At the beginning of our conversation,
you said that we can consider spirituality as something
that arises from our need to be whole, to go a bit beyond
our ordinary experience and search for the meaning of life.
From this perspective, how do you see spirituality expressed
Spirituality, that is, the need to give meaning to one's
life, is expressed in what we could call the "triple sensitivity"-three
elements of participation. The first is sensitivity to the
harmony of the Universe; the second, sensitivity to dynamism
or the internal energy and interplay of forces; and the
third, sensitivity to the symbolic nature of all beings.
These three sensitivities combined allow one an effective
and efficient participation in the Cosmos.
The harmony of the Universe refers to a fundamental point:
the internal harmony of the Cosmos and one's relationship
to that. From an ontological standpoint, without such a
relationship the being within the Cosmos and the Cosmos
itself would be in danger. Without this sensitivity to harmony,
participation appears impossible.
With regard to dynamism we can say that although we frequently
think that the human being is the fundamental element of
the Cosmos, this is not so. Rather, all the elements in
the human being's surroundings have life. Human beings are
not the only beings with life. Trees, for example, have
According to this view humans
are not the center of creation.
While human beings may be considered to be at the center,
they are certainly subject to everything happening in their
surroundings. If you wish, we can think of humans as in
the center, but this does not mean that they are the only
beings and that there aren't other elements in their surroundings.
And regarding the third element,
Symbolism is something very interesting, especially when
one relates it to art. When during rituals a priest dons
a mask and through it conjures the devil, for example, the
mask itself does not have its own strength. Rather, what
is being shown through this act is that something positive
can be rescued and received for a specific purpose. In this
case the mask may be converted into a receptacle of strength,
a certain energy that will transmit something necessary
for solving a problem or for re-energizing something.
At the same time the mask implies mystery. A person wearing
a mask distances him/herself from those participating in
The pretense that the masks are magic or religious objects
always exists. But according to the concept of the traditional
religions this is not true since a mask is always referred
to with a person behind it giving it a particular movement,
a particular energy. Therefore, as I stressed earlier, the
mask is a receptacle, but only momentarily, because it ceases
to be so once its function is fulfilled. This is the reason
why it cannot be considered a magic object or a divinity
or a fetish. The mask is only symbolic, but I believe that
the symbolism itself is very rich. The modern branches of
anthropology point out the symbolic nature of words, supporting
my belief. This understanding of symbolism allows one to
see to what extent one can participate in forming one's
environment. All those elements we have already spoken of
that are in this environment, as well as human beings, participate
in its formation. However, for participation to be effective
and efficient, it is necessary to have the three sensitivities
that I just developed: sensitivity to the harmony of the
Universe, to the dynamism of things, and to symbolism. These
are the three fundamental aspects of participation.
You were saying that traditional
religions arise as a practical answer to difficult situations
in life. What are the problems that a person living in this
context deals with through religion?
The problems that these religions try to resolve are everyday
situations. They are not, for example, problems having to
do with death or with the promise of a better world. Instead,
they are concrete problems that are found in life itself
because traditional religions are those that are relevant
to life, not to what will happen after death. This is a
very important aspect of traditional religions.
What would be an example of
problems of this type?
They could be health problems. Let's say a person finds
him/herself in a situation in which his/her body does not
respond. The first interpretation might be that the person
has a physical disequilibrium or an organic dysfunction.
However, the problem is seen not merely as an organic one,
but rather as a break in a whole chain. The symptoms and
organic dysfunction are simply the most visible manifestation
of this broken chain. What tends to emerge first is the
fact that there is an area of life that the person does
not have under control, and therefore he/she turns to a
"healer," one with relationship with the divinities, who
tries to figure out what is happening. The healer tries
to see, for example, if this illness is the consequence
of the failure of the ill person to carry out a responsibility.
Once the probable cause has been determined, a therapy specific
for the person will be implemented.