Cormac Gallagher – A Stranger To Myself

Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 89-97

Alienation in the Spiritual Exercises

The need for Ignatian Spirituality to engage with Freudian psychoanalysis.

Keywords: Ignatian Exercises; Id quod volo; Freud; Lacan; Psychoanalysis


What I do is me: for that I came.

                                                              Gerard Manley Hopkins

What did I come into this world to do?

The honest man, I take it, comes to his spiritual guide with some such question as this. The praxis set out by St. Ignatius under the name of Spiritual Exercises gives the one to whom this question is addressed some indications as to what he should say and do in reply. It is his vocation to support the desire of the man who in asking so radical a question has exposed himself in his weakness to the uncompromising demands that may be made of him.

We were once the weak, generous ones who asked this question and sought someone who would guide us. Now we are the strong knowing ones and others come to us with their pleas. How are we to respond? This paper tries to tease out some of the implications of choosing to respond to our questioner by inviting him to do the exercises. Its particular focus will be the danger that in the process of doing the exercises the sense of the original question may be lost.

In 1939 Fr. Michael Egan, mathematician, poet and mystic, wrote an article called “The Prayer of Stupidity”. It was an article often recommended by spiritual fathers to those who were finding it difficult to persevere in their daily prayer. Many people found comfort in the fact that someone of Fr. Egan’s eminent wisdom saw value in sticking with a form of prayer which brought them little warmth and less light. In hands less skilful than Fr. Egan’s the doctrine…


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