Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Nine
Imaginative Visions: Part Four
We continue our discussion about Imaginative Visions. In an Imaginative Vision God reveals himself suddenly and only for a brief period of time. Yet, we can describe these visions in detail because they’re so “deeply impressed upon the memory that they can never again be forgotten.”
In this section Teresa further describes the Imaginative Vision and its effects.
Rapture or Ecstasy
Imaginative Visions “carry the soul out of its senses”. And even though we’re carried out of our senses “the soul has never before been so fully awake to the things of God or had such light or such knowledge of His Majesty.” Teresa says, “Almost every time God grants this favor the soul is in rapture, for in its lowliness it cannot suffer so frightening a sight.”
Through the Imaginative Vision we receive great light, knowledge, and understanding. Teresa says, the images are “not a painting but truly alive, and sometimes the Lord is speaking to the soul and even revealing great secrets.”
Imaginative Visions are Interior Visions
“But you must understand that even though the soul is detained by this vision for some while, it can no more fix its gaze on the vision than it can on the sun. Hence this vision always passes very quickly, but not because its brilliance is painful, like the sun’s, to the inner eye. It is the inner eye that sees all of this. . . . The brilliance of this inner vision is like that of an infused light coming from a sun covered by something as transparent as a properly-cut diamond.”
“I say ‘frightening’ because although the Lord’s presence is the most beautiful and delightful a person could imagine even were he to live and labor a thousand years thinking about it (for it far surpasses the limitations of our imagination or intellect), this presence bears such extraordinary majesty that it causes the soul extreme fright.”
Knowledge of God
“Certainly it’s not necessary here to ask how the soul knows, without having been told, who the Lord is, for it is clearly revealed that he is the Lord of heaven and earth. This is not true of earthly kings, for in themselves they would be held in little account were it not for their retinue, or unless they tell who they are.”
Avoid the Runaway Imagination
“When the soul can remain a long while gazing upon this Lord, I don’t believe it will be experiencing a vision but some intense reflection in which some likeness is fashioned in the imagination; compared with a vision, this likeness is similar to something dead. It happens to some persons (and I know this is true, for they have spoken with me — and not just three or four but many) that their imagination is so weak, or their intellect so effective, or I don’t know what the cause is, that they become absorbed in their imagination to the extent that everything they think about seems to be clearly seen. Yet, if they were to see a real vision, they would know without any doubt whatsoever their mistake, for they themselves are composing what they see with their imagination. This imagining doesn’t have any effect afterward, but they are left cold – much more than if they were to see a devotional image. It’s very wise not to pay any attention to this kind of imagining and thus what was seen is forgotten much more than a dream.”
Because of our intimacy with the Lord we stay focused on our devotion to him and our spiritual disciplines. “And thus all that we suffer here in the strict observance of the religious life will seem to us nothing; for, however long it lasts, it lasts but a moment in comparison with eternity.
If we’ve experienced an Imaginative Vision, it comes with responsibility to the “secrets” he’s revealed to us along with a desire to be humble, live in communion with Him, and love 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.