Or, How Prayer Moved People in an Age of Global Expansion
This chapter foregrounds the elusive embodied experience that the Jesuits called “consolation.” I begin with a devotional guide by Carlo Rosignoli, who promoted the Exercises as offering not only consolation but personal transformation. I then discuss the Jesuit spiritual direction laid out by Claudio Acquaviva in a book of instructions on how the Jesuit superior might console the types of flawed human constitutions that would come before him, emphasizing the therapeutic aspects of Jesuit spirituality. A spiritual director must develop consolatory skills to offer a spiritual path accommodated to each subject, making the task of spiritual direction a rigorous and potentially exhausting technique of the self for the director. Acquaviva’s language demonstrates how medicine and spiritual healing shared a language that drew upon contemporary understandings of the passions. We can answer certain questions about Christianity’s influence in the early modern world by problematizing the connection between self-reflection, affect, and action. I draw upon Spinoza’s reflections on passion and action to understand spiritual experience as intersubjective in cause and effect, paying attention to the way Jesuit spirituality played out as an assemblage of conative bodies striving to imitate or recreate the same postures, prayers, and emotive states of being. A desire for ever-elusive glimmers of consolation drove Jesuits and their followers in search of access to spiritual solace.
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