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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality

A book I sent away for has finally arrived - Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality by Philip Endean SJ. I've been getting more interested in Rahner lately and I've been interested in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola since that past online retreat, so I think this book will be helpful (saying I can understand any of it :).

Here's just the first few paragraphs from the second chapter, The Immediate Experience of God ......


In 1978 Rahner gave an interview about the Ignatian Exercises. At the outset he distinguished the Exercises in the full sense from two other styles of Christian formation -- styles often associated with the Exercises and easily confused with them. The first of these Rahner termed 'a course of theological instruction'. Ironically, perhaps ruefully, Rahner made a disclaimer: 'perhaps all the books I wrote about the Ignatian Exercises are, on the whole, not Ignatian Exercises in the full sense of the word, but theological treatises'. Rahner also distinguished the Exercises from 'practices of a meditative type, particularly in the style of Eastern meditation', in which 'it is a matter of becoming tranquil, of a certain silencing of purposeful thoughts, of quiet, perhaps also of a certain openness towards deeper existential layers of the human person'. In the Exercises, something different was at stake:

In contrast to exercises in self-awareness (so far as this is possible), and in contrast to a verbal theological indoctrination, however important this latter can be, the Exercises are concerned with something else. It is a matter here ... of letting the Creator and the creature, as Ignatius says, deal immediately with each other ... It is nothing other than this experience to which Ignatius in the Exercises wants to lead a person.

Quite evidently, the elderly Rahner associates Ignatius with 'the immediate experience of God' -- unmittelbare Gotteserfahrung. This kind of experience is deeper and more radical than the encounter with God fostered by liturgical prayer or mediated through Church structures. In a secularized, pluralist society, the survival of Christian commitment will depend on such an 'ultimate, immediate encounter of the individual with God' .......


This is what I like best about Ignatius - his idea that God will interact directly with us - and I'm looking forward to seeing how Rahner interprets the idea. May post more from the book later.


Blogger Vincent said...

I hope you can indeed post more on this. I can't see why anyone would want to be a Christian without such an objective as 'ultimate, immediate encounter of the individual with God' - whatever that means, experientially.

To me the unanswered question is how costly (in terms of ascetic renunciation) are these exercises.

8:08 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Vincent ,

I can't see why anyone would want to be a Christian without such an objective as 'ultimate, immediate encounter of the individual with God'

Me too :) But I'd guess that many people who are Christians are happy enough to belong to a church and go through the motions.

The Spiritual Exercises are not really an ascetic renunciation kind of thing in the sense of punishing the body or mind to make onself more holy. There is the hope that people will choose to "join Jesus in his mission" which might involve a loss of reputation, money, health, safety, etc. But it's mostly about (I think) fostering a relationship between the person who does the retreat and Jesus - maybe the costly part is the willingness to allow that to happen. That Spiritual Exercises online retreat at Creighton University is a "retreat in daily life" version which takes about 30 weeks, but the normal retreat lasts about a month.

12:09 PM  
Blogger chrisrushlau said...

Let me suggest something to look for in this Endean book, having read a couple of reviews.
Well, before that, an obvious point. Have you read any of Karl himself?
I take as true one thing often said, that his pastoral and thegological missions co-incided. For the rest, I suspect all his admirers of trying to bury him. J. Metz aside, probably.
Here is the suggestion. Karl found in Thomas Aquinas's theory of knowledge the basis, as he said, of all his life's work (summarized as the theory of "the conversio ad phantasma") which turns out to be a simple proposition, from Aristotle. I'll put it in two parts. We have immortal souls. We draw conclusions from what we see, so as to categorize things. Those two facts explain each other. Karl was not one to delve into evil, so I'll do so for him: imagine a liar, who refuses to see what is in front of her eyes, because it makes a demand on her conscience she doesn't think she can afford--this refusal pains her, because her soul, the immaterial (everywhere at once, timeless) part of her, is precisely the element in her (in her being human, as a human who is being) that identifies the thing before her as such-and-such (the affirming judgment of the concretized universal, I believe Karl calls it in his Ph.D., thesis, "Spirit in the World", which, to the end of his life he described as the foundation of his life's work, never overturned).
Her soul shrieks when she won't let it draw the universal from the sensible image--see what the thing is that is there before her, what category it belongs in, such as "innocent victim", perhaps.
Everybody everywhere confronts such a spiritual crisis every day. This is bigger than church, bigger than civilization. It is about being human.

2:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for your comment. I've only read short bits of Rahner - one of Fr. Endean's books, "Karl Rahner: Spiritual Writings ", compiles some of his writings and letters. To be honest, I find Rahner really hard to understand. I agree with you that what is at stake is begger than the church.

3:18 PM  

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