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You can put what she says to the test. Back of all this instruction is the fact, which was very important for my particular background, that there is a reliable order and sequence to growth in the spiritual life.

The Interior Castle

This is built into her model of the "castle" of the soul. Finally, Dwelling Places Five through Seven proved to be, for me, the finest treatments of union with Christ and with God that I have found in spiritual literature. Union with Christ--in regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification—is of all themes the one in most need of recovery today.

One of the unfortunate things that has happened to the latter stages of the Interior Castle , and even to the book as a whole, is that people have tried to read it as if it were an "interfaith," not a distinctively Christian, portrayal of "mystic union. Of course anyone is free to take what they can from it, but to dismiss its particularity will leave little to genuinely assist the reader to walk with God.

Introduction: Teresa of Avila: Selections from The Interior Castle

A word about how to read this book. First, read it nonstop—just push ahead--to get a view of the whole. Mark themes and divisions clearly as you go, and at the end sketch out the outline. Then go back and read slowly from beginning to end. This time you mark striking passages for further study.

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church. One of her greatest masterpieces is The Interior Castle, which depicts the spiritual journey of a soul toward God as a series of mansions, each closer to the center of the Castle than the last. In honor of her feast day, here are some of my favorite quotes from that spiritual classic.


If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking of of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips. Everyone, however, who wishes to enter the second Mansion, will be well advised, as far as his state of life permits, to try to put aside all unnecessary affairs and business. True perfection consists in the love of God and of our neighbour, and the more perfect is our observance of these two commandments, the nearer to perfection we shall be.

His appeals come through the conversations of good people, or from sermons, or through the reading of good books; or they come through sickness and trials, or by means of truths which God teaches us at times when we are engaged in prayer. The soul will certainly suffer great trails at this time [as it makes spiritual growth], especially if the devil sees that its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress: all the powers of hell will combine to drive it back again.

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Believe me, unless we have peace, and strive for peace in our own home, we shall not find it in the homes of others. A continuous increase of humility and prayer is required to continue. The person surrenders into the arms of God, as the natural and spiritual begin to merge. When reaching the fifth mansion, the soul transcends any sense and reason.

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Like a deep faint, the person dies to the world and lives fully in God. The lizards have become tiny and do no harm.


This is blessing beyond imagination, as union with God transcends all earthly joys. To achieve this level, the person must still perform routine tasks of service and charity. When entering the sixth mansion, the soul is wounded with love. God humbles the person as intense pain penetrates the soul.

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It is a sweet wound. This is all in preparation for the final mansion. The soul has no doubt that Christ is calling.

~ St. Teresa of Avila ~

Christ gives the soul rapture. In the seventh mansion, the soul is freed from suffering and is in a state of suspension. Vision is transcended and unspeakable. All external experiences are oblivious.

There are visions of saints and angels. There is a growing desire to bear burdens and suffer. Everything is about praising him. Although a person does not stay in this pure contemplation, some of the blessings always remain in their soul. The person never feels alone.