Teresa of Ávila shares her own life story, four stages of mystical prayer, the founding of the Discalced Carmelites, and her own mystical experiences.
Teresa of Ávila describes how the Lord began to awaken her soul in childhood to a love of virtue, and what a help it is to have good parents.
Teresa shares how she gradually lost her virtuous behaviors during her teen years, and how important it is for children to associate with people of virtue.
Teresa shares how a spiritual friendship with a nun helped to re-awaken her desires for eternal things.
Teresa shares how the Lord helped her to force herself to become a nun. She read spiritual books. She experience the Prayer of Quiet, and sometimes Union.
Teresa shares the terrible illness she suffered from for three years. She was misled by many confessors who downplayed the seriousness of sin.
God gave Teresa great perseverance in the midst of her intolerable sufferings. She was given deliverance through the intercession of Saint Joseph.
Teresa shares her fault of inordinate pride. It led her astray. Eventually, she stopped praying. She found her way back thanks to praying friends.
God gave Teresa the courage for contemplative prayer. It was a joy. It gave her intimate friendship with God. She experienced his loving-kindness.
In the midst of her spiritual darkness, Teresa was given a spiritual breakthrough. She no longer trusted herself. The Lord gave her light and strength.
Teresa begins to share her mystical experiences. She was aware of the presence of God.
She experienced suspension of the soul. That means her soul seems to be completely outside itself.
(The first stage of mystical prayer)
Teresa says we must be open to greater mystical blessings. She maps out four degrees of prayer.
She describes the first degree, which is the prayer of beginners. It is tenderness and an interior feeling of devotion.
God gives us grace and courage to resolve to strive after this blessing. We need to pay no heed to evil thoughts.
Teresa explains more fully the first degree of prayer, which is of beginners.
The progress of beginners is partly their own achievement, and partly God’s workings.
Beginners should be happy and free and confident. They should attempt great things. Their spiritual director should be prudent, experienced, and learned.
THE PRAYER OF QUIET
(The second stage of mystical prayer)
Teresa begins to describe the second degree of prayer. It is called the Prayer of Quiet. It is a prayer-state that borders on the supernatural.
Our faculties are not lost, nor do they sleep. We should take no notice of distractions. It never becomes wearisome.
Teresa continues to describe the second degree of prayer. It is marked by quiet and recollectedness in the soul. It is a gift. We cannot achieve it by our own efforts.
Many people are given this gift of the Prayer of Quiet, but few people go beyond it.
Teresa describes the third degree of prayer. Your faculties are sleeping. You are absorbed in union. The delight is far greater than in the Prayer of Quiet.
THE PRAYER OF UNION
(The third stage of mystical prayer)
Teresa describes the third degree of prayer. Your faculties are sleeping. You are absorbed in almost complete union with God.
The delight is far greater than in the Prayer of Quiet.
Teresa was granted this prayer in abundance. It is incomparably greater than the Prayer of Quiet.
Theresa expands on this third degree of prayer. It is a union of the entire soul with God. Joy and delight fill us.
The soul seems to be on the point of leaving the body. You might detect the fragrance of the flowers.
Our memory and imagination can make trouble for us. We must take no notice of them.
THE PRAYER OF UNION
Also known as RAPTURE
(The fourth stage of mystical prayer)
Teresa describes the fourth degree of prayer, which is union. Our human faculties are suspended and we become one with the Lord.
It is accompanied by great bliss and consolation.
There is no power left in the body. It gradually ceases to breathe and all its bodily strength begins to fail it. It cannot even move its hands without great pain. Its eyes involuntarily close, or, if they remain open, they can hardly see.
All the faculties fail and are suspended.
Teresa wants people everywhere to covet so sublime a blessing.
Teresa continues describing the fourth degree of prayer, which is union.
The treasure chest is opened. The benefits are numerous and sublime.
Teresa says during rapture, the Lord raises the soul out of the body and above all created things. The soul seems no longer to animate the body.
The soul soars upwards, far above itself and above all created things. The body can hardly move.
Or it levitates. It is physically raised up from the ground.
Teresa says God selects some people to have the ecstatic experience of rapture. It is highly transformative and advances them in holiness.
In this state of ecstasy occur true revelations, great favours and visions.
Teresa would give up a thousand kingdoms for this great blessing.
Some people say contemplation is entirely spiritual and you must withdraw from Jesus Christ. But Teresa says to anchor yourself in Jesus Christ.
BIOGRAPHY (PART 2)
Having finished her explanation of the four stages of mystical prayer, Teresa resumes telling the story of her own life.
Francis Borgia told Teresa she was being led by the Spirit of God.
After a day in prayer, she had a powerful experience of transport and great freedom. It almost carried her away.
In a locution, a message is imprinted within you. It is not heard with the bodily ear.
You easily remember it. It has a good effect. It is not from self or the devil.
Teresa had many of them.
Through her many experiences of locutions, the Lord gave Teresa courage. Great courage.
It strengthened her for combat against devils.
Teresa had powerful experiences of Jesus Christ beside her.
She talks about her friend the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara. He was a true hero of the faith.
Teresa shares what she learned by experience about “imaginary visions.”
The nomenclature is confusing. These imaginary visions are from God. They are not from our own imagination.
Teresa shares more of her mystical experiences. They include visions, vehement impulses of love, the wounding of the soul, and the piercing of the heart.
She considered them a great favour from the Lord. She would not exchange them for all the good things and delights of this world.
Teresa consulted with blessed Fray Peter of Alcántara. Unlike other spiritual directors, he understood her.
She faced trials and temptations and illness.
The devil tried to make Teresa afraid.
He appeared to her. He physically tortured her. He manifested paranormal sounds & smells.
She says he has very little power.
THE DISCALCED CARMELITES
Teresa was given a mystical experience of Hell. It was worse than anything imaginable.
She decides to launch a new religious order of Discalced Carmelites.
People spoke evil of Teresa. And then her confessor stabbed her in the back.
Much later, she got a new confessor. Then she began her new convent.
An influential women named Doña Luisa asked Teresa to come visit her.
In that city, Teresa had spectacular mystical experiences and met a godly cleric.
Teresa wants her new order to be based in deep poverty.
Most people disgree, except for a saintly pilgrim woman named María de Jesus.
Word got out that Teresa was founding a new convent.
The whole city becomes enraged. People fight against it. They persecute Teresa and her colleagues.
A mystical experience is genuine if it produces good effects in your life. Teresa knew the Lord Jesus as her friend.
Clerics are consumed with trivialities.
Teresa shares more of her more mystical experiences and visions. They were powerful and transformative.
Among them were:
- spiritual impulses
- very little fear of death
- her soul about to leave her body
- a great flame
- hair standing on end
- seeing with the eyes of the soul
- seeing the Lord ascend into heaven
- seeing deceased people
Teresa shares more of her more mystical experiences and visions. These too were powerful and transformative.
Teresa concludes sharing her mystical experiences and visions. Her motive has been that God be praised.
Read this book online for free at Jesuit.org.uk
We suggest the work by E. Allison Peers, translated from the critical edition of P. Silverio de santa Teresa, C. D. It was electronically scanned in 1995 by Harry Plantinga.
As of this writing, the electronic text is in the public domain. A PDF is available for free online courtesy of Jesuit.org.uk.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.