What makes the Jesuits tick? No doubt the answer lies in the spirit of abnegation and service inculcated by the Spiritual Exercises, with the extraordinary sense of creative freedom that flows from it. Xavier, Ricci, Teilhard, the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador, and many other of Lacouture's subjects enact this gospel paradox before our eyes in his vivid pages. Yet, with a slightly irritating Gallic coyness, Lacouture also insinuates a darker side to the Jesuit experiment. Conscious of how naturally blind obedience comes to the human animal and how calamitous its role has been in recent history, Lacouture suggest that the glorification of obedience to the Pope and to the superior has been a tragic shackle on Jesuits and their church (particularly after the nineteenth century restoration of the Society, under the auspices of ultramontanism and political reaction). Lacking theological qualifications, Lacouture does not query the biblical basis of the cult of obedience, contenting himself with vague allusions to masochism. That dark strain in his narrative reaches a painful climax in his account of John Paul II's treatment of Pedro Arrupe. The Jesuit exclusion of women (even of Madeleine Sophie Barat's Sacred Heart Sisters, formed on Ignatian principles) also comes in for some judicious criticism. Apart from a knowing pen-portrait of De Lubac, the book does not pay much attention to the great line of Jesuit theologians and philosophers. Their external lives would add little color to this multibiography, yet their intellectual adventures were perhaps as exciting as anything recounted here. On all fronts the Society of Jesus represents a precious heritage of Christianity and of Western civilization, and one can only pray for whatever radical adjustments are required to prevent it being squandered.