His poems are very beautiful. I strongly recommend them.
His book, “The Ascent to Mount Carmel,” has very deep spiritual insights. It is excellent and a wonderful guide for how to resist sin, especially vanity, and pursue humility. It also talks about how to deal with mystical experiences when one has them, how to respond and discern. But I think for me, its greatest value has been seeing the way of humility.
There was one extremely scary section of it that had me feeling very nervous until I was told that this part was for people living in the Unitive relationship with God, the supreme spiritual state of life in Christ on Earth. He talked about abolishing all desires and every whim of fancy, making every last thing in us subject to God whether sinful or not. It was scary in that part because I could see I was a million light years from the degree of self-abandonment he was demanding, but it was a huge relief when I learned that this was for people in “the way of the perfect,” and I’m not there yet :). :hypno:
That part was certainly memorable, though.
He has a lot about resisting pride and vanity, and the insidious ways in which vanity can crawl into us and find a home. Those parts were really brilliant, and he presents a strong defense against sin and demons through his teachings of self-abandonment, including turning away from mystical experiences and rejecting them.
It’s a very impressive work. I’ve read Book 1 and am most of the way through Book 2. I stopped reading Book 2 a while ago when I got distracted, but I was almost done. It can be rather dry at times, and it sometimes feels overly repetitious, but it is extremely insightful.
The work is very different from St. Teresa of Avila, at least for me. St. Teresa of Avila uses one consistent metaphor throughout her book to elaborate on spiritual growth, while St. John of the Cross doesn’t as much. St. Teresa of Avila isn’t repetitious or dry, except, IMO, in her humble disclaimers (I get a bit tired of these), while “The Ascent” can be dry at times. But “The Ascent” is also much longer a book than “The Interior Castle” and it goes into much deeper analysis both on spiritual experiences and how to deal with them, and on the pathway to genuine humility. It’s definitely a book for the heavy reading category. Not one I’d just pick up and read pleasantly through whenever I’m in the mood for a good devotional read . . . more like one that I’d dig through, finding plenty of treasure but having to work my way to it rather than getting “easier stuff” all at once.
“The Interior Castle” is certainly very profound and good. It made a greater impact on me than any other book. It is an easier read and it doesn’t really plunge as deep into the holy mysteries as “The Ascent,” though. It’s worthwhile to read parts of it with “The Ascent,” or around the same time, because they sometimes treat on the same subject matter and the comparisons are useful. The two saints definitely had the same ideas, only St. John of the Cross elaborates a lot more, goes into much more careful detail, and explains a lot more than St. Teresa of Avila attempts to in her book.
“The Ascent,” is an extreme book. It’s powerful, deeply insightful, and to learn about the way of humility, I don’t know of any equal. It can be a difficult book, though, and it’s useful to read it with some assistance from other Catholics (esp. a Carmelite would help) because otherwise we can sometimes misunderstand it and some of his teachings might feel overwhelming if we don’t understand the correct approach to them, or where they are found in souls’ spiritual journeys toward God.
St. John of the Cross’s poetry is very different from “The Ascent to Mount Carmel.” It is vivid, lively, deeply passionate and loving, and full of rich beauty. It is lovely work and I’m sure you’d love it.