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he Dark Night 
of the Soul 

San Juan De La Cruz 

From 4ie Library of 

Reverend HugK MatKeson 
LL.B., D.D. 










By the Blessed Father 

Done into English by 








I Dedicate this Book to 
My Husband 

I give you the end of a golden string, 
Only wind it into a ball, 
It will lead you in at Heaven s gate, 
Built in Jerusalem s wall. 

William Blake. 


>"pHE constant and simultaneous succession 
and recurrence of certain distinct yet 
similar phenomena, taking place in all cen 
turies and in all races, might lead us to the 
conclusion (in the lack of other positive know 
ledge) that behind all Form, Dogma, Ritual 
and Ceremonial, there is hidden a profound 
and mysterious meaning, a meaning which 
constitutes the Root Religion whence, as 
from a spring or fountain head, all others had 
their rise ; and this Root Religion cannot 
have been other than the close and intimate 
Communication of man with the Universal 
Soul the Body Soul the Suchness, the Be 
coming, the Divinity, give it what name you 
will ; so that, so far from having gradually 
evolved into intellectual light through a scale 
of beings inferior to him, as the evolutionist 
maintains, he would rather seem to have 
begun as the inhabitant of a higher sphere, 
to boast a celestial genealogy. And that such 
I B 


has been the case and that for long afterwards 
he kept up his connection with this higher 
sphere is so deeply, profoundly, graven on 
the root traditions of all ancient religions and 
on the annals of ages lost in the triple dark 
ness of antiquity ; and what is more im 
portant, on the soul herself, that it is mad 
presumption to assert otherwise. It was the 
esoteric doctrine of the Egyptians. It has 
been enshrined in the sacred books, the 
Scriptures (if we read them aright by the 
light flashed on them by the Kabbala), handed 
down to us by the Jews who were not only 
Egyptian in faith, but by some, considered to 
have belonged to the Egyptian race. 

It is this communication with God, the 
reminiscence of a celestial origin when Man 
walked in intimate Union with his Maker in 
the blissful gardens of primeval paradise, 
which is the root, the essence and quintes 
sence of all religion ; is at the back of all 
evolutions of religion, is the substance and 
form (in the metaphysical sense) of all mani 
festations of Religion. The priests of Egypt 
taught it to the Initiated in their temples. It 
was the profound secret which underlay the 
veiled rites of the Eleusinian mysteries and 
the Divine Doctrines of Orpheus. 


It is the mystic and secret Wisdom of the 
Kabbala ; it is the science of Love of Leon 
Hebreo ; it is the Philosopher s Stone of the 
Alchemists, the fifth quintessence ; the dia 
mond gate of Bohme and the Prayer of 
Union of the Christian Saints. A chorus of 
voices loud, imposing, calls to us across the 
ages and bids us be wise and listen to the 
secret teaching. There is no solution of con 
tinuity. When the priests of the ancient 
temple are silenced and the oracles wax 
dumb, this celestial knowledge is kept alive 
by symbol, sign, enigma. 

Leaving, then, the great and Hoary-headed 
Faiths of antiquity, skipping over centuries 
as they were years, pausing only to breathe 
the names that echo through the silence, 
this is the teaching of Pythagoras (learnt in 
Egypt), of Plato, the value of whose philoso 
phy consists in his having received (in Egypt 
also) the root doctrine of the Oneness and 
indivisibility of spirit substance (the nou- 
menon) as opposed to the diversity and 
multiplicity of the shadowy shape and form 
which veils it and acts as its instrument (the 
phenomenon) ; the soul being nothing more 
than a breathing into the body of the One 
Divine Substance, and the body the instru- 


ment and outward manifestation of her 
presence and merely the realization, in time 
and space, of that which, in itself, is immortal. 
But soul is of the Divine Substance, and Divine 
Substance is One. 

This is the doctrine of the Kabbala, the 
"kiss of love" in which in an excess of 
rapture, the soul is united with God. This 
is the treasure revealed by Plotinus the 
great and noble man not his doctrine only, 
for Truth is mightier than scientific theorizing 
but his Knowledge and his message to the 

Following hard on the footsteps of Pytha 
goras and Plato, so swiftly passing through 
the nonentity of time, come the Neo Alexan 
drians, Philo the Jew, the Gnostics, Plotinus, 
Porphyry, Jamblichus (all resident in Egypt) ; 
Dionysius the Areopagite, steeped in Her 
metic Doctrines and tradition (he also like 
Plato, had travelled in Egypt), teaches to the 
Initiated the same mystic and hidden religion. 
It underlies the symbols, the transposed 
letters, the anagrams, etc., etc. (derived from 
many sources) Egyptian, Persian, Sabean, 
Chaldaic, Kabbalastic, and is the essence of 

Filtering down through St. Clement of 


Alexandria and the early Fathers of the 
Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, Leon Hebreo 
the Jew and the Arab philosophers and 
doctors of Spain, it culminates at last in the 
sixteenth century and in the same country 
with a wonderful illumination in the Saint of 
Avila, and San Juan de la Cruz, with whom 
I am more particularly to treat. For the 
Church of Rome, herself founded in the 
beginning on the Ruins of those antique 
Faiths, has preserved intact (although none 
but her greatest and best know how great 
is the extent of this preservation) ; I say, 
she has preserved intact in her bosom, (how 
ever overlaid and obscured), the essence of 
the secret wisdom of the Magi. 

This secret doctrine, as I have said, was 
known to, and practised by the Kabbalists 
of the tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, and their descendants or resusci- 
tators (for the knowledge has never died, and 
will never die), Leon Hebreo, Raymond Llull, 
Pico de Mirandola, John Reuchlin, the 
Templars, and the Brothers of the Holy 

Following in unbroken succession come the 
alchemists : Abbot Treitheim, Paracelsus, 
Agrippa ; the physician Van Helmont ; 



Thomas Vaughan, Fludd, Treherne, and 
Henry More. 

For this is the philosopher s stone, the aqua 
vitce ; this the fifth quintessence ; this the 
Divine and unutterable magic, the Transmuta 
tion of the soul into God. This is the great, 
the awful secret that the woman may learn at 
her spinning wheel, and the most learned 
man, with all his knowledge, die unpossessed 

And they that learn it are the Initiated. 
No human laying on of hands can initiate the 
soul into the obscure realms of spirit. In the 
mystic temple of the heart, God himself 
orders and ordains His own adepts. He 
takes the soul and joins it with Himself, and 
when He has once so consecrated His elect, 
their brethren in the spirit and the secret 
science know and recognize them. The 
Buddhist as the Christian, is alike initiated. 

In the Church the Divine Initiates conquer 
for themselves, and teach to others, this 
Mystical Theology, this Secret Wisdom, this 
Science of Love, and their experiences are 
invariably the same. The Church counts 
glorious adepts. Her training is above all 
others calculated to produce them. 

St. Paul was an Initiate, Sta. Teresa was 


an Initiate, San Juan de la Cruz was an 
Initiate. And well did the Church know how 
to utilize her greatest and loftiest children for 
her own fixed purposes and make them 
instruments of her power. 

So that you to whom this most humble of 
friars and gigantic of saints now speaks across 
the unutterable silence of the centuries, ask 
yourselves well before you enter on his 
exposition of this wondrous doctrine, whether 
what you so slightingly refer to as mysticism 
may not be after all the only Truth and 
Reality, and all the rest fleeting and unsub 
stantial shadow. 

The Gnostics laid the basis of a profound 
psychology. They divided men into three 
classes : 

1. The Hylic man. 

2. The Psychic man. 

3. The Pneumatic man. 

The Hylic man is he who never gropes 
beyond the limitations of matter. 

The Psychic man is the intelligent mind 
originating in the body, forming part of, and 
perishing with it. 

The Pneumatic man is he who rises to the 
intuitions and perceptions of the soul. 

The modern writers who would fain foist 


this old, old doctrine on the world as of their 
own devising (although it is good the truth 
should be spread abroad amongst the ignorant 
by whatever means, even at the risk of its 
being disingenuously imposed on the world as 
a new-fangled thing), let them listen to what 
the great Spanish mystics thought of the 

A sidelight is thrown on it by San Juan de 
la Cruz himself at the end of the twenty -third 
chapter of this very book, where he says : 

"When it happens that these favours are 
done to the soul in concealment, that is, in 
spirit alone, she sometimes sees herself, with 
out knowing how it happens, so severed as 
regards the loftier part of her (the pneumatic 
soul) from the inferior portion (the psychic 
intelligence) that she recognizes in herself two 
parts so distinctly different the one from the 
other, that it seems to me that the one has 
nothing to do with the other, the soul being 
under the impression that she is at a great 
distance from, and divorced from the inferior 
part." And we find this doctrine even more 
clearly defined by Fray Juan de los Angeles, 
a Discalced Minorite, in his " Dialogues of the 
Conquest of the Spiritual and Secret Kingdom 
of God, which, according to the Holy Gospel, 


is within ourselves. Wherein is treated of 
the interior and Divine Life, which the soul 
lives united to her Creator through transform 
ing grace and love," published in Madrid in 
1595, wherein he says : " The secret Kingdom 
of God is in the centre of the soul, or at the 
apex (pinnacle) of the intellect, where our 
soul becomes part of the Whole. . . . 
This centre of the soul is the most absolute 
quintessence of her, sealed with the image of 
God . . . whereon no form of anything 
created is impressed. . . . This innermost 
centre, naked, lucid, free from the impression 
of any shape or form, is raised above all 
created things, and above all the senses and 
faculties of the soul, and transcends all time 
and place, and in it the soul abides in a per 
petual union and conjunction with God, her 
origin. Here wells forth a fount of living 
water which bubbles up towards life eternal 
and gives and communicates to the body and 
soul a marvellous purity and fertility." 

And this is not a doctrine confined to one or 
two it is the radical foundation of what the 
unenlightened call mysticism. For the mystics 
knew what modern thought is now feebly, and 
in the dark, beginning to grasp, that the soul 
being a spark of the Universal Soul Body or 



Soul Substance existed long before the creation 
of the world, is immortal in the temporary 
tenement of clay she illuminates by her 
presence ; knows no age, no passage of time, no 
limitations of space ; shall be immortal for all 
time ; that she never was, because she has 
always been and likewise shall never end. 
She is the Unseen Witness, the Divine Guest 
that no corruption and sin of the body (how 
ever much they may sadden and make her 
lower her pure, ever watching eyes, patient 
with the unutterable patience and knowledge of 
all Eternity) has power to taint or shadow by 
its proximity. Nay, more, she preserves un 
alterable records, which he who can turn over 
the leaves of his soul, may peruse as in the 
pages of a book. She was present at the 
Creation of the World and watched the Earth 
first float in pristine glory through the voids 
of Space ; she was present at the building of 
the pyramids ; she has veiled her eyes before 
the mystic rites in the innermost recesses of 
the Temples. She has read the inscriptions 
graven on their pillars, and passed swiftly 
through the gloom of endless galleries lined 
with the serried Images of Gods and Idols. 
She has gazed on Eastern cities baked yellow 
as saffron, rising against hot skies of quivering 


sapphire ; she has looked through the shadow 
of a crumbling gateway, for it was early dawn 
and in full summer, into the narrow streets 
(once so familiar to her, and whereto she is 
now a stranger), shut in by files of lofty 
houses, their walls pierced after a strange 
fashion with curious loopholes and broken by 
the shadows of archways, stairs, and turrets. 
She has found herself standing before Christian 
cathedrals in the dawn of their beauty ere 
one day of time had power to flaw or mar the 
matchless symmetry of the fresh white images, 
glittering as snow new fallen, of sculptured 
Saints, and Prelates, and Warriors under the 
rose window of the western porch. She has 
prayed in Spanish cathedrals before the 
magnificently carved and painted altarpieces 
in the superb glory of their golden freshness. 
She wanders at times in corridors of medieval 
convents she paced, before the triple darkness 
fell upon her ; and once more, she leans as 
she did away back in the centuries, against 
the bay of a gothic arch open to the sky, and 
looks forth into the quiet eventide surrounded 
by the motionless figures of monk or nun 
(sitting on a chestnut bench hewn into straight, 
square, austere lines), with hands clasped and 
eyes transfixed in ecstatic peace on the fading 


glow of sunset. Nay, more. She can visit the 
bowels of the earth and wander with the gnomes 
where diamonds and emeralds and rubies lie 
in the rough, unquarried, for ever hidden from 
the rapacious gaze of man ; she can watch the 
sylphs as they wind their mazy dances through 
the air, fairylike beings of surpassing loveli 
ness and grace, with wings of gauze and 
garments of translucent spider webs. She 
can plunge into the depths of the ocean ; she 
can sever the air with a fleetness that anni 
hilates time and space. She has watched 
with the shepherds, in the shadow of the 
plains, the Star that shone on the Birth of 
Christ. All this, this marvellous soul has 
done ; and, at times, in deep concentration, 
she reveals herself to us as a spark bright and 
blue as steel glittering with the steady light 
of some distant star in the frosty sky of 
winter. She dissipates the darkness and 
illumines the inferior human intellect, and 
then Shakespeare utters his profound thoughts 
on the narrow stage of human events ; or we 
have the intuitive inventor, mathematician, 
astronomer, the songs of the poets fraught 
with celestial meaning ; the deep vision of the 
seer who stands poised betwixt the past and 
future, and the harmony of the spheres. She 



seizes the ineffable secrets that the wind 
whispers to the trees as it passes ; the birds 
of the air carry her with them in their flight. 
She visits the desolate places of the earth 
where no man has trod. 

And when she comes to her own dominion, 
oh ! you who have achieved the conquest of 
your souls and have recognized and raised her 
to her inalienablepossession, her antique throne 
within your heart, she will glorify you, trans 
form you, even transmute the inert flesh, the 
dead matter of your bodies into some sem 
blance of spiritual seeming and beauty. She 
will unite with your bodily mind and trans 
figure it ; she will inspire you with her stores 
of unutterable wisdom, and from being a man, 
you shall become a Prince, a King of men, 
nay, more than this, Lord of Creation itself, 
which shall own your irresistible sway, for, 
now you are a God and walk in the transmitted 
light of the Divinity. You shall shape men 
and events to your will and they shall have no 
power over you. You shall command the 
World that peoples the elements and the air. 
You shall cast out devils as did San Juan de la 
Cruz, and they shall flee from your pure 
presence, yea, be it Satan himself. They 
may cast you into dungeons, and they shall be 



filled with the interior light you bear with 
you, and as with San Juan de la Cruz in his 
dark and fetid prison of Toledo, your gaolers 
shall see the lustre in your cell and be sore 
amazed. " And your light shall so shine 
before men and be seen of them, that they 
shall glorify your Father which is in Heaven." 
But to return to the point whence I have 
wandered. The question presents itself, since 
the Christian Saint from his hot, dry deserts 
of Castille, and the Fakir of the East from his 
parched and boundless plains ; and the Lama 
of Thibet from his mountain fastnesses barred 
in snow, are so absolutely at one in the in 
timate essence of their doctrine, they differ so 
greatly as to particulars, as to the outward 
and exoteric significance and formulae. For 
since their doctrine is the same, i.e., the 
realization of our Unity with the Body Soul of 
the world, why does the Eastern Contempla 
tive realize only as Substance that which, to 
San Juan, becomes the abiding presence of 
the Divinity or of a Personal and Creative 
God ? To which I make answer in the words 
of Acavaghosa, the first expounder of the 
Mahayanistic doctrine : " He did not know 
that the body of Transformation (God) is 
merely the shadow or reflection of his own 


evolving consciousness, and so imagined it to 
come from some external source and so gave 
it a corporeal limitation." This seems to me, 
the only adequate explanation as to why the 
spiritual experiences of Sta. Teresa and San 
Juan de la Cruz were conditioned by the 
specific modifications of the creed in which 
they had been nursed and fostered. So in 
the case of Jacob Bdhme, the inspired shoe 
maker of Saxony, Catholicism was to him the 
red whore of Babylon, a monster conjured up 
by Hell. So in the case of Swedenborg, who 
still more Catholic and universal in his personal 
prejudices and hatreds consigned all Catholics 
and very nearly all Protestants straitway to 
Hell. But these exterior distinctions and 
differences, in the vision of absolute spirit, 
become without form and void, mere excres 
cences of utter insignificance, unruly boughs 
and twigs to be lopped from, and pruned off, 
the All Shadowing, Pervading Tree of Life. 

But whether it be Egyptian priest, or San 
Juan de la Cruz, or the Fakir of some 
Eastern desert, the steps towards the attain 
ment of this final Consummation of Union 
are the same ; the rungs of the ladder to be 
climbed in no way different. 

Would you know, then, the grades where- 


by the soul proceeds to reach this final 
state of bliss, whether it is Buddha who 
instructs, or Christ soaked in the Hermetic 
lore of ancient Egypt, you shall find them 
in every respect the same. 

And if you elect to accept the guidance 
of San Juan de la Cruz for fuller detail and 
developing of the great and hidden science 
that fell from the lips of Jesus in fragmen 
tary discourse, or were shadowed forth by 
Him under parable and apologue, he will 
lead you with a firm, gentle, and tender 
hand to scale one by one the steps that 
precede the Supreme Initiation. 

In his pages, you shall follow the poor 
soul which to him is a personal entity, a 
passionate individuality in a much deeper 
sense than the body she illuminates, through 
the storm and tempest of the purgation of 
the body and then the mind ; you shall 
watch her in sore conflict and oppressed by 
the multitude of her enemies (the world, the 
flesh, and the devil) as she strips off, one 
by one, the sins, instincts, appetites, affec 
tions of the body and then the contents of 
the mind, intellect, and will, and memory, 
until bereft of all things, naked, shivering, 
and alone, her earthly vesture of imperfec- 


tions burnt and shrivelled up in the furnace 
of her sufferings, she is left without support 
or stay in the utter blackness of the obscure 
night. And then shall you see this poor 
pathetic love-lorn soul suddenly seized and 
ravished away in the arms of the Almighty 
and laid to rest on His bosom with a gladness 
unutterable ; for at last she has arrived at 
the full fruition of Rest and Peace. 

Here you shall find the pathetic tragedy 
of an agonized soul in conflict with all the 
powers of Darkness and of Hell, who would 
clutch at her as she passes and prevent her 
course ; engulfed in the Black Waters of 
Despair, desolate, alone, and sore oppressed, 
buffeted by the waves of Darkness, and 
drinking to the dregs all the dolours of 
Hell. But wait ! oh, lose not heart ! Then 
comes the Idyll of the Soul, and you shall 
yet see her calm, triumphant, and at peace ; 
lay her storm-tossed head on the so long 
and ardently desired breast of the Beloved. 

I would invite the reader who would taste 
the relish and flavour of this book, to read 
first the portions in which San Juan describes 
the grades of love, the rungs of the mystic 
stair, for if he does, he will assuredly turn 
back and read straight on from the begin - 
17 C 


ning. For in these first chapters, he limits 
himself to a shrewd, didactic, and eminently 
practical exposition of the imperfections 
which beset the beginner on this thorny 
road of contemplation. The reader must 
remember that the book was meant to be 
a spiritual guide and manual, and that every 
other consideration was postponed to the 
better serving of the purpose for which it 
was intended. For San Juan was ever too 
poor and humble of spirit to love fine writing 
for fine writing s sake. 

But as soon as he catches sight of the 
sublime and shadowy country and regions, 
however far off and remote they may be, 
where he is fain to lead his followers, his 
eye kindles, and all trammels of language 
and stiffness of thought and execution cast 
off, he soars aloft in his native element. 
Sta. Teresa, be it remembered, said that 
she could never converse with Fray San 
Juan de la Cruz without being rapt away in 

And then, I say, follow him in these pre 
liminary chapters. See how tenderly, gently, 
and calmly he proceeds to root out the im 
perfections, and handle the frailty of the 
bodily and mental constitution of those who 


have set forth on this painful journey, until 
he places them in the Dark Night, through 
which, only, can they attain the higher 
grades. For it must be remembered that 
San Juan was a consummate master of 
novices the most consummate of his century 
and trained up the purest and holiest souls 
that ever dawned above the horizon of Mount 

If a Monastery waxed unruly, that of 
Pastrana, for instance, where Fray Gabriel 
de los Angeles, the master of novices, im 
agines strange and unwonted things, Sta. 
Teresa appeals to her small saint (for from 
the moment when she first fixed on him her 
deep-set, kindly, humorous eyes through the 
grating of the dusky locutorio in Medina del 
Campo, she pierced the vesture of meagre, 
undersized flesh and recognized the wonder 
working sanctity of the soul within), she 
appeals to her small saint as to a tower of 
strength. And lo and behold ! before the 
benignant influence of his pure presence, mis 
rule vanishes as by enchantment, and order 
takes the place of discord. 

So that in these preliminary chapters, just 
as the Camino de Perfeccion shows us Sta. 
Teresa in her capacity as an administrator 


over her conventual kingdom, so do we find 
the secret of San Juan s success in the train 
ing of souls. 

Nay, more, in these first chapters, we 
breathe the atmosphere of the Monastery. 
We enter into the petty jealousies and ran 
cours, the childlike envies and impulses of 
malice of its (on the whole) most guileless 
spirits. We look into the minds of the poor 
friars, as through a window, and follow the 
dim gropings for light, the self-searchings, 
the palterings with self, over- scrupulousnesses 
and painful timidities ; the smallnesses, mean 
nesses, basenesses, and subterfuges where 
all at bottom was but " conscience and tender 
heart," only in need of one sincere and 
humble spirit like San Juan s to relieve them 
of all their cavillings, rouse the faltering glow, 
and give them a firmer footing on the first 
steps of the ladder of perfection. And here 
in these first chapters is made manifest to us 
the shrewdness and penetration of his keen 
intuitive vision ; flashes of pawky humour 
and sly touches of satire thrusting out here 
and there (we can even imagine him to our 
selves, if he had not been in such deadly 
earnest, indulging in soft, shy, silent laughter 
at the foibles and follies he was so often called 


upon to restrain), just as it were, to show us 
he was whimsical and very human, as are we 
all, whether saints or sinners. But yet his 
very reproofs are so gently, benignantly ad 
ministered that none of those who studied 
under him this extremely practical science of 
austerity and mortification were made to 

And so strongly does his sweet and gentle 
individuality perfume his book and wax clear 
to me that, whilst the lower part of me trans 
lated, that other part of me at the "apex," 
the " pinnacle," went forth from me and 
plodded by his side through some lovely, 
lonely Andalusian desert, trudging along ob 
literated mule paths, threading the verge of 
red gullies, choked with sand not water 
accompanying, in spirit, the mute, patient 
figure, a very atomy of a man," as he 
journeyed through the tangled wilderness 
with head bent in contemplation and unseeing 
eyes. The wild odoriferous herbs have bent 
their tender heads under the soft footprints of 
our sandals, and their scent, which filled the 
atmosphere, has risen up into my nostrils 
once more. So we have gone, he and I, in 
spirit, on our lonesome journeyings of many 
days together, barefoot, and subsisting on the 


dry crust of bread he carried in his wallet, 
and the water (often muddy and undrinkable) 
from the gourd which hung from his waist 
beside his poor rosary ; past swirling rivers, 
through aromatic wastes, ploughing through 
calcined sand that burnt and blistered the 
soles of our feet. Under the sky we have 
laid us down, and prayed together in the 
small hours of the night until the stars grew 
dim in the grey light of dawn, and, oppressed 
with the mysterious chill and stir of the ad 
vancing hours, we have risen and pursued our 
pilgrimage. The fierce sun of midday has 
beaten on our heads ; the glowing topaz of 
the evening sky has flung over the surround 
ing landscape a robe of fiery glory. But on, 
on, he ever went, unsubdued by hunger or by 
thirst, his head bent downwards towards the 
earth, seeing nought, heeding nought, lost in 
the more glorious Illumination of the Light, 
in which all earthly Sweetness and Beauty 
appear as mere dark shadows and ob 
structions. 1 

1 In connection with which I would quote the following 
beautiful passage : 

An anecodote is told of a Sufi, who had accompanied his 
friends to a beautiful garden, but instead of looking about 
and enjoying the fragrance of the flowers and fruit, sat with 
his head sunk in his breast in Sufi fashion. His friends 



Or again, carried by these fleet spirit wings 
I have found myself standing by the open 
casement of Bolarque, looking down through 
a maze of almond blossom on to the seething 
water of the swift and turbid current of the 
Tagus in the valley beneath ; the silence so 
deep, and hot, and soundless, that I could 
almost hear the petals as they fell on the 
sandy alleys he had so often paced. And I 
woke up with a poignant sense of desolation, 
for lo ! the convent was ruined and empty of 
its inmates, and I found myself alone ! 

And I have seen him, too, dimly, in a 
penumbra of shadow, kneeling and " empty 
ing (they are his own words) his soul of all 
that is not God," before the poverty-stricken 
altar of La Penuela (the only part remaining 
of this religious house he loved so well), and 
as the owls wing their heavy, silent flight in 
and out the casement open to the heavens, 
and drink the oil from the unheeded lamps, 

said to him, in the words of the Koran, " Look at the signs 
of God s mercy ! How after its death he quickened the 
earth ! " He answered them that these signs were more 
plainly visible to him in his heart than in the outward 
creation, which was merely, as it were, a blurred reflection 
from the spiritual creation enshrined in his heart. For 
God says the life of the world is nought but a fleeting 
fruition ; in other words, nature conceals God, but the 
supernatural in man reveals him. 



nay ! I was glad that his was only an imagin 
ary presence, and that he was spared the 
sight of the desecrated sanctuary amidst the 
olive groves where the bell in the little tower 
no longer calls his spiritual sons and the 
descendants of his Order to Matins, and to 
Vespers, and Complines. 

On the journey of his life he passed through 
many troubles, underwent much persecution : 
his fair fame escaped not unscathed from the 
poisonous breath of slander, A rancorous 
friar whom he had corrected in Seville for 
serious deviations from the strict discipline of 
the Reformed Carmelite Rule, endeavoured 
in vain to embitter his last days on earth by 
petty tyrannies and persecution. What had 
his spirit, so akin to Heaven, to do with the 
resentments of earth ? 

It is consoling to think that old Fray Antonio 
de Jesus (whose peevishness of disposition 
and small jealousies had so often threatened 
destruction to Sta. Teresa s best laid plans) 
was with him in his last hours. Together, 
these two, the portly and aristocratic Prior of 
Medina, then sixty, and San Juan, then a 
meagre undersized man of twenty-five, had 
laid the foundations of the Resuscitated Order 
of Mount Carmel in the ruined straw grange 


of a Castilian desert, and now it had spread 
to a goodly tree and covered the whole of 
Spain with the network of its branches. 
Bound together by the crowded associations 
of years (the one was now close on fifty, 
the other over seventy) ; by many intimate 
memories of mutual struggles and triumphs, 
it was fitting that he who had consoled 
Teresa s last moments on earth nine years 
before in Alba, should thus cherish their great 
companion in the final struggle. His illness 
(running sores of the most painful nature, 
which covered the whole body) necessitated 
a cruel surgical operation. The flesh was cut 
away, leaving the bone exposed, but he felt it 
not, being rapt away in ecstasy, and when it 
was over asked the surgeon when he was 
about to begin. One observation of Renan s 
remains unalterably fixed in my memory. It 
is to the effect that, whatever one may think 
of the lives of the Saints, one cannot but envy 
their deaths. For one brief space before the 
final dissolution this servant of God was 
plunged into the intolerable agony of the 
Dark Night of Affliction he has so admirably 
described. For a brief space only. For 
death came to him at last, as silently and 
peacefully as it does to a little child. A few 


moments before his death a resplendent orb 
of light, perceptible to all present, surrounded 
the head of the dying Saint, dimming the 
flame of the candles on the altar. The bell 
ringing for matins sounded in the silent cell. 
"What are they ringing for?" he asked. 
And when they told him, he encircled those 
who stood about his bed, in one long, wistful 
gaze of exceeding sweetness and love : "I 
am going to sing them in Heaven," he said, 
and so, kissing the crucifix he held in his frail, 
emaciated hand to the last, he murmured 
softly, " Into Thy hands, oh Lord, I commend 
my spirit," and so died. 

The same wonderful manifestations that 
occurred in the case of Sta. Teresa occurred 
with him. Da. Isobel de Ortega, who lived 
in the vicinity of the Monastery of Ubeda, 
where the Saint s death took place, and had 
the unspeakable privilege of shewing him 
much thoughtful and tender kindness during 
his last illness, awoke during the night and 
declared to her husband that, although she 
had not seen him, the Saint had just been in 
the room. She had scarcely finished speak 
ing when the heavy tolling of the Monastery 
bell, rising above the thud of the rain which 
fell pitilessly that cold December night, told 


them that the Greatest Saint of Spain (the 
Greatest save one) had at length departed 
from the long purgation of this Obscure Night 
of Life. 

The learned Dominican, Sotomayor, who 
owed his spiritual regeneration to the Saint s 
salutary influence, coming into the cell soon 
after, was observed to fall as one dead over 
the body. He confessed afterwards that as 
he was about to cut off one of the fingers the 
saint gently withdrew it from his hand. 

"I do not ask you," said Becerra, the 
grave and pious priest who preached the 
sermon at his funeral honours, " I do not ask 
you to pray for this our brother s soul ; of 
this he has no need : only to follow in his 




TXyTHICH embraces the road to the perfect 
Union of love with God, as far as 
may be in this Life ; and the admirable pro 
perties of the soul which has reached thereto. 


In this book are first set down all the songs 
which are to be declared ; and then each one 
is separately expounded, setting the song 
before the gloss, and afterwards proceeding 
to shew the meaning of each line one by one, 
placing the line first. 

In the first two songs are described the 
effects of the two Spiritual purgations of the 
Sensitive part of man and the Spiritual. In 
the following six are described various and 
admirable effects of Spiritual Illumination and 
Union of Love with God. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 


Into the darkness of the night 

With heart ache kindled into love, 

Oh blessed chance ! 

I stole me forth unseen, 

My house being wrapped in sleep. 

Into the darkness, and yet safe 

By secret stair and in disguise, 

Oh gladsome hap ! 

In darkness, and in secret I crept forth, 

My house being wrapt in sleep. 

Into the happy night 

In secret, seen of none, 

Nor saw I ought, 

Without, or other light or guide, 

Save that which in my heart did burn. 

This fire it was that guided me 
More certainly than midday sun, 
Where he did wait, 

He that I knew imprinted on my heart, 
In place, where none appeared. 

Oh Night, that led me, guiding night, 
Oh Night far sweeter than the Dawn ; 
Oh Night, that did so then unite 
The Loved with his Beloved, 
Transforming Lover in Beloved. 

On my blossoming breast, 

Alone for him entire was kept, 

He fell asleep, 

Whilst I caressed, 

And fanned him with the cedar fan. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

The breeze from forth the battlements, 
As then it tossed his hair about, 
With his fair hand 
He touched me lightly on the neck, 
And reft me of my senses in a swoon, 

I lay quite still, all mem ry lost, 

I leaned my face upon my Loved One s breast ; 

I knew no more, in sweet abandonment 

I cast away my care, 

And left it all forgot amidst the lilies fair. 


Before we enter on the interpretation of 
these songs, it behoves us here to know that 
they are the utterances of the Soul which has 
arrived at perfection, which is the Union of 
Love with God, she having, at last, passed 
through rigorous trials and conflicts, by 
spiritual practise of the narrow road which 
leads to life eternal, as saith our Saviour in 
the Gospel, which must, as a rule, be tra 
versed by the soul if she is to arrive at this 
sublime and divine Union with God : Quam 
angusta porta> et arcta via est> qua ducit ad 
vitam : et panci sunt> qui inveniunt eam^- The 
which, inasmuch as it is so strait, and they so 
few that enter thereon (as the Lord Him- 

1 Matth. vii. 14. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

self likewise says), the soul counts it for great 
happiness and good fortune that she has won 
therethrough to the aforesaid perfection of 
love, like as she sings in this her first Song, 
where, with exceeding propriety, she likens 
this strait and narrow road to a darksome 
night, as is shewn further on in the lines of 
the aforesaid Song. The soul, then, rejoic 
ing in the successful issue of her journey from 
this narrow road whence she has derived so 
great a treasure, proceeds to unburthen her 
self in manner following. 




Into the darkness of an obscure Night 

Burning with passionate longing for my love, 

Oh gladsome chance ! 

I sallied forth with none to note, 

My house being now asleep. 


T N this first song the soul relates the mode 
and manner she pursued as regards her 
emotions and sensations, when she set forth 
from herself and all things, dying with un 
feigned mortification to herself and them, so 
as to attain at last a sweet and pleasant life of 
love in God ; and she says that this going 
forth from herself and all things, was " In a 
dark night," whereby she means purgative 
contemplation, as shall afterwards be said ; 
the which causes in the soul the negation of 
herself and of everything. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

And this outgoing, she says here, she was 
enabled to effect by the strength and ardour 
given to her for this purpose by the love of 
her Spouse in the aforesaid obscure contem 
plation. Wherein she extols the good fortune 
she had on her journey to God through this 
dark night, with so prosperous an issue, that 
none of the three enemies, which are the world, 
the flesh, and the devil (who ever obstruct 
this road), had power to stop her, so effectu 
ally did this said night of purificative contem 
plation put to sleep and deaden by its contrary 
motions every passion and appetite in the 
house of her sensuality. 



QtOULS begin to enter this dark night 
^ when God proceeds to lead them from 
the state of beginners, proper to those who 
meditate on the spiritual road, and b egins to 
set them in that of the progressives, which is, 
at length, that of the contemplatives, to the 
end, that passing through this state, they may 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

reach that of the perfect, which is the Divine 
union of the Soul with God. Therefore, so 
that we may the better understand and set 
forth what night this is where through the 
soul passes, and for what cause God places 
her therein, we must here first touch upon 
some propensities of beginners, so that they 
may know the weakness of their state, and 
pluck up courage, and desire that God may 
set them in this night, wherein the soul is 
strengthened and confirmed in virtue and 
made ready for the inestimable delights of the 
love of God. And even though we dwell 
somewhat thereon, it will not be more than 
suffices in order adequately to treat, fur 
ther on, of this dark night. We must then 
know that, after the soul resolutely converts 
herself to serve God, God generally sets to 
work to educate her spiritually and to regale 
her, as does a loving mother her tender child, 
whom she warms at the heat of her breast, 
and rears with sweet milk and soft and 
delicate food and bears about in her arms and 
cherishes ; but, by degrees, as it waxes in 
growth, the mother begins to wean it and 
hiding from it her soft breast, anoints it with 
bitter aloes, and putting the infant from her 
arms, teaches it to walk with its feet, to the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

end that, losing its childish ways, it may 
become used to greater and more real things. 
The loving mother of the grace of God, as 
soon as she regenerates the soul, by inspiring 
her with renewed ardour and fervency to serve 
God, does likewise. For, without any effort 
of her own, she causes her to find sweet and 
pleasant spiritual milk in everything belonging 
to God and great delight in spiritual exercises, 
because now God gives her his breast of ten 
der love, like as she were a child. Wherefore 
she ciphers her delight in passing long hours 
in prayer, and, perchance, whole nights; her 
pleasures are penances, her enjoyments fasts, 
her comfort to partake of the Sacraments and 
discourse of Divine matters. In which things, 
although the spiritually minded assist with 
great efficacy and assiduousness and use to 
treat with the utmost solicitude, yet, speaking 
in the spiritual sense, they conduct them 
selves therein most weakly and imperfectly. 
For, as they are moved to these things and 
spiritual exercises by the comfort and relish 
they find therein ; and as, likewise, they have 
not acquired sufficient skill, by the practice of 
stubborn wrestling with virtue, they are, in 
these their spiritual works, subject to many 
faults and imperfections ; because, in short, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

each one acts conformably to that degree of per 
fection he possesses, and as they have had no 
opportunity to acquire the aforesaid rigorous 
habits they must, perforce, like children, act 
weakly. The which, in order to make clearer, 
as also the weakness wherewith these begin 
ners advance in virtue, in respect of what, with 
the aforesaid relish, they easily accomplish, 
we shall note as we go on under the seven 
capital vices, setting forth some of the many 
imperfections they incur as regards each. 
Wherein it will be clearly seen how their 
performances are little better than child s 
play. And it shall also be seen how great are 
the treasures which the dark night, whereof 
we are about to treat, brings with it ; since it 
cleanses and purifies the soul from all her 


T T THEN these beginners feel in themselves 
such fervency and activity in devout 
exercises, this very prosperity (although it is 
true that of themselves holy things beget 
humility), produces in them, by reason of their 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

imperfection, a certain ramification of secret 
pride, whence they begin to view their works 
and themselves with a certain sort of com 
placency. And hence, also, springs an ex 
ceeding vain desire to speak of spiritual things 
with others, and even, at times, to teach them 
rather than to learn, and in their hearts they 
condemn others if they do not perceive in them 
the sort of devotion that chimes in with their 
own tastes, and occasionally, even, they give 
vent to their opinions in words, being like in 
this to the Pharisee who boasted of the things 
he did, and despised the Publican. Ofttimes 
does the devil increase in them the fervour 
and desire to perform these and other deeds 
on purpose that their pride and presumption 
shall wax greater. For well does the devil 
know that all these actions and virtues they 
perform are not only worthless to them, but 
are rather turned into vices. And to such a 
length do some of these people get that they 
would fain none were found good save them 
selves ; and so, by word and deed, when they 
meet with such a one, they condemn and 
slander him : seeing the mote in their neigh 
bour s eye and not considering the beam in 
their own, they strain at his gnat and gulp 
down their own camel : Quid auteni vi<ics 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

festucam in oculofratris tui, et trabem in oculo tuo 
non vides ? 1 

Sometimes also, when their spiritual masters, 
such as confessors and superiors, approve not 
their spirit and mode of proceeding (for they 
hanker after their applause and esteem), they 
decide that they understand not their spirit 
and are not spiritually minded, since they do 
not approve ^of, and agree with, their own. 
And therefore they desire, and do their best, 
to consult with some other, who squares with 
their taste ; for, as a rule, they like to discuss 
their spirit with those whom, they have a 
notion, are sure to praise and make much of it. 
They fly, as from death itself, from those 
who, to put them on a surer road, make light 
thereof, and sometimes, even, bear them ill 
will. Presuming greatly in themselves, their 
wont is to propose much and do little. At 
times they are eager that their companions 
should witness their spirit and devotion : and 
to this end they make exterior displays of 
motions, sighs, and other outward shows, and 
at times are wont to have this or the other 
ecstasy in public rather than in secret, in all 
which the devil lends a helping hand ; and 
that others should see that they so ardently 

1 Matth. vii. 3. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

covet, fills them with complacency. Many 
seek to become favourites with their con 
fessors, and, hence, expose themselves to 
a thousand envies and disquietudes. They 
take shame to confess their naked sins 
lest their confessor shall think less of them, 
and proceed to lend them another sort of 
colour so that they shall not seem so bad, 
which is rather to excuse themselves than to 
accuse. At times they look out for another 
confessor to confess their sins to, so that their 
own shall think they have none at all, but that 
all is well ; and thus, they are always pleased 
to confess to him all that is good, and at times, 
in such terms as to make it seem even better 
than it is (at least, their wish is that he should 
think so) ; whereas it would argue more 
humility on their part, as we shall presently 
show, to make nought thereof, and be solicit 
ous that neither he nor any one else should 
attach the slightest importance thereto. Some 
of these, also, think lightly of their faults, 
and at other times are saddened over much 
when they see themselves fall therein, think 
ing that, at length, they were saints, and wax 
wrath against themselves with great im 
patience, which is another exceeding imper 
fection. Often they plead anxiously with God 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

to deliver them from their imperfections and 
failings, more for the sake of being themselves 
spared the molestation thereof and to be at 
peace, than for the sake of God, not consider 
ing that if He freed them therefrom, they would, 
perchance, wax still haughtier in their pride. 
They hate to praise others, and delight in being 
praised, and at times they claim it as a right ; 
wherein they are like to the foolish virgins 
who, having allowed their lamps to become 
extinguished, go forth to seek for oil from their 
neighbours. Date nobis de oleo vestro, quia 
lampades nostre extinguuntur^ 

From these imperfections, some get to 
many others in an extreme degree, and to 
great evil therein. But some are subject to 
fewer imperfections and others to more, and 
there are scarce any of these beginners who, 
in the season of their fervours, fall not into 
somewhat of this nature. But they who, in 
this season walk in perfection, proceed in a 
very different manner and in a very different 
frame of spirit ; for they make progress in, 
and build upon, the foundation of humility, 
not only holding their own deeds in nought, 
but with the exceeding small satisfaction they 
have of themselves, they hold all others in- 
1 ATatth. xxv. 8. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

comparably better than themselves and are 
wont to bear them a holy envy, desiring to 
serve God, as they do. For the greater their 
fervour, the more are the works they perform 
and take delight in, and, as they walk in 
humbleness, the more do they perceive how 
greatly God deserves of them and how little is 
the utmost they do for Him, and so the more 
they do, the less they are satisfied. For so 
great is that which for very charity and love 
they were fain do for Him, that all they do, 
they count as nought ; and so strongly does 
this poignancy of love urge and absorb them, 
that they never notice what others do or do 
not do ; or if they notice, it is with the absolute 
conviction, as I say, that every one else is far 
better than they are themselves. Whence, 
holding themselves in no esteem, they are 
solicitous that others should do likewise, and 
make little of and despise their own doings. 
And, furthermore, even though others were 
fain to praise and make much of them, they 
can in no way be brought to believe it, and it 
appears to them passing strange that such 
praises should be said of them. 

These, with great tranquility and humility, 
are exceeding anxious to learn from whosoever 
can direct them ; most opposite indeed to the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

behaviour of those we have spoken of above, 
who were fain to teach everything, and, even 
when it seems that others would teach them 
somewhat, they take the words out of their 
mouth as if, already, there were nothing left 
for them to learn. But these are very far 
from seeking to pose as masters of any one. 
They are exceeding quick to learn and to take 
another road from that they are on, if so they 
should be bidden, for never do they think that 
they hit the mark in anything. In the praises 
of others they rejoice : their only sorrow is 
that they serve not God as they do. They do 
not hanker to talk about their experiences, 
because so lightly do they hold them, that they 
take shame even to speak of them to their 
spiritual masters, thinking they are unworthy 
to be mentioned. They are more eager to 
recount their failings and their sins, or to 
convince their confessors that they are not 
virtues ; and therefore, they are more inclined 
to discuss their soul with him who sets the 
least store upon their experiences and spirit. 
The which is a propensity of a simple, pure, 
and unfeigned spirit, and most agreeable to 
God. For as the wise spirit of God takes up 
its abode in these humble souls, it at once 
moves and inclines them to guard their 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

treasures inwardly in secret, and to cast out 
evil. Because, together with all other virtues, 
God gives this grace to the humble, just as 
He denies it to the proud. 

To whomsoever serves God, these will give 
their heart s blood, and will do all in their power 
t o help him to do Him service. When they 
fall into imperfections they bear themselves 
with humility and pliability of spirit and loving 
fear of God and hoping in Him. But souls 
which, from the first, travel in such a sort of 
perfection as is this (I mean as has been 
mentioned), are very few, and indeed, so 
exceeding few that we might well rejoice if 
they fall not into the opposite extreme. For 
which reason, as we shall afterwards show, 
God sets those He wishes to purify of all these 
imperfections, in the dark night, so as to bring 
them on still further. 



T times, also, many of these beginners 
are subject to great spiritual avarice. 
For rarely shall you see them content with 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

the spirit God gives them, but most disconso 
late and querulous because they find not in 
spiritual things the comfort they desire. 
Many are never done of listening to advice 
and spiritual counsel, and of getting and read 
ing many books which treat thereof, and so, 
engaged in this, and not in practical deeds, 
time slips by and leaves them without the 
mortification and perfection of interior poverty 
of spirit which is required of them. For, 
over and above this, they load themselves up 
with images, rosaries, and crosses exceeding 
handsome and valuable ; now they reject 
some and take up another ; now they barter 
them for something else ; now they undo 
their bargains ; at one moment they want 
them of this fashion, at the end of that, 
taking a fancy to this rather than the other, 
inasmuch as it is rarer or more costly. 

Then shall you see others adorned with 
Agnus Dei, and reliquaries and relics, like 
children with trinkets. Wherein I condemn 
the predilection of the heart, and the clinging 
to the fashion, variety, and rarity of these 
things ; inasmuch as it is utterly opposed to 
poverty of spirit, which is fixed solely on the 
essence of devotion, making use of that only 
which suffices thereto, this other sort of 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

variety and rareness being, to them, a weari 
ness of the flesh ; for true devotion must 
spring from the heart, and fix its eyes, to the 
exclusion of all else, on the truth and sub 
stance underlying the outward shews of 
spiritual things, and anything besides is at 
tachment and a property of imperfection, for 
if we would go forward to the state of per 
fection, it is necessary to make an end of such 
a tendency. I knew a person who, for more 
than ten years, made use of a cross rudely 
fashioned from a branch which had been con 
secrated, held together by a crooked pin, and 
had never forsaken it, and bore it about him 
constantly until I took it away ; and this 
person was far from being a fool and weak of 
intellect. And I knew another, who used a 
rosary made of bones of fishes spines, whose 
devotion, it is certain, was not less pure, nor 
less highly prized by, and acceptable to, God ; 
since it is clearly seen that the value thereof 
had nought to do with the fashion and costli 
ness of such things as these. Those who 
start, then, well grounded in these principles, 
will not cling to visible instruments nor load 
themselves up therewith, nor will it matter to 
them one jot to know more than what is 
essential to performance ; for they fix their 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

eyes solely on being well with God, in pleasing 
Him, and are greedy for this alone. Where 
fore they give away most liberally and freely 
whatsoever they possess, and their delight is 
to know that they are left without it for the 
sake of God and neighbourly charity, ordering 
all things according to the laws of this virtue. 
For, as I say, they keep their eyes set solely 
on the real things of perfection, on pleasing 
God, and not themselves, in anything. But 
not from these imperfections, nor from any 
others, can the soul purify herself completely, 
until God sets her in the passive purgation, of 
that dark night we shall presently speak of. 
But it behoves the soul, in so far as she is 
able, to do all she can to purge and perfect 
herself, so as to deserve that God shall place 
her under this Divine Regimen, where the 
soul is healed of all she does not succeed in 
curing of herself. For howsoever the soul 
may assist thereto, she cannot, for all her 
industry, actively purify herself as to be fit, in 
the slightest degree, for the Divine union of 
perfection of love with God, were He not to 
put forth His hand and purge her in this, for 
her, so dark a fire, still to be described. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


A"\THER imperfections there are, besides 
those I here set forth under each vice, 
which beset many of these beginners, 
whereon, to avoid being prolix, I do not touch, 
limiting myself to some of the most con 
spicuous, which are, as it were, the origin 
and the cause of the rest. And in respect of 
the sin of lasciviousness, setting aside what it 
is to fall into this sin (since my intent is to 
deal with the imperfections which must be 
purged by the dark night, certain of these 
beginners contract imperfections which might 
be called spiritual lewdness ; not because it is 
so, but that, when the soul receives spiritual 
delights, the body at times feels and experi 
ences the same, by reason of its weakness. 
For it often happens that, even in the midst of 
spiritual exercises, and at times even when 
the spirit is deep in prayer or engaged in the 
Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, 
spontaneous notions and impulses of an 
unclean nature, impossible to check, are 
stirred up and impress themselves on the 
sensual part. The which, as I say, it being 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

impossible to prevent, proceeds from one of 
three things. 

The first sometimes proceeds (although not 
often, and only in weak constitutions), from 
the delight the body hath in spiritual things. 
For as the spirit and senses feel this delight, 
so doth each part of the physical man leap up 
to share in the same gratification, as far as its 
capacity and particular quality allow of. For 
then the spirit, which is the higher part, is 
moved to the refreshment and relish of God ; 
and the sense, which makes up the inferior 
part, is moved to sensible relish and delight, 
as it cannot take nor feel any other. And 
thus it happens that the soul is in prayer 
with God as to the spirit ; and on the other 
hand, in so far as it concerns the sense, she, 
not without her own deep disgust, passively 
experiences sensual rebellions and motions. 
For as, in short, these two parts form one 
whole, both, as a rule, share in what either 
of them receives, each after its fashion ; for, 
as says the philosopher, whatever thing is 
received, is received according to the nature of 
the recipient. And so in these preliminary 
stages, and even when the soul is in a more 
advanced state, as the sensual part is im 
perfect, it takes advantage of the opportunity 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

furnished to it by the spiritual delights of the 
soul to indulge its own peculiar delights with 
the imperfection that belongs to it. But when 
this sensitive part is, at length, reformed by 
the purgation of the dark night we are still to 
speak of, the soul ceases to have these weak 
nesses ; for, so abundantly doth she receive 
the Divine Spirit, that rather doth it seem 
that it is she herself that is received into this 
Spirit ; in short, as into the greater, and so 
preponderantly great. And so she experi 
ences all these things after the fashion of the 
spirit, wherein she shares, united with God, 
in a marvellous way. 

The second cause whence, at times, these 
rebellions proceed, is the devil, who, to dis- 
quieten and perturb the soul at such season 
as she is in prayer or desirous of obtaining it, 
does his best to provoke these unclean move 
ments in the body : so that, if the soul takes 
any notice thereof, it causes her grave hurt. 
For, not only through dread thereof, so that 
she may set to work to struggle against them, 
does the soul relax in prayer, which is what 
he is after, but some even abandon it for good, 
since it seems to them that, in this exercise, 
they are more exposed to such things than 
out of it, as is the truth ; for the devil tempts 
49 E 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

them more in this respect than any other, 
for the express purpose of making them 
abandon spiritual exercises. Nor is this all, 
but he succeeds in conjuring up before them, 
to the life, most hideous and loathsome 
objects, and at times in the closest connex 
ion with such spiritual things and people as do 
their souls most good, in order to terrify and 
bring them to utter destruction ; so that they 
who take notice thereof dare not even to gaze 
or fix their attention on anything, lest imme 
diately they stumble up against this or the 
other obstruction ; particularly doth this apply 
to those of a melancholy turn of mind who 
are thereby so profoundly and violently affec 
ted that they are deeply to be pitied. But if 
melancholy itself be the cause and is at the 
bottom of these things, such people, as a rule, 
do not get rid of them until they recover from 
this quality of humour, unless, indeed, the 
dark night enters into the soul, which will 
gradually purify her entirely. 

The third cause whence these lascivious 
motions are wont to proceed and wage war is 
usually the terror such people have conceived 
of these impure movements and images ; for 
the horror of the sudden memory thereof 
flashing across their sight, or discourse, or 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

thoughts, causes them to suffer these motions 
without any fault of their own. 

Sometimes these spiritual people, when 
speaking of, or performing, spiritual de 
votions, are seized with a certain sort of 
exaltation and wildness of spirits caused by 
some reminiscence of the people nearest to 
them, whose intimacy they affect with a 
certain sort of frivolous relish ; the which 
likewise springs from spiritual concupiscence 
(as we use the expression here), and 
sometimes excites in the will a pleasurable 

Some acquire a liking to certain people in 
a spiritual way, which often springs from lust 
and not from spirit, the which is evident 
when, with the memory of this affection, the 
memory and love of God, instead of increas 
ing, produces only remorse of conscience. 
For when love is purely spiritual, as it waxes 
stronger, so also doth that of God, and the 
more we dwell on it in our memory, so much 
the more do we cherish that of God and the 
more it makes us long for Him ; the growth 
of the one keeping pace with the growth of 
the other. For the spirit of God hath this 
quality, that good increaseth good, inasmuch 
as there is likeness and conformity betwixt 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

them. But when such love is born of sensual 
appetite, it works contrary effects ; for the 
stronger the one grows so doth the other 
grow less, and the memory at the same time ; 
for if this love increases, it will be instantly 
seen that we are waxing cold in that of God, 
and forgetting Him for the sake of this 
memory, although not without some remorse 
of conscience. And conversely, if the love 
of God increases in the soul, she waxes 
colder towards the other and forgets it ; for 
as these loves are contrary one to the other, 
not only does the one not help the other, but, 
rather the predominant affection quenches 
and destroys it, and gathers fresh strength, 
as say the philosophers. Wherefore our 
Saviour said in the Gospel : Quod naturn est 
ex carne^ caro est : et quod natum est ex spiritu, 
spiritus est. 1 What is born of flesh is flesh, 
and what is born of spirit is spirit ; that is, 
the love that is born of sensuality, ends in 
sensuality, and that which is born of spirit, 
ends in the spirit of God, and He increases it 
a thousand fold. And this is the difference 
between these two loves, whereby they may 
be recognized. When the soul enters into 
the dark night, she puts all these variant 
1 John iii. 6. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

loves in order. For she strengthens and 
purifies the one which is Godly; and the 
other she abandons or exterminates or morti 
fies, and, at first, she loses sight of both as 
will soon be told. 


T">Y reason of the concupiscence which 
many beginners entertain for spiritual 
delights, their possession thereof is most 
often accompanied by many imperfections 
of the sin of anger. For, when the savour 
and relish in spiritual things is at an end, 
they naturally find themselves without force 
and spirit, and this uneasiness makes them 
bring their ill humour into their ordinary 
occupations, and wax angry at trifles, and at 
times, even, they become insufferable. The 
which often occurs after they have experienced 
a most delightful and sensible abstraction in 
prayer, for, when this gust and relish are 
over, naturally the body is left peevish and 
dull. Like to the child, when he is taken 
away from the breast he was enjoying to his 
heart s desire. In the which physical satiety, 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

if they do not give way thereto there is 
nothing to blame, only an imperfection which 
must be purged in the aridness and conflict 
of the obscure night. 

Of this sort, there are also other spiritually 
minded people who fall into a different kind 
of spiritual anger, which is, to wax wrath 
against the sins of others with a certain rest 
less zeal, criticizing them, and at times im 
pelled to scold them sourly, and this, in such 
a way, as if they had made themselves pro 
prietors of virtue. All which is contrary to 
spiritual meekness. 

There are others who, when they perceive 
their own imperfections, get angry against 
themselves ; and that, not with humility but 
with such impatience, as they were fain to 
become saints in a day. Of these there are 
many who propose much, and make mighty 
resolutions, and, as they are not humble and 
are over-confident of themselves, the more 
resolutions they make, the deeper they fall 
and the angrier they get, being too impatient 
to wait until God shall give them sanctity at 
His own good pleasure ; which is also con 
trary to the aforesaid spiritual meekness, and 
cannot be radically cured save by the purga 
tion of the dark night ; although some shew 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

so much patience and proceed so slowly in 
this matter of wishing to improve, that God 
were fain to see less in them. 


A S to the fourth vice, which is spiritual 
"^ gluttony, there is much to say; for 
there is scarce one of these beginners who, 
however well he may proceed, falls not into 
somewhat of the many imperfections this 
vice gives rise to, by reason of the relish he 
finds, at first, in spiritual exercises. For 
many of these, spoilt by the flavour and 
relish they find in such exercises, try rather 
to give pleasure to the spiritual palate than 
to acquire true purity and devotion, which is 
what God looks at and accepts during the 
entire spiritual journey. Wherefore, over 
and above the imperfection that urges them 
to solicit these savours, the dainty they have 
already tasted makes them attempt to use 
the foot instead of the hand (begin where 
they should end), transgressing the limits of 
that middle course wherein virtue consists 

and is achieved. For, allured by the relish 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

they find therein, some kill themselves with 
penances, and others weaken themselves 
with fasts, doing more than their bodily 
frailty suffers, without being ordered or 
advised thereto, nay, rather do they seek to 
evade him whom, in this matter they are 
bound to obey ; and some even make bold 
to atet in the manner thus described, although 
he has bidden them just the opposite. These 
are most imperfect, wrong-headed people, 
who set no store by subjection and obedience 
(which is a penance of the reason and freedom 
of choice), and therefore a more acceptable 
and savoury sacrifice in the sight of God, than 
all others of corporal penance, which, apart 
from all else, is most imperfect because they 
are moved thereto solely by reason of the 
satisfaction and relish they find therein. 
Wherein, since all extremes are vicious, and 
by pursuing such a course, they follow their 
own will only, rather do they grow in vices 
than in virtues ; for, to say the least of it, 
they become spiritual gluttons and wax in 
pride, because they walk not in obedience. 
And to such an extent doth the devil deceive 
many of these, adding fuel to the fire of their 
gluttony by gusts and appetites which he 
makes greater, that at length if they can do 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

nought else, they change, or add to, or vary 
what is ordered them, because to them all 
obedience is gall and wormwood. Wherein 
some reach such a pitch of evil, that the mere 
fact that they go to these exercises at the pre 
cept of obedience deprives them of the desire 
and devotion to perform them, since their sole 
aim and delight is to do that the Devil moves 
them to ; all of which, perchance, were better 
left undone. 

You shall see many of these extremely 
opinionated and contumacious with their spirit 
ual master, in order to force him to assent 
to their likings, and they wrest his consent 
from him half by force, and if not, they be 
moan themselves like children and sulk, and 
will do nothing heartily, and think they do 
not serve God when they are not allowed to 
follow their own bent. For as they have no 
mainstay save their own goodwill and plea 
sure, the moment it is taken from them, and 
it is sought to inspire them with the Will ot 
God, they grow sad, and lose courage, and 
falter. These think that to please and satisfy 
themselves, is to serve and satisfy God. 

There are others, also, who because of this 
dainty that has been vouchsafed them, so little 
realize their own wretchedness and baseness, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and have so far flung aside the loving fear and 
respect they owe to God s greatness, that 
they hesitate not to argue vehemently with 
their confessors, as to whether they are to be 
permitted to confess and communicate fre 
quently. And the worst of the matter is, 
that, often guided solely by their own opinion, 
they venture to communicate without the 
licence and approval of the minister and dis 
penser of Christ, and then try to hide from 
him the truth. And for this reason, with an 
eye to continue communicating, they make 
their confessions in any sort of slipshod 
fashion, being more eager to eat than to eat 
cleanly and worthily. As if it were not more 
healthy and holy, their inclinations tending 
otherwise, to beseech their confessors not to 
order them to approach the Sacred Feast so 
often ; although of these two extremes, 
humble submission is better than either. But 
excessive daring paves the way for great evil, 
and they have reason to fear the chastisement 
that overtakes such boldness. When people 
of this sort communicate, all they hanker 
after is, to preserve some sensible relish or 
sensation rather than to reverence and worship 
God with heartfelt humility. And in such 
sort do they annex this to themselves as a 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

right, that when they have not derived some 
delight or sensible emotion, they think they 
have done nothing, judging most basely of 
God, and not perceiving that the least of 
the benefits this Most Holy Sacrament con 
fers is that which touches the senses, and 
that incomparably the greatest is the invisible 
gift of Grace ; since, in order to make them 
fix on Him the eyes of Faith, God often takes 
away these sensible pleasures and failures. 
And thus they are fain to feel God and taste 
of Him as if He were comprehensible and 
accessible, not only in this but in all other 
spiritual exercises. All of which is an exceed 
ing great imperfection, and absolutely contrary 
to the condition of God, who demands the 
most absolute Faith. 

In the prayer they practise these people do 
exactly the same, for they think the whole 
gist thereof consists in finding sensible delight 
and devotion, and they try to get it, as they 
say, by main force, and fatigue and weary the 
faculties and the brain. And when they have 
not found the said delight, they despond, 
thinking they have done nothing, and with 
this pretension of theirs they lose true devo 
tion and spirit, which consists in persevering 
therein with patience and humility, distrust- 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

ful of themselves, for the sake only of pleasing 
God. For this cause, when they have not 
found pleasure, if it be only for once, in this 
or the other exercise, they experience great 
distaste and repugnance to return thereto. 
For, in themselves they are, as we have said, 
like unto children, whose movements and 
actions are not ruled by reason but by inclina 
tion. They let all things else slide, whilst 
they seek after spiritual delight and comfort, 
and to this end, they are never done with read 
ing books, and now they take up one medita 
tion and now another, for all the world as if 
they went a chasing of their own pleasure in 
the things of God. The which God most 
justly, wisely, and lovingly denies, for, were 
it otherwise, they would, through this gluttony 
and spiritual fastidiousness, develop grave 
evils. Wherefore it behoves these greatly to 
enter into the dark night, so that they may be 
purged from these follies. 

Those who are thus inclined to these 
pleasures are subject to another very grave 
imperfection, and it is that they are most 
weak and remiss in setting forth upon the 
rugged road of the Cross. For the soul which 
abandons herself to pleasing sensations, natur 
ally finds all distastefulness of self-denial 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

offensive. These are liable to many other 
imperfections, which all spring from this root, 
which the Lord cures in His own good season, 
by temptations, drynesses, and trials, for all 
these are part of the dark night. Whereon, 
not to wax lengthy, I will not dwell, save to 
say that spiritual sobriety and temperance 
bears another very different temper of morti 
fication, fear, and submission in all her ways ; 
admonishing us that the perfection and the 
value of things consists not in the number 
thereof, but in our own ability to deny our 
selves therein ; which they must strive their 
utmost to do, until God shall will to purify 
them in very truth, by making them enter 
into the dark night. In order to arrive thereat, 
I hasten forward in the declaration of these 


TN respect, also, of the other two vices, 
which are envy and spiritual slothfulness, 
these beginners are not free from many im 
perfections. For as to envy, many of them 
are wont to suffer movements of vexation at 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

the spiritual welfare of others ; giving way to 
somewhat of sensible pain that they have 
been outstripped on the road, and they were 
fain not see them praised ; for they wax sad 
at others virtues, and at times, it becomes so 
unbearable to them that they deny them, 
undoing these praises as best they can, 
for they were fain to be preferred in all 
things. The which is most contrary to 
charity, which as St. Paul says rejoices in 
the truth. 1 And if charity can be envious at 
all, it is with a holy envy, grieved that it 
possesses not its neighbour s virtues, rejoic 
ing in that he possesses them, and delighting 
in being outstripped by all the world beside in 
serving God, seeing that he, himself, falls so 
far short thereof. 

In respect, also, of spiritual sloth, they 
are wont to find the most spiritual things 
tedious, and fly therefrom, as being such as 
clash most with sensible relish. For as they 
have been so pampered in spiritual things, 
the moment they find no favour therein, they 
become weary thereof. For, if only once, 
they find not in prayer that satisfaction their 
appetite craves (for, in short, it is meet that 
God deprives them thereof so as to prove 

1 i Cor. xiii. 6. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

them), they were fain to have nothing more 
to do therewith : at other times they forsake 
it entirely or go reluctantly. And so, by 
reason of their sluggishness, they postpone 
the journey of perfection (which is that of the 
denial of their own Will and pleasure for the 
sake of God), to the satisfaction and savour of 
the Will, which they go about to please after 
their own fashion more than that of God. 
And many of these were fain God s will coin 
cided with their own, and become sad at 
having to bend their will to God s, and feel 
repugnance at being obliged to suit their will 
to the Divine. Whence, arises in them that 
they often think that what they find not to be 
their own will and pleasure, is not the Will of 
God ; and, on the contrary, when they are 
satisfied, measuring God with themselves, 
and not themselves with God : a course quite 
opposite to what He Himself taught in the 
Gospel saying : Qui autem periderit animam 
suam propter me, inveniet earn. l That he that 
shall lose his will for Him, shall gain it ; and 
he who shall gain his own will, shall lose it. 

These, also, are full of disgust and weari 
ness when they are bidden to do that for which 
they have no relish. And inasmuch as they 
1 Matth. xvi. 25, and x. 39. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

follow after the gratification and savour of the 
spirit, like those brought up in luxury, they 
fly with gloom from everything harsh, being 
too weak to bear the strenuous discipline and 
labour of perfection, and take offence at the 
Cross, wherein are ciphered the delights of 
the spirit ; and the more spiritual these things 
are, the greater weariness they feel. For, as 
they claim to proceed in spiritual things with 
full liberty, and as their will dictates, it fills 
them with invincible sadness and repugnance 
to enter upon the narrow road, which Christ 
calls that of Life. 

Let it now suffice that we have singled out 
these imperfections, from amongst the many 
which habitually beset beginners, in this first 
stage, so that we may proceed to point out 
the need they are in, that God should set 
them into a state of greater advancement ; 
the which is accomplished by His placing 
them in the dark night we shall now speak 
of; where, being weaned by God from the 
breasts of these relishes and suavities, in the 
midst of nought but aridnesses and inner 
darkness, He delivers them, by very different 
methods, from all these imperfections and 
follies and enables them to achieve virtue. 
For, however much the beginner may prac- 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

tise himself in mortifying in himself, all these, 
his actions and passions, he can never do so 
entirely, nor indeed ever so slightly, until God 
effects it in him by way of the purgation of 
the dark night. Whereof, so that I may say 
somewhat that may be useful, may God be 
pleased to give me His Divine Light, since it 
is indeed needed in so dark a night and 
difficult a matter. 



night, whereby we mean contempla 
tion, produces in the spiritually minded 
two sorts of darkness or purgations, answering 
to the two parts of man, that is to say, the 
sensitive and spiritual. And thus, the first 
night or sensitive purgation is that wherein 
the soul purges and strips herself naked of all 
things of sense, by conforming the senses to 
the spirit ; and the next is, the spiritual night 
or purgation, wherein the soul purges and 
denudes herself of all mental activity, by 
conforming and disposing the intellect for the 
65 F 




The Dark Night of the Soul 

union of love with God. The sensitive is 
usual and happens to many, and it is of these 
beginners, that we shall treat first. The 
spiritual purgation is gone through by very 
few, and those only who have been proved 
and tried, and of these we shall treat after 

The first night or purgation is bitter and 
terrible to the sense. The second transcends 
all description, because it is exceeding fear 
some for the spirit, as we shall presently 
shew : and as the sensitive comes first in 
order and takes place first, we shall briefly say 
somewhat thereof; so that we may proceed 
more especially to treat of the spiritual night, 
whereof very little has been said, either by 
word of mouth or writing, and moreover, 
because the experience thereof is extremely 
rare. Now, since the method these beginners 
pursue on the journey towards God, is slavish 
and bears a strong resemblance to their own 
desires and delights, as was above set forth ; 
since God wills to lead them higher, and 
deliver them from this base fashion of love to 
a loftier degree of love of God, and free them 
from the inadequate and mechanical exercise 
>of the sense (the imagination) and mental 
^activity which go agroping after God in such a 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

feeble sort and with so much difficulty, as we 
have said, and places them in the exercise of 
the spirit, wherein they can communicate 
with God more abundantly and freer from 
imperfections ; when, at length, they have 
practised themselves for some time in the 
journey of virtue, persevering in meditation 
and prayer, wherein, with the suavity and 
relish they have found, they have become 
detached from worldly things, and acquired 
some spiritual strength in God, so as to be 
able to curb the creature appetites and in 
some small degree suffer for God some slight 
load and dryness, without turning back at the 
crucial moment; when, to their thinking, 
they are proceeding in these spiritual exercises 
to their entire satisfaction and delight ; and 
when the Sun of Divine favours seems to 
them to shine most radiantly upon them, God 
darkens all this light, and shuts the door and 
fountain of the sweet spiritual water, which 
they were wont to drink in God as often and 
as long as they chose (since on account of 
their weakness and frailty, no door was shut to 
them), as saith Saint John in the Apocalypse : 
Ecce dedi coram te ostiuin apertum, quod nemo 
potest claudere : quia modicam habes virtutcm, et 
servasti verbum meum, et non negasti nomen 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

meum^ and thus, he leaves them in darkness 
so profound that they know not whither to 
direct the sense of the imagination and specu 
lations of the mind. For they cannot take a 
single step towards meditation, as before they 
were wont, the interior sense being now sub 
merged in this night, and made so barren, that 
not only find they no substance and delight in 
the spiritual matters and good practices 
wherein they were wont to rejoice and find 
relish, but, on the contrary, in its place a 
v nauseous savour and bitterness. For, as I 
have said, as God knows them to have, at 
length, increased somewhat in growth ; in 
order that they may acquire strength and 
escape from their swaddling clothes, He 
severs them His sweet breast, and putting 
them from His arms, teaches them to walk 
alone, the which, to them, is passing strange, 
as everything seems topsy-turvy. 

This, in the case of people secluded from the 
world, usually takes place sooner after they 
have begun, than in that of others, inasmuch 
as they are freer from opportunities to turn 
back and more speedily reform their appetites 
for worldly things, which is .what is abso 
lutely necessary to enter into this happy night 

1 Apoc. iii. 8. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

of sense. And, as a rule, it is not long after 
they begin, before they enter into this night of 
sense, and the greater number of them enter 
therein, for, usually, shall you see them fall 
into these drynesses. 

Of this kind of sensitive purgation, inasmuch 
as it is so often met with, we might here quote 
large store of authorities from the Divine 
Scripture, where, at every, step we find many 
instances, particularly in the Psalms and 
Prophets ; but, to avoid prolixity, we refrain 
therefrom, although we shall quote several 
later on. 


*DUT as these drynesses may often arise, 
not from the said night and purgation 
of the sensitive appetite, but from sins or 
imperfections, remissness or lukewarmness, 
or from some ill-humour or indisposition of 
the body ; I shall here set down a few signs 
whereby it may be known whether the dry- 
ness, in question, arises from the said purga- 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

tion, or springs from any of the aforesaid 
vices ; for which object, I find there are three 
principal signs. 

The first is, if as he finds no suavity nor 
comfort in the things of God, so he finds 
none either in any other created thing. For, 
as God places the soul in the obscure night 
\/ so as to dry and purge her of the sensitive 
appetite, he lets her find pleasure or savour 
in nothing. Wherein is credibly seen that 
this dryness and inappetency does not proceed 
from sin nor from imperfections freshly com 
mitted. For, if this were so, she would, per 
force, feel in the natural disposition, some 
tendency or desire to take joy in something 
other than the things of God. For, when 
ever the appetite lapses into some imperfec 
tion, it soon feels itself drawn towards it, 
much or little, in the like degree as was the 
desire and affection it bestowed thereon. But 
as this want of relish in things above and 
below, may proceed from some physical 
indisposition or melancholy humour, the 
which doth often not allow them to take 
pleasure in anything, the second sign and 
condition is essential. 

The second sign and condition of this 
purgation is, that, as a rule, the memory is 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

constantly fixed on God, with anxiety and 
painful watchfulness, since, when she sees her 
self without her former relish for the things of 
God, the soul thinks that she doth not serve 
God, but is going backwards. And herein 
is seen that this want of appetite and dryness 
does not arise from coldness and lukewarm- 
ness ; since it is of the very nature of luke- 
warmness not to care nor to feel interior 
solicitude for the things of God. Wherefore 
betwixt dryness and lukewarmness there is 
a great difference. Because lukewarmness 
is subject to great remissness and slackening 
of the will and courage, and all solicitude to 
serve God is absent : whereas merely purga 
tive dryness carries with it a constant anxiety 
accompanied by regret and pain, that the soul, 
as I say, doth not serve God. And this, 
although sometimes increased by melancholy 
or other humour (as at other times it is) 
fails not to work its purgative effect on the 
appetite ; since the soul is entirely bereft of 
relish and sets her attention solely upon 
God ; because, when it arises from sheer 
bodily indisposition, everything becomes dis 
tasteful and a source of uneasiness to the 
physical constitution, which feels no longer 
those desires to serve God which belong 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

to the purgative dryness, whereby, although 
the sensitive part is greatly depressed, and 
too weak and frail to act, by reason of the 
little relish it finds, the spirit, nevertheless, 
is alert and strong. 

The cause of this dryness is, because God 
I transfers the properties and strength of the 
\ sense to the spirit ; and the sense and 
natural strength of the sensitive part, by 
reason of their incapacity, being deprived 
thereof, they remain hungry, parched and 
empty. For the sensitive part has no skill 
in that which is pure spirit ; and so, when 
the spirit finds sweet relish, the flesh is 
vexed and loses its energies to act : but 
the spirit, which is then engaged in receiv 
ing the Divine food, proceeds stoutly, and 
more alertly and solicitously than before in 
her watchfulness not to fail towards God ; 
although, it does not at once experience 
spiritual savour and delight, but dryness and 
J displeasure, by reason of the novelty of the 
change. For, as the spiritual palate has 
become accustomed to those former sensible 
gusts, it still keeps its eyes thereon. And, 
also, because the spiritual palate has not been 
made fit and purged for so subtle a pleasure, , 
and cannot taste the spiritual delight and 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

goodness, only aridness and distaste, for lack 
of that it formerly with such ease enjoyed, 
until it has been gradually disposed thereto, 
step by step, by means of this dry and obscure 

For, those whom God begins to lead 
through these solitudes of the desert are like 
to the sons of Israel, who directly God began 
to give them in the desert food from Heaven 
so delicate, that as the text says, it was con 
verted into the flavour of each one s favourite 
food ; withal, they felt more keenly the loss 
of the gusts and relishes of the flesh meat and 
onions they eat before in Egypt, whereto their 
palate was accustomed and longed after, 
rather than the delicate sweetness of the 
angelic sustenance, and they wept and 
groaned for meat amidst the food from 
Heaven : Rtcordamur pisciuvi, quos coinedaba- 
mus in Egypto gratis : in mentem nobis veniunt 
cucumeres et pepones porrique^ et cepe, et allia.^ 
For, to such a depth doth the baseness of our 
appetite reach, that it makes us long after our 
miserable trifles, and loathe the incommutable 
treasure of Heaven. But, as I say, when 
these aridnesses arise from the purgative 
stage of the sensible appetite, although, at 

1 Num. xi. 5. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

first, the spirit finds no relish, by reason of 
the causes we have just mentioned, it is in 
spired with strength and courage to act, by 
the nourishment it receives from the interior 
food, the which food is the preliminary of dry 
and obscure contemplation for the sense ; 
the which contemplation is, as a rule, hidden 
and secret from him who himself possesses 
it ; together with this aridness and emptiness 
it effects in the senses, it inclines and fills the 
soul with longing for solitude and silence, 
without the power to think on any particular 
thing, or wish to think. And if those, to 
whom this happens, were able, at this time, 
to keep perfectly still and refrain from all 
interior and exterior action, and make n 
attempt to procure such by their own efforts 
and mental activity, but, free from all anxiety, 
abandon themselves entirely to the guidance 
of God, waiting for His coming and listening 
for His voice with an interior and loving 
attention ; they would, soon, in this abstrac 
tion and vacancy of mind, feel this interior 
refreshment bestowed most delicately upon 
them. The which is so delicate, that, as a 
rule, if they are over-desirous or solicitous to 
feel it, they feel it not ; for, as I say, it 
operates in the most intense suspension or 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

abstraction of the soul ; since it is like the 
air, which, if one tries to imprison in one s 
fist, is gone. And this is what we may 
take to be the meaning of the words spoken 
by the Spouse to His Beloved in the Can 
ticles, to wit : Averte oculos tuos a vie, quia ipsi 
me avolare fecerunt. 1 Turn away thine eyes 
from me, for they overcome me. For, after 
such a fashion doth God place the soul in 
this state and by so different a road doth He 
lead her, that if she is fain to take action of 
herself and make use of her own powers, 
rather doth she hinder than assist the opera 
tion that God is working in her ; the which, 
before was quite the reverse. The cause is, 
that, whereas, in this state of contemplation, 
which is when the soul goes forth from all 
mental activity and speculation of her own, 
to the state of the progressives, it is God who 
now works upon her ; in such a way that, it 
seems as if He bound up the interior powers, 
leaving her no support in the mind, nor sub 
stance in the will, nor motion in the memory. 
For, at this season, whatever the soul may 
accomplish of herself, serves for no other 
purpose save, as we have said, to interrupt 
and hinder the interior peace, and the opera- 

1 Can. vi. 4. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

tion which, in this barrenness of the sense, 
God works in the spirit. The which, foras 
much as it is spiritual and delicate, the 
effects it produces are quiet and delicate, 
peaceful and very far away from those 
other former delights, which were exceed 
ing palpable and sensible. For this peace 
is that spoken of by David, breathed into 
the soul of God to render her spiritual : 
Quoniam loquetur pacern in plebem suam- 1 
And hence we come to the third sign. 

The third sign whereby we may perceive 
this to be the purgation of the sense, is that 
the soul can no longer, for all her striving, medi 
tate nor send her thoughts abroad, by means 
of the sense of the imagination, so as to 
stimulate her motions, as she was wont ; 
because, as in this case, God begins to com 
municate Himself to her no longer through 
the senses as He did before, by means of the 
mental combination and analysis of their own 
ideas by the reasoning and discursive facul 
ties, but in pure spirit, wherein there is no 
consecutive exercise of intellectual thought, 
and as He communicates Himself to her in 
\/ an act of absolute contemplation, whereto the 
exterior or interior senses of the lower part 

1 Psalm Ixxxiv. 9. 

7 6 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

cannot reach : hence it is that the imagination 
and fancy can furnish no support, nor set the 
springs thereof in motion by meditation, nor 
yet find any footing therein, from that time 

By this third sign, it may be known that 
this hindrance of the faculties and the slight 
disgust they experience, doth not arise from 
any evil humour (bodily indisposition) ; for 
when such is the case, as soon as the humour, 
which is never permanent, is dissipated, then, 
the soul if she is bent thereon however 
slightly, is again able to perform what she 
did before, and the faculties find their custo 
mary supports. The which is not so in the 
purgation of the appetite ; for, when one 
begins to enter therein, the inability to make 
use of the faculties in thought and speculation 
increases. For, although it is true that this 
condition, with some, is not, at first, of such 
persistent duration as to prevent them from 
being carried away by sensible comforts and 
delights (since on account of their weakness 
it was not advisable to wean them abruptly), 
nevertheless it continues to increase and 
gradually make an end of the sensitive opera 
tions, that is, if they are to advance still 
further ; for, those who do not take the 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

way of contemplation, entertain a very different 
method; in whom this night of barrenness is not 
wont to be continuous for the senses ; since al 
though they sometimes experience it, at others 
they do not ; and although sometimes they 
are deprived of the use of intellectual thought, 
yet, at others, they are able to avail them 
selves thereof, solely because God places them 
in this night to teach them by practice, humble 
them, and reform the appetite, so that they 
may not be bred up on dainties ; and not in 
order to lead them to the spiritual road which 
is this contemplation. For God doth not lead 
all who, of set purpose, practise themselves in 
this journey of the spirit, to perfect contem 
plation : wherefore He alone knoweth. Hence 
it is, that these never succeed in severing the 
senses from the breasts they cling to, of 
meditation and mental activity, save for some 
brief moments and intermittently, as we have 


TN the season, then, of the drynesses of 
this sensitive night (wherein God effects 
the change we have above spoken of), leading 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

forth the soul from the way of the sense to 
that of spirit, that is from meditation to con 
templation (wherein the soul of herself and 
her own powers can neither perform nor 
think on things of God, as has been said), 
spiritual people undergo great affliction ; not 
so much for the aridness they suffer, as for 
the dread that besets them that they have 
gone astray along this road, thinking that 
spiritual goodness has deserted them and that 
God has forsaken them, since they find no 
support nor delight in any good thing. Then 
they fatigue themselves and try (as they were 
wont) to bend the faculties (not without some 
relish) to some object of mental thought, 
thinking that when they do not achieve this, 
and do not feel that they are occupied, they 
do nothing ; the which they accomplish, not 
without great interior aversion and repug 
nance of the soul which rejoiced to be in this 
quiet and repose. Whereby dallying with the 
one, they make no progress in the other ; 
because, for the sake of exercising the mind, 
they lose the spirit they had of tranquillity 
and peace, and thus they are like to one who 
leaves what he has finished, to commence it 
afresh ; or to one who went forth from the 
city to go back into it again ; or one who 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

abandons the chase to follow it anew : and, in 
this stage, such action is superfluous, since 
they will find nothing, and merely revert to 
their first method of proceeding, as has been 

At this season, if there is no one at hand to 
understand and direct them, such people as 
these turn back, either forsaking the road 
entirely or losing all energy, or, at least, they 
are hindered from advancing further, by the 
pains they are at to travel on the first road of 
meditation and mental activity, wearying and 
straining the physical powers most unneces 
sarily and imagining that they fail thereof by 
their own negligence or sins. The which is 
now superfluous ; for, at last, God leads them 
\L4 by another road, which is that of contempla 
tion (absorption), absolutely at variance with 
the first ; for the one is that of meditation 
and mental exercise, and the other falls not 
within the scope of either imagination or 
intellect. They that shall see themselves in 
such a sort must take comfort, and persevere 
patiently, and, not giving way to grief, confide 
in God, who doth not forsake those who seek 
Him with an upright and simple heart, nor 
shall fail to give them all things necessary for 
the journey, until He leads them forth into 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

the clear and pure light of love, which He will 
give them by means of the following dark 
night of the spirit, if it so be, that they deserve 
that He should place them therein. 

The method they must abide by in this 
night of the senses, is to be utterly indifferent 
as to mental exercise and meditation: since 
now, as I have said, the time for this is past, 
but to leave the soul in peace and quiet, how 
ever much they may think they do nothing 
and are losing time and that their desire to 
think of nothing in this state comes of their 
own sluggishness. For, if they will only have 
patience and persevere in prayer, and leave 
the Soul free and unfettered, unruffled by any 
manner of impression or thought, free from 
all anxiety as to what they shall think upon 
and meditate, being satisfied with a loving 
and restful waiting upon God, devoid of all 
solicitude, activity, and excessive longing to 
feel and taste Him, they shall, indeed, accom 
plish a great matter. For all these strivings 
and efforts trouble and distract the soul from 
the peaceful quietude and sweet repose of 
contemplation bestowed in this state. And, 
whatever be the scruples that beset her that 
she is losing time and that it would be wise 
to occupy herself about something else, since 
81 G 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

in prayer, she can nor do nor think ought : 
let her resign herself and be at peace, just as 
if she resorted to prayer for no other end save 
her own solace and liberty of spirit. For if, 
of herself, she tries to stir up the interior 
powers, it would be to hinder and lose the 
y graces which God, by means of this peace 
and repose of the soul, is fixing and imprint 
ing on her. Just as a painter limning a face, 
if the face were to move about from side 
to side bent on some other occupation, the 
painter would be hindered in his work and 
able to produce nothing : so when the soul is 
in peace and inward repose, any movement 
and eagerness or painstaking attention on her 
part at such a time will distract and disquiet 
her, and is bound to produce in her a feeling 
of aridness and emptiness of sense. For the 
more she were fain to lean upon any support 
of emotion and impression, so much the more 
keenly will she feel its lack, the which cannot 
now be compensated for by such a method. 
Whence, in this state, this said soul should 
take no notice that she has been bereft of the 
/operations of the faculties, rather rejoice that 
she loses them so soon. For, if she does not 
hinder the operation of the infused contempla 
tion that God continues to give, so is she 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

refreshed with the more undisturbed abund 
ance and the opportunity bestowed upon her 
to burn and be kindled in the spirit of love, 
which this dark and hidden contemplation 
brings with it and instils into the soul. 

I were fain, notwithstanding, that from this 
no general rule should be deduced, to abandon 
meditation or mental speculation ; for the 
forsaking thereof should always arise from 
want of power to do otherwise, and that, for 
such time only as, by way of purgation and 
torment, or through most perfect contempla 
tion, the Lord himself checks it. For at other 
times and seasons, this stay and refuge must 
always be resorted to, and more especially 
the consideration suggested by the life and 
Cross of Christ, which are best suited for 
purgation and patience and a safe and sure 
journey, and is an admirable guide to the 
heights of contemplation. The which is 
nothing else but a secret, tender, and loving 
infusion of God which, if we oppose no 
obstacle, inflames the soul in the spirit of 
love, as she herself sets forth in the following 

The Dark Night of the Soul 



TpHIS flaming up of love is not, as a rule, 
felt at first, as it has not yet begun to 
set fire to the heart, either on account of 
bodily l impurity, or because the soul, failing 
to understand its nature, doth not, as we have 
said, procure for it within herself a peaceable 
admittance, entry and refuge. But, at times, 
with or without this, a certain sense of long 
ing for God begins to make itself felt ; and the 
more it increases so doth the soul feel more 
and more enraptured by, and inflamed in, the 
love of God, without knowing or understand 
ing how and whence springs up in her this 
said love and tenderness, save that this flame 
and kindling seems to her to grow at times 
so strong within her, that sick for very love, 
she pants after God ; like as did David, who, 
when in this night, described his own sensa 
tions in these words : Quid inflammatum est 
cor meum, et renes mei Commutati sunt : et ego 
ad nihilum redactus sum, et nescivi. Because 

1 Psalm Ixxii. 21. The words used by San Juan de la 
Cruz are " impureza del natural," equivalent to the 
" naturals " of the old Divines: vide Jeremy Taylor. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

my heart was ablaze (that is : in contemplative 
love), my tastes and affections were changed 
likewise ; to wit, from the sensitive way to 
the spiritual, by this holy aridness and cessa 
tion wherein they are all plunged, that we 
proceed to describe. And I, says he, was 
melted and reduced to nothing, and I knew 
not. Because, as we have said, without 
knowing whither she goes, the soul sees 
herself reduced to nothing in respect of all 
things above or below wherein she was wont 
to delight ; and solely perceives herself filled 
with love without knowing how. And since, 
at times, the blaze of love in the spirit waxes 
great, the longings of the soul after God are 
so strong that the very bones seem to be 
parched up with this thirst, and the body to 
sicken, and its vitality and strength to be 
consumed in the acuteness of this love, and 
the soul feels this thirst of love to be intense. 
The which David also experienced and felt 
when he says : Sitivit anima mea ad Deum 
vivum^ My soul thirsted for the living God ; 
which is as much as to say : Sharp was the 
thirst that beset my soul. The which thirst 
in respect of its intensity, we may say, kills 
with thirst. Although the vehemence of this 

* Psalm xlvi. 3. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

thirst is not continuous save at times, never 
theless some thirst is regularly experienced. 
And it must be noted here that, as I have 
begun to show, this love is not usually felt at 
first, only the dryness and emptiness we now 
describe ; and that, in place of this love which 
afterwards comes to be kindled, the soul, in 
the midst of these aridnesses and emptiness oi 
the powers, is constantly engrossed by an un 
divided attention to, and solicitude after God, 
whereto is added an abiding pain and dread 
that she serves Him not; for it is a sacrifice 
that pleases God not a little to see the spirit 
troubled and afflicted for His love s sake. 
This secret contemplation it is that im 
prints this anxiety in the soul until such time 
as it shall, in some measure, have purged the 
sense, that is, the sensitive part, from the 
natural strength and affections by means of 
these aridnesses wherein it places her, it pro 
ceeds to kindle in the spirit this love Divine. 
But until this takes place, in short like a sick 
man undergoing a cure, the soul experiences 
nought but suffering and a withering purga 
tion of the appetite in this obscure night, 
wherein she is healed of many imperfections 
and proved in many virtues, to the end that 
she may be made capable of receiving the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

aforesaid love, as shall now be shown in the 
following line : 


Forasmuch as God sets the soul in this 
dark night to the end that, the sense of the 
inferior part be purged, and prepared for, 
subjected to, and joined with, the spirit, by 
casting it into darkness and making it to cease ^ 
from mental activity ; so also, afterwards, He 
places her in spiritual night to the end that 
she may be purified in order to be united with 
God, wherein she acquires (although she 
is far from thinking it), so many benefits, 
that she holds it for a gladsome hap to have 
escaped from the snares and limitations of the 
sense of the inferior part through this happy 
night, as the verse before us says, to wit, 
" Oh gladsome hap ! " As to which we must 
here note the benefits that the soul finds in this 
night, by reason whereof, she holds it for a for 
tunate chance to pass therethrough : all which 
benefits are embraced in the following line : 

By the which stealing forth, is meant the 
escape of the soul from the bondage wherein 
she was held by the sensitive part, which in 
terposed its own weak, cribbed, and dangerous 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

processes (as those of this inferior part are) 
between her and her search for God ; since, 
at every step they made her stumble up 
against a thousand imperfections and follies, 
as we have above pointed out under the seven 
capital vices. Wherefrom she is entirely 
delivered by all her gusts, (whether from above 
or below), being extinguished, and all her in 
tellectual powers darkened in this night, 
which bestows on her other innumerable 
graces in the conquest of virtue, as we shall 
now shew ; for it will be a most pleasant and 
comforting consideration for him who travels 
on this road, to see how a thing that seems so 
harsh and adverse to the soul, performs in 
her so many graces. All of ,which are won 
(as we say), by the soul going forth, as her 
affections and motions urge, into the midst of 
this night, from all created things, wherein 
she starts upon her journey to things eternal, 
which is, indeed, an exceeding happiness and 
good fortune. Firstly, on account of the 
immense mercy it is, to quench the appetite 
and affection in regard to all things. Secondly, 
because they who endure and persevere in 
entering by this narrow gate and strait and 
arduous road which leads to life, are exceeding 
few, as saith our Saviour : Quam angusta 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

porta, et arcta via est, qua* ducit ad vitam : 
et pauci sunt y qui inveniunt eam^ For the 
narrow door is this night of the sense, where - 
from, in order to enter thereat, the soul is 
stripped naked and denuded, being directed 
by Faith which is aloof from all sense, to take 
that other and narrower road whereon she 
must afterwards pursue her journey under the 
guidance of most absolute Faith, which is 
the link whereby she is united with God. 
Upon which road, forasmuch as it is so 
straight, dark, and terrible (so much so that 
there is no comparison between this night of 
the sense to that of the spirit in respect of its 
darkness and conflicts, as we shall shew), 
although there are exceeding few that travel 
it, yet their conquests are incomparably 
greater. Whereof we shall now commence 
to say somewhat with all possible brevity, so 
as to pass on to the following night. 


night and purgation of the appetite, 
of such fair augury for the soul by reason 
of the marvellous graces and benefits it endues 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

her with (although she herself thinks, as we 
have said, that it rather deprives her of them), 
for like as Abraham made high festival when 
his son Isaac was weaned, so is there rejoic 
ing in Heaven when, at last, God unswathes 
the soul from out her swaddling clothes, and 
lowers her from His arms, making her to walk 
on her own feet ; and weaning her from the 
milk and soft and honeyed food of children, 
gives her to eat of bread with crust, so that 
she may begin to relish the food of grown up 
men which, in these drynesses and darkness 
of the senses, He begins to give to the spirit 
empty and barren of the substance of the 
senses ; which is the infused contemplation 
we have mentioned. And this is the first and 
principal conquest of the soul, whence all the 
rest derive. 

Of these the first is the knowledge of our 
selves and of our misery. Because apart 
from the fact that God generally bestows 
these benefits upon the soul, swathed about 
with this knowledge ; these drynesses and 
emptiness of the faculties so different from 
the abundance she before enjoyed, and the 
difficulty she finds in devout matters, force 
upon her the knowledge of her own baseness 
and wretcheness which, in the season of 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

her prosperity, she was blind to. Of this 
there is a fine image in Exodus, wherein, it 
being God s will to humble the sons of Israel 
and to force them to realize, who and what 
they were, He bade them remove and strip off 
the gala robes and festival adornments where 
with they usually went about clothed in the 
desert, saying : Jain mine depone ornatuin 
/////;;/. 1 Now, from henceforth put off thy 
finery and festal robes, and clothe ye with 
common working garments, to the end that 
ye may know the treatment ye deserve. 
Which is as if He had said : Forasmuch as 
the dress you wear, being that of feasting and 
rejoicing, exposeth you not to perceive the 
enormity of your baseness, remove this 
raiment, so that, henceforth, seeing your 
selves clad in vileness, you may know your 
own unworthiness and who you are. Whence, 
also, the soul comes to realize her own misery 
which before was hidden from her. Because, 
in the season she went about holiday making, 
as it were, and found in God great delight and 
comfort and support, she proceeded with 
somewhat more of contentment and satisfac 
tion, being convinced that to a certain extent, 
her deeds were directed to His service. For, 
1 Gen. xxi. 8. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

although these people may not own it to 
themselves expressly, yet there is an inkling 
of something of the sort in the satisfaction 
they find in the delights bestowed upon them. 
But, now, clad in this other sort of work-a-day 
garb of difficulty, dryness, and desolation, her 
former lanthorns dimmed, the soul possesses 
and acquires in downright earnest this so 
excellent and necessary a virtue of self-know 
ledge, and at last holds herself as nought and 
takes no sort of satisfaction in herself, because 
she sees that of herself she does, and can do, 
nothing. And this lack of satisfaction with 
herself and the affliction that overwhelms her 
in that she serves not God, God holds and 
esteems more highly than all the previous 
deeds and gustos she performed and experi 
enced, however numerous they may have 
been. Forasmuch as they exposed her to 
many imperfections and follies ; and from 
this vesture of aridness proceeds not only 
that we have said, but also the benefits we 
shall now proceed to state and many more 
which we shall leave unsaid, as from their 
origin and fount, from the knowledge of 

As to the first, the soul is impelled to con 
verse with God with greater reverence and 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

ceremony, which must never be absent from 
our intercourse with the Almighty. The 
which in the prosperous season of her delight 
and comfort, she overlooked ; for, the very 
favour she enjoyed made her wax somewhat 
bolder and less reverential than behoved her. 
Like as happened to Moses when he heard 
God s voice who, carried away by his delight 
and longing, without further consideration, 
was emboldened to approach, had God not 
bidden him to stop and loose the shoes 
from off his feet : Ne appropies, inquit, hue : 
solve calceamentum de pedibus tuis^ Whereby 
is manifested the reverence and respectful 
bearing in nakedness of appetite, wherewith 
we must converse with God. Whence, 
when Moses complied with, he became 
so absolutely obedient and circumspect, 
that as the Scripture saith, not only dared 
he not draw nigh, but he did not even 
make so bold as look on God. Because, 
having removed the shoes of his appetites and 
pleasures, he profoundly realized his own 
misery before God : for, so it behoved him in 
order to hear the Divine words. Also the 
ability bestowed on Job by God to speak with 
Him, did not spring from those delights and 

i Exod. iii. 5. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

blessedness that Job himself mentions, as 
being wont to pass between himself and God, 
but from his being set naked on a dung heap, 
forsaken and even persecuted by his friends, 
full of anguish and bitterness, and the ground 
alive with worms : and then, after such sort 
as this did the Almighty God, who raises the 
poor from filth, deign to hold communion with 
him with greater abundance and far more 
sweetness, revealing to him the lofty heights 
of His Wisdom, than He had never seen fit to 
do in the season of his prosperity. 

And now, since we have chanced to touch 
thereon, we must point out another excellent 
benefit there is in this dark night and dryness 
of the sensitive appetite, and it is, that in this 
dark night, in order that the words of the 
prophet should be fulfilled : Oriteur in tenebris 
lux tua^ Thy light shall shine on the dark 
ness ; God enlightens the soul, not only by 
making her to know her own misery and 
baseness, as we have said, but, also, His own 
grandeur and excellence. Because, apart from 
the sensible appetites and gusts and supports 
1 being entirely annihilated, the intellect is left 
clear and limpid to perceive the truth ; because 
all sensible gust and appetite, even although in 

1 Isaiah Iviii. 10. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

spiritual things, clouds and impedes the mind, 
likewise, also, the constriction and dryness of 
the sense alluminates and gives life to the 
intellect, as says Isaiah : Vexatio intellectum 
dabit auditui* * That oppression shews how 
God proceeds to instruct the naked and enfran 
chised soul (the which is absolutely necessary 
in order to receive His divine influence) super- 
naturally and by means of this dark and 
obscure night of contemplation, in His Divine 
Wisdom : the which He did not do in the 
previous succulence and delights. This the 
prophet Isaiah admirably sets forth, saying : 
Quern docebit scientiamf et quern intelligere faciet 
auditum ? Ablactos d lacte, avulsos ab uberibus* 
To whom shall God teach His knowledge, 
and whom shall He make to hear His word ? 
To those weaned from the milk and to those 
severed from the breast. 

Wherein is made manifest that the former 
milk of spiritual sweetness and the stay 
afforded by the breast of the savoury dis 
quisitions of the sensitive faculties which the 
soul was wont to relish, doth not so much 
dispose her for this Divine influence as the 
lack of the first and the withdrawal of the 
other. Wherefore, in order to hearken to 

1 Isaiah xxviii. 19. 2 Isaiah xxviii. 9. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

this great King with all due reverence, the 
Soul must stand exceeding firm and lean on 
no support of affection or sense, as Habakuk 
says of himself: Super custodiam meam stabo y 
et figam gradum super munitionem : et con- 
templabor, nt videam, quid dicatur mihil I 
will stand over my tabernacle (that is not 
stayed up by appetite), and I will make fast 
my foot (that is, I will not lean on intellectual 
reasoning), so that I may contemplate and 
hear that which God shall say to me. So 
that we have now arrived at this result, that, 
from this night comes primarily knowledge 
of ourselves whence, as from a foundation, 
springs this other knowledge of God. Where 
fore St. Augustine said to God : Let me know 
myself, O Lord, and I shall know Thee. For 
as philosophers say one extreme may be 
known by the other. And in order more 
fully to prove the efficacy this sensitive night 
possesses, in its aridness and desolation, to 
increase the light which the soul, as we were 
saying, now receives from God, we shall 
quote that text of David, wherein he clearly 
sets forth the great power this night bestows 
to reach this lofty knowledge of God. These, 
then, are his words : In terra deserta, et 
1 Habak. ii. i. 

9 6 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

invia, et inaquosa : sic in sancto apparui tibi, 
ut vidcrem virttttem tuam, et gloriam tuam.^ 
In the desert land, without water, parched 
and where no road was, I appeared before 
Thy face so as to be able to see Thy power 
and glory. The which is a wonderful thing 
(although David does not say so here), that 
it was not by the many spiritual delights and 
gusts he had received that he was disposed 
and fitted to know the Glory of God, but by 
aridness and severance from the sensitive 
part, which is here shadowed forth under the 
parched and desert land. Neither does he 
say that the speculations and Divine medita 
tions, to which he so often betook himself, led 
him to feel and see the power of God, but his 
own inability to fix his thoughts on God, and 
the want of guidance he found in the disquisi 
tions of imaginary considerations, whereby is 
meant the land without a road. So that, if 
we would indeed arrive at the Knowledge of 
God and of ourselves, the only way is by this 
dark night with its aridness and emptiness, 
although not with the same plentitude and 
abundance as in the following night of the 
spirit ; because this knowledge is, as it were, 
the root of the next. 

* Psalm Ixii. 3, 

97 H 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

In the drynesses and emptiness of this 
night of the appetite the soul also acquires 
humility, which is the contrary virtue to the 
first capital vice which we stated to be spiri 
tual pride. By this humility which she 
achieves through the said knowledge of her 
self, she purges herself from all those im 
perfections wherein she fell in the season of 
her prosperity. Because, perceiving her own 
barrenness and wretchedness, she is free 
from the faintest motion of any thought that 
she is better than others or that she has in 
any way outstripped them, as she did before, 
rather, on the contrary, doth she recognize 
that they are in a better way than herself. 
And hence springs love towards her neigh 
bour; because she respects and doth not 
judge, as before she did, when she perceived 
her own intense fervour and none in others ; 
she realizes her own baseness only and keeps 
it ever before her eyes, to such an extent that 
it does not admit of, nor give room for, her to 
fix them on any other person. The which, 
David, being in this night, admirably ex 
presses, saying : Obmutui^ et Jiumiliatus sum, 
et silui d bonis : et dolor meus renovatus 
estl- I was dumb and was humiliated and 

1 Psalm xxxviii. 3. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

held my peace even from good, and my 
sorrow was renewed. This he says, because 
it seemed to him that the treasures of his 
soul were so utterly brought to nought, that 
not only was there no speech, nor could none 
be found thereof; but, in respect of those of 
others, he was likewise dumb with the grief 
of the knowledge of his misery. 

In this state, also, those we are speaking of 
become submissive and obedient in this, their 
spiritual journey. For as they so keenly per 
ceive their own wretchedness, not only do 
they listen to their teachers, but even desire 
to be directed and counselled by any one, 
whosoever he may be. The presumptuous- 
ness that, at times, they entertained in their 
season of prosperity leaves them ; and finally 
all the imperfections we have pointed out, 
under the head of spiritual pride, are swept 
away as they advance further on their 


A S to the imperfections these beginners 

were wont to entertain in regard to 

spiritual avarice in which they coveted this 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

and the other spiritual gift, and the Soul was 
never satisfied with these and the other 
exercises, so great was her sensual cupidity 
and the relish she found therein, now in 
this dark and thirsty night, she walks re 
formed indeed. For, as she no longer finds 
the same delight and savour as before, 
rather nausea and difficulty, she makes use 
of them with such moderation that, per 
chance, she is now as much exposed to lose 
by remissness, as before she lost by excess ; 
although to those whom God places in this 
night, he generally gives humility and prompt 
ness, but yet not without nausea, to the end 
that they perform what they are bidden for 
the sake of God alone ; and they get quit of 
many things, because they find no relish 

As to spiritual voluptuousness, it is also 
clearly seen that by this same aridness and 
physical nausea which repels the soul in 
spiritual things, she shakes herself loose 
from these impurities we there pointed out ; 
which, as we stated, generally proceeded 
from the fortuitous overflowing of the 
delight experienced by the spirit into the 

But as to the imperfections in respect of 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

the fourth vice, which is spiritual gluttony, 
whereof the soul rids herself in this dark 
night, they may be seen under that heading, 
although inasmuch as they are innumerable 
they are not all set down ; and, therefore, 
I shall not refer to them here, for I were now 
fain to bring this night to a close, so as to 
pass on to the next, wherein we shall find 
grave doctrine. Suffice it therefore to say, 
in order to gauge the numberless graces 
which, besides those mentioned, the soul 
achieves in this night against the vice of 
spiritual gluttony, that she delivers herself 
from all those imperfections there set down, 
and from many other and graver evils than 
are there mentioned, wherein many we have 
known have fallen, because they had not 
reformed their desire for this spiritual dainty. 
Because, as God in this dark and arid night 
wherein He places the soul, reins in the 
concupiscence, and curbs the appetite after 
such sort that it may scarce admit of any 
longing for anything whether of Heaven or 
earth ; and gradually increases this until, as 
the soul becomes reformed, mortified, and 
strengthened in order of her concupiscence 
and desires, her passions seem to lose their 
strength ; whereupon, by means of this 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

spiritual sobriety, besides those already 
mentioned, marvellous gifts are conferred 
upon her ; because, with this mortification 
of her desires and concupiscence, she dwells 
in spiritual tranquility and peace ; for where 
desire and concupiscence no longer reigns, 
disquiet cannot enter, only God s peace and 

Hence proceeds another second benefit, and 
it is, that the soul bears about with her a 
constant memory of God, with a dread and 
terror of falling back, as we have said, on the 
spiritual road ; the which is a great mercy, 
and not of the least, in this dryness and pur 
gation of the appetite, because the soul is 
purified and cleansed from the imperfections 
which clung to her by reason of her appetites 
and affections, which of themselves, blunt 
and obscure her radiance. There is another 
very great benefit for the soul in this night 
and it is, that she applies herself to virtue 
wholesale, as it were, such as patience and 
long suffering which she indeed learns by 
practice in these drynesses and emptiness, 
and patience to persevere in spiritual exer 
cises without comfort and without relish. 
She is practised in the charity of God, since 
she is no longer moved by the taste and 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

savour she finds in the matter, but by God 
alone. Likewise she now practises the virtue 
of fortitude, because in these difficulties and 
nauseas she finds in action, she draws strength 
from weakness, and so waxes strong; and, 
finally, in these drynesses, the soul is exer 
cised in all virtues, whether cardinal, theo 
logical, or moral. And that, in this night, the 
soul achieves all these four benefits we have 
here set down, to wit : the great delight of 
peace, a constant memory of God, and her 
own cleanness and purity, besides the practice 
of the virtues we have just named, is declared 
by David like as he had himself made trial 
thereof, when he was plunged into this night, 
in these words : Rcnuit consolari anima mea, 
memor fui Dei, et delect atus sum, et exercitatus 
sum, et defccit spiritus metis. 1 My soul rejected 
consolation, I remembered God, I found com 
fort and exercised myself, and my spirit died 
within me. And immediately thereupon, he 
says : I meditated in my heart by night, and 
exercised myself, and swept and purified my 
spirit 2 : to wit, of all affections. 

In respect of the imperfections of the other 
three spiritual vices we there spoke of, which 
are envy, wrath, and slothfulness, the soul is 

1 Psalm Ixxvi. 4. * Psalm Ixxvi. 7. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

also purged in this drought of the appetite 
and acquires the opposite virtues thereto. 
For, softened and humiliated by these arid- 
nesses and difficulties and other temptations 
and trials wherein God proves her in many 
other ways than by this night, she becomes 
gentle in regard to God and in regard to her 
self, and also as regards her neighbour. So 
that she no longer waxes passionately wrath 
ful against herself for her own faults, nor 
against her neighbours for theirs, nor does 
she harbour insolent discontent and dis 
pleasure against God, because He does not 
make her righteous all at once. Then, as to 
envy, she now also bears charity towards 
others ; for, if she feels any envy, it is no 
longer vicious as before, when it was grievous 
to her that others should be preferred before 
her and bear away the palm : for to her now, 
at length, it has been given in the perception 
of her own utter misery ; and the envy she 
feels (if any there is) is virtuous, desiring to 
imitate them, the which is great virtue. 

Neither is the sluggishness and tediousness 
she now feels in spiritual things vicious as of 
yore ; for that she entertained proceeded 
from the spiritual relishes which, at times, 
she experienced, and tried to procure when 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

they were absent. But this weariness does 
not proceed from any failure to obtain spiritual 
delight ; because God has rid them of it in all 
things in this purgation of the appetite. 

Besides these benefits we have said, the 
soul secures innumerable others by means of 
this arid contemplation. Because, in the 
midst of these aridnesses and conflicts, often 
when she least expects it, God communicates 
to her a spiritual suavity and most pure love, 
and spiritual impressions at times surpassingly 
exquisite, each one of which is infinitely more 
valuable and costly than anything she tasted 
of before. Although the soul cannot be 
brought to think so, at first ; for the spiritual 
influence she now receives is most delicate 
and imperceptible to the sense. 

Finally, inasmuch as the soul is now purged 
of her affections and sensitive l desires, she 
achieves liberty of spirit, wherein she gradu- v 
ally conquers the twelve fruits of the Holy 
Ghost. Now, also, she is marvellously de 
livered from the grasp of her three enemies, 

1 San Juan s terminology will present no difficulty to 
the philosophical student, or to any one conversant with 
the old English Divines ; but. it may be as well to state 
that the word " sensitive " is equivalent, in more modern 
parlance, to "sensual," "physical," "bodily," "carnal," 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

the World, the Flesh, and the Devil ; for with 
the extinction of the savour and sensitive 
relish respecting all things, nor Devil, nor 
World, nor sensuality have arms or strength 
against the spirit. 

These drynesses, then, make the soul to 
walk with purity in the love of God ; since 
she is no longer moved to action by the relish 
and savour as was, perchance, the case when 
she experienced delight ; save solely to please 
God. She ceases to be presumptuous and 
self-complacent, as, perchance, she was wont 
to be in the season of her prosperity, but 
fearful and uncertain of herself, not being 
satisfied with herself in anything : wherein 
consists the only fear which conserves and 
increases virtue. This dryness, likewise, 
quenches her concupiscences and the high 
carriage of her temper, as has been said. 
For now, were it not for the relish that God 
of His good pleasure vouchsafes sometimes 
to infuse in her, it is rarely that she finds 
sensible delight and comfort by her own 
industry and efforts in any spiritual work and 
exercise, as has already been said above. 

In this dark and arid night, this blessed soul 
grows in the fear of God, and anxiety to serve 
Him. For, as the breasts of sensuality, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

wherewith she fed and cherished the appetites 
whose lures she followed, are gradually 
withered up, her longing to serve God alone 
remains fixed, stubborn and naked, which is a 
thing most pleasing in His sight. For as 
says David : Sacrificinm Deo spiritus contribu- 
latus. 1 The afflicted spirit is a sacrifice to 
God. As the soul, therefore, knows that in 
this arid purgation where through she has 
passed, she has derived and acquired such 
precious gifts, and their number so great as 
has been here related, she does not exaggerate 
when she gives voice to this line of the song 
we are explaining, 

" Oh gladsome hap ! 
I sallied forth by none perceived." 

That is, I escaped from the bonds and 
slavery of the sensitive appetites and affec 
tions, without being seen ; to wit, the three 
aforesaid enemies were powerless to bar my 
way. The which (as we have said), bind and 
hold back the soul through her appetites and 
pleasures, without which they cannot wage war 
against her, as has been said, so that she may 
not go forth from herself into the liberty of 
the perfect love of God. 

Whence, the four passions of the soul, which */ 
1 Psalm 1. 10. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

are joy, grief, hope and fear, being silenced 
by constant mortification ; and the natural 
appetites in the sensual part being lulled to 
sleep by constant aridness ; and the harmony 
of the senses and interior powers ceasing from 
their discursive motions and mental opera 
tions, as we have said, the which constitutes 
the whole population and dwelling place of the 
inferior part of the soul : they cannot hinder 
this spiritual freedom, and the house is left in 
silence and at peace, as says the following 



house of our sensuality being now at 
rest, that is, its passions mortified, its 
greedinesses extinguished, and the appetites 
j asleep and deadened by means of this happy 
; night of sensitive purgation, the soul went 
forth to commence the journey and highway 
of the spirit, which is that of the advanced, 
which, by another name, is called the Road of 
Illumination or of Infused Contemplation, 
whereby God, of His own free will, proceeds 
to nourish and re-mould her unimpeded by 
1 08 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

any mental disquisition or active help, or 
industry on the part of the soul herself. Such 
is, as we have said, the night and purgation of 
the sense. The which, in those who are 
afterwards destined to enter upon the next 
more grievous night of the spirit, in order to 
pass to the divine union of love with God, (for 
it is not a passage that all go through, but 
restricted to exceeding few), is usually accom 
panied by grave sensitive trials and tempta 
tions which last a long time, although longer 
in the case of some than of others ; for, to 
some is sent the angel of Satan, which is the 
spirit of fornication, to lash their senses with 
abominable and strenuous temptations, and 
trouble the mind with hideous thoughts, and 
images so clearly shadowed forth by the 
imagination, that it is at times more unendur 
able than death itself. 

To this sad night is added, at other times, 
the spirit of blasphemy, the which crosses the 
current of all their ideas and thoughts with 
intolerable blasphemies, at times, so forcibly 
suggested to the imagination, that they are 
almost constrained to give them utterance, 
which is, to them, a most grave cross. 

At other times they are tormented by 
another abominable spirit called by Isaiah 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

Spiritus vertiginis^ The which darkens their 
senses after such a fashion as to fill them 
with a thousand scruples and perplexities, 
which appear to them so involved and intricate 
that they can never satisfy themselves in any 
thing, nor stay their faltering judgment upon 
any prop of counsel or thought : the which is 
one of the gravest stings and horrors of this 
night, and next neighbour to what the soul 
suffers in the spiritual night. 

These storms and trials God sends, as a 
rule, in this night and sensitive purgation, to 
those he intends to place afterwards in the 
next (although not all pass thither), so that 
being thus chastised and buffeted, they may 
gradually practise, dispose and harden the 
senses and powers to receive the Union of 
Wisdom they shall therein receive. For, if 
the soul is not tempted, tried and proved by 
temptations and trials, she cannot bring her 
senses into the harbour of Divine Wisdom. 
Wherefore said the Preacher : Qui non esl 
tentatus, quid scit ? Qui non est expertus^ pauca 
tecognoscit. * He who is not tempted, what 
knoweth he ? and he who is not proved, what 
things doth he recognise ? To the which 
truth Jeremiah well testifies, when he says : 

1 Isaiah xix. 14. 2 Eccle . xxiv. 9, 10. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

Castigaste me y ct eruditns sum. 1 Thou chast- 
enedst me, O Lord and I was instructed. 
And the most appropriate manner of this 
chastisement, in order to enter into Wisdom, 
are the interior trials and conflicts that we 
here describe : forasmuch as they consist of 
those which most thoroughly purge the sense 
of all the delights and consolations whereto 
her natural frailty disposed her, and wherein, 
in very truth, the soul is humbled to the end 
that she may afterwards be exalted. 

But as to the time the soul is held in this 
fast and penance of the sense, it can in no 
way, with certainty, be fixed ; for all do not 
undergo the like discipline nor the same 
temptations, for this is a measure meted out 
by the Will of God, according as the im 
perfections to be purged less or more ; and 
also, conformably to the grade of Union of 
Love whereto God wills to raise her, so will 
He humble her the more or less intensely, or 
for a longer or shorter period. Those who 
have more capacity and strength for endur 
ance, He purges with greater intensity and 
speed. For, as to the very feeble, He guides 
them through this night most intermittently, 
suiting their temptations to their weakness 

1 Jerem. xxxi. 81. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and makes the night to last much longer ; 
constantly administering refreshment to the 
senses, so as to encourage and prevent them 
from turning back, and these arrive late at 
the purity of affection in this life, and some 
never. For they are neither well within the 
night, nor well outside of it ; because, although 
they do not ascend higher, there are moments 
and days when God, in order to keep them in 
humility and the knowledge of themselves, 
proves and practises them in these drynesses 
and temptations, and helps them with His 
comfort : and at other times He does this for 
long intervals together, lest, losing heart, they 
turn back to seek the consolation of the world. 
With souls still weaker, God proceeds in other 
manner ; constantly disappearing and hiding 
Himself from sight, in order to practise them 
in His love ; for unless He turned away from 
them they would not learn to draw close to 
Him. But souls, whose high destiny it is to 
pass to so blessed and exalted a state as is the 
union of love, however rapidly God may lead 
them, continue, as a rule, in these aridnesses 
for a considerable time, as experience shews. 
Concluding, then, this book, let us begin to 
treat of the second night. 





OT at once, upon issuing from the 
aridnesses and conflicts of the first 
purgation and night of the sense, doth God 
place the soul he intends to lead higher, in the 
union of love ; rather, as a rule, long periods 
and years intervene, during which the soul, 
having issued forth from the initial stages 
proper to beginners, is practised by His 
Majesty in those of the advanced in the union 
of love. Wherein (like one who hath escaped 
from a narrow prison), she proceeds with far 
greater liberty and interior satisfaction in the 
things of God, and receives more abundant 
and interior delight than she did at first, before 

1 Spirit here is equivalent to mind or the intellectual 
faculty of man, although I prefer to retain the exact word 
used by San Juan himself. 

113 I 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

she entered into this said night, the imagina 
tion and faculties being no longer, as before, 
fastened down to the disquisitions of medita 
tion and mental effort. For, soon, with the 
utmost ease, she finds a most serene and 
loving contemplation and spiritual savour, free 
from all intellectual labour. Although, as the 
purgation of the spirit is not yet thoroughly 
accomplished (for the chief part is still amiss- 
ing, which is the purgation of the intellect, 
without which, by reason of the communica 
tion that exists between the one part and the 
other, seeing that they form one subject) ; 
neither is the sensitive purgation, however 
searching it may have been, so perfected and 
finished as to be entirely free from certain 
aridnesses, darknesses, and conflicts, at times 
more intense than those she previously ex 
perienced, which are, as it were, the presages 
and heralds of the approaching night of the 
spirit, although these are not lasting, as shall 
be the night that awaits her. For having 
endured an interval, or intervals or days of 
this night or tempest, she again returns to her 
accustomed serenity ; and after this fashion 
doth God proceed to purge certain souls 
which are not destined to aspire to so lofty a 
degree of love as others, by plunging them, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

for a space and intermittently, into this night 
of contemplation or spiritual purgation, making 
the shadows of night to darken over them, or 
bringing them forth into the light of dawn 
alternately ; so that the words of David may 
be fulfilled, that He sends His cristal, that is, 
His contemplation, like morsels : Mittit crys- 
talluins suum sicut biiccellas^ Although these 
morsels of dark contemplation are never so 
intense as is the darkness of this fearsome 
night of contemplation we are about to speak 
of, wherein God plunges the soul, of set 
purpose, to guide her to the Divine union. 

This savour, then, and interior delight we 
speak of, which those who are advanced find 
and enjoy with abundance and ease within 
their spirit, is imparted to them far more 
abundantly than before, overflowing thence 
into the senses more than it did before this 
sensible purgation. Since, forasmuch as the 
spirit is now purer, it can taste the delights of 
the spirit with greater ease and after its own 
fashion. And as, in short, this sensitive part 
of the soul is weak and incapable of the strong 
things of the spirit, hence it is that these 
progressives, by reason of this spiritual com 
munication which takes place with the 

1 Psalm cxlvii. 17. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

sensitive part, suffer from great weakness, 
debility, and fatigue of stomach, and con 
sequently fatigue of mind. For, as says the 
Wise Man, Corpus enim, quod corrumpitur, 
aggravat aniuiam* 1 The corrupt body op 
presses the soul. Hence it is that the 
communications bestowed on these can neither 
be very strong nor rigidly intense, nor very 
spiritual, as they must, of necessity be for the 
Divine Union with God, by reason of the 
weakness and corruption of the sensuality 
which shares therein. And, hence, arise 
ecstasies and transports, and dislocations of 
the bones, which always happen when the 
communications are not absolutely spiritual ; 
that is, to the spirit only, as are those bestowed 
on the perfected, who have been, at length, 
purified in the second night of the spirit, in 
whom these ecstasies and bodily torments 
now cease, allowing them to rejoice in liberty 
of spirit, free from all clouding over or trans 
port of the sense. And in order to shew the 
necessity such as these are under to enter 
- into this night of the spirit, we shall now 
point out some imperfections and dangers 
which these progressives incur, 
i Sapient ix. 15. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


"pHESE progressives labour under two 
kinds of imperfections, some habitual, 
others actual : the habitual are the imperfect 
tendencies and habits which, like roots, have 
been left behind still fixed in the spirit, where 
the purgation of the sense could not reach. 
Whereof the purgation differs from the 
previous one, as do the roots from the boughs, 
or the cleansing of a freshly made stain from 
one already established for some time. For, 
as we have said, the purgation of the sense 
alone is the door and basis of contemplation 
for that of the spirit, and it is better to recon 
cile the sense to the spirit, than to unite the 
spirit with God. But, nevertheless, the stains 
of the old Adam still cling to the spirit, 
although it is blind and cannot see them : the 
which if they are not made to yield to the 
soap and strong lye of the purgation of this 
night, the spirit shall have no power to attain 
to the purity of the Divine Union. 

These also labour under the hebetndo mentis 
and natural stupidity which each man con 
tracts through sin, and distraction and exteri 
ority of spirit, all which must be illuminated, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

clarified, and kept from straying by the 
punishment and conflict of this night. All 
who have not emerged from this imperfect 
state of progress contract these habitual 
imperfections ; the which cannot exist side by 
side with the perfect stage of union by love 
with God. 

As to actual imperfections, all do not incur 
them after the like fashion ; but certain of 
these, as they carry their spiritual gifts so 
much on the surface and so amenable to the 
influence of the senses, fall into various diffi 
culties and perils whereof we spoke at the 
beginning. For, as they find so many com 
munications and perceptions showered upon 
the sense and spirit, wherein they often see 
imaginary and spiritual visions (for all this, 
together with other pleasurable sensations, 
happens to many of these in this stage wherein 
the devil and their own fancy, most generally, 
play fantastic tricks upon the soul), and as 
the Devil is wont with such delight to imprint 
upon, and suggest to, the soul, the said per 
ceptions and sensations, he dazzles and 
deceives her with the utmost ease, as she is 
not sufficiently cautious to resign herself to 
God and make a determined fight against all 
these visions and sensations. For, now the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

Devil makes them give credence to many vain 
visions and false prophecies, and does his best 
to make them think that God and the Saints 
hold converse with them, and ofttimes they 
believe in the wild vagaries of their fancy. In 
this stage, the Devil is wont to fill them with 
presumption and pride, and allured by vanity 
and arrogance, they allow themselves to be 
seen of others in exterior actions which bear 
aspect of sanctity, such as ecstasies and other 
displays. Thus they wax bold against God, 
losing Holy fear which is the key and Taber- _ 
nacle of all virtue ; and in certain of these 
people so greatly do falsehoods and deceptions 
increase and multiply, and so hardened do 
they get therein, that their return to the pure 
road of virtue and true spirit is extremely 
doubtful. Into the which basenesses they end 
by falling, by abandoning themselves with too 
much confidence to spiritual cognitions and 
sensations, when they begin to make progress 
on the spiritual road. So much still remains 
to be said of the imperfections of these people, 
and as to how they are the more incurable, 
forasmuch as they account them of a more 
spiritual nature than their previous experi 
ences, that I am fain to leave the subject. I 
only repeat (so as more strenuously to urge 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

upon him who would fain rise higher, the 
necessity there is for the spiritual night, which 
is purgation), that, for the most part, none of 
these progressives, despite his utmost care, 
fails to entertain many of these natural ten 
dencies and habits of imperfection ; where- 
from, as we have said, it is first necessary to 
be purified if we would pass to Divine Union. 
And, furthermore, besides that we have said 
above, to wit, that, forasmuch as the lower 
part still participates in these spiritual com 
munications, they cannot be so intense, pure, 
and vigorous as is requisite for the desired 
union : therefore, in order to attain thereto, 
the soul must enter into the second night of 
the spirit, where absolutely denuding the 
sense and spirit from all these cognitions and 
delightful savours, she is made to accomplish 
her journey in the darkness of absolute Faith, 
which is the proper and adequate means 
whereby the soul is made one with God, as 
Hosea declares : Sponsabo te mihi in fide. l I 
will join thee to me in marriage, that is, I will 
join thee to myself in Faith. 
1 Hosea, ii. 20. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


"pHESE progressives, then, having experi 
enced these sweet communications 
during the period they have, at length, with 
so much difficulty, won through ; to the end 
that the sensitive part being thus allured and ^ 
having acquired a zest for the spiritual delight 
which emanated from the spirit, may be 
incorporated and made one with it, each being 
fed after its own fashion with the same 
spiritual meat, and out of the same bowl of a 
single substance and subject ; so that they, 
being thus, in some sort, united and welded 
into one, may be disposed to suffer the harsh 
and cruel purgation of the spirit which awaits 
them ; wherein these two parts of the soul, 
spiritual and sensitive, must be thoroughly 
purged ; because, one is never entirely purged 
without the other, since the conclusive purg 
ing for the sense is when, in good earnest, 
that of the spirit commences. Whence, we 
should, and must, call the night of the sense 
we have spoken of, a certain shaping afresh 
and bridling in of the appetite, rather than a 
purgation. The reason is, because all imper 
fections and unruliness of the sensitive part 
have their strength and root in the spirit; 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and so, until evil habits are purged out, it is 
impossible thoroughly to purge away its 
rebellions and perversities. Whence, in this 
\y second night that follows, both parts are 
purged conjointly, for this is the object where 
fore it was necessary to undergo the reforma 
tion of the first night, and to issue into the 
fair weather which it brought about ; so that 

ttA-ciJt /< a "^ / 

*W<ythe sensitive part being joined with the spirit, 
they may both, in a certain manner, be purged 
and mutually "undergo the sufferings of the 

next with greater valour and fortitude, which 
for so drastic and stubborn a purge is indeed 
most urgent : for, if the weakness of the in 
ferior part has not already been reformed 
beforehand and acquired confidence in God 
through the sweet and pleasant converse it 
then enjoyed with Him, the physical constitu 
tion would have neither strength nor disposi 
tion to suffer it. 

Wherefore, the converse and dealings which 
these progressives hold with God are of an 
extremely material nature, because the gold 
of the spirit has not yet been purified and 
polished, on which account they still think of 
God like children, and know and perceive God 
like children, as says St. Paul : Cum essem 
parvulus, loquebar ut parvulus, sapiebam ut 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

luS) cogitabam ut parvulus^ The reason 
being that they have not reached perfection, 
which is the union of love with God, by which 
union having at length arrived, as it were, at 
man s estate, their spirit works magnificent 
operations, their acts and powers having now 
become more Divine than human, as shall 
presently be said : God having willed to strip 
them, in very truth, of this old Adam, and 
clothe them with the new, which, in order to 
God, is created in the newness of sense, 
as saith the Apostle : Et induite vovum 
Iwminem, qui sccunduui Deum creatus est. 2 
And in another place : Reformamini in 
novitate sensns vestri ; he strips them of the 
powers and affections and senses, spiritual as 
well as sensible, interior as well as exterior, 
leaving the jnind in darkness, and the Will 
stranded, and the memory void, and the 
desires of the soul in profound distress, 
bitterness, and conflict, depriving her of the 
sense and pleasure which she before felt in 
spiritual favours, so that this privation shall 
be one of the conditions essential for the 
spirit, in order that the spiritual form of the 1*^ 
spirit, which is the union of love, may be 

1 I. Corinth, xiii. n. 2 Eph iv. 24. 

a Rom. xii. 12. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

infused into, and united with, it. All which 
the Lord works on the soul by means of an 
absolute and obscure contemplation, as she 
herself declares in the first song. The which, 
although it is explained at the beginning of 
the first night of the sense, the soul chiefly 
intends it to apply to this second night of the 
spirit, inasmuch as it is the principal agent in 
bringing about her purification. And so, in 
this sense and to this end, we shall once 
more write it down and proceed with our 


Into the strange dark night 

With longing flaming into love, 

Oh happy chance ! 

I went, no eye to note, 

My house being hushed in sleep. 

TF we now take the meaning of this song 
to be purgation, contemplation, or naked 
ness or poverty of spirit, for, with scarce 
any difference, they amount to one and the 
same thing, we may expound it after the 
manner following, and say that the soul sings 
thus : in poverty and bereft of all cognitions 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

of my soul, that is, in the darkness of my un 
derstanding and constriction of my will, in 
affliction and agony of memory, being left in 
utter darkness to the sole guidance of Faith, 
which of herself is darkest night for the said 
natural powers, my will alone being touched 
with grief, mourning, and longing after the 
love of God, I went forth from out of myself ; 
that is, from my base material mode of under 
standing, and for my weak capacity for love, 
and from my poverty-stricken and grovelling 
fashion of tasting God, neither sensuality nor 
the Devil being able to bar the road. The 
which, for me, was a great happiness, and of 
blissful augury ; for when I had made an end 
of routing out, exterminating and silencing the 
powers, passions and affections of my soul, 
wherewith after a base and miserable fashion 
I had known and tasted of God, I went forth 
from out the converse and scanty exercises 
related, to the operations of, and converse 
with, God. That is to say, my understanding 
escaped from itself, being from human, trans 
muted into Divine ; because, being united with 
God by means of this purgation, it no longer 
perceives in the same limited and imperfect 
way as before, but by the Divine Wisdom 
wherewith it has been united. And my will 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

escaped from itself, making itself Divine : for, 
since it has now become one with Divine love, 
it loves no longer with the cribbed and con 
fined strength and vigour as of yore, but with 
the passionate strength and purity of the 
Divine Spirit ; and so, the will works no 
longer in respect of God after human fashion ; 
in exactly the same way as the memory is 
absolutely changed into eternal reflections and 
perceptions of glory. And finally, every 
energy and passion of the Soul by means of 
this night and the purgation of the old Adam 
are born afresh into Divine harmonies and 



T^HIS dark night is an influence from God 

upon the soul, which purges her of her 

ignorance and habitual imperfections, natural 

and spiritual, and is styled by contemplatives, 

infused contemplation or mythical theology, 

wherein God teaches the soul in secret, and 

instructs her in the perfect love, all act on her 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

part being limited to fixing her attention 
lovingly on God, listening to His voice and 
receiving the light He sends, without knowing 
what manner of thing this infused contempla 
tion is. Inasmuch as it is the benignant 
Wisdom of God, the which works particular 
effects upon the soul ; for, by purging and 
illuminating her, it disposes her for the union 
of love with God, where this most loving 
Wisdom herself, which purges the spirits of 
the blessed, by shining on them in their 
brightness, is she who now purges the soul 
and illuminates her. 

But the doubt presents itself, why does the ^^ 
soul apply such a term as dark night to the 
Divine light which, as we say, illuminates and 
purges her of her blindness ? Whereto it is 
answered, that in respect of two considera 
tions, this Divine Wisdom is not only night 
and darkness for the soul, but also pain and 
torment. The first is by reason of the altitude 
of the Divine Wisdom, which exceeds the 
comprehension of the soul, and is therefore 
dark as night to her. The second, because 
of her own baseness and impurity, and there 
fore it is to her noisome and grievous, and 
also dark. In order to prove the first, we 
must surmise a certain doctrine of the Philo- 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

sopher, who says, that inasmuch as Divine 
things are of themselves more clear and 
evident, so much the more are they darkness 
to, and naturally hidden from, the soul. In 
the same way the pupil of an owl sees less 
and becomes the more contracted in the light, 
the more brilliant it is, and the more boldly 
she looks into the eye of the sun, the more is 
her power of vision darkened, if not entirely 
extinguished, the light being too excessive for 
her weakness. Hence, when this Divine 
Light of Contemplation seizes upon the soul 
which, as yet, is not entirely illustrated and 
illuminated, it shrouds her in spiritual dark 
ness, for not only does it transcend her powers, 
but also obscures and deprives her of the 
action of her natural intelligence. And this is 
the cause why San Dionysius and other 
mystic theologians call this infused contempla 
tion a ray of darkness ; that is to say, for the 
non-illuminated and unpurged soul, because 
the natural strength of the intellect is van 
quished by its supernatural and stupendous 
light, and bereft of the action and the intellec 
tual energy which belongs to it. Wherefore 
David also said : Nubes, et caligo in circuitu 
ejus. 1 That darkness and cloud surrounds 

1 Psalm xcvi. 2. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and encompasses God : not because it is 
actually so, but by reason of our weak percep 
tions, which, unable to reach heights so 
sublime, are confounded and blinded by so 
immense a light. Wherefore David himself 
declared so, saying : Prae fulgore in conspectu 
ejus nubes transienint^ The thick clouds were 
pierced by reason of the great splendour of 
His presence ; that is to say, between God 
and our mind. And this is the reason, be 
cause, when God emanates from Himself to 
the soul which is not yet transformed, this 
translucent ray of His secret Wisdom en 
velops the understanding in deep clouds. 
And that this obscure contemplation is, also, 
at first, painful to the soul, is evident ; for, as 
this Divine infused contemplation possesses 
many excellencies supremely noble, and the 
soul which receives them, as she is not yet 
fully purged, is held back by many miseries ; 
hence it is, that as it is impossible for one 
subject to contain two opposites, the soul, 
perforce, must suffer pain and agony, she 
being the substance in which these two oppo 
sites are contained, which struggle one against 
the other, by reason of the purgation from the 
imperfections of the soul, which is accom- 

1 Psalm xvii. 13. 

129 K 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

plished through this contemplation. The 
which we will prove by induction in manner 
following : In respect of the first, since the 
light and wisdom of this contemplation is 
extremely clear and pure, and the soul 
whereon it seizes, dark and impure : hence it 
is, that it is most painful to her to receive it, 
like as when the eyes, if they are bleared and 
diseased, are hurt and injured by the striking 
on them of a radiant light; and this agony 
of the soul, on account of her impurity, is 
immense when, in very truth, this Divine 
Light reverberates upon her, for when this 
pure light shines upon her, to the end of 
expelling her impurities, she feels herself so 
impure and wretched that it seems to her that 
God is against her, and that she has become 
God s enemy. The which is such torture and 
affliction to the soul (since now, indeed, it 
seems to her that God has cast her oft), that 
one of the trials Job felt most keenly when 
God placed him in this exercise, was this 
saying: Quare posidsti me contrarium tibi> et 
factus sum mihimetipsi gravis f 1 Why hast 
thou made me Thy enemy, and I am a weight 
and burden to myself ? For as the soul now 
clearly sees her own impurity by means of 

1 Job vii. 20. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

this clear and pure light (although she is in 
darkness), she clearly perceives that she is / 
unworthy of God and of all creatures what 

And what torments her most is the fear 
that she will never be worthy, and that all 
her gains are for ever destroyed. The cause 
of this is the profound immersion the mind is 
plunged into in the knowledge and recognition 
of its own evilness and baseness. For, now, 
this Divine and obscure light sets it all before 
her eyes, that she may clearly see that, of 
herself, she can have nothing else. We may 
take this to be the meaning of this text of 
David, where he says : P ropier iniquitatem 
corripuisti hominein : et tabesccre fecisti sicut 
araneam animam ejus. 1 In respect of his in 
iquity didst thou chastise man, and madest 
his soul to consume even as the spider tears 
out her own bowels. The second way wherein 
the soul is afflicted, is by reason of her physical 
and spiritual weakness ; for as this Divine con 
templation seizes upon the soul with a certain 
force, to the end that it may gradually fortify 
and tame her, so deeply is she afflicted in her 
weakness that she almost swoons ; particu 
larly when, sometimes, it seizes upon her 

1 Psalm xxxviii. 12. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

with somewhat greater force ; because the 
sense and spirit, like as they lay crushed 
beneath some immense, mysterious weight, 
suffer torments and agony so great, that they 
would fain choose death itself as being a 
mitigation of their pain. The which having 
been experienced by the Holy Job, he said : 
Nolo multa fortitudine contendat mecum, ne 
magnitudinis sues mole me premat^ I beseech 
Him not to deal with me in His great strength, 
that I be not crushed under the weight 
of His greatness. For in the strength of this 
weight and oppression, the soul feels herself 
so far from being in favour, that it seems 
to her, as indeed it is, that even that wherein 
she was wont to find some support, has failed 
her with the rest, and that there is no one to 
take compassion on her. Which also is the 
meaning of the words of Job : Miseremini mei, 
miseremini mei, saltern vos, amid met, quia manus 
Domini tetigit me. 2 Take compassion on me 
have compassion on me, at least, oh you, my 
friends ! because the hand of the Lord has 
touched me. A mighty marvellous and pitiful 
thing, that the weakness and impurity of the 
soul should be so great, that the hand of the 
Lord, being of itself so benignant and so 

1 Job xxiii. 6. 2 Job xix. 21. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

tender, she finds it now so harsh and heavy, 
although it be not laid nor placed upon her 
heavily, only touches her most gently, and 
this in mercy, since it does so in order to 
shower upon her favours and not chas 


third manner of passion and agony 
that the soul now suffers, is by reason 
of other two extremes, to wit, the Divine and 
the Human, which^now become one. The 
Divine is this contemplative purgation, and 
the Human is the substance of the soul. For, 
as the Divine seizes upon her to the end that 
she may be seasoned and renewed so as to be 
made Divine, and stripped naked of the habitual 
propensities and properties of the old Adam, 
wherewith she is still closely joined, cemented 
and assimilated, after such a fashion does it 
grind and disintegrate her, sucking her down 
into darkness so profound, that she feels her 
self consumed and melted before the sight and 
aspect of her basenesses, in a cruel death of 
the spirit ; like as she were swallowed up in 
the darksome belly of some monster and felt 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

herself being crunched within its jaws, and 
suffers the same agonies as Jonah, in the belly 
of the whale. For, even so must she dwell 
in this sepulchre of darkest death, if she 
would awake to the spiritual resurrection that 
awaits her. The manner of this passion and 
grief, although in good truth, it is beyond 
conception, is described by David when he 
says : Circumdederunt me dolor es mortis dolor es 
inferni circumdederunt me in tribulatione mca 
invocavi Domimum^ et ad Deum meum clamavi^ 
The pains of death encompassed me, I was 
surrounded by the horrors of hell, I cried 
aloud in my anguish. But what this grief - 
stricken soul feels most of all, is the thought 
that God has most certainly forsaken her, and 
that in His loathing of her, He has cast her 
into the abyss of darkness, which is, for her, a 
grievous and pitiable suffering to believe that 
God has forsaken her. The which, also, 
David, in a like case, feeling deeply, says : 
Sicut vulnerati dormientes in sepulchris^ quorum 
non es memor amplius : et ipsi de manu tua 
repulsi sunt : posuerunt me in loco inferiori^ in 
tenebrosiS) et in umbra mortis : super me con- 
firmatus est furor ttms : et omnes fluctus tuos 
induxisti super me. 2 Like as wounded men lie 
1 Psalm xvii. 5, 6, 7. 2 Psalm Ixxxvii. 6. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


dead in sepulchres, from whom Thou hast 
lifted Thy hand, and of whom Thou hast no 
more memory : so placed they me in the deep 
and nethermost lake, in the darkness and 
shadow of death, and, therefore, Thy anger is 
confirmed upon me, and all Thy waves Thou 
lettedst loose upon me. For, truly, when 
this purgative contemplation constrains, the - 
soul feels the shadow of death and the groans 
and tortures of Hell, as if she saw them bodily 
before her, for Hell to her consists in feeling 
herself forsaken of God, and chastised and 
flung aside, and that He is outraged and 
wrathful, for all this she suffers now ; and 
furthermore, she is overcome by a direful 
terror that it is for ever. And she is haunted 
by this same sense of being forsaken and 
despised of all created people and things, 
particularly of her friends. For this reason 
it is that David goes on to say : Longe feciste 
notos mcos a me : posuerunt me abominationem 
sibi. 1 Thou didst turn away my friends and 
acquaintances from me, they held me for an 
abomination. To all which, as one who had 
likewise experienced it bodily and spiritually, 
Jonas testifies, in the following words : 
Projects ti me in profundum in cor tie maris, et 

1 Psalm Ixxxvii. 9. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

flumen circumdedit me : omnes gurgites tui, et 
fluctus tui super me transierunt. Et ego dixi : 
abjectus sum a conspectu oculorum tuorum : 
verumtamcn rursus videbo templum. Sanctum 
tuum : circumdederunt me aquce usque ad 
animam : abyssus vallavit me, pelagus operuit 
caput meum. Ad extrema montium descendi : 
terra vectes concluserunt me in aeternum^ Thou 
didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of 
the sea, and the flood surrounded me ; all its 
gulfs and waves passed over me, and I said : 
I am cast out from the presence of Thy eyes ; 
but I shall once more see Thy Holy Temple 
(the which he says, because the soul is now 
purified by God to perceive it) : the waters 
surrounded me, yea, to my very soul, the 
abyss girt me about, the sea covered my head, 
I descended to the roots of the mountains; 
the bolts of the earth shut on me for ever. 
By which bolts are here meant the imper 
fections of the soul, which hinder her from 
enjoying this delightful contemplation. 

A further excellency of this dark contem 
plation begets in the soul a fourth kind of 
grief, which is the Majesty and Grandeur of 
God, which gives rise in her to the other 
extreme therein contained, of her own intimate 

i Jon. ii. 4. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

poverty and wretchedness ; the which is one 
of the chiefest tortures she suffers in this 
purgation. For, she feels within herself a 
profound void and utter dearth of the three 
kinds of wealth which are ordered for her 
enjoyment, which are : temporal, physical, 
and spiritual ; and she sees herself plunged 
into the contrary evils, to wit : miserable 
trifles of imperfections, aridnesses and empti 
nesses of the perceptions of the faculties, and 
desolation of the spirit in darkness. For, 
inasmuch as God now purges the soul of her 
spiritual as well as her sensitive substance, of 
her interior as of her exterior powers, it is 
necessary that she be placed in emptiness 
and poverty and desertion on all sides, and be 
left parched, void, and empty and in darkness. 
For the sensitive part is purified by dryness, 
and the intellectual powers in the void of their 
cognitions, and the spirit in thick darkness. 
All which God effects by means of this obscure 
contemplation ; wherein, not only does the 
soul suffer the void and suspension of these 
her usual supports and perceptions, which is 
a kind of suffering most agonising (like as if a 
person were hung or suspended in the air, so 
that he could not breathe) but he also purges 
her, destroying or voiding or consuming 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

therein (like as fire works on the rust and 
tarnish of metals), from all the affections and 
imperfect habits she has contracted through 
out her life. And, forasmuch as they are 
deeply rooted in her, she suffers grave restless 
ness and interior torture, beside the said 
poverty, and physical and mental void. In 
order that the utterance of Ezekiel be here 
fulfilled, where he says ; Conger e ossa, qucs 
igne succendam : consumentur carnes, et coquetur 
universa compositio^ et ossa tabescent^ I will 
gather together the bones, and I will kindle 
them into fire, the flesh shall be consumed, 
and the whole mass seethed, and the bones 
shall crumble into dust. Whereby is shewn 
the torture the soul suffers in respect of the 
emptiness, and poverty she is in as to the 
sensitive and spiritual parts. And respecting 
this, he goes on to say : Pone quoque earn 
super prunas vacuam, ut incalescat, et liquefiat 
ess ejus : et confletur in medio ejus inquinamentum 
ejus, et consuinattir rubigo ejus." 1 Cast her 
likewise, empty as she, is upon the burning 
coals, so that she may wax hot and her hard 
ness be melted, and her foulness consumed in 
the midst of her, and her rust cleansed. 
Wherein is shown the passionate agony the 

1 Ezek. xxiv. 10. 2 Ezek. xxiv. n. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

soul endures in the purgation of the fire of T" 

this contemplation : for, as the prophet says 
here, that in order to purify and cleanse away 
the rust of the affections which remain in the 
centre of the soul, it is necessary that she 
herself, to a certain extent, should co-operate 
in this self-annihilation and disintegration, in so 
far as these passions and imperfections have 
become a part of her. Whence, in this 
furnace the soul is purified like as gold in the 
crucible, as the Wise man says : Tamquam 
aurmn in fornace probavit illos^ She feels this 
fearful breaking up in the innermost part of 
her with excessive sadness, wherein she feels 
herself, as it were, about to give up the ghost. 
As may be seen in what David says of himself 
in a like case, calling upon God in these words : 
Salvum ne fac Dens, quoniain intravcrnnt usque 
ad animam mcam. Infixus sum in liuwprofiindi: 
et non est substantia : vcni in altitudmem maris : 
ct tcinpcstas demersit me : laboravi damans 
rauca factcs sunt fauces meat : dcfeccrunt ocuh 
1/iei, dum spero in Deum mcum? Save me, 
O Lord, because the waters have entered 
even unto my soul ; I am stuck fast in the 
mire of the deep, and I can find no stay ; I 
sought the depths of the sea, and the tempest 

1 Sap. iii. 6. 2 Psalm Ixviii. i. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

swallowed me up ; I called aloud in my 
anguish, my throat waxed hoarse, my eyes 
closed even whilst I wait upon my God. 
Here God humilates the soul profoundly to 
exalt her greatly afterwards, and were He 
not to bid this grief when it swells within the 
soul, quickly to be still, in a very few days she 
must forsake the body; but the moments, 
wherein it makes itself felt in its most intense 
vitality, are intermittent. The which is some 
times so keen and piercing, that the soul 
bethinks her that she sees Hell and perdition 
open before her. For, of such as these, are 
they who, in very truth, go down to Hell in 
life, and are purged in this world as if in the 
purgatory of the next ; for this purgation, 
being a purgation from sins, however venial 
they may be, is like to that which must be 
accomplished there. And so the soul which 
passes through this purification and is left 
thoroughly purged, either does not enter into 
Hades, or stays not long there, for, in one hour 
of this earthly purgatory, she derives more 
benefit than in many there. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


>"pHE afflictions and conflicts of the will are 
now, also, infinite, and of such a 
nature that, sometimes, they transfix the soul 
with the sudden memory of the evil wherein 
she sees herself, and the uncertainty of the 
remedy. And to this is added the memory of 
former prosperity ; for these souls, when they 
enter into this night, have, as a rule, been 
accustomed to have many delights in God and 
to do Him great service, and this grieves 
them the more, to see that they are become 
strangers to this grace, and that they can no 
longer enter therein. This Job, as one who 
had experience thereof, also says, in these 
words: Ego ille quondam opulentus repente 
contritus sum : tenuit cervicem meant, confregit 
me, et posuit me sibi quasi in signum. Circum- 
dedit me lancets suis* convulneravit lumbos meos 
non pepercit, et effudit in terra viscera mea. Con- 
cidit me vulnere super vulnus, irruit in me quasi 
gigas. Saccum consul super cutem meam> et 
operui cinere carnem me am. Fades mea intumuit 
d fletUy et palpebrce mece caligaverunt. * I who 

1 Job xvi. 13. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

am he who was once wealthy and rich, of a 
sudden am I undone and contrite ; He seized 
me by the nape of the neck, He ground me, 
and set me as His mark to shoot at me, He 
surrounded me with His spears, He wounded 
me in every part of my loins, He pardoned 
not, He poured out my bowels on the ground, 
He broke me, and added wounds to wounds ; 
He seized me, as it were, a powerful giant, I 
sewed a sack upon my skin, and I covered my 
flesh with ashes ; my face is swollen with 
weeping and my eyes are blinded. Such and 
so great are the torments of this night, and so 
many are the authorities furnished by the 
Scriptures, which might be quoted in this 
connection, that were we to set them down, 
time and strength would fail us ; for, without 
doubt, all we can say, falls short ; from the 
quotations already given, some idea may be 
formed thereof. And to bring this line to an 
end, and set forth what this night is in the 
soul, I will repeat what Jeremiah thinks 
thereof, as follows : 

Ego vir videns paupertatem meam in virga 
indignationis ejus* Me minavit, et adduxit in 
tenebraSy et non in lucent. Tantum in me vertit> 
et convertit manum suam tota die. Vetustam 
fecit pellem meam, et carnem meam> contrivit 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

ossa mea. ALdificavit in gyro meo, et circum- 
dedit mefelle, et labore. In tenebrosis collocavit 
met quasi mortuos sempiternos. Circumcedificovit 
adversum me, ut non egrediar : aggravavit com- 
pcdem meuiii. Sed et cum clamavero, et rogavero, 
exclusit orationem mcam. Conclusit vias meets 
lapidibus quadris, semitas meas subvertit. Ursus 
insidians factus est mihi, leo in absconditis. 
Semitas meas subvertit, et confregit me : posuit 
me dcsolatam. Tetendit arcum suum, et posuit 
me quasi signum ad sagittam. Misit in renibus 
meis filias pharetrce sues. Factus sum in derisum 
oinni populo meo, canticum eorum tota die. 
Replevit me amaritudinibus, inebriavit me 
absyntJiioy et frcgit ad numerum denies meos, 
cibavit me, cinere. Et repulsa est a pace anima 
mea, oblitus sum bonorum, et dixi: Periit finis 
meus, et spes mea a Domino. Recordare pauper- 
tatis, et transgressionis mece, absynthii, et fellis : 
Memoria memor ero, et tabescet in me anima 


I am a man who see my vileness in the rod 
of his indignation ; He has threatened me and 
brought me into darkness, and not to light. 
He has turned and directed His hand upon me 
all day long, He made my skin and my flesh 
old, He ground my bones into dust: He 
1 Thren. iii. 4, et seq. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

besieged me round about, and surrounded me 
with gall and affliction ; He placed me in 
darkness, as those dead for ever. He laid 
His siege against me round about, so that I 
might not escape, He made fast my bonds. 
And likewise, when I have called and besought 
Him, He has excluded my prayer. He has 
barred up my ways and issues with square 
stones, He has confounded my steps. He 
posted His spies to lie in wait for me like a 
lion in his den. He confounded and broke me 
into bits, He made me to be forsaken ; He 
stretched His bow, and made me the mark of 
His arrow. He pierced my bowels with the 
daughters of His quiver. I am made a 
mockery to all people, a laughing stock, and a 
byeword to them all day long. He has filled 
me with bitterness, He has made me drunk 
with wormwood. He hath broken my teeth 
one by one, He fed me with ashes. My soul 
is cast out from peace, I am forgotten of 
all good. As I said, My end is brought 
to nought and finished, also my pretension 
and hope of the Lord. Remember my misery 
and my abundance, the wormwood and the 
gall. I must remember me as long as my 
memory endureth, and my soul shall melt for 
sorrow within me. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

All these lamentations Jeremiah makes over 
these tortures and conflicts, wherein he paints 
most vividly, the passions of the soul wherein 
she is plunged by this purgation and spiritual 
night. Hence it behoves us to have great 
compassion on the soul whom God sets in this 
fearful and horrible night. For although ex 
ceeding happiness accrues to her in respect of 
the great mercies which are to flow to her 
therefrom, when, as says Job, God shall raise 
up in the soul, from darkness the profoundest 
benefits, and the shadow of death shall 
generate light ; Qui revclat profunda de tenebris, 
et producit in lucem uinbram mortis ^ So that, 
as David says, its light shall become as great 
as was the darkness : Sicut tenebra ejus, ita 
et lumen ef us : z nevertheless, such is the un 
fathomable torture she continues to suffer, 
and the great uncertainty she feels of her 
remedy, as it seems to her (as the prophet 
here says), that her sufferings can never end, 
thinking as David likewise says : Collocavit me 
in obscuris strut mortuos scecidi? that God has 
placed her in a darkness as of those that have 
been long dead, and for this has He plunged 
her spirit within her into such anguish, and 

1 Job xil. 22. a Psalm cxxxviii. 12. 

3 Psalm cxlii. 4. 

M5 L 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

troubled her heart with such affliction ; she 
deserves, indeed, the greatest grief and pity. 
, For to this is added that she cannot, owing to 
V the solitude and desolation this night pro 
duces in her, find comfort or support in any 
teaching nor in any spiritual master. For 
however much he may try to shew her, by 
many ways, how great the reasons she has 
for rejoicing, in respect of the mercies con 
cealed within these tortures, she may not 
believe it. For, as she is so immersed and 
absorbed in this passionate sorrow for her 
own evil doings wherein she so clearly sees 
her vileness, she thinks that, as others do not 
see, what she sees and feels, they speak from 
lack of apprehension, and instead of comfort, 
rather doth she receive fresh grief, thinking 
that this is no remedy for her hurt, and, 
truly, she is right. For until the Lord makes 
an end of purging her, after the fashion He 
deigns to appoint, no means nor remedy will 
serve or avail to mitigate her grief. The 
more especially as the soul can do as little in 
this condition of terror as he who, bound 
hand and foot, is cast into a dark dungeon, 
unable to move or see, or to perceive any 
help from above or below, until, in this pur 
gation the spirit is softened, humbled, and 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

purified, and becomes so refined, simple, and 
rarified, as to be enabled to become one with 
the spirit of God, according to the degree of 
union of love His mercy vouchsafes to con 
cede ; for, in accordance with this, is the 
purgation more or less severe, or for a longer 
or shorter time. But, if it is to be a durable 
and lasting matter, howsoever great its 
severity, it endures for some years ; it being 
understood that, during them, there are in 
termissions and alleviations, in which by the 
dispensation of God, this obscure contempla 
tion ceases to afflict the soul after a purgative 
mode and fashion, but comes to her illumina- 
tively and lovingly, wherein, like a prisoner 
escaped from so noisome a dungeon and 
bondage, and set in the refreshment of space 
and liberty, she tastes and feels to the full, 
great suavity of peace and loving friendship 
with God with easy abundance of spiritual 
intercourse. The which is to the soul a sign 
of the salvation that the said purgation is 
working in her, and a presage of the abun 
dance that awaits her. And this even, at 
times, to such a degree, that at last the soul 
thinks that all her trials are fairly ended. 
For spiritual things in the soul are of this 
nature, when they are most purely spiritual ; 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

that when her trials return, she thinks that 
she shall never escape therefrom, and that 
now, indeed, there is an end to all her 
treasures, as has been seen from the passages 
already quoted ; and when her spiritual 
treasures are renewed, she likewise thinks 
that her labours are over, and that her 
treasures will never again fail her, like David 
who, seeing himself in a like case, confessed 
it saying : Ego autem dixi in abundantia mea, 
non movebor in ceternuni?- I said in my abun 
dance : henceforth I shall never be moved. 
And this befalls, because the actual, mental 
possession of one contrary, of itself stirs up 
the actual possession of, and sorrow for, the 
other contrary ; the which does not so much 
affect the sensitive part of the soul, because 
its apprehension is weak. But be it as it 
may, if the spirit is not yet thoroughly purged 
and cleansed of the tendencies contracted by 
the inferior part, although it has acquired 
greater consistency and firmness ; but, foras 
much as it is still affected by them, so is it 
subject to greater suffering, like as we see 
that David was afterwards changed by ex 
periencing great hurt and sorrow, although in 
the season of his abundance he had thought 
1 Psalm xxix. 7. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and said that he would never be moved. So 
the soul, as then she sees herself supported 
with this abundance of spiritual wealth, not 
being able to perceive the root of imperfection 
and impurity that still remains, thinks that 
her trials are ended. But this thought occurs 
but seldom ; for, until the spiritual purification 
is completed, her sweet intercourse with God 
is very seldom so abundant as to hide the 
root left behind, in such a way that it does 
not make itself perceptible to her in her most 
inward part, as somewhat, I know not what, 
amissing, or still to be accomplished, which 
does not allow her to rejoice to the full in this 
alleviation, feeling there within, as it were, 
an enemy, who, although apparently quiescent 
and asleep, is to be feared lest he should 
come back to life and play his former pranks. 
And so it is, that when the soul is most 
secure, he again swallows and absorbs her 
in another stage still more cruel, dark, and 
pitiful than the last, the which shall, per- 
adventure, last another and a longer time 
than the first. And again, the soul ends by 
persuading herself that she is bereft for good 
of all her treasures. For her past experience 
of the former good she enjoyed after her first 
conflict, wherein she likewise thought that 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

nought but suffering was in store for her, 
doth not suffice to shake her belief that in 
this second degree of affliction, all has, at 
length, come to an end, and shall not return, 
as it did before. For, as I say, this belief, so 
strongly rooted, is produced in the soul by 
the immediate apprehension of the mind, 
which extinguishes in her everything that can 
cause her joy. And thus, the soul set in this 
purgation, although it seems to her that she 
loves God and would give for Him a thousand 
lives (as is indeed the truth, for in these 
conflicts these souls love their God in 
desperate earnest) ; withal this is no miti 
gation of her torture, rather doth it increase 
her grief, for as she loves Him so entirely as 
to care for nothing else, yet as she perceives 
her own utter wretchedness, full of doubt 
and fear as to whether God loves her or not, 
and not being certain for the time being that 
she is worthy to be loved, but rather to be 
loathed, not only of Him, but of every 
creature for ever, she mourns to see in her 
self reasons wherefore she deserves to be 
flung aside by Him she so ardently loves and 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


T N this state there is something else which 
greatly troubles and distresses the soul, 
and it is that, as this dark night deprives her 
of her powers and inclinations, she cannot, as 
before, raise her mind or affection to God, nor 
can she pray to Him, it seeming to her, as to 
Jeremiah, that God has placed a cloud before 
her eyes on purpose that no prayer of hers 
shall pierce it : Opposuiste nubem tibi, ne 
transcat oratio.^ For this means what the 
Scripture we have quoted says : Conclusit vias 
meas lapidibus quadris. 2 He blocked my issues 
with square stones. And if sometimes she 
prays, it is with such dryness and want of 
fervour, that she thinks God does not hear 
her nor give heed, as the prophet also shews 
in the same text, saying : Sed et cum clamavero, 
et rogavero, exclusit orationem meant? When 
I cried out and besought Him, He shut out 
my prayer. In truth, as Jeremiah says, this 
is the time to bow down her mouth into the 
dust : Ponet in pulvcre os suum* and to suffer 
with patience her purgation. God Himself it 

1 Thren. iii. 44. a ibid. No. 8. 

3 Ibid. No. 8. 4 Ibid. No. 29. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

is who is now working in the soul ; therefore 
she herself can do nothing. Whence she can 
neither pray nor fix her attention to any 
purpose on the Divine matters she takes part 
in, any more than she can, in any other 
matter appertaining to temporal things and 
intercourse ; nor is this all, for ofttimes she is 
overtaken by such absences of mind, such 
profound lapses of memory, that for long 
intervals together, she is unconscious of what 
she did or thought, or what she is doing or is 
about to do, nor can she concentrate her 
attention, in spite of all her efforts, on any 
thing she is engaged upon. 

Forasmuch as not only, in this state, is the 
understanding purged of its imperfect know 
ledge and the will of its affections, but also 
the memory of its ideas and speculations, so 
must the soul, likewise, become dead to them 
all, so that what David says of himself in this 
purgation may be fulfilled : Et ego ad nihilum 
redactus sum, et nesciviJ* I was brought to 
nought, and I knew not. The which extinc 
tion of knowledge extends to these dulnesses 
and lapses of memory, the which states of 
loss of consciousness and absences of mind 
are caused by the interior gathering inward 

1 Psalm Ixxii. 22. 

V I 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

of the faculties, and the total absorption ot 
the soul in contemplation. For, in order that 
the soul and her powers may be disposed and 
Divinely attuned for the Divine Union of 
Love, it was needful that she with all her 
faculties should first be absorbed into this 
Divine and obscure spiritual light of contem 
plation, and be thus withdrawn from all 
affections and knowledge of the creature, 
the duration whereof is measured by its in 
tensity. And so, the more purely and 
absolutely this Divine light shines upon the 
soul so much the more does it darken, and 
empty, and annihilate her in respect of her 
particular conceptions and affections, whether 
of things above or below. And likewise, 
when it shines upon her less clearly and 
purely, so much the less does it suspend her 
and the less obscure it is. For, it seems in 
credible to assert that the supernatural and 
Divine light darkens the soul the more, the 
more lucid and pure it is ; and in so far as its 
translucency and purity is less, so is its 

The which we can the more fully under 
stand if we consider the proof given above in 
the maxim of the philosopher, to wit, that 
supernatural things are so much the more 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

obscure to our minds, inasmuch as of them 
selves, they are the more clear and evident. 
And so, when the ray of this sublime con 
templation touches the soul with its light 
Divine, so in the same proportion as it tran 
scends the natural capacity of the soul herself, 
doth it darken and deprive her of all her 
natural affections and conceptions, which 
before, by means of her physical enlighten 
ment, she apprehended. Wherewith not 
only does it leave her in darkness, but like 
wise empty as regards her powers and 
appetites, spiritual as well as natural. For 
like as a ray of light, if it is pure and meets 
with no object in its course whence it is 
scattered or reverberated, is almost imper 
ceptible, and is most clearly seen in its rever 
beration or reflection ; so this spiritual light 
wherein the soul is steeped, by reason of its 
excessive purity, is not of itself so distinctly 
perceptible or visible ; yet when it is shattered 
or reverberated from some object, that is, 
/when anything specially relating to perfection 
\J is presented to the mind or it is called upon 
to judge and decide between what is false or 
true ; it at once perceives and understands it 
with infinitely more clearness than before she 
passed through this darkness. And so pre- 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

cisely in the same way doth she know the 
spiritual light she possesses, which enables 
her to recognize with ease the imperfection 
that is placed before her : like as the ray is 
not of itself so clearly to be seen, yet if a 
hand or anything else intercepts its course, 
the hand is at once seen, and we know that 
the light of the sun was resting on it. 
Whence, in respect of the simplicity, purity, 
and all embracing nature of this spiritual 
light, untainted and unrestricted to any 
intelligible particular, natural or Divine (since, 
in regard to all these conceptions the powers 
of the soul are void and null), the soul knows 
and penetrates with an all embracing facility 
whatsoever earthly or celestial thing is placed 
before her ; for which reason the Apostle 
said : Spiritus enim omnia scrutator, etiam pro- 
funda Dei. 1 For the spiritual man penetrateth 
all things, even to the depths of God. For it 
is of this all embracing and absolute Wisdom 
that the Holy Ghost speaks through the 
mouth of the Sage : Attingit autcm ubique 
propter snam munditiam? That it goeth 
where it listeth on account of its extreme 
purity : to wit, because it is not restricted to 
any intelligible particular or affection. And 
i ad Cor. ii. 10. 2 Sap. vii. 24. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

this is the property of the spirit, purged and 
emptied of all particular affections and intelli- 
gencies, for in this total absence of delight in, 
and lack of intellectual knowledge of, any 
particular, abiding in her emptiness, obscurity, 
and darkness, she embraces all things most 
powerfully, so that therein the words of St. 
Paul may be mystically verified : Nihil 
liabentes, et omnia possidentes? For such is 
the blessedness due to a poverty of spirit so 


TT remains, then, here to declare that this 
blissful night, although it casts the spirit 
into darkness, does so solely in order to en 
lighten it in all things ; and although it 
humbles and abases it, it is solely in order to 
exalt and give it freedom ; and although it 
impoverishes and empties it of all natural 
possessions and affections, it is solely to 
enable it to stretch Divinely forth to full en 
joyment and delight in all things whether of 

1 2 Cor. vi. 10. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

heaven or earth, in the absolute possession 
of an all embracing liberty of spirit in all 
things. For, like as the elements, in order to 
be united in all bodily beings and compounds, 
must not be affected with any particular 
quality of colour, smell, nor taste, so that all 
concur therein in all savours, odours, and 
colours, so must the spirit be simple, pure, 
and denuded of all manner of bodily affections 
and tendencies, whether actual or habitual, 
before she can converse with freedom with 
the vast expanse of the spirit of Divine Wis 
dom, wherein on account of her cleanness 
she tastes all the savours of all things with a 
sure sort of excellence. And without this 
purgation, in no way whatsoever can she feel 
and taste the satisfaction of this surpassing 
abundance of spiritual savours. For if she 
clings to one single affection even, or any 
particular thing (habit) whereto the spirit 
cleaves occasionally or habitually, it is enough 
to debar her from feeling, tasting, or receiving 
the exquisite delicacy and intimate savour of 
the spirit of love, which in itself most pre 
eminently contains all savours. 

For, like as the sons of Israel, merely because 
they still clung to one single affection and 
memory of the flesh meats they had relished 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

in Egypt, could not enjoy the delicate bread 
of angels in the desert, which was the Mana, 
the which as Divine Scripture says, pos 
sessed the suavity of all savours, and was 
converted into that taste which each one 
loved ; so neither can the spirit which still 
conserves the taint of some occasional or 
habitual affection or specific knowledge, or 
any other limited conception, draw nigh to 
taste the delights of the spirit of liberty in 
that degree the Will desires. The reason of 
this is, because the affections, emotions, and 
conceptions of the perfect spirit, inasmuch as 
they are so noble and most particularly 
Divine, are of another sort and kind so 
different from the physical, that, in order to 
possess the former immediately and habitu 
ally, the latter must be destroyed. Thus it is 
above all things imperative and necessary, if 
the soul is to scale these heights of glory, 
that her baseness be destroyed and dissolved 
in this dark night of contemplation, she being 
set into the dark abyss, parched, alone, and 
empty; because the light that is to be given 
to her, is a Divine light of the utmost sub 
limity which transcends all natural light, and 
cannot be naturally compassed by the mind. 
And therefore, if the mind is to be enabled to 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

draw nigh to unite itself with this light, and 
make itself Divine in the state of perfection, 
it must first be purged and its physical light 
destroyed, by being, for the time, plunged in 
darkness by means of this obscure contem 
plation. In the which darkness it must dwell 
for so long as shall be necessary to destroy 
the h^bit which it has formed and clung to 
for so long in its mode of understanding, and 
its place be filled by the Divine Illumination 
and light. And so, inasmuch as the strength 
of understanding it possessed before is 
natural ; hence it follows that the darkness 
it suffers in this night is profound and hor 
rible, and most grievous, since it is felt and 
touched in the uttermost depths of the spirit. 
In precisely the same way forasmuch as the 
love longing which is to be given her in the^ 
Divine Union is Divine, and for that reason 
extremely spiritual, subtle, fine, and delicate, 
and most intimately interior, since it trans 
cends all natural and imperfect affection, 
tendency, and emotion of the will, and all 
its desires, must the will, if it is to be 
enabled to taste this Divine affection and 
so sublime delight in the union of love, first 
be purged and annihilated in all its affections 
and emotions, and be left parched and 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

anguished, so long as it retains the slightest 
trace of the natural tendencies whereto it has 
become habituated, not only in respect of the 
Divine but of the human. So that, by being 
extenuated, withered up, and delivered in the 
fire of this obscure contemplation, from the 
domination of all its physical thoughts and 
desires it acquires (like the heart of the fish 
set by Tobias on the burning embers) a pure 
and simple disposition, and the palate is 
purged and made whole in order to feel the 
sublime and marvellous touches of the Divine 
love, wherein she shall see herself Divinely 
transformed, all occasional and habitual 
oppositions she felt before, being finally 
expelled. Moreover, as the soul, if she is to 
enter into the Divine Union whereto she is 
disposed by this dark night, must be filled 
with and endowed with a certain glorious 
magnificence in her intercourse with God, 
which enshrines innumerable treasures and 
delights which exceed the utmost abundance 
that the soul is naturally able to possess (for 
as Isaias and St. Paul say : Oculus non vidit, 
nee auris audivit, nee in cor hominis ascendit, 
quce preparavit Deus Us qui diligunt eum. i 
Neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor 

1 Isaiah Ixiv. 4. Cor. 29. 
1 60 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

heart conceived what God hath prepared for 
those who love Him) ; the soul must be first 
placed in emptiness and poverty of spirit, . 
by being purged of all support, comfort, and <!/ 
natural conception as to all things above and 
below, so that she, being thus empty, may be 
poor of spirit, and stripped of the old Adam, 
in order to live this new and blessed life 

whereto she attains by means of this dark 
night, which is the state of union with God. 

And forasmuch as the soul is, at last, 
destined to acquire a surpassingly noble and 
delightful sense and perception of all things 
Divine and human, which doth not fall within 
her ordinary sensations and knowledge (be 
cause she regards them with eyes as different 
from that they were before, as is the differ 
ence between the light and grace of the Holy 
Ghost and the senses, and the Divine and the 
human), the spirit must become etherealized 
and hardened as to the ordinary and bodily 
sensations ; and so, by means of this purga 
tive contemplation, it is placed in intense 
anguish and conflict, and every friendly and 
pleasant impression banished from the 
memory with a most profound sensation and 
interior conviction of having travelled far 
away from, and become a stranger to, all 
161 M 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

things, wherein it seems to her that all 
are foreign to her and changed from what 
they were. Because this is the way this 
night continues to withdraw the spirit from 
its usual and ordinary and wonted senti 
ment of things, in order to bring it to 
the Divine sense, the which is remote and 
alien from all human ways, so much so, 
indeed, that it seems to the soul she is beside 
herself and wandering far away in unknown 
regions. At others she wonders whether she 
be not under the spell of some enchantment, 
or dazzlement ; and she goes about rapt 
in astonishment at the things she sees and 
hears, which seem to her most wonderful and 
strange, although they are the same whereof 
she was frequently wont to discourse. The 
reason being that the soul is already becom 
ing aloof and alien to her usual senses and 
ideas respecting things, to the end that, she 
being deadened to them, may be instructed in 
those Divine, which belong more to the other 
life than this. All these afflicting purgations 
of the spirit the soul suffers, in order that she 
may be regenerated in the life of the spirit by 
means of this Divine influence, and through 
these dolorous pains, at last, give birth to the 
spirit of Salvation, so that the sentence of 

) !%*V-f 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

Isaiah may be fulfilled which says : Sic facti 
sumns d facie tua, Domine. Concepimus, et 
quasi parturivimus* et peperimus spiritum. 
From Thy face, O Lord, we conceived, and 
were as one with pains of travail, and we 
gave birth to the spirit of Healing. Besides 
this, since by means of this contemplative 
night, the soul is disposed to arrive at interior 
tranquillity and peace, which is of such a 
nature and so delightful that, as the Scripture 
says, it exceeds all sense : it is necessary for 
her that all her former peace (the which, as 
it was swathed in so many imperfections, 
was not peace, although seeing that she pro 
ceeded to her taste she thought it was peace, 
peace twice told that is, of the sense and of 
the spirit) be first purged, and she herself 
delivered from, and plunged into tribulation 
on account of this imperfect peace : like as 
Jeremiah felt and wept for in that text of his 
we quoted, of set purpose, to set forth the 
trials of this past night, saying : Repulsa est d 
pace anima mca. 1 My soul is delivered and 
repelled from peace. This is a grievous con 
fusion of many fears, imaginings and conflicts 
which the soul wages within herself, wherein 
her perception of, and grief for, the wretched- 

1 Thren. iii. 17. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

ness in which she sees herself, brings her to 
suspect that she is lost, and her favours for 
ever ended. Hence it is that so profound a 
dolour^ and groaning entered into the spirit 
that it makes it burst forth into deep groans 
and spiritual clamours, sometimes giving vent 
to loud cries and dissolving into tears when 
there is strength and virtue to do so ; 
although this relief comes but seldom. The 
Royal Prophet David has expressed this 
marvellous well, as one who had, in such 
good sooth, experienced it, in one of his 
Psalms saying : Afflictus sum, et humiliatns 
sum nimis: rugiebam a gemitu cordis met. 1 I 
was deeply afflicted and humiliated, I roared 
with the groan of my heart. The which 
roaring is a most dolorous thing ; because, 
sometimes, with the sudden and acute recol 
lection of her own wretchedness, the soul 
feels such dolour and grief, that I know not 
how it may be expressed, save by the simile 
that Holy Job, when he was in the same con 
flict, sets forth in the following words : Tarn- 
quam immdantes aqu<z sic rugitus meus. Like 
as the rushing forth of great waters, so is my 
bellowing. For like as rivers in full flood 
submerge and overflow all before them, so 

1 Psalm xxxvii. 9. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

doth this roaring and the pangs of the soul 
wax so great that, inundated and utterly 
overwhelmed, she is filled with unspeakable 
anguish and dolour. Such is the operation 
worked on her by this night, which hides 
from her all hope of dawn. For, as Job again 
says concerning this : Nocte os meum per- 
foratur doloribus : et qui me comcdunt, non 
dormiunt* l By night is my mouth pierced 
with grief, and they who devour me sleep 
not. By the mouth is here meant the will, ^ 
the which is pierced by these pains which 
neither slumber nor sleep in their laceration 
of the soul, because the doubts and dreads 
which so transfix her never cease. 

Profound and vast is this battle and combat, 
since the peace that awaits her shall be most 
deep ; and spiritual grief is internal and 
rarified and searching, because the love she 
shall in time possess, must also be most 
internal and searching. For, inasmuch as the 
work is to be the more elaborate and ex 
quisite, so much the more exquisite, elaborate 
and skilful must be the workmanship, and so 
must the foundation be more deeply laid, the 
longer the building is to last. Wherefore, as 
Job says, the soul is withered within herself, 

1 Psalm xxxvii. 9. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

and her bowels waxed clamorous without any 
hope : Nunc autem in memetipso marscescit 
anima mea, et possident me dies afflictionis^ So 
in precisely the same way, when the soul is 
destined to possess and rejoice in the state 
of perfection (whereto she journeys by means 
of this purgative night), in innumerable graces 
of gifts and virtues (as well in respect of the 
essence of the soul as of her faculties), so 
must she first see and feel herself an alien to, 
and bereft of them all ; and be convinced that 
she is at such a distance from them, that she 
shall never persuade herself that she will end 
by attaining them, but that all good, for her, 
is at an end. As Jeremiah, also, gives us to 
understand in the same text, when he says : 
Oblitus sum bonorum? I am forgotten of 

But now let us see why, as this light of 
contemplation is so soft and pleasant to the 
soul, as to fulfil all her desires (for, as hath 
been shown above, it is the same light 
wherewith the soul must be finally united and 
find therein all treasures in the state of per 
fection she hath longed for), it causeth her, 
when it first seizeth upon her, these grievous 
beginnings and searching effects we have 
i Job xxx. 16. 2 Thren. iii. 17. 

1 66 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

here described. It is a question easily to be 
answered, by repeating what has, already, 
partly been said, and it is, that the cause 
thereof is, that although there is nothing in 
Contemplation and Divine Infusion, which, of 
itself, can give her pain (rather great suavity 
and delight, which shall, afterwards, be given 
to her), yet the weakness and imperfection 
which still clings to her, and her own inherent 
tendencies so opposed thereto, prevent her 
from receiving this suavity and sweetness. 
And therefore, she is seized upon and en 
veloped by the Divine light, it causes her to 
suffer in the way we have described. 


the greater clearness of what has 
gone before and of what still remains 
to be said, it must now be noted that this 
purgative and loving knowledge or Divine 
Light we speak of, acts on the soul, by 
purging and preparing her in order to unite 
her perfectly with itself, in the same way as 
doth fire on wood, so as to transform it into 
itself ; /for the first act of material fire, on 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

reaching the wood, is to dry it, forcing the 
damp outwards, and making the inward 
moisture to fall forth in drops. Then it pro 
ceeds to blacken, discolour, and disfigure it, 
until having gradually dried and seasoned it, 
it makes it glow with light, and expels from 
it all those ugly and obscure properties which 
at first opposed the action of the fire. And 
finally, as the fire gradually kindles the outer 
parts, and fills them with its heat, it ends at 
last by transmuting it into itself and trans 
figuring it into its own essential beauty. The 
which being done, all action or energy proper 
to the wood itself ceases (leaving only the 
bulk and weight thereof less ethereal than 
that of fire), since it now possesses of itself 
the properties and motions of fire, for after 
being thoroughly dried, it becomes heated ; 
and being heated, it gives forth heat ; it is 
lucid and sheds out light ; its weight is much 
less than before, the fire having accomplished 
in it these properties and effects. After this 
fashion, then, must we philosophise concern 
ing this Divine fire of love of contemplation, 
which, before it joins and transforms the soul 
into itself, first purges her of all her ^ opposite 
accidents. It drives out her deformities, so 
that she seems worse than before. For as 
1 68 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

this Divine purge continues to remove all evil 
and vicious humours, which by reason of their 
being so rooted and fixed in the soul, she 
failed to perceive, and so knew not that so 
much evil existed within her ; so now, in 
order that they may be cast forth and utterly 
consumed they are set before her eyes and 
she sees them so clearly in the illumination of 
this obscure light of Divine contemplation 
(although she is no worse than before, either 
as regards herself or God), that as she per 
ceives within herself what before she saw 
not, it seems to her that she is such, that not 
only is she not fit for God to look upon her, 
but that He must hold her in loathing, 
and that at last He hates her. By this com 
parison we may now understand many things 
in respect of what we now state and are 
about to state. 

In the first place, we are able to understand 
how and in what manner the same light and 
loving wisdom which shall finally unite and 
transform the soul into itself, is the same 
which, in the beginning, purges and prepares 
her ; like as the fire, which transforms the 
wood into itself, by becoming a bodily part of 
it, is one and the same with that which first 
prepared and seasoned it to receive the action. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

In the second place, we shall see, why the 
soul does not look upon these sufferings as 
proceeding from the Divine Wisdom, for as 
says the Wise Man : Venerunt aiitein mihi 
omnia bona pariter cum illasl All benefits to 
gether came to the soul therein ; but from 
her own inherent weakness and imperfection 
which, without this purgation, did not admit 
of her receiving this Divine Light, softness 
and delight (like as the wood which cannot 
be transformed immediately the fire is put 
thereto, but must first be prepared and 
seasoned, and therefore she undergoes great 
suffering. The which also the Preacher 
approves, setting forth the sufferings he 
underwent to the end that he might, at 
last, be united with, and enjoy this Light, in 
the following words : Venter meus conturbatus 
est quccrendo illani : propterea bonam possidcbo 
possessionem.* My soul anguished therein, and 
my bowels were discomfited in the acquiring 
it, therefore I shall possess a glad possession. 

Iln the third place, we may hence deduce, 
in passing, the kind of torture suffered by 
those in purgatory. For fire would be 
powerless against them, if they were abso 
lutely fit to reign and be united with God in 

1 Sap. vii. ii. 2 Eccles. li. 29. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

glory, and had no sins to punish, which is 
the matter whereon the fire there seizes, the 
which being consumed, there is nothing left 
to burn. Likewise here, when once the im 
perfections have been consumed, the suffer 
ings of the soul are ended, leaving her to 
rejoice in such sort as this mortal life 
admits of. 

In the fourth place, we shall hence deduce 
how the soul in the like measure as she is 
gradually purged and purified by means of 
this fire of love, becomes more and more 
inflamed therein ; just as the seasoning and 
preparation of the wood keeps pace with the 
increase of the heat. Although this kindling 
of love is not always perceptible to the soul, 
save at those times when contemplation fails 
to seize upon her so forcibly, for, then the 
soul has space to see and, even, to rejoice in 
the work which is being performed, because 
the purpose of her sufferings is revealed to 
her, and they seem to pause a moment from 
their task, and withdraw the red-hot iron 
from the furnace, as if to shew the progress 
they have come to in their labours, and then 
the soul has time and opportunity to see her 
own improvement, which she saw not when 
the work was still going on. So, likewise, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

when the flame ceases to lick the wood, it 
affords a chance of observing how far the fire 
hath spread. 

In the fourth place, we shall also deduce 
from this comparison what has above been 
said, to wit, how true it is that after these 
intermissions the soul is replunged into 
suffering still more intense and exquisitely 
painful than before. For after she has re- 
received this proof, and when, at last, the 
more exterior imperfections have been puri 
fied, the fire of love once more seizes upon 
that which still remains to purify, and con 
sumes it to the heart. Wherein the suffering 
of the soul is so much the more searching, 
subtle, and spiritual the more it proceeds to 
refine and penetrate those imperfections 
which are most elusive, rarefied, and spiritual ; 
and most firmly rooted in the innermost part. 
And this happens after the same fashion as 
with the wood, when the fire, as it makes 
its way to the interior parts thereof, proceeds 
with greater force and fury so as to season it 
to the heart and take absolute possession. 

In the sixth place, we shall deduce that, 

although the soul enjoys great and intensely 

eager delight in these intervals (to such a 

degree, that, as we said, she thinks at times, 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

that her trials shall never return (although 
it is most certain that they shall return most 
quickly), yet she feels, if she is in any way 
observant (and at times it forces itself upon 
her attention), that some fibrous root is left 

which hinders her from feeling this delight in 

^-7 } 
all its bounty ; for it seems as if it threatened 

to seize upon her once more, and when this is 
so, it soon returns. In short, that which still 
remains to be purged and illuminated more 
interiorly, cannot well be hidden from the 
soul on account of the purification she has 
already undergone ; like also as in the wood, 
the difference between the innermost part 
which still remains to be enlightened, and 
that which has been already purged is ex 
ceedingly apparent ; and when this purification 
again proceeds to attack the more secret 
parts, one cannot marvel that the soul should 
think once more that all her mercies have 
come to an end, and that she dare no longer 
hope to recover her treasures, since, plunged 
in more interior emotions, all the more 
outward good effects are hidden from her. 
Bearing, then, this comparison in sight to 
gether with the explanation already given of 
the first line of the first song of this dark 
night and its terrible properties, it will be 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

well to bid farewell to these sad matters of 
the soul, and now begin to treat of the fruit of 
her tears and of their happy qualities, whereof 
the soul begins to sing from this second line. 



T N this line the soul gives us to understand 
the fire of love that we have spoken of, 
which after the fashion of the material fire on 
the wood, proceeds to enflame and kindle her 
in this night of contemplation. The which 
kindling, although it is in a certain way like 
unto that we have above set forth, which 
took place in the sensitive part of the soul, is, 
in some manner, as different from this she 
now speaks of as is the soul from the body 
or the spiritual part from the sensitive. Be 
cause this is a kindling of love in the spirit, 1 

1 Let the reader always remember that " spirit " is 
equivalent to the intellectual mind. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

wherein, in the midst of these obscure con 
flicts, the soul feels herself sharply and 
acutely wounded by a powerful and irresis 
tible Divine love, together with a certain feel 
ing and indistinct presage of God, apart from 
any specific knowledge or indication ; for, as 
we say, the mind is in darkness. 

In this state the impassioned spirit feels the 
most ardent longings of love ; because this 
spiritual kindling transforms love into passion. 
For inasmuch as this love is infused in a 
special way, the soul concurs in it with 
greater passivity, and so it engenders in her 
a strong emotion of love. And this love, at 
length, begins to contain somewhat of the 
most perfect union with God ; and so shares 
to a certain extent in its properties, the which 
are more especially acts of God rather than 
received by the soul herself in her interior, 
whereto she gives her absolute and amorous 
consent. But it is the love of God alone 
which is in process of being united with her, 
which makes adhere to her this heat and 
force, temper and passion of love or blazing 
forth as the soul now calls it. The which 
love finds so much the more room and dis 
position in the soul to unite with, and to 
wound her, the more it hath shut, alienated, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and incapacitated all her appetites from the 
J power to take delight in anything of Heaven 
or earth. The which in this dark purgation, 
as has been said, happens on a large scale, 
since God has so weaned and gathered 
together the powers, that they may not relish 
anything they were fain to. All which God 
does to the end that, as He hath withdrawn 
and gathered them all together for Himself, 
the soul may have greater strength and 
capacity to receive this strong Union of Love 
of God, which through this purgative remedy, 
He, at length, begins to give her, wherein 
she is called upon to love with all her strength 
and sensitive desires ; the which could not be 
if they were scattered abroad in the search of 
some other enjoyment. Wherefore so that 
David might be enabled to receive the force 
of love in this Union of God, He said to him : 
Fortitudinem meam ad te custodiam. 1 My 
strength I will keep for thee : that is, the 
J entire capacity and desires and strength of my 
powers, having no will to employ their 
^activity or taste in any other thing save Thee. 
From this, we may, after some fashion, 
estimate how strong and fierce must this 
kindling of love in the spirit be, where God 

1 Psalm Iviii. 10. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

holds gathered in all the forces, powers, and 
desires of the soul, spiritual as well as sensi 
tive, so that, blending into one harmonious 
whole, they employ all their virtue and 
vitality on this love, that so the first precept 
may be complied with, in very truth and in 
the utmost perfection, which, not rejecting 
from this love anything of man nor excluding 
anything he hath, says : Thou shalt love thy 
God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, 
with all thy soul, and with all thy strength : 
Diliges Dominum Deuin tnum ex toto corde 
tuo, et tota anima tua> et ex tota fortitudine 
tua. 1 

All the appetites and powers of the soul, 
being now folded inwards in this bursting 
forth of love, the soul having been wounded 
and chastened in regard to all of them, and 
aflame with love ; what may we understand 
shall be the motions and tendencies of all 
these powers and appetites, when they see 
themselves ablaze and wounded with over 
powering and unsatisfied love, in darkness 
and doubt thereof, surely suffering a keener 
hunger as their experience of God enlarges ? 

For the touch of this love and fire Divine 

W s) 
dries up the spirit in such a fashion and sets 

1 Deut. vi. 5. 

177 N 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

light to the longings that consume to such a 
degree that, to quench its thirst, it wanders 
restlessly to and fro, and longs for God after 
a thousand ways and manners, with that 
greed and fierce desire which David in his 
Psalm so well sets forth saying : Sitivit in te 
anima mea : qudm multipliciter libi caro mea. 1 
My soul thirsted for Thee : how often after 
many ways doth my flesh ache after Thee : 
that is, in desire. And another translation 
saith : My soul thirsted for Thee, my soul 
perisheth because of Thee. 

This is the reason why the soul says in the 
verse: " With heart ache kindled into love." 
Because in all her affairs and thoughts that 
she revolves within herself, and in all the 
businesses and matters put before her, she 
loves in many ways, and desires and 
languishes with desire after the same fashion 
as did David in many ways, in all times and 
places, able to find rest in nothing, tormented 
by this burning longing and mortal wound, 
like as St. Job gives us to understand, saying : 
Sicut cervus desiderat mnbram, et sicut mer- 
cenarius prcestolatur finem operis sui : sic et ego 
habui menses vacuos, et noctes laboriosas 
emnneravi mihi. Si dormiero^ dicam quando 
1 Psalm Ixii. 2. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

consurgam ? et rursum extectabo vesper-am, et 
replebor doloribus usque ad tencbras. l Like as 
the hart desireth the shade, and the hireling 
the end of his labour, so were the months 
void to me, and I counted the weary and 
laborious nights. If I lay me down to sleep 
I shall say : When shall I rise ? and imme 
diately I shall hope for the evening, and I 
shall be full of grief until the night fall. For 
such a soul everything on earth becomes all 
too narrow, she cannot contain herself, neither 
earth nor Heaven itself can hold her, and she 
is full of woe until the night fall that Job here 
speaks of, which, to speak spiritually and to our 
purpose, is a suffering and torture unmitigated 
by any certain hope of spiritual light and 
favour. Whence her longing and woe in this 
furnace of love wax greater, inasmuch as it is 
multiplied twice over. First by the spiritual 
darkness wherein she sees herself, which 
afflicts her with its doubts and fears. Second 
by the love of God which inflames and stings 
her with its amorous wounding, and most 
marvellously incites her. The which two 
sorts of suffering in a like season Isaiah 
sets forth exceeding well, in the words ; 
Anima mea desideravit te in nocte. * My soul 
1 Job vii. 2. 2 Isaiah xxvi. 9. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

desired Thee in the night-time, that is, in 
wretchedness. And this is one of the ways 
of suffering caused by this dark night ; but 
with my spirit, saith he, in my bowels until 
the morning will I watch for thee : Sed et 
spirit* meo in prczcordils meis de mane irigilabo 
ad te. 1 

And this is the second way of suffering in 
the desire and longing caused by the love in 
the bowels of the spirit, which are the 
spiritual affections. But in the midst of these 
obscure and amorous pains the soul feels a 
certain inward presence and power, which 
abides with, and fills her with such strength, 
that if this weight of dense and heavy dark 
ness vanishes, she ofttimes feels void, forlorn, 
and weak. And the cause is that, then, like 
as the force and activity of the soul was 
inspired and instilled by the dark fire of love 
which enveloped her, she being passive ; 
thence it is, that when it ceases to envelop 
her, the darkness ceases, as also the heat and 
force of love within her. 

1 Isaiah xxvi. g. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


T^ROM what has been already said we 
shall see how this obscure night of 
loving fire, like as its purging operations are 
effected in darkness, so also in darkness is 
the soul gradually set afire. We shall also 
see, that, just as the predestined are purged 
in the other life with dark and material fire ; 
they are purged and cleansed in this life with 
loving, dark, and spiritual fire. For this is 
the difference, that there, they are cleansed 
by fire, and here they are cleansed and illu 
minated by love. The which love David 
craved, when he said : Cor mundiun crea in me, 
Dens, etc. 1 For cleanness of heart is not less 
important than the love and grace of God. 
For the pure of heart are called by our 
Saviour Blessed ; the which is as if he had 
called them lovers, for blessedness is given 
for nothing less than love. 

And that the soul is purged in the illumina 
tion of this fire of loving wisdom (for God 
i Psalm 1. 12. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

never gives mystical wisdom without love, 
since love itself infuses it) Jeremiah well 
shews, saying : De excelso misit ignem in 
os sib us meis, et erudivit me.^ He sent fire into 
my bones, and taught me. And David says 
that the Wisdom of God is silver proved in 
the purgative fire of love : Eloquia Domini, 
eloquia casta ; argentiim igne exaniinatuin? For 
this obscure contemplation inspires in the soul 
love and wisdom conjointly, to each one 
according to his need and capacity, enlighten 
ing the soul and purging her of her ignorance, 
as says the Wise One, that so it wrought 
with him : Ignorantias meas illuminavit? 

Hence we likewise infer that these souls 
are purged and illuminated by the very same 
Wisdom of God which purges the angels of 
their blindness, emanating from God through 
the highest Hierarchies to the lowest, and 
thence to men. For which reason all the 
works done by angels and their inspirations, 
are said with truth and propriety in the 
Scriptures to be done not only by God but 
by them ; for, as a rule, they emanate from 
Him through them, and are flashed from 
one to the other without pause or stay: 
like as a sunbeam when it strikes on many 

i Thren. i. 13. 2 Psalm cxi, 7. 3 Eccles. li. 26. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

windows placed in a certain relative order, 
is flashed from one to the other. For al 
though it is true that of itself the ray 
strikes upon all; still, each one transmits 
and infuses it into the next in a more 
modified form, with more or less sharpness 
and brilliancy, conformably to the position 
of the window, just as it happens to be 
farther off or nearer the Sun. Whence it 
follows, that the higher and inferior spirits, 
inasmuch as they are closer to God, are 
more thoroughly purged and clarified with a 
more drastic purgation ; and that those who 
come last will receive this illustration after 
a more attenuated and distant fashion. 
Whence it follows, that, since man is inferior 
to the angels, when God wills to give him 
this contemplation he is obliged to receive it 
after his more limited fashion and with pain 
and suffering. Because the light of God 
which illuminates the angel, making him 
shine with splendour, and flame resplendently 
with love, he being a pure spirit disposed for 
such an infusion, man on account of his im 
purity and weakness, it, as a rule, illuminates 
(as has been said above) in darkness, suffer 
ing and conflict (like the Sun which shining 
on a weak eye, causes it pain and anguish), 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

until this same fire of love shall have spiri 
tualised and etherialised him, by its purifica- 
tive influence, and enables him to receive this 
amorous influx with entire serenity after the 
fashion of the angels, he being now purged, 
as with the Lord s assistance we shall 
presently set forth ; for souls there are which 
even in this life have received more perfect 
illumination than the angels. But in the 
meanwhile, he receives this contemplation 
and loving impression in the conflict and 
passionate longing we have said. Not always, 
however, doth the soul continue to feel this 
blazing forth and passionate love and longing. 
For, when this spiritual purgation at first 
begins, the entire strength of this Divine fire 
is chiefly directed towards drying up and 
seasoning the timber of the soul, rather than 
in giving her heat ; but when at last this fire 
begins to burn within the soul, very often 
doth she feel this flame and heat of love. 
Now as the intellect becomes increasingly 
purged by means of this darkness, it some 
times happens that this mystical and amorous 
theology besides inflaming the will, likewise 
wounds the neighbouring power of intellect, 
enlightening it with a certain Divine cognition 
and lustre so sweetly and divinely, that the 



The Dark Night of the Soul 

will, by its assistance, becomes marvellously 
fervent, this Divine fire of Love blazing up 
within her in flames of living light, after such 
a fashion that now with the lively knowledge 
which is given her, it appears to the soul a ^ 
living fire. And it is of this state that David 
speaks in one of his Psalms : Concaluit cor 
meiun intra me : et in meditatione mea exardescct 
ignis ^ My heart waxed hot within me, and 
the flame was so intense, that I thought it 
was on fire. And this glow of love with the 
union of these two powers, the intellect and 
the will, is, for the soul, a priceless and 
delicious thing. For it is certain that in this 
obscurity, she has already attained the be 
ginnings of the perfection of the union of love 
she hopes for. And, therefore, doth she not 
arrive at this touch of so sublime a sense and 
love of God, unless she has previously gone 
through many trials, and a large share of the 
purgation. But for other and lower grades 
which are more generally met with, so great 
a purgation is not needed. 

1 Psalm xxxviii. 4. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


A FTER this fashion of a flaming fire we 
may understand certain of the soothing 
effects which this obscure night of contempla 
tion now proceeds to work upon the soul ; for 
sometimes, in the midst of this darkness, the 
soul is enlightened, and the light shines forth 
upon the darkness, this mystic influence 
descending full upon the intellect, and the 
will sharing therein to some degree, with a 
serenity and purity so rare and delightful to 
the sense of the soul, that it is impossible to 
define it, sometimes in one way of feeling 
God, at others in another. Sometimes, like 
wise, conjointly with the other powers, it 
transfixes the will, and sets it on fire with 
a sublime, tender and powerful love ; for 
we have already said that, sometimes, these 
two powers, the intellect and the will are 
united, and the more completely the intellect 
is purged, so much the more perfect and 
delicate are its perceptions. But before 
attaining to this state, it is more usual for 
this kindling spark to touch the will than for 
the spark of perfect knowledge to touch the 

1 86 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

This glow and thirst of love, as it now, at 
length, proceeds from the Holy Spirit, is 
absolutely different from that we described 
in the night of the sense. For although in 
this the senses also have their share, since 
they fail not to participate in the conflict of 
the spirit, still the root and the sting of the 
thirst of love is felt in the higher part of the 
soul, that is, in the Spirit, which feels and 
grasps its sensations and the lack of what it 
most desires, after such a fashion, that all 
the tortures of the senses, although, without 
comparison, greater than in the first sensitive 
night, it counts as nothing, because it appre 
hends in its most secret depths the want of a 
great gift, and a void that nothing else can 

But here it must be noted that, although at 
first, when this spiritual night commences, 
this flame of love is not felt, owing to this fire 
of love not having begun to work, still, in its 
place, God from the first bestows upon the 
soul so great an instinctive love of Him that, 
as we have said, her chief suffering and grief 
in the trials of this night is the terror that i 
haunts her that God is lost to her and that 
she is forsaken of Him. And so we can, with 
reason, assert that, from the beginning of this 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

night the soul is constantly wounded with 
longing for love, before instinctive, now, also, 
inflammatory. And it is seen that the greatest 
distress she feels amidst her trials is this 
dread ; for if she could then be sure that she 
is not entirely lost or doomed, but that what 
she passes through is for the best (as indeed 
it is), and that God is not angry, all her suffer 
ings would not cost her a single thought, 
rather would she rejoice, knowing that it is 
God s goodwill and pleasure. For so great is 
the instinctive love she feels for God, even 
when it is shrouded from her in darkness, 
that, not only would she do this but rejoice 
greatly to die a thousand deaths to serve 
Him. But when, at length, the flame has 
kindled in her, conjointly with the instinctive 
love she already bears to God, she achieves 
such energy and vigour, and so great a long 
ing after God, communicated to her by the 
heat of love, that greatly daring, without 
regarding ought, nor having respect to any 
mortal thing, in the strength and intoxication 
of her passion, without much heeding what 
she does, she would perform whatsoever 
strange and unwonted things were presented 
to her, no matter by what mode or fashion, so 
long as it brings her to Him who loves her. 
1 88 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

This is the cause why Mary Magdalene, in 
spite of their noble rank, held the crowd of 
great and lesser men gathered together at the 
banquet made in the Pharisee s house of no 
account, as saith St. Luke, and stayed not to 
consider that it was out of place and looked 
unseemly to go and weep and shed tears 
amidst the guests, so long as she (without an 
hour s delay, waiting for another time and 
season) might come into His presence for 
whom her very soul was wounded and in 
flamed. And this is the intoxication and 
daring of love, that although she knew that 
her beloved was shut up in the sepulchre 
sealed with a great stone and surrounded by 
a guard of soldiers, none of these things could 
stop her from setting forth before the dawn 
with the nard and ointments to anoint Him. 
And finally, this, her intoxication and passion 
ate love made her ask of him whom she took 
to be the gardener and believed to have 
robbed Him from the tomb, to tell her, if so 
be he had taken the body, where he had laid 
it, so that she might take possession of it : 
Situ sustulisti eum, dicito mihi ubi posuisti eiun, 
ct ego eum tollam* not considering as she 
would have done, if her judgment and 
1 John xx. 15. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

reason had been free and unbiassed, that such 
a question was far from prudent, since it is 
clear that had he robbed the body, he would 
not certainly own it, and far less allow her 
to take it from him ; for the vehemence and 
passion of love possesses this property, that 
it thinks all things possible, and that everyone 
is seeking what it seeks itself; nor can it 
believe that any other person can be busied 
and eager about ought else, save that, itself 
seeks and loves. And for this reason when 
the Bride went forth to seek her lover in the 
squares and outskirts of the city, thinking that 
everyone she met were bent on the same 
errand, she said to them, that if they found 
him, they were to tell him from her that she 
was suffering for his love. Such, then, was 
the love of this Mary, that she thought that if 
the gardener would only tell her where he 
had hidden the body, she would go thither 
and take it (whosoever might bid her nay). 
Of this stature, then, are the agonies of love 
this soul begins to feel, when she has, at 
length, come so far upon her journey through 
this spiritual purgation. For she rises up by 
night (that is, in this purgative night) in 
answer to the impulses of her will. And 
with the agony and strength that the lioness 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

or the bear goes forth to seek her cubs when 
she has been robbed of them and cannot find 
them, so doth this wounded soul go out 
to seek her God. For, as she is in darkness, 
she feels herself without Him, and dies for 
love of Him. And this is the restless love 
wherein a living person cannot long exist 
unless he receives some return or dies, like 
unto the longing which Rachel had for 
children when she said to Jacob : Da mihi 
liberos, alioquin moriar* Give me children : 
if not, I die. 

But it is here to be observed, how it is 
that the soul, feeling herself in such misery 
and so unworthy of God, as she does in this 
purgative darkness, yet possesses such daring 
and intrepid strength as to go forth to join 
Him. The reason is, that as love now begins 
to give her strength so that she loves in very 
sooth, and the property of love is to tend to 
unite with, join, bring down to its own level, 
and assimilate with itself the thing loved to 
the end that it way be perfected in the gifts 
of love ; hence it is, that this soul not being 
perfected in love since she has not yet at 
tained to union, the hunger and thirst that 
besets her for that she lacks, which is union, 
1 Gen. xxx. i. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

and the strength that love has now infused 
into the will, filling it with passionate desire, 
makes her bold and intrepid as regards the 
ardent will, although, the mind being still in 
darkness, she feels herself unworthy and 

Nor will I omit to set down here the 
reason why, since this Divine Light is always 
light for the soul, it does not as soon as it falls 
upon her, fill her with its radiance, as it 
afterwards does, but rather produces the 
darkness and woe we have described. Some 
what has been already said, but to this 
particular question it is answered : that the 
darkness and the other ills which the soul 
experiences when this Divine Light assaults, 
are not darkness nor ills on the part of the 
light itself, but on that of the soul, and the 
light enlightens her, so that she may see 
them. Whence this Divine light shines upon 
her from the first; but the soul cannot at 
once see thereby, that which is closest to 
her, or to be more exact, within her, which 
is her darkness or wretchedness which she, 
at length, discerns through the mercy of God, 
whereas before, she saw them not, because 
this supernatural light shone not upon her. 
And this is the reason why, at first, she feels 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

only darkness and the sense of her own 

But directly she has been purged by the 
knowledge of, and sorrow for, her sins, her 
eyes shall be opened and display to her the 
graces of this light Divine ; and all these 
shadows and imperfections of the soul being 
expelled and removed, the great benefits and 
mercies she hath gradually reaped in this 
blessed night, shall at length come into view, 
so that, by slow degrees, she shall know and 
recognize them. 

From what has been said, it is evident why 
it is that God showers mercies on the soul 
by cleansing her with this strong lye and 
bitter purge, as regards the sensitive and 
spiritual part from all the affections and im 
perfect habits inherent to her as to things 
temporal and physical, sensitive and spiritual, 
by clouding over her interior faculties, and 
voiding and emptying them of all these things, 
and constraining and withering up her sen 
sitive and spiritual inclinations, and weakening 
and lessening the natural strength of the soul 
in respect to them (the which the soul, by 
her own efforts alone, could never have 
achieved as we shall presently tell), this being 
the method whereby God deprives her of 
193 o 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

strength for all that is not God, so that He 
may gradually clothe her anew, after the old 
skin has been, at length, peeled and stripped 
off. And thus, like the eagle, she renews her 
youth, and remains clad with the new man, 
created, as saith the Apostle, after the image 
of God : Et induite noviun hominem^ qui secun- 
dum Deum creatus cst. 1 The which is nothing 
else than the enlightening of the intellect with 
supernatural light, so that the human mind be 
made Divine united with the Divine. And, 
in precisely the same way, doth He inflame 
the will with Divine love, after such sort 
that the will, at length, is not less than 
Divine, loving no less than divinely, welded 
and united in one with the Divine will and 
love ; and the memory the same, and the 
inclinations and appetites all likewise changed 
,to the image of God, divinely. And thus this 
soul shall, at length, be a heavenly soul, 
celestial, and more Divine than human. All 
which, as will have been clearly evident by 
what we have said, God gradually works and 
performs in the soul by means of this night, 
shedding His light upon her and making her 
flame up divinely with longings for Him alone, 
and for no other thing besides. Wherefore, 

i Eph. i. 24. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

most justly and reasonably, the soul then 
adds the third line of the song, which, to 
gether with the remainder thereof, we shall 
set down and explain in the following chapter. 


Oh blessed chance! 

I stole me forth unseen, 

My house being wrapt in sleep. 

>"pHE blissful chance chanted by the soul 
in the first of these three lines, was 
effected by that she sings of in the two next 
lines, where she uses the metaphor of one 
who, the better to carry out his purpose, sets 
forth from his house at night and under 
shadow of darkness, the inmates of the house 
being now at rest, so that none shall hinder 
his departure. For as this soul was bent on 
sallying forth to accomplish a Deed so rare 
and heroic, which was the uniting of herself 
with her Divine Lover, she goes forth abroad, 
since the Lover is only to be found without 
in solitude. Wherefore the Bride desired to 
find him unaccompanied, saying : Qni s viiki 
det te f rat re in menm sugentein nbera mains 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

y ut inveniam te foris, et deosculer te. 1 Who 
shall give thee to me, oh ! my brother ! that I 
may find thee abroad, and share my love 
with thee ? So likewise was the passionate 
soul compelled, if she would achieve her 
desired end, to do the same also, and to go 
forth by night, when all the servants of her 
house are sleeping and at rest ; that is, the 
inferior operations, emotions, and appetites of 
her soul extinguished and put to sleep by 
means of this night, which are the inmates of 
the house who, ever on the watch, allure the 
soul from these her treasures, averse to her 
wresting from them her liberty. For these 
are the servants whereof our Saviour speaks 
in the sacred Gospel, who are the enemies of 
man : Et inimici hominis domestici ejus? And 
so it was essential that their labours and move 
ments should be laid to sleep in this night, to the 
end that they hold not back the soul from the 
supernatural gifts of the union of love of God, 
which cannot be achieved so long as they are 
astir with vitality and movement. For all 
action and movement on their part do rather 
hinder than assist in the receiving of the 
spiritual wealth of the union of love. For, 
inasmuch as all natural capacity is inadequate 
i Cant. viii. i. 2 Matt. x. 36. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

in respect of the supernatural favours which 
God, by His infusion alone, inspires in the 
soul passively, secretly, and in silence. And 
so, in order to receive it, it is necessary that 
all the faculties be laid under this spell of 
silence, so that they shall not obtrude thereon 
their inferior activity and vile inclinations. 

But it was for this soul a blissful chance 
that God, in this night, holds all the inmates 
of her house in sleep ; that is, all the faculties, 
emotions, affections and appetites which dwell 
in the spiritual soul, to the end that she may 
arrive at the spiritual union of perfect love of 
God "with none to note" ; to wit, without 
being hindered of them, forasmuch as she 
has left them wrapped in slumber and mor 
tified in this night, as has been said. Oh, 
how fortunate a chance it is for the soul to 
be able to free herself from the abode *of her 
sensuality. None, indeed, can understand it, 
to my thinking, save the soul which has 
tasted thereof. For she will clearly see how 
miserable was the servitude which bound / 
her, and how great the number of the 
wretched trifles which enslaved her when 
she was in bondage to the savoury taste of 
her appetites and passions, and she shall know 
how that the life of the Spirit is true liberty 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

and riches, which bring with them inestimable 
mercies. Whereof we shall proceed to set 
down some in the following songs, wherein it 
shall be more clearly seen how right the soul 
is to look upon the passage of this dolorous 
and awesome night as a most glorious and 
blessed chance. 


Into the darkness, and yet safe, 

By secret stair and in disguise, 

Oh gladsome hap ! 

In darkness, and in secret I crept forth, 

My house being wrapt in sleep. 

T N this Song the soul still proceeds to sing 
certain properties of the darkness of this 
night, repeating the good fortune that she 
derived therefrom. She speaks of them, as 
if she replied to some certain tacit objection, 
warning us that we must not think that, 
because she has passed through such tortures 
of anguish, doubt, dread and horror in this 
night and darkness, as has been said, she ran 
any the more danger of being lost : Nay, in 
the darkness of this night, did she rather find 
herself ; for therein did she free herself and 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

subtly escape from her opponents, who at all 
times blocked the way, for in the darkness 
of the night she walked safely, having 
changed her raiment, and disguised herself 
under the three liveries or colours we shall 
presently describe; and by a most secret 
stair, for no one in the house knew of it 
(which, as we shall likewise observe in its 
proper place, is living Faith). She stole forth 
so disguised and noiselessly, so as to accom 
plish her great Deed, that she could not but 
go secure and in the utmost safety ; the more 
especially as the sensitive and intellectual 
appetites, inclinations, and passions are now 
asleep, mortified, and extinguished in this 
purgative night, which, had they been awake 
and active, would have stopped her journey. 


E have now seen that the darkness the 
soul here speaks of, is in respect of 
the appetites and sensitive faculties, interior 
and spiritual, whose natural light is com 
pletely clouded over in this night, so that 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

being purged therefrom, they may be 
illumined with the supernatural light ; 
because the sensitive and spiritual appetites 
are asleep and deadened, powerless to taste 
the sweetness of anything whatsoever, 
whether human or Divine : the inclinations of 
the soul oppressed and chained, unable to act 
or lean on any stay ; the imagination fettered 
and incapable of any useful thought ; the 
memory annihilated ; the mind clouded over ; 
and hence, also, the will parched and suffo 
cated, and all the faculties void and empty, 
and above all this a dense and heavy cloud 
suspended over the soul herself, which keeps 
her in anguish and, as it were, estranged 
from God. In this way "in the dark," she 
says, she walked "secure." The reason of 
this is indeed evident : because, as a rule 
the soul never errs save through her appe 
tites or tastes, or her thoughts, or her 
impressions, or her inclinations, wherein as a 
rule she exceeds or falls short, or varies, or 
dotes, and thence is bent to evil doing. 

Whence it is clear that, since all these 
operations and activity are now checked, the 
soul is safe from falling into error. For not 
only is she delivered from herself, but also 
from her other enemies which are the world 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and the devil, which, when the affections and 
operations of the soul are extinguished, no 
loophole or weak point is left for them to 

Hence it follows that the more utter the 
darkness which surrounds the soul on her 
journey, and the more vastated she is of her 
natural operations, so doth she proceed in 
greater safety. For, as says the prophet : 
Perditio tua Israel: tantunnnodo in me 
auxilium tuum^ the perdition of the soul 
comes solely from herself (that is, from her 
operations and interior and sensitive appetites 
at war one with another), and good, saith 
God, cometh from Me alone. Therefore, she 
being thus impeded by her own sins, it 
remains for the gifts of union with God, 
presently to flow into her appetites and facul 
ties, which shall make them Divine and 
celestial. Whence, in the season of this 
darkness, if the soul is intent thereon, she 
will soon, and in very truth, see how little 
the appetites and powers are led astray after 
vain and useless things ; and how safe she is 
from vain glory, and pride and presumption, 
frivolous and false enjoyment, and from many 
other things. Then, indeed, it follows that, 

1 Osee, xiii. 9. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

not only because she walks in darkness, is 
she not only not lost, but even greatly rescued, 
since now she is on the way to gain all 

But as to the immediate doubt which this 
at once gives rise to, to wit, wherefore, since 
the things of God are of themselves beneficial 
to the soul, and win her, and secure her (in 
all goodness), doth He, in this night, cloud 
over her appetites and faculties in respect of 
these good things, to such a point that she 
neither enjoys them nor treats them as she 
does other things, and even in some sort 
less ? the answer is that it is most essential 
for her, at this time, to be voided from 
and deprived of her own activity and 
inclination in respect, even, of spiritual 
things. Because her faculties and appetites 
are still degraded and impure ; and so, 
although were God to give them the taste 
and perception of spiritual and Divine things, 
they could not receive them, save most 
meanly and imperfectly. For, as says the 
philosopher, the thing received partakes of 
the nature of the recipient. Whence, since 
these physical and mental powers have 
neither strength, purity, nor capacity to 
receive and taste of supernatural things as 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

they are in themselves, that is Divine, but 
according to their own limitations ; it is like 
wise necessary to cast them into darkness, 
and shroud from them these Divine [opera 
tions], to ensure a more perfect purgation. 
To the end that, being first weaned, purged, 
and their first nature brought to nought, they 
may lose this base fashion of acting and 
receiving, and all the powers and appetites of 
the soul be seasoned, disposed and attuned to 
receive, perceive, and taste of the Divine 
after a lofty and sublime manner, the which 
may not be, unless the old Adam be first 
destroyed. Hence it is that all things 
spiritual, if they do not (sent by the Father of 
Light), descend from above upon the human 
free will and appetite, they cannot, in spite of 
all man s efforts to exercise his taste and 
appetite and faculties on God, and however 
much it may seem to them that they taste of 
Him, they do not taste of Him in this other 
manner ; that is, divinely and perfectly. As to 
which (if this were the place) we might here 
set forth how many there are who experience 
many gusts and desires and motions of the 
faculties in regard to God and spiritual things, 
and, perchance, account them to be super 
natural and spiritual, whereas, they are, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

probably, nothing more than entirely physical 
and human acts and desires, which, as they 
are produced on them by other things as 
well, proceed from a certain constitutional 
facility to direct the desires and powers to 
any object whatever. If, perchance, occasion 
offers, we shall treat of it later on, and shew 
by certain signs when the interior motions 
and actions of the soul are entirely physical, 
and when entirely spiritual, and when both 
spiritual and physical in respect of intercourse 
with God. Suffice it to say here, that if these 
interior acts and impulses of the soul are to 
arrive at being moved by God sublimely and 
divinely, they must first be put to sleep and 
darkened, and all natural capacity and activity 
stilled, until they are entirely deprived of 

Then, oh ! Spiritual Soul, when thou shalt 
see thy inclination darkened, thy affections 
withered up and crushed, and thy faculties 
disabled for all interior exercise, let it not 
grieve Thee, rather count it for great good 
fortune ; for God is even now on the way to 
deliver thee from thyself, taking from thee thy 
possessions ; wherewith, however willingly 
they helped thee, thou couldest not proceed 
so consummately, perfectly, and safely (be- 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

cause of their impurity and unskilfulness), as 
now, when God takes thee by the hand and 
leads thee like a blind man through the dark 
ness, whither and by what paths thou knowest 
not, nor wouldst ever succeed in reaching, 
guided by thine own eyes and feet, however 
well thou mightest travel. 

The reason likewise, wherefore the soul 
not only goes in safety, when she thus sets 
forth in darkness, but, even, at every step 
conquers and improves [in good], is that, 
as a rule, when she continues to receive some 
fresh grace and gift, it comes from a source 
the least comprehensible to her, nay, on the 
contrary, rather doth she think that she is on 
the road to perdition. Because, as she has 
never experienced this strange and unwonted 
thing which dazzles and bewilders her in 
respect of all her preconceptions and former 
methods of procedure, rather doth she think 
that she has lost her way than that she 
draws nearer to the goal of her achievement, 
since she sees that she is lost to all she knew 
and delighted in before and wanders by an 
unknown and unpleasing road. Just as the 
traveller, who, to reach strange and foreign 
lands, travels along unfamiliar and unpractised 
roads where all knowledge of his own is use- 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

less and he must trust to the guidance of 
others : for it is clear that he cannot get to 
foreign lands save by foreign and unfamiliar 
roads, those he knew being left behind ; so in 
like manner the soul, when she is making 
the most progress, wanders in darkness and 
regions to her unknown. Therefore, God, 
being now, as we have said, the teacher of 
this poor blind soul, well may she, when at 
last she comes forth into light, and perceives 
the steps whereby she has been led, rejoice 
with exceeding joy and cry: " In darkness 
and yet safe." 

Another reason, likewise, is there why the 
soul hath journeyed safely through this 
darkness, and it is, that she has suffered : for 
the way of suffering is safer and even more 
beneficial than that of enjoyment and action. 
First, because in suffering she acquires 
strength from God, and in action and enjoy 
ment she exercises her weakness and im 
perfections. And next, because in suffering 
she practises and acquires virtue and purifies 
the soul, and makes her wiser and more 
cautious. But, now, there is another cause 
still more potent why she travels in darkness 
and yet goes safely, and it is on account of 
the light already spoken of, or the obscure 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

wisdom. For this dark night of contemplation 
so absorbs and holds her within itself, and 
sets her so close to God, that it protects and 
delivers her from all that is not God. For, as 
the soul is placed in this state so that she 
may be healed of her infirmities and recover 
her health, which is God Himself, His Majesty 
puts her on a diet and abstinence from all 
things, and turns away her appetite for them ; 
just as a sick man who is beloved by those of 
his household is guarded by them in such 
seclusion that they allow not a breath of air 
to touch him, and shut out the joyous light of 
day, and go on tip-toe so that he shall not 
hear their footfalls, and silence all sound and 
rumour in the house, and give him to eat 
t most delicate food and in careful measured 
quantities, more nourishing than appetising. 

All these properties (since all are for the 
safety and protection of the soul) this obscure 
contemplation produces in her, because she is 
placed nearer to God. For, in very truth, the 
closer the soul gets to Him, so, by reason of 
her weakness, is she plunged in deeper dark 
ness and more profound obscurity ; just as 
one who gazes into the eye of the sun would 
only find his eyes darkened and injured by its 
overpowering splendour, by reason of the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

weakness, impurity, and limitations of his 

Hence, it follows that so vast is the spiritual 
light of God and so greatly doth it transcend 
the intellect, that the closer it approaches, 
the more it is blinded and obscured. And 
this is the reason wherefore David says, that 
set the darkness for His hiding place, and 
the clouds for His covering, and His taber 
nacle about Him, dark water in the clouds of 
the air, Et posuit tenebras latibulum Suum, in 
circuitu ejus tabernaculum ejus : tenebrosa aqua 
in nubibus aeris^ The which dark water in 
y$ the clouds of the air is the obscure contem 
plation and Divine Wisdom in the soul, as we 
are saying. The which as God gradually 
joins them more closely to Himself they feel 
as something very close to the Tabernacle 
where He dwells. And thus that which in 
God is light and a most sublime clarity, is 
obscure shadow for man (as saith St. Paul) 
and as the Royal prophet David declares in 
the same Psalm, saying, Prcc fulgore in 
conspectu ejus nubes transierunt* By reason of 
the splendour that dwells in his presence, 
clouds and cataracts went forth (to wit, for 
the physical intellect) whose light, as saith 
i Psalm xvii. 12, 2 Psalm xvii. 13. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

Isaiah : Obtenebrata est in caligine ejus. Oh 
wretched lot of this our life, where we get to 
know the truth with so much difficulty ! since 
the clearest and most radiant [light] and 
truth itself, is for us most dark and doubtful ; 
and for this reason we fly from it, being that 
we have most need of; and that which 
glitters and fills our eyes with lustre, we 
embrace and follow after, being that which 
is worst for us, and makes us fall at every 
step. How great is the fear and danger man 
lives in, since the very physical light of his 
eyes which leads him, is the first to dazzle 
and betray him on his journey towards God. 
So that, if he would clearly perceive the road 
whereby he travels, he must, of force, keep 
his eyes fast shut and go in darkness, so as to 
be safe from the domestic enemies of his 
household, which are his own senses and 
faculties ! Well, then fares it with Saul when 
she is hidden and protected in this dark 
water, which is close to God. For like as it 
serves to God Himself, for a tabernacle and 
sanctuary, so shall it serve for the same to 
her, and for an absolute shelter and place of 
safety where, in spite of the darkness she is 
hidden and sheltered from herself and from 
all hurt from any creature, as we have said ; 
209 p 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

because of blessed souls like these it is that 
David speaks in another Psalm : Abseondes 
los in abscondito faciei tuce a conturbatione 
hominum : proteges eos in tabernaculo tuo d 
contradictione linguarum. 1 Thou shalt hide 
them in the secret place of thy countenance 
from the tumult of men ; thou shalt guard 
them in thy tabernacle from the strife of 
tongues, wherein is included all manner of 
protection ; for to be hidden in the face of 
God from the turbulence of men, is to be 
fortified by this obscure contemplation against 
every danger that can overtake them on the 
part of man. And for the soul to be thus 
sheltered and bestowed in his sanctuary from 
the rage of tongues, is for her to be engulfed 
in this dark water, which is the tabernacle 
of David, as we have said. Whence, since 
the soul is weaned from all appetites and 
affections, and her faculties obscured, she 
is free from every imperfection that stands 
in the way of her spiritural [progress], 
whether arising from her own carnality or 
any other creature. Therefore this soul 
may well cry, that she walks " in darkness 
and in safety." 

There is, likewise, another reason of no 
1 Psalm xxx. 20. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

less efficacy than the preceding, whereby we 
may, at length, rest convinced that this soul 
is on the right road, although in darkness, 
and this is the strength which, from the first, 
this dark, painful, and gloomy water of God 
inspires in her. For in short, although it is 
overshadowed with gloom, it is, still, water, 
and, therefore, shall not fail to regenerate 
and fortify the soul in that she has most 
need of, although in darkness and great 
agony. Because, as soon as the soul per 
ceives within herself a sincere determination 
and active power to do nothing she knows 
to be an offence against God, nor to leave 
undone that which seems to her to be for 
His service. Because this obscure love 
cleaves to her with an exceeding vigilant 
interior care and solicitude as to that she 
shall do or fail to do for Him to please Him, 
being ever on the watch ceaselessly tor 
mented as to whether she has given Him 
cause for anger ; and all this with far more 
eagerness and anxiety than before, as has 
been above described in the chapter on the 
longings of love. For now every appetite 
and force and faculty of the soul, since they 
are gathered in from all other things, direct 
their whole exertions and strength towards 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

pleasing their God alone. After this fashion 
doth the soul go forth from herself and all 
created things to the sweet and delightful 
union of love of God, " In darkness, and in 


By secret stair and in disguise. 

T T behoves us to set forth three properties 
in respect of three words contained in 
the line before us. Two of these, which are 
"secret" and "stair," belong to the dark 
night of contemplation we are describing ; 
but the third, which is " disguised," has to do 
with the conduct of the soul in this night. 
As to the first, we must know that the soul 
here in this line calls the obscure contem 
plation, whereby she sets forth on her journey 
to the union of love, the " secret stair," by 
reason of two properties it contains which we 
shall proceed to state. First she calls this 
darksome contemplation secret ; forasmuch 
as we have above hinted, it is the mystical 
theology, which the theologians style 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

SECRET WISDOM, and is, as saith Santo 
Tomas, communicated to us and infused into 
the soul more particularly by love. And this 
takes place secretly in the darkness of the 
natural workings of the mind and of the other 
faculties. Whence, in so far as the said 
faculties attain not thereto, unless the Holy 
Spirit infuses it into the soul, which knows 
not how or whence it comes and is ignorant 
of its nature, as saith the Bride in the Songs, 
it is called secret. And, in good sooth, not 
only doth the Soul not understand it, but no 
one does, not even the devil himself. Foras 
much as the Master who teaches it dwells 
substantially within her. And not on this 
account alone may it be called secret, but also 
by reason of the effects it works upon the 
soul. For not only is this SECRET WIS 
DOM secret when it purges the soul in the 
darkness and affliction of the purgation be 
cause she herself is utterly at a loss as to 
how to describe it ; but, likewise, after she 
has been illuminated, when this WISDOM is 
communicated to her more clearly and with 
greater distinctness, does it remain so hidden 
from her discernment and capacity to refer to 
it by any name, that apart from the invincible 
repugnance the soul feels to speak of it, she 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

finds no way or mode, nor adequate simile, 
capable of expressing or in any way shadow 
ing forth a KNOWLEDGE so transcendent 
and a spiritual sensation so delicate and 
infused. And so, however desirous she 
might be to describe it, and in spite of all 
language she might use, it would ever remain 
secret and hidden. For as this Inner Wisdom 
is so absolute, so all embracing and spiritual, 
that it entered not into the mind cloaked or 
disguised under any species or image subject 
to the sense, as sometimes happens ; hence it 
is that the senses and imaginative faculty 
(when it entered not through them nor bore 
their vesture and complexion) can give no 
explanation nor conception thereof that can 
in any way enable them to express it, how 
ever slightly, although the soul clearly sees 
that she knows and tastes of this delicate and 
most marvellous Wisdom. 

Like as one who should perceive a thing, 
the like of which had never been seen before, 
nor anything the least approaching it, 
although he might know and take delight 
therein, would not know what to call it nor 
how to describe it, for all the efforts he might 
make, and this in spite of its being distinctly 
perceptible to the senses ; how much less, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

then, can one make clear what never entered 
therein ? For the speech of God possesses 
this property : that when it is most secret, 
infused and spiritual, as to transcend all 
sense, it instantly suspends and silences the 
whole harmony and ability of the exterior 
and interior senses. Whereof we have 
instances and examples in the Divine Scrip 
ture. For the difficulty of setting forth and 
explaining it outwardly in words, Jeremiah 
made evident when, after God had spoken 
with him, he could say nought but a. a. a. 
And the dulness of the interior, that is, of the 
inner sense of the imagination conjointly with 
the exterior sense in respect of this, Moses 
also made proof of in the presence of God in the 
burning bush, when he not only said to God, 
that after he had spoken with Him, he knew 
not how, nor was able,* to speak ; but did not 
even (as it saith in the Acts of the Apostles) 
dare to behold, as it seemed to him that the 
imagination was far away and silent : Treme- 
factus antem Moises non aiidebat consider are. * 
For as the Wisdom of this contemplation is 
the speech of God to the soul in pure spirit, 
as the senses are not purely spiritual they 
behold it not, and so it is hidden from them 

1 Actor, vii. 32. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and they are powerless to know or give it 

Whence we may deduce the reason why 
some certain simple and fearful souls who 
journey along this road, were fain to describe 
their experiences to their spiritual guide, and 
cannot and know not how, and so feel the 
utmost repugnance to speak thereof; more 
especially when the contemplation is some 
what finer and more subtle as scarce to be 
perceived by the soul herself ; and they can 
only describe it by saying that the soul is 
satisfied and serene or happy, and that they 
discern the presence of God, and that, to 
their thinking, all is well with them ; but 
that it is impossible to express what the soul 
experiences, save in general terms similar to 
those mentioned. It is another thing alto 
gether when the experiences of the soul take 
a particular form, such as visions, sensations, 
etc., the which, as they are generally received 
under some visible representation, may, then, 
be described by this or some other semblance 
wherein the sense participates. But this 
power of expression does not apply to pure 
contemplation ; for this is inexpressible and 
may scarce be spoken of, wherefore it is 
called secret. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

And not only for this reason, is it called, 
and is secret, but, likewise, because a peculiar 
feature of this Mystic Wisdom is, that it hides 
[and shrouds] the soul within itself. For, 
apart from its more usual manifestations, it 
sometimes absorbs and gathers up the soul 
into its secret abyss, after such a manner 
that she distinctly perceives herself rapt 
away to an immeasurable distance and 
remoteness from all created things ; so that 
she sees herself, as it were, set in a profound 
and unfathomable solitude an immense and 
boundless desert where no mortal foot may 
tread ; as delightful, sweet, and amorous as it 
is profound, unending and lonely, where the 
soul, in like proportion as she soars above all 
temporal beings, finds herself hidden and in 
inviolable secrecy. And to such an extent 
doth this Abyss of Wisdom elevate and 
ennoble the soul, she being plunged into the 
innermost recesses of the science of love, 
that not only doth it make her to know that 
all mortal conditions are infinitely mean and 
abject in respect of this supreme knowledge 
and Divine cognition, but likewise enables her 
to see how weak and meaningless, and, after 
a manner, utterly unsuitable are all speech 
and words which we apply in this life to 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

Divine things, and that it is impossible by any 
human mode and way, be our words as 
sublime, lofty and pregnant as they may, to 
know and conceive of them as they are, save 
by the direct Illumination of this Mystic 
Theology. Therefore, when the soul per 
ceives by its radiance, this truth, that it is not 
to be fathomed, much less expressed by any 
human or ordinary language, she rightly calls 
it secret. This property of being secret and 
hidden, and absolutely above the comprehen 
sion of the human intellect, which is an 
essential peculiarity of this Divine Contem 
plation, arises not only from its supernatural 
nature, but from its being a guide, a guide to 
lead the soul to the perfections of the Union 
with God ; the which perfections, in so far as 
they are not to be humanly comprehended, 
we must pursue our journey towards them 
bereft of knowledge, and divinely ignorant. 
For, to speak mystically, as we are doing, we 
cannot know nor grasp the nature of these 
things, so long as we go about seeking for 
them, only when we have found and tried 
them. For, says the prophet Baruch, speak 
ing of this Divine Wisdom : Non est qui 
possit scire mas ejus, neque qui exquirat semitas 
efus. 1 None may understand His ways, nor 

i Baruch iii. 31. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

none imagine His paths. Likewise the Royal 
prophet, conversing with God of this journey 
of the soul, gives utterance as follows: 
I II it. ve runt comscationcs tuceorbi terrae : coininota 
est, et contremuit terra : in man via tua, et 
scnritce tuce in aquis mitltis : et vestigia tua non 
cognoscentur. 1 Thy splendour shone forth, 
and lit up the utmost ends of the earth, the 
earth was moved and trembled: Thy road is 
in the sea, and Thy paths in deep waters, and 
Thy footsteps shall not be known. All which, 
speaking spiritually, is understood to mean 
what we are saying. For the lighting up of 
the ends of the earth by the lustre of God, is 
the enlightenment of the powers of the soul 
by this Divine contemplation ; and for the 
earth to quake and be affrighted, is the 
grievous purgation it effects upon her. And 
to say that the road of God, which the soul 
pursues on her journey towards Him, lies in 
the sea, and His footsteps in deep waters, 
wherefore they shall not be known, means 
that this journey towards God is as secret 
and hidden from the sense of the soul as is 
the road He takes through the sea, whose 
paths and footsteps are unknown, to the 
physical sense of the body. For this is the 

i Psalm Ixxvi. 19, 20. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

property of the steps and footfalls that God 
imprints upon those souls he deigns to draw 
unto Himself, making them great in the 
union of His Wisdom, that they are not heard. 
For which reason, we find these words in the 
book of Job, where he lays stress upon this 
matter: Numquid nosti semitas nubium mag- 
nas, et perfect as scientias ? l Peradventure 
hast thou known the paths of the monstrous 
clouds, or perfect knowledge. Meaning by 
this the ways and roads whereby God aggran 
dises souls and perfects them in His wisdom, 
the which are here meant by clouds. The 
result, then, is that this contemplation which 
leads the soul upward to God, is Secret 


T T remains to be seen in the second place, 
to wit, how this Secret Wisdom is also 
a stair. As to which we must know, that for 
many reasons may this Secret Contemplation 
be called a stair. For, like as a fortress is 
stormed by a stair or ladder, and the valuables 
and possessions stored therein fall into the 

1 Job xxxvii. 16. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

hands of the besiegers, so, also, by this Secret 
Contemplation (although she knows not how), 
the soul mounts aloft, and scales, rung by 
rung, to the heights and knowledge and pos 
session of the wealth and treasures of 

The which the Royal Prophet David well 
expresses when he says : Beatus vir, cujus est 
auxilium ab te : ascensiones in corde suo dispo- 
suit, in valle lacrymarum in loco, quein posuit. 
E tent in benedictionem dabit legislator, ibunt de vir 
tue in virtu fern ; videbitur Deus Deorum in Sion. 1 
Blessed is he who possesses Thy help and 
favour, for in the heart of such a one He has 
placed His ascendings in the valley of tears in 
the place He appointed ; for after this manner 
shall the Lord of Judgment give His bene 
diction, and they shall climb from virtue to 
virtue as from step to step, and the God of 
Gods shall be seen in Sion, the which are the 
treasures of the fortress of Sion, which is 

We may, likewise, call it a stair or ladder, 
for just as we make use of the rungs of a 
ladder not only to mount but to descend ; 
so, also, these same communications made to 
the soul by this Secret Contemplation, where- 

i Psalm Ixxxiii. 6. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

by she mounts to God, abases her in herself. 
For those communications which are, in very 
sooth, from God, possess this property, that 
at one and the same time they humble and 
exalt her. For, on this road, to descend 
is to mount, and to mount is to descend, for 
here, he who humbles himself is exalted, and 
he who exalts himself is humbled : Qui se 
exaltat, humiliabatur, et qui se humiliat, exal- 
tabiturl And, setting aside the fact that the 
virtue of humility is most noble, God, so as to 
exercise the soul therein, makes her to climb 
this ladder, to bring her down, and brings her 
down to raise her. So that, thus may be 
accomplished the saying of the Wise One : 
Antequam center atur, exaltatur cor hominis : 
et antequam glorificetur humilitur.* Before 
the soul shall be exalted, she shall be 
humbled ; and before she shall be humbled, 
she shall be exalted. Likewise, in consonance 
with this property of the ladder, the soul that 
is fain to reflect thereon shall most clearly 
perceive (apart from its spiritual significance, 
which she doth not realize), how many are 
the ups and downs she suffers on this journey, 
and how the fair weather she enjoys is soon 
followed by some storm and trial : to such an 

1 Luc. xiv. n. ^ Prov. xviii. 12. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

extent, that it seems as if the calm was only 
sent her in order to prepare and strengthen 
her for her present suffering; as, likewise, 
after misery and torment comes abundance 
and serenity. So that, to the soul it seems 
that of express purpose she was first set in this 
austere vigil, to prepare her for the high 
Festival that followed. And this is the usual 
style and method of the state of Contempla 
tion, that until the soul reaches the state of 
perfect quiet she is never stable in one con 
dition, but is ever rising and descending. The 
reason for this is that, as the state of per 
fection, which consists in the perfect love of 
God and contempt of oneself, cannot exist 
without these two parts, which are the 
knowledge of God and of ourselves, and that, 
of necessity, the soul must first be practised 
in the one and then the other, being given 
to taste of the one by being exalted, 
and being made the other by being 
humiliated, until having acquired the habits 
of perfection, she, at last, ceases to mount 
and to descend ; having now reached to and 
united herself with God, who crowns the 
summit of this ladder, and on whom it rests 
and is supported. Because this ladder of 
contemplation, which as we have said, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

emanates from God, is figured forth by the 
ladder seen by Jacob whilst he slept, up and 
down which the angels of God mounted and 
descended, from God to man and from man 
to God, on whom its apex rested : Angelas 
quoque Dei ascendentes, et descendentes per eanii 
et Dominum innixuni scalce?- All which, the 
Divine Scripture saith, took place by night 
whilst Jacob slept, to shew how secret and 
unlike from all man s knowledge is this road 
and ascension to God. The which is, indeed, 
evident, since, as a rule, that which it contains 
of greatest value (which is, the loss and an 
nihilation of himself), he counts as worthless, 
and that which is least worth (which is the 
achievement of his own comfort and pleasure, 
wherein he more often loses than gains), that 
he sets most store by. 

But, now to speak somewhat more sub 
stantially and particularly of this ladder of 
secret contemplation, we shall say that the 
chief property wherefore it is here called a 
a ladder, is because Contemplation is the 
Science of Love, which is an infused and 
amorous apprehension of God, and which 
gradually enlightens and impassions the soul, 
until it elevates her step by step, to God her 

1 Gen. xxviii. 12. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

Maker. For love alone it is that unites and 
joins the soul with God. Wherefore, in order 
to make this still clearer, we shall here pro 
ceed to set down the steps of this Divine 
ladder, briefly describing the signatures 1 and 
effects of each one, in order that the soul may 
thereby conjecture in which of them she is, 
and to this end, we shall classify them ac 
cording to their effects, as do St. Bernard 
and St. Thomas ; and because the knowledge 
of them in themselves (forasmuch as this 
ladder of love is so secret, that God alone 
can measure and weigh it in the scales) is not 
possible by any human way. 


TX7E say, then, that the steps of this 

ladder of love which the soul climbs, 

one by one, in her ascension to God, are ten. 

The first degree of love makes the soul most 

1 If the reader is impatient with this word, I re 
commend him to the perusal of the noble doctrine of the 
Mediaeval Alchemists, and he will see how effectively, in 
this place, San Juan uses it. 

225 Q 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

beneficially sicken and languish. It is of this 
grade of love that the Spouse speaks, when 
she says : Adjuro vos, filice Jerusalem, si inven- 
eritis dilectum meum, ut nuncietis ei, quia amore 
langueo. 1 I adjure ye, oh daughters of Jeru 
salem ! that if ye meet with my Beloved, ye 
shall say to him that I am sick for love. But 
this sickness is not mortal, only for the glory 
of God, for, therein is the soul deprived of all 
strength to sin and of all things that are not 
God, for God s own sake, as David testifies 
saying : Defecit spiritus meus. 2 My soul is 
brought low, that is, as to all things to thy 
health, like as he says in another place : 
Deficit in salutare tuum anima mea? For, in 
like manner as the sick man first loses all 
appetite and relish for food and changes hue, 
so, likewise, in this grade of love, the soul 
loses her relish and appetite for all things, 
and changes colour like a lover. The soul 
doth not fall into this sickness, unless the 
excess of heat be sent to her from above, 
which is, in this state, the mystical fever, as 
is shewn by this verse of David, which says : 
Pluviatn voluntariam segregabis, Deus, hceriditati 
tuce, et infirmata est : tu verb perfecisti earn.* 

1 Cant. v. 8. 2 Psalm cxlii. 7. 3 Psalm cxviii. 81. 
i Psalm Ixvii. 10. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

This sickness and languishing from all things, 
which is the first grade and step of going to 
God, we have well set forth above, when we 
described the extinction wherein the soul sees 
herself, when she starts to climb the first 
rungs of this ladder of Contemplative Purga 
tion, when she can find no support, relish, 
comfort, nor rest for the sole of her foot, in 
any living thing. Wherefore, from this grade, 
she soon begins to scale the others. 

The second grade forces the soul to seek 
or God without ceasing. Whence, the Bride 
says that, as she sought for him by night 
within her bed (whereon according to the 
first grade of love she lay weak and fainting 
and found him not), she cried : Sitrgatn, et 
quatrain qucam diligit aiiima mca}- I will 
arise, and seek Him who loves my soul. The 
which, as we say, the soul does ceaselessly, 
as David admonishes in these words : Qucerite 
Dominum . . . qmeritc faciem ejus semper? Seek 
the face of God always, and seeking Him in 
all things, fix thy mind on none, until thou 
shalt have found Him. Like as the Bride, 
who, when she had asked about Him of the 
guards, at once passed on and left them. 

And likewise, Mary Magdalene, who did 

i Cant. iii. 2. * Psalm civ. 4. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

not so much as cast a look at the angels 
round the sepulchre. Here, in this grade, 
the soul goeth with such solicitude, that in 
everything she seeks for her Beloved ; in all 
her thoughts is she stricken with the thought 
of the Beloved One : in all her words, in all 
her actions, in whatsoever business she is 
about, she must, at once, speak and discourse 
of her Beloved ; when she eats, when she 
sleeps, when she keeps vigil, when she busies 
herself in any matter, all her heart is full of 
her Beloved, as has been said above, in the 
description of the longings of love. Then, 
when at length her love begins to recover 
from its sickness and to gather strength in 
this second grade, she, at once, begins to 
climb the third, by means of some degree of 
fresh purgation in this night, as we shall 
afterwards state, the which produces on the 
soul the following effects. 

The third step of the amorous ladder is 
that which forces the soul to action, and 
inspires her with vital heat so that she may 
not falter. Of this says the Royal prophet : 
Beatus vir> qui timet Dominum : in mandatis 
ejus volet nimis.^ Blessed is the man who 
fears the Lord, for all his desire is set on 

1 Psalm cxi. i. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

performing His commandments. Whence, if 
fear, inasmuch as it is a child of love, pro 
duces this effect of greed, what shall love 
itself do ? In this grade the utmost she can 
do for the Beloved the soul counts as nought, 
her manifold deeds as few, the length 
of time devoted by her to His service as a 
moment, because of this burning furnace of 
love wherein she is consumed. Like Jacob, 
to whom the seven years over and above the 
other seven he was forced to serve, seemed 
few by reason of the greatness of his love : 
Seruivit ergo Jacob pro Rachel septem annis, 
et videbantiir illi panel dies pra amoris mag- 
mtndine> Now if the love of Jacob which 
was only human could effect so much, what 
shall not that of the Creator do, when, in 
this third grade, it seizes upon the soul ? 
Here, the soul, by reason of the great love 
she bears to God, is deeply afflicted and in 
anguish for the little she does for Him ; and 
if it were permitted her to tear herself into 
a thousand shreds for His sake, she would 
be consoled. Therefore she accounts herself 
for useless in all she does, and it seems to 
her she lives in vain. And hence, springs 
up in her another admirable effect, which is, 

1 Gen. xxix. 20. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

that she is absolutely convinced that, in very 
sooth, her wickedness is greater than that 
of every other soul put together. First, 
because love teaches her the immensity of 
God s deserving ; and secondly, though the 
deeds she now performs for the sake of 
God are many, she yet realizes the full extent 
of their imperfections and defects, and each 
one of them fills her with grief and confusion, 
because she knows how unspeakably mean 
and base is her performance in respect of 
so great a Lord. In this third grade, the 
soul is very far from harbouring vain -glory 
or presumption, or condemning others. 
These are the solicitous effects, together 
with many others of a like nature, which this 
third grade of love produces on the soul ; 
and by reason thereof, the soul in it, gathers 
strength and courage to mount to the fourth 
which follows. 

The fourth grade of this ladder of love is 
that which produces in the soul, a constant 
and steadfast and unwearying endurance. 
For, as says St. Augustine, the greatest, 
gravest, most weighty and ponderous matters, 
love counts as nothing and makes light of. 
It was of this grade that the Bride spoke, 
when, at length, desiring to see herself in 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

the supreme and last one of all, she said 

to the Spouse : Pone me nt signaculum super 

cor tuum, ut signaculum super brachium tuum : 

quia fortis est ut mors di lectio ; dura sicut 

infernus cemulatio. Place me as a sign upon 

thy heart, and as a sign about thy arm : for 

delight, that is, the act and work of love, is 

strong as death, and rivalry, obstinate and 

enduring as hell. In this grade the spirit 

acquires such strength that so denominates 

the flesh and holds it in as little, as the tree 

one of its countless leaves. Here, the soul, 

in no way, seeks her own comfort and 

pleasure, neither in God nor in any other 

thing, nor doth she, from any motive of self 

interest or of consolation for herself, beseech 

the favour of God. For, now, all her care is, 

as to how she may please and serve Him in 

somewhat, for the sake of what is due to Him 

and that she has received from Him, cost her 

what it may. She cries within her heart and 

spirit : Alas my God and my Lord ! how 

many are there who go about to seek in Thee 

their own comfort and delight, and to whom 

Thou concedest mercies and gifts ; but they 

who endeavour to please Thee and give Thee 

somewhat at their cost, postponing all desires 

of their own, are exceeding few ; for, it is 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

not from any lack of will in Thee, my God, 
to shower on us Thy favours : it is we who 
fall short, by not devoting those we have 
received, to Thy service, so as to force Thee 
to bestow them on us constantly. This grade 
of love is exceeding lofty ; for, as in it, the 
soul ever follows after God, with passionate 
love and longing to suffer for Him, His 
Majesty, ofttimes, and very frequently, 
gladdens and rejoices her by the fulness of 
delight, visiting her in the spirit most sweetly 
and deliciously ; because the immense love 
of the Verb Christ may not suffer the pangs 
of His lover without coming to her rescue. 
The which He affirmed by Jeremiah, saying ; 
Recordatus sum tui> miserans adolescentiam 
tuam . . quando secuta es me in deserted I 
have remembered thee, and have had com 
passion on thy youth and tender years, when 
thou followedest me in the desert, which to 
speak spiritually, is the lack of support in 
all created things, which, in this grade, the 
soul feels interiorly, finding no stay nor rest 
in anything. This fourth grade inflames the 
soul after such a fashion, and kindles in her 
so fierce a desire for God, that it brings her 
to climb the fifth, which is that which follows. 

1 Jerem. ii. 2. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

The fifth grade of this ladder of love forces ^C \ 
the soul to hunger and crave ardently for 
God without rest or ceasing. In this grade, 
such is the vehemence that the lover feels to 
seize upon the Beloved and be united with 
Him, that any delay, however slight, becomes 
to her most wearisome, unendurable, unend 
ing, and oppressive, and always does she 
think that she is on the point of seizing 
Him in her arms; and when she sees her 
desire frustrated ( which is almost at every 
step) her eagerness weakens, as saith the 
Psalmist when speaking of this grade : 
Conciipiscit, et deficit anima mca in atria 
Domini?- My soul longeth and fainteth in 
the dwellings of the Lord. In this grade the 
lover must either possess that she loves or 
die, like as Rachel, for the great longing she 
had for children, said to Jacob her husband : 
De mihi liber os, alioquin moriar* Give me 
sons : if not, I die. Here, the soul waxes 
fat on love ; for so as was her hunger is her 
abundance ; after such sort that, hence, she 
may now mount to the sixth grade, which 
produces the effects which follow. 

1 Psalm Ixxxiii. 3. 2 Gen. xxx. i. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 


>T^HE sixth grade makes the soul to fleet 
swiftly towards God. And so fleets her 
hope without stopping to draw breath : for, in 
this grade, the love which has fortified her 
makes her to fly with the swiftness of light. 
Of the L which grade, Isaiah also saith : Qui 
autem sperant in Domino, mutabunt forti- 
tudinem, assument pennas sicut aquilce current^ 
et non laborabunt, ambulabnnt, et non deficient.^ 
The saints that wait on God shall change 
strength, they shall take wings like to the 
eagle, they shall fly, and not wax weak. 
These words, likewise, of the Psalm also 
apply to this grade : Quemadmodum desiderat 
cervus ad fontes aquarum : ita desiderat anima 
mea ad te, Deus.* For like as the hart 
desireth the water brooks, my soul longeth 
after Thee, my God. The reason of this 
swiftness of love which the soul acquires in 
this grade is that, now her charity is bound 
less, and that she herself is almost, if not 
entirely purified, as the Psalm saith : Sine 
iniquitate cucurri. 3 And in another Psalm : 
Viam mandatorum tuorum cucurri, cum dilatasti 

i Isai. xl. 31. 2 Psalm xli. i. 3 Psalm Iviii. 5. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

I ran forward upon the road of 
Thy commandments when Thou broadenedst 
out my heart ; and so, from this sixth grade, 
she is soon placed in the seventh, which is as 

The seventh grade of this ladder makes the 
soul most vehemently to dare, with which 
intense and amorous impetus she is so carried 
away, that she neither listens to judgment 
which would bid her wait, nor heeds the 
counsel that might check her course, nor can 
shame itself restrain her; because the favour 
that God now showers upon the soul, makes 
her violent and forward. Whence follows 
what saith the Apostle, and it is this : that 
charity believeth all things, hopeth all things 
and can do all things: Omnia credit, omnica 
sperat omnia sustinet^ It was of this grade 
that Moses spoke when he asked God to 
spare his people, and if not, to blot his name 
from out of the book of life wherein He had 
written it: Aut dimitte cis hanc noxain, ant si 
non facts, dele me de libro tuo, quern scripsisti. 3 
These souls get from God what with delight 
they ask of him. Whence says David : Delec- 
tare in Domino : ct dabit tibi pctitiones cordis 
tui.* Delight thyself in God, and He shall 

i Psalm cxviii. 32. ~ i ad. Corin. xiii. 7. 

3 Exod. xxxii. 31, 32. * Psalm xxxvi. 4. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

give thee the petitions of thy heart. It was 
in this degree that the Spouse waxed bold 
and said : Osculatur me osculo oris suL * But 
here it is most important to observe that it is 
not permissible to the soul to wax daring, if 
she feels not the interior favour of the sceptre 
of God inclined towards her ; lest, perchance, 
she fall not from the other grades which she 
has, until then scaled, in the which she must 
always guard herself with great humility. 
From this daring and command God gives to 
the soul in this seventh grade to wax bold with 
him from sheer vehemence of love follows 
the eighth, which is when she seizes upon her 
Beloved and makes herself one with Him. 

The eighth grade of love makes the soul to 
seize upon and press Him in her arms, never 
loosening her grasp according to what the 
Bride says after the following manner : 
Invent, quam diligit anima mea : tenui eum^ 
nee dimittam. 2 I found Him who loves my 
heart and life, I held Him, and I will not 
loose Him. In this grade of love the soul 
satisfies her desire, but not without intermis 
sion, for some place their foot on this rung 
and then withdraw it ; for, were it otherwise, 
and they remained in this grade, they would 

i Cant. i. i. 2 Cant. iii. 4. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

enter into the possession of a certain glory- 
even in this life, and therefore, the soul 
spends but a short space therein. For, to the 
prophet Daniel, as he was a man of big 
desires, it was told to him from God that he 
should remain in this grade : Daniel vir desi- 
deriomni sta in gradu tuo. * From this 
grade proceeds the ninth, which belongs to 
those who have reached perfection, as we 
shall say. 

The ninth degree of love makes the soul to Q 
burn with exceeding softness. This degree 
is the state of the perfect, who, at last, burn 
sweetly in God. For this soft and delicious 
fire and ardour is caused in them by the Holy 
Spirit by reason of the union they have with 
God. Wherefore, saith St. Gregory, speaking 
of the Apostles, when the Holy Ghost 
descended visibly upon them, they burnt 
interiorly and softly in love. No man may 
speak of the gifts and riches of God which the 
soul enjoys in this grade ; for if many books 
were multiplied concerning it, the greater 
part would still be left unsaid. Whereof I 
say no more, save that from this follows the 
tenth and last grade of this ladder of love, 
which no longer pertains to this life. 

i Dan. x. ii. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

r^ The tenth and last grade of this ladder of 

\ W love makes the soul to be entirely assimilated 
to God, by reason of the lucid vision of God 
which she then possesses, for having even in 
this life arrived at the ninth grade, she leaves 
the flesh. And in the case of these, for they 
are few, love is wont to accomplish, having 
thoroughly purged and scourged them in this 
life, what on others Purgatory effects in the 
next. Whence St. Matthew says : Beati 
mundo corde : quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt. * 
And, as we say, this insight is the cause of 
the entire similitude of the soul with God, 
for so saith St. John : Scimus quoniam cum 
apparuerit, similes ei erimus : quoniam vide- 
bimus eum sicuti est. 2 We know that we 
shall be like unto Him, for we shall see Him 
as He is. Where all that constitutes the soul 
shall be like to God ; for which reason, she 
shall be called, and shall be, God by partici 
pation. This is the secret staircase the soul 
speaks of here, although, already, in these 
higher grades, it is far from being secret from 
her, for, much is revealed to her by love in 
the great effects it works upon her. But on 
this last grade of clear vision, which is the 
last rung of the ladder which rests on God, 
1 Matt. v. 8. 2 x. Joann. iii. 2. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

as we have said, no longer is there anything 
hidden from the soul, by reason of her total 
assimilation. Whence our Saviour says : 
Et in illo die me non rogabitis quidquam. * In 
that day thou shalt enquire of me nothing, 
for, until that day, to whatever heights the 
soul may soar, somewhat remains hidden 
from her, and in like proportion to that which 
still lacks of absolute assimilation with the 
Divine essence. In this way, by this Mystical 
Theology and Secret Love doth the soul go, 
going forth from all things and from herself, 
and mounting to God. For love is like to fire, 
which ever leaps upwards, with desire to be 
engulfed in the centre of its sphere. 


T T now remains, then, after we 
have set forth the reasons wherefore 
the soul called this contemplation : The 
Secret Stairway " also, to state as to the 
third word of the line, to wit disguised," 

1 Joann. xvi. 23. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

why the soul says that she set forth by this 
" Secret Stair disguised." For the fuller 
understanding thereof, it is essential to know 
that, to disguise oneself is the same as to 
dissemble and hide oneself under some other 
dress and appearance than our own ; either 
that we may under this guise or semblance, 
make manifest the desires and pretensions 
we harbour in our hearts, so that we may 
win the favour and affection of one we dearly 
love ; or that we may the better conceal 
ourselves from our rivals, and thus forward 
the end we have in view. 

And in such circumstances, we choose 
such a dress and livery as may best represent 
and shadow forth the affection of our heart, 
and disguise ourselves more safely from our 
enemies. So with the soul, who, now alight 
with love of her Spouse Christ, to the end 
that she may captivate His favour, and 
conquer His affection, sets forth disguised 
in that travesty which most vividly repre 
sents the desires of her spirit, and most suited 
to secure her a fair and prosperous journey, 
safe from the attacks of her adversaries and 
enemies, which are the World, the Flesh, 
and the Devil. And to this end the livery 
she wears, is made up of three chief colours, 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

which are, white, green, and red : which 
denote the three theological virtues, which 
are, Faith, Hope, and Charity, wherewith 
she shall not only win the favour and in 
clination of her Beloved, but shall walk 
protected and secure from her three enemies : 
for Faith is an inner tunic of so fine a white 
ness, that it completely deprives the mind 
of sight. And so when the soul sets forth 
upon her journey, being clothed with Faith, 
the Devil sees her not, nor succeeds in 
checking her, for, under the great defence 
of Faith, she goeth in safety from the 
Devil, who is her most powerful and astute 

Wherefore, St. Peter found no greater 
defence than Faith, whereby to escape his 
clutches, when he said : Cut resistite fortes 
in Fide}- And if she would secure the 
favour of, and union with, the Beloved, she 
can clothe herself with no better tunic and 
inner shift, to be the basis and groundwork 
of all the other garments of virtue, than this 
whiteness of Faith, for without it, as saith 
the Apostle, it is impossible to please God : 
Sine Fide antem impossible est placere Deo? 
And with Faith, if it is lively and vital she 

1 i Peter v. 9. 2 Hebrceor. xi. g. 

241 R 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

pleases Him, and appears comely in His eyes ; 
Sponsabo te mihi in Fide, 1 which is as much 
as to say ; If thou wilt, oh soul, unite and wed 
with me, thou must come clothed interiorly 
with Faith. 

This whiteness of Faith the soul wears when 
she sallies forth into this dark night, and she 
journeys (as we have said above) in darkness 
and interior conflict, deprived of all comfort 
of intellectual light, as well as celestial, since 
the sky seems shut to her, and God is hiding ; 
nor yet does she find it from below, since 
those who instructed her satisfied her not, 
yet still she bore it all with constancy and 
persevered, and passing through these trials 
without losing heart or allowing her confidence 
to be shaken in her Beloved ; He, who in 
trials and tribulations proves the Faith of His 
Spouse, after such sort that she may after 
wards acclaim, in all truth, in the words of 
David : Propter verba labiomm tuorum ego 
custodivi vias duras? By reason of the words 
of thy lips, I was held to hard roads. 

Then above all this white tunic of Faith, 
the soul now invests herself with the second 
colour, which is a garment of green. By which 
colour is signified the virtue of Hope, where - 

1 Osee. ii. 20. - Psalm xvi. 4. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

with, first of all, the soul delivers and defends 
herself from her second enemy, which is the 
World. For this lively green of living hope 
in God gives to the soul, such vitality, and 
courage, and such a soaring upwards to the 
things of life eternal, that, in comparison 
with what she hopes for there, all wordly 
things seem to her (as is indeed the truth), 
dry, withered, dead, and of no account. 
Now she strips and despoils herself of all 
the garments and vestures of the world, nor 
setting her heart on, nor hoping for ought 
there is, or is to be, therein, living solely clad 
in the hope of life eternal. Wherefore, her 
heart being so exalted above the world, not 
only can it nor touch, nor seize, nor even 
turn to watch her in her flight. And so with 
this green livery and disguise the soul goes 
most secure from her second enemy, which 
is the World. For, as to Hope, St. Paul calls 
it The Helmet of Safety: Galcam Spem 
Salutis : 1 which is a piece of armour to pro 
tect the whole head, and cover it, in such 
sort, that no part thereof remains open save 
a vizor for the eyes. And this same property 
hath Hope, for she envelops all the organs 
of the head and of the heart; so that they 

i i Thess. v. 8. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

cannot be. engulfed in anything of the world, 
nor leaves a loophole whereby some arrow 
from the world may wound them ; one vizor 
alone she leaves, so that the eyes may 
direct their gaze upwards, and no more, for 
Hope s usual office in the soul, is solely to 
raise the eyes to look at God alone, as says 
David : Oculi met Semper ad Dominum^ 
Hoping for nothing good from any other 
direction, save, as he says in another Psalm : 
Sicut oculi ancillce in manibus domince suce : 
ita oculi nostri ad Dominiun Deum nostrum^ 
donee inisereatur nostri. 2 Like as the eyes of 
the handmaiden are fixed upon the hands of 
her mistress, so are ours on our Lord God, 
until he shall take compassion upon us, who 
wait on Him. 

In this green livery (forasmuch as the soul 
ever keeps her eyes turned towards God, and 
heeds nought else save Him, the Beloved 
takes such delight that it is truth to say He 
is fain to give the soul all she hopes for. 
Therefore He says to her in the Canticles, 
that one glance from her eye wounded Him 
to the heart : Vulnerasti cor meum in uno 
oculorum tuoritm? Without this green livery 

1 Psalm xxiv. 15. 2 Psalm cxxii. 2. 
3 Cant. iv. 9. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

of absolute hope in God, the soul could not 
have gone forth on this, her quest of love, 
for she might achieve nought ; forasmuch as 
it is stubborn and irresistible Hope which 
impels her on, and wins the victory. 

In this livery of Hope the soul walks dis 
guised through this secret and obscure night ; 
for she goes so emptied out of all stays and 
belongings, that her eyes and anxiety are 
fixed on nothing else, save God, abasing her 
mouth to the dust, if, peradventure, Hope is 
only by her side, as we have quoted before 
from Jeremiah. 

Over the white and the green, for the final 
touch and ornament of this disguise and 
livery, the soul now wears the third colour, 
which is a lovely mantle of scarlet. Whereby 
is denoted the third Virtue, which is Charity, 
wherewith, not only are the other two colours 
made more gracious, but the soul is made to 
soar so high, that she is placed very near to 
God, in so beautiful and lovely a seeming, 
that she is emboldened to exclaim : Nigra 
sum, sed formosa, filice Jerusalem : ideb delexit 
me Rex, et introduxit me in Cubiculum suum^ 
Though I be black, oh ye daughters of 
Jerusalem ! yet I am comely ; therefore the 

1 Cant. i. 4. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

King hath loved me, and hath placed me in 
his bed. With this livery of charity which 
is that of love, not only doth the soul defend 
and hide herself from her third enemy, which 
is the Flesh (for where there is unfeigned 
love of God, love of self and self s belongings 
cannot enter in), but even gives validity and 
resistance to the other virtues, giving them 
strength and vigour to protect the soul, and 
grace and elegance to delight therewith the 
Beloved One ; for without charity, no virtue 
is gracious before God. For this is the 
crimson spoken of in the Canticles, whereby 
we ascend to the couch whereon reposes God, 
Reclinatorium aureum> ascensun purpureum^ 
In this crimson livery the soul walks clad, 
when (as has been above declared in the first 
Song ) she goes forth out of herself into the 
obscure night, ^fajr_jrom_all created things/ 
"With longing flaming into love," by this 
secret stair of contemplation, to the perfect 
union of love with God, He who is her 
Beloved Health and Saviour. 

This, then, is the disguise which the soul 

saith she wears in the night of Faith and 

on this secret stair ; and these are the three 

colours thereof. The which are a most 

i Cant. 3, 10. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

yielding disposition in the soul to unite 
herself with God, according to her three 
faculties, which are Memory, Intellect, and 
Will. For Faith voids and darkens the in 
tellect of all its human knowledge, and, by 
so doing, prepares it for union with the 
Divine Wisdom. And Hope empties and 
alienates the memory from all creature pos 
sessions ; for, as says St. Paul, Hope is for 
that we do not possess. Spes autem, qua 
videtur, non est spes> And therefore, it alien 
ates the memory from all possible possessions 
in this life, and sets it upon what it hopes 
to enjoy in the future. And this is why the 
hope of God alone, can absolutely dispose 
the memory because of the vacuum it causes 
therein, to be united with him. Just in the 
same way doth charity void and empty the 
affections and appetites of the will of what 
soever thing that is not God, and sets them 
on Him alone; and so this virtue prepares 
this faculty and unites it with God through 
love. Whence, as the office of these virtues 
is to alienate the soul from all that is less 
than God, they consequently possess that 
of joining her with Him. And so, unless she 
travels invested, in very truth, with the 

i Rom. viii. 24. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

raiment of these virtues, it is impossible to 
arrive at the perfection of love with God. 
Whence, if the soul would achieve her 
purpose, which was the amorous and most 
sweet union with her Beloved, it was most 
necessary and fitting for her to assume this 
garb and vesture. And likewise, her success 
in donning and persevering therein, until she 
achieved the end and purpose she so ardently 
desired, which was the union of love, was 
most exceeding good fortune ; wherefore the 
line following says thus : 



T T is exceeding clear that it was indeed a 
blissful chance for the soul to start forth 
upon such an enterprise as this, wherein she 
delivered herself from the devil, and the 
world, and from her own sensuality ; and 
having achieved the liberty of spirit precious 
and desired of all, went from the lower to the 
higher, from earthly, made herself Celestial, 
from human, Divine coming, at last, to have 
all her converse in Heaven, as happens in 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

this state of perfection, as we shall go on 
to show, although, now, with somewhat more 
brevity ; since those matters of most im 
portance (and the end that I mainly proposed 
to myself in this matter, was to explain this 
night to many souls who pass through it, and 
were ignorant thereof, as is stated in the 
prologue) have been already adequately 
declared and set forth (although falling far 
short of the reality) how great the riches are 
it brings along with it to the soul, and what a 
blissful chance it is for him who wins there 
through, so that when they shall shrink with 
horror from such poignant trials, they may 
take courage, in the certain hope of the in 
numerable and incomparable gifts as are 
therein achieved. And likewise, besides this, 
it was indeed a happy chance for the soul, in 
respect of what she goes on to say in the 
following line. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 



" Tf^NCELADA" is as much as to say: 
In hiding or in concealment ; and, 
therefore, that the soul says here, that she 
set forth " In darkness, and in hiding," is 
the more fully to shew us the great safety 
she has spoken of in the first line of this song, 
wherewith, by means of this obscure contem 
plation, she goes forth on her journey to the 
union of Love with God. 

For the soul, then, to say: "In darkness, 
and in hiding," means that, inasmuch as she 
went in darkness after the fashion described, 
she journeyed hidden and concealed from the 
devil, and safe from his guiles and ambushes. 
The reason why the soul goes freed and 
hidden from the snares of the devil, is 
because the infused contemplation which 
now guides her, is instilled into her passively 
and secretly, in the darkness of the senses 
and the interior and exterior powers of the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

sensitive part. And hence it is, that not only 
does she go free and concealed from the 
impediment which these two powers may 
interpose in respect of her physical nature 
and weakness, but, also from the lyings in 
wait of the devil who, unless by means of 
these faculties of the sensitive part can nor 
grasp nor know that which is in the soul, and 
passes within her. Whence, the more spirit 
ual, interior, and remote from the senses is 
her communication with God, so much the 
less does the devil succeed in apprehending 
it. And so, it is of the utmost importance for 
the safety of the Soul, that her interior con 
verse with God should be in such a sort, that 
the senses of the inferior part themselves, be 
left in darkness and ignorance, and not per 
ceive it. First, so as to give place for a 
greater abundance of the spiritual communi 
cation, the liberty of the spirit not being 
hindered by the weakness of the sensitive 
part. The second, because the soul goes 
more securely, the devil being powerless to 
reach her inmost recesses. And to this pur 
pose may we understand this text of the 
Saviour, speaking spiritually, to wit: Nesciat 
sinistra tua quid faciat dextera tua> Let not 
i Matt. vi. 3. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

thy left hand know what thy right hand 
doeth. Which is as much as to say : Let 
not what passeth in the right, which is the 
higher and spiritual part of the soul, be 
known of the left ; that is, let it be after such 
a sort that the lower portion of thy soul, 
which is the sensitive part, apprehend it not ; 
let it be secret between the spirit and God 
alone. It is, indeed, true that very often 
these spiritual communications are profoundly 
impressed on the most interior and secret 
parts of the soul, although the devil cannot 
come at what and how they are, yet, by 
reason of the great hush and silence which fall 
upon the senses and faculties of the sensitive 
part, which certain of them produce, he sees 
that they are there, and that the soul is in 
the act of receiving some great favour. And, 
then, since he perceives that he cannot reach 
to the bottom of the soul to oppose them, he 
does his best to startle and perturb the 
sensitive part, where he can reach, now with 
pain, now with terror and dread, with intent, 
by this means, to trouble and disturb the 
higher and spiritual part of the soul, in respect 
of this favour which she then receives and 
enjoys. But ofttimes, when the communica 
tion of such contemplation seizes upon the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

spirit absolutely, and overpowers it, his dili 
gence to disquieten her, avails him nothing, 
nay rather, then, doth the soul receive fresh 
benefits, love, and a securer peace ; for, when 
she feels the perturbing presence of her 
enemy, oh, most wonderful thing ! and al 
though she knows not how it happens, she 
enters still deeper into the secret recesses of 
her own interior, perceiving, indeed, that she 
bestows herself in a most sure refuge, where 
she is at a greater distance and more surely 
hidden from the enemy ; and thus the peace 
and joy that the devil aimed to rob her of are 
abundantly increased. And then all her 
former fear falls away, and she knows clearly 
that she is free, and sings with joy to see herself 
in such serene and tranquil peace, rejoicing in 
the tenderness and savour of the Spouse in so 
hidden a refuge that nor world nor devil can 
give or take away. The soul, therein, per 
ceiving the truth of that spoken by the Spouse 
in respect of the same matter in the Canticles : 
En lectuluin Saloinonis sexaginta fortes ambiunt 
. . . proptcr ti mores nocturnes }~ Behold sixty 
armed men surround the bed of Solomon, on 
account of the terrors of the night. And this 
strength and peace she tastes, although she 
1 Cant. Hi. 7, 8. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

often feels her flesh and bones tormented 
from without. At other times, when she 
shares the spiritual communication with the 
senses, the devil may more easily succeed by 
means of the senses in troubling and startling 
the spirit with these terrors. And then the 
torment and woe he causes in the spirit are 
exceeding "great, and ofttimes beyond the 
power of words to describe ; for as the 
struggle is between spirit and spirit, the 
horror caused by the evil spirit in the good, 
I mean in the soul, when his tumultuous in 
fluence reaches her, is intolerable. The 
which, also, the Spouse in the Canticles refers 
to, when she says that happened to her in 
like manner, at the time she was fain to 
descend into the interior folding inwards of 
the soul to enjoy these graces, saying : 
Descendi in hortum nucum, ut viderem ponia 
convallium, et inspicerem> si floruisset vinea . . . 
nescivi : anima mea conturbavit me propter 
quadrigas Aminadab. 1 I went down to the 
garden of the nuts to see the apples of the 
valleys, and if the vines had blossomed ; I 
swooned, my soul was troubled by the 
chariots of Aminadab, which is the devil. 
At other times, this contradiction of the 

1 Cant. vi. 10. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

devil takes place when God bestows mercies 
on the soul through the guardian angel, for 
these, sometimes, the devil succeeds in per 
ceiving, for God doth, as a rule, allow them 
to be discerned by the adversary. First, so 
that He may work His utmost against them 
in accordance with the scales of justice, that, 
therefore, the devil may not allege his right, 
saying that he is given no opportunity to 
make conquest of the soul, as he did of Job. 
And, so, it is fitting that God should clear the 
lists, so that the two combatants may meet 
on more equal terms, to wit, the good angel 
and the bad in their struggle for the soul ; so 
that the victory may be more notorious and 
glorious, and the soul victorious and faithful 
in temptation, be more signally rewarded. 

Here it is proper to note that this is the 
reason why, sometimes, in this order which 
God sets Himself in His conduct of the soul, 
He gives the devil leave to trouble and to tempt 
her : like as, when she receives visions 
through the good angel, God also allows the 
bad angel to put before her false visions of 
the selfsame kind ; after such sort, that if 
the soul be not wary, so alike are they in 
seeming, she may easily be deceived, as have 
been many in this way. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

Whereof there is an example in Exodus, 
where is said that all the true signs made 
by Moses were falsely reproduced by the 
magicians of Pharaoh. For if he evoked 
frogs, they also evoked them ; if he turned 
water into blood, they did so likewise. Nor 
does Satan content himself with imitating 
this sort of corporal visions alone, but also 
adventures on the spiritual communications 
which come through the good angel, if he 
chances to behold them ; for, as Job hath 
said : Omne sublime videt^ ; he falsifies and 
meddles how he can. Although these, as 
they are without shape or form (for it is the 
nature of spirit to be formless), he cannot 
counterfeit and shape as he can the others, 
which appear under a certain phantasm or 
material image. And so that he may least 
cast doubt upon them, just in the same way 
as they visit the soul, he shews her as best 
he can, his fearsome spirit (at such time 
as the good angel is about to impart to her 
some spiritual contemplation), with a certain 
horror stricken and spiritual "perturbation, at 
times most grevious to her. And, then, the 
soul may sometimes wrest herself away 
quickly from his influence, before there is 
i Job xli. 25. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

time for the said horror of the evil spirit to 
imprint itself upon her ; and she folds herselt 
within herself, being mercifully favoured there 
to by the spiritual favour that the good angel 
then bestows upon her. 

At other times God permits this perturba 
tion and horror to last some time, which, 
to her, is infinitely more grievous than any 
torment of this life could be, and the memory 
thereof cleaves to her afterwards, which is 
enough to fill her with intense woe. All 
this we have said passes within the soul, 
although she can neither produce nor dis 
sipate this phantom or impression. But it 
must be here observed, that when God 
permits the devil thus to afflict and constrict 
the soul with this spiritual horror, He does so, 
to purify and dispose her by this spiritual 
vigil, for some great festival and spiritual 
favour which He, who never mortifies, save 
to give life, nor humbles save to exalt, wills 
to bestow upon her. The which takes place 
soon after ; for the soul, comformably to the 
dark purgation she has gone through, 
rejoices in the sweet and tender spiritual 
contemplation, at times so sublime, as to 
transcend all speech. That we have said is to 
be understood in respect of God s visits to 
257 s 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

the soul by means of the good angel, at which 
seasons she walks not with the same absolute 
safety (as has been said), nor yet, so sur 
rounded and concealed by darkness and her 
disguise, that the enemy may not chance upon 
her somewhat. But when God, of His own 
motion, visits her, then the said line is indeed 
verified ; for, in total darkness and conceal 
ment from the enemy, doth she receive the 
spiritual favours of God. The reason is 
because, as His Majesty is the Supreme 
Lord, He dwells substantially within the 
soul, where no angel nor devil may draw nigh 
to hear what passes, nor know the intimate 
and secret converse which therein passes 
betwixt herself and God. For these Divine 
communications, forasmuch as the Lord 
makes them of H5s own motion, are abso 
lutely Divine and sovereign, and are, as it 
were, substantial touches of Divine Union 
between the soul and God ; in one of which, 
since this is the most supreme grade of 
prayer there is, the soul receives greater 
benefit than in all the rest. For these are 
the touches which she received, and pleaded 
for in the Canticles, saying : Osculetur me 
osculo oris sni^ For, as it is a thing that 

i Cant. i. i. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

passes so close to God, where the soul with 
such lovesick longing is eager to approach, 
she prizes and desires one touch of this 
Divinity more than any other mercy that God 
bestows. Wherefore, in the Canticles, after 
He had showered on her many such, for 
which she had sung aloud His praises ; still, 
not being satisfied, she pleads with Him for 
these Divine touches, crying : Quis mihi det 
te fratrem meum sugentem ubera matris mece, 
ut inveniam te for is, et deosculer te, et jam me 
nemo despiciat ? * Who shall give thee to me, 
oh my brother ! that I alone shall find thee 
without, sucking the breasts of my mother, 
so that I may kiss thee with the lips of my 
soul, and so, none despise me nor wax bold 
against me ? Showing us by this, that it was 
the communication which God bestowed 
her, of His own free will, in solitude, alone 
on the outskirts, and in darkness from all 
creatures ; for this is meant by the words 
44 Alone and without sucking the breasts." 
The which happens when the soul, at last, 
with liberty of spirit, the sensitive part being 
powerless to hinder, nor the devil, using it 
as an instrument to oppose, enjoys these 
treasures in sweetness and infinite peace. 
1 Cant. viii. i. 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

For, then, the devil shall not wax bold against 
her, for he cannot reach her, nor has he 
power to draw nigh to hear these Divine 
whispers in the substance of the soul by her 
amorous conjunction with the substance of 
God. To this prize, none attains save by 
searching purgation and nakedness and a 
spiritual hiding place from everything that is 
creature. The which is in darkness, in which 
hiding place the soul confirms herself in the 
union with God through love, and therefore, 
she raises up her voice and gives utterance 
to her gladness in the words of the said line : 
In darkness and in hiding." 

When it happens that these mercies are 
bestowed upon the soul in hiding, which is 
on the spirit alone, in certain of them, the 
soul is wont to see herself, how it is, she 
knows not, so far away and remote from, 
in respect of the higher part from the lower, 
that she recognizes in herself two person 
alities, so distinct the one from the other, as 
to lead her to believe that the one has no 
connexion with the other, as it seems to her, 
that it is exceedingly remote and severed 
from the one. And, in truth, after a certain 
fashion so it is: for in respect of the opera 
tion that it then accomplishes, which is entirely 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

spiritual, it has no communication with the 
sensitive part. After this fashion doth the 
soul proceed to make herself entirely spiritual ; 
and in this hiding place, this den, this refuge 
of unitive contemplation, the passions and 
spiritual appetites are finally, each after its 
own fashion, made an end of, in a most 
superlative degree. And so, speaking of the 
higher portion of the soul the last line goes 
on to say. 



>TpHE which is as much as to say, that as the 
higher portion of my soul, as well as the 
inferior, is now at rest as regards its appetites 
and passions, I stole forth to the Divine union 
of love of God. 

Forasmuch as, by means of this troublous 
conflict of the obscure night (as has been 
said), the soul is combated and purged in two 
ways, to wit, in respect of the sensitive part 
and the spiritual with their senses, faculties, 
261 s* 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

and passions, in two ways, likewise in respect 
of these two parts sensitive and spiritual, 
doth the soul come at last to achieve peace 
and rest. And it is for this reason (as hath 
also been said) that she twice repeats this 
line in this song and the last, by reason of 
these two portions of the soul, the spiritual 
and the sensitive ; the which, if they are to 
be enabled to set forth on their journey to the 
Divine union of love, must be first reformed, 
set in order, and silenced as to the sensitive 
and spiritual, like as in the state of Innocence 
wherein Adam first dwelt, notwithstanding 
that it is not entirely delivered from the 
temptations of the inferior part. And thus 
this line which, in the first song was taken to 
mean the repose of the inferior and sensitive 
part, is in this second part to be more 
particularly understood of the upper and 
spiritual, wherefore she has repeated it 

The soul comes to achieve this rest and 
quiet of her spiritual house, habitually and 
perfectly (so far as this condition of our life 
admits of), by means of these acts, which are 
substantial, as it were, of the Divine union we 
have just spoken of, which in concealment, 
and hidden from the perturbations of the 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

devil, and from her own senses and emotions, 
she hath received from the Divinity, wherein 
the soul has never ceased to purify, silence, 
and strengthen herself, and make herself 
firm and stable so as to be able, judiciously, 
to receive the said union, which is the Divine 
espousals between the soul and the Son of 
God. Whereupon, as soon as these two 
houses of the soul are both completely 
hushed and fortified together with all their 
servitors of faculties and appetites, put to 
sleep and in repose in respect of all things 
above and below, this Divine Wisdom is 
immediately united with the soul in a new 
knot of possession of love, and that which is 
said thereof is fulfilled : Cum enim quietum 
silentium contineret omnia et nox in suo cursu 
medium iter haberet^ omnipotent sermo tuus de 
ccelo a regalibus sedibus prosilivit> The bride 
sets forth the same thing in the Canticles, 
saying, that after she escaped from those who 
stripped her of her cloak by night and sorely 
wounded her, she found Him whom her soul 
desired: Paululum cum pertransisem eos, 
ini cnvi, quern diligit anima mea? It is im 
possible to arrive at this union without great 

i Cant. iii. 4. 2 Cant. iii. 4. 


The Dark Night of the Soul 

purity, and this purity is not achieved without 
being stripped of all created things and a lively 
mortification. The which is signified by the 
stripping off of the mantle from the Spouse 
and wounding her by night, when she was 
seeking and hunting for her Spouse ; for she 
could not clothe herself with the new bridal 
robe she desired until she had cast off the 
old. Wherefore, he who shall refuse to set 
forth into this night (now described), to seek 
for his Beloved and be stripped of his will 
and mortified, but who seeks for Him in 
his bed and at his ease, shall find Him not 
like as this soul says of herself that she 
found Him, when she stole forth in dark 
ness and sick with passionate longing in her 
journey towards Him ; inasmuch as she 
travels unimpeded by any obstacle of form 
and figure and human knowledge, which are 
the usual barriers between her and her last 
ing union with God. 

The third is, that although she walks, 
unstayed by any special interior mental light, 
or exterior guide, to sustain and encourage 
her on this lofty road, since the darkness of 
this night deprives her of all such aid ; still 
her Love and Faith which ever, like a beacon 
lights her way, and constantly importune her 

The Dark Night of the Soul 

heart with thought of her Beloved, urge and 
guide her forward, and make her to fleet 
swiftly towards her God on this lonely, 
solitary road, although she knows not how 
nor in what way. 

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