Saint Teresa of Avila is one of the most influential Catholic saints. Her spiritual insights have garnered her such a strong reputation and the following that in 1970 she was recognized as one of the "Doctors of the Church," a group of 33 holy men and women who have over the centuries made an important impact on Catholic spirituality and theology. The list includes some true intellectual giants, such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. The depth and the breadth of their works have probably not been surpassed by the thinkers in any field of human intellectual endeavor. On the other hand there are those Doctors of the Church who may not have written much, but their particular insights and visions have proved to be so important and influential that their contributions deservedly need to be held in the highest esteem. St. Teresa of Avila belongs to this latter category, and arguably her most important work is "Interior Castle."
St. Teresa's vision of the soul as a resplendent crystal castle is one of the most beautiful and moving spiritual images of all time. It has inspired generations of Christians to seek holiness through fostering their inner spiritual lives. It serves as a guiding principle for structuring the spiritual progress through seven different stages - represented by seven different "chambers" within the castle. Even though they are only seven of them, each one is in fact very large, if not infinite, in terms of different paths that each soul may take. The innermost room represents the mystical union with God, and the summit of each soul's spiritual development.
As the name may suggest, "Interior Castle" was meant to support inner spirituality and the growth in holiness. This is unsurprising as St. Teresa was a nun, and most of her experience with spiritual growth was within the confines of cloistered life. Nonetheless, this book is applicable to a wide variety of individual circumstances, and its aims are universal - all of us can aspire for greater holiness though inner contemplative journey. Even though this book is considered to be part of the "mystic literature," the writing is fairly straightforward. However, the book could have used some more editing, as many paragraphs run for several pages, and there are certain themes and ideas that get repeated without much in terms of variation. All of this makes this book a bit hard to read. However, if you are willing to look past these minor obstacles, you can find a great spiritual gem in the "Interior Castle."