Skip to main content

See also:

The Interior Life and Intimate Conversation with God


Have you ever known a person—or perhaps you are one, yourself—who talks to himself? Be it a psychological or spiritual manifestation, there must be a reason why there are those who do, and those who don't.

Some professionals link "self-talk" to multiple personality disorder or bi-polar disease.

Give me a break.

An article on "PsychCentral," (1) states: "talking with yourself not only relieves the loneliness, it may also make you smarter. It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important, and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating."

Now that's what I'm talking about.

Part One, Chapter Two, of "Three Ages of the Interior Life," (2) talks about our conversations with ourselves, and our conversations with God. They, in and of themselves, are a reflection of the level of our relationship with God.

As we progress in the interior life, our "inner conversation" (also known as "contemplation") changes. Someone who has yet to take a step along that path fills his conversation with thoughts about himself—about his world.

If a man is fundamentally egotistical, his intimate conversation with himself is inspired by sensuality or pride. He converses with himself about the object of his cupidity, of his envy; finding therein sadness and death, he tries to flee from himself, to live outside of himself, to divert himself in order to forget the emptiness and the nothingness of his life. In this intimate conversation of the egoist with himself there is a certain, very inferior self-knowledge and a no less inferior self-love. (3)

It is in our nature to process everything that we experience in this life through our senses. Thus, an egotistical person who is still bound to earthly pleasures will converse with himself about the sensual areas of his life—the weather, finances, health, etc. Any disappointment in these areas is often met with sensual responses such as anger or impatience. He knows very little about the spiritual part of his soul and fails to love it sufficiently.

An egoist makes himself the center of everything, inspiring him to draw all—both persons and things—to himself. This can only lead to eventual disillusionment and disgust, causing him to hate life and himself, because of his overwhelming desire for what is inferior in life.

As God begins to work in the egoist's soul, the egoist's thoughts occasionally drift outside of himself. He may feel inspired to pray or even join some form of organized religion as he acknowledges that there is more to life than his sensual satisfaction.

Sometimes, God will send an event into his life that shakes him into the realization that he cannot survive on his own. He may even turn to God in time of crisis and attempt to "bargain" with him. ("If you do this for me, I promise that I will . . .)

If he should begin to seek goodness, his intimate conversation with himself changes. It becomes centered more around areas of his life that cause him to feel weak and in need of God. There will be periods of illumination by the supernatural light of faith. From time to time, he thinks of eternal life and desires it, even turning occasionally to prayer.

St. Teresa of Avila, (4) in her book, "Interior Castle," (5) did an awesome job of portraying the interior life metaphorically, comparing it to a castle with seven mansions. It is in the second mansion in which God begins to "call" to us.

I do not mean by this that He speaks to us and calls us in the precise way which I shall describe later; His appeals come through the conversation of good people, or from sermons, or through the reading of good books; and there are many other ways, of which you have heard, in which God calls us.

Or they come through sicknesses and trials, or by means of truths which God teaches us at times when we are engaged in prayer; however feeble such prayers may be, God values them highly. (6)

So the soul, at this point, is still living on a sensual plane. Not until he passes through the purgation of the senses will he begin to communicate with God on a more divine level.

Eventually the soul develops a sorrow for his sins and seeks absolution for them. He is now in the state of grace and recovers the graces of charity, the love of God and of neighbor. Self-love becomes a holy love for himself and God, and he begins to understand that he must love his neighbor and forgive his enemies. His interior conversation, however, will still be tainted with egoism, self-love, sensuality, and pride.

These sins are no longer mortal in him, they are venial; but if they are repeated, they incline him to fall into a serious sin, that is, to fall back into spiritual death. Should this happen, this man tends again to flee from himself because what he finds in himself is no longer life but death. Instead of making a salutary reflection on this subject, he may hurl himself back farther into death by casting himself into pleasure, into the satisfactions of sensuality or of pride. (7)

Once reaching this level, the egoist recognizes in his soul, an irrestrainable need for conversation with another—that he is not his own last end. He begins to understand that true peace can only come about when resting in God.

The interior life, then, can be described as an elevation and transformation of the intimate conversation with God. It's not as easy as it sounds, however. It is impossible to comprehend the depth of our attachment to this world due to sin, until we try to detach from it.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, refers to this detachment process (or purgation) as the "old man."

"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer."(8)

The "inward man" of which he speaks is our reason, illumined by faith and the will, which struggles daily to dominate our senses.

As we progress spiritually, our conversation with God increases. Through this "conversation" (which is not vocal), we are gradually freed from our egoism, self-love, sensuality, and pride. The result of this is an increased knowledge of our highest part and thus, our knowledge of God.


(2) Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., "The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I," trans. Sister M. Timothea Doyle, O.P., Illinois: Tan Books, 1989
(3) Ibid., p41
(6) Interior Castle, p47
(7) Garrigou-Lagrange, p42
(8) Romans 6:6