Dark Night of the Soul
John of the Cross, St. (1542-1591)
DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
THIRD REVISED EDITION
Translated and edited, with an Introduction, by E. ALLISON PEERS
from the critical edition of P. SILVERIO DE SANTA TERESA, C.D.
TO THE DISCALCED CARMELITES OF CASTILE,
WITH ABIDING MEMORIES OF THEIR HOSPITALITY AND KINDNESS
IN MADRID, AVILA AND BURGOS,
BUT ABOVE ALL OF THEIR DEVOTION TO
SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS,
I DEDICATE THIS TRANSLATION
PREFACE TO THE ELECTRONIC EDITION
This electronic edition (v 0.9) was scanned in 1994 from an
uncopyrighted 1959 Image Books third edition of the Dark Night. The
entire text except for the translator's preface and some of the
footnotes have been reproduced. Nearly 400 footnotes (and parts of
footnotes) describing variations among manuscripts have been omitted.
Page number references in the footnotes have been changed to chapter
and section where possible. This edition has been proofread once, but
additional errors may remain. The translator's preface to the first and
second editions may be found with the electronic edition of Ascent of
A.V.--Authorized Version of the Bible (1611).
D.V.--Douai Version of the Bible (1609).
C.W.S.T.J.--The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus, translated and
edited by E. Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de
Santa Teresa, C.D. London, Sheed and Ward, 1946. 3 vols.
H.--E. Allison Peers: Handbook to the Life and Times of St. Teresa and
St. John of the Cross. London, Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1953.
LL.--The Letters of Saint Teresa of Jesus, translated and edited by E.
Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa,
C.D. London, Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1951. 2 vols.
N.L.M.--National Library of Spain (Biblioteca Nacional), Madrid.
Obras (P. Silv.)--Obras de San Juan de la Cruz, Doctor de la Iglesia,
editadas y anotadas por el P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D. Burgos,
1929-31. 5 vols.
S.S.M.--E. Allison Peers: Studies of the Spanish Mystics. Vol. I,
London, Sheldon Press, 1927; 2nd ed., London, S.P.C.K., 1951. Vol. II,
London, Sheldon Press, 1930.
Sobrino.--Jose Antonio de Sobrino, S.J.: Estudios sobre San Juan de la
Cruz y nuevos textos de su obra. Madrid, 1950.
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
SOMEWHAT reluctantly, out of respect for a venerable tradition, we
publish the Dark Night as a separate treatise, though in reality it is
a continuation of the Ascent of Mount Carmel and fulfills the
undertakings given in it:
The first night or purgation is of the sensual part of the soul,
which is treated in the present stanza, and will be treated in the
first part of this book. And the second is of the spiritual part; of
this speaks the second stanza, which follows; and of this we shall
treat likewise, in the second and the third part, with respect to
the activity of the soul; and in the fourth part, with respect to
its passivity. 
This fourth part' is the Dark Night. Of it the Saint writes in a
passage which follows that just quoted:
And the second night, or purification, pertains to those who are
already proficient, occurring at the time when God desires to bring
them to the state of union with God. And this latter night is a more
obscure and dark and terrible purgation, as we shall say afterwards.
In his three earlier books he has written of the Active Night, of Sense
and of Spirit; he now proposes to deal with the Passive Night, in the
same order. He has already taught us how we are to deny and purify
ourselves with the ordinary help of grace, in order to prepare our
senses and faculties for union with God through love. He now proceeds
to explain, with an arresting freshness, how these same senses and
faculties are purged and purified by God with a view to the same
end--that of union. The combined description of the two nights
completes the presentation of active and passive purgation, to which
the Saint limits himself in these treatises, although the subject of
the stanzas which he is glossing is a much wider one, comprising the
whole of the mystical life and ending only with the Divine embraces of
the soul transformed in God through love.
The stanzas expounded by the Saint are taken from the same poem in the
two treatises. The commentary upon the second, however, is very
different from that upon the first, for it assumes a much more advanced
state of development. The Active Night has left the senses and
faculties well prepared, though not completely prepared, for the
reception of Divine influences and illuminations in greater abundance
than before. The Saint here postulates a principle of dogmatic
theology--that by himself, and with the ordinary aid of grace, man
cannot attain to that degree of purgation which is essential to his
transformation in God. He needs Divine aid more abundantly. However
greatly the soul itself labours,' writes the Saint, it cannot actively
purify itself so as to be in the least degree prepared for the Divine
union of perfection of love, if God takes not its hand and purges it
not in that dark fire.' 
The Passive Nights, in which it is God Who accomplishes the purgation,
are based upon this incapacity. Souls begin to enter' this dark night
when God draws them forth from the state of beginners--which is the
state of those that meditate on the spiritual road--and begins to
set them in the state of progressives--which is that of those who
are already contemplatives--to the end that, after passing through
it, they may arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of
the Divine union of the soul with God. 
Before explaining the nature and effects of this Passive Night, the
Saint touches, in passing, upon certain imperfections found in those
who are about to enter it and which it removes by the process of
purgation. Such travellers are still untried proficients, who have not
yet acquired mature habits of spirituality and who therefore still
conduct themselves as children. The imperfections are examined one by
one, following the order of the seven deadly sins, in chapters
(ii-viii) which once more reveal the author's skill as a director of
souls. They are easy chapters to understand, and of great practical
utility, comparable to those in the first book of the Ascent which deal
with the active purgation of the desires of sense.
In Chapter viii, St. John of the Cross begins to describe the Passive
Night of the senses, the principal aim of which is the purgation or
stripping of the soul of its imperfections and the preparation of it
for fruitive union. The Passive Night of Sense, we are told, is common'
and comes to many,' whereas that of Spirit is the portion of very few.'
 The one is bitter and terrible' but the second bears no comparison
with it,' for it is horrible and awful to the spirit.'  A good deal
of literature on the former Night existed in the time of St. John of
the Cross and he therefore promises to be brief in his treatment of it.
Of the latter, on the other hand, he will treat more fully . . . since
very little has been said of this, either in speech or in writing, and
very little is known of it, even by experience.' 
Having described this Passive Night of Sense in Chapter viii, he
explains with great insight and discernment how it may be recognized
whether any given aridity is a result of this Night or whether it comes
from sins or imperfections, or from frailty or lukewarmness of spirit,
or even from indisposition or humours' of the body. The Saint is
particularly effective here, and we may once more compare this chapter
with a similar one in the Ascent (II, xiii)--that in which he fixes the
point where the soul may abandon discursive meditation and enter the
contemplation which belongs to loving and simple faith.
Both these chapters have contributed to the reputation of St. John of
the Cross as a consummate spiritual master. And this not only for the
objective value of his observations, but because, even in spite of
himself, he betrays the sublimity of his own mystical experiences. Once
more, too, we may admire the crystalline transparency of his teaching
and the precision of the phrases in which he clothes it. To judge by
his language alone, one might suppose at times that he is speaking of
mathematical, rather than of spiritual operations.
In Chapter x, the Saint describes the discipline which the soul in this
Dark Night must impose upon itself; this, as might be logically deduced
from the Ascent, consists in allowing the soul to remain in peace and
quietness,' content with a peaceful and loving attentiveness toward
God.'  Before long it will experience enkindlings of love (Chapter
xi), which will serve to purify its sins and imperfections and draw it
gradually nearer to God; we have here, as it were, so many stages of
the ascent of the Mount on whose summit the soul attains to
transforming union. Chapters xii and xiii detail with great exactness
the benefits that the soul receives from this aridity, while Chapter
xiv briefly expounds the last line of the first stanza and brings to an
end what the Saint desires to say with respect to the first Passive
At only slightly greater length St. John of the Cross describes the
Passive Night of the Spirit, which is at once more afflictive and more
painful than those which have preceded it. This, nevertheless, is the
Dark Night par excellence, of which the Saint speaks in these words:
The night which we have called that of sense may and should be called a
kind of correction and restraint of the desire rather than purgation.
The reason is that all the imperfections and disorders of the sensual
part have their strength and root in the spirit, where all habits, both
good and bad, are brought into subjection, and thus, until these are
purged, the rebellions and depravities of sense cannot be purged
Spiritual persons, we are told, do not enter the second night
immediately after leaving the first; on the contrary, they generally
pass a long time, even years, before doing so,  for they still have
many imperfections, both habitual and actual (Chapter ii). After a
brief introduction (Chapter iii), the Saint describes with some
fullness the nature of this spiritual purgation or dark contemplation
referred to in the first stanza of his poem and the varieties of pain
and affliction caused by it, whether in the soul or in its faculties
(Chapters iv-viii). These chapters are brilliant beyond all
description; in them we seem to reach the culminating point of their
author's mystical experience; any excerpt from them would do them an
injustice. It must suffice to say that St. John of the Cross seldom
again touches those same heights of sublimity.
Chapter ix describes how, although these purgations seem to blind the
spirit, they do so only to enlighten it again with a brighter and
intenser light, which it is preparing itself to receive with greater
abundance. The following chapter makes the comparison between spiritual
purgation and the log of wood which gradually becomes transformed
through being immersed in fire and at last takes on the fire's own
properties. The force with which the familiar similitude is driven home
impresses indelibly upon the mind the fundamental concept of this most
sublime of all purgations. Marvellous, indeed, are its effects, from
the first enkindlings and burnings of Divine love, which are greater
beyond comparison than those produced by the Night of Sense, the one
being as different from the other as is the body from the soul. For
this (latter) is an enkindling of spiritual love in the soul, which, in
the midst of these dark confines, feels itself to be keenly and sharply
wounded in strong Divine love, and to have a certain realization and
foretaste of God.'  No less wonderful are the effects of the
powerful Divine illumination which from time to time enfolds the soul
in the splendours of glory. When the effects of the light that wounds
and yet illumines are combined with those of the enkindlement that
melts the soul with its heat, the delights experienced are so great as
to be ineffable.
The second line of the first stanza of the poem is expounded in three
admirable chapters (xi-xiii), while one short chapter (xiv) suffices
for the three lines remaining. We then embark upon the second stanza,
which describes the soul's security in the Dark Night--due, among other
reasons, to its being freed not only from itself, but likewise from its
other enemies, which are the world and the devil.' 
This contemplation is not only dark, but also secret (Chapter xvii),
and in Chapter xviii is compared to the staircase' of the poem. This
comparison suggests to the Saint an exposition (Chapters xviii, xix) of
the ten steps or degrees of love which comprise St. Bernard's mystical
ladder. Chapter xxi describes the soul's disguise,' from which the book
passes on (Chapters xxii, xxiii) to extol the happy chance' which led
it to journey in darkness and concealment' from its enemies, both
without and within.
Chapter xxiv glosses the last line of the second stanza--my house being
now at rest.' Both the higher and the lower portions of the soul' are
now tranquillized and prepared for the desired union with the Spouse, a
union which is the subject that the Saint proposed to treat in his
commentary on the five remaining stanzas. As far as we know, this
commentary was never written. We have only the briefest outline of what
was to have been covered in the third, in which, following the same
effective metaphor of night, the Saint describes the excellent
properties of the spiritual night of infused contemplation, through
which the soul journeys with no other guide or support, either outward
or inward, than the Divine love which burned in my heart.'
It is difficult to express adequately the sense of loss that one feels
at the premature truncation of this eloquent treatise.  We have
already given our opinion  upon the commentaries thought to have
been written on the final stanzas of the Dark Night.' Did we possess
them, they would explain the birth of the light--dawn's first
breathings in the heav'ns above'--which breaks through the black
darkness of the Active and the Passive Nights; they would tell us, too,
of the soul's further progress towards the Sun's full brightness. It is
true, of course, that some part of this great gap is filled by St. John
of the Cross himself in his other treatises, but it is small
compensation for the incomplete state in which he left this edifice of
such gigantic proportions that he should have given us other and
smaller buildings of a somewhat similar kind. Admirable as are the
Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame of Love, they are not so
completely knit into one whole as is this great double treatise. They
lose both in flexibility and in substance through the closeness with
which they follow the stanzas of which they are the exposition. In the
Ascent and the Dark Night, on the other hand, we catch only the echoes
of the poem, which are all but lost in the resonance of the
philosopher's voice and the eloquent tones of the preacher. Nor have
the other treatises the learning and the authority of these. Nowhere
else does the genius of St. John of the Cross for infusing philosophy
into his mystical dissertations find such an outlet as here. Nowhere
else, again, is he quite so appealingly human; for, though he is human
even in his loftiest and sublimest passages, this intermingling of
philosophy with mystical theology makes him seem particularly so. These
treatises are a wonderful illustration of the theological truth that
grace, far from destroying nature, ennobles and dignifies it, and of
the agreement always found between the natural and the
supernatural--between the principles of sound reason and the sublimest
manifestations of Divine grace.
 Ascent, Bk. I, chap. i, sect. 2.
 Op. cit., sect. 3.
 Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. iii, sect. 3.
 Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. i, sect. 1.
 Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. viii, sect. 1.
 Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. viii, sect. 2.
 Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. x, sect. 4.
 Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. iii, sect. 1.
 Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. i, sect. 1.
 Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xi, sect. 1.
 Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xvi, sect. 2.
 [On this, see Sobrino, pp. 159-66.]
 Cf. pp. lviii-lxiii, Ascent of Mount Carmel (Image Books edition).
MANUSCRIPTS OF THE DARK NIGHT
The autograph of the Dark Night, like that of the Ascent of Mount
Carmel, is unknown to us: the second seems to have disappeared in the
same period as the first. There are extant, however, as many as twelve
early copies of the Dark Night, some of which, though none of them is
as palaeographically accurate as the best copy of the Ascent, are very
reliable; there is no trace in them of conscious adulteration of the
original or of any kind of modification to fit the sense of any passage
into a preconceived theory. We definitely prefer one of these copies to
the others but we nowhere follow it so literally as to incorporate in
our text its evident discrepancies from its original.
MS. 3,446. An early MS. in the clear masculine hand of an Andalusian:
MS. 3,446 in the National Library, Madrid. Like many others, this MS.
was transferred to the library from the Convento de San Hermenegildo at
the time of the religious persecutions in the early nineteenth century;
it had been presented to the Archives of the Reform by the Fathers of
Los Remedios, Seville--a Carmelite house founded by P. Grecian in 1574.
It has no title and a fragment from the Living Flame of Love is bound
up with it.
This MS. has only two omissions of any length; these form part
respectively of Book II, Chapters xix and xxiii, dealing with the
Passive Night of the Spirit. It has many copyist's errors. At the same
time, its antiquity and origin, and the good faith of which it shows
continual signs, give it, in our view, primacy over the other copies
now to come under consideration. It must be made clear, nevertheless,
that there is no extant copy of the Dark Night as trustworthy and as
skilfully made as the Alcaudete MS. of the Ascent.
MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Toledo. Written in three hands, all early.
Save for a few slips of the copyist, it agrees with the foregoing; a
few of its errors have been corrected. It bears no title, but has a
long sub-title which is in effect a partial summary of the argument.
MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid. This famous convent, which was
one of St. Teresa's foundations, is very rich in Teresan autographs,
and has also a number of important documents relating to St. John of
the Cross, together with some copies of his works. That here described
is written in a large, clear hand and probably dates from the end of
the sixteenth century. It has a title similar to that of the last-named
copy. With few exceptions it follows the other most important MSS.
MS. Alba de Tormes. What has been said of this in the introduction to
the Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. 6-7) applies also to the Dark
Night. It is complete, save for small omissions on the part of the
amanuensis, the Argument' at the beginning of the poem, the verses
themselves and a few lines from Book II, Chapter vii.
MS. 6,624. This copy is almost identical with the foregoing. It omits
the Argument' and the poem itself but not the lines from Book II,
MS. 8,795. This contains the Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle, Living
Flame of Love, a number of poems by St. John of the Cross and the
Spiritual Colloquies between Christ and the soul His Bride. It is
written in various hands, all very early and some feminine. A note by
P. Andras de la Encarnacian, on the reverse of the first folio, records
that the copy was presented to the Archives of the Reform by the
Discalced Carmelite nuns of Baeza. This convent was founded in 1589,
two years before the Saint's death, and the copy may well date from
about this period. On the second folio comes the poem I entered in--I
knew not where.' On the reverse of the third folio begins a kind of
preface to the Dark Night, opening with the words: Begin the stanzas by
means of which a soul may occupy itself and become fervent in the love
of God. It deals with the Dark Night and is divided into two books. The
first treats of the purgation of sense, and the second of the spiritual
purgation of man. It was written by P. Fr. Juan de la Cruz, Discalced
Carmelite.' On the next folio, a so-called Preface: To the Reader'
begins: As a beginning and an explanation of these two purgations of
the Dark Night which are to be expounded hereafter, this chapter will
show how narrow is the path that leads to eternal life and how
completely detached and disencumbered must be those that are to enter
thereby.' This fundamental idea is developed for the space of two
folios. There follows a sonnet on the Dark Night,  and immediately
afterwards comes the text of the treatise.
The copy contains many errors, but its only omission is that of the
last chapter. There is no trace in it of any attempt to modify its
original; indeed, the very nature and number of the copyist's errors
are a testimony to his good faith.
MS. 12,658. A note by P. Andras states that he acquired it in Madrid
but has no more detailed recollection of its provenance. The Dark
Night,' it adds, begins on folio 43; our holy father is described
simply as "the second friar of the new Reformation,"  which is
clear evidence of its antiquity.'
The Codex contains a number of opuscules, transcribed no doubt with a
devotional aim by the copyist. Its epoch is probably the end of the
sixteenth century; it is certainly earlier than the editions. There is
no serious omission except that of six lines of the Argument.' The
authors of the other works copied include St. Augustine, B. Juan de
Avila, P. Baltasar Alvarez and P. Tomas de Jesus.
The copies which remain to be described are all mutilated or
abbreviated and can be disposed of briefly:
MS. 13,498. This copy omits less of the Dark Night than of the Ascent
but few pages are without their omissions. In one place a meticulous
pair of scissors has removed the lower half of a folio on which the
Saint deals with spiritual luxury.
MS. of the Carmelite Friars of Toledo. Dates from early in the
seventeenth century and has numerous omissions, especially in the
chapters on the Passive Night of the Spirit. The date is given (in the
same hand as that which copies the title) as 1618. This MS. also
contains an opuscule by Suso and another entitled Brief compendium of
the most eminent Christian perfection of P. Fr. Juan de la Cruz.'
MS. 18,160. The copyist has treated the Dark Night little better than
the Ascent; except from the first ten and the last three chapters, he
MS. 12,411. Entitled by its copyist 'spiritual Compendium,' this MS.
contains several short works of devotion, including one by Ruysbroeck.
Of St. John of the Cross's works it copies the Spiritual Canticle as
well as the Dark Night; the latter is headed: 'song of one soul alone.'
It also contains a number of poems, some of them by the Saint, and many
passages from St. Teresa. It is in several hands, all of the
seventeenth century. The copy of the Dark Night is most unsatisfactory;
there are omissions and abbreviations everywhere.
M.S. of the Carmelite Nuns of Pamplona. This MS. also omits and
abbreviates continually, especially in the chapters on the Passive
Night of Sense, which are reduced to a mere skeleton.
Editio princeps. This is much more faithful to its original in the Dark
Night than in the Ascent. Both the passages suppressed  and the
interpolations  are relatively few and unimportant. Modifications
of phraseology are more frequent and alterations are also made with the
aim of correcting hyperbaton. In the first book about thirty lines are
suppressed; in the second, about ninety. All changes which are of any
importance have been shown in the notes.
The present edition. We have given preference, as a general rule, to
MS. 3,446, subjecting it, however, to a rigorous comparison with the
other copies. Mention has already been made in the introduction to the
Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. lxiii-lxvi) of certain apparent
anomalies and a certain lack of uniformity in the Saint's method of
dividing his commentaries. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the
Dark Night. Instead of dividing his treatise into books, each with its
proper title, the Saint abandons this method and uses titles only
occasionally. As this makes comprehension of his argument the more
difficult, we have adopted the divisions which were introduced by P.
Salablanca and have been copied by successive editors.
M. Baruzi (Bulletin Hispanique, 1922, Vol. xxiv, pp. 18-40) complains
that this division weighs down the spiritual rhythm of the treatise and
interrupts its movement. We do not agree. In any case, we greatly
prefer the gain of clarity, even if the rhythm occasionally halts, to
the other alternative--the constant halting of the understanding. We
have, of course, indicated every place where the title is taken from
the editio princeps and was not the work of the author.
The following abbreviations are adopted in the footnotes:
A = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Alba.
B = MS. 6,624 (National Library, Madrid).
Bz. = MS. 8,795 (N.L.M.).
C = MS. 13,498 (N.L.M.).
G = MS. 18,160 (N.L.M.).
H = MS. 3,446 (N.L.M.).
M = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Toledo.
Mtr. = MS. 12,658.
P = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Toledo.
V = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid.
E.p. = Editio princeps (1618).
MS. 12,411 and the MS. of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Pamplona are
cited without abbreviations.
 [It contains a series of paradoxical statements, after the style
of those in Ascent, Bk. I, chap. xiii, and is of no great literary
merit. P. Silverio reproduces it in Spanish on p. 302 (note) of his
 The first friar' would be P. Antonio de Jesus, who was senior to
St. John of the Cross in the Carmelite Order, though not in the Reform.
 The longest of these are one of ten lines in Bk. I, chap. iv, [in
the original] and those of Bk. II, chaps. vii, viii, xii, xiii, which
vary from eleven to twenty-three lines. Bk. II, chap. xxiii, has also
 The chief interpolation is in Bk. I, chap. x.
Exposition of the stanzas describing the method followed by the soul
in its journey upon the spiritual road to the attainment of the
perfect union of love with God, to the extent that is possible in
this life. Likewise are described the properties belonging to the
soul that has attained to the said perfection, according as they are
contained in the same stanzas.
IN this book are first set down all the stanzas which are to be
expounded; afterwards, each of the stanzas is expounded separately,
being set down before its exposition; and then each line is expounded
separately and in turn, the line itself also being set down before the
exposition. In the first two stanzas are expounded the effects of the
two spiritual purgations: of the sensual part of man and of the
spiritual part. In the other six are expounded various and wondrous
effects of the spiritual illumination and union of love with God.
STANZAS OF THE SOUL
1. On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.
2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised--oh,
In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.
3. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned
in my heart.
4. This light guided me More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me-- A place
where none appeared.
5. Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the
6. Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the fanning of the
cedars made a breeze.
7. The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all my senses to
8. I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among
Begins the exposition of the stanzas which treat of the way and manner
which the soul follows upon the road of the union of love with God.
Before we enter upon the exposition of these stanzas, it is well to
understand here that the soul that utters them is now in the state of
perfection, which is the union of love with God, having already passed
through severe trials and straits, by means of spiritual exercise in
the narrow way of eternal life whereof Our Saviour speaks in the
Gospel, along which way the soul ordinarily passes in order to reach
this high and happy union with God. Since this road (as the Lord
Himself says likewise) is so strait, and since there are so few that
enter by it,  the soul considers it a great happiness and good
chance to have passed along it to the said perfection of love, as it
sings in this first stanza, calling this strait road with full
propriety dark night,' as will be explained hereafter in the lines of
the said stanza. The soul, then, rejoicing at having passed along this
narrow road whence so many blessings have come to it, speaks after this
 St. Matthew vii, 14.
BOOK THE FIRST
Which treats of the Night of Sense.
STANZA THE FIRST
On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.
IN this first stanza the soul relates the way and manner which it
followed in going forth, as to its affection, from itself and from all
things, and in dying to them all and to itself, by means of true
mortification, in order to attain to living the sweet and delectable
life of love with God; and it says that this going forth from itself
and from all things was a dark night,' by which, as will be explained
hereafter, is here understood purgative contemplation, which causes
passively in the soul the negation of itself and of all things referred
2. And this going forth it says here that it was able to accomplish in
the strength and ardour which love for its Spouse gave to it for that
purpose in the dark contemplation aforementioned. Herein it extols the
great happiness which it found in journeying to God through this night
with such signal success that none of the three enemies, which are
world, devil and flesh (who are they that ever impede this road), could
hinder it; inasmuch as the aforementioned night of purgative 
contemplation lulled to sleep and mortified, in the house of its
sensuality, all the passions and desires with respect to their
mischievous desires and motions. The line, then, says:
On a dark night
Sets down the first line and begins to treat of the imperfections of
INTO this dark night souls begin to enter when God draws them forth
from the state of beginners--which is the state of those that meditate
on the spiritual road--and begins to set them in the state of
progressives--which is that of those who are already contemplatives--to
the end that, after passing through it, they may arrive at the state of
the perfect, which is that of the Divine union of the soul with God.
Wherefore, to the end that we may the better understand and explain
what night is this through which the soul passes, and for what cause
God sets it therein, it will be well here to touch first of all upon
certain characteristics of beginners (which, although we treat them
with all possible brevity, will not fail to be of service likewise to
the beginners themselves), in order that, realizing the weakness of the
state wherein they are, they may take courage, and may desire that God
will bring them into this night, wherein the soul is strengthened and
confirmed in the virtues, and made ready for the inestimable delights
of the love of God. And, although we may tarry here for a time, it will
not be for longer than is necessary, so that we may go on to speak at
once of this dark night.
2. It must be known, then, that the soul, after it has been definitely
converted to the service of God, is, as a rule, spiritually nurtured
and caressed by God, even as is the tender child by its loving mother,
who warms it with the heat of her bosom and nurtures it with sweet milk
and soft and pleasant food, and carries it and caresses it in her arms;
but, as the child grows bigger, the mother gradually ceases caressing
it, and, hiding her tender love, puts bitter aloes upon her sweet
breast, sets down the child from her arms and makes it walk upon its
feet, so that it may lose the habits of a child and betake itself to
more important and substantial occupations. The loving mother is like
the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by its new
warmth and fervour for the service of God, He treats it in the same
way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and delectable, in all
the things of God, without any labour of its own, and also great
pleasure in spiritual exercises, for here God is giving to it the
breast of His tender love, even as to a tender child.
3. Therefore, such a soul finds its delight in spending long
periods--perchance whole nights--in prayer; penances are its pleasures;
fasts its joys; and its consolations are to make use of the sacraments
and to occupy itself in Divine things. In the which things spiritual
persons (though taking part in them with great efficacy and persistence
and using and treating them with great care) often find themselves,
spiritually speaking, very weak and imperfect. For since they are moved
to these things and to these spiritual exercises by the consolation and
pleasure that they find in them, and since, too, they have not been
prepared for them by the practice of earnest striving in the virtues,
they have many faults and imperfections with respect to these spiritual
actions of theirs; for, after all, any man's actions correspond to the
habit of perfection attained by him. And, as these persons have not had
the opportunity of acquiring the said habits of strength, they have
necessarily to work like feebler children, feebly. In order that this
may be seen more clearly, and likewise how much these beginners in the
virtues lacks with respect to the works in which they so readily engage
with the pleasure aforementioned, we shall describe it by reference to
the seven capital sins, each in its turn, indicating some of the many
imperfections which they have under each heading; wherein it will be
clearly seen how like to children are these persons in all they do. And
it will also be seen how many blessings the dark night of which we
shall afterwards treat brings with it, since it cleanses the soul and
purifies it from all these imperfections.
Of certain spiritual imperfections which beginners have with respect
to the habit of pride.
AS these beginners feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in
spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity (although
it is true that holy things of their own nature cause humility) there
often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of
secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with
their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise
a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to
speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even
to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in
their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which
they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words,
herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God
for his own good works and despising the publican. 
2. In these persons the devil often increases the fervour that they
have and the desire to perform these and other works more frequently,
so that their pride and presumption may grow greater. For the devil
knows quite well that all these works and virtues which they perform
are not only valueless to them, but even become vices in them. And such
a degree of evil are some of these persons wont to reach that they
would have none appear good save themselves; and thus, in deed and
word, whenever the opportunity occurs, they condemn them and slander
them, beholding the mote in their brother's eye and not considering the
beam which is in their own;  they strain at another's gnat and
themselves swallow a camel. 
3. Sometimes, too, when their spiritual masters, such as confessors and
superiors, do not approve of their spirit and behavior (for they are
anxious that all they do shall be esteemed and praised), they consider
that they do not understand them, or that, because they do not approve
of this and comply with that, their confessors are themselves not
spiritual. And so they immediately desire and contrive to find some one
else who will fit in with their tastes; for as a rule they desire to
speak of spiritual matters with those who they think will praise and
esteem what they do, and they flee, as they would from death, from
those who disabuse them in order to lead them into a safe
road--sometimes they even harbour ill-will against them. Presuming
thus,  they are wont to resolve much and accomplish very little.
Sometimes they are anxious that others shall realize how spiritual and
devout they are, to which end they occasionally give outward evidence
thereof in movements, sighs and other ceremonies; and at times they are
apt to fall into certain ecstasies, in public rather than in secret,
wherein the devil aids them, and they are pleased that this should be
noticed, and are often eager that it should be noticed more. 
4. Many such persons desire to be the favourites of their confessors
and to become intimate with them, as a result of which there beset them
continual occasions of envy and disquiet.  They are too much
embarrassed to confess their sins nakedly, lest their confessors should
think less of them, so they palliate them and make them appear less
evil, and thus it is to excuse themselves rather than to accuse
themselves that they go to confession. And sometimes they seek another
confessor to tell the wrongs that they have done, so that their own
confessor shall think they have done nothing wrong at all, but only
good; and thus they always take pleasure in telling him what is good,
and sometimes in such terms as make it appear to be greater than it is
rather than less, desiring that he may think them to be good, when it
would be greater humility in them, as we shall say, to depreciate it,
and to desire that neither he nor anyone else should consider them of
5. Some of these beginners, too, make little of their faults, and at
other times become over-sad when they see themselves fall into them,
thinking themselves to have been saints already; and thus they become
angry and impatient with themselves, which is another imperfection.
Often they beseech God, with great yearnings, that He will take from
them their imperfections and faults, but they do this that they may
find themselves at peace, and may not be troubled by them, rather than
for God's sake; not realizing that, if He should take their
imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder and more
presumptuous still. They dislike praising others and love to be praised
themselves; sometimes they seek out such praise. Herein they are like
the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps could not be lit, sought oil
from others. 
6. From these imperfections some souls go on to develop  many very
grave ones, which do them great harm. But some have fewer and some
more, and some, only the first motions thereof or little beyond these;
and there are hardly any such beginners who, at the time of these signs
of fervour,  fall not into some of these errors.  But those who
at this time are going on to perfection proceed very differently and
with quite another temper of spirit; for they progress by means of
humility and are greatly edified, not only thinking naught of their own
affairs, but having very little satisfaction with themselves; they
consider all others as far better, and usually have a holy envy of
them, and an eagerness to serve God as they do. For the greater is
their fervour, and the more numerous are the works that they perform,
and the greater is the pleasure that they take in them, as they
progress in humility, the more do they realize how much God deserves of
them, and how little is all that they do for His sake; and thus, the
more they do, the less are they satisfied. So much would they gladly do
from charity and love for Him, that all they do seems to them naught;
and so greatly are they importuned, occupied and absorbed by this
loving anxiety that they never notice what others do or do not; or if
they do notice it, they always believe, as I say, that all others are
far better than they themselves. Wherefore, holding themselves as of
little worth, they are anxious that others too should thus hold them,
and should despise and depreciate that which they do. And further, if
men should praise and esteem them, they can in no wise believe what
they say; it seems to them strange that anyone should say these good
things of them.
7. Together with great tranquillity and humbleness, these souls have a
deep desire to be taught by anyone who can bring them profit; they are
the complete opposite of those of whom we have spoken above, who would
fain be always teaching, and who, when others seem to be teaching them,
take the words from their mouths as if they knew them already. These
souls, on the other hand, being far from desiring to be the masters of
any, are very ready to travel and set out on another road than that
which they are actually following, if they be so commanded, because
they never think that they are right in anything whatsoever. They
rejoice when others are praised; they grieve only because they serve
not God like them. They have no desire to speak of the things that they
do, because they think so little of them that they are ashamed to speak
of them even to their spiritual masters, since they seem to them to be
things that merit not being spoken of. They are more anxious to speak
of their faults and sins, or that these should be recognized rather
than their virtues; and thus they incline to talk of their souls with
those who account their actions and their spirituality of little value.
This is a characteristic of the spirit which is simple, pure, genuine
and very pleasing to God. For as the wise Spirit of God dwells in these
humble souls, He moves them and inclines them to keep His treasures
secretly within and likewise to cast out from themselves all evil. God
gives this grace to the humble, together with the other virtues, even
as He denies it to the proud.
8. These souls will give their heart's blood to anyone that serves God,
and will help others to serve Him as much as in them lies. The
imperfections into which they see themselves fall they bear with
humility, meekness of spirit and a loving fear of God, hoping in Him.
But souls who in the beginning journey with this kind of perfection
are, as I understand, and as has been said, a minority, and very few
are those who we can be glad do not fall into the opposite errors. For
this reason, as we shall afterwards say, God leads into the dark night
those whom He desires to purify from all these imperfections so that He
may bring them farther onward.
 St. Luke xviii, 11-12.
 St. Matthew vii, 3.
 St. Matthew xxiii, 24.
 [Lit., Presuming.']
 [The original merely has: and are often eager.']
 [Lit., a thousand envies and disquietudes.']
 St. Matthew xxv, 8. [Lit., who, having their lamps dead, sought
oil from without.']
 [Lit., to have.']
 [Lit., these fervours.']
 [Lit., into something of this.']
Of some imperfections which some of these souls are apt to have,
with respect to the second capital sin, which is avarice, in the
MANY of these beginners have also at times great spiritual avarice.
They will be found to be discontented with the spirituality which God
gives them; and they are very disconsolate and querulous because they
find not in spiritual things the consolation that they would desire.
Many can never have enough of listening to counsels and learning
spiritual precepts, and of possessing and reading many books which
treat of this matter, and they spend their time on all these things
rather than on works of mortification and the perfecting of the inward
poverty of spirit which should be theirs. Furthermore, they burden
themselves with images and rosaries which are very curious; now they
put down one, now take up another; now they change about, now change
back again; now they want this kind of thing, now that, preferring one
kind of cross to another, because it is more curious. And others you
will see adorned with agnusdeis  and relics and tokens,  like
children with trinkets. Here I condemn the attachment of the heart, and
the affection which they have for the nature, multitude and curiosity
of these things, inasmuch as it is quite contrary to poverty of spirit
which considers only the substance of devotion, makes use only of what
suffices for that end and grows weary of this other kind of
multiplicity and curiosity. For true devotion must issue from the
heart, and consist in the truth and substances alone of what is
represented by spiritual things; all the rest is affection and
attachment proceeding from imperfection; and in order that one may pass
to any kind of perfection it is necessary for such desires to be
2. I knew a person who for more than ten years made use of a cross
roughly formed from a branch  that had been blessed, fastened with
a pin twisted round it; he had never ceased using it, and he always
carried it about with him until I took it from him; and this was a
person of no small sense and understanding. And I saw another who said
his prayers using beads that were made of bones from the spine of a
fish; his devotion was certainly no less precious on that account in
the sight of God, for it is clear that these things carried no devotion
in their workmanship or value. Those, then, who start from these
beginnings and make good progress attach themselves to no visible
instruments, nor do they burden themselves with such, nor desire to
know more than is necessary in order that they may act well; for they
set their eyes only on being right with God and on pleasing Him, and
therein consists their covetousness. And thus with great generosity
they give away all that they have, and delight to know that they have
it not, for God's sake and for charity to their neighbour, no matter
whether these be spiritual things or temporal. For, as I say, they set
their eyes only upon the reality of interior perfection, which is to
give pleasure to God and in naught to give pleasure to themselves.
3. But neither from these imperfections nor from those others can the
soul be perfectly purified until God brings it into the passive
purgation of that dark night whereof we shall speak presently. It
befits the soul, however, to contrive to labour, in so far as it can,
on its own account, to the end that it may purge and perfect itself,
and thus may merit being taken by God into that Divine care wherein it
becomes healed of all things that it was unable of itself to cure.
Because, however greatly the soul itself labours, it cannot actively
purify itself so as to be in the least degree prepared for the Divine
union of perfection of love, if God takes not its hand and purges it
not in that dark fire, in the way and manner that we have to describe.
 The agnusdei was a wax medal with a representation of the lamb
stamped upon it, often blessed by the Pope; at the time of the Saint
such medals were greatly sought after, as we know from various
references in St. Teresa's letters.
 [The word nomina, translated token,' and normally meaning list, or
roll,' refers to a relic on which were written the names of saints. In
modern Spanish it can denote a medal or amulet used superstitiously.]
 [No doubt a branch of palm, olive or rosemary, blessed in church
on Palm Sunday, like the English palm crosses of to-day. Palm Sunday'
is in Spanish Domingo de ramos: Branch Sunday.']
Of other imperfections which these beginners are apt to have with
respect to the third sin, which is luxury.
MANY of these beginners have many other imperfections than those which
I am describing with respect to each of the deadly sins, but these I
set aside, in order to avoid prolixity, touching upon a few of the most
important, which are, as it were, the origin and cause of the rest. And
thus, with respect to this sin of luxury (leaving apart the falling of
spiritual persons into this sin, since my intent is to treat of the
imperfections which have to be purged by the dark night), they have
many imperfections which might be described as spiritual luxury, not
because they are so, but because the imperfections proceed from
spiritual things. For it often comes to pass that, in their very
spiritual exercises, when they are powerless to prevent it, there arise
and assert themselves in the sensual part of the soul impure acts and
motions, and sometimes this happens even when the spirit is deep in
prayer, or engaged in the Sacrament of Penance or in the Eucharist.
These things are not, as I say, in their power; they proceed from one
of three causes.
2. The first cause from which they often proceed is the pleasure which
human nature takes in spiritual things. For when the spirit and the
sense are pleased, every part of a man is moved by that pleasure 
to delight according to its proportion and nature. For then the spirit,
which is the higher part, is moved to pleasure  and delight in God;
and the sensual nature, which is the lower part, is moved to pleasure
and delight of the senses, because it cannot possess and lay hold upon
aught else, and it therefore lays hold upon that which comes nearest to
itself, which is the impure and sensual. Thus it comes to pass that the
soul is in deep prayer with God according to the spirit, and, on the
other hand, according to sense it is passively conscious, not without
great displeasure, of rebellions and motions and acts of the senses,
which often happens in Communion, for when the soul receives joy and
comfort in this act of love, because this Lord bestows it (since it is
to that end that He gives Himself), the sensual nature takes that which
is its own likewise, as we have said, after its manner. Now as, after
all, these two parts are combined in one individual, they ordinarily
both participate in that which one of them receives, each after its
manner; for, as the philosopher says, everything that is received is in
the recipient after the manner of the same recipient. And thus, in
these beginnings, and even when the soul has made some progress, its
sensual part, being imperfect, oftentimes receives the Spirit of God
with the same imperfection. Now when this sensual part is renewed by
the purgation of the dark night which we shall describe, it no longer
has these weaknesses; for it is no longer this part that receives
aught, but rather it is itself received into the Spirit. And thus it
then has everything after the manner of the Spirit.
3. The second cause whence these rebellions sometimes proceed is the
devil, who, in order to disquiet and disturb the soul, at times when it
is at prayer or is striving to pray, contrives to stir up these motions
of impurity in its nature; and if the soul gives heed to any of these,
they cause it great harm. For through fear of these not only do persons
become lax in prayer--which is the aim of the devil when he begins to
strive with them--but some give up prayer altogether, because they
think that these things attack them more during that exercise than
apart from it, which is true, since the devil attacks them then more
than at other times, so that they may give up spiritual exercises. And
not only so, but he succeeds in portraying to them very vividly things
that are most foul and impure, and at times are very closely related to
certain spiritual things and persons that are of profit to their souls,
in order to terrify them and make them fearful; so that those who are
affected by this dare not even look at anything or meditate upon
anything, because they immediately encounter this temptation. And upon
those who are inclined to melancholy this acts with such effect that
they become greatly to be pitied since they are suffering so sadly; for
this trial reaches such a point in certain persons, when they have this
evil humour, that they believe it to be clear that the devil is ever
present with them and that they have no power to prevent this, although
some of these persons can prevent his attack by dint of great effort
and labour. When these impurities attack such souls through the medium
of melancholy, they are not as a rule freed from them until they have
been cured of that kind of humour, unless the dark night has entered
the soul, and rids them of all impurities, one after another. 
4. The third source whence these impure motions are apt to proceed in
order to make war upon the soul is often the fear which such persons
have conceived for these impure representations and motions. Something
that they see or say or think brings them to their mind, and this makes
them afraid, so that they suffer from them through no fault of their
5. There are also certain souls of so tender and frail a nature that,
when there comes to them some spiritual consolation or some grace in
prayer, the spirit of luxury is with them immediately, inebriating and
delighting their sensual nature in such manner that it is as if they
were plunged into the enjoyment and pleasure of this sin; and the
enjoyment remains, together with the consolation, passively, and
sometimes they are able to see that certain impure and unruly acts have
taken place. The reason for this is that, since these natures are, as I
say, frail and tender, their humours are stirred up and their blood is
excited at the least disturbance. And hence come these motions; and the
same thing happens to such souls when they are enkindled with anger or
suffer any disturbance or grief. 
6. Sometimes, again, there arises within these spiritual persons,
whether they be speaking or performing spiritual actions, a certain
vigour and bravado, through their having regard to persons who are
present, and before these persons they display a certain kind of vain
gratification. This also arises from luxury of spirit, after the manner
wherein we here understand it, which is accompanied as a rule by
complacency in the will.
7. Some of these persons make friendships of a spiritual kind with
others, which oftentimes arise from luxury and not from spirituality;
this may be known to be the case when the remembrance of that
friendship causes not the remembrance and love of God to grow, but
occasions remorse of conscience. For, when the friendship is purely
spiritual, the love of God grows with it; and the more the soul
remembers it, the more it remembers the love of God, and the greater
the desire it has for God; so that, as the one grows, the other grows
also. For the spirit of God has this property, that it increases good
by adding to it more good, inasmuch as there is likeness and conformity
between them. But, when this love arises from the vice of sensuality
aforementioned, it produces the contrary effects; for the more the one
grows, the more the other decreases, and the remembrance of it
likewise. If that sensual love grows, it will at once be observed that
the soul's love of God is becoming colder, and that it is forgetting
Him as it remembers that love; there comes to it, too, a certain
remorse of conscience. And, on the other hand, if the love of God grows
in the soul, that other love becomes cold and is forgotten; for, as the
two are contrary to one another, not only does the one not aid the
other, but the one which predominates quenches and confounds the other,
and becomes strengthened in itself, as the philosophers say. Wherefore
Our Saviour said in the Gospel: That which is born of the flesh is
flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.'  That is to
say, the love which is born of sensuality ends in sensuality, and that
which is of the spirit ends in the spirit of God and causes it to grow.
This is the difference that exists between these two kinds of love,
whereby we may know them.
8. When the soul enters the dark night, it brings these kinds of love
under control. It strengthens and purifies the one, namely that which
is according to God; and the other it removes and brings to an end; and
in the beginning it causes both to be lost sight of, as we shall say
 [Lit., recreation.']
 [Lit., recreation.']
 [Lit., of everything.']
 All writers who comment upon this delicate matter go into lengthy
and learned explanations of it, though in reality there is little that
needs to be added to the Saint's clear and apt exposition. It will be
remembered that St. Teresa once wrote to her brother Lorenzo, who
suffered in this way: As to those stirrings of sense. . . . I am quite
clear they are of no account, so the best thing is to make no account
of them' (LL. 168). The most effective means of calming souls tormented
by these favours is to commend them to a discreet and wise director
whose counsel they may safely follow. The Illuminists committed the
grossest errors in dealing with this matter.
 St. John iii, 6.
Of the imperfections into which beginners fall with respect to the
sin of wrath.
BY reason of the concupiscence which many beginners have for spiritual
consolations, their experience of these consolations is very commonly
accompanied by many imperfections proceeding from the sin of wrath;
for, when their delight and pleasure in spiritual things come to an
end, they naturally become embittered, and bear that lack of sweetness
which they have to suffer with a bad grace, which affects all that they
do; and they very easily become irritated over the smallest
matter--sometimes, indeed, none can tolerate them. This frequently
happens after they have been very pleasantly recollected in prayer
according to sense; when their pleasure and delight therein come to an
end, their nature is naturally vexed and disappointed, just as is the
child when they take it from the breast of which it was enjoying the
sweetness. There is no sin in this natural vexation, when it is not
permitted to indulge itself, but only imperfection, which must be
purged by the aridity and severity of the dark night.
2. There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who fall into
another kind of spiritual wrath: this happens when they become
irritated at the sins of others, and keep watch on those others with a
sort of uneasy zeal. At times the impulse comes to them to reprove them
angrily, and occasionally they go so far as to indulge it  and set
themselves up as masters of virtue. All this is contrary to spiritual
3. There are others who are vexed with themselves when they observe
their own imperfectness, and display an impatience that is not
humility; so impatient are they about this that they would fain be
saints in a day. Many of these persons purpose to accomplish a great
deal and make grand resolutions; yet, as they are not humble and have
no misgivings about themselves, the more resolutions they make, the
greater is their fall and the greater their annoyance, since they have
not the patience to wait for that which God will give them when it
pleases Him; this likewise is contrary to the spiritual meekness
aforementioned, which cannot be wholly remedied save by the purgation
of the dark night. Some souls, on the other hand, are so patient as
regards the progress which they desire that God would gladly see them
 [Lit. they even do it.']
Of imperfections with respect to spiritual gluttony.
WITH respect to the fourth sin, which is spiritual gluttony, there is
much to be said, for there is scarce one of these beginners who,
however satisfactory his progress, falls not into some of the many
imperfections which come to these beginners with respect to this sin,
on account of the sweetness which they find at first in spiritual
exercises. For many of these, lured by the sweetness and pleasure which
they find in such exercises, strive more after spiritual sweetness than
after spiritual purity and discretion, which is that which God regards
and accepts throughout the spiritual journey.  Therefore, besides
the imperfections into which the seeking for sweetness of this kind
makes them fall, the gluttony which they now have makes them
continually go to extremes, so that they pass beyond the limits of
moderation within which the virtues are acquired and wherein they have
their being. For some of these persons, attracted by the pleasure which
they find therein, kill themselves with penances, and others weaken
themselves with fasts, by performing more than their frailty can bear,
without the order or advice of any, but rather endeavouring to avoid
those whom they should obey in these matters; some, indeed, dare to do
these things even though the contrary has been commanded them.
2. These persons are most imperfect and unreasonable; for they set
bodily penance before subjection and obedience, which is penance
according to reason and discretion, and therefore a sacrifice more
acceptable and pleasing to God than any other. But such one-sided
penance is no more than the penance of beasts, to which they are
attracted, exactly like beasts, by the desire and pleasure which they
find therein. Inasmuch as all extremes are vicious, and as in behaving
thus such persons  are working their own will, they grow in vice
rather than in virtue; for, to say the least, they are acquiring
spiritual gluttony and pride in this way, through not walking in
obedience. And many of these the devil assails, stirring up this
gluttony in them through the pleasures and desires which he increases
within them, to such an extent that, since they can no longer help
themselves, they either change or vary or add to that which is
commanded them, as any obedience in this respect is so bitter to them.
To such an evil pass have some persons come that, simply because it is
through obedience that they engage in these exercises, they lose the
desire and devotion to perform them, their only desire and pleasure
being to do what they themselves are inclined to do, so that it would
probably be more profitable for them not to engage in these exercises
3. You will find that many of these persons are very insistent with
their spiritual masters to be granted that which they desire,
extracting it from them almost by force; if they be refused it they
become as peevish as children and go about in great displeasure,
thinking that they are not serving God when they are not allowed to do
that which they would. For they go about clinging to their own will and
pleasure, which they treat as though it came from God;  and
immediately their directors  take it from them, and try to subject
them to the will of God, they become peevish, grow faint-hearted and
fall away. These persons think that their own satisfaction and pleasure
are the satisfaction and service of God.
4. There are others, again, who, because of this gluttony, know so
little of their own unworthiness and misery and have thrust so far from
them the loving fear and reverence which they owe to the greatness of
God, that they hesitate not to insist continually that their confessors
shall allow them to communicate often. And, what is worse, they
frequently dare to communicate without the leave and consent  of
the minister and steward of Christ, merely acting on their own opinion,
and contriving to conceal the truth from him. And for this reason,
because they desire to communicate continually, they make their
confessions carelessly,  being more eager to eat than to eat
cleanly and perfectly, although it would be healthier and holier for
them had they the contrary inclination and begged their confessors not
to command them to approach the altar so frequently: between these two
extremes, however, the better way is that of humble resignation. But
the boldness referred to is  a thing that does great harm, and men
may fear to be punished for such temerity.
5. These persons, in communicating, strive with every nerve to obtain
some kind of sensible sweetness and pleasure, instead of humbly doing
reverence and giving praise within themselves to God. And in such wise
do they devote themselves to this that, when they have received no
pleasure or sweetness in the senses, they think that they have
accomplished nothing at all. This is to judge God very unworthily; they
have not realized that the least of the benefits which come from this
Most Holy Sacrament is that which concerns the senses; and that the
invisible part of the grace that it bestows is much greater; for, in
order that they may look at it with the eyes of faith, God oftentimes
withholds from them these other consolations and sweetnesses of sense.
And thus they desire to feel and taste God as though He were
comprehensible by them and accessible to them, not only in this, but
likewise in other spiritual practices. All this is very great
imperfection and completely opposed to the nature of God, since it is
Impurity in faith.
6. These persons have the same defect as regards the practice of
prayer, for they think that all the business of prayer consists in
experiencing sensible pleasure and devotion and they strive to obtain
this by great effort,  wearying and fatiguing their faculties and
their heads; and when they have not found this pleasure they become
greatly discouraged, thinking that they have accomplished nothing.
Through these efforts they lose true devotion and spirituality, which
consist in perseverance, together with patience and humility and
mistrust of themselves, that they may please God alone. For this
reason, when they have once failed to find pleasure in this or some
other exercise, they have great disinclination and repugnance to return
to it, and at times they abandon it. They are, in fact, as we have
said, like children, who are not influenced by reason, and who act, not
from rational motives, but from inclination.  Such persons expend
all their effort in seeking spiritual pleasure and consolation; they
never tire therefore, of reading books; and they begin, now one
meditation, now another, in their pursuit of this pleasure which they
desire to experience in the things of God. But God, very justly, wisely
and lovingly, denies it to them, for otherwise this spiritual gluttony
and inordinate appetite would breed innumerable evils. It is,
therefore, very fitting that they should enter into the dark night,
whereof we shall speak,  that they may be purged from this
7. These persons who are thus inclined to such pleasures have another
very great imperfection, which is that they are very weak and remiss in
journeying upon the hard  road of the Cross; for the soul that is
given to sweetness naturally has its face set against all self-denial,
which is devoid of sweetness. 
8. These persons have many other imperfections which arise hence, of
which in time the Lord heals them by means of temptations, aridities
and other trials, all of which are part of the dark night. All these I
will not treat further here, lest I become too lengthy; I will only say
that spiritual temperance and sobriety lead to another and a very
different temper, which is that of mortification, fear and submission
in all things. It thus becomes clear that the perfection and worth of
things consist not in the multitude and the pleasantness of one's
actions, but in being able to deny oneself in them; this such persons
must endeavour to compass, in so far as they may, until God is pleased
to purify them indeed, by bringing them  into the dark night, to
arrive at which I am hastening on with my account of these
 [Lit., spiritual road.']
 [Lit., these persons.']
 [Lit., and treat this as their God.']
 [The Spanish is impersonal: immediately this is taken from them,'
 [Lit., and opinion.']
 [Lit., anyhow.']
 [Lit, the other boldnesses are.']
 [Lit., they strive to obtain this, as they say, by the strength of
their arms.' The phrase is, of course, understood in the Spanish to be
metaphorical, as the words as they say' clearly indicate.]
 [Lit., who are not influenced, neither act by reason, but from
 [Lit., which we shall give.']
 [Aspero: harsh, rough, rugged.]
 [Lit., against all the sweetlessness of self- denial.']
 [Lit., causing them to enter.']
Of imperfections with respect to spiritual envy and sloth.
WITH respect likewise to the other two vices, which are spiritual envy
and sloth, these beginners fail not to have many imperfections. For,
with respect to envy, many of them are wont to experience movements of
displeasure at the spiritual good of others, which cause them a certain
sensible grief at being outstripped upon this road, so that they would
prefer not to hear others praised; for they become displeased at
others' virtues and sometimes they cannot refrain from contradicting
what is said in praise of them, depreciating it as far as they can; and
their annoyance thereat grows  because the same is not said of
them, for they would fain be preferred in everything. All this is clean
contrary to charity, which, as Saint Paul says, rejoices in goodness.
 And, if charity has any envy, it is a holy envy, comprising grief
at not having the virtues of others, yet also joy because others have
them, and delight when others outstrip us in the service of God,
wherein we ourselves are so remiss.
2. With respect also to spiritual sloth, beginners are apt to be irked
by the things that are most spiritual, from which they flee because
these things are incompatible with sensible pleasure. For, as they are
so much accustomed to sweetness in spiritual things, they are wearied
by things in which they find no sweetness. If once they failed to find
in prayer the satisfaction which their taste required (and after all it
is well that God should take it from them to prove them), they would
prefer not to return to it: sometimes they leave it; at other times
they continue it unwillingly. And thus because of this sloth they
abandon the way of perfection (which is the way of the negation of
their will and pleasure for God's sake) for the pleasure and sweetness
of their own will, which they aim at satisfying in this way rather than
the will of God.
3. And many of these would have God will that which they themselves
will, and are fretful at having to will that which He wills, and find
it repugnant to accommodate their will to that of God. Hence it happens
to them that oftentimes they think that that wherein they find not
their own will and pleasure is not the will of God; and that, on the
other hand, when they themselves find satisfaction, God is satisfied.
Thus they measure God by themselves and not themselves by God, acting
quite contrarily to that which He Himself taught in the Gospel, saying:
That he who should lose his will for His sake, the same should gain it;
and he who should desire to gain it, the same should lose it. 
4. These persons likewise find it irksome when they are commanded to do
that wherein they take no pleasure. Because they aim at spiritual
sweetness and consolation, they are too weak to have the fortitude and
bear the trials of perfection.  They resemble those who are softly
nurtured and who run fretfully away from everything that is hard, and
take offense at the Cross, wherein consist the delights of the spirit.
The more spiritual a thing is, the more irksome they find it, for, as
they seek to go about spiritual matters with complete freedom and
according to the inclination of their will, it causes them great sorrow
and repugnance to enter upon the narrow way, which, says Christ, is the
way of life. 
5. Let it suffice here to have described these imperfections, among the
many to be found in the lives of those that are in this first state of
beginners, so that it may be seen how greatly they need God to set them
in the state of proficients. This He does by bringing them into the
dark night whereof we now speak; wherein He weans them from the breasts
of these sweetnesses and pleasures, gives them pure aridities and
inward darkness, takes from them all these irrelevances and
puerilities, and by very different means causes them to win the
virtues. For, however assiduously the beginner practises the
mortification in himself of all these actions and passions of his, he
can never completely succeed--very far from it--until God shall work it
in him passively by means of the purgation of the said night. Of this I
would fain speak in some way that may be profitable; may God, then, be
pleased to give me His Divine light, because this is very needful in a
night that is so dark and a matter that is so difficult to describe and
The line, then, is: In a dark night.
 [Lit., and, as they say, their eye (el ojo) grows'--a colloquial
phrase expressing annoyance.]
 1 Corinthians xiii, 6. The Saint here cites the sense, not the
letter, of the epistle.
 St. Matthew xvi, 25.
 [Lit., they are very weak for the fortitude and trial of
 St. Matthew vii, 14.
Wherein is expounded the first line of the first stanza, and a
beginning is made of the explanation of this dark night.
THIS night, which, as we say, is contemplation, produces in spiritual
persons two kinds of darkness or purgation, corresponding to the two
parts of man's nature--namely, the sensual and the spiritual. And thus
the one night or purgation will be sensual, wherein the soul is purged
according to sense, which is subdued to the spirit; and the other is a
night or purgation which is spiritual, wherein the soul is purged and
stripped according to the spirit, and subdued and made ready for the
union of love with God. The night of sense is common and comes to many:
these are the beginners; and of this night we shall speak first. The
night of the spirit is the portion of very few, and these are they that
are already practised and proficient, of whom we shall treat hereafter.
2. The first purgation or night is bitter and terrible to sense, as we
shall now show.  The second bears no comparison with it, for it is
horrible and awful to the spirit, as we shall show  presently.
Since the night of sense is first in order and comes first, we shall
first of all say something about it briefly, since more is written of
it, as of a thing that is more common; and we shall pass on to treat
more fully of the spiritual night, since very little has been said of
this, either in speech  or in writing, and very little is known of
it, even by experience.
3. Since, then, the conduct of these beginners upon the way of God is
ignoble,  and has much to do with their love of self and their own
inclinations, as has been explained above, God desires to lead them
farther. He seeks to bring them out of that ignoble kind of love to a
higher degree of love for Him, to free them from the ignoble exercises
of sense and meditation (wherewith, as we have said, they go seeking
God so unworthily and in so many ways that are unbefitting), and to
lead them to a kind of spiritual exercise wherein they can commune with
Him more abundantly and are freed more completely from imperfections.
For they have now had practice for some time in the way of virtue and
have persevered in meditation and prayer, whereby, through the
sweetness and pleasure that they have found therein, they have lost
their love of the things of the world and have gained some degree of
spiritual strength in God; this has enabled them to some extent to
refrain from creature desires, so that for God's sake they are now able
to suffer a light burden and a little aridity without turning back to a
time  which they found more pleasant. When they are going about
these spiritual exercises with the greatest delight and pleasure, and
when they believe that the sun of Divine favour is shining most
brightly upon them, God turns all this light of theirs into darkness,