Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interior Castle-Fourth Mansions: Uniting with the Supernatural

I did not realize until reading the three chapters on the fourth mansions how much is happening in the third mansions. It is subtle, yet profound. Shifts of consciousness are occurring as the soul forms a new foundation-a security not in emotional or mental states, but on the unexplainable. This leads to the remarkable “flip-flop” St. Teresa describes in these chapters. Just when you thought you weren't getting anywhere and you realized it didn't matter, voila!

In these mansions, “senses gradually lose hold while the soul regains its lost control. The soul enters within itself and rises above itself” through the process of “prayer of recollection.” She writes that the soul is “united with the supernatural.” It is fitting to point out that the “supernatural” is not necessarily God or the fullness of God, but a start in this journey. These mansions of the soul are a radically different state-a very big leap!

St. Teresa writes, “Poisonous creatures seldom enter, and if they do, they prove quite harmless-in fact, they do the soul good.” At this stage, emotions and thoughts are not a threat to the experience of God and the soul “enlarges” becoming more and more loving.”Love much,” she writes, “Do then whatever arouses you to God.”She writes that the soul can be united with the supernatural “while thought stays trapped in outer mansions.” In other words, you can dwell in the fourth mansion although not all of your consciousness is there.

Through the “prayer of recollection,” she writes that the “senses and faculties” wander for days and years and come back but don't re-enter the castle because habits have been formed “that are hard to conquer.” St. Teresa says that God perceives good intention and in his mercy, pulls them back. So, there is nothing for the soul to do but trust the process at this point. She makes a point of saying that you don't have to try to cease thought. Neither does the soul feel “servile fear” as the “heart enlarges.” “Leave the soul in God's hands and resign as much as possible to the will of God.”

In these chapters, St. Teresa writes at length about definitions of spiritual experience. Her main point is that the blessings and “interior dilation” that surpass understanding that come at this stage do not occur at all through our own efforts. She describes this experience as “the greatest peace and quietness, delight.” Paradoxically, the only way this can occur is to love God without motive of self-interest and even to suffer without desire for consolation.

In the four hours I studied only these mansions this morning, I pondered and reflected on many things. I realized that I am no longer seeking bliss. I no longer want to always be happy and always in love. For the first time in my life, paradoxically, longing itself is intensely fulfilling. I don't know what I hope to accomplish or why. Today, I am very happy and I have been for some time now. But that is not why I am studying this. I'm studying this because I desire authenticity. No, I don't want to become a nun and go and live in some cloister, as St. Teresa did. Still, I can learn from her many years of very hard work how to go about my own journey.

St. Teresa writes about authentic versus “counterfeit” spiritual experiences. She also writes about the very real danger of pride at this stage. I wondered many things as I read. I wondered about souls who experience intense spiritual states who do not yet dwell in these mansions. I also wondered why a soul that arrives here would ever leave. I reflected upon the many times I've been drawn intensely inward into the “interior castle”and then pulled back out abruptly, afraid to return again.

Sometimes, traumatic experiences do this. Sometimes, pride does this. It can unravel everything. As I reflected, I began to see that it is a gift if a soul falls back to outer mansions due to pride, rather than to let it stay in the fourth mansions, corrupted. Many enter these mansions with pure hearts and somehow lose the ability to evaluate their motives. This may be why we have the Sai Babas of the world, performing “miracles” while basking in egotistical glory.

What about people, and I believe this includes most of us, who experience a taste of the supernatural when we have not yet done the work involved to dwell in the fourth mansions? Grace, perhaps, through God's favors may be the cause. Another possibility is what St. Teresa describes as the “counterfeit” experience. From St. Teresa's description of “counterfeit” experiences, I saw that these are basically a waste of time, other than the fact that they feel good. Another marker of counterfeit experience is that the soul believes it worked for it. It also does not “enlarge the heart” in a lasting way.

I believe psychedelic drugs would be an example of this. People on psychedelic drugs may realize extraordinary spiritual truths which they do not even remember when their “trip” is over. While some may actually come to believe in God through such an experience, it is not the same as is the natural extension of a life of devotion to God. Mania would be another example. I once had a profound spiritual experience while manic. I felt such bliss I could not stop crying from the waves of ecstasy and it went on and on. It was not a waste of time. I did believe I had somehow done this to myself through hard work, however and that I had become special. I do not believe my heart was enlarged. I did become happier, more productive and more successful in the time following, but this was a difference in the world and did not bring true movement towards the inner mansions. The “proof is in the pudding” as they say.

The task of the fourth mansions is to learn to differentiate supernatural states, to maintain humility and to let go and let God do His work.

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