What illusions are you living under?




The writings of the Indian Jesuit Fr. Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) have found considerable circulation in many countries and among people of different origins.1 In his works, written in an immediate and easy-to-read style, mostly in the form of short stories, De Mello has brought together some important elements of Far Eastern wisdom that can help us to gain self-control, to loosen those affective ties that keep us from to be really free, to avoid egocentricity, to calmly face the vicissitudes of life without being influenced by the outside world, and at the same time to perceive the richness of the world around us. These positive values, which can be found in many of Father de Mello's writings, should justifiably be quoted here. Especially in the works that go back to the first years of his activity as a leader of spiritual exercises, although he reveals a clear influence by the spiritual currents of Buddhism and Taoism, he was still within the boundaries of Christian spirituality from many points of view: he speaks of the expectation - in silence and in prayer - of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the pure gift of the Father (Incontro con Dio, 11-13). He shows us very well the prayer of Jesus and that prayer which he himself teaches us on the basis of the Our Father (ibid., 40-43). He also speaks of faith, repentance, contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Christ according to the method of St. Ignatius. In his first work Sadhana. Un cammino verso Dio, published for the first time in 1978, Jesus takes - especially in the final part (The piety, Pp. 175-235) -a central position: It speaks of supplication, of intercessory prayer, as Jesus teaches us in the Gospel, of praise and the invocation of the name of Jesus. The book is St. Virgo, dedicated to the model of contemplation (p. 11).

But already in this volume he develops his theory of meditation as self-consciousness (or consciousness), which does not seem to be free from ambiguities. Already at the beginning of the work the concept of Christian revelation is equated with that of Lao Tzu, with a certain preference for the definition of the latter: »“ Silence is the great revelation ”, Lao Tzu said. We have become accustomed to mistaking the scriptures for the revelation of God. And that is also correct. But now you are to discover the revelation of silence ”(p. 15, cf. p. 18).

When we perceive our bodily sensations, we already enter into communication with God (p. 44). A communication explained as follows: “Many mystics declare that in addition to the mind and heart with which we ordinarily communicate with God, we also have a mystical mind and heart, a faculty that relates us directly to God with which we can grasp God's actual essence and intuitively recognize - even if in a dark way «(ibid.). But this intuitive knowledge, without images and shape, is the recognition of a void: “But where should I look when I look at God? To an imageless, shapeless reality, into a void ”(p. 45). In order to communicate with the Infinite, one must "look into a void". Thus one arrives at the "apparently disturbing conclusion that focusing on your breath and on your body sensations is good and correct meditation in the strict sense of the word" (p. 51).2 In other, subsequent works, the talk is of “waking up”, of inner enlightenment and the knowledge: “How should we wake up? How do we know if we are sleeping? The mystics, when they see all that surrounds them, feel a great joy flowing from the heart of things. In agreement they talk about this joy and the love that fills everything ... How can we get there? Through understanding and by freeing ourselves from illusions and distorted ideas "(Istruzioni di volo per aquile e polli.77; see. Chiamati all’amore, 178). Inner enlightenment is the true revelation, far more important than that given to us in the scriptures: “A guru promised a scholar a revelation that was far more important than any other revelation in the scriptures ... If you Having knowledge, you use a torch to light the way. When you have enlightenment, you become a torch yourself «(La preghiera della rana, I, 126-127). “Holiness is not an achievement, holiness is a grace. A grace that we call "knowledge", a grace that means "look at", "observe", "understand". If only you would finally ignite the light of knowledge and observe yourself and everything that is around you in everyday life. If you saw yourself in the mirror of knowledge, just as you can see your face in a mirror ... without pronouncing a judgment or a condemnation, then you would notice what wonderful changes are taking place in you «(Chiamati all’amore, 176).

In these subsequent writings, Father de Mello increasingly came to understandings about God, Revelation, Christ, the ultimate destiny of man, etc., which are incompatible with the teaching of the Church. Since many of his books are not written in a didactic style, but in the form of collections of short, often extremely witty stories, there is all too easy a danger that the ideas on which they are based will go unnoticed. Hence it seems necessary to draw attention to some aspects of his thinking that appear in different forms throughout his work. We will use those texts of the author which, despite their peculiar characteristics, clearly show his underlying thinking.

On various occasions, Father de Mello makes statements about God which do not acknowledge his personal character, even explicitly deny it, and who want to reduce him to a vague, omnipresent cosmic reality. No one can and can help to find God, just as no one can help the fish to find the ocean (cf. Un minuto di saggezza, 77; Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo, 115). Accordingly, God and we are not one thing, but neither are they two, like the sun and its light, just as the ocean and the waves are neither one nor two things (Un minuto di saggezza, 44). The problem of the personal deity becomes even clearer in the following statement: »Dag Hammerskjöld, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, said a very beautiful sentence:“ God will not die on the day we stop being a personal deity to believe"" (Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo, 140; also in La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 60). "If God is love, then the distance between God and you is exactly the distance between you and the consciousness of yourself" (Shock di un minuto, 287).

Often every attempt to put God into words is met with criticism and irony, with a one-sided and exaggerated apophatism being assumed as the logical consequence of the above-mentioned image of God. The relationship between God and his creation is often expressed through the Hindu image of the dancer and the dance: “I see Jesus Christ and Judas, I see the victims and the persecutors, the executioners and the crucified: a single melody composed of opposite notes ... a single dance of different steps ... I finally stand before God. I see him as a dancer and this whole crazy, nonsensical, exhilarating, frightening, wonderful thing that we call life, as a dance ... "(All cares, 178-179; see. Ilcanto degli uccelli, 30). What or who is God and what are the people in this "dance"? And further: “If you want to see God, look directly at creation. Don't reject them, don't think about them. Limit yourself to looking ”(p. 41). It is difficult to see how Christ's mediation in the knowledge of the Father should fit in here. "God has nothing to do with the idea that you have of him ... There is only one means of getting to know him: not knowing" (Istruzioni di volo per aquile e polli, 11; 12-13; Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo, 136; Preghiera della rana, Vol. 1, 351). Therefore nothing can be said about God: “The atheist commits the error of denying that about which nothing can be said about. ..And the theist desires the error of affirming it «(Shock di un minuto, 30; 360).

Not even the scriptures - not even the Bible - let us recognize God, they are street signs that say nothing about the city itself that I am walking towards: »I come to a sign that says“ Bombay ”. This sign is not and is not like Bombay, and even less is there an image of Bombay. It's a sign. These are also the scriptures, a sign «(Istruzioni di volo per aquile e polli, 12). According to this picture, one might believe that the traffic sign is superfluous when one has arrived at the destination. And this is what Fr. Anthony de Mello seems to be saying: “The Bible plays an outstanding part, it is the finger that shows us the light. Let us use their words to go on and to be silent «(ibid.). The revelation of God is paradoxically expressed not in his word but in his silence (cf. also Un minuto di saggezza, 129; 167; 201; Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo, 112-113). "In the Bible we are only shown the way, as is also done in the Muslim and Buddhist scriptures" (La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 64).

That is why an impersonal God is proclaimed to us, who stands above all religions, while objections are raised against the Christian proclamation of the God of love, who is incompatible with the salvific need of the Church: “My friend and I went to the fair. For the international fair of religions ... At the Jewish stand, leaflets were distributed saying that God was merciful and that the Jews were his chosen people. The Jews. No other people are so chosen as the Jews. At the Muslim booth we learned that God is merciful and that Muhammad is his only prophet. Salvation comes through listening to God's only prophet. In the Christian class we discovered that God is love and that there is no salvation outside the church. Enter church or you risk eternal damnation. As we were leaving, I asked my friend, "How do you feel about God?" He replied, "He is hypocritical, fanatical and cruel". When I got home, I said to God, “Why do you organize such things, Lord? Can't you see that they've earned you a bad reputation for centuries? " God replied, “I didn't organize the fair. I would even be ashamed to go there ”« (Il canto degli uccelli, P. 186 f., The story La fiera internazionale delle religioni, see also pp. 190-191, p. 194). The teaching of the Church on God's universal will for salvation and the salvation of Christians is not correctly presented here. Just as little as the teaching about the Christian message about the God of love: “God is love. And he loves and rewards us forever if we keep his commandments ”. "If?" Said the master. "Then the message is not so good, is it?"Shock di un minuto, 218; 227). Every concrete religion prevents us from arriving at the truth. The same thing is said about religion in general that we have heard about the scriptures: "All fanatics want to cling to their God and make him the only God" (La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 65; 28; 30). What matters is the truth, regardless of whether it comes from Buddha or Mohammed, since "it is important to discover the truth where all truths flow together, because the truth is one" (ibid., 65). "Unfortunately, the majority of people have enough religion to hate, but not enough to love" (La preghiera della rana, Vol. 1, 146; 56-57; 133). In a list of the obstacles that keep us from seeing reality, religion takes first place: “First, your religious beliefs. If you look at the life of a communist or a capitalist, a Muslim or a Jew, you are living a preconceived and tendentious life: an obstacle, a layer of fat between reality and your mind, which no longer succeeds in seeing and touching it directly "(Chiamati all’amore, 62). »If everyone had such a heart, nobody would call themselves a“ communist ”,“ capitalist ”,“ Christian ”, or“ Muslim ”or“ Buddhist ”any more. The brilliant clarity of their conceptions would reveal to them that all thoughts, all preconceptions, all beliefs are lamps of darkness, nothing but signs of their own ignorance "(ibid., 172; see also Un minuto di saggezza, 169; 227, on the dangers of religion). What is asserted here about religion is also said concretely about the scriptures (cf. Il canto degli uccelli, 186 f .; Shock di un minuto, 28).

The divine descent of Jesus is watered down in the divine origin of the people: "To which God replied:" A holiday is holy because it shows that all days of the year are holy. And a sanctuary is holy because it shows that all places are holy. This is how Christ was born to show that all human beings are children of God "" (II canto degli uccelli, 186f.) Certainly de Mello shows a personal affection for Christ, he declares himself to be his disciple (All cares, 13. 99), in whom he believes (p. 108) and whom he meets personally (p. 109 ff., 117 ff.). His presence transforms (see p. 90 f.). Other statements, however, turn out to be startling: Jesus is named as one teacher among many: "Lao Tzu and Socrates, Buddha and Jesus, Zarathustra and Mohammed" (Un minuto di saggezza, 13). Jesus appears on the cross as the one who has completely freed himself from everything: »I see the crucified Christ deprived of all things: deprived of his dignity ... deprived of his reputation ... deprived of all support ... deprived of his God ... while As I look at that lifeless body, I gradually understand that I am looking at the symbol of the highest and total liberation. It is precisely because he is nailed to the cross that Jesus becomes alive and free. So I now consider the majesty of that person who has got rid of everything that enslaves us and destroys our happiness ... "(All cares, 92-93). Jesus on the cross is the man free from all ties and thus becomes a symbol of inner liberation from all our attachments. But isn't he something more than the free man? Is Jesus my savior, or is he just pointing me to a mysterious reality that he has saved ?: “Lord, will I never come into contact with the source from which your words and wisdom gush? ... I never will find the sources of your courage? «(ibid., 116). “The best thing about Jesus is that he feels so comfortable with sinners because he knew he was no better than them ... The only difference between Jesus and sinners was that he was awake and they weren't «(Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo.37; see also La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 30.62). The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol that points us to a deeper reality, namely the presence of Christ in creation: “All creation is the body of Christ, and you believe that it consists only in the Eucharist. The Eucharist indicates this creation. The body of Christ is everywhere and you alone notice that it is a sign and yet points to the essential, namely life "(La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 61).

The human being seems to be destined to dissolve, as with salt that dissolves in water: "Before that last bit dissolved, the (salt) doll exclaimed in astonishment:" Now I know who I am! "" (Il canto degli uccelli, 134). Elsewhere the question of life after death is declared irrelevant: "Is there life before death ... that is the question here, answered the master mysteriously" (Un minuto di saggezza, 93, 37). “A good sign that you are awake is that you do not care in the least what will happen in the life to come.This thought does not confuse you, it has no value for you. You are not interested in him, that's it! "(Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo, 50-51; 166). And perhaps even more clearly: “Why should one worry about the morning? Is there a life after death? Will I still be alive after death? Why should one care about the morning? Enter the present «(ibid., 126). “The idea people have of eternity is foolish. They believe that it lasts forever and is therefore out of time. Eternal life is now and here "(La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 42).

At various points in his books, ecclesiastical institutions are indiscriminately criticized: "Professionals have completely taken control of my religious life ..." (Il canto degli uccelli, 74 f.). The function of the creed or creed is judged negatively, as if it blocks personal access to truth and enlightenment. Likewise in the most diverse variants in the same work p. 50; 59; 62 f .; 212. “When you no longer need to cling to the words of the Bible, then the time has come for it to be transformed into something very beautiful for you, which reveals life and its message to you. "The sad thing is that the official church was concerned with framing the idol, imprisoning it, defending it, and objectifying it without realizing what it really meant" (La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 66). Similar ideas are used in La preghiera della rana, Vol. I, 21; 133; 135; 139: “A public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden to enter the church. He complained to God for his suffering. "They won't let me in because I'm a sinner". "Why are you complaining?" Said God. "You don't even let me in!"ibid., 148).

Evil is simply ignorance and a lack of enlightenment: “When Jesus sees evil, he calls it by name and condemns it without further ado. The only difference is that where I see malice, he sees ignorance: "Father, forgive them."Lk 23,34)« (All cares, 191). It is certain that this text does not reflect all of Jesus' teaching on evil in the world and on sin; Jesus welcomed sinners with deep mercy, but he did not deny their sin, but rather invited them to repent. In other places we find even more radical assertions: »Nothing is 'good' or 'bad', the thought makes it so« (Un minuto di saggezza, 115). "In reality there is only one mental evaluation that we impose on this or that reality" (Istruzioni di volo per aquile e polli, 100; 104-105). There is no need to repent of your sins, as the only thing that matters is to be awakened to the knowledge of reality: “Don't weep for your sins. Why should you weep for sins that you committed in the blow "(Messaggio per un’aquila che si crede un pollo, 33, 51, 166). The cause of evil is ignorance (Shock di un minuto, 260). Sin exists, but it's an insane act (La iluminación es la espiritualidad, 63). Repentance thus means returning to reality (cf. ibid., 48). "Repentance is a change of conscience: a view radically different from reality" (Shock di un minuto, 262).

There is certainly an intrinsic connection between these different assertions: if one rejects the existence of a personal God, it would be pointless for him to address us in his word. Hence the Scriptures have no definitive value. Jesus is one teacher among others; only in the author's first works does he appear as the Son of God. This assertion would have little meaning if one were to proceed from the image of God to which we have just referred. Consequently, the teaching of the church cannot be given any value. Our personal survival after death becomes problematic when God is not a person. It is clear that such a conception of God, of Christ and of man is incompatible with the Christian faith.

Therefore, a clarifying statement on the part of those who are responsible for upholding the doctrine of the faith could not fail to be in order to warn the believers of the dangers that lie in the writings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, or at least are ascribed to them.

1 It should be noted in this regard that not all of the works of Father Anthony de Mello were published by himself. Some works were published after his death on the basis of his writings and on the basis of transcripts or records of his lectures. In these "Notes", reference is made to the Italian edition, with the exception of the text La iluminación es la espiritualidad. Curso completo de autoliberación interior (Vida nueva 1987, pp. 27/1583; 66/1622).

2 The writing of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seems to be based on these kinds of suggestions Orationis formas of October 15, 1989, No. 12 (cf. AAS 82 [1990] 369) refer to: »Alia demum temere audent aequare absolutum illud, sine imaginibus et conceptibus, quod est proprium theoriae Buddhisticae, Dei maiestati, in Christo revelatae, quae supra res finitas elevatur. «In this regard, the teaching on inculturation and interreligious dialogue in the encyclical Redemptoris missio, Nn. 52-57 (cf. AAS 83 [1991] 299-305) by Pope John Paul II.