What is a human being without desire? Desire arises in every area of our lives. Not only does it give access to our interior world but it is often the way in which we project into the future. In many ways desire is the engine of our life and, whether realized or frustrated, it also shapes it.
The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are intensely aware of the dynamic of desire. They uncover the rhythm and movement of ‘desire’ – our desire for God, the ‘other’, and God’s desire for us. The Spiritual Exercises presents a site where those two desires self-consciously encounter each other within the constructed realities of time and space which fragments and disperses desire into desires. Some of these lead to intimacy with God; others do not.
Desire is also a theological reality. Does it make sense to speak about God’s desire? In what ways are we invited into that Divine desire? Do they simply strengthen our entrapment within created and projected desire or are they a school of discernment and freedom?
These are some of the questions and themes that a recent research seminar hosted by Campion Hall explored over three days. Papers were presented by an international group of experts: Rob Faesen (University of Louven); Vincent Gillespie (University of Oxford); Nicholas King (Heythrop); Philip Sheldrake (University of Cambridge); Peter Tyler (St. Mary’s Twickenham); Graham Ward (University of Oxford); Monty Williams (Regis College, Universitiy of Toronto); and James Hanvey (University of Oxford). Other participants included Avril O'Reagan (Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality, Dublin); Mark Aloysius (Heythrop College); David Birchall (Ignatian Spirituality Centre, Glasgow); Piaras Jackson (Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality, Dublin); Roger Dawson (St Beuno's Jesuit Spirituality Centre, Wales); Dorian Llywelyn (Santa Clara University); and Mark Rotsaert (Gregorian University).
A particular strength of this conference was the ability to bring together not just academics from different fields of study, but also 'practitioners' working at spirituality centres throughout the U.K. and Ireland.
Discussion was lively and fruitful, as the group considered the topic of desire from a number of perspectives--philosophical, theological, and literary. The papers presented will now hopefully form the basis of a forthcoming publication, so as to bring the ideas discussed to a wider audience.