St. John of the Cross and Dr. C.G. Jung

Chapter 9: Inbetween



Chapter 9: INBETWEEN
          Acquired Contemplation in the 20th Century
          A Psychological Dark Night
          The Way of Faith


Did St. John actually expect everyone to go by the way of contemplation? In one passage in the Dark Night he seems to indicate that there are people who enter the night of sense in the wide sense, that is, fall into aridities, and yet, though they are seriously pursuing the spiritual life, are not meant to arrive at contemplation:

"This night of the aridity of the senses is not so continuous in them, for sometimes they experience the aridities and at other times not, and sometimes they can meditate and at other times they cannot. God places them in this night solely to exercise and humble them, and reform their appetite lest in their spiritual life they foster a harmful attraction toward sweetness. But He does not do so in order to lead them to the life of the spirit, which is contemplation. For God does not bring to contemplation all those who purposely exercise themselves in the way of the spirit, nor even half. Why? He best knows. As a result He never completely weans their senses from the breasts of considerations and discursive meditations, except for some short periods and at certain seasons, as we said."(1)

Unfortunately, since St. John had his mind on contemplation, he never stopped to explore this dimension of the spiritual life, and this omission was to cause difficulties soon after his death.

The creators of the doctrine of acquired contemplation came to grips with this problem but they did so blindly, much like the alchemists struggled with individuation. They were confronted by the dark night in the wide sense, hence their emphasis on the inability to meditate, but infused contemplation did not come to them, and so they attempted to solve the problem in the only way they knew, which was to make themselves into contemplatives. By inventing an active contemplation they did not find the gold of contemplation, but the problems they grappled with were and still are very real. That is why the problem of active contemplation has never gone away. Let us return for a moment to the history of acquired contemplation to bring the story into the 20th century.


The anti-mystical reactions of the 17th century had become much more damaging when they were amalgamated with a deformation and misunderstanding of the prudential maxims of the saints and spiritual writers.(2) Phrases dealing with the contempt and flight from the world and the dangers of creatures that filled the works of writers on the interior life and which had to be understood in a practical sense, that is, the nothingness of creatures in relationship to our choices for God when we are tempted to choose between the creature and God, were transformed and deformed into a speculative position, not overtly formulated, but covertly accepted. This position created a feeling that creatures were somehow worthless in themselves, that the world and the very earth that God created had to be fled from. This crypto-Manichean attitude remained, as Maritain puts it, an external parasite on the life of piety in the Church for a long time, since the instinctive life, whether understood in a physical, natural sense, or even in a spiritual sense, was too strong and robust and rooted in daily contact with the goodness of the earth and human love to succumb to this error.

Gradually this picture began to change. The infection went deeper and caused a more virulent illness, and reached its culmination during the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Then the prudential maxims of the past assumed enormous proportions because of their ontological pretensions. The flight from the world, ever accentuated by the raw assertions of a world enthralled with its human mastery of events, its scientific achievements and technological marvels which possessed an anti-religious character became a flight from the very foundation upon which a healthy spiritual life should be built.

The asceticism of St. John of the Cross with its practical character and its foundation in the actual contemplative experience was picked up and wielded as a bludgeon by a very different kind of personality. If the door was shut on mysticism, these rigorists attempted to shut it on human nature as well, all under the pretext of avoiding danger, but undoubtedly fed by an external legalistic mentality that saw piety more in the fulfillment of humanly conceived laws and regulations than in the loving submission to a mysterious reality that transcended the limits of any conceptual statement. Men were cut off from their roots below and their roots above. They were urged to flee from their human nature under the pretext not clearly voiced, and therefore all the more insidious, that this nature was completely corrupted by original sin. The thoroughgoing affective and volitional mortification of the mystic for the sake of divine union was degraded into gloomy moral prohibitions that issued from a desiccated theology which was in the process of decay precisely because it had cut itself off from its own sources of life.

Therefore, it became inevitable when at the time of renewal of religious life and theology in the years just after the second Vatican Council that Christians, especially religious, who had borne the brunt of these deficient ideas would find within themselves a tremendous thirst for human things. They would exalt them in the place of what seemed to them the soul-deadening spiritualities under which they had led their lives. They were in no mood to listen to talk about prayer and piety because it was under the guise of such things that this process of dehumanization had wrought its damage. Yet this exaltation of the human could only sustain itself for a limited amount of time, especially when lived out in the world instead of the cloister. What was missing was not simply human, but inner religious experience as well. This was the problem that Jung addressed himself to primarily with people who had lost all living contact with the Christian churches or any living religion, and this is the same problem that still lies at the heart of the renewal of religious life and the life of the Church.

Nothing is harder to recognize the value of than something that has harmed us in a deformed state. The misunderstanding and misuse of John of the Cross gave rise to an urge to forget about him and find some new source of 'inspiration. In actual fact St. John had been rarely read, and even more rarely understood from the positive perspective of actual mystical experience. He evoked a feeling of negation which overburdened people already plagued by doubt and guilt because of their inability to do away with their human nature. The renewal of interest in St. John today has to take into account these undercurrents and misunderstandings that have effected the spiritual life for so long.


Today's interest in mysticism is not simply a post-Vatican II phenomenon. It has its origins at the turn of the century, which was marked by a renaissance of Thomistic studies, and this philosophical and theological renewal embraced the spiritual life as well. Pioneering workers like Juan Arintero and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange elaborated the theological foundations of the mystical life, while men of a more practical cast of mind like Poulain organized the treasures of the past into practical manuals for nourishing the life of prayer. Yet, despite the value of this work and its wide-spread acceptance, it did not have the impact on the practical order that could have been expected. It had to fight the now deeply entrenched attitude that had dominated the Church since the end of the 17th century. On the practical plane, even in religious communities, mysticism was a matter that was barely discussed, and certainly not proposed as a practical goal and culmination of the spiritual life.

It was perhaps inevitable that a renewed interest in mystical studies would find itself, once again, involved in the problem of acquired contemplation. Abbé Sandreau attacked it as a dangerous innovation, and he was seconded by Lamballe, Juan Arintero and Ignacio Menéndez-Reigada. Père Poulain tried to counter Sandreau's objections, and this by now traditional Carmelite doctrine found champions with the order in men like Claudio de Jesús Crucificado, Crisógono de Jesús, and Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen. These debates waxed and waned for decades, and are now only remembered by a few scholars, and usually with distaste. Unfortunately, it would be an illusion to believe either the subject matter was, in fact, trivial or some genuine solution had been arrived at after the worst of the partisan fires had died down. The problem of acquired contemplation still exists, and more importantly, the situation out of which it emerged is still being encountered. Routinely books have appeared throughout this century describing acquired contemplation, attributing it to John of the Cross, and recommending it as a genuine stage in the contemplative life. If there is no genuine doctrine of acquired contemplation, then not only is this energy misdirected, but it tends to obscure the real problems that surround contemplation as a practical possibility today. The problem of acquired contemplation, understood in this wide sense, is like a rhizome that is waiting for the propitious moment to emerge again. The state of the question at the apex of its articulation just before it last faded from view can be seen in Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen's Acquired Contemplation (1946), and the masterly analysis to be found in Roland Dalbiez', The Controversy of Acquired Contemplation (1949).

Fr. Gabriel summed up his work in this field as follows:

"After long historical researches in the field of Teresian spirituality, I can safely affirm that the contemplation called by Carmelite theologians acquired or active, is chiefly to be identified with that described by St. John of the Cross, in a form already perfected, in Book 11 of the Ascent, whilst its earliest stage is studied in Book I of the Dark Night. Such was the practically unanimous interpretation of the Saint's doctrine during the whole of the first century of the School."(3)

For Fr. Gabriel both acquired and infused contemplation are one from a speculative point of view; they are both caused by the infusion of God. But from a practical point of view they are distinct enough to warrant separate names. Infused contemplation takes possession of the soul completely enough to make itself experimentally felt, while in this other contemplation the divine inflowing is hidden. (4) And the person receiving it is not conscious of it in the same way as infused contemplation, but this hidden contemplation is the cause of its inability to meditate, and so it must now do something else: exercise itself in looking lovingly at God.(5) This active contemplation is much more common and is offered to practically all who are willing to fit themselves for it as they should.(6) In it the intellect no longer reasons discursively, but is content to gaze upon God with a simple loving attention.(7) This loving attention is drawn from the soul by the hidden contemplation.

Fr. Gabriel analyzes the writings of St. John and St. Teresa in this light. For the most part St. Teresa has limited herself to describing this experimental infused contemplation, while St. John knows of another kind of contemplation in which God doesn't make Himself felt, and which can fittingly be called common or ordinary or active or acquired contemplation. He provides us with a story of a young cleric who is making the transition from meditation to contemplation. First he is full of enthusiasm and fervor, and his meditations go well, and before too much time passes, they begin to simplify themselves into loving colloquies filled with affective aspirations. "But, one fine day, lo and behold, the whole scene is changed!"(8) He finds no sweetness in his prayer. He cannot meditate. His director mistakenly puts it down to insufficient preparation, or punishment for a past sin, or simply recommends patience in affliction. In Fr. Gabriel's mind, St. John of the Cross would have given very different advice. He would tell the young student that he need not meditate, but on the positive side he must exercise himself in a general and loving attention to God who is present.(9) Since this infusion remains hidden, "the Saint gives three signs whereby this may be identified."(10)

"There is a sufficiently lengthy period of time in contemplative prayer during which the divine action remains hidden."(11) Acquired contemplation, then, is an "intermediate state between affective meditation and contemplation properly infused."(12) Instead of feeling the divine action, "the soul feels nothing of the divine action"; "It must become aware that God is really working in it. Therefore, it needs special guidance to enable it to identify the hidden operation which has begun."(13) It must not hinder this inner operation but "maintain itself in the best disposition for receiving it."(14) And this is done by practicing loving attention. The director must encourage the person who is trying to maintain himself in this state because "as this state is sometimes prolonged for years the soul, even if used to lovingly attending to God, has at times the impression of being 'in a void'."(15)

In summary, in this state of acquired contemplation, "the soul has indeed something to do albeit its activity is very simple. It must do nothing but look lovingly upon its God with the gaze of faith. It is not to make reflections; it is not to form distinct concepts; the time for such has gone by. it must now remain in His company and content itself with being simply and lovingly aware of His presence."(16) "The soul 'practices', it 'exercises itself' in the simple, loving gazing upon God."(17) This loving activity is a general attention to God. "The infused divine light is not felt" and "the soul is conscious only of its own activity, of its simple and loving attention to God."(18) While active contemplation is expounded by Fr. Gabriel with a certain flair and smoothness, it is essentially the same as that of Thomas of Jesus, and labors under the same problems.

Roland Dalbiez' study begins with an analysis of the Carmelite mystical theologian Joseph of the Holy Spirit, who died in 1736, and was recognized as one of the most profound scholastic thinkers in the field of mysticism. Dalbiez turns this scholastic language to good account by carefully examining the meaning of acquired contemplation in Joseph's Cursus Theologiae Mystico-Scholasticae. He finds that there is a contradiction: Joseph states that in some places this contemplation is acquired, and in other places that it is not, and Fr. Joseph asserts it is a contemplation, and then turns around and asserts it is not. Then Dalbiez turns to the broader question of whether the whole idea of acquired contemplation can be maintained. There are four possibilities, each of which can be represented by a historical figure:

"The first is that of the radical quietist, the prototype of which is Molinos. The second is that of the mitigated or semi-quietist, which is represented by Fénelon. The third is that of the Catholic theologians for which the degree of prayer called acquired contemplation is only improperly acquired, and this position is found fully elaborated in Scaramelli. The fourth, no less orthodox, is that of the authors in the eyes of which acquired contemplation is only a contemplation improperly speaking, this is the conception of St. Alfonsus Liguori."(19)

The first and second possibilities lead to theological unorthodoxy, while the third and fourth remain orthodox by emptying acquired contemplation of its proper meaning. The notion of acquired contemplation from a historical point of view leads to difficulties, not only because it cannot be found in St. John, but because the advocates of this doctrine in the 17th century seem to slide into difficulties maintaining it. As Dalbiez puts it: "It is the notion of acquired contemplation which has created the psychological climate without which the blossoming of quietism would have been impossible. "(20) Dalbiez, after stating the historical case against acquired contemplation with devastating clarity, and this at a meeting organized by the Carmelites, attempted to provide a formula of reconciliation:

"Metaphysically, there is but one contemplation, which is infused. Psychologically, there are two contemplations, one whose infused character is conscious for the subject, and one whose infused character is unconscious for the subject."(21)

He remarks that it would be a mistake to conclude that since all contemplation is "ontologically passive" it is "consciously passive", that is, actually experienced as passive infused prayer. This notion deserves particular attention because it represents the most developed attempt at resolving the controversy. It drew the following response from Fr. Gabriel:

"This last part of the position of M. Dalbiez constitutes precisely the thesis we have defended for a long time in our book Acquired Contemplation ... We cannot but applaud this aspect of M. Dalbiez' work."(22)

Are we, then, confronted with a genuine solution to this long-standing problem? Unfortunately not. It is certainly true that St. John describes a time of transition in which infused contemplation has not yet become conscious, but we cannot conclude that this description coincides with the state described by the advocates of acquired contemplation. Dalbiez has based his attempt at bridge building by indicating "the ontological unity and the empirical duality"(23) of contemplation, but the crux of the difficulty is whether the state described by St. John and the state described by the proponents of acquired contemplation are the same. If they are not, then we are dealing with a real empirical duality that is based on two very different states.


The foundation for discerning these two different states depends on a careful reading of St. John's three signs. The dark night was used by St. John in both a wide and narrow sense. In the wide sense it meant that recollected people fell into aridities, and this is how the proponents of acquired contemplation understood it. But the three signs are meant to define the dark night of sense in a strict way as the actual beginning of contemplation. The first two signs are not enough: the third must be present, for only the third differentiates between infused contemplation and various psychological counterparts:

"When one is incapable of making discursive meditation upon the things of God and disinclined to consider subjects extraneous to God, the cause could be melancholia or some other kind of humor in the heart or brain capable of producing a certain stupefaction and suspension of the sense faculties. This anomaly would be the explanation for want of thought or of desire and inclination for thought." (24)

Melancholy, the black bile of the ancients which they thought gave birth to depression, was part of this psychological vocabulary that St. John had to work with. Even though this vocabulary was rudimentary from a modern point of view, it might have contained a greater degree of insight than we can recapture today. Baruzi, for example, suggests that John might have come in contact with one of the noted physicians of the time, Gómez Pereira, while he was working in the hospital in Medina del Campo. One of the works of this learned doctor was entitled, Concerning the Fevers Arising from Melancholy and the Signs of Them.(25) Victor White makes the astute observation that melancholy could be associated with the introverted intuition type.(26)

Melancholy could not only counterfeit the dark night, but when it was a question of the unruly movements of sense during the time of prayer, it could magnify these difficulties:

"These impure thoughts so effect people who are afflicted with melancholia that one should have great pity for them; indeed, they suffer a sad life. In some who are troubled with this bad humor the trial reaches such a point that the devil, they think, definitely has access to them without their having the freedom to prevent it; yet some of these melancholics are able through intense effort and struggle to forestall this power of the devil.

If these impure thoughts and feelings arise from melancholia, a person is not ordinarily freed from them until he is cured of that humor, unless the dark night flows in upon the soul and deprives it successively of all things." (27)

Thus, both melancholy and the true contemplative night of sense could be operative in the same person, and this same point is made again later in the Dark Night:

"There is thus a great difference between aridity and lukewarmness, for lukewarmness consists in great weakness and remissness in the will and in the spirit, without solicitude as to serving God; whereas purgative aridity is ordinarily accompanied by solicitude, with care and grief as I say, because the soul is not serving God. And, although this may sometimes be increased by melancholy or some other humour (as it frequently is), it fails not for that reason to produce a purgative effect upon the desire, since the desire is deprived of all pleasure, and has its care centered upon God alone. For, when mere humour is the cause, it spends itself in displeasure and ruin of the physical nature, and there are none of those desires to serve God which belong to purgative aridity."(28)

These comments of St. John on melancholy which played an important role in his formulation of the doctrine of the three signs appear to have been lost sight of by the men who formulated the doctrine of acquired contemplation. Perhaps the vocabulary was inadequate to transfer the genuine insights contained under this heading, or spiritual directors were looking for a specific morbid disposition and did not find any signs of it in these recollected people they were guiding. In any event, these comments of St. John can form the basis for developing a fuller psychological explanation of the plight of the people who have arrived at the first two signs and cannot find in themselves any experience of contemplation.

Melancholy in a more general sense can be understood as a lack of conscious energy available to the ego that gives rise to feelings of depression and dead-endedness. St. John in his descriptions of beginners in the spiritual life emphasizes the energy they have to devote themselves to spiritual activities and the corresponding sense of consolation and fulfillment they feel as a result of them. To use a water analogy of the kind St. John and St. Teresa favored, the beginner is using his bucket, and finding water wherever he drops it. Even though this water is being scooped up by the natural working of the faculties, it is so readily available that it forms a sensible analogate to what takes place in contemplation itself. From a psychological point of view, energy is available to the ego and it utilizes it to broaden its perspective.

Recollected people ply their bucket more assiduously than others, but since they are actually drawing up this water and expending it, the day arrives when the level of the water falls below the length of the rope that holds their bucket. This same phenomenon can be viewed from the point of view of the development of the various functions and attitudes in the process of individuation. The natural working of the faculties can then be understood as the use of the most conscious or superior function with its attendant attitude, aided by the auxiliary function. The conscious exercise of these functions, especially when it is deliberate and cultivated, can lead to the same dilemma of lack of conscious energy. What development that could have taken place through these functions has already been substantially achieved. There is no more psychic energy that can be attained through exercising them. What is needed is a new function through which to tap a deeper level of energy. Dr. Jung and his followers carefully fashioned various ways in which this new function, and thus new ways of proceeding, and new energy could be developed.

For St. John, the most favorable prognosis for this diminishment of conscious energy would be the dawning of the experience of contemplation, and thus he gives the three signs for determining whether this is actually the case, but the three signs imply that there are other explanations possible, as we have just seen.

Both Jung and John in their own ways are leading the person caught in this predicament of energylessness to a positive new experience, to a new source of energy, and this is how they differ from the proponents of acquired contemplation. When the recollected person comes up dry, he needs to either add a length of rope to his bucket by a process of psychological development or arrive at other ways of watering the garden by contemplation. But when he is given the advice to practice acquired contemplation, he is being told to exercise his natural faculties with ever greater subtlety, and somehow by this exercise of loving attentiveness attain to the actual experience of contemplation. This procedure tends only to exhaust the last reaches of psychic energy available to the faculties and pave the way by which psychic energy from the unconscious will burst into the vacuum being created in consciousness. From this point of view it is not at all surprising that a position of acquired contemplation, pushed to its extreme, in, for example, the quietism of Molinos, could give rise to powerful sensual movement that appeared to the recipient as autonomous actions of the devil.

Loving attentiveness is one thing when the inability to meditate is a result of the actual beginning of contemplation, but it is quite another when it is a question not of a new spring of water welling up in the center of the soul, but simply the more general psychological fact that the conscious working of the faculties cannot reach down to the level of the water. To take up an attitude of loving attentiveness in the latter situation is to expect the water to jump up into the bucket. Men cannot live in a vacuum freed from actual experience. Even in realms of faith and prayer there is a need of experience, though the form it might take can be quite different from everyday ones. St. John with all his emphasis on mortification never suggested trying to live in a void. As he puts it:

"For, in order to conquer all the desires and to deny itself the pleasures which it has in everything, and for which its love and affection are wont to enkindle the will that it may enjoy them, it would need to experience another and a greater enkindling by another and a better love, which is that of its Spouse."(29)

If we return to the case of Fr. Gabriel's young cleric, throughout the discussion of the possible reasons for his inability to meditate, the question of melancholy, depression or temperament never comes up. If this dark night has not been brought about due to some kind of lack of diligence or recent imperfection, this does not mean that the only alternative left is that it must be the dark night of contemplation. It could be a natural diminishment of conscious psychic energy due precisely to the diligence with which he attended to his spiritual exercises. In this case exercising loving attentiveness, while it feels like you are in a void, will only diminish further the energy the ego has available and hasten the possibility of an antagonistic outburst from the unconscious.

And antagonism is not the only possible response that the unconscious can make. In the passage that describes the necessity of the third sign and talks of humours that can cause "a certain stupefaction and suspension of the sense faculties", and thus leave a person without thought or the desire for thought, St. John concludes in a strange fashion:

"(The humour) would foster in a person the desire to remain in that delightful ravishment."(30)

There is nothing in the immediate context that explains what "that delightful ravishment" is, but perhaps St. John expected that his readers in the Order of Mount Carmel would understand, for it recalls passages in St. Teresa. For example, in the Interior Castle she described the counterfeit of true inner experience:

"When they experience any spiritual consolation, therefore, their physical nature is too much for them; and as soon as they feel any interior joy there comes over them a physical weakness and languor, and they fall in a sleep, which they call "spiritual", and which is a little more marked than the condition that has been described. Thinking the one state to be the same as the other, they abandon themselves to this absorption, and the more they relax, the more complete becomes this absorption, because their physical nature continues to grow weaker. So they get it into their heads that it is arrobamiento, or rapture. But I call it abobamiento, foolishness; for they are doing nothing but wasting their time at it and ruining their health."(31)

Nor would this "delightful ravishment" have been a mystery to lung. The energizing of the unconscious that can result from the suspension of conscious activity can have a pleasant aspect so that the ego, instead of fleeing, is tempted to rest in the embrace of this experience. This is especially true if the recipient confuses this delightful ravishment with contemplation itself. The passivity needed for the reception of contemplation will become a passivity which is an abdication of the necessary standpoint of the ego. The ego that gives up its own prerogatives and submerges itself in the unconscious, and the ego which flees the unconscious and thus evokes counter tendencies both illustrate the underlying dynamics of the psyche that are a foundation of the life of prayer. Did some of the proponents of acquired contemplation experience this inner delight and confuse it with contemplation? Juan Falconi, for example, in his Straight Road, states that during contemplation:

"thou art as if ravished (embelesado), as if in darkness, so that thou knowest not what thou doest or doest not, and even thinkest that thou wilt perish."(32)

This attitude of receptivity will in the absence of contemplation easily be transformed into a receptivity that will become aware of the contents in the unconscious which have attained almost enough energy in order to become conscious. If for someone like Molinos they have a sexual nature, then he will begin to create spiritual explanations, i.e., the devil wishes to stop the practice of this contemplation.

By calling this a psychological dark night I am trying to point out its continuity with other developmental problems where energylessness and the search for a new attitude play major roles. From this point of view this dark night is a call to psychological growth. The functions that were engaged in the life of prayer can no longer work as they did before, but if the psyche can be developed, new energy will be available to employ in praying.

But we are at a delicate point. To imply that psychological development is the total answer would obscure the fact that we are dealing with the spiritual life, while to talk in a purely spiritual language like the active contemplatives is to miss the very real and important psychological dimension.

Both these directions must be taken into account if we are to arrive at a viable solution. We can hardly say that we can no longer employ the natural faculties if, in fact, there is a whole dimension of the psyche which could become conscious and add an important breadth to these faculties. Individuation is a much more comprehensive way of judging what belongs to the natural psyche, and thus to what St. John calls meditation. I have looked at this developmental problem elsewhere from a typological point of view, and there is abundant literature on individuation. (33) It is the other half of the question that is much less talked about.


This is the need to pray actively despite the dark nights. The energy that is derived from pursuing this process of psychological development can be utilized in the exercise of the spiritual life, but even with new energy available there is no guarantee that the satisfaction and sensible consolation that existed in spiritual exercises before the darkness set in will be rediscovered. In fact, things will probably be quite different. There is a natural process of simplification in ordinary prayer which once experienced is not likely to be reversed. One of the positive benefits that came out of the long saga of acquired contemplation was a heightened appreciation of the variety of states that comprised the prayer that St. John labeled meditation. Methodical discursive meditation which culminates in an affective conclusion leads to a situation where the affective part of the prayer predominates, and this, in its turn, can simplify so that the principle affect is one of love, and the principle object God, Himself. The guiding thread in this process of simplification is the following of the water of consolation and satisfaction. We do what seems to draw us closer to the spiritual goal of union with God, and simplification is but the concentration on the means that seem the most effective for reaching this goal.

Acquired contemplation is mistaken, not because it delineated this process of simplification, but rather, because it misunderstood the nature of contemplation. It thought that taking up an attitude of expectancy with the natural faculties, a loving attentiveness, would be the best disposition for receiving contemplation, but the natural working of the faculties, no matter how passively we exercise them, which, of course, tends to be a contradiction, cannot attain contemplation because contemplation does not come through the faculties.

Not only will this new stage of prayer be simplified, but it will be without sensible consolation, and yet, if it is not the beginning of contemplation, it is a prayer that must be prayed. It is an active exercise of the faculties, even though in a simplified manner. There are no simple apprehensions or intuitions that can be maintained more than a few seconds as the culminating leap of the discursive process, nor are there any enduring acts that by-pass the need to actively exercise mind and heart in order to pray. The ordinary practices of the active spiritual life have to be maintained, that is, the conscientious practice of the various virtues, mortification, the Sacraments and spiritual reading, etc. Since sensible consolation has evaporated, faith comes to the forefront, the faith that St. John calls the only proximate means of union with God, that is a faith working through charity that can be lived out without sensible consolation, without contemplative experience, and without trying to constantly make it into the receptivity of an experience that is not there.

This faith has as many opportunities to grow as there are moments that can be given to prayer, chances to put more love into our relationships with others and problems and trials that must be borne. It can nourish itself on St. John's writings on the goal of the spiritual life and on the detachment that faith demands, aware that he is talking about the gift of contemplation but also realizing that this active exercise of faith is the best preparation for whatever gifts God has in store for us.

If we are not beginners and not contemplatives, we can still be men and women of faith. And this is not a blind faith, for it works through love and guides us so that we can say with St. John:

"I went without discerning
And with no other light
Except for that which in my heart was burning."(34)


There has been a certain amount of progress in meeting the three initial challenges that stood in the way of using St. John and Jung in the spiritual life.

I have tried to steer a middle course between what Marie-Louise von Franz has called the old king, that is, a theology so jealous of its prerogatives as to be closed to the insights of psychology, and a facilely conceived Jungian spirituality that would identify the archetypes with the Christian mysteries. Christian spirituality is in dire need of the kind of help Jungian psychology can give, but to profit from it, it has to appreciate the differences in methods and goals that exist.

Further, it has to clarify its own history. This means rediscovering St. John, clearing away the encrustation’s of past misinterpretations, and delving into the shamefully neglected field of modern spirituality from the 17th through the 20th century. The question of acquired contemplation is only one of the issues at stake, but it illustrates how far some spiritual writers have strayed from St. John, and it is particularly significant because, Jung's psychology allows us to pose an alternative solution to the problem of the inability to meditate.

Yet, neither epistemology nor history will be of any avail if Christian spirituality loses sight of the overriding practical issue involved, which is the restoration of the life of prayer under the twin lights of individuation and contemplation. Hopefully, the discussions in Part III have given us a glimpse of the possibilities that exist in this direction.


But to follow this path calls for a collaboration between Jungian psychology and Christian spirituality, and such a joint effort, while difficult, would not have been foreign to Jung's mind. He wrote in his first letter to Victor White, "...I would surely be among the first to welcome an explicit attempt to integrate the findings of psychology into the ecclesiastical doctrine." And later, at the time of Fr. White's death, "I had nursed the apparently vain hope that Fr. Victor would carry on the magnum opus." Strange and powerful words. What is the magnum opus but a renewal of the religious life of the West? Christian spirituality and Jung's psychology, despite their differences, share this ultimate intent, and this is the most basic foundation for their collaboration. This common work could be carried out by Jungian analysts, theologians of the spiritual life, and people devoted to the life of prayer, especially contemplatives by gift and by state of life. Then the discussions initiated by Jung and Fr. White so many years ago at Bollingen would finally bear fruit.



1. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 355.
2. Excellent introductory material is available on Jung's psychology, e.g., Jung, ed., Man and His Symbols and Mattoon, Jungian Psychology in Perspective.
3. Memories. p. 13.
4. Ibid., p. 42.
5. Ibid., p. 36.
6. Ibid., p. 39.
7. Ibid., p. 42.
8. Ibid., p. 72.
9. Ibid., p. 62.
10. Ibid., p. 93.
11. Ibid., p. 109.
12. Ibid., p. 194.
13. Ibid., p. 196.
14. Ibid., p. 205.


1. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 8, p. 109.
2. Bash, Introduction to General Clinical Psychopathology, p. 50.
3. Heisig, Imago Dei, p. 108.
4. Jung as cited in Jaffe, The Myth of Meaning, p. 30.
5. On this issue see Raymond Hostie, Religion and the Psychology of Jung, and the response of Victor White, Critical Notice on Hostie.
6. Memories, p. 351.
7. Ibid., p. 351.
8. Ibid., p. 337.
9. Ibid., p. 94.
10. Ibid., p. 337.
11. Ibid., p. 351-2.
12. Ibid., p. 43.
13. Collected Works, Vol. 11, p. 580.
14. Jaffe, The Myth of Meaning, Chapter 4.
15. Maritain, Preface to Metaphysics.
16. The Degrees of Knowledge, p. 149.
17. A Tool for Understanding Human Differences, Ch. 7.
18. C.W., 6, p. 527.
19. The Degrees of Knowledge, p. 192.
20. Maritain, Philosophy of Nature, p. 162.
21. Ibid., p. 88.
22. The Degrees of Knowledge, p. 65.
23. Philosophy of Nature, p. 111.
24. Memories, p. 221. "In dem Augenblick, wo ich den Boden erreichte, stieß ich gleichzeitig an die äußerste Grenze des mir wissenschaftlich Erfaßbaren, an das Transzendente, das Wesen des Archetypus an sich, worüber sich keine wissenschaftlichen Aussagen mehr machen lassen."
25. Cunningham, Victor White and C.G. Jung.
26. Letters, Vol. I, p. 383.
27. Letters, Vol. I, p. 385.
28. Ibid., p. 387.
29. Ibid., p. 448.
30.Ibid., p. 448 N 1.
31. Ibid., p. 448.
32. Ibid., p. 449.
33. Ibid., p. 501.
34. Ibid., p. 501.
35. Letters, Vol. 1, p. 540-1.
36. Ibid., p. 540-1.
37. Ibid., p. 555.
38. Ibid., P. 555.
39. Ibid., p. 486.
40. Ibid., p. 487.
41. Ibid., p. 487.
42. Letters, Vol. 2, p. 72.
43. Ibid., p. 73.
44. Ibid., p. 228.
45. Cunningham, p. 324.
46. Ibid., p. 324.
47. Letters, Vol. 2, p. 536.


1. Ascent, Prologue, No. 7, p. 72, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translation (KR).
2. Ascent, Book 1, Chapter 3, No. 3, pp. 76-7, KR.
3. Ascent, 1,4,3, p. 78, KR.
4. Ascent, 1,4,1, p. 77, KR.
5. Dark Night, 1,1,2, p. 298, KR.
6. Ascent, 1,14,2, p. 105, KR.
7. Ascent, 2,13,1, p. 140, KR.
8. Ascent, 2,5,7, p. 117, KR.
9. Ascent, 2,4,2, p. 113, KR.
10. Ascent, 2,3,4, p. 111, KR.
11. Dark Night, 1,9,8, p. 315, KR.
12. Living Flame of Love, Stanza 3, 32, p. 622, KR.
13. Dark Night, 1,8,3, p. 312, KR.
14. Ascent, 2,13,4, p. 141, KR.
15. Ascent, 2,13,7, p. 14 1, KR.
16. Ascent, 2,14,6, p. 144, KR
17. Dark Night, 1,9,6, pp. 66-7, Peers translation.
18. Living Flame, S 3, 34, p. 622-3, KR.
19. Dark Night, 1,10,4, p. 317, KR.


1. An extensive bibliography can be found in B.A.C. edition of the Obras Completas de San Juan de la Cruz.
2. Ascent, 2,12,3, p. 128, Peers (P).
3. Ascent, 2,12,4, p. 128, P.
4. Ascent, 2,12,5, p. 129, P.
5. Ascent, 2,14,1, p. 136, P.
6. Ascent, 2,14,8, p. 141, P.
7. Ascent, 2,14,8, p. 141, P.
8. Ascent, 2,14, 10, p. 142, P.
9. Dark Night, 1,9,8, p. 67-8, P.
10. Ascent, 2,12,6, p. 130, P.
11. Ascent, 2,12,7, p. 131, P.
12. Ascent, 2,13,7, p. 136, P.
13. Ascent, 2,14,4, p. 138, P.
14. Ascent, 2,14,6, p. 139, P.
15. Ascent, 2,14,6, p. 139, P
16. Ascent, 2,14, 10, p. 142, P.
17. Ascent, 2,15,3, p. 149, P.
18. Ascent, 2,15,3, p. 150, P.
19. Dark Night, 1,10,1, P. 69, P.
20. Dark Night, 1,10,6, P. 72, P.
21. Dark Night, 1,12,1, P. 76, P.
22. Dark Night, 1,14,1, P. 88, P.
23. Living Flame, S 3, 30, p. 103, P.
24. Living Flame, S 3, 34, p. 108, P.
25. Living Flame, S 3, 42, p. 113, P.
26. Ascent, 2,12,6, p. 130- 1, P.
27. Dark Night, 1,10,1, p. 69, P.
28. Dark Night, 1,14,1, p. 88, P.
29. Living Flame, S 3, 31, p. 103, P.
30. Living Flame, S 3, 30, p. 103, P.
31. Living Flame, S 3, 42, p. 113, P.
32. Ascent, 2,12,8, p. 132, P.
33. Ascent, 2,12,8, p. 132, P
34. Ascent, 2,13,7, p. 135, P
35. Ascent, 2,13,7, p. 136, P.
36. Ascent, 2,15,5, p. 150, P.
37. Ascent, 2,15,5, p. 150, P.
38. Dark Night, 1,9,3, p. 64, P .
39. Dark Night, 1,9,4, p. 65, P .
40. Dark Night, 1,9,6, p. 66, P .
41. Dark Night, 1,9,6, p. 66, P .
42. Ascent, 2,14,8, p. 141, P.
43. Ascent, 2,14, 10, p. 143, P.
44. Ascent, 2,14,12, p. 145, P.
45. Ascent, 2,14,12, p. 146, P.
46. Dark Night, 1,10,4, p. 71, P.
47. Dark Night, 1, 10,4, p. 317, KR.
48. Ascent, 2,14,2, p. 137, P.
49. Ascent, 2,14,2, p. 138, P.
50. Ascent, 2,14,6, p. 139-40, P.
51. Living Flame, S 3, 32, p. 104, P.
52. Living Flame, S 3, 32, p. 105-6, P.
53. Living Flame, S 3, 31, p. 103-4, P.
54. Ascent, 2,13,4, p. 134, P.


1. Memories, p. 203.
2. Gloria y Ocaso, Part 2, p. 420.
3. Ibid., p. 420. Yet the attribution to St. John started very early. In 1618 there was a manuscript of the Tratado Breve bearing the name of Fray Juan de la Cruz. (Gerardo, Obras de Místico Doctor, p. 271.)
4. Studies of the Spanish Mystics, Vol. 2, Tomás de Jesús, p. 219ff.
5. Ascent, ixvii, Peers.
6. Peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, Vol. 2, p. 223.
7. Simeon, Un Nuevo Códice Manuscrito and Tomás de Jesús y San Juan de la Cruz for Thomas' citation of St. J ohn.
8. 1 am indebted to Jean Krynen's Le "Cantique Spirituel"… at many points in my evaluation of Thomas of Jesus. Krynen's work has not gotten the attention it deserves. His assertion that Thomas of Jesus rewrote St. John's Spiritual Canticle is just one element in a wider synthesis that attempts to give a historical explanation for the differences between the doctrine of John of the Cross and the spirituality of the beginning of the 1600s. The story of acquired contemplation is another dimension of this same riddle, and starting from different preoccupations it, too, leads back to the fertile pen of Thomas of Jesus.
9. A detailed analysis can be found in Peers (note 4) and José de Jesús Crucificado, El P. Tomás de Jesús, Escritor Místico.
10. Tomás de Jesús y S. Juan de la Cruz, p. 139.
11. Simeon, Contenido Doctrinal, p. 68.
12. Ibid., p. 74.
13. Ibid., p. 77-8.
14. (Thomas of Jesus) Tratado Breve, p. 312-13.
15. Simeon, Tomás de Jesús y San Juan de la Cruz, p. 153.
16. Peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, Vol. 2, p. 238.
17. De Contemplatione Acquisita, p. 63.
18. Krynen, Le Cantique Spirituel, p. 318, note 2.
19. Simeon, Un Nuevo Codice Manuscrito, p. 133-4.
20. Dark Night, 1,9,6, p. 66, P.
21. Dark Night, 1,10,4, p. 317, KR.
22. Maritain, Sur l’appel a la vie mystique. Also his remarks on philosophical contemplation in Pas de savoir sans intuitivité, p. 411ff, in Approches Sans Entraves.
23. Ascent, 2,14,11, p. 145, P. Peers also gives the readings from the first edition.
24. Ascent, 2,15,2, p. 149, P.
25. Living Flame, S 3, 31, p. 103, P.
26. Living Flame, S 3, 46, p. 117, P.
27. Dark Night, 1,9,9, p. 68-9, P.
28. Living Flame, S 3, 31, p. 104, P.
29. Living Flame, S 3, 32, p. 105-6, P.
30. Dark Night, 1,9,6, p. 66, P.
31. Dark Night, 1,10,5, p. 71, P.
32. Ascent, 2,12,8, p. 132, P.
33. Krynen shows a possible divergence between Quiroga and the spirituality of the deserts in Saint Jean de la Croix, Antolinez et Thomas de Jesus.
34. Don que Tuvo, p. 534.
35. Baruzi, Saint Jean de la Croix et le Problème de l'expérience mystique, p. 710-11.
36. Peers, The Complete Works, Vol. 3, p. 384.
37. Optat de Veghel, Benoit de Canfield, p. 478ff.
38. Pacho, San Juan de la Cruz y Juan de Santo Tomás.
39. Ibid., p. 357.
40. Ibid., p. 382-3.
41. Gomez, Estudios Falconianos.
42. Peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, Vol. 2, p. 285.
43. Gomez, p. 82.
44. Peers, Studies, Vol. 2, p. 286.
45. Ibid., p. 287.
46. Ibid., p. 296.
47. Ibid., p. 301.
48. Baker, The Confessions, p. xxvii.
49. Baker, Contemplative Prayer, p. 358.
50. Ibid., p. 359.
51. Ibid., p. 365.
52. Ibid., p. 361.
53. Knowles, "Fr. Augustine Baker" in The English Mystical Tradition.
54. Baker, Confessions, p. 169.
55. Molinos, The Spiritual Guide, p. 55. On Molinos cf. Knox and Dudon.
56. Ibid., p. 59.
57. Ibid., p. 60.
58. Ibid., p. 64-5.
59. Ibid., p. 72.
60. Eulogio, "El Quietismo..." on these parallels and La Defensa de la Contemplación.
61. Knox, Enthusiasm, p. 312.
62. This is the opinion we can draw from the explicit testimony of Thomas of Jesus, Knowles on Fr. Baker, Eulogio on Molinos, and the cases of Falconi and Rojas point in the same direction.
63. There are other threads of this tapestry that remain unexplored. In 1689 an anonymous Jesuit, writing after Palafox had published a Carta Pastoral on the condemnation of Molinos, denied the existence of acquired contemplation and said that maintaining that position would make St. John a Molinosista (Crisógono, San Juan de la Cruz, su obra científica, p. 184).

Dudon makes Quiroga the unwitting inspirer of Petrucci, that episcopal companion of Molinos (cf. Claudio, Cuestiones Místicas, P. 67).

There is also the case of Antonio Panes and his Escala Mística (1675). Did Panes draw from some of the same sources as Molinos (cf. Robres and Martin) and if so, how did he escape condemnation and have his book republished in 1743?



1. The factual data can be found in the biography of Crisógono de Jesús (in Vida y Obras de San Juan de la Cruz, revised and augmented by Matias del Niño Jesús) and a penetrating portrait of St. John in Brenan, St. John of the Cross, with poems translated by Lynda Nicholson.
2. Cf. Arraj and Arraj, A Tool, Chapter 2.
3. Holmes, "A Jungian Approach to Forgetting and Memory in St. John of the Cross", in Sullivan (Ed.), Carmelite Studies II, p. 178ff.
4. Gomez-Menor, El Linaje Familiar
5. Brenan, p. 33.
6. Sheldon, Psychotic Patterns and Physical Constitution, P. 865.
7. Brenan, p. 5.
8. Ibid., p. 8.
9. Ibid., Ch. 2.
10. Ibid., p. 23.
11. Ibid., p. 18.
12. Ibid., p. 32.
13. Ibid., p. 36.
14. Ibid., p. 53.
15. Ibid., p. 127.
16. Ibid., p. 116.
17. Ibid., p. 153.
18. Spiritual Canticle, Prologue, No. 1, p. 408, KR.



1. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 419.
2. C.W. 8, p. 18.
3. Ibid., p. 12.
4. Dark Night, 1,4,1, p. 303, KR. This passage was one of the topics in a defense in 1618 by Basilio Ponce de León to save St. John's writings from condemnation. Fray Basilio comments:

"Let not the spiritual man, then, be forthwith discouraged and afflicted and let him not suppose that his state of prayer is of the devil. It may be of God and yet this may happen, either because of some natural effect that is caused ex accidenti in the body, through weakness or heat or dilation of the pores, or through the inspiration of the devil, who, since he cannot enter the loftiest place of contemplation, is anxious to cause such disturbances as he can. And sometimes these things will come to pass not only without any desire on the part of the contemplative, but even without his perception or knowledge, as happens in dreams, because the force with which the spiritual man is bound closely to his contemplation will not permit him to have knowledge of these movements or of any other exterior actions… Our author does not say that these sensual motions arise immediately or per se from the spirit of the contemplation of God. He says that, at the time when the soul is conscious of the pleasure of contemplation, some sensual delight is wont to be felt in weak natures, and that this delight has its natural explanation in philosophy and medicine. For overmuch joy heats the body and dilates the pores, just as fear makes the body cold and closes the pores. And thus what this author postulates is an effect of the weakness of the body and not of the grace and spirit of contemplation…

"In this author, however, I find them described as sensual motions not caused by the spirit, whereas in the Illuminists I find grossness described as being an effect of the spirit." (Peers, The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Vol. III, p. 418-20.) For two modern cases see Von der Heydt.

5. Dark Night, 1,4, p. 303-6, KR.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Dark Night, 1,4,3, p. 49, P.
16. Dark Night, 1,8,3, p. 62, P.
17. Ibid.
18. Dark Night, 1, 13,3, p. 83, P.
19. Dark Night, 1, 13,15, p. 87, P.
20. Living Flame, S 3, 54, p. 122-3, P.
21. Ascent, 2,11,10, p. 135, KR.
22. Ibid.
23. Living Flame, S 3, 55, p. 123-4.
24. Dark Night, 1, 14, 1, p. 88, P.
25. Dark Night, 1, 14,2, p. 88, P.
26. Dark Night, 1,14,3, p. 88-9, P.
27. Dark Night and comments by Fordham, The Dark Night of the Soul.
28. Letters, Vol. 2, p. 159.
29. Dark Night, 1,4,3, p. 308, KR.



1. The Degrees of Knowledge, p. 314.
2. Roldán, Personality Types and Holiness.
3. On Jungian typology and the spiritual life, cf. Grant, Kelsey, Michael and Norrisey; on integrating Sheldon and Jung, cf. Arraj and Arraj, A Tool for Understanding Human Differences.
4. Krynen, Du Nouveau sur Thomas de Jesus.
5. Ibid., p. 129.
6. Dark Night, 1,1,2, p. 298, KR.
7. Von Franz, Puer Aeternus.
8. Ascent, 2,20,6, p. 171, KR.
9. Rahner, Visions and Prophecies, p. 57.
10. Ibid., p. 62-3.
11. Ascent, Ch. 21.
12. Maritain, Sur l'appel a la vie mystique, p. 73 and p. 81, note 1.



1. Dark Night, 1,9,9, p. 316, KR.
2. Maritain, The Peasant of the Garonne, p. 44-50.
3. Gabriel, Acquired Contemplation, p. 92.
4. Ibid., p. 94.
5. Ibid., p. 93.
6. Ibid., p. 94.
7. Ibid., p. 101.
8. Ibid., p. 116.
9. Ibid., p. 119.
10. Ibid., p. 120.
11. Ibid., p. 121.
12. Ibid., p. 121.
13. Ibid., p. 121.
14. Ibid., p. 121-2.
15. Ibid., p. 122.
16. Ibid., p.142.
17. Ibid., p. 143.
18. Ibid., p. 149.
19. Dalbiez, La Controverse de la Contemplation Acquise, p. 109.
20. Ibid., p. 117.
21. Ibid., p. 132.
22. Ibid., p. 77.
23. Ibid., P. 133.
24. Ascent, 2,13,6, p. 141, KR.
25. Baruzi, p. 80, note 3.
26. White, God and the Unconscious, p. 127.
27. Dark Night, 1,4,3, p. 304-5, KR.
28. Dark Night, 1,9,3, p. 64-5, P
29. Ascent, 1, 14,2, p. 73, P.
30. Ascent, 2,13,6, p. 14 1, KR.
31. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, p. 92-3.
32. Peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, p. 297.
33. cf. Arraj and Arraj, A Tool for Understanding Human Differences, Part II; for actual cases of individuation, cf. Adler, The Living Symbol, and Jacobi, Symbols in an Individual Analysis; in Jung (ed.), Man and His Symbols; for stages of adult development, Levinson, The Seasons of a Man's Life.
34. "En una noche oscura", Campbell, p. 27.



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