Explain the contribution of Teresa of Avila to mysticism

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Explain the contribution of Teresa of Avila to mysticism (35)

Mysticism is an aspect of religious experience that is little understood. This term has been used to describe experiences that reveal spiritual recognition of truths beyond normal understanding, from the mildly ecstatic to the occult. It has been said that there are certain features which accompany such experiences which enable their recognition, such as a sense of freedom from the limitations of time, space and the human ego. Believers may also experience a sense of “oneness” or unity with God, accompanied with bliss and serenity. Mysticism is seen as the closest a human being can ever come to actually meeting God in this life. Mystical experiences can also be classified into two areas: extrovertive, where one experiences unity in the world through the physical senses and introvertive, where the person loses their identity as a separate individual and slowly merges into the divine unity. A key introvertive mystic is Teresa of Avila. In examining her contribution to religious experience, a good place to start is considering her background.

Teresa’s background may be key to understanding her enigmatic personality and experiences. She was a woman from a wealthy background and had a turbulent start in life. When she was seven her mother died, and when she was fourteen she ran away to seek martyrdom. She had an alleged love affair with her cousin that tarnished her reputation and effectively made her unmarriable. This, coupled with her obsession with books of chivalry, may have corrupted her view of what love really is. Her father decided to send her into an Augustinian convent where she was very unhappy. This sense of rejection played a major part in her later religious experience.
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It was while she was in the convent that her religious experiences began. In 1554 she had a deeper conversion when she saw a statue of Jesus after he had been whipped. She was deeply moved and wrote, “I felt so keenly aware of how poorly I had thanked him for those wounds that, it seems to me, my heart broke. I threw myself down before him with the greatest outpouring of heart.” After this experience she progressed into a life of intense prayer and the Catholic practice of mortification, so much so that he motto became, "Lord, ...

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