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The Uncompromising Spiritual Passion and Positivity of Carlos Santana


An interview with Carlos Santana
by Craig Hamilton and Jessica Roemischer
 

PART I

The Preacher

Santana on intention, motives, and purpose

Carlos Santana defies cynicism. A half-million people watched the electrifying performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival that catapulted him to stardom. And since then, millions upon millions, one generation after another, have been touched by his music. However, few may realize that Santana's life is dedicated to keeping alive the utopian ideal of the sixties: the dream of equality, unity, and love that so many of us have since abandoned as nave or nearly impossible to fulfill. And perhaps even fewer realize that this dream is inspired by his deeply felt spirituality that transcends race, culture, and religion. “To live is to dream,” he said at the 2000 Grammy Awards. And because he continues his passionate commitment to the dream of human harmony, Santana is a global ambassador of optimism, opportunity, and love. The goal of his music—and his life's purpose—far transcends entertainment. “It's not just to make people happy or make them dance,” he explains. “It's to change things—so that we can have a clearer vision of our life and ourselves, so there won't be so much disharmony in the world.”

WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT: Over the course of your career, your spiritual beliefs have changed and evolved, and yet spirituality continues to be the foundation of your life. You have said that “everyone has divine qualities to be able to heal and transform. . . . Once you believe, the rest will follow.” What constitutes the essence of your own beliefs today?

CARLOS SANTANA: Your intention, motives, and purpose really define who you are. It's not whether you're Santana or Smith or Jones, or whether you're Mexican or Hebrew or Catholic or Buddhist. I don't think God and the angels see any of that stuff. They just see your intention, your motives, and your purpose. And once those three are crystallized and sharpened and are tuned into something, things open up for you—supreme synchronicity and blessings, opportunities, possibilities. Everyone is destined to prosperity, to progress, and the keys that humans need to find are intention, motives, and purpose, because that is who you really, really are. I'm surprised they don't teach those three things in school. That's the gasoline that you need to take you to the next destination, not all the other stuff. The other stuff is just dust. But for me, what I'm learning more and more is that those three things—intention, motives, and purpose—really define who you are.

WIE: You grew up Catholic, and then at a certain point became interested in Eastern religion, and then returned to Christianity. Does Christianity, or any traditional religion, continue to play a role in your life?

CARLOS: Well, it's indoctrination; that's just what it is. It's like branding a cow with guilt, shame, judgment, condemnation, and fear—that's what religion has meant to me. I get in trouble a lot with the press and with TV because I say that I don't subscribe to the three P's: politicians, pimps, and the Pope. I think that all three of them are designed to sell you fear. And if we are going to move to a new world, we've got to work with joy—the opposite of guilt, shame, judgment, condemnation, and fear. There's nothing spiritual about telling people, “You've got to be like a Christ. You've got to carry your own cross.” What the hell is that? Are you telling me that we only come to this world to suffer? What kind of perverted God would do that? But nevertheless, a lot of religions have that as their basic foundation. And people swallow it, believe it, and then you have a whole bunch of seriously professional victims.

In my life, I don't want to be a victim and I don't want to be a tragedy. I want triumph—spiritual triumph—with humility and grace, beauty, elegance, and excellence. You know, I learned a lot from Duke Ellington about class, and from Nat King Cole and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Coltrane about humility. So I have crystallized all my religion into no religion—into spirituality. Religion is finely designed to divide and separate; spirituality brings unity and forgiveness and compassion.

WIE: Can you elaborate on how spirituality, in the way that you're describing it, changes or impacts our fundamental perspective on life?

CARLOS: When you give birth to your own sense of clarity, that's when you realize that spirituality can turn people around to the fact that we have choices, that we're not stuck with our karma. Most people give up, thinking, “My astrology says this, my karma says that, and my parents were no good so I'm acting no good.” So people resign themselves, but it's because they don't realize that in every breath, you have a choice. Whatever you think, you say, you do, it creates a momentum.

Spirituality to me is water. Religions are like Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, wine, beer, or whatever. But spirituality is what's really going to save you in the battle, man. Champagne is not going to do much for you in battle. And so that's how I look at things. To me, it's very clear. And I think the more we get people this information, spiritual information, they will be able to choose, to realize the power of choice because, again, that's the most empowering thing you can give people. And I'm really happy to say that I'm not the only one waking up to this new dimension.

WIE: You seem to be suggesting that choice and free will are really the cornerstones of spiritual life. Can you say more about that?

CARLOS: When we die, when you die, when I die, we will get a standing ovation from demons and angels because we did things that they cannot do, because we have free will. Angels and demons cannot create a Golden Gate Bridge. We come out of a woman and are so frail and so weak, yet we dream. People may tell us, “It could never happen. It will cost too much money; it will take an army of people; it will take a long time; it will be tough—concrete and cement and steel.” But there's the Golden Gate Bridge! Jesus didn't do that. And after all, he told us, “You would do things that I cannot do.” That's spiritual.

But most people are not in a place where they can hold their worth. God made me worth something, but we're not programmed to think like this. Most people squirm or interrupt you when you give them a compliment because they think, “I'm not worthy” or “It will go to my head.” Man, suck it up; be gracious and say, “Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.” Because when we wake up to the fullness of the world, the foundation being spiritual principles, then we can see what Jesus wanted, or Buddha, Krishna, Allah, Rama, Jehovah—what they really wanted from us.

WIE: Where do you find your greatest source of spiritual inspiration?

CARLOS: My meat and potatoes is my intention, motives, and purpose, and the company that I keep. My phone rings and it's Mr. Desmond Tutu or Mr. Harry Belafonte. It's okay to brag because they are the people that I would rather have calling me—and people like Miles Davis or Wayne Shorter. If I never got an award, that would be fine with me, because the company that I keep is very inspiring and stimulating. I love hanging around vibrant people, people who don't walk around with a tag. You can never put a tag on a Mandela or a Desmond Tutu or a Harry Belafonte. You cannot buy these people, and once they set out to do something, you can't bribe them. Those are the kinds of people that I'd like to be center stage with.

WIE: You have said of the 1960s that you “miss those days, the fire and the hunger that people had and the urgent sense that things had to change.” How do you experience that urgency now, at the threshold of a new millennium that's fraught with unprecedented global crisis?

CARLOS: I bring practical spirituality together with the rebel from the street, because I still live the principles of the sixties. I'm still a hippie. We were rainbow warriors, reincarnated Native American Indians who wanted a different dimension of existence. And it may sound idealistic, but it's working for me. It's working for me better than the so-called meat-and-potatoes reality of a lot of people. To me, being spiritual is not being meek. I don't know anything about turning the other cheek. I don't believe in violence, but I believe in taking action. And I guess that's why my wife, Deborah, and I are so involved with children, because if you change the children, you can change the world. The older people, they're already set, but we feel very passionately that if you put new data and new information out, something miraculous is possible.

I think we have to tell Dunlop, Nike, Starbucks, all the biggest tobacco and oil companies, all those people: you can make a difference in the world. You can do something from your heart that will benefit a lot of people on the planet, and you'll still be profitable. That's spiritual. And if you're not doing that, then you're basically retarding the existence of this planet. I do believe what Thomas Jefferson used to say—that tyrants are disobedient to God, and we can't let them continue to destroy this planet, the people, and the ocean. So obviously, I'd like to change the powers of the world because they've had their turn. I think it's important to see a new parade of people who are in a position to change the consciousness—not just the same creepy old guard.

WIE: You have been quoted as saying that through your music you “want to connect the molecules with the light.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

CARLOS: When you hear something incredible that moves you to dance, to cry and dance at the same time, your molecules change. To a meat-and-potatoes person, the first time your molecules change is when you French kiss or when you play hide-and-seek and you touch someone's hand; something happens to your body. But how do you put spiritual principles into practical everyday reality that people can digest? Well, it's not impossible.

So in conclusion, I'm happy to tell you that we're not alone; there are a lot of people who are resonating with this and want the same thing. I think the door is open; we want it now. We want spiritual revolution, consciousness revolution. That's what the Beatles and Marvin Gaye and John Lennon and John Coltrane were talking about. We all want the same thing, and that can be attained! It's not impossible. And more than anything, I invite you to crystallize your intention, motives, and purpose, because if you don't do that, you're always going to blame somebody else for what you didn't get to do.



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