The Five Political Prophecies of Lanza Del Vasto


Antonino Drago – TRANSCEND Media Service

Prof. Antonino Drago

Prof. Antonino Drago

Abstract Likewise Gandhi, also his disciple Lanza del Vasto promoted a reform of the religiosity, ethics and politics of the Western context. With this in mind he wrote a book in which he elevated non-violence at an intellectual system, where his religious argumentations are paralleled by corresponding anthropological, economical, political –national and international – argumentations. In such a global context he suggested five political prophecies: i) the birth of a non-violent political theory at the same level of traditional Western ones; ii) in a World progressing to build ever more large institutions, the re-birth of the communities as the characteristic model of of the non-violent social sovereignty; iii) the reform of the greatest and more traditional religious institutions, i.e. Catholic Church; iv) the capability of non-violent politics to overcome the confrontation between the USA and SSSR; v) the unavoidable failure of the undefeatable “Western hero”, owing to his active fatalism, leading him to adapt by himself his decadence destiny. Galtung too prophesized the US empire’s failure no later than the year 2020.

  1. Gandhi and Lanza del Vasto: their three reforms of religiosity, ethics and politics

In 1938, after spending time as a disciple of Gandhi, Lanza del Vasto (nom de plume of Giovanni Giuseppe Lanza; from now on: LdV) returned to Europe. He was able to bring to the West, which until then had only read of Gandhi’s achievements, direct knowledge of the person Gandhi and of his intimate spiritual, human and political leadership[i]. Moreover he felt called to implement Gandhi’s message in a highly concrete manner, setting up the Gandhian community in the West; that is, an interreligious community formed of celibates and married people who work manually for their survival, hold all their goods in common, organize themselves on the basis of self-management and fight together against social injustice.

In the 1920’s the winner of the Nobel prize for literature, Romain Rolland, was the first to introduce Gandhi in France and the West[ii]. At the end of the introduction to an anthology of the Indian’s writings, he had summarized this revolutionary force with a prophecy, which LdV recalled with these words:

“As a historian by profession, used to seeing the ebb and flow of the great tides of the Spirit, I have seen rise from the sea bed of the East this long wave which will not fall back until it has covered the entire world.”[iii]

Yet it was clear to LdV that Gandhi’s non-violence was not new historically in so far as it is limited to individual and interpersonal relations, but it was to the extent that it was a political movement. He thus wrote:

When we speak of non-violence as a discovery of this century, it is worth pointing out that it is not a revelation of a new spiritual value or a religious revelation, but the penetration into the history of peoples of a revolutionary and innovative force.[iv]

This force is extraordinary because underlying Gandhi’s great achievements three radical reforms carried out by him can be seen as a response to Western civilization and in more general terms to modernity: a reform of religiosity (by an autonomous laity and not by a clergy), a reform of ethics (in which non-violence was the fundamental principle) and a reform of politics (based on non-violence, hence bringing ethics back into politics, the opposite therefore of Machiavellian politics)[v]. There is, therefore, in both Gandhi’s and LdV’s conception, a continuity between politics and a profound religious and ethical attitude. It can also be said that such a politics is derived from a universal religious wisdom and an ethics of fraternity common to all peoples.

Yet this Gandhian politics was more difficult to apply to Western society, which was radically different from that of India. While Gandhi had behind him an ancient civilization that  through its traditional notion of non-violence could naturally accept the above-mentioned three reforms and which was seeking with these a rebirth of that civilization in a modern form, LdV was confronted with a civilization that was deaf to these reforms, because it considered each of them to be typical of an historical infantilism, an anachronistic return to its past; all the more so because such reforms came from the East, which had remained alien to Western civilization for a thousand years. For the West Gandhi had represented the land of the fakirs that sleep on beds of nails; furthermore Gandhi’s great political achievement, the national Indian liberation without arms, was not considered to have any value: an episode of Third World folklore, without political significance for the future of humanity. Therefore LdV needed considerable courage to undertake the reconstruction of Western social life on a non-violent basis, but also needed great humility to confront the arrogant resistance of the only society in history to have been founded on theories and ideologies, so that it had only to follow its already clearly set out (social and technological) progress, so impressive that any possible criticisms could only come from the ignorant and obscurantist. Therefore LdV, in order to convert those who thought they had already understood everything possible and demonstrated “scientifically” that non-violent politics “was not possible”, had to get to the theoretical roots of Western civilization and put forward a justification of Gandhi’s non-violent experience at the highest intellectual level.

It was crucial for him to establish the right order in which to carry out the three reforms and confront the intellectual challenge of arrogant Western society. While all other Europeans engaged in political non-violence were concerned solely with its possible results (rationality of non-violent actions, non-violent techniques), LdV (together with Capitini) was concerned with what was fundamental in Gandhi: first (reform of) religiosity; then (reform of ) ethics; and then (reform of) politics.

In fact LdV first carried out a reform of Christian religiosity. The novelty of his reform can be seen in the originality both of his commentary on the Gospels, and in his interpretations of original sin conceived not only as personal sin, but also as structural sin, the latter referring to social structures. Gandhian non-violence was an essential part of this reform[vi] and, as he made clear, is the expression of a wisdom that is thousands of years old. It is not, however, one particular religion, nor a new religion, nor a super-religion:it is pre-religious, the original basis of every great religion; and thus can even not refer to a God[vii]. Thus, LdV’s non-violence was based on the sacred Christian texts, but from a universal perspective.

Then came his reform of ethics, according to which conflict resolution through non-violence was always practicable, also in everyday life, as the rule of his non-violent Community instantiated[viii].

His third reform, that of politics, is the subject of this article. For the sake of brevity, I will not deal with his political acts and those of his Communities[ix], but will rather present his prophecies, which emerge from the directions of his revolutionary activity. For greater clarity of exposition, I will in the first place present his political theory, although it should be emphasized that this evolved gradually throughout his life, even after the founding of the community.

  1. The prophecy of a non-violent political theory

In India he formed his intention to found communities “to raise an army of peace” “making war on war.”[x] But after he returned from India, he realized that his initial political inspiration was too limited:

War is a scourge, but it is not the only one. I see another three of equal dimension, also made by man against man: slavery, poverty and revolt. / All four are without doubt linked to one another and operate the one in the other. It would be necessary to find their common root and to know understand their interplay, something that no sociologist has done or tried to do, not even the greatest, Aristotle, Montesquieu and Vico.”[xi]

After twenty years (1959) he formulated this proposal in a book which more than any other expresses his political conception[xii]. This is based (chapt. 1°) on original (and also literal) interpretations of Genesis 3 and Book of Revelation 6 and 13. These texts belong to Christianity; but, having found analogous texts in all the great religions[xiii], he sees them as universal, an expression of religious wisdom going back thousands of years.

According to LdV, the above three texts represent the evils that are done all “by the hand of man”; to eat the fruit of the tree of the “Knowledge of Good and Evil” means to degrade loving knowledge to the pursuit of his own profit; in Gandhi’s terms, “to abuse the intellect”. Then, through interpersonal relationships men involve other men in evil, introducing it into social organizations the effect of which is the creation of social scourges; in the end they inflict them on themselves, either because they pursue an active fatalism (in the West), or because they feel crushed by a passive fatalism (in the East).

His reading of the texts is based not only on single concepts or on analogies, but also on precise personal and social structures (pride, greed, work, professions, knowledge, philosophy, science, machine, State, World power structure) which the three texts link together in a sequence of growth that ranges from the interpersonal, to the social and to the world level. The result is a circumstantial sapiential vision of evil in the world.

Inspired by this, he then re-visits the historical development of Western civilization with an anthropological analysis (chap. 2°), an economic analysis (chap. 3°) and a political analysis (chap. 4°). In this civilization the evil of original sin as an abuse of the intellect has been raised not only to a social system, but also to an intellectual system, in particular making modern Science serve the ends of power, leading LdV to accuse the West of having betrayed its spiritual foundation. Finally at the beginning of chapter 5of the book he analyses evil that has developed into a system of world power: the “Two Blocks” (that of the East and that of the West). They are placed on the same negative plane, because the irreducible conflict between them oppresses the spiritual life of humanity and because each of them threatens to resolve the conflict by means of the product of the maximum negative progress of science and technology: the nuclear Bomb, able to destroy entire populations.

In passing[xiv] he introduces a new political concept: that of the four sovereignties (“the Family or Tribe, the religious Sect, the Nation, the Faction or Party”), which, he says, are coexistent in one and the same society. This concept of political pluralism, which represents the fundamental achievement of non-violence, is a decisive innovation in western political culture, which has conceived theories that are either monist (for example, Liberalism, Socialism, etc.) or based on a dualism of opposition (for example, Marxism), which is to be overcome as soon as possible and lead once again to monism.

This new conception, the fundamental character of non-violence, on the other hand, cannot impose on all a single solution to a social problem; hence it has to co-exist with all conceptions that are not incompatible with it; these conceptions are characterized by LdV as corresponding to four sovereignties permanently coexisting according to four political directions of the development of society.

Moreover each of these four sovereignties is characterized by two choices that each man makes between two dichotomic options (for example, the option between greed and love, and the option between fear and reason)[xv].

Taking up the thread of the general argument, LdV then suggests a way out. Just as the personal movement from Evil to Good occurs through a conversion which is the commitment of a personal struggle, so is it necessary to move away from the social structures imposed locally and globally in order, as the Beatitude of justice suggests, to construct new ones so as to achieve non-violent sovereignty; what Gandhi called the village, which LdV reiterated, but in an original manner, as “community of the Ark”.

Ultimately, after his sojourn in India LdV believed so strongly in Gandhi’s non-violence that he predicted that it could become a political theory in the full sense of the term. Indeed, his book succeeded in promoting the Gandhian political heritage to the level of western political ideologies, whose horizons he innovated radically with the introduction of political pluralism.

We should also note that his political theory was the first of a structural kind, both because it derived its sapiential thought from structural concepts of the great religions (personal and structural sin); and because it had been able to analyze historically and politically the most important social structures of western modernity – above all its most sophisticated intellectual structures (Science and Technology); and also because it had appealed to a structural conversion, moving towards a precise social sovereignty: a community planned to achieve the Beatitude of Peace not only within, but also without, fighting the evils in society and bringing about a reconciliation with people of the other sovereignties.

It is remarkable that after fifty years the leading theorists of non-violence (Galtung, Sharp, Muller, etc.) have not come up with a political theory as deep and broad as that of LdV.

  1. The second political prophecy: in a world of dictatorships without limits, the rebirth of self-managed communities

On his return from India, LdV was inspired by a crucial political idea, non-violence, for the achievement of which an enormous amount of innovation was necessary.

To begin with, he had to bear personal witness to the innovation achieved by Gandhi. But knowing full well that non-violence is essentially political, he had to go beyond personal witness or intellectuality, in such a way as to promote another kind of society.

A long and deep reflection had led the wise man [Gandhi] to reject our centralized, urbanized and mechanized civilization. On this point we follow him faithfully.[xvi]

Regarding this Gandhi had taught him “the Gandhian constructive programme”: which meant not postponing to a future time the desired society, with a programme that required the defeat of other programmes in order for it to be realized, but rather building the new society now with one’s own strength and resources.

But when LdV had the first idea to found a Gandhian community (1938), western society was an almost completely closed structure. Various countries with a great intellectual and political traditions were under dictatorships, some inhuman: in Italy Fascism, Nazism in Germany, Francoism in Spain, Stalinism in Russia. It is true that there was democracy in the remaining western countries; but abroad those countries were colonial powers that subjugated the peoples of the rest of the world; England, France and Holland had immense colonial dominions, while the USA dominated the countries of Central and South America as their “back yard”. This structure of external domination was reflected in a rigid internal power structure.

Even after such a disastrous war as WW2, the western institutions that had survived seemed gigantic with respect to a community, in the sense of a small, vulnerable and fragile social grouping. With considerable anticipation, LdV saw that those western and world political structures that dominated then and seemed projected into an unlimited future were ephemeral. LdV predicted prophetically that Gandhian communities could arise even within the highly structured societies of the dominant world, spiritual associations that were also able to bring about among men an entirely different way of organizing themselves, so that social life would be re-established on a solid basis according to the new non-violent politics (in particular, by opposing war).

[…] each of [my] communities bears in fact the name “tribe”. The Tribe is the first form of human society. It is opposed to Cities, Nations, Kingdoms and Empires.

[…] The people that God chose was small, poor, unstable, rudimentary in its institutions. And it was a tribe, the descendants of the children of one and the same man, Israel. The Jewish people has passed through all the social forms and all the degrees of civilization without ever ceasing to be a tribe. The Bible shows what pleases God … Yes, this primitive and primordial quality of being an extended family. [… And also] the Church of Christ gave itself the form of a Family […, placing itself at the opposite extreme to the savage state [that is usually associated with tribes]. [The Ark] places itself half way between them […][as in a Church] one enters it by free choice and by vocation and not through birth or family tradition […, but as in a tribe one is involved in both social and political life].

In this way the [Ark community], with time, will become the melting pot of a race of new men, a universal people without borders[xvii] [, …] founded expressly to make war on War.[xviii] […, to make] rebellion, poverty and servitude disappear.[xix] [Indeed our] first vow (Work) […] ends with [the words:] “in order to find a way out of poverty, abuse, servitude and the upheavals of the century”.[xx]

He called them “of the Ark” in that the name recalls both (Noah) the (politics of) salvation from the destruction of the world through nuclear war, and the (politics of the) new Covenant, that of non-violence.

Therefore, among the western teachers of non-violence he was the only one who did not choose non-violence as “the weapon” with which to react to and overcome a social evil, but “opted for non-violence by vocation”, which is why he created “a doctrinal, spiritual, religious framework before launching an active movement in society].”[xxi] He in fact not only realized an innovative non-violence by leading in person, as other teachers of non-violence, collective political struggles that reacted against negative political situations, but he chose his objectives autonomously: above all that of rebuilding the best possible society and then reacting to the evils he judged to be the worst.

In 1948 he founded the first Gandhian Community in the West[xxii] (which has remained the only one of its kind in Europe). Remarkably, LdV claimed to be the only philosopher who, after conceiving and planning the ideal society, actually lived in it for decades. Indeed the form of the Community aroused the enthusiasm not only of those later dedicated their lives to it, but also of the many followers of the teaching, the enormous number of visitors to the Community, and also the participants in their public actions.

He characterized his communities in the following way:

Thinkers tormented by the problem of social evil are divided into two opposite groups: on the one hand, the Reformers, for whom all evil comes from a society and an economy that are badly ordered, and who think that it is possible to ensure abundance, liberty, peace and justice for all and for ever provided that the system is changed. on the other hand, the Preachers of morality, who assert that all our ills derive from the wickedness of people and their vices, and that change in the system will enable them to escape the punishment they deserve. […] The Reformers […] deceive themselves if they think they have found an expedient for saving the world. But this does not mean that the Preachers of morality are right, nor that they alone provide the appropriate remedy.[xxiii]

[Hence] It is possible [on the one hand] to find schools of spirituality. […] It is possible, on the other hand, to feel indignant about injustices […], be passionate about healthy social doctrines […], even lead revolutions.[xxiv]

[….] The doctrine and the practice of the Ark […] is a way of putting one foot on one side and the other on the other and thus to embrace the two camps, that is, spirituality and social doctrines] in a single perspective.[xxv]

He can therefore assert:

Whoever says [spiritual] Order [of the Western religious culture] says tradition. […] But we can also call ourselves the Revolutionary Order, because we are the only ones to be it; because we are […] dedicated to a social reform, a reform that is the will of God […, both because this reform involves] the struggle against the “Prince of this world” [, that is, the evils of the world; and because this struggle is conducted] with “spiritual arms”. And it is the “reversal” and the “renewal” of each thing. A better definition of the Total and Definitive Revolution could not be found. […] The strict, original meaning of “Revolution” is complete turn of the wheel [of everything, but above all of man, who…] must carry out his revolution both in justice and in goodness. For this reason he must centre himself on his nucleus, which is the Self, and on his fulcrum, which is the Will of God [on him and on the world].[xxvi]

Indeed, the community of the Ark is a daily revolution also according to the above-mentioned meaning of non-violence, because it carries out in itself the above-mentioned three reforms, of religiosity, of ethics and of politics.

Indeed, in the post-war period, while some limited dialogue was going on among a few pastors of protestant confessions, LdV proposed a reform of Christian religiosity as a whole that was universal in nature. Moreover, his community, being Gandhian, is pluralist, that is, open to the faithful of all religions and also to “seekers of Truth”; therefore life within the community daily puts to the test the various religiosities of the participants, who, in order to harmonize, must refer to the “Common basis of all the great religions” (a concept of LdV’s, still a novel element in interreligious dialogue).

Moreover in a community of people living together under the same roof, social relationships are close and tend towards a common project that is renewed over time; nothing could be easier than that conflicts would arise. To resolve them by achieving a consensus, a new ethics based on non-violence is necessary if the community is to survive. LdV established this ethics with a rule of a new kind (if for no other reason than that it introduces the vow of “Responsibility and co-responsibility”); this rule is therefore an example for every other type of wider social association.

Finally non-violent people who live in a community offer not only the actions of a day (those necessary to carry out a manifestation), or an activity of months of common struggle; but also an entire life in which projects, ideas and values are decided and implemented. These are, on the one hand, put to the test in the process of living together in harmony in the community; and, on the other, are proposed as innovations to the outside through collective political actions. Such political actions show, therefore, as Gandhi did, that even those who live at the lowest levels of society can exercise an influence at the highest levels, provided that their aim is to induce unjust people to change their lives.

The communities of the Ark have profoundly rooted non-violence in Europe. With it that wave of the Spirit that Rolland saw in Gandhi, has certainly crossed the borders of India and begun to invest also the West. Decades later, in 1989, the words “non-violent revolution” will be of resounding contemporary relevance; indeed at that time commitment to non-violence had spread from minuscule communities to entire peoples that abruptly changed World politics by means of their non-violent revolutions in Eastern Europe.

  1. The third political prophecy: the reformability of Catholic religiosity

He a Catholic, who had walked among the spiritual people of India displaying a cross on his breast, on his return to France confronted a Catholic church that was monarchic and absolutist.

After the World War, he formed a group of followers guiding them towards an inner life that was based, after the manner of Gandhi, on assiduousness both in bodily exercise and in manual work; and also on the weekly reading of the Gospels; which was illumined by the commentary of LdV. This commentary, which later became a book[xxvii], has a universal character, because it sees the Gospels in the light of the best teachings of other religions; but above all it is very profound, because it conceives not only of personal conversion, but also of conversion from structural evils: it therefore takes seriously the obligation “Not to kill” even during a war by rejecting the Army; and he generalizes this obligation to that universal attitude of respect for life which coincides with non-violence; whose personal motivation may be well seen in that taught by Jesus: “Love your enemies”. Therefore for western Christians (whom he was addressing) conversion meant the rediscovery of original Christianity, beyond the misrepresentations that had occurred over two thousand years[xxviii].

In LdV’s time the Church, however, did not preach the non-violent attitude at all. Indeed, in 1948 “the constitution of the Ark [which said prayers (invented by him) of an interreligious kind], immediately provoked suspicion on the part of coreligionists and their accusations of “syncretism”, “pantheism, and “indifferentism”, and other isms.” [xxix].

In fact, although he and nearly all those in the community were as a matter of fact Catholics, the community represented a reform of religiosity intended to be universal for all religions and was therefore not linked to a particular Church. Rather, LdV trusted that the western churches would accomplish in the future their own reform of religiosity; hence, he wanted a transformation of the Catholic Church in a non-violent direction; such a transformation was of strategic importance for him, given that the Catholic Church was the most influential of all spiritual institutions.

LdV referred to two crucial passages from the Gospels (John. 3, 8 and John 21) to point out that actually there are two churches: as well as the visible, the Invisible one which does not have the same boundaries as the first; and to which belonged Saint John the Baptist, who was in fact not Christian (and as such was taken as patron of the interreligious Ark). Again to the latter church belong the founders of the other faiths, from Mohammed to the Hindu Avatars, to the yogis, to Buddha. While asserting this, LdV recognized, however, Christ’s crucial role (so that the book came out with the Imprimatur of the Catholic Church.

The change of the Catholic Church occurred fifteen years after his commentary on the Gospels, thanks to Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965),.

LdV expected a lot of the Council, calling it the “council of reconciliation”. At its beginning he urged his 34 groups of Friends of the Ark in France to prepare for it with a three-day fast and writing to their own bishops to ask for a condemnation of the arms race, the acceptance of non-violence and inter-religious opening[xxx].

Then, during Lent in 1963, he fasted for 40 days asking the Pope to pronounce himself in favour of the four crucial points: to condemn the arms race, to balance obedience to all authorities (Rm 13) with conscientious objection, to introduce civil disobedience, to introduce non-violence. The encyclical Pacem in Terris (which came out just at the end of the fast) gave positive responses to the first three points.

Then in 1965 he organized non-violent groups (including a group of twenty international women in Rome) to carry out a ten day fast to ask the Council to pronounce itself in favour of non-violence. The text of the Council Gaudium et Spes included (in n. 78) one of their sentences, though modifying it: “We cannot but praise those who …“ follow the teaching of non-violence[xxxi]. LdV’s prophecy received therefore a positive response from Pacem in Terris and from the Council.

The Council was an event of such deep renewal for the Catholic church that it constituted a reform of Catholic religiosity: the Church abandoned its preceding oligarchic absolutism (which gave temporal and spiritual power solely to the Pope and the Curia); it saw itself no longer as an already perfect institution on this earth, but as a mystical body of faithful in a historical march; it lifted the theology of the Church out of aprioristic dogmatism; it opened itself to ecumenism; and finally it proposed a faith that was embedded in social life, so that all the problems of modernity were acknowledged. Thus the new Catholic religiosity moved closer (also explicitly: Gaudium et Spes, n. 78) to a religiosity involved in social life, as was that of Gandhi and LdV.

In conclusion, the Council of the most powerful Church in the world was in partial agreement with LdV’s prophecy of a reform of western religiosity. Looking at the history of the XX century a posteriori, we can certainly say that with this world historical event “the wave of the Spirit”, which Rolland had seen in Gandhi at the beginning of the century, without doubt invested the religious world.

Recalling the previous times LdV wrote:

The situation has changed, however, after the generous step of the Roman Church towards Non-Christians. I must point out that the Ark preceded the Church in the same sense: today only fanatics and the retrograde criticize our universality.”[xxxii]

But how much of this reform of a traditionally western church came from the top? To what extent did it correspond to the preceding reform that the Catholic LdV had derived from his experience in the East, and had then accomplished through personal reflection alone and finally spread to common people through his own personal testimony alone?

The reform of the Council has remained incomplete with respect to the expectations of the participants and the faithful, because within it there was a drastic split between “progressive” and “conservative” bishops, so that the Council never succeeded in assuming a clear position on social structures; for example, while solemnly condemning the use of nuclear bombs, it accepted them as weapons of deterrence (therefore this condemnation never affected international relations). In the end, the reform of the Council, held back by an acute internal conflict, invested the subjective aspect of religiosity, but very few structural social issues. As a result the Council, considered as a whole, “opened a door” to the modernity, but left it to the faithful to reflect on what to do to complete the reform structurally.

In particular, of LdV’s teaching it did not include the “pivot”, which is the new interpretation of original Sin as sin at the origin of organizations among men. During and after the Council this concept of sin was ignored; to many it seemed that such a concept could be dismissed as a primitive “myth”. [xxxiii] Even less was included LdV’s sapiential analysis of the structure of modern society.

Moreover, the greatest divergence between the two reforms regarded a theme that was crucial for LdV and for Gandhi. The Council accepted Science and Technology without a specific discussion and in toto. Indeed, among the bishops of the Council the opinion of the “incarnationist” theologians (that is, the theologians who maintained that it was necessary to be immersed in the world without any detachment) over the opinion of the “eschatologist” theologians (those who wished to maintain the marks of distinction from the modern world, in particular from Science and Technology) [xxxiv].

The Catholic Church has therefore had and still has great difficulty in accepting LdV’s non-violence, which had a clearly negative view of the spiritual role of Science and Technology in the modern world (and which invites people to construct an independent sovereignty from the social context, Church included). Indeed, the concept of non-violence itself acquired importance in the Catholic Church, but very slowly and on an exclusively personal level.

Thus after hardly fifteen years from the birth of LdV’s reform, the historical event that occurred in the greatest and most institutional Church in the world marginalized it as a radical Orientalized version.

For his part, LdV considered that his structural reading of evil and his teaching on the negativity of Science and Technology were too advanced for his times, so that he did not repeat them in his subsequent books[xxxv]. He merely insisted on original sin (in order to develop his own interpretation through comparison with other better known interpretations)[xxxvi].

However, the Catholic Church, although it did not go the whole way in its reform of religiosity, had moved away from traditional theology. This made possible in South America the birth of the Liberation theology, which, as LdV had done a decade before: 1) linked faith with politics (substantially: orthopraxis more than orthodoxy); and 2) attempted a structural analysis of the complex modern world, relying on the apparently well-tested structural ideology of the proletariat (Marxism); yet, by so doing it has remained partial: of the structural evils of the world it saw only that of capitalism and the only proposed resolution of collective conflict according to this ideology, i.e. violent revolution (guerrilla warfare), to the extent of ignoring contemporary testimony and the non-violent proposals of a bishop like Dom Helder Camara.

This further step in the reform of Catholic religiosity, which rapidly became very popular, obscured, especially in South America, LdV’s reform[xxxvii], whose slogans were on the contrary: “Revolution without conversion is a hole in the water.” “Well-ordered Justice starts with ourselves.”[xxxviii]

However after 1989 the reform of liberation theology was radically reshaped, while LdV’s reform maintained all of its validity. It still remains a prophecy regarding the present situation of Catholicism and the Christian faith??.

  1. The fourth political prophecy: the world victory of non-violent politics in 1989

Gandhian non-violence, linked essentially to politics, obliged LdV to assume a stance regarding the main political system of his time; no longer the British empire, as it had been for Gandhi, but the system of world domination, established in 1945 at Yalta by just four individuals over all the peoples of the world; and then maintained by the two superpowers, the USA and the USSR; each of which justified it with its own political ideology, which would be the “final one” of human history and in the meantime demonstrated its superiority in the “technological-economic race” aimed at establishing which was more capable of giving prosperity to peoples.

Already in the first chapter of his book of politics written in 1959 LdV had characterized this race with the “666….” of Apocalypse 13: the unlimited expansion of each man through the use of ever more scientific and technological products; that is, on the material-animal plane alone, which therefore never reaches the 7 of spiritual man and therefore is disastrous for the human life[xxxix]; not by chance, it had led in the meantime to the enormous destructive power of nuclear bombs, which, in an East/West conflict, would have killed 200 million people at first strike. [xl]

Moreover LdV begins the 5th chapter of the same book with a paragraph on what he calls disparagingly “The two Blocks”. He rejects both their ideologies, each of which attributes Evil to the other Block, whereas he places then on the same plane in that they both promote “disunion, violence and lies”. Since after 1989 his criticism of the socialist Block became obvious, I will cite above all those referring to the liberal Block:

Both the one and the other bleat about Peace! But the voice of the dragon belies the horns of the lamb (Book of Revelation 13, 11) [… In particular both are constituted on a furious denial of the Christian Religion, of every tradition of wisdom… But the liberal Regime, being the older, has found a compromise with Heaven and now claims to be the defender of Christian civilization, which is the summit of impudence. [… So that] it is lies that dominate: the idealist, humanitarian and moral lie, financial abuse with the look of the sly one? and with the businessman’s smile; it is for this reason that it seems gentler, as well as appearing mellowed by age and custom. Yet how can we not hold it responsible for incalculable atrocities: the hunting of man in the four continents, national and colonial wars throughout the world, ruin, devastation and abjection, slavery and corruption which they present as civilization and progress. […]

The one and the other Regime claim to represent the will of the Great Number. But the Great number would have to have a will. It would moreover be necessary for the holders of power or those aspiring to it not to have any means of pressure, seduction or corruption and not to have any interest in having power. But among the various technicians, there exist experts in social mechanics.

[… Like the French revolution, so] the Communist revolution will be victorious with arms or it will be defeated; but its institutions and its customs will in the end invade all the Liberal Republics. […] More or less the liberal regime, with its adversary close on its heels, will become a military dictatorship. Then the two regimes will be more similar to each other and so the conflict between them will become more acute [which recalls Reagan’s militarism]. What is surprising about them clashing with one another when they in fact resemble each other, since the common foundation is faith in Materialism [that is, the myth of a material growth, represented by “666…”], place of division, conflict and death?

[… They are therefore] two parties of cunning powerful entities furiously fighting for hegemony. The conflict is therefore bottomless, endless, without any possible victory, without meaning. A bloody absurdity. Each Block sees in the other the Kingdom of Evil [Reagan said “The Empire of Evil”] […] They are two faces of evil, of the same Evil, two excrescences of Sin. […] two ways of eating the fruit of Profit and Power.[xli]

The historical proof of this dogged struggle for hegemony, is that after 1989 the superpower that found itself without an enemy did not comply with the world will to disarmament and peace, but engaged in a new economic and military struggle (“clash of civilizations”).

Ah! It would please God if they [Westerners] were pagans! It would be better for them and for us! […] How shall I call them? Christians? No! Pagans? No, unfortunately! Renegades!

[… But] The Lord laughs and says: “I will see what their end will be”. “They have dug a pit to fall into”. […] “Where your treasure is, there is your heart”. It is in it [the Bomb] that you have faith: that now it will console you, comfort you and defend you! You have crawled on your stomachs before the Belfagor of science without wisdom, before the Baal of justice without love and [therefore] you have had your reward! […] What you must know is that the Machine and Disintegration are the effects of the bad use of intelligence – a spiritual inversion, a sin against the spirit [here he is quoting the passage from Gandhi that expresses the content of original sin], which is without forgiveness and which calls death[xlii].

Yet LdV is not overwhelmed by the anguish of this terrifying threat to the world. He predicts that it will not end in this way[xliii]:

No, we do not believe in a Blind Fate. […] We believe in His Justice, but also in His Mercy!

[… And, recalling the parabola of the fig buds that announce the spring, he asserts:] we believe we have seen strong, green bud [that is, Gandhi’s non-violence] and we cannot let ourselves be crushed by Fate. Our hope comes from the providential relationship between the two great discoveries of our century.

“God said: See, I put you before your life and your death”.

[Therefore] The two great discoveries of the century are: Non-violence and the Atomic Bomb. […] Two cosmic forces that have acted since the beginning of time.

[…] When we speak of non-violence as a discovery of this century, it should be specified that it is not the revelation of a new spiritual value or a religious revelation, but the entry into the history of peoples of a revolutionary and innovative force.[xliv]

LdV is aware that his uncommon assertions might seem the assertions of a fanatic.

What I am saying to you seems to be of an unthinkable arrogance, when we consider the formidable empires struggling against one another, the limitless passions of peoples and masses, the incalculable work of the functioning machines, the millions of men marshalled and in arms, and their cannons, their bombs, the irresistible fatalities of history – and we, poor little men, imagine we can resist all of this alone!

LdV then provides a symbolic proof of what he is saying: he asks how it is possible to stop an enormous press with one’s bare hands. He first considers the generous impulse of those who put their hands under, as the critics of non-violence accuse of doing in the face of nuclear bombs. But LdV shows that the solution of using one’s hands exists and it is simple: act on the electric control panel of the press.

There is nothing miraculous in this, nothing difficult. It is enough to know where to put one’s hands and switch off the current. [Analogously,] It is the conscience that needs to be touched. [… Because] these great exterior disorders come […] from the irresponsibility of thoughtlessness.

Wake them up! And above all, wake up yourselves! The mechanical and ineluctable concatenations of History will move away from you like [disappearing] dreams.[xlv]

LdV died in 1981 without seeing the “tide of the Spirit” which in 1989 inspired the peoples of the countries of Eastern Europe[xlvi]. They achieved great non-violent revolutions that not only liberated them from the most totalitarian dictatorships, but also brought about the disappearance of one of the two superpowers that maintained the threat of a catastrophic conflict between the Two Blocks; and thus wiped away the nightmare of nuclear destruction.

What LdV wrote on the historical dialectic Bomb – Non-violence became a reality: the catastrophic and terrifying nuclear explosions that threatened humanity at the time did not occur, but there arose the new force of revolutionary non-violence of peoples which led to the collapse of one of the two Blocks, precisely the Eastern one that seemed immovable.

This event was incredible for the dominant political world; so that even now it is communicated to the young with the idiotic phrase: “The fall of the Berlin wall [as if it was just that!]”. To perceive the historical power of that event that has no equal in the history of humanity, we have to place it in the context of all the revolutions that took place in the world in the last century[xlvii]. The non-violent ones were almost a third of the total (323), but in the last decades (1975-2004) they were the most numerous (2/3 of the total). Moreover were, against every political ideology of the past, twice as effective as violent revolutions (53% instead of 24%) in both overthrowing extreme dictatorial regimes and in achieving lasting political liberty for the people.

These results are revolutionary also for our idea of political revolution; which for past political theoreticians was closely linked to violence, although for a century many peoples wanted it to be non-violent and eventually were able to carry it through much more effectively than through violent revolution, precisely as Gandhi and LdV had foreseen.

We can conclude that the tide of the Spirit seen by Rolland was neither small nor weak, it was rather the maximum that could occur in the world.

  1. The fifth political prophecy (not yet realized): the collapse of the western hero

It might seem that LdV’s prophecy has become reality only partially, since only the Eastern Block collapsed. But it should be asked whether this collapse has simply preceded an imminent collapse of the Western Block.

LdV had characterized them in the following way. If the socialist block was a model prison,

[the] most appropriate [prison] that has ever existed […, the liberal Block] is a good and beautiful, and also splendid house. […] But it is a gambling house […where ] Everybody behaves well. […] They observe the tacit rule that requires that [whoever loses his money] leaves without batting an eyelid and also the rule that whoever kills himself should do it outside.[xlviii]

After 1989 what LdV had predicted happened:

If one of the two regimes succeeded in prevailing over the other and crushed it, it would immediately divide into two [let us recall the struggle between the USA and Europe over currency (euro vs. dollar), over civil and military aviation, over scientific research], because the force of cohesion of each [of the Blocks] is opposition. Neither of them is capable or worthy of unity[xlix].

In particular, after 1989 the Block that had survived maintained its impulse to conflict: it encircled Russia militarily (with NATO); it launched a worldwide “infinite war against terrorism”.

In addition, after 1989 the USA took advantage of having the field left open to acquire power over all peoples: they then launched a process of “globalization” which, granting to peoples a panoply of market goods, covers their impulse towards greater economic, military and financial power. They thus accelerated that politics of Pantagruelian growth for all, whose driving force had been characterized by LdV with the unlimited “666…”.

If the socialist Block was “the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, the liberal Block ultimately is “the Oligarchy of Money”[l]. Here today we see the speculative bubble, that came into being after 1989 and expanded enormously to up to 13 times the world GNP; in social life this is manifested in each country in the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor and in the world with the failure of entire states.

These new world situations have come about because after 1989 the USA and Europe, under the fatalism dictated by Western Scientific and Technological progress, developed their model of development unlimitedly, preventing the creation of alternatives: in particular, they did not recognize the validity of non-violent politics, despite the fact that it had accomplished the revolutions of 1989 that had swept away the Eastern Block; nor did they recognize as possible the model of non-violent development, solely because there is no representative state that proposes it and the academic world follows a one-dimensional philosophy of science.[li]

Here we can situate the “difficult times” predicted by LdV in the Constitution of the his Community: beyond

…. the times of war […] will come with equal certainty the times of persecution […;] it will therefore be the great test of faith [… for the Companions of the Ark; they] will have to wait for that day no longer to be a dream and a legend, the day on which they can live as brothers, cultivate their own garden and eat the fruit of the labour of their own hands.[lii]

But when will it be possible to build an alternative? Here LdV suggests that we pay attention to the “end of the western hero”[liii]. To present it, he contrasts two fatalisms, one Eastern, which is passive, and one Western,

which is never spoken of […; it is the] active, inventive and combative one [… to follow which] one perseveres, uses one’s ingenuity and crushes, with one’s attention nailed onto the task in hand[liv].

LdV points to this fatalism as being a consequence of Science and Technology. Let us consider its most advanced invention, the Bomb, the purpose of which is seen, of course, as that of achieving “peace”. Yet it spreads terror throughout the world.

No matter! Because there’s no going back. Therefore […] each con-sci-ous-ly produces exactly his own death. […]

Ananke, the Greeks invented the word and the thing (and the Greeks were the fathers and founders of the Western World). Greek Tragedy is the lesson of the Hero struck by Destiny. What is proper to the Hero is to bear the Destiny that condemns him in advance. […] Oedipus […] launches himself into the great adventure which will establish the hour, the raison d’ être and the form of his catastrophe.[…]

Western man […,with the power of his unsurpassed civilization,] what race can resist him? All have been reduced by his strength or seduced by his artifice. He treats nature like a pack animal.. He subjects it to his cruelties, like animals on the spit […][lv]

And if meets nobody who fights him, he will tear his own eyes out and strip his flesh off, as all heroes do, in whom the furious attachment to doing his justice surpasses his love for his life, carrying out [by himself…] through his crimes and his punishments… his original condemnation.

[…] The disastrous splendor of being a god by half, which swells up human nature immeasurably, invalidates his partially divine nature and leads him to seek an impossible union between the two natures will lead it to its own destruction. […] This is the destiny of the White Man […; who is] the pagan Man only partially baptized. This incomplete process complicates his destiny and aggravates the tragedy. […] This baptism of his, although substantially buried, cannot remain inoperative. Indeed, he must either save himself or render himself doubly guilty.[lvi]

It is easy to see in the disastrous US wars against Iraq and Afghanistan the western hero who dedicates himself to his military and economic perdition (think not only of the military defeats, but also of the enormous public debt, no longer remediable with the printing of dollars in massive quantities). Europe, the cradle of western Man, is today even shakier.

The future collapse of the Western Block will finally make possible the simultaneous realization of those four sovereignties (or models of development) which, according to the teachers of non-violence, characterize the political life of a humanity eventually free from a thousand-year old servitude and able to find ways of living together in the plurality of differences.

Thinking back on the historical course accomplished by his reconstructive programme, LdV wrote:

Anonymous collectivization and the pulverization of the individual, which are the two social characteristics of decadence, will in the end show the need for the remedy that we have already found and applied. Thus the crowding of the masses into the great cities, that have become uninhabitable, will bring about the opposite current, that of the return to the land. Finally the explosion and inevitable collapse of a construction that is complicated, contradictory and produces everything necessary for its ruin, will lead those who survive the next cataclysms, caused by the hand of man, to come together to lead a simple, natural, pacific, wise life. In this we have preceded them.

They would be advised to reflect, those who [now] take us for late-comers [merely] because we do not follow them in their rush to ruin. Because we have eyes to see where we are going, and we know that we are precursors.[lvii]


It is surprising how this prophetic ability of LdV has not been developed in a centre of studies or in academic institutions. He was an intellectual “in the open air”, who had however the merit of having reflected on the historical novelty of revolutionary non-violence; and, above all, he was a faithful follower of Gandhi, whose heritage he brought to fruition, without wanting to absorb it, as nearly all the other western teachers of non-violence did, into western culture (i.e., a more or less sociological rationalism).

Indeed LdV possessed the historical consciousness of the Spirit that Rolland saw in 1924 in Gandhi’s political action; and, as a faithful disciple of Gandhi, he represented such a Spirit in his own person, exported it to the West, rooted it here with the new non-violent society (the Gandhian community), he enabled it to contribute to the renewal of the main religious institution in the world and was able to predict the glorious impact, after his death, of non-violence as a revolutionary political force on the destiny of the world: both the non-violent liberation of 1989 from the nuclear nightmare, and the collapse of the last Block in history.


[i]         Lanza del Vasto: Return to the Source (1943), Rider, London, 1971. On his teaching see Idem: Lezioni di Vita, LEF, Firenze, 19802. On his historical figure, see A. Drago: “Introduzione” a Idem: (ed.): Il pensiero di Lanza del Vasto. Una risposta al XX secolo, Il Pozzo di Giacobbe, Trapani, 2010.

[ii]        R. Rolland: La Jeune Inde, Stock, Paris, 1924.

[iii]        Lanza del Vasto: les Quatre Fléaux, Denoel, Paris, 1959. p. 293.

[iv]        LdV: Les Quatre …, op. cit.. When recounting his knowledge of Gandhi (Return…, op. cit., chapter V, he also dedicates considerable space to Gandhi’s politics.

[v]        The three reforms are expressed implicitly in the book that presents Gandhi (LdV: Return…, op. cit.) : in chapter IV we find the political, the ethical of non-violence; the spiritual, again the ethical and again the political. See also my article: “Hind Swaraj: A birth of a new model of development”, in S.K. Joseph e B. Mohandaya (eds.): “Reflections on Hind Swaraj”, Inst. Gandhian Studies and Gandhi International, Wardha, 2011, pp. 73-143.

[vi]        LdV: Commentaire de l’Evangile, Denoël, Paris, 1951; Idem: Les Quatre…, chapter 1. I dealt with this subject in: “Fondamenti spirituali della nonviolenza”, in D. Abignente e S. Tanzarella (edd.): Tra Cristo e Gandhi. L’insegnamento di Lanza del Vasto alle radici della nonviolenza, San Paolo, Milano, 2003, pp. 139-179.

[vii]       Lanza del Vasto: L’Arche avait une Voile pour Voilure une Vigne, Denoel, Partis, 1978, chapter VI. I dealt with the link between –politics and theology in LdV in: “La teologia politica di Lanza del Vasto, il discepolo occidentale di Gandhi”, in S. Sorrentino e H. Spano (edd.): La teologia politica in discussione, Fredericiana Ed. Univ., Napoli, 2012, pp. 155-178.

[viii]       The more mature formulation of the Rule, together with an extended commentary is in LdV: L’Arche…¸op. cit., pp. 107-167. I suggested an extension of this ethics in “Una etica biblica da età matura del mondo”, Rivista di Teologia Morale, n. 165, genn.-marzo 2010, pp. 71-84.

[ix]        Most of these action have been presented by himself in LdV: Technique de la Non-Violence, Denoel, Paris, 1971, pt. II.

[x]        LdV: L’Arche…, op. ct., p. 17.

[xi]        Ibidem, p. 24.

[xii]       Lanza del Vasto: Les Quatre…, op. cit.. In Idem: La Montée des Ames Vivantes, Denoël, Paris 1968, p. 260, he gives himself the merit of having been the first to link original sin with the four scourges; in reality, he linked them also with the greatest structural evil, referred to in Apocalypse 13, and then conversion from all of these through the Beatitudes that leads to the refounding of society through community. In Idem: L’Homme Libre et les Anes Sauvages, Denoël, Paris, 1969, chapter III sect. 7, indicates another series of biblical texts (Genesis 3 and 11, Apocalypse 18) describing social growth of evil from the personal sin to structured sin in the organization of society and civilization in the world;and then as usual, also the collective conversion from them . The course of this growth and the proposed conversion from it are similar to that illustrated in Les Quatre Fléaux).

[xiii]       He sees original sin also in Hinduism (the teaching of “ignorance”, avidya). After all, Gandhi, who also who also believed in original sin, wrote at the beginning of chap. X of Hind Swaraj, Amhedabad, 1909: “God set a limit to a man’s locomotive ambition in the construction of his body. Man immediately proceeded to discover means of overriding that limit. God gifted man with intellect that he might know the Maker. Man abused it so that he might forget his Maker.” The other two texts used by LdV (Apocalypse 6 and 13) have equivalents in the texts and teachings of those great religions that warn the faithful against the negative spirit of the times; Gandhi himself, at the end of chap. VI of the preceding book, recalls that for the Mohammedans the present civilization is “Satanic”, while for the Hindus it represents “the Black Age”. Finally the text of the Beatitudes already expresses in a universal manner the religious teaching of conversion: indeed, Gandhi said that he had reconciled himself with Christianity because he had discovered the Beatitudes (M. K. Gandhi: Young India, Dec. 8th. 1927).

[xiv]       Lanza del Vasto: Les Quatre …, op. cit., chp. 4°, sect.. 60.

[xv]       In fact Aldo Capitini: Nuova socialità e riforma religiosa, Einaudi, Torino, pp. 43-69, had given an initial idea of it in historical terms. Fifteen years after LdV, Galtung (J. Galtung: Ideology and Methodology, Eijlers, Copenhaven, 1976, I, 2) independently proposed the similar concept of four models of development; he also characterized them with two sharply defined dichotomic options, no longer subjective but anthropological (either diversity or uniformity; either equality or inequality). Subsequently, by generalizing Lanza del Vasto’s and Galtung’s options I characterized the concept of model of development with two options of a political and structural kind: the option of the type of social development (either unlimited progress in things or development of interpersonal relations) and the option of the type of social organization (either oligarchic authoritarian or self-managemental). Since each option proposes two choices that mutually exclude each other, it is clear that the distance between those who choose them is so great that it cannot be bridged easily; therefore, to achieve dialogue, agreement and unity, considerable work on human relations is required. A. Drago: “The birth of Non-violence as a Political theory”, Gandhi Marg, 29 ott.-nov. 2007, pp. 275-295.

[xvi]       R. Pagni: Ultimi dialoghi con Lanza del Vasto (Last Dialogues with Lanza del Vasto), Paoline, Roma, 1981, p. 110.

[xvii]      LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., p. 81.

[xviii]     Ibidem, p. 86.

[xix]       R. Pagni: Ultimi.., op. cit., p. 108.

[xx]       LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., p. 92.

[xxi]       R. Pagni: Ultimi.., op. cit., p. 117; see also LdV: “De quel droit nous appellons nous gandhiens d’Occident?”, in idem: Pages d’Enseignement, Rocher, Monaco, 1993, pp. 185-192.

[xxii]      The best illustration, still fascinating, is that of the book LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit.. Other presentations are in Idem: The Four…, op. cit., pp. 349-357 and in Idem: Pour Eviter la Fin du Monde, Ed. La presse, Ottawa, 1973, Chapter VII.

[xxiii]     LdV: The Four… op. cit., p. 11.

[xxiv]     LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., p. 202.

[xxv]      LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., p. 203.

[xxvi]     LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., pp. 92-93.

[xxvii]     LdV: Commentaire…, op. cit., chapters II, IV and p. 493.

[xxviii]    In LdV: The Four …, op. cit., dedicates a painful section (chapter I, n. 19) to denouncing the “Sacrilege of the West”.

[xxix]     R. Pagni: Ultimi…, op. cit., pp. 111-112.

[xxx]      A. de Mareuil: Lanza del Vasto. Sa vie, son oeuvre, son message, Dangles, St.-Jean-de-Braye, 1998, pp. 272ff.

[xxxi]     LdV recounts the episode in: LdV: Technique….., pt. II, sections 5 and 6.

[xxxii]     R. Pagni: Ultimi…, op. cit., p. 112.

[xxxiii]    There has been renewed attention to original sin only in recent years. See for example, the encyclopedic volume by G. Riconda et al. (edd.): Il Peccato Originale nel Pensiero Moderno, Morcelliana, Brescia, 2009. On the Catholic difficulties of examining more deeply the concept of structural sin see González-Carvajal Santabárbara: “Le strutture di peccato e la carità politica”, Rivista di Teoogia Morale, n. 174 (2012) pp. 261-280.

[xxxiv]    See a summary of the debate in G. Colombo: “Escatologismo e incarnazionismo”, Scuola Cattolica, 87 (1959) pp. 344-376, 401-424. The acritical acceptance of modernity was emphasized by J. Maritain (usually in agreement with Lanza del Vasto) in Le paysan de la Garonne del 1965; one of his assertions is dramatic: the Church has gone down “on its knees before the world” (J. e R. Maritain, Oeuvres Complètes, Éd. Univ. Fribourg Suisse, Paris, 1986-2000, vol. XII, p. 739). The Church continued to accept Science and Technology unconditionally even after the Council; so that Paul VI’s prohibition of the use of the contraceptive pill was ignored en masse; and the sentence “The new name of peace is progress” (Populorum progressio, 1968, n. 82) has become an unquestioned slogan. The reading of the sacred texts, in which every truth of faith is made to rely on an anthropological rationality too easily qualified as ‘scientific’, was introduced into the schools of theology and finally prevailed. The only resistance of the Church occurred on particular aspects of science (abortion, foetus stem cells, etc.).

[xxxv]     Not even in LdV: L’Homme…., op. cit., although in the last paragraph he repeats the biblical path of the historical growth of evil in the world, but he did so in 1977 in India, where he knew that he would be better understood. LdV: “Scienza e nonviolenza”, in A. Drago (ed.): Il pensiero di Lanza del vasto. Una risposta al XX secolo, Il pozzo di Giacobbe, Trapani, 2010, pp. 209-236.

[xxxvi]    LdV: La Montée des Ames Vivantes, Denoël, Paris, 1968, cap. III. His followers take into account the partial results of the Council. Only in 1983 did his successor, Pierre Parodi, insist on asking for condemnation of nuclear weapons; but his fast in Rome, programmed for 40 days, was interrupted by a a heart attack and did not attract particular attention.

[xxxvii]    He wrote about it on only one occasion. LdV: “Sur le discours du Pape à Medellin”, Nouvelles de l’Arche, 17 (1978) p. 25. Paul VI in Medellin condemned violence, but without speaking of non-violence; LdV emphasized that it was not possible to accept liberation theology’s choice of social violence, because the non-violent (= i non violenti) have other solutions to propose. Indeed, at that time LdV was too busy with the international dissemination of his teaching; nor did he have the logistical possibility to acquire the necessary intellectual tools for dealing in more depth with the two themes in question: that of Science and Technology and that of Liberation Theology.

[xxxviii]   LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., p. 102.

[xxxix]    LdV: Les Quatre…, op. cit., p. 40.

[xl]        In fact those were the years of height of the nuclear arms race; the USA were covertly producing about thirty a day. R.S. Norris e H.M. Kristensen: “Nuclear Notebook. U.S. nuclear reductions”, Bull. At. Scient., Sett.-Ott. 2004, 60, 70-71.

[xli]       LdV: Les Quatre…, op. cit., pp. 272-276. This strongly negative vision is justified by the words of the prophet Ezekiel (3, 17) which headed chapter 5 (entitled “Fatality and Liberation”): “You must give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked: you will surely die! And you do not give them warning nor speak to warn them so that they will desist from this wicked way and live, for his death I will ask you to account!”

[xlii]       Ibidem, pp. 288-289.

[xliii]      Independly of each other, Capitini and Galtung also predicted the end of this situation with the collapse of one of the Two Blocks. A. Capitini: “La crisi del socialismo”, in Idem: Religione aperta (1955) Neri Pozzi, Venezia, 1964, pp. 207-208 (taken up in G. Cacioppo (ed.): Il messaggio di Aldo Capitini, Lacaita, Manduria, 1977, p. 344). J. Galtung: “På vandring i Moskva og Kiev” (in norvegese), Orienterung, Nov. 1954, 13-17.

[xliv]      LdV: Les Quatre …, op. cit., pp. 292-293.

[xlv]       Ibidem, pp. 266-267..

[xlvi]      Although he had disseminated his message also in Latin and North America, LdV, like the other teachers of non-violence, did not have direct links with that Eastern Europe that accomplished non-violent revolutions; this fact makes such revolutions even more extraordinary.

[xlvii]         These data were collected and only recently by M. Stephen e E. Chenoweth: “Why civil resistance work”, Intern. Security, 33 (2008) 7-44 and then the book, with the same title of Columbia U. P. in 2010. I present and discuss them in depth in A. Drago: Le rivoluzioni nonviolente nell’ultimo secolo. I fatti e le interpretazioni, Nuova Cultura, Rome, 2010. In particular, in Latin America the non-violent revolutions were 83% effective, the violent revolutions 24%; this datum says a lot about the inadequacy of liberation theology compared to the choices for the non-violence that revolutionary peoples have been able make.

[xlviii]     LdV: Les Quatre …, op. cit., p. 278.

[xlix]      Ibidem, p. 275.

[l]         Ibidem, p. 260.

[li]        For an alternative philosophy of science see my paper: “Gandhian Criticism to Modern Science”, Gandhi Marg, 31 no. 2, 2009, 261-276 and in M.P. Mathai & J. Moolakkattu (edd.): Exploring Hind Swaraj, New Delhi, 2009, 79-107;

[lii]        LdV: L’Arche…, op. cit., p. 101.

[liii]       Lanza del Vasto: I quattro…, op., cit.. Capitini also predicted, on the basis of historical analogies with the period of great expansion of the Roman empire (the last period of “Pompeian-American civilization”), that our historical phase would soon end. A. Capitini: Rivoluzione aperta, Parenti, Milan, 1956. In 2002 a work by Galtung, on the basis of precise macrosocial parameters, predicted “The Fall of the US Empire” by before 2020. Today it has become a book: J. Galtung: The Fall of the US Empire. And then what?, Transcend Univ. P., 2009. See also my article: “I maestri della nonviolenza e il crollo delle due superpotenze”, Satyagraha, 2, 2002, pp. 21-29.

[liv]       LdV: Les Quatre …,, op. cit., p. 281.

[lv]        “This triumphal hymn [to the success of the Western hero] might seem [at present, 1959] ill-timed, now that in Asia, Africa, everywhere peoples are driving him out with revolts. This century will not pass before the last wall of his [colonial] Empires has collapsed. However, his [present] defeat is only apparent, because it is being fought with his arms, it is being discussed with arguments that he himself has suggested. […] What the English conquest was not able to do in India for a century and a half, the independent government has been doing in the space of a few decades.” LdV: Les Quatre …, op. cit.,, p. 284.

[lvi]       Ibidem, pp. 282-286.

[lvii]       LdV: L’Arche…, pp. 79-80.


Prof. Antonino Drago – Member of the TRANSCEND Network. Formerly at the University of Naples. Allied of Ark community –

Gandhi Marg 37, no 1, April-June 2015 pp. 53-78

English translation from the Italian by David Braithwaite, lecturer at University of Pisa.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Aug 2015.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: The Five Political Prophecies of Lanza Del Vasto, is included. Thank you.

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