Analysis Of ' The's The Interior Castle And John Calvin's Institutes Of The Christian Religion

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The command to "know thyself" echoes from the Delphic oracle through modern popular culture; however, despite the persistence of the dictum across centuries, the notions of knowledge and self have undergone significant changes. The 16th century offers a liminal period of such changes in the Western world as the Reformations, both Catholic and Protestant, remade the Christian self. In this essay, I offer a foray into the concept of self-knowledge in this pivotal period by comparing the concept in Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle and John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. These two dissimilar figures, one a Catholic, mystical theologian and the other the father of Reformed Protestantism renowned for his systematic rigor,…show more content…
The Interior Castle represents Teresa of Avila’s mature reflections on the nature of humanity’s growth in relationship to God. In this work, written by Teresa in 1577 at the age of 62, we are offered the sagacious reflections of a woman who has spent over forty years in reflection on and practice of the contemplative life. Teresa structures the work around the image of the soul as a castle with seven dwelling places through which one moves as they grow deeper in the path to spiritual union with God. Teresa attributes this image to a vision or communication from God and describes the soul as “made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms” wherein “the King, God, dwells in the innermost place.” This image of the castle is essential for understanding Teresa’s conception of self-knowledge. The entire process from start to finish is an exercise in interiority culminating in a unitive experience with God. One’s first steps into the castle is an exercise in knowing one’s self. Teresa even calls this first room of the castle the room of self-knowledge. For Teresa says, “Knowing ourselves is something so important that I wouldn’t want any relaxation ever in this regard, however high you may have climbed into the heavens.” For Teresa, self-knowledge exists within a reciprocal relationship to the knowledge of God. As one grows to know his/herself, one gains a
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