Intellectual Visions (A Snippet from the 6th)
St. Teresa refers to intellectual visions as 'sublime', and tells us that, "it is not fitting for those who live on earth to understand them in such a way that they can describe them." She writes that, in an intellectual vision, one may be shown many things which are indescribable, such as, "a host of angels, with their Lord", but that it is not with the eyes of the body [corporeal vision] or with the eyes of the soul [imaginary vision], but "by means of an admirable kind of knowledge."
In, "Christian Perfection and Contemplation", Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange explains that with an intellectual vision, an object is manifested to the intellect, "without any actual dependance on sensible images." It can be brought about either by ideas which the intellect has already acquired, and which are then, "supernaturally co-ordinated or modified", or by ideas infused by God, "which are sometimes of angelic order." Father Garrigou-Lagrange tells us that intellectual visions require infused light, "that of the gift of wisdom or prophecy."
Sometimes an intellectual vision is rapid in nature, and in this case Father Garrigou-Lagrange explains that it will be clear and distinct, "a sort of intuition of divine truths or of created things in God." St. Teresa describes this type of intellectual vision in Chapter 28 of her Autobiography; she writes: "...through the intellectual vision...we are given an understanding of how God is powerful, that He can do all things, that He commands all and governs all, and that His love permeates all things."
But in, Interior Castle, St. Teresa concentrates on a different type of intellectual vision, one that can last, "for many days - sometimes for more than a year." She tells us that it may happen that the soul becomes, “conscious that Jesus Christ Our Lord is near to it, though it cannot see Him either with the eyes of the body or with those of the soul." St. Teresa experienced this prolonged intellectual vision of the Lord herself, although she uses the third person when describing the experience: "She was conscious that He was walking at her right hand, but this consciousness arose, not from those senses which tell us that another person is near us, but in another and a subtler way which is indescribable."
As opposed to a rapid intellectual vision, which we have seen is clear and distinct, Father Garrigou-Lagrange explains that this type of prolonged intellectual vision is obscure and indistinct. St. Teresa was very aware that Jesus was beside her for extended periods, and although she could not understand how she knew this to be true, she was absolutely certain about it. Father Garrigou-Lagrange tells us that an intellectual vision of this type, "manifests with certitude the presence of the object without any detail as to its intimate nature."
Sometimes, rather than Jesus, the felt presence is that of a saint or the Blessed Virgin Mary. The soul knows exactly who it is, even though the presence is not visible. The purpose of this type of intellectual vision appears to be the companionship it provides, which strengthens and gladdens the soul. St. Teresa describes this, again in the third person: “For she saw plainly that it was a great help to her to be habitually thinking of God wherever she went and to be taking such care to do nothing which would displease Him because she felt that He was always looking at her.”
In, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross tells us that we can recognize the divine origin of these intellectual visions by their effects, which are deep peace, holy joy, profound humility, and unshakable attachment to virtue.
Of the prolonged intellectual vision, St. Teresa says:
“[it] brings a special knowledge of God, and from this constant companionship is born a most tender love toward His Majesty, and yearnings, even deeper than those already described, to give oneself wholly up to His service, and a great purity of conscience; for the Presence Which the soul has at its side makes it sensitive to everything.”