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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

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.

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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 (376 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #927,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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289 of 295 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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243 of 249 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on February 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
"The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross" consists of the writings of this 16th century Spanish Mystic and Doctor of the Church. St. John was a Carmelite friar and friend of St. Theresa of Avila. A valued spiritual counselor, many of his works were written as instruction to religious who sought his guidance.
The book consists of four major works and many minor works. The major works are "The Ascent of Mount Carmel", "The Dark Night", "The Spiritual Canticle" and "The Living Flame of Love". Each of the major works consists of a poem, written by St. John, and an extensive, word by word, explanation. In the explanation, St. John reveals his own theology, supported by verses from Scripture.
The minor works consist of letters written to his contemporaries as well as a collection of St. John's poetry.
This is definitely not light reading. The reader must concentrate on his the text in order to appreciate what he is reading. I am glad that I read it from two perspectives. From an historical perspective, it provides the reader with a good introduction into the world of mystical writing. More importantly, from a spiritual perspective, this book gives the reader an insight into God's call to all Christians to draw themselves more closely to Himself. The spirit of this book is difficult to explain. It is a classical book which is better experienced than described.
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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.
Read more ›
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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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