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Center for Action and Contemplation

Course Description

An 8-week online course journeying through the seven mansions of St. Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle with James Finley and Mirabai Starr as guides. Deepen your awareness of the “inner witness” and experience the Interior Castle an embodied pathway of union with God.

Interior Castle is a spiritual journey through the seven mansions of St. Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle. It explores her perspective on progressively deepening states of consciousness as a pathway to union with God. Along the way, practices of prayer, reflection, humility, and self-knowledge turn spiritual insights into experiential and embodied wisdom.

Based on James Finley’s many years of reading, meditating, and leading retreats on this 16th-century mystic, this course also draws from Mirabai Starr’s work translating the original Spanish text to reveal the essence of Teresa and her message. Interior Castle is intended for students already experienced with the spiritual path. This course is presented largely in James Finley’s poetic, creative, non-linear style and is, therefore, best suited to those who have experience learning in a heart-centered way that transcends and includes the intellect.

Learning Objectives

  • Experience Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle as an embodied pathway of union with God
  • Deepen awareness of the “inner witness” through life experiences and contemplative practice
  • Be inspired to see God in all things, to find hope and love even amidst suffering
  • Connect and learn with other spiritual seekers

“James Finley has been instrumental in my spiritual journey. The healing of peace and divine love led me to a more contemplative way of being.”

—Adela N.

Course Impact

Participants enroll in our online contemplative courses, like Interior Castle, for many reasons. Some said it felt easier to stay connected to God throughout their busy day. Others, inspired by practices of self-love, stopped looking outside themselves for God, and started looking within.

Participants who engaged fully with the course shared that they:

  • Connected with an open-hearted, supportive spiritual community on discussion forums. This may be especially helpful for those overcoming church hurt and spiritual abuse.
  • Trusted their own Divine indwelling to live authentically by creating deeper, more sustained union with God and others.
  • Expanded their self-awareness (and continue to do so after the course) with unitive consciousness, mysticism, and non-dualism practices — shifting from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance.
  • Felt less anxious and more confident when navigating difficult changes like looking for a new church or deconstructing Christianity.

Course Schedule

Below you will find the course schedule for all upcoming offerings. You can register or sign up to be notified of an upcoming course by clicking the buttons below.

May 29, 2024 – July 9, 2024
Start Date
July 17, 2024
8 weeks
Register Now

Course Details

Interior Castle is an 8-week online course. Students should expect to invest 4–6 hours of work each week on the course material, reading assignments, online discussions with other students, and time for personal reflection.

  • This course is taught in English.
  • There are no pre-requisites for this course.
  • Learn more about the technical requirements for taking this course.

Students will have access to course content for the duration of the course. Course content will be available four weeks after the course ends.

Interior Castle is not required reading for this course although it is highly encouraged. We recommend Mirabai Starr’s modern translation (Riverhead Books: 2004). The translation James Finley references throughout the course is from E. Allison Peers (Doubleday: 1961), which is out of print.

Financial Assistance

To apply for financial assistance, please complete the online Financial Assistance Form at least 1 week before registration is scheduled to close. Please do not register for the online course until your request for financial assistance has been processed.

This is a sample video from the course.

Course Overview

Course material will be presented in a format modeled after the structure of James Finley’s retreats. The rhythm of the teaching will follow the same flow: an invitation to contemplative practice, a teaching, personal reflection questions, sharing in group discussions, and an invitation to contemplative practice.

Students can progress through each week at their own pace.

  • Week 1 — Welcome and Introduction
    James Finley and Mirabai Starr welcome you and introduce you to Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle. James Finley introduces his non-linear and poetic framework, and contemplative practice guidelines for working with Interior Castle.
  • Week 2 — Context and Essence of Teresa of Ávila
    Through storytelling and illuminative teaching, Mirabai Starr offers an embodied understanding of St. Teresa’s life, context, and essence.
  • Week 3 — Mansions 1 – 4
    James Finley explores the first four Mansions of the Interior Castle focusing on the ‘hinges’ (prayer, experiential self-knowledge, and humility) of the doorways between each that ground your movements through the gifts and challenges of each Mansion.
  • Week 4 — Mansions 3 – 4
    An unexpected taste of the 4th Mansion begins in the 3rd. James Finley shares ‘state of absorption’ examples in 4th Mansion experiences.
  • Week 5 — Mansion 4
    After regrounding in the first 4 mansions, James Finley deepens into the particularities of 4th Mansion themes; supernatural or special favors, trans-subjectivity and the prayer of quiet.
  • Week 6 — Mansions 4 – 5
    James Finley expounds on the practice prayer in the first three Mansions and then delves into the qualitative deepening of prayer in the 4th Mansion, which opens into the 5th.
  • Week 7 — Mansions 7 – 6
    Mirabai Starr teaches on a few Interior Castle passages that name divine union as a birthright and gateway to service in the world. James Finley poetically meditates on the 7th Mansion (the center of your soul) and the solitude of the 6th Mansion.
  • Week 8 — Mansions 6 – 7
    The 6th Mansion is the foreshadow of eternality. The 7th Mansion is the freedom from the tyranny of death in the midst death. James Finley concludes with words on practically applying the Interior Castle into your life and context.
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