John, Dark Night 2 1


Which begins to treat of the dark nights of the spirit and says at what timeit begins.

1 THE soul which God is about to lead onward is not led by His Majesty intothis night of the spirit as soon as it goes forth from the aridities andtrials of the first purgation and night of sense; rather it is wont to passa long time, even years, after leaving the state of beginners, in exercisingitself in that of proficients. In this latter state it is like to one thathas come forth from a rigorous imprisonment;(99) it goes about the thingsof God with much greater freedom and satisfaction of the soul, and with moreabundant and inward delight than it did at the beginning before it enteredthe said night. For its imagination and faculties are no longer bound, asthey were before, by meditation and anxiety of spirit, since it now veryreadily finds in its spirit the most serene and loving contemplation andspiritual sweetness without the labour of meditation; although, as the purgationof the soul is not complete (for the principal part thereof, which is thatof the spirit, is wanting, without which, owing to the communication thatexists between the one part and the other,(100) since the subject is oneonly, the purgation of sense, however violent it may have been, is not yetcomplete and perfect), it is never without cer tain occasional necessities,aridities, darknesses and perils which are sometimes much more intense thanthose of the past, for they are as tokens and heralds of the coming nightof the spirit, and are not of as long duration as will be the night whichis to come. For, having passed through a period, or periods, or days of thisnight and tempest, the soul soon returns to its wonted serenity; and afterthis manner God purges certain souls which are not to rise to so high a degreeof love as are others, bringing them at times, and for short periods, intothis night of contemplation and purgation of the spirit, causing night tocome upon them and then dawn, and this frequently, so that the words of Davidmay be fulfilled, that He sends His crystal--that is, His contemplation--likemorsels,(101) although these morsels of dark contemplation are never as intenseas is that terrible night of contemplation which we are to describe, intowhich, of set purpose, God brings the soul that He may lead it to Divineunion.

2. This sweetness, then, and this interior pleasure which we aredescribing, and which these progressives find and experience in their spiritsso easily and so abundantly, is communicated to them in much greater abundancethan aforetime, overflowing into their senses more than was usual previouslyto this purgation of sense; for, inasmuch as the sense is now purer, it canmore easily feel the pleasures of the spirit after its manner. As, however,this sensual part of the soul is weak and incapable of experiencing the strongthings of the spirit, it follows that these proficients, by reason of thisspiritual communication which is made to their sensual part endure thereinmany frailties and sufferings and weaknesses of the stomach, and in consequenceare fatigued in spirit. For, as the Wise Man says: 'The corruptible bodypresseth down the soul.'(102) Hence comes it that the communications thatare granted to these souls cannot be very strong or very intense or veryspiritual, as is required for Divine union with God, by reason of the weaknessand corruption of the sensual nature which has a part in them. Hence arisethe raptures and trances and dislocations of the bones which always happenwhen the communications are not purely spiritual--that is, are not givento the spirit alone, as are those of the perfect who are purified by thesecond night of the spirit, and in whom these raptures and torments of thebody no longer exist, since they are enjoying liberty of spirit, and theirsenses are now neither clouded nor transported. 3. And in order that thenecessity for such souls to enter this night of the spirit may be understood,we will here note certain imperfections and perils which belong to theseproficients.


Describes other imperfections(103) which belong to these proficients.

1 THESE proficients have two kinds of imperfection: the one kind is habitual;the other actual. The habitual imperfections are the imperfect habits andaffections which have remained all the time in the spirit, and are like roots,to which the purgation of sense has been unable to penetrate. The differencebetween the purgation of these and that of this other kind is the differencebetween the root and the branch, or between the removing of a stain whichis fresh and one which is old and of long standing. For, as we said, thepurgation of sense is only the entrance and beginning of contemplation leadingto the purgation of the spirit, which, as we have likewise said, serves ratherto accommodate sense to spirit than to unite spirit with God. But there stillremain in the spirit the stains of the old man, although the spirit thinksnot that this is so, neither can it perceive them; if these stains be notremoved with the soap and strong lye of the purgation of this night, thespirit will be unable to come to the purity of Divine union.

2. These souls have likewise the hebetudo mentis(104) and the natural roughness which everyman contracts through sin, and the distraction and outward clinging of thespirit, which must be enlightened, refined and recollected by the afflictionsand perils of that night. These habitual imperfections belong to all thosewho have not passed beyond this state of the proficient; they cannot coexist,as we say, with the perfect state of union through love.

3. To actual imperfections all are not liable in the same way. Some, whose spiritual goodis so superficial and so readily affected by sense, fall into greaterdifficulties and dangers, which we described at the beginning of this treatise.For, as they find so many and such abundant spiritual communications andapprehensions, both in sense and in spirit wherein they oftentimes see imaginaryand spiritual visions (for all these things, together with other delectablefeelings, come to many souls in this state, wherein the devil and their ownfancy very commonly practise deceptions on them), and, as the devil is aptto take such pleasure in impressing upon the soul and suggesting to it thesaid apprehensions and feelings, he fascinates and deludes it with greatease unless it takes the precaution of resigning itself to God, and of protectingitself strongly, by means of faith, from all these visions and feelings.For in this state the devil causes many to believe in vain visions and falseprophecies; and strives to make them presume that God and the saints arespeaking with them; and they often trust their own fancy. And the devil isalso accustomed, in this state, to fill them with presumption and pride,so that they become attracted by vanity and arrogance, and allow themselvesto be seen engaging in outward acts which appear holy, such as raptures andother manifestations. Thus they become bold with God, and lose holy fear,which is the key and the custodian of all the virtues; and in some of thesesouls so many are the falsehoods and deceits which tend to multiply, andso inveterate do they grow, that it is very doubtful if such souls will returnto the pure road of virtue and true spirituality. Into these miseries theyfall because they are beginning to give themselves over to spiritual feelingsand apprehensions with too great security, when they were beginning to makesome progress upon the way.

4. There is much more that I might say of these imperfections and of how they are the more incurable because such souls consider them to be more spiritual than the others, but I will leave this subject.I shall only add, in order to prove how necessary, for him that would gofarther, is the night of the spirit, which is purgation, that none of theseproficients, however strenuously he may have laboured, is free, at best,from many of those natural affections and imperfect habits, purificationfrom which, we said, is necessary if a soul is to pass to Divine union.

5. And over and above this (as we have said already), inasmuch as the lowerpart of the soul still has a share in these spiritual communications, theycannot be as intense, as pure and as strong as is needful for the aforesaidunion; wherefore, in order to come to this union, the soul must needs enterinto the second night of the spirit, wherein it must strip sense and spiritperfectly from all these apprehensions and from all sweetness, and be madeto walk in dark and pure faith, which is the proper and adequate means wherebythe soul is united with God, according as Osee says, in these words: 'I willbetroth thee--that is, I will unite thee--with Me through faith.'(105)


Annotation for that which follows.

1 THESE souls, then, have now become proficients, because of the time whichthey have spent in feeding the senses with sweet communications, so thattheir sensual part, being thus attracted and delighted by spiritual pleasure,which came to it from the spirit, may be united with the spirit and madeone with it; each part after its own manner eating of one and the same spiritualfood and from one and the same dish, as one person and with one sole intent,so that thus they may in a certain way be united and brought into agreement,and, thus united, may be prepared for the endurance of the stern and severepurgation of the spirit which awaits them. In this purgation these two partsof the soul, the spiritual and the sensual, must be completely purged, sincethe one is never truly purged without the other, the purgation of sense becomingeffective when that of the spirit has fairly begun. Wherefore the night whichwe have called that of sense may and should be called a kind of correctionand restraint of the desire rather than purgation. The reason is that allthe imperfections and disorders of the sensual part have their strength androot in the spirit, where all habits, both good and bad, are brought intosubjection, and thus, until these are purged, the rebellions and depravitiesof sense cannot be purged thoroughly.

2. Wherefore, in this night following, both parts of the soul are purged together, and it is for this end that itis well to have passed through the corrections of the first night, and theperiod of tranquillity which proceeds from it, in order that, sense beingunited with spirit, both may be purged after a certain manner and may thensuffer with greater fortitude. For very great fortitude is needful for soviolent and severe a purgation, since, if the weakness of the lower parthas not first been corrected and fortitude has not been gained from God throughthe sweet and delectable communion which the soul has afterwards enjoyedwith Him, its nature will not have the strength or the disposition to bearit.

3. Therefore, since these proficients are still at a very low stage ofprogress, and follow their own nature closely in the intercourse and dealingswhich they have with God, because the gold of their spirit is not yet purifiedand refined, they still think of God as little children, and speak of Godas little children, and feel and experience God as little children, evenas Saint Paul says,(106) because they have not reached perfection, whichis the union of the soul with God. In the state of union, however, they willwork great things in the spirit, even as grown men, and their works and facultieswill then be Divine rather than human, as will afterwards be said. To thisend God is pleased to strip them of this old man and clothe them with thenew man, who is created according to God, as the Apostle says,(107) in thenewness of sense. He strips their faculties, affections and feelings, bothspiritual and sensual, both outward and inward, leaving the understandingdark, the will dry, the memory empty and the affections in the deepestaffliction, bitterness and constraint, taking from the soul the pleasureand experience of spiritual blessings which it had aforetime, in order tomake of this privation one of the principles which are requisite in the spiritso that there may be introduced into it and united with it the spiritualform of the spirit, which is the union of love. All this the Lord works inthe soul by means of a pure and dark contemplation, as the soul explainsin the first stanza. This, although we originally interpreted it with referenceto the first night of sense, is principally understood by the soul of thissecond night of the spirit, since this is the principal part of the purificationof the soul. And thus we shall set it down and expound it here again in thissense.


Sets down the first stanza and the exposition thereof.

On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy chance!-- I wentforth without being observed, My house being now at rest.


1 INTERPRETING this stanza now with reference to purgation, contemplation ordetachment or poverty of spirit, which here are almost one and the same thing,we can expound it after this manner and make the soul speak thus: In poverty,and without protection or support in all the apprehensions of my soul--thatis, in the darkness of my understanding and the constraint of my will, inaffliction and anguish with respect to memory, remaining in the dark in purefaith, which is dark night for the said natural faculties, the will alonebeing touched by grief and afflictions and yearnings for the love of God--Iwent forth from myself--that is, from my low manner of understanding, frommy weak mode of loving and from my poor and limited manner of experiencingGod, without being hindered therein by sensuality or the devil.

2. This was a great happiness and a good chance for me; for, when the faculties had beenperfectly annihilated and calmed, together with the passions, desires andaffections of my soul, wherewith I had experienced and tasted God after alowly manner, I went forth from my own human dealings and operations to theoperations and dealings of God. That is to say, my understanding went forthfrom itself, turning from the human and natural to the Divine; for, whenit is united with God by means of this purgation, its understanding no longercomes through its natural light and vigour, but through the Divine Wisdomwherewith it has become united. And my will went forth from itself, becomingDivine; for, being united with Divine love, it no longer loves with its naturalstrength after a lowly manner, but with strength and purity from the HolySpirit; and thus the will, which is now near to God, acts not after a humanmanner, and similarly the memory has become transformed into eternalapprehensions of glory. And finally, by means of this night and purgationof the old man, all the energies and affections of the soul are wholly renewedinto a Divine temper and Divine delight. There follows the line:

On a dark night.


Sets down the first line and begins to explain how this dark contemplationis not only night for the soul but is also grief and torment.

1 THIS dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul, which purges it fromits ignorances and imperfections, habitual natural and spiritual, and whichis called by contemplatives infused contemplation, or mystical theology.Herein God secretly teaches the soul and instructs it in perfection of lovewithout its doing anything, or understanding of what manner is this infusedcontemplation. Inasmuch as it is the loving wisdom of God, God produces strikingeffects in the soul for, by purging and illumining it, He prepares it forthe union of love with God. Wherefore the same loving wisdom that purgesthe blessed spirits and enlightens them is that which here purges the souland illumines it.

2. But the question arises: Why is the Divine light (whichas we say, illumines and purges the soul from its ignorances) here calledby the soul a dark night? To this the answer is that for two reasons thisDivine wisdom is not only night and darkness for the soul, but is likewiseaffliction and torment. The first is because of the height of Divine Wisdom,which transcends the talent of the soul, and in this way is darkness to it;the second, because of its vileness and impurity, in which respect it ispainful and afflictive to it, and is also dark.

3. In order to prove the first point, we must here assume a certain doctrine of the philosopher, whichsays that, the clearer and more manifest are Divine things in themselvesthe darker and more hidden are they to the soul naturally; just as, the cleareris the light, the more it blinds and darkens the pupil of the owl, and, themore directly we look at the sun, the greater is the darkness which it causesin our visual faculty, overcoming and overwhelming it through its own weakness.In the same way, when this Divine light of contemplation assails the soulwhich is not yet wholly enlightened, it causes spiritual darkness in it;for not only does it overcome it, but likewise it overwhelms it and darkensthe act of its natural intelligence. For this reason Saint Dionysius andother mystical theologians call this infused contemplation a ray ofdarkness--that is to say, for the soul that is not enlightened and purged--forthe natural strength of the intellect is transcended and overwhelmed by itsgreat supernatural light. Wherefore David likewise said: That near to Godand round about Him are darkness and cloud;(108) not that this is so in fact,but that it is so to our weak understanding, which is blinded and darkenedby so vast a light, to which it cannot attain.(109) For this cause the sameDavid then explained himself, saying: 'Through the great splendour of Hispresence passed clouds'(110)--that is, between God and our understanding.And it is for this cause that, when God sends it out from Himself to thesoul that is not yet transformed, this illumining ray of His secret wisdomcauses thick darkness in the understanding.

4. And it is clear that this dark contemplation is in these its beginnings painful likewise to the soul;for, as this Divine infused contemplation has many excellences that are extremelygood, and the soul that receives them, not being purged, has many miseriesthat are likewise extremely bad, hence it follows that, as two contrariescannot coexist in one subject--the soul--it must of necessity have pain andsuffering, since it is the subject wherein these two contraries war againsteach other, working the one against the other, by reason of the purgationof the imperfections of the soul which comes to pass through this contemplation.This we shall prove inductively in the manner following.

5. In the first place, because the light and wisdom of this contemplation is most brightand pure, and the soul which it assails is dark and impure, it follows thatthe soul suffers great pain when it receives it in itself, just as, whenthe eyes are dimmed by humours, and become impure and weak, the assault madeupon them by a bright light causes them pain. And when the soul suffers thedirect assault of this Divine light, its pain, which results from its impurity,is immense; because, when this pure light assails the soul, in order to expelits impurity, the soul feels itself to be so impure and miserable that itbelieves God to be against it, and thinks that it has set itself up againstGod. This causes it sore grief and pain, because it now believes that Godhas cast it away: this was one of the greatest trials which Job felt whenGod sent him this experience, and he said: 'Why hast Thou set me contraryto Thee, so that I am grievous and burdensome to myself?'(111) For, by meansof this pure light, the soul now sees its impurity clearly (although darkly),and knows clearly that it is unworthy of God or of any creature. And whatgives it most pain is that it thinks that it will never be worthy and thatits good things are all over for it. This is caused by the profound immersionof its spirit in the knowledge and realization of its evils and miseries;for this Divine and dark light now reveals them all to the eye, that it maysee clearly how in its own strength it can never have aught else. In thissense we may understand that passage from David, which says: 'For iniquityThou hast corrected man and hast made his soul to be undone and consumed:he wastes away as the spider.'(112)

6. The second way in which the soul sufferspain is by reason of its weakness, natural, moral and spiritual; for, whenthis Divine contemplation assails the soul with a certain force, in orderto strengthen it and subdue it, it suffers such pain in its weakness thatit nearly swoons away. This is especially so at certain times when it isassailed with somewhat greater force; for sense and spirit, as if beneathsome immense and dark load, are in such great pain and agony that the soulwould find advantage and relief in death. This had been experienced by theprophet Job, when he said: 'I desire not that He should have intercoursewith me in great strength, lest He oppress me with the weight of Hisgreatness.'(113)

7. Beneath the power of this oppression and weight the soulfeels itself so far from being favoured that it thinks, and correctly so,that even that wherein it was wont to find some help has vanished with everythingelse, and that there is none who has pity upon it. To this effect Job sayslikewise: 'Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, at least ye my friends,because the hand of the Lord has touched me.'(114) A thing of great wonderand pity is it that the soul's weakness and impurity should now be so greatthat, though the hand of God is of itself so light and gentle, the soul shouldnow feel it to be so heavy and so contrary,(115) though it neither weighsit down nor rests upon it, but only touches it, and that mercifully, sinceHe does this in order to grant the soul favours and not to chastise it.


Of other kinds of pain that the soul suffers in this night.

1 THE third kind of suffering and pain that the soul endures in this stateresults from the fact that two other extremes meet here in one, namely, theDivine and the human. The Divine is this purgative contemplation, and thehuman is the subject--that is, the soul. The Divine assails the soul in orderto renew it and thus to make it Divine; and, stripping it of the habitualaffections and attachments of the old man, to which it is very closely united,knit together and conformed, destroys and consumes its spiritual substance,and absorbs it in deep and profound darkness. As a result of this, the soulfeels itself to be perishing and melting away, in the presence and sightof its miseries, in a cruel spiritual death, even as if it had been swallowedby a beast and felt itself being devoured in the darkness of its belly, sufferingsuch anguish as was endured by Jonas in the belly of that beast of the sea.(116)For in this sepulchre of dark death it must needs abide until the spiritualresurrection which it hopes for.

2. A description of this suffering and pain,although in truth it transcends all description, is given by David, whenhe says: 'The lamentations of death compassed me about; the pains of hellsurrounded me; I cried in my tribulation.'(117) But what the sorrowful soulfeels most in this condition is its clear perception, as it thinks, thatGod has abandoned it, and, in His abhorrence of it, has flung it into darkness;it is a grave and piteous grief for it to believe that God has forsaken it.It is this that David also felt so much in a like case, saying: 'After themanner wherein the wounded are dead in the sepulchres,' being now cast offby Thy hand, so that Thou rememberest them no more, even so have they setme in the deepest and lowest lake, in the dark places and in the shadow ofdeath, and Thy fury is confirmed upon me and all Thy waves Thou hast broughtin upon me.'(118) For indeed, when this purgative contemplation is most severe,the soul feels very keenly the shadow of death and the lamentations of deathand the pains of hell, which consist in its feeling itself to be withoutGod, and chastised and cast out, and unworthy of Him; and it feels that Heis wroth with it. All this is felt by the soul in this condition--yea, andmore, for it believes that it is so with it for ever.

3. It feels, too, that all creatures have forsaken it, and that it is contemned by them, particularlyby its friends. Wherefore David presently continues, saying: 'Thou hast putfar from me my friends and acquaintances; they have counted me anabomination.'(119) To all this will Jonas testify, as one who likewiseexperienced it in the belly of the beast, both bodily and spiritually. 'Thouhast cast me forth (he says) into the deep, into the heart of the sea, andthe flood hath compassed me; all its billows and waves have passed over me.And I said, "I am cast away out of the sight of Thine eyes, but I shall onceagain see Thy holy temple" (which he says, because God purifies the soulin this state that it may see His temple); the waters compassed me, evento the soul, the deep hath closed me round about, the ocean hath coveredmy head, I went down to the lowest parts of the mountains; the bars of theearth have shut me up for ever.'(120) By these bars are here understood,in this sense, imperfections of the soul, which have impeded it from enjoyingthis delectable contemplation.

4. The fourth kind of pain is caused in the soul by another excellence of this dark contemplation, which is its majestyand greatness, from which arises in the soul a consciousness of the otherextreme which is in itself--namely, that of the deepest poverty and wretchedness:this is one of the chiefest pains that it suffers in this purgation. Forit feels within itself a profound emptiness and impoverishment of three kindsof good, which are ordained for the pleasure of the soul which are the temporal,the natural and the spiritual; and finds itself set in the midst of the evilscontrary to these, namely, miseries of imperfection, aridity and emptinessof the apprehensions of the faculties and abandonment of the spirit in darkness.Inasmuch as God here purges the soul according to the substance of its senseand spirit, and according to the interior and exterior faculties, the soulmust needs be in all its parts reduced to a state of emptiness, poverty andabandonment and must be left dry and empty and in darkness. For the sensualpart is purified in aridity, the faculties are purified in the emptinessof their perceptions and the spirit is purified in thick darkness.

5. All this God brings to pass by means of this dark contemplation; wherein thesoul not only suffers this emptiness and the suspension of these naturalsupports and perceptions, which is a most afflictive suffering (as if a manwere suspended or held in the air so that he could not breathe), but likewiseHe is purging the soul, annihilating it, emptying it or consuming in it (evenas fire consumes the mouldiness and the rust of metal) all the affectionsand imperfect habits which it has contracted in its whole life. Since theseare deeply rooted in the substance of the soul, it is wont to suffer greatundoings and inward torment, besides the said poverty and emptiness, naturaland spiritual, so that there may here be fulfilled that passage from Ezechielwhich says: 'Heap together the bones and I will burn them in the fire; theflesh shall be consumed and the whole composition shall be burned and thebones shall be destroyed.'(121) Herein is understood the pain which is sufferedin the emptiness and poverty of the substance of the soul both in sense andin spirit. And concerning this he then says: 'Set it also empty upon thecoals, that its metal may become hot and molten, and its uncleanness maybe destroyed within it, and its rust may be consumed.'(122) Herein is describedthe grave suffering which the soul here endures in the purgation of the fireof this contemplation, for the Prophet says here that, in order for the rustof the affections which are within the soul to be purified and destroyed,it is needful that, in a certain manner, the soul itself should be annihilatedand destroyed, since these passions and imperfections have become naturalto it.

6. Wherefore, because the soul is purified in this furnace like goldin a crucible, as says the Wise Man,(123) it is conscious of this completeundoing of itself in its very substance, together with the direst poverty,wherein it is, as it were, nearing its end, as may be seen by that whichDavid says of himself in this respect, in these words: 'Save me, Lord (hecries to God), for the waters have come in even unto my soul; I am made fastin the mire of the deep and there is no place where I can stand; I am comeinto the depth of the sea and a tempest hath overwhelmed me; I have labouredcrying, my throat has become hoarse, mine eyes have failed whilst I hopein my God.'(124) Here God greatly humbles the soul in order that He mayafterwards greatly exalt it; and if He ordained not that, when these feelingsarise within the soul, they should speedily be stilled, it would die in avery short space; but there are only occasional periods when it is consciousof their greatest intensity. At times, however, they are so keen that thesoul seems to be seeing hell and perdition opened. Of such are they thatin truth go down alive into hell, being purged here on earth in the samemanner as there, since this purgation is that which would have to be accomplishedthere. And thus the soul that passes through this either enters not thatplace(125) at all, or tarries there but for a very short time; for one hourof purgation here is more profitable than are many there.


Continues the same matter and considers other afflictions end constraintsof the will.

1 THE afflictions and constraints of the will are now very great likewise,and of such a kind that they sometimes transpierce the soul with a suddenremembrance of the evils in the midst of which it finds itself, and withthe uncertainty of finding a remedy for them. And to this is added theremembrance of times of prosperity now past; for as a rule souls that enterthis night have had many consolations from God, and have rendered Him manyservices, and it causes them the greater grief to see that they are far removedfrom that happiness and unable to enter into it. This was also describedby Job, who had had experience of it, in these words: 'I, who was wont tobe wealthy and rich, am suddenly undone and broken to pieces; He hath takenme by my neck; He hath broken me and set me up for His mark to wound me;He hath compassed me round about with His lances; He hath wounded all myloins; He hath not spared; He hath poured out my bowels on the earth; Hehath broken me with wound upon wound; He hath assailed me as a strong giant;I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin and have covered my flesh with ashes;my face is become swollen with weepin g and mine eyes are blinded.'(126)

2. So many and so grievous are the afflictions of this night, and so manypassages of Scripture are there which could be cited to this purpose, thattime and strength would fail us to write of them, for all that can be saidthereof is certainly less than the truth. From the passages already quotedsome idea may be gained of them. And, that we may bring the exposition ofthis line to a close and explain more fully what is worked in the soul bythis night, I shall tell what Jeremias felt about it, which, since thereis so much of it, he describes and bewails in many words after this manner:'I am the man that see my poverty in the rod of His indignation; He haththreatened me and brought me into darkness and not into light. So far hathHe turned against me and hath converted His hand upon me all the day! Myskin and my flesh hath He made old; He hath broken my bones; He hath madea fence around me and compassed me with gall and trial; He hath set me indark places, as those that are dead for ever. He hath made a fence aroundme and against me, that I may not go out; He hath made my captivity heavy.Yea, and when I have cried and have entreated, He hath shut out my prayer.He hath enclosed my paths and ways out with square stones; He hath thwartedmy steps. He hath set ambushes for me; He hath become to me a lion in a secretplace. He hath turned aside my steps and broken me in pieces, He hath mademe desolate; He hath bent His bow and set me as a mark for His arrow. Hehath shot into my reins the daughters of His quiver. I have become a derisionto all the people, and laughter and scorn for them all the day. He hath filledme with bitterness and hath made me drunken with wormwood. He hath brokenmy teeth by number; He hath fed me with ashes. My soul is cast out from peace;I have forgotten good things. And I said: "Mine end is frustrated and cutshort, together with my desire and my hope from the Lord. Remember my povertyand my excess, the wormwood and the gall. I shall be mindful with remembranceand my soul shall be undone within me in pains."'(127)

3. All these complaints Jeremias makes about these pains and trials, and by means of them he mostvividly depicts the sufferings of the soul in this spiritual night and purgation.Wherefore the soul that God sets in this tempestuous and horrible night isdeserving of great compassion. For, although it experiences much happinessby reason of the great blessings that must arise on this account within it,when, as Job says, God raises up profound blessings in the soul out of darkness,and brings up to light the shadow of death,(128) so that, as David says,His light comes to be as was His darkness;(129) yet notwithstanding, by reasonof the dreadful pain which the soul is suffering, and of the great uncertaintywhich it has concerning the remedy for it, since it believes, as this prophetsays here, that its evil will never end, and it thinks, as David says likewise,that God set it in dark places like those that are dead,(130) and for thisreason brought its spirit within it into anguish and troubled its heart,(131)it suffers great pain and grief, since there is added to all this (becauseof the solitude and abandonment caused in it by this dark night) the factthat it finds no consolation or support in any instruction nor in a spiritualmaster. For, although in many ways its director may show it good reason forbeing comforted because of the blessings which are contained in theseafflictions, it cannot believe him. For it is so greatly absorbed and immersedin the realization of those evils wherein it sees its own miseries so clearly,that it thinks that, as its director observes not that which it sees andfeels, he is speaking in this manner because he understands it not; and so,instead of comfort, it rather receives fresh affliction, since it believesthat its director's advice contains no remedy for its troubles. And, in truth,this is so; for, until the Lord shall have completely purged it after themanner that He wills, no means or remedy is of any service or profit forthe relief of its affliction; the more so because the soul is as powerlessin this case as one who has been imprisoned in a dark dungeon, and is boundhand and foot, and can neither move nor see, nor feel any favour whetherfrom above or from below, until the spirit is humbled, softened and purified,and grows so keen and delicate and pure that it can become one with the Spiritof God, according to the degree of union of love which His mercy is pleasedto grant it; in proportion to this the purgation is of greater or less severityand of greater or less duration.

4. But, if it is to be really effectual, it will last for some years, however severe it be; since the purgative processallows intervals of relief wherein, by the dispensation of God, this darkcontemplation ceases to assail the soul in the form and manner of purgation,and assails it after an illuminative and a loving manner, wherein the soul,like one that has gone forth from this dungeon and imprisonment, and is broughtinto the recreation of spaciousness and liberty, feels and experiences greatsweetness of peace and loving friendship with God, together with a readyabundance of spiritual communication. This is to the soul a sign of the healthwhich is being wrought within it by the said purgation and a foretaste ofthe abundance for which it hopes. Occasionally this is so great that thesoul believes its trials to be at last over. For spiritual things in thesoul, when they are most purely spiritual, have this characteristic that,if trials come to it, the soul believes that it will never escape from them,and that all its blessings are now over, as has been seen in the passagesquoted; and, if spiritual blessings come, the soul believes in the same waythat its troubles are now over, and that blessings will never fail it. Thiswas so with David, when he found himself in the midst of them, as he confessesin these words: 'I said in my abundance: "I shall never be moved."'(132)

5. This happens because the actual possession by the spirit of one of twocontrary things itself makes impossible the actual possession and realizationof the other contrary thing; this is not so, however, in the sensual partof the soul, because its apprehension is weak. But, as the spirit is notyet completely purged and cleansed from the affections that it has contractedfrom its lower part, while changing not in so far as it is spirit, it canbe moved to further afflictions in so far as these affections sway it. Inthis way, as we see, David was afterwards moved, and experienced many illsand afflictions, although in the time of his abundance he had thought andsaid that he would never be moved. Just so is it with the soul in this condition,when it sees itself moved by that abundance of spiritual blessings, and,being unable to see the root of the imperfection and impurity which stillremain within it, thinks that its trials are over.

6. This thought, however, comes to the soul but seldom, for, until spiritual purification is completeand perfected, the sweet communication is very rarely so abundant as to concealfrom the soul the root which remains hidden, in such a way that the soulcan cease to feel that there is something that it lacks within itself orthat it has still to do. Thus it cannot completely enjoy that relief, butfeels as if one of its enemies were within it, and although this enemy is,as it were, hushed and asleep, it fears that he will come to life again andattack it.(133) And this is what indeed happens, for, when the soul is mostsecure and least alert, it is dragged down and immersed again in anotherand a worse degree of affliction which is severer and darker and more grievousthan that which is past; and this new affliction will continue for a furtherperiod of time, perhaps longer than the first. And the soul once more comesto believe that all its blessings are over for ever. Although it had thoughtduring its first trial that there were no more afflictions which it couldsuffer, and yet, after the trial was over, it enjoyed great blessings, thisexperience is not sufficient to take away its belief, during this seconddegree of trial, that all is now over for it and that it will never againbe happy as in the past. For, as I say, this belief, of which the soul isso sure, is caused in it by the actual apprehension of the spirit, whichannihilates within it all that is contrary to it.

7. This is the reason why those who lie in purgatory suffer great misgivings as to whether they willever go forth from it and whether their pains will ever be over. For, althoughthey have the habit of the three theological virtues--faith, hope and charity--the present realization which they have of their afflictions and of theirdeprivation of God allows them not to enjoy the present blessing and consolationof these virtues. For, although they are able to realize that they have agreat love for God, this is no consolation to them, since they cannot thinkthat God loves them or that they are worthy that He should do so; rather,as they see that they are deprived of Him, and left in their own miseries,they think that there is that in themselves which provides a very good reasonwhy they should with perfect justice be abhorred and cast out by God forever.(134) And thus although the soul in this purgation is conscious thatit has a great love for God and would give a thousand lives for Him (whichis the truth, for in these trials such souls love their God very earnestly),yet this is no relief to it, but rather brings it greater affliction. Forit loves Him so much that it cares about naught beside; when, therefore,it sees itself to be so wretched that it cannot believe that God loves it,nor that there is or will ever be reason why He should do so, but ratherthat there is reason why it should be abhorred, not only by Him, but by allcreatures for ever, it is gri eved to see in itself reasons for deservingto be cast out by Him for Whom it has such great love and desire.

John, Dark Night 2 1