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Here are some of the reviews from readers of the two books on this site:
Richard Hennessey. Hawaii
I can see that you have done an excellent job, Bill, of transcribing the participants' notes from Tony's last retreat in India. I thank you for doing so. To me Swansong is a distillation of Tony's most poignant and powerful teachings. The book is jam-packed with Tony's wonderful wisdom, warmth and humor.Swansong demonstrates how Tony was the best at succinctly arriving at the essence of the world's great spiritual teachings, especially those of Jesus and Buddha.You convey in Swansong how Tony clearly practiced what he preached, speaking with courage and conviction. I especially appreciate how you captured at the end of the retreat Tony putting forth the concepts of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness (suffering), and non-self, the three characteristics of all existence. How understanding these leads to insight and seeing clearly. In Tony's words: “In the onewho sees – there is only love. And in that love there is great beauty. And you will find God.”For the lucky reader Swansong brings forth the culmination of Tony's journey into and through the world's great spiritual truths. It contains the heart of Tony's wise and compassionate teachings, such a feast for those who know Tony's work, as well as for the newcomer to Tony wanting to know what this modern day mystic was all about.A final note: the book title is perfect for Tony. It harkens back to his early story meditation books, Song of the Bird and Taking Flight, as well as to the wonderful compilation on Tony by Aurel Brys andJoseph Pulickal, We Heard the Bird Sing. I am sure Tony glides above smiling down at you and your wonderful accomplishment.Thank you so much, Bill, for your painstaking effort, your labour of love, in bringing forth Tony's last retreat in India for the world to see.
I was more than delighted to receive Swansong. Quite evidently, Bill transcribed the seminar on which the book is based with the love and attention that only a brother can lavish.
Fr Tony’s last seminar may have been his swan song but what he says is a mighty clarion call to us all to open our eyes and wake up. As a true master, Fr Anthony De Mello shows us “where to look” but never tells us “what to see”.
An oriental sage once said : “If a blind man walks a thousand miles to ask of another man where light is, he will tell him: ‘If you had eyes, light was there also where you came from. Without eyes, light will not be, no matter where you go’. Light is wherever eyes are - else there is nothing but darkness”.
But it is inherent in the human conditon, in this matrix we live in, that most of us are blind. We need a master to point us in the right direction. We then choose whether to follow the path to peace that passes all understanding or continue to exist within the confines of our conditioning.
As a human (mechanical) being I’d say that Anthony De Mello was taken away from us far too soon but deep in my heart I know that he sang all of his song and he sang it beautifully. Could he have given us further insights, untrammelled by rigid, doctrinal, lifeless formalisms had he lived longer? Perhaps. But what does it matter, his joyful voice still rings clear. Swansong exudes his humour and his love for humanity – the beauty of his being is still with us.
Barry Long said, “The living master never returns. He teaches the truth, he is in his own body, his own time. When that is finished, all that he had to say and do is said and done. If it weren't, he would not die. The body is the precise time allotted. There can be no return of J. Krishnamurti, Meher Baba, Ramana Maharshi or any living master of his time. The master never needs more time.”
Fr Tony’s teachings live on in his stories, books and the few, alas, videos we have of him dancing his dance. He was a floodlight of wisdom and divine inspiration for this world. He touched the hardest hearts, the confused, the dogmatic, the seeker. He continues to do so.
So I can only offer a big THANK YOU to his dear brother Bill (and his generous correspondents) for gifting us, in Swansong , with the authentic words of a rare mystic.
Swansong, Anthony deMello’s Last Seminar has been available for some months. I have yet to receive a negative review of this seminar.This review is no exception; but it is in many ways special. Because the man who wrote it was a novice in the Jesuit seminary when Tony was Rector of the house (see Anthony deMello SJ, The Happy Wanderer)He gives me great credit for transcribing this last seminar but I humbly claim none. Unless pre-arranged and agreed to by Tony, his seminars were never taped or filmed. Therefore his last seminar, delivered in May 1987, in Pune, India, would be but a blissful memory for those who attended it, never to be accessed by the wider community. I attribute all credit to the sister (who still wishes to remain anonymous) and Fr. Joaquim Tellis, who shared their notes on this seminar which they attended, with me.The review:Bill,Towards the end of last month I completed 3/4 century, aided by not regretting the past and not being bothered about the future. And you know what?! On my birthday, I gave out presents: A copy each, in fancy wrapping, of SWANSONG. with a sticker, signed by me, on the first page, saying: " This is to share with you, thoughts expressed by my guru, that keep me enlightened, and to admit I am able to keep sane because of the questionable company I keep. Like in the case of Jesus—see Mk 2:15f and also Lk 7:33."You certainly did a great job transcribing the seminar and I will not be the only one to say that. Tony followers all over will be highly indebted, for they will have Tony's final thoughts and feelings about what really matters in life. You must have taken great pains over the transcriptions and you certainly edited them expertly for when I read SWANSONG I felt as if I was hearing Tony himself, just as I remember him. The flow of words, the aptness of the illustrations and jokes, the depth of mystical understanding, the forthrightness of speech, and the simplicity and clarity of everything---all that is associated with Tony---came out strongly through what you gifted all of us. You have our undying gratitude.A million, trillion thanks for SWANSONG!
The Happy Wanderer
I enjoyed reading "The Happy Wanderer". My parents who reside in India had sent it to me as a birthday gift. I never met your amazing brother in person but I have always felt a strong connection with Anthony deMello through his books and videos. My association with your brother began in 1988. A catholic priest, who was a very good friend of my parents, gave them a book titled “The Song of the Bird”. I was drawn to the book instantaneously and could not stop reading it. The stories were simple but there was a lot of depth to them. Even though I was a child (about 12 years old) I felt an instant connection with your brother and his message. I wanted to know more about him. Those were days when the internet did not exist and whatever little information I gathered about Anthony deMello was from the brief biography that was printed on the cover of the book. I wanted to know more about this man who through very simple stories was making me look at life very differently. Over the years I read many of the books written by your brother. Anthony deMello has had a tremendous impact on my life. I was always curious about his life - his childhood, his family, friends etc.. Thank you for writing “The Happy Wanderer”. It was absolutely delightful to travel through his childhood, early adulthood, priesthood….. Your book is truly an act of love and a sincere effort to help us gain a little more insight into your brother and his life. Your integrity is evident throughout the book. I felt that your book was a wonderful tribute to your brother who has certainly left behind a lasting legacy. You have helped us find some answers to a few of the questions that we had about your brother. Thank you once again for giving us this treasure. I am happy and blessed to have you as a friend. May God bless you and your family :)
Dear Simple,Every now and again, I feel that I am not doing enough to promote Tony and his message. I feel quite inadequate because in the spirituality department, I am a very late starter. You would have gathered that from my words in The Happy Wanderer. So I am in many ways, playing 'catch up' with my spiritual life. It is therefore I suppose, understandable from my perspective, to feel that I am not doing enough.I keep telling myself not to push-things will take their course as and when they are meant to happen. And yet, even though I think I have achieved that special "silence" doubts creep in. I should 'listen' more often to my brother!Then, out of the blue, a message such as yours appears in my inbox and I am delighted that I have reached at least one soul who sees the message. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me.What amazes and delights me, is that most of the messages like yours which I receive, are from young people. What a blessing to know that you young people are not easily fooled by the powers who would control your thoughts and actions. Please keep following the Facebook page as well as the website. I'm afraid I have been somewhat lethargic with the website of late but I will get back to it very soon. May I also ask you to promote the website to your like minded friends and relatives? Tony's last seminar(Swansong) is also available on the website but you parents may be able to purchase it in India at the cheaper rate and mail it to you.
The Song of the Bird is also one of my favourite books. But the BEST, in my humble opinion is Call to Love, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand Gujarat, India. There is a US version called The Way to Love(Image books)
Simple, thank you for your message, for following Tony and I sincerely hope you and your family are blessed with peace and happiness.
Very warm regards,
I was delighted to receive my copy of Swansong- Anthony deMello's last seminar which was delivered in Poona India in 1987 just before he died.
Tony's seminar captures the very best of Ignatian spirituality that I have come to appreciate. Below are my comments.
Anthony’s last seminar reflects the best of his beliefs. We have all been programmed to think in a certain way and most of us follow the road without questioning it. Tony makes us think! He helps shatter our illusions and makes us realize that we alone are responsible for our own suffering. He interjects his words of wisdom with funny jokes that are very effective in helping us become more aware of what we do and think. This book is a must read for everyone who seeks to find a way to true happiness.
The Happy Wanderer
J. A. Williams "James Williams" (Atlanta, GA)
Bill deMello put lots of love into writing about the life of Tony, his brother
He has done a remarkable job of chronologically describing the various stages of Tony's life, which is supported by statements from people who Tony spent time around.
I also love how Bill featured his own voice - albeit subtly - in the narration. It was lovely to read about the brothers' interactions, and to witness the testaments from others who spent time with Tony.
The Jesuit way of life, some of its rules, and progression through the Jesuit training system is beautifully worded throughout the book. Prior to seeing Tony on a YouTube video in 2009, I had no knowledge of the Jesuit order, and the book describes it in an easy to understand way, without excessive detail.
The book is a masterpiece because the story is told with heart and clarity, and a beautifully-even pace. Tony would likely be delighted with it, and grateful to his brother for the way parts of his life story have been shared.
Despite writing about his brother, Bill has been careful to share an objective and also entertaining story about Tony's life. I looked forward to reading the book each evening, and taking in the story inspired me to reconnect more deeply with Tony's work. This book contains a rare reprint of one of Tony's articles from 1982, and for me, just the article made the book worth more than its cover price.
You'll be happy that you read this book; it's one to keep and worth adding to your collection. I highly recommend it for all audiences.
If I had a subtitle for this book, it would be:
The Complete deMello.
I think Tony put all his teaching into his final seminar. He gave a roof raising performance, leaving a legacy of refreshing spirituality and mysticism.
My first “discovery” was( as you have so aptly described in your introduction) that the book is a word-by-word reproduction of a spoken seminar. The book is not an essay. Therefore each “day” of the book has to be “heard” without critical analysis.
If the reader pauses to analyse, the magic is lost. Analyse by all means, but only after the complete reading. In fact Tony himself asks his hearers to test and question what he says.
My second “discovery” was that Tony often wanders, digresses and repeats. But that is the nature of his presentation. He had time. It was a 5-day seminar. He had a captive audience. He wasn’t writing a book.
When read with this in mind, the narrative flows and is easy to take in. Enormous meaning emerges as the words roll on.
An example. The following passage had much meaning for me:
The only way you can know that you are in touch with reality is when what you perceive does not fit into any formula, whether given by someone else or created by yourself. Reality simply cannot be put into words. All the Guru can do is to alert you to what is unreal. He cannot show you reality. All he can do is destroy your formulas; he cannot make you see what the formula is pointing to. He can indicate your error, not put you in possession of the truth. At most, he can point you in the direction of reality he cannot make you see. To see, you have to go out alone and discover reality for yourself.
Back in school, when I was 11years old, (a hundred years ago!) our sportsmaster was teaching us to how kick the football properly. I couldn’t get it no matter how hard I tried. My attempts frustrated me, and annoyed him. I was following his formula, which did not work for me. The next week I got the technique, after quiet practice by myself. But it was somewhat different to what he taught.
Conclusion: Swansong is a readable and meaningful book that complements Awareness. Readers will come to know Tony better from reading it than from reading any of his other published works, including Awareness.
Definitely worth publishing
I read The Happy Wanderer a while ago..... and I was astounded!
Astounded.....that somebody sitting in a place as remote as Australia,
could have conceived and executed this incredibly complex piece of work.
Astounded.....that somebody who hardly knew his brother,
could have delved so deeply into his life, and produced a literary canvas that spanned his entire life.
I thought it was nothing short of astonishing!
Sure you couldn't have done it without the vast array of the good people you so rightly acknowledged.
But what I find truly impressive is your perseverance and courage......
to have plunged blindfolded into the Great Unknown.....
to have searched, located, contacted and then persuaded this army of friends and detractors to contribute so wholesomely and sincerely to your narrative.....
to have collated this material and arranged it all in literary form.....
to have then co-ordinated with your contributors, editor and publisher, all by long distance and, as I know, on that final leg, from Goa, with no surety of telephonic or internet connection......
and finally to have succeeded in bringing out the book on the day planned, in Bombay......
is, to my mind, sheer magic!
Your literary style is hardly something that would cause even Enid Blyton to sit up with envy.
But I found a sort of home spun earthiness, an expansive inclusivity combined with a focused direction, that subtly ensnares the reader.
Its a style that's pure Bill de Mello. No frills. No fancies. One can tell that here is a guy with a story to tell.
And tell it he does, with the directness and honesty, he is known for.
When I first started reading the book, I was somewhat confused by the order in which you had presented the chapters. But as I read on, I realized that by juxtaposing facts with Tony's contemporaries' comments,
you had not only revealed Tony de Mello the man, but also the way of the Jesuit.
It certainly not going to win any literary prizes. So throw away your acceptance speech??!!
But to those who wanted to know more about Tony de Mello, this book of yours is manna from heaven.
The Happy Wanderer
Anyone who has ever enjoyed, savored, thrilled to, laughed with, wept over the treasure trove of stories or the wealth of wisdom about spiritual direction offered in the several books of Father Anthony De Mello will want to read this book: a biographical tribute to Tony by his brother Bill.
This book is itself a treasure, combining the biographical detail only a family member can provide with the kind of comprehensive evaluation available only to the careful and thorough research of someone who really cares. Bill De Mello queried scores of those who knew Tony, who were in one way or another touched by his wisdom, and he reports their direct words in assimilable topical chunks. We follow the young novice through novitiate and his study of philosophy, his regency and study of theology, his ordination to priesthood and his return to the Novitiate as its rector. In this era of the first Jesuit pope, it is especially interesting to watch the detailed description of Jesuit formation.
Anthony De Mello was more than a talented storyteller, more than a skillful and psychologically astute spiritual director, more than an inspiring teacher: he was all of these and also yet more - as a mere glance at his impish picture on the cover of this book hints. Anyone who has enjoyed a De Mello story will relish this book. Anyone who has been enlightened by his spiritual wisdom will treasure it.
Two days ago I opened my mailbox to find much junk mail. In the midst of it I saw a brown cardboard package which looked like it might be of interest. When I came upstairs I opened the package and to my GREAT DELIGHT I saw Swansong. Believe it or not I am reading only one session at a time so I can drink it in. I needed to hear one thing in particular! It is his great opus, his best ever and I have read all or most of all his books and attended many lectures. It is magnificent. One could not help but notice his reference to falling dead of a heart attack!
Wo! What an incredible gift you have given me.
I am so grateful!
And what a great gift you have given your brother by having this book published! I can see him laughing with delight that this series of lectures is having a much wider audience than he ever expected!!!
I send much love and gratitude. I hope the book is at Amazon. I look forward to sending gifts of it. Much love, Rita"
The Happy Wanderer
"There are only two times in life: now and too late." Bill de Mello chose the `now' of 2011 to write the biography of his brother, Tony. He made a timely decision as subsequent years may have been `too late'.
The men and women who personally knew Tony de Mello become fewer every year. They are vital sources for the biography for they were eye-witnesses to what Tony did, and ear-witnesses to what he said. They know the gospel of Tony's life. Bill was just in time to track them down before their voices fall silent forever.
These witnesses helped fill out the chapters of Tony's life to an extent that pleased and astonished Bill. The 14-year age gap between the brothers de Mello had made the task of writing a comprehensive biography difficult. Bill's memories of Tony were a patchwork of early childhood impressions, followed by long blanks of the absent Tony who was away with the Jesuits. The long blanks were filled in by witnesses. A clear picture emerged of Tony's training and progress in the Society of Jesus, his skill as a priest/therapist, his universal vision of spirituality, and his magnificent power of presentation.
What makes the biography powerful is Bill's approach. The Vatican's condemnation of Tony's works is still a fiery topic, but Bill does not give it emphasis. He sets out to show who and what Tony was, and leaves the task of evaluation to the reader. His aim in writing the biography was "... to share whatever information I could garner from my own memory and from others who knew Tony and who personally interacted with him."
I, as a reader, do have an evaluation to present.
Do Tony de Mello's writings endanger the faith of Catholics as claimed by the Vatican in its Notification of 1998? Since Bill expresses no opinion, I sought out what Tony's companions said.
Fr Joseph M Feliu knew Tony since the time they were twenty year olds studying philosophy. They became friends and remained so till Tony's death. He states: "Tony... expressed himself via simple stories about the spiritual insights with which he was enlightened. He may have seemed to be a borderline Christian, but in fact he was a man who never crossed the border drawn by Jesus, assuming the good Lord ever drew such a line. Tony was at the crossroads and frontiers of faith and had a unique vision of reality that many questioned because they did not share this vision. His spirituality was not constrained by creeds but all the same found both inspiration and expression very much within the Catholic Church."
THE EASTERN CHRISTIAN
Tony saw himself as an Eastern Christian.
Western Christianity is a comparative new-comer to India. I say "western" Christianity because eastern Christianity came to India with St Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century, whereas western Christianity came with the Portuguese in the 14th century.
Tony wrote an unusual essay, "An Eastern Christian Speaks of Prayer", for a journal of theology in 1982. The essay is reproduced in appendix 6 of the biography.
In the essay Tony traipses effortlessly between Eastern and Western concepts of God and prayer. It is vintage de Mello!
Understanding Tony's viewpoint requires an understanding of India. In addition to being the world's largest democracy, India is also home to the world's major religions. In many a city centre in India a Christian Church, a Mosque, a Hindu temple and a Zoroastrian fire temple co-exist. Religions respect each other's truths. Tony was exposed to religious tolerance and respect from his earliest days. This unique religious atmosphere of his native land permeated Tony's outlook.
When I read the chapter entitled: "Sadhana - Birth and (R)Evolution" I was reminded of Mahatma Gandhi's "My Experiments with Truth." Tony was a spiritual experimenter. While he leaned to Eastern mysticism, he also used western psychology and psycho-therapy to improve the spiritual life of Jesuits and other religious.
Indian (and Eastern) words often have deep connotations, moreso than English words. Tony chose the word Sadhana - a means to the divine - as the name of his main course on spirituality. One of Tony's friends (a witness!) described the course:
"The main segment of the course would be one on spirituality, specifically the Spiritual Exercises and Jesuit spirituality. Tony saw spirituality and psychology intimately tied up with each other. He saw Gestalt Therapy with its stress on taking responsibility for one's life and actions, its emphasis on getting in touch with one's self through becoming aware of one's feelings and its advocacy of total honesty with oneself and others as the perfect foil to spirituality."
In addition to Gestalt Therapy, Tony also brought in Vipassana Meditation as taught by S N Goenka. Vipassana is insight meditation that originated with the Buddha.
Tony was a stirrer and shaker!
"Sadhana - Birth and (R)Evolution" is aptly named. Tony started the revolution, and the evolution continues to this day. The chapter has my vote as the best in the book to understand what Tony de Mello was about.
Nobody but Bill could have written Tony's biography as it stands.
Tony's companions and students - the contributors to the biography - opened up to Bill with a frankness that they'd have shown to no other researcher. Bill's charm overcame defences, revived memories and had people reveal incidents, thoughts and opinions that were private and personal.
Bill reveals Tony the boy, the man, the human being, the brother, the Jesuit, the innovator and maverick who is always a faithful priest.
Tony appreciated the difficulty of dogma. Someone once wrote: "the inevitable result of a dogma is that it asks people to believe impossible things and then makes them feel guilty... guilty when their innate reason rebels." Instead of heading down the path of dogma, Tony taught the importance of the Socratic "know thyself" for understanding Christ's message that "the kingdom of heaven is within you."
I found the biography to be the story of a man's spiritual evolution. Tony evolves. The stimulus of every challenge results in spiritual growth, often in an unexpected direction.
Tony evolves into a master teacher who helps people wake up to themselves. Instead of contradicting, he innovates so that questioners see a new angle which reveals where the answer lies.
I imagine that had Bill, an agnostic, said: "Tony, I don't have a soul", Tony, quoting C S Lewis, might have replied:
'Bill, I agree.
You have no soul.
You ARE the soul.
You have a body.'
The Happy Wanderer
c.m.boyd (New Jersey)
I read Awareness by Anthony deMello a few years ago and was completely enchanted with the easy, fun, profound teaching style of this true mystic. I wished I knew more about him--I had read about his unexpected death and was interested to know more. He seemed to be a bit like Thomas Merton: a Christian who embraced Truth in its many forms. A Christian who put dogma in its place. A Christian who had amassed a large following in a short amount of time with his critical admonition for us all to simply wake up to life--today!
So, I was so pleased to see that a biography had been written about him, and by none other than his younger brother. Bill deMello gives us a window into the life of his extraordinary brother, but he does not rely on just his memory or experience with him. He was a young boy when his brother left home, so Bill has done extensive research and conducted interviews with friends and colleagues in the Jesuit community who knew his brother in order to give us an accurate picture of who he was. At the same time, Bill's love and appreciation for his brother shines through the book, which becomes both tribute and spiritual guidance for those of us who feel a bit cheated of what this great man could have offered had he had more time on this earthly plane.
Bill explains that "The Happy Wanderer" title comes from a song "Tony" loved. It is about how he lived his life, as a person with no attachments, a wanderer in God's world; a joyful, singing saint sent by God inspiring us to pick up our knapsacks and bask in the beauty of every moment.