After many years of labour, an inventor discovered the art of making fire.
He took his tools to the snow-clad northern regions and initiated a tribe into the art – and the advantages – of making fire.
The people became so absorbed in this novelty that it did not occur to them to thank the inventor who one day quietly slipped away.
Being one of those rare human beings endowed with greatness, he had no desire to be remembered or revered; all he sought was the satisfaction of knowing that someone had benefited from his discovery.
The next tribe he went to was just as eager to learn as the first. But the local priests, jealous of the stranger’s hold on the people, had him assassinated.
To allay any suspicion of the crime, they had a portrait of the Great Inventor enthroned upon the main altar of the temple; and a liturgy designed so that his name would be revered and his memory kept alive. The greatest care was taken that not a single rubric of the liturgy was altered or omitted.
The tools for making fire were enshrined within a casket and were said to bring healing to all who laid their hands on them with faith.
The High Priest himself undertook the task of compiling a Life of the Inventor. This became the Holy book in which his loving kindness was offered as an example for all to emulate, his glorious deeds were eulogised, his superhuman nature made an article of faith.
The priests saw to it that the Book was handed down to future generations, while they authoritatively interpreted the meaning of his words and the significance of his holy life and death.
And they ruthlessly punished with death or excommunication anyone who deviated from their doctrine.
Caught up as they were in these religious tasks, the people completely forgot the art of making fire.
Anthony de Mello
The Prayer of the Frog Part 1
Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist. A spiritual teacher, writer and public speaker, De Mello wrote several books on spirituality and hosted numerous spiritual retreats and conferences. He continues to be known for his storytelling, which drew from the various mystical traditions of both East and West.