Lecture 2 10 November 1939
of the last lecture, I mentioned that the Ignatian exercise rules were strongly in0uenced by Arabic mysticism.
There were similar endeavors within Islam.
The name of the master who was actually the spiritual father of Islamic mysticism is Al- Ghazâlî, who lived from 1059 to 1111.164
He was an Islamic theologian and also a Greek Philosopher.
He lived in Baghdad, where until 1050 there was a Neoplatonic community of Greek phi los o phers living under false names, who were still tolerated by Islam.
They were highly cultured and thus much valued as physicians and philosophers.
Al- Ghazâlî drew his knowledge of Greek philosophy from these philosophers. He understood and applied Greek philosophy and all the scientific knowledge of his time.
We still have some of his writings and we know that he had a very peculiar point of view regarding the doctrine of causality, which is particularly characteristic of Islam and is remarkable for certain psychological reasons. I will outline it for you here.
It is the notion that causality in any form whatsoever is the direct will of Allah.
A bit like in Schopenhauer: a stone rolling down a slope is in accordance with the will [to live] in nature.
And so for Al- Ghazâlî the causal connection of the event is the direct manifestation of the will of Allah. Al- Ghazâlî
linked the theological tradition of Islam, which had already existed for four hundred years at that point, with Greek philosophy and the mystical experiences of individual saints.
Thereby he became the de facto father of Islamic mysticism and it could be said that following him, Islam became
a mystical religion.
We know very little about that in the West.
His writings caused quite a commotion in the West.
It was an era when occidental scholars, who were still a rare breed, were beginning to get wind of the trea sures of Arabic literature.
That was the time of the Moorish universities in Salamanca and Cordoba, when the Europeans got to know Greek writers via Arabic scholars.165
Thus the Christian clerics came across devotional books and mystical books which made a tremendous impression on them.
They translated whole pages, sometimes even whole books, into Latin.
It was mainly the Dominicans who undertook this work. They were the scholars of the Church.
You will therefore 1nd Islamic influences in many prayer books or devotional books of the early Middle Ages.
Al-Ghazâlî, for example, was cited as if he was one of the Church fathers, as a sacred authority.
In the Arabic and Sufi mysticism where he had the greatest in0uence, we can see things that have curious correspondences with the exercises of Ignatius.
There too are the retreats, the exercise periods of thirty to forty days that we 1nd with Ignatius.
These exercises took place under the leadership of a religious teacher, of the sheikh, to whom the students owed
The exercitants had to fast, remain silent, and stay awake. They led an ascetic life.
There was an absolute duty of confession.
Every thing that moved them, impressed them, they were obliged to confess to the sheikh.
The burden of responsibility on the sheikh was considerable, as he was responsible for the healing of his pupils’ souls, similar to the process in the Ignatian exercises.
These exercises also included contemplation of sins, repentance, death and hell. A strict examination of one’s conscience, the examen particulare, was also obligatory.
And then one more little detail: the exercitants were instructed to keep a small notebook in which they noted, using points and lines, the spiritual improvements or deterioration they had achieved, so that one could actually convince oneself to some extent of the balance of one’s moral account.
A French researcher recently proved that in the Mohammedan orders of Algeria and Morocco such exercises are still practiced, which are very similar to these retreats.166
Ignatius had in common with the Arabs and Moors a certain fanaticism, as well as his spirit of military discipline, of unconditional obedience.
The purpose is the absolute dictatorship of the sheikh,167 to which one was required to submit without grumbling.
Then the duration of the exercises, the meticulous instructions about posture, silence, awareness of the 1ve senses, and many other points that go into far too much detail.
All these things were already found in Islam before Ignatius’s time, and we have the documentary proof, as it were, that Islam really did have a signi1cant in0uence, even if it was denied by certain ele ments who even argued the opposite, that the Mohammedan monastic orders were in0uenced by Chris tian ity.
It is pos si ble, of course, that that happened too, but in any case these things existed long before Ignatius.
Before we go into the actual exercises, I must make several general comments
There are two types of exercises: the small ones and the large ones. The large exercises usually extend over thirty days.
The terminology is: the large exercises are “given,” whereas the small ones that only last three days are “preached.”
The small ones are also called exercises, and conducted by an exercise director, but are more for laypersons.
Every one, so to speak, is permitted to do them, while the large ones are signi1cantly more demanding.
As a result, the se lection of who is permitted is naturally somewhat more complicated.
While the exercise director performs the role of a revivalist preacher in the small exercises, in the large exercises he is less a preacher than a soul guide, an actual spiritual advisor.
The small exercises are, practically speaking, something like a Methodist revival meeting or other gatherings for worship where the atmosphere plays an important role.
They are mostly groups formed around a favorite preacher in which the emotions are strongly in0uenced.
Now, of course there are those phenomena, familiar to all of you, in such religious groups.
There is a certain intensity, highly miraculous conversions and effects that raise the spirits and are then taken as evidence of the goodness of the proclaimed truth.
The three- day exercises are of course very impor tant for the Jesuit order.
However, they were not always welcomed by the entire Church, and even among the Jesuits there is not always consensus about them.
For example, one well- known Jesuit says of the smaller exercises, “The threeday exercises are 0ooding the land, they are our joy, our hope, and— our af0iction.”168
Well, you can imagine why.
The effects that arise through the arousal of emotions sometimes have psychological consequences that are less pleasant for the revival preacher, as there is always a considerable number of women who react in a certain way.169
Even Ignatius had noticed, indeed expressly determined, that the large complete series of exercises was not suitable for the masses, but actually only for a few people.
He had experiences very early on, as I mentioned to you last semester, that made him careful in this regard.
He then gave up working with large groups, for these very reasons.
Because in a group people are different from when they are alone. In a group, one becomes unconscious.
You are unaware of what is happening to you when you are in the group.
The collective person is elevated and strengthened to the detriment of individual consciousness, to the extent that you completely forget yourself.
That is why the morality of a group is always below the level of individual morality and therefore generally of dubious quality.
Large gatherings of people always tend toward mob psychology.
The great difficulties of our time come from the unrootedness of city dwellers.
The urban population is always somewhat under par.
They are too close together. They become collective.
In addition, they are told by the priests that community is the only way to godliness.
Then they experience a considerable disappointment.
One only needs to be a member of a patriotic shooting club to see this.
When one of them gives a speech, what 1ne fellows the Swiss shooters are.
Each of them feels he too is a little William Tell and goes home in high spirits.
But the next day he discovers that he is only Mr So-and-so who rents a room on the fourth 0oor of an apartment building and lives on three hundred francs a month.
And his life is not exactly a great success. The whole William Tell feelingfl0ies straight out the win dow.
In such a communal life, one experiences disappointing effects.
In the moment it seems as if every thing is right with the world, and then comes the big disappointment: when the illusion evaporates.
The crowd is terribly suggestible, they believe every thing, but also do every thing and not one person bears responsibility.
Read the book by Le Bon sometime, Psychologie des foules.170 Unfortunately I haven’t got time to go into it more now.
And I don’t want to use any modern examples. This communal glori1cation is a real menace, a disaster.
Community is something only for in dependent people, not for those who have no roots.
Just take one hundred intelligent people and form a committee with them, and see what it becomes: a blundering behemoth. Intelligence is lost in the crowd, because each extinguishes the other.
Every thing sinks down to the level of that which we have in common.
That is of course the collective man, and that is Homo sapiens.
And do you think Homo sapiens is really sapient? I, at least, have never seen such a one.
Ignatius, therefore, was very wise to be cautious about selecting his exercitants.
Where possible, he worked with them individually, though not in the large exercises.
But even here, the director had to be available to the exercitants every hour, deal with each of them individually, answer
every question, in order to have contact with them as individuals so as to avoid this group mentality taking effect, in which a merely stupid enthusiasm is whipped up that is worthless.
That’s why he wrote, The Exercises are to be adapted to the capabilities of those who want to engage in them, i.e., age, education or intelligence are to be taken into consideration.
Hence someone uneducated or of poor health should not be given things that cannot be undertaken without fatigue
and from which no profit is to be derived.
Similarly, in order that each may feel more at ease and derive the best benefit, what is given to each exercitant should be in accordance with his or her dispositions.
Hence, one who is hoping to gain some instruction and to reach a certain level of peace of soul can be given the particular
examen, then the general examen; also together with this, for half an hour in the morning, the way of praying about the commandments, capital sins, etc.
Such persons can also be recommended to confess their sins each week, and if possible to receive communion
every fortnight, and better still every week, if they are so inclined.
This arrangement is more suited to unformed and uneducated people, to whom explanations can be given of each commandment, each of the capital sins, the precepts of the church, the five senses, and the works of mercy.171
So, a strict differentiation according to individual circumstances.
of giving the exercises is of course a sermon. With the small exercises, it
is mainly the skilled preacher who does the work, and the effect on the
listener is essentially based on the speech by the exercise director.
large exercises, while the work is also done by the exercise director,
the main work is the responsibility of the individual.
For that purpose, the
exercitant is isolated, perhaps living in a single room, speaking to no one
and performing daily contemplations without disturbances.
Here the process
is quite dif fer ent.
I have a little note about a description of such exercises from the eighteenth
century in Naples.172
There it says that they gathered in the Jesuit
house known as the “professed house” for this retreat. In the 1rst instance
the nobility, then the high- ranking clergy, and lastly the young students
and others, of what ever status and walk of life, were invited to these
All of these according to their rank/ gather twice a day in a large
spacious room/ but other wise comfortable place/ to attend the exercises
for two hours in the morning/ and two hours in the eve ning.
And as darkness and gloominess can contribute more than a little to helping one collect one’s thoughts, all the win dows are covered.
The 1rst thing/ one notices in entering the room/ is a large painful crucifixion/ many skulls/ skeletons/ cross/ and crowns of braided thorns/ every thing needed to move one to prayer: with the chime of the bell, the spiritual reading begins/ and from the most spiritual books that are to be had; [. . .]/
Following this, the points for contemplation are recited by the exercise leader with great spirit/ usually taken from the
basic truths of the first weeks/ because these lend themselves best to purifying the soul and its desires: then the contemplation begins/ with a series of deeds to be added: first repentance for sins committed: then a devout conversation with Christ the Lord/ with the added intention of a serious improvement.
After the contemplation is completed, one proceeds to vari ous pious exercises; comparable with/ pulling something out of a spiritual lucky dip or a catalogue of mortifications/ or a spiritual saying.
For example: Fleeting is/ what there delights/ eternal/ what there tortures; or:
Be ye therefore ready also/ for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not; or:
They are always cheery and full of fun/ and in a moment go down to hell; or: He who considers that he will soon die/ will easily spurn every thing.
Finally/ and at the conclusion of the prayer/ each and every person kisses the five holy wounds/ receives the holy blessing
and returns home in solitude.173
And although this gives only a faint impression of the large exercises, with this assembly it is like with “burning coals which alternately 0are up, igniting and illuminating each other, so that soon all burn with the same fervor.”174
These retreats were also supposed to have had the most wondrous moral effect on the participants.
One can easily imagine it.
The most amazing transformations would occur: drunkards stopped drinking, smokers ceased smoking, the lame and crippled walked away carry ing their beds, and so on.
Indeed, all the things that can be produced through group psychology and through autosuggestion happened.
That is the shadow side of the small exercises. They are actually no different from the revivals.
We don’t need to spend any more time on them, because they have no parallels to the Eastern yoga forms.
We will move on to the large exercises.
Before we get started I must tell you that I myself have never performed these exercises, and am therefore not in a position to tell you about them from my own experience.
But I will try to give you information as objectively as pos si ble using the literature, which is extensive.
I see these exercises as an extraordinarily interest ing parallel to the Eastern yoga practices, which is why I am interested
I will show you, with examples from modern Jesuit literature how these exercise points are meditated on under the strictest
The exercises are subject to certain general rules, called thev“Annotations”:175
- The term “spiritual exercises” denotes a certain method of examining one’s conscience, of meditating, contemplating, and praying with the aim of ridding the soul of its disordered attachments and finding the divine will in regard to the disposition of one’s life and one’s own healing.176
That is the of1cial formulation, not mine.
- The exercise director should provide an account of the events to be meditated upon or contemplated only, simply running over the salient points with brief or summary explanations.
The exercitant should then continue working on the historical foundations and reflect on them rationally.
If this throws some light on the matter, this personal 1nding will have a stronger effect and bear longer-lasting moral fruit.177
In this paragraph, we see the idea mentioned earlier, that in the large exercises the exercise director restricts himself to the most necessary explanation of the points to be contemplated and gives them to the exercitant.
It is the task of the exercitant, when meditating on the individual points, to draw those conclusions and 1nd those applications that result in a moral improvement or psychological change.
- In all the spiritual exercises that follow we bring the intellect into action in order to think and the will in order to stir the deeper affections.
We should therefore note that the activity of the will, when we are speaking vocally or mentally with God Our Lord or with his Saints, requires greater reverence on our part than when we are using the intellect to understand.178
That is once again the oficial formulation.
Here we see how much emphasis is placed on intellect and reason, and how affect arises by thinking things through.
One sees, for example, one’s own imperfection and is annoyed about it, is saddened or regretful.
This affect is translated into the will.
A new attitude of will arises which directs itself naturally to the practical level, insofar as one says, “All right, from now on I want to act like this or like that.”
- The exercises that follow are made up of four Weeks, corresponding to the four parts into which these exercises are divided: namely, the First is the consideration and contemplation of sins; the Second is the life of Christ our Lord up to, and including, Palm Sunday; the third, the Passion of Christ our Lord; the Fourth, the Resurrection and Ascension, with the three ways of praying.179
So, these are just general provisions.
- The giver of the exercises should remind the receiver frequently that since an hour has to be spent in each of the 1ve exercises or contemplations to be made each day, one should always try to find contentment in the thought that a full hour has indeed been spent in that exercise— and more, if anything, rather than less!
For the enemy usually leaves nothing undone in his efforts to procure a shortening of the hour of contemplation, meditation or prayer.180
I will talk about the other rules when we get to the relevant points.
We are now getting to the essential part, the specificities of the exercises, and I want to focus heavi ly here on the main principle, and especially on the start of the exercise, which seems to me to be the most significant part from our point of view.
Of course we are entering deep into Christian psy chol ogy here, and not just a Christian but a Catholic one, which for some of you may be far from your experience.
Particularly to us Protestants it is extremely foreign and seems strange.
But I would like to ask you, at any rate those of you who attended my other lectures, to follow my elaborations in the same spirit as you did previously, and perhaps to maintain that same naivety and openness that you displayed about the
We approach the Eastern things from a position of impartiality.
We just let them work on us as something perhaps completely foreign.
I’m sure you remember how the texts we discussed together were for us very outlandish.
So now it would be good to approach these things not from the position of a Christian person with a Christian upbringing,
but by imagining that you are from India and have never heard of such things.
Then you will experience the intuitive effect that they have.
When the word Christ crops up, you must not think that you know what that is, but imagine it is the Mahâsukha, the Shrî Heruka or one of the Buddhas.181
Because actually we do not know what it really all means. Sometimes we regret having read the Bible as a child.
If we were to read it now for the 1rst time, we would have a different, a fresh and intuitive, impression.
In the East, I saw how people in India discovered the New Testament and read it with quite different eyes and saw things in it that I had never noticed, and was only able to see when I looked at it through the Eastern lens.
It would be good if you could remember the descriptions I gave you of tantra yoga.
You will then immediately see striking differences and parallels at each point.
Before the actual exercise, it is introduced by the praeparatio (preparation), which generally consists of an oratio (prayer) or meditatio.
Here I have an old Jesuit, from the classical school, who gives us an authentic message about the character of the praeparatio. Izquierdo gives a de1nition of the oratio mentalis, the mental prayer:
Thus whoever goes to pray should know that it is nothing other than recalling a certain thing that was said or a deed, and reflecting rationally and with reason upon it, so that one thinks about the substance, the incidental and the circumstances of this recollection, and thereby moves the will to draw reasonable conclusions, to have the right affects and sacred resolutions. And that is now the fruit of this meditation.
So when a person goes to perform this oratio or meditatio, he should clearly envisage beforehand the points that he wants to deal with, and keep them in mind. [. . .]
And two steps before the place where he will perform this oratio, he should stop and raise his spirit, imagining vividly [That is now the active imagination; CGJ] that he is standing before the countenance of God who is listening to him benevolently. [. . .]
The position of the body in the oratio is usually kneeling. Or one can lay face down on the 0oor [That is called full prostration; CGJ] or stand upright, and if the body is too weak for anything else, one may also sit [. . .].
Then, in order to direct one’s attention completely toward the meditation and keep one’s fantasy reined in, one should do a compositio loci.182
So, one has to paint a precise picture in one’s mind of the location of the event, the people, the dramatis personae, and all the specific circumstances.
And he even says one should make an imago corporea, a physical image, of it. That is now the active imagination, specifically the act of very precisely physically ascertaining the thing and imagining it in order to make the situation as real as pos si ble— the whole situation: the people, the place, and the individual circumstances.
From this description you can already see one thing— the striking difference from the East.
The praeparatio is begun with the invocation, so to speak.
You have a figure to talk to, a personal conversation partner. Instead of turning inward, you choose, perhaps from your memory, a point on which you want to re0ect.
For example, maybe a man committed a sin at a certain time, at a certain place, and against a certain person.
He collects it from his memory, from his conscious mind. From his conscious mind, therefore, he takes only building blocks which he pre sents, in a manner of speaking, to a personal interlocutor to whom he turns.
The meditation is directed therefore not toward oneself, but toward the other party.
Thus the meditation as Ignatius conceived it bears no relation to meditation in the East, but is an oratio in the sense of a petitio, a request, an invocation, a turning to another party.
That is a typical Western extraversion, in sharp contrast to the East.
I can’t point out the Eastern parallels every time; I expect you to remember them.
The Eastern meditation path traverses inner events.
Everything takes place internally. No other party is ever called upon.
There is no sense of a personal relationship. I saw that in practice in a temple in Ceylon.183
I observed something strange during an eve ning service.
It was seven o’clock, and the Buddhist ser vice takes place every evening at this time.
The temple was aglow with the light of the little coconut-oil lamps illuminating a golden picture of the Bud dha—it was already nighttime, as the sun sets at six.
Then a young girl came in carry ing dishes full of jasmine blossoms broken off the stems.
The temple was 1lled with the intoxicating scent.
She scattered these blossoms on the altar before the Bud dha while whispering a mantra. I was accompanied by a Buddhist
monk, and I asked him, “Is that to honor the Buddha?”
And his answer was, “Oh no, the Bud dha does not exist, Bud dha has entered the maha nirvâna, the great nirvâna, from whence there is no way back.
He has completely vanished. There is no longer any Bud dha.” “What is she saying then?” I asked.
“She is reciting the mantram: just as these flowers fade away, so our life is 0eeting.”
That is an evening prayer for young people in Buddhism.
It is not an invocation, but an admonishment to oneself. ~Carl Jung, The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, Page 62-