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Dark Night of the Soul: A Masterpiece in the Literature of Mysticism by St. John of the Cross

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  9,564 ratings  ·  286 reviews
This new edition of the Image classic, with more than 100,000 copies sold, brings E. Allison Peers's magnificent translation of St. John of the Cross's masterpiece Dark Night of the Soul to a new generation of readers and will renew the interest of those already familiar with its soaring poetry and timeless truths. The sixteenth-century Carmelite monk St. John of the Cross ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published January 11th 1959 by Image (first published 1584)
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Bill Kerwin
May 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Although I received some insight from reading this treatise on spirituality, I feel I am too much of a beginner to comprehend many of the interior experiences that are touched upon here, particularly in the latter part of the work. I suspect my own darkness and aridity--which is at times considerable--is neither as dark, nor as potentially luminous, as the darkness that lies in the heart of this great saint. I would however recommend it anyway; there is much here for even a beginner to treasure.
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 any traditional definitions 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 be ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
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
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Emma Bolden
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...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
Skylar Burris
Oct 27, 2008 marked it as unfinished  ·  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
Nelly H.
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To be truthful, I think I was not “spiritually advanced” enough to read this book. I will need to reread in five or ten years.
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholicism
not for the faint of heart
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
"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
May 31, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: omg
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
May 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 12, 2011 marked it as backburner  ·  review of another edition
Set this aside when I learned I am supposed to read Ascent of Mount Carmel first. ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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....
K.D. Absolutely
This book is said to be one of the Top 10 Best Catholic books ever. This is composed of the analysis of two poems by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). He was a friend to Saint Theresa of Avila and they were both mystics as they were both gifted and saw supernatural visions.

St. John of Cross was known for his poems that talk about the spiritual journey including the journey to the dark (the necessary dark that we need to go through to see the light). His favorite book in the Holy Bible is the So
Katie Bayford
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"In the first place, because the light and wisdom of this contemplation is most bright and pure,
and the soul which it assails is dark and impure, it follows that the soul suffers great pain when it
receives it in itself, just as, when the eyes are dimmed by humours, and become impure and weak,
the assault made upon them by a bright light causes them pain. And when the soul suffers the direct
assault of this Divine light, its pain, which results from its impurity, is immense; because, when
this pure
Jim George
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 the ...more
Sean Saunders
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't pretend to fully understand this spiritual "classic" composed by the 16th century Spanish writer, but it's been sitting on my bookshelf for over 50 years, purchased in some little remembered burst of religious enthusiasm when I was young. I picked it up again and thought I have to finally read this short book. It's a meditation on the lines of the Biblical Song of Solomon where the bride dreams of her beloved and goes to seek him during the night. But what this writer does is to see thos ...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
Oct 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
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
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious
Couldn’t put it down. I almost wish it didn’t speak to me.
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classic 16th century work of practical and mystical theology, this book is a deep meditation on the spiritual maturity cultivated in and by seasons of doubt, darkness, distance, and depression in the Christian life. I’ve had this book on my list since college and while having read about it, had not read it until now. It was timely for me, and perhaps for the world right now. Brother John takes into the bliss of spiritual infancy and then through it into season upon season of deeper faith, no l ...more
J.M. Hushour
St. John of the Cross's commentary on a short, mystical poem he wrote. Of middling worth for the lay mystic, in the same league as "The Cloud of Unknowing" and just as nebulous. All the same, a nice foray into Catholic mysticism just when Reformational shit was getting real in Christian Europe. ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: churching, nonfiction
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
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St. John of the Cross (Spanish: Juan de la Cruz), born June 24 1542, Juan de Yepes Álvarez, was a major Counter-Reformation figure, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar and priest. He was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and 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 gr ...more

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“Now that I no longer desire all, I have it all without desire.” 45 likes
“Some of these beginners, too, make little of their faults, and at other times become over-sad when they see themselves fall into them, thinking themselves to have been saints already; and thus they become angry and impatient with themselves, which is another imperfection. Often they beseech God, with great yearnings, that He will take from them their imperfections and faults, but they do this that they may find themselves at peace, and may not be troubled by them, rather than for God's sake; not realizing that, if He should take their imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder and more presumptuous still. They dislike praising others and love to be praised themselves; sometimes they seek out such praise. Herein they are like the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps could not be lit, sought oil from others.” 15 likes
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