Sunday, September 19, 2010

Interior Castle, Second Mansions: Change of Will

This morning, I have continued my study of The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, and supplemented it with my newly arrived book, The Could of Unknowing, by Anonymous, translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. Happily, these two texts fit together beautifully in my growing awareness.

In yesterday's blog post, I discussed the entry into the internal castle, which is based on prayer, and its first mansions, which are dark and full of "reptiles." A network of mansions surrounds the center, which is Christ. The task of entering the first mansion is to learn both humility and trust for that which you do not understand. I see that there are two options at the point of the first mansions.

One option is to run back out through the gate and to seek comfort and security in the things of the world, such as a romantic partner, alcohol, drugs, compulsive tv, etc. We've been taught that love and God may only be found within ourselves, but usually first-time meditators find themselves caught in the first mansions St.Teresa describes. It is dark. It is hard to stop thinking. Emotional disturbances happen. We are sometimes beset with anxious or terrifying thoughts. It is no wonder so many give the practice up, although we do have another option.

Anonymous, in the Cloud of Unknowing, writes, "Make your home in the darkness." For me, it is better to live in the darkness within than the falseness outside. As St.Teresa writes, "Outside the castle, it(the soul) will find neither security or peace." It is okay to make our home in the darkness, because we know deep down that we can find our way through it to the center.

Some people find, when they begin meditation, that they also need psychotherapy. This can help to brave the world within. When overwhelmed, it is fine to run back out but then to enter in again with a professional. However the method we use in exploring the first mansions, there reaches a point where we know it is time to go deeper. One indicator is that we are no longer feeling threatened in our journey within, although some, St.Teresa writes, "get to the second mansion through the desire to flee the first." She then writes, "All powers of hell try to drive the soul back to the first mansion."

The difference in these two levels of mansions is that in the second mansions, there is a little more light and the soul can hear for the first time. The soul can hear God calling. The soul then becomes consumed by grief by not being able to respond. So, in many ways, St.Teresa considers this mansion full of more suffering.

To go forward, St.Teresa writes takes "fixed determination to risk everything rather than return to the first mansions." This morning as I was reading Cloud of Knowing, I came upon the phrase, "naked intent," which the Cloud's author describes as being essential. Purity of intent fixes detrmination upon seeking God. Anonymous writes, in the Cloud of Unknowing, that "You only need a naked intent for God--when you yearn for Him, it is enough."

In the second mansions, we experience a deepening of the experience in the first. Humility deepens. Desire for God deepens. We are moving farther away from worldly concerns as we move towards the middle, where Christ dwells. My understanding so far of the Cloud of Unknowing is that the darkness is of knowing what you don't know and it is also what you have forgotten. Forgetting the pull of outside influences begins the process of alignment towards God's reign.

The supreme gift of the second mansions is that the will "inclines to love God."

"The will shows the soul how the true love never leaves it, but goes with it everywhere and gives it life and being." -St.Teresa of Avila

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