Olivier Germain-Thomas, a traveler discovering religions | RCF

“I was missing a third to be the writer who completed the entire circumnavigation of the globe solely by land and sea. I wanted to have seen the whole of our planet.” It is now done, after a last trip from the west to the east of the United States. This stay was an opportunity for Olivier Germain-Thomas to discover American culture and better understand its influence on the rest of the world. An influence that he deplores, while noting that it is beginning to decline in certain Asian countries.

From Catholicism to Buddhism

This need to go elsewhere, and more particularly to Asia, dates back to his adolescence.. Beset by spiritual questions, Olivier Germain-Thomas experienced what he describes as a “loss of faith”. This questioning of his beliefs that still pursues him today. Coming from a practicing Catholic family, he “borders” on agnosticism. “I always feel that there is something, I don’t know what”he breathes.

If the nature of his native Corrèze “pierces him from a spiritual point of view”it was in India that he really found meaning in his quest. “I had a need for the sacred that Christianity had trouble filling. I said to myself, it’s time to take an interest in another religion and I chose Buddhism.” In the high places of Buddhism, he discovered mindfulness meditation and found commonalities with Christianity but also differences with which he agrees. “It’s easier for me to follow a great spiritual master who doesn’t ask me if I believe in God or not. When we questioned the Buddha he said “it is not the question, the important thing is the path”. »

Encountering distant cultures

Along the way, Olivier Germain-Thomas has done a lot. At Japan in particular, where he explores the relationship to silence, in soothing and totally refined gardens. “This culture is very far from our conceptions but it is exciting to come up against things that I don’t understand. For a long time I didn’t understand Shinto”, he admits. Shinto is the historic religion of Japan, an animistic belief that worships all elements of nature, as well as the supernatural forces called kami. Olivier Germain-Thomas also tries his hand at yamabushi : “It’s a ritual (through the Japanese forests). We stop regularly not in front of a cross to make a prayer but in front of a rock to receive the very substance of what nature is”he explains.

These many spiritual discoveries did not allow him to find the answer to all these questions. But they allowed him, among other things, to become aware that nature is sacred. “It’s a door to spirituality and that the Celts and Saint Francis of Assisi understood it well”, he believes, while calling on environmentalists to become aware of it in turn. The writer does not think he will see this start in his lifetime, but in the meantime he is determined to enjoy life and travel again and again. “The day when I will no longer have this taste for discovery, to find myself in front of a culture of which I knew nothing… I wonder if I will not have lost the taste for life”he concludes.

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Olivier Germain-Thomas, a traveler discovering religions | RCF

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