Entering the Castle of the Soul
An Interview With Caroline Myss
by Randy Peyser
An Interview With Caroline Myss
by Randy Peyser
Caroline Myss is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including: Invisible Acts of Power, Sacred Contracts; Why People Don't Heal and How They Can; and Anatomy of the Spirit. A pioneer in the field of energy medicine and human consciousness, she is the founder of the CMED Institute, offering intensive workshops that explore the interior mansions of the soul, personal power, archetypes, sacred contracts, and the mystical path to the divine.
In her newest groundbreaking work, Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul, (Free Press), she draws on the work of Teresa de Avila, a 16th Century Spanish Carmelite nun, to present a no-nonsense guide to help individuals establish a deeper and more authentic relationship with God and one's soul.
Says Myss, "No higher purpose in this life exists than to be called into a mystical relationship with the divine." In this interview, we discuss how to build this sacred relationship. www.myss.com.
Randy Peyser: Can you tell us briefly how you came to write 'Entering the Castle'?
Caroline Myss: 'Entering the Castle' was inspired by my book 'Invisible Acts of Power', in which I looked at the transitional experiences that people have at some point in their lives when catastrophe comes to call. At this point, the world that our survival ego has created for us ceases to be functional.
What actually is happening is that our soul is trying to emerge and take over the role that our egos created. This experience might come in the form of an illness or a loss of someone dear to us. We are left in a very vulnerable space, which causes us to have to find survival capacities inside of ourselves, as well as a center of faith and a higher belief system that shifts our center of power from outside of ourselves to inside of ourselves.
Those who best survive this kind of initiation tend to emerge with an appetite to be of service to others. I decided to study that, so I sent out a letter from my website in which I asked people to share with me acts of service that they've been the recipient of or have done for others.
The types of responses I received shattered me wide open - and they were not the phenomenal kind of acts that one might expect. It was always the smaller acts of service that had the capacity to resurrect a human being.
For example, there was a person who used to be homeless. No-one was handing him a check for 500 million dollars. What gave him the stamina to get up again and to know that he would get his life back was a simple act of service.
As he stated: "It wasn't the ten dollars someone gave me, which was the biggest amount of money I had ever received, but it was rather that a person was not afraid to touch me when I was dressed in dirty clothes. That person told me, 'I will pray for you and you will get out of this'." It was the gift of dignity.
What I realized is that people who were performing simple acts of service were channeling grace. It was the grace factor that drew me in. Everything I had studied about the nature of God I was seeing in practice in these letters.
For years, I've been teaching about sacred contracts, and people ask, "What's my sacred contract? What's my highest potential?" As I looked at these letters, I recognized that people would never accept acts of service as an answer for their sacred contract because it was far too humble a truth. It was far too humble a truth for an ordinary person to be told that one's highest potential is to listen to the directive to go touch a homeless person so that grace can come through you and that person will then be given the desire to live again. This simply isn't glamorous, but nevertheless, that is the highest potential of a human being.
My own mystical awakening occurred within the midst of this, which led me to the work of Teresa of Avila. I then realized that we are living in the midst of a mystical renaissance, that people are truly looking for a deeper connection to God, and it is not being filled by the way in which we have constructed our spiritual life.
Randy: For many years I was on a very mystical path, but I struggled financially. Eventually, I made business and money my focus, and I stopped struggling, but I've gotten away from that deep practice that used to be my life. I don't know how to do both. They feel like mutually exclusive journeys.
Caroline: People believe that you cannot have a deep interior life and function in the outside world. That is exactly why we have a spirituality that got sidetracked into health. In the 1960's, the spiritual movement began, and we started to move away from religions. We started with this kind of New Age consciousness, which immediately got routed into the consciousness of health, the discovery of the self, the self-awareness movement, the movement of the victim, woundedness, and the inner child. That became the 'surrogate spirituality movement'.
Our deep fear, our deep interior hesitation, is that a deep, profound, soul inner life cannot co-exist with a physical life. There is no model for the lay person to have a rich, deep, intensive mystical life, while also having a sensual physical and successful financial life. We don't have that model.
Randy: Do you see that as a possibility?
Caroline: Of course I do. That's the model of the new mystic. The "mystic out of the monastery" is absolutely a new model. We are the first generation of that. The new mystic is not someone who retreats into the ashram or into the monasteries, but rather is someone who remains a very effective lay person in the field - a mother, a lawyer, a teacher, a functioning person in the field - while having a very animated soul. That is what I think this new individual, an effective mystical activist, is in the world.
Randy: What is the role of the mystical activist?
Caroline: What is a mystic? What is the difference between an ordinary mortal and a mystic? A mystic is someone who is drawn into the experience of God - to experience the power and nature of God, whereas others talk about the nature of God. The mystic crosses over the drawbridge into the castle - which is Teresa of Avila's metaphor for the soul. The mystic actually experiences the power of God. Their soul becomes animated. They go from the theory of God, to the fact of God. They go from "I believe", to "I know".
It's a very different level of power. That person is someone who becomes a container of grace, someone who knows exactly what it is to listen to their interior self and follow instructions and live their life from within, instead of from without.
What I have discovered is that people are controlled by the fear of being humiliated. Humiliation is the number one fear in human beings. They dress, buy their cars, or need to fit in at certain places, so they are not humiliated. Humiliation controls individuals. If they are humiliated when they are younger, they will never forgive their parents - no matter how old they get.
Randy: I would think that the fear of lack or loss would drive most people.
Caroline: Because that would be humiliating. To not have something is to not be protected. To not be protected will cause you to be humiliated.
Randy: When you come from the place of the soul, you wouldn't even be thinking of humiliation.
Caroline: What you learn when you go into your interior life is that there is a great difference between the fear, panic and control you feel when you're being humiliated, and the power of being humble. Whether you are looking at Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi or Mother Teresa - every great profound spiritual leader was a humble person. They were humble because grace is so powerful.
Teresa of Avila was a great mystic who had very profound mystical experiences. They were so extraordinary that her spiritual director said, "You have to write about your interior life because you must leave a path for others to follow." The 'Interior Castle' became her classic work.
When she sat down to write that book, she said a prayer in which she stated that she didn't know where to begin. She was given a vision, and in that vision she saw the soul. The soul looked like a crystal to her with seven mansions.
The 'template of seven' is the universal structure of the soul. It's what I saw when I wrote 'Anatomy of the Spirit', that there are seven chakras, seven Sacraments, seven levels to the Tree of Life. We are constructed on a map of seven levels of power, and she saw this. The way she articulated it went along with the teachings of Jesus, who said, "In my home are many mansions". She took that and said, "There are seven mansions in your soul, and each mansion has many rooms. Each of these rooms is a different aspect of your consciousness."
What I did in 'Entering the Castle' was to write a rich description of the rooms of the soul. When someone says to me, "What is the soul?" the truth is that the soul cannot be described. Like mysticism, the soul can only be experienced. While the mind in its frustration wants to be accommodated by a description, that can't be done. You have to experience your interior life and that is why I wrote this book. You have to cross your drawbridge and go into your soul.
In our culture we confuse spiritual practice with stress reduction and organic vegetables. They have nothing to do with spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is a devotion to prayer, reflection, contemplation and an inner life that is focused on illumination and self-awareness to God. Spiritual practice is not self-awareness of your wounds. It is a completely different focus.
Randy: You say: "Intuition is not a spiritual force; it is a practical skill of the ego, not of the soul." Can you explain that?
Caroline: Your intuitive capacity is in your bones. It's not a highly evolved skill or sophisticated force. It is simply organic. It's survival mechanisms that alert you to the energy in a room. It cannot do visionary work and it is not capable of receiving divine revelation.
Randy: What's the difference between intuitive guidance and divine revelation? And how will we know it when we are experiencing it?
Caroline: (laughs) You will know the difference between divine revelation and intuitive gut force. Here's intuitive: Should I eat this? No/yes. Do I trust this person? No/yes. It's very basic. It's almost reptilian. A revelation will knock you to your knees; it's God in the walls of your soul. Believe me, there's a difference.
Randy: When people feel that sense of chills up and down their spine, what would that be?
Caroline: Chills up and down your spine. I offer it no more than that.
Randy: Can you talk about the mansions of the soul?
Caroline: In the lower mansions - mansions one, two and three - when a person enters the work of their interior self, they have to work hard. They have to work to unearth what Teresa called "the reptiles". We all have reptiles.
In the first mansion, you have to engage in your struggle with humbleness, your fear of humiliation, and how this fear has controlled your wall between you and God. You say a prayer, ask for guidance, and then block that guidance because of your incredible fear that God will give you guidance that will humiliate you. I cannot surrender to you, God, because if I do, you will take my money. That's what people think. Therefore, once you finally admit that, you will admit to yourself, I've heard You all along; I've simply said that I haven't. And I only want to hear guidance that supports my bank account…
In the first room of the mansion of your soul, you confront the falseness of your own theology; you finally confront you and God, and now you are in your soul. It is tough work because you face the fact that you have no faith and you never did. You simply have a lot of fear, superstition and trinkets. When you start dismantling that, you discover what is really inside of you - which is a warehouse of superstition. That's where your soul is.
When you start that journey your knees start shaking because you think "If I get rid of all these superstitions, what's left?" It's unbelievable to start peeling this away from yourself. You start admitting, "I don't have any faith at all, and if I did have faith what would it look like?"
Randy: Did you go through this journey yourself?
Caroline: Yes, I'm still going through it. As these layers get peeled away from you, what you discover is a phenomenal liberation. A phenomenal lightness starts. You discover that you are so packed with fear about your own life that it is only your own arrogance that has you protected. You can tell yourself you're not afraid; you're terrified.
What you discover is a level of trust in something much greater than yourself. For the first time in your life, it's not a mental trust; it's a genuine one. Then you begin the ascension in the upper mansions. It's a very rigorous journey, and it cannot be done without deep prayer and devotion. It is not a support group healing woundedness; it is a journey of prayer and an interior life. What comes from this is the profound sense of such an interior confidence with God and your place in this world - and the gift of falling in love with who you are.
Randy: You state: "Transform this suffering relationship with the divine into one of fearless intimacy." How do we transform the suffering relationship with the divine into one of intimacy?
Caroline: Have a quality of faith where the divine is real for you, where it is no longer a mental concept or an intellectual discussion; where the divine is so real that putting it back into an intellectual discussion is uncomfortable for you. It's uncomfortable for me to try and do that now. I feel an awkwardness trying to give words to my experience now. It never used to be awkward for me, but it is now.
Randy: In terms of building one's interior castle, you mention prayer. You also mention silence. That seems like a very sacred place to be, but most of us have minds that race all the time.
Caroline: It's more than just race all the time. We live in such a toxic time. We have entered into a moment in evolution in which time has become the servant of timelessness and we don't even realize it. We are so blind that we do not realize we have crossed over and become more timeless - more Kyros than Kronos - than time.
We have timeless communication now - we do everything by Blackberries, the internet and cell phones, and we can't be away from our communication systems for three minutes without going into panic attacks. We take them with us no matter where we go. We are never unplugged from the great collective internet technological brain, or to put it differently, from the collective technological soul. We are always in contact with the whole and it's at the speed of light. So we are always linked to timelessness.
Once upon a time, when you and I were growing up, we were lucky if we got a letter a week. We would take a few days to respond to it. It was a big deal because we had to handwrite it and we had to think about what we wrote. Now we get 80+ pieces of email every day, and each piece demands, "Get back to me on this!"
None of us takes the time to reflect on what we're doing, to reflect and sit back and say, "What are the consequences of this? What are the consequences of my actions? What are the consequences of my thoughts and my words on other people, on myself, my family, my friends, or on the world? What are the consequences to others of this paper I'm about to sign? What are the consequences? Reflection - to pause; I need to reflect upon what you are asking me to do. More than think, I need to reflect and look at myself within this." We do not do that.
So not only are we timeless, but change is now universal. No matter where something changes on this earth, it's connected to us, whereas before, change was isolated. If something changed in Iraq, we thought Iraq was something on the ground. We picked it up; here's a rock. Now, no matter where change happens, it's connected to all of us.
So now, we are linked to every change that happens on the earth and every thought that happens, and we don't reflect on that. In fact, people think that by turning off the TV they are separated from all of this change. That's how unconscious they are. They think they're conscious because they're recycling. They define consciousness by whether or not they're eating from a health food market and recycling. Because they turn off the TV they think they're disconnected from this wild technical field of information that is invisible because they can't see it.
We have a Body/Mind/Spirit template now. We have completely opened our individual psychic networks. Except people only pull out their Body/Mind/Spirit templates when they go to the doctors. They say, "I want to be treated as though I have a Body/Mind/Spirit". But as soon as they walk out of there, they go back to being only a mind, and occasionally a heart - when convenient after 4 o'clock.
They don't see themselves as a body/mind/spirit communication system that is walking down the street, that is talking or having lunch as a body/mind/spirit, or that is doing business as a body/ mind/spirit. They only see the body/mind/spirit when they're buying organic vegetables and vitamins.
A body/mind/spirit force needs reflection. It needs prayer time. It doesn't need a massage; it needs an internal life.
Randy: Is this a daily practice for you?
Randy: And you find the time to do this with your kind of schedule?
Caroline: Are you kidding? I make the time. It's a priority for me.
Randy: Do you spend an hour a day doing this?
Caroline: It's very Western to say, "and how much time…" The amount of time is not an issue; that I am present every day to my interior world is a given.
Randy: What else would you suggest for people to create a deeper and more authentic experience of God?
Caroline: You can't go into this by yourselves. I wrote 'Entering the Castle' as a companion, as a guide. It is my hand on your hand saying, "Let me take you in here." This is why I started my CMED school. I take people through the castle in workshops.
It's very difficult to turn your attention to your interior life on your own. People don't know how to pray. They start with petition prayer: "Can I have…" "Will you protect…" "Protect me and can I have…" Beyond that, they don't know where to go.
People say to me, "Do you have a prayer that works?" meaning, I didn't get what I want. They can't get past that. They have no idea of how to say an effective prayer.
Randy: You say, "We've polluted the act of prayer by expecting certain rewards." You also talk about letting go of the idea of deservingness.
Caroline: You cannot have expectations with God. You must not. Where does someone get off having expectations? This is not me talking - go read the Book of Job. Go back 3000 years. Look what it did for him. This isn't my wisdom talking. Any mystic who has ever had an experience with God soon comes to the humble realization that to look to God in the heavens and say, "I expect", is a fool.
Randy: Any last thoughts?
Caroline: I absolutely believe that people are being called to experience the force and power of their soul. The changes that I described to you about living in a timeless and chaotic world has made the mystical renaissance necessary. If people realized their capacity to channel grace, to be a profound mystical activist, to develop a soul with stamina, to find their way into their castle and discover what a force of transformation they can be in this world, they would jump into the castle yesterday. They couldn't get in there fast enough. They have no idea how powerful they really are. They have no idea. And I can assure them God doesn't want their money. If He did, He'd have taken it already.
Randy: Thank you for being such a way shower.
Caroline: You are very, very welcome.