The Brazilian soul is ill

Everything healthy can become ill. Illness always refers to health. This is a principal reference point and reflects the essential dimension of normal life.
The social affronts, hateful verbal broadsides, offenses, insults, and the coarse, vulgar language that now predominate in social or digital media and even public discourse, show that the Brazilian soul is ill.

The highest levels of power communicate with the people through fake news, outright lies and images set in a pornographic or scatological framework. This reveals a lack of the decency and sense of dignity and respectability that inhere in the highest offices of a nation. In fact, an essential value has been lost: the self respect and respect for the other that are indispensable to a civilized society.

The reason for this is that the Numenoso (sacred) dimension has been obscured, (numen, in Latin, is the sacred side of things), “Numinosity” is revealed through experiences that wholly involve us and give meaning to life even in the midst of great suffering. Numinosity possesses an immense transforming power. The experience of two people in love and the passion that fascinates them is an example of Numinosity. A profound encounter with a person who shone a light for us in the midst of a grave existential crisis, is an experience of the Numinoso. The existential shock of encountering a charismatic person of convincing words or courageous actions evokes the Numinoso dimension in us. The ineffable Presence felt at the grandeur of the universe or a starry night evokes Numinosity in us. The same is true for the brilliant and profound eyes of a small child.

Numinosity is not a thing, but the resonance of things that touch the depth of our beings and therefore become precious. They are transformed into symbols that refer us to that Something beyond ourselves. Such things, besides being what they are, are transformed into symbolic realities, filled with meaning. On the one hand, they fascinate and attract us, and on the other, they fill us with respect and veneration. They produce in us a heightened state of consciousness and improve our behavior.

That Numinosity, in the language of the mystics, as in Mestre Eckhart, or Teresa de Avila, the greatest of them, and also in C.G. Jung’s psychology of the profound, is represented by our inner Sun or irradiating Center. The Sun functions as a central archetype. As the Sun attracts all the planets to its orbit, likewise, the archetype-Sun satellite envelopes itself with our most profound meaning. It is the living and irradiating Center of our inner being. The Center is a data-synthesis of the totality of our life that imposes itself. It speaks within us, warns us, and supports us, like the Great Grandfather or Grandmother who counsels us to walk the straight and narrow paths of life. And then we will never be misled.

Human beings can close themselves to this Center or to this Sun. Human beings can even deny them, but can never destroy them. They are there as an immanent reality of the soul.

This Center or its archetype, the Sun, gives us equilibrium, personal and social harmony and coexistence with our opposites, without exacerbating matters, due either to intolerance or excluding behaviors.

As it is, this Center has been lost in the Brazilian soul. We have darkened the inner Sun, even though He is constantly present, as El Cristo del Corcovado. Although He may be covered by clouds, He is always there, with open arms. The same is true with our inner Sun.

Losing our Center and darkening the irradiation of the inner Sun, we lose equilibrium and the just measure, the bases of ethics, society and coexistence. Unbalanced, we wander, spouting words unconnected to civility and good sense. We degrade ourselves and abandon the golden rule of all ethics: “treat all and every human being humanely.” At the present moment in Brazil, many men and women do not treat their fellow human beings humanely. They turn adversaries in the realm of ideas and political or sexual options into enemies, to be fought and eventually eliminated.

We urgently need to cure our wounded soul, recuperate our Center and our inner Sun, accepting differences, through open dialogue and empathy with those who suffer most, without allowing the differences to become inequalities. As the tweet profile of an intelligent woman said: “When we take the place of the other, we make of the world (of society) a place for everyone”. This is our urgency, if we don’t want to devolve into barbarity.

Leonardo Boff Eco-Theologian-Philosopher and of the Earthcharter Commission

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,


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