The Epistemology of Divine Love According to St. John of the Cross

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Sandra Yocum


St. John of the Cross is presented as an authentic epistemologist with a comprehensive theory of mystical knowledge. He describes the nature and excellence of mystical knowledge and explains how it may be attained through an unyielding and total adherence to the human telos-union with God-and through the dark night, in which a kenosis of the sensory and intellectual faculties leads to a gradual transformation of our apprehensive capacity. Mystical knowledge has the characteristics of passivity, substantiality, supra-abundance, and ineffability; it is a dynamic loving communication between God and the soul capable of transforming the whole person. The radical demands of nada on the intellect, the will, and the memory placed by John's epistemology can be understood through a rationale of divine love. The necessary operation of faith in the dark night, which transcends reason through a loving trust of the Master amidst intellectual and affective suffering, is described. John's insight into divine love as the fountain of all knowledge and inspiration, his thorough analysis on the power of the theological virtues to elevate our intellectual faculties, and his wisdom about the relationship between human suffering and divine knowledge make him a unique epistemologist with much to contribute to our philosophical conversations today.


Religion, Theology, knowledge in John of the Cross, love and knowledge, Christian epistemology, mystical knowledge, faith in the dark night, light and darkness, intellectual kenosis, intellect and will, knowledge and the theological virtues, contemplative knowledge of God

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