The pages I am presenting to you, dear reader, are much more than just a series of pertinent, well-documented, up-to-date reflections on spirituality. They are the reflective testimony of a lifetime. They are true words of witness. They exude the breath of life.
Félix Placer, a free, dedicated man who at the age of 84 continues to radiate light and vigour, translates the spirit that has inspired his entire life into words of reflection: his unceasing quest, his courageous socio-political commitment, his love of people, his dedication to the ecclesial community in profound critical fidelity. A long life lived to the full. And what else is spirituality if not that? A life lived to the full, in other words, with soul and breath.
Even though it may not be very characteristic of the literary genre of the foreword, I will be pointing out the fundamental features of the spirituality radiated by the pages of this book. Please regard them as keys to reading.
A spirituality in exodus and transit. An itinerant spirituality that builds the way as it goes. We are living in times of profound cultural transition, and this is calling for no less profound transformations in the entire institutional scaffolding of traditional religions, of Catholic Christianity in our case. Spirituality does not cling to well-trodden landscapes and paths, to traditional paradigms of understanding and behaviour. It does not scorn any path or form, but neither is it hemmed in by any past. Listen to the call of the Infinite to Abraham: “Leave your own country… and go to a country that I will show you.” And it sets out for another land, the land of everyone, the land inspired by the breath of ever new life.
A spirituality in dialogue. Spirituality does not depend on sacrosanct dogmas or absolute truths. It is not a prisoner of any creed or code, or of any letter that kills. It does not despise the very Earth in which the breath took shape, nor does it regard the Earth as superior to any other form, for it knows that deep down it is inspired by the same breath. The Spirit is universal and blows wherever it wills. Spirituality is thus a breadth of will and courage to offer to the other person and to receive from the other person the same spirit that inspires us both.
A committed spirituality. The reality that we are and in whose bosom we live is marked by radical limitation and painful conflict. But it is open, nothing is closed. The whole reality is of a promising nature. Possibility and the promise of more is all that it is. Spirituality is that trust in the promissory nature of reality in the midst of its finitude and its minor and major daily struggles. Spirituality is fundamental trust that translates into a commitment towards solidarity –generous, risk-taking, trusting– so that no one is excluded from the shared land of universal promise.
A political spirituality. A spirituality that is effectively involved in local and global “public affairs” in their personal and institutional precisions. A peaceful and subversive, contemplative and transformative spirituality. A spirituality that combines the mysticism of universal communion and active liberating commitment. A spirituality free of any domination and liberator of all oppression.
An ecological spirituality. The Spirit that “hovered over the primordial waters” inspires the prophet and birdsong, breathes in plants, enlivens water and stone, dwells in the heart of the air and flame, vibrates in the particle and the wave. The Spirit is the energy that moves all energy; it is the original matrix beyond all spirit-matter dualism and all other dualisms. Spirit is the creativity that drives the emergence of new forms, it is the self-creativity of the cosmos. An ecological spirituality is a spirituality that sees the universe as the infinite relationship between everything, and makes us feel and conduct ourselves courteously and respectfully as sisters and brothers towards all beings.
A transreligious spirituality. We thought that spirituality was the monopoly of religions, but today –with a delay of many centuries– we discover that it never was, and we rejoice in that. The horizon opens up, the heart expands. Religions –including Christianity– are nothing more than symbolic systems, languages, forms or cultural formations that are contingent, changing and always provisional. Today, we are witnessing a radical, perhaps terminal, crisis in the conceptual and imaginary scaffolding of traditional religions. They belong to an obsolete paradigm. The same goes for the monotheistic idea and representation of “God” as Supreme Entity, creator and universal ruler; on Him –through the sacred mediators who represented him– rested the whole religious and social system, He was the guarantor of truth and goodness. In today’s scientific and philosophical worldview –firstly in the European West, but increasingly in the rest of the world, as access to university becomes more widespread– there is no longer any place for a Supreme Entity that thinks, chooses, orders, rewards or punishes.
So religions are facing a historic, epochal challenge: either we agree to radically transform our understanding and practice of traditional religions, allowing ourselves to be inspired by the spirit beyond any letter, or we resign ourselves to the fact that religions –including Christianity– will be reduced to social and cultural redoubts, until sooner rather than later they become extinct and their original spiritual legacy is forgotten.
Whichever path is chosen by religions –Christian Churches in our case–, it seems to me that if we want our Western society and humanity as a whole to survive, we need to urgently seek, reinvent and cherish ways, places and times to practice, individually and socially, silence, peace, respect and breath. And let us call it what we will: spirituality, interiority, life wisdom, deep human quality…
That is what the following pages are basically calling us to do. I therefore welcome with pleasure and gratitude this life testimony and this testamentary, refined reflection by our friend Félix Placer.
(In: Félix Placer, Hacia un diálogo entre espiritualidades, [Towards Inter-spirituality Dialogue] Tirant Humanidades, Valencia 2021)
(Translated by Sarah J. Turtle)