Ecstacy in High Contemplation

By St. John of the Cross

1. I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

2. That perfect knowledge
was of peace and holiness
held at no remove
in profound solitude;
it was something so secret
that I was left stammering,
transcending all knowledge.

3. I was so ‘whelmed,
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

4. He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

5. The higher he ascends
the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark
which lit up the night;
whoever knows this
remains always in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

6. This knowledge in unknowing
is so overwhelming
that wise men disputing
can never overthrow it,
for their knowledge does not reach
to the understanding of not
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

7. And this supreme knowledge
is so exalted
that no power of man or learning
can grasp it;
he who masters himself
will, with knowledge in
unknowing,
always be transcending.

8. And if you should want to hear:
this highest knowledge lies
in the loftiest sense
of the essence of God;
this is a work of his mercy,
to leave one without
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

Note on St. John of the Cross: Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) (June 24, 1542 – December 14, 1591) was a major figure in the Catholic Reformation, a Spanish mystic and Carmelite friar born at Fontiveros, a small village near Ávila. He is renowned for his cooperation with Saint Teresa of Avila in the reformation of the Carmelite order, and for his writings; both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul (in the Christian sense of detachment from creatures and attachment to God) are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He is one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church.

One thought on “Ecstacy in High Contemplation

  1. Ah! St. John of the Cross: He deserves his spot up there with Rilke and that English guy I’m sure you’ll get to soon….

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