|St. John of the Cross' teaching on contemplation
is an important ingredient in any attempt to renew the Christian mystical tradition. But
there are two distinct ways in which to look at the history of the transmission of St.
John's teaching on contemplation to us.
In the first view, St. John's teaching was widely understood and accepted in his Order before his death, and it was developed and elaborated by the second generation of Carmelite theologians in the early years of the 17th century. Thus, his ideas on contemplation made their way down to us without serious distortion.
In the second view, the value of St. John's writings was appreciated by only a part of the Order before his death, and some of his ideas on contemplation was substantially altered by the second generation of Carmelites who believed they could discover in his writings, alongside of his infused contemplation, an active or acquired one. It is this altered view of contemplation that has come down to us as St.John's teaching.
Which view is true? Does St. John know an active or acquired contemplation? Why is this question important? Just what did John of the Cross mean by contemplation?
For more on this theme, see From St. John of the Cross to Us.
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