On December 29 the theologian and philosopher José Antonio Gimbernat Ordeig, 82, suddenly left us, without being able to say goodbye to how many people, family and friends we have shared experiences, ideas and projects of liberation with him. A dear colleague and colleague has died after a life dedicated to the defense of human rights, commitment to a liberating Christianity and to the elaboration of a critical theory of society and religion.
He had a solid intellectual training, which began at the Ramiro de Maeztu Institute in Madrid and continued in the Society of Jesus, where he entered at age 17, with the studies of philosophy and theology, first in Granada and then in Frankfurt (Germany). The francfortiana formation marked to him of by life until the point of which the German was its second language. This was helped by his subsequent marriage to the psychoanalyst Mechthild Zeul.
In the Faith and Secularity Institute, created by the Society of Jesus to establish a dialogue with contemporary atheism, he carried out studies on the philosophy of religion and the sociology of religion in collaboration, among others, with José Luis López Aranguren, Alfonso Álvarez Bolado and José Gómez Caffarena, who were pioneers in these disciplines in our country. These studies continued at the Philosophy Institute of the CSIC, of which Gimbernat was a researcher for two decades.
In the theological field he stood out for his work on the relationship between Christianity and secularization, religion and politics and the social and political implications of liberation theology, especially in the thought of Ignacio Ellacuría. From his contributions in this field is recorded in his participation in the first Congress of Theology, organized by the Association of Theologians and Theologians John XXIII, of which he was secretary general, and in several collective works co-directed by him.
In the socio-political activity it was characterized by the defense of human rights, especially of immigrant, refugee and displaced groups, in the Association Pro Human Rights of Spain and the Federation of Defense and Promotion of Human Rights of Spain, of the who was president for several periods and who did not spare intellectual and organizational efforts and intense dedication.
Gimbernat was one of the most early Spanish intellectuals in the knowledge of Ernst Bloch and one of the best world specialists in his philosophy of hope and utopia, to which he devoted his doctoral thesis Ernst Bloch. Utopia and hope (Cátedra, 1983), which I keep with the dedication of his own handwriting. He calls Bloch an original thinker and, if you like, an eccentric one, and places him at the crossroads of different currents of thought that he creatively re-elaborates: prophetic and apocalyptic Judaism, Jesuit Christianity, certain existentialism, the philosophy of matter that he rebaptizes as "Aristotelian left" and German idealism, represented by Hegel. In relation to Hegel, Bloch assumes and carries out Marx's proposal to put Hegel on the feet.
Is not it surprising, asks Gimbernat, to qualify a self-defining Marxist philosopher as a philosopher of utopia when it seems that the Marxist tradition has been highlighted by the critique of utopian socialism and the adoption of scientific socialism? To answer this question their research is oriented, recovering the main categories of Bloch's thought: concrete utopia as function and practice, principle-hope, active matter, possibility, anticipation, still-not-being, tendency-latency.
Gimbernat translated into Castilian Atheism in Christianity. The religion of the exodus and the kingdom (Taurus, Madrid, 1983), one of the greatest works of Ernst Bloch, in whose frontispiece we can read two aphorisms of clear Blochian tone: "The best thing about religion is that it produces heretics"; "Only an atheist can be a good Christian, only a Christian can be a good atheist." Soon a new edition will appear in the Trotta publishing house. His sudden death will prevent him from enjoying this work, posthumously. But to us, friends, colleagues, relatives, we have the memory of a person who lived, thought, believed and acted on the horizon of the utopia of another Possible World from a militant optimism.
Juan José Tamayo He is Professor Emeritus of the Carlos III University of Madrid. His latest books are:Theologies of the South. The decolonizing turn (Trotta) andUtopia has died? Do dystopias triumph? (New Library).