Book Review: Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross

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St. John of the Cross was an amazing Spanish mystic who joined the Carmelite order in 1563 and worked with St. Teresa of Avila to reform it. He endured imprisonment and persecution for his beliefs. In both his writing and his life, he expressed his love of God beautifully.

St. John of the Cross’s writing on God and humanity is on par with famous writers like St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. His masterpiece, a classic of Christian literature and mysticism, covers a range of topics, including human flaws like pride, greed, and envy.

In particular, he delves into the “dark night of the spirit,” exploring the suffering and afflictions experienced by the soul. Through this, he offers a detailed explanation of divine love and the soul’s joyful union with God.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book review provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

In this Dark Night of the Soul book review, I’m going to cover the following topics:

Key Insights

Lesson 1: The Importance of Perseverance in the Face of Adversity

St. John of the Cross’s life story is a testament to the power of perseverance in the face of adversity. Despite being imprisoned and tortured by his fellow Carmelites, he refused to abandon his mission of reforming the Carmelite order.

Instead, he used his time in confinement to compose the poetry for which he would later become famous. His experience teaches us that even in the darkest moments of our lives, we should never give up on our dreams or our principles.

Lesson 2: The Dark Night of the Soul as a Path to Spiritual Growth

The concept of the dark night of the soul, introduced by St. John of the Cross, describes a state of spiritual emptiness and despair that can afflict even the most devout believers.

While this can be a painful experience, it can also be an opportunity for spiritual growth. By persisting in a life of virtue and prayer despite the absence of immediate rewards, we can develop a deeper understanding of our faith and our relationship with God.

Lesson 3: The Importance of Contemplation in Spiritual Development

St. John of the Cross was a strong advocate for the practice of contemplation, which involves turning one’s attention inward to connect with the divine.

He believed that this practice was essential for spiritual development and that it could lead to profound insights and experiences. For those seeking a deeper understanding of their faith, the practice of contemplation may be a powerful tool.

Lesson 4: The Power of Beauty to Inspire Faith

St. John of the Cross was deeply moved by the beauty of biblical poetry, and this experience helped to inspire his own poetry and his spiritual journey.

The power of beauty to inspire faith is a theme that runs throughout his work, and it is a reminder that the pursuit of beauty can be a path to the divine. Whether through art, music, literature, or the natural world, the experience of beauty can help us connect with something greater than ourselves and inspire us to deepen our faith.

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1. The Focus on the Sin of the Soul

In a world that often focuses on the sins of the body, St. John of the Cross reminds us of the importance of addressing the sin of the soul. He cautions against spiritual sloth and emphasizes the need for the soul to purify itself of imperfections. This emphasis on spiritual growth is a refreshing reminder of what truly matters in the pursuit of faith.

2. Symbolism and Metaphor

The book is full of rich symbolism and metaphor, which can be challenging but also rewarding for the reader. These literary devices help to convey the elusive nature of the soul’s journey and facilitate the reader’s understanding of the subject matter. The use of symbolism and metaphor also adds a layer of depth to the work, making it all the more profound and meaningful.

3. A Framework for Getting Through Dark Times

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this book is the framework it provides for getting through the difficult periods of spiritual growth. St. John of the Cross acknowledges that the journey toward God is not easy and that there will be periods of darkness and pain. However, he also provides a roadmap for persevering through these times and emerging on the other side with a deeper faith and understanding of God.


1. Difficulty of Reading

One of the most significant challenges of this book is its old English writing style. The language can be difficult to understand and may require the reader to take their time and read carefully. Even experienced readers may struggle with the long, run-on sentences and the constant shifts in meaning that can be confusing.

2. Not for Everyone

While the book’s content is relevant to anyone on a spiritual journey, the writing style may not be accessible to everyone. Some readers may find it too dense and challenging to read, which can be discouraging and may prevent them from benefiting from the book’s message.

3. More Accessible Alternatives

While Dark Night of the Soul is a classic work that has stood the test of time, there are many contemporary books that deal with the same subject matter and are easier to read. For example, The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, Desiring God by John Piper and Abraham by Charles Swindoll, etc. For readers who are looking for a more accessible introduction to the spiritual journey, these alternative books may be a better option.


While Dark Night of the Soul may be a difficult and challenging book, it is ultimately well worth the effort. Its focus on the sin of the soul, rich symbolism and metaphor, and framework for persevering through difficult times make it a valuable resource for anyone on the journey toward God.

About The Author

John of the Cross, venerated as Saint John of the Cross, was a Spanish Catholic priest, mystic, and a Carmelite friar of converso origin. He is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and he is one of the thirty-seven Doctors of the Church. John of the Cross is known especially for his writings.

Buy The Book: Dark Night of the Soul

If you want to buy the book Dark Night of the Soul, you can get it from the following links:

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