Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello [Tony de Mello]
Fr. Anthony De Mello
1931-1987, was a Jesuit retreat master and writer who ended his days as a virtual Buddhist. He is symptomatic of much of the malaise that afflicts the entire Jesuit order. I will let the compilation speak for itself. However, I must reiterate here that Jesuits still defend his writings and condemn the Vatican ban on them, and Catholic bookstores in India still sell his books. –Michael
Titles in blue colour are critical of de Mello; those in red are supportive or in defense of the Jesuit.
DISSENTING AUTHORS AND SPEAKERS
“Theology Incompatible with the Catholic Faith“
By Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
“Official Vatican condemnation of Fr. De Mello’s writings“ 1
NOTIFICATION CONCERNING THE WRITINGS OF FR. ANTHONY DE MELLO, SJ
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
June 24, 1998
The Indian Jesuit priest, Father Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) is well known due to his numerous publications which, translated into various languages, have been widely circulated in many countries of the world, though not all of these texts were authorized by him for publication. His works, which almost always take the form of brief stories, contain some valid elements of oriental wisdom. These can be helpful in achieving self-mastery, in breaking the bonds and feelings that keep us from being free, and in approaching with serenity the various vicissitudes of life. Especially in his early writings, Father de Mello, while revealing the influence of Buddhist and Taoist spiritual currents, remained within the lines of Christian spirituality. In these books, he treats the different kinds of prayer: petition, intercession and praise, as well as contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Christ, etc.
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. The words of Scripture are indications which serve only to lead a person to silence. In other passages, the judgment on sacred religious texts, not excluding the Bible, becomes even more severe: they are said to prevent people from following their own common sense and cause them to become obtuse and cruel. Religions, including Christianity, are one of the major obstacles to the discovery of truth. This truth, however, is never defined by the author in its precise contents. For him, to think that the God of one’s own religion is the only one is simply fanaticism. “God” is considered as a cosmic reality, vague and omnipresent; the personal nature of God is ignored and in practice denied.
Father de Mello demonstrates an appreciation for Jesus, of whom he declares himself to be a “disciple.”
But he considers Jesus as a master alongside others. The only difference from other men is that Jesus is “awake” and fully free, while others are not. Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God. In addition, the author’s statements on the final destiny of man give rise to perplexity. At one point, he speaks of a “dissolving” into the impersonal God, as salt dissolves in water. On various occasions, the question of destiny after death is declared to be irrelevant; only the present life should be of interest. With respect to this life, since evil is simply ignorance, there are no objective rules of morality. Good and evil are simply mental evaluations imposed upon reality.
Consistent with what has been presented, one can understand how, according to the author, any belief or profession of faith whether in God or in Christ cannot but impede one’s personal access to truth. The Church, making the word of God in Holy Scripture into an idol, has ended up banishing God from the temple. She has consequently lost the authority to teach in the name of Christ.
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.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Notification, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.
Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 24, 1998, the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist.
+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect
+ Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli, Secretary
The writings of the Indian Jesuit priest, Father Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) have circulated extensively in many countries of the world and among people of widely different backgrounds.1 In these works, which often take the form of short anecdotes presented in an accessible and easy-to-read style, Father de Mello collected elements of eastern wisdom which can be helpful in achieving self-control, in breaking the attachments and affections that keep us from being truly free, in avoiding selfishness, in facing life’s difficulties with serenity without letting ourselves be affected by the world around us, while at the same time being aware of its riches. It is important to indicate these positive features which can be found in many of Father de Mello’s writings. Particularly in the works dating from his early years as a retreat director, while revealing the influence of Buddhist and Taoist spiritual currents, Father de Mello remained in many respects within the boundaries of Christian spirituality. He speaks of waiting in silence and prayer for the coming of the Spirit, pure gift of the Father (Contact With God: Retreat Conferences, 3-7). He gives a very good presentation of the prayer of Jesus and of the prayer that Jesus teaches us, taking the Our Father as his basis (ibid., 42-44). He also speaks of faith, repentance and contemplation of the mysteries of Christ’s life according to the method of Saint Ignatius. In his work Sadhana: A Way to God, published for the first time in 1978, Jesus occupies a central place, particularly in the last part (“Devotion,” 99-134). He speaks of the prayer of petition and intercession as taught by Jesus in the Gospel, of the prayer of praise and of invocation of the name of Jesus. His book is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a model of contemplation (ibid., 4-5).
But already in this work he develops his theory of contemplation as awareness, which seems to be not lacking in ambiguity. Already at the beginning of the book, the concept of Christian revelation is equated with that of Lao-tse, with a certain preference for the latter: “‘Silence is the great revelation,’ said Lao-tse. We are accustomed to think of Scripture as the revelation of God. And so it is. I want you now to discover the revelation that silence brings” (9; cf. ibid., 11). In exercising an awareness of our bodily sensations, we are already communicating with God, a communication explained in these terms: “Many mystics tell us that, in addition to the mind and heart with which we ordinarily communicate with God we are, all of us, endowed with a mystical mind and mystical heart, a faculty which makes it possible for us to know God directly, to grasp and intuit him in his very being, though in a dark manner…” (ibid., 25). But this intuition, without images or form, is that of a void: “But what do I gaze into when I gaze silently at God? An imageless, formless reality. A blank!” (ibid., 26). To communicate with the Infinite it is necessary “to gaze at a blank.” And thus one arrives at “the seemingly disconcerting conclusion that concentration on your breathing or your body sensations is very good contemplation in the strict sense of the word” (ibid., 29-30).2 In his later works, he speaks of “awakening,” interior enlightenment or knowledge: “How to wake up? How are we going to know we’re asleep? The mystics, when they see what surrounds them, discover an extra joy flowing in the heart of things. With one voice they speak about this joy and love flowing everywhere… How attain that? Through understanding. By being liberated from illusions and wrong ideas” (Walking on Water, 77-78; cf. Call To Love, 97). Interior enlightenment is the true revelation, far more important than the one which comes to us through Scripture: “A Guru promised a scholar a revelation of greater consequence than anything contained in the scriptures… When you have knowledge you use a torch to show the way. When you are enlightened you become a torch” (The Prayer of the Frog I, 86-87).
Holiness is not an achievement, it is a Grace. A Grace called Awareness, a grace called Looking, observing, understanding. If you would only switch on the light of awareness and observe yourself and everything around you throughout the day, if you would see yourself reflected in the mirror of awareness the way you see your face reflected in a looking glass… and if you observed this reflection without any judgment or condemnation, you would experience all sorts of marvellous changes coming about in you (Call To Love, 96).
In these later writings, Father de Mello had gradually arrived at concepts of God, revelation, Christ, the final destiny of the human person, etc., which cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church. Since many of his books do not take the form of discursive teaching, but are collections of short tales which are often quite clever, the underlying ideas can easily pass unnoticed. This makes it necessary to call attention to certain aspects of his thought which, in different forms, appear in his work taken as a whole. We will use the author’s own texts which, with their particular features, clearly demonstrate the underlying thinking.
On various occasions, Father de Mello makes statements about God which ignore his personal nature, if not explicitly denying it, and reduce God to a vague and omnipresent cosmic reality. According to the author, no one can help us find God just as no one can help a fish in the sea find the ocean (cf. One Minute Wisdom, 67; Awareness, 103). Similarly, God and each of us are neither one nor two, just as the sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, are neither one nor two (cf. One Minute Wisdom, 34). With even greater clarity the problem of a personal Deity is presented in these terms: “Dag Hammarskj–ld, the former UN Secretary-General, put it so beautifully: ‘God does not die on the day we cease to believe in a personal deity…'” (Awareness, 126; the same idea is found in “La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 60). “If God is love, then the distance between God and you is the exact distance between you and the awareness of yourself?” (One Minute Nonsense, 266).
Following from a unilateral and exaggerated apophaticism which is the consequence of the above-mentioned concept of God, criticism and frequent irony are directed toward any attempt at language of God. The relationship between God and creation is frequently expressed with the Hindu image of the dancer and dance: I see Jesus Christ and Judas, I see victims and persecutors, the killers and the crucified: one melody in the contrasting notes…one dance moving through different steps… Finally, I stand before the Lord. I see him as the Dancer and all of this maddening, senseless, exhilarating, agonizing, splendorous thing that we call life as his dance… (Wellsprings: A Book of Spiritual Exercises, 200-201; The Song of the Bird, 16).
Who or what is God and what are men in this ‘dance’? And again: “If you wish to see God, look attentively at creation. Don’t reject it; don’t reflect on it. Just look at it” (The Song of the Bird, 27). It is not at all clear how Christ’s mediation for knowledge of the Father enters into such a description. “Realizing that God has nothing to do with the idea I form of God… There is only one way of knowing him: by unknowing!” (Walking on Water, 12; cf. ibid., 13-14; Awareness, 123; The Prayer of the Frog I, 268). Concerning God, therefore, one cannot say anything: “The atheist makes the mistake of denying that of which nothing may be said… And the theist makes the mistake of affirming it” (One Minute Nonsense, 21; cf. ibid., 336).
Nor do sacred scriptures, the Bible included, enable us to know God; they are simply like road-signs which tell me nothing about the city to which I am going: “…I come to a sign that says ‘Bombay.’ … That sign isn’t Bombay! Actually it doesn’t even look like Bombay. It’s not a picture of Bombay. It’s a sign. That is what the scriptures are, a sign” (Walking on Water, 13). Continuing this metaphor, one could say that a road-sign becomes useless when I have reached my destination; this is what Father de Mello seems to be saying: “The scripture is the excellent portion, the finger pointed toward the Light. We use its words to go beyond conceptions and reach silence” (Walking on Water, 16). Paradoxically God’s revelation is not expressed in his words, but in silence (cf. also One Minute Wisdom, 118, 157, 191, etc. Awareness, 101). “In the Bible only the path is indicated to us, as in the Muslim, Buddhist scriptures, etc.” (“La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 64).
Thus, what is proclaimed is an impersonal God who stands above all the religions, while objections are raised to the Christian proclamation of the God of love, held to be incompatible with the notion of the necessity of the Church for salvation:
My friend and I went to the fair. THE WORLD FAIR OF RELIGIONS… At the Jewish Stall we were given hand-outs that said that God was All-Compassionate and the Jews were his Chosen People. The Jews. No other people were as Chosen as the Jewish People. At the Moslem Stall we learnt that God was All-Merciful and Mohammed is his only Prophet. Salvation comes from listening to God’s only Prophet. At the Christian Stall we discovered that God is Love and there is no salvation outside the Church. Join the Church or risk eternal damnation. On the way out I asked my friend, ‘What do you think of God?’ He replied, ‘He is bigoted, fanatical and cruel.’ Back home, I said to God, ‘How do you put up with this sort of thing, Lord? Don’t you see they have been giving you a bad name for centuries?’ God said, ‘I didn’t organize the Fair. I’d be too ashamed to even visit it’ (“The World Fair of Religions” in The Song of the Bird, 186-187; cf. ibid., 189-190, 195).
The teaching of the Church on God’s universal salvific will and on the salvation of non-Christians is not presented correctly, nor is the Christian message of God as Love: “‘God is love. And He loves and rewards us forever if we observe His commandments.’ ‘IF ?’ said the Master, ‘Then the news isn’t all that good, is it?'” (One Minute Nonsense, 198; cf. ibid., 206). Every concrete religion is an obstacle to arriving at the truth. Furthermore, what is said about the Scriptures is said also about religion in general: “All fanatics wanted to catch hold of their God and make him the only one” (“La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 65; cf. ibid., 28, 30). What matters is the truth, whether it comes from Buddha or from Mohammed, since “the important thing is to discover the truth where all truths come together, because truth is one” (ibid., 65). “Most people, alas, have enough religion to hate but not enough to love” (The Prayer of the Frog I, 104; cf. ibid., 33, 94). When the obstacles that prevent one from seeing reality are listed, religion comes first: “First your beliefs. If you experience life as a communist or a capitalist, as a Moslem or a Jew, you are experiencing life in a prejudiced, slanted way; there is a barrier, a layer of fat between Reality and you because you no longer see and touch it directly” (Call to Love, 30-31). “If all human beings were fitted with such hearts people would no longer think of themselves as Communists or Capitalists, as Christians or Muslims or Buddhists. The very clarity of their thinking would show them that all thinking, all concepts, all beliefs are lamps full of darkness, signs of their ignorance” (ibid., 94; cf. also One Minute Wisdom, 159, 217, on the dangers of religion).
What is asserted about religion is also said concretely about the Scriptures (cf. The Song of the Bird, 186ff; One Minute Nonsense, 19).
The divine sonship of Jesus is diluted into the notion of the divine sonship of all men: “To which God replied, ‘A feast day is holy because it shows that all the days of the year are holy. And a sanctuary is holy because it shows that all places are sanctified. So Christ was born to show that all men are sons of God'” (The Song of the Bird, 189). Father de Mello certainly manifests a personal adherence to Christ, of whom he declares himself a disciple (Wellsprings, 122), in whom he has faith (ibid., 113) and who he personally encounters (ibid., 115ff, 124ff). His presence is transfiguring (cf. ibid., 92ff). But other statements are disconcerting. Jesus is mentioned as one teacher among many: “Lao Tzu and Socrates, Buddha and Jesus, Zarathustra and Mohammed (One Minute Wisdom, 2). Jesus on the cross appears as the one who has freed himself perfectly of everything:
I see the Crucified as stripped of everything: Stripped of his dignity…Stripped of his reputation… Stripped of support… Stripped of his God… As I gaze at that lifeless body I slowly understand that I am looking at the symbol of supreme and total liberation. In being fastened to the cross Jesus becomes alive and free…So now I contemplate the majesty of the man who has freed himself from all that makes us slaves, destroys our happiness… (Wellsprings, 95-97).
Jesus on the cross is the man free of all ties; thus he becomes the symbol of interior liberation from everything to which we were attached. But isn’t Jesus something more than a man who is free? Is Jesus my saviour or does he simply direct me toward a mysterious reality which has saved him? “‘Will I ever get in touch, Lord, with the source from which your words and wisdom flow?… Will I ever find the wellsprings of your courage?'” (Wellsprings, 123). “‘The lovely thing about Jesus was that he was so at home with sinners, because he understood that he wasn’t one bit better than they were’…The only difference between Jesus and those others was that he was awake and they weren’t” (Awareness, 30-31); cf. also “La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 30, 62). Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is but a symbol that refers to a deeper reality: his presence in creation. “The whole of creation is the body of Christ, and you believe that it is only in the Eucharist. The Eucharist indicates this creation. The Body of Christ is everywhere and yet you only notice its symbol which indicates to you what is essential, namely life” (“La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 61).
Man’s being seems destined to dissolve, like salt in water: “Before that last bit dissolved, the [salt] doll exclaimed in wonder, ‘Now I know who I am!'” (The Song of the Bird, 125). At other times, the question of life after death is declared to be unimportant: “‘But is there life after death or is there not?’ persisted a disciple. ‘Is there life before death? — that is the question!’ said the Master enigmatically” (One Minute Wisdom, 83; cf. ibid., 26). “One sign that you’re awakened is that you don’t give a damn about what’s going to happen in the next life. You’re not bothered about it; you don’t care. You are not interested, period” (Awareness, 42-43, 150). Perhaps with even greater clarity: “Why bother about tomorrow? Is there a life after death? Will I survive after death? Why bother about tomorrow? Get into today” (Awareness, 114). “The idea that people have of eternity is stupid. They think that it will last forever because it is outside of time. Eternal life is now; it’s here” (“La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 42).
At various points in his books institutions of the Church are criticized indiscriminately: “My religious life has been completely taken over by professionals” (The Song of the Bird, 63ff). The function of the Creed or the Profession of the Faith is judged negatively, as that which prevents personal access to truth and enlightenment (thus with different nuances, The Song of the Bird, 36, 46-47, 50ff, 215). “When you no longer need to hold on to the words of the Bible, it is then that it will become something very beautiful for you, revealing life and its message. The sad thing is that the official Church has dedicated itself to framing the idol, enclosing it, defending it, reifying it without being able to look at what it really means” (“La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 66). Similar ideas are presented in The Prayer of the Frog I, 7, 94, 95, 98-99: “A public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. ‘They won’t let me in, Lord, because I am sinner.’ ‘What are you complaining about?’ said God. ‘They won’t let me in either!'” (ibid. 105)
Evil is nothing but ignorance, the lack of enlightenment: “When Jesus looks at evil he calls it by its name and condemns it unambiguously. Only, where I see malice, he sees ignorance… ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” [Lk 23:34] (Wellsprings, 215). Certainly, this text does not reflect the entire teaching of Jesus on the evil of the world and on sin; Jesus welcomed sinners with profound mercy, but he did not deny their sin; rather he invited them to conversion. In other passages we find even more radical statements: “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so” (One Minute Wisdom, 104). “Actually there is no good or evil in persons or in nature. There is only a mental judgment imposed upon this or that reality” (Walking on Water, 99). There is no reason to repent for sins, since the only thing that matters is to be awakened to an awareness of reality: “Don’t weep for your sins. Why weep for sins that you committed when you were asleep?” (Awareness, 26; cf. ibid., 43, 150). The cause of evil is ignorance (One Minute Nonsense, 239). Sin exists, but it is an act of insanity (“La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad,” 63). Repentance therefore means returning to reality (cf. ibid. 48). “Repentance is a change of mind: a radically different vision of reality” (One Minute Nonsense, 241).
Clearly, there is an internal connection between these different positions: if one questions the existence of a personal God, it does not make sense that God would address himself to us with his word. Sacred Scripture, therefore, does not have definitive value. Jesus is a teacher like others; only in the author’s early books does he appear as the Son of God, an affirmation which would have little meaning in the context of such an understanding of God. As a consequence one cannot attribute value to the Church’s teaching. Our personal survival after death is problematic if God is not personal. Thus it becomes clear that such conceptions of God, Christ and man are not compatible with the Christian faith.
For this reason, those responsible for safeguarding the doctrine of the faith have been obliged to illustrate the dangers in the texts written by Father Anthony de Mello or attributed to him, and to warn the faithful about them.
1 Not all the works of Father de Mello were authorized for publication by the author himself. Some were published after his death based on his writings, or on notes or recordings of his conferences.
In this Explanatory Note, the following editions of his writings are cited: Sadhana: A Way to God (St. Louis, USA: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1978); The Song of the Bird (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1982); Wellsprings: A Book of Spiritual Exercises (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1984); One Minute Wisdom (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1985); “La iluminaciÛn es la espiritualidad: Curso completo de autoliberaciÛn interior” in Vida Nueva (1987) pp. 27/1583 – 66/1622; The Prayer of the Frog, 2 vols. (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1989); Awareness (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1990); Contact with God: Retreat Conferences (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1990); Call to Love: Meditations (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1991); Caminhar sobre as ·guas: Quebre o Ìdolo (S”o Paulo, Brazil: EdiÁžes Loyola, 1992), engl. trans. Walking on Water (New York: Crossroad, 1998); One Minute Nonsense (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1992).
2 The Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on some aspects of Christian meditation Orationis formas (15 October 1989) seems to make reference to such ideas: “Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ, which towers above finite reality” (n. 12: AAS 82 , 369). In this regard, it is also appropriate to recall the teachings on inculturation and interreligious dialogue in the Encyclical Letter of John Paul II Redemptoris missio (cf. nn. 52-57: AAS 83 , 299-305).
Vatican Information Service, August 22, 1998
Notification Concerning Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ / CDF – Writings of Fr. De Mello, SJ – EWTN.com
Notification Concerning the Writings of Father Anthony De Mello, S.J. by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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7. Notification Concerning the Writings of Father Anthony De Mello, S.J. by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Yoga – A path to God?
By Louis Hughes, OP, Mercier Press, 1997
In June 1998 the writings of Anthony de Mello were the subject of a “Notification” by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The text of the “Notification” is as follows:
[As on pages 1 ff]. See also pages 16-21 for details
Indian Jesuits question Vatican ban on De Mello’s writings
August 27, 1998
New Delhi (UCAN) – While acknowledging that some writings attributed to Jesuit Father Anthony De Mello may be objectionable, leading Indian Jesuits say that the Vatican’s condemnation of their late confrere’s works seems to reflect misunderstanding.
An August 22 notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that some of Father De Mello’s views on religions and God “are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause harm.”
The 681-word notification with a 3,220-word explanatory note adds that those responsible “for safeguarding the doctrine of the faith have been obliged to illustrate (and warn of) the dangers” in the Indian retreat master’s books.
The Vatican notification criticizes the Jesuit’s works for presenting God as an impersonal cosmic reality and Jesus as one master among many.
A July 23 letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Congregation’s prefect, reportedly instructed Catholic bishops to withdraw the production and sale of Father De Mello’s books.
South Asia Jesuit provincial Father Lisbert D’ Souza told UCA News on Aug. 25 that the Vatican has “the right to ban those writings of Father De Mello which it finds to be deviating from the basic tenets of Christian faith.”
“But,” he added, “I feel the relevance and spiritual insights in some of his works are grossly misunderstood because they have been published differently (by some of his followers) without his knowledge and permission.”
Father D’Souza said that the Society of Jesus in India accepts only nine books as authored by Father De Mello, and that these were published at a Jesuit publishing house in Gujarat state in western India. Most of the controversial writings attributed to Father De Mello appear in fake and unauthorized books, Father D’Souza said. “It is sad that some of his preachings were radically reproduced by his followers and publishing houses without our or his permission,” the Jesuit provincial added. Father D’Souza further noted that the late Jesuit’s “oratory and writings on spirituality and religion were not meant for a Christian audience alone” but for “a worldwide audience and the faithful of different religions.”
The head of some 3,600 Jesuits working in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka explained that Father De Mello’s works are not to be taken as theological interpretations of Christian faith and the Catholic Church. “His preachings were in the form of stories and a mix of Christian, Hindu and Buddhist anecdotes and Islamic sayings. They were not doctrinal treatises on the Catholic faith,” Father D’ Souza said. He added that Jesuit theologians are studying the Vatican notification.
Jesuit theologian Father Samuel Rayan* told UCA News Aug. 26 that by banning Father De Mello’s works, the Vatican was “using sword against pen.” “Instead of declaring Father De Mello’s works as incompatible with the faith and banning his books, the Vatican should have lifted the objectionable passages and properly studied them,” the 78 year-old Asian theologian said. According to Father Rayan, what is needed most is “a theological judgment and healthy criticism” on the objectionable writings of Father De Mello. He also sees “an urgent need” to give a theological and spiritual interpretation vis-a-vis Christianity on the controversial writings, Father Rayan said. “A general condemnation from the Vatican will not solve the controversy because Father De Mello’s books are very popular and people enthusiastically read them,” the veteran theologian added. *He is one of the contributors to Vandana Mataji’s occult work Shabda Shakti Sangam,
Meanwhile, Archbishop Alan de Lastic of Delhi said that the Vatican is “duty-bound” to ban writings it feels “contain indiscriminate criticism of the Church and its faith” but that he has yet to receive the Vatican notification. The Indian bishops’ conference president told UCA News Aug. 26 that he has read two of Father De Mello’s books and found some passages “exciting.” Father De Mello was “a good spiritual guide and a great retreat preacher,” Archbishop de Lastic said.
Before his death in 1987, Father De Mello wrote several books on personal spirituality. His simple meditative style and summer workshops found a large audience across the world, especially in the United States.
Vatican bans priest’s radical books
By Shankar Ramachandran, October 3, 1998
Mumbai, October 2 – A Vatican notification, urging bishops around the world to have the books of late Indian Jesuit Fr Anthony De Mello withdrawn from sale, has forced leading spiritual bookshops in Mumbai to take the priest’s books off their shelves. While the Sisters of St Paul’s outlet in Bandra has frozen sales, the other leading retailer, The Examiner Bookshop, Fort, will keep the book on its list till stocks run out. [! They’ve got to recover their “investment”!]
The notification, issued eleven years after the priest’s death, has come as a surprise to Indian Jesuits, who, while acknowledging that some of Fr De Mello’s works may be objectionable, say the Vatican’s position reflects a `tragedy of understanding.’ Some of the priests feel they should come out in support of Fr De Mello, but realise it would compromise the Jesuit order in the eyes of the powerful Vatican. At least one priest, Fr Joe Antony, has chosen to openly express his disappointment. In an editorial “And all shall be well, Fr Tony?” published in the Catholic fortnightly The New Leader, he writes, quoting Fr Tony: “Everything that seems to be an evil may be a good in disguise. So we are wise to leave it to God…” The notification, issued on August 22 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, stated that Fr De Mello’s works were incompatible with the Catholic faith and could cause great harm. His works “presented organised religion as an obstacle to self-awareness and Jesus as one master among many,” the notification said, adding that his later works and conference presentations `showed a progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith and contained indiscriminate criticism of church institutions.’
Reacting to the notification, Fr Parmananda Divakar, a city-based Jesuit priest and a close associate of Fr De Mello, says in an editorial in the Catholic weekly The Examiner, “We should ask, has anybody been harmed in faith or morals because of Tony De Mello? We can only speak of India, and there is no evidence of any permanent damage… Like other brave souls that have ventured into the unknown pursuing an ideal, he made some blunders. Yet humanity is grateful to them all, and we are proud of Tony, for so much that is positive.”
Another Jesuit priest, one of Fr De Mello’s earliest students at the Vinayalaya seminary at Andheri, said, “There has always been a conflict between Eastern and Western philosophy. Fr De Mello taught us to be free in spirit, thereby deviating from the classic Western church, which was governed by rules and laws.” He explained that in recent years, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who issued the notification, and other Vatican officials have expressed dissatisfaction that basic church teachings in India and other Asian countries were being diluted to make them more compatible with a pre-dominantly non-Christian culture.” Jesuit theologian Fr Samuel Rayan has said that by issuing the notification, Vatican was using sword against pen. “Instead of declaring Fr De Mello’s works as incompatible with the faith, the Vatican should have lifted the objectionable passages and properly studied them. What we needed most is a theological judgment and healthy criticism on the objectionable writings of Fr De Mello,” he says in The New Leader.
Father De Mello grew up in Bandra and studied at St Stanislaus School, Mumbai. He wrote nine books before he died, at 55, in 1987. His most popular work Sadhana has seen 23 reprints (115,000 copies) in English, has been translated into 22 languages, and was described in the Catholic Theological Society of America as `perhaps the best book available in English for Christians on how to pray, meditate and contemplate.’ Combined sales of all his books is over 5 lakh. His work has tremendous international following, especially in the US, earning him a cult status, with Internet sites devoted to his parables.
Fr De Mello’s works were always controversial, and the Vatican had unofficially blacklisted his books much earlier. The Vatican explains the notification by pointing to the current demand for books offering do-it-yourself spirituality, and says Fr De Mello’s books fall under the category.
What is so “controversial” about his works?
Fr De Mello said, “Jesus has got a bad name because of what is said about him from pulpits. Our violent spirituality has created problems for us.” To deconstruct religion of its rigidity, he used stories and humorous anecdotes. He later infused Zen and other Oriental flavours into his works, and often equated God with nothingness, a position not acceptable to the Vatican.
Gospel According To
By Saira Menezes, November 16, 1998
The unorthodox writings of Indian priest Anthony de Mello create an uproar in Rome.
It is being seen as just another of the many devices of the Western Church to pin its Asian counterpart down. Two months ago, a notification emerging from the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation of Doctrine of Faith, a padded modern-day progeny of the Inquisition, tolled out a warning to the ‘Christian faithful’. That some of the writings of an Indian Jesuit Fr Anthony de Mello, who passed away in 1987, were “incompatible with the Catholic faith” and could “cause grave harm”.
Coming from the Roman portals and with approval from Pope John Paul II, the notification from the watch-dog organisation is being viewed as the first nail on the Asian cross.
“On the part of Rome,” says Fr Allwyn D’Silva of the Mumbai-based Social Justice Cell at St Pius College, “there is a constant watch on Asian theologians and an unnecessary worry about the growth and thinking of the Asian Church. But the fact is that Asian values are more Christ-like than those of the West. Christ himself followed the customs of his people and was rooted in their reality. Anthony de Mello never denied the uniqueness of Christ but simply used stories from the Asian experience.”
A ‘pioneer-priest’ in his time, Tony de Mello, as he came to be widely known, employed the story-telling device of Christ himself—that of parables—while embarking on a spiritual quest that was to consume him throughout his life. Dipping into the treasury of Zen and Sufi teachings, he reworked his beliefs based on revelations of the moment. Among them: the nothingness of God, the irrelevance of one’s destiny after death, the clubbing of Jesus as a master alongside others and the questioning of morality notions. Rough weather positions that sailed through during his lifetime, but 11 years after his death, were to make him the Church’s prodigal son. “We fully accept the findings of the Church,” says Bishop Oswald Gracias, secretary, Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI), “The standing committee of the CBCI has accepted it and we have now asked the doctrinal commission on how to implement the findings.”
Already, the dwindling stocks of De Mello’s books are not being replenished in Mumbai’s bookstores as a method to clamp down on the priest’s ‘incompatible’ works. A futile attempt, reason most Jesuits, to closet the charisma of the man. “Tony de Mello’s books at this point are easily available all over the world in several languages among people respectful of the Congregation’s warnings and others who would not care less. Large financial profits are being made and will continue to be made by people beyond the reach of the Congregation. Easy access to machines and the Worldwide Web make it impossible to control the diffusion of Tony de Mello’s ideas,” says Fr Lancy Pereira, author of The Enchanted Darkness.
Among De Mello’s six other works feature best-sellers The Prayer of the Frog and Song of the Bird, while three posthumous publications have been attributed to him. “There are passages of dubious value in some works officially attributed to him—e.g., Call to Love. But these are works that he himself never edited,” argues Fr Pereira, of operators cashing in on the De Mello cult.
However, unlike the brief excommunication of controversial Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya last year, the notification against De Mello has become a rallying point for Indian clergy. Firstly, the notification has brought to light the weak-kneed attempts at injecting an Asian perspective into the proceedings of prayer. “Inculturation only in liturgy is a superficial addition. You have to go much deeper. You have to think Asian and the inculturation should be evident in one’s dialogue with life,” notes Fr D’Silva.
Second, and more importantly, the Congregation’s warning is being increasingly viewed as part of Rome’s orchestration in undermining the Asian cause. The widening fissures were expressly manifest during the Asian Synod held earlier this year, ironically in Rome.
“The Western Church is in a shambles, spiritually and otherwise. They have no hold over their own domain and to retain control over the Eastern Church, these attempts at twisting the arm of Eastern thinking are being made,” says a furious Jesuit, on condition of anonymity. “Tony lived fifty years ahead of his time,” adds Br Mario Correa, a close associate of the priest for over seventeen years, “and I strongly believe that as in Galileo’s case, the Church will live to regret this condemnation.”
Save for a few like Linus Rego who feel that “the writings of Fr Anthony de Mello may work at the level of literature but not as articles of Catholic faith”—the laity seem oblivious to the conflict of stance. But the spinoff is this: Those who have experienced a spiritual renewal from De Mello’s seminars would treat writings—even those by unauthorised hands—as gospel truth. More than anything else, this would be the ultimate tragedy of what has been widely hailed as a visionary position.
Vatican probe into Jesuit Father Dupuis’ book surprise Indian theologians
November 17, 1998
New Delhi (UCAN) – Shock and surprise marked some Indian theologians’ reaction to a Vatican move to probe a Jesuit’s book on religious plurality.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reportedly given Jesuit Father Jacques Dupuis three months to reply to an “initial interrogative survey” on his book “Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism.”
The 74-year-old Belgian priest, who taught theology in India for 25 years before taking up a teaching assignment in Rome’s Gregorian University in 1982, was asked not to teach while he prepares his response.
“Father Dupuis is as committed to the Christian faith and truth as anybody in the Church, including those in the Vatican,” says Jesuit Father Samuel Rayan, 78, who teaches in several theologates in India.
He said Father Dupuis’ Indian experience has given him “first-hand knowledge of religious pluralism” unlike “those who have only heard about such things.”
Asia, he added, values “reflection based on experience” more than “speculation (on) living the truth and the faith.”
According to Jesuit theologian Father T.K. John, the priest under scrutiny is known for his orthodox faith and uncompromising stance on Christ’s uniqueness despite his appreciation of dialogue and inculturation.
Jesuit Indologist Father George Gispert-Sauch said he found it strange that the Vatican questioned Father Dupuis’ Catholic faith and his loyalty to the magisterium.
According to the registrar of Delhi’s Vidyajyoti (light of knowledge) Jesuit theologate, Father Dupuis was careful to include the Church’s whole tradition, including its magisterial teaching, in his theological works.
He noted that Catholic teaching centers in English-speaking countries now teach “The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church,” a book Father Dupuis co-edited and which has had six Indian editions since its publication in 1973.
He told UCA News November 15 that Father Dupuis is concerned with “the growing dialogue in India” and “Christianity’s encounter with other religions” and that he tries to prove that dialogue does not diminish the basic Christian faith but helps to show it “more splendidly.”
Father Gispert-Sauch said his colleague enjoys the confidence and approval of the Asian bishops, especially the Indian hierarchy, and attends their theological meetings as an expert.
“He was a kind of unofficial consultor for many bishops of Asia,” he said, wondering if the Vatican move is an “indirect warning” to Asian bishops to revise their theological positions, especially after the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia in May. “If this was the case,” he said, one should question “the roles and functions of the episcopate in this vast area” that is “so alive to the Christian faith in dialogue with other religions.”
Father Rayan said he wants theologians to help each other through critical evaluation and discussion if “truth, not power, is our concern.”
Asserting that no theologian is infallible, he said, “We are on a pilgrimage to fuller appropriation of the truth.”
Father Rayan and others were also upset over the Vatican’s recent ban on the books of the late Jesuit preacher Father Anthony de Mello.
Vatican raps Asian Jesuit Provincials
The following news report from the September 1-15, 1999 issue of Renovaçâo, the fortnightly bulletin of the Archdiocese of Goa is self-explanatory. May the Indian Bishops, like their Spanish counterparts, stand for orthodoxy and orthopraxis. -Michael
SPANISH BISHOPS REPLY TO JESUIT ASIAN PROVINCIALS concerning Defense of Anthony De Mello and Jacques Dupuis
Madrid, July 30, 1999, ZENIT– Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, President of the Spanish Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent the magazine “New Life” his observations which were published on July 10, regarding its April 24 publication of a document signed by the Jesuit Provincials of South Asia, in which they defend Jesuit writers Anthony De Mello and Jacques Dupuis from criticisms by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“It is going beyond the Provincials’ competence to pass discrediting judgements” on the Holy See’s decisions,
the Spanish Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith asserts.
The Commission pointed out that it is not “correct to compare the De Mello and Dupuis cases. The Congregation has asked Fr. Dupuis to clarify some issues in his latest publications that could be problematic. The Congregation has requested that the clarifications be in writing and made with due reserve, in order not to prejudice public opinion regarding the development of a dialogue that has only just begun. Those who publish comments on the process that is underway seem to automatically assume a negative outcome, and they should ask themselves if this is the best way to defend their brothers and whether they are harming peace and the Church’s communication processes.”
On the other hand, the Commission adds, in regard to “the writings of Fr. De Mello, after years of study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a statement at the appropriate time. The statement recognizes Fr. De Mello’s merits, but warns that some of the positions he supports in his writings are not compatible with the Catholic faith; specifically, Fr. De Mello presents as debatable Jesus Christ’s unique character as Son of God, revealer of his Mystery, and of the Church as the sacrament of encounter with God.”
“Anyone can see that the issues in question do not refer exclusively to problems of the Faith’s inculturation in Asia, but are aired all over the world and from different ideological realms,” continued the Commission.
“Therefore, it is not right to reject the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s intervention by saying it is misunderstanding or repressing Asian affairs. On the contrary, the Congregation intervened to exercise its legitimate responsibility as regards the whole Church. It must be thanked for its service to the Gospel’s cause, which will help Catholics not to turn away from Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life*,” concluded the Spanish Bishops. *John 14:6
What’s in a word?
By Eddie Russell FMI, Catholic Evangelist, September 23, 1998,
Current update April 2004
Sadhana: A way to God.
Another Christian book that I came across some years ago would have us believe that “Sadhana” is the way to God. The author of this book, Fr. Anthony De Mello seems to have forgotten, or rather, ignores the truth that there is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ who is the only “Way”. The fact that the picture at the top of this page was used by someone [not Anthony de Mello]
to promote a “De Mello Weekend” is testimony enough to make my point regarding the real influences within, and behind this kind of syncretism and inculturation.
Hindu ceremony begins with Suddhi [purity]. Sadhana is a word that means ‘purification’. These are vital in Hindu religious observances; they are related to the concept saucha which means cleanliness. The Hindu religion teaches that he who practices this “is qualified to witness the Self”.
When you sum up de Mello’s doctrine, one finds that all religions have the same divine nature which is shared by all human beings. De Mello holds the view that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist for example, is merely ‘one’ way in which God’ presence is manifest in all ‘created’ things.
Surely, God is omnipresent?
Well yes he is, and in him we live and move and have our being, but de Mello’s view makes God and creation equal and one. True doctrine understands that God is separate from creation, whereas Hinduism holds that all is god and god is all. In other words de Mello seems to hold the classic sign of a heresy, which is when creation is lifted to the level of God, or God is brought down to the level of creation. Therefore God is impersonal and Cosmic.
From the Asian Age newspaper:
De Mello’s books incompatible with faith, says Vatican.
With the approval of Pope Paul II, a Vatican commission has denounced some writings by Anthony De Mello, a widely selling Indian-born Jesuit author, as incompatible with Roman Catholic faith.
In the latest move by the Vatican’s watchdogs to crack down on doctrinal unorthodoxy, the congregation for the doctrine of faith concluded that while some early books by the priest, who died in 1987, contained “valid elements of oriental wisdom” there were “many dangers” in his body of work. 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.” the congregation said. For the author, the congregation said, “religion, including Christianity, are one of the major obstacles to the discovery of the truth” and “there are no objective rules of morality.” Besides warning Catholics about the “dangers” in the texts, the congregation’s conclusion also put Catholic bookstores on guard. [AP]
“It is clear that if any Christian is using this particular Om mantra [amongst other Sanskrit words], then they are calling on this [Hindu] deity and not the True God that they intend. It is also clear that those Christians that dabble with eastern mystical prayer come to embracing the Cosmology of Christ in their attempt at Syncretism as we find underpinning Bede Griffiths, Anthony de Mello and Matthew Fox‘s
Sects Expert José Baamonde [Adviser to Argentine Bishops]: “For years, sects have been trying to penetrate Catholic circles to alter their bad image and gain followers”
Madrid, Veritas News Agency, December 12, 2005 – translated for this site by Maria Laura Pio, Switzerland
Veritas: Certain Christian literature of the sixties incorporated elements from other religions. This was the case for instance of Thomas Merton or the Jesuit from India Tony De Mello. In the case of De Mello, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned against contents that were “incompatible with Christian faith”. Nevertheless, why have these authors been “best-sellers” of Christian literature?
José Baamonde: First of all it is necessary to make a correction in the question. Those books may have been best-sellers for some Christian readers, but in no way can they be considered as best-sellers of Christian literature. One of the many reasons that explain this is the poor religious education that impedes people from discerning some of the previously mentioned aspects. Another reason is, as mentioned before, the temptation to diminish the difficulties of a true encounter with God by reducing it to the correct implementation of a technique.
Eastern meditation techniques are very different from Christian meditation techniques. Eastern techniques state that prayer is more effective when one reaches the alpha level of brain activity (state of relaxation). In a deceptive way, it makes the effectiveness of prayer depend on man instead of God. In this connection, let us consider the time when Jesus prays in Gethsemane. He was in such a state that He began to sweat blood, as written in the Sacred Scriptures. He could not have been in alpha state and nevertheless, His prayer was effective.
It is comprehensible in the world we live, that many people, out of voluntarism, are tempted to rely on their sole strength for an endless number of yearnings. But although understandable, it still is and remains a simple temptation that not only distances us from reality, but also from the true knowledge of God. AV05120203
Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit: No Objective Rules of Morality
Posted by Joseph Fromm, February 28, 2010
Father Anthony de Mello, S.J. demonstrates an appreciation for Jesus, of whom he declares himself to be a “disciple.” But he considers Jesus as a master alongside others. The only difference from other men is that Jesus is “awake” and fully free, while others are not. Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God. In addition, the author’s statements on the final destiny of man give rise to perplexity. At one point, he speaks of a “dissolving” into the impersonal God, as salt dissolves in water. On various occasions, the question of destiny after death is declared to be irrelevant; only the present life should be of interest. With respect to this life, since evil is simply ignorance, there are no objective rules of morality. Good and evil are simply mental evaluations imposed upon reality.
De Mello was a twerp and those who follow him are twits. –Anonymous
The questionable opinions of Anthony de Mello S.J.
By Susan Brinkmann, April 14, 2010
KK asks: “I noticed on your website that you have a new age section and was wondering if you considered Anthony de Mello and his book ‘Awareness’ new age?”
My recommendation is to stay away from Anthony de Mello and his books which attempt to blend Buddhist and Taoist spirituality with Christianity in ways that the Vatican says often stray beyond the boundaries of authentic Christianity.
For those who don’t know, the Bombay-born de Mello, who died in 1987, was a Jesuit and writer who taught meditation techniques that blend Eastern religious thought, modern psychology, and the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. He claimed that people are asleep and need to wake up, open up their eyes, and see what is real—both inside and outside of themselves.
He was the author of five best-selling books, including Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality, a book which combines Christian spirituality, Buddhist parables, Islamic sayings, Hindu breathing exercises and psychology. One of the messages of the book is that people need to “wake up” and learn how to live in the present and stop allowing the culture, conditioning, or what other people say determine one’s world.
(For a great book on the wonders of living in the present moment – which teaches this subject in a way that is completely endorsed by the Church – see The Sacrament of the Present Moment, written by the great master of spiritual direction, Jean-Pierre DeCaussade. You can find it at Amazon. This book never leaves my nightstand!)
The problem with de Mello’s approach is that his blending of various religions often found him straying beyond authentic Christian teaching. For this reason, some of his opinions were condemned in 1998 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote:
“His works, which almost always take the form of brief stories, contain some valid elements of oriental wisdom. These can be helpful in achieving self-mastery, in breaking the bonds and feelings that keep us from being free, and in approaching with serenity the various vicissitudes of life. Especially in his early writings, Father de Mello, while revealing the influence of Buddhist and Taoist spiritual currents, remained within the lines of Christian spirituality. In these books, he treats the different kinds of prayer: petition, intercession and praise, as well as contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Christ, etc.
“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 these later writings, Father de Mello had gradually arrived at concepts of God, revelation, Christ, the final destiny of the human person, etc., which cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church. Since many of his books do not take the form of discursive teaching, but are collections of short tales which are often quite clever, the underlying ideas can easily pass unnoticed.”
(See the full CDF document at http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFDEMEL.HTM)
Some of the errors in de Mello’s work are significant, such as how he considers Jesus to be a “master alongside others”, the CDF states. “The only difference from other men is that Jesus is ‘awake’ and fully free, while others are not. Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God.”
As a result, some of de Mello’s books now contain a caution: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.”
De Mello, who was born September 4, 1932 in Bombay, India, died suddenly of a heart attack at Fordham University in New York in 1987 at the age of 56. At the time of his death, his books were all the rage, and his popularity continues to this day. In fact, in spite of the Vatican’s stern warnings about his work, de Mello is still receiving favorable reviews by Jesuit priests, such as a rave review in [the left-wing] America Magazine which appeared as recently as February 2010.
De Mello’s books will do little to enhance your development in authentic Christian spirituality and could expose you to serious spiritual danger.
What most people don’t stop to consider is that dabbling in Buddhism, Taoism, and other pantheistic ideologies isn’t just a simple pastime. These practices expose one to occult influences which could have lasting and damaging effects upon the mind, body and soul. So unless one is attempting to communicate with the One, Holy and True God – and in ways that He has deemed acceptable – they need to understand that they are putting themselves at enormous personal risk.
Should I read books by Fr. Anthony De Mello, SJ?
By Dan Burke, January 18, 2011, Pseudo-spirituality Q&A resources, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Dear Dan, my spiritual director recently recommended I read a book by Fr. Anthony De Mello, SJ. Are you aware of his writings? I am a bit concerned about what I am reading but I can’t put my finger on exactly what is making me so uncomfortable.
A: Maybe I should answer a different question first. “What should I read if I want to grow deeper in my faith?”
The best answer is, 1) Scripture and the Catechism, 2) Relevant Church Documents, 3) Doctors of the Church, and 4) other writings recommended because of their faithfulness to the magisterium and their primary reliance on the teachings for the first three: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/recommended-books-and-resources-for-spiritual-growth
To answer your original question, the good news is that your instincts match those of Pope Benedict XVI. In 1989, then Cardinal Ratzinger issued the following important statement of concern about Fr. De Mello’s writings.
[As on pages 1 ff]
By Susan Brinkmann, April 19, 2011
TS asks: “I am a volunteer in our Parish Library and am causing trouble by respectfully and carefully questioning why we allow certain authors in our ‘Catholic’ library. The librarian is a very recent convert and has said that if the Vatican has not excommunicated the authors, then their books must be OK. And the pastor is very liberal and is a good friend of the ‘centering prayer’ priest, Fr. Menninger. I’ve researched monitums to try to find something that lists specific books because the librarian will only believe that. She says which of the books and I say all, but she won’t go for that. I am concerned about Matthew Fox, Anthony de Mello, etc., but especially the new age believers like Joyce Rupp, Joan C., Donna Quinn and those. What should I do?”
I’m all too familiar with those who demand a Vatican statement on anything and everything before they’ll agree to stop pursuing something questionable. Although many of them don’t even realize it, they’re just stonewalling because they don’t want to deal with it.
For instance, some of Anthony de Mello‘s opinions were condemned in 1998 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote:
“His works, which almost always take the form of brief stories, contain some valid elements of oriental wisdom. These can be helpful in achieving self-mastery, in breaking the bonds and feelings that keep us from being free, and in approaching with serenity the various vicissitudes of life. Especially in his early writings, Father de Mello, while revealing the influence of Buddhist and Taoist spiritual currents, remained within the lines of Christian spirituality. In these books, he treats the different kinds of prayer: petition, intercession and praise, as well as contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Christ, etc.
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 these later writings, Father de Mello had gradually arrived at concepts of God, revelation, Christ, the final destiny of the human person, etc., which cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church. Since many of his books do not take the form of discursive teaching, but are collections of short tales which are often quite clever, the underlying ideas can easily pass unnoticed.” (See the full CDF document at http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFDEMEL.HTM)
But this isn’t an official Vatican statement so I guess your librarian won’t go for this.
was defrocked because of his outlandish writings and teachings – what more does anyone need to know if they’re wondering whether or not his books are faithful to Catholicism?
As for Centering Prayer, the Catechism specifically states that any method of prayer that stresses blanking the mind is “erroneous” (this is what Centering Prayer does because it’s based on TM).
So you see, the problem isn’t with you, it’s with the librarian. What a shame to see a library that could be full of all the literary genius of the Church – from Thomas Aquinas to John Paul II, and so many popular (and faithful) writers such as George Weigel – stocked with the writings of people who have a distorted understanding of the Faith. Your parish would be better off with no library at all!
The only way to counter something like this is to make a list of all the questionable books in this library and report it to the bishop. You might also consider getting together some friends and making a nice donation of good books to the library – at least you’d get some good titles in there!
In the meantime, pray, because with God, all things are possible. Rest assured, our prayers will be with you, TS!
Anthony De Mello’s
September 13, 2012
I recently read the book Awareness by one Anthony De Mello SJ. I brought it up with a friend who showed me an article by the Vatican concerning his readings: NOTIFICATION CONCERNING THE WRITINGS OF FR. ANTHONY DE MELLO, SJ (http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfdemel.htm). In it, former Cardinal Ratzinger explains how some of De Mello’s ideas and theology would be considered incompatible with the Catholic faith.
Admittedly, I find some of De Mello’s ideas particularly fascinating and rather true. However, I am very concerned with remaining within the Catholic Church and sticking to orthodoxy. I want to accept some of De Mello’s points but not at the cost of my Catholic faith and trust in the Church.
Is it worth it to consider some of De Mello’s ideas for the sake of spiritual growth, or is the danger of falling out of line too great?
I feel as if a significant amount of his ideas are worth salvaging, but De Mello’s seems to have such a bad name to him in the West that I’m afraid to bother with it. Any thoughts or recommendations? -Skylann
As is the case with Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, his writings may have begun entirely orthodox, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, crept into eastern mysticism that lead away from the Catholic faith. Some of Fr. De Mello’s books now contain an insert which states: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.”
You would need absolutely superior spiritual direction along with Fr. De Mello’s ideas, to separate out the harmful concepts so as to ensure that you did not drift away from your faith. To me, it is like learning to walk a tightrope when there is a stone bridge beside it – why take the risk? If you cannot find your spirituality within the unsearchable depths of the Catholic faith, then it just may not exist.
The evil one does not lead us astray with gross errors – rather, he uses tantalizing twists on age-old teachings. Once he lures you to take a step off the path, the rest naturally follows…
I see some overlap between what he teaches and Christianity. The detachment from material things is fine. Yet, the emptying of self, via detachment from the world, the lack of concern about others and their problems is contrary to the teachings of Christ. He taught that we are to love our neighbor, and chastise/correct the sinner without judgment. His concept tends toward actualization from within, rather than by God’s grace, which comes from without. Christ teaches the denial of self, not the detachment or emptying of self. There is a lot of Buddhist influence in this emptying/detaching.
To be blunt, I would avoid him like the spiritual plague that some of his ideas are. They lead toward the self and not toward our Creator. They remove God from being in charge and place us in charge. Notice that the emphasis seems to be on the light within us and not the light of Christ. The new age movement has adopted some of these beliefs. Knowing the tendency toward excess that is inherent in the human ego, this is not good. –Forum elder
Fr. Anthony de Mello had good intentions… but he allowed himself to become polluted… it’s best to leave his writings alone until you have grounded yourself in a more Orthodox understanding of Meditation, Contemplation, and Mystical experience… -Anruari
From the Editor, Fr. Anselm Poovathani SSP., PETRUS magazine, November 2005
The article ‘Murky Theology’ by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, given elsewhere in this issue, is an eye opener for all of us…
Fr. Groeschel speaks about American theologians. Unfortunately the same can be said, to some extent, about our Indian and Asian theologians too. We saw how, on the Church’s censuring of some of the writings of Tissa Balasuriya, Anthony de Mello and Jacques Dupuis, many of our theologians and even Major Superiors defended these theologians as if the Church were wrong and the censured writers right. It was not an edifying picture…
On the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s censuring the works of Fr. Anthony de Mello and Fr. Jacques Dupuis, the Jesuit Provincials of South Asia said, “We appreciate, support and encourage the work of our theologians and others to build up the local Church in India, and we want them to go even further and deeper, in fidelity to Christ and the mission He has entrusted to us in the Church… We are afraid that such interventions [by Rome] are eventually detrimental to the life of the Universal Church, to the cause of the Gospel.” (Statement by the Jesuit Major Superiors of South Asia)
It seems to be a little too much on the part of these superiors to pretend that Christ has given them a special mission independently of the Church and to be carried out in defiance of the Church, and that they, and not the Church, know what is fidelity to Christ and what is good for the Universal Church.
About the defence of de Mello’s books, Fr. Anthony D’Costa S.J., himself a Jesuit, wrote in The Herald, Oct. 16-22, 1998:
“The Jesuit Provincial of India definitely does not speak for all Indian Jesuits when he proffers his apology for [defense of] de Mello’s books… Christians, including Jesuits, who were chafing to be each one his own Pope, absorbed de Mello’s material like men who easily go from one false idea to another, or as [St.] Ignatius would say, ‘from mortal sin to mortal sin’ (Spiritual Exercises n. 314)…
“It is hoped that after the first excited reaction to the Vatican censure has cooled down, the disciples of de Mello will settle down to examine his writings in the light of the Spiritual Exercises of their Founder. They may then be willing to admit that the censure was not far wide of the mark… See Ignatius’ rule 13 for maintaining a correct attitude in the Church Militant (Sp. Ex. n. 365).”
Anthony De Mello and Christian Yoga
Robert Joseph, February 18, 2009
Anthony de Mello, SJ, was a famous Jesuit priest, psychotherapist and seminar leader who sought to fashion a “Christian spirituality in Eastern form.” Anyone interested in Christian Yoga should definitely check out his many books — especially his seminal and fascinating text, Sadhana: A Way to God.
He was born in Bombay in 1931 into a large Portuguese Catholic family whose ancestors were converted by the early Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. He attended a Jesuit high school and joined the Society of Jesus in India in 1947. Following a typical Jesuit course of studies that included philosophy in Spain, theology in India and psychology in the U.S., De Mello was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1961.
Fr. De Mello established the Pastoral Counseling and Spirituality Institute at de Nobili College in Poona, India, which was later renamed the Sadhana Institute. Beginning in the late 1960s, Fr. De Mello tried to write about Christian spirituality using traditional yoga terminology and concepts, particularly the concept of the sadhana or meditative practice. There was nothing inherently shocking in this since Catholic spirituality is a kaleidoscope of various meditative practices, visualizations and devotions. Nevertheless, Fr. De Mello’s writings sometimes seemed to his religious superiors to be somewhat syncretistic and he drew censure from the Vatican. In 1998, some of his opinions were condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote for the Congregation.
Some editions of his books have since been supplemented with the insertion of a caution: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.” To me, that seems like a fair characterization. Fr. De Mello wasn’t always presenting orthodox Catholic doctrine in his books but rather offering spiritual seekers a new way of understanding Christian spirituality.
His writings are actually still quite popular, available in many Catholic bookstores as well as on Amazon.com. Some of his Jesuits colleagues are attempting to carry on Fr. De Mello’s work and legacy. You can visit his official website maintained at Fordham University.
Sadhana: A Way to God, 1984.
One Minute Wisdom, Image, 1988.
Awareness, Image, 1990.
Taking Flight, 1990.
The Way to Love, 1992.
The Heart of the Enlightened, Image, 1994.
Awakening, Image, 2003.
Contact with God, Image, 2003.
One Minute Nonsense
The Prayer of the Frog
Praying Naked: The Spirituality of Anthony de Mello (by J. Francis Stroud, S.J.), Image 2005.
Vatican Denounces Jesuit’s Writings
VATICAN CITY (AP) –The Vatican denounced writings by a popular Jesuit author Saturday, warning of “dangers” contained in his works. A Vatican commission said several works by
Anthony de Mello, an Indian-born Jesuit priest, contradict orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine. De Mello, who died in 1987, wrote books characterized by some as New Age that have been best sellers in many parts of the world.
“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,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith said Saturday.
The congregation said de Mello’s works deny the existence of objective morality and claim that religions, including Christianity, are obstacles to truth. It warned that underlying ideas hidden in de Mello’s many short stories “can cause grave harm.” Among the allegedly harmful works were: “One Minute Wisdom,” “One Minute Nonsense,” “Wellsprings: A Book of Spiritual Exercises,” and “Walking on Water.”
Officials at Jesuit headquarters in Rome were unavailable for comment. The congregation noted in de Mello’s defense that not all the translations and texts of his works were authorized by him for publication and some were published after his death. The congregation also said de Mello’s works aren’t all bad because many contain elements of eastern wisdom that can help achieve self-discipline.
Fr. Joseph H Pereira awarded Padma Shri
March 9, 2009
Academically, Fr Joe Pereira is an Adjunct Professor in Yoga Philosophy & Psychology at various Indian Universities, Catholic Institutions and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Fr Joe is the Consultant to the Archdiocese of Bombay for “Rehabilitation of the Chemically Dependent”…
He constantly says that such commitment can only be through the blessings of great ones like Mother Teresa and Guruji BKS Iyengar and
his spiritual guide Rev Anthony D’Mello.
Fr Joe Pereira is the disciple of yoga guru BKS Iyengar. He is one of the Indian Church’s leading New Agers. He and his organization KRIPA FOUNDATION have the backing of the hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Bombay as well as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI]. See
FR JOE PEREIRA-KRIPA FOUNDATION-WORLD COMMUNITY FOR CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
FR JOE PEREIRA-KRIPA FOUNDATION-WORLD COMMUNITY FOR CHRISTIAN MEDITATION-LETTERS TO THE BISHOPS AND THEIR RESPONSES
FR JOE PEREIRA-KRIPA FOUNDATION-BACKED BY THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOMBAY
Fr. Anthony de Mello
[not D’Mello] is Fr. Joe Pereira‘s “spiritual guide“; but naturally:
“The lives and works of [Fr J M] DeChanet, [Fr] Swami Abhishiktananda, [Fr] Bede Griffiths, de Mello, [Fr John] Main, [Fr] Amalor, [Sr] Vandana and others exemplify ways of incorporating yogic practice into Christian spirituality“. Source: http://www.bodymindmeditation.ie/yoga.htm
Christ, the supreme yogi
By Fr Joe H Pereira,
April 10, 2009
When an Indian reads the gospels for the first time, one is impressed by
the energy that radiates from the person of Jesus. William Johnston in his Mystical Theology says that it is a reminder of
the ‘ki’ the ‘chi’, the prana, the energy that forms the very basis of Asian Culture and religion. Energy goes out of Jesus when he heals the sick and casts out demons… Those Christians who practise Iyengar Yoga as a path way to God and as contemplative prayer, do consider Jesus as a supreme example of a Yogi who claims that the “Father and I are One” and prays that we may be one as he and the Father. This journey is absolutely yogic…
Fr Tony D’Mello, who often spoke like a Sufi Mystic
“If you ‘look’ at the serene countenance of the crucified Saviour, you may see a ‘laughing Buddha’!”
The above is a classic example of Fr Pereira‘s philosophy. It is not surprising that he would appeal to the Vatican-banned Jesuit Tony de Mello‘s works to support his New Age teachings. –Michael
Contemplative practices are a bridge to paganism
By David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, August 26, 2008
A second pagan invasion into the Roman Catholic Church
By David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, August 28, 2008
Anthony de Mello
readily admitted to borrowing from Buddhist Zen masters and Hindu gurus. He even taught that God is everything: “Think of the air as of an immense ocean that surrounds you … an ocean heavily colored with God’s presence and God’s bring. While you draw the air into your lungs you are drawing God in” (Sadhana: A Way to God, p. 36).
De Mello suggested chanting the Hindu word “Om” (p. 49) and even instructed his students to communicate with inanimate objects: “Choose some object that you use frequently: a pen, a cup … Now gently place the object in front of you or on your lap and speak to it. Begin by asking it questions about itself, its life, its origins, its future. And listen while it unfolds to you the secret of its being and of its destiny. Listen while it explains to you what existence means to it. Your object has some hidden wisdom to reveal to you about yourself. Ask for this and listen to what it has to say. There is something that you can give this object. What is it? What does it want from you?” (p. 55).
Fr. Tony de Mello taught syncretism and pantheism. He didn’t specifically write about yoga but its philosophies were there in the many books that he authored. He however openly promoted the use of mantras and especially the ubiquitous “Om“. The “Catholic” yoga practitioner cited below finds the teachings of de Mello authoritative enough to appeal to.
The journey of a catholic yoga practitioner
By “C”, November 30, 2008
(I learned only recently who is appropriately called a “yogini”; a “yoga practitioner” is a more apt term for me but too late to change my “blog brand” now.)
Last month, when I celebrated my second year of practicing yoga, I was asked how it has changed me. “It made my life a bit more complicated,” I wanted to answer. Since I started with my journey, I have constantly been on the lookout for the practice shirt that won’t run up while I do the downward dog, the mat that would last my lifetime, and the explanation to people whenever I get that “that’s very un-Catholic” look on their faces. These people, who have never tried yoga in their lives, warn me against conversion to another religion, which they do not even know how it is called. Had I listened to them and used my first-class intelligence (i.e. one does not have to experience something to know what it is), I would have never found my way here. Sometimes, using second-class intelligence (i.e. experiencing something to find knowledge) has its wisdom—and that’s what I also learned in this journey.
So, what’s the issue about Catholics practicing yoga?
I have always believed that no religion has the monopoly of grace, goodness, and God. I believe that God is too big to be boxed in a set of doctrines and dogmas, rites and rituals. Everyone claims his is the right way. Fine, I cannot argue with that in the same way that I cannot argue with a traveler which road he should take going to his destination (especially if I don’t know where he is going!). But nobody could claim that his is the only right way.
I am Catholic and if I were to pass judgment on non-Catholics simply on the basis of religion, my father would have been the first on my list. (Besides, passing judgment is God’s job, only His.) My father was baptized Catholic and had a Catholic burial but at some point in his life he joined an organization that had been ostracized by the Church. I also do not know what it means to be part of the group but among other things, my father believed that one’s excess is the need of another. Thus, when he was still working, a large portion of his salary went to charities. Sometimes I’d wonder if he didn’t give away his money just like that, would I have to work this hard right now. But I cannot complain. I know I am now reaping the fruits of his good deeds. I am enjoying his karma, so to speak. More so I cannot complain about how he raised us, provided for us, and loved us.
Despite his issues with the Catholic Church—whatever they may be—my father still decided to raise us his children as Catholics when he could have chosen otherwise. I see this as his way of letting us find the truth ourselves and telling us that his issues need not become ours.
Combined with the influence of my father’s liberal thinking is the entire collection of works of Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest who embraced a universal spirituality, finding the common ground among Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.
Among his teachings are the following:
· A religious belief is a signpost pointing the way to truth. When you cling to the signpost you are prevented from moving toward the truth because you think you have it already.
· Faith is the fearless search for truth. So it is not lost when one questions one’s belief.
· (Paraphrased version) A guru visited a city and taught the people how to live. People in turn gave the guru honor even after he died although they failed to remember any of his teachings. Another guru visited another city and also taught the people how to live. Through generations people lived out his teachings faithfully but they did not notice when the guru disappeared. Eventually they forgot all about him but his teachings lived on. Which is the true religion?
Another influence in my life is Fr. Guido, also a Jesuit and a modern-day champion of the poor. Once he instructed the community to stop listening to scholars and philosophers who love to engage in debates endlessly. They would make a big fuss, for example, over exactly what time Jesus died. He challenged us, however, how knowing the answer would alter our faith. From then on, I have learned to filter the things I would listen to and believe in by asking the question “will knowing the answer to that question change my relationship with God?” If my answer is no, then the issue is not worth pursuing.
Yet another Jesuit priest taught me a lesson—Fr. Louie. (No, I never went to a Jesuit-run school but undeniably the Society has affected me a great deal.) He said that where there is oppression, there is no God. God cannot and will not oppress His people. So he advised us that if we find ourselves in an oppressive situation, we ought to get out of it. “If you find your workplace oppressive, leave your work. If you find a relationship oppressive, leave that relationship. If you find this Church oppressive, by all means, leave this Church.” So IF one day I change religion, you know it’s not because of yoga.
I have friends and family members who have left the Catholic Church for another Church—and they do not practice yoga—but seeing how their lives have transformed for the better makes me not to question their decisions anymore. It doesn’t matter; it shouldn’t matter. If that’s where they have grown closer to God, then I could not be happier for them. Same thing with yoga, or any ritual, or any habit, or any pursuit—if it makes people closer to God, or at least makes them better persons, what’s the issue? Shouldn’t we all be doing something to enrich and nurture our relationship with God? After all, if our relationship with Him is not getting any deeper, then we must be drifting apart. There is no such a thing as steady or stagnant relationship.
In the history of the Catholic Church, many people have left it for various reasons. I am not sure what percentage of this population did so because of yoga (and so far, I haven’t read any yoga-related literature prescribing what religion to embrace). Yoga has done me good way beyond the physical dimension. The impact of my 90-minute practice is greater than that of watching a 120-minute movie or teleserye or YouTube videos or social networking via the internet and the mobile technology….
Having said that…er, what’s the issue again?
Yoga-A path to God?
By Louis Hughes, OP, Mercier Press, 1997
What is yoga? Is it safe to practise yoga? Can yoga help one to pray as a Christian? The book describes in detail a range of New Religious Movements which use spiritual practices that can be termed “yogic”. These include popular yoga movements such as that run by Tony Quinn, classical hatha yoga schools and Kundalini yogas – as well as groups such as Transcendental Meditation, the Hare Krishnas, Eckankar, Brahma Kumaris and Ananda Marg.
In addition there are detailed studies on the use of yogic techniques in the work of Dechanet, Bede Griffiths, John Main, Anthony de Mello and other pioneers of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism during the second half of the twentieth century. […]
11. ANTHONY DE MELLO’S SADHANA
Anthony de Mello was born in Bombay in 1931. On completion of his schooling he joined the Bombay Province of the Society of Jesus. As a Jesuit, he was sent to study philosophy in Barcelona but returned to India to do his theology at De Nobili College in Poona. After his ordination to the priesthood there was additional overseas study – in Chicago and Rome where he studied psychology and spirituality respectively.
The early years of de Mello’s ministry as a priest were spent in retreat work and spiritual direction mainly in India. This work gradually evolved into the Sadhana spirituality courses which he began in Poona. In 1978 he re-located the Sadhana programme to the town of Lonavla, which is situated between Poona and Bombay. 1978 was also the date of publication of his first book which was entitled Sadhana – a Way to God.
From 1978 onwards, de Mello’s life was divided between writing, running courses – some as long as nine months – at Lonavla and intense lecture tours in many countries, particularly in the United States. It was while on one of these tours that he died suddenly in New York in June 1987.
FROM SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR TO MEDITATION TEACHER
De Mello joined the Jesuits from a traditional Indian Catholic family. His Jesuit training was based first and foremost on the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola, the Society’s founder. In time de Mello came to be recognised especially among religious and priests as a master in the use of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
A volume of his retreat notes written in the earlier years of ministry but published only after his death shows de Mello as a brilliant though relatively conventional preacher of the sixties and early seventies. Based on the Scriptures, this writing is mainly explanatory and exhortatory, but does reveal the occasional use of awareness and fantasy techniques which would flower in his later work.
During the 1970s, de Mello developed the group meditations that were to become a central part of his Sadhana programme. These exercises would form the basis for two of his best known books – Sadhana and Wellsprings. A typical meditation as found in these works is structured as follows.
A. Awareness of:
1) sensations within the body.
2) sounds round about.
3) one’s own breathing.
B. Fantasy: this may be an imaginary situation involving oneself in a scene from nature or the Gospel. Frequently it includes a meeting with Jesus Christ.
C. Awareness of feelings that result from the fantasy.
D. Brief recapitulation of the awareness sequence in A.
Sadhana is divided into three sections entitled respectively “Awareness”, “Fantasy” and “Devotion”. Virtually every one of the 47 meditation exercises of which the book is comprised makes use of awareness and fantasy techniques. All of the 81 exercises in Wellsprings are fantasies. De Mello’s psychological training was of great significance in his use of these techniques.
THE INFLUENCE OF JOHN O. STEVENS
As a result of his studies in the U.S. during the 1970s, de Mello was influenced by a variety of figures in the field of psycho-therapy, particularly the Rogerian school. Among these were Carl Rogers himself and Eric Berne. De Mello drew deeply from a book by a younger psycho-therapist, John O. Stevens entitled Awareness: exploring, experimenting, experiencing.
This work is a comprehensive collection of some 200 exercises in various kinds of awareness. The approach is systematic and detailed. Stevens regards his work purely as therapy and he makes no attempt to give it a spiritual orientation.
Stevens was a disciple of Fritz Perls (1893 – 1970) who is the father of Gestalt Therapy. Perls believed that “awareness is the only basis of knowledge and communication” and that it is curative.
De Mello cited the authority of Ignatius and in particular the practice known as “composition of place” to justify his use of fantasy in the context of Christian prayer. However, there is reason to believe that Steven’s work supplied him with practical methods for doing this. There are many parallels between Awareness: exploring, experimenting, experiencing on the one had and de Mello’s Sadhana and Wellsprings on the other. These include the use of awareness as a means to identify with one’s present experience and the recognition that awareness of one’s own body automatically leads to an easing of tightness and tension. Both authors recognize the value of awareness exercises for leaving past and future aside, keeping one focused in the present tense, identifying fully with one’s own experience and accepting the way one actually is instead of dwelling on the fantasy of how one wants to be.
Some of the meditations in Steven’s book have been imported unchanged into the de Mello tradition. An example of this is the one called “Rosebush Identification” which, though not described in any of de Mello’s books, has been widely used in workshops on de Mello’s spirituality. The purpose of this and other identification exercises is as a means to self-knowledge and self-acceptance. The Symbolical Fantasy exercise in Sadhana in which one is invited to interact with a statue of oneself is evidently based on the Fantasy Journey “Statue of yourself” in Awareness.
There are sections in Awareness that have no equivalent in any of de Mello’s books. These are the groups of exercises entitled “Communicating with Others”, “Pairs”, “Couples” and “Group Activities”. In de Mello’s written works the emphasis is on the contemplative journey of the individual. However, in the workshops that he directed at Lonavla and elsewhere there was a considerable amount of working with groups of two or more people, using exercises from the above-mentioned groups.
AWARENESS AND CONTEMPLATION
For de Mello contemplation means communication with God that dispenses with or makes a minimum use of “words, images and concepts”. In this sense he holds that awareness can in itself be a form of contemplation. As he puts it: “All the glory of a mountain sunrise and much, much more, is contained in so drab an exercise as being aware of your body sensations for hours and days on end.”
The practice of awareness helps in overcoming addictions and can lead to the development of such qualities as sincerity, simplicity, kindliness and patience. It also leads to the revelation of one’s self.
Some of de Mello’s awareness exercises, particularly those dealing with body sensations are no less detailed than Stevens’. To those who would practice them however, he warns against the temptation to seek a trance state, rather like self-hypnosis. This has nothing to do either with the sharpening of awareness or with contemplation. One also needs to be temperate in practising awareness of one’s breathing. Otherwise, hallucinations may be produced.
Apart from simple consciousness of one’s breathing and one’s body sensations, the practice of awareness covers a wide range of subjects. These include mental awareness – staying with one’s stream of consciousness whilst thinking.
Body awareness includes such practices as moving each part of one’s body slowly and deliberately whilst walking, and using gesture as a body language for prayer. Awareness of sensation includes a method of coping with mild pain by focusing all of one’s attention in detail on the area affected.
The deeper levels of contemplation in many spiritual traditions call for a psychological state beyond words, images and concepts. Here, de Mello cites the author of the Cloud of Unknowing and John of the Cross in his reference to the “Dark Night of the Senses”. The challenge
in prayer of this kind is to resist the temptation to start thinking and imagining and to be willing simply to sit in the dark, in the emptiness and “gaze at the blank lovingly”. In practice this might mean the silent repetition of a prayer word, gazing on a religious image, or simply being aware of one’s breathing or body sensations.
A devotional dimension can readily be added to many awareness exercises. An example of this is in Exercise 14 of Sadhana. First he takes the reader through a detailed awareness of a familiar object such as a pen or a cup using the senses of seeing, smell, touch and taste. He then extends the meditation with the words: “Now place yourself and this object in the presence of Jesus Christ….Listen to what he has to say to you and to the object…” Awareness prepares the ground for fantasy, in this case a fantasy which is built within a Christian faith context.
The later sections of Sadhana and the whole of Wellsprings develops and expands in many directions the use of fantasy in Christian meditation.
The longest and most detailed as well as the greatest number of de Mello’s meditations come under the heading of Fantasy. All begin with some preliminary practice of awareness. From then on the fantasies themselves take a wide variety of forms. Several of the meditations have a world-wide cosmic aspect. In these he takes the meditator in fantasy thousands or even millions of years into the past or the future and invites him or her to gaze across an endless desert or the depths of space. Such fantasies help one put one’s own problems and concerns into perspective or, as he puts it: “Solitude gives distance, Distance brings serenity…” Other exercises involve entering into dialogue with visualized archetypes such as “he temple of a lost religion” or a wise holy man.
De Mello borrows from diverse religious and secular traditions.
One of the more powerful meditations is Exercise 29 of Sadhana entitled “Fantasy on the corpse”, which is of Buddhist origin. The reader is invited to vividly imagine his own corpse as it goes through nine different stages of decomposition. The purpose of this exercise is “to offer you the gift of peace and joy and help you to live life in greater depth”. For those who find this meditation unappealing, there is a range of slightly less graphic exercises which involve living in fantasy such things as blindness, paralysis, death and one’s own funeral. Difficult as these may appear, the experience of those who practise them has frequently been a sharper awareness and appreciation of some of God’s greatest gifts – sight, movement, health and life itself. In general, de Mello’s Fantasies can help one to know and accept oneself at a deeper level. The fantasy on a statue of oneself referred to earlier is a case in point. Looking at, touching, speaking to and finally becoming one’s own statue is for most people a self-revelation. Dialogues with the body, a trip into the desert or into the heart of the unborn child, journeys through the various stages of one’s own life and death, entering into challenging scenes of concentration camps, wars and famine, or contrasts such as birth/death, wedding hall/cancer ward, sports stadium/old folks home, luxury hotel/slum: all are designed to help one experience oneself in unexpected and enriching ways.
Themes from nature run through many of the exercises – and not only the obviously beautiful ones such as dawn, sunset, and flowers. The meditation in Wellsprings entitled “The Kingdom”
dwells on nature’s harsher edge: “the seed that is sown only to perish”, “trillions of wasted eggs and foetuses destroyed”, “incapacitating sickness”. This kind of exercise finds its resolution only in failure, the unsuccessful mission of Christ – yet vindicated by his Resurrection.
De Mello wanted his work to be for persons of all spiritual affiliations and none. However, more often than not he adds a final step to facilitate those who would like to make the meditation an exercise specifically in Christian spirituality. Typically, he adds words like; “Christ was in that event. Where was he? Can you observe him acting in it? How does he act?” In regard to the fantasy of oneself as a statue, he invites the meditator to imagine Jesus walking into the room, looking at and speaking to the statue.
Many of de Mello’s meditations – particularly in Wellsprings – begin with a scene or text from the Christian scriptures. Most are in the form of Gospel fantasies in which the reader is invited to imagine the setting as vividly as possible, see people, participate in the action, take note of one’s feelings and most importantly, relate in faith to Jesus. The influence of the Ignatian tradition in de Mello’s work is evident in these exercises. It is of no importance that one’s fantasy is not geographically accurate. De Mello makes the telling point that even though Ignatius had himself been to the Holy Land as a pilgrim and could have given accurate and detailed descriptions, nonetheless he “invites the exercitant to invent his own Bethlehem, his own Nazareth, the road to Bethlehem, the cave where Christ was born etc.” The subjects of De Mello’s Gospel meditations include the cure of a paralysed man at the pool of Bethzatha, the wedding feast of Cana and Jesus preaching in various parts of Galilee. One of the many fantasies on the Passion of Jesus – Exercise 20 in Sadhana – is developed as a method for coping with resentments.
The deeper aim of meditation is a contemplative Silence. Fantasy and awareness exercises, de Mello reminds us, are simply means to that end. In the introduction to Wellsprings he compares the book to “a staircase to get up to the terrace. Once there, be sure to leave the stairs, or you will not see the sky. When you are brought to silence this book will be your enemy. Get rid of it.”
The human heart longs for Truth and at the same time people’s first reaction to Truth tends to be fear and hostility. This mysterious fact is – according to de Mello – the reason why great religious teachers like Buddha and Jesus created stories as a way to get behind the opposition of their listeners. Through listening to and reflecting on an appropriate story well told, one can be drawn into accepting some truth about oneself that may lie hidden in the story – and hidden in one’s own unconscious.
De Mello’s published collections of story-meditations comprise stories and anecdotes culled from the folklore of many lands: India, China, Russia and Europe. Many of them are religious and come from all the main traditions: Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Christian. De Mello himself seems to have been particularly partial to stories from the Zen Buddhist and Sufi traditions. By reading and reflecting on the anecdotes of each collection in the order in which they were written, the reader is led through the major themes of these books: the unknowability of God, prayer, true versus false religion, challenges to accept the uniqueness of each human person and the responsibility to live fully in the present moment of time. Many of the anecdotes selected by de Mello seem designed to disturb or even shock the reader into re-examining long-cherished religious beliefs. A number are in the form of riddles or jokes. The reader may be tempted to read quickly through these stories in order to be entertained or amused. If however, as De Mello urges, a person is prepared to dwell on a story, to reflect and carry it around within himself, it will begin to reveal unrecognized home truths. As he tells his readers: “Every one of these stories is about you”. To illustrate how this process might work one can refer to a short anecdote that he gives in his introduction to The Prayer of the Frog:
“Excellent sermon” said the parishioner, as she pumped the hand of the preacher. “Everything you said applies to someone or other I know.”
Initially the reader smiles at the parishioner who sees the need for change in everyone but herself. However, on reflection the reader may wonder if he or she may not in reality have the same attitude towards personal change as that parishioner, i.e., it is others who need it! This is what one might term the second level of interaction between the story and the listener/reader.
But there is a third level which not many have the patience to move on to. If someone is prepared to return to the story again and again and to spend time with it – meditating on it, carrying it around in one’s mind – hidden aspects of oneself will be brought from unconsciousness to consciousness. The story will bring about change in one’s life. The end-result will be greater humility and openness. As de Mello puts it: “The story will worm its way into your heart and break down barriers to the divine”.
DE MELLO AND THE INDIAN TRADITION
The influence of Buddhism is explicit throughout de Mello’s life and work. HeeHeeeee attended at least one Buddhist retreat – probably under the direction of the renowned teacher S.N. Goenka. Goenka is an ethnic Indian who grew up in Burma and was trained in the techniques of Vipassana meditation which are so strong in that country. Since the late sixties he has been based in Poona, working as a master of the Vipassana tradition. His approach has been so well received that he currently presides over a network of meditation centres and teachers in more than a dozen countries.
In Sadhana de Mello gives some indication of how his practices of sitting for meditation and becoming aware of one’s body sensations and breathing were influenced by his experience while on a Buddhist meditation retreat. Reference has already been made to the “Fantasy on the Corpse”, one of several exercises which are of Buddhist origin. As a final hint of his close contact with the Buddhist tradition, one of the last letters written by De Mello before his death was to the Buddhist teacher Achaan Chah.
Curiously, the term ‘yoga’ hardly occurs at all in de Mello’s writings. However, in his work as a teacher of spirituality, he used practical methods which are little different from those used by the swamis of the Indian yogic tradition. These take a number of forms.
The exercises entitled “Stillness” in Sadhana and “The Arrival” in Wellsprings are simply a form of the classical yoga
nidra or ‘yogic sleep’ as practised for instance in the contemporary school of Satyananda Swami. The practice of “composition of place” as originally developed by St. Ignatius has no connection with India. However, there are clear parallels between it and the practice of pratyahara or ‘sense-withdrawal’ which has been an active element in the yogic tradition since the time of Patanjali. The listening exercises described under the heading “Sounds” in Sadhana are evidently derived from an ancient yogic “sound and light” tradition.
The methods that De Mello use in his spirituality relate most of all to the *tantric and *jnana traditions of yoga. These will now be looked at separately.
TANTRIC YOGA AND JESUS PRAYER
Some of de Mello’s fantasy meditations involve allying the imagination with the physiological functions of sensing, hearing, breathing or movement. An example of this is found in Exercise 6 in Sadhana which is entitled “God in my breath”: “…Think of the air as of an immense ocean that surrounds you…an ocean heavily coloured with God’s presence and God’s being…While you draw the air into your lungs you are drawing God in…”. In Exercise 10 he invites the reader to “Feel God’s power at work in the production of every single sensation”. Exercise 9 shows how various bodily gestures, when carried out with consciousness of every movement, can become a body language for prayer expressing adoration, self-offering, surrender.
The practice of using a physiological function to embody a spiritual principle is widely used in the *tantric yoga tradition. De Mello’s spirituality shares with tantrism the aim of incarnating spirituality within the body and in everyday realities.
Experiences of physical awareness are universal to all cultures. Since they take place in the body and not in the mind they are intellectually ‘blind’ and can therefore
co-exist with almost any spiritual philosophy. The tantrists use awareness exercises with the aim of bringing about the integration of the individual self with the universal Self (*atman). De Mello’s spiritual objective is a stronger sense of the presence and the power of God, specifically in the form of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Many of his exercises have a repertoire of fore-runners in the literature of the Hindu *tantras.
There is one particular form of Christian prayer using physiological awareness that does not have any evident connection with the Hindu *tantric tradition. This is the “Jesus Prayer”. Though apparently dating from the earliest centuries of the Church’s history, this prayer was little known and practised in recent times until the publication in the West around 1925 of The Way of a Pilgrim. The nineteenth century Russian pilgrim who authored this book speaks of his discovery of the secret of uninterrupted prayer. De Mello is credited with introducing Indian Christians to the use of the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus Prayer consists of the words: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. While mentally repeating these words, one is invited to bring one’s attention into the area in the chest towards which one instinctively points when one says “me”. This focusing of attention on the heart and centre of one’s being explains the term ‘prayer of the heart’ by which this way of praying is also known. In time one’s practice of the prayer is accompanied by a special sensation at the heart centre. Paying attention to the varying moods of that sensation helps one avoid an over-cerebral approach to meditation and also facilitates perseverance in the Jesus Prayer. In the words of one of its great teachers, Theophan the Recluse (1815 – 1894): “so long as the mind remains in the head, where thoughts jostle one another, it has no time to concentrate on one thing. But when attention descends into the heart, it attracts all the powers of the soul and body into one point there.”
De Mello praises the tradition of the Jesus Prayer particularly for the reason that – unlike so much of the classical literature which tells us about prayer – it teaches us how to pray. He also notes that St. Ignatius of Loyola taught his retreatants to recite a prayer formula to the rhythm of their breathing – and that in fact is the way De Mello himself advocates practising the Jesus Prayer. It was De Mello’s opinion that this type of breath mantra and the practice of praying the Name of God in a repetitive way ultimately came from Hindu India. If this is correct it would point to a common root in classical yoga for the techniques associated with the Jesus Prayer as well as the *tantric approach to mantra.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, *jnana yoga aims at awakening the mind of the practitioner to a mystical realization of the oneness of all things. There is no fool-proof system whereby one can grasp enlightenment of this kind. Spiritual masters over the centuries have used indirect methods such as a gesture, a touch, a riddle or a paradox to trigger in their disciples a deeper awareness of spiritual reality. Story is one such means of helping spiritual aspirants to open up and become receptive to mystical insight. Jesus in the Gospels comes across as a masterly storyteller who used particular forms, especially parables and allegories, to awaken his listeners to the deepest truths.
In his seminars and workshops de Mello was known as a speaker who was not afraid to jolt the consciousness of his listeners and at times even to shock them. His reasons for doing this were to challenge and break down accepted patterns of thought and to induce self-questioning. In the words of one observer “he challenged everyone to question, to explore, to get out of prefabricated patterns of thought and behaviour, away from stereotypes, and to dare to be one’s true self…”
Story, paradox and the challenging question have for centuries been part of the tradition of *jnana yoga or ‘yoga of knowledge’. What is attempted is the breaking down of superficial, self-complacent mental attitudes in order to become more open to the true knowledge (jnana) that lies within one and which is beyond all words, images and concepts (namarupa). Thus is one brought to an awareness of one’s true self – understood within the Vedantic tradition to be *atman/*brahman and ultimate Reality.
In June 1998 the writings of Anthony de Mello were the subject of a “Notification” by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The text of the “Notification” is as follows:
“CONCERNING THE WRITINGS OF FATHER ANTHONY DE MELLO, SJ
[…] [As on pages 1 ff].
At the cutting edge of Christian Spirituality
By Luis S. R. Vas
Several contemporary Christian thinkers have delved deep into spirituality, often dialoguing with other faiths and imbibing from the Indian heritage
Anthony De Mello
When Bombay-born Fr. Anthony de Mello died of a heart attack at Fordham University, USA, at the start of a lecture trip across the US in 1987 at the age of 56, his numerous admirers were stunned and aghast. De Mello was at the height of his powers. Readers were lapping up his books which straddled eastern and western spirituality for the first time in a way that was accessible to people everywhere. Sadhana, a virtual transcript of a workshop on vipassana meditation, was his enduring best seller. His other books included The Song of the Bird, One Minute Wisdom and Wellsprings. The first two were collections of transformative stories and the last a collection of exercises in the mould of Sadhana.
De Mello’s admirers were somewhat relieved when they learnt that he had left with his publishers Gujarat Sahitya Prakash a manuscript collection of more stories which were later published as The Prayer of the Frog in two volumes. Later two more manuscripts surfaced: Contact with God (a collection of conferences), One Minute Nonsense (some more stories) and The Call to Love.
As Fr de Mello’s popularity mounted, 10 years after his death the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) woke up and issued a notification warning of the dangers of de Mello’s work which it declared “incompatible with the Catholic faith” and a cause of “grave harm”.
Fr. David Toolan S.J., a Jesuit editor, wrote: “In my judgment, Father de Mello’s Sadhana remains the best Catholic ‘how to’ book for someone looking for instruction in methods of prayer. Some of de Mello’s early texts, the CDF acknowledges, ‘can be helpful in achieving self-mastery, in breaking the bonds and feelings that keep us from being free, and in approaching with serenity the various vicissitudes of life’. But overall de Mello’s writings are said to exhibit a ‘progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith’. Particularly objectionable, it is alleged, are his concept of the unknowability and cosmic impersonality of God, his sense of Jesus ‘as a master alongside others’, a preference for ‘enlightenment’, criticism of the church, and an excessive focus on this life rather than life after death. Bishops were ordered to ensure that the offending texts are withdrawn from sale and not reprinted.”
Fr. Toolan goes on: “The Vatican is bewildered by de Mello’s emphasis on ‘awareness’ and ‘interior enlightenment’ over against Scripture, doctrine, and belief—and puts the worst possible construction on de Mello’s awkward formulations. His stress on awareness, I would say, tries to get at the difference between theory and experience, external conformity and interiorised faith, or the letter of the law versus the spirit. The Vatican complains of ‘ambiguity’ and ‘perplexity’ in interpretation.
“But of course. De Mello was not writing theology; he was a collector of parables, and loved to shake people up, get them thinking or reimagining. Above all, he was an artist in helping people to reimagine God—as much greater and more giving than they had dreamed… De Mello used an odd principle to get at the unfathomable goodness of God—the idea that God couldn’t be worse than you and I, but had to be at least as good as we are at our best. What came out of that pedestrian principle was a radical doctrine of divine abundance and grace.”
“He loved stories,” says Fr. Joseph Brown, a Jesuit priest who coordinated de Mello’s workshops in St. Louis, USA. “He was an entertainer, a storyteller and a challenger. He blows your mind. He is one of the most powerful speakers I have ever heard. He makes you see things in different ways. He was a genius of devising exercises for people to get in touch with themselves and to pray out of that experience.”
Joanne Callahan, a pastoral minister, says her friendship with de Mello had helped her in her work with the dying. “His exercises put us in the presence of our own death and our own feelings about that,” she says.
Sadhana Institute was founded in Pune by Tony de Mello in 1973 (later relocated to Lonavla) as a centre for spirituality for the training of spiritual guides and retreat masters.
Today it has evolved as an institute that attempts to integrate psychology and spirituality in an experiential way. From the very beginning there was a definite emphasis on the integration of the different aspects of the human person such as the emotional, intellectual and the spiritual. And there was also an emphasis on the integration of Christian spirituality with the Indian heritage.
It offers courses that provide the flavour of the de Mello approach and point to his surviving legacy, despite CDF’s strictures which have been largely ignored. The courses are: Midi Sadhana (a retreat), Human Sexuality and Affectivity, Vipassana Retreat, Chetana: A Journey into Light, Breath and Spirit, Gita Sadhana: A Spirituality for Today, Breath & Spirit and Spiritual Emergencies, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)—Basic and Advanced, Intensive Journal and Process Meditation and Mini Sadhana.
Fr. Raimon Panikkar is to Fr. Tony de Mello what J. Krishnamurti is to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, that is cerebral to the experiential, but no more of a conformist. […] Tony de Mello and Raimon Panikkar have followed in the tracks of pioneering spiritual dialoguers like Fr. Hugo Enomiya Lassalle, Bede Griffiths and Thomas Merton.
The above is a congruence of leading New Agers. Luis SR Vas is beyond doubt the Indian Catholic Church’s leading author of New Age books of the highest occult order. His books are published and sold by St Pauls Better Yourself Books! Life Positive is India’s leading New Age magazine and Internet site. See
FR PRASHANT OLALEKAR-INTERPLAY AND LIFE POSITIVE
Raimon Panikkar, Fr. Hugo Enomiya Lassalle, Bede Griffiths and Thomas Merton are either liberals, New Agers or influencers of New Thought.
“Among the Authors of the books listed here are well-known personalities, like Anthony de Mello SJ, who have made valuable contributions to the world through their writing.”
Sadhana Institute was originally named the
Pastoral Counseling and Spirituality Institute
when it was founded by Fr. De Mello
de Nobili College
in Pune, Maharashtra, ever since when it exerts a detrimental spiritual influence on religious and seminarians. It is a door to Hinduism and Buddhism [vipassana] and a cesspool of New Age therapies and psycho-spiritual techniques such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). See
VIPASSANA-WEEDS IN THE WHEATFIELD-ERROL FERNANDES
Tony deMello my Brother
March 11, 2013
Orbis Books have recently launched The Happy Wanderer in the USA.
The book is also available through Amazon.com:
I discovered an excellent review of the book on the Amazon webpage and would like to share it here:
The Happy Wanderer… Review by Dom Gonzalvez
“There are only two times in life: now and too late.” Bill de Mello chose the ‘now’ of 2011 to write the biography of his brother, Tony. He made a timely decision as subsequent years may have been ‘too late’.
The men and women who personally knew Tony de Mello become fewer every year. They are vital sources for the biography for they were eye-witnesses to what Tony did, and ear-witnesses to what he said. They know the gospel of Tony’s life. Bill was just in time to track them down before their voices fall silent forever.
These witnesses helped fill out the chapters of Tony’s life to an extent that pleased and astonished Bill. The 14-year age gap between the brothers de Mello had made the task of writing a comprehensive biography difficult. Bill’s memories of Tony were a patchwork of early childhood impressions, followed by long blanks of the absent Tony who was away with the Jesuits. The long blanks were filled in by witnesses. A clear picture emerged of Tony’s training and progress in the Society of Jesus, his skill as a priest/therapist, his universal vision of spirituality, and his magnificent power of presentation.
What makes the biography powerful is Bill’s approach. The Vatican’s condemnation of Tony’s works is still a fiery topic, but Bill does not give it emphasis. He sets out to show who and what Tony was, and leaves the task of evaluation to the reader. His aim in writing the biography was “… to share whatever information I could garner from my own memory and from others who knew Tony and who personally interacted with him.”
I, as a reader, do have an evaluation to present.
Do Tony de Mello’s writings endanger the faith of Catholics as claimed by the Vatican in its Notification of 1998? Since Bill expresses no opinion, I sought out what Tony’s companions said.
Fr Joseph M Feliu knew Tony since the time they were twenty year olds studying philosophy. They became friends and remained so till Tony’s death. He states: “Tony… expressed himself via simple stories about the spiritual insights with which he was enlightened. He may have seemed to be a borderline Christian, but in fact he was a man who never crossed the border drawn by Jesus, assuming the good Lord ever drew such a line. Tony was at the crossroads and frontiers of faith and had a unique vision of reality that many questioned because they did not share this vision. His spirituality was not constrained by creeds but all the same found both inspiration and expression very much within the Catholic Church.”
THE EASTERN CHRISTIAN
Tony saw himself as an Eastern Christian.
Western Christianity is a comparative new-comer to India. I say “western” Christianity because eastern Christianity came to India with St Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century, whereas western Christianity came with the Portuguese in the 14th century.
Tony wrote an unusual essay, “An Eastern Christian Speaks of Prayer”, for a journal of theology in 1982. The essay is reproduced in appendix 6 of the biography.
In the essay Tony traipses effortlessly between Eastern and Western concepts of God and prayer. It is vintage de Mello!
Understanding Tony’s viewpoint requires an understanding of India. In addition to being the world’s largest democracy, India is also home to the world’s major religions. In many a city centre in India a Christian Church, a Mosque, a Hindu temple and a Zoroastrian fire temple co-exist. Religions respect each other’s truths. Tony was exposed to religious tolerance and respect from his earliest days. This unique religious atmosphere of his native land permeated Tony’s outlook.
When I read the chapter entitled: “Sadhana – Birth and (R)Evolution” I was reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s “My Experiments with Truth.” Tony was a spiritual experimenter. While he leaned to Eastern mysticism, he also used western psychology and psycho-therapy to improve the spiritual life of Jesuits and other religious.
Indian (and Eastern) words often have deep connotations, moreso than English words. Tony chose the word Sadhana – a means to the divine – as the name of his main course on spirituality. One of Tony’s friends (a witness!) described the course:
“The main segment of the course would be one on spirituality, specifically the Spiritual Exercises and Jesuit spirituality. Tony saw spirituality and psychology intimately tied up with each other. He saw Gestalt Therapy with its stress on taking responsibility for one’s life and actions, its emphasis on getting in touch with one’s self through becoming aware of one’s feelings and its advocacy of total honesty with oneself and others as the perfect foil to spirituality.”
In addition to Gestalt Therapy, Tony also brought in Vipassana Meditation as taught by S N Goenka. Vipassana is insight meditation that originated with the Buddha.
Tony was a stirrer and shaker!
“Sadhana – Birth and (R)Evolution” is aptly named. Tony started the revolution, and the evolution continues to this day. The chapter has my vote as the best in the book to understand what Tony de Mello was about.
Nobody but Bill could have written Tony’s biography as it stands.
Tony’s companions and students – the contributors to the biography – opened up to Bill with a frankness that they’d have shown to no other researcher. Bill’s charm overcame defences, revived memories and had people reveal incidents, thoughts and opinions that were private and personal.
Bill reveals Tony the boy, the man, the human being, the brother, the Jesuit, the innovator and maverick who is always a faithful priest.
Tony appreciated the difficulty of dogma. Someone once wrote: “the inevitable result of a dogma is that it asks people to believe impossible things and then makes them feel guilty… guilty when their innate reason rebels.” Instead of heading down the path of dogma, Tony taught the importance of the Socratic “know thyself” for understanding Christ’s message that “the kingdom of heaven is within you.”
I found the biography to be the story of a man’s spiritual evolution. Tony evolves. The stimulus of every challenge results in spiritual growth, often in an unexpected direction.
Tony evolves into a master teacher who helps people wake up to themselves. Instead of contradicting, he innovates so that questioners see a new angle which reveals where the answer lies.
I imagine that had Bill, an agnostic, said: “Tony, I don’t have a soul”, Tony, quoting C S Lewis, might have replied:
‘Bill, I agree.
You have no soul.
You ARE the soul.
You have a body.’
Bill de Mello, the brother of Fr. Tony de Mello, is an agnostic! That speaks eloquently for itself.
Reception of the Documents of the Universal Magisterium by the Community of Theologians and Theological Institutes
I. Ensuring the Catholic Identity of Theology
The Vidya Jyoti Theological Review [VJTR], February 2004 EXTRACT
By Bishop Thomas Dabre [then Bishop of Vasai and Chairman, Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI]
Theological work must always be guided by respect for the sensibilities of Christians, so that by a gradual growth into inculturated forms of expressing the faith people are neither confused nor scandalized. In every case inculturation must be guided by compatibility with the Gospel and communion with the faith of the universal Church, in full compliance with the Church’s Tradition and with a view to strengthening people’s faith. The test of true inculturation is whether people become more committed to their Christian faith because they perceive it more clearly with the eyes of their own culture (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Asia, 22).
On the one hand theologians must deepen the understanding of the documents, and on the other facilitate an Indian reading of the text. Care has to be taken to ensure the Catholic character of theology in India, as is evident from the problems in connection with the writings of [Jesuit] Frs. Jacques Dupuis, Luis
Bermejo, Tony de Mello and others.
Sadhana, A Way to God – Christian Exercises in Eastern Form
1978, pages 36, 54, 55. This book is sold at St Pauls bookstores. The ‘Imprimi Potest’ is given by his Provincial, Fr. Bertram Philips, S.J., and the Imprimatur by Bishop C. Gomes, S.J., of Ahmedabad.
Anthony de Mello S.J.
tells us about Catholic retreat masters who conduct “retreats very similar to Zen retreats” [very certainly
Fr. Ama Samy S.J., a Zen master].
De Mello admits to having attended a Buddhist retreat and finding it “beneficial”.
Accordingly, he recommends using the
“same place, same corner, or a room that is reserved”
for meditation because
“the good vibrations that were generated… seemed to persist in that place long after the contemplation was over.”
“Chanting the Sanskrit word ‘OM’ is a great help.“
[45 or 49]
See MANTRAS, ‘OM’ OR ‘AUM’ AND THE GAYATRI MANTRA
As one saw in Luis SR Vas‘ article on page 22 and as one can see below, the Jesuits continue to defend and promote the works of Tony de Mello. Incidentally, the Australian liberal news agency CathNews is also headed by a Jesuit, Fr. Michael Kelly.
CHURCH RESOURCES CATHNEWS, September 12, 2006
September 11 (9:00 am) – September 18 (11:59 pm), 2006
(Centres of Ignatian Spirituality) This eight-day silent retreat is based on the late Anthony de Mello’s book Sadhana. “Sadhana” means “experience” and is an ideal word to describe Ignatian spirituality. Cost is $550 These retreats are open to Jesuits and lay companions…
CATHNEWS ASIA, November 22, 2010
A talk by the late Indian Jesuit and spiritual guru Anthony De Mello, about prayer. It is illuminating and challenges conventional thinking on the matter.
This four-part video was uploaded to YouTube by osmystatocny in June 2008.
Parts 2-4 will feature in the coming editions of CathNews Asia this week.
Was the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello murdered in the U.S. 25 Years Ago?
Luis SR Vas
email@example.com February 19, 2013
Book Review by Thomas Farrell
Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) February 18, 2013
On March 1, 2013, Orbis Book is scheduled to release the American edition of the book titled ANTHONY DE MELLO: THE HAPPY WANDERER: A TRIBUTE TO MY BROTHER, written by Bill de Mello, who now lives in Australia, and edited by
Clifford W. DeSilva, a former Jesuit in India. The book was originally published in India about the time of the 25th anniversary of Anthony de Mello‘s death in 1987. Last summer, I was given a copy of the book that was published in India. As a result, I have had ample time to digest it.
The Roman Catholic spiritual writer Thomas Merton (1915-1968) died in Bangkok, Thailand, as the result of a supposedly weird accident.
But the death of Anthony (“Tony”) de Mello (1931-1987), the popular Jesuit spiritual director from India and author of a number of popular books on spirituality, was even more suspicious than Thomas Merton’s death, as I will explain momentarily.
At the time of his sudden death, Tony was a rising star in Roman Catholic spirituality. Jesuit priests and other Catholics in religious orders, including a certain number of Catholic women religious, flocked to Tony’s spirituality center in Poona, India, to take part in his experimental group-counseling retreats, which were conducted something like encounter groups, but only for Catholics in religious orders.
In addition to conducting his famous experimental group-counseling retreats that attracted Catholics from different countries, Tony was popular on the lecture circuit in Catholic circles, giving spirituality conferences in different countries, including the United States. At times, his summer lecture tours in the United States also at times included conducting his experimental group-counseling retreats for certain Catholics who understood in advance what kind of experience they were signing up for.
In 1964, Tony had received his Master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Loyola University Chicago. Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls were major figures influencing Tony’s thought. However, in such posthumously published books as AWARENESS (Image, 1992, the edited transcription of one of his spirituality conferences), REDISCOVERING LIFE (Image, 2012,
the edited transcription of another one of his spirituality conferences), and THE WAY TO LOVE (reissued Image, 2012, a coherent and cogent series of meditations that he wrote but did not publish in his lifetime), Tony sounds like Albert Ellis on steroids.
But Tony’s thought that sounds like Albert Ellis on steroids was probably most deeply influenced by the thought of the spiritual guide from India, Jiddu Krishnamurti and the kind of meditation that Krishnamurti advocated — which resembles Buddhist meditation, even though Krishnamurti himself was not a Buddhist. In any event, like Krishnamurti, Tony also sounds like a Buddhist, even though he was not a Buddhist.
Tony was a Jesuit priest trained in and steeped in the Jesuit tradition of meditation and contemplation expressed in the book titled the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES, the short book of instructions for so-called spiritual exercises that the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius Loyola compiled before he founded the Jesuit order. In the first year of the two-year Jesuit novitiate, Jesuit novices make a 30-day retreat in silence following the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of St. Ignatius Loyola.
Years later in Jesuit training, Jesuits devote a third year to novitiate-like living that is known in Jesuit parlance as tertianship
(“tertio” means three in Latin), during which they once again make a 30-day retreat in silence following the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES. Tony was an experienced retreat director in directing Jesuits making 30-day retreats.
By way of digression, I should explain that Ignatian meditation involves using imagery and actively using of one’s imagination. By contrast, Buddhist meditation does not involve using imagery and one’s imagination, nor does the kind of meditation favored by Krishnamurti. End of digression.
In his fine biography of Tony, Bill de Mello quotes a former Jesuit who explains how Tony had come to experiment with group-counseling retreats, which up to that time had not exactly been part of the Jesuit tradition of spirituality:
“‘Tony gave up ‘guiding’ people in 30-day retreats and moved to ‘counseling’ sessions — he saw that the ‘fruit’ [Jesuit parlance for ‘benefit’] of the Spiritual Exercises could not be savored in full because people were locked up in psychological problems and insecurities and were at emotional dead-ends. At that stage, they needed counseling (more than spirituality) to free them from these blocks (as evidenced by the testimony of so many) so that they could then more deeply drink of the waters of the Ignatian vision.'” (Quoted on page 204)
In Carl Rogers’ terminology, people who are at emotional dead-ends are not fully functioning. For a perceptive book about being at emotional dead-ends, see John Bradshaw’s HEALING THE SHAME THAN BINDS YOU (rev. ed. 2005). In Bradshaw’s terminology, people whose emotions are bound are as a result at emotional dead-ends.
However, even if certain people were at emotional dead-ends when they made 30-day retreats, they themselves may not have understood that they were at emotional dead-ends. As a result of being at emotional dead-ends, they may not have savored in full the fruit of the Spiritual Exercises as they did them, as this unidentified former Jesuit puts it. Nevertheless, they may have applied themselves diligently to doing the Spiritual Exercises, the last one of which is known as an exercise to attain the love of God — or more accurately, to attain the impression that one is loved by God.
Now, in THE WAY TO LOVE (reissued Image, 2012), Tony describes how a man who feels deeply loved emerges filled with euphoria:
“A man in love does indeed go out to the world not in love but in euphoria. For him the world takes on an unreal, rosy hue, which it loses the moment the euphoria dies. His so-called love is generated not by his clear perception of reality but by the conviction, true or false, that he is loved by someone — a conviction that is dangerously fragile, because it is founded on the unreliable, changeable people who he believes love him.. And who can at any moment pull the switch and turn off his euphoria.” (Quoted from pages 114-115)
Digression: Euphoria is a typical characteristic of a hypo-manic episode. For my present purposes, I will operationally define the euphoria of a hypo-manic episode as uncontained and unregulated euphoria. But I think that Tony is here referring to a somewhat more contained and regulated experience of euphoria. When a person experiences euphoria in a somewhat contained and regulated way, he or she feels animated. As a result, he or she is usually a high-energy person who feels ready to conquer the world, so to speak. End of digression.
Now, when a person who is at emotional dead-ends makes the Spiritual Exercise to attain God’s love, he or she may emerge from doing this exercise feeling that God does indeed truly love him or her. As a result, the person who is at emotional dead-ends will go forth feeling loved by God and will as a result be filled with euphoria.
So a question arises: How many Jesuits who were at emotional dead-ends have emerged from their 30-day retreats feeling loved by God and as a result filled with euphoria? How many Jesuits, if any, have not been at emotional dead-ends?
In his perceptive essay “St. Ignatius’ Prison-Cage and the Existentialist Situation” in the Jesuit-sponsored journal THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, volume 15, number 1 (March 1954): pages 34-51, the American Jesuit Walter J. Ong (1912-2003) examines and discusses St. Ignatius Loyola’s cryptic and puzzling prison imagery. His prison imagery suggests that he himself felt imprisoned, despite all the fruits he had himself savored as he was doing the Spiritual Exercises. In effect, his prison imagery also suggests that he was himself at emotional dead-ends.
In THE WAY TO LOVE (pages 16, 25, 48, 50, 68), Tony works with prison imagery in different ways to characterize our human condition before we have advanced to the condition wherein we are free from our emotional dead-ends.
But if Tony himself had somehow managed to move beyond emotional dead-ends, which appears to have been the case, we may wonder exactly how this happened to him. Unfortunately, Bill de Mello’s otherwise fine biography of Tony does not shed much light on how this happened to Tony, if it did indeed happen to him, as I believe it did.
Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not Jesuits will appreciate having the above quotation about Jesuits published in Bill de Mello’s book. Make no mistake about this quotation. Not many people besides Jesuits make 30-day retreats, even though it is possible for non-Jesuits to sign up for such 30-day retreats at Jesuit retreat centers in the United States.
Your guess is as good as mine as to just how effective Tony’s experimental group-counseling retreats were in moving the participants toward overcoming their psychological limitations. But it is possible that a certain number of the participants emerged from the experimental retreats at emotional dead-ends, just as they had been when they signed up for the retreat. In this way, a certain number of participants may have been disillusioned about the possible effectiveness of the retreat. Moreover, given the nature of Tony’s experimental group-counseling retreats, it also possible that occasionally a participant may have felt deeply humiliated in the retreat — perhaps deeply humiliated enough to want revenge on Tony for what had happened.
In any event, the rector of the Jesuit community at Fordham University in the Bronx found Tony dead on the floor of his room on the morning of June 1, 1987. Tony’s body was curled up in a fetal position. His official death certificate lists the immediate cause of his death as “Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease with recent thrombosis of left circumflex branch.” But how many people who are dying of a heart attack curl up on the floor in a fetal position?
Moreover, Tony had no known history of heart disease. Furthermore, within a year of his death, he had been examined by a physician in the United States, who also served as President Jimmy Carter’s doctor, who had told Tony that he was quite healthy. But perhaps the doctor had missed something important in his examination, eh?
By coincidence, Tony’s younger brother had been visiting Manhattan at the time when Tony had arrived in New York City for his upcoming spirituality conference at Fordham University in the Bronx, which was scheduled to be televised via satellite to a number of Catholic campuses. Bill de Mello was able to visit with Tony in the Jesuit residence at Fordham on the evening of May 31, 1987. But as mentioned, Tony was found dead in his room the next morning by the rector of the Jesuit community.
Bill de Mello recounts that after they had had dinner at the Jesuit residence Tony had complained of some kind of stomach trouble. If Tony had ingested some kind of poison at dinner, how did the real culprit behind his murder manage to poison him, when Bill and others who had dinner in the Jesuit residence that evening were not poisoned?
Tony’s complaints after dinner about his stomach trouble had seemed to Bill to sound similar to his own recent trouble with an upset stomach and indigestion after he had arrived in New York City. Bill’s colleagues at work in Manhattan had advised him to take Pepto-Bismol.
It had worked for Bill, so he advised Tony to take Pepto-Bismol. But when Tony inquired about this at the Jesuit residence, he was told that there was no Pepto-Bismol there. As a result, Bill left the Jesuit residence and went in search of a pharmacy where he could buy some. He then returned to the Jesuit residence with some Pepto-Bismol.
Tony then took some. It evidently provided him with a certain measure of relief at the time, because he was able to continue his visit with Bill. When Bill left Tony that evening, Tony was obviously alive.
It is not hard to imagine how disconcerted Bill felt the next day when the Jesuit rector called him at work in Manhattan to tell him that he (the rector) had found Tony dead in his room that morning curled up on the floor in a fetal position.
Got that — in a fetal position? Had somebody somehow killed Tony and then arranged his body on the floor in a fetal position, and then slipped out of Tony’s room? Or did the rector just make up this fantastic detail about Tony’s corpse? But for what reason would the rector have made up this detail when he told Bill about his brother’s death? But if the rector did not make up this fantastic detail, why would Tony himself have curled up in a fetal position on the floor as he was dying?
Questions about Tony’s death abound.
Could anybody other than a Jesuit have had access to Tony’s room in the Jesuit residence?
Could a fellow Jesuit have murdered Tony somehow and then arranged his body on the floor in a fetal position?
Or could a fellow Jesuit have allowed the real culprit to enter the Jesuit residence and perhaps helped direct him to Tony’s room and then perhaps helped the real culprit exit from the Jesuit residence?
What could have motivated Tony’s murderer — jealousy — or revenge perhaps, but revenge for what — or did Tony’s supposed murderer expect to profit somehow from his death, but how — by receiving a reward in money or in status and prestige, or by currying the favor of somebody powerful who wanted Tony dead for some reason, but what reason?
In any event, when the rector called Bill at work in Manhattan to tell him about Tony’s death, the rector also told Bill that he would be interviewed by a police sergeant because Bill had been one of the last persons to see Tony alive. However, the rector later on told Bill that he would not be interviewed after all. Why the change of plans? Was this change in plans part of a cover up that the Jesuits were orchestrating for some reason? From the ongoing priest sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, we now know that religious authorities in the church are skilled in orchestrating cover ups.
Tony’s body was prepared for burial at a funeral home in the Bronx, and then flown back to India for burial there on June 12, 1987.
In conclusion, both Thomas Merton and Anthony de Mello were Roman Catholic spiritual writers, and both of their suspicious deaths have for understandable reasons aroused suspicions that murder may have been involved. Were their deaths perhaps ordered by a big shot in the Vatican? There appears to be no shortage of Catholic tattle-tales around the world who send reports to big shots in the Vatican, which has a global network of agents known as diplomats in important cities around the world.
Disputed Questions – Like Salvation Outside of the Church
By Sandro Magister, Rome, 16.7.2003
From Tokyo, an analysis of one of the most controversial points of John Paul II’s pontificate. Epicenter: Asia
John Paul II and the Other Religions: From Assisi to “Dominus Iesus”
Tokyo, June 18, 2003
Before the outbreak of the Dupuis [Jesuit
Fr Jacques Dupuis of Belgium] case, the last two condemnations by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were from that subcontinent. The first was Tissa Balasuriya, a religious of Sri Lanka, who was excommunicated in 1996 for his disturbing book in which he demolished important articles of the Creed, and was then readmitted to the Church on condition of repentance. The second was Anthony De Mello, an Indian Jesuit who wrote wildly successful best-sellers, still sold in dozens of languages, who was condemned “post mortem” on June 24, 1998, under the accusation of having dissolved God, Jesus, and the Church into a cosmic, somewhat New Age spirituality with an oriental flavor.
The Church in Spain Is Sick, but It’s not Zapatero’s Fault
By Sandro Magister, Rome, July 28, 2006
The sickness is the loss of faith among the people, and the poor instructors are above all the progressive theologians. The accusation comes from the Spanish bishops.
In a document coordinated with Rome, as a model for other episcopates…
It denounces the theologies, not the theologians. The instruction does not target particular authors, but limits itself to denouncing erroneous tendencies. The names found in the notes that accompany the text are simply those of theologians already marked out in the past by doctrinal condemnations and disciplinary sanctions by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or by the Spanish bishops’ conference.
Four of these are Spanish: Juan José Tamayo, José María Castillo, Juan Antonio Estrada, and Marciano Vidal.
The others are Jacques Dupuis [INDIA]; Roger Haight, American; Anthony De Mello, Indian; Austria’s Reinhard Messner; Leonardo Boff of Brazil; Ireland’s Diarmuid O’Murchu; and Tissa Balasuriya, of Sri Lanka.
Perils of Pluralism
By John L. Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter, September 15, 2000
Below are some milestones in the Vatican’s decade-long effort to reassert Catholic belief in the unique saving role of Christ. The Vatican’s clear stance: Members of other religions may be saved through the merit of Christ, but the “fullness of the means of salvation” resides only in the Catholic Church. […]
August 1998: Ratzinger’s office censures certain ideas in the work of Indian Jesuit Fr. Anthony de Mello, who died in 1987. De Mello’s work is accused of uncritically blending ideas from Eastern and Western traditions and of promoting “religious indifferentism”.
Some Deceptions of the New Age Movement
By Michael Akerman
This leaflet, published originally in 1991, summarises some essential information for Catholics.
The notes, arranged under four headings, provide a brief insight into the activities of New Agers – and the danger represented by their beliefs and practices.
METHODS AND TECHNIQUES
One of the ways in which New Age ideas can be spread is through Prayer Techniques. We hear of nuns who pray in the lotus position; friars who recite mantras in their cells; courses in Zen meditation in parishes and convents. Add to this the teaching of Anthony de Mello, Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton and others, and one begins to realise the extent of the problem.
Today’s Most Serious Threat to Our Faith
By Michael Akerman
MYSTICS AND MEDITATION
In chapter five the author looks at the New Age Mystic under the heading: Different Path, Same God? Here we read about Sadhana and Fr Anthony de Mello. This chapter further touches on Visualization and Spirit Guides; Rewriting the Scriptures, and the dangers of ‘centering-prayer’. It is important to … distinguish between occult meditation, which is the foundation of all New Age beliefs, and Christian meditation which is basic to true spiritual growth… Unlike occult meditation, whose goal is an emptied mind, Christian prayer has God as its object. (pp. 110 and 111)
Let the Son Shine: The Truth about the New Age
By Catholics United for the Faith, March 20, 2003
De Mello Out
The information offered above is only an introduction to the errors of the New Age movement. In general, its doctrines and philosophies contradict the truths of the faith. The movement denies the nature of the triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It denies the divine and human natures of Christ, His unique role as Messiah, and the necessity of His death for the salvation of all. It distorts the nature of man and denies that the ultimate purpose of man is union with God in Heaven.
New Age philosophy contains many contradictions and tolerates acceptance of conflicting beliefs. Such an approach allows practically anyone who holds to New Age ideas to claim allegiance to a particular religion. This approach readily encourages nominal Christians to be formed in New Age beliefs but still consider themselves members of their particular religion. Unfortunately, some Catholics ascribe to and participate in New Age activities. Some use the writings of Fathers Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. and Anthony de Mello, S.J. to prove compatibility of these beliefs with the Catholic faith. Indeed, both priests promoted ideas and beliefs that the New Age movement embraces.  […]
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also noted serious errors in the writings of Father de Mello. Among errors found in his writings are the following assertions:
•A profession of faith and belief in God or in Christ impedes access to truth.
•The Catholic Church has made the Sacred Scriptures into an idol and banished God from the Temple.
•The Catholic Church has lost its authority to teach in the name of Christ.
•Evil is mere ignorance.
•Good and evil are mere mental evaluations imposed on reality.
Consequently, the congregation stated that his writings are “incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.” 
 Randy England, The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church (Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books, 1992), 78-95, 101-104.
 “Notification Concerning the Writings of Anthony de Mello, S.J.,” L’Osservatore Romano, n. 34 (August 26, 1998), 5-6.
Last Call for the Society of Jesus – To Obedience
The Jesuits elect their new superior general and discuss the reasons for their decline. But the Vatican authorities have already said what they expect from the order: more obedience to the pope, and more fidelity to doctrine
by Sandro Magister, Rome, January 11, 2008
It is no mystery that of the last seven theologians scrutinized by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, four belong to the Society of Jesus: Jon Sobrino, Roger Haight, Jacques Dupuis, and
Anthony De Mello.
The Vatican Muzzles the Jesuit Roger Haight. And Jesus Is Why
He is charged with obscuring the divinity of Christ, in order to make him more presentable to the world. At the heart of the dispute is the Society of Jesus.
And also one of its highly influential members, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini
by Sandro Magister, Rome, January 22, 2009
Of the last seven theologians scrutinized by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, four are Jesuits.
In addition to Haight, the others are Anthony De Mello, Jacques Dupuis, and Jon Sobrino, the last of these a leading exponent of liberation theology.
MY RESPONSE TO UCAN [Union of Catholic Asian News] QUESTIONNAIRE ON THE NCB
September 28, 2008
10. Any other comment or thoughts you would want to add.
a. The St Pauls New Community Bible [NCB] is a vehicle and tool of the Catholic Ashrams movement that I have shown in my separate reports is inimical to the true Church. Four of the thirty NCB commentators are contributors to the eight hundred page occult work of the ashram leaders, Shabda Shakti Sangam!
Rui de Menezes, SJ
condemned the Vatican Document Dominus Iesus
and these two priests are NCB commentators!
T.K. John SJ
criticized Rome and defended the writings of censured
Jesuits Jacques Dupuis
and Anthony de Mello. He, too, is a commentator of the NCB as well as a contributor to Shabda Shakti Sangam.
The NCB is a giant leap forward for those theologians who are demanding an autonomous Indian Church.
The New Age Mystic: Different path, same God?
By Randy England
Chapter 5 of The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church published by Tan Books and Publishers, P. O. Box 424, Rockford, IL 61105, 1-800-437-5876.
Jesus offered no guaranteed techniques for those seeking experiences of God. The pattern Jesus gave stands out in sharp contrast to Eastern methods:
When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites who love to pray standing in the synagogues and at the street corners in order that they be seen by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But when thou prayest, go to thy room, and closing thy door, pray to thy Father in secret; and thy Father, who sees in secret, will reward thee.
But in praying, do not multiply words as the gentiles do; for they think that by saying a great deal, they will be heard. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. In this manner therefore shall you pray: “Our Father…”(Matthew 6: 5-9)
To be a Catholic means, among other things, to have a hunger for God. The yearning for His presence is so strong, that Christians, even though aware of their complete unworthiness, can have no greater pleasure than to have fellowship with Him; to enjoy Him. It is this desire that makes many people receptive to teachers who promise to “teach us to pray.”
Let’s explore the writings of one of these teachers to illustrate what has been passing for “spirituality” in the Church in recent years. I have not singled out this author/lecturer because he is alone in what he teaches or because he is the most “Eastern.” He is merely representative.
Father Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit from India. An internationally noted speaker until his sudden death in 1987, he led workshops on the subject of Eastern and Western prayer experiences and wrote the “How to do it” book: Sadhana: a Way to God. Subtitled “Christian Exercises in Eastern Form,” Sadhana is published in the U.S. by The Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis, Missouri. The cover of the book shows Jesus upon the cross. At his feet sits a meditating figure, legs crossed in the traditional lotus position.
Sadhana’s Foreword to the North American Edition suggests to the reader that trendy Catholics ought to jump onto the meditation bandwagon or risk being left behind. After all, it must be good, considering how many important people are helping to drag this pagan idol into the church.
The 700,000 American practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM) are cited approvingly as one indication of the growing interest in Oriental religions and techniques for achieving the contemplative (read “altered”) state of mind. It says that
TM can be either Christian or Zen Buddhist prayer. Continuing, the foreword cites Father William Johnston from his book, The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism:
[N]ot only Zen but all forms of Buddhism are going to make an enormous impact on the Christianity of the coming century…. [T]here is every likelihood that the future will see the rise of an Oriental Christianity in which the role of Buddhism will be incalculably profound. Indeed this process has already begun. 
Before giving instructions de Mello gives two caveats. First, he explains that the reader will not master the material by reading it. It is necessary to “experience” the things taught. Secondly, he gives the first of several veiled warnings about possible dangers that could arise from the practice of his exercises.
The author takes the seeker through a number of exercises beginning simply enough with the preparatory stage of stillness:
Close your eyes once again. Get in touch with sensations…of your body… You will gradually feel a certain stillness in your body. Do not explicitly rest in the stillness.
I repeat, do not explicitly rest in the stillness…. If you do so, you run the danger of inducing a mild trance… 
Soon though, de Mello allows that if the stillness overpowers you, let go and surrender to it. Enjoy! Soon the novice learns that only through achieving altered states of consciousness is he able to understand reality. By the time the seeker reaches exercise number three, he has already learned reluctance to answer foolish questions about his experience. De Mello writes:
What is the benefit of all this…? The only reply I shall give you for now is: Don’t ask questions.
You will also experience a disinclination to answer the questions, even seemingly practical questions, of others on these matters… [T]he only worthy answer to them is, “Open your eyes and see for yourself.”
Before the novice can progress very far into the depths of the mind he must become the mind’s master. A key to mind control is correct body posture. As in the traditional Hindu meditation the most effective position is with the back and head erect. Fr. de Mello writes:
The ideal posture for this is the lotus posture that students of yoga are taught: legs intertwined with feet resting upon opposite thighs and spine erect. I am told that people who manage to attain this posture have such little difficulty with distractions that they actually have trouble thinking and getting their thinking mind to function at all. 
Once the mind and the posture are right it is time for breathing exercises. The novice is to concentrate on the air flowing through the nostrils; its temperature, its volume. He is to keep his awareness on the breath for only ten to fifteen minutes. De Mello cautions against using this exercise for extended periods, at least not without a competent “guide.” He mentions possible hallucinations from the practice, and warns that it may dredge up unspecified “material” from the meditator’s unconscious which he may find uncontrollable. The dangers are real, not only spiritually but mentally as well. For a more forthright explanation of the “Perils of the Path” here are a few excerpts from the (non-Christian) book by Eknath Easwaran, Meditation: Commonsense Directions for an Uncommon Life:
Please do not, in a burst of enthusiasm, increase your meditation to an hour or longer, because such a practice exposes you to dangers.
What dangers? … A few [people] have an inborn capacity to plunge deeply inward. And once you break through the surface level, you are in an uncharted world. It is like a desert, but instead of sand there are latent psychological tendencies, terribly powerful forces. There you stand in that vast desert without a compass. You have tapped forces before you are prepared to handle them, and your daily life can be adversely affected by them.
You may see lights, perhaps brilliant ones, or hear sounds.
Entering deeper consciousness is like descending into a cave. There are bewitching experiences, and there can also be awesome, even disorienting ones.
One last warning: please do not try to connect the passage to a physiological function, such as heartbeat or breathing rhythm. Such a connection may seem helpful initially, but it can cause serious problems later. Trying to synchronize your mantram with physiological processes, such as heartbeat or breathing, also divides your attention. No harm will result if this happens by itself, but do not try to make the connection. Actually, it can be quite hazardous to interfere with vital functions that are already operating smoothly without our conscious intervention. 
What is being implied here? That one can kill himself doing Yoga? Understandably, modern writers hoping to promote the practice are loathe to dwell on the subject, but ancient Yoga texts are more forthright. The writer of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika warns “the breath is controlled by slow degrees, otherwise [by being hasty or using too much force] it kills the practicer himself.”
It is impossible to read very much about meditation without receiving such warnings. Even openly Luciferic publications contain dark admonishments against “opening doors on to the astral plane which the student may have difficulty in closing.”
Hopefully, these red flags may tend to warn off some potential seekers. The authors of meditation guides advise exercising extreme caution unless accompanied by a “competent guide.” Such books would perform a more valuable service if they plainly warned against monkeying around with these practices at all.
In Sadhana we are told that, “Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: One thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts… The mind must have something to occupy it… an ejaculation that you keep repeating ceaselessly to prevent the mind from wandering… [O]ne thorn is just as good as another.” Later though, de Mello adds that when engaged in group chanting the Sanskrit word OM is a great help. Also helpful is the regular striking of “a pleasant sounding gong. 
Another aid to successful meditation that Fr. de Mello suggests is to have the correct location for meditation. It is a common occult/eastern belief that places have their own vibrations. Good “vibes” enhance meditations and bad “vibes” inhibit. He recommends:
[Y]ou make your contemplation each time in the same place, the same corner, a corner or a room that is reserved for this purpose only…. [I]t helps to pray in ‘sacred’ places that have been sanctified by the frequent practice of contemplation. 
Father Basil Pennington, the father of modern “centering prayer” and admirer of Anthony de Mello adds to the “vibes” discussion:
We in the West are not so sensitively aware of vibrations. Yet they inevitably take their toll on us. A room that has been very full of busy activity or loud, hard music carries its charge long after. It is well to be aware of this when we have a choice of places to meditate. 
This concept of vibrations is purely an eastern/occult idea; it is not of Christian origin. In comparing the way of Sadhana to the techniques of occultist meditation one must look very hard to find any differences. Most methods will advise reserving a room (or at least a corner) for meditation. It is to be used for no other purpose. Gradually the room or corner becomes “sacred.” Some say it helps to have a picture of your favorite mystic hanging on the wall somewhere.  […]
Without any doubt visualization is the foundation and basis for witchcraft, so-called “mind powers” and pagan shamanism. It is found in African and Native American religion in the practice of the witch doctor or medicine man.
Visualization is the attempt to manipulate the physical world or contact the spirit world by use of the imagination. Tony de Mello, in Sadhana, teaches visualization as a technique for contacting Jesus:
Imagine you see Jesus sitting close to you…. Now speak to Jesus… If no one is around, speak out in a soft voice. Listen to what Jesus says to you in reply… or what you imagine him to say. People sometimes ask me how they can meet the Risen Lord in their lives. I know of no better way to suggest to them than this one. 
In another exercise, he asks the meditator to pick a symbol for God. It may be anything, a flower or a star (since the symbol doesn’t matter, presumably even a golden calf or a Swastika would do):
Having chosen your symbol, stand reverently in front of it…. Say something to it… Now imagine that it speaks back to you…. What does it say? 
Getting the chance to personally meet Jesus (short of heaven) would seem to be appealing but such efforts are not in accord with Scripture. Regarding this issue of seeing Jesus, compare the above exercises with an epistle penned by St. Peter:
Him, though you have not seen, you love. In him, though you do not see him, yet believing, you exult with a joy unspeakable and triumphant; receiving, as the final issue of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8, 9).
What is going on when the Christian goes into the reaches of the mind to get in touch with God? What harm can come from it and besides, if the vision helps then doesn’t that prove the validity of the experience? It should be plain that the fact of the experience is no indicator of its source. Just because the image speaks is no evidence that God has been contacted.
Anyone who finds themselves able to “call up” God is either being fooled by his own imagination or worse, is in touch with a deceiving spirit.
At other points Fr. de Mello directs the reader to visualize a meeting with an old hermit, or conversing with statues and even one sick exercise where you see your own cold corpse turning blue and rotting as the decomposed flesh falls away.  Contrast these techniques with the sort of meditation defined in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius (from which de Mello claims to draw much inspiration):
Meditation consists in calling to mind some dogmatic or moral truth and reflecting on or discussing this truth according to each one’s capacity, so as to move the will and produce in us amendment. 
Similarities between the Ignatian exercises and Sadhana are few. While St. Ignatius’ exercises do sometimes require the picturing of biblical scenes upon which the student meditates, these are exercises of the thinking mind. There is no altered state of consciousness by which the meditator empties himself and invites the “spirit” to speak to him.
Sadhana is clearly a different beast; one that correlates well with eastern/occult sources and hardly at all with the Christian tradition. Some of these exercises are merely strange, others are probably harmless, but many (such as recorded here) move into realms through which no human can safely travel.
3. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana: a Way to God, Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (The Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis, 1978) pg. x
4. Ibid. at 14, 15.
5. Ibid. at 16.
6. Ibid. at 20.
7. Eknath Easwaran, Meditation: Commonsense Directions for an Uncommon Life (Nilgiri Press, Petaluma, CA, 1978) pg. 43, 53, 54, 71.
8. Hatha Yoga Pradipika, at 15 (emphasis added).
9. Alice A. Bailey, Externalization of the Hierarchy (Lucis Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1982) pg. 18.
10. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana, at 28-29.
11. <Ibid. at 45.
14. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana at 55.
15. M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O., Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form (Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1980,) pg. 4.
16. Eknath Easwaran, Meditation at 45.
17. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana, at 72-73.
18. Ibid. at 80.
19. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana, at 81, 92.
20. Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (Frederick Pustet & Co., New York, 1914) pg. 54.
We have noted [pages 16, 25] that Tony
was influenced by a variety of figures in the field of psycho-therapy, particularly
As a result of his studies in the U.S. during the 1970s, de Mello was influenced by a variety of figures in the field of psycho-therapy, particularly the Rogerian school. Among these were Carl Rogers himself and Eric Berne1: YOGA – A PATH TO GOD? By Louis Hughes, OP, Mercier Press, 1997 http://www.bodymindmeditation.ie/yoga.htm
1As pointers to how de Mello was influenced by the Rogerian school see for example Carlos Valles, Mastering Sadhana [London, 1988] 123, 125
Carl Rogers (whose humanistic psychology also finally catapulted him into spiritism) 2:
http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/new-age/NA1000W1.htm by Dr John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon
2Carl Rogers, A Way of Being, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1980, pp. 88-92.
The Asian Church in Dialogue with Dominus Iesus
By Edmund Chia, FSC
It seems rather clear, therefore, that in the eyes of the Vatican, Asia is the “problem”, and hence the need for a document such as Dominus Iesus.
However, if Dominus Iesus was directed at Asian theologians, it is but merely a single event in an overall scheme of many phases aimed at arresting the development of theologies of religious pluralism in Asia. We are probably aware of the various cases in which Asian theologians have been investigated in the past years since Ratzinger’s 1996 address. Three cases stand out as most significant for the Church in Asia. The first is the case of the Sri Lankan O.M.I. priest, Tissa Balasuriya, who, after several years of investigation, was excommunicated in January 1997, only to be reinstated a year later after intense protests from all quarters both of peoples inside as well as outside of the Church.
The second case was that of the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello, who died in 1987. Nevertheless, this did not prevent his works from being condemned posthumously more than ten years later. Because a dead man cannot defend himself, he remained castigated, when the CDF issued a “Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr Anthony de Mello” in June 1998. The third case is that of Jacques Dupuis, a Belgian Jesuit, who had served more than three decades in India…
Pruning pride and prejudice: Dialogue in India
Francis Gonsalves, S.J.*
National Catholic Reporter Online (USA), Global Perspective
1/16, July 16, 2003 *a liberal theologian
The Church in Asia has been a trailblazer in interreligious dialogue. However, Indian religious, laity and clergy whose work involves interreligious dialogue say stagnancy has swamped Church efforts to effectively encounter other religions.
In India, some say we have not progressed beyond the “institutional model” or “ashram/dialogue center model” of dialogue. The people of India expect more. And they want more.
The period after Vatican II, roughly 1967 to 1987, was a golden era of
dialogue with a proliferation of kaleidoscopic forms of worship, ashrams and dialogue centers, and saffron swamis chanting naamjaps laced with Om incantations. Raimundo Panikkar and Jesuit Tony de Mello were revered gurus of the time. […]
“Faith meets faith”. Living with cross-cultural experiences
Interview with Michael Amaladoss* SJ, Delhi (India) *a liberal theologian
GE: Turning to a different stage in your life, how was your experience of having been Assistant to the General of the Society of Jesus?
Amal: A job like this certainly opens your horizons wide and at the same time reaffirms your identity. In my case, a strange thing happened: almost by accident, that is, without myself wanting it, I became a missiologist. I had no particular formation for this special field of theology. Before I arrived in Rome, about six months earlier, in May 1983, there was a congress of the US Catholic Mission Association in Baltimore. They asked me to talk on interreligious dialogue, with the title “Faith meets faith”. When I became General Assistant in Rome, some of the conservative elements in the US picked up this article in order to criticise me. I tried to answer these objections indirectly by writing on the different issues which were raised. That resulted in my writing a number of articles on topics like interreligious dialogue, on a new way of looking at evangelisation and on Christology. Before I was aware of it, I had written many articles on missiology. Another thing which contributed to this development was that when I was elected as one of the General’s assistants, I was also chosen to be on the Executive board of the Documentation and Research Centre (SEDOS) in Rome, which is a service agency for religious congregations interested in mission. This new task again forced me to reflect on questions related to mission, to the encounter of the Gospel with other cultures, especially Indian culture. You see, when I was elected, one of the persons who advised me to accept this position, rather than to choose to remain in India though there was much work to do there, was Tony de Mello. His reasoning was that, if we do have an Indian General Assistant in Rome, we don’t want simply an administrator, but someone who represents India, its culture, its philosophy, someone who can speak for India. I think I did attempt to represent the Indian-Asian approach to theology, to mission, to dialogue when I was in Rome. And my work allowed me enough time to reflect, to talk to various groups and to write.
Jesuits urged to take up new challenges in India
28-05-2008, PANAJI, Goa (SAR NEWS) –Five centuries after the birth of St. Francis Xavier, a prominent Jesuit co-founder and missionary to India, one of the Catholic Church’s most influential religious orders is being reminded of its past role, and told to take up new challenges.
Lay scholars and others have put together a book, just published, that looks at the ‘Jesuits in India: History and Culture’. The book aims to reflect “on the legacy and contemporary circumstances of the Society of Jesus” in India. It praises Xavier for having “served as a catalyst for bringing minds and hearts together”.
From evaluating the ‘socio-political context’ of the life of the Basque missionary, Francis Xavier, to studying the Jesuit’s potential in education in Goa, the book evaluates diverse aspects of the Society of Jesus.
Put out by the Anand-based Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, the 237-page book priced at Rs. 120 has papers from Portugal and the U.S., and looks at the role of women in the history of Christianity in Japan.
Contributions relate to Jesuit history, culture and identity. Five pieces are on Xavier himself and his times — including the ‘Jesuit Legacy’, ‘Current State of the Society of Jesus’ and ‘Future Possibilities’. […]
Editor Dr. Brian Mendonca looks at the “language and freedom” in the work of Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello […]
Konkani Catholics yahoo group digest no. 1488, June 1, 2008:
JMJ Dear Rupert and all, I haven’t read this book and so will not comment on it.
But it is critically important that Indian Catholics know that the Church put out a warning to all the faithful concerning certain positions in Fr. Anthony De Mello‘s writings which it said are “incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.” It is very lamentable that his works continue to enjoy publicity and favour in many circles despite the Church’s strong warning against them. Those who are ignorant about the warning need to be told of it. Austine, moderator
Austine Crasta, the moderator of Konkani Catholics informed his group members about the Vatican warning on de Mello‘s writings, above. But a year later he allows a pro-de Mello post:
Konkani Catholics yahoo group digest no. 1942, July 7, 2009:
BASIC COURSE IN PERSONAL COUNSELLING
FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre, Goregaon announces its Basic Course in Personal Counselling for the fourth year running. Conducted by the Anthony de Mello Institute, Goa, the Course will run in its tried and tested format consisting of five full weekends spread out from the first weekend of August 2009 to the first weekend in October 2009, along with Internship.
The Course will be held at the Centre’s premises in Goregaon and is open to anyone who has a graduate degree in any discipline, and has a genuine interest in becoming a personal counsellor. It is especially recommended for school and college teachers, social workers, health workers, working youth and others in the helping professions.
Details may be had from FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre, Goregaon. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 2874 7310 Cell: 98203 32965
Clifford deSilva*, Owner,
The Anthony de Mello Institute
Psychotherapist at Turning Point
Co-Founder at Awareness Arc
Co-Founder at Chetana – de Mello Awareness Institute
Director at Sadhana Institute
Psychology Intern at Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex
Wright State University
Jnanadeepa Vidyapeeth, Pune
Research Officer at Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Imperial College London
Chevening Technology Fellow (CTES) at Imperial College London
Research Scientist at Technical University of Munich
Research Associate at IPN, Orsay
Imperial College London
London Business School
HR Business Partner at PMI Service Center Europe
IS Manager at PMI Service Center Europe
Corporate Coach at Philip Morris Polska S.A.
IS Systems Manager ERP at Philip Morris Polska S.A.
Papieska Akademia Teologiczna w Krakowie
Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza im. Stanislawa Staszica w Krakowie
*Clifford deSilva is a Jesuit priest who left the priesthood; not edifying for a leading de Mello fan.
THE SANGAM INTEGRAL FORMATION AND SPIRITUALITY CENTRE, GOA
AN ORGANIZATION PROMOTED BY LEADERS OF THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
SANGAM PROMOTES NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY
[AN ARTICLE IN THE COUNSELING/PSYCHOLOGY SERIES]
I. CERTIFICATE COURSE IN PERSONAL COUNSELLING
This was conducted at Sangam over a period of five weekends from October 18, 2008 to December 14, 2008.
The course was conducted by Mr. Clifford DeSilva
THE ANTHONY DE MELLO INSTITUTE, GOA [MR. CLIFFORD W. DeSILVA]
The Examiner [the Bombay archdiocesan weekly], July 22, 2006:
Basic Course in Personal Counselling
Under ‘Local News’ in The Examiner, the F.I.A.M.C. Bio-Medical Ethics Centre at St. Pius X Seminary in Goregaon, Mumbai, announced the above course, to be conducted by Mr. Clifford DeSilva, August 5-12, 2006, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The Examiner, November 18, 2006. Letter to the editor:
Personal Counselling Course at FIAMC
The letter was written by the Director of The Anthony deMello Institute himself, Clifford DeSilva about the Valedictory Function on November 5, 2006 at which Dr. N.A. Antao, Managing Trustee, FIAMC, gave away the certificates to 31 participants. “Dr. Antao commented that FIAMC had perceived the crying need for people to have someone to whom they could turn which is why, after consulting the various parishes, they decided to have a course of this kind.”
Rev. Dr. [Fr.?] Stephen is named as the Program Coordinator, FIAMC.
This is the same course that was organized under the auspices of SANGAM.
is a psychotherapist and a psychologist, and the secular Institute that he founded and heads is named by him after Tony de Mello, the Jesuit whose books were posthumously banned by Rome for “positions… incompatible with the Catholic Faith”.
The Examiner, July 30, 2011, New Frontiers in Jesuit Ministry – Interview by Joaquim Mascarenhas
Joaquim Mascarenhas is a Human Resources Consultant.
Apparently, Interplay – which is a New Age activity – is considered by the Jesuits as a “Ministry”. The interview, which covers one and a half pages of precious print space, is not worth reproducing.
In it, Fr. Prashant Olalekar SJ cites Jesuit Tony de Mello whose books are banned by Rome. Not surprising!
FR PRASHANT OLALEKAR-INTERPLAY AND LIFE POSITIVE
Suma Varughese, Editor in Chief, Life Positive
takes an inordinate interest in the inculturation programme of the Catholic Church in India. Here is an extract from her very lengthy article:
Indian Christianity: In Search of the Christ Within
By Suma Varughese, December 1999
Christianity in India is progressively partaking of
Indian beliefs and customs, even meditation systems.
The trend has been given a name:
Fr Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest, was among the front-runners of inculturation. Through one of his first published works Sadhana (Contemplation), he helped several Christians realize that Indian forms of contemplation were not only compatible with Christianity, but also complementary. Integration is clearly one of the key benefits of inculturation, for it gives Christians a sanction to discover their Indian roots.
Mangalorean Catholics [MC] is another liberal “Catholic” yahoo group that promotes New Age and dissent. One of the regular posters of anti-Catholic material is Dominican Fr Claude Saldanha:
MC digest no.
1737 dated November 3, 2009. Posted by Fr Claude Saldanha
SEEK GOD EVERYWHERE: ANTHONY DE MELLO‘S JESUIT SPIRITUALITY By John Dear SJ […]
The Enneagram Theory of Personality: Why it’s use is incompatible with Christianity
Michael S. Rose, St. Catherine Review, January/February 1999 issue
Last summer, for instance, in the June, July and August issues of Guardian Angels Press (GAP), parish newsletter for Guardian Angels Church in Cincinnati, parishioner Jerry Miller penned a three-part article on the popular practice of the enneagram, entitled “Reflections on the Spiritual Way… Miller explains in his GAP article that the purpose of the enneagram is “to discover one’s own type of driving force for one’s actions or energy directions which one pursues.” According to various practitioners of the enneagram, he writes, this “theory of personality” is to be understood as “the mirror of the soul” and “a map to the psyche.” Quoting Jesuit Father Anthony de Mello, whose writings were recently censured by the Vatican, Miller explains: “For some, the enneagram wakes us up to our blind side. If you use the enneagram as a technique to better understand yourself, it can help you on your pilgrimage.”
The Unicorn in the Sanctuary – The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church
By Randy England, Tan Books, 1990 EXTRACTS [page nos. in brackets]
“It is the conventional wisdom of the mission field that the missionary must learn of the ways, language and culture of the people he would convert. The situation in the East has gone a step further, and we find that that it is the pagan that has instead converted the missionary. Jesuit priests have started imitating the Hindu holy men, taking the title “swami” and wearing saffron robes and sporting begging bowls. The so-called “Indian rite” uses the mantra “OM’, the name of the Hindu god Krishna. Fr. Bede Griffiths is one of these Christian gurus.” 
The above excerpt is taken from the chapter “Priest or Guru?”
In the chapter “The New Age Mystic: Different Path, Same God?” England discusses, among others, the Jesuit Fr. Anthony de Mello, and he analyses the errors in de Mello’s Sadhana: A Way to God.
“In Sadhana, we are told, “Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: One thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts… The mind must have something to occupy it… an ejaculation that you keep repeating ceaselessly to prevent the mind from wandering… One thorn is just as good as another.” Later, though, Fr. De Mello adds that, when engaged in group chanting, the Sanskrit word OM is a great help…”
“Another aid to successful meditation that Fr. De Mello suggests is to have the correct location for meditation. It is a common occult/Eastern belief that places have their own vibrations. Good “vibes” enhance meditation, bad “vibes” inhibit them.”
Citing de Mello and also “Fr. Basil Pennington, the father of modern ‘centering prayer’ and an admirer of Anthony de Mello“, Randy England says, “This concept of vibrations is purely an Eastern/occult idea; it is not of Christian origin. In comparing the way of Sadhana to the techniques of occultist meditation one must look very hard to find any difference.” [110, 111]
New Age Catholicism
Mary Ann Collins, “A Former Catholic Nun”, email@example.com, March 2002 Revised June 2004
…Matthew Fox is not the only Catholic priest who teaches New Age spirituality. There are others. […]
Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello gives workshops introducing Catholics to Eastern prayer and meditation techniques, including visualization and Transcendental Meditation. He wrote a book entitled, “Sadhana: A Way to God”. The cover shows Jesus on the cross, and a person seated in the lotus position, meditating at the foot of the cross. (“Unicorn”, pages 100-114)
Anthony de Mello
April 29, 2009
My next question is about some spiritual direction I received from a priest. He told me to get the book ‘Sadhana: A way to God’ by Anthony De Mello. I’m wondering if you’ve heard of it. This book deals with “awareness” and contemplation. And uses ‘body awareness’ as a means of prayer or to prepare yourself for prayer. Im not sure if this is considered “centering prayer”. I just read some of your article about the dangers of centering prayer and am unsure if that’s what this book is. –Melissa
As for Anthony De Mello, the Vatican has issued a formal warning against his writing. The priest who referred you to his writings should know better. If you have any of his books, throw them away. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM