January 28, 2023

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Sacred and idolatrous science

November 30, 1996: Organized an initiative on nurturing creation in Calabria. The speakers are Franco Tassi, then Director of the National Park of Abruzzo, Folco Pratassi, President of the same, and Grazia Francescato, President of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Italy. Grazia’s last closing words are: “I will leave you with a phrase by André Malraux: The third millennium will either be spiritual or it will not be.” Malraux was an important French writer and politician under Charles de Gaulle. The next day, I lead the speakers on an expedition: Marmarico Falls destination, in Bivongi. She then takes the group to the Italian-Byzantine monastery of S. Giovanni Theresti, where Orthodox monks have recently returned. Father Cosmas welcomes us and begins to show us the place. At one point he commented: “You know, I’m more willing to talk to atheists, because believers are always hypocrites.” For a long time he has been enchanting us with his speech. Then suddenly silence. But not before, having concluded: “I have spoken too much and I apologize. I will leave you with a phrase from André Malraux: The third millennium will either be spiritual or it will not be.” And he goes away, in a light rustle of his black habit. Grazia turns her head at me, her eyes moist, her mouth lit up with a stunned expression. An amazing coincidence is still imprinted on her so much that she will mention it, as it is, in one of her books, Traveling with the Archangel, from 2000. An accidental coincidence (that is, without a clear connection between the two episodes) will be significant (for our psyche), as Jung defines these phenomena in His article is about “synchronicity”, but it has a strong emotional effect on people in our group who have a religious sense of life.

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I tell the story of Father Cosmas to talk about an unfashionable topic: religiosity. Out of fashion, I said, except that, as happens these days, there is no holding on for Pope Francis to hear what common sense has to say about the war in Ukraine and call his intervention in peacemaking. Simply put, those who have a heart open to the supernatural, to what is elusive and perhaps unknown, to what cannot be explained by the scientific method, which consists – as is well known – in considering only that which can be computed to be real, they have a religious mentality that is measurable, amenable to experiment. Jung also broke with Freud over his recognition of the inescapable power of the supernatural. In a world dominated by the reductive cult of science (there is only that which can be proven), having a religious mindset is a serious obstacle, because one is willing to believe even what cannot be proven, as happened to Grazia and me before the encounter with Father Cosmas, who felt at that precise moment Moving from one millennium to another we are something inexplicable. And as it has been for thousands of years in all civilizations, in all cultures and at all times, according to what history and cultural anthropology teach us. Today, those who identify themselves as believers are often hypocrites, Father Cosmas warned, because his faith is a facade that only serves to make him feel excluded through custom, through social appearance. So much so that rituals in the West – rooted in the story of the supernatural – are simple imitations and the words of spiritual guides (like those of the Pope), though respected, are ignored in time by the masses – they call believers and their true teachers politicians and journalists.

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All this happens because, unlike civilizations that were not founded on the worship of science, in contemporary civilization (which depends entirely on science, because, as Bacon says, “the science of power”) there is a common belief that man has become like God, being able to do All that was previously reserved for God only – God alone. The mathematician Laplace had already admitted this when Napoleon asked him why he didn’t talk about God in his book on “Explanation of the System of the World”, unlike what Newton did, and he replied: “Because I didn’t talk about God.” No need”. And we have recently seen how even the most famous Italian scientific celebrity, Piero Angela, died in complete unison with his belief in science, a non-believer. That’s right: religious experience is not at this time, because we no longer need the supernatural, because we believe That the genius of man knows nothing. On the other hand, the ancients were convinced of the opposite. They knew that the unknown exists. And they allocated interior spaces for the places consecrated to the unknown, temples in which they give thanks, offer words, sounds, silences, prayers, and sacrifices.

But we are convinced that we are so “modern” that we no longer stoop to metaphysical “delusions” or “neurosis” (to use the expressions that Freud himself devoted to religion). So we just have to think that the birth of a being is only the result of a biological process, that beauty is a problem of proportions that can be reproduced using a 3D printer, that the soul and its depths and heights do not exist, that physical and mental pain is always treatable (and death will become sooner or later), and that the rising and setting of the sun are astronomical phenomena, and that there is no genius in nature, while the genius of man is allowed everything, so as to confuse one’s kind. And the Earth that hosts it, because sooner or later, science and technology will be able to cure any evil.

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As “moderns,” we have renounced the invisible and with it the sphere of being which the ancients called “sacred,” from the Latin “sacer” meaning “separate” (from the profane). Thus we have produced the unbelieving first humanity, whose values ​​are nothing but competition, oppression, appearance, profit, emulation, and consumption; It is measurable, it can be calculated, and it can be experienced! There are no limits or procedures for this new humanity. He does not need any search for meaning beyond what seems compulsively desirable to him. And if there is no longer anything separate from the profane, if the sacred no longer exists, if there is nothing greater than us and our knowledge, there is nothing for man to respect: whether it be the earth, or whether we speak of other living beings and our neighbours. While for those who know, even in doubt and search, that the true essence of things can only be seen with the heart – as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in his “Little Prince” – it is enough to look around to understand that he is a “servant” and not a master of creation, a keeper Life in all its forms, and as far as each one of us is concerned, satisfied and grateful for the little that someone we do not know wanted to give us.

* Lawyer and writer