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Dark Night of the Soul Mass Market Paperback – January 11, 1959
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Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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 ›
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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