1. When this house of the senses was stilled (that is, mortified), its passions
quenched, and its appetites calmed and put to sleep through this happy night of
the purgation of the senses, the soul went out in order to begin its journey
along the road of the spirit, which is that of proficients and which by another
terminology is referred to as the illuminative way or the way of infused
contemplation. On this road God himself pastures and refreshes the soul without
any of its own discursive meditation or active help.
Such is the sensory night
and purgation of the soul. For those who must afterward enter into the other
more oppressive night of the spirit in order to reach the divine union of love -
because not everyone but only a few usually reach this union - this night is
ordinarily accompanied by burdensome trials and sensory temptations that last a
long time, and with some longer than with others.1
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
2. At other times a blasphemous spirit is added; it commingles intolerable
blasphemies with all one's thoughts and ideas. Sometimes these blasphemies are
so strongly suggested to the imagination that the soul is almost made to
pronounce them, which is a grave torment to it.
3. Sometimes another loathsome spirit, which Isaiah calls spiritus vertiginis
[Is. 19:14], is sent to these souls, not for their downfall but to try them.2
This spirit so darkens the senses that such souls are filled with a thousand
scruples and perplexities, so intricate that such persons 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.
4. God generally sends these storms and trials in this sensory night and
purgation to those whom he will afterward put in the other night - although not
all pass on to it - so that thus chastised and buffeted, the senses and
faculties may gradually be exercised, prepared, and inured for the union with
wisdom that will be granted there. For if a soul is not tempted, tried, and
proved through temptations and trials, its senses will not be strengthened in
preparation for wisdom. It is said therefore in Ecclesiasticus: He who is not
tempted, what does he know? And he who is not tried, what are the things he
knows? [Ecclus. 34:9-10]. Jeremiah gives good testimony of this truth: You have
chastised me, Lord, and I was instructed [Jer. 31:18].
And the most fitting kind
of chastisement for entering into wisdom consists of the interior trials we
mentioned, since they most efficaciously purge the senses of all the
satisfaction and consolation the soul was attached to through natural weakness.
By these trials it is truly humbled in preparation for its coming exaltation.
5. Yet we cannot say certainly how long the soul will be kept in this fast and
penance of the senses. Not everyone undergoes this in the same way, neither are
the temptations identical. All is meted out according to God's will and the
greater or lesser amount of imperfection that must be purged from each one. In
the measure of the degree of love to which God wishes to raise a soul, he
humbles it with greater or less intensity, or for a longer or shorter period of
Those who have more considerable capacity and strength for suffering, God
purges more intensely and quickly.
But those who are very weak he keeps in this
night for a long time. Their purgation is less intense and their temptations
abated, and he frequently refreshes their senses to keep them from backsliding.
They arrive at the purity of perfection late in life. And some of them never
reach it entirely, for they are never wholly in the night or wholly out of it.
Although they do not advance, God exercises them for short periods and on
certain days in those temptations and aridities to preserve them in humility and
self-knowledge; and at other times and seasons he comes to their aid with
consolation, lest through loss of courage they return to their search for
God acts with other weaker souls as though he were showing
himself and then hiding; he does this to exercise them in his love, for without
these withdrawals they would not learn to reach him.
6. Yet, as is evident through experience, souls who will pass on to so happy and
lofty a state as is the union of love must usually remain in these aridities and
temptations for a long while no matter how quickly God leads them. It is time to
begin our treatise on the second night.