Dark Night of the Soul
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The autograph of the Dark Night, like that of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, is unknown to us: the second seems to have disappeared in the same period as the first. There are extant, however, as many as twelve early copies of the Dark Night, some of which, though none of them is as palaeographically accurate as the best copy of the Ascent, are very reliable; there is no trace in them of conscious adulteration of the original or of any kind of modification to fit the sense of any passage into a preconceived theory. We definitely prefer one of these copies to the others but we nowhere follow it so literally as to incorporate in our text its evident discrepancies from its original.

MS. 3,446. An early MS. in the clear masculine hand of an Andalusian: MS. 3,446 in the National Library, Madrid. Like many others, this MS. was transferred to the library from the Convento de San Hermenegildo at the time of the religious persecutions in the early nineteenth century; it had been presented to the Archives of the Reform by the Fathers of Los Remedios, Seville—a Carmelite house founded by P. Grecián in 1574. It has no title and a fragment from the Living Flame of Love is bound up with it.

This MS. has only two omissions of any length; these form part respectively of Book II, Chapters xix and xxiii, dealing with the Passive Night of the Spirit. It has many copyist’s errors. At the same time, its antiquity and origin, and the good faith of which it shows continual signs, give it, in our view, primacy over the other copies now to come under consideration. It must be made clear, nevertheless, that there is no extant copy of the Dark Night as trustworthy and as skilfully made as the Alcaudete MS. of the Ascent.

MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Toledo. Written in three hands, all early. Save for a few slips of the copyist, it agrees with the foregoing; a few of its errors have been corrected. It bears no title, but has a long sub-title which is in effect a partial summary of the argument.

MS. of the Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid. This famous convent, which was one of St. Teresa’s foundations, is very rich in Teresan autographs, and has also a number of important documents relating to St. John of the Cross, together with some copies of his works. That here described is written in a large, clear hand and probably dates from the end of the sixteenth century. It has a title similar to that of the last-named copy. With few exceptions it follows the other most important MSS.

MS. Alba de Tormes. What has been said of this in the introduction to the Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. 6–7) applies also to the Dark Night. It is complete, save for small omissions on the part of the amanuensis, the ‘Argument’ at the beginning of the poem, the verses themselves and a few lines from Book II, Chapter vii.

MS. 6,624. This copy is almost identical with the foregoing. It omits the ‘Argument’ and the poem itself but not the lines from Book II, Chapter vii.

MS. 8,795. This contains the Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle, Living Flame of Love, a number of poems by St. John of the Cross and the Spiritual Colloquies between Christ and the soul His Bride. It is written in various hands, all very early and some feminine. A note by P. Andrés de la Encarnación, on the reverse of the first folio, records that the copy was presented to the Archives of the Reform by the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Baeza. This convent was founded in 1589, two years before the Saint’s death, and the copy may well date from about this period. On the second folio comes the poem ‘I entered in—I knew not where.’ On the reverse of the third folio begins a kind of preface to the Dark Night, opening with the words: ‘Begin the stanzas by means of which a soul may occupy itself and become fervent in the love of God. It deals with the Dark Night and is divided into two books. The first treats of the purgation of sense, and the second of the spiritual purgation of man. It was written by P. Fr. Juan de la Cruz, Discalced Carmelite.’ On the next folio, a so-called ‘Preface: To the Reader’ begins: ‘As a beginning and an explanation of these two purgations of the Dark Night which are to be expounded hereafter, this chapter will show how narrow is the path that leads to eternal life and how completely detached and disencumbered must be those that are to enter thereby.’ This fundamental idea is developed for the space of two folios. There follows a sonnet on the Dark Night,1515[It contains a series of paradoxical statements, after the style of those in Ascent, Bk. I, chap. xiii, and is of no great literary merit. P. Silverio reproduces it in Spanish on p. 302 (note) of his first volume.] and immediately afterwards comes the text of the treatise.

The copy contains many errors, but its only omission is that of the last chapter. There is no trace in it of any attempt to modify its original; indeed, the very nature and number of the copyist’s errors are a testimony to his good faith.

MS. 12,658. A note by P. Andrés states that he acquired it in Madrid but has no more detailed recollection of its provenance. ‘The Dark Night,’ it adds, ‘begins on folio 43; our holy father is described simply as “the second friar of the new Reformation,”1616The ‘first friar’ would be P. Antonio de Jesús, who was senior to St. John of the Cross in the Carmelite Order, though not in the Reform. which is clear evidence of its antiquity.’

The Codex contains a number of opuscules, transcribed no doubt with a devotional aim by the copyist. Its epoch is probably the end of the sixteenth century; it is certainly earlier than the editions. There is no serious omission except that of six lines of the ‘Argument.’ The authors of the other works copied include St. Augustine, B. Juan de Ávila, P. Baltasar Álvarez and P. Tomás de Jesús.

The copies which remain to be described are all mutilated or abbreviated and can be disposed of briefly:

MS. 13,498. This copy omits less of the Dark Night than of the Ascent but few pages are without their omissions. In one place a meticulous pair of scissors has removed the lower half of a folio on which the Saint deals with spiritual luxury.

MS. of the Carmelite Friars of Toledo. Dates from early in the seventeenth century and has numerous omissions, especially in the chapters on the Passive Night of the Spirit. The date is given (in the same hand as that which copies the title) as 1618. This MS. also contains an opuscule by Suso and another entitled ‘Brief compendium of the most eminent Christian perfection of P. Fr. Juan de la Cruz.’

MS. 18,160. The copyist has treated the Dark Night little better than the Ascent; except from the first ten and the last three chapters, he omits freely.

MS. 12,411. Entitled by its copyist ’spiritual Compendium,’ this MS. contains several short works of devotion, including one by Ruysbroeck. Of St. John of the Cross’s works it copies the Spiritual Canticle as well as the Dark Night; the latter is headed: ’song of one soul alone.’ It also contains a number of poems, some of them by the Saint, and many passages from St. Teresa. It is in several hands, all of the seventeenth century. The copy of the Dark Night is most unsatisfactory; there are omissions and abbreviations everywhere.

M.S. of the Carmelite Nuns of Pamplona. This MS. also omits and abbreviates continually, especially in the chapters on the Passive Night of Sense, which are reduced to a mere skeleton.

Editio princeps. This is much more faithful to its original in the Dark Night than in the Ascent. Both the passages suppressed1717The longest of these are one of ten lines in Bk. I, chap. iv, [in the original] and those of Bk. II, chaps. vii, viii, xii, xiii, which vary from eleven to twenty-three lines. Bk. II, chap. xxiii, has also considerable modifications. and the interpolations1818The chief interpolation is in Bk. I, chap. x. are relatively few and unimportant. Modifications of phraseology are more frequent and alterations are also made with the aim of correcting hyperbaton. In the first book about thirty lines are suppressed; in the second, about ninety. All changes which are of any importance have been shown in the notes.

The present edition. We have given preference, as a general rule, to MS. 3,446, subjecting it, however, to a rigorous comparison with the other copies. Mention has already been made in the introduction to the Ascent (Image Books edition, pp. lxiii–lxvi) of certain apparent anomalies and a certain lack of uniformity in the Saint’s method of dividing his commentaries. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the Dark Night. Instead of dividing his treatise into books, each with its proper title, the Saint abandons this method and uses titles only occasionally. As this makes comprehension of his argument the more difficult, we have adopted the divisions which were introduced by P. Salablanca and have been copied by successive editors.

M. Baruzi (Bulletin Hispanique, 1922, Vol. xxiv, pp. 18–40) complains that this division weighs down the spiritual rhythm of the treatise and interrupts its movement. We do not agree. In any case, we greatly prefer the gain of clarity, even if the rhythm occasionally halts, to the other alternative—the constant halting of the understanding. We have, of course, indicated every place where the title is taken from the editio princeps and was not the work of the author.

The following abbreviations are adopted in the footnotes:

A = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Alba.

B = MS. 6,624 (National Library, Madrid).

Bz. = MS. 8,795 (N.L.M.).

C = MS. 13,498 (N.L.M.).

G = MS. 18,160 (N.L.M.).

H = MS. 3,446 (N.L.M.).

M = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Toledo.

Mtr. = MS. 12,658.

P = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Toledo.

V = MS. of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Valladolid.

E.p. = Editio princeps (1618).

MS. 12,411 and the MS. of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Pamplona are cited without abbreviations.

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