Finding Yourself!


The great masters tell us that the most important question in the world is:

“Who am I?” Or rather: “What is ‘I’?” What is this thing I call “I”? What is this thing I call self?

You mean you understood everything else in the world and you didn’t understand this?

You mean you understood astronomy and black holes and quasars and you picked up computer science, and you don’t know who you are?

My, you are still asleep. You are a sleeping scientist.

You mean you understood what Jesus Christ is and you don’t know who you are? How do you know that you have understood Jesus Christ?

Who is the person doing the understanding? Find that out first. That’s the foundation of everything, isn’t it?

It’s because we haven’t understood this that we’ve got all these stupid religious people involved in all these stupid religious wars – Muslims fighting against Jews, Protestants fighting Catholics, and all the rest of that rubbish. They don’t know who they are, because if they did, there wouldn’t be wars.

Like the little girl who says to a little boy, “Are you a Presbyterian?” And he says, “No, we belong to another abomination!”


Anthony de Mello





Many, many years ago, back in the middle Ages, the Pope was urged by his advisors to banish the Jews from Rome.

It was unseemly; they said that these people should be living unmolested in the very centre of Catholicism.

An edict of eviction was drawn up and promulgated much to the dismay of the Jews who knew that wherever else they went they could only expect worse treatment than was meted out to them in Rome.

So they pleaded with the Pope to reconsider the edict.

The Pope, a fair-minded man, offered them a sporting proposition:

Let the Jews appoint someone to debate with him in pantomime. If their spokesman won the Jews might stay.

The Jews met to consider this proposal.

To turn it down was to be evicted from Rome.

To accept it was to court certain defeat, for who could win a debate in which the Pope was both participant and judge?

Still, there was nothing for it but to accept.

Only, it was impossible to find someone to volunteer for the task of debating with the Pope.

The burden of having the fate of the Jews on his shoulders was more than anyone man could bear.

Now when the synagogue janitor heard what was going on he came before the Chief Rabbi

and volunteered to represent his people in the debate.

“The janitor?” said the other rabbis when they heard of this.


“Well,” said the chief Rabbi, “None of us is willing. It is either the janitor or no debate.”

Thus for lack of anyone else the janitor was appointed to debate with the Pope.

When the great day arrived, the Pope sat on a throne in St Peter’s square surrounded by his cardinals, facing a large crowd of bishops, priests and faithful.

Presently the little Jewish delegation arrived in their black robes and flowing beards, with the janitor in their midst.

The Pope turned to face the janitor and the debate began.

The Pope solemnly raised one finger and traced it across the heavens.

The janitor promptly pointed with emphasis towards the ground.

The Pope seemed somewhat taken aback.

Even more solemnly he raised one finger again and kept it firmly before the Janitor’s face.

The janitor thereupon lifted three fingers and held them just as firmly before the Pope who seemed astonished by the gesture.

Then the Pope thrust his hand into his robes and pulled out an apple.

Whereupon the janitor thrust his hand into his paper bag and pulled out a flat piece of matzo.

At this the Pope explained in a loud voice, “The Jewish representative has won the debate.

The edict of eviction is hereby revoked.”

The Jewish leaders promptly surrounded the janitor and led him away.

The cardinals clustered around the Pope in astonishment.

“What happened, your Holiness?” then asked.

“It was impossible for us to follow the rapid thrust and parry of the debate.”

The Pope wiped the sweat from his forehead and said, “That man is a brilliant theologian, a master in debate.

I began by sweeping my hand across the sky to indicate that the whole universe belongs to God.

He thrust his finger downward to remind me that there is a place called Hell where the devil reigns supreme.

I then raised one finger to signify that God is one.

Imagine my shock when he raised three fingers to indicate that this one God manifests Himself equally in three persons, thereby subscribing to our own doctrine of the Trinity!

Knowing that it was impossible to get the better of this theological genius I finally shifted the debate to another area.

I pulled out an apple to indicate that according to some new-fangled ideas the earth is round.

He instantly produced a flat piece of unleavened bread to remind me that, according to the Bible, the earth is flat.

So there was nothing to do but concede the victory to him.”

By now the Jews had arrived at their synagogue.

“What happened they asked the janitor in bewilderment?

The janitor was indignant.

“It was all a lot of rubbish,” he said.

“Look. First the Pope moves his hand like he is telling all the Jews to get out of Rome.

So I pointed downwards to make it clear to him that we were not going to budge.

So he points a finger to me threateningly as if to say.

Don’t get fresh with me.

So I point three fingers to tell him he was thrice as fresh with us when he arbitrarily ordered us out of Rome.

The next thing, I see him taking out his lunch.

So I took out mine.”

The prayer of the frog. Volume – I

Anthony de Mello




Here is a newspaper account of torture practised in modern concentration camps.

The victim is bound to a metal chair then electric shocks ore administered to him in increasing intensity till he confesses.

The torturer cups his hands and slaps the victim on the ear repeatedly till the eardrum breaks.

A dentist straps the prisoner to a chair and drills till he strikes a nerve.

The drilling goes on till the victim agrees to cooperate.

Human beings are not naturally cruel.

They become cruel when they are unhappy —

Or when they succumb to an ideology.

One ideology against another;

one religion against another.

And people crushed in between them.

The men who crucified Jesus could very well have been gentle husbands and loving fathers who practised cruelty to maintain a religion or an ideology.

If religious people had always followed the instinct of their heart rather than the logic of their religion we would have been spared the sight of heretics burning at stakes, widows walking into funeral pyres and innocent people slaughtered in wars that are waged in’ the name of God.

Compassion has no ideology.

The Song of The Bird

Anthony de Mello S. J.

The danger of Religion

The danger of Religion

The danger of what religion can do is very nicely brought out in a story told by Cardinal Martini, the Archbishop of Milan.

The story has to do with an Italian couple that’s getting married.

They have an arrangement with the parish priest to have a little reception in the parish courtyard outside the church.

But it rained, and they couldn’t have the reception, so they said to the priest,

“Would it be all right if we had the celebration in the church?”

Now Father wasn’t one bit happy about having a reception in the church, but they said,

“We will eat a little cake, sing a little song, drink a little wine, and then go home.”

So Father was persuaded.

But being good life-loving Italians they drank a little wine, sang a little song,

then drank a little more wine, and sang some more songs,

and within a half hour there was a great celebration going on in the church.

And everybody was having a great time, lots of fun and frolic.

But Father was all tense, pacing up and down in the sacristy, all upset about the noise they were making.

The assistant pastor comes in and says, “I see you are quite tense.”

“Of course, I’m tense.

Listen to all the noise they are making, and in the House of God! for heaven’s sake!”

“Well, Father, they really had no place to go.”

“I know that! But do they have to make all that racket?”

“Well, we mustn’t forget, must we, Father, that Jesus himself was once present at a wedding!”

Father says, “I know Jesus Christ was present at a wedding banquet,

YOU don’t have to tell me Jesus Christ was present at a wedding banquet!

But they didn’t have the Blessed Sacrament there!!!”

You know there are times like that when the Blessed Sacrament becomes more important than Jesus Christ.

When worship becomes more important than love, when the Church becomes more important than life.

When God becomes more important than the neighbor.

And so it goes on.

That’s the danger.


Anthony de Mello



Protean, my heart henceforth assumes all forms: at once

Meadow of gazelles and cloister of the Christians monk

Temple of idols and the pilgrim’s Kaaba

The Thora’s tablets tantamount

To the Holy Koran’s leaves

Religion of love, my allegiance

Wherever its caravans may lead

Just as love is my final faith

Ibn Arabi

Ibn ‘Arabī (Arabic: ابن
عربي‎) (July 28, 1165 – November 10, 1240) was an Andalusian [Moorish]] Sufi
mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū ‘Abdullāh Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn al-`Arabī (‘أبو عبد الله محمد بن علي بن محمد بن عربي ). Born in the Spanish township of Murcia on 17th of Ramaḍān 561 AH (27th or 28 July 1165 AD) with respectable family roots, this unique MOORISH mystic, Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn al-‘Arabī is universally known as al-Shaykh al-Akbar (The Greatest Master OT DOCTORUS MAXIMUS in medieval europe). According to some other sources, his birthday was cited as 27th of Ramadan 560 (AH) or in other words August 7, 1165.

Every child has a god in him

Every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil

There’s a lovely Italian film directed by Federico Fellini, 8 ½.

In one scene there’s a Christian Brother going out on a picnic or excursion with a group of eight to ten year old boys.

They’re on a beach, moving right on ahead while the Brother brings up the rear with three or four of them around him.

They come across an older woman, who’s a whore, and they say to her,


and she says, “Hi.”

And they say, “Who are you?”

And she says, “I’m a prostitute.”

They don’t know what that is but they pretend to.

One of the boys, who seems a bit more knowing than the others, says, “A prostitute is a woman who does certain things if you pay her.”

They ask, “Would she do those things if we paid her?”

“Why not?” the answer came.

So they take up a collection and give her the money, saying, “Would you do certain things now that we’ve given you the money?”

She answers, “Sure, kids, what do you want me to do?”

The only thing that occurs to the kids is for her to take her clothes off.

So she does.

Well, they look at her; they’ve never seen a woman naked before.

They don’t know what else to do, so they say, “Would you dance?”

She says, “Sure.”

So they all gather round singing and clapping; the whore is moving her behind and they’re enjoying themselves immensely.

The Brother sees all this. He runs down the beach and yells at the woman.

He gets her to put her clothes on, and the narrator says:

“At that moment, the children were spoiled; until then they were innocent, beautiful.”

The Theology of Elmar Salmann




Elmar Salmann, born May 12 1948 in Hagen (Germany), has studied philosophy, literature and theology at Paderborn, Vienna and Münster. He became a Benedictine Monk of the Abbey of Gerleve (Westphalia) in 1973.

Since 1981 he is professor of philosophy and systematic theology at the Pontifical University St. Anselm (Rome), at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome) and at the Hochschule für Philosophie (München).

He Deals with poetry and theology, Judaism and Christian faith, modernity and Christianity. And participates in many forums and discussions, even outside the ecclesiastical circles, including The Normale di Pisa, which is a study group on ethics and advertising sponsored by Mediaset.

Salmann is a Christian thinker, modern theologian; lecturer and writer… his major studies focus on the relationship between human experience and symbolism, Christianity and modern culture, mysticism and philosophy, theory of Grace and psychology: Through a comparison between philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas… ), theologians (Thomas Aquinas, Rahner, de Lubac, Barth, von Balthasar, Drewermann, Jüngel…), without renouncing the grace of poets (Caproni, Montale, Sbarbaro, Borges, Pessoa…).

Salmann makes a brilliant evocative statement, able to touch many aspects, but to dissolve few knots. Christianity is presented as the religion of the broken body and it is made an excursus into the Scripture and Tradition to highlight this aspect. Some hints focus also on the body’s ambiguity and some attempts to integrate, into theology, the body’s reality, which remains more mysterious than of the spirit.

Salmann’s theology is an attempt to verify the possibility of a style of life and thought inspired by Christianity, yet without the abandonment to be Men of our time. In other words: the central “mysteries” of Christianity may still emerge as fertile grounds of culture in a society such as this, in which the claim to live and think according to the criteria of the Christian faith seems unthinkable or cannot be proposed? This question is still of avail today and in all countries of the world, at a time when economic globalization seems to be the new religion of humanity. Salmann launches his challenge to a lifestyle that is proper to the Christian and at the same time humanly valid, and shows how theology is meant to build culture. Faith: the relationship between Man and God, studied in gestures, in symbols, in language that are used to express the unending pursuit of truth by man, and the offer of salvation that God never tires of offering to Man.




Anna Katharina Emmerick – ihre mystische Existenz aus nachmoderner Sicht. 2007. (collaboration with: von Clemens Engling, Günter Scholz, Nicole Priesching, Carl Möller, Wolfgang Frühwald).

Contro Severino. Incanto e incubo del credere. Casale M. 1996.

Cur Deus Homo: Atti Del Congresso Anselmiano Internazionale Roma, 21-23 Maggio 1998. (collaboration with: Paul Gilbert, Helmut Karl Kohlenberger).

Der geteilte Logos: Zum offenen Prozess von neuzeitlichem Denken und Theologie. Roma 1992.

Die Vernunft Ins Gebet Nehmen: Philosophisch-Theologische Betrachtungen. 2000. (collaboration with Joachim Hake).

Emmerick und Brentano: Dokumentation eines Symposiums der Bischöflichen Kommission “Anna-Katharina Emmerick”. 1983. (collaboration with: von Wolfgang Frühwald, Peter Hünermann, Winfried Woesler, Bernd Wacker, Renate Moering, Hubert Larcher, Basilius Senger, Clemens Engling, Heinrich Schleiner).

Filosofia E Mistica: Itinerari Di Un Progetto Di Ricerca. Roma 1997. (collaboration with: Aniceto Molinaro).

La teologia è un romanzo. Milano 2000.

La Teologia mistico-sapienziale di Anselm Stolz. Roma 1988. (collaboration with: Gerardo J Bekes, Benedetto Calati, Anselmo Lipari).

L’Attualità filosofica di Anselmo d’Aosta. Roma 1990. (collaboration with: von Carlo Huber, Aniceto Molinari).

Le ragioni della fede. Come credere oggi. 1997. (collaboration with: Colzani Gianni; Giustiniani Pasquale).

Le ragioni della fede. Come credere oggi. Milano 1997.

Mysterium Christi: Symbolgegenwart und theologische Bedeutung. Festschrift für Basil Studer. Roma 1996.  (collaboration with: Magnus Löhrer).

Neuzeit und Offenbarung. Studien zur trinitarischen Analogik des Christentums. Roma 1986.

Passi e passaggi nel Cristianesimo. 2009.

Patrimonium Fidei: Traditionsgeschichtliches Verstehen Am Ende? Festschrift Für Magnus Löhrer Und Pius Ramon Tragan. Roma 1997 (collaboration with: Magnus Löhrer, Pius-Ramon Tragan, Marinella Perroni).

Presenza di spirito. Il cristianesimo come gesto e pensiero. Padova 2000.

Scienza e spiritualità. Affinità elettive. 2009.

Wir sehen jetzt im Spiegel rätselhaft: Otto von Simson zum Gedächtnis. 1996. (collaboration with: von Reiner Hausherr, Wieland Schmied, Gottfried Boehm).

Zwischenzeit: Postmoderne Gedanken zum Christsein heute. 2004.






1. The Faith can’t be comprehended anymore by itself. It needs at the end of modern times a reinterpretation of the Christian mystery ‘from outside’ that reconstitutes its laws, its physiognomy and saves the best of tradition and today’s intelligence: theology as school of restoration and rescuing.

2. Each idea is developed in a dual perspective, that of fundamental theology that explores the path to plausibility of a mystery for the reason, it captures the outside light; and the dogmatic view that shows the intrinsic light, the aesthetics of the nexus between the mysteries and the logic of kenotic revelation. Theo-logy is the interlacement between the auto-exploration of experience of life, the reason and the revelation.

3. Such theology needs several starts: trying to reconcile the transcendental style (Rahner), Trinitarian-kenotic (Balthasar), the ontological-classical view (Greeks), and the historic-dramatic (the Jews); history as the exegesis of the spirit (Hegel) and concrete-eidetic glance (Goethe).

Basically, one always is wondering: what is happening? What is phenomenologically true in this context? And how a given phenomenon is interdependent with others, namely with its large field (structuralism)?: Theology is a school of watching.

4. All is gravitating about an ontological Trinitarian with strong pneumatological emphasis. It seeks to highlight the formal and dramatic nexus between Trinity, Incarnation, Cross, Creation, structural ontology of the Christ’s Body, mystical and psychological interiority of man.

5. Salmann does not ‘administer’ a scientific closed system, but stimulates the scholar/student/reader that she/he will find, in own language, a harmony between culture and faith, the kind of personal intelligence and the world of mystery. Hence the method of his examination: everyone can and must prepare a paper/perspective which concerning the matter in question.

6. Such theology of ‘wisdom’ implies some formal laws:

6.1. No phenomenon is completed by itself, comprehended by itself, but it results in itself para-doxical, polar, a part of an elliptical field, and a dialectic of closeness and detachment from others. Everything is rediscovered in view of its opposite: the grace through the abyss of sin, guilt has its measure only in the grace… First and last barycentre: the mystery of the Trinity, extreme unity and extreme diversity of Persons; and Christology: the same person is constituted by the mean of two primordial relationships. For this we need an exquisite touch that does not separate nor confuses the phenomenon, but distinguishes, differentiates and unites them at the same time. The Law of Chalcedon marks the ontology and theological epistemology. So Salmann moves his theology in spiral, he closes to the centre, which is in itself polar, from different complementary angles.

6.2. Each phenomenon is epiphanic and symbolic, opening for the presence of an entire world, and the presence of the divine absence, a point of transition for the Pascha of the Logos. God appears in everything, thinker… which the presence of non-aliud, and in this totally other. Hence the relativity, the lightness and specific weight/burden, the originality and the transparency of every being. Everything may be a sacrament which is inspired, where my freedom emerges. The sacred history, the Bible is the paradigmatic case for this process, which he tries to extend and trace in the history of the spirit, of the Church.

6.3. Nothing is fixed; everything may only be understood in a path of permanent transformation towards/on love, the primordial image, the space that includes us, all is a process of transfiguration. The theology endeavours to follow this process to make it plausible, and to understand the love that comprehends us.




Some categories to give a physiognomy at the intersection between finite and infinite, human existence and a possible acknowledgment of/with the divine or with some reasons that the Christian mystery in this way might appear – precisely as a reason:


1. Luxuriant, mythological, magical – the sinister charm of metamorphosis: Stefano D’ARRIGO (Horcynus Orca) – on the trails of Herman Melville, Gesualdo Bufalino (Kalendas Graecas, especially the poem beginning of ‘Curriculum‘ and the description of the birth; The Night’s Lies). It takes into account the fascination of The Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, the novels of Gabriel García MARQUEZ, the personage ‘baroque-polifrenic’ of Fernando PESSOA, of Cees Nooteboom (Lost Paradise, angels! All Souls Day).

2. Skeptical-laconic-aporical: agnostic agonic poems of EUGENIO MONTALE (All the poems, Mondadori 1984, 827-876); Giorgio CAPRONI and Fernando PESSOA (e.g. Una sola moltitudine 11 79 ff).

3. Skeptical-political-documentary-essay: The life as a suffered essay, open…, Leonardo SCIASCIA (Black on Black, Crossword, In Partibus Infidelium…); Claudio MAGRIS (Danube, Utopia and Disenchantment, Microcosms, The Dramas); Gesualdo Bufalino (Bluff of Words).

4. Apocalyptic: The world in the dim light of Judgement, Elsa MORANTE (History, Aracoeli); Salvatore SATTA (The Mystery of The Process; The Day of Judgment). It remains immeasurable the background of Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The question of theodicy emerges in touching way in: Giovanni D’ALESSANDRo (If A Pitiful God).

5. Phenomenological-biographical dryness with a opening to an another piety: Lalla ROMANO (In Extreme Seas; The Man Who Spoke Alone; A Dream of The North); Giuseppe PONTIGGIA (The Great Night, Born Twice, First Person and his essays…); the mytho-biographical musical’s sequence of poetic collections of Giuseppe UNGARETTI, Luigi dallapiccola, Umberto SABA (e.g. the poem The goat).

6. Melancholic, looking from below, doubtful-delirious: Natalia Ginzburg (Never Must You Ask Me, on believing and not believe in God; The Little Virtues, Family Sayings), and the poems of Camillo Sbarbaro (Shavings, Scampoli…).

7. Metaphysical, boundless, enigmatic: The novels of Giuseppe. O. LONGO (The acrobat, The hierarchy of Ackermann, On few footprints on the snow: Eros-death-math, Central-Europe); and the background of Franz KAFKA, and of Dino Buzzati; the grim and incontrovertible side of the right according to Salvatore SATTA.

8. Gnostic-agnostic: Roberto Calasso (The Ruin of Kasch, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony); Massimo CACCIARI (The Necessary Angel; Icons of The Law; By Steinhof).

9. Prophetic-anguished, mystagogic: Mario LUZI (The Book of Hypatia, For the Baptism of Our Fragments); David Maria Turoldo and his poems (The Last Songs), Michele RANCHETTI and his poems (Verbal, The Musical Mind) and his essays (The Last Priests, Different Writings).

The Christianity appears as a motive, contested and contextualised perspective; and as a mine, prick and ferment, which needs to be read over again at against the light and in the wrong way- that serves Christianity to read over again the world at against the light. The reality appears as a trace of a past god, and faithful as dowser, the landscape of mystery, as mine, discovery, which can enrich the interpretation and management of life.







Salmann looks and sees Christ as figure and event, and as a reflective-projected representative of the reconciliation between love and freedom, finite and infinite. The (kenotic) absolute and historic project. Only in this soteriological context his figure can be individuated. Salmann tries to reconstruct the physiognomy of Christ through different “lenses” of modern Christology.

1. Christ, who are you towards God?

Christ in the logic of Epiphany: the figure of Christ as alienating exposition of the Blessed, and the freedom of man as a gift of love (Balthasar).

2. Christ, who are you towards humans?

Christ in the prophetic human logic: the logic of his existence: Christ as a model of a liberated and liberating freedom (Boff, Schillebeeckx, Küng).

3. Who are you in yourself? You who can do everything!

Christ with a transcendental ontological logic, and the laws of reconciliation between nature and person, infinite and finite in the intrinsic structure of the mystery of the person of the Logos: Logic of the Incarnation. Theological issues: Virginity… (Thomas of Aquino, Rahner).

4. Christ, who are you to us?

Christ with historical-universal logic. The eschatological meaning of the Christological event, and the history as process of liberation and harmonization, logic of the resurrection (Forte, Pannenberg, Teilhard de Chardin).

5. Logic of the cross

Christ in dramatic-transformer logic: the conflictual crisis between God and humans, freedom and love and a starting point of redemption in the mystery of the offspring (Balthasar, Moltmann).

6. Logic of mission

Christ with a pneumatic universal logic: as a pot and inspiration of the Spirit and representative of the Alliance (Kasper, Mühlen, Hegel).



Structural Principles of Christianity: Salmann tries to reconstruct theology and Christology, through a process of reconstruction. He does not hesitate to use any form of arts (musicians, painters, poets…) to understand the mystery, so does not feel ashamed to go to seek help or any form of culture!

He starts at the same moment, as in theology, from culture and cult, philosophy and theology, the human data and the data of revelation… mixes everything but in distinguishing, and distinguishes all but uniting… to be able then to create a mosaic, a picture, a brilliant, bright, crisp, clear, tidy… vision!