70mystic 2018-07-19T13:11:36+00:00

(This is the Master’s thesis from the University of Chicago. It’s very nuts-and-bolts, and an indispensable frame of reference for thinking about mysticism. It has a brief summary of the work of Robert C. Zaehner, the indespensable text for thinking about mysticism cross-culturally.)

Mystics in Society
Michael H. Ducey

The University of Chicago



I.     Internal and External Interest Situations
II.    Mysticism
III.   Mysticism and Psychic Health
IV.   Mysticism and Interaction
V.    The Case of Ignatius Loyola
VI.   Conclusion

Chapter I

Internal and External Interest Situations

Each great religious tradition, when we follow it back, is seen to originate in the special experiences or some soul who has acted as the revealer of spiritual reality; for the great mystics never keep their discoveries to themselves. They have a social meaning, and always try to tell others what they have known.          Evelyn Underhill.

Religion is a social institution which has perennially expressed and channeled the deepest, irrational elements of man’s awareness, and mysticism is one of its primary sources. It will be our concern in this paper to develop a conceptual framework for the analysis of the social impact of mysticism. To do this, we must refer in the first place to the classic observations of Max Weber on this phenomenon.
Weber studies mysticism within the larger conceptual framework of the “interaction between external and internal interest situations.” 1 He creates some confusion here, because he is not always consistent in his use of the “internal versus external” terminology. Sometimes mysticism is an element of the “internal interest situation” giving rise to religion, and sometimes it is an external form of social behavior (a product), namely, abstinence from “all expedient conduct.” 2 What Weber seems to have overlooked — in his quest for summary labels to characterize the differences between Eastern and Western religions — is that mysticism is in fact an internal phenomenon which can lead either to expedient activity or to inactivity as its external result, and that there is about as much mysticism in western religion as there is in eastern religion.

Therefore in this discussion of the nature and effects of mysticism, we will work from Weber’s general statement of the problem and agree that the expressions of mysticism — like the forms of religion in general — are subject to influence by external and internal interest situations. But we will revise his discussion of mysticism itself by claiming that it is an experience with its own characteristics, and not a form of external behavior. When talking about behavior, we will contrast asceticism on the one hand and “withdrawal” or “inactivity” on the other.

To make this point clear, let us review more carefully Weber’s contributions to the discussion.

First, his definition of mysticism is fundamentally “oppositional”. That is, mysticism is a form of behavior which is basically just “non-asceticism.” He is talking about forms of behavior when he says “The decisive historical difference between the predominantly oriental and Asiatic types of salvation religion and those found in the Occident, is that the former usually culminate in contemplation and the latter in asceticism.” 3

Weber adds immediately that “the great importance of this distinction…is in no way diminished by the fact that it is a fluid one.”4 His awareness of this “fluidity” gives rise to such comments as: “The stress upon conduct might be purely ascetic or it might be intersected by certain contemplative emphases.”5 But the main thrust of his definition of mysticism is towards an oppositional treatment, and he nowhere seriously treats mysticism as a form of internal experience which can be defined quite apart from the form of behavior it leads to. He is convinced that mysticism necessarily leads to inactivity and therefore is inactivity.

In their innermost beings, contemplative and ecstatic religions have been rather specifically hostile to economic life. Mystic, orgiastic, and ecstatic experiences are extraordinary psychic states: they lead from everyday life and from all expedient conduct. 6

He says elsewhere:  “In any case, the typical mystic is never a man of conspicuous social activity, nor is he at all prone to accomplish any rational transformation of the mundane order on the basis of a methodical pattern of life directed towards external success.” 7

He admits that “for the ascetic too, the perception of the divine through emotion and intellect is of central importance, only in his case it is of a ‘motor’ type, so to speak.” 8 But this “perception of the divine” does not make the ascetic a mystic, because a central element of mysticism is behavioral. If one engages in “expedient conduct”, one is an ascetic, not a mystic, no matter what the source of the conduct. Only if one does not act is one a mystic according to Weber.

Secondly, even though we limit mysticism to forms of experience and not of behavior, we still must»place it within Weber’s discussion of “the interaction between external and internal interest situations.”

By “external interest situation” Weber means primarily the religious innovator’s position in a system of social stratification.

The various ways of leading a rational and methodical life have been characterized by irrational presuppositions. … What these presuppositions have been is historically and socially determined, at least to a very large extent, through the peculiarity of those strata that have been the carriers of the ways of life during its formative and decisive period. The interest situation of these strata, as determined socially and psychologically, has made for their peculiarity, as we here understand it. 9

This “external interest situation” also includes the cultural situation of the religious innovator, as Evelyn Underhill observes:

The mind which the mystic brings to his encounter is not a blank sheet. On the contrary it is richly furnished with religious ideas and metaphors, and trained in all kinds of religious practices, all of which help him to actualize the more or less obscure apprehensions which come to him in his contemplations. 10

By “internal interest situation”, Weber means “the perception of the divine”, “extraordinary psychic states, “unio mystica” to be grasped orgiastically or apathetic-ecstatically” 11 , the source of ultimate values. Underhill refers to the same “situation” when she speaks of the mystic and his “encounter”, and William James refers to it as ” the subconscious continuation of our conscious life.” 12

Although Weber surely sees that there are external sources of religion, such as Evelyn Underhill describes, he tends to see religious sources of religion as internal. For example:

… the nature of the desired sacred values has been strongly influenced by the nature of the external interest situation and the corresponding way of life of the ruling strata and thus by the social stratification itself. But the reverse is also true: wherever the direction of the whole way of life has been methodically rationalized, it has been profoundly determined by the ultimate values towards which this rationalization has been directed. These values and positions were thus religiously determined. 13

Thus the “religious” tends to be the reverse of the “external interest situation”. Weber also says:

However incisive the social influences, economically and politically determined, may have been upon a religious ethic in a particular case, it receives its stamp primarily from religious sources, and, first of all, from the content of its annunciation and its promise. Frequently the very next generation reinterprets these annunciations and promises in a fundamental fashion. Such reinterpretations adjust revelations to the needs of the religious community. If this occurs, then it is at least usual that religious doctrines are adjusted to religious needs. Other spheres of interest could only have a secondary influence: often, however, such influence is very obvious and sometimes it is decisive. 14

We may therefore conclude that although “religious sources” include elements from the external as well as the internal interest situation, “the content of its annunciation and its promise” is due mainly to “the perception of the divine through emotion and intellect.”

Mysticism is, however, only one form of perception of the divine through emotion and intellect, as Weber observes: “Contemplation does not necessarily become a passive abandonment to dreams or a simple self-hypnosis, though it may approach these states in practice.” 15 This distinction between mysticism and contemplation on the one hand and various other psychic states which might generally be called “neurotic” is an important one. We shall discuss the distinction more fully in Chapter III, but we note it as an issue here, in order to clarify from the outset our preliminary look at the proper conceptual framework for the study of mysticism.

Thus far, then, we have noted that mysticism is a form of “internal interest” a psychic experience which on the one hand may have its own properties (to be discussed in the next chapter), and on the other hand is an element which interacts with “external interest situations” to give rise to a specific social form of religion.

Asceticism, on the other hand, is a product of such interaction.

The social-psychological context of mysticism can be expressed in the following schema:



Perception of the divine

Stratum of the Innovator


Cultural Repertoire




Internal vision contains perceptions of the world which become the foundation for a tension with the view of the world obtained from everyday experience. The mystic seeks to resolve this tension. Such resolution is the typical goal of his “expedient conduct” in the social world.

We shall look more closely at one example of a mystic who was also a thoroughgoing ascetic: Ignatius Loyola. But Loyola is not the only possible example. Clifford Geertz comments:

For the Javanese, mystical experience is not rejection of the world but a temporary retirement from it, for purposes of increasing spiritual strength in order to operate more effectively in the mundane sphere, a refinement of inner life in order to purify the outer. There is a time for the mountain top… and a time for the city… … This is the warrior Kshatriya ethic before India’s priestly Brahmins turned it other-worldly; it is not escape from life, but escape in life which is prized. 16

We are now ready to turn to a detailed inquiry into the nature of mysticism itself.

Chapter II Mysticism

Let me propose, as an hypothesis, that whatever it may be on its farther side. the “more” with which in religious experience we feel ourselves connected is on its hither side the subconscious continuation of our conscious life.   William James.
The most inward of all human experiences is mysticism. If there is a variation in the intrinsic qualities of mystical experience, then mystical experience is a candidate for the status of independent variable in the study of religious phenomena. Not all believers are mystics1 to be sure, but some religious leaders are. In those religious movements which arise from the leadership of a mystic, certain variations in the structure of religion will be due to the variation in the quality of mystical experience itself.
We assume of course that mysticism can be studied “empirically”. William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience is a paradigm for this assumption. Hugh Dalziel Duncan’s comment on James is pertinent here:

What James is saying in this long footnote on language is that all we know about religious experience is what people have said about it. There may be (indeed, there probably is) some kind of religious experience behind the veil of words, but all we can really observe is what religious people say, or what they accept in what others have said, about their religious experience. Thus, when James says that to “interpret religion one must in the end look at the immediate content of religious consciousness”, he means that we must look at religious expression. 17

Thus, when we set out to study mysticism, we study the expressions of mysticism. The first expression is the verbal descriptions by mystics of their experiences, their religious doctrines, and their techniques for gaining mystical experience. Secondly, in those cases where data are available, we need to study the social behavior of mystics.

A more complete paradigm than The Varieties of Religious Experience for the study of mysticism is the work of Robert C. Zaehner, especially in his Mysticism, Sacred and Profane.18 Zaehner wrote his book as a response to Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, because Huxley’s work was a challenge to him both as a scholar and as a believer. Zaehner remarks :

What is the challenge thrown down by Mr. Huxley and by many who think like him? It is this: that religion is a matter of experience, almost of sensation; that religious experience means “mystical” experience: and that mystical experiences are everywhere and always the same. 19

He then adds:

There seem to be two very strong objections to such a theory. The first is that few of these authors can or will define what precisely constitutes a mystical experience, and that until that is done we really do not know what we are talking about. The second is that to assert that all mystics speak the same language and convey the same meaning does not seem to Be true even within one particular religious tradition. 20

He reveals his epistemological presuppositions by stating the following:

We have seen that, so far as we can judge from the evidence, there are three types of praeternatural experience. These can be pinpointed by studying the terminology used. If we are then told that the experiences are such that they cannot be described and that all descriptions are only approximations to the ineffable experience, then plainly there is no point in discussing the matter further. Unless. however, we are prepared to concede that the descriptions are utterly meaningless and therefore not approximations at all, we are surely entitled to study the evidence and draw what conclusions we can. 21

This assumption — that words do somehow correspond to realities experienced, even when these realities are called ineffable — is common to all those who have tried to map the subterranean areas of the human psyche. The area is not without its problems, for these expressions of mystical experience are affected by cultural traditions and the social situation of the speaker as well as by the inward dimension of experience. But on the assumption that the work of men such as Freud and Jung has contributed to our understanding of society as well as of man, even though they made mistakes, we accept the challenge of trying to distinguish between what is peculiar to man as a person, and what is peculiar to him as conditioned by a cultural and social context.

Although. according to Zaehner, there are very distinct kinds of mysticism, mysticism in general has a common characteristic. Zaehner defines mysticism most generally as “a unitive experience with someone or something other than oneself”, a “sense of union or even identity with something other than oneself.” 22

The term other is most important. The quality of otherness was the key to Rudolph Otto’s study of religion, The Idea of the Holy. William James was one of the first to give a psychological dimension to this otherness:

One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question — for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. 23

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin also has an interesting way of describing the connection between the interior depths of the psyche and social order:

… I took the lamp. and leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step or the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came — arising from I know not where — the current which I dare to call my life. 24

The imagery of James is of two distinct areas separated by a permeable membrane. The imagery of Chardin is of a continuum going from everyday occupations to the ineffable. But both express the sense of otherness, or a reality standing over against the reality of everyday life, and lodged within the psyche, which has an effect on everyday life.

With the help of Jung, Zaehner tries to map this area of the interior “other” more precisely. 25 First of all, he finds in the statements of mystics evidence for 1’three types of praeternatural experience.” He calls them: (1) pan-en-henic mysticism, (2) monist mysticism, and (3) theistic mysticism. 26

The first kind is pan-en-henic mysticism. Its chief manifestations are, on the one hand, the manic-depressive and drug-induced mystics of the West, for example, John Custance, Rimbaud, Proust (in some phases of his experience), and Aldous Huxley (not to mention Timothy Leary and the LSD trippers of today) — and on the other hand, parts of the Upanishads.

Zaehner says that pan-en-henic mystical experience occurs in:

….those experiences which are usually termed pantheistic, the experience which tells you that you are all and that all is you, “when I am inseparably this and that and this and that are I”; when I experience the other person as myself, and the other, as myself1 experiences melt (John Custance). This experience is described clearly and with admirable concision in the Kausitaki Upanishad in the memorable formula, “Thou art this all.” This is the experience of the “nature mystic1′: it is the experience of all as one and one as all . To call it “pantheistic” is wrong, for in the proposition “Thou art this all”, neither term represents or can be construed as “God”, and “pantheism” of course means “all-God-ism.” It would be far more accurate to describe this experience as pan-en-henism. 27

Thus the special characteristic of this type of experience is the “all” of the “Thou art this all.” For such an “all” includes sensate experience. The reality with which it identifies is manifested in material things; material things have an inner meaning which is really theirs, but which is also the principle of their identity with the mystic. It is this acceptance of the validity and value of sensation which is characteristic of pan-en-henic mysticism. This is what distinguishes it from monist mysticism. Zaehner admits: Prima facie. it would appear that the Vedanta is a rationalization and systematization of the pen-en-henic experience.”28 But his final view is that pan-en-henic and Vedantic mysticism are really different. The pan-en-henic experience is “a descent into the collective unconscious” 29 and its sensate quality is unique:

… the realization of the oneness of nature… is quite distinct, and necessarily so, from any state, the achievement of which is dependent on the withdrawal of the senses from their objects; and this is the classic technique of the Hindus. For how can a sensation, the essence of which is to feel that one actually is the outside world, be identical with the result of a technique which uncompromisingly separated the immortal soul from all sensible images? The state of the nature mystic which we have called the pan-en-henic state is the exact opposite of the kaivalyam or “isolation” of the samkhya Yoga.30

According to Zaehner, the pan-en-henic experience is furthermore the manic experience of the manic-depressive personality. The descent into the collective unconscious can be on the one hand the dream of perfect harmony, and on the other hand the nightmare of senseless and malevolent discord. Jung calls these states “positive inflation” and “negative inflation” respectively. 31

The unconscious seems to be of such a nature that it can provide an “infinitely” expanded field for the ego to experience, or it can be experienced by the ego as a force. which threatens to annihilate it. But whether the ego’s sojourn in the unconscious is expanding or threatening, this sojourn is a surrender of ego-control to the dynamisms which reside in the unconscious. 32

Thus pan-en-henic mysticism is the undivided attention of the (conscious) ego to the unconscious:

We have seen that Jung and his school define the natural mystical experience as a reversion to a primitive state of affairs in which consciousness had not yet separated from the unconscious. …meaning little more than the re-reentry into the undifferentiated unconscious. The subsequent stage of integration is the will of the conscious ego to survive… and beyond this comes the actual integration or consciousness and the unconscious of. the unified personality. This marks the emergence of the “self” and the subjection of ego.33

The “self” in Jung’s terminology, is not the conscious ego merely, but “the ego plus the personal unconscious plus the collective unconscious, all meeting in perfect balance.” Thus, to the conscious ego, the emergence of the “self” first appears as a takeover by a not-self which is still somehow me.

There has been no systematic study of the behavioral consequences of cosmic mysticism, but some reasonable suggestions are possible. The first consequence of this sensate union with everything would seem to be a seeking of sensual experience. The quest for experience seeks to “re-feel” one’s unity with the Cosmos. The “tune in, turn on, drop out” of Timothy Leary is not the same as the contemplative isolation of the monist mystic. Monist contemplation leads to fasting, celibacy, and other forms of restricting sensual gratification. Cosmic mysticism tends towards systematic gratification of psychic-physical needs. A simple frugality with adequate food, sex, drugs and work would be enough, but not for the sake of “production”. What is cherished in this life-style is “experience”.

The second kind of “nature mysticism” according to Zaehner is monist mysticism. It is the kind

….described by the so-called mahavakyani or “great sayings” which are the key texts of the Vedanta. These are four in number, and together they may be said to sum up the whole of Vedantin monism. They read as follows: (1) “Thou art that.”; (2) “This atman is Brahman.”, “This individual soul is the Absolute. ” (3) “I am Brahman.”; and (4) “Consciousness is Brahman.” What is meant by this? Brahman is the word used to represent the Absolute; it is the sole truly existing and eternal reality, beyond time and space and causation and utterly unaffected by these which, from its own standpoint, have no existence whatsoever. Atman means “self”, the individual soul. The proposition, then, that “Atman is Brahman” means that the individual soul is substantially and essentially identical with the unqualified Absolute. From this it follows that the phenomenal world has no true existence in itself; from the point of view of the Absolute it is absolutely non-existent. Therefore the soul which realizes itself as the Absolute, must also realize the phenomenal world as non-existent. This then is to experience one’s own soul as being the Absolute, and not to experience the phenomenal world at all. 34

Thus the peculiar characteristic of monist mysticism is the Vedantin “Thou art That,” and all similar experiences which exclude communion with the material, sensed universe. The central term for this condition of the psyche is “isolation”., an expression from Samkhya Yoga.

The Yogins knew that it was the business of the soul to isolate itself from prakriti or Nature, which, with its three qualities of goodness, passion and darkness, its attractions and repulsions, desires and hates, is plainly the same thing as Jung’s collective unconscious. Their technique would seem to be explicitly designed to shutting out the unconscious and all its works, including the “partial autonomous complex” which appears as the “God-archetype”. By isolating consciousness from all contact with the unconscious, they sought to realize their eternal essence, the “second self” which Proust discovered and which is so often dormant for long periods. The Muslims, who had a much clearer idea of God, did precisely the same. 35

This is for Zaehner the penultimate stage in the “normal progress from ordinary ego-consciousness to ‘deification’ “:

In the next stage, that of isolation, the “self” which according to all religions on the one hand and Jung on the other, is immortal, asserts itself yet further and strikes off all its transitory and perishable trappings including the ego. This is the highest material bliss according to the Samkhya Yoga and the Vedanta as expounded by Sankara. In Christian terminology it is the recovery of original innocence, the Garden of Eden, Limbo; and it can scarcely be an accident that Rimbaud should use all these terms. 36

Some further descriptions of this kind of mystical experience are the following: “rest in oneself purged of all emotions and desires” (Ruysbroeck); 37 ecstasy, trance and deep peace: 38 beyond good and evil, emptiness and unity. 39

The difference between Samkhya Yoga and Vedanta is in the philosophical rationale they give of an experience which is essentially the same.40 Samkhya Yoga has no theory of Brahman and Atman, but finds an Absolute in simple contradistinction with what is experienced within the psyche versus what is experienced as outside the psyche. This is the distinction between purusa (ground of man’s life) and prakriti (Nature). What Samkhya Yoga describes as the isolation of purusa when it sets itself free of the entanglements of prakriti is the same state which Sankara expresses by the union of Atman and Brahman. What is prakriti for Samkhya Yoga is maya for Sankara. The one-ness and identity of Atman-Brahman for Sankara is the isolation of purusa in Samkhya Yoga. In both cases there is the rest of a monad in its own ground.

Max Weber has discussed the behavioral effects of this kind of mysticism.

That such wisdom, in the nature of the case, remained mystical in character had two important consequences. First was the formation… of a redemption aristocracy. For the capacity for mystical gnosis is a charisma not accessible to all. Then, however, and correlatively, it acquired an asocial and apolitical character.. Mystical knowledge is not, at least adequately and rationally, communicable. Thus Asiatic soteriology always leads those seeking the highest holy objectives to another worldly realm of the rationally unformed, and even because of this lack of form alone available, to a godlike beholding, possession, property or obsession of a holiness which is not of this world and yet can, through gnosis, be achieved in this life. It was conceived of by all the highest forms of Asiatic religion 41 as an “emptying”. This is an emptying of experience of materials of the world. … The devaluation of the world and its drives is an unavoidable psychological consequence of this. It is the meaning-content of mystical holy possession which rationally cannot be further explained. 42

This “other worldly realm of the rationally unformed” leading to an “obsession of a holiness which is not of this world” is what Zaehner refers to as mystical attention to and absorption in the unconscious. The mystical contemplation of the Indian rishi–the hermit devoted to meditation–is the primary social type who lives for this kind of “achievement”, and is the social type to whom the Upanishads are attributed. The “emptying of experience of materials of the world” corresponds to the monist mysticism of Zaehner’s typology, but not to pan-en-henic, cosmic consciousness. Neither is it applicable–as we shall see–to the value placed on “the world and its drives” by theistic mystics, who are often involved in the world through forms of activity ranging from Loyola’s organizational activities, through the preaching and writing of Suso and Tauler, to the personal counseling of long hours in the confessional of Padre Pio.

Theistic mysticism is the third type.

Thirdly, there is the normal type of Christian mystical experience in which the soul feels itself to be united with God by love …… Here again we have a third type, distinct, it would seem, from the other two. For whereas both the Christian and Vedantin experiences are wholly different from the pan-en-henic, so do they differ from each other. The individual is not annihilated though transformed and “deified” as St. John of the Cross says. It remains a distinct entity though permeated through and through with the divine sub-stance. For the non-dualist Vedantin this is not so: the human soul IS God; there is no duality anywhere. 43

The duality of theistic mysticism is not the duality of ego and unconscious. nor the duality of ego and the “self”, nor any of the other dualities thinkable in terms of the Jungian map or the human psyche. It is not so because the expressions of theistic mysticism yield statements whose content considers the characteristics of all these elements of the human psyche, and turns from them to the descriptions of an I-Thou which is preferable–according to the mystic–to all of them. Zaehner notes that such a wide variety of mystics as Ruysbroeck, Eckhart, Suso, Abu’l Qasim al-Qusharyi, Ghazali, and Junayd all refer to pan-en-henic and monist phenomena as having occurred to them or to members of their schools. The Christian mystics identified the forms of nature mysticism either as aberrations or as steps on the way to union with God. but certainly different from that goal of union. The Muslim mystics are clear about the difference between pan- en-henic experiences–especially the “expansion” and “contraction” characteristic of its manic-depressive phase–and what they themselves are after. On the other hand although they sensed that the I-Thou is essential to their mystical experiences, they felt constrained to describe it in close to monist terms because if their theology of God’s trans-cendence. They speak paradoxically of an I-Thou which includes the annihilation of the human spirit.

There is an activism and dynamism characteristic of theistic mystics which is either absent from nature mystics or quite different-.-specifically in its I-Thouism–from the experience of impersonal dynamisms of the latter. The imagery of Ruysbroeck, for instance, is not of passive rest, but of a rest in God portrayed as “living flame reunited with divine fire.”44 There is also the theme of conjugal union which runs throughout theistic mysticism–both Oriental and occidental–and is peculiar to it.

Jung himself uses sexual imagery, but applies it to complexes. Such imagery describes an interplay of principles, not an I-Thou relationship.45 The sexual imagery of the theistic mystics is always of an I-Thou nature. They describe their experiences as a phenomenon of personal interaction, in which they are both passive-receptive and active-responsive.

Zaehner offers another characteristic of theistic mysticism. It leads to a certain kind of behavior.

“L’oisif s’est ingenie pour introduire artificiellement le surnaturel dans sa vie et dans sa pensee; mais il n’est, apres tout et malgre l’energie accidentelle de ses sensations, que le meme homme augmente, le meme nombre elevee a une tres-haute puissance.” (Baudelaire)

This is profoundly true, and it is this.. that distinguishes S Teresa both fronm Custance and from all nature mystics which we have cited hitherto. I must confess that try as I will, I cannot see in what the alleged resemblance between the experiences recorded and those of S. Teresa lies; but, even granting such resemblance, S. Teresa’s experience differs fundamentally in this, that it effected a total transformation and sanctification of character which no merely praeternatural agency could bring about. This, when all is said and done, is the only method we have of judging between divine and “natural” mysticism. 46

We must add that the manifestation of this transformation and “sanctification” of character is an ideology of service. This “service” may be the formation of communities of hermits in the desert, as in the case of Anthony of Egypt, or it may be a more directly and immediately social activity such as the social entrepreneurship of Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits he founded. (But even in the case of the hermits of Egypt, they were often called upon, and frequently responded to the demands, to take over the leadership of the churches of North Africa.)

The first conclusion of Zaehner’s studies is that mysticism is not a monolithic phenomenon. There is good evidence to support the claim that it has three basic forms, and that these forms are due to the structure of mysticism itself, and not just due to the influence of an “external interest situation.”

Secondly, each form of mysticism seems to lead to a distinctive type of behavior, some of which is “ascetical” and some of which is not. Of the three forms of mysticism, theistic mysticism seems to have the strongest tendency to inner-worldly asceticism. However, the “expedient conduct” pursued by the theistic mystic is not the dedicated economic life, but rather what we have labeled in a preliminary way, as “service”,

Thirdly, we still have not explored the difference between mysticism on the one hand and “neurotic” psychic experiences on the other.

Fourthly, we would like to examine more closely the relationship between all three forms of mysticism and social behavior, and between “neurotic” religious experiences and such activity, But given the limited scope of this paper, we will examine this relationship only for the form of theistic mysticism whose behavioral consequence is a thorough-going asceticism.


Chapter III

Mysticism and Psychic Health

Ninety-nine out of every hundred supposed examples of mystical prayer are illusory. Detachment from one’s own will is a much surer criterion of holiness .                                                               Ignatius Loyola.

In social psychological studies of the internal sources of religion there is a thematic issue of distinguishing between “healthy” and “sick” forms of religious experience. Even though the criteria of mental health and mental sickness are partly determined by social and cultural norms which vary from society to society, the trend of psychological literature is also to create a criterion of the capacities and limitations of “human nature” as such. Our task in this chapter is to locate mysticism in relation to the issue of mental health versus mental illness.

The issue is so complex that it is obviously impossible to settle here the question of whether mysticism is a “healthy” or a “sick” psychic phenomenon. But what can be done is describe some previous attempts to understand this issue, and comment on the lines of investigation which might be pursued to make further progress. Admittedly, I believe that the trend of these descriptions will be to establish that mysticism is a phenomenon which arises out psychological maturity and health, although it can be associated with other psychic characteristics not so easily classified as “healthy”. Thus we here agree with Weber, who sees “contemplation” as qualitatively different from things like “abandonment to dreams” and “self-hypnosis.”

William James used the terms “healthy-minded religion” and “the sick soul” in his The Varieties of Religious Experience. By healthy-minded, however, he meant a persistent optimism which fails or refuses to see any dark side of life at all. By the sick soul he meant a mind preoccupied with threatening and evil forces confronting the human person. This early (1902) study indicates the importance of the issue, but James’ conceptual framework has been so enriched and complexified by subsequent psychological analyses that his categories are now obsolete.

Therefore we shall pay particular attention to three conceptual frameworks for the discussion of mental health and sickness, those of Freud, of Jung, and of the ego psychologists such as Gordon Allport. There is a central congruence of all three approaches which we must point out immediately. It is that all of them see religion and mysticism as products of the relationship between manes conscious and unconscious life. James was therefore very perceptive when he said that the “more” which religion deals with is “the subconscious continuation of our conscious life.”

Freud himself was very antipathetic towards religion, and one of the first results of this has been that religious analysts of mysticism and religion tend to stay away from Freud’s concepts as tools for understandings the object of their inquiry. For example, Robert Zaehner uses Jung exclusively, and the Dominican priest, Victor White, gives a view of Freud which can only lead to his exclusion from a believer’s study of mysticism:

In Freud, if we do not gravely misread him, the centre of interest is in the ultimate cause of all manifestations of the psyche, which cause is conceived to be the sexual incest-wish. ..Psycho-analysis was born and nurtured in the medical clinic, and it need not be wondered that the same principles of mechanistic cause and effect considered adequate for the diagnosis and cure of the diseases of the body were considered adequate for the soul. . . the ultimate cause was infantile sexuality. All else is more or less satisfactory substitute, be it art, culture, science, neurosis, psychosis, religion, but rather especially religion. Some substitutes work; others fail. But whether they be regressions or sublimations, all are really substitutes for the real thing, and the real thing is the prohibited incest.47

However, a neo-Freudian such as Erich Fromm points out that Freud’s main antipathy was not towards religion but towards the authoritarian character of religion. Fromm implies that if religion is not authoritarian but rather “humanistic”, Freud would approve of it. In any case, says Fromm, Freud’s respect for “reason” (that is, the instrument of insight as opposed to intellect, the instrument of rationalization) and his analysis of it, are very useful for students of the psychic aspects of religion.

If man gives up his illusion of a fatherly God, if he faces his aloneness and insignificance in the universe, he will be like a child that has left his father’s house. But it is the very aim of human development to overcome this infantile fixation. Man must educate himself to face reality. If he knows he has nothing to rely upon except his own powers, he will learn to use them properly, Only the free man who has emancipated himself from authority–authority which threatens and protects–can make use of the power of reason and grasp the world and his role in it objectively, without illusion but also with the ability to develop and make use of the capacities inherent in him.48

Thus Fromm puts forth the concept of humanistic religion, in which “God is not a symbol of power over man but of man’s own powers.”49

Fromm also tries to explain the difference between Freud and Jung on religion. His opinion is that for Freud the unconscious is all bad, while for Jung it is all good. (Yet from Zaehner’s use of Jung — his analysis of “positive inflation” and “negative inflation” — we know this is not correct.) But whatever the answer to the textual analysis of the classical authors may be, Fromm does try to carry the analysis further by saying: “Our unconscious — that is, that part of our self which is excluded from the organized ego which we identify with our self — contains both the lowest and the highest, the worst and the best.”50

He goes on, using Freudian terms:

In getting in touch with this dissociated world of the unconscious one replaces the principle at repression by that of permeation and integration. Repression is an act of force, of cutting off, or ‘law and order’. (It destroys the connection between our ego and the unorganized life from which it springs and makes ourself into something finished, no longer growing but dead. In dissolving repression we permit ourselves to sense the living process and to have faith in life rather than in order.51

If in view of these observations we turn back to what Zaehner has said of mysticism, we find that all three kinds of mysticism enhance the human person’s self-respect. The mystic’s sense of union or identification with some ultimate principle of goodness or morality is an openness to rather than a repression of the unconscious. Moreover, it seems to be a usual characteristic of mystics to be open and tolerant, free of rigidity, “client-centered”, and non-authoritarian in their social behavior.

Jung probably differs most from Freud in his concern for psychic “integration” rather than psychic pathology. Victor White cites a technical point which is symptomatic of this difference, when he says that for Jung the incest wish is not the cause of everything, but rather a symptom of something beyond itself. “Impregnation of the mother… was not the ultimate object of libido at all; what was really desired was the return to the womb–rebirth.” 52

In this perspective regression is not a final flight from responsibility, but a move towards full involvement with the dangerous sea of the unconscious, an encounter which can lead to new heights of concern and responsibility as well as to immobilizing hysteria or catatonia. This view judges religion by asking whether the use of religious symbols is governed by the executive functions of the ego or whether the energy channeled by such symbols is not under ego’s control. Jung, more than Freud, saw many ways in which the unconscious could be confronted and dealt with by the ego.

Thus Jung’s value for the analyst of religion is that much more than Freud he analyzed the positive relationships between unconscious and conscious life. He thus coined a rather full vocabulary to describe such possible relationships, which in spite of its defects is possibly the best we have so far.

The ego-psychologists speak in terms of maturity and immaturity rather than of health and sickness. They do however continue the trend of the present discussion, which is to say that religious symbols can be at the service “good” as well as “bad” relationships between the conscious and the unconscious. For example, Gordon Allport says:

If we encounter in a person fear of divine punishment as the sole sanction for right doing, we can be sure we are dealing with a childish conscience, with a case of arrested development. . ..High moral character is found among the non religious. …I experience “ought” whenever I pause to relate a choice that lies before me to my ideal self-image. The mature personality achieves a transfer from must-conscience to ought-conscience. In this transfer.

1. External sanctions give way to internal–by identification and introjection.

2. Experiences of prohibition, fear and “must” give way to experiences of preference, self-respect, and “ought”, as self-image and personal value-systems develop.

3. Specific habits of obedience give way to generic self-guidance, i.e., broad schemata of values that confer direction upon conduct. 53

Thus Allport contributes to an inventory of criteria by which an observer might be able to distinguish between “healthy” and sick forms of religion. These criteria can be applied to mysticism and other forms of “virtuoso” religion as well as to conventional religion.

There are very few studies of a non-polemical nature which try to distinguish between healthy and sick forms of religious leadership. One author who does try such an analysis, however, is Andre Favrc-Dorsaz in his Calvin at Loyola. Favre-Dorsaz’s very bald general thesis is that Calvin was a neurotic and Loyola was a mystic, and that this accounts for some salient features in their respective styles of religious leadership. Although Favre-Dorsat does seem to have his own little ax to grind, his argumentation is interesting. He observes, for instances

…le meme ideal religieux a une resonnance toute different dans l’ame d’un contemplatif maitre de ses instincts, ou dans le moi hyperemotif d’un revolte. De meme Dieu, la meme revelation alimentent ici un amour, un desir d’union qui reconcile tous les contraires, alors qu’ils excitent ailleure une reaction de defense et un besoin de revanche. 54

Although Favre-Dorsaz does take into account Calvin’s and Loyola’s different socio-political situations–Calvin living north of the Pyrenees, and Ignatius being socialized south of then–his work suggests another type of analysis. He considers the writings of Calvin and Loyola looks there-in for their images (i.e. symbols) of God and the Church, and analyzes these images in terms of a generally Freudian psychology. He also examines their behavior, and how persons close to them reacted to their behavior. His analysis of this interaction-situation also draws on Freudian psychology.

An example of his analysis of their writings is his discussion of Calvin’s use of biblical imagery. 55 He observes that Calvin did indeed go through the whole Bible looking for God, but he never stopped and took note of its teaching on love of all one’s fellow men. For example. Calvin never used the irenic doctrine of love found in the first Epistle of John. Calvin praises God, says Favre-Dorsaz, but he also seems to have assumed that God’s enemies are precisely and only the adversaries of Calvin’s interpretation of the Bible. Favre-Dorsaz singles out an image which Calvin uses in a sermon, of God spitting upon the services of the Papists, and observes the following:

Que valent lea protestations de respect, quand les sublimations les plus choquantes tiennent lieu d’inspiration prophetique? Un jour, projetant son ombre sur le ciel, re reformateur s’imaginera voir Dieu lui-meme “crachant sur les services” qul ont remue le bile de Picard. On ne combat pas efficacement l’anthropomorphisme de certaine tradition avec des images et des symboles encore plus compromettants pour la transcendence de Dieu. A peine vitraux, statues, et tableaux ont-ils ete detruits par les iconoclastes, que lea reformateurs s’eforcent de fixer, dans l’imagination des croyants, des representations de Dieu vengeur et jaloux, faites a leur propre ressemblance. .. .la predestination est ‘me “doctrine de combat”, inspiree, dirait-on, par le besoin de galviniser le courage de martyrs. … En temps normal, une theologie aussi martiale et belliqueuse souvent simpliflee en slogans de propagandie, nous frappe par son caractere force. 56

Favre-Dorsaz treats several cases of Calvin’s aggressiveness and concludes that it is not a reaction based on a balanced personality’s response to reality, but compulsive behavior. He cites the fact that between 1542 and i546, there were 76 banishments and 58 condemnations to death in “a small city where the will of the prophet had the force of law. 57 This statistic plus the examination of some cases which go to form it, and the examination of Calvin’s collaborators’ reactions to his behavior lead Favre-Dorsaz to the conclusion that Calvin, although surely a religious leader, was not at all a mystic.

In considering Loyola, Favre-Dorsaz singles out his irenic behavior even in controversy as the most important behavioral criterion of mystical experience. He notes that Loyola always distinguished between the public and private spheres in his conflicts, and even when he sought court rulings against his enemies, he never pursued them personally. In particular, he never went after their lives; and his followers–the Jesuits–considered working for the Inquisition an evil to be avoided at all cost.

Thus there do seem to be perceptible differences between the mystical religious personality and the neurotic religious personality. The study of neurosis and sublimations versus mystical experience as a source of religion is necessary for “isolating” the mystic as a distinct social type. Only thus can we discuss the effects of mysticism on society. This “isolation” of mysticism as a distinctive source will make possible a more nuanced evaluation of religion.

Chapter IV

Mysticism and Interaction

There is a qualitative difference between religious experience and other  kinds of human experience  which can be characterized in terms of Martin Buber’s famous theory of two kinds of relationship: an “I-It” relationship and an “I-Thou relationship”. Joseph Kitagawa

Max Weber was content just to observe that specific historical forms of religion are the result of an interaction between external and internal interest situations, and then go on to outline the broadest characteristics of the results of this interaction. He was not so concerned with the dynamics of this interaction as a fundamental social process. But our concern here is with this fundamental social process, and in particular, the place of mysticism in it We therefore turn to the work of Thomas Luckmann, who is one contemporary scholar who has tried to apply the conceptual framework of symbolic interactionism to the analysis of religion.

Like Jung, the ego-psychologists and Fromm, Luckmann is concerned with the notions of self and self-hood. His comments on the development of the social self continue the spatial metaphor implicit in the psychologists’ conclusions. In this broad metaphor the problem is to locate the “self” in relation to what lies “above”. “below”, “within”, or “outside” it. Freud’s dramatistic metaphor is also serviceable within the spatial metaphor. The language of censorship, approval-disapproval, and escape from control can people psychic space with metaphorical actors. Luckmann is very Jungian when he calls the development of the social self a process of forming an “individuated consciousness.”58 He goes on to say: “We have said that the organism transcends its biological nature by developing a self, and felt justified in calling that process fundamentally religious.” 59

Socialization is a religious process says Luckmann, because it creates a hierarchical structure of value priorities. Furthermore, this hierarchy of values is constructed on the basis of human experience. Since mysticism is a form of human experience, it also helps form a hierarchy of values. For not only do persons interact with other persons in face-to-face situations, and thus define their social self , but they also experience the “interaction” which goes on between their conscious ego, the several elements of their unconscious and–if Zaehner is correct at all–the theos of theistic mysticism, and thus come to define their “personal” self.60 However, they do not define themselves as two, but as one socio-personal whole.

This process of “defining one’s self” then, is aptly analyzed as a process of location. The spatial metaphor does seem to shed some light on an issue which is otherwise wholly intuitive, Developing “individuated consciousness” assumes not merely that the biological organism takes a stand in relation to the material world around itself, but that the psycho-biological organism comes to an appreciation of a “center” of his total world. This center is “himself”, and it “takes a stand” in relationship to all other elements of reality: He (the actor) takes a stand with reference to his own personal past and future. He takes a stand in reference to superiors, inferiors, peers, friends, strangers, groups, symbols, institutions with whom and with which he interacts. He takes a stand, moreover, in relation to his own personal unconscious, and this ranges from an intense curiosity about its contents to an intense fear of and flight from its contents. The “he” which is the conscious center of human life locates himself not by a simple distinction of self from the outside world and its symbols, but also locates himself in reference to the symbol-system within the psyche. This internal symbol-system is organized in itself and is connected to the central self–which is again, the “one who acts”–in a different way than external symbols are organized and connected to the self who acts. The physical church with steeple and cross has an ecological and historical relationship to its physical surroundings, but the image of church-steeple-cross lodged in the human psyche has an affective relationship to all the areas of personality referred to by Zaehner in his study of mysticism.

Luckmann extends the spatial metaphor into three dimensions by referring to the “sacred cosmos” as “a distinct superordinated layer of meaning within the world view”:

…the hierarchy of significance which characterizes the world view as a whole and which is the basis of the religious function of the world view is articulated in a distinct superordinated layer of meaning within the world view. By means of symbolic representations, that layer refers explicitly to a domain of reality that is set apart from the world of everyday life. This domain may be appropriately designated as a sacred cosmos. The symbols which represent the reality of the sacred cosmos may be termed religious representations because they perform, in a specific and concentrated way, the broad religious function of the world view as a whole. The world view in its totality was defined as a universal and non-specific social form of religion. Consequently, the configuration of religious representations that form a sacred universe is to be defined as a specific historical form of religion. 61

What is “a domain of reality set apart from the world of everyday life”? Psychically, normal everyday life is composed of the elements of that wakefulness which Alfred Schutz describes, and which other students of the human psyche call the conscious ego. Set apart from the conscious ego are the other areas of the human psyche: the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious, the id and superego which reside in them, and the Thou of the theistic mystics’ I-Thou experiences. Religious symbols refer explicitly to this domain which is set apart.

Physically, normal everyday experience is set apart from various elements or physical reality, such as the sky and its clouds and stars. Socially, everyday life provides the actor with a similar range of experience of things set apart and things which are close and familiar. The actor encounters persons of his primary group with whom he senses likeness and difference in various ways. He finds that some accept him, some hate him, and some are indifferent. He also experiences power in society. There are groups and persons who have power over him and over whom he has power. These power differentials can by spoken of in the spatial metaphor. Some are far above or far below the actor, and others are close and near.

One of the peculiarities of mystical experience, however, is that it gives the actor an experience of himself as existing outside space and time, apart from the definition of himself by any of these everyday physical and social relationships. Since the psychic world is as present to the self as the external material world, the definition of self occurring through the experience of mysticism competes with external social experience in the definition of the total self. Thus mystics tend to reinterpret physical and social relationships in terms of their psychic experience.

Therefore the interactionism of Thomas Luckmann is an incomplete picture of the development of the human self. Face-to-face encounters–especially childhood experiences–do determine men’s world-views in large part. But for some persons there is a pre-empting psychic experience which substantially alters the definition of self, and by extension, the definition of the social order. This is an experience of a domain of reality set apart from everyday life, and it draws on physical and social experiences to create symbols of that domain set apart. In both the Eastern and Western world, mystics–whether pan-enhenic or monist or theistic–have shaped the major religious belief systems of their respective cultures.

Men follow mystics. These persons who have directed themselves to experience more fully the reaches of their unconscious and what is beyond it, speak to some fundamental needs of many other persons who have not so thoroughly explored those psychic realms set apart from everyday life. The conclusion then, would seem to be that although only some persons have articulate experience of these realms, many other persons have intimations of their existence and their content. The effect of these intimations is that they recognize the virtuoso, and accept his definition of norms of behavior–of a hierarchy of value priorities–because this promises the achievement of a certain mastery over the needs which arise from that psychic

realm set apart from everyday experience. They cannot themselves create the symbols of these needs and achievements, but they can recognize them.

Luckmann mentions three difficulties with a set of religious symbols which become institutionalized, specialized, “official”:

The first is that “The official model of religion does not only include articulation of the sacred cosmos and definitions of procedures for dealing with the sacred cosmos, but also interpretations of the world, of the church (and the religious experts) in the relations of the individuals to the sacred cosmos and to other social institutions.” 62

Secondly, “The ‘official’ model is formulated in a set of highly specific norms of performance and belief.” 63

Thirdly, “The ‘official’ model is transmitted and interpreted by a specialized group of full time experts.” 64

And we should add that, fourthly, the specialists who handle the official model become the manipulators of power which makes them tend to associate as class-peers with all other officials who manipulate power because of their official position (i.e., their office in a bureaucracy).

In other words, even when mystics create religious symbols, their work is subject to a double transformation.

First, it tends to become the property of officialdom, whereas in its original form, mystical experience — however esoteric in fact — is seen by the mystic as fundamentally human, and accessible in principle if not in fact to all human beings. Thus, what is originally the property of classless humanity becomes the property of a single class.

Secondly, mystics express their intra-psychic experiences in symbols drawn from physical and social experience. But technology and social change alter physical and social experience, and so the symbols no longer stand for the original experience. One example is Loyola’s symbolism of Christ the King. It surely had all the proper overtones in the Spain which still remembered wars against the Moors. But in the twentieth century it is almost wholly unintelligible.

Thus on two levels criticism of religion arises. One type works to give religion back to the people. The other type, claiming a contemporary repetition of the original mystical experience, coins symbols based on contemporary common experiences.

In fact, the more bureaucratized a religious system is, the more strident is the criticism of that system, through the recurrence of the phenomenon of mysticism. This is most true in those cases where the religious hierarchy becomes closely associated with political and social hierarchies. In those cases, therefore, in which Weber’s “priestly intellectual” has socio-political status as well as status within the community of believers, mysticism’s re-interpretation of a religious world-view Is most threatening.

Luckmann’s process of socialization, without the possibility of a pre-empting psychic experience which locates the mystic apart from his social experiences, would lead to the continued maintenance of traditional religious systems. The mystic, therefore, who attempts to share his experience with followers, becomes the “prophet” in Weber’s scheme. For the mystic defines his place in society and in the universe not only on the basis of his social experience–determined by class also and status relationships–but also on the basis of his mystical experience, and this experience always places him at the center of a universe of meaning. He is either the center-alone of the monist mystic, or the center-containing-the-cosmos of the pan-en-henic mystic, or the I-center-in-conversation-with-the-Thou-sacred of the theistic mystic.

Yet Luckmann’s approach is most valuable, because It indicates that there will always be a tension between the world-view internalized in socialization and the world-view derived from mystical experience. In examining the case of Ignatius Loyola, we shall see one example of this tension.

Chapter V


                                          Among politicians, a mystics among mystics, a politician.

In the previous chapters we have tried to develop a conceptual framework for the social analysis of religious mysticism. Each chapter has developed an issue which must be addressed in the study of any mystic. We shall therefore address these issues as we examine the religious career of Ignatius Loyola, and the manner in which his mystical experience became social technology.

The first issue is the relationship between mysticism and asceticism. We have expressed the opinion that mysticism is not opposed to asceticism, but indeed sometimes leads to it. That is, mysticism gives rise to a fundamental point of view which can be the basis for very specific forms of “expedient conduct”, and these forms of conduct are the active rationalization of mystical experience.

Secondly, we must examine the descriptions of the mystic’s internal experience in order to determine whether the mystic is pan-en~henic, or monist, or theistic,

Thirdly, we must examine the statements and behavior of the mystic in order to find out whether his internal experience is truly mysticism or some form of neurotic, immature psychic perception.

Fourthly, we must examine the way in which the internal psychic experience of the religious leader conflicts with and/or comes to terms with his perception of the world derived from socialization and “everyday experience”.

We shall discuss these issues, not seriatim, but when need for them arises as we follow Loyola’s career chronologically.

What Robert Bellah says of charisma applies to the mystic who seeks and gains a following.

Charisma.. .links deeper levels of psychic organization within the charismatic individual and in the members of the group who recognize him, with the social processes and particularly with the possibility of radical discontinuities in social development. In both cases [meaning and charisma] Weber was arguing for the importance of religion in social action on the grounds of its closeness to powerful non rational motivational forces and its capacity to give form and pattern to these forces, including its capacity to create radically new forms and patterns. 65

The definition of a “radically new” form or pattern may be extremely difficult. but it is clear that the career of Ignatius Loyola is an example of a charismatic eruption in the society of sixteenth century Europe. If Bellah includes the radically old under the “radically new” then Loyola fits his paradigm.

For his call to communitas is quite ancient. Its elements of novelty arise from two sources: one is the relative novelty of the ancient call in a society emphasizing specific role-relationships; the other is the set of strategies designed to create communitas in a particular social order. Loyola’s mysticism is as fascinating as it is because it was, in him, joined to a dispassionate rationality which chose means to the end of communitas on the basis of a thorough understanding of his social milieu.

1. Loyola’s Socialization

Inigo Loyola was born in about 1493 at the castle of Loyola near the town of Azpeitia in the Basque country of northern Spain. He was the youngest of seven sons, and had three sisters whose ages relative to his are not known. His father died in 1507; his mother had died earlier. Shortly after his father’s death, he entered the service of Juan Valezquez do Cuellar, major domo of Queen Isabella. In 1515–when Inigo was about 21–his patron Juan Valezquez refused allegiance to the new king Charles V, and lost his position and possessions. About this time, the court records of Azpeitia show that Inigo was charged “with a grave crime” before the town’s magistrate. His trial was delayed because he had been tonsured at an earlier age. He also managed to avoid any eventual conviction.

By 1517 Inigo is in the service of the Duke of Navarre. At this time, the seventeen-year-old Charles V first came to Spain in person. He received a cold reception, and when, in 1520, he went to Germany to receive the imperial crown, revolt was planned in several Spanish cities. The French saw this as an opportunity to gain some territory, and so a tumult of civil and foreign wars ensued. Inigo took part in these disturbances as a loyal servant of the Duke of Navarre, who was loyal to the emperor. One of Loyola’s biographers observes:

In the midst of this tumult of civil war provoked by the nobility…the unworthiness of the rebels and the dishonor to the monarchy stirred the young nobleman to the very depths of his soul. To these events, indubitably, we must trace back the lively feeling he manifested later of the social need of an unquestioned authority. 66

In May of 1521, a small French force moved in to take the fortress of Pamplona, the capital of a border district of Navarre, and close to Loyola’s home. The local townspeople offered no resistance to the French. Only a small garrison held out in the fortress, of which Inigo was one of the chief officers. The fort was taken in a two-hour battle on May 21. During the battle, Loyola was seriously wounded by a cannon ball, one leg badly fractured. He was treated by surgeons at Pamplona, and after ten or twelve days, was sent to Loyola by cart. He stayed at Loyola for ten months, till March 1522. During this time his conversion began.

Upon arriving home, surgeons re-set his leg. Some time later, when the leg had begun to knit, Loyola noticed that the broken leg was misshapen below the knee, and so he instructed surgeons to cut away the excess bone and stretch the leg so he would have no limp. During his convalescence, he asked for romances to read. Since there were none available, he was offered The Life of Jesus Christ by Ludolph of Saxony and The Lives of the Saints (Flos Sanctorum). He finally started to read them out of sheer boredom. His times of reading were followed by long periods of daydreaming and reflection. He says of his thoughts during this times :

The worldly joys glimpsed in his dreams left his heart empty and dry, ill at ease. But in the hours when his gaze dwelt on the prospects of a Christian life led in imitation of the Saints, a joyous peace reigned in his soul. …he began to look deep for the causes. …he drew the conclusion that he suffered these contrary movements from the spirit of evil and from the spirit of God. Such was the first reasoned consideration he made on matters spiritual. 67

After ten months at home, Loyola was ready to start a new way of life. He traveled to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, where he left his courtly clothes and his sword, and went on to the town of Manresa (near Barcelona) in pilgrim’s garb. He stayed in Manresa for another ten months, living in a cave, surviving on alms, and spending his time in solitude, attending church services, and working in local hospitals. During this time he wrote the main notes for his manual of spirituality, which is now known as The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.

After Manresa, Loyola made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The trip took him a year. He left Barcelona in February, 1523 and returned there in February, 1524. This satisfied for a while his desire to commune with the holy places. By this time his religious world-view was mature, and so he turned to practical concerns. For two years he lived in Barcelona doing what would be called social work today, and giving spiritual direction. He also started school. He was ready for university courses in 1526 In May of that year he started at Alcala. The Inquisition investigated him in November. He spent seventeen days in an Alcala jail during May of 1527, while the Inquisition was passing judgment on his activities teaching people how to pray and meditate, his dressing as a pilgrim instead of as a student, and his gathering followers who did the same. He was found innocent of heresy, but told to dress like a student and not to preach. Loyola would not stay in Alcala on those terms, and so he went to Salamanca. He lasted two months there, when he was again silenced by the Inquisition. He decided to leave Spain for Paris. He arrived at the capital of liberal thought of Europe in February, 1528. He was about thirty-five years old at the time, twice the age of most of his fellow M.A. students.

Loyola brought no followers to Paris. lie only brought his notes — The Spiritual Exercises — which he used as a recruitment and training manual for his followers. During his seven years in Paris, he recruited the nine men who were to become the nucleus of the Jesuits.

Loyola received his M.A. from Paris in 1535. By 1537 he and his followers, all M.A.s from Paris, had regrouped in northern Italy. They were all ordained priests by 1538, and spent their time doing various kinds of social work and religious ministry, while trying to get a ship to Jerusalem. When it became clear they would be unable to get to the Holy Land, they offered their services to the Pope. The Jesuits were officially recognized as a religious order by Rome in 1540. Ignatius was elected General of the Jesuits in 1541. He continued as General until his death in 1556, during which time he wrote the constitutions of the Society of Jesus, and organized a religious group of nearly legendary effectiveness.

There are thus three phases of Loyola’s career as an “organization mystic”. The first is the phase of his own personal conversions May 1521 to February 1524. The second is the phase of adapting his new religious world-view to the world of his interpersonal, primary-group relationships: February. 1524 to 1540. The third is the application of his religious value-system to demands of organizing a socio-religious institution: 1540 to 1556.

2. Personal Conversion.

Loyola was already socialized when he was hit by a cannon-ball. Due to his family background, he was convinced of the efficacy of his personal activities for shaping his social environment. He came from the lower nobility, and so was used to positions of subordinate power in a monarchical system. Secondly. His Basque ethnic background made him tend towards independence.

Thirdly, he had a personal quality which was not due to socialization, an intuitive sense of the boundaries of his own ego. His autobiographical notes given to Luis Gonzalez de Camera (See FN 67) demonstrate this quality in abundance. This power of self-analysis became a characteristic of his religious style. He passed it on to his followers in his “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits” included in The Spiritual Exercises. Loyola subjected his own mysticism to rational introspection. In his case, “mystic” is not only “an ideal type”, but a simple abstraction which loses sight of the actual phenomenon. In Loyola’s thoughtful reflections on what emotions moved him in certain psychic states, we see the interaction of two phases of human activity. One of these phases is certainly “spiritual”, and the other deserves to be called both rational and social.

The first stage of Loyola’s conversion was a simple transfer of his previous emotional make-up to new objects of cathexis. From a romantic involvement with a noble lady whom he desired to serve in the style of Denis de Rougement’s courtly love, he moved to a romantic conception of the grand achievements of Dominic and Francis of Assisi. He tells of thinking: “If Francis and Dominic could do such great things, why not I?”

The retention of old attitudes is brought out by the story of his encounter with a Moor on his way to Montserrat.69 The Moor observed that he could not see how Christians could believe that Mary had been a virgin. Loyola let the Moor ride on ahead after their conversation, and as he followed him, tried to decide whether to kill him or not, for slurring the reputation of Mary. Not being able to decide, he resolved to let his mule make the choice. When the Moor took one way of a fork in the road, Loyola gave his own mule free rein. If his animal followed the Moor, he would kill him, if not, he would let him go. His mule took the other way.

It was at Manresa that Loyola really began to change. It was a time of classic religious experiences; visions, temptations, scruples amid long hours of solitude. Loyola kept notes on all that happened to him, and after Manresa, put them together as an educational device to help others experience the stages of growth to spiritual maturity. His own spiritual maturity was signaled by an experience he had in August, 1522, half way through his stay at Manresa.

Once.. .he was going to a church about a mile from Manresa, and which I think was called St. Paul. The road ran along close to the river. Moving along intent on his devotion, he sat down for a moment with his face towards the river which there ran deep. As he sat, the eyes of his understanding began to open. He beheld no vision, but he saw and understood many things, spiritual as well as those concerning faith and learning. This took place with so great an illumination that these things appeared to be something altogether new. … This was so great that in the whole course of his past life right up to his sixty-second year, if he were to gather all the helps he had received from God, and everything he knew, and add them together, he does not think that they would equal all that he received at that one time. 70

This is the kind of “pre-empting psychic experience” which radically altered Loyola’s world-view. But this experience is part of, the culmination of, a whole process of development, which Loyola summarized in his Spiritual Exercises. Looking back on his own transformation, he saw various stages, which in the Exercises he made four in number, calling them “weeks”. It is clear that the stages lasted longer than a week each for Loyola, but he found it was often possible to bring another person through his own basic experience in about a month of spiritual exercises.

Thus, an analysis of The Spiritual Exercises is an analysis of Loyola’s process of conversion, his transformation from a minor Spanish noble to a major religious leader.

The “First Week” of The Exercises is a series of meditations on one’s own past personal sins, the sin of the angels who by disobeying God became Satan and the devils, the sin of Adam, the sin of an imagined person who goes to hell, on hell itself, and on the fact that one is still alive and not in hell. Very much time is devoted to these topics. There is extremely great detail, with systematic repetitions using various psychological devices to get a fresh perspective on the issues.

However masochistic such a procedure may seem to be at first glance, it is clear that it was not so for Loyola, nor meant to be so for his followers. A psychologist commenting on The Spiritual Exercises summarizes the dynamics of the First Week as follows:

…we can formulate the psychological processes of the first week as follows:

(1) Recognition of the sources of libidinal gratification.

(2) Estimation of such gratification in relation to the value system of the spiritual life. In the meditations on sin, hell, death, judgment, etc., an implicit value system is presented for reflection. …it is necessary for the ego to achieve through faith a certain reality orientation not only to the sensible world about it, but more pertinently to the spiritual world.

(3) Mobilization of ego-resources by the activation of sources of motivation. … no question of neurotic guilt here. Neurotic guilt stems from the superego, escapes ego-control, is not appropriate or reality-oriented. …rather. ..reality orientation occurs within the framework of the revealed realities upon which the exercitant meditates during the first week.

(4) Incipient direction of ego-energies toward counter-cathectic regulation of libidinal energies… “propriate striving”.

The goal is peace.. not masochism driven by the super-ego.

…it is ego-directed activity…”disposing oneself for God’s grace.” 71

Loyola himself describes the purpose of these exercises as :

…the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of an inordinate attachment. .. .a way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life and for the salvation of our soul. 72

Meissner comments on these goals:

The first represents the establishment of ego-control over emotionality and ipso facto the security of psychological identity. The personality which has achieved a mature psychological identity, has presumably resolved the conflicts characteristic of the stages of psycho sexual and psycho social development. 73

The Second represents the development of spiritual identity. ….a conscious sense of his own individual unique identity, as well as the integration of structural subsystems which compose his body and mind. 74

The lengthy, intense and detailed ruminations and meditations on sin, are thus proposed as ego-activities of introspection and understanding designed to lead towards ego-control of libidinal drives. The strategy for gaining this control is not the construction of formal rules and norms to govern emotions, but the development of a high degree of consciousness of the sources and direction of the drives with come from the unconscious and take over one’s behavior and goal-striving. This is not the construction of a new, improved super-ego, but the development of a reality-oriented, conscious center of control.

Thus, the “sense of sin” is the sense that the ego has been carried away. “I” have given in to narrowly focused energies which do not take into account the full scope of reality. At this point “the will of God” enters the process. Loyola was insistent that finding the will of God take place by oneself, within oneself. To this end, he tells the one “directing” a person undergoing the Spiritual Exercises not to suggest what the “will of God might be, and this reflects his own experience that spiritual direction by others at Manresa did not help him in his quest for this goal.

The director of the Exercises ought not to urge the exercitant more to poverty or any promise than the contrary, not to one state of life or way of living more than to another… While one is engaged in the Spiritual Exercises, it is more suitable and much better that the Creator and Lord in person communicate Himself to the devout soul in quest of the divine will, that He inflame it with love of Himself and dispose it for the way in which it could better serve God in the future. 75

The alone-ness of self is secured, because the director of the Exercises is the only person with whom the exercitant has any interaction during the course of his retreat.

Loyola continually refers to a dialogic element in the process of conversion. He expresses this dialogue in traditional Christian expressive forms and symbols. As one prelude to every period of meditation he says, “I will ask God Our Lord for what I want and desire.” 76 Another prelude is an attention gathering formulary in which he says, “I will beg of God Our Lord that all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed to the praise and service of His Divine Majesty.”77

At the end of every meditation period he engages in form of interior conversation which he calls a “colloquy”. He says of this activity:

The colloquy is made by speaking exactly as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant speaks to a master, now asking him for a favor, now blaming himself for some misdeed, now making known his affairs to him, and seeking advice in them. 78

He is more explicit in describing what may be called the thematic colloquy of the first week:

Imagine that Christ our Lord is present before you upon the cross, and begin to speak with him, asking how it is that though he is the Creator, He has stooped to become man, and to pass from eternal life to death here in time, that thus he might die for our sins. I shall also reflect upon myself and ask: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do do for Christ?” As I behold Christ in the plight, nailed to the cross I shall ponder upon what presents itself to my mind. 79

It is clear therefore that Loyola sees the development of “spirituality” as growing out of a conscious conversation with the person of Jesus — and all others who people the sacred realm — experienced as inwardly present. The imagining activity — Jesus on the cross, present to the exercitant, etc. — is assumed to be the re-creation of reality, not the fantasy activity of creating a fictitious, purely imaginary world. The symbol-system drawn from Christian tradition is thus felt to represent a reality to which an individual has real access. Presumably the assertion of this correspondence between Christian symbols and sacred reality comes from Loyola’s own experience at Manresa. Whether or not Jesus and/or God is actually alive and accessible to the human ego in this type of conscious looking inward is only verifiable by reference to its results If the same ego which looks inward and converses with Jesus also looks outward and deals with social reality, then we may infer the reality of the inward object from the realism of the handling of outward realities. If this insistence on the reality of the symbol-system used in the Spiritual Exercises is in fact a process of simple introjection or auto-suggestion, then the behavior of Loyola vis-a-vis society should exhibit the qualities induced by projection or auto-suggestion. If, on the other hand, the social behavior of Loyola gives evidence of being otherwise highly reality-oriented, the continuity between the ego’s handling of inward dialogue and the ego’s handling of the social world would indicate that the inward world is just as real as the outward world.

In any ease, it is evident that Loyola assumed a definite reality dimension of the Christian symbol-system, and saw the problem of religion as that of shaping a world-view based on an understanding of that symbol-system by means of I-Thou conversation with Jesus/God. Loyola had a sense of his own having talked with God, of his having been educated by God as a child is educated by a schoolmaster.80

We do find Loyola casting God in a role drawn from his social milieu, but his choice is interesting. Although he uses the standard imagery of God as “creator and Lord”, a monarch with a splendid “court of heaven”, and Christ as king, we also find him dealing with these symbols of transcendence, power arid authority in a mode of close personal intimacy. Awe injects itself, but the overall tone is one of intimacy. The most striking instance or this is Loyola’s imagery in the meditation on “the two standards”. He contrasts Christ the leader (with his banner, or “standard”) and Satan as leader. Satan is portrayed as “seated on a great throne of fire and smoke, his appearance inspiring horror and terror”81 Satan “summons” his followers, and “goads them on” to labor.82 Christ, however, is encountered “standing in a lowly place in a great plain about the region or Jerusalem, his appearance beautiful and attractive.”83 He speaks to his followers as “servants and friends.” 84

Similarly, in the meditation on “Christ the King”, Loyola compares Christ to an earthly king, but has him say:

Whoever wishes to join with me must be content with the same food, drink, clothing, etc. as mine. So too, he must work with me by day and watch with me by night, etc., that as he has had a share in the toil with me, afterwards he may share with me in the victory. 85

He then portrays Christ himself as even more attractive than an earthly king, and issuing a comradely call to those “willing to labor with me, that by following me in suffering, they may follow me in glory.”86 The social distance between Christ and his followers is an idealization of the relationship which Loyola experienced in his socialization as “servant and friend” of the upper nobility.

Loyola continues the process of forming his world-view in the second and third Weeks of the Exercises. He walks through the life of Jesus, breaking up the narratives of the New Testament into event-units, and using the imagination to insert himself into them. Meissner describes the psychological process thus:

…a gradual approximation to the examplar of spiritual identity as contained in the person of Jesus. .. a kind of self-ideal… From imaginative recreation of the actual person of Christ, to an empathetic understanding of his interior dispositions.87

The goal of this “approximation” and “empathy” is not identity with the sacred, but a sense of companionship and intimacy with the sacred. This “walking through” the life of Jesus includes a continual process of self-reference, of return to the actual “here and now” of everyday wakefulness, to let the ego test the continuity between the inward process and normal wakeful perceptions.

Finally, in the fourth phase of conversion, Loyola walks through the final events of Jesus’ life, those following his resurrection. He then expresses the culmination of the process of transformation in a meditation entitled “Contemplation to Attain the Love of God.”

I will ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much he has given me of what He possesses, and finally, as far as He can, that same Lord desires to give himself to me… 88

As for the place of God’s presence, Loyola says:

..reflect how God dwells in creatures: in the elements giving them existence, in the plants giving them life, in the animals conferring upon them sensation, in man bestowing understanding. So he dwells in me and gives me life, being sensation, intelligence, and makes a temple of me. 89

… consider how God works and labors for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth, that is, He conducts himself as one who labors… 90

…my limited power comes from the supreme and infinite power above, and so too, my justice, goodness, mercy, etc. 91

This then is the pattern of Loyola’s mysticism. He had a sense of his own immediate access to the source of ultimate meaning which was for him the person of Jesus and the God whom Jesus expresses. This sense of intimacy continued throughout his life, even in the midst of his most active periods of organizing and administration of the Jesuits. His last “major” vision seems to have occurred In 1539, when he and his companions were on their way to Rome to seek the approval of the Pope for their new idea of a religious order. But “ordinary” mystical experiences continued until his death. When he was General of the Jesuits, his associates often observed him in various psychic states, such as trances during Mass (which often took him three hours to complete). He was persuaded to dictate some autobiographical notes to Fr. Luis Gonzalez de Camera. De Camera notes:

He said that he was certain that he did not tell me anything beyond the facts, and that he had frequently offended our Lord after he had begun to serve dim, but that he had never given consent to a mortal sin. His devotion always went on increasing, that is, the ease with which he found God, when was then greater than he had ever found in his life. Whenever he wished, at whatever hour, he could find God. He also said he still had many visions, especially in which he saw Christ as a sun, mentioned above, This often happened to him, especially when he was speaking of matters of importance, and came to confirm him in his decision.

He also had many visions when he said Mass, and very frequently when he was drawing up the Constitutions. This he could affirm the more easily because he had the habit of setting down his thoughts every day, and these writings he had then found. He showed me a rather large bundle of collected writings, a large part of which he read to me. The larger part of the visions he saw in confirmation of some of the Constitutions, seeing now the Father, now all Three Persons of the Trinity, sometimes our Lady who interceded for him and sometimes confirmed what he had written.92

In The Spiritual Exercises proper there is no mention of institutional religion. Yet Loyola was convinced of the Roman theology of the mediation of the sacred through the symbol-events of the sacraments — especially the Eucharist — and through the hierarchical authority structure of the papacy.93 Without his experience of Manresa, Loyola would never have tried for any innovations in this structure. But because of that experience, he lived a tension between his own unmediated access to the sacred, and his belief in the sacred power of the institutional church,

3. First Activities

Once Loyola returned from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem of 1523-1524, he faced the problem of what to do with the rest of his own life, At this point his rational appraisal of his social milieu becomes a dominant force in his life. He first decided that in order to have a maximum effect on the social order of his day, he needed an education.94 His schooling in Spain lasted for four years. During this time he also began his career as a spiritual guide. He took it upon himself to advise persons on matters of conscience. He did this in private homes, by letter, and in the small groups of fellow-students who gathered around him. As evidenced by his encounters with the Inquisition during his last year in Spain, such behavior was highly disapproved of . Loyola’s reverence for the sacred character of this authority did not in the least change his conviction that he too had the power to translate the sacred into intelligible symbols. His response to the Inquisition was one of rational prudence. He tried to stay out of its way, and was content to go to France rather than oppose an authority which was too powerful and too conservative for him to influence it.

In Paris, Loyola continued his studies and his proselytization. With quiet self-assurance he interpreted the sacred for those whom he found well-disposed to himself.. During this time, he was mainly occupied with study, and so had no time to think of any institutional reform of Christianity.

After Loyola and his companions left Paris, they were still concerned with works of charity carried on in small group situations. They cared for the sick and the poor, lived on alms, and sought a community life in urban settings, where they could help others find meaning in Christianity. 95

One of their principle activities during this time was giving the Spiritual Exercises. Wherever Loyola and his companions went, they urged their friends “to make the Spiritual Exercises.” Many did so, mostly from the middle levels of secular society and the clergy. Many of these became recruits to the Jesuits, and those who didn’t became Loyola’s helpful friends in the middle ranges of ecclesiastical and secular administrations. Through such friends, Loyola’s reputation spread through-out the network of ecclesiastical and political hierarchies.

During this time, the “Inigists”, as they were often called, had no formal offices or organizational structure. They formed a community with the recognition of the primacy of Loyola’s charismatic leadership.

4. Charisma and Organization.

Some historians see in the work of Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits an essentially conservative force supporting the traditional authority structure of the Roman Church. This view is held not only by the Jesuits’ enemies, but by its friends also. The Jesuit historian Martin Harney observes:

The Jesuits’ history could not but have been influenced by the Reformation. Protestantism was essentially a rebellion against authority, hence a remedy was found in the strict obedience of the Jesuits. … The reformers’ revolt was directed above all against the Papacy. …the Jesuits’ absolute obedience to the Popes and the special vow of obedience to the Holy See was their response.96

We will find that Loyola’s own obedience to the Holy See was not quite absolute, and it is quite possible that his public utterances on obedience and the special vow of obedience were correctives he saw as necessary to help resolve the tension between the mysticism of The Spiritual Exercises and his conviction of the necessity of working within the structure of the church.

Loyola’s public writings on obedience are quite famous. For instance, his “Rules for Thinking with the Church” include the following statements:

We must put aside all judgment of our own, and keep the mind every ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.97

..If we wish to proceed securely in all things, we must hold fast to the following principle: What seems to me white, I believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines. 98

Among his many letters on obedience, the one he wrote to the Jesuits of Portugal on March 26, 1553 is considered classic, and has come to be called “The Letter on obedience”. This letter includes his teaching on “blind obedience ‘:

There is a third and last way of bringing the judgment into subjection… Make up your minds that whatever the Superior commands is the command and will of God himself. … in carrying out any order of the Superior, you should be swept on by a blind passion to obey, without making even the slightest inquiry into the command. 99

Loyola’s rhetoric notwithstanding, his own behavior, while respectful of authority, was by no means spontaneously submissive In fact, his attitude towards the authority of the Church is not so far from Martin Luther’s as is often claimed.

Erik Erikson’s description of Luther and the Renaissance is a good source from which to draw comparisons.

It cannot escape those familiar with psychoanalytic theory that the Renaissance is the ego revolution par excellence. It was a large-scale restoration of the ego’s executive functions, particularly insofar as the enjoyment of the senses, the exercise of power, and the cultivation of a good conscience to the point of anthropomorphic vanity were concerned, all of which was regained from the Church’s systematic and terroristic exploitation of man’s proclivity for a negative conscience…… The Renaissance gave man a vacation from his negative conscience, thus freeing the ego to gather strength for manifold activity …… One could make the case that Martin, even as he hiked back to Erfurt, was preparing himself to do the dirty work of the Renaissance, by applying some of the individualistic principles immanent in the Renaissance to the Church’s still highly fortified home ground — the conscience of ordinary man. 100

Loyola also had an extremely acute sense of the ego’s executive functions, but he came to his stand on authority out of a different social milieu than Luther, and by way of a different psychological journey. His sense of his own individuation and access to the sacred was secure enough to permit him to deal with authority coolly and rationally.

The prime example of his style in these matters was his handling of the case of Claude Le Jay. The incident occurred in 1547, Christopher Hollis, who cites examples of Loyola’s behavior in similar situations, overlooks this case:

… Ignatius was engaged in hard fights to prevent preferments and titles being forced upon members of the Society. First there was the attempt to make Borgia a Cardinal in 1550… Then there was the attempt of the Duke of Bavaria to make Peter Canisius a canon, and that of Ferdinand… to make him bishop of Vienna . All these Ignatius resisted, as he was afterwards to resist the attempt to force a cardinal’s hat on Laynez. 101

Le Jay’s predicament is described in detail in a letter commissioned by Ignatius, and written by his secretary Father Polanco, to a Father Michael de Torres, March 2, 1547. 102

The scenario begins when Ferdinand’s confessor, one Urban Weber, delivers a letter to Father Le Jay, asking him to accept the office of bishop of Trieste. “But the father, despite all the urgings of the king’s confessor.. wrote the king to excuse himself as best he could.” 103

The second scene comes three months later. Polanco says:

…we heard here one day from Master Bernard Maffei, secretary to his Holiness, that another attempt was being made to make the same father bishop, and the next morning our Father Ignatius went to the palace and spoke with the secretary, who read him a very warm letter which the king of the Romans had written to the Pope.104

The main point of the letter was the king’s request to the Pope that he command Le Jay to accept the office of bishop of Trieste

Scene Three: “When Father Ignatius saw how matters stood, he betook himself to the home of the ambassador of the King of the Romans, Don James Lasso…” The ambassador also had a letter from the King, “part of it in the King’s own hand”, urging the same matter. Ignatius remonstrated with the ambassador. “After a few pleasant remarks, however, he answered that if Master Claude refused to accept the post and the pope did not excommunicate him, he himself would leave Rome.” 105

Scene Four: Ignatius then goes back to the pope’s secretary and learns that three of the cardinals “who are taken up with such official business, had seen the king’s letter and had.. made up their minds to see the matter through in another way.” 106 Loyola went around to these cardinals, “but, not getting what he wanted, decided to go straight to the pope…”107

Scene Five: Loyola has a long conversation with the pope, in which he gives six good reasons why Le Jay should not be appointed bishop.

The Pope answered him with great kindness, approved his reasons and his lengthy discourse, and praised the Society. But he clung to one point which was finally settled in his mind: that was that what the King of the Romans did…had been the work of the Holy Spirit, alleging such authority as ‘Cor regis in manu domini est. — The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.108

Scene Six: Loyola goes from his interview with the pope to see John de Vega, Ferdinand’s secretary in Rome, and persuades him to try to dissuade the pope. He enlists Master Peter Codacio and as many others as he could to make the rounds of the cardinals.” 109

Polanco adds:

It is hardly believable what diligence he used in this matter. The day was not long enough for his efforts. He spoke to three cardinals at night, one living a good mile from another… 110

The climax of the scenario runs as follows:

Seeing us thus encircled, and that the consistory would take place on the following day without any change of mind on the part of the pope, our father hit upon the expedient of going to Madama (Margaret of Austria, daughter of Charles V and wife of Octavius Farnese) to have her write a note to his holiness in which she begged him not to deal with the case in the consistory but to wait until she and Senor John de Vega had written to the king. Then, if the king continued to insist and demanded the appointment, the Society would accept the bishopric.111

The note was sent, and the pope said he would wait. The king replied by instructing the ambassador to let the matter drop “as he had come to judge this the better course.” Polanco adds the final scene of the scenario: “Masses in thanksgiving and a Te Deum were ordered here in the house for the successful issue of this trial and scourge…” 112

Evidently, Loyola did not agree with the pope that what the king had done was the work of the Holy Spirit, His sense of his own spiritual autonomy was strong enough to produce this powerful strain towards breaking out of his ascribed place in the socio-sacred hierarchy of which the pope was the monarchical head. Yet, since his breaking out still accepted the validity of the hierarchy in general, it took the form of the lobbying of an interest group rather than open revolution. He would have submitted if the king and pope had continued to insist, but this “blind obedience” is only the requirement of extremities, and can be seen as a rational action — to preserve public order — as well as an action based on sacred belief.

Besides having a place within a larger sacred hierarchy, Loyola also built an organization of his own. The Jesuits became a paragon of rationality in post-Reformation Europe. Weber has observed that “…one may rationalize life from fundamentally different basic points of view and in very different directions. Rationality is an historical concept which covers a whole world of different things.113 Loyola’s rationality had two basic goals: “…the salvation and perfection of our own members and… to exert ourselves for the salvation and perfection of others.” 114

It seems fair to describe Loyola’s conception of “salvation and perfection” as a community of persons interacting on the basis of love, and that community includes the personal sacred — Christ, God — as one of the actors. But there are still two distinct goals for Loyola. One is the building of a holy community, and the other is communication of the experiences and principles of that community to society at large (“to others”).

This second goal is what demands a division of labor and a hierarchy of subordination and superordination. Loyola combines the need for hierarchy with the need for community in his conception of obedience.

Loyola never set up bureaucratic rules as the norms to govern subordination in his organization, but made obedience integral to a philosophy of life which encouraged thorough consensus, and the development of a fully common outlook and world-view. He wanted all Jesuits to be of one mind, so that no conflicts could arise. The principle source of this gemeinschaft was to be the Jesuits’ common conception of their union with the sacred experienced in the Spiritual Exercises. This was to have given them such self-respect and security, and respect for their companions, that any subordination would simply be a rational division of labor to attain common goals. Another device to make obedience easy was Loyola’s insistence on “the manifestation of conscience”, an interview in which an individual talked with his superior and would “conceal nothing that may have offended the Lord of all, but give a complete account of his whole previous life.”115 This is done twice a year during training, and once a year after that.

Thus, Loyola’s doctrine of “blind obedience” is a recipe for the limit case in disagreements, and not the ordinary mode of subordination. Even as a limit case, it partakes of the rationale of automatic subordination common to armies and corporations, where efficiency demands that orders be followed unquestioningly, that there be no overlapping of responsibilities. The common mode of subordination, however, was Loyola’s distinctive and comprehensive appeal to his subjects. He appealed to his own personal charisma to personal ties of friendship, to the centrality of his office, and to the substantive rationality of his decisions.

An example of this comprehensive style is a letter of his — again, written by Polanco — to James Laynez, an original companion from the days at Paris, and Loyola’s successor as General of the Jesuits. Loyola reproves Laynez for disobedience. Polanco puts it thus:

At least you might have learned the mind of our father before giving such advice to the prior. I wanted to give reasons for this… .but our father thought otherwise; that is, that none should be given, since the submission of your own judgment.. should be reason enough for you. Besides, it is expressly forbidden to suggest to persons of position to write to our father to ask for certain individuals without first consulting him. Otherwise many inconveniences may follow, especially when the request has to be refused.116

“Submission of judgment” had a sacred value for Loyola, but it is clearly not wholly sacred. That is, additional considerations are given, rational ones referring to “inconveniences that may follow”. Polanco also passes on to Laynez Loyola’s observation that Laynez should take care of his own job, and let Loyola handle his own. 117

Loyola continually maintained the co-existence of rational and non-rational bases of organization in his dealing with his subordinates. His letters are examples of simultaneous definitions of relationships as diffuse and as specific. He has Polanco say to Laynez, for instance: “Our father is not a little displeased with your reverence and the more so, that the faults of those who are loved are always more serious to those who love them.” 118 In the same letter, speaking of sanctions for disobedience, Polanco writes:

Examine these mistakes in the presence of God our Lord, and for three days take some time for prayer to this end. Then write, if you admit they are mistakes and faults. Choose also the penance you think you deserve; write it out and send it to him. 119

The comprehensive relationship also includes a common estimation of the place of the sacred in such matters.

It seems clear that Loyola found himself bound to two images of social organization. One was the hierarchical order required by what Weber calls “everyday routine structures”120 The other was the order of communitas in which every member is equal on the basis of his equal access to the sacred dimension of reality. This latter image of order requires decision making based on personal dialogue leading to agreement, which approaches common consciousness as its ideal. As long as Loyola ruled the Jesuits, he continued to use personal letters and conversations as a primary means of communication and giving orders. This was also his style in dealing with his own superiors, and an long as his personal charisma was respected by officials, he could inject his communitarian image of social order into the bureaucracy of the Roman church.

The goal of all if Loyola’s social activities was this vision of communitas of men among themselves and with God. He derived this vision from his mystical experience, and it was for him an integral world-view which bound together the various expressions of goals which he was fond of, for examples “the greater glory if God”, “the more universal good of men”, and “service of the Church”. In particular, Loyola saw no intrinsic conflict between the goal of community and the goal of service.

We can see how he fused these goals by looking at the means he chose to attain them. We have already seen one of these means: his comprehensive, simultaneously diffuse and specific relationships with superiors and subjects in questions of subordination. In looking at some ecclesiastical innovations he made, and his work in education, we shall see once more how rational mysticism can be.

Loyola’s almost pantheistic sense of the pervasiveness of the sacred led him to value any service as a form of worship, and therefore led him to place singular emphasis on mobility as a prime characteristic of his Jesuits. To this end he eliminated from his order’s activities the traditional monastic and clerical practice of singing the Divine Office in choir. He also eliminated the practice of wearing a distinctive uniform, prescribing for the Jesuits merely the ordinary black soutane of the parish priest, a ubiquitous garb in his time. Both of these innovations aroused opposition among conservative ecclesiastics. In fact, shortly after Loyola’s death, a pope publicly announced his intention of imposing the obligation of singing the office in choir on the Jesuits, but died before he could carry it out.

One of the most interesting conflict resolutions which Loyola engineered was his handling of the issue of “professed houses”. These houses, defined in the Constitutions of the Jesuits, were to be the dwellings of all priests who took solemn vows, and were to be supported only by alms. This prescription was an expression of that devaluation of material things which Weber ascribes to mystics in general.. Now, it was Loyola who wrote the establishment of professed houses into the Constitutions, and it was also Loyola who, in his fourteen years as General of the Jesuits, founded only two of them. What he was really interested in was starting colleges.

Martin Harney observes:

In 1546 the Council of Trent urged the re-establishment of the lectureship at the cathedrals, but in 1563 it laid down the detailed plan of the modern seminary. Something decisive had happened in between. It was the founding of the Collegium Germanicum.in 1552 by St. Ignatius. … In this new institution he provided for a thorough course in philosophy and theology, and even more important, a most solid moral and spiritual training. Dr. Pastor calls the Collegiurn Germanicum the first modern seminary.121

This was indeed a major innovation, for until that time, parish clergy had been educated by living with and receiving private instruction from, other parish priests. If they were aristocrats, they went to universities, but the well-educated clergy was a distinct minority in Europe at that time.

As for the professed houses, a Jesuit historian who has paid specific attention to this issue writes that between 1550 and 1556 “Ignatius wrote many letters urging the foundation of colleges, but not even one document has been found in which he urged the foundation of professed houses.” 122 A letter of his to Peter Canisius in 1554 is typical: “The best means to help the Church in this distress would be to multiply the colleges and schools of the Society in many regions, especially where it is thought there will be a concourse of students.” 123

Loyola’s interest in education was so timely and so well thought-out that within a very short time the Jesuits gained the sobriquet “the schoolmasters of Europe”, and the vitality of their activities survived Ignatius by a century or more. It was an extremely dessicated version of Loyola’s innovations which earned the wrath of such men as Rene Descartes, and later still, of James Joyce.

Chapter VI


After examining these activities of Loyola and the early Jesuits it is very difficult to see any validity at all in Parsons’ assertion that the activities of a mystic “deprive worldly interests of any positive meaning or significance.”124

The case of Ignatius Loyola indicates that the personality system is not entirely within the social system. Through certain psychic experiences — such as the mystical experiences of Loyola — a person can conceive of goals and muster energy to work for them which it has not derived from social interaction.

As for the devaluation of material things, the case of Loyola indicates that it is not necessarily a result of mysticism. He was as open to the reality of the social world as he was to the reality of the sacred perceived in mystical transports. Rather than deny the value of the material, he stood on the edge between the material and the spiritual, and sought to bring them together in a reconciliatio oppositorum. This maintenance of a strong orientation towards both the sacred and the profane was Loyola’s characteristic style, and we have seen examples of it in his manner of ruling the Jesuits, and in his devotion to education as a form of service. It does not stand as an objection to say that Loyola regarded worldly things such as education as mere means to a sacred end, for whether they were means or ends, they were so valued in themselves that Loyola was able to produce an education, for example, which was in his time of the highest quality even by contemporary secular standards.

We have often mentioned Loyola’s rationality. The manner in which he put together the world-view of a mystic and the organizational skills of an administrator should warn us against thinking of “a mystics” as anything more than one element of a a concrete personality’s world-view. Loyola was certainly not interested in making money, but this is no reason to be blind to the extremely expedient nature of his conduct, and his concern for the worldly success of his organization.

Also, Loyola came to the experience of mysticism in a psychological process which has many elements of therapy. His image of God as intimate ruler of whose approval and love he was radically sure, led him to live a form of religion which was humanistic, governed by an ought-conscience, un-fearful, and constantly in search of means to decrease men’s defensiveness and mutual opposition.

Rather that a straightforward opponent of economic life, as Weber says a mystic must be, Loyola tried to subordinate economic, political and social life to the demands of communitas. Weber seems to regard the goal of community as a social oddity, but its continual recurrence as the outcome of mystical experience is noteworthy. “Community building” is now seen as a process which is necessary for all men, not just mystics. Perhaps the social psychologists busily trying to salvage some community from the wreckage of technology should look to men such as Loyola for the symbols around which to build their expedient activity,


1 Max Weber, “The Social Psychology of the World Religions”, in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, translated by Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York, Oxford, 1958), 287.

2 Ibid., 289.

3 Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston, Beacon Press, 1963). 177.

4 lbid.

5 lbid.

6 Weber, “Social Psychology”, 289. Italics added.

7 Weber, Sociology of Religion, 176.

8 lbid., 171.

9 Weber, “Social Psychology”, 281.

10 Evelyn Underhill, The Mystics of the Church (NY, Schocken Books, 1964), 20.

11 Weber, “Social Psychology”, 290.

12 William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York, Collier Books. 1961), 396.

13 Weber, op. cit., 286-287.

14 Ibid., 270

15 Weber, The Sociology of Religion, 170.

16 Clifford Geertz, The Religion of Java (New York, The Free Press, 1960), 275.

17 H.D. Duncan, Communication and Social Order (New York, Oxford U. Press, 1962), 55. –

18 R. C. Zaehner, Mysticism, Sacred and Profane (Oxford , 1957.) xviii-256.

19 Ibid. Peter Berger is another who agrees with Huxley. He says: “One historically important religious phenomenon in which the theodicy of self-transcendent participation appears over and over again is mysticism. We can define mysticism… as the religious attitude in which man seeks union with the sacred forces or beings. In its ideal-typical form, mysticism entails the claim that such union has, indeed, empirically taken place — all individuality vanishes and is absorbed in the all pervasive ocean of divinity.” (The Sacred Canopy, 63.)

20 Ibid. , 27-28.

21 Ibid., 30.

22 Ibid. , 32.

23 William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 305.

24 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York, Fontana Books, 1963), 77

25 Zaehner’s Jungian “explanation” of the types of mysticism may be less valid than the typology itself. But the typology is clear.

26 Zaehner adds a note worth mentioning: “The experience has nothing to do with visions, auditions, locutions, telepathy, telekinesis, or any other praeternatural phenomenon… connected with an hysterical temperament ……they have no essential connection with mystical experience itself, the essence and keynote of which is union.” Op. cit, 32.

27 That is, “all-in-one-ism”. Ibid., 28. Cf. also p. 50.

28 Ibid., 50.

29 Ibid. , 118.

30 Ibid., 144-145.

31 Ibid., 78. Jung says: “I regard my theories as suggestions and attempts at the formulation of a new scientific conception of psychology based in the first place upon immediate experience with human beings.” (Foreword to J. Jacobi, The Psychology of C. G. Jung, cited in Victor White, God and the Unconscious, p. 65. The postulate of a “collective unconscious” is not necessary for our present purpose. All that is necessary is that three kinds of mysticism manifest themselves in different terminologies.

32 Zaehner claims that the distinction between the activity of God and the work of the Devil can be related to this ambiguous nature of the collective unconscious. Many mystics experience this manic-depressive cycle. Islamic mystics have noted it as the phenomenon of “expansion” and “contraction”. Zaehner comments: “. both are manifestations of the ‘collective unconscious’, that mysterious psychic underworld that partakes equally of good and evil.” (p. 45)

33 Ibid., 150.

34 Ibid. , 28-29.

35 Ibid., 148-149

36 Ibid., 120.

37 Ibid., 170.

38 Ibid., 173

39 Ibid.

40 Zaehner uses the phrase “monism in practice” to indicate the difference between the experience grounding Samkhya Yoga and the rationale given for it. Ibid., 165.

41 There is of course a great gap in this approach. For most people in India have never lived according to the highest forms of mystical belief, but rather according to the personal theism of the bhakti tradition. The fact that India was long dominated by devotees of “higher” religions is indeed significant. It would be interesting to investigate the impact of the upward mobility of devotees of the bhakti tradition. It is perhaps noteworthy that the two most important industrialists in India — Birla and Tata — are a Marwari and a Parsi respectively. Marwaris are known for their pious theism, if not polytheism, and Parsis of course have a theology according to which material success is a sign and a means of overcoming evil.

42 Max Weber, The Religion of India (New York, The Free Press, 1958), 332.

43 Zaehner, op. cit., 29.

44 Ibid., 171.

45 Ibid., 111-113.

46 Ibid., 104-105. Zaehner also notes that “mortification” is a type of behavior peculiar to theistic mystics as opposed to pan-en-henic mystics. He includes under “mortification” the extreme asceticism of the hermits or “preserving the mean in all that is connected with the body.” (p. 95)

47 Victor White, God and the Unconscious (London, The Harvill Press, 1952), 53-54.

48 Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1950 . 13.

49 lbid., 49

50 lbid. . 97.

51 Ibid. , 98

52 White, op. cit., 55, citing C. G. Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious, 138.

53 Gordon Allport, Becoming (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1955), 73.

54 Andre Favre-Dorsaz, Calvin et Loyola, deux reformes (Paris, Editions Universitaires, 1951), 89.

55 Ibid. , 166-167.

56 Ibid., 167.

57 Ibid., 330.

58 Thomas Luckmann, The Invisible Religion (New York, Macmillan, 1967) 69.

59 Ibid. 50.

60 Both internal and external personal experience assumes common patterns because social institutions are common on the one hand, and the structure of human unconsciousness is common on the other. Jung’s analysis of mythology is one kind of evidence for the latter’s commonality,

61 Ibid., 60-61.

62 Ibid., 74..

63 Ibid. , 75.

64 Ibid. , 76.

65 Robert N. Bellah, “The Sociology of Religion”, The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Macmillan 1968). XIII, 409.

66 Paul Dudon, St. Ignatius of Loyola (Milwaukee, Bruce Publishing Company, 1949), 28.

67 St. Ignatius Own Story, as told to Luis Gonzalez de Camera (Chicago, Regnery, 1956), 10, See also, Dudon, op. cit., 44. Loyola’s autobiography will be referred to henceforth as Gonzalez do Camera.

68 The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola (Chicago, The Loyola University Press, 1951),141-150. Henceforth this volume will be referred to as Spiritual Exercises.

69 Gonzalez de Camera, 13-14. This is the primary source of the tale, recounted by many of Loyola’s biographers.

70 Gonzalez de Camera, 23-24 For a commentary, see James Brodrick, St. Ignatius Loyola, the Pilgrim Years (New York, Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy, 1956), 108-110.

71 W.W. Meissner, “Psychological Notes on The Spiritual Exercises”, Woodstock Letters 93 (1964), 34-38.

72 Spiritual Exercises, 1.

73 Meissner. op. cit., 352.

74 Ibid. , 353.

75 Spiritual Exercises, 6.

76 Ibid. , 25.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid. 28.

79 Ibid.

80 Gonzalez de Camera, op.cit,, 22.

81 Spiritual Exercises, 6o.

82 Ibid., 61..

83 Ibid.

84 Ibid.., 62.

85 Ibid. 43.

86 Ibid., 44.

87 Meissner, op. cit., 40-41

88 Spiritual Exercises, 102.

89 Ibid.

90 Ibid., 103.

91 Ibid.

92 Gonzalez de Camera, op. cit., 69-70.

93 Loyola’s belief in the sacred character of the papacy is expressed throughout his numerous writings on obedience — in letters, in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, and also in his “Rules for Thinking with the Church” appended to the Spiritual Exercises, For this last, see Spiritual Exercises, 157-161.

94 From Loyola’s letters it is clear that he valued education as a base for having influence in society. Education was mainly a source of leverage to bring about changes in the social order, and these changes were specified by the world view of the Spiritual Exercises, See his letter to Lainez in defense of the classics, The Letters of St. Ignatius Loyola (Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1959), 132. This volume will henceforth be referred to as Letters.

95 Their life-style agrees with Weber’s observation: Wherever genuine mysticism did give rise to communal action, such action was characterized by the acosmism of the mystical feeling of love. Mysticism may exert this kind of psychological effect, thus tending — despite the apparent demands of logic — to favor the creation of communities (gemeinschaftbildend).” The Sociology of Religion, 176. However, this “acosmism” soon gave way to Loyola’s inner-worldliness.

96 Martin Harney, The Jesuits in History (Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1967?, 23-24.

97 Spiritual Exercises, 157.

98 Ibid., 160.

99 Letters, 289.

100 Erik Erikson, Young Man Luther (New York, W.W. Norton,1958), 195-194,

101 Christopher Hollis, St. Ignatius (New York, Sheed and Ward, 1945), 260.

102 Letters, 115-120.

103 Ibid,, 115.

104 Ibid., 116.

105 Ibid.

106 Ibid., 117.

107 Ibid,

108 Ibid. 118.

109 Ibid. , 119.

110 Ibid.

111 Ibid. 119-120.

112 Ibid.

113 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York, Scribners, 1958), 77.

114 Rules of the Society of Jesus (Woodstock College Press, 1956), 5-6.

115 Ibid., 21.

116 Letters, 270.

117 Ibid., 271.

118 Ibid., 270.

119 Ibid. , 271

120 Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organizations (New York, The Free Press 1947), 363.

121 Harney, op. cit., 13.

122 George E. Ganss, “The Origin of Jesuit Colleges for Externs and the Controversies about their Poverty, 1539-1608”, Woodstock Letters 91 (1962), 139.

123 Ibid.

124 Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion, xxxviii.


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