Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Four
The Interior Castle is a book about prayer and the intimacy we can have with Jesus Christ (“Spiritual Marriage”). The details of ascetic and mystical prayer can be complex theology. Therefore, Teresa of Avila periodically brings us back to the central practices of the Christian life: Love and humility along with their corresponding good works.
Every skilled theologian or exceptional leader learns to find (and consistently recapture) the “core issues” of his or her venture. In fact, an unwillingness to do so indicates a self-serving agenda that seeks to control others and their time. They also encumber their “followers” with unrealistic and unprofitable demands. Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned: Is it the Churches concern to erect a spiritual tyranny over men, by dictating to them what must be believed and performed in order to be saved, and by presuming to enforce that belief and behavior with the sanctions of temporal and eternal punishment? (Who put the church in charge your life anyway?)
Teresa mastered the “core issues” of the faith. This is why she was an exceptional theologian, reformer, and leader. She said, “I only wish to inform you that in order to profit by this path and ascend to the dwelling places we desire, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so do that which best stirs you to love.” This is not anti-intellectualism, but it does warn about retreating into learning as a substitute for love. The same is true of prayer. Certainly prayer cultivates valuable intimacy with God and a peaceful life. Yet, it should also produce wisdom and good works in the daily activities of our life – particularly with our key relationships.
Bruce Lee, another master of “core issues”, said: It is not daily increase, but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. It is the half-way cultivation that runs to ornamentation. So it is not how much fixed knowledge one has accumulated; rather it is what one can apply alively that counts.”
I encourage simplification and the mastery of core issues. Do we center our key relationships in love and humility? Does our prayer produce wisdom and good works? Does our learning supply actionable content? Or, is our life running the way of “ornamentation”? It looks good. It impresses people. But it adds little value to self or 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.
Bruce Lee: Artist of Life (Bruce Lee Library) Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.