Awareness

A de Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words

Category: addiction

Addictive Love

The following is the 41st 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.

“The heart in love remains soft and sensitive. But when you’re hell-bent on getting this or the other thing, you become ruthless, hard, and insensitive. How can you love people when you need people? You can only use them. If I need you to make me happy, I’ve got to use you, I’ve got to manipulate you, I’ve got to find ways and means of winning you. I cannot let you be free. I can only love people when I have emptied my life of people. When I die to the need for people, then I’m right in the desert. In the beginning it feels awful, it feels lonely, but if you can take it for a while, you’ll suddenly discover that it isn’t lonely at all. It is solitude, it is aloneness, and the desert begins to flower. Then at last you’ll know what love is, what God is, what reality is. But in the beginning giving up the drug can be tough, unless you have a very keen understanding or unless you have suffered enough. It’s a great thing to have suffered. Only then can you get sick of it. You can make use of suffering to end suffering. Most people simply go on suffering. That explains the conflict I sometimes have between the role of spiritual director and that of therapist. A therapist says, ‘Let’s ease the suffering.’ The spiritual director says, ‘Let her suffer, she’ll get sick of this way of relating to people and she’ll finally decide to break out of this prison of emotional dependence on others.’ Shall I offer a palliative or remove a cancer? It’s not easy to decide.

“A person slams a book on the table in disgust. Let him keep slamming it on the table. Don’t pick up the book for him and tell him it’s all right. Spirituality is awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness. When your mother got angry with you, she didn’t say there was something wrong with her, she said there was something wrong with you; otherwise she wouldn’t have been angry. Well, I made the great discovery that if you are angry, Mother, there’s something wrong with you. So you’d better cope with your anger. Stay with it and cope with it. It’s not mine. Whether there’s something wrong with me or not, I’ll examine that independently of your anger. I’m not going to be influenced by your anger.

“The funny thing is that when I can do this without feeling any negativity toward another, I can be quite objective about myself, too. Only a very aware person can refuse to pick up the guilt and anger, can say, ‘You’re having a tantrum. Too bad. I don’t feel the slightest desire to rescue you anymore, and I refuse to feel guilty.’ I’m not going to hate myself for anything I’ve done. That’s what guilt is. I’m not going to give myself a bad feeling and whip myself for anything I have done, either right or wrong. I’m ready to analyze it, to watch it, and say, ‘Well, if I did wrong, it was in unawareness.’ Nobody does wrong in awareness. That’s why theologians tell us very beautifully that Jesus could do no wrong. That makes very good sense to me, because the enlightened person can do no wrong. The enlightened person is free. Jesus was free and because he was free, he couldn’t do any wrong. But since you can do wrong, you’re not free.”

Getting Concrete

The following is the 36th 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.

“Every time I have a concept, it is something that I could apply to a number of individuals. We’re not talking about a concrete, particular name like Mary or John, which doesn’t have a conceptual meaning. A concept applies to any number of individuals, countless individuals. Concepts are universal. For instance, the word ‘leaf’ could be applied to every single leaf on a tree; the same word applies to all those individual leaves. Moreover, the same word applies to all the leaves on all trees, big ones, small ones, tender ones, dried ones, yellow ones, green ones, banana leaves. So if I say to you that I saw a leaf this morning, you really don’t have an idea of what I saw.

“Let’s see if you can understand that. You do have an idea of what I did not see. I did not see an animal. I did not see a dog. I did not see a human being. I did not see a shoe. So you have some kind of a vague idea of what I saw, but it isn’t particularized, it isn’t concrete. ‘Human being’ refers not to primitive man, not to civilized man, not to grownup man, not to a child, not to a male or a female, not to this particular age or another, not to this culture or the other, but to the concept. The human being is found concrete; you never find a universal human being like your concept. So your concept points, but it is never entirely accurate; it misses uniqueness, concreteness. The concept is universal.

“When I give you a concept, I give you something, and yet how little I have given you. The concept is so valuable, so useful for science. For instance, if I say that everyone here is an animal, that would be perfectly accurate from a scientific viewpoint. But we’re something more than animals. If I say that Mary Jane is an animal, that’s true; but because I’ve omitted something essential about her, it’s false; it does her an injustice. When I call a person a woman, that’s true; but there are lots of things in that person that don’t fit into the concept ‘woman.’ She is always this particular, concrete, unique woman, who can only be experienced, not conceptualized. The concrete person I’ve got to see for myself, to experience for myself, to intuit for myself. The individual can be intuited but cannot be conceptualized.

“A person is beyond the thinking mind. Many of you would probably be proud to be called Americans, as many Indians would probably be proud to be called Indians. But what is ‘American,’ what is ‘Indian’? It’s a convention; it’s not part of your nature. All you’ve got is a label. You really don’t know the person. The concept always misses or omits something extremely important, something precious that is only found in reality, which is concrete uniqueness. The great Krishnamurti put it so well when he said, ‘The day you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again.’ How true! The first time the child sees that fluffy, alive, moving object, and you say to him, Sparrow,’ then tomorrow when the child sees another fluffy, moving object similar to it he says, ‘Oh, sparrows. I’ve seen sparrows. I’m bored by sparrows.’

“If you don’t look at things through your concepts, you’ll never be bored. Every single thing is unique. Every sparrow is unlike every other sparrow despite the similarities. It’s a great help to have similarities, so we can abstract, so that we can have a concept. It’s a great help, from the point of view of communication, education, science. But it’s also very misleading and a great hindrance to seeing this concrete individual. If all you experience is your concept, you’re not experiencing reality, because reality is concrete. The concept is a help, to lead you to reality, but when you get there, you’ve got to intuit or experience it directly.

“A second quality of a concept is that it is static whereas reality is in flux. We use the same name for Niagara Falls, but that body of water is constantly changing. You’ve got the word ‘river,’ but the water there is constantly flowing. You’ve got one word for your ‘body,’ but the cells in your body are constantly being renewed. Let’s suppose, for example, there is an enormous wind outside and I want the people in my country to get an idea of what an American gale or hurricane is like. So I capture it in a cigar box and I go back home and say, ‘Look at this.’ Naturally, it isn’t a gale anymore, is it? Once it’s captured. Or if I want you to get the feel of what the flow of a river is like and I bring it to you in a bucket. The moment I put it into a bucket it has stopped flowing. The moment you put things into a concept, they stop flowing; they become static, dead. A frozen wave is not a wave. A wave is essentially movement, action; when you freeze it, it is not a wave. Concepts are always frozen. Reality flows. Finally, if we are to believe the mystics (and it doesn’t take too much of an effort to understand this, or even believe it, but no one can see it at once), reality is whole, but words and concepts fragment reality. That is why it is so difficult to translate from one language to another, because each language cuts reality up differently. The English word ‘home’ is impossible to translate into French or Spanish. ‘Casa’ is not quite ‘home’; ‘home’ has associations that are peculiar to the English language. Every language has untranslatable words and expressions, because we’re cutting reality up and adding something or subtracting something and usage keeps changing. Reality is a whole and we cut it up to make concepts and we use words to indicate different parts. If you had never seen an animal in your life, for example, and one day you found a tail—just a tail—and somebody told you, ‘That’s a tail,’ would you have any idea of what it was if you had no idea what an animal was?

“Ideas actually fragment the vision, intuition, or experience of reality as a whole. This is what the mystics are perpetually telling us. Words cannot give you reality. They only point, they only indicate. You use them as pointers to get to reality. But once you get there, your concepts are useless. A Hindu priest once had a dispute with a philosopher who claimed that the final barrier to God was the word ‘God,’ the concept of God. The priest was quite shocked by this, but the philosopher said, ‘The ass that you mount —and that you use to travel to a house is not the means by which you enter the house. You use the concept to get there; then you dismount, you go beyond it.’ You don’t need to be a mystic to understand that reality is something that cannot be captured by words or concepts. To know reality you have to know beyond knowing.

“Do those words ring a bell? Those of you who are familiar with The Cloud of Unknowing would recognize the expression. Poets, painters, mystics, and the great philosophers all have intimations of its truth. Let’s suppose that one day I’m watching a tree. Until now, every time I saw a tree, I said, ‘Well, it’s a tree,’ But today when I’m looking at the tree, I don’t see a tree. At least I don’t see what I’m accustomed to seeing. I see something with the freshness of a child’s vision. I have no word for it. I see something unique, whole, flowing, not fragmented. And I’m in awe. If you were to ask me, ‘What did you see?’ what do you think I’d answer? I have no word for it. There is no word for reality. Because as soon as I put a word to it, we’re back into concepts again.

“And if I cannot express this reality that is visible to my senses, how does one express what cannot be seen by the eye or heard by the ear? How does one find a word for the reality of God? Are you beginning to understand what Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and all the rest were saying and what the Church teaches constantly when she says that God is mystery, is unintelligible to the human mind?

“The great Karl Rahner, in one of his last letters, wrote to a young German drug addict who had asked him for help. The addict had said, ‘You theologians talk about God, but how could this God be relevant in my life? How could this God get me off drugs?’ Rahner said to him, ‘I must confess to you in all honesty that for me God is and has always been absolute mystery. I do not understand what God is; no one can. We have intimations, inklings; we make faltering, inadequate attempts to put mystery into words. But there is no word for it, no sentence for it.’ And talking to a group of theologians in London, Rahner said, ‘The task of the theologian is to explain everything through God, and to explain God as unexplainable.’ Unexplainable mystery. One does not know, one cannot say. One says, ‘Ah, ah…’

“Words are pointers, they’re not descriptions. Tragically, people fall into idolatry because they think that where God is concerned, the word is the thing. How could you get so crazy? Can you be crazier than that? Even where human beings are concerned, or trees and leaves and animals, the word is not the thing. And you would say that, where God is concerned, the word is one thing? What are you talking about? An internationally famous scripture scholar attended this course in San Francisco, and he said to me, ‘My God, after listening to you, I understand that I’ve been an idol worshipper all my life!’ He said this openly. ‘It never struck me that I had been an idol worshipper. My idol was not made of wood or metal; it was a mental idol.’ These are the more dangerous idol worshippers. They use a very subtle substance, the mind, to produce their God.

“What I’m leading you to is the following: awareness of reality, around you. Awareness means to watch, to observe what is going on within you and around you. ‘Going on’ is pretty accurate: Trees, grass, flowers, animals, rock, all of reality is moving. One observes it, one watches it. How essential it is for the human being not just to observe himself or herself, but to watch all of reality. Are you imprisoned by your concepts? Do you want to break out of your prison? Then look; observe; spend hours observing. Watching what? Anything. The faces of people, the shapes of trees, a bird in flight, a pile of stones, watch the grass grow. Get in touch with things, look at them. Hopefully you will then break out of these rigid patterns we have all developed, out of what our thoughts and our words have imposed on us. Hopefully we will see. What will we see? This thing that we choose to call reality, whatever is beyond words and concepts. This is a spiritual exercise—connected with spirituality—connected with breaking out of your cage, out of the imprisonment of the concepts and words.

“How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child. This doesn’t mean you should drop your concepts totally; they’re very precious. Though we begin without them, concepts have a very positive function. Thanks to them we develop our intelligence. We’re invited, not to become children, but to become like children. We do have to fall from a stage of innocence and be thrown out of paradise; we do have to develop an ‘I’ and a ‘me’ through these concepts. But then we need to return to paradise. We need to be redeemed again. We need to put off the old man, the old nature, the conditioned self, and return to the state of the child but without being a child. When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.”

The Land of Love

The following is the 56th 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.

“If we really dropped illusions for what they can give us or deprive us of, we would be alert. The consequence of not doing this is terrifying and inescapable. We lose our capacity to love. If you wish to love, you must learn to see again. And if you wish to see, you must learn to give up your drug. It’s as simple as that. Give up your dependency. Tear away the tentacles of society that have enveloped and suffocated your being. You must drop them. Externally, everything will go on as before, but though you will continue to be in the world, you will no longer be of it. In your heart, you will now be free at last, if utterly alone. Your dependence on your drug will die. You don’t have to go to the desert; you’re right in the middle of people; you’re enjoying them immensely. But they no longer have the power to make you happy or miserable. That’s what aloneness means. In this solitude your dependence dies. The capacity to love is born. One no longer sees others as means of satisfying one’s addiction. Only someone who has attempted this knows the terrors of the process. It’s like inviting yourself to die. It’s like asking the poor drug addict to give up the only happiness he has ever known. How to replace it with the taste of bread and fruit and the clean taste of the morning air, the sweetness of the water of the mountain stream? While he is struggling with his withdrawal symptoms and the emptiness he experiences within himself now that his drug is gone, nothing can fill the emptiness except his drug. Can you imagine a life in which you refuse to enjoy or take pleasure in a single word of appreciation or to rest your head on anyone’s shoulder for support? Think of a life in which you depend on no one emotionally, so that no one has the power to make you happy or miserable anymore. You refuse to need any particular person or to be special to anyone or to call anyone your own. The birds of the air have their nests and the foxes their holes, but you will have nowhere to rest your head in your journey through life. If you ever get to this state, you will at last know what it means to see with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. Every word there is measured. To see at last with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. You will know what it means to love. But to come to the land of love, you must pass through the pains of death, for to love persons means to die to the need for persons, and to be utterly alone.

“How would you ever get there? By a ceaseless awareness, by the infinite patience and compassion you would have for a drug addict; by developing a taste for the good things in life to counter the craving for your drug. What good things? The love of work which you enjoy doing for the love of itself; the love of laughter and intimacy with people to whom you do not cling and on whom you do not depend emotionally but whose company you enjoy. It will also help if you take on activities that you can do with your whole being, activities that you so love to do that while you’re engaged in them success, recognition, and approval simply do not mean a thing to you. It will help, too, if you return to nature. Send the crowds away, go up to the mountains, and silently commune with trees and flowers and animals and birds, with sea and clouds and sky and stars. I’ve told you what a spiritual exercise it is to gaze at things, to be aware of things around you. Hopefully, the words will drop, the concepts will drop, and you will see, you will make contact with reality. That is the cure for loneliness. Generally, we seek to cure our loneliness through emotional dependence on people, through gregariousness and noise. That is no cure. Get back to things, get back to nature, go up in the mountains. Then you will know that your heart has brought you to the vast desert of solitude, there is no one there at your side, absolutely no one.

“At first this will seem unbearable. But it is only because you are unaccustomed to aloneness. If you manage to stay there for a while, the desert will suddenly blossom into love. Your heart will burst into song. And it will be springtime forever; the drug will be out; you’re free. Then you will understand what freedom is, what love is, what happiness is, what reality is, what truth is, what God is. You will see, you will know beyond concepts and conditioning, addictions and attachments. Does that make sense?

“Let me end this with a lovely story. There was a man who invented the art of making fire. He took his tools and went to a tribe in the north, where it was very cold, bitterly cold. He taught the people there to make fire. The people were very interested. He showed them the uses to which they could put fire—they could cook, could keep themselves warm, etc. They were so grateful that they had learned the art of making fire. But before they could express their gratitude to the man, he disappeared. He wasn’t concerned with getting their recognition or gratitude; he was concerned about their well-being. He went to another tribe, where he again began to show them the value of his invention. People were interested there, too, a bit too interested for the peace of mind of their priests, who began to notice that this man was drawing crowds and they were losing their popularity. So they decided to do away with him. They poisoned him, crucified him, put it any way you like. But they were afraid now that the people might turn against them, so they were very wise, even wily. Do you know what they did? They had a portrait of the man made and mounted it on the main altar of the temple. The instruments for making fire were placed in front of the portrait, and the people were taught to revere the portrait and to pay reverence to the instruments of fire, which they dutifully did for centuries. The veneration and the worship went on, but there was no fire.

“Where’s the fire? Where’s the love? Where’s the drug uprooted from your system? Where’s the freedom? This is what spirituality is all about. Tragically, we tend to lose sight of this, don’t we? This is what Jesus Christ is all about. But we overemphasized the ‘Lord, Lord,’ didn’t we? Where’s the fire? And if worship isn’t leading to the fire, if adoration isn’t leading to love, if the liturgy isn’t leading to a clearer perception of reality, if God isn’t leading to life, of what use is religion except to create more division, more fanaticism, more antagonism? It is not from lack of religion in the ordinary sense of the word that the world is suffering, it is from lack of love, lack of awareness. And love is generated through awareness and through no other way, no other way. Understand the obstructions you are putting in the way of love, freedom, and happiness and they will drop. Turn on the light of awareness and the darkness will disappear. Happiness is not something you acquire; love is not something you produce; love is not something that you have; love is something that has you. You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears. As I told you earlier, first, psychological insight is a great help, not analysis, however; analysis is paralysis. Insight is not necessarily analysis. One of your great American therapists put it very well: ‘It’s the ‘Aha’ experience that counts.’ Merely analyzing gives no help; it just gives information. But if you could produce the ‘Aha’ experience, that’s insight. That is change. Second, the understanding of your addiction is important. You need time. Alas, so much time that is given to worship and singing praise and singing songs could so fruitfully be employed in self-understanding. Community is not produced by joint liturgical celebrations. You know deep down in your heart, and so do I, that such celebrations only serve to paper over differences. Community is created by understanding the blocks that we put in the way of community, by understanding the conflicts that arise from our fears and our desires. At that point community arises. We must always beware of making worship just another distraction from the important business of living. And living doesn’t mean working in government, or being a big businessman, or performing great acts of charity. That isn’t living. Living is to have dropped all the impediments and to live in the present moment with freshness. ‘The birds of the air . . . they neither toil nor spin’—that is living. I began by saying that people are asleep, dead. Dead people running governments, dead people running big business, dead people educating others; come alive! Worship must help this, or else it’s useless. And increasingly—you know this and so do I—we’re losing the youth everywhere. They hate us; they’re not interested in having more fears and more guilts laid on them. They’re not interested in more sermons and exhortations. But they are interested in learning about love. How can I be happy? How can I live? How can I taste these marvelous things that the mystics speak of? So that’s the second thing—understanding. Third, don’t identify. Somebody asked me as I was coming here today, ‘Do you ever feel low?’ Boy, do I feel low every now and then. I get my attacks. But they don’t last, they really don’t. What do I do? First step: I don’t identify. Here comes a low feeling. Instead of getting tense about it, instead of getting irritated with myself about it, I understand I’m feeling depressed, disappointed, or whatever. Second step: I admit the feeling is in me, not in the other person, e.g., in the person who didn’t write me a letter, not in the exterior world; it’s in me. Because as long as I think it’s outside me, I feel justified in holding on to my feelings. I can’t say everybody would feel this way; in fact, only idiotic people would feel this way, only sleeping people. Third step: I don’t identify with the feeling. ‘I’ is not that feeling. ‘I’ am not lonely, ‘I’ am not depressed, ‘I’ am not disappointed. Disappointment is there, one watches it. You’d be amazed how quickly it glides away. Anything you’re aware of keeps changing; clouds keep moving. As you do this, you also get all kinds of insights into why clouds were coming in the first place.

“I’ve got a lovely quote here, a few sentences that I would write in gold. I picked them up from A. S. Neill’s book Summerhill. I must give you the background. You probably know that Neill was in education for forty years. He developed a kind of maverick school. He took in boys and girls and just let them be free. You want to learn to read and write, fine; you don’t want to learn to read and write, fine. You can do anything you want with your life, provided you don’t interfere with the freedom of someone else. Don’t interfere with someone else’s freedom; otherwise you’re free. He says that the worst ones came to him from convent school. This was in the old days, of course. He said it took them about six months to get over all the anger and the resentment that they had repressed. They’d be rebelling for six months, fighting the system. The worst was a girl who would take a bicycle and ride into town, avoiding class, avoiding school, avoiding everything. But once they got over their rebellion, everybody wanted to learn; they even began protesting, ‘Why don’t we have class today?’ But they would only take what they were interested in. They’d be transformed. In the beginning parents were frightened to send their children to this school; they said, ‘How can you educate them if you don’t discipline them? You’ve got to each them, guide them.’ What was the secret of Neill’s success? He’d get the worst children, the ones everybody else had despaired of, and within six months they’d all be transformed. Listen to what he said—extraordinary words, holy words. ‘Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad-tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil.’ These are amazing words coming from a man whose school in Britain is regularly inspected by people from the Ministry of Education, by any headmaster or headmistress or anyone who would care to go there. Amazing. It was his charism. You don’t do this kind of thing from a blueprint; you’ve got to be a special kind of person. In some of his lectures to headmasters and headmistresses he says, ‘Come to Summerhill and you’ll find that all the fruit trees are laden with fruit; nobody’s taking the fruits off the trees; there’s no desire to attack authority; they’re well fed and there’s no resentment and anger. Come to Summerhill and you’ll never find a handicapped child with a nickname (you know how cruel kids can be when someone stammers). You’ll never find anyone needling a stammerer, never. There’s no violence in those children, because no one is practicing violence on them, that’s why.’ Listen to these words of revelation, sacred words. We have people in the world like this. No matter what scholars and priests and theologians tell you, there are and have been people who have no quarrels, no jealousies, no conflicts, no wars, no enmities, none! They exist in my country, or, sad to say, they existed until relatively recently. I’ve had Jesuit friends go out to live and work among people who, they assured me, were incapable of stealing or lying. One Sister said to me that when she went to the northeast of India to work among some tribes there, the people would lock up nothing. Nothing was ever stolen and they never told lies—until the Indian government and missionaries showed up. Every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil.

“There’s a lovely Italian film directed by Federico Fellini, 8 1/2. In one scene there’s a Christian Brother going out on a picnic or excursion with a group of eight- to ten-year-old boys. They’re on a beach, moving right on ahead while the Brother brings up the rear with three or four of them around him. They come across an older woman who’s a whore, and they say to her, ‘Hi,’ and she says, ‘Hi.’ And they say, ‘Who are you?’ And she says, ‘I’m a prostitute.’ They don’t know what that is but they pretend to. One of the boys, who seems a bit more knowing than the others, says, ‘A prostitute is a woman who does certain things if you pay her.’ They ask, ‘Would she do those things if we paid her?’ ‘Why not?’ the answer came. So they take up a collection and give her the money, saying, ‘Would you do certain things now that we’ve given you the money?’ She answers, ‘Sure, kids, what do you want me to do?’ The only thing that occurs to the kids is for her to take her clothes off. So she does. Well, they look at her; they’ve never seen a woman naked before. They don’t know what else to do, so they say, ‘Would you dance?’ She says, ‘Sure.’ So they all gather round singing and clapping; the whore is moving her behind and they’re enjoying themselves immensely. The Brother sees all this. He runs down the beach and yells at the woman. He gets her to put her clothes on, and the narrator says, ‘At that moment, the children were spoiled; until then they were innocent, beautiful.’

“This is not an unusual problem. I know a rather conservative missionary in India, a Jesuit. He came to a workshop of mine. As I developed this theme over two days, he suffered. He came to me the second night and said, ‘Tony, I can’t explain to you how much I’m suffering listening to you.’ I said, ‘Why, Stan?’ He said, ‘You’re reviving within me a question that I suppressed for twenty-five years, a horrible question. Again and again I asked myself: Have I not spoiled my people by making them Christian?’ This Jesuit was not one of your liberals; he was an orthodox, devout, pious, conservative man. But he felt he spoiled a happy, loving, simple, guileless people by making them Christian.

“American missionaries who went to the South Sea Islands with their wives were horrified to see women coming bare-breasted to church. The wives insisted that the women should be more decently dressed. So the missionaries gave them shirts to wear. The following Sunday the women came wearing their shirts but with two big holes cut out for comfort, for ventilation. They were right; the missionaries were wrong.

“Now . . . back to Neill. He says, ‘And I am no genius, I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children.’ But what, then, of original sin? Neill says that every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold him will turn the god into a devil. He lets children form their own values, and the values are invariably good and social. Can you believe that? When a child feels loved (which means: when a child feels you’re on his side), he’s O.K. The child doesn’t experience violence anymore. No fear, so no violence. The child begins to treat others the way he has been treated. You’ve got to read that book. It’s a holy book, it really is. Read it; it revolutionized my life and my dealings with people. I began to see miracles. I began to see the self-dissatisfaction that had been ingrained in me, the competition, the comparisons, the that’s-not-good-enough, etc. You might object that if they hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t have become what I am. Did I need all that pushing? And anyway, who wants to be what I am? I want to be happy, I want to be holy, I want to be loving, I want to be at peace, I want to be free, I want to be human.

“Do you know where wars come from? They come from projecting outside of us the conflict that is inside. Show me an individual in whom there is no inner self-conflict and I’ll show you an individual in whom there is no violence. There will be effective, even hard, action in him, but no hatred. When he acts, he acts as a surgeon acts; when he acts, he acts as a loving teacher acts with mentally retarded children. You don’t blame them, you understand; but you swing into action. On the other hand, when you swing into action with your own hatred and your own violence unaddressed, you’ve compounded the error. You’ve tried to put fire out with more fire. You’ve tried to deal with a flood by adding water to it. I repeat what Neill said: ‘Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad-tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil. And I am no genius; I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children. I let them form their own values and the values are invariably good and social. The religion that makes people good makes people bad, but the religion known as freedom makes all people good, for it destroys the inner conflict [I’ve added the word ‘inner’] that makes people devils.’

“Neill also says, ‘The first thing I do when a child comes to Summerhill is destroy its conscience.’ I assume you know what he’s talking about, because I know what he’s talking about. You don’t need conscience when you have consciousness; you don’t need conscience when you have sensitivity. You’re not violent, you’re not fearful. You probably think this is an unattainable ideal. Well, read that book. I have run into individuals, here and there, who suddenly stumble upon this truth: The root of evil is within you. As you begin to understand this, you stop making demands on yourself, you stop having expectations of yourself, you stop pushing yourself and you understand. Nourish yourself on wholesome food, good wholesome food. I’m not talking about actual food, I’m talking about sunsets, about nature, about a good movie, about a good book, about enjoyable work, about good company, and hopefully you will break your addictions to those other feelings.

“What kind of feeling comes upon you when you’re in touch with nature, or when you’re absorbed in work that you love? Or when you’re really conversing with someone whose company you enjoy in openness and intimacy without clinging? What kind of feelings do you have? Compare those feelings with the feelings you have when you win an argument, or when you win a race, or when you become popular, or when everybody’s applauding you. The latter feelings I call worldly feelings; the former feelings I call soul feelings. Lots of people gain the world and lose their soul. Lots of people live empty, soulless lives because they’re feeding themselves on popularity, appreciation, and praise, on ‘I’m O.K., you’re O.K.,’ look at me, attend to me, support me, value me, on being the boss, on having power, on winning the race. Do you feed yourself on that? If you do, you’re dead. You’ve lost your soul. Feed yourself on other, more nourishing material. Then you’ll see the transformation. I’ve given you a whole program for life, haven’t I?”

The End of Analysis

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.”

Losing Control

The following is the 51st 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.

“If you wish to understand control, think of a little child that is given a taste for drugs. As the drugs penetrate the body of the child, it becomes addicted; its whole being cries out for the drug. To be without the drug is so unbearable a torment that it seems preferable to die. Think of that image —the body has gotten addicted to the drug. Now this is exactly what your society did to you when you were born. You were not allowed to enjoy the solid, nutritious food of life—namely, work, play, fun, laughter, the company of people, the pleasures of the senses and the mind. You were given a taste for the drug called approval, appreciation, attention.

I’m going to quote a great man here, a man named A. S. Neill. He is the author of Summerhill. Neill says that the sign of a sick child is that he is always hovering around his parents; he is interested in persons. The healthy child has no interest in persons, he is interested in things. When a child is sure of his mother’s love, he forgets his mother; he goes out to explore the world; he is curious. He looks for a frog to put in his mouth—that kind of thing. When a child is hovering around his mother, it’s a bad sign; he’s insecure. Maybe his mother has been trying to suck love out of him, not give him all the freedom and assurance he wants. His mother’s always been threatening in many subtle ways to abandon him.

So we were given a taste of various drug addictions: approval, attention, success, making it to the top, prestige, getting your name in the paper, power, being the boss. We were given a taste of things like being the captain of the team, leading the band, etc. Having a taste for these drugs, we became addicted and began to dread losing them. Recall the lack of control you felt, the terror at the prospect of failure or of making mistakes, at the prospect of criticism by others. So you became cravenly dependent on others and you lost your freedom. Others now have the power to make you happy or miserable. You crave your drugs, but as much as you hate the suffering that this involves, you find yourself completely helpless. There is never a minute when, consciously or unconsciously, you are not aware of or attuned to the reactions of others, marching to the beat of their drums. A nice definition of an awakened person: a person who no longer marches to the drums of society, a person who dances to the tune of the music that springs up from within. When you are ignored or disapproved of, you experience a loneliness so unbearable that you crawl back to people and beg for the comforting drug called support and encouragement, reassurance. To live with people in this state involves a never-ending tension. ‘Hell is other people,’ said Sartre. How true. When you are in this state of dependency, you always have to be on your best behavior; you can never let your hair down; you’ve got to live up to expectations. To be with people is to live in tension. To be without them brings the agony of loneliness, because you miss them. You have lost your capacity to see them exactly as they are and to respond to them accurately, because your perception of them is clouded by the need to get your drugs. You see them insofar as they are a support for getting your drug or a threat to have your drug removed. You’re always looking at people, consciously or unconsciously, through these eyes. Will I get what I want from them, will I not get what I want from them? And if they can neither support nor threaten my drug, I’m not interested in them. That’s a horrible thing to say, but I wonder if there’s anyone here of whom this cannot be said.”

Addictive Love

The following is the 41st 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.

“The heart in love remains soft and sensitive. But when you’re hell-bent on getting this or the other thing, you become ruthless, hard, and insensitive. How can you love people when you need people? You can only use them. If I need you to make me happy, I’ve got to use you, I’ve got to manipulate you, I’ve got to find ways and means of winning you. I cannot let you be free. I can only love people when I have emptied my life of people. When I die to the need for people, then I’m right in the desert. In the beginning it feels awful, it feels lonely, but if you can take it for a while, you’ll suddenly discover that it isn’t lonely at all. It is solitude, it is aloneness, and the desert begins to flower. Then at last you’ll know what love is, what God is, what reality is. But in the beginning giving up the drug can be tough, unless you have a very keen understanding or unless you have suffered enough. It’s a great thing to have suffered. Only then can you get sick of it. You can make use of suffering to end suffering. Most people simply go on suffering. That explains the conflict I sometimes have between the role of spiritual director and that of therapist. A therapist says, ‘Let’s ease the suffering.’ The spiritual director says, ‘Let her suffer, she’ll get sick of this way of relating to people and she’ll finally decide to break out of this prison of emotional dependence on others.’ Shall I offer a palliative or remove a cancer? It’s not easy to decide.

“A person slams a book on the table in disgust. Let him keep slamming it on the table. Don’t pick up the book for him and tell him it’s all right. Spirituality is awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness. When your mother got angry with you, she didn’t say there was something wrong with her, she said there was something wrong with you; otherwise she wouldn’t have been angry. Well, I made the great discovery that if you are angry, Mother, there’s something wrong with you. So you’d better cope with your anger. Stay with it and cope with it. It’s not mine. Whether there’s something wrong with me or not, I’ll examine that independently of your anger. I’m not going to be influenced by your anger.

“The funny thing is that when I can do this without feeling any negativity toward another, I can be quite objective about myself, too. Only a very aware person can refuse to pick up the guilt and anger, can say, ‘You’re having a tantrum. Too bad. I don’t feel the slightest desire to rescue you anymore, and I refuse to feel guilty.’ I’m not going to hate myself for anything I’ve done. That’s what guilt is. I’m not going to give myself a bad feeling and whip myself for anything I have done, either right or wrong. I’m ready to analyze it, to watch it, and say, ‘Well, if I did wrong, it was in unawareness.’ Nobody does wrong in awareness. That’s why theologians tell us very beautifully that Jesus could do no wrong. That makes very good sense to me, because the enlightened person can do no wrong. The enlightened person is free. Jesus was free and because he was free, he couldn’t do any wrong. But since you can do wrong, you’re not free.”

The Land of Love (Part 2)

The following is Part 2 of the 57th and final 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’ve got a lovely quote here, a few sentences that I would write in gold. I picked them up from A. S. Neill’s book Summerhill. I must give you the background. You probably know that Neill was in education for forty years. He developed a kind of maverick school. He took in boys and girls and just let them be free. You want to learn to read and write, fine; you don’t want to learn to read and write, fine. You can do anything you want with your life, provided you don’t interfere with the freedom of someone else. Don’t interfere with someone else’s freedom; otherwise you’re free. He says that the worst ones came to him from convent school. This was in the old days, of course. He said it took them about six months to get over all the anger and the resentment that they had repressed. They’d be rebelling for six months, fighting the system. The worst was a girl who would take a bicycle and ride into town, avoiding class, avoiding school, avoiding everything. But once they got over their rebellion, everybody wanted to learn; they even began protesting, ‘Why don’t we have class today?’ But they would only take what they were interested in. They’d be transformed. In the beginning parents were frightened to send their children to this school; they said, ‘How can you educate them if you don’t discipline them? You’ve got to each them, guide them.’ What was the secret of Neill’s success? He’d get the worst children, the ones everybody else had despaired of, and within six months they’d all be transformed. Listen to what he said—extraordinary words, holy words. ‘Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad-tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil.’ These are amazing words coming from a man whose school in Britain is regularly inspected by people from the Ministry of Education, by any headmaster or headmistress or anyone who would care to go there. Amazing. It was his charism. You don’t do this kind of thing from a blueprint; you’ve got to be a special kind of person. In some of his lectures to headmasters and headmistresses he says, ‘Come to Summerhill and you’ll find that all the fruit trees are laden with fruit; nobody’s taking the fruits off the trees; there’s no desire to attack authority; they’re well fed and there’s no resentment and anger. Come to Summerhill and you’ll never find a handicapped child with a nickname (you know how cruel kids can be when someone stammers). You’ll never find anyone needling a stammerer, never. There’s no violence in those children, because no one is practicing violence on them, that’s why.’ Listen to these words of revelation, sacred words. We have people in the world like this. No matter what scholars and priests and theologians tell you, there are and have been people who have no quarrels, no jealousies, no conflicts, no wars, no enmities, none! They exist in my country, or, sad to say, they existed until relatively recently. I’ve had Jesuit friends go out to live and work among people who, they assured me, were incapable of stealing or lying. One Sister said to me that when she went to the northeast of India to work among some tribes there, the people would lock up nothing. Nothing was ever stolen and they never told lies—until the Indian government and missionaries showed up.

“Every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil.

“There’s a lovely Italian film directed by Federico Fellini, 8 1/2. In one scene there’s a Christian Brother going out on a picnic or excursion with a group of eight- to ten-year old boys. They’re on a beach, moving right on ahead while the Brother brings up the rear with three or four of them around him. They come across an older woman who’s a whore, and they say to her, ‘Hi,’ and she says, ‘Hi.’ And they say, ‘Who are you?’ And she says, ‘I’m a prostitute.’ They don’t know what that is but they pretend to. One of the boys, who seems a bit more knowing than the others, says, ‘A prostitute is a woman who does certain things if you pay her.’ They ask, ‘Would she do those things if we paid her?’ ‘Why not?’ the answer came. So they take up a collection and give her the money, saying, ‘Would you do certain things now that we’ve given you the money?’ She answers, ‘Sure, kids, what do you want me to do?’ The only thing that occurs to the kids is for her to take her clothes off. So she does. Well, they look at her; they’ve never seen a woman naked before. They don’t know what else to do, so they say, ‘Would you dance?’ She says, ‘Sure.’ So they all gather round singing and clapping; the whore is moving her behind and they’re enjoying themselves immensely. The Brother sees all this. He runs down the beach and yells at the woman. He gets her to put her clothes on, and the narrator says, ‘At that moment, the children were spoiled; until then they were innocent, beautiful.’

“This is not an unusual problem. I know a rather conservative missionary in India, a Jesuit. He came to a workshop of mine. As I developed this theme over two days, he suffered. He came to me the second night and said, ‘Tony, I can’t explain to you how much I’m suffering listening to you.’ I said, ‘Why, Stan?’ He said, ‘You’re reviving within me a question that I suppressed for twenty-five years, a horrible question. Again and again I asked myself: Have I not spoiled my people by making them Christian?’ This Jesuit was not one of your liberals, he was an orthodox, devout, pious, conservative man. But he felt he spoiled a happy, loving, simple, guileless people by making them Christian.

“American missionaries who went to the South Sea Islands with their wives were horrified to see women coming bare-breasted to church. The wives insisted that the women should be more decently dressed. So the missionaries gave them shirts to wear. The following Sunday the women came wearing their shirts but with two big holes cut out for comfort, for ventilation. They were right; the missionaries were wrong.

“Now . . . back to Neill. He says, ‘And I am no genius, I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children.’ But what, then, of original sin? Neill says that every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold him will turn the god into a devil. He lets children form their own values, and the values are invariably good and social. Can you believe that? When a child feels loved (which means: when a child feels you’re on his side), he’s O.K. The child doesn’t experience violence anymore. No fear, so no violence. The child begins to treat others the way he has been treated. You’ve got to read that book. It’s a holy book, it really is. Read it; it revolutionized my life and my dealings with people. I began to see miracles. I began to see the self-dissatisfaction that had been ingrained in me, the competition, the comparisons, the that’s-not-good-enough, etc. You might object that if they hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t have become what I am. Did I need all that pushing? And anyway, who wants to be what I am? I want to be happy, I want to be holy, I want to be loving, I want to be at peace, I want to be free, I want to be human.

“Do you know where wars come from? They come from projecting outside of us the conflict that is inside. Show me an individual in whom there is no inner self-conflict and I’ll show you an individual in whom there is no violence. There will be effective, even hard, action in him, but no hatred. When he acts, he acts as a surgeon acts; when he acts, he acts as a loving teacher acts with mentally retarded children. You don’t blame them, you understand; but you swing into action. On the other hand, when you swing into action with your own hatred and your own violence unaddressed, you’ve compounded the error. You’ve tried to put fire out with more fire. You’ve tried to deal with a flood by adding water to it. I repeat what Neill said: ‘Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad-tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil. And I am no genius, I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children. I let them form their own values and the values are invariably good and social. The religion that makes people good makes people bad, but the religion known as freedom makes all people good, for it destroys the inner conflict [I’ve added the word ‘inner’] that makes people devils.’

“Neill also says, ‘The first thing I do when a child comes to Summerhill is destroy its conscience.’ I assume you know what he’s talking about, because I know what he’s talking about. You don’t need conscience when you have consciousness; you don’t need conscience when you have sensitivity. You’re not violent, you’re not fearful. You probably think this is an unattainable ideal. Well, read that book. I have run into individuals, here and there, who suddenly stumble upon this truth: The root of evil is within you. As you begin to understand this, you stop making demands on yourself, you stop having expectations of yourself, you stop pushing yourself and you understand. Nourish yourself on wholesome food, good wholesome food. I’m not talking about actual food, I’m talking about sunsets, about nature, about a good movie, about a good book, about enjoyable work, about good company, and hopefully you will break your addictions to those other feelings.

“What kind of feeling comes upon you when you’re in touch with nature, or when you’re absorbed in work that you love? Or when you’re really conversing with someone whose company you enjoy in openness and intimacy without clinging? What kind of feelings do you have? Compare those feelings with the feelings you have when you win an argument, or when you win a race, or when you become popular, or when everybody’s applauding you. The latter feelings I call worldly feelings; the former feelings I call soul feelings. Lots of people gain the world and lose their soul. Lots of people live empty, soulless lives because they’re feeding themselves on popularity, appreciation, and praise, on ‘I’m O.K., you’re O.K.,’ look at me, attend to me, support me, value me, on being the boss, on having power, on winning the race. Do you feed yourself on that? If you do, you’re dead. You’ve lost your soul. Feed yourself on other, more nourishing material. Then you’ll see the transformation. I’ve given you a whole program for life, haven’t I?”

The Land of Love (Part 1)

The following is Part 1 of the 57th and final 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.

“If we really dropped illusions for what they can give us or deprive us of, we would be alert. The consequence of not doing this is terrifying and unescapable [sic]. We lose our capacity to love. If you wish to love, you must learn to see again. And if you wish to see, you must learn to give up your drug. It’s as simple as that. Give up your dependency. Tear away the tentacles of society that have enveloped and suffocated your being. You must drop them. Externally, everything will go on as before, but though you will continue to be in the world, you will no longer be of it. In your heart, you will now be free at last, if utterly alone. Your dependence on your drug will die. You don’t have to go to the desert; you’re right in the middle of people; you’re enjoying them immensely. But they no longer have the power to make you happy or miserable. That’s what aloneness means. In this solitude your dependence dies. The capacity to love is born. One no longer sees others as means of satisfying one’s addiction. Only someone who has attempted this knows the terrors of the process. It’s like inviting yourself to die. It’s like asking the poor drug addict to give up the only happiness he has ever known. How to replace it with the taste of bread and fruit and the clean taste of the morning air, the sweetness of the water of the mountain stream? While he is struggling with his withdrawal symptoms and the emptiness he experiences within himself now that his drug is gone, nothing can fill the emptiness except his drug. Can you imagine a life in which you refuse to enjoy or take pleasure in a single word of appreciation or to rest your head on anyone’s shoulder for support? Think of a life in which you depend on no one emotionally, so that no one has the power to make you happy or miserable anymore. You refuse to need any particular person or to be special to anyone or to call anyone your own. The birds of the air have their nests and the foxes their holes, but you will have nowhere to rest your head in your journey through life. If you ever get to this state, you will at last know what it means to see with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. Every word there is measured. To see at last with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. You will know what it means to love. But to come to the land of love, you must pass through the pains of death, for to love persons means to die to the need for persons, and to be utterly alone.

“How would you ever get there? By a ceaseless awareness, by the infinite patience and compassion you would have for a drug addict. By developing a taste for the good things in life to counter the craving for your drug. What good things? The love of work which you enjoy doing for the love of itself; the love of laughter and intimacy with people to whom you do not cling and on whom you do not depend emotionally but whose company you enjoy. It will also help if you take on activities that you can do with your whole being, activities that you so love to do that while you’re engaged in them success, recognition, and approval simply do not mean a thing to you. It will help, too, if you return to nature. Send the crowds away, go up to the mountains, and silently commune with trees and flowers and animals and birds, with sea and clouds and sky and stars. I’ve told you what a spiritual exercise it is to gaze at things, to be aware of things around you. Hopefully, the words will drop, the concepts will drop, and you will see, you will make contact with reality. That is the cure for loneliness. Generally, we seek to cure our loneliness through emotional dependence on people, through gregariousness and noise. That is no cure. Get back to things, get back to nature, go up in the mountains. Then you will know that your heart has brought you to the vast desert of solitude, there is no one there at your side, absolutely no one.

“At first this will seem unbearable. But it is only because you are unaccustomed to aloneness. If you manage to stay there for a while, the desert will suddenly blossom into love. Your heart will burst into song. And it will be springtime forever; the drug will be out; you’re free. Then you will understand what freedom is, what love is, what happiness is, what reality is, what truth is, what God is. You will see, you will know beyond concepts and conditioning, addictions and attachments. Does that make sense?

“Let me end this with a lovely story. There was a man who invented the art of making fire. He took his tools and went to a tribe in the north, where it was very cold, bitterly cold. He taught the people there to make fire. The people were very interested. He showed them the uses to which they could put fire—they could cook, could keep themselves warm, etc. They were so grateful that they had learned the art of making fire. But before they could express their gratitude to the man, he disappeared. He wasn’t concerned with getting their recognition or gratitude; he was concerned about their wellbeing [sic]. He went to another tribe, where he again began to show them the value of his invention. People were interested there, too, a bit too interested for the peace of mind of their priests, who began to notice that this man was drawing crowds and they were losing their popularity. So they decided to do away with him. They poisoned him, crucified him, put it any way you like. But they were afraid now that the people might turn against them, so they were very wise, even wily. Do you know what they did? They had a portrait of the man made and mounted it on the main altar of the temple. The instruments for making fire were placed in front of the portrait, and the people were taught to revere the portrait and to pay reverence to the instruments of fire, which they dutifully did for centuries. The veneration and the worship went on, but there was no fire.

“Where’s the fire? Where’s the love? Where’s the drug uprooted from your system? Where’s the freedom? This is what spirituality is all about. Tragically, we tend to lose sight of this, don’t we? This is what Jesus Christ is all about. But we overemphasized the ‘Lord, Lord,’ didn’t we? Where’s the fire? And if worship isn’t leading to the fire, if adoration isn’t leading to love, if the liturgy isn’t leading to a clearer perception of reality, if God isn’t leading to life, of what use is religion except to create more division, more fanaticism, more antagonism? It is not from lack of religion in the ordinary sense of the word that the world is suffering, it is from lack of love, lack of awareness. And love is generated through awareness and through no other way, no other way. Understand the obstructions you are putting in the way of love, freedom, and happiness and they will drop. Turn on the light of awareness and the darkness will disappear. Happiness is not something you acquire; love is not something you produce; love is not something that you have; love is something that has you. You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears. As I told you earlier, first, psychological insight is a great help, not analysis, however; analysis is paralysis. Insight is not necessarily analysis. One of your great American therapists put it very well: ‘It’s the ‘Aha’ experience that counts.’ Merely analyzing gives no help; it just gives information. But if you could produce the ‘Aha’ experience, that’s insight. That is change. Second, the understanding of your addiction is important. You need time. Alas, so much time that is given to worship and singing praise and singing songs could so fruitfully be employed in selfunderstanding [sic]. Community is not produced by joint liturgical celebrations. You know deep down in your heart, and so do I, that such celebrations only serve to paper over differences. Community is created by understanding the blocks that we put in the way of community, by understanding the conflicts that arise from our fears and our desires. At that point community arises. We must always beware of making worship just another distraction from the important business of living. And living doesn’t mean working in government, or being a big businessman, or performing great acts of charity. That isn’t living. Living is to have dropped all the impediments and to live in the present moment with freshness. ‘The birds of the air . . . they neither toil nor spin’—that is living. I began by saying that people are asleep, dead. Dead people running governments, dead people running big business, dead people educating others; come alive! Worship must help this, or else it’s useless. And increasingly—you know this and so do I—we’re losing the youth everywhere. They hate us; they’re not interested in having more fears and more guilts [sic] laid on them. They’re not interested in more sermons and exhortations. But they are interested in learning about love. How can I be happy? How can I live? How can I taste these marvelous things that the mystics speak of? So that’s the second thing— understanding. Third, don’t identify. Somebody asked me as I was coming here today, ‘Do you ever feel low?’ Boy, do I feel low every now and then. I get my attacks. But they don’t last, they really don’t. What do I do? First step: I don’t identify. Here comes a low feeling. Instead of getting tense about it, instead of getting irritated with myself about it, I understand I’m feeling depressed, disappointed, or whatever. Second step: I admit the feeling is in me, not in the other person, e.g., in the person who didn’t write me a letter, not in the exterior world; it’s in me. Because as long as I think it’s outside me, I feel justified in holding on to my feelings. I can’t say everybody would feel this way; in fact, only idiotic people would feel this way, only sleeping people. Third step: I don’t identify with the feeling. ‘I’ is not that feeling. ‘I’ am not lonely, ‘I’ am not depressed, ‘I’ am not disappointed. Disappointment is there, one watches it. You’d be amazed how quickly it glides away. Anything you’re aware of keeps changing; clouds keep moving. As you do this, you also get all kinds of insights into why clouds were coming in the first place.”

The End of Analysis

The following is the 55th 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.”

Losing Control

The following is the 53rd 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.

“If you wish to understand control, think of a little child that is given a taste for drugs. As the drugs penetrate the body of the child, it becomes addicted; its whole being cries out for the drug. To be without the drug is so unbearable a torment that it seems preferable to die. Think of that image —the body has gotten addicted to the drug. Now this is exactly what your society did to you when you were born. You were not allowed to enjoy the solid, nutritious food of life—namely, work, play, fun, laughter, the company of people, the pleasures of the senses and the mind. You were given a taste for the drug called approval, appreciation, attention.

“I’m going to quote a great man here, a man named A. S. Neill. He is the author of Summerhill. Neill says that the sign of a sick child is that he is always hovering around his parents; he is interested in persons. The healthy child has no interest in persons, he is interested in things. When a child is sure of his mother’s love, he forgets his mother; he goes out to explore the world; he is curious. He looks for a frog to put in his mouth—that kind of thing. When a child is hovering around his mother, it’s a bad sign; he’s insecure. Maybe his mother has been trying to suck love out of him, not give him all the freedom and assurance he wants. His mother’s always been threatening in many subtle ways to abandon him.

“So we were given a taste of various drug addictions: approval, attention, success, making it to the top, prestige, getting your name in the paper, power, being the boss. We were given a taste of things like being the captain of the team, leading the band, etc. Having a taste for these drugs, we became addicted and began to dread losing them. Recall the lack of control you felt, the terror at the prospect of failure or of making mistakes, at the prospect of criticism by others. So you became cravenly dependent on others and you lost your freedom. Others now have the power to make you happy or miserable. You crave your drugs, but as much as you hate the suffering that this involves, you find yourself completely helpless. There is never a minute when, consciously or unconsciously, you are not aware of or attuned to the reactions of others, marching to the beat of their drums. A nice definition of an awakened person: a person who no longer marches to the drums of society, a person who dances to the tune of the music that springs up from within. When you are ignored or disapproved of, you experience a loneliness so unbearable that you crawl back to people and beg for the comforting drug called support and encouragement, reassurance. To live with people in this state involves a never-ending tension. ‘Hell is other people,’ said Sartre. How true. When you are in this state of dependency, you always have to be on your best behavior; you can never let your hair down; you’ve got to live up to expectations. To be with people is to live in tension. To be without them brings the agony of loneliness, because you miss them. You have lost your capacity to see them exactly as they are and to respond to them accurately, because your perception of them is clouded by the need to get your drugs. You see them insofar as they are a support for getting your drug or a threat to have your drug removed. You’re always looking at people, consciously or unconsciously, through these eyes. Will I get what I want from them, will I not get what I want from them? And if they can neither support nor threaten my drug, I’m not interested in them. That’s a horrible thing to say, but I wonder if there’s anyone here of whom this cannot be said.”

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