Anthony De Mello and Christian Yoga
Anthony de Mello, SJ, was a famous Jesuit priest, psychotherapist and seminar leader who sought to fashion a “Christian spirituality in Eastern form.” Anyone interested in Christian Yoga should definitely check out his many books — especially his seminal and fascinating text, Sadhana: A Way to God.
He was born in Bombay in 1931 into a large Portuguese Catholic family whose ancestors were converted by the early Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. He attended a Jesuit high school and joined the Society of Jesus in India in 1947. Following a typical Jesuit course of studies that included philosophy in Spain, theology in India and psychology in the U.S., De Mello was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1961.Fr. De Mello established the Pastoral Counseling and Spirituality Institute at deNobili College in Poona, India, which was later renamed the Sadhana Institute. Beginning in the late 1960s, Fr. De Mello tried to write about Christian spirituality using traditional yoga terminology and concepts, particularly the concept of the sadhana or meditative practice. There was nothing inherently shocking in this since Catholic spirituality is a kaleidoscope of various meditative practices, visualizations and devotions. Nevertheless, Fr. De Mello’s writings sometimes seemed to his religious superiors to be somewhat syncretistic and he drew censure from the Vatican. In 1998, some of his opinions were condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote for the Congregation:
“But already in certain passages in [his] early works and to a greater degree in his later publications, one notices a progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith. … With the present Notification, in order to protect the good of the Christian faithful, this Congregation declares that the above-mentioned positions are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.”
Some editions of his books have since been supplemented with the insertion of a caution: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.” To me, that seems like a fair characterization. Fr. De Mello wasn’t always presenting orthodox Catholic doctrine in his books but rather offering spiritual seekers a new way of understanding Christian spirituality. His writings are actually still quite popular, available in many Catholic bookstores as well as on Amazon.com. Some of his Jesuits colleagues are attempting to carrying on Fr. De Mello’s work and legacy. You can visit his official website maintain at Fordham University.
- The Song of the Bird, 1984.
- Sadhana: A Way to God, 1984.
- Wellsprings, 1986.
- One Minute Wisdom, Image, 1988.
- Awareness, Image,1990.
- Taking Flight, 1990.
- The Way to Love, 1992.
- The Heart Of The Enlightened, Image, 1994.
- Awakening, Image, 2003.
- Contact with God, Image, 2003.
- One Minute Nonsense
- The Prayer of the Frog
- Praying Naked: The Spirituality of Anthony de Mello (by J. Francis Stroud, S.J.), Image 2005.