The Twelve Best Quotes From Anthony de Mello

Anthony de Mello's phrases are endowed with universality. For this reason, they've become important statements, recognized all over the world.
The Twelve Best Quotes From Anthony de Mello

Last update: 28 February, 2022

The quotes of Anthony de Mello revealed an ecumenical thinker, who captured, extremely clearly, essential aspects of contemporary spirituality. In fact, he was a synthesis of various cultures and beliefs himself.

Anthony de Mello was born in Bombay, India, but unlike most of his countrymen, he was a Catholic. As a matter of fact, he became a priest, in the Jesuit order. Later, he went to live in the United States, where he became famous thanks to his preaching and books.

“Perfect love casts out fear. Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that you make me happy; my happiness does not lie in you. If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling.”

-Anthony de Mello-

Many of Anthony de Mello’s quotes can’t be framed within any specific beliefs. That’s because he took elements of Eastern religions and mixed them with Catholic and other social messages. Although his way of thinking was controversial for some, there are millions of people in the world who’ve benefited from his teachings. These are some of his most remembered quotes.

1. Happiness

This is, without a doubt, one of Anthony de Mello’s most quoted and remembered phrases: “Happiness cannot depend on events. It is your reaction to events that makes you suffer”.

Woman with open arms enjoying her happiness

As you can see, there’s a strong influence of Eastern philosophy in this statement. It reminds us that realities aren’t the origin of happiness or suffering. They depend only on our inner world. Therefore, it’s our response to events that’s essential, not the events themselves.

2. Others are a mirror

Another of Anthony de Mello’s quotes states: “We see people and things not as they are, but as we are”. In this quote, he again reiterated that everything depends on the perception of each person, and on how they build their world.

This quote is reminiscent of the process of projection, an idea that’s promoted by psychoanalysis. It means that it’s our gaze that shapes what we see.

3. Enlightenment

Enlightenment is one of the concepts that was constantly repeated in the quotes of Anthony de Mello. He gave it a meaning similar to that of Buddhism. In fact, he saw it as an awakening of deep consciousness that allows us to come into contact with reality in a more genuine way.

Tony de Mello stated: “ Enlightenment is: absolute cooperation with the inevitable”. It’s a beautiful way of expressing the lucidity that comes from accepting things as they are. Indeed, not only accepting them but ‘cooperating’ with them. In other words, just let it be.

4. Contact with nature

The following quote was a reflection on current life in cities. Anthony de Mello pointed out: “ When you are too far removed from nature, your spirit dries up and dies, because it has been violently separated from its roots”.

This is an interesting quote because one of the main sources of stress in cities is precisely the lack of contact with nature. Hence, many contemporary therapies are based on the idea of coming into contact with other living beings in order to heal.

5. Contemporary ‘drugs’

This is a quote that portrays several contemporary evils. He claimed “You were given a taste for the drug called Approval, Appreciation, Attention, the drug called Success, Prestige, Power. Having got a taste for these things you became addicted and began to dread their loss”.

Hand with play of lights representing the phrases of Anthony de Mello

This assertion was surprisingly lucid particularly when we remember that Anthony de Mello died in 1987. In other words, he wasn’t witness to the tremendous way in which society has changed. However, it seems he foresaw the new style of human relations. He also warned about new forms of dependency, which only lead to suffering.

6. The importance of change

“The one who would be constant in happiness must frequently change”.

This quote invites us to change, transform, and evolve on the spiritual plane to achieve happiness and fully realize ourselves.

7. Live in the present

One of the greatest sources of unhappiness in the contemporary world is worry about the future and focusing on unfulfilled desires. In this regard, Anthony de Mello said “If you want to know what it means to be happy, look at a flower, a bird, a child, they are perfect images of the kingdom. For they live from moment to moment in the eternal  now with no past and no future.”

This quote shows us how important it is to stop looking for happiness in what we lack. Instead, we must concentrate on and be grateful for the little things that we can enjoy day by day.

8. Love and change

In the thoughts of Anthony de Mello, the fundamental theme of happiness involved change. He claimed, “The day you change, all people will change for you, and your present will change. Then you will live in a world of love”.

Have you ever wondered about this kind of transformation in you and the people around you?

9. Freedom and autonomy

“Live your life as you see fit. That’s not selfish. Selfish is to demand that others live their lives as you see fit”. This quote makes us reflect on the importance of keeping freedom and autonomy in mind in our relationships with others.

No one should impose their wishes on the will of others. This is a basic principle of love and respect.

women hanging from threads representing the phrases of Anthony de Mello

10. Self-knowledge

Another deeply meaningful quote is: “The most important question in the world, the basis of every mature act, is: Who am I? Because, without knowing yourself, you cannot even know God”.

Self-knowledge is vital to identify both our lighter and darker sides, to consciously improve each day, and to know exactly where we want to go in the future.

11. The need to question the world we live in

Anthony de Mello also reflected on the importance of becoming aware of all the things that are affecting the planet. “These things will destroy the human race: politics without principles, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness”.

Recognizing that, from our daily lives, we can take small actions to transform the world can lead us to a collective struggle to care for and preserve our common home.

12. Ignorance and wisdom

Finally, a phrase to remember each day: “When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.”

Recognizing everything that we ignore and all the mistakes we make is the only way to progressively achieve wisdom.

Anthony de Mello was much more than the author of several best sellers. In fact, the clarity and kindness with which he imparted his teachings made him one of the great guides in the world. He was inspired by a deep faith in love being the source of everything. Furthermore, he had the conviction that, through words, we can change the world.

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Anthony de Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest, spiritual guide, and psychotherapist. He achieved notable fame for his books, lectures and unique per...