John - Scent Carmel 1 13
Wherein is described the manner and way which the soul must follow in orderto enter this night of sense.
1 IT now remains for me to give certain counsels whereby the soul may knowhow to enter this night of sense and may be able so to do. To this end itmust be known that the soul habitually enters this night of sense in twoways: the one is active; the other passive. The active way consists in thatwhich the soul can do, and does, of itself, in order to enter therein, whereofwe shall now treat in the counsels which follow. The passive way is thatwherein the soul does nothing, and God works in it, and it remains, as itwere, patient. Of this we shall treat in the fourth book, where we shallbe treating of beginners. And because there, with the Divine favour, we shallgive many counsels to beginners, according to the many imperfections whichthey are apt to have while on this road, I shall not spend time in givingmany here. And this, too, because it belongs not to this place to give them,as at present we are treating only of the reasons for which this journeyis called a night, and of what kind it is, and how many parts it has. But,as it seems that it would be incomplete, and less profitable than it shouldbe, if we gave no help or counsel here for walking in this night of desires,I have thought well to set down briefly here the way which is to be followed:and I shall do the same at the end of each of the next two parts, or causes,of this night, whereof, with the help of the Lord, I have to treat.
2. These counsels for the conquering of the desires, which now follow, albeit briefand few, I believe to be as profitable and efficacious as they are concise;so that one who sincerely desires to practice them will need no others, butwill find them all included in these.
3. First, let him have an habitual desire(195) to imitate Christ in everything that he does, conforming himselfto His life; upon which life he must meditate so that he may know how toimitate it, and to behave in all things as Christ would behave.
4. Secondly, in order that he may be able to do this well, every pleasure that presentsitself to the senses, if it be not purely for the honour and glory of God,must be renounced and completely rejected for the love of Jesus Christ, Whoin this life had no other pleasure, neither desired any, than to do the willof His Father, which He called His meat and food.(196) I take this example.If there present itself to a man the pleasure of listening to things thattend not to the service and honour of God, let him not desire that pleasure,nor desire to listen to them; and if there present itself the pleasure oflooking at things that help him not Godward, let him not desire the pleasureor look at these things; and if in conversation or in aught else soever suchpleasure present itself, let him act likewise. And similarly with respectto all the senses, in so far as he can fairly avoid the pleasure in question;if he cannot, it suffices that, although these things may be present to hissenses, he desires not to have this pleasure. And in this wise he will beable to mortify and void his senses of such pleasure, as though they werein darkness. If he takes care to do this, he will soon reap great profit. 5. For the mortifying and calming of the four natural passions, which arejoy, hope, fear and grief, from the concord and pacification whereof comethese and other blessings, the counsels here following are of the greatesthelp, and of great merit, and the source of great virtues.
6. Strive alwaysto prefer, not that which is easiest, but that which is most difficult; Notthat which is most delectable, but that which is most unpleasing; Not thatwhich gives most pleasure, but rather that which gives least; Not that whichis restful, but that which is wearisome; Not that which is consolation, butrather that which is disconsolateness; Not that which is greatest, but thatwhich is least; Not that which is loftiest and most precious, but that whichis lowest and most despised; Not that which is(197) a desire for anything,but that which is a desire for nothing; Strive to go about seeking not thebest of temporal things, but the worst. Strive thus to desire to enter intocomplete detachment and emptiness and poverty, with respect to everythingthat is in the world, for Christ's sake.
7. And it is meet that the soulembrace these acts with all its heart and strive to subdue its will thereto.For, if it perform them with its heart, it will very quickly come to findin them great delight and consolation, and to act with order and discretion.
8. These things that have been said, if they be faithfully put into practice,are quite sufficient for entrance into the night of sense; but, for greatercompleteness, we shall describe another kind of exercise which teaches usto mortify the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes,and the pride of life, which, says Saint John,(198) are the things that reignin the world, from which all the other desires proceed.
9. First, let the soul strive to work in its own despite, and desire all to do so. Secondly,let it strive to speak in its own despite and desire all to do so. Third,let it strive to think humbly of itself, in its own despite, and desire allto do so.
10. To conclude these counsels and rules, it will be fitting toset down here those lines which are written in the Ascent of the Mount, whichis the figure that is at the beginning of this book; the which lines areinstructions for ascending to it, and thus reaching the summit of union.For, although it is true that that which is there spoken of is spiritualand interior, there is reference likewise to the spirit of imperfection accordingto sensual and exterior things, as may be seen by the two roads which areon either side of the path of perfection. It is in this way and accordingto this sense that we shall understand them here; that is to say, accordingto that which is sensual. Afterwards, in the second part of this night, theywill be understood according to that which is spiritual.(199)
11. The lines are these: In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, Desire tohave pleasure in nothing. In order to arrive at possessing everything, Desireto possess nothing. In order to arrive at being everything, Desire to benothing. In order to arrive at knowing everything, Desire to know nothing.(200)In order to arrive at that wherein thou hast no pleasure, Thou must go bya way wherein thou hast no pleasure. In order to arrive at that which thouknowest not, Thou must go by a way that thou knowest not. In order to arriveat that which thou possessest not, Thou must go by a way that thou possessestnot. In order to arrive at that which thou art not, Thou must go throughthat which thou art not.
12. When thy mind dwells upon anything, Thou artceasing to cast thyself upon the All. For, in order to pass from the allto the All, Thou hast to deny thyself wholly(201) in all. And, when thoucomest to possess it wholly, Thou must possess it without desiring anything.For, if thou wilt have anything in having all,(202) Thou hast not thy treasurepurely in God.
13. In this detachment the spiritual soul finds its quiet and repose; for,since it covets nothing, nothing wearies it when it is lifted up, and nothingoppresses it when it is cast down, because it is in the cen tre of its humility;but when it covets anything, at that very moment it becomes wearied.
Wherein is expounded the second line of the stanza.
Kindled in love with yearnings.
1 NOW that we have expounded the first line of this stanza, which treats ofthe night of sense, explaining what this night of sense is, and why it iscalled night; and now that we have likewise described the order and mannerwhich are to be followed for a soul to enter therein actively, the next thingto be treated in due sequence is its properties and effects, which are wonderful,and are described in the next lines of the stanza aforementioned, upon whichI will briefly touch for the sake of expounding the said lines, as I promisedin the Prologue;(203) and I will then pass on at once to the second book,treating of the other part of this night, which is the spiritual.
2. The soul, then, says that, 'kindled in love with yearnings,' it passed throughthis dark night of sense and came out thence to the union of the Beloved.For, in order to conquer all the desires and to deny itself the pleasureswhich it has in everything, and for which its love and affection are wontto enkindle the will that it may enjoy them, it would need to experienceanother and a greater enkindling by an other and a better love, which isthat of its Spouse; to the end that, having its pleasure set upon Him andderiving from Him its strength, it should have courage and constancy to denyitself all other things with ease. And, in order to conquer the strengthof the desires of sense, it would need, not only to have love for its Spouse,but also to be enkindled by love and to have yearnings. For it comes to pass,and so it is, that with such yearnings of desire the sensual nature is movedand attracted toward sensual things, so that, if the spiritual part be notenkindled with other and greater yearnings for that which is spiritual, itwill be unable to throw off the yoke of nature(204) or to enter this nightof sense, neither will it have courage to remain in darkness as to all things,depriving itself of desire for them all.
3. And the nature and all the varietiesof these yearnings of love which souls experience in the early stages ofthis road to union; and the diligent means and contrivances which they employin order to leave their house, which is self-will, during the night of themortification of their senses; and how easy, and even sweet and delectable,these yearnings for the Spouse make all the trials and perils of this nightto appear to them, this is not the place to describe, neither is such descriptionpossible; for it is better to know and meditate upon these things than towrite of them. And so we shall pass on to expound the remaining lines inthe next chapter.
Wherein are expounded the remaining lines of the aforementioned stanza.
. . . oh, happy chance! -- I went forth without being observed, My housebeing now at rest.
1 THESE lines take as a metaphor the miserable estate of captivity, a man'sdeliverance from which, when none of the gaolers' hinder his release, heconsiders a 'happy chance.' For the soul, on account of(205) original sin,is truly as it were a captive in this mortal body, subject to the passionsand desires of nature, from bondage and subjection to which it considersits having gone forth without being observed as a 'happy chance' -- havinggone forth, that is, without being impeded or engulfed(206) by any of them.
2. For to this end the soul profited by going forth upon a 'dark night' --that is, in the privation of all pleasures and mortification of all desires,after the manner whereof we have spoken. And by its 'house being now at rest'is meant the sensual part, which is the house of all the desires, and isnow at rest because they have all been overcome and lulled to sleep. Foruntil the desires are lulled to sleep through the mortification of the sensualnature, and until at last the sensual nature itself is at rest from them,so that they make not war upon the spirit, the soul goes not forth to trueliberty and to the fruition of union with its Beloved.
END OF THE FIRST BOOK
(187) Jg 2,3.
(188) (The original phrase (gente menuda) means 'little folk.' It is used of children and sometimes also of insects and other small creatures. There is a marked antithesis between the 'giants,' or sins, and the 'little folk,' or imperfections.)
(189) Jos 6,21. (190) 1Co 7,29-31. (191) (The word here translated 'remissness' is rendered 'remission' in the text, where it seems to have a slightly different meaning.) (192) (The word ranslated 'remnants' also means 'after-taste.') (193) Ap 10,9. (194) 2Co 12,9. ('Virtue' had often, in the author's day, much of the meaning of the modern word 'strength.') (195) (The word used for desire is apetito, which has been used in the past chapters for desires of sense (cf. chap. I, above).) (196) (Jn 4,34) (197) Lit., 'Not that which is to desire anything, etc.')
(198) (1Jn 2,16.) (199) The Saint does not, however, allude to these lines again. The order followed below is that of Alc., which differs somewhat from that followed in the diagram.
(200) (This line, like ll. 6, 8 of the paragraph, reads more literally: 'Desirenot to possess (be, know) anything in anything.' It is more emphatic thanl. 2.) (201) (There is a repetition here which could only be indicated bytranslating 'all-ly.' So, too, in the next couplet.) (202) (Lit. +anythingin all.+) (203) This confirms our point (Bk. I, chap. ii, Sect. 6, above)that the Saint considers the Argument as part of the Prologue. (204) Lit.,'to conquer the natural yoke.') (205) (Lit., +after.+) (206) (Lit.,+comprehended.+)
John - Scent Carmel 1 13