Written at the command of her confessors, the books of this 16th-century Spanish saint and mystic--a beloved friend to another great Spanish mystic, John of the Cross--remain classics of Christian mysticism. Less abstract and theoretical than her friend, St Teresa's writings are no less noteworthy for the brilliance of their ability to convey with both warmth and rigour some flavour of this most extraordinary experience: union with God. Her autobiography may well be the best entry point into her work, and into the great mystical literature of the Christian church. Here she describes her early life and education, the conflicts and crisis she underwent, culminating in her determination to enter fully into the path of prayer. Following a description of the contemplative life, which she explores in four stages, she returns to her own life in order to describe (in erotic language reminiscent of the Song of Songs
) the ecstatic experiences given to her by God.
If the idea of mysticism seems hopelessly otherworldly to you, try a taste of St Teresa, who can be as down to earth as Oprah--and sometimes just as amusing. --Doug Thorpe
About the Author
St Teresa (1515-1582) entered the Carmelite convent in Castile when she was 21. Approaching her vocation with determination but no enthusiasm, she slowly realised God can be loved in and through all things.
J.M. Cohen translated nine volumes for the Penguin Classics, including Cervantes, Montaigne, Rabelais and Rousseau. He died in 1989 and was described by the Times as "one of the great English men of letters".