BUENOS AIRES YOGA SCHOOL
CONFERENCE BY THE FOUNDING MASTER
DR. JUAN PERCOWICZ
“Western Philosophy as an Alternative to Drug Abuse, Aids and Violence.”
Friday, June 5th, 1992, 4:00 pm.
I – Acknowledgements
My heart is thankful to all of you for allowing me the realization of this Conference and, in particular, to the sponsors, the adherents, the attendees, my students -since each and every one of them, without exception, has worked intensively in the organization of this event. I am also grateful to the Sheraton Hotel, which has once again offered me their comfortable rooms for the activities of the School; to its staff for their constant advice, and to Dr. Feli Zimmermann, my wife, colleague and friend all along the good moments of my life for over twenty-five years.
Sitting next to me at this table, the Directors of the School: Dra. Susana Schiavi; my son, Dr. Marcelo Percowicz; Lic. Silvina Milrad; Dra. Mariú Rossi and my almighty Greis Alarcón.
To all of the above mentioned and to all of you -who have seconded me in this quest for the revaluation of Philosophy within the human cultural context- to those of us, who are this very instant trying to give the future of mankind a higher dimension, please, a warm round of applause.
II – DESCENDING FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL
Ever since that fateful day in the history of mankind, in which the decision to build the Tower of Babel was taken, we have grown further and further apart rather than united by the words we utter and hear.
In an attempt to reach a consensus as to the essence of this conference, we will try to ‘descend from the Tower of Babel’ by defining the meaning of some of the words to be used later on.
We shall start by the word Philosophy.
III – THOSE OF YOU FREE FROM BEING A PHILOSOPHER, CAST THE FIRST STONE.
To Plato, the great Greek thinker, Philosophy is born as the intellectual sublimation of emotion, and the amazement generated when we look around or within ourselves.
From the internal bond between that emotion and that idea, Philosophy is born -a discipline whose attributes we will enumerate presently :
1 - Study of the essence of the whole.
2 - Encyclopedia which collects scientific data from the world at a given moment in the history of mankind.
3 - Theory of the value of various human concepts:
- Religious values
- Cultural values
- Ethical values
- Aesthetic values, etc.
4 - Frames of thought within the various human communities.
5 - Speculative art which contemplates the cosmos and the research methods applied to it.
6 - Practical art which recommends the fundamental norms of living to be applied to the individuals themselves and to the community.
In brief, Philosophy is the most sublime state of mind a human being can have access to.
Moving onto this, we can claim that it is the fundamental distinguishing mark between mankind and the rest of the zoological wonders.
To feel amazed and puzzled, to research and reflect, all are part of this, the subtlest of engines, which, though hidden, fuels all the manifestations –good and bad- of the human race.
Good and healthy actions stem from good philosophy; evil and unhealthy actions are the result of bad philosophy.
Drug abuse, AIDS and violence would therefore be harmful and unhealthy manifestations of mankind’s present-day bad philosophy .
The fight against these social scourges should be carried out on the battlefield of ideas, emotions and philosophical actions.
By no means should we neglect the utmost relevance of the mighty efforts the fighters for the well-being of humanity make at charitable organizations -both public and private- as well as those carried out by the religious institutions in our country and abroad. It is thanks to these preventive, defensive and therapeutical measures that mankind has not been completely destroyed.
We know that they act on a strong philosophical basis which urges them to such a heroic feat. Our contribution aims to create a new fighting front which –together with the work of these beautiful institutions- will secure ultimate success.
IV – IS THE WEST IN THE EAST?
By Western Philosophy we mean:
That which is born of the dynamic interconnection between the solid judicial-military structure of the Roman Empire –influenced by Greek Philosophy-, the powerful mystical-spiritual nourishment of the Judeo-Christian thinking and the faunal meaning instilled by the Germanic conquerors.
It is this philosophy that nourishes Western culture, born onto Roman soil, and which synthesizes Greek philosophical values; Judeo-Christian religious transcendence and the love for sensual pleasure, success and dexterity of the Germanic peoples.
Western Philosophy starts expanding in Europe and, as from the time of the Crusades, the undertaking of civilizing the rest of the world begins; first America, the East, Africa. The “white man’s burden”, as Kipling calls it, achieves, towards the end of the second millennium, the ideological conquest of all the human communities.
All civilizations, western and eastern, irrespective of how ancient they are, adopted the basic values of Western Philosophy.
The United States of America is today the world leading power in the West, and through its economic, technological and military influence, they guide the cultural idiosyncrasies of all the human communities.
We can now state that the West is not only in the East but all over the world.
Therefore, the search for a philosophical answer to the drama we are pondering, must necessarily be referred back to Western Philosophy; its actions must encompass the world as a whole and its strategy must possess a unique drive.
V – DRUG ABUSE AS A FACTUAL MANIFESTATION OF MEDIOCRE PHILOSOPHY.
Henri Ey says, “... The problem of drug abuse currently belongs within the realm of the symptoms of a socio-cultural crisis and is therefore beyond the competence and actions of a psychiatrist...”
According to this, the problem of drug abuse is bigger than the therapeutical measures generated to control it.
In our view, the hunt for drugs is the last stage in an individual’s life -one who has not found a deep, complete and harmonious philosophical answer compatible with his existential problems.
We estimate that the higher the level of knowledge and philosophical praxis a human community has, the lower the level of drug abuse. It is time for Western Philosophy to enter this fight for the survival of the human race.
In the experience of the Buenos Aires Yoga School (experience derived from the conversations with students who were drug abuser at the moment they entered the school), when drug addicts are taken to a higher philosophical level, they naturally get off drugs within a period of six months to two years of starting philosophical therapy.
The systematic research of the recovery process gave origin –as well as provided the necessary material - to this lecture you are so kindly sharing with me.
VI – IS MAN ANOTHER MAN’S WOLF AND ANHIALATOR OF HIS OWN KIND?
There are thinkers who believe that man is essentially violent, so violent he can even commit suicide.
They take, as proof of this, the continuous wars, instances of aggression, cases of suicide and even Aids -understood as a slow form of suicide.
In this case as well, at the Buenos Aires Yoga School, we have carried out interviews with violent and suicidal individuals who wished to become students, and we have discovered that violence and suicidal impulses are triggered off by mediocre philosophies. In this case as well, by improving these students’ philosophical elaboration, such psychologically destructive manifestations disappeared within a period of between six months to two years.
We totally agree with Ashley Montagu’s opinion, which states that no human behavior is genetically predetermined; man is capable of behaving in an aggressive or benevolent manner; of adopting a cruel, sensitive or selfish conduct, as well as of evincing noble, cowardly or naughty attitudes.
Every individual’s behavior can be explained by reference to the experiences they have had, as well as to their genetic heritage and the mysterious free-will factor, which shines in even the most degraded human being.
Now that we have agreed on the content of some of the words we will use in the course of this lecture, my dear friends, we can move onto the development of its core.
VII – A SMALL PHILOSOPHICAL LABORATORY IN OUR CITY: THE BUENOS AIRES YOGA SCHOOL.
I was born almost 54 years ago in Caballito, in my beloved Buenos Aires.
At four I started my first philosophical elaborations. I remember perfectly well the subject which worried that taciturn and silent boy: “The equality of opportunities an individual has for happiness in the face of the plurality of their economic, physical and social opportunities.
Constantly immersed in my own private philosophical world, I went through both primary and secondary school in quite a mediocre manner. After that, I entered the Facultad de Ciencias Económicas de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, from which I graduated as Public Accountant; some time later, I became a Doctor In Administration. Shy and reserved, I happily drank from the well of high philosophical ideas present in the curricula.
At 33 I became acquainted with the ideas of the Yoga Philosophy. I studied them for a decade and discovered that between this discipline and those of the western philosophies there were no essential differences, only in presentation or in particular criteria. Later on, together with a small group of friends, called “The Three Bs” (Bibí Lefèvre de Giglioli, Beba Fernández de Morales y Beatriz Vigil de Sosa Molina), we started what today is called the Buenos Aires Yoga School.
The School’s purpose is the study of all human activity.
The School respects all thoughts free from the germs of violence or discrimination. It also honors the mysticism of all of mankind’s major religions, by studying its psychological and philosophical aspects.
From Yoga we have derived the integrative meaning of the philosophical experience. Within the yogi, the philosopher, there can be no difference between his thoughts, his feelings and his actions. The ideas must rule the feelings and the feelings must command the actions. To think, feel and act in unison make up the three sides of a harmonious experiential triangle.
In agreement with the true meaning of “unit”, the School does not admit any kind of economic, social, racial, sexual or religious discrimination.
This Small Philosophical Laboratory in the city of Buenos Aires has over a thousand friends, both students and supporters.
Devoted from the very beginning to the study of Philosophy, the School has discovered that this activity has such a balancing effect on the students that it has allowed those in the grip of drug-addiction, violence or all sorts of suicidal impulses (including the subconscious search for AIDS) to free themselves from these by channeling their energies into a creative lifestyle.
Basing myself on the experimental method, so dear to all thinkers and scientists, we can therefore claim that in this Laboratory, Western Philosophy gives a successful alternative to such social scourges as drug abuse, AIDS and violence.
We share the opinion of our delicate writer and profound philosopher, Bioy Casares, who said - in the course of a lecture he delivered within the series “the Makers of the Argentina of the Third Millennium”-, “I do not need any stimulus to like life”.
VIII – “I DO NOT NEED ANY STIMULUS TO LIKE LIFE.” (Adolfo Bioy Casares)
When we do not like life, when “Man is a futile passion”, as mediocre Sartre says, then, we will resort to drugs, violence or any other stimulus that can help us bear such “futile passion”. Even suicide becomes more tolerable.
All these maladies are born and spread because we have not given this end-of-millennium mankind any other type of nourishment.
Why do we claim, here and now, that Philosophy is not only a more natural, nutritious and healthy form of nourishment, but, above all, the most appealing?
Allow me to answer by resorting to a phrase by the poet Almafuerte: “Because happiness consist in living a truthful life; in other words, happiness consists in living one’s own truth”.
I would also like to summon Socrates’ assistance in answering with his very own words: “But the soul, dear friend, has to be treated by means of certain spells, and such spells are the beautiful speeches. Since such speeches provide the soul with serenity, and when this is available, it becomes easier to procure health”.
Seneca, enamored of time, lends me a hand when he says: “Before laying our eyes on any other subject we would be well-advised to lay them on ourselves”.
I am also grateful to enlightened Lichtenberg, whose idea I shall put forward: “Man thinks by instinct and we all know how difficult it is to suppress instinct”.
Out of my utmost veneration, and to further help in answering, I have extracted part of a proverb by the Wise King, King Salomon, son of David:
“The beginning of wisdom is: gain wisdom.
At the expense of all your
possessions, acquire intelligence.
Store it and it will elevate you;
It will honor you if you embrace it;
It will lay a gem of grace on your forehead,
A splendid crown will be your gift”.
I would like all these answers to work as marked cards, dealt by the hands of a dexterous Poker Player in order to win the ultimate round
In this game, I would like to convince you, my dear friends, as well as this blessed cobble-pot of races which my beloved country encompasses -and humanity as a whole- all awaiting the arrival of a bright third millennium, that the solution to these terrible maladies depends on revaluing the philosophical instinct as the core of and guide to all human activity.
IX – THE GARDENS OF HEAVEN
To bring this dialogue to and end, allow me to share some of my dreams with you:
1 - It would be beautiful for this High Philosophy, this Philosophy of life, to triumph over the mediocre philosophies of death.
2 - It would be beautiful for our beloved country, which once fed the famished of the world, to be able to feed those hungry for ideas of peace and love.
3 - Such a dream was born together with that of founding –here, in our country- the World Center Against the Maladies of Drug Abuse, AIDS and Violence.
4 - That in this center, united in the fight against a common enemy, people from all over the world accept in theory and action, even if not by confession, the spiritual commandment that two thousand years ago Jesus –to some, the son of God, to all without exception, the Philosopher of Love- demanded from us when he said:
“My new command is this:
Love each other.
As I have loved you
Love each other;
this is my command."
5 - To be able to create today, as a consequence of the enthusiasm with which we share these ideas, the founding team of such a center.
6 - That we should be able, before the dawn of the third millennium, to satisfy with our deeds this poetic and philosophical, tearing plea by our beloved Alfonsina Storni:
the gardens of heaven
spring out roots
onto the flesh of men,
into the lives of men,
into the dwellings of men…”
X – ONCE AGAIN, THANK YOU VERY MUCH:
Allow me to end this Lecture by reading some of Alfonsina’s poetry.
Let her verses give us the courage and energy to act :
“... We have all slept
during the day
like the stars
in broad daylight
With dim lights on
In the heat of the sun
Counting the number
Of our hairs,
Our twenty nails
the gardens of heaven
spring out roots
onto the flesh of men,
into the lives of men,
into the dwellings of men
We cannot sleep
To all of you, thank you very, very much.