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The Interior Castle (1588)

by St. Teresa of Avila

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,004304,690 (4)24
'While I was beseeching Our Lord to-day that He would speak through me, since I could find nothing to say and had no idea how to begin to carry out the obligation laid upon me by obedience, a thought occurred to me which I will now set down, in order to have some foundation on which to build. I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.' Thus begins Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle, one of the most celebrated books ever written by a mystic on abiding in union with Christ. Writing in obedience to the requests of two of her superiors, the humble 16th century Spanish sister protests 'for the love of God, let me get on with my spinning and go to choir...like the other sisters...I am not meant for writing; I have neither the health nor the wits for it.' However, in her pre-coffee-house conversational style, Teresa of Avila charmingly proves to her listeners that she does have the wits for conveying that 'the most essential thing is that we should love God,' as she takes us by the hand and lead us on a visually beautiful spiritual journey into the soul, that Interior Castle where Christ abides, and where we may abide with Him in holy, intimate communion.… (more)
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» See also 24 mentions

English (21)  Catalan (3)  Spanish (3)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This book was simply beautiful. I can't believe how clever and modest was the author. Reading this book was a real treat for me. ( )
  Donderowicz | Mar 12, 2024 |
Heretical translation written by a Jew. This book should be discarded.
  Kaz_the_Honkler | Feb 28, 2024 |
I have just finished reading ‘The Interior Castle’, otherwise known as ‘The Mansions’, by the Spanish Carmelite Nun, mystic and Doctor of the Church St. Teresa of Avila.

The book proved to be more than worthy of the spiritual classic label that it has earned. It is one that I will return to again and again for inspiration.

The book is at one and the same time both easy to read and difficult to read. I would suggest that for those just beginning their spiritual journey it may prove very abstract. Even for those of us further along the spiritual path it can prove challenging, with themes, motifs and experiences which may be totally unfamiliar to us. You don’t know what you don’t know, and yet even the later chapters can fuel the imagination and provide motivation. I certainly found it a helpful guide and, whilst being unable to discern exactly where in the mansion I am, I came away with a renewed sense of spiritual direction.

I also benefitted from reading ‘The Fire Within’ by Fr. Thomas Dubay before venturing into the Interior Castle. It helped me immensely in understanding the context and themes of St. Teresa’s writing and her connections with her younger Spiritual Director St. John of the Cross, whose 'Dark Night of the Soul' I plan to read next.

Anyway, back to this book.

The Interior Castle is a metaphor for our soul. According to Teresa of Avila, our soul is like a single diamond in which there are many rooms. At the centre of the Castle is where the King (Jesus) resides. The soul has great dignity and beauty and is a paradise in which God takes great delight. Teresa asks, “what do you think a room will be like that is the delight of a King so mighty, so wise, so pure and so full of all that is good?”

We enter the Interior Castle, Teresa says, through prayer and mediation. Our destination is the centre of the castle where the most “secret things pass between God and the soul”. This is the interior journey. Teresa goes on to say, “You will have read certain books on prayer which advise the soul to enter within itself: and that is exactly what this means.”

So, the Interior Castle is really a book about prayer and what the 12 step programmes call ‘conscious contact with God’.

Prayer can be separated into two categories, ascetic and mystical.

In ascetic prayer we initiate interaction with God through vocal prayer and meditation. This is also called “purgative prayer” because of the cleansing effect on our lives. The first three mansions of the Interior Castle cover this material.

In mystical prayer, God drives the activity. Teresa writes about this in Mansions four through seven. This form of prayer can itself again be divided into two categories, illuminative prayer and unitive prayer.

Through illuminative prayer God enlightens our will and understanding. Teresa explains this in the fourth mansion. In mansions five through seven Teresa writes about unitive prayer, which leads us to a deep and intimate relationship with Christ “where the most secret things pass between God and the soul.”

Unitive prayer covers two thirds of the Interior Castle and is the focal point of the book.

I found the book at one and the same time revealing, interesting and inspiring. I am very much a ‘head’ Christian and have been aware for some time of a need to counterbalance this with a development of my spiritual life. The idea of having an intimate, inner relationship with Christ excites me. ( )
  IanGrantham | Mar 23, 2023 |
Beautiful book. Must read ( )
  MaryyZahra | Mar 9, 2022 |
This is my Lenten reading pick for 2017, the first time I've chosen an audiobook for edifying reading. I thought I was going to like this one somewhat more, and maybe I would have as a person still in school, but I found that the description of the inward spiritual journey as a trip through a Renaissance castle with many mansions to be hard for me to identify with. I knew, intellectually, that she was composing her work for her fellow cloistered religious, who quite possibly would be receiving it aurally as well, and was prepared to make allowance for the difference in our life pursuits. It never really managed to draw me in fully though, which is a pity. It did not fill me with a conviction that the most interior of the mansions in the depths of contemplation with God was the place I myself wanted to go more than anything, but assumed that I as the reader might already be of that mind on my own. Right now I am going through a period where I am focused on the outside world and its concerns somewhat more than I really like, so part of it could be a matter of timing. I wouldn't mind re-reading the work in a dozen years maybe to see if it comes off differently to me then.
I would say that I did enjoy Teresa's writing style, which is so far from high-faluting and indeed tends to be even self-deprecating that I bookmarked a couple of charming passages of hers. There are some unusual images she includes which I really enjoyed for their extraordinary flights of fancy. It's not enough to make me raise my rating to four stars, unfortunately, but at least it made the book pleasant to experience.
I'm not enough of an expert in theology to be able to tell what innovative ideas Teresa introduced in her writing. To me it felt like it was so thoroughly adopted by Catholic teaching by now that nothing felt controversial. ( )
  rmagahiz | Jul 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (86 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
St. Teresa of Avilaprimary authorall editionscalculated
a Benedictine of StanbrookTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kavanaugh, KieranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Panikkar, RaimundoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peers, E. AllisonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodriguez, OtilioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zimmerman O.C.D., Father BenedictIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To the gracious memory of
P. Edmund Gurdon
Sometime prior of the Carthusian Monastery
of Miraflores
A man of God
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Einführung: "Es bot sich mir an, unsere Seele als eine gänzlich aus einem einzigen Diamanten oder sehr klaren Kristall bestehende Burg zu betrachten, in der es viele Gemächer gibt, so wie es im Himmel viele Wohnungen gibt " (1M 1,1), so stellt Teresa ihr Gleichnis vor, das gleichsam der rote Faden ihres Hauptwerkes 'Wohnungen der inneren Burg' ist.

Few tasks which I have been commanded to undertake by obedience have been so difficult as this present one of writing about matters relating to prayer: for one reason, because I do not feel that the Lord has given me either the spirituality or the desire for it; for another, because for the last three months I have been suffering from such noises and weakness in the head that I find it troublesome to write even about visionary business.
Diese Abhandlung, "Innere Burg" genannt, hat Teresa von Jesus, Schwester Unserer Lieben Frau vom Berg Karmel, für ihre Mitschwestern und Töchter, die Unbeschuhten Karmelitinnen, geschrieben.
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'While I was beseeching Our Lord to-day that He would speak through me, since I could find nothing to say and had no idea how to begin to carry out the obligation laid upon me by obedience, a thought occurred to me which I will now set down, in order to have some foundation on which to build. I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.' Thus begins Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle, one of the most celebrated books ever written by a mystic on abiding in union with Christ. Writing in obedience to the requests of two of her superiors, the humble 16th century Spanish sister protests 'for the love of God, let me get on with my spinning and go to choir...like the other sisters...I am not meant for writing; I have neither the health nor the wits for it.' However, in her pre-coffee-house conversational style, Teresa of Avila charmingly proves to her listeners that she does have the wits for conveying that 'the most essential thing is that we should love God,' as she takes us by the hand and lead us on a visually beautiful spiritual journey into the soul, that Interior Castle where Christ abides, and where we may abide with Him in holy, intimate communion.

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A masterpiece of spiritual literature, this sixteenth-century work was inspired by a mystical vision that came upon the revered St. Teresa of Avila, one of the most gifted and beloved religious figures in history. St. Teresa's vision was of a luminous crystal castle composed of seven chambers or "mansions", each representing a different stage in the development of the soul.
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