beyond all

I went into an unknown land
unknowing, stayed there knowing naught,
beyond the power of human thought.

I know not where I entered in
but when I found that I was there,
not knowing how, not knowing where,
strange things I heard, so deep within,
far greater than I could declare.
So there I stayed still knowing naught,
Far, far beyond all human thought.

Peace and transcendent holiness:
knowledge so perfect came unsought,
in deepest solitude was taught
to me in ways I can’t express
the narrow path to life, no less,
leaving me speechless, good for naught,
beyond all power of human thought.

There I remain absorbed, apart,
lost to myself and borne away
to strange realms- where, I cannot say-
of ecstasy, wherein the heart
of flesh has nothing more to say,
my soul enriched, reduced to naught
by knowledge past all human thought.

He who is taken up so high
cuts free from self, and all he knew
before is gone and lost from view
as worthless now. He knows not why
his knowledge rises constantly
but he remains as knowing naught,
far, far beyond all human thought.

As higher still the soul takes flight
all understanding fades away:
how can the cloud that’s dark as night
make night more radiant than the day?
The one who understands this sight
stops there, his senses brought to naught
by knowledge past all human thought.

To know unknowing is so strange,
so overwhelming. No wise man
by disputation ever can
refute it, for his utmost range
of understanding cannot scan
this unknown knowledge, darkly taught,
beyond the power of human thought.

So lofty is it, so sublime,
no human power of learning may
possess it, none can ever say
‘I have it now’. No-one can climb
so high. But he who comes to say
No to his self-hood, knowing naught,
always transcends all human thought.

You wish to learn its origin?
It is a sudden subtle touch
of God’s own being, deep within
the soul, and understood as such:
his mercy reaching out so much –
this great gift leaves one knowing naught,
and far beyond all human thought.

  • St John Of The Cross  (tr. Marjorie Flowers)


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