Do not think it is a state, like the last, in which we dream; I say “dream”, because the soul seems to be, as it were, drowsy, so that it neither seems asleep nor feels awake. Here we are all asleep, and fast asleep, to the things of the world, and to ourselves (in fact, for the short time that the condition lasts, the soul is without consciousness and has no power to think, even though it may desire to do so). Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter One
Teresa explains the fifth Mansions and the Prayer of Union. The Prayer of Union is a significant step deeper than the dreamy state of the fourth Mansions where the soul is neither fully asleep nor fully awake. The soul in the fifth Mansions is “fast asleep”. She describes this as a “delectable death” because our soul “has completely died to the world so that it may live more fully in God.” Teresa says, a person in this state was commonly described as “fallen into a swoon”.
Several things may happen during this brief time in the Prayer of Union:
- God sidelines our thoughts.
- We die to the world (our loves and desires).
- The soul “appears to have withdrawn” from the body.
- The mind tries to understand what is happening, but does not have the strength.
Some of you may not have had experiences like this. But remember, if God doesn’t bless you in this way he can bless you in other ways. Mystical prayer is not a measure of your spiritual condition (as love and humility are). Of course, Teresa says, we also do not want to lose these mystical experiences through our own fault.
Others of you have had these experiences. In some cases your faith community could not (or would not) understand, so you archived these experiences. I suggest reopening these files and reflect on what God was doing at that time. Others of you may have experienced mystical prayer but now think it was a moment of religious emotionalism and immaturity. Subsequently, you dismissed those experiences as irrelevant. And then some of you rightly recognized these brief experiences as directional.
I encourage you to reflect on your past mystical prayer experiences. Find the truth and power from the Prayer of Union. Those few minutes may have been some of the most important minutes of your life.