St John Of The Cross


Himself to a person in contemplation as the third and final reason for calling the journey to God a dark night. In Book One, John discusses how this communication affects the of a human person, ordering it to one's spiritual part and preparing it ultimately for divine union through love.

By describing the deep motivation for sensory gratification and the many imperfections found in beginners in the spiritual life, John highlights the necessity of God's passive, purgative contemplation for those who seek Christian perfection. This passive purification of the person's sensory life is characterized by psychological aridity which includes a loss of consolation in both God and creatures, a longing for God, and an inability to meditate. John provides criteria for distinguishing this purgative aridity from other forms of dryness caused by sin and laxity or physical and psychological dysfunction. He also enumerates the spiritual benefits which this purgative night of sense produces in a person.

The theory of spiritual direction found in Book One of the Dark Night maintains that God, the primary Director of each person, provides His divine guidance by communicating Himself directly to a person in contemplation. The role of the human director is to help persons dispose themselves through meditative prayer and mortification of inordinate


sensory appetites to receive this divine communication. To fulfill this role the director must be knowledgeable in the theology of contemplation and the psychology of human motivation and abnormality. He must also have skill in handling interpersonal relationships with his directees, especially when these involve emotional transference and countertransference. The director improves in his ability to fulfill his instrumental role in God's guidance of souls as he grows in his own spiritual life and gains experience in directing others.

As a form of guidance, spiritual direction demands that the director exercise judgment and discernment with his directees. This discernment extends not only to determining a person's progress in the spiritual life, but also to the determination of God's will in particular circumstances. The spiritual direction relationship also involves obedience of a directee to the director. Whether exercised by those who have the spiritual authority of Orders or office or by one without these positions, authority in spiritual direction is used to help directees live according to reason. The subject matter of spiritual direction is the entire experience of the person as he progresses through the various stages of the spiritual life.

The directee as he appears in the first book of The Dark Night is one who has seriously converted to seeking God,


yet continues to be affected by self-love and imperfections. He also is a unique person, different from others because of his personality and the way in which God guides him. When these individuals of good will seriously dispose themselves for God's communication, He invariably responds by leading them into the dark night of aridities where their imperfections are purged, their sense life is subjected to their spirit, and they begin to love God rather than themselves.

The Dark Night: Book Two

In contemplation, God purifies a person both in sense (el sentido) and in spirit (el espíritu), preparing him for divine union. Having explained in Book one of The Dark Night how the communication of God purifies the senses, John goes on in Book Two to describe how this same communication purifies the human spirit.1

Only a relatively few persons actually undergo this dark night of spirit in its entirety, thereby arriving at the state of perfect union with God in love. For this very reason, John-discusses the night of spirit in great length and depth.


1The Dark Night, Prologue. Nl,8,1-2; 11,4; 14,1&4-6. For a discussion of subjects relevant to Book Two of The Dark Night, see Eulogio de San Juan de la Cruz, La Transformacion Total del Alma en Dios según San Juan de la Cruz (Madrid: Editorial de Espiritualidad, 1963);,Emeterio del S. Corazon, "La Noche Pasiva del Espíritu de San Juan de la Cruz," Revista de Espiritualidad 18 (Enero-Marzo 1959):5-49; Teófilo de la Virgen del Carmen, "Estructura de la Contemplación Infusa Sanjuanista," Revista de Espiritualidad 23 (Julio-Diciembre 1964):347-423.


Many books are written about the night of sense; few about the night of spirit. As a result, persons who experience this spiritual purgation are without sufficient guidance about the manner of conducting themselves in this night and surrendering themselves to God's action in their lives. One of John's greatest contributions to spiritual literature is his theological and phenomenological analysis of the final purification of the human spirit prior to reaching perfect union with God in love. Commenting on the purpose and value of his treatise, John writes these words in one of the concluding chapters of Book Two:

. . . The reason I undertook this task was to explain this night [of spirit] to many souls who in passing through it do not understand it . . . . We have written of those blessings [of God's communication] so that when souls become frightened by the horror of so many trials (se espantaren con el horror de tantos trabajos) they might take courage in the sure hope of the many advantageous blessings obtained from God through these trials.1

To appreciate a person's need for additional purification beyond the night of sense, one must understand the condition of proficients (aprovechados), the term John applies to those who have passed through the beginning stage of the spiritual life and undergone the purgation of sense described in Book one of The Night. These persons live more by spirit than by sense. With their desires and emotions centered upon God, they live in peace and inner harmony. They enjoy a con-


1N2,22,2. See also A, Prologue, 3-6; N1,8; 11,4; 14,l.


templative mode of prayer which requires no discursive meditation. They usually spend many years of relative tranquility, enjoying consolation from God and serving Him faithfully. Proficients are those who, to use another terminology, walk along "the illuminative way [via illuminativa] or the way of infused contemplation, in which God Himself pastures and refreshes the soul without any of its own discursive meditation or active help."l

Despite these blessings, many stains of the "old man" still remain in proficients. Spiritually, they are still children who must grow into full manhood. They remain afflicted by habitual and actual imperfections which prevent them enjoying perfect union with God in love. Some imperfections, so deeply rooted (como raíces) in the human spirit that the person is unaware of them, produce inordinate affections and dullness of mind that preclude union with the Divine Spirit. Other, more conscious imperfections are attachments to one's own spiritual experiences (aprehensiones y sentimientos) that prevent one from growing in faith and authentic spirituality. All proficients, in one way or another, are affected by these imperfections, no matter how strenuously they try to avoid them. God alone can uproot these imperfections from the human soul and prepare the person for the high state of divine union.2


lNl,13,14-14,1; N2,1,1-2; 7,l.

2N2,1,3-2,4; 3,3; 13,11.


God purifies the proficient through infused contemplation, which John calls a dark night for the human spirit. By intensifying His communication to the person, God simultaneously eradicates the soul's remaining imperfections and unites it completely with Himself. When the night of purification is over, the person emerges completely united with God in love. This divine communication, in effect, finally perfects the whole person, both sense and spirit. The sensory part of the person is not completely purged until the spiritual part is also cleansed. The night of sense removes disordered love of self, subordinates the senses to the spirit, and brings the strength and consolation of contemplative prayer; it does not, however, reach the roots of one's disorders and imperfections which reside in the spiritual part of the person. Due to the unity of the human person in which the sense and spirit form one suppositum or composite being, the imperfections of sense are not removed until their roots in the spirit are purged.

John expresses this final purification of the whole person in these words:


Thus the night of the spirit is the final purification of the whole person, preparatory to divine union.In this night

One major effect of this purification is that the person is forced to give up inordinate attachments to temporal objects (riches, status, position, family, etc.), to natural objects (physical beauty, intellectual endowments, etc.), and to spiritual objects (everything which aids and moves the person toward God. )3 This detachment creates within the person aridity


lN2,3,1. See also N2,1,1; 2,1; 7,5-6.


3A3,18,1; 21,1; 33,2.


(sequedad) in the senses, an emptiness (vacío) in the spiritual faculties, and an overall darkness (tiniebla oscura) in the spirit. This aridity, emptiness, and darkness is, in effect, the purification of the total person; when it is accomplished, the person arrives at the final stage of the spiritual life, which is a transformation of the total person in God through love.1

The divine communication which uproots one's imperfections and unites one to God is simply "an inflow of God into the soul (influencia de Dios en el alma)." This divine inflow, which is technically called "infused contemplation," is received by the person without conscious activity of the human faculties and is experienced primarily as wisdom and love or, more simply, as the "loving wisdom of God (sabiduría de Dios amorosa)."2

Although God's Self-communication affects the entire person, it primarily influences the spiritual faculties of intellect and will precisely because it is received as wisdom


lN2,6,4. For John, the problems of human behavior are rooted in the spiritual part of the human person; their ultimate cure is found in God's communication to the soul. His theory suggests that current discussions of the etiology of psychological abnormality ought to include spiritual factors as well as "the neurological, biochemical, psychosexual, or developmental determinants of these abnormalities." See, R. J. McCall, Varieties of Abnormality, p. xii. Furthermore, the relationship ot contemplation and psychotherapy as related means of healing the human soul ought to be further explored. See N2,16,10-12.

2N2,5,1. See also N2,11,2; 14,1; 23,2.


and love. And though this divine communication may be experienced in different ways by the intellect and will, the divine wisdom and love are always given together in one simple communication as a loving light (luz amorosa). As fire simultaneously produces light and heat, so God's Self-communication generates both divine light and love within the person. For this reason, infused contemplation is also called "mystical theology." It gives knowledge of God: therefore, it is theology. But this knowledge comes, not from cognitive learning, but through love: therefore, it is mystical theology. In contemplation, God communicates His wisdom to a person through love. As John notes, "God never bestows mystical wisdom without love, since love itself infuses it."2

We can see more clearly how this divine loving light eradicates a person's imperfections and unites him to God when we analyze its separate effects upon the intellect and upon


lN2,12,5-13.3, God's Self-communication ultimately affects the entire person in all his faculties of sense and spirit. However, because this communiction is primarily wisdom and love, John speaks of it as affecting principally the spiritual faculties of the intellect and will in this way, contemplation is understood to affect the entire person in both his cognitive or intellectual and conative or voluntary experiences. In thus speaking of contemplation affecting the intellect and will. In this way, John implies that it affects the entire cogative and cognitive structure of a person. The spiritual faculty of memory is included under the cognitive side of a person. See pp. 114-15 above for a discussion of faculties of the soul.

2N2,12,2. See also A2,8,6; N2,12,5; 17,2-3&6; 18,5; C, Prologue,3; C27,5; C39,12.


the will. To the degree that God's Self-communication transforms human cognition and volition, to that degree is the entire person purified in all sensory and spiritual operations.

Speaking in metaphor, John maintains that the light of God's communication darkens the human intellect. Because the source of this loving knowledge is God's Self-communication rather than man's natural cognitive processes, the human intellect remains inactive in its normal discursive operations, or in the dark. Furthermore, this divine light allows one to see his own interior darkness. As God's light illumines one's life, one becomes painfully aware of the roots of one's imperfections, just as the brilliant light of the sun upon a glass window reveals all the previously undetected dirty smudges on the glass. By means of this light, a person observes for the first time his many imperfect habits arising from lifelong, inordinate attachments to an imperfect understanding of God and to natural, temporal, and spiritual objects.1

Prior to the divine illumination, a person is unaware of his imperfect habits.2 His inordinate attachments are of such long duration and so deeply rooted in his spirit that they have become a part of the person's customary or natural


lN2,5,2-4; 6,5; 8,3; 9,3; 16,11.

2N2,10,2; 13,10.

pp 320-320

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