Temple's TangleWave Art Gallery

==Interior Castle==

Interior Castle, acrylic on canvas, 24"x36" © 1988


"I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle
made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal,
in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven,
there are many mansions."
--Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila
[trans: E. Allison Peers]

According to St. Teresa, God resides in the seventh, innermost mansion or dwelling place of the soul's "castle." The problem is that most people, because they are so preoccupied with worldly affairs and desires, choose to reside in the outer mansions or even the courtyards of their souls. Much of Teresa's writing describes the various stages of the soul's journey inward towards union with God. Neither linear nor spiral analogies will do, however. The route inward, as Teresa describes it, is more enveloping, three dimensional and convoluted:

You must not believe the mansions to be
arranged in a row, one behind the other,
but fix your attention on the center. . . .
Think of a palmito (a shrub with thick
layers of leaves enclosing a succulent,
edible kernel) which has many outer rinds
surrounding the savory part within, all of
which must be taken away before the center
can be eaten. Just so around this central
room are many more, as there also are above it.
[Interior Castle; Peers]

I decided to use the shape of a single star to symbolize Teresa's identity or the identity of a person seeking divine union. I chose the star shape because its straight edges facilitated the creation of the diamond shape in the center of the painting. The diamond shape echoes Teresa's aforementioned notion of the soul being like a "diamond" or "very clear crystal." I also tried to gain a sense of the dimension and intricacy Teresa describes by superimposing this star shape upon itself numerous times so that the resulting fragmentation reaches greater and greater intensification as it moves toward the diamond in the center of the painting.

The superimposition of the star on top of itself depicts the transformations of identity and perception that occur upon entering the type of mystical state Teresa describes. A shift in identity becomes increasingly fragmented until suddenly a threshold is crossed and a completely new identity is found in "union with God." The journey inward can also be seen as representing a transformation of sensory perception. What is lost is the sense of distinction between interior and exterior causing the sense of self to diffuse outward and the perception of the world to diffuse inward.

Teresa, or the person seeking divine union, is depicted as blue while the presence of God is depicted as yellow. The outer portions of the painting can be construed as roughly equivalent to the outer mansions of the "castle of the soul." Accordingly, they are meant to construe the boundaries between Teresa and God as less diffused and more clearly defined. In this stage, Teresa has a fairly clear idea about her own identity and the "boundaries" between herself and God. As she moves inward the boundaries that define the original star shape become blurred or fragmented while new star-like, angular shapes are formed. The fragmentation of the original star shape as well as the creation of new star-like shapes represent the corresponding transformations in identity and perception.

As she describes in The Book of Her Life a distinction can be made between spiritual elevation and divine union. Spiritual elevation is equivalent to a small fire. In a small fire, the piece of iron (the soul) takes a long time to become "red hot." This spiritual elevation can be seen as the stars moving toward "union" in the center of the painting.

"But if the fire is great, the piece of iron, even though large, will
in a short time lose its entire being--or it will appear to do so."
[Collected Works, Vol. 1., trans; Kieran Kavanaugh]

God, as the yellow diamond at the center of the painting, is the negative space of the painting. Any portion of the painting which is not star is yellow. There are, however, many yellow sections contained within the stars. This demonstrates the idea that God permeates everything and that God is in the soul even when the soul is lost.

Interior Castle can also be understood as depicting light as it diffracts out through the structure of a diamond. In this view, God, the source, the diamond, created all the light or differentiated identities that diffract. The identities that evolve out can become unified by moving in reverse; they can be assimilated back into their creative source.

return to Art Gallery: Light


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