Ignatius of Loyola (23 October 1491 – July 31, 1556) was born to a family of minor nobility in northern Spain.
As a young man he was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood and dreamed of doing great deeds. He was gravely wounded in a battle with the French in 1521 and while recuperating, Ignatius Loyola experienced a conversion. Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realised that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.
In 1539, he founded the Superior General of his religious order in 1541 and invested with the title of Father General by the Jesuits. Loyola’s devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries.
The Society of Jesus developed rapidly under his hand. Loyola was, in his last years, much occupied with Germany and India, to which he sent his famous followers Peter Canisius and Francis Xavier. He also dispatched missionaries to the Congo region and to Ethiopia. In 1546 Loyola secretly welcomed Francis Borgia, Duke of Gandia and Viceroy of Catalonia into the society. When knowledge of this became public four years later it created a sensation. Borgia organized the Spanish provinces of the order and became third general.
Loyola left his mark on Rome. He founded the Roman College, embryo of the Gregorian University, and the Germanicum, a seminary for German candidates for the priesthood. He also established a home for fallen women and one for converted Jews. When he died, there were about 1,000 Jesuits divided into 12 administrative units, called provinces, located in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Brazil and India.
As a Jesuit for more than 50 years, present Pope Francis acknowledges his profound debt to Ignatius. If we wonder “What makes Pope Francis tick?” – the answer is found in the spirituality of Ignatius. This spiritual path finds a surprising confirmation in the findings of contemporary psychology. In his classic work ‘The Spiritual Exercises’, Ignatius suggested paths to deepening love of God and neighbour. Ignatius advised people to make decisions out of a spirit of consolation rather than desolation. He understood a spirit of consolation as a sense of peace, harmony, and joy while a spirit of desolation is one of anxiety, fear, and despair.
I have heard…
When Ignatius Loyola heard the news that an unfriendly man had been elected Pope, he was asked what he would do if the new head of the Church should order the Society of Jesus dissolved, the work in which Loyola had invested his whole life. He replied, ‘Fifteen minutes in prayer and all will be the same.’
An immensely significant reply.
An unfriendly Pope had come into power and there was every possibility that Loyola’s whole work would be dissolved. He had created a small society of mystics. The work was esoteric, and Christianity has always been against esoteric work, has always been afraid of the mystics because these are the dangerous people. They bring truth to the world, and once they bring truth to the world, people are no longer interested in rituals, impotent rituals. Who cares about the Church then?
So Christianity has consistently been destroying all mystic schools so that nobody can go outside the Church, so that nobody can have any other door to reach God, so that everybody has to come to the priest. Whenever the desire to seek and search for God arises, no alternatives are to be left. Because of this stupid idea, Christianity destroyed religion in the whole world, because there are different people and they need different types of schools, and they need different types of techniques. And those who are really sincere in their search have to find esoteric groups. They cannot become part of the formal religion – that is not enough for them; it is very lukewarm, it is very superficial.
In the West, real religion had to go underground because of the Church. People have to create many false facades to hide behind. Alchemy was one of the facades. The real work was something else: the alchemist was trying to create around himself the idea that he was working to transform baser metal into gold. This was allowed. The Church was very happy. If you are trying to turn baser metal into gold, it is perfectly okay, you can do it. If you succeed, the Church will have more gold, that’s all; there was no fear about it. But this was just a facade, it was not real alchemy; it was just on the outside. Behind the curtain the real work was totally different: it was transforming the lower being into the higher being. It was exactly the secret of the Golden Flower: how to transform your sexuality, the baser metal, into spirituality, the gold.
But unnecessary trouble had to be taken, they had to make arrangements on the outside such that the society remained convinced that their work was something to do with gold. And everybody is interested in gold. The Church is very interested in gold, not in God.
Loyola was a great mystic. He had created the Society of Jesus. And a very antagonistic Pope was in power. Somebody said to him, ‘What will you do? What will happen now? The Society can be dissolved by the order of the Pope.’
Loyola said, ‘Fifteen minutes in prayer, and all will be the same. It will just take me fifteen minutes to go deep into meditation, that’s all. Because whenever I am there, nothing matters. Nothing matters at all.’
Osho, The Secret of Secrets Vol 1, Ch 9