Saint Peter of Alcantara - from The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila
Type of Spiritual Experience
Sleep deeprivation was also a practise used by many religious people. The following Catholic friar, combined sleep deprivation with fasting and added a touch of hypothermia in for good measure, when he was rewarded with ‘great raptures and transports of love for God’…….
A description of the experience
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself
What a grand illustration God has just taken from us in the shape of the blessed friar Peter of Alcantra………. He said, I think, that for forty years he had never slept more than an hour and a half between nightfall and morning and that at the beginning the hardest part of his penance had been the conquering of sleep. For this reason he always remained standing or on his knees.
Such sleep as he had, he took sitting down, with his head propped against a piece of wood, which he had fixed to the wall. He could not lie down to sleep even if he wished to, for his cell, as is well known, was only four and a half feet long. During all those years, however hot the sun or heavy the rain, he never wore his hood or anything on his feet. He was always clothed in a sackcloth habit with nothing between it and his skin; and this he wore as tight as he could bear it, with a cloak of the same material over it. He told me that in the bitterest cold he would take off his cloak and leave the door and window of his cell open, so as to gain some physical relief afterwards from the increased warmth, when he put it on again and closed the door.
He usually ate only once in three days, and he wondered why this surprised me. He said that it was perfectly possible once one got used to it, and a companion of his told me that sometimes he would go eight days without food. This must have been when he was at prayer, for he used to have great raptures and transports of love for God, of which I was once a witness.
He told me that it was all one to him whether he looked at things or not; but he was very old when I came to know him, and so extremely thin that he looked like nothing more than a knotted root. With all his holiness, he was very courteous, though he used very few words except when answering questions.
The source of the experienceSaint Peter of Alcantara
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
Sleep deprivation, insomnia and mental exhaustion
Suppression of learning