Sixth Mansions: Chapter Five
Flight of the Spirit: Part Five
In Chapter Four of the Sixth Mansions of the Interior Castle we learned about “raptures of the soul”. Teresa says these raptures “carry the soul out of its senses”. She also refers to these raptures as ecstasies or trances. In chapter five we’ve been exploring another kind of rapture called the “flight of the spirit”. Here the soul is transported with such rapid motion the soul can be filled with fear. This type of rapture only happens to those who have already offered themselves fully to God. Teresa says faith, confidence, and resignation are required in this rapture so God can do His work in our lives.
Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez note the words from the Apostle Paul as the “biblical passage that supports Teresa’s explanation of this experience” of the flight of the spirit: 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) Or as the Message Bible says it: “I know a man who . . . was seized by Christ and swept in ecstasy to the heights of heaven.”
Teresa defends the flight of the spirit as an authentic prayer experience. She emphasizes the flight of the spirit could not be the work of the devil or our imagination. The “devil could never reveal things which produce such results in the soul and leave it with such peace and tranquility and with so many benefits.”
Through the flight the spirit the soul experiences “three things in particular which it enjoys to a very high degree.”
- Knowledge of the Greatness of God.
- Self-knowledge and humility.
- “Supreme contempt for earthly things”. (Note: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying material things or success. But mystical prayer helps us to detach from our preoccupation with “things” and love simplicity.)
Raptures of the soul transform us. We remember the “event” and it becomes a reference point of God’s revelation to us and helps us cultivate a vision for life. We express this revelation and vision through action supported by prayer and meditation.
While the devil or our imagination, can, to some degree, produce an ecstatic event, the power and lasting effects of the raptures of the soul cannot be duplicated. Even if the devil could reproduce an experience like this, it would be counter-productive to his goals. He will not bring peace, virtue, love, self-knowledge, and an understanding of the greatness of God. Instead, he works to distort our view of God, our view of self, and our understanding of the world.