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Tony, the Vatican and finding Truth through Jesus Christ
12-06-2010, 04:46 PM,
Tony, the Vatican and finding Truth through Jesus Christ

Tony, the Vatican and finding Truth through Jesus Christ

On the
Notification Concerning the Writings
Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ

Anthony de Mello died suddenly in June 1987, just prior to his summer tour of the United States. Tony was a Jesuit priest and biblical scholar from India who effortlessly mixed canonical texts with wisdom and insights from around the world: Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, Islamic, Judaic... Tony was a master in demonstrating the universality of spiritual teachings from wherever they came.

In 1986 Tony had agreed for the first time to have one of his conferences video taped. Unfortunately all the video was destroyed in an accident, leaving just eight hours of audio (most of which would eventually appear as 'Awareness'). A year on, with increasing renown and popularity, and technology, Tony was about to do a retake: with a year's more insight and awareness to bring to the presentation.

What a global phenomenon Tony promised to be. But, as we know, God's will is unfathomable, and events conspired to take Tony from us at this poignant moment in time: prompting unparalleled mourning in certain circles (and no doubt smiles and sighs of relief in others).

Tony's work did not however entirely dry up, there was much unpublished material in the hands of friends and admirers: Awareness being the most prominent example. Tony's popularity, even amongst Rome's faithful, showed no sign of petering out.

So in 1992 the Vatican imposed a ban on Tony's books, determined to at least to remove his way of thinking from their flock. The ban however was unworkable, so in 1998 Pope Jean-Paul II issued a 'Notification', condemning and disowning Tony and his words and warning all good Catholics to stay well away.

No doubt if Tony were alive at its release he would have thoroughly dissected and refuted it, citing biblical scholars and canonized saints: the likes of Saint Augustine, Saint Ignatius, and most particularly, Saint Thomas Aquinas, who Tony considered (as did the Church itself once) to be “the prince of theologians”. And in the process, necessarily, undermining Rome's authority and ridiculing the notification's author.

I have neither Tony's knowledge of Catholic scholars or of the bible itself, but given the nature and speciousness of these allegations, as an ignorant, (almost) worthless peasant and sinner, please let me highlight at least some of the author's more preposterous and dubious arguments. And question, just what is his standpoint, and objective?

The notification is four paragraphs, before the condemnation, and then the authorisation of Rome. The accusations are generalised, citing no specific passages from Tony, mostly, it is criticism of perceived attitudes towards God and Jesus and how they are incompatible with Rome's position. Whilst it is not in question that Tony's perspective, attitude and being was a marked contrast to that of Church hierarchy, the charge is that Tony was in breach of church doctrine, therefore “incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm”.

Tony could “cause grave harm”. How might that be? What in Tony's writing is so threatening, and, to whom? Let us consider each paragraph individually, so as not to overlook any accusation.

The first paragraph is an introduction and despite being somewhat disingenuous holds no accusations, so we will begin our analysis with paragraph two.
Ratzinger Wrote: 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.
The revelation of Jesus Chris is a personal thing. It cannot be confined with audible sounds, squiggles on paper or pixels on a screen, it cannot be authorised and administered by a sharp suit or silly hat, nor can one ever impose it on another. It is found in the heart and beyond description: and evidenced only through being.

God is of course without form or image, beyond human understanding. No graven images, remember? This includes in one's head, as a mental idol.

Tony does not speak of God as a void. Tony consistently quotes Aquinas in this matter, from 'Awareness':
Tony Wrote:In the prologue of his Summa Theologica, which was the summary of all [Aquinas'] theology, he says, “About God, we cannot say what He is but rather what He is not. And so we cannot speak about how He is but rather how He is not.” And in his famous commentary on Boethius’ De Sancta Trinitate he says there are three ways of knowing God: (1) in the creation, (2) in God’s actions through history, and (3) in the highest form of the knowledge of God: to know God tamquam ignotum (to know God as the unknown). The highest form of talking about the Trinity is to know that one does not know...

All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing to the moon. As we say in the East, “When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger.” Jean Guiton, a very pious and orthodox French writer, adds a terrifying comment: “We often use the finger to gouge eyes out.” ...

What is scripture, then? It’s a hint, a clue, not a description. The fanaticism of one sincere believer who thinks he knows causes more evil than the united efforts of two hundred rogues. It’s terrifying to see what sincere believers will do because they think they know. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a world where everybody said, “We don’t know”? One big barrier dropped. Wouldn’t that be marvellous? …

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?
Tony is not therefore denying the essential truth of the bible, but only questioning the literalism and dogma that dominates so much of modern day theology. And, from this point, how can it be denied, for Hindu, Muslim, Christian, whoever, no matter how regrettable: sacred texts, and symbols, too often become idols. To ignore this tragedy (or worse, to subconsciously or surreptitiously promote it) is ignorant and to bury one's head in the sand.

Tony knew that the Bible is the work of God, but he recognised it as a manual, not an idol. So, Tony is in no way questioning the existence of God. That, dear author, is a given. One only has to consider how Tony lived his life: with absolute, unquestioning faith in his creator, to see the truth in this statement. One wonders, can the same be said of you?

“Consider the lilies of the field ... I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:28-29. Is that not seeing a glimpse of God in this world? Everything in this world is shaped through God's divine wisdom, all life, all happenings: no exceptions. Seen from a distance, without attachment, all is beauty, all is love: to deny this is to deny God's wisdom and God's omniscience, which could not be further from Tony's word or deed. His life was a testament.

Two brief points, before addressing paragraph three. Firstly, Truth, to quote Tony's accuser:“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.”

Well, if one substitutes the word God for truth, we can see precisely why truth cannot be defined. Personally, I prefer to talk of 'Truth', rather than of 'God', because, as we know, 'God' conjures up potentially misleading and distorted images. Remember, even within the Judaic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, several names exist for the same presence: God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah... And, if traced back to root we find the four letters: YWYH, or, technically speaking, tetragrammaton, which is a bit of a mouthful and no one knows what you are talking about. So, Truth, is a far more comprehensible word, that no religion, or individual, can argue against. Who will say to me that their god does not represent Truth? Quite simply, no one. And Tony loved Truth.

And secondly, to quote Tony's accuser: “For him, to think that the God of one's own religion is the only one is simply fanaticism.” No, this is not what Tony says: this is a dishonest and deceitful (or at best ignorant) representation of Tony's words and stance. But, Tony does recognise the universality of God, and that there are many paths towards Truth. What Tony is saying, and Tony's accuser has turned on its head, is that, we must find our own path, through awareness, and that thinking one's own path is the only valid one is ignorance, intolerance, and fanaticism.
Ratzinger Wrote: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.
My god is better than your god. Unfortunately this appears almost inherent in all religions (except of course for their founders), although it is most particularly apparent in 'Sky God' manifestations. And, with literalism dominating thinking therein, missing, ignoring or confusing literalism with symbolism becomes inevitable.

Here we are not discussing history or genealogy, but how to be: one's state of being. As a human being (not, a human doing, as authority would have us). And, as we all know, there is a universality in this principle, principal. Christian, Buddhist... it matters not: “Do unto others...”, “Love thy neighbour...”: the principle of reciprocity. Be assured, it was not invented by Jesus: Moses and Solomon had plenty to say on the subject, as did the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius... all many centuries before Jesus.

To highlight a terrible contradiction in our accuser's argument. He states: “Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God”: which, surely, must also make Jesus the son of God! How rude is it not to accept that?

And here manifests the origin of Rome's problem with Tony, and exactly what this notification is really about.

Whether you or I or humankind have the capacity to become as Jesus: truly liberated, master of being, fully aware, with unbounded love for Truth, or God. Or, whether we remain transfixed by “Lord, Lord”, as sinners, not worthy, only to be shepherded by God's representative on earth: in God's infinite Wisdom.

What Rome demands is ignorant sheep, to bleat on order, without thought. The Church does not and has never liked question. If Rome had its way, the Bible would still only be in Latin, none but their chosen would be trusted with reading and all learning would be dictated under God's authority, from the Vatican (that is why Galileo was still excommunicated umpteen centuries after proving Rome, or Jerusalem, was not at the centre of the universe).

And what Tony represents is question, awareness, not blind obedience. This is in direct confrontation with authority.

However, more to the point, what does Jesus want? A flock, ignorant and obliged, never to stray, never to look up, never to discover, learn, anything? Or, would he prefer liberated, empowered individuals to grow, develop, love, in awareness and harmony?

It seems for the first image there is no need of evolution or development, discovery or wonder, no need even to look up from grazing. But, if that were the case, why bother eating from the Tree in the first place?

Speaking personally, I recognise Jesus as the second image, or idol, if you like. But no idol to be kowtowed before, in fear: but one as an inspiration, to show what one could be, if one were only to have faith.

On life after death Tony makes no claim. We can no better know what is beyond death than what God is. He who would attempt to convince you otherwise is a charlatan. So for Tony there is no point in speculation, so long as one trusts in God's divine Wisdom. For Tony, Truth is in being: living by the Commandments, investing one's talents, in awareness, and trusting in God.

And, from this perspective, agonising over what is beyond death is most assuredly pointless and futile. From 'Awareness', referencing Jesus:
Tony Wrote:God is going to be much more pleased by your being transformed into a loving person than by saying, “Lord, Lord.” It’s infinitely more important that you be waking up.
Living to one's true potential: what more could God demand? Beyond death is a mystery, no one knows. Pontificating on something completely and forever beyond conceptualisation is nonsense. However, nevertheless, approaching this inevitability is of the essence.

This is what Tony is promoting: live by the Commandments, invest your talents, trust in God. Like, you do your job and leave God to do God's. And, without question, Tony trusted in God, and invested his talents where they would prove most fruitful. Is this not a self evident truth?

To complete the paragraph Tony's accuser charges: "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."

Well, Tony would quote Jesus: “Judge not lest ye be judged”, “cast not the first stone”, “remove the beam from thine own eye”, “turn the other cheek”... Jesus is repetitive and emphatic. It is the position of no human to judge 'good and evil'.

Indeed, surely, to judge something as evil is to question the Wisdom of God's Divine Plan. Is it not? Hence to cast someone or something as “wrong”, is, in effect, to place oneself above God! And this Tony would never do. He might however quote Jean-Jacques Rousseau, another man of faith for whom Rome had a particular dislike: “O man! Look no further for the author of evil, you are he. There is no evil but the evil you do and the evil you suffer, and both come from yourself.”

If there is evil, it is surely this: to judge God's plans as incompetent, to call into question God's Divine Wisdom and God's omniscience. This is the ignorance, the evil, that Tony condemns.
Ratzinger Wrote: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.
Rome's authority. The Vatican's imposed 'Truth': judgement. Judgement, Rome's judgement upon how one accesses Rome's vision and version of Truth. From this perspective, Rome states the absolute truth: Tony's beliefs, behaviour and being are in total conflict with Rome's vision of both God and Jesus. This is accepted.

But, nevertheless, regardless of how lamentable, how can anyone deny, reverence for symbols in themselves, rather than what they represent (what they point towards), can never be more than idol worship (idle worship, for sheep, to graze, and bleat) and, that Rome and its flock are bathed within? And, that not even to acknowledge this truth is ignorant and fraudulent.

Be assured, in no way did Tony revel in this truth. Tony is not arguing for it. Tony is only recognising how corrupted, perverted, Jesus' original message has become: from the Turin Shroud to the Crucifix, from the Bible to the Eucharist, from the Papacy to tithes. Ritual, costume and submission, laws and taxes, oblivious, oblivious to Christ's foundational messages:

“The eye of a needle”, “moth and rust”, “two masters”, “judge not”, “love thine enemies”, and on, and on. Does it not make you wonder, just how many Vatican relics are destined for eternal salvation?

It was not Tony who banished God from the Temple, any more than it was Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees may have changed costume and location, but that does not mean there are no longer “wolves in sheep's clothing”, “blind guides”, “liars and hypocrites”, “whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones”... who, “swallow a camel but squeeze out a gnat”.

Really it is quite extraordinary, Jesus left us with just two commandments: Love God, Truth, with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself, together with an order not to judge anyone else. What could be simpler than that? Yet, somehow, from these straightforward, unambiguous laws, we have a vast industry of unimaginable wealth, power and complexity, which, sad to say, appears ignorant, unaware, oblivious, to these very instructions! Though they are fluent in “Lord, Lord”.

Sadly, the only Logos in the Temple today is stitched into trainers, transferred onto t-shirts and sponsoring attractions.

And so, one wonders, “in the name of” just what sort of 'Christ' this is: who outlaws question, frowns upon awareness and demands ignorant sheep to obey their 'divine will'? And whether Tony would really want to have an association with it anyway?
Ratzinger Wrote: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.
“Serpents, brood of vipers”, most assuredly, awareness, empowerment, love, “can cause great harm”, to the positions, pensions and excesses of the “sons of those who murdered the prophets”: who long since stopped worshipping even two gods.

Leaving the final words to Tony:
Tony Wrote: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 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.

“You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before men”


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