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Presentation on theme: "MYSTICISM, SPIRITUALITY OR MADNESS"— Presentation transcript:

MYSTICISM, SPIRITUALITY OR MADNESS? ST TERESA OF AVILA AND ST JOHN OF THE CROSS Main author: Dr. José Belda Co-authors: Dr. Gbolahan Otun Dr. Rajesh Atam Dr. Shaun Janki Mr. Russell White


3 Saint Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, March 28, 1515
Saint Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, March 28, She died in Alba de Tormes, (Salamanca) October 4, Her father, Alonso de Cepeda, descended from Toledan merchants. It is said that her grandfather was a Jewish forced into Christianity. Her grandfather transferred his business to Avila and having become financially comfortable bought a knighthood and his children married into nobility.

4 Teresa´s father, Alonso, married Catalina del Peso, and having given birth to two children, she died in 1507 after two years of marriage. Alonso married Teresa´s mother, Beatriz de Ahumada in 1509, when she was 15 year old.  

5 Theresa´s mother raised her daughter as a very pious Christian and as an anecdote, when she was 7 year old, she managed to convince her older brother Rodrigo to give their lives to God and told him to go out of town, to Moorish territory in order to be beheaded and going straight to heaven as she had read on many occasions in the books that her mother had given to her.

6 Her mother herself was very much into chivalry and romance novels, which she read behind her husband´s back, and Teresa also grew an interest in this matter. Her personality was extroverted and she also had an affectionately buoyant manner. She enjoyed social events and meeting people and as a teenager, the piety that had been inculcated by her mother almost vanished completely.

7 When she was fifteen, her mother died after giving birth to ten children. Teresa was very afflicted and begged the Virgin Mary to be her mother. Her father noticed that she was going through a crisis, and sent her with the Augustinian nuns to complete her education. She further developed her skill with needle and pen, and gradually regained her piety. Doña María de Brinceño became her tutor as she was in charge of the lay students at the convent school.

8 Teresa became ill and she went to stay with her sister in order to regain her health. When she was convalescing, she read St Jerome`s letters and at the time she started to question if she had vocation to become a nun. Her father refused to give consent. Her brother Rodrigo, to whom she had always been very close was fighting in the Rio de la Plata battle and could not support her.

9 So she decided to persuade another brother to run away from home with her in order for both them to receive the religious habits. In 1535 when she was 20, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila where she had a friend, Juana Suarez, receiving the religious habit one year later.

10 Shortly after she professed as a nun, she became seriously ill and failed to respond to medical treatment. She was taken by her father to seek the help of a healer who resided in a small village, and instead of improving, her condition worsened. She spent some time at her uncle´s house where she came in contact with the TERCER ABECEDARIO OF FRANCIS DE OSUNA.

11 She decided to follow it ¨with all my strength¨ (Sta Teresa, Libro de su vida) as she did not know any more how to proceed in praying. Unfortunately, her physical health, far from improving further deteriorated, and her father took her back to Avila again, where she entered a coma and only woke up after four days.

12 She describes in her autobiography, that after waking up she found wax in her eyelids as her family believed she had died and they tried to ascertain the veracity of their believe by throwing hot wax at her to observe any reaction or signs of life. After she regained consciousness she found herself paralysed of her legs for three years. She was the victim of severe pain, but she could find in her pain God´s magnificence.

13 She eventually recovered from this illness, but she remained physically frail through life. Teresa always attributed her recovery to St. Joseph´s.

14 For eighteen years, she experienced ¨spiritual mediocrity¨ and her experiences of union with God were only transient. In her autobiography, she described her first supernatural experience when she was with somebody with whom God did not want her to be, and she saw God with the eyes of the soul far more clearly that she would see anything with her bodily eyes.

15 One day when in this person´s company again, she saw a strange creature which seemed to appear from the middle of nowhere and bore similarities with a toad, but was far quicker of movement. Teresa then realised that it was a clear message to her and what she had seen or experienced with the eyes of the soul became meaningful.

16 Shortly after she regained her physical health, her father became gravely ill and Teresa was able to look after him in his last days. She described his death in her autobiography as an example to follow and how this helped her to realise that the time in this world is an exile for the soul whose ultimate goal is to be reunited with God.

17 She tried to fight what she considered her spiritual mediocrity and started to make progress in her spiritual career. Teresa described four degrees of praying, starting by the wish of being close to God, followed by the silence and quietness, followed by the awareness of God´s presence for which intelligence and imagination are completely fruitless in order to understand this matter. She believed that memory and understanding, if anything, are a hinder to the true spirituality.

18 The ultimate degree is the divine union and the purest enjoyment without understanding with a human mind what is being enjoyed. She described the soul going out of itself as the flame sometimes gets very high over the fire, but not becoming a separate entity from the fire. She described in her autobiography that when a soul has experienced this, does no longer want to live any other experience.

19 She wanted to transmit this experience to others, and hence her literary works as well as her prolific foundation of convents. Her heritage is still a source of inspiration to many all over the world.

20 HER LITERARY WORKS Life (1562-65). Road of perfection (1562-64).
The Dwellings or Interior Castle (1577). The Foundations ( ). Poetry: 28 authentic and several doubtful. Relations or you Count of conscience: they are conserved 67, since 1560 to their death.

21 Concepts of the love of God (1566-7).
Exclamations of the soul to God: 17 prayers, dated diverse. Constitutions ( ). Way to visit the convents (1576). Letters: are conserved 457. Annotations, thoughts, memorials and Answer to a challenge.

22 At the age of forty seven, she founded St
At the age of forty seven, she founded St. Joseph´s convent in Avila, and at the time of her death in 1582, she had achieved the foundation of seventeen convents all over the country. She was canonized in 1622 by the Pope Gregory XV, and in 1970, the Pope Paul VI, gave her the title of Doctor of the Church

23 Sólo con la confianza vivo de que he de morir, porque muriendo el vivir me asegura mi esperanza; muerte do el vivir se alcanza, no te tardes, que te espero, que muero porque no muero. Mira que el amor es fuerte; vida, no me seas molesta, mira que sólo me resta, para ganarte perderte. Venga ya la dulce muerte, el morir venga ligero Aquella vida de arriba, que es la vida verdadera, hasta que esta vida muera, no se goza estando viva: muerte, no me seas esquiva; viva muriendo primero, Vida, ¿qué puedo yo darle a mi Dios que vive en mí, si no es el perderte a ti, para merecer ganarle? Quiero muriendo alcanzarle, pues tanto a mi Amado quiero, Only with confidence that I live to die, because dying to live assures me my hope as the living death is reached, do not come late, you hope, I die of not dying. Look at that love is strong; life, do you not bother me, I can only see that, to earn I must miss. Come on sweet death, Light comes to die That life from above, life is real, until this life dies No one enjoys being alive: death, not you dodge me; dying alive first Life, what I can I give my God that is within me, if not lose you, to deserve win? I dying to reach you, because I want so much to my Beloved, Vivo sin vivir en mí, y tan alta vida espero, que muero porque no muero. Vivo ya fuera de mí, después que muero de amor; porque vivo en el Señor, que me quiso para sí: cuando el corazón le di puso en él este letrero, Esta divina prisión, del amor en que yo vivo, ha hecho a Dios mi cautivo, y libre mi corazón; y causa en mí tal pasión ver a Dios mi prisionero, ¡Ay, qué larga es esta vida! ¡Qué duros estos destierros, esta cárcel, estos hierros en que el alma está metida! Sólo esperar la salida me causa dolor tan fiero, ¡Ay, qué vida tan amarga do no se goza el Señor! Porque si es dulce el amor, no lo es la esperanza larga: quíteme Dios esta carga, más pesada que el acero, I live without living in me high life and so I hope I die because not dying. Live outside myself after I die of love; I live in the Lord Who wanted me to himself when the heart I gave to him He got this sign, I die of not dying. This divine prison of The love where I live, Has made God my Prisoner and free my heart; and causes in me a passion to see God my prisoner Oh, how long is this life! How difficult these exiles, this prison, these irons in which the soul is stuck! Just wait for the exit cause me pain so fierce, Oh, how bitter life do not enjoy Lord! Because if it's sweet love, hope it is not long: God take away this burden, heavier than steel,


25 He was born on the 24th of June 1542 in Fontiveros, Spain. He died in Ubeda on the 14th of December He was beatified by the Pope Clement X in He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII.

26 St. of the Cross worked very closely with St
St. of the Cross worked very closely with St. Teresa of Avila and both were actively involved in the reform of the Carmel order and both them founded the Discalced Carmelites. His prose and poems are very highly regarded and his works on the growth of the soul are considered one of the best representations of the Spanish mystic literature. He is one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church.

27 His most frequently quoted poem is the following:

28 En una noche oscura, con ansias en amores inflamada, (¡oh dichosa ventura!) salí sin ser notada, estando ya mi casa sosegada. A oscuras y segura, por la secreta escala disfrazada, a oscuras y en celada, En la noche dichosa, en secreto, que nadie me veía, ni yo miraba cosa, sin otra luz ni guía sino la que en el corazón ardía. Aquésta me guïaba más cierta que la luz del mediodía, adonde me esperaba quien yo bien me sabía, en parte donde nadie parecía. ¡Oh noche que me guiaste!, ¡oh noche amable más que el alborada!, ¡oh noche que juntaste amado con amada, amada en el amado transformada!  En mi pecho florido, que entero para él solo se guardaba, allí quedó dormido, y yo le regalaba, y el ventalle de cedros aire daba. Upon an obscure night Fevered with love in love's anxiety (O hapless-happy plight!), I went, none seeing me, Forth from my house where all things be. By night, secure from sight, And by the secret stair, disguisedly, (O hapless-happy plight!) By night, and privily, Forth from my house where all things quiet be. Blest night of wandering, In secret, where by none might I be spied Nor I see anything; Without a light or guide, Save that which in my heart burnt in my side. That light did lead me on, More surely than the shining of noontide, Where well I knew that one Did for my coming bide; Where He abode, might none but He abide. O night that didst lead thus, O night more lovely than the dawn o light, O night that broughtest us, Lover to lover's sight, Lover with loved in marriage of delight! Upon my flowery breast Wholly for Him, and save Himself for none, There did I give sweet rest To my beloved one; The fanning of the cedars breathed thereon. El aire de la almena, cuando yo sus cabellos esparcía, con su mano serena en mi cuello hería, y todos mis sentidos suspendía. Quedéme y olvidéme, el rostro recliné sobre el amado, cesó todo, y dejéme, dejando mi cuidado entre las azucenas olvidado. When the first moving air Blew from the tower and waved His looks aside, His hand, with gentle care, Did wound me in the side, And in my body all my senses died. All things I then forgot, My cheek on Him who for my coming came; All ceased, and I was not, Leaving my cares and shame Among the lilies, and forgetting them. (Translation by Arthur Simons)

29 MYSTICISM Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός, mystikos, an initiate of a mystery religion) is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.

30 Mysticism is not restricted to Christian religion
Mysticism is not restricted to Christian religion. Islam, Hinduism and all religions aim at a communion with God, and they all have a common root. Meditation is the common path and the states which are achieved in each religion through the meditation process are very similar.

31 Teresa and John coincide in their description of this worldly life as an exile, and describe the body as the prison of the soul which belongs to God. Through the meditation process, they experience physiological changes in their bodies, with reduced level of consciousness, lower pulse, temperature and blood pressure.

32 The Hindu meditation is a preparation for the process of dying, and they feel that if true mediation is achieved, they describe their wellbeing sensation as the closest it can get to be in the presence of God, (as they believe) and it is exactly the same as Teresa and John are describing through their literary works.

33 Teresa describes in her autobiography that once a soul has experienced that sensation of being in communion with God, the soul does not want to experience anything different. But are their experiences the product of a disease of the mind?

34 For some people they might be
For some people they might be. For instance, the fact that Teresa wishes to die might be interpreted by some people, including lay people as well as mental health professionals, as a symptom of depression. What it is perhaps missed is the fact that she did not loss the enjoyment through those experiences and that far from it, she described an extreme sense of happiness.

35 The fact that she describes moments of extreme happiness and moments of feeling trapped in her body, can also be interpreted by some as a symptom of Rapid Cycling Mood disorder, but whilst recurrent depression cannot be completely ruled out in the case of Teresa, it seems that the theory of the Bipolar Illness is very unlikely. Yet she had a highly productive period towards the end of her life, but the productivity was very well structured and she was a highly organised person.

36 She challenged systems and the way the religious orders were living life very far from what she considered the enclosed Christian life should be. At times she was angry, and her reactions could have been interpreted as irritability, but there were always in response to the way the Church representatives were setting example.

37 If we look at the natural history of Bipolar Illness, manic and hypomanic episodes tend to be less frequent as people grow older, and in her case, her productivity increased towards the last few years of her life.

38 There is the theory of the personality disorder as the mortification of her body could also have been taken as self-harm, but we have to put this into context and it was a common practice in those times. She felt that her body was not pure enough to be the prisoner of a soul which was in communion with God.

39 The emptiness she described when she was not experiencing the communion could also be interpreted as a trait of personality disorder, but this must not be taken out of context. Once she had experienced the state of ecstasy, whenever she was not experiencing it, she was not happy.

40 The supernatural experiences like visions could be mistaken for psychotic symptoms, but she admitted that she could never describe with words her feelings and experiences, and the way she tried to explain them could be misinterpreted. Bernini ´s sculpture of St. Teresa´s ecstasy is a wonderful peace of art, but it is an attempt to give shape to the words with which she attempted to describe her experiences, which she also described as unintelligible for a human mind.

41 The visions were also described to be seen with the eyes of the soul
The visions were also described to be seen with the eyes of the soul. Hence, it is unlikely that they were the product of a psychotic experience. They were her main motive for her foundations and for her literary works. By definition, the difference between religious delusions and truly religious experiences can sometimes be only made by lifestyle and functioning and her works are still an inspiration for many. .

42 The Spanish neurologist García-Albea published a study in 1996 claiming that her mystic experiences were the product of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, and in his study, he mentioned that the same condition was suffered by Dostoievski. He established a parallelism between both, Teresa and Dostoievski in the sense that both them described similar experiences. Dr García-Albea concluded that the type of epilepsy they both suffered played an important role in the mood fluctuations they experienced.

43 When Teresa was young and gravely ill, she experienced a seizure as she recorded in her autobiography. There is no description of any other phenomena like this happening again. However, also in the book of her life, she described that in several occasions, as her soul was going out of itself to be in communion with God, her body also tended to levitate, and that she did not like this to happen as she considered that her body was not pure enough to go towards God, and that in one occasion she had to ask several nuns to seat on her to avoid this happening.

44 This could be interpreted as epileptic attacks, but the fact that she became aware and asked for the nuns to seat on her makes this unlikely. Even if she suffered from Epilepsy, this would not completely explain her phenomena and the still tangible consequences of it.

45 St John of the Cross experienced similar mystic phenomena and in the above mentioned examples of their poems, they refer to Living without living in myself, and die because I do not die. St John also refers to “I die up to thousand times and die because I do not die”.

46 What are they meaning by dying and not dying
What are they meaning by dying and not dying? The explanation may be found in the Hindu spirituality, as meditation is considered a preparation for the death process. The meditation reduces the bodily functions and they believe that with practice, the soul may also temporarily abandon the body. Their believe is that they cannot control the return of the soul to the body and that by the return of the soul to the “prison”, the experience comes to an end.

47 They become quite desperate at times because they do not die, and they live without living in themselves, or they are beside themselves because their experience has not yet become permanent. But is this the product of a disease of the mind?

48 SUMMARY Mystic experiences happened to many people who left a wealth of literature which we can enjoy nowadays. As to whether their experiences were the product of a disease of the mind remains to be elucidated, but it is unlikely. Nowadays, mystic experiences continue to happen, although they are more likely to be encountered in Asian cultures where religious meditation continues to be a frequent practice.

49 The fact that we can not define mystic experiences as a disease of the mind, does not preclude the possibility that some of the so called mystics suffered from mental disorders, whose symptoms will be interpreted by their sufferers as mystic experiences. In other cases the mental illnesses may run in parallel with the mystic experiences without interfering with them.

50 In any case, the literature we have inherited, yet the product of madness, yet the product of true religious experiences, is a legacy which deserve to be treasured in its own right.

51 BIBLIOGRAPHY The Teresian Carmel (Official webpage from Carmel Order)
St. Teresa of Avila Autobiography (Libro de su vida) Wikipedia Catholic on line St. Teresa of Avila Doctor of the Church.




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