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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Part II: Evolving Consciousness

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers: Week 5

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Part II: Evolving Consciousness
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The French Jesuit paleontologist and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) viewed evolution as growth in consciousness. Ilia Delio offers theologian Elizabeth Johnson’s perspective that “consciousness is integral to the whole evolutionary process that culminates in the human spirit. She writes: ‘The law of complexity-consciousness reveals that ever more intricate physical combinations, as can be traced in the evolution of the brain, yield ever more powerful forms of spirit. Matter, alive with energy, evolves to spirit. While distinctive, human intelligence and creativity rise out of the very nature of the universe, which is itself intelligent and creative. In other words, human spirit is the cosmos come to consciousness.’” [1]

Ilia Delio, my friend and fellow teacher, Franciscan Sister and scientist, has studied Teilhard extensively. She writes:

In Teilhard’s view, Christian life is essential to the progress of evolution. He emphasized that the role of the Christian is to divinize the world in Jesus Christ, to “christify” the world by our actions, by immersing ourselves in the world, plunging our hands, we might say into the soil of the earth and touching the roots of life. . . .  The world, he claimed, is like a crystal lamp illumined from within by the light of Christ. For those who can see, Christ shines in the diaphanous universe, through the cosmos, and in matter. He posited a “mysticism of action” in a universe moved and com-penetrated by God. For him, union with God means not withdrawal or separation from the activity of the world but a dedicated, integrated, and sublimated absorption into it. [2]

Teilhard . . . viewed the cosmos on a journey to God in a process of divinization, which he called Christogenesis. . . . Love is the force that energizes the process because love permeates the entire cosmos, that is, the affinity of being with being. Teilhard wrote, “Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being.” He identifies this energy of love with Christ, the Omega, saying, “the love of Christ is an energy into which all the chosen elements of creation are fused without losing their identity.” [3]

Teilhard held that the whole of natural evolution is coming under the influence of Christ, the physical center of the universe, through the free cooperation of human beings. God evolves the universe and brings it to its completion through the instrumentality of human beings. Thus we are not called to relate to God without a world. To love God we must also love what God loves. We are called to love this created world as God loves it. . . . We are to help transform this universe in Christ by seeing Christ in the universe and loving Christ at the heart of the universe. [4]

Inspired by Teilhard, for years I used his complimentary close in all my letters, “Christ ever greater.”  This Christ was big enough to include everyone and everything.

Gateway to Silence:
“If we go down into ourselves, we find that we possess exactly what we desire.” —Simone Weil

[1] Ilia Delio, O.S.F., Christ In Evolution (Orbis Books: 2008), 18-19.
[2] Ibid., 139.
[3] Ibid., 81.
[4] Ibid., 81-82.

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