"Teresa probably never thought that her writings would fall into the hands of non-Catholics and help them find their souls and God. That would have been incomprehensible at the time, even though Spain had been home to Jews and Muslims for seven hundred years before their expulsion in 1492, and even though the Protestant Reformation was in full swing after Martin Luther's 1577 revolt. Her Catholic spirit comes through every word, but you read it in archetypal ways. You do not take the imagery literally. At one workshop, while teaching this material, a student told me that she was offended by the bad rap that reptiles were getting from Teresa's characterization of them. This is nonsense. Though her language is archaic, underlying it is a deep understanding of human nature, the soul, compassion, and cosmic consciousness. You can use this road map in the Sixth Mansion every moment of your life.
"Teresa understood the pain of betrayal, having been the subject of her fellow nuns' gossip and criticism. But, she points out, praise is equally painful. Both praise and criticism test the ego and the soul; illusions of earthly power can seduce anyone who is unable to remain humble. A rise in power and status always brings challenges, and everyone around you professional colleagues, friends, or family will have opinions of your conduct. Few people will praise you, especially if they perceive that your empowerment diminishes theirs. You will be a target of criticism on that you can count. Thus, it is wise to know how to maneuver through ups and downs, through cycles of power and disempowerment. Teresa gives five specific rules for dealing with your need for praise and vulnerability to criticism. Each is as valuable to someone on a spiritual path as it would be to anyone in the outside world, because the underlying issues concern the management of power, vanity, ego, and the control we give to others over our lives. Here are her rules to hold to in your inner and external life.
"• Do not be judgmental. Everyone, including you, is quick to make both positive and negative judgments of others and of the trials God sends us. You never know the truth of what God has in mind. To judge anything at all is an error.
"• Never envy the experiences of others, spiritually or otherwise, because envy reveals a lack of humility. By your actions and attitude, you are demanding to be given what is not rightly yours. To envy the mystical experiences or the spiritual life or calling of others hurts the soul. Envy is a reptile.
"• Everything good about you comes from God your talent, your skills, and all your abilities; thus, you should not take credit. To fuel your ego shows a lack of wisdom. Control your ego, be humble about your gifts so that you do not misuse them; when you keep yourself focused and clear that God is truly the source of your gifts, your struggle with being pulled apart by either praise or criticism will cease.
"• Remain humble. Do not look for praise. When someone praises you for your gifts, do not let the energy of that praise penetrate your ego or your mind. It will fuel your insecurities rather than support your soul. You will begin to think, What if I lose this talent? or, What if I fail? You will begin to torment yourself with thoughts of how others are judging your actions. You will create goals for yourself instead of listening to inner instructions and guidance for how you are supposed to use your gifts. Soon your gifts will fall under the control of others, as you will fall prey to their judgments of you and lose sight of your trust in God.
"• Develop a special appreciation of those who criticize you; do not resent them. They are your allies. Look on them as sacred adversaries in action in your life. They are more helpful than those who praise you because they support your humbleness. They have a true spiritual role in your life. To resent those who criticize you is to forget that you have also criticized others. Remember to use your soul's ability to illuminate your shadows so that you see clearly through seemingly negative events. Always, beyond the darkness, God's great plan is in motion. That is the truth you need to trust. It is a truth reached through prayer and the security of humility.
"I cross the bridge into the silent bliss of my Castle. I close the drawbridge and forbid all outside influences from entry into this holy place that is my soul. Here in my Castle, I am alone with God. Under God's light and companionship I discover the depth and beauty of my soul. I embrace the power of prayer. I open myself to divine guidance. I surrender myself to become as a channel for grace, healing, and service as God directs my life."