Before reaching the First Tower, or Teresa’s First Mansion, some more preliminary observations are in order. Towers 1-3 manifests the Active phase of Recollection, while Towers 4-7 constitute the Passive Phase of Recollection. Also 1-3 establishes what is known as the Purgative Phase of the spiritual journey, likened unto what John of the Cross would classify as the Dark Night of the Senses; 4-5 presents the Illuminative Stage, wherein the adept enters into a more supernal-realization of what still needs to be shredded (Dark Night of the Spirit) in order for union with the Absolute to occur; Towers 6-7 represent the Unitive Phase, or Absolute Coitus with the Unborn Mind. Throughout all of this, the self must continue ever-onward towards its goal of Absolute Recollection—Recognition of its self AS Self.
Teresa shares in her prologue that she wasn’t really feeling-up to such an overwhelming task:
I have been experiencing now for three months such great noise and weakness in my head that I’ve found it a hardship even to write concerning necessary business matters. But knowing that the strength given by obedience usually lessens the difficulty of things that seem impossible, I resolved to carry out the task very willingly, even though my human nature seems greatly distressed. For the Lord hasn’t given me so much virtue that my nature in the midst of its struggle with continual sickness and duties of so many kinds doesn’t feel strong aversion toward such a task. May he, in whose mercy I trust and who has helped me in other more difficult things so as to favor me, do this work for me. (IC=Interior Castle)
This is a most telling observation and an excellent example to keep in mind for anyone who is faced with a certain responsibility but finds oneself clearly not up to the task. In Teresa’s case, it was only under the power of “obedience” coming down from on high by religious superiors that empowered her to begin writing. Obedience can take many forms, let us say for example the Lankavatarian who is faced with a similar feat only to find in the beginning that one’s spirit feels weak from whatever samsaric-influences, but then recollects the graces that are afforded one by the immense power of the Buddhadharma and the invocation of countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that will—without fail—come to one’s aid and afford the proper-strength to carry-through; provided, of course, that one follows through in an obedient fashion. Hence, obedience is a necessary catalyst for the proper success of any worthwhile spiritual endeavor. When followed accordingly, then one will definitely, like Teresa, find the Unborn Spirit actually “doing the work for you.” This also reminds me that at one time faced with the responsibility of priestly preaching—which had to be done consistently day after day and in a big fashion at weekend masses, I can’t begin to tell you how on many occasions I just wasn’t feeling up to the task, that it was only in “letting-go” and allowing the spirit to do the speaking for and through me; afterwards there was always a feeling of joy-filled elation—the Great Catharsis!
Just prior to entering the Towers of the Spiritual Citadel, one finds oneself at the walls outside the Castle. Here, the sojourner, without the proper-compass, finds oneself in the midst of much samsaric mayhem:
Not long ago a very learned man told me that souls who do not practice prayer are like people with paralyzed or crippled bodies; even though they have hands and feet they cannot give orders to these hands and feet. Thus there are souls so ill and so accustomed to being involved in external matters that there is no remedy, nor does it seem they can enter within themselves. They are now so used to dealing always with the insects and vermin that are in the wall surrounding the castle that they have become almost like them. And though they have so rich a nature and the power to converse with none other than God, there is no remedy. If these souls do not strive to understand and cure their great misery, they will be changed into statues of salt, unable to turn their heads to look at themselves, just as Lot’s wife was changed for having turned her head. Insofar as I can understand, the door of entry to this castle is prayer and reflection. (IC)
For Lankavatarians, the noun “prayer” is an unused term. However, put quite simply prayer signifies an invocation for spiritual assistance and/or help. Hence, Teresa is saying that devoid of this invocation, one will never be able to pass through this gate to the inner courtyards of the Castle and are left paralyzed or crippled within their own human-angst. These are the puthujjana or the spiritual destitute—devoid of salvific Buddhagnosis. As another series specifies:
As such, “puthujjanas remain subjects of Mara the Evil One—not the Buddha.” The Zennist’s case is very clear: men and women of the puthujjana variety have these unnamable impulses stemming from the Five Aggregates, yet they keep up a pretense, to themselves, to others; their so-called respectability, their mundane philosophy, their secular religion, are all just attempts to gloss over, to make look civilized and supposedly rational something that is at heart savage, chaotic, demented. The Zennist is an Ariyan because he stands for Truth of the Buddha’s Noble variety. The lives of the puthujjanas are always contingent upon “outside” activities and warped inner-proclivities. If these external manifestations suddenly ceased, their apparent “being” would dissolve away into the nothingness from which it originated. The puthujjanas motto is really Sartre’s Being and Nothingness; for The Zennist, the only truly important realization is one that is based on “Substance”, vs. the nothingness of the materialists. Deathlessness is where it’s at! What is the point of the puthujjana striving for enlightenment when all about them is UNreal? This is highly symbolic of the whole tragedy of UNrealized freedom; there’s really nothing to look forward to but only the emptiness of the tomb.
Teresa indicates that these unwholesome worldlings are more at home with the vermin that surrounds them and have no hope, or rather no-inclination to receive spiritual assistance to empower them to rise above their skandhic condition. In fact, they take great relish in their misery. There are too many present-day comparisons to pick from, but you can get the picture—self-loathsome beings.
She emphatically says that she is “not speaking to these crippled souls” left outside in the gutter of abject misery and despair, but only to those who, even though they have formally been involved with their samsaric-peers, have crossed over the threshold into the courtyard of the Castle; yet, as they do so the stench of former abject associations still clings to them like reptilian excrement—yea, the domain of so many creepy crawlies still make their aftereffects known. At least the effort forward has been made, one is at the minimum through the gate; but it remains to confect Right Effort, Right Recollection, and a sincere invocation upon divine agencies if Self-Realization and Union is eventually to be won.