The Interior Castle, or The Mansions, (Spanish: El Castillo Interior or Las Moradas) was written by St. Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D., the Spanish Discalced Carmelite nun and famed mystic, in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development through service and prayer. Inspired by her vision of the soul as a diamond in the shape of a castle containing seven mansions, which she interpreted as the journey of faith through seven stages, ending with union with God.
After being ordered to write her autobiography, published posthumously as La Vida de la Santa Madre Teresa de Jesús (The Life of the Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus), Teresa was hesitant to begin writing again on her views of the perfection found in internal prayer. She started writing her seminal work, Interior Castle, on June 2, 1577, Trinity Sunday, and completed it on the eve of St. Andrew's Day, November 29, 1577; however, there was a five months-long interruption in between, effectively leaving a fortnight each for first and second halves of the book. In August 1586, it was decided to print Teresa's works, which had been collected and preserved by her secretary, the Venerable Ana of Jesus, O.C.D. The Augustinian friar and poet Luis de León, O.E.S.A., was selected as the editor, and finally in 1588 the book was published at Salamanca.
The books The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection, taken collectively, are practical blueprints for "seekers" who want to really experience prayer as mystical union with God. Further, Teresa's exposure of how she was blessed with contemplation illuminates the Catholic theologies of grace, the sacraments, humility and ultimately love.
|The Interior Castle|
|Author||St. Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D.|
|Original title||El Castillo Interior|
Published in English
|1675, 1852 and 1912|
In the hands of the Spanish Inquisition at that time, Teresa's Life was commonly believed to be the weight in the scale of whether to call her experiences heretical or not. Her humility and claims that "I am not meant for writing; I have neither the health nor the wits for it" almost prevented Teresa from composing The Interior Castle. However, according to a letter written by Fray Diego, one of Teresa's former confessors, Teresa was finally convinced to write her book after she received a vision from God. Diego wrote that God revealed to Teresa:
With that, The Interior Castle was born. It contained the basis for what she felt should be the ideal journey of faith, comparing the contemplative soul to a castle with seven successive interior courts, or chambers, analogous to the seven mansions. It is also not unduly speculative that living in a walled city like Ávila, not to mention a Carmelite monastery, must have influenced her thinking from an interior perspective. This concept of an interior life is still important in Spanish thinking in the 21st century.
The Interior Castle is divided into seven mansions (also called dwelling places), each level describing a step to get closer to God. In her work, Teresa already assumed entrance into the first mansions by prayer and meditation.
The first three mansions are considered to be active prayer and asceticism. The first mansions begin with a soul's state of grace, but the souls are surrounded by sin and only starting to seek God's grace through humility in order to achieve perfection. The second mansions are also called the Mansions of the Practice of Prayer because the soul seeks to advance through the castle by daily thoughts of God, humble recognition of God's work in the soul and ultimately daily prayer. The third mansions are the Mansions of Exemplary Life characterized through divine grace a love for God that is so great that the soul has an aversion to both mortal and venial sin and a desire to do works of charitable service to man for the ultimate glory of God.
The fourth through seventh mansions are considered to be mystical or contemplative prayer. The fourth mansions are a departure from the soul actively acquiring what it gains as God increases his role. The fifth mansions contains incipient Union in which the soul prepares itself to receive gifts from God. If the fifth mansion can be compared to a betrothal, the sixth mansion can be compared to lovers. The soul spends increasing amounts of time torn between favors from God and from outside afflictions. The soul achieves clarity in prayer and a spiritual marriage with God in the seventh mansions.
She candidly reveals this interior journey as being inseparable from her love for Christ and that the highest mansions can only be gained by being in a state of grace through the Church sacraments, fervent devotion of the soul's will to Him, and humbly receiving a love so great it is beyond human capability or description. Through prayer and meditation the soul is placed in a quiet state to receive God's gifts (she calls "consolations") of contemplation, and Teresa notes that man's efforts cannot achieve this if it is not His divine will. In fact she humbly repeats that she is never worthy of these consolations but is always immensely grateful for them.
St. Teresa's mystical experiences have inspired several authors in modern times, but not necessarily from Teresa's Christian theological perspective.
The 2006 book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert recognizes St. Teresa as "that most mystical of Catholic figures" and alludes to St. Teresa's Interior Castle as the "mansions of her being" and her journey as one of "divine meditative bliss". Gilbert was raised a Protestant Christian, but her book describes her path to God through yoga.
Brooke Fraser's song "Orphans, Kingdoms" was inspired by St. Teresa's Interior Castle.
Teen Daze's  2012 release "The Inner Mansions" refers to St. Teresa's Interior Castle in the album's title as well as in the first track. "...have mercy on yourselves! If you realize your pitiable condition, how can you refrain from trying to remove the darkness from the crystal of your souls? Remember, if death should take you now, you would never again enjoy the light of this Sun." This line appears dubbed over the musical introduction to "New Life."
In Mark Williamson's "ONE: a memoir" (2018), the metaphor of the Interior Castle is used to describe an inner world of introspective reflection on past events, a "memory loci" based on the ancient system of recall for rhetorical purposes.
The Book of the First Monks (Latin: Decem Libri – Liber de Institutione Primorum Monacharum) is a medieval Catholic book in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelite Order, thought to reflect the spirituality of the Prophet Elijah, honored as the Father of the Order.Cataphatic theology
Cataphatic theology or kataphatic theology is theology that uses "positive" terminology to describe or refer to the divine – specifically, God – i.e. terminology that describes or refers to what the divine is believed to be, in contrast to the "negative" terminology used in apophatic theology to indicate what it is believed the divine is not.Christian meditation
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion. Both in Eastern and Western Christianity meditation is the middle level in a broad three-stage characterization of prayer: it involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplative prayer. Teachings in both the Eastern and Western Christian churches have emphasized the use of Christian meditation as an element in increasing one's knowledge of Christ.German mysticism
German mysticism, sometimes called Dominican mysticism or Rhineland mysticism, was a late medieval Christian mystical movement that was especially prominent within the Dominican order and in Germany. Although its origins can be traced back to Hildegard of Bingen, it is mostly represented by Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, and Henry Suso. Other notable figures include Rulman Merswin and Margaretha Ebner, and the Friends of God.
This movement often seems to stand in stark contrast with scholasticism and German Theology, but the relationship between scholasticism and German mysticism is debated. Viewed as a predecessor of the reformation, the contrast becomes very apparent. For example, the use of an approachable vernacular stands in stark contrast to the constrained Latin of the Scholastics, the increased focus on the laity stands in contrast to the more deeply sacramental understanding of the Church, and these elements are both taken up and transformed in the writings of Martin Luther. German mysticism can also be viewed as a practical application of Scholasticism. Though Meister Eckhart is most well known for his popular German sermons, he also wrote a lengthy philosophical exposition of the same teachings in Latin. Some scholars have read him as a rather orthodox Thomist, seeing his mysticism as flowing naturally from established teachings through Eckhart's own idiosyncrasies and exaggerations.
Some of the movement's characteristics:
A focus on laymen as well as clerics
An emphasis on instruction and preaching
A focus on the New Testament rather than the Old Testament
A focus on the Christ rather than the Church
A use of the vernacular (German and Dutch) rather than Latin or HebrewSome in the movement came under criticism by the Church for heterodox or heretical opinions.Guigo II
Guigo II, sometimes referred to as Guy, or by the moniker "the Angelic", was a Carthusian monk and the 9th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery, from 1174-80. He died possibly in 1188 or 1193, and is distinct from both Guigo I, the 5th prior of the same monastery, and the late thirteenth-century Carthusian Guigo de Ponte.Henosis
Henosis (Ancient Greek: ἕνωσις) is the classical Greek word for mystical "oneness", "union" or "unity." In Platonism, and especially Neoplatonism, the goal of henosis is union with what is fundamental in reality: the One (Τὸ Ἕν), the Source, or Monad. The Neoplatonic concept has precedents in the Greek mystery religions as well as parallels in Eastern philosophy. It is further developed in the Corpus Hermeticum, in Christian theology, Alevism, soteriology and mysticism, and is an important factor in the historical development of monotheism during Late Antiquity.Hilarion
Hilarion the Great (291–371) was an anchorite who spent most of his life in the desert according to the example of Anthony the Great. He is considered to be the founder of Palestinian monasticism and venerated as a saint by Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church.Interior locution
An interior locution is a mystical concept used by various religions. An interior locution is a form of private revelation, but is distinct from an apparition, or religious vision. An interior locution may be defined as "A supernatural communication to the ear, imagination, or directly to the intellect."Jean Stafford
Jean Stafford (July 1, 1915 – March 26, 1979) was an American short story writer and novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford in 1970.Josephology
Josephology is the theological study of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. Records of devotions to Joseph go back to the year 800 and Doctors of the Church since Saint Thomas Aquinas have written on the subject. With the growth of Mariology, the theological study of Joseph also grew and in the 1950s specific centers for it were formed. The modern study of the theology concerning Joseph is one of the newest theological disciplines.Prayer of Quiet
The Prayer of Quiet is a term from Christian theology. It is regarded by writers on mystical theology as one of the degrees of contemplation or contemplative prayer, and must be distinguished therefore from meditation and from affective prayer. It holds an intermediary place between affective prayer and the Prayer of Union. As the name implies, the Prayer of Quiet is considered a state in which the soul experiences an extraordinary peace and rest, accompanied by delight or pleasure in contemplating God as present.The Prayer of Quiet is discussed in the writings of Teresa of Ávila, Francis de Sales, Thomas Merton and others.Sol de Fátima
Sol de Fátima is a Spanish-language Catholic devotional magazine published by the Blue Army of Our Lady and is devoted to the message of Our Lady of Fátima.Spanish mystics
The Spanish mystics are major figures in the Catholic Reformation of 16th and 17th century Spain. The goal of this movement was to reform the Church structurally and to renew it spiritually. The Spanish Mystics attempted to express in words their experience of a mystical communion with Christ.Teresa of Ávila
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. Active during the Counter-Reformation, she was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of her time; the movement she initiated, later joined by Saint John of the Cross, eventually led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither she nor John was alive when the two orders separated.
In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and, on 27 September 1970, she was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her books, which include her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus) and her seminal work The Interior Castle, are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices. She also wrote Way of Perfection.
After her death, Saint Teresa was considered a candidate to become a national patron saint in Spain. A Santero image of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo, said to have been sent with one of her brothers to Peru, was Canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II on 28 December 1989 at the Shrine of El Viejo. Pious Catholic beliefs also associate Saint Teresa with the Infant Jesus of Prague with claims of former ownership and devotion.The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford is a short story collection by Jean Stafford. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1970.The Glories of Mary
The Glories of Mary is a classic book in the field of Roman Catholic Mariology, written during the 18th century by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church.Vision (spirituality)
A vision is something seen in a dream, trance, or religious ecstasy, especially a supernatural appearance that usually conveys a revelation. Visions generally have more clarity than dreams, but traditionally fewer psychological connotations. Visions are known to emerge from spiritual traditions and could provide a lens into human nature and reality. Prophecy is often associated with visions.Way of Perfection
The Way of Perfection (Spanish: Camino de Perfección) is a 1577 book and a method for making progress in the contemplative life written by St. Teresa of Ávila, the noted Discalced Carmelite nun for the members of the reformed monastery of the Order she had founded.
Teresa was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in 16th-century Spain, and eventually was named a Doctor of the Church, while her work became a classic text in Christian spirituality and mysticism, especially in the realms of prayer in Christianity and Spanish Renaissance literature.
Teresa called this a "living book" and in it set out to teach her nuns how to progress through prayer and Christian meditation. She discusses the rationale for being a Carmelite, and the rest deals with the purpose of and approaches to spiritual life.