Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?
St John of the Cross would suggest the reason for this is that we approach the incomprehensible with the faculties. Consequently we must prepare ourselves by decoupling from the faculties and resting in an emptiness of the faculties.
The method recommended by St John is twofold:
1. empty and deprive the faculties of their natural occupations to make room for the inflow and illumination of the supernatural.
2. remain alone in a loving awareness and interior peace, silence and stillness.
These points are elaborated upon, quite succinctly, with the following quotations from The Ascent of Mount Carmel.
We are discussing the union and transformation of the soul in God.
The preparation for this union is not an understanding, nor the taste, feeling, or imagining of God or any other object, but purity and love, which is the stripping off and perfect renunciation of all experiences for God alone. Perfect transformation is impossible without perfect purity. The illumination of the soul and its union with God corresponds to the measure of its purity.
The faculties must undergo a purification of their respective apprehensions in order to reach union with God.
We annihilate the faculties in their operations. We go to God by not comprehending rather than by comprehending, and we exchange the mutable and comprehensible for the Immutable and Incomprehensible.
All the sensory means and exercises of the faculties must be left behind and in silence so that God himself may effect divine union in the soul. One has to follow this method of disencumbering, emptying and depriving the faculties of their natural occupations to make room for the inflow and illumination of the supernatural.
This divine knowledge of God never deals with particular things, since its object is the Supreme Principle. Consequently one cannot express it in particular terms.
Accordingly, to reach union with the wisdom of God a person must advance by unknowing rather than by knowing.
This sublime knowledge can be received only by a person who has arrived at union with God, for it is itself that very union. It consists in a certain touch of the divinity produced in the soul, and thus it is God himself who is experienced and tasted there. This knowledge tastes of the divine essence and eternal life.
Manifestly, in this high state of union God does not communicate himself to the soul through the disguise of any image or likeness, but directly: the pure and naked essence of God with the pure and naked essence of the soul.
Remain alone in a loving awareness, without particular considerations, in interior peace and quiet and repose, and without the acts and exercises of the faculties. Remain only in general loving awareness, without any particular knowledge or understanding.
The more habituated persons become to this calm, the more their experience of this general loving knowledge of God will increase.
What the soul was gradually acquiring through the labour of meditation is converted into habitual and substantial, general loving knowledge. This knowledge is neither distinct nor particular, as was the previous knowledge. The moment it recollects itself in the presence of God it enters into an act of general, loving, peaceful, and tranquil knowledge, drinking wisdom and love and delight.
The purity and simplicity of this state renders the soul simple, pure and clear of all the apprehensions and forms through which the senses and memory were acting.
We do not work with the faculties. One should not commingle other, more palpable lights of forms, concepts or figures of meditative discourse if one wants to receive this divine light in greater simplicity and abundance, for none of these tangible lights are like that serene, limpid light. If individuals were to desire to consider and understand particular things, however spiritual these things may be, they would hinder the general, limpid and simple light of the spirit.
What clearly follows is that when individuals have finished purifying and voiding themselves of all forms and apprehensible images, they will abide in this pure and simple light and be perfectly transformed in it. This light is never lacking to the soul, but because of creature forms and veils that weigh on it and cover it, the light is never infused. If individuals would eliminate these impediments and live in pure nakedness and poverty of spirit, their soul in its simplicity and purity would then be immediately transformed into simple and pure Wisdom, the Son of God.
Creatures, earthly or heavenly, and all distinct ideas and images, natural and supernatural, that can be the object of a person’s faculties, are inadequate to God’s being. Therefore anyone encumbering the faculties of the soul with what is comprehensible cannot have a proper esteem of God. For whoever does not renounce all possessions cannot be Christ’s disciple.
To reach satisfaction in all
desire satisfaction in nothing.
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.
To come to enjoy what you have not
you must go by a way in which you enjoy not.
To come to the knowledge you have not
you must go by a way in which you know not.
To come to the possession you have not
you must go by a way in which you possess not.
To come to be what you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not.