Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Eight
In this chapter of the Interior Castle Teresa enters into a detailed discussion about Intellectual Visions.
There are three types of visions. The “corporeal vision” is one in which we see something with our eyes. The “imaginative vision” is where we see something with the “eyes of our souls”. There is also the “intellectual vision”. With the “intellectual vision” we don’t actually “see” something — it has more to do with the presence and voice of God deep within our souls. Intellectual visions may include a profound understanding humanity of Christ, the presence of Jesus or the Trinity, or the presence of an angel.
Teresa says, “So far down in the depths of the soul does this contact take place, so clearly do the words spoken by the Lord seem to be heard with the soul’s own faculty of hearing, and so secretly are they uttered, that the very way in which the soul understands them, together with the effects produced by the vision itself, convinces it and makes it certain that no part in the matter is being played by the devil.”
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 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.”
We may have had mystical experiences from years or even decades ago — and “lost” the vision. Or we may have been taught to dismiss or marginalize mystical experiences instead of test and apply them. But we know there was something to them. One of benefits of studying the Interior Castle is to help us sort these visions and reinvigorate our knowledge of God and our mission.