A new book by Reinhold Messner has just been released, written together with the German historian Ralf-Peter Martin, entitled “The Mountains of the Gods. Journey to the sacred mountains around the world ”(Corbaccio publisher). In this volume, accompanied by splendid photos, Messner recounts his pilgrimages to the mountains considered sacred by the various religions of the earth, in search of that sense of spirituality that only the great peaks can give. It is therefore a different angle from that of the Messner climber and explorer, but which has always been present in his way of experiencing the mountains.
The long pilgrimage around the mountains of the world starts from Sinai (2,285 meters), where Moses received the ten commandments of the Jewish and Christian religion from God, and continues in Africa on Ol Doinyo Lengai (2,962 m.), The sacred mountain of the Masai in Tanzania. It is then the turn, in Asia, before Kailash (6,714 m.) In Tibet, the peak revered by Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, and subsequently to Gunung Agung (3,200) on the island of Bali and Fujiyama (3,776) in Japan. Followed in Australia by the Ayers Rock monolith (863 m.) And in America the San Francisco Peaks (3,852) revered by the Navajo and the Licancabur (5,920) located between Chile and Bolivia, sacred to the Andean peoples. The highest peaks of the various mountain groups are not always the object of veneration, the origin of the “sacredness” is often mysterious, getting lost in the mists of time.
Mountains have always been mythical places, towards which man’s attitude appears ambivalent. On the one hand, the fear of the unknown, of immanent danger, of the unleashing of unpredictable forces of nature. On the other hand, the ideal place to place divinities to whom to pray, make sacrifices, ask for fertile and propitious harvests, avert calamities. The myth remained partly even when we passed from “natural religions” to “revealed religions”. Messner does not profess a particular religion (“no one possesses the absolute truth, all religions are equally distant from the truth”), but wants to highlight the spirituality of the mountain, which elevates the human soul, placing it in front of the great questions of existence and making him feel nothing in the face of the vastness of the universe. Despite this distancing from the religions detected, Reinhold’s inclination nevertheless appears to lean above all towards the Himalayas, on which he has performed – among other things – his most beautiful feats, having been the first man to climb all fourteen eight thousand of the earth. In a passage in the book he says: “For Christians, mountains have never been sacred. They become so only in the moment in which saving events are manifested there. So also Mount Sinai would be only a mountain, if the God of heaven had not taken possession of it. Instead, the Himalayan peaks, which have always been thought of as the ballroom of the gods, are still today an image that I can understand. “
Beautiful this image of the Himalayan peaks as a ballroom of the gods! And what dances up there where six thousand and seven thousand are wasted, not to mention the fourteen eight thousand! As he walks along the “kora”, the sacred way around the Kailash, his thoughts dart like chamois, dwelling on the majestic landscapes and above all on the people, the pilgrims who advance “always at a leisurely pace” (“kalipe”). What drives them up there even from thousands of miles away? The desire for salvation, perhaps. But for Reinhold it is above all looking inward, asking himself the meaning of that going beyond, which unites him with heroes, ancient and modern.
Certainly Messner is not an ordinary man. But he is not even a superman à la Nietzsche, because he has clear the limits of the human being and, when he achieves an achievement, an enterprise, his “going beyond”, rather than making him proud, makes him think even more about the limitation of ‘man. Because the vastness of the universe is unparalleled and because no one will be able to match the wisdom of the pilgrim who achieves inner peace. Between these two poles – the greatness of the universe and inner peace – which both, for believers, refer to God, the journey of man must ultimately be completed. The important thing – which is very rare – is to realize this. He did it and this is the deeper meaning of the book. Therefore, first of all respect the mountain, do not insult it with too easy hit and run tourism, but also understand how through it you can cultivate that inner spirituality that makes life worth living.