This essay traces shifts in meditative practice from Saint Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises to the experimental philosopher Robert Boyle's Occasional Reflections, showing how Boyle's text participates in the evolution of the concept of “attention” as it changes from a spiritual ideal to a mental faculty. In the Spiritual Exercises, attention is an experience that is not independent of the spiritual ideal of attending to God but rather a sign and trace of the latter. Boyle sought to relax the strict regime of earlier meditations by offering a new recipe: his reformed program of “occasional meditation” entails surrendering to attention's “natural vagrancy” rather than resisting it. By allowing experiences that would have formerly counted as distractions to be acts of devotion, Boyle participated in the creation of a new psychological notion of attention.
David Marno; Easy Attention: Ignatius of Loyola and Robert Boyle. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2014; 44 (1): 135–161. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2389524
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