free ebooks

A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Have no place in the prolonged course of discipline

they display of the bodily

conditions and accompaniments of states of spiritual ecstasy, and the continuous, not to say unscrupulous, use they make of physical means to create spiritual abandon. They master the soul by manipulating the body. Not that self-examination, honest and careful recognition of sins and weaknesses in presence of temptation, have no place in the prolonged course of discipline. This is inculcated with instructions which serve to make it detailed, intense, almost scientific. The pupil is ordered to examine himself twice a day, in the afternoon and in the evening, and to make clear to himself every sin and failure that has marked his day's life. He is taught to enter them all, day by day, in a register, which will show him and his confessor his moral condition with arithmetical accuracy. But during his own period of spiritual struggle and depression at Manresa, Ignatius, in spite of the mental anguish which tore his soul, had been noting the bodily accompaniments of his spiritual states; and he pursued the same course of introspection when rejoicing in the later visions of God and of His grace. The _Exercises_ and the _Directory_ are full of minute directions about the physical conditions which Ignatius had found by experience to be the most suitable for the different subjects of meditation. The old Buddhist devotee was instructed to set himself in a spiritual trance by the simple hypnotic process of gazing at his own navel; the Ignatian directions are much more complex. The glare of
day, the uncertainty of twilight, the darkness of night are all pressed into service; some subjects are to be pondered standing upright motionless, others while walking to and fro in the cell, when seated, when kneeling, when stretched prone on the floor; some ought to be meditated upon while the body is weak with fasting, others soon after meals; special hours, the morning, the evening, the middle of the night, are noted as the most profitable times for different meditations, and these vary with the age and sex of the disciple. Ignatius recognises the infinite variety that there is in man, and says expressly that general rules will not fit every case. The _Master of Exercises_ is therefore enjoined to study the various idiosyncrasies of his patients, and vary his discipline to suit their mental and physical conditions.

It is due chiefly to this use of the conditions of the body acting upon the mind that Ignatius was able to promise to his followers that the ecstasies which had been hitherto the peculiar privilege of a few favoured saints should become theirs. The Reformation had made the world democratic; and the Counter-Reformation invited the mob to share the raptures and the visions of a St. Catherine or a St. Teresa.

The combination of a clear recognition of the fact that physical condition may account for much in so-called spiritual moods with the use made of it to create or stimulate these moods, cannot fail to suggest questions. It is easy to understand the Mystic, who, ignorant of the mysterious ways in which the soul is acted upon by the body, may rejoice in ecstasies and trances which have been stimulated by sleepless nights and a prolonged course of fasting. It is not difficult to understand the man who, when he has been taught, casts aside with disdain all this juggling with the soul

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us