Monday, February 24, 2014
Recently, I wrote about Teresa of Avila and her experiences of ecstasy. I included the information that the angel who pierced her actually opened her womb rather than her heart, as Bernini's statue depicts.
Now I am not so sure. Further, it must be added that in addition to ecstasy, Teresa underwent a great deal of pain, beginning in childhood, when she longed for martyrdom. Her are some passages from "Wikipedia" describing these times of suffering:
Teresa was fascinated by accounts of the lives of the saints, and ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her uncle stopped them as he was returning to the town, having spotted the two outside the town walls.
Teresa was 14, when her mother died, causing the girl a profound grief that prompted her to embrace a deeper devotion to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother.
In the cloister, she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of religious ecstasy through the use of the devotional book Tercer abecedario espiritual, translated as the Third Spiritual Alphabet (published in 1527 and written by Francisco de Osuna). This work, following the example of similar writings of medieval mystics, consisted of directions for examinations of conscience and for spiritual self-concentration and inner contemplation (known in mystical nomenclature as oratio recollectionis or oratio mentalis). She also employed other mystical ascetic works such as the Tractatus de oratione et meditatione of Saint Peter of Alcantara, and perhaps many of those upon which Saint Ignatius of Loyola based his Spiritual Exercises and possibly the Spiritual Exercises themselves.
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.
She claimed that during her illness she rose from the lowest stage, "recollection", to the "devotions of silence" or even to the "devotions of ecstasy", which was one of perfect union with God. During this final stage, she said she frequently experienced a rich "blessing of tears." As the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin became clear to her, she says she came to understand the awful terror of sin and the inherent nature of original sin. She also became conscious of her own natural impotence in confronting sin, and the necessity of absolute subjection to God.
It is clear that Teresa suffered as much pain as ecstasy--a suffering she embraced as part of her path to God.
I would point out that suffering is also frequently part of the path of the awakened Kundalini--ecstasy and pain often go together, and again one wonders if one could not make the case that Teresa was undergoing extreme Kundalini symptoms, which she then interpreted in the language of the Church as she know it at that time. This claim does not reduce her life to a "nothing but" experience--indeed, Kundalini is (or should be) a path to transcendence, when the energies are rightly balanced and understood.
Thus those who today undergo spontaneous Kundalini awakening perhaps can claim Saint Teresa as their spiritual foremother. Kundalini is the awakener and sustainer and leads us to ever higher states of consciousness.