I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, “I want to be left alone.’ There is all the difference. (Greta Garbo)
For this reason alone, if for no other, the soul wants to flee people, and it has great envy of those who have lived in deserts. (Teresa of Avila)
In speaking of the “raptures of the soul”, Teresa says: “As a result of these wonderful favors the soul is left so full of longings to enjoy completely the One who grants them that it lives in a great, though delightful, torment.” The soul becomes so preoccupied with Christ that “Everything [else] it sees wearies it.” The love for Christ can overtake the soul and ecstatic experiences can become spontaneous. Teresa says, “any occasion that enkindles this fire more makes the soul fly aloft. As a result, in this dwelling place the raptures are very common and there is no means to avoid them, even though they may take place in public. Hence persecutions and freedom.”
Some dislike the freedom these souls have in Christ and oppress those who have spiritual experiences different from theirs. Teresa holds these people accountable for their irresponsible behavior — especially when it comes from spiritual guides. These guides do great damage when they condemn what they don’t understand or because it’s alien to their experience. These careless spiritual guides* cause the soul to question authentic spiritual experiences. They plant doubt in the soul and get them to wonder if they’re being deceived by the devil. The soul wants to be careful not to offend God so she asks God to lead her by another path since (according to others) “the path [she] is on is very dangerous.” Yet, deep down, she knows the truth of her experience and has no interest in following a different road. But it’s still confusing to be questioned, criticized, and persecuted by the very people who should be supporting you.
It’s tragic when churches and spiritual leaders drive people away for following Christ — and then chastise them for their absence. No wonder they “want to be left alone” and retreat to the desert.
If anybody asks you have you seen me
Please just tell them no
‘Cause I’m living on the outside
And I have nowhere to go
Well I guess I’m going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone. (Van Morrison)**
Greta Garbo 1925 by Arnold Genthe: Public Domain. Wiki Commons.
*By contrast, a wise spiritual guide can work outside of his or her experience.
**Lyrics: Just Like Greta: Van Morrison: Magic Time: Produced by Van Morrison for Exile Productions.
For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C.