Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.”
— Anthony deMello
The late Anthony deMello (1931 –- 1987) was a Jesuit priest, mystic and psychotherapist in India. His teachings on spiritually were so interesting that the Vatican investigated them–11 years after the man’s death, for God’s sake–and found some of the teachings “incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
Of course, the one man in the Vatican who got so shook up by DeMello’s work was a hardline Catholic cop, of sorts–Cardinal Prefect Joseph Ratzinger.
He went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. He was no Pope Francis. I can’t see Pope Francis going back 11 years after the death of a priest and condemning the priest for his theology.
But far be it for me, a United Methodist to criticize a Catholic (too much), since we United Methodists have more than our share of doctrine-and-dogma police, they who are always on the lookout to blow the dog whistle on somebody they deem as “incompatible” with (rigid) Christianity.
With my abiding interest in Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality, I’m in a mellow mood after reading some of the notes that Father Tony deMello included in preparation for what turned out to be his last seminar to 300 priests.
I like deMello’s books a lot, which are actually quite orthodox Catholic–even Ratzinger had to concede as much after doing his post-mortem on the writings and teachings of the great Indian priest.
I could quibble and pick apart some of the stuff that follows from deMello’s last seminar, but I don’t buy anybody’s theology wholesale. That said, most of what follows resonates with the contemplative in me, the part of me that knows that there is no box big enough to contain God.
Try as we might, and try as we all do, to box up the mystery of Love, the great, big magnificent mystery that is God can’t be stuffed into anybody’s little box.
With no further ado, here’s deMello:
“If you really enjoy life and the simple pleasures of the senses, you’d be amazed. You’d develop that extraordinary discipline of the animal.
“Think of your body and compare it with the body of an animal that is left in its natural habitat.
“It never eats or drinks what is not good for it. It has all the rest and exercise that it needs. It has the right amount of exposure to the elements, to wind and sun and rain and heat and cold.
“That is because the animal listens to its body and allows itself to be guided by the body’s wisdom.
“Compare that with your own foolish cunningness. If your body could speak, what would it say to you?
“Observe the greed, the ambition, the vanity, the desire to show off and to please others, the guilt that drives you to ignore the voice of your body while you chase after objectives set by your ego.
“Religion is not ritual, not intellectual, but purification. From that purified heart and mind, action will come.
“You do not possess the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears.
“Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.”
“We humans have scriptures and all we do is feed on words. It’s like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.”
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“The finest act of love you can perform is not an act of service but an act of contemplation, of seeing. When you serve people, you support, alleviate pain. When you see them in their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.”
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“In a conflict between Nature and your brain, back Nature; if you fight her, she will eventually destroy you. The secret therefore is to improve on Nature in harmony with Nature. How can you achieve this harmony?”
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“When you drop your illusions, you get a sense of space and time. Mystics get this sense of timelessness; of eternity, of everlasting joy; because they have dropped their illusions.
“Once a projection is screened before us, we make it a concept–-static. When we create concepts we bring out our paintbrushes. We paint things good or bad, according to the concepts we have created.
“The Mystic does not paint it. The mystic sees everything with a clean slate and experiences what he sees in present moment freshness each and every time.”
“Reality cannot be known through concepts; much less, this reality we call God. He is not virtue and not vice. He is not light and He is not darkness. What is wrong is the use we make of the Bible.
“Don’t believe that reading the Scriptures will do you any good, unless you start working on yourself. You will not understand the Bible unless your mind, heart and eyes are clean; or else, you give it all sorts of interpretations to suit your own fears.”
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“I often hear, ‘I have no time to meditate.’ This is like saying ‘I have no time to breathe.’ Are you awake the entire day? Are you aware of your being, your surroundings?
“Are you aware of the sounds around you? The colours of nature which beautify this earth we live in? Of the melody of birds singing in the early hours of the morning or late evening? Of the sound of the breeze rustling through the branches of a tree?
“Staying ‘awake’ and being ‘aware’ for the entire day is meditation. Then you will realise that life is useless, worthless, not worth living without consciousness.
“When walking in the jungle, you keep your eyes open to keep your feet from getting hurt. Likewise in life, in your relationships, find time to take the blindfold off.”
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