Monday, March 05, 2007
(Part Two of Andrew Harvey's Interview with Carolyn Myss on St. Teresa of Avila)
Andrew Harvey: Melted into the sacred?
Caroline Myss: Melted, yes, I guess that would be a better way to say it. I had melted into God. I began to merge into the meaning of Divine language instead of the definition of it. The light from the language of the Divine felt but only for the briefest second as if it was coming right through me. I felt a mystical fire enter into my entire body. Shortly after that, I had a grand mal seizure. And when I came to, I realized that I had drifted into a space of hell, I knew that my wiring - my interior wiring was different - I knew that. I also knew my interior life was different. A passageway had opened up within me that I could sense vibrationally, energetically, spiritually. I could feel it through silence, through prayer. The seizure had blown open the door to my Castle.
Andrew Harvey: I would love you to talk about the timeless relationship with Teresa that began after the grand mal seizure. This is an extraordinary story, Caroline, and you must share it.
Caroline Myss: You know you cannot return to your base of power from which you feel safe once you¹ve had a mystical crisis, and it is a crisis. And, what I mean by that is I have an Institute and I was teaching a class and I very much wanted to teach my course on how intuition inevitably evolves to the mystical bridge. And I was going about it mind you as a scholar. It's all I knew but I approached this subject with great reverence because I deeply believe in what I teach. And, so there I was, prepared to teach how we naturally progress from creatures of instinct to a yearning for self-awareness to a desire for consciousness guidance to a passion for a mystical connection. I intended to show on this day the archetypal evolution of the soul through all the great traditions. I was actually going to begin with St. John of the Cross but I grabbed THE INTERIOR CASTLE by Teresa of Avila accidentally and didn't feel like looking through my stack of books to find THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. And I thought, "What difference does it make anyway?"
Caroline Myss: Earlier that day, someone in the audience had asked about my personal spiritual history and my spiritual life, which I had always kept private. And perhaps opening up to this wonderful group of individuals created the atmosphere for my encounter with Teresa of Avila, I really can't say for sure. But that morning, after I shared my history with this group more openly than I have ever discussed with any group of people, I returned to the class after break prepared to plunge right into a lecture. No more personal stuff. Suddenly, instantly, I felt something near me, someone near me. And I paused for a moment as I could feel something in my field and that something had an exquisite field of grace. I thought, "Who's with me?" and then I heard, "Follow me, daughter." And I knew it was Teresa. I knew it was her.
Andrew Harvey: I want to suggest something and that is that one of the things that you discover on this journey into the soul is that you are capable of having the most passionate and powerful and exquisitely empowering relationships with divine human beings from another epoch. Rumi wrote in one of his poems that the relationships between the divine beings of the past and the divine human beings who are trying and struggling to realize themselves are part of the mystery of the godhead and one of the most exquisite of those mysteries.
Andrew Harvey: I myself have had a very profound soul friendship with Rumi who is more vivid and more alive to me than any other person in my life, and with Jesus. And what I've discovered in my relationship with Rumi and Jesus is that there are definite aspects of my own all to human nature that are fulfilled divinely in their nature, and in a way that constantly works to transform me. I want to suggest to you that there are three aspects of the person I know as you which are close to the personality, divine and human, of Teresa.
Andrew Harvey: The first is that Teresa is both sublime and extremely practical, and your nature has that wonderful marriage of great elevation and very keen, sometimes fierce, down-home truthfulness.
Andrew Harvey: The second element that I think links you and her is your extraordinary gift for honest self-revelation. Both Teresa and you are people who are faithful and rigorous to the truth of your own experience and very naked about the realities of that experience, what it costs, what it demands, what it means, what it entails.
Andrew Harvey: The third aspect that I think links you is that you both have a genius for synthesis and clarifying very complex information into luminous and simple diagrams. What I'm suggesting Caroline is that Teresa knew who she was choosing and she chose you because of these resonances between your nature and hers - so that her divine nature could communicate its essence to yours because yours was - in such remarkable ways - so prepared to mirror hers.
Andrew Harvey: The other thing that I think is essential in this extraordinary relationship that you've had with Teresa is that your very extensive Catholic education, including your graduate work in theology, prepared you from the earliest part of your life for this mystical experience.
Andrew Harvey: I would like you to talk about what you feel you derived from that education, and how you feel it has influenced you and sustained you in this mystical partnership that you've had with Teresa.
Caroline Myss: First, I would like to clarify in great detail exactly what my very delicate and subtle relationship with Teresa was like during the writing of ENTERING THE CASTLE, lest I give the wrong impression. Working with Teresa did not involve episodes of her grabbing my hand and writing through me, as if she or some other secondary spirit had possessed me. It was none of that kind of nonsense. Working with her also did not involve hearing her every day as in that very extraordinary first encounter. Rather, it was subtle, what she would call intellectual revelation and that¹s her name for it - as described in the 6th mansion of her great classic, THE INTERIOR CASTLE.
Caroline Myss: I experienced a dialogue of intellectual revelation and it required that I, myself become a vessel that required a great deal of preparation. I had to attain a certain state of tranquility, a certain height of interior clarity. This required prayer and silence, which I had to maintain as much as possible within me as well as within my home. My office space became a sanctuary that began to feel like an embodiment of the sacred. This was the only way I could attain the altitude necessary to perceive or receive perceptions that I knew were not mine. The way that I would explain that is that any parent who knows his or her child recognizes when the thinking of someone else has influenced that child. The parent then asks the child, "Who have you been talking to?" They know how that child thinks, and the parameters of that child's perceptual systems, so they recognize immediately when their child has been exposed to a new way of thinking.
Caroline Myss: And in that same way, you know the way you think and you know the parameters of your thinking, and when you have been given an idea or infused with a perception that is outside your realm of thought. Then you observe how that single perception reorders an entire cluster of thoughts and perceptions that are familiar to you or that are in the formative stages within your sensory system. That is, they are perceptions that you have sensed but not yet given language or structure to, yet these perceptions incarnate into clear form almost instantly as the result of being given one core truth. Teresa¹s guidance was one truth at a time and each one ordered an entire chapter in the book, for example.
Andrew Harvey: You could only really receive her divine instruction and be receptive to the images of perceptions of her divine instruction if you become like a mirror, cleansed of all your false self impressions.
Caroline Myss: Exactly. I had to know where I stopped and where she began.
Andrew Harvey: So, your job was to stay in that state of radiant nothingness so that the everything could flash messages on to the screen of your mirror mind, mirror heart that's the truest meaning of humility, isn't it? To stay in that silent receptivity, that silent, grounded, divinely tender, divinely prayerful receptivity so that into that ground the divine can pour It's truth and It's brilliance.
Caroline Myss: First, Andrew, let me say that no one can describe the experience I had more exquisitely than you. Just the phrase, "radiant nothingness" is something I would never have thought to say. On a more grounded level, I had to maintain my inner tranquility, to the best of my ability, given the daily struggles with my own life. But the effort is so worth the rewards. I think it is appropriate to ask about the relevance of the teachings of this Carmelite nun from the 1600's in today's society whose great work was a treatise on mystical illumination through prayer. At first glance, the ordinary mind would be inclined perhaps to dismiss her work as too Catholic or just for Catholics or just for nuns or monastics. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are living in a world gone mad, but not just mad in terms of war and chaos. There is a madness in this world that is the result of living too fast, forcing yourself to function without time to reflect upon the cause and effect of your choices and the quality of your relationships and the consequences of your actions. People live so scheduled, so pressured, so bound up in this nonsensical adoration of doing things faster and faster and faster among other superficial values that this adoration of speed has transferred to what they expect from their spiritual life, if you want to call what they have a spiritual life at all. A yoga class and a vegetarian diet is not a spiritual life, nor is therapy and learning about self-empowerment and how to get what you want in three easy lessons. What on earth does that have to do with the soul?
Caroline Myss: Small comments are great indicators of what people really believe as opposed to what they say they believe and the following example, which is among the most common that I hear, positions the matter of faith as the last empowered option that people turn to. When a crisis occurs and everything "humanly possible" has been done to rectify or treat the problem or illness, people will always say, "All we can do now is pray". Prayer is seen as a last option or the tactic one turns to when the really effective things that they were counting on have failed. The statement is really a symbolic admission that says prayer is the caboose on the train of life for people and not the engine. If people truly understood the power of prayer and the power of grace, they would pray as their first step in every thing that they did and not as a last resort because everything else on the human level failed. But that is not how most people truly and authentically relate to the power of prayer it is not a real power for them, at least it is not as real as a power they can touch.
Caroline Myss: It's more than appropriate at this critical stage in our spiritual, social, and political climate, that the work of Teresa of Avila be re-introduced into the mainstream of our culture. People need to discover the profound power of their soul. We need to discover the power that the mystics uncovered when they fell in love with God. We need to discover that more than needing to be healed, that we have the capacity to heal others and that our deepest calling in life is to move beyond needing to have more and more and more. We need to step beyond ourselves and discover what it means to be of service, beyond the experience of taking care of others in such a way that it leads to self-exhaustion, resentment, and burn-out. That's not spiritual service; that's self-pity and working from the motivation of the ego. The soul doesn't exhaust from serving others, regardless of the arena, but one has to learn how to merge service with wisdom, self-reflection, and the management of grace.
Caroline Myss: As odd as this may strike the reader upon first glance, the fact is that the call to be a "mystic out of a monastery" and to serve humanity through acts of the soul is now falling upon the shoulders of the ordinary human being. Mystics have long been associated with being recluses, running away to monasteries in order to keep their own company. But they were wild, strong, stubborn, powerful, and rebellious personalities who lead rebellions and wrote great books and turned their worlds up-side-down. They became the healers of their day and the educators and the ones who withdrew into prayer in order to receive Divine revelation about what the society should do next in times of great change. The last thing Teresa of Avila or Francis of Assisi or John of the Cross or Eastern mystics such as Rumi or Rabindranath Tagore were recluses. They were profound and powerful leaders of eras of transformation, not unlike the times we face right now.
Caroline Myss: What they knew is what many people are now discovering in their own way: the more the outside world spins out of control, the more your interior world must assume full control. Acquiring material goods will not help you to make sense of the massive changes occurring in this world and you have to be blind to think that America or the rest of the world is headed toward peace. We are headed toward more and more chaotic change and we must rise to face that change with courage and not denial. That is why I feel compelled to lead people across cross the drawbridge and into their inner Castle. Each person is born with a passion to connect with the sacred. We have a yearning for that. We have an absolutely passion to be brought to our knees before the Divine, to witness a miracle, to see the waters part, to see the blind recover their eyesight, to see people healed from incurable diseases. We long to see the presence of God among us in these ways, which is why people make pilgrimages to sacred spots or even go on nature outings and swoon over a sunset. They will reach to anything to be near God, or as close to a version of God as they will allow themselves to go near. Teresa's teachings are perfect for this time. They are perfect for the modern sojourner. I know because I have worked with people for twenty-five years and I have come to the conclusion that this search for highest potential that drives the contemporary spiritual seeker is really a search for the drawbridge into the Castle. It's really a search to find a way not to be afraid of your own life, or to hear guidance that tells you to help a homeless person. It's tragic to live in fear of your own life. Tragic.
Andrew Harvey: Lets get back to the influence that your Catholic background had on you. I thinks it's crucial.
Caroline Myss: Well, I'm no devotee of the Vatican, so let's just say there¹s a difference between religion and the soul path. And the religion, any religion, is an expression of the politics of God, so all religions have that in common therein lies the politics of God, so whether your dealing with Judaism or Islam or Catholicism, all of them are a manifestation of the power of God reduced to tribalism and tribal masks and tribal myths. But, Catholic mysticism absolutely intrigues me, the tradition of the saints, the tradition of the mystical experience, the tradition of being passionately drawn to the soul's journey. I believe I would be a mystic no matter what tradition I had been born in because that is the nature of my soul. I happen to have been born a Catholic, which is the most mystical tradition of the Christians. So, the ground rules were set for me to walk this path within the Christian tradition.
Caroline Myss: So I have this tradition in my bones that says, "Heaven walks next to you." Not above you, within and next to. It breathes with you. The Madonna is not some imaginative force she's not some goddess, I can't use that word very comfortably, actually, as it's not natural to me. But she is very much a Divine Mother and she appears when this Earth is in trouble. And you know what, she does, like her famous apparitions at Lourdes, Fatima, and now Medjugorje. Her messages are consistent in all apparitions, messages calling for prayers, conversion not to Catholicism, by the way, but to prayer and to peace. In return, places of profound miracles are left behind, such as the healing water of Lourdes. In none of her apparitions has she urged people to convert to Catholicism. She urges conversion to acts of love, prayer, and compassion so that all of humanity can cease its unnecessary suffering.
Caroline Myss: Now, the concept of what mysticism is very much a mystery. It is a deep and profoundly conscious mystery that beckons one to tamper with the very structure of his or her cosmic compass. A person that says "I Don't think I want heaven to be way up above me. Rather, I think I want it next to me, indeed, I want heaven to exist within me. What would happen, for example, if I shifted the location of my idea of God and decided that the Divine did not exist in some sort of cosmic distance above or beyond the celestial bodies of light. What if I lowered that equation and breathed the Divine next to me and within me, surrounding myself with the presence and power of God. That shift in compass would mean the end of all boundaries between this physical world and a Divine world as the two would merge into one."
Caroline Myss: Our five senses want immediate gratification. We want to see the cause and effect of our actions right now, and it's very hard to compete with the speed at which our five senses want a cause and effect. Like money, we want to see a cause and effect on the interest of our investments immediately. It's very difficult to compete with that reality. So, when you say to someone that prayer is far more powerful than any force in the physical world, I realize that to the five sensory driven individual, that remains incomprehensible. People often ask, "Well, which prayers work?" They treat prayers as magical spells.
Andrew Harvey: I think that is true. I think you were saved from what I call "the marzipan mysticism of our time" by being schooled in this clean, clear, fierce, rigorous school of Catholic mysticism. There are five aspects of this schooling that have actually been penetrating your work from the beginning, and that are now coming to fruition in Entering the Castle.
Andrew Harvey: The first thing that you got, I believe, from this amazing education that you had was what you describe as the feeling that heaven is walking in you and beside you - a profound sense of the sacred and of the cosmos as sacred, which is the essence of the great Catholic mystics from Eckhart to St. Francis to Teresa, herself.
Andrew Harvey: The second thing I believe that you have derived from the Catholic mystical tradition is a profound sense that the core of the relationship between the soul and the Beloved is a great passion, a great holy, divine passion. You have this in your personal life, in the way you teach and in the way you speak about Teresa but, it's one of the things that has deeply intoxicated you when you speak about Teresa, you speak about her with a great holy passion of the soul and it¹s this holy passion of the Christian mystics, for Jesus or for the Madonna that has actually ignited the great stream of Christian mysticism, and it's something that you share and transmit.
Andrew Harvey: The third thing that I believe you derive from your Catholic schooling is a very deep discipline of devotion. All of the great mystics of the Catholic tradition speak again and again in different ways of the necessity for a daily, down-home practice of deep contemplative devotion as a profound means of uncovering the inner life of the soul. And, one of the things I love deeply about your book is your constant emphasis on the unending need for this sacred discipline.
Andrew Harvey: The fourth thing that I believe that you have inherited from this tradition is one of it¹s greatest contributions to world mysticism - an absolutely no-nonsense psychological realism.
Andrew Harvey: And one of the great strengths of the book that you¹ve created is how again and again you help people see how their fears, fantasies and illusions are blocking them.