At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard an excellent Renovaré podcast about St. Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle or The Mansions. I was intrigued by how a book written in 1577 is still among the most widely read and studied Christian spiritual guides.
The older translation I started reading was dense. Not only was the vocabulary challenging, but long sentences and paragraphs made it challenging to follow Teresa’s ideas. I rewrote the first Mansion not long into my struggle with updated language and structure. My comprehension improved, and the treasures I found in Teresa’s writing helped me keep going. Teresa wrote this for her Carmelite sister’s spiritual growth, but her lessons and examples based on biblical truths apply to all believers. I completed a “modern update” of The Interior Castle about a year later.
Here are answers to questions you may have about this work.
Why did you publish a modern update of The Interior Castle?
I decided to publish, hoping that an accessible version of The Interior Castle would help more Christians learn from Teresa. I think an audience might give up or never begin reading her spiritual guide because the direct translations are dense and require more study to comprehend. A modern update of The Interior Castle increases access to Teresa’s teaching by applying modern devices for comprehension.
In 1852 the Rev. John Dalton completed one of the first English translations of The Interior Castle. In his appendix, he explained the challenge with Teresa’s manuscript: “Her style is somewhat diffuse, and her sentences are often very long and interrupted by frequent parentheses, which sometimes obscure the meaning. Being continually occupied by so much business, she had no time to review and correct what she wrote, and this circumstance increases our admiration for the clearness and purity, as well as the majesty and dignity with which all her works are written.” This also explains why a modern update is helpful to today's readers.
Did you receive permission to update The Interior Castle?
The meticulous English translations of The Interior Castle that I referred to during my update are public domain – meaning no one owns the copyright. Public domain works are free to copy, share…or, in my case, rephrase.
In the prologue to The Interior Castle, Teresa says, “Our Lord will do me a great favor if He enables me to help even one of my sisters praise Him a little more. His Majesty knows I have no other goal.” And in the sixth Mansion, she longs “to lose a thousand lives to lead one soul to praise you more. A life lost for this purpose would be well spent.” I think Teresa would be pleased if her voice could reach more souls in this century.
What “modern updates” were made to The Interior Castle?
The update’s goal was not to change Teresa’s teaching but to make them easier to understand with simple sentence structure and contemporary word choices. Most of my effort was separating multiple ideas contained in single sentences and adding paragraph and section breaks so readers could more easily follow Teresa’s thinking. I rarely changed the order of sentences to improve the flow of ideas. I added definitions in only a few places if they would enhance understanding. Biblical references were also included.
Teresa occasionally used terms that are not well understood by Christian faith traditions outside of Catholicism. To enable comprehension for non-Catholics, in a few situations, I chose new words, but this was not to discount the Catholic tradition or tone down her meaning. For example, I substituted the terms “willful sin” or “willful disobedience” for “mortal sin.” The term’s meaning – any evil acted upon deliberately – is not lost, but it is now more likely to be understood.
The goal of this update is for Teresa’s voice to shine
Teresa’s instructions in The Interior Castle are as relevant today as they were in 1577. What Teresa teaches needs no update, only how Teresa speaks. I hope that this version will help many more readers learn from a remarkable woman of God.
The modern update of The Interior Castle is now available widely in print and e-book, and I welcome comments from readers! It may also be helpful to learn differences between English translations of The Interior Castle.