St John Of The Cross


relationship.1 Nevertheless, John does admit that some divinely inspired memories occasionally appear which produce growth in divine love.2 These may at times be recalled (podrá alqunas veces acordarse) provided they produce the effects of love of God and spiritual renewal (renovación espiritual en el alma). As already stated in Book Two, the criteria for discernment of any phenomena remain the good effects they produce.3 And yet, even with memories that recall God's direct influence upon the soul or faculties, "it is good for the soul to have no desire to comprehend anything save God alone in hope through faith (bueno le es al alma no querer comprehender nada, sino a Dios por fe en esperanza)."4 In helping the person advance toward God in forgetfulness of even divine inspirations, the director guides him along the safest path (guiarse por lo más _securo)5 and avoids the risk of tearing down what God is building in his soul.6


lSee pp. 196-97.

2A3,13,6-8; 14,2.

3A3,13,8; 14,2. See pp. 188-190 above.



6A3,13, 2-5. This principle does not apply to spiritual knowledge of the Creator which is without form, image, or figure and which always produces good effects in the soul. This knowledge may be recalled as often as possible, for it is the result of divine union, "the goal to which we are guiding the soul (que es donde vamos encaminado al alma)." A3,14,1-2. Cf. A2,26,1-10.


We may look at John's implicit teachings on spiritual direction in these chapters on the memory by first considering the director's intellectual preparation. The director should have an adequate theology and anthropology. Without some understanding that God is incomprehensible and therefore unable to be contained within human concepts and images,1 the director may fail to appreciate why the memory must be free of all concepts and images of God in order to journey to God "by not comprehending rather than by comprehending (el alma vaya a Dios, antes ha de ir no comprehendiendo que com -prehendiendo),"2 "by knowing God through what He is not, rather than through what He is (que a Dios el alma antes le ha de ir conociendo por lo que no es que por lo que es) . "3 And without some.understanding that man can receive loving knowledge passively and directly from God independent of the activity of the human faculties, the director may continually recommend prayerful exercises and techniques involving the intellect and memory to foster union with God which only interfere with God's work in the directee's soul.4 A spiritual director guides others according to his own view of God and man: If his view is a limited one, he may in turn be limited in his ability to


lA3,2,3-4; 5,3; 12,1; 15,1-2.


3A3,2,3, See also A3,7,2.



help others dispose themselves for the gift of divine union.

A good director understands the effect of memories upon human functioning. In John's view, spiritual, moral, and psychological disturbances come through the memory.1 When one recalls ideas, images, and experiences, one also evokes the earlier desires and emotions associated with these objects.2 These aroused desires and emotions not only disturb one's recollection in prayer and occasion sins and imperfections,3 but they also produce falsehoods, delusions, sorrow, affliction, sadness, distress, worry, and numerous other problems, many of them unconscious (algunas tan sutiles y degadas, que, sin entenderlo el alma . . . ),4 that adversely affect the person.5

These disturbances arise because desires and emotions do not permit a person to perceive objects and events clearly and cause him to form distorted imagcs of these objects and events rather than true images of them as they are in themselves. As a result, one sees objects and events, not as they actually are, but according to his distorted images of them, causing inappropriate responses to these objects and events.


lA3,3,5; 4,1;5,1.

2A3,3 3; 5,2; 10,1.

3A3,3,1&3&5; 4,2; 6,3-4.


5A3,3,2; 4,1-21; 6,3; 8,2-4; 15,2.


And when a person recalls these objects and events, he recalls only his distorted images of them, creating the difficulties which, according to John, "harm" the soul.1 By closing the door on the memories and "disuniting oneself from everything imaginative (desuniéndose de todo lo imaginario) one preserves himself from the inner turmoil caused by reacting with desire and emotion to distorted images of earlier objects and events and disposes oneself for the healing presence of Jesus who removes the "misgivings, suspicions, disturbances, and darknesses that made the soul fear it had gone astray (todos los recelos y sospechas, turbación y tinieblas que le hacían temer que estaba o que iba perdida )."3 The spiritual director, therefore, must appreciate the importance of his directee's memories, not only the dangers4 they represent to his emotional and spiritual growth, but also the benefits5 that accrue when


lA3,3,2-3; 4,1; 8,3-4; 10,1-2. John notes the power of the memory not only to preserve images coming from the senses, but also to form and fashion (fabricar y formar) images on its own, suggesting the memory's own role in forming distorted images of objects and events. See A3,2,4.



4These dangers are spelled out in John's discussion of the daños or damages that come to a person through memories. See chaps. 3-5 and 8-12.

5See chaps. 6 & 13 for a description of these benefits or provechos.


they are healed in prayer.1

As always, the director must understand his role in the directee's sanctification, particularly as the directee advances in contemplative prayer. God is the primary Director who brinqs the person to union with Himself.2 The director must therefore allow God to work in a person and not interfere with this divine action by inappropriate advice.3 He


lJohn's method of healing memories through the virtue of hope (which involves forgetting and prayer) stands in sharp contrast to modern psychotherapy which attempts to heal harmful memories by recalling past events and jettisoning the disturbing desires and emotions associated with these events through therapeutic dialogue. We may harmonize these two distinct approaches if we realize that John was writing in Book Three primarily for those "advancing in contemplation to union with God," those who had passed the stage of discursive reflection and meditation (A3,2,2). His method of forgetting and prayer applies specifically to them. However, in the earlier, discursive phase of their prayer life, where memories play an essential role (A2,12,2-6), persons may be freed from emotional problems related to past events in their lives by the discursive and reflective methods of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy may thus prove a useful adjunct to meditative prayer and promote one's growth in prayer by freeing him emotionally for non-discursive, contemplative prayer. These two approaches to healing memories may indeed suggest the proper relationship between psychotherapy and spiritual direction. The psychotherapist, by relieving disturbing emotions attached to memories of earlier experiences, prepares the person indirectly to advance in prayer toward contemplation. The spiritual director, by helping contemplatives to pray without memories, disposes them for the final healing of disturbing memories by God. However, a note of caution should be added here. John's discussion of disturbances arising through memories includes delusions (engaños) of paranoid proportions. (A3,4,1; 8,2-5; 15,2). These delusions are most resistant to healing, whether in psychotherapy or spiritual direction. In such cases, an approach combining psychotherapy and spiritual direction may be best.




must also recognize and foster the person's growing spiriltual strength and capacity to dispose himself for God's guidance without excessive dependence upon the director.1 The spiritual director now helps the person prepare himself further to be led by God,2 teaching him to forget particular memories3 and to recollect his memory in prayer4 and inciting him to greater hope in God.5 In these ways, the director enables his directee to advance with God's help toward divine union and human integration.6

Another implicit lesson in John's discussion of memories pertains to the director's experience. If the director himself is progressing in prayer and the purification of his own memories, he will perceive and judge his directee more accurately7 and appreciate God's incomprehensibility more


lOne benefit for the directee in purifying his memory through the virtue of hope is the release of time and energy spent in profitless discussions with the director for the more beneficial exercise (más provechoso exercicio) of freeing himself "from all imaginative forms, images, and figures" (A3,13,1). Providing the spiritual person with a general method for governing the memory also suggests John's appreciation of the directee's capacity for self-direction (A3,15, Title & 1-2.)


3A3,15, 1.




7A3,3,2; 4,1; 6,3; 8,3; 10,1-3.


fully.1 In addition, his experience in directing others will allow him to recognize the various extraordinary phenomena associated with the memory (e.g., suspension of consciousness, loss of memory, insensitivity to pain, love-producing images or knowledge impressed directly upon the memory or the soul, etc.) that sometimes occur when God draws a person into the state of divine union.2 As his experience in the spiritual life and the direction of others increases, the director grows in his ability to guide others toward the union of the memory with God through hope.

In guiding the memory, the director must appreciate individual differences among his directees. For example, extraordinary phenomena need not be everyone's experience. Some may have them; others may not. Of those experiencing these phenomena, some may do so more frequently than others because they possess a more lively imagination.3 He must observe each person and carefully evaluate each one's progress in


1A3,12, Title & 1-3.

2A3,2,4-8; 13,6-14,2. John describes the suspension of consciousness in this way: "Algunas veces, cuando Dios hace estos toques de unión en la memoria, súbitamente le da un vuelco en el cerebro (que es donde ella tiene su asiento) tan sensible, que le parece se desvanece toda la cabeza y que se pierde el juicio y el sentido; . . ." Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translate: "When God on occasion produces these touches of union in the memory, a sudden jolt is experienced in the brain (where the memory has its seat), so sensible that it seems the whole head swoons and that consciousness and sensibility are lost (A3,2,5)."

3A3,2,5-6; A3,13,8.


prayer. In this way, he is less likely to give wrong advice (consejo) about the memory. For example, advice which might benefit a beginner in the meditative stage of prayer could lead one progressing in contemplative prayer to undo what God is attempting to accomplish in his soul.1 Or applying the general rule of forgetting indiscriminately to all directees might prove frustrating to a person far advanced in divine union whom God has already touched with His light and love in a way that is impossible to forget.2 The director must encourage directees progressing in contemplative prayer to describe to him their experiences, especially any extraordinary phenomena, so that, in turn, he may give them instruction on the purgation of the memory (decirlo al padre espiritual para que le enseñe a vaciar la memoria de aquellas aprehensiones).3 He must teach them how to detach themselves from natural, supernatural, and spiritual memories;4 to pray without memories;5 to remain passive while God works in their lives;6 to practice humility and true contempt for themselves (desprecio de sí y de todas sus cosas muy formado y







6A3,2,13-16; 13,2-5.


sensible en el alma) as a protection against falling into hidden pride and satisfaction with themselves alone.1 Guiding his directees in these ways, the spiritual director purifies their memories and prepares them for union with God in hope.

In chapter sixteen John turns to the purification of the will through charity, taking the Mosaic command of love as his starting point.

The significant idea in this quotation is "strength" (fortaleza ... fuerza del alma...fortudinem meam). The soul's strength resides in the faculties, emotions, and appetites, all governed by the will. When the will centers the faculties, emotions, and appetites in God, then the soul loves





Him with all its strength. John thus discusses the will, not as an abstraction, but concretely as it is expressed in appetites and emotions.

John is especially concerned with the emotions.2 These are four: joy (gozo), hope (esperanza), sorrow (dolor), and fear (temor).3 These emotions direct the strength of the soul to God when the will governs them in such a way that

In this state, the emotions are in order and produce virtue. However, the will may allow the emotions to center on objects other then God, to find



2Literally, "afecciones o passiones" (A3,16,2; 17,l). This is translated in various ways as feelings, passions, emotions, affections, etc. Although a distinction can be drawn between the passions of the soul (las pasiones del alma) and the affections of the will (afecciones de la voluntad) on the basis of their voluntariness and rationality, I use the one word "emotion" to include both concepts because it is closer to a modern psychological understanding of the phenomena. See Dicken, The Crucible of Love, pp. 338-41.



pp 250-260

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