Article by his colleague, greatest admirer and best friend, Nathalie Ishizuka
Paul Briot, Writer, Essayist, Poet, Philosopher, Professor of Comparative Religion, 1922-2021. Ph.D. in Philosophy. Professor at the University Center of Charleroi (CUNIC) and at the Faculty of Comparative Religion, Antwerp (F.V.G), Belgium.
DR. PAUL BRIOT’S LIFE TOUCHED THOUSANDS INCLUDING MENTOREES AROUND THE WORLD
I invite you to celebrate with us on May 4th Paul Briot’s life. A life that touched all of us.
I am only one fortunate student of Paul, a Franco-Japanese from New York, who inspired by Paul went to Japan to work with Japanese artists for four years after the March 11th tsunami, nuclear and earthquake crisis.
Paul, had a small number of discrete and dedicated students from around the world who he worked with individually on crisis, helping us work towards a world of greater knowledge, compassion and liberation; each in different fields or in their unique way. He did not introduce us formally to each other, although sometimes we could guess; sometimes we were helped in Japan by a fellow student or editor; such was his great discretion and desire for individual privacy and his great humility. Whether we were in Singapore, Tokyo, New York, or somewhere in between in Europe, Paul supported us in our own journey facing natural and human made crisis in our countries; a path leading us to our own self-realization and greater understanding, one of compassion and selfless love and ultimately humility.
GREAT TEACHER OF INDIVIDUAL AND NATIONAL CRISIS
Dr. Paul Briot (born July 1, 1922, in Schaerbeek, Belgium) passed away at the age of 98 in a state of peace on May 4th, 2021 in his home in Uccle, Belgium. Paul died almost exactly a year after my own father’s death Dr. Yukio Ishizuka. Two great fathers, and teachers on individual and national crisis, Yukio and Paul departed one after the other. Two great vibrations of immense love on this earth; one focused on the love of humanity and human closeness particularly on the challenging couple relationship as a source of transformation and the other on the human spirit, infinity and the cosmos. Two loves infinitely linked and their vibration of compassion with us today particularly during our own challenges. Through Paul and my father’s immense love for us all, as well as my mother’s, I could witness the abundance of God’s love and can better accept whatever we face today in our own lives and in the world around us with the joy and optimism that crisis is to be used to release the past and create something entirely new.
PHILOSOPHY IN FACE OF NATURAL AND MAN MADE CRISIS
Until Paul’s last few days, Paul worked on a book, towards a new philosophy in face of natural and man made crisis. To create a better world, culture, as seen as the spirit of a nation, or region could orient itself to what is most noble and elevated within, each of us offering something unique from the heart of our identity, culture and strengths to a far greater universal whole. In his vision, culture, or human creativity through art, converges while respecting differences. To succeed, however, the elevation of our individual and collective consciousness to something far greater than ourselves, was needed to unite.
CREATIVE DIALOG BETWEEN THE IMAGINATION AND CRITICAL THINKING
The book, a creative dialog between imagination and critical thinking, forsaw a world born not by the work of politicians but by new artists who elevate from within through the creation of works of great inner beauty; works that without words or analysis communicate in a second the experience of comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization to the viewer.
PUBLISHED BY CARACTERES TO OPEN A NEW ART ERA THAT ELEVATES MANKIND
Paul was not all theory either. To facilitate a vision of art elevating humanity, in 2004 he published his first edition of Le Rayonnant, un art vers l’Infini with the small but elite French publisher Caracteres. Caracteres began its publishing in 1950 focused on many reknown writers, poets, mystics, and artists (to illustrate texts), including Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Sri Aurobindo, and Pablo Picasso. The editors, believing in Paul Briot’s vision in Le Rayonnant, published his text imagining this new art that captures the profound beauty within individuals and of the whole cosmos. Today together we have a literary text providing visionary artists with Paul’s imagination that celebrates a new art and a new era.
“I KNEW WHAT HE SAID ON THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL WAS TRUE; BUT COULD IT BE TRUE OF A NATION?”
Indeed, the very first time I met Paul around 2006, he handed me his book Le Rayonnant, on the elevation of art and asked me if I could find artists to interpret his text. Moved by the text, but knowing no such artists, I left in curiosity. Five years later in March 2011, ten days after the Japanese tsunami, nuclear disaster and earthquake in my country, I was to meet him again and this time, I awoke. Paul spoke to me that evening of the use of crisis to elevate, to create something never before seen nor experienced. He told me that the Japanese would be the first to understand his message. Certain that what he said was true on the individual experience, I dared to believe it could exist on a national one.
“Using crisis to go beyond a previous national best — and not uniquely in an economic or political sense, but in a morale, aesthetic, existential or spiritual sense–this was new to me,” says Ishizuka.
My formal training began a week after meeting Paul when he handed me a file almost taller than I with texts and articles he had clipped, collected and meticulously saved on Japanese artists in Japan dating back from 1970 the year of my birth.
Here was a Belgian philosopher and professor of Comparative Religion who spoke to me neither of philosophy, nor religion, but Art.
An art that elevates through inner silence.
It took me three full years of searching full time in Japan for artists who could satisfy Paul. During that search I become the student of several great talented Japanese masters including Wakayagi Sensei in Nihon Buyo, Ohta Sensei in Sumie, and Saiso Shimada in Shodo. Saiso Shimada was to be the first to interpret the works and texts of Paul through her shodo painting. She and I later worked for over six years closely together in meditation, often three times a week on knowledge, compassion, liberation and freedom. Whether one was in Tokyo and the other in Singapore, New York or France, thanks to skype and a shared consciousness it no longer mattered.
MEDITATING WITH JAPANESE MASTERS OF ALL DISCIPLINES
In 2017 the editor of Characteres published a new printed edition selecting six works of Saiso Shimada out of eleven paintings she created from Paul’s texts. The same year a famous Shaku-hatchi musician, Masaki Nakamura, fell in love with Shimada’s painting Faces of Suns, and created an original song for the painting. Intrigued by the new art Shimada was experiencing, Masaki came to meet Shimada and I, and together we had an intense meditation, where he was able to create music effortlessly. A year later, I flew from Singapore to Tokyo and Masaki, Shimada and I isolated ourselves and experienced two days of intense meditation creating original music for five new musical works, published in the 2018 musical version of Le Rayonnant.
SILENCE EXPERIENCED THROUGH PHYSICAL FORM RETURNED TO FORM IN A PAINTING OR DANCE
During those four years in Japan an interpretation of Paul’s text was also written and illustrated by me for our Japanese friends through the fable Kizuna, a new rendition on the famous fable the Crane’s Wife. The re-writing of this Japanese fable and the illustrations that came spontaneously inspired the Japanese master in Nihon Buyo, Wakayagi Sensei, to create a dance and have the tale read by a Japanese actor in front of a small group of her fellow artists friends for Fukushima. Throughout all these experiences, I learned what was important was not just meditation nor letting go, but that the silence experienced through the physical form was to be returned to the physical form through art and a physical creation be in dance, painting, music, architecture or literature.
NOT MANY FRIENDS AT AGE 90 DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT
Paul was my best friend throughout the Japan crisis, a second father, a mentor, with whom we spoke at least two or three times a week over more than eleven years. And in each moment, of individual joy and collective crisis, Paul was always there for us, for all of us. Even for the small things. I will never forget that he set up his alarm at 3am in Belgium to be conscious with me throughout an operation I had in Singapore. Not many friends at the age of ninety do something like that.
PAUL’S WORKS NOT JUST ABOUT INSPIRING ARTISTS BUT DEEP LONGING WITHIN EACH OF US
Paul’s work was not just about inspiring artists, but a deep longing within each of us. He had a large number of followers to whom he taught courses on the structure of human existence, the use of crisis, beauty and an optimal existence that will blossom from a greater knowledge, compassion, liberation and realization not yet experienced by mankind. In those courses and a short text he left behind for us he lead us in a series of questions and answers towards deep inquiry and the utilization of individual and collective crisis to elevate ourselves and us all. Nothing could be more pertinent at our current time.
PAUL IN COMMUNION WITH EACH OF US THROUGH SILENCE
Paul Briot will be deeply missed but always with each of us. He was preceded in death by his beloved spouse Madame Raymonde Hannut, whom he wooed much like a suitor until her last day with him as well as his daughter Dominique, who he kept in his daily moments of silence. He is survived by his endearing son, Raymond Briot and his wife Michal Briot who loved him dearly and three grandchildren Shany Briot, Ariel Briot and Noya Briot who were his great joy.