January 4, 2010

The Interior Castle - Answers


It would be helpful to write a short description of each of the six dwelling places, one that you can refer to through out this book. At times, when you are deep in the details of a particular dwelling place, it can be helpful to step back and look again at your summary to keep a clear view of where St. Teresa is and where she is leading us.


• Many things entice and distract souls here and prevent them from taking the time to search for the true light.

• They can’t seem to slip free from these impediments.

• They do have some good desires and do even pray on occasion.

• They need self-knowledge (but so does everyone in all dwelling places).

• They need to know the beauty of a soul in grace and the ugliness of the soul in sin.

• Self-knowledge and humility will grow as the soul moves toward the center.


• They have begun the practice of prayer.

• Are more responsive to the promptings of grace, which comes through external means, books, sermons, friendships and trials.

• They struggle with evil and must have determination.


• they need to persevere in prayer and the struggle involved.

• they long not to offend God and guard against venial sin.

• are fond of ascetical practices and periods of recollection.

• they use their time well.

• they practice charity toward their neighbor.

• they are balanced in speech, dress and way of living.

• are still attached to wealth and honor.

• they worry about their health.

• are shocked at the faults of others.
• are upset by a little dryness.

• They find more comfort in spiritual life than in worldly distractions yet they seldom receive the gift of contemplation.

• They need someone to speak with.


• Beginning of infused prayer, of spiritual delights

• Consolations - our efforts with God’s grace, begin in human nature and end in God

• Spiritual delights – begin with God and overflow to human nature.

• Starts with passive recollection

• The will finds rest in prayer of quiet while the intellect is bothered by distractions.

• The worth of one’s prayer is not based on its passivity but by its effects and deeds that follow.

• Active and passive prayer are joined.

• Not unusual for a soul to enter here.


• Union.

• Faculties become completely silent.

• Soul has certitude it was in God and God was in it.

• Silkworm, God is cocoon in which the person dies and is transformed.

• Preparatory stages of spiritual marriage, deepening knowledge of each other.

• Love must not be idle, love of neighbor, humility, faithfulness in ordinary tasks.


• Spiritual betrothal.

• Need for courage.

• Fortitude comes through trials both exterior and interior (misunderstandings, fears, illness, sense of rejection by God).

• Growth in understanding of Divine Mysteries.

• Importance of person of Christ.

• Desires of love are ever increasing – to the point of spiritual torment leading to spiritual purification necessary to proceed to dwelling place 7.

• Intense spiritual joy and intense spiritual torment can place the soul in danger of death.


• No sharp separation between dwelling place 6 and dwelling place 7, but some things are revealed in dwelling place 7 that are not revealed to those who have not reached it.

• Unlike the fifth and sixth dwelling places where the soul was blind and deaf and did not understand the favors it enjoyed, now God allows the soul to see and understand something of the favor He grants.

• These favors no longer cause ecstasy; the person experiences them as connatural.

• Entry into the seventh dwelling place takes place through an intellectual vision of the Trinity.

• Spiritual marriage is bestowed in dwelling place 7 (perfect union) through imaginative vision of the sacred Humanity. This is experienced often as an intellectual vision.


Why did St. Teresa of Jesus write the Interior Castle and to whom was it addressed?

She was ordered to write the book by Fr. Gracian. It was addressed to the nuns in order to answer some questions on prayers that they were asking. Fr. Gracian thought the nuns would better understand her way of speaking (as a woman) and because of the love they had for her they would pay careful attention to what she said.


1) How does St. Teresa of Jesus describe the soul?

It is like a castle made out of a diamond or crystal, with many rooms. It is a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. “I don’t find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity”.

2) Why does St. Teresa of Jesus say that we do not know who we are?

She says this because she sees that we do not know the precious things found in our souls. Rather than focus on our souls, we focus on our bodies, the setting of the diamond (or the wall of the castle) and don’t appreciate and care for our souls.

3) Do you think you take as good care of your soul as you do of your body?

I am always challenging myself on this because I do fuss a lot with my hair and make up. I care less and less about my clothes but I do have to watch out. If we consider the intellect as part of the body for these purposes, I have to challenge myself about how much time I spend “feeding” my intellect (books, newspapers, etc.) verses feeding my soul with good spiritual reading and reflection.

4) Why does St. Teresa of Jesus think it is good to understand the favors God grants some souls even if we don’t receive such favors?

She gives three reasons:

• If God should give them to you, you’ll have some idea of what is going on.

• Even if you never receive such favors, you will be moved to praise God for giving them to others seeing how merciful He is.

• You will be inspired to live in such a way to receive such favors.


In #8, St. Teresa of Jesus makes many points, among them:

a. You must not think of these dwelling place s in such a way that each one would follow in file after the other

b. The things of the soul must always be considered as plentiful – let it walk through these dwelling places which are above, down, below and to the sides…

c. We shall never know ourselves if we don’t strive to know God.

d. The room of self-knowledge is all-important yet sometimes the soul should fly from it.

How can we apply these points to the spiritual journey?

a. Even though we may be in a particular room, there is not a sealed door behind us and in front of us. We will return to a previous room from time to time, a little regressing is natural. But also, we will have some peeks into the rooms that lie ahead. We make progress in our spiritual journey but there are some steps back, some steps forward. Don’t be discouraged.

b. Each dwelling place itself has additional rooms, all is rich with diversity, the spiritual journey of each person has many stages and can take many forms. Don’t look at things with ideas that are too limited. This explains why your friend’s journey may seem so different from you own.

c. We can’t really know ourselves if we don’t know God because for example, we don’t realize our lack of purity if we don’t realize God’s purity. If we only look around us we would never appreciate real purity (or humility, or love, etc.). In fact, if we just look around us we could think we are doing pretty well – but when we look at God, then we see the truth about ourselves, what we really are.

d. Always, at every stage, self-knowledge and humility are needed. Yet there are times a person should look away from himself and look at the grandeur of God, this will give wings to the spirit. Then we will remember that the “soul is capable of much more than we can imagine”. I think that looking at my misery drives me to practice virtue, but looking at God inspires me to practice virtue, it makes it easier, at least for me.



1. What are some faults of the souls in this dwelling place?

They are not careful to avoid the occasions of sin.

They are very preoccupied with worldly pleasures, pastimes and business affairs.

2. In the first dwelling place they could not “see” or “hear”. Now they can hear but this hearing is a trial, why?

St. Teresa is discussing being able to hear and response to the Lord. In the first dwelling place they couldn’t hear the Lord so there was no question of responding. Now they hear the Lord but cannot respond as they should because of their weakness, so the hearing is a trial.

Note: when St. Teresa says the soul in the first dwelling place is deaf and mute don’t take this too literally. Obviously the soul heard something and made some response or else it would not have left the first dwelling place and enter the second.

Another way she explains this is that the person in the first dwelling place was like one who had lost hope – the soul deaf and mute and in a way numb – so it does not struggle. Now it seems to have more life and so it resists the devil, temptation, etc. and is engaged in combat. It does not know if it should fight or run back to the first dwelling place.

3. What are some ways the soul “hears” the Lord in this dwelling place? Is she talking about locutions?
St. Teresa is not talking about anything supernatural here. She is referring to the ordinary ways we hear God – e.g., through good conversation, sermons, books, trials and insights gained in prayer.

4. What, according to St. Teresa is the essence of perfection.

Perfect conformity to God’s will.


1. Footnote two in Chapter 1:1 is an opportunity to review the difficult times in which St. Teresa wrote.

a. Why did Fr. Gratian edit or censor this and similar passages?

Fr. Gratian was afraid that this and similar passages sounded as if St. Teresa was saying that a person could have certainty about the state of his soul. This is against the teachings of the Church. Gratian knew that the Inquisition already had one of St. Teresa’s books and was fearful of anything that could be an excuse to send this one to the Inquisition as well.

b. Why did Fr Ribera consider these changes to be unnecessary?

Fr. Ribera was less fearful and believed that if you read all she said carefully and with understanding you could see that St. Teresa was not going against the Church’s teaching. He advised the reader to ignore the correction and read what Teresa wrote with confidence.

1. One of the characteristics of the person in the third dwelling place is that “they are very balanced in their use of speech and dress and in the governing of their households”. Since as OCDS’s our Rule allows for a great deal of discretion due to the wide variety of our personal circumstances – we need to keep an eye on this “balance”. Have you had to struggle with the question of balance as you learned to integrate the Rule into your life as a spouse, parent, worker, etc.?

2. What admonitions and advice does St. Teresa give those who are in the third dwelling place and feel upset by dryness, thinking that they now deserve favors in prayer?

a. She says they lack patience (#6). All that they have done and are doing is no more than they should do as Christians anyway.

b. They lack humility (#7) by thinking they deserve more than they have merited. [But of course, God spoils us and usually gives much more than we merit. How do we merit anything? I often marvel at St. Paul saying, “a merited crown awaits me”.]

c. If we look at the saints (#7) those whose lives are so well ordered, we will see we have no reason for complaint. We must prove our love by deeds even though He has no need of our works, but only of the determination of our wills.

d. We must persevere in all we are doing but maintain the attitude that we are useless servants.

e. Remember that the more you have received the more you owe and you have received everything from Christ. Consider yourself lucky to be able to repay something.

f. In summary, may you draw humility out of dryness!


1. In paragraphs one through six St. Teresa describes persons who have been in dwelling place three for some time living upright and well-ordered lives. Then God tests them in something minor. She relates two different reactions to this testing. Summarize her descriptions of these persons.

There are those who become very upset in their trials and become miserable. They think that in this misery they are suffering for God when in fact their suffering is due to their imperfections. They are blind to this and cannot accept advice from anyone. They are convinced that these feelings are justified. They think they are acting virtuously and want others to think so too. They make a basic mistake in thinking that they should have no sufferings.

There are others who understand that this is a trial and see the fault they have committed by being so upset by a little suffering. They see themselves honestly and realize how afflicted they are by this trial and they realize they can’t help themselves out of their weakness. This realization in the end disturbs them more than the original trial. As a result, though they have shown this defect the experience has been very helpful for their humility.

2. St. Teresa in paragraph three says we should test ourselves before the Lord test us. Think how you might do that.

3. St. Teresa says this stage can be very difficult and a person could end up stuck in it forever. What is the remedy for this?

She calls for great effort on our part, and less fears. “Let us abandon our reason and our fears into His hands . . . we should take care only about moving quickly so as to see this Lord”. Have great humility and always think of others as making greater progress than you make. (#8).

4. What are two reasons that St. Teresa gives for discussing delights and favors from God, even if we have not received them?

a. So we will praise God when we see His goodness.

b. So we will be aware of the happiness and delight we may loose through our own fault.

NOTE: She also says that a person who does not receive such favors may not be at fault. It may be that God is leading that person on a different path and God knows what is suitable for each.

5. Why does St. Teresa think that obedience is so important at this stage?

It is good to be under obedience of another because doing our own will is what gets us into trouble. People in this stage must be very careful about occasions of sin because they are still close to the first dwelling places and could easily return there. They have not yet been tried by suffering so they are not standing on solid ground.

People here are tempted to look at other’s faults and to think everyone should walk as they do. In our desire to help other souls we can make many mistakes so it is better to pray for others and be concerned about obeying the Rule.



1. What is the very important characteristic of dwelling place four?

“...supernatural experiences begin here.”

2. What is the difference between a consolation and a spiritual delight?

Consolations are things we can acquire through our own efforts. If you went to prayer time and played your favorite music and lit candles etc. – setting the mood – you could produce good feelings. “Joyful consolations in prayer have their beginning in our human nature and end in God.” They do not expand the heart.

Spiritual delights begin in God, but human nature feels and enjoys them.

3. Why does St. Teresa say that we need to understand the difference between the imagination and the intellect?

St. Teresa thought her wandering mind (imagination) with all its distractions was her intellect – that her intellect was wandering and not being attentive to God. When she learned that the imagination is not the intellect – she realized that even though many thoughts and images assailed her – her intellect was really focused on God.


1. What is the means of attaining the spiritual delights of which she is speaking?

By such humility that you don’t seek them because you are unworthy.

2. Why does she recommend such an attitude?

a. We should love God without self-interest.

b. It is a lack of humility to think that we merit such great favors by our poor service.

c. Because we have offended God we should desire to suffer and imitate Him rather than have spiritual delights.

d. He has no obligation to give them to us (they are not necessary for salvation) and He knows best what is good for us.

e. There is no point in laboring in vain since we can never produce these spiritual delights. God gives when, to whom and how often as He wills.

We belong to Him. Let Him do whatever He likes with us, bring us wherever He pleases.


1. In The Way of Perfection St. Teresa spoke of active recollection. Here she speaks of the prayer of recollection again – but it is different. How is it different?

Active recollection is something we can produce on our own under the ordinary grace of God. Here she speaks of that other recollection (else where called passive recollection), which is a gift from God that we cannot produce. She says this favor from God usually precedes the gift of spiritual delights she mentioned earlier.

2. What is it that this prayer of passive recollection prepares us for?

It will prepare the soul to be able to listen instead of always striving to engage in active discourse. This will prepare the soul to remain attentive.

3. In #5 she explains what the person should do if this recollection is beginning to be experienced, and if it is not. What is her advice?

The person must come before God as a beggar and make known his needs, then wait. If he senses that he is heard – that the prayer of recollection is beginning, he should think and act less. If he has no sense that this prayer is beginning he should not try to induce it – that is impossible. Rather the person should call on God and recall to mind that he is in God’s presence. As long as God does not occupy the intellect there is no reason not to work with it in its natural way (#6).



1. Describe the union the soul attains in this dwelling place.

In this union the soul neither sees, nor hears, nor understands. The soul thinks the union is very short and it may be, but the soul thinks it is shorter than it is.

2. What is the “sure sign”?

When the soul returns to itself from this union it can in no way doubt that it was in God and God was in it. Even if years pass without receiving this favor again the soul does not doubt it. It has a certitude that only God can give.

3. Does she advise the soul to try to understand this union?

No – she is clear that our intellect cannot understand this union and in fact we should not even desire to capacity to understand it.


1. How does St. Teresa compare the transformation of the silk worm with union?

a) First the silkworm is just a little seed and is dead. This is like a soul who hasn’t started to do what it can do.

b) Then the silk worm starts to live and eat when warmed by the Holy Spirit, the general help given by God to all. For this soul this means using the remedies at its disposal such as Confession, sermons, and good books. Then it is “grown”, as a fat silkworm.

c) Now the silkworm begins to build the house where it will die. For the soul, this house is Christ. The soul must be hidden in Christ. Then God will act, building upon the little that the soul had done, and uniting with it. The soul and the silkworm are now dead to the world.

d) Finally, the butterfly emerges; the fat silkworm does not recognize itself in this transformation. The soul, coming out of the union does not recognize itself. It is filled with desire to praise God, to suffer and die for Him, it longs for penance and solitude.

2. After the experience of union, what becomes a painful concern of this soul?

It now suffers greatly at seeing God offended and souls being lost. Before it was only mindful of itself.


1. What is the kind of union St. Teresa discusses in this chapter?

Union of wills.

2. How can we obtain this union?

By keeping our wills fixed on only that which is God’s will, of course, with God’s help. This state of union lies within our power (#7).

3. Why does she desire this union more than the previous ones discussed?

Because it is the clearest and safest (#5).

4. What – in very simple terms – is God’s will for us?

That we become perfect.

5. St. Teresa says that the more advanced we are in loving our neighbor the more advanced we will be in loving God. Why is this so?

Because to repay our love of neighbor God will increase in us (“in a thousand ways”) the love we have for Him.



1. Why is it that the soul in this dwelling place does not find praise to be as intolerable as it did before?
a) it now sees that people are quick to make judgments, bad or good, and the soul puts no importance on these judgments, bad or good.

b) Because it sees clearly that all good comes from God and it hardly plays a part so it turns this praise immediately from self to God.

c) It sees that some good may come to another through seeing itself esteemed.

d) It is so occupied with the honor of God that it can no longer be harmed by praise.


1. Why can locutions be dangerous?
Because it can be difficult to discern if locutions are from God, the devil, or one’s own imagination.

2. What are signs that the locutions are from God?

a) that they come with authority, that is, they effect what they say. For example “do not fear”, and all fear is gone.

b) The soul is left in peace and quiet.

c) The words are remembered clearly and never forgotten.

3. What is the response of a soul who hears authentic words of favor from the Lord?

a) It will be left more humble than ever.

b) It has more awareness of its sins.

c) It is more forgetful of its own gain and profit.

d) Its will and memory are employed more in seeking the honor of God.

e) It walks with greater fear that its will does not go astray.

f) It has greater certitude that it does not deserve favors but in fact deserves hell.


What are the three benefits the soul derives from the experiences described in these chapters?

1. Knowledge of the grandeur of God.

2. Self-knowledge and humility.

3. Little esteem of earthly things except for those that can be used in the service of God.


What are some of the desires and attitudes of the soul? (# 2 & 3)

• To abandon itself completely to God.

• To avoid even the smallest venial sin (and it suffers knowing that it commits many without knowing it).

• To avoid every imperfection, even to flee people if necessary or possible.

• To bring others to love and praise God.


1. Why does the soul suffer so much over its sins at this point?

• It realizes how ungrateful it has been to God, to whom it owes so much and Who deserves to be served.

• It realizes how bold it has been in the past and weeps over its lack of respect.

• It grieves it to think that it abandoned God for such base things.

• These sins are always in the memory and this is a heavy cross.

2. Is the soul comforted by recalling that its sins are pardoned?

No, because seeing the goodness of God and His favors and realizing it deserves nothing but hell, just adds to the suffering.

3. St. Teresa says that even in these more lofty stages of prayer the person should still meditate on the humanity of Christ. She acknowledges that there are many who disagree with this but she remains firm. What are some of her reasons for this insistence?

• To be withdrawn from all corporeal things is for angels not humans.

• In the same way that it is good and helpful to be companions of the saints, even more so does it help us to remain present to all the good and all the help that comes from the humanity of Christ.

• She quotes Jesus from the Gospel of John saying “I am the way” and states that those who would leave the sacred humanity will never reach dwelling places six and seven.

• She reminds all that Jesus is the light.

• She reminds us that no one can go to the Father but through Him.

• The will often needs the help of the intellect to be enkindled.

• God wants us to help ourselves in every way possible and not wait on Him to set us on fire.


How does St. Teresa define an “Intellectual vision”?

In an intellectual vision the person does not “see” anything, either with eyes of the body or the eyes of the soul. But it knows that Jesus is present beside it. [In an imaginative vision the person does “see” things with the eyes of the soul.]


What is the aftereffect of this great pain on the soul? (#10)

• The soul has greater contempt for the world because it sees that nothing in the world was any help to it.

• It is more detached from creatures because it now sees that only the Creator can console and satisfy it.

• It has a greater fear of offending God and is careful not to do so because it sees that God can torment as well as console.



What is the great favor God give the soul in this dwelling place?

An intellectual vision of the Holy Trinity, which is deep in the interior of the soul. All three Persons speak to the soul and explain how the Holy Trinity comes to dwell in the soul that loves God. These Persons never seem to leave the soul.


What are the images St. Teresa uses to describe the union of spiritual marriage?

• Rain falling into a river.

• A stream entering the sea.

• Light entering a room from two windows.

The water, the light, cannot be separated, they become one.


What are the effects of this prayer she mentions?

• The soul is completely forgetful of self and occupied only with procuring the honor of God.

• It has a desire to suffer but this desire is balanced by the desire for God’s will to be done. So if it is not God’s will for it the soul just accepts that without being disturbed.

• It experiences joy when persecuted and has a sincere love for its persecutors.

• The soul desires to live a long life so as to serve God. [This is a change of attitude for St. Teresa, in The Way of Perfection she longs to die.]

• Great detachment from everything and a desire to either be alone or occupied in doing something to benefit some soul.

1. What is the reason God gives souls all these favors?
To fortify their weakness so that they may be able to imitate Him in His great sufferings. God cannot grant us a greater favor than to grant us a life that is an imitation of the life His Son lived.

2. What does St. Teresa say is the reason for prayer and the purpose of spiritual marriage?

Good works.

3. How does St. Teresa define being truly spiritual?

Being slaves of God. When a person has given his liberty he can be sold as a slave to everyone (as Jesus was). If souls are not determined about becoming His slaves, let them be convinced that they are not making much progress. Humility must be the foundation.

4. What is St. Teresa’s answer to those who think they cannot bring souls to God?

• She warns us not to have such grand desires that we will neglect what is at hand, concentrate on those around you.

• Our prayer is a means of bringing souls to God.

• When your soul is filled with humility, mortification, charity and love of the Lord, the fire of your love enkindles the souls of those around you.

• Do not be concerned that those around you are already good, the better they are the more pleasing their praise is to God and the more their prayer benefits their neighbor.

• The Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done.


  1. Dear Christina
    Thanks for above-given description. I have found it very informative and helpful. God bless you.


  2. You're Quite Welcomed. May you be able to grow closer & closer to all our Carmelite Saints, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, & of course our Lord Jesus Christ! May God Bless You Also...

  3. Hi, and welcome to the Catholic Blogger Directory. I'd like to invite you to participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. It's a way to make new blogger buddies and to attract new readers to your site. Check out this week's host post at http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2010/02/id-like-to-welcome-you-to-sunday.html


Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and to comment on them. God Bless!