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. (Teresa of Avila, Mansion 1, Book 2).
Years ago we took our three-year-old to a toy store. Up to this time her toy shopping experience was a couple small stores or the aisles of Wal-Mart and Target. The toy store was big. When you entered the store you could see how big — if you were an adult. Our daughter’s height and the shelves at the entrance obstructed her view. She did the natural thing and played with the first toys she saw. I said to her, “There are more toys”. She continued playing. I reminded her, “There are more toys.” She kept playing. I finally persuaded her (or she got bored) and she went around the corner. Suddenly she could see. She bolted down the aisles shouting “More toys. More toys. More toys.”
The interior castle is like my daughter’s trip to the toy store. Our limited and obstructed view leaves us at the entrance of the castle unable to fathom the soul’s capacity for God. But, by grace, we suspect there’s more around the corner. Some explore and discover the soul is “spacious, ample, and lofty” with God’s light reaching every room. Some do not explore. Their spiritual journey emphasizes safety, protection, and permission. They recoil from experimentation and build a fortress against alternatives or practices long accepted in Christianity. They stall at the entrance of the castle blinded to the possibilities of ascetic and mystical prayer.
Teresa says when we explore the castle we should not be “subjected to undue restraint or limitation”. The spiritual life, like a visit to the toy store, should include curiosity, randomness, and playfulness. Rigidity and restraint have little place in the toy store or in the spiritual life. I encourage you to turn the corner, run down the hallways (shouting if you like), and explore the rooms of the interior castle.
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