It is hopeful to hear that there is a way of life that anyone can practice anywhere, and that the possibility of living a spiritual life is open to everyone. Can you tell us a little more about how you live this way of life? Specifically, can you tell us more about the vocation of community life? It is something we don't often hear about these days.
I think it is helpful to think of vocation as a calling. It is a yearning that in many ways is mysterious. Sometimes it happens that this yearning becomes so compelling that it is like an inner imperative, demanding from the depths of one's soul a renouncement to everything, especially renouncement to oneself.
Renouncement is an idea we work with a lot in Cafh. The idea of renouncement exists in all spiritual paths, but in Cafh we give it a special meaning. For us, to renounce is to go beyond our limits, to embrace reality as it is, totally, to unite with life and live every instant conscious and aware. For me, my vocation meant a vow of renouncement.
The founder of Cafh, Don Santiago, recognized the need for an environment where those who felt it as their vocation could dedicate themselves to this idea of renouncement as expansion and realization. In 1949 he founded a community to create a concrete, living way of realizing the vocation of renouncement for those of us who felt that this was our path. From that early experience, he came up with norms of community life which, in Cafh, are based exclusively on renouncement.
Around the middle of 1953, under the personal direction of Don Santiago, we founded another community, the one which I entered. Don Santiago guided us in transforming the idea of renouncement into a method of life-into a concrete and effective means of spiritual unfoldment. Many came, but few persevered. The ones who stayed were those whose only yearning was to fulfill their vocation.
We received an integral training. We studied well-known philosophies and religions as well as others that are forgotten now but have been preserved in the Teachings of Cafh. We also studied the history of humanity according to the esoteric tradition; we learned mental and physical exercises, some of which are common to other paths and others which belong to Cafh. Above all, Don Santiago transmitted the Teaching of Cafh to us.
It all sounds very interesting. But why did you feel the need to join a community to do that? Couldn't you study and learn about spiritual life remaining in a regular job and an ordinary life?
Yes, you are right, you can. But some people, some of us, feel the need to live an ideal fully, that an idea that is not fulfilled remains a theory, and nothing more. By living in community, we soon came to realize that study and spiritual practices were really only one aspect of spiritual life. We learned in so many ways: the intense work of building and maintaining a community, the voluntary restriction of needs, the application of the Teaching to ways of living and relating, and these aspects were, perhaps, the most important part of our training.
When did you become a spiritual director?
In 1954 Don Santiago entrusted me with the direction of the community where I was living, and then of other communities. Later on, he put me in charge of the direction of Cafh in Argentina. After Don Santiago's death, I was elected to succeed him in 1963.
Since that time, many communities of Cafh have been founded throughout the Americas, including this one where we sit today, which runs a successful, progressive school for young children. Obviously, the work one does in Cafh has a positive effect on the members of Cafh. What is it that you study, what ideas do you work with, that inspire your inner work?
In addition to studying philosophy, history and religion, all of us in Cafh work with a specific, particular teaching. In our weekly meetings we work with these ideas and, likewise, we try to live them in our daily lives. This teaching is something that is found in Cafh, its origins are in Cafh. Towards the end of his life, Don Santiago encouraged us to transmit the Teaching of Cafh publicly, to make it accessible through clear and simple language and, especially, through a path that would be practical for everyone. Cafh was no longer to be an exclusively esoteric order, like the ones in Europe which were its antecedents. For this reason, since 1962 a major part of my task has consisted in openly transmitting the Teaching of Cafh through conferences, books and the formation of groups of Cafh all around the world. Cafh can now be found throughout the Americas, in Europe, Australia and Israel.
What is the nature of these teachings? Where do they come from?
The Teaching of Cafh has basically three aspects. The first is the Universal Teaching. Cafh transmits the Universal Teaching which exists in its essence in all religions, spiritual movements and esoteric orders. It is this aspect of the Teaching of Cafh that people generally recognize first, and for this reason, they sometimes think that Cafh is a version of some spiritual path or traditional religion.
But Cafh has its own Teaching, a teaching which Don Santiago said was "revealed" to him for Cafh. He transmitted to us the foundations of that Teaching, and it continues to expand through the experience and realization of the members of Cafh.
In Cafh the Teaching is oral. Texts, when used, are only points of support to give the Teaching. Therefore, there is also a third aspect, which comes out in the very transmission of the Teaching-the breadth and richness with which each instructor expands the teaching through living it and transmitting it.