August 17, 2006

A secular saint?

There is a debate now going on in Italy: was Tiziano Terzani a secular saint, a Guru, or even “the lay Pope?” Terzani (see Wikipedia and The Guardian), before wearing a long white beard and robe and living in an Indian ashram, was a former war correspondent and an expert on China and Japan—he wrote for Der Spiegel, Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica—who covered wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Terzani’s last book, La Fine è Il Mio Inizio (The End is My Beginning), has become this summer’s bestseller in Italy. The title speaks for itself: imbued with oriental mysticism raised to the level of keys to life, and in spite of any institutionalised forms of religion, the book is about the harmony of opposites, communion with nature, and other issues of Indian philosophy and spirituality. Is it—as argued by its mostvehement detractors—“a confused mixture of Oriental philosophy, Marxism and Christianity?” Are Terzani’s Catholic opponents right when they accuse him of “leading people astray?” Be that as it may, but Terzani’s website has been indundated with admiring e-mails …

[This post was first published at on August 13, 2006. The comments to the original post are worth reading.]

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