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Jiddu Krishnamurti and Anthony de Mello, S.J.: Two Spiritual Guides from India to Enlighten Us

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Duluth , Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 4, 2012 : What the world needs now is for billions of people around the world today to make the great leap forward into the altogether different consciousness of mystic awareness, which is altogether different from ego-consciousness.

Out of India in the distant past came Hinduism and the Buddha. Out of India in the twentieth century came two spiritual gurus to enlighten us about mystic experience: Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) and Anthony de Mello, S.J. (1931-1987). Each man was himself a practicing mystic, and each urged other people to become practicing mystics. However, even if we do not see billions of new practicing mystics emerge in the twenty-first century, we may still learn a lot about human psychology by studying the thought of each of these two twentieth-century spiritual gurus. These two gurus from India can help guide us as we work, however stumblingly, in the New Age Movement in the twenty-first century.


In the twentieth century, the French Jesuit mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Canadian Jesuit mystic Bernard Lonergan, and the American Jesuit mystic Walter J. Ong helped lead the New Age Movement in Roman Catholic circles. (As I explain below, all Jesuits try to be mystics, so in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I refer to each of these three Jesuit thinkers as a mystic, as I would also refer to other Jesuit thinkers.)

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There is a great intellectual divide between philosophic thought that is informed by mystic awareness of the transcendent divine ground of being, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, philosophic thought that is not and other forms of thought (infra-philosophic thought) that are not. For this reason, there is the professional organization in the United States known as the American Catholic Philosophical Association. This is not to say that only Roman Catholic philosophic thinkers are informed by mystic awareness of the transcendent divine ground of being. For example, Aldous Huxley and Mortimer J. Adler and Eric Voegelin were not Roman Catholics, but their thought is informed by mystic awareness of the transcendent divine ground of being, just as Jiddu Krishnamurti's thought is.

In short, mystic awareness of the transcendent divine ground of being can inform a wide range of thought, including secular thought that is not explicitly related to any specific religious tradition, such as Krishnamurti's thought. Even so, there are other forms of secular thought that explicitly exclude non-religious mystic awareness described in Krishnamurti's thought, some of which are also hostile to the kind of non-religious mystic awareness described in Krishnamurti's thought as well as to all other forms of thought that acknowledge and recognize the transcendent divine ground of being. In any event, mystic awareness of the transcendent divine ground of being is not necessarily explicitly related to any particular religious tradition, as Krishnamurti's thought is not.

In his time, the historical Jesus, a mystic if ever there was one, helped lead the New Age Movement. Because Pope Benedict XVI emphatically prefers a hermeneutic of continuity, he should prefer the New Age Movement that the historical Jesus helped lead in his time and that these two fine spiritual gurus from India helped advance in the twentieth century, as did Teilhard, Lonergan, and Ong, each in his own way of course.

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Because Pope Benedict XVI has taken a liking to canonizing saints in the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps he should start the process of canonizing Anthony de Mello, S.J., as a saint. (Only Catholics are eligible to be canonized saints in the Roman Catholic Church, so Jiddu Krishnamurti is not eligible because he was not a Catholic.) In my estimate, the basic spirit of canonizing saints in the Roman Catholic Church is admirable and commendable because as we struggle and stumble in our own efforts to live our lives well we need to have specific concrete examples to serve as exemplars of a life well lived.

Because the historical Jesus helped lead the New Age Movement in his time, perhaps Pope Benedict XVI should issue an encyclical officially recognizing and endorsing mystic awareness and the serious cultivation of mystic awareness in various traditions of spirituality, including of course Krishnamurti's work, as serious contributions to the New Age Movement worldwide in the twenty-first century. After all, Roman Catholics do not have a monopoly on cultivating spirituality and mystic awareness, as the official magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church claims -- mistakenly, in my estimate -- to have a monopoly on discerning and formulating theological and moral doctrines. In my estimate, the official magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church represents only one point of view in the marketplace of ideas. Even so, a papal encyclical broadly endorsing all Catholic and non-Catholic efforts to advance the New Age Movement would be a welcome and refreshing contribution for Pope Benedict XVI to make.

I know, I know, Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic bishops want to promote their backward-looking idea of the New Evangelization to promote and advance the results of old doctrine wars summed up for them in the collection of Catholic doctrines known as the Catholic catechism. In short, they want to indoctrinate not only old Catholics but also new Catholic converts in the doctrines of the Catholic catechism as their way to promote the New Evangelization. In their view, good Catholics are Catholics who have been properly indoctrinated in the doctrines contained in the Catholic catechism. But those doctrines are probably not going to contribute to mystic awareness or to advancing the New Age Movement in the twenty-first century that the historical Jesus helped advance in the first century and that Anthony de Mello, S.J., and others helped advance in Catholic circles more recently.

This brings us to the heart of the matter: Is the Roman Catholic Church today dedicated primarily to indoctrinating people in Catholic doctrines in the Catholic catechism, or to promoting personal spiritual growth not only among Roman Catholics worldwide but also among all people of good will worldwide, including atheists and agnostics who might freely undertake to cultivate a secular form of mystic awareness such as Krishnamurti's?

Now, in Anthony de Mello's July 1980 preached retreat in Denver , Colorado ( USA ), to approximately 85 Jesuits, he carefully delineated his understanding of a growth model regarding personal spiritual development. He sees the growth model of spiritual growth as growing out of the imagery of seeds. He contrasts the growth model of spiritual growth with the model of training or forming, which he sees as growing out of imagery of clay. I guess the imagery of clay includes the Genesis story about how God supposedly created Adam out of dust and then somehow breathed the spirit of life into him (= clay or dust needs spirit). I guess the imagery of growth includes the other Genesis story about how God created everything, including humankind, gradually over a series of so-called days. Regardless of the background of the imagery, here's how Anthony de Mello delineated the growth model of spiritual growth:

Exhortation minimal -- persons grow into Ideal [versus Exhortation to Ideal in the training or forming model, which engenders not only achievement but also guilt]

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Trust [vs. Mistrust]

Mistakes considered to be inevitable [vs. Minimizing mistakes]

Strengthen ego-consciousness [vs. Knock down ego-consciousness]

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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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