Unity in Differentiation — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Unity in Differentiation

Love: Week 2

Unity in Differentiation
Friday, November 9, 2018

Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, continues expanding on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s understanding of love as a creative force:

We can look to our own hearts to tell us more about what Teilhard sees as the essence of the complexification/consciousness process—hence of evolution (and hence, of love): his insistence that “union differentiates.” We often think of love in terms of merging, uniting, becoming one, but Teilhard was wary of such definitions; his practiced eye as an evolutionist taught him something quite different. True union . . . doesn’t turn its respective participants into a blob, a drop dissolving into the ocean. Rather, it presses them mightily to become more and more themselves: to discover, trust, and fully inhabit their own depths. As these depths open, so does their capacity to love, to give-and-receive of themselves. . . .

The term “codependency” was not yet current in Teilhard’s day, but he already had the gist of it intuitively. He knew that love is not well served by collapsing into one another. It is better served by standing one’s own ground within a flexible unity so that more, deeper, richer facets of personhood can glow forth in “a paroxysm of harmonised complexity.” [1]

The poet Rilke (1875–1926), Teilhard’s contemporary and in many respects kindred spirit, is on exactly the same wavelength. He asks in his Letters to a Young Poet:

. . . [F]or what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent? It [love] is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person. [2]

To become world in oneself for the sake of another. . . .” Hmmmm. Does love really ask us to become world? Does love make worlds? Is that what love does?

True, Teilhard does not directly tackle the question of first causes. But a clue to the cosmological riddle is surely embedded in his understanding of love as the driveshaft of evolution. . . . Suppose [love] is . . . an alchemical process: a tender and vulnerable journey of self-disclosure, risk, intimacy, yearning, and generativity whose ley lines are carved into the planet itself.

The whole universe story has come into being because God is a hidden treasure who longs to be known. And the way—the only way—this knowing can be released is in the dance of unity-in-differentiation which is the native language of love. If it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes a whole cosmos to bear forth the depths of divine love.

1] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, trans. Bernard Wall (Harper Perennial: 2002, ©1959), 262.

[2] Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, trans. Stephen Mitchell (Vintage Books: 1986, ©1984), 69.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Love Is the Answer. What Is the Question?: Selected Writings and Talks 2016-2018 (Northeast Wisdom: 2018), 4-6.

Image credit: “Ladybug” (detail) photograph, Roderico Y. Diaz.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
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