The Difference between Dark Night of the Soul and Dark Night of the Senses (according to St John of the Cross)

Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church
According to Saint Paul and Saint John of the Cross and the masters of Mystical Theology, such as John Tauler, the spiritual life consists in three ages:
Beginners (Purgative Way)
Proficients (Illuminative Way)
Perfect (Unitive Way)
Incidentally, by Perfect we mean not absolute perfection (like the saints in Heaven) but relative perfection. These three ages mirror natural human life:
Childhood
Adolescence
Adulthood
Just as these three stages are transitioned by a crisis, so also progress in the spiritual life is marked by crisis.
Saint John of the Cross, the Doctor of the Church with regard to Mystical Theology, teaches that the transition from the Purgative to the Illuminative is occasioned by the “Dark Night of the Senses” and the transition from the Illuminative to the Unitive is occasioned by the Dark Night of the Spirit.
Beginners (Purgative Way)
   Dark Night of Senses
Proficients (Illuminative Way)
   Dark Night of the Spirit
Perfect (Unitive Way)
The Dark Night of the Senses is the crisis in which God purposefully withdraws consolations of the senses. Warm fuzzies in prayer. Discursive pictorial visions in the imagination, physical comfort, lack of external distraction.
This is very difficult because the Christian begins to worry that he is regressing or has done something to lose God’s favor. Instead, God is preparing him to enter more deeply in the love of God. The soul learns to seek the God of consolation, but not merely the consolations of God. Perhaps this Dark Night of the Senses is one of the most misunderstood elements of daily Christian living.
The Dark Night of the Spirit or Dark Night of the Soul is a crushing desolation where the soul learns to love the cross of Christ. With a desire to be more like Christ and to share in His life, the perfect learn to love persecution, humiliations, disgrace, and other problems in life since they see in them a perfect conformity to God. Two well known modern examples are Saint Pio and Saint Therese. We this is state of perfection in the Apostles:

“And calling in the apostles, after they had scourged them, they charged them that they should not speak at all in the name of Jesus. And they dismissed them. And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:40–41, D-R)

Saints Peter and John rejoiced in their sufferings. This is not something naturally, but something utterly supernatural – it is a sign of the unitive way. The Apostles, we might say, went through the Dark Night of the Senses from Good Friday till Easter and the Dark Night of the Spirit from the Ascension to Pentecost. This, at least, is the position of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange.

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