Introduction to Dark Night of the Soul by E. Allison Peers. I thought that, as this journey into the St. John of the Cross work is going to be difficult, I’d take time to look at E. Allison Peers Introduction. And the introduction is not much comfort to me as far as this being not so difficult. If anything, the introduction makes it clearer to me that this will be very difficult. That means I’ll have to take it slow and try to figure out what this all means to me. It does not mean that I’ll figure it out, but I may figure some stuff out.
Peers points out that this is actually the 2nd treatise on the subject by St. John of the Cross. The first, Ascent of Mount Carmel, deals with the first step in growing towards union with God, that of disciplining the senses. That path, though difficult, is a lot easier than the latter path. This treatise, Dark Night, will deal more with the soul’s passivity. Here, rather than dealing with the sensual world, and disciplining the soul, we are rather at a loss, and we must deal with the almost despair, once our senses have been tamed, of being in total darkness, unable of our own accord to break through, but waiting for God’s grace (and our realization of that) to pull us through. Lately, I’ve been reading William Roper’s Life of Sir Thomas More, and it seems that More largely lived his life in such a manner – always very disciplined in his desires and appetites, and ever enduring the difficulties of his latter life with some view to union beyond. It’s a wonder to see in someone else. I think too of the Dalai Lama, who seems to have such a quietness about him, and from that quietness comes truth.
There are two Passive Nights – the one of the senses which is common and many go through, but the second, more difficult, is the passive night of the spirit, which is “bitter and terrible,” “horrible and awful to the spirit.” This sounds a lot like what Mother Theresa supposedly endured (and that for about 50 years! Yipes!).
And then, I find, that he did not complete this treatise. What we have does not cover the entire poem, but leaves off about half way. There are no other manuscripts of the work than the dozen or so we have, some of which were copied from the saint’s own autograph (that original does not survive). He simply ended at a certain point and never returned to complete the work. That makes getting at any full sense of the saint’s aims difficult. So, as I understand it 1) this is book II, and best for those who’ve read book I, and 2) it doesn’t cover the whole topic, but only part of it. It’s not that I’m sorry to have chosen this to read and comment on, but it’s going to be tough. Well, acknowledging that, let’s do what we can and move on.