Juan de la Cruz - John of the Cross (1542–1591)

  • Mysticism of the dark night

    Juan de la Cruz helped and advised Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) in the ascetic reform order of the Barefoot Carmelites which she had founded. A close friendship and spiritual bond existed between Juan and the famous founder of the order who was twenty-seven years older than him.

    Juan's aim in life was the all-encompassing vision of God, which can be reached through contemplation. Contemplation is, for him, “… a loving and peaceful becoming-aware of God; an invigorating touch and visitation; a secret, peaceful and loving pouring in of God who sets the soul alight with the spirit of love.”

    Juan de la Cruzs' best-known poem “The Dark Night of the Soul” is among the pearls of Spanish literature. In the poem the mystic describes his personal fate (his daring escape from a prison cell) and links it with “love's urgent longings” for union with God. Night means for him the annihilation of the senses and the spirit, and its darkness stands for the entry of man into nothingness. This final step is the precondition for the experience of divine plenty: “Who wants Everything has to be prepared for Nothing”.

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    Audio: “Noche oscura” from Juan de la Cruz