OK, so here’s a few things about Ruth Burrow’s views on mystical prayer in general and St Teresa’s Mansions in particular. I’m not at all wanting to sound like I am some sort of authority on these matters! I hope that when I said in the “Dark Night” thread that I’d rather try and live these things than write about them that it didn’t sound like I was some sort of great practitioner of prayer :bigyikes:
The sad truth is that I am anything **but, **and that is why I’m sort of ashamed to get involved in these discussions!
This thread will be of very limited interest, probably!
Ruth Burrows has written several books. Her autobiography is “Before the Living God”, and she wrote in general about mystical prayer in “Guidelines for Mystical Prayer” and about the St Teresa’s Mansions in “Interior Castle Explored” (which might have a different title in the US)
She herself is an English Carmelite - for many years the prioress of Quidenham Carmel.
She is a bit controversial in Carmelite circles: this is not the place to analyse in depth why, but some think she was critical of St Teresa. Not so, IMHO, she just tries to explain why most people don’t experience the same phenomena, EVEN IF (and this is an important point) they genuinely attain some degree of mystical prayer.
One of her most notable theories (and I personally found this very helpful) was about what she terms “light on” and “light off” experiences of mystical prayer. It arose from the fact that neither she nor the vast majority of the nuns in her Carmel (or indeed any Carmel) could relate to the phenomena that accompanied St Teresa’s prayer and which she writes about as if they were the actual marks or characteristics of the various stages. A very very few (notably St Teresa herself!) are “light on” types, where there are accompanying phenomena that can be seen; but “light off” is the normal mode. Of course she goes into the fact that you have to be sure that the visible manifestations are an indication of an authentic grace (“by their fruits you will know them” - and , she says “the fruits of genuine mystical contemplation are of a very special quality indeed" Such things as raptures and ecstacy can of course be quite natural phenomena; self-induced, products of mental imbalance, suggestion, etc.etc.
In her book “Guidelines for Mystical Prayer” she describes two nuns: a “light on” and a “light off” one, and both reached transforming union (apparently), so it is quite interesting to see how differently the same graces manifested themselves.St Therese of Lisieux was of the latter (and Ruth B. would say, normal) category.
So – people can easily confuse what St Teresa FELT and EXPERIENCED with the state of prayer she is describing. The best “clarifier” of all this is St John of the Cross, who though also a “light on” type, wrote at length on how incidental any such manifestations are, and not to be given undue importance.
What RB says is well expressed and very readable, and I do recommend both these books.
She also had a unique way of describing the purgative, illuminative and unitive states as three separate islands in the “Guidelines” book – also helpful.
If anyone wants to know more, I’ll try and oblige! This is maybe more than enough already!:o :ehh: