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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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
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
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