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




   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

   Mount Carmel.



   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.






   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. [1]


   This fourth part' is the Dark Night. Of it the Saint writes in a

   passage which follows that just quoted:


     And the second night, or purification, pertains to those who are

     already proficient, occurring at the time when God desires to bring

     them to the state of union with God. And this latter night is a more

     obscure and dark and terrible purgation, as we shall say 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.' [3]


   The Passive Nights, in which it is God Who accomplishes the purgation,

   are based upon this incapacity. Souls begin to enter' this dark night


     when God draws them forth from the state of beginners--which is the

     state of those that meditate on the spiritual road--and begins to

     set them in the state of progressives--which is that of those who

     are already contemplatives--to the end that, after passing through

     it, they may arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of

     the Divine union of the soul with God. [4]


   Before explaining the nature and effects of this Passive Night, the

   Saint touches, in passing, upon certain imperfections found in those

   who are about to enter it and which it removes by the process of

   purgation. Such travellers are still untried proficients, who have not

   yet acquired mature habits of spirituality and who therefore still

   conduct themselves as children. The imperfections are examined one by

   one, following the order of the seven deadly sins, in chapters

   (ii-viii) which once more reveal the author's skill as a director of

   souls. They are easy chapters to understand, and of great practical

   utility, comparable to those in the first book of the Ascent which deal

   with the active purgation of the desires of sense.


   In Chapter viii, St. John of the Cross begins to describe the Passive

   Night of the senses, the principal aim of which is the purgation or

   stripping of the soul of its imperfections and the preparation of it

   for fruitive union. The Passive Night of Sense, we are told, is common'

   and comes to many,' whereas that of Spirit is the portion of very few.'

   [5] The one is bitter and terrible' but the second bears no comparison

   with it,' for it is horrible and awful to the spirit.' [6] A good deal

   of literature on the former Night existed in the time of St. John of

   the Cross and he therefore promises to be brief in his treatment of it.

   Of the latter, on the other hand, he will treat more fully . . . since

   very little has been said of this, either in speech or in writing, and

   very little is known of it, even by experience.' [7]


   Having described this Passive Night of Sense in Chapter viii, he

   explains with great insight and discernment how it may be recognized

   whether any given aridity is a result of this Night or whether it comes

   from sins or imperfections, or from frailty or lukewarmness of spirit,

   or even from indisposition or humours' of the body. The Saint is

   particularly effective here, and we may once more compare this chapter

   with a similar one in the Ascent (II, xiii)--that in which he fixes the

   point where the soul may abandon discursive meditation and enter the

   contemplation which belongs to loving and simple faith.


   Both these chapters have contributed to the reputation of St. John of

   the Cross as a consummate spiritual master. And this not only for the

   objective value of his observations, but because, even in spite of

   himself, he betrays the sublimity of his own mystical experiences. Once

   more, too, we may admire the crystalline transparency of his teaching

   and the precision of the phrases in which he clothes it. To judge by

   his language alone, one might suppose at times that he is speaking of

   mathematical, rather than of spiritual operations.


   In Chapter x, the Saint describes the discipline which the soul in this

   Dark Night must impose upon itself; this, as might be logically deduced

   from the Ascent, consists in allowing the soul to remain in peace and

   quietness,' content with a peaceful and loving attentiveness toward

   God.' [8] Before long it will experience enkindlings of love (Chapter

   xi), which will serve to purify its sins and imperfections and draw it

   gradually nearer to God; we have here, as it were, so many stages of

   the ascent of the Mount on whose summit the soul attains to

   transforming union. Chapters xii and xiii detail with great exactness

   the benefits that the soul receives from this aridity, while Chapter

   xiv briefly expounds the last line of the first stanza and brings to an

   end what the Saint desires to say with respect to the first Passive



   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

   thoroughly.' [9]


   Spiritual persons, we are told, do not enter the second night

   immediately after leaving the first; on the contrary, they generally

   pass a long time, even years, before doing so, [10] for they still have

   many imperfections, both habitual and actual (Chapter ii). After a

   brief introduction (Chapter iii), the Saint describes with some

   fullness the nature of this spiritual purgation or dark contemplation

   referred to in the first stanza of his poem and the varieties of pain

   and affliction caused by it, whether in the soul or in its faculties

   (Chapters iv-viii). These chapters are brilliant beyond all

   description; in them we seem to reach the culminating point of their

   author's mystical experience; any excerpt from them would do them an

   injustice. It must suffice to say that St. John of the Cross seldom

   again touches those same heights of sublimity.


   Chapter ix describes how, although these purgations seem to blind the

   spirit, they do so only to enlighten it again with a brighter and

   intenser light, which it is preparing itself to receive with greater

   abundance. The following chapter makes the comparison between spiritual

   purgation and the log of wood which gradually becomes transformed

   through being immersed in fire and at last takes on the fire's own

   properties. The force with which the familiar similitude is driven home

   impresses indelibly upon the mind the fundamental concept of this most

   sublime of all purgations. Marvellous, indeed, are its effects, from

   the first enkindlings and burnings of Divine love, which are greater

   beyond comparison than those produced by the Night of Sense, the one

   being as different from the other as is the body from the soul. For

   this (latter) is an enkindling of spiritual love in the soul, which, in

   the midst of these dark confines, feels itself to be keenly and sharply

   wounded in strong Divine love, and to have a certain realization and

   foretaste of God.' [11] No less wonderful are the effects of the

   powerful Divine illumination which from time to time enfolds the soul

   in the splendours of glory. When the effects of the light that wounds

   and yet illumines are combined with those of the enkindlement that

   melts the soul with its heat, the delights experienced are so great as

   to be ineffable.


   The second line of the first stanza of the poem is expounded in three

   admirable chapters (xi-xiii), while one short chapter (xiv) suffices

   for the three lines remaining. We then embark upon the second stanza,

   which describes the soul's security in the Dark Night--due, among other

   reasons, to its being freed not only from itself, but likewise from its

   other enemies, which are the world and the devil.' [12]


   This contemplation is not only dark, but also secret (Chapter xvii),

   and in Chapter xviii is compared to the staircase' of the poem. This

   comparison suggests to the Saint an exposition (Chapters xviii, xix) of

   the ten steps or degrees of love which comprise St. Bernard's mystical

   ladder. Chapter xxi describes the soul's disguise,' from which the book

   passes on (Chapters xxii, xxiii) to extol the happy chance' which led

   it to journey in darkness and concealment' from its enemies, both

   without and 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. [13] We have

   already given our opinion [14] upon the commentaries thought to have

   been written on the final stanzas of the Dark Night.' Did we possess

   them, they would explain the birth of the light--dawn's first

   breathings in the heav'ns 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.



   [1] Ascent, Bk. I, chap. i, sect. 2.

   [2] Op. cit., sect. 3.

   [3] Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. iii, sect. 3.

   [4] Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. i, sect. 1.

   [5] Dark Night, Bk. 1, chap. viii, sect. 1.

   [6] Op. cit., Bk. I, chap. viii, sect. 2.

   [7] Ibid.

   [8] Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. x, sect. 4.

   [9] Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. iii, sect. 1.

   [10] Op. cit., Bk. II, chap. i, sect. 1.

   [11] Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xi, sect. 1.

   [12] Dark Night, Bk. II, chap. xvi, sect. 2.

   [13] [On this, see Sobrino, pp. 159-66.]

   [14] Cf. pp. lviii-lxiii, Ascent of Mount Carmel (Image Books edition).




   The autograph of the Dark Night, like that of the Ascent of Mount

   Carmel, is unknown to us: the second seems to have disappeared in the

   same period as the first. There are extant, however, as many as twelve

   early copies of the Dark Night, some of which, though none of them is

   as palaeographically accurate as the best copy of the Ascent, are very

   reliable; there is no trace in them of conscious adulteration of the

   original or of any kind of modification to fit the sense of any passage

   into a preconceived theory. We definitely prefer one of these copies to

   the others but we nowhere follow it so literally as to incorporate in

   our text its evident discrepancies from its original.


   MS. 3,446. An early MS. in the clear masculine hand of an Andalusian:

   MS. 3,446 in the National Library, Madrid. Like many others, this MS.

   was transferred to the library from the Convento de San Hermenegildo at

   the time of the religious persecutions in the early nineteenth century;

   it had been presented to the Archives of the Reform by the Fathers of

   Los Remedios, Seville--a Carmelite house founded by P. Grecian in 1574.

   It has no title and a fragment from the Living Flame of Love is bound

   up with it.


   This MS. has only two omissions of any length; these form part

   respectively of Book II, Chapters xix and xxiii, dealing with the

   Passive Night of the Spirit. It has many copyist's errors. At the same

   time, its antiquity and origin, and the good faith of which it shows

   continual signs, give it, in our view, primacy over the other copies

   now to come under consideration. It must be made clear, nevertheless,

   that there is no extant copy of the Dark Night as trustworthy and as

   skilfully made as the Alcaudete MS. of the Ascent.


   MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Toledo. Written in three hands, all early.

   Save for a few slips of the copyist, it agrees with the foregoing; a

   few of its errors have been corrected. It bears no title, but has a

   long sub-title which is in effect a partial summary of the argument.


   MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid. This famous convent, which was

   one of St. Teresa's foundations, is very rich in Teresan autographs,

   and has also a number of important documents relating to St. John of

   the Cross, together with some copies of his works. That here described

   is written in a large, clear hand and probably dates from the end of

   the sixteenth century. It has a title similar to that of the last-named

   copy. With few exceptions it follows the other most important MSS.


   MS. Alba de Tormes. What has been said of this in the introduction to

   the Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. 6-7) applies also to the Dark

   Night. It is complete, save for small omissions on the part of the

   amanuensis, the Argument' at the beginning of the poem, the verses

   themselves and a few lines from Book II, Chapter vii.


   MS. 6,624. This copy is almost identical with the foregoing. It omits

   the Argument' and the poem itself but not the lines from Book II,

   Chapter vii.


   MS. 8,795. This contains the Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle, Living

   Flame of Love, a number of poems by St. John of the Cross and the

   Spiritual Colloquies between Christ and the soul His Bride. It is

   written in various hands, all very early and some feminine. A note by

   P. 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, [15] and immediately

   afterwards comes the text of the treatise.


   The copy contains many errors, but its only omission is that of the

   last chapter. There is no trace in it of any attempt to modify its

   original; indeed, the very nature and number of the copyist's errors

   are a testimony to his good faith.


   MS. 12,658. A note by P. 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," [16] which is

   clear evidence of its antiquity.'


   The Codex contains a number of opuscules, transcribed no doubt with a

   devotional aim by the copyist. Its epoch is probably the end of the

   sixteenth century; it is certainly earlier than the editions. There is

   no serious omission except that of six lines of the Argument.' The

   authors of the other works copied include St. Augustine, B. Juan de

   Avila, P. Baltasar Alvarez and P. Tomas de 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

   omits freely.


   MS. 12,411. Entitled by its copyist 'spiritual Compendium,' this MS.

   contains several short works of devotion, including one by Ruysbroeck.

   Of St. John of the Cross's works it copies the Spiritual Canticle as

   well as the Dark Night; the latter is headed: 'song of one soul alone.'

   It also contains a number of poems, some of them by the Saint, and many

   passages from St. Teresa. It is in several hands, all of the

   seventeenth century. The copy of the Dark Night is most unsatisfactory;

   there are omissions and abbreviations everywhere.


   M.S. of the Carmelite Nuns of Pamplona. This MS. also omits and

   abbreviates continually, especially in the chapters on the Passive

   Night of Sense, which are reduced to a mere skeleton.


   Editio princeps. This is much more faithful to its original in the Dark

   Night than in the Ascent. Both the passages suppressed [17] and the

   interpolations [18] are relatively few and unimportant. Modifications

   of phraseology are more frequent and alterations are also made with the

   aim of correcting hyperbaton. In the first book about thirty lines are

   suppressed; in the second, about ninety. All changes which are of any

   importance have been shown in the notes.


   The present edition. We have given preference, as a general rule, to

   MS. 3,446, subjecting it, however, to a rigorous comparison with the

   other copies. Mention has already been made in the introduction to the

   Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. lxiii-lxvi) of certain apparent

   anomalies and a certain lack of uniformity in the Saint's method of

   dividing his commentaries. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the

   Dark Night. Instead of dividing his treatise into books, each with its

   proper title, the Saint abandons this method and uses titles only

   occasionally. As this makes comprehension of his argument the more

   difficult, we have adopted the divisions which were introduced by P.

   Salablanca and have been copied by successive editors.


   M. Baruzi (Bulletin Hispanique, 1922, Vol. xxiv, pp. 18-40) complains

   that this division weighs down the spiritual rhythm of the treatise and

   interrupts its movement. We do not agree. In any case, we greatly

   prefer the gain of clarity, even if the rhythm occasionally halts, to

   the other alternative--the constant halting of the understanding. We

   have, of course, indicated every place where the title is taken from

   the editio princeps and was not the work of the author.


   The following abbreviations are adopted in the footnotes:


   A = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Alba.

   B = MS. 6,624 (National Library, Madrid).

   Bz. = MS. 8,795 (N.L.M.).

   C = MS. 13,498 (N.L.M.).

   G = MS. 18,160 (N.L.M.).

   H = MS. 3,446 (N.L.M.).

   M = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Toledo.

   Mtr. = MS. 12,658.

   P = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Toledo.

   V = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid.

   E.p. = Editio princeps (1618).

   MS. 12,411 and the MS. of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Pamplona are

   cited without abbreviations.


   [15] [It contains a series of paradoxical statements, after the style

   of those in Ascent, Bk. I, chap. xiii, and is of no great literary

   merit. P. Silverio reproduces it in Spanish on p. 302 (note) of his

   first volume.]


   [16] The first friar' would be P. Antonio de Jesus, who was senior to

   St. John of the Cross in the Carmelite Order, though not in the Reform.


   [17] The longest of these are one of ten lines in Bk. I, chap. iv, [in

   the original] and those of Bk. II, chaps. vii, viii, xii, xiii, which

   vary from eleven to twenty-three lines. Bk. II, chap. xxiii, has also

   considerable modifications.


   [18] The chief interpolation is in Bk. I, chap. x.


                DARK NIGHT


     Exposition of the stanzas describing the method followed by the soul

     in its journey upon the spiritual road to the attainment of the

     perfect union of love with God, to the extent that is possible in

     this life. Likewise are described the properties belonging to the

     soul that has attained to the said perfection, according as they are

     contained in the same stanzas.




   IN this book are first set down all the stanzas which are to be

   expounded; afterwards, each of the stanzas is expounded separately,

   being set down before its exposition; and then each line is expounded

   separately and in turn, the line itself also being set down before the

   exposition. In the first two stanzas are expounded the effects of the

   two spiritual purgations: of the sensual part of man and of the

   spiritual part. In the other six are expounded various and wondrous

   effects of the spiritual illumination and union of love with God.


                              STANZAS OF THE SOUL


     1. On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy


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


     2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised--oh,

     happy chance!--

     In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.


     3. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,

     Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned

     in my 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

     be suspended.


     8. I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.

     All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among

     the lilies.


   Begins the exposition of the stanzas which treat of the way and manner

   which the soul follows upon the road of the union of love with God.


   Before we enter upon the exposition of these stanzas, it is well to

   understand here that the soul that utters them is now in the state of

   perfection, which is the union of love with God, having already passed

   through severe trials and straits, by means of spiritual exercise in

   the narrow way of eternal life whereof Our Saviour speaks in the

   Gospel, along which way the soul ordinarily passes in order to reach

   this high and happy union with God. Since this road (as the Lord

   Himself says likewise) is so strait, and since there are so few that

   enter by it, [19] the soul considers it a great happiness and good

   chance to have passed along it to the said perfection of love, as it

   sings in this first stanza, calling this strait road with full

   propriety dark night,' as will be explained hereafter in the lines of

   the said stanza. The soul, then, rejoicing at having passed along this

   narrow road whence so many blessings have come to it, speaks after this




   [19] St. Matthew vii, 14.


                                 BOOK THE FIRST


    Which treats of the Night of Sense.




     On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy chance!--

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




   IN this first stanza the soul relates the way and manner which it

   followed in going forth, as to its affection, from itself and from all

   things, and in dying to them all and to itself, by means of true

   mortification, in order to attain to living the sweet and delectable

   life of love with God; and it says that this going forth from itself

   and from all things was a dark night,' by which, as will be explained

   hereafter, is here understood purgative contemplation, which causes

   passively in the soul the negation of itself and of all things referred

   to above.


   2. And this going forth it says here that it was able to accomplish in

   the strength and ardour which love for its Spouse gave to it for that

   purpose in the dark contemplation aforementioned. Herein it extols the

   great happiness which it found in journeying to God through this night

   with such signal success that none of the three enemies, which are

   world, devil and flesh (who are they that ever impede this road), could

   hinder it; inasmuch as the aforementioned night of purgative [20]

   contemplation lulled to sleep and mortified, in the house of its

   sensuality, all the passions and desires with respect to their

   mischievous desires and motions. The line, then, says:


On a dark night


                                    CHAPTER I


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



   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.


                                    CHAPTER II


     Of certain spiritual imperfections which beginners have with respect

     to the habit of pride.


   AS these beginners feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in

   spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity (although

   it is true that holy things of their own nature cause humility) there

   often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of

   secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with

   their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise

   a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to

   speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even

   to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in

   their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which

   they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words,

   herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God

   for his own good works and despising the publican. [21]


   2. In these persons the devil often increases the fervour that they

   have and the desire to perform these and other works more frequently,

   so that their pride and presumption may grow greater. For the devil

   knows quite well that all these works and virtues which they perform

   are not only valueless to them, but even become vices in them. And such

   a degree of evil are some of these persons wont to reach that they

   would have none appear good save themselves; and thus, in deed and

   word, whenever the opportunity occurs, they condemn them and slander

   them, beholding the mote in their brother's eye and not considering the

   beam which is in their own; [22] they strain at another's gnat and

   themselves swallow a camel. [23]


   3. Sometimes, too, when their spiritual masters, such as confessors and

   superiors, do not approve of their spirit and behavior (for they are

   anxious that all they do shall be esteemed and praised), they consider

   that they do not understand them, or that, because they do not approve

   of this and comply with that, their confessors are themselves not

   spiritual. And so they immediately desire and contrive to find some one

   else who will fit in with their tastes; for as a rule they desire to

   speak of spiritual matters with those who they think will praise and

   esteem what they do, and they flee, as they would from death, from

   those who disabuse them in order to lead them into a safe

   road--sometimes they even harbour ill-will against them. Presuming

   thus, [24] they are wont to resolve much and accomplish very little.

   Sometimes they are anxious that others shall realize how spiritual and

   devout they are, to which end they occasionally give outward evidence

   thereof in movements, sighs and other ceremonies; and at times they are

   apt to fall into certain ecstasies, in public rather than in secret,

   wherein the devil aids them, and they are pleased that this should be

   noticed, and are often eager that it should be noticed more. [25]


   4. Many such persons desire to be the favourites of their confessors

   and to become intimate with them, as a result of which there beset them

   continual occasions of envy and disquiet. [26] They are too much

   embarrassed to confess their sins nakedly, lest their confessors should

   think less of them, so they palliate them and make them appear less

   evil, and thus it is to excuse themselves rather than to accuse

   themselves that they go to confession. And sometimes they seek another

   confessor to tell the wrongs that they have done, so that their own

   confessor shall think they have done nothing wrong at all, but only

   good; and thus they always take pleasure in telling him what is good,

   and sometimes in such terms as make it appear to be greater than it is

   rather than less, desiring that he may think them to be good, when it

   would be greater humility in them, as we shall say, to depreciate it,

   and to desire that neither he nor anyone else should consider them of



   5. Some of these beginners, too, make little of their faults, and at

   other times become over-sad when they see themselves fall into them,

   thinking themselves to have been saints already; and thus they become

   angry and impatient with themselves, which is another imperfection.

   Often they beseech God, with great yearnings, that He will take from

   them their imperfections and faults, but they do this that they may

   find themselves at peace, and may not be troubled by them, rather than

   for God's sake; not realizing that, if He should take their

   imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder and more

   presumptuous still. They dislike praising others and love to be praised

   themselves; sometimes they seek out such praise. Herein they are like

   the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps could not be lit, sought oil

   from others. [27]


   6. From these imperfections some souls go on to develop [28] many very

   grave ones, which do them great harm. But some have fewer and some

   more, and some, only the first motions thereof or little beyond these;

   and there are hardly any such beginners who, at the time of these signs

   of fervour, [29] fall not into some of these errors. [30] But those who

   at this time are going on to perfection proceed very differently and

   with quite another temper of spirit; for they progress by means of

   humility and are greatly edified, not only thinking naught of their own

   affairs, but having very little satisfaction with themselves; they

   consider all others as far better, and usually have a holy envy of

   them, and an eagerness to serve God as they do. For the greater is

   their fervour, and the more numerous are the works that they perform,

   and the greater is the pleasure that they take in them, as they

   progress in humility, the more do they realize how much God deserves of

   them, and how little is all that they do for His sake; and thus, the

   more they do, the less are they satisfied. So much would they gladly do

   from charity and love for Him, that all they do seems to them naught;

   and so greatly are they importuned, occupied and absorbed by this

   loving anxiety that they never notice what others do or do not; or if

   they do notice it, they always believe, as I say, that all others are

   far better than they themselves. Wherefore, holding themselves as of

   little worth, they are anxious that others too should thus hold them,

   and should despise and depreciate that which they do. And further, if

   men should praise and esteem them, they can in no wise believe what

   they say; it seems to them strange that anyone should say these good

   things of them.


   7. Together with great tranquillity and humbleness, these souls have a

   deep desire to be taught by anyone who can bring them profit; they are

   the complete opposite of those of whom we have spoken above, who would

   fain be always teaching, and who, when others seem to be teaching them,

   take the words from their mouths as if they knew them already. These

   souls, on the other hand, being far from desiring to be the masters of

   any, are very ready to travel and set out on another road than that

   which they are actually following, if they be so commanded, because

   they never think that they are right in anything whatsoever. They

   rejoice when others are praised; they grieve only because they serve

   not God like them. They have no desire to speak of the things that they

   do, because they think so little of them that they are ashamed to speak

   of them even to their spiritual masters, since they seem to them to be

   things that merit not being spoken of. They are more anxious to speak

   of their faults and sins, or that these should be recognized rather

   than their virtues; and thus they incline to talk of their souls with

   those who account their actions and their spirituality of little value.

   This is a characteristic of the spirit which is simple, pure, genuine

   and very pleasing to God. For as the wise Spirit of God dwells in these

   humble souls, He moves them and inclines them to keep His treasures

   secretly within and likewise to cast out from themselves all evil. God

   gives this grace to the humble, together with the other virtues, even

   as He denies it to the proud.


   8. These souls will give their heart's blood to anyone that serves God,

   and will help others to serve Him as much as in them lies. The

   imperfections into which they see themselves fall they bear with

   humility, meekness of spirit and a loving fear of God, hoping in Him.

   But souls who in the beginning journey with this kind of perfection

   are, as I understand, and as has been said, a minority, and very few

   are those who we can be glad do not fall into the opposite errors. For

   this reason, as we shall afterwards say, God leads into the dark night

   those whom He desires to purify from all these imperfections so that He

   may bring them farther onward.



   [21] St. Luke xviii, 11-12.

   [22] St. Matthew vii, 3.

   [23] St. Matthew xxiii, 24.

   [24] [Lit., Presuming.']

   [25] [The original merely has: and are often eager.']

   [26] [Lit., a thousand envies and disquietudes.']

   [27] St. Matthew xxv, 8. [Lit., who, having their lamps dead, sought

   oil from without.']

   [28] [Lit., to have.']

   [29] [Lit., these fervours.']

   [30] [Lit., into something of this.']


                                   CHAPTER III


     Of some imperfections which some of these souls are apt to have,

     with respect to the second capital sin, which is avarice, in the

     spiritual sense.


   MANY of these beginners have also at times great spiritual avarice.

   They will be found to be discontented with the spirituality which God

   gives them; and they are very disconsolate and querulous because they

   find not in spiritual things the consolation that they would desire.

   Many can never have enough of listening to counsels and learning

   spiritual precepts, and of possessing and reading many books which

   treat of this matter, and they spend their time on all these things

   rather than on works of mortification and the perfecting of the inward

   poverty of spirit which should be theirs. Furthermore, they burden

   themselves with images and rosaries which are very curious; now they

   put down one, now take up another; now they change about, now change

   back again; now they want this kind of thing, now that, preferring one

   kind of cross to another, because it is more curious. And others you

   will see adorned with agnusdeis [31] and relics and tokens, [32] like

   children with trinkets. Here I condemn the attachment of the heart, and

   the affection which they have for the nature, multitude and curiosity

   of these things, inasmuch as it is quite contrary to poverty of spirit

   which considers only the substance of devotion, makes use only of what

   suffices for that end and grows weary of this other kind of

   multiplicity and curiosity. For true devotion must issue from the

   heart, and consist in the truth and substances alone of what is

   represented by spiritual things; all the rest is affection and

   attachment proceeding from imperfection; and in order that one may pass

   to any kind of perfection it is necessary for such desires to be



   2. I knew a person who for more than ten years made use of a cross

   roughly formed from a branch [33] that had been blessed, fastened with

   a pin twisted round it; he had never ceased using it, and he always

   carried it about with him until I took it from him; and this was a

   person of no small sense and understanding. And I saw another who said

   his prayers using beads that were made of bones from the spine of a

   fish; his devotion was certainly no less precious on that account in

   the sight of God, for it is clear that these things carried no devotion

   in their workmanship or value. Those, then, who start from these

   beginnings and make good progress attach themselves to no visible

   instruments, nor do they burden themselves with such, nor desire to

   know more than is necessary in order that they may act well; for they

   set their eyes only on being right with God and on pleasing Him, and

   therein consists their covetousness. And thus with great generosity

   they give away all that they have, and delight to know that they have

   it not, for God's sake and for charity to their neighbour, no matter

   whether these be spiritual things or temporal. For, as I say, they set

   their eyes only upon the reality of interior perfection, which is to

   give pleasure to God and in naught to give pleasure to themselves.


   3. But neither from these imperfections nor from those others can the

   soul be perfectly purified until God brings it into the passive

   purgation of that dark night whereof we shall speak presently. It

   befits the soul, however, to contrive to labour, in so far as it can,

   on its own account, to the end that it may purge and perfect itself,

   and thus may merit being taken by God into that Divine care wherein it

   becomes healed of all things that it was unable of itself to cure.

   Because, however greatly the soul itself labours, it cannot actively

   purify itself so as to be in the least degree prepared for the Divine

   union of perfection of love, if God takes not its hand and purges it

   not in that dark fire, in the way and manner that we have to describe.



   [31] The agnusdei was a wax medal with a representation of the lamb

   stamped upon it, often blessed by the Pope; at the time of the Saint

   such medals were greatly sought after, as we know from various

   references in St. Teresa's letters.

   [32] [The word nomina, translated token,' and normally meaning list, or

   roll,' refers to a relic on which were written the names of saints. In

   modern Spanish it can denote a medal or amulet used superstitiously.]

   [33] [No doubt a branch of palm, olive or rosemary, blessed in church

   on Palm Sunday, like the English palm crosses of to-day. Palm Sunday'

   is in Spanish Domingo de ramos: Branch Sunday.']


                                 CHAPTER IV


     Of other imperfections which these beginners are apt to have with

     respect to the third sin, which is luxury.


   MANY of these beginners have many other imperfections than those which

   I am describing with respect to each of the deadly sins, but these I

   set aside, in order to avoid prolixity, touching upon a few of the most

   important, which are, as it were, the origin and cause of the rest. And

   thus, with respect to this sin of luxury (leaving apart the falling of

   spiritual persons into this sin, since my intent is to treat of the

   imperfections which have to be purged by the dark night), they have

   many imperfections which might be described as spiritual luxury, not

   because they are so, but because the imperfections proceed from

   spiritual things. For it often comes to pass that, in their very

   spiritual exercises, when they are powerless to prevent it, there arise

   and assert themselves in the sensual part of the soul impure acts and

   motions, and sometimes this happens even when the spirit is deep in

   prayer, or engaged in the Sacrament of Penance or in the Eucharist.

   These things are not, as I say, in their power; they proceed from one

   of three causes.


   2. The first cause from which they often proceed is the pleasure which

   human nature takes in spiritual things. For when the spirit and the

   sense are pleased, every part of a man is moved by that pleasure [34]

   to delight according to its proportion and nature. For then the spirit,

   which is the higher part, is moved to pleasure [35] and delight in God;

   and the sensual nature, which is the lower part, is moved to pleasure

   and delight of the senses, because it cannot possess and lay hold upon

   aught else, and it therefore lays hold upon that which comes nearest to

   itself, which is the impure and sensual. Thus it comes to pass that the

   soul is in deep prayer with God according to the spirit, and, on the

   other hand, according to sense it is passively conscious, not without

   great displeasure, of rebellions and motions and acts of the senses,

   which often happens in Communion, for when the soul receives joy and

   comfort in this act of love, because this Lord bestows it (since it is

   to that end that He gives Himself), the sensual nature takes that which

   is its own likewise, as we have said, after its manner. Now as, after

   all, these two parts are combined in one individual, they ordinarily

   both participate in that which one of them receives, each after its

   manner; for, as the philosopher says, everything that is received is in

   the recipient after the manner of the same recipient. And thus, in

   these beginnings, and even when the soul has made some progress, its

   sensual part, being imperfect, oftentimes receives the Spirit of God

   with the same imperfection. Now when this sensual part is renewed by

   the purgation of the dark night which we shall describe, it no longer

   has these weaknesses; for it is no longer this part that receives

   aught, but rather it is itself received into the Spirit. And thus it

   then has everything after the manner of the Spirit.


   3. The second cause whence these rebellions sometimes proceed is the

   devil, who, in order to disquiet and disturb the soul, at times when it

   is at prayer or is striving to pray, contrives to stir up these motions

   of impurity in its nature; and if the soul gives heed to any of these,

   they cause it great harm. For through fear of these not only do persons

   become lax in prayer--which is the aim of the devil when he begins to

   strive with them--but some give up prayer altogether, because they

   think that these things attack them more during that exercise than

   apart from it, which is true, since the devil attacks them then more

   than at other times, so that they may give up spiritual exercises. And

   not only so, but he succeeds in portraying to them very vividly things

   that are most foul and impure, and at times are very closely related to

   certain spiritual things and persons that are of profit to their souls,

   in order to terrify them and make them fearful; so that those who are

   affected by this dare not even look at anything or meditate upon

   anything, because they immediately encounter this temptation. And upon

   those who are inclined to melancholy this acts with such effect that

   they become greatly to be pitied since they are suffering so sadly; for

   this trial reaches such a point in certain persons, when they have this

   evil humour, that they believe it to be clear that the devil is ever

   present with them and that they have no power to prevent this, although

   some of these persons can prevent his attack by dint of great effort

   and labour. When these impurities attack such souls through the medium

   of melancholy, they are not as a rule freed from them until they have

   been cured of that kind of humour, unless the dark night has entered

   the soul, and rids them of all impurities, one after another. [36]


   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. [37]


   6. Sometimes, again, there arises within these spiritual persons,

   whether they be speaking or performing spiritual actions, a certain

   vigour and bravado, through their having regard to persons who are

   present, and before these persons they display a certain kind of vain

   gratification. This also arises from luxury of spirit, after the manner

   wherein we here understand it, which is accompanied as a rule by

   complacency in the will.


   7. Some of these persons make friendships of a spiritual kind with

   others, which oftentimes arise from luxury and not from spirituality;

   this may be known to be the case when the remembrance of that

   friendship causes not the remembrance and love of God to grow, but

   occasions remorse of conscience. For, when the friendship is purely

   spiritual, the love of God grows with it; and the more the soul

   remembers it, the more it remembers the love of God, and the greater

   the desire it has for God; so that, as the one grows, the other grows

   also. For the spirit of God has this property, that it increases good

   by adding to it more good, inasmuch as there is likeness and conformity

   between them. But, when this love arises from the vice of sensuality

   aforementioned, it produces the contrary effects; for the more the one

   grows, the more the other decreases, and the remembrance of it

   likewise. If that sensual love grows, it will at once be observed that

   the soul's love of God is becoming colder, and that it is forgetting

   Him as it remembers that love; there comes to it, too, a certain

   remorse of conscience. And, on the other hand, if the love of God grows

   in the soul, that other love becomes cold and is forgotten; for, as the

   two are contrary to one another, not only does the one not aid the

   other, but the one which predominates quenches and confounds the other,

   and becomes strengthened in itself, as the philosophers say. Wherefore

   Our Saviour said in the Gospel: That which is born of the flesh is

   flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' [38] That is to

   say, the love which is born of sensuality ends in sensuality, and that

   which is of the spirit ends in the spirit of God and causes it to grow.

   This is the difference that exists between these two kinds of love,

   whereby we may know them.


   8. When the soul enters the dark night, it brings these kinds of love

   under control. It strengthens and purifies the one, namely that which

   is according to God; and the other it removes and brings to an end; and

   in the beginning it causes both to be lost sight of, as we shall say




   [34] [Lit., recreation.']

   [35] [Lit., recreation.']

   [36] [Lit., of everything.']

   [37] All writers who comment upon this delicate matter go into lengthy

   and learned explanations of it, though in reality there is little that

   needs to be added to the Saint's clear and apt exposition. It will be

   remembered that St. Teresa once wrote to her brother Lorenzo, who

   suffered in this way: As to those stirrings of sense. . . . I am quite

   clear they are of no account, so the best thing is to make no account

   of them' (LL. 168). The most effective means of calming souls tormented

   by these favours is to commend them to a discreet and wise director

   whose counsel they may safely follow. The Illuminists committed the

   grossest errors in dealing with this matter.

   [38] St. John iii, 6.


                                   CHAPTER V


     Of the imperfections into which beginners fall with respect to the

     sin of wrath.


   BY reason of the concupiscence which many beginners have for spiritual

   consolations, their experience of these consolations is very commonly

   accompanied by many imperfections proceeding from the sin of wrath;

   for, when their delight and pleasure in spiritual things come to an

   end, they naturally become embittered, and bear that lack of sweetness

   which they have to suffer with a bad grace, which affects all that they

   do; and they very easily become irritated over the smallest

   matter--sometimes, indeed, none can tolerate them. This frequently

   happens after they have been very pleasantly recollected in prayer

   according to sense; when their pleasure and delight therein come to an

   end, their nature is naturally vexed and disappointed, just as is the

   child when they take it from the breast of which it was enjoying the

   sweetness. There is no sin in this natural vexation, when it is not

   permitted to indulge itself, but only imperfection, which must be

   purged by the aridity and severity of the dark night.


   2. There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who fall into

   another kind of spiritual wrath: this happens when they become

   irritated at the sins of others, and keep watch on those others with a

   sort of uneasy zeal. At times the impulse comes to them to reprove them

   angrily, and occasionally they go so far as to indulge it [39] and set

   themselves up as masters of virtue. All this is contrary to spiritual



   3. There are others who are vexed with themselves when they observe

   their own imperfectness, and display an impatience that is not

   humility; so impatient are they about this that they would fain be

   saints in a day. Many of these persons purpose to accomplish a great

   deal and make grand resolutions; yet, as they are not humble and have

   no misgivings about themselves, the more resolutions they make, the

   greater is their fall and the greater their annoyance, since they have

   not the patience to wait for that which God will give them when it

   pleases Him; this likewise is contrary to the spiritual meekness

   aforementioned, which cannot be wholly remedied save by the purgation

   of the dark night. Some souls, on the other hand, are so patient as

   regards the progress which they desire that God would gladly see them

   less so.

   [39] [Lit. they even do it.']

                                 CHAPTER VI


     Of imperfections with respect to spiritual gluttony.


   WITH respect to the fourth sin, which is spiritual gluttony, there is

   much to be said, for there is scarce one of these beginners who,

   however satisfactory his progress, falls not into some of the many

   imperfections which come to these beginners with respect to this sin,

   on account of the sweetness which they find at first in spiritual

   exercises. For many of these, lured by the sweetness and pleasure which

   they find in such exercises, strive more after spiritual sweetness than

   after spiritual purity and discretion, which is that which God regards

   and accepts throughout the spiritual journey. [40] Therefore, besides

   the imperfections into which the seeking for sweetness of this kind

   makes them fall, the gluttony which they now have makes them

   continually go to extremes, so that they pass beyond the limits of

   moderation within which the virtues are acquired and wherein they have

   their being. For some of these persons, attracted by the pleasure which

   they find therein, kill themselves with penances, and others weaken

   themselves with fasts, by performing more than their frailty can bear,

   without the order or advice of any, but rather endeavouring to avoid

   those whom they should obey in these matters; some, indeed, dare to do

   these things even though the contrary has been commanded them.


   2. These persons are most imperfect and unreasonable; for they set

   bodily penance before subjection and obedience, which is penance

   according to reason and discretion, and therefore a sacrifice more

   acceptable and pleasing to God than any other. But such one-sided

   penance is no more than the penance of beasts, to which they are

   attracted, exactly like beasts, by the desire and pleasure which they

   find therein. Inasmuch as all extremes are vicious, and as in behaving

   thus such persons [41] are working their own will, they grow in vice

   rather than in virtue; for, to say the least, they are acquiring

   spiritual gluttony and pride in this way, through not walking in

   obedience. And many of these the devil assails, stirring up this

   gluttony in them through the pleasures and desires which he increases

   within them, to such an extent that, since they can no longer help

   themselves, they either change or vary or add to that which is

   commanded them, as any obedience in this respect is so bitter to them.

   To such an evil pass have some persons come that, simply because it is

   through obedience that they engage in these exercises, they lose the

   desire and devotion to perform them, their only desire and pleasure

   being to do what they themselves are inclined to do, so that it would

   probably be more profitable for them not to engage in these exercises

   at all.


   3. You will find that many of these persons are very insistent with

   their spiritual masters to be granted that which they desire,

   extracting it from them almost by force; if they be refused it they

   become as peevish as children and go about in great displeasure,

   thinking that they are not serving God when they are not allowed to do

   that which they would. For they go about clinging to their own will and

   pleasure, which they treat as though it came from God; [42] and

   immediately their directors [43] take it from them, and try to subject

   them to the will of God, they become peevish, grow faint-hearted and

   fall away. These persons think that their own satisfaction and pleasure

   are the satisfaction and service of God.


   4. There are others, again, who, because of this gluttony, know so

   little of their own unworthiness and misery and have thrust so far from

   them the loving fear and reverence which they owe to the greatness of

   God, that they hesitate not to insist continually that their confessors

   shall allow them to communicate often. And, what is worse, they

   frequently dare to communicate without the leave and consent [44] of

   the minister and steward of Christ, merely acting on their own opinion,

   and contriving to conceal the truth from him. And for this reason,

   because they desire to communicate continually, they make their

   confessions carelessly, [45] being more eager to eat than to eat

   cleanly and perfectly, although it would be healthier and holier for

   them had they the contrary inclination and begged their confessors not

   to command them to approach the altar so frequently: between these two

   extremes, however, the better way is that of humble resignation. But

   the boldness referred to is [46] a thing that does great harm, and men

   may fear to be punished for such temerity.


   5. These persons, in communicating, strive with every nerve to obtain

   some kind of sensible sweetness and pleasure, instead of humbly doing

   reverence and giving praise within themselves to God. And in such wise

   do they devote themselves to this that, when they have received no

   pleasure or sweetness in the senses, they think that they have

   accomplished nothing at all. This is to judge God very unworthily; they

   have not realized that the least of the benefits which come from this

   Most Holy Sacrament is that which concerns the senses; and that the

   invisible part of the grace that it bestows is much greater; for, in

   order that they may look at it with the eyes of faith, God oftentimes

   withholds from them these other consolations and sweetnesses of sense.

   And thus they desire to feel and taste God as though He were

   comprehensible by them and accessible to them, not only in this, but

   likewise in other spiritual practices. All this is very great

   imperfection and completely opposed to the nature of God, since it is

   Impurity in 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, [47] wearying and fatiguing their faculties and

   their heads; and when they have not found this pleasure they become

   greatly discouraged, thinking that they have accomplished nothing.

   Through these efforts they lose true devotion and spirituality, which

   consist in perseverance, together with patience and humility and

   mistrust of themselves, that they may please God alone. For this

   reason, when they have once failed to find pleasure in this or some

   other exercise, they have great disinclination and repugnance to return

   to it, and at times they abandon it. They are, in fact, as we have

   said, like children, who are not influenced by reason, and who act, not

   from rational motives, but from inclination. [48] Such persons expend

   all their effort in seeking spiritual pleasure and consolation; they

   never tire therefore, of reading books; and they begin, now one

   meditation, now another, in their pursuit of this pleasure which they

   desire to experience in the things of God. But God, very justly, wisely

   and lovingly, denies it to them, for otherwise this spiritual gluttony

   and inordinate appetite would breed innumerable evils. It is,

   therefore, very fitting that they should enter into the dark night,

   whereof we shall speak, [49] that they may be purged from this



   7. These persons who are thus inclined to such pleasures have another

   very great imperfection, which is that they are very weak and remiss in

   journeying upon the hard [50] road of the Cross; for the soul that is

   given to sweetness naturally has its face set against all self-denial,

   which is devoid of sweetness. [51]


   8. These persons have many other imperfections which arise hence, of

   which in time the Lord heals them by means of temptations, aridities

   and other trials, all of which are part of the dark night. All these I

   will not treat further here, lest I become too lengthy; I will only say

   that spiritual temperance and sobriety lead to another and a very

   different temper, which is that of mortification, fear and submission

   in all things. It thus becomes clear that the perfection and worth of

   things consist not in the multitude and the pleasantness of one's

   actions, but in being able to deny oneself in them; this such persons

   must endeavour to compass, in so far as they may, until God is pleased

   to purify them indeed, by bringing them [52] into the dark night, to

   arrive at which I am hastening on with my account of these




   [40] [Lit., spiritual road.']

   [41] [Lit., these persons.']

   [42] [Lit., and treat this as their God.']

   [43] [The Spanish is impersonal: immediately this is taken from them,'


   [44] [Lit., and opinion.']

   [45] [Lit., anyhow.']

   [46] [Lit, the other boldnesses are.']

   [47] [Lit., they strive to obtain this, as they say, by the strength of

   their arms.' The phrase is, of course, understood in the Spanish to be

   metaphorical, as the words as they say' clearly indicate.]

   [48] [Lit., who are not influenced, neither act by reason, but from


   [49] [Lit., which we shall give.']

   [50] [Aspero: harsh, rough, rugged.]

   [51] [Lit., against all the sweetlessness of self- denial.']

   [52] [Lit., causing them to enter.']


                                   CHAPTER VII


     Of imperfections with respect to spiritual envy and sloth.


   WITH respect likewise to the other two vices, which are spiritual envy

   and sloth, these beginners fail not to have many imperfections. For,

   with respect to envy, many of them are wont to experience movements of

   displeasure at the spiritual good of others, which cause them a certain

   sensible grief at being outstripped upon this road, so that they would

   prefer not to hear others praised; for they become displeased at

   others' virtues and sometimes they cannot refrain from contradicting

   what is said in praise of them, depreciating it as far as they can; and

   their annoyance thereat grows [53] because the same is not said of

   them, for they would fain be preferred in everything. All this is clean

   contrary to charity, which, as Saint Paul says, rejoices in goodness.

   [54] And, if charity has any envy, it is a holy envy, comprising grief

   at not having the virtues of others, yet also joy because others have

   them, and delight when others outstrip us in the service of God,

   wherein we ourselves are so remiss.


   2. With respect also to spiritual sloth, beginners are apt to be irked

   by the things that are most spiritual, from which they flee because

   these things are incompatible with sensible pleasure. For, as they are

   so much accustomed to sweetness in spiritual things, they are wearied

   by things in which they find no sweetness. If once they failed to find

   in prayer the satisfaction which their taste required (and after all it

   is well that God should take it from them to prove them), they would

   prefer not to return to it: sometimes they leave it; at other times

   they continue it unwillingly. And thus because of this sloth they

   abandon the way of perfection (which is the way of the negation of

   their will and pleasure for God's sake) for the pleasure and sweetness

   of their own will, which they aim at satisfying in this way rather than

   the will of God.


   3. And many of these would have God will that which they themselves

   will, and are fretful at having to will that which He wills, and find

   it repugnant to accommodate their will to that of God. Hence it happens

   to them that oftentimes they think that that wherein they find not

   their own will and pleasure is not the will of God; and that, on the

   other hand, when they themselves find satisfaction, God is satisfied.

   Thus they measure God by themselves and not themselves by God, acting

   quite contrarily to that which He Himself taught in the Gospel, saying:

   That he who should lose his will for His sake, the same should gain it;

   and he who should desire to gain it, the same should lose it. [55]


   4. These persons likewise find it irksome when they are commanded to do

   that wherein they take no pleasure. Because they aim at spiritual

   sweetness and consolation, they are too weak to have the fortitude and

   bear the trials of perfection. [56] They resemble those who are softly

   nurtured and who run fretfully away from everything that is hard, and

   take offense at the Cross, wherein consist the delights of the spirit.

   The more spiritual a thing is, the more irksome they find it, for, as

   they seek to go about spiritual matters with complete freedom and

   according to the inclination of their will, it causes them great sorrow

   and repugnance to enter upon the narrow way, which, says Christ, is the

   way of life. [57]


   5. Let it suffice here to have described these imperfections, among the

   many to be found in the lives of those that are in this first state of

   beginners, so that it may be seen how greatly they need God to set them

   in the state of proficients. This He does by bringing them into the

   dark night whereof we now speak; wherein He weans them from the breasts

   of these sweetnesses and pleasures, gives them pure aridities and

   inward darkness, takes from them all these irrelevances and

   puerilities, and by very different means causes them to win the

   virtues. For, however assiduously the beginner practises the

   mortification in himself of all these actions and passions of his, he

   can never completely succeed--very far from it--until God shall work it

   in him passively by means of the purgation of the said night. Of this I

   would fain speak in some way that may be profitable; may God, then, be

   pleased to give me His Divine light, because this is very needful in a

   night that is so dark and a matter that is so difficult to describe and

   to expound.


   The line, then, is:  In a dark night.



   [53] [Lit., and, as they say, their eye (el ojo) grows'--a colloquial

   phrase expressing annoyance.]

   [54] 1 Corinthians xiii, 6. The Saint here cites the sense, not the

   letter, of the epistle.

   [55] St. Matthew xvi, 25.

   [56] [Lit., they are very weak for the fortitude and trial of


   [57] St. Matthew vii, 14.


                              CHAPTER VIII


     Wherein is expounded the first line of the first stanza, and a

     beginning is made of the explanation of this dark night.


   THIS night, which, as we say, is contemplation, produces in spiritual

   persons two kinds of darkness or purgation, corresponding to the two

   parts of man's nature--namely, the 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. [58] The second bears no comparison with it, for it is

   horrible and awful to the spirit, as we shall show [59] presently.

   Since the night of sense is first in order and comes first, we shall

   first of all say something about it briefly, since more is written of

   it, as of a thing that is more common; and we shall pass on to treat

   more fully of the spiritual night, since very little has been said of

   this, either in speech [60] or in writing, and very little is known of

   it, even by experience.


   3. Since, then, the conduct of these beginners upon the way of God is

   ignoble, [61] and has much to do with their love of self and their own

   inclinations, as has been explained above, God desires to lead them

   farther. He seeks to bring them out of that ignoble kind of love to a

   higher degree of love for Him, to free them from the ignoble exercises

   of sense and meditation (wherewith, as we have said, they go seeking

   God so unworthily and in so many ways that are unbefitting), and to

   lead them to a kind of spiritual exercise wherein they can commune with

   Him more abundantly and are freed more completely from imperfections.

   For they have now had practice for some time in the way of virtue and

   have persevered in meditation and prayer, whereby, through the

   sweetness and pleasure that they have found therein, they have lost

   their love of the things of the world and have gained some degree of

   spiritual strength in God; this has enabled them to some extent to

   refrain from creature desires, so that for God's sake they are now able

   to suffer a light burden and a little aridity without turning back to a

   time [62] which they found more pleasant. When they are going about

   these spiritual exercises with the greatest delight and pleasure, and

   when they believe that the sun of Divine favour is shining most

   brightly upon them, God turns all this light of theirs into darkness,