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

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Perceptions [vs. Abstractions]

Helplessness [vs. Manipulation]

Present [vs. Planning, based on learning from the past]

Aimlessness, purposelessness [vs. Purpose, aim]

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Live life [vs. Make the most of life]

In terms of the level or moments of consciousness that Bernard Lonergan discusses in his great book INSIGHT: A STUDY OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, 5th ed. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1992; orig. 1957), the Sensual orientation mentioned here involves the empirical level of consciousness, whereas Discerning shape and form would involve the intelligent level of consciousness and then probably also the rational level of consciousness (judging the adequacy of the conceptual constructs worked out at the intelligent level of consciousness). In a similar way, Perceptions involve the empirical level of consciousness, whereas Abstractions involve the intelligent level of consciousness.

Next, I would draw your attention to the contrasts that he works with of Aimlessness, purposelessness versus Purpose, aim. In the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of Ignatius Loyola, we find the famous statement titled Principle and Foundation (standardized paragraph number 23), in which Ignatius Loyola articulates his understanding of the Purpose and aim of Christian life. In short, he does not advocate the position of Purposelessness that Anthony de Mello, S.J., advocates.

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I should also mention that John Milton announces that the Purpose of his famous poem PARADISE LOST is to justify the ways of God to man (sic). In contrast, the spirit of Purposelessness dominates T. S. Eliot's poem THE WASTE LAND. In general, the spirit of the heroic that comes out of oral tradition in Western culture, including even the mock-heroic poetry that emerged in print culture in the West, represents the spirit of the active way of living with which Anthony de Mello works. With the historical emergence of the Romantic Movement in poetry and the arts, and especially with the emergence of the antihero in literature in the West, the spirit of the passive and receptive way of life emerges, at least in kernel form. Even though we in the West today are clearly living in the Age of the Antihero, many of us in the West today have not adjusted our personal expectations for our lives to embody the spirit of purposelessness that Anthony de Mello advocates.

Among Christians today, this failure to adjust their expectations for their lives to embody the spirit of purposelessness is probably rooted in the fictional hero story about the death of the historical Jesus and to the valorization of dying a martyr's death (i.e., a hero's death) for one's religious faith, as though one's religious faith were worth dying for. But the crucifixion of the historical Jesus was not a heroic death. That's just an understandable fiction that his bereaved followers made up afterward about his purposeless death. He was probably crucified by nervous local authorities of the Roman empire as a crowd-control measure. In any event, followers of the historical Jesus should free themselves from the expectation that they need to live heroic lives and be willing to die as martyrs for their religious faith. In short, followers of the historical Jesus are free to live lives of purposelessness, as Anthony de Mello urges all people to do.

Digression: In his seminal book THE DUALITY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE: AN ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION (Chicago, Illinois (USA): Rand McNally, 1966), David Bakan works with the contrast agent/agency versus communion that parallels the contrast of active way of living versus passive and receptive way of life with which Anthony de Mello works. In her 700-page textbook THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GENDER, 3rd ed. ( Upper Saddle River , New Jersey ( USA ): Prentice Hall/ Pearson, 2009), Vicki S. Helgeson also works with the contrast and terminology with which Bakan works.

Digression: In effect, the late Canadian Jesuit theologian Frederick E. Crowe, S.J., has articulated a careful formal defense of the training or forming model in his book OLD THINGS AND NEW: A STRATEGY FOR EDUCATION, Supplementary Issue of the LONERGAN WORKSHOP periodical, Volume 5, edited by Fred Lawrence (Atlanta, Georgia (USA): Scholars Press, 1985). In effect, John Bradshaw delineates and celebrates the growth model of psychological development, but without adverting to spiritual growth or mystic experience, in his fine book RECLAIMING VIRTUE: HOW WE CAN DEVELOP THE MORAL INTELLIGENCE TO DO THE RIGHT THING AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR THE RIGHT REASON (New York, New York (USA): Bantam Dell/ Random House, 2009). As John Bradshaw himself explains, his subtitle is his paraphrase of a point that Aristotle makes in his treatise NICOMACHEAN ETHICS. For a fine new translation of Aristotle's famous treatise, see ARISTOTLE'S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: A NEW TRANSLATION by Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins ( Chicago , Illinois ( USA ): University of Chicago Press , 2011). In effect, John Bradshaw attributes the tendency to live in our heads, figuratively speaking (also known as intellectualizing), in his challenging book HEALING THE SHAME THAT BINDS YOU: EXPANDED AND UPDATED EDITION (Deerfield Beach, Florida (USA): Health Communications, 2005; orig. ed. 1988).

Digression: Concerning the death of the historical Jesus, see Paula Frederiksen's fine book JESUS OF NAZARETH: KING OF THE JEWS (New York, New York (USA): Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House, 1999) and John Dominican Crossan's incisive book WHO KILLED JESUS? EXPOSING THE ROOTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE GOSPEL STORY OF THE DEATH OF JESUS (San Francisco, California (USA): HarperSanFrancisco/ Harper Collins, 1995). Concerning the heroic orientation of Christianity, see Brian S. Hook and R. R. Reno's book HEROISM AND CHRISTIAN LIFE: RECLAIMING EXCELLENCE (Louisville, Kentucky (USA): Westminster John Knox Press, 2000), David A. deSilva's book THE HOPE OF GLORY: HONOR DISCOURSE AND NEW TESTAMENT INTERPRETATION (Collegeville, Minnesota (USA): A Michael Glazier Book/ The Liturgical Press, 1999), and Jerome H. Neyrey's book HONOR AND SHAME IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Louisville, Kentucky (USA): Westminster John Knox Press, 1998). End of digressions.

Some Definitions of Terms and Issues

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Before I proceed further to discuss Jiddu Krishnamurti and Anthony de Mello, S.J., I need to define and explain certain terminology.

The abbreviation "S.J." after Anthony de Mello's name indicates that he was a member of the religious order in the Roman Catholic Church known formally as the Society of Jesus (abbreviated as "S.J."), known popularly as the Jesuits. For the purposes of governing, the Society of Jesus is divided into provinces based on regional geography, and each province has a religious superior known as the provincial. Anthony de Mello, for example, was a member of the Bombay Province in India (now known as the Mumbai Province ).

Now, regarding the name of the religious order in the Roman Catholic Church known as the Society of Jesus, couldn't all so-called Christians claim to be in the "society" of Jesus, to be "companions" of Jesus, people who keep "company" with Jesus -- who could also aptly be described as "Jesuits"? No doubt they could. No doubt the founder of the religious order known historically as the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), constructed a presumptuous, arrogant, grandiose, pompous name for the religious order he founded. Shame on him! After all, the members of the religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church founded by St. Benedict, St. Dominic, and St. Francis of Assisi are known, respectively, as Benedictines, Dominicans, and Franciscans. In a similar way, members of the religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola should be known as Ignatians. This more accurate way of referring to members of the religious order founded by Ignatius Loyola would free up the term "Jesuit(s)" to refer to all followers of Jesus.

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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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