Consciously Evolving

Christ in Evolution

Consciously Evolving
Friday, March 15, 2019

Ilia Delio explores what it means to consciously, intentionally participate in evolution:

Because we humans are in evolution we must see Christ in evolution as well—Christ’s humanity is our humanity, Christ’s life is our life. . . . To live Christ is to live community; to bear Christ in one’s life is to become a source of healing love for the sake of community. . . .

We must liberate Christ from a Western intellectual form that is logical, abstract, privatized, and individualized. We must engage in the complexification of Christ . . . which means accepting the diversity and differences of the other as integral to ourselves and thus integral to the meaning of Christ. Engagement with the other is not dissolving ourselves into the other but being true to ourselves—our identity—by finding ourselves in God and God in the other. . . .

Christ is the power of God among us and within us, the fullness of the earth and of life in the universe. We humans have the potential to make Christ alive; it is what we are created for. To live the mystery of Christ is not to speak about Christ but to live in the surrender of love, the poverty of being, and the cave of the heart. If we can allow the Spirit to really take hold of us and liberate us from our fears, anxieties, demands, and desire for power and control, then we can truly . . . live in the risen Christ who empowers us to build this new creation. We can look toward that time when there will be one cosmic person uniting all persons, one cosmic humanity uniting all humanity, one Christ in whom God will be all in all. [1]

On the whole we are not conscious of evolution, and we do not act as if our choices can influence the direction of evolution. . . .

What will it take for us to realize that we are unfinished creatures who are in the process of being created? That our world is being created? That our church is being created? That Christ is being formed in us? . . . The good news of Jesus Christ is not so much what happens to us but what must be done by us. The choices we make for the future will create the future. We must reinvent ourselves in love. . . .

We must consciously evolve; we must orient our being toward new life and growth because the unity that we really are, the deep connective tissue of oneness, will not let us rest with separateness. . . . Too much is at stake now to hide behind our secure walls. . . .

We must choose to be whole, to be attentive to God’s ongoing work in our lives. God will not create a new future for us, but God invites us to become more whole within ourselves so that we may become more whole among ourselves. Evolution toward greater wholeness is evolution toward more life and love. This is the basis of contemplative evolution and the emergence of Christ. [2]

References:
[1] Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution (Orbis Books: 2008), 180.

[2] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 202-203.

Image credit: Gua Tewet Tree of Life (detail), cave painting, Borneo, Indonesia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. —Thomas Berry (1914-2009)

Dynamic Love

Christ in Evolution

Dynamic Love
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sister Ilia Delio, a Franciscan professor and theologian, offers a vibrant vision for evolution in her book The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love:

Christianity is a religion of evolution, a consciousness of divine love-empowered reality. In the past Christianity meant a flight from the world. In an evolutionary universe, however, it is a flight from separateness. Even Albert Einstein, who did not believe in a personal God, saw the intricate relatedness that exists:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. One experiences oneself . . . as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of one’s consciousness. . . . Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. [1]

. . . God is a beggar of love seeking to be love at the heart of this evolutionary creation; yet God cannot enter into our world without us. Our challenge today is to stay the course of love in a world that resists love, fears love, and rejects the cost of love. God continues to push through evolutionary life to emerge in a new, more illuminative way as God, but the forces of resistance are great. The challenge, therefore, is not to argue or defend evolution but to drench ourselves in it, to go inward and meet, in silence and solitude, a power no human power can vanquish. This is divine love, always dynamic and ever new, love that empowers us to go beyond ourselves by imagining and creating a world worthy of love.

We must suffer through to something higher, something more unified, more conscious, more being in love. Hope must be born over and over again, for where there is love, there is hope. Christian life is birthing love into greater unity; it is our contribution to a universe in evolution. We point the way to something more than ourselves, something up ahead that we are now participating in, where heaven and earth will be renewed (Revelation 21:1). Teilhard saw that evolution is larger than the scope of the human person alone. Beyond the level of collective consciousness, he posited a mega-synthesis, a convergence of interplanetary or even intergalactic consciousness. [2]

We must widen our vision to a christification of the galaxies, a new unity of all cosmic life. To do so we must fix our eyes on the future, on forging new relationships of love that include the earth, all peoples, all religions, all planets and all galaxies. We need to reimagine ourselves in love, realizing that on the evolutionary time line, Christianity was born this morning and is just waking up to the newness of life. In Jesus divine love bursts forth with hopes and dreams for a new world. This new world is within our reach if we awaken to the power of love within us as the power to create anew.

References:
[1] Albert Einstein, Condolence letter to Norman Salit (March 4, 1950). Reprinted in The New York Times, March 29, 1972, https://www.nytimes.com/1972/03/29/archives/the-einstein-papers-a-man-of-many-parts-the-einstein-papers-man-of.html.

[2] See Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, trans. Norman Denny (Harper and Row: 1964), 311.

Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 197-198.

Image credit: Gua Tewet Tree of Life (detail), cave painting, Borneo, Indonesia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. —Thomas Berry (1914-2009)

“Christianity as Planetary Faith”

“Christianity as Planetary Faith”
A faculty reflection by guest teacher Ilia Delio

A headshot image of Ilia Delio smiling.In the 1960s, Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel Corporation, predicted that computing power would increase exponentially, producing an unprecedented rate of change in human growth and society. Today technology is our fastest evolver. We are changing on every level: as persons, as community, as biological species, and as a planet. Artificial intelligence (AI) has become the new religion and promises a better world on every level. Through techno-enhancement (chips, drugs, robots, mindclones, etc.) we can become smarter, happier, wealthier, more democratic. AI priests claim that with technology we can save ourselves and overcome the death barrier. In their view, technology will fulfill what religion promises.

Let’s face it. Religion is not popular. It tastes like old coffee. It seems to confine or constrain the human spirit. Religion is something old people do. It does not breed adventure, novelty, exploration or future. It conjures up images of mortification, sin, guilt, judgment, repression—images that reflect a lonely Jesus dying on the cross.

The Omega Center conference on “Christianity as Planetary Faith” aims to debunk the myth of old religion. For one thing, old religion is a certain type of institutional religion, not necessarily related to the message of the Gospel. The Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was keenly aware of this problem. His deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his keen eye as a paleontologist led him to see the heart of God in the heart of matter. He devoted himself to bridging evolution and Christianity, to kindle the meaning of Christ and evolution and to construct a new religious myth of religion and evolution. His vision was, and is, revolutionary.

Teilhard held that religion is not about human sin and judgment; it is about cosmic evolution and its dynamic impulse to transcend toward more being and consciousness. He placed religion within a cosmological evolutionary framework. Religion emerges as species complexify, accompanied by a rise in consciousness and culture. Evolution, he maintained, is neither theory nor particular fact but a “dimension” to which all thinking in whatever area must conform. Evolution proceeds through the spheres of matter, life, and consciousness. This process requires a center, which is also its energizing goal. By this Teilhard meant that there is within evolution a centrating point of unfolding unity, which he called “Omega,” empowering evolution from within and yet transcendent to the process. From the perspective of Christian faith and Scripture, Omega is God, the personal source of creation who is deeply immersed in evolution and its goal.

To understand Teilhard’s vision is to appreciate that religion is not a human phenomenon but a cosmic phenomenon. If we are to progress or evolve, we must release ourselves from religious individualism and confront the general religious experience, which is cosmic and evolutionary, and involve ourselves in it. In other words, religion is concerned with The Whole of life—universe, galaxies, earth and other planets, humans and all forms of intelligent life.

Teilhard saw a particular role for Christianity because it is a religion of materiality. Everything from quarks and stars to chips and robots expresses divine love, a love constantly creating and incarnating unto higher levels of being in love. Jesus is the human person who responds to the offer of divine love by a full blown “yes,” thus exposing the openness of physical matter to God. In Jesus Christ, who is the divine Word incarnate, the potency that lies in matter to receive the very personal self-communication of God is realized.

Teilhard almost never spoke of the earthly life of Jesus, nor did he focus on Jesus’ works or ministry—and for good reason. Christianity has become a religion of “jesuolotry” and has lost sight of Christ who symbolizes divinity at the heart of The Whole. Raimon Panikkar, like Teilhard, realized that Christ is not a law or doctrine by which grace and virtue is possible. Christ is the life not only of human life or life in terrestrial creation but the life of the universe and all universes where there is intelligent life. Christ is the symbol of the whole of reality, the realization of God’s intention to love unto the fullness of love.

In Teilhard’s view, our thinking about God is too small, too narrow, too rote. As Meister Eckhart exclaimed, “I pray God to rid me of God!” The mystics know from the depths of their inner lives that the name God points to the ineffable mystery of incomprehensible love at the heart of all reality. If we think we know God, we haven’t a clue of what we are talking about. Religion is a technology of spiritual energies that harnesses the endless depth of consciousness toward the absolute horizon of God. The whole point of religion, from a Christian perspective, is new life and future—to become new being, an ever newness in love. This, too, is what we want to explore at our Omega conference.

It is time to get over our allergy to religion and awaken our minds and hearts to a new myth of religious evolution. Teilhard is our guide and teacher. His vision is bright and hopeful, and it is one that expands beyond the noosphere into the universe and universes of intergalactic life. Christophany means to awaken to the Whole within us, among us, and before us. We will not solve the problems of race, gender, inequality, and immigration by the present political, historical, and ecclesial structures. We need a new paradigm, a new myth, a new vitality for a new life. Our Omega Center conference will focus on bringing religion and evolution into a new understanding. As Living School alumni, you understand the spiritual imperative of evolving in love, and we invite you to consider joining us in July. These pillars have come apart in our age but now it is now up to us to bring about a new synthesis: a new religion for a new earth in a new way.

Learn more about the Omega Center’s conference, “Christianity as Planetary Faith,” July 20-21, 2018 at https://www.omegacenter.info/event/omega-conference-2018/.

Coming to Be Love

Cosmology

Coming to Be Love
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
(All Saints Day)

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, continues reflecting on love as the heart of the universe.

To see the universe through the eyes of love helps us make sense of evolution, not as a process of cold, blind chance or randomness, but one of passion, yearning, novelty, union, gift, suffering, death, and new life. Love is the faithful heart of the cosmos, the constancy of all life; yet love seeks to become more being-in-love and hence is the energy of change. . . . The name “God” points to this mystery of love in its unlimited depth, the center of all that is; love that overflows onto new life. God is not a super-natural Being hovering above earth, but the supra-personal whole, the Omega, who exists in all and through all.

God is love—eternal, divine, overflowing, personal love. Love goes out to another for the sake of the other and manifests itself in relationship. Divine love is personally relational—Trinity: Lover, Beloved, and the Breath of Love. Divine Love, breathed forth into Word incarnate, marks the history of evolution. . . . Every star, every galaxy, every leaf and bird breathed forth in divine Love, reveals the Christ who is the personal unity of divine being-in-love. From all eternity, God has sought to love another, to be love in another, and to be loved by the other forever—this other is the Christ who is the aim and purpose of this evolutionary universe.

[Evolution] is not only the universe coming to be, but it is God who is coming to be. Divine Love, poured into space-time, rises in consciousness and erupts in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, becoming the pledge of our future in the risen Christ: “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). We can read the history of our 13.7-billion-year-old universe as the rising up of Divine Love incarnate, which bursts forth in the person of Jesus, who reveals love’s urge toward wholeness through reconciliation, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. Jesus is the love of God incarnate, the wholemaker who shows the way of evolution toward unity in love. . . . In Jesus, God comes to us from the future to be our future. . . .

Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be wholemakers of love in a world of change.

In summary, this is why I (Richard) say we need to switch our thinking from “Jesus came to fulfill us” to “we have come to fulfill Christ.” We are a part of this ever-growing cosmic Christ that is coming to be in this one great big act of giving birth described in Romans 8:22. [1]

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

References:
[1] Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology & Consciousness, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download.

Ilia Delio, “Love at the Heart of the Universe,” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 21-22. No longer in print. Emphasis mine. See the Omega Center for more on Ilia Delio, omegacenter.info/ilia-delio.

Image credit: The Starry Night (detail), Vincent van Gogh, Saint Rémy, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York.

Love at the Heart of the Universe

Cosmology

Love at the Heart of the Universe
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

We used to believe that reality was comprised of little separate “elemental” building blocks, but now we realize that nothing exists in isolation; rather, as scientists like Franciscan sister Ilia Delio point out, everything exists as one interconnected whole. In today’s meditation, I want to share Ilia’s insights from the new science of quantum physics:

Quantum physics is based on the primacy of energy and the interconnectedness of all that exists. . . . Being is intrinsically relational and exists as unbroken wholeness. Each part is connected with every other part. . . . We are, fundamentally, wholes within wholes. [David] Bohm wrote:

The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to . . . pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy. [1]

The properties of the parts are not intrinsic properties, but can be understood only within the context of the larger whole. What we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships. [Shifting from viewing parts to the whole requires us to transition from thinking about each thing around us as an object to seeing relationships. Everything around us is held in a system, which is, as Ilia describes,] . . . an integrated whole whose essential properties arise from the relationships between its parts. Nature is an interlocking network of systems, an “unbearable wholeness of beings,” as Steve Talbott wrote. [2] Nature is more flow than fixed, like a choreographed ballet or a symphony. Life evolves toward ever-increasing wholeness and consciousness, and something more—love. . . .

As life becomes more complex and conscious, it becomes more integrally whole. What accounts for evolution toward greater wholeness? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin identified an energy of centration, whereby elements unite and complexify into greater wholeness, and called this “love-energy.”

We are accustomed to thinking about love as a human sentiment or emotion, but Teilhard saw love as a passionate force at the heart of the Big Bang universe: the fire that breathes life into matter and unifies elements, center to center. “Love,” he wrote, “is the physical structure of the universe.” [3] It draws together and unites and, in uniting, it differentiates. Love is intrinsically relational, the affinity of being-with-being in a personal, centered way; a unity toward greater wholeness of being that marks all cosmic life. If there was no internal propensity to unite, even at a rudimentary level—indeed, in the molecule itself—Teilhard said, it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, in the human form. Love is the core of evolution.

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

References:
[1] David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (New York: Routledge, 1995), 1-2.
[2] Stephen L. Talbott, “The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings,” The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-unbearable-wholeness-of-beings.
[3] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy, trans. J. M. Cohen (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969), 72.

Ilia Delio, “Love at the Heart of the Universe,” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 19, 20-21. No longer in print. Emphasis mine. See the Omega Center for more on Ilia Delio, omegacenter.info/ilia-delio.

Image credit: The Starry Night (detail), Vincent van Gogh, Saint Rémy, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York.

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