November/December 2006 Featured Stories
Caroline Myss, a pioneer in the field of contemporary energy medicine and human consciousness, is an internationally renowned medical intuitive and author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Sacred Contracts. She spoke with New Connexion about her forthcoming book, Entering the Castle, which is based on St. Teresa of Avila's masterpiece The Interior Castle.
Why did you choose St. Teresa of Avila to write about? Do you have a personal connection with her?
Initially I was attracted to St. Teresa's model of the seven mansions because it seemed similar to the one profiled in the Anatomy of the Spirit. I then looked at the emotional, psychological andspiritual patterns that are archetypically represented by theseven Sacraments and the chakras -- how the energy of the sacred runs through our bodies. As I went deeper into the castle, I began to realize that the seven mansions are not the seven chakras, but the true journey of the mystic. Teresa uses the castle as a metaphor for the journey of the individual who goes into the breakdown and then into purification of mystical union.
Looking at Teresa and her seven mansions, I recognized that there is a mystical renaissance going on in the world. People's use of expressions like the dark night of the soul made me realize that there is a real yearning to go deeper than surface spirituality and into a more authentic journey of the soul. We have created a hybrid spirituality based on the idea that yoga, nutrition, therapy and the worship of self is spirituality. There is a distinct difference between all that self-pleasure and the genuine soul path.
My deep belief is that the journey into the castle is the next stage of the spiritual journey for people now -- a journey into the soul -- while the contemporary spiritual journey is a journey into ego. I have a very deep attraction to Teresa and all that she represented, to her personal life, to her devotion.
Teresa used prayer, meditation and continuous self-examination to move through the mansions. What advice can you give people who want to search for their castle?
You are on this journey with or without consciously looking for God. It is preposterous to think you are the one to decide whether you should live a spiritual life. You do not pursue God -- your soul pursues you. To think that mouthing words like, "I am an atheist" could change the construct of God is ludicrous. The only choice you have is whether you intend to follow the course of your soul consciously or unconsciously because that is life's purpose.
Living your life within the context of your soul's journey requires courage because people fear the spiritual life. They are convinced that by waking up to it they are going to suffer, they have these primitive, neurotic beliefs that God will make them suffer because they look back at the mystics and see their suffering: the holy anorexics, the tortured martyrs. Of course they suffered back then but everyone did. They had no medicine to treat their illnesses, so they decided to transcend them. They declared this suffering to be sent by God to make them stronger, to build their stamina. They went into prayer and made their spirit stronger than their body. Everyone else collapsed, but they transcended.
I thought the suffering the mystics spoke of was the longing of the soul for God.
No. Part of the suffering was the burden of being exposed to a much greater truth and then being forced to live within the everyday world. They were living with people in the flat world society while knowing the world was really round. Enduring other people's small-mindedness, hatred and jealousy once you have seen the great light -- that was their suffering, that's what broke them.
It is difficult to experience love and the soul's beauty while witnessing the terrible horror in our world today.
The horror is beyond belief. Part of the reason this horror exists, is that within our culture, the so-called consciousness culture, we have banned the recognition of evil, the deviland darkness within ourselves. Our whole idea of therapy became the pursuit of darkness in others. Healing became crime solving: "Who did this to me?" Rather than looking at the nature of evil and how it plays out within ourselves, we forbade ourselves to talk about the real existence of evil. We don't pause to see if we are honorable people who act with integrity. We are too busy managing each other's dishonesty.
You have described a new mystical archetype in the world in which we can be mystics without a monastery. Can you explain what you mean by that and by "our ability to change the world in silence through the power of our souls?"
People have views that mystics leave society and go into the hills or monasteries, when in fact they are powerful people. Historically the people called to the mystic path were the revolutionaries and the rebels, courageous people called to something deeper but fighting this calling every step of the way. Neither being cloistered nor being in the world dictates what a soul can do. When you are a mystic out of a monastery, you learn to use the power of your soul, something which takes great humility. For example, learn what it is to channel grace to another person. Do that silently, invisibly. Recognize that person sitting next to you in a restaurant and follow the inner instruction that you pray for that person. To channel grace through you to another person is your soul's profound act of service and of healing. This is mystical service, but it is not enough for people who don't understand the power of being humble and invisible.
Teresa's soul work taught her humility. Is humility essential for the soul's journey?
The role of humility and what it means to be humble have never been emphasized within contemporary spiritual discourse. Nobody talks about seeking humility when they go into therapy -- they talk about their rage at having been humiliated. The shield of being humble is the most powerful shield you can have. Without that shield you will never open yourself to hear deep guidance because you will always fear that you will hear instructions from the divine that will humiliate you. People do not understand the soul's true power, a power so familiar to traditional spiritual understanding, nor are they acquainted with the idea of building stamina into the soul so that it may be used reliably to channel grace and healing.
Does building a soul with stamina take hard work and perseverance?
There's a better word than that - it requires devotion. One must fall in love with devotion, an image that is rarely used. People associate it with something horrible, like being forced to kneel on crushed glass. I don't understand why people think they're entitled to an easy journey within. They ask for help as soon as it becomes slightly uncomfortable. "Is there a quick solution or a quick prayer?" Why is there even a focus on being uncomfortable?
It may be uncomfortable but there is joy within.
Yes, there is joy when you go into the castle. The castle is what Teresa calls the inner soul and what I call the active soul. You are already there with your soul, but with your passive soul. Going into the castle awakens you to a deeper state of consciousness. The castle is the authentic place, the place where you have a dialogue with God. This mystical connection enables you to find a path of service in the world.
Teresa combined her deep devotion to God with a life of passionate service. She was called. How do we recognize being called?
There are differences among the concepts of job, career, vocation and a calling. I define all these very distinctively. A job is what we do for survival. When you develop an acute sense of self and long for an identity, you will want to have a career. When you have a sense that life is more than taking, you'll seek a vocation. A vocation is a form of giving, but a calling is something that comes from your soul. It is a passion that is given to you, that is stronger than you, and generally emerges within as a conflict. Maybe it comes as a conflict so that you will notice it. It is rarely a harmonious companion. It's not as if I have a calling and at last all my troubles are gone. A calling is something you struggle with. It's a calling because it is calling you away from the familiar, from everything that you believe makes you powerful. It calls you out of your five senses to experience the world within yourself and, most of all, to leave a reasonable life for quite an unreasonable one. This is the mystical life.
Unreasonable acts have been committed in God's name. How can we be sure that we are following the will of God and not promptings based on erroneous thinking?
You have to look at the consequences of your actions. This is an excellent measure of whether you have been divinely instructed. You could never say that Bush was divinely instructed to enter the Middle East. The consequences are appalling. This is why it is important to know yourself through serious and continuous self-examination. This process results in awareness of what motivates you and whether what motivates you comes from fear and self-serving agendas or from a higher place. You have to practice this inner process in a disciplined way. You don't just come to know yourself without commitment. This is work.
That's what the castle is about, a long journey into each of the mansions. The mansions are designed to take you into yourself one step at a time -- each step a living inner exercise of self-examination that makes you look at who you are, why you do what you do, what you struggle with, and how much the fear of being humiliated has influenced you to take action in certain ways that have caused you to betray yourself and others. You begin the practice of observing yourself in the theatre of life. When these observations become more habitual, you begin the practice of choice - what kind will you make now?
You then have to become accountable for the horrible choices not divinely motivated. It's not enough to mouth the word responsibility, which if it remains just a word is a self-serving mantra. You can just walk away after saying that. Accountability means you have to do something about the consequences -- you have to go into the field and pick up the pieces. That's how you evolve.
Visit www.myss.com to find out more about Caroline Myss' books, workshops, educational programs and audio recordings. Myss will be leading The Essential Life Wisdom workshop in Seattle on Nov. 17-18. For details, visit www.conferenceworks.com.