Anthony de Mello (1931-1987)
Quotes and biography
Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest from India, influenced the world through his powerful understanding of the human condition. Through the use of parables and teaching stories, de Mello pointed the way to authentic living. The influence of spiritual traditions outside mainstream Christianity is clear in his work. The depth and spiritual insight in his teachings, stories and articles made him well known throughout the world. He is well appreciated by many inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church.
His teachings were temporarily banned within the Roman Catholic Church by then future pope Ratsinger, but the ban has been lifted. Catholics are still advised to avoid his writings though. It is good to be reminded occasionally that the Roman Catholic Church still has a blacklist, where mystics can get their work listed.
(yes, I'm being cynical)
Three reasons to love Anthony De Mello
- He was unconventional and eventually so liberal the Catholic Church distanced itself from him
- He learned from all spiritual traditions
- He saw the depth in Christianity
Life and accomplishments
Born 4 September 1931, Bombay, India. Died 2 June 1987, New York.
Psychotherapist and Jesuit Priest, Anthony de Mello was famous for combining the wisdom of the land of his birth (India) with the inspiration of Christianity and Taoism.
A remarkable speaker he told spiritual stories in new ways - often going back to older traditions. He hosted spiritual retreats. He was most successful in the United States and Spain.
Although is teachings show the influence of many spiritual traditions, it is said that a main non-Christian influence on his work was the Theravada Buddhist teacher Chah Subhatto.
Awareness, by Anthony De Mello is a book that people say changes their lives. In modern terminology: he applies mindfulness to our lives and integrates it with Christian spirituality. Fans give multiple copies away to friends and aplaud his humor, insight and wisdom.
See also more books by Anthony De Mello
Articles and quotes by Anthony de Mello
Love - like a rose - Anthony De Mello Quote
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.
On Enlightenment: The Eastern Anthony de Mello
On the question of his own Enlightenment the Master always remained reticent, even though the disciples tried every means to get him to talk.
All the information they had on this subject was what the Master once said to his youngest son who wanted to know what his father felt when he became Enlightened.
The answer was:
When the boy asked why, the Master had replied, "Well, son, it was like going to great pains to break into a house by climbing a ladder and smashing a window and then realizing later that the door of the house was open."
On mysticism: union with God
Meditating on the life of Jesus
The Christian Anthony de Mello
When I meditate on any scene in Christ's life, I make myself present to it. I imagine I am there, taking part in all the events, speaking, listening, acting. When I return to some scene in my past life, I relive it just as it happened with one difference: this time I get Christ to take an active part in it.
On Waking UP - Anthony De Mello Quote
Sleep is nice, but being aware is better...
Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It's irritating to be woken up. That's the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I'm going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, "Wake up!" My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don't, too bad! As the Arabs say, "The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens."
The 70's, the future Pope and RC politics
Disclaimer: I'm not a catholic
The way to put the work of Anthony de Mello in context is to first off note that he became popular in the 1970's. This is the era that the Roman Catholic Church went liberal. Married men were ordained as deacons (in 1995 women were allowed to become deacons as well). The Latin Mass was replaced for mass in the vernacular in 1970.
Part of that movement for change was one towards more religious tolerance. Jesuits were particularly suited to that task because whatever else one may say of them: they've always studied other religions besides Christianity.
What Anthony de Mello did that was different, but that did suit the times, was to take those other religions seriously and learn from them.
This lead to the official statement by the future pope Ratzinger that:
But already in certain passages in these early works and to a greater degree in his later publications, one notices a progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith. In place of the revelation which has come in the person of Jesus Christ, he substitutes an intuition of God without form or image, to the point of speaking of God as a pure void. To see God it is enough to look directly at the world. Nothing can be said about God; the only knowing is unknowing. To pose the question of his existence is already nonsense. This radical apophaticism leads even to a denial that the Bible contains valid statements about God.
With the present Notification, in order to protect the good of the Christian faithful, this Congregation declares that the above-mentioned positions are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.
For my Christian readers this may be the gravest of denunciations. For me as a theosophist it means that de Mello thought for himself and sought to follow truth where it lead him.
For historical context: note that this was written in 1995, a little less than 10 years after de Mello passed away. In other words: while he was alive the RC church did not feel the need to tell Roman Catholics that de Mello was out of bounds.