What is it about?

The article explores how, notwithstanding their suspicions that the devil could take advantage of the animistic beliefs of Peru’s native inhabitants to consolidate idolatry, the Jesuit missionaries ultimately became more understanding of the spiritual Andean worldview. From St. Ignatius of Loyola’s postulate of “Contemplation to Obtain Love” in the Spiritual Exercises, by which God is acting and present in nature and inhabits creatures, and thanks to their continuous contact with the aboriginal population, the Jesuit missionaries were able to better understand the indigenous relationship with nature, for example through natural medicine and pharmacopoeia. They were therefore able to bridge some gaps in an intercultural exchange that produced forms of religious hybridization that are still a feature of Andean Christianity today.

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Why is it important?

The article explains how the Jesuit Missionaries in Peru tried to make sense of the indigenous beliefs rooted in a "animist" way of conceiving reality through the Jesuit lenses of St. Ignatius' spirituality, that promoted the connection with Divinity, understood as "working" in all things. This was a way of bridging some gaps and overcome two different metaphysics. In some sense it was a different nature of intercultural dialogue from that of the Jesuit missions of China.


I think this article could help some scholars to better understand the way Jesuit missionaries were torned because their eagerness to embrace (in their humanistic sensitivity) the indigenous culture collided with their misunderstanding of their naturalistic or animistic spirituality. If we find that there were some anchors in Ignatian Spirituality to understand indigenous' awe for nature then we can find some traces of an intercultural (although not explicit) dialogue.

Juan Dejo
Universidad Antonio Ruiz Montoya

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This page is a summary of: Spiritual Discourse in the Jesuit Missions: The Role of Nature in the Evangelization of Peru (Sixteenth–Seventeenth Centuries), Journal of Jesuit Studies, April 2023, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/22141332-10020003.
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