St John Of The Cross


the spiritual director as a guide in his humanity and his personal relationship with the directee. Guidance in spiritual direction differs from other forms because it takes place within a human relationship and all the special dynamics present in human relationships serve the person's journey to God. In this relationship, the directee is supported, strengthened, and reassured by the director's presence, knowledge, experience, and skill. With the companionship of a human guide who knows the road of faith from personal experience, one makes the spiritual journey to God more securely than when traveling alone relying only on God, self, Scripture or spiritual writings.

In Book Two, John continues to refer to the spiritual director as a spiritual master or teacher (maestro)l and spiritual father (el padre espiritual),2 thus connecting his theory of spiritual direction with both the universal master-disciple phenomenon3 and the image of spiritual paternity in Christian tradition.4 He does not use the noun "spiritual director" anywhere in Book Two, although this concept is expressed in substantive phrases employing verbs such


also pp. 149-52, 170 above.

1A2,18,1-2; 19,11; 22,16; 26,11&18.

2A2,18,5-6; 22,19.

3See pp. 182-83 above.

4See pp. 79-80 above.


as gobernar (to govern; to guide; to direct)1 and tratar (to manage; to handle; to treat).2 For example, the substantive el que gobierna estas almas is translated as "director(s)" by both Kavanaugh & Rodriguez and E. Allison Peers.3 Frequently, John calls the soiritual director a "confessor," implying an ordained minister of the Church with sacramental powers to bind and loose, to approve and reprove.5 However, he does not restrict the possibility of giving spiritual direction only to those in Sacred Orders, for he recommends that matters like internal locutions "be manifested to an experienced confessor or to a discreet and wise person who will give instructions and counsel and decide what is to be done" (pero se han de manifestar al confessor maduro o a persona discreta y sabia, para que dé doctrina y vea lo que conviene en ello y dé su consejo).6 The crucial distinction appears to be not whether the director is an ordained priest, but whether he or she possesses the necessary knowledge, experience, and skill to provide spiritual guidance.


1A2,18,1; 20,3; 29,5.


3A2,29,5. See Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, Collected Works, p. 204, and E. Allison Peers, The Complete Works of Saint John of the Cross, 1:211.

4A 2,l8,3&5&7; 22,l9; 26,18; 30,5.


6A2,30,5-6. Cf. A2,22,16.


Throughout our discussion of Book Two, we have looked at spiritual direction from the side of the director. Something remains to be said about the directee and his contribution to the relationship if it is to be a joint venture in faith and a search for truth.

The portrait of the directee or disciplel painted by John in Book Two is that of a person committed to seeking Christian perfection and union with God.2 He has already made progress along this road, for he has passed through the stage of beginners to that of proficients and is most likely to be enjoying contemplative forms of prayer.3 He is capable of following God's guidance as this is manifest in his human nature and in divine revelation;4 and he possesses insight into his own spiritual experiences.5 He is also quite likely to have been influenced by the spiritual interests of his day, especially by the high priority placed upon mystical experiences.6

Although capable of walking alone along the dark road


lJohn usually refers to the directee as el alma, discipulo, or el spiritual. E.G., A2, 18,1-3&5:-7.


3A2,6,8; 7,13; A3,2,1-2.



6Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, 1:6-9.


of faith toward union with God, this person progresses more securely with the assistance of an experienced, learned and skillful spiritual director. Together, they seek to know and practice the truth.1 To derive full benefit from this relationship, the disciple must understand that its goal is faith and that he must be open with his director. This openness requires that he share his experience--especially that of an extraordinary character2--with his director and receive the counsel of the director, even when this is contrary to his own convictions.3 This openness is not a passive or thoughtless submission to the director's authority, but rather a safeguard against self-deception and departing from the road of faith.4

Thus, at the level of spirituality about which John speaks in Book Two of the Ascent, he assumes the directee to be a person of commitment, experience, insight, judgment, openness, and cooperation. Without these qualities, the directee will be unable to profit from spiritual direction as a means for attaining union with God.


In Book Two, John begins his treatment of the dark night





4A2,26,18; 30,6.


of spirit by showing the necessity of faith for union with God. Drawing upon his experience as a spiritual director, he explains how one is to act toward particular kinds of natural and supernatural knowledge in order to be free to receive the general, loving knowledge of God which comes through faith and contemplation. In discussing the particular problems of disposing the intellect for union with God, John reveals much of his theory of spiritual direction.

This theory maintains that God, the principal director of each soul, guides persons to divine union according to their individual capacities through the laws of human nature and divine revelation. In the ministry of spiritual direction, the human director acts as an instrument of God by helping persons to respond effectively to His divine guidance in their lives.

Growth in faith, the way to union with God, is the goal of spiritual direction. Its subject matter is the experience of the directee, especially his prayer and extraordinary spiritual phenomena. Spiritual direction involves a human relationship which brings to the directee the benefits of support, clarification, and confirmation in his spiritual life, as well as the danger that attitudes of the director which are contrary to faith may adversely affect the faith of the directee.

To aid a person in his journey of faith to union with God,


the spiritual director must appreciate his role as God's intrument of divine guidance. His role demands that he possess knowledge in such fields as the philosophy of human knowing, human and spiritual development, prayer, psychopathology, and Sacred Scripture. A good director has experience in the life of faith himself and in guiding others in faith. He appreciates his own humanity as instrumental in helping another to grow spiritually according to reason and faith. He is able to establish a human relationship with the directee and facilitate the directee's communication of his experience within that relationship. He possesses the necessary skill to teach, to evaluate, and to guide the directee with positive advice, counsel, and command, especially when there is danger that the directee will depart from the road of faith by attachment to particular forms of knowledge or experience of God.

The spiritual director is a guide who leads another person along the road of faith to union with God. Guidance is the concept that best expresses the nature of the helping relationship called spiritual direction and connotes all those qualities which make an effective spiritual director. Whether he is called director, master, father, or confessor, the spiritual director is fundamentally a guide.

The directee must also bring certain qualities to the spiritual direction relationship if it is to be fruitful for his own growth in faith. These are commitment, experience,


insight, openness, and cooperation. Spiritual direction does not consist in a director's telling a directee how to behave, but in a cooperative joining together of director and directee to seek truth and grow in faith.

As expressed in Book Two of The Ascent of Mount Carmel, we may thus describe spiritual direction as an interpersonal relationship between an experienced, learned, and skillful director or master and a committed, open and cooperative directee or disciple in which particular attention is paid to the experience of the directee in order that the director may guide him more securely along the road of faith which leads to union with God. It is essentially a faith relationship in which the director enters sympathetically into the faith process of the directeel and in which God himself is present illuminating the road to divine union for both the director and directee.


1The concept of "sympathetic entry into the personal processes of another" is taken from the American psychologist, Gardner Murphy. See David Shakow, "What is Clinical Psychology? American Psychologist 31 (August 1976):555.


The Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book Three

John continues his discussion of the active night of spirit in Book Three of The Ascent of Mount Carmel. Here he maintains that union with God demands not only that the intellect be purified through faith, but also that the memory be purified through hope and the will be purified through charity. One is united to God in this life to the degree that the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love abide in the spiritual faculties of intellect, memory, and will respectively.1

Writing primarily for persons advancing in contemplation,2 John draws heavily upon his own experience3 in living the spiritual life and in guiding others along the road to union with God. He advances his arguments for the necessity of hope and love in the memory and will with the help of scholastic methodology4 and illustrations drawn from Sacred Scripture.5 Because the faculties of memory and will are similar in their operations to those of the intellect, John


lA3,1,1; 16,1.


3A3,2,4-6; 5,2; 13,9; 36,2.

4Note particularly the way he explains his topic by drawing distinctions and employs the disputation method in resolving difficulties (e.g., A3,2,7-13; 3,4-6; 13, 2-3).

5E.g, chapters 18-20 alone contain 40 references to the Bible.


maintains that they too must be emptied of their natural apprehensions or attachments to their natural objects in order to be filled with the wisdom and love of God.1

In Book Three, John maintains the principle that guides his entire treatment of man's relationship with God; namely, that God is incomprehensible.2 Nothing that the intellect can know naturally, or the memory recall, or the will love is equal to God or able to serve as a proportinate means of union with Him. These faculties must therefore be purified of their natural objects through the supernatural virtues of faith in the intellect, hope in the memory, and charity in the will in order to be disposed to receive God's own knowledge and love of Himself which is the basis of a union of likeness between God and man.

In Book Two of the Ascent, John demonstrates how the intellect is to be purified of all its natural and supernatural knowledge in order to be united with God in pure faith. in Book Three, he teaches the same lesson with regard to both the memory and the will. Speaking of the memory, he writes:


lA3,1,1; 34,1.

2A3,2,3-4; 5,3; 12,1-3; 13,1.


And writing on the purification of the will through the theological virtue of charity, John states:



pp 230-240

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