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July 2020 Vol 59 No 3
Moved by Conversation

Psychological Foundations of Interior Movements

In his teaching on discernment of spirits, which lies at the heart of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius speaks of ‘movements’ experienced within the soul that can to some extent be understood. Here Roger Dawson relates these movements to recent psychological research, particularly to theories of the emotions, both positive and negative.

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Communicating Jesuit Mission Today: The Universal Apostolic Preferences

Recently the Jesuits worldwide adopted four ‘Universal Apostolic Preferences’, intended to guide and shape the mission of the Society of Jesus over the next decade. Using an image from the film The Matrix, the British Jesuit Provincial, Damian Howard, offers one way in which these preferences might be effectively communicated.

The Treasures of Darkness: Poetic Musings toward a Spiritual Theology of Darkness

Much spiritual writing presents light as an image of everything good, with its counterpart, darkness, as a symbol of evil, or at least of all that should be shunned and avoided. By contrast here Bonnie Thurston, drawing on both scripture and poetry, finds much in the idea of darkness that is positive, and that can usefully be incorporated into a developing spiritual journey.

Artificial Intelligence: A Theological Approach

Artificial intelligence is at the cutting-edge of current technological innovation, and the full implications of its development for humanity are as yet far from clear. Calum Samuelson regards artificial intelligence as ‘a tool that amplifies human nature and behaviours’, explores how heological ideas can illuminate aspects of its realisation.

Joining the Conversation

Robert Green was raised in a Christian tradition that regarded the Bible as a kind of infallible divine instruction manual. He responds to this here with the idea of ‘sacred conversation’, continuing to view scripture as a bearer of truth while offering a more nuanced understanding of how that truth is conveyed. It is, he holds, the Bible itself that serves to initiate these conversations.

Memory in the Spiritual Exercises and John 21

Both Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the final chapter of John’s Gospel rely heavily on the concept of memory to make their impact. Gerald O’Collins shows here how this enables the experience of being a loved and forgiven sinner, with an awareness of all the gifts that God continues to offer, can help to deepen Christian discipleship.

Helping Others: The Role of Conversations and of the Spiritual Exercises

At the heart of the Spiritual Exercises lies the experience of conversation: between the director and the one being directed, and, more importantly, between the exercitant and God, in prolonged prayer. In this extract from a longer work Patrick Goujon considers how these conversations work, in a way that is unique to each person involved.

Coping with Insecurity, Uncertainty and Risk

Helen Freeman is both an ordained rabbi and a qualified Jungian analyst. Here she argues that the ‘dominion over creation’ that humans are given in the Book of Genesis does not enable us to escape through material things from an insecurity inherent in being a creature, and that the security that we crave can only be found in God.

Small Christian Communities Rejuvenating the Church

One of the results of the isolation forced upon many by the coronavirus pandemic has been a deepened appreciation of the value of community. In fact the Church had already, in recent decades, been coming to a similar conclusion. John Zupez describes a number of projects from across the world that illustrate this renewed insight

From the Foreword

S PIRITUAL CONVERSATION was a key skill that Ignatius hoped to develop in the early Jesuits. As men educated in Renaissance humanism, debate came naturally to them, and to this they brought a determination to listen deeply to other points of view, whether those of the Protestant reformers in Europe or of the new and diverse cultures they encountered on their missionary journeys. To engage in spiritual conversation is not artificially to restrict talk to ‘holy’ subjects, but rather gradually to let a conversation deepen, to the point where both parties are able to recognise the God who is at work everywhere in the world and within each human heart. This conversational art has lost none of its relevance over the last five centuries.

In this issue of The Way Patrick Goujon looks at how conversations of this kind have a key role to play in the experience of the Spiritual Exercises. Robert Green suggests that such conversation is a powerful way of coming to understand the way in which the truths of scripture are conveyed, in patterns that go beyond a belief in the Bible as simply the ‘maker’s instructions’ for humanity. The contribution by John Zupez highlights the role of small communities within the contemporary Church—communities in which the faith can be shared and spread through conversation, rather than only by one-way preaching.

At its best, spiritual conversation is alert to, and follows, the movements of God’s Spirit as they make themselves known in our experience. Roger Dawson relates this idea to psychological theories of the emotions, positive and negative. Bonnie Thurston picks up on the idea that God can be recognised even in experiences that are often rejected as negative, drawing on poetry to find God active in darkness as well as in light. For Gerald O’Collins, memory has a central role to play in enabling a continuing response to the movements of spirit, building on what it is that God is doing, and he illustrates this from the encounters described at the end of John’s Gospel.

This view of conversation recognises it as an important way in which the word of God is communicated. Damian Howard draws on a striking image from the science fiction film The Matrix to explore aspects of contemporary divine communication. Alan Turing famously suggested that the test for successful artificial intelligence would be whether it could conduct a conversation indistinguishable from one with another human being. As this possibility comes ever closer to being realised, Calum Samuelson employs theology to approach it with optimism. And Helen Freeman explores the long cultural conversation within Judaism about how the dominion over Creation bestowed by God on Adam should be interpreted and lived.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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