Yesterday at the University of Victoria, Cynthia Bourgeault introduced an attentive and appreciaitve audience of 130 to the person and teachings of the early twentieth century paleontologist, mystic, and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Here are my notes:

I find five major takeaways in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

1. He points us to a reintegrated cosmology that moves beyond the science against religion / religion against science paradigm which has prevailed for the past 500 years during which we have had to live with a desperately fractured cosmology that has been a great source of hurt as the old scientific paradigm began to break down with Copernicus and Galileo.

Teilhard replants the Christian vision in a 14 billion year wide pot that is big enough to embrace the vast emerging cosmic vision that science is providing today. He points the way to the possibility of a vision that we live in a coherent universe.

2. Teilhard was one of the pioneers who viewed the earth as a unitive whole. He insisted that we consider our earthly home as a whole. He saw the cosmos as a self-specifying system.

He was among the first to see that everything is connected to everything else. Everything is intersected. The whole universe is in touch with the whole of itself. We are all inescapably involved in everything else.

He saw: wholeness, articulateness, and the preciousness of the whole.

Teilhard calls for the end of any dichotomy between matter and spirit. The spiritual journey is not an ascent up a ladder away from the physical into some disembodied spiritual realm. Spirit and matter are two different phases in a single dynamism of transformation.

We must not start by renouncing matter.

Spirit is an alchemical transformation of the stuff of the universe.

3. Everything is flowing.

We need to get back to thinking about spiritual practice. How do we transmit wisdom in our culture? The answer must involve body, mind, and spirit.

We need to reclaim embodiment.

4. The process of evolution has has an inherent propulsiveness. Teilhard provides a map that is grounded in a vision that sees evolution not as random, or controlled by the survival of the fittest as a flow that has something in it that is moving it.

We can see and trust the presence of a thread in the processes of life that calls us to embrace the conditions of the world we find ourselves in.

The conditions in which evolution happens are: process, convergence, and collectivity. The conditions in which we find ourselves are our spiritual path.  We need to lean into the world of escalating technology and collectivity not flee from it in fear or wall ourselves off from these realities. We need to find the life and vibrancy that are there. Where is the energy throbbing?

5. Teilhard offers a basis for deep hope.

Everywhere he sees that surprise and play are always able to enter into the story.

We need to approach the realities we face with a sense of serenity and spaciousness. We need to ground our stewardship of life in deep hope and the conviction that something deep is rising to meet us. It lives in our hearts as love.

Our faith and the earth’s faith are inextricably tied.


Question and Response:

When I look at Teilhard, I see four touchstones:

1. cosmogenesis – everything is under construction

2. complexification – there is a privileged action

3. convergence – evolution is not openended but converges to an end-point

Evolution only works through self-tensioning. Because the world is a sphere, we are under cosmic self-tensioning that has a final point of implosion rather than explosion.

4. cosmic Christ – we are emerging into the cosmic Christ in which all things are reconciled. Spirit goes back to spirit. This gives us a religion that is big enough to incorporate a legitimate cosmic vision

Teilhard resisted saying that the universe is impersonal. Consciousness is bound up in a journey towards the personal. It posits a universe that is a relational field in which we are embedded. Consciousness is based on exchange. We live in a relational field.

To say “God is a person” is to find the irreducible reality of existence in the relational. We are drawn into “Thouness”. The nature of the luminous ground of being is that it is passionate, loving, and personal. God is the inherent intelligence, compassion, coherence, love that sparkles throughout the whole system.

Teilhard wants us to feel the heartbeat of the Divine resonant throughout the whole system.

Post-modernism died with the boomers. The new generation are more unashamedly idealistic. They are able to sense the organic wholeness of the planetary oneness. They are more comfortable dealing with heart and passion.

The youngers are not frightened by religion. They are bored to tears with liberal intellecualistic whimpishness. They are willing to embrace mystery.They find themselves unable to locate an institutional expression of their spiritual drive that is big enough to meet their emerging vision of the cosmos. Teilhard points the way to this.

The future course of the planet is in the process of being handed off to a next generation. There is hope.