The Parting Words of the Mystic Anthony deMello

How do you get a person from Point A to Point B? You give them a map. If you’re the mystic Anthony de Mello, you might be more like a mountain sherpa, leading people up a road that forces you to pay attention to your steps, breathe the air deeply, look around and observe the view in awe, and make it as wordless an experience as possible.

Those who know of Antony deMello probably know of the circumstances of his death. Born in India, he became Jesuit in his teens. As a priest, he developed his calling as a retreat master, teacher, and writer. As such, his popularity grew tremendously in the eighties.

His talent was his ability to zero in on spiritual truths that transcended dogma, culture, and even words. People were simply drawn to “Tony” because he clearly was walking the walk. As a pied piper of mystics, he implored his followers to come on the journey to awareness–to leave the sad, confused, world behind and wake up!

From May 20-25, 1987, Tony delivered a seminar in Pune, India, to an estimated 300 priests and nuns. He expected to deliver it a few days later in the United States. Sadly, that seminar never happened. Tony passed away very unexpectedly in New York the night before he was to deliver it.
His brother Bill de Mello, who has authored Tony’s biography, The Happy Wanderer, was able to collect detailed notes from the participants of the Pune sessions and put together a transcript of that last seminar–the same one that the US participants were robbed of by his untimely death. So this book, Swansong, is a true blessing to be shared! It’s our last chance hear what he had to say–to hear the words that wound up being his Swansong.

The book is short and organized by the days in which the presentations were delivered. Each day had an overarching theme, with a progression from awareness through love, holiness, the ineffability of God, “living” with God through meditation, and finally, release of ego.

Many mystics have provided a similar road map, which often start with the opening the heart and end with the abandonment of self. This short book is not a long, daunting tour through seven mansions, like St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle; nor is it a pedantic treatise on the mystic way, like Evelyn Underhill.

This mystic journey more like a fun adventure–a road trip with a sherpa who had a darned great time pointing out the scenery. This sherpa tells jokes, he tells you how wise you are to have embarked on this trip and he tells you to put away the guide book and just see and hear and experience and be.

Here are some of my favorite quotes for each Day:

Day One. 20th May 1987

We humans have scriptures and all we do is feed on words. It’s like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.

The finest act of love you can perform is not an act of service but an act of contemplation, of seeing. When you serve people, you support, alleviate pain. When you see them in their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.

Day Two. 21st May 1987

In a conflict between Nature and your brain, back Nature; if you fight her, she will eventually destroy you. The secret therefore is to improve on Nature in harmony with Nature. How can you achieve this harmony?

Think of some change that you wish to bring about in your life or in your personality. Are you attempting to force this change on yourself through effort and through teh desire to become something that your ego has planned? That is the serpent fighting the dove. Or are you content to study, observe, understand, be aware of your present state and problems, without pushing, without forcing things that your ego desires, leaving reality to effect changes according to Nature’s plans, not yours? Then you have the perfect blending of the serpent and the dove.

We are here, not to change the world but to love the world and in that love, change may come. If I try to change you and you don’t change, I have resentment. And if I think I have change you, I take pride. Remember – Love is – clarity of perception, accuracy of response.

Day Three. 22nd May 1987

Life to those who have the ears to hear is a symphony; but very, very rare indeed is the human being who hears the music. Why? Because they are busy listening to the noises that their conditioning and their programming have put into their heads. That and something else–their attachments. An attachment is a major killer of life.

Once you pick up these attachments you become a slave to them. Then comes the tension and anxiety which are the very death of love and the joyful freedom that love brings. Love and freedom are only found when one enjoys each note of a symphony as it arises, and then allows it to go, so as to be fully receptive to the notes that follow.

Day Four. May 23rd 1987

When you drop your illusions, you get a sense of space and time. Mystics get this sense of timelessness; of eternity, of everlasting joy; because they have dropped their illusions.

Once a projection is screened before us, we make it a concept–static. When we create concepts we bring out our paintbrushes. We pain things good or bad, according to the concepts we have created. The Mystic does not paint it. The mystic sees everything with a clean slate and experiences what he sees in present moment freshness each and every time.

I can’t put into words what I’ve seen. But now I make a formula and instead of seeing what I am pointing to, I cling to the formula. Therefore your biggest obstacle to finding God is the concept: ‘God.’

Day Five. May 24th 1987

Reality cannot be known through concepts; much less, this reality we call God. He is not virtue and not vice. He is not light and He is not darkness. What is wrong is the use we make of the Bible. Don’t believe that reading the Scriptures will do you any good, unless you start working on yourself. You will not understand the Bible unless your mind, heart and eyes are clean; or else, you give it all sorts of interpretations to suit your own fears.

In order to meditate, you do not need to read the Bible. Instead examine your body, the five senses, the functioning of your mind.

I often hear, ‘I have no time to meditate.’ This is like saying ‘I have no time to breathe.’ Are you awake the entire day? Are you aware of your being, your surroundings? Are you aware of the sounds around you? The colours of nature which beautify this earth we live in? Of the melody of birds singing in the early hours of the morning or late evening? Of the sound of the breeze rustling through the branches of a tree? Staying ‘awake’ and being ‘aware’ for the entire day is meditation. Then you will realise that life is useless, worthless, not worth living, without consciousness. When walking in the jungle, you keep your eyes open to keep your feet from getting hurt. Likewise in life, in your relationships, find time to take the blindfold off.

A man comes regularly into a bar and ‘driving’ an imaginary car he ‘parks’ it in the bar. One day someone tells the bartender to tell him his bar is not a parking lot. ‘Why should I?’ says the bartender. ‘He gives me 10 dollars a week for parking here. If your illusion suit me, I don’t  mind stringing you along.

Swansong–Day Six, May 25th 1987

Remembering is an obstacle to seeing.  ‘Now’ is another name for love.

It isn’t as if God is the big dancer and you are the little dancer. You are not a dancer at all. You are being danced!

Dissatisfaction sets in when you cling to a thing, an event or a person.

If you really enjoy life and the simple pleasures of the senses, you’d be amazed. You’d develop that extraordinary discipline of the animal. Think of your body and compare it with the body of an animal that is left in its natural habitat.

It never eats or drinks what is not good for it. It has all the rest and exercise that it needs. It has the right amount of exposure to the elements, to wind and sun and rain and heat and cold.

That is because the animal listens to its body and allows itself to be guided by the body’s wisdom. Compare that with your own foolish cunningness. If your body could speak, what would it say to you? Observe the greed, the ambition, the vanity, the desire to show off and to please others, the guilt that drives you to ignore the voice of your body while you chase after objectives set by your ego.

Religion is not ritual, not intellectual, but purification. From that purified heart and mind, action will come.

You do not possess the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears.

Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.

What’s missing here in the words is the soul behind them–Tony’s charisma and presence–and so, I would encourage you to watch one of the many videos that are available for viewing.  Here’s one place you can go for that.

Tony’s passion in life was to get people to Wake Up! He repeatedly quotes Thomas Carlyle:  “The great tragedy of human life is not so much in what they suffer, but rather, in what they miss.”  Swansong is Tony’s last invitation to avert this tragedy–to follow this Mystic Sherpa on the path to a bird’s-eye view of awareness and joy.

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