Summary of the interior castle by St Therese de Avila
#1
This is not supposed to be a very organized or ideal summary, with it coming from the several notes i wrote as i read the book. Nevertheless, this book shows the depths which the catholic mystery and monastic life can reach, along with lot's of useful advice towards both highly and less advanced people. The book is written as being directed to the other nuns, with it having a very personal and not rigid style, with a small number of quotes or mentions of other authors, or attempts at forming some kind of theological system or doctrine. While she doesn't specifically mention it here, most of this is based on her own path and life. 

First room:
 
  She begins by establishing the natural beauty and greatness of the human soul, which in the book will be symbolized by a great castle with many different rooms and entrances, along with maids, inhabitants and the king. This is one among other allegories which are used troughout the book, but it’s important to point out that the king is god, and the servants of the castle are the different faculties and powers of the soul. Lot’s of people don’t even enter into the castle, living a completely external and blind life, not aware of their inner nature. Even worse is the situation of souls in mortal sin, while the divine light keeps shining in all souls, and the higher part of it isn’t brought down by sin, it obscures this light from conscience.
   The path out of this room, is trough prayer and what she calls self knowledge, the observation and correction of our negative inner and outer tendencies. She still recommends that the soul should remind herself of god in prayer, trying to bring some sort of warm, instead of just focusing on the elimination of the bad habits and parts of our ego.
 
  Second Room:
 
  The souls in this room begin to feel closer to god, but even if they can begin to hear him, it’s as if they’re mute. The devil and several temptations will become much stronger in this stage, in order to drag the soul down to the first room again, with perseverance being the key here. No sort of mystical experiences should be expected here, and indeed, St Therese tell us not to wish for them, as god doesn’t owe us anything. At this point, the most important is to establish inner peace and grow our inner faculties of the soul.
 
 Third Room:
  The external actions of the soul begin to become more virtuous, with she doing what she can to keep herself of sin, while doing lot’s of meditating and prayer. The soul gains a greater inner tranquillity, with she specifically mentioning the growth of pride in certain of these people, as what can bring them down, along with the tendency to lie to oneself.
  She critiques the fact that some people see works as ends in themselves, sometimes due to lack of humility in wanting to show off to others, instead of wanting to grow closer to god. Another aspect she mentions, is that these people remain way too attached to material comforts, with she referring here more to normal people than nuns.
 
 Fourth room:
  The temptations of the flesh rarely get into here, which she calls the reptiles which live on the first rooms. The mystical life of the person begins to appear here, with she doing the distinction between what she calls contentment and delight, along with the difference between cognition or understanding, and knowing trough reason.
  Contentment is spiritual pleasure which comes from our own human effort, equivalent to other positive joys in our life, such as the happiness we feel from seeing someone we care about, despite it being of a higher rank given that it’s spiritual. She compares it to water which has to come from far away places, trough many machines, in order to get to us.
  Delight is much higher, not coming from our own effort, but being supernatural in origin, from god or an angel. It comes from a deeper place than our heart, being compared to a spring which is right near a well, and which flows easily and at will.
  What she terms cognition or understanding, is what we could call the intellect or direct intuition, with it being in contemplation of god, while discursive reason or the imagination might be distracted in something else.
   In the prayer of retreating, the faculties of the soul begin to become more disciplined and united, with the voice of god beginning to be heard softly. She recommends that we don’t forcibly try to stop all thoughts or mental images, as it would be committing way too harsh a violence to the soul at this stage, if it was done constantly. Not only, but our  conscience should be filled with god and love for him, instead of just filling it with nothing.
   There is a growth in virtue, and the sense of I begins to expand further, something which she doesn’t mention further on in the book, but which must refer to the fact that since our conscience stops being so bound to our body and the lower faculties of the soul, the exterior world stops being so separate from us.  
 
 Fifth room:
 
 The prayer of union begins, with the essence of the soul being closely united to god, while the normal faculties of the soul and conscience itself is at sleep. Here she takes some time to critique those who don’t believe in such experiences, telling them that he can do this and much more, being here the stage, where the presence of god inside us, is felt as an unshakable truth. This is the beginning of the “engagement period” between god and the soul, although it’s only the deep glance between them, made to increase the love of the soul towards god.
   Here is the first mention of the second great metaphor in the book, which is that of the cocoon and the butterfly. This cocoon is something that must be built trough our own effort, representing the overcoming of the temptations of the world, and it’s influence on us, leading to our death as a worm. This death is followed by our birth as a butterfly, with this being brought about by divine grace, leading to an inner transformation in the soul. The new soul doesn’t find solace any more in earthly things, despite the fact that it begins to bear the cross in a more powerful way, being in more pain due to the evils of the world.
   The soul can still get lost in this stage, which is why it’s important for it to kill the last imperfections, with her recommending works of charities and love towards the neighbour. The devil can by small steps lead us towards sin, which is why self examination is important, towards analyzing our own progress.
 
 Sixth room:
  This is by far the longest chapter, which begins by her telling of the pain and dark night of the soul, which are felt upon entering this room, with the soul no longer feeling the god’s grace. The distrust of the world and the accusations of it being led by the devil also increase, as it happens lot’s of time, that the world will try to halt spiritual progress. Finding some exterior project to work is what she recommends to overcome this dryness, as even praying is very hard to do.
   After this, she begins to explain the various mystical experiences that those who overcame this being to experience:
   -God will begin to establish contact with the soul, trough impulse coming from it’s most profound part, which hurt but in a delightful way. The normal faculties of the soul remain alert, although this experience is superior to them, which is the reason why it also can’t come from the devil. In some cases, God speaks to the soul, with this being followed by great inner peace, with few words being spoken, but which ring in the soul as eternal inviolable truths, which stay recorded in the memory.
  -Higher experiences are what she calls being taken away, in which the whole soul and body is completely awake, with this being followed by intellectual or imaginary visions, where in the soul enters for moments into it’s highest division.
  -She puts these under the same category as the one above, but calls them flights of spirit, where sometimes even the body is lifted up. The soul sees a light which she had never seen, not even knowing whether she remains in her body. She’ll learn thousands of things in an instant, whether trough the eyes of the soul, if it’s an imaginary vision, or trough an intellectual vision, which is even more incomprehensible.
 -There also exist highly intellectual visions, which aren’t connected to any vision of Jesus, or anything for that matter, where all things are seen as they exist in god. We understand how God is the Truth, and how our sins exist in god, which is a rather intriguing line, which can be interpreted as showing the fact, that pure evil doesn’t really exist, as that would just be complete non-existence.
 
 There exists a great wish for these souls to love god, by showing these truths to other people, with she talking about the gift of tears, that accompanies this inner fire a lot of the time. The inner faculties of the soul begin to become more united, which causes great delight. Despite this, these souls still feel a great fear of god, not due to fearing their salvation, but as to not offend his greatness.
  In a general recommendation, but more directed towards highly spiritual people, she tells them to keep the mysteries and the humanity of Jesus Christ in mind, even if it might cost them at this stage, due to the fact that the will has been in union with god.
  She gives these two examples, in order to more clearly explain what she means by intellectual vision, and imaginary vision, despite the fact that these are general categories, which apply to all of the ones said above:
  Intellectual vision- She can perceive the presence of Christ, a saint or an angel, without any sort of inner or outer eyes, making prayer more alive.
  Imaginary vision- The souls sees Christ in a very vivid manner, with him occasionally even speaking to it. These visions appear as a flash of lighting, causing an initial disturbance, followed by great inner peace.
 
  She ends the chapter, by describing what is the most dangerous part of this path, which a pain in the most innermost of the soul, which is the worst suffering anyone can have, leaving it numb to earthly things. It’s the kind of pain that the disembodied souls in purgatory or hell feel, being a necessary part of the purification towards the last room.
 
 Seventh Room:
  All these rooms live in the soul, with her having a place for God. Here it begins to understand trough direct intuition, what before was the subject of faith, like the holy trinity, with her talking about clearly beginning to understand it as separate persons along with their unity. The trinity begins to be as if a presence in the life of the person, with the person’s acting in the world being much more easy and powerful. Here she speaks about the subtle distinction between the soul and the spirit, with the spirit being always in contemplation of god, even if we, as our waking consciousness and ego, don’t understand it. She also mentions how the soul is separate from it’s faculties, although she doesn’t explain what she means by this.
  The spiritual marriage takes place, with it being much higher than the previous union, with it not involving the body, being the most interior of all experiences. While in the previous one, the soul and god we’re as two burning candles which could still be separated, now they are as two rivers with the water flowing to the same place, being indivisible.
  Any conflict with origin in the lower part of the souls no longer cause her any disturbances, as the central part of the soul is forever at peace. No longer does the soul fear death or any sort of persecution from the world, with the will being directed by impulses flowing from the most innermost part of the soul, as the water mentioned above, flows to the lowest parts of the soul, and even the body. The ecstatic experiences of before end here, with the person no longer feeling as if it loses it’s consciousness. No longer does it commit mortal sins, although venial sins can still happen.
  An even bigger desire to serve god fills these souls, and she exhorts such people to help others on their path.
[-] The following 2 users Like Fallen Adam's post:
  • In His Love, VoxClamantis
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)