Dark Night of the Soul

views updated


St. John of the Cross, taking the expression "dark night" from his poem of that name uses it as a literary figure of the journey toward divine union that he expounds in his works the Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul. He employs the term, according to his explicit testimony, as a metaphor, likening this journey to a dark night, and thus builds his systematic exposition of the development of the spiritual life upon this likeness. As night involves the privation of light, the journey to union entails the privation of everything contrary to perfect love of God. Through a synecdoche that has become common, however, he often calls the particular periods of passive purification "the dark night of the soul." But in the poem itself, the dark night, in the opinion of many commentators, is a symbol of the saint's mystical experience within the period of his ultimate purification, an experience that cannot be adequately expressed through concepts.

See Also: purification, spiritual.

[k. kavanaugh]