I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond.
Teresa of Avila is the queen of Catholic mysticism. Her book, The Interior Castle, first published in 1588, derived from profound personal experience. Her castle is a metaphor for the human body with the human soul as part of The Oneness, dwelling within its innermost mansion. Our challenge is to overcome and forgive mortal short-comings to identify and unite that within us to the Divine Presence everywhere.
Entering the first mansion, the soul spends time in self-knowledge and humility, defending against the attractions of worldly pleasures, ambition and deception.
In the second mansion, the soul grows in holiness through perseverance in prayer, contemplation, conversations with forthright people, reading good books and listening to edifying talks. Contemplation advances its ability to concentrate the mind, withdrawing the senses from all outward things and consciously looks inward.
Souls entering the third mansion have overcome their initial ego defenses, are careful in their speech, consciously avoid committing negative actions, and practice works of charity. Souls in this mansion are still governed by reason, learning the value of perseverance and suffering that prepares the soul for the life of mysticism.
Entrance into the fourth mansion marks a significant advancement in the soul’s journey to a greater and more profound intimacy with Divinity marking the transition from the purgative and active stage of the journey to the illuminative and passive stage entering into the supernatural power of more direct Divine Communication. Teresa reminds us that the interior world of Divinity is always close hand and if we continue to persevere in the practice of prayer, overcoming obstacles, trials and servile fear, a greater, disinterested love of The Oneness will arise in the soul allowing us to experience a temple of solitude accompanied with great peace and quiet sweetness.
Entering the fifth mansion, the soul is still in the illuminative stage of the journey with hidden treasures to be found in the castle as the soul falls asleep to the things of the world while faculties are suspended, and virtual unconsciousness of a soul withdrawn from the body appears as a kind of mini-death.
Entrance into the sixth mansion marks the transition from the illuminative stage of the journey to the unitive stage. The soul has fallen deeply in love with The Oneness and is now ready for spiritual betrothal. The suffering experienced by the soul in the sixth mansion will be counter-balanced by many mystical experiences the soul undergoes of a truly amazing nature. It is in the sixth mansion that the soul begins to experience extraordinary mystical phenomena that one associates with some of the great saints including: visions, raptures, and/or jubilations. Teresa explains these experiences in significant detail through eleven chapters, but cautions the soul not to rely on them, fearing the soul might think too highly of itself or even become delusional.
When the soul comes to the seventh mansion, she enters into spiritual marriage with Shekina where self-forgiveness becomes so complete that it seems as though the soul no longer exists independently and has a marked detachment from experiences in almost constant tranquility.
The Interior Castle reminds us that:
The Oneness is always near dwelling within each of us.
Contemplation is absolutely, unequivocally indispensable, with humility and self-knowledge of personal weakness and Infinite Goodness being the foundation.
Profound interior peace helps soul deal with exterior trials. All harm comes to us when we fail to realize that Divinity is near and instead take your gaze off The Power.
The spiritual journey, although sustained by grace, demands intense effort, including detachment, mortification and perseverance, as well as patience.
Progress not perfection is the way of the true spiritual journey.