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Bergmann, M.S. (1996). The Psychology Of A Saint: Ignatius Of Loyola. By W. W. Meissner. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1992, xxvii + 480 pp., $20.00 (paperback).. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:611-616.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:611-616

The Psychology Of A Saint: Ignatius Of Loyola. By W. W. Meissner. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1992, xxvii + 480 pp., $20.00 (paperback).

Review by:
Martin S. Bergmann

Ignatius from Loyola Cures the Possessed, circa 1619-1620, Rubens, Vienna, Hofmuseum

Among the psychoanalytic books that deal with outstanding historical personalities, the book under review is unique. A psychoanalytic study of the life of a saint has, to my knowledge, never been undertaken before. The psychoanalytic book that comes closest to the one under discussion is Erikson's (1958)Young Man Luther. Luther and Ignatius of Loyola were contemporaries, but on the opposite side of the great divide between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

In the preface, Meissner, who is a training analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, as well as a member of the Society of Jesus, explains the autobiographical basis for this study.

Ignatius was one of the guiding spirits of my own life and career. Whatever spiritual substance and direction I have reflects my formative experience in the course of my Jesuit training—all based directly on the teachings and spiritual guidance of Ignatius. The other dominant influence in my life—this one more intellectual than spiritual—has been Sigmund Freud, the guiding spirit of my career as a psychoanalyst. My path through life has been to integrate these two disparate influences in some meaningful way—in both personal and intellectual sense [p. x].

This is the only self-referential statement in the book. Meissner never mentions the transference problem that Freud in 1930 insisted every biographer faces. We can only surmise that it was not easy for the author to accept the idea that in his psychiatric and psychoanalytic judgment the man who was his spiritual guide was near psychosis and suicidal for a significant part of his life.

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