Centre Unesco de Catalunya. On Mystics: A congress. Barcelona, June 2001
(Each participant was asked to introduce himself in connection to the subject, his personal stand point on spirituality).
I embarked on a study of humanity’s great religious traditions, from the perspective of the cultural conditions of the new situation. I started by studying the remoter cultural traditions, in order to avoid the interference of my own beliefs: Hinduism, Buddhism. As my research progressed I approached western religions, first Islam, then Judaism and finally the great Christian mystics. In this study my interest was centred in the depth of the message rather than questions of the doctrine or beliefs that were being expressed.
In new societies, where economic success is linked to scientific and technical innovation capacity, as much for goods as for services, and therefore to the ability to change organizing and axiological patterns, the fixed ways of thinking, judging, feeling, organizing or living, which are linked to either religious or secular (ideological) beliefs are no longer feasible.
The fact is that
• traditional religions find themselves in a serious cultural and social discredit;
• classical ideologies, those belonging to the first industrial revolution -socialism and liberalism-, are also coming to a deep crisis:
(1) socialist political parties, trade unions and social movements, are looking for new ideas to structure them
(2) what liberal parties and social organizations have saved from general fire are not theories or principles but some procedures that have proved their effectiveness in economic and social management : market, democracy and private enterprise.
All the beliefs structures that were in the basis of the construction of human quality have tumbled down. No beliefs, nor lay or religious, with real operative capacity, have been able to endure.
What solely remains to us are,
• a few pragmatic principles, so as the democratic management of societies, the economic and social management of groups based on private enterprise, property and market,
• and a bundle of axiologic postulates worked out along the last two hundred years : the human rights.
Here we are, that’s our situation.
As far as we know, human quality has been raised leaning on three axles:
• the attention, an awake state in alert
• the distance, a mental and sensitive attitude that places us a step behind situations
• the inner silence, the ability to detach our cultural and personal systems from
(1) the way we interpret realities
(2) their perception, valuation and feeling
(3) the way we behave towards people and things
As a social general statement, in pre-industrial times, religions, articulated on beliefs, provided procedures to acquire that quality.
Since about two hundred years ago, together with the birth of the first industrialism, ideologies first contended against religion for that role; later on, in the West, ideology and religion shared out duties in order to provide individuals and groups with such a quality.
In the new industrial societies, where it is not already possible to rely on fixed systems (fixed either by God or by the nature of things) to interpret and value realities, to organize ourselves and manage to live, because we can only rule ourselves through theories, postulates and projects, where from is human quality going to be raised?
• We can’t lean on beliefs because they fix. Therefore, we can’t lean on traditional religions. That’s the cause for their discredit.
• We can’t lean on those ideologies that ruled along the 19th and 20th centuries, for they have proved themselves to be unable to cope with the new situation.
Where can we find support to promote and to guide
• the state of attention and alert
• the distance with regard to personal and collective situations
• the inner silence?
Arts and philosophy can be helpful but the major help for this task comes from all the great religious traditions wisdom.
To be able to acquire human quality through wisdom and methods provided by such a huge store, we need to learn how to read them and make good use of them without subjecting to beliefs or affiliations.
When we dispense with the beliefs’ systems, what all the great religious traditions show us, everywhere and every time, is to acquire that human quality that’s attained by means of attention and being on watch, by the distance and detachment, and by the inner silence.
• In the past, these procedures and teachings were worked out relying on beliefs
• Nowadays we’ll have to do it without their assistance.
To believe or not to believe doesn’t affect the core of religious teachings.
In the actual new cultural, economic and social circumstances, when we are fully aware to be forced to create all our vital structures, the models for reality interpretation, the structure of our management, behaviour and valuing systems;
now that we realise, individually and collectively, that not only our personal and social destiny, but even life itself and planet destiny depends on us, with no external succeeding guarantees, coming from God or nature,
we urgently require to have clear and proved procedures to acquire individual and collective human quality. An aim that has to be attained without appealing to any kind of fixed or creditable beliefs.
• We have been studying this problem for thirty-five years
• and testing practical solutions for twenty years.