Lecture XI 7th July, 1939
As I told you in the last lecture Ignatius dictated his biography to his pupil Gonzales so the visions are written in the third person.
I read you an extract containing the vision of a snake covered in shining eyes.
In a further passage Gonzales reports:
“He experienced above all a deep devotion to the Holy Trinity. Day by day he offered prayers to the three persons separately. But as he prayed to the Trinity he noticed that he was really offering fourfold prayers to a threefold God; he was, however, hardly, or not at all, disturbed by this idea.”
We see a slight doubt arising here, he would hardly have mentioned the fact that he was not disturbed, had he not felt that such a fact should really have disturbed him.
“One day, however, as he recited the offices of the Most Blessed Virgin on the steps of the monastery, his spirit was uplifted and he saw the Most Holy Trinity in the form of a clavichord with three keys, and this vision called forth so many tears and sighs that he could no longer restrain himself. And on the same day, when he took part in the procession which started from the church in question, he was unable to contain his tears till breakfast time, and at table he could speak of nothing but the Most Holy Trinity, and in doing so he made use of many and the most varied parallels and images and experienced great pleasure and much comfort.”
The clavichord at once suggests the Trinity to Ignatius.
This seems arbitrary and dogmatic to us but it was the nearest and most natural explanation of anything threefold in those days.
“On a certain day, as he was attending Holy Mass in the ofttimes mentioned monastery church, he saw, with his inner eye, during the elevation of the Host, a kind of white radiance descending from above. Although after such a long time he could not remember it precisely and was no longer able to describe it, yet he saw clearly that the subject was as follows : the manner of our Lord Jesus’ presence in the Most Holy Sacrament.”
He simply saw a white light and interpreted it as the presence of Christ in the sacrament.
This was a problem which was enormously important to the whole Middle Ages, they were always puzzling over the manner in which the bread and wine were transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ.
So Ignatius naturally fitted the white light which he saw into the dogma.
“While praying he saw the humanity of Christ with his inner eye, often and long.”
Another medieval problem was how Christ’s actual body was made; how it could be the dwelling place of God and yet be subject to the weakness of mortality.
The dogma claimed Christ as very God and very man, but this was difficult to reconcile with reason, so Ignatius’ “inner eye ” was much occupied with the humanity of Christ.
“The form, which he believed he saw, was like a white body, neither big nor small. He was unable, however, to distinguish any separate members. He saw this in Manresa, repeatedly, and if he were to say twenty or forty times, he would not like to say that he lied. He also saw it once when he was in Jerusalem, and then once again near Padua when on his travels.”
He saw a luminosity, but there were no limbs, it could not be termed a human shape.
“He also saw the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in the same manner, without being able to discern any separate members. Through these visions, at this time, he was strengthened in his faith to such an extraordinary degree, that he often thought to himself that he was resolved to die for her, because of the visions which he had seen, even if no documents had existed concerning these mysteries of faith.”
It is a psychological fact that his faith was strengthened by this vision and this must be taken seriously.
Visions can have this quality, they can make a strong and direct impression.
Ignatius was not strengthened in his faith by the interpretation but by the vision itself.
Gonzales reports further:
“When this illumination had lasted long enough, he knelt down before the cross which was at this spot, to return thanks. The same vision then appeared to him again, which had so often appeared to him before, without his having been able to understand its meaning: the same above mentioneci glorious, beautiful Something with the many shining eyes, which so often swam before his sight.”
We have already met the motif of many shining eyes in the vision of the snake.
“In the presence of the cross, however, he had no difficulty in perceiving that the thing was not as richly coloured as at other times, and in this way, and with the strong assent of his will, he recognised clearly that it was a wicked spirit. Therefore, from then onwards, and as often as it still appeared to him over a long period of time, he would chase it away with the stick which he was in the habit of carrying.”
The vision, which impressed Ignatius so favourably at first, changed its face for him because it was not so beautiful in colour and he was suddenly convinced that it was a wicked spirit and must be chased away by his will.
There is no evidence that it was particular good before and particularly bad later.
It was a vision and visions can have both qualities.
The only fact is that he interprets this vision as coming from the devil.
That means that this vision awakened a doubt, this thing which impressed him so deeply could also come from the devil and he used his will more and more to decide whether his visions were good or bad.
Visions are spontaneous phenomena which spring from the unconscious and are a-moral.
A moral standpoint is introduced by consciousness, it is impressed by a certain atmosphere and declares the visions to be good or bad.
Ignatius had a different kind of vision when he was on board a pilgrim ship.
He took no money with him on this voyage for travelling expenses except his trust in God.
In other words he lived on alms.
“During all this time the Lord often appeared to him, bringing him great comfort and courage. He believed he saw a round thing, as of gold, which floated large before his eyes.”
He saw a golden ball or sphere.
Christ is not identified with such a symbol in the Christian dogma.
“He now had this faculty [to find God) more than ever before in his whole life: as often as he wished and at any fixed time he was able to find God and he also again saw visions, especially those mentioned above in which he saw Christ as a sun; this often occurred to him when he was speaking of important matters, and he always interpreted this circumstance as a sanction.”
There are often spontaneous manifestations from the unconscious in critical situations.
Sometimes such a manifestation appeared to Ignatius as a golden ball and sometimes as the sun.
The latter is a perfectly good analogy to Christ, the Church even identifies him with the sun.
The passage in Malachi:
“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” is interpreted as a prophecy of Christ.
It is the undogmatic character of these visions that assures us of their authenticity.
They are visions which other people could have, and are not confined to saints.
They are called forth by critical situations.
The insane and neurotic also see such things frequently, because the lack of equilibrium in their nervous system easily involves them in conflict and panic.
It is just such situations that produce these phenomena, they have a redeeming character and sometimes appear as concretised enlightenment.
The result is often a conviction that God has sent especial help or guidance.
Psychologically this means that certain typical moments of human life call forth spontaneous manifestations from the unconscious which have a redeeming effect.
The interpretation given to such phenomena is a matter of individual taste and ” Weltanschauung”.
Ignatius can interpret a golden ball as Christ without offending our sense of fitness, but such interpretations are often grotesque and in bad taste.
As an example I draw your attention to the first vision of Swedenborg (1688-1772), the Swedish mystic.
He was in London, when he was about 56 or 57 years old, and one evening after a good dinner he saw the floor of the room covered in creeping worms.
A figure in a red robe stood in the corner of the room and said to him:
“Don’t eat so much”.
This vision made an enormous impression on him and he decided the figure must be the Lord God.
This interpretation is really in bad taste, for we should say that the worms represented his digestive system, his intestines, and the figure his better self-asking him to be reasonable and not eat so much.
If one studies visions carefully one can be pretty sure which are authentic.
I will now give you an example of a later vision of Ignatius’ which is not authentic.
When he already had a good many pupils he decided to go to Rome and he felt very uncertain whether the Pope would look favourably on his wish to found a new order.
So on the way to Rome he had a vision.
He saw God himself charging his Son, who was bearing the cross, to protect the “Society of Jesus” and heard a voice which was apparently the voice of Christ, saying:
“I will be favourable to you in Rome”.
If this vision was really as he reports, it is in accordance with dogmatic expectation, but I am inclined to believe that it is, on account of this, less authentic than the previous visions.
He must have learned how to project his own thoughts.
If you practise this art, there are certain thoughts which you can project at suitable moments.
Mohammed seems to have been able to do this.
His visions fitted the situation and corresponded to his own wishes.
The complex vision, which Ignatius had on the way to Rome, is a projected and concretised phantasy of the thing he was hoping and wishing.
This is only possible when someone has had a great deal of practice in manipulating his unconscious.
The visions are spontaneous and simple at first and then they are remodelled to fit the dogma and, gradually through constant practice, it becomes possible to project dogmatic thoughts which have little or nothing to do with the unconscious.
The more complex a vision is the more doubtful its authenticity.
I do not deny that such visions are experienced, of course, but they are not elementary visions such as we meet all over the world in which, for instance, the soul is described as a sphere.
The earlier visions of Ignatius belonged in this category but the one on \he way to Rome does not.
We find these elementary visions in every spiritualistic seance, where there is a reasonably reliable medium, and in dreams.
The foundation is the same all over the world but the interpretation differs enormously.
One must discriminate carefully between the elementary vision, and the time and place where it occurred and was interpreted.
The sphere has naturally the meaning of a totality. Ignatius saw his own totality and this had a redeeming effect.
Such an experience produces an inner feeling of security because one has become one with one’s own doubt.
The sphere is a symbol for united opposites.
To return to the biography of Ignatius: from Manresa he went to Barcelona and in 1523 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He took no money with him but begged his way.
He was only a few days in Jerusalem, because his zeal had offended some fanatical Turks and the Franciscan monks, who resided in Jerusalem, threatened Ignatius with excommunication if he remained.
He returned to Barcelona where he realised that his education as an officer was very insufficient for his present need.
He began to learn Latin but was held up by the verb amare.
Each time he began to conjugate this verb he fell into a condition of being in love with God which was not very helpful to his Latin.
But in time he overcame this difficulty, and went on to study philosophy.
During these studies he already talked with people he met and began the original form of the exercises.
This led to some trouble with the Inquisition, which was no joke in those days.
There were trials in Alcala and Salamanca.
The people, largely women with whom he had practised the exercises, had to give evidence.
Bernhard Hegardt says:
“One of the women who were implicated gave the following information before the examining judge on May 10th, 1527. She had begged Ignatius to teach her how she could serve God. And Inigo had answered her that during a month she should speak with him frequently and that during this month she should confess and partake of the sacrament every eight days. He added that the first time she would feel happy, without knowing why, that the second week she would be sad, but that he trusted in God that she would derive great benefit . . . He said also that he would explain to her the exercise of the three spiritual powers. He also showed her the merit that may be acquired through temptation; he spoke of the venial sin and how it can develop into a mortal sin; and of the ten commandments and of the circumstances governing mortal sins, and of the five senses . . . He told her that if she entered the service of God the temptations of the evil one would plague her. He taught her self-examination which she should practise twice a day, once after the midday meal and the second time after the evening meal when she should kneel down and say: ‘My God, my Father, my Creator! I thank Thee and praise Thee for all the manifold favours which Thou hast shown me, and which Ihope Thou wilt still show me’.”
This last prayer is typical of the western attitude.
We thank God for favours received and make this a reason for demanding more.
We do not notice this because it sounds well and we are used to the familiar words of our prayers but, as a matter of fact, religion in the West largely consists of shameless demands
for what we want.
It reminds one of a rather broad Basle story about an Alsatian market woman.
She stopped at a chapel on her way to the Basle market and prayed to the Virgin for good sales, “so that I can buy greens, bread and perhaps a little meat “.
Then she heard the Christ Child say: “And anything else? ”
And she replied: “Hold your tongue boy, I am talking to your Mother! ”
This story is fifty years old, but the whole psychology of begging God and the Saints for favours belongs to primitive psychology in any time.
The Saints were metaphorically beaten in the Middle Ages if they failed to produce the right weather.
In 1528 Ignatius went to Paris where he remained for some time.
This was partly to escape from a situation which had become impossible, and partly in order to study theology more thoroughly than was possible in Spain.
He travelled on foot, begging his way, leading a donkey laden with his books.
Bernhard Hegardt says that:
“During the first period – 1528-29 – he appears to have continued the practice of his priestly office and the apportioning of the Exercises practically in the same way as in Alcala and Salamanca, that is to say in the form of prayer meetings and conventicles. This time again he ran into trouble, and when several young men who belonged to his circle, gave away all their possessions in order to beg for their daily bread, Ignatius was blamed with having confused their minds through sorcery, so that he again fell into the hands of the Inquisition. Ignatius, who learnt of the accusation during a journey, sought out the great inquisitor Dr. Matthiius Orfi, immediately on his return to Paris and, thanks to his personal charm, he succeeded in clearing up the matter almost at once.”
He had learnt now how to deal with the Inquisition and was always able to get out of his difficulties with it.
Till about 1530 he lived mainly as a “directeur de consci ence”.
Then a change seems to have taken place, and he devoted himself more to his studies.
He still saw a few people but his experience had taught him to choose them very carefully, to avoid uneducated people, and to limit his activity to a few men of education and intelligence, and even with these he was very reserved.
During these years he met the people who were to become vitally important to the destiny of the Jesuit Order. In
1533 he began again with the exercises, and a fellow student, Peter Faber, had the most extraordinary success with them.
As if touched by a magic wand Faber found himself freed from his carnal appetites, temptations and the weaknesses of his nature.
Ignatius made similar experiences with a few other people, such as Xavier and Diego Lainez.
Bit by bit he began to lay the foundation of the Society of Jesus with these fellow workers.
It was a very small conventicle at first, Ignatius had learnt to distrust crowds.
He returned to Spain and made arrangements to meet his fellow workers at Venice in order to undertake a journey to the Holy Land but, while they were in Venice, the Turkish war broke out and made the voyage impossible.
It was in Venice that the idea of founding a monastic order was first broached and Ignatius decided to go to Rome to obtain the Pope’s consent.
It was on this journey that he had the vision of which I have already spoken.
After considerable difficulties in Rome he succeeded in 1540 in winning the consent of the Pope, Paul III, who founded the order of the Jesuits with a Papal Bull. Ignatius had now reached his goal and became the first General of the Jesuits.
It is characteristic of the man that he immediately went to the kitchen and did the work of a kitchen boy in order to prove to himself that his high post had not engendered pride.
He died in Rome in 1556 while still General of the Jesuit Order.
I have now given you a brief outline of the life of Ignatius and must postpone the discussion of the exercises themselves till next Semester but I would like to make a few general remarks.
Ignatius broke entirely with the earlier meditations of the Devoti.
These latter, though founded on a different dogma, are nearly related to meditation in the East.
The goal of the Devoti was to submerge themselves in God, to reach inner peace, to cut themselves off from the world, to practise the “sich lassen “‘:- and detachment’ of Eckhart.
But Ignatius militarized meditation, it became exercises, to be carried through in a strictly prescribed time.
New ideas come in, such as the doctrine of the Elect, and the mystical content, all-important for the Devoti, was abandoned, except for a few mystical ideas which were allowed as a method for enticing the will into the right path.
The path of the Devoti led inwards, that of Ignatius outwards: deeds, battle, enterprise, attacks on the world, the right use of the will were the goal.
Mysticism was dissolved in method.
Some of the content of the exercises originated in Arabian mysticism but we will speak of this in the next Semester. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 168-173.