Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Rowan Williams on Teresa of Avila

Rowan Williams talks about Teresa of Avila in an interview posted here. He wrote a book on her in 1991 and knows some obscure info about her, like that ... she had a brother who was fighting with the Spanish forces in the New World, who sent her potatoes as a present on occasion. :)

I read one of her books years ago, Interior Castle, so I found what he had to say really interesting. He also talks a little about John of the Cross as well. Here's just a bit of the interview ...

KJM: This question comes with the benefit of hindsight because, of course, both were very marginalised and the majority of people at the time would not have come into contact with their spirituality. But mysticism is not something often mentioned in the way people talk about mainstream religion today. I wonder whether mystical experience is still possible, or whether we have pathologised the transcendental to the extent that a Teresa or a John could not express themselves at all in these days and be taken seriously?

RW: That’s quite a complicated question, really. People have certainly tried to pathologise Teresa, in particular, and she undoubtedly had some very strange experiences. At the same time, people do still have these experiences and are sometimes very frightened of talking about them, because they don’t want to be thought insane or disturbed. People look with a mixture of suspicion, respect and envy at those who claim some sort of connection with the transcendent, and don’t quite know what to do with it. There are two problems, I think, in our modern discourse about mysticism. One—I hinted at this, I suppose, in the book—is to identify mysticism with a whole succession of odd experiences; whereas I think that for Teresa, and certainly for John, the really stomach-churning, dramatic and bizarre experiences are just your entry into another level. It’s not that you go on having stomach-churning, bizarre experiences and mystical ecstasy right up to the end. The whole point is to get you to another kind of normality, almost. So the mistake now is often to see mysticism as just about ecstasy. People look at Bernini’s famous statue and think that’s mysticism, whereas Teresa, I think, would have taken a very dim view indeed of that statue, very dim. “That’s precisely not the point: of course I had these extraordinary experiences, and I wished at the time I wasn’t having them, but eventually what it permitted me to do was to wash the dishes mindfully and prayerfully.” She more or less says that ....

The photo at the top is of Paz Vega as Teresa


Anonymous Richard said...

Interior Castle 99 cents @ Amazon! Football and St Teresa, an interesting day:)

4:57 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Football? What's that? ;)

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

You're right, I give it up ...'til next season(Stoopid Seahawks:p)

7:16 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I'm completely ignorant of sports. I only know who the Seahawks are from watching Frasier :)

8:42 PM  

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