Lost Treasures:
John of the Cross in Mexico

Towards the end of his life John of the Cross almost went off to Mexico, but it never happened. But the question here is whether the controversies that swirled about his work in Spain during the course of the 17th century and had such an important impact on our understanding of Christian mysticism made their way to New Spain. Can we find traces of them there, and would they even fill out the picture we have of what happened in Europe? (See From St. John of the Cross to Us for the story in Europe.)

As far as I know, there has been very little written about this issue. I saw a reference somewhere to an article by A. Huerga in the Revista Española de Teología that supposedly talked about the copies of Molino’s Guide that had appeared in Mexico City and Puebla, but I have never been able to track down the article, itself.

I did visit the magnificent Palafoxiana Library in Puebla – founded by Bishop Juan de Palafox who played a role in these mystical controversies – with its floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with ancient books, many of which are from the 17th century. In its catalog we find titles that indicate that much of the mystical literature of 17th century Spain made its way there. We find, for example, Thomas of Jesus’ Summa y Compendio, as well as his Tratado de Oración Mental. There is a copy, as well, of Leandro de Granada’s Insinuación de la Divina Piedad, as well as Antonio de Alvarado’s Arte de Bien Vivir that had come from the library of the Colegio del Espíritu Santo de la Compañía de Jesús de la Puebla. We find books by Antonio de la Anunciación, Gracián, Quiroga, José del Espíritu Santo, Juan Falconi, and Juan de la Anunciación. We also find José López Ezquerra: Lucerna mystica, and Antonio Arbiol y Diez: Desengaños mysticos, Madrid 1724.

Among the more exotic titles that I am not familiar with can be numbered Andrés de Guadalupe’s Mística Theologia Supernalis Infusa printed in Madrid in 1665, and Gaspar de Viana’s Luz Clarissíma que Desengaña, Mueve, Guía y Aficiona las Almas que Aspiran a la Perfección…, Madrid, 1672. Cristóbal Moreno, Jornadas para el Cielo, and Juan Antonio Crema’s Summa Espiritual y Camino del Alma para Dios, Valladolid, 1657. Isidro de León: Místico Cielo, 1686. Martín de León: Camino del Cielo en Lengua Méxicana, (Texto Nahuatl y español). Thoma Massutius: De Caelesti conversazione per internam orationem… 1622. Miguel de San Agustín: Institutionum mysticarum. 1671. Pedro de Morcada: Práctica de la comunión puramente espiritual, Madrid, 1695. Ródrigo Benitez Valverde: Tratado místico. Alonso Andrade: Itinerario historial que deve guardar el hombre para caminar al cielo, Madrid, 1648. José Massei: Concordia entre la quietud y la fatiga…, Madrid 1710.

Among the documents of the Inquisition in Mexico in the 17th century there seem to be some that reflect these controversies in the Old World. A good prospect is Ynforma el ynq(uisid)or g(enera)l a Su Mag(esta)d y representa los inconbenientes por lo sucedido en Granada y otras partes del descrédito de a Inq(uisici)ón. (Madrid, 14 de mayo de 1623). (Document #177 in Catálogo de textos marginados novohispanos Inquisición: siglo XVII Archivo General de la Nación. El colegio de México, Archivo General de la Nación, Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes.) See also Document #1784 which concerns an accusation against Juan de Villalpando and appears to deal with the same affair.

We also find documents by Juan de Jesús María (Robles) on visions and revelations (#179), as well as a process against the Carmelite Provincial, Miguel de la Asención, which concerns dangerous doctrines and his failure to obey the edict against the books of his Order. (#1781, and also #231, #232, #233, #1088, #1562 and #1563.)

There is a process against Ignacio de San Juan y Salazar accused of using false relics and devotional writings who wrote about spiritual fathers ought to conduct themselves according to John of the Cross. (#688, and also #687 and #1760, the latter dealing with his connection to Juan de Palafox.)

There is a 1619 edict that prohibited all writings about Teresa of Avila, (#1211) as well as edicts published against Molinos (#1681, #1682), and a 1696 denunciation of a paper written in defense of Miguel Molinos, Errores acerca la nueva contemplación, es oración de quietud. (#1830, #1757, #682)

There is a copy of Gregorio López’s Explicación del apocalipsi (#1978), and a treatise by the Discalced Carmelite, Juan del Santíssimo Sacramento against Pedro García de Arias for being an alumbrado, (#1979) and a denunciation of the Historia profética of Francisco de Santa María. (#261)