2.22 This is the final and probably most important chapter of this section. Here John explains the difference between the communication between God and souls before and after the Incarnation. Read this carefully and meditate on how God communicated everything to us in Jesus. Consider what John says about revealing to a spiritual master anything supernaturally communicated and how God places human beings in our lives to help us understand how and what God communicates. Where two or three…how can a Carmelite community, a community within the Discalced Carmelite Order which is recognized by the Church, contribute to its members and the church in this regard?
2.23 In this chapter we move to the purely spiritual where no clear words or forms are apprehended. God does not give details in this sense. We don’t hear “you will get a new house” or money or job or whatever. Neither do we see Mary or Jesus or a particular saint or place, etc. God just infuses knowledge in a general way and we, if we choose to, impose our words or images when we try to communicate about it. Therein lies the danger and John want us to know that there is danger of being misled even by the purely spiritual, before he goes on to talk about each kind of spiritual apprehension. Remember and reflect once again upon the ultimate goal: union with God. If we are not emptied and surrendered completely through faith, that cannot happen. Whatever occupies our soul, even spiritual things, prevents perfect union. So why does God communicate with some souls in this way?
2.24 You may need to read this several times to begin to understand. John is now beginning a very abstract and intricate treatment of the various purely spiritual apprehensions and he notes the thin veil that separates those that can be received while still alive from those that would necessarily end human life unless God (rarely) intervenes, as was necessary for Moses, Elijah, etc. Even so, these are not the proximate cause for union with God, as faith is, and the devil can mimic these and lead souls away from Divine Union. What does all this reveal for you about God’s love and desire for the soul?
The message throughout is DANGER, DANGER…that the soul remain detached and not desire any of these communications, nor dwell on them nor talk about them when received. The overall message is that Faith, actually Dark Faith, is the only means to union with God. Anything else is of value only insofar as it increases Faith, Hope and Love in the intellect, memory and will. Pray for and seek ways to become more detached. Remember, we are still reading about the active nights.
ch 25, 26. John treats the spiritual apprehensions called revelations. What are the two kinds? Because we are dealing with the purely spiritual and the difficulty of communicating about such things, John reminds us that we are really only concerned about union with God and he reassures us about any difficulty we may have in understanding. What do you think is meant by “naked truths” about God? Could these or hints of these be what is experienced by the soul when it first desires to surrender all to God? Can you recall what made you first desire God alone? Get in touch with that ultimate desire and allow God to possess you entirely. Allow God to take all that you possess and feel and know, your imperfections and your virtues, your intellect, your memory, your will, your mind, your heart…breathe them out; breathe God in…until ultimately and intimately, God takes your breathe away and yours is the breathe of God, the Holy Spirit.
ch 27. Here John talks about what we usually understand as revelation–secrets. As is his custom, John distinguishes types and levels of secrets. The first are about God; nature, attributes, Trinity, etc. The second are about the works of God; the other articles of faith as well as revelatory knowledge about the past, present or future, about nations, families or individuals. These can come through words, signs or images. Again, John warns about the dangers of being misled by our weak understanding or by the devil and John counsels us to neither desire nor dwell on these; rather to resist and reject them. How might faith be compromised by these? What is the ultimate danger?
ch. 28. Here John introduces the next type of spiritual apprehension, spiritual locutions and the three classes of locutions: successive, formal and substantial. Successive locutions are the result of thinking, of logical reasoning. We begin thinking about something spiritual and have a sort of spiritual “aha” where we understand, for example, because God is love and God loves the Samaritan woman and the prodigal son, God loves me. This is not just knowing but truly understanding in a way that changes you.
Formal locutions are those that we understand (not experience) as coming from an individual; Jesus, Mary, or a saint speaking distinct words to the soul. Substantial are words or a message understood deep in the soul that is so powerfully known that the message is immediately effected. The message is the creative word of God within the soul. Consider how the presence of God within your soul should change you.
ch 29. A more in-depth treatment of successive locutions and the associated dangers. He points out how easily even the good or spiritual person can think that the result of their reasoning is from God, when in fact they arrive at words that are deceptive or erroneous. The formation of the basic thoughts may indeed be from the Holy Spirit, so how do we so often err? Why does John fear outright heresies when people use the words, “God said” or “God told me…”? How else can the soul be led astray by these? What is John’s excellent advice as the road to every spiritual good? Consider again the danger to Faith.
ch 30. Formal locutions are usually intended to teach some new truth to the soul. How do these differ essentially from successive locutions. There are dangers here as well. Describe some of them. What advice does John give?
ch 31. Substantial locutions: how are they like and different from the first two? Why does John consider these higher, more important and valuable? What about the devil with regard to these? John still avises the soul not to desire or dwell on these. Why?
ch. 32. Spiritual feelings…sounds like an oxymoron, so what are they? What are the two kinds? Consider John’s concept of the overflow from the will to the intellect. How is this related to what happens in contemplation as loving knowledge? Consider the importance of being passively receptive to God’s grace.
John states that all intellectual apprehensions are one of the above kinds and ends Book 2 of The Ascent of Mount Carmel. Keep in mind that this book was about the purification of the intellect by Faith. Can you summarize or formulate some important lessons to take from this?