Saint Teresa of Avila - Her definition of Rapture
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself
I wish that I could explain with God's help, the difference between union and rapture, or elevation, or flight of the spirit or transport – for they are all one. I mean that these are all different names for the same thing, which is also called ecstasy. It is much more beneficial than union, its results are much greater and it has very many other effects as well. Union seems to be the same at the beginning, the middle and the end and is altogether inward. But the ends of rapture are of a much higher nature and their effects are both inward and outward...
The Lord catches up the soul just as one might say the clouds gather up the mists of the earth and carries it right out of itself, just as I have heard it said the clouds or the sun actually do catch up the mists. Then the cloud rises to heaven taking the soul with it, and begins to show it the features of the kingdom He has prepared for it. I do not know whether this is an accurate comparison, but in point of fact that is how it happens.
In these raptures, the soul no longer seems to animate the body; its natural heat therefore is felt to diminish and it gradually gets cold, though with a feeling of very great joy and sweetness. Here there is no possibility of resisting, as there is with union, in which we are on our own ground. Against union, resistance is almost always possible though it costs pain and effort. But rapture is as a rule, irresistible. Before you can be warned by a thought or help yourself in any way, it comes as a quick and violent shock; you see and feel this cloud, or this powerful eagle rising and bearing you up on its wings.
You realise, I repeat, and indeed see that you are being carried away you know not where. For although this is delightful, the weakness of our nature makes us afraid at first, and we need a much more determined and courageous spirit than for the previous stages. Come what may, we must risk everything and leave ourselves in God's hands. We have to go willingly wherever we are carried, for in fact, we are being born off whether we like it or not.
In this emergency, very often I should like to resist and I exert all my strength to do so, especially at such times as I am in a public place and very often when I am in private also, because I am afraid of delusions.
Sometimes with a great struggle I have been able to do something against it. But it has been like fighting a great giant and has left me utterly exhausted. At other times resistance has been impossible; my soul has been carried away and usually my head as well, without my being able to prevent it; and sometimes it has affected my whole body.
…........ very often they [the raptures] seemed to leave my body as light as if it had lost all its weight and sometimes so light that I hardly knew whether my feet were touching the ground. But during the rapture itself, the body is very often like a corpse, unable to do anything of itself. It remains all the time in whatever attitude it was in when the rapture came on it; seated, for example, and with the hands open or closed. The subject rarely loses consciousness; I have occasionally lost it entirely, but not very often and only for a short time.
Generally the senses are disturbed; and though absolutely powerless to perform any outward action the subject still sees and hears things, though only dimly, as if from far away. I do not say that he can see and hear when the rapture is at its height ; and by at its height I mean those times when the faculties are lost, because closely united with God. Then, in my opinion, it neither sees nor hears nor feels. But, as I said in describing the previous state of union, this complete transformation of the soul is of short duration. While it lasts, however, none of the senses perceives or knows what is taking place. We can have no way of understanding this, … this I have learnt for myself