John, Dark Night 2 12


Shows how this horrible night is purgatory, and how in it the Divine wisdomillumines men on earth with the same illumination that purges and illuminesthe angels in Heaven.

1 FROM what has been said we shall be able to see how this dark night of lovingfire, as it purges in the darkness, so also in the darkness enkindles thesoul. We shall likewise be able to see that, even as spirits are purged inthe next life with dark material fire, so in this life they are purged andcleansed with the dark spiritual fire of love. The difference is that inthe next life they are cleansed with fire, while here below they are cleansedand illumined with love only. It was this love that David entreated, whenhe said: Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, etc.(184) For cleanness of heart isnothing less than the love and grace of God. For the clean of heart are calledby our Saviour 'blessed'; which is as if He had called them 'enkindled withlove',(185) since blessedness is given by nothing less than love.

2. And Jeremias well shows how the soul is purged when it is illumined with thisfire of loving wisdom (for God never grants mystical wisdom without love,since love itself infuses it), where he says: 'He hath sent fire into mybones, and hath taught me.'(186) And David says that the wisdom of God issilver tried in fire(187)--that is, in purgative fire of love. For this darkcontemplation infuses into the soul love and wisdom jointly, to each oneaccording to his capacity and need, enlightening the soul and purging it,in the words of the Wise Man, from its ignorances, as he said was done tohimself.

3. From this we shall also infer that the very wisdom of God whichpurges these souls and illumines them purges the angels from their ignorances,giving them knowledge, enlightening them as to that which they knew not,and flowing down from God through the first hierarchies even to the last,and thence to men.(188) All the works, therefore, which are done by the angels,and all their inspirations, are said in the Scriptures, with truth and propriety,to be the work of God and of themselves; for ordinarily these inspirationscome through the angels, and they receive them likewise one from anotherwithout any delay--as quickly as a ray of sunshine is communicated throughmany windows arranged in order. For although it is true that the sun's rayitself passes through them all, still each one passes it on and infuses itinto the next, in a modified form, according to the nature of the glass,and with rather more or rather less power and brightness, according as itis nearer to the sun or farther from it.

4. Hence it follows that, the nearer to God are the higher spirits and the lower, the more completely are theypurged and enlightened with more general purification; and that the lowestof them will receive this illumination very much less powerfully and moreremotely. Hence it follows that man, who is the lowest of all those to whomthis loving contemplation flows down continually from God, will, when Goddesires to give it him, receive it perforce after his own manner in a verylimited way and with great pain. For, when the light of God illumines anangel, it enlightens him and enkindles(189) him in love, since, being purespirit, he is prepared for that infusion. But, when it illumines man, whois impure and weak, it illumines him, as has been said above, according tohis nature. It plunges him into darkness and causes him affliction and distress,as does the sun to the eye that is weak;(190) it enkindles him with passionateyet afflictive love, until he be spiritualized and refined by this same fireof love; and it purifies him until he can receive with sweetness the unionof this loving infusion after the manner of the angels, being now purged,as by the help of the Lord we shall explain later. But meanwhile he receivesthis contemplation and loving knowledge in the constraint and yearning oflove of which we are here speaking.

5. This enkindling and yearning of love are not always perceived by the soul. For in the beginning, when this spiritualpurgation commences, all this Divine fire is used in drying up and makingready the wood (which is the soul) rather than in giving it heat. But, astime goes on, the fire begins to give heat to the soul, and the soul thenvery commonly feels this enkindling and heat of love. Further, as theunderstanding is being more and more purged by means of this darkness, itsometimes comes to pass that this mystical and loving theology, as well asenkindling the will, strikes and illumines the other faculty also--that ofthe understanding--with a certain Divine light and knowledge, so delectablyand delicately that it aids the will to conceive a marvellous fervour, and,without any action of its own, there burns in it this Divine fire of love,in living flames, so that it now appears to the soul a living fire by reasonof the living understanding which is given to it. It is of this that Davidspeaks in a Psalm, saying: 'My heart grew hot within me, and, as I meditated,a certain fire was enkindled.'(191)

6. This enkindling of love, which accompanies the union of these two faculties, the understanding and the will, which arehere united, is for the soul a thing of great richness and delight; for itis a certain touch of the Divinity and is already the beginning(192) of theperfection of the union of love for which it hopes. Now the soul attainsnot to this touch of so sublime a sense and love of God, save when it haspassed through many trials and a great part of its purgation. But for othertouches which are much lower than these, and which are of ordinary occurrence,so much purgation is not needful.

7. From what we have said it may here be inferred how in these spiritual blessings, which are passively infused byGod into the soul, the will may very well love even though the understandingunderstand not; and similarly the understanding may understand and the willlove not. For, since this dark night of contemplation consists of Divinelight and love, just as fire contains light and heat, it is not unbefittingthat, when this loving light is communicated, it should strike the will attimes more effectively by enkindling it with love and leaving the understandingin darkness instead of striking it with light; and, at other times, byenlightening it with light, and giving it understanding, but leaving thewill in aridity (as it is also true that the heat of the fire can be receivedwithout the light being seen, and also the light of it can be seen withoutthe reception of heat); and this is wrought by the Lord, Who infuses as Hewills.(193)


Of other delectable effects which are wrought in the soul by this dark nightof contemplation.

1 THIS type of enkindling will explain to us certain of the delectable effectswhich this dark night of contemplation works in the soul. For at certaintimes, as we have just said, the soul becomes enlightened in the midst ofall this darkness, and the light shines in the darkness;(194) this mysticalintelligence flows down into the understanding and the will remains in dryness-- I mean, without actual union of love, with a serenity and simplicity whichare so delicate and delectable to the sense of the soul that no name canbe given to them. Thus the presence of God is felt, now after one manner,now after another.

2. Sometimes, too, as has been said, it wounds the willat the same time, and enkindles love sublimely, tenderly and strongly; forwe have already said that at certain times these two faculties, the understandingand the will, are united, when, the more they see, the more perfect and delicateis the purgation of the understanding. But, before this state is reached,it is more usual for the touch of the enkindling of love to be felt in thewill than for the touch of intelligence to be felt in the understanding.

3. But one question arises here, which is this: Why, since these two facultiesare being purged together, are the enkindling and the love of purgativecontemplation at first more commonly felt in the will than the intelligencethereof is felt in the understanding? To this it may be answered that thispassive love does not now directly strike the will, for the will is free,and this enkindling of love is a passion of love rather than the free actof the will; for this heat of love strikes the substance of the soul andthus moves the affections passively. And so this is called passion of loverather than a free act of the will, an act of the will being so called onlyin so far as it is free. But these passions and affections subdue the will,and therefore it is said that, if the soul conceives passion with a certainaffection, the will conceives passion; and this is indeed so, for in thismanner the will is taken captive and loses its liberty, according as theimpetus and power of its passion carry it away. And therefore we can saythat this enkindling of love is in the will-- that is, it enkindles the desireof the will; and thus, as we say, this is called passion of love rather thanthe free work of the will. And, because the receptive passion of theunderstanding can receive intelligence only in a detached and passive way(and this is impossible without its having been purged), therefore untilthis happens the soul feels the touch of intelligence less frequently thanthat of the passion of love. For it is not necessary to this end that thewill should be so completely purged with respect to the passions, since thesevery passions help it to feel impassioned love.

4. This enkindling and thirst of love, which in this case belongs to the spirit, is very different fromthat other which we described in writing of the night of sense. For, thoughthe sense has also its part here, since it fails not to participate in thelabour of the spirit, yet the source and the keenness of the thirst of loveis felt in the superior part of the soul--that is, in the spirit. It feels,and understands what it feels and its lack of what it desires, in such away that all its affliction of sense, although greater without comparisonthan in the first night of sense, is as naught to it, because it recognizeswithin itself the lack of a great good which can in no way be measured.

5. But here we must note that although, at the beginning, when this spiritualnight commences, this enkindling of love is not felt, because this fire oflove has not begun to take a hold, God gives the soul, in place of it, anestimative love of Himself so great that, as we have said, the greatestsufferings and trials of which it is conscious in this night are the anguishedthoughts that it(195) has lost God and the fears that He has abandoned it.And thus we may always say that from the very beginning of this night thesoul is touched with yearnings of love, which is now that of estimation,(196)and now again, that of enkindling. And it is evident that the greatest sufferingwhich it feels in these trials is this misgiving; for, if it could be certifiedat that time that all is not lost and over, but that what is happening toit is for the best--as it is--and that God is not wroth, it would care naughtfor all these afflictions, but would rejoice to know that God is making useof them for His good pleasure. For the love of estimation which it has forGod is so great, even though it may not realize this and may be in darkness,that it would be glad, not only to suffer in this way, but even to die manytimes over in order to give Him satisfaction. But when once the flame hasenkindled the soul, it is wont to conceive, together with the estimationthat it already has for God, such power and energy, and such yearning forHim, when He communicates to it the heat of love, that, with great boldness,it disregards everything and ceases to pay respect to anything, such arethe power and the inebriation of love and desire. It regards not what itdoes, for it would do strange and unusual things in whatever way and mannermay present themselves, if thereby its soul might find Him Whom it loves.

6. It was for this reason that Mary Magdalene, though as greatly concernedfor her own appearance as she was aforetime, took no heed of the multitudeof men who were at the feast, whether they were of little or of great importance;neither did she consider that it was not seemly, and that it looked ill,to go and weep and shed tears among the guests provided that, without delayingan hour or waiting for another time and season, she could reach Him for loveof Whom her soul was already wounded and enkindled. And such is the inebriatingpower and the boldness of love, that, though she knew her Beloved to be enclosedin the sepulchre by the great sealed stone, and surrounded by soldiers whowere guarding Him lest His disciples should steal Him away,(197) she allowednone of these things to impede her, but went before daybreak with the ointmentsto anoint Him.

7. And finally, this inebriating power and yearning of lovecaused her to ask one whom she believed to be a gardener and to have stolenHim away from the sepulchre, to tell her, if he had taken Him, where he hadlaid Him, that she might take Him away;(198) considering not that such aquestion, according to independent judgment and reason, was foolish; forit was evident that, if the other had stolen Him, he would not say so, stillless would he allow Him to be taken away. It is a characteristic of the powerand vehemence of love that all things seem possible to it, and it believesall men to be of the same mind as itself. For it thinks that there is naughtwherein one may be employed, or which one may seek, save that which it seeksitself and that which it loves; and it believes that there is naught elseto be desired, and naught wherein it may be employed, save that one thing,which is pursued by all. For this reason, when the Bride went out to seekher Beloved, through streets and squares,(199) thinking that all others weredoing the same, she begged them that, if they found Him, they would speakto Him and say that she was pining for love of Him.(200) Such was the powerof the love of this Mary that she thought that, if the gardener would tellher where he had hidden Him, she would go and take Him away, however difficultit might be made for her.

8. Of this manner, then, are the yearnings of lovewhereof this soul becomes conscious when it has made some progress in thisspiritual purgation. For it rises up by night (that is, in this purgativedarkness) according to the affections of the will. And with the yearningsand vehemence of the lioness or the she-bear going to seek her cubs whenthey have been taken away from her and she finds them not, does this woundedsoul go forth to seek its God. For, being in darkness, it feels itself tobe without Him and to be dying of love for Him. And this is that impatientlove wherein the soul cannot long subsist without gaining its desire or dying.Such was Rachel's desire for children when she said to Jacob: 'Give me children,else shall I die.'(201)

9. But we have now to see how it is that the soulwhich feels itself so miserable and so unworthy of God, here in this purgativedarkness, has nevertheless strength, and is sufficiently bold and daring,to journey towards union with God. The reason is that, as love continuallygives it strength wherewith it may love indeed, and as the property of loveis to desire to be united, joined and made equal and like to the object ofits love, that it may perfect itself in love's good things, hence it comesto pass that, when this soul is not perfected in love, through not havingas yet attained to union, the hunger and thirst that it has for that whichit lacks (which is union) and the strength set by love in the will whichhas caused it to become impassioned, make it bold and daring by reason ofthe enkindling of its will, although in its understanding, which is stilldark and unenlightened, it feels itself to be unworthy and knows itself tobe miserable.

^10. I will not here omit to mention the reason why this Divinelight, which is always light to the soul, illumines it not as soon as itstrikes it, as it does afterwards, but causes it the darkness and the trialsof which we have spoken. Something has already been said concerning this,but the question must now be answered directly. The darkness and the otherevils of which the soul is conscious when this Divine light strikes it arenot darkness or evils caused by this light, but pertain to the soul itself,and the light illumines it so that it may see them. Wherefore it does indeedreceive light from this Divine light; but the soul cannot see at first, byits aid, anything beyond what is nearest to it, or rather, beyond what iswithin it--namely, its darknesses or its miseries, which it now sees throughthe mercy of God, and saw not aforetime, because this supernatural lightillumined it not. And this is the reason why at first it is conscious ofnothing beyond darkness and evil; after it has been purged, however, by meansof the knowledge and realization of these, it will have eyes to see, by theguidance of this light, the blessings of the Divine light; and, once allthese darknesses and imperfections have been driven out from the soul, itseems that the benefits and the great blessings which the soul is gainingin this blessed night of contemplation become clearer.

11. From what has been said, it is clear that God grants the soul in this state the favourof purging it and healing it with this strong lye of bitter purgation, accordingto its spiritual and its sensual part, of all the imperfect habits and affectionswhich it had within itself with respect to temporal things and to natural,sensual and spiritual things, its inward faculties being darkened, and voidedof all these, its spiritual and sensual affections being constrained anddried up, and its natural energies being attenuated and weakened with respectto all this (a condition which it could never attain of itself, as we shallshortly say). In this way God makes it to die to all that is not naturallyGod, so that, once it is stripped and denuded of its former skin, He maybegin to clothe it anew. And thus its youth is renewed like the eagle's andit is clothed with the new man, which, as the Apostle says, is created accordingto God.(202) This is naught else but His illumination of the understandingwith supernatural light, so that it is no more a human understanding butbecomes Divine through union with the Divine. In the same way the will isinformed with Divine love, so that it is a will that is now no less thanDivine, nor does it love otherwise than divinely, for it is made and unitedin one with the Divine will and love. So, too, is it with the memory; andlikewise the affections and desires are all changed and converted divinely,according to God. And thus this soul will now be a soul of heaven, heavenly,and more Divine than human. All this, as we have been saying, and becauseof what we have said, God continues to do and to work in the soul by meansof this night, illumining and enkindling it divinely with yearnings for Godalone and for naught else whatsoever. For which cause the soul then veryjustly and reasonably adds the third line to the song, which says:

. . . oh, happy chance!--

I went forth without being observed.


Wherein are set down and explained the last three lines of the first stanza.

1 THIS happy chance was the reason for which the soul speaks, in the next lines,as follows:

I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.

It takes the metaphor from one who, in order the better to accomplish something,leaves his house by night and in the dark, when those that are in the houseare now at rest, so that none may hinder him. For this soul had to go forthto perform a deed so heroic and so rare--namely to become united with itsDivine Beloved--and it had to leave its house, because the Beloved is notfound save alone and without, in solitude. It was for this reason that theBride desired to find Him alone, saying: 'Who would give Thee to me, my brother,that I might find Thee alone, without, and that my love might be communicatedto Thee.'(203) It is needful for the enamoured soul, in order to attain toits desired end, to do likewise, going forth at night, when all the domesticsin its house are sleeping and at rest--that is, when the low operations,passions and desires of the soul (who are the people of the household) are,because it is night, sleeping and at rest. When these are awake, they invariablyhinder the soul from seeking its good, since they are opposed to its goingforth in freedom. These are they of whom Our Saviour speaks in the Gospel,saying that they are the enemies of man.(204) And thus it would be meet thattheir operations and motions should be put to sleep in this night, to theend that they may not hinder the soul from attaining the supernatural blessingsof the union of love of God, for, while these are alive and active, thiscannot be. For all their work and their natural motions hinder, rather thanaid, the soul's reception of the spiritual blessings of the union of love,inasmuch as all natural ability is impotent with respect to the supernaturalblessings that God, by means of His own infusion, bestows upon the soulpassively, secretly and in silence. And thus it is needful that all the facultiesshould receive this infusion, and that, in order to receive it, they shouldremain passive, and not interpose their own base acts and vile inclinations.

2. It was a happy chance for this soul that on this night God should putto sleep all the domestics in its house--that is, all the faculties, passions,affections and desires which live in the soul, both sensually and spiritually.For thus it went forth 'without being observed'--that is, without being hinderedby these affections, etc., for they were put to sleep and mortified in thisnight, in the darkness of which they were left, that they might not noticeor feel anything after their own low and natural manner, and might thus beunable to hinder the soul from going forth from itself and from the houseof its sensuality. And thus only could the soul attain to the spiritual unionof perfect love of God.

3. Oh, how happy a chance is this for the soul whichcan free itself from the house of its sensuality! None can understand it,unless, as it seems to me, it be the soul that has experienced it. For sucha soul will see clearly how wretched was the servitude in which it lay andto how many miseries it was subject when it was at the mercy of its facultiesand desires, and will know how the life of the spirit is true liberty andwealth, bringing with it inestimable blessings. Some of these we shall pointout, as we proceed, in the following stanzas, wherein it will be seen moreclearly what good reason the soul has to sing of the happy chance of itspassage from this dreadful night which has been described above.


Sets down the second stanza and its exposition.

In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised--oh, happy cha nce!In darkness and concealment, My house being now at rest.

1 IN this stanza the soul still continues to sing of certain properties ofthe darkness of this night, reiterating how great is the happiness whichcame to it through them. It speaks of them in replying to a certain tacitobjection, saying that it is not to be supposed that, because in this nightand darkness it has passed through so many tempests of afflictions, doubts,fears and horrors, as has been said, it has for that reason run any riskof being lost. On the contrary, it says, in the darkness of this night ithas gained itself. For in the night it has freed itself and escaped subtlyfrom its enemies, who were continually hindering its progress. For in thedarkness of the night it changed its garments and disguised itself with threeliveries and colours which we shall describe hereafter; and went forth bya very secret ladder, which none in the house knew, the which ladder, aswe shall observe likewise in the proper place, is living faith. By this ladderthe soul went forth in such complete hiding and concealment, in order thebetter to execute its purpose, that it could not fail to be in great security;above all since in this purgative night the desires, affections and passionsof the soul are put to sleep, mortified and quenched, which are they that,when they were awake and alive, consented not to this. The first line, then,runs thus:(205)

In darkness and secure.


Explains how, though in darkness, the soul walks securely.

1 THE darkness which the soul here describes relates, as we have said, to thedesires and faculties, sensual, interior and spiritual, for all these aredarkened in this night as to their natural light, so that, being purged inthis respect, they may be illumined with respect to the supernatural. Forthe spiritual and the sensual desires are put to sleep and mortified, sothat they can experience(206) nothing, either Divine or human; the affectionsof the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they can neither movenor find support in anything; the imagination is bound and can make no usefulreflection; the memory is gone; the understanding is in darkness, unableto understand anything; and hence the will likewise is arid and constrainedand all the faculties are void and useless; and in addition to all this athick and heavy cloud is upon the soul, keeping it in affliction, and, asit were, far away from God.(207) It is in this kind of 'darkness' that thesoul says here it travelled 'securely.'

2. The reason for this has been clearly expounded; for ordinarily the soul never strays save through its desiresor its tastes or its reflections or its understanding or its affections;for as a rule it has too much or too little of these, or they vary or goastray, and hence the soul becomes inclined to that which behoves it not.Wherefore, when all these operations and motions are hindered, it is clearthat the soul is secure against being led astray by them; for it is free,not only from itself, but likewise from its other enemies, which are theworld and the devil. For when the affections and operations of the soul arequenched, these enemies cannot make war upon it by any other means or inany other manner.

3. It follows from this that, the greater is the darknesswherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its naturaloperations, the greater is its security. For, as the Prophet says,(208) perditioncomes to the soul from itself alone-- that is, from its sensual and interiordesires and operations; and good, says God, comes from Me alone. Wherefore,when it is thus hindered from following the things that lead it into evil,there will then come to it forthwith the blessings of union with God in itsdesires and faculties, which in that union He will make Divine and celestial.Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul considers the matter, itwill see very clearly how little its desire and its faculties are being divertedto things that are useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vaingloryand pride and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things.It follows clearly, then, that, by walking in darkness, not only is the soulnot lost, but it has even greatly gained, since it is here gaining the virtues.

4. But there is a question which at once arises here--namely, since the thingsof God are of themselves profitable to the soul and bring it gain and security,why does God, in this night, darken the desires and faculties with respectto these good things likewise, in such a way that the soul can no more tasteof them or busy itself with them than with these other things, and indeedin some ways can do so less? The answer is that it is well for the soul toperform no operation touching spiritual things at that time and to have nopleasure in such things, because its faculties and desires are base, impureand wholly natural; and thus, although these faculties be given the desireand interest in things supernatural and Divine, they could not receive themsave after a base and a natural manner, exactly in their own fashion. For,as the philosopher says, whatsoever is received comes to him that receivesit after the manner of the recipient. Wherefore, since these natural facultieshave neither purity nor strength nor capacity to receive and taste thingsthat are supernatural after the manner of those things, which manner is Divine,but can do so only after their own manner, which is human and base, as wehave said, it is meet that its faculties be in darkness concerning theseDivine things likewise. Thus, being weaned and purged and annihilated inthis respect first of all, they may lose that base and human way of receivingand acting, and thus all these faculties and desires of the soul may cometo be prepared and tempered in such a way as to be able to receive, feeland taste that which is Divine and supernatural after a sublime and loftymanner, which is impossible if the old man die not first of all.

5. Hence it follows that all spiritual things, if they come not from above and benot communicated by the Father of lights to human desire and free will (howsoevermuch a man may exercise his taste and faculties for God, and howsoever muchit may seem to the faculties that they are experiencing these things), willnot be experienced after a Divine and spiritual manner, but after a humanand natural manner, just as other things are experienced, for spiritual blessingsgo not from man to God, but come from God to man. With respect to this (ifthis were the proper place for it) we might here explain how there are manypersons whose many tastes and affections and the operations of whose facultiesare fixed upon God or upon spiritual things, and who may perhaps think thatthis is supernatural and spiritual, when it is perhaps no more than the mosthuman and natural desires and actions. They regard these good things withthe same disposition as they have for other things, by means of a certainnatural facility which they possess for directing their desires and facultiesto anything whatever.

6. If perchance we find occasion elsewhere in thisbook, we shall treat of this, describing certain signs which indicate whenthe interior actions and motions of the soul, with respect to communion withGod, are only natural, when they are spiritual, and when they are both naturaland spiritual. It suffices for us here to know that, in order that the interiormotions and acts of the soul may come to be moved by God divinely, they mustfirst be darkened and put to sleep and hushed to rest naturally as touchingall their capacity and operation, until they have no more strength.

7. Therefore, O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire obscured, thy affections aridand constrained, and thy faculties bereft of their capacity for any interiorexercise, be not afflicted by this, but rather consider it a great happiness,since God is freeing thee from thyself and taking the matter from thy hands.For with those hands, howsoever well they may serve thee, thou wouldst neverlabour so effectively, so perfectly and so securely (because of their clumsinessand uncleanness) as now, when God takes thy hand and guides thee in the darkness,as though thou wert blind, to an end and by a way which thou knowest not.Nor couldst thou ever hope to travel with the aid of thine own eyes and feet,howsoever good thou be as a walker.

8. The reason, again, why the soul not only travels securely, when it travels thus in the darkness, but also achieveseven greater gain and progress, is that usually, when the soul is receivingfresh advantage and profit, this comes by a way that it leastunderstands--indeed, it quite commonly believes that it is losing ground.For, as it has never experienced that new feeling which drives it forth anddazzles it and makes it depart recklessly from its former way of life, itthinks itself to be losing ground rather than gaining and progressing, sinceit sees that it is losing with respect to that which it knew and enjoyed,and is going by a way which it knows not and wherein it finds no enjoyment.It is like the traveller, who, in order to go to new and unknown lands, takesnew roads, unknown and untried, and journeys unguided by his past experience,but doubtingly and according to what others say. It is clear that such aman could not reach new countries, or add to his past experience, if he wentnot along new and unknown roads and abandoned those which were known to him.Exactly so, one who is learning fresh details concerning any office or artalways proceeds in darkness, and receives no guidance from his originalknowledge, for if he left not that behind he would get no farther nor makeany progress; and in the same way, when the soul is making most progress,it is travelling in darkness, knowing naught. Wherefore, since God, as wehave said, is the Master a nd Guide of this blind soul, it may well and trulyrejoice, once it has learned to understand this, and say: 'In darkness andsecure.'

9. There is another reason why the soul has walked securely in thisdarkness, and this is because it has been suffering; for the road of sufferingis more secure and even more profitable than that of fruition and action:first, because in suffering the strength of God is added to that of man,while in action and fruition the soul is practising its own weaknesses andimperfections; and second, because in suffering the soul continues to practiseand acquire the virtues and become purer, wiser and more cautious.

10. But there is another and a more important reason why the soul now walks in darknessand securely; this emanates from the dark light or wisdom aforementioned.For in such a way does this dark night of contemplation absorb and immersethe soul in itself, and so near does it bring the soul to God, that it protectsand delivers it from all that is not God. For this soul is now, as it were,undergoing a cure, in order that it may regain its health-- its health beingGod Himself. His Majesty restricts it to a diet and abstinence from all things,and takes away its appetite for them all. It is like a sick man, who, ifhe is respected by those in his house, is carefully tended so that he maybe cured; the air is not allowed to touch him, nor may he even enjoy thelight, nor must he hear footsteps, nor yet the noise of those in the house;and he is given food that is very delicate, and even that only in greatmoderation--food that is nourishing rather than delectable.

11. All these particularities (which are for the security and safekeeping of the soul)are caused by this dark contemplation, because it brings the soul nearerto God. For the nearer the soul approaches Him, the blacker is the darknesswhich it feels and the deeper is the obscurity which comes through its weakness;just as, the nearer a man approaches the sun, the greater are the darknessand the affliction caused him through the great splendour of the sun andthrough the weakness and impurity of his eyes. In the same way, so immenseis the spiritual light of God, and so greatly does it transcend our naturalunderstanding, that the nearer we approach it, the more it blinds and darkensus. And this is the reason why, in Psalm xvii, David says that God made darknessHis hiding-place and covering, and His tabernacle around Him dark water inthe clouds of the air.(209) This dark water in the clouds of the air is darkcontemplation and Divine wisdom in souls, as we are saying. They continueto feel it is a thing which is near Him, as the tabernacle wherein He dwells,when God brings them ever nearer to Himself. And thus, that which in Godis supreme light and refulgence is to man blackest darkness, as Saint Paulsays, according as David explains in the same Psalm, saying: 'Because ofthe brightness which is in His presence, passed clouds and cataracts'(210)--thatis to say, over the natural understanding, the light whereof, as Isaias saysin Chapter V: Obtenebrata est in caligine ejus.(211)

12. Oh, miserable is the fortune of our life, which is lived in such great peril and wherein itis so difficult to find the truth. For that which is most clear and trueis to us most dark and doubtful; wherefore, though it is the thing that ismost needful for us, we flee from it. And that which gives the greatest lightand satisfaction to our eyes we embrace and pursue, though it be the worstthing for us, and make us fall at every step. In what peril and fear doesman live, since the very natural light of his eyes by which he has to guidehimself is the first light that dazzles him and leads him astray on his roadto God! And if he is to know with certainty by what road he travels, he mustperforce keep his eyes closed and walk in darkness, that he may be securefrom the enemies who inhabit his own house--that is, his senses and faculties.

13. Well hidden, then, and well protected is the soul in these dark waters,when it is close to God. For, as these waters serve as a tabernacle anddwelling-place for God Himself, they will serve the soul in the same wayand for a perfect protection and security, though it remain in darkness,wherein, as we have said, it is hidden and protected from itself, and fromall evils that come from creatures; for to such the words of David referin another Psalm, where he says: 'Thou shalt hide them in the hiding- placeof Thy face from the disturbance of men; Thou shalt protect them in Thytabernacle from the contradiction of tongues.'(212) Herein we understandall kinds of protection; for to be hidden in the face of God from the disturbanceof men is to be fortified with this dark contemplation against all the chanceswhich may come upon the soul from men. And to be protected in His tabernaclefrom the contradiction of tongues is for the soul to be engulfed in thesedark waters, which are the tabernacle of David whereof we have spoken. Wherefore,since the soul has all its desires and affections weaned and its facultiesset in darkness, it is free from all imperfections which contradict the spirit,whether they come from its own flesh or from other creatures. Wherefore thissoul may well say that it journeys 'in darkness and secure.'

14. There is likewise another reason, which is no less effectual than the last, by whichwe may understand how the soul journeys securely in darkness; it is derivedfrom the fortitude by which the soul is at once inspired in these obscureand afflictive dark waters of God. For after all, though the waters be dark,they are none the less waters, and therefore they cannot but refresh andfortify the soul in that which is most needful for it, although in darknessand with affliction. For the soul immediately perceives in itself a genuinedetermination and an effectual desire to do naught which it understands tobe an offence to God, and to omit to do naught that seems to be for His service.For that dark love cleaves to the soul, causing it a most watchful care andan inward solicitude concerning that which it must do, or must not do, forHis sake, in order to please Him. It will consider and ask itself a thousandtimes if it has given Him cause to be offended; and all this it will do withmuch greater care and solicitude than before, as has already been said withrespect to the yearnings of love. For here all the desires and energies andfaculties of the soul are recollected from all things else, and its effortand strength are employed in pleasing its God alone. After this manner thesoul goes forth from itself and from all created things to the sweet anddelectable union of love of God, 'In darkness and secure.'

By the secret ladder, disguised.

John, Dark Night 2 12