Ascent of Mt. Carmel VI--Beginning of Book II


This is the part of the book that must be remarkably unpopular with the Thomists of the world--and which on the surface may seem to make no sense whatsoever. But that lack of sense is more a matter of misinterpretation and misrepresentation than it is a reality of the teaching of St. John of the Cross. And it does make sense when you pause to think about it.

It is important to bear in mind that St. John DOES NOT indicate that there is anything wrong or bad about intellect, mind, or study. But he does affirm quite clearly and with no possibility of demurral that there comes a point in the road to Union with God when this apparatus presents a far greater hurdle than it does a help. And it is at this point that it must be abandoned entirely. Not that we forget what we learned or refuse to use our minds, but rather that the insistence on answers, on knowing, and on having everything explained is abandoned in favor of the journey in "the Dark Night of Faith."

Ascent of Mount Carmel VI
Beginning of Book II

Read pages 154-162 (Chapter 1-4). St John of the Cross is beginning his discussion of the Dark Night of the Spirit. Book I dealt with the necessity of the Dark Night of the Senses. Each of the Dark Nights has two phases, one that we contribute to by effort of will, called the Active Dark Night and one that we do not do anything to contribute to, in which God acts as surgeon and doctor—the passive Dark Night.

Chapter 1
1. What is “the sheer grace” referred to in line 3 of the poem?
What is the secret ladder? Why does John use this image?
Why was the soul “disguised?” What effect does this have?
What does St. John mean by the last line of this section? Why is it important?

2. Why is the journey in darkness secure?
What is the darkness?
Why is “the house now all stilled?”
What is required of the soul to achieve a union of “simplicity and purity and love and likeness?”

3. Why is the darkness of stanza 2 darker than the Dark Night of Stanza 1? What does this indicate?

Chapter 2
1. Describe the three “parts” of the dark night. What does each consist of? What is the final arrival place?

2-3. What does the first night refer to? The second? Why is the second darker?

Chapter 3
1-2. Why is Faith a darkness? Read these two sections slowly, carefully, and several times. Explain them in your own words.
3. What does faith do in the soul?
4. Explain how the Dark Night of Faith gives the soul light.
5-6. Read these passages carefully. How does the dark night of faith give knowledge? How certain is that knowledge?

Chapter 4
1-2. Why must the soul “perfectly and voluntarily empty itself?”
3-4. How must the soul seek Union with God advance?
5. What does entering the road to union require of the soul? What do the many “modes” St. John refers to mean?
6. What should the soul’s desire and aim be?
7-8. Explain what St. John means when he says, “By blinding one’s faculties along this road one will see light. . . “ How will this happen?

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 6, 2003 8:31 AM.

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