The importance of meditation & self knowledge – Saint Teresa

Teresa of Avila, by Gerard

Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), as painted by François Gérard.

Coming to spiritual practice as I do from a family with a confused Judeo-Christian background, deep down I tend to have a simplistic, childish belief there’s an external power called “God” out there who takes care of me without requiring any responsibility or maturity from me.

As long as I belong to the right religion and eat my vegetables, and make sure to recycle, a part of me believes I’m “on God’s team” and “I will be saved”, no matter what I do or don’t do.  It’s like being able to luxuriate in the attentions of a wealthy and indulgent parent.

The only trouble is, serious Christians, such as Saint Teresa of Ávila back in the 16th century, don’t actually think in such a childish way:

It is a shame and unfortunate that through our own fault we don’t understand ourselves or know who we are.  Wouldn’t it show great ignorance, if someone when asked who he was didn’t know, and didn’t know his father or mother or from what country he came?  Well now, if this would be so extremely stupid, we are incomparably more so….

The rest of this book is about the incomparable benefits of silent meditation, and how it could give us more awareness of who we are.

[This quote is from The Interior Castle, by Teresa of Avila. Translation by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez.  As included in The Basket of Tolerance, the Epitome of Traditional Wisdom sublist, section on the fourth stage of life, by Adi Da Samraj.]


  • Do you feel silent meditation is a useful or even necessary part of a genuine spiritual life, even if you are a Christian?
  • When she says we don’t “understand ourselves or know who we are”, what does that mean to you?

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