"When you mind dwells upon anything,
You are ceasing to cast yourself upon the All.
For in order to pass from everything to the All,
You must deny yourself wholly in everything.
And when you come to possess it completely,
You must possess it without desiring anything.
For if you will have any particular thing in having everything,
Thou has not they treasure purely in God."
- Ascent of Mt. Carmel
- This work was written to assist people in the attainment of a state of Divine Union.
It almost exclusively treats of the dark night the sense - involving the purgation of the
desires and the senses. It is very methodical and exhaustive in its coverage of the various
temptations which beset beginners on the mystic way. I would recommend it to anyone who is
involved in mentoring or discipleship of another believer, especially as it talks about the
signs which indicate that the directee is being moved from the dark night of the sense into
the illuminative life. This work is much less dense than it's successor, below.
- Dark Night of the Soul
- This is a very very dense work. It is the conclusion to 'The Ascent of Mt. Carmel',
describing the final night through which the soul must pass before it enters into a state of
Divine Union. In it is a lengthy discussion of both the preparation
of the soul for divine union and the stumbling blocks which the enemy may introduce
at each stage. Of all the mystics I have read, his work is at the same time
the most thorough in its treatment and the most inaccessible.
- A Spiritual Canticle
- This work (which I haven't actually read yet) is apparently a description of the Unitive
Life which one enters into having passed through the stages described in the previous two books.
It is couched in the language and style of the Song of Solomon, and, like "Dark Night of the Soul",
is an extended commentary on a poem which he wrote in prison.
- The Living Flame of Love
- This work is a fairly short
and very readable (comparitively!) discussion of the unitive life and the stages which one passes
through to attain it. It was written to a laywoman as a commentary on a poem written by John ofthe
Cross, and therefore is not nearly as encyclopediac in nature as the previous three works. It is a
very good introduction to John's theology and understanding of the mystic way. I highly recommend it
for anyone who is interested in his writing, and especially to anyone who is in a mentoring or
discipleship relationship with another believer.
For the Wheaton College archive, click here.
For the complete works of St. John in Spanish, click
The Teresian Carmel has a web-site featuring a biography of John of the Cross,
in addition to a collection of his letters, poetry, and three short counsels which he provided for people whom he directed.