Anthony de Mello
Anthony DeMello, the Jesuit spiritual teacher and psychotherapist, died suddenly of a heart attack on June 2nd in 1987 at the age of 56. In memory of his life, printed below is a piece Sister Joan wrote about him for an article entitled "The Spiritual Art of Three Modern Masters" that appeared in the U.S.Catholic magazine in June, 1994. The other two masters were Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
I never met the man and I never made one of his retreats. I never read anything he wrote and I never studied his curriculum vitae. I've never talked to anyone who talked to him and I've never heard one of his tapes. But few people have had a greater impact on my life. DeMello was not a designer of spiritual systems. He was not a lawgiver. He was not a cheerleader for a collection of esoteric spiritual exercises. No, Anthony DeMello was a teller of ancient stories whose stories rearranged the human landscape. It is in the stories that he told that I met Anthony DeMello and knew at once that he was unforgettable.
Anthony DeMello, the Jesuit psychologist-spiritual director, is a spiritual figure of our time who will not soon be forgotten in ages to come. DeMello brought something to Western spirituality that had been mightily absent. DeMello brought all of us back into contact with the East, a treasure too long forgotten by too many. What I found in Anthony DeMello's stories that enrich contemporary spirituality is the quality of timelessness.
In the mechanistic West, it is not our style to look for wisdom. What we want in life is far more likely to be fixes than insights. Let others philosophize if they will; we push buttons and "make adjustments" and act. Consequently, we do not sit comfortably with the idea that pain is protective, that suffering is meant to be a symptom of a basic disorder in us, not an irritating inconvenience meant for quick cures and total elimination. We do not tolerate headaches; we do not brook opposition. We know what we want and we get what we go for. The name of the game is "The World According to Me."
Into that world view, as religious with its exercises as it is secular with its technology, DeMello brought a completely different attitude toward life. DeMello dedicated his work to the teaching of four basic principles: consciousness, wholeness, faith rather than belief, and spirituality.
For DeMello, presence and consciousness are the keys to life. In one of his stories, disciples ask the Holy One to teach them the secret of life. Because it was the Day of Silence, the master took a piece of paper and wrote just one word in reply, "Awareness." The disciples read the word and looked at one another in consternation. "Master," they continued, "Could you explain this a little more?" The Holy One took another piece of paper and this time wrote two words, "Awareness. Awareness." The disciples were clearly perturbed. "Holy One, "they persisted. "Can't you please explain more about what you mean by 'awareness?" The Holy One looked up from the prayer rug exasperated and this time wrote clearly and distinctly. "When I say 'awareness,' I mean Awareness! Awareness! Awareness!"
Clearly, coming to see the holy in the daily was, for DeMello, one of the essentials of life. It was awareness, he taught, that made us capable of growth, able to understand others, willing to be made new again. A capacity for the present, DeMello made clear, was the secret to happiness because it saved us from the hurts of the past and the tyranny of a fearful future.
Second, DeMello taught that we lose happiness when we make it dependent on anyone or anything else. "Holy One," the disciple pleaded. "Help me to be free." And the elder said to the disciple, "First find out who has put you in chains?" A week later, the disciple returned. "Holy One," the disciple reported, "no one has bound me." "Then," the Holy One said, "from what do you need to be liberated?" At that moment of enlightenment, the disciple suddenly became free.
The point is made. DeMello was clear about the fact that the secret to happiness is that it lies within us. Happiness, he taught, is measured not by what happens to us but by our ability to find satisfaction within ourselves. The fact that we attach happiness to things outside ourselves, outside our own control, in other words—this house, that job, these clothes, those friends, that recognition—is precisely what makes happiness impossible.
Third, DeMello maintained that we must be open to unlearning everything we have ever known in life if we are going to be able to grow from one place to another. "How shall I attain Eternal Life," the disciple asked the Holy One. "Eternal life is now. Come into the present," the Holy One replied. "But I am in the present now, am I not?" the puzzled disciple persisted. "No," said the Holy One, "You are not." "But why not?" The disciple demanded. "Because you haven't dropped your past," the Holy One said. "But why should I drop my past? Not all of it is bad," the disciple insisted. And the Holy One replied clearly and firmly, "The past is to be dropped not because it is bad. The past is to be dropped because it is past.”
Obviously DeMello was no conserver of a pious and plastic religiosity. To go through life with an open mind, challenging the truisms in the light of new questions is a sign that our faith is greater than our beliefs. Beliefs, Anthony DeMello taught, trap us into close-minded positions but faith assures us that it is God who is really the faithful One. Faith tells us that God will once again and always see us through.
Finally, DeMello taught that if we are really going to be spiritual people that we will have to stop seeking "perfection" and start seeking enlightenment, an awareness of the sacredness of the most mundane. "Help us to find God," the disciples begged the Holy One. "No one can help you there," the Holy One said. "But why not?" the disciples demanded to know. "For the same reason that no one can help the fish to find the ocean," the Holy One said.
God is, indeed, everywhere for Anthony DeMello—in darkness as well as in light, in the ordinary life lived with extraordinarily consciousness, in the sacred center of a creation that is secular to its marrow. It is in the separation of life into categories of the holy and the unholy, the spiritual and the material, the earthly and the heavenly that the human soul gets divided as well. It is the loss of a holy viewpoint that turns my rag-tag, messy, disorganized, judgmental life unholy. DeMello brings us back to the secret: life is enough for us. It is not something to be endured on the way to something better. It is the stuff of which the transformation is made. Life itself, not religion, is the substance of spirituality.
Awareness, unlearning, faith and spirituality are rarefied perspectives in a culture that prizes being out of its senses and in control and being right and being religious. Religion, DeMello pointed out in clear and unequivocal terms, "is not necessarily connected with spirituality." Clearly, spirituality for DeMello is the ability to live whole and happy in the now, expecting nothing, demanding nothing, grasping nothing and so becoming open to all things.
The very thought of going through life open-handed is chilling to the western mind, which may, of course, be precisely why we need it so much, consider it so difficult and find it so unforgettable.
Anthony DeMello brought to a mechanistic world a commitment to a contemplative heart, a passionate soul, and a conscious mind, qualities that change a world, attributes that never die. And to do it, he told us stories.
He told us stories that made us wiser than ourselves. He told us stories that broke down the barriers of our souls. He told us stories that cast light into dark and realized the simple for its profundity and the pompous—even in religion—for its calculating attempt to turn the sacred into a product rather than a prophetic presence.
It is precisely these qualities that flamed out of him with consummate conviction and disarming humor to become a living light that is far beyond who he was as a person, where he lived, what he did, where he went in life. It is in those things that his life will live on, even for those of us who never met him, never heard him, never followed his life's particular meanderings.
DeMello said once, "You are never so good as when you have no consciousness that you're good. A good is never so good as when you have no awareness that you're doing it." By his own measure then, as unaware of us as we were of the person of him, Anthony DeMello may well have done his best work on those, like myself, who never knew him.
An Integral Catholic Leader: Father Anthony de Mello, SJ by Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera (Aug.-Nov. 2013)
Father Anthony de Mello SJ is considered one of the foremost mystical theologians of the late Twentieth Century. His simple and direct approach to life continues to untie all kinds of blockages preventing man’s acceptance of his spiritual nature, even decades after his unexpected death. De Mello’s radiated authenticity, love for all and his characteristic laughter tended to disarm any negative preconceived notions against his ideas. As far as my research goes, I’d say that most of those that knew him personally can attest to his sincere and friendly attitude to all as people from every religious persuasion felt comfortable and at soulfully at home near him.
Through his books, Anthony de Mello still speaks about happiness and freedom by illuminating us on how to perceive conflicts and paradoxes differently, that is, by showing us that there’s an enlivening core of wisdom which is far more fundamental than our attachments to partial conceptual stances. Kindly and sagely de Mello often used stories which offered unexpected solutions to paradoxical situations we might be able to relate with. Each of these solutions recapitulated an essential intuition that apparently sprung spring from his direct awareness of non-relative Truth. As far as I know, this intuition was integrated into his whole being exulting joy, care and an unassuming attentive sympathy towards those that approached him.
In his foundational years, Father de Mello originally learned with great discipline the spiritual practices of Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) and gradually became a master teacher in spiritual retreats which incorporating yoga, vipassana meditation and other oriental and multicultural spiritual practices. He was a man of much charisma and, after reaching beyond the confines of the Jesuit centers in Bombay, gradually became well known throughout the world. Through books, lectures and retreats and by taking at heart the humanitarian outreach recommendations of the Vatican II Council, Father de Mello showed the way for a possible renovation of Catholic ministry and for offering a deeper kind of understanding to individuals of all faiths or of no particular faith at all. Anthony de Mello, SJ used to call himself a “rolling stone” always available to move onto the challenges where Spirit took him. He expressed as a genuine brother to all and came to understand that the genuine Catholic Church encompasses all people: Christians and non-Christians.
Anthony deMello’s vision and path are attempts to bring to life what Ken Wilber calls the churches “Conveyor Belt” (read Wilber’s Integral Spirituality). However, long after his physical departure Father Anthony prompted a censoring reaction from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This, in turn, prompted a reaction in liberal sections of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church and in the Mid Asian synod. In his own way, Father de Mello stands as an example to follow for any integral Church that may emerge in the future and will more likely than not serve as a referent symbol in additional attempts to assist the Roman Catholic Church become a more contemporarily useful, integral “Conveyor Belt.”
I believe that Father Anthony de Mello, SJ also stands next to other important pioneers behind the emerging fertile integration connecting East and West wisdom traditions. I think that his works also stand in line (in their own subtle and profound ways) with an emerging Integral Catholicism contributed by Catholic creatives such as Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Fr. Thomas Keating O.C.S.O., and Fr. Thomas Berry C.P. It’s the way of the future: Out with prejudiced rigidity; in with embrace through an integrally expressed love!
In my view de Mello’s sufi-like, paradoxical short stories are superb. They are deceptively simple and yet perhaps as inspiring as Kahlil Gibran’s and as touching as the stories about Mullah Najrudin. Perhaps a pre-established 2nd Tier sensibility would be required to seek them out without being prompted by the advertising given to other more popular and somewhat similar, spiritually-inspiring authors. I recommend you to visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_de_Mello where you’ll find a fine list of these works. However, the question I’ll attempt to inquire about in this essay is, what may have inspired Anthony de Mello’s mold-braking, practical-spiritual life?
Anthony de Mello was born on September 4, 1931 in an Indian family that was seriously steeped in the Catholic tradition. His family consisted of mother, father, an older and a younger sister and a younger brother. He was born at the outskirts of Bombay and his parents (Frank and Louisa) were natives of a Portuguese territory called Goa. Anthony’s father was a railroad worker and since Anthony was the eldest son, there were great expectations for him to work in the same business or –better- to become a professional studying at a university so as to be able to take care of his parents in later years. According to a biography written by Anthony’s younger brother Bill, he showed great intelligence and social skills in school (Stanislaus High School) and an early desire (a true vocation) to become a Jesuit priest. Interestingly, the opposite could be said of Bill who showed no particular interest in religiosity, spirituality or academic achievement and, rather, excelled in physical prowess.
During a time of great economic uncertainty because World War II was raging (along with a growing collective desire for national independence led by Mahatma Gandhi), Anthony told his mother that he would pray to God for her to conceive (in her 40’s) a brother that would replace him so that he would be able to join the priesthood. When this improbable event happened he said “So now I can become a Jesuit priest.” According to Bill, Anthony also had a sweet romantic side and had promised a young local girl that “someday he would marry her and that he would take all the stars in the sky to make her a wedding dress.”
During his last year in high school, Anthony attended a career counseling course and re-announced his resolution at home. As his mother rightfully feared that he would not be able to visit home for long periods, she asked him to join a secular order and he would have sadly agreed if she had remained firm about it but she understood that he would have been very unhappy. Thus, in July of 1947, Anthony de Mello joined the Society of Jesus in the seminary of Vinalaya, at the outskirts of Bombay. Anthony quickly blossomed in his new life, studying abroad and becoming rector of the seminary between 1968 and 1972. Then, in 1973 he founded the (still operating) Sadhana Institute to assist many more people of various persuasions by conducting spiritual retreats.
According to his friend, Fr. Carlos Vallés, he had “an exact memory, a warm spontaneity and a capacity to live in the present (nothing existed before or after). He directed his attention to each person in a differently appropriate manner and, thus, everyone was able to understand him. Vallés mentions that “he learned by ‘helping others to learn’ fully giving himself to his own contributions and always perfecting his qualities as a communicator.” According to Vallés, Anthony said that he “grew with each of the courses given because with them he ‘developed himself,’ (the courses) helped him to clarify his ideas, to deepen his feelings, to strengthen his mind.” Vallés also declares that, furthermore, Anthony had immense fun, a great sense of humor and that he was characterized by being unpredictable. Vallés remarks that Anthony was “an individual capable of changes without caring about criticisms. He possessed unlimited generosity and this probably led to his early demise.”
According to his biographies, not long after his inclusion in the seminary, Anthony de Mello showed what seemed like a strong dogmatic conviction a certain day when one of his sisters visited him at the seminary and he strongly vented his views at her all inflamed saying “our mother church is just and you are guilty. You must not doubt that and don’t forget that the pope is infallible.” The reason for firing away with this strong statement is not revealed.
In any case, Anthony soon broaden his state of mind and understanding when in 1952 he was sent for three years to study philosophy in Barcelona, Spain and was also sent to study psychology and counseling at Loyola University in Chicago. He was soon inspired by the psychology of Carl Rogers which later helped him to “lead (spiritual retreats) without leading.” According to Mr. Malcolm Nazareth, a former Jesuit that trained under the guidance of de Mello, “Before and after his 1962 priestly ordination Tony worked in diverse capacities in the land of his birth. He is best remembered in South Asian Catholic circles as a spiritual mentor to countless persons of scores of nationalities and languages especially those who had embraced religious life and the priesthood. Tony’s first language was English. However, he mastered Spanish and was fluent also in-believe it or not-Ciceronian Latin. Tony also knew Marathi, French, and other languages. This may in part account for his popularity as a teacher of healing and of spiritual insight in English and Spanish-speaking parts of the world among Christians, non-Christians, and no-religionists as well.”
Mr. Malcolm Nazareth in his November 3, 2001 workshop presentation “Here & Now with Anthony de Mello,” given at the Call to Action Conference tells us that we could divide Anthony’s life in two basic stages: Sadhana One and Sadhana Two. Mr. Nazareth (who eventually left the Jesuit Order, married and founded the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Center for Interfaith Encounter) also attests to have been a broad minded spiritual seeker when studying under Anthony’s spiritual guidance. He tells us that during Anthony’s life in Sadhana One “Tony’s theology of religion was primitive at that time. Having made my preliminary explorations into Hindu religion and spirituality, I approached him with my questions about Christology. The Tony of Sadhana One provided me with a set of answers that were most unsatisfactory. I told him so. I walked away from him knowing that Tony hadn’t dared to encounter any non-Christian religion with openness and vulnerability. His Catholic Christian conditioning was blocking his spiritual progress, if I may presume to say so.”
Later on, Mr. Nazareth goes on explaining that “It was sometime in the mid-70’s that Tony opened his heart and mind to vipassana meditation practice. I’m inclined to think that this was a major turning point for Tony as he slowly began to move into Sadhana Two phase. After seriously practicing vipassana and thus exposing himself to Buddhist spirituality, Tony dared to confront the theology which he had learnt in theological school with, what now seemed to me to be the vital existential questions of our time: What is our human situation? What are the various religious responses to the human predicament? Is the response of Jesus Christ to the human predicament substantially different than the responses of Krishna, the Buddha, Moses? If the spiritual response of Jesus Christ was qualitatively different than theirs or Confucius’, Lao Tzu’s, Muhammad’s, or Baha’ullah’s how or why is Christ different? Why should I as a catholic care about such differences? And finally, from the point of view of ultimate reality, do the similarities and differences between the various religious paths matter at all? In a nutshell, what is spirituality?”
Mr. Nazareth then leads us to Anthony’s conceptual response to the important question “what is spirituality?” by saying that “In his 1982 Song of the Bird we find Tony’s terrific reply: Spirituality is that which succeeds in bringing a person to inner transformation. Question: ‘If one applies the traditional methods handed over by the masters, isn’t that spirituality?’ Tony’s response: ‘It isn’t spirituality if it doesn’t function for you. A blanket is no longer a blanket if it fails to keep you warm.’ Question: So spirituality does change?’ Tony wrote: ‘People change and needs change. So what was spirituality once is spirituality no more. What generally goes under the name of spirituality is merely the record of past methods.’”
Regarding Anthony’s continuously expanding shifts in understanding I think that he may have had one or more eye-opening mystical experiences somewhere along the line. This I surmise from my conversations with Mr. Nazareth who tells me that he had such an experience under Father Calderas and from interpreting a segment of Bill de Mello’s biography of his brother. In Mr. Nazareth’s email dated May 31, 2009, I’m told: “I don’t know where you read that de Mello was a changed man after his return from Spain. Do you know what year that may have happened?” (Note: This may have happened in 1952 because in the biography written for his brother Bill de Mello lets us know that Anthony changed around that time his rigid, traditional outlook into that of an understanding brother or “mellow de Mello.” Bill writes that “In 1952 Tony was sent to Spain to study Philosophy for three years during which time some personal evolution took place. He gained charisma that made him a leader of men&rdquo.
Mr. Nazareth continues his letter by writing “I remember him saying in one of his public talks that one of the first major influences on his spiritual transformation was in a 30 days retreat which he made under Fr. Calveras, S.J., in Spain (probably during De Mello’s tertianship (final segment of Jesuit formation). Calveras was a world famous authority in conducting the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Perhaps Prabhu would be able to fill the gaps in my knowledge on this issue, so I’m forwarding this post to him.
During that Calveras’ retreat, de Mello had a very powerful mystical experience which gave him profound insight into the spirituality of St. Ignatius. After that, de Mello himself was much sought after for his skill as a retreat master. He conducted 30 days retreats but he also conducted weeklong retreats.”
Mr. Malcolm Nazareth also mentioned in his workshop presentation at the Call to action Conference on November 3, 2001 that “His 1985 book One Minute Wisdom, in my view, makes Tony an incipient heretic (a la Ratzinger). Because here Tony dares to come up with bold statements that only mystics can utter so brazenly. Here he sounds now Buddhist, now Sufi, now Taoist, now Hindu, now Jewish. The master in Tony’s book is clearly an interfaith master. The Christian is hidden, but absolutely there. Tony has begun to point out that theological formulas, including theological and spiritual ones are no more or less than formulas, intellectual concepts, fabrications of the human brain that cannot but think in terms of binaries. Tony’s final expressions of spirituality in his posthumous “One Minute Nonsense” (Loyola, 1993) are basically supplements to his One Minute Wisdom.” Regarding Anthony’s “interfaith master” I wonder if he is one and the same as the voice of the “Integrated Big Mind-Big Heart” referred to by Zen master Genpo Roshi (see http://integrallife.com/applications/big-mind-process-big-heart).
Mr. Nazareth tells us that “Tony’s charisma was compelling. He very easily charmed and convinced his audience to radically sacrifice their earthly possessions to favor the poor. He magnetically drew his admirers to commit themselves to the making and conducting of 30-day Ignatian exercises. Tony strongly encouraged his audience to become practitioners of vipassana and to go study this form of Buddhist meditation under Burmese master Goenka. In his earlier years Tony had delved deeply into Ignacian spirituality which he mastered in Spanish under the guidance of Father Calveras, SJ. Later on, Tony had been gripped by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. Tony had also come for a while under the spell of Bertrand Russell. Tony had been taken by the British philosopher’s brutal honesty. In Tony’s final years, however, he was quite captivated by J. Krishnamurti. In my estimate this was when the Tony of Sadhana Two reached the zenith of his achievement as an East-West healer-and-guru.”
Analysis with an AQAL Approach
Anthony de Mello lived in a multicultural environment which was predominantly Christian and Hindu. According to testimony, he demonstrated a high level of (UL) cognitive intelligence in childhood and also a high level of (LL) interpersonal skills. Thus, at least two of his lines of development probably scored high. Interestingly enough, even from childhood, he manifested his desire to become a priest and, therefore, probably was also born with a high level of latent spirituality and/or his position as the eldest son in the family led him to conceive of a way to fulfill the highest possible expectations. Apparently his (UR) physical constitution was normal although not particularly athletic. His mother must have been around 27 years of age when he was born, a likely ideal age to give birth to an intelligent, healthy child (when his brother Bill was born she was forty, probably having something to do with a less integrated brain structure and a lack of interest for academic learning).
We could say that Anthony was born with a great potential in his spiritual line of development and that life would likely lead him to a natural expression of a level that may have been present in previous lifetimes. We also could say that Anthony’s (LL) cultural milieu was not only steeped in the centuries- old Catholic tradition but also steeped in a strong work ethic since the inhabitants of Goa (a Portuguese colony in those times) such as their immigrant parents were highly estimated by the British rulers of India, not only due to their Christian faith, but by their educated background and by their proficiency in the English language. Near Anthony’s home there was an apparently wholesome school which (if current indications reflect what was like back in Anthony’s time) promoted high values and discipline and may have appeared to young Anthony as a wonderful place to excel and develop. We cannot know for certain but, after the birth of his brother Bill, both of them may have strengthened their opposite psychological characters (Anthony responsible and ruly and Bill less responsible and unruly) in order to differentiate from each other.
The (LR) social situation during Anthony’s childhood would have been agitated because there already were intimations of an incipient revolution for a free India (Mahatma Gandhi was already in action) and because Second World War raged on for part of that period. Maybe (as Bill de Mello lets us know) economic security was an issue that kept everyone alert. Anthony would have also known what it is like to be part of a minority because his family had moved from a Portuguese colony to Bombay which was predominantly populated by Hindus. The need to speak different languages (at least Hindu, English and Portuguese) was also apparent.
We don’t know what may have arisen interiorly for Anthony but we could make a case for validly saying that his innate outgoing characteristics were also assisted by the conjunctive support of reality elements in all quadrants: A healthy brain, an ethical family proselytizing strong spiritual traditions within a well-established culture, a social need to be flexible and multicultural and a nearby adequate –and likely- open-minded school (Jesuits are known for fostering intellectual freedom) that offered rigorous academic training. Anthony himself may have come to his lifetime with a certain level of evolution potentially ready to latch on to any opportunity to unfold but it’s also as if a portion of the Universe as a certain objective, historical time and space had collaborated to assist Spirit to leave a mark in humanity through Anthony. Perhaps (remembering Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism) sometime and somewhere outside and inside human time and space, Anthony had become a “Tathagatha,” having completely “crossed over” in total availability and openness. His lifetime would have been a recapitulation as well as a new phase.
Anthony de Mello’s “Kosmic Address” (altitude + perspective) at the time he joined the Jesuits right after High School, may have been partially Second Tier in that he sincerely wanted to dedicate his life to a universal calling but was nonetheless well-possessed by an amber mental structure. He probably naturally experienced a persistent state of heartfelt openness (an indigo sensibility) which called for being filled in by information from a Second Tier perspective. To me, his incessant curiosity and continuous development in perspectives shows that perspectives themselves gradually caught up with his basic inborn altitude. At the moment of his death most of his being lines of development may have been well into an indigo Second Tier as his ability to find truth in the resolution of paradoxes, his having emptied himself as a vessel for the service of God or Spirit and of others attests. We could affirm that –as a perceiving subject- Anthony’s quadrivia had become quite developed and functioning in harmony later in life. The aspects of reality (quadrivium) that he perceived/disclosed in his “Sadhana Two” phase set him apart from the majority of religious people and he knew that only speaking in apophatic (via negativa) ways he would be able to transmit anything meaningful inspired by his direct spiritual experiences.
Anthony’s intellectual understanding had probably reached a non-dual, post trans- systemic level and his experience or inward-participatory sense of people, God and all of nature (as LL meaningful discourses and LR systemic, mutually needed relations) may have also reached a high level of intuitive understanding. I think that his non-dual altitude was accompanied by an Integral, all-around intuitive perspective which, nonetheless, still held a Green altitude theoretical level in some aspects like psychology. Anthony’s overall high altitude called for a structural understanding and this structural understanding probably also inspired him to soar in higher altitudes.
What would Anthony’s shadow(s) have been like? As far as we can tell he didn’t abuse anyone and he always seemed to be a paragon of virtue and excellence. However, he probably shouted to his sister at an early age. In the biography written by his brother Bill, there’s mention that Anthony “never complained.” This may be indicative of a level of unhealthy self-denial or of a lack of need to complain. I don’t know but it would have been extraordinary. Since Anthony’s relation with his family seems to have been a healthy one we I cannot speculate about an “evolutionary shadow” in this respect. Maybe during his early “Sadhana One” phase and earlier Anthony might have had a “bright” or “emergent” shadow” since he may have been unable to tolerate non- amber theorizing or what may have first appeared to him as openly non-dogmatic points of view. In this I see a possible trend manifesting in that, maybe highly evolved human beings not showing “submergent” shadows will be found to have them in emergent or more refined, less spiritual differentiated, involutionary levels of being. Actually, perhaps the fact that Anthony’s understandings only prospered among a rather small percentage of priests; the fact that his views were censored by the Church and, the fact that he died unexpectedly at a premature age was due to a spiritual manifestation blockage in his most refined inner levels of being. In this levels of being perhaps all human beings on Planet Earth are connected and the “We” relationship that allows or doesn’t allow the influence of a particular person on the whole is directly connected as one with that person’s innermost being.
Anthony de Mello’s specific spiritual practices were practices to become aware of a grander spiritual life through an acceptance of the “still and small voice” of the heart. This can be appreciated in his book Sadhana (which became a classic of contemplative prayer) and in all of his published works. Anything that works to stop the egoic self-mind from blocking the perception of the simple wonder of God’s presence in every aspect of life would have been welcomed by Anthony. Reflections with surprising resolutions, or specific breathing and yoga practices practiced at one’s own pace and aiming at openness and sincerity rather than at methodological perfection would have worked. For instance, in exercise 13 of Sadhana, Anthony asks the practitioner to simply listen to any body sensation without naming it, then to do the same with any sound and then he tells the practitioner that he or she will notice a “great calm,” a “profound silence.” Then, Anthony advices us to focus on this quietude and to experience how good it is simply to be in the here and now without having to do anything; just simply being…being. Later on, he advices the practitioner to feel God in the air, the sounds, the world of the senses, the sensations of touch, to surrender to God.
As previously stated, Anthony’s definition of spirituality came to be “that which succeeds in bringing a person to inner transformation.” This definition allowed for an open-ended large array of methods and, I’m suspicious that Anthony had a kind of Integral Post Metaphysical intuition on this issue. Here he seems to be giving priority to method over definition as he had probably come to see that specific definitions of spirituality evolve over time or are not universally applicable to people from every cultural background. In this way, without apparently having developed an explicit complex theory or Meta theory, Anthony de Mello seems to have demonstrated an intuitive (or perhaps, incipient conceptual) post postmodern understanding about spirituality due to his own profound familiarity with it. I would also say that this intimate familiarity could have stemmed from his lifelong search for radical openness and authenticity, a required feature for spiritual advancement according to Chogyam Trungpa.
I don’t have much information regarding Anthony’s ILP physical (UR) practice. Perhaps they include yoga asanas. Nonetheless, I’m quite certain that he did pray or contemplated in a regular manner. I’m also quite sure that he was an avid learner and that he read regularly. Thus, his (UL) practices were probably quite skillfully developed. We are told that Anthony was a good listener and that he listened to each different person differently, so I suspect that he also intuitively had a regular (LL) hermeneutical practice that included effective means or translation. In terms of practical worldly relations his activities as communicator, as spiritual director and founder of Sadhana Institute and, previously, of the Jesuit seminary in Bombay would have kept him busy with practical business and inter institutional duties. It is also well known that he was heavily influenced by Vipassana and I believe that he didn’t just recommend it but practiced it regularly. In other words, I think that Anthony de Mello had most of his ILP quadrants covered, perhaps with the exception of his (UR) physical quadrant. I just don’t have any information regarding his physical exercises (except perhaps for the possible practice of some yoga exercises) or his diet. As most of us in search of a balanced Integral Life Practice leave out a significant quadratic aspect (due to lack of time or other influential reasons) Anthony may have simply left out an important aspect, which also perhaps led him to an ‘untimely’ death.
I don’t have any specific information regarding Anthony’s aptitude with specifically trained states but suspect that, since he was a ‘master teacher’ in spiritual exercises, he must have been able to sustain some kinds of higher states of consciousness. Actually, I don’t think that he would have been able to live the kind of life he did without being able to rest in some kind of contemplative abstraction. What we know is that he had become proficient in Ignatian practices early in his career, so much so that he seems to have had one or more transformative mystical experiences. I think that, maybe, Anthony had a deep awareness of God along with greater or lesser levels of abstraction from the outer world, but he probably didn’t flaunt about it. Anyhow, he might have been able to sustain levels of self-absorption or “ß as he was familiar with Yoga, Vipassana and self-emptying Contemplation.
The location of Anthony’s faith community on the “conveyor belt” would probably be in a special situation within the Roman Catholic Church since Jesuits in general (especially after the Vatican II Council) had become like the intellectual, “free thinkers.” His more local community was also positioned in the middle of India’s great religiosity and transcendental ethos thus being stimulated by LL and LR forces to create a more attractive, understandable and ecumenical approach which naturally re-emphasized some kind of direct, experiential mysticism. The superiors of the Society of Jesus defended themselves and their spiritual-religious, Mid-Asian ways.
I think that Anthony de Mello’s faith community was so well settled in modern, rational outlooks and methods that it was ripe for post-rational explorations, especially in the multicultural setting of India. I believe that –generally speaking- this community is still vying to move forward amber structures and awarenesses in today’s world and that, perhaps one day along with the contributions of other pioneering elements in their church (elements quite at home with free thought and with contemplative prayer), the church will be eventually lead by a splitting and less exclusivist, unimaginative and rigid faction.
Anthony de Mello is an example of an enlightened man who offered his life to serve Spirit and mankind in the milieu available to him. We don’t know why a person becomes likes this. He might have been born with the propensity. He may have been chosen. However, a spiritual experienced did hold a transformative sway in his life. His life will serve as an example for many of us today trying to ignite an integral civilization. It will serve future efforts aimed at recreating the relationship between man, religion and spirituality in an integral way. Anthony displayed –perhaps in an intuitive and/or conscious way- not only many of the characteristics of a universal, wise man but of a radically genuine Integral or Second Tier person. His understanding surpassed his era’s and his openness probably taught us that those possessed of a loving heart and a particularly developed spiritual line can overcome many cultural and structural deficiencies in their societies and rise to be pioneering representatives of a truly Integral stage.
Bárcena, Elcira Díaz (date unknown). Biografía de Tony de Mello SJ. Retrieved from: http://www.geocities.com/tony_de_mello/index.html
DeMello, Bill (circa 1989). Tony deMello, SJ –a short biography. Retrieved from: http://users.tpg.com.au/adsligol/tony/index.ht
A person is beyond the thinking mind. Many of you would probably be proud to be called Americans, as many Indians would probably be proud to be called Indians. But what is “American,” what is “Indian”? It’s a convention; it’s not part of your nature. All you’ve got is a label. You really don’t know the person. The concept always misses or omits something extremely important, something precious that is only found in reality, which is concrete uniqueness. The great Krishnamurti put it so well when he said, “The day you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again.” How true! The first time the child sees that fluffy, alive, moving object, and you say to him, Sparrow,” then tomorrow when the child sees another fluffy, moving object similar to it he says, “Oh, sparrows. I’ve seen sparrows. I’m bored by sparrows.”
If you don’t look at things through your concepts, you’ll never be bored. Every single thing is unique. Every sparrow is unlike every other sparrow despite the similarities. It’s a great help to have similarities, so we can abstract, so that we can have a concept. It’s a great help, from the point of view of communication, education, science. But it’s also very misleading and a great hindrance to seeing this concrete individual. If all you experience is your concept, you’re not experiencing reality, because reality is concrete. The concept is a help, to lead you to reality, but when you get there, you’ve got to intuit or experience it directly.
A second quality of a concept is that it is static whereas reality is in flux. We use the
same name for Niagara Falls, but that body of water is constantly changing. You’ve got the word “river,” but the water there is constantly flowing. You’ve got one word for your “body,” but the cells in your body are constantly being renewed. Let’s suppose, for example, there is an enormous wind outside and I want the people in my country to get an idea of what an American gale or hurricane is like. So I capture it in a cigar box and I go back home and say, “Look at this.” Naturally, it isn’t a gale anymore, is it? Once it’s captured. Or if I want you to get the feel of what the flow of a river is like and I bring it to you in a bucket. The moment I put it into a bucket it has stopped flowing. The moment you put things into a concept, they stop flowing; they become static, dead. A frozen wave is not a wave. A wave is essentially movement, action; when you freeze it, it is not a wave. Concepts are always frozen. Reality flows. Finally, if we are to believe the mystics (and it doesn’t take too much of an effort to understand this, or even believe it, but no one can see it at once), reality is whole, but words and concepts fragment reality. That is why it is so difficult to translate from one language to another, because each language cuts reality up differently. The English word “home” is impossible to translate into French or Spanish. “Casa” is not quite “home”; “home” has associations that are peculiar to the English language. Every language has untranslatable words and expressions, because we’re cutting reality up and adding something or subtracting something and usage keeps changing. Reality is a whole and we cut it up to make concepts and we use words to indicate different parts. If you had never seen an animal in your life, for example, and one day you found a tail—just a tail—and somebody told you, “That’s a tail,” would you have any idea of what it was if you had no idea what an animal was?
Ideas actually fragment the vision, intuition, or experience of reality as a whole. This is what the mystics are perpetually telling us. Words cannot give you reality. They only point, they only indicate. You use them as pointers to get to reality. But once you get there, your concepts are useless. A Hindu priest once had a dispute with a philosopher who claimed that the final barrier to God was the word “God,” the concept of God. The priest was quite shocked by this, but the philosopher said, “The ass that you mount —and that you use to travel to a house is not the means by which you enter the house. You use the concept to get there; then you dismount, you go beyond it.” You don’t need to be a mystic to understand that reality is something that cannot be captured by words or concepts. To know reality you have to know beyond knowing.
Do those words ring a bell? Those of you who are familiar with The Cloud of Unknowing would recognize the expression. Poets, painters, mystics, and the great philosophers all have intimations of its truth. Let’s suppose that one day I’m watching a tree. Until now, every time I saw a tree, I said, “Well, it’s a tree,” But today when I’m looking at the tree, I don’t see a tree. At least I don’t see what I’m accustomed to seeing. I see something with the freshness of a child’s vision. I have no word for it. I see something unique, whole, flowing, not fragmented. And I’m in awe. If you were to ask me, “What did you see?” what do you think I’d answer? I have no word for it. There is no word for reality. Because as soon as I put a word to it, we’re back into concepts again.
And if I cannot express this reality that is visible to my senses, how does one express what cannot be seen by the eye or heard by the ear? How does one find a word for the reality of God? Are you beginning to understand what Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and all the rest were saying and what the Church teaches constantly when she says that God is mystery, is unintelligible to the human mind?
The great Karl Rahner, in one of his last letters, wrote to a young German drug addict who had asked him for help. The addict had said, “You theologians talk about God, but how could this God be relevant in my life? How could this God get me off drugs?” Rahner said to him, “I must confess to you in all honesty that for me God is and has always been absolute mystery. I do not understand what God is; no one can. We have intimations, inklings; we make faltering, inadequate attempts to put mystery into words. But there is no word for it, no sentence for it.” And talking to a group of theologians in London, Rahner said, “The task of the theologian is to explain everything through God, and to explain God as unexplainable.” Unexplainable mystery. One does not know, one cannot say. One says, “Ah, ah...”
Words are pointers, they’re not descriptions. Tragically, people fall into idolatry because they think that where God is concerned, the word is the thing. How could you get so crazy? Can you be crazier than that? Even where human beings are concerned, or trees and leaves and animals, the word is not the thing. And you would say that, where God is concerned, the word is one thing? What are you talking about? An internationally famous scripture scholar attended this course in San Francisco, and he said to me, “My God, after listening to you, I understand that I’ve been an idol worshipper all my life!” He said this openly. “It never struck me that I had been an idol worshipper. My idol was not made of wood or metal; it was a mental idol.” These are the more dangerous idol worshippers. They use a very subtle substance, the mind, to produce their God.
What I’m leading you to is the following: awareness of reality, around you. Awareness means to watch, to observe what is going on within you and around you. “Going on” is pretty accurate: Trees, grass, flowers, animals, rock, all of reality is moving. One observes it, one watches it. How essential it is for the human being not just to observe himself or herself, but to watch all of reality. Are you imprisoned by your concepts? Do you want to break out of your prison? Then look; observe; spend hours observing. Watching what? Anything. The faces of people, the shapes of trees, a bird in flight, a pile of stones, watch the grass grow. Get in touch with things, look at them. Hopefully you will then break out of these rigid patterns we have all developed, out of what our thoughts and our words have imposed on us. Hopefully we will see. What will we see? This thing that we choose to call reality, whatever is beyond words and concepts. This is a spiritual exercise—connected with spirituality—connected with breaking out of your cage, out of the imprisonment of the concepts and words.
How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child. This doesn’t mean you should drop your concepts totally; they’re very precious. Though we begin without them, concepts have a very positive function. Thanks to them we develop our intelligence.
We’re invited, not to become children, but to become like children. We do have to fall from a stage of innocence and be thrown out of paradise; we do have to develop an “I” and a “me” through these concepts. But then we need to return to paradise. We need to be redeemed again. We need to put off the old man, the old nature, the conditioned self, and return to the state of the child but without being a child. When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.
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---Sumi-E-Bamboo painting - “Awareness” by Rebecca Rees
ARE WE TALKING ABOUT PSYCHOLOGY IN THIS SPIRITUALITY COURSE?
Is psychology more practical than spirituality? Nothing is more practical than spirituality. What can the poor psychologist do? He can only relieve the pressure. I’m a psychologist myself, and I practice psychotherapy, and I have this great conflict within me when I have to choose sometimes between psychology and spirituality. I wonder if that makes sense to anybody here. It didn’t make sense to me for many years.
I’ll explain. It didn’t make sense to me for many years until I suddenly discovered that people have to suffer enough in a relationship so that they get disillusioned with all relationships. Isn’t that a terrible thing to think? They’ve got to suffer enough in a relationship before they wake up and say, “I’m sick of it! There must be a better way of living than depending on another human being.” And what was I doing as a psychotherapist? People were coming to me with their relationship problems, with their communication problems, etc., and sometimes what I did was a help. But sometimes, I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t, because it kept people asleep. Maybe they should have suffered a little more. Maybe they ought to touch rock bottom and say, “I’m sick of it all.” It’s only when you’re sick of your sickness that you’ll get out of it. Most people go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to get relief. I repeat: to get relief. Not to get out of it.
There’s the story of little Johnny who, they say, was mentally retarded. But evidently he wasn’t, as you’ll learn from this story. Johnny goes to modeling class in his school for special children and he gets his piece of putty and he’s modeling it. He takes a little lump of putty and goes to a corner of the room and he’s playing with it. The teacher comes up to him and says, “Hi, Johnny.” And Johnny says, “Hi.” And the teacher says, “What’s that you’ve got in your hand?” And Johnny says, “This is a lump of cow dung.” The teacher asks, “What are you making out of it?” He says, “I’m making a teacher.”
The teacher thought, “Little Johnny has regressed.” So she calls out to the principal, who was passing by the door at that moment, and says, “Johnny has regressed.”
So the principal goes up to Johnny and says, “Hi, son.” And Johnny says, “Hi.” And the principal says, “What do you, have in your hand?” And he says, “A lump of cow dung.” “What are you making out of it?” And he says, “A principal.”
The principal thinks that this is a case for the school psychologist. “Send for the psychologist!”
The psychologist is a clever guy. He goes up and says, “Hi.” And Johnny says, “Hi.” And the psychologist says, “I know what you’ve got in your hand.” “What?” “A lump of cow dung.” Johnny says, “Right.” “And I know what you’re making out of it.” “What?”
“You’re making a psychologist.” “Wrong. Not enough cow dung!” And they called him mentally retarded!
The poor psychologists, they’re doing a good job. They really are. There are times when psychotherapy is a tremendous help, because when you’re on the verge of going insane, raving mad, you’re about to become either a psychotic or a mystic. That’s what the mystic is, the opposite of the lunatic. Do you know one sign that you’ve woken up? It’s when you are asking yourself, “Am I crazy, or are all of them crazy?” It really is. Because we are crazy. The whole world is crazy. Certifiable lunatics! The only reason we’re not locked up in an institution is that there are so many of us. So we’re crazy. We’re living on crazy ideas about love, about relationships, about happiness, about joy, about everything. We’re crazy to the point, I’ve come to believe, that if everybody agrees on something, you can be sure it’s wrong! Every new idea, every great idea, when it first began was in a minority of one. That man called Jesus Christ—minority of one. Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. The Buddha— minority of one. Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. I think it was Bertrand Russell who said, “Every great idea starts out as a blasphemy.” That’s well and accurately put. You’re going to hear lots of blasphemies during these days. “He hath blasphemed!” Because people are crazy, they’re lunatics, and the sooner you see this, the better for your mental and spiritual health. Don’t trust them. Don’t trust your best friends. Get disillusioned with your best friends. They’re very clever. As you are in your dealings with everybody else, though you probably don’t know it. Ah, you’re so wily, and subtle, and clever. You’re putting on a great act.
I’m not being very complimentary here, am I? But I repeat: You want to wake up. You’re putting on a great act. And you don’t even know it. You think you’re being so loving. Ha! Whom are you loving? Even your self-sacrifice gives you a good feeling, doesn’t it? “I’m sacrificing myself! I’m living up to my ideal.” But you’re getting something out of it, aren’t you? You’re always getting something out of everything you do, until you wake up.
So there it is: step one. Realize that you don’t want to wake up. It’s pretty difficult to wake up when you have been hypnotized into thinking that a scrap of old newspaper is a check for a million dollars. How difficult it is to tear yourself away from that scrap of old newspaper.
NEITHER IS RENUNCIATION THE SOLUTION
Anytime you’re practicing renunciation, you’re deluded. How about that! You’re deluded. What are you renouncing? Anytime you renounce something, you are tied forever to the thing you renounce. There’s a guru in India who says, “Every time a prostitute comes to me, she’s talking about nothing but God. She says I’m sick of this life that I’m living. I want God. But every time a priest comes to me he’s talking about nothing but sex.” Very well, when you renounce something, you’re stuck to it forever. When you fight something, you’re tied to it forever. As long as you’re fighting it, you are giving it power. You give it as much power as you are using to fight it.
This includes communism and everything else. So you must “receive” your demons, because when you fight them, you empower them. Has nobody ever told you this? When you renounce something, you’re tied to it. The only way to get out of this is to see through it. Don’t renounce it, see through it. Understand its true value and you won’t need to renounce it; it will just drop from your hands. But of course, if you don’t see that, if you’re hypnotized into thinking that you won’t be happy without this, that, or the other thing, you’re stuck. What we need to do for you is not what so-called spirituality attempts to do—namely, to get you to make sacrifices, to renounce things. That’s useless. You’re still asleep. What we need to do is to help you understand, understand, understand. If you understood, you’d simply drop the desire for it. This is another way of saying: If you woke up, you’d simply drop the desire for it.
LISTEN AND UNLEARN
Some of us get woken up by the harsh realities of life. We suffer so much that we wake up. But people keep bumping again and again into life. They still go on sleepwalking. They never wake up. Tragically, it never occurs to them that there may be another way. It never occurs to them that there may be a better way. Still, if you haven’t been bumped sufficiently by life, and you haven’t suffered enough, then there is another way: to listen. I don’t mean you have to agree with what I’m saying. That wouldn’t be listening. Believe me, it really doesn’t matter whether you agree with what I’m saying or you don’t. Because agreement and disagreement have to do with words and concepts and theories. They don’t have anything to do with truth. Truth is never expressed in words. Truth is sighted suddenly, as a result of a certain attitude. So you could be disagreeing with me and still sight the truth. But there has to be an attitude of openness, of willingness to discover something new. That’s important, not your agreeing with me or disagreeing with me. After all, most of what I’m giving you is really theories. No theory adequately covers reality. So I can speak to you, not of the truth, but of obstacles to the truth. Those I can describe. I cannot describe the truth. No one can. All I can do is give you a description of your falsehoods, so that you can drop them. All I can do for you is challenge your beliefs and the belief system that makes you unhappy. All I can do for you is help you to unlearn. That’s what learning is all about where spirituality is concerned: unlearning, unlearning almost everything you’ve been taught. A willingness to unlearn, to listen.
Are you listening, as most people do, in order to confirm what you already think? Observe your reactions as I talk. Frequently you’ll be startled or shocked or scandalized or irritated or annoyed or frustrated. Or you’ll be saying, “Great!”
But are you listening for what will confirm what you already think? Or are you listening in order to discover something new? That is important. It is difficult for sleeping people. Jesus proclaimed the good news yet he was rejected. Not because it was good, but because it was new. We hate the new. We hate it! And the sooner we face up to that fact, the better. We don’t want new things, particularly when they’re disturbing, particularly when they involve change. Most particularly if it involves saying, “I was wrong.” I remember meeting an eighty-seven-year-old Jesuit in Spain; he’d been my professor and rector in India thirty or forty years ago. And he attended a workshop like this. “I should have heard you speak sixty years ago,” he said. “You know something. I’ve been wrong all my life.” God, to listen to that! It’s like looking at one of the wonders of the world. That, ladies and gentlemen, is faith! An openness to the truth, no matter what the consequences, no matter where it leads you and when you don’t even know where it’s going to lead you. That’s faith. Not belief, but faith. Your beliefs give you a lot of security, but faith is insecurity. You don’t know. You’re ready to follow and you’re open, you’re wide open! You’re ready to listen. And, mind you, being open does not mean being gullible, it doesn’t mean swallowing whatever the speaker is saying. Oh no. You’ve got to challenge everything I’m saying. But challenge it from an attitude of openness, not from an attitude of stubbornness. And challenge it all. Recall those lovely words of Buddha when he said, “Monks and scholars must not accept my words out of respect, but must analyze them the way a goldsmith analyzes gold—by cutting, scraping, rubbing, melting.”
When you do that, you’re listening. You’ve taken another major step toward awakening. The first step, as I said, was a readiness to admit that you don’t want to wake up, that you don’t want to be happy. There are all kinds of resistances to that within you. The second step is a readiness to understand, to listen, to challenge your whole belief system. Not just your religious beliefs, your political beliefs, your social beliefs, your psychological beliefs, but all of them. A readiness to reappraise them all, in the Buddha’s metaphor. And I’ll give you plenty of opportunity to do that here.
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A de Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words
ANTHONY DE MELLO, S.J.
Lets get back to that marvelous sentence in the gospel about losing oneself in order to find oneself. One finds it in most religious literature and in all religious and spiritual and mystical literature.
How does one lose oneself? Did you ever try to lose something? That's right, the harder you try, the harder it gets. It's when you're not trying that you lose things. You lose something when you're not aware. Well, how does one die to oneself? We're talking about death now, we're not talking about suicide. We're not told to kill the self, but to die. Causing pain to the self, causing suffering to the self would be self-defeating. It would be counterproductive. You're never so full of yourself as when you're in pain. You're never so centered on yourself as when you're depressed. You're never so ready to forget yourself as when you are happy. Happiness releases you from self. It is suffering and pain and misery and depression that tie you to the self. Look how conscious you are of your tooth when you have a toothache. When you don't have a toothache, you're not even aware you have a tooth, or that you have a head, for that matter, when you don't have a headache. But it's so different when you have a splitting headache.
So it's quite false, quite erroneous, to think that the way to deny the self is to cause pain to the self, to go in for abnegation, mortification, as these were traditionally understood. To deny the self, to die to it, to lose it, is to understand its true nature. When you do that, it will disappear; it will vanish. Suppose somebody walks into my room one day. I say, "Come right in. May I know who you are?" And he says, "I am Napoleon." And I say, "Not the Napoleon . . ." And he says, "Precisely. Bonaparte, Emperor of France." "What do you know!" I say, even while I'm thinking to myself, "I better handle this guy with care."
''Sit down, Your Majesty," I say. He says, "Well, they tell me you're a pretty good spiritual director. I have a spiritual problem. I'm anxious, I'm finding it hard to trust in God. I have my armies in Russia, see, and I'm spending sleepless nights wondering how it's going to turn out." So I say, "Well, Your Majesty, I could certainly prescribe something for that. What I suggest is that you read chapter 6 of Matthew: "Consider the lilies of the field . . . they neither toil nor spin."
By this point I'm wondering who is crazier, this guy or me. But I go along with this lunatic. That's what the wise guru does with you in the beginning. He goes along with you; he takes your troubles seriously. He'll wipe a tear or two from your eye. You're crazy, but you don't know it yet. The time has to come soon when he'll pull the rug out from under your feet and tell you, "Get off it, you're not Napoleon." In those famous dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, God is reported to have said to her, "I am He who is; you are she who is not." Have you ever experienced your is-not-ness? In the East we have an image for this. It is the image of the dancer and the dance. God is viewed as the dancer and creation as God's dance. It isn't as if God is the big dancer and you are the little dancer. Oh no. You're not a dancer at all. You are being danced! Did you ever experience that? So when the man comes to his senses and realizes that he is not Napoleon, he does not cease to be. He continues to be, but he suddenly realizes that he is something other than what he thought he was.
To lose the self is to suddenly realize that you are something other than what you thought you were. You thought you were at the center; now you experience yourself as satellite. You thought you were the dancer; you now experience yourself as the dance. These are just analogies, images, so you cannot take them literally. They just give you a clue, a hint; they're only pointers, don't forget. So you cannot press them too much. Don't take them too literally.
SOURCE: de Mello Spirituality Center
Losing Yourself to Find Yourself
by Anthony de Mello
---“Old Country House” - drawn by J. Kendall
Come home to yourself. Observe yourself. That's why I said earlier that self-observation is such a delightful and extraordinary thing. After a while you don't have to make any effort, because, as illusions begin to crumble, you begin to know things that cannot be described. It's called happiness. Everything changes and you become addicted to awareness.
There's the story of the disciple who went to the master and said, "Could you give me a word of wisdom? Could you tell me something that would guide me through my days?" It was the master's day of silence, so he picked up a pad. It said, "Awareness." When the disciple saw it, he said, "This is too brief. Can you expand on it a bit?" So the master took back the pad and wrote, "Awareness, awareness, awareness." The disciple said, "Yes, but what does it mean?" The master took back the pad and wrote, "Awareness, awareness, awareness means -- awareness."
That's what it is to watch yourself. No one can show you how to do it, because he would be giving you a technique, he would be programming you. But watch yourself. When you talk to someone, are you aware of it or are you simply identifying with it? When you got angry with somebody, were you aware that you were angry or were you simply identifying with your anger? Later, when you had the time, did you study your experience and attempt to understand it? Where did it come from? What brought it on? I don't know of any other way to awareness. You only change what you understand. What you do not understand and are not aware of, you repress. You don't change. But when you understand it, it changes.
I am sometimes asked, "Is this growing in awareness a gradual thing, or is it a 'whammo' kind of thing?" There are some lucky people who see this in a flash. They just become aware. There are others who keep growing into it, slowly, gradually, increasingly. They begin to see things. Illusions drop away, fantasies are peeled away, and they start to get in touch with facts. There's no general rule. There's a famous story about the lion who came upon a flock of sheep and to his amazement found a lion among the sheep. It was a lion who had been brought up by the sheep ever since he was a cub. It would bleat like a sheep and run around like a sheep. The lion went straight for him, and when the sheep lion stood in front of the real one, he trembled in every limb. And the lion said to him, "What are you doing among the sheep?" And the sheep-lion said, "I am a sheep." And the lion said, "Oh no you're not. You're coming with me." So he took the sheep-lion to a pool and said, "Look!" And when the sheep-lion looked at his reflection in the water, he let out a mighty roar, and in that moment he was transformed. He was never the same again.
If you're lucky and the gods are gracious or if you are gifted with divine grace (use any theological expression you want), you might suddenly understand who "I" is, and you will never be the same again, never. Nothing will ever be able to touch you again and no one will ever be able to hurt you again.
You will fear no one and you will fear nothing. Isn't that extraordinary? You'll live like a king, like a queen. This is what it means to live like royalty. Not rubbish like getting your picture in the newspapers or having a lot of money. That's a lot of rot. You fear no one because you're perfectly content to be nobody. You don't give a damn about success or failure. They mean nothing. Honor, disgrace, they mean nothing! If you make a fool of yourself, that means nothing either. Isn't that a wonderful state to be in! Some people arrive at this goal painstakingly, step by step, through months and weeks of self-awareness. But I'll promise you this: I have not known a single person who gave time to being aware who didn't see a difference in a matter of weeks. The quality of their life changes, so they don't have to take it on faith anymore. They see it; they're different. They react differently. In fact, they react less and act more. You see things you've never seen before.
You're much more energetic, much more alive. People think that if they had no cravings, they'd be like deadwood. But in fact they'd lose their tension. Get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding, you will be yourself. Relaxed. You wouldn't be driving with your brakes on. That's what would happen.
There's a lovely saying of Tranxu, a great Chinese sage, that I took the trouble to learn by heart. It goes: "When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power." Isn't that an image of what most people are? When you're living for nothing, you've got all your skills, you've got all your energy, you're relaxed, you don't care, it doesn't matter whether you win or lose.
Now there's HUMAN living for you. That's what life is all about. That can only come from awareness. And in awareness you will understand that honor doesn't mean a thing. It's a social convention, that's all. That's why the mystics and the prophets didn't bother one bit about it. Honor or disgrace meant nothing to them. They were living in another world, in the world of the awakened. Success or failure meant nothing to them. They had the attitude: "I'm an ass, you're an ass, so where's the problem?"
Someone once said, "The three most difficult things for a human being are not physical feats or intellectual achievements. They are, first, returning love for hate; second, including the excluded; third, admitting that you are wrong." But these are the easiest things in the world if you haven't identified with the "me." You can say things like "I'm wrong! If you knew me better, you'd see how often I'm wrong. What would you expect from an ass?" But if I haven't identified with these aspects of "me," you can't hurt me. Initially, the old conditioning will kick in and you'll be depressed and anxious. You'll grieve, cry, and so on. "Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed: after enlightenment, 1 continue to be depressed." But there's a difference: I don't identify with it anymore. Do you know what a big difference that is?
You step outside of yourself and look at that depression, and don't identify with it. You don't do a thing to make it go away; you are perfectly willing to go on with your life while it passes through you and disappears. If you don't know what that means, you really have something to look forward to. And anxiety? There it comes and you're not troubled. How strange! You're anxious but you're not troubled.
Isn't that a paradox? And you're willing to let this cloud come in, because the more you fight it, the more power you give it. You're willing to observe it as it passes by. You can be happy in your anxiety. Isn't that crazy? You can be happy in your depression. But you can't have the wrong notion of happiness. Did you think happiness was excitement or thrills? That's what causes the depression. Didn't anyone tell you that? You're thrilled, all right, but you're just preparing the way for your next depression. You're thrilled but you pick up the anxiety behind that: How can I make it last? That's not happiness, that's addiction.
I wonder how many non-addicts there are reading this book? If you're anything like the average group, there are few, very few. Don't look down your nose at the alcoholics and the drug addicts: maybe you're just as addicted as they are. The first time I got a glimpse of this new world, it was terrifying. I understood what it meant to be alone, with nowhere to rest your head, to leave everyone free and be free yourself, to be special to no one and love everyone- because love does that. It shines on good and bad alike; it makes rain fall on saints and sinners alike.
Is it possible for the rose to say, "I will give my fragrance to the good people who smell me, but I will withhold it from the bad"? Or is it possible for the lamp to say, "I will give my light to the good people in this room, but I will withhold it from the evil people"? Or can a tree say, "I'll give my shade to the good people who rest under me, but I will withhold it from the bad"? These are images of what love is about.
It's been there all along, staring us in the face in the scriptures, though we never cared to see it because we were so drowned in what our culture calls love with its love songs and poems -- that isn't love at all, that's the opposite of love. That's desire and control and possessiveness. That's manipulation, and fear, and anxiety -- that's not love. We were told that happiness is a smooth complexion, a holiday resort. It isn't these things, but we have subtle ways of making our happiness depend on other things, both within us and outside us. We say, "I refuse to be happy until my neurosis goes." I have good news for you: You can be happy right now, WITH the neurosis, You want even better news? There's only one reason why you're not experiencing what in India we call ANAND -- bliss, bliss. There's only one reason why you're not experiencing bliss at this present moment, and it's because you're thinking or focusing on what you don't have. Otherwise you would be experiencing bliss. You're focusing on what you don't have. But, right now you have everything you need to be in bliss.
Jesus was talking horse sense to lay people, to starving people, to poor people. He was telling them good news: It's yours for the taking. But who listens? No one's interested, they'd rather be asleep.
“Come Home to Yourself”
by Anthony DeMello