From Publishers Weekly
Herrera, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Seton Hall University, examines the mystical writings of the 16th-century Spanish Saint John of the Cross. This is an academic study that draws upon (and argues with) the findings of other scholars of mysticism and assumes a working knowledge of the field. It will be appreciated by readers who are already at least somewhat familiar with Saint Johns writings. The mystic, Herrera clarifies, is not "a dreamer or a self-inflated psychopath," but one who conducts a "hard-nosed appraisal of the human condition" and prescribes "some type of moral or spiritual purification to rectify its failings." As a mystic, St. John of the Cross embodied those characteristics, seeking not just to lose himself in union with the Beloved but to stipulate the conditions by which others might follow the same rigorous path. After several introductory chapters (on mysticism, 16th-century Spain and Johns life), Herrera carefully analyzes some of the saints writing and poetry.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Of his own commentaries, St. John of the Cross said that "the difference between poem and commentary is that between the living and the painted." Readers are well advised to keep that difference in mind as they approach Herrera's book. For his poetry, it is best to go straight to St. John, and, for painting of much the same time and place, to El Greco. For those who prefer to approach new territory with a guidebook, however, Herrera offers verbal painting of a sort that might make the poet-saint's world less strange. This includes a brief introduction to mysticism; an equally brief description of the setting in which St. John wrote; and a short biography, followed by commentary and commentary on commentary. The straightforward reading of St. John's major poems may prove useful to those encountering him for the first time, and the theological background Herrera provides will give nontheologians some idea of the issues. Bibliography and notes direct the interested to more extended treatments. Steven SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved