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Coltart, N. (1993). Ignatius of Loyola. The Psychology of a Saint: By W. W. Meissner. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. 1992. Pp. 480.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1281-1283.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1281-1283

Ignatius of Loyola. The Psychology of a Saint: By W. W. Meissner. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. 1992. Pp. 480.

Review by:
Nina Coltart

Here is a book of paradox, and to many readers the author himself represents a paradox. Dr Meissner serves two professional masters, two of the most powerful cultural figures of the last 400 years, St Ignatius and Sigmund Freud; he is a Jesuit priest and a Professor of Psychoanalysis at Boston College. I imagine he is unique in this respect. Without his profound immersion in both his disciplines, Meissner would never have brought off the achievement that this book is; with it, he has produced a vivid, detailed and scholarly study of an extraordinary character, Ignatius of Loyola, who in his own life and character manifested many paradoxes.

As I got deeper into the book, I was increasingly gripped by it, so alive is the portrait of a remarkable and charismatic man. By the end, I even felt that he was, after all, rather lovable; throughout most of the book I had felt impatient, amazed, admiring, aggravated, and moved by turns, but rarely stirred to affection. I cannot help wondering whether Meissner didn't heave a sigh of relief as he laid down his pen. He had set himself a formidable task: there are massive sources for the 'Life', and because of the intellectual and emotional requirements of both his professions, he must have been conscious of balancing on a tight-rope throughout most of his journey.

I find I still cannot be sure where the author's primary audience was felt to be; I imagine a number of workers in our own field will read it partly on the basis of respect for Meissner's previous writings.

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