Anthony De Mello Login/Join
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I've just read a couple of books by Anthony De Mello. "Awareness" and "The Way to Love." I enjoyed both books, but they certainly weren't what I expected. They don't sound anything like what you would *expect* to hear from a priest. Confused

I'm very open to what he has to say....especially when he addresses the idea of "attachments." Phil, I dug up some of your material from the "Be Here Now in Love" series as a review for myself. It made even more sense to me now. Sometimes we need to hear these things over and over, don't we??

When I was on retreat earlier this summer I learned something about myself, but it took me a while to put my finger on WHAT exactly it was that I learned. I think that I realized that it really takes very LITTLE to make me happy, you know??? And this is an important part of De Mello's message. That we convince ourselves that we need many things, and that we need many things to be a certain way in order to be happy (attachments) but in reality, we need very little. Somehow I got a glimpse of this notion while on my retreat!!

Anyway, what do the rest of you think about De Mello's writings? He hardly even mentions Jesus or God in his books. Wink
Posts: 172 | Location: Missouri | Registered: 10 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Here Anne, this thread from our Shalomplace Hall of Fame should give you some additional perspectives while waiting for everyone to return from holiday: L'affair de Mello

I always liked Tony, have most of his books and find him refreshing, still. I do understand and appreciate some of the criticisms leveled against him, too.

Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks jb.

Posts: 172 | Location: Missouri | Registered: 10 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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From that old link, Diana said: I can't give much credence to "spiritual" persons who don't know how to laugh or make light of themselves or their belief systems. Tony's approach concentrated on things that bring us together, not things that divide us. Laughter, joy, sharing, and inclusivity bring us together. Tony was a master in these arenas.


Dialogue seems to be a key word here at sp recently. I am wondering if so much of what Tony conveyed could be limited to dialogue, in the verbal sense. Can a lover fully verbally dialogue about what happens in the intimacy of the marriage bed? Perhaps, that's why Tony relied so much on laughter to convey his message. It is through love and laughter that defenses are dropped. I wonder if it is possible to dialogue with people who do not have the same definitions for the same words. Perhaps, that's when the dialogue of presence arises or the 'dialogue' of laughter.

I've been reading more of Panikkar. He claims people may be inclined in three ways:exclusive (members of the Truth Club), inclusive (self-explanatory), and people who believe in parallel truths. Is it possible to ever really dialogue with people in the Truth Club? How could Tony have talked with people who seem to know all the answers? I think laughter would have been the only way.

Although I�m a bit squeamish with the nobleness she seems to automatically attach to the word �inclusive� (and that the definition is self-explanatory), I would like to meet this Diana. And I think I shall read a bit of de Mello when I have the chance.

Thanks for that link, JB.
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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De Mello's name has come up frequently in books that I've read. In fact.....that's usually how I pick up on an author. I see the author's name quoted so often in other people's writings, that the name becomes familiar to me, and eventually I will read something by the quoted author. Make sense??

I think you would probably like De Mello. :-)

Posts: 172 | Location: Missouri | Registered: 10 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I've been meaning to return to this thread.

Because of a shared vision of the immanence of Ultimate Reality in people, in creation, permeating all things, there has been a resonance between Catholicism and Zen inasmuch as Catholicism with its analogical imagination more resembles Zen than it even does classical Protestantism with its dialectical imagination.

Analogical: God Self-discloses Himself in his creation. Assumes a God who is present in the world, disclosing Himself in and through creation. Hence, the world and all its events, objects, and people tend to be somewhat like God.

Dialectical: God is over against the world and its communities and artifacts. Assumes a God who is radically absent from the world and who discloses Himself only on rare occasions.Hence, the world (and all its events, objects, and people) tend to be radically different from God.
from http://www.whiterobedmonks.org/schem2.html a Schema based on __The Catholic Myth: The Behavior and Beliefs of American Catholics__ by Andrew M. Greeley

So, too, neither Catholicism nor Zen would confuse the Rose with the Name of the Rose (William of Ockham, Franciscan) or the Finger Pointing for the Moon itself (Zen). We don�t take our metaphors literally as has been done in classical Protestantism. Another affinity we have with Zen is our openness to a Creation Spirituality that views a soul in need of awakening even as we hold this in creative tension with the Redemption Spirituality that sees a soul in need of saving (the strict classical Protestant view).

In a thought experiment, theologian Sallie McFague has explored the relationship between the theological language of models and concepts and the religious language of images and metaphors. She develops insights from science and philosophy showing how models are derived from metaphors. But: "Models can never be taken literally, since they are not descriptions but indirect attempts to express the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar As such, "many models are necessary, since all are partial" . Of God, she concludes: " there is nothing which resembles what we can conceive when we say that word". Her colleague David Tracy has explored the role of analogical imagination.
From Anthony Judge, Being Other Wise - Clues to the dynamics of a meaningfully sustainable lifestyle at http://www.uia.org/uiadocs/othwise.htm

A metaphor is no mere ornament of language. We live by metaphors. What is "metaphorical theology?" Broadly put, it is talk about God that explicitly focuses on the simultaneously adequate and inadequate nature of its language. Whether we speak of God as rock, father, mother, liberator, or spirit, a metaphorical theologian will stress that each term is and is not adequate for talking about God. The power of metaphors, in fact, rides on this tension of the "is and is not" . A metaphorical theology harnesses this indirect power in metaphors to speak about a God shrouded in mystery.
Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language By Sallie McFague

However, unlike Buddhism, we don�t see suffering as illusory and we don�t see attachments or desires as things to be done away with.

If our approach to Ultimate Reality is shrouded by our sufferings and our experience of Reality is veiled by our desires, we don�t tear this veil of suffering or rent this garment of desire . Rather, we maintain our Seamless Garment of Creation Spirituality approach insofar as we, with St. John of the Cross, reorder our disordered desires and, with Ignatius of Loyola, reorder our inordinate attachments. We take the Creation Theology approach that �Everything Belongs� and the Redemption Theology approach that suggests that Whom we belong to is Jesus, the Cosmic Christ of Process Theology .
eventually to be attributed to johnboy in some future St. Romain publication of some sort Wink

Thomas Merton, like Tony deMello, recognized value in the Eastern approach to God, which was immanent, impersonal, existential and apophatic . Like Merton, assuredly he resonated with an approach that nurtured a creative tension with the transcendent, personal, theological and kataphatic . Perhaps, like Meister Eckhart, Tony is to be understood as not always speaking using the same modalities, that is, metaphorical versus anagogical versus unitive, that, rather, he was immersed in neo-Platonic Dionysian triads , now conjunctive and holistic, then disjunctive and causal, now apophatic, then kataphatic.

If there is a radical apophaticism, then why haven�t we heard more often of the dangers of radical kataphaticism? Nonetheless, to the extent that, taken in isolation and outside of the context of everything that Tony was and believed, there was a thread of radical apophaticism running through his later teachings, it may be because, unlike Merton, he forgot that Everything Belongs (a Richard Rohr theme and book title)?

Ch'an Teacher Pao-ch'e of Mt Ma-ku was fanning himself one day when a monk came and asked: `The nature of the wind is always abiding; there is no place to which it does not extend.

Why do you still use a fan?'

The master replied: `Although you know only that the nature of the wind is always abiding, you do not yet know the truth that there is no place to which it does not extend.'

The monk said: `What is the meaning of `there is no place to which it does not extend?'

The master just kept fanning himself. The monk saluted him.
From `Genjo-Koan' in Flowers of emptiness

Zen has thus revealed its implicit Catholicism and paradoxically affirmed kataphaticism. This koan might bring, even an Easterner, to the Gateway of the Temple where the really illusory veil was torn into by the Incarnation. There's a koan for you: really illusory .

Tony knew the nature of the wind but perhaps had not fully grasped that there is no place to which it does not extend. He knows now. That�s for certain.

pax tibi,
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It's really too bad de Mello died so young. It would have been interesting to see how it all turned out with him in the long run.

There were several phases of his life, the first being a rather traditional Jesuit retreat master. Some of his retreat conferences from this stage sound like the stock presentations one hears on weekend retreats at Jesuit centers across the U.S.

The second stage came as he integrated Rogerian psychology with his Jesuit theology. Like so many others, his formation has not properly addressed some of the psychological dimensions of his nature. His early Saddhanna retreats had a strong therapeutic emphasis, and the conferences just may as well be called mega-group sessions, with anyone asking a question or making a comment finding themselves automatically on the "hot seat" as de Mello shone his light on them, interacting as a therapist more than a retreat director. This phase eventually brought him in touch with the cognitive therapists, and their emphasis on illusory beliefs as the root of our problems. . .

. . . which linked nicely into the Buddhist notion of illusion, attachments, and the third phase of his ministry: guru/master, which was the situation when he died. Here he plumbed the depths of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions which were all around him in the India where he grew up. Their parables especially appealed to him, and being a master storyteller, he related them with wit and a captivating energy, not to mention a charming accent. As JB mentioned, the theme was radical aphophatism--that the only true knowledge of God is non-conceptual. Such affirmations in Catholicism have always been held in tension with dogmatic pronouncements which provide a "content" to the Faith. But the more it went, the less it seemed to me that guru de Mello held this tension in his teaching, so much so that his retreat conferences eventually became indistunguishable in theme and substance from Buddhist teachings. No doubt he would have continued to put all this together, and eventually arrived at some kind of inter-spirituality, as Wayne Teasedale calls it. But he died smack dab in the middle of phase three, with the Vatican expressing disapproval of some of his writings shortly afterwards. Who's to say how he would have responded? It would have been interesting!

Much of my knowledge of de Mello comes from following his career through mutual aquaintances, and from the excellent short biography of him by Carlos Valles, one of Tony's closest friends.

I have no hesitation in recommending de Mello's books to anyone, with the proviso that you view his aphophatism as hyperbole and recognize that the dogmatic tradition really conflicts in no way with apophatic spirituality. It's only when we mistake our conceptual understanding of God for the Real Thing that problems arise. Tony knew that, but he didn't sufficiently emphasize the value of the dogmatic tradition, which provides a kataphatic configuration to apophatic receptivity.

Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Many thanks for the biographical details of de Mello. I had only read four books with collections of his wisdom stories and loved his wit.

As to the timing of his death - just as Jesus couldn't have accomplished anything more if He had lived to the ripe old age of 94 (so common among Zen masters, but then I think God gives zen masters that time as it takes a zen master at least 30 years of intense meditation to start teaching and he begins even then only if he is forced by someone. Personally he would spend the next thirty years in intense meditation and still feel he has nothing to teach. That is the problem with believing in reincarnation I suppose. They usually think in terms of several life times - to get enlightened, to be ready to go back to the market place to serve. Aren't we Christians lucky, or perhaps unlucky that we have to do with one life time, sometimes a very short one like Jesus or de Mello to complete our job?)- so with de Mello. I'm sure he has completed the job that God meant him to. Maybe it is just as well he didn't live longer. Who knows if he would not have gone off track like Choygam Trungpa?!

Moral of the story: God's timing was perfect and de Mello did what he was meant to do. Could he have created so much controversy if he had been around to answer all the questions?
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