Lecture 15 1 March 1940
Last time we finished our examination of the first week of the exercises and we come now to the second week.
From now on, we can summarize things a bit more briefly, as we have already discussed many of the following ideas in the introductory parts of the exercises.
The subject of the second week is the contemplation of the kingdom of Christ and Christ as Lord of the world.
That is, it is a matter of considering the personage of Christ and his redemptive significance for mankind and the world as a whole.
This contemplation is the logical progression of what we discussed before.
It will certainly have become clear to you that in the meditation on the “Anima Christi” and the “Fundamentum,” and then in the contemplations of the first week, one par tic u lar idea became ever clearer: that man stands in a unique relationship to God, namely to the God- become- man who appears as a re1ection of man, so to speak, although of course dogmatically speaking is not actually such.
One might rather say that the human being is to an extent a distorted re1ection of this universal or eternal man.
Thus in the second week there follows, logically, the contemplation of the image, the image of the incarnated God and his earthly existence— that is, his historical existence.
The first contemplation or exercise thus begins by precisely picturing, that is, actively imagining, how Christ came into being.
Specifically, this incarnation does not begin with the birth, but with the events in the pleroma: that is, in the fullness.
That’s an expression that Paul uses occasionally.
It is that spiritual sphere, if one may say so, in which the world has not yet come into being.
It is an existence of possibilities, the spiritual pre- existing possibilities of the world, out of which the seeds of the world emerged.
One might say that this notion is to an extent also found in primitive cultures in ideas about the world of the ancestors: that is, the world from which the forebears came and in which they abide, the place from which they emerged to create the world by transforming themselves into things.
They did not create the things, but in a peculiar way transformed themselves into the things.
To give an example: the ancestor who represents the rain.
This creature’s head is represented by the clouds, its hair is the rain, its body is the pouring torrential rain.
Its feet are the places where the raindrops bounce off the ground.
These are Australian ideas. And this creature has now transformed itself into this form.
It is actually invisible, half animal, half man, cloud or rain.
The things in the world that we can see or touch were not created by this being— rather the creature actually transformed itself into these things.
In this way, for example, the archer’s bow came about.
The archery ancestor and his wife transformed themselves into a bow, but still kept their original form too.
It would not be possible to make a bow if this archery ancestor had not existed.
His head is at the top, that is the tip of the bow, and the fibers of the bowstrings are his hair; at the bottom is his foot, and the bowstring that hangs on the bow is his wife who hangs around his neck.
This couple are the ancestors that transformed themselves into the bow, and this is how animals and humans and all creatures that exist came about.
Esoteric teachings identify all the places on the globe where the ancestors lived, where they traveled, what they did at this or that spot.
There are countless legends about which only some people know and others do not.
For example, the rain totem: the old men who belong to the rain totem group know all the stories about the rain ancestor: what he did, where he lived, and so on.
And the same is true for the other strange and unimaginable kinds of ancestors.
These are actually ideas in the Platonic sense: ideas that pre- exist and that have become things that can be perceived through a process of transformation.
A primordial idea, then. The primitives call this pre- existing world altjira. That word also means “dream.”
So we can say that this altjira, this realm of the ancestors, is identical with the dream world: in other words what we would call the unconscious.
This pleroma, this fullness, should also be understood in this way— that is, that the world’s existence has been preconceived, a preconception in which every thing is contained but is in potentia, as possibilities.
Every thing can arise from it.
And thus at the start of the meditation on the incarnation one has to imagine clearly how the three persons of the Trinity look down on the earth from heaven and see that the earth is full of people who are all heading directly to hell.
They look down and consult as to what is to be done to somehow put a stop to this lamentable state of affairs, and come to the conclusion that the second person of the Godhead must incarnate himself as a man, in order to end the terrible situation on earth.
You see— this very naive- sounding idea is modeled on the old pattern, isn’t it?
It is conceived in a way that is similar to how primitives think.
If the rice won’t grow properly, if the rice is in a poor condition, you fetch a man, an expert, from the rice totem group who knows all the rice legends, who knows how the rice ancestor originally transformed into rice, how rice came to exist.
There are masses of strange legends about.
And then you build a hut for the rice expert in the rice field, and there he tells the rice how the rice ancestor originally made the rice so that the rice remembers
how it originally came into being and grew so nicely. When the rice remembers this, it turns out well again.
Thus by telling the rice clearly how it actually came to be, a bad harvest can be averted.
This idea is found again in the origins of Christianity, where there was the notion that the man Jesus had always existed and that he still remembered the pleroma, the state in which he had still held conversations with God.
He still somehow remembered his discussions with God.
And he is now the one who comes to men and whose figure reminds them of what the human being originally was and was meant to become: because men have forgotten where they actually came from.
They have forgotten the homo creatus, forgotten the creator, and believe that every thing they do is initiated by themselves and not by their ancestors, and that’s why everything goes wrong.
Thus the purpose of Christ’s manifestation is interpreted as being to remind men of what they originally were before they were put on earth, when the human, the anthropos, lived in heaven.
The Gnostic texts then elaborate in a very complicated fashion, and with many variations, upon how this primordial human came into being when the events that preceded the entire existence of the world were in the pleroma, which is the fullness.
Christ therefore serves to remind men of what they originally were, so that they recognize themselves in this image.
Thus in the Ignatian meditations one imagines that Christ’s incarnation has begun, corresponding to the start of the Gospel of John in which it says that the logos has always existed, has always been with God, and that all things were made by the same, and without the same “was not any thing made that was made.”
So in a way he is thought of as an executive organ of the Godhead.
The person meditating therefore has to vividly imagine this process, imagine the Godhead discussing the fate of the world.
And now the human existence of Christ begins, in that one imagines how Gabriel comes down to visit the Beata Virgo, how she lives in a little cottage near Nazareth, and how he enters the door of the house.
Now all the local geo graphical details also have to be imagined, even so far as to picture Nazareth being situated in the province of Galilee.
All knowledge that the meditator already has must be recalled in order to picture the scene in as much specific detail as possible.
Then all those events follow that we know from the Bible stories.
Then follows the second exercise: contemplation of the nativity, again with all the details.
The nativity story begins with the Beata Virgo leaving Nazareth with Joseph and making her way to Bethlehem for the census.
One has to imagine how the heavily pregnant Mary, in her ninth month, is heaved on to the donkey.
And to be on the safe side she also takes a maid with her, as one does, and a cow so that they’ll have enough milk when the baby comes.
You have to meditate on it in such incredible detail. Then the journey has to be imagined, step by step.
What a long way it is. How many kilometers it is from Nazareth to Jerusalem.
You have to imagine all the different Judean hills you’d have to cross— Jerusalem is about a thousand meters above sea- level— how steep the path is, the incidents that might occur along the way.
And then you arrive tired at that cave in Bethlehem where, according to legend, the birth of Christ took place.
It is not simply an ordinary stable, but a cave of the sort that do actually exist in Bethlehem.
They are still used today to house goats.
Bethlehem has many such caves— the Church of the Nativity now stands on the site of the so- called nativity cave.
The church is an old Byzantine building and later excavations found it to be on the site of a temple of Adonis.
The choir of the church dates back to the fourth century. Adonis was another dying- and- rising son of a deity.
And then the meditator has to enter this cave and attend the whole labor and birth and observe all that happens there, with the donkey, the cow, and the people.
And when all that has been thoroughly meditated on, there comes a further exercise, which consists in picturing once again a) the incarnation, Christ’s coming into being before his existence on Earth, and b) the actual birth of Christ, so that every detail sticks.
And when that has been done, it is all repeated again, and then comes another exercise in which the whole preceding meditation is undertaken yet again, this time using the five senses.
So the whole process is practiced using each individual sense— sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
So you see that the aim of this enormous imaginative effort is for the meditating person to be transplanted into the situation, for it to feel almost real, because the meditator has made it real, and thereby made himself real in such a situation.
The meditator is transformed, in other words, through this process, so that the experience takes root in him as if it were his own story: that is, as if he were Joseph, Mary, or the maid.
Then he is this whole situation. He transforms himself directly into the situation through such contemplation.
On the second day of the second week comes the meditation on the presentation at the temple and then the light into Egypt.
This is repeated twice and then performed again using the five senses. On the third day, the meditator contemplates Christ’s childhood.
We don’t actually know any concrete details about his childhood years.
They are therefore amplified through active imagination, with the special instruction to imagine what an absolutely obedient child Jesus was.
A boy who was extremely obedient to his parents because he was thereby fulfilling God’s will, and who later was just as obedient to God.
In this meditation, the exercitant of course again identifies strongly with the obedience of Christ, with the figure of Christ.
The Christ figure is assimilated directly.
In curious contrast, there then comes that dramatic turning point in Jesus’s life when the obedient boy visits Jerusalem with his parents for Passover and dis appears, and is later found talking with the scribes in the temple.
When his mother comes to fetch him and admonishes him he says,
“How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
In other words, “ Woman, what have I to do with thee?” He rejects his mother here, in a way.
Then obedience to his mother, to his parents, is replaced with obedience to God, and in a manner that hurts her feelings.
This lack of respect for one’s parents, for one’s own mother, is a sacrilege against the commandment to honor your father and mother.
Here he apparently did not honor her, but set his own vocation against obedience to his parents.
That is a decisive moment, even in the lives of individuals who do not have lofty aspirations.
This separation from the absolute authority of father and mother is something that happens to every single one of us.
Both these contrasting aspects, these important aspects, also have to be repeated twice [by the exercitant] and then practiced again using the five senses.
Then we come to the fourth day: the meditation on the two standards. That is the classic term used.
Specifically, these are the two armies that are characterized by two ensigns: the army of Christ on one side and on the other the army of Lucifer, that renegade angel whose arrogance led to his fall from God and banishment to hell.
These two figures are imagined alongside each other as commanders of two enemy armies.
Here we see the army officer in Ignatius coming out.
He imagined the battle against the powers of evil in militaristic form.
These are the milites ecclesiae, the soldiers of God, of the Church.
Christ is now imagined here as the general of his army that gathers on a wide plain outside Jerusalem, while Lucifer gathers his legions in the region of Babylon.
There sits Lucifer the commander on a throne of fire and smoke enveloped by the vapors of hell.
And here he is now surrounded by his officers, the chief demons, and he sends them around the world to recruit soldiers.
And Lucifer gives an address haranguing his deputies and instructing them how they should go about corrupting men to recruit them for the demonic foreign legion.
Of course this part has to be conjured up freely using one’s own imaginative powers as we do not have any references in the Holy Scripture.
Christ, on the other hand, sits near Jerusalem in a pleasant spot on a hill surrounded by his officers, his general staff.
The rsfit of these are the twelve apostles. They are the generals.
He sends them out into the world to recruit people, and also addresses them.
As you know, for this part there is certain basic information in the Holy Scripture on which the meditation can be based, but by and large the creative imaginative power of the meditator is given free rein.
When one meditates on all that, this preparation for the final war is then brought into relation with one’s own I.
You are yourself there, at Babylon and on the Jerusalem plain, as an observer, and you realize then that you are also called to take part in this battle.
Therefore you hold a colloquy with the Beata Virgo, the great intercessor.
You ask her to speak for you to the Lord, that you might be received under his standard.
You offer yourself as miles Christi.
Now it could happen, and that is the reason why so many people go to hell, that someone is not sure which side they ought to choose.
In this war one cannot remain neutral— please don’t be tempted to draw historical parallels here— which is why a contemplation now follows about the different types of people.
There are three types, and they are characterized in a most banal way: each has ten thousand ducats.
This is the old example. Now each has to decide.
How will they decide when they hear the call of these commanders?
The first would like to give up his attachment to the ten thousand ducats, but will not do it until he dies.
The second wants to be free of his attachment to the money, but also wants to keep it.
This kind of person never comes to a conclusion. The third also wants to give up the attachment.
This person is also willing to give up the possession entirely, not just the attachment, but the actual possession of the money, if that is what God and reason want.
So, in other words, if this person believes he has received a clear instruction from God he will give it up, and if reason commands it he would also do so.
That is specifically Ignatian: if it corresponds to God and reason. Ignatius is an extraordinary rationalist.
In all his decisions, the will of God must be taken into account on the one hand, and human reason on the other.
Decisions must be very carefully considered, with Jesuit precision, in order that one does not let oneself be led only by the will of God, but also by reason, so that one clearly understands why God’s will is leading one in a certain direction.
It cannot merely be suggestion or fancy; it is important to check whether it is reasonable.
This kind of decision- making is absolutely necessary in such a case, because other wise you would have no criteria for what God decides to do with you.
Because the internalizing of God’s will is an intuitive act that affiicts men. You feel forced to decide about something.
Is this intuition you feel coming from God or from the devil, or somewhere else?
That is exactly like the problem that concerned the old Church teachers: whether dreams were sent from God, were whispered by demons, or were the result of digestive processes, of physiology.
Initially one had no criteria in this respect other than reason: that is, the criterion of the Church that allows that they could be “somnia a Deo missa.”
The Church thus says that if the contents of these dreams are in accordance with the teachings and moral laws of the Church, they can be accepted as having been sent by God.
But if the dream is not in accordance with Church doctrine, then of course it is from the devil.
Consequently there are cases in which one might be in doubt about whether a dream was sent by God or the devil.
There’s an amusing story about the Egyptian Saint Anthony, the historical accuracy of which I cannot vouch for.
It is in Anatole France: when Saint Anthony had been in the desert for twenty years, he was already a very holy man.
Then one evening he heard a knock at the door.
A stranger stood outside and Anthony asked him what he wanted.
The stranger replied, “Anthony, you are very holy, you have earned great merit, but I know a man in Alexandria who is holier than you.”
Saint Anthony was very disappointed to hear that; he immediately packed his suitcase and set off for Alexandria to meet this other holy man in order to learn his exercises and practice that he might earn greater merit.
Even saints have a certain ambition with regard to saintliness.
So he arrived in Alexandria and began searching for a cobbler named Ammonius.
This was supposed to be the holy man’s name, but he couldn’t find him anywhere.
On the third day, finally someone told him, “He’s down there in the cellar.”There he came upon a quite ordinary cobbler.
Anthony said to him, “The angel of the Lord told me that you are a holier man than me.”
The cobbler said, “I don’t know anything about that.” Anthony said, “What is your practice?”
The other shook his head and said, “I have nine children and have to earn a living for them. That’s what I do.”
Saint Anthony couldn’t believe his ears.
Finally he clapped his hand to his forehead and said, “It must have been the devil after all.”
This case illustrates how despite the best efforts of human reason, potentially difficult problems can arise.
Then one has to say that church teachings are very good, they encompass a lot; but what if God should resolve to do something that is not provided for in the doctrine— for example, put out a new publication?
He hasn’t published anything new for the last two thousand years. A Newer Testament for example.
Then where would we be? With what doctrine could we orient ourselves then?
It’s a serious question. It just sounds so scholastic.
But if you think through these things psychologically, you’ll notice something.
Now, the meditations on the life of Christ, from his baptism until Palm Sunday, continue until the twelfth day.
They conclude with an exercise on humility, namely about Christ as God’s servant who took the burden of the world and its sins upon himself and did not shy away from humbling himself or being humbled right down into the dirt.
In this way, the contemplation leads, one could almost say, in an unexpected but totally logical way into the meditation on one’s choice of vocation.
That is, not only has the Godhead allowed himself to be born and appear in a human body, but he has also been humbled into the dirt, has allowed himself to be ridiculed
and tormented, has led a wretched life in the dirt of the earth.
God became fully human, became like me. What should I do now? What is my vocation? How do I live?
This question leads directly to considering one’s own way of life; specifically, to a meditation on one’s profession— for example, saddler, carpenter, or soldier.
And thence comes the meditation on the manner in which one lives one’s life, namely how one practices one’s profession, to what end or for what purpose one is a soldier.
Is it done in relation to the creature, or does one do it with the Godhead in mind: that is, adinem?
And then follows the contemplation of one’s own life from the viewpoint of absolute humilit and absolute obedience.
In other words, do you go about your life with the same humility, obedience, surrender as Christ did?
Now you start to get the mea sure of yourself: where you dodged something, chose the easier option, neglected your duties, stuck to the routine, deceived others, lied to yourself, all those daily occurrences.
In this way, you trawl through your own life comparing it with the life of Christ.
As a result, the most intimate merging of the life of Christ with the life of the individual naturally takes place, so that the exercises enable you to live life with the totality with which Christ lived his life.
That then comes very close to the thought that Christ is actually a role model for life, that
he is an image held up to men to remind them of their true nature.
Because the true nature of men never appears if they do not live totally.
If a person ducks out of life, swindling here or finagling there, he slinks his way through existence always remaining slightly invisible.
No one really knows what he is like. He is clever enough not to cause offense.
He avoids this and that, not because he is particularly moral or respectable, but merely somewhat cowardly.
It is also comfortable— hugely so—to be respectable, or to dodge one’s au then tic self for the sake of some agenda.
Then people say, “He was a respectable man.” He gets a nice obituary, but it was actually all a sham.
The meditations are getting rather profound here, aren’t they? ~Carl Jung, The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, Page 219-228