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The Dark Night of the Soul

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  5,386 ratings  ·  139 reviews
There comes to all souls, at least once in life, a severe test. It is known as the Dark Night of the Soul. It is when we are beleaguered by darkness: spiritual and mental and where no hope seems to be near and everything we try to do is thwarted. It is where the soul is forced to persist and enter into the glorious Golden Dawn of Illumination and kinship with God, or relax ...more
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published September 10th 2010 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1584)
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♥ Ibrahim ♥
First edition, it appears, came out in the fifties. Today I got my own copy in Arabic from the Carmelites of Lebanon. It is a sheer delight to read. In the first chapter he draws a beautiful image of the loving mother who is God likened to. She has to wean her child. I just loved this paragraph and we are fortunate that the book is also online for reading and on the Carmelites's site themselves, straight from the mouth of the hourse! Here is what John of the Cross says,

2. It should be known, the
...more
Skylar Burris
Aug 23, 2009 Skylar Burris marked it as sampled-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
I've been wanting to read St. John of the Cross for some time, and awhile ago I happened to have picked up this little hardcover cheaply. I finally began digging into it, and after reading about half, I have decided to read it later in a different translation. It seems Mirabai Starr has taken it upon herself to take a few liberties with the text, two of which are bound to annoy me. The first is that she has "minimized" all "direct Christian references." The second is that she has translated "El ...more
Neil
One fine day in the fourth grade at Immaculate Conception School, one of my classmates raised her hand and asked how were your sins cleaned out of you in Purgatory. The old nun sneered, "They're burned out of you!" Now I know where she heard that. It's all right here in this book. According to St. John of the Cross while your soul is in Purgatory the love of God ignites it like a log. And, like a log, its composition changes as the fire burns. The entire month or so that it took me to read this ...more
Rick Davis
There are two ways of thinking and speaking of God. The first is the apophatic way, or the via negativa, the way of negation. This way of thinking and speaking focuses on the transcendence of God and the inability of human language and experience to encompass all that God is and does. The second is the kataphatic way, or the via affirmativa, the way of affirmation. This way of thinking about God focuses on His immanence and His presence with us in and through His creation. Charles Williams has r ...more
Keleigh
I took this book up on my 10-day Mount Shasta retreat and it became the reverberating background of my whole experience. In the translation by mystic scholar Mirabai Starr, St. John of the Cross's description of the phases of the soul as she ('el alma') nears unity with God far transcends the confines of Catholicism. The 'Dark Night of the Soul' is not merely a period of intense depression -- it is the annihilation of the ego, the final stage when spiritual rituals, symbols and beliefs no longer ...more
Mark
This classic, written by Spanish monk St. John of the Cross, is a feast of spiritual insight by a man whose heart was burning in love with Jesus. It is masterfully written and proved to ignite my own devotional life time and time again. Except for a few places where his exegesis gives way to excessive allegory and a few false Catholic premises, this is a wonderful book and I encourage anyone who is wanting to be led into devotional maturity to engage with this book.
Sean Saunders
Being a very scriptural catholic I like the fact the St John is constantly quoting scripture. The book is easy to read, however, I found I had to really think about what he was saying. But the gist is if we want to know God we have to purge ourselves and this can be painful.
Emma Bolden
I finally managed to make my way through this. It's remarkable reading, but it sure ain't easy reading. This book was so heavy I might only be able to read blogs by the Real Housewives for the rest of my life.
Ann
To think that this was written during one of the most trying times of his life. The work flows like river and is filled with such passion....
Mary Overton
Songs of the Soul

On a dark night,
Inflamed by love-longing -
O exquisite risk! -
Undetected I slipped away.
My house, at last, grown still.
Secure in the darkness,
I climbed the secret ladder in disguise -
O exquisite risk! -
Concealed by the darkness.
My house, at last, grown still.

That sweet night: a secret.
Nobody saw me;
I did not see a thing.
No other light, no other guide
Than the one burning in my heart.

This light led the way
More clearly than the risen sun
To where he was waiting for me

- The one I knew
...more
Michael
I've read book one in this several times and every time it jump starts God's work in my heart. I've never completed books two in the work, because it seems like I have a great journey still ahead to be prepared for it. Thank God for this book. Update: I completed reading this book all the way through a bit back. I was right in my earlier assessment, God does do much work in your heart previous to the rest of this work. Thank God for St. John of the Cross! As many before me, I wish the work had b ...more
Jocelyn
"He who aspires to being joined with God in perfect union must not walk by the way of understanding, nor lean on either joyful sensations, or inner feelings, or imagination, but he must believe in God's Being, which is hidden as much from the understanding as from desire, imagination, and any sensory apperception, nor can it be known at all in this life in its essential nature. Even the highest concerning God that can be felt and perceived in this life is infinitely remote from Him and from the ...more
Bonita
It was a challenge to read St Johns thought that becoming like Christ means going into the fire. Which happens many times. At some point when a log is in the fire the log and the fire start to look the same. Our deep desire as people of God. That we would reflect Christ.
Jennifer
not for the faint of heart
Andrew
This is not a book for everyone. Well, it's potentially for everyone. Anyone who not only believes in Christ, but desires to be as close to God through Him as possible. The trick is that it comes at a terrible price few are willing to pay. Yet, for those who will, the rewards are infinite.

This is a work of classic mystical theology from the Catholic Reformation period by a Spanish mystic popularly known as "St. John of the Cross." Read this book, and you'll find what an appropriate nickname that
...more
Zacaro Caro
I read this book once before, but I couldn't recall much about it. My wife and I both read a lot, but our book choices are hardly ever the same, so we are trying to read one book a month and talk about it. We chose this one as our first book. It's a little too heavy for either of us. It's only 128 pages or so; but I have to say this, if you are thinking about picking this book up for a read you will likely get something out of the first book. The first 3rd of the book is amazing. Oh happy chance ...more
Sincerae
I was curious about Dark Night of the Soul because my 12th grade English teacher mentioned the phrase "dark night of the soul" to me once and also because I am interested in various forms of religious mysticism, especially Christian mysticism.

The only writings by a Christian mystic that I have read were writings by Madame Jeanne Guyon which I enjoyed, and hers' were a more easier read. Opposite to this, St. John of the Cross' writings about purging the spirit of the fleshly to become closer to
...more
S.B.
And of course the mystics in Christian tradition will emphasize suffering and misery. What did I expect? A dark night spent dancing around your house alone, in your underwear, to the sounds of something only vaguely similar to music?

No. Just absolute emptiness. Absolute denial of everything remotely human.

I don't disagree with all of it, but here's what I don't like: the focus on just one person's 'spiritual experience' that succeeds in totally blinding the individual to everything around them
...more
Vincent Chough
Self examination. Inventory of the soul. This is what San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross) is getting at. The opening "Stanzas of the Soul" are undoubtedly divinely inspired verse upon which the study establishes itself. It's about doing away with every last shred of formalism and finding a true relationship with God. In the end we find our resources and reality infinitely insufficient and only in complete dependence and emptiness might we find the core of grace.

It's a painful process. H
...more
Andrew
In Dark Night of the Soul, Saint John of the Cross presents for us a portrait painted from his own experience of one who advances successfully through the struggles of the spiritual life. The dark night that St. John describes is not abandonment by God but special consideration from Him for those who desire to purify and perfect their souls. With a soul purified from earthly attachments, we can advance through the much quoted but oft misunderstood dark night of the soul into unity with God. By a ...more
Kristin Santiago
Juan de la Cruz describes what can only be described with the help of God. Who am I to review such a gift? Juan de la Cruz actually put into words something of what Paul the Apostle tried to describe with words like "height, depth, breadth". Such is beyond us. But brother Juan was faithful and the result is a prayerful slice of heaven for we who have no words of our own to describe the holy relationship of contemplation and prayer. Even what is beyond our sense to describe is worth notice, yes, ...more
Jim George
This book is slow reading, & fairly intellectual. This 16th century author is expounding on the dark night of the soul, the dark found before the light. He shows how a seeker's way is weak and tested. How his soul is slowly fed, nourished and strengthened. How he is being made ready for the Lord's inestimable love. These seekers are likened to feeble children, the gold of their spirits not yet purified. He is at work secretly teaching; enlightening, refreshing, humbling and softening. While ...more
Amy
This was a hard, slooow read. I remember liking it in college, though. Basically, I think the metaphor is to get closer to God we have to die to ourselves, whether consciously or mostly by letting it happen/God do it for us, and that puts us in a very lonely, dark position. See, the author evens looks sad on the cover. The end result of this is very glorious as you are united with divine love. Christian mystics are very emotional. There's not a lot of deductive reasoning, but I think a lot of pe ...more
Dee
I find mysticism difficult to assimilate. It will probably take reading it at least a couple more times to appreciate the author’s insights. In general it is much beyond and more complex than providing an understanding a personal period of darkness and depression which often seems to be the reference to it. I think one needs to be tuned into their own spiritual journey – John is really describing a process of the soul’s union with God – from the perspective of The Night of Sense, then The Night ...more
Jennifer
This is not light reading. It took me two months to make it through this book because I had to be fully awake and really concentrating on the message. "The dark night of the soul" is a stage that the soul passes through on one's quest for spiritual union with God. This is a state of spiritualism which must be earnestly sought, and which is attained by few. It requires a complete purging of imperfections and self. St. John of the Cross uses examples from the Bible of those who have experienced th ...more
Simon Travers
You have to fight against the medival structure of the mind of John's worldview and writing style. That means that this is not an easy read. However, there are parts of this book which still ring true today and can help.
Alex Stroshine
This summer I have experienced my own "dark night of the soul" and this spiritual classic provided some provide insight and wisdom. The last time I marveled at such a spiritual classic was Thomas Merton's "No Man Is An Island" (I read a chapter a week and I think it increased my delight of it because it was savoured; I wish I had done the same with "Dark Night of the Soul" because it is intense and there is a lot to take in). St. John of the Cross traces both the "dark night of the senses" and t ...more
Bill  Kerwin
Although I received much insight from reading this treatise on mysticism, I feel I am too much of a beginner to comprehend the spiritual experiences touched upon here, particularly in the latter part of this work. I would however recommend it anyway; there is much here for even the beginner to treasure.

This new translation by Mirabai Starr is clear, modern and accessible.
Jenny
Tough read. I think I'll have to read it at least another two to three times before I can really understand everything he's trying to say-- probably more. But the messages are very profound on multiple levels. If you enjoy C.S. Lewis you might like this, but his concepts are much more abstract. Written in the 16th century, the style of the language takes some getting used to.
Erin
This will always be near the top of my list. Reading it, accompanied by some brilliant lectures, positioned my own inner disquietude within a deep history of believers. I reference it (at least internally) in every conversation I have about faith.
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  • Interior Castle
  • The Spiritual Exercises
  • The Cloud of Unknowing
  • Introduction to the Devout Life
  • Revelations of Divine Love
  • The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection (Cistercian studies 59)
  • The Rule of Saint Benedict
  • Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul
  • Fire within: Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and the Gospel - On Prayer
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence
  • Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
  • New Seeds of Contemplation
  • God Is Love--Deus Caritas Est: Encyclical Letter
  • The Imitation of Christ
  • True Devotion to Mary
  • Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue (Classics of Western Spirituality)
  • Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
  • The Way
1911605
John of the Cross (Spanish: Juan de la Cruz), born Juan de Yepes Alvarez, was a major Counter-Reformation figure, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar & priest. He was a reformer of the Carmelite Order & is considered, along with St Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He's also known for his writings. Both his poetry & his studies on the growth of th ...more
More about John of the Cross...
The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross The Ascent of Mount Carmel The Poems of St John of the Cross Selected Writings Cántico espiritual

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“Now that I no longer desire all, I have it all without desire.” 18 likes
“With respect also to spiritual sloth, beginners are apt to be irked by the things that are most spiritual, from which they flee because these things are incompatible with sensible pleasure. For, as they are so much accustomed to sweetness in spiritual things, they are wearied by things in which they find no sweetness. If once they failed to find in prayer the satisfaction which their taste required (and after all it is well that God should take it from them to prove them), they would prefer not to return to it: sometimes they leave it; at other times they continue it unwillingly. And thus because of this sloth they abandon the way of perfection (which is the way of the negation of their will and pleasure for God's sake) for the pleasure and sweetness of their own will, which they aim at satisfying in this way rather than the will of God.

And many of these would have God will that which they themselves will, and are fretful at having to will that which He wills, and find it repugnant to accommodate their will to that of God. Hence it happens to them that oftentimes they think that that wherein they find not their own will and pleasure is not the will of God; and that, on the other hand, when they themselves find satisfaction, God is satisfied. Thus they measure God by themselves and not themselves by God, acting quite contrarily to that which He Himself taught in the Gospel, saying: That he who should lose his will for His sake, the same should gain it; and he who should desire to gain it, the same should lose it.”
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