From St. John of the Cross to Us

Part II, Section 1: A LOST WORLD



The Tratado Breve

In the last chapter we spent considerable effort focusing on what John of the Cross meant by contemplation. It was unavoidable. It forms the indispensable background for our story which now begins to unfold and which vitally influenced the history of Christian mysticism and is still influencing it today.

The year is 1608. A fat devotional manual of over 1,000 pages has appeared – and this is only the first volume – called Arte de bien vivir by the Spanish Benedictine abbot Antonio Alvarado (1561-1617). Like many of the books of its time it bore a long title: The Art of Living Well and Guide to the Paths of Heaven by the Exercise of the Spiritual Life. These guides to living and dying were quite common, and this one would not have captured posterity’s attention except for the fact it included (Bk II, Chapters 39-48) a treatise known elsewhere as El Tratado breve or, in its full glory: A Brief Treatise of Affirmative and Negative Obscure Knowledge of God and the Way for the Soul to Unite Itself with God by Love. And it is this treatise which mentions for the first time in print an active or acquired contemplation that we can do ourselves. Indeed, it does more than mention it. It systematically develops the idea and does so in a language that is filled with resonances of John of the Cross. In fact, it could almost be called a veiled commentary on John’s transition from meditation to infused contemplation, but this time the outcome is an active contemplation.

The heart of the drama of the history of Christian mysticism in the 17th century lies precisely here. Did John of the Cross know and teach an active, or acquired, contemplation we can do ourselves in addition to his infused contemplation? And can we find that teaching in his major writings, or in some other work like this Tratado breve? In short, is John of the Cross the father of acquired contemplation and, indeed, the author of the Tratado breve? It is important that we grasp what is at stake here, for if we don’t, the tortuous twists and turns of the history we are now embarking on will lose their meaning. They need to be illuminated by the fundamental issue of just what John of the Cross meant by contemplation. If it is the infused contemplation, which his texts so clearly seem to indicate, we need to act accordingly in the life of prayer. But if he is also teaching a contemplation we can do ourselves, then how we act will be different. Confusion on this point can lead to disaster, as we will see.

Ironically, despite the battle over acquired contemplation that was to be fought throughout the length of the 17th century and the importance of the Tratado breve, it was not until the 18th century that the debate about acquired contemplation received a formulation that centered around the authorship of this treatise. Andrés de la Encarnación (1716-1795), the great Carmelite historian, was preparing a new edition of John’s writings, which would have been a major step toward a critical edition if it had ever been published. He had found in the archival trunk with three keys of the Discalced Friars of Toledo a manuscript of the Tratado breve bound together with a copy of St. John’s Dark Night, both written in the same hand and dated 1618. It had belonged to one of the friars, Pedro de San Angelo, and someone – perhaps the Carmelite Esteban de San José – had written on it, "Belonging to the Carmelite Fathers of Toledo."1

Andrés reasoned that Pedro de San Angelo, who had joined the Order in 1584, that is, seven years before the death of John of the Cross, would certainly have known if this manuscript was the work of John and would have crossed out John’s name on it. We can add that even if Pedro de San Angelo didn’t cross out John’s name, Esteban de San José, who was to play a highly visible role in the drama of those times, should have, as we shall see.

But Andrés had his doubts about the authenticity of this manuscript. There was something about its style and way of citing authorities, and even its use of the idea of acquired contemplation, that didn’t sound quite right. Yet, on the other hand, it was so reminiscent of John’s thought that he was going to include it in his edition of John’s works.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that the question was to come up again. Gerardo de San Juan de la Cruz was preparing his edition of John’s works which was to be the first critical style edition to see the light of day (1912-1914), and there he printed the Tratado breve as a probable work of St. John. Carmelite scholars began to circle the truth. In 1918, for example, Claudio de Jesús Crucificado thought that the Tratado breve reflected an oral tradition coming from John of the Cross, while a bit later the noted Carmelite scholar, Gabriel de Sainte-Marie-Magdeleine felt that Tomás de Jesús – one of the most talented and enigmatic figures in the second generation of Discalced Carmelite Friars – had only known St. John through the Tratado breve. Finally, Silverio de Santa Teresa, the great historian and General of the Discalced, who prepared the first truly critical edition of John’s writings, put to rest, once and for all, any attribution of the Tratado breve to St. John, a judgment that hasn’t been questioned since.

These early 20th century attempts to find the author of the Tratado breve did leave one clue that was not to be followed up for many years. Gerardo de San Juan de la Cruz, after he published his edition of John’s works, wrote to Claudio de Jesús Crucificado saying that he now believed that the author of the Tratado breve was Tomás de Jesús.2 The reason he had for saying this I don’t know. Perhaps he had stumbled on some then unknown manuscript in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, but whatever the reason was, it was going to prove to be a very shrewd insight, for it is around Tomás de Jesús that our story of the lost world of Carmelite mysticism revolves.

Tomás de Jesús

Díaz Sánchez Dávila, known in religion as Tomás de Jesús, was the son of Baltasar Dávila and Teresa Herrera, and had been born in Baeza in southern Spain in 1564.3 He was the third of five brothers of a well-connected family, and from his earliest years showed a precocious intellect, and he excelled in his studies at Baeza, finishing his course of study in the arts and theology before he left for Salamanca to study law in 1583. Legend has it that when he graduated with his Bachelor of Arts he was so small that it was necessary to add cork lifts to his shoes so he could sit in his chair at graduation.

In Salamanca, one of his teachers, Baltasar Céspedes, praised the writings of a Discalced sister. Tomás knew he was speaking of Teresa of Avila and went to the Discalced monastery in Salamanca and asked to borrow one of her writings, and was given a manuscript copy of her autobiography which had not yet been published. He took it to his house and tells us he was reading it for its style "because I was still at that time very much a distracted young man."4 He came by chance upon the passage where Teresa describes the four waters of the various stages of contemplative union, and after having read it, found himself in tears. He felt that God had given him the light to understand what favors God had prepared for those who follow Him. And without ever having even the first motion towards becoming a religious – on the contrary, having had many contrary motions, he tells us – that reading was so efficacious that within two weeks he had taken the Discalced habit.

Let’s try to read between the lines a bit here. How did Tomás know that it was Teresa his professor was talking about, and why would the Carmelites have lent him what would have been a valuable copy of a manuscript of her life? It is not likely he had simply come in off the street. He probably had had some kind of prior contact with the Order. In fact, it turns out that one of his friends and classmates was Fernando del Pulgar y Sandoval (1564-1646) who had been born in Granada and was a relative of Teresa of Avila. Fernando’s grandfather had won fame and fortune in the wars against the Moors by riding into hostile territory and nailing a placard with a Hail Mary on it to the door of the principle mosque of Granada.5 Fernando had arrived in Salamanca in 1585 and had made friends with Tomás and then joined the Carmelites in Valladolid on March 10, 1586 taking the name Francisco de Santa María. A month later Tomás followed him, taking the name Thomas out of his devotion to Thomas Aquinas.

This devotion to Thomas Aquinas is worth noting. The study of St. Thomas was coming into vogue among the Carmelites and they were going to insist on it in their general chapter of 1590.6 They would even insist that Francisco repeat his former studies so they would be in accord with the teaching of the Angelic Doctor.7 Later we will see that Tomás wanted to clarify mystical doctrine by using scholastic theology, and this use of St. Thomas by Tomás and Francisco Quiroga will have some unfortuate consequences.

So it is probable that Francisco’s departure had set the stage for Tomás’ decision, and for his reading of Teresa. It is also entirely possible that Tomás knew about Teresa through Francisco and might even have visited the Carmelites in Salamanca with him. Indeed, the chronicles of the Order tell us that Francisco was in the habit of visiting them.8

Tomás made his profession of vows at the hand of Jerónimo Gracián, the first provincial of the Reform, on April 4, 1587. Two weeks later a General Chapter was held at Valladolid in which John of the Cross took part. Did Tomás know John of the Cross at this time, or even before? We do know that Francisco who was charged with caring for the frail and sick Chapter members met John who brought tidings about Francisco to his family in Granada from this meeting .9

John had been sent to Baeza to found a Carmelite House of Studies at the University in June of 1579. He soon was a well-known and respected figure in the religious life of the town, active in spiritual direction, and he was to remain there for two years. It is entirely possible that Tomás, while studying theology at the University, had some knowledge of him. Baeza at that time was a town larger than Avila or Salamanca, but it still had only 25,000 people. However, how much attention Tomás as a young man in his mid-teens would have paid to John’s presence is another matter. But it is likely that he knew about him, and perhaps had even met him.

John of the Cross had been the Prior at the Carmelite House in Granada beginning in 1582, and he did much of his writing on his major prose works while he was there. Later a number of intriguing reports circulated about the presence there of a certain Tomás de Jesús. Baltasar de Jesús, who was a member of the house in Granada from October 1584 to May 1586, reported that a certain brother Thomas had been making a copy of the Spiritual Canticle. And in a deposition about John’s beatification given at Ubeda, Alfonso de Camles stated that he had seen the original Canticle, and also one in the hand of P. Fr. Thomas de Jesús.The same Baltasar de Jesús, in a deposition dated Feb. 12, 1628, reported that among the manuscripts he had read was "one of the Canticle that was written in the handwriting of Padre Fray Thomas Jesús, a novice who then was of the Convent of Granada and is now deceased." When Baltasar writes that Thomas is now deceased does he have in mind the death of our Tomás de Jesús some nine months earlier?10

Tomás had been a novice from April of 1586 to April of 1587, but that had been in Valladolid. Is it the same Tomás? It is possible, but there is, at this point, no way to know for sure. Tomás could have gone to Granada seeking a manuscript of John’s works, just as we have seen him do in Salamanca in regard to Teresa’s. He could even have gone there with Francisco de Santa María, who was from Granada, and all this could have taken place before, during or after Tomás’ novitiate. Tomás was no ordinary novice. Francisco received his subdiaconate in Granada and stayed with his parents and then received his diaconate in Córdoba. He met Tomás there who told him about an idea he had for a Carmelite desert, or special contemplative monastery.11 If this is true it shows how quickly Tomás was moving to try to live out his contemplative aspirations. Even during their novitiate they had been called on to do special writing projects. Why not a project copying the newly written Spiritual Canticle? But we really don’t have enough facts and are on shaky ground. Andrés de la Encarnación thinks that it was some other Tomás.12 It does, however, remain a fascinating possibility because of the very problematic relationship future scholars were going to see between Tomás and the various versions of the Spiritual Canticle.

If Tomás had been a precocious student, he now became a precocious Carmelite, and his rise in the Order was rapid. He spent two years as the Master of Students in Valladolid, and was ordained in 1589. He then spent two more years teaching theology in Seville. It was while he was in Seville that he did research on the hermits of old and the more solitary religious orders like the Camaldolese, and it was there that he had the inspiration – or tried to follow through on the inspiration he had earlier communicated to Francisco – that the Carmelites, themselves, should create desert monasteries. In these monasteries some of the friars would be permanently assigned, while others would stay a year or so, and all would give themselves to the life of prayer. He shared this inspiration with two of his pupils: his old friend Francisco de Santa María and Alonso de Jesús María. But when he presented it to Nicolás de Jesús María Doria (1539-1594), the General of the Order, Doria was unenthusiastic. The hot, humid climate of Seville bothered Tomás, and he was plagued with insomnia. His superiors reassigned him to the north to teach and be the Vice-Rector of the College of Saint Cyril at Alcalá de Henares.

One day, so the story goes, Juan de Jesús María Aravalles, the Rector of the college, entered Tomás’ cell and saw some papers pertaining to the desert monasteries, and encouraged him to pursue it. Tomás had another interview with Doria, who this time approved the project, and the first desert monastery was founded by Tomás and Alonso de Jesús María, who became its first superior at Bolarque near Pastrana on August 7, 1592.

In 1594, Tomás was named Prior of the Discalced Monastery of Zaragoza. Esteban de San José, who was a novice during Tomás’ stay in Zaragoza, and received profession at his hands, reports that Tomás made a good impression on the notable citizens of the town who, because of his youthful appearance, called him the "mozo sabio," or the wise boy.

In 1597, Tomás became the Provincial of Old Castille and very much on his mind was the foundation of a desert monastery for this province. With the experience of founding Bolarque behind him, he was determined to find a special place for this new desert. He and others commissioned by him scoured the province for a year without success. Then he heard that one of the friars was going up into the mountains to cut timbers, and he asked him to make inquiries. It was in this way that he discovered a sheltered little valley on the border between the provinces of Salamanca and Caceres along the Batuecas River. It was uninhabited except for an occasional shepherd, and mountains blocked the north wind to give it a more temperate climate.13

The first two religious that Tomás assigned to begin this monastery found this remote and uninhabited place not to their liking. Tomás then turned to Francisco de Santa María and two recently ordained priests, Gaspar del Santíssimo Sacramento and Juan del Espíritu Santo. They set out in March of 1599 and found a dilapidated hut with unplastered stone walls for which they made a roof of odd boards and branches. They were immediately met by a rainstorm that lasted for two weeks, so they could scarcely cook or stay dry, but even this failed to dampen their enthusiasm. They were on an adventure like the monks of old, or their own founders at Duruelo not that many years before. Tomás came a little while later and officially inaugurated the Santo Desierto de San José del Monte de las Batuecas, and construction began. There was to be a church in the center and separate cells with their own gardens near it, and all this was to be surrounded by a wall. In the outskirts hermitages were to be constructed, and around the whole of the desert another wall. Later a hole in a giant cork tree became one of the hermitages, and cork was used for doors and benches, and the mild climate allowed them to grow flowers and have an orchard. By 1602 the Desert was far enough along that strict rules of enclosure could be formally instituted. This solemn moment was initiated with a celebration which was a fine and final chance for the devout and curious from far and near to come and have a look.

Life in the Desert was given over to prayer and mortification. Quiet reigned, broken only by the chanting of the Divine Office by the friars living in their cells, and the bells of the chapel signalling to the hermits in the outskirts the time of prayer, and their bells answering in turn. Once every two weeks there was a conference on some spiritual subject, and an hour of socializing. Silence was broken only by the occasional cry of praise of a hermit, or the manual labor that was an integral part of the day. The brothers of Batuecas worked mightily to construct the outer wall, having to haul materials themselves to the inaccessible places the pack mules could not reach. This wall was seven kilometers long.

The monastery was the outer symbol and realization of Tomás’ initial inspiration that he had had while reading St. Teresa. He wanted nothing more than to be a contemplative, and so he worked to create the perfect setting for the contemplative life. He felt that here many of the hermits entered into supernatural contemplation in a short time.

The Preparation of St. John’s Writings for Publication

In 1600, rumors circulated that Tomás might be elected General of the Discalced, but he dissuaded his supporters and was given, instead, the high office of Definitor General and stationed at Las Batuecas. On Sept. 7, 1601, the Definitory met and gave Tomás and Juan de Jesús María Aravalles, both members of it, the task of preparing John of the Cross’ writings for publication.14 Why did it choose them? Perhaps it is not necessary to look any further than the fact that they were present at the meeting and both were active in a ministry of spiritual direction. Tomás was, of course, at Las Batuecas, guiding a community devoted to the contemplative life, and he had published in 1599 a Libro de la antigüedad y sanctos de la orden and Aravalles had been a novice master for the Discalced. Both of these men had known each other at Alcalá de Henares, and Aravalles had known John of the Cross. Did the Definitors realize that Tomás had a special interest in St. John’s writings, and therefore should be given this assignment? We don’t know.

In July, 1603, the Definitory declared John of the Cross the first of the Discalced, and gave Tomás permission, without mentioning Aravalles, to print his works. John was, as these things were reckoned in religious orders, the second friar of the Reform because the first place fell to the superior of the first house at Duruelo and older friar, Antonio de Jesús. This declaration making him the first of the Discalced was in all probability meant to pave the way for the publication of his writings.

Why was permission to publish them given to Tomás alone, and not to both Tomás and Aravalles? Had Aravalles disagreed with Tomás about the edition, or had he simply moved on to other things, or was it a job better suited to Tomás with his quiet time at Batuecas? Again we don’t know. But it does appear likely that this granting of permission indicates that considerable progress had been made in preparing John’s writings for publication. The question then immediately arises why weren’t they printed until fifteen years later in 1618? There are two parts to this answer. The first demands a consideration of the evidence concerning whether Tomás actually worked on this project. This certainly cannot be immediately taken as a given, especially when we remember that modern scholars like Gabriel de Sainte-Marie-Magdeleine, as we have seen, had wondered if Tomás had even known St. John’s writings. The second part of the answer revolves around why this edition was never published.

Tomas’ Edition of John of the Cross

It is here that the first of our modern detectives – scholars, the Discalced friar Simeón de la Sagrada Familia (Tomás-Fernández) appears. In Rome, in the general archives of the Order, he found a manuscript of St. John’s writings (ms. 328a) that had for the most part been ignored.15 It contained The Ascent – but lacked Book Three of it – The Dark Night, The Living Flame, but not the Spiritual Canticle, and Padre Simeón discovered it had been annotated by none other than Tomás de Jesús, himself. It bore an elaborate title page for The Ascent upon which Tomás had made a very revealing correction. The title page had read "composed by… Fray Juan de la Cruz who was the second who had been discalced…" Tomás crossed out "the second" and wrote "first". This was no whim on his part, but most probably reflects the Chapter decree of July, 1603, and means that the manuscript could have been part of Tomás’ actual preparation for the first edition, and can be dated to before then. Indeed, this was no ordinary copy of St. John’s writings, but someone with more than one manuscript before him had carefully incorporated different readings.

Tomás’ annotations on what appears to be part of his own work to prepare John of the Cross’ writings for publication give us a wonderful way to enter his mind during the first years he spent at Batuecas. He makes, for example, marginal lines in The Dark Night where John talks about the three major temptations of blasphemy, scruples and sexuality that stand on the road for those going from meditation to contemplation, and who, perhaps, are destined to reach higher states of union. The whole passage in St. John reads:

"An angel of Satan (2 Cor. 12:7), which is the spirit of fornication, is given to some to buffet their senses with strong and abominable temptations, and afflict their spirit with foul thoughts and very vivid images, which sometimes is a pain worse than death for them.

"At other times the blasphemous spirit is added; it commingles intolerable blasphemies with all their thoughts and ideas. Sometimes these blasphemies are strongly suggested to the imagination that the soul is almost made to pronounce them, which is a grave torment to it.

"Sometimes another loathsome spirit, which Isaias calls spiritus vertiginis (Is. 19:14), is sent to these souls, not for their downfall but to try them. This spirit so darkens the senses that it fills them with a thousand scruples and perplexities, and these seem so intricate to them that they can never be content with anything, nor can their judgment receive the support of any counsel or idea. This is one of the most burdensome goads and horrors of this night – very similar to what occurs in the spiritual night."16

Tomás also underlines a passage in the Ascent where John is describing the third and surest sign that shows that someone is ready to move from meditation to contemplation. In another place in The Dark Night he underlines the passage: "Pure faith is the means for the soul to unite itself to God." Elsewhere in The Dark Night he makes marginal lines and underlines a passage in which John is talking again about the three signs.

But it is another passage in The Dark Night that deals with how someone should act in the transitional phase from meditation to contemplation that captures most of his attention:

"The attitude necessary in the night of sense is to pay no attention to discursive meditation, since this is not the time for it. They should allow the soul to remain in rest and quietude, even though it may seem very obvious to them that they are doing nothing and wasting time, and even though they think this disinclination to think about anything is due to their laxity. Through patience and perseverance in prayer, they will be doing a great deal without activity on their part. All that is required of them here is freedom of soul, that they liberate themselves from the impediment and fatigue of ideas and thoughts and care not about thinking and meditating. They must be content simply with a loving and peaceful attentiveness to God, and live without the concern, without the effort, and without the desire to taste or feel Him. All these desires disquiet the soul and distract it from the peaceful quiet and sweet idleness of the contemplation which is being communicated to it."17

He makes lines in the margin, underlines, and makes marginal notes which unfortunately have been mutilated by the binder’s knife. The notes read: "How it is to be understood that they do not have to work any more. Here he speaks of the souls who have already exercised themselves in meditation and other acts of virtue that we have treated above, and he treats of when God makes them leave all these discourses, and then he says that they are in that rest, and so it would be madness before having exercised themselves in the first, and God taking them away from the images and discourses that they stop them without entering into that night (a line or more probably missing) including the act of understanding and will ...a notice with the eye of faith and…"

And at the end of the passage which he has underlined he writes: "it treats here of contemplation or mystical theology which is the most high."18

What can we make of these annotations? His interest in the passage about the three temptations probably points to similar events in his own experience and those of members of the Batuecas community. He even wrote a treatise on scruples which, unfortunately, is lost to us, and one of the early members of the Desert of San José was Sebastian de la Cruz recruited by Tomás, himself. Sebastian was so abstracted, we are told, that he forgot to eat, and he wandered about weeping, unable to keep in mind what he was supposed to do. He sometimes entered the cells of others thinking them to be his own. But he attended the acts of the community and was always praying. Once he came to his companion Juan del Espíritu Santo and told him that demons were persecuting him and wanted to drown him. He lived under a staircase and would not go out, and when he did go with the community he went wondering, "What tree is this? What hermitage is that?" And he was tormented by scruples and said to the friars who tried to help him, "Don’t tire yourselves, fathers, since all is great torment and darkness." At the end of his life he suffered from temptations against chastity and from the scruples connected to those temptations.19

Whatever could be said about all this, from a psychological point of view, it clearly shows the kind of experiences that Tomás would have to draw upon when he read John of the Cross on temptation, and I believe it was much the same situation when he read St. John’s three signs. Tomás had joined the Discalced in order to become a contemplative, and the passages he noted are precisely those that would attract the attention of someone who very much wanted to be a contemplative, for they deal with the vital question of the perceptibility of the beginning of contemplation, and the attitude of loving attentiveness to take up in regard to it.

By 1602, Tomás’ rapid ascent in the Order had peaked and begun to decline. He fell into conflict with the General of the Order, Francisco de la Madre de Dios, over a proposal to fuse the two provinces of Andalucía into one, which was something he objected to. Things hadn’t mended by the General Chapter of 1604, and Tomás left it without being named as one of the Definitors, and was sent back to Las Batuecas as Prior.

The beginning of May of 1607 finds Tomás recently appointed to be the Prior of Zaragoza. "A small office for such a great subject," writes Silverio de Santa Teresa in his chronicles of the Order.20 His relationships with the powers that be must not have significantly improved even though the new general of the Discalced was his former student and coworker in the founding of the Desert of Bolarque, Alonso de Jesús María.

There is a new development, as well, which had Tomás’ superiors known about it at the time, they would have been even less pleased with him. While Tomás had been at Las Batuecas, he had received a letter from Francisco del Santíssimo Sacramento, a Spanish Discalced friar who had gone on to work in Italy and was now recruiting Spanish talent for the Italian province, in which he asked Tomás whether he would like to come to Italy. Tomás, however, answered that he believed God was calling him to the life of a hermit. But Francisco persisted, and went to his fellow Carmelite in Rome, Pedro de la Madre de Dios, who was the preacher to Pope Paul V, and with the Pope’s backing they hatched a plan to appeal to Tomás to go to the abandoned Discalced missions in the Congo, and then off to see the King of Abysinnia, and search for the mysterious king of legend, Prester John. Once again, Tomás said no, though it is hard to imagine that he was not at least a little bit tempted, and he was certainly well aware that the leaders of the Spanish Discalced were dead set against any missionary activity, and that included Alonso de Jesús María.

But one day, Tomás tells us, while finishing Mass, he felt so great an interior change that while formerly he felt contrary to accepting this mission, now he found his will much moved and inclined to it. He made a vow dedicating himself to the missions, and unknown to his superiors, he accepted the mission to the Congo, and the Pope sent him a brief through the Papal Nuncio in Madrid instructing him to come to Rome. The vow that he took is interesting in itself for it mentions "our holy mother Teresa of Jesus" but not John of the Cross even though Tomás had been working on the edition of his writings.21 When word finally reached his superiors that Tomás was about to take off without their leave, they sent emissaries in the middle of November to Zaragoza to take him into custody. But he had slipped away in secular clothes, one account tells us, the day before they arrived.22

This caused an uproar in the Spanish province with some of the friars accusing him of gross disobedience springing from his wounded feelings when he had been passed over for high office, and the leaders of the Discalced in Spain instituted proceedings against him and vehemently opposed any mission to the Congo, and later to Tomás’ plans for a Carmelite congregation devoted to the missions. Tomás’ flight from Spain in November of 1607, however, marks the end of our need to analyze his life in detail. He was to go on to become a great founder of monasteries and convents in the north of Europe, but the first phase of his life was over.

The Failure of Tomás’ Edition of John of the Cross

Why, then, didn’t Tomás’ appointment bear fruit in the publication of St. John’s writings? Various explanations have been advanced: Tomás was, for example, too busy at Las Batuecas to carry out the task, or because of his disagreement with St. John’s doctrine he didn’t want to carry it out. But neither of these explanations holds up under scrutiny. Much more promising is the hypothesis advanced by another of our modern detective-scholars, the Carmelite historian, Eulogio Pacho.24 The effort to produce the first edition of John’s writings was in full motion between 1601 and 1603 or 1604, as we have seen, and apparently it ceased from 1607 to around 1613 when it once again went rapidly forward. What happened between 1607 and 1613?23

The leadership of the Discalced passed to Alonso de Jesús María (1565-1638). Alonso was of the school and temperament of Nicolás Doria, who had in the course of his struggle to impose his authoritarian rule on the Order, driven Jerome Gracián, its first Provincial, out of it, and had almost sent John of the Cross into exile. This could easily account for the delay in trying to publish John’s writings immediately after his death, and even up until 1601, when Tomás and Aravalles were appointed as joint editors of the first edition. The problems with his superiors that Tomás faced preceding his departure in 1607 could account for the failure of the first edition between 1604 and 1607. From as far back as the Chapter of 1602 Tomás had been in conflict with the General of the Order, Francisco de Madre de Dios, opposing a plan to combine the two provinces of Andalucía into one, as we saw. This is a struggle that Francisco de Santa María was to take up after him. This may have played a role in his failure to be reelected Definitor in 1604, and for some time prior to 1607 he was involved with his clandestine plans to leave Spain.24 From 1607 to 1613 there will be no attempt to present St. John’s writings to the world despite the fact that they were circulating widely in manuscript. It is easily possible that Alonso de Jesús María had no interest in such a project, and it wouldn’t have helped matters at all that the edition would have been the work of Tomás de Jesús. As soon as Alonso stepped down in 1613, the work on the first edition seems to have begun again, and culminated with its publication in 1618. In 1619 Alonso is again elected General of the Order, and though efforts are underway to have John’s writings condemned, the apologias, written to defend John’s writings by Francisco de Quiroga and Basilio Ponce de Leon, were never printed.

Even the failure to print St. John’s Spiritual Canticle, often ascribed to the fear the Discalced had of it being condemned, might have a link with Alonso de Jesús María. The book was dedicated to Ana de Jesús, later known as the rebel Prioress for her opposition to the attempts of Doria to change the constitutions under which the sisters lived. In this resistance she was joined by Gracián and John of the Cross, and so the Discalced authorities who printed the works in 1618 might have felt it prudent to omit the Spiritual Canticle as a form of appeasement to Alonso and his faction rather than print a work dedicated to Ana de Jesús. And Alonso did, indeed, come back into power in 1619-1625. Padre Pacho notes that the first edition gives the reader no reason to believe that the Spiritual Canticle even exists even though this was a well-known fact except for one very cryptic hint. In one of the woodcuts John is shown at an altar beside which there are four books. The titles of three of them are visible: The Ascent, The Dark Night, and The Living Flame of Love, but not the title of the fourth.25 It is also true, as we shall see, that Quiroga’s literary activity seems to cease, as well, between 1607 and 1613-14. Would Alonso de Jesús María have acted in such a manner? It is not at all unthinkable. Between 1607 and 1613 he had forty friars expelled from the Order and punished 97 more for grave faults. Some passed without permission to the Mercederians, and back in power between 1619 and 1625 he expelled 66 more, and punished another 67 for grave faults, all of which was far in excess of the behavior of the other generals of his time.26

Back to the Tratado Breve

We can now return to the Tratado breve that appeared in the Arte de bien vivir of Antonio Alvarado in 1608, as we have seen. This book contained, as part of its front matter, an approbation of it by Alvarado’s fellow Benedictine, Leandro de Granada, dated May 8, 1607. Leandro writes, "It appears to me that the author has taken flowers from the most useful spiritual books." Was the Tratado breve, itself, one of the flowers that Alvarado had collected? While the Tratado breve was making its way in some fashion or another to Alvarado, Tomás was in Pastrana about to be appointed Prior of Zaragoza, having already secretly committed himself to leaving Spain under circumstances that would make his return very difficult.

But if the Tratado breve belonged to Tomás, how did it make its way to Alvarado? Perhaps we need not look any further than Leandro de Granada, himself, for Leandro was well acquinted with Francsico de Santa María, as we will see. And it is entirely possible, therefore, that if Tomás was the author of the Tratado breve, and it had passed from him to his friend, Francisco, it could easily have gone on to Antonio Alvarado through the good offices of Leandro. If that were so, when Leandro spoke of the flowers that Alvarado had collected, he might have known exactly where the flower of the Tratado breve came from, and Alvarado, on his part, could have been privy to the information that Tomás was about to leave Spain, not to return, and so, in a certain sense,was leaving his treatise an orphan.

There is another link, as well, between Tomás and Leandro, and thus perhaps on to Alvarado. It is Diego de Yepes, Bishop of Taragona, and the second biographer of St. Teresa. On Nov. 15, 1603 he sent Leandro a very interesting letter about the joy he felt after receiving a copy of Leandro’s translation of St. Gertrude, for he, himself, had been translating it when he heard it was being printed in Salamanca. He was delighted with the translation and the annotations, and wrote:

"I have purchased an immense number of these volumes for the Discalced Carmelites and all who are earnestly desiring a more perfect life; and I would, were it possible, disseminate them throughout the entire world."27

Tomás knew Diego during his second time in Zaragoza. Perhaps they had been drawn together earlier by their mutual interests in the writings of St. Teresa and by their defense of them. In the Discalced archives in Rome there is a work written by Tomás but never published called, Apologia pro defensione doctrine B.M.N. Teresiae (387b, c) in which he defends her doctrine against the objections raised by "a modern author who up until now is unknown." This unknown author was the Dominican Juan de Lorençana who had complained to the Holy Office about Teresa’s writings. Diego de Yepes wrote him a letter about this matter on July 6, 1594 which he never answered, but Diego kept a copy of his own letter, and Tomás was apparently one of the people who the Carmelite superiors asked to respond to Lorençana’s objections.28

When Diego’s biography of Teresa was ready to be printed in Zaragoza, he could not be present, so he left it in the hands of Tomás to see it through the presses. Later, when certain passages in it were used to show that Teresa had approved of an active as well as a contemplative life for the Reform, Diego claimed that, unknown to himself, Tomás had altered it before printing. It is possible that such an alteration reflects Tomás’ own missionary conversion, but if Diego had not noticed these alterations immediately, or had tried to overlook them before they became subject to controversy, he may have still formed a link between Tomás and Leandro, and therefore to Alvarado.

But let’s return to our initial question. Just who came up with the idea of acquired contemplation that first saw the light of day in Antonio Alvarado’s book in 1608? Was it Tomás de Jesús? All through this chapter we have been accumulating bits and pieces of evidence that point to Tomás as the author of the notion of acquired contemplation, but they are circumstantial..

But what would be ideal would be to find a way to see what Tomás was thinking and teaching in the Desert of San José in those first years of the seventeenth century about John’s transition from meditation to contemplation. An impossible dream. Or is it?



  1. For the story of the Tratado breve see Simeón de la Sagrada Familia. "Gloria y Ocaso..."
  2. "Gloria y Ocaso" I, p. 200.
  3. See Miguel Angel Diez, "Thomas de Jésus" in the Dictionnaire de spiritualité (DS) and José de Jesús Crucificado, "El P. Tomás de Jesús..."
  4. "Essendo io scolaro in Salamanca, dice, sentendo dire al mro. che leggeua humanità chiamato il mro.Cespedes, che tra l’altri libri, che parlauano in lingua volgare castigliana pura e propria, era un libro di una monaca Discalza lodando assai il linguaggio di quel libro, Io sapendo che quella monaca era la Bta. Teresa, andai al conuento del nro. orde. a dimandare uno di questi libri, e mi fu dato un libro della sua uita, manu scritto, che ancora non era stampato, quale leggendolo io in casa mia, senza che guardar altro che il modo di parlare per essere io ancora di qual tempo giovane distratto assai, a sorte aprendo il libro nel cap. 18 della sua uita doue tratta dell’orazione per similitudine di 4o acque dopo hauer letto un poco do. libro, mi trouai tanto mutato che cominciai a piangere e mi par che subo. per mezzo di quel libro il Sigr. Iddio mi diede lume per poter conoscere efficacemente quanto sono grandi li beni, e fauori, che il Sigr. Iddio tiene preparato per quelli che le seranno; parendomi che mi si era scoperto un nouo Regno, et una noua ragione (sie) di luce, e verità, e con non hauer hauuto mai ne manco un primo moto d’esser Religioso, anzi molti contrari moti, fu tanto efficace quella lettione, che fra 15 giorni pigliai l’habito di questa Religione." in José de Jesús Crucificado, "El P. Tomás de Jesús..." I, note 3.
  5. Historia del Carmen Descalzo (HCD), X, p. 230.
  6. HCD, IX, p. 9.
  7. HCD, X, p. 236.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. "en el sumario Latino de la causa de la Beatif(icacio)n del S(an)to que se halla Alm(ario) 1 del Archivo, se dice que en el Proceso de Ubeda depuso D(o)n Alphonso de Camles: que vio el cantico original – y – tambien de mano del P(adre) Fr(ay) Thomas de Jesus," Andrés de la Encarnación, Memorias historiales, Vol. I, p. 83: Jean Krynen, Le Cantique Spirituel, p. 327, note 4.
  1. HCD, X, p. 237.
  2. Andrés de la Encarnación, Memorias historiales, Vol. I, pp. 90-91.
  3. HCD, VII, xxi.
  4. "en el Difinitorio >de Madrid< de 7 de Septiembre de 1601.= Item se determino que las obras del P(adre) fr(ay) Juan de la Cruz se Impriman y se cometio el Verlas, y aprovarlas al P(adre) fr(ay) Juan de Jesus Maria y al P(adre) fr(ay) Thomas Difinidores... En el Difinitorio de Madrid de 4 de Julio de 1603.= El mismo Dia se dio licencia al P(adre) Difinidor fr(ay) thomas para que pueda imprimir las obras del P(adre) fr(ay) Juan de la Cruz primero Religioso de N(uest)ra Recoleccion de Descalzos," Andrés de la Encarnación, Memorias historiales, Vol. I, p. 78.
  5. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia. "Un Nuevo Códice Manuscrito..."
  6. The Dark Night, 1, 14, 1-3. K. p. 328.
  7. The Dark Night, 1, 10, 4. K. p. 317.
  8. "(C)omo se entiende q no an de obrar nada. / (Aq)ui habla de las almas q ya se an exer / (citado) en meditaciones, y otros actos de vtudes / (de q) arriba auemos tratado, y trata de ellas / (qu)ando dios les quita todos estos arrimos y / (entô)zes dize q se estê en aquel otio, y asi / (seri)a locura antes de aberse exercitado en / (esto) primo y de quitar dios las imagines (y) arrimos, quitarselos uno y quedarse / (sin en)trar en esta noche / ................... / cluye acto de entendimo y volu(ntad...) / una advertêcia cô el ojo de la fe y (...)" Simeón de la Sagrada Familia. "Un Nuevo Códice Manuscrito..." pp. 130-131.
  9. HCD, VII, Chapter XXI, pp. 580ff.
  10. HCD, VIII, p. 580.
  11. Ibid. p. 579.
  12. Miguel Angel Diez, "Thomas de Jésus", DS, 835.
  13. Eulogio Pacho, El Cántico espiritual.
  14. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia. "Un Nuevo Códice Manuscrito..." p. 135, note 31.
  15. Eulogio Pacho, El Cántico espiritual, p. 54.
  16. HCD, IX, pp. 392ff.
  17. Mary Frances Clare, The Revelations of St. Gertrude, p. xxxiii. Diego, in the same letter, seems to make it clear that Leandro knew St. Teresa when he writes: "...Our holy mother, Teresa of Jesus, whom you so often consoled by your discourses." (p. xxxiv). This would only strengthen the link between Leandro and Francisco de Santa María who was related to Teresa.
  18. José de Jesús Crucificado, "El P. Tomás de Jesús...", I, note 57.



One day around the middle of this century Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, whom we met in Rome in the last chapter unearthing the manuscript copy of St. John’s writings annotated by Tomás de Jesús, was going through the Carmelite manuscripts in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. There was a remarkable collection of them. In 1835 the Carmelite Order had been suppressed by the government. The Discalced General at the time, Pedro de Carmelo, took refuge in Alcalá de Henares, and perhaps even brought with him some of the papers from the Order’s general archive at the Priory of San Hermenegildo in Madrid. He died there in 1850, and his successor, Juan de Santo Tomás, died there, as well, in 1880. But until 1913 the Discalced sisters of the city possessed an inventory book of the contents of the archive, which they then gave to Silverio de Santa Teresa. (1) Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, much of the archive disappeared. But luckily a good portion of it surfaced in the National Library in Madrid. (2) The damage of this loss was compounded by the loss, as well, of the archives of the Spanish Congregation’s archive in Rome of which nothing has surfaced save a few books in the library of the Teresianum.

In any event, Padre Simeón made a series of remarkable discoveries among these manuscripts that allow us to realize our dream of hearing what Tomás had to say about John of the Cross’ doctrine on the transition from meditation to contemplation. (3) He came across three unknown manuscripts that contain a treatise on prayer and contemplation by Tomás.

The first (ms. 12398) bore the title Tratado de oración y contemplación donde se trata, de los differentes caminos de contemplación, Poniendo Reglas y avisos para saber el camino de oración q. cada uno ha de elegir, dirigido a los del yermo de S.t Joseph del monte, de la Orden de los descalcos de nuestra Señora del Carmen. Por nro fr. Thomas de Jesús.The second (ms. 6873) bore almost the same title, but without the author’s name, and contained, as well, some other works by Tomás, and the third (ms. 8273) contained a partial copy of this treatise on contemplation.

So we have an unknown treatise by Tomás directed to his brother hermits at Las Batuecas, but Padre Simeón was not done. He discovered another manuscript (ms. 6533) called: Primera parte del camino espiritual de oración y contemplación. It bore no mention of an author on its title page, but someone had later scribbled on it: "Written by the very reverend father Discalced Carmelite Portuguese." And the same person had written on the preceding blank page: "The author of this book is the very Reverend Father José del Espíritu Santo, the Portuguese, who has written, as well, the Cadena mística Carmelitana printed in Madrid in the year 1678, and this manuscript has never been printed."

But Padre Simeón was not going to stop at surface appearances. The handwriting of the manuscript could easily belong, he felt, to the early part of the 17th century, and its citing of authorities did not include any of the Carmelite spiritual writers of the time of José del Espíritu Santo (1609-1674). The weighty author of the Cadena, or Chain of Carmelite Mysticism, would certainly have mentioned them. Further, the handwriting of whomever had written in the front of the manuscript was not to be identified with the handwriting of any of those who had written down the text, and the author of those scribbles was not a Spaniard, either, for when he had written "the manuscript had never been printed," it came out "nunca es stado" in place of the "estado" that would have been expected. Perhaps José del Espíritu Santo had had the manuscript in his possession when he was writing his Cadena Mística, and it had been found among his papers after his death, and therefore someone could have imagined it was his own work. But none of his biographers had ever listed it among his writings, and so, in this way, Padre Simeón began the long process that was to lead him to the conclusion that the author was none other than Tomás de Jesús.

The book was composed of a prologue and three parts, as the title page announced: "First Treatise of Prayer and its Parts; Second Treatise of the Three Ways, Purgative, Illuminative and Unitive, Where are to be found the Exercises of each one; Third Treatise on What is Contemplation and the Grades and Kinds of it and where is taught the most perfect mode of contemplation and the most fitting for each one according to his advantage."

Padre Simeón carefully examined each of these parts and compared it with Tomás’ known writings, as well as the new writings he had just discovered, and came to some very interesting conclusions:

The first part of the Camino espiritual naturally implies at least a second part. But this has never turned up in its original form. But what we have before us is part of Tomás’ original synthesis of his ideas on the spiritual life. Simeón called it "the first systematic spiritual Summa of the Discalced Carmelite School since those of the two holy founders and teachers." (4)

The substance of the hypothetical second part has come down to us in the form of two books that Tomás published in Latin in the 1620s: De contemplatione divina (1620) and Divinae orationis (1623).

The fundamental distinction that governs the division of the Camino espiritual into two parts is the difference between the ordinary prayer and acquired contemplation of the first part, and the infused prayer, which is the subject matter of the second part. What interests us most about the first part is Book III, which is devoted to acquired contemplation. When Padre Simeón compared it with the newly found treatise on prayer and contemplation, he discovered that Book III is nothing other than this treatise on prayer and contemplation, lightly retouched, to fit into this larger synthesis.

It turned out that Tomás’ treatise on contemplation had actually made a fleeting appearance in the world of print. In Liege, in 1675, a book appeared called Traité de la contemplacion divine. Particulièrement de celle qui avec la faveur du Ciel se peut acquérir pour notre travail. Composé par le R.P. Thomas de Jésus, Definiteur Général de l’Order des Carmes déchaussés. Et nouvellement mis en lumiere par les soins du R.P. Maurice de S. Matthieu, Religieus du même Ordre. This volume about a divine contemplation that we can do ourselves had become so scarce that Padre Simeón had had a copy made from the one possessed by the Discalced sisters of Antwerp. Its front matter indicated that it was being translated from the original Spanish for the first time, and when Simeón compared it to the Tratado de oración y contemplación, he found that it was the original Spanish source for the printed book.

Further, in the general archives of the Discalced Carmelites in Rome there was a fragment of a Latin manuscript ms. 333a2 with the title Liber secundus. De signis per quae cognosci potest via ad contemplationem magis proportionata iis qui incipiunt orationi vacare et quale sit illius exercitium continuandum usque ad supremum divinae contemplationis gradum written by a known secretary of Tomás and annotated by Tomás, himself. This turned out to be an adaptation from Tomás’ Treatise on Prayer and Contemplation. Still further, in 1922, Eugenio de San José had published another Latin manuscript of Tomás from the same archive under the title of De contemplatione acquisita. This manuscript later disappeared, (5) but Padre Simeón discovered that it was yet another adaptation of Tomás’ Tratado de oración y contemplación. And another book that had appeared in Brussels in 1886 called La Meilleure parte de la vie contemplative turned out to be still another adaptation of De contemplatione acquisita itself.

Padre Simeón finally solved the riddle of the Tratado breve, as well. It, too, had been extracted and adapted from either this original treatise on prayer and contemplation, or the form it had taken in Book III of the first part of the Camino espiritual. The Tratado breve exists in two versions. The first is the one used by Antonio Alvarado in his Arte de vivir bien in 1608. The second is to be found in the manuscript of the Carmelites of Toledo. Andrés de la Encarnación used this manuscript and referred to Alvarado’s book to make his copy of the Tratado, which is now in Burgos. The Burgos copy is apparently what Gerardo de San Juan de la Cruz used for his published version. Another copy of the Tratado breve is in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid (ms. 6895) and appears to be virtually identical with Gerardo’s. Both the Toledo manuscript and ms. 6895 were formally attributed to John of the Cross.

In the Carmelite Archives in Rome is a manuscript (ms. 334a) called Repertorium P.N. Thomae a Jesu in ord.e ad libros de et which is a massive collection of Tomás’ jottings, notes and outlines. It is like a workbook or writing journal which helped pave the way for his works on infused contemplation. But it also helped Padre Simeón in the complex task of figuring out when Tomás had written his treatise on contemplation and the first part of the Camino espiritual.

In the Repertorium Tomás discussed his plans for writing his works on infused contemplation, and he says that he has already written a work on acquired contemplation. The Repertorium reflects Tomás’ activities in Las Batuecas, and in the back of it there is a reference to a sermon that Tomás gave there on Christmas 1603, thus making it likely that his writings on acquired contemplation were earlier than that.

There is also other evidence that confirms this early date, for at least the treatise on contemplation, if not for its life as Book III of the first part of the Camino espiritual. One day Padre Simeón had been reading Andrés de la Encarnación’s manuscripts called Memorias historiales, which were the results of his own inquiries into the life and writings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, and he found a reference to a treatise on contemplation by Tomás that Andrés had seen in the General Archives. Andrés also said that he had seen another manuscript which also had a treatise on contemplation by Tomás, and this time in the handwriting of Esteban de San José who said he had helped write it down. (6) Indeed, it may have been clues of this sort that had sent Padre Simeón off to examine the Carmelite manuscripts in the Biblioteca Nacional in the first place.

He also discovered in the chronicles of the Order the testimony of Esteban de San José about helping Tomás write down his book on contemplation. Esteban thought that Tomás was writing about what was happening inside him. He tells us that Tomás would start to write, but made many errors, and then he would put his pen down, go off to pray either alone or with the community, and afterwards call Esteban again, and they would write for two or three hours without stopping or making a mistake. Incidentally, this gives us an insight into Tomás’ great productivity during these years. (7)

These events are recorded in the history of the Order that deals with the time prior to the General Chapter of 1604. Further, the Carmelite sisters of Pamplona have a manuscript which contains a few pages called Suma de la via unitiva by Tomás, and this turns out to be an adaptation of the second book of the first part of the Camino espiritual. This manuscript was copied by Magdalena de la Asunción in Barcelona before 1604. All this led Padre Simeón to place the date of the composition of Tomás’ treatise on contemplation, if not the whole of the first part of the Camino espiritual, between 1601 and 1604. It must have taken place at least before 1607 when Tomás left Spain.

The Camino espiritual appears to be fashioned out of treatises that Tomás composed earlier and adapted for this synthesis of the spiritual life. After he left Spain he published some parts of it that he had probably already written in Spanish and reworked, and adapted others and put them into Latin. Occasionally a piece of his voluminous output would go astray and appear under someone else’s name. We saw this in the case of the Tratado breve appearing in Alvarado’s book, but it was also true of his Tratado de oración mental which appeared in his name in 1610, together with his Suma y compendio de los grados de oración por donde sube un alma a la perfección y contemplación. In his Tratado de oración mental he writes, "... there are two kinds of mental prayer, the one supernatural and divine," which is a gift of God we cannot merit, but which ordinarily God gives to those who have devoted themselves to mortification, and the other "acquired prayer (oración acquisita) of which we will speak now." While Teresa spoke of supernatural prayer in her books, there is "another" kind of prayer which each of us with divine favor can and ought to achieve, (which is ordinarily called acquired), and this is what we now are going to deal with in this book. (8) And he tells us that this work on mental prayer had appeared years earlier under the name of someone already dead, and though he was happy to see it published so that it might be of some use, he was less happy with the errors it contained, and therefore he was now printing a corrected edition.

The Content of Tomás’ Treatise on Prayer and Contemplation

We will look at some passages from the Tratado de oración y contemplación, and Book III of the first part of the Camino espiritual, which is virtually equivalent to it, and at an interesting passage that appears in Alvarado’s version of the Tratado breve. In all this we have to keep our ears tuned to the resonances of John’s writings as well as the different meaning that Tomás gives to John’s understanding of the beginning of contemplation.

The Prologue of the Camino espiritual

The Prologue of the first part of the Camino espiritual reads:

"The principle intention of this book, devout reader, is to instruct and to guide souls from the first day’s journey and the beginnings of prayer and mortification until the end of this spiritual path… and so this whole work has for its principle matter to treat of the three ways which are commonly called purgative, which is that of beginners, illuminative, which is that of the progressives, and unitive, which is that of those who are already perfect." (9)

"That which has principally moved me to make this treatise is the great necessity that I have experienced in many souls who have started well the path of prayer, but not having a master to help them and to give them light, either don’t advance or if they go forward it is with great work and difficulty." (10)

These sentiments are certainly familiar to anyone who has read the Prologues to St. John’s Ascent or Spiritual Canticle, and Tomás goes on to refine his focus: "I have known some people… in great ignorance so that sometimes it appeared to some of them that there was no prayer but meditation. Others, having advanced to contemplation, but thinking in the same way, were attempting to flee from it as from something impertinent and return to their discourses. There were others who had a very quiet contemplation with a great silence of the faculties, and it appeared to them – because they didn’t understand it – that this peace and rest of the soul was melancholy. And there were not lacking those who were having a very supernatural contemplation with great ease and quiet of the soul, but who were ready to leave this kind of prayer because they were persuaded that God was not taking them along this road, and it would be better to occupy themselves in the works of the active life." (11)

It is entirely possible that Tomás is talking about his brothers at Las Batuecas to whom he dedicated this work. In fact, later in the Camino espiritual he will refer to conversations he had with two members of the Order. One of them told him that he had kept his soul like a greased wall (pared ensebada) so that images would never stick to it, but rather, slide off and fall away. Another had seen a boat with people sink, and the demons had made war against him so that he could not forget it. When Tomás asked him why such a thing should matter so much, he replied, "Oh, Padre!" and went on to explain that anything held in the memory like this was a great impediment to going on. (12) This story reminds us of Sebastián de la Cruz whom we saw wandering around Las Batuecas, and it may actually refer to him.

Tomás is going to propose a solution to the problems that cluster around the beginning of the contemplative life, and he tells us that he will do so in simple Spanish and with the help of scholastic theology, and thus make up for a lack of proper advice about these matters even among people who should know better, like novice masters.

What is Tomás’ solution? It is to divide the Camino espiritual into two parts. The second part is to be devoted to infused contemplation and to be written later. And the first part to another kind of contemplation which "we can and ought to attempt to attain with our own efforts and work…. which we can (podemos) call acquired prayer." Without trying to read too much into this "podemos," it is worth noting that Tomás says "we can call" rather than something like "which is called," and this just might be an indication that he is naming this kind of prayer himself. (13)

Alvarado’s Tratado breve

The first chapter of the two versions of the Tratado breve does not correspond with Tomás’ treatise on prayer and contemplation. Yet when we look at it, especially in Alvarado’s longer version, Book II, Chapter XXXVIII, its content makes it very unlikely that it was invented by Alvarado. (14) Quite possibly it gives us Tomás’ thought, either directly, or filtered through some editor. It certainly does give us what people after 1608 read about acquired contemplation: "The means of the unitive life consist in an intellectual contemplation which Dionysius the Carthusian defined in this way: "Contemplation is an affective prompt and simple knowledge of God or of his effects." " The author of this chapter cites St. Thomas to this effect, and goes on to say that philosophy teaches us that our human intellect has two ways of understanding things: "The first is by deducing and drawing conclusions out of their principles, inferring some things from others, and insofar as our understanding works in this way, it is called rational and discursive." (15) The second mode of understanding things is by a simple apprehension and sight of them which is called "simple intelligence" and is a more perfect way of knowing and, indeed, is like the way angels understand. In a similar way, the will has two ways of loving. The first is based on discursive activity, and in it the will can freely consent, or not consent, to the conclusion the intellect arrives at. The second way is based on this simple intelligence, and here the will necessarily loves what is proposed to it "as good absolutely."

Meditation is based on the discursive intellect, and it is "difficult to hold the attention fixed and quiet on one thing," or to "abstract and disencumber the substance of the thing that is meditated on from its accidents and material circumstances." But when the intellect acts in this second manner, that is, in a simple way, this is what is called contemplation, and it has many advantages over meditation "because without any difficulty from thoughts which don’t enter here and without the necessity of abstracting and dematerializing the object, which is already abstracted and spiritualized, the intellect sees with much clarity the truths of the object that it is gazing at…" (16)

This kind of contemplation can happen both naturally and supernaturally. In supernatural contemplation God "elevates and moves the soul by a supernatural motion so that the soul knows by this way of simple intelligence." Our author goes on to talk of four kinds of light by which the intellect can know divine things. The first three are the natural light of the intellect, the supernatural light of faith, which is connected to the gift of wisdom and supernatural contemplation, and the light of glory of the blessed in heaven. The fourth light, however, is an "illumination that God communicates to a soul for a brief time in order for it to know some supernatural mysteries with more clarity than that of the light of faith…" (17)

This last passage touches on two themes that are important in understanding Tomás’ ideas on contemplation. For John of the Cross, faith is the only proximate means of union with God, but for Tomás, there is a higher light. Further, St. Thomas certainly knew of a distinction between what can be called ratio, or discursive activity, and intellectus, which is what we could call intuition or intuitive insight. But he realized that they were two interconnected dimensions of the human intellect. It is precisely because they go hand in hand that we have a human intellect and not an angelic one. We said that for St. John meditation embraced all the natural working of the faculties, and therefore it encompassed both reasoning and intuitive insight, as well. It did not and would not occur to him to try to separate intuition from reasoning, and to base a contemplation on the former without the support of the latter. The intuitive insight we receive in meditation is the result of reasoning, and while it can play a more dominant role as prayer simplifies, it is born out of the use of our faculties and cannot go off and live a life of its own.

Tratado de oración y contemplación

Chapter 2 of both versions of the Tratado breve is close to what we find in Tomás’ original treatise on contemplation (ms. 12398) from which the following passages come:

"Of the two kinds of knowledge that we can have of God in this life on which are founded two paths of contemplation." (18)

"In order to better declare the different kinds and paths that there are of contemplation, we have to first suppose, as St. Dionysius teaches, (On the Divine Names, Chapter 1) that there are two paths by which we can come to know God. One is by affirmation, which is when we attribute and posit in God all those things that are of perfection and of excellence in creatures. And so we consider God infinitely wise, powerful, good, perfect, and place in Him all the rest of the things that we see of perfection in created things. And so this knowledge is a going up from the perfection of the effects to those of the cause. Another knowledge is by way of negation when we take our eyes away from the perfections of all creatures and considering them all as inferior to God, Himself, and lift our eyes to contemplate God as a being so incomprehensible and so above all that which can be imagined that we do not find a created name that can encompass Him. In this way we know God not as substance, goodness, wisdom, or mercy, because by this path we take away from God whatever kind of attribute or perfection that we are able to attain. For this reason it is called knowledge by negation, or remotion, as St. Thomas teaches, because we negate of God all that which by the way of affirmation we attributed to Him. And so we say that God is not being because he is more than being…" (19)

Tomás goes on to tell us that this is a higher and more perfect way of knowing God, and that on the foundation of these two kinds of knowledge are raised two kinds of contemplation, the affirmative and the negative. He describes various kinds of affirmative contemplation, but what most interested him was negative contemplation:

"The second kind of contemplation is that which is founded on an obscure and negative knowledge of God. In this knowledge is exercised a high and excellent grade of contemplation which is when our understanding raises itself to know God, and not finding any foothold in His being and perfection, is submerged in the abyss of that darkness of His incomprehensibility and immensity. In this kind of contemplation the soul feels God in a most lofty manner because it lifts itself above all that is sensible, imaginable or intelligible, that is, above all that it can sense, imagine or understand. And so it forms an inestimable concept and an ineffable esteem for what God is. This moves and inflames the will and absorbs it in the incomprehensibility of God…" (20)

"The practice of this contemplation – in order that its exercise would be easier and for all – is in this manner. The soul, placed in prayer, ought to exercise itself in this or in another kind of contemplation… after it is habituated to know God by particular kinds of knowledge and is exercised in the contemplation of the attributes and divine perfections (because as St. Bonaventure says very well, this negative knowledge of God presupposes the affirmative and includes it) it raises itself to God saying interiorly, "God bless me! God is more than being, more than substance, more than goodness, more than wisdom, more than everything we can understand; then what is God? God bless me! What will be this God who is so great?" And searching here for what He is, it finds nothing that is comparable to God. It finds itself placed in an abyss where it looses its footing, grows weak, and is submerged, and the will is enkindled and is inflamed, and the affect holds vigil, although the understanding shuts itself off; and the soul loves what it does not know with particular and distinct knowledge." (21)

This, according to Tomás, is what is called mystical theology. What Tomás is proposing is a philosophical negative contemplation of God that becomes the basis for a type of prayer which everyone can do if they apply themselves. There is certainly nothing wrong with this in itself, but very real and important problems arise if it is identified with John of the Cross’ beginning of contemplation.

At the beginning of Book II of this treatise on prayer and contemplation Tomás leaves just that impression by applying to acquired contemplation signs similar to those John had used to discuss the beginning of infused contemplation. The heading of this chapter reads (ms. 12398): "On the signs that ought to be had in order to discover when a soul is ready to pass to contemplation." (22)

"In the first book we have already said that every prayer and meditation ought to stop in contemplation…" For those who have already exercised themselves in discourse and reasoning "it is not necessary to return to them, but with a simple gaze look upon the conclusions that have been drawn out before." (23) This language is reminiscent of the author of the first chapter of Alvarado’s Tratado who, as I said before, is probably Tomás, himself. Tomás goes on to compare this way of praying to a child learning to read. First the child must work hard by focusing on individual letters, but later he or she can read without difficulty with a simple gaze. At this point Tomás explicitly tells us he is not dealing with those raised to the supernatural infused contemplation that St. Teresa described, but rather those "who are now seasoned to go out from the swaddling clothes of meditation and take contemplation for their ordinary exercise." (24) This is an extremely important admission. It is so easy for us, having grown accustomed to St. John’s language, to read passages from Tomás and mentally transpose them into St. John’s categories. This is all the more true since Tomás is often using John’s language. But we have to take Tomás at his word; his is a contemplation that we can do when we will and it is not John’s infused contemplation.

Tomás will now go on to give both remote and proximate rules for passing from meditation to this "habitual contemplation." The first sign deals with the exercise of the purgative and illuminative ways, which Tomás equates with the spiritual exercises of repentance, self-denial, obedience, etc. How long does this stage last before someone passes to the unitive way, or contemplation? There are no hard and fast rules, Tomás tells us, "but to speak of what ordinarily happens it can be well hoped that for a novice who has during the whole year of his novitiate exercised himself with care and humility in the practice of the purgative and illuminative ways will be well enough seasoned in order to aspire to the exercise of contemplation." (25)

Another of these signs that carries particular weight runs like this: "When a soul at the beginning of its conversion has been praying by means of discourse and meditation, and then the door of discourse is closed so that now it cannot meditate or reason no matter what effort it makes…" this is a "certain sign... that God is either giving it infused contemplation, even though it does not perceive or understand it, or that God wants it with its industry and work to go up to contemplation," i.e., exercise the acquired contemplation that Tomás is talking about. "And for this (purpose) God closes that door and places it as if it is within four walls" so it can now exercise itself in contemplation. (26)

"The reason for this is God is always trying to bring souls to perfection, and those we are talking about for their part are trying according to their weakness to exercise themselves in meditation, and the exercise of virtues. Supposing that our Lord now takes away from them discourse which is the means by which the soul enkindles the light in the understanding and fire in the will, and how it is moved to contrition for its sins and exercises the virtues, it is certain that God does not take away discourse in order that the soul would remain crippled and without protection, but acts like a master with a child having before made the child decipher each letter, and now advances it to reading a book, or like a pious mother who takes away her milk from her child and gives it more solid and appropriate food for its age." (27)

The echoes of John of the Cross are quite clear here, but Tomás has changed the whole context of John’s first sign. It can now lead to infused contemplation or acquired contemplation. He goes on to give John’s second sign. This inability to meditate cannot be "born of lukewarmness or negligence or aversion and boredom with the exercise of prayer or too many occupations and affairs." Nor can it stem from melancholy. Tomás tells us he is only talking about those who have exercised themselves in prayer and diligence in the purgative and illuminative ways. This loss of the ability to meditate can happen suddenly, or little by little, and some of those to whom it happens "God brings them to affirmative contemplation, others to passive purgation…, and at other times they, themselves, dispose themselves and enter into contemplation, choosing that which either their teachers instruct them in, or that which God interiorly moves them to." (28)

When those who are going by the way of discourse sometimes stop because of the light and admiration they feel at seeing some truth this, to Tomás’ mind, is another sign that the door of contemplation is open, and it would be a great error for them to go back to their discourses. Their spiritual masters ought to set them on the road of the exercise of contemplation because God is clearly calling them to it. This stopping and quieting can happen in two ways. One leads to affirmative contemplation, but in the other, sometimes at the beginning of prayer, or even before the soul begins to use discourse, or think of anything, "it finds itself in a great peace and quiet without then knowing anything in particular about God, nor understanding what it loves, nor how, and sometimes it does not perceive if the will loves. Only without thinking anything it feels great peace and quiet. This is very fine contemplation, and as we will declare in the following chapter, is mystical theology, and so to whomever this happens, that person should not now meditate, but wait for the divine operation and dispose itself in order that the Lord might work in it this kind of contemplation with the means that we will declare further on." (29)

This is Tomás’ version of John’s third and most important sign which, for St. John, is nothing other than the experience of infused contemplation beginning to make itself felt. For Tomás it is a sign that it is time to practice acquired contemplation.

Camino espiritual

Book 2, Chapter 11 in the Camino espiritual that was also taken up in the various versions of the Tratado breve gives Tomás’ idea about how to practice this negative contemplation. It is called: "How the disencumbered understanding has to travel by lively faith in this contemplation of mystical theology and what is that which we call general and confused knowledge of God (noticia general y confusa)." (30)

"Supposing that the understanding has to disencumber and purge itself of all particular kinds of knowledge and apprehensions, it necessarily follows that it raises itself above itself by means of the light of faith, and it travels in this way empty of all that can fall under the senses and its proper forms, drawing near to faith which alone is (the most proximate and proportionate means for this) obscure and pure contemplation than any other apprehension of the understanding, and so it is fitting that the understanding is blind to all its proper knowledge and is founded on faith taking it for its guide and light, not wanting to know or feel or experience anything, contenting itself with pure and disencumbered faith because truly insofar as faith is more pure and simple and disencumbered of all its proper knowledge, to that degree it is excellent and meritorious." (31)

This passage is somewhat mutilated in the manuscript of the Camino espiritual and the better reading in the parenthesis comes from ms. 6873. (32)

Tomás goes on to cite St. Paul that we have to believe in the being of God "which is incomprehensible, unnamable and beyond the reach of the intellect."

"From this it follows that by means of this knowledge by faith that we are now treating of, the soul is not able to form any particular kind of knowledge of God because now we have to disencumber ourselves of all the acts and apprehensions of the understanding, save for a general and negative knowledge (noticia general y negativa) of God. It is fitting to realize that God is not this or that, but rather, a being above all that which we are able to understand, and this is what we call general knowledge, and knowledge of God by negation, and the soul goes to contemplation founded and supported only on this knowledge, and empty of all the other kinds of knowledge, tastes and feelings. This is called travelling by faith… It is like a blind person if you were to tell him about colors. However much you would tell him, he would not succeed in understanding what color is.

"It remains now to declare, therefore, how from this faith is born this quiet and pure contemplation – which is the same as we are accustomed to call this general and loving view of God – from which it should be noted there are two ways by means of faith for this contemplation to be acquired. One is when the soul, after having been exercised in the purgative and illuminative ways, and realizing that God is incomprehensible, begins to exercise itself in these anagogical acts until little by little it comes to acquire a habit of contemplation which consists in habitual, loving, quiet and tranquil knowledge of God, Himself (una habitual noticia amorosa quieta y pacífica), and this habit is born from the anagogical acts which the soul does because each act is no more than a burning desire of love to unite itself with this God Whom it knows by faith.

"The second manner is when the soul exercised in affirmative contemplation rises up from here to the knowledge of faith that we are now treating of, which is the same as knowledge by negation, or general knowledge of God (conocimiento por negación o conocimiento general de Dios) and exercises it, together with an ardent desire to penetrate and unite itself with God in such a way that when this general and confused knowledge (noticia general y confusa) that by means of faith we have of God is exercised habitually, together with love, it comes to be the contemplation of mystical theology and is called virtual, general and loving knowledge of God (virtuosa noticia general y amorosa de Dios); others call it loving advertence of God (advertencia amorosa de Dios). (33)

"From what we have said, first of all, it is clear that this knowledge is born of faith and is no more than a knowledge of faith by which we know God as incomprehensible. And so it is a habit of contemplation of the incomprehensibility of God and the divine darkness. In this way from the anagogical acts exercised in regard to God – that is, the lively and burning desires of the soul to unite itself to God whom it knows by faith – will be born this habit and general knowledge which we call contemplation. For contemplation is nothing other than a loving gaze at the truth, and so it is this knowledge, accompanied with the acts of the will, as we have said, and by it we know the truth of the incomprehensibility of God and we burn in His love, and so it is properly contemplation of mystical theology, which is, as is said, a most burning and loving view of the incomprehensibility of God, and because it is of the incomprehensibility of God, it is not formed by any particular kind of knowledge of the understanding, so is called general and confused knowledge, and it has many other names, as we have declared many times. Particularly this knowledge is called quiet and tranquil knowledge because it is the end and goal of all the anagogical acts, and the term of the movement where rest and quiet are naturally found..." (34)

This is "a loving and quiet contemplation, which is exercised in such pure spirit that many times the soul does not feel the operation of the understanding. And it is not much because here it doesn’t have a grasp of a particular thing, and it is so subtle and delicate as to be almost imperceptible (imperceptible)… and in other people even the operation of the will, itself, is not felt and the cause is that as the faculties are so saturated and absorbed, they don’t give room to the understanding in order to reflect and comprehend what is happening in the will. And for this reason some spiritual writers have called it mystical theology and unknowing and ease of the faculties.

"Although at the beginning the soul enters with work into this contemplation because of the necessity of much disencumbering of the faculties and the continual exercise of anagogical movements, afterwards it finds itself with such facility of entering within itself and quieting itself in God that every time it wants it finds itself in this contemplation (que todas las veces que quiere se halla en esta contemplación)… Yet with the force of love and of the exercise by means of the habitual knowledge of faith, without averting or reflecting whether God is incomprehensible nor about any other thing, hardly with any knowledge that it is able to avert to, it enters into that abyss of darkness, rests and is quiet in it, exercising love more than knowledge." (35)

If by now we have begun to wonder once again if Tomás is talking about infused contemplation after all, he tells us explicitly that the effects of this contemplation are experienced differently by beginners and the advanced, and those who exercise this contemplation actively, and those who are supernaturally introduced into it. We can know if someone is in this contemplation whenever the soul feels inside itself "this quietness and loving inclination towards God, "and although at that time it doesn’t know what it loves or how," it is a certain sign that it has begun to taste of this wisdom." (36)

The language is John of the Cross’, but the structure of the thought belongs to Tomás. When Tomás says, "others call it loving advertence to God" who else does he mean but St. John? But for Tomás this loving advertence is no longer a receptivity to the beginning of infused contemplation, but a separate activity which gives rise to an acquired contemplation.
Tomás has been reading the 14th chapter of Book 2 of the Ascent in which St. John describes reasons why a person can give up meditation and go on to contemplation: "The second reason is that he has now acquired the substantial and habitual spirit of meditation. It should be known that the purpose of discursive meditation on divine subjects is the acquisition of some knowledge and love of God. Each time a person through meditation procures some of this knowledge and love, he does so by an act. Many acts, in no matter what area, will engender a habit. Similarly, the repetition of many particular acts of this loving knowledge becomes so continuous that a habit is formed in the soul. God, too, effects this habit in many souls, without the precedence of at least many of these acts as means, by placing them at once in contemplation." (37)

Tomás interprets this passage as one of the ways by which this contemplation can be acquired by faith. "One way is when the soul, having been exercised in the purgative and illuminative ways, realizing that God is incomprehensible, begins to exercise these anagogical acts until little by little it comes to acquire a habit of contemplation." (38) Nowhere in this passage of St. John’s does he say that the soul by its own acts comes to acquire a habit of infused contemplation. The whole context of this passage in the Ascent is the actual transition to infused contemplation, which would certainly not be so mysterious if it were simply the outcome of the soul’s own activity. It is a transition from one order of prayer to another, even if we attain a facility, and in this sense a habit of loving knowledge as the fruit of meditation. This habit is very different from the loving knowledge that St. John is talking about, so St. John writes: "What the soul, therefore, was periodically acquiring through the labor of meditation on particular ideas has now, as we said, been converted into the habitual and substantial, general and loving knowledge. This knowledge is neither distinct nor particular, as the previous. Accordingly, the moment prayer begins, the soul, as one with a store of water, drinks peaceably, without the labor and the need of fetching the water through the channels of past considerations, forms, and figures. At the moment it recollects itself in the presence of God, it enters upon an act of general, loving, peaceful, and tranquil knowledge, drinking wisdom and love and delight." (39)

The reference to St. Teresa’s prayer of quiet is unmistakable, and it would dismember St. John’s thought to force this text into a statement of acquired contemplation. Then St. John would be saying that the past considerations, forms, and figures are the very efficacious means of arriving at this contemplation, and this is precisely what he is not saying. Tomás, driven by the dilemma of the dark night of sense, is compelled, unconsciously no doubt, to widen St. John’s solution to the night of sense, which is infused contemplation, to include an acquired contemplation, and in that way solve this pressing problem in the spiritual life. But we have already seen how St. John insists on the passivity of the faculties of the soul instead of their activity. His loving attentiveness is the reception of the infusion of contemplation, not an active exercise by which we attempt to acquire contemplation. Because Tomás insists that there is an acquired contemplation, he cannot understand St. John’s working of the faculties or meditation in the complete sense that it has in St. John’s writings. By the very logic of his position he has to find an activity of the soul that is beyond discourse and meditation, which is his intuition. For St. John the imperceptibility of contemplation was rooted in the newness of infused contemplation, and ought to give way to an actual experience of the presence of God. In Tomás imperceptibility begins to take a life of its own.

Finally, acquired contemplation, which in Tomás’ schema of the various degress of contemplation, ought to lead to infused contemplation, is already gathering momentum so that it begins to act like a parallel way to St. John’s infused contemplation. In short, Tomás invents a doctrine of acquired contemplation which is born out of his study of John of the Cross, and this doctrine contains the seeds of a misunderstanding that will blossom throughout the century.

The Creation of Acquired Contemplation

We have seen Tomás de Jesús writing his Tratado de oración y contemplación in Las Batuecas sometime before 1604, and thus creating the idea of acquired contemplation as an indirect commentary on John of the Cross’ teaching on the transition from meditation to infused contemplation. What we need to do now is to grasp in a deeper way why he did this.

It is here that the third of our modern detective-scholars appears on the scene. It is Jean Krynen who stirred the world of Carmelite scholarship in 1948 with his book, Le Cantique Spirituel de Saint Jean de la Croix commente et refondu au XVII siecle. This book was another shot in the long-running battle that had started in the 1920s over whether John was the author of the second version of the Spiritual Canticle. It was Krynen’s contention that someone had used the commentaries of Augustín Antolínez on John’s poems to create a second redaction of the Canticle that better reflected his own ideas on contemplation, and this someone was none other than Tomás de Jesús, himself. This was vigorously disputed by many Carmelites, and has little to do with our story except that the controversies that ensued managed to throw up various facts that greatly increased our knowledge about the relationship between Tomás de Jesús and Juan de la Cruz.

One of the things that Jean Krynen’s research helped bring to light was the book we saw before by Leandro de Granada that had appeared in 1601 called Insinuación de la divina piedad, which was a Spanish edition of the first part of the revelations of St. Gertrude, together with commentaries, but it also contained a short Latin work called Quid sit theologia mystica secundum Dionisii mentem by none other than Francisco de Santa María. (40) This volume, which had appeared in Salamanca, was followed by another in Valladolid in 1607, which was a separate amplified version of the discourses of 1601 with a Spanish summary of Francisco’s treatise, and bore a title that makes the other long titles that we have been seeing pale in comparison:

Luz de maravillasLight of the marvels that God has worked from the beginning of the world in the souls of his prophets and friends, as well as in natural law and in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of grace: by visions and corporeal works in the exterior senses: by visions and imaginary words in the imagination and sensory powers: by visions and intellectual words in the center of the soul and in the most pure and elevated of the powers and by the sovereign communion of his divine name which is made by grace. Treating of the apparitions of God, Christ, angels, glorious saints, souls in purgatory made to the living: and resolving the difficult points of mystical theology.

Quite a mouthful. Leandro had consulted with Francisco, who was then the vice-rector of the Carmelite college of Salamanca, about mystical theology, and told him to correct his writings as he wished, and was so pleased with his suggestions that he had included them in his first volume in the form of Francisco’s little Latin treatise. (41)

But there is something much more important going on with the appearance of Leandro’s work in 1601 and 1607 than the possible link between Tomás through Francisco and Leandro to Alvarado. The grand title of the Luz de maravillas announces a view of the contemplative life that John of the Cross would have been uncomfortable with, to say the least. Jean Krynen has carefully explored the difference between what he calls a mysticism of light, exemplified in the doctrine of the Luz de maravillas, and the mysticism of John of the Cross. For John, infused contemplation, which is the only kind of contemplation he is talking about, is a result of the development of the life of sanctifying grace through the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It works through faith, a faith animated by love, and thus is a dark, loving knowledge. John will insist that faith in this sense is the only proximate means of union with God, and therefore, all distinct forms of knowledge of God must be put aside.

Leandro is enamored with distinct supernatural kinds of knowledge. These distinct forms of knowledge tend to turn the mystical life into a search for various kinds of visions and revelations that are rooted not in the fundamental organism of the life of grace, but in a specifically given charism of prophecy. John’s science of love becomes in their hands a miraculous science of the intellect. John had a profound understanding of these distinct kinds of supernatural knowledge and how to deal with them, but he never confused them with the substance of the mystical life, itself.

Francisco for his part, in his Quid sit theologia mystica, expresses a view of contemplation that is closer to Tomás than to John of the Cross. He invokes Dionysius as the great master of mystical theology from whom he has learned that this science is "completely a work of the understanding." (42) Then he goes on to tell us that "there are two ways of knowing God." (43) In the first, we see that He is different from creatures. He is, for example, eternal or omnipotent. In the second, He is somehow similar to creatures, i.e., He is living. Each of these two ways gives rise to affirmative and negative names. And these different ways of knowing, in turn, found three theologies: the affirmative, the significative, and the mystical.

In the mystical all that the senses can attain and the understanding can perceive is taken from the sight of the soul. God is neither sun nor air, but neither is He understanding, or substance. And the soul, tiring of all concepts, throws them aside and throws itself into that immense sea of God. (44) In the end, then, all the names we can give to God, whether negative or positive, are surpassed, and this highest kind of understanding goes beyond the natural forces of the soul, and the ordinary work of grace, and "works with a particular and extraordinary ray of light." (45)

There are, therefore, three grades of mystical theology. The first takes away from God the perfections of creatures. The second uses negative names, and the third, with a special help, sees that no words are suitable to be applied to God. This doctrine of Dionysius, Francisco tells us, is very different from that of San Buenaventura who makes mystical theology reside in the will. (46) All in all, this little treatise of Francisco’s bears a rather strong resemblance to Chapter 2 of the Tratado breve.

Jean Krynen felt that it was Tomás’ reading of Teresa on the intellectual vision of the Holy Trinity which not only helped inspire him to join the Carmelites, but also set the stage for his understanding of contemplation. Tomás confused the experience of the Holy Trinity, which takes place in the spiritual marriage, and thus is an integral part of this lofty contemplation, with the intellectual vision of the Trinity that St. Teresa described. She had both, but the first belonged to the substance of the mystical life, while the second was a charismatic grace that was not essential to it. It was because of this confusion, Krynen reasoned, that Tomás created in his theology a supereminent contemplation that did not come from the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, but was a special motion of the Holy Spirit, a charismatic grace, that led to a certain transient knowledge of God. The heart of contemplation, therefore, is no longer the dark, loving knowledge of St. John, but an illumination of the intellect, and thus very similar to what Francisco was proposing. (47)

Let’s look further at Tomás’ relationship with John of the Cross. Tomás never lost his fascination for St. John’s writings. He cites him in his Tratado de oración y contemplación and leaves an interesting passage in his Repertorium about him:

"Of the three paths of prayer. The union of the soul with God is the goal and port of prayer and love. There are three paths in order to arrive there: the first is by meditation and discourses, and affirmative contemplations; the second by way of acts and drynesses, etc.; the third by way of negative contemplation.

"To the first is reduced the paths of Our Holy Mother, of fr. Luis de Granada, P. Avila, Ricardo. To the second, the Path of John of the Cross of the Dark Night and Ascent of Mt. Carmel, especially where this purgation happens passively. To the third, the Mystical Theology of S. Bonaventure." (48)

Once again we can ask ourselves if this represents a good understanding of St. John’s infused contemplation in the Ascent and Dark Night. But let’s go on. Soon after the first publication of John’s writings in 1618 we find Tomás writing a letter from Brussels dated Feb. 22, 1619 to Alonso de la Madre de Dios: "Our Father General has sent me the works of our holy father Fr. Juan de la Cruz together with a brief essay on his life. I have been greatly consoled to see them, and it appears to me that all of it is a doctrine that has been poured out by heaven because such treasures of science and heavenly wisdom are not to be found in the books of earth." (49)

Sometime after 1619 Tomás was using the Barcelona edition of John’s writings to extract a series of questions on visions and revelations based on Book II of the Ascent. He had also been preparing for a long time a commentary on some of the questions in St. Thomas’ Summa on these same issues, and he cites St. John again to the effect that John had dealt with these things in detail and his doctrine was more given by God than acquired by human effort. There is a Latin translation of this part of the Ascent in the Discalced Archives in Rome that Tomás had caused to be prepared and had annotated and corrected himself.

Less than a year after Tomás died in 1627, Bernardo de San Onofre, one of the students he had had in Rome stated that his heart would easily become enkindled while reading the dialogues of St. Catherine of Genoa and the Living Flame of Friar John of the Cross: "Once when I was reading him this book he commanded me to stop because I think that the excessive application of his mind while he was hearing it at an inappropriate time was hurting him." (50)

If on the one hand Tomás maintained his interest in John of the Cross, on the other he also stuck with his ideas on acquired contemplation, as his Latin treatise De contemplatione acquisita, composed sometime after the early 1620s, indicates. And despite Tomás’ interest in John of the Cross, we are left with one mysterious fact. While Tomás cites John in his manuscripts, as we have seen, he never cites him in his published works. Was it an old habit that grew out of his working on his edition of John’s writings when he felt it would be better to wait until John’s works were published? Yet even after the first edition of 1618 Tomás does not cite him. Even his citations of St. John in his earlier version of Tratado de oración y contemplación disappear when the treatise is apparently expanded and reworked, and then becomes Book III of the Camino espiritual. Incidentally, this might be an indication that the manuscript of the Camino espiritual was being readied for publication, and the reason that it never appeared could be ascribed to the same difficulties that beset Tomás’ edition of John’s writings, that is, his fall from favor in the eyes of his superiors. But in final analysis, why didn’t Tomás ever publicly cite John of the Cross? We don’t know.

But let’s go back to our question of why Tomás used John’s writing to create the doctrine of acquired contemplation. Or put in a subtler and perhaps more accurate way, what moved Tomás unconsciously to reinterpret John of the Cross? If anyone should have been a contemplative, it was Tomás de Jesús. We have seen him joining the Carmelites after reading St. Teresa, and he devoted himself to the life of prayer and to the study of mystical theology. He drew on the Scriptures and the Fathers and tells us he searched out contemplatives both inside and out of the Order. It was Tomás, as well, who was inspired with the idea of the Carmelite desert monasteries which, I think, is simply the outer expression of his inner desire to be a contemplative. But was he a contemplative in the sense that John of the Cross uses the term? Jean Krynen puts us on the path to discovering an answer by pointing out an important passage in Tomás’ work Divinae orationis:

"I acknowledge freely, nevertheless, that after having diligently studied the writings of many learned men, I had not been able, even speculatively, for more than 20 years to grasp the nature of the supreme and celestial union of the soul with God…" (51)

But Tomás goes on to tell us that finally God opened His hand and gave him the light to grasp the nature of that union. We have already seen two of Tomás’ conversions: one to religious life, and the other to the missions. Now we are confronted with a third, a conversion to a new understanding for Tomás of the nature of contemplation. When did it take place? Tomás tells us it happened after more than 20 years of effort, and the best starting point for these 20 years is his initial conversion of 1586 which, if we were strict about it, would make the date of his inspiration around 1606. But I don’t think we have to take him literally here. Looking back, for example, on his difficult years in Seville when he was plagued with poor health, he tells us he was there for four years when, in fact, it appears he was only there for two. The most logical time for his inspiration about contemplation were those early years in Las Batuecas when he was putting down the foundations for his writings on the spiritual life and composing his Tratado de oración y contemplación.

What was the content of this inspiration? His new insight is probably what led him to look at infused contemplation afresh and see a supereminent contemplation above it and an acquired contemplation below it. Was Tomás a contemplative in the sense that he experienced in a manifest way the infused contemplation that John of the Cross talked about? Probably not. And it is this lack of contemplative experience that is the key to understanding his creation of an acquired contemplation. Jean Krynen puts it like this: "One could suppose that the very nature of acquired contemplation translates on the doctrinal plane the sustained and unfruitful effort of Tomás de Jesús to arrive at living and understanding the mystical experience itself." (52)

We have to keep our ultimate goal in mind, which is to see how John of the Cross’ understanding of contemplation was transformed by those who came after him. We must certainly allow Tomás to be a man of his own times, and make his own use of the Church’s many faceted contemplative traditions. He can take up the idea of a supereminient contemplation from wherever he found it. (53) He can use, or coin, the idea of acquired prayer, as seen in his Prologue to the Camino Espiritual and his treatise on mental prayer. He can even talk of an acquired contemplation, but the one thing he should not do is to take his ideas on prayer and contemplation and through them reinterpret and distort what John of the Cross is talking about when he speaks of infused contemplation.

It is not essential that we sort out in detail how the ideas on contemplation of Leandro, Francisco and Tomás compare to each other. What is important is to see that none of these views do justice to John of the Cross. Leandro is enamored by visions and revelations, and Francisco is proposing a kind of philosophical contemplation á la Dionysius, and Tomás, from whom he probably got many of his ideas, is altering both the beginning and the heights of St. John’s contemplation. It appears that both Francisco and Tomás, inspired by their studies of Dionysius and Thomas Aquinas, have been led to see mystical theology after a philosophical model of our knowledge of our names of God, and since this kind of knowledge is within our own power, Tomás might have been led in this way to create an acquired contemplation. (54)

When Tomás read John of the Cross on the beginning of contemplation, he read him through the tinted glasses of his own burning desire to be a contemplative. He could, no doubt, verify in himself St. John’s first sign, that is, his inability to meditate like he did before. And the second sign would have appeared clear, that is, that this inability to meditate didn’t come from his own misconduct or some kind of overt psychological problem. He may have even seen in himself, or at least in others, the three temptations John describes as often accompanying this transition. This only left the third sign, but the third sign was, for St. John, the actual beginning of the experience of infused contemplation. John realized that this dawning of contemplation could be very subtle because we are accustomed to working with our faculties, and even be hard to perceive because at times it struck deeply into a recollected soul like a beam of light into a dust-free room, and this is why he left such details and refined descriptions of this transition. It was important to him to distinguish it both from its counterfeits, and yet encourage true contemplatives not to overlook the possibility of an almost imperceptible beginning to it.

But Tomás read these descriptions through his own need. He took John’s general and loving knowledge, which was infused contemplation, itself, and turned it into the outcome of a quasi-philosophical type of reflection on the names of God. He took John’s loving attentiveness, which was a receptivity to the experience of infused contemplation that was actually being granted, and he turned it into an active exercise that we do in order to try to draw closer to God. In short, he transformed St. John’s doctrine on infused contemplation into one of acquired contemplation, and in this way he became the contemplative that he so much wanted to be.

It is important to see where Tomás’ mistake lay. The problem with acquired contemplation is not a problem about the existence of simplified states of prayer that often follow more organized forms of meditation. They exist and are useful. Nor is the problem one of addressing the important question of what we can do about the dark night of sense in the wide sense of the term, that is, when we are no longer able to pray like we did before. There is a time in the life of prayer where the old ways of praying fail, and this is one of the most important problems in the spiritual life. The real problem with acquired contemplation is that it misunderstands St. John’s solution to this dark night of sense in the wide sense of the term. His solution is infused contemplation. That’s how he went, himself, and that’s what he was interested in and wrote about even though he realized that while many people enter this dark night, only some of them go on to infused contemplation.

Tomás wanted a solution to the dark night and to his quest for contemplation, and so he reinterpreted St. John’s description of the third sign, that is, the actual dawning of contemplation, and reinterpreted it, unconsciously, as I said, and came up with another kind of contemplation. This acquired contemplation, he tells us, is to lead to infused contemplation, but in actual fact it has the uncanny tendency to take on a life of its own even in Tomás’ writings. It becomes a parallel path to infused contemplation. It draws to itself the terminology that had been created to describe the nature of infused contemplation, and in doing so, it leads to psychological, philosophical and theological errors, and a significant part of the subsequent history of western Christian mysticism is now going to revolve around this fatally flawed notion.



  1. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, Inventario del Archivo General..., p. xivff.
  2. Matías del Niño Jesús, "Indice de Manuscritos Carmelitanos..."
  3. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "La Obra Fundamental..."
  4. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, Contenido doctrinal..., p. 8.
  5. José de Jesús Crucificado, "El Padre Tomás..." I, see section on De contemplatione acquisita.
  6. Andrés de la Encarnación, Memorias historiales, Vol. II, p. 290. See Chapter 5, note 1 for this passage.
  7. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "La Obra Fundamental...," p. 515.
  8. Ibid., p. 495.
  9. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, Contenido doctrinal..., pp. 10-11.
  10. Ibid., p. 13, note 4b.
  11. Ibid., p. 13, note 5.
  12. Ibid., p. 21, note 17.
  13. BNM ms. 6533, Prologue, f. 3v.
  14. Antonio Alvarado, Arte de bien vivir, Ch. XXXVIII.
  15. Ibid., p. 515.
  16. Ibid., p. 517.
  17. Ibid., p. 519.
  18. BNM ms. 12398, Book 1, Chapter 4, f. 59r.
  19. Ibid., f. 59v – 60r.
  20. Ibid., f. 63r – 63v.
  1. Ibid., f. 64r – 64v.
  2. Ibid., Book 2, Chapter 1, f. 118v.
  3. Ibid., f. 118v – 119r.
  4. Ibid., f. 119v.
  5. Ibid., f. 121v.
  6. Ibid., f. 122v.
  7. Ibid., f. 122v – 123r.
  8. Ibid., f. 123v.
  9. Ibid., f. 124r.
  10. BNM ms. 6533, Camino espiritual, f. 277r.
  11. Ibid., f. 277v.
  12. BNM ms. 6873, f. 96v.
  13. BNM ms. 6533, Camino espiritual, f. 277v – 278r.
  14. Ibid., f. 278r.
  15. Ibid., f. 278v.
  16. Ibid., f. 279r.
  17. Ascent, 2, 14, 2. K. p. 142.
  18. BNM ms. 6533, Camino Espiritual, f. 277v – 278r.
  19. Ascent, 2, 14, 2. K. p. 142.
  20. Jean Krynen, "Du Nouveau..." and Saint Jean de la Croix... p. 287ff. See also Eulogio Pacho, "El P. Francisco..."
  21. Francisco also supplied a Latin prologue to the commmentary of Juan de Jesús María (el Calagurritano) on the Song of Songs published in Salamanca in 1602 and wrote a life of Tomás de Jesús and a treatise of the three signs both of which have failed to come down to us. HCD, X, pp.242-3.
  22. Pacho, "El P. Francisco..." p. 154.
  23. Ibid., p. 155.
  24. Ibid., p. 156.
  25. Ibid., p. 157.
  26. Ibid., p. 158.
  27. Jean Krynen, Le Cantique Spirituel, p. ?
  28. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "Tomás de Jesús y San Juan de la Cruz," p. 118.
  29. Ibid., p. 121.
  30. Ibid., p. 127.
  31. "Fateor tamen et quidem libenter, etiam evolutis diligentissime plurimorum virorum doctorum scriptis, non potuisse me per annos plusquam vigenti, speculative etiam, percipere quidnam esset suprema et caelestis haec animae com Deo unio... donec tendem divina illa bonitas lumen quod manibus absconditum tenebat, aliqua data occasione, aliquantisper mihi reseravit quo quidnam ista sit unio et in quo praecipue consistat capere possem." Jean Krynen, Le Cantique Spirituel..., p. 317, note 1.
  32. Ibid., p. 318, note 2.
  33. Louis Cognet, La Spiritualité Moderne, p. 183.
  34. "Avec sa théorie de la contemplation mystique "active" or "acquise", il en réduisait le mystère par le bas. Il confondait, en effet, la libre réaction du sujet face à l’initiative souveraine de la grâce, la négativité d’un non-voir et d’un non-goûter spécifique, avec le processus de la négativité propre à la spéculation des philosophes ou des théologiens qui recourent à la connaissance négative." Jean Krynen, Saint Jean de la Croix..., p. 320.




Simeón de la Sagrada Familia had hoped to produce a critical edition of the first part of the Camino espiritual, but unfortunately it never appeared, and he went on to become the Procurator General of the Discalced Carmelites, charged with overseeing the canonization process of prospective saints of the Order. In a critical edition he would have, no doubt, clarified a number of interesting textural questions by comparing the various manuscripts of the Tratado de oración y contemplación, the Tratado breve, and Book 3 of the first part of the Camino espiritual. And he would have refined the already detailed studies that he has left us on these manuscripts and rare volumes. As it is, he has left us enough indications which we can supplement to develop a picture of how the various texts we have been discussing fit together.

I like to imagine Tomás in the desert monastery of Las Batuecas in 1601 having received the job of preparing John’s writings for publication. He is 37 years old, often a time of great personal transition, and while reading St. John and directing the brothers of the monastery and giving conferences to them, he has had an insight into the nature of contemplation, and begins to write his Tratado de oración y contemplación.

A Map of the Tratado de oración y contemplación
Text Family

Copies of the Tratado that Andrés de la Encarnación
knew (1) see text

Known copies of the
Tratado (2)

Tratado Breve Family (4)

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1. Can we identify any of the copies of the Tratado de oración that Andrés de la Encarnación knew with the ones we now possess? Andrés writes in his Memorias historiales: "The following books have been now placed again in the Archive... unprinted manuscripts of Fray Tomás de Jesús... Treatise of contemplation in two books – it is of a good size and useful... The treatise of contemplation of Venerable Fray Thomas partly in the handwriting of Fray Gerónimo de San Joseph. In it I read that he helped him write it and I am inferring from this that it is the original." (1) And under the heading of manuscripts worthy of note in Pastrana, he writes: "Another codex in quarto where are found various treatises on prayer, and among them the two Books of contemplation which Our Father Fray Thomas de Jesus wrote which are not yet printed." (2)

Since Andrés mentions that they are being put again in the Archive, we can wonder where they had been and why. The Inventory Book of the Archive de San Hermenigildo does not show them, although ms. 12398 shows the signature K-To 26.Q.o3 of the Archive, and so we can wonder if they went wandering again.

Padre Simeón does not mention whether he compared the writing of Esteban de San José whom he thought Andrés had in mind when he wrote Gerónimo de San José with the copyist of the various Tratados de oración that we now possess. I assume that he did, and found nothing, but it is something that is worth checking. Nor does it seem that any of the existing copies mention anything Esteban helping Tomás to write it down. So as far as I can see, there is no way yet to link any of the existing manuscripts with the ones that Andrés knew.

2. But we have three manuscripts of the Tratado de oración. Which one is closest to the original, and which does the Camino follow? To simplify our problem, we will discard ms. 8273, for it is a partial copy, and its prologue is a summary of the prologue to be found in the other two copies. The copyist writes there: "Aquí hace el autor una larga digresión... (Here the author makes a long digression...)" (3) From this we can conclude that it is probably a derivative copy.

A comparison of the other two copies, that is, ms. 12398 and ms. 6873, especially of their final chapters, leaves the impression that ms. 12398 is a more primitive version. Ms. 6873 is a fluid copy, and it expands the later chapters of ms. 12398. The copyist who wrote these last chapters of ms. 12398 makes many corrections and exhibits bad handwriting, as well. Could he have been taking down dictation? The most striking change between ms. 12398 and ms. 6873 is the fact that Tomás mentions John of the Cross five times in ms. 12398, but these citations, as far as I have been able to trace them, disappear in ms. 6873:

"a) lib. II, cap. 9, f. 158v "Concerning the mortification of the senses, see our Venerable Padre in the first book of the Ascent of the Mount.

b) lib. II, cap. 10, f. 161r "From all these (kinds of knowledge) it has to empty and purge the understanding except from the last obscure knowledge, which before coming to it, which is the contemplation of mystical theology, it has to denude itself from the others. Concerning this purgation see our Venerable Padre, the second book of the Ascent of the Mount."

c) lib. II, cap. 10, f. 161r "Concerning the signs when these forms can be put aside is treated in Chapter 8 and our Venerable Padre treats of it at length in the place cited."

d) lib. II, cap. 10 bis. f. 164r "(...this general knowledge of God) is so subtle and delicate that it is scarcely perceived. The example of the ray of sun which our Venerable Padre uses declares it well."

e) lib. II, cap. 12, f 165r "Of all these purgations our Venerable Padre Fr(ay) Juan treats in the first and second book of the Ascent." (4)

Why did Tomás leave these explicit citations of St. John out of the new version of the Tratado de oración? Was he preparing the Tratado for possible publication, which might account for ms. 6873’s more professional appearance, and he thought it would be more diplomatic to leave them out given the political climate within the Order? Did he have in mind the edition of St. John’s writings he was preparing and wanted to wait until it appeared?

3. Can we be sure that Tomás really wrote the Tratado de oración y contemplación before the Camino espiritual? It seems clear from Padre Simeón’s analysis that the Camino was assembled from various existing treatises, and among them was the Tratado de oración. One striking sign of this is the fact that the copyist of the Camino, upon reaching Book 2 of the Tratado, wrote Liber 2, and then, realizing it was inappropriate in this new context, wrote Parte Segunda del Lib. 3. The Camino, itself, follows the manuscript line represented by ms. 6873, which is another indication that it comes later than the apparently more primitive version of the Tratado in ms.12398. And in following ms. 6873, it leaves out the explicit mentions of John of the Cross.

4. Somewhere along the line someone extracted the Tratado breve either from one of the versions of the Tratado de oración, or from the Camino, and this gave rise to the Tratado breve family of manuscripts. There is Antonio Alvarado’s version in his Arte de bien vivir, and another in Ezquerra which may or may not be derived from it. (5) Then there is the Toledo manuscript, as well as ms. 6895 BNM. The Toledo version was used by Andrés, along with a knowledge of Alvarado’s text to create a version that is now in Burgos, which was used, in turn, by Gerardo de San Juan de la Cruz for his published version. (6) This published version appears virtually identical with ms. 6895, although Gerardo doesn’t think so. (7) Ms. 6895 looks like a fluid copy of something else. Alvarado at times seems to be following a manuscript closer to the Camino espiritual than ms. 6873, and the Camino, itself is not a simple copy of ms. 6873.

Thus, various versions of the Tratado de oración and the Tratado breve seem to have been floating around Spain before and after Tomás’ hasty departure for Rome in 1607. When Tomás left there is reason to believe that he took with him the first part of his Camino espiritual, and the second, if it actually existed, or at least his Repertorium, which was the foundation for it. After his stay in Rome he was to go to Flanders from 1610-1623, and then came back to Rome where he was from 1623 to his death in 1627.

5. During this time, as we have seen, he kept up his interest in John of the Cross, and in acquired contemplation, although still not mentioning St. John in his published works. He composed a manuscript called Liber secundus, ms.333a 2 of the General Archives in Rome, which is a Latin translation of Book 2 of the Tratado de oración. It was never completed, but does it follow one of the versions of the Tratado de oración or the Camino, itself? Its very title makes us think it is following one of the Tratados de oración, for there is no Book 2 in the Camino, as we saw, but there is evidence that it could be following the Camino. The heading for Chapter 3 in the Liber secundus reads: "In quo agitur de gradu contemplationis quem anima eligere, (Where it is treated of the grade of contemplation that the soul should choose.)" (8) Ms. 6873 reads: "Dónde se pone el grado de contemplación que cada uno ha de seguir, (Where it is treated of the grade of contemplation each should follow,)" while the Camino reads: "Dónde se pone el grado de contemplación que cada uno ha de elegir. (Where it is treated of the grade of contemplation that each should choose.)" (9) So, perhaps, Tomás had the first part of the Camino espiritual with him.

Sometime after 1623 – for he cites his own Divinae orationis, published in 1623 – he wrote his De contemplatione acquisita. Its Book One, Chapter 5 and 6, follow the Liber secundus. The heading of Chapter 5 of De contemplatione acquisita reads: "De indiciis sive signis ex quibus colligi potest quando anima sit debite disposita ut contemplationis divinae arcem ascendere possit, (Concerning the indications or signs from which it can be inferred when the soul is duly disposed so that it might ascend...)" while Chapter One of the Liber secundus reads: "De indiciis per quae colligi potest quando anima sit debite disposita ad contemplationem. (Concerning the indications through which it can be inferred when the soul is duly disposed for contemplation.)" (10) But the title just before this Chapter One heading in the Liber secundus reads: "De signis ex quibus... with the ex quibus crossed out, making it look like De contemplatione acquisita combined features of both headings of the Liber secundus. Perhaps Tomás had started writing the Liber secundus, following the Camino espiritual, and then abandoned it and incorporated some of it in his freer version of the same subject matter in De contemplatione acquisita.

6. In 1675 with the permission of the Italian congregation, Maurice de S.Matthieu published at Liege a Traité de la contemplation divine, which was based on Tomás’ original Spanish. Again, the question is whether he followed one of the versions of the Tratado de oración y contemplación or the Camino. And once again, he seems to be following the Camino. The Camino reads: "He reseruado para el postres lugar este tratado... (I have reserved for the latter place this treatise...)" which indicates the place of the Tratado de oración in the larger context of the Camino. (11) And the Traité reads: "De la contemplation dont j’ay reservé l’explication en ce dernier Traité... (Of which I have reserved the explanation in this last Treatise...)" which is out of context. Perhaps Père Maurice had a copy of the Camino he had received from the Italian congregation before him, but chose only to give part of it to the world.

If we imagine that there is only one copy of the first part of the Camino espiritual, the very copy Tomás took with him and made use of, then this copy next appears in 1675 in the hands of Père Maurice. It surfaces again sometime between 1678 and perhaps 1684 when we saw some unknown person, whose mother tongue was not Spanish, writing on it that it was the work of José del Espiritú Santo. This person tells us José’s Cadena mística was printed in 1678, but he does not mention José’s Enucleatio which was published in 1684, which might imply it had not been published yet.

In 1632 the Italian Congregation had ordered the publication of Tomás’ works and had given the job to Paulus ab Omnibus Sanctis. Interestingly, the lists that Tomás made of his own works for the intended collection of his writings does not contain either the Tratado de oración or the Camino espiritual or De contemplatione acquisita. (12) For some unknown reason Tomás’ works were not printed until 1684, and then only in a partial version which consisted of two of the three proposed volumes, and published in the end of volume two is José de Espíritu Santo’s Enucleatio. Padre José, himself, had died in 1674.

Could the Camino, after having been used by Père Maurice sometime prior to 1675, been sent on to José del Espíritu Santo for his possible use in his studies of the Carmelite spiritual writers, only to be found among his papers after his death? (13) In any event, Andrés never came across a copy of the Camino in the General Archives, or in the monasteries of the Order in Spain. Nor does it feature in the Inventory Book of the General Archives that was kept up until the exclaustration of 1835. Further, there is no indication on ms. 6533 BNM of its origin, and it rested there undisturbed, save for an occasional notice of it as a work of José del Espíritu Santo until Padre Simeón arrived on the scene.



  1. Andrés de la Encarnación. Memorias historiales, Vol. II, p. 290. "Se han puesto aora de nuevo en el Archivo los libros siguientes... Obras manuscritas no Impresas de Fr(ay) Tomas de Jesus – 1a. del modo de caminar por la Mystica Theologia, y exercicio de las virtudes à la union con Dios –2o. Tratado de contemp(lacio)n en dos libros – en largo y de lo bueno que aquel V(enerable) P(adre) escrivio – Alm(ario) 7 cod(ice) 38 esta el trat(ado) de contemp(lacio)n del V(enerable) Fr(ay) Thomas parte de el de letra de Fr(ay) Geronimo de S(a)n J(ose)ph. En este he leydo se le ayudo à escribir con que se Infiere fue este el orig(ina)l=..."
  2. Ibid., p. 292. "Otro cod(ice) en 4. donde se hallan varios tratados de oracion y entre los dos Libros de contemp(lacio)n que escrivio N(uestro) P(adre) Fr(ay) Thomas de Jesus, que no estan aun Impresos=..."
  3. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "La Obra Fundamental..." p. 493.
  4. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "Tomás de Jesús y San Juan..." pp. 116-117. "a) lib. II, cap. 9, f. 158v (trata de la mortificación de los sentidos): "De la mortificación de los sentidos véase a nuestro Venerable Padre en el primer libro de la Subida del Monte". b) lib. II, cap. 10, f. 161r (desnudez del entendimiento): "De todas estas (noticias) se ha de vaciar y purgar el entendimiento salvo de la última noticia oscura, que antes para venir a ella, que es la contemplación de mística teología, se ha de desnudar de las otras. De cuya purgación vide a nuestro Venerable Padre, libro segundo de la Subida del Monte". c) lib. II, cap. 10, f. 161r (senales para dejar la meditación): "De las señales cuándo se pueden dejar estas formas se trata en el capítulo 8o, y nuestro Venerable Padre trata largo en el lugar citado". d) lib. II, cap. 10 bis. f. 164r (cómo el entendimiento ya desnudo ha de caminar por viva fe por la mística teología): "...(e)sta noticia general de Dios) es tan sutil y delicada, que casi no se percibe. El ejemplo del rayo del sol que trae nuestro Venerable Padre lo declara bien". e) lib. II, cap. 12, f 165r (de la purgación de la memoria y voluntad): "De todas estas purgaciones trata nuestro Venerable Padre Fr. Juan en el primero y segundo libro de la Subida, etc."
  5. See Chapter 10.
  6. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "Gloria y Ocaso..." p. 200.
  7. Gerardo de San Juan de la Cruz, Obras... Vol. III, p. 272.
  8. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "La Obra Fundamental..." p. 479.
  9. Ibid., p. 476.
  10. José de Jesús Crucificado, "El P. Tomás de Jesús..." I, note 45.
  11. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "La Obra Fundamental..." p. 468, note 27.
  12. José de Jesús Crucificado, "El P. Tomás de Jesús..." I.
  13. Simeón de la Sagrada Familia, "La Obra Fundamental..." p. 456, 498-499.



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Part II, Section 2