The End of Analysis

by markhofreiter

The following is the 54th chapter in, “AWARENESS: A de Mellow Spirituality Conference in His Own Words” by Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J. edited by J. Francis Stroud, S.J., Copyright © 1990 by the DeMello Stroud Spirituality Center.

“I want to give you a taste of the difference between analysis and awareness, or information on the one hand and insight on the other. Information is not insight, analysis is not awareness, knowledge is not awareness. Suppose I walked in here with a snake crawling up my arm, and I said to you, ‘Do you see the snake crawling up my arm? I’ve just checked in an encyclopedia before coming to this session and I found out that this snake is known as a Russell’s viper. If it bit me, I would die inside half a minute. Would you kindly suggest ways and means by which I could get rid of this creature that is crawling up my arm?’ Who talks like this? I have information, but I’ve got no awareness.

“Or say I’m destroying myself with alcohol. ‘Kindly describe ways and means by which I could get rid of this addiction.’ A person who would say that has no awareness. He knows he’s destroying himself, but he is not aware of it. If he were aware of it, the addiction would drop that minute. If I were aware of what the snake was, I wouldn’t brush it off my arm; it would get brushed off through me. That’s what I’m talking about, that’s the change I’m talking about. You don’t change yourself; it’s not me changing me. Change takes place through you, in you. That’s about the most adequate way I can express it. You see change take place in you, through you; in your awareness, it happens. You don’t do it. When you’re doing it, it’s a bad sign; it won’t last. And if it does last, God have mercy on the people you’re living with, because you’re going to be very rigid. People who are converted on the basis of self-hatred and self-dissatisfaction are impossible to live with. Somebody said, ‘If you want to be a martyr, marry a saint.’ But in awareness, you keep your softness, your subtleness, your gentleness, your openness, your flexibility, and you don’t push, change occurs.

“I remember a priest in Chicago when I was studying psychology there telling us, ‘You know, I had all the information I needed; I knew that alcohol was killing me, and, believe me, nothing changes an alcoholic—not even the love of his wife or his kids. He does love them but it doesn’t change him. I discovered one thing that changed me. I was lying in a gutter one day under a slight drizzle. I opened my eyes and I saw that this was killing me. I saw it and I never had the desire to touch a drop after that. As a matter of fact, I’ve even drunk a bit since then, but never enough to damage me. I couldn’t do it and still cannot do it.’ That’s what I’m talking about: awareness. Not information, but awareness.

“A friend of mine who was given to excessive smoking said, ‘You know, there are all kinds of jokes about smoking. They tell us that tobacco kills people, but look at the ancient Egyptians; they’re all dead and none of them smoked.’ Well, one day he was having trouble with his lungs, so he went to our cancer research institute in Bombay. The doctor said ‘Father, you’ve got two patches on your lungs. It could be cancer, so you’ll have to come back next month.’ He never touched another cigarette after that. Before, he knew it would kill him; now, he was aware it could kill him. That’s the difference.

“The founder of my religious order, St. Ignatius, has a nice expression for that. He calls it tasting and feeling the truth—not knowing it, but tasting and feeling it, getting a feel for it. When you get a feel for it you change. When you know it in your head, you don’t.”