Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Four
We’re discussing the “raptures of the soul”. Teresa says, these raptures “carry the soul out of its senses”. And even though we’re carried out of our senses, “the soul has never before been so fully awake to the things of God or had such light or such knowledge of His Majesty.” Teresa describes these raptures as a “state of suspension” in which our faculties and senses are “dead”. Yet, we receive great light, knowledge, and understanding. Imaginative Visions or Intellectual Visions are a couple ways God communicates to us and prepares us for the future.
Imaginative Visions: The word “imaginative” can be confusing because it sounds like something we make up. But we’re actually talking about “images”. These images come from God and we can describe them in detail because they’re so “deeply impressed upon the memory that they can never again be forgotten.” It seems to me, The Book of Revelation contains Imaginative Visions. John saw what God revealed. He was told to write (or not write) what he saw. Some divinely given dreams would also be included in Imaginative Visions: “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said” (Matthew 1). These are specific images impressed on the memory.
Intellectual Visions: When we receive an Intellectual Vision we cannot describe it to others in the same way as an Imaginary Vision. Teresa says Intellectual Visions are “visions of so sublime a kind that it is not fitting for those who live on earth to understand them in such a way that they can describe them”. Although Teresa says, “after regaining possession of their senses they can often describe many of these intellectual visions.” We cannot, however, give them the same detailed description that comes with an Imaginary Vision. It has more to do with the overall impression left on the soul. Teresa describes Moses’ encounter at the burning bush as an Intellectual Vision. Certainly Moses “saw” and “heard” things at the Burning Bush. Yet Moses could not envision or describe in detail everything that came about as through that experience with God, “but only as much as God willed him to”. From this event, he gained a deep understanding of his mission and who God was. Teresa says, God must have also “revealed secret things to his soul in such a way as to make him sure of their truth, so that he should know and believe Him to be God”. Teresa says it is unlikely Moses would “have taken upon himself so many and such arduous labors” had he not “learned marvelous things, for it was these things which gave him courage to do what he did for the people of Israel.”
This is only an introduction to imaginative and intellectual visions. Teresa dedicates a chapter to each one later in the Sixth Mansions. While it may be difficult to sort intellectual visions from imaginative visions at this time, we can begin to see various ways in which God “speaks” and “appears” to us. The practical application for some of us is we remember mystical experiences that may have happened years or even decades ago. We learned to dismiss or marginalize those experiences instead of test and apply them. But we now know there was something to them. Studying the Interior Castle can help us sort these visions and reinvigorate our mission and knowledge of God.