First Mansion, Ch. II — The Spring, The Tree and The Bee
God is in the center of the soul, like a clear spring . The soul is like a tree planted in the center of this spring. The fruits and works of a soul in grace are pleasing to God and man, in the same way that the streams that flow from a pure stream are pleasing. However, if a soul uproots itself from this pure spring and plants itself in a foul pitch-black pool of evil-smelling water, “it produces nothing but misery and filth.” The sun may shine on a pure crystal, but if one places a thick black cloth over the crystal no light may enter. “Any good thing we do has its source, not in ourselves, but rather in that spring where this tree, which is the soul, is planted, and in that sun which sheds its radiance on our works.” We should praise God whenever we do any good thing, and think not of ourselves at all. If we remember these two things then our time reading this will not be wasted.
The many rooms of this mansion are not in a row, but in layers and levels that the soul is permitted to travel freely throughout, spacious, all reached by the light of the Sun.
Humility is like a bee making honey, always doing its work. Just as the bee flies from flower to flower, so our soul must sometimes soar from self-knowledge to meditation upon the greatness and majesty of God.
Meditation upon Him frees us from the reptiles that are outside the castle and that find their way into the lower levels. Humility is the way to enter in, and yet there is false humility that keeps us from doing better things. This false humility arises from a lack of self-knowledge. How many souls the devil has ruined in this way. We fear what others will think or say, or what will happen if we fail. These thoughts keep our stream of flowing water blocked up with “cowardice, pusillanimity and fear.” We must stop thinking of ourselves and set our eyes on Christ! Learn true humility from Him.
At the early stages, the outer levels of the castle, the devil sends many evil spirits to prevent us from entering deeper in. Our faculties and senses are the vassals of the castle, the stewards and butlers and servants. At the outside of our spiritual journey, the faculties are still so focused on worldly matters that they are easily defeated by the evil spirits. We must ask His Majesty, His Blessed Mother, and the saints to do battle against the evil spirits for us because our own servants have little strength to do battle for us. In the outer rooms, we are like one with his eyes covered in mud, and our vision is clouded by all the reptiles and poisonous creatures so that the light of Christ is dimmed to our senses. Our souls are too preoccupied with possessions or honours or business. We must put these aside to travel beyond the first mansions.
We are never entirely free of struggles with devils, no matter how far into the castle we proceed. In some, the wardens, our faculties, have strength for the fight. We must remain watchful, for the devil may deceive us in the guise of an angel of light. An example: he inspires a sister to do penance, so that she seems to have no peace unless she is torturing herself. To do this, she may disobey her prioress who has forbidden penance without permission, she may ruin her health, so she is unable to follow her Rule anymore. Another sister may be inspired with zeal for perfection, which is a good thing, but she may begin to be on the lookout for failings of others and run to the prioress to report them. She may become so zealous about her religious observances she may fail to see her own faults. The devil desires division and slander, to weaken love and charity.