Flight of the Spirit: Part 3
Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Five
Teresa continues discussing the “flight of the spirit“. She also calls this the “sudden transport of the spirit”. When the spirit is transported, “the soul really seems to have left the body” – but we cannot be sure. She alludes to the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:
I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person . . . was caught up in Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. (2 Corinthians 12 – NRSV)
Teresa says through this transport, the soul “feels as if he has been in another world, very different from this in which we live, and has been shown a fresh light there”. This light is “unlike any to be found in this life” and would be impossible for us to imagine. This light gives us knowledge and understanding: “In a single instant he is taught so many things all at once that if he were to labor for years on end in trying to fit them all into his imagination and thought, he could not succeed with a thousandth part of them.”
Teresa says what she is describing here is an “imaginative vision”. This vision “is seen with the eyes of the soul very much more clearly than we can ordinarily see things with the eyes of the body; and some of the revelations are communicated to it without words.”
The revelation through the “flight of the spirit” and the “imaginative vision” brings understanding that is expansive and deep. If God has spoken to us supernaturally, we should do two things. We should test the vision for authenticity. Then we develop this vision as we would develop other aspects of our lives. The vision is not simply a past event to be remembered, but should result in ongoing humility, virtue, and vision.
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.
For additional material on testing mystical experiences see:
- Authenticating Our Mystical Experiences: Quality
- Authenticating Our Mystical Experiences: Spiritual Guides
- Half-Learned Spiritual Guides
- Authenticating Our Mystical Experiences: Certitude