In this guest blog poet Charles C. Finn shares a personal journey enabled by Teilhard de Chardin.
by Charles C. Finn
It was Teilhard de Chardin who opened the door for me into a new universe back in my Jesuit years. Scientist, priest, visionary, cosmic storyteller, poet, mystic—how hard it is to capture all that he was and stood for. “Such has been my experience in contact with the earth—the diaphany of the Divine at the heart of the universe on fire”—this from The Divine Milieu gives us a clue into why Teilhard received such opposition from conservative religious establishment and materialistic scientific community alike. He was far too Earth-enchanted for the former, far too mystical for the latter. His shift of emphasis from redemption to creation (not creation at the beginning of time, genesis, but evolution’s continuing creation, cosmogenesis) was considered by his Church so radical that his works were not allowed to be published while he was alive. Adding to the sorrow of his final years, his native France considered him too controversial to be allowed to return home. Teilhard thus died in exile in a Jesuit community in Upper Manhattan, but he died far from forlorn. Praying that his death might be an act of Communion, he hoped God would call him home on Easter. In 1955 his prayer was answered.
Two passages from Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man, each followed by a reflection of my own, touch on the magnitude not only of his evolutionary vision but of his empathy into the terror it understandably strikes in those still fundamentally disoriented.
“The movement of our souls expresses and measures the very stages of progress of evolution itself. Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself, to borrow Julian Huxley’s concise expression…On this summit and on this summit alone are repose and illumination waiting for us. The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting.”
Evolution is no abstraction.
The journey of creation across billions of years
incredibly through each of us is not only reenacted but extended.
Repose and illumination await us
if we can but look down from the summit and see it.
“It is impossible to accede to a fundamentally new environment without experiencing the inner terrors of a metamorphosis. The child is terrified when it opens its eyes for the first time. Similarly, for our mind to adjust itself to lines and horizons enlarged beyond measure, it must renounce the comfort of familiar narrowness. It must create a new equilibrium for everything that had formerly been so neatly arranged in its small inner world. It is dazzled when it emerges from its dark prison, awed to find itself suddenly at the top of the tower, and it suffers from giddiness and disorientation. The whole psychology of modern disquiet is linked with the sudden confrontation with space-time.”
A fundamentally new environment…
lines and horizons enlarged beyond measure…
sudden confrontation with space-time—
such phrases can help us appreciate
the staggering metamorphosis of consciousness
that humankind has had to make since Darwin
causing terror analogous to that facing a newborn
having to renounce the comfort of familiar narrowness.
May this deepen our empathy into the profound disquiet
felt still by many.
Here are but a few of the gems emblazoned on Teilhard’s shield:
The immense incandescent host which is the universe…I merge myself, through my heart, with the very heart of God.
I adhere to the creative power of God; I become not only its instrument but its living extension…Thus to our sense of peace is added the exaltation of creating, perilously, an eternal work which will not exist without us…God will make the obstacles serve our progress.
I seem to have deep inside me, something that needs to emerge and be disseminated: an enthusiastic vision and promise of the world, a certain relish, a certain intoxication with every concrete being.
We are all of us together carried in the one world womb, yet each is our own little microcosm in which the Incarnation is wrought independently with degrees of intensity and shades that are incommunicable.
Close your eyes and surrender to suffering as to a great loving energy.
God must be as vast as the universe and as warm as a human heart, and incomparably more besides. That is all we can say.