Saint Teresa of Avila - Imagination versus true experience
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself
I think it possible that a person …. may imagine that he hears a voice telling him whether his prayer will be granted or not…. Once he has heard a genuine message, he will see clearly what this voice is, for there is a great difference between the two experiences. If his answer has been invented by the understanding, however subtly it may be contrived, he perceives the intellect ordering the words and speaking them.
Another sign, which is the surest of all, is that the false locutions leave no results, whereas when the Lord speaks, words lead to deeds; and although the words may be of reproof and not of devotion, they prepare the soul, make it ready and move it to tenderness.
…..There seems to be the same difference as between speaking and listening, neither more nor less. For, as I have said, when I am speaking, my intellect goes on arranging what I am saying; but if I am spoken to, I do no more than listen effortlessly.
The false locution is like something that we cannot clearly make out; it is as if we were asleep; but when God speaks, the voice is so clear that not a syllable of what He says is lost
How, since it is in ecstasy and its faculties suspended, could it possibly understand things that have never come into its mind before? How could they come at a time when the memory is hardly working and the imagination is more or less stupefied?
If a soul is experienced and on its guard, it will see the difference very clearly..
[the sentences of the imagination] the soul does not believe in them, but on the contrary knows that they are the ravings of the mind, and takes no more notice of them than of someone whom it knows to be a lunatic……….
[the true vision] speaks of things that were very far from being in our memory …… I may listen for many days and although I want to hear something, cannot do so; while at other times when, as I have said, I do not want to, I am forced to listen