The Mystical Doctor

‘View of Toledo’ – El Greco, 1596 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) – Wikimedia

.During the night of 2 December 1577, in the city of Toledo in central Spain, a priest was imprisoned by a group of Carmelites who were refusing Teresa of Ávila’s reformation projects for their Order. He was jailed for 9 months in a monastery under brutal conditions. He was publicly beaten at least weekly, confined in a cell of barely 10 by 6 feet, with only a little light passing through a hole during the day, with bread and scraps of salt fish for a meal, and no change of clothes. But his burning love of god, along with his unfailing devotion and clarity of mind, allowed the 35 years old friar to compose, along with other shorter poems, the greater part of a sumptuous poem — ‘The Spiritual Canticle’ — about a bride’s search for her beloved. The poem, symbolising the soul seeking union with god, and inspired by the ‘Songs of Songs’ of the Bible, starts with these eloquent lines:.

Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone
.”
~ ‘The Spiritual Canticle’

The name of this priest and poet was John of the Cross, a Spanish Catholic mystic born in 1542 near Ávila, to whom we owe some of the brightest exposition of truth in the Christian world. Thomas Merton, who held him in very high esteem, presented him as “one of the greatest as well as the safest mystical theologians God has given to His Church.” John of the Cross was born in a poor family of Jewish converts to Catholicism, and received a simple education. He entered the Carmelite Order, made his First Profession when 21, and met Teresa of Ávila a few years later, of whom he remained a faithful associate all his life. Although not a scholar, his studies in theology and philosophy allowed him to quote abundantly from the Bible, and be acquainted with the work of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Although I have chosen to quote here only from the poem ‘The Spiritual Canticle’, John of the Cross is the author of many other poems, among which the renowned ‘The Dark Night’ — better known as ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ — and ‘The Ascent of Mount Carmel’. His poems have a rich and powerful imagery and are considered to be masterpieces of Spanish poetry. Although they transpire with beauty and meaning, they are not to be readily understood. This is why John of the Cross wrote precise and extensive commentaries on them, some soaring pieces of teaching whose beauty and profundity is sometimes breathtaking. The most exquisite poetry is here going hand in hand with both a great depth of understanding, and the sweetest accents of devotion. The commentaries were written in prose but are here occasionally presented in a free verse form when they lent themselves to it. I am sharing the 1909 translation made by David Lewis, with corrections by Benedict Zimmerman. Listen with what tender accents of poetry and longing the bride is here conversing with her bridegroom, and how a suffering soul who has tasted of the divine is longing for “the secret chamber of God”, which is nothing but the pure consciousness that is hiding in our innermost being:

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O you soul, then, most beautiful of creatures,
who so long to know the place where your Beloved is,
that you may seek Him, and be united to Him,
you know now that you are yourself
that very tabernacle where He dwells,
the secret chamber of His retreat where He is hidden.
Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all your good
and all your hope is so near you as to be within you;
or, to speak more accurately, that you can not be without it.”
~ ‘The Spiritual Canticle’, 1.8 (Commentaries)

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Discover the rich poetry and commentaries of John of the Cross… (READ MORE…)

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The Dark Night

‘Night’ – Ivan Marchuk, 1981 – WikiArt

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Being human is a complicated gig.
So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug.
Howl the eternal yes!

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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There is a poem that fed the imagination of many prestigious writers and philosophers like T. S. Eliot, Simone Weil, or Thomas Merton. Many a spiritual seeker has found in it a guiding lamp for the harsh ascent towards divine union. Its name: the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, a short poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet John of the Cross. It refers to the unknowable nature of both the goal and the path, and how such darkness would allow us to merge with the presence of god in ourself. As John of the Cross wrote: “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.” I am presenting here the translation by Edgar Allison Peers. Following the poem is a short text that I wrote, words that the poem has evoked in me, the inspiration that it invoked…

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On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings — oh, happy chance! —
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

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Read this famous poem by John of the Cross and a few more words… (READ MORE…)

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The Fountain of Dark Silence

‘Above the eternal tranquility’ – Isaac Levitan, 1894 – WikiArt

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There is a fountain inside you.
Don’t walk around
with an empty bucket
.”
~ Rumi

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Dorothy Walters is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. The ‘fountain’ refers here to this deep source at the core of our being, this “fountain of dark silence”, as Dorothy wrote in one of her poems. Dorothy experienced a profound Kundalini awakening in 1981, at the age of 53, which she described as “God moving through your body”, “the Beloved within“, “the goddess above all other goddesses”, or a “relentless agony of ascent”. This was her first expression of the ‘fountain inside’, a fountain of bliss in which she dipped again and again until, as she beautifully expresses in one poem:

“… nothing is left of us
but a fine ash
at the core
and then that, too, melting
to a nothingness,
a no place,
only a marker
where a somebody,
a something
once was.”
(Marrow of Flame)

Profoundly transformed by her experience, Dorothy began writing numerous spontaneous poems which are the direct expressions of the beauty and freshness of this inexhaustible source. They have been gathered in her website “Kundalini Splendor”, and in her numerous books.

Dorothy spent most of her youth as a lover of language and books. She took a PhD in English and American literature and taught both classical and contemporary literature at university. She had a life-long interest in some of the great poets and philosophers like W.B. Yeats, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and later on Rumi, Hafiz, Mirabai and Kabir, which had a deep influence on her poetry. She also helped to found one of the earlier women’s studies programs in the U. S. and directed it for many years. She continues sharing and writing on the subject of Kundalini awakening to this day. After an extended residence in San Francisco, Dorothy now lives and writes in Colorado. I have selected here a few of her poems, which are like the “raw honey of God”. I hope you will enjoy…

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Turn me to gold.”
~ Kabir

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Preparing to Meet the Goddess

Do not think of her
unless you are prepared
to be driven to your limits,
to rush forth from yourself
like a ritual bowl overflowing
with sacramental wine.

Do not summon her image
unless you are ready to be blinded,
to stand in the flash
of a center exploding,
yourself shattering into the landscape,
wavering bits of bark and water.

Do not speak her name
until you have said good-bye
to all your familiar trinkets –
your mirrors, your bracelets,
your childhood adorations –
From now on you are nothing,
a ghost sighing at the window,
a voice singing under water.

(from ‘Unmasking the Rose’)

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Discover more of Dorothy Walter’s beautiful poems… (READ MORE…)

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