In this classic work, St. Theresa of Avila brings us back to these simple truths. In her eyes, the spiritual life, which is the love of God in one’s own life, is like a castle with seven “mansions”, or levels. In the outer mansions are the things that keep us from God and from love, namely selfishness, self-centeredness, all of the vices and the pride that tells us that we don’t need anything but ourselves. As we enter the inner mansions and come closer to God, we shed these things and become filled with the things that make life really meaningful. In embracing humility, we learn that the best things in life come from outside ourselves and we can’t do it alone. In embracing purity, we come to realize that life is so full of distractions that we need to get back to the things that matter, the things that make us strong. The closer that we come to God in the center of the innermost mansion, the less that the world means to us. The things that we foolishly cling to in our selfishness melt away in the vanity that surrounds those things. In the inner mansion, that sweet place within our souls where God always dwells, that is where we find true meaning.
It is amazing to me how this woman, St. Theresa of Avila, a nun who lived in the Spain of the Inquisition and the counter-reformation, could write such profound truths that they touch a 21st century American like myself. It provides so much material for meditation and thought. Ironically, this woman who never pursued a PhD nor even a college education, found truths more profound than any of the great PhD theologians of the past 200 years who claim to have the real answers.
This book is not to be read once, but to be read and reread, in short passages at a time, and to be prayed over and contemplated after reading. If you do this, you will find so many great truths about the spiritual life. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to deepen their spiritual life.