The Way of St. John of the Cross

The Song of the Soul that Delights in Reaching the Supreme State of perfection, that is, the union with God, by the path of spiritual negation

By Saint John of the Cross

– Verses on the Ecstasy of Deep Contemplation

I entered where there is no knowing,

and unknowing I remained,

all knowledge there transcending.

I

Where no knowing is I entered,
yet when I my own self saw there

without knowing where I rested

great things I understood there,

yet cannot say what I felt there,

since I rested in unknowing,

all knowledge there transcending.

II

Of peace and of holy good

there was perfect knowing,

in profoundest solitude

the only true way seeing,

yet so secret is the thing

that I was left here stammering,

all knowledge there transcending.

III

I was left there so absorbed,

so entranced, and so removed,

that my senses were abroad,

robbed of all sensation proved,

and my spirit then was moved

with an unknown knowing,

all knowledge there transcending.

IV

He who reaches there in truth

from himself is parted though,

and all that before he knew

seems to him but base below,

his knowledge increases so

that knowledge has an ending,

all knowledge there transcending.

V

The higher he climbs however

the less he’ll ever understand,

because the cloud grows darker

that lit the night on every hand:

whoever visits this dark land

rests forever in unknowing,

all knowledge there transcending.

VI

This knowledge of unknowing

is of so profound a power

that no wise men arguing

will ever supersede its hour:

their wisdom cannot reach the tower

where knowing has an ending,

all knowledge there transcending.

VII

It is of such true excellence

this highest understanding,

no science, no human sense,

has it in its grasping,

yet he who, by self-conquering

grasps knowing in unknowing,

goes evermore transcending.

VIII

And in the deepest sense,

this highest knowledge lies,

of the divine essence,

if you would be wise:

his mercy so it does comprise,

each one leaving in unknowing,

all knowledge there transcending..”

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