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Dark Night of the Soul [Paperback]

John of the Cross , Mirabai Starr , Thomas Moore
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 4, 2003
While imprisoned in a tiny prison cell for his attempts to reform the Church, sixteenth-century Spanish mystic John of the Cross composed many of his now classic poems of the soul’s longing for God. Written on a scroll smuggled to him by one of his guards, his songs are the ultimate expression of the spiritual seeker’s journey from estranged despair to blissful union with the divine

After escaping his captors, John fell into a state of profound ecstasy and wrote Dark Night of the Soul. Later, he added an important commentary to his poem to guide other searching souls along the arduous path to communion with God. Here, for the first time, a scholar unaffiliated with the Catholic Church has translated this timeless work. Mirabai Starr, who has studied Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, lends the seeker’s sensibility to John’s powerful text and brings this classic work to the twenty-first century in a brilliant and beautiful rendering

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Almost every believer feels forgotten by God sometimes. Even Christ cried out on the cross, "Oh God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Dark Night of the Soul, a 16th-century mystical text written by the Carmelite monk St. John of the Cross, ranks among Christianity’s most helpful answers to this enduring question. In St. John’s vision of spiritual life, the pain of separation from God is to be embraced, not avoided. "The dark night is about being fully present in the tender, wounded emptiness of our own souls," explains translator Mirabai Starr--although she grants that modern culture makes such acceptance hard to attain. "We tend to see difficult feelings as a form of illness, which we hope to conquer, cure, and expel. [St. John of the Cross] has a far greater imagination of human life: his goal is not health but union with the divine." Several fine English translations of Dark Night already exist; Starr’s, however, is distinguished by its ecumenism. Minimizing the explicit scriptural references of the original text, she makes the treasures of Dark Night more accessible to readers of all religious traditions. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Along with Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross remains one of the West's most well-known and beloved mystics. And like Teresa's, his writings are masterpieces of ecstatic poetry, depicting a lover the soul that seeks union with the Beloved, God. Starr, who teaches philosophy and religious studies at the University of New Mexico, offers an engaging and evocative new translation of John's most famous treatise, "Dark Night of the Soul." Composed as a result of his imprisonment, it follows the soul's journey from a state of abandonment and darkness to its profound ecstasy in finding God waiting to receive it. In order for the soul to achieve this rapturous union, John instructs, it must give up its complacent practice of prayer or other spiritual routines that separate it from a full union with God. John's now-classic spiritual commentary urges us to find rest in the emptiness of the dark night and to abandon ourselves to the love that is present at the center of this emptiness. Although John wrote "Dark Night of the Soul" for his Christian brothers and sisters, his rapturous mysticism provides a way to union with the divine for a wide variety of spiritual seekers. As Starr points out in her introduction, John's abandonment of self in order to achieve union with the Other mirrors contemporary spiritual practices of Buddhism and Hinduism. Starr's lyrical translation and her thoughtful introduction bring new life to John's powerful treatise on the life of the soul. (Feb. 18)Forecast: Although E. Allison Peers's monumental translation of "Dark Night of the Soul" remains definitive, it is wooden and literal, and emphasizes John's place in Christian theology and spirituality. Starr's lively translation transcends the narrowness of Peers's to reach a wide audience of contemporary spiritual seekers.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573229741
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573229746
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
82 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars priceless June 2, 2002
John of the Cross is, for me, quite simply the crucial Christian contemplative; his dark night spirituality is still the absolute state of the art for anyone beyond the feel-good phase of a life of prayer. My copy of the excellent Cavanaugh-Rodriquez translation of John's collected works (which is the definitive scholarly translation, in my opinion, not the Peers version) is so well-thumbed it has to be be held together by tape. But I've always hesitated to recommend the works of John of the Cross even to people I am sure would benefit by his wisdom, because his writing is extremely difficult, a somewhat windy, dry, and arcane 16th-century style, dense with scriptural allusion and theological citation, repetitive, and, in several cases, literally unfinished. Mirabai Starr is clearly the gifted editor John has been waiting for. Her poet's ear and mystic's heart are just what was needed to bring the depth, lucidity, and loving essence of John's most famous work into a form that is accessible at last to a wider range of contemporary seekers. Her translation of "The Dark Night," and her beautiful and wise introduction, are exquisitely lucid. The language is fresh, the pacing crisp, and even the most difficult passages are made clear and musical, capturing both the joy and the genuine, sometimes terrifying challenge of the soul's journey into the deepest mysteries of God, into what T.S. Eliot, another Christian mystic who could sometimes use a translator, called "a condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything." Mirabai has shown us both the simplcity, and the absolute cost, of the deepest spirituality, in this gorgeous gift of a book, this labor of love, which seems to me to be destined to become a classic.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My All Time Favorite Book February 24, 2004
Next to Holy Scripture that is, but then again I do not consider the Bible to be compared with any other human work.
PROS - The first time I read DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL I couldn't understand it, but could tell it contained something worth study. The second time I read it, I began to glimpse that it spoke of something beyond me, but extremely important. The third time I read it, it made my theology feel like that of a preschooler. I finally went to stay in a monastery for a few days so I could be tutored in understanding this book. The next time I read it, it began to make sense. Though it is still over my head, today this is my all time favorite book, no matter who does the translation.
CONS - That being said, translation is very important to understanding this book. John was distinctly Christian. Any attempt to universalize his writings might yield something of value, but of far less value than John intended. Mirabai Starr's translation minimizes Christian references intentionally.
VERDICT - I personally give this and all other translations 5 stars. I am happy to have this translation in my library. However, it lacks some of the punch of others I have studied.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
this little book just blew my mind and heart. i only finished it yesterday, but my heart has been burning with the pain and bliss of the fire of gods love since reading it. awesome.

always interesting. starts slowly and then just blasts off into the stratosphere on the ignition of chapter ten!

this book is largely about the pain of the dark night of the soul.

1. suffering is difficulty (definition)
2. suffering is neither here nor there.
3. suffering is in what you do. (cause/solution)

God does not cause suffering, rather suffering is in what we do. it is not here nor there. not in earthquakes, pain, or death. suffering is in what you do.

thank you mirabai, thank you, thank you, thank you!

love, from, snow-flake. xxx
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Night of the Soul March 30, 2007
Dark Night of the Soul was of tremendous help during a time when I lost two very dear friends: both of them very young. This presented a "crisis of faith" for me and this book helped me to walk in faith during a time when these two deaths made no sense at all in this world. Not a "quick read" at all, but one well worth it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for aspiring contemplatives April 16, 2010
I participate in a Christian prayer practice in the contemplative tradition. After reading two of Father Thomas Keating's books, in which he refers to St. John of the Cross, I wanted to read Dark Night of the Soul. A friend in my prayer group, one with many years of practice behind her, saw me buying the book at a church book sale and said, "Don't be discouraged if you find it difficult. I didn't have much luck with it." I was very pleased that I had excellent "luck" with it, and I suspect the translation may be the reason. Although I most certainly do intend to read another translation, I never have. However, I will say this: I find Spanish (and French) to have a direct and emotive feel to them that translators frequently do not capture in English, because the character of English is so different. For me, this translation does have an authentic Spanish feel to it.

While I happen to share an opinion with other reviewers that dressing Satan in the outfit of the "fractured self" is a bit silly, squeamishness about the existence of hell, evil, and demonic entities is, at this time in history, pervasive even among Christians. I will not say this squeamishness is harmless, in that only the truth can set you free; but, some people simply cannot cope with a world view that includes Hell and evil personified, because it is too terrifying for them. If the book is more accessible to them without Satan, why not? "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." (St. Augustine?)

The point is, St. John of the Cross is giving a map for the territory in which the dedicated contemplative may soon travel. He is trying to equip the seeker with the knowledge needed to sustain hope during the dark night. His book was not meant as an academic or an intellectual exercise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Night
This work is a short (200 or so pages) paraphrase/translation of St John's 'Dark Night of the Soul' by spiritual writer Miribai Starr. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Greg
4.0 out of 5 stars Steps to enlightenment & being touched by god are identical
The spoiler alert is that the entire book's details are in the title. I read it because I use the phrase, and others do, without having read the book...my aim was to correct that. Read more
Published 6 months ago by johnK
2.0 out of 5 stars surprised at being disappointed...maybe it's just me
The woman who translated this has the most interesting story---i LOVED the forward/intro and that's what prompted me to buy it. and look at the cover! isn't it gorgeous? Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kimba
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This book took me out of my usual element of thought, drawing me to think and see things with more depth and breadth and within a different context. Read more
Published 7 months ago by hulithedane
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to know what to say about this book, ...
Hard to know what to say about this book, written in the 1500s by a Spanish priest/mystic. This translator is not Catholic, which is hopeful, but she uses the word "juicy"... Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. L Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic book on Spiritual Direction.
This book, and others by St. John of the Cross, are excellent ways to seek and find the Interior Life with God, especially during those dark times we all go through.
Published 9 months ago by James L. Hawes
1.0 out of 5 stars A falsification of a great spiritual work
As other reviewers have noted, this is not a translation of St. John of the Cross's work, but a FALSIFICATION that presents him in a New Age light and alters his beliefs to provide... Read more
Published 12 months ago by olderandwiser
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
There are many seasons in the christian life. i am glad people deal head on with issues rather than overlook them or give a quick way out.
Published 17 months ago by Rev. Stephen S. Gibney
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest book I have ever read.
If you are searching for the meaning in your life, this book is the answer. Mirabai Starr eloquently describes the journey toward purification of the spirit. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Elizabeth Sifuentes
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and inspiring
This was a powerful movie. I had watched the three-disc series (8 episodes) of Teresa of Avila, and was curious to learn more about John of the Cross, hence I watched this movie. Read more
Published on December 5, 2012 by Frank Mangold
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