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Teresa of Avila's "Seven Places"


(once this is open, the mystery of God lies ahead)



(active and achievable by human effort and ordinary grace)

    • The First Dwelling Places - the most outer rooms, the true light is dim here, with many distractions prevent a seeking of the light; people within these dwelling places are good and pray on occassion, but are in need (as all are) of self-knoweldge and the 'beauty' of grace and the 'ugliness' of sin
    • The Second Dwelling Places - this is the place where the goal of conforming to God's will is central; the people within these rooms have begun intentionally the practice of prayer and are invited to this through outside sources (books, sermons, friend, etc..)
    • The Third Dwelling Places - those who are in these dwelling places will not be denied entrance to the final dwelling place if they were to ask for it; the people within these places seek to live a life worthy of God's love through charity, humility, service and reflection; they also may use various ascetical practices; a shaking of their wealth, power or status in the world could be troublesome and shake their faith


(focus on mystical and passive components)

    • The Fourth Dwelling Places - infused prayer; contemplative prayer with a time of rememberance, but a rememberance not brought about by the human mind, but the prayer of quiet - analogy: the filling of two water holes
    • The Fifth Dwelling Places - characterized by the prayer of union; love is not idle; all human faculties are suspended and the presence of God is overwhelming - analogy: the silkworm
    • The Sixth Dwelling Places - characterized by mystical phenomena; spiritual bethrothal takes place here; woundings of love, raptures, visions, ecstasy - analogy: the flight of the butterfly (extending the silkworm analogy)

There are no closed doors between the sixth and seventh dwelling places

    • The Seventh Dwelling Places - in the previous dwelling places the soul was blind and unknowing of what was happening, in the seventh dwelling place the soul is allowed to see and understand; entrance to these dwelling places begins with a vision of the Trinity and the grace of spiritual marriage takes place here - analogy: death of the butterfly (extending the silkworm analogy


Information for this page was taken from: Kavanaugh, Kieran. "Introduction" The Interior Castle  by Teresa of Avila. The Classics of Western Spirituality.   New York, NY: Paulist Press. 1979.  See pp. 19-29 for futher information.

Experience the mystery...

Created by Kimberly S. Conway (c) 2004.
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