On Silo’s famous harangue of May 4, 1969

When I received the message with a link to the audio (1) that reproduces Silo’s voice pronouncing the harangue, my mind went back to that moment to recall the facts of such an important event.

Which I relate below. Around 1965, during a retreat we were doing in the jungle of Jujuy (2), one day he told us that he would use the pseudonym Silo, which surprised us because we didn’t know when or how he would do it. At the end of that retreat, we were committed to doing missions (a concept that would appear more than once after (3)), forming different groups, following the same steps we had done: meetings, retreats, dissemination to the media, communicating with our relatives, visiting other places, and establishing relationships with other organisations. Moreover, in another moment of that retreat he told us “while you carry out your missions, we will take care of the launching of the ‘Silo phenomenon’. That statement intrigued us greatly, as to what it would be like. We finished the retreat and returned to our cities, beginning this work in the following couple of years, when one day in 1968 I was summoned to a meeting in the city of Mendoza, where he informed us that he would begin with the presentation of Silo to the milieu, shortly after he launched that little card that said “My teaching is not for the successful, but for those who carry failure in their hearts”. Something that was very suggestive, because nobody recognises that failure is something interesting; but we understood that those who feel something like that are open to new proposals. A few months after, he told us “we need a piece of land in the mountains”, indicating a precise location. So, we set ourselves to the task, until, overcoming some adversities (as these lands are mostly public and there is no availability), we located it and got it. Shortly after, he told us something that no one expected: “I’m going to settle in that place in the mountains (called Punta de Vacas). So, we organised with a few friends to help him with the transfer and to help him settle in that place and we went up the night of January 1, 1969, arriving at the site in the morning and began to unload everything we had assumed he would need for his stay, from food, fuel for lamps, to tools and many other things, which we unloaded from the truck, under the watchful eye of the gendarmerie. As it is a border area, the place has a military guard. Besides, it should be noted that we were in the middle of the dictatorship, ‘the one of the 70s’, and they watched everything that appeared to be ‘suspicious’.

Nevertheless, Silo stayed there for a few days accompanied by two friends, settling in the chosen place, on an upward slope far from the road, where he would build his hermitage. Time passed and we heard little from him until he sent us an invitation to meet at a local inn sometime in March. There, with his usual high spirits and energy, he told us that he had thought of holding a public event in that place; he said something like: “we will give a very special talk”… And that was how we began the preparations, from publicising the event, to inviting everyone known and arranging the necessary transport so that the interested public could get there. He chose the 4th of May, when the weather was still warm and the weekend would make transport easier. We got a microphone, speakers, a reel-to-reel recorder and everything necessary for a public event in the mountains. In addition, we put up three masts with orange flags, to identify and give a clear reference to the place where the event was scheduled to take place.

A few days before, he gave an interview in which he clarified to the journalist, when he asked about the reason for the planned event, saying: “_Because we saw that it was time to make our point of view known to the public”.

The day finally arrived, in the morning we were arriving at the place from the city of Mendoza, and also from other provinces, or from Buenos Aires and the neighbouring capital Santiago de Chile; a couple of hundred people of various origins would constitute the attentive audience. And, then, around midday, after a friend had introduced the themes previously exposed, Silo descended the slope of that hill and stood in front of the installed microphone; in his hands he held a caduceus, and with a deep and forceful voice he began his speech, introducing himself, with that famous beginning of: “if you have come, to listen to a man…” and he continued to remark his speech in a loud voice, with the themes of violence, desire, suffering that were threaded with solutions and a hopeful way forward. In the middle of the speech, he presented the metaphor of the cart of desire, and that alone would serve to make an important social statement of great purposes.

To conclude, he does so by giving hope, at which point he hands over the caduceus to the audience nearby, which was passed from hand to hand; that gesture had a huge impact on me: it would represent the most essential thing about Silo: to give, to give to others. And when he says that “you must learn to love, to laugh and to raise your spirit…” he gives us many useful and valuable resources of a learning direction, a path that we can well consider liberation.

After that the day had two highlights. We went to the lounge of a large hotel in the area for a press interview where the journalists were able to talk with him. Later we returned to the city, to meet at a friend’s house, all of us who had requested to enter, and he gave us a little red-covered book with various suggestions for continuing the development of our movement, attending to our personal internal work and holding meetings in study teams. In his reading of the text, there is a paragraph that still moves me today: “…preparing the way for the new humanity that is already approaching”.

Some time after, he referred to this harangue as the outline of his doctrine, but more than anything else he presented the framework of his proposals; a framework within which everything was set out, a framework which was given by: non-violence on the one hand and overcoming suffering on the other.

Further on, he exhorted us to “resist violence in ourselves” and to be resistant to contradictions, which, if they increase, produce suffering in oneself and in others. Ours are the valid actions with which a different, harmonious and meaningful life is built.

Now, every 4th of May we celebrate this date as “The day of testimony” in different places, both in parks (more than 50 in the world), as well as in halls, meeting centres and virtually. Humanists, messengers, family, friends and the general public attend that day to celebrate, and remember, as he told us, that we can change the adverse and critical situation of today’s world as easily as “turning a glove around”. It is a matter of willing to.

Surely in other articles we will be able to expand on the content and implications of this valuable contribution of Siloism: The harangue of the mountain.

Photo by : Daniel Zuckerbrot

(1) Audio of Silo’s harangue of 4/5(69): http://silo.net/system/audios/1/original/VACAS69.MP3

(2) El Arenal, San Pedro de Jujuy, Argentina.

(3) “If you want to move forward you will have to admit one day that your mission is to humanise the world around you”. Point 24 of Chapter IX. CONTRADICTION AND UNITY of to HUMANISE THE EARTH The Inner Landscape

Ernesto H. De Casas