Teresa compares the Imaginative Vision to Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. The first thing we notice is the suddenness of the Vision followed by immediate peace and calm. The soul also receives instruction or revelation directly from the Lord. Teresa says, the soul is “left so well instructed about so many great truths that it has no need of any other master. For without any effort on the soul’s part, true Wisdom has taken away the mind’s dullness and leaves a certitude, which lasts for some time, that this favor is from God.” The Imaginative Vision also means discipleship. Notice the phrase “no need of any other master”. This pulls in Jesus’ “follow me” invitation to discipleship written about in the gospels.
Teresa of Avila: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Nine
Suddenly the vision is represented to it all at once and stirs all the faculties and senses with a great fear and tumult so as to place them afterward in that happy peace. Just as there was a tempest and tumult that came from heaven when St. Paul was hurled to the ground, here in this interior world there is a great stirring; and in a moment, as I have said, all remains calm, and this soul is left so well instructed about so many great truths that it has no need of any other master. For without any effort on the soul’s part, true Wisdom has taken away the mind’s dullness and leaves a certitude, which lasts for some time, that this favor is from God.
Acts 9.3-9: The Apostle Paul
3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Act 9.1-9 NRSV)
There is tremendous certitude from the Imaginative Vision. But at some point our experience will trigger spiritual warfare against the soul as the devil seeks to destroy the credibility of the Imaginative Vision. Unfortunately some fearful spiritual guides will be complicit in casting doubts on God’s revelation and the vision he has given us. While spiritual attack may cause doubts for a time, the more the devil wars against the soul, the more the certitude grows until their is no doubt about the Imaginative Vision. Teresa says, “However much the soul is told the contrary, others cannot then cause it fear that there could be any deception. Afterward, if the confessor puts fear in it, God allows it to waver and think that because of its sins it could possibly be deceived. But it does not believe this; rather, as I have said concerning those other things, the devil can stir up doubts, as he does with temptations against matters of faith, that do not allow the soul to be firm in its certitude. But the more the devil fights against that certitude, the more certain the soul is that the devil could not have left it with so many blessings, as they really are, for he cannot do so much in the interior of the soul. The devil can present a vision, but not with this truth and majesty and these results.”
In summary the Imaginative Vision:
- Occurs suddenly.
- Is accompanied by great peace and calm.
- Includes the soul being well instructed by God and removes the mind’s dullness.
- Leads to discipleship (i.e. following Jesus).
- Brings great certitude that will ultimately triumph over the devil’s deception and the advice of fearful spiritual guides.
For additional effects of the Imaginative Vision see Part Four.
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.