Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H

The Catholic priest, Anthony De Mello, wrote a book called Awareness (Fount, London, 1997) that became a runaway success. Many retreat centres for Catholics based on his ideas have sprung up. The book is basically about self-help and has some similarities with pop psychology. I will discuss the merits of the book first and then the shortcomings and then how it fails to square with Catholic doctrine. De Mello was a psychiatrist and no one can expect even a priest one to be a real Catholic. The book says that suffering is caused by stupid thinking or delusions and that all you have to do to be happy is to be aware or see through this stupidity for happiness is not caused by you but is intrinsic. You just have to learn how to let it activate. It is there inside you all you have to do is let it out.

De Mello says that acting out of self-interest is good and healthy (page 24). He says we should not try to become unselfish but to have the right kind of selfishness. This kind of selfishness is just enjoying the happiness that is there when you detach yourself from everything and just accept whatever comes. It is selfish because it gives you real delight unlike running after people, fame and things. It is the only real selfishness. You obtain it by doing away with the idea that you need anything outside yourself and you do everything for a reason so the reason you do that is for your own happiness only so it is selfish. He says that until you wake up you are getting something outside yourself out of it and being dependant on something else to make you happy and that is bad (page 15) for it is searching for happiness that is already inside you.

He says there are three types of selfishness:

The first is the type that gives you the pleasure of pleasing yourself.

The second is the type that gives you the pleasure of pleasing others.

The third is the type that has you doing good to others to avoid feeling bad if you donít (page 25). He rejects the statement of those who do this that they hate hurting others and says this is nonsense for all people love it especially when somebody else is hurting somebody they donít like for it is safe for themselves. This is madness for it is possible to let others walk over you because you hate hurting them. However, he says the third type is not love because it is driven by guilt.

The second type is the variety he approves of but you need awareness to do it properly.

He says that people donít want to be happy. They want things like cars and successful jobs instead and they donít want to be cured of this for the cure is too painful (page 6). The truth is that they do want to be happy but they think these things are going to do the trick and win them happiness. Otherwise why would they bother? Nobody wants a car if they know it is going to make them miserable. They donít want the cure because they cannot see the cure working for the cure requires them to be detached from transient and material things and honours. If people donít want happiness then it follows that they donít want God - assuming the Christian propaganda that having God gives you complete happiness is true - and when they pray they are hypocrites.

His assertion that self-worth should have nothing to do with what successes you have had but if you have managed to be unconditionally happy (page 106). A person with a successful life and plenty of money and prestige who is not happy is not a real success at all. He is right if you can be unconditionally happy for that is better than being conditionally happy. Conditional happiness is weaker happiness than unconditional for it is always under threat.

He correctly observes that you are never in love with a person but only your judgment of them (page 8). You never trust anyone either but only your perception of them and when they do something bad to you, you accuse them of letting you down because you are angry because your judgment of them was incorrect and you hate being wrong. He does not go as far as to say that you never love God but only your image of God or your assessment of God for that would be betraying the truth that the vast majority of the human race are hypocrites and most servants of God are just promoting God out of pure manipulative arrogance and pride. Anyway, trust is not a compliment to the other person or God at all. It is praising yourself for judging them right. The Bible asks us to trust in God but this trust is a sham.

He correctly observes that when I feel that something is the case it isnít necessarily the case (page 79).

He correctly observes that conditional happiness is when you think you need your father or mother or wife or God and if you donít get them the way you want them you will refuse to be happy (page 10). He blames this on the conditioning we have got from society. He says that when somebody dies we should not grieve for them or for those who grieve. Grief is just feeling sorry for yourself not them (page 53). To grieve for those who grieve is silly for it is feeling sorry for those who feel sorry for themselves.

He says that most of those who go to a psychologist or psychiatrist want relief but donít want to be cured of their mental problem (page 12). When they hit rock bottom they become sick of their sickness and that is when they start to work on healing themselves. This approach would imply that therapists should focus on making their patients feel as bad as possible. Some of those people see advantages in being sick. Sometimes there can be a vengeful urge to pull other people down through having them worry about you and looking after you. But most of the time what is happening is the patients canít see light at the end of the tunnel or if they see it they cannot feel it and so therapy is not as helpful as it could be because each one has to help herself or himself.

He says that if you renounce anything you are really tying yourself to it (pages 15, 16). He says you are giving it power. He means that if you renounce sex you are trapped by sex in the sense that you will fight it as long as you renounce it. You are succumbing to its power by creating a struggle. He says it is only nonsense renouncing anything. Just see through what you should be rid of. See that it is an illusion and gives a promise of happiness that it wonít keep. See that is all you have to do. All you have to do is become aware. But you might think that when you become aware you are renouncing unawareness! No you are just getting rid of unawareness but you are not renouncing it. Renouncing implies struggle against an attraction that you canít get rid of and that is why he says renouncing continues to give the renounced thing power over you.
De Mello says we are happy but we put things in the way. The things we put in the way block the happiness so that we cannot experience it.

Why should we regain this inner happiness? No regain is the wrong word. The correct word is reach for it is there but we are imprisoning it away from us. If we open the door it will be there. So why should we enjoy this intrinsic happiness? Because it is right or because it is nice?
Some might say that it canít be because it is right because we canít help the happiness. You might say we can help it because we can block it. But blocking it is the wrong way to deal with it. And yet it is the only way. We cannot help the happiness for it is intrinsic. An analogy. I am consciousness. If I put things in the way of my awareness eg alcohol or drugs or sleeping all the time, I am diminishing my awareness the wrong way. I cannot help being conscious. If I have to hurt a person by pulling out a tooth I can't help it. Same principle. I cannot argue that I can help it just because I walk away for walking away is not a legitimate option.
Some say that we cannot help the happiness but we can do something to receive it so it can be because it is right. So we have refuted it. If we should embrace the happiness because it is right then the right is more important than the happiness. This would be saying happiness is not good in itself. So how could it be good to be happy then?
If we embrace the happiness because it is nice and not because it is right then it follows that God is evil for not miraculously multiplying copies of Awareness so that everybody on earth can read it.
Both the right and nice options cause problems so mixing them together and embracing both doesn't help. If you splash ugly grey paint over a canvas and then splash ugly pink paint over it the result will still be ugly.

De Mello says we hate anything new not because we fear the unknown for we cannot fear what we do not know (page 29) but because we fear the loss of what we are familiar with and are afraid the new will show that we are wrong (page 18). Of course we can fear the unknown for we donít know what nasty surprises may be in store. His assertion contradicts itself because he says we canít fear what is unknown and then he says we can for we feel secure with what we know. If we feel safe with things because we know them then it is because we know them and we don't want to risk opting for change.
De Mello says we like security when we should like taking reasonable risks. This draws him to the notion that you must be open-minded on everything and have faith and recognise that faith is insecurity while belief is security and all beliefs should be checked out and questioned. He claims that faith is open to contradicting Jesus and the Catholic Church who have made wilful doubt a sin. How can it be open for the real Catholic when such a person is not allowed to see if there is another side?
He maintains that the only difference between criminals and ourselves is that they have done evil actions but inside we are as bad as them. We are the same as what they are (page 30). And he says we should not expect others to be good to us and then we wonít be disappointed (page 31-32). The truth is that self-esteem comes not from doing good to earn a good self-image but from doing good to see how good you are. It cannot be done any other way. You need to need to do good works despite his claim that you should be detached from everything.
Suppose we are all as bad as each other. It follows then that instead of putting the murderer in prison for his crimes we should give him a medal for being so honest as to carry out what was in his heart. The rest of us who don't murder, would do it and don't because we are hypocrites. We hide what we really are while the murderer was honest. If we are as bad as each other, we cannot condemn anybody as worse than us. Also, it doesn't matter if somebody is falsely accused of a crime. It is not slander. To condemn somebody for committing a crime is more about condemning them for being of bad character than about them breaking rules. With that thought in mind, how can it be possible to slander anybody no matter what you say about them?

He stresses that we must not try to change other people but just observe their behaviour like a scientist would observe ants for the only person that needs to change is the one who wants others to change (page 32,51). He says you are more effective in helping others if you avoid negative feelings and just observe and donít let the evil done by others affect your emotions and make you negative.

He makes a difference between the I and the me. The I is the part of me that is aware and which is intrinsically and naturally happy if it is allowed to be. The me is the part of me that has the thoughts and the maladjustments. He says I should never say I am depressed but it is depressed meaning the me part. Or it is sick not I am sick. Suffering exists in the me not the I so if I become aware of this though I will experience pain I will not experience suffering for suffering is unhappiness and pain together. The I is what is left when I forget about needing other people and things. That is why he is able to say you can be happy while being depressed (page 61). I donít see any benefit pretending that when you feel pain that it is not you doing it but an it that is really you. it is unnatural and trying to do it will only add to your distress. It is enough just to reduce your emotional needs.
De Mello says happiness is within everybody's reach and my happiness is my own responsibility and nobody else's. It follows then that if you are kidnapped and kept in a dungeon for a decade and you spend it on the verge of going out of your mind with misery and loneliness then it is your own fault. That could be a consolation for the kidnapper. It denies he is to blame for the victim's misery. The Catholic Church has accepted De Mello's nasty thinking since the time of the incarcerated philosopher Boethius and his imaginary conversations with Lady Philosophy. No wonder priestly paedophiles are exceptional and astonishing in their lack of guilt.

When people praise me, they praise the me not the I and that praise is no good. He says to be happy you just have to waken up and see the illusions that attach you to things and people slip away (page 77). This distinction between I and me means that when people tell me off they are against the me not the I. Also when people praise us or call us geniuses it becomes evil for it forces us to try and live up to what they say and we get depressed and lose the sense of self-worth if we fail (page 113). People understandably will be sceptical of all this because the I has to feel bad because of the me. But what De Mello wants you to do is not make a division but a distinction. There is no division but there is a difference between the I and the me. The good thing about all that is that you see your defects as something the I can prevent from hurting the I for they are outside the I and the I is boss. I am not my feelings but my feelings are something that happen to me and they determine if I will be good to myself and others or if I will be bad.

He says happiness is not a thrill and thrills make you depressed because you want them all the time and canít have them (page 60). He said this is not happiness for it requires work and is an addiction.

De Mello might seem never to have discussed the question: ďIf I am happy then is it the I or the me that is happy?Ē The answer is that the me can feel the good thrill but the I is what is happy and the I is intrinsically happy.

He urges us not to judge or praise ourselves but just to observe what we do without any element of these intruding (page 46).
He says that depending on others makes you make demands on them (page 54). The result is fear and fear destroys love. He says we must be detached from them and let them be free which cures loneliness. We should fear nobody because we are content to be nobody (page 58).
The system of De Mello is totally incompatible with Roman Catholic doctrine which is based on the perfection and godhead of Jesus Christ.

De Mello says that Jesus could not do wrong for he had the awareness that the book tries to inspire in us. It says that because of this Jesus was free and since we can do wrong we are not free (page 142).

But De Melloís system forbids aggression and Jesus was aggressive towards the Jews so Jesus did not practice the philosophy in this book. Jesus taught everybody to say, ďI am a sinnerĒ. But De Mello says that since you should not say you are depressed but be careful to separate the illness from your personhood by saying something like, ďIt is depressedĒ, meaning your me part is depressed not the I which would imply that you should not call yourself a sinner but say ďIt is a sinnerĒ or ďMy me part not my I part is a sinnerĒ. Yet the word sinner means a person or I who sins against God. Jesus also got upset therefore he did not practice De Melloís philosophy.
Aggression is accepted by all right thinking people as a duty when you are trying to get some stubborn person out of a burning house etc. Christianity and Jesus say there is a Hell of endless torment. Jesus says we must be prepared at all times for meeting the bridegroom, meaning himself, and no excuse will be accepted if the opportunity comes. He devised some parables to drive home that moral. So taking all this into consideration, real Christianity demands quite a lot of aggression for the fate of Hell which is everlasting torment is worse than a million deaths. You must yell your head off at a girl who is going to sleep with her boyfriend.

De Mello cannot answer people who say they enjoy being bad and having negative feelings. It is possible that people can enjoy hating another person and get more pleasure out of this than out of letting go which is what De Mello asks them to do. Everybody and everybodyís situation is different so some people could hate strongly and be okay.

Also Jesus taught the doctrine of eternal punishment while De Mello says that we should not worry about the afterlife at all or care about it (page 42). Only the insane could not care if they go to Hell if they die. He said the central question in philosophy or the question that should be most important for us is not is there a God or is there an afterlife but how to do what is best with this life. De Mello gives lip-service to God and belief in God emphasising that the more we learn about God the less we know for God is unknowable. But in reality there is no need for God at all. De Mello said that to need God is to fail to love God for needing God means you want to control him. We donít need God to be happy (page 134). I like the way De Mello is full of the atheist spirit though it is a pity he has tried to hide it.
If we should not need God, then we must deny that God holds us in existence and that we cannot exist without him making us.
De Mello with this God we do not need is denying that God comes first. This contradicts the first great commandment as taught by Jesus and Moses which runs, ďYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mindĒ, in other words do everything for God and nothing for yourself or others and to love others and yourself is simply to love God because love is doing whatever is the right thing to do. Only God is loved in the sense of being valued. This life does come first in the sense that you have it now and are most sure you are alive now than that you will be later or after death. De Mello doesnít give this reason for it though. He says that you need to strip away the illusions and become aware and that has to be done in this life so this life comes first.

Jesus had no business teaching that Hell exists when we are not supposed to care about the afterlife. The doctrine has caused so much upset that we must conclude that Jesus was an evil man if he lived.

Catholics pray to saints and say prayers like, "Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail Our Life, Our Sweetness and our Hope. O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary." If you donít need God you need the saints even less and so it would be degrading to pray to the saints and more so than it would be to pray to God.

De Mello says you should not make demands on others for demands imply that you will refuse to be happy if they are not met. To make demands on them then is to disrespect yourself for you cannot love others if you donít love yourself and so it is not love. But God made demands on us in the Ten Commandments and Jesus did as well in his own. When Jesus said that those who die outside his love will go to Hell forever he was telling us to make ourselves unhappy if our demand for salvation was not met for how could we be happy if it was not? The implication is that God does not love. People want belief in God so that they can make demands on him for a life after death and for consolation in this one and make demands on other people often through a priest or minister. If demanding is wrong then so is serving God or emphasising him. Atheism would be a duty.

De Mello says that suffering makes you more selfish than ever before and makes you full of yourself and you canít help others as well with it either (page 104). Only awareness that material things and the people around you are not needed for your happiness but that happiness is inbuilt and is allowed to function when you get rid of the illusions is necessary and it frees you from your me side or from yourself. This makes suffering completely useless. Yet God created the power to suffer and the viruses and germs and other natural evils so God must be either evil or non-existent. If awareness is our salvation then why do we need De Melloís book to tell us that and why canít God make us learn these things by instinct like he makes us learn other things? For suffering to train us in the ways of God it would need to induce awareness but this never happens unless the person has read De Melloís book or something. The Church says that God cannot send suffering to Joe Bloggs no matter how much he needs its disciplinary power if Joe Bloggs needs his health to help other people. God sees that evil will be maximised if he sends Joe a sickness. This tells us that goodness is happiness. But if goodness is happiness then why has God not done better to stop evil?

De Melloís system seeks to deliver from fear. But some fear is natural. For example, how can you avoid fearing pain?

The Bible says that God rewards works of righteousness. But if awareness is all we need what use will they be for we will have all we need? They cannot be rewards unless they please us. De Melloís system forbids you to think of rewards for that is destroying your inner happiness by making yourself need something.

If it is true that success of every kind has nothing to do with self-worth then it follows that the Bible teaching that you are a failure if you commit adultery or whatever is wrong for if you succeed in keeping the commandments it is nothing to be glad about.

The Bible says that grace, a supernatural miracle of God by which he helps you to be good and pleasing to him, is what changes your life. De Mello says it is not grace but just seeing through the things that you think offer you happiness that you need so that you will be free of burdens that stop your happiness. Itís all your own work so grace and therefore prayer are a waste of time.
The Bible blames original sin and not stupidity for the human condition. If there is no original sin there should be no infant baptism. De Mello says you do not need God but awareness which rules out the need for Godís forgiveness and the sacrament of confession and for Jesus to die for sins. To rule out Jesusí atonement is to abolish the Mass as well. To abolish grace implies you donít need belief in the miracle of God making bread and wine the body and blood of Christ. The ban on judging ourselves or praising ourselves rules out the Catholic system entirely.

De Melloís system if correct proves that the sacraments are actually evils. They give false hope of becoming a good person. They do not make you develop awareness for you need De Mello for that. All they do is waste your time and make you complacent about the evil that is in you for you think they are curing it magically and they are not. They constitute false promises.

De Mello would agree with the Catholic Church that knowing God is admitting you don't know. Making God unknowable makes God scary for De Mello states that we like what we know best for we are familiar with it. De Mello says that there are only two emotions in us, love and fear and fear is bad and has to be destroyed by his system for us to be happy. Fear is what originates human evil and it results from looking for happiness in material things, God, other people and in love for these things are a distraction from the happiness that is programmed into us which cannot be taken away or depend on any conditions. By implication then belief in God is a bad thing. And it is worse when you believe in the Bible God who would let people go to Hell for all eternity for Hell makes you afraid for yourself and for others and the fact that Jesus taught the doctrine shows that De Melloís system proves that Jesus was a fake who should be ignored.

If fear is the problem then you can be afraid of fear too. The longer you live the more experience you have of things going wrong and the more afraid you will get of fear. So it follows that the longer you live the more evil you have inside you that you disguise as good provided you are not practicing De Melloís philosophy.

De Mello says that belief is security. This is because people treat their beliefs like facts. But he describes faith, personal trust, as insecurity. It is taking the risk of being wrong and getting on with it. The Bible denies that faith is insecure. The faith of the Bible is full of confidence that Jesus has saved the world and is coming back and that God loves all. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul stated that Jesus had risen not that Jesus might have risen. 1 Peter 9 tells us that we are sure that our souls will be saved. Faith is a mixture of belief and acting on the belief so if belief is secure like De Mello says then it follows that for him faith is just something you do and not necessarily something that you believe in.

De Mello states that if you believe that nobody loves you there will be moments when you forget this and during these moments you are happy (page 112). The doctrine that God comes first urges you to keep God in your mind as much as possible as if he were your one true love. If you remember that God loves you that will remind you that people don't so you will lose your happiness over God. It will only be a little better if it reminds you that there are some or many who do not.

If De Melloís philosophy is right then the Bible is not inspired by God at all for it does not teach his philosophy at all. If it ever does then it is not clear and detailed enough. We would have something like De Melloís book at the beginning of the Bible.

De Mello says that religion is not necessarily connected with spirituality (page 21). Spirituality is what he calls awareness. He says his book is spiritual. That is quite a matter of opinion! Since the book is just commonsense and demands that you use your own material resources, your brain primarily, it cannot have anything to do with spirituality because spirituality is getting emotional help from an unseen plane of existence, like a world of gods and angels, while this is shutting out the other world.

De Mello would say the greatest thing of all is awareness. But Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 says the greatest virtue is charity that expresses faith and the Church believes that God wrote this through him.

When happiness is just being content whatever happens as De Mello asserts then how can rewards be rewards? A reward is supposed to make you feel better but in De Melloís system you have to be detached from thrills and stuff and therefore rewards. Yet the Bible promises rewards in Heaven. De Mello is accusing the Christian God of being evil and opposed to awareness.
Awareness takes effort in the sense that you have to avoid the bad thinking that destroys your inner peace. But in Heaven there is no need for the effort for God supplies the happiness. So the happiness of Heaven then depends on us being lazy and basking in the peace that comes from God. So much for laziness or sloth being a deadly sin! If you want to go to this Heaven you will end up in Hell if laziness is a sin!

De Mello says that becoming aware makes us have the right kind of selfishness. The person becomes aware, to be happy. When you please only yourself you end up with lots of enemies. When you serve others in case you will feel guilty you will feel enslaved. He rejects these as being of any value. In fact they are perversions of selfishness and not real selfishness for they cannot work and are self-defeating. Jesus said that the man who does good for praise merits no reward. We can say the same of the man who sees how to be selfish and how the other two forms of selfishness could only be adopted by ceasing to be selfish to some degree. He sees the thing that has the most of something in it for him. De Mello admits that his path is hard and blames it on the fact that we allegedly donít want to be happy but just want relief for a while from our problems. He believes that faults come from the sensation of needing others and needing things for yourself so he is against you being imperfect. It has not occurred to him that some people might find it easier just to find their faults make them see themselves as lovable rogues.

The concept of deserving has to do with needing because rights are based on needs and deserving means you have a right to be made suffer or happy. If you do wrong of your own free will you need punishment for yourself and the Church says that punishment does not degrade human dignity but restores it. De Mello forbids needing so he forbids punishing or rewarding.

The Vatican has issued a warning about De Melloís writings on the basis that he is too much into Eastern philosophy with the result that he fuses God and nature so that they are one and the same thing and has one religion as good as another and makes Jesus superfluous.