Chapter 7: Spirituality Is the Ultimate in Luxury
You ask me, Gerrit Huiser: “Is this contradictory to Christ’s teachings on the poor as being the children of God and the rich as being ‘the lowest’?” Yes, it’s contradictory - it is absolutely contradictory. Jesus is wrong! And I don’t consider the rich to be the lowest and I don’t consider the poor to be the highest. If the poor are the highest then the problem is very simple: richness can be destroyed very easily. There is no problem at all.
You say to me: “During years of rural development.” What were you doing in rural development? Making people poor? - because if the poor are higher, then development means make them poorer! Gerrit Huiser, what were you doing there in Latin America? Aren’t the people poor enough? not yet children of God? so you had gone there to make them absolutely poor? - because according to you, that will be development, progress, evolution!
You say: “During years of rural development work with poor peasants in Latin America, I found them to be higher spiritually than the rich landlords.” Do you know what spirituality is? Have you experienced anything of spirituality yourself? What criterion have you got to judge who is spiritually higher and who is spiritually lower? What do you mean by spirituality? According to you to be poor is to be spiritual because Jesus says the poor are the children of God, so naturally you found the poor to be higher spiritually - you must be a believer in Jesus Christ - than the rich landlords.
But my own understanding is totally different. Spirituality is the highest need - there is a hierarchy of needs. The first plane of needs is physical. The poor person remains tethered to the physical: he is hungry, he is ill, he does not have any shelter, not enough clothes. He cannot think of Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner; he cannot think of great poetry - Kalidas, Shakespeare, Dante; he cannot think of great novelists and novels - Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov. There is no possibility - he is hungry. What is he going to do with Brothers Karamazov? He needs bread, butter, not Brothers Karamazov! He needs a shelter from the rain, from the hot sun, he does not need music. What will he do with music? Can you make a shelter out of music? Can you make clothes out of beautiful paintings? And he is so hungry he cannot be sensitive to any higher thing. He is tethered to the body, to the lowest part of his being.
When physical needs are fulfilled, then psychological needs arise - they are higher needs. Then there is a search for music, poetry, art, sculpture, architecture, gardening. These are higher needs, but with each higher need higher problems arise. Hence I welcome higher problems.