Apr 07 2009
“Why are you so wary of thought?” said the philosopher. “Thought is the one tool we have for organizing the world.”
“True,” [the Master answered]. “But thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it.”
To his disciples he later said, “A thought is a screen, not a mirror; that is why you live in a thought envelope, untouched by Reality.”
|One Minute Wisdom
by Anthony de Mello
I love the short-short stories told by Anthony de Mello. Some hit you like a lightning bolt, others invite a smile to bloom on your face. These stories ask you to sit with them, not to rush through but to enjoy and contemplate.
In this one, for example, the philosopher assumes that meaning is apprehended through thought, through intellection. And he is correct when he asserts that thought is how we “organize the world.” For the most part, this is the assumed viewpoint of all of postmodern society. And there is no doubt that observing the world through the medium of the intellect is very effective on many levels.
But the Master points out the all-too-overlooked problem with that approach to reality: The intellect is a filter (or, as he puts it, “a screen.” It can frame reality in powerful ways, but it also filters out many elements from our perception. Most of us live within the “thought envelope” we create, perceiving only our thoughts about reality, and not Reality itself.
Thought is a powerful tool and worth cultivating, but even more important is to cultivate deep inner silence and stillness. It is only in that utter quiet that we can see the unfiltered Reality through the clear mirror of our awareness.
Anthony de Mello is a fascinating figure to me. He was a Jesuit priest in India, but was strongly inspired and influenced by the wisdom traditions of India. Some of his writings became controversial within the Catholic Church, because they didn’t closely follow official doctrine and some said they reflected too much of a Buddhist influence inspired by Ajahn Chah. Father Anthony de Mello died in 1987.