Pinard de la Boullaye, Henri

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PINARD DE LA BOULLAYE, HENRI (18741958), was a French Jesuit theologian, preacher, and writer on theology, comparative religion, and the spirituality of Ignatius Loyola. Born in Paris in 1874, Pinard entered the Society of Jesus in 1893. He was subsequently appointed professor of theology at a Jesuit institution in Enghien, Belgium, a position that he held from 1910 to 1927. During his professorship at Enghien he became interested in the study of comparative religion. He introduced a course in the history of religions that he later offered at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he lectured from 1927 to 1934.

Earlier, in 1913, Pinard had printed privately for the use of his students a manual entitled De vera religione. In this work he endorsed the theory of a primitive monotheism (Urmonotheismus ) proposed by the priest-ethnologist Wilhelm Schmidt, and the theory of cultural cycles of Fritz Graebner, also an ethnologist. The manual was a detailed study of comparative problems, a foretaste of the intellectual style of his later, more important work, L'étude comparée des religions, the two volumes of which appeared in 1922 and 1925. Several editions were published subsequently, for Pinard continued to revise the work.

Volume 1 of L'étude comparée des religions, subtitled Son histoire dans le monde occidentale, evidenced Pinard's erudition. By means of detailed historical, biographical, and bibliographical research, he lucidly presented the periods and personages relevant to the comparative study of religion, broadly conceived, in the West. Almost an encyclopedia, the volume was followed by an extensive double index (names and topics) that appeared in 1931. The second volume, subtitled Ses méthodes, studied numerous methods of classification and comparison, and the associated theories of explanation and interpretation of religion, that had appeared during the past century. Pinard analyzed the philosophical positions and presuppositions of the various methods and defined precisely what each could bring to the understanding of religion on the historical plane, as well as their defects and limits. He gave considerable attention to the method of the historico-cultural school of Graebner and Schmidt, but he preferred Schmidt's rationalism to his parallel emphasis on primordial revelation. Further, Pinard emphasized the importance of the several human sciences (history, ethnology, philology, psychology, and sociology) in the comparative study of religion, calling for the convergence of these disciplines in such study. Moreover, he insisted on the unity of science and faith.

In 1937 Pinard returned to Enghien, where he devoted himself exclusively to the study of comparative religion, intending to prepare a massive dictionary; the project was interrupted, however, by the outbreak of World War II. Pinard then turned to the study of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Several books and articles on Ignatian spirituality appeared between 1940 and 1956. He died at Lille on February 9, 1958.

Pinard prided himself on rigorous logic and objectivity, holding irrationality, sentiment, and subjectivity in suspicion. He asserted that religion comes into existence on the basis of reason: That is, it is on the rational, deductive plane that religion first imposes itself on humans ("Dieu se conclut avant d'être vu"). Religious experience, on which he wrote several articles during his tenure at Enghien, he considered to be a complement to religion arrived at rationally.


Pinard's major work is L'étude comparée des religions, 2 vols. (Paris, 19221925). Attention should also be directed to his early work on religious experience, La théorie de l'expérience religieuse: Son évolution de Luther à W. James (Louvain, 1921), and to his much later writings on Ignatian spirituality: Exercices spirituels, selon la méthode de saint Ignace, 4 vols. (Paris, 19441947), Saint Ignace de Loyola: Directeur d'âmes (Paris, 1947), and La spiritualité ignatienne (Paris, 1949).

Harry B. Partin (1987)