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Center for Action and Contemplation

Third Self

Thursday, May 3, 2018


Third Self
Thursday, May 3, 2018

We speak of the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 70s. I think what has happened thus far is only the rumblings before the real revolution, the movement beyond either/or to both/and. God and evolution are inviting us toward a relational wholeness that is a synergy and a life energy higher than either one apart but even larger than both together.

Decades ago, Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) intuited where this evolution is headed. Husband and wife team Louis Savary and Patricia Berne translate Teilhard’s often complex, abstract ideas into words we might understand and to which we may relate:

Teilhard, studying the human race over many thousands of years, realized that humanity was indeed learning to evolve in love. And once enough people began living with agape love, it would create a revolution like no other revolution. In time, such all-embracing love would bring about true freedom, true peace, and true harmony on Earth. . . .

Two things happen in any loving relationship. First, a new being—the relationship—is born with its own unique potentials and purpose. Second, the relationship—this new being—enhances and develops the individuals within it, each with their own unique potentials and purpose. Both effects, when recognized and developed, foster evolution. . . .

St. Thomas Aquinas was onto something important in the twelfth century when he wrote, in Latin, Relatio realis est. In English, this means something like “A relationship is something real.” If something is real, it means that it exists and can have an effect on other things, an effect that individual elements of the relationship by themselves might not be able to have. This is true of relationships on all levels of existence.

Among human beings, it is easy to see that a relationship has a life of its own and can have an effect on things—both on the individuals that make up the relationship and on things outside the relationship. Think of what close-knit groups of people can accomplish, for example, sports teams, research teams, ministry groups, and certain famous families. . . .

[In] Teilhard’s approach, when two people come together in a caring and productive way, not only are the two relating people enhanced and their capacities developed by their interaction, but their union, or relationship, becomes itself a Third Self [which] Teilhard calls . . . “a psychic unity” or “higher soul” or “higher center.” . . . The Third-Self relationship is capable of accomplishing more than either [of the members] alone.

Louis Savary and Patricia Berne, Teilhard de Chardin on Love: Evolving Human Relationships (Paulist Press: 2017), 7, 39-40, 44-45.

Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Love is the most powerful force or energy in the universe. That power is multiplied in relationships. Love’s potency is released most powerfully among people who have formed a relationship. —Louis Savary and Patricia Berne
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