Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Sixth Mansion: Chapter Eight: Intellectual Visions
God communicates to us. Sometimes this comes in the form of “appearances and visions”. In this chapter Teresa is talking about a specific kind of vision called an Intellectual Vision. These Intellectual Visions “happen, while the soul is heedless of any thought about such a favor being granted to it, and though it never had a thought that it deserved this vision, that it will feel Jesus Christ, our Lord, beside it. Yet, it does not see him, either with the eyes of the body or with those of the soul. This is called an intellectual vision”.
“You will ask how, if nothing is seen, one knows that it is Christ, or a saint, or his most glorious Mother. This, the soul will not know how to explain, nor can it understand how it knows, but it does know with the greatest certitude. It seems easier for the soul to know when the Lord speaks; but what is more amazing is that it knows the saint, who doesn’t speak but seemingly is placed there by the Lord as a help to it and as its companion.”
Responding to an Intellectual Vision
If these visions happen we should take them seriously and respond accordingly. “For since the favors are not granted to all, they should be highly esteemed; and one should strive to perform greater services since God in so many ways helps the soul perform these services.” These visions are so powerful the soul believes it is “more obligated to him than anyone”. The soul also becomes highly sensitive to sin “and any fault it commits pierces to the core of its being”. Humility also flows from the Intellectual Vision since “the soul doesn’t consider itself to be any greater because of” these visions.
The Intellectual Vision and Spiritual Warfare
Teresa previously mentioned the effects of the Intellectual Vision. “Through them you can know that the vision is not an illusion or a fancy.” The Intellectual Vision brings so much good into a persons life it is highly unlikely the devil is going to try to reproduce this good even if he wanted to. Further, Teresa says, even if the devil tried to reproduce the Intellectual Vision he would also encourage an outward show of spiritual pride instead of the humility that flows from mystical prayer. Teresa says, “I hold that it would be impossible for a visions caused by the devil to last so long and benefit the soul so remarkably, clothing it with so much interior peace. It is not customary for something so evil to do something so good, nor can the devil, even though he may want to. If he could, there would at once be some outward show of self-esteem and thought of being better than others.”
The Marginalization of the Devil and the End of Deception
Through the Intellectual Vision “the soul goes about always so attached to God and with its thoughts so occupied in him”. This “causes the devil such rage that even though he might try, he would not often return. And God is so faithful that he will not allow the devil much leeway with a soul that doesn’t aim for anything else than to please His Majesty.” The soul’s desire should be to “spend its life for his honor and glory”. When this commitment takes place, God “will at once ordain how it may be undeceived.”
Of course, it is not required to have an Intellectual Vision to end deception or marginalize the devil. Your commitment in response to God’s love is what matters. The Apostle Paul wrote: I APPEAL to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.1-2 NRSV) And James 4.7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (NRSV)
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.