Ignatius of Loyolaknight and saint, mystic and ascetic, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)was one of the greatest figures in Western Christianity. This book, written by a psychiatrist-psychoanalyst who is also a Jesuit, is the first work to look behind the events, accounts, and documents of Ignatius' life and religious experience in order to enter and understand his inner world.
W. W. Meissner writes compassionately about Ignatius' origins, early development, conversion, years of prayer and penance, mystical teaching and career, and finally his efforts to found and direct the Society of Jesus. Dr. Meissner not only places Ignatius' life against the background of the radical religious, social, and political upheaval of the sixteenth century but goes beyond this to explore the psychic and psychodynamic inner processes that transformed the man into the saint. Dr. Meissner discusses, for example, Ignatius' ordeals of body and spirit during his career as a soldier, his conversion experience, the evolution of his personality after conversion, his relationships with women, his lifelong struggles to overcome his aggressive, narcissistic, and libidinal impulses, and the psychology and pathology of his mysticism. The complex personality of this great saint and the profundity of his personal and spiritual struggles bring into focus significant questions about the complex interplay between human motivations and needs on the one hand and religious experience and spiritual motivation on the other. The book is not only a biography of a much-revered figure of the Roman Catholic Church but a unique contribution to both psychoanalysis and religious history.