The title was inspired by the devotional book
The Imitation of Christ, published in 1418, and had become a favourite expression of Teresa much before she wrote this work as it appeared at several places in her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus. Like her other books, The Way of Perfection was written on the advice of her counsellors to describe her experiences in prayer during the period when the
Reformation was spreading through Europe. Herein she describes ways of attaining spiritual perfection through
prayer and its four stages, as in
quiet, repose of soul and finally perfect
union with God, which she equates with rapture.
Over time, the book meant as spiritual instruction for her nuns offered her views on
Christian theology and
spiritual direction in a more direct and accessible way than her more famous works, like
The Interior Castle and her autobiography.