Stanza xxvi

In the inner cellar
Of my Beloved have I drunk; and when I went forth
Over all the plain
I knew nothing,
And lost the flock I followed before.

HERE the soul speaks of that sovereign grace of God in taking it
to Himself into the house of His love, which is the union, or
transformation of love in God. It describes two effects proceeding
therefrom: forgetfulness of, and detachment from, all the things
of this world, and the mortification of its tastes and desires.

‘In the inner cellar.’

2. In order to explain in any degree the meaning of this, I have
need of the special help of the Holy Ghost to direct my hand and
guide my pen. The cellar is the highest degree of love to which
the soul may attain in this life, and is therefore said to be the
inner. It follows from this that there are other cellars not so
interior; that is, the degrees of love by which souls reach this,
the last. These cellars are seven in number, and the soul has
entered into them all when it has in perfection the seven gifts of
the Holy Ghost, so far as it is possible for it. When the soul has
the spirit of fear in perfection, it has in perfection also the
spirit of love, inasmuch as this fear, the last of the seven
gifts, is filial fear, and the perfect fear of a son proceeds from
his perfect love of his father. Thus when the Holy Scripture
speaks of one as having perfect charity, it says of him that he
fears God. So the prophet Isaias, announcing the perfections of
Christ, saith of Him, ‘The spirit of the fear of the Lord shall
replenish him.’ [215] Holy Simeon also is spoken of by the
Evangelist as a ‘just man full of fear,’ [216] and the same
applies to many others.

3. Many souls reach and enter the first cellar, each according to
the perfection of its love, but the last and inmost cellar is
entered by few in this world, because therein is wrought the
perfect union with God, the union of the spiritual marriage, of
which the soul is now speaking. What God communicates to the soul
in this intimate union is utterly ineffable, beyond the reach of
all possible words–just as it is impossible to speak of God
Himself so as to convey any idea of what He is–because it is God
Himself who communicates Himself to the soul now in the marvellous
bliss of its transformation. In this state God and the soul are
united, as the window is with the light, or coal with the fire, or
the light of the stars with that of the sun, yet, however, not so
essentially and completely as it will be in the life to come. The
soul, therefore, to show what it received from the hands of God in
the cellar of wine, says nothing else, and I do not believe that
anything could be said but the words which follow:

‘Of my Beloved have I drunk.’

4. As a draught diffuses itself through all the members and veins
of the body, so this communication of God diffuses itself
substantially in the whole soul, or rather, the soul is
transformed in God. In this transformation the soul drinks of God
in its very substance and its spiritual powers. In the
understanding it drinks wisdom and knowledge, in the will the
sweetest love, in the memory refreshment and delight in the
thought and sense of its bliss. That the soul receives and drinks
delight in its very substance, appears from the words of the bride
in the Canticle: ‘My soul melted as He spoke’ [217]–that is, when
the Bridegroom communicated Himself to the soul.

5. That the understanding drinks wisdom is evident from the words
of the bride longing and praying for the kiss of union: ‘There
Thou shalt teach me, and I will give thee a cup of spiced wine.’
[218] ‘Thou shalt teach me wisdom and knowledge in love, and I
will give Thee a cup of spiced wine–that is, my love mingled with
Thine.’ The bride says that the will also drinks of love, saying:
‘He brought me into the cellar of wine; He hath ordered in me
charity,’ [219]–that is, ‘He gave me His love, embracing me, to
drink of love’; or, to speak more clearly, ‘He ordered in me His
charity, tempering His charity and to the purpose making it mine.’
This is to give the soul to drink of the very love of its Beloved,
which the Beloved infuses into it.

6. There is a common saying that the will cannot love that of
which the understanding has no knowledge. This, however, is to be
understood in the order of nature, it being impossible, in a
natural way, to love anything unless we first know what it is we
love. But in a supernatural way God can certainly infuse love and
increase it without infusing and increasing distinct knowledge, as
is evident from the texts already quoted. Yea, many spiritual
persons have experience of this; their love of God burns more and
more, while their knowledge does not grow. Men may know little and
love much, and on the other hand, know much and love but little.

7. In general, those spiritual persons whose knowledge of God is
not very great are usually very rich in all that belongs to the
will, and infused faith suffices them for this knowledge, by means
of which God infuses and increases charity in them and the acts
thereof, which are to love Him more and more though knowledge is
not increased. Thus the will may drink of love while the
understanding drinks in no fresh knowledge. In the present
instance, however, all the powers of the soul together, because of
the union in the inner cellar, drink of the Beloved.

8. As to the memory, it is clear that the soul drinks of the
Beloved in it, because it is enlightened with the light of the
understanding in remembering the blessings it possesses and enjoys
in union with the Beloved.

‘And when I went forth.’

9. That is, after this grace: the divine draught having so deified
the soul, exalted it, and inebriated it in God. Though the soul be
always in the high estate of marriage ever since God has placed it
there, nevertheless actual union in all its powers is not
continuous, though the substantial union is. In this substantial
union the powers of the soul are most frequently in union, and
drink of His cellar, the understanding by knowledge, the will by
love, etc. We are not, therefore, to suppose that the soul, when
saying that it went out, has ceased from its substantial or
essential union with God, but only from the union of its
faculties, which is not, and cannot be, permanent in this life; it
is from this union, then, it went forth when it wandered over all
the plain–that is, through the whole breadth of the world.

‘I knew nothing.’

10. This draught of God’s most deep wisdom makes the soul forget
all the things of this world, and consider all its previous
knowledge, and the knowledge of the whole world besides, as pure
ignorance in comparison with this knowledge.

11. For a clearer understanding of this, we must remember that the
most regular cause of the soul’s ignoring the things of the world,
when it has ascended to this high state, is that it is informed by
a supernatural knowledge, in the presence of which all natural and
worldly knowledge is ignorance rather than knowledge. For the soul
in possession of this knowledge, which is most profound, learns
from it that all other knowledge not included in this knowledge is
not knowledge, but ignorance, and worthless. We have this truth in
the words of the Apostle when he said that ‘the wisdom of this
world is foolishness with God.’ [220]

12. This is the reason why the soul says it knows nothing, now
that it has drunk of the divine wisdom. The truth is that the
wisdom of men and of the whole world is mere ignorance, and not
deserving any attention, but it is a truth that can be learned
only in that truth of the presence of God in the soul
communicating to it His wisdom and making it strong by this
draught of love that it may see it distinctly. This is taught us
by Solomon, saying: ‘The vision that the man spake, with whom God
is, and who being strengthened by God abiding with him, said: I am
the most foolish of men, and the wisdom of men is not with me.’

13. When the soul is raised to this high wisdom of God, the wisdom
of man is in its eyes the lowest ignorance: all natural science
and the works of God, if accompanied by ignorance of Him, are as
ignorance; for where He is not known, there nothing is known. ‘The
deep things of God are foolishness to men.’ [222] Thus the
divinely wise and the worldly wise are fools in the estimation of
each other; for the latter cannot understand the wisdom and
science of God, nor the former those of the world, for the wisdom
of the world is ignorance in comparison with the wisdom of God;
and the wisdom of God is ignorance with respect to that of the

14. Moreover, this deification and elevation of the spirit in God,
whereby the soul is, as it were, rapt and absorbed in love, one
with God, suffer it not to dwell upon any worldly matter. The soul
is now detached, not only from all outward things, but even from
itself: it is, as it were, undone, assumed by, and dissolved in,
love–that is, it passes out of itself into the Beloved. Thus the
bride, in the Canticle, after speaking of her own transformation
by love into the Beloved, expresses her state of ignorance by the
words ‘I knew not.’ [223] The soul is now, in a certain sense,
like Adam in paradise, who knew no evil. It is so innocent that it
sees no evil; neither does it consider anything to be amiss. It
will hear much that is evil, and will see it with its eyes, and
yet it shall not be able to understand it, because it has no evil
habits whereby to judge of it. God has rooted out of it those
imperfect habits and that ignorance resulting from the evil of
sin, by the perfect habit of true wisdom. Thus, also, the soul
knows nothing on this subject.

15. Such a soul will scarcely intermeddle with the affairs of
others, because it forgets even its own; for the work of the
Spirit of God in the soul in which He dwells is to incline it to
ignore those things which do not concern it, especially such as do
not minister to edification. The Spirit of God abides within the
soul to withdraw it from outward things rather than to lead it
among them; and thus the soul knows nothing as it knew it
formerly. We are not, however, to suppose that it loses the habits
of knowledge previously acquired, for those habits are improved by
the more perfect habit of supernatural knowledge infused, though
these habits be not so powerful as to necessitate knowledge
through them, and yet there is no reason why they should not do so

16. In this union of the divine wisdom, these habits are united
with the higher wisdom of other knowledge, as a little light with
another which is great; it is the great light that shines,
overwhelming the less, yet the latter is not therefore lost, but
rather perfected, though it be not the light which shines pre-
eminently. Thus, I imagine, will it be in heaven; the acquired
habits of knowledge in the just will not be destroyed, though they
will be of no great importance there, seeing that the just will
know more in the divine wisdom than by the habits acquired on

17. But the particular notions and forms of things, acts of the
imagination, and every other apprehension having form and figure
are all lost and ignored in this absorbing love, and this for two
reasons. First, the soul cannot actually attend to anything of the
kind, because it is actually absorbed by this draught of love.
Secondly, and this is the principal reason, its transformation in
God so conforms it to His purity and simplicity–for there is no
form or imaginary figure in Him–as to render it pure, cleansed
and empty of all the forms and figures it entertained before,
being now purified and enlightened in simple contemplation. All
spots and stains in the glass become invisible when the sun shines
upon it, but they appear again as soon as the light of the sun is

18. So is it with the soul; while the effects of this act of love
continue, this ignorance continues also, so that it cannot observe
anything in particular until these effects have ceased. Love has
set the soul on fire and transmuted it into love, has annihilated
it and destroyed it as to all that is not love, according to the
words of David: ‘My heart hath been inflamed, and my reins have
been changed; and I am brought to nothing, and I knew not.’ [224]
The changing of the reins, because the heart is inflamed, is the
changing of the soul, in all its desires and actions, in God, into
a new manner of life, the utter undoing and annihilation of the
old man, and therefore the prophet said that he was brought to
nothing and knew not.

19. These are the two effects of drinking the wine of the cellar
of God; not only is all previous knowledge brought to nothing and
made to vanish, but the old life also with its imperfections is
destroyed, and into the new man renewed; this is the second of the
two effects described in the words that follow:

‘And lost the flock I followed before.’

20. Until the soul reaches the state of perfection, however
spiritual it may be, there always remains a troop of desires,
likings, and other imperfections, sometimes natural, sometimes
spiritual, after which it runs, and which it tries to feed while
following and satisfying them. With regard to the understanding,
there are certain imperfections of the desire of knowledge. With
regard to the will, certain likings and peculiar desires, at times
in temporal things, as the wish to possess certain trifles, and
attachment to some things more than to others, certain prejudices,
considerations, and punctilios, with other vanities, still
savouring of the world: and again in natural things, such as
eating and drinking, the preference of one kind of food over
another, and the choice of the best: at another time, in spiritual
things, such as seeking for sweetness, and other follies of
spiritual persons not yet perfect, too numerous to recount here.
As to the memory, there are many inconsistencies, anxieties,
unseemly reminiscences, which drag the soul captive after them.

21. The four passions of the soul also involve it in many useless
hopes, joys, griefs, and fears, after which it runs. As to this
flock, some men are more influenced by it than others; they run
after and follow it, until they enter the inner cellar, where they
lose it altogether, being then transformed in love. In that cellar
the flock of imperfections is easily destroyed, as rust and mould
on metal in the fire. Then the soul feels itself free from the
pettiness of self-likings and the vanities after which it ran
before, and may well say, ‘I have lost the flock which I followed


GODcommunicates Himself to the soul in this interior union with a
love so intense that the love of a mother, who so tenderly
caresses her child, the love of a brother, or the affection of a
friend bear no likeness to it, for so great is the tenderness, and
so deep is the love with which the Infinite Father comforts and
exalts the humble and loving soul. O wonders worthy of all awe and
reverence! He humbles Himself in reality before that soul that He
may exalt it, as if He were its servant, and the soul His lord. He
is as anxious to comfort it as if He were a slave, and the soul
God. So great is the humility and tenderness of God. In this
communion of love He renders in a certain way those services to
the soul which He says in the Gospel He will perform for the elect
in heaven. ‘Amen, I say to you, that He will gird Himself and make
them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them.’ [225]

2. This very service He renders now to the soul, comforting and
cherishing it, as a mother her child whom she nurtures in her
bosom. And the soul recognisesherein the truth of the words of
Isaias, ‘You shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees
they shall caress you.’ [226] What must the feelings of the soul
be amid these sovereign graces? How it will melt away in love,
beholding the bosom of God opened for it with such overflowing
love. When the soul perceives itself in the midst of these
delights, it surrenders itself wholly to God, gives to Him the
breasts of its own will and love, and under the influence thereof
addresses the Beloved in the words of the bride in the Canticle,
saying: ‘I to my Beloved, and His turning is towards me. Come, my
Beloved, let us go forth into the field, let us abide in the
villages. Let us rise early to the vineyards, let us see if the
vineyard flourish, if the flowers be ready to bring forth fruits,
if the pomegranates flourish; there will I give Thee my breasts’
[227]–that is, ‘I will employ all the joy and strength of my will
in the service of Thy love.’ This mutual surrender in this union
of the soul and God is the subject of the stanza which follows: