Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Eight
Fear and Confusion
Teresa writes about the initial fear and confusion she had about her Intellectual Vision. Her discomfort centered on the duration of vision. This introduced her to a number of unanswered questions. She says, the Intellectual Vision “isn’t like the imaginative [vision] that passes quickly, but lasts many days and sometimes even more than a year”.
Teresa pursued a better understanding of the vision by consulting her “confessor”. “He asked her how, since she didn’t see anything, she knew that it was our Lord; what kind of face he had. She told him she didn’t know, that she didn’t see any face, and that she couldn’t say any more than what she had said, that what she did know was that he was the one who spoke to her and that the vision had not been fancied. And although some persons put many fears in her, she was still frequently unable to doubt, especially when the Lord said to her: ‘Do not be afraid, it is I.’ These words had so much power that from then on she could not doubt the vision, and she was left very much strengthened and happy over such good company. She saw clearly that the vision was a great help toward walking with a habitual remembrance of God and a deep concern about avoiding anything displeasing to him, for it seemed to her that he was always looking at her. And each time she wanted to speak with His Majesty in prayer, and even outside of it, she felt he was so near that he couldn’t fail to hear her. But she didn’t hear words spoken whenever she wanted; only unexpectedly when they were necessary. She felt he was walking at her right side, but she didn’t experience this with those senses by which we can know that a person is beside us. This vision comes in another unexplainable, more delicate way. But it is so certain and leaves much certitude, even much more than the other visions do, because in the visions that come through the senses one can be deceived, but not in the intellectual vision. For the latter brings great interior benefits and effects that couldn’t be present if the experience were caused by melancholy; nor would the devil produce so much good; nor would the soul go about with such peace and continual desires to please God, and with so much contempt for everything that does not bring it to him. Afterward she understood clearly that the vision was not caused by the devil, which became more and more clear as time went on.”
Effects of an Intellectual Vision
Teresa explains the effects of the intellectual vision were vital in authenticating the vision. These effects included:
- Certainty about the vision.
- The power of the vision.
- A deep awareness of God’s immediate presence and constant companionship.
- Continual desire to please God along with a supernatural separation from the addictive pleasures of this world.
- Peace, humility, and inner strength.
- God speaking unexpectedly.
- Immediate protection against the devil’s deception.
- Confident God will hear our prayer.
- Infused with a love for God along with a desire to give oneself solely to his service.
The intellectual vision can bring powerful and rapid change. The duration of the intellectual vision is significantly longer than other visions — lasting up to a year. But the soul lacking good guidance may find the inevitable future “absence” unbearable. They may internalize the absence as a fault in their spiritual life, which, of course, it isn’t. Rather, the “absence” may be another stage in their spiritual journey. The overt intensity of the intellectual vision will fade, but the memory of the vision will always remain as a source of vigor waiting to be tapped.
In giving examples of supernatural prayer, Teresa will often veil her identity so it sounds like she’s telling about another person’s experience.
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.