Journey to the Center of the Mind

In October of 2015 work was commenced on a series that described in meticulous detail the process of Right Contemplation as enunciated in the writings of John of the Cross, by and large a spiritual journey through an active purification of the senses and resolving in a passive transfiguration of the spirit, or more specifically  infused contemplation that also had a direct bearing on Union with the Unborn Mind. This present work is a sister-series if you will, one that compliments John of the Cross and his Dark Night of the Soul, and that is Teresa of Avila’s renowned work, The Interior Castle. Teresa’s approach also bespeaks of an infusion of the spirit with the divine, but her primary focus is on that Recollection of the spirit’s hidden majesty in the Unborn: Active Recollection and Passive Recollection. Before we proceed further, it needs to be avowed that her own spiritual development rests on the shoulders of a spiritual predecessor, the 16th century Franciscan Mystic: Francisco de Osuna (1497-1541

He taught just prior to our beloved Discalced Carmelite Black Dragons. His most refined treatise, The Third Spiritual Alphabet, emphasized the spirit of Recollection, or the “narrow way” that one must enter to the exclusion of all else. Teresa herself often spoke of her early reliance on the Alphabet:

She was given the book to read by an uncle sympathetic to her need. It was a timely gift and Teresa spoke of how she began to follow the path of recollection. She went so far as to say that the book was ‘her master’. It was a guide through the intensities of her religious experience and at a later stage a resource for her teaching others the practice of recollection.

For Osuna, recollection is prayer: It includes vocal prayer, to the extent that mental concentration is employed: mental prayer; and, more importantly, passive prayer. Given the ideal of one’s total life being lived out in conformity with God’s will, recollection is our constant alertness and receptivity to God, punctuated by moments of intense awareness of the divine, moments when recollection becomes immediate, experiential union between creature and Creator and wisdom is poured into the soul without our understanding how and whence. (The spirituality of Francisco de Osuna in context–notes from Mary Gile’s introduction to The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna)

The Interior Castle is considered to be Teresa’s last and most mature work. In it she uses the metaphor of a Castle to depict the spirits journey through various compartments (Mansions) until it culminates in the beatific embrace of the Beloved Master at the center. In other words, the Castle depicts that of the soul en route to Self-Union. Soul in this context can also refer to heightened-consciousness, or an en-soul-ment of the awareness principle, determining whether or not it recognizes and attunes (strengthening its Diamond body) to its Primordial Stature. As Teresa states, “Like a Castle made out of diamond-crystal.” According to her, the whole book was revealed in an epiphany:

There was “a most beautiful crystal globe like a castle in which she saw seven dwelling places, and in the seventh, which was in the center, the King of Glory dwelt in the greatest splendor. From there he beautified and illumined all those dwelling places to the outer wall. The inhabitants received more light the nearer they were to the center. Outside of the castle all was darkness, with toads, vipers, and other poisonous vermin. While she was admiring this beauty which the grace of God communicates to souls, the light suddenly disappeared and, although the King of Glory did not leave the castle, the crystal was covered with darkness and was left as ugly as coal and with an unbearable stench, and the poisonous creatures outside the wall were able to get into the castle. Such was the state of a soul in sin.” (The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Vol 2, chapt 4, note 16)

For a Lankavatarian, this will be referenced in our series as the Citadel of Mind that is like a diamond with crystalline resiliency. As one of our blogs states,

Thus, Soul is synonymous with Self and Mind and really speaks to the flowering quintessence (the soul is likened to the opening of a lotus) of the unnamable and unknowable Primordial-Monistic Negativa—in essence, the via-positiva emerging from the via-negativa. It is what swells up inside you when struck by something profound (De Profundis: when the Original Recognition turns back upon Itself); in a sense, celebrating this Self-recognitionem; it is what occurs within the Garbha-dhatu, or the realm of the bodhi-womb

Descartes would consider this Self-Mind as that which animates the Body—the Primordial Thought-Action. Phenomenologists would go one step further and state that mystical experience is that of producing a sense of the oneness of all being, a sense of “wholeness”, as it were, “all-ness”. As in most Mystical-Spiritual literature, it’s all about returning home to the Source. The Way needs to be bracketed by a constant Vigilance, a Recollection of the Elemental yearning that needs to be sustained if the return voyage is to be successful. There are many dangers afoot outside of the Citadel, or the unwholesome outskirts, which Teresa describes as an evil collage of venomous creatures. And so this journey will lead us through Seven Mansions wherein the Self-Mind (through the awareness principle) will discern the proper compass of Right Direction, never succumbing to the endangerment’s that align the course. For our purposes, these seven mansions will be referenced as “Towers”, or those benchmarks that need to be scaled by those few Noble-Minded ones willing and bold enough to ascend the heights into a liberating Self-gnosis that alone can free Mind from its tethers. Juxtaposed to these magnificent seven will be a Mind-model based on Atisha’s Seven Points of Mind Training. We will discover how they will coalesce into a refined teaching based on the core-principles of Unborn Mind Zen.

Just as a little note in closing this introduction to the series; Teresa of Avila was 62 years old when she wrote The Interior Castle. This kind of creeps me out in a way. I’ve waited so long to do a series based on her spirituality and in discovering during my research that she was 62, it just so synchronistically happens that I recently turned 62. This kind of thing also occurred concerning another mystical text, and that is the anonymous Cloud of Unknowing. In it the author addresses a young novice, “But now you are anxious, and say, ‘What am I to do? If what you are saying is true, how am I to give account of each moment of time? Here am I, twenty-four years old, altogether heedless of time!” Again, an astounding synchronous moment as I was also 24 when first reading this text during the summer when I entered seminary. Let us now together venture forth into the mystical-marvels that await us as we Journey to the Center of the Mind.

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2 Responses to Journey to the Center of the Mind

  1. n. yeti says:

    This looks like an excellent series.

    I have been greatly inspired by Teresa D’Avila’s meditations, as well as that of the Cloud of Unknowing, which you mention in passing. I remember reading Cloud in its original middle English back in my early 20s (barely out my teens really) at a time when I was also trying to tackle Sanskrit and encountered the term Samadhi which (looking back) was quite important to my spiritual studies as it allowed me to engage with nonduality. There is something about that age in young people which encompasses both open-mindedness and boldness, both of which are so useful for seeking spiritual understanding in today’s confused world. It is a pity so many today don’t ever encounter this wonderful teachings (or for that matter, Buddhists who automatically reject them on the basis of their Christian theological influence). After all these years I still encounter that spark of inspiration from these texts, and I am glad to find others who also find value in them.

    I wonder if some day you will take on St. Augustine too. There is a book I haven’t read yet but I thought maybe you would enjoy it, called The Mysticism of Saint Augustine: Rereading the Confessions, by John Kenney (Routledge Press, 2005). I include a small excerpt below from a review since it touches on something I think comes up a lot in contemporary Western “philosophical” attempts to engage with Buddhism through the lens of Neoplatonism, specifically Plotinus — a view I feel is limited for the reasons described here:

    “For those of us who have been following debates over the epistemology of religious experience, Kenney’s Augustine is an inducement to abandon the analogy between sense-perception and religious experience and allow a much greater theological scope to the notion of an experiential report. For others of us who are more interested in Augustine himself, we are encouraged not to read Augustine’s foil in matters mystical, Plotinus, as a technician of tiny ecstasies. If Plotinus was a contemplative truth-seeker and not a man obsessed with having as many experiences as possible of ineffable bliss, then Augustine, as a serious reader of Plotinus, may not have been very preoccupied with the issue of whether tiny ecstasies can be multiplied and prolonged in this mortal life.”

    Here’s a link to the review:

    Anyway enough of my prattle. I look forward to the series!

    • Vajragoni says:

      Many, many thanks for your insightful reply! Glad to see that Teresa’s writings have inspired you too. Thanks also for the link on Augustine; am particularly interested with that Plotinus-Augustine connection. Will definitely have to get that book. Was also inspired years ago reading his Confessions,and even more so his “City of God.” Enjoy this series! 🙂

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