Part II. Chapter 3
The Concept of Authority
In Hinduism, the main authority lies in the hands of the guru. At the beginning of Christianity, when Jesus taught his disciples, it was the same; but later this authority was concentrated in the hands of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. We will examine the reasons for this evolution, its psychological and political effects and its advantages and disadvantages
God, the invisible bishop and the bishop, the visible God
In their love for well-balanced phrases, the pious authors of the early centuries were led into speaking of God, the invisible bishop and of the bishop, the visible God. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed, and a lot of ink and sometimes blood had to flow before this idea was imposed on other Christian groups. Let us first examine the apostolic succession : according to Hindu criteria, apart from the first step from Christ to Peter, it cannot be considered as a complete spiritual transmission. Indeed, in real spiritual transmission, it is necessary that the master choose that disciple who seems to him to be the most suitable. He will do it primarily according to spiritual criteria. If the successor is elected by a majority in the community, it cannot really be said to be transmission, for only he will be chosen who will be the most fitted to fulfill the average aspirations, or set ideas of the group of voters .
Of course the latter system has many advantages as far as the politics of a big institution are concerned, but it does not have much to do with spiritual transmission as it exists between master and disciple. Certainly, one may believe in it, but then it becomes an act of faith or of discipline, plain and simple, with no guarantees.
A study of the Gnostic texts, including the ones discovered at Nag-Hammadi, shows us that spiritual transmission from Christ was much more diversified than official history seems to suggest. A good part of St. Thomas's gospel comes from Thomas Didyme, the Twin; perhaps he was called thus because he was very close to Jesus; this is one hypothesis. Whatever the validity of this interpretation, however, the 13th logion places Thomas high : I am no longer your teacher, Jesus said to him, for you are intoxicated having drunk at the same source from which I myself have sprung. He received private instruction from Jesus, which made the other disciples, including Peter-Simon, jealous. Thomas said to them : If I told you even one word of what he has said to me, you would throw stones at me! These stones would catch fire, and the fire would consume you. This seems to indicate an open conflict between disciples. in the 12th logion, Jesus appears to have entrusted the official transmission to James the Just : 'After I have left, you will go to James the Just; all the earth and the sky is his own'
We have seen that valentine opposed the bishop of Rome; his disciples were persecuted by Irenaenius of Lyon. Valentine asserts that he was the disciple of Theudas, who was himself a disciple of Saint Paul. Saint Paul had his own revelation of Christ on the road to Damascus. At the beginning this revelation was independent of the teaching of the direct disciples. On the other hand, Saint Clement of Alexandria says that he himself had the benefit of a direct lineage from master to disciple, dating back to Christ; as he felt that this independent line could not survive, he decided to put this teaching in writing in the Stromates; he nonetheless confesses that he was afraid of casting pearls before swine.
The ideal Christian community, which Saint Luke describes, may have really existed. In any case, it does not seem to have lasted long : the proof is this letter written by Pope Clement in 90 to the Christians of Corinth about what he calls a rebellion, where he warns them thusly: :"Those who refuse to submit to divine authority as represented on earth by the bishops, the priests and the deacons, will be liable to capital punishment.28 After Peter, Lin and Clet, Clement was Jesus's fourth successor, and he wrote this letter less than sixty years after the crucifixion of Christ. The downfall due to institutional politics seems to have been rapid, there was no need to wait for the Renaissance or the Borgias. These death-decrees remind one more of a recent Ayatollah than Jesus's fourth successor. Perhaps he was euphemistically called 'Clement'....
Saint Irenaenus (the 'peaceful') of Lyon was also, perhaps, euphemistically named. He was particularly severe toward those Christian groups whose only fault was that they dispensed with the somewhat cumbersome services of a bishop. As he himself explains : The Valentinians ask, How is it that when they acknowledge the same things and support the same doctrines as us, we call them heretics ?...... Irenaeus mainly accuses them of this : They maintain that they are above all powers and thus completely free to do as they wish, fearing no one in whatever they do; they pretend that because of the redemption ('apolytrosis', initiation characteristic of the Valentinians), they cannot be apprehended, or even perceived by the judge.......... Irenacnus concludes his treatise on heretics with a tirade which is hardly in keeping with his title of peaceful ....
May those who blaspheme the Creator like the Valentinians and all those who are falsely called Gnostics be considered as agents of Satan by all who worship God. Through them it can be seen that even now Satan speaks against God, the same God who has prepared the eternal fire for apostasies of all kinds.29
There is an ancient law which says that violence begets violence. It is thus hardly surprising that Irenaeus, after devoting the better part of his life to eliminating dissident Christians, ended his days in an arena.
Defending the official Church, Tertullian said : The fact that a stricter discipline exists among us is an added proof of the truth. A Hindu will probably say, on the contrary, that those who need to think like the masses are neither sure of themselves nor of their experience of the divine. Those who wish to recruit others to their cause at all costs, could be pushed to it by the need to receive the approval of a large number of their fellow-devotees an approval which does not come from within themselves. The hierarchical structure is to them what a plaster corset is to a patient : it gives the impression of solidity but entails an atrophy of the underlying muscles.
The strict dualism between God and his creature could be a mirror-image of the dualism between the hierarchy and the believer reinforcing the blind submission of the latter. If God and his believer are considered to be one, the hierarchy loses much of its importance. Islam and Protestantism lay claim to a direct relationship with God while remaining dualistic. Hinduism, with its non-dualist inclination, goes further in this direct relationship with the divine.
If a spiritual seeker does not isolate himself from the community for a certain period of time, and if he does not find a master to guide him, he risks remaining confined to the average ideas of the group. His devotion to the collective cause, and his desire to be of service will risk becoming a servitude. The spiritual masters take into account Valentine's distinction without daring to say so too clearly if they are within Christianity : the Church is concerned with the education of the believers and the spiritual master concerns himself with leading those who really wish it to a complete experience of the Divine. If the institution knew how to limit its pretensions of judging everything intellectually, Christian mysticism would doubtless experience a new breath of life.
On dogmatism and celibacy : some psychological perspectives
There seems to be a link between dogmatic intolerance and an ill-sublimated sexuality. Traces of it are found in the Old Testament itself, when Yahve tells Hosea, symbolically I suppose : Go and take a woman who has given herself to prostitution take also children of prostitution for the country is only prostituting itself in abandoning Yahve (Os 1-2). Saint Ignatius of Antioch said : All heretics are adulterous 30. This gives the impression that, in letting go of dogma, all the brakes that guard against debauchery are released in the same instant. Even if this is true in some cases, it indicates a deep fear which is hardly compatible with a healthy spiritual life. Tertullian, who violently attacked the heretics at the time when he was yet to be labelled as one, also wrote down the rules dictating their conduct towards women. He had been married himself, but was shocked at the presence of women during worship and by the powers that they had. The authors of the time, all single, often mentioned the long martyrdom of virginity Perhaps some of them, having difficulty in enduring it and feeling morally obliged to keep to their vow of celibacy, preferred the brief martyrdom of the arena to the slow death of this enforced virginity; it would then be a matter of a pathological deviation, an escape from inner conflict through an ill disguised suicide. I am not saying that this is the only factor responsible for the desire for martyrdom. We shall return to in this question later.
Gnostics, on the contrary, favoured the role of women in religion; Valentine even speaks of the feminine aspect of the divine grace, silence and mother of all. Of course there were excesses in some groups which must have practised a kind of Christian tantrism, following which it was easy for the bishops to spread disinformation implying that all dissidents were debauchees thus feeding the fantasies of the populace. They were only repeating the methods used by the Roman authorities against their predecessors, the first Christians, who were presented as anti-social monsters given to performing human sacrifices..... The heretics enjoyed the pleasures in which the bishops could not indulge - a sufficient reason for having them eliminated.
A re-activation of the Oedipus complex and of the love towards the mother is an effective method in helping sexual sublimation. In India, one willingly concentrates on the Divine Mother, or on the guru considered in his maternal aspect of protector and nourisher. In Christianity, this affective transference is directed towards the Virgin Mother, no doubt, but it is also often directed towards 'our blessed Mother, the Church' : a good example of this mixing of the two can be found in the Confessions of Saint Augustine, particularly at the end of the autobiographical section of the book, in the last chapters of Book IX. Augustine speaks of his last meeting with his mother at Tagast, near Ostia, and then of her death. She had been his spiritual master, helping him, through all the complexity of their mother-son relationship to reach an inner unity, particularly by the development of a capacity for sexual continence. Augustine said : 'Interposita matris auctoritate de patre creditur', that is, It is through the authority of the mother that one believes in the father. This statement destined to illustrate the reason for the authority of the Church, strangely echoes the family situation of Augustine himself : his father absent, long dead, and his mother constantly speaking to him about religion - can this be called a well balanced relationship ? In any case, can there not be a healthy normal relationship with the father, independent of an interpretative discourse of the mother?
The disadvantage of the transference to our blessed Mother, the Church is that, even if it somehow relieves sexual pressure it predisposes the spiritual aspirant to become more and more engulfed in the internal politics of the institution. While thinking himself to be a great spiritualist, most of his time is wasted, either in local quarrels or in vague dreams of what he would do if he were the Pope....The negative aspects of the Mother, possessive, castrating and engendering guilt, then come to the forefront. As it is very difficult for clergymen in daily contact with the world to observe complete chastity, they are subject to a chronic feeling of guilt, involving a no less chronic dependence on the Mother- institution.
The affective transference towards the Church can lead to idolatry : some pious authors even went to the extreme of speaking of the Church present before the Creation of the world. Did the Church then create God the Father either through a decision of the council or by papal bull?
Two levels of the transformation of sexual power can be distinguished : the first level is that of agape, or love within the community. This is an extension of family love, even a substitute for it for those who stay single. The second level, that of complete transformation, corresponds to Gnosis, to the direct experience of each individual alone in the presence of the One.
Is there a Christian Esoterism?
It is worthwhile dealing more precisely with this question in a discussion on the dialectics of experience and spiritual authority. Accepting difference in degree of knowledge does not mean rejecting people of lesser knowledge, but on the contrary respecting them and allowing them to be as they are. The Old Testament contains allusions to the incontestable secret aspect of inner experience : when Moses went up Mount Sinai, he left the people behind and climbed the mountain alone (Ex, 10,3). Yahve heard Issaiah say : I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places that you mayest know that I, the Lord......am the God of Israel. (Is. 45, 3). The Jews of the Old Testament has certainly perceived the need to understand what is to be understood, as the Sufis will say later. An experience which only a small number of people share is considered to be esoteric without referring to occultism for all that
Many words of Christ show that he is well aware of the differences in the level of perception of his teaching. The parable of the sower, in which he explains that the same seed develops differently in different kinds of soil, illustrates this idea. The ensuing discussion deserves to be quoted : The disciples said unto him : æWhy speakest you unto them in parables ?
Because, he answered, 'it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he will have more abundance. But whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that he hath' (Mt. 13, 10-12). One can hardly be more clear and less egalitarian than Jesus in this passage, but it seems to correspond closely to the reality of the various levels of understanding the spiritual.
Jesus speaks of the narrow door, and declares, Many are called, few chosen. He quotes the Scriptures, saying : I played the flute and you did not dance. Do not cast saintly pearls before swine, he advises. He chose only some disciples to accompany him at the time of the Transfiguration and to the Olive grove. During the last supper, before the small group of his disciples he asserts : You have not chosen me, I have chosen you. The fact that John rests his head on Jesus's breast clearly evokes the genre of testament, a form of speech in which, before his death the master sums up his teaching, imparting it either to a son or to a particular disciple and transmitting it materially through a physical contact. There are many examples of this kind in the Jewish literature of Christ's time.
How then are words such as, Be perfect all of you, as my Father is perfect to be understood? Perhaps Jesus was influenced by the words in the Pentateuch - Be saintly for I, your God, am saintly. If must also be remembered that Jesus says this during the Last Supper, to a select circle of disciples chosen by him. Why does he answer the high priest thus : I spake openly to the world ........in secret I have said nothing (Jn 18, 21)? Jesus probably wants to show that he does not have to justify himself. He does not feel guilty, and therefore does not feel the need to defend himself. In the same way, when he was asked,. Are you the son of God? he replied, That's what you say. He did not wish to enter into polemics again.
To clarify this discussion, it would be useful to distinguish between two kinds of esoterism : the a prioriÆ esoterism in which the disciples are selected according to social or purely intellectual criteria. This was probably the esoterism of Pharisee schools. On the other hand, there is the a posteriori esoterism in which the only criterion of selection is the correct understanding by the disciple of an instruction which is actually given to all but which few have the capacity to understand. The latter is a realistic esoterism, it is Jesus's one. It is quite distinct from the occult and does not contradict the utility of exoteric instruction. In the same way, in India today, a well known guru can have crowds of followers, but only a very limited number of disciples in the real sense of the term.
In the history of Christianity, esoterism and gnosis have often been fought against, not for reasons of belief (the majority of Valentinians had the same beliefs as the official Church, although the dualist tendencies were more pronounced in some of them), but for reasons of authority. Their desire for independence presented a dangerous threat to the established authority of the Church. The elusive aspect of The Church of the Spirit which they preached placed them beyond the reach of hierarchical control. In this discussion on the rapport between exoterism and esoterism, it is not just the well-known polarity between elitism and demagogy, but the quality of spiritual transmission which was at stake back there.
Gnosis, in its very name as well as in its primary definition, corresponds to the Yoga of Knowledge (Jnana-Yoga) in India. Why did it have such difficulty in developing in the West while its Hindu counterpart has been and continues to be an integral part of the religious tradition, and is also considered to be its crowning achievement ? I attribute it mainly to the stability of the relationship between master and disciple in the East, a relationship undisturbed by the untoward, awkward interference of a hierarchy which wants everyone to think along the same lines. In the West, one has the feeling that real mystical teaching takes place, only by chance. Even if there is a beginning of a spiritual lineage it either dies off, being discouraged by religious authorities, or gets diluted in the rapid developments of big organisation or a new Order, in its internal political problems and its complicated relationship wit a central hierarchy.
The system of Hindu spiritual transmission is far from being completely successful in every case, but at least it seems to ensure a personalized transmission, by-passing the many complications brought about by the interference of a central authority.
The weakness of Western gnosis is perhaps also due to the Gnostics themselves : in their desire for freedom from all authority, they ignored the importance of the spiritual master and separated from him before having attained a sufficient degree of maturity, before being capable of becoming masters themselves. Among the Muslims, the Sufis were also persecuted, but they had great faith in the chain of initiation of their spiritual masters ('silsila'), and they could exist and develop on a path parallel to the exoterism of their religion. It must be added that the Prophet's teachings lay stress on a direct intercourse with God and does not encourage priesthood. Besides, I have been personally practising as a psychiatrist among Muslims in Algeria for some time : I could notice that they are not shocked by double language : to them the public-truth is quite distinct from the private one, and they see no harm in acknowledging it. This is different from the somewhat rigid clarity of the Roman mind; in the area of the relationship between exoterism and esoterism, the Muslim concept certainly favours more mutual tolerance than does the Latin one.
To conclude this discussion on exoterism, we can refer to the four stages of spiritual development as presented by Ramana Maharishi and, through him, by Hindu tradition : the first stage is that of materialism, of sheer instinct of acquisition, which could be called consumerism. Having become tired of it, one comes to the second stage, which is that of religion. Again, when one becomes weary or being a peon on the chess-board of socio-religious manipulations, the search for a spiritual master begins. At the end of a long period of contact with him, when the comprehension about the perfect identity between the external and internal masters dawns, one attains Realisation. In India, the first thing that is demanded of a mystic is that he has a guru; if he has not yet found one, he should at least respect the rules of behaviour, especially those linked with renunciation, which form a common basis for various religious practices. Hinduism is more of an 'orthopraxy' than an orthodoxy. As far as ideas are concerned, the spiritual aspirant has a great liberty to think and to teach that which seems right from his point of view. Saint Clement of Alexandria certainly sensed the necessity of this liberty : he concludes the Book V of the 'Stromates' saying: It is really necessary for the seeker who wishes to be perfect to have wandered down many a path (XIX, 140)
What Kind Of Obedience Helps Spiritual Progress?
Hindus give a different meaning to the Christian vow of obedience although obedience is perceived as being equally necessary in both traditions. In the Greek Church, an expression which has almost become a proverb is, obedient as an hermitÆs disciple. In this case, the obedience is a blessing because the hermit, chosen by the disciple is not supposed to have any ego : it is a real spiritual obedience corresponding to the fundamental obedience towards the guru in Hinduism. Taking a vow of obedience towards an institution, on the contrary, seems to be more in keeping with military discipline, even if this institution and its superiors are supposed to represent God: like a good soldier, one is enlisted to obey orders whatever they may be. It may be good like the cadaver in the hands of the washer of the dead (an expression used by the Sufis and later by St. Ignatius of Loyola) but again one is allowed to wonder whether this washer of the dead is a corporal or a saint.
In Greek monastic life, there is often an opposition between the spiritual father and the head of the monastery (higumen, who is in-charge of the community). For instance, Saint Symeon the New Theologian had to leave his monastery and its higumen because he wanted to be with his spiritual master. The function of the master is mainly to listen, while that of the higumen is to see that the interest of the individual does not encroach upon the interest of the community. The abuse of power by the higumen became evident when he tried to take the place of the spiritual master and to oblige the monks to confess all their thoughts to him (exagoreusis) . This led to compulsory, public confessions, which seem more reminiscent of Mao's China than of the spirit of confidence and mutual trust which ought to have existed between master and disciple. In the Church itself there was a reaction against this excess and a subsequent return to a greater division of powers. A person in charge of a community, if he has also to function as the spiritual teacher, will have greater difficulty in being himself in front of his subordinates, than a master involved in a private relationship with his disciple. The 'higumen' may be led to twist the truth for the common good, thereby losing his spiritual credibility. Without being absolutely sure of the honesty of the teacher, how can one be confident that he has really gone through all the inner experiences that he talks about ? The person in charge of the community, ensconced in his official position and obliged to talk every now and then sooner of later risk going against the main advice that Christ gave to his disciples when they asked him what to do. "Stop lying", he replied (Thomas's Gospel, logion 6).
Saint Benedict wanted to combine the roles of the spiritual father ('abbas') and the higumen in charge of the community in the person of the abbot. This is possible to some extent when the community is small, but what happens if the community grows larger or if the abbot dies and another one is appointed or elected? Should not the vows of obedience and stability be taken with respect to the spiritual master rather than to the community ? This would certainly be an advantage, spiritually, even if it may be a great disadvantage for the internal politics of the Church. Indeed, a community is easier to control than an independent spiritual master. Among masters who could really develop within the Church were the Fathers of the desert : it was because they explicitly refused to interfere in the hierarchical teaching by going into solitude, that they were allowed to say what they wished to their disciples. If , like the Hindu gurus, they had wished to emerge from solitude after some years, and to spread their teaching among the people, the relationship with the hierarchy would doubtless have been more strained. However, there was a time, during the VIth century in Eastern Church, when bishops were mainly chosen among monks; but it did not last.
In Hinduism the Brahmin orthodoxy may be very heavy, but the superiority of the guru, who speaks of the divine from his direct experience, is generally acknowledged. Besides, the guru lives thanks to the donations of his disciples and is thus independent of society and of all hierarchy. In the Church, on the other hand, the clergymen are employees. Their debt of gratitude and sometimes even a material constraint thus prevent them from expressing serious criticism about those who provide for them. The guru and his group of disciples form a self-financed unit which is independent of society for the better and for the worse.
Fortunately for the mystic, he has the capacity of transcending the environment. If he has found inner joy, he retains it an against all odds, be they the whims of his superiors or the hard conditions of the cloister in which he is confined if he is a monk.
Centralisation Of Authority And The Will For Expansion
Historically it is clear that the Church adopted the idea of supremacy of the Roman empire when it was washed away by the torrent of barbarian invasions. Clerical imperialism replaced military imperialism, which had the advantages of reassuring the people, of giving them a stable reference and of providing them with a sense of identity in those troubled times.
Even today, it can be seen that the Church plays a crucial role whenever cultural identity is in peril, as in Lebanon, North Ireland and Poland. For his court the Pope had taken up some of the elements of the imperial Roman court. He had been associated with the emperor throughout the history of Christianity. Charlemagne was associated with king David in the eyes of his courtiers; he considered himself to be the Pope's equivalent in the temporal domains; in fact he even considered himself to be a little superior to the Pope. In the palace of Aix-the-Chapel (Aachen, in German), the throne of the emperor was placed a little above the one reserved for the Pope.....He, along with the Papacy, wanted a uniformity in religious organisation, in the liturgy, in hymns, and in mass. While this was helpful as far as the temporal well-being of his empire was concerned, it did not, however, favour the spiritual well-being of the small monastic communities which had to obey unnecessary rules imposed on them. The different regional traditions were thus impoverished. 32.
To return to the early centuries, some reasons for the expansion of Christianity can be suggested : a centralised authority certainly gave the institution a strength which other sects, in general, did not have. The stress on 'agape' (brotherly love) in Christianity had a greater Gnosis, deprived of immediate charms and with no easy access to it. Besides, the importance attached to suffering gave a meaning to the painful life of the lower classes among which the missions first developed. These are the well-known positive elements of the inner strength of Christianity. Less mention however, is made of the weak points of the opposite camp which might have checked the expansion of the official Church. When the Gnostics were authentic mystics, they did not risk their lives by quarrelling with intolerant bishops Besides, when they were simple preachers, devoid of ethical qualities, they rapidly lost their credibility, The religion of the State, which was a political force had lost its spiritual credibility : the people no longer believed in it. In this context, then, can it be said that the Church achieved a victory through forfeit? Matters can be viewed in this perspective as well, even though, of course, it does not correspond to the official version which the Church has developed of its own history . A study which I did on the Hindu guru and the Saint of the middle ages will be published later, To mention it briefly here, the saint of the early Middle Ages, defined as such by popular acknowledgment (ævox populi, vox Deø), was very similar to the Hindu guru. From the 13th century, onwards, though, the development of the centralised canonisation proceedings by Rome had the effect of preventing the evolution of the notion of the living saint, and rendering sterile his capacity for effective teaching. Despite the official praise, he was considered by the hierarchy as a competitor difficult to tame.
Present Day Decentralization And The Demand For Acculturation.
The new theology of acculturation which has been developing in the Third World, especially in India, since the second council of the Vatican, favours decentralization. More and more Indian Christians are expressing the desire for an evolution from 'local churches in India' to 'local Indian churches'. Father Aloysius Pieris, a Jesuit, became one of the Champions of this process of acculturation.33 It would be useful to take a look at some of his ideas.
He criticises the notion of acculturation itself : this word pre-supposes a separation of religion from culture, a separation which exists, perhaps, in Western minds, but which is not perceived by the Hindu. According to him, a mere borrowing of Hindu cultural forms by Christianity is not enough. This kind of borrowing risks arousing the suspicions of Hindus rather than reassuring them. In their eyes it represents a missionary technique aimed at making new converts. These Christians are like the chameleons which take on the colour of their environment in order to devour their prey, they say (p.100). Indian culture and philosophy cannot accept becoming an ancilla theologiae, or a servant of theology, as did Greek philosophy at the time of the rise of Christianity. He suggests that, perhaps now, the tables have been turned on Christianity; it is Christianity which has become the religion of an ageing imperialism, while Eastern spirituality could represent the faith of the first Christians coming to unsettle established religion on its own territory.
He thinks that the theology of fulfillment does not go far enough. This theology, enunciated by the Fathers of the Church and repeated by Karl Rahner and the Second Council of the Vatican, asserts that, despite appearances, all non-Christian religions are also based on Christ, but that they do not realize it. Nevertheless, if Christ had appeared in a disguised manner in Hinduism or Buddhism, why can the reverse not be held to be true, that is, that Jesus was a solitary Buddha who had sensed the truth of Dharma without being able to express it completely? This debate could go on indefinitely...
It is only too easy says Pieris to thus baptize Eastern cultures, customs and religions, instead of succeeding in baptizing the people. He preaches the imitation of the symbolic example of Christ in the Jordan, a river he compares to Asian religions. Christ had had the humility to disrobe and have himself baptized, like many others, by whom represents the guru of Indian religions. Once John-the-Baptist had publicly acknowledged his importance, Jesus had the authority in the eyes of the people to begin his mission (p.88). It is interesting to see the extent to which Pieris goes (p.99):
The crisis of the mission can only be resolved if the Church is baptized in the Jordan, that is, in the two-fold liberating force of the Asian monks and of the peasants. Following the example of its master, this Church in Asia should sit at the feet of Asian gurus, not as ecclesia docens (a teaching Church) but as ecclesia discens (a learning Church), which is ready to lose itself among the religions of AsiaÆs poor among those æanawimÆ who come to their gurus in search of saintliness, justice and peace. The numerous individual initiatives in this direction are only symbolic beginnings. Until the institutional Church itself dares to take the plunge, it cannot hope to represent either a comprehensible revelation or a credible sign of salvation for the Asian people.