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The Original Great Mother Tradition
Mother Worship

MatriTalks 41

TERESA OF AVILA

Questions & Answers
with
Han Marie Stiekema Sermes

The story of his encounter with her

Q. Your connection to Teresa of Avila has highly surprised me. I thought she represented a kind of very loyal discipleship to the church. How did her and your world meet?

A. Yes, it is a great surprise to me too. I could never imagine, that she would become so important to me.

Q. So, how did it happen?

A. First of all through the discovery, that there is only One World, which we both share. Her descriptions of the Way is one big recognition, being the cause of great gratitude and joy.

Q. (Silence). Well, there must be also another reason. Why feeling a relationship with her in particular? There are countless other "colleagues" of yours with similar Experiences, but without this intimate contact.

A. That's right. Let's start with the beginning, then. Meeting people on the spiritual Path is often reflecting the special stage you are in yourself. Thus, in the beginning, my favorites - apart from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, through whom I received Transmission ("despite himself") - were the Buddha and some of his excellent disciples. That was, because I was in the stage of Full Awakening, aspects of which I recognized in reports, written by people from that tradition.

Q. Thus, it all changed, as you proceeded?

A. Then, in my "Dark Night of the Soul" I was seeking support from those, who understood the other steps of the Spiritual Path. I wanted to know more about the sequence of those steps and the logic behind. So, it happened, that I came across the book "Mysticism" of Evelyn Underhill. Through this book I discovered - for the first time - the value of Christian Mysticism. Especially, the place of suffering became a lot more clear to me. As said before, the strength of Buddhism is the Path toward Enlightenment. The function of suffering is greatly underdeveloped though. So, I was really grateful to be able to read some important Mystics from "my own tradition". My favorites were a.o. Hadewych, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Eckhart, Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit, Ruusbroec, Suso, Catharina of Siena, Giordano Bruno and Juan de la Cruz.

Q. No Teresa yet?

A. No, I now know the reason. It is, that I wasn't ready for her at that time. "Shame on me", for I thought, that she would be much "inferior" to the others I had read.

Q. Was there a turning point?

A. Yes, indeed. After I had "discovered" the Great Mother as the Ultimate Reality, suddenly, there was need for developing a relationship. This had not occurred before, for "in the Enlightened State" there is not another Realm "higher" than You...An "I and Thou" relationship I considered - and many with me - as to be part of a "lower" level. It belonged to those, who were still ignorant, who hadn't discovered yet, that ultimately you are the Divine yourSelf.

Q. So, you had to get used to this new idea.

A. Absolutely. I remember a kind of desperation, not knowing how to establish relationship with "the Mother". I even went to a Christian bookstore to find a book about "how to pray". TV broadcasts about Christian Services suddenly draw my attention. Rather than "being backward", I suddenly considered these people "far ahead of me". I realized, that "simply surrendering" to the Ultimate, as they did, was something I had great difficulties with.

Q. Something I don't understand. On the one hand, you lived a very spiritual life, while on the other having no contact with the Divine. How can that be?

A. Through the Great Realizations I know, that "I Am That". It is not a common experience, one that comes and goes. Dissolving into the Ultimate is equal to receiving a New Identity. You have become reborn. From that moment on, you know You Are Oneness. Everything is part of You, rather than you being part of something else. This remains your Self-insight until you die. In fact, that happens to most of "my kind" (laughter). However, it is because of the Grace of the Mother, that She granted me a Higher Insight, namely, that the Divine and therefore Self-realization is not the Ultimate.

Q. Which brought you back to zero, rather climbing further up the mountain.

A. I had reached the top already for a long time. Now, the Mother invited me to descend to Her Valley. The former can be realized, while the latter cannot. How can you realize a Vacuum, Emptiness beyond Emptiness? You can only surrender to It, worship It, take refuge in It. Hence, my whole situation was turned upside down. 

Q. So then it was, that you "met" Teresa of Avila.

A. That's right. It was really a shock and this for many reasons. First of all, the recognition. This was (is) so perfect, that actually I could only feel: "She is me and I am her".  This was not only true with regard to "sharing the Essence", having equal Experiences, but to all kinds of biographical details as well. Very often I was so moved, that I couldn't stop my tears. Simultaneously, I realized her superiority, especially in those areas, in which I was (am) still a beginner. So "I asked her", if she wanted to become my sister, teacher and soulmate.*

* Which doesn't mean, that I "agree with her" on all issues. For instance, her rather fanatic rejection of "the world", I consider to be unfruitful. Her past - in which "she loved the world too much" - and her subsequent concern, that "the world" may distract her from being focused on God, plays a major role here. 

Q. Did she answer you?

A. Until this very day I have not yet received a refusal (laughter).

Q. So, what were the areas, in which she became your teacher?

A. First of all, there was this last part of the "Dark Night of the Soul". Although it had come to a closure, there were still some very small gaps of understanding about the function of suffering. Teresa was very outspoken about this. In moments of intense suffering, she asked her Lord to grant her more. Now, I must confess, that initially resistance came up. "Typical Christian masochism" I thought. In the context of the Mystical Path though, the meaning is different. Through letting your suffering go the bottom of your soul, your longing for the Ultimate will grow accordingly. It is out of Love for her Lord, that she wanted it all.

Q. Quite amazing. But isn't not her humbleness something - for which they say she was renowned - that is possibly not so recognizable to modern man, not even to you?

A. Teresa was partly humble, because of the pride she used to have. This is the genuine part. The other part was strategy. Actually, she was incredibly ambitious to get her message through. However, both as a woman of 16th century Spain, as well as a potential candidate for being convicted as a heretic by the Inquisition, she exaggerated her humility all the time.

Q. Back to your learning process. What exactly was she able to teach you, something others apparently couldn't?

A. It is her unconditional surrender to her Lord, which totally "fascinates" me. Why? Because it is something, that is most difficult to me. So difficult, that I know, that this will be the issue until the end of my life. Therefore, I am absolutely certain, that Teresa will never "quit".

Q. What about the "practical part" of your relationship with her.     

A. Yes, that has been another great surprise. Again, from my background I considered meditation the ultimate technique. Through it, you realize your True Self, which is the most crucial step on the spiritual Path. Meditation helps you to make the leap from ignorance - to be identified with a fictitious idea of yourself - to awareness e.g. liberation. Again, it was the last thing I expected, that "beyond" meditation something could be hidden, that was more valuable, certainly not "prayer". Reading Teresa, my eyes were definitively opened. She masterly describes her method of "Inner Prayer". It consists of first becoming aware of yourself, subsequently followed by becoming aware of the Ultimate as the all-inclusive Divine. It exceeded the meditation, for it not only focused on yourself, but also on the Ultimate. This was exactly where I had been looking for.

Q. Please, go on.

A. Now, through having established this relationship, words spontaneously start bubbling up. The astonishing thing is, that she again and again emphasizes, that everything - self-awareness, awareness of the Divine and awareness of your prayer - should take place in the HereNow....It is a cosmic experience, far exceeding "personal awareness". But that wasn't all. In Zen - which used to be my meditation background - it goes, that emotions shouldn't be paid attention to. That is indeed the best attitude with regard to achieving clarity of mind, at least up to a certain intensity (of your emotions). After that "active acceptance" has to be added to it. Trying to establish relationship with the Mother - "something", that cannot be realized, only surrendered to - was another thing though. In this case, emotions like "longing", "trusting", "pleading", "praising" and "surrendering" were crucial. Teresa represents this all in a absolutely unique way. It gave me a deep sigh. I had found a masterly friend.

Q. You are a master yourself. How does it feel for you to have found one?

A. My life is blessed, in such an overwhelming way, that I only can hope, that I may be fruitful, to the benefit of others.

Q. Teresa worshipped "her Christian Lord", whom she often calls "His Majesty". You know from your experience, that "God" is not the Ultimate. How can Teresa be a teacher to you?

A. It is the attitude of unconditional surrender, that is decisive.

Q. So doesn't it matter, whom you are worshipping: God or the Mother?

A. Remember: God is the Light Body of the Mother. Hence, through the Mother you respect every tradition. And when I become tired of reading "His Majesty", I simply replace it by "the Mother" (big laughter). 

Be receptive and the Mother will come and give you "everything you need"

Praise the Mother!

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Last revising: 02/07/10