Over the course of this series on Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, I have been acquiring and utilizing several resources for my own edification as well as sharing their insights when appropriate. As we now arrive at the Seventh Tower, The Center of the Mind, Mary Frohlich’s The Intersubjectivity of the Mystic: A Study of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, offers us some splendid introductory material:
The Seventh Dwelling Places are a profoundly new order of experience. The shattering pain at the end of the Sixth Dwelling Places does indeed mark a breakthrough of the “center dwelling place” to more complete prominence; this is something more than either the “union” of the Fifth Dwelling Places or the “rapture” of the Sixth Dwelling Places, even though in both of these God was truly united with the soul. To explain the crucial difference, Teresa states that the earlier unions and raptures of the soul seemed to be calling to its “superior part,” whereas here the soul fully and definitely enters its “center”.
The “center” actually belongs to God even more intrinsically that it belongs to the soul. Ultimately, the center is the absolute ground of consciousness; that divine center is mediated in the “openness” or “relative ground of consciousness” that is the ground of a human being. The “superior part,” on the other hand, is a meditation that belongs essentially to the soul and so must go out of itself to enter into God. (ibid, pg. 223-224)
Now then, when His Majesty is pleased to grant the soul this divine marriage that was mentioned, he first brings it into his own dwelling place. He desires that the favor be different from what it was at other times when he gave the soul raptures. I really believe that in rapture he unites it with himself, as well as in the prayer of union that was mentioned. But it doesn’t seem to the soul that it is called to enter into its center, as it is here in this dwelling place, but called to the superior part. These things matter little; whether the experience comes in one way or another, the Lord joins the soul to himself…
In this seventh dwelling place the union comes about in a different way: our good God now desires to remove the scales from the soul’s eyes and let it see and understand, although in a strange way, something of the favor he grants it. When the soul is brought into that dwelling place, the Most Blessed Trinity, all three Persons, through an intellectual vision, is revealed to it through a certain representation of the truth.
The soul now sees as it were, eye to eye with the Absolute Stature of the Unborn, here manifested as the Holy Trinity; for a Lankavatarian, it would refer to as Absolute Union with the Blessed Three Jewels: Dharmakaya Buddha; the splendid Word of the Buddhadharma; and the Mystical Community of the Illuminative Light of the Unborn. In the same fashion as reported in our last blog, these can be initiated through an intellectual vision.
…interior things are seen in such a way that one understands with certitude that there is some kind of difference, a difference clearly recognized, between the soul and the spirit, even though they are both one. So delicate a division is perceived that sometimes it seems the one functions differently from the other, and so does the favor the Lord desires to give them seem different. It also seems to me that the soul and the faculties are not one but different. There are so many and such delicate things in the interior that it would be boldness on my part to set out to explain them. In heaven we will see all this, if the Lord in his mercy grants us the favor of bringing us there where we shall understand these secrets.
In light of this, the soul is the sovereign vessel of the spirit and is more spiritually active than ever before. Whereas the spirit is the Absolute Contemplative (Transcendent) Principle, the soul is its active function of animating the body. Teresa uses the biblical references of Mary and Martha in this regards: Mary being the Contemplative (she has chosen the best part) and Martha as the incessantly busy and active counterpoint.
The difference between spiritual union and spiritual marriage
You must understand that there is the greatest difference between all the previous visions and those of this dwelling place. Between the spiritual betrothal and the spiritual marriage the difference is as great as that which exists between two who are betrothed and two who can no longer be separated.
Let us say that the union is like the joining of two wax candles to such an extent that the flame and the wax are all one. But afterward one candle can be easily separated from the other and there are two candles; the same holds for the wick. In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls from the sky into a river or fount; all is water, for the rain that fell from heaven cannot be divided or separated from the water of the river. Or it is like what we have when a little stream enters the sea; there is no means of separating the two.
It should be understood that in this state there is no more thought of the body than if the soul were not in it, but one’s thought is only of the spirit. In the spiritual marriage, there is still much less remembrance of the body because this secret union takes place in the very interior center of the soul, which must be where God himself is, and in my opinion there is no need of any door for him to enter.
Here, the body consciousness has evaporated leaving a conjunctival association between the Blessed Lord and His beloved. Now the soul is permanently at the center and remains by and large essentially stable, just as in a marriage that can be rocky at times, but the foundation never gives way to the outer samsaric onslaughts.
What God communicates here to the soul in an instant is a secret so great and a favor so sublime – and the delight the soul experiences so extreme – that I don’t know what to compare it to. I can say only that the Lord wishes to reveal for that moment, in a more sublime manner than through any spiritual vision or taste, the glory of heaven. One can say no more – insofar as can be understood – than that the soul, I mean the spirit, is made one with God.
[[[Complete Coitus.]]] The mind and spirit of the adept are enflamed with an untold richness and eternal delight. One can now taste the Divine Essence, hinting at the perfect mystical coitus with the Unborn.
The empyreal heaven
The Lord puts the soul in this dwelling of his, which is the center of the soul itself. They say that the empyreal heaven where the Lord is does not move as do the other heavens; similarly, it seems, in the soul that enters here there are none of those movements that usually take place in the faculties and the imagination and do harm to the soul, nor do these movements take away its peace.
[[[[IT does not move—a Blessed illustration of the Unmoving Principle]]]] The heaven of all heavens wherein no hindering movement dare make a disturbing variance.
The King is in his palace and there are many wars in his kingdom and many painful things going on, but not on that account does he fail to be at his post. So here, even though in those other dwelling places there is much tumult and there are many poisonous creatures and the noise is heard, no one enters that center dwelling place and makes the soul leave. Nor do the things the soul hears make it leave; even though they cause it some pain, the suffering is not such as to disturb it and take away its peace. The passions are now conquered and have a fear of entering the center because they would go away from there more subdued.
One dwells in the center—the sanctum sanctorum of the Unborn Mind. This Holy Communion is complete and is forever sealed against all evil. The former ravaging discursive mindset is still at last. One enjoys perpetual Spiritual Tranquility.
The spiritual draught is over
[Now] There is great detachment from everything and a desire to be always either alone or occupied in something that will benefit some soul. There are no interior trials or feelings of dryness, but the soul lives with a remembrance and tender love of our Lord.
The Absolute Center of the Unborn Mind is most succulent indeed!
The soul is almost always in quiet. There is no fear that this sublime favor can be counterfeited by the devil, but the soul is wholly sure that the favor comes from God; for, as I have said, the faculties and senses have nothing to do with what goes on in this dwelling place. His Majesty reveals himself to the soul and brings it to himself in that place where, in my opinion, the devil will not dare enter, nor will the Lord allow him to enter. Nor does the Lord in all the favors he grants the soul here, as I have said, receive any assistance from the soul itself, except what it has already done in surrendering itself totally to God.
Mara no longer has an admission-ticket in which to wage spiritual warfare.
What we need to do is to turn a blind-eye to Mara’s domain and walk freely in Divine Darkness. This, then, is the source of our protection. Hidden from the garish-face of a soiled humanity, the Dark Contemplation fortifies us from profane existence. The spirit has only one purpose now and that is to pay fervent homage to the Unborn. This is the eternal-linkage within that most delectable field of the Dharmakaya. This is Eternal Sweetness; there is no other.
The little butterfly has died
Now, then, we are saying that this little butterfly has already died, with supreme happiness for having found repose and because Christ lives in it.
The butterfly, we recall, was the new self, freed from the restraints of the cocoon. The soul of this new self had flown gracefully and freely about in the fifth and sixth dwelling places. Now in this seventh dwelling place, the initial metamorphosis of the silkworm into the butterfly undergoes another radical change.
(The Interior Castle, Study Edition, Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Carol Lisi, O.C.D.S. pg. 308)
In this fashion, the adept dies to all that is not in perfected-harmony with the Unborn Mind. It sheds its withered skin of sensate contamination and is clothed afresh with Luminous Unborn Light. This is the consummated infusion of the will with the Divine Will and is nothing less than anuttara samyak sambodhi. The spirit is now one with the Unborn Spirit. Nirvana is won. It is more celestial than human. A reflection of the Dharmakaya Itself.
***All extractions from an Unborn Mind Zen exegesis point of view were issued from the series, Ascending the Noble Mountain of Primordial Perfection. ***
Teresa’s closing admonition:
In sum, Sisters, what I conclude with is that we shouldn’t build castles in the air. The Lord doesn’t look so much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done. And if we do what we can, His Majesty will enable us each day to do more and more, provided that we do not quickly tire.
Yea, none of this series was about building “sandcastles in the air”. The Journey to the Center of the Mind with its assorted Towers was all about building a solid Spiritual Foundation in order to confect proper union with the Unborn. In this regard its path was no different from a Tsung mi who carried-through upon his own initial Enlightenment with a precise spiritual cultivation all along the way. Without this cultivation, the journey would be in vain.