Visions Within: Spiritual Development and the Evolution of Imagery in Teresa of Ávila's The Interior Castle

Paul Trafford <paul.trafford [at]>


This is one of the short essays (limited to 5,000 words) that I submitted during the course of my Master's in the Study of Religion at Oxford University, which I completed in October 2009. It is presented here with only minor revisions. I would like to thank everyone who helped me, especially Dr. Peter Tyler, who pointed me to some useful references, particularly the work of Chorpenning and Welch; Sr. Benedicta Ward for encouraging me to look at St. Teresa's major works concerning her life; and Dr. Johannes Zachhuber at Trinity College / the Theology Faculty, my tutor, for comments on earlier drafts. I'd like to acknowledge all those not mentioned here who kindly gave me support.

1. Introduction

Mystical experiences have long been associated with saints in Christianity, many of whom have tried to describe their visions and ecstatic trances in difficult circumstances. Among them, Teresa of Ávila, baptised as Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, is well known for her contributions emerging against the considerable constraints of late 16th Century Spain. This period was marked by the Counter-Reformation in which the influence of the Spanish Inquisition was growing, whose impositions Teresa[1] experienced at two levels – personally in terms of her own family background as conversos (Jewish converts)[2] and professionally in terms of the Catholic Church's restrictions on available literature and recognised practices. In contrast, St. Hildegard of Bingen, who lived in the more religiously tolerant climate of medieval Europe of the 12th Century, was able to freely convey her mystical experiences and the physical traces they left, signs regarded as divine with little question (Ward 1990).

Yet, rather than becoming overwhelmed or muted by such difficulties, for Teresa they seem to have had a galvanizing effect: not only did she describe her experiences, but she sought to analyse them and subject herself to intense scrutiny. Her tremendous determination, deep prayer life and sustained efforts in the face of such challenging circumstances bore fruit in the form of extraordinary works with rich and powerful description, culminating in the Interior Castle, a manual on prayer, the hallmark of which is the striking imagery.

In this essay we shall explore the Castle and its imagery, trying to distinguish the various kinds of images, and hence discern their significance. Which were specifically responses to Teresa's own personal Spanish background and context and which were more universal expressions? How might this help us to gain a deeper understanding of her practices of mystical prayer? By working closely with the images, we try to tease out patterns and structures that suggest significant aspects of the journey, noting the stages at which they occur and how they inter-relate. Balanced against these external constraints, we also take into account subtle yet expansive internal influences – the literary, cultural, environmental as well as religious infusions.

Teresa's work is fundamentally concerned with epistemology, especially mystical knowing and knowledge. She states clearly at the start of the fourth Mansions the experiential requirements in becoming acquainted with such knowledge:

As these Mansions are now getting near to the place where the King dwells, they are of great beauty and there are such exquisite things to be seen and appreciated in them that the understanding is incapable of describing them in any way accurately without being completely obscure to those devoid of experience. But any experienced person will understand quite well, especially if his experience has been considerable. (IV,i,3)

She indicates that “understanding,” which we take to be rational understanding, is unable per se to know the inner dwelling place of God, but rather any methodology requires gaining direct experience – through prayer, the means of entry to the castle (I,i,7). As Ahlgren remarks, a holistic understanding is needed to penetrate the theology – “we will have to move slowly and meditatively” (Ahlgren 2005, 17).

It should also be noted that in her instruction Teresa chose informal colloquial language, echoing the spoken language used every day at her convent of St. Joseph's – in her preface, Teresa indicates that she intended this guidebook on prayer primarily for her sisters there (JHS, paragraph 4). Rivers remarks that Teresa's prose is “deliberately subliterate,” imitative of “pronunciations and phrases as heard from the mouths of illiterate peasants” (Rivers 1983, 68). Chorpenning points out that it parallels St. Augustine's colloquial forms in his Confessions, which enabled scriptures to become accessible to the general public (Chorpenning 1992, 10).

Teresa may not have had the public in mind, but Augustine was one of her inspirations to whom she refers.[3] Furthermore, her departure from usual writing conventions is consistent with the lifestyle of her first forebears in the order: “Pilgrimage was penitential. In essence it meant radical change, for it marked a break with one's previous relation to society” and with its grass roots: “They were not organised like a religious order, but came from the poor, the penitents, the pilgrims” (McGreal 1999, 18).

2. The Castle's Architecture

Teresa introduces her central image right at the beginning of her book:

I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions. (I,i,1)[4]

... and in the centre and midst of them all is the chiefest mansion where the most secret things pass between God and the soul. (I,i,3)

This is the basis, the scene or stage, in which she sets the vivid account of the spiritual journey inwards where the soul attains to that most intimate space with God. In the work's Introduction, Fray Diego de Yepes, one of her confessors and biographers, records that in 1579 Teresa divulged how she had been reflecting on the soul's beauty in grace and its relationship to prayer when the subject of the castle image arose spontaneously.

He showed her a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, in the greatest splendour, illumining and beautifying them all. The nearer one got to the centre, the stronger was the light...
(Introduction, paragraph 2)

Although the glorious image appeared in an instant, it was an integration of a number of once disparate elements that had been in her consciousness for a while, two of which were already in the process of ongoing formation in her previous works.

The first is fortification. Carrión indicates that in the centuries before the Reconquista Jewish, Islamic and Christian mysticism had all been active, leaving their 'scent' in layers of architecture and religious practices; she conjectures that Teresa would have been inspired on her travels (when setting up the various convents) by the medieval Iberian architecture. The Castle thus reflects a palace of memory (Carrión 2009, 136). These indications of “transconfessional piety” serve to alert us to the greater universality of Teresa's writings, but her notion of the castle as a fortification had strong influences closer to home. The geography of Castile, being a walled town, furnished Teresa with images of fortified buildings from her earliest years and the symbolism she later adopted would have been influenced by her various readings. Among them chivalric works helped foster the development of her strong-willed character, which she exhibited as a child by setting off with Rodrigo, one of her brothers, on a long journey to seek martyrdom (Life: Chapter 1, para. 4).

However, it was Francisco de Osuna's 'Tercer Abecedario Espiritual' which is widely credited as prompting a profound response. He wrote of the need to guard the heart “with all diligence, as one would guard a besieged castle, placing three lamps against each of the three attackers: against flesh, which surrounds us with delights, place chastity; against the devil, who chases us with rancors and envy, place charity …”[5] At the outset of The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa projects the protective layers into the discipline of religious observance of St. Joseph's:

These arms must appear on our banners and at all costs we must keep this rule -- as regards our house, our clothes, our speech, and (which is much more important) our thoughts … for, as Saint Clare [of Assisi] said, the walls of poverty are very strong. It was with these walls, she said, and with those of humility, that she wished to surround her convents; and assuredly, if the rule of poverty is truly kept, both chastity and all the other virtues are fortified much better than by the most sumptuous edifices.
[Way of Perfection: Chapter II, para 8]

The second aspect is that of clear reflection, which Teresa describes in her Life until it becomes like an exceedingly refined diamond of immense scale:

Let us say that Divinity is like a very clear diamond, much larger than the whole world, or a mirror, according to my description of the soul in my former vision, except that it is of so sublime a kind that I cannot find words to express it. Then let us suppose that all we do is seen in this diamond...
(Life: Chapter 40, para. 10)

Teresa goes on to indicate its relationship with the soul, how she had seen from within this diamond, thus implying that the soul can encompass and extend to extraordinary dimensions, rather like the fabled Tardis[6].

The extremes of light and dark

By adopting this castle image, Teresa avails herself of a powerful lens that casts into strong relief the spiritual journey with its whole spectrum of religious experience, where everything is revealed and nothing can really hide, especially polarities. Responses to this heightened illumination of the soul can be characterised with respect to two contrasting extremes. The first, focused upon God, brings a sense of hope, uplift, affirmation of the natural goodness of the soul and joy. St. Teresa communicates this in many ways within the opening paragraph: “the soul of a righteous man is nothing but a paradise,” “I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul and its great capacity” and the particular reassurance that “He created us in His image and likeness” (I.i.1).

However, at the same time the clarity makes stark any imperfections: in the second chapter, Teresa confronts us with the polar opposite: “... when the soul falls into mortal sin. No thicker darkness exists, and there is nothing dark and black which is not much less so than this” (I.ii.1). Whilst Teresa goes on to affirm that she and her sisters are not in that state, she appears persistently conscious of human failings. Indeed a sense of anxiety can be detected leading to states of alienation and exile (and the sense of fear), which is arguably the controlling theme in the text (Walsh 1995).

Certainly Teresa's writing exhibits the tensions of the soul fluctuating between the human and the divine, generating an ontological dynamism whereby the human being at any one time has the potential to be both and either. As a spiritual pilgrim she wrestles with this existentially and then as a writer struggles further to communicate the journey, resulting in imagery that doesn't rest, but evolves in phases.

Mansions and Dwelling Places: Multi-layered Inner Spaces

Within the Castle, Teresa uses the term moradas. This is most commonly translated into English as 'mansions' befitting the scale of her descriptions:

You must not imagine these mansions as arranged in a row, one behind another, but fix your attention on the centre, the room or palace occupied by the King. ... around this central room are many more, as there also are above it. In speaking of the soul we must always think of it as spacious, ample and lofty... (I.ii.8)

However, she also proscribes getting stuck in any one area; in the third Mansions she strongly discourages complacency: “How I wish ours would make us dissatisfied with this habit of always serving God at a snail's pace! As long as we do that we shall never get to the end of the road.” In this respect, the more literal alternative of “dwelling places” is more appropriate, particularly when considering the Latin root is the verb morari, which not only means to dwell and linger, but also to delay.

The containing sense of space is particularly of ontological importance as Teresa remarks with regards to the soul's inward orientation in prayer:

But you must understand that there are many ways of "being" in a place. Many souls remain in the outer court of the castle, which is the place occupied by the guards; they are not interested in entering it, and have no idea what there is in that wonderful place, or who dwells in it, or even how many rooms it has. You will have read certain books on prayer which advise the soul to enter within itself: and that is exactly what this means. (I.i.5)

The space also supports growth as echoed several times by Teresa citing from Psalm 118:Daleth:32: cum dilatasti cor meum (“since you have expanded my heart”) (IV,i,6; IV,ii,5 et passim) – for spaces emerge dynamically on either side no matter how deep the soul ventures. Yet Teresa also teaches that there is ordering as the Castle partitions these spaces into a number of distinct concentric layers all clustered around the centre:

Think of a palmito, which has many outer rinds surrounding the savoury part within, all of which must be taken away before the centre can be eaten. Just so around this central room are many more, as there also are above it. (I.ii.8)

The layers need to be peeled from the outside moving inwards and prayer is the vehicle to uncover them, each being successively brighter than the previous one. This layering makes clearer the role of prayer along the spiritual path and the degrees of practice – the path is evidently a long one with no instant union.

The multi-dimensional use of space in Teresa's model can also enhance general receptivity to more refined states of being by allowing everything to be mapped out in its appropriate context. Thus the various functions of the human being can be properly delineated – for instance, the five senses and the cognitive faculties “which are their governors and butlers and stewards” (I,ii,4). The first Mansions give her space to identify the typical sorry states of a beginner's soul in prayer: “how blind they are and how ill-controlled! And yet, after all, what kind of fruit can one expect to be borne by a tree rooted in the devil?” (I,ii,4)

The prognosis is necessary, as she proceeds to develop a path of purification especially in the early mansions, a topic she had already expounded in the Way, but here there is a far greater overall perspective. Having introduced the senses and faculties, she highlights the need to control them, intimating their important future role in discernment:

... at this early stage, as the soul is still absorbed in worldly affairs, engulfed in worldly pleasure and puffed up with worldly honours and ambitions, its vassals, which are the senses and the faculties given to it by God as part of its nature, have not the same power, and such a soul is easily vanquished, although it may desire not to offend God and may perform good works. (I,ii,12)

3. Images for the Journey Within: From Description to Symbolism

Within the overall spaces offered by the castle, Teresa introduces selected images at particular stages of the journey: each space having its own lighting conditions within which different scenes and activities may be set. The images possess inter-relationships, for which we may try to identify the salient images and group the other ones around them according to some common properties, often with the effect of enforcing points.

Most commentaries agree that there are basically two phases in the Castle. The first takes place in the opening three Mansions, where the soul is gradually disengaging from worldly concerns, developing the prayer life, and nourishing itself on God. The images’ descriptions are generally accessible, starting off with the familiar geography of castles and palaces - its spaces and inhabitants – together with reptiles and other nasties easily identifiable as worldly affairs. In these early stages prayer is initially vocal and mental (1,i,7) and the emphasis is on the accumulation in practice:

All that the beginner in prayer has to do ... is to labour and be resolute and prepare himself with all possible diligence to bring his will into conformity with the will of God. As I shall say later, you may be quite sure that this comprises the very greatest perfection which can be attained on the spiritual road. (II,i,9)

The practice continues through to the Third Mansions, where Teresa characterises the soul thus: “they are most desirous not to offend His Majesty; they avoid committing even venial sins; they love doing penance, they spend hours in recollection; they use their time well; they practise works of charity toward their neighbours...” (III,i,5).

This leads onwards and inwards to the last three Mansions where God is working in successively greater degrees in the soul, with the fourth Mansions serving as a transitional state into the supernatural. As such, Teresa is very conscious of the challenge in describing this in an intelligible way:

BEFORE I begin to speak of the fourth Mansions, it is most necessary that I ... commend myself to the Holy Spirit, and beg Him from this point onward to speak for me, so that you may understand what I shall say about the Mansions still to be treated. For we now begin to touch the supernatural and this is most difficult to explain unless His Majesty takes it in hand (IV,i,1)

The central topic of the fourth Mansions is the distinction between sweetness of actions by human efforts and spiritual consolations that have their source in God, the latter associated with the Prayer of Quiet (IV,ii,2). Teresa uses the imagery of watering gardens: a fountain fed by conduits symbolises spiritual sweetness as a result of human efforts, whereas the water from the springs is divine consolation. (IV,ii,3 and 4). Teresa reinforces the teaching by using the image of a deep spring to emphasize the depth of their centre:

I was thinking just now, as I wrote this, that a verse which I have already quoted, Dilatasti cor meum, speaks of the heart's being enlarged. I do not think that this happiness has its source in the heart at all. It arises in a much more interior part, like something of which the springs are very deep; I think this must be the centre of the soul, (IV,ii,5)

Much of the imagery is recurrent as Teresa refreshes the memories for those engaged in the path of prayer, found among the Mansions and also between works. The repetition can at first glance give a diffuse impression, but it can also be edifying for practitioners, especially where there is a tradition of oral instruction. When Teresa's works are surveyed as a whole, the repetition reveals the images of greatest importance, the dominant symbols on which we may concentrate to derive primary meanings.

In this way, Ahlgren has identified the imagery of gardens as central to the Life (see especially Chapter 11) and recurrent in the Castle and weighed this alongside the Castle image as a whole. Comparing these two with accounts in Genesis, she considers the Interior Castle as a metaphor for the orderly creation of the cosmos leading to humanity created in God's image, whilst the watering of the garden in Teresa’s Life is a metaphor for the soul in the more immanent God – reflected in the shaping of Adam (Ahlgren 2005, 15). Ahlgren's twofold comparison serves as a basic orientation for the journey – the fourth Mansions in describing the garden really provide a reflection of the journey hitherto from the early mansions and deal with cultivating the soul in a way that is ready for doors to open in the fifth Mansions and beyond.

Archetypes and Process

The imagery in the fifth Mansions becomes highly symbolic. Accordingly, we may use archetypes, familiar in psychoanalysis and promising because Teresa herself was very analytical of the processes she was describing. John Welch has pursued a parallel examination of the life and work of Carl Jung and that of Teresa. He discusses archetypes in the context of the unconscious, which “refers to those aspects of personality which are not present in the awareness of the individual” (Welch 1982, 72). According to Jung's theory, an individual's personal unconscious is contained within a greater collective unconscious, which is the source of pre-existent archetypal forms - “primordial images common to all humankind” (Welch 1982, 73).

Welch identifies a number of salient archetypes in relation to Teresa's work, viz: Castle, water, journey, serpents, devils, butterfly, marriage and Christ (Welch 1982, 3-5). Focusing on process, he offers a contemporary characterisation of the journey by comparison with Jungian individuation, which in the Christian context he describes as “the movement into the wholeness of one's personality as union with God deepens.” (Welch 1982, 1) The individuation relates well to a key threefold imagery in the Castle of silkworm, cocoon and butterfly that takes centre stage in the fifth Mansions (V.ii). Here the mansions remain as spaces, but the nature of movement within the spaces changes, reflecting a shift in ontology. Initially, it starts in the form of a worm, earthbound but industrious in nourishing itself:

The silkworm is like the soul which takes life when, through the heat which comes from the Holy Spirit, it begins to utilize the general help which God gives to us all, and to make use of the remedies which He left in His Church — such as frequent confessions, good books and sermons, for these are the remedies for a soul dead in negligences and sins and frequently plunged into temptation. The soul begins to live and nourishes itself on this food, and on good meditations, until it is full grown. (V,ii,4)

The next stage concerns the spinning (earnest practice) in the cocoon, a container that allows contact between the soul and God, leading on from the Prayer of Quiet. In this liminal period there is a suspension of external movement, but within the worm there is ongoing development as it absorbs divine assistance. Teresa shows that the transformation process is driven by diminution of the ego and non-attachment to earthly things to such an extent that it dies: “Let us renounce our self-love and self-will, and our attachment to earthly things... Let the silkworm die — let it die, as in fact it does when it has completed the work which it was created to do” (V, ii, 7). This leads to the Prayer of Union, in which emerges the little white butterfly, about which Teresa, states: “The soul cannot think how it can have merited such a blessing – whence such a blessing could have come to it, I mean to say, for it knows quite well that it has not merited it at all” (V,ii,8). Yet, at the same time Teresa remains well-grounded and stresses the need for service in loving God and our neighbour (V,iii,8).

Narrative Archetypes

Among the other sources of archetypes is narrative, which has its own body of evidence in literature. Chorpenning has applied Northrop Frye’s grammar of narrative to show in particular the integrity of the relationship between primary and secondary allegories, a topic of much scholarly debate (Chorpenning 1992, 93-5). He first notes Frye's general observation that Western culture has 4 levels in mythological universe derived from the Bible: Heaven, the earthly paradise, the ordinary world, and the demonic world or hell (47-8). Chorpenning then acquires pairings of opposing archetypes provided by Frye, many of which can readily be identified in the Castle, including:God (Satan), angels (demons), light (darkness), paradise garden and water of life (wasteland and sea of death), bride and bridegroom (whore and heathen), sheep and dove (wild animals and reptiles). Within this cosmos, Frye provides an archetypal process for romance of movement between the levels defined above (48-49).

Chorpenning uses this architecture of the romance narrative to show the internal coherence of Teresa's overall narrative, supporting secondary images that highlight the multifaceted nature of heaven and various aspects to do with the celestial nature of the soul. It starts with the soul being conscious of its own identity – supernatural origin and destiny (in God's image) – and then following “calls” from Lord to ascend to Him by withdrawing from base elements in demonic world, i.e. from worldly pleasures inhibiting movement towards God. However, to proceed on its ascent, the soul must overcome various obstacles through surrender to God's will, before finally being able to ascend to the higher world (the Spiritual Marriage).

The sequences defined in the narrative structure certainly help to make sense of the ordering in the mansions and provide a plausible line of argument from the “soul's gradual, progressive ascent from dark and reptile-infested outer courtyard... to the luminous seventh mansions” (97).

4. The Deepest States of Prayer as Relationship

Reaching those luminous mansions is a long journey from the Prayer of Union described in the fifth Mansions, moving through intangible states[7]:

Nothing, I must repeat, is seen in this state of prayer which can be said to be really seen, even by the imagination; I use the word "sight" because of the comparison I made. (VI,i,1)

Teresa deals with this subtlety by using primary metaphors of human relationships, with the closest relationship being that of matrimony. Descriptions of the sixth Mansions are thus about betrothal and are of considerable length. They actually include the most dramatic and far-reaching descriptions, conveying a multitude of very vivid states. However, rather than a gradual progression, their rhythm is a pulsating dynamic of immense amplitude, exhibiting thunderclaps (VI,ii,2), sparks (VI,ii,4) and locutions (VI,iii,1).

Whatever happens, Teresa strives to keep sight of the goal as there is running through an ever great yearning for lasting union, in which there appears to be emerging an intimate divine communication within:

it [the soul] is conscious that Jesus Christ Our Lord is near to it, though it cannot see him either with the eyes of the body or with the eyes of the soul. This (I do not know why) is called an intellectual vision. (VI,viii,2)

Yet despite the most sublime absorptions, there is inexorable movement into another liminal state that sees the deepest estrangement, inwardly and outwardly: “Solitude is still worse for her, though it is also torture for her to be in anyone's company or to be spoken to...” (VI,i,14), which she describes at great length, together with many trials, often identified as 'The Dark Night of the Soul' after the work of that name by her contemporary, St. John of the Cross.

Teresa is forced to confront existential doubts compounded by problems with confessors, but finds reassurance again from within: “"Be not afraid: it is I." These words had such power that when she heard them she could not doubt, and she was greatly strengthened and gladdened by such good companionship.” (VI,viii,3) Even so, this state is still unresolved so that “She thinks of herself as of a person suspended aloft, unable either to come down and rest anywhere on earth or to ascend into Heaven.” (VI,xi,5)

By persevering through all these trials, she realises the final home-coming:

When Our Lord is pleased to have pity upon this soul, which suffers and has suffered so much out of desire for Him, and which He has now taken spiritually to be His bride, He brings her into this Mansion of His, which is the seventh, before consummating the Spiritual Marriage. (VII,i,3)

In regal language, Teresa describes His Majesty taking the bride (the soul) into Spiritual matrimony. The colour of the ecstatic visions goes, but in its place is the most profound knowledge: “It is brought into this Mansion by means of an intellectual vision, in which, by a representation of the truth in a particular way, the Most Holy Trinity reveals Itself, in all three Persons” (VII,i,6).

From then on, the union is complete, unlike before:

... there is the same difference between the Spiritual Betrothal and the Spiritual Marriage as there is between two betrothed persons and two who are united so that they cannot be separated any more. (VII,ii,2)

Here the butterfly has died as the soul has found the divine rest, in which she can declare: “Mihi vivere Christus est, mori lucrum” (Living is for me life in Christ, and to die is gain) (VII,ii,5).

5. Conclusion

The journey ends, but this is but a beginning in which life is completely re-oriented, with prayer and deeds going hand in hand, as exemplified by Martha and Mary. After all the spectacles, Teresa finishes in a very down-to-earth manner:

For if the soul is much with Him, as it is right it should be, it will very seldom think of itself; its whole thought will be concentrated upon finding ways to please Him and upon showing Him how it loves Him. This, my daughters, is the aim of prayer: this is the purpose of the Spiritual Marriage, of which are born good works and good works alone. (VII,iv,6)

Teresa’s “good works” not only led to the establishment of her reformed monasteries, but have served as a far more general inspiration that is still engaging many hearts and minds today.


Source Texts

Teresa of Avila, 1565 The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by Herself. Translated from Spanish by J.M. Cohen. 1957. London. Peguin

Teresa of Avila, 1577. The Interior Castle. Translated from Spanish by E. Allison Peers. 1974. London. Spiritual Masters series, Sheed and Ward

Teresa of Avila, 1589. Way of Perfection. Translated from Spanish by E. Allison Peers. 1977. London. Spiritual Masters series, Sheed and Ward

Secondary Literature

Ahlgren, G.., 2005. Entering Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle: A Reader's Companion. Paullist.

Burrows, Ruth, 1981. Interior Castle Explored. Sheed and Ward.

Carrión, María M., 2009. Scent of a Mystic Woman: Teresa de Jesús and the Interior Castle. Medieval Encounters, 15:1, 130-156.

Chorpenning, J., 1992. The divine romance: Teresa of Ávila's narrative theology in Values & ethics series; v. 4, Chicago:Loyola University Press.

McGreal, Wilfrid, 1999. At the Fountain of Elijah: The Carmelite Tradition. Orbis.

Rivers, Elias L., 1983. Quixotic Scriptures: Essays on the Textuality of Hispanic Literature. Indiana University Press.

Walsh, Terrance G.., 1995. Writing Anxiety in Teresa's "Interior Castle", Theological Studies, 56:2, 247-275.

Ward, Benedicta,1990. Saints and Sybils: Hildegard of Bingen to Teresa of Avila, First published as Ch. 7 in After Eve, Janet Martin Soskice Ed., Zondervan.
Available at:

Welch, J., 1982. Spiritual Pilgrims: Teresa of Avila and Jung. Paullist.

Williams, Rowan, 1991. Teresa of Avila. Outstanding Christian Thinkers series. London: Continuum.



[1] We adopt the common shorthand of “Teresa,” but it should be noted that on establishing the Carmelite Reform in 1562 she chose the name Teresa de Jesús, and so “de Jesús” is arguably preferable.

[2] For coverage of Teresa's converso background see Rowan William's treatment of her social world (Williams 1991, Chapter 1).

[3] On reading St. Augustine's Confessions Teresa saw herself there and felt a closeness with the saint, which became abiding. (Life 7:8)

[4] We shall use the translation by E. Allison Peers, with references as (Mansions: Chapter: Paragraph) in uppercase Roman numerals, lowercase Roman numerals and Arabic numerals respectively, e.g. (I,ii,3).

[5] Francisco de Osuna, 1972. Tercer Abecedario Espiritual, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid, p. 198.

[6] The OED (2nd edition) defines Tardis as follows: In allusive use. Something resembling or likened to Doctor Who's TARDIS; spec.: (a) a thing which has a larger capacity than its outward appearance suggests; a building, etc., that is larger on the inside than it appears from the outside;...

[7] Teresa later refers to such visions as intellectual visions, whilst indicating that she was at the time unaware of this standard term. (VI,viii,2)


Other essays in Christianity:

Page created: 1 November 2009