Having dedicated your life to spiritual work as you have, what do you think the future holds for humanity? This is such an age of contrasts: incredible human achievements and at the same time so much conflict and violence. What is the individual to do, in the face of such a world?
I think humanity has never found itself in a situation like the present one, which is so extra- ordinary for its achievements and possibilities. I also believe that we have never before encountered the risks which we face today.
We have to discover new alternatives. With regard to what we are, we need to free ourselves from the burdens that tie us to a past to which it makes no sense to return. With regard to what we could become, we also need a more profound freedom, which will give wings to our creative imagination and make possible a better relationship among all people. In order to achieve this freedom we need a method of life and an inner work.
This inner work begins by learning how to make the distinction between our acquired personality and who we really are. Ideologically speaking, every one of us is a child of our society, our culture and our times. Each of us identifies with a vision and an interpretation of life and the world that are not our own and which bring us into conflict with the interpretations of other people who are identified with other cultures and other times. In spite of the fact that all of these visions of the world and life are constantly revised and changed by the unfoldment of human knowledge, they succeed each other as definitive dogmas which give rise to wars, tragedy and destruction.
Thus very few people have genuine ideas of their own. Generally, each of us lives the ideas of our environment as if they were our own. This would not be bad if we were always aware of this fact; above all, if we remembered that the different interpretations of life and the world that succeed each other in the course of history cannot be considered definitive, because humanity is in a process of discovery.
It is true that we need to support ourselves on an interpretation of things in order to be able to investigate, experiment and somehow relate with reality, but we also need to maintain a clear distinction between such indispensable but transitory points of support and the ultimate truth. This requires a continuous work on oneself.
Does this continuous work on oneself imply a new kind of spirituality, what you sometimes refer to in your writings as "mysticism"?
Yes, I think so, especially when we consider what "mysticism" means. Mysticism is our relationship with ultimate reality, with the universe, with the divine. Surely rational knowledge has a limit in the face of the totality of reality. But, if you think about it, a limit is not really an end, but rather the beginning of a different domain. We need rational knowledge. We need intuition, too. Intuition begins where reason ends, and the domain of inner experience begins when the possibilities of exterior experience end. What all this means is that there are limitless possibilities for human unfoldment, for a new kind of spirituality, where there is as much room for science as for mysticism.
You mention science: what place does science have in your vision of mysticism?
Mystical experience really cannot be placed in opposition to scientific experience. On the contrary, the spiritual path constitutes, or needs to constitute, a true science of the soul. We need to transcend our system of pairs of opposites, not only in our vision of life, but in our relationship with life and the relationship among human beings as well. In other words, we need to transcend the opposition between the individual and collective society, between personal realization and humanity's realization as a whole, between science and mysticism, and the dualistic structure upon which we base our life and fulfillment.
The incredible scientific advances of today point toward a path which promises to give us the knowledge and means to become masters of our lives and destinies. But at the same time, wars, violence and injustice show us that no knowledge is very useful if our inner vision and our relationship with one another and with the environment do not follow a simultaneous road of unfoldment.
To this end, we will surely need to change the nature of our objectives. We also need to change the nature of the solutions we are seeking for our problems.
The idea that war, domination or any other kind of violence can be a solution for our problems is now intolerable. Likewise, any consideration of a spiritual idea has to include a path toward the solution of those evils. Otherwise it remains a theory and not a living idea.
The entire human past is condensed in what we are today. This experience gives us in the present a wonderful vision of the human being in the universe and of the extraordinary power that the human being has in the universe. But that same history is the obstacle which today prevents us from being universal as human beings. Perhaps this is the moment to recapitulate the human experiences that have already been lived in order to assimilate them, understand them, and after "shaking the dust off our feet," to free ourselves from the historical and emotional burden of our past. In that way, we can embark on the path toward a universal civilization, where true brotherhood, compassion and love are the elements of union among all human beings.