Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
The sixteenth century Carmelite monk Juan de Yepes (canonized in 1726 as Saint John of the Cross) drew upon the long tradition of apophatic mysticism to chart the ascent of Mount Carmel, which is his image for the ascent of the soul to God. There is reason to believe that Saint John was familiar not only with the writings of the early apophatic mystic, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, but also such later ones as Eckhart and Ruysbroeck. Saint John, however, provides a precise, comprehensive, and elegant description of the way of unknowing that is missing in preceding texts.
Although the Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul appear as two volumes with different titles, they constitute a single treatise on one poem. The recommended order for reading them is:(1) Active purgation of the senses: Ascent, book 1 (2) Passive purgation of the senses: Dark Night, book 1 (3) Active purgation of the spirit: Ascent, books 2 and 3 (4) Passive purgation of the spirit: Dark Night, book 2
It is well to begin the “ascent” with chapter 5 of book 2 of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, wherein Saint John defines substantial union and mystical or transforming union. The former is natural union with God whereby the soul is able to exist; the latter is supernatural in that the transformation of the soul, whereby the will is brought into conformity with the will of God, is effected through grace....
(The entire section is 2056 words.)
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