Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 18 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Daudi Okelo and Bl. Jildo Irwa
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The mystical drawings of St. John of the Cross

JOHN

Public Domain

Daniel Esparza - published on 12/07/17

A look at the preliminary sketches that summarize the argument of the saint's book in a clear, straightforward manner.

The Ascent to Mount Carmel (Subida al Monte Carmelo, in the original Spanish) is probably the best-known spiritual treatise of the Spanish Baroque. Written between 1578 and 1579 by St. John of the Cross — “the most mystical of all poets, and the most poetic of all mystics” — after his escape from prison, this book is a detailed, systematic, thorough explanation of ascetic life, mystical union with Christ and negative theology. In fact, when read alongside The Dark Night of the Soul – another of John of the Cross’ treatises — and The Living Flame of Love and the “Spiritual Canticle” (all of them considered to be some of the greatest works of all times in both Spanish Literature and Christian mysticism), one discovers a common trace: a narrow path that goes from both earthly and spiritual privations to the summit of Mount Carmel itself, where “only the honor and glory of God dwells.” This is, of course, a metaphorical image of the soul’s ascent towards the unio mystica, after leaving appetites and ties (cuidados, “cares,” the saint would write) behind.

The book, it must be said, is not an easy nor a quick read. Divided into three sections, and thought of as a commentary on the saint’s own allegorical poem The Dark Night, the treatise describes a  of inner purgation that might be hard to follow at times. Having studied at the University of Salamanca, John of the Cross uses both scholastic philosophy jargon and the theological fundamental language of the 16th century to refer to both psychic and spiritual realities we might address in different terms today.

But John of the Cross also made some, let’s say, preliminary sketches that summarize the argument of his book in a clear, straightforward manner. In fact, he not only drew the Mount and the narrow path that leads to its summit, but also included two paths that lead elsewhere, and reduced his 3-section treatise to a few aphorisms and rhymes one can read in the drawings below. We have included the original drawing by John of the Cross (in Spanish); a later, more elaborate drawing (also in Spanish); and two English translations made after the original.

THE ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
Fair Use
THE ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
Public Domain
THE ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
Public Domain

THE ASCENT OF MOUNT CARMEL
Fair Use
Tags:
HistoryHumanitiesSaints

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
2
communion
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
3
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
4
CROSS
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
5
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
6
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
7
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.