Richard Dawkins visited Colombia … Thanks God!

Dawkins, Richard
River Out of Eden
Phoenix Paperback, 1999

Since the moment that we started to travel to Oxford (1999), I started to hear about the books written by Richard Dawkins. A few years later both, Juan David and Constanza read some of his books (The Selfish Gene) and I got interested but didn’t read any of his books. In December 2017 Dawkins visited Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena and had an exciting dialogue with Gerardo Remolina, from the Jesuits. Though I wanted to attend, I didn’t because it was too expensive.

Scared by his own shadow

Anyway, I was interested because of his Darwinian position about our origin, and his clear negation about the existence of God, Heaven and Hell, the Angels, and the stories that people after people since ancient history have told us, in order to defend our transcendence and our projection, heaven and hell, into the future after we will be dead. In a very simple language, he connects the reader with the micro and macro dimensions of our world to explain a few fundamental ideas.


His statement was clear: the key purpose of life is transmitting DNA. It flows through time and not geography. It’s a river of information. In the River Out of Eden, he explains some of the key arguments.

In chapter 1 Dawkins explains why DNA is a digital river. After a precious comparison between analog (older) and digital (newer? engineering) systems, he concludes that humans share both. “The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors”.2 Genes are not improved. They are just passed on. “There are now perhaps thirty million branches to the river of DNA, for that it is an estimate of the number of species on earth”. 9 “All earthly living things are certainly descended from a single ancestor”. 14 “apart from the differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular-biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer-engineering journal”. 20 “Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information”. 22

In chapter 2, the author goes into the many beliefs, tribes, religions, etc…. and all of them are true for their believers. This is relative. Science, math, etc., are supported by evidence, while myths and faiths ”are not and do not”. 37 “It is molecular biology that has given us the charismatic African Eve. 44 “African Eve is sometimes called Mitochondrial Eve”. 51 “We get our mitochondria from our mother only”. Our conclusions are: (1) There is one Mitochondrial Eve (most recent common ancestor of all modern human s down the female path). (2) There existed one person (unknown sex) who is the most recent common ancestor – Focal Ancestor – down any pathway; (3) It is vanishingly unlikely that both are the same; (4) It is more likely that the Focal Ancestor was a male; (5) Mitochondrial Eve lived less than a quarter of millions of years ago; (6) Informed opinion still favours Africa. “The river of DNA has been flowing through our ancestors in an unbroken line that spans not less than three thousand million years”. 66

Chapter 3 is dedicated to the evolution of specific animals. Though the many cases are pretty impressive, I loved how he describes bees, and the patterns that they follow in order to indicate the existence of food in one specific direction and how they represent in a dance, the distance where the food is.

Chapter 4 is dedicated to a utility function. “The true process that has endowed wings and eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the full illusion of purposeful design is now well understood.”114 “Utilitarians strive to maximize <>”.121 “What was God’s utility function?”. 122 “…everything makes sense once you assume that DNA survival is what is being maximized”. 124 “Genes don’t care about suffering because they don’t care about anything”. 153

The last chapter is dedicated to the Replication Bomb when the author goes into heredity. He describes 10 Thresholds:
1. Replicator Threshold – self-copying system. Variants compete for resources.
2. After many generations of evolution, we move into Threshold 2, the Phenotype Threshold (causal effects on something else.
3. The replicator team threshold, because the genes work in teams.
4. Many-cells threshold
5. High-speed information processing
6. Consciousness threshold (related to language?).
7. Language threshold is a MAJOR THRESHOLD.
8. Cooperative technology threshold
9. Radio threshold
10. Space travel threshold

It seems important his recommendation to read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.  American astronomer.

The book ends “on some beneficial effects upon our normally parochial little consciousness; some echo of the poetic impact of Newton’s statue in Trinity College, Cambridge, upon the admittedly giant consciousness of William Wordsworth:

And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon on favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone. 188



Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) – “The Seven Story Mountain”, An Autobiography of Faith, A Harvest Book, Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, 1948, 1999


Ochun is syncretized with la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, who is the Patroness of Cuba.  On September 8,  Cubans show their devotion to Ochún by dressing in yellow, putting sunflowers and special treats like honey and pumpkins on her altar, lighting candles and, if possible, holding a tambor (drumming ceremony) or violín (classical music played by a solo violin or a small string orchestra) in her honor.  One reason Ochun and La Caridad del Cobre were syncretized in Cuba is that both are traditionally represented as women of mixed race, thereby thought to symbolize the Cuban people.  

During the1980s or so, I have read Merton’s “No Man is an Island”, and I got no idea about who he was. I loved that book, but I never tried to know anything else about him and / or about his work during the last 40 years.

It has been recently, when we resumed our regular sessions on meditation, that I started the timing of the sessions and I got into an app, where you can contact several meditation sessions, being Thomas Merton’s one of them. I started to read comments from other people meditating anywhere in the world and I found interesting that he was an important symbol within this tradition.

The Seven Storey Mountain has been interesting, in order to see which was his years of life and how he converted into Catholicism and decided to become a priest, at the end of 1939.

It was good to read about his family life, the relations with his dad (artist) and with his grandparents. His many types of “travels”: to London, to the USA, to Cuba, but also about his political incursions into communism and into the lack of any belief too. This writing is a masterpiece on how it describes his becoming a priest.

I loved the chapter about his visit to Cuba (before the Revolution) and how he looks for the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (black virgin) and the poem that he writes about girls:

“The white girls lift their heads like trees, The black girls go   Reflected like flamingoes in the street.   The white girls sing as shrill as water,  The black girls talk as quiet as clay. The white girls open their arms like clouds, The black girls close their eyes like wings: Angels bow down like bells,  Angels look up like toys, Because the heavenly stars  Stand in a ring:  And all the pieces of the mosaic, earth,  Get up and flyaway like birds.”

The last half of the book is outstanding. I loved the way he combines his conversation with Christ, with the daily chores. The contrast that he establishes between contemplation and action in the normal daily life of anyone anywhere, keeping priority properly.

Here ends the book, but not the quest.



Al fin estoy leyendo a Jung!

Jung, C.G. / The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature / Ark Paperbacks, 1966

Hace muchos años que quería a comenzar a leer los libros de Jung que la Flaca comenzó a leer hace como 30 años! Hasta ahora encontré las ganas de hacerlo y ha sido un gusto enorme comenzar por este libro en que se relacionan espíritu, arte y literatura.


Me gustó mucho la estructura del texto que ayuda a elaborar el contenido. Primero Jung junta artículos que ha trabajado sobre Paracelso (el médico que es capaz de ligar la salud del cuerpo con los astros y con la filosofía), Sigmund Freud (con quien trabajó) y Richard Whilhelm (quien trae el I Ching a occidente). Luego dedica un capítulo a la relación entre Psicología Analítica y Poesía, entre Psicología y Literatura. Cierra el texto analizando el Ulises (de Joyce) y Picasso.

Encontré como limitante enorme el que salvo algunas excepciones pequeñitas, yo no he leído ninguno de los autores o los temas mencionados. El libro es una buena invitación a trabajar estos y otros autores que aparecen reseñados tales como Dante (y la Divina Comedia), Nietzsche, Goethe (y el Fausto). Llama a leer Ulises y a mirar de una manera diferente a Picasso y a otros pintores.

Me gustó cómo mira la relación del médico Paracelso con el conocimiento especial que debe tener cualquier médico con la “luz de la naturaleza”. Nacido en 1493, fue capaz de ligar a los médicos clásicos, originarios de la medicina, con diversas fuentes de conocimiento empírico y la relación con diversos campos y con la Alquimia (entendida como procedimiento filosófico). Liga la salud con la astrología y la astronomía. Sus contemporáneos lo consideraron el Lutero de la medicina, una de las figuras importantes del Renacimiento.

En el capítulo sobre Freud, Jung lanza abiertamente sus críticas a los métodos de Freud. Pero también nos llama la atención sobre la importancia de ubicar a Freud en su contexto histórico específico del materialismo científico del siglo XIX: “It is an instrument to be used by a doctor, and it is dangerous or destructive, or at best ineffective, when applied to the natural expressions of life and its needs”. 47

Uno de los capítulos que más me gustó es el dedicado a la memoria de Richard Wilhelm. Yo tenía referencias de él, pero no lo ligaba con tanta fuerza al I Ching, a la China y a la ciencia desarrollada en ése país desde hace miles de años. Es un autor para trabajar bien y con juicio:

“… it is Wilhelm who brings new light from the East. This was the cultural task to which he felt himself called, recognizing how much  the East had to offer in our spiritual need”. 58

“The spirit of Europe is not helped merely  by new sensations or a titillation of the nerves. What it has taken China thousands of years to build cannot be acquired by theft”. 58

“Nothing can be sacrificed for ever. Everything returns later in changed form, and when once a great sacrifice has been made, the sacrificed thing when it returns must meet with a healthy and resistant body that can take the shock”. 62

Del capítulo de relación con la poesía hay muchos aspectos poderosos. Uno de los que más me gustó es la relación que tiene la creación artística con los arquetipos y con la memoria/inconsciente colectivo.  Es el aspecto supra-personal. Cómo entender el aspecto supra-personal nuestro, latinoamericano, colombiano? “The plant is not a mere product of the soil; it is  a living, self-contained process which in essence has nothing to do with the character of the soil”.

Cómo se acciona la conexión con los arquetipos desde la perspectiva del artista, cualquiera que sea el arte?

“A special ability demands a greater expenditure of energy, which must necessarily leave a deficit on some other side of life”.103

Toca ver cómo seguir trabajando con juicio:

  • C.G. Jung
  • Richard Wilhelm
  • Dante – Divina Comedia
  • Nietzsche y la experiencia dionisíaca
  • Goethe – El Fausto
  • Joyce – leer el Ulysses y volver a leer el capítulo de este libro!
  • Picasso y los símbolos que utiliza

Chía, 28 de diciembre de 2016

All shall be well

Few days ago I was sharing about the ‘love’ and about the ‘literature’ branches of my orange tree. Today I will share a bit about the ‘religion’ branch. I would have to say that since very early (my mother? my family? my culture? my country?) I was very impressed about the religious beliefs, and exclusively those from Christianity. Through observing the religious practices in society I started to distinguish your own personal belief from the human structures of the churches and the relations they established with people. Though both were related with personal and collective practices, their difference became important.

We can share light and enlightenment

We can share light and enlightenment

It was only in 1992 (I was 41), when me and my family had the opportunity  to live four years in Tunisia, when I started to see and feel in my neighbours and friends other practices like being a Muslim (our son Juan David learned the daily prayer in Arabic!) or the Buddhist practices of several of my colleagues or the clear atheism of many others.

It was towards 1996 when I started to learn directly from Josephine Dongail, from Boy Morales (both from the Philippines) and from Sister Elaine McIness (from Canada, living in Oxford) about the meaning of breathing deeply, about the importance of silence and about the value of the different ways of meditation. I began to understand the historical importance of Buddha Sakyamuni, of the four truths and about their close relation that they have with what is happening in our planet. It was the beginning for keeping my soul opened to other religious beliefs and to see the value of inter-faith dialogues and conversations and the strong (very strong and powerful) relation with the products of our agriculture, with how we produce them and the relations that they have with the food that we eat ad the with the quality of our personal and collective reality.

In memory of the importance that they have for our own life today, I want to share with you the ancient Tibetan prayer which I learned from a text written by the Dalai Lama:

Replete with excellence like a mountain of gold,
The triple worlds’ saviors, freed from the three taints,
Are the buddhas, their eyes like lotuses in bloom;
They are the world’s first auspicious blessing.

The teachings they imparted are sublime and steadfast,
Famed in the triple worlds, honoured by gods and humans alike.
That holy teaching grants peace to all sentient beings;
This is the world’s second auspicious blessing.

The sacred community, rich with learning, is honoured
By humans, gods and demi-gods.
That supreme community is modest, yet the site of glory;
This is the world’s third auspicious blessing.

The Teacher has come into our world;
The teaching shines like the sun’s rays;
The teaching masters, like siblings, are harmonious;
Let there thus be auspicious blessings for the teachings to remain for a long time.


All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.