Spatial Imagery as Key to Two Mystical Experiences of Transformation: A Comparison between Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross

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    Abstract

    The mystical writings of Teresa of Avila and those of John of the Cross can be compared in many ways. The comparative approaches discussed in this paper focus on the use of spatial imagery. Both mystical authors express their transformative experiences in a variety of metaphors. Their choice of these metaphors is not arbitrary. On the contrary, it is very revealing. Several core metaphors display spatial patterns which will be compared and understood in terms of their cultural commonalities and psychological differences. Cultural-historical (von Balthasar), Jungian (Welch, Maas as opposed to Howe), Freudian (Erikson, Riemann), self-psychological (Julian, Frohlich) and object-relational (Barron) explanations will be discussed. It will be argued that psychological differences between the two mystics explain their different use of spatial imagery. Several models, by focusing on the use of spatial imagery, can shed light on the crucial differences between these two mystics, their mystical writings and their mystical experiences even though some models may seem more encompassing than other ones in explaining the specific psychological differences. Attention will also be drawn to the observation that the dynamics of these mystical experiences (as processes of transformation) are reflected in the ways their use of spatial imagery develops. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-23
    JournalMental Health Religion and Culture
    Early online date7 Oct 2011
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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