[Transcribed from a conference presented in 1980 in Portugal]
Let us begin by saying that in Greek the word crisis means, in addition to problem, change. So it is not only problems the West is facing today, but also a period of change.
To overcome this crisis stage, the first thing we must do is to recognize that our Western civilization is not unique. Throughout history there have been other civilizations that have also had their crises and problems. In general, we are like a young person who has problems, and thinks that nobody ever had those problems before; this person doesn’t take into consideration that his father and his grandfather also had the same problems. It is good, sometimes, to consult our parents and grandparents, to see how they have solved their problems.
Today we know, through the science of archeology, that there have been great civilizations in the world, that humanity is very old, and that there have been many cultures. We know today perhaps only a small fraction of all this past; what we call history, that is, the part of our past that we have sufficient knowledge about. However, there is a proto-history and a prehistory that we do not know well. All that remains is their ruins and monuments which testify to their greatness: the pyramids of Egypt, with a technology in some points superior to what we have today; the great civilizations of America: the Mayas, Aztecs, Incas; China, India, Greece, Rome. All these were civilizations that achieved in their time a great summit of elevation.
Today, in the West, we sometimes think that these were primitive peoples because they didn’t have airplanes or cars, or because they didn’t have electric light; but we should take into account that each of us has a different disposition. For example, Kant dedicated himself to philosophy, and Curie dedicated herself to science. One thing is as valid as the other; they are different ways of approaching reality. These ancient civilizations, Egypt, Greece, etc., were not inferior to ours, they simply approached reality in a different way.
Having made this introduction, we must now address our crisis in the Western world.
It is evident that we are right now in crisis, but it has been a long process. At this moment, we see a huge problem, but it’s not a current problem; it is the result, the embodiment of something that has originated long ago. Throughout the history of what we call the West, since the fall of the Roman Empire, Western man has sought to reencounter himself by different paths, and one of the great mistakes made has been to develop a Cartesianism that has separated things. Science, religion, politics, art, all follow different paths today. Thus, the human being began to think that everything is multiple and that there are many things, but this is not a vision of reality, a cosmovision. We can take for example the field of chemistry. It was thought in the 19th century that the elements were completely different; today we know there are a 105 of them . These elements, however, are not essentially different; their electronic charge endows them with different characteristics, but behind these differences they are equal. This takes us back to the idea of the “philosopher’s stone”, of a total element, of the Greek a-tomos, of that which cannot be divided. The West had lost the sense of unity, and this has led to the serious problem of the confrontation between the different disciplines.
The crisis in the West has been manifesting itself with the progress of the centuries. A series of scientific, political, and economic experiments followed Cartesianism, and Western man fell into the error of believing that each of his affirmations is absolute, when in this world all things are relative. For example, if we say that this building is old, that it’s ancient, it will be so in comparison with a newer one; but in comparison with the pyramid of Cheops, it is new. We can say that this hall is large, next to another that is smaller; but it is small next to another that is larger. So, the old, the big, the white, the black, the good, the bad, take part in a certain relativity, and when this relativity is not recognized, conflict breaks out.
After the French Revolution, for example, several labor and economic phenomena took place throughout Europe. That change that had been brought about so that people could live better, led them, instead, to live worse. There were children, children as young as 6 years old, who worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day in the looms of the weaving mills of the 19th century, and the workers’ working day was 13 hours long. The machines, which were designed to liberate the human being, have enslaved him even more, leaving him without work, and making all things the same.
The world is beginning to feel a kind of boredom of being alive, because it no longer has creativity. In Pompeii, in that city submerged by lava, in Italy, I have seen little bread rolls that had the stamp of the person who had made them. When we eat bread or when we use a chair or anything else, we have no idea who made it; it is not personalized, on the contrary, it has been depersonalized.
We used to believe also that when the Encyclopedia in France was authored, that it was the first time an encyclopedia had been made, with thousands of definitions marking different things. However, history today teaches us that the Chinese of the Song dynasty, more than a thousand years ago, had already created an encyclopedia of a thousand volumes, a thousand volumes (!), and that a whole intellectual movement took place at the time. Why then did the Chinese empire fall into the hands of the Manchus after the Ming period? Because this intellectuality had divided men, had set them against each other; it had created a purely intellectual culture that did not really reach the heart of the human being and could not really express the desires of each person.
One of the great errors of our times, and of times gone by, has been to make people into a mass. With the good intentions of protecting the people, they have been turned into masses instead. This is the problem now with the unions. A union is formed in order to protect the working people, but it is so politicized and manipulated that it turns people into masses, preventing them from expressing themselves freely, and they begin to pay with “coins of freedom” for the protection offered to them. Man is increasingly less free in his creation, he is subject to a set of fashions, of elements made inevitable by advertising.
Man is losing the ability to capture a rose or a woman in paint. Today, if we want to paint a rose, a woman, a mountain, a star, we make a triangle or a square or a dot. We have to intellectually interpret the piece in order to know what the painter intended. On the other hand, when we look at old paintings, even if we know nothing about painting, we can understand what the painting represents. But art today is so intellectualized, so subjectivized, that we cannot all understand what beauty in art is. The same happens with music, that music that lifts our hearts, that penetrates us, that gives us peace and harmony. Today a strange, odd music is made, music that requires interpretation as well.
Science has also made mistakes. For example, hypnosis had been forbidden in medicine until a few years ago, because it was thought to be a lingering superstition from primitive times. Today, however, it is used, and we know it’s real. Another example is parapsychology, which had also been scorned, and today we see that it’s real – that we humans, in addition to our known senses, have others; we can have a telepathic sense or an intuition of what is to come.
We have lost the human sense of things, and that is very important. We have given so much importance to the machine that, instead of using it, it is using us, and we feel that pressure inside our heart, we feel that we are pressured by the machine.
The different possibilities that have been put forward, whether it’s capitalist materialism or dialectical materialism, have not been able to solve this problem. We are still immersed in this material world. We have to put aside our best dreams, we cannot write our best verses. In general, we cannot say or talk about the best that we have in us. We have become completely mechanical, lacking an inner strength that allows us to express ourselves. Today, in this world of crisis where values are all fragmented, people have no faith in religion, in the family, in politics or in science.
This means that we are in a moment of great changes, a moment which would be a “hinge of history”, that is, where history makes a curve, a turn. And it is precisely the materialists who are moving away the most from the direction of history, because of their own specific weight, their own matter, their own impulse makes them get off the course and turn to a certain degree of subjectivity, that is, to great theories that cannot be applied in practice, that have nothing to do with the human being himself. Theories are not enough, shelter and food are not enough. The materialists have forgotten something fundamental: we need to dream, we need to have an ideal, an enthusiasm, an inner strength.
It is obvious that times have changed. Today we are no longer going to conquer other continents across the ocean. Today we have to conquer ourselves, to be able to know ourselves. We know very little, not only of this world, but also of the subtle worlds. For example, when a man is sick and dying, he is told: “Well, you must have faith in God, you are going to die; have faith in God,” but there is no instruction, no teaching. What awaits us beyond death? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Are we made only of physical matter? Or do we also have other bodies, other vessels with which we can capture experiences? We must ask ourselves these questions for the new times. Open questions that can allow us to know not only the world we walk in, but also the world we are going to walk in in the future, and to know ourselves. Why do we react in one way or another? What are our emotions? How does our mind work? How does our whole psychological apparatus work? These are the new sciences we must approach to solve our problem.
On the other hand, there is a mindset in the world by which all of us can talk about everything, like politics for example. That is not true. Politics is a science like any other. If I’ll fall and hurt my leg, we’ll have to call a doctor, that is, someone who has studied medicine. By the same logic, if a country, if a nation falls, you have to call someone who has studied politics, because politics is a science and, therefore, it cannot be improvised. But people’s vanity makes many think that everyone can talk about politics. If you ask a person: “Sir, can you tell me what the valency of carbon is?” They will say: “I am not a chemist. Don’t ask me.” But if you ask them, “How should Russia or the United States handle their affairs?” then they talk and talk. Everyone thinks they know politics, when in fact, it is something you have to study. This is another contribution for the new times: to study the relations between men, to study them deeply, in a scientific way.
Another contribution for the new times is to be able to recreate in us a certain individual spirit, not to allow ourselves to be turned into a mass, for each to have our own personality, not to let advertising take us wherever it wishes. We must understand that each one of us has the right to that little bit of freedom to be able to choose our way of living, and also the right to a little bit of dignity, a little bit of honor. We need to be respected as human beings. We are not just numbers in a notebook or on a piece of paper, we are human beings with all our uniqueness. We are not equal, we are equivalent, but not equal. All of you here have different faces, you dress differently, you think differently. There are no two equal beings in the whole world. Equality among human beings is a myth. So, what we have to look for is not equality, but concord, to be heart to heart, to be able to deeply understand people and ourselves. That is also another contribution for the new times.
In New Acropolis we propose to make something new, an acro-polis, a high city, but not of bricks or stone, but a moral, spiritual city.
The current crisis of the West is not energetic, but moral and spiritual. When our ancestors needed something material, they went out to look for it and they got it. For example, if one of us needs oil, why don’t we go out and look for it? Why don’t we go out and get it? Because we no longer have that inner strength to be able to cross those oceans of difficulties, to solve our own problems. Today’s education has taught us to avoid problems, not to face them.
The UFO phenomenon, for example, – true or false, it doesn’t matter – shows us that we are psychologically looking for a solution that will come from the outside, from the stars, when the solution to our problems is in each one of us, in our will to endure here and now, in our arms, in our thinking, in our imagination, in our possibility of conceiving a world that is not only new but better; a human being who is new, different, who is not selfish, who is different from the animals and the plants, who is ecological, who recognizes himself as part of nature and who does not believe that he is the apex, the highest point of all evolution.
That human being has an inner youth. It does not matter how old we are, what’s important is our inner youth. There are young people in their twenties who are already old, all they have are memories, longings; on the other hand, there are older people who have a strong will to do things. What we need then to make that new human being, are not miraculous gifts, but a good administration of what we already have materially, psychologically, and spiritually.
The crisis of the West is not a catastrophe, it is an opportunity for change. We must be able to uproot ourselves from the problem in order to launch ourselves towards the solution; in this sense we propose this change. Not a massive change; changing everything so that everything remains the same. No, it is about an inner change, a different being, to be able to get up in the morning and see the trees, smell the fragrance of the roses, feel again the love, the air, the song of the swallows, of the birds.
We need a human being who is really a human being again; who is not afraid of the rain; who is not afraid of the rivers; who is not afraid of another human being; who is not afraid of death – death does not exist, it is simply a change, it is like birth; a human being who can freely investigate ancient civilizations and new sciences; who is capable of making a new art, of making a new music, who does not rely on fashions, on advertisement, but on what they feel in their heart. That human being is the one we are looking for in this crisis of the West, in this advent of new times.
Usually, we don’t have only one idea, but many; we all have lots and lots of ideas. What we want to bring is a will of perseverance, of spiritual conquest that is reflected in all things. We want to bring an inner youthfulness that will allow us to renew this collapsing world, and to have the strength to raise the walls of our world again, to have the strength to raise temples to God again. What differentiates us from the animals, from the beasts, is our faith in God. The human being who does not believe in God – in any God: God, Cosmic Mind, That, or whichever name you choose – is like an animal, that is to say, he lives to eat, to clothe himself, and nothing more. So, that person becomes like an animal, he becomes increasingly smaller, increasingly more afraid; he is afraid when he is awake, and he is afraid when he is asleep. He goes to a psychoanalyst because he has problems, he takes pills….
It is necessary to recreate a more natural human being, we don’t have to invent anything new, but to gather all the good that has already existed in the world, to put it in our heart, and to be able to say: “I have it in my heart”. We also need to have the courage to investigate these things, to really ask ourselves: who am I, where do I come from, where am I going, was I in this world once before, do I reincarnate, is there a law of cause and effect, what the Orientals call karma, does it exist, does it not exist? We have to question ourselves and dare to think about these things, dare to think about the different forms of reality
In short, what we want to bring, my friends, is a new way of approaching life. Each one of you knows it, you all know it. All I am doing is to remind you of it, make each one of you remember it and reencounter yourself, your brother, your father, your friend.
When that will happen, we will be able to do what so many civilizations have done before: pass through this moment of crisis and launch ourselves forward so that young people, so that those who come after us can smile, can be happy, can live life fully, can have their hands not only full of food or water, but have clean hands, with honor, a calm heart, a quiet and intelligent mind. Feet on the ground and arms to the sky, embracing all of humanity.
Question: In my opinion, to overcome this crisis in the West, it seems that we have to look for the spirituality of the East, since all the great concepts such as reincarnation, karma, the living universe, etc., come from there.
Answer: The concept of macrobios, for example, that of a living universe and us within it, existed also in the West, in the schools of Pergamon and Alexandria. The philosopher Marcion of the second century, for example, developed these theories and considered, like Plotinus, the human being as a part of that universe, of that macrobios. Many things we believe only the East has, also existed in the West. And other things we think only the West has also existed in the East. Therefore, we cannot engage in spiritual racism.
Question: Regarding what you said about the trade unions, I would like to say that we should not forget that it is thanks to them that workers reached a standard of living they did not previously have.
Answer: I understand your point about the need to form these unions in order to protect certain people. But that same formation of unions and employers is pointing at a fracture within society. In medieval society, for instance, they used the corporatist system. In this system, the employer and the worker formed a sort of family, they were together, there was a human union, and everything was not standardized and technified. Where I see the problem is in building large corporations that crush the individual, where the person is compelled to strike or not to strike. I say that individual freedom is often threatened by those big consortiums, by those big systems, and that they are not always as necessary today as they might have been a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago. Today it is very different.
There is a strictly chronological time, but there is also a social time, an economic time, a psychological time. In recent years there has been a great change. Today a person has many more possibilities in certain aspects; there is much more permeability within society, and this makes the unions, when they become politicized and move enormous human masses, become a danger for the nation and for those who form part of them.
Question: Is it not somewhat old-fashioned and unscientific to speak today of spirit, soul, and body?
Answer: I spoke of the three worlds – physical, psychological and spiritual – to be short. Actually, we could talk about more worlds, more divisions, obviously. Now, I believe that all these worlds, three, seven or as many as we want, are not separate worlds, but are dimensions of the same reality. We know, and this was rediscovered by Einstein and others, that matter and energy are not completely separate, but are convertible. Therefore, spirit would be the same as matter. What happens is that matter is concrete, and spirit is not concrete; there isn’t an opposition, there shouldn’t be a dualism, but a philosophical monism that would include everything: matter, psyche, spirit, etc., all together. Now, we must give priority to the higher part, where the will dwells.
Question: I would like to ask you three questions. The first is an ecological question: is the planet degrading because of man’s materialism? The second question is whether it is people’s misinformation and lack of education – see the enormous masses of outcasts in the Third World – that causes their own alienation? And the third question is: how to rediscover in this technological society an inner self?
Answer: For me, the three questions are related. The human being lacks ecological principles because he also lacks the principles of education, that is, the human being is not educated. I am familiar with the problem of the third world that I mentioned previously, because I spent many years in that world. Many people are very ignorant. Maybe they have a kind of mysticism, a search, but since nobody teaches them, and they have no opportunities, sometimes because they are illiterate, they cannot read Plato or the Bhagavad Gita, sometimes they cannot even read the Bible. Then, those people start to worship anything, and fall into black magic or sorcery. In other words, the problem is total, the crisis is total. Man, in his present materialistic face, is polluting the planet, contaminating the natural forces of the planet. Now, humanity is also contaminated. Worldwide, there are two billion people who are not sufficiently educated.
And the third question, about the reunion of man with himself, that is fundamental, but we have to provide an educational foundation. Hence, within our possibilities, we create New Acropolis or we channel the need of New Acropolis to give possibilities to people who go to the university, since perhaps they don’t have the economic means to get in touch with the classic books so that they can come out of their ignorance; and also to awaken in them as much as possible an admiration for nature, a respect for everything beautiful, pretty, that allows them a reencounter with themselves, since that reencounter is natural.
On the other hand, many countries are invaded by ideas coming from other sources, from the United States, France, or any other place, and if they had strength, a youth that opposed these ideas, these ideas would not have penetrated. Pornographic films, violent films, or films of certain political or social forms may get here, but why do we accept them? If we had the strength, if we had our own well-developed industry, we could make films about the many good men and women who had lived in Portugal, and we would not need to watch a movie about the life of Al Capone or some other New York mafioso.
That is why New Acropolis is trying to reinforce in the youth of Portugal its own tradition, its own strength, so that it will not be penetrated by a virus from just any place, which, unfortunately, as you know, we already have more than enough of our own. Once again, thank you all.
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