Review of the January 9, 2015 GES presentation on:

The Life and Mysticism of Teilhard

Environmental consciousness is making us increasingly aware of the interconnection of all living beings on earth, and our interdependence with Nature. Even the old adversaries of science and religion are finding new common ground, as the call to cultivate a spiritual view of nature and the cosmos — gains increasing adherents who are seeking an integrated perspective of the world around them.

One of the first to proclaim and live out this convergence between religion and science was the 20th century French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I was delighted and rather surprised to see that the Gabriola Ecumenical Society (GES) was offering an afternoon on the Life and Mysticism of Teilhard on January 9, 2015. Surprised because I thought he was a somewhat inaccessible intellect who had died in 1955 long before environmental concern had taken on the urgency and vibrancy that we experience today. So off I went to the Rollo Centre expecting an intimate gathering of ten or twenty but instead the room filled up with about fifty Gabriolans! Another confirmation of what a great place I’d chosen for retirement living!

The first thing that struck me was the esthetics of the room with its soft lighting and beautiful tablecloths, with each table’s centerpiece being a rock formation from a local geological collector. The beauty at the front, considering all the paraphernalia needed for power point was also a soft invitation to open ourselves to a mystical deepening of our consciousness. I could see why this year’s overall GES theme was called “A Walk on the Mystical Side” because the path to go deeper was laid out before us. And Maureen gave us a beautiful and informative afternoon with the most artistic and compelling power point presentation I have ever seen. So many aspects of Teilhard’s life and thought were presented – both the joyful and the sorrowful, so much for us to connect with and admire.

As Maureen wrote on the GES webpage, Teilhard “studied the intimate relationship between the evolutionary development of the material and the spiritual world, leading him to both experience and celebrate the sacredness of matter and the ‘within of things.’ His insight into the evolving flow of history helped him to know – even in the midst of human tragedy – a mystical sense of communion with the world and communion with God.”

I was somewhat reminded of the 13th century nature mystic, Francis of Assisi who liked to praise the Artist (Creator) through the work of Art (Creation or Nature). Similarly Teilhard’s regard for what he perceived to be God’s Creation deepened his love for the Creator God. But amazingly for the times, Teilhard used hard science to reach his sublime mystical regard, digging around in rocks and earth to uncover not only important scientific data, but also a luminous regard for how matter reflected the Divine.

He felt that the greater realization of the interconnection of all things of nature should lead to a greater regard for its protection, and for recognition of its Divine source. But the world was not ready for such ideas during his lifetime, and certainly the church was far from ready. He experienced much personal pain as he was repeatedly silenced and exiled by the church; and his theological and mystical writings were not published until after his death. Fortunately his purely scientific work was appreciated and validated by the scientific community in Europe and in the USA during his time.

Teilhard looked forward to a time of exalted human consciousness, in which what he called the noosphere – a time of increased awareness of our vast earthly interconnections – would lead people to responses of compassionate love towards all our fellow beings and the earth itself. Part of classical Christian doctrine is that Christ (the Cosmic Christ) is the alpha and the omega – the beginning and the end of all things. Teilhard believed or hoped that hatred and violence would diminish as the noosphere of expanded human consciousness used evolutionary thought to reach the Omega of our deepening interconnections with nature and the universe.

At least that’s part of my limited understanding of some of Teilhard’s mysticism and prophetic evolutionary spiritual thought, although there is much more I would like to learn. Wish I could attend the Jan. 21 to Feb 11 Thursday morning Book Study to learn more, and for those who do: may you be blessed both personally and in your ability to help invite the rest of us towards this luminous path of loving awareness of all of life’s interconnections. If Google is to be trusted I’d like to end with this simple quote from Teilhard: “The world is round so that friendship can encircle it.” May it be so! Amen.

Submitted by Adela D. Torchia