si ght of God even as oft-ti mes the l i vi ng fi nd thei r thread of l i fe
broken i n the mi dst of i ts course, even so wi l l God swal l ow them up i n Hi s wrath.
For the desi res that are l i vi ng i n the soul , so that i t cannot understand Hi m,
148
wi l l
be swal l owed up by God by means of chasti sement and correcti on, ei ther i n thi s l i fe
or i n the next, and thi s wi l l come to pass through purgati on. And He says that He
wi l l swal l ow them up i n wrath, because that whi ch i s suffered i n the morti fi cati on of
the desi res i s puni shment for the rui n whi ch they have wrought i n the soul .
6. Oh, i f men but knew how great i s the bl essi ng of Di vi ne l i ght whereof they
are depri ved by thi s bl i ndness whi ch proceeds from thei r affecti ons and desi res, and
i nto what great hurts and evi l s these make them to fal l day after day, for so l ong as
they morti fy them not! For a man must not rel y upon a cl ear understandi ng, or
upon gi fts that he has recei ved from God, and thi nk that he may i ndul ge hi s
affecti on or desi re, and wi l l not be bl i nded and darkened, and fal l gradual l y i nto a
worse estate. For who woul d have sai d that a man so perfect i n wi sdom and the gi fts
of God as was Sol omon woul d have been reduced to such bl i ndness and torpor of the
wi l l as to make al tars to so many i dol s and to worshi p them hi msel f, when he was
ol d?
149
Yet no more was needed to bri ng hi m to thi s than the affecti on whi ch he had
for women and hi s negl ect to deny the desi res and del i ghts of hi s heart. For he
hi msel f says concerni ng hi msel f, i n Eccl esi astes, that he deni ed not hi s heart that
whi ch i t demanded of hi m.
150
And thi s man was capabl e of bei ng so compl etel y l ed
away by hi s desi res that, al though i t i s true that at the begi nni ng he was cauti ous,
neverthel ess, because he deni ed them not, they gradual l y bl i nded and darkened hi s
understandi ng, so that i n the end they succeeded i n quenchi ng that great l i ght of
wi sdom whi ch God had gi ven hi m, and therefore i n hi s ol d age he foresook God.
7. And i f unmorti fi ed desi res coul d do so much i n thi s man who knew so wel l
the di stance that l i es between good and evi l , what wi l l they not be capabl e of
accompl i shi ng by worki ng upon our i gnorance? For we, as God sai d to the prophet
Jonas concerni ng the Ni ni vi tes, cannot di scern between
151
our ri ght hand and our
l eft.
152
At every step we hol d evi l to be good, and good, evi l , and thi s ari ses from our
own nature. What, then, wi l l come to pass i f to our natural darkness i s added the
hi ndrance of desi re?
153
Naught but that whi ch I sai as descri bes thus: Palpavimus,
sicut coeci parietem, et quasi absque oculis attreetavimus: impegimus meridie, quasi
in tenebris.
154
The prophet i s speaki ng wi th those who l ove to fol l ow these thei r
desi res. I t i s as i f he had sai d: We have groped for the wal l as though we were bl i nd,
and we have been gropi ng as though we had no eyes, and our bl i ndness has attai ned
to such a poi nt that we have stumbl ed at mi dday as though i t were i n the darkness.
For he that i s bl i nded by desi re has thi s property, that, when he i s set i n the mi dst
of truth and of that whi ch i s good for hi m, he can no more see them than i f he were
i n darkness.
147
Psal m l vi i , 10 [A.V., l vi i i , 9].
148
[Lit., 'before i t can understand God.']
149
3 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Ki ngs] xi , 4.
150
Eccl esi astes i i , 10.
151
[Lit., 'we ... know not what there i s between.']
152
Jonas i v, 11.
153
[Lit., ‘i s added desi re.’]
154
I sai as l i x, 10.
81
CHAPTER I X
Wherein is described how the desires defile the soul. This is proved by comparisons
and quotations from Holy Scripture.
THE fourth evi l whi ch the desi res cause i n the soul i s that they stai n and defi l e i t,
as i s taught i n Eccl esi asti cus, i n these words: Qui tetigerit picem, inquinabitur ab
ea.
155
Thi s si gni fi es: He that toucheth pi tch shal l be defi l ed wi th i t. And a man
touches pi tch when he al l ows the desi re of hi s wi l l to be sati sfi ed by any creature.
Here i t i s to be noted that the Wi se Man compares the creatures to pi tch; for there i s
more di fference between excel l ence of soul and the best of the creatures
156
than
there i s between pure di amond,
157
or fi ne gol d, and pi tch. And just as gol d or
di amond, i f i t were heated and pl aced upon pi tch, woul d become foul and be stai ned
by i t, i nasmuch as the heat woul d have cajol ed and al l ured the pi tch, even so the
soul that i s hot wi th desi re for any creature draws forth foul ness from i t through the
heat of i ts desi re and i s stai ned by i t. And there i s more di fference between the soul
and other corporeal creatures than between a l i qui d that i s hi ghl y cl ari fi ed and mud
that i s most foul . Wherefore, even as such a l i qui d woul d be defi l ed i f i t were
mi ngl ed wi th mud, so i s the soul defi l ed that cl i ngs to creatures, si nce by doi ng thi s
i t becomes l i ke to the sai d creatures. And i n the same way that traces of soot woul d
defi l e a face that i s very l ovel y and perfect, even i n thi s way do di sordered desi res
befoul and defi l e the soul that has them, the whi ch soul i s i n i tsel f a most l ovel y and
perfect i mage of God.
2. Wherefore Jeremi as, l amenti ng the ravages of foul ness whi ch these
di sordered affecti ons cause i n the soul , speaks fi rst of i ts beauty, and then of i ts
foul ness, sayi ng: Candidiores sunt Nazaroei ejus nive, nitidiores lacte, rubicundiores
ebore antiquo, sapphiro pulchriores. Denigrata est super carbones facies eorum, et
non sunt cogniti in plateis.
158
Whi ch si gni fi es: I ts hai r -- that i s to say, that of the
soul -- i s more excel l ent i n whi teness than the snow, cl earer
159
than mi l k, and
ruddi er than ol d i vory, and l ovel i er than the sapphi re stone. Thei r face has now
become bl acker than coal and they are not known i n the streets.
160
By the hai r we
here understand the affecti ons and thoughts of the soul , whi ch, ordered as God
orders them -- that i s, i n God Hi msel f -- are whi ter than snow, and cl earer
161
than
mi l k, and ruddi er than i vory, and l ovel i er than the sapphi re. By these four thi ngs i s
understood every ki nd of beauty and excel l ence of corporeal creatures, hi gher than
whi ch, says the wri ter, are the soul and i ts operati ons, whi ch are the Nazari tes or
the hai r aforementi oned; the whi ch Nazari tes, bei ng unrul y,
162
wi th thei r l i ves
ordered i n a way that God ordered not -- that i s, bei ng set upon the creatures -- have
155
Eccl esi asti cus xi i i , 1.
156
[More l i teral l y: 'and al l the best that i s of the creatures.' 'Best' i s neuter and refers to qual i ti es,
appurtenances, etc.]
157
[Lit., 'bri ght di amond.']
158
Lamentati ons i v, 7-8.
159
[Lit., más resplandecientes, 'more bri l l i ant,' 'more l umi nous.']
160
[Lit., plazas (deri ved from the Lati n plateas), whi ch now, however, has the meani ng of 'squares,'
'(market) pl aces.']
161
['Cl earer' here i s más claros; the adjecti ve i s rendered 'bri ght' el sewhere.]
162
[The words transl ated 'unrul y,' 'di sordered,' here and el sewhere, and occasi onal l y 'unrestrai ned,'
are the same i n the ori gi nal : desordenado.]
82
thei r face (says Jeremi as) made and turned bl acker than coal .
3. Al l thi s harm, and more, i s done to the beauty of the soul by i ts unrul y
desi res for the thi ngs of thi s worl d; so much so that, i f we set out to speak of the foul
and vi l e appearance that the desi res can gi ve the soul , we shoul d fi nd nothi ng,
however ful l of cobwebs and worms i t mi ght be, not even the corrupti on of a dead
body, nor aught el se that i s i mpure and vi l e, nor aught that can exi st and be
i magi ned i n thi s l i fe, to whi ch we coul d compare i t. For, al though i t i s true that the
unrul y soul , i n i ts natural bei ng, i s as perfect as when God created i t, yet, i n i ts
reasonabl e bei ng, i t i s vi l e, abomi nabl e, foul , bl ack and ful l of al l the evi l s that are
here bei ng descri bed, and many more. For, as we shal l afterwards say, a si ngl e
unrul y desi re, al though there be i n i t no matter of mortal si n, suffi ces to bri ng a soul
i nto such bondage, foul ness and vi l eness that i t can i n no wi se come to accord wi th
God i n uni on
163
unti l the desi re be puri fi ed. What, then, wi l l be the vi l eness of the
soul that i s compl etel y unrestrai ned wi th respect to i ts own passi ons and gi ven up
to i ts desi res, and how far removed wi l l i t be from God and from Hi s puri ty?
4. I t i s i mpossi bl e to expl ai n i n words, or to cause to be understood by the
understandi ng, what vari ety of i mpuri ty i s caused i n the soul by a vari ety of desi res.
For, i f i t coul d be expressed and understood, i t woul d be a wondrous thi ng, and one
al so whi ch woul d fi l l us wi th pi ty, to see how each desi re, i n accordance wi th i ts
qual i ty and degree, be i t greater or smal l er, l eaves i n the soul i ts mark and deposi t
of i mpuri ty and vi l eness, and how one si ngl e di sorder of the reason can be the
source of i nnumerabl e di fferent i mpuri ti es, some greater, some l ess, each one after
i ts ki nd. For, even as the soul of the ri ghteous man has i n one si ngl e perfecti on,
whi ch i s upri ghtness of soul , i nnumerabl e gi fts of the greatest ri chness, and many
vi rtues of the greatest l ovel i ness, each one di fferent and ful l of grace after i ts ki nd
accordi ng to the mul ti tude and the di versi ty of the affecti ons of l ove whi ch i t has
had i n God, even so the unrul y soul , accordi ng to the vari ety of the desi res whi ch i t
has for the creatures, has i n i tsel f a mi serabl e vari ety of i mpuri ti es and
meannesses, wherewi th i t i s endowed
164
by the sai d desi res.
5. The vari ety of these desi res i s wel l i l l ustrated i n the Book of Ezechi el ,
where i t i s wri tten that God showed thi s Prophet, i n the i nteri or of the Templ e,
pai nted around i ts wal l s, al l l i kenesses of creepi ng thi ngs whi ch crawl on the
ground, and al l the abomi nati on of uncl ean beasts.
165
And then God sai d to
Ezechi el : 'Son of man, hast thou not i ndeed seen the abomi nati ons that these do,
each one i n the secrecy of hi s chamber?'
166
And God commanded the Prophet to go
i n farther and he woul d see greater abomi nati ons; and he says that he there saw
women seated, weepi ng for Adoni s, the god of l ove.
167
And God commanded hi m to
go i n farther sti l l , and he woul d see yet greater abomi nati ons, and he says that he
saw there fi ve-and-twenty ol d men whose backs were turned toward the Templ e.
168
6. The di versi ty of creepi ng thi ngs and uncl ean beasts that were pai nted i n
the fi rst chamber of the Templ e are the thoughts and concepti ons whi ch the
understandi ng fashi ons from the l owl y thi ngs of earth, and from al l the creatures,
whi ch are pai nted, just as they are, i n the templ e of the soul , when the soul
163
[The Spani sh of the text reads l i teral l y: 'i n a uni on.']
164
[The verb i s pintar, 'pai nt': perhaps 'corrupt' i s i ntended. The same verb occurs i n the fol l owi ng
sentence.]
165
Ezechi el vi i i , 10.
166
[Ezechi el vi i i , 12.]
167
Ezechi el vi i i , 14.
168
Ezechi el vi i i , 16.
83
embarrasses i ts understandi ng wi th them, whi ch i s the soul 's fi rst habi tati on. The
women that were farther wi thi n, i n the second habi tati on, weepi ng for the god
Adoni s, are the desi res that are i n the second facul ty of the soul , whi ch i s the wi l l ;
the whi ch are, as i t were, weepi ng, i nasmuch as they covet that to whi ch the wi l l i s
affecti oned, whi ch are the creepi ng thi ngs pai nted i n the understandi ngs. And the
men that were i n the thi rd habi tati on are the i mages and representati ons of the
creatures, whi ch the thi rd part of the soul -- namel y memory -- keeps and refl ects
upon
169
wi thi n i tsel f. Of these i t i s sai d that thei r backs are turned toward the
Templ e because when the soul , accordi ng to these three facul ti es, compl etel y and
perfectl y embraces anythi ng that i s of the earth, i t can be sai d to have i ts back
turned toward the Templ e of God, whi ch i s the ri ght reason of the soul , whi ch
admi ts wi thi n i tsel f nothi ng that i s of creatures.
7. And l et thi s now suffi ce for the understandi ng of thi s foul di sorder of the
soul wi th respect to i ts desi res. For i f we had to treat i n detai l of the l esser foul ness
whi ch these i mperfecti ons and thei r vari ety make and cause i n the soul , and that
whi ch i s caused by veni al si ns, whi ch i s sti l l greater than that of the i mperfecti ons,
and thei r great vari ety, and l i kewi se that whi ch i s caused by the desi res for mortal
si n, whi ch i s compl ete foul ness of the soul , and i ts great vari ety, accordi ng to the
vari ety and mul ti tude of al l these three thi ngs, we shoul d never end, nor woul d the
understandi ng of angel s suffi ce to understand i t. That whi ch I say, and that whi ch
i s to the poi nt for my purpose, i s that any desi re, al though i t be for but the smal l est
i mperfecti on, stai ns and defi l es the soul .
CHAPTER X
Wherein is described how the desires weaken the soul in virtue and make it
lukewarm.
THE fi fth way i n whi ch the desi res harm the soul i s by maki ng i t l ukewarm and
weak, so that i t has no strength to fol l ow after vi rtue and to persevere therei n. For
as the strength of the desi re, when i t i s set upon vari ous ai ms, i s l ess than i f i t were
set whol l y on one thi ng al one, and as, the more are the ai ms whereon i t i s set, the
l ess of i t there i s for each of them, for thi s cause phi l osophers say that vi rtue i n
uni on i s stronger than i f i t be di spersed. Wherefore i t i s cl ear that, i f the desi re of
the wi l l be di spersed among other thi ngs than vi rtue, i t must be weaker as regards
vi rtue. And thus the soul whose wi l l i s set upon vari ous tri fl es i s l i ke water, whi ch,
havi ng a pl ace bel ow wherei n to empty i tsel f, never ri ses; and such a soul has no
profi t. For thi s cause the patri arch Jacob compared hi s son Ruben to water poured
out, because i n a certai n si n he had gi ven rei n to hi s desi res. And he sai d: ‘Thou art
poured out l i ke water; grow thou not.'
170
As though he had sai d: Si nce thou art
poured out l i ke water as to the desi res, thou shal t not grow i n vi rtue. And thus, as
hot water, when uncovered, readi l y l oses heat, and as aromati c spi ces, when they
are unwrapped, gradual l y l ose the fragrance and strength of thei r perfume, even so
the soul that i s not recol l ected i n one si ngl e desi re for God l oses heat and vi gour i n
i ts vi rtue. Thi s was wel l understood by Davi d, when he sai d, speaki ng wi th God: I
wi l l keep my strength for Thee.
171
That i s, concentrati ng the strength of my desi res
169
[Lit., 'revol ves'--'turns over i n i ts mi nd' i n our common i di om.]
170
Genesi s xl i x, 4.
171
Psal m l vi i i , 10 [A.V., l i x, 9].
84
upon Thee al one.
2. And the desi res weaken the vi rtue of the soul , because they are to i t l i ke
the shoots that grow about a tree, and take away i ts vi rtue so that i t cannot bri ng
forth so much frui t. And of such soul s as these says the Lord: Voe proegnantibus, et
nutrientibus in illis diebus.
172
That i s: Woe to them that i n those days are wi th chi l d
and to them that gi ve suck. Thi s bei ng wi th chi l d and gi vi ng suck i s understood
wi th respect to the desi res; whi ch, i f they be not pruned, wi l l ever be taki ng more
vi rtue from the soul , and wi l l grow to the harm of the soul , l i ke the shoots upon the
tree. Wherefore Our Lord counsel s us, sayi ng: Have your l oi ns gi rt about
173
-- the
l oi ns si gni fyi ng here the desi res. And i ndeed, they are al so l i ke l eeches, whi ch are
ever sucki ng the bl ood from the vei ns, for thus the Preacher terms them when he
says: The l eeches are the daughters -- that i s, the desi res -- sayi ng ever: Daca,
daca.
174
3. From thi s i t i s cl ear that the desi res bri ng no good to the soul but rather
take from i t that whi ch i t has; and, i f i t morti fy them not, they wi l l not cease ti l l
they have wrought i n i t that whi ch the chi l dren of the vi per are sai d to work i n thei r
mother; who, as they are growi ng wi thi n her womb, consume her and ki l l her, and
they themsel ves remai n al i ve at her cost. Just so the desi res that are not morti fi ed
grow to such a poi nt that they ki l l the soul wi th respect to God because i t has not
fi rst ki l l ed them. And they al one l i ve i n i t. Wherefore the Preacher says: Aufer a me
Domine ventris concupiscentias.
175
4. And, even though they reach not thi s poi nt, i t i s very pi teous to consi der
how the desi res that l i ve i n thi s poor soul treat i t, how unhappy i t i s wi th regard to
i tsel f, how dry wi th respect to i ts nei ghbours, and how weary and sl othful wi th
respect to the thi ngs of God. For there i s no evi l humour that makes i t as weari some
and di ffi cul t for a si ck man to wal k, or gi ves hi m a di staste for eati ng comparabl e to
the weari ness and di staste for fol l owi ng vi rtue whi ch i s gi ven to a soul by desi re for
creatures. And thus the reason why many soul s have no di l i gence and eagerness to
gai n vi rtue i s, as a rul e, that they have desi res and affecti ons whi ch are not pure
and are not fi xed upon God.
176
CHAPTER XI
Wherein it is proved necessary that the soul that would attain to Divine union should
be free from desires, however slight they be.
I EXPECT that for a l ong ti me the reader has been wi shi ng to ask whether i t be
necessary, i n order to attai n to thi s hi gh estate of perfecti on, to undergo fi rst of al l
total morti fi cati on i n al l the desi res, great and smal l , or i f i t wi l l suffi ce to morti fy
some of them and to l eave others, those at l east whi ch seem of l i ttl e moment. For i t
appears to be a severe and most di ffi cul t thi ng for the soul to be abl e to attai n to
such puri ty and detachment that i t has no wi l l and affecti on for anythi ng.
2. To thi s I repl y: fi rst, that i t i s true that al l the desi res are not equal l y
hurtful , nor do they al l equal l y embarrass the soul . I am speaki ng of those that are
172
St. Matthew xxi x, 19.
173
St. Luke xi i , 25.
174
Proverbs xxx, 15.
175
Eccl esi asti cus xxi i i , 6. [I n the ori gi nal the l ast two sentences are transposed.]
176
[Lit., ‘not pure on (or ‘i n’) God.’]
85
vol untary, for the natural desi res hi nder the soul l i ttl e, i f at al l , from attai ni ng to
uni on, when they are not consented to nor pass beyond the fi rst movements (I
mean,
177
al l those wherei n the rati onal wi l l has had no part, whether at fi rst or
afterward); and to take away these -- that i s, to morti fy them whol l y i n thi s l i fe -- i s
i mpossi bl e. And these hi nder not the soul i n such a way as to prevent i ts attai nment
to Di vi ne uni on, even though they be not, as I say, whol l y morti fi ed; for the natural
man may wel l have them, and yet the soul may be qui te free from them accordi ng to
the rati onal spi ri t. For i t wi l l someti mes come to pass that the soul wi l l be i n the
ful l
178
uni on of the prayer of qui et i n the wi l l at the very ti me when these desi res
are dwel l i ng i n the sensual part of the soul , and yet the hi gher part, whi ch i s i n
prayer, wi l l have nothi ng to do wi th them. But al l the other vol untary desi res,
whether they be of mortal si n, whi ch are the gravest, or of veni al si n, whi ch are l ess
grave, or whether they be onl y of i mperfecti ons, whi ch are the l east grave of al l ,
must be dri ven away every one, and the soul must be free from them al l , howsoever
sl i ght they be, i f i t i s to come to thi s compl ete uni on; and the reason i s that the state
of thi s Di vi ne uni on consi sts i n the soul 's total transformati on, accordi ng to the wi l l ,
i n the wi l l of God, so that, there may be naught i n the soul that i s contrary to the
wi l l of God, but that, i n al l and through al l , i ts movement may be that of the wi l l of
God al one.
3. I t i s for thi s reason that we say of thi s state that i t i s the maki ng of two
wi l l s i nto one -- namel y, i nto the wi l l of God, whi ch wi l l of God i s l i kewi se the wi l l of
the soul . For i f thi s soul desi red any i mperfecti on that God wi l l s not, there woul d
not be made one wi l l of God, si nce the soul woul d have a wi l l for that whi ch God has
not. I t i s cl ear, then, that for the soul to come to uni te i tsel f perfectl y wi th God
through l ove and wi l l , i t must fi rst be free from al l desi re of the wi l l , howsoever
sl i ght. That i s, that i t must not i ntenti onal l y and knowi ngl y consent wi th the wi l l to
i mperfecti ons, and i t must have power and l i berty to be abl e not so to consent
i ntenti onal l y. I say knowi ngl y, because, uni ntenti onal l y and unknowi ngl y, or
wi thout havi ng the power to do otherwi se, i t may wel l fal l i nto i mperfecti ons and
veni al si ns, and i nto the natural desi res whereof we have spoken; for of such si ns as
these whi ch are not vol untary and surrepti ti ous i t i s wri tten that the just man shal l
fal l seven ti mes i n the day and shal l ri se up agai n.
179
But of the vol untary desi res,
whi ch, though they be for very smal l thi ngs, are, as I have sai d, i ntenti onal veni al
si ns, any one that i s not conquered suffi ces to i mpede uni on.
180
I mean, i f thi s habi t
be not morti fi ed; for someti mes certai n acts of di fferent desi res have not as much
power when the habi ts are morti fi ed. Sti l l , the soul wi l l attai n to the stage of not
havi ng even these, for they l i kewi se proceed from a habi t of i mperfecti on. But some
habi ts of vol untary i mperfecti ons, whi ch are never compl etel y conquered, prevent
not onl y the attai nment of Di vi ne uni on, but al so progress i n perfecti on.
4. These habi tual i mperfecti ons are, for exampl e, a common custom of much
speaki ng, or some sl i ght attachment whi ch we never qui te wi sh to conquer -- such
as that to a person, a garment, a book, a cel l , a parti cul ar ki nd of food, ti ttl e-tattl e,
fanci es for tasti ng, knowi ng or heari ng certai n thi ngs, and suchl i ke. Any one of
these i mperfecti ons, i f the soul has become attached and habi tuated to i t, i s of as
great harm to i ts growth and progress i n vi rtue as though i t were to fal l dai l y i nto
many other i mperfecti ons and usual veni al si ns whi ch proceed not from a habi tual
177
[The ori gi nal has no such expl anatory phrase.]
178
[That i s, wi l l be enjoyi ng al l the uni on that the prayer of qui et gi ves.]
179
Proverbs xxi v, 16.
180
[The ori gi nal omi ts ‘uni on.’]
86
i ndul gence i n any habi tual and harmful attachment, and wi l l not hi nder i t so much
as when i t has attachment to anythi ng. For as l ong as i t has thi s there i s no
possi bi l i ty that i t wi l l make progress i n perfecti on, even though the i mperfecti on be
extremel y sl i ght. For i t comes to the same thi ng whether a bi rd be hel d by a sl ender
cord or by a stout one; si nce, even i f i t be sl ender, the bi rd wi l l be wel l hel d as
though i t were stout, for so l ong as i t breaks i t not and fl i es not away. I t i s true that
the sl ender one i s the easi er to break; sti l l , easy though i t be, the bi rd wi l l not fl y
away i f i t be not broken. And thus the soul that has attachment to anythi ng,
however much vi rtue i t possess, wi l l not attai n to the l i berty of Di vi ne uni on. For
the desi re and the attachment of the soul have that power whi ch the sucki ng-fi sh
181
i s sai d to have when i t cl i ngs to a shi p; for, though but a very smal l fi sh, i f i t succeed
i n cl i ngi ng to the shi p, i t makes i t i ncapabl e of reachi ng the port, or of sai l i ng on at
al l . I t i s sad to see certai n soul s i n thi s pl i ght; l i ke ri ch vessel s, they are l aden wi th
weal th and good works and spi ri tual exerci ses, and wi th the vi rtues and the favours
that God grants them; and yet, because they have not the resol uti on to break wi th
some whi m or attachment or affecti on (whi ch al l come to the same thi ng), they
never make progress or reach the port of perfecti on, though they woul d need to do
no more than make one good fl i ght and thus to snap that cord of desi re ri ght off, or
to ri d themsel ves of that sucki ng-fi sh of desi re whi ch cl i ngs to them.
5. I t i s greatl y to be l amented that, when God has granted them strength to
break other and stouter cords
182
-- namel y, affecti ons for si ns and vani ti es -- they
shoul d fai l to attai n to such bl essi ng because they have not shaken off some chi l di sh
thi ng whi ch God had bi dden them conquer for l ove of Hi m, and whi ch i s nothi ng
more than a thread or a hai r.
183
And, what i s worse, not onl y do they make no
progress, but because of thi s attachment they fal l back, l ose that whi ch they have
gai ned, and retrace that part of the road al ong whi ch they have travel l ed at the cost
of so much ti me and l abour; for i t i s wel l known that, on thi s road, not to go forward
i s to turn back, and not to be gai ni ng i s to be l osi ng. Thi s Our Lord desi red to teach
us when He sai d: 'He that i s not wi th Me i s agai nst Me; and he that gathereth not
wi th Me scattereth.'
184
He that takes not the troubl e to repai r the vessel , however
sl i ght be the crack i n i t, i s l i kel y to spi l l al l the l i qui d that i s wi thi n i t. The Preacher
taught us thi s cl earl y when he sai d: He that contemneth smal l thi ngs shal l fal l by
l i ttl e and l i ttl e.
185
For, as he hi msel f says, a great fi re cometh from a si ngl e
spark.
186
And thus one i mperfecti on i s suffi ci ent to l ead to another; and these l ead
to yet more; wherefore you wi l l hardl y ever see a soul that i s negl i gent i n
conqueri ng one desi re, and that has not many more ari si ng from the same weakness
and i mperfecti on that thi s desi re causes. I n thi s way they are conti nual l y fi l l i ng; we
have seen many persons to whom God has been granti ng the favour of l eadi ng them
a l ong way, i nto a state of great detachment and l i berty, yet who, merel y through
begi nni ng to i ndul ge some sl i ght attachment, under the pretext of doi ng good, or i n
the gui se of conversati on and fri endshi p, often l ose thei r spi ri tual i ty and desi re for
God and hol y sol i tude, fal l from the joy and whol ehearted devoti on whi ch they had
181
[Or ‘remora.’]
182
[cordeles: a stronger word than that used above (hilo), whi ch, i f the context woul d permi t, mi ght
better be transl ated 'stri ng' -- i ts equi val ent i n modern speech. Bel ow, hilo i s transl ated 'thread.']
183
[Hilo, rendered 'thread,' as expl ai ned i n n. 4 above, can al so be taken i n the stronger sense of
'cord.']
184
St. Matthew xi i , 30.
185
Eccl esi asti cus xi x, 1.
186
[Lit., 'the fi re i s i ncreased by a si ngl e spark.'] Eccl esi asti cus xi , 34 [A.V., xi , 32].
87
i n thei r spi ri tual exerci ses, and cease not unti l they have l ost everythi ng; and thi s
because they broke not wi th that begi nni ng of sensual desi re and pl easure and kept
not themsel ves i n sol i tude for God.
6. Upon thi s road we must ever journey i n order to attai n our goal ; whi ch
means that we must ever be morti fyi ng our desi res and not i ndul gi ng them; and i f
they are not al l compl etel y morti fi ed we shal l not compl etel y attai n. For even as a
l og of wood may fai l to be transformed i n the fi re because a si ngl e degree of heat i s
wanti ng to i t, even so the soul wi l l not be transformed i n God i f i t have but one
i mperfecti on, al though i t be somethi ng l ess than vol untary desi re; for, as we shal l
say hereafter concerni ng the ni ght of fai th, the soul has onl y one wi l l , and that wi l l ,
i f i t be embarrassed by aught and set upon by aught, i s not free, sol i tary, and pure,
as i s necessary for Di vi ne transformati on.
7. Of thi s that has been sai d we have a fi gure i n the Book of the Judges,
where i t i s rel ated that the angel came to the chi l dren of I srael and sai d to them
that, because they had not destroyed that forward peopl e, but had made a l eague
wi th some of them, they woul d therefore be l eft among them as enemi es, that they
mi ght be to them an occasi on of stumbl i ng and perdi ti on.
187
And just so does God
deal wi th certai n soul s: though He has taken them out of the worl d, and sl ai n the
gi ants, thei r si ns, and destroyed the mul ti tude of thei r enemi es, whi ch are the
occasi ons of si n that they encountered i n the worl d, sol el y that they may enter thi s
Promi sed Land of Di vi ne uni on wi th greater l i berty, yet they harbour fri endshi p
and make al l i ance wi th the i nsi gni fi cant peopl es
188
-- that i s, wi th i mperfecti ons --
and morti fy them not compl etel y; therefore Our Lord i s angry, and al l ows them to
fal l i nto thei r desi res and go from bad to worse.
8. I n the Book of Josue, agai n, we have a fi gure of what has just been sai d --
where we read that God commanded Josue, at the ti me that he had to enter i nto
possessi on of the Promi sed Land, to destroy al l thi ngs that were i n the ci ty of
Jeri cho, i n such wi se as to l eave therei n nothi ng al i ve, man or woman, young or ol d,
and to sl ay al l the beasts, and to take naught, nei ther to covet aught, of al l the
spoi l s.
189
Thi s He sai d that we may understand how, i f a man i s to enter thi s Di vi ne
uni on, al l that l i ves i n hi s soul must di e, both l i ttl e and much, smal l and great, and
that the soul must be wi thout desi re for al l thi s, and detached from i t, even as
though i t exi sted not for the soul , nei ther the soul for i t. Thi s Sai nt Paul teaches us
cl earl y i n hi s epi stl e ad Corinthios, sayi ng: 'Thi s I say to you, brethren, that the
ti me i s short; i t remai ns, and i t behoves you, that they that have wi ves shoul d be as
i f they had none; and they that weep for the thi ngs of thi s worl d, as though they
wept not; and they that rejoi ce, as i f they rejoi ced not; and they that buy, as though
they possessed not; and they that use thi s worl d, as i f they used i t not.'
190
Thi s the
Apostl e says to us i n order to teach us how compl ete must be the detachment of our
soul from al l thi ngs i f i t i s to journey to God.
CHAPTER XI I
187
Judges i i , 3.
188
[The ori gi nal phrase (gente menuda) means 'l i ttl e fol k.' I t i s used of chi l dren and someti mes al so
of i nsects and other smal l creatures. There i s a marked anti thesi s between the 'gi ants,' or si ns, and
the 'l i ttl e fol k,' or i mperfecti ons.]
189
Josue vi , 21.
190
1 Cori nthi ans vi i , 29-31.
88
Which treats of the answer to another question, explaining what the desires are that
suffice to cause the evils aforementioned in the soul.
WE mi ght wri te at greater l ength upon thi s matter of the ni ght of sense, sayi ng al l
that there i s to say concerni ng the harm whi ch i s caused by the desi res, not onl y i n
the ways aforementi oned, but i n many others. But for our purpose that whi ch has
been sai d suffi ces; for we bel i eve we have made i t cl ear i n what way the
morti fi cati on of these desi res i s cal l ed ni ght, and how i t behoves us to enter thi s
ni ght i n order to journey to God. The onl y thi ng that remai ns, before we treat of the
manner of entrance therei n, i n order to bri ng thi s part to a cl ose, i s a questi on
concerni ng what has been sai d whi ch mi ght occur to the reader.
2. I t may fi rst be asked i f any desi re can be suffi ci ent to work and produce i n
the soul the two evi l s aforementi oned -- namel y, the pri vati ve, whi ch consi sts i n
depri vi ng the soul of the grace of God, and the posi ti ve, whi ch consi sts i n produci ng
wi thi n i t the fi ve seri ous evi l s whereof we have spoken. Secondl y, i t may be asked i f
any desi re, however sl i ght i t be and of whatever ki nd, suffi ces to produce al l these
together, or i f some desi res produce some and others produce others. I f, for exampl e,
some produce torment; others, weari ness; others, darkness, etc.
3. Answeri ng thi s questi on, I say, fi rst of al l , that wi th respect to the
pri vati ve evi l -- whi ch consi sts i n the soul 's bei ng depri ved of God -- thi s i s wrought
whol l y, and can onl y be wrought, by the vol untary desi res, whi ch are of the matter
of mortal si n; for they depri ve the soul of grace i n thi s l i fe, and of gl ory, whi ch i s the
possessi on of God, i n the next. I n the second pl ace, I say that both those desi res
whi ch are of the matter of mortal si n, and the vol untary desi res, whi ch are of the
matter of veni al si n, and those that are of the matter of i mperfecti on, are each
suffi ci ent to produce i n the soul al l these posi ti ve evi l s together; the whi ch evi l s,
al though i n a certai n way they are pri vati ve, we here cal l posi ti ve, si nce they
correspond to a turni ng towards the creature, even as the pri vati ve evi l s correspond
to a turni ng away from God. But there i s thi s di fference, that the desi res whi ch are
of mortal si n produce total bl i ndness, torment, i mpuri ty, weakness, etc. Those
others, however, whi ch are of the matter of veni al si n or i mperfecti on, produce not
these evi l s i n a compl ete and supreme degree, si nce they depri ve not the soul of
grace, upon the l oss of whi ch depends the possessi on of them, si nce the death of the
soul i s thei r l i fe; but they produce them i n the soul remi ssl y, proporti onatel y to the
remi ssi on of grace whi ch these desi res produce i n the soul .
191
So that desi re whi ch
most weakens grace wi l l produce the most abundant torment, bl i ndness and
defi l ement.
4. I t shoul d be noted, however, that, al though each desi re produces al l these
evi l s, whi ch we here term posi ti ve, there are some whi ch, pri nci pal l y and di rectl y,
produce some of them, and others whi ch produce others, and the remai nder are
produced consequentl y upon these. For, al though i t i s true that one sensual desi re
produces al l these evi l s, yet i ts pri nci pal and proper effect i s the defi l ement of soul
and body. And, al though one avari ci ous desi re produces them al l , i ts pri nci pal and
di rect resul t i s to produce mi sery. And, al though si mi l arl y one vai ngl ori ous desi re
produces them al l , i ts pri nci pal and di rect resul t i s to produce darkness and
bl i ndness. And, al though one gl uttonous desi re produces them al l , i ts pri nci pal
resul t i s to produce l ukewarmness i n vi rtue. And even so i s i t wi th the rest.
5. And the reason why any act of vol untary desi re produces i n the soul al l
191
[The word here transl ated 'remi ssness' i s rendered 'remi ssi on' i n the text, where i t seems to have
a sl i ghtl y di fferent meani ng.]
89
these effects together l i es i n the di rect contrari ety whi ch exi sts between them and
al l the acts of vi rtue whi ch produce the contrary effects i n the soul . For, even as an
act of vi rtue produces and begets i n the soul sweetness, peace, consol ati on, l i ght,
cl eanness and forti tude al together, even so an unrul y desi re causes torment,
fati gue, weari ness, bl i ndness and weakness. Al l the vi rtues grow through the
practi ce of any one of them, and al l the vi ces grow through the practi ce of any one of
them l i kewi se, and the remnants
192
of each grow i n the soul . And al though al l these
evi l s are not evi dent at the moment when the desi re i s i ndul ged, si nce the resul ti ng
pl easure gi ves no occasi on for them, yet the evi l remnants whi ch they l eave are
cl earl y percei ved, whether before or afterwards. Thi s i s very wel l i l l ustrated by that
book whi ch the angel commanded Sai nt John to eat, i n the Apocal ypse, the whi ch
book was sweetness to hi s mouth, and i n hi s bel l y bi tterness.
193
For the desi re,
when i t i s carri ed i nto effect, i s sweet and appears to be good, but i ts bi tter taste i s
fel t afterwards; the truth of thi s can be cl earl y proved by anyone who al l ows hi msel f
to be l ed away by i t. Yet I am not i gnorant that there are some men so bl i nd and
i nsensi bl e as not to feel thi s, for, as they do not wal k i n God, they are unabl e to
percei ve that whi ch hi nders them from approachi ng Hi m.
6. I am not wri ti ng here of the other natural desi res whi ch are not vol untary,
and of thoughts that go not beyond the fi rst movements, and other temptati ons to
whi ch the soul i s not consenti ng; for these produce i n the soul none of the evi l s
aforementi oned. For, al though a person who suffers from them may thi nk that the
passi on and di sturbance whi ch they then produce i n hi m are defi l i ng and bl i ndi ng
hi m, thi s i s not the case; rather they are bri ngi ng hi m the opposi te advantages. For,
i n so far as he resi sts them, he gai ns forti tude, puri ty, l i ght and consol ati on, and
many bl essi ngs, even as Our Lord sai d to Sai nt Paul : That vi rtue was made perfect
i n weakness.
194
But the vol untary desi res work al l the evi l s aforementi oned, and
more. Wherefore the pri nci pal care of spi ri tual masters i s to morti fy thei r di sci pl es
i mmedi atel y wi th respect to any desi re soever, by causi ng them to remai n wi thout
the objects of thei r desi res, i n order to free them from such great mi sery.
CHAPTER XI I I
Wherein is described the manner and way which the soul must follow in order to
enter this night of sense.
I T now remai ns for me to gi ve certai n counsel s whereby the soul may know how to
enter thi s ni ght of sense and may be abl e so to do. To thi s end i t must be known that
the soul habi tual l y enters thi s ni ght of sense i n two ways: the one i s acti ve; the
other passi ve. The acti ve way consi sts i n that whi ch the soul can do, and does, of
i tsel f, i n order to enter therei n, whereof we shal l now treat i n the counsel s whi ch
fol l ow. The passi ve way i s that wherei n the soul does nothi ng, and God works i n i t,
and i t remai ns, as i t were, pati ent. Of thi s we shal l treat i n the fourth book, where
we shal l be treati ng of begi nners. And because there, wi th the Di vi ne favour, we
shal l gi ve many counsel s to begi nners, accordi ng to the many i mperfecti ons whi ch
they are apt to have whi l e on thi s road, I shal l not spend ti me i n gi vi ng many here.
192
[The word transl ated 'remnants' al so means 'after-taste.']
193
Apocal ypse x, 9.
194
2 Cori nthi ans xi i , 9. ['Vi rtue' had often, i n the author's day, much of the meani ng of the modern
word 'strength.']
90
And thi s, too, because i t bel ongs not to thi s pl ace to gi ve them, as at present we are
treati ng onl y of the reasons for whi ch thi s journey i s cal l ed a ni ght, and of what
ki nd i t i s, and how many parts i t has. But, as i t seems that i t woul d be i ncompl ete,
and l ess profi tabl e than i t shoul d be, i f we gave no hel p or counsel here for wal ki ng
i n thi s ni ght of desi res, I have thought wel l to set down bri efl y here the way whi ch
i s to be fol l owed: and I shal l do the same at the end of each of the next two parts, or
causes, of thi s ni ght, whereof, wi th the hel p of the Lord, I have to treat.
2. These counsel s for the conqueri ng of the desi res, whi ch now fol l ow, al bei t
bri ef and few, I bel i eve to be as profi tabl e and effi caci ous as they are conci se; so that
one who si ncerel y desi res to practi ce them wi l l need no others, but wi l l fi nd them al l
i ncl uded i n these.
3. Fi rst, l et hi m have an habi tual desi re
195
to i mi tate Chri st i n everythi ng
that he does, conformi ng hi msel f to Hi s l i fe; upon whi ch l i fe he must medi tate so
that he may know how to i mi tate i t, and to behave i n al l thi ngs as Chri st woul d
behave.
4. Secondl y, i n order that he may be abl e to do thi s wel l , every pl easure that
presents i tsel f to the senses, i f i t be not purel y for the honour and gl ory of God, must
be renounced and compl etel y rejected for the l ove of Jesus Chri st, Who i n thi s l i fe
had no other pl easure, nei ther desi red any, than to do the wi l l of Hi s Father, whi ch
He cal l ed Hi s meat and food.
196
I take thi s exampl e. I f there present i tsel f to a man
the pl easure of l i steni ng to thi ngs that tend not to the servi ce and honour of God, l et
hi m not desi re that pl easure, nor desi re to l i sten to them; and i f there present i tsel f
the pl easure of l ooki ng at thi ngs that hel p hi m not Godward, l et hi m not desi re the
pl easure or l ook at these thi ngs; and i f i n conversati on or i n aught el se soever such
pl easure present i tsel f, l et hi m act l i kewi se. And si mi l arl y wi th respect to al l the
senses, i n so far as he can fai rl y avoi d the pl easure i n questi on; i f he cannot, i t
suffi ces that, al though these thi ngs may be present to hi s senses, he desi res not to
have thi s pl easure. And i n thi s wi se he wi l l be abl e to morti fy and voi d hi s senses of
such pl easure, as though they were i n darkness. I f he takes care to do thi s, he wi l l
soon reap great profi t.
5. For the morti fyi ng and cal mi ng of the four natural passi ons, whi ch are joy,
hope, fear and gri ef, from the concord and paci fi cati on whereof come these and other
bl essi ngs, the counsel s here fol l owi ng are of the greatest hel p, and of great meri t,
and the source of great vi rtues.
6. Stri ve al ways to prefer, not that whi ch i s easi est, but that whi ch i s most
di ffi cul t;
Not that whi ch i s most del ectabl e, but that whi ch i s most unpl easi ng;
Not that whi ch gi ves most pl easure, but rather that whi ch gi ves l east;
Not that whi ch i s restful , but that whi ch i s weari some;
Not that whi ch i s consol ati on, but rather that whi ch i s di sconsol ateness;
Not that whi ch i s greatest, but that whi ch i s l east;
Not that whi ch i s l ofti est and most preci ous, but that whi ch i s l owest and
most despi sed;
Not that whi ch i s
197
a desi re for anythi ng, but that whi ch i s a desi re for
nothi ng;
Stri ve to go about seeki ng not the best of temporal thi ngs, but the worst.
195
[The word used for desi re i s apetito, whi ch has been used i n the past chapters for desi res of sense
(cf. chap. I , above).]
196
[St. John i v, 34.]
197
Lit., 'Not that whi ch i s to desi re anythi ng, etc.']
91
Stri ve thus to desi re to enter i nto compl ete detachment and empti ness and
poverty, wi th respect to everythi ng that i s i n the worl d, for Chri st's sake.
7. And i t i s meet that the soul embrace these acts wi th al l i ts heart and stri ve
to subdue i ts wi l l thereto. For, i f i t perform them wi th i ts heart, i t wi l l very qui ckl y
come to fi nd i n them great del i ght and consol ati on, and to act wi th order and
di screti on.
8. These thi ngs that have been sai d, i f they be fai thful l y put i nto practi ce, are
qui te suffi ci ent for entrance i nto the ni ght of sense; but, for greater compl eteness,
we shal l descri be another ki nd of exerci se whi ch teaches us to morti fy the
concupi scence of the fl esh and the concupi scence of the eyes, and the pri de of l i fe,
whi ch, says Sai nt John,
198
are the thi ngs that rei gn i n the worl d, from whi ch al l the
other desi res proceed.
9. Fi rst, l et the soul stri ve to work i n i ts own despi te, and desi re al l to do so.
Secondl y, l et i t stri ve to speak i n i ts own despi te and desi re al l to do so. Thi rd, l et i t
stri ve to thi nk humbl y of i tsel f, i n i ts own despi te, and desi re al l to do so.
10. To concl ude these counsel s and rul es, i t wi l l be fi tti ng to set down here
those l i nes whi ch are wri tten i n the Ascent of the Mount, whi ch i s the fi gure that i s
at the begi nni ng of thi s book; the whi ch l i nes are i nstructi ons for ascendi ng to i t,
and thus reachi ng the summi t of uni on. For, al though i t i s true that that whi ch i s
there spoken of i s spi ri tual and i nteri or, there i s reference l i kewi se to the spi ri t of
i mperfecti on accordi ng to sensual and exteri or thi ngs, as may be seen by the two
roads whi ch are on ei ther si de of the path of perfecti on. I t i s i n thi s way and
accordi ng to thi s sense that we shal l understand them here; that i s to say, accordi ng
to that whi ch i s sensual . Afterwards, i n the second part of thi s ni ght, they wi l l be
understood accordi ng to that whi ch i s spi ri tual .
199
11. The l i nes are these:
I n order to arri ve at havi ng pl easure i n everythi ng,
Desi re to have pl easure i n nothi ng.
I n order to arri ve at possessi ng everythi ng,
Desi re to possess nothi ng.
I n order to arri ve at bei ng everythi ng,
Desi re to be nothi ng.
I n order to arri ve at knowi ng everythi ng,
Desi re to know nothi ng.
200
I n order to arri ve at that wherei n thou hast no pl easure,
Thou must go by a way wherei n thou hast no pl easure.
I n order to arri ve at that whi ch thou knowest not,
Thou must go by a way that thou knowest not.
I n order to arri ve at that whi ch thou possessest not,
Thou must go by a way that thou possessest not.
I n order to arri ve at that whi ch thou art not,
Thou must go through that whi ch thou art not.
12. When thy mi nd dwel l s upon anythi ng,
Thou art ceasi ng to cast thysel f upon the Al l .
For, i n order to pass from the al l to the Al l ,
198
[1 St. John i i , 16.]
199
The Sai nt does not, however, al l ude to these l i nes agai n. The order fol l owed bel ow i s that of Al c.,
whi ch di ffers somewhat from that fol l owed i n the di agram.
200
[Thi s l i ne, l i ke l l . 6, 8 of the paragraph, reads more l i teral l y: 'Desi re not to possess (be, know)
anythi ng i n anythi ng.' I t i s more emphati c than l . 2.]
92
Thou hast to deny thysel f whol l y
201
i n al l .
And, when thou comest to possess i t whol l y,
Thou must possess i t wi thout desi ri ng anythi ng.
For, i f thou wi l t have anythi ng i n havi ng al l ,
202
Thou hast not thy treasure purel y i n God.
13. I n thi s detachment the spi ri tual soul fi nds i ts qui et and repose; for, si nce
i t covets nothi ng, nothi ng weari es i t when i t i s l i fted up, and nothi ng oppresses i t
when i t i s cast down, because i t i s i n the centre of i ts humi l i ty; but when i t covets
anythi ng, at that very moment i t becomes weari ed.
CHAPTER XI V
Wherein is expounded the second line of the stanza.
Kindled in love with yearnings.
NOW that we have expounded the fi rst l i ne of thi s stanza, whi ch treats of the ni ght
of sense, expl ai ni ng what thi s ni ght of sense i s, and why i t i s cal l ed ni ght; and now
that we have l i kewi se descri bed the order and manner whi ch are to be fol l owed for a
soul to enter therei n acti vel y, the next thi ng to be treated i n due sequence i s i ts
properti es and effects, whi ch are wonderful , and are descri bed i n the next l i nes of
the stanza aforementi oned, upon whi ch I wi l l bri efl y touch for the sake of
expoundi ng the sai d l i nes, as I promi sed i n the Prol ogue;
203
and I wi l l then pass on
at once to the second book, treati ng of the other part of thi s ni ght, whi ch i s the
spi ri tual .
2. The soul , then, says that, 'ki ndl ed i n l ove wi th yearni ngs,' i t passed
through thi s dark ni ght of sense and came out thence to the uni on of the Bel oved.
For, i n order to conquer al l the desi res and to deny i tsel f the pl easures whi ch i t has
i n everythi ng, and for whi ch i ts l ove and affecti on are wont to enki ndl e the wi l l that
i t may enjoy them, i t woul d need to experi ence another and a greater enki ndl i ng by
an other and a better l ove, whi ch i s that of i ts Spouse; to the end that, havi ng i ts
pl easure set upon Hi m and deri vi ng from Hi m i ts strength, i t shoul d have courage
and constancy to deny i tsel f al l other thi ngs wi th ease. And, i n order to conquer the
strength of the desi res of sense, i t woul d need, not onl y to have l ove for i ts Spouse,
but al so to be enki ndl ed by l ove and to have yearni ngs. For i t comes to pass, and so
i t i s, that wi th such yearni ngs of desi re the sensual nature i s moved and attracted
toward sensual thi ngs, so that, i f the spi ri tual part be not enki ndl ed wi th other and
greater yearni ngs for that whi ch i s spi ri tual , i t wi l l be unabl e to throw off the yoke
of nature
204
or to enter thi s ni ght of sense, nei ther wi l l i t have courage to remai n i n
darkness as to al l thi ngs, depri vi ng i tsel f of desi re for them al l .
3. And the nature and al l the vari eti es of these yearni ngs of l ove whi ch soul s
experi ence i n the earl y stages of thi s road to uni on; and the di l i gent means and
201
[There i s a repeti ti on here whi ch coul d onl y be i ndi cated by transl ati ng 'al l -l y.' So, too, i n the next
coupl et.]
202
[Lit. ‘anythi ng i n al l .’]
203
Thi s confi rms our poi nt (Bk. I , chap. i i , § 6, above) that the Sai nt consi ders the Argument as part
of the Prol ogue.
204
Lit., 'to conquer the natural yoke.']
93
contri vances whi ch they empl oy i n order to l eave thei r house, whi ch i s sel f-wi l l ,
duri ng the ni ght of the morti fi cati on of thei r senses; and how easy, and even sweet
and del ectabl e, these yearni ngs for the Spouse make al l the tri al s and peri l s of thi s
ni ght to appear to them, thi s i s not the pl ace to descri be, nei ther i s such descri pti on
possi bl e; for i t i s better to know and medi tate upon these thi ngs than to wri te of
them. And so we shal l pass on to expound the remai ni ng l i nes i n the next chapter.
CHAPTER XV
Wherein are expounded the remaining lines of the aforementioned stanza.
. . . oh, happy chance! --
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at
rest.
THESE l i nes take as a metaphor the mi serabl e estate of capti vi ty, a man's
del i verance from whi ch, when none of the gaol ers' hi nder hi s rel ease, he consi ders a
'happy chance.' For the soul , on account of
205
ori gi nal si n, i s trul y as i t were a
capti ve i n thi s mortal body, subject to the passi ons and desi res of nature, from
bondage and subjecti on to whi ch i t consi ders i ts havi ng gone forth wi thout bei ng
observed as a 'happy chance' -- havi ng gone forth, that i s, wi thout bei ng i mpeded or
engul fed
206
by any of them.
2. For to thi s end the soul profi ted by goi ng forth upon a 'dark ni ght' -- that i s,
i n the pri vati on of al l pl easures and morti fi cati on of al l desi res, after the manner
whereof we have spoken. And by i ts 'house bei ng now at rest' i s meant the sensual
part, whi ch i s the house of al l the desi res, and i s now at rest because they have al l
been overcome and l ul l ed to sl eep. For unti l the desi res are l ul l ed to sl eep through
the morti fi cati on of the sensual nature, and unti l at l ast the sensual nature i tsel f i s
at rest from them, so that they make not war upon the spi ri t, the soul goes not forth
to true l i berty and to the frui ti on of uni on wi th i ts Bel oved.
END OF THE FI RST BOOK
205
[Lit., ‘after.’]
206
[Lit., ‘comprehended.’]
94
BOOK THE SECOND
OF THE ‘ASCENT OF MT. CARMEL'
Wherein is treated the proximate means of ascending to union with God, which is
faith; and wherein therefore is described the second part of this night, which, as we
said, belongs to the spirit, and is contained in the second stanza, which is as follows.
STANZA THE SECOND
CHAPTER I
In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised -- oh,
happy chance! --
In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.
I N thi s second stanza the soul si ngs of the happy chance whi ch i t experi enced i n
stri ppi ng the spi ri t of al l spi ri tual i mperfecti ons and desi res for the possessi on of
spi ri tual thi ngs. Thi s was a much greater happi ness to, by reason of the greater
di ffi cul ty that there i s i n putti ng to rest thi s house of the spi ri tual part, and of bei ng
abl e to enter thi s i nteri or darkness, whi ch i s spi ri tual detachment from al l thi ngs,
whether sensual or spi ri tual , and l eani ng on pure fai th al one and an ascent thereby
to God. The soul here cal l s thi s a 'l adder,' and 'secret,' because al l the rungs and
parts of i t
207
are secret and hi dden from al l sense and understandi ng. And thus the
soul has remai ned i n darkness as to al l l i ght of sense and understandi ng, goi ng
forth beyond al l l i mi ts of nature and reason i n order to ascend by thi s Di vi ne l adder
of fai th, whi ch attai ns
208
and penetrates even to the hei ghts
209
of God. The soul says
that i t was travel l i ng 'di sgui sed,' because the garments and vesture whi ch i t wears
and i ts natural condi ti on are changed i nto the Di vi ne, as i t ascends by fai th. And i t
was because of thi s di sgui se that i t was not recogni zed or i mpeded, ei ther by ti me or
by reason or by the devi l ; for none of these thi ngs can harm one that journeys i n
fai th. And not onl y so, but the soul travel s i n such wi se conceal ed and hi dden and i s
so far from al l the decei ts of the devi l that i n truth i t journeys (as i t al so says here)
'i n darkness and i n conceal ment' -- that i s to say, hi dden from the devi l , to whom
the l i ght of fai th i s more than darkness.
2. And thus the soul that journeys through thi s ni ght, we may say, journeys
i n conceal ment and i n hi di ng from the devi l , as wi l l be more cl earl y seen hereafter.
Wherefore the soul says that i t went forth 'i n darkness and secure'; for one that has
such happi ness as to be abl e to journey through the darkness of fai th, taki ng fai th
for hi s gui de, l i ke to one that i s bl i nd,
210
and l eavi ng behi nd al l natural i magi ni ngs
and spi ri tual reasoni ngs, journeys very securel y, as we have sai d. And so the soul
says furthermore that i t went forth through thi s spi ri tual ni ght, i ts 'house bei ng
now at rest' -- that i s to say, i ts spi ri tual and rati onal parts. When, therefore, the
soul attai ns to uni on whi ch i s of God, i ts natural facul ti es are at rest, as are l i kewi se
207
[Lit., 'al l the steps and arti cl es that i t has.']
208
[Lit., 'cl i mbs': the verb (escala) i s i denti cal wi th the noun 'l adder' (escala).]
209
[Lit., 'to the depths.']
210
[The l i teral transl ati on i s shorter, vi z. 'taki ng fai th for a bl i nd man's gui de.']
95
i ts i mpul ses and yearni ngs of the senses, i n i ts spi ri tual part. For thi s cause the
soul says not here that i t went forth wi th yearni ngs, as i n the fi rst ni ght of sense.
For, i n order to journey i n the ni ght of sense, and to stri p i tsel f of that whi ch i s of
sense, i t needed yearni ngs of sense-l ove so that i t mi ght go forth perfectl y; but, i n
order to put to rest the house of i ts spi ri t, i t needs no more than deni al
211
of al l
facul ti es and pl easures and desi res of the spi ri t i n pure fai th. Thi s attai ned, the soul
i s uni ted wi th the Bel oved i n a uni on of si mpl i ci ty and puri ty and l ove and
si mi l i tude.
3. And i t must be remembered that the fi rst stanza, speaki ng of the sensual
part, says that the soul went forth upon 'a dark ni ght,' and here, speaki ng of the
spi ri tual part, i t says that i t went forth 'i n darkness.' For the darkness of the
spi ri tual part i s by far the greater, even as darkness i s a greater obscuri ty than that
of ni ght. For, however dark a ni ght may be, somethi ng can al ways be seen, but i n
true darkness nothi ng can be seen; and thus i n the ni ght of sense there sti l l remai ns
some l i ght, for the understandi ng and reason remai n, and are not bl i nded. But thi s
spi ri tual ni ght, whi ch i s fai th, depri ves the soul of everythi ng, both as to
understandi ng and as to sense. And for thi s cause the soul i n thi s ni ght says that i t
was journeyi ng 'i n darkness and secure,' whi ch i t sai d not i n the other. For, the l ess
the soul works wi th i ts own abi l i ty, the more securel y i t journeys, because i t
journeys more i n fai th. And thi s wi l l be expounded at l ength i n the course of thi s
second book, wherei n i t wi l l be necessary for the devout reader to proceed
attenti vel y, because there wi l l be sai d herei n thi ngs of great i mportance to the
person that i s trul y spi ri tual .
212
And, al though they are somewhat obscure, some of
them wi l l pave the way to others, so that I bel i eve they wi l l al l be qui te cl earl y
understood.
CHAPTER I I
Which begins to treat of the second part or cause of this night, which is faith. Proves
by two arguments how it is darker than the first and than the third.
WE now go on to treat of the second part of thi s ni ght, whi ch i s fai th; thi s i s the
wondrous means whi ch, as we sai d, l eads to the goal , whi ch i s God, Who, as we
sai d,
213
i s al so to the soul , natural l y, the thi rd cause or part of thi s ni ght. For fai th,
whi ch i s the means,
214
i s compared wi th mi dni ght. And thus we may say that i t i s
darker for the soul ei ther than the fi rst part or, i n a way, than the thi rd; for the fi rst
part, whi ch i s that of sense, i s compared to the begi nni ng of ni ght, or the ti me when
sensi bl e objects can no l onger be seen, and thus i t i s not so far removed from l i ght as
i s mi dni ght. The thi rd part, whi ch i s the peri od precedi ng the dawn, i s qui te cl ose to
the l i ght of day, and i t, too, therefore, i s not so dark as mi dni ght; for i t i s now cl ose
to the enl i ghtenment and i l l umi nati on of the l i ght of day, whi ch i s compared wi th
God. For, al though i t i s true, i f we speak after a natural manner, that God i s as
211
[Lit., 'negati on.'] Thi s i s the readi ng of Al c. 'Affi rmati on' i s found i n A, B, C, D, e.p. Though the
two words are anti theti cal , they express the same underl yi ng concept. [The affi rmati on, or
establ i shment, of al l the powers and desi res of the spi ri t upon pure fai th, so that they may be rul ed
by pure fai th al one, i s equi val ent to the deni al , or negati on, of those powers and desi res i n so far as
they are not rul ed by pure fai th.]
212
[Lit., 'to true spi ri t.']
213
[I , i i , above.]
214
[Cf. I , i i , above.]
96
dark a ni ght to the soul as i s fai th, sti l l , when these three parts of the ni ght are
over, whi ch are natural l y ni ght to the soul , God begi ns to i l l umi ne the soul by
supernatural means wi th the ray of Hi s Di vi ne l i ght; whi ch i s the begi nni ng of the
perfect uni on that fol l ows, when the thi rd ni ght i s past, and i t can thus be sai d to be
l ess dark.
2. I t i s l i kewi se darker than the fi rst ni ght, for thi s bel ongs to the l ower part
of man, whi ch i s the sensual part, and, consequentl y, the more exteri or; and thi s
second part, whi ch i s of fai th, bel ongs to the hi gher part of man, whi ch i s the
rati onal part, and, i n consequence, more i nteri or and more obscure, si nce i t depri ves
i t of the l i ght of reason, or, to speak more cl earl y, bl i nds i t;
215
and thus i t i s aptl y
compared to mi dni ght, whi ch i s the depth of ni ght and the darkest part thereof.
3. We have now to prove how thi s second part, whi ch i s fai th, i s ni ght to the
spi ri t, even as the fi rst part i s ni ght to sense. And we shal l then al so descri be the
thi ngs that are contrary to i t, and how the soul must prepare i tsel f acti vel y to enter
i t. For, concerni ng the passi ve part, whi ch i s that whi ch God works i n i t, when He
bri ngs i t i nto that ni ght, we shal l speak i n i ts pl ace, whi ch I i ntend shal l be the
thi rd book.
CHAPTER I I I
How faith is dark night to the soul. This is proved with arguments and quotations
and figures from Scripture.
FAI TH, say the theol ogi ans, i s a habi t of the soul , certai n and obscure. And the
reason for i ts bei ng an obscure habi t i s that i t makes us bel i eve truths reveal ed by
God Hi msel f, whi ch transcend al l natural l i ght, and exceed al l human
understandi ng, beyond al l proporti on. Hence i t fol l ows that, for the soul , thi s
excessi ve l i ght of fai th whi ch i s gi ven to i t i s thi ck darkness, for i t overwhel ms
greater thi ngs and does away wi th smal l thi ngs, even as the l i ght of the sun
overwhel ms al l other l i ghts whatsoever, so that when i t shi nes and di sabl es our
vi sual facul ty they appear not to be l i ghts at al l . So that i t bl i nds i t and depri ves i t
of the si ght that has been gi ven to i t, i nasmuch as i ts l i ght i s great beyond al l
proporti on and transcends the facul ty of vi si on. Even so the l i ght of fai th, by i ts
excessi ve greatness, oppresses and di sabl es that of the understandi ng; for the l atter,
215
Thi s was another of the proposi ti ons whi ch were ci ted by those who denounced the wri ti ngs of St.
John of the Cross to the Hol y Offi ce. I t i s i nterpretabl e, neverthel ess, i n a sense that i s perfectl y true
and compl etel y i n conformi ty wi th Cathol i c doctri ne. The Sai nt does not, i n these words, affi rm that
fai th destroys nature or quenches the l i ght of human reason (St. Thomas, Summa, Pt. 1, q. 1, a. 8, et
alibi); what he endeavors to show i s that the comi ng of knowl edge through fai th excl udes a
si mul taneous comi ng of natural knowl edge through reason. I t i s onl y i n thi s way that, i n the act of
fai th, the soul i s depri ved of the l i ght of reason, and l eft, as i t were, i n bl i ndness, so that i t may be
rai sed to another nobl er and subl i mer ki nd of knowl edge, whi ch, far from destroyi ng reason, gi ves i t
di gni ty and perfecti on. Phi l osophy teaches that the proper and connatural object of the
understandi ng, i n thi s l i fe, i s thi ngs vi si bl e, materi al and corporeal . By hi s nature, man i ncl i nes to
knowl edge of thi s ki nd, but cannot l ay cl ai m to such knowl edge as regards the thi ngs whi ch bel ong to
fai th. For, to quote a famous verse of Scri pture: Fides est sperandarum substantia rerum,
argumentum non apparientium (Hebrews xi , 1 ). Thi s l i ne of thought i s not confi ned to St. John of
the Cross, but i s fol l owed by al l the mysti cs and i s compl etel y i n agreement wi th theol ogi cal doctri ne.
Cf. Respuesta [Repl y] of P. Basi l i o Ponce de León and Dilucidatio, Pt. I I , Chap. i i , and al so the
fol l owi ng chapter i n thi s present book.
97
of i ts own power, extends onl y to natural knowl edge, al though i t has a facul ty
216
for
the supernatural , whenever Our Lord i s pl eased to gi ve i t supernatural acti vi ty.
2. Wherefore a man can know nothi ng by hi msel f, save after a natural
manner,
217
whi ch i s onl y that whi ch he attai ns by means of the senses. For thi s
cause he must have the phantasms and the forms of objects present i n themsel ves
and i n thei r l i kenesses; otherwi se i t cannot be, for, as phi l osophers say: Ab objecto et
potentia paritur notitia. That i s: From the object that i s present and from the
facul ty, knowl edge i s born i n the soul . Wherefore, i f one shoul d speak to a man of
thi ngs whi ch he has never been abl e to understand, and whose l i keness he has
never seen, he woul d have no more i l l umi nati on from them whatever than i f naught
had been sai d of them to hi m. I take an exampl e. I f one shoul d say to a man that on
a certai n i sl and there i s an ani mal whi ch he has never seen, and gi ve hi m no i dea of
the l i keness of that ani mal , that he may compare i t wi th others that he has seen, he
wi l l have no more knowl edge of i t, or i dea of i ts form, than he had before, however
much i s bei ng sai d to hi m about i t. And thi s wi l l be better understood by another
and a more apt exampl e. I f one shoul d descri be to a man that was born bl i nd, and
has never seen any col our, what i s meant by a whi te col our or by a yel l ow, he woul d
understand i t but i ndi fferentl y, however ful l y one mi ght descri be i t to hi m; for, as he
has never seen such col ours or anythi ng l i ke them by whi ch he may judge them,
onl y thei r names woul d remai n wi th hi m; for these he woul d be abl e to comprehend
through the ear, but not thei r forms or fi gures, si nce he has never seen them.
3. Even so i s fai th wi th respect to the soul ; i t tel l s us of thi ngs whi ch we have
never seen or understood, nor have we seen or understood aught that resembl es
them, si nce there i s naught that resembl es them at al l . And thus we have no l i ght of
natural knowl edge concerni ng them, si nce that whi ch we are tol d of them bears no
rel ati on to any sense of ours; we know i t by the ear al one, bel i evi ng that whi ch we
are taught, bri ngi ng our natural l i ght i nto subjecti on and treati ng i t as i f i t were
not.
218
For, as Sai nt Paul says, Fides ex auditu.
219
As though he were to say: Fai th
i s not knowl edge whi ch enters by any of the senses, but i s onl y the consent gi ven by
the soul to that whi ch enters through the ear.
4. And fai th far transcends even that whi ch i s i ndi cated by the exampl es
gi ven above. For not onl y does i t gi ve no i nformati on and knowl edge, but, as we
have sai d, i t depri ves us of al l other i nformati on and knowl edge, and bl i nds us to
them, so that they cannot judge i t wel l . For other knowl edge can be acqui red by the
l i ght of the understandi ng; but the knowl edge that i s of fai th i s acqui red wi thout
the i l l umi nati on of the understandi ng, whi ch i s rejected for fai th; and i n i ts own
216
E .p.: 'an obedi enti al facul ty' [potencia obediencial]: thi s phrase i s borrowed from the School men.
Among the vari ous di vi si ons of the facul ty are two, natural and obedi enti al . The fi rst i s that whi ch i s
di rected towards an act wi thi n the sphere of nature, such as the cool i ng acti on of water and the
heati ng acti on of fi re; the second i s di rected towards an act whi ch exceeds these powers, brought
about by God, Who i s outsi de the l aws of nature and can therefore work outsi de the natural domai n.
Thi s obedi enti al facul ty (cal l ed al so 'recepti ve' or 'passi ve') frequentl y fi gures i n mysti cal theol ogy,
si nce i t i s thi s that di sposes the facul ti es of the soul for the supernatural recepti on of the gi fts of
grace, al l of whi ch exceed natural capaci ty.
217
E.p.: 'a natural manner whi ch has i ts begi nni ng i n the senses.' Here the Sai nt expounds a
pri nci pl e of schol asti c phi l osophy summari zed i n the axi om: Nihil est in intellectu quin prius non
fuerit in sensu. Thi s pri nci pl e, l i ke many other great phi l osophi cal questi ons, has conti nual l y been
debated. St. John of the Cross wi l l be found as a rul e to fol l ow the phi l osophy most favored by the
Church and i s al ways ri gi dl y orthodox.
218
[Lit., 'subjecti ng and bl i ndi ng our natural l i ght.']
219
Romans x, 17.
98
l i ght, i f that l i ght be not darkened, i t i s l ost. Wherefore I sai as sai d: Si non
credideritis, non intelligetis.
220
That i s: I f ye bel i eve not, ye shal l not understand. I t
i s cl ear, then, that fai th i s dark ni ght for the soul , and i t i s i n thi s way that i t gi ves
i t l i ght; and the more the soul i s darkened, the greater i s the l i ght that comes to i t.
For i t i s by bl i ndi ng that i t gi ves l i ght, accordi ng to thi s sayi ng of I sai as. For i f ye
bel i eve not, ye shal l not (he says) have l i ght.
221
And thus fai th was foreshadowed by
that cl oud whi ch di vi ded the chi l dren of I srael and the Egypti ans when the former
were about to enter the Red Sea, whereof Scri pture says: Erat nubes tenebrosa, et
illuminans noctem.
222
Thi s i s to say that that cl oud was ful l of darkness and gave
l i ght to the ni ght.
5. A wondrous thi ng i t i s that, though i t was dark, i t shoul d gi ve l i ght to the
ni ght. Thi s was sai d to show that fai th, whi ch i s a bl ack and dark cl oud to the soul
(and l i kewi se i s ni ght, si nce i n the presence of fai th the soul i s depri ved of i ts
natural l i ght and i s bl i nded), can wi th i ts darkness gi ve l i ght and i l l umi nati on to
the darkness of the soul , for i t was fi tti ng that the di sci pl es shoul d thus be l i ke the
master. For man, who i s i n darkness, coul d not fi tti ngl y be enl i ghtened save by
other darkness, even as Davi d teaches us, sayi ng: Dies diei eructat verbum et nox
nocti indicat scientiam.
223
Whi ch si gni fi es: Day unto day uttereth and aboundeth i n
speech, and ni ght unto ni ght showeth knowl edge. Whi ch, to speak more cl earl y,
si gni fi es: The day, whi ch i s God i n bl i ss, where i t i s day to the bl essed angel s and
soul s who are now day, communi cates and reveal s to them the Word, whi ch i s Hi s
Son, that they may know Hi m and enjoy Hi m. And the ni ght, whi ch i s fai th i n the
Church Mi l i tant, where i t i s sti l l ni ght, shows knowl edge i s ni ght to the Church,
and consequentl y to every soul , whi ch knowl edge i s ni ght to i t, si nce i t i s wi thout
cl ear beati fi c wi sdom; and, i n the presence of fai th, i t i s bl i nd as to i ts natural l i ght.
6. So that whi ch i s to be i nferred from thi s that fai th, because i t i s dark ni ght,
gi ves l i ght to the soul , whi ch i s i n darkness, that there may come to be ful fi l l ed that
whi ch Davi d l i kewi se says to thi s purpose, i n these works: Et nox illuminatio mea in
deliciis meis.
224
Whi ch si gni fi es: the ni ght wi l l be i l l umi nati on i n my del i ghts.
Whi ch i s as much as to say: I n the del i ghts of my pure contempl ati on and uni on
wi th God, the ni ght of fai th shal l be my gui de. Wherei n he gi ves i t cl earl y to be
understood that the soul must be i n darkness i n order to have l i ght for thi s road.
CHAPTER I V
Treats in general of how the soul likewise must be in darkness, in so far as this rests
with itself, to the end that it may be effectively guided by faith to the highest
contemplation.
I T i s now, I thi nk, becomi ng cl ear how fai th i s dark ni ght to the soul , and how the
soul l i kewi se must be dark, or i n darkness as to i ts own l i ght so that i t may al l ow
i tsel f to be gui ded by fai th to thi s hi gh goal of uni on. But, i n order that the soul may
be abl e to do thi s, i t wi l l now be wel l to conti nue descri bi ng, i n somewhat greater
220
I sai as vi i , 9. So Al c. The passage seems to be taken from the Septuagi nt. [The Vul gate has non
permanebitis.]
221
[Lit., 'I f ye bel i eve not, that i s, ye shal l not have l i ght.']
222
Exodus xi v, 20.
223
Psal m xvi i i , 3 [A.V., xi x, 2].
224
Psal m cxxxvi i i , 11 [A.V., cxxxi x, 11].
99
detai l , thi s darkness whi ch i t must have, i n order that i t may enter i nto thi s abyss
of fai th. And thus i n thi s chapter I shal l speak of i t i n a general way; and hereafter,
wi th the Di vi ne favour, I shal l conti nue to descri be more mi nutel y the way i n whi ch
the soul i s to conduct i tsel f that i t may nei ther stray therei n nor i mpede thi s gui de.
2. I say, then, that the soul , i n order to be effecti vel y gui ded to thi s state by
fai th, must not onl y be i n darkness wi th respect to that part that concerns the
creatures and temporal thi ngs, whi ch i s the sensual and the l ower part (whereof we
have al ready treated), but that l i kewi se i t must be bl i nded and darkened accordi ng
to the part whi ch has respect to God and to spi ri tual thi ngs, whi ch i s the rati onal
and hi gher part, whereof we are now treati ng. For, i n order that one may attai n
supernatural transformati on, i t i s cl ear that he must be pl unged i nto darkness and
carri ed far away from al l contai ned i n hi s nature that i s sensual and rati onal . For
the word supernatural means that whi ch soars above the natural sel f; the natural
sel f, therefore, remai ns beneath i t. For, al though thi s transformati on and uni on i s
somethi ng that cannot be comprehended by human abi l i ty and sense, the soul must
compl etel y and vol untari l y voi d i tsel f of al l that can enter i nto i t, whether from
above or from bel ow -- I mean accordi ng to the affecti on and wi l l -- so far as thi s
rests wi th i tsel f. For who shal l prevent God from doi ng that whi ch He wi l l i n the
soul that i s resi gned, anni hi l ated and detached? But the soul must be voi ded of al l
such thi ngs as can enter i ts capaci ty, so that, however many supernatural
experi ences i t may have, i t wi l l ever remai n as i t were detached from them and i n
darkness. I t must be l i ke to a bl i nd man, l eani ng upon dark fai th, taki ng i t for gui de
and l i ght, and l eani ng upon none of the thi ngs that he understands, experi ences,
feel s and i magi nes. For al l these are darkness, whi ch wi l l cause hi m to stray; and
fai th i s above al l that he understands and experi ences and feel s and i magi nes. And,
i f he be not bl i nded as to thi s, and remai n not i n total darkness, he attai ns not to
that whi ch i s greater -- namel y, that whi ch i s taught by fai th.
3. A bl i nd man, i f he be not qui te bl i nd, refuses to be l ed by a gui de; and,
si nce he sees a l i ttl e, he thi nks i t better to go i n whatever happens to be the
di recti on whi ch he can di sti ngui sh, because he sees none better; and thus he can
l ead astray a gui de who sees more than he, for after al l i t i s for hi m to say where he
shal l go rather than for the gui de. I n the same way a soul may l ean upon any
knowl edge of i ts own, or any feel i ng or experi ence of God, yet, however great thi s
may be, i t i s very l i ttl e and far di fferent from what God i s; and, i n goi ng al ong thi s
road, a soul i s easi l y l ed astray, or brought to a standsti l l , because i t wi l l not remai n
i n fai th l i ke one that i s bl i nd, and fai th i s i ts true gui de.
4. I t i s thi s that was meant by Sai nt Paul when he sai d: Accedentem ad Deum
oportet credere quod est.
225
Whi ch si gni fi es: He that woul d journey towards uni on
wi th God must needs bel i eve i n Hi s Bei ng. As though he had sai d: He that woul d
attai n to bei ng joi ned i n a uni on wi th God must not wal k by understandi ng, nei ther
l ean upon experi ence or feel i ng or i magi nati on, but he must bel i eve i n Hi s bei ng,
whi ch i s not percepti bl e to the understandi ng, nei ther to the desi re nor to the
i magi nati on nor to any other sense, nei ther can i t be known i n thi s l i fe at al l . Yea,
i n thi s l i fe, the hi ghest thi ng that can be fel t and experi enced concerni ng God i s
i nfi ni tel y remote from God and from the pure possessi on of Hi m. I sai as and Sai nt
Paul say: Nec oculus vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, qua
praeparavit Deus iis, qui diligunt illum.
226
Whi ch si gni fi es: That whi ch God hath
prepared for them that l ove Hi m nei ther eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nei ther hath
225
Hebrews xi , 6.
226
I sai as l xi v, 4; 1 Cori nthi ans i i , 9.
100
i t entered i nto the heart or thought of man. So, however much the soul aspi res to be
perfectl y uni ted through grace i n thi s l i fe wi th that to whi ch i t wi l l be uni ted
through gl ory i n the next (whi ch, as Sai nt Paul here says, eye hath not seen, nor ear
heard, nei ther hath i t entered i nto the heart of man i n the fl esh), i t i s cl ear that, i n
order perfectl y to attai n to uni on i n thi s l i fe through grace and through l ove, a soul
must be i n darkness wi th respect to al l that can enter through the eye, and to al l
that can be recei ved through the ear, and can be i magi ned wi th the fancy, and
understood wi th the heart, whi ch here si gni fi es the soul . And thus a soul i s greatl y
i mpeded from reachi ng thi s hi gh estate of uni on wi th God when i t cl i ngs to any
understandi ng or feel i ng or i magi nati on or appearance or wi l l or manner of i ts own,
or to any other act or to anythi ng of i ts own, and cannot detach and stri p i tsel f of al l
these. For, as we say, the goal whi ch i t seeks l i es beyond al l thi s, yea, beyond even
the hi ghest thi ng that can be known or experi enced; and thus a soul must pass
beyond everythi ng to unknowi ng.
5. Wherefore, upon thi s road, to enter upon the road i s to l eave the road; or, to
express i t better, i t i s to pass on to the goal and to l eave one's own way,
227
and to
enter upon that whi ch has no way, whi ch i s God. For the soul that attai ns to thi s
state has no l onger any ways or methods, sti l l l ess i s i t attached to ways and
methods, or i s capabl e of bei ng attached to them. I mean ways of understandi ng, or
of percepti on, or of feel i ng. Neverthel ess i t has wi thi n i tsel f al l ways, after the way
of one that possesses nothi ng, yet possesses al l thi ngs.
228
For, i f i t have courage to
pass beyond i ts natural l i mi tati ons, both i nteri orl y and exteri orl y, i t enters wi thi n
the l i mi ts of the supernatural , whi ch has no way, yet i n substance has al l ways.
Hence for the soul to arri ve at these l i mi ts i s for i t to l eave these l i mi ts, i n each case
goi ng forth out of i tsel f a great way, from thi s l owl y state to that whi ch i s hi gh
above al l others.
6. Wherefore, passi ng beyond al l that can be known and understood, both
spi ri tual l y and natural l y, the soul wi l l desi re wi th al l desi re to come to that whi ch
i n thi s l i fe cannot be known, nei ther can enter i nto i ts heart. And, l eavi ng behi nd al l
that i t experi ences and feel s, both temporal l y and spi ri tual l y, and al l that i t i s abl e
to experi ence and feel i n thi s l i fe, i t wi l l desi re wi th al l desi re to come to that whi ch
surpasses al l feel i ng and experi ence. And, i n order to be free and voi d to that end, i t
must i n no wi se l ay hol d upon that whi ch i t recei ves, ei ther spi ri tual l y or sensual l y,
wi thi n i tsel f
229
(as we shal l expl ai n presentl y, when we treat thi s i n detai l ),
consi deri ng i t al l to be of much l ess account. For the more emphasi s the soul l ays
upon what i t understands, experi ences and i magi nes, and the more i t esteems thi s,
whether i t be spi ri tual or no, the more i t l oses of the supreme good, and the more i t
i s hi ndered from attai ni ng thereto. And the l ess i t thi nks of what i t may have,
however much thi s be, i n compari son wi th the hi ghest good, the more i t dwel l s upon
that good and esteems i t, and, consequentl y, the more nearl y i t approaches i t. And
i n thi s wi se the soul approaches a great way towards uni on, i n darkness, by means
of fai th, whi ch i s l i kewi se dark, and i n thi s wi se fai th wondrousl y i l l umi nes i t. I t i s
certai n that, i f the soul shoul d desi re to see, i t woul d be i n darkness much more
qui ckl y, wi th respect to God, than woul d one who opens hi s eyes to l ook upon the
great bri ghtness of the sun.
7. Wherefore, by bl i ndi ng i tsel f i n i ts facul ti es upon thi s road, the soul wi l l
227
[The word transl ated 'way' i s modo, whi ch, i n the l anguage of schol asti c phi l osophy, woul d rather
be transl ated 'mode.']
228
[2 Cori nthi ans vi , 10.]
229
[Lit., 'ei ther spi ri tual l y or sensual l y, i n i ts soul .']
101
see the l i ght, even as the Savi our says i n the Gospel , i n thi s wi se: I n judicium veni
in hunc mundum: ut qui non vident, videant, et qui vident, caeci fiant.
230
That i s: I
am come i nto thi s worl d for judgment; that they whi ch see not may see, and that
they whi ch see may become bl i nd. Thi s, as i t wi l l be supposed, i s to be understood of
thi s spi ri tual road, where the soul that i s i n darkness, and i s bl i nded as regards al l
i ts natural and proper l i ghts, wi l l see supernatural l y; and the soul that woul d
depend upon any l i ght of i ts own wi l l become the bl i nder and wi l l hal t upon the road
to uni on.
8. And, that we may proceed wi th l ess confusi on, I thi nk i t wi l l be necessary
to descri be, i n the fol l owi ng chapter, the nature of thi s that we cal l uni on of the soul
wi th God; for, when thi s i s understood, that whi ch we shal l say hereafter wi l l
become much cl earer. And so I thi nk the treatment of thi s uni on comes wel l at thi s
poi nt, as i n i ts proper pl ace. For, al though the thread of that whi ch we are
expoundi ng i s i nterrupted thereby, thi s i s not done wi thout a reason, si nce i t serves
to i l l ustrate i n thi s pl ace the very thi ng that i s bei ng descri bed. The chapter whi ch
fol l ows, then, wi l l be a parentheti cal one, pl aced, as i t were, between the two terms
of an enthymeme, si nce we shal l afterwards have to treat i n detai l of the three
facul ti es of the soul , wi th respect to the three l ogi cal vi rtues, i n rel ati on to thi s
second ni ght.
CHAPTER V
Wherein is described what is meant by union of the soul with God. A comparison is
given.
231
230
St. John i x, 39.
231
As the Sai nt has expl ai ned above, thi s i s a parentheti cal chapter necessary to an understandi ng
of the fol l owi ng chapters on the acti ve puri fi cati on of the three facul ti es of the soul ; for, i n order to
make an i ntel l i gent use of the means to an end, i t i s i mportant to know what that end i s. St. John of
the Cross begi ns by setti ng asi de the numerous di vi si ons under whi ch the mysti cs speak of uni on
wi th God and deal s onl y wi th that whi ch most usual l y concerns the soul , namel y uni on whi ch i s
acti ve, and acqui red by our own efforts, together wi th the habi tual ai d of grace. Thi s i s the ki nd of
uni on whi ch i s most sui tabl y descri bed i n thi s treati se, whi ch deal s wi th the i ntense acti vi ty of the
soul as regards the purgati on of the senses and facul ti es as a necessary means for the l ovi ng
transformati on of the soul i n God -- the end and goal of al l the Sai nt's wri ti ngs. I n order to forestal l
any grossl y erroneous panthei sti c i nterpretati ons, we poi nt out, wi th the author of the Médula
Mística (Trat. V, Chap. i , No. 2), that by uni on the Sai nt understands 'a l i nki ng and conjoi ni ng of two
thi ngs whi ch, though uni ted, are sti l l di fferent, each, as St. Thomas teaches (Pt. I I I , q. 2, a. 1),
keepi ng i ts own nature, for otherwi se there woul d not be uni on but i denti ty. Uni on of the soul wi th
God, therefore, wi l l be a l i nki ng and conjoi ni ng of the soul wi th God and of God wi th the soul , for the
one cannot be uni ted wi th the other i f the other be not uni ted wi th the one, so that the soul i s sti l l
the soul and God i s sti l l God. But just as, when two thi ngs are uni ted, the one whi ch has the most
power, vi rtue and acti vi ty communi cates i ts properti es to the other, just so, si nce God has greater
strength, vi rtue and acti vi ty than the soul , He communi cates Hi s properti es to i t and makes i t, as i t
were, dei fi c, and l eaves i t, as i t were, di vi ni zed, to a greater or a l esser degree, correspondi ng to the
greater or the l esser degree of uni on between the two.' Thi s concepti on, whi ch i s a basi c one i n
Chri sti an mysti ci sm, i s that of St. John of the Cross. Had al l hi s commentators understood that fact,
some of them woul d have been saved from maki ng ri di cul ous compari sons of hi m wi th Gnosti cs,
I l l umi ni sts or even the Eastern seekers after Ni rvana. Actual l y, thi s Sai nt and Doctor of the Church
appl i es the tenets of Cathol i c theol ogy to the uni on of the soul wi th God, presenti ng them i n a
condensed and vi gorous form and keepi ng al so to stri ct psychol ogi cal truth, as i n general do the other
Spani sh mysti cs. Thi s i s one of hi s greatest meri ts. I n thi s chapter he i s speaki ng, not of essenti al
102
FROM what has been sai d above i t becomes cl ear to some extent what we mean by
uni on of the soul wi th God; what we now say about i t, therefore, wi l l be the better
understood. I t i s not my i ntenti on here to treat of the di vi si ons of thi s uni on, nor of
i ts parts, for I shoul d never end i f I were to begi n now to expl ai n what i s the nature
of uni on of the understandi ng, and what i s that of uni on accordi ng to the wi l l , and
l i kewi se accordi ng to the memory; and l i kewi se what i s transi tory and what
permanent i n the uni on of the sai d facul ti es; and then what i s meant by total uni on,
transi tory and permanent, wi th regard to the sai d facul ti es al l together. Al l thi s we
shal l treat gradual l y i n our di scourse -- speaki ng fi rst of one and then of another.
But here thi s i s not to the poi nt i n order to descri be what we have to say concerni ng
them; i t wi l l be expl ai ned much more fi tti ngl y i n i ts pl ace, when we shal l agai n be
treati ng the same matter, and shal l have a stri ki ng i l l ustrati on to add to the
present expl anati on, so that everythi ng wi l l then be consi dered and expl ai ned and
we shal l judge of i t better.
2. Here I treat onl y of thi s permanent and total uni on accordi ng to the
substance of the soul and i ts facul ti es wi th respect to the obscure habi t of uni on: for
wi th respect to the act, we shal l expl ai n l ater, wi th the Di vi ne favour, how there can
be no permanent uni on i n the facul ti es, i n thi s l i fe, but a transi tory uni on onl y.
3. I n order, then, to understand what i s meant by thi s uni on whereof we are
treati ng, i t must be known that God dwel l s and i s present substanti al l y i n every
soul , even i n that of the greatest si nner i n the worl d. And thi s ki nd of uni on i s ever
wrought between God and al l the creatures, for i n i t He i s preservi ng thei r bei ng: i f
uni on of thi s ki nd were to fai l them, they woul d at once become anni hi l ated and
woul d cease to be. And so, when we speak of uni on of the soul wi th God, we speak
not of thi s substanti al uni on whi ch i s conti nual l y bei ng wrought, but of the uni on
and transformati on of the soul wi th God, whi ch i s not bei ng wrought conti nual l y,
but onl y when there i s produced that l i keness that comes from l ove; we shal l
therefore term thi s the uni on of l i keness, even as that other uni on i s cal l ed
substanti al or essenti al . The former i s natural , the l atter supernatural . And the
l atter comes to pass when the two wi l l s -- namel y that of the soul and that of God --
are conformed together i n one, and there i s naught i n the one that repugnant to the
other. And thus, when the soul ri ds i tsel f total l y of that whi ch i s repugnant to the
Di vi ne wi l l and conforms not wi th i t, i t i s transformed i n God through l ove.
4. Thi s i s to be understood of that whi ch i s repugnant, not onl y i n acti on, but
l i kewi se i n habi t, so that not onl y must the vol untary acts of i mperfecti on cease, but
the habi ts of any such i mperfecti ons must be anni hi l ated. And si nce no creature
whatsoever, and none of i ts acti ons or abi l i ti es, can conform or can attai n to that
whi ch i s God, therefore must the soul be stri pped of al l thi ngs created, and of i ts
own acti ons and abi l i ti es -- namel y, of i ts understandi ng, percepti on and feel i ng -- so
that, when al l that i s unl i ke God and unconformed to Hi m i s cast out, the soul may
recei ve the l i keness of God; and nothi ng wi l l then remai n i n i t that i s not the wi l l of
God and i t wi l l thus be transformed i n God. Wherefore, al though i t i s true that, as
we have sai d, God i s ever i n the soul , gi vi ng i t, and through Hi s presence conservi ng
wi thi n i t, i ts natural bei ng, yet He does not al ways communi cate supernatural bei ng
uni on, whi ch has nothi ng to do wi th hi s subject, but (presupposi ng the uni on worked through
sancti fyi ng grace recei ved i n the substance of the soul , whi ch i s the source of the i nfused vi rtues,
such as fai th, hope and chari ty, and the gi fts of the Hol y Spi ri t) of acti ve actual uni on, after whi ch we
can and shoul d stri ve, so that we may wi l l what God wi l l s and abhor what He abhors. Though not
the onl y ki nd of uni on, i t i s thi s whi ch chi efl y concerns the soul ; and, when once thi s i s attai ned, God
readi l y grants al l other mysti cal gi fts. Cf. St. Teresa's I nterior Castle, V, i i i [C.W.S.T.J ., I I , 259-60].
103
to i t. For thi s i s communi cated onl y by l ove and grace, whi ch not al l soul s possess;
and al l those that possess i t have i t not i n the same degree; for some have attai ned
more degrees of l ove and others fewer. Wherefore God communi cates Hi msel f most
to that soul that has progressed farthest i n l ove; namel y, that has i ts wi l l i n cl osest
conformi ty wi th the wi l l of God. And the soul that has attai ned compl ete conformi ty
and l i keness of wi l l i s total l y uni ted and transformed i n God supernatural l y.
Wherefore, as has al ready been expl ai ned, the more compl etel y a soul i s wrapped up
i n
232
the creatures and i n i ts own abi l i ti es, by habi t and affecti on, the l ess
preparati on i t has for such uni on; for i t gi ves not God a compl ete opportuni ty to
transform i t supernatural l y. The soul , then, needs onl y to stri p i tsel f of these
natural di ssi mi l ari ti es and contrari eti es, so that God, Who i s communi cati ng
Hi msel f natural l y to i t, accordi ng to the course of nature, may communi cate Hi msel f
to i t supernatural l y, by means of grace.
5. And i t i s thi s that Sai nt John desi red to expl ai n when he sai d: Qui non ex
sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati
sunt.
233
As though he had sai d: He gave power to be sons of God -- that i s, to be
transformed i n God -- onl y to those who are born, not of bl ood -- that i s, not of
natural consti tuti on and temperament -- nei ther of the wi l l of the fl esh -- that i s, of
the free wi l l of natural capaci ty and abi l i ty -- sti l l l ess of the wi l l of man -- wherei n
i s i ncl uded every way and manner of judgi ng and comprehendi ng wi th the
understandi ng. He gave power to none of these to become sons of God, but onl y to
those that are born of God -- that i s, to those who, bei ng born agai n through grace,
and dyi ng fi rst of al l to everythi ng that i s of the ol d man, are rai sed above
themsel ves to the supernatural , and recei ve from God thi s rebi rth and adopti on,
whi ch transcends al l that can be i magi ned. For, as Sai nt John hi msel f says
el sewhere: Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua, et Spiritu Sancto, non potest videre
regnum Dei.
234
Thi s si gni fi es: He that i s not born agai n i n the Hol y Spi ri t wi l l not
be abl e to see thi s ki ngdom of God, whi ch i s the state of perfecti on; and to be born
agai n i n the Hol y Spi ri t i n thi s l i fe i s to have a soul most l i ke to God i n puri ty,
havi ng i n i tsel f no admi xture of i mperfecti on, so that pure transformati on can be
wrought i n i t through parti ci pati on of uni on, al bei t not essenti al l y.
6. I n order that both these thi ngs may be the better understood, l et us make a
compari son. A ray of sunl i ght i s stri ki ng a wi ndow. I f the wi ndow i s i n any way
stai ned or mi sty, the sun's ray wi l l be unabl e to i l l umi ne i t and transform i t i nto i ts
own l i ght, total l y, as i t woul d i f i t were cl ean of al l these thi ngs, and pure; but i t wi l l
i l l umi ne i t to a l esser degree, i n proporti on as i t i s l ess free from those mi sts and
stai ns; and wi l l do so to a greater degree, i n proporti on as i t i s cl eaner from them,
and thi s wi l l not be because of the sun's ray, but because of i tsel f; so much so that, i f
i t be whol l y pure and cl ean, the ray of sunl i ght wi l l transform i t and i l l umi ne i t i n
such wi se that i t wi l l i tsel f seem to be a ray and wi l l gi ve the same l i ght as the ray.
Al though i n real i ty the wi ndow has a nature di sti nct from that of the ray i tsel f,
however much i t may resembl e i t, yet we may say that that wi ndow i s a ray of the
sun or i s l i ght by parti ci pati on. And the soul i s l i ke thi s wi ndow, whereupon i s ever
beati ng (or, to express i t better, wherei n i s ever dwel l i ng) thi s Di vi ne l i ght of the
Bei ng of God accordi ng to nature, whi ch we have descri bed.
7. I n thus al l owi ng God to work i n i t, the soul (havi ng ri d i tsel f of every mi st
and stai n of the creatures, whi ch consi sts i n havi ng i ts wi l l perfectl y uni ted wi th
232
[Lit., 'i s cl othed wi th.']
233
St. John i , 13.
234
St. John i i i , 5.
104
that of God, for to l ove i s to l abour to detach and stri p i tsel f for God's sake of al l that
i s not God) i s at once i l l umi ned and transformed i n God, and God communi cates to
i t Hi s supernatural Bei ng, i n such wi se that i t appears to be God Hi msel f, and has
al l that God Hi msel f has. And thi s uni on comes to pass when God grants the soul
thi s supernatural favour, that al l the thi ngs of God and the soul are one i n
parti ci pant transformati on; and the soul seems to be God rather than a soul , and i s
i ndeed God by parti ci pati on; al though i t i s true that i ts natural bei ng, though thus
transformed, i s as di sti nct from the Bei ng of God as i t was before, even as the
wi ndow has l i kewi se a nature di sti nct from that of the ray, though the ray gi ves i t
bri ghtness.
8. Thi s makes i t cl earer that the preparati on of the soul for thi s uni on, as we
sai d, i s not that i t shoul d understand or percei ve or feel or i magi ne anythi ng,
concerni ng ei ther God or aught el se, but that i t shoul d have puri ty and l ove -- that
i s, perfect resi gnati on and detachment from everythi ng for God's sake al one; and, as
there can be no perfect transformati on i f there be not perfect puri ty, and as the
enl i ghtenment, i l l umi nati on and uni on of the soul wi th God wi l l be accordi ng to the
proporti on of i ts puri ty, i n greater or i n l ess degree; yet the soul wi l l not be perfect,
as I say, i f i t be not whol l y and perfectl y
235
bri ght and cl ean.
9. Thi s wi l l l i kewi se be understood by the fol l owi ng compari son. A pi cture i s
trul y perfect, wi th many and most subl i me beauti es and del i cate and subtl e
i l l umi nati ons, and some of i ts beauti es are so fi ne and subtl e that they cannot be
compl etel y real i zed, because of thei r del i cacy and excel l ence. Fewer beauti es and
l ess del i cacy wi l l be seen i n thi s pi cture by one whose vi si on i s l ess cl ear and
refi ned; and he whose vi si on i s somewhat more refi ned wi l l be abl e to see i n i t more
beauti es and perfecti ons; and, i f another person has a vi si on sti l l more refi ned, he
wi l l see sti l l more perfecti on; and, fi nal l y, he who has the cl earest and purest
facul ti es wi l l see the most beauti es and perfecti ons of al l ; for there i s so much to see
i n the pi cture that, however far one may attai n, there wi l l ever remai n hi gher
degrees of attai nment.
10. After the same manner we may descri be the condi ti on of the soul wi th
rel ati on to God i n thi s enl i ghtenment or transformati on. For, al though i t i s true
that a soul , accordi ng to i ts greater or l esser capaci ty, may have attai ned to uni on,
yet not al l do so i n an equal degree, for thi s depends upon what the Lord i s pl eased
to grant to each one. I t i s i n thi s way that soul s see God i n Heaven; some more,
some l ess; but al l see Hi m, and al l are content, for thei r capaci ty i s sati sfi ed.
11. Wherefore, al though i n thi s l i fe here bel ow we fi nd certai n soul s enjoyi ng
equal peace and tranqui l l i ty i n the state of perfecti on, and each one of them
sati sfi ed, yet some of them may be many degrees hi gher than others. Al l , however,
wi l l be equal l y sati sfi ed, because the capaci ty of each one i s sati sfi ed. But the soul
that attai ns not to such a measure of puri ty as i s i n conformi ty wi th i ts capaci ty
never attai ns true peace and sati sfacti on, si nce i t has not attai ned to the possessi on
of that detachment and empti ness i n i ts facul ti es whi ch i s requi red for si mpl e
uni on.
CHAPTER VI
Wherein is described how it is the three theological virtues that perfect the three
faculties of the soul, and how the said virtues produce emptiness and darkness
235
[Lit., 'whol l y perfect and...']
105
within them.
HAVI NG now to endeavour to show how
236
the three facul ti es of the soul --
understandi ng, memory and wi l l -- are brought i nto thi s spi ri tual ni ght, whi ch i s
the means to Di vi ne uni on, i t i s necessary fi rst of al l to expl ai n i n thi s chapter how
the three theol ogi cal vi rtues -- fai th, hope and chari ty -- whi ch have respect to the
three facul ti es aforesai d as thei r proper supernatural objects, and by means whereof
the soul i s uni ted wi th God accordi ng to i ts facul ti es, produce the same empti ness
and darkness, each one i n i ts own facul ty. Fai th, i n the understandi ng; hope, i n the
memory; and chari ty, i n the wi l l . And afterwards we shal l go on to descri be how the
understandi ng i s perfected i n the darkness of fai th; and the memory i n the
empti ness of hope; and l i kewi se how the wi l l must be buri ed by wi thdrawi ng and
detachi ng every affecti on so that the soul may journey to God. Thi s done, i t wi l l be
cl earl y seen how necessary i t i s for the soul , i f i t i s to wal k securel y on thi s spi ri tual
road, to travel through thi s dark ni ght, l eani ng upon these three vi rtues, whi ch
empty i t of al l thi ngs and make i t dark wi th respect to them. For, as we have sai d,
the soul i s not uni ted wi th God i n thi s l i fe through understandi ng, nor through
enjoyment, nor through the i magi nati on, nor through any sense whatsoever; but
onl y through fai th, accordi ng to the understandi ng; and through hope, accordi ng to
the memory; and through l ove, accordi ng to the wi l l .
2. These three vi rtues, as we have sai d, al l cause empti ness i n the facul ti es:
fai th, i n the understandi ng, causes an empti ness and darkness wi th respect to
understandi ng; hope, i n the memory, causes empti ness of al l possessi ons; and
chari ty causes empti ness i n the wi l l and detachment from al l affecti on and from
rejoi ci ng i n al l that i s not God. For, as we see, fai th tel l s us what cannot be
understood wi th the understandi ng. Wherefore Sai nt Paul spoke of i t ad Hebraeos
after thi s manner: Fides est sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non
apparentium.
237
Thi s we i nterpret as meani ng that fai th i s the substance of thi ngs
hoped for; and, al though the understandi ng may be fi rml y and certai nl y consenti ng
to them, they are not thi ngs that are reveal ed to the understandi ng, si nce, i f they
were reveal ed to i t, there woul d be no fai th. So fai th, al though i t bri ngs certai nty to
the understandi ng, bri ngs i t not cl earness, but obscuri ty.
3. Then, as to hope, there i s no doubt but that i t renders the memory empty
and dark wi th respect both to thi ngs bel ow and to thi ngs above. For hope al ways
rel ates to that whi ch i s not possessed; for, i f i t were possessed, there woul d be no
more hope. Wherefore Sai nt Paul says ad Romanos: Spes, quae videtur, non est spes:
nam quod videt quis, quid sperat?
238
That i s to say: Hope that i s seen i s not hope;
for what a man seeth -- that i s, what a man possesseth -- how doth he hope for i t?
Thi s vi rtue, then, al so produces empti ness, for i t has to do wi th that whi ch i s not
possessed and not wi th that whi ch i s possessed.
4. Si mi l ari ty, chari ty causes empti ness i n the wi l l wi th respect to al l thi ngs,
si nce i t obl i ges us to l ove God above them al l ; whi ch cannot be unl ess we wi thdraw
our affecti on from them i n order to set i t whol l y upon God. Wherefore Chri st says,
through Sai nt Luke: Qui non renuntiat omnibus quae possidet, non potest meus esse
discipulus.
239
Whi ch si gni fi es: He that renounces not al l that he possesses wi th the
wi l l cannot be My di sci pl e. And thus al l these three vi rtues set the soul i n obscuri ty
236
[Lit., 'to l ead... i nto,' as at the begi nni ng of § 6, bel ow.]
237
Hebrews xi , 1.
238
Romans vi i i , 24.
239
St. Luke xi v, 33.
106
and empti ness wi th respect to al l thi ngs.
5. And here we must consi der that parabl e whi ch our Redeemer rel ated i n the
el eventh chapter of Sai nt Luke, wherei n He sai d that a fri end had to go out at
mi dni ght i n order to ask hi s fri end for three l oaves;
240
the whi ch l oaves si gni fy these
three vi rtues. And he sai d that he asked for them at mi dni ght i n order to si gni fy
that the soul that i s i n darkness as to al l thi ngs must acqui re these three vi rtues
accordi ng to i ts facul ti es and must perfect i tsel f i n them i n thi s ni ght. I n the si xth
chapter of I sai as we read that the two seraphi m whom thi s Prophet saw on ei ther
si de of God had each si x wi ngs; wi th two they covered thei r feet, whi ch si gni fi ed the
bl i ndi ng and quenchi ng of the affecti ons of the wi l l wi th respect to al l thi ngs for the
sake of God; and wi th two they covered thei r face, whi ch si gni fi ed the darkness of
the understandi ng i n the presence of God; and wi th the other two they fl ew.
241
Thi s
i s to si gni fy the fl i ght of hope to the thi ngs that are not possessed, when i t i s rai sed
above al l that i t can possess, whether bel ow or above, apart from God.
6. To these three vi rtues, then, we have to l ead the three facul ti es of the soul ,
i nformi ng each facul ty by each one of them, and stri ppi ng i t and setti ng i t i n
darkness concerni ng al l thi ngs save onl y these three vi rtues. And thi s i s the
spi ri tual ni ght whi ch just now we cal l ed acti ve; for the soul does that whi ch i n i t l i es
i n order to enter therei n. And even as, i n the ni ght of sense, we descri bed a method
of voi di ng the facul ti es of sense of thei r sensi bl e objects, wi th regard to the desi re, so
that the soul mi ght go forth from the begi nni ng of i ts course to the mean,
242
whi ch
i s fai th; even so, i n thi s spi ri tual ni ght, wi th the favour of God, we shal l descri be a
method whereby the spi ri tual facul ti es are voi ded and puri fi ed of al l that i s not God,
and are set i n darkness concerni ng these three vi rtues, whi ch, as we have sai d, are
the means and preparati on for the uni on of the soul wi th God.
7. I n thi s method i s found al l securi ty agai nst the crafts of the devi l and
agai nst the effi cacy of sel f-l ove and i ts rami fi cati ons, whi ch i s wont most subtl y to
decei ve and hi nder spi ri tual persons on thei r road, when they know not how to
become detached and to govern themsel ves accordi ng to these three vi rtues; and
thus they are never abl e to reach the substance and puri ty of spi ri tual good, nor do
they journey by so strai ght and short a road as they mi ght.
8. And i t must be noted that I am now speaki ng parti cul arl y to those who
have begun to enter the state of contempl ati on, because as far as thi s concerns
begi nners i t must be descri bed somewhat more ampl y, as we shal l note i n the
second book, God wi l l i ng, when we treat of the properti es of these begi nners.
CHAPTER VI I
Wherein is described how strait is the way that leads to eternal life and how
completely detached and disencumbered must be those that will walk in it. We begin
to speak of the detachment of the understanding.
WE have now to descri be the detachment and puri ty of the three facul ti es of the
soul and for thi s are necessary a far greater knowl edge and spi ri tual i ty than mi ne,
i n order to make cl ear to spi ri tual persons how strai t i s thi s road whi ch, sai d Our
Savi our, l eads to l i fe; so that, persuaded of thi s, they may not marvel at the
240
Luke xi , 5.
241
I sai as vi , 2.
242
[Or 'mi ddl e.' Cf. Bk. I , chap. i i , above.]
107
empti ness and detachment to whi ch, i n thi s ni ght, we have to abandon the facul ti es
of the soul .
2. To thi s end must be careful l y noted the words whi ch Our Savi our used, i n
the seventh chapter of Sai nt Matthew, concerni ng thi s road, as fol l ows: Quam
angusta porta, et arcta via est, quae ducit ad vitam, et pauci sunt, qui inveniunt
eam.
243
Thi s si gni fi es: How strai t i s the gate and how narrow the way that l eadeth
unto l i fe, and few there are that fi nd i t! I n thi s passage we must careful l y note the
emphasi s and i nsi stence whi ch are contai ned i n that word Quam. For i t i s as i f He
had sai d: I n truth the way i s very strai t, more so than you thi nk. And l i kewi se i t i s
to be noted that He says fi rst that the gate i s strai t, to make i t cl ear that, i n order
for the soul to enter by thi s gate, whi ch i s Chri st, and whi ch comes at the begi nni ng
of the road, the wi l l must fi rst be strai tened and detached i n al l thi ngs sensual and
temporal , and God must be l oved above them al l ; whi ch bel ongs to the ni ght of
sense, as we have sai d.
3. He then says that the way i s narrow -- that i s to say, the way of perfecti on
-- i n order to make i t cl ear that, to travel upon the way of perfecti on, the soul has
not onl y to enter by the strai t gate, emptyi ng i tsel f of thi ngs of sense, but has al so to
strai ten
244
i tsel f, freei ng and di sencumberi ng i tsel f compl etel y i n that whi ch
pertai ns to the spi ri t. And thus we can appl y what He says of the strai t gate to the
sensual part of man; and what He says of the narrow road we can understand of the
spi ri tual or the rati onal part; and, when He says 'Few there are that fi nd i t,' the
reason of thi s must be noted, whi ch i s that there are few who can enter, and desi re
to enter, i nto thi s compl ete detachment and empti ness of spi ri t. For thi s path
ascendi ng the hi gh mountai n of perfecti on l eads upward, and i s narrow, and
therefore requi res travel l ers that have no burden wei ghi ng upon them wi th respect
to l ower thi ngs, nei ther aught that embarrasses them wi th respect to hi gher thi ngs:
and, as thi s i s a matter wherei n we must seek after and attai n to God al one, God
al one must be the object of our search and attai nment.
4. Hence i t i s cl earl y seen that the soul must not onl y be di sencumbered from
that whi ch bel ongs to the creatures, but l i kewi se, as i t travel s, must be anni hi l ated
and detached from al l that bel ongs to i ts spi ri t. Wherefore Our Lord, i nstructi ng us
and l eadi ng us i nto thi s road, gave, i n the ei ghth chapter of St. Mark, that
wonderful teachi ng of whi ch I thi nk i t may al most be sai d that, the more necessary
i t i s for spi ri tual persons, the l ess i t i s practi sed by them. As thi s teachi ng i s so
i mportant and so much to our purpose, I shal l reproduce i t here i n ful l , and expound
i t accordi ng to i ts genui ne, spi ri tual sense. He says, then, thus: Si quis vult me
sequi, deneget semetipsum: et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me. Qui enim voluerit
animam suam salvam facere, perdet eam: qui autem perdiderit animam suam
propter me. . . salvam lacier eam.
245
Thi s si gni fi es: I f any man wi l l fol l ow My road,
l et hi m deny hi msel f and take up hi s cross and fol l ow Me. For he that wi l l save hi s
soul shal l l ose i t; but he that l oses i t for My sake, shal l gai n i t.
5. Oh, that one coul d show us how to understand, practi se and experi ence
what thi s counsel i s whi ch our Savi our here gi ves us concerni ng sel f-deni al ,
246
so
that spi ri tual persons mi ght see i n how di fferent a way they shoul d conduct
themsel ves upon thi s road from that whi ch many of them thi nk proper! For they
bel i eve that any ki nd of reti rement and reformati on of l i fe suffi ces; and others are
243
St. Matthew vi i , 14.
244
[The Spani sh verb, used al so at the end of the precedi ng paragraph, i s deri ved from the adjecti ve.]
245
St. Mark vi i i , 34-5.
246
[Lit., 'the deni al of oursel ves to our very sel ves.']
108
content wi th practi si ng the vi rtues and conti nui ng i n prayer and pursui ng
morti fi cati on; but they attai n not to detachment and poverty or sel fl essness
247
or
spi ri tual puri ty (whi ch are al l one), whi ch the Lord here commends to us; for they
prefer feedi ng and cl othi ng thei r natural sel ves wi th spi ri tual feel i ngs and
consol ati ons, to stri ppi ng themsel ves of al l thi ngs, and denyi ng themsel ves al l
thi ngs, for God's sake. For they thi nk that i t suffi ces to deny themsel ves worl dl y
thi ngs wi thout anni hi l ati ng and puri fyi ng themsel ves of spi ri tual attachment.
Wherefore i t comes to pass that, when there presents i tsel f to them any of thi s sol i d
and perfect spi ri tual i ty, consi sti ng i n the anni hi l ati on of al l sweetness i n God, i n
ari di ty, di staste and tri al , whi ch i s the true spi ri tual cross, and the detachment of
the spi ri tual poverty of Chri st, they fl ee from i t as from death, and seek onl y
sweetness and del ectabl e communi on wi th God. Thi s i s not sel f-deni al and
detachment of spi ri t, but spi ri tual gl uttony. Herei n, spi ri tual l y, they become
enemi es of the Cross of Chri st; for true spi ri tual i ty seeks for God's sake that whi ch
i s di stasteful rather than that whi ch i s del ectabl e; and i ncl i nes i tsel f rather to
sufferi ng than to consol ati on; and desi res to go wi thout al l bl essi ngs for God's sake
rather than to possess them; and to endure ari di ti es and affl i cti ons rather than to
enjoy sweet communi cati ons, knowi ng that thi s i s to fol l ow Chri st and to deny
onesel f, and that the other i s perchance to seek onesel f i n God, whi ch i s cl ean
contrary to l ove. For to seek onesel f i n God i s to seek the favours and refreshments
of God; but to seek God i n onesel f i s not onl y to desi re to be wi thout both of these for
God's sake, but to be di sposed to choose, for Chri st's sake, al l that i s most
di stasteful , whether i n rel ati on to God or to the worl d; and thi s i s l ove of God.
6. Oh, that one coul d tel l us how far Our Lord desi res thi s sel f-deni al to be
carri ed! I t must certai nl y be l i ke to death and anni hi l ati on, temporal , natural and
spi ri tual , i n al l thi ngs that the wi l l esteems, wherei n consi sts al l sel f-deni al . And i t
i s thi s that Our Lord meant when He sai d: 'He that wi l l save hi s l i fe, the same shal l
l ose i t.' That i s to say: He that wi l l possess anythi ng or seek anythi ng for hi msel f,
the same shal l l ose i t; and he that l oses hi s soul for My sake, the same shal l gai n i t.
That i s to say: He who for Chri st's sake renounces al l that hi s wi l l can desi re and
enjoy, and chooses that whi ch i s most l i ke to the Cross (whi ch the Lord Hi msel f,
through Sai nt John, descri bes as hati ng hi s soul
248
), the same shal l gai n i t. And thi s
Hi s Majesty taught to those two di sci pl es who went and begged Hi m for a pl ace on
Hi s ri ght hand and on Hi s l eft; when, gi vi ng no countenance to thei r request for
such gl ory, He offered them the chal i ce whi ch He had to dri nk, as a thi ng more
preci ous and more secure upon thi s earth than i s frui ti on.
249
7. Thi s chal i ce i s death to the natural sel f, a death attai ned through the
detachment and anni hi l ati on of that sel f, i n order that the soul may travel by thi s
narrow path, wi th respect to al l i ts connecti ons wi th sense, as we have sai d, and
accordi ng to the spi ri t, as we shal l now say; that i s, i n i ts understandi ng and i n i ts
enjoyment and i n i ts feel i ng. And, as a resul t, not onl y has the soul made i ts
renunci ati on as regards both sense and spi ri t, but i t i s not hi ndered, even by that
whi ch i s spi ri tual , i n taki ng the narrow way, on whi ch there i s room onl y for sel f-
deni al (as the Savi our expl ai ns), and the Cross, whi ch i s the staff wherewi th one
may reach one’s goal , and whereby the road i s greatl y l i ghtened and made easy.
Wherefore Our Lord sai d through Sai nt Matthew: 'My yoke i s easy and My burden
247
[enagenación, a word whi ch to-day means 'al i enati on,' 'rapture,' 'derangement (of mi nd),' but i n
Covarrubi as' di cti onary (1611) i s al so defi ned as 'gi vi ng to another what i s one's own.']
248
St. John xi i , 25.
249
St. Matthew xx, 22.
109
i s l i ght'; whi ch burden i s the cross. For i f a man resol ve to submi t hi msel f to
carryi ng thi s cross -- that i s to say, i f he resol ve to desi re i n truth to meet tri al s and
to bear them i n al l thi ngs for God's sake, he wi l l fi nd i n them al l great rel i ef and
sweetness wherewi th he may travel upon thi s road, detached from al l thi ngs and
desi ri ng nothi ng. Yet, i f he desi re to possess anythi ng -- whether i t come from God
or from any other source -- wi th any feel i ng of attachment, he has not stri pped and
deni ed hi msel f i n al l thi ngs; and thus he wi l l be unabl e to wal k al ong thi s narrow
path or to cl i mb upward by i t.
8. I woul d, then, that I coul d convi nce spi ri tual persons that thi s road to God
consi sts not i n a mul ti pl i ci ty of medi tati ons nor i n ways or methods of such, nor i n
consol ati ons, al though these thi ngs may i n thei r own way be necessary to begi nners;
but that i t consi sts onl y i n the one thi ng that i s needful , whi ch i s the abi l i ty to deny
onesel f trul y, accordi ng to that whi ch i s wi thout and to that whi ch i s wi thi n, gi vi ng
onesel f up to sufferi ng for Chri st's sake, and to total anni hi l ati on. For the soul that
practi ses thi s sufferi ng and anni hi l ati on wi l l achi eve al l that those other exerci ses
can achi eve, and that can be found i n them, and even more. And i f a soul be found
wanti ng i n thi s exerci se, whi ch i s the sum and root of the vi rtues, al l i ts other
methods are so much beati ng about the bush, and profi ti ng not at al l , al though i ts
medi tati ons and communi cati ons may be as l ofty as those of the angel s. For
progress comes not save through the i mi tati on of Chri st, Who i s the Way, the Truth
and the Li fe, and no man comes to the Father but by Hi m, even as He Hi msel f says
through Sai nt John.
250
And el sewhere He says: 'I am the door; by Me i f any man
enter he shal l be saved.'
251
Wherefore, as i t seems to me, any spi ri tual i ty that woul d
fai n wal k i n sweetness and wi th ease, and fl ees from the i mi tati on of Chri st, i s
worthl ess.
9. And, as I have sai d that Chri st i s the Way, and that thi s Way i s death to
our natural sel ves, i n thi ngs both of sense and of spi ri t, I wi l l now expl ai n how we
are to di e, fol l owi ng the exampl e of Chri st, for He i s our exampl e and l i ght.
10. I n the fi rst pl ace, i t i s certai n that He di ed as to sense, spi ri tual l y, i n Hi s
l i fe, besi des dyi ng natural l y, at Hi s death. For, as He sai d, He had not i n Hi s l i fe
where to l ay Hi s head, and at Hi s death thi s was even truer.
11. I n the second pl ace, i t i s certai n that, at the moment of Hi s death, He was
l i kewi se anni hi l ated i n Hi s soul , and was depri ved of any rel i ef and consol ati on,
si nce Hi s Father l eft Hi m i n the most i ntense ari di ty, accordi ng to the l ower part of
Hi s nature. Wherefore He had perforce to cry out, sayi ng: 'My God! My God! 'Why
hast Thou forsaken Me?'
252
Thi s was the greatest desol ati on, wi th respect to sense,
that He had suffered i n Hi s l i fe. And thus He wrought herei n the greatest work that
He had ever wrought, whether i n mi racl es or i n mi ghty works, duri ng the whol e of
Hi s l i fe, ei ther upon earth or i n Heaven, whi ch was the reconci l i ati on and uni on of
manki nd, through grace, wi th God. And thi s, as I say, was at the moment and the
ti me when thi s Lord was most compl etel y anni hi l ated i n everythi ng. Anni hi l ated,
that i s to say, wi th respect to human reputati on; si nce, when men saw Hi m di e, they
mocked Hi m rather than esteemed Hi m; and al so wi th respect to nature, si nce Hi s
nature was anni hi l ated when He di ed; and further wi th respect to the spi ri tual
consol ati on and protecti on of the Father, si nce at that ti me He forsook Hi m, that He
mi ght pay the whol e of man's debt and uni te hi m wi th God, bei ng thus anni hi l ated
and reduced as i t were to nothi ng. Wherefore Davi d says concerni ng Hi m: Ad
250
John xi v, 6.
251
St. John x, 9.
252
St. Matthew xxvi i , 46.
110
nihilum redactus sum, et nescivi.
253
Thi s he sai d that the trul y spi ri tual man may
understand the mystery of the gate and of the way of Chri st, and so become uni ted
wi th God, and may know that, the more compl etel y he i s anni hi l ated for God's sake,
accordi ng to these two parts, the sensual and the spi ri tual , the more compl etel y i s
he uni ted to God and the greater i s the work whi ch he accompl i shes. And when at
l ast he i s reduced to nothi ng, whi ch wi l l be the greatest extreme of humi l i ty,
spi ri tual uni on wi l l be wrought between the soul and God, whi ch i n thi s l i fe i s the
greatest and the hi ghest state attai nabl e. Thi s consi sts not, then, i n refreshment
and i n consol ati ons and spi ri tual feel i ngs, but i n a l i vi ng death of the Cross, both as
to sense and as to spi ri t -- that i s, both i nwardl y and outwardl y.
12. I wi l l not pursue thi s subject farther, al though I have no desi re to fi ni sh
speaki ng of i t, for I see that Chri st i s known very l i ttl e by those who consi der
themsel ves Hi s fri ends: we see them seeki ng i n Hi m thei r own pl easures and
consol ati ons because of thei r great l ove for themsel ves, but not l ovi ng Hi s bi tter
tri al s and Hi s death because of thei r great l ove for Hi m. I am speaki ng now of those
who consi der themsel ves Hi s fri ends; for such as l i ve far away, wi thdrawn from
Hi m, men of great l earni ng and i nfl uence, and al l others who l i ve yonder, wi th the
worl d, and are eager about thei r ambi ti ons and thei r prel aci es, may be sai d not to
know Chri st; and thei r end, however good, wi l l be very bi tter. Of such I make no
menti on i n these l i nes; but menti on wi l l be made of them on the Day of Judgment,
for to them i t was fi tti ng to speak fi rst thi s word of God,
254
as to those whom God
set up as a target for i t,
255
by reason of thei r l earni ng and thei r hi gh posi ti on.
13. But l et us now address the understandi ng of the spi ri tual man, and
parti cul arl y that of the man to whom God has granted the favour of l eadi ng hi m
i nto the state of contempl ati on (for, as I have sai d, I am now speaki ng to these i n
parti cul ar), and l et us say how such a man must di rect hi msel f toward God i n fai th,
and puri fy hi msel f from contrary thi ngs, constrai ni ng hi msel f that he may enter
upon thi s narrow path of obscure contempl ati on.
CHAPTER VI I I
Which describes in a general way how no creature and no knowledge that can be
comprehended by the understanding can serve as a proximate means of Divine union
with God.
BEFORE we treat of the proper and fi tti ng means of uni on wi th God, whi ch i s fai th,
i t behoves us to prove how no thi ng, created or i magi ned, can serve the
understandi ng as a proper means of uni on wi th God; and how al l that the
understandi ng can attai n serves i t rather as an i mpedi ment than as such a means,
i f i t shoul d desi re to cl i ng to i t. And now, i n thi s chapter, we shal l prove thi s i n a
general way, and afterwards we shal l begi n to speak i n detai l , treati ng i n turn of al l
ki nds of knowl edge that the understandi ng may recei ve from any sense, whether
i nward or outward, and of the i nconveni ences and evi l s that may resul t from al l
these ki nds of i nward and outward knowl edge, when i t cl i ngs not, as i t progresses,
253
Psal m l xxi i , 22 [A.V., l xxi i i , 22].
254
[The reference seems to be to Acts xi i i , 46, the poi nt of i t bei ng i n the second part of that verse.
The Spani sh wi l l al so bear the i nterpretati on: 'for them i t behoved fi rst (i .e., before others) to speak
thi s word of God, as (bei ng) those whom God set up as gui des, etc.']
255
[By thi s vi vi d phrase the author seems to mean: 'whom God hel d to be sui tabl e reci pi ents of i t.']
111
to the proper means, whi ch i s fai th.
2. I t must be understood, then, that, accordi ng to a rul e of phi l osophy, al l
means must be proporti oned to the end; that i s to say, they must have some
connecti on and resembl ance wi th the end, such as i s enough and suffi ci ent for the
desi red end to be attai ned through them. I take an exampl e. A man desi res to reach
a ci ty; he has of necessi ty to travel by the road, whi ch i s the means that bri ngs hi m
to thi s same ci ty and connects
256
hi m wi th i t. Another exampl e. Fi re i s to be
combi ned and uni ted wi th wood; i t i s necessary that heat, whi ch i s the means, shal l
fi rst prepare the wood, by conveyi ng to i t so many degrees of warmth that i t wi l l
have great resembl ance and proporti on to fi re. Now i f one woul d prepare the wood
by any other than the proper means -- namel y, wi th heat -- as, for exampl e, wi th ai r
or water or earth, i t woul d be i mpossi bl e for the wood to be uni ted wi th the fi re, just
as i t woul d be to reach the ci ty wi thout goi ng by the road that l eads to i t. Wherefore,
i n order that the understandi ng may be uni ted wi th God i n thi s l i fe, so far as i s
possi bl e, i t must of necessi ty empl oy that means that uni tes i t wi th Hi m and that
bears the greatest resembl ance to Hi m.
3. Here i t must be poi nted out that, among al l the creatures, the hi ghest or
the l owest, there i s none that comes near to God or bears any resembl ance to Hi s
Bei ng. For, al though i t i s true that al l creatures have, as theol ogi ans say, a certai n
rel ati on to God, and bear a Di vi ne i mpress (some more and others l ess, accordi ng to
the greater or l esser excel l ence of thei r nature), yet there i s no essenti al
resembl ance or connecti on between them and God -- on the contrary, the di stance
between thei r bei ng and Hi s Di vi ne Bei ng i s i nfi ni te. Wherefore i t i s i mpossi bl e for
the understandi ng to attai n to God by means of the creatures, whether these be
cel esti al or earthl y, i nasmuch as there i s no proporti on or resembl ance between
them. Wherefore, when Davi d speaks of the heavenl y creatures, he says: 'There i s
none among the gods l i ke unto Thee, O Lord';
257
meani ng by the gods the angel s
and hol y soul s. And el sewhere: 'O God, Thy way i s i n the hol y pl ace. What God i s
there so great as our God?'
258
As though he were to say: The way of approach to
Thee, O God, i s a hol y way -- that i s, the puri ty of fai th. For what God can there be
so great? That i s to say: What angel wi l l there be so exal ted i n hi s bei ng, and what
sai nt so exal ted i n gl ory, as to be a proporti onate and suffi ci ent road by whi ch a
man may come to Thee? And the same Davi d, speaki ng l i kewi se of earthl y and
heavenl y thi ngs both together, says: 'The Lord i s hi gh and l ooketh on l owl y thi ngs,
and the hi gh thi ngs He knoweth afar off'
259
As though he had sai d: Lofty i n Hi s own
Bei ng, He sees that the bei ng of thi ngs here bel ow i s very l ow i n compari son wi th
Hi s l ofty Bei ng; and the l ofty thi ngs, whi ch are the cel esti al creatures, He sees and
knows to be very far from Hi s Bei ng. Al l the creatures, then, cannot serve as a
proporti onate means to the understandi ng whereby i t may reach God.
4. Just so al l that the i magi nati on can i magi ne and the understandi ng can
recei ve and understand i n thi s l i fe i s not, nor can i t be, a proxi mate means of uni on
wi th God. For, i f we speak of natural thi ngs, si nce understandi ng can understand
naught save that whi ch i s contai ned wi thi n, and comes under the category of, forms
and i magi ni ngs of thi ngs that are recei ved through the bodi l y senses, the whi ch
thi ngs, we have sai d, cannot serve as means, i t can make no use of natural
i ntel l i gence. And, i f we speak of the supernatural (i n so far as i s possi bl e i n thi s l i fe
256
[Lit., 'uni te.']
257
Psal m l xxxv, 8 [A.V., l xxxvi , 8].
258
Psal m l xxvi , 14 [A.V., l xxvi i , 13] [l i t., 'i n that whi ch i s hol y'].
259
Psal m cxxxvi i , 6 [A.V., cxxxvi i i , 6].
112
of our ordi nary facul ti es), the understandi ng i n i ts bodi l y pri son has no preparati on
or capaci ty for recei vi ng the cl ear knowl edge of God; for such knowl edge bel ongs not
to thi s state, and we must ei ther di e or remai n wi thout recei vi ng i t. Wherefore
Moses, when he entreated God for thi s cl ear knowl edge, was tol d by God that he
woul d be unabl e to see Hi m, i n these words: 'No man shal l see Me and remai n
al i ve.'
260
Wherefore Sai nt John says: 'No man hath seen God at any ti me,
261
nei ther
aught that i s l i ke to Hi m.' And Sai nt Paul says, wi th I sai as: 'Eye hath not seen Hi m,
nor hath ear heard Hi m, nei ther hath i t entered i nto the heart of man.'
262
And i t i s
for thi s reason that, as i s sai d i n the Acts of the Apostl es,
263
Moses, i n the bush,
durst not consi der for as l ong as God was present; for he knew that hi s
understandi ng coul d make no consi derati on that was fi tti ng concerni ng God,
correspondi ng to the sense whi ch he had of God's presence. And of El i as, our father,
i t i s sai d that he covered hi s face on the Mount i n the presence of God
264
-- an acti on
si gni fyi ng the bl i ndi ng of hi s understandi ng, whi ch he wrought there, dari ng not to
l ay so base a hand upon that whi ch was so hi gh, and seei ng cl earl y that whatsoever
he mi ght consi der or understand wi th any preci si on woul d be very far from God and
compl etel y unl i ke Hi m.
5. Wherefore no supernatural apprehensi on or knowl edge i n thi s mortal state
can serve as a proxi mate means to the hi gh uni on of l ove wi th God. For al l that can
be understood by the understandi ng, that can be tasted by the wi l l , and that can be
i nvented by the i magi nati on i s most unl i ke to God and bears no proporti on to Hi m,
as we have sai d. Al l thi s I sai as admi rabl y expl ai ned i n that most noteworthy
passage, where he says: 'To what thi ng have ye been abl e to l i ken God? Or what
i mage wi l l ye make that i s l i ke to Hi m? Wi l l the workman i n i ron perchance be abl e
to make a graven i mage? Or wi l l he that works gol d be abl e to i mi tate Hi m
265
wi th
gol d, or the si l versmi th wi th pl ates of si l ver?'
266
By the workman i n i ron i s si gni fi ed
the understandi ng, the offi ce of whi ch i s to form i ntel l i gences and stri p them of the
i ron of speci es and i mages. By the workman i n gol d i s understood the wi l l , whi ch i s
abl e to recei ve the fi gure and the form of pl easure, caused by the gol d of l ove. By the
si l versmi th, who i s spoken of as bei ng unabl e to form
267
Hi m wi th pl ates of si l ver, i s
understood the memory, wi th the i magi nati on, whereof i t may be sai d wi th great
propri ety that i ts knowl edge and the i magi ni ngs that i t can i nvent
268
and make are
l i ke pl ates of si l ver. And thus i t i s as though he had sai d: Nei ther the understandi ng
wi th i ts i ntel l i gence wi l l be abl e to understand aught that i s l i ke Hi m, nor can the
wi l l taste pl easure and sweetness that bears any resembl ance to that whi ch i s God,
nei ther can the memory set i n the i magi nati on i deas and i mages that represent
Hi m. I t i s cl ear, then, that none of these ki nds of knowl edge can l ead the
understandi ng di rect to God; and that, i n order to reach Hi m, a soul must rather
proceed by not understandi ng than by desi ri ng to understand; and by bl i ndi ng i tsel f
and setti ng i tsel f i n darkness, rather than by openi ng i ts eyes, i n order the more
nearl y to approach the ray Di vi ne.
260
Exodus xxxi i i , 20.
261
St. John i , 18.
262
1 Cori nthi ans i i , 9; I sai as l xi v, 4.
263
Acts vi i , 32.
264
3 Ki ngs [A.V. 1 Ki ngs] xi x, 13.
265
[Lit., 'fei gn Hi m.']
266
I sai as xl , 18-19.
267
[Al l authori ti es read 'form' (or 'fi gure') here. Cf. n. 7, above.]
268
[Thi s i s the word (fingir, 'fei gn'), transl ated above as 'i mi tate.' Cf. n. 7, above.]
113
6. And thus i t i s that contempl ati on, whereby the understandi ng has the
l ofti est knowl edge of God, i s cal l ed mysti cal theol ogy, whi ch si gni fi es secret wi sdom
of God; for i t i s secret even to the understandi ng that recei ves i t. For that reason
Sai nt Di onysi us cal l s i t a ray of darkness. Of thi s the prophet Baruch says: 'There i s
none that knoweth i ts way, nor any that can thi nk of i ts paths.'
269
I t i s cl ear, then,
that the understandi ng must be bl i nd to al l paths that are open to i t i n order that i t
may be uni ted wi th God. Ari stotl e says that, even as are the eyes of the bat wi th
regard to the sun, whi ch i s total darkness to i t, even so i s our understandi ng to that
whi ch i s greater l i ght i n God, whi ch i s total darkness to us. And he says further
that, the l ofti er and cl earer are the thi ngs of God i n themsel ves, the more
compl etel y unknown and obscure are they to us. Thi s l i kewi se the Apostl e affi rms,
sayi ng: 'The l ofty thi ngs of God are the l east known unto men.'
270
7. But we shoul d never end i f we conti nued at thi s rate to quote authori ti es
and arguments to prove and make cl ear that among al l created thi ngs, and thi ngs
that can be apprehended by the understandi ng, there i s no l adder whereby the
understandi ng can attai n to thi s hi gh Lord. Rather i t i s necessary to know that, i f
the understandi ng shoul d seek to make use of al l these thi ngs, or of any of them, as
a proxi mate means to such uni on, they woul d be not onl y a hi ndrance, but even an
occasi on of numerous errors and del usi ons i n the ascent of thi s mount.
CHAPTER I X
How faith is the proximate and proportionate means to the understanding whereby
the soul may attain to the Divine union of love. This is proved by passages and
figures from Divine Scripture.
FROM what has been sai d i t i s to be i nferred that, i n order for the understandi ng to
be prepared for thi s Di vi ne uni on, i t must be pure and voi d of al l that pertai ns to
sense, and detached and freed from al l that can cl earl y be apprehended by the
understandi ng, profoundl y hushed and put to si l ence, and l eani ng upon fai th, whi ch
al one i s the proxi mate and proporti onate means whereby the soul i s uni ted wi th
God; for such i s the l i keness between i tsel f and God that there i s no other di fference,
save that whi ch exi sts between seei ng God and bel i evi ng i n Hi m. For, even as God
i s i nfi ni te, so fai th sets Hi m before us as i nfi ni te; and, as He i s Three and One, i t
sets Hi m before us as Three and One; and, as God i s darkness to our understandi ng,
even so does fai th l i kewi se bl i nd and dazzl e our understandi ng. And thus, by thi s
means al one, God mani fests Hi msel f to the soul i n Di vi ne l i ght, whi ch passes al l
understandi ng. And therefore, the greater i s the fai th of the soul , the more cl osel y i s
i t uni ted wi th God. I t i s thi s that Sai nt Paul meant i n the passage whi ch we quoted
above, where he says: 'He that wi l l be uni ted wi th God must bel i eve.'
271
That i s, he
must wal k by fai th as he journeys to Hi m, the understandi ng bei ng bl i nd and i n
darkness, wal ki ng i n fai th al one; for beneath thi s darkness the understandi ng i s
uni ted wi th God, and beneath i t God i s hi dden, even as Davi d sai d i n these words:
'He set darkness under Hi s feet. And He rose upon the cherubi m, and fl ew upon the
wi ngs of the wi nd. And He made darkness, and the dark water, Hi s hi di ng-pl ace.'
272
269
Baruch i i i , 23.
270
[Possi bl y a further reference to 1 Cori nthi ans i i , 9-10, quoted above.]
271
Hebrews xi , 6.
272
Psal m xvi i , 10-12 [A.V., xvi i i , 9-11].
114
2. By hi s sayi ng that He set darkness beneath Hi s feet, and that He took the
darkness for a hi di ng-pl ace, and that Hi s tabernacl e round about Hi m was i n the
dark water, i s denoted the obscuri ty of the fai th wherei n He i s conceal ed. And by hi s
sayi ng that He rose upon the cherubi m and fl ew upon the wi ngs of the wi nds, i s
understood Hi s soari ng above al l understandi ng. For the cherubi m denote those
who understand or contempl ate. And the wi ngs of the wi nds si gni fy the subtl e and
l ofty i deas and concepti ons of spi ri ts, above al l of whi ch i s Hi s Bei ng, and to whi ch
none, by hi s own power, can attai n.
3. Thi s we l earn from an i l l ustrati on i n the Scri ptures. When Sol omon had
compl eted the bui l di ng of the Templ e, God came down i n darkness and fi l l ed the
Templ e so that the chi l dren of I srael coul d not see; whereupon Sol omon spake and
sai d: 'The Lord hath promi sed that He wi l l dwel l i n darkness'.
273
Li kewi se He
appeared i n darkness to Moses on the Mount, where God was conceal ed. And
whensoever God communi cated Hi msel f i nti matel y, He appeared i n darkness, as
may be seen i n Job, where the Scri pture says that God spoke wi th hi m from the
darkness of the ai r.
274
Al l these menti ons of darkness si gni fy the obscuri ty of the
fai th wherei n the Di vi ni ty i s conceal ed, when I t communi cates I tsel f to the soul ;
whi ch wi l l be ended when, as Sai nt Paul says, that whi ch i s i n part shal l be
ended,
275
whi ch i s thi s darkness of fai th, and that whi ch i s perfect shal l come, whi ch
i s the Di vi ne l i ght. Of thi s we have a good i l l ustrati on i n the army of Gedeon,
whereof i t i s sai d al l the sol di ers had l amps i n thei r hands, whi ch they saw not,
because they had them conceal ed i n the darkness of the pi tchers; but, when these
pi tchers were broken, the l i ght was seen.
276
Just so does fai th, whi ch i s
foreshadowed by those pi tchers, contai n wi thi n i tsel f Di vi ne l i ght; whi ch, when i t i s
ended and broken, at the endi ng and breaki ng of thi s mortal l i fe, wi l l al l ow the
gl ory and l i ght of the Di vi ni ty, whi ch was contai ned i n i t, to appear.
4. I t i s cl ear, then, that, i f the soul i n thi s l i fe i s to attai n to uni on wi th God,
and commune di rectl y wi th Hi m, i t must uni te i tsel f wi th the darkness whereof
Sol omon spake, wherei n God had promi sed to dwel l , and must draw near to the
darkness of the ai r wherei n God was pl eased to reveal Hi s secrets to Job, and must
take i n i ts hands, i n darkness, the jars of Gedeon, that i t may have i n i ts hands
(that i s, i n the works of i ts wi l l ) the l i ght, whi ch i s the uni on of l ove, though i t be i n
the darkness of fai th, so that, when the pi tchers of thi s l i fe are broken, whi ch al one
have kept from i t the l i ght of fai th, i t may see God face to face i n gl ory.
5. I t now remai ns to descri be i n detai l al l the types of knowl edge and the
apprehensi ons whi ch the understandi ng can recei ve; the hi ndrance and the harm
whi ch i t can recei ve upon thi s road of fai th; and the way wherei n the soul must
conduct i tsel f so that, whether they proceed from the senses or from the spi ri t, they
may cause i t, not harm, but profi t.
CHAPTER X
Wherein distinction is made between all apprehensions and types of knowledge
which can be comprehended by the understanding.
273
3 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Ki ngs] vi i i , 12.
274
Job xxxvi i i , 1; xl , 1.
275
1 Cori nthi ans xi i i , 10.
276
Judges vi i i , 16.
115
I N order to treat i n detai l of the profi t and the harm whi ch may come to the soul ,
wi th respect to thi s means to Di vi ne uni on whi ch we have descri bed -- namel y, fai th
-- through the i deas and apprehensi ons of the understandi ng, i t i s necessary here to
make a di sti ncti on between al l the apprehensi ons, whether natural or supernatural ,
that the soul may recei ve, so that then, wi th regard to each of them i n order, we
may di rect the understandi ng wi th greater cl earness i nto the ni ght and obscuri ty of
fai th. Thi s wi l l be done wi th al l possi bl e brevi ty.
2. I t must be known, then, that the understandi ng can recei ve knowl edge and
i ntel l i gence by two channel s: the one natural and the other supernatural . By the
natural channel i s meant al l that the understandi ng can understand, whether by
means of the bodi l y senses or by i ts own power.
277
The supernatural channel i s al l
that i s gi ven to the understandi ng over and above i ts natural abi l i ty and capaci ty.
3. Of these ki nds of supernatural knowl edge, some are corporeal and some
are spi ri tual . The corporeal are two i n number: some are recei ved by means of the
outward bodi l y senses; others, by means of the i nward bodi l y senses, wherei n i s
comprehended al l that the i magi nati on can comprehend, form and concei ve.
4. The spi ri tual supernatural knowl edge i s l i kewi se of two ki nds: that whi ch
i s di sti nct and speci al i n i ts nature, and that whi ch i s confused, general and dark.
Of the di sti nct and speci al ki nd there are four manners of apprehensi on whi ch are
communi cated to the spi ri t wi thout the ai d of any bodi l y sense: these are vi si ons,
revel ati ons, l ocuti ons and spi ri tual feel i ngs. The obscure and general type of
knowl edge i s of one ki nd al one, whi ch i s contempl ati on that i s gi ven i n fai th. To thi s
we have to l ead the soul by bri ngi ng i t thereto through al l these other means,
begi nni ng wi th the fi rst and detachi ng i t from them.
CHAPTER XI
Of the hindrance and harm that may be caused by apprehensions of the
understanding which proceed from that which is supernaturally represented to the
outward bodily senses; and how the soul is to conduct itself therein.
THE fi rst ki nds of knowl edge whereof we have spoken i n the precedi ng chapter are
those that bel ong to the understandi ng and come through natural channel s. Of
these, si nce we have treated them al ready i n the fi rst book, where we l ed the soul
i nto the ni ght of sense, we shal l here say not a word, for i n that pl ace we gave
sui tabl e i nstructi on to the soul concerni ng them. What we have to treat, therefore,
i n the present chapter, wi l l be sol el y those ki nds of knowl edge and those
apprehensi ons whi ch bel ong to the understandi ng and come supernatural l y, by way
of the outward bodi l y senses -- namel y, by seei ng, heari ng, smel l i ng, tasti ng and
touchi ng. Wi th respect to al l these there may come, and there are wont to come, to
spi ri tual persons representati ons and objects of a supernatural ki nd. Wi th respect
to si ght, they are apt to pi cture fi gures and forms of persons bel ongi ng to the l i fe to
come -- the forms of certai n sai nts, and representati ons of angel s, good and evi l , and
certai n l i ghts and bri ghtnesses of an extraordi nary ki nd. And wi th the ears they
hear certai n extraordi nary words, someti mes spoken by those fi gures that they see,
someti mes wi thout seei ng the person who speaks them. As to the sense of smel l ,
they someti mes percei ve the sweetest perfumes wi th the senses, wi thout knowi ng
whence they proceed. Li kewi se, as to taste, i t comes to pass that they are consci ous
277
[Lit., ‘by i tsel f.’]
116
of the sweetest savours, and, as to touch, they experi ence great del i ght -- someti mes
to such a degree that i t i s as though al l the bones and the marrow rejoi ce and
si ng
278
and are bathed i n del i ght; thi s i s l i ke that whi ch we cal l spi ri tual uncti on,
whi ch i n pure soul s proceeds from the spi ri t and fl ows i nto the very members. And
thi s sensi bl e sweetness i s a very ordi nary thi ng wi th spi ri tual persons, for i t comes
to them from thei r sensi bl e affecti on and devoti on,
279
to a greater or a l esser degree,
to each one after hi s own manner.
2. And i t must be known that, al though al l these thi ngs may happen to the
bodi l y senses i n the way of God, we must never rel y upon them or accept them, but
must al ways fl y from them, wi thout tryi ng to ascertai n whether they be good or evi l ;
for, the more compl etel y exteri or and corporeal they are, the l ess certai nl y are they
of God. For i t i s more proper and habi tual to God to communi cate Hi msel f to the
spi ri t, wherei n there i s more securi ty and profi t for the soul , than to sense, wherei n
there i s ordi nari l y much danger and decepti on; for bodi l y sense judges and makes
i ts esti mate of spi ri tual thi ngs by thi nki ng that they are as i t feel s them to be,
whereas they are as di fferent as i s the body from the soul and sensual i ty
280
from
reason. For the bodi l y sense i s as i gnorant of spi ri tual thi ngs as i s a beast of
rati onal thi ngs, and even more so.
3. So he that esteems such thi ngs errs greatl y and exposes hi msel f to great
peri l of bei ng decei ved; i n any case he wi l l have wi thi n hi msel f a compl ete
i mpedi ment to the attai nment of spi ri tual i ty. For, as we have sai d, between
spi ri tual thi ngs and al l these bodi l y thi ngs there exi sts no ki nd of proporti on
whatever. And thus i t may al ways be supposed that such thi ngs as these are more
l i kel y to be of the devi l than of God; for the devi l has more i nfl uence i n that whi ch i s
exteri or and corporeal , and can decei ve a soul more easi l y thereby than by that
whi ch i s more i nteri or and spi ri tual .
4. And the more exteri or are these corporeal forms and objects i n themsel ves,
the l ess do they profi t the i nteri or and spi ri tual nature, because of the great
di stance and the l ack of proporti on exi sti ng between the corporeal and the spi ri tual .
For, al though there i s communi cated by thei r means a certai n degree of spi ri tual i ty,
as i s al ways the case wi th thi ngs that come from God, much l ess i s communi cated
than woul d be the case i f the same thi ngs were more i nteri or and spi ri tual . And
thus they very easi l y become the means whereby error and presumpti on and vani ty
grow i n the soul ; si nce, as they are so pal pabl e and materi al , they sti r the senses
greatl y, and i t appears to the judgment of the soul that they are of greater
i mportance because they are more readi l y fel t. Thus the soul goes after them,
abandoni ng fai th and thi nki ng that the l i ght whi ch i t recei ves from them i s the
gui de and means to i ts desi red goal , whi ch i s uni on wi th God. But the more
attenti on i t pays to such thi ngs, the farther i t strays from the true way and means,
whi ch are fai th.
5. And, besi des al l thi s, when the soul sees that such extraordi nary thi ngs
happen to i t, i t i s often vi si ted, i nsi di ousl y and secretl y by a certai n compl acency, so
that i t thi nks i tsel f to be of some i mportance i n the eyes of God; whi ch i s contrary to
humi l i ty. The devi l , too, knows how to i nsi nuate i nto the soul a secret sati sfacti on
wi th i tsel f, whi ch at ti mes becomes very evi dent; wherefore he frequentl y represents
these objects to the senses, setti ng before the eyes fi gures of sai nts and most
278
[Lit., 'and bl ossom.']
279
[Lit., 'from the affecti on and devoti on of the sensi bl e spi ri t.']
280
[P. Si l veri o remarks here that] we must understand [as frequentl y el sewhere] 'sensi bi l i ty' and not
sensual i ty i n the grosser sense.
117
beauteous l i ghts; and before the ears words very much di ssembl ed; and
representi ng al so sweetest perfumes, del i ci ous tastes
281
and thi ngs del ectabl e to the
touch; to the end that, by produci ng desi res for such thi ngs, he may l ead the soul
i nto much evi l . These representati ons and feel i ngs, therefore, must al ways be
rejected; for, even though some of them be of God, He i s not offended by thei r
rejecti on, nor i s the effect and frui t whi ch He desi res to produce i n the soul by
means of them any the l ess surel y recei ved because the soul rejects them and
desi res them not.
6. The reason for thi s i s that corporeal vi si on, or feel i ng i n respect to any of
the other senses, or any other communi cati on of the most i nteri or ki nd, i f i t be of
God, produces i ts effect upon the spi ri t at the very moment when i t appears or i s
fel t, wi thout gi vi ng the soul ti me or opportuni ty to del i berate whether i t wi l l accept
or reject i t. For, even as God gi ves these thi ngs supernatural l y, wi thout effort on the
part of the soul , and i ndependentl y of i ts capaci ty, even so l i kewi se, wi thout respect
to i ts effort or capaci ty, God produces i n i t the effect that He desi res by means of
such thi ngs; for thi s i s a thi ng that i s wrought and brought to pass i n the spi ri t
passi vel y; and thus i ts acceptance or non-acceptance consi sts not i n the acceptance
or the rejecti on of i t by the wi l l . I t i s as though fi re were appl i ed to a person's naked
body: i t woul d matter l i ttl e whether or no he wi shed to be burned; the fi re woul d of
necessi ty accompl i sh i ts work. Just so i s i t wi th vi si ons and representati ons that are
good: even though the soul desi re i t not, they work thei r effect upon i t, chi efl y and
especi al l y i n the soul , rather than i n the body. And l i kewi se those that come from
the devi l (wi thout the consent of the soul ) cause i t di sturbance or ari di ty or vani ty
or presumpti on i n the spi ri t. Yet these are not so effecti ve to work evi l as are those
of God to work good; for those of the devi l can onl y set i n acti on the fi rst movements
of the wi l l ,
282
and move i t no farther, unl ess the soul be consenti ng thereto; and
such troubl e conti nues not l ong unl ess the soul 's l ack of courage and prudence be
the occasi on of i ts conti nuance. But the vi si ons that are of God penetrate the soul
and move the wi l l to l ove, and produce thei r effect, whi ch the soul cannot resi st even
though i t woul d, any more than the wi ndow can resi st the sun's rays when they
stri ke
7. The soul , then, must never presume to desi re to recei ve them, even though,
as I say, they be of God; for, i f i t desi re to recei ve them, there fol l ow si x
i nconveni ences.
The fi rst i s that fai th grows gradual l y l ess; for thi ngs that are experi enced by
the senses derogate from fai th; si nce fai th, as we have sai d, transcends every sense.
And thus the soul wi thdraws i tsel f from the means of uni on wi th God when i t cl oses
not i ts eyes to al l these thi ngs of sense.
Secondl y, i f they be not rejected, they are a hi ndrance to the spi ri t, for the
soul rests i n them and i ts spi ri t soars not to the i nvi si bl e. Thi s was one of the
reasons why the Lord sai d to Hi s di sci pl es that i t was needful for Hi m to go away
that the Hol y Spi ri t mi ght come; so, too, He forbade Mary Magdal ene to touch Hi s
feet, after Hi s resurrecti on, that she mi ght be grounded i n fai th.
Thi rdl y, the soul becomes attached to these thi ngs and advances not to true
resi gnati on and detachment of spi ri t.
Fourthl y, i t begi ns to l ose the effect of them and the i nward spi ri tual i ty whi ch
281
[Lit., 'and sweetnesses i n the mouth.']
282
E.p.: 'for those of the devi l stop at the fi rst movements and cannot move the wi l l .' Thi s, no doubt,
was the Sai nt's meani ng, for the Church teaches that the devi l cannot i nfl uence the wi l l di rectl y,
though he may do so i ndi rectl y, pri nci pal l y through the senses and the i magi nati on.
118
they cause i t, because i t sets i ts eyes upon thei r sensual aspect, whi ch i s the l east
i mportant. And thus i t recei ves not so ful l y the spi ri tual i ty whi ch they cause, whi ch
i s i mpressed and preserved more securel y when al l thi ngs of sense are rejected,
si nce these are very di fferent from pure spi ri t.
Fi fthl y, the soul begi ns to l ose the favours of God, because i t accepts them as
though they bel onged to i t and profi ts not by them as i t shoul d. And to accept them
i n thi s way and not to profi t by them i s to seek after them; but God gi ves them not
that the soul may seek after them; nor shoul d the soul take upon i tsel f to bel i eve
that they are of God.
283
Si xthl y, a readi ness to accept them opens the door to the devi l that he may
decei ve the soul by other thi ngs l i ke to them, whi ch he very wel l knows how to
di ssi mul ate and di sgui se, so that they may appear to be good; for, as the Apostl e
says, he can transform hi msel f i nto an angel of l i ght.
284
Of thi s we shal l treat
hereafter, by the Di vi ne favour, i n our thi rd book, i n the chapter upon spi ri tual
gl uttony.
8. I t i s al ways wel l , then, that the soul shoul d reject these thi ngs, and cl ose
i ts eyes to them, whencesoever they come. For, unl ess i t does so, i t wi l l prepare the
way for those thi ngs that come from the devi l , and wi l l gi ve hi m such i nfl uence that,
not onl y wi l l hi s vi si ons come i n pl ace of God's, but hi s vi si ons wi l l begi n to i ncrease,
and those of God to cease, i n such manner that the devi l wi l l have al l the power and
God wi l l have none. So i t has happened to many i ncauti ous and i gnorant soul s, who
rel y on these thi ngs to such an extent that many of them have found i t hard to
return to God i n puri ty of fai th; and many have been unabl e to return, so securel y
has the devi l rooted hi msel f i n them; for whi ch reason i t i s wel l to resi st and reject
them al l . For, by the rejecti on of evi l vi si ons, the errors of the devi l are avoi ded, and
by the rejecti on of good vi si ons no hi ndrance i s offered to fai th and the spi ri t
harvests the frui t of them. And just as, when the soul al l ows them entrance, God
begi ns to wi thhol d them because the soul i s becomi ng attached to them and i s not
profi ti ng by them as i t shoul d, whi l e the devi l i nsi nuates and i ncreases hi s own
vi si ons, where he fi nds occasi on and cause for them; just so, when the soul i s
resi gned, or even averse to them, the devi l begi ns to desi st, si nce he sees that he i s
worki ng i t no harm; and contrari wi se God begi ns to i ncrease and magni fy Hi s
favours i n a soul that i s so humbl e and detached, maki ng i t rul er over
285
many
thi ngs, even as He made the servant who was fai thful i n smal l thi ngs.
286
9. I n these favours, i f the soul be fai thful and humbl e,
287
the Lord wi l l not
cease unti l He has rai sed i t from one step to another, even to Di vi ne uni on and
transformati on. For Our Lord conti nues to prove the soul and to rai se i t ever hi gher,
so that He fi rst gi ves i t thi ngs that are very unpretenti ous and exteri or and i n the
order of sense, i n conformi ty wi th the smal l ness of i ts capaci ty; to the end that,
when i t behaves as i t shoul d, and recei ves these fi rst morsel s wi th moderati on for
i ts strength and sustenance, He may grant i t further and better food. I f, then, the
soul conquer the devi l upon the fi rst step, i t wi l l pass to the second; and i f upon the
second l i kewi se, i t wi l l pass to the thi rd; and so onward, through al l seven
283
St. John of the Cross means that the soul shoul d not rel y upon i ts own judgment i n such matters
but upon some di screet and l earned di rector.
284
2 Cori nthi ans xi , 14.
285
[Lit., 'maki ng i t over.'] E.p. has: 'setti ng i t and pl aci ng i t over.'
286
[St. Matthew xxv, 21.]
287
[Lit., 'and reti red.']
119
mansi ons,
288
whi ch are the seven steps of l ove, unti l the Spouse shal l bri ng i t to the
cel l ar of wi ne of Hi s perfect chari ty.
10. Happy the soul that can fi ght agai nst that beast of the Apocal ypse,
289
whi ch has seven heads, set over agai nst these seven steps of l ove, and whi ch makes
war therewi th agai nst each one, and stri ves therewi th agai nst the soul i n each of
these mansi ons, wherei n the soul i s bei ng exerci sed and i s mounti ng step by step i n
the l ove of God. And undoubtedl y i f i t stri ve fai thful l y agai nst each of these heads,
and gai n the vi ctory, i t wi l l deserve to pass from one step to another, and from one
mansi on to another, even unto the l ast, l eavi ng the beast vanqui shed after
destroyi ng i ts seven heads, wherewi th i t made so furi ous a war upon i t. So furi ous i s
thi s war that Sai nt John says i n that pl ace
290
that i t was gi ven unto the beast to
make war agai nst the sai nts and to be abl e to overcome them upon each one of these
steps of l ove, arrayi ng agai nst each one many weapons and muni ti ons of war. And i t
i s therefore greatl y to be l amented that many who engage i n thi s spi ri tual battl e
agai nst the beast do not even destroy i ts fi rst head by denyi ng themsel ves the
sensual thi ngs of the worl d. And, though some destroy and cut off thi s head, they
destroy not the second head, whi ch i s that of the vi si ons of sense whereof we are
speaki ng. But what i s most to be l amented i s that some, havi ng destroyed not onl y
the fi rst and the second but even the thi rd, whi ch i s that of the i nteri or senses, pass
out of the state of medi tati on, and travel sti l l farther onward, and are overcome by
thi s spi ri tual beast at the moment of thei r enteri ng i nto puri ty of spi ri t, for he ri ses
up agai nst them once more, and even hi s fi rst head comes to l i fe agai n, and the l ast
state of those soul s i s worse than the fi rst, si nce, when they fal l back, the beast
bri ngs wi th hi m seven other spi ri ts worse then hi msel f.
291
11. The spi ri tual person, then, has to deny hi msel f al l the apprehensi ons, and
the temporal del i ghts, that bel ong to the outward senses, i f he wi l l destroy the fi rst
and the second head of thi s beast, and enter i nto the fi rst chamber of l ove, and the
second, whi ch i s of l i vi ng fai th, desi ri ng nei ther to l ay hol d upon, nor to be
embarrassed by, that whi ch i s gi ven to the senses, si nce i t i s thi s that derogates
most from fai th.
12. I t i s cl ear, then, that these sensual apprehensi ons and vi si ons cannot be a
means to uni on, si nce they bear no proporti on to God; and thi s was one of the
reasons why Chri st desi red that the Magdal ene and Sai nt Thomas shoul d not touch
Hi m. And so the devi l rejoi ces greatl y when a soul desi res to recei ve revel ati ons, and
when he sees i t i ncl i ned to them, for he has then a great occasi on and opportuni ty to
i nsi nuate errors and, i n so far as he i s abl e, to derogate from fai th; for, as I have
sai d, he renders the soul that desi res them very gross, and at ti mes even l eads i t
i nto many temptati ons and unseeml y ways.
13. I have wri tten at some l ength of these outward apprehensi ons i n order to
throw and shed rather more l i ght on the others, whereof we have to treat shortl y.
There i s so much to say on thi s part of my subject that I coul d go on and never end. I
bel i eve, however, that I am summari zi ng i t suffi ci entl y by merel y sayi ng that the
soul must take care never to recei ve these apprehensi ons, save occasi onal l y on
another person's advi ce, whi ch shoul d very rarel y be gi ven, and even then i t must
have no desi re for them. I thi nk that on thi s part of my subject what I have sai d i s
suffi ci ent.
288
[The phrase i s suggesti ve of St. Teresa, though the Spani sh word i s not moradas, but mansiones.]
289
[Apocal ypse xi i i , 1.]
290
[Apocal ypse xi i i , 7.]
291
[St. Luke xi , 26.]
120
CHAPTER XI I
Which treats of natural imaginary apprehensions. Describes their nature and proves
that they cannot be a proportionate means of attainment to union with God. Shows
the harm which results from inability to detach oneself from them.
BEFORE we treat of the i magi nary vi si ons whi ch are wont to occur supernatural l y
to the i nteri or sense, whi ch i s the i magi nati on and the fancy, i t i s fi tti ng here, so
that we may proceed i n order, to treat of the natural apprehensi ons of thi s same
i nteri or bodi l y sense, i n order that we may proceed from the l esser to the greater,
and from the more exteri or to the more i nteri or, unti l we reach the most i nteri or
292
recol l ecti on wherei n the soul i s uni ted wi th God; thi s same order we have fol l owed
up to thi s poi nt. For we treated fi rst of al l the detachment of the exteri or senses
from the natural apprehensi ons of objects, and, i n consequence, from the natural
power of the desi res -- thi s was contai ned i n the fi rst book, wherei n we spoke of the
ni ght of sense. We then began to detach these same senses from supernatural
exteri or apprehensi ons (whi ch, as we have just shown i n the l ast chapter, affect the
exteri or senses), i n order to l ead the soul i nto the ni ght of the spi ri t.
2. I n thi s second book, the fi rst thi ng that has now to be treated i s the
i nteri or bodi l y sense -- namel y, the i magi nati on and the fancy; thi s we must
l i kewi se voi d of al l the i magi nary apprehensi ons and forms that may bel ong to i t by
nature, and we must prove how i mpossi bl e i t i s that the soul shoul d attai n to uni on
wi th God unti l i ts operati on cease i n them, si nce they cannot be the proper and
proxi mate means of thi s uni on.
3. I t i s to be known, then, that the senses whereof we are here parti cul arl y
speaki ng are two i nteri or bodi l y senses whi ch are cal l ed i magi nati on and fancy,
whi ch subserve each other i n due order. For the one sense reasons, as i t were, by
i magi ni ng, and the other forms the i magi nati on, or that whi ch i s i magi ned, by
maki ng use of the fancy.
293
For our purpose the di scussi on of the one i s equi val ent
to that of the other, and, for thi s reason, when we name them not both, i t must be
understood that we are speaki ng of ei ther, as we have here expl ai ned. Al l the
thi ngs, then, that these senses can recei ve and fashi on are known as i magi nati ons
and fanci es, whi ch are forms that are represented to these senses by bodi l y fi gures
and i mages. Thi s can happen i n two ways. The one way i s supernatural , wherei n
representati on can be made, and i s made, to these senses passi vel y, wi thout any
effort of thei r own; these we cal l i magi nary vi si ons, produced after a supernatural
manner, and of these we shal l speak hereafter. The other way i s natural , wherei n,
through the abi l i ty of the soul , these thi ngs can be acti vel y fashi oned i n i t through
i ts operati on, beneath forms, fi gures and i mages. And thus to these two facul ti es
bel ongs medi tati on, whi ch i s a di scursi ve acti on wrought by means of i mages, forms
and fi gures that are fashi oned and i magi ned by the sai d senses, as when we
i magi ne Chri st cruci fi ed, or bound to the col umn, or at another of the stati ons; or
when we i magi ne God seated upon a throne wi th great majesty; or when we
consi der and i magi ne gl ory to be l i ke a most beauteous l i ght, etc.; or when we
i magi ne al l ki nds of other thi ngs, whether Di vi ne or human, that can bel ong to the
i magi nati on. Al l these i magi ni ngs must be cast out from the Soul , whi ch wi l l remai n
292
[Lit., 'the i nti mate'; but the superl ati ve i dea i s cl earl y present.]
293
[Lit., 'by fancyi ng.']
121
i n darkness as far as thi s sense i s concerned, that i t may attai n to Di vi ne uni on; for
they can bear no proporti on to proxi mate means of uni on wi th God, any more than
can the bodi l y i magi ni ngs, whi ch serve as objects to the fi ve exteri or senses.
4. The reason of thi s i s that the i magi nati on cannot fashi on or i magi ne
anythi ng whatsoever beyond that whi ch i t has experi enced through i ts exteri or
senses -- namel y, that whi ch i t has seen wi th the eyes, or heard wi th the ears, etc.
At most i t can onl y compose l i kenesses of those thi ngs that i t has seen or heard or
fel t, whi ch are of no more consequence than those whi ch have been recei ved by the
senses aforementi oned, nor are they even of as much consequence. For, al though a
man i magi nes pal aces of pearl s and mountai ns of gol d, because he has seen gol d
and pearl s, al l thi s i s i n truth l ess than the essence of a l i ttl e gol d or of a si ngl e
pearl , al though i n the i magi nati on i t be greater i n quanti ty and i n beauty. And
si nce, as has al ready been sai d, no created thi ngs can bear any proporti on to the
Bei ng of God, i t fol l ows that nothi ng that i s i magi ned i n thei r l i keness can serve as
proxi mate means to uni on wi th Hi m, but, as we say, qui te the contrary.
5. Wherefore those that i magi ne God beneath any of these fi gures, or as a
great fi re or bri ghtness, or i n any other such form, and thi nk that anythi ng l i ke thi s
wi l l be l i ke to Hi m, are very far from approachi ng Hi m. For, al though these
consi derati ons and forms and manners of medi tati on are necessary to begi nners, i n
order that they may gradual l y feed and enki ndl e thei r soul s wi th l ove by means of
sense, as we shal l say hereafter, and al though they thus serve them as remote
means to uni on wi th God, through whi ch a soul has commonl y to pass i n order to
reach the goal and abode of spi ri tual repose, yet they must merel y pass through
them, and not remai n ever i n them, for i n such a manner they woul d never reach
thei r goal , whi ch does not resembl e these remote means, nei ther has aught to do
wi th them. The stai rs of a stai rcase have naught to do wi th the top of i t and the
abode to whi ch i t l eads, yet are means to the reachi ng of both; and i f the cl i mber l eft
not behi nd the stai rs bel ow hi m unti l there were no more to cl i mb, but desi red to
remai n upon any one of them, he woul d never reach the top of them nor woul d he
mount to the pl easant
294
and peaceful room whi ch i s the goal . And just so the soul
that i s to attai n i n thi s l i fe to the uni on of that supreme repose and bl essi ng, by
means of al l these stai rs of medi tati ons, forms and i deas, must pass though them
and have done wi th them, si nce they have no resembl ance and bear no proporti on to
the goal to whi ch they l ead, whi ch i s God. Wherefore Sai nt Paul says i n the Acts of
the Apostl es: Non debemus aestimare, auro, vel argento, aut lapidi sculpturae artis,
et cogitationis hominis, Divinum esse similem.
295
Whi ch si gni fi es: We ought not to
thi nk of the Godhead by l i keni ng Hi m to gol d or to si l ver, nei ther to stone that i s
formed by art, nor to aught that a man can fashi on wi th hi s i magi nati on.
6. Great, therefore, i s the error of many spi ri tual persons who have practi sed
approachi ng God by means of i mages and forms and medi tati ons, as befi ts
begi nners. God woul d now l ead them on to
296
further spi ri tual bl essi ngs, whi ch are
i nteri or and i nvi si bl e, by taki ng from them the pl easure and sweetness of di scursi ve
medi tati on; but they cannot, or dare not, or know not how to detach themsel ves
from those pal pabl e methods to whi ch they have grown accustomed. They
conti nual l y l abour to retai n them, desi ri ng to proceed, as before, by the way of
consi derati on and medi tati on upon forms, for they thi nk that i t must be so wi th
294
[Lit., 'the l evel ' -- i .e., by contrast wi th the steep stai rs.]
295
Acts xvi i , 29.
296
[The verb, recoger, of whi ch the deri ved noun i s transl ated 'recol l ecti on,' has more accuratel y the
meani ng of 'gather,' 'take i nwards.']
122
them al ways. They l abour greatl y to thi s end and fi nd l i ttl e sweetness or none;
rather the ari di ty and weari ness and di squi et of thei r soul s are i ncreased and grow,
i n proporti on as they l abour for that earl i er sweetness. They cannot fi nd thi s i n that
earl i er manner, for the soul no l onger enjoys that food of sense, as we have sai d; i t
needs not thi s but another food, whi ch i s more del i cate, more i nteri or and partaki ng
l ess of the nature of sense; i t consi sts not i n l abouri ng wi th the i magi nati on, but i n
setti ng the soul at rest, and al l owi ng i t to remai n i n i ts qui et and repose, whi ch i s
more spi ri tual . For, the farther the soul progresses i n spi ri tual i ty, the more i t ceases
from the operati on of the facul ti es i n parti cul ar acts, si nce i t becomes more and
more occupi ed i n one act that i s general and pure; and thus the facul ti es that were
journeyi ng to a pl ace whi ther the soul has arri ved cease to work, even as the feet
stop and cease to move when thei r journey i s over. For i f al l were moti on, one woul d
never arri ve, and i f al l were means, where or when woul d come the frui ti on of the
end and goal ?
7. I t i s pi teous, then, to see many a one who
297
though hi s soul woul d fai n
tarry i n thi s peace and rest of i nteri or qui et, where i t i s fi l l ed wi th the peace and
refreshment of God, takes from i t i ts tranqui l l i ty, and l eads i t away to the most
exteri or thi ngs, and woul d make i t return and retrace the ground i t has al ready
traversed, to no purpose, and abandon the end and goal wherei n i t i s al ready
reposi ng for the means whi ch l ed i t to that repose, whi ch are medi tati ons. Thi s
comes not to pass wi thout great rel uctance and repugnance of the soul , whi ch woul d
fai n be i n that peace that i t understands not, as i n i ts proper pl ace; even as one who
has arri ved, wi th great l abour, and i s now resti ng, suffers pai n i f he i s made to
return to hi s l abour. And, as such soul s know not the mystery of thi s new
experi ence, the i dea comes to them that they are bei ng i dl e and doi ng nothi ng; and
thus they al l ow not themsel ves to be qui et, but endeavor to medi tate and reason.
Hence they are fi l l ed wi th ari di ty and affl i cti on, because they seek to fi nd sweetness
where i t i s no l onger to be found; we may even say of them that the more they stri ve
the l ess they profi t, for, the more they persi st after thi s manner, the worse i s the
state wherei n they fi nd themsel ves, because thei r soul i s drawn farther away from
spi ri tual peace; and thi s i s to l eave the greater for the l ess, and to retrace the
ground al ready traversed, and to seek to do that whi ch has been done.
8. To such as these the advi ce must be gi ven to l earn to abi de attenti vel y and
wai t l ovi ngl y upon God i n that state of qui et, and to pay no heed ei ther to
i magi nati on or to i ts worki ng; for here, as we say, the facul ti es are at rest, and are
worki ng, not acti vel y, but passi vel y, by recei vi ng that whi ch God works i n them;
and, i f they work at ti mes, i t i s not wi th vi ol ence or wi th careful l y el aborated
medi tati on, but wi th sweetness of l ove, moved l ess by the abi l i ty of the soul i tsel f
than by God, as wi l l be expl ai ned hereafter. But l et thi s now suffi ce to show how
fi tti ng and necessary i t i s for those who ai m at maki ng further progress to be abl e to
detach themsel ves from al l these methods and manners and works of the
i magi nati on at the ti me and season when the profi t of the state whi ch they have
reached demands and requi res i t.
9. And, that i t may be understood how thi s i s to be, and at what season, we
shal l gi ve i n the chapter fol l owi ng certai n si gns whi ch the spi ri tual person wi l l see
i n hi msel f and whereby he may know at what ti me and season he may freel y avai l
hi msel f of the goal menti oned above, and may cease from journeyi ng by means of
medi tati on and the work of the i magi nati on.
297
[Lit., 'to see that there are many who.']
123
CHAPTER XI I I
Wherein are set down the signs which the spiritual person will find in himself
whereby he may know at what season it behoves him to leave meditation and
reasoning and pass to the state of contemplation.
I N order that there may be no confusi on i n thi s i nstructi on i t wi l l be meet i n thi s
chapter to expl ai n at what ti me and season i t behoves the spi ri tual person to l ay
asi de the task of di scursi ve medi tati on as carri ed on through the i magi nati ons and
forms and fi gures above menti oned, i n order that he may l ay them asi de nei ther
sooner nor l ater than when the Spi ri t bi ds hi m; for, al though i t i s meet for hi m to
l ay them asi de at the proper ti me i n order that he may journey to God and not be
hi ndered by them, i t i s no l ess needful for hi m not to l ay asi de the sai d i magi nati ve
medi tati on before the proper ti me l est he shoul d turn backward. For, al though the
apprehensi ons of these facul ti es serve not as proxi mate means of uni on to the
profi ci ent, they serve neverthel ess as remote means to begi nners i n order to di spose
and habi tuate the spi ri t to spi ri tual i ty by means of sense, and i n order to voi d the
sense, i n the meanti me, of al l the other l ow forms and i mages, temporal , worl dl y
and natural . We shal l therefore speak here of certai n si gns and exampl es whi ch the
spi ri tual person wi l l fi nd i n hi msel f, whereby he may know whether or not i t wi l l be
meet for hi m to l ay them asi de at thi s season.
2. The fi rst si gn i s hi s real i zati on that he can no l onger medi tate or reason
wi th hi s i magi nati on, nei ther can take pl easure therei n as he was wont to do
aforeti me; he rather fi nds ari di ty i n that whi ch aforeti me was wont to capti vate hi s
senses and to bri ng hi m sweetness. But, for as l ong as he fi nds sweetness i n
medi tati on, and i s abl e to reason, he shoul d not abandon thi s, save when hi s soul i s
l ed i nto the peace and qui etness
298
whi ch i s descri bed under the thi rd head.
3. The second si gn i s a real i zati on that he has no desi re to fi x hi s medi ati on or
hi s sense upon other parti cul ar objects, exteri or or i nteri or. I do not mean that the
i magi nati on nei ther comes nor goes (for even at ti mes of deep
299
recol l ecti on i t i s apt
to move freel y), but that the soul has no pl easure i n fi xi ng i t of set purpose upon
298
E.p. omi ts: 'and qui etness.' The Sai nt's descri pti on of thi s fi rst si gn at whi ch a soul shoul d pass
from medi tati on to contempl ati on was denounced as di sagreei ng wi th Cathol i c doctri ne, parti cul arl y
the phrase: 'that he can no l onger medi tate or reason wi th hi s i magi nati on, nei ther can take pl easure
therei n as he was wont to do aforeti me.' Thi s l anguage, however, i s common to mysti cs and
theol ogi ans, not excl udi ng St. Thomas (2a 2ae, q. 180, a. 6) and Suárez (De Oratione, Bk. I I , Chap. x),
as i s proved, wi th el oquence and erudi ti on, by P. Basi l i o Ponce de León and the Elucidatio, i n thei r
refutati ons of the Sai nt's cri ti cs. Al l agree that, i n the act of contempl ati on of whi ch St. John of the
Cross here speaks, the understandi ng must be stri pped of forms and speci es of the i magi nati on and
that the reasoni ngs and refl ecti ons of medi tati on must be set asi de. Thi s i s to be understood, both of
the contempl ati on that transcends al l human methods, and al so of that whi ch i s practi sed accordi ng
to these human methods wi th the ordi nary ai d of grace. But there i s thi s i mportant di fference, that
those who enjoy the fi rst ki nd of contempl ati on set asi de al l i ntel l ectual reasoni ng as wel l as
processes of the fancy and the i magi nati on, whereas, for the second ki nd, reasoni ng prior to the act of
contempl ati on i s normal l y necessary, though i t ceases at the act of contempl ati on, and there i s then
substi tuted for i t si mpl e and l ovi ng i ntui ti on of eternal truth. I t shoul d be cl earl y understood that
thi s i s not of habi tual occurrence i n the contempl ati ve soul , but occurs onl y during the act of
contempl ati on, whi ch i s commonl y of short durati on. St. Teresa makes thi s cl ear i n Chap. xxvi i of her
Life, and treats thi s same doctri nal questi on i n many other parts of her works--e.g., Life, Chaps. x,
xi i ; Way of Perfection, Chap. xxvi ; I nterior Castle, I V, Chap. i i i , etc.
299
[Lit., 'much.']
124
other objects.
4. The thi rd and surest si gn i s that the soul takes pl easure i n bei ng al one,
and wai ts wi th l ovi ng attenti veness upon God, wi thout maki ng any parti cul ar
medi tati on, i n i nward peace and qui etness and rest, and wi thout acts and exerci ses
of the facul ti es -- memory, understandi ng and wi l l -- at l east, wi thout di scursi ve
acts, that i s, wi thout passi ng from one thi ng to another; the soul i s al one, wi th an
attenti veness and a knowl edge, general and l ovi ng, as we sai d, but wi thout any
parti cul ar understandi ng, and adverti ng not to that whi ch i t i s contempl ati ng.
5. These three si gns, at l east, the spi ri tual person must observe i n hi msel f, al l
together, before he can venture safel y to abandon the state of medi tati on and
sense,
300
and to enter that of contempl ati on and spi ri t.
6. And i t suffi ces not for a man to have the fi rst al one wi thout the second, for
i t mi ght be that the reason for hi s bei ng unabl e to i magi ne and medi tate upon the
thi ngs of God, as he di d aforeti me, was di stracti on on hi s part and l ack of di l i gence;
for the whi ch cause he must observe i n hi msel f the second l i kewi se, whi ch i s the
absence of i ncl i nati on or desi re to thi nk upon other thi ngs; for, when the i nabi l i ty to
fi x the i magi nati on and sense upon the thi ngs of God proceeds from di stracti on or
l ukewarmness, the soul then has the desi re and i ncl i nati on to fi x i t upon other and
di fferent thi ngs, whi ch l ead i t thence al together. Nei ther does i t suffi ce that he
shoul d observe i n hi msel f the fi rst and second si gns, i f he observe not l i kewi se,
together wi th these, the thi rd; for, al though he observe hi s i nabi l i ty to reason and
thi nk upon the thi ngs of God, and l i kewi se hi s di staste for thi nki ng upon other and
di fferent thi ngs, thi s mi ght proceed from mel anchol y or from some other ki nd of
humour i n the brai n or the heart, whi ch habi tual l y produces a certai n absorpti on
and suspensi on of the senses, causi ng the soul to thi nk not at al l , nor to desi re or be
i ncl i ned to thi nk, but rather to remai n i n that pl easant state of reveri e.
301
Agai nst
thi s must be set the thi rd si gn, whi ch i s l ovi ng attenti veness and knowl edge, i n
peace, etc., as we have sai d.
7. I t i s true, however, that, when thi s condi ti on fi rst begi ns, the soul i s hardl y
aware of thi s l ovi ng knowl edge, and that for two reasons. Fi rst, thi s l ovi ng
knowl edge i s apt at the begi nni ng to be very subtl e and del i cate, and al most
i mpercepti bl e to the senses. Secondl y, when the soul has been accustomed to that
other exerci se of medi tati on, whi ch i s whol l y percepti bl e, i t i s unaware, and hardl y
consci ous, of thi s other new and i mpercepti bl e condi ti on, whi ch i s purel y spi ri tual ;
especi al l y when, not understandi ng i t, the soul al l ows not i tsel f to rest i n i t, but
stri ves after the former, whi ch i s more readi l y percepti bl e; so that abundant though
the l ovi ng i nteri or peace may be, the soul has no opportuni ty of experi enci ng and
enjoyi ng i t. But the more accustomed the soul grows to thi s, by al l owi ng i tsel f to
rest, the more i t wi l l grow therei n and the more consci ous i t wi l l become of that
l ovi ng general knowl edge of God, i n whi ch i t has greater enjoyment than i n aught
el se, si nce thi s knowl edge causes i t peace, rest, pl easure and del i ght wi thout l abour.
8. And, to the end that what has been sai d may be the cl earer, we shal l gi ve,
i n thi s chapter fol l owi ng, the causes and reasons why the three si gns
aforementi oned appear to be necessary for the soul that i s journeyi ng to pure
300
E.p. omi ts: 'and sense.' Si nce sense pl ays so great a part i n medi tati on, St. John of the Cross
pl aces i t i n contradi sti ncti on to contempl ati on, whi ch, the more nearl y i t attai ns perfecti on, becomes
the more subl i me and spi ri tual and the more compl etel y freed from the bonds of nature. Cf.
Elucidatio, Pt. I I , Chap. i i i , p. 180.
301
[embelesamiento, a word denoti ng a pl easurabl e condi ti on somewhere between a reveri e and a
swoon.]
125
spi ri t.
302
CHAPTER XI V
Wherein is proved the fitness of these signs, and the reason is given why that which
has been said in speaking of them is necessary to progress.
WI TH respect to the fi rst si gn whereof we are speaki ng -- that i s to say, that the
spi ri tual person who woul d enter upon the spi ri tual road (whi ch i s that of
contempl ati on) must l eave the way of i magi nati on and of medi tati on through sense
when he takes no more pl easure therei n and i s unabl e to reason -- there are two
reasons why thi s shoul d be done, whi ch may al most be compri sed i n one. The fi rst
i s, that i n one way the soul has recei ved al l the spi ri tual good whi ch i t woul d be abl e
to deri ve from the thi ngs of God by the path of medi tati on and reasoni ng, the si gn
whereof i s that i t can no l onger medi tate or reason as before, and fi nds no new
sweetness or pl easure therei n as i t found before, because up to that ti me i t had not
progressed as far as the spi ri tual i ty whi ch was i n store for i t; for, as a rul e,
whensoever the soul recei ves some spi ri tual bl essi ng, i t recei ves i t wi th pl easure, at
l east i n spi ri t, i n that means whereby i t recei ves i t and profi ts by i t; otherwi se i t i s
astoni shi ng i f i t profi ts by i t, or fi nds i n the cause of i t that hel p and that sweetness
whi ch i t fi nds when i t recei ves i t. For thi s i s i n agreement wi th a sayi ng of the
phi l osophers, Quod sapit, nutrit. Thi s i s: That whi ch i s pal atabl e nouri shes and
fattens. Wherefore hol y Job sai d: Numquid poterit comedi insulsum, quod non est
sale conditum?
303
Can that whi ch i s unsavory perchance be eaten when i t i s not
seasoned wi th sal t? I t i s thi s cause that the soul i s unabl e to medi tate or reason as
before: the l i ttl e pl easure whi ch the spi ri t fi nds therei n and the l i ttl e profi t whi ch i t
gai ns.
2. The second reason i s that the soul at thi s season has now both the
substance and the habi t of the spi ri t of medi tati on. For i t must be known that the
end of reasoni ng and medi tati on on the thi ngs of God i s the gai ni ng of some
knowl edge and l ove of God, and each ti me that the soul gai ns thi s through
medi tati on, i t i s an act; and just as many acts, of whatever ki nd, end by formi ng a
habi t i n the soul , just so, many of these acts of l ovi ng knowl edge whi ch the soul has
been maki ng one after another from ti me to ti me come through repeti ti on to be so
conti nuous i n i t that they become habi tual . Thi s end God i s wont al so to effect i n
many soul s wi thout the i nterventi on of these acts (or at l east wi thout many such
acts havi ng preceded i t), by setti ng them at once i n contempl ati on. And thus that
whi ch aforeti me the soul was gai ni ng gradual l y through i ts l abour of medi tati on
upon parti cul ar facts has now through practi ce, as we have been sayi ng, become
converted and changed i nto a habi t and substance of l ovi ng knowl edge, of a general
ki nd, and not di sti nct or parti cul ar as before. Wherefore, when i t gi ves i tsel f to
prayer, the soul i s now l i ke one to whom water has been brought, so that he dri nks
peaceful l y, wi thout l abour, and i s no l onger forced to draw the water through the
aqueducts of past medi tati ons and forms and fi gures
304
So that, as soon as the soul
comes before God, i t makes an act of knowl edge, confused, l ovi ng, passi ve and
tranqui l , wherei n i t dri nks of wi sdom and l ove and del i ght.
302
[Lit., 'appear to be necessary i n order to journey to spi ri t.']
303
Job vi , 6.
304
[Cf. the si mi l e of the Waters i n St. Teresa, Life, Chap. xi , and I nterior Castle, I V, i i , i i i .]
126
3. And i t i s for thi s cause that the soul feel s great weari ness and di staste,
when, al though i t i s i n thi s condi ti on of tranqui l l i ty, men try to make i t medi tate
and l abour i n parti cul ar acts of knowl edge. For i t i s l i ke a chi l d, whi ch, whi l e
recei vi ng the mi l k that has been col l ected and brought together for i t i n the breast,
i s taken from the breast and then forced to try to gai n and col l ect food by i ts own
di l i gent squeezi ng and handl i ng. Or i t i s l i ke one who has removed the ri nd from a
frui t, and i s tasti ng the substance of the frui t, when he i s forced to cease doi ng thi s
and to try to begi n removi ng the sai d ri nd, whi ch has been removed al ready. He
fi nds no ri nd to remove, and yet he i s unabl e to enjoy the substance of the frui t
whi ch he al ready had i n hi s hand; herei n he i s l i ke to one who l eaves a pri ze
305
whi ch he hol ds for another whi ch he hol ds not.
4. And many act thus when they begi n to enter thi s state; they thi nk that the
whol e busi ness consi sts i n a conti nual reasoni ng and l earni ng to understand
parti cul ar thi ngs by means of i mages and forms, whi ch are to the spi ri t as ri nd.
When they fi nd not these i n that substanti al and l ovi ng qui et wherei n thei r soul
desi res to remai n, and wherei n i t understands nothi ng cl earl y, they thi nk that they
are goi ng astray and wasti ng ti me, and they begi n once more to seek the ri nd of
thei r i magi ni ngs and reasoni ngs, but fi nd i t not, because i t has al ready been
removed. And thus they nei ther enjoy the substance nor make progress i n
medi tati on, and they become troubl ed by the thought that they are turni ng
backward and are l osi ng themsel ves. They are i ndeed l osi ng themsel ves, though not
i n the way they thi nk, for they are becomi ng l ost to thei r own senses and to thei r
fi rst manner of percepti on; and thi s means gai n i n that spi ri tual i ty whi ch i s bei ng
gi ven them. The l ess they understand, however, the farther they penetrate i nto the
ni ght of the spi ri t, whereof we are treati ng i n thi s book, through the whi ch ni ght
they must pass i n order to be uni ted wi th God, i n a uni on that transcends al l
knowl edge.
5. Wi th respect to the second si gn, there i s l i ttl e to say, for i t i s cl ear that at
thi s season the soul cannot possi bl y take pl easure i n other and di fferent objects of
the i magi nati on, whi ch are of the worl d, si nce, as we have sai d, and for the reasons
al ready menti oned, i t has no pl easure i n those whi ch are i n cl osest conformi ty wi th
i t -- namel y, those of God. Onl y as has been noted above, the i magi nati ve facul ty i n
thi s state of recol l ecti on i s i n the habi t of comi ng and goi ng and varyi ng of i ts own
accord; but nei ther accordi ng to the pl easure nor at the wi l l of the soul , whi ch i s
troubl ed thereby, because i ts peace and joy are di sturbed.
6. Nor do I thi nk i t necessary to say anythi ng here concerni ng the fi tness and
necessi ty of the thi rd si gn whereby the soul may know i f i t i s to l eave the medi tati on
aforementi oned, whi ch i s a knowl edge of God or a general and l ovi ng attenti veness
to Hi m. For somethi ng has been sai d of thi s i n treati ng of the fi rst si gn, and we
shal l treat of i t agai n hereafter, when we speak i n i ts proper pl ace of thi s confused
and general knowl edge, whi ch wi l l come after our descri pti on of al l the parti cul ar
apprehensi ons of the understandi ng. But we wi l l speak of one reason al one by whi ch
i t may cl earl y be seen how, when the contempl ati ve has to turn asi de from the way
of medi tati on and reasoni ng, he needs thi s general and l ovi ng attenti veness or
knowl edge of God. The reason i s that, i f the soul at that ti me had not thi s
knowl edge of God or thi s real i zati on of Hi s presence, the resul t woul d be that i t
woul d do nothi ng and have nothi ng; for, havi ng turned asi de from medi tati on (by
means whereof the soul has been reasoni ng wi th i ts facul ti es of sense), and bei ng
sti l l wi thout contempl ati on, whi ch i s the general knowl edge whereof we are
305
[Lit., ’booty,' 'prey.']
127
speaki ng, wherei n the soul makes use of i ts spi ri tual facul ti es
306
-- namel y, memory,
understandi ng and wi l l -- these bei ng uni ted i n thi s knowl edge whi ch i s then
wrought and recei ved i n them, the soul woul d of necessi ty be wi thout any exerci se
i n the thi ngs of God, si nce the soul can nei ther work, nor can i t recei ve that whi ch
has been worked i n i t, save onl y by way of these two ki nds of facul ty, that of sense
and that of spi ri t. For, as we have sai d, by means of the facul ti es of sense i t can
reason and search out and gai n knowl edge of thi ngs and by means of the spi ri tual
facul ti es i t can have frui ti on of the knowl edge whi ch i t has al ready recei ved i n these
facul ti es aforementi oned, though the facul ti es themsel ves take no part herei n.
7. And thus the di fference between the operati on of these two ki nds of facul ty
i n the soul i s l i ke the di fference between worki ng and enjoyi ng the frui t of work
whi ch has been done; or l i ke that between the l abour of journeyi ng and the rest and
qui et whi ch comes from arri val at the goal ; or, agai n, l i ke that between prepari ng a
meal and partaki ng and tasti ng of i t, when i t has been both prepared and
masti cated, wi thout havi ng any of the l abour of cooki ng i t, or i t i s l i ke the di fference
between recei vi ng somethi ng and profi ti ng by that whi ch has been recei ved. Now i f
the soul be occupi ed nei ther wi th respect to the operati on of the facul ti es of sense,
whi ch i s medi tati on and reasoni ng, nor wi th respect to that whi ch has al ready been
recei ved and effected i n the spi ri tual facul ti es, whi ch i s the contempl ati on and
knowl edge whereof we have spoken, i t wi l l have no occupati on, but wi l l be whol l y
i dl e, and there woul d be no way i n whi ch i t coul d be sai d to be empl oyed. Thi s
knowl edge, then, i s needful for the abandonment of the way of medi tati on and
reasoni ng.
8. But here i t must be made cl ear that thi s general knowl edge whereof we are
speaki ng i s at ti mes so subtl e and del i cate, parti cul arl y when i t i s most pure and
si mpl e and perfect, most spi ri tual and most i nteri or, that, al though the soul be
occupi ed therei n, i t can nei ther real i ze i t nor percei ve i t. Thi s i s most frequentl y the
case when we can say that i t i s i n i tsel f most cl ear, perfect and si mpl e; and thi s
comes to pass when i t penetrates a soul that i s unusual l y pure and far wi thdrawn
from other parti cul ar ki nds of knowl edge and i ntel l i gence, whi ch the understandi ng
or the senses mi ght fasten upon. Such a soul , si nce i t no l onger has those thi ngs
wherei n the understandi ng and the senses have the habi t and custom of occupyi ng
themsel ves, i s not consci ous of them, i nasmuch as i t has not i ts accustomed powers
of sense. And i t i s for thi s reason that, when thi s knowl edge i s purest and si mpl est
and most perfect, the understandi ng i s l east consci ous of i t and thi nks of i t as most
obscure. And si mi l arl y, i n contrary wi se, when i t i s i n i tsel f l east pure and si mpl e i n
the understandi ng, i t seems to the understandi ng to be cl earest and of the greatest
i mportance, si nce i t i s cl othed i n, mi ngl ed wi th or i nvol ved i n certai n i ntel l i gi bl e
forms whi ch understandi ng or sense may sei ze upon.
307
9. Thi s wi l l be cl earl y understood by the fol l owi ng compari son. I f we consi der
a ray of sunl i ght enteri ng through a wi ndow, we see that, the more the sai d ray i s
charged wi th atoms and parti cl es of matter, the more pal pabl e, vi si bl e and bri ght i t
appears to the eye of sense;
308
yet i t i s cl ear that the ray i s i n i tsel f l east pure, cl ear,
si mpl e and perfect at that ti me, si nce i t i s ful l of so many parti cl es and atoms. And
we see l i kewi se that, when i t i s purest and freest from those parti cl es and atoms,
306
[Lit., ‘the soul keeps i n act i ts spi ri tual faci l i ti es.’]
307
[The verb i s tropezar en, whi ch may mean ei ther 'stumbl e upon' -- i .e., 'come across (and make use
of),' or 'stumbl e over' -- i .e., the forms may be a stumbl i ng-bl ock, or a snare. I thi nk there i s at l east a
suggesti on of the l atter meani ng.]
308
[Lit., ‘to the si ght of sense.’]
128
the l east pal pabl e and the darkest does i t appear to the materi al eye; and the purer
i t i s, the darker and l ess apprehensi bl e i t appears to i t. And i f the ray were
compl etel y pure and free from al l these atoms and parti cl es, even from the mi nutest
specks of dust, i t woul d appear compl etel y dark and i nvi si bl e to the eye, si nce
everythi ng that coul d be seen woul d be absent from i t -- namel y, the objects of si ght.
For the eye woul d fi nd no objects whereon to rest, si nce l i ght i s no proper object of
vi si on, but the means whereby that whi ch i s vi si bl e i s seen; so that, i f there be no
vi si bl e objects wherei n the sun's ray or any l i ght can be refl ected, nothi ng wi l l be
seen. Wherefore, i f the ray of l i ght entered by one wi ndow and went out by another,
wi thout meeti ng anythi ng that has materi al form, i t woul d not be seen at al l ; yet,
notwi thstandi ng, that ray of l i ght woul d be purer and cl earer i n i tsel f than when i t
was more cl earl y seen and percei ved through bei ng ful l of vi si bl e objects.
10. The same thi ng happens i n the real m of spi ri tual l i ght wi th respect to the
si ght of the soul , whi ch i s the understandi ng, and whi ch thi s general and
supernatural knowl edge and l i ght whereof we are speaki ng stri kes so purel y and
si mpl y. So compl etel y i s i t detached and removed from al l i ntel l i gi bl e forms, whi ch
are objects of the understandi ng, that i t i s nei ther percei ved nor observed. Rather,
at ti mes (that i s, when i t i s purest), i t becomes darkness, because i t wi thdraws the
understandi ng from i ts accustomed l i ghts, from forms and from fanci es, and then
the darkness i s more cl earl y fel t and real i zed. But, when thi s Di vi ne l i ght stri kes
the soul wi th l ess force, i t nei ther percei ves darkness nor observes l i ght, nor
apprehends aught that i t knows, from whatever source; hence at ti mes the soul
remai ns as i t were i n a great forgetful ness, so that i t knows not where i t has been or
what i t has done, nor i s i t aware of the passage of ti me. Wherefore i t may happen,
and does happen, that many hours are spent i n thi s forgetful ness, and, when the
soul returns to i tsel f, i t bel i eves that l ess than a moment has passed, or no ti me at
al l .
11. The cause of thi s forgetful ness i s the puri ty and si mpl i ci ty of thi s
knowl edge whi ch occupi es the soul and si mpl i fi es, puri fi es and cl eanses i t from al l
apprehensi ons and forms of the senses and of the memory, through whi ch i t acted
when i t was consci ous of ti me,
309
and thus l eaves i t i n forgetful ness and wi thout
consci ousness of ti me.
310
Thi s prayer, therefore, seems to the soul extremel y bri ef,
al though, as we say, i t may l ast for a l ong peri od; for the soul has been uni ted i n
pure i ntel l i gence, whi ch bel ongs not to ti me; and thi s i s the bri ef prayer whi ch i s
sai d to pi erce the heavens, because i t i s bri ef and because i t bel ongs not to ti me.
311
309
[Or: 'when i t was dependent on ti me.' Lit., 'acted i n ti me.']
310
[Or: 'and i ndependent of ti me.' Lit., 'wi thout ti me.']
311
E.p. modi fi es these l i nes thus: '. . . i t has been i n pure i ntel l i gence, whi ch i s the bri ef prayer that
i s sai d to pi erce the heavens. Because i t i s bri ef and because the soul i s not consci ous or observant of
ti me.' P. José de Jesús Marí a comments thus upon thi s passage: ‘I n contempl ati on the soul
wi thdraws i tsel f from the seashore, and enti rel y l oses si ght of l and, i n order to whel m i tsel f i n that
vast sea and i mpenetrabl e abyss of the Di vi ne Essence; hi di ng i tsel f i n the regi on of ti me, i t enters
wi thi n the most extensi ve l i mi ts of eterni ty. For the pure and si mpl e i ntel l i gence wherei nto the soul
i s brought i n thi s contempl ati on, as was poi nted out by the anci ent Di onysi us (Myst. Theol., Chap. i i ),
and by our own Father, i s not subject to ti me. For, as St. Thomas says (Pt. I , q. 118, a. 3, et alibi), the
soul i s a spi ri tual substance, whi ch i s above ti me and superi or to the movements of the heavens, to
whi ch i t i s subject onl y because of the body. And therefore i t seems that, when the soul wi thdraws
from the body, and from al l created thi ngs, and by means of pure i ntel l i gence whel ms i tsel f i n eternal
thi ngs, i t recovers i ts natural domi ni on and ri ses above ti me, i f not accordi ng to substance, at l east
accordi ng to i ts most perfect bei ng; for the nobl est and most perfect bei ng of the soul resi des rather i n
i ts acts than i n i ts facul ti es. Wherefore St. Gregory sai d (Morals, Bk. VI I I ): "The Sai nts enter
129
And i t pi erces the heavens, because the soul i s uni ted i n heavenl y i ntel l i gence; and
when the soul awakens, thi s knowl edge l eaves i n i t the effects whi ch i t created i n i t
wi thout i ts bei ng consci ous of them, whi ch effects are the l i fti ng up of the spi ri t to
the heavenl y i ntel l i gence, and i ts wi thdrawal and abstracti on from al l thi ngs and
forms and fi gures and memori es thereof. I t i s thi s that Davi d descri bes as havi ng
happened to hi m when he returned to hi msel f out of thi s same forgetful ness, sayi ng:
Vigilavi, et factus sum sicut passer solitarius in tecto.
312
Whi ch si gni fi es: I have
watched and I have become l i ke the l onel y bi rd
313
on the house-top. He uses the
word 'l onel y' to i ndi cate that he was wi thdrawn and abstracted from al l thi ngs. And
by the house-top he means the el evati on of the spi ri t on hi gh; so that the soul
remai ns as though i gnorant of al l thi ngs, for i t knows God onl y, wi thout knowi ng
how. Wherefore the Bri de decl ares i n the Songs that among the effects whi ch that
sl eep and forgetful ness of hers produced was thi s unknowi ng. She says that she
came down to the garden, sayi ng: Nescivi.
314
That i s: I knew not whence. Al though,
as we have sai d, the soul i n thi s state of knowl edge bel i eves i tsel f to be doi ng
nothi ng, and to be enti rel y unoccupi ed, because i t i s worki ng nei ther wi th the
senses nor wi th the facul ti es, i t shoul d real i ze that i t i s not wasti ng ti me. For,
al though the harmony of the facul ti es of the soul may cease, i ts i ntel l i gence i s as we
have sai d. For thi s cause the Bri de, who was wi se, answered thi s questi on hersel f i n
the Songs, sayi ng: Ego dormio et cor meum vigilat.
315
As though she were to say:
Al though I sl eep wi th respect to my natural sel f, ceasi ng to l abour, my heart
waketh, bei ng supernatural l y l i fted up i n supernatural knowl edge.
316
12. But, i t must be real i zed, we are not to suppose that thi s knowl edge
necessari l y causes thi s forgetful ness when the soul i s i n the state that we are here
descri bi ng: thi s occurs onl y when God suspends i n the soul the exerci se of al l i ts
facul ti es, both natural and spi ri tual , whi ch happens very sel dom, for thi s knowl edge
does not al ways fi l l the soul enti rel y. I t i s suffi ci ent for the purpose, i n the case
whi ch we are treati ng, that the understandi ng shoul d be wi thdrawn from al l
eterni ty even i n thi s l i fe, behol di ng the eterni ty of God."'
312
Psal m ci , 8 [A.V. ci i , 7].
313
[The Spani sh pájaro, 'bi rd,' i s deri ved from passer, 'sparrow.']
314
Canti cl es vi , 11.
315
Canti cl es v, 2.
316
The words whi ch concl ude thi s paragraph i n the edi ti on of 1630 ('The si gn by whi ch we may know
i f the soul i s occupi ed i n thi s secret i ntel l i gence i s i f i t i s seen to have no pl easure i n thi nki ng of
aught, whether hi gh or l ow') are not found ei ther i n the Codi ces or i n e.p. When St. John of the Cross
uses the words 'cessati on,' 'i dl eness' [ocio, Lat. otium], 'qui et,' 'anni hi l ati on,' 'sl eep' (of the facul ti es),
etc., he does not mean, as the I l l umi ni sts di d, that the understandi ng and wi l l i n the act of
contempl ati on are so passi ve as to have l ost al l thei r force and vi tal i ty, and that the contempl ati ve i s
therefore i mpeccabl e, al though he commi t the grossest si ns. The soul 's vi tal powers, accordi ng to St.
John of the Cross, are i nvol ved even i n the hi ghest contempl ati on; the understandi ng i s attenti ve to
God and the wi l l i s l ovi ng Hi m. They are not worki ng, i t i s true, i n the way whi ch i s usual and
natural wi th them -- that i s, by reason and i magi nati on -- but supernatural l y, through the uncti on of
the Hol y Spi ri t, whi ch they recei ve passi vel y, wi thout any effort of thei r own. I t i s i n thi s sense that
such words as those quoted above ('cessati on,' 'i dl eness,' etc.) are both expressi vel y and appropri atel y
used by the Sai nt, for what i s done wi thout l abour and effort may better be descri bed by i mages of
passi vi ty than by those of acti vi ty. Further, the soul i s unaware that i ts facul ti es are worki ng i n thi s
subl i me contempl ati on, though they undoubtedl y do work.
St. John of the Cross, phi l osopher as wel l as mysti c, woul d not deny the vi tal and i ntri nsi c
acti vi ty of the understandi ng and the wi l l i n contempl ati on. Hi s reasoni ng i s supported by P. José de
Jesús Marí a (Apologia Mistica de la Contemplación Divina, Chap. i x) [quoted at l ength by P. Si l veri o,
Obras, etc., Vol . I I , p. 130, note].
130
parti cul ar knowl edge, whether temporal or spi ri tual , and that the wi l l shoul d not
desi re to thi nk wi th respect to ei ther, as we have sai d, for thi s i s a si gn that the soul
i s occupi ed. And i t must be taken as an i ndi cati on that thi s i s so when thi s
knowl edge i s appl i ed and communi cated to the understandi ng onl y, whi ch
someti mes happens when the soul i s unabl e to observe i t. For, when i t i s
communi cated to the wi l l al so, whi ch happens al most i nvari abl y, the soul does not
cease to understand i n the very l east degree, i f i t wi l l refl ect hereon, that i t i s
empl oyed and occupi ed i n thi s knowl edge, i nasmuch as i t i s consci ous of a sweetness
of l ove therei n, wi thout parti cul ar knowl edge or understandi ng of that whi ch i t
l oves. I t i s for thi s reason that thi s knowl edge i s descri bed as general and l ovi ng;
for, just as i t i s so i n the understandi ng, bei ng communi cated to i t obscurel y, even so
i s i t i n the wi l l , sweetness and l ove bei ng communi cated to i t confusedl y, so that i t
cannot have a di sti nct knowl edge of the object of i ts l ove.
13. Let thi s suffi ce now to expl ai n how meet i t i s that the soul shoul d be
occupi ed i n thi s knowl edge, so that i t may turn asi de from the way of spi ri tual
medi tati on, and be sure that, al though i t seem to be doi ng nothi ng, i t i s wel l
occupi ed, i f i t di scern wi thi n i tsel f these si gns. I t wi l l al so be real i zed, from the
compari son whi ch we have made, that i f thi s l i ght presents i tsel f to the
understandi ng i n a more comprehensi bl e and pal pabl e manner, as the sun's ray
presents i tsel f to the eye when i t i s ful l of parti cl es, the soul must not for that
reason consi der i t purer, bri ghter and more subl i me. I t i s cl ear that, as Ari stotl e and
the theol ogi ans say, the hi gher and more subl i me i s the Di vi ne l i ght, the darker i s i t
to our understandi ng.
14. Of thi s Di vi ne knowl edge there i s much to say, concerni ng both i tsel f and
the effects whi ch i t produces upon contempl ati ves. Al l thi s we reserve for i ts proper
pl ace,
317
for, al though we have spoken of i t here, there woul d be no reason for
havi ng done so at such l ength, save our desi re not to l eave thi s doctri ne rather more
confused than i t i s al ready, for I confess i t i s certai nl y very much so. Not onl y i s i t a
matter whi ch i s sel dom treated i n thi s way, ei ther verbal l y or i n wri ti ng, bei ng i n
i tsel f so extraordi nary and obscure, but my rude styl e and l ack of knowl edge make
i t more so. Further, si nce I have mi sgi vi ngs as to my abi l i ty to expl ai n i t, I bel i eve I
often wri te at too great l ength and go beyond the l i mi ts whi ch are necessary for that
part of the doctri ne whi ch I am treati ng. Herei n I confess that I someti mes err
purposel y; for that whi ch i s not expl i cabl e by one ki nd of reasoni ng wi l l perhaps be
better understood by another, or by others yet; and I bel i eve, too, that i n thi s way I
am sheddi ng more l i ght upon that whi ch i s to be sai d hereafter.
15. Wherefore i t seems wel l to me al so, before compl eti ng thi s part of my
treati se, to set down a repl y to one questi on whi ch may ari se wi th respect to the
conti nuance of thi s knowl edge, and thi s shal l be bri efl y treated i n the chapter
fol l owi ng.
CHAPTER XV
Wherein is explained how it is sometimes well for progressives who are beginning to
enter upon this general knowledge of contemplation to make use of natural reasoning
and the work of the natural faculties.
317
I n spi te of thi s promi se, the Sai nt does not return to thi s subject at such l ength as hi s l anguage
here woul d suggest.
131
WI TH regard to that whi ch has been sai d, there mi ght be rai sed one questi on -- i f
progressi ves (that i s, those whom God i s begi nni ng to bri ng i nto thi s supernatural
knowl edge of contempl ati on whereof we have spoken) must never agai n, because of
thi s that they are begi nni ng to experi ence, return to the way of medi tati on and
reasoni ng and natural forms. To thi s the answer i s that i t i s not to be understood
that such as are begi nni ng to experi ence thi s l ovi ng knowl edge must, as a general
rul e, never agai n try to return to medi tati on; for, when they are fi rst maki ng
progress i n profi ci ency, the habi t of contempl ati on i s not yet so perfect that they can
gi ve themsel ves to the act thereof whensoever they wi sh, nor, i n the same way, have
they reached a poi nt so far beyond medi tati on that they cannot occasi onal l y
medi tate and reason i n a natural way, as they were wont, usi ng the fi gures and the
steps that they were wont to use, and fi ndi ng somethi ng new i n them. Rather, i n
these earl y stages, when, by means of the i ndi cati ons al ready gi ven, they are abl e to
see that the soul i s not occupi ed i n that repose and knowl edge, they wi l l need to
make use of medi tati on unti l by means of i t they come to acqui re i n some degree of
perfecti on the habi t whi ch we have descri bed. Thi s wi l l happen when, as soon as
they seek to medi tate, they experi ence thi s knowl edge and peace, and fi nd
themsel ves unabl e to medi tate and no l onger desi rous of doi ng so, as we have sai d.
For unti l they reach thi s stage, whi ch i s that of the profi ci ent i n thi s exerci se, they
use someti mes the one and someti mes the other, at di fferent ti mes.
2. The soul , then, wi l l frequentl y fi nd i tsel f i n thi s l ovi ng or peaceful state of
wai ti ng upon God
318
wi thout i n any way exerci si ng i ts facul ti es -- that i s, wi th
respect to parti cul ar acts -- and wi thout worki ng acti vel y at al l , but onl y recei vi ng.
I n order to reach thi s state, i t wi l l frequentl y need to make use of medi tati on,
qui etl y and i n moderati on; but, when once the soul i s brought i nto thi s other state,
i t acts not at al l wi th i ts facul ti es, as we have al ready sai d. I t woul d be truer to say
that understandi ng and sweetness work i n i t and are wrought wi thi n i t, than that
the soul i tsel f works at al l , save onl y by wai ti ng upon God and by l ovi ng Hi m
wi thout desi ri ng to feel or to see anythi ng. Then God communi cates Hi msel f to i t
passi vel y, even as to one who has hi s eyes open, so that l i ght i s communi cated to
hi m passi vel y, wi thout hi s doi ng more than keep them open. And thi s recepti on of
l i ght whi ch i s i nfused supernatural l y i s passi ve understandi ng. We say that the soul
works not at al l , not because i t understands not, but because i t understands thi ngs
wi thout taxi ng i ts own i ndustry and recei ves onl y that whi ch i s gi ven to i t, as comes
to pass i n the i l l umi nati ons and enl i ghtenments or i nspi rati ons of God.
3. Al though i n thi s condi ti on the wi l l freel y recei ves thi s general and confused
knowl edge of God, i t i s needful , i n order that i t may recei ve thi s Di vi ne l i ght more
si mpl y and abundantl y, onl y that i t shoul d not try to i nterpose other l i ghts whi ch
are more pal pabl e, whether forms or i deas or fi gures havi ng to do wi th any ki nd of
medi tati on; for none of these thi ngs i s si mi l ar to that pure and serene l i ght. So that
i f at thi s ti me the wi l l desi res to understand and consi der parti cul ar thi ngs,
however spi ri tual they be, thi s woul d obstruct the pure and si mpl e general l i ght of
the spi ri t, by setti ng those cl ouds i n the way; even as a man mi ght set somethi ng
before hi s eyes whi ch i mpeded hi s vi si on and kept from hi m both the l i ght and the
si ght of thi ngs i n front of hi m.
4. Hence i t cl earl y fol l ows that, when the soul has compl etel y puri fi ed and
voi ded i tsel f of al l forms and i mages that can be apprehended, i t wi l l remai n i n thi s
pure and si mpl e l i ght, bei ng transformed therei n i nto a state of perfecti on. For,
318
[Lit., 'i n thi s l ovi ng or peaceful presence,' the ori gi nal of 'presence' havi ng al so the sense of
'attendance.']
132
though thi s l i ght never fai l s i n the soul , i t i s not i nfused i nto i t because of the
creature forms and vei l s wherewi th the soul i s vei l ed and embarrassed; but, i f these
i mpedi ments and these vei l s were whol l y removed (as wi l l be sai d hereafter), the
soul woul d then fi nd i tsel f i n a condi ti on of pure detachment and poverty of spi ri t,
and, bei ng si mpl e and pure, woul d be transformed i nto si mpl e and pure Wi sdom,
whi ch i s the Son of God. For the enamoured soul fi nds that that whi ch i s natural
has fai l ed i t, and i t i s then i mbued wi th that whi ch i s Di vi ne, both natural l y and
supernatural l y, so that there may be no vacuum i n i ts nature.
5. When the spi ri tual person cannot medi tate, l et hi m l earn to be sti l l i n God,
fi xi ng hi s l ovi ng attenti on upon Hi m, i n the cal m of hi s understandi ng, al though he
may thi nk hi msel f to be doi ng nothi ng. For thus, l i ttl e by l i ttl e and very qui ckl y,
Di vi ne cal m and peace wi l l be i nfused i nto hi s soul , together wi th a wondrous and
subl i me knowl edge of God, enfol ded i n Di vi ne l ove. And l et hi m not meddl e wi th
forms, medi tati ons and i magi ni ngs, or wi th any ki nd of reasoni ng, l est hi s soul be
di sturbed, and brought out of i ts contentment and peace, whi ch can onl y resul t i n
i ts experi enci ng di staste and repugnance. And i f, as we have sai d, such a person has
scrupl es that he i s doi ng nothi ng, l et hi m note that he i s doi ng no smal l thi ng by
paci fyi ng the soul and bri ngi ng i t i nto cal m and peace, unaccompani ed by any act or
desi re, for i t i s thi s that Our Lord asks of us, through Davi d, sayi ng: Vacate, et
videte quoniam ego sum Deus.
319
As though he had sai d: Learn to be empty of al l
thi ngs (that i s to say, i nwardl y and outwardl y) and you wi l l see that I am God.
CHAPTER XVI
Which treats of the imaginary apprehensions that are supernaturally represented in
the fancy. Describing how they cannot serve the soul as a proximate means to union
with God.
NOW that we have treated of the apprehensi ons whi ch the soul can recei ve wi thi n
i tsel f by natural means, and whereon the fancy and the i magi nati on can work by
means of refl ecti on, i t wi l l be sui tabl e to treat here of the supernatural
apprehensi ons, whi ch are cal l ed i magi nary vi si ons, whi ch l i kewi se bel ong to these
senses, si nce they come wi thi n the category of i mages, forms and fi gures, exactl y as
do the natural apprehensi ons.
2. I t must be understood that beneath thi s term 'i magi nary vi si on' we
purpose to i ncl ude al l thi ngs whi ch can be represented to the i magi nati on
supernatural l y by means of any i mage, form, fi gure and speci es. For al l the
apprehensi ons and speci es whi ch, through al l the fi ve bodi l y senses, are represented
to the soul , and dwel l wi thi n i t, after a natural manner, may l i kewi se occur i n the
soul after a supernatural manner, and be represented to i t wi thout any assi stance of
the outward senses. For thi s sense of fancy, together wi th memory, i s, as i t were, an
archi ve and storehouse of the understandi ng, wherei n are recei ved al l forms and
i mages that can be understood; and thus the soul has them wi thi n i tsel f as i t were
i n a mi rror, havi ng recei ved them by means of the fi ve senses, or, as we say,
supernatural l y; and thus i t presents them to the understandi ng, whereupon the
understandi ng consi ders them and judges them. And not onl y so, but the soul can
al so prepare and i magi ne others l i ke to those wi th whi ch i t i s acquai nted.
3. I t must be understood, then, that, even as the fi ve outward senses
319
Psal m xl v, 11 [A.V., xl vi , 10].
133
represent the i mages and speci es of thei r objects to these i nward senses, even so,
supernatural l y, as we say, wi thout usi ng the outward senses, both God and the
devi l can represent the same i mages and speci es, and much more beauti ful and
perfect ones. Wherefore, beneath these i mages, God often represents many thi ngs to
the soul , and teaches i t much wi sdom; thi s i s conti nual l y seen i n the Scri ptures, as
when I sai as saw God i n Hi s gl ory beneath the smoke whi ch covered the Templ e,
and beneath the seraphi m who covered thei r faces and thei r feet wi th wi ngs;
320
and
as Jeremi as saw the rod watchi ng,
321
and Dani el a mul ti tude of vi si ons,
322
etc. And
the devi l , too, stri ves to decei ve the soul wi th hi s vi si ons, whi ch i n appearance are
good, as may be seen i n the Book of the Ki ngs, when he decei ved al l the prophets of
Achab, presenti ng to thei r i magi nati ons the horns wherewi th he sai d the Ki ng was
to destroy the Assyri ans, whi ch was a l i e.
323
Even such were the vi si ons of Pi l ate's
wi fe, warni ng hi m not to condemn Chri st;
324
and there are many other pl aces where
i t i s seen how, i n thi s mi rror of the fancy and the i magi nati on, these i magi nary
vi si ons come more frequentl y to profi ci ents than do outward and bodi l y vi si ons.
These, as we say, di ffer not i n thei r nature (that i s, as bei ng i mages and speci es)
from those whi ch enter by the outward senses; but, wi th respect to the effect whi ch
they produce, and i n the degree of thei r perfecti on, there i s a great di fference; for
i magi nary vi si ons are subtl er and produce a deeper i mpressi on upon the soul ,
i nasmuch as they are supernatural , and are al so more i nteri or than the exteri or
supernatural vi si ons. Neverthel ess, i t i s true that some of these exteri or bodi l y
vi si ons may produce a deeper i mpressi on; the communi cati on, after al l , i s as God
wi l l s. We are speaki ng, however, merel y as concerns thei r nature, and i n thi s
respect they are more spi ri tual .
4. I t i s to these senses of i magi nati on and fancy that the devi l habi tual l y
betakes hi msel f wi th hi s wi l es -- now natural , now supernatural ;
325
for they are the
door and entrance to the soul , and here, as we have sai d, the understandi ng comes
to take up or set down i ts goods, as i t were i n a harbour or i n a store-house where i t
keeps i ts provi si ons. And for thi s reason i t i s hi ther that both God and the devi l
al ways come wi th thei r jewel s of supernatural forms and i mages, to offer them to
the understandi ng; al though God does not make use of thi s means al one to i nstruct
the soul , but dwel l s wi thi n i t i n substance, and i s abl e to do thi s by Hi msel f and by
other methods.
5. There i s no need for me to stop here i n order to gi ve i nstructi on concerni ng
the si gns by whi ch i t may be known whi ch vi si ons are of God and whi ch not, and
whi ch are of one ki nd and whi ch of another; for thi s i s not my i ntenti on, whi ch i s
onl y to i nstruct the understandi ng herei n, that i t may not be hi ndered or i mpeded
as to uni on wi th Di vi ne Wi sdom by the good vi si ons, nei ther may be decei ved by
those whi ch are fal se.
6. I say, then, that wi th regard to al l these i magi nary vi si ons and
apprehensi ons and to al l other forms and speci es whatsoever, whi ch present
themsel ves beneath some parti cul ar ki nd of knowl edge or i mage or form, whether
320
I sai as vi , 4.
321
Jeremi as i , 11.
322
Dani el vi i i , 10.
323
Ki ngs xxi i , 11 [A.V., 1 Ki ngs xxi i , 11].
324
[St. Matthew xxvi i , 19.]
325
E.p. omi ts: 'now natural , now supernatural .' The Sai nt empl oys thi s l ast word, i n thi s passage,
wi th the sense of 'preternatural .' Onl y God can transcend the bounds of nature, but the devi l can act
i n such a way that he appears to be doi ng so, counterfei ti ng mi racl es, and so forth.
134
they be fal se and come from the devi l or are recogni zed as true and comi ng from
God, the understandi ng must not be embarrassed by them or feed upon them,
nei ther must the soul desi re to recei ve them or to have them, l est i t shoul d no l onger
be detached, free, pure and si mpl e, wi thout any mode or manner, as i s requi red for
uni on.
7. The reason of thi s i s that al l these forms whi ch we have al ready menti oned
are al ways represented, i n the apprehensi on of the soul , as we have sai d, beneath
certai n modes and manners whi ch have l i mi tati ons; and that the Wi sdom of God,
wherewi th the understandi ng i s to be uni ted, has no mode or manner, nei ther i s i t
contai ned wi thi n any parti cul ar or di sti nct ki nd of i ntel l i gence or l i mi t, because i t i s
whol l y pure and si mpl e. And as, i n order that these two extremes may be uni ted --
namel y, the soul and Di vi ne Wi sdom -- i t wi l l be necessary for them to attai n to
agreement, by means of a certai n mutual resembl ance, hence i t fol l ows that the soul
must be pure and si mpl e, nei ther bounded by, nor attached to, any parti cul ar ki nd
of i ntel l i gence, nor modi fi ed by any l i mi tati on of form, speci es and i mage. As God
comes not wi thi n any i mage or form, nei ther i s contai ned wi thi n any parti cul ar ki nd
of i ntel l i gence, so the soul , i n order to reach God,
326
must l i kewi se come wi thi n no
di sti nct form or ki nd of i ntel l i gence.
8. And that there i s no form or l i keness i n God i s cl earl y decl ared by the Hol y
Spi ri t i n Deuteronomy, where He says: Vocem verborum ejus audistis, et formam
penitus non vidistis.
327
Whi ch si gni fi es: Ye heard the voi ce of Hi s words, and ye saw
i n God no form whatsoever. But He says that there was darkness there, and cl ouds
and thi ck darkness, whi ch are the confused and dark knowl edge whereof we have
spoken, wherei n the soul i s uni ted wi th God. And afterwards He says further: Non
vidistis aliquam similitudinem in die, qua locutus est vobis Dominus in Horeb de
medio ignis. That i s: Ye saw no l i keness i n God upon the day when He spoke to you
on Mount Horeb, out of the mi dst of the fi re.
328
9. And that the soul cannot reach the hei ght of God, even as far as i s possi bl e
i n thi s l i fe, by means of any form and fi gure, i s decl ared l i kewi se by the same Hol y
Spi ri t i n the Book of Numbers, where God reproves Aaron and Mi ri am, the brother
and si ster of Moses, because they murmured agai nst hi m, and, desi ri ng to convey to
them the l ofti ness of the state of uni on and fri endshi p wi th Hi m wherei n He had
pl aced hi m, sai d: Si quis inter vos fuerit Propheta Domini, in visione apparebo ei, vel
per somnium loquar ad illum. At non talis servus meus Moyses, qui in omni domo
mea fidelissimus est: ore enim ad os loquor ei, et palem, et non per aenigmata, et
figuras Dominum videt.
329
Whi ch si gni fi es: I f there be any prophet of the Lord
among you, I wi l l appear to hi m i n some vi si on or form, or I wi l l speak wi th hi m i n
hi s dreams; but there i s none l i ke My servant Moses, who i s the most fai thful i n al l
My house, and I speak wi th hi m mouth to mouth, and he sees not God by
compari sons, si mi l i tudes and fi gures. Herei n He says cl earl y that, i n thi s l ofty state
of uni on whereof we are speaki ng, God i s not communi cated to the soul by means of
any di sgui se of i magi nary vi si on or si mi l i tude or form, nei ther can He be so
communi cated; but mouth to mouth -- that i s, i n the naked and pure essence of God,
whi ch i s the mouth of God i n l ove, wi th the naked and pure essence of the soul ,
whi ch i s the mouth of the soul i n l ove of God.
10. Wherefore, i n order to come to thi s essenti al uni on of l ove i n God, the soul
326
[Lit., 'to come wi thi n God.'] E.p.: 'to be uni ted wi th God.'
327
Deuteronomy i v, 12.
328
Deuteronomy i v, 15.
329
Numbers xi i , 6-8, [D.V. has 'Mary' for 'Mi ri am'.]
135
must have a care not to l ean upon
330
i magi nary vi si ons, nor upon forms or fi gures or
parti cul ar objects of the understandi ng; for these cannot serve i t as a proporti onate
and proxi mate means to such an end; rather they woul d di sturb i t, and for thi s
reason the soul must renounce them and stri ve not to have them. For i f i n any
ci rcumstances they were to be recei ved and pri zed, i t woul d be for the sake of profi t
whi ch true vi si ons bri ng to the soul and the good effect whi ch they produce upon i t.
But, for thi s to happen, i t i s not necessary to recei ve them; i ndeed, for the soul 's
profi t, i t i s wel l al ways to reject them. For these i magi nary vi si ons, l i ke the outward
bodi l y vi si ons whereof we have spoken, do the soul good by communi cati ng to i t
i ntel l i gence or l ove or sweetness; but for thi s effect to be produced by them i n the
soul i t i s not necessary that i t shoul d desi re to recei ve them; for, as has al so been
sai d above, at thi s very ti me when they are present to the i magi nati on, they produce
i n the soul and i nfuse i nto i t i ntel l i gence and l ove, or sweetness, or whatever effect
God wi l l s them to produce. And not onl y do they produce thi s joi nt effect, but
pri nci pal l y, al though not si mul taneousl y, they produce thei r effect i n the soul
passi vel y, wi thout i ts bei ng abl e to hi nder thi s effect, even i f i t so desi red, just as i t
was al so powerl ess to acqui re i t, al though i t had been abl e previ ousl y to prepare
i tsel f. For, even as the wi ndow i s powerl ess to i mpede the ray of sunl i ght whi ch
stri kes i t, but, when i t i s prepared by bei ng cl eansed, recei ves i ts l i ght passi vel y
wi thout any di l i gence or l abour on i ts own part, even so the soul , al though agai nst
i ts wi l l , cannot fai l to recei ve i n i tsel f the i nfl uences and communi cati ons of those
fi gures, however much i t mi ght desi re to resi st them. For the wi l l that i s negati vel y
i ncl i ned cannot, i f coupl ed wi th l ovi ng and humbl e resi gnati on, resi st supernatural
i nfusi ons; onl y the i mpuri ty and i mperfecti ons of the soul can resi st them even as
the stai ns upon a wi ndow i mpede the bri ghtness of the sunl i ght.
331
11. From thi s i t i s evi dent that, when the soul compl etel y detaches i tsel f, i n
i ts wi l l and affecti on, from the apprehensi ons of the strai ns of those forms, i mages
and fi gures wherei n are cl othed the spi ri tual communi cati ons whi ch we have
descri bed, not onl y i s i t not depri ved of these communi cati ons and the bl essi ngs
whi ch they cause wi thi n i t, but i t i s much better prepared to recei ve them wi th
greater abundance, cl earness, l i berty of spi ri t and si mpl i ci ty, when al l these
apprehensi ons are set on one si de, for they are, as i t were, curtai ns and vei l s
coveri ng the spi ri tual thi ng that i s behi nd them. And thus, i f the soul desi re to feed
upon them, they occupy spi ri t and sense i n such a way that the spi ri t cannot
communi cate i tsel f si mpl y and freel y; for, whi l e they are sti l l occupi ed wi th the
outer ri nd, i t i s cl ear that the understandi ng i s not free to recei ve the substance.
Wherefore, i f the soul at that ti me desi res to recei ve these forms and to set store by
them, i t woul d be embarrassi ng i tsel f, and contenti ng i tsel f wi th the l east i mportant
part of them -- namel y, al l that i t can apprehend and know of them, whi ch i s the
form and i mage and parti cul ar object of the understandi ng i n questi on. The most
i mportant part of them, whi ch i s the spi ri tual part that i s i nfused i nto the soul , i t
can nei ther apprehend nor understand, nor can i t even know what i t i s, or be abl e to
express i t, si nce i t i s purel y spi ri tual . Al l that i t can know of them, as we say,
accordi ng to i ts manner of understandi ng, i s but the l east part of what i s i n them --
namel y, the forms percepti bl e by sense. For thi s reason I say that what i t cannot
understand or i magi ne i s communi cated to i t by these vi si ons, passi vel y, wi thout
any effort of i ts own to understand and wi thout i ts even knowi ng how to make such
an effort.
330
[The progressi ve form i s used i n the Spani sh: 'not to go (or 'be') l eani ng upon.']
331
[Lit., 'i mpede the bri ghtness.']
136
12. Wherefore the eyes of the soul must ever be wi thdrawn from al l these
apprehensi ons whi ch i t can see and understand di sti nctl y, whi ch are communi cated
through sense, and do not make for a foundati on of fai th, or for rel i ance on fai th,
and must be set upon that whi ch i t sees not, and whi ch bel ongs not to sense, but to
spi ri t, whi ch can be expressed by no fi gure of sense; and i t i s thi s whi ch l eads the
soul to uni on i n fai th, whi ch i s the true medi um, as has been sai d. And thus these
vi si ons wi l l profi t the soul substanti al l y, i n respect of fai th, when i t i s abl e to
renounce the sensi bl e and i ntel l i gi bl e part of them, and to make good use of the
purpose for whi ch God gi ves them to the soul , by casti ng them asi de; for, as we sai d
of corporeal vi si ons, God gi ves them not so that the soul may desi re to have them
and to set i ts affecti on upon them.
13. But there ari ses here thi s questi on: I f i t be true that God gi ves the soul
supernatural vi si ons, but not so that i t may desi re to have them or be attached to
them or set store by them, why does He gi ve them at al l , si nce by thei r means the
soul may fal l i nto many errors and peri l s, or at the l east may fi nd i n them such
hi ndrances to further progress as are here descri bed, especi al l y si nce God can come
to the soul , and communi cate to i t, spi ri tual l y and substanti al l y, that whi ch He
communi cates to i t through sense, by means of the sensi bl e forms and vi si ons
aforementi oned?
14. We shal l answer thi s questi on i n the fol l owi ng chapter: i t i nvol ves
i mportant teachi ng, most necessary, as I see i t, both to spi ri tual persons and to
those who i nstruct them. For herei n i s taught the way and purpose of God wi th
respect to these vi si ons, whi ch many know not, so that they cannot rul e themsel ves
or gui de themsel ves to uni on, nei ther can they gui de others to uni on, through these
vi si ons. For they thi nk that, just because they know them to be true and to come
from God, i t i s wel l to recei ve them and to trust them, not real i zi ng that the soul
wi l l become attached to them, cl i ng to them and be hi ndered by them, as i t wi l l by
thi ngs of the worl d, i f i t know not how to renounce these as wel l as those. And thus
they thi nk i t wel l to recei ve one ki nd of vi si on and to reject another, causi ng
themsel ves, and the soul s under thei r care, great l abour and peri l i n di scerni ng
between the truth and the fal sehood of these vi si ons. But God does not command
them to undertake thi s l abour, nor does He desi re that si ncere and si mpl e soul s
shoul d be l ed i nto thi s confl i ct and danger; for they have safe and sound teachi ng,
whi ch i s that of the fai th, wherei n they can go forward.
15. Thi s, however, cannot be unl ess they cl ose thei r eyes to al l that i s of
parti cul ar and cl ear i ntel l i gence and sense. For, al though Sai nt Peter was qui te
certai n of that vi si on of gl ory whi ch he saw i n Chri st at the Transfi gurati on, yet,
after havi ng descri bed i t i n hi s second canoni cal Epi stl e, he desi red not that i t
shoul d be taken for an i mportant and sure testi mony, but rather di rected hi s
hearers to fai th, sayi ng: Et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem: cui
benefacitis attendentes, quasi lucernoe lucenti in caliginoso loco, donec dies
elucescat.
332
Whi ch si gni fi es: And we have a surer testi mony than thi s vi si on of
Tabor -- namel y, the sayi ngs and words of the prophets who bear testi mony to
Chri st, whereunto ye must i ndeed cl i ng, as to a candl e whi ch gi ves l i ght i n a dark
pl ace. I f we wi l l thi nk upon thi s compari son, we shal l fi nd therei n the teachi ng
whi ch we are now expoundi ng. For, i n tel l i ng us to l ook to the fai th whereof the
prophets spake, as to a candl e that shi nes i n a dark pl ace, he i s bi ddi ng us remai n
i n the darkness, wi th our eyes cl osed to al l these other l i ghts; and tel l i ng us that i n
thi s darkness, fai th al one, whi ch l i kewi se i s dark, wi l l be the l i ght to whi ch we shal l
332
St. Peter i , 19.
137
cl i ng; for i f we desi re to cl i ng to these other bri ght l i ghts -- namel y, to di sti nct
objects of the understandi ng -- we cease to cl i ng to that dark l i ght, whi ch i s fai th,
and we no l onger have that l i ght i n the dark pl ace whereof Sai nt Peter speaks. Thi s
pl ace, whi ch here si gni fi es the understandi ng, whi ch i s the candl esti ck wherei n thi s
candl e of fai th i s set, must be dark unti l the day when the cl ear vi si on of God dawns
upon i t i n the l i fe to come, or, i n thi s l i fe, unti l the day of transformati on and uni on
wi th God to whi ch the soul i s journeyi ng.
CHAPTER XVI I
Wherein is described the purpose and manner of God in His communication of
spiritual blessings to the soul by means of the senses. Herein is answered the question
which has been referred to.
THERE i s much to be sai d concerni ng the purpose of God, and concerni ng the
manner wherei n He gi ves these vi si ons i n order to rai se up the soul from i ts l owl y
estate to Hi s Di vi ne uni on. Al l spi ri tual books deal wi th thi s and i n thi s treati se of
ours the method whi ch we pursue i s to expl ai n i t; therefore I shal l onl y say i n thi s
chapter as much as i s necessary to answer our questi on, whi ch was as fol l ows: Si nce
i n these supernatural vi si ons there i s so much hi ndrance and peri l to progress, as
we have sai d, why does God, Who i s most wi se and desi res to remove stumbl i ng-
bl ocks and snares from the soul , offer and communi cate them to i t?
2. I n order to answer thi s, i t i s wel l fi rst of al l to set down three fundamental
poi nts. The fi rst i s from Sai nt Paul ad Romanos, where he says: Quae autem sunt, a
Deo ordinatoe sunt.
333
Whi ch si gni fi es: The works that are done are ordai ned of
God. The second i s from the Hol y Spi ri t i n the Book of Wi sdom, where He says:
Disponit omnia suaviter.
334
And thi s i s as though He had sai d: The wi sdom of God,
al though i t extends from one end to another -- that i s to say, from one extreme to
another -- orders al l thi ngs wi th sweetness. The thi rd i s from the theol ogi ans, who
say that Omnia movet secundum modum eorum. That i s, God moves al l thi ngs
accordi ng to thei r nature.
3. I t i s cl ear, then, from these fundamental poi nts, that i f God i s to move the
soul and to rai se i t up from the extreme depth of i ts l owl i ness to the extreme hei ght
of Hi s l ofti ness, i n Di vi ne uni on wi th Hi m, He must do i t wi th order and sweetness
and accordi ng to the nature of the soul i tsel f. Then, si nce the order whereby the soul
acqui res knowl edge i s through forms and i mages of created thi ngs, and the natural
way wherei n i t acqui res thi s knowl edge and wi sdom i s through the senses, i t fol l ows
that, i f God i s to rai se up the soul to supreme knowl edge, and to do so wi th
sweetness, He must begi n to work from the l owest and extreme end of the senses of
the soul , i n order that He may gradual l y l ead i t, accordi ng to i ts own nature, to the
other extreme of Hi s spi ri tual wi sdom, whi ch bel ongs not to sense. Wherefore He
fi rst l eads i t onward by i nstructi ng i t through forms, i mages and ways of sense,
accordi ng to i ts own method of understandi ng, now natural l y, now supernatural l y,
and by means of reasoni ng, to thi s supreme Spi ri t of God.
4. I t i s for thi s reason that God gi ves the soul vi si ons and forms, i mages and
other ki nds of sensi bl e and i ntel l i gi bl e knowl edge of a spi ri tual nature; not that God
woul d not gi ve i t spi ri tual wi sdom i mmedi atel y, and al l at once, i f the two extremes
333
Romans xi i i , 1.
334
Wi sdom vi i i , 1.
138
-- whi ch are human and Di vi ne, sense and spi ri t -- coul d i n the ordi nary way concur
and uni te i n one si ngl e act, wi thout the previ ous i nterventi on of many other
preparatory acts whi ch concur among themsel ves i n order and sweetness, and are a
basi s and a preparati on one for another, l i ke natural agents; so that the fi rst acts
serve the second, the second the thi rd, and so onward, i n exactl y the same way. And
thus God bri ngs man to perfecti on accordi ng to the way of man's own nature,
worki ng from what i s l owest and most exteri or up to what i s most i nteri or and
hi ghest. Fi rst, then, He perfects hi s bodi l y senses, i mpel l i ng hi m to make use of
good thi ngs whi ch are natural , perfect and exteri or, such as heari ng sermons and
masses, l ooki ng on hol y thi ngs, morti fyi ng the pal ate at meal s and chasteni ng the
sense of touch by penance and hol y ri gour. And, when these senses are i n some
degree prepared, He i s wont to perfect them sti l l further, by bestowi ng on them
certai n supernatural favours and gi fts, i n order to confi rm them the more
compl etel y i n that whi ch i s good, offeri ng them certai n supernatural
communi cati ons, such as vi si ons of sai nts or hol y thi ngs, i n corporeal shape, the
sweetest perfumes, l ocuti ons, and exceedi ng great del i ghts of touch, wherewi th
sense i s greatl y conti nued i n vi rtue and i s wi thdrawn from a desi re for evi l thi ngs.
And besi des thi s He conti nues at the same ti me to perfect the i nteri or bodi l y senses,
whereof we are here treati ng, such as i magi nati on and fancy, and to habi tuate them
to that whi ch i s good, by means of consi derati ons, medi tati ons, and refl ecti ons of a
sacred ki nd, i n al l of whi ch He i s i nstructi ng the spi ri t. And, when these are
prepared by thi s natural exerci se, God i s wont to enl i ghten and spi ri tual i ze them
sti l l more by means of certai n supernatural vi si ons, whi ch are those that we are
here cal l i ng i magi nary; wherei n, as we have sai d, the spi ri t, at the same ti me,
profi ts greatl y, for both ki nds of vi si on hel p to take away i ts grossness and
gradual l y to reform i t. And after thi s manner God conti nues to l ead the soul step by
step ti l l i t reaches that whi ch i s the most i nteri or of al l ; not that i t i s al ways
necessary for Hi m to observe thi s order, and to cause the soul to advance exactl y i n
thi s way, from the fi rst step to the l ast; someti mes He al l ows the soul to attai n one
stage and not another, or l eads i t from the more i nteri or to the l ess, or effects two
stages of progress together. Thi s happens when God sees i t to be meet for the soul ,
or when He desi res to grant i t Hi s favours i n thi s way; neverthel ess Hi s ordi nary
method i s as has been sai d.
5. I t i s i n thi s way, then, that God i nstructs
335
the soul and makes i t more
spi ri tual , communi cati ng spi ri tual i ty to i t fi rst of al l by means of outward and
pal pabl e thi ngs, adapted to sense, on account of the soul 's feebl eness and i ncapaci ty,
so that, by means of the outer husk of those thi ngs whi ch i n themsel ves are good,
the spi ri t may make
336
parti cul ar acts and recei ve so many spi ri tual
communi cati ons
337
that i t may form a habi t as to thi ngs spi ri tual , and may acqui re
actual and substanti al spi ri tual i ty, whi ch i s compl etel y removed from every sense.
To thi s, as we have sai d, the soul cannot attai n except very gradual l y, and i n i ts
own way -- that i s, by means of sense -- to whi ch i t has ever been attached. And
thus, i n proporti on as the spi ri t attai ns more nearl y to converse wi th God, i t
becomes ever more detached and empti ed of the ways of sense, whi ch are those of
i magi nary medi tati on and refl ecti on. Wherefore, when the soul attai ns perfectl y to
spi ri tual converse wi th God, i t must of necessi ty have been voi ded of al l that rel ates
to God and yet mi ght come under the head of sense. Even so, the more cl osel y a
335
[The verb i s progressi ve ('goes (on) i nstructi ng').]
336
[Thi s verb al so i s progressi ve: 'may go (on) maki ng.']
337
[Lit., 'mouthful s of spi ri tual communi cati on.']
139
thi ng grows attracted to one extreme, the farther removed and wi thdrawn
338
i t
becomes from the other; and, when i t comes to rest perfectl y i n the one, i t wi l l al so
have wi thdrawn i tsel f perfectl y from the other. Wherefore there i s a commonl y
quoted spi ri tual adage whi ch says: Gustato spiritu, desipit omni caro. Whi ch
si gni fi es: After the taste and sweetness of the spi ri t have been experi enced,
everythi ng carnal i s i nsi pi d. That i s: No profi t or enjoyment i s afforded by al l the
ways of the fl esh, wherei n i s i ncl uded al l communi cati on of sense wi th the spi ri tual .
And thi s i s cl ear: for, i f i t i s spi ri t, i t has no more to do wi th sense; and, i f sense can
comprehend i t, i t i s no l onger pure spi ri t. For, the more can be known of i t by
natural apprehensi on and sense, the l ess i t has of spi ri t and of the supernatural , as
has been expl ai ned above.
6. The spi ri t that has become perfect, therefore, pays no heed to sense, nor
does i t recei ve anythi ng through sense, nor make any great use of i t, nei ther does i t
need to do so, i n i ts rel ati ons wi th God, as i t di d aforeti me when i t had not grown
spi ri tual l y. I t i s thi s that i s si gni fi ed by that passage from Sai nt Paul 's Epi stl e to
the Cori nthi ans whi ch says: Cum essem parvulus, loquebar ut parvulus, sapiebam
ut parvulus, cogitabam ut parvulus. Quando autem factus sum vir, evacuavi quae
erant parvuli.
339
Thi s si gni fi es: When I was a chi l d, I spake as a chi l d, I knew as a
chi l d, I thought as a chi l d; but, when I became a man, I put away
340
chi l di sh thi ngs.
We have al ready expl ai ned how the thi ngs of sense, and the knowl edge that spi ri t
can deri ve from them, are the busi ness of a chi l d. Thus, i f the soul shoul d desi re to
cl i ng to them for ever, and not to throw them asi de, i t woul d never be aught but a
l i ttl e chi l d; i t woul d speak ever of God as a chi l d, and woul d know of God as a chi l d,
and woul d thi nk of God as a chi l d; for, cl i ngi ng to the outer husk of sense, whi ch
pertai ns to the chi l d, i t woul d never attai n to the substance of the spi ri t, whi ch
pertai ns to the perfect man. And thus the soul must not desi re to recei ve the sai d
revel ati ons i n order to conti nue i n growth, even though God offer them to i t, just as
the chi l d must l eave the breast i n order to accustom i ts pal ate to strong meat, whi ch
i s more substanti al .
7. You wi l l ask, then, i f, when the soul i s i mmature, i t must take these thi ngs,
and, when i t i s grown, must abandon them; even as an i nfant must take the breast,
i n order to nouri sh i tsel f, unti l i t be ol der and can l eave i t. I answer that, wi th
respect to medi tati on and natural refl ecti on by means of whi ch the soul begi ns to
seek God, i t i s true that i t must not l eave the breast of sense i n order to conti nue
taki ng i n nouri shment unti l the ti me and season to l eave i t have arri ved, and thi s
comes when God bri ngs the soul i nto a more spi ri tual communi on, whi ch i s
contempl ati on, concerni ng whi ch we gave i nstructi on i n the el eventh chapter of thi s
book.
341
But, when i t i s a questi on of i magi nary vi si ons, or other supernatural
apprehensi ons, whi ch can enter the senses wi thout the co-operati on of man's free
wi l l , I say that at no ti me and season must i t recei ve them, whether the soul be i n
the state of perfecti on, or whether i n a state l ess perfect -- not even though they
come from God. And thi s for two reasons. The fi rst i s that, as we have sai d, He
produces Hi s effect i n the soul , wi thout i ts bei ng abl e to hi nder i t, al though, as often
happens, i t can and may hi nder vi si ons; and consequentl y that effect whi ch was to
be produced i n the soul i s communi cated to i t much more substanti al l y, al though
not after that manner. For, as we sai d l i kewi se, the soul cannot hi nder the bl essi ngs
338
[Al l the verbs i n the l ast two cl auses are i n the progressi ve form.]
339
1 Cori nthi ans xi i i , 11.
340
[Lit., 'I empti ed.']
341
I n real i ty, thi s i nstructi on i s gi ven i n Chap. xi i i .
140
that God desi res to communi cate to i t, si nce i t i s not i n the soul 's power to do so,
save when i t has some i mperfecti on and attachment; and there i s nei ther
i mperfecti on nor attachment i n renounci ng these thi ngs wi th humi l i ty and
mi sgi vi ng. The second reason i s that the soul may free i tsel f from the peri l and
effort i nherent i n di scerni ng between evi l vi si ons and good, and i n deci di ng whether
an angel be of l i ght or of darkness. Thi s effort bri ngs the soul no advantage; i t
merel y wastes i ts ti me, and hi nders i t, and becomes to i t an occasi on of many
i mperfecti ons and of fai l ure to make progress. The soul concerns not i tsel f, i n such a
case, wi th what i s i mportant, nor frees i tsel f of tri fl es i n the shape of apprehensi ons
and percepti ons of some parti cul ar ki nd. Thi s has al ready been sai d i n the
di scussi on of corporeal vi si ons; and more wi l l be sai d on the subject hereafter.
8. Let i t be bel i eved, too, that, i f Our Lord were not about to l ead the soul i n a
way befi tti ng i ts own nature, as we say here, He woul d never communi cate to i t the
abundance of Hi s Spi ri t through these aqueducts, whi ch are so narrow -- these
forms and fi gures and parti cul ar percepti ons -- by means whereof He gi ves the soul
enl i ghtenment by crumbs. For thi s cause Davi d says: Mittit crystallum suam sicut
buccellas.
342
Whi ch i s as much as to say: He sent Hi s wi sdom to the soul s as i n
morsel s. I t i s greatl y to be l amented that, though the soul has i nfi ni te capaci ty, i t
shoul d be gi ven i ts food by morsel s conveyed through the senses, by reason of the
smal l degree of i ts spi ri tual i ty and i ts i ncapaci tati on by sense. Sai nt Paul was al so
gri eved by thi s l ack of preparati on and thi s i ncapabi l i ty of men for recei vi ng the
Spi ri t, when he wrote to the Cori nthi ans, sayi ng: 'I , brethren, when I came to you,
coul d not speak to you as to spi ri tual persons, but as to carnal ; for ye coul d not
recei ve i t, nei ther can ye now.' Tamquam parvulis in Christo lac potum vobis dedi,
non escam.
343
That i s: I have gi ven you mi l k to dri nk, as to i nfants i n Chri st, and
not sol i d food to eat.
9. I t now remai ns, then, to be poi nted out that the soul must not al l ow i ts
eyes to rest upon that outer husk -- namel y, fi gures and objects set before i t
supernatural l y. These may be presented to the exteri or senses, as are l ocuti ons and
words audi bl e to the ear; or, to the eyes, vi si ons of sai nts, and of beauteous
radi ance; or perfumes to the sense of smel l ; or tastes and sweetnesses to the pal ate;
or other del i ghts to the touch, whi ch are wont to proceed from the spi ri t, a thi ng
that very commonl y happens to spi ri tual persons. Or the soul may have to avert i ts
eyes from vi si ons of i nteri or sense, such as i magi nary vi si ons, al l of whi ch i t must
renounce enti rel y. I t must set i ts eyes onl y upon the spi ri tual good whi ch they
produce, stri vi ng to preserve i t i n i ts works and to practi se that whi ch i s for the due
servi ce of God, payi ng no heed to those representati ons nor desi ri ng any pl easure of
sense. And i n thi s way the soul takes from these thi ngs onl y that whi ch God i ntends
and wi l l s -- namel y, the spi ri t of devoti on -- for there i s no other i mportant purpose
for whi ch He gi ves them; and i t casts asi de that whi ch He woul d not gi ve i f these
gi fts coul d be recei ved i n the spi ri t wi thout i t, as we have sai d -- namel y, the
exerci se and apprehensi on of the senses.
CHAPTER XVI I I
Which treats of the harm that certain spiritual masters may do to souls when they
direct them not by a good method with respect to the visions aforementioned.
342
Psal m cxl vi i , 17.
343
1 Cori nthi ans i i i , 1-2.
141
Describes also how these visions may cause deception even though they be of God.
I N thi s matter of vi si ons we cannot be as bri ef as we shoul d desi re, si nce there i s so
much to say about them. Al though i n substance we have sai d what i s rel evant i n
order to expl ai n to the spi ri tual person how he i s to behave wi th regard to the
vi si ons aforementi oned, and to the master who di rects hi m, the way i n whi ch he i s
to deal wi th hi s di sci pl e, yet i t wi l l not be superfl uous to go i nto somewhat greater
detai l about thi s doctri ne, and to gi ve more enl i ghtenment as to the harm whi ch can
ensue, ei ther to spi ri tual soul s or to the masters who di rect them, i f they are over-
credul ous about them, al though they be of God.
2. The reason whi ch has now moved me to wri te at l ength about thi s i s the
l ack of di screti on, as I understand i t, whi ch I have observed i n certai n spi ri tual
masters. Trusti ng to these supernatural apprehensi ons, and bel i evi ng that they are
good and come from God, both masters and di sci pl es have fal l en i nto great error and
found themsel ves i n di re strai ts, wherei n i s ful fi l l ed the sayi ng of Our Savi our: Si
coecus coeco ducatum praestet, ambo in foveam cadunt.
344
Whi ch si gni fi es: I f a bl i nd
man l ead another bl i nd man, both fal l i nto the pi t. And He says not 'shal l fal l ,' but
'fal l .' For they may fal l wi thout fal l i ng i nto error, si nce the very venturi ng of the one
to gui de the other i s goi ng astray, and thus they fal l i n thi s respect al one, at the
very l east. And, fi rst of al l , there are some whose way and method wi th soul s that
experi ence these vi si ons cause them to stray, or embarrass them wi th respect to
thei r vi si ons, or gui de them not al ong the road i n some way (for whi ch reason they
remai n wi thout the true spi ri t of fai th) and edi fy them not i n fai th, but l ead them to
speak hi ghl y of those thi ngs. By doi ng thi s they make them real i ze that they
themsel ves set some val ue upon them, or make great account of them, and,
consequentl y, thei r di sci pl es do the same. Thus thei r soul s have been set upon these
apprehensi ons, i nstead of bei ng edi fi ed i n fai th, so that they may be empty and
detached, and freed from those thi ngs and can soar to the hei ghts of dark fai th. Al l
thi s ari ses from the terms and l anguage whi ch the soul observes i ts master to
empl oy wi th respect to these apprehensi ons; somehow i t very easi l y devel ops a
sati sfacti on and an esteem for them, whi ch i s not i n i ts own control , and whi ch
averts i ts eyes from the abyss of fai th.
3. And the reason why thi s i s so easy must be that the soul i s so greatl y
occupi ed wi th these thi ngs of sense that, as i t i s i ncl i ned to them by nature, and i s
l i kewi se di sposed to enjoy the apprehensi on of di sti nct and sensi bl e thi ngs, i t has
onl y to observe i n i ts confessor, or i n some other person, a certai n esteem and
appreci ati on for them, and not merel y wi l l i t at once concei ve the same i tsel f, but
al so, wi thout i ts real i zi ng the fact, i ts desi re wi l l become l ured away by them, so
that i t wi l l feed upon them and wi l l be ever more i ncl i ned toward them and wi l l set
a certai n val ue upon them. And hence ari se many i mperfecti ons, at the very l east;
for the soul i s no l onger as humbl e as before, but thi nks that al l thi s i s of some
i mportance and producti ve of good, and that i t i s i tsel f esteemed by God, and that
He i s pl eased and somewhat sati sfi ed wi th i t, whi ch i s contrary to humi l i ty. And
thereupon the devi l secretl y sets about i ncreasi ng thi s, wi thout the soul 's real i zi ng
i t, and begi ns to suggest i deas to i t about others, as to whether they have these
thi ngs or have them not, or are thi s or are that; whi ch i s contrary to hol y si mpl i ci ty
and spi ri tual sol i tude.
4. There i s much more to be sai d about these evi l s, and of how such soul s,
unl ess they wi thdraw themsel ves, grow not i n fai th, and al so of how there are other
344
St. Matthew xv, 14.
142
evi l s of the same ki nd whi ch, al though they be not so pal pabl e and recogni zabl e as
these, are subtl er and more hateful i n the Di vi ne eyes, and whi ch resul t from not
l i vi ng i n compl ete detachment. Let us, however, l eave thi s subject now, unti l we
come to treat of the vi ce of spi ri tual gl uttony and of the other si x vi ces, whereof,
wi th the hel p of God, many thi ngs wi l l be sai d, concerni ng these subtl e and del i cate
stai ns whi ch adhere to the spi ri t when i ts di rector cannot gui de i t i n detachment.
5. Let us now say somethi ng of thi s manner wherei n certai n confessors deal
wi th soul s, and i nstruct them i l l . And of a truth I coul d wi sh that I knew how to
descri be i t, for I real i ze that i t i s a di ffi cul t thi ng to expl ai n how the spi ri t of the
di sci pl e grows i n conformi ty wi th that of hi s spi ri tual father, i n a hi dden and secret
way; and thi s matter i s so tedi ous that i t weari es me, for i t seems i mpossi bl e to
speak of the one thi ng wi thout descri bi ng the other al so, as they are spi ri tual
thi ngs, and the one corresponds wi th the other.
6. But i t i s suffi ci ent to say here that I bel i eve, i f the spi ri tual father has an
i ncl i nati on toward revel ati ons of such a ki nd that they mean somethi ng to hi m, or
sati sfy or del i ght hi s soul , i t i s i mpossi bl e but that he wi l l i mpress that del i ght and
that ai m upon the spi ri t of hi s di sci pl e, even wi thout real i zi ng i t, unl ess the di sci pl e
be more advanced than he; and, even i n thi s l atter case, he may wel l do hi m
gri evous harm i f he conti nue wi th hi m. For, from that i ncl i nati on of the spi ri tual
father toward such vi si ons, and the pl easure whi ch he takes i n them, there ari ses a
certai n ki nd of esteem for them, of whi ch, unl ess he watch i t careful l y, he cannot fai l
to communi cate some i ndi cati on or i mpressi on to other persons; and i f any other
such person i s l i ke-mi nded and has a si mi l ar i ncl i nati on, i t i s i mpossi bl e, as I
understand, but that there wi l l be communi cated from the one to the other a
readi ness to apprehend these thi ngs and a great esteem for them.
7. But we need not now go i nto detai l about thi s. Let us speak of the confessor
who, whether or no he be i ncl i ned toward these thi ngs, has not the prudence that he
ought to have i n di sencumberi ng the soul of hi s di sci pl e and detachi ng hi s desi re
from them, but begi ns to speak to hi m about these vi si ons and devotes the greater
part of hi s spi ri tual conversati on to them, as we have sai d, gi vi ng hi m si gns by
whi ch he may di sti ngui sh good vi si ons from evi l . Now, al though i t i s wel l to know
thi s, there i s no reason for hi m to i nvol ve the soul i n such l abour, anxi ety and peri l .
By payi ng no heed to vi si ons, and refusi ng to recei ve them, al l thi s i s prevented, and
the soul acts as i t shoul d. Nor i s thi s al l , for such confessors, when they see that
thei r peni tents are recei vi ng vi si ons from God, beg them to entreat God to reveal
them to themsel ves al so, or to say such and such thi ngs to them, wi th respect to
themsel ves or to others, and the fool i sh soul s do so, thi nki ng that i t i s l awful to
desi re knowl edge by thi s means. For they suppose that, because God i s pl eased to
reveal or say somethi ng by supernatural means, i n Hi s own way or for Hi s own
purpose, i t i s l awful for them to desi re Hi m to reveal i t to them, and even to entreat
Hi m to do so.
8. And, i f i t come to pass that God answers thei r peti ti on and reveal s i t, they
become more confi dent, thi nki ng that, because God answers them, i t i s Hi s wi l l and
pl easure to do so; whereas, i n real i ty, i t i s nei ther God's wi l l nor Hi s pl easure. And
they frequentl y act or bel i eve accordi ng to that whi ch He has reveal ed to them, or
accordi ng to the way wherei n He has answered them; for, as they are attached to
that manner of communi on wi th God, the revel ati on makes a great i mpressi on upon
them and thei r wi l l acqui esces i n i t. They take a natural pl easure i n thei r own way
of thi nki ng and therefore natural l y acqui esce i n i t; and frequentl y they go astray.
Then they see that somethi ng happens i n a way they had not expected; and they
143
marvel , and then begi n to doubt i f the thi ng were of God,
345
si nce i t happens not,
and they see i t not, accordi ng to thei r expectati ons. At the begi nni ng they thought
two thi ngs: fi rst, that the vi si on was of God, si nce at the begi nni ng i t agreed so wel l
wi th thei r di sposi ti on, and thei r natural i ncl i nati on to that ki nd of thi ng may wel l
have been the cause of thi s agreement, as we have sai d; and secondl y that, bei ng of
God, i t woul d turn out as they thought or expected.
9. And herei n l i es a great del usi on, for revel ati ons or l ocuti ons whi ch are of
God do not al ways turn out as men expect or as they i magi ne i nwardl y. And thus
they must never be bel i eved or trusted bl i ndl y, even though they are known to be
revel ati ons or answers or sayi ngs of God. For, al though they may i n themsel ves be
certai n and true, they are not al ways so i n thei r causes, and accordi ng to our
manner of understandi ng, as we shal l prove i n the chapter fol l owi ng. And
afterwards we shal l further say and prove that, al though God someti mes gi ves a
supernatural answer to that whi ch i s asked of Hi m, i t i s not Hi s pl easure to do so,
and someti mes, al though He answers, He i s angered.
CHAPTER XI X
Wherein is expounded and proved how, although visions and locutions which come
from God are true, we may be deceived about them. This is proved by quotations from
Divine Scripture.
FOR two reasons we have sai d that, al though vi si ons and l ocuti ons whi ch come
from God are true, and i n themsel ves are al ways certai n, they are not al ways so
wi th respect to oursel ves. One reason i s the defecti ve way i n whi ch we understand
them; and the other, the vari ety of thei r causes. I n the fi rst pl ace, i t i s cl ear that
they are not al ways as they seem, nor do they turn out as they appear to our
manner of thi nki ng. The reason for thi s i s that, si nce God i s vast and boundl ess, He
i s wont, i n Hi s propheci es, l ocuti ons and revel ati ons, to empl oy ways, concepts and
methods of seei ng thi ngs whi ch di ffer greatl y from such purpose and method as can
normal l y be understood by oursel ves; and these are the truer and the more certai n
the l ess they seem so to us. Thi s we constantl y see i n the Scri ptures. To many of the
anci ents many propheci es and l ocuti ons of God came not to pass as they expected,
because they understood them after thei r own manner, i n the wrong way, and qui te
l i teral l y. Thi s wi l l be cl earl y seen i n these passages.
2. I n Genesi s, God sai d to Abraham, when He had brought hi m to the l and of
the Chanaani tes: Tibi dabo terram hanc.
346
Whi ch si gni fi es, I wi l l gi ve thee thi s
l and. And when He had sai d i t to hi m many ti mes, and Abraham was by now very
Domine, unde scire possum, quod possessurus sim eam? That ol d, and He had never
gi ven i t to hi m, though He had sai d thi s to hi m, Abraham answered God once agai n
and sai d: Lord, whereby or by what si gn am I to know that I am to possess i t? Then
God reveal ed to hi m that he was not to possess i t i n person, but that hi s sons woul d
do so after four hundred years; and Abraham then understood the promi se, whi ch i n
i tsel f was most true; for, i n gi vi ng i t to hi s sons for l ove of hi m, God was gi vi ng i t to
hi msel f. And thus Abraham was decei ved by the way i n whi ch he hi msel f had
understood the prophecy. I f he had then acted accordi ng to hi s own understandi ng
of i t, those that saw hi m di e wi thout i ts havi ng been gi ven to hi m mi ght have erred
345
[Lit., 'i f i t were of God.']
346
Genesi s xv, 7.
144
greatl y; for they were not to see the ti me of i ts ful fi l ment. And, as they had heard
hi m say that God woul d gi ve i t to hi m, they woul d have been confounded and woul d
have bel i eved i t to have been fal se.
3. Li kewi se to hi s grandson Jacob, when Joseph hi s son brought hi m to Egypt
because of the fami ne i n Chanaan, and when he was on the road, God appeared and
sai d: J acob, J acob, noli timere, descende in Aegiptum, quia in gentem magnam
faciam te ibi. Ego descendam tecum illuc. . . . Et inde adducam te revertentem.
347
Whi ch si gni fi es: Jacob, fear not; go down i nto Egypt, and I wi l l go down there wi th
thee; and, when thou goest forth thence agai n, I wi l l bri ng thee out and gui de thee.
Thi s promi se, as i t woul d seem accordi ng to our own manner of understandi ng, was
not ful fi l l ed, for, as we know, the good ol d man Jacob di ed i n Egypt and never l eft i t
al i ve. The word of God was to be ful fi l l ed i n hi s chi l dren, whom He brought out
thence after many years, bei ng Hi msel f thei r gui de upon the way. I t i s cl ear that
anyone who had known of thi s promi se made by God to Jacob woul d have
consi dered i t certai n that Jacob, even as he had gone to Egypt al i ve, i n hi s own
person, by the command and favour of God, woul d of a certai nty l eave i t, al i ve and
i n hi s own person, i n the same form and manner as he went there, si nce God had
promi sed hi m a favourabl e return; and such a one woul d have been decei ved, and
woul d have marvel l ed greatl y, when he saw hi m di e i n Egypt, and the promi se, i n
the sense i n whi ch he understood i t, remai n unful fi l l ed. And thus, whi l e the words
of God are i n themsel ves most true, i t i s possi bl e to be greatl y mi staken wi th regard
to them.
4. I n the Judges, agai n, we read that, when al l the tri bes of I srael had come
together to make war agai nst the tri be of Benjami n, i n order to puni sh a certai n evi l
to whi ch that tri be had been consenti ng, they were so certai n of vi ctory because God
had appoi nted them a captai n for the war, that, when twenty-two thousand of thei r
men were conquered and sl ai n, they marvel l ed very greatl y; and, goi ng i nto the
presence of God, they wept al l that day, knowi ng not the cause of the fal l , si nce they
had understood that the vi ctory was to be thei rs. And, when they enqui red of God i f
they shoul d gi ve battl e agai n or no, He answered that they shoul d go and fi ght
agai nst them. Thi s ti me they consi dered vi ctory to be thei rs al ready, and went out
wi th great bol dness, and were conquered agai n the second ti me, wi th the l oss of
ei ghteen thousand of thei r men. Thereat they were greatl y confused, and knew not
what to do, seei ng that God had commanded them to fi ght and yet each ti me they
were vanqui shed, though they were superi or to thei r enemi es i n number and
strength, for the men of Benjami n were no more than twenty-fi ve thousand and
seven hundred and they were four hundred thousand. And i n thi s way they were
mi staken i n thei r manner of understandi ng the words of God. Hi s words were not
decepti ve, for He had not tol d them that they woul d conquer, but that they shoul d
fi ght; for by these defeats God wi shed to chasti se a certai n negl ect and presumpti on
of thei rs, and thus to humbl e them. But, when i n the end He answered that they
woul d conquer, i t was so, al though they conquered onl y after the greatest stratagem
and toi l .
348
5. I n thi s way, and i n many other ways, soul s are oftenti mes decei ved wi th
respect to l ocuti ons and revel ati ons that come from God, because they i nterpret
them accordi ng to thei r apparent sense
349
and l i teral l y; whereas, as has al ready
been expl ai ned, the pri nci pal i ntenti on of God i n gi vi ng these thi ngs i s to express
347
Genesi s xl vi , 3-4.
348
Judges xx, 12 ff.
349
[Lit., 'accordi ng to the ri nd.' Cf. bk. I I ch. vi i i , above.]
145
and convey the spi ri t that i s contai ned i n them, whi ch i s di ffi cul t to understand.
And the spi ri t i s much more pregnant i n meani ng than the l etter, and i s very
extraordi nary, and goes far beyond i ts l i mi ts. And thus, he that cl i ngs to the l etter,
or to a l ocuti on or to the form or fi gure of a vi si on, whi ch can be apprehended, wi l l
not fai l to go far astray, and wi l l forthwi th fal l i nto great confusi on and error,
because he has gui ded hi msel f by sense accordi ng to these vi si ons, and not al l owed
the spi ri t to work i n detachment from sense. Littera enim occidit, spiritus autem
vivificat,
350
as Sai nt Paul says. That i s: The l etter ki l l eth and the spi ri t gi veth l i fe.
Wherefore i n thi s matter of sense the l etter must be set asi de, and the soul must
remai n i n darkness, i n fai th, whi ch i s the spi ri t, and thi s cannot be comprehended
by sense.
6. For whi ch cause, many of the chi l dren of I srael , because they took the
sayi ngs and propheci es of the prophets accordi ng to the stri ct l etter, and these were
not ful fi l l ed as they expected, came to make l i ttl e account of them and bel i eved
them not; so much so, that there grew up a common sayi ng among them -- al most a
proverb, i ndeed -- whi ch turned prophets i nto ri di cul e. Of thi s I sai as compl ai ns,
speaki ng and excl ai mi ng i n the manner fol l owi ng: Quem docebit Dominus
scientiam? et quem intelligere faciet auditum? ablactatos a lacte, avulsos ab
uberibus. Quia manda remanda, manda remanda, expecta reexpecta, expecta
reexpecta, modicum ibi, modicum ibi. I n loquela enim labii, et lingua altera loquetur
ad populum istum.
351
Thi s si gni fi es: To whom shal l God teach knowl edge? And
whom shal l He make to understand Hi s word and prophecy? Onl y them that are
al ready weaned from the mi l k and drawn away from the breasts. For al l say (that
i s, concerni ng the propheci es): Promi se and promi se agai n; wai t and wai t agai n;
wai t and wai t agai n;
352
a l i ttl e there, a l i ttl e there; for i n the words of Hi s l i ps and
i n another tongue wi l l He speak to thi s peopl e. Here I sai as shows qui te cl earl y that
these peopl e were turni ng propheci es i nto ri di cul e, and that i t was i n mockery that
they repeated thi s proverb: 'Wai t and then wai t agai n.' They meant that the
propheci es were never ful fi l l ed for them, for they were wedded to the l etter, whi ch i s
the mi l k of i nfants, and to thei r own sense, whi ch i s the breasts, both of whi ch
contradi ct the greatness of spi ri tual knowl edge. Wherefore he says: To whom shal l
He teach the wi sdom of Hi s propheci es? And whom shal l He make to understand
Hi s doctri ne, save them that are al ready weaned from the mi l k of the l etter and
from the breasts of thei r own senses? For thi s reason these peopl e understand i t
not, save accordi ng to thi s mi l k of the husk and l etter, and these breasts of thei r
own sense, si nce they say: Promi se and promi se agai n; wai t and wai t agai n, etc. For
i t i s i n the doctri ne of the mouth of God, and not i n thei r own doctri ne, and i t i s i n
another tongue than thei r own, that God shal l speak to them.
7. And thus, i n i nterpreti ng prophecy, we have not to consi der our own sense
and l anguage, knowi ng that the l anguage of God i s very di fferent from ours, and
that i t i s spi ri tual l anguage, very far removed from our understandi ng and
exceedi ngl y di ffi cul t. So much so i s i t that even Jeremi as, though a prophet of God,
when he sees that the si gni fi cance of the words of God i s so di fferent from the sense
commonl y attri buted to them by men, i s hi msel f decei ved by them and defends the
peopl e, sayi ng: Heu, heu, heu, Domine Deus, ergone decipisti populum istum et
350
2 Cori nthi ans i i i , 6.
351
I sai as xxvi i i , 9-11.
352
[For 'wai t,' we may al so read 'hope,' the Spani sh word (esperar) here used expressi ng both these
i deas.]
146
J erusalem, dicens: Pax erit vobis; et ecce pervenit gladius usque ad animam?
353
Whi ch si gni fi es: Ah, ah, ah, Lord God, hast Thou perchance decei ved thi s peopl e and
Jerusal em, sayi ng, 'Peace wi l l come upon you,' and seest Thou here that the sword
reacheth unto thei r soul ? For the peace that God promi sed them was that whi ch
was to be made between God and man by means of the Messi ah Whom He was to
send them, whereas they understood i t of temporal peace; and therefore, when they
suffered wars and tri al s, they thought that God was decei vi ng them, because there
befel l them the contrary of that whi ch they expected. And thus they sai d, as
Jeremi as says l i kewi se: Exspectavimus pacem, et non erat bonum.
354
That i s: We
have l ooked for peace and there i s no boon of peace. And thus i t was i mpossi bl e for
them not to be decei ved, si nce they took the prophecy merel y i n i ts l i teral sense. For
who woul d fai l to fal l i nto confusi on and to go astray i f he confi ned hi msel f to a
l i teral i nterpretati on of that prophecy whi ch Davi d spake concerni ng Chri st, i n the
seventy-fi rst Psal m, and of al l that he says therei n, where he says: Et dominabitur
a mari usque ad mare; et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.
355
That i s: He
shal l have domi ni on from one sea even to the other sea, and from the ri ver even
unto the ends of the earth. And l i kewi se i n that whi ch he says i n the same pl ace:
Liberabit pauperem a potente, et pauperem, cui non erat adjutor.
356
Whi ch si gni fi es:
He shal l del i ver the poor man from the power of the mi ghty, and the poor man that
had no hel per. But l ater i t became known that Chri st was born
357
i n a l ow state and
l i ved i n poverty and di ed i n mi sery; not onl y had He no domi ni on over the earth, i n
a temporal sense, whi l e He l i ved, but He was subject to l owl y peopl e, unti l He di ed
under the power of Ponti us Pi l ate. And not onl y di d He not del i ver poor men --
namel y, Hi s di sci pl es -- from the hands of the mi ghty, i n a temporal sense, but He
al l owed them to be sl ai n and persecuted for Hi s name's sake.
8. The fact i s that these propheci es concerni ng Chri st had to be understood
spi ri tual l y, i n whi ch sense they were enti rel y true. For Chri st was not onl y Lord of
earth al one, but l i kewi se of Heaven, si nce He was God; and the poor who were to
fol l ow Hi m He was not onl y to redeem and free from the power of the devi l , that
mi ghty one agai nst whom they had no hel per, but al so to make hei rs of the
Ki ngdom of Heaven. And thus God was speaki ng, i n the most i mportant sense, of
Chri st, and of the reward of Hi s fol l owers,
358
whi ch was an eternal ki ngdom and
eternal l i berty; and they understood thi s, after thei r own manner, i n a secondary
sense, of whi ch God takes smal l account, namel y that of temporal domi ni on and
temporal l i berty, whi ch i n God's eyes i s nei ther ki ngdom nor l i berty at al l .
Wherefore, bei ng bl i nded by the i nsuffi ci ency of the l etter, and not understandi ng
i ts spi ri t and truth, they took the l i fe of thei r God and Lord, even as Sai nt Paul sai d
i n these words: Qui enim habitabant J erusalem, et principes ejus, hunc ignorantes et
voces prophetarum, quae per omne Sabbatum leguntur, judicantes impleverunt.
359
Whi ch si gni fi es: They that dwel t i n Jerusal em, and her rul ers, not knowi ng Who He
was, nor understandi ng the sayi ngs of the prophets, whi ch are read every Sabbath
day, have ful fi l l ed them by judgi ng Hi m.
9. And to such a poi nt di d they carry thi s i nabi l i ty to understand the sayi ngs
353
Jeremi as i v, 10.
354
Jeremi as vi i i , 15.
355
Psal m l xxi , 8 [A.V., l xxi i , 8].
356
Psal m l xxi , 12 [A.V., l xxi i , 12.]
357
[Lit., 'seei ng Hi m l ater to be born.']
358
[Lit., 'of Chri st and of Hi s fol l owers.' The addi ti on i s necessary to the sense.]
359
Acts xi i i , 27.
147
of God as i t behoved them, that even Hi s own di sci pl es, who had gone about wi th
Hi m, were decei ved, as were those two who, after Hi s death, were goi ng to the
vi l l age of Emmaus, sad and di sconsol ate, sayi ng: Nos autem sperabamus quod ipse
esset redempturus I srael.
360
We hoped that i t was He that shoul d have redeemed
I srael . They, too, understood that thi s domi ni on and redempti on were to be
temporal ; but Chri st our Redeemer, appeari ng to them, reproved them as fool i sh
and heavy and gross of heart as to thei r bel i ef i n the thi ngs that the prophets had
spoken.
361
And, even when He was goi ng to Heaven, some of them were sti l l i n that
state of grossness of heart, and asked Hi m, sayi ng: Domine, si in tempore hoc
restitues Regnum I srael.
362
That i s: Lord, tel l us i f Thou wi l t restore at thi s ti me the
ki ngdom of I srael . The Hol y Spi ri t causes many thi ngs to be sai d whi ch bear
another sense than that whi ch men understand; as can be seen i n that whi ch he
caused to be sai d by Cai phas concerni ng Chri st: that i s was meet that one man
shoul d di e l est al l the peopl e shoul d peri sh.
363
Thi s he sai d not of hi s own accord;
and he sai d i t and understood i t i n one sense, and the Hol y Spi ri t i n another.
10. From thi s i t i s cl ear that, al though sayi ngs and revel ati ons may be of God,
we cannot al ways be sure of thei r meani ng; for we can very easi l y be greatl y
decei ved by them because of our manner of understandi ng them. For they are al l an
abyss and a depth of the spi ri t, and to try to l i mi t them to what we can understand
concerni ng them, and to what our sense can apprehend, i s nothi ng but to attempt to
grasp the ai r, and to grasp some parti cl e i n i t that the hand touches: the ai r
di sappears and nothi ng remai ns.
11. The spi ri tual teacher must therefore stri ve that the spi ri tual i ty of hi s
di sci pl e be not cramped by attempts to i nterpret al l supernatural apprehensi ons,
whi ch are no more than spi ri tual parti cl es, l est he come to retai n naught but these,
and have no spi ri tual i ty at al l . But l et the teacher wean hi s di sci pl e from al l vi si ons
and l ocuti ons, and i mpress upon hi m the necessi ty of dwel l i ng i n the l i berty and
darkness of fai th, wherei n are recei ved spi ri tual l i berty and abundance, and
consequentl y the wi sdom and understandi ng necessary to i nterpret sayi ngs of God.
For i t i s i mpossi bl e for a man, i f he be not spi ri tual , to judge of the thi ngs of God or
understand them i n a reasonabl e way, and he i s not spi ri tual when he judges them
accordi ng to sense; and thus, al though they come to hi m beneath the di sgui se of
sense, he understands them not. Thi s Sai nt Paul wel l expresses i n these words:
Animalis autem homo non percipit ea quoe sunt spiritus Dei: stultitia enim est illi, et
non potest intelligere: quia de spiritualibus examinatur. Spiritualis autem judicat
omnia.
364
Whi ch si gni fi es: The ani mal man percei ves not the thi ngs whi ch are of the
Spi ri t of God, for unto hi m they are fool i shness and he cannot understand them
because they are spi ri tual ; but he that i s spi ri tual judges al l thi ngs. By the ani mal
man i s here meant one that uses sense al one; by the spi ri tual man, one that i s not
bound or gui ded by sense. Wherefore i t i s temeri ty to presume to have i ntercourse
wi th God by way of a supernatural apprehensi on effected by sense, or to al l ow
anyone el se to do so.
12. And that thi s may be the better understood l et us here set down a few
exampl es. Let us suppose that a hol y man i s greatl y affl i cted because hi s enemi es
persecute hi m, and that God answers hi m, sayi ng: I wi l l del i ver thee from al l thi ne
360
St. Luke xxi v, 21.
361
St. Luke xxi v, 25.
362
Acts i , 6.
363
St. John xi , 50.
364
1 Cori nthi ans i i , 14.
148
enemi es. Thi s prophecy may be very true, yet, notwi thstandi ng, hi s enemi es may
succeed i n prevai l i ng, and he may di e at thei r hands. And so i f a man shoul d
understand thi s after a temporal manner he woul d be decei ved; for God mi ght be
speaki ng of the true and pri nci pal l i berty and vi ctory, whi ch i s sal vati on, whereby
the soul i s del i vered, free and made vi ctori ous
365
over al l i ts enemi es, and much
more trul y so and i n a hi gher sense than i f i t were del i vered from them here bel ow.
And thus, thi s prophecy was much more true and comprehensi ve than the man
coul d understand i f he i nterpreted i t onl y wi th respect to thi s l i fe; for, when God
speaks, Hi s words are al ways to be taken i n the sense whi ch i s most i mportant and
profi tabl e, whereas man, accordi ng to hi s own way and purpose, may understand
the l ess i mportant sense, and thus may be decei ved. Thi s we see i n that prophecy
whi ch Davi d makes concerni ng Chri st i n the second Psal m sayi ng: Reges eos in
virga ferrea, et tamquam vas figuli confringes eos.
366
That i s: Thou shal t rul e al l the
peopl e wi th a rod of i ron and thou shal t dash them i n pi eces l i ke a vessel of cl ay.
Herei n God speaks of the pri nci pal and perfect domi ni on, whi ch i s eternal domi ni on;
and i t was i n thi s sense that i t was ful fi l l ed, and not i n the l ess i mportant sense,
whi ch was temporal , and whi ch was not ful fi l l ed i n Chri st duri ng any part of Hi s
temporal l i fe.
13. Let us take another exampl e. A soul has great desi res to be a martyr. I t
may happen that God answers hi m, sayi ng: Thou shal t be a martyr. Thi s wi l l gi ve
hi m i nwardl y great comfort and confi dence that he i s to be martyred; yet i t may
come to pass that he di es not the death of a martyr, and notwi thstandi ng thi s the
promi se may be true. Why, then, i s i t not ful fi l l ed l i teral l y? Because i t wi l l be
ful fi l l ed, and i s capabl e of bei ng ful fi l l ed, accordi ng to the most i mportant and
essenti al sense of that sayi ng -- namel y, i n that God wi l l have gi ven that soul the
l ove and the reward whi ch bel ong essenti al l y to a martyr; and thus i n truth He
gi ves to the soul that whi ch i t formal l y desi red and that whi ch He promi sed i t. For
the formal desi re of the soul was, not that parti cul ar manner of death, but to do God
a martyr's servi ce, and to show i ts l ove for Hi m as a martyr does. For that manner
of death i s of no worth i n i tsel f wi thout thi s l ove, the whi ch l ove and the showi ng
forth thereof and the reward bel ongi ng to the martyr may be gi ven to i t more
perfectl y by other means. So that, though i t may not di e l i ke a martyr, the soul i s
wel l sati sfi ed that i t has been gi ven that whi ch i t si red. For, when they are born of
l i vi ng l ove, such desi res, and others l i ke them, al though they be not ful fi l l ed i n the
way wherei n they are descri bed and understood, are ful fi l l ed i n another and a
better way, and i n a way whi ch honours God more greatl y than that whi ch they
mi ght have asked. Wherefore Davi d says: Desiderium pauperum exaudivit
Dominus.
367
That i s: The Lord has granted the poor thei r desi re. And i n the
Proverbs Di vi ne Wi sdom says: Desiderium suum justis dabitur.
368
'The just shal l be
gi ven thei r desi re.' Hence, then, si nce we see that many hol y men have desi red
many parti cul ar thi ngs for God's sake, and that i n thi s l i fe thei r desi res have not
been granted them, i t i s a matter of fai th that, as thei r desi res were just and true,
they have been ful fi l l ed for them perfectl y i n the next l i fe. Si nce thi s i s truth, i t
woul d al so be truth for God to promi se i t to them i n thi s l i fe, sayi ng to them: Your
desi re shal l be ful fi l l ed; and for i t not to be ful fi l l ed i n the way whi ch they expected.
14. I n thi s and other ways, the words and vi si ons of God may be true and
365
[Lit., 'free and vi ctori ous.']
366
Psal m i i , 9.
367
Psal m i x, 17 [A.V., x, 18].
368
Proverbs x, 24.
149
sure and yet we may be decei ved by them, through bei ng unabl e to i nterpret them
i n a hi gh and i mportant sense, whi ch i s the sense and purpose wherei n God i ntends
them. And thus the best and surest course i s to trai n soul s i n prudence so that they
fl ee from these supernatural thi ngs, by accustomi ng them, as we have sai d, to
puri ty of spi ri t i n dark fai th, whi ch i s the means of uni on.
CHAPTER XX
Wherein is proved by passages from Scripture how the sayings and words of God,
though always true, do not always rest upon stable causes.
WE have now to prove the second reason why vi si ons and words whi ch come from
God, al though i n themsel ves they are al ways true, are not al ways stabl e i n thei r
rel ati on to oursel ves. Thi s i s because of thei r causes, whereon they are founded; for
God often makes statements founded upon creatures and thei r effects, whi ch are
changeabl e and l i abl e to fai l , for whi ch reason the statements whi ch are founded
upon them are l i abl e al so to be changeabl e and to fai l ; for, when one thi ng depends
on another, i f one fai l s, the other fai l s l i kewi se. I t i s as though God shoul d say: I n a
year's ti me I shal l send upon thi s ki ngdom such or such a pl ague; and the cause and
foundati on for thi s warni ng i s a certai n offence whi ch has been commi tted agai nst
God i n that ki ngdom. I f the offence shoul d cease or change, the puni shment mi ght
cease; yet the threat was true because i t was founded upon the faul t commi tted at
the ti me, and, i f thi s had conti nued, i t woul d have been carri ed out.
2. Thi s, we see, happened i n the ci ty of Ni ni ve, where God sai d: Adhuc
quadraginta dies, et Ninive subvertetur.
369
Whi ch si gni fi es: Yet forty days and
Ni ni ve shal l be destroyed. Thi s was not ful fi l l ed, because the cause of the threat
ceased -- namel y, the si ns of the ci ty, for whi ch i t di d penace -- but, i f thi s had not
been so, the prophecy woul d have been carri ed i nto effect. We read l i kewi se i n the
Thi rd Book of the Ki ngs that, when Ki ng Achab had commi tted a very great si n,
God sent to phophesy
370
a great puni shment -- our father El i as bei ng the messenger
-- whi ch shoul d come upon hi s person, upon hi s house and upon hi s ki ngdom.
371
And, because Achab rent hi s garments wi th gri ef and cl othed hi msel f i n hai rcl oth
and fasted, and sl ept i n sackcl oth and went about i n a humbl e and contri te manner,
God sent agai n, by the same prophet, to decl are to hi m these words: Quia igitur
humiliatus est mei causa, non inducam malum in diebus ejus, sed in diebus filii
sui.
372
Whi ch si gni fi es: I nasmuch as Achab has humbl ed hi msel f for l ove of Me, I
wi l l not send the evi l whereof I spake i n hi s days, but i n the days of hi s son. Here we
see that, because Achab changed hi s spi ri t and hi s former affecti on, God l i kewi se
changed Hi s sentence.
3. From thi s we may deduce, as regards the matter under di scussi on, that,
al though God may have reveal ed or affi rmed somethi ng to a soul , whether good or
evi l , and whether rel ati ng to that soul i tsel f or to others, thi s may, to a greater or a
l esser extent, be changed or al tered or enti rel y wi thdrawn, accordi ng to the change
or vari ati on i n the affecti on of thi s soul , or the cause whereon God based Hi s
judgment, and thus i t woul d not be ful fi l l ed i n the way expected, and oftenti mes
369
Jonas i i i , 4.
370
[Lit., 'to promi se.']
371
3 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Ki ngs] xxi , 21.
372
3 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Ki ngs] xxi , 27-9.
150
none woul d have known why, save onl y God. For God i s wont to decl are and teach
and promi se many thi ngs, not that they may be understood or possessed at the
ti me, but that they may be understood at a l ater ti me, when i t i s fi tti ng that a soul
may have l i ght concerni ng them, or when thei r effect i s attai ned. Thi s, as we see,
He di d wi th Hi s di sci pl es, to whom He spake many parabl es, and pronounced many
judgments, the wi sdom whereof they understood not unti l the ti me when they had
to preach i t, whi ch was when the Hol y Spi ri t came upon them, of Whom Chri st had
sai d to them that He woul d expl ai n to them al l the thi ngs that He had spoken to
them i n Hi s l i fe. And, when Sai nt John speaks of that entry of Chri st i nto
Jerusal em, he says: Haec non cognoverunt discipuli ejus primum: sed quando
glorificatus est J esus, tunc recordati sunt quia haec erant scripta de eo.
373
And thus
there may pass through the soul many detai l ed messages from God whi ch nei ther
the soul nor i ts di rector wi l l understand unti l the proper ti me.
4. Li kewi se, i n the Fi rst Book of the Ki ngs, we read that, when God was
wroth agai nst Hel i , a pri est of I srael , for hi s si ns i n not chasti si ng hi s sons, he sent
to hi m by Samuel to say, among other words, these whi ch fol l ow: Loquens locutus
sum, ut domus tua, et domus patris tui, ministraret in conspectu meo, usque in
sempiternum. Verumtamen absit hoc a me. And thi s i s as though He had sai d:
374
I n
very truth I sai d aforeti me that thy house and the house of thy father shoul d serve
Me conti nual l y i n the pri esthood i n my presence for ever, but thi s purpose i s far
from Me; I wi l l not do thi s thi ng. For thi s offi ce of the pri esthood was founded for
gi vi ng honour and gl ory to God, and to thi s end God has promi sed to gi ve i t to the
father of Hel i for ever i f he fai l ed not. But, when Hel i fai l ed i n zeal for the honour of
God (for, as God Hi msel f compl ai ned when He sent hi m the message, he honoured
hi s sons more than God, overl ooki ng thei r si ns so as not to offend them), the
promi se al so fai l ed whi ch woul d have hel d good for ever i f the good servi ce and zeal
of Hel i had l asted for ever. And thus there i s no reason to thi nk that, because
sayi ngs and revel ati ons come from God, they must i nvari abl y come to pass i n thei r
apparent sense, especi al l y when they are bound up wi th human causes whi ch may
vary, change, or al ter.
5. And when they are dependent upon these causes God Hi msel f knows,
though He does not al ways decl are i t, but pronounces the sayi ng, or makes the
revel ati on, and someti mes says nothi ng of the condi ti on, as when He defi ni tel y tol d
the Ni ni vi tes that they woul d be destroyed after forty days.
375
At other ti mes, he
l ays down the condi ti on, as He di d to Roboam, sayi ng to hi m: 'I f thou wi l t keep My
commandments, as my servant Davi d, I wi l l be wi th thee even as I was wi th hi m,
and wi l l set thee up a house as I di d to My servant Davi d'.
376
But, whether He
decl ares i t or no, the soul must not rel y upon i ts own understandi ng; for i t i s
i mpossi bl e to understand the hi dden truths of God whi ch are i n Hi s sayi ngs, and
the mul ti tude of thei r meani ngs. He i s above the heavens, and speaks accordi ng to
the way of eterni ty;
377
we bl i nd soul s are upon the earth and understand onl y the
ways of fl esh and ti me. I t was for that reason, I bel i eve, that the Wi se Man sai d:
'God i s i n Heaven, and thou are upon earth; wherefore be not thou l engthy or hasty
i n speaki ng.'
378
373
St. John xi i , 16.
374
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] i i , 30.
375
Jonas i i i , 4.
376
3 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Ki ngs] xi , 38. [Actual l y i t was to Jeroboam that thi s was sai d.]
377
[Lit., 'on the road of eterni ty.']
378
Eccl esti astes v, 1 [A.V. v, 2].
151
6. You wi l l perhaps ask me: Why, i f we are not to understand these thi ngs, or
to pl ay any part i n them, does God communi cate them to us? I have al ready sai d
that everythi ng wi l l be understood i n i ts own ti me by the command of Hi m Who
spake i t, and he whom God wi l l s shal l understand i t, and i t wi l l be seen that i t was
fi tti ng; for God does naught save wi th due cause and i n truth. Let i t be real i zed,
therefore, that there i s no compl ete understandi ng of the meani ng of the sayi ngs
and thi ngs of God, and that thi s meani ng cannot be deci ded by what i t seems to be,
wi thout great error, and, i n the end, gri evous confusi on. Thi s was very wel l known
to the prophets, i nto whose hands was gi ven the word of God, and who found i t a
sore tri al to prophesy concerni ng the peopl e; for, as we have sai d, many of the
peopl e saw that thi ngs came not to pass l i teral l y, as they were tol d them, for whi ch
cause they l aughed at the prophets and mocked them greatl y; so much that
Jeremi as went as far as to say: 'They mock me al l the day l ong, they scorn and
despi se me every one, for I have l ong been cryi ng agai nst evi l and promi si ng them
destructi on; and the word of the Lord has been made a reproach and a deri si on to
me conti nual l y. And I sai d, I must not remember Hi m, nei ther speak any more i n
Hi s name.'
379
Herei n, al though the hol y prophet was speaki ng wi th resi gnati on and
i n the form of a weak man who cannot endure the ways and worki ngs of God, he
cl earl y i ndi cates the di fference between the way wherei n the Di vi ne sayi ngs are
ful fi l l ed and the ordi nary meani ng whi ch they appear to have; for the Di vi ne
prophets were treated as mockers, and suffered so much from thei r prophecy that
Jeremi as hi msel f sai d el sewhere: Formido et laqueus facta est nobis vaticinatio et
contritio.
380
Whi ch si gni fi es: Prophecy has become to us fear and snares and
contradi cti on of spi ri t.
7. And the reason why Jonas fl ed when God sent hi m to preach the
destructi on of Ni ni ve was thi s, namel y, that he knew the di fferent meani ngs of the
sayi ngs of God wi th respect to the understandi ng of men and wi th respect to the
causes of the sayi ngs. And thus, l est they shoul d mock hi m when they saw that hi s
prophecy was not ful fi l l ed, he went away and l i ed i n order not to prophesy; and thus
he remai ned wai ti ng al l the forty days outsi de the ci ty, to see i f hi s prophecy was
ful fi l l ed; and, when i t was not ful fi l l ed, he was greatl y affl i cted, so much so that he
sai d to God: Obsecro, Domine, numquid non hoc est verbum meum, cum adhuc essem
in terra mea? propter hoc praeoccupavi, ut fugerem in Tharsis.
381
That i s: I pray
Thee, O Lord, i s not thi s what I sai d when I was yet i n my own country? Therefore
was I vexed, and fl ed away to Tharsi s. And the sai nt was wroth and besought God
to take away hi s l i fe.
8. Why, then, must we marvel that God shoul d speak and reveal certai n
thi ngs to soul s whi ch come not to pass i n the sense wherei n they understand them?
For, i f God shoul d affi rm or represent such or such a thi ng to the soul , whether good
or evi l , wi th respect to i tsel f or to another, and i f that thi ng be founded upon a
certai n affecti on or servi ce or offence of that soul , or of another, at that ti me, wi th
respect to God, so that, i f the soul persevere therei n, i t wi l l be ful fi l l ed; yet even
then i ts ful fi l l ment i s not certai n, si nce i t i s not certai n that the soul wi l l persevere.
Wherefore we must rel y, not upon understandi ng, but upon fai th.
CHAPTER XXI
379
Jeremi as xx, 7-9.
380
Lamentati ons i i i , 47.
381
Jonas i v, 2.
152
Wherein is explained how at times, although God answers the prayers that are
addressed to Him, He is not pleased that we should use such methods. I t is also
shown how, although He condescend to us and answer us, He is oftentimes wroth.
CERTAI N spi ri tual men, as we have sai d, assure themsel ves that i t i s a good thi ng
to di spl ay curi osi ty, as they someti mes do, i n stri vi ng to know certai n thi ngs by
supernatural methods, thi nki ng that, because God occasi onal l y answers thei r
i mportuni ty, thi s i s a good method and pl easi ng to Hi m. Yet the truth i s that,
al though He may answer them, the method i s not good, nei ther i s i t pl easi ng to God,
but rather i t i s di spl easi ng to Hi m; and not onl y so, but oftenti mes He i s greatl y
offended and wroth. The reason for thi s i s that i t i s l awful for no creature to pass
beyond the l i mi ts that God has ordai ned for i ts governance after the order of nature.
He has l ai d down rati onal and natural l i mi ts for man's governance; wherefore to
desi re to pass beyond them i s not l awful , and to desi re to seek out and attai n to
anythi ng by supernatural means i s to go beyond these natural l i mi ts. I t i s therefore
an unl awful thi ng, and i t i s therefore not pl easi ng to God, for He i s offended by al l
that i s unl awful . Ki ng Achaz was wel l aware of thi s, si nce, al though I sai as tol d hi m
from God to ask for a si gn, he woul d not do so, sayi ng: Non petam, et non tentabo
Dominum.
382
That i s: I wi l l not ask such a thi ng, nei ther wi l l I tempt God. For i t i s
tempti ng God to seek to commune wi th Hi m by extraordi nary ways, such as those
that are supernatural .
2. But why, you wi l l say, i f i t be a fact that God i s di spl eased, does He
someti mes answer? I repl y that i t i s someti mes the devi l who answers. And, i f i t i s
God Who answers, I repl y that He does so because of the weakness of the soul that
desi res to travel al ong that road, l est i t shoul d be di sconsol ate and go backward, or
l est i t shoul d thi nk that God i s wroth wi th i t and shoul d be overmuch affl i cted; or
for other reasons known to God, founded upon the weakness of that soul , whereby
God sees that i t i s wel l that He shoul d answer i t and dei gns to do so i n that way. I n
a l i ke manner, too, does He treat many weak and tender soul s, granti ng them
favours and sweetness i n sensi bl e converse wi th Hi msel f, as has been sai d above;
thi s i s not because He desi res or i s pl eased that they shoul d commune wi th Hi m
after that manner or by these methods; i t i s that He gi ves to each one, as we have
sai d, after the manner best sui ted to hi m. For God i s l i ke a spri ng, whence everyone
draws water accordi ng to the vessel whi ch he carri es. Someti mes a soul i s al l owed to
draw i t by these extraordi nary channel s; but i t fol l ows not from thi s that i t i s l awful
to draw water by them, but onl y that God Hi msel f can permi t thi s, when, how and
to whom He wi l l s, and for what reason He wi l l s, wi thout the party concerned havi ng
any ri ght i n the matter. And thus, as we say, He someti mes dei gns to sati sfy the
desi re and the prayer of certai n soul s, whom, si nce they are good and si ncere, He
wi l l s not to fai l to succour, l est He shoul d make them sad, but i t i s not because He i s
pl eased wi th thei r methods that He wi l l s i t. Thi s wi l l be the better understood by
the fol l owi ng compari son.
3. The father of a fami l y has on hi s tabl e many and di fferent ki nds of food,
some of whi ch are better than others. A chi l d i s aski ng hi m for a certai n di sh, not
the best, but the fi rst that meets i ts eye, and i t asks for thi s di sh because i t woul d
rather eat of i t than any other; and as the father sees that, even i f he gi ves i t the
better ki nd of food, i t wi l l not take i t, but wi l l have that whi ch i t asks for, si nce that
al one pl eases i t, he gi ves i t that, regretful l y, l est i t shoul d take no food at al l and be
382
I sai as vi i , 12. [The Spani sh has 'Achab' for 'Achaz.']
153
mi serabl e. I n just thi s way, we observe, di d God treat the chi l dren of I srael when
they asked Hi m for a ki ng: He gave them one, but unwi l l i ngl y, because i t was not
good for them. And thus He sai d to Samuel : Audi vocem populi in omnibus quae
loquuntur tibi: non enim te objecerunt, sed me.
383
Whi ch si gni fi es: Hearken unto the
voi ce of thi s peopl e and grant them the ki ng whom they ask of thee, for they have
not rejected thee but Me, that I shoul d not rei gn over them. I n thi s same way God
condescends to certai n soul s, and grants them that whi ch i s not best for them,
because they wi l l not or cannot wal k by any other road. And thus certai n soul s
attai n to tenderness and sweetness of spi ri t or sense; and God grants them thi s
because they are unabl e to partake of the stronger and more sol i d food of the tri al s
of the Cross of Hi s Son, whi ch He woul d prefer them to take, rather than aught el se.
4. I consi der, however, that the desi re to know thi ngs by supernatural means
i s much worse than the desi re for other spi ri tual favours pertai ni ng to the senses;
for I cannot see how the soul that desi res them can fai l to commi t, at the l east,
veni al si n, however good may be i ts ai ms, and however far advanced i t may be on
the road to perfecti on; and i f anyone shoul d bi d the soul desi re them, and consent to
i t, he si ns l i kewi se. For there i s no necessi ty for any of these thi ngs, si nce the soul
has i ts natural reason and the doctri ne and l aw of the Gospel , whi ch are qui te
suffi ci ent for i ts gui dance, and there i s no di ffi cul ty or necessi ty that cannot be
sol ved and remedi ed by these means, whi ch are very pl easi ng to God and of great
profi t to soul s; and such great use must we make of our reason and of Gospel
doctri ne that, i f certai n thi ngs be tol d us supernatural l y, whether at our desi re or
no, we must recei ve onl y that whi ch i s i n cl ear conformi ty wi th reason and Gospel
l aw. And then we must recei ve i t, not because i t i s revel ati on, but because i t i s
reason, and not al l ow oursel ves to be i nfl uenced by the fact that i t has been
reveal ed. I ndeed, i t i s wel l i n such a case to l ook at that reason and exami ne i t very
much more cl osel y than i f there had been no revel ati on concerni ng i t; i nasmuch as
the devi l utters many thi ngs that are true, and that wi l l come to pass, and that are
i n conformi ty wi th reason, i n order that he may decei ve.
5. Wherefore, i n al l our needs, tri al s and di ffi cul ti es, there remai ns to us no
better and surer means than prayer and hope that God wi l l provi de for us, by such
means as He wi l l s. Thi s i s the advi ce gi ven to us i n the Scri ptures, where we read
that, when Ki ng Josaphat was greatl y affl i cted and surrounded by enemi es, the
sai ntl y Ki ng gave hi msel f to prayer, sayi ng to God: Cum ignoremus quid facere
debeamus, hoc solum habemus residue, ut oculos nostros dirigamus ad re.
384
Whi ch
i s as though he had sai d: When means fai l and reason i s unabl e to succour us i n our
necessi ti es, i t remai ns for us onl y to l i ft up our eyes to Thee, that Thou mayest
succour us as i s most pl easi ng to Thee.
6. And further, al though thi s has al so been made cl ear, i t wi l l be wel l to
prove, from certai n passages of Scri pture, that, though God may answer such
requests, He i s none the l ess someti mes wroth. I n the Fi rst Book of the Ki ngs i t i s
sai d that, when Ki ng Saul begged that the prophet Samuel , who was now dead,
mi ght speak to hi m, the sai d prophet appeared to hi m, and that God was wroth wi th
al l thi s, si nce Samuel at once reproved Saul for havi ng done such a thi ng, sayi ng:
Quare inquietasti me, ut suscitarer?
385
That i s: Why hast thou di squi eted me, i n
causi ng me to ari se? We al so know that, i n spi te of havi ng answered the chi l dren of
I srael and gi ven them the meat that they besought of Hi m, God was neverthel ess
383
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] vi i i , 7.
384
2 Paral i pomenon [A.V., 2 Chroni cl es] xx, 12.
385
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] xxvi i i , 15.
154
greatl y i ncensed agai nst them; for He sent fi re from Heaven upon them as a
puni shment, as we read i n the Pentateuch, and as Davi d rel ates i n these words:
Adhuc escape eorum erant in ore ipsorum, et ira Dei descendit super cos.
386
Whi ch
si gni fi es: Even as they had the morsel s i n thei r months, the wrath of God came
down upon them. And l i kewi se we read i n Numbers that God was greatl y wroth
wi th Bal aam the prophet, because he went to the Madi ani tes when Bal ac thei r ki ng
sent for hi m, al though God had bi dden hi m go, because he desi red to go and had
begged i t of God; and whi l e he was yet i n the way there appeared to hi m an angel
wi th a sword, who desi red to sl ay hi m, and sai d to hi m: Perversa est via tua,
mihique contraria.
387
'Thy way i s perverse and contrary to Me.' For whi ch cause he
desi red to sl ay hi m.
7. After thi s manner and many others God dei gns to sati sfy the desi res of
soul s though He be wroth wi th them. Concerni ng thi s we have many testi moni es i n
Scri pture, and, i n addi ti on, many i l l ustrati ons, though i n a matter that i s so cl ear
these are unnecessary. I wi l l merel y say that to desi re to commune wi th God by
such means i s a most peri l ous thi ng, more so than I can express, and that one who
i s affecti oned to such methods wi l l not fai l to err greatl y and wi l l often fi nd hi msel f
i n confusi on. Anyone who i n the past has pri zed them wi l l understand me from hi s
own experi ence. For over and above the di ffi cul ty that there i s i n bei ng sure that
one i s not goi ng astray i n respect of l ocuti ons and vi si ons whi ch are of God, there
are ordi nari l y many of these l ocuti ons and vi si ons whi ch are of the devi l ; for i n hi s
converse wi th the soul the devi l habi tual l y wears the same gui se as God assumes i n
Hi s deal i ngs wi th i t, setti ng before i t thi ngs that are very l i ke to those whi ch God
communi cates to i t, i nsi nuati ng hi msel f, l i ke the wol f i n sheep's cl othi ng, among the
fl ock, wi th a success so nearl y compl ete that he can hardl y be recogni zed. For, si nce
he says many thi ngs that are true, and i n conformi ty wi th reason, and thi ngs that
come to pass as he descri bes them,
388
i t i s very easy for the soul to be decei ved, and
to thi nk that, si nce these thi ngs come to pass as he says, and the future i s correctl y
foretol d, thi s can be the work of none save God; for such soul s know not that i t i s a
very easy thi ng for one that has cl ear natural l i ght to be acquai nted, as to thei r
causes, wi th thi ngs, or wi th many of them, whi ch have been or shal l be. And si nce
the devi l has a very cl ear l i ght of thi s ki nd, he can very easi l y deduce effect from
cause, al though i t may not al ways turn out as he says, because al l causes depend
upon the wi l l of God. Let us take an exampl e.
8. The devi l knows that the consti tuti on of the earth and the atmosphere, and
the l aws rul i ng the sun, are di sposed i n such manner and i n such degree that, when
a certai n moment has arri ved, i t wi l l necessari l y fol l ow, accordi ng to the l aws of
nature l ai d down for these el ements, that they wi l l i nfect peopl e wi th pesti l ence,
and he knows i n what pl aces thi s wi l l be more severe and i n what pl aces l ess so.
Here you have a knowl edge of pesti l ence i n respect of i ts causes. What a wonderful
thi ng i t seems when the devi l reveal s thi s to a soul , sayi ng: 'I n a year or i n si x
months from now there wi l l be pesti l ence,' and i t happens as he says! And yet thi s i s
a prophecy of the devi l . I n the same way he may have a knowl edge of earthquakes,
and, seei ng that the bowel s of the earth are fi l l i ng wi th ai r, wi l l say: 'At such a ti me
there wi l l be an earthquake.' Yet thi s i s onl y natural knowl edge, for the possessi on
of whi ch i t suffi ces for the spi ri t to be free from the passi ons of the soul , even as
Boeti us says i n these words: Si vis claro lumine cernere verum, gaudia pelle,
386
Psal m l xxvi i , 30-1 [A.V., l xxvi i i , 30-1].
387
Numbers xxi i , 32.
388
[Lit., 'that come out true.']
155
timorem, spemque fugato, nec dolor adsit.
389
That i s: I f thou desi re to know truths
wi th the cl earness of nature, cast from thee rejoi ci ng and fear and hope and sorrow.
9. And l i kewi se supernatural events and happeni ngs may be known, i n thei r
causes, i n matters concerni ng Di vi ne Provi dence, whi ch deal s most justl y and surel y
as i s requi red by thei r good or evi l causes as regards the sons of men. For one may
know by natural means that such or such a person, or such or such a ci ty, or some
other pl ace, i s i n such or such necessi ty, or has reached such or such a poi nt, so that
God, accordi ng to Hi s provi dence and justi ce, must deal wi th such a person or thi ng
i n the way requi red by i ts cause, and i n the way that i s fi tti ng for i t, whether by
means of puni shment or of reward, as the cause meri ts. And then one can say: 'At
such a ti me God wi l l gi ve you thi s, or wi l l do thi s, or that wi l l come to pass, of a
surety.' I t was thi s that hol y Judi th sai d to Hol ofernes,
390
when, i n order to
persuade hi m that the chi l dren of I srael woul d wi thout fai l be destroyed, she fi rst
rel ated to hi m many of thei r si ns and the evi l deeds that they di d. And then she
sai d: Et, quoniam haec faciunt, certum est quod in perditionem dabuntur. Whi ch
si gni fi es: Si nce they do these thi ngs, i t i s certai n that they wi l l be destroyed. Thi s i s
to know the puni shment i n the cause, and i t i s as though she had sai d: I t i s certai n
that such si ns must be the cause of such puni shments, at the hand of God Who i s
most just. And as the Di vi ne Wi sdom says: Per quae quis peccat, per haec et
torquetur.
391
Wi th respect to that and for that wherei n a man si ns, therei n i s he
puni shed.
10. The devi l may have knowl edge of thi s, not onl y natural l y, but al so by the
experi ence whi ch he has of havi ng seen God do si mi l ar thi ngs, and he can foretel l i t
and do so correctl y. Agai n, hol y Tobi as was aware of the puni shment of the ci ty of
Ni ni ve because of i ts cause, and he thus admoni shed hi s son, sayi ng: 'Behol d, son, i n
the hour when I and thy mother di e, go thou forth from thi s l and, for i t wi l l not
remai n.' Video enim quia iniquitas ejus finem dabit ei.
392
I see cl earl y that i ts own
i ni qui ty wi l l be the cause of i ts puni shment, whi ch wi l l be that i t shal l be ended and
destroyed al together. Thi s mi ght have been known by the devi l as wel l as by Tobi as,
not onl y because of the i ni qui ty of the ci ty, but by experi ence, si nce they had seen
that for the si ns of the worl d God destroyed i t i n the Fl ood, and that the Sodomi tes,
too, peri shed for thei r si ns by fi re; but Tobi as knew i t al so through the Di vi ne Spi ri t.
11. And the devi l may know that one Peter
393
cannot, i n the course of nature,
l i ve more than so many years, and he may foretel l thi s; and so wi th regard to many
other thi ngs and i n many ways that i t i s i mpossi bl e to recount ful l y -- nor can one
even begi n to recount many of them, si nce they are most i ntri cate and subtl e -- he
i nsi nuates fal sehoods; from whi ch a soul cannot free i tsel f save by fl eei ng from al l
revel ati ons and vi si ons and l ocuti ons that are supernatural . Wherefore God i s justl y
angered wi th those that recei ve them, for He sees that i t i s temeri ty on thei r part to
expose themsel ves to such great peri l and presumpti on and curi osi ty, and thi ngs
that spri ng from pri de, and are the root and foundati on of vai ngl ory, and of di sdai n
for the thi ngs of God, and the begi nni ng of many evi l s to whi ch many have come.
Such persons have succeeded i n angeri ng God so greatl y that He has of set purpose
389
The exact readi ng i n Boeti us i s: 'Tu quoque si vi s l umi ne cl aro cernere vernum -- Trami te recto
carpere cal l em -- Gaudi a pel l e -- Pel l e ti morem -- Spemque fugato -- Nec dol or adsi t' (Mi gne, Vol .
LXXV, p. 122).
390
Judi th xi , 12.
391
Wi sdom xi , 17 [A.V., xi , 16].
392
Tobi as xi v, 13.
393
[i .e., any i ndi vi dual .]
156
al l owed them to go astray and be decei ved and to bl i nd thei r own spi ri ts and to
l eave the ordered paths of l i fe and gi ve rei n to thei r vani ti es and fanci es, accordi ng
to the word of I sai as, where he says: Dominus miscuit in medio ejus spiritum
vertiginis.
394
Whi ch i s as much to say: The Lord hath mi ngl ed i n the mi dst thereof
the spi ri t of di ssensi on and confusi on. Whi ch i n our ordi nary vernacul ar si gni fi es
the spi ri t of mi sunderstandi ng. What I sai as i s here very pl ai nl y sayi ng i s to our
purpose, for he i s speaki ng of those who were endeavouri ng by supernatural means
to know thi ngs that were to come to pass. And therefore he says that God mi ngl ed
i n thei r mi dst the spi ri t of mi sunderstandi ng; not that God wi l l ed them, i n fact, to
have the spi ri t of error, or gave i t to them, but that they desi red to meddl e wi th that
to whi ch by nature they coul d not attai n. Angered by thi s, God al l owed them to act
fool i shl y, gi vi ng them no l i ght as to that wherewi th He desi red not that they shoul d
concern themsel ves. And thus the Prophet says that God mi ngl ed that spi ri t i n
them, pri vati vel y. And i n thi s sense God i s the cause of such an evi l -- that i s to say,
He i s the pri vati ve cause, whi ch consi sts i n Hi s wi thdrawal of Hi s l i ght and favour,
to such a poi nt that they must needs fal l i nto error.
12. And i n thi s way God gi ves l eave to the devi l to bl i nd and decei ve many,
when thei r si ns and audaci ti es meri t i t; and thi s the devi l can do and does
successful l y, and they gi ve hi m credence and bel i eve hi m to be a good spi ri t; to such
a poi nt that, al though they may be qui te persuaded that he i s not so, they cannot
undecei ve themsel ves, si nce, by the permi ssi on of God, there has al ready been
i nsi nuated i nto them the spi ri t of mi sunderstandi ng, even as we read was the case
wi th the prophets of Ki ng Achab, whom God permi tted to be decei ved by a l yi ng
spi ri t, gi vi ng the devi l l eave to decei ve them, and sayi ng: Decipies, et praevalebis;
egredere, et fac ita.
395
Whi ch si gni fi es: Thou shal t prevai l wi th thy fal sehood, and
shal t decei ve them; go forth and do so. And so wel l was he abl e to work upon the
prophets and the Ki ng, i n order to decei ve them, that they woul d not bel i eve the
prophet Mi cheas, who prophesi ed the truth to them, sayi ng the exact contrary of
that whi ch the others had prophesi ed, and thi s came to pass because God permi tted
them to be bl i nded, si nce thei r affecti ons were attached to that whi ch they desi red
to happen to them, and God answered them accordi ng to thei r desi res and wi shes;
and thi s was a most certai n preparati on and means for thei r bei ng bl i nded and
decei ved, whi ch God al l owed of set purpose.
13. Thus, too, di d Ezechi el prophesy i n the name of God. Speaki ng agai nst
those who began to desi re to have knowl edge di rect from God, from moti ves of
curi osi ty, accordi ng to the vani ty of thei r spi ri t, he says: When such a man comes to
the prophet to enqui re of Me through hi m, I , the Lord, wi l l answer hi m by Mysel f,
and I wi l l set my face i n anger agai nst that man; and, as to the prophet, when he
has gone astray i n that whi ch was asked of hi m, Ego Dominus decepi prophetam
illum.
396
That i s: I , the Lord, have decei ved that prophet. Thi s i s to be taken to
mean, by not succouri ng hi m wi th Hi s favour so that he mi ght not be decei ved; and
thi s i s Hi s meani ng when He says: I the Lord wi l l answer hi m by Mysel f i n anger
397
-- that i s, God wi l l wi thdraw Hi s grace and favour from that man. Hence necessari l y
fol l ows decepti on by reason of hi s abandonment by God. And then comes the devi l
and makes answer accordi ng to the pl easure and desi re of that man, who, bei ng
pl eased thereat, si nce the answers and communi cati ons are accordi ng to hi s wi l l ,
394
I sai as xi x, 14.
395
3 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Ki ngs] xxi i , 22.
396
Ezechi el xi v, 7-9.
397
[Ezechi el xi v, 7.]
157
al l ows hi msel f to be decei ved greatl y.
14. I t may appear that we have to some extent strayed from the purpose that
we set down i n the ti tl e of thi s chapter, whi ch was to prove that, al though God
answers, He someti mes compl ai ns. But, i f i t be careful l y consi dered, al l that has
been sai d goes to prove or i ntenti on; for i t al l shows that God desi res not that we
shoul d wi sh for such vi si ons, si nce He makes i t possi bl e for us to be decei ved by
them i n so many ways.
CHAPTER XXI I
Wherein is solved a difficulty -- namely, why it is not lawful, under the law of grace,
to ask anything of God by supernatural means, as it was under the old law. This
solution is proved by a passage from Saint Paul.
DI FFI CULTI ES keep comi ng to our mi nd, and thus we cannot progress wi th the
speed that we shoul d desi re. For as they occur to us, we are obl i ged of necessi ty to
cl ear them up, so that the truth of thi s teachi ng may ever be pl ai n and carry i ts ful l
force. But there i s al ways thi s advantage i n these di ffi cul ti es, that, al though they
somewhat i mpede our progress, they serve neverthel ess to make our i ntenti on the
cl earer and more expl i ci t,
398
as wi l l be the case wi th the present one.
2. I n the previ ous chapter, we sai d that i t i s not the wi l l of God that soul s
shoul d desi re to recei ve anythi ng di sti nctl y, by supernatural means, through
vi si ons, l ocuti ons, etc. Further, we saw i n the same chapter, and deduced from the
testi moni es whi ch were there brought forward from Scri pture, that such
communi on wi th God was empl oyed i n the Ol d Law and was l awful ; and that not
onl y was i t l awful , but God commanded i t. And when they used not thi s
opportuni ty, God reproved them, as i s to be seen i n I sai as, where God reproves the
chi l dren of I srael because they desi red to go down to Egypt wi thout fi rst enqui ri ng
of Hi m, sayi ng: Et os meum non interrogastis.
399
That i s: Ye asked not fi rst at My
own mouth what was fi tti ng. And l i kewi se we read i n Josue that, when the chi l dren
of I srael themsel ves are decei ved by the Gabaoni tes, the Hol y Spi ri t reproves them
for thi s faul t, sayi ng: Susceperunt ergo de cibariis eorum, et os Domini non
interrogaverunt.
400
Whi ch si gni fi es: They took of thei r vi ctual s and they enqui red
not at the mouth of God. Furthermore, we see i n the Di vi ne Scri pture that Moses
al ways enqui red of God, as di d Ki ng Davi d and al l the ki ngs of I srael wi th regard to
thei r wars and necessi ti es, and the pri ests and prophets of ol d, and God answered
and spake wi th them and was not wroth, and i t was wel l done; and i f they di d i t not
i t woul d be i l l done; and thi s i s the truth. Why, then, i n the new l aw -- the l aw of
grace -- may i t not now be as i t was aforeti me?
3. To thi s i t must be repl i ed that the pri nci pal reason why i n the l aw of
Scri pture the enqui ri es that were made of God were l awful , and why i t was fi tti ng
that prophets and pri ests shoul d seek vi si ons and revel ati ons of God, was because at
that ti me fai th had no fi rm foundati on, nei ther was the l aw of the Gospel
establ i shed; and thus i t was needful that men shoul d enqui re of God and that He
shoul d speak, whether by words or by vi si ons and revel ati ons or whether by fi gures
and si mi l i tudes or by many other ways of expressi ng Hi s meani ng. For al l that He
398
[Lit., 'they serve neverthel ess for the greater doctri ne and cl earness of our i ntenti on.']
399
I sai as xxx, 2.
400
Josue i x, 14.
158
answered and spake and reveal ed bel onged to the mysteri es of our fai th and thi ngs
touchi ng i t or l eadi ng to i t. And, si nce the thi ngs of fai th are not of man, but come
from the mouth of God Hi msel f, God Hi msel f reproved them because they enqui red
not at Hi s mouth i n thei r affai rs, so that He mi ght answer, and mi ght di rect thei r
affai rs and happeni ngs toward the fai th, of whi ch at that ti me they had no
knowl edge, because i t was not yet founded. But now that the fai th i s founded i n
Chri st, and i n thi s era of grace, the l aw of the Gospel has been made mani fest, there
i s no reason to enqui re of Hi m i n that manner, nor for Hi m to speak or to answer as
He di d then. For, i n gi vi ng us, as He di d, Hi s Son, whi ch i s Hi s Word -- and He has
no other -- He spake to us al l together, once and for al l , i n thi s si ngl e Word, and He
has no occasi on to speak further.
4. And thi s i s the sense of that passage wi th whi ch Sai nt Paul begi ns, when
he tri es to persuade the Hebrews that they shoul d abandon those fi rst manners and
ways of converse wi th God whi ch are i n the l aw of Moses, and shoul d set thei r eyes
on Chri st al one, sayi ng: Multifariam multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in
Prophetis: novissime autem diebus istis I ocutus est nobis in Filio.
401
And thi s i s as
though he had sai d: That whi ch God spake of ol d i n the prophets to our fathers, i n
sundry ways and di vers manners, He has now, at l ast, i n these days, spoken to us
once and for al l i n the Son. Herei n the Apostl e decl ares that God has become, as i t
were, dumb, and has no more to say, si nce that whi ch He spake aforeti me, i n part to
the prophets, He has now spoken al together i n Hi m, gi vi ng us the Al l , whi ch i s Hi s
Son.
5. Wherefore he that woul d now enqui re of God, or seek any vi si on or
revel ati on, woul d not onl y be acti ng fool i shl y, but woul d be commi tti ng an offence
agai nst God, by setti ng hi s eyes al together upon Chri st, and seeki ng no new thi ng
or aught besi de. And God mi ght answer hi m after thi s manner, sayi ng: I f I have
spoken al l thi ngs to thee i n My Word, Whi ch i s My Son, and I have no other word,
what answer can I now make to thee, or what can I reveal to thee whi ch i s greater
than thi s? Set thi ne eyes on Hi m al one, for i n Hi m I have spoken and reveal ed to
thee al l thi ngs, and i n Hi m thou shal t fi nd yet more than that whi ch thou askest
and desi rest. For thou askest l ocuti ons and revel ati ons, whi ch are the part; but i f
thou set thi ne eyes upon Hi m, thou shal t fi nd the whol e; for He i s My compl ete
l ocuti on and answer, and He i s al l My vi si on and al l My revel ati on; so that I have
spoken to thee, answered thee, decl ared to thee and reveal ed to thee, i n gi vi ng Hi m
to thee as thy brother, compani on and master, as ransom and pri ze. For si nce that
day when I descended upon Hi m wi th My Spi ri t on Mount Tabor, sayi ng: Hic est
filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui, ipsum audite
402
(whi ch i s to say:
Thi s i s My bel oved Son, i n Whom I am wel l pl eased; hear ye Hi m), I have l eft off al l
these manners of teachi ng and answeri ng, and I have entrusted thi s to Hi m. Hear
Hi m; for I have no more fai th to reveal , nei ther have I any more thi ngs to decl are.
For, i f I spake aforeti me, i t was to promi se Chri st; and, i f they enqui red of Me, thei r
enqui ri es were di rected to peti ti ons for Chri st and expectancy concerni ng Hi m, i n
Whom they shoul d fi nd every good thi ng (as i s now set forth i n al l the teachi ng of
the Evangel i sts and the Apostl es); but now, any who woul d enqui re of Me after that
manner, and desi re Me to speak to hi m or reveal aught to hi m, woul d i n a sense be
aski ng Me for Chri st agai n, and aski ng Me for more fai th, and be l acki ng i n fai th,
whi ch has al ready been gi ven i n Chri st; and therefore he woul d be commi tti ng a
great offence agai nst My bel oved Son, for not onl y woul d he be l acki ng i n fai th, but
401
Hebrews i , 1.
402
St. Matthew xvi i , 5.
159
he woul d be obl i gi ng Hi m agai n fi rst of al l to become i ncarnate and pass through l i fe
and death. Thou shal t fi nd naught to ask Me, or to desi re of Me, whether
revel ati ons or vi si ons; consi der thi s wel l , for thou shal t fi nd that al l has been done
for thee and al l has been gi ven to thee -- yea, and much more al so -- i n Hi m.
6. I f thou desi rest Me to answer thee wi th any word of consol ati on, consi der
My Son, Who i s subject to Me, and bound by l ove of Me, and affl i cted, and thou shal t
see how ful l y He answers thee. I f thou desi rest Me to expound to thee secret thi ngs,
or happeni ngs, set thi ne eyes on Hi m al one, and thou shal t fi nd the most secret
mysteri es, and the wi sdom and wondrous thi ngs of God, whi ch are hi dden i n Hi m,
even as My Apostl e says: I n quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae Dei
absconditi.
403
That i s: I n thi s Son of God are hi dden al l the treasures of wi sdom and
knowl edge of God. These treasures of wi sdom shal l be very much more subl i me and
del ectabl e and profi tabl e for thee than the thi ngs that thou desi redst to know.
Herei n the same Apostl e gl ori ed, sayi ng: That he had not decl ared to them that he
knew anythi ng, save Jesus Chri st and Hi m cruci fi ed.
404
And i f thou shoul dst sti l l
desi re other Di vi ne or bodi l y revel ati ons and vi si ons, l ook al so at Hi m made man,
and thou shal t fi nd therei n more than thou thi nkest, for the Apostl e says l i kewi se:
I n ipso habitat omnis plenitudo Divinitatis corporaliter.
405
Whi ch si gni fi es: I n
Chri st dwel l eth al l the ful l ness of the Godhead bodi l y.
7. I t i s not fi tti ng, then, to enqui re of God by supernatural means, nor i s i t
necessary that He shoul d answer; si nce al l the fai th has been gi ven us i n Chri st,
and there i s therefore no more of i t to be reveal ed, nor wi l l there ever be. And he
that now desi res to recei ve anythi ng i n a supernatural manner, as we have sai d, i s,
as i t were, fi ndi ng faul t wi th God for not havi ng gi ven us a compl ete suffi ci ency i n
Hi s Son. For, al though such a person may be assumi ng the fai th, and bel i evi ng i t,
neverthel ess he i s showi ng a curi osi ty whi ch bel ongs to fai thl essness. We must not
expect, then, to recei ve i nstructi on, or aught el se, i n a supernatural manner. For, at
the moment when Chri st gave up the ghost upon the Cross, sayi ng, Consummatum
est,
406
whi ch si gni fi es, 'I t i s fi ni shed,' an end was made, not onl y of al l these forms,
but al so of al l those other ceremoni es and ri tes of the Ol d Law. And so we must now
be gui ded i n al l thi ngs by the l aw of Chri st made man, and by that of Hi s Church,
and of Hi s mi ni sters, i n a human and a vi si bl e manner, and by these means we
must remedy our spi ri tual weaknesses and i gnorances, si nce i n these means we
shal l fi nd abundant medi ci ne for them al l . I f we l eave thi s path, we are gui l ty not
onl y of curi osi ty, but of great audaci ty: nothi ng i s to be bel i eved i n a supernatural
way, save onl y that whi ch i s the teachi ng of Chri st made man, as I say, and of Hi s
mi ni sters, who are men. So much so that Sai nt Paul says these words: Quod si
Angelus de coelo evengelizaverit, praterquam quod evangelizavimus vobis, anathema
sit.
407
That i s to say: I f any angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you
than that whi ch we men preach unto you, l et hi m be accursed and excommuni cate.
8. Wherefore, si nce i t i s true that we must ever be gui ded by that whi ch
Chri st taught us, and that al l thi ngs el se are as nothi ng, and are not to be bel i eved
unl ess they are i n conformi ty wi th i t, he who sti l l desi res to commune wi th God
after the manner of the Ol d Law acts vai nl y. Furthermore, i t was not l awful at that
ti me for everyone to enqui re of God, nei ther di d God answer al l men, but onl y the
403
Col ossi ans i i , 3.
404
1 Cori nthi ans i i , 2.
405
Col ossi ans i i , 9.
406
St. John xi x, 30.
407
Gal ati ans i , 8.
160
pri ests and prophets, from whose mouths i t was that the peopl e had to l earn l aw
and doctri ne; and thus, i f a man desi re to know anythi ng of God, he enqui red of Hi m
through the prophet or the pri est and not of God Hi msel f. And, i f Davi d enqui red of
God at certai n ti mes upon hi s own account, he di d thi s because he was a prophet,
and yet, even so, he di d i t not wi thout the pri estl y vestment as i t i s cl ear was the
case i n the Fi rst Book of the Ki ngs, where he sai d to Abi mel ech the pri est: Applica
ad me Ephod
408
-- whi ch ephod was one of the pri estl y vestments, havi ng whi ch he
then spake wi th God. But at other ti mes he spake wi th God through the prophet
Nathan and other prophets. And by the mouths of these prophets and of the pri ests
men were to bel i eve that that whi ch was sai d to them came from God; they were not
to bel i eve i t because of thei r own opi ni ons.
9. And thus, men were not authori zed or empowered at that ti me to gi ve
enti re credence to what was sai d by God, unl ess i t were approved by the mouths of
pri ests and prophets. For God i s so desi rous that the government and di recti on of
every man shoul d be undertaken by another man l i ke hi msel f, and that every man
shoul d be rul ed and governed by natural reason, that He earnestl y desi res us not to
gi ve enti re credence to the thi ngs that He communi cates to us supernatural l y, nor
to consi der them as bei ng securel y and compl etel y confi rmed unti l they pass
through thi s human aqueduct of the mouth of man. And thus, whenever He says or
reveal s somethi ng to a soul , He gi ves thi s same soul to whom He says i t a ki nd of
i ncl i nati on to tel l i t to the person to whom i t i s fi tti ng that i t shoul d be tol d. Unti l
thi s has been done, i t i s not wont to gi ve enti re sati sfacti on, because the man has
not taken i t from another man l i ke hi msel f. We see i n the Book of the Judges that
the same thi ng happened to the captai n Gedeon, to whom God had sai d many ti mes
that he shoul d conquer the Madi ani tes, yet he was fearful and ful l of doubts (for
God had al l owed hi m to retai n that weakness) unti l he heard from the mouth of
men what God had sai d to hi m. And i t came to pass that, when God saw he was
weak, He sai d to hi m: 'Ri se up and go down to the camp.' Et cum audieris quid
loquantur, tunc confortabuntur manus tuae, et securior ad hostium castra
descendes.
409
That i s: When thou shal t hear what men are sayi ng there, then shal t
thou recei ve strength i n that whi ch I have sai d to thee, and thou shal t go down wi th
greater securi ty to the hosts of the enemy. And so i t came to pass that, havi ng heard
a dream rel ated by one of the Madi ani tes to another, wherei n the Madi ani te had
dreamed that Gedeon shoul d conquer them, he was greatl y strengthened, and began
to prepare for the battl e wi th great joy. From thi s i t can be seen that God desi red
not that he shoul d feel secure, si nce He gave hi m not the assurance by supernatural
means al one, but caused hi m fi rst to be strengthened by natural means.
10. And even more surpri si ng i s the thi ng that happened i n thi s connecti on to
Moses, when God had commanded hi m, and gi ven hi m many i nstructi ons, whi ch He
conti nued wi th the si gns of the wand changed i nto a serpent and of the l eprous
hand, enjoi ni ng hi m to go and set free the chi l dren of I srael . So weak was he and so
uncertai n
410
about thi s goi ng forward that, al though God was angered, he had not
the courage to summon up the compl ete fai th necessary for goi ng, unti l God
encouraged hi m through hi s brother Aaron, sayi ng: Aaron frater tuus Levites, scio
quod eloquent sit: ecce ipse egredietur in occursum tuum, vidensque te, laetabitur
corde. Loquere ad eum, en pone verba mea in ore ejus: et ego ero in ore tuo, et in ore
408
[I t was to Abi athar that thi s was sai d.] 1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] xxi i i , 9.
409
Judges vi i , 11.
410
[Lit., 'and so dark.']
161
illius, etc.
411
Whi ch i s as though He had sai d: I know that thy brother Aaron i s an
el oquent man: behol d, he wi l l come forth to meet thee, and, when he seeth thee, he
wi l l be gl ad at heart; speak to hi m and tel l hi m al l My words, and I wi l l be i n thy
mouth and i n hi s mouth, so that each of you shal l bel i eve that whi ch i s i n the mouth
of the other.
11. Havi ng heard these words, Moses at once took courage, i n the hope of
fi ndi ng consol ati on i n the counsel whi ch hi s brother was to gi ve hi m; for thi s i s a
characteri sti c of the humbl e soul , whi ch dares not converse al one wi th God, nei ther
can be compl etel y sati sfi ed wi thout human counsel and gui dance. And that thi s
shoul d be gi ven to i t i s the wi l l of God, for He draws near to those who come
together to converse of truth, i n order to expound and confi rm i t i n them, upon a
foundati on of natural reason, even as He sai d that He woul d do when Moses and
Aaron shoul d come together -- namel y, that He woul d be i n the mouth of the one
and i n the mouth of the other. Wherefore He sai d l i kewi se i n the Gospel that Ubi
fuerint duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo, ibi sum ego in medio eorum.
412
That
i s: Where two or three have come together, i n order to consi der that whi ch i s for the
greater honour and gl ory of My name, there am I i n the mi dst of them. That i s to
say, I wi l l make cl ear and confi rm i n thei r hearts the truths of God. And i t i s to be
observed that He sai d not: Where there i s one al one, there wi l l I be; but: Where
there are at l east two. I n thi s way He showed that God desi res not that any man by
hi msel f al one shoul d bel i eve hi s experi ences to be of God,
413
or shoul d act i n
conformi ty wi th them, or rel y upon them, but rather shoul d bel i eve the Church
and
414
her mi ni sters, for God wi l l not make cl ear and confi rm the truth i n the heart
of one who i s al one, and thus such a one wi l l be weak and col d.
12. Hence comes that whereon the Preacher i nsi sts, where he says: Vae soli,
quia cum ceciderit, non habet sublevantem se. Si dormierint duo, fovebuntur mutuo;
unus quomodo calefiet? et si quispiam praevaluerit contra unum, duo resistent ei.
415
Whi ch si gni fi es: Woe to the man that i s al one, for when he fal l eth he hath none to
rai se hi m up. I f two sl eep together, the one shal l gi ve warmth to the other (that i s to
say: wi th the warmth of God Who i s between them); but one al one, how shal l he be
warm? That i s to say: How shal l he be other than col d as to the thi ngs of God? And
i f any man can fi ght and prevai l agai nst one enemy (that i s, the devi l , who can fi ght
and prevai l agai nst those that are al one and desi re to be al one as regards the thi ngs
of God), two men together wi l l resi st hi m -- that i s, the di sci pl e and the master
416
who come together to know and dost the truth. And unti l thi s happens such a man
i s habi tual l y weak and feebl e i n the truth, however often he may have heard i t from
God; so much so that, despi te the many occasi ons on whi ch Sai nt Paul preached the
Gospel , whi ch he sai d that he had heard, not of men, but of God, he coul d not be
sati sfi ed unti l he had gone to consul t wi th Sai nt Peter and the Apostl es, sayi ng: Ne
forte in vacuum currerem, aut cucurrissem.
417
Whi ch si gni fi es: Perchance he shoul d
run, or had run, i n vai n, havi ng no assurance of hi msel f, unti l man had gi ven hi m
assurance. Thi s seems a noteworthy thi ng, O Paul , that He Who reveal ed to thee
thi s Gospel coul d not l i kewi se reveal to thee the assurance of the faul t whi ch thou
411
Exodus i v, 14-15.
412
St. Matthew xvi i i , 20.
413
[Lit., 'the thi ngs whi ch he has to be of God.']
414
[Lit., '... wi th them, wi thout the Church or...']
415
Eccl esi asti es i v, 10-12.
416
[i .e., the peni tent and the confessor or di rector.]
417
Gal ati ans i i , 2.
162
mi ghtest have commi tted i n preachi ng the truth concerni ng Hi m.
13. Herei n i t i s cl earl y shown that a man must not rel y upon the thi ngs that
God reveal s, save i n the way that we are descri bi ng; for, even i n cases where a
person i s i n possessi on of certai nty, as Sai nt Paul was certai n of hi s Gospel (si nce he
had al ready begun to preach i t), yet, al though the revel ati on be of God, man may
sti l l err wi th respect to i t, or i n thi ngs rel ati ng to i t. For, al though God reveal s one
thi ng, He reveal s not al ways the other; and oftenti mes He reveal s somethi ng
wi thout reveal i ng the way i n whi ch i t i s to be done. For ordi nari l y He nei ther
performs nor reveal s anythi ng that can be accompl i shed by human counsel and
effort, al though He may commune wi th the soul for a l ong ti me, very l ovi ngl y. Of
thi s Sai nt Paul was very wel l aware, si nce, as we say, al though he knew that the
Gospel was reveal ed to hi m by God, he went to take counsel wi th Sai nt Peter. And
we see thi s cl earl y i n the Book of Exodus, where God had communed most fami l i arl y
wi th Moses, yet had never gi ven hi m that sal utary counsel whi ch was gi ven hi m by
hi s father-i n-l aw Jethro -- that i s to say, that he shoul d choose other judges to assi st
hi m, so that the peopl e shoul d not be wai ti ng from morni ng ti l l ni ght.
418
Thi s
counsel God approved, though i t was not He Who had gi ven i t to hi m, for i t was a
thi ng that fel l wi thi n the l i mi ts of human judgment and reason. Wi th respect to
Di vi ne vi si ons and revel ati ons and l ocuti ons, God i s not wont to reveal them, for He
i s ever desi rous that men shoul d make such use of thei r own reason as i s possi bl e,
and al l such thi ngs have to be governed by reason, save those that are of fai th,
whi ch transcend al l judgment and reason, al though these are not contrary to fai th.
14. Wherefore l et none thi nk that, because i t may be true that God and the
sai nts commune wi th hi m fami l i arl y about many thi ngs, they wi l l of necessi ty
expl ai n to hi m the faul ts that he commi ts wi th regard to anythi ng, i f i t be possi bl e
for hi m to recogni ze these faul ts by other means. He can have no assurance about
thi s; for, as we read came to pass i n the Acts of the Apostl es, Sai nt Peter, though a
pri nce of the Church, who was taught di rectl y by God, went astray neverthel ess
wi th respect to a certai n ceremony that was i n use among the Genti l es, and God
was si l ent. So far di d he stray that Sai nt Paul reproved hi m, as he affi rms, sayi ng:
Cum vidissem, quod non recte ad veritatem Evangelii ambularent, dixi coram
omnibus: Si tu judaeus cum sis, gentiliter vivis, quomodo Gentes cogis judaizare?
419
Whi ch si gni fi es: When I saw (says Sai nt Paul ) that the di sci pl es wal ked not
upri ghtl y accordi ng to the truth of the Gospel , I sai d to Peter before them al l : I f
thou, bei ng a Jew, as thou art, l i vest after the manner of the Genti l es, how fei gnest
thou to force the Genti l es to l i ve as do the Jews? And God reproved not Sai nt Peter
Hi msel f for thi s faul t, for that sti mul ati on was a thi ng that had to do wi th reason,
and i t was possi bl e for hi m to know i t by rati onal means.
15. Wherefore on the day of judgment God wi l l puni sh for thei r many faul ts
and si ns many soul s wi th whom He may qui te habi tual l y have hel d converse here
bel ow, and to whom He may have gi ven much l i ght and vi rtue; for, as to those
thi ngs that they have known that they ought to do, they have been negl ectful , and
have rel i ed upon that converse that they have had wi th God and upon the vi rtue
that He has gi ven them. And thus, as Chri st says i n the Gospel , they wi l l marvel at
that ti me, sayi ng: Domine, Domine, nonne in nomine tuo prophetavimus, et in
nomine tuo daemonia ejecimus, et in nomine tuo virtutes multas fecimus?
420
That i s:
Lord, Lord, were the propheci es that Thou spakest to us perchance not prophesi ed
418
Exodus xvi i i , 21-2.
419
Gal ati ans i i , 14.
420
St. Matthew vi i , 22.
163
i n Thy name? And i n Thy name cast we not out devi l s? And i n Thy name performed
we not many mi racl es and mi ghty works? And the Lord says that He wi l l answer
them i n these words: Et tunc confitebor illis, quia numquam novi vos: discedite a me
omnes qui operamini iniquitatem.
421
That i s to say: Depart from Me, ye workers of
i ni qui ty, for I never knew you. Of the number of these was the prophet Bal aam and
others l i ke to hi m, who, though God spake wi th them and gave them thanks, were
si nners. But the Lord wi l l l i kewi se gi ve thei r proporti on of reproof to Hi s fri ends
and chosen ones, wi th whom He communed fami l i arl y here bel ow, as to the faul ts
and si ns of negl ect that they may have commi tted; whereof there was no need that
God shoul d Hi msel f warn them, si nce He had al ready warned them through the
natural reason and l aw that He had gi ven to them.
16. I n concl udi ng thi s part of my subject, therefore, I say, and I i nfer from
what has al ready been sai d, that anythi ng, of whatsoever ki nd, recei ved by the soul
through supernatural means, must cl earl y and pl ai nl y, ful l y and si mpl y, be at once
communi cated to the spi ri tual di rector. For al though there may seem no reason to
speak of i t, or to spend ti me upon doi ng so, si nce the soul i s acti ng safel y, as we
have sai d, i f i t rejects i t and nei ther pays heed to i t nor desi res i t -- especi al l y i f i t be
a questi on of vi si ons or revel ati ons or other supernatural communi cati ons, whi ch
are ei ther qui te cl ear or very nearl y so -- neverthel ess, i t i s very necessary to gi ve an
account of al l these, al though i t may seem to the soul that there i s no reason for so
doi ng. And thi s for three causes. Fi rst, because, as we have sai d, God communi cates
many thi ngs, the effect, power, l i ght and certai nty whereof He confi rms not whol l y
i n the soul , unti l , as we have sai d, the soul consul ts hi m whom God has gi ven to i t
as a spi ri tual judge, whi ch i s he that has the power to bi nd or to l oose, and to
approve or to bl ame, as we have shown by means of the passages quoted above; and
we can show i t cl earl y by experi ence, for we see humbl e soul s to whom these thi ngs
come to pass, and who, after di scussi ng them wi th the proper persons, experi ence a
new sati sfacti on, power, l i ght and certai nty; so much so that to some i t seems that
they have no effect upon them, nor do they even bel ong to them, unti l they have
communi cated them to the di rector, whereupon they are gi ven to them anew.
17. The second cause i s that the soul habi tual l y needs i nstructi on upon the
thi ngs that come to pass wi thi n i t, so that i t may be l ed by that means to spi ri tual
poverty and detachment, whi ch i s the dark ni ght. For i f i t begi ns to rel i nqui sh thi s
i nstructi on -- even when i t desi res not the thi ngs referred to -- i t wi l l gradual l y,
wi thout real i zi ng i t, become cal l ous as i t treads the spi ri tual road, and draw near
agai n to the road of sense; and i t i s partl y wi th respect to thi s that these di sti nct
thi ngs happen.
18. The thi rd cause i s that, for the sake of the humi l i ty and submi ssi on and
morti fi cati on of the soul , i t i s wel l to rel ate everythi ng to the di rector, even though
he make
422
no account of i t al l and consi der i t of no i mportance. There are some
soul s who greatl y di sl i ke speaki ng of such thi ngs, because they thi nk them to be
uni mportant, and know not how the person to whom they shoul d rel ate them wi l l
recei ve them; but thi s i s l ack of humi l i ty, and for that very reason i t i s needful for
them to submi t themsel ves and rel ate these thi ngs. And there are others who are
very ti mi d i n rel ati ng them, because they see no reason why they shoul d have these
experi ences, whi ch seem to bel ong to sai nts, as wel l as other thi ngs whi ch they are
sorry to have to descri be; for whi ch cause they thi nk there i s no reason to speak of
them because they make no account of them; but for thi s very reason i t i s wel l for
421
St. Matthew vi i , 23.
422
[The Spani sh phrase equal l y admi ts the readi ng: 'even though the soul make.']
164
them to morti fy themsel ves and rel ate them, unti l i n ti me they come to speak of
them humbl y, unaffectedl y, submi ssi vel y and readi l y, and after thi s they wi l l
al ways fi nd i t easy to do so.
19. But, wi th respect to what has been sai d, i t must be poi nted out that,
al though we have i nsi sted so much that such thi ngs shoul d be set asi de, and that
confessors shoul d not encourage thei r peni tents to di scuss them, i t i s not wel l that
spi ri tual fathers shoul d show di spl easure i n regard to them, or shoul d seek to avoi d
speaki ng of them or despi se them, or make thei r peni tents reserved and afrai d to
menti on them, for i t woul d be the means of causi ng them many i nconveni ences i f
the door were cl osed upon thei r rel ati ng them. For, si nce they are a means and
manner whereby God gui des such soul s, there i s no reason for thi nki ng i l l of them
or for bei ng al armed or scandal i zed by them; but rather there i s a reason for
proceedi ng very qui etl y and ki ndl y, for encouragi ng these soul s and gi vi ng them an
opportuni ty to speak of these thi ngs; i f necessary, they must be exhorted to speak;
and, i n vi ew of the di ffi cul ty that some soul s experi ence i n descri bi ng such matters,
thi s i s someti mes qui te essenti al . Let confessors di rect thei r peni tents i nto fai th,
423
advi si ng them frankl y to turn away thei r eyes from al l such thi ngs, teachi ng them
how to voi d the desi re and the spi ri t of them, so that they may make progress, and
gi vi ng them to understand how much more preci ous i n God's si ght i s one work or
act of the wi l l performed i n chari ty than are al l the vi si ons and communi cati ons
that they may recei ve from Heaven, si nce these i mpl y nei ther meri t nor demeri t.
Let them poi nt out, too, that many soul s who have known nothi ng of such thi ngs
have made i ncomparabl y greater progress than others who have recei ved many of
them.
CHAPTER XXI I I
Which begins to treat of the apprehensions of the understanding that come in a
purely spiritual way, and describes their nature.
ALTHOUGH the i nstructi on that we have gi ven wi th respect to the apprehensi ons
of the understandi ng whi ch come by means of sense i s somewhat bri ef, i n
compari son wi th what mi ght be sai d about them, I have not desi red to wri te of them
at greater l ength; I bel i eve, i ndeed, that I have al ready been too l engthy for the
ful fi l l ment of my present i ntenti on, whi ch i s to di sencumber the understandi ng of
them and di rect the soul i nto the ni ght of fai th. Wherefore we shal l now begi n to
treat of those other four apprehensi ons of the understandi ng, whi ch, as we sai d i n
the tenth chapter,
424
are purel y spi ri tual -- namel y, vi si ons, revel ati ons, l ocuti ons
and spi ri tual feel i ngs. These we cal l purel y spi ri tual , for they do not (as do those
that are corporeal and i magi nary) communi cate themsel ves to the understandi ng by
way of the corporeal senses; but, wi thout the i nterventi on of any i nward or outward
corporeal sense, they present themsel ves to the understandi ng, cl earl y and
di sti nctl y, by supernatural means, passi vel y -- that i s to say, wi thout the
performance of any act or operati on on the part of the soul i tsel f, at the l east
acti vel y.
2. I t must be known, then, that, speaki ng broadl y and i n general terms, al l
423
[i .e., i nto the ni ght of fai th: cf. Chap. xxi i i , § 4, bel ow.]
424
I t i s i n Chapter x (and not i n vi i i , as i s sai d i n A, B and e.p.) that the author treats of these
spi ri tual apprehensi ons.
165
these four apprehensi ons may be cal l ed vi si ons of the soul ; for we term the
understandi ng of the soul al so i ts si ght. And si nce al l these apprehensi ons are
i ntel l i gi bl e to the understandi ng, they are descri bed, i n a spi ri tual sense, as 'vi si bl e.'
And thus the ki nds of i ntel l i gence that are formed i n the understandi ng may be
cal l ed i ntel l ectual vi si ons. Now, si nce al l the objects of the other senses, whi ch are
al l that can be seen, and al l that can be heard, and al l that can be smel t and tasted
and touched, are objects of the understandi ng i n so far as they fal l wi thi n the l i mi ts
of truth or fal sehood, i t fol l ows that, just as to the eyes of the body al l that i s vi si bl e
i n a bodi l y way causes bodi l y vi si on, even so, to the spi ri tual eyes of the soul --
namel y, the understandi ng -- al l that i s i ntel l i gi bl e causes spi ri tual vi si on; for, as we
have sai d, for the soul to understand i s for i t to see. And thus, speaki ng general l y,
we may cal l these four apprehensi ons vi si ons. Thi s cannot be sai d, however, of the
other senses, for no one of them i s capabl e, as such, of recei vi ng the object of another
one.
3. But, si nce these apprehensi ons present themsel ves to the soul i n the same
way as they do to the vari ous senses, i t fol l ows that, speaki ng properl y and
speci fi cal l y, we shal l descri be that whi ch the understandi ng recei ves by means of
si ght (because i t can see thi ngs spi ri tual l y, even as the eyes can see bodi l y) as a
vi si on; and that whi ch i t recei ves by apprehendi ng and understandi ng new thi ngs
(as i t were through the heari ng, when i t hears thi ngs that are not heard) we
descri be as revel ati on; and that whi ch i t recei ves by means of heari ng we cal l
l ocuti on; and that whi ch i t recei ves through the other senses, such as the percepti on
of sweet spi ri tual fragrance, and spi ri tual taste and of spi ri tual del i ght whi ch the
soul may joy supernatural l y, we cal l spi ri tual feel i ngs. From al l these the soul
deri ves spi ri tual vi si on or i ntel l i gence, wi thout any ki nd of apprehensi on concerni ng
form, i mage or fi gure of natural fancy or i magi nati on; these thi ngs are
communi cated to the soul di rectl y by supernatural means and a supernatural
process.
4. Of these, l i kewi se (even as we sai d of the other i magi nary corporeal
apprehensi ons), i t i s wel l that we shoul d here di sencumber the understandi ng,
l eadi ng and di recti ng i t by means of them i nto the spi ri tual ni ght of fai th, to the
Di vi ne and substanti al uni on of God; l est, by l etti ng such thi ngs encumber and
stul ti fy i t, i t shoul d be hi ndered upon the road to sol i tude and detachment from al l
thi ngs, whi ch i s necessary to that end. For, al though these apprehensi ons are nobl er
and more profi tabl e and much more certai n than those whi ch are corporeal and
i magi nary, i nasmuch as they are i nteri or and purel y spi ri tual , and are those whi ch
the devi l i s l east abl e to counterfei t, si nce they are communi cated to the soul more
purel y and subtl y wi thout any effort of i ts own or of the i magi nati on, at l east
acti vel y, yet not onl y may the understandi ng be encumbered by them upon thi s
road, but i t i s possi bl e for i t, through i ts own i mprudence, to be sorel y decei ved.
5. And al though, i n one sense, we mi ght concl ude wi th these four ki nds of
apprehensi on, by treati ng them al l together and gi vi ng advi ce whi ch appl i es to them
al l , as we have gi ven concerni ng al l the others -- namel y, that they shoul d nei ther
be desi red nor aspi red to -- yet, si nce we shal l presentl y throw more l i ght upon the
way i n whi ch thi s i s to be done, and certai n thi ngs wi l l be sai d i n connecti on wi th
them, i t wi l l be wel l to treat of each one of them i n parti cul ar, and thus we shal l
now speak of the fi rst apprehensi ons, whi ch are i ntel l ectual or spi ri tual vi si ons.
CHAPTER XXI V
166
Which treats of two kinds of spiritual vision that come supernaturally.
SPEAKI NG now stri ctl y of those vi si ons whi ch are spi ri tual , and are recei ved
wi thout the i nterventi on of any bodi l y sense, I say that there are two ki nds of vi si on
than can be recei ved by the understandi ng: the one ki nd i s of corporeal substances;
the other, of i ncorporeal or separated substances. The corporeal vi si ons have respect
to al l materi al thi ngs that are i n Heaven and on earth, whi ch the soul i s abl e to see,
even whi l e i t i s sti l l i n the body, by the ai d of a certai n supernatural i l l umi nati on,
deri ved from God, wherei n i t i s abl e to see al l thi ngs that are not present, both i n
Heaven and on earth, even as Sai nt John saw, as we read i n the twenty-fi rst
chapter of the Apocal ypse, where he descri bes and rel ates the excel l ence of the
cel esti al Jerusal em, whi ch he saw i n Heaven. Even so, agai n, we read of Sai nt
Benedi ct that i n a spi ri tual vi si on he saw the whol e worl d.
425
Thi s vi si on, says Sai nt
Thomas i n the fi rst of hi s Quodl i bets, was i n the l i ght that i s deri ved from above, as
we have sai d.
2. The other vi si ons, whi ch are of i ncorporeal substances, cannot be seen by
the ai d of thi s deri ved i l l umi nati on, whereof we are here speaki ng, but onl y by
another and a hi gher i l l umi nati on whi ch i s cal l ed the i l l umi nati on of gl ory. And
thus these vi si ons of i ncorporeal substances, such as angel s and soul , are not of thi s
l i fe, nei ther can they be seen i n the mortal body; for, i f God were pl eased to
communi cate them to the soul , i n essence as they are, the soul woul d at once go
forth from the fl esh and woul d be l oosed from thi s mortal l i fe. For thi s reason God
sai d to Moses, when he entreated Hi m to show hi m Hi s Essence: Non videbit me
homo, et vivet.
426
That i s: Man shal l not see Me and be abl e to remai n al i ve.
Wherefore, when the chi l dren of I srael thought that they were to see God, or had
seen Hi m, or some angel , they feared death, as we read i n the Book of Exodus,
where, feari ng these thi ngs, they sai d: Non loquatur nobis Dominus, ne forte
moriamur.
427
As i f they had sai d: Let not God communi cate Hi msel f to us openl y,
l est we di e. And l i kewi se i n the Book of Judges, Manue, father of Samson, thought
that he and hi s wi fe had seen i n essence the angel who spake wi th them (and who
had appeared to them i n the form of a most beauti ful man) and he sai d to hi s wi fe:
Morte moriemur, quida vidimus Dominum.
428
Whi ch si gni fi es: We shal l di e, because
we have seen the Lord.
429
425
St. Gregory: Dial., Bk. 11, Chap. xxxv. 'Omni s eti am mundus vel ut sub uno sol i s radi o col l ectus,
ante ocul os ei us adductus est.'
426
Exodus xxxi i i , 20.
427
Exodus xx, 19.
428
Judges xi i i , 22.
429
E.p. abbrevi ates thi s paragraph thus: 'The other vi si ons, whi ch are of i ncorporeal substances,
demand another and a hi gher i l l umi nati on; and thus these vi si ons of i ncorporeal substances, such as
angel s and soul s, do not occur habi tual l y, nor are they proper to thi s l i fe; sti l l l ess i s that of the
Di vi ne Essence, whi ch i s proper to the Bl essed i n Heaven, save that i t may be communi cated to a
soul fl eeti ngl y and as i n passi ng.' The next two paragraphs are omi tted from e.p. P. Jeróni mo de San
José, i n the edi ti on of 1630, copi es from e.p. the l i nes gi ven i n thi s note above, and then conti nues:
'[save when] God so al l ows, i n spi te of the condi ti on of our natural l i fe, wi thdrawi ng the spi ri t from i t
occasi onal l y, as happened to the apostl e Sai nt Paul , when he says that he saw unspeakabl e secrets
i n the thi rd heaven.' The adjustments made by P. Sal abl anca and ampl i fi ed by P. Jeróni mo i n the
rest of the paragraph [cf. notes bel ow] fol l ow the most usual schol asti c doctri ne. Among the Di scal ced
Carmel i te wri ters who deal most ful l y and competentl y wi th thi s doctri ne of spi ri tual vi si ons are the
authors of the Cursas Theologiae Mysticae, Vol . I V, Di sp. xx, xxi ; Fel i pe de l a Santí si ma Tri ni dad:
Summa Theologiae Mysticae, Pt. I I , Tract. I I I , Di sc. i v; Médula Mística, Trat. VI . St. Thomas (I p., q.
167
3. And thus these vi si ons occur not i n thi s l i fe, save occasi onal l y and
fl eeti ngl y, when, maki ng an excepti on to the condi ti ons whi ch govern our natural
l i fe, God so al l ows i t. At such ti mes He total l y wi thdraws the spi ri t from thi s l i fe,
and the natural functi ons of the body are suppl i ed by Hi s favour. Thi s i s why, at the
ti me when i t i s thought that Sai nt Paul saw these (namel y, the i ncorporeal
substances i n the thi rd heaven), that Sai nt says: Sive in corpore, nescio, sive extra
corpus, nescio, Deus scit.
430
That i s, he was raptured, and of that whi ch he saw he
says that he knows not i f i t was i n the body or out of the body, but that God knows.
Herei n i t i s cl earl y seen that the l i mi ts of natural means of communi cati on were
passed, and that thi s was the work of God. Li kewi se, i t i s bel i eved that God showed
Hi s Essence to Moses, for we read that God sai d to hi m that He woul d set hi m i n the
cl eft of the rock, and woul d protect hi m, by coveri ng hi m wi th Hi s ri ght hand, and
protecti ng hi m so that he shoul d not di e when Hi s gl ory passed; the whi ch gl ory
passed i ndeed, and was shown to hi m fl eeti ngl y, and the natural l i fe of Moses was
protected by the ri ght hand of God.
431
But these vi si ons that were so substanti al --
l i ke that of Sai nt Paul and Moses, and that of our father El i as, when he covered hi s
face at the gentl e whi sper of God -- al though they are fl eeti ng, occur onl y very rarel y
-- i ndeed, hardl y ever and to very few; for God performs such a thi ng i n those that
are very strong i n the spi ri t of the Church and the l aw of God, as were the three
men named above.
4. But, al though these vi si ons of spi ri tual substances cannot be unvei l ed and
be cl earl y seen i n thi s l i fe by the understandi ng, they can neverthel ess be fel t i n the
substance of the soul , wi th the sweetest touches and uni ons, al l of whi ch bel ongs to
spi ri tual feel i ngs, whereof, wi th the Di vi ne favour, we shal l treat presentl y; for our
pen i s bei ng di rected and gui ded to these -- that i s to say, to the Di vi ne bond and
uni on of the soul wi th Di vi ne Substance. We shal l speak of thi s when we treat of the
dark and confused mysti cal understandi ng whi ch remai ns to be descri bed, wherei n
we shal l show how, by means of thi s dark and l ovi ng knowl edge, God i s uni ted wi th
the soul i n a l ofty and Di vi ne degree;
432
for, after some manner, thi s dark and l ovi ng
knowl edge, whi ch i s fai th, serves as a means to Di vi ne uni on i n thi s l i fe, even as, i n
the next l i fe, the l i ght of gl ory serves as an i ntermedi ary to the cl ear vi si on of God.
5. Let us, then, now treat of the vi si ons of corporeal substances, recei ved
spi ri tual l y i n the soul , whi ch come after the manner of bodi l y vi si ons. For, just as
the eyes see bodi l y vi si ons by means of natural l i ght, even so does the soul , through
the understandi ng, by means of supernatural l y deri ved l i ght, as we have sai d, see
those same natural thi ngs i nwardl y, together wi th others, as God wi l l s; the
di fference between the two ki nds of vi si on i s onl y i n the mode and manner of them.
For spi ri tual and i ntel l ectual vi si ons are much cl earer and subtl er than those whi ch
pertai n to the body. For, when God i s pl eased to grant thi s favour to the soul , He
communi cates to i t that supernatural l i ght whereof we speak, wherei n the soul sees
the thi ngs that God wi l l s i t to see, easi l y and most cl earl y, whether they be of
Heaven or of earth, and the absence or presence of them i s no hi ndrance to the
vi si on. And i t i s at ti mes as though a door were opened before i t i nto a great
bri ghtness, through whi ch the soul sees a l i ght, after the manner of a l i ghtni ng
fl ash, whi ch, on a dark ni ght, reveal s thi ngs suddenl y, and causes them to be cl earl y
88, a. 1) says that we cannot quidditative know separated substances.
430
2 Cori nthi ans xi i , 2.
431
Exodus xxxi i i , 22.
432
Thi s descri pti on the Sai nt probabl y accompl i shed, or i ntended to accompl i sh, i n hi s commentari es
on the l ast fi ve stanzas of the Dark Night, whi ch have not come down to us.
168
and di sti nctl y seen, and then l eaves them i n darkness, al though the forms and
fi gures of them remai n i n the fancy. Thi s comes to pass much more perfectl y i n the
soul , because those thi ngs that the spi ri t has seen i n that l i ght remai n i mpressed
upon i t i n such a way that whensoever i t observes them i t sees them i n i tsel f as i t
saw them before; even as i n a mi rror the forms that are i n i t are seen whensoever a
man l ooks i n i t, and i n such a way that those forms of the thi ngs that he has seen
are never whol l y removed from hi s soul , al though i n course of ti me they become
somewhat remote.
6. The effect whi ch these vi si ons produce i n the soul i s that of qui et,
i l l umi nati on, joy l i ke that of gl ory, sweetness, puri ty and l ove, humi l i ty and
i ncl i nati on or el evati on of the spi ri t i n God; someti mes more so, at other ti mes l ess;
wi th someti mes more of one thi ng, at other ti mes more of another, accordi ng to the
spi ri t wherei n they are recei ved and accordi ng as God wi l l s.
7. The devi l l i kewi se can produce these vi si ons, by means of a certai n natural
l i ght, whereby he bri ngs thi ngs cl earl y before the mi nd, through spi ri tual
suggesti on, whether they be present or absent. There i s that passage i n Sai nt
Matthew, whi ch says of the devi l and Chri st: Ostendit omnia regna mundi, et
gloriam eorum.
433
That i s so say: He showed Hi m al l the ki ngdoms of the worl d and
the gl ory of them. Concerni ng thi s certai n doctors say that he di d i t by spi ri tual
suggesti on,
434
for i t was not possi bl e to make Hi m see so much wi th the bodi l y eyes
as al l the ki ngdoms of the worl d and the gl ory of them. But there i s much di fference
between these vi si ons that are caused by the devi l and those that are of God. For
the effects produced i n the soul by the devi l 's vi si ons are not l i ke those produced by
good vi si ons; the former produce ari di ty of spi ri t as to communi on wi th God and an
i ncl i nati on to esteem onesel f hi ghl y, and to recei ve and set store by the vi si ons
aforesai d, and i n no wi se do they produce the gentl eness of humi l i ty and l ove of God.
Nei ther do the forms of such vi si ons remai n i mpressed upon the soul wi th the
sweetness and bri ghtness of the others; nor do they l ast, but are qui ckl y effaced
from the soul , save when the soul greatl y esteems them, i n whi ch case thi s hi gh
esteem i tsel f causes i t to recal l them natural l y, but wi th great ari di ty of spi ri t, and
wi thout produci ng that effect of l ove and humi l i ty whi ch i s produced by good vi si ons
when the soul recal l s them.
8. These vi si ons, i nasmuch as they are of creatures, wherewi th God has no
essenti al conformi ty or proporti on, cannot serve the understandi ng as a proxi mate
means to uni on wi th God. And thus the soul must conduct i tsel f i n a purel y negati ve
way concerni ng them, as i n the other thi ngs that we have descri bed, i n order that i t
may progress by the proxi mate means -- namel y, by fai th. Wherefore the soul must
make no store of treasure of the forms of such vi si ons as remai n i mpressed upon i t,
nei ther must i t l ean upon them; for to do thi s woul d be to be encumbered wi th those
forms, i mages and persons whi ch remai n i nwardl y wi thi n i t, and thus the soul
woul d not progress toward God by denyi ng i tsel f al l thi ngs. For, even i f these forms
shoul d be permanentl y set before the soul , they wi l l not greatl y hi nder thi s
progress, i f the soul has no desi re to set store by them. For, al though i t i s true that
the remembrance of them i mpel s the soul to a certai n l ove of God and
contempl ati on, yet i t i s i mpel l ed and exal ted much more by pure fai th and
detachment i n darkness from them al l , wi thout i ts knowi ng how or whence i t comes
to i t. And thus i t wi l l come to pass that the soul wi l l go forward, enki ndl ed wi th
433
St. Matthew i v, 8.
434
E.p.: '. . . by i ntel l i gi bl e suggesti on.' On thi s passage, cf. Cornel i us a Lapi de (Commentaria in
Matthaeum, Cap. I V) and St. Thomas (I I I p., q. 41, ad. 3).
169
yearni ngs of purest l ove for God, wi thout knowi ng whence they come to i t, or on
what they are founded. The fact i s that, whi l e fai th has become ever more deepl y
rooted and i nfused i n the soul by means of that empti ness and darkness and
detachment from al l thi ngs, or spi ri tual poverty, al l of whi ch may be spoken of as
one and the same thi ng, at the same ti me the chari ty of God has become rooted and
i nfused i n the soul ever more deepl y al so. Wherefore, the more the soul desi res
obscuri ty and anni hi l ati on wi th respect to al l the outward or i nward thi ngs that i t i s
capabl e of recei vi ng, the more i s i t i nfused by fai th, and, consequentl y, by l ove and
hope, si nce al l these three theol ogi cal vi rtues go together.
9. But at certai n ti mes the soul nei ther understands thi s l ove nor feel s i t; for
thi s l ove resi des, not i n sense, wi th i ts tender feel i ngs, but i n the soul , wi th forti tude
and wi th a courage and dari ng that are greater than they were before, though
someti mes i t overfl ows i nto sense and produces gentl e and tender feel i ngs.
Wherefore, i n order to attai n to that l ove, joy and del i ght whi ch such vi si ons
produce and cause i n the soul , i t i s wel l that soul shoul d have forti tude and
morti fi cati on and l ove, so that i t may desi re to remai n i n empti ness and darkness as
to al l thi ngs, and to bui l d i ts l ove and joy upon that whi ch i t nei ther sees nor feel s,
nei ther can see nor feel i n thi s l i fe, whi ch i s God, Who i s i ncomprehensi bl e and
transcends al l thi ngs. I t i s wel l , then, for us to journey to Hi m by denyi ng oursel ves
everythi ng. For otherwi se, even i f the soul be so wi se, humbl e and strong that the
devi l cannot decei ve i t by vi si ons or cause i t to fal l i nto some si n of presumpti on, as
he i s wont to do, he wi l l not al l ow i t to make progress; for he set obstacl es i n the way
of spi ri tual detachment and poverty of spi ri t and empti ness i n fai th, whi ch i s the
essenti al condi ti on for uni on of the soul wi th God.
10. And, as the same teachi ng that we gave i n the ni neteenth and twenti eth
chapters, concerni ng supernatural apprehensi ons and vi si ons of sense, hol ds good
for these vi si ons, we shal l not spend more ti me here i n descri bi ng them.
CHAPTER XXV
Which treats of revelations, describing their nature and making a distinction
between them.
ACCORDI NG to the order whi ch we are here fol l owi ng, we have next to treat of the
second ki nd of spi ri tual apprehensi on, whi ch we have descri bed above as
revel ati ons, and whi ch properl y bel ongs to the spi ri t of prophecy. Wi th respect to
thi s, i t must fi rst be known that revel ati on i s naught el se than the di scovery of some
hi dden truth or the mani festati on of some secret or mystery. Thus God may cause
the soul to understand somethi ng by maki ng cl ear to the understandi ng the truth
concerni ng i t, or He may reveal to the soul certai n thi ngs whi ch He i s doi ng or
proposes to do.
2. Accordi ngl y, we may say that there are two ki nds of revel ati on. The fi rst i s
the di scl osure to the understandi ng of truths whi ch are properl y cal l ed i ntel l ectual
knowl edge or i ntel l i gence; the second i s the mani festati on of secrets, whi ch are
cal l ed revel ati ons wi th more propri ety than the others. For the fi rst ki nd cannot
stri ctl y be cal l ed revel ati ons, si nce they consi st i n thi s, that God causes the soul to
understand naked truths, not onl y wi th respect to temporal thi ngs, but l i kewi se
wi th respect to spi ri tual thi ngs, reveal i ng them to the soul cl earl y and openl y. These
I have desi red to treat under the headi ng of revel ati ons: fi rst, because they have
cl ose ki nshi p and si mi l ari ty wi th them: secondl y, i n order not to mul ti pl y
170
di sti ncti ons.
3. Accordi ng to thi s method, then, we shal l now be wel l abl e to di vi de
revel ati ons i nto two ki nds of apprehensi on. The one ki nd we shal l cal l i ntel l ectual
knowl edge, and the other, the mani festati on of secrets and hi dden mysteri es of God.
Wi th these we shal l concl ude i n two chapters as bri efl y as we may, and i n thi s
chapter fol l owi ng we shal l treat of the fi rst.
CHAPTER XXVI
Which treats of the intuition of naked truths in the understanding, explaining how
they are of two kinds and how the soul is to conduct itself with respect to them.
I N order to speak properl y of thi s i ntui ti on of naked truths whi ch i s conveyed to the
understandi ng, the wri ter woul d need God to take hi s hand and to gui de hi s pen; for
know, dear reader, that what they are to the soul cannot be expressed i n words.
But, si nce I speak not of them here of set purpose, but onl y that through them I may
i nstruct the soul and l ead i t to Di vi ne uni on, I shal l suffer mysel f to speak of them
here i n a bri ef and modi fi ed form, as i s suffi ci ent for the ful fi l l ment of that
i ntenti on.
2. Thi s ki nd of vi si on (or, to speak more properl y, of knowl edge of naked
truths) i s very di fferent from that of whi ch we have just spoken i n the twenty-fourth
chapter. For i t i s not l i ke seei ng bodi l y thi ngs wi th the understandi ng; i t consi sts
rather i n comprehendi ng and seei ng wi th the understandi ng the truths of God,
whether of thi ngs that are, that have been or that wi l l be, whi ch i s i n cl ose
conformi ty wi th the spi ri t of prophecy, as perchance we shal l expl ai n hereafter.
3. Here i t i s to be observed that thi s ki nd of knowl edge i s di sti ngui shabl e
accordi ng to two di vi si ons: the one ki nd comes to the soul wi th respect to the
Creator; the other wi th respect to creatures, as we have sai d. And, al though both
ki nds are very del ectabl e to the soul , yet the del i ght caused i n i t by the ki nd that
rel ates to God i s comparabl e to nothi ng whatsoever, and there are no words or
terms wherei n i t can be descri bed. Thi s ki nd of knowl edge i s of God Hi msel f, and
the del i ght i s i n God Hi msel f, whereof Davi d says: 'There i s naught soever l i ke to
Hi m.'
435
For thi s ki nd of knowl edge comes to the soul i n di rect rel ati on to God, when
the soul , after a most l ofty manner, has a percepti on of some attri bute of God -- of
Hi s omni potence, of Hi s mi ght, of Hi s goodness and sweetness, etc.; and,
whensoever i t has such a percepti on, that whi ch i s percei ved cl eaves to the soul .
I nasmuch as thi s i s pure contempl ati on, the soul cl earl y sees that there i s no way
wherei n i t can say aught concerni ng i t, save to speak i n certai n general terms, of
the abundance of del i ght and bl essi ng whi ch i t has fel t, and thi s i s expressed by
soul s that experi ence i t; but not to the end that what the soul has experi enced and
percei ved may be whol l y apprehended.
4. And thus Davi d, speaki ng for hi msel f when somethi ng of thi s ki nd had
happened to hi m, used onl y common and general terms, sayi ng: J udicia Domini
vera, justificata in semetipsa. Desiderabilia super aurum et lapidem pretiosum
multum; et dulciora super mel et favum.
436
Whi ch si gni fi es: The judgments of God --
that i s, the vi rtues and attri butes whi ch we percei ve i n God -- are i n themsel ves
true, justi fi ed, more to be desi red than gol d and very much more than preci ous
435
[Psal m xxxi x, 6: cf. A.V., xl , 5.]
436
Psal m xvi i i , 10-11 [A.V., xi x, 9-10].
171
stones, and sweeter than the honeycomb and honey. And concerni ng Moses we read
that, when God gave hi m a most l ofty mani festati on of knowl edge from Hi msel f on
an occasi on when He passed before hi m, he sai d onl y that whi ch can be expressed i n
the common terms above menti oned. And i t was so that, when the Lord passed
before hi m i n that mani festati on of knowl edge, Moses qui ckl y prostrated hi msel f
upon the ground, sayi ng: Dominator Domine Deus, misericors et clemens, patiens, et
multae miserationis, ac verax. Qui custodis misericordiam in millia.
437
Whi ch
si gni fi es: Rul er,
438
Lord, God, merci ful and cl ement, pati ent, and of great
compassi on, and true, that keepest mercy promi sed unto thousands. Here i t i s seen
that Moses coul d not express that whi ch he had l earned from God i n one si ngl e
mani festati on of knowl edge, and therefore he expressed and gave utterance to i t i n
al l these words. And al though at ti mes, when such knowl edge i s gi ven to a soul ,
words are used, the soul i s wel l aware that i t has expressed no part of what i t has
fel t; for i t knows that there i s no fi t name by whi ch i t can name i t. And thus Sai nt
Paul , when he was granted that l ofty knowl edge of God, made no attempt to
descri be i t, sayi ng onl y that i t was not l awful for man to speak of i t.
5. These Di vi ne mani festati ons of knowl edge whi ch have respect to God never
rel ate to parti cul ar matters, i nasmuch as they concern the Chi ef Begi nni ng, and
therefore can have no parti cul ar reference, unl ess i t be a questi on of some truth
concerni ng a thi ng l ess than God, whi ch i s i nvol ved i n the percepti on of the whol e;
but these Di vi ne mani festati ons themsel ves -- no, i n no way whatsoever. And these
l ofty mani festati ons of knowl edge can come onl y to the soul that attai ns to uni on
wi th God, for they are themsel ves that uni on; and to recei ve them i s equi val ent to a
certai n contact wi th the Di vi ni ty whi ch the soul experi ences, and thus i t i s God
Hi msel f Who i s percei ved and tasted therei n. And, al though He cannot be
experi enced mani festl y and cl earl y, as i n gl ory, thi s touch of knowl edge and del i ght
i s neverthel ess so subl i me and profound that i t penetrates the substance of the soul ,
and the devi l cannot meddl e wi th i t or produce any mani festati on l i ke to i t, for there
i s no such thi ng, nei ther i s there aught that compares wi th i t, nei ther can he i nfuse
pl easure or del i ght that i s l i ke to i t; for such ki nds of knowl edge savour of the
Di vi ne Essence and of eternal l i fe, and the devi l cannot counterfei t a thi ng so l ofty.
6. Neverthel ess he mi ght make some pretence of i mi tati ng i t, by representi ng
to the soul certai n great matters and thi ngs whi ch enchant the senses and can
readi l y be percei ved by them, and endeavori ng to persuade the soul that these are
God; but he cannot do thi s i n such wi se that they enter i nto the substance of the
soul and of a sudden renew i t and enki ndl e i t wi th l ove, as do the mani festati ons of
God. For there are certai n ki nds of knowl edge, and certai n of these touches effected
by God i n the substance of the soul , whi ch enri ch i t after such wi se that not onl y
does one of them suffi ce to take from the soul once and for al l the whol e of the
i mperfecti ons that i t had i tsel f been unabl e to throw off duri ng i ts whol e l i fe, but i t
l eaves the soul ful l of vi rtues and bl essi ngs from God.
7. And these touches are so del ectabl e to the soul , and the del i ght they
produce i s so i nti mate, that i f i t recei ved onl y one of them i t woul d consi der i tsel f
wel l rewarded for al l the tri al s that i t had suffered i n thi s l i fe, even had they been
i nnumerabl e; and i t i s so greatl y encouraged and gi ven such energy to suffer many
thi ngs for God's sake that i t suffers especi al l y i n seei ng that i t i s not sufferi ng more.
8. The soul cannot attai n to these l ofty degrees of knowl edge by means of any
compari son or i magi nati on of i ts own, because they are l ofti er than al l these; and so
437
Exodus xxxi v, 6-7.
438
[Lit., 'Emperor.']
172
God works them i n the soul wi thout maki ng use of i ts own capaci ti es. Wherefore, at
certai n ti mes, when the soul i s l east thi nki ng of i t and l east desi ri ng i t, God i s wont
to gi ve i t these Di vi ne touches, by causi ng i t certai n remembrances of Hi msel f. And
these are someti mes suddenl y caused i n the soul by i ts mere recol l ecti on of certai n
thi ngs -- someti mes of very smal l thi ngs. And they are so readi l y percei ved that at
ti mes they cause not onl y the soul , but al so the body, to trembl e. But at other ti mes
they come to pass i n the spi ri t when i t i s very tranqui l , wi thout any ki nd of
trembl i ng, but wi th a sudden sense of del i ght and spi ri tual refreshment.
9. At other ti mes, agai n, they come when the soul repeats or hears some
word, perhaps from Scri pture or possi bl y from some other source; but they are not
al ways equal l y effi caci ous and sensi bl e, for oftenti mes they are extremel y fai nt; yet,
however fai nt they may be, one of these recol l ecti ons and touches of God i s more
profi tabl e to the soul than many other ki nds of knowl edge or many medi tati ons
upon the creatures and the works of God. And, si nce these mani festati ons of
knowl edge come to the soul suddenl y, and i ndependentl y of i ts own free wi l l , i t must
nei ther desi re to have them, nor desi re not to have them; but must merel y be
humbl e and resi gned concerni ng them, and God wi l l perform Hi s work how and
when He wi l l s.
10. And I say not that the soul shoul d behave i n the same negati ve manner
wi th regard to these apprehensi ons as wi th regard to the rest, for, as we have sai d,
they are a part of the uni on towards whi ch we are l eadi ng the soul , to whi ch end we
are teachi ng i t to detach and stri p i tsel f of al l other apprehensi ons. And the means
by whi ch God wi l l do thi s must be humi l i ty and sufferi ng for l ove of God wi th
resi gnati on as regards al l reward; for these favours are not granted to the soul
whi ch sti l l cheri shes attachments, i nasmuch as they are granted through a very
speci al l ove of God toward the soul whi ch l oves Hi m l i kewi se wi th great
detachment. I t i s to thi s that the Son of God referred, i n Sai nt John, when He sai d:
Qui autem diligit rag, diligetur a Patre meo, et ego diligam eum, et manifestabo ei
me ipsum.
439
Whi ch si gni fi es: He that l oves Me shal l be l oved by My Father, and I
wi l l l ove hi m and wi l l mani fest Mysel f to hi m. Herei n are i ncl uded the ki nds of
knowl edge and touches to whi ch we are referri ng, whi ch God mani fests to the soul
that trul y l oves Hi m.
11. The second ki nd of knowl edge or vi si on of i nteri or truths i s very di fferent
from thi s that we have descri bed, si nce i t i s of thi ngs l ower than God. And herei n i s
i ncl uded the percepti on of the truth of thi ngs i n themsel ves, and that of the events
and happeni ngs whi ch come to pass among men. And thi s knowl edge i s of such a
ki nd that, when the soul l earns these truths, they si nk i nto i t, i ndependentl y of any
suggesti on from wi thout, to such an extent that, al though i t may be gi ven a
di fferent i nterpretati on of them, i t cannot make i nward assent to thi s, even though
i t endeavor to do so by putti ng forth a great effort; for wi thi n the spi ri t i t i s l earni ng
otherwi se through the spi ri t that i s teachi ng i t that thi ng, whi ch i s equi val ent to
seei ng i t cl earl y. Thi s pertai ns to the spi ri t of prophecy and to the grace whi ch Sai nt
Paul cal l s the gi ft of the di scernment of spi ri ts.
440
Yet, al though the soul hol ds
somethi ng whi ch i t understands to be qui te certai n and true, as we have sai d, and
al though i t may be unabl e to cease gi vi ng i t that passi ve i nteri or consent, i t must
not therefore cease to bel i eve and to gi ve the consent of reason to that whi ch i ts
spi ri tual di rector tel l s i t and commands i t, even though thi s may be qui te contrary
to i ts own feel i ngs, so that i t may be di rected i n fai th to Di vi ne uni on, to whi ch a
439
St. John xi v, 21.
440
1 Cori nthi ans xi i , 10.
173
soul must journey by bel i evi ng rather than by understandi ng.
12. Concerni ng both these thi ngs we have cl ear testi moni es i n Scri pture. For,
wi th respect to the spi ri tual knowl edge of thi ngs that may be acqui red, the Wi se
Man says these words: I pse dedit mihi horum, quae sunt, scientiam veram, ut sciam
dispositionem orbis terrarum, et virtutes elementorum, initium et consummationem
temporum, viccissitudinum permutationes, et consummationes temporum, et morum
mutationes, divisiones temporum, et anni cursus, et stellarum dispositiones, naturas
animalium et iras bestiarum, vim ventorum, et cogitationes hominum, differentias
virgultorum, et virtutes radicum, et quaecumque sunt abscondita, et improvisa
didici: omnium enim artifex docuit me sapientia.
441
Whi ch si gni fi es: God hath gi ven
me true knowl edge of thi ngs that are: to know the di sposi ti on of the round worl d
442
and the vi rtues of the el ements; the begi nni ng, and endi ng, and mi dst of the ti mes,
the al terati ons i n the changes and the consummati ons of the seasons, and the
changes of customs, the di vi si ons of the seasons, the courses of the year and the
di sposi ti ons of the stars; the natures of ani mal s, and the furi es of the beasts, the
strength and vi rtue of the wi nds, and the thoughts of men; the di versi ti es i n pl ants
and trees and the vi rtues of roots and al l thi ngs that are hi dden, and those that are
not foreseen: al l these I l earned, for Wi sdom, whi ch i s the worker of al l thi ngs,
taught me. And al though thi s knowl edge whi ch the Wi se Man here says that God
gave hi m concerni ng al l thi ngs was i nfused and general , the passage quoted
furni shes suffi ci ent evi dence for al l parti cul ar ki nds of knowl edge whi ch God i nfuses
i nto soul s, by supernatural means, when He wi l l s. And thi s not that He may gi ve
them a general habi t of knowl edge as He gave to Sol omon i n the matters
aforementi oned; but that He may reveal to them at ti mes certai n truths wi th
respect to any of al l these thi ngs that the Wi se Man here enumerates. Al though i t i s
true that i nto many soul s Our Lord i nfuses habi ts whi ch rel ate to many thi ngs, yet
these are never of so general a ki nd as they were i n the case of Sol omon. The
di fferences between them are l i ke to those between the gi fts di stri buted by God
whi ch are enumerated by Sai nt Paul ; among these he sets wi sdom, knowl edge,
fai th, prophecy, di scernment or knowl edge of spi ri ts, understandi ng of tongues,
i nterpretati on of spoken words, etc.
443
Al l these ki nds of knowl edge are i nfused
habi ts, whi ch God gi ves freel y to whom He wi l l , whether natural l y or
supernatural l y; natural l y, as to Bal aam, to other i dol atrous prophets and to many
sybi l s, to whom He gave the spi ri t of prophecy; and supernatural l y, as to the hol y
prophets and apostl es and other sai nts.
13. But over and above these habi ts or graces freel y bestowed,
444
what we say
i s that persons who are perfect or are maki ng progress i n perfecti on are wont very
commonl y to recei ve enl i ghtenment and knowl edge of thi ngs present or absent;
these they know through thei r spi ri t, whi ch i s al ready enl i ghtened and purged. We
can i nterpret that passage from the Proverbs i n thi s sense, namel y: Quomodo in
aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium sic corda hominum manifesta sunt
proudentibus.
445
Even as there appear i n the waters the faces of those that l ook
therei n, so the hearts of men are mani fest to the prudent. Thi s i s understood of
those that have the wi sdom of sai nts, whi ch the sacred Scri pture cal l s prudence.
And i n thi s way these spi ri ts someti mes l earn of other thi ngs al so, al though not
441
Wi sdom vi i , 17-21.
442
[Lit., 'of the roundness of the l ands.']
443
[Lit., 'exposi ti on of words'; the reference i s cl earl y to 1 Cori nthi ans xi i , 8-10.]
444
[The ori gi nal has gratis datas.]
445
Proverbs xxvi i , 19.
174
whensoever they wi l l ; for thi s bel ongs onl y to those that have the habi t, and even to
these i t bel ongs not al ways and wi th respect to al l thi ngs, for i t depends upon God's
wi l l to hel p them.
14. But i t must be known that those whose spi ri ts are purged can l earn by
natural means wi th great readi ness, and some more readi l y than others, that whi ch
i s i n the i nward spi ri t or heart, and the i ncl i nati ons and tal ents of men, and thi s by
outward i ndi cati ons, al bei t very sl i ght ones, as words, movements and other si gns.
For, even as the devi l can do thi s, si nce he i s spi ri t, even so l i kewi se can the
spi ri tual man, accordi ng to the words of the Apostl e, who says: Spiritualis autem
judicat omnia.
446
'He that i s spi ri tual judgeth al l thi ngs.' And agai n he says:
Spiritus enim omnia scrutatur, etiam profunda Dei.
447
'The spi ri t searcheth al l
thi ngs, yea, the deep thi ngs of God.' Wherefore, al though spi ri tual persons cannot
by nature know thoughts, or thi ngs that are i n the mi nds of others,
448
they may wel l
i nterpret them through supernatural enl i ghtenment or by si gns. And, al though they
may often be decei ved i n thei r i nterpretati on of si gns, they are more general l y
correct. Yet we must trust nei ther to the one means nor to the other, for the devi l
meddl es herei n greatl y, and wi th much subtl ety, as we shal l afterwards say, and
thus we must ever renounce such ki nds of knowl edge.
15. And that spi ri tual persons may have knowl edge of the deeds and
happeni ngs of men, even though they be el sewhere, we have wi tness and exampl e i n
the Fourth Book of the Ki ngs, where Gi ezi , the servant of our father El i seus, desi red
to hi de from hi m the money whi ch he had recei ved from Naaman the Syri an, and
El i seus sai d: Nonne cor meum in praesenti erat, quando reversus est homo de curru
suo in occursum tui?
449
'Was not my heart perchance present, when Naaman turned
back from hi s chari ot and went to meet thee? Thi s happens spi ri tual l y; the spi ri t
sees i t as though i t were happeni ng i n i ts presence. And the same thi ng i s proved i n
the same book, where we read l i kewi se of the same El i seus, that, knowi ng al l that
the Ki ng of Syri a di d wi th hi s pri nces i n hi s pri vy chamber, he tol d i t to the Ki ng of
I srael , and thus the counsel s of the Ki ng of Syri a were of no effect; so much so that,
when the Ki ng of Syri a saw that al l was known, he sai d to hi s peopl e: Why do ye not
tel l me whi ch of you i s betrayi ng me to the Ki ng of I srael ? And then one of hi s
servants sai d: Nequaquam, Domine mi Rex, sed Eliseus Propheta, qui est in I srael,
indicat Regi I srael omnia verba, quaecumque locutus fueris in conclavi tuo.
450
'I t i s
not so, my l ord, O Ki ng, but El i seus, the prophet that i s i n I srael , tel l eth the ki ng of
I srael al l the words that thou speakest i n thy pri vy chamber.'
16. Both ki nds of thi s knowl edge of thi ngs, as wel l as other ki nds of
knowl edge, come to pass i n the soul passi vel y, so that for i ts own part i t does
naught. For i t wi l l come to pass that, when a person i s i nattenti ve to a matter and i t
i s far from hi s mi nd, there wi l l come to hi m a vi vi d understandi ng of what he i s
heari ng or readi ng, and that much more cl earl y than coul d be conveyed by the
sound of the words; and at ti mes, though he understand not the words, as when
they are i n Lati n and he knows not that tongue, the knowl edge of thei r meani ng
comes to hi m, despi te hi s not understandi ng them.
17. Wi th regard to the decepti ons whi ch the devi l can bri ng about, and does
bri ng about, concerni ng thi s ki nd of knowl edge and understandi ng, there i s much
446
1 Cori nthi ans i i , 15.
447
1 Cori nthi ans i i , 10.
448
[Lit., 'i n the i nteri or.']
449
4 Ki ngs [A.V., 2 Ki ngs] v, 26.
450
4 Ki ngs [A.V., 2 Ki ngs] vi , 12.
175
that mi ght be sai d, for the decepti ons whi ch he effects i n thi s way are very great
and very di ffi cul t to unmask. I nasmuch as, through suggesti on, he can represent to
the soul many ki nds of i ntel l ectual knowl edge and i mpl ant them so fi rml y that i t
appears i mpossi bl e that they shoul d not be true, he wi l l certai nl y cause the soul to
bel i eve i nnumerabl e fal sehoods i f i t be not humbl e and cauti ous. For suggesti on has
someti mes great power over the soul , above al l when i t i s to some extent ai ded by
the weakness of sense, causi ng the knowl edge whi ch i t conveys to si nk i nto the soul
wi th such great power, persuasi veness and determi nati on that the soul needs to
gi ve i tsel f earnestl y to prayer and to exert great strength i f i t i s to cast i t off. For at
ti mes the devi l i s accustomed to represent to the soul the si ns of others, and evi l
consci ences and evi l soul s, fal sel y but very vi vi dl y, and al l thi s he does to harm the
soul , trusti ng that i t may spread abroad hi s revel ati ons, and that thus more si ns
may be commi tted, for whi ch reason he fi l l s the soul wi th zeal by maki ng i t bel i eve
that these revel ati ons are granted i t so that i t may commend the persons concerned
to God. Now, though i t i s true that God someti mes sets before hol y soul s the
necessi ti es of thei r nei ghbours, so that they may commend them to God or rel i eve
them, even as we read that He reveal ed to Jeremi as the weakness of the prophet
Baruch, that he mi ght gi ve hi m counsel concerni ng i t,
451
yet i t i s more often the
devi l who does thi s, and speaks fal sel y about i t, i n order to cause i nfamy, si n and
di scouragement, whereof we have very great experi ence. And at other ti mes he
i mpl ants other ki nds of knowl edge wi th great assurance, and persuades the soul to
bel i eve them.
18. Such knowl edge as thi s, whether i t be of God or no, can be of very l i ttl e
assi stance to the progress of the soul on i ts journey to God i f the soul desi re i t and
be attached to i t; on the contrary, i f i t were not scrupul ous i n rejecti ng i t, not onl y
woul d i t be hi ndered on i ts road, but i t woul d even be greatl y harmed and l ed far
astray. For al l the peri l s and i nconveni ences whi ch, as we have sai d, may be
i nvol ved i n the supernatural apprehensi ons whereof we have treated up to thi s
poi nt, may occur here, and more al so. I wi l l not, therefore, treat more ful l y of thi s
matter here, si nce suffi ci ent i nstructi on about i t has al ready been gi ven i n past
chapters; I wi l l onl y say that the soul must al ways be very scrupul ous i n rejecti ng
these thi ngs, and seek to journey to God by the way of unknowi ng; and must ever
rel ate i ts experi ences to i ts spi ri tual confessor, and be ever attenti ve to hi s counsel .
Let the confessor gui de the soul past thi s, l ayi ng no stress upon i t, for i t i s of no
ki nd of i mportance for the road to uni on; for when these thi ngs are granted to the
soul passi vel y they al ways l eave i n i t such effect as God wi l l s shal l remai n, wi thout
necessi ty for the soul to exert any di l i gence i n the matter. And thus i t seems to me
that there i s no reason to descri be here ei ther the effect whi ch i s produced by true
knowl edge, or that whi ch comes from fal se knowl edge, for thi s woul d be weari some
and never-endi ng. For the effects of thi s knowl edge cannot al l be descri bed i n a bri ef
i nstructi on, the knowl edge bei ng great and greatl y vari ed, and i ts effects bei ng so
l i kewi se, si nce good knowl edge produces good effects, and evi l knowl edge, evi l
effects, etc. I n sayi ng that al l shoul d be rejected, we have sai d suffi ci ent for the soul
not to go astray.
CHAPTER XXVI I
Which treats of the second kind of revelation, namely, the disclosure of hidden
451
Jeremi as xl v, 3.
176
secrets. Describes the way in which these may assist the soul toward union with God,
and the way in which they may be a hindrance; and how the devil may deceive the
soul greatly in this matter.
WE were sayi ng that the second ki nd of revel ati on was the mani festati on of hi dden
mysteri es and secrets. Thi s may come to pass i n two ways. The fi rst wi th respect to
that whi ch God i s i n Hi msel f, wherei n i s i ncl uded the revel ati on of the mystery of
the Most Hol y Tri ni ty and Uni ty of God. The second i s wi th respect to that whi ch
God i s i n Hi s works, and herei n are i ncl uded the other arti cl es of our Cathol i c fai th,
and the proposi ti ons deduci bl e from them whi ch may be l ai d down expl i ci tl y as
truths. I n these are i ncl uded and compri sed a great number of the revel ati ons of the
prophets, of promi ses and threateni ngs of God, and of other thi ngs whi ch have
happened and shal l happen concerni ng thi s matter of fai th. Under thi s second head
we may al so i ncl ude many other parti cul ar thi ngs whi ch God habi tual l y reveal s,
both concerni ng the uni verse i n general as al so i n parti cul ar concerni ng ki ngdoms,
provi nces and states and fami l i es and parti cul ar persons. Of these we have
exampl es i n abundance i n the Di vi ne wri ti ngs, both of the one ki nd and of the other,
especi al l y i n al l the Prophets, wherei n are found revel ati ons of al l these ki nds. As
thi s i s a cl ear and pl ai n matter, I wi l l not here spend ti me i n quoti ng these
exampl es, but wi l l onl y say that these revel ati ons do not come to pass by word
al one, but that God gi ves them i n many ways and manners, someti mes by word
al one, someti mes by si gns and fi gures al one, and by i mages and si mi l i tudes al one,
someti mes i n more than one way at once, as i s l i kewi se to be seen i n the Prophets,
parti cul arl y throughout the Apocal ypse, where we fi nd not onl y al l the ki nds of
revel ati on whi ch we have descri bed, but l i kewi se the ways and manners to whi ch
we are here referri ng.
2. As to these revel ati ons whi ch are i ncl uded under our second head, God
grants them sti l l i n our ti me to whom He wi l l . He i s wont, for exampl e, to reveal to
some persons how many days they sti l l have to l i ve, or what tri al s they are to suffer,
or what i s to befal l such and such a person, or such and such a ki ngdom, etc. And
even as regards the mysteri es of our fai th, He wi l l reveal and expound to the spi ri t
the truths concerni ng them, al though, si nce thi s has al ready been reveal ed once, i t
i s not properl y to be termed revel ati on, but i s more correctl y a mani festati on or
expl anati on of what has been reveal ed al ready.
3. I n thi s ki nd of revel ati on the devi l may meddl e freel y. For, as revel ati ons of
thi s nature come ordi nari l y through words, fi gures and si mi l i tudes, etc., the devi l
may very readi l y counterfei t others l i ke them, much more so than when the
revel ati ons are i n spi ri t al one. Wherefore, i f wi th regard to the fi rst and the second
ki nd of revel ati on whi ch we are here descri bi ng, as touchi ng our fai th, there be
reveal ed to us anythi ng new, or di fferent, we must i n no wi se gi ve our consent to i t,
even though we had evi dence that i t was spoken by an angel from Heaven. For even
so says Sai nt Paul , i n these words: Licet nos, gut Angelus de coelo evangelizet vobis
praeterquam quod evangelizavimus vobis, anathema sit.
452
Whi ch si gni fi es: Even
though an angel from Heaven decl are or preach unto you aught el se than that
whi ch we have preached unto you, l et hi m be anathema.
4. Si nce, then, there are no more arti cl es to be reveal ed concerni ng the
substance of our fai th than those whi ch have al ready been reveal ed to the Church,
not onl y must anythi ng new whi ch may be reveal ed to the soul concerni ng thi s be
rejected, but i t behoves the soul to be cauti ous and pay no heed to any novel ti es
452
Gal ati ans i , 8.
177
i mpl i ed therei n, and for the sake of the puri ty of the soul i t behoves i t to rel y on
fai th al one. Even though the truths al ready reveal ed to i t be reveal ed agai n, i t wi l l
bel i eve them, not because they are now reveal ed anew, but because they have
al ready been suffi ci entl y reveal ed to the Church: i ndeed, i t must cl ose i ts
understandi ng to them, hol di ng si mpl y to the doctri ne of the Church and to i ts fai th,
whi ch, as Sai nt Paul says, enters through heari ng.
453
And l et not i ts credence and
i ntel l ectual assent be gi ven to these matters of the fai th whi ch have been reveal ed
anew, however fi tti ng and true they may seem to i t, i f i t desi re not to be decei ved.
For, i n order to decei ve the soul and to i nsti l fal sehoods i nto i t, the devi l fi rst feeds
i t wi th truths and thi ngs that are probabl e i n order to gi ve i t assurance and
afterwards to decei ve i t. He resembl es one that sews l eather wi th a bri stl e, fi rst
pi erci ng the l eather wi th the sharp bri stl e, after whi ch enters the soft thread; the
thread coul d not enter unl ess the bri stl e gui ded i t.
5. And l et thi s be consi dered careful l y; for, even were i t true that there was
no peri l i n such decepti on, yet i t greatl y behoves the soul not to desi re to understand
cl earl y thi ngs that have respect to the fai th, so that i t may preserve the meri t of
fai th, i n i ts puri ty and enti rety, and l i kewi se that i t may come, i n thi s ni ght of the
understandi ng, to the Di vi ne l i ght of Di vi ne uni on. And i t i s equal l y necessary to
consi der any new revel ati on wi th ones eyes cl osed, and hol di ng fast the propheci es
of ol d, for the Apostl e Sai nt Peter, though he had seen the gl ory of the Son of God
after some manner on Mount Tabor, wrote, i n hi s canoni cal epi stl e, these words: Et
habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem; cui bene factitis attendentes, etc.
454
Whi ch i s as though he had sai d: Al though the vi si on that we have seen of Chri st on
the Mount i s true, the word of the prophecy that i s reveal ed to us i s fi rmer and
surer, and, i f ye rest your soul upon i t, ye do wel l .
6. And i f i t i s true that, for the reasons al ready descri bed, i t behoves the soul
to cl ose i ts eyes to the aforementi oned revel ati ons whi ch come to i t, and whi ch
concern the proposi ti ons of the fai th, how much more necessary wi l l i t be nei ther to
recei ve nor to gi ve credi t to other revel ati ons rel ati ng to di fferent thi ngs, wherei n
the devi l habi tual l y meddl es so freel y that I bel i eve i t i mpossi bl e for a man not to be
decei ved i n many of them unl ess he stri ve to reject them, such an appearance of
truth and securi ty does the devi l gi ve them? For he bri ngs together so many
appearances and probabi l i ti es, i n order that they may be bel i eved, and pl ants them
so fi rml y i n the sense and the i magi nati on, that i t seems to the person affected that
what he says wi l l certai nl y happen; and i n such a way does he cause the soul to
grasp and hol d them, that, i f i t have not humi l i ty, i t wi l l hardl y be persuaded to
reject them and made to bel i eve the contrary. Wherefore, the soul that i s pure,
cauti ous, si mpl e and humbl e must resi st revel ati ons and other vi si ons wi th as much
effort and care as though they were very peri l ous temptati ons. For there i s no need
to desi re them; on the contrary, there i s need not too desi re them, i f we are to reach
the uni on of l ove. I t i s thi s that Sol omon meant when he sai d: 'What need has a man
to desi re and seek thi ngs that are above hi s natural capaci ty?'
455
As though we were
to say: He has no necessi ty, i n order to be perfect, to desi re supernatural thi ngs by
supernatural means, whi ch are above hi s capaci ty.
7. And as the objecti ons that can be made to thi s have al ready been
answered, i n the ni neteenth and twenti eth chapter of thi s book, I refer the reader to
these, sayi ng onl y that the soul must keep i tsel f from al l revel ati ons i n order to
453
Romans x, 17.
454
2 St. Peter i , 19.
455
Eccl esi astes vi i , 1.
178
journey, i n puri ty and wi thout error, i n the ni ght of fai th, to uni on.
CHAPTER XXVI I I
Which treats of interior locutions that may come to the spirit supernaturally. Says of
what kinds they are.
THE di screet reader has ever need to bear i n mi nd the i ntent and end whi ch I have
i n thi s book, whi ch i s the di recti on of the soul , through al l i ts apprehensi ons,
natural and supernatural , wi thout decepti on or hi ndrance, i n puri ty of fai th, to
Di vi ne uni on wi th God. I f he does thi s, he wi l l understand that, al though wi th
respect to apprehensi ons of the soul and the doctri ne that I am expoundi ng I gi ve
not such copi ous i nstructi on nei ther do I parti cul ari ze so much or make so many
di vi si ons as the understandi ng perchance requi res, I am not bei ng over-bri ef i n thi s
matter. For wi th respect to al l thi s I bel i eve that suffi ci ent cauti ons, expl anati ons
and i nstructi ons are gi ven for the soul to be enabl ed to behave prudentl y i n every
conti ngency, outward or i nward, so as to make progress. And thi s i s the reason why
I have so bri efl y di smi ssed the subject of propheti c apprehensi ons and the other
subjects al l i ed to i t; for there i s so much more to be sai d of each of them, accordi ng
to the di fferences and the ways and manners that are wont to be observed i n each,
that I bel i eve one coul d never know i t al l perfectl y. I am content that, as I bel i eve,
the substance and the doctri ne thereof have been gi ven, and the soul has been
warned of the cauti on whi ch i t behoves i t to exerci se i n thi s respect, and al so
concerni ng al l other thi ngs of the same ki nd that may come to pass wi thi n i t.
2. I wi l l now fol l ow the same course wi th regard to the thi rd ki nd of
apprehensi on, whi ch, we sai d, was that of supernatural l ocuti ons, whi ch are apt to
come to the spi ri ts of spi ri tual persons wi thout the i nterventi on of any bodi l y sense.
These, al though they are of many ki nds, may, I bel i eve, al l be reduced to three,
namel y: successi ve, formal and substanti al . I descri be as successi ve certai n words
and arguments whi ch the spi ri t i s wont to form and fashi on when i t i s i nwardl y
recol l ected. Formal words are certai n cl ear and di sti nct words
456
whi ch the spi ri t
recei ves, not from i tsel f, but from a thi rd person, someti mes when i t i s recol l ected
and someti mes when i t i s not. Substanti al words are others whi ch al so come to the
spi ri t formal l y, someti mes when i t i s recol l ected and someti mes when i t i s not; these
cause i n the substance of the soul that substance and vi rtue whi ch they si gni fy. Al l
these we shal l here proceed to treat i n thei r order.
CHAPTER XXI X
Which treats of the first kind of words that the recollected spirit sometimes forms
within itself. Describes the cause of these and the profit and the harm which there
may be in them.
These successi ve words al ways come when the spi ri t i s recol l ected and absorbed
very attenti vel y i n some medi tati on; and, i n i ts refl ecti ons upon that same matter
whereon i t i s thi nki ng, i t proceeds from one stage to another, formi ng words and
arguments whi ch are very much to the poi nt, wi th great faci l i ty and di sti ncti veness,
456
[Lit., 'certai n di sti nct and formal words.']
179
and by means of i ts reasoni ng di scovers thi ngs whi ch i t knew not wi th respect to the
subject of i ts refl ecti ons, so that i t seems not to be doi ng thi s i tsel f, but rather i t
seems that another person i s suppl yi ng the reasoni ng wi thi n i ts mi nd or answeri ng
i ts questi ons or teachi ng i t. And i n truth i t has good cause for thi nki ng thi s, for the
soul i tsel f i s reasoni ng wi th i tsel f and answeri ng i tsel f as though i t were two
persons conveni ng together; and i n some ways thi s i s real l y so; for, al though i t i s the
spi ri t i tsel f that works as an i nstrument, the Hol y Spi ri t oftenti mes ai ds i t to
produce and form those true reasoni ngs, words and concepti ons. And thus i t utters
them to i tsel f as though to a thi rd person. For, as at that ti me the understandi ng i s
recol l ected and uni ted wi th the truth of that whereon i t i s thi nki ng, and the Di vi ne
Spi ri t i s l i kewi se uni ted wi th i t i n that truth, as i t i s al ways uni ted i n al l truth, i t
fol l ows that, when the understandi ng communi cates i n thi s way wi th the Di vi ne
Spi ri t by means of thi s truth, i t begi ns to form wi thi n i tsel f, successi vel y, those
other truths whi ch are connected wi th that whereon i t i s thi nki ng, the door bei ng
opened to i t and i l l umi nati on bei ng gi ven to i t conti nual l y by the Hol y Spi ri t Who
teaches i t. For thi s i s one of the ways wherei n the Hol y Spi ri t teaches.
2. And when the understandi ng i s i l l umi ned and taught i n thi s way by thi s
master, and comprehends these truths, i t begi ns of i ts own accord to form the words
whi ch rel ate to the truths that are communi cated to i t from el sewhere. So that we
may say that the voi ce i s the voi ce of Jacob and the hands are the hand of Esau.
457
And one that i s i n thi s condi ti on wi l l be unabl e to bel i eve that thi s i s so, but wi l l
thi nk that the sayi ngs and the words come from a thi rd person. For such a one
knows not the faci l i ty wi th whi ch the understandi ng can form words i nwardl y, as
though they came from a thi rd person, and havi ng reference to concepti ons and
truths whi ch have i n fact been communi cated to i t by a thi rd person.
3. And al though i t i s true that, i n thi s communi cati on and enl i ghtenment of
the understandi ng, no decepti on i s produced i n the soul i tsel f, neverthel ess,
decepti on may, and does, frequentl y occur i n the formal words and reasoni ngs whi ch
the understandi ng bases upon i t. For, i nasmuch as thi s i l l umi nati on whi ch i t
recei ves i s at ti mes very subtl e and spi ri tual , so that the understandi ng cannot
attai n to a cl ear apprehensi on of i t, and i t i s the understandi ng that, as we say,
forms the reasoni ngs of i ts own accord, i t fol l ows that those whi ch i t forms are
frequentl y fal se, and on other occasi ons are onl y apparentl y true, or are i mperfect.
For si nce at the outset the soul began to sei ze the truth, and then brought i nto pl ay
the ski l ful ness or the cl umsi ness of i ts own weak understandi ng, i ts percepti on of
the truth may easi l y be modi fi ed by the i nstabi l i ty of i ts own facul ti es of
comprehensi on, and act al l the ti me exactl y as though a thi rd person were speaki ng.
4. I knew a person who had these successi ve l ocuti ons: among them were
some very true and substanti al ones concerni ng the most hol y Sacrament of the
Euchari st, but others were sheer heresy. And I am appal l ed at what happens i n
these days -- namel y, when some soul wi th the very smal l est experi ence
458
of
medi tati on, i f i t be consci ous of certai n l ocuti ons of thi s ki nd i n some state of
recol l ecti on, at once chri stens them al l as comi ng from God, and assumes that thi s
i s the case, sayi ng: 'God sai d to me . . .'; 'God answered me . . .'; whereas i t i s not so
at al l , but, as we have sai d, i t i s for the most part they who are sayi ng these thi ngs
to themsel ves.
5. And, over and above thi s, the desi re whi ch peopl e have for l ocuti ons, and
457
Genesi s xxvi i , 22.
458
[Lit., 'wi th four maravedí s' worth of experi ence.' The maravedí was a smal l coi n, worth 1/375 of a
gol d ducat, the uni t of coi nage at thi s ti me i n Casti l e.]
180
the pl easure whi ch comes to thei r spi ri ts from them, l ead them to make answer to
themsel ves and then to thi nk that i t i s God Who i s answeri ng them and speaki ng to
them. They therefore commi t great bl unders unl ess they i mpose a stri ct restrai nt
upon themsel ves, and unl ess thei r di rector obl i ges them to abstai n from these ki nds
of refl ecti on. For they are apt to gai n from them mere nonsensi cal tal k and i mpuri ty
of soul rather than humi l i ty and morti fi cati on of spi ri t, i f they thi nk, 'Thi s was
i ndeed a great thi ng' and 'God was speaki ng'; whereas i t wi l l have been l i ttl e more
than nothi ng, or nothi ng at al l , or l ess than nothi ng. For, i f humi l i ty and chari ty be
not engendered by such experi ences, and morti fi cati on and hol y si mpl i ci ty and
si l ence, etc., what can be the val ue of them? I say, then, that these thi ngs may
hi nder the soul greatl y i n i ts progress to Di vi ne uni on because, i f i t pay heed to
them, i t i s l ed far astray from the abyss of fai th, where the understandi ng must
remai n i n darkness, and must journey i n darkness, by l ove and i n fai th, and not by
much reasoni ng.
6. And i f you ask me why the understandi ng must be depri ved of these
truths, si nce through them i t i s i l l umi ned by the Spi ri t of God, and thus they
459
cannot be evi l , I repl y that the Hol y Spi ri t i l l umi nes the understandi ng whi ch i s
recol l ected, and i l l umi nes i t accordi ng to the manner of i ts recol l ecti on,
460
and that
the understandi ng cannot fi nd any other and greater recol l ecti on than i n fai th; and
thus the Hol y Spi ri t wi l l i l l umi ne i t i n naught more than i n fai th. For the purer and
the more refi ned i n fai th i s the soul , the more i t has of the i nfused chari ty of God;
and the more chari ty i t has, the more i s i t i l l umi ned and the more gi fts of the Hol y
Spi ri t are communi cated to i t, for chari ty i s the cause and the means whereby they
are communi cated to i t. And al though i t i s true that, i n thi s i l l umi nati on of truths,
the Hol y Spi ri t communi cates a certai n l i ght to the soul , thi s i s neverthel ess as
di fferent i n qual i ty from that whi ch i s i n fai th, wherei n i s no cl ear understandi ng,
as i s the most preci ous gol d from the basest metal ; and, wi th regard to i ts quanti ty,
the one i s as much greater than the other as the sea i s greater than a drop of water.
For i n the one manner there i s communi cated to the soul wi sdom concerni ng one or
two or three truths, etc., but i n the other there i s communi cated to i t al l the wi sdom
of God i n general , whi ch i s the Son of God, Who communi cates Hi msel f to the soul
i n fai th.
7. And i f you tel l me that thi s i s al l good, and that the one i mpedes not the
other, I repl y that i t i mpedes i t greatl y i f the soul sets store by i t; for to do thi s i s to
occupy i tsel f wi th thi ngs whi ch are cl ear and of l i ttl e i mportance, yet whi ch are
suffi ci ent to hi nder the communi cati on of the abyss of fai th, wherei n God
supernatural l y and secretl y i nstructs the soul , and exal ts i t i n vi rtues and gi fts i n a
way that i t knows not. And the profi t whi ch these successi ve communi cati ons wi l l
bri ng us cannot come by our del i beratel y appl yi ng the understandi ng to them, for i f
we do thi s they wi l l rather l ead us astray, even as Wi sdom says to the soul i n the
Songs: 'Turn away thi ne eyes from me, for they make me to fl y away.'
461
That i s so
say: They make me to fl y far away from thee and to set mysel f hi gher. We must
459
[Lit., 'and thus i t.']
460
Thi s profound and i mportant pri nci pl e, whi ch has often been devel oped i n mysti cal theol ogy, i s
wel l expounded by P. José de Jesús Marí a i n a treati se cal l ed Reply to a question [Respuesta a una
duda]. Here, among other thi ngs, he says: 'As St. Thomas proves (De Veritate, q. 12, a. 6), Di vi ne
i l l umi nati on, l i ke every other spi ri tual form, i s communi cated to the soul after the manner of the
recei ver of i t, whether accordi ng to sense or accordi ng to spi ri t, to the parti cul ar or to the uni versal .
And thus, he that recei ves i t must prepare hi msel f for i t to be communi cated to hi m further, whether
i n smal l measure (as we say) or accordi ng to sense, or i n l arge measure or i ntel l ectual l y.'
461
[Canti cl es vi , 4.]
181
therefore not appl y the understandi ng to that whi ch i s bei ng supernatural l y
communi cated to i t, but si mpl y and si ncerel y appl y the wi l l to God wi th l ove, for i t
i s through l ove that these good thi ngs are communi cated and through l ove they wi l l
be communi cated i n greater abundance than before. For i f the abi l i ty of the natural
understandi ng or of other facul ti es be brought acti vel y to bear upon these thi ngs
whi ch are communi cated supernatural l y and passi vel y, i ts i mperfect nature wi l l not
reach them, and thus they wi l l perforce be modi fi ed accordi ng to the capaci ty of the
understandi ng, and consequentl y wi l l perforce be changed; and thus the
understandi ng wi l l necessari l y go astray and begi n to form reasoni ngs wi thi n i tsel f,
and there wi l l no l onger be anythi ng supernatural or any sembl ance thereof, but al l
wi l l be merel y natural and most erroneous and unworthy.
8. But there are certai n types of understandi ng so qui ck and subtl e that,
when they become recol l ected duri ng some medi tati on, they i nvent concepti ons, and
begi n natural l y, and wi th great faci l i ty, to form these concepti ons i nto the most
l i fel i ke words and arguments, whi ch they thi nk, wi thout any doubt, come from God.
Yet al l the ti me they come onl y from the understandi ng, whi ch, wi th i ts natural
i l l umi nati on, bei ng to some extent freed from the operati on of the senses, i s abl e to
effect al l thi s, and more, wi thout any supernatural ai d. Thi s happens very
commonl y, and many persons are greatl y decei ved by i t, thi nki ng that they have
attai ned to a hi gh degree of prayer and are recei vi ng communi cati ons from God,
wherefore they ei ther wri te thi s down or cause i t to be wri tten. And i t turns out to
be nothi ng, and to have the substance of no vi rtue, and i t serves onl y to encourage
them i n vani ty.
9. Let these persons l earn to be i ntent upon naught, save onl y upon
groundi ng the wi l l i n humbl e l ove, worki ng di l i gentl y, sufferi ng and thus i mi tati ng
the Son of God i n Hi s l i fe and morti fi cati ons, for i t i s by thi s road that a man wi l l
come to al l spi ri tual good, rather than by much i nward reasoni ng.
10. I n thi s type of l ocuti on -- namel y, i n successi ve i nteri or words -- the devi l
frequentl y i ntervenes, especi al l y i n the case of such as have some i ncl i nati on or
affecti on for them. At ti mes when such persons begi n to be recol l ected, the devi l i s
accustomed to offer them ampl e materi al for di stracti ons, formi ng concepti ons or
words by suggesti on i n thei r understandi ng, and then corrupti ng
462
and decei vi ng i t
most subtl y wi th thi ngs that have every appearance of bei ng true. And thi s i s one of
the manners wherei n he communi cates wi th those who have made some i mpl i ci t or
expressed compact wi th hi m; as wi th certai n hereti cs, especi al l y wi th certai n
heresi archs, whose understandi ng he fi l l s wi th most subtl e, fal se and erroneous
concepti ons and arguments.
11. From what has been sai d, i t i s evi dent that these successi ve l ocuti ons may
proceed i n the understandi ng from three causes, namel y: from the Di vi ne Spi ri t,
Who moves and i l l umi nes the understandi ng; from the natural i l l umi nati on of the
same understandi ng; and from the devi l , who may speak to the soul by suggesti on.
To descri be now the si gns and i ndi cati ons by whi ch a man may know when they
proceed from one cause and when from another woul d be somewhat di ffi cul t, as al so
to gi ve exampl es and i ndi cati ons. I t i s qui te possi bl e, however, to gi ve some general
si gns, whi ch are these. When i n i ts words and concepti ons the soul fi nds i tsel f l ovi ng
God, and at the same ti me i s consci ous not onl y of l ove but al so of humi l i ty and
reverence, i t i s a si gn that the Hol y Spi ri t i s worki ng wi thi n i t, for, whensoever He
grants favours, He grants them wi th thi s accompani ment.
463
When the l ocuti ons
462
[Lit., 'and then throwi ng i t down.']
463
[Lit., 'He grants them wrapped up i n thi s.']
182
proceed sol el y from the vi vaci ty and bri l l i ance of the understandi ng, i t i s the
understandi ng that accompl i shes everythi ng, wi thout the operati on of the vi rtues
(al though the wi l l , i n the knowl edge and i l l umi nati on of those truths, may l ove
natural l y); and, when the medi tati on i s over, the wi l l remai ns dry, al bei t i ncl i ned
nei ther to vani ty nor to evi l , unl ess the devi l shoul d tempt i t afresh about thi s
matter. Thi s, however, i s not the case when the l ocuti ons have been prompted by a
good spi ri t; for then, as a rul e, the wi l l i s afterwards affecti oned to God and i ncl i ned
to wel l -doi ng. At certai n ti mes, neverthel ess, i t wi l l happen that, al though the
communi cati on has been the work of a good spi ri t, the wi l l remai ns i n ari di ty, si nce
God ordai ns i t so for certai n causes whi ch are of assi stance to the soul . At other
ti mes the soul wi l l not be very consci ous of the operati ons or moti ons of those
vi rtues, yet that whi ch i t has experi enced wi l l be good. Wherefore I say that the
di fference between these l ocuti ons i s someti mes di ffi cul t to recogni ze, by reason of
the vari ed effects whi ch they produce; but these whi ch have now been descri bed are
the most common, al though someti mes they occur i n greater abundance and
someti mes i n l ess. But those that come from the devi l are someti mes di ffi cul t to
understand and recogni ze, for, al though i t i s true that as a rul e they l eave the wi l l
i n ari di ty wi th respect to l ove of God, and the mi nd i ncl i ned to vani ty, sel f-esteem or
compl acency, neverthel ess they someti mes i nspi re the soul wi th a fal se humi l i ty
and a fervent affecti on of the wi l l rooted i n sel f-l ove, so that at ti mes a person must
be extremel y spi ri tual l y-mi nded to recogni ze i t. And thi s the devi l does i n order the
better to protect hi msel f; for he knows very wel l how someti mes to produce tears by
the feel i ngs whi ch he i nspi res i n a soul , i n order that he may conti nue to i mpl ant i n
i t the affecti ons that he desi res. But he al ways stri ves to move i ts wi l l so that i t may
esteem those i nteri or communi cati ons, attach great i mportance to them, and, as a
resul t, gi ve i tsel f up to them and be occupi ed i n that whi ch i s not vi rtue, but i s
rather the occasi on of l osi ng vi rtue as the soul may have.
12. Let us remember, then, thi s necessary cauti on, both as to the one type of
l ocuti on and as to the other, so that we may not be decei ved or hi ndered by them.
Let us treasure none of them, but thi nk onl y of l earni ng to di rect our wi l l
determi nedl y to God, ful fi l l i ng Hi s l aw and Hi s hol y counsel s perfectl y, whi ch i s the
wi sdom of the Sai nts, and contenti ng oursel ves wi th knowi ng the mysteri es and
truths
wi th the si mpl i ci ty and truth wherewi th the Church sets them before us. For
thi s i s suffi ci ent to enki ndl e the wi l l greatl y, so that we need not pry i nto other deep
and curi ous thi ngs wherei n i t i s a wonder i f there i s no peri l . For wi th respect to
thi s Sai nt Paul says: I t i s not fi tti ng to know more than i t behoves us
464
to know.
465
And l et thi s suffi ce wi th respect to thi s matter of successi ve words.
CHAPTER XXX
Which treats of the interior words that come to the spirit formally by supernatural
means. Warns the reader of the harm which they may do and of the caution that is
necessary in order that the soul may not be deceived by them.
THE i nteri or words bel ongi ng to the second type are formal words, whi ch at certai n
ti mes come to the spi ri t by supernatural means, wi thout the i nterventi on of any of
464
[The verbs used i n the Spani sh for 'i s fi tti ng' and behoves' are the same.]
465
Romans xi i , 3.
183
the senses, someti mes when the spi ri t i s recol l ected and at other ti mes when i t i s
not. I cal l them formal because they are communi cated to the spi ri t formal l y by a
thi rd person, the spi ri t i tsel f pl ayi ng no part i n thi s. And they are therefore very
di fferent from those whi ch we have just descri bed; because not onl y i s there thi s
di fference, that they come wi thout any such i nterventi on of the spi ri t i tsel f as takes
pl ace i n the other case; but al so, as I say, they someti mes come when the spi ri t i s
not recol l ected and even when i t i s far from thi nki ng of the subject of what i s bei ng
sai d to i t. Thi s i s not so i n the fi rst type of l ocuti on -- namel y, that of successi ve
words -- whi ch al ways has some rel ati on to the subject whi ch the soul i s
consi deri ng.
2. These words are someti mes very cl earl y formed and someti mes l ess so; for
they are frequentl y l i ke concepti ons i n whi ch somethi ng i s sai d to the spi ri t,
whether i n the form of a repl y to i t or i n that of another manner of address.
Someti mes there i s onl y one word; someti mes there are two or more; someti mes the
words succeed one another l i ke those al ready descri bed, for they are apt to be
conti nuous, ei ther i nstructi ng the soul or di scussi ng somethi ng wi th i t; and al l thi s
comes to pass wi thout any part bei ng pl ayed therei n by the spi ri t, for i t i s just as
though one person were speaki ng wi th another. I n thi s way, we read, i t came to
pass wi th Dani el , who says that the angel spoke wi thi n hi m.
466
Thi s was a formal
and successi ve di scourse wi thi n hi s spi ri t, whi ch i nstructed hi m, even as the angel
decl ared at the ti me, sayi ng that he had come to i nstruct hi m.
3. When these words are no more than formal , the effect whi ch they produce
upon the soul i s not great. For ordi nari l y they serve onl y to i nstruct or i l l umi ne wi th
respect to one thi ng; and, i n order to produce thi s effect, i t i s not necessary that they
shoul d produce any other effect more effi caci ous than the purpose to whi ch they are
l eadi ng. And when they are of God they i nvari abl y work thi s i n the soul ; for they
make i t ready and qui ck to do that whi ch i t i s commanded or i nstructed to do; yet at
ti mes they take not from i t the repugnance or the di ffi cul ty whi ch i t feel s, but are
rather wont to i ncrease these, accordi ng as God ordai ns for the better i nstructi on,
i ncreased humi l i ty and greater good of the soul . And thi s repugnance most
commonl y occurs when the soul i s commanded to do thi ngs of a hi gh order, or thi ngs
of a ki nd that may exal t i t; when thi ngs are commanded i t that conduce to i ts
greater l owl i ness and humi l i ty, i t responds wi th more readi ness and ease. And thus
we read i n Exodus that, when God commanded Moses to go to Pharao and dri ver the
peopl e, he showed such great repugnance that He had to command hi m three ti mes
to do i t and to perform si gns for hi m; and al l thi s was of no avai l unti l God gave hi m
Aaron for a compani on to take part of the honour.
467
4. When, on the other hand, the words and communi cati ons are of the devi l , i t
comes to pass that the soul responds wi th more ease and readi ness to thi ngs that
are of greater wei ght,
468
and for l owl i er thi ngs i t concei ves repugnance. The fact i s
that God so greatl y abhors seei ng soul s attracted by hi gh posi ti on that, even when
He commands and obl i ges them to accept such posi ti ons, He desi res them not to be
ready and anxi ous to command. I t i s thi s readi ness whi ch God commonl y i nspi res i n
the soul , through these formal words, that consti tutes one great di fference between
them and those other successi ve words: the l atter move not the spi ri t so much,
nei ther do they i nspi re i t wi th such readi ness, si nce they are l ess formal , and si nce
the understandi ng has more to do wi th them. Neverthel ess successi ve words may
466
Dani el i x, 22.
467
Exodus i i i , i v.
468
[Lit., 'greater worth.']
184
someti mes produce a greater effect by reason of the cl ose communi cati on that there
i s at ti mes between the Di vi ne Spi ri t and the human. I t i s i n the manner of thei r
comi ng that there i s a great di fference between the two ki nds of l ocuti on. Wi th
respect to formal words the soul can have no doubt as to whether or no i t i s
pronounci ng them i tsel f, for i t sees qui te ready that i t i s not, especi al l y when i t has
not been thi nki ng of the subject of that whi ch has been sai d to i t; and even when i t
has been so thi nki ng i t feel s very cl earl y and di sti nctl y that the words come from
el sewhere.
5. The soul must no more attach i mportance to al l these formal words than to
the other, or successi ve, words; for, apart from the fact that to do so woul d occupy
the spi ri t wi th that whi ch i s not a l egi ti mate and proxi mate means to uni on wi th
God -- namel y, fai th -- i t mi ght al so very easi l y cause i t to be decei ved by the devi l .
For someti mes i t i s hardl y possi bl e to know what words are spoken by a good spi ri t,
and what by an evi l spi ri t. By thei r effects they can hardl y be di sti ngui shed at al l ,
si nce nei ther ki nd produces effects of much i mportance: someti mes, i ndeed, wi th
i mperfect soul s, words whi ch come from the devi l have more effi cacy than have
these others, whi ch come from a good spi ri t, wi th soul s that are spi ri tual . The soul ,
then, must take no account of what these words may express, nor attach any
i mportance to them, whether the spi ri t from whi ch they come be good or evi l . But
the words must be repeated to an experi enced confessor, or to a di screet and l earned
person, that he may gi ve i nstructi on and see what i t i s wel l to do, and i mpart hi s
advi ce; and the soul must behave, wi th regard to them, i n a resi gned and negati ve
way. And, i f such an expert person cannot be found, i t i s better to attach no
i mportance to these words and to repeat them to nobody; for i t i s easy to fi nd
persons who wi l l rui n the soul rather than edi fy i t. Soul s must not be gi ven i nto the
charge of any ki nd of di rector, si nce i n so grave a matter i t i s of the greatest
i mportance whether one goes astray or acts ri ghtl y.
6. And l et i t be careful l y noted that a soul shoul d never act accordi ng to i ts
own opi ni on or accept anythi ng of what these l ocuti ons express, wi thout much
refl ecti on and wi thout taki ng advi ce of another. For strange and subtl e decepti ons
may ari se i n thi s matter; so much so that I mysel f bel i eve that the soul that does not
set i tsel f agai nst accepti ng such thi ngs cannot fai l to be decei ved by many of them.
7. And si nce we have treated of these decepti ons and peri l s, and of the
cauti on to be observed wi th regard to them, i n Chapters seventeen, ei ghteen,
ni neteen and twenty of thi s book, I refer the reader to these and say no more on thi s
matter here; I onl y repeat that my chi ef i nstructi on i s that the soul shoul d attach no
i mportance to these thi ngs i n any way.
CHAPTER XXXI
Which treats of the substantial words that come interiorly to the spirit. Describes the
difference between them and formal words, and the profit which they bring and the
resignation and respect which the soul must observe with regard to them.
469
469
Thi s chapter i s notabl e for the hardl y surpassabl e cl ari ty and preci si ons wi th whi ch the Sai nt
defi nes substanti al l ocuti ons. Some cri ti cs, however, have found faul t wi th hi m for sayi ng that the
soul shoul d not fear these l ocuti ons, but accept them humbl y and passi vel y, si nce they depend whol l y
on God. The repl y i s that, when God favours the soul wi th these l ocuti ons, i ts own restl ess effort can
onl y i mpede Hi s work i n i t, as has al ready been sai d. The soul i s trul y co-operati ng wi th God by
prepari ng i tsel f wi th resi gnati on and humbl e affecti on to recei ve Hi s favours: i t shoul d not, as some
cri ti cs have asserted, remai n compl etel y i nacti ve. As to the fear of bei ng decei ved by these l ocuti ons,
185
THE thi rd ki nd of i nteri or words, we sai d, i s cal l ed substanti al . These substanti al
words, al though they are l i kewi se formal , si nce they are i mpressed upon the soul i n
a defi ni tel y formal way, di ffer, neverthel ess, i n that substanti al words produce vi vi d
and substanti al effects upon the soul , whereas words whi ch are merel y formal do
not. So that, al though i t i s true that every substanti al word i s formal , every formal
word i s not therefore substanti al , but onl y, as we sai d above, such a word as
i mpresses substanti al l y on the soul that whi ch i t si gni fi es. I t i s as i f Our Lord were
to say formal l y to the soul : 'Be thou good'; i t woul d then be substanti al l y good. Or as
i f He were to say to i t: 'Love thou Me'; i t woul d then have and feel wi thi n i tsel f the
substance of l ove for God. Or as i f i t feared greatl y and He sai d to i t: 'Fear thou not';
i t woul d at once feel wi thi n i tsel f great forti tude and tranqui l i ty. For the sayi ng of
God, and Hi s word, as the Wi se Man says, i s ful l of power;
470
and thus that whi ch
He says to the soul He produces substanti al l y wi thi n i t. For i t i s thi s that Davi d
meant when he sai d: 'See, He wi l l gi ve to Hi s voi ce a voi ce of vi rtue.'
471
And even so
wi th Abraham, when He sai d to hi m: 'Wal k i n My presence and be perfect':
472
he
was then perfect and wal ked ever i n the fear of God. And thi s i s the power of Hi s
word i n the Gospel , wherewi th He heal ed the si ck, rai sed the dead, etc., by no more
than a word. And after thi s manner He gi ves certai n soul s l ocuti ons whi ch are
substanti al ; and they are of such moment and pri ce that they are l i fe and vi rtue and
i ncomparabl e good to the soul ; for one of these words works greater good wi thi n the
soul than al l that the soul i tsel f has done throughout i ts l i fe.
2. Wi th respect to these words, the soul shoul d do nothi ng. I t shoul d nei ther
desi re them nor refrai n from desi ri ng them; i t shoul d nei ther reject them nor fear
them. I t shoul d do nothi ng i n the way of executi ng what these words express, for
these substanti al words are never pronounced by God i n order that the soul may
transl ate them i nto acti on, but that He may so transl ate them wi thi n the soul ;
herei n they di ffer from formal and successi ve words. And I say that the soul must
nei ther desi re nor refrai n from desi ri ng, si nce i ts desi re i s not necessary for God to
transl ate these words i nto effect, nor i s i t suffi ci ent for the soul to refrai n from
desi ri ng i n order for the sai d effect not to be produced. Let the soul rather be
resi gned and humbl e wi th respect to them. I t must not reject them, si nce the effect
of these words remai ns substanti al l y wi thi n i t and i s ful l of the good whi ch comes
from God. As the soul recei ves thi s good passi vel y, i ts acti on i s at no ti me of any
i mportance. Nor shoul d i t fear any decepti on; for nei ther the understandi ng nor the
devi l can i ntervene herei n, nor can they succeed i n passi vel y produci ng thi s
substanti al effect i n the soul , i n such a way that the effect and habi t of the l ocuti on
may be i mpressed upon i t, unl ess the soul shoul d have gi ven i tsel f to the devi l by a
vol untary compact, and he shoul d have dwel t i n i t as i ts master, and i mpressed
upon i t these effects, not of good, but of evi l . I nasmuch as that soul woul d be al ready
vol untari l y uni ted to hi m i n perversi ty, the devi l mi ght easi l y i mpress upon i t the
effects of hi s sayi ngs and words wi th evi l i ntent. For we see by experi ence that i n
many thi ngs and even upon good soul s he works great vi ol ence, by means of
suggesti on, maki ng hi s suggesti ons very effi caci ous; and i f they were evi l he mi ght
both St. Thomas and al l the pri nci pal commentators are i n conformi ty wi th the Sai nt's teachi ng. St.
Teresa, too, took the same atti tude as St. John of the Cross. Cf. her Life, Chap. xxv, and I nterior
Castle, VI , i i i .
470
Eccl esi astes vi i i , 4.
471
Psal m l xvi i , 34 [A.V., l xvi i i , 33].
472
Genesi s xvi i , 1.
186
work i n them the consummati on of these suggesti ons. But he cannot l eave upon a
soul effects si mi l ar to those of l ocuti ons whi ch are good; for there i s no compari son
between the l ocuti ons of the devi l and those of God. The former are al l as though
they were not, i n compari son wi th the l atter, nei ther do they produce any effect at
al l compared wi th the effect of these. For thi s cause God says through Jeremi as:
'What has the chaff to do wi th the wheat? Are not My words perchance as fi re, and
as a hammer that breaketh the rock i n pi eces?'
473
And thus these substanti al words
are greatl y conduci ve to the uni on of the soul wi th God; and the more i nteri or they
are, the more substanti al are they, and the greater i s the profi t that they bri ng.
Happy i s the soul to whom God addresses these words. Speak, Lord, for Thy servant
heareth.
474
CHAPTER XXXI I
Which treats of the apprehensions received by the understanding from interior
feelings which come supernaturally to the soul. Describes their cause, and the
manner wherein the soul must conduct itself so that they may not obstruct its road to
union with God.
I T i s now ti me to treat of the fourth and l ast ki nd of i ntel l ectual apprehensi on
whi ch we sai d mi ght come to the understandi ng through the spi ri tual feel i ngs
whi ch are frequentl y produced supernatural l y i n the soul s of spi ri tual persons and
whi ch we count amongst the di sti nct apprehensi ons of the understandi ng.
2. These di sti nct spi ri tual feel i ngs may be of two ki nds. The fi rst ki nd i s i n
the affecti on of the wi l l . The second, i n the substance of the soul . Each of these may
be of many ki nds. Those of the wi l l , when they are of God, are most subl i me; but
those that are of the substance of the soul are very hi gh and of great good and
profi t. As to these, nei ther the soul nor he that treats wi th i t can know or
understand the cause whence they proceed, or what are the acts whereby God may
grant i t these favours; for they depend not upon any works performed by the soul ,
nor upon i ts medi tati ons, al though both these thi ngs are a good preparati on for
them: God grants these favours to whom He wi l l s and for what reason He wi l l s.
475
For i t may come to pass that a person wi l l have performed many good works, yet
that He wi l l not gi ve hi m these touches of Hi s favour; and another wi l l have done
far fewer good works, yet He wi l l gi ve hi m them to a most subl i me degree and i n
great abundance. And thus i t i s not needful that the soul shoul d be actual l y
empl oyed and occupi ed i n spi ri tual thi ngs (al though i t i s much better that i t shoul d
be so empl oyed i f i t i s to have these favours) for God to gi ve i t these touches i n
whi ch the soul experi ences the sai d feel i ngs; for i n the majori ty of cases the soul i s
compl etel y heedl ess of them. Of these touches, some are di sti nct and pass qui ckl y
away; others are l ess di sti nct and l ast l onger.
3. These feel i ngs, i nasmuch as they are feel i ngs onl y, bel ong not to the
understandi ng but to the wi l l ; and thus I refrai n, of set purpose, from treati ng of
473
Jeremi as xxi i i , 28-9.
474
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] i i i , 10.
475
A, B: 'and how He wi l l s.' Note that the Sai nt does not deprecate good works, as di d the I l l umi ni sts
[alumbrados], who bade the perfect soul set them asi de for contempl ati on, even though they were
works of obl i gati on. On the contrary, he asserts that good works have a defi ni te, though a
preparatory, part to pl ay i n the l i fe of a contempl ati ve.
187
them here, nor shal l I do so unti l we treat of the ni ght and purgati on of the wi l l i n
i ts affecti ons: thi s wi l l be i n the thi rd book, whi ch fol l ows thi s.
476
But si nce
frequentl y, and even i n the majori ty of cases, apprehensi ons and knowl edge and
i ntel l i gence overfl ow from them i nto the understandi ng, i t woul d be wel l to make
menti on of them here, for that reason onl y. I t must be known, then, that from these
feel i ngs, both from those of the wi l l and from those whi ch are i n the substance of the
soul , whether they are caused suddenl y by the touches of God, or are durabl e and
successi ve, an apprehensi on of knowl edge or i ntel l i gence frequentl y overfl ows, as I
say, i nto the understandi ng; and thi s i s normal l y a most subl i me percepti on of God,
most del ectabl e to the understandi ng, to whi ch no name can be gi ven, any more
than to the feel i ng whence i t overfl ows. And these mani festati ons of knowl edge are
someti mes of one ki nd and someti mes of another; someti mes they are cl earer and
more subl i me, accordi ng to the nature of the touches whi ch come from God and
whi ch produce the feel i ngs whence they proceed, and accordi ng al so to thei r
i ndi vi dual characteri sti cs.
4. I t i s unnecessary here to spend a great store of words i n cauti oni ng and
di recti ng the understandi ng, through these mani festati ons of knowl edge, i n fai th, to
uni on wi th God. For al bei t the feel i ngs whi ch we have descri bed are produced
passi vel y i n the soul , wi thout any effecti ve assi stance to that end on i ts own part,
even so l i kewi se i s the knowl edge of them recei ved passi vel y i n the understandi ng,
i n a way cal l ed by the phi l osophers 'passi bl e,' wherei n the understandi ng pl ays no
part. Wherefore, i n order not to go astray on thei r account nor to i mpede the profi t
whi ch comes from them, the understandi ng must do nothi ng i n connecti on wi th
these feel i ngs, but must conduct i tsel f passi vel y, and not i nterfere by appl yi ng to
them i ts natural capaci ty. For, as we have sai d i s the case wi th successi ve l ocuti ons,
the understandi ng, wi th i ts acti vi ty, woul d very easi l y di sturb and rui n the effect of
these del i cate mani festati ons of knowl edge, whi ch are a del ectabl e supernatural
i ntel l i gence that human nature cannot attai n or apprehend by i ts own efforts, but
onl y by remai ni ng i n a state of recepti vi ty.
477
And thus the soul must not stri ve to
attai n them or desi re to recei ve them, l est the understandi ng shoul d form other
mani festati ons of i ts own, or the devi l shoul d make hi s entry wi th sti l l more that
are di fferent from them and fal se. Thi s he may very wel l do by means of the feel i ngs
aforementi oned, or of those whi ch he can hi msel f i nfuse i nto the soul that devotes
i tsel f to these ki nds of knowl edge. Let the soul be resi gned, humbl e and passi ve
herei n, for, si nce i t recei ves thi s knowl edge passi vel y from God, He wi l l
communi cate i t whensoever He i s pl eased, i f He sees the soul to be humbl e and
detached. And i n thi s way the soul wi l l do nothi ng to counteract the hel p whi ch
these ki nds of knowl edge gi ve i t i n i ts progress toward Di vi ne uni on, whi ch hel p i s
great; for these touches are al l touches of uni on, whi ch i s wrought passi vel y i n the
soul .
478
476
Al c. al one has: 'whi ch fol l ows thi s.' The Sai nt does not, i n fact, return to thi s matter, ei ther i n the
thi rd book or el sewhere.
477
[Lit., 'or apprehend by doi ng, but by recei vi ng.']
478
Some edi ti ons here add a l ong paragraph, whi ch, however, i s the work of P. Jeróni mo de San
José, who was responsi bl e for the edi ti on of 1630. I t appears nei ther i n the MSS. nor i n e.p. I t runs
as fol l ows:
Al l the i nstructi on whi ch has been gi ven i n thi s book on total abstracti on and passi ve
contempl ati on, wherei n, obl i vi ous to al l created thi ngs and detached from i mages and fi gures, we
al l ow oursel ves to be gui ded by God, dwel l i ng wi th si mpl e regard upon supreme truth, i s appl i cabl e
not onl y to that act of most perfect contempl ati on, the l ofty and whol l y supernatural repose of whi ch
i s sti l l prevented by the daughters of Jerusal em (namel y, good refl ecti ons and medi tati ons), i f at that
188
5. What has been sai d concerni ng thi s suffi ces, for no matter what may
happen to the soul wi th respect to the understandi ng, cauti ons and i nstructi ons
have been gi ven i t i n the secti ons al ready menti oned. And al though a case may
appear to be di fferent and to be i n no way i ncl uded herei n, there i s none that cannot
be referred to one of these, and thus may be deduced the i nstructi on necessary for
i t.
479
ti me the soul desi res them, but al so to the whol e of the ti me duri ng whi ch Our Lord communi cates
the si mpl e, general and l ovi ng attenti veness aforementi oned, or duri ng whi ch the soul , ai ded by
grace, pl aces i tsel f i n that state. For at that ti me the soul must al ways stri ve to keep i ts
understandi ng i n repose, wi thout the i nterference of other forms, fi gures or parti cul ar ki nds of
knowl edge, save very fl eeti ngl y and qui te superfi ci al l y; and i t must have a l ovi ng sweetness whi ch
wi l l enki ndl e i t ever more. But, except at thi s ti me, i n al l i ts exerci ses, acts and works, the soul must
make use of good medi tati ons and remembrances, so as to experi ence the greater devoti on and profi t,
most of al l wi th respect to the l i fe, passi on and death of Our Lord Jesus Chri st, so that i ts acti ons,
practi ces and l i fe may be made l i ke to Hi s.
479
Thus Al c. A, B, e.p. read: 'Thi s suffi ces to concl ude (our treatment of) the supernatural
apprehensi ons of the understandi ng, so far as concerns the gui dance of the understandi ng, by thei r
means, i n fai th, to Di vi ne uni on. And I thi nk that what has been sai d wi th regard to thi s suffi ces, for,
no matter what happens to the soul wi th respect to the understandi ng, i nstructi ons and cauti ons
concerni ng i t wi l l be found i n the secti ons al ready menti oned. And, i f somethi ng shoul d happen,
apparentl y so di fferent that none of them deal s wi th i t (al though I thi nk there wi l l be nothi ng
rel ati ng to the understandi ng whi ch cannot be referred to one of the four ki nds of di sti nct
knowl edge), i nstructi ons and cauti ons concerni ng i t can be deduced from what has been sai d of
others si mi l ar to i t. And wi th thi s we wi l l pass to the thi rd book, where, wi th the Di vi ne favour, we
shal l treat of the i nteri or spi ri tual purgati on of the wi l l wi th regard to i ts i nteri or affecti ons whi ch
we here cal l acti ve ni ght.'
C, D have: 'From what has been sai d may be deduced i nstructi ons and cauti ons for gui dance
i n whatever may happen to the soul wi th regard to the understandi ng, even i f i t seem so di fferent
that i t i ncl udes none of the four di sti nct ki nds, al though I thi nk there wi l l be nothi ng rel ati ng to the
understandi ng whi ch cannot be referred to one of them. And so we wi l l pass to the thi rd book.'
The edi ti on of 1630 fol l ows A, B and e.p., and adds further: 'I therefore beg the di screet
reader to read these thi ngs i n a benevol ent and si mpl e spi ri t; for, when thi s spi ri t i s not present,
however subl i me and perfect be the i nstructi on, i t wi l l not yi el d the profi t that i t contai ns, nor wi l l i t
earn the esteem that i t meri ts. How much truer i s thi s i n the present case, si nce my styl e i s i n so
many ways defi ci ent!'
189
BOOK THE THI RD
Which treats of the purgation of the active night of the memory and will. Gives
instruction how the soul is to behave with respect to the apprehensions of these two
faculties, that it may come to union with God, according to the two faculties
aforementioned, in perfect hope and charity.
CHAPTER I
THE fi rst facul ty of the soul , whi ch i s the understandi ng, has now been i nstructed,
through al l i ts apprehensi ons, i n the fi rst theol ogi cal vi rtue, whi ch i s fai th, to the
end that, accordi ng to thi s facul ty, the soul may be uni ted wi th God by means of the
puri ty of fai th. I t now remai ns to do l i kewi se wi th respect to the other two facul ti es
of the soul , whi ch are memory and wi l l , and to puri fy them l i kewi se wi th respect to
thei r apprehensi ons, to the end that, accordi ng to these two facul ti es al so, the soul
may come to uni on wi th God i n perfect hope and chari ty. Thi s wi l l bri efl y be effected
i n thi s thi rd book. We have now concl uded our treatment of the understandi ng,
whi ch i s the receptacl e of al l other objects accordi ng to i ts mode of operati on; and i n
treati ng of thi s we have gone a great part of the whol e way. I t i s therefore
unnecessary for us to wri te at equal l ength wi th respect to these facul ti es; for i t i s
not possi bl e that, i f the spi ri tual man i nstructs hi s understandi ng i n fai th accordi ng
to the doctri ne whi ch has been gi ven hi m, he shoul d not, i n so doi ng, i nstruct the
other two facul ti es i n the other two vi rtues l i kewi se; for the operati ons of each
facul ty depend upon the others.
2. But si nce, i n order to fol l ow our manner of procedure, and i n order, too,
that we may be the better understood, we must necessari l y speak of the proper and
determi nate matter, we shal l here be obl i ged to set down the apprehensi ons proper
to each facul ty, and fi rst, those of the memory, maki ng here such di sti ncti on
between them as suffi ces for our purpose. Thi s we shal l be abl e to deduce from the
di sti ncti on between thei r objects, whi ch are three: natural , i magi nary and spi ri tual ;
accordi ng to whi ch there are l i kewi se three ki nds of knowl edge whi ch come from the
memory, namel y: natural and supernatural ,
480
i magi nary and spi ri tual .
3. Al l these, by the Di vi ne favour, we shal l treat here i n due course, begi nni ng
wi th natural knowl edge, whi ch pertai ns to the most exteri or objects. And we shal l
then treat of the affecti ons of the wi l l , wherewi th we shal l concl ude thi s thi rd book
of the acti ve spi ri tual ni ght.
CHAPTER I I
Which treats of the natural apprehensions of the memory and describes how the soul
must be voided of them in order to be able to attain to union with God according to
this faculty.
I T i s necessary that, i n each of these books, the reader shoul d bear i n mi nd the
480
I t wi l l be seen from what fol l ows that i n practi ce the Sai nt preserves the stri ctl y tri parti te
di vi si on gi ven i n the text above, supernatural knowl edge bei ng found i n each of the secti ons.
190
purpose of whi ch we are speaki ng. For otherwi se there may ari se wi thi n hi m many
such questi ons wi th respect to what he i s readi ng as mi ght by thi s ti me be occurri ng
to hi m wi th respect to what we have sai d of the understandi ng, and shal l say now of
the memory, and afterwards shal l say of the wi l l . For, seei ng how we anni hi l ate the
facul ti es wi th respect to thei r operati ons, i t may perhaps seem to hi m that we are
destroyi ng the road of spi ri tual practi ce rather than constructi ng i t.
2. Thi s woul d be true i f we were seeki ng here onl y to i nstruct begi nners, who
are best prepared through these apprehensi bl e and di scursi ve apprehensi ons. But,
si nce we are here gi vi ng i nstructi on to those who woul d progress farther i n
contempl ati on, even to uni on wi th God, to whi ch end al l of these means and
exerci ses of sense concerni ng the facul ti es must recede i nto the background, and be
put to si l ence, to the end that God may of Hi s own accord work Di vi ne uni on i n the
soul , i t i s necessary to proceed by thi s method of di sencumberi ng and emptyi ng the
soul , and causi ng i t to reject the natural juri sdi cti on and operati ons of the facul ti es,
so that they may become capabl e of i nfusi on and i l l umi nati on from supernatural
sources; for thei r capaci ty cannot attai n to so l ofty an experi ence, but wi l l rather
hi nder i t, i f i t be not di sregarded.
3. And thus, i f i t be true, as i t i s, that the soul must proceed i n i ts growi ng
knowl edge of God by l earni ng that whi ch He i s not rather than that whi ch He i s, i n
order to come to Hi m, i t must proceed by renounci ng and rejecti ng, to the very
uttermost, everythi ng i n i ts apprehensi ons that i t i s possi bl e to renounce, whether
thi s be natural or supernatural . We shal l proceed wi th thi s end i n vi ew wi th regard
to the memory, drawi ng i t out from i ts natural state and l i mi tati ons, and causi ng i t
to ri se above i tsel f -- that i s, above al l di sti nct knowl edge and apprehensi bl e
possessi on -- to the supreme hope of God, Who i s i ncomprehensi bl e.
4. Begi nni ng, then, wi th natural knowl edge, I say that natural knowl edge i n
the memory consi sts of al l the ki nds of knowl edge that the memory can form
concerni ng the objects of the fi ve bodi l y senses -- namel y: heari ng, si ght, smel l , taste
and touch -- and al l ki nds of knowl edge of thi s type whi ch i t i s possi bl e to form and
fashi on. Of al l these forms and ki nds of knowl edge the soul must stri p and voi d
i tsel f, and i t must stri ve to l ose the i magi nary apprehensi on of them, so that there
may be l eft i n i t no ki nd of i mpressi on of knowl edge, nor trace of aught soever, but
rather the soul must remai n barren and bare, as i f these forms had never passed
through i t, and i n total obl i vi on and suspensi on. And thi s cannot happen unl ess the
memory be anni hi l ated as to al l i ts forms, i f i t i s to be uni ted wi th God. For i t
cannot happen save by total separati on from al l forms whi ch are not God; for God
comes beneath no defi ni te form or ki nd of knowl edge whatsoever, as we have sai d i n
treati ng of the ni ght of the understandi ng. And si nce, as Chri st says, no man can
serve two masters,
481
the memory cannot be uni ted both wi th God and wi th forms
and di sti nct ki nds of knowl edge and, as God has no form or i mage that can be
comprehended by the memory, i t fol l ows that, when the memory i s uni ted wi th God
(as i s seen, too, every day by experi ence), i t remai ns wi thout form and wi thout
fi gure, i ts i magi nati on bei ng l ost and i tsel f bei ng absorbed i n a supreme good, and
i n a great obl i vi on, rememberi ng nothi ng. For that Di vi ne uni on voi ds i ts fancy and
sweeps i t cl ean of al l forms and ki nds of knowl edge and rai ses i t to the
supernatural .
5. Now there someti mes comes to pass here a notabl e thi ng; for occasi onal l y,
when God bri ngs about these touches of uni on i n the memory, the brai n (where
memory has i ts seat) i s so percepti bl y upset that i t seems as i f i t becomes qui te
481
[St. Matthew vi , 24.]
191
i nert, and i ts judgment and sense are l ost. Thi s i s someti mes more percepti bl e and
someti mes l ess so, accordi ng to the strength of thi s touch, and then, by reason of
thi s uni on, the memory i s voi ded and purged, as I say, of al l ki nds of knowl edge. I t
remai ns i n obl i vi on -- at ti mes i n compl ete obl i vi on -- so that i t has to put forth a
great effort and to l abour greatl y i n order to remember anythi ng.
6. And someti mes thi s obl i vi on of the memory and suspensi on of the
i magi nati on reach such a poi nt, because of the uni on of the memory wi th God, that
a l ong ti me passes wi thout the soul 's percei vi ng i t, or knowi ng what has taken pl ace
duri ng that peri od. And, as the i magi nati ve facul ty i s then i n suspensi on, i t feel s
naught that i s done to i t, not even thi ngs that cause pai n; for wi thout i magi nati on
there i s no feel i ng, not even comi ng through thought, si nce thi s exi sts not. And, to
the end that God may bri ng about these touches of uni on, the soul must needs
wi thdraw i ts memory from al l apprehensi bl e ki nds of knowl edge. And i t i s to be
noted that these suspensi ons come not to pass i n those that are al ready perfect,
si nce they have attai ned to perfect uni on, and these suspensi ons bel ong to the
begi nni ngs of uni on.
7. Someone wi l l remark that al l thi s seems very wel l , but that i t l eads to the
destructi on of the natural use and course of the facul ti es, and reduces man to the
state of a beast -- a state of obl i vi on and even worse -- si nce he becomes i ncapabl e of
reasoni ng or of rememberi ng hi s natural functi ons and necessi ti es. I t wi l l be argued
that God destroys not nature, but rather perfects i t; and that from thi s teachi ng
there necessari l y fol l ows i ts destructi on, when that whi ch pertai ns to moral i ty and
reason i s not practi sed and i s forgotten, nei ther i s that whi ch i s natural practi sed;
for (i t wi l l be sai d) none of these thi ngs can be remembered, as the soul i s depri ved
of forms and ki nds of knowl edge whi ch are the means of remembrance.
8. To thi s I repl y that, the more nearl y the memory attai ns to uni on wi th God,
the more do di sti nct ki nds of knowl edge become perfected wi thi n i t, unti l i t l oses
them enti rel y -- namel y, when i t attai ns to the state of uni on i n perfecti on. And
thus, at the begi nni ng, when thi s i s fi rst taki ng pl ace, the soul cannot but fal l i nto
great obl i vi on wi th respect to al l thi ngs, si nce forms and ki nds of knowl edge are
bei ng erased from i t; and therefore i t i s very negl i gent concerni ng i ts outward
behavi our and usage -- forgetti ng to eat or dri nk, and bei ng uncertai n i f i t has done
thi s or no, i f i t has seen thi s or no, i f i t has sai d thi s or no -- because of the
absorpti on of the memory i n God. But when once i t attai ns to the habi t of uni on,
whi ch i s a supreme bl essi ng, i t no l onger has these peri ods of obl i vi on, after thi s
manner, i n that whi ch pertai ns to natural and moral reason; acti ons whi ch are
seeml y and necessary, i ndeed, i t performs wi th a much greater degree of pecti on,
al though i t performs them no l onger by means of forms and manners of knowl edge
pertai ni ng to the memory. For, when i t has the habi t of uni on, whi ch i s a
supernatural state, memory and the other facul ti es fai l i t compl etel y i n thei r
natural functi ons, and pass beyond thei r natural l i mi tati ons, even to God, Who i s
supernatural . And thus, when the memory i s transformed i n God, i t cannot recei ve
i mpressi ons of forms or ki nds of knowl edge. Wherefore the functi ons of the memory
and of the other facul ti es i n thi s state are al l Di vi ne; for, when at l ast God possesses
the facul ti es and has become the enti re master of them, through thei r
transformati on i nto Hi msel f, i t i s He Hi msel f Who moves and commands them
di vi nel y, accordi ng to Hi s Di vi ne Spi ri t and wi l l ; and the resul t of thi s i s that the
operati ons of the soul are not di sti nct, but al l that i t does i s of God, and i ts
operati ons are Di vi ne, so that, even as Sai nt Paul says, he that i s joi ned unto God
192
becomes one spi ri t wi th Hi m.
482
9. Hence i t comes to pass that the operati ons of the soul i n uni on are of the
Di vi ne Spi ri t and are Di vi ne. And hence i t comes that the acti ons of such soul s are
onl y those that are seeml y and reasonabl e, and not those that are i l l -beseemi ng. For
the Spi ri t of God teaches them that whi ch they ought to know, and causes them to
be i gnorant of that whi ch i t behoves them not to know, and to remember that whi ch
they have to remember, wi th or wi thout forms, and to forget that whi ch they shoul d
forget; and i t makes them l ove that whi ch they have to l ove, and not to l ove that
whi ch i s not i n God. And thus, al l the fi rst moti ons of the facul ti es of such soul s are
Di vi ne and i t i s not to be wondered at that the moti ons and operati ons of these
facul ti es shoul d be Di vi ne, si nce they are transformed i n the Di vi ne Bei ng.
483
10. Of these operati ons I wi l l gi ve a few exampl es. Let thi s be one. A person
asks another who i s i n thi s state to commend hi m to God. Thi s person wi l l not
remember to do so by means of any form or ki nd of knowl edge that remai ns i n hi s
memory concerni ng that other person; i f i t be ri ght that he shoul d recommend hi m
to God (whi ch wi l l be i f God desi res to recei ve a prayer for that person), He wi l l
move hi s wi l l and gi ve hi m a desi re to pray for hi m; and i f God desi res not such
prayer, that other person wi l l not be abl e nor wi l l desi re to pray,' though he make
great efforts to do so; and at ti mes God wi l l cause hi m to pray for others of whom he
has no knowl edge nor has ever heard. And thi s i s because, as I have sai d, God al one
moves the facul ti es of these soul s to do those works whi ch are meet, accordi ng to the
wi l l and ordi nance of God, and they cannot be moved to do others; and thus the
works and prayers of these soul s are al ways effectual . Such were those of the most
gl ori ous Vi rgi n Our Lady, who, bei ng rai sed to thi s hi gh estate from the begi nni ng,
had never the form of any creature i mpri nted i n her soul , nei ther was moved by
such, but was i nvari abl y gui ded by the Hol y Spi ri t.
11. Another exampl e. At a certai n ti me a person i n thi s state has to attend to
some necessary busi ness. He wi l l remember i t by no ki nd of form, but, wi thout hi s
knowi ng how, i t wi l l come to hi s soul , at the ti me and i n the manner that i t ought to
come, and that wi thout fai l .
12. And not onl y i n these thi ngs does the Hol y Spi ri t gi ve such persons l i ght,
but al so i n many others, rel ati ng both to the present and to the future, and even, i n
many cases, as regards those absent from them; and al though at ti mes thi s comes to
pass through i ntel l ectual forms, i t frequentl y happens wi thout the i nterventi on of
any forms that can be apprehended, so that these persons know not how they know.
But thi s comes to them from the Di vi ne Wi sdom; for, si nce these soul s exerci se
themsel ves i n knowi ng and apprehendi ng nothi ng wi th the facul ti es, they come i n
general , as we have sai d i n the Mount,
484
to know everythi ng, accordi ng to that
whi ch the Wi se Man says: 'The worker of al l thi ngs, who i s Wi sdom, taught me al l
thi ngs.'
485
13. You wi l l say, perhaps, that the soul wi l l be unabl e to voi d and depri ve i ts
memory of al l forms and fanci es to such an extent as to be abl e to attai n to so l ofty a
state; for there are two thi ngs so di ffi cul t that thei r accompl i shment surpasses
482
1 Cori nthi ans vi , 17.
483
P. José de Jesús Marí a, i n hi s Vida y excelencias de la Santísima Virgen María (I , xl ), quotes thi s
and part of the l ast paragraph from what he cl ai ms to be an ori gi nal MS. of St. John of the Cross, but
hi s text vari es consi derabl y from that of any MS. now known. [P. Si l veri o consi ders that thi s and
other si mi l ar ci tati ons are qui te untrustworthy.]
484
The reference i s to the drawi ng of the Mount of Perfecti on. Cf. The General I ntroducti on, I , above.
485
Wi sdom vi i , 21.
193
human abi l i ty and strength, namel y, to throw off wi th one's natural powers that
whi ch i s natural , whi ch i s hard enough,
486
and to attai n and be uni ted to the
supernatural , whi ch i s much more di ffi cul t -- i ndeed, to speak the truth, i s
i mpossi bl e wi th natural abi l i ty al one. The truth, I repeat, i s that God must pl ace
the soul i n thi s supernatural state; but the soul , as far as i n i t l i es, must be
conti nual l y prepari ng i tsel f; and thi s i t can do by natural means, especi al l y wi th the
hel p that God i s conti nual l y gi vi ng i t. And thus, as the soul , for i ts own part, enters
i nto thi s renunci ati on and sel f-emptyi ng of forms, so God begi ns to gi ve i t the
possessi on of uni on; and thi s God works passi vel y i n the soul , as we shal l say, Deo
dante, when we treat of the passi ve ni ght of the soul . And thus, when i t shal l pl ease
God, and accordi ng to the manner of the soul 's preparati on, He wi l l grant i t the
habi t of perfect and Di vi ne uni on.
14. And the Di vi ne effects whi ch God produces i n the soul when He has
granted i t thi s habi t, both as to the understandi ng and as to the memory and wi l l ,
we shal l not descri be i n thi s account of the soul 's acti ve purgati on and ni ght, for thi s
al one wi l l not bri ng the soul to Di vi ne uni on. We shal l speak of these effects,
however, i n treati ng of the passi ve ni ght, by means of whi ch i s brought about the
uni on of the soul wi th God.
487
And so I shal l speak here onl y of the necessary means
whereby the memory may pl ace i tsel f acti vel y i n thi s ni ght and purgati on, as far as
l i es i n i ts power. And these means are that the spi ri tual man must habi tual l y
exerci se cauti on, after thi s manner. Al l the thi ngs that he hears, sees, smel l s,
tastes, or touches, he must be careful not to store up or col l ect i n hi s memory, but he
must al l ow hi msel f to forget them i mmedi atel y, and thi s he must accompl i sh, i f
need be, wi th the same effi cacy as that wi th whi ch others contri ve to remember
them, so that there remai ns i n hi s memory no knowl edge or i mage of them
whatsoever. I t must be wi th hi m as i f they exi sted not i n the worl d, and hi s memory
must be l eft free and di sencumbered of them, and be ti ed to no consi derati on,
whether from above or from bel ow; as i f he had no facul ty of memory; he must freel y
al l ow everythi ng to fal l i nto obl i vi on as though al l thi ngs were a hi ndrance to hi m;
486
[Lit., 'whi ch cannot be' (que no puede ser), but thi s i s a wel l -known Spani sh hyperbol e descri bi ng
what i s extremel y di ffi cul t.]
487
E.p. omi ts al l the rest of thi s paragraph, substi tuti ng the fol l owi ng passage, whi ch i t i ntroduces i n
order [says P. Si l veri o] to descri be the scope of the Sai nt's teachi ng, and whi ch i s copi ed i n the
edi ti on of 1630:
I n [treati ng of] thi s purgati on of the memory, I speak here onl y of the necessary means
whereby the memory may pl ace i tsel f acti vel y i n thi s ni ght and purgati on, as far as l i es i n i ts power.
And these means are that the spi ri tual man must habi tual l y exerci se cauti on, after thi s manner. Of
al l the thi ngs that he sees, hears, smel l s, tastes or touches he must make no parti cul ar store i n the
memory, or pay heed to them, or dwel l upon them, but must al l ow them to pass and must remai n i n
hol y obl i vi on wi thout refl ecti ng upon them, save when necessary for some good refl ecti on or
medi tati on. And thi s care to forget and forsake knowl edge and i mages i s never appl i cabl e to Chri st
and Hi s Humani ty. For, al though occasi onal l y, at the hei ght of contempl ati on and si mpl e regard of
the Di vi ni ty, the soul may not remember thi s most sacred Humani ty, because God, wi th Hi s own
hand, has rai sed the soul to thi s, as i t were, confused and most supernatural knowl edge, yet i t i s i n
no wi se seeml y to study to forget i t, si nce l ooki ng and medi tati ng l ovi ngl y upon i t wi l l ai d the soul to
[attai n] al l that i s good, and i t i s by i ts means that the soul wi l l most readi l y ri se to the most l ofty
state of uni on. And i t i s cl ear that, al though other bodi l y and vi si bl e thi ngs are a hi ndrance and
ought to be forgotten, we must not i ncl ude among these Hi m Who became man for our sal vati on, and
Who i s the truth, the door, the way and the gui de to al l good thi ngs. Thi s bei ng assumed, l et the soul
stri ve after compl ete abstracti on and obl i vi on, so that, i n so far as i s possi bl e, there may remai n i n
i ts memory no more knowl edge or i mage of created thi ngs than though they exi sted not i n the worl d;
and l et i t l eave the memory free and di sencumbered for God, and, as i t were, l ost i n hol y obl i vi on.
194
and i n fact everythi ng that i s natural , i f one attempt to make use of i t i n
supernatural matters, i s a hi ndrance rather than a hel p.
15. And i f those questi ons and objecti ons whi ch arose above wi th respect to
the understandi ng shoul d al so ari se here (the objecti ons, that i s to say, that the soul
i s doi ng nothi ng, i s wasti ng i ts ti me and i s depri vi ng i tsel f of spi ri tual bl essi ngs
whi ch i t mi ght wel l recei ve through the memory), the answer to thi s has al ready
been gi ven, and wi l l be gi ven agai n farther on, i n our treatment of the passi ve ni ght;
wherefore there i s no need for us to dwel l upon i t here. I t i s needful onl y to observe
that, al though at certai n ti mes the benefi t of thi s suspensi on of forms and of al l
knowl edge may not be real i zed, the spi ri tual man must not for that reason grow
weary, for i n Hi s own ti me God wi l l not fai l to succour hi m. To attai n so great a
bl essi ng i t behoves the soul to endure much and to suffer wi th pati ence and hope.
16. And, al though i t i s true that hardl y any soul wi l l be found that i s moved
by God i n al l thi ngs and at al l ti mes, and has such conti nual uni on wi th God that,
wi thout the medi ati on of any form, i ts facul ti es are ever moved di vi nel y, there are
neverthel ess soul s who i n thei r operati ons are very habi tual l y moved by God, and
these are not they that are moved of themsel ves, for, as Sai nt Paul says, the sons of
God who are transformed and uni ted i n God, are moved by the Spi ri t of God,
488
that
i s, are moved to perform Di vi ne work i n thei r facul ti es. And i t i s no marvel that
thei r operati ons shoul d be Di vi ne, si nce the uni on of the soul i s Di vi ne.
CHAPTER I I I
Wherein are described three kinds of evil which come to the soul when it enters not
into darkness with respect to knowledge and reflections in the memory. Herein is
described the first.
TO three ki nds of evi l and i nconveni ence the spi ri tual man i s subject when he
persi sts i n desi ri ng to make use of al l natural knowl edge and refl ecti ons of the
memory i n order to journey toward God, or for any other purpose: two of these are
posi ti ve and one i s pri vati ve. The fi rst comes from thi ngs of the worl d; the second,
from the devi l ; the thi rd, whi ch i s pri vati ve, i s the i mpedi ment and hi ndrance to
Di vi ne uni on caused and effected i n the soul .
2. The fi rst evi l , whi ch comes from the worl d, consi sts i n the subjecti on of the
soul , through knowl edge and refl ecti on, to many ki nds of harm, such as fal sehoods,
i mperfecti ons, desi res, opi ni ons, l oss of ti me, and many other thi ngs whi ch breed
many ki nds of i mpuri ty i n the soul . And i t i s cl ear that the soul must of necessi ty
fal l i nto many peri l s of fal sehood, when i t admi ts knowl edge and reasoni ng; for
oftenti mes that whi ch i s true must appear fal se, and that whi ch i s certai n, doubtful ;
and contrari wi se; for there i s scarcel y a si ngl e truth of whi ch we can have compl ete
knowl edge. From al l these thi ngs the soul i s free i f the memory enters i nto darkness
wi th respect to every ki nd of refl ecti on and knowl edge.
3. I mperfecti ons meet the soul at every step i f i t sets i ts memory upon that
whi ch i t has heard, seen, touched, smel t and tasted; for there must then perforce
cl i ng to i t some affecti on, whether thi s be of pai n, of fear, of hatred, of vai n hope,
vai n enjoyment, vai ngl ory, etc.; for al l these are, at the l east, i mperfecti ons, and at
ti mes are downri ght
489
veni al si ns; and they l eave much i mpuri ty most subtl y i n the
488
Romans vi i i , 14.
489
[Lit., 'good.']
195
soul , even though the refl ecti ons and the knowl edge have rel ati on to God. And i t i s
al so cl ear that they engender desi res wi thi n the soul , for these ari se natural l y from
the knowl edge and refl ecti ons aforementi oned, and i f one wi shes onl y to have thi s
knowl edge and these refl ecti ons, even that i s a desi re. And i t i s cl earl y seen that
many occasi ons of judgi ng others wi l l come l i kewi se; for, i n usi ng i ts memory, the
soul cannot fai l to come upon that whi ch i s good and bad i n others, and, i n such a
case, that whi ch i s evi l oftenti mes seems good, and that whi ch i s good, evi l . I bel i eve
there i s none who can compl etel y free hi msel f from al l these ki nds of evi l , save by
bl i ndi ng hi s memory and l eadi ng i t i nto darkness wi th regard to al l these thi ngs.
4. And i f you tel l me that a man i s wel l abl e to conquer al l these thi ngs when
they come to hi m, I repl y that, i f he sets store by knowl edge, thi s i s si mpl y and
utterl y i mpossi bl e; for countl ess i mperfecti ons and fol l i es i nsi nuate themsel ves i nto
such knowl edge, some of whi ch are so subtl e and mi nute that, wi thout the soul 's
real i zati on thereof, they cl i ng to i t of thei r own accord, even as pi tch cl i ngs to the
man that touches i t; so that i t i s better to conquer once for al l by denyi ng the
memory compl etel y. You wi l l say l i kewi se that by so doi ng the soul depri ves i tsel f of
many good thoughts and medi tati ons upon God, whi ch are of great profi t to i t and
whereby God grants i t favours. I repl y that to thi s end puri ty of soul i s of the
greatest profi t, whi ch means that there cl i ngs to the soul no creature affecti on, or
temporal affecti on, or effecti ve advertence; whi ch I bel i eve cannot but cl i ng to the
soul because of the i mperfecti on whi ch the facul ti es have i n thei r own operati ons.
Wherefore i t i s best to l earn to si l ence the facul ti es and to cause them to be sti l l , so
that God may speak. For, as we have sai d, i n order to attai n to thi s state the
natural operati ons must be compl etel y di sregarded, and thi s happens, as the
Prophet says, when the soul comes i nto sol i tude, accordi ng to these i ts facul ti es, and
God speaks to i ts heart.
490
5. And i f you agai n repl y, sayi ng that the soul wi l l have no bl essi ng unl ess i t
medi tates upon God and al l ows i ts memory to refl ect upon Hi m, and that many
di stracti ons and negl i gences wi l l conti nual l y enter i t, I say that i t i s i mpossi bl e, i f
the memory be recol l ected wi th regard both to thi ngs of the next l i fe and to thi ngs
here bel ow, that evi l s or di stracti ons shoul d enter i t, nor any other fol l i es or vi ces
(the whi ch thi ngs al ways enter when the memory wanders), si nce there i s no exi t or
entrance for them. Thi s woul d come to pass i f, when we had shut the door upon
consi derati ons and refl ecti ons concerni ng thi ngs above, we opened i t to thi ngs
bel ow; but i n thi s state we shut the door to al l thi ngs whence di stracti on may
come,
491
causi ng the memory to be sti l l and dumb, and the ear of the spi ri t to be
attenti ve, i n si l ence, to God al one, sayi ng wi th the Prophet: 'Speak, Lord, for Thy
servant heareth.'
492
I t was thus that the Spouse i n the Songs sai d that hi s Bri de
shoul d be, i n these words: 'My si ster i s a garden encl osed and a fountai n seal ed
up'
493
-- that i s to say, encl osed and seal ed up agai nst al l thi ngs that may enter.
6. Let the soul , then, remai n 'encl osed,' wi thout anxi eti es and troubl es, and
He that entered i n bodi l y form to Hi s di sci pl es when the doors were shut, and gave
them peace,
494
though they nei ther knew nor thought that thi s was possi bl e nor
knew how i t was possi bl e, wi l l enter spi ri tual l y i nto the soul , wi thout i ts knowi ng
how He does so, when the doors of i ts facul ti es -- memory, understandi ng and wi l l --
490
Osee i i , 14.
491
[Lit., 'whence that may come.']
492
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] i i i , 10.
493
Canti cl es i v, 12.
494
[St. John xx, 19].
196
are encl osed agai nst al l apprehensi ons. And He wi l l fi l l them wi th peace, comi ng
down upon the soul , as the prophet says, l i ke a ri ver of peace,
495
and taki ng i t from
al l the mi sgi vi ngs and suspi ci ons, di sturbances and darknesses whi ch caused i t to
fear that i t was l ost or was on the way to bei ng so. Let i t not grow carel ess about
prayer, and l et i t wai t i n detachment and empti ness, for i ts bl essi ngs wi l l not tarry.
CHAPTER I V
Which treats of the second kind of evil that may come to the soul from the devil by
way of the natural apprehensions of the memory.
THE second posi ti ve evi l that may come to the soul by means of the knowl edge of
the memory proceeds from the devi l , who by thi s means obtai ns great i nfl uence over
i t. For he can conti nual l y bri ng i t new forms, ki nds of knowl edge and refl ecti ons, by
means whereof he can tai nt the soul wi th pri de, avari ce, wrath, envy, etc., and
cause i t unjust hatred, or vai n l ove, and decei ve i t i n many ways. And besi des thi s,
he i s wont to l eave i mpressi ons,
496
and to i mpl ant them i n the fancy, i n such wi se
that those that are fal se appear true, and those that are true, fal se, And fi nal l y al l
the worst decepti ons whi ch are caused by the devi l , and the evi l s that he bri ngs to
the soul , enter by way of knowl edge and refl ecti ons of the memory, Thus i f the
memory enter i nto darkness wi th respect to them al l , and be anni hi l ated i n i ts
obl i vi on to them, i t shuts the door al together upon thi s evi l whi ch proceeds from the
devi l , and frees i tsel f from al l these thi ngs, whi ch i s a great bl essi ng. For the devi l
has no power over the soul unl ess i t be through the operati ons of i ts facul ti es,
pri nci pal l y by means of knowl edge, whereupon depend al most al l the other
operati ons of the other facul ti es. Wherefore, i f the memory be anni hi l ated wi th
respect to them, the devi l can do naught; for he fi nds no foothol d, and wi thout a
foothol d he i s powerl ess.
497
2. I woul d that spi ri tual persons mi ght cl earl y see how many ki nds of harm
are wrought by evi l spi ri ts i n thei r soul s by means of the memory, when they devote
themsel ves frequentl y to maki ng use of i t, and how many ki nds of sadness and
affl i cti on and vai n and evi l joys they have, both wi th respect to thei r thoughts about
God, and al so wi th respect to the thi ngs of the worl d; and how many i mpuri ti es are
l eft rooted i n thei r spi ri ts; and l i kewi se how greatl y they are di stracted from the
hi ghest recol l ecti on, whi ch consi sts i n the fi xi ng of the whol e soul , accordi ng to i ts
facul ti es, upon the one i ncomprehensi bl e Good, and i n wi thdrawi ng i t from al l
thi ngs that can be apprehended, si nce these are not i ncomprehensi bl e Good. Thi s i s
a great good (al though l ess good resul ts from thi s empti ness than from the soul 's
fi xi ng i tsel f upon God), si mpl y because i t i s the cause whereby the soul frees i tsel f
from any gri efs and affl i cti ons and sorrows, over and above the i mperfecti ons and
si ns from whi ch i t i s freed.
CHAPTER V
Of the third evil which comes to the soul by way of the distinct natural knowledge or
495
I sai ah xl vi i i , 18.
496
[Lit., 'to l eave thi ngs.']
497
[Lit., 'he fi nds nothi ng to sei ze upon, and wi th nothi ng he can do nothi ng.']
197
the memory.
THE thi rd evi l whi ch comes to the soul through the natural apprehensi ons of the
memory i s pri vati ve; for these apprehensi ons can hi nder moral good and depri ve us
of spi ri tual good. And, i n order that we may fi rst of al l expl ai n how these
apprehensi ons hi nder moral good i n the soul , i t must be known that moral good
consi sts i n the restrai ni ng of the passi ons and the curbi ng of di sorderl y desi res,
from whi ch restrai nt there come to the soul tranqui l l i ty, peace and rest, and moral
vi rtues, al l of whi ch thi ngs are moral good. Thi s restrai ni ng and curbi ng of the
passi ons cannot be trul y accompl i shed by the soul that forgets not and wi thdraws
not i tsel f from thi ngs pertai ni ng to i tsel f, whence ari se the affecti ons; and no
di sturbances ever ari se i n the soul save through the apprehensi ons of the memory.
For, when al l thi ngs are forgotten, there i s naught that can di sturb peace or that
moves the desi res; si nce, as they say, that whi ch the eye sees not the heart desi res
not.
2. Thi s we are constantl y l earni ng by experi ence; for we observe that,
whenever the soul begi ns to thi nk of any matter, i t i s moved and di sturbed, ei ther
much or l i ttl e, wi th respect to that thi ng, accordi ng to the nature of i ts
apprehensi on. I f i t be a troubl esome and gri evous matter, the soul fi nds sadness i n
i t; i f pl easant, desi re and joy, and so forth. Wherefore the resul t of the changi ng of
that apprehensi on i s necessari l y di sturbance; and thus the soul i s now joyful , now
sad; now i t hates, now l oves; and i t cannot conti nue i n one and the same atti tude
(whi ch i s an effect of moral tranqui l l i ty save when i t stri ves to forget al l thi ngs. I t i s
cl ear, then, that knowl edge greatl y hi nders the good of the moral vi rtues i n the soul .
3. Agai n, what has been sai d cl earl y proves that an encumbered memory al so
hi nders spi ri tual good; for the soul that i s di sturbed, and has no foundati on of moral
good, i s to that extent i ncapabl e of spi ri tual good, whi ch i mpresses i tsel f onl y upon
soul s that are restrai ned and at peace. And besi des thi s, i f the soul pays attenti on
and heed to the apprehensi ons of the memory -- seei ng that i t can attend to but one
thi ng at a ti me -- and busi es i tsel f wi th thi ngs that can be apprehended, such as the
knowl edge of the memory, i t i s not possi bl e for i t to be free to attend to the
i ncomprehensi bl e, whi ch i s God. For, i n order to approach God, the soul must
proceed by not comprehendi ng rather than by comprehendi ng; i t must exchange the
mutabl e and comprehensi bl e for the i mmutabl e and i ncomprehensi bl e.
CHAPTER VI
Of the benefits which come to the soul from forgetfulness and emptiness of all
thoughts and knowledge which it may have in a natural way with respect to the
memory.
FROM the evi l s whi ch, as we have sai d, come to the soul through the apprehensi ons
of the memory, we can l i kewi se i nfer the benefi ts whi ch are contrary to them and
come to the soul as a resul t of i ts forgetti ng them and emptyi ng i tsel f of them. For,
as natural phi l osophy puts i t, the same doctri ne whi ch serves for one thi ng serves
l i kewi se for the contrary. I n the fi rst pl ace, the soul enjoys tranqui l l i ty and peace of
mi nd, si nce i t i s freed from the di sturbance and the changeabl eness whi ch ari se
from thoughts and i deas of the memory, and consequentl y, whi ch i s more i mportant,
i t enjoys puri ty of consci ence and soul . And herei n the soul has ampl e preparati on
for the acqui ri ng of Di vi ne and human wi sdom, and of the vi rtues.
198
2. I n the second pl ace, i t i s freed from many suggesti ons, temptati ons and
moti ons of the devi l , whi ch he i nfuses i nto the soul by means of thoughts and i deas,
causi ng i t to fal l i nto many i mpuri ti es and si ns, as Davi d says i n these words: 'They
have thought and spoken wi ckedness.'
498
And thus, when these thoughts have been
compl etel y removed, the devi l has naught wherewi th to assaul t the soul by natural
means.
3. I n the thi rd pl ace, the soul has wi thi n i tsel f, through thi s recol l ecti on of
i tsel f and thi s forgetful ness as to al l thi ngs, a preparedness to be moved by the Hol y
Spi ri t and taught by Hi m, for, as the Wi se Man says, He removes Hi msel f from
thoughts that are wi thout understandi ng.
499
Even i f a man recei ved no other benefi t
from thi s forgetful ness and empti ness of the memory than bei ng freed thereby from
troubl es and di sturbances, i t woul d be a great gai n and good for hi m. For the
troubl es and storms whi ch adverse thi ngs and happeni ngs arouse i n the soul are of
no use or hel p for bri ngi ng peace and cal m;
500
i ndeed, as a rul e, they make thi ngs
worse and al so harm the soul i tsel f. Wherefore Davi d sai d: 'Of a truth every man i s
di squi eted i n vai n.'
501
For i t i s cl ear that to di squi et onesel f i s al ways vai n si nce i t
bri ngs profi t to none. And thus, even i f everythi ng came to an end and were
destroyed, and i f al l thi ngs went wrong and turned to adversi ty, i t woul d be vai n to
di sturb onesel f; for such di sturbance hurts a man rather than rel i eves hi m. Whereas
to bear everythi ng wi th equabl e and peaceful tranqui l l i ty not onl y bri ngs the soul
the profi t of many bl essi ngs, but l i kewi se causes i t, even i n the mi dst of i ts
adversi ti es, to form a truer judgment about them and to fi nd a fi tti ng remedy.
4. For thi s reason Sol omon, bei ng wel l acquai nted both wi th the evi l and wi th
the benefi t of whi ch we are speaki ng, sai d: 'I knew that there was naught better for
man than to rejoi ce and to do good i n hi s l i fe.'
502
By thi s he meant that, i n
everythi ng that happens to us, howsoever adverse i t be, we shoul d rejoi ce rather
than be di sturbed, so that we may not l ose a bl essi ng whi ch i s greater than any ki nd
of prosperi ty -- namel y, tranqui l l i ty and peace of mi nd i n al l thi ngs, whi ch, whether
they bri ng adversi ty or prosperi ty, we must bear i n the same manner. Thi s a man
woul d never l ose i f he were not onl y to forget al l ki nds of knowl edge and put asi de
al l thoughts, but woul d even wi thdraw hi msel f from heari ng, si ght and commerce
wi th others, i n so far as was possi bl e for hi m. Our nature i s so frai l and unstabl e
that, however wel l i t be di sci pl i ned, i t wi l l hardl y fai l to stumbl e upon the
remembrance of thi ngs whi ch wi l l di sturb and change a mi nd that was i n peace and
tranqui l l i ty when i t remembered them not. For thi s cause sai d Jeremi as: 'Wi th
memory I wi l l remember, and my soul wi l l fai l me for pai n.'
503
CHAPTER VI I
Which treats or the second kind or apprehension of the memory -- namely, imaginary
apprehensions -- and of supernatural knowledge.
ALTHOUGH i n wri ti ng of natural apprehensi ons of the fi rst ki nd we al so gave
498
Psal m l xxi i , 8 [A.V., l xxi i i , 8].
499
Wi sdom i , 5.
500
[Lit., 'for the peace and cal m of the same thi ngs and happeni ngs.']
501
Psal m xxxvi i i , 7 [A.V. xxxi x, 6].
502
Eccl esi astes i i i , 12.
503
Lamentati ons i i i , 20.
199
i nstructi on concerni ng the i magi nary, whi ch are l i kewi se natural , i t was wel l to
make thi s di vi si on because of the l ove whi ch the memory al ways has for other forms
and ki nds of knowl edge, whi ch are of supernatural thi ngs, such as vi si ons,
revel ati ons, l ocuti ons and feel i ngs whi ch come i n a supernatural way. When these
thi ngs have passed through the soul , there i s wont to remai n i mpressed upon i t
some i mage, form, fi gure or i dea, whether i n the soul or i n the memory or fancy, at
ti mes very vi vi dl y and effecti vel y. Concerni ng these i mages i t i s al so needful to gi ve
advi ce, l est the memory be encumbered wi th them and they be a hi ndrance to i ts
uni on wi th God i n perfect and pure hope.
2. I say that the soul , i n order to attai n that bl essi ng, must never refl ect upon
the cl ear and di sti nct objects whi ch may have passed through i ts mi nd by
supernatural means, i n such a way as to preserve wi thi n i tsel f the forms and fi gures
and knowl edge of those thi ngs. For we must ever bear i n mi nd thi s pri nci pl e: the
greater heed the soul gi ves to any cl ear and di sti nct apprehensi ons, whether natural
or supernatural , the l ess capaci ty and preparati on i t has for enteri ng i nto the abyss
of fai th, wherei n are absorbed al l thi ngs el se. For, as has been sai d, no supernatural
forms or ki nds of knowl edge whi ch can be apprehended by the memory are God,
and, i n order to reach God, the soul must voi d i tsel f of al l that i s not God. The
memory must al so stri p i tsel f of al l these forms and ki nds of knowl edge, that i t may
uni te i tsel f wi th God i n hope. For al l possessi on i s contrary to hope, whi ch, as Sai nt
Paul says, bel ongs to that whi ch i s not possessed.
504
Wherefore, the more the
memory di spossesses i tsel f, the greater i s i ts hope; and the more i t has of hope, the
more i t has of uni on wi th God; for, wi th respect to God, the more the soul hopes, the
more i t attai ns. And i t hopes most when i t i s most compl etel y di spossessed; and,
when i t shal l be perfectl y di spossessed, i t wi l l remai n wi th the perfect possessi on of
God, i n Di vi ne uni on. But there are many who wi l l not depri ve themsel ves of the
sweetness and del i ght whi ch memory fi nds i n those forms and noti ons, wherefore
they attai n not to supreme possessi on and perfect sweetness. For he that renounces
not al l that he possesses cannot be the di sci pl e of Chri st.
505
CHAPTER VI I I
Of the evils which may be caused in the soul by the knowledge of supernatural
things, if it reflect upon them. Says how many these evils are.
THE spi ri tual man i ncurs the ri sk of fi ve ki nds of evi l i f he pays heed to, and
refl ects upon, these forms and i deas whi ch are i mpressed upon hi m by the thi ngs
whi ch pass through hi s mi nd i n a supernatural way.
2. The fi rst i s that he i s frequentl y decei ved, and mi stakes one thi ng for
another. The second i s that he i s l i ke to fal l , and i s exposed to the danger of fal l i ng,
i nto some form of presumpti on or vani ty. The thi rd i s that the devi l has many
occasi ons of decei vi ng hi m by means of the apprehensi ons aforementi oned. The
fourth i s that he i s hi ndered as to uni on i n hope wi th God. The fi fth i s that, for the
most part, he has a l ow judgment of God.
3. As to the fi rst evi l , i t i s cl ear that, i f the spi ri tual man pays heed to these
forms and noti ons, and refl ects upon them, he must frequentl y be decei ved i n hi s
judgment of them; for, as no man can have a compl ete understandi ng of the thi ngs
504
Hebrews xi , 1.
505
St. Luke xi v, 33.
200
that pass through hi s i magi nati on natural l y, nor a perfect and certai n judgment
about them, he wi l l be much l ess abl e sti l l to have thi s wi th respect to supernatural
thi ngs, whi ch are above our capaci ty to understand, and occur but rarel y. Wherefore
he wi l l often thi nk that what comes but from hi s fancy pertai ns to God; and often,
too, that what i s of God i s of the devi l , and what i s of the devi l i s of God. And very
often there wi l l remai n wi th hi m deap-seated i mpressi ons of forms and i deas
concerni ng the good and evi l of others, or of hi msel f, together wi th other fi gures
whi ch have been presented to hi m: these he wi l l consi der to be most certai n and
true, when i n fact they wi l l not be so, but very great fal sehoods. And others wi l l be
true, and he wi l l judge them to be fal se, al though thi s error I consi der safer, as i t i s
apt to ari se from humi l i ty.
4. And, even i f he be not decei ved as to thei r truth, he may wel l be decei ved
as to thei r quanti ty or qual i ty, thi nki ng that l i ttl e thi ngs are great, and great
thi ngs, l i ttl e. And wi th respect to thei r qual i ty, he may consi der what i s i n hi s
i magi nati on to be thi s or that, when i t i s somethi ng qui te di fferent; he may put, as
I sai as says, darkness for l i ght, and l i ght for darkness, or bi tter for sweet, and sweet
for bi tter.
506
And fi nal l y, even though he be correct as to one thi ng, i t wi l l be a
marvel i f he goes not astray wi th respect to the next; for, al though he may not
desi re to appl y hi s judgment to the judgi ng of them, yet, i f he appl y i t i n payi ng
heed to them, thi s wi l l be suffi ci ent to make some evi l to cl i ng to hi m as a resul t of
i t, at l east passi vel y; i f not evi l of thi s ki nd, then of one of the four other ki nds of
whi ch we shal l shortl y speak.
5. I t behoves the spi ri tual man, therefore, l est he fal l i nto thi s evi l of bei ng
decei ved i n hi s judgment, not to desi re to appl y hi s judgment i n order to know the
nature of hi s own condi ti on or feel i ngs, or the nature of such and such a vi si on, i dea
or feel i ng; nei ther shoul d he desi re to know i t or to pay heed to i t. Thi s he shoul d
onl y desi re i n order to speak of i t to hi s spi ri tual father, and to be taught by hi m
how to voi d hi s memory of these apprehensi ons. For, whatever may be thei r
i ntri nsi c nature, they cannot hel p hi m to l ove God as much as the smal l est act of
l i vi ng fai th and hope performed i n the empti ness and renunci ati on of al l thi ngs.
CHAPTER I X
Of the second kind of evil, which is the peril of falling into self-esteem and vain
presumption.
THE supernatural apprehensi ons of the memory al ready descri bed are al so a
frequent occasi on to spi ri tual persons of fal l i ng i nto some ki nd of presumpti on or
vani ty, i f they gi ve heed to them and set store by them. For, even as he who knows
nothi ng of them i s qui te free from fal l i ng i nto thi s vi ce, si nce he sees i n hi msel f no
occasi on of presumpti on, even so, i n contrary wi se, he that has experi ence of them
has cl ose at hand an occasi on for thi nki ng hi msel f to be somethi ng, si nce he
possesses these supernatural communi cati ons. For, al though i t i s true that he may
attri bute them to God, hol d hi msel f to be unworthy of them, and gi ve God the
thanks, yet neverthel ess there i s wont to remai n i n hi s spi ri t a certai n secret
sati sfacti on, and a sel f-esteem and a sense of thei r val ue, from whi ch, wi thout hi s
knowl edge, there wi l l come to hi m great spi ri tual pri de.
2. Thi s may be observed very cl earl y by such as wi l l consi der the di sl i ke and
506
I sai as v, 20.
201
aversi on caused them by any who do not prai se thei r spi ri tual i ty, or esteem the
experi ences whi ch they enjoy, and the morti fi cati on whi ch they suffer when they
thi nk or are tol d that others have just those same experi ences, or even superi or
ones. Al l thi s ari ses from secret sel f-esteem and pri de, and they can never qui te
real i ze that they are steeped i n pri de up to thei r very eyes. For they thi nk that a
certai n degree of recogni ti on of thei r own wretchedness suffi ces, and, al though they
have thi s, they are ful l of secret sel f-esteem and sel f-sati sfacti on, taki ng more
del i ght i n thei r own spi ri tual i ty and spi ri tual gi fts than i n those of others. They are
l i ke the Phari see who gave thanks to God that he was not as other men, and that he
practi sed such and such vi rtues, whereat he was sati sfi ed wi th hi msel f and
presumed thereon.
507
Such men, al though they may not use the Phari see's actual
words, habi tual l y resembl e hi m i n spi ri t. And some of them even become so proud
that they are worse than the devi l . For, observi ng i n themsel ves, as they i magi ne,
certai n apprehensi ons and feel i ngs concerni ng God whi ch are devout and sweet,
they become sel f-sati sfi ed to such an extent that they bel i eve themsel ves to be very
near God; and those that are not l i ke themsel ves they consi der very l ow and despi se
them after the manner of the Phari see.
3. I n order to fl ee from thi s pesti l ent evi l , abhorrent i n the eyes of God, they
must consi der two thi ngs. Fi rst, that vi rtue consi sts not i n apprehensi ons and
feel i ngs concerni ng God, howsoever subl i me they be, nor i n anythi ng of thi s ki nd
that a man can feel wi thi n hi msel f; but, on the contrary, i n that whi ch has nothi ng
to do wi th feel i ng -- namel y, a great humi l i ty and contempt of onesel f and of al l that
pertai ns to onesel f, fi rml y rooted i n the soul and keenl y fel t by i t; and l i kewi se i n
bei ng gl ad that others feel i n thi s very way concerni ng onesel f and i n not wi shi ng to
be of any account i n the esteem
508
of others.
4. Secondl y, i t must be noted that al l vi si ons, revel ati ons and feel i ngs comi ng
from Heaven, and any thoughts that may proceed from these, are of l ess worth than
the l east act of humi l i ty. And humi l i ty i s one of the effects of chari ty, whi ch esteems
not i ts own thi ngs nor stri ves to attai n them; nor thi nks evi l , save of i tsel f; nor
thi nks any good thi ng of i tsel f, but onl y of others. I t i s wel l , therefore, that these
supernatural apprehensi ons shoul d not attract men's eyes, but that they shoul d
stri ve to forget them i n order that they may be free.
CHAPTER X
Of the third evil that may come to the soul from the devil, through the imaginary
apprehensions of the memory.
FROM al l that has been sai d above i t may be cl earl y understood and i nferred how
great i s the evi l that may come to the soul from the devi l by way of these
supernatural apprehensi ons. For not onl y can he represent to the memory and the
fancy many fal se forms and i deas, whi ch seem true and good, i mpressi ng them on
spi ri t and sense wi th great effecti veness and certi fyi ng them to be true by means of
suggesti on (so that i t appears to the soul that i t cannot be otherwi se, but that
everythi ng i s even as he represents i t; for, as he transfi gures hi msel f i nto an angel
of l i ght, he appears as l i ght to the soul ); but he may al so tempt the soul i n many
ways wi th respect to true knowl edge, whi ch i s of God, movi ng i ts desi res and
507
St. Luke xvi i i , 11-12.
508
[Lit., 'i n the heart.']
202
affecti ons, whether spi ri tual or sensual , i n unrul y fashi on wi th respect to these; for,
i f the soul takes pl easure i n such apprehensi ons, i t i s very easy for the devi l to cause
i ts desi res and affecti ons to grow wi thi n i t, and to make i t fal l i nto spi ri tual gl uttony
and other evi l s.
2. And, i n order the better to do thi s, he i s wont to suggest and gi ve pl easure,
sweetness and del i ght to the senses wi th respect to these same thi ngs of God, so
that the soul i s corrupted and bewi l dered
509
by that sweetness, and i s thus bl i nded
wi th that pl easure and sets i ts eyes on pl easure rather than on l ove (or, at l east,
very much more than upon l ove), and gi ves more heed to the apprehensi ons than to
the detachment and empti ness whi ch are found i n fai th and hope and l ove of God.
And from thi s he may go on gradual l y to decei ve the soul and cause i t to bel i eve hi s
fal sehoods wi th great faci l i ty. For to the soul that i s bl i nd fal sehood no l onger
appears to be fal sehood, nor does evi l appear to be evi l , etc.; for darkness appears to
be l i ght, and l i ght, darkness; and hence that soul comes to commi t a thousand
fool i sh errors, whether wi th respect to natural thi ngs, or to moral thi ngs, or to
spi ri tual thi ngs; so that that whi ch was wi ne to i t becomes vi negar. Al l thi s happens
to the soul because i t began not, fi rst of al l , by denyi ng i tsel f the pl easure of those
supernatural thi ngs. At fi rst thi s i s a smal l matter, and not very harmful , and the
soul has therefore no mi sgi vi ngs, and al l ows i t to conti nue, and i t grows, l i ke the
grai n of mustard seed, i nto a tal l tree. For a smal l error at the begi nni ng, as they
say, becomes a great error i n the end.
3. Wherefore, i n order to fl ee from thi s great evi l , whi ch comes from the devi l ,
the soul must not desi re to have any pl easure i n such thi ngs, because such pl easure
wi l l most surel y l ead i t to become bl i nd and to fal l . For of thei r own nature, and
wi thout the hel p of the devi l , pl easure and del i ght and sweetness bl i nds the soul .
And thi s was the meani ng of Davi d when he sai d: 'Perhaps darkness shal l bl i nd me
i n my del i ghts and I shal l have the ni ght for my l i ght.'
510
CHAPTER XI
Of the fourth evil that comes to the soul from the distinct supernatural apprehensions
of the memory, which is the hindrance that it interposes to union.
CONCERNI NG thi s fourth evi l there i s not much to be sai d, si nce i t has al ready
been treated agai n and agai n i n thi s thi rd book, wherei n we have proved how, i n
order that the soul may come to uni on wi th God i n hope, i t must renounce every
possessi on of the memory; for, i n order that i ts hope i n God may be perfect, i t must
have naught i n the memory that i s not God. And, as we have l i kewi se sai d, no form
or fi gure or i mage or other ki nd of knowl edge that may come to the memory can be
God, nei ther can be l i ke Hi m, whether i t be of heaven or of earth, natural or
supernatural , even as Davi d teaches, when he says: 'Lord, among the gods there i s
none l i ke unto Thee.'
511
2. Wherefore, i f the memory desi res to pay heed to any of these thi ngs, i t
hi nders the soul from reachi ng God; fi rst, because i t encumbers i t, and next
because, the more the soul has of possessi on, the l ess i t has of hope. Wherefore i t i s
509
[The two verbs, i n the ori gi nal , have very defi ni te and concrete meani ngs, 'sweetened wi th honey'
and 'dazzl ed by a l amp' respecti vel y.]
510
Psal m cxxxvi i i , 11 [A.V., cxxxi x, 11].
511
Psal m l xxxv, 8 [A.V., l xxxvi , 8].
203
needful for the soul to be stri pped of the di sti nct forms and the knowl edge of
supernatural thi ngs, and to become obl i vi ous to them, so that the memory may
cause no hi ndrance to i ts uni on wi th God i n perfect hope.
CHAPTER XI I
Of the fifth evil that may come to the soul in supernatural imaginary forms and
apprehensions, which is a low and unseemly judgment or God.
NO l ess seri ous i s the fi fth evi l that comes to the soul from i ts desi re to retai n i n the
memory and i magi nati on the sai d forms and i mages of thi ngs that are
supernatural l y communi cated to i t, above al l i f i t desi res to use them as a means to
Di vi ne uni on. For i t i s a very easy thi ng to judge of the Bei ng and greatness of God
l ess worthi l y and nobl y than befi ts Hi s i ncomprehensi bl e nature; for, al though our
reason and judgment may form no express concepti on that God i s l i ke any one of
these thi ngs, yet the very esteemi ng of these apprehensi ons, i f i n fact the soul
esteems them, makes and causes i t not to esteem God, or not to feel concerni ng
Hi m, as hi ghl y as fai th teaches, si nce fai th tel l s us that He i s i ncomparabl e,
i ncomprehensi bl e, and so forth. For, qui te apart from the fact that the soul takes
from God al l that i t gi ves to the creature, i t i s natural that i ts esteem of these
apprehensi bl e thi ngs shoul d l ead i t to make a certai n i nward compari son between
such thi ngs and God, whi ch woul d prevent i t from judgi ng and esteemi ng God as
hi ghl y as i t ought. For the creatures, whether terrestri al or cel esti al , and al l di sti nct
i mages and ki nds of knowl edge, both natural and supernatural , that can be
encompassed by the facul ti es of the soul , however l ofty they be i n thi s l i fe, have no
compari son or proporti on wi th the Bei ng of God, si nce God fal l s wi thi n no genus and
no speci es, whereas the creatures do, or so the theol ogi ans tel l us. And the soul i n
thi s l i fe i s not capabl e of recei vi ng i n a cl ear and di sti nct manner aught save that
whi ch fal l s wi thi n genus and speci es. For thi s cause Sai nt John says that no man
hath seen God at any ti me.
512
And I sai as says i t has not entered i nto the heart of
man what God i s l i ke.
513
And God sai d to Moses that he coul d not see Hi m whi l e he
was i n thi s mortal state.
514
Wherefore he that encumbers hi s memory and the other
facul ti es of the soul wi th that whi ch they can comprehend cannot esteem God,
nei ther feel concerni ng Hi m, as he ought.
2. Let us make a compari son on a l ower l evel . I t i s cl ear that the more a man
fi xes hi s eyes upon the servants of a ki ng, and the more noti ce he takes of them, the
l ess noti ce does he take of the ki ng hi msel f, and the l ess does he esteem hi m; for,
al though thi s compari son may not be formal l y and di sti nctl y present i n the
understandi ng, i t i s i nherent i n the act, si nce, the more attenti on the man gi ves to
the servants, the more he takes from thei r l ord; and he cannot have a very hi gh
opi ni on of the ki ng i f the servants appear to hi m to be of any i mportance whi l e they
are i n the presence of the ki ng, thei r l ord. Even so does the soul treat i ts God when
i t pays heed to the creatures aforementi oned. Thi s compari son, however, i s on a
very l ow l evel , for, as we have sai d, God i s of another bei ng than Hi s creatures i n
that He i s i nfi ni tel y far from them al l . For thi s reason they must al l be bani shed
from si ght, and the soul must wi thdraw i ts gaze from them i n al l thei r forms, that i t
512
St. John i , 18.
513
I sai as l xi v, 4.
514
Exodus xxxi i i , 20.
204
may yet gaze on God through fai th and hope.
3. Wherefore those who not onl y pay heed to the i magi nary apprehensi ons
aforementi oned, but suppose God to be l i ke some of them, and thi nk that by means
of them they wi l l be abl e to attai n to uni on wi th God, have al ready gone far astray
and wi l l ever conti nue to l ose the l i ght of fai th i n the understandi ng, through whi ch
thi s facul ty i s uni ted wi th God; nei ther wi l l they grow i n the l ofti ness of hope, by
means whereof the memory i s uni ted wi th God i n hope, whi ch must be brought
about through di suni on from al l that i s of the i magi nati on.
CHAPTER XI I I
Of the benefits which the soul receives through banishing from itself the
apprehensions of the imagination. This chapter answers a certain objection and
explains a difference which exists between apprehensions that are imaginary,
natural and supernatural.
THE benefi ts that come from voi di ng the i magi nati on of i magi nary forms can be
cl earl y observed i n the fi ve evi l s aforementi oned whi ch they i nfl i ct upon the soul , i f
i t desi res to retai n them, even as we al so sai d of the natural forms. But, apart from
these, there are other benefi ts for the spi ri t -- namel y, those of great rest and qui et.
For, setti ng asi de that natural rest whi ch the soul obtai ns when i t i s free from
i mages and forms, i t l i kewi se becomes free from anxi ety as to whether they are good
or evi l , and as to how i t must behave wi th respect to the one and to the other. Nor
has i t to waste the l abour and ti me of i ts spi ri tual masters by requi ri ng them to
deci de i f these thi ngs are good or evi l , and i f they are of thi s ki nd or of another; for
the soul has no need to desi re to know al l thi s i f i t pays no heed to them. The ti me
and energi es whi ch i t woul d have wasted i n deal i ng wi th these i mages and forms
can be better empl oyed i n another and a more profi tabl e exerci se, whi ch i s that of
the wi l l wi th respect to God, and i n havi ng a care to seek detachment and poverty of
spi ri t and sense, whi ch consi sts i n desi ri ng earnestl y to be wi thout any consol i ng
support that can be apprehended, whether i nteri or or exteri or. Thi s we practi se wel l
when we desi re and stri ve to stri p oursel ves of these forms, si nce from thi s there
wi l l proceed no l ess a benefi t than that of approach to God (Who has no i mage,
nei ther form nor fi gure), and thi s wi l l be the greater accordi ng as the soul
wi thdraws i tsel f the more compl etel y from al l forms, i mages and fi gures of the
i magi nati on.
2. But perchance you wi l l say: 'Why do many spi ri tual persons counsel the
soul to stri ve to profi t by the communi cati ons and feel i ngs whi ch come from God,
and to desi re to recei ve them from Hi m, that i t may have somethi ng to gi ve Hi m;
si nce, i f He gi ves us nothi ng, we shal l gi ve Hi m nothi ng l i kewi se? And wherefore
does Sai nt Paul say: 'Quench not the spi ri t?"
515
And the Spouse to the Bri de: "Set
Me as a seal upon thy heart and as a seal upon thi ne arm?"
516
Thi s certai nl y
denotes some ki nd of apprehensi on. And, accordi ng to the i nstructi on gi ven above,
not onl y must al l thi s not be stri ven after, but, even though God sends i t, i t must be
rejected and cast asi de. But surel y i t i s cl ear that, si nce God gi ves i t, He gi ves i t to a
good purpose, and i t wi l l have a good effect. We must not throw away pearl s. And i t
i s even a ki nd of pri de to be unwi l l i ng to recei ve the thi ngs of God, as i f we coul d do
515
1 Thessal oni ans v, 19.
516
Canti cl es vi i i , 6.
205
wi thout them and were sel f-suffi ci ent.'
3. I n order to meet thi s objecti on i t i s necessary to recal l what we sai d i n the
fi fteenth and si xteenth chapters
517
of the second book, where to a great extent the
di ffi cul ty i s sol ved. For we sai d there that the good that overfl ows i n the soul from
supernatural apprehensi ons, when they come from a good source, i s produced
passi vel y i n the soul at that very i nstant when they are represented to the senses,
wi thout the worki ng of any operati on of the facul ti es. Wherefore i t i s unnecessary
for the wi l l to perform the act of recei vi ng them; for, as we have al so sai d, i f at that
ti me the soul shoul d try to l abour wi th i ts facul ti es, the effect of i ts own base and
natural operati on woul d be to hi nder the supernatural graces
518
whi ch God i s even
then worki ng i n i t rather than that, through these apprehensi ons, God shoul d cause
i t to deri ve any benefi t from i ts acti ve l abour. Nay, rather, as the spi ri tual i ty comi ng
from those i magi nary apprehensi ons i s gi ven passi vel y to the soul , even so must the
soul conduct i tsel f passi vel y wi th respect to them, setti ng no store by i ts i nward or
outward acti ons. To do thi s i s to preserve the feel i ngs that have thei r source i n God,
for i n thi s way they are not l ost through the soul 's base manner of worki ng. And thi s
i s not quenchi ng the spi ri t; for the spi ri t woul d be quenched by the soul i f i t desi red
to behave i n any other manner than that whereby God i s l eadi ng i t. And thi s i t
woul d be doi ng i f, when God had gi ven i t spi ri tual graces
519
passi vel y, as He does i n
these apprehensi ons, i t shoul d then desi re to exert i tsel f acti vel y wi th respect to
them, by l abouri ng wi th i ts understandi ng or by seeki ng to fi nd somethi ng i n them.
And thi s i s cl ear because, i f the soul desi res to l abour at that ti me wi th i ts own
exerti ons, i ts work cannot be more than natural , for of i tsel f i t i s capabl e of no more;
for supernatural l y i t nei ther moves i tsel f nor can move i tsel f -- i t i s God that moves
i t and bri ngs i t to thi s state. And thus, i f the soul at that ti me desi res to l abour wi th
i ts own exerti ons (as far as l i es i n i ts power), i ts acti ve worki ng wi l l hi nder the
passi ve work that God i s communi cati ng to i t, whi ch i s spi ri t.
520
I t wi l l be setti ng
i tsel f to i ts own work, whi ch i s of another and an i nferi or ki nd than that whi ch God
communi cates to i t; for the work of God i s passi ve and supernatural , and that of the
soul i s acti ve and natural ; and i n thi s way the soul woul d therefore be quenchi ng
the spi ri t.
4. That thi s acti vi ty of the soul i s an i nferi or one i s al so cl ear from the fact
that the facul ti es of the soul cannot, of thei r own power, refl ect and act, save upon
some form, fi gure and i mage, and thi s i s the ri nd and acci dent of the substance and
spi ri t whi ch l i e beneath thi s ri nd and acci dent. Thi s substance and spi ri t uni te not
wi th the facul ti es of the soul i n true understandi ng and l ove, save when at l ast the
operati on of the facul ti es ceases. For the ai m and end of thi s operati on i s onl y that
the substance whi ch can be understood and l oved and whi ch l i es beneath these
forms may come to be recei ved i n the soul . The di fference, therefore, between acti ve
and passi ve operati on, and the superi ori ty of the l atter, corresponds to the
di fference between that whi ch i s bei ng done and that whi ch i s done al ready, or
between that whi ch a man tri es to attai n and effect and that whi ch i s al ready
effected. Hence i t may l i kewi se be i nferred that, i f the soul shoul d desi re to empl oy
i ts facul ti es acti vel y on these supernatural apprehensi ons, wherei n God, as we have
sai d, bestows the spi ri t of them passi vel y, i t woul d be doi ng nothi ng l ess than
abandoni ng what i t had al ready done, i n order to do i t agai n, nei ther woul d i t enjoy
517
More correctl y, i n Chaps. xvi and xvi i .
518
[Lit., 'the supernatural .']
519
[Lit., 'had gi ven i t spi ri t' (or 'spi ri tual i ty').]
520
[Or 'spi ri tual i ty.']
206
what i t had done, nor coul d i t produce any other resul t by these acti ons of i ts own,
save that of i mpedi ng what had been done al ready. For, as we say, the facul ti es
cannot of thei r own power attai n to the spi ri tual i ty whi ch God bestows upon the
soul wi thout any operati on of thei r own. And thus the soul woul d be di rectl y
quenchi ng the spi ri tual i ty
521
whi ch God i nfuses through these i magi nary
apprehensi ons aforementi oned i f i t were to set any store by them; wherefore i t must
set them asi de, and take up a passi ve and negati ve atti tude wi th regard to them.
For at that ti me God i s movi ng the soul to thi ngs whi ch are above i ts own power and
knowl edge. For thi s cause the Prophet sai d: 'I wi l l stand upon my watch and set my
step upon my tower, and I wi l l watch to see that whi ch wi l l be sai d to me.'
522
Thi s i s
as though he were to say: I wi l l stand on guard over my facul ti es and I wi l l take no
step forward as to my acti ons, and thus I shal l be abl e to contempl ate that whi ch
wi l l be sai d to me -- that i s, I shal l understand and enjoy that whi ch wi l l be
communi cated to me supernatural l y.
5. And the passage whi ch has been quoted concerni ng the Spouse i s to be
understood as referri ng to the l ove that He entreats of the Bri de, the offi ce of whi ch
l ove between two l overs i s to make one l i ke to the other i n the most vi tal part of
them. Wherefore He tel l s her to set Hi m as a seal upon her heart,
523
where al l the
arrows stri ke that l eave the qui ver of l ove, whi ch arrows are the acti ons and
moti ves of l ove. So they wi l l al l stri ke Hi m Who i s there as a mark for them; and
thus al l wi l l be for Hi m, so that the soul wi l l become l i ke Hi m through the acti ons
and moti ons of l ove, unti l i t be transformed i n Hi m. Li kewi se he bi ds her set Hi m as
a seal upon her arm, because the arm performs
524
the exerci se of l ove, for by the
arm the Bel oved i s sustai ned and comforted.
6. Therefore al l that the soul has to endeavour to do wi th respect to al l the
apprehensi ons whi ch come to i t from above, whether i magi nary or of any other ki nd
-- i t matters not i f they be vi si ons, l ocuti ons, feel i ngs or revel ati ons -- i s to make no
account of the l etter or the ri nd (that i s, of what i s si gni fi ed or represented or gi ven
to be understood), but to pay heed onl y to the possessi on of the l ove of God whi ch
they cause i nteri orl y wi thi n the soul . And i n thi s case the soul wi l l make account,
not of feel i ngs of sweetness or del i ght, nor of fi gures, but of the feel i ngs of l ove
whi ch they cause i t. And wi th thi s sol e end i n vi ew i t may at ti mes recal l that i mage
and apprehensi on caused i t by l ove, i n order to set the spi ri t on i ts course of l ove.
For, though the effect of that apprehensi on be not so great afterwards, when i t i s
recal l ed, as i t was on the fi rst occasi on when i t was communi cated, yet, when i t i s
recal l ed, l ove i s renewed, and the mi nd i s l i fted up to God, especi al l y when the
recol l ecti on i s of certai n fi gures, i mages or feel i ngs whi ch are supernatural , and are
wont to be seal ed and i mpri nted upon the soul i n such a way that they conti nue for
a l ong ti me -- some of them, i ndeed, never l eave the soul . And those that are thus
seal ed upon the soul produce i n i t Di vi ne effects of l ove, sweetness, l i ght and so
forth, on al most every occasi on when the soul returns to them, someti mes more so
and someti mes l ess; for i t was to thi s end that they were i mpressed upon i t. And
thus thi s i s a great favour for the soul on whi ch God bestows i t, for i t i s as though i t
had wi thi n i tsel f a mi ne of bl essi ngs.
7. The fi gures whi ch produce effects such as these are deepl y i mpl anted i n
the soul , and are not l i ke other i mages and forms that are retai ned i n the fancy.
521
[Or 'the spi ri t.']
522
Habacuc i i , 1. [The ori gi nal has 'muni ti on' for 'tower' and 'contempl ate' for 'watch and see.']
523
Canti cl es vi i i , 6.
524
[Lit., 'because i n the arm i s.']
207
And thus the soul has no need to have recourse to thi s facul ty when i t desi res to
recal l them, for i t sees that i t has them wi thi n i tsel f, and that they are as an i mage
seen i n the mi rror. When i t comes to pass that any soul has such fi gures formal l y
wi thi n i tsel f, i t wi l l then do wel l to recal l them to the effect of l ove to whi ch I have
referred, for they wi l l be no hi ndrance to the uni on of l ove i n fai th, si nce the soul
wi l l not desi re to be absorbed i n the fi gure, but onl y to profi t by the l ove; i t wi l l
i mmedi atel y set asi de the fi gure, whi ch thus wi l l rather be a hel p to i t.
8. Onl y wi th great di ffi cul ty can i t be known when these i mages are
i mpri nted upon the soul , and when upon the fancy. For those whi ch touch the fancy
are as apt to occur very frequentl y as are the others; for certai n persons are
accustomed habi tual l y to have i magi nary vi si ons i n thei r i magi nati on and fancy,
whi ch are presented to them i n one form wi th great frequency; someti mes because
the apprehensi ve power of the organ concerned i s very great, and, however l i ttl e
they refl ect upon i t, that habi tual fi gure i s at once presented to, and outl i ned upon,
thei r fancy; someti mes because i t i s the work of the devi l ; someti mes, agai n, because
i t i s the work of God; but the vi si ons are not formal l y i mpri nted upon the soul . They
may be known, however, by thei r effects. For those that are natural , or that come
from the devi l , produce no good effect upon the soul , however frequentl y they be
recal l ed, nor work i ts spi ri tual renewal , but the contempl ati on of them si mpl y
produces ari di ty. Those that are good, however, produce some good effect when they
are recal l ed, l i ke that whi ch was produced i n the soul upon the fi rst occasi on. But
the formal i mages whi ch are i mpri nted upon the soul al most i nvari abl y produce
some effect i n i t, whensoever they are remembered.
9. He that has experi enced these wi l l readi l y di sti ngui sh the one ki nd from
the other, for the great di fference between them i s very cl ear to anyone that has
experi ence of them. I wi l l merel y say that those whi ch are formal l y and durabl y
i mpri nted upon the soul are of very rare occurrence. But, whether they be of thi s
ki nd or of that, i t i s good for the soul to desi re to understand nothi ng, save God
al one, through fai th, i n hope. And i f anyone makes the objecti on that to reject these
thi ngs, i f they are good, appears to be pri de, I repl y that i t i s not so, but that i t i s
prudent humi l i ty to profi t by them i n the best way, as has been sai d, and to be
gui ded by that whi ch i s safest.
CHAPTER XI V
Which treats of spiritual knowledge in so far as it may concern the memory.
WE cl assed spi ri tual forms of knowl edge as the thi rd di vi si on of the apprehensi ons
of the memory, not because they bel ong to the bodi l y sense of the fancy, as do the
others, for they have no bodi l y form and i mage, but because they are l i kewi se
apprehensi bl e by spi ri tual memory and remi ni scence. Now, after the soul has had
experi ence of one of these apprehensi ons, i t can recal l i t whensoever i t wi l l ; and thi s
i s not by the effi gy and i mage that the apprehensi on has l eft i n the bodi l y sense, for,
si nce thi s i s of bodi l y form, as we say, i t has no capaci ty for spi ri tual forms; but
because i t recal l s i t, i ntel l ectual l y and spi ri tual l y, by means of that form whi ch i t
has l eft i mpressed upon the soul , whi ch i s l i kewi se a formal or spi ri tual form or
noti on or i mage, whereby i t i s recal l ed, or by means of the effect that i t has wrought.
I t i s for thi s reason that I pl ace these apprehensi ons among those of the memory,
al though they bel ong not to the apprehensi ons of the fancy.
2. What these ki nds of knowl edge are, and how the soul i s to conduct i tsel f
208
wi th respect to them i n order to attai n to uni on wi th God, are suffi ci entl y descri bed
i n the twenty-fourth chapter
525
of the second book, where we treated thi s knowl edge
as apprehensi ons of the understandi ng. Let thi s be referred to, for we there
descri bed how i t was of two ki nds: ei ther uncreated or of the creatures. I speak now
onl y of thi ngs rel ati ng to my present purpose -- namel y, how the memory must
behave wi th respect to them i n order to attai n to uni on. And I say, as I have just
sai d of formal knowl edge i n the precedi ng chapter (for thi s, bei ng of created thi ngs,
i s of the same ki nd), that these apprehensi ons my be recal l ed when they produce
good effects, not that they may be dwel t upon, but that they may qui cken the soul 's
l ove and knowl edge of God. But, unl ess the recol l ecti on of them produces good
effects, l et the memory never gi ve them even passi ng attenti on. Wi th regard to
uncreated knowl edge, I say that the soul shoul d try to recal l i t as often as possi bl e,
for i t wi l l produce most benefi ci al effects. As we sai d above, i t produces touches and
i mpressi ons of uni on wi th God, whi ch i s the ai m towards whi ch we are di recti ng the
soul . And by no form, i mage or fi gure whi ch can be i mpressed upon the soul does the
memory recal l these (for these touches and i mpressi ons of uni on wi th the Creator
have no form), but onl y by the effects whi ch they have produced upon i t of l i ght,
l ove, joy and spi ri tual renewal , and so forth, some of whi ch are wrought anew i n the
soul whensoever they are remembered.
CHAPTER XV
Which sets down the general method whereby the spiritual person must govern
himself with respect to this sense.
I N order to concl ude thi s di scussi on on the memory, i t wi l l be wel l at thi s poi nt to
gi ve the spi ri tual reader an account of the method whi ch he must observe, and
whi ch i s of uni versal appl i cati on, i n order that he may be uni ted wi th God accordi ng
to thi s sense. For, al though what has been sai d makes the subject qui te cl ear, i t wi l l
neverthel ess be more easi l y apprehended i f we summari ze i t here. To thi s end i t
must be remembered that, si nce our ai m i s the uni on of the soul wi th God i n hope,
accordi ng to the memory, and si nce that whi ch i s hoped for i s that whi ch i s not
possessed, and si nce, the l ess we possess of other thi ngs, the greater scope and the
greater capaci ty have we for hopi ng, and consequentl y the greater hope, therefore,
the more thi ngs we possess, the l ess scope and capaci ty i s there for hopi ng, and
consequentl y the l ess hope have we. Hence, the more the soul di spossesses the
memory of forms and thi ngs whi ch may be recal l ed by i t, whi ch are not God, the
more wi l l i t set i ts memory upon God, and the empti er wi l l i ts memory become, so
that i t may hope for Hi m Who shal l fi l l i t. What must be done, then, that the soul
may l i ve i n the perfect and pure hope of God i s that, whensoever these di sti nct
i mages, forms and i deas come to i t, i t must not rest i n them, but must turn
i mmedi atel y to God, voi di ng the memory of them enti rel y, wi th l ovi ng affecti on. I t
must nei ther thi nk of these thi ngs nor consi der them beyond the degree whi ch i s
necessary for the understandi ng and performi ng of i ts obl i gati ons, i f they have any
concern wi th these. And thi s i t must do wi thout setti ng any affecti on or i ncl i nati on
upon them, so that they may produce no effects i n the soul . And thus a man must
not fai l to thi nk and recal l that whi ch he ought to know and do, for, provi ded he
preserves no affecti on or attachments, thi s wi l l do hi m no harm. For thi s matter the
525
Real l y the chapter i s the twenty-si xth.
209
l i nes of the Mount, whi ch are i n the thi rteenth chapter of the fi rst book, wi l l be of
profi t.
2. But here i t must be borne i n mi nd that thi s doctri ne ours does not agree,
nor do we desi re that i t shoul d agree, wi th the doctri ne of those pesti l ent men, who,
i nspi red by Satani c pri de and envy, have desi red to remove from the eyes of the
fai thful the hol y and necessary use, and the worthy
526
adorati on, of i mages of God
and of the sai nts. Thi s teachi ng of ours i s very di fferent from that; for we say not
here, as they do, that i mages shoul d not exi st, and shoul d not be adored; we si mpl y
expl ai n the di fference between i mages and God. We exhort men to pass beyond that
whi ch i s superfi ci al
527
that they may not be hi ndered from attai ni ng to the l i vi ng
truth beneath i t, and to make no more account of the former than suffi ces for
attai nment to the spi ri tual . For means are good and necessary to an end; and
i mages are means whi ch serve to remi nd us of God and of the sai nts. But when we
consi der and attend to the means more than i s necessary for treati ng them as such,
they di sturb and hi nder us as much, i n thei r own way, as any di fferent thi ng; the
more so, when we treat of supernatural vi si ons and i mages, to whi ch I am speci al l y
referri ng, and wi th respect to whi ch ari se many decepti ons and peri l s. For, wi th
respect to the remembrance and adorati on and esteem of i mages, whi ch the Cathol i c
Church sets before us, there can be no decepti on or peri l , because naught i s
esteemed therei n other than that whi ch i s represented; nor does the remembrance
of them fai l to profi t the soul , si nce they are not preserved i n the memory save wi th
l ove for that whi ch they represent; and, provi ded the soul pays no more heed to
them than i s necessary for thi s purpose, they wi l l ever assi st i t to uni on wi th God,
al l owi ng the soul to soar upwards (when God grants i t that favour) from the
superfi ci al i mage
528
to the l i vi ng God, forgetti ng every creature and everythi ng that
bel ongs to creatures.
CHAPTER XVI
Which begins to treat of the dark night of the will. Makes a division between the
affections of the will.
WE shoul d have accompl i shed nothi ng by the purgati on of the understandi ng i n
order to ground i t i n the vi rtue of fai th, and by the purgati on of the memory i n order
to ground i t i n hope, i f we purged not the wi l l al so accordi ng to the thi rd vi rtue,
whi ch i s chari ty, whereby the works that are done i n fai th l i ve and have great
meri t, and wi thout i t are of no worth. For, as Sai nt James says: 'Wi thout works of
chari ty, fai th i s dead.'
529
And, now that we have to treat of the acti ve detachment
and ni ght of thi s facul ty, i n order to form i t and make i t perfect i n thi s vi rtue of the
chari ty of God, I fi nd no more fi tti ng authori ty than that whi ch i s wri tten i n the
si xth chapter of Deuteronomy, where Moses says: 'Thou shal t l ove the Lord thy God
wi th thy whol e heart and wi th thy whol e soul and wi th thy whol e strength.'
530
Herei n i s contai ned al l that the spi ri tual man ought to do, and al l that I have here
to teach hi m, so that he may trul y attai n to God, through uni on of the wi l l , by
526
[The Spani sh word, ínclita, i s stronger than thi s, meani ng 'di sti ngui shed,' 'i l l ustri ous.']
527
[Lit., 'whi ch i s pai nted.']
528
[Lit., 'the pai nted i mage.']
529
St. James i i , 20.
530
Deuteronomy vi , 5.
210
means of chari ty. For herei n man i s commanded to empl oy al l the facul ti es and
desi res and operati ons and affecti ons of hi s soul i n God, so that al l the abi l i ty and
strength of hi s soul may serve for no more than thi s, accordi ng to that whi ch Davi d
says, i n these words: Fortitudinem meam ad te custodiam.
531
2. The strength of the soul consi sts i n i ts facul ti es, passi ons and desi res, al l of
whi ch are governed by the wi l l . Now when these facul ti es, passi ons and desi res are
di rected by the wi l l toward God, and turned away from al l that i s not God, then the
strength of the soul i s kept for God, and thus the soul i s abl e to l ove God wi th al l i ts
strength. And, to the end that the soul may do thi s, we shal l here treat of the
purgati on from the wi l l of al l i ts unrul y affecti ons, whence ari se unrul y operati ons,
affecti ons and desi res, and whence al so ari ses i ts fai l ure to keep al l i ts strength for
God. These affecti ons and passi ons are four, namel y: Joy, hope, gri ef and fear. These
passi ons, when they are control l ed by reason accordi ng to the way of God, so that
the soul rejoi ces onl y i n that whi ch i s purel y the honour and gl ory of God, and hopes
for naught el se, nei ther gri eves save for thi ngs that concern thi s, nei ther fears
aught save God al one, i t i s cl ear that the strength and abi l i ty of the soul are bei ng
di rected toward God and kept for Hi m. For, the more the soul rejoi ces i n any other
thi ng than God, the l ess compl etel y wi l l i t centre i ts rejoi ci ng i n God;
532
and the
more i t hopes i n aught el se, the l ess wi l l i t hope i n God; and so wi th the other
passi ons.
3. And i n order to gi ve ful l er i nstructi ons concerni ng thi s, we shal l treat, i n
turn and i n detai l , as i s our custom, of each of these four passi ons and of the desi res
of the wi l l . For the whol e busi ness of attai ni ng to uni on wi th God consi sts i n
purgi ng the wi l l from i ts affecti ons and desi res; so that thus i t may no l onger be a
base, human wi l l , but may become a Di vi ne wi l l , bei ng made one
533
wi th the wi l l of
God.
4. These four passi ons have the greater domi ni on i n the soul , and assai l i t the
more vehementl y, when the wi l l i s l ess strongl y attached to God and more
dependent on the creatures. For then i t rejoi ces very readi l y at thi ngs that meri t not
rejoi ci ng, hopes i n that whi ch bri ngs no profi t, gri eves over that i n whi ch perchance
i t ought to rejoi ce, and fears where there i s no reason for feari ng.
5. From these affecti ons, when they are unbri dl ed, ari se i n the soul al l the
vi ces and i mperfecti ons whi ch i t possesses, and l i kewi se, when they are ordered and
composed, al l i ts vi rtues. And i t must be known that, i f one of them shoul d become
ordered and control l ed by reason, the rest wi l l become so l i kewi se; for these four
passi ons of the soul are so cl osel y and i nti matel y uni ted to one another that the
actual di recti on of one i s the vi rtual di recti on of the others; and i f one be actual l y
recol l ected the other three wi l l vi rtual l y and proporti onatel y be recol l ected l i kewi se.
For, i f the wi l l rejoi ce i n anythi ng i t wi l l as a resul t hope for the same thi ng to the
extent of i ts rejoi ci ng, and herei n are vi rtual l y i ncl uded gri ef and fear wi th regard to
the same thi ng; and, i n proporti on as desi re for these i s taken away, fear and gri ef
concerni ng them are l i kewi se gradual l y l ost, and hope for them i s removed. For the
wi l l , wi th these four passi ons, i s denoted by that fi gure whi ch was seen by Ezechi el ,
of four beasts wi th one body, whi ch had four faces; and the wi ngs of the one were
joi ned to those of the other, and each one went strai ght before hi s face, and when
they went forward they turned not back.
534
And thus i n the same manner the wi ngs
531
Psal m l vi i i , 10 [A.V., l i x, 9].
532
[Lit., 'the l ess strongl y wi l l i ts rejoi ci ng be empl oyed i n God.']
533
[The ori gi nal i s stronger: 'one same thi ng.']
534
Ezechi el i , 5-9.
211
of each one of these affecti ons are joi ned to those of each of the others, so that, i n
whi chever di recti on one of them turns -- that i s, i n i ts operati on -- the others of
necessi ty go wi th i t vi rtual l y al so; and, when one of them descends, as i s there sai d,
they must al l descend, and, when one i s l i fted up, they wi l l al l be l i fted up. Where
thy hope i s, thi ther wi l l go thy joy and fear and gri ef; and, i f thy hope returns, the
others wi l l return, and so of the rest.
6. Wherefore thou must take note that, wheresoever one of these passi ons i s,
thi ther wi l l go l i kewi se the whol e soul and the wi l l and the other facul ti es, and they
wi l l al l l i ve as capti ves to thi s passi on, and the other three passi ons wi l l be l i vi ng i n
i t al so, to affl i ct the soul wi th thei r capti vi ty, and not to al l ow i t to fl y upward to the
l i berty and rest of sweet contempl ati on and uni on. For thi s cause Boeti us tol d thee
that, i f thou shoul dst desi re to understand truth wi th cl ear l i ght, thou must cast
from thee joys, hope, fear and gri ef.
535
For, as l ong as these passi ons rei gn, they
al l ow not the soul to remai n i n the tranqui l l i ty and peace whi ch are necessary for
the wi sdom whi ch, by natural or supernatural means, i t i s capabl e of recei vi ng.
CHAPTER XVI I
Which begins to treat of the first affections of the will. Describes the nature of joy and
makes a distinction between the things in which the will can rejoice.
THE fi rst of the passi ons of the soul and affecti ons of the wi l l i s joy, whi ch, i n so far
as concerns that whi ch we propose to say about i t, i s naught el se than a sati sfacti on
of the wi l l together wi th esteem for somethi ng whi ch i t consi ders desi rabl e; for the
wi l l never rejoi ces save when an object affords i t appreci ati on and sati sfacti on. Thi s
has reference to acti ve joy, whi ch ari ses when the soul cl earl y and di sti nctl y
understands the reason for i ts rejoi ci ng, and when i t i s i n i ts own power to rejoi ce or
not. There i s another and a passi ve joy, a condi ti on i n whi ch the wi l l may fi nd i tsel f
rejoi ci ng wi thout understandi ng cl earl y and di sti nctl y the reason for i ts rejoi ci ng,
and whi ch al so occurs at ti mes when i t does understand thi s; but i t i s not i n the
soul 's power to rejoi ce or not. Of thi s condi ti on we shal l speak hereafter. For the
present we shal l speak of joy when i t i s acti ve and vol untary and ari ses from thi ngs
that are di sti nct and cl ear.
2. Joy may ari se from si x ki nds of good thi ngs or bl essi ngs,
536
namel y:
temporal , natural , sensual , moral , supernatural and spi ri tual . Of these we shal l
speak i n thei r order, control l i ng the wi l l wi th regard to them so that i t may not be
encumbered by them and fai l to pl ace the strength of i ts joy i n God. To thi s end i t i s
wel l to presuppose one fundamental truth, whi ch wi l l be as a staff whereon we
shoul d ever l ean as we progress; and i t wi l l be wel l to have understood i t, because i t
i s the l i ght whereby we shoul d be gui ded and whereby we may understand thi s
doctri ne, and di rect our rejoi ci ng i n al l these bl essi ngs to God. Thi s truth i s that the
wi l l must never rejoi ce save onl y i n that whi ch i s to the honour and gl ory of God;
and that the greatest honour we can show to Hi m i s that of servi ng Hi m accordi ng
to evangel i cal perfecti on; and anythi ng that has naught to do wi th thi s i s of no val ue
and profi t to man.
535
Cf. Bk. I I I , ch. XVI , above.
536
[Lit., 'thi ngs or bl essi ngs.' The word here transl ated 'bl essi ngs' i s bienes, often rendered 'goods.' I
use 'bl essi ngs' or 'good thi ngs' i n the fol l owi ng chapters, accordi ng as best sui ts the context.]
212
CHAPTER XVI I I
Which treats of joy with respect to temporal blessings. Describes how joy in them
must be directed to God.
THE fi rst ki nd of bl essi ng of whi ch we have spoken i s temporal . And by temporal
bl essi ngs we here understand ri ches, rank, offi ce and other thi ngs that men desi re;
and chi l dren, rel ati ves, marri ages, etc.: al l of whi ch are thi ngs wherei n the wi l l may
rejoi ce. But i t i s cl ear how vai n a thi ng i t i s for men to rejoi ce i n ri ches, ti tl es, rank,
offi ce and other such thi ngs whi ch they are wont to desi re; for, i f a man were the
better servant of God for bei ng ri ch, he ought to rejoi ce i n ri ches; but i n fact they are
rather a cause for hi s gi vi ng offence to God, even as the Wi se Man teaches, sayi ng:
'Son, i f thou be ri ch, thou shal t not be free from si n.'
537
Al though i t i s true that
temporal bl essi ngs do not necessari l y of themsel ves cause si n, yet, through the
frai l ty of i ts affecti ons, the heart of man habi tual l y cl i ngs to them and fai l s God
(whi ch i s a si n, for to fai l God i s si n); i t i s for thi s cause that the Wi se Man says:
'Thou shal t not be free from si n.' For thi s reason the Lord descri bed ri ches, i n the
Gospel , as thorns,
538
i n order to show that he who touches them
539
wi th the wi l l
shal l be wounded by some si n. And that excl amati on whi ch He makes i n the Gospel ,
sayi ng: 'How hardl y shal l they that have ri ches enter the Ki ngdom of the heavens' --
that i s to say, they that have joy i n ri ches -- cl earl y shows that man must not rejoi ce
i n ri ches, si nce he exposes hi msel f thereby to such great peri l .
540
And Davi d, i n
order to wi thdraw us from thi s peri l , sai d l i kewi se: 'I f ri ches abound, set not your
heart on them.'
541
And I wi l l not here quote further testi mony on so cl ear a matter.
2. For i n that case I shoul d never cease quoti ng Scri pture, nor shoul d I cease
descri bi ng the evi l s whi ch Sol omon i mputes to ri ches i n Eccl esi astes. Sol omon was a
man who had possessed great ri ches, and, knowi ng wel l what they were, sai d: 'Al l
thi ngs that are under the sun are vani ty of vani ti es, vexati on of spi ri t and vai n
sol i ci tude of the mi nd.'
542
And he that l oves ri ches, he sai d, shal l reap no frui t from
them.
543
And he adds that ri ches are kept to the hurt of thei r owner,
544
as we see i n
the Gospel , where i t was sai d from Heaven to the man that rejoi ced because he had
kept many frui ts for many years: 'Fool , thi s ni ght shal l thy soul be requi red of thee
to gi ve account thereof, and whose shal l be that whi ch thou has provi ded?'
545
And
fi nal l y, Davi d teaches us the same, sayi ng: 'Let us have no envy when our nei ghbour
becomes ri ch, for i t wi l l profi t hi m nothi ng i n the l i fe to come;'
546
meani ng thereby
that we mi ght rather have pi ty on hi m.
3. I t fol l ows, then, that a man must nei ther rejoi ce i n ri ches when he has
them, nor when hi s brother has them, unl ess they hel p them to serve God. For i f
ever i t i s al l owabl e to rejoi ce i n them, i t wi l l be when they are spent and empl oyed
537
Eccl esi asti cus xi , 10.
538
St. Matthew xi i i , 22; St. Luke vi i i , 14.
539
[Lit., 'handl es them.']
540
St. Matthew xi x, 23; St. Luke xvi i i , 24.
541
Psal m l xi , 11 [A.V., l xi i , 10].
542
Eccl esi astes i , 14.
543
Eccl esi astes v, 9.
544
Eccl esi astes v, 12.
545
St. Luke xi i , 20.
546
Psal m xl vi i i , 17-18 [A.V., xl i x, 16-17].
213
i n the servi ce of God, for otherwi se no profi t wi l l be deri ved from them. And the
same i s to be understood of other bl essi ngs (ti tl es, offi ces, etc.), i n al l of whi ch i t i s
vai n to rejoi ce i f a man feel not that God i s the better served because of them and
the way to eternal l i fe i s made more secure. And as i t cannot be cl earl y known i f
thi s i s so (i f God i s better served, etc.), i t woul d be a vai n thi ng to rejoi ce i n these
thi ngs del i beratel y, si nce such a joy cannot be reasonabl e. For, as the Lord says: 'I f
a man gai n al l the worl d, he may yet l ose hi s soul .'
547
There i s naught, then,
wherei n to rejoi ce save i n the fact that God i s better served.
4. Nei ther i s there cause for rejoi ci ng i n chi l dren because they are many, or
ri ch, or endowed wi th natural graces and tal ents and the good thi ngs of fortune, but
onl y i f they serve God. For Absal om, the son of Davi d, found nei ther hi s beauty nor
hi s ri ches nor hi s l i neage of any servi ce to hi m because he served not God.
548
Hence
i t was a vai n thi ng to have rejoi ced i n such a son. For thi s reason i t i s al so a vai n
thi ng for men to desi re to have chi l dren, as do some who troubl e and di sturb
everyone wi th thei r desi re for them, si nce they know not i f such chi l dren wi l l be
good and serve God. Nor do they know i f thei r sati sfacti on i n them wi l l be turned
i nto pai n; nor i f the comfort and consol ati on whi ch they shoul d have from them wi l l
change to di squi et and tri al ; and the honour whi ch they shoul d bri ng them, i nto
di shonour; nor i f they wi l l cause them to gi ve greater offence to God, as happens to
many. Of these Chri st says that they go round about the sea and the l and to enri ch
them and to make them doubl y the chi l dren of perdi ti on whi ch they are
themsel ves.
549
5. Wherefore, though al l thi ngs smi l e upon a man and al l that he does turns
out prosperousl y, he ought to have mi sgi vi ngs rather than to rejoi ce; for these
thi ngs i ncrease the occasi on and peri l of hi s forgetti ng God. For thi s cause Sol omon
says, i n Eccl esi astes, that he was cauti ous: 'Laughter I counted error and to
rejoi ci ng I sai d, "Why art thou vai nl y decei ved?"'
550
Whi ch i s as though he had sai d:
When thi ngs smi l ed upon me I counted i t error and decepti on to rejoi ce i n them; for
wi thout doubt i t i s a great error and fol l y on the part of a man i f he rejoi ce when
thi ngs are bri ght and pl easant for hi m, knowi ng not of a certai nty that there wi l l
come to hi m thence some eternal good. The heart of the fool , says the Wi se Man, i s
where there i s mi rth, but that of the wi se man i s where there i s sorrow.
551
For
mi rth bl i nds the heart and al l ows i t not to consi der thi ngs and ponder them; but
sadness makes a man open hi s eyes and l ook at the profi t and the harm of them.
And hence i t i s that, as he hi msel f says, anger i s better than l aughter.
552
Wherefore
i t i s better to go to the house of mourni ng than to the house of feasti ng; for i n the
former i s fi gured the end of al l men,
553
as the Wi se Man says l i kewi se.
6. I t woul d therefore be vani ty for a woman or her husband to rejoi ce i n thei r
marri age when they know not cl earl y that they are servi ng God better thereby.
They ought rather to feel confounded, si nce matri mony i s a cause, as Sai nt Paul
says, whereby each one sets hi s heart upon the other and keeps i t not whol l y wi th
God. Wherefore he says: 'I f thou shoul dst fi nd thysel f free from a wi fe, desi re not to
seek a wi fe; whi l e he that has one al ready shoul d wal k wi th such freedom of heart
547
St. Matthew xvi , 26.
548
2 Ki ngs [A.V. 2 Samuel ] xi v, 25.
549
St. Matthew xxi i i , 15.
550
Eccl esi astes i i , 2.
551
Eccl esi astes vi i , 5.
552
Eccl esi astes vi i , 4.
553
Eccl esi astes vi i , 3.
214
as though he had her not.'
554
Thi s, together wi th what we have sai d concerni ng
temporal bl essi ngs, he teaches us hi msel f, i n these words: 'Thi s i s certai n; as I say
to you, brethren, the ti me i s short; i t remai neth that they al so who have wi ves be as
i f they had none; and they that weep, as them that weep not; and they that rejoi ce,
as them that rejoi ce not; and they that buy, as them that possess not; and they that
use thi s worl d, as them that use i t not.'
555
Al l thi s he says to show us that we must
not set our rejoi ci ngs upon any other thi ng than that whi ch tends to the servi ce of
God, si nce the rest i s vani ty and a thi ng whi ch profi ts not; for joy that i s not
accordi ng to God can bri ng the soul no profi t.
556
CHAPTER XI X
Of the evils that may befall the soul when it sets its rejoicing upon temporal
blessings.
I F we had to descri be the evi l s whi ch encompass the soul when i t sets the affecti ons
of i ts wi l l upon temporal bl essi ngs, nei ther i nk nor paper woul d suffi ce us and our
ti me woul d be too short. For from very smal l begi nni ngs a man may attai n to great
evi l s and destroy great bl essi ngs; even as from a spark of fi re, i f i t be not quenched,
may be enki ndl ed great fi res whi ch set the worl d abl aze. Al l these evi l s have thei r
root and ori gi n i n one i mportant evi l of a pri vati ve ki nd that i s contai ned i n thi s joy
-- namel y, wi thdrawal from God. For even as, i n the soul that i s uni ted wi th Hi m by
the affecti on of i ts wi l l , there are born al l bl essi ngs, even so, when i t wi thdraws
i tsel f from Hi m because of thi s creature affecti on, there beset i t al l evi l s and
di sasters proporti onatel y to the joy and affecti on wherewi th i t i s uni ted wi th the
creature; for thi s i s i nherent i n
557
wi thdrawal from God. Wherefore a soul may
expect the evi l s whi ch assai l i t to be greater or l ess accordi ng to the greater or l esser
degree of i ts wi thdrawal from God. These evi l s may be extensi ve or i ntensi ve; for
the most part they are both together.
2. Thi s pri vati ve evi l , whence, we say, ari se other pri vati ve and posi ti ve evi l s,
has four degrees, each one worse than the other. And, when the soul compasses the
fourth degree, i t wi l l have compassed al l the evi l s and depravi ti es that ari se i n thi s
connecti on.
558
These four degrees are wel l i ndi cated by Moses i n Deuteronomy i n
these words, where he says: 'The bel oved grew fat and ki cked. He grew fat and
became swol l en and gross. He forsook God hi s Maker and departed from God hi s
Sal vati on.'
559
3. Thi s growi ng fat of the soul , whi ch was l oved before i t grew fat, i ndi cates
absorpti on i n thi s joy of creatures. And hence ari ses the fi rst degree of thi s evi l ,
namel y the goi ng backward; whi ch i s a certai n bl unti ng of the mi nd wi th regard to
God, an obscuri ng of the bl essi ngs of God l i ke the obscuri ng of the ai r by mi st, so
that i t cannot be cl earl y i l l umi ned by the l i ght of the sun. For, preci sel y when the
spi ri tual person sets hi s rejoi ci ng upon anythi ng, and gi ves rei n to hi s desi re for
fool i sh thi ngs, he becomes bl i nd as to God, and the si mpl e i ntel l i gence of hi s
554
1 Cori nthi ans vi i , 27.
555
1 Cori nthi ans vi i , 29-30.
556
[Lit., 'bri ng i t no profi t.']
557
[Lit., 'for thi s i s.']
558
[Lit., 'that can be tol d i n thi s case.']
559
Deuteronomy xxxi i , 15.
215
judgment becomes cl ouded, even as the Di vi ne Spi ri t teaches i n the Book of
Wi sdom, sayi ng: 'the use and associ ati on of vani ty and scorn obscureth good thi ngs,
and i nconstancy of desi re overturneth and perverteth the sense and judgment that
are wi thout mal i ce.'
560
Here the Hol y Spi ri t shows that, al though there be no mal i ce
concei ved i n the understandi ng of the soul , concupi scence and rejoi ci ng i n creatures
suffi ce of themsel ves to create i n the soul the fi rst degree of thi s evi l , whi ch i s the
bl unti ng of the mi nd and the darkeni ng of the judgment, by whi ch the truth i s
understood and each thi ng honestl y judged as i t i s.
4. Hol i ness and good judgment suffi ce not to save a man from fal l i ng i nto thi s
evi l , i f he gi ves way to concupi scence or rejoi ci ng i n temporal thi ngs. For thi s reason
God warned us by utteri ng these words through Moses: 'Thou shal t take no gi fts,
whi ch bl i nd even the prudent.'
561
And thi s was addressed parti cul arl y to those who
were to be judges; for these have need to keep thei r judgment cl ear and al ert, whi ch
they wi l l be unabl e to do i f they covet and rejoi ce i n gi fts. And for thi s cause l i kewi se
God commanded Moses to appoi nt judges from those who abhorred avari ce, so that
thei r judgment shoul d not be bl unted wi th the l ust of the passi ons.
562
And thus he
says not onl y that they shoul d not desi re i t, but that they shoul d abhor i t. For, i f a
man i s to be perfectl y defended from the affecti on of l ove, he must preserve an
abhorrence of i t, defendi ng hi msel f by means of the one thi ng agai nst i ts contrary.
The reason why the prophet Samuel , for exampl e, was al ways so upri ght and
enl i ghtened a judge i s that (as he sai d i n the Book of the Ki ngs) he had never
recei ved a gi ft from any man.
563
5. The second degree of thi s pri vati ve evi l ari ses from the fi rst, whi ch i s
i ndi cated i n the words fol l owi ng the passage al ready quoted, namel y: 'He grew fat
and became swol l en and gross.'
564
And thus thi s second degree i s di l ati on of the wi l l
through the acqui si ti on of greater l i berty i n temporal thi ngs; whi ch consi sts i n no
l onger attachi ng so much i mportance to them, nor troubl i ng onesel f about them, nor
esteemi ng so hi ghl y the joy and pl easure that come from created bl essi ngs. And thi s
wi l l have ari sen i n the soul from i ts havi ng i n the fi rst pl ace gi ven rei n to rejoi ci ng;
for, through gi vi ng way to i t, the soul has become swol l en wi th i t, as i s sai d i n that
passage, and that fatness of rejoi ci ng and desi re has mused i t to di l ate and extend
i ts wi l l more freel y toward the creatures. And thi s bri ngs wi th i t great evi l s. For thi s
second degree causes the soul to wi thdraw i tsel f from the thi ngs of God, and from
hol y practi ces, and to take no pl easure i n them, because i t takes pl easure i n other
thi ngs and devotes i tsel f conti nual l y to many i mperfecti ons and fol l i es and to joys
and vai n pl easures.
6. And when thi s second degree i s consummated, i t wi thdraws a man whol l y
from the practi ces whi ch he fol l owed conti nual l y and makes hi s whol e mi nd and
covetousness to be gi ven to secul ar thi ngs. And those who are affected by thi s
second degree not onl y have thei r judgment and understandi ng darkened so that
they cannot recogni ze truth and justi ce, l i ke those who are i n the fi rst degree, but
they are al so very weak and l ukewarm and carel ess i n acqui ri ng knowl edge of, and
i n practi si ng, truth and justi ce, even as I sai as says of them i n these words: 'They al l
l ove gi fts and al l ow themsel ves to be carri ed away by rewards, and they judge not
the orphan, nei ther doth the cause of the wi dow come unto them that they may gi ve
560
Wi sdom i v, 12.
561
Exodus xxi i i , 8.
562
Exodus xxi i i , 21-2.
563
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] xi i , 3.
564
Deuteronomy xxxi i , 15.
216
heed to i t.'
565
Thi s comes not to pass i n them wi thout si n, especi al l y when to do
these thi ngs i s i ncumbent upon them because of thei r offi ce. For those who are
affected by thi s degree are not free from mal i ce as are those of the fi rst degree. And
thus they wi thdraw themsel ves more and more from justi ce and vi rtues, si nce thei r
wi l l reaches out more and more i n affecti on for creatures. Wherefore, the
characteri sti cs of those who are i n thi s second degree are great l ukewarmness i n
spi ri tual thi ngs and fai l ure to do thei r duty by them; they practi se them from
formal i ty or from compul si on or from the habi t whi ch they have formed of practi si ng
them, rather than because they l ove them.
7. The thi rd degree of thi s pri vati ve evi l i s a compl ete fal l i ng away from God,
negl ect to ful fi l Hi s l aw i n order not to l ose worl dl y thi ngs and bl essi ngs, and
rel apse i nto mortal si n through covetousness. And thi s thi rd degree i s descri bed i n
the words fol l owi ng the passage quoted above, whi ch says: 'He forsook God hi s
Maker.'
566
I n thi s degree are i ncl uded al l who have the facul ti es of the soul absorbed
i n thi ngs of the worl d and i n ri ches and commerce, i n such a way that they care
nothi ng for ful fi l l i ng the obl i gati ons of the l aw of God. And they are very forgetful
and dul l wi th respect to that whi ch touches thei r sal vati on, and have a
correspondi ngl y greater ardour and shrewdness wi th respect to thi ngs of the worl d.
So much so that i n the Gospel Chri st cal l s them chi l dren of thi s worl d, and says of
them that they are more prudent and acute i n thei r affai rs than are the chi l dren of
l i ght i n thei r own.
567
And thus they are as nothi ng i n God's busi ness, whereas i n the
worl d's busi ness they are everythi ng. And these are the trul y avari ci ous, who have
extended and di spersed thei r desi re and joy on thi ngs created, and thi s wi th such
affecti on that they cannot be sati sfi ed; on the contrary, thei r desi re and thei r thi rst
grow al l the more because they are farther wi thdrawn from the onl y source that
coul d sati sfy them, whi ch i s God. For i t i s of these that God Hi msel f speaks through
Jeremi as, sayi ng: 'They have forsaken Me, Who am the fountai n of l i vi ng water, and
they have di gged to themsel ves broken ci sterns that can hol d no water.'
568
And thi s
i s the reason why the covetous man fi nds naught among the creatures wherewi th he
can quench hi s thi rst, but onl y that whi ch i ncreases i t. These persons are they that
fal l i nto countl ess ki nds of si n through l ove of temporal bl essi ngs and the evi l s
whi ch affl i ct them are i nnumerabl e. And of these Davi d says: Transierunt in
affectum cordis.
569
8. The fourth degree of thi s pri vati ve evi l i s i ndi cated i n the l ast words of our
passage, whi ch says: 'And he departed from God hi s Sal vati on.'
570
To thi s degree
come those of the thi rd degree whereof we have just spoken. For, through hi s not
gi vi ng heed to setti ng hi s heart upon the l aw of God because of temporal bl essi ngs,
the soul of the covetous man departs far from God accordi ng to hi s memory,
understandi ng and wi l l , forgetti ng Hi m as though He were not hi s God, whi ch
comes to pass because he has made for hi msel f a god of money and of temporal
bl essi ngs, as Sai nt Paul says when he descri bes avari ce as sl avery to i dol s.
571
For
thi s fourth degree l eads a man as far as to forget God, and to set hi s heart, whi ch he
shoul d have set formal l y upon God, formal l y upon money, as though he had no god
565
I sai ah i , 23.
566
Deuteronomy xxxi i , 15.
567
St. Luke xvi , 8.
568
Jeremi as i i , 13.
569
['They have passed i nto the affecti on of the heart.'] Psal m l xxi i , 7 [A.V. l xxi i i , 7].
570
Deuteronomy xxxi i , 15.
571
Col ossi ans i i i , 5.
217
besi de.
9. To thi s fourth degree bel ong those who hesi tate not to subject Di vi ne and
supernatural thi ngs to temporal thi ngs, as to thei r God, when they ought to do the
contrary, and subject temporal thi ngs to God, i f they consi dered Hi m as thei r God,
as woul d be i n accordance wi th reason. To these bel onged the i ni qui tous Bal aam,
who sol d the grace that God had gi ven to hi m.
572
And al so Si mon Magus, who
thought to val ue the grace of God i n terms of money, and desi red to buy i t.
573
I n
doi ng thi s he showed a greater esteem for money; and he thought there were those
who si mi l arl y esteemed i t, and woul d gi ve grace for money. There are many
nowadays who i n many other ways bel ong to thi s fourth degree; thei r reason i s
darkened to spi ri tual thi ngs by covetousness; they serve money and not God, and
are i nfl uenced by money and not by God, putti ng fi rst the cost of a thi ng and not i ts
Di vi ne worth and reward, and i n many ways maki ng money thei r pri nci pal god and
end, and setti ng i t before the fi nal end, whi ch i s God.
10. To thi s l ast degree bel ong al so those mi serabl e soul s who are so greatl y i n
l ove wi th thei r own goods that they take them for thei r god, so much so that they
scrupl e not to sacri fi ce thei r l i ves for them, when they see that thi s god of thei rs i s
sufferi ng some temporal harm. They abandon themsel ves to despai r and take thei r
own l i ves for thei r mi serabl e ends, showi ng by thei r own acts how wretched i s the
reward whi ch such a god as thei rs bestows. For when they can no l onger hope for
aught from hi m he gi ves them despai r and death; and those whom he pursues not to
thi s l ast evi l of death he condemns to a dyi ng l i fe i n the gri efs of anxi ety and i n
many other mi seri es, al l owi ng no mi rth to enter thei r heart, and naught that i s of
earth to bri ng them sati sfacti on. They conti nual l y pay the tri bute of thei r heart to
money by thei r yearni ng for i t and hoardi ng of i t for the fi nal cal ami ty of thei r just
perdi ti on, as the Wi se Man warns them, sayi ng: 'Ri ches are kept to the hurt of thei r
owner.'
574
11. And to thi s fourth degree bel ong those of whom Sai nt Paul says: Tradidit
illos in reprobum sensum.
575
For joy, when i t stri ves after possessi ons as i ts fi nal
goal , drags man down to these evi l s. But those on whom i t i nfl i cts l esser evi l s are
al so to be sorel y pi ti ed, si nce, as we have sai d, thei r soul s are dri ven far backward
upon the way of God. Wherefore, as Davi d says: Be not thou afrai d when a man
shal l be made ri ch: that i s, envy hi m not, thi nki ng that he outstri ps thee, for, when
he di eth, he shal l carry nothi ng away, nei ther shal l hi s gl ory nor hi s joy descend
wi th hi m.
576
CHAPTER XX
Of the benefits that come to the soul from its withdrawal of joy from temporal things.
THE spi ri tual man, then, must l ook careful l y to i t that hi s heart and hi s rejoi ci ng
begi n not to l ay hol d upon temporal thi ngs; he must fear l est from bei ng l i ttl e i t
shoul d grow to be great, and shoul d i ncrease from one degree to another. For l i ttl e
thi ngs, i n ti me, become great; and from a smal l begi nni ng there comes i n the end a
572
Numbers xxi i , 7.
573
Acts vi i i , 18-19.
574
Eccl esi astes v, 11-12.
575
['He del i vered them up to a reprobate sense.'] Romans i , 28.
576
Psal m xl vi i i , 17-18 [A.V., xl i x, 16-17].
218
great matter, even as a spark suffi ces to set a mountai n on fi re and to burn up the
whol e worl d. And l et hi m never be sel f-confi dent because hi s attachment i s smal l ,
and fai l to uproot i t i nstantl y because he thi nks that he wi l l do so l ater. For i f, when
i t i s so smal l and i n i ts begi nni ngs, he has not the courage to make an end of i t, how
does he suppose, and presume, that he wi l l be abl e to do so when i t i s great and
more deepl y rooted. The more so si nce Our Lord sai d i n the Gospel : 'He that i s
unfai thful i n l i ttl e wi l l be unfai thful al so i n much.'
577
For he that avoi ds the smal l
si n wi l l not fal l i nto the great si n; but great evi l i s i nherent i n the smal l si n,
578
si nce
i t has al ready penetrated wi thi n the fence and wal l of the heart; and as the proverb
says: Once begun, hal f done. Wherefore Davi d warns us, sayi ng: 'Though ri ches
abound, l et us not appl y our heart to them.'
579
2. Al though a man mi ght not do thi s for the sake of God and of the obl i gati ons
of Chri sti an perfecti on, he shoul d neverthel ess do i t because of the temporal
advantages that resul t from i t, to say nothi ng of the spi ri tual advantages, and he
shoul d free hi s heart compl etel y from al l rejoi ci ng i n the thi ngs menti oned above.
And thus, not onl y wi l l he free hi msel f from the pesti l ent evi l s whi ch we have
descri bed i n the l ast chapter, but, i n addi ti on to thi s, he wi l l wi thdraw hi s joy from
temporal bl essi ngs and acqui re the vi rtue of l i beral i ty, whi ch i s one of the pri nci pal
attri butes of God, and can i n no wi se coexi st wi th covetousness. Apart from thi s, he
wi l l acqui re l i berty of soul , cl ari ty of reason, rest, tranqui l l i ty and peaceful
confi dence i n God and a true reverence and worshi p of God whi ch comes from the
wi l l . He wi l l fi nd greater joy and recreati on i n the creatures through hi s detachment
from them, for he cannot rejoi ce i n them i f he l ook upon them wi th attachment to
them as to hi s own. Attachment i s an anxi ety that, l i ke a bond, ti es the spi ri t down
to the earth and al l ows i t no enl argement of heart. He wi l l al so acqui re, i n hi s
detachment from thi ngs, a cl ear concepti on of them, so that he can wel l understand
the truths rel ati ng to them, both natural l y and supernatural l y. He wi l l therefore
enjoy them very di fferentl y from one who i s attached to them, and he wi l l have a
great advantage and superi ori ty over such a one. For, whi l e he enjoys them
accordi ng to thei r truth, the other enjoys them accordi ng to thei r fal seness; the one
appreci ates the best si de of them and the other the worst; the one rejoi ces i n thei r
substance; the other, whose sense i s bound to them, i n thei r acci dent. For sense
cannot grasp or attai n to more than the acci dent, but the spi ri t, purged of the cl ouds
and speci es of acci dent, penetrates the truth and worth of thi ngs, for thi s i s i ts
object. Wherefore joy, l i ke a cl oud, darkens the judgment, si nce there can be no
vol untary joy i n creatures wi thout vol untary attachment, even as there can be no
joy whi ch i s passi on when there i s no habi tual attachment i n the heart; and the
renunci ati on and purgati on of such joy l eave the judgment cl ear, even as the mi sts
l eave the ai r cl ear when they are scattered.
3. Thi s man, then, rejoi ces i n al l thi ngs -- si nce hi s joy i s dependent upon
none of them -- as i f he had them al l ; and thi s other, through l ooki ng upon them
wi th a parti cul ar sense of ownershi p, l oses i n a general sense al l the pl easure of
them al l . Thi s former man, havi ng none of them i n hi s heart, possesses them al l , as
Sai nt Paul says, i n great freedom.
580
Thi s l atter man, i nasmuch as he has
somethi ng of them through the attachment of hi s wi l l , nei ther has nor possesses
anythi ng; i t i s rather they that have possessed hi s heart, and he i s, as i t were, a
577
St. Luke xvi , 10.
578
[The word 'si n' i s not i n the ori gi nal of thi s sentence, whi ch reads 'the smal l . . . the great . . .' etc.]
579
Psal m l xi , 11 [A.V., l xi i , 10].
580
2 Cori nthi ans vi , 10.
219
sorrowi ng capti ve. Wherefore, i f he desi re to have a certai n degree of joy i n
creatures, he must of necessi ty have an equal degree of di squi etude and gri ef i n hi s
heart, si nce i t i s sei zed and possessed by them. But he that i s detached i s
untroubl ed by anxi eti es, ei ther i n prayer or apart from i t; and thus, wi thout l osi ng
ti me, he readi l y gai ns great spi ri tual treasure. But the other man l oses everythi ng,
runni ng to and fro upon the chai n by whi ch hi s heart i s attached and bound; and
wi th al l hi s di l i gence he can sti l l hardl y free hi msel f for a short ti me from thi s bond
of thought and rejoi ci ng by whi ch hi s heart i s bound. The spi ri tual man, then, must
restrai n the fi rst moti on of hi s heart towards creatures, rememberi ng the premi ss
whi ch we have here l ai d down, that there i s naught wherei n a man must rejoi ce,
save i n hi s servi ce of God, and i n hi s stri vi ng for Hi s gl ory and honour i n al l thi ngs,
di recti ng al l thi ngs sol el y to thi s end and turni ng asi de from vani ty i n them, l ooki ng
i n them nei ther for hi s own joy nor for hi s consol ati on.
4. There i s another very great and i mportant benefi t i n thi s detachment of
the rejoi ci ng from creatures -- namel y, that i t l eaves the heart free for God. Thi s i s
the di sposi ti ve foundati on of al l the favours whi ch God wi l l grant to the soul , and
wi thout thi s di sposi ti on He grants them not. And they are such that, even from the
temporal standpoi nt, for one joy whi ch the soul renounces for l ove of Hi m and for
the perfecti on of the Gospel , He wi l l gi ve hi m a hundred i n thi s l i fe, as Hi s Majesty
promi ses i n the same Gospel .
581
But, even were there not so hi gh a rate of i nterest,
the spi ri tual man shoul d quench these creature joys i n hi s soul because of the
di spl easure whi ch they gi ve to God. For we see i n the Gospel that, si mpl y because
that ri ch man rejoi ced at havi ng l ai d up for many years, God was so greatl y angered
that He tol d hi m that hi s soul woul d be brought to account on that same ni ght.
582
Therefore, we must bel i eve that, whensoever we rejoi ce vai nl y, God i s behol di ng us
and prepari ng some puni shment and bi tter draught accordi ng to our deserts, so that
the pai n whi ch resul ts from the joy may someti mes be a hundred ti mes greater than
the joy. For, al though i t i s true, as Sai nt John says on thi s matter, i n the
Apocal ypse, concerni ng Babyl on, that as much as she had rejoi ced and l i ved i n
del i ghts, so much torment and sorrow shoul d be gi ven her,
583
yet thi s i s not to say
that the pai n wi l l not be greater than the joy, whi ch i ndeed i t wi l l be, si nce for bri ef
pl easures are gi ven eternal torments. The words mean that there shal l be nothi ng
wi thout i ts parti cul ar puni shment, for He Who wi l l puni sh the i dl e word wi l l not
pardon vai n rejoi ci ng.
CHAPTER XXI
Which describes how it is vanity to set the rejoicing of the will upon the good things
of nature, and how the soul must direct itself, by means of them, to God.
BY natural bl essi ngs we here understand beauty, grace, comel i ness, bodi l y
consti tuti on and al l other bodi l y endowments; and l i kewi se, i n the soul , good
understandi ng, di screti on and other thi ngs that pertai n to reason. Many a man sets
hi s rejoi ci ng upon al l these gi fts, to the end that he hi msel f, or those that bel ong to
hi m, may possess them, and for no other reason, and gi ves no thanks to God Who
bestows them on hi m so that He may be better known and l oved by hi m because of
581
St. Matthew xi x, 29.
582
St. Luke xi i , 20.
583
Apocal ypse xvi i i , 7.
220
them. But to rejoi ce for thi s cause al one i s vani ty and decepti on, as Sol omon says i n
these words: 'Decei tful i s grace and vai n i s beauty; the woman who fears God, she
shal l be prai sed.'
584
Here he teaches us that a man ought rather to be fearful
because of these natural gi fts, si nce he may easi l y be di stracted by them from the
l ove of God, and, i f he be attracted by them, he may fal l i nto vani ty and be decei ved.
For thi s reason bodi l y grace i s sai d to be decepti ve because i t decei ves a man i n the
ways and attracts hi m to that whi ch beseems hi m not, through vai n joy and
compl acency, ei ther i n hi msel f or i n others that have such grace. And i t i s sai d that
beauty i s vai n because i t causes a man to fal l i n many ways when he esteems i t and
rejoi ces i n i t, for he shoul d rejoi ce onl y i f he serves God or others through i t. But he
ought rather to fear and harbour mi sgi vi ngs l est perchance hi s natural graces and
gi fts shoul d be a cause of hi s offendi ng God, ei ther by hi s vai n presumpti on or by
the extreme affecti on wi th whi ch he regards them. Wherefore he that has such gi fts
shoul d be cauti ous and l i ve careful l y, l est, by hi s vai n ostentati on, he gi ve cause to
any man to wi thdraw hi s heart i n the smal l est degree from God. For these graces
and gi fts of nature are so ful l of provocati on and occasi on of evi l , both to hi m that
possesses them and to hi m that l ooks upon them, that there i s hardl y any who
enti rel y escapes from bi ndi ng and entangl i ng hi s heart i n them. We have heard that
many spi ri tual persons, who had certai n of these gi fts, had such fear of thi s that
they prayed God to di sfi gure them, l est they shoul d be a cause and occasi on of any
vai n joy or affecti on to themsel ves or to others, and God granted thei r prayer.
2. The spi ri tual man, then, must purge hi s wi l l , and make i t to be bl i nd to
thi s vai n rejoi ci ng, beari ng i n mi nd that beauty and al l other natural gi fts are but
earth, and that they come from the earth and wi l l return thi ther; and that grace
and beauty are the smoke and vapour bel ongi ng to thi s same earth; and that they
must be hel d and esteemed as such by any man who desi res not to fal l i nto vani ty,
but wi l l di rect hi s heart to God i n these matters, wi th rejoi ci ng and gl adness,
because God i s i n Hi msel f al l these beauti es and graces i n the most emi nent degree,
and i s i nfi ni tel y hi gh above al l created thi ngs. And, as Davi d says, they are al l l i ke a
garment and shal l grow ol d and pass away, and He al one remai ns i mmutabl e for
ever.
585
Wherefore, i f i n al l these matters a man di rect not hi s rejoi ci ng to God, i t
wi l l ever be fal se and decepti ve. For of such a man i s that sayi ng of Sol omon to be
understood, where he addresses joy i n the creatures, sayi ng: 'To joy I sai d: "Why art
thou vai nl y decei ved?"'
586
That i s, when the heart al l ows i tsel f to be attracted by the
creatures.
CHAPTER XXI I
Of the evils which come to the soul when it sets the rejoicing of its will upon the good
things of nature.
ALTHOUGH many of these evi l s and benefi ts that I am descri bi ng i n treati ng of
these ki nds of joy are common to al l , yet, because they fol l ow di rectl y from joy and
detachment from joy (al though compri sed under any one of these si x di vi si ons whi ch
I am treati ng), therefore I speak under each headi ng of some evi l s and benefi ts
whi ch are al so found under another, si nce these, as I say, are connected wi th that
584
Proverbs xxxi , 30.
585
Psal m ci , 27 [A.V., ci i , 26-7].
586
Eccl esi astes i i , 2.
221
joy whi ch bel ongs to them al l . But my pri nci pal i ntent i s to speak of the parti cul ar
evi l s and benefi ts whi ch come to the soul , wi th respect to each thi ng, through i ts
rejoi ci ng or not rejoi ci ng i n i t. These I cal l parti cul ar evi l s, because they are
pri mari l y and i mmedi atel y caused by one parti cul ar ki nd of rejoi ci ng, and are not,
save i n a secondary and medi ate sense, caused by another. The evi l of spi ri tual
l ukewarmness, for exampl e, i s caused di rectl y by any and every ki nd of joy, and thi s
evi l i s therefore common to al l these si x ki nds; but forni cati on i s a parti cul ar evi l ,
whi ch i s the di rect resul t onl y of joy i n the good thi ngs of nature of whi ch we are
speaki ng.
2. The spi ri tual and bodi l y evi l s, then, whi ch di rectl y and effecti vel y come to
the soul when i t sets i ts rejoi ci ng on the good thi ngs of nature are reduced to si x
pri nci pal evi l s. The fi rst i s vai ngl ory, presumpti on, pri de and di sesteem of our
nei ghbour; for a man cannot cast eyes of esteem on one thi ng wi thout taki ng them
from the rest. From thi s fol l ows, at the l east, a real di sesteem for everythi ng el se;
for natural l y, by setti ng our esteem on one thi ng, we wi thdraw our heart from al l
thi ngs el se and set i t upon the thi ng esteemed; and from thi s real contempt i t i s
very easy to fal l i nto an i ntenti onal and vol untary contempt for al l these other
thi ngs, i n parti cul ar or i n general , not onl y i n the heart, but al so i n speech, when we
say that such a thi ng or such a person i s not l i ke such another. The second evi l i s
the movi ng of the senses to compl acency and sensual del i ght and l ust. The thi rd evi l
comes from fal l i ng i nto adul ati on and vai n prai se, wherei n i s decepti on and vani ty,
as I sai as says i n these words: 'My peopl e, he that prai ses thee decei ves thee.'
587
And
the reason i s that, al though we someti mes speak the truth when we prai se grace
and beauty, yet i t wi l l be a marvel i f there i s not some evi l enwrapped therei n or i f
the person prai sed i s not pl unged i nto vai n compl acency and rejoi ci ng, or hi s
i mperfect i ntenti ons and affecti ons are not di rected thereto. The fourth evi l i s of a
general ki nd: i t i s a seri ous
588
bl unti ng of the reason and the spi ri tual sense, such
as i s effected by rejoi ci ng i n temporal good thi ngs. I n one way, i ndeed, i t i s much
worse. For as the good thi ngs of nature are more cl osel y connected wi th man than
are temporal good thi ngs, the joy whi ch they gi ve l eaves an i mpressi on and effect
and trace upon the senses more readi l y and more effecti vel y, and deadens them
more compl etel y. And thus reason and judgment are not free, but are cl ouded wi th
that affecti on of joy whi ch i s very cl osel y connected wi th them; and from thi s ari ses
the fi fth evi l , whi ch i s di stracti on of the mi nd by created thi ngs. And hence ari se
and fol l ow l ukewarmness and weakness of spi ri t, whi ch i s the si xth evi l , and i s
l i kewi se of a general ki nd; thi s i s apt to reach such a pi tch that a man may fi nd the
thi ngs of God very tedi ous and troubl esome, and at l ast even come to abhor them. I n
thi s rejoi ci ng puri ty of spi ri t i s i nvari abl y l ost -- at l east, i n i ts essence. For, i f any
spi ri tual i ty i s di scerned, i t wi l l be of such a gross and sensual ki nd as to be hardl y
spi ri tual or i nteri or or recol l ected at al l , si nce i t wi l l consi st rather i n pl easure of
sense than i n strength of spi ri t. Si nce, then, the spi ri tual i ty of the soul i s of so l ow
and weak a character at that ti me as not to quench the habi t of thi s rejoi ci ng (for
thi s habi t al one suffi ces to destroy pure spi ri tual i ty, even when the soul i s not
consenti ng to the acts of rejoi ci ng), the soul must be l i vi ng, so to say, i n the
weakness of sense rather than i n the strength of the spi ri t. Otherwi se, i t wi l l be
seen i n the perfecti on and forti tude whi ch the soul wi l l have when the occasi on
demands i t. Al though I do not deny that many vi rtues may exi st together wi th
seri ous i mperfecti ons, no pure or del ectabl e i nward spi ri tual i ty can exi st whi l e these
587
I sai as i i i , 12.
588
[Lit., 'the great.']
222
joys are not quenched; for the fl esh rei gns wi thi n, warri ng agai nst the spi ri t, and,
al though the spi ri t may be unconsci ous of the evi l , yet at the l east i t causes i t secret
di stracti on.
3. Returni ng now to speak of that second evi l , whi ch contai ns wi thi n i tsel f
i nnumerabl e other evi l s, i t i s i mpossi bl e to descri be wi th the pen or to express i n
words the l engths to whi ch i t can go, but thi s i s not unknown or secret, nor i s the
extent of the mi sery that ari ses from the setti ng of our rejoi ci ng on natural beauty
and graces. For every day we hear of i ts causi ng numerous deaths, the l oss by many
of thei r honour, the commi ssi on of many i nsul ts, the di ssi pati on of much weal th,
numerous cases of emul ati on and stri fe, of adul tery, rape and forni cati on, and of the
fal l of many hol y men, comparabl e i n number to that thi rd part of the stars of
Heaven whi ch was swept down by the tai l of the serpent on earth.
589
The fi ne gol d
has l ost i ts bri l l i ance and l ustre and i s become mi re; and the notabl e and nobl e men
of Si on, who were cl othed i n fi nest gol d, are counted as earthen pi tchers that are
broken and have become potsherds.
590
How far does the poi son of thi s evi l not
penetrate?
4. And who dri nks not, ei ther l i ttl e or much, from thi s gol den chal i ce of the
Babyl oni an woman of the Apocal ypse?
591
She seats hersel f on that great beast, that
had seven heads and ten crowns, si gni fyi ng that there i s scarce any man, whether
hi gh or l ow, sai nt or si nner, who comes not to dri nk of her wi ne, to some extent
ensl avi ng hi s heart thereby, for, as i s sai d of her i n that pl ace, al l the ki ngs of the
earth have become drunken wi th the wi ne of her prosti tuti on. And she sei zes upon
al l estates of men, even upon the hi ghest and nobl est estate -- the servi ce of the
sanctuary and the Di vi ne pri esthood -- setti ng her abomi nabl e cup, as Dani el says,
i n the hol y pl ace,
592
and l eavi ng scarcel y a si ngl e strong man wi thout maki ng hi m
to dri nk, ei ther l i ttl e or much, from the wi ne of thi s chal i ce, whi ch i s vai n rejoi ci ng.
For thi s reason i t i s sai d that al l the ki ngs of the earth have become drunken wi th
thi s wi ne, for very few wi l l be found, however hol y they may have been, that have
not been to some extent stupefi ed and bewi l dered by thi s draught of the joy and
pl easure of natural graces and beauty.
5. Thi s phrase 'have become drunken' shoul d be noted. For, however l i ttl e a
man may dri nk of the wi ne of thi s rejoi ci ng, i t at once takes hol d upon the heart,
and stupefi es i t and works the evi l of darkeni ng the reason, as does wi ne to those
who have been corrupted by i t. So that, i f some anti dote be not at once taken
agai nst thi s poi son, whereby i t may be qui ckl y expel l ed, the l i fe of the soul i s
endangered. I ts spi ri tual weakness wi l l i ncrease, bri ngi ng i t to such a pass that i t
wi l l be l i ke Samson, when hi s eyes were put out and the hai r of hi s fi rst strength
was cut off, and l i ke Samson i t wi l l see i tsel f gri ndi ng i n the mi l l s, a capti ve among
i ts enemi es;
593
and afterwards, peradventure, i t wi l l di e the second death among i ts
enemi es, even as di d he, si nce the dri nki ng of thi s rejoi ci ng wi l l produce i n them
spi ri tual l y al l those evi l s that were produced i n hi m physi cal l y, and does i n fact
produce them i n many persons to thi s day. Let hi s enemi es come and say to hi m
afterwards, to hi s great confusi on: Art thou he that broke the knotted cords, that
tore asunder the l i ons, sl ew the thousand Phi l i sti nes, broke down the gates and
freed hi msel f from al l hi s enemi es?
589
Apocal ypse xi i , 4.
590
Lamentati ons i v, 1-2.
591
Apocal ypse xvi i , 3-4.
592
Dani el i x, 27.
593
Judges xvi .
223
6. Let us concl ude, then, by gi vi ng the i nstructi on necessary to counteract
thi s poi son. And l et i t be thi s: As soon as thy heart feel s moved by thi s vai n joy i n
the good thi ngs of nature, l et i t remember how vai n a thi ng i t i s to rejoi ce i n aught
save the servi ce of God, how peri l ous and how perni ci ous. Let i t consi der how great
an evi l i t was for the angel s to rejoi ce and take pl easure i n thei r natural
endowments and beauty, si nce i t was thi s that pl unged them i nto the depths of
shame.
594
Let them thi nk, too, how many evi l s come to men dai l y through thi s same
vani ty, and l et them therefore resol ve i n good ti me to empl oy the remedy whi ch the
poet commends to those who begi n to grow affecti oned to such thi ngs. 'Make haste
now,' he says, 'and use the remedy at the begi nni ng; for when evi l thi ngs have had
ti me to grow i n the heart, remedy and medi ci ne come l ate.' Look not upon the wi ne,
as the Wi se Man says, when i ts col our i s red and when i t shi nes i n the gl ass; i t
enters pl easantl y and bi tes l i ke a vi per and sheds abroad poi son l i ke a basi l i sk.
595
CHAPTER XXI I I
Of the benefits which the soul receives from not setting its rejoicing upon the good
things of nature.
MANY are the benefi ts whi ch come to the soul through the wi thdrawal of i ts heart
from thi s rejoi ci ng; for, besi des prepari ng i tsel f for the l ove of God and the other
vi rtues, i t makes a di rect way for i ts own humi l i ty, and for a general chari ty toward
i ts nei ghbours. For, as i t i s not l ed by the apparent good thi ngs of nature, whi ch are
decei tful , i nto affecti on for anyone, the soul remai ns free and abl e
596
to l ove them al l
rati onal l y and spi ri tual l y, as God wi l l s them to be l oved. Here i t must be understood
that none deserves to be l oved, save for the vi rtue that i s i n hi m. And, when we l ove
i n thi s way, i t i s very pl easi ng to the wi l l of God, and al so bri ngs great freedom; and
i f there be attachment i n i t, there i s greater attachment to God. For, i n that case,
the more thi s l ove grows, the more grows our l ove toward God; and, the more grows
our l ove toward God, the greater becomes our l ove for our nei ghbour. For, when l ove
i s grounded i n God, the reason for al l l ove i s one and the same and the cause of al l
l ove i s one and the same al so.
2. Another excel l ent benefi t comes to the soul from i ts renunci ati on of thi s
ki nd of rejoi ci ng, whi ch i s that i t ful fi l s and keeps the counsel of Our Savi our whi ch
He gi ves us through Sai nt Matthew. 'Let hi m that wi l l fol l ow Me', He says, 'deny
hi msel f.'
597
Thi s the soul coul d i n no wi se do i f i t were to set i ts rejoi ci ng upon the
good thi ngs of nature; for he that makes any account of hi msel f nei ther deni es
hi msel f nor fol l ows Chri st.
3. There i s another great benefi t i n the renunci ati on of thi s ki nd of rejoi ci ng,
whi ch i s that i t produces great tranqui l l i ty i n the soul , empti es i t of di stracti ons and
bri ngs recol l ecti on to the senses, especi al l y to the eyes. For the soul that desi res not
to rejoi ce i n these thi ngs desi res nei ther to l ook at them nor to attach the other
senses to them, l est i t shoul d be attracted or entangl ed by them. Nor wi l l i t spend
ti me or thought upon them, bei ng l i ke the prudent serpent, whi ch stops i ts ears that
594
[Lit., 'si nce i t was through thi s they fel l i nto the vi l e abysses.']
595
Proverbs xxi i i , 31-2.
596
[Lit., 'free and cl ear.']
597
St. Matthew xvi , 24.
224
i t may not hear the charmers l est they make some i mpressi on upon i t.
598
For, by
guardi ng i ts doors, whi ch are the senses, the soul guards i tsel f safel y and i ncreases
i ts tranqui l l i ty and puri ty.
4. There i s another benefi t of no l ess i mportance to those that have become
profi ci ent i n the morti fi cati on of thi s ki nd of rejoi ci ng, whi ch i s that evi l thi ngs and
the knowl edge of them nei ther make an i mpressi on upon them nor stai n them as
they do those to whom they sti l l gi ve any del i ght. Wherefore the renunci ati on and
morti fi cati on of thi s rejoi ci ng resul t i n spi ri tual cl eanness of soul and body; that i s,
of spi ri t and sense; and the soul comes to have an angel i cal conformi ty wi th God,
and becomes, both i n spi ri t and i n body, a worthy templ e of the Hol y Spi ri t. Thi s
cannot come to pass i f the heart rejoi ces i n natural graces and good thi ngs. For thi s
reason i t i s not necessary to have gi ven consent to any evi l thi ng, or to have
remembrance of such; for that rejoi ci ng suffi ces to stai n the soul and the senses
wi th i mpuri ty by means of the knowl edge of evi l ; for, as the Wi se Man says, the
Hol y Spi ri t wi l l remove Hi msel f from thoughts that are wi thout understandi ng --
that i s, wi thout the hi gher reason that has respect to God.
599
5. Another benefi t of a general ki nd fol l ows, whi ch i s that, besi des freei ng
oursel ves from the evi l s and dangers aforementi oned, we are del i vered al so from
countl ess vani ti es, and from many other evi l s, both spi ri tual and temporal ; and
especi al l y from fal l i ng i nto the smal l esteem i n whi ch are hel d al l those that are
seen to gl ory or rejoi ce i n the sai d natural gi fts, whether i n thei r own or i n those of
others. And thus these soul s are hel d and esteemed as wi se and prudent, as i ndeed
are al l those who take no account of these thi ngs, but onl y of that whi ch pl eases
God.
6. From these sai d benefi ts fol l ows the l ast, whi ch i s a generosi ty of the soul ,
as necessary to the servi ce of God as i s l i berty of spi ri t, whereby temptati ons are
easi l y vanqui shed and tri al s fai thful l y endured, and whereby, too, the vi rtues grow
and become prosperous.
CHAPTER XXI V
Which treats of the third kind of good thing whereon the will may set the affection of
rejoicing, which kind pertains to sense. I ndicates what these good things are and of
how many kinds, and how the will has to be directed to God and purged of this
rejoicing.
WE have next to treat of rejoi ci ng wi th respect to the good thi ngs of sense, whi ch i s
the thi rd ki nd of good thi ng wherei n we sai d that the wi l l may rejoi ce. And i t i s to be
noted that by the good thi ngs of sense we here understand everythi ng i n thi s l i fe
that can be apprehended by the senses of si ght, heari ng, smel l , taste or touch, and
by the i nteri or fashi oni ng of i magi nary refl ecti ons, al l of whi ch thi ngs bel ong to the
bodi l y senses, i nteri or and exteri or.
2. And, i n order to darken the wi l l and purge i t of rejoi ci ng wi th respect to
these sensi bl e objects, and di rect i t to God by means of them, i t i s necessary to
assume one truth, whi ch i s that, as we have frequentl y sai d, the sense of the l ower
part of man whi ch i s that whereof we are treati ng, i s not, nei ther can be, capabl e of
knowi ng or understandi ng God as God i s. So that the eye cannot see Hi m, or aught
598
Psal m l vi i , 5 [A.V., l vi i i , 4-5].
599
Wi sdom i , 5.
225
that i s l i ke Hi m; nei ther can the ear hear Hi s voi ce, or any sound that resembl es i t;
nei ther can the sense of smel l percei ve a perfume so sweet as He; nei ther can the
taste detect a savour so subl i me and del ectabl e; nei ther can the touch feel a
movement so del i cate and ful l of del i ght, nor aught l i ke to i t; nei ther can Hi s form or
any fi gure that represents Hi m enter i nto the thought or i magi nati on. Even as says
I sai as: 'Eye hath not seen Hi m, nor hath ear heard Hi m, nei ther hath i t entered i nto
the heart of man.'
600
3. And here i t must be noted that the senses may recei ve pl easure and
del i ght, ei ther from the spi ri t, by means of some communi cati on that i t recei ves
from God i nteri orl y, or from outward thi ngs communi cated to them. And, as has
been sai d, nei ther by way of the spi ri t nor by that of sense can the sensual part of
the soul know God. For, si nce i t has no capaci ty for attai ni ng to such a poi nt, i t
recei ves i n the senses both that whi ch i s of the spi ri t and that whi ch i s of sense, and
recei ves them i n no other way. Wherefore i t woul d be at the l east but vani ty to set
the rejoi ci ng of the wi l l upon pl easure caused by any of these apprehensi ons, and i t
woul d be hi nderi ng the power of the wi l l from occupyi ng i tsel f wi th God and from
setti ng i ts rejoi ci ng upon Hi m al one. Thi s the soul cannot perfectl y accompl i sh, save
by purgi ng i tsel f and remai ni ng i n darkness as to rejoi ci ng of thi s ki nd, as al so wi th
respect to other thi ngs.
4. I sai d advi sedl y that i f the rejoi ci ng of the wi l l were to rest i n any of these
thi ngs i t woul d be vani ty. But, when i t does not rest upon them, but, as soon as the
wi l l fi nds pl easure i n that whi ch i t hears, sees and does, soars upward to rejoi ce i n
God -- so that i ts pl easure acts as a moti ve and strengthens i t to that end -- thi s i s
very good. I n such a case not onl y need the sai d moti ons not be shunned when they
cause thi s devoti on and prayer, but the soul may profi t by them, and i ndeed shoul d
so profi t, to the end that i t may accompl i sh thi s hol y exerci se. For there are soul s
who are greatl y moved by objects of sense to seek God. But much ci rcumspecti on
must be observed herei n and the resul ti ng effects must be consi dered; for oftenti mes
many spi ri tual persons i ndul ge i n the recreati ons of sense aforementi oned under
the pretext of offeri ng prayer and devoti on to God; and they do thi s i n a way whi ch
must be descri bed as recreati on rather than prayer, and whi ch gi ves more pl easure
to themsel ves than to God. And, al though the i ntenti on that they have i s toward
God, the effect whi ch they produce i s that of recreati on of sense, wherei n they fi nd
weakness and i mperfecti on, rather than revi val of the wi l l and surrender thereof to
God.
5. I wi sh, therefore, to propose a test whereby i t may be seen when these
del i ghts of the senses aforementi oned are profi tabl e and when they are not. And i t
i s that, whensoever a person hears musi c and other thi ngs, and sees pl easant
thi ngs, and i s consci ous of sweet perfumes, or tastes thi ngs that are del i ci ous, or
feel s soft touches, i f hi s thought and the affecti on of hi s wi l l are at once centred
upon God and i f that thought of God gi ves hi m more pl easure than the movement of
sense whi ch causes i t, and save for that he fi nds no pl easure i n the sai d movement,
thi s i s a si gn that he i s recei vi ng benefi t therefrom, and that thi s thi ng of sense i s a
hel p to hi s spi ri t. I n thi s way such thi ngs may be used, for then such thi ngs of sense
subserve the end for whi ch God created and gave them, whi ch i s that He shoul d be
the better l oved and known because of them. And i t must be known, furthermore,
that one upon whom these thi ngs of sense cause the pure spi ri tual effect whi ch I
descri be has no desi re for them, and makes hardl y any account of them, though they
cause hi m great pl easure when they are offered to hi m, because of the pl easure
600
I sai as l xi v, 4; 1 Cori nthi ans i i , 9.
226
whi ch, as I have sai d, they cause hi m i n God. He i s not, however, sol i ci tous for
them, and when they are offered to hi m, as I say, hi s wi l l passes from them at once
and he abandons i t to God and sets i t upon Hi m.
6. The reason why he cares l i ttl e for these moti ves, al though they hel p hi m on
hi s journey to God, i s that the spi ri t whi ch i s ready to go by every means and i n
every way to God i s so compl etel y nouri shed and prepared and sati sfi ed by the spi ri t
of God that i t l acks nothi ng and desi res nothi ng; or, i f i t desi res anythi ng to that
end, the desi re at once passes and i s forgotten, and the soul makes no account of i t.
But one that feel s not thi s l i berty of spi ri t i n these thi ngs and pl easures of sense,
but whose wi l l rests i n these pl easures and feeds upon them, i s greatl y harmed by
them and shoul d wi thdraw hi msel f from the use of them. For, al though hi s reason
may desi re to empl oy them to journey to God, yet, i nasmuch as hi s desi re fi nds
pl easure i n them whi ch i s accordi ng to sense, and thei r effect i s ever dependent
upon the pl easure whi ch they gi ve, he i s certai n to fi nd hi ndrance i n them rather
than hel p, and harm rather than profi t. And, when he sees that the desi re for such
recreati on rei gns i n hi m, he must morti fy i t; for, the stronger i t becomes, the more
i mperfecti on he wi l l have and the greater wi l l be hi s weakness.
7. So whatever pl easure comi ng from sense presents i tsel f to the spi ri tual
person, and whether i t come to hi m by chance or by desi gn, he must make use of i t
onl y for God, l i fti ng up to Hi m the rejoi ci ng of hi s soul so that hi s rejoi ci ng may be
useful and profi tabl e and perfect; real i zi ng that al l rejoi ci ng whi ch i mpl i es not
renunci ati on
601
and anni hi l ati on of every other ki nd of rejoi ci ng, al though i t be wi th
respect to somethi ng apparentl y very l ofty, i s vai n and profi ts not, but i s a
hi ndrance towards the uni on of the wi l l i n God.
CHAPTER XXV
Which treats of the evils that afflict the soul when it desires to set the rejoicing of its
will upon the good things of sense.
I N the fi rst pl ace, i f the soul does not darken and quench the joy whi ch may ari se
wi thi n i t from the thi ngs of sense, and di rect i ts rejoi ci ng to God, al l the general
ki nds of evi l whi ch we have descri bed as ari si ng from every other ki nd of rejoi ci ng
fol l ow from thi s joy i n the thi ngs of sense: such evi l s are darkness i n the reason,
l ukewarmness, spi ri tual weari ness, etc. But, to come to detai l s, many are the evi l s,
spi ri tual , bodi l y and sensual , i nto whi ch the soul may fal l through thi s rejoi ci ng.
2. Fi rst of al l , from joy i n vi si bl e thi ngs, when the soul deni es not i tsel f
therei n i n order to reach God, there may come to i t, di rectl y, vani ty of spi ri t and
di stracti on of the mi nd, unrul y covetousness, i mmodesty, outward and i nward
unseeml i ness, i mpuri ty of thought, and envy.
3. From joy i n heari ng usel ess thi ngs there may di rectl y ari se di stracti on of
the i magi nati on, gossi pi ng, envy, rash judgements and vaci l l ati ng thoughts; and
from these ari se many other and perni ci ous evi l s.
4. From joy i n sweet perfumes, there ari se l oathi ng of the poor, whi ch i s
contrary to the teachi ng of Chri st, di sl i ke of servi ng others, unrul i ness of heart i n
humbl e thi ngs, and spi ri tual i nsensi bi l i ty, at l east to a degree proporti onate wi th i ts
desi re for thi s joy.
5. From joy i n the savour of meat and dri nk, there ari se di rectl y such
601
[Lit., 'that i s not i n renunci ati on . . .']
227
gl uttony and drunkenness, wrath, di scord and want of chari ty wi th one's nei ghbours
and wi th the poor, as had that Epul on, who fared sumptuousl y every day, wi th
Lazarus.
602
Hence ari se bodi l y di sorders, i nfi rmi ti es and evi l moti ons, because the
i ncenti ves to l uxury become greater. Di rectl y, too, there ari ses great spi ri tual
torpor, and the desi re for spi ri tual thi ngs i s corrupted, so that the soul can deri ve no
enjoyment or sati sfacti on from them nor can even speak of them. From thi s joy i s
l i kewi se born di stracti on of the other senses and of the heart, and di scontent wi th
respect to many thi ngs.
6. From joy i n the touch of soft thi ngs ari se many more evi l s and more
perni ci ous ones, whi ch more qui ckl y cause sense to overfl ow i nto spi ri t, and quench
al l spi ri tual strength and vi gour. Hence ari ses the abomi nabl e vi ce of effemi nacy, or
the i ncenti ves thereto, accordi ng to the proporti on of joy of thi s ki nd whi ch i s
experi enced. Hence l uxury i ncreases, the mi nd becomes effemi nate and ti mi d, and
the senses grow soft and del i cate and are predi sposed to si n and evi l . Vai n gl adness
and joy are i nfused i nto the heart; the tongue takes to i tsel f l i cence and the eyes
roam unrestrai nedl y; and the remai ni ng senses are bl unted and deadened,
accordi ng to the measure
603
of thi s desi re. The judgment i s put to confusi on, bei ng
nouri shed by spi ri tual fol l y and i nsi pi di ty; moral cowardi ce and i nconstancy
i ncrease; and, by the darkness of the soul and the weakness of the heart, fear i s
begotten even where no fear i s. At ti mes, agai n, thi s joy begets a spi ri t of confusi on,
and i nsensi bi l i ty wi th respect to consci ence and spi ri t; wherefore the reason i s
greatl y enfeebl ed, and i s affected i n such a way that i t can nei ther take nor gi ve
good counsel , and remai ns i ncapabl e of moral and spi ri tual bl essi ngs and becomes
as usel ess as a broken vessel .
7. Al l these evi l s are caused by thi s ki nd of rejoi ci ng -- i n some more
i ntensel y, accordi ng to the i ntensi ty of thei r rejoi ci ng, and al so accordi ng to the
compl acency or weakness or vari abl eness of the person who yi el ds to i t. For there
are natures that wi l l recei ve more detri ment from a sl i ght occasi on of si n than wi l l
others from a great one.
8. Fi nal l y, from joy of thi s ki nd i n touch, a person may fal l i nto as many evi l s
and peri l s as those whi ch we have descri bed as concerni ng the good thi ngs of
nature; and, si nce these have al ready been descri bed, I do not detai l them here;
nei ther do I descri be many other evi l s wrought thus, such as a fal l i ng-off i n spi ri tual
exerci ses and bodi l y penance and l ukewarmness and l ack of devoti on i n the use of
the sacraments of penance and of the Euchari st.
CHAPTER XXVI
Of the benefits that come to the soul from self-denial in rejoicing as to things of sense,
which benefits are spiritual and temporal.
MARVELLOUS are the benefi ts that the soul deri ves from sel f-deni al i n thi s
rejoi ci ng: some of these are spi ri tual and some temporal .
2. The fi rst i s that the soul , by restrai ni ng i ts rejoi ci ng as to thi ngs of sense,
i s restored from the di stracti on i nto whi ch i t has fal l en through excessi ve use of the
senses, and i s recol l ected i n God. The spi ri tual i ty and the vi rtues that i t has
602
St. Luke xvi , 19.
603
[Lit., 'to the quanti ty.']
228
acqui red are preserved; nay, they are i ncreased and i ncrease conti nual l y.
604
3. The second spi ri tual benefi t whi ch comes from sel f-deni al i n rejoi ci ng as to
thi ngs of sense i s exceedi ng great. We may say wi th truth that that whi ch was
sensual becomes spi ri tual , and that whi ch was ani mal becomes rati onal ; and even
that the soul i s journeyi ng from a human l i fe to a porti on whi ch i s angel i cal ; and
that, i nstead of bei ng temporal and human, i t becomes cel esti al and di vi ne. For,
even as a man who seeks the pl easure of thi ngs of sense and sets hi s rejoi ci ng upon
them nei ther meri ts nor deserves any other name than those whi ch we have gi ven
hi m -- that i s, sensual , ani mal , temporal , etc. -- even so, when he exal ts hi s rejoi ci ng
above these thi ngs of sense, he meri ts al l those other names -- to wi t, spi ri tual ,
cel esti al , etc.
4. And i t i s cl ear that thi s i s true; for, al though the use of the senses and the
power of sensual i ty are contrary, as the Apostl e says, to the power and the exerci ses
of spi ri tual i ty,
605
i t fol l ows that, when the one ki nd of power i s di mi ni shed and
brought to an end, the other contrary ki nds, the growth of whi ch was hi ndered by
the fi rst ki nds, are i ncreased. And thus, when the spi ri t i s perfected (whi ch i s the
hi gher part of the soul and the part that has rel ati ons wi th God and recei ves Hi s
communi cati ons), i t meri ts al l these attri butes aforementi oned, si nce i t i s perfected
i n the heavenl y and spi ri tual gi fts and bl essi ngs of God. Both these thi ngs are
proved by Sai nt Paul , who cal l s the sensual man (namel y, the man that di rects the
exerci se of hi s wi l l sol el y to sense) the ani mal man, who percei ves not the thi ngs of
God. But thi s other man, who l i fts up hi s wi l l to God, he cal l s the spi ri tual man,
sayi ng that thi s man penetrates and judges al l thi ngs, even the deep thi ngs of
God.
606
Therefore the soul gai ns herei n the marvel l ous benefi t of a di sposi ti on wel l
abl e to recei ve the bl essi ngs and spi ri tual gi fts of God.
5. The thi rd benefi t i s that the pl easures and the rejoi ci ng of the wi l l i n
temporal matters are very greatl y i ncreased; for, as the Savi our says, they shal l
recei ve an hundredfol d i n thi s l i fe.
607
So that, i f thou deni est thysel f one joy, the
Lord wi l l gi ve thee an hundredfol d i n thi s l i fe, both spi ri tual l y and temporal l y; and
l i kewi se, for one joy that thou hast i n these thi ngs of sense, thou shal t have an
hundredfol d of affl i cti on and mi sery. For, through the eye that i s purged from the
joys of si ght, there comes to the soul a spi ri tual joy, di rected to God i n al l thi ngs
that are seen, whether Di vi ne or profane. Through the ear that i s purged from the
joy of heari ng, there comes to the soul joy most spi ri tual an hundredfol d, di rected to
God i n al l that i t hears, whether Di vi ne or profane. Even so i s i t wi th the other
senses when they are purged. For, even as i n the state of i nnocence al l that our fi rst
parents saw and sai d and ate i n Paradi se furni shed them wi th greater sweetness of
contempl ati on, so that the sensual part of thei r nature mi ght be dul y subjected to,
and ordered by, reason; even so the man whose senses are purged from al l thi ngs of
sense and made subject to the spi ri t recei ves, i n thei r very fi rst moti on, the del i ght
of del ectabl e knowl edge and contempl ati on of God.
6. Wherefore, to hi m that i s pure, al l thi ngs, whether hi gh or l ow, are an
occasi on of greater good and further puri ty; even as the man that i s i mpure i s apt to
deri ve evi l from thi ngs both hi gh and l ow, because of hi s i mpuri ty. But he that
conquers not the joy of desi re wi l l not enjoy the sereni ty of habi tual rejoi ci ng i n God
through Hi s creatures and works. I n the man that l i ves no more accordi ng to sense,
604
[Lit., 'and gai n conti nual l y.']
605
Gal ati ans v, 17.
606
1 Cori nthi ans i i , 9, 10, 14.
607
St. Matthew xi x, 29.
229
al l the operati ons of the senses and facul ti es are di rected to Di vi ne contempl ati on.
For, as i t i s true i n good phi l osophy that each thi ng operates accordi ng to i ts bei ng,
and to the l i fe that i t l i ves, so i t i s cl ear, beyond contradi cti on, that, i f the soul l i ves
a spi ri tual l i fe, the ani mal l i fe bei ng morti fi ed, i t must be journeyi ng strai ght to
God, si nce al l i ts spi ri tual acti ons and moti ons pertai n to the l i fe of the spi ri t. Hence
i t fol l ows that such a man, bei ng pure i n heart, fi nds i n al l thi ngs a knowl edge of
God whi ch i s joyful and pl easant, chaste, pure, spi ri tual , gl ad and l ovi ng.
7. From what has been sai d I deduce the fol l owi ng doctri ne -- namel y that,
unti l a man has succeeded i n so habi tuati ng hi s senses to the purgati on of the joys
of sense that from thei r fi rst moti on he i s gai ni ng the benefi t aforementi oned of
di recti ng al l hi s powers to God, he must needs deny hi msel f joy and pl easure wi th
respect to these powers, so that he may wi thdraw hi s soul from the l i fe of sense. He
must fear that si nce he i s not yet spi ri tual , he may perchance deri ve from the
practi ce of these thi ngs a pl easure and an energy whi ch i s of sense rather than of
spi ri t; that the energy whi ch i s of sense may predomi nate i n al l hi s acti ons; and that
thi s may l ead to an i ncrease of sensual i ty and may sustai n and nurture i t. For, as
Our Savi our says, that whi ch i s born of the fl esh i s fl esh, and that whi ch i s born of
the spi ri t i s spi ri t.
608
Let thi s be cl osel y consi dered, for i t i s the truth. And l et not
hi m that has not yet morti fi ed hi s pl easure i n thi ngs of sense dare to make great
use of the power and operati on of sense wi th respect to them, thi nki ng that they wi l l
hel p hi m to become more spi ri tual ; for the powers of the soul wi l l i ncrease the more
wi thout the i nterventi on of these thi ngs of sense -- that i s, i f i t quench the joy and
desi re for them rather than i ndul ge i ts pl easure i n them.
8. There i s no need to speak of the bl essi ngs of gl ory that, i n the l i fe to come,
resul t from the renunci ati on of these joys. For, apart from the fact that the bodi l y
gi fts of the l i fe of gl ory, such as agi l i ty and cl ari ty, wi l l be much more excel l ent than
i n those soul s who have not deni ed themsel ves, there wi l l be an i ncrease i n the
essenti al gl ory of the soul correspondi ng to i ts l ove of God, for Whose sake i t has
renounced the thi ngs of sense aforementi oned. For every momentary, fl eeti ng joy
that has been renounced, as Sai nt Paul says, there shal l be l ai d up an exceedi ng
wei ght of gl ory eternal l y.
609
And I wi l l not here recount the other benefi ts, whether
moral , temporal or spi ri tual , whi ch resul t from thi s ni ght of rejoi ci ng; for they al l
are those that have al ready been descri bed, and to a more emi nent degree; si nce
these joys that are renounced are more cl osel y l i nked to the natural man, and
therefore he that renounces them acqui res thereby a more i nti mate puri ty.
CHAPTER XXVI I
Which begins to treat of the fourth kind of good -- namely, the moral. Describes
wherein this consists, and in what manner joy of the will therein is lawful.
THE fourth ki nd of good wherei n the wi l l may rejoi ce i s moral . By thi s we here
understand the vi rtues, and the habi ts of the vi rtues, i n so far as these are moral ,
and the practi ce of any vi rtue, and the practi ce of works of mercy, the keepi ng of the
l aw of God, and of that of the commonweal ,
610
and the putti ng i nto practi ce of al l
608
St. John i i i , 6.
609
2 Cori nthi ans i v, 17.
610
[Lit., política, the 'pol i ti cal ' vi rtue of Ari stotl e and St. Thomas -- i .e., the 'soci al ,' as opposed to the
'moral ,' 'i ntel l ectual ' and 'theol ogi cal ' vi rtues. P. Si l veri o gl osses the word as meani ng 'good
230
good i ntenti ons and i ncl i nati ons.
2. These ki nds of moral good, when they are possessed and practi sed, deserve
perhaps more than any of the other ki nds aforementi oned that the wi l l shoul d
rejoi ce i n them. For a man may rejoi ce i n hi s own affai rs for one of two reasons, or
for both reasons together -- namel y, for that whi ch they are i n themsel ves, or for the
good whi ch they i mpl y and bri ng wi th them as a means and i nstrument. We shal l
fi nd that the possessi on of the three ki nds of good al ready menti oned meri ts no
rejoi ci ng of the wi l l . For of themsel ves, as has been sai d, they do no good to man, nor
i n themsel ves have they any good, si nce they are so fl eeti ng and frai l ; rather, as we
have l i kewi se sai d, they cause and bri ng hi m troubl e and gri ef and affl i cti on of
spi ri t. Now, al though they mi ght meri t that man shoul d rejoi ce i n them for the
second reason -- whi ch i s that he may profi t by them for journeyi ng to God -- thi s i s
so uncertai n that, as we commonl y see, they more often harm man than bri ng hi m
profi t. But good thi ngs of a moral ki nd meri t a certai n degree of rejoi ci ng i n hi m
that possesses them, and thi s for the fi rst reason -- namel y, for thei r i ntri nsi c
nature and worth. For they bri ng wi th them peace and tranqui l l i ty, and a ri ght and
ordered use of the reason and acti ons that are consi stent therewi th, so that a man
cannot, humanl y speaki ng, have anythi ng better i n thi s l i fe.
3. Thus, si nce these vi rtues deserve to be l oved and esteemed, humanl y
speaki ng, for thei r own sakes, a man may wel l rejoi ce i n the possessi on of them, and
may practi se them for that whi ch they are i n themsel ves, and for the bl essi ng whi ch
they bri ng to man i n human and temporal form. I n thi s way and for thi s reason
phi l osophers and wi se men and pri nces of ol d esteemed and prai sed them, and
endeavoured to possess and practi se them; and, al though they were heathen, and
regarded them onl y i n a temporal manner, merel y consi deri ng the bl essi ngs whi ch
they knew woul d resul t from them -- temporal , corporeal and natural -- they not
onl y obtai ned by means of them the temporal renown and benefi ts whi ch they
sought, but, apart from thi s, God, Who l oves al l that i s good (even i n barbari ans and
heathen) and, as the Wi se Man says, hi nders the doi ng of naught that i s good,
611
gave them l onger l i fe, greater honour, domi ni on and peace (as He di d for exampl e to
the Romans), because they made just l aws; for He subjected nearl y the whol e worl d
to them, and gave rewards of a temporal ki nd for thei r good customs to those who
because of thei r unbel i ef were i ncapabl e of eternal reward. For God l oves moral good
so much that, merel y because Sol omon asked wi sdom of Hi m that he mi ght teach
hi s peopl e, govern them justl y and bri ng them up i n good customs, God Hi msel f was
greatl y pl eased wi th hi m, and tol d hi m that, because he had asked for wi sdom to
that end, thi s shoul d be gi ven hi m, and there shoul d al so be gi ven hi m that whi ch
he had not asked, namel y, ri ches and honour, so that no ki ng, ei ther i n the past or
i n the future, shoul d be l i ke hi m.
612
4. But, al though the Chri sti an shoul d rejoi ce i n thi s fi rst way i n the moral
good that he possesses and i n the good works of a temporal ki nd whi ch he does,
si nce they l ead to the temporal bl essi ngs whi ch we have descri bed, he must not
al l ow hi s joy to stop at thi s fi rst stage (as we have sai d the heathen di d, because
thei r spi ri tual si ght extended not beyond the thi ngs of thi s mortal l i fe); but, si nce he
has the l i ght of fai th, wherei n he hopes for eternal l i fe, wi thout whi ch nothi ng that
bel ongs to thi s l i fe and the next wi l l be of any val ue to hi m, he must rejoi ce
pri nci pal l y and sol el y i n the possessi on and empl oyment of thi s moral good after the
government i n the commonweal , courtesy and other soci al vi rtues.']
611
Wi sdom vi i , 22.
612
3 Ki ngs [A.V. 1 Ki ngs] i i i , 11-13.
231
second manner -- namel y, i n that by doi ng these works for the l ove of God he wi l l
gai n eternal l i fe. And thus he shoul d set hi s eyes and hi s rejoi ci ng sol el y on servi ng
and honouri ng God wi th hi s good customs and vi rtues. For wi thout thi s i ntenti on
the vi rtues are of no worth i n the si ght of God, as i s seen i n the ten vi rgi ns of the
Gospel , who had al l kept thei r vi rgi ni ty and done good works; and yet, because the
joy of fi ve of them was not of the second ki nd (that i s, because they had not di rected
thei r joy to God), but was rather after the fi rst and vai n ki nd, for they rejoi ced i n
the possessi on of thei r good works, they were cast out from Heaven wi th no
acknowl edgement or reward from the Bri degroom. And l i kewi se many persons of ol d
had many vi rtues and practi sed good works, and many Chri sti ans have them
nowadays and accompl i sh great acts, whi ch wi l l profi t them nothi ng for eternal l i fe,
because they have not sought i n them the gl ory and honour whi ch bel ong to God
al one. The Chri sti an, then, must rejoi ce, not i n the performi ng of good works and
the fol l owi ng of good customs, but i n doi ng them for the l ove of God al one, wi thout
respect too aught el se soever. For, i nasmuch as good works that are done to serve
God al one wi l l have the greater reward i n gl ory, the greater wi l l be the confusi on i n
the presence of God of those who have done them for other reasons.
5. The Chri sti an, then, i f he wi l l di rect hi s rejoi ci ng to God wi th regard to
moral good, must real i ze that the val ue of hi s good works, fasts, al ms, penances,
etc., i s based, not upon the number or the qual i ty of them, but upon the l ove of God
whi ch i nspi res hi m to do them; and that they are the more excel l ent when they are
performed wi th a purer and si ncerer l ove of God, and when there i s l ess i n them of
sel f-i nterest, joy, pl easure, consol ati on and prai se, whether wi th reference to thi s
worl d or to the next. Wherefore the heart must not be set upon pl easure, consol ati on
and del i ght, and the other i nterests whi ch good works and practi ces commonl y bri ng
wi th them, but i t must concentrate i ts rejoi ci ng upon God. I t must desi re to serve
Hi m i n i ts good works, and purge i tsel f from thi s other rejoi ci ng, remai ni ng i n
darkness wi th respect to i t and desi ri ng that God al one shal l have joy i n i ts good
works and shal l take secret pl easure therei n, wi thout any other i ntenti on and
del i ght than those rel ati ng to the honour and gl ory of God. And thus, wi th respect to
thi s moral good, the soul wi l l concentrate al l the strength of i ts wi l l upon God.
CHAPTER XXVI I I
Of seven evils into which a man may fall if he set the rejoicing of his will upon moral
good.
THE pri nci pal evi l s i nto whi ch a man may fal l through vai n rejoi ci ng i n hi s good
works and habi ts I fi nd to be seven; and they are very hurtful because they are
spi ri tual .
2. The fi rst evi l i s vani ty, pri de, vai ngl ory and presumpti on; for a man cannot
rejoi ce i n hi s works wi thout esteemi ng them. And hence ari se boasti ng and l i ke
thi ngs, as i s sai d of the Phari see i n the Gospel , who prayed and congratul ated
hi msel f before God,
613
boasti ng that he fasted and di d other good works.
3. The second evi l i s usual l y l i nked wi th thi s: i t i s our judgi ng others, by
compari son wi th oursel ves, as wi cked and i mperfect, when i t seems to us that thei r
acts and good works are i nferi or to our own; we esteem them the l ess hi ghl y i n our
hearts, and at ti mes al so i n our speech. Thi s evi l was l i kewi se that of the Phari see,
613
St. Luke xvi i i , 11-12.
232
for i n hi s prayer he sai d: 'I thank Thee that I am not as other men are: robbers,
unjust and adul terers.'
614
So that by one si ngl e act he fel l i nto these two evi l s,
esteemi ng hi msel f and despi si ng others, as do many nowadays, sayi ng: I am not l i ke
such a man, nor do I do thi s and that, as does such or such a man. And many of
these are even worse than the Phari see. He, i t i s true, not onl y despi sed others, but
al so poi nted to an i ndi vi dual , sayi ng: 'Nor am I l i ke thi s publ i can.' But they, not
sati sfi ed wi th ei ther of these thi ngs, go so far as to be angry and envi ous when they
see that others are prai sed, or do more, or are of greater use, than themsel ves.
4. The thi rd evi l i s that, as they l ook for pl easure i n thei r good works, they
usual l y perform them onl y when they see that some pl easure and prai se wi l l resul t
from them. And thus, as Chri st says, they do everythi ng ut videantur ab
hominibus,
615
and work not for the l ove of God al one.
5. The fourth evi l fol l ows from thi s. I t i s that they wi l l have no reward from
God, si nce they have desi red i n thi s l i fe to have joy or consol ati on or honour or some
other ki nd of i nterest as a resul t of thei r good works: of such the Savi our says that
herei n they have recei ved thei r reward.
616
And thus they have had naught but the
l abour of thei r work and are confounded, and recei ve no reward. There i s so much
mi sery among the sons of men whi ch has to do wi th thi s evi l that I mysel f bel i eve
that the greater number of good works whi ch they perform i n publ i c are ei ther
vi ci ous or wi l l be of no val ue to them, or are i mperfect i n the si ght of God, because
they are not detached from these human i ntenti ons and i nterests. For what other
judgment can be formed of some of the acti ons whi ch certai n men perform, and of
the memori al s whi ch they set up, when they wi l l not perform these acti ons at al l
unl ess they are surrounded by human respect and honour, whi ch are the vani ty of
l i fe, or unl ess they can perpetuate i n these memori al s thei r name, l i neage or
authori ty, even setti ng up thei r embl ems and escutcheons i n the very churches, as i f
they wi shed to set themsel ves, i n the stead of i mages, i n pl aces where al l bend the
knee? I n these good works whi ch some men perform, may i t not be sai d that they
are worshi ppi ng
617
themsel ves more than God? Thi s i s certai nl y true i f they perform
them for the reason descri bed and otherwi se woul d not perform them at al l . But
l eavi ng asi de these, whi ch are the worst cases, how many are there who fal l i nto
these evi l s i n thei r good works i n many ways? Some wi sh to be prai sed, others to be
thanked, others enumerate thei r good works and desi re that thi s person and that
shal l know of them, and i ndeed the whol e worl d; and someti mes they wi sh an
i ntermedi ary to present thei r al ms, or to perform other of thei r chari tabl e deeds,
618
so that more may be known of them; and some desi re al l these thi ngs. Thi s i s the
soundi ng of the trumpet, whi ch, says the Savi our i n the Gospel , vai n men do, for
whi ch reason they shal l have no reward for thei r works from God.
619
6. I n order to fl ee from thi s evi l , such persons must hi de thei r good works so
that God al one may see them, and must not desi re anyone to take noti ce of them.
And they must hi de them, not onl y from others, but even from themsel ves. That i s
to say, they must fi nd no sati sfacti on i n them, nor esteem them as i f they were of
some worth, nor deri ve pl easure from them at al l . I t i s thi s that i s spi ri tual l y
i ndi cated i n those words of Our Lord: 'Let not thy l eft hand know what they ri ght
614
St. Luke xvi i i , 11.
615
St. Matthew xxi i i , 5.
616
St. Matthew vi , 2.
617
[Lit., 'are adori ng.']
618
[Lit., 'to present thei r al ms or that whi ch they do.']
619
St. Matthew vi , 2.
233
hand doeth.
620
Whi ch i s as much to say: Esteem not wi th thy carnal and temporal
eye the work that thou doest spi ri tual l y. And i n thi s way the strength of the wi l l i s
concentrated upon God, and a good deed bears frui t i n Hi s si ght; so that not onl y
wi l l i t not be l ost, but i t wi l l be of great meri t. And i n thi s sense must be understood
that passage from Job: 'I f I have ki ssed my hand wi th my mouth, whi ch i s a great
si n and i ni qui ty, and my heart hath rejoi ced i n secret.'
621
Here by the hand i s
understood good works, and by the mouth i s understood the wi l l whi ch fi nds
sati sfacti on i n them. And si nce thi s i s, as we say, fi ndi ng sati sfacti on i n onesel f, he
says: I f my heart hath rejoi ced i n secret, whi ch i s a great i ni qui ty agai nst God and a
deni al of Hi m. And thi s i s as though he were to say that he had no sati sfacti on,
nei ther di d hi s heart rejoi ce i n secret.
7. The fi fth of these evi l s i s that such persons make no progress on the road of
perfecti on. For, si nce they are attached to the pl easure and consol ati on whi ch they
fi nd i n thei r good works, i t fol l ows that, when they fi nd no such pl easure and
consol ati on i n thei r good works and exerci ses, whi ch ordi nari l y happens when God
desi res to l ead them on, by gi vi ng them the dry bread of the perfect and taki ng from
them the mi l k of babes, i n order to prove thei r strength and to purge thei r del i cate
appeti tes so that they may be abl e to enjoy the food of grown men, they commonl y
fai nt and cease to persevere, because thei r good works gi ve them no pl easure. I n
thi s way may be spi ri tual l y understood these words of the Wi se Man: 'Dyi ng fl i es
spoi l the sweetness of oi ntment.'
622
For, when any morti fi cati on comes to these
persons, they di e to thei r good works and cease to practi se them; and thus they l ose
thei r perseverance, wherei n are found sweetness of spi ri t and i nteri or consol ati on.
8. The si xth of these evi l s i s that such persons commonl y decei ve themsel ves,
thi nki ng that the thi ngs and good works whi ch gi ve them pl easure must be better
than those that gi ve them none. They prai se and esteem the one ki nd and
depreci ate the other; yet as a rul e those works whereby a man i s most greatl y
morti fi ed (especi al l y when he i s not profi ci ent i n perfecti on) are more acceptabl e and
preci ous i n the si ght of God, by reason of the sel f-deni al whi ch a man must observe
i n performi ng them, than are those wherei n he fi nds consol ati on and whi ch may
very easi l y be an occasi on of sel f-seeki ng. And i n thi s connecti on Mi cheas says of
them: Malum manuum suarum dicunt bonum.
623
That i s: That whi ch i s bad i n thei r
works they cal l good. Thi s comes to them because of the pl easure whi ch they take i n
thei r good works, i nstead of thi nki ng onl y of gi vi ng pl easure to God. The extent to
whi ch thi s evi l predomi nates, whether i n spi ri tual men or i n ordi nary persons,
woul d take too l ong to descri be, for hardl y anyone can be found who i s moved to do
such works si mpl y for God's sake, wi thout the attracti on of some advantage of
consol ati on or pl easure, or some other consi derati on.
9. The seventh evi l i s that, i n so far as a man sti fl es not vai n rejoi ci ng i n
moral works, he i s to that extent i ncapabl e of recei vi ng reasonabl e counsel and
i nstructi on wi th regard to good works that he shoul d perform. For he i s l ettered by
the habi t of weakness that he has acqui red through performi ng good works wi th
attachment to vai n rejoi ci ng; so that he cannot consi der the counsel of others as
best, or, even i f he consi ders i t to be so, he cannot fol l ow i t, through not havi ng the
necessary strength of mi nd. Such persons as thi s are greatl y weakened i n chari ty
toward God and thei r nei ghbour; for the sel f-l ove wi th respect to thei r good works i n
620
St. Matthew vi , 3.
621
Job xxxi , 27-8.
622
Eccl esi astes x, 1.
623
Mi cheas vi i , 3.
234
whi ch they i ndul ge causes thei r chari ty to grow col d.
CHAPTER XXI X
Of the benefits which come to the soul through the withdrawal of its rejoicing from
moral good.
VERY great are the benefi ts whi ch come to the soul when i t desi res not to set the
vai n rejoi ci ng of i ts wi l l on thi s ki nd of good. For, i n the fi rst pl ace, i t i s freed from
fal l i ng i nto many temptati ons and decei ts of the devi l , whi ch are i nvol ved i n
rejoi ci ng i n these good works, as we may understand by that whi ch i s sai d i n Job,
namel y: 'He sl eepeth under the shadow, i n the covert of the reed and i n moi st
pl aces.'
624
Thi s he appl i es to the devi l , who decei ves the soul i n the moi sture of
rejoi ci ng and i n the vani ty of the reed -- that i s, i n vai n works. And i t i s no wonder i f
the soul i s secretl y decei ved by the devi l i n thi s rejoi ci ng; for, apart al together from
hi s suggesti ons, vai n rejoi ci ng i s i tsel f decepti on. Thi s i s especi al l y true when there
i s any boasti ng of heart concerni ng these good works, as Jeremi as wel l says i n these
words: Arrogantia tua decepit te.
625
For what greater decepti on i s there than
boasti ng? And from thi s the soul that purges i tsel f from thi s rejoi ci ng i s freed.
2. The second benefi t i s that the soul performs i ts good works wi th greater
del i berati on and perfecti on than i t can i f there be i n them the passi on of joy and
pl easure. For, because of thi s passi on of joy, the passi ons of wrath and
concupi scence are so strong that they wi l l not submi t to reason,
626
but ordi nari l y
cause a man to be i nconsi stent i n hi s acti ons and purposes, so that he abandons
some and takes up others, and begi ns a thi ng onl y to abandon i t wi thout compl eti ng
any part of i t. For, si nce he acts under the i nfl uence of pl easure, and si nce pl easure
i s vari abl e, bei ng much stronger i n some natures than i n others, i t fol l ows that,
when thi s pl easure ceases, both the acti on and i ts purpose cease, i mportant though
they may be. To such persons the joy whi ch they have i n thei r work i s the soul and
the strength thereof; and, when the joy i s quenched, the work ceases and peri shes,
and they persevere therei n no l onger. I t i s of such persons that Chri st says: 'They
recei ve the word wi th joy, and then the devi l taketh i t away from them, l est they
shoul d persevere.'
627
And thi s i s because they have no strength and no roots save i n
the joy aforementi oned. To take and to wi thdraw thei r wi l l , therefore, from thi s
rejoi ci ng i s the cause of thei r perseverance and success. Thi s benefi t, then, i s a great
one, even as the contrary evi l i s great l i kewi se. The wi se man sets hi s eyes upon the
substance and benefi t of hi s work, not upon the pl easure and del i ght whi ch i t gi ves
hi m; and so he i s not beati ng the ai r, but deri ves from hi s work a stabl e joy, wi thout
any meed of bi tterness.
3. The thi rd benefi t i s di vi ne. I t i s that, when vai n joy i n these good works i s
quenched, the soul becomes poor i n spi ri t, whi ch i s one of the bl essi ngs spoken of by
the Son of God when He says: 'Bl essed are the poor i n spi ri t, for thei rs i s the
Ki ngdom of Heaven.'
628
4. The fourth benefi t i s that he that deni es hi msel f thi s joy wi l l be meek,
624
Job xl , 16 [A.V., xl , 21].
625
Jeremi as xl i x, 16. E.p. adds the transl ati on: 'Thy arrogance hath decei ved thee.'
626
[Lit., 'wi l l not gi ve pl ace to the wei ght of reason.']
627
St. Luke vi i i , 12.
628
St. Matthew v, 3.
235
humbl e and prudent i n hi s acti ons. For he wi l l not act i mpetuousl y and rapi dl y,
through bei ng i mpel l ed by the wrath and concupi scence whi ch bel ong to joy; nei ther
presumptuousl y, through bei ng affected by the esteem of hi s own work whi ch he
cheri shes because of the joy that he has i n i t; nei ther i ncauti ousl y, through bei ng
bl i nded by joy.
5. The fi fth benefi t i s that he becomes pl easi ng to God and man, and i s freed
from spi ri tual sl oth, gl uttony and avari ce, and from spi ri tual envy and from a
thousand other vi ces.
CHAPTER XXX
Which begins to treat of the fifth kind of good wherein the will may rejoice, which is
the supernatural. Describes the nature of these supernatural good things, and how
they are distinguished from the spiritual, and how joy in them is to be directed to
God.
I T now behoves us to treat of the fi fth ki nd of good thi ng wherei n the soul may
rejoi ce, whi ch i s the supernatural . By thi s term we here understand al l the gi fts and
graces gi ven by God whi ch transcend natural vi rtue and capaci ty and are cal l ed
gratis datae. Such as these are the gi fts of wi sdom and knowl edge whi ch God gave
to Sol omon, and the graces whereof Sai nt Paul speaks
629
-- namel y, fai th, gi fts of
heal i ng, the worki ng of mi racl es, prophecy, knowl edge and di scernment of spi ri ts,
i nterpretati on of words and l i kewi se the gi ft of tongues.
2. These good thi ngs, i t i s true, are al so spi ri tual , l i ke those of the same ki nd
of whi ch we have to speak presentl y; yet, si nce the two are so di fferent, I have
thought wel l to make a di sti ncti on between them. The practi ce of these has an
i nti mate rel ati on wi th the profi t of man, and i t i s wi th a vi ew to thi s profi t and to
thi s end that God gi ves them. As Sai nt Paul says: 'The spi ri t i s gi ven to none save
for the profi t of the rest;'
630
thi s i s to be understood of these graces. But the use and
practi ce of spi ri tual graces has to do wi th the soul and God al one, and wi th God and
the soul , i n the communi on of understandi ng and wi l l , etc., as we shal l say
hereafter. And thus there i s a di fference i n thei r object, si nce spi ri tual graces have
to do onl y wi th the Creator and the soul ; whereas supernatural graces have to do
wi th the creature, and furthermore di ffer i n substance, and therefore i n thei r
operati on, and thus of necessi ty the i nstructi on whi ch we gi ve concerni ng them
di ffers al so.
3. Speaki ng now of supernatural graces and gi fts as we here understand
them, I say that, i n order to purge oursel ves of vai n joy i n them, i t i s wel l here to
noti ce two benefi ts whi ch are compri sed i n thi s ki nd of gi ft -- namel y, temporal and
spi ri tual . The temporal benefi ts are the heal i ng of i nfi rmi ti es, the recei vi ng of thei r
si ght by the bl i nd, the rai si ng of the dead, the casti ng out of devi l s, prophesyi ng
concerni ng the future so that men may take heed to themsel ves, and other thi ngs of
the ki nd. The spi ri tual and eternal benefi t i s that God i s known and served through
these good works by hi m that performs them, or by those i n whom and i n whose
presence they are performed.
4. Wi th respect to the fi rst ki nd of benefi t -- namel y, the temporal --
supernatural works and mi racl es meri t l i ttl e or no rejoi ci ng on the part of the soul ;
629
1 Cori nthi ans xi i , 9-10.
630
1 Cori nthi ans xi i , 7.
236
for, wi thout the second ki nd of benefi t, they are of l i ttl e or no i mportance to man,
si nce they are not i n themsel ves a means for uni ti ng the soul wi th God, as chari ty
i s. And these supernatural works and graces may be performed by those who are
not i n a state of grace and chari ty, whether they trul y gi ve thanks and attri bute
thei r gi fts to God,
631
as di d the wi cked prophet Bal aam, and Sol omon, or whether
they perform them fal sel y, through the agency of the devi l , as di d Si mon Magus, or
by means of other secrets of nature. These works and marvel s, i f any of them were
to be of any profi t to hi m that worked them, woul d be true works gi ven by God. And
Sai nt Paul teaches us what these are worth wi thout the second ki nd of benefi t,
sayi ng: 'Though I speak wi th the tongues of men and of angel s, and have not
chari ty, I am become as a soundi ng bel l or metal . And though I have prophecy and
know al l mysteri es and al l knowl edge; and though I have al l fai th, even as much as
may remove
632
mountai ns, and have not chari ty, I am nothi ng, etc.'
633
Wherefore
Chri st wi l l refuse the requests of many who have esteemed thei r good works i n thi s
way, when they beg Hi m for gl ory because of them, sayi ng: Lord, have we not
prophesi ed i n Thy name and worked many mi racl es? Then Chri st wi l l say to them:
'Depart from Me, workers of i ni qui ty.'
634
5. A man, then, shoul d rejoi ce, not when he has such graces and makes use of
them, but when he reaps from them the second spi ri tual frui t, namel y that of
servi ng God i n them wi th true chari ty, for herei n i s the frui t of eternal l i fe. For thi s
cause Our Savi our reproved the di sci pl es who were rejoi ci ng because they cast out
devi l s, sayi ng: 'Desi re not to rejoi ce i n thi s, that devi l s are subject to you, but rather
because your names are wri tten i n the book of l i fe.'
635
Thi s, accordi ng to good
theol ogy, i s as much as to say: Rejoi ce i f your names are wri tten i n the book of l i fe.
By thi s i t i s understood that a man shoul d not rejoi ce save when he i s wal ki ng i n
the way of l i fe, whi ch he may do by performi ng good works i n chari ty; for where i s
the profi t and what i s the worth i n the si ght of God of aught that i s not l ove of God?
And thi s l ove i s not perfect i f i t be not strong and di screet i n purgi ng the wi l l of joy
i n al l thi ngs, and i f i t be not set upon doi ng the wi l l of God al one. And i n thi s
manner the wi l l i s uni ted wi th God through these good thi ngs whi ch are
supernatural .
CHAPTER XXXI
Of the evils which come to the soul when it sets the rejoicing of the will upon this
kind of good.
THEE pri nci pal evi l s, i t seems to me, may come to the soul when i t sets i ts rejoi ci ng
upon supernatural good. These are: that i t may decei ve and be decei ved; that i t may
fal l away from the fai th; and that i t may i ndul ge i n vai ngl ory or some other such
vani ty.
2. As to the fi rst of these, i t i s a very easy thi ng to decei ve others, and to
decei ve onesel f, by rejoi ci ng i n thi s ki nd of operati on. And the reason i s that, i n
order to know whi ch of these operati ons are fal se and whi ch are true, and how and
631
[Lit., 'gi ve thanks and gi fts to God.']
632
[traspasar: lit., 'go over,' 'go through.']
633
1 Cori nthi ans xi i i , 1-2.
634
St. Matthew vi i , 22-3.
635
St. Luke x, 20.
237
at what ti me they shoul d be practi sed, much counsel and much l i ght from God are
needful , both of whi ch are greatl y i mpeded by joy i n these operati ons and esteem for
them. And thi s for two reasons: fi rst, because joy bl unts and obscures the judgment;
second, because, when a man has joy i n these thi ngs, not onl y does he the more
qui ckl y become eager for them, but he i s al so the more i mpel l ed to practi se them out
of the proper season. And even supposi ng the vi rtues and operati ons whi ch are
practi sed to be genui ne, these two defects suffi ce for us to be frequentl y decei ved i n
them, ei ther through not understandi ng them as they shoul d be understood, or
through not profi ti ng by them and not usi ng them at the ti mes and i n the ways that
are most meet. For, al though i t i s true that, when God gi ves these gi fts and graces,
He gi ves l i ght by whi ch to see them, and the i mpul se whereby a man may know at
what ti mes and i n what ways to use them; yet these soul s, through the attachment
and i mperfecti on whi ch they may have wi th regard to them, may greatl y err, by not
usi ng them wi th the perfecti on that God desi res of them therei n, and i n the way and
at the ti me that He wi l l s. We read that Bal aam desi red to do thi s, when, agai nst the
wi l l of God, he determi ned to go and curse the peopl e of I srael , for whi ch reason God
was wroth and purposed to sl ay hi m.
636
And Sai nt James and Sai nt John desi red to
cal l down fi re from Heaven upon the Samari tans because they gave not l odgi ng to
Our Savi our, and for thi s He reproved them.
637
3. Here i t i s evi dent that these persons were l ed to determi ne to perform
these works, when i t was not meet for them to do so, by a certai n i mperfect passi on,
whi ch was i nherent i n thei r joy i n them and esteem for them. For, when no such
i mperfecti on exi sts, the soul i s moved and determi ned to perform these vi rtues onl y
i n the manner wherei n God so moves i t, and at Hi s ti me, and unti l then i t i s not
ri ght that they shoul d be performed. I t was for thi s reason that God compl ai ned of
certai n prophets, through Jeremi as, sayi ng: 'I sent not the prophets, and they ran; I
spake not to them, and they prophesi ed.'
638
And l ater He says: 'They decei ved My
peopl e by thei r l yi ng and thei r mi racl es, when I had not commanded them, nei ther
had I sent them.'
639
And i n that pl ace He says of them l i kewi se: 'They see the
vi si ons of thei r heart, and speak of them'
640
; whi ch woul d not happen i f they had not
thi s abomi nabl e attachment to these works.
4. From these passages i t i s to be understood that the evi l of thi s rejoi ci ng not
onl y l eads men to make wi cked and perverse use of these graces gi ven by God, as
di d Bal aam and those of whom the prophet here says that they worked mi racl es
whereby they decei ved the peopl e, but i t even l eads them to use these graces
wi thout havi ng been gi ven them by God, l i ke those who prophesi ed thei r own
fanci es and publ i shed the vi si ons whi ch they i nvented or whi ch the devi l
represented to them. For, when the devi l sees them affecti oned to these thi ngs, he
opens a wi de fi el d to them, gi ves them abundant materi al and i nterferes wi th them
i n many ways; whereupon they spread thei r sai l s and become shamel essl y
audaci ous i n the freedom wherewi th they work these marvel s.
5. Nor does the evi l stop here. To such a poi nt does thei r joy i n these works
and thei r eagerness for them extend that, i f before they had a secret compact wi th
the devi l (and many of them do i n fact perform these works by such secret
compacts), i t now makes them bol d enough to work wi th hi m by an expl i ci t and
636
Numbers xxi i , 22-3.
637
St. Luke i x, 54-5.
638
Jeremi as xxi i i , 21.
639
Jeremi as xxi i i , 32.
640
Jeremi as xxi i i , 26.
238
mani fest compact, submi tti ng themsel ves to hi m, by agreement, as hi s di sci pl es and
al l i es. Hence we have wi zards, enchanters, magi ci ans, soothsayers and sorcerers.
And so far does the joy of these persons i n thei r works carry them that, not onl y do
they seek to purchase gi fts and graces wi th money, as di d Si mon Magus, i n order to
serve the devi l , but they even stri ve to obtai n sacred thi ngs, and (whi ch cannot be
sai d wi thout trembl i ng) Di vi ne thi ngs, for even the very Body
641
of our Lord Jesus
Chri st has been seen to be usurped for the use of thei r wi cked deeds and
abomi nati ons. May God here extend and show to them Hi s great mercy!
6. Everyone wi l l cl earl y understand how perni ci ous are such persons to
themsel ves and how prejudi ci al to Chri sti ani ty. I t may be noted here that al l those
magi ci ans and soothsayers who l i ved among the chi l dren of I srael , whom Saul
destroyed out of the l and, because they desi red to i mi tate the true prophets of God,
had fal l en i nto such abomi nati ons and decei ts.
7. He, then, that has supernatural gi fts and graces ought to refrai n from
desi ri ng to practi se them, and from rejoi ci ng i n so doi ng, nor ought he to care to
exerci se them; for God, Who gi ves Hi msel f to such persons, by supernatural means,
for the profi t of Hi s Church and of i ts members, wi l l move them l i kewi se
supernatural l y i n such a manner and at such ti me as He desi res. As He commanded
Hi s fai thful ones to take no thought as to what they were to say, or as to how they
were to say i t, si nce thi s i s the supernatural busi ness of fai th, i t wi l l l i kewi se be Hi s
wi l l (as these operati ons are no l ess a supernatural matter) that a man shoul d wai t
and al l ow God to work by movi ng hi s heart, si nce i t i s i n the vi rtue of thi s worki ng
that there wi l l be wrought al l vi rtue. The di sci pl es (so we read i n the Acts of the
Apostl es), al though these graces and gi fts had been i nfused wi thi n them, prayed to
God, beseechi ng Hi m to be pl eased to stretch forth Hi s hand i n maki ng si gns and
performi ng works of heal i ng through them, that they mi ght i ntroduce the fai th of
our Lord Jesus Chri st i nto men's hearts.
642
8. From thi s fi rst evi l may proceed the second, whi ch i s a fal l i ng away from
the fai th; thi s can come to pass after two manners. The fi rst has respect to others;
for, when a man sets out, unseasonabl y and needl essl y, to perform a marvel or a
mi ghty work, apart from the fact that thi s i s tempti ng God, whi ch i s a great si n, i t
may be that he wi l l not succeed, and wi l l engender i n the hearts of men di scredi t
and contempt for the fai th. For, al though at ti mes such persons may succeed
because for other reasons and purposes God so wi l l s i t, as i n the case of Saul 's
wi tch
643
(i f i t be true that i t was i ndeed Samuel who appeared on that occasi on),
they wi l l not al ways so succeed; and, when they do so, they go astray none the l ess
and are bl ameworthy for havi ng used these graces when i t was not fi tti ng. The
second manner i n whi ch we may fal l away i s i n oursel ves and has respect to the
meri t of fai th; for, i f a man make much account of these mi racl es, he ceases to l ean
upon the substanti al practi ce of fai th, whi ch i s an obscure habi t; and thus, where
si gns and wi tnesses abound, there i s l ess meri t i n bel i evi ng. I n thi s way Sai nt
Gregory says that fai th has no meri t when human reason provi des experi ence.
644
And thus these marvel s are never worked by God save when they are real l y
necessary for bel i ef. Therefore, to the end that Hi s di sci pl es shoul d not be wi thout
meri t, though they had experi ence of Hi s resurrecti on, He di d many thi ngs before
641
[Lit., 'the awful Body.']
642
Acts i v, 29-30.
643
1 Ki ngs [A.V., 1 Samuel ] xxvi i i , 7, ff.
644
'Nec fi des habet meri tum cui humana rati o praebet experi mentum.' St. Gregory, Hom. 26 i n
Evang. (Mi gne, Vol . LXXVI , p. 1,137).
239
He showed Hi msel f to them, so that they shoul d bel i eve Hi m wi thout seei ng Hi m.
To Mary Magdal ene, fi rst of al l , He showed the empty tomb, and afterwards bade
the angel s speak to her
645
(for, as Sai nt Paul says, fai th comes by heari ng);
646
so
that, havi ng heard, she shoul d bel i eve before she saw. And, al though she saw Hi m,
i t was as an ordi nary man,
647
that, by the warmth of Hi s presence, He mi ght
compl etel y i nstruct her i n the bel i ef whi ch she l acked. And He fi rst sent to tel l Hi s
di sci pl es, wi th the women, and afterwards they went to see the tomb. And, as to
those who went to Emmaus, He fi rst of al l enki ndl ed thei r hearts i n fai th so that
they mi ght see Hi m, di ssembl i ng wi th them as He wal ked.
648
And fi nal l y He
reproved them al l because they had not bel i eved those who had announced to them
Hi s resurrecti on.
649
And He reproved Sai nt Thomas because he desi red to have the
wi tness of Hi s wounds, by tel l i ng hi m that they who saw Hi m not and yet bel i eved
Hi m were bl essed.
650
9. And thus i t i s not the wi l l of God that mi racl es shoul d be wrought: when
He works them, He does so, as i t were, because He cannot do otherwi se. And for thi s
cause He reproved the Phari sees because they bel i eved not save through si gns,
sayi ng: 'Unl ess ye see marvel s and si gns, ye bel i eve not.'
651
Those, then, who l ove to
rejoi ce i n these supernatural works l ose much i n the matter of fai th.
10. The thi rd evi l i s that, because of thei r joy i n these works, men commonl y
fal l i nto vai ngl ory or some other vani ty. For even thei r joy i n these wonders, when i t
i s not, as we have sai d, purel y i n God and for God, i s vani ty; whi ch i s evi dent i n the
reproof gi ven by Our Lord to the di sci pl es because they had rejoi ced that devi l s were
subject to them;
652
for whi ch joy, i f i t had not been vai n, He woul d not have
reproved them.
CHAPTER XXXI I
Of two benefits which are derived from the renunciation of rejoicing in the matter of
the supernatural graces.
BESI DES the benefi ts whi ch the soul gai ns by bei ng del i vered from the three evi l s
aforementi oned through i ts renunci ati on of thi s joy, i t acqui res two excel l ent
benefi ts. The fi rst i s that i t magni fi es and exal ts God: the second i s that i t exal ts
i tsel f. For God i s exal ted i n the soul after two manners: fi rst, by the wi thdrawal of
the heart and the joy of the wi l l from al l that i s not God, i n order that they may be
set upon Hi m al one. Thi s Davi d si gni fi ed i n the verse whi ch we quoted when we
began to speak of the ni ght of thi s facul ty; namel y: 'Man shal l attai n to a l ofty heart,
and God shal l be exal ted.'
653
For, when the heart i s rai sed above al l thi ngs, the soul
i s exal ted above them al l .
2. And, because i n thi s way the soul centres i tsel f i n God al one, God i s exal ted
645
[St. Luke xxi v, 6; St. John xx, 2.]
646
[Romans x, 17.]
647
[St. John xx, 15].
648
St. Luke xxi v, 15.
649
[St. Luke xxi v, 25-6.]
650
St. John xx, 29.
651
St. John i v, 48.
652
St. Luke x, 20.
653
Psal m l xi i i , 7 [A.V., l xi v, 6-7].
240
and magni fi ed, when He reveal s to the soul Hi s excel l ence and greatness; for, i n thi s
el evati on of joy, God bears wi tness of Who He Hi msel f i s. Thi s cannot be done save
i f the wi l l be voi ded of joy and consol ati on wi th respect to al l thi ngs, even as Davi d
sai d al so, i n these words: 'Be sti l l and see that I am God.'
654
And agai n he says: 'I n a
desert l and, dry and pathl ess, have I appeared before Thee, to see Thy power and
Thy gl ory.'
655
And, si nce i t i s true that God i s exal ted by the fi xi ng of the soul 's
rejoi ci ng upon detachment from al l thi ngs, He i s much more hi ghl y exal ted when
the soul wi thdraws i tsel f from the most wondrous of these thi ngs i n order to fi x i ts
rejoi ci ng on Hi m al one. For these, bei ng supernatural , are of a nobl er ki nd; and thus
for the soul to cast them asi de, i n order to set i ts rejoi ci ng upon God al one, i s for i t
to attri bute greater gl ory and excel l ence to God than to them. For, the more and the
greater thi ngs a man despi ses for the sake of another, the more does he esteem and
exal t that other.
3. Furthermore, God i s exal ted after the second manner when the wi l l i s
wi thdrawn from thi s ki nd of operati on; for, the more God i s bel i eved and served
wi thout testi moni es and si gns, the more He i s exal ted by the soul , for i t bel i eves
more concerni ng God than si gns and mi racl es can demonstrate.
4. The second benefi t wherei n the soul i s exal ted consi sts i n thi s, that,
wi thdrawi ng the wi l l from al l desi re for apparent si gns and testi moni es, i t i s exal ted
i n purest fai th, whi ch God i ncreases and i nfuses wi thi n i t much more i ntensel y.
And, together wi th thi s, He i ncreases i n i t the other two theol ogi cal vi rtues, whi ch
are chari ty and hope, wherei n the soul enjoys the hi ghest Di vi ne knowl edge by
means of the obscure and detached habi t of fai th; and i t enjoys great del i ght of l ove
by means of chari ty, whereby the wi l l rejoi ces i n naught el se than i n the l i vi ng God;
and l i kewi se i t enjoys sati sfacti on i n the memory by means of hope. Al l thi s i s a
wondrous benefi t, whi ch l eads essenti al l y and di rectl y to the perfect uni on of the
soul wi th God.
CHAPTER XXXI I I
Which begins to treat of the sixth kind of good wherein the soul may rejoice.
Describes its nature and makes the first division under this head.
SI NCE the i ntenti on of thi s work of ours i s to l ead the spi ri t through these good
thi ngs of the spi ri t even to the Di vi ne uni on of the soul wi th God, i t wi l l not behove
both mysel f and the reader to gi ve our consi derati on to thi s matter wi th parti cul ar
care. For, i n speaki ng of thi s si xth ki nd of good, we have to treat of the good thi ngs
of the spi ri t, whi ch are those that are of the greatest servi ce to thi s end. For i t i s
qui te certai n, and qui te an ordi nary occurrence,
656
that some persons, because of
thei r l ack of knowl edge, make use of spi ri tual thi ngs wi th respect onl y to sense, and
l eave the spi ri t empty. There wi l l scarcel y be anyone whose spi ri t i s not to a
consi derabl e degree corrupted by sweetness of sense; si nce, i f the water be drunk up
before i t reaches the spi ri t, the l atter becomes dry and barren.
2. Comi ng to thi s matter, then, I say that by good thi ngs of the spi ri t I
understand al l those that i nfl uence and ai d the soul i n Di vi ne thi ngs and i n i ts
i ntercourse wi th God, and the communi cati ons of God to the soul .
654
Psal m xl v, 11 [A.V., xl vi , 10].
655
Psal m l xi i , 3 [A.V., l xi i , 1-2].
656
[Lit., 'thi ng.']
241
3. Begi nni ng by maki ng a di vi si on between these supreme ki nds of good, I say
that good thi ngs of the spi ri t are of two ki nds: the one ki nd i s del ectabl e and the
other pai nful . And each of these ki nds i s l i kewi se of two manners; for the del ectabl e
ki nd consi sts of cl ear thi ngs that are di sti nctl y understood, and al so of thi ngs that
are not understood cl earl y or di sti nctl y. The pai nful ki nd, l i kewi se, may be of cl ear
and di sti nct thi ngs, or of thi ngs dark and confused.
4. Between al l these we may l i kewi se make di sti ncti ons wi th respect to the
facul ti es of the soul . For some ki nds of spi ri tual good, bei ng of knowl edge, pertai n to
the understandi ng; others, bei ng of affecti on, pertai n to the wi l l ; and others,
i nasmuch as they are i magi nary, pertai n to the memory.
5. We shal l l eave for l ater consi derati on those good thi ngs that are pai nful ,
si nce they pertai n to the passi ve ni ght, i n treati ng of whi ch we shal l have to speak
of them; and l i kewi se the del ectabl e bl essi ngs whi ch we descri bed as bei ng of thi ngs
confused and not di sti nct, of whi ch we shal l treat hereafter, si nce they pertai n to
that general , confused and l ovi ng knowl edge wherei n i s effected the uni on of the
soul wi th God, and whi ch we passed over i n the second book, deferri ng i t so that we
mi ght treat of i t l ater
657
when we shoul d make a di vi si on between the
apprehensi ons of the understandi ng. We shal l speak here and now of those
del ectabl e bl essi ngs whi ch are of thi ngs cl ear and di sti nct.
CHAPTER XXXI V
Of those good things of the spirit which can be distinctly apprehended by the
understanding and the memory. Describes how the will is to behave in the matter of
rejoicing in them.
WE mi ght spend much ti me here upon the mul ti tude of the apprehensi ons of the
memory and the understandi ng, teachi ng how the wi l l i s to conduct i tsel f wi th
regard to the joy that i t may have i n them, had we not treated of thi s at l ength i n
the second and the thi rd book. But, si nce we there spoke of the manner wherei n i t
behoves these two facul ti es to act wi th respect to them, i n order that they may take
the road to Di vi ne uni on, and si nce i t behoves the wi l l to conduct i tsel f l i kewi se as
regards rejoi ci ng i n them, i t i s unnecessary to go over thi s here; for i t suffi ces to say
that wheresoever we there sai d that those facul ti es shoul d voi d themsel ves of thi s or
that apprehensi on, i t i s to be understood al so that the wi l l shoul d l i kewi se be voi ded
of joy i n them. And i n the way wherei n i t i s sai d that memory and understandi ng
are to conduct themsel ves wi th regard to al l these apprehensi ons, the wi l l must
conduct i tsel f l i kewi se; for, si nce the understandi ng and the other facul ti es cannot
admi t or reject anythi ng unl ess the wi l l i ntervene therei n, i t i s cl ear that the same
teachi ng that serves for the one wi l l serve al so for the other.
2. I t may there be seen, then, what i s requi si te i n thi s case, for the soul wi l l
fal l i nto al l the evi l s and peri l s to whi ch we there referred i f i t cannot di rect the
rejoi ci ng of the wi l l to God i n al l those apprehensi ons.
CHAPTER XXXV
657
[I n spi te of thi s promi se, the Sai nt does not return to thi s subject at such l ength as hi s l anguage
here woul d suggest.]
242
Of the delectable spiritual good things which can be distinctly apprehended by the
will. Describes the kinds of these.
WE can reduce al l the ki nds of good whi ch can di sti nctl y cause joy to the wi l l to
four: namel y, moti ve, provocati ve, di recti ve and perfecti ve. Of these we shal l speak
i n turn, each i n i ts order; and fi rst, of the moti ve ki nd -- namel y, i mages and
portrai ts of sai nts, oratori es and ceremoni es.
2. As touchi ng i mages and portrai ts, there may be much vani ty and vai n
rejoi ci ng i n these. For, though they are most i mportant for Di vi ne worshi p and most
necessary to move the wi l l to devoti on, as i s shown by the approval gi ven to them
and the use made of them by our Mother Church (for whi ch reason i t i s al ways wel l
that we shoul d empl oy them, i n order to awaken our l ukewarmness), there are
many persons who rejoi ce rather i n the pai nti ng and decorati on of them than i n
what they represent.
3. The use of i mages has been ordai ned by the Church for two pri nci pal ends
-- namel y, that we may reverence the sai nts i n them, and that the wi l l may be
moved and devoti on to the sai nts awakened by them. When they serve thi s purpose
they are benefi ci al and the use of them i s necessary; and therefore we must choose
those that are most true and l i fel i ke, and that most move the wi l l to devoti on, and
our eyes must ever be fi xed upon thi s moti ve rather than upon the val ue and
cunni ng of thei r workmanshi p and decorati on. For, as I say, there are some who pay
more attenti on to the cunni ng wi th whi ch an i mage i s made, and to i ts val ue, than
to what i t represents; and that i nteri or devoti on whi ch they ought to di rect
spi ri tual l y to the sai nt whom they see not, forgetti ng the i mage at once, si nce i t
serves onl y as a moti ve, they squander upon the cunni ng and the decorati on of i ts
outward workmanshi p. I n thi s way sense i s pl eased and del i ghted, and the l ove and
rejoi ci ng of the wi l l remai n there. Thi s i s a compl ete hi ndrance to true spi ri tual i ty,
whi ch demands anni hi l ati on of the affecti ons as to al l parti cul ar thi ngs.
4. Thi s wi l l become qui te cl ear from the detestabl e custom whi ch certai n
persons observe wi th regard to i mages i n these our days. Hol di ng not i n abhorence
the vai n trappi ngs of the worl d, they adorn i mages wi th the garments whi ch from
ti me to ti me vai n persons i nvent i n order to sati sfy thei r own pl easures and
vani ti es. So they cl othe i mages wi th garments reprehensi bl e even i n themsel ves, a
ki nd of vani ty whi ch was, and i s sti l l , abhorrent to the sai nts whom the i mages
represent. Herei n, wi th thei r hel p, the devi l succeeds i n canoni zi ng hi s vani ti es, by
cl othi ng the sai nts wi th them, not wi thout causi ng them great di spl easure. And i n
thi s way the honest and grave devoti on of the soul , whi ch rejects and spurns al l
vani ty and every trace of i t, becomes wi th them l i ttl e more than a dressi ng of dol l s;
some persons use i mages merel y as i dol s upon whi ch they have set thei r rejoi ci ng.
And thus you wi l l see certai n persons who are never ti red of addi ng one i mage to
another, and wi sh them to be of thi s or that ki nd and workmanshi p, and to be
pl aced i n thi s or that manner, so as to be pl easi ng to sense; and they make l i ttl e
account of the devoti on of the heart. They are as much attached to them as was
Mi chas to hi s i dol s,
658
or as was Laban;
659
for the one ran out of hi s house cryi ng
al oud because they were bei ng taken from hi m; and the other, havi ng made a l ong
journey and been very wroth because of them, di sturbed al l the househol d stuff of
Jacob, i n searchi ng for them.
5. The person who i s trul y devout sets hi s devoti on pri nci pal l y upon that
658
Judges xvi i i , 22-4.
659
Genesi s xxxi , 34-7.
243
whi ch i s i nvi si bl e; he needs few i mages and uses few, and chooses those that
harmoni ze wi th the Di vi ne rather than wi th the human, cl othi ng them, and wi th
them hi msel f, i n the garments of the worl d to come, and fol l owi ng i ts fashi ons
rather than those of thi s worl d. For not onl y does an i mage bel ongi ng to thi s worl d
i n no way i nfl uence hi s desi re; i t does not even l ead hi m to thi nk of thi s worl d, i n
spi te of hi s havi ng before hi s eyes somethi ng worl dl y, aki n to the worl d's i nterests.
Nor i s hi s heart attached to the i mages that he uses; i f they are taken from hi m, he
gri eves very l i ttl e, for he seeks wi thi n hi msel f the l i vi ng i mage, whi ch i s Chri st
cruci fi ed, for Whose sake he even desi res that al l shoul d be taken from hi m and he
shoul d have nothi ng. Even when the moti ves and means whi ch l ead hi m cl osest to
God are taken from hi m, he remai ns i n tranqui l i ty. For the soul i s nearer perfecti on
when i t i s tranqui l and joyous, though i t be depri ved of these moti ves, than i f i t has
possessi on of them together wi th desi re and attachment. For, al though i t i s good to
be pl eased to have such i mages as assi st the soul to greater devoti on (for whi ch
reason i t i s those whi ch move i t most that must al ways be chosen), yet i t i s
somethi ng far removed from perfecti on to be so greatl y attached to them as to
possess them wi th attachment, so that, i f they are taken away from the soul , i t
becomes sad.
6. Let the soul be sure that, the more cl osel y i t i s attached to an i mage or a
moti ve, the l ess wi l l i ts devoti on and prayer mount to God. For, al though i t i s true
that, si nce some are more appropri ate than others, and exci te devoti on more than
others, i t i s wel l , for thi s reason al one, to be more affecti oned to some than to others,
as I have just now sai d, yet there must be none of the attachment and affecti on
whi ch I have descri bed. Otherwi se, that whi ch has to sustai n the spi ri t i n i ts fl i ght
to God, i n total forgetful ness, wi l l be whol l y occupi ed by sense, and the soul wi l l be
compl etel y i mmersed i n a del i ght afforded i t by what are but i nstruments. These
i nstruments I have to use, but sol el y i n order to assi st me i n devoti on; and, on
account of my i mperfecti on, they may wel l serve me as a hi ndrance, no l ess so than
may affecti on and attachment to anythi ng el se.
7.
660
But, though perhaps i n thi s matter of i mages you may thi nk that there
i s somethi ng to be sai d on the other si de, i f you have not cl earl y understood how
much detachment and poverty of spi ri t i s requi red by perfecti on, at l east you cannot
excuse the i mperfecti on whi ch i s commonl y i ndul ged wi th regard to rosari es; for you
wi l l hardl y fi nd anyone who has not some weakness wi th regard to these, desi ri ng
them to be of thi s workmanshi p rather than of that, or of thi s col our or metal rather
than of that, or decorated i n some one styl e or i n some other. Yet no one styl e i s
better than another for the heari ng of a prayer by God, for thi s depends upon the
si mpl e and true heart, whi ch l ooks at no more than pl easi ng God, and, apart from
the questi on of i ndul gences, cares no more for one rosary than for another.
8. Our vai n concupi scence i s of such a nature and qual i ty that i t tri es to
establ i sh i tsel f i n everythi ng; and i t i s l i ke the worm whi ch destroys heal thy wood,
and works upon thi ngs both good and evi l . For what el se i s your desi re to have a
rosary of cunni ng workmanshi p, and your wi sh that i t shal l be of one ki nd rather
than of another, but the fi xi ng of your rejoi ci ng upon the i nstrument? I t i s l i ke
desi ri ng to choose one i mage rather than another, and consi deri ng, not i f i t wi l l
better awaken Di vi ne l ove wi thi n you, but onl y i f i t i s more preci ous and more
cunni ngl y made. I f you empl oyed your desi re and rejoi ci ng sol el y i n the l ove of God,
660
[I n thi s and the next paragraph the Sai nt i s more than usual l y personal i n hi s approach to the
reader. The word tú(you) i s repeated many ti mes, and pl aced i n emphati c posi ti ons, i n a way whi ch
cannot be exactl y reproduced i n Engl i sh.]
244
you woul d care nothi ng for any of these consi derati ons. I t i s most vexati ous to see
certai n spi ri tual persons so greatl y attached to the manner and workmanshi p of
these i nstruments and moti ves, and to the curi osi ty and vai n pl easure whi ch they
fi nd i n them: you wi l l never see them sati sfi ed; they wi l l be conti nual l y l eavi ng one
thi ng for another, and forgetti ng and forsaki ng spi ri tual devoti on for these vi si bl e
thi ngs, to whi ch they have affecti on and attachment, someti mes of just the same
ki nd as that whi ch a man has to temporal thi ngs; and from thi s they recei ve no
smal l harm.
CHAPTER XXXVI
Which continues to treat of images, and describes the ignorance which certain
persons have with respect to them.
THERE i s much that mi ght be sai d of the stupi di ty whi ch many persons di spl ay
wi th regard to i mages; thei r fool i shness reaches such a poi nt that some of them
pl ace more confi dence i n one ki nd of i mage than i n another, bel i evi ng that God wi l l
hear them more readi l y because of these than because of those, even when both
represent the same thi ng, as when there are two of Chri st or two of Our Lady. And
thi s happens because they have more affecti on for the one ki nd of workmanshi p
than for the other; whi ch i mpl i es the crudest i deas concerni ng i ntercourse wi th God
and the worshi p and honour that are owed to Hi m, whi ch has sol el y to do wi th the
fai th and the puri ty of heart of hi m that prays. For i f God someti mes grants more
favours by means of one i mage rather than by another of the same ki nd, i t i s not
because there i s more vi rtue to thi s effect i n one than i n another (however much
di fference there may be i n thei r workmanshi p), but because some persons better
awaken thei r own devoti on by one than by another. I f they had the same devoti on
for the one as for the other (or even wi thout the use of ei ther), they woul d recei ve
the same favours from God.
2. Hence the reason for whi ch God works
661
mi racl es and grants favours by
means of one ki nd of i mage rather than by another i s not that these shoul d be
esteemed more than those, but to the end that, by means of the wonder that they
cause, there may be awakened sl eepi ng devoti on and the affecti on of the fai thful for
prayer. And hence i t comes that, as the contempl ati on of the i mage at that ti me
enki ndl es devoti on and makes us to conti nue i n prayer (both these bei ng means
whereby God hears and grants that whi ch i s asked of Hi m), therefore, at that ti me
and by means of that same i mage, God conti nues to work favours and mi racl es
because of the prayer and affecti on whi ch are then shown; for i t i s certai n that God
does i t not because of the i mage, whi ch i n i tsel f i s no more than a pai nted thi ng, but
because of the devoti on and fai th whi ch the person has toward the sai nt whom i t
represents. And so, i f you had the same devoti on and fai th i n Our Lady before one
i mage representi ng her as before another, si nce the person represented i s the same
(and even, as we have sai d, i f you had no such i mage at al l ), you woul d recei ve the
same favours. For i t i s cl ear from experi ence that, when God grants certai n favours
and works mi racl es, He does so as a rul e by means of certai n i mages whi ch are not
wel l carved or cunni ngl y formed or pai nted, so that the fai thful may attri bute
nothi ng to the fi gure or the pai nti ng.
3. Furthermore, Our Lord i s frequentl y wont to grant these favours by means
661
[Lit., 'awakens.' Cf. the use of the same metaphor bel ow.]
245
of those i mages that are most remote and sol i tary. One reason for thi s i s that the
effort necessary to journey to them causes the affecti ons to be i ncreased and makes
the act of prayer more earnest. Another reason i s that we may wi thdraw oursel ves
from noi se and from peopl e when we pray, even as di d the Lord. Wherefore he that
makes a pi l gri mage does wel l i f he makes i t at a ti me when no others are doi ng so,
even though the ti me be unusual . I shoul d never advi se hi m to make a pi l gri mage
when a great mul ti tude i s doi ng so; for, as a rul e, on these occasi ons, peopl e return
i n a state of greater di stracti on than when they went. And many set out on these
pi l gri mages and make them for recreati on rather than for devoti on. Where there i s
devoti on and fai th, then, any i mage wi l l suffi ce; but, i f there i s none, none wi l l
suffi ce. Our Savi our was a very l i vi ng i mage i n the worl d; and yet those that had no
fai th, even though they went about wi th Hi m and saw Hi s wondrous works, deri ved
no benefi t from them. And thi s was the reason why, as the Evangel i st says, He di d
few mi ghty works i n Hi s own country.
662
4. I desi re al so to speak here of certai n supernatural effects whi ch are
someti mes produced by certai n i mages upon parti cul ar persons. To certai n i mages
God gi ves a parti cul ar spi ri tual i nfl uence upon such persons, so that the fi gure of
the i mage and the devoti on caused by i t remai n fi xed i n the mi nd, and the person
has them ever present before hi m; and so, when he suddenl y thi nks of the i mage,
the spi ri tual i nfl uence whi ch works upon hi m i s of the same ki nd as when he saw i t
-- someti mes i t i s l ess, but someti mes i t i s even greater -- yet, from another i mage,
al though i t be of more perfect workmanshi p, he wi l l not obtai n the same spi ri tual
effect.
5. Many persons, too, have devoti on to one ki nd of workmanshi p rather than
to another, and to some they wi l l have no more than a natural i ncl i nati on and
affecti on, just as we prefer seei ng one person's face to another's. And they wi l l
natural l y become more attracted to a parti cul ar i mage, and wi l l keep i t more vi vi dl y
i n thei r i magi nati on, even though i t be not as beauti ful as others, just because thei r
nature i s attracted to that ki nd of form and fi gure whi ch i t represents. And some
persons wi l l thi nk that the affecti on whi ch they have for such or such an i mage i s
devoti on, whereas i t wi l l perhaps be no more than natural i ncl i nati on and affecti on.
Agai n, i t may happen that, when they l ook at an i mage, they wi l l see i t move, or
make si gns and gestures and i ndi cati ons, or speak. Thi s, and the vari ety of
supernatural effects caused by i mages of whi ch we have here been speaki ng, are, i t
i s true, qui te frequentl y good and true effects, produced by God ei ther to i ncrease
devoti on or so that the soul may have some support on whi ch to l ean, because i t i s
somewhat weak, and so that i t may not be di stracted. Yet frequentl y, agai n, they
are produced by the devi l i n order to cause decepti on and harm. We shal l therefore
gi ve i nstructi on concerni ng thi s i n the chapter fol l owi ng.
CHAPTER XXXVI I
Of how the rejoicing of the will must be directed, by way of the images, to God, so
that the soul may not go astray because of them or be hindered by them.
JUST as i mages are of great benefi t for rememberi ng God and the sai nts, and for
movi ng the wi l l to devoti on when they are used i n the ordi nary way, as i s fi tti ng, so
they wi l l l ead to great error i f, when supernatural happeni ngs come to pass i n
662
St. Luke i v, 24. [Rather St. Matthew xi i i , 58 or St. Mark vi , 5.]
246
connecti on wi th them, the soul shoul d not be abl e to conduct i tsel f as i s fi tti ng for i ts
journey to God. For one of the means by whi ch the devi l l ays hol d on i ncauti ous
soul s, wi th great ease, and obstructs the way of spi ri tual truth for them, i s the use
of extraordi nary and supernatural happeni ngs, of whi ch he gi ves exampl es by
means of i mages, both the materi al and corporeal i mages used by the Church, and
al so those whi ch he i s wont to fi x i n the fancy i n rel ati on to such or such a sai nt, or
an i mage of hi m, transformi ng hi msel f i nto an angel of l i ght that he may decei ve.
For i n those very means whi ch we possess for our rel i ef and hel p the astute devi l
contri ves to hi de hi msel f i n order to catch us when we are l east prepared. Wherefore
i t i s concerni ng good thi ngs that the soul that i s good must ever have the greatest
mi sgi vi ngs, for evi l thi ngs bear thei r own testi mony wi th them.
2. Hence, i n order to avoi d al l the evi l s whi ch may happen to the soul i n thi s
connecti on, whi ch are i ts bei ng hi ndered from soari ng upward to God, or i ts usi ng
i mages i n an unworthy and i gnorant manner, or i ts bei ng decei ved by them through
natural or supernatural means, al l of whi ch are thi ngs that we have touched upon
above; and i n order l i kewi se to puri fy the rejoi ci ng of the wi l l i n them and by means
of them to l ead the soul to God, for whi ch reason the Church recommends thei r use,
I desi re here to set down onl y one warni ng, whi ch wi l l suffi ce for everythi ng; and
thi s warni ng i s that, si nce i mages serve us as a moti ve for i nvi si bl e thi ngs, we must
stri ve to set the moti ve and the affecti on and the rejoi ci ng of our wi l l onl y upon that
whi ch i n fact they represent. Let the fai thful soul , then, be careful that, when he
sees the i mage, he desi re not that hi s senses shoul d be absorbed by i t, whether the
i mage be corporeal or i magi nary, whether beauti ful l y made, whether ri chl y
adorned, whether the devoti on that i t causes be of sense or of spi ri t, whether i t
produce supernatural mani festati ons or no. The soul must on no account set store
by these acci dents, nor even regard them, but must rai se up i ts mi nd from the
i mage to that whi ch i t represents, centeri ng the sweetness and rejoi ci ng of i ts wi l l ,
together wi th the prayer and devoti on of i ts spi ri t, upon God or upon the sai nt who
i s bei ng i nvoked; for that whi ch bel ongs to the l i vi ng real i ty and to the spi ri t shoul d
not be usurped by sense and by the pai nted object. I f the soul do thi s, i t wi l l not be
decei ved, for i t wi l l set no store by anythi ng that the i mage may say to i t, nor wi l l i t
occupy i ts sense or i ts spi ri t i n such a way that they cannot travel freel y to God, nor
wi l l i t pl ace more confi dence i n one i mage than i n another. And an i mage whi ch
woul d cause the soul devoti on by supernatural means wi l l now do so more
abundantl y, si nce the soul wi l l now go wi th i ts affecti ons di rectl y to God. For,
whensoever God grants these and other favours, He does so by i ncl i ni ng the
affecti on of the joy of the wi l l to that whi ch i s i nvi si bl e, and thi s He wi shes us al so
to do, by anni hi l ati ng the power and sweetness of the facul ti es wi th respect to these
vi si bl e thi ngs of sense.
CHAPTER XXXVI I I
Continues to describe motive good. Speaks of oratories and places dedicated to
prayer.
I THI NK i t has now been expl ai ned how the spi ri tual person may fi nd as great
i mperfecti on i n the acci dents of i mages, by setti ng hi s pl easure and rejoi ci ng upon
them, as i n other corporeal and temporal thi ngs, and perchance i mperfecti on more
peri l ous sti l l . And I say perchance more peri l ous, because, when a person says that
the objects of hi s rejoi ci ng are hol y, he feel s more secure, and fears not to cl i ng to
247
them and become attached to them i n a natural way. And thus such a person i s
someti mes greatl y decei ved, thi nki ng hi msel f to be ful l of devoti on because he
percei ves that he takes pl easure i n these hol y thi ngs, when, perchance, thi s i s due
onl y to hi s natural desi re and temperament, whi ch l ead hi m to thi s just as they l ead
hi m to other thi ngs.
2. Hence i t ari ses (we are now begi nni ng to treat of oratori es) that there are
some persons who never ti re of addi ng to thei r oratori es i mages of one ki nd and
then of another, and take