Bernard Enginger was a member of the French Resistance when he was captured by the Nazis and put in concentration camps for a year and a half. After he was released, he spent years in India, among many other places, where he was given the name Satprem by his spiritual teacher. One of the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat participants heard an interview he gave much later in life and transcribed what he said. It's astonishing...
…. A man only starts to BE when he reaches the complete nothingness of
what he is, what he believes, that he thinks, what he loves. When we reach this
complete nothingness, then something must BE, or we die, right?
this in the concentration camps. There was nothing. All was destroyed, broken.
Even I was broken. All the ideals, the nobility, everything was broken. There
was nothing, nothing, nothing, You see? No politics, no religion, nothing to
hold on to. So when there is nothing, what is left? What is left? There is a
centre of strength, of being. There is something left. And that is the key.
It’s not all that we think, all we feel or love. It’s not our ideals or God.
It’s none of that! It’s something poignant, as if the whole being was wrapped
up in an anguish that is so intense that it becomes a prayer. Or like love, it
is warm, powerful. There are no words to describe it. It is our being, what we
are. That is the question, the thing that everyone reaches. When everything
crumbles, what is left?
Everything is broken to force us to reach that human moment, where we
are what man truly is. What is man, really? We are completely fooled by
philosophies, religions, politics. They are only outgrowths that were added
from one century to the next, They have nothing to do with human reality. So,
what is human reality? A man in a cell who will get shot the next morning,
knows what that is, sometimes.
In the morning, in my cell, I often heard steps
in the hallway.
So, when one is there alone, in the dark, and the steps are
coming, and someone knocks on the next door, and the steps pass by to the cell
on the other side, at that moment, where is philosophy, where is religion,
where is family, where is love? Where is all that superficial crust? There is
There’s nothing, but there is something so powerfully, soft, strong.
For once, one truly IS. That is human reality. It has no name. But it is a
strength, a great softness. And suddenly, everything slides off our hands. What
is left is a softness that understands everything. It is not weak, but strong.
And, from above, it sees all this comedy, all this tragedy. Suddenly, it looks
from elsewhere. THAT is what man really is. And no one can touch that. One can
be shot, tortured, and THAT does not move. It just IS. That is the evolutionary
link. This reality will allow us to move on to a less tragic and less
ridiculous species. This reality has the strength to go on the next step. Our
philosophies cannot help us. Did the philosophy of the fish ever help it become
amphibious? Did the dinosaur’s religion ever help it become mammalian? So,
nothing of what we know will help us cross. Nothing, nothing at all. Not Karl
Marx, nor the Pope. No one! Simply that THING, the pure being that we are. It
is like a real heartbeat, and that can go through, yes. Because it is the only
reality. All the rest were simply tricks to help us get closer to the reality
of who we are.
Religious, Marxist, Ghandist tricks, all the human tricks that
we invented to help us, step by step, get closer to human reality. And now, in
our present global reality, all these tricks are breaking apart. We are given
the grace or having all our ideas, all our feelings, all our moralities broken
apart. We are given this grace so that we are left bare to find the creator
part that can survive. Because, when we reach this point, we can feel this
creator force that can change everything. But since evolution is not an
individual thing, all of humanity, globally, must reach this irrevocable point
where you are or you are not. You are or you are not. And if you are not, then
you leave, like many species have done in the past.