Just as an example, Joan of Arc was declared a witch by the pope of that time. And the pope defined a witch – which is not the meaning of the word witch – as someone who has sexual intercourse with the devil. The meaning of the word witch is a wise woman. And it has always been the meaning up to the Middle Ages, when the popes started declaring wise women as being in the grip of the devil. It was easy; first they would torture those women to such an extent that it became unbearable. Day after day they were tortured.
Finally the woman had to accept that yes, she is a witch. That was the only way to stop her being tortured. And once she accepted and confessed that she was a witch, she had to go to the court – a special court appointed by the pope – to declare that she has been having intercourse with the devil, which is sheer nonsense, because never before had it been known, and never afterwards – nobody has seen the devil. And these poor women were having intercourse with the devil, and they had to describe the whole ugly thing in every detail. And once they confessed, the court ordered them to be burned alive. Thousands of women in Europe were in danger and thousands had already been burned alive.
Joan of Arc fought for the freedom of her country. She was a young woman of tremendous courage and she won freedom for the country. Hence, there was immense respect for Joan of Arc. And the jealous pope could not allow Joan of Arc to be left alone. It became a competition – who is more respectable, Joan of Arc or the pope. The easiest way was to declare her a witch. He declared her a witch and they tortured the poor young woman until finally she had to accept. There was no way out and she was burned alive.
But this created a very different result than that expected by the pope. He fell more in people’s eyes, and Joan of Arc became a martyr. She was loved more, she gained more sympathy. People almost started worshipping her. So after three hundred years another pope realized that it had been a mistake on the part of the previous pope. He had unnecessarily created a martyr; he should have been more careful. It was easy to destroy ordinary women but to destroy a woman like Joan of Arc…he had not been cautious enough.
After three hundred years, another pope declared that Joan of Arc was not a witch, she was a saint, and her bones were dragged out of the grave and worshipped. A great memorial was made, because now she had become “Saint Joan of Arc.” You can see, at least one of the popes was fallible – most probably both. But one thing is certain: both cannot be right. And the popes are not enlightened people; they know nothing of enlightenment.
The East has been very concerned for ten thousand years with the phenomenon of enlightenment. It certainly brings you great light, great clarity, great ecstasy and the feeling of immortality. But even though it brings so much, existence is so vast that your enlightenment is just a dewdrop in the ocean of existence. However transparent and clear your understanding may be, there is always a possibility to commit mistakes. And this has been recognized by the East.
Even Gautam Buddha is reported to have said that existence is so vast, so infinite in all dimensions, that even an enlightened man may commit mistakes. This is true religiousness and humbleness. The idea of infallibility is nothing but ugly ego.