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Dark Night of the Soul: A Masterpiece in the Literature of Mysticism by St. John of the Cross Mass Market Paperback – January 11, 1959

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As a Carmelite monk, the 16th-century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross was well trained in the systematic theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. In Dark Night of the Soul, St. John's sharply organized mind gives clean shape to his mystical belief in a loving Being somewhere outside the realm of feeling, thought, or imagination, who can only be known through love. Dark Night of the Soul describes the process of purgation, first of senses, and then of spirit, that precedes the soul's loving Union with God. To quote from this book would detract from the coiled power of its tightly focused picture of the soul's progress; suffice it to say that there has never been a better book for discouraged Christians. When you cannot understand what or why you believe, but you find yourself unable to abandon faith, look to St. John for help. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

"Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again." These lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's famous song could be the guiding theme of this excellent offering by psychiatrist and spiritual counselor May. As May delves into the meaning and purpose of "the dark night of the soul," we come to see it as a comforting and necessary friend, ushering in a time of transformation, rather than a gloomy blackness to avoid. In order to illuminate the dark night, May draws upon the lives of the Carmelite mystics, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, as well as psychiatric research and scripture. Like the contemporary scholars of psychiatry, both Teresa and John had early insights into the unconscious dimension of life that goes on beneath our awareness-an obscure and mysterious arena that they both called "the dark." Since humans are so skilled at denial-especially denying the power of their compulsions and attachments-they would never enter into this spiritual night of reckoning if they could see in advance what it would entail. This is why we need the darkness in front of us. May, who also wrote Addiction and Grace, eventually moves into a strong discussion about depression and addiction, showing why the dark night is necessary to overcome both. Ultimately, he becomes a messenger of hope, reminding readers that every dark night brings the sweet dawn of awakening. With its clear writing and strong psychological foundation, this is a relevant resource for readers of all spiritual persuasions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 193 pages
  • Publisher: Image; Reprint edition (February 1, 1959)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385029306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385029308
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (321 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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287 of 293 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo on October 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John of the Cross's writings show the total intensity and detachment of one who has reached a point of union with God that is a sheer gift of grace. The Dark Night of the Soul is among the greatest writings of mystic theology and experience, and highly recommended for those who have some understanding of the concepts of which he writes. The total turning of the will to God, to a point where nothing on earth can satisfy the lover except union with the Beloved, is a marvellous and deeply moving "sight" - and the exquisite poetry here is one of the best expressions in the history of Christianity.
This said, it is essential that one have background in order to understand this work. (More easily understood introductions, such as Thomas Dubay's "Fire Within," should precede reading the Dark Night.) John is by no means writing of depression or misery, nor is his path one which is common to all (or indeed many) Christians. Let the serious Christian seeker approach this work with humility - it pre-supposes knowledge and an openness to divine love that is far from universal. And, above all, take John's cautions against self-deception to heart as much as he did.
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166 of 170 people found the following review helpful By ecclesia_semper_reformanda_est on October 22, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
By Sister Elizabeth Ruth, O.D.C., Carmel of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk
St. John of the Cross is known as the Mystical Doctor, because in a pre-eminent way he is the director of men on their interior journey towards God. As a spiritual guide and deeply religious man, trained in theology at the best Spanish universities of his day, he was able, as few others, to elucidate scripturally and doctrinally the ways of the Lord.
Primarily, though, he is a poet, and his poetry speaks for itself in deeply symbolic language, the language of love. He is also a man of his country and era. His two poles Toda-Nada, All-Nothing, no doubt were associated for him with the rugged beauty of Castile--the blazing Spanish sky above arid ground, with the sun glinting upon walled cities, the freezing night with brigands concealed in the darkness.
John and Spain speak the language of extremes, just as St. Francis of Assisi was a man of the Umbrian hills set with flowers and vines among shaded valleys. There is a tendency to contrast the harshness of one with the sweetness of the other, but this is to do a disservice to both. Both at heart are similar because they see the way to God as the way of giving all-desiring nothing but him, and letting the rest go: "My God and my All."
In this, Jesus Christ is the model, and there is no spiritual growth apart from the earnest imitation of him. "Be continually careful and earnest in imitating Christ in everything, making your life conform to his," John writes in The Ascent of Mount Carmel, almost as a key sentence. Only in this light can we understand his insistence on the denial of desires.
What he has in mind are all those selfish and self-seeking ways we go about trying to have God and what we want as well.
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126 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on January 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, I don't understand why anybody would complain about the language of this translation. The work is about an excrutiating and almost indescribable journey, and a book about such a subject should by no means be a light afternoon read. The very language of Dark Night of the Soul calls for intense engagement and is a fruitful exercise in itself. Furthermore, this language has an extraordinarily authentic quality that conveys something of the mystery St John of the Cross is pursuing.

The work also gives so much to think about. I don't know that I agree with everything, but that's fine, and St John himself notes that each journey toward God will be somewhat different. But there is a lot that appeals to me. Truly, the journey toward God can be difficult. Reading about any character in the Bible from Abraham to David to Jesus confirms this. Life is such a strange mixture of the presence of God and the (at least seeming) absense, and persevering toward union with God means getting through these agonizing periods. In this book, St John of the Cross gives great hope as he accounts for those dark times and provides a framework for getting through them. This isn't a light read, and it is certainly a book that needs multiple readings. Nevertheless, it gives you a lot to think about and is ultimately well worth the effort.
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108 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on April 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
In this book, profound but obscure like the material with which it deals, psychiatrist Gerald May describes a process of spiritual growth that is operational in the difficult seasons of life.

Drawing from the experiences of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, he explores a journey of consciousness that leads us into the recognition of "our deep and irrevocable communion with the Divine".

It is a path through darkness, a path of letting go, a path of abandoning oneself, losing oneself, and in so doing ultimately finding what is real. The following quotes reveal something of this journey:

* The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding.

* Although not knowing may itself seem like a bad thing, I am convinced it is one of the great gifts of the dark night of the soul.

* The spiritual life for Theresa and John has nothing to do with actually getting closer to God. Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized, and in that sense it is something that can be yearned for, sought after, and - with God's grace - found.

* The dark night helps us to become what we are created to be: lovers of God and one another.

* ...we are not only born with God at our center, but we are born with a heart full of desire for God. This yearning is our fundamental motive force; it is the human spirit. It is the energy behind everything we seek and aspire to.

* Liberation, whether experienced pleasurably or painfully, always involves relinquishment, some kind of loss.

* Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we are going.

* ...
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