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A short version of this article is available since Augustus 2012 on DILATO CORDE, a Benedictine international online magazine dedicated to the Inter Religious Dialogue. (You can also read that short version on

Note concerning this "basic English" translation: This is a summery edition (with "mirror test") of a French electronic translation witch means that English is poor... The main target is to give a simple text permiting electronic translations from "basic English" to any other Western language by online translators. (Google, Microsoft, etc.) New translation suggestions are welcome.


...and a comment about the life of le Saux

Abstract: There are two genders in the interreligious Dialogue. The Highest expectation which consciously or unconsciously motivated the Dialogue between two religions of the Book (or between one religion of the Book and the atheism) is ethical (or political): how can we live together with religions which are exclusive to the others . In the Dialogue between one religion of the Book (or Atheism) and another religion (like Buddhism or Hinduism), the motor that we can or cannot officially recognize is the deconstruction of incompatibility between religion or even to reveal the possibility of a double obedience.

First part : The conscience and the differences between religions

The meaning of the word “conscience” is surfing between the medicine (cf. coma, perception, etc.), the psychology (Cf. subconscious, unconscious, etc.); the philosophy (representation, the liberty, etc.)... The spiritual use of that word is affected by all those tendencies which are not exclusive from each other .

Let me use here a simple and humble functional definition of the conscience which is very useful for the Interreligious Dialogue:

Before the development of a language, “something” that I will now call “Conscience”, cuts and distinguishes in the cosmos different portions. The relations between the portions of the cosmos will be enslaved to the drawing of this cut-out.

When I look behind, when I try to go back mentally to the darkness of intra-uterine life, my environment becomes simpler. The objects of my surrounding are merging. At the beginning of my life, I had to suffer that my mom was cut out of me, and it was probably not an easy affair. She was unique; she was all excluding me. I was not lonely anymore and I was not all anymore... That was probably the real departure of my conscience. What I was after that amputation was a desire of all. I spend my life in cutting the “non-me” in parts hoping to recover at least some crumbs...

A priori and until the indication of the opposite, I can believe that this cut-out of the cosmos is arbitrary. At least can I affirm that a lot of those borders which were draw by the conscience in the flesh of the cosmos are contingent. When I compare the conscience of a climbing plant, of a beast, of a young child, of a scientist, of a philosopher or of a madman, I am inclined to believe that the cosmos accepts to be cut by those consciences in many different manners, and that a cartography of the cosmos can evolve within a same conscience. There is the same kind of differences to notice between the conscience of a Westerner and the one of an Oriental.

To make picture, one could compare the cosmos with a big vase that each conscience would have 'broken' in its own manner. One calls each piece a 'symbol' because of a use that the Greeks had of that word. (The pieces of a broken vase – the symbols – were distributed between the members of a community. At the time of sharing an heritage for example, to authenticate an identity, it was sufficient to own one of those symbol that could be perfectly join to the others to rebuild the vase.

When the vase is broken, the set of 'symbols' is not a set of pieces where each piece is indifferent to the others; as in a puzzle, each symbol has privileged relations with some of the others symbols because of common borders... It is the same when the conscience breaks the cosmos in one thousand symbols (the sky and the earth, the atoms, the humans, God...).

The cosmos, this immense vase, is defined here as including all the conceivable or unimaginable things, including God. This cosmos imposes its authority by the fact that each of its parts exists in its own manner "for" and "by" the other parts.

Of course, I can choose to say that God doesn't belong to the cosmos. In this survey the cosmos means the set of all sets. It is a deliberate (and arbitrary) semantic choice. I prefer to use the words "Universe" or "Nature" to designate the set of "all except God". (In my semantic convention, Cosmos=Univers+God .)

The kindness determines the borders of the spitefulness and of the indifference for instance. The cut-out of "God" by the conscience of a Judeo-Christian do not tell us what He is exactly but, at least, that cut-out distinguishes "God" of “the gods", the humanity and the universe. When I start my spiritual life, the main point is not to elucidate clearly the content of symbols, nor even a question of existence or non-existence. Those questions will come later. At the beginning, the main point is a question of borders.

The intransigence of the cosmos which accepted to be dismembered by my conscience is to refuse after that I re-assemble the parts as I like. It is like the pieces of a broken vase. Therefore we can speak about an order. It is 'the symbolic order' which is stronger than me, which is the force of the « non-me », the answer of the shepherd to the shepherdess...

If my conscience split the sky and the ground, the sky excludes the ground. Same for the red and the blue, the pure and the impure... There is a logic rule inherent to the work of the conscience and that rule is like a dictator pitiless, tyrannical...

A specific conscience with its own way to cut the cosmos is acting in the executive part of the climbing plant when she decides about the number of her leaves and the number of her fruits, about a direction, about a bifurcation, about a speed, etc. When the plant is growing, the conscience of the shadows, of the sun movements, of the other plants is useful... But that plant does not need the use of a language to chat with another climbing plant. Language is another affair.

“Language” means here that tool which permits a contingent communication. The language enters is an attempt to have an influence on a set of symbols recognized as autonomous (another human for instance). The autonomy of two interlocutors (who is inherent to the use of a language and allows us to make distinction between the language and the interactive algorithms of the science) requires of the consciences a cut-out of the cosmos already very rich!)

Of none will retort that with such a poor definition of the conscience, conscience become a so little thing! Such a conscience could possibly be only the application of a determined algorithm, a vulgar chemical reaction, the development of a mathematical formula! It is a possibility, but after observing evolution of sciences, such hypotheses seem to have very little credibility. Luckily we are still allowed to think that conscience definite as I did can be also a lot more than a simple development of a mathematical formula!

On the battle field, the progress of the sciences asks abundant new questions. Since the sciences, by far, are still unable to foresee completely and perfectly the behavior of the plant, it seems for me more adequate, more humble, to believe rather than the plant has a certain conscience which drive her action and that the algorithms are only the limits for her action. Upstream from biology, the Sciences have already enough problems to establish determinism in physical particles. Sciences still cannot pretend to reduce roots of life in mathematical formulas.

Downstream the cut-out of the symbols, while associating the symbols or the groups of symbols to words, the language is born. But the language also gives some difficulties. Between the words and the symbols, nothing is clear for multiple reasons.

---A language allows the creation of a thought whereas the symbolic order, more passive, only give a certain credibility to the thought formulated by the language.

--- The language classifies in his own way the symbols or the groups of symbols inside words. The language organizes itself by considering conventions, logistical constraints, psychological constraints, etc. If the language respects the symbolic order of the departure (the organization of inclusion and exclusion inside the sets of symbols), then the language will gain its credibility, its efficiency...

---Each conscience cut its own personal symbolic order. Our cosmic puzzles are not identical! We can speak about objectivity in the language only if the cosmic area concern by the conversation is cut in symbols rigorously identical by the consciences of all the other interlocutors. We have to promote artificially those similarities. That required a specific work and required the point of view of a third observer. It is why we must learn sciences. We know how much that can be demanding...

---All become even more complex when we realize that a language is affecting the conscience of those who uses it. Therefore the language is susceptible to modify the cosmic puzzle (symbolic order) of those people. The language sometime encourages the conscience to divide her symbols in more elementary symbols.

When we discuss with the theologians for instance, many of us will finally cut the medicine, the ethic and the politic out of the primitive religious mixture.

---The use of a language allows our brain to cut the cosmos in a greater number of distinct parts. Another coherence of the world is the consequence... But opposite is also possible. Very poor political discourses can impoverish the symbolic distinctions of an empire! The élites of a population poorly governed for long period will finally re-unify symbols which were divided!

To study, for example, the meaning of the love, the elite of the primitive Christianity was able to make a clear and subtle distinction of different symbols that were designated in the language by an adapted use of the words Eros, Philia and Agape. But with centuries, those subtle symbolic nuances, under the pressure of the surrounding cultures, disappeared. The symbols behind Eros and Agape were merged. (Denis the aeropagite, Gregory of Nysse and even the great Augustin were a bit confused... Cf. the excellent survey of Nygren on that topic (Anders Nygren: "Eros and Agape", 1936).

It is only very lately that the Christian stopped to use “Eros”, “Philia” and “Agape” as synonymous. A nice illustration of that new evolution can be find (in French) in the evolution of the translations of Jn,21.

In his gospel, John used different words to verbalize love. At the end of antiquity, the spirituals were using only one same word to translate “Philia” and “Agape”. We had to wait (in France) the XXe century and the genius of translators like Deiss or Osty, to go back to the original symbolic split. Only then we became able to understand at the end of that chapter, that Jesus was not asking three time the same question to Peter (“Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? ») After more than one thousand years of wanderings, the exegetes are not allowed anymore to see in that chapter an allusion to the three denials of Peter. Etc.

---There is not a univocal simple relation between the symbols and the words! Several words can cover only one symbol discerned by the conscience (synonymous...), only one word can cover several symbols (Cf. Eros, Philia & Agape).

---The language can play with different layers of meanings, can lie, and can hide without lying... The language makes allusions and metaphors... But the symbols are never lying! Aphasic, situate upstream of the language, how could the symbols make a lie?


In short, it is the molasses! I will merely remember here that the language depends on the symbolic order, but that the language is not completely enslaved to the symbols; the language allows the transmission of propositions that doesn't respect the symbolic regulation. That makes the fragility of a study of symbols, of conscience, of other forms of introspection... and the fragility of what I write now!


The 'symbolic puzzles' of an Oriental, of a Westerner, of a scientist or of a child are not the same. The manner to cut the pieces in the cosmos doesn't seem to be a fatality totally out of control . When I compare the content of the human's personal consciences, I must admit that those cut-out are contingent. But, of course, I must admit also that there are common tendencies for all humans (probably dictated by the progress of the positive sciences).

If the other things supposed to be equal, it can happen that a person spends a whole life without distinguishing the domain of the religious and the domain of the morals and without tracing a distinction between the wine of Bordeaux and the wine of Burgundy... I don't say that this man is incapable to make these distinctions. He is possibly mature enough to make it. But if his culture, his environment and his personal experience doesn't incline him to do it, he will possibly never do those cut-out. That lack in his symbolic life doesn't mean that he will not have a rich spiritual life or a rich sensual!

The communal pressures that influence the symbolic cut-out vary with time within a same culture.

The symbolic order that raged in Paris during the Middle Ages was not inducing the common Parisian to make distinction between the gender and the sex, the difference between the confession extorted by the torture and the confession induced by sincerity... The contemporary middle-class Parisian is symbolically less strong than his ancestor to correctly judge about the impudicity or the purity of an open bodice. He is also symbolically less armed to make distinction between the merit and the grace, etc.

The choice of the language is probably not so crucial to cut symbols than 'a certain use' of the language.

It is not necessary to teach a new language to a Amazonian tribe to incite their consciences to be able to discern in what they include globally in their religion the domains of the politics, of the magic, of the science, of the ethics... And, inversely, it is not an absolute necessity that the New Yorker thrown in the jungle learns tribal language to become able to discern some nuances in the green that he was unable to distinguish and which are so important for understanding more acutely the reign of plants.

By the use of the language, the activity of the human conscience is, if not completely on our control, at least partially editable. The keyword here it is the culture.

On our earth, it is not everybody who cut in cosmos this symbolic entity that the Judeo-Christians call a God (unique, creator, personal.). For a lot of Hindus or Buddhists , the cut-out of such cosmic entity will never be done during all their life. But if a Hindu or a Buddhist is send in a Jesuit college, there are strong odds that he will finally cut this symbol, even if he will not believe in existence of such a “God”.

We must realize here that we can understand the word “existence” in two ways (homonymous): the presence of a symbol in the conscience is not meaning that such symbol has an ontological existence. When a symbol is cut, with or without ontological “existence”, the symbol is anyway systematically active in our conscience. By its borders, the symbol is a gear, an articulation, a specific stitch in a net of symbols.

The unicorn has a symbolic existence but not an ontological existence. But God is probably the best example. The majority of westerners had cut the symbol that the Judeo-Christians call “God”, but the atheists deny the ontological existence of such “God”. The former “proofs of God's existence" often merged layer of symbols and semantic layer.

If I observe the human communities by region or by centuries, all lets me believe that the school, the use of several languages, the practice of the sciences, the practice of meditation , (...), incline our consciences to divide the initial symbols in several other finer symbols.

For the authors of the Bible, the word « leprosies » was meaning something which is now divided in different diseases (eczema, psoriasis, pitiriasis...). New symbols are articulated in a more sophisticated puzzle. And consecutively, some therapeutic rituals became obsolete, some “miracles” do not surprise us anymore, etc...

Attention! A basic introspection obliges us to admit that it is the personal conscience and only the personal conscience which, finally, cuts or don't cut new symbols. Each conscience has its own caprices and resistances which make it different of others in a single culture. Those caprices and resistances cannot be totally controled by our work or our academic background.

After receiving same socio-cultural and academic background, few doctors are still unable to make clearly and distinctly clinical diagnosis of some new diseases that were cut out of the biblical leprosies. There are good and bad doctors...

But I will temporarily neglect those subtle differences between consciences inside the same culture. My target is now to analyze the role of the cultures on the symbolic puzzles. The Interreligious Dialogue is a cultural activity before to become, if necessary, a spiritual activity!



Second part : two genders for the Interreligious Dialogue


All what has been said about the symbolic orders and about the languages is another way to say what we all knew since long time: the perfect translation of, for instance, a spiritual Chinese text is impossible. It is highly improbable that the Chinese cut-out of religious symbols in non-positive (no “experiment”) part of cosmos would be precisely the same than the cut-out of the French. And even if we suppose that the cut-out are the same, it would be improbable that the different languages will collect exactly the same set of symbols (wrongly supposed to be identical) to make their words. Translation is always a bet.

For a rural Thai Buddhist, Lord Buddha was a god in his next to last incarnation. To be able to gain his salute, he had to become again a man in his last reincarnation. If I want to probe the structural significances of this simple anecdote of the Therava's mythology, I plunge in an abyss that won't allow me to think longer that the Thais understand the deity like we understand it.

To ask if Lord Buddha was atheistic or agnostic (according to our western semantic conventions) is deprived of sense since Lord Buddha died before having cut the symbols which are inherent to this question. There is no “Judeo-Christian God” in the symbolic cut-out of Lord Buddha.

To say that Buddha was atheist or agnostic is like to say that a Chinese peasant who never drank something else than water and lemon juice prefers the wine of Bordeaux to wine of Burgundy. This question seems absurd. In fact, this question is not absurd but doesn't have sense! It is asking for the square root of the coconut tree. I cannot mingle the pieces of two puzzles, even if both are globally reproducing the same picture!

To be more precise, the problem here is that I use the same word (the "deity"), to name sets symbols which are different. Certainly, the language allows a degree of approximation but here I overflow the acceptable approximation! When I study the founding symbols of exotic cultures to establish a language that I can share, I should first make an effort of cutting again in my previous cut-out of the cosmos. It is necessary that I dispose of sufficiently thin elementary symbols so that it will be possible for me to rebuild each of the symbols of both cultures with those elementary pieces. We call that “a scientific research”! One doesn't enter in science as one enter in a temple. Without this previous effort of conscience (who is in fact the elaboration of a third symbolic order which include more symbols than each of the others) I am unable to say if a symbol (or group of symbols) of a religion is included or excluded of a symbol (or group of symbols) of the other religion. But the authority of my language comes from the respect of those inclusions and exclusions!

When it is as Judeo-Christian that I speculate on God's nature, I always make it from a set of symbols that "sticks" the deity in structured symbolic plot: the God to which I think is positioned in relation to the creation (creator or not?), in relation to the emotions that I can share with him (personal or indifferent God?), in relation to the speculative truths (“existence” or not?...), in relation to his power (super-power or crux?), in relation to the ethic (Judge or Redemptor?), etc. The Lord Buddha of the Theravada NEVER used such a symbolic cartography to delimit the borders of the deity!

It is always possible to cheat of course... to make "as if" symbols were identical. We all make that along our social life, by pure pragmatism. The language, fortunately, seem naturally disposed to assume small divergences of semantic conventions without blocking totally the communication. But as soon as I want to work at the junction of the cultures – and it is the case of those who are involved in the Interreligious Dialogue – I must raise the level of alert!

The person who is not deeply plunged in a new symbolic order but who would limit his effort in studying a new language while continuing to stay in the ghetto of embassies or international hotels (or in his monastery?), can eventually believe that he struggle in a new symbolic order, but in fact, insidiously, he could use and abuse the elasticity of any semantic convention, of any linguistic organization.

He would surreptitiously release himself of the host's symbolic regulation which guarantee the reliability of his analyses. He could quit his native sphere without joining the host sphere that he hoped to reach. I think especially here about misunderstanding of words like “reincarnation”, “compassion” or “desire”...

It means also how much a trans-cultural religious conversion (Religion of the Book toward Buddhism for example) could be only an amalgam of misunderstandings. An intra-cultural religious conversion (religion of the Book toward another religion of the Book) is more protected from this confusion and will more often testimony of a real spiritual work.

The reason is simple: in an intra-cultural conversion, the symbolic divisions are never put in difficulties. Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and atheistic debate around symbols which are almost identical. The questions raised in their conversions are rather questions of choices, of “truth”. What I want to say here is that the question of the intra-cultural religious migration is not a question of symbolic borders but a question of engagement.

In a disputation between religions of the Book, I believes or I don't believe in the incarnation, I believes or I don't believe in the Trinidad, I believes or I don't believe in the linguistic legibility ("logos") of the relation between God and his believers, I believes or I don't believe in God... But my interlocutor and me agree on the meaning we will give to the word “flesh”, “deity”, “unity”, etc. Even if it is true that the words don't mean perfectly identical realities, for the essential we are not in deep misunderstandings. Inside the intra-cultural Dialogue, even if it is not always explicitly confess, the ethic is the main preoccupation since we have to regulate the way to live together in spite of engagements which are exclusives.

On the other side, the TRANS-cultural migration concerns directly my cut-out of the cosmos in different parts! In a trans-cultural religious migration, the proselyte is first obliged to work upstream any engagement. It is only after an effort to synchronize his symbolic life that a palette of new possible religious engagements arises. It is only after synchronization of symbols that he will have choices to make. Those new questions were symbolically crystallized around questions that cannot be thought by the theology of his former symbolic order.

In brief, there are two genera in the Interreligious Dialogues. On one side, the Dialogue between the religions which distinguish themselves by symbolic differences and on the other side the Dialogue between the religions which distinguish themselves by choices. Typically, the Ecumenical Protestant/Catholics Dialogue or the Dialogue Christianity/Atheism are of the first genus while the Buddhism/Christianity Dialogue or Atheism/Buddhism are of the second genus. If we look deeply, the Islam/Christianity dialogue is rather of the first genus.

The trans-cultural Dialogue lights up my spiritual engagement with a new light but do not introduce my engagement as an exclusive alternative with another engagement. For instance, the Dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity forced the Christian I am, to realize that my use of the word “God” is enslaved by a lot of contingent conventions and prejudices that I was ignoring. I investigate deeper my faith but I do not insert that faith in a competition.

It is not because "God" emerges of a contingent division of the cosmos that He would have less consistency, less presence! It would be a very bad understanding of a symbol. It is necessary to remind here what was already said in the first part of this survey: even if it is my conscience which established the symbolic position of the Judeo-Christian God, I still have to pronounce myself about His existence or nonexistence. The existence is a mental speculation that comes downstream the symbolic cut-out. My cultural identity is behind the indelible symbol more than behind the answer to the questions that such symbol induces.

In spite of the vicious circle inherent to the logic of my proposition, I would like to affirm that the symbols, when they are cut, always “exist” because they are inevitably operational in my conscious. On that first “existence” can be added another kind of “existence” (homonymy!) that my conscience add (or not) according to positive data, or belief, or logical rules, or anything else depending of choices of my speculative life. In fact the first existence is not the second. It would maybe be appropriate to use two different words?

Of course, the universalism of a religion connected with that God doesn't have anything incompatible with the possible universalism of a religion in another symbolic cut-out.

The trans-cultural Interreligious Dialogue turns around discoveries more than choices or engagements. It reveals an alterity and my identity before being a research of the truth. He is an invitation to cut the flesh of the cosmos more finely whereas, to say it rudely, the Dialogue of the first gender only skim the symbolic cut-out. Such Dialogue stay downstream, at the level of the reason and the engagement.

Facing such difficulties to synchronize the symbols and words, one will not be surprise if sometime a spiritual recommend to avoid a trans-cultural conversions while being excellent missionary within his own symbolic universe.

The anecdotes going that direction are not rare. I let me say for example that the Dalai Lama, excellent missionary of the Lamaism, is not always recommending conversion to Buddhism. To such depressive English man who came to consult him after a conversion, the Dalai Lama offered a Bible and the advice to return to his native Church.


There are a lot of Muslims in France. It is not consecutive to a missionary activity but because of historic coincidences that overflow the spiritual motivations. The utility of the Dialogue Catholic-Sunnites or Atheistic-Sunnites (considered here as intra-cultural since sharing a same symbolic order), is first and foremost to organize the cohabitation. We have to avoid the disaster that was the cohabitation of the Protestant with the Catholic in the past.

But the Interreligious Dialogue is often very different (often more interesting in terms of spirituality) when he decides to study the trans-cultural conversion (Christianity in general with the Buddhism / Shamanisms / Hinduism...). By the efforts to separate the symbolic stratum of the semantic stratum, it can happen that we discover something that was ineffable in the intra-cultural (classic ecumenism) research (Protestants / Catholics / Orthodox / Sunites / Shiite / Atheistic.)

If I, Christian, not only make a real effort to learn an Asian language (the Tibetan for example) but also try to live within the signs and the symbols of a culture that don't have anything in common with mine (some years of retirement in a Tibetan monastery for example), my Christianity (or my atheism) is going to be seen by myself as naked! The “Western organism" and the “Oriental organism" will appear to me like two absolutely different beasts like the jellyfish and the whale.

Cloistered since few years in my Tibetan monastery, I will finally admit that, according to a Buddhist perspective, to be Christian or to be atheistic, it is nearly the same thing: a Westerner is a Westerner before to be specified by his religion! Waiting patiently in lotus posture, the day will certainly come where it won't be so much the Orient than my native West that will intrigue me. I am going to be able to see it and to see myself under the new light of new symbols. Until that day, because lack of perspective, I was allowed to make confusion between the words and the symbols, but now... Impossible!

All true travelers can testify that the travel induces a deep mutation of the conscience we had of ourselves. The beautiful travel, the real travel is a critical look on the symbolic order that founded our conscience before the departure. The trans-cultural Dialogue is such a travel; the Christian that pretends to enter into such Dialogue must first "pay" to get the symbols of the other religions in order to recognize specificities of its own spiritual organization (that he never chooses but discovers).

To go from a symbolic régime to another doesn't mean that one loses the old. It is not possible to loss the old! In fact, it is as if I divided the big cosmic cake a first time, in West, by a net with square stitches and then, a second time, in Orient, with a net of round stitches.

My former symbols that I believed to be elementary are going to be divided in new sub-symbols with strange shapes whose assemblies allow me to construct the symbols of both Christianity and Buddhism. For sure, by such a work, I will finally dispose from more symbols to speculate than what I had at the departure. But on to use the old words I will need ruses and prudence in order to exhibit the rules of inclusions and exclusions of the respective spheres!

The word "desire" is fundamental in the Buddhism. But the desire of the Buddhism doesn't evoke the relatively simple set of symbols that the Judeo-Christian world designates by this word. For me, a lambda Westerner, I thought that the Buddhism was in contradiction with himself because the Buddhist “desires” abolish his desires.

Then, I started to be interest with Buddhist meditation. But Lord Buddha, in his course about meditation, asked explicitly to his disciples to practice the contemplation of “Vedana”. (Second chapter of the “Maha Satipathana Sutta”)

Finally, after few years of practice, my conscience divided what the West is calling “desire” in three different things: the “vedana”, the “desire of a kind of future”, and the “willingness”.

Because that subdivision of the western « desire » it is not possible anymore for me to say that there is a contradiction in the « desire to abolish the desire ». At least on that point, I won a speculative power that I use sometimes to analyze both the Buddhism and the Christianity.

How to explain that briefly? There are already two thousand five hundred years that the Buddhists don't confound the "védana", (spontaneous affinity, indifference or repulsion produced in real time and in all moments), the "desire" (project of future that takes in charge the memory of one moment of the" védana") and the "willingness” (project of future guided by the lucidity -the “vipassana”- and not anymore by the" védana").

For the Buddhists, the contemplation of the "vedana" is a part of the meditative practice of every day whereas in West it started to be a real topic when the neurologists tried to understand the function of the limbic system in the brain. The post freudian psychologists start also to be involve... (Freud confounded the three symbols. To say it rudely, Freud never saw the clear and clean categorical rupture between the desire, the will and the sympathy produced spontaneously at any instant by our brain. For Freud, finally, the willingness and the sympathy are just particular desires among the other desires and would be therefore also under empire of the sexual.)

The final target of the Buddhism (the abolition of all desires) is not by himself a "desire" (in the western meaning of the word), but the fruit of a lucidity ("Vipassana") that we can gain by meditation! If I am able to speculate in a symbolic order where the "desire" is not confounded with the védana and the willingness, the paradox of “desiring not to desire” disappears.

We could study in the same way the acute questions of reincarnation, of the death, of the sin, etc.

Fortunately, West has not always to discover his own symbolic poverty. For some topics, West seems, for me, at least now, to have better palette of symbols than Orient (for instance to analyze the alterity, or the relations between frames of references, or even the psychology).


Addendum: the “case” le Saux


It ensues naturally of what has been said that if the conscience cuts and re-cut the spiritual symbols sufficiently, it is possible that such conscience finally feels authorized to be simultaneously Christian and Buddhist or Christian and Hindus without being in contradiction with itself. But this prowess of the conscience is the privilege of the spiritual genius. This gain is asking so much passion for the alterity that cases are very rare. The father the Saux? The father Pannikard? Krishnamurti?...

The existence of a the Saux for example, who was simultaneously Christian and Hindus seems paradoxical since it is impossible to be simultaneously Catholic and Protestant without giving up some specific engagements of the Catholicism or of the Protestantism.

The "intra-cultural" religious conversions are exclusive between themselves whereas the "extra-cultural" conversions are not in contradiction for those who succeeded to enter in the deepness of the symbolic differences by a symbolic re-cutting of a third symbolic order that assume the two others.

One said in past that the size of the "metaphysical" differences between East and West (polytheism, karma, non-duality.) made the two religious world totally incompatible. But such kind of speech didn't go sufficiently in the deepness of the symbolic differences. One must now accept the opposite! More the differences between symbols (which are not engagement!) are in conscience and are deep, less a religion of a symbolic sphere is able to be in contradiction with a religion of the other symbolic sphere! When I peel the words out of the symbols, I notice that even the universalism of a religion is not anymore in contradiction with the universalism of a religion of another symbolic sphere!

To be at the same time Muslim and Christian or Jewish and Christian is probably impossible because such engagement are exclusive. If they are exclusive, it is because formulated in relatively identical symbolic orders that impose logical exclusion. When one has a relatively shared definition of the deity and of the flesh we cannot accept and refuse the God's incarnation simultaneously (it is the shepherd's answer to the shepherdess's already evoked).

On the other hand, no one will be able to affirm with so easy argument that to be simultaneously Buddhist and Christian is impossible (whereas these two religions are universalist!). Those engagements are not made incompatible by the logical rules since they are relative to different sets of symbols.

To understand the "assumed paradox” and the non-contradiction in the bi-religiosity of the father le Saux, I can now make an easier comparison:

In front of the suicide of a depressive the neurology is not in contradiction with psychology. To say it brutally, according to the neurologist, the suicide has been provoked by a lack of serotonin or endorphin or anything else in the patient's brain. And the neurologist is probably right! For the psychologist, the suicide of the same patient has been provoked by the depression consecutive to the death of his wife's and his p rofessional failure or anything else. And the psychologist is probably right.

Let's leave to the researchers the efforts to understand why a wife's death can provoke a decrease of serotonin sometimes, why the decrease of serotonin can provoke a depression sometimes, why a wife's death can provoke a depression sometimes, why a hormone or a neurotransmitter must remain a distinct symbolic entity of a symptom, etc. Those researchers who want to cut a third symbolic order that would explain the differences between the neurological approach and the psychological approach, are still in work. This work (who is a work on symbolic cut and a work of intelligence on the relation between the symbols) is far from being finished and it is not tomorrow that the neurology will be psychology!

On the other hand a physician can be simultaneously neurologist and psychologist if he admits that there is a" no man land ", a symbol whose content (but not the borders) is extremely fuzzy between these two symbolic spheres! Between the Buddhism and Christianity, it is likely that we are in this kind of division.

If one remains in this kind of comparisons, what separates a Christian of a Muslim looks rather like the quarrel of school which separates the Freudians and the behaviorists. Their quarrels are fundamentally bound to personal acts of faith. The Muslim faith act is impossible if I am already engaged as Christian by some choices that the theology offer when thinking the relations between symbols in our common symbolic sphere (two religions of the Book!).

To say it in another way, if I compare the discussion between a Christian and a Muslim to a discussion between an impressionist painter and a surrealist painter, then the discussion between a Buddhist and a Christian must be compared to a discussion between a painter and an architect. All artists know that one cannot be simultaneously impressionist painter and surrealist painter without being schizophrenic. But nothing prevents to be simultaneously painter and architect! Michelangelo was at a time painter and architect as the Saux was simultaneously Hindu and Christian. The Providence sometimes offers us such prophets.

It can happen that a Buddhist, regardless of Lord Buddha and the Buddhism, influenced by the West, finally got in his conscience the Judeo-Christian God. For him, such a God will stay in a zone of the puzzle that is very distant of the zone of symbols where conscience organizes symbolically the Buddhism. But maybe a new set of symbols will crystallize around this first symbol and form an image sufficiently sophisticated in his mental life to become finally simultaneously Christians (or Atheistic) and Buddhist.

It remain that on to unify these two religious spheres perfectly, on to discover the algorithms which unify those religions, there is still a lot of symbolic pieces to be cut between them. (cf. same kind of “insurmountable” difficulties for the scientist who want to unify psychology and the neurology or the physics of the quanta and the physics of the continuum.)

This global unification of the spirituality, until proof of the opposite, is not impossible. It is now only a kind of intuition (as the hidden unity between the neurology and psychology). This unity of the spirituality is a 'regulating ideal' that animates the Dialogue and more globally the spiritual growth of the religious spheres, even if we cannot prejudged of a final success for this quest.

This strong intuition of a spiritual unit is reinforced by the observation of spiritual "complicities" that otherwise would seem too strange. The Westerners living in Buddhist sphere and observe the bonzes chanting, hears them in theological disputations, sees the rituals of the common Buddhists, see the ascetic efforts of their elites, etc. won't dare to say longer that the Buddhism is not a religion but an atheistic philosophy like a certain Judeo-Christian theology could let believe it! A Christian believer feels well that one moves by different symbols only one spiritual matter! Everybody knows that le Saux was not a swindler!

The Buddhism and the Hinduism cut the spiritual puzzle in a different ways than the Christian puzzle, exactly like the neurology is cutting the depression in a puzzle which is different of the puzzle that the psychologist cut. But both puzzles are cutting the same image!

If to put the Buddhism in competition with Christianity is as to put in competition the neurology and psychology, then this competition only betrays ignorance, immaturity of the conscience.

The prowess, the genius and the holiness of a le Saux, is not so much to challenge and to sublimate some paradoxes than to know that there is no paradox!

It is possible that the Saux made a choice of obedience between the various oriental religions that his conscience illuminated. He was Hindu and not Buddhist. But this engagement didn't seem incompatible to him with his Catholic engagement. Who will dare to affirm that he was perjury? A difference of engagements and the appurtenance to two different symbolic orders are not the same affair!


paul yves wery - Chiangmai - December 2011


A short version of this article is available since Augustus 2012 on DILATO CORDE, a Benedictine international online magazine dedicated to the Inter Religious Dialogue. (You can also read that short version on





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