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Was the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello Murdered in the U.S. 25 Years Ago? (BOOK REVIEW)

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Tony was a Jesuit priest trained in and steeped in the Jesuit tradition of meditation and contemplation expressed in the book titled the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES, the short book of instructions for so-called spiritual exercises that the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius Loyola compiled before he founded the Jesuit order. In the first year of the two-year Jesuit novitiate, Jesuit novices make a 30-day retreat in silence following the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of St. Ignatius Loyola. Years later in Jesuit training, Jesuits devote a third year to novitiate-like living that is known in Jesuit parlance as tertianship ("tertio" means three in Latin), during which they once again make a 30-day retreat in silence following the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES. Tony was an experienced retreat director in directing Jesuits making 30-day retreats.


By way of digression, I should explain that Ignatian meditation involves using imagery and actively using of one's imagination. By contrast, Buddhist meditation does not involves using imagery and one's imagination, nor does the kind of meditation favored by Krishnamurti. End of digression.


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In his fine biography of Tony, Bill deMello quotes a former Jesuit who explains how Tony had come to experiment with group-counseling retreats, which up to that time had not exactly been part of the Jesuit tradition of spirituality:


"'Tony gave up 'guiding' people in 30-day retreats and moved to 'counseling' sessions -- he saw that the 'fruit' [Jesuit parlance for 'benefit'] of the Spiritual Exercises could not be savored in full because people were locked up in psychological problems and insecurities and were at emotional dead-ends. At that stage, they needed counseling (more than spirituality) to free them from these blocks (as evidenced by the testimony of so many) so that they could then more deeply drink of the waters of the Ignatian vision.'" (Quoted on page 204.)

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In Carl Rogers' terminology, people who are at emotional dead-ends are not fully functioning. For a perceptive book about being at emotional dead-ends, see John Bradshaw's HEALING THE SHAME THAN BINDS YOU (rev. ed. 2005). In Bradshaw's terminology, people whose emotions are bound are as a result at emotional dead-ends.


However, even if certain people were at emotional dead-ends when they made 30-day retreats, they themselves may not have understood that they were are emotional dead-ends. As a result of being at emotional dead-ends, they may not have savored in full the fruit of the Spiritual Exercises as they did them, as this unidentified former Jesuit puts it. Nevertheless, they may have applied themselves diligently to doing the Spiritual Exercises, the last one of which is known as an exercise to attain the love of God -- or more accurately, to attain the impression that one is loved by God.


Now, in THE WAY TO LOVE (reissued Image, 2012), Tony describes how a man who feels deeply loved emerges filled with euphoria:

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"A man in love does indeed go out to the world not in love but in euphoria. For him the world takes on an unreal, rosy hue, which it loses the moment the euphoria dies. His so-called love is generated not by his clear perception of reality but by the conviction, true or false, that he is loved by someone -- a conviction that is dangerously fragile, because it is founded on the unreliable, changeable people who he believes love him.. And who can at any moment pull the switch and turn off his euphoria." (Quoted from pages 114-115.)


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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