Meditation Class: A Mystic's Journal Entry: January 3, 2007 by Laurie Conrad.
The Powers of the Soul in Suspension: Meditation Class: A Mystic’s Journal Entry: January 3, 2007
Wednesday, January 3
Meditation class tonight was on a late chapter in The Ways of Mental Prayer (Lehodey; Tan Books and Publishers), a chapter on mystical union with God. Once we reach the fifth mansion of St. Teresa of Avila we can begin to experience the prayer of quiet or mystical union, or ecstacy. St. Teresa describes the powers of the soul as will, imagination, memory and understanding. She wrote that during mystical union, all the powers of the soul are suspended so that we might know wisdom: "When God raises a soul to union, He suspends the natural action of all her powers, in order the better to infuse into her true wisdom...". I asked the class what St. Teresa meant by "wisdom" and said that the same definition would be found in all philosophies and religions: wisdom here means the knowledge that we are not the physical body and its thoughts, but that we are the soul - and that the physical world we experience is not ultimate Reality. The only true Reality is Divinity, or God.
In the highest mystical experiences, the powers of the soul, its faculties - are suspended so that we may experience Truth, experience God and the soul. To experience the soul and the Divine fully and purely the powers of the soul must be suspended, taken from us. We cannot both perceive the material world and stand purely in the soul with God - it must be one or the other.
We have a new meditator in class, and she asked if the soul St. Teresa spoke of is in the body or a separate entity above us, connected to God.
I thought this a searching question and answered that some feel the soul is divided into two parts. One portion is an individuated, lower part of the soul, the portion affected by our thoughts and actions, guided by the powers embedded in the soul; this individuated part of the soul also records, in some mysterious way, all that we have experienced in our life on earth. This is the part of the soul that can fall into error or achieve great heights while we are incarnate on earth.
In this philosophic framework, the higher part of the soul is directly connected to the Divine Itself, and has no knowledge of our life on earth. It remains untarnished by our sinful thoughts and actions, and cannot be affected by any merit or virtue we might attain while on earth.
Whether the higher part of the soul is aware of our earthly experiences and perceptions and actions, or affected by them - is something we might never definitively know the answer to, at least not while we are incarnate. But that mysterious connection between God and the soul exists in both the higher and lower portions of the soul. Consequently, from our point of view, it should not matter how the soul is divided. Our task, our job, is to establish that connection to the Divine and consciously experience it. We were given the four powers of imagination, will, memory and understanding for this sole purpose. All our thoughts, all our personal will should be turned in that direction - or we will never know true Life. Instead, most of us use our thoughts and our personal will to material ends, selfish ends, i.e. we mistake ourselves to be the physical body and our thoughts and emotions - and we mistake the material, physical world for true Reality, ultimate Reality. Any direction other than God, whether in our thoughts or actions or intentions - is a waste of the powers of the soul. The artists, the creative thinkers, the lawyers and the nurses and doctors, cooks and waitresses, gardeners, taxi drivers, the mathematicians - all beings eventually must take that step beyond themselves, beyond their work here on earth.
We then had a short discussion on how to integrate our work on earth with this alignment with God and the soul. I began that our work here on earth is important as an expression of the soul and its powers; if we view our work in the world as an expression of the soul and of God, then we can be with the Divine always. C. said that one way to integrate our work and our devotion to God would be to dedicate all our work, thoughts and actions to God; we can also ask that the Higher work through us; M. said that when she felt in alignment with the soul and with the Divine she was better able to help others; J. said she always prayed as she worked..
In the high mystical experiences, I said that we are lost in the wonder of it. St. Teresa writes: "Our Lord unites her to Himself, but, at the same time, strikes her dumb and blind ..." (From The Interior Castle, 7th mansion). In these passages, as in others, "her" refers to the soul. I said this being struck dumb and blind was true - but only in regard to the outside, so-called material world. We are quite alive and fully alert during these experiences, more than we have ever been during our earthly lives - and we know finally who we truly are and what the world truly is - i.e. Divinity, the soul and God. We are standing in our own true Being while also in the Divine Flame.
Lehodey writes: "It is only afterwards that she can analyse her state; then she remains certain that she was in God and God in her ‘by a certitude which remains with her, and which God alone can impart’; and St. Teresa , ‘believes that the soul, which has not such certitude, has not been wholly united to God’. (The Interior Castle, 5th mansion). T. mentioned that it was often difficult to separate the various supernatural experiences from the power of imagination, and I said: "Not in this case. Even the early ecstasies are unmistakable; they cannot be produced by the imagination. It is as though someone has thrown you into a swimming pool - and when you get out of the pool, you know that you are wet ..."
It is also true that even after we have reached and experienced the transforming union of the seventh and final mansion - we still must work to maintain virtue and transparency and purity of being in our daily lives. The perfection of the great saints is even beyond the transforming union; the great saints are standing in the third and highest division of the third stage of the Interior Life. And in my experience the transforming union can happen even during, or nearing the end of the second Dark Night of the soul.