Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Eight
An Intellectual Vision can transform a person’s life. But, this can lead the recipient of the vision or others to believe the recipient “is better than the others” because of the spiritual favor they received. Teresa rejects this idea: “The Lord leads each one as he sees is necessary”. While the Intellectual Vision can be “preparation for becoming a very good servant of God, provided that one cooperate.” Teresa also notes: “sometimes God leads the weakest along this path. And so there is nothing in it to approve or condemn.”
We don’t judge the quality of someone’s spiritual life by whether or not they’ve had a mystical experience — or any other experience for that matter. We don’t know enough to judge others and our speculations are likely wrong. Teresa writes, “In heaven we will be surprised to see how different his judgment is from what we can understand here below.” This certainly has broad application. Thomas Merton writes:
“Dostoievski, in The Brothers Karamazov, shows us what Rozanov has called an ‘eternal conflict’ in monasticism—and doubtless in Christianity itself. The conflict between the rigid, authoritarian, self-righteous, ascetic Therapont, who delivers himself from the world by sheer effort, and then feels qualified to call down curses upon it; and the Staretz, Zossima, the kind, compassionate man of prayer who identifies himself with the sinful and suffering world in order to call down God’s blessing upon it.
It must be emphasized that in the present era of monastic renewal we are more and more concerned with the Zossima type. And this kind of monastic spirit is charismatic rather than institutional. It has much less need of rigid structures and is totally abandoned to one need alone: that of obedience to the word and spirit of God, tested by fruits of humility and compassionate love. Thus the Zossima type of monasticism can well flourish in offbeat situations, even in the midst of the world. Perhaps such ‘monks’ may have no overt monastic connections whatever.” (Thomas Merton)
Censorious judgment is nothing more than soul-destroying behavior masquerading as spirituality. Why do we need to condemn others? But let’s take that a step further: Why do we need approve of others? Is our opinion that important? Isn’t it enough we cultivate our own humility, compassion, and love for others? This Zossima type of Christianity brings powerful change to every situation without judging or shaming others. It heals families, renews churches, transforms work places, and blesses others.
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. Kindle Edition.