by Father Gabriel Barry, O.C.D.


It is not easy to speak about Christian prayer. Like all the basic things of life, it is something eminently simple and beautiful, and to analyze it or subdivide, tends to obscure this fact. Even St. Teresa, great authority though she was, reacted strongly when asked to write about prayer. In very first page of the Interior Castle, we read: "Few tasks which I have been given have been so difficult for me as this present one of writing about things related to prayer."(1)

In spite of the high degree of inner maturity she had attained, she was reluctant to write about these matters of the spirit, more especially when there was a question of communicating them to others. She knew that, try as she may, she could never be entirely successful. Some of the human heritage of sin was bound to show through what she would write. Also, like all of God's good servants, she trusted any kind of undue eagerness to speak of God's special favors. But she also knew that the power of God was working through her, that truth and light and goodness would come from Christ and flow on to the pages of her book.

With that in mind, she set aside her hesitance, and did what her superiors had asked. The result was Interior Castle, one of the great classics of spiritual writing. It presents the interior life of man in terms of a castle made out of single diamond, comprising seven courts or mansions. The beauty of this castle is unsurpassable and resplendent; it is a veritable pearl of the orient. One after another, St. Teresa leads us through the inner rooms of this wondrous palace, until we reach the last mansion where the King of Glory dwells. God's life and light are felt throughout the entire castle, but his abode is in the deep center, at the very heart of reality. For in truth, God is the foundation of all reality, and His splendor pervades it all. St. Teresa uses all the powers of her virile, luminous mind to describe the various mansions of the castle. Each one represents a stage of perfection and virtuous endeavor to draw closer to God. Each one, too, has its own special characteristics. But this sevenfold division is not meant to be understood in a materialistic sense, as if there were seven clean cut compartments arranged one after another, and once we had passed through any of them, we leave it behind forever. This is not what St. Teresa meant. We ought to think of it more in progressive terms of expanding growth, as St. Teresa herself indicates when she uses the imagery of the tree or palmito.(2) Right through the full range of the spiritual life, there is a consistent growth in maturity and depth.

For example, those in the First Mansion are largely at the stage of repentance, the stage of those called by Christ to metanoia and a new way of life. They have found God; they are returning to him, like the prodigal son, after having eaten the food of swine.(3) They are striving to consolidate their relationship with Him by practicing self-denial, and by building up habits of prayer and virtuous living. But obviously, this attitude, though characteristic of the First Mansion, does not end there. It continues throughout all the mansions. Rather I should say, it is caught up in the characteristics of the Second Mansion, in a gradual process of deepening and transforming. Later on, the Third Mansion supervenes to take in the other two, making them more solid, more balanced and better related to divine love. And so on through the others.

This conference is confined to discussing the first Mansion. I propose to refer to a few of St. Teresa's statements. But it would be well to read all she has written in the two chapters that comprise this Mansion, as well as what she has to say in her Autobiography concerning First Water.(4) These are supplemented by many chapters in the Way of Perfection, which is full of practical advice.


But before going on, let us revert for a moment to the subject of Prayer. Petition is the basic human prayer. At one and the same time, it is a call for help and a cry of praise, welling up from the soul of man. It is also our way of cooperating with God, asking Him to do what we could never do of our own unaided strength. The prayer of petition, then, at least implicitly, is an act of trust and faith, and contains some amount of incipient love. Christ Himself, has taught us to use it in the Our Father, "a prayer that included all we need, both spiritual and temporal."(5)

However, prayer does not consist in petition alone. Having in some measure got to know who God is, it is natural for us to want to deepen that acquaintance. This brings about another attitude of mind, which can best be expressed as a "search" for God. St. John of the Cross speaks of this in the magnificent poems, The Dark Night and the Spiritual Canticle. For example:

On a dark night
Kindled in love with yearnings
-O happy chance-
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

This "searching" for God causes another manner of prayer to come into prominence. It is known by various names: interior prayer, silent prayer, meditation, mental prayer. It is not a distinct kind from petition, which may in fact be expressed in a non verbal way. But this inner form of prayer rises above both words and mere petitions. It concentrates on the more spiritual aspects of man's reaching out for God. But it never ceases to be an acknowledgment of our condition as creatures, recognizing who God is, who we are, and our continual need for God. At least implicitly, the element of petition remains. St. Teresa's commentary on the Our Father which concludes the Way of Perfection shows clearly that the seven basic petitions which our Lord taught us, can lead even to the heights of mystical prayer. All authentic prayer is ultimately fashioned from the stuff of faith, trust and love.


At one end of the scale, then, is man, created and finite, with his great endowments, his many limitations, his achievements and failures. At the other end is God, the Uncreated, the Infinite, the All-loving and All-wise. He has made man to His own image, and He wants man to pray. This means that He wants man to draw near to Himself, to wait for Him in loving patience, to commit himself to Him in love. That is how we learn to be worthy both of God and of the nature He has given us. Striving to know God is not just a vain of futile impulse on the part of man. God Himself has planted it in the deep heart's core, for eternal life consists in knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.(6) The longing for the infinite is part of man's very being. If there were no original sin, his entire life would have been an uninterrupted and ever-deepening communion with God. He would live in His abiding presence, as did our parents in paradise. Prayer is one of the principal means of bringing a gradual restoration of that happy condition.

However, in our present state, there can be no direct and immediate contact between the finite creature and the Infinite God. Just as the blazing light of the sun has to be toned down to be adapted to the human eye, so too, the Light that is God has to be attuned to the human spirit and the medium by which this is done is faith, "the proportionate means of communion with God." In order that these two extremes be united, namely the soul and Divine Wisdom, it will be necessary for them to attain to agreement, by means of a certain mutual resemblance. It follows that the soul must be simple and pure-Not that God would not give spiritual wisdom all at once if the two extremes, which are human and divine, sense and spirit could concur and unite in one act without the intervention of many other acts.(7) This means that a gradual rapprochement takes place. God takes the first step by his grace, then man responds, and so on until man and God meet in the Beatific Vision of eternal glory. Progress in prayer is an ever deepening experience of Him who comes closer and closer to us. We, on our part, open up more and more to receive Him, and as St. Augustine has pointed out this capacity is the greatest gift we have. It will be obvious that various stages of growth or illumination can be distinguished in the movement of the soul toward God. Spiritual writers have made many distinctions, approaching the question from different points of view. In these conferences however, we mean to comment mainly on St. Teresa's seven fold scale in the Interior Castle, she describes seven steps or stages that can be detected in spiritual growth, from the time when the soul turns to God in repentance, right up to the time when she is transformed into Christ in love. This division is based on the experience or reaction of the human spirit in relation to God. At one stage man's own efforts are most in evidence; later one becomes more conscious to God's work. But as I have already indicated, there is a real continuity from beginning to end, and the essential elements which constitute Christian prayer are presented from the outset.


The First Mansion is inhabited by men and women whom God has began to draw to Himself from the life of lukewarm Christian living or worldliness. They belong to the class, mentioned in the first conference, Who are not without certain good convictions, but who rarely pray. "They are very much absorbed in worldly affairs," writes St. Teresa, "but their desires are good. Sometimes, though infrequently, they commend themselves to the Lord; and they think about the state of their souls, though not very carefully. Full of a thousand preoccupations as they are they pray only a few times a month, and as a rule they are thinking all the time of their preoccupations, for they are very much attached to them and where their treasure is, there is their heart also. From time to time however, they shake their minds free of them....Eventually, they entered the first room of the floor. They have done a great deal by entering at all."(8)

In one way or another God attracts persons of this kind to Himself. This experience is what the Bible calls, "the revealing of the sin." God implores them to return to Him, to change their hearts, to mend their ways, to renew their minds. He gives them the light to perceive the reality of sin, a deliberate spurning of our Creator's love, a choice of darkness in preference to light. And truly as St. Teresa says, "no thicker darkness exists than sin; there are things gloomy or black, but this is much more so."(9) By contrast human words cannot describe the singular loveliness of a soul in grace. It is a paradise in which God takes delight, a spiritual castle, all crystal clear with brightness. "We can hardly form any adequate conception of the soul's great dignity and beauty."(10) This is what is brought home to those who are in the process of returning to God. They develop a deep supernatural "sense of sin," and a great appreciation for the things of God.

One of the most obvious effects of this divine intervention is the growth of that gift of the Holy Spirit, which we call "the fear of Lord." This holy fear is characteristic of the First Mansion. It consists in a deep reverence for the greatness of God, wonderment at His power and a concern lest we might lose Him through our own fault. It shows itself in a hundred different ways such as care in avoiding sin, cutting down on self indulgences, experiencing deep sorrow for infidelities, even for small ones. It makes one fear to offend our Father in heaven, because He is so good. St. John the Evangelist says that in the beginning this fear "expects punishment," but as it matures, it becomes more perfect, for in the love there can be no fear. Servile fear is driven out by perfect love.(11) In other words, filial love and reverence become one, "making peace and perfect health to flourish, and enlarging the rejoicing of those that love God."

However, these wholesome effects cannot be expected all at once. In the First Mansion, the note of vigilance is still much in evidence, lest, as our Lord says, our hearts become coarsened by the cares of this life.(12) He is a wise man who fears evil and keeps away from it.(13)

The First Mansion likewise brings a big increase in the knowledge of oneself. This is but another name for incipient humility, which is not the same thing as introspection, though it may well begin with reflection on one self, together with ones manner of acting and motivation. Genuine humility does not make one self-centered; rather, it relates one to God. It enables us to see ourselves as we stand before Him. We were made to the image of the Creator, with all that this implies in terms of living a God-like way of life. But unfortunately we are capable of sinking to the depths of moral degradation, black and foul and evil smelling.(14) And when this happens we should not be surprised at the dire consequences; rather it is a wonder those in sin don't do worse.(15)

True humility gives us the right insights into God and ourselves, into the meaning of good and evil; and its value is permanent, even for those whom the Lord keeps in the higher mansions where He Himself dwells. For no matter where one may climb on the latter of prayer, self-knowledge is always indispensable. In fact, it cannot be overlooked if prayer is genuine because it grows spontaneously as one draws near to God.(16) It is the natural consequence of reflecting on His greatness and majesty. We come to understand what we are, far better than by thinking about ourselves. Self-examination is alright in its own place, but one can have too much of a good thing. "And believe me", St. Teresa continues, "we shall reach much greater heights of virtue by thinking upon the goodness of God than if we stay in our own little plot of ground, and tie ourselves down to it completely."(17)

All this is characteristic of the First Mansion. And although it is only a beginning, it contains, as St. Teresa points out, riches of great price and vast expanses of heavenly mansions. Undoubtedly, she was thinking of our Lord's words "There are many rooms in my Father's house." And whoever is with God, is in His House, even though we may not yet see Him in the clear vision of eternity. In God's Church on earth too, there is room for all kinds of people. The only condition for their admission to the castle of prayer is that they be truly sorry for their sins and resolved from now on to turn to God. This is indeed a paschal liberation, a freedom from the slavery of sin. This is the Spirit which inspires the many psalms which celebrate the great deeds of God's salvation. "I called to the Lord in my distress; He answered me, and set me free."(18) Those in the First Mansion experience a real taste of this freedom. And though it is as yet only a pale foreshadowing of what is to come, St. Teresa wishes them to avail of it. "You must not think of these rooms as just a few, but as a million."(19) This freedom of spirit has to be fostered right from the beginning. It is part of the power that we receive in baptism to act in the right way.(20) This is a precious grace, but a costly one to buy. It eventually substitutes the law of Love for outward laws, but sets no limits to what one ought to do. The love's law is the most demanding of all.

But in the beginning, "the light from the palace occupied by the King hardly reaches these outer mansions at all."(21) St. Teresa struggles to explain this. "There is actually plenty of divine light even in this The First Mansion, she says, but those who are in it are often so absorbed in possessions or attachments or business or selfish pursuits that they so not perceive it. It is like entering a place bathed in sunlight, but with eyes so full of dust that one can hardly open them.(22) For this reason, those in the First Mansion are not all safe from relapsing. Indeed this is one of the places where our Lord's exhortation to vigilance is particularly relevant. Likewise, one who wishes to move ahead will be well advised, as far as his state permits, to put aside all unnecessary affairs and business."(23) This is the beginning of the journey on the long narrow road that leads to life. It is a time when the devil and human weakness do their utmost to discourage those who are trying to move ahead, a time when we must in all sincerity pray that petition of the Our Father, "Do not allow us to be led into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." On this theme, St. Teresa has much to say, both in describing Mansion I and the others that constitute the Castle of Prayer. For the Evil one is like a noiseless file "who works secretly to undo all the fabric of virtue."(24) We must therefore earnestly beg God to be delivered from his wiles.(25) All this finds expression in prayer. If we keep in mind that prayer is a lone watching for God, a reaching out after him, a heartfelt petition to Him for the help we need, and which can be found nowhere else, then we readily see that the experiences of the first mansion constrain one to pray. Failure alternating with constant search for what is good, and the counter-attraction of evil, the realization that "true perfection consists in the love of God and our neighbor," and that we must keep aiming at this goal right to the very end of the road,(26) all this brings us to our knees to ask for strength from on High. In this The First Mansion, prayer itself takes on a characteristic shape. Our next conference on The Second Mansion will try to outline what it is.


1. Please refer to the OCDS Rule of Life, Foreword and Articles 1 through 8.
2. The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Peers and/or ICS edition.
3. For those who would like to pursue further, here is a short list of books, if they     are available:
a. Saint John of the Cross: Ascent and Dark Night, also Living Flame, stz. III.
b. Poulain, A.: Graces of Interior Prayer.
c. Farges, A.: Mystical Phenomena.
d. Watkin, E.: Philosophy of Mysticism.
e. Butler, C.: Western Mysticism.
f. Grandmaison, L.: Personal Religion.
g. Knowles, D.: What is Mysticism?
h. Underhill, E.: Mysticism.
i. O'Brien, E.: Varieties of Mystical Experience.
j. Lossky, V.: Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.
k. Spencer, S.: Mysticism in World Religion.
l. Happold, F.C.: Mysticism.
m. Leen, E.: The Holy Ghost.
n. Stanley, D.: Faith and Religious Life.
o. Mouroux, J.: The Christian Experience.
p. Gleason, R.: Grace.
q. de Guibert, J.: Theology of the Spiritual Life.


by Father Pascal Pierini, OCD


In our times there is no denying the advance and promotion of the visual aid in education, commerce, propaganda, etc. The media of television, motion pictures, magazines and advertisements are obviously exploiting our innate desire to see and the compelling effect of what is seen upon our minds and appetites. While so much of the content of these visual media of communication is of questionable moral and cultural value we must admit to the validity of the principle that what can be seen by the eye forcibly holds our attention and clarifies, easily, whatever concepts are under observation. It is often true, as adage has it: one picture is worth a thousand words.

The visual as an aid to understanding and a potential moving force to desire is, of course, not a new idea. From the beginning of man's recorded existence there is abundant evidence of the artist who appeals to the eye to facilitate understanding or to quicken appreciation.

No wonder, then, that students and devotees of the spiritual master, St. John of the Cross, are grateful for his foresight and ability in providing the celebrated visual aid "The Mount of Perfection."(27) It is significant that St. John wished his drawing prefixed to all his works: a pictorial summary of the body of his teaching.(28) Evidence exists, too, that the Saint did not consider the drawing a mere artistic embellishment, for, we are told, he used his picture in giving conferences and spiritual direction to the Discalced Friars and Nuns.(29)

Unfortunately, in the case of the companion Saint of Carmelite spiritual doctrine, St. Teresa of Jesus, we possess no such visual aid. Particularly would a pictorial demonstration of the magnificence and intricacy of the content of the Saint's Interior Castle (Las Moradas) be of visual help to understanding and comprehensive assimilation. However, we are certainly not bereft of pictorial detail in this masterpiece, for its author displays one of the outstanding talents for graphical description in the wide range of spiritual and mystical writers. With a draftsman's eye for structure and design in the use of the analogy of a Castle to describe the soul's progress toward union with God she has furnished us with a blueprint for such a drawing, or visual aid.

From the Saint's own directives, then, A Visual Aid to the Interior Castle, which accompanies this text, has been constructed. It would be completely presumptuous to consider the drawing offered as definitive, consequently, it is more appropriately presented as "A" not "The" Visual Aid to the Interior Castle. It is hoped that the drawing will not prove an inaccurate representation of the Saint's analogical figure, or thought. In the IV centenary year of the foundation of the Discalced Reform by St. Teresa of Jesus it is a pleasure to offer this attempt in her honor.



Daughter of Avila de los Caballeros, St. Teresa quite expectedly shows herself conversant with the analogy of a Castle,(30) which she employs to reveal the wonders of the interior life and the means that lead to the perfection thereof. Successfully, she is able to invest the principal elements of her thought with the features of her comparison; even the enemies of the soul provide a clever, integral detail, for they are "the reptiles and other creatures to be found in the outer court of the castle."(31)

The locus classicus for the architectural lay-out of the Interior Castle is found in Chapter Two of the First Mansions - which merits quotation in full:

"Let us now turn to our castle with its many mansions. You must not imagine these mansions as arranged in a row, one behind another, but fix your attention on the center, the room or palace occupied by the King. Think of a palmito, which has many outer rinds surrounding the savory part within, all of which must be taken away before the center can be eaten. Just so around this central room are many more, as there also are above it. In speaking of the soul we must always think of it as spacious, ample and lofty; and this can be done without the least exaggeration, for the soul's capacity is much greater than we can realize, and this Sun, which is in the palace, reaches every part of it."

From this fine description of the Castle we can deduce the following:

1. The Castle itself is the soul. This is dearly implied in the text under study.(32)

2. The King, Who dwells in the center chamber of the Castle of the soul(33) is the Triune God,(34) for the Most Holy Trinity inhabits the soul in the state of grace.

3. The Castle is lighted from within. God is as a sun, whose rays (grace) radiate outward. The chambers nearest His own are the most fully lighted; those more distant, proportionately darker.(35) So souls who are closest to God partake most perfectly of the life of divine grace.

4. If we were to use a solid object to illustrate St. Teresa's Castle it conveniently could be a globe or ball Such a spherical object would serve to demonstrate the structure and arrangement of the Castle's rooms, as explained by: a) the comparison to the palmito,(36) and b) the statement "around this central room are many more, as there are also above it."(37) The idea behind this globular arrangement is that, as there are "many mansions" extending from (and toward) the central chamber from every point of the compass, so there are diverse approaches to God and diverse graces which He uses to attract souls, even within the same state, or mansion, of perfection.(38) Because of the two dimensional restrictions of our drawing we have had to take an aerial, cutaway view of this spherical arrangement of the castle's rooms. However, we have indicated this important point of the Saint's teaching on the diversity of graces and attractions by means of wavy lines or radii on our drawing.

Other pertinent data which ought to be added to what we have already learned from St. Teresa's composite description are:

5. The fabric of which the Castle is fashioned is crystal:(39) by which we may understand that as crystal marvelously receives and reflects the light of the sun so the soul, made in God's image and inducted into the divine life by baptism, is eminently well-suited to receive and be transformed by divine grace. " (the soul) is as capable of enjoying Him as is the Crystal of reflecting the sun," our Saint tells us.(40) Unfortunately, there is no simple way to represent the Castle's fabric on our drawing.

6. There are Seven Mansions, or states, or degrees of progress toward divine union. St. Teresa, accordingly, divides her book into seven parts. She entitles each degree of perfection in the plural. First Mansions, Second Mansions, etc., another way of reminding us that even within the same degree of perfection there are varieties and diversities of graces. "Although I have spoken here only of seven mansions, yet in each there are comprised many more. . ."(41)

7. The door of the Castle, i.e., the means of entry into the interior life, is prayer.(42)

8. The inhabitants of the Castle of the soul (besides God and the soul itself) are: the interior senses, the particularly important one of which to be remembered is the imagination;(43) and the superior faculties of the soul, which are the intellect and will, called variously: guards, governors, butlers, and stewards.(44)

9. Outside the Castle are the world, the media of contact with it - the five external senses - and the body.(45)

10. Also outside the Castle are the soul's three enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. As we have noted above St. Teresa calls these enemies and the temptations that ensue from them, "snakes, vipers and poisonous creatures."(46) Either by God's permission for the soul's merit, or because of the soul's folly and neglect of vigilance these enemies may enter into the Castle, exclusive of the last Mansions.(47)

Their access to the first Three Mansions is particularly dangerous.(48) As the union between God and the soul becomes more personal, intimate and loving, it is to be expected that the devil will display a more personal interest and hatred toward this creature rising so near his lost place in God's affection. By his intervention the devil demonstrates his unspeakable personal hatred for God, Who so loves, and the soul, who is so beloved.(49)


From the foregoing materials of St. Teresa's analogy we are now ready to view the construction of our Visual Aid to the Interior Castle and to explain its representative features.

The Castle of the soul is depicted by a series of concentric circles, the peripheral one of which designates the bounds of the Castle of the soul. Using concentric circles, which endorse the various mansions, we can bear in mind that the mansions, as St. Teresa has told us, are not arranged in a row, one behind another, but rather surround the central chamber of the King on all sides.

The Most Holy Trinity dwells within the center most depths of the soul in the state of grace, as King of the Castle of the soul, so within the innermost concentric circle we see a triangle, symbol of the Holy Trinity, surmounted by a crown, symbol of God's kingship in the soul. Within the triangle are two overlapping circles, indicating the terminus ad quem, or ultimate goal of the interior life, Spiritual Marriage - the most perfect union between God and the soul in this life.

Although not put into an analogical term by the Saint, we have included in our drawing a most important premise of St. Teresa's teaching: mediation of Christ in the interior life.(50) So, by a cross, emanating from out the triangle and the entwined circles within it, we show the mediation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, through His Incarnation, in the interior life of the soul.(51) In the first three Mansions the soul must work, with the aid of ordinary grace, to become Christlike in virtue, thought and desire. These Three Mansions, or degrees of perfection, are dispositive. But in the Fourth Mansions the grace of the God-Man intervenes more directly, discernibly and gratuitously to introduce the soul to a wholly supernatural knowledge of God (experiential knowledge). This knowledge, and consequent love, is the beginning of the transformation of the soul, by which it will be led through the succeeding Mansions to the most perfect divine union - Spiritual Marriage.

The Seven Mansions of the Castle of the soul, which are the varying degrees of inner intensity of the supernatural life of union with God, are portrayed in our drawing by the seven spaces enclosed by concentric circles. Perfection consists in entering into ever deeper contact - the progressively higher Mansions - with God dwelling in the soul.

A controversial element of our visual aid, perhaps, may be the various sizes of spaces allotted to each of the Seven Mansions. Bearing in mind a general and relative intent, these space sizes (Mansions) give us some idea of the time that must be spent in each of the Mansions before the soul is ready to progress onward. St. Teresa herself has given us clues to the length of time for each of her Mansions.(52) From the drawing it will be noted that the first Two Mansions may be traversed the most quickly, granting that the soul is faithful and does not turn back, or dawdle on the way. Because the Third Mansions is a state in which the soul must become rooted in well-regulated habits of virtue to achieve Christlikeness, it is reasonable to suppose that this will entail the longest period of time. The Fourth Mansions are a time of transition from a disciplined and constant spiritual life to a supernaturally interior one. A fair share of time, therefore, must be expected to elapse before the soul, previously guided by reason, convert to a life which is led by the higher guides of faith, hope and charity. The most difficult Mansions for which to determine even relative time periods are, as one would expect, the last three, the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Mansions, since in these the Divine is so completely the master. The time periods (spaces) which are assigned to these Mansions in our drawing will best be thought of as in relation each to the other, rather than to those of the first Three Mansions. Following not only St. Teresa's clues (see footnote 26), but also the analogy which the Saint makes to human love and union in these Mansions, we may reason that the Fifth Mansions, Spiritual Courtship, would be the shortest period of the three; the Sixth Mansions, Spiritual Betrothal, the longer; and the Seventh Mansions, Spiritual Marriage, the longest.

The wavy lines or radii in the drawing remind us that there are diverse ways to God and diverse attractions of His grace, in keeping with the individual call and nature of each soul.

Two small circles within the Castle or the soul, in the drawing report the information that rooted in the soul are the interior senses, and the soul' s higher faculties of intellect and will. The interior senses are lower faculties, but with a rational or human principle of operation. The interior senses bridge the gap between the outside, material world, cognizance of which the external five senses, furnish to them, and the spiritual, non-material nature of the soul. They are processing powers which transform and reproduce the material experience from without into non-physical, non-material terms, which can then be used by the soul's spiritual faculties of intellect and will. Chief of these interior senses, and the most importantly to be considered in the interior life, is the imagination, both as to the problems its disorder often engenders and also, as to the use of it which may be made in divine communications, such as imaginary visions, locutions, etc.

At the bottom of the visual aid we see the door of the Castle of the soul, which is prayer. In the first Mansions prayer is the labor of the soul, assisted by God's grace. From the Fourth Mansions onward, prayer becomes a supernatural mode of communication of knowledge and love to the soul.

Beneath the door of the Castle, and outside it, we have inscribed the following details of St. Teresa's analogy: the body, the outside world, the five senses, and the three enemies of the soul. Rising from the step entitled by the soul's three enemies are stylized serpents projecting into the Castle, by which we know that the enemies of the soul may penetrate within.

Notice that the concentric circle between the Sixth and Seventh Mansions is opened in several places, for St. Teresa tells us: "...this (VI Mansions) and the last (VIIth) might be fused in one: there is no closed door to separate one from another.(53)


We conclude with a synopsis of the explanation of A Visual Aid to the Interior Castle.

The Interior Castle: the soul. The door to the Castle: Prayer. Inside the Castle:

a) the King: the Triune God (triangle, surmounted by crown).

b) Jesus (Cross): in the first Three Mansions our model; in the last Four our means to Divine Union, Spiritual Marriage.

c) Spiritual Marriage (entwined rings within the triangle).

d) the interior senses (small circle to left).

e) the faculties of the soul intellect and will (small circle to the right).

f) the Seven Mansions: graduating degrees of perfection (spaces enclosed by concentric circles).

g) access between the Sixth and Seventh Mansions (opened circle between the two).

h) diverse ways: various graces and attractions in the interior life (wavy lines or radii).

Outside the Castle:

a) the body.

b) the five senses.

c) the outside world.

d) the three enemies of the soul (their entry into the soul indicated by stylized serpents.)

"I think it will be a great consolation for you to take delight in this Interior Castle, for you can enter it and walk about in it at any time....Once you have been shown how to enjoy this Castle, you will find rest in everything, even in the things which most try you, and you will cherish a hope of returning to it which nobody can take from you."(54)

Ephemerides Carmeliticae, XIII - 1962, excerptum e pp. 566-575


1. prologue Peers: p.199
2. Peers, pp. 205, 207
3. cf. Peers p. 215
4. Peers, Vol I pp. 62 foll.
5. St. John of the Cross: Ascent 3. 44. par. 4
6. John 17.3
7. Ascent of Mount Carmel II. 16.7:17.4
8. Interior Castle I 1. p.204 ed. Peers
9. ibid p.205
10. ibid. p. 201
11. 1 John 4:18
12. Luke 21:34
13. Proverbs 14:16
14. Interior. Castle I. 2. p.206
15. Interior. Castle II. p.206
16. ibid. p. 208
17. ibid. p. 209
18. Ps. 115.5
19. Interior Castle II. p. 208
20. Gal. 4: Romans 8: etc.
21. Interior Castle II. p. 210
22. pp. 210-211
23. ibid p.211
24. Life 31. p. 213: Interior Castle 1.2: p.211
25. Way of Perfection 38-42 pp. 168 foll.
26. ibid p.212
27. We refer to the Saint's autograph, not to the somewhat gaudy substitute made by the first editors of his works, which has unfortunately pre-empted the rightful place of the former.
28. General Introduction, p. xxxii, The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Vol. translated & edited by E. Allison Peers, The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1951.
29. Ibid, p. xxxiii.
30. St. Teresa told Fray Diego de Yepes of a vision she had received on the eve of Trinity Sunday, 1577. The substance of this vision is surely the basis for her analogy. However, the supernatural suggestion for the Saint's analogy does not preclude her natural and contemporary familiarity with it. So does grace employ the elements of individual experience, knowledge and background. For Fray Diego's account of the Saint's vision: Cf. Introduction, Vol. II, pp. 187-188, The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Jesus, 3 Vol, translated & edited from the critical edition of P. Selverio de Santa Teresa C.D., Sheed & Ward, London, 1951. All references in our article to St. Teresa's works are made to the Peers' edition.
31. I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 203. In ancient times castles often were equipped with bear-gardens of rare animals for the entertainment of family and guests. Also, it was customary to fill the castle moat with vicious and poisonous creatures as added deterrent to enemies. There is an added interest to this Dantean comparison of the Saint's when we recall that she was warned of worldly and dangerous conversations by the sudden and inexplicable appearance of a large, ugly toad in the parlor of the Incarnation. Cf. Life, vii: Peers, I, p. 41.
32. For explicit statements, Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, pp. 201, 203.
33. Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 202; VII Mansions, ii: Peers II p. 337.
34. Cf, VII Mansions, i: Peers, II, pp. 331-333.
35. Cf. I Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 210.
36. The palmito is a very dense shrub, with leaves resembling those of a palm tree hence its name. It is common in the South and East of Spain. The kernel tastes somewhat like a filbert.
37. For the third dimension, depth, Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II p. 202; VII Mansions, i Peers, II, p. 351.
38. Cf., I Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 210; III Mansions, ii: Peers II, p. 229; V Mansions, i Peers, II, p. 260; VII Mansions, Peers, II p. 351. St. Teresa's insistence that "the soul's capacity is much greater than we can realize" (From the text quoted in this article) would also seem to affirm that there is a diversity of graces and approaches in the interior life. Also, Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 201.
39. Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 201; I Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 206.
40. I Mansions, ii, Peers, II, p. 205.
41. VII Mansions, iv: Peers, II, p. 351.
42. Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p.203: II Mansions: Peers, II, p. 218.
43. Cf., IV Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 233ff.
44. CF., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 203; I Mansions ii: peers, II, p. 206.
45. Senses, Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 210; body, Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 202.
46. I Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 210. St. Teresa does not explicitly call the world, flesh and the devil by these names in any one place, but throughout her work when writing about the snakes, vipers, etc., she plainly conveys this interpretation.
47. Cf., IV Mansions i: Peers, II, p. 235: VII Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 338.
48. First Mansions: Cf., I Mansions, i: Peers, II, p. 204; ibid., ii, pp. 209-212 Second Mansions: Cf., II Mansions, Peers, II, pp. 213, 215, 217. Third Mansions: Cf. III Mansions, i: Peers, II, pp. 219, 226.
49. Cf. IV Mansions, iii: Peers, II p. 245; V Mansions, iv: Peers, II, p. 265, VI Mansions, ix: Peers, II, p. 319; ibid, x, p. 321.
50. We may rightly consider Jesus Christ to be figured in the analogy as King of the Castle, as well as the Holy Trinity. The meaning of our statement is that no specific analogical term is assigned under the figure of the Castle to designate His mediation in the interior life, of which the Saint has a great deal to say.
51. St. Teresa substantiates her thought with Jesus' words: "No one comes to the Father but through Me," St. John XIV, Cf. II Mansions: Peers, II, p. 218; and later in her book she recalls the first half of the same Gospel verse: "I am the way, the truth and the life," Cf., VI Mansions, vii: Peers, II, p. 308. As sample of her teaching the mediation of Christ, both as an efficacious model and as an indispensable means to divine union, Cf., I Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 205ff; and VI Mansions, vi ix: Peers, II, p. 302ff.
52. First Mansions: Cf., I Mansions, ii: peers, II, pp. 208, 209, 210. Second Mansions: Cf., II Mansions, the general tenor of the Saint's thought but especially: Peers, II, p. 221. Fourth Mansions: Cf., IV Mansions, ii: Peers, II p. 246. Fifth and Sixth Mansions Cf., V Mansions, ii: Peers, II, p. 255; VI Mansions, i; Peers, II, p. 269; ibid., iv p 287-288; ibid., xi, p. 324. Also, Cf., VII Mansions, iv: Peers, II, pp. 350-351.
53. VI Mansions, iv: Peers, II, p. 287.
54. Interior Castle, VII Mansions, iv Peers, II, pp. 350-351