Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Part I: Everything Is Sacred — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Part I: Everything Is Sacred

Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers: Week 5

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Part I: Everything Is Sacred
Monday, August 10, 2015

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit paleontologist and mystic whose writings were suppressed by Catholic authorities during his lifetime, but are now bringing science and religion together and mobilizing Christians to participate with God in the process of bringing the universe to its fulfillment in Christ. We Franciscans in particular resonate with Teilhard. I first discovered him in college in the early 1960’s, during the heady years of the Second Vatican Council, and he filled me with a cosmic, earthy vision for my life.

The Franciscan theologian Bonaventure, building on Paul, taught us about the primacy of Christ: “For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

In the words of Franciscan Sister and scientist Ilia Delio, “Christ is the purpose of this universe, and as exemplar of creation, [Christ is] the model of what is intended for this universe, that is, union and transformation in God. . . . Because the universe has a ‘plan,’ we can speak of the evolution of this plan as the unfolding of Christ in the universe, who is ‘the mystery hidden from the beginning’ (Ephesians 3:9).” [1]

Teilhard writes: “I am not speaking metaphorically when I say that it is throughout the length and breadth and depth of the world in movement that man [sic] can attain the experience and vision of his God.” [2] Teilhard also says: “By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined [the divine] as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.”

It was statements such as these, misinterpreted as pantheism or naturalism, which resulted in Church and Jesuit superiors prohibiting Teilhard from publishing his works and even banishing him from living in his French homeland. But they could not make him “abandon my own personal search,” as Teilhard wrote to one of these authorities. “I have ceased to propagate my ideas and am confining myself to achieving a deeper personal insight into them. This attitude has been made easier for me by my now being once more in a position to do first-hand scientific work. . . . You can count on me unreservedly to work for the kingdom of God, which is the one thing I keep before my eyes and the one goal to which science leads me.” [3] For Teilhard, there was no dualistic split between science and religion.

Nor was there a split between human work and spirituality. To explain what he called “the divinization of our activities,” Teilhard wrote, “By virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred. . . . Try, with God’s help, to perceive the connection—even physical and natural—which binds your labour with the building of the kingdom of heaven; try to realize that heaven itself smiles upon you and, through your works, draws you to itself.” [4]

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), 8-9.
[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (Harper Torchbooks: 1960), 36.
[3] Ibid., 39.
[4] Ibid., 66.

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