1. The imperfections in these proficients are of two kinds: habitual and actual.
The habitual are the imperfect affections and habits still remaining like roots
in the spirit, for the sensory purgation could not reach the spirit. The
difference between the two purgations is like the difference between pulling up
roots or cutting off a branch, rubbing out a fresh stain or an old, deeply
embedded one. As we said,1 the purgation of the senses is only the gate to and
beginning of the contemplation that leads to the purgation of spirit. This
sensitive purgation, as we also explained, serves more for the accommodation of
the senses to the spirit than for the union of the spirit with God. The stains
of the old self still linger in the spirit, although they may not be apparent or
perceptible. If these are not wiped away by the use of the soap and strong lye
of this purgative night, the spirit will be unable to reach the purity of divine
2. These proficients also have the hebetudo mentis, the natural dullness
everyone contracts through sin, and a distracted and inattentive spirit.2 The
spirit must be illumined, clarified, and recollected by means of the hardships
and conflicts of this night.
All those who have not passed beyond the state of
proficients possess these habitual imperfections that cannot, as we said,
coexist with the perfect state of the union of love.
3. Not all these proficients fall into actual imperfections in the same way.
Some encounter greater difficulties and dangers than those we mentioned, for
their experience of these goods in the senses is so exterior and easily come by.
They receive an abundance of spiritual communications and apprehensions in the
sensory and spiritual parts of their souls and frequently behold imaginative and
spiritual visions. All of this as well as other delightful feelings are the lot
of those who are in this state, and a soul is often tricked through them by its
own phantasy as well as by the devil. The devil finds it pleasing to suggest to
souls and impress on them apprehensions and feelings. As a result of all this,
these proficients are easily charmed and beguiled if they are not careful to
renounce such apprehensions and feelings and energetically defend themselves
This is the stage in which the devil induces many into believing
vain visions and false prophecies. He strives to make them presume that God and
the saints speak with them, and frequently they believe their phantasy. It is
here that the devil customarily fills them with presumption and pride. Drawn by
vanity and arrogance, they allow themselves to be seen in exterior acts of
apparent holiness, such as raptures and other exhibitions. They become audacious
with God and lose holy fear, which is the key to and guardian of all the
virtues. Illusions and deceptions so multiply in some, and they become so
inveterate in them, that it is very doubtful whether they will return to the
pure road of virtue and authentic spirituality. They fall into these miseries by
being too secure in their surrender to these apprehensions and spiritual
feelings, and do this just when they were beginning to make progress along the
4. So much could be said about the imperfections of these proficients and of how
irremediable they are - since proficients think their blessings are more
spiritual than formerly - that I desire to pass over the matter. I only assert,
in order to establish the necessity of the spiritual night (the purgation) for
anyone who is to advance, that no proficients, however strenuous their efforts,
will avoid many of these natural affections and imperfect habits. These must be
purified before one may pass on to divine union.
5. Furthermore, to repeat what was said above,4 these spiritual communications
cannot be so intense, so pure, and so vigorous as is requisite for this union,
because the lower part of the soul still shares in them. Thus, to reach union,
the soul must enter the second night of the spirit. In this night both the
sensory and spiritual parts are despoiled of all these apprehensions and
delights, and the soul is made to walk in dark and pure faith, which is the
proper and adequate means to divine union, as God says through Hosea: I will
espouse you (unite you) to me through faith [Hos. 2:20].