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When is Pray Real?

February 9, 2018

These thoughts were published as an appendix in my volume “With Our Feet on the Ground” (2011).The full book, including meditations following the pattern (but not content) of the Rosary is a free download from this earthedspirit site, also available on Kindle.

APPENDIX 1: WHEN IS PRAYER REAL?
“If you want to pray,” wrote Evagrius of Pontus more than 16 centuries ago, “you need God, who gives prayer. “
So the simple answer to the question in the above title has to be, “God alone knows!”

Prayer is understood here as the inner content of a real, mutual relationship between a person or group and the Infinite Other. So merely labeling a text or activity as “prayer” does not mean that it is any such thing. It may be as removed from true communion as masturbation is from lovemaking; perhaps harmless and pleasant, but not engaged in any movement toward ultimate truth and wholeness. On the other hand, there may be a great deal more true prayer going on in the involvement of God in the loved world than is often suggested.

Religious establishments and their dogmas may never have defined and controlled true faith at humanity’s grassroots as much as suggested in some nostalgic analyses of trends in spirituality within the culture and land. Indeed, as is the way of institutions, the establishments seem often to have deliberately declined to discern and empower unfettered, natural, grassroots prayer. Failing to entirely repudiate the false claim that they command a caste of sacerdotal people gifted to pray beyond a veil barring most ordinary people, the institutional elite may often be blind to much spiritual groping for answers to ultimate questions and much offering of grief and joy in prayer far from their sanctuaries.

Most adherents asked about their personal prayer lives at first express feelings of inadequacy, measuring themselves against conditioned, impossible and often childish standards, revealing forms of passive spiritual consumerism. But when people of diverse religious backgrounds (and especially those with little or none) are prayed with (not for) in times of crisis when those conditioned masks evaporate, many reveal vibrant and real faith exercised with little reference to religious traditions and authority. Meanwhile, in at least Western Christianity, the Church’s proclamation seems from the grassroots of faith and from the real world beyond the stained glass to have become confused, lacking in confidence; either strident with dodgy claims to offer exclusive salvation to the submissive as the many perish, or so dilute as to offer no distinct flavour or leaven at all.

In a confused world groping for meaning, justice and hope without blind faith in old, objective certainties that simply fail to make sense in post-modern culture, there remain the One who gives prayer and the many who seek to move in prayer toward the ultimate wholeness of communion involving person and all creation.

THE DIVINE INVOLVEMENT
If prayer is centered in the mystery of the relational reality embracing and transcending all the relationships constituting creation, and if I am in that presence by grace, I cannot act as if prayer is something I do (whether alone or in a congregation) – a self-motivated alternative to working in the garden or writing these words. I cannot at the same time envisage God as a remote object and claim to be engaged in prayer.
When young, living and working with land, I struggled to connect what was said and done as the local church gave its Sunday “nod to God” with what I experienced of the holy when alone, in “mountaintop” moments. My training in agriculture had suggested that creation is a machine; the sum of measurable objects that may be manipulated. The culture said to me that everything and everyone (including religion, God and myself) has a “place” and should jolly well stick to that place.

I was to slowly learn that the world is not a machine at all, that what is really real is to be found not in the positions of objects but in the processes of relationships in the messiness and vulnerability of freedom, and that some of my conditioned images of the Divine must be revised. Granting the certain, abject and sacrilegious failure of any attempt to define and circumscribe the Infinite Holy One, it may be helpful to name some characteristics that, in my view, cannot be attributed to God:

 God is NOT in the image of a male coloniser – hyperactive, dominant, inflexible, emotionally repressed, unresponsive, independent.
 God is NOT found in the exclusive apex of a hierarchical pyramid in which the next compartment down (one with on-demand access to the throne-room) is reserved for humans deemed to be “saved” then (in descending compartments) the rest of humanity, other species of life and (last and most base) inanimate creation.
 God is NOT the passionless, absolute, unmoved controller of all that is really real; rather, God is affected by, even surprised by, what happens in the gifted freedom of creation.
 God’s core business is NOT distribution of magical blessings and curses and sanctifying of the status quo in response to card-carrying supplicants.
 The ultimate reality embraced in God’s being is NOT scarily supernatural but joyously, disturbingly, natural

Prayer, in my experience, never gets easy. My encounters in prayer are much more likely to be with infinite silence than with a clearly discerned enlightener from whom I hear definite messages. Each encounter may reveal even less of God than the experience of a tiny wave lapping my toes at the beach reveals all the tumultuous depths and breadths and life of all the planet’s oceans. And yet (here’s the thing), you and I are invited again and again to go deep into prayer.

I believe the most needed facet of prayer in our time is the prayer of listening. I have a little mantra (borrowed in part from Augustine of Hippo) that helps me to persevere when the going is hard and dry:
My prayer cannot lift me closer to God.
Nor can my prayer draw God closer to me.
For, in Christ, God is always closer to me than I am to myself.

It follows, of course, that God is at least as close to everyone and everything else.

When, in dry times, I keep on praying on, there eventually comes fresh awareness that God is source, journey, context and goal; that the One who embodies all holiness is in no way reliant on our awareness and response but yet loves us, embraces us in the relationship that is prayer; that I, we, this whole, desperate world are lost outside that embrace.

COMMUNICATION
The word communication has Latin roots to do with a mutual process of sharing. An autocrat – whether a political dictator or the idea of a god perceived as an unmoved mover – cannot by definition be so vulnerable as to enter a mutual process of sharing. Nor can a person harassed into emotional dependency.

In relationships, communication does not happen when a mouth is opened, an email sent, a homily delivered, a propaganda campaign launched or a smoothly pious intercession offered in a church. True communication takes root and grows in the subsequent cycles of listening and feedback until we have two or more participants with more common understanding of what’s going on; with something alive and real happening in the content of their relationship. .

In my spasmodic search, I have learned most about communication from the life of land and from marriage.

In the life of land, untold millions of creatures – most unseen, but not excluding the arrogantly powerful human species – are inter-relating, living and dying in any patch of earth at any moment. In that moment, life is never static. There is always a movement of the whole, either toward a vibrant wholeness of life or toward desolating death. It helps to pause, and in stillness be gratefully aware that this little sample of life and all life on earth, consciously or not, is integrated with my life.

I once had cause to consider the broader context of continuing creation when digging a hole for a fencepost. My crowbar struck a rock too large and hard to be moved or penetrated. The rock was Pliocene – not notably ancient in the life of the planet but occupying that spot for around two million years: 1, 998, 000 years before Jesus was born; 199, 000 years before the first human feet walked this land; 1, 999, 850 years before immigrants from Europe claimed dominion. So that rock spoke to me of my impatience and self-centeredness – my temptation to seek self-justifying fulfilment in one pathetic hour or year or lifetime I was claiming for myself within the immensity of all God’s indwelt time and space. It had something to say to me about the wholeness of the web of all creation. It had something to say to me about prayer.

Marriage can for some be a dreadfully inappropriate model for communication. For me, our half-century-and-counting journey in marriage teaches me that I may fool some people some of the time, myself occasionally, Lesley (and God) never! We understand that what makes marriage marriage is neither a ceremony nor a legal certificate; it is a mutual, constantly renewed commitment to partnership all the way, each giving priority not to the object self or the object partner but to the subject content of our relationship. That relationship is either alive, with real communication within it, or our marriage is diseased; bogged.

Much of the time our partnership is plain, happily ordinary. Occasionally, there is a superabundance of joy. Occasionally, too, there is a painful reminder that true marriage is built not on pheromones but on mutually listening, humbly questing hearts; strengthened not so much by sentimentality as by acknowledging and resolving conflict. I know there are times when one of us is silently crying out for the other to listen – really listen – and nothing happens. I know that if I become so disengaged as to take Lesley for granted – treat her as an object, however valued – I am not only crucifying her unique personhood but also breathing death into the holy ground in the between of us.

The marriage metaphor can be taken much too far. But it helps toward understanding that personal prayer involves listening, is at least as much about being than doing, sharing ordinariness as well as celebrations, cross-purposes as well as lovemaking reconciliation.

And, of course, it is about change. When communication happens, people change. In prayer and in marriage I change in realisation of who I am and what I’m about, and in my realisation of God and neighbour and marriage partner and God’s indwelt world. Might God change? This is a dangerous question. Yet I am sure that God cannot be immovably absolute. If God were not a focused, responsive listener, why would we attempt prayer? Perhaps we cannot tell God anything God doesn’t already know. But I like to think that we can surprise God (hopefully with delight but all too often with disappointment) with our perceptions and actions: I hadn’t thought of it like that!

Early Christians worried much about the injunction to pray constantly. To biblical literalists it seemed to preclude sleep, work and anything else not overtly prayerful. The answer was to practise awareness that the Spirit of God was involved in their being at all times, awake or asleep. The whole of life, then, became prayerful. This means, of course, that God’s listening heart is tuned in to all of our being and doing; not merely to moments of intentional piety. My husbanding in home and garden is not separate from my daily set-aside prayer times or from corporate worship.

It is helpful, I think, to give priority in prayer to adoration and thanksgiving. The divine ear must surely ache, hearing self-centred outpourings of woe and shopping-list prayers reflecting superstition rather than integrated faith.

TRADITION HERE AND NOW
Religious institutions and individuals are pretty good at hiding spiritual poverty behind public smokescreens of busy piety and rhetoric. That may be true of some expressions of Christianity that look superficially strong as others struggle for footholds in a world moved on. There is always a market for nostalgic religion. There is always a market for religion that insists the only questions that matter are those to which it has black-and-white answers built into an authoritarian structure. But these may not give sustainable life in a world where the understandings and language shaped by Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Enlightenment and industrial revolution in Europe, and in the pre-European and colonial cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand, are mere fading echoes.

Authentic spirituality in this rapidly lurching culture must engage the here and now of life on earth. As post-modern generations fail to find answers built mechanically into traditional religious structures of place and programme to their searching questions, people of faith must be all the more attentive to God who is involved in the whole milieu of life here, now and through to at least the children’s children.

I am sure that religious traditions that humbly practise this attentiveness will be called through a scarily narrow gate from which they will emerge with much less baggage. In Western Christianity, this will mean expressions of church quite unlike those deemed successful from around the sixth to the 20th centuries: vulnerable, even weak, open, questing, hurting, serving, celebrating, witnessing and above all listening in the world at the most intimate, natural, feet-on-ground level, because that’s where God is involved.

At least most who seek to deepen their prayer lives need to journey within a stream of a living, religious tradition. The appropriate tradition for many searchers in the emerging era may look singularly unimpressive by the measure of worldly success, be nakedly honest in struggling with the critical issues looming over life on the planet, be made up entirely of fellow searchers in community, practice a great deal of silence when gathered. There is, of course, no perfect religion or local church: if there was, says an old saying, it wouldn’t have room for me!

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Myths true and false

November 24, 2017

 

Myths are understood here as narratives, both ancient and modern, embodying popular ideas about natural or social phenomena. A myth never defines a deep truth in a verifiably objective manner, nor do its originators make such a claim. Nevertheless, myths (including, for example, the creation myths of all ancient cultural traditions including the Judeo-Christian and Maori) often convey insights into truths deeper than the scientifically verifiable. Yet in this age of confusing abstractions it is all too easy for people at the grassroots to passively accept a myth that conveys verifiable falsehood. This piece of writing describes only one myth said to be “true,” then discusses several popularly spread myths that may not stand up to critical scrutiny.

 

A MYTHIC TRUTH

In the deep core of each of us from conception grows

the seedling of the loveliest truth: life is wondrous.

We emerge breathing delight: embracing, wide-eyed,

immediate unquestioned openness to joy,

love, beauty, grace, wonder, relationships;

pain of course as the necessary obverse of delight,

death to be seen far off in the undreamed future

as the necessary precursor to vibrant new life.

But the new-born’s tiny universe is known to be

embraced, nourished, centred, in the wonder of now.

 

Thus, unlearned, we arrive ready-gifted with the

mythic vocabulary, the inner reality, of early childhood.

Those of us who reckon we’ve outgrown the life-myth

need to observe, truly listen to, small children

if we’re to be reborn in the spirit of truth.

Their wisdom is the wisdom of all the ages.

 

The true mystics, today and since the dawn of human

inquiry, are indeed childlike. They may be hard to find,

not at all famous in the eyes of the world and its institutions

because the invariable trait of those who go really deep,

beneath the smokescreens of the hoped-for but false self

and of trite religiosity, is joyous humility.

 

 

FALSE MYTH 1

Space-time is finite, linear, complete.

 

Nope.

There’s no outer boundary.

Yet this moment in this tiny spot in the universe is the

only one presented to you personally right now.

Read the ancient myths again and the latest in science.

Know that the creation is always in process,

that humankind is a very recent presence in the story of

life’s evolution, that everything, everyone, from sub-atomic

particle to galaxy, the life of topsoil and your life in

partnership-family-neighbourhood-community-society-

work-farm-garden is centred not in individual positions

but in the inner content of relationships.

Know too that “heaven” is not just for “later.”

 

 

FALSE MYTH 2

Gifted faith among us humans is to do with an all-powerful,

supernatural, remote being playing favourites

(only within humankind),

contactable when we feel like it,

occasionally intervening from “out there.”

 

Nope.

How about vulnerable self-giving love: natural, down-to-earth,

here and now, poured out  indiscriminately for all, to be

encountered in all that is natural including all people,

enjoying and caring for all life, graciously inviting our

responsive celebration and sharing, individually and together,

in the same work of the presence of love incarnate in the world?

 

 

FALSE MYTH 3

We humans are supernaturally endowed with unique,

elite status in the universe, each of us having an individual value

in a bell-curve of worth, whether allotted from “on high”

or by trickling down to passive consumers from powers here below.

 

Nope.

Those who seek deep truth using the eye of the soul via

contemplation, whether in a religious tradition

(Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, shamanist, whatever)

or a superficially secular tool like modern mindfulness,

are rendered humble by that truth, knowing the love at the

beginning and end of everything is for each intimately and

all unconditionally.

True mystics rubbish the notion that the leaders

and scholars of at least some religious institutions have,

as it were, supernatural hotlines to the throne of grace

so the rest of us think we can leave the deep stuff to them.

As for elite species status, look and listen to what’s happening

in the vast ecologies of topsoil, forest floor, ocean depth,

bee populations!

Our gifts of freedom, consciousness, language,

are not for our gratification but for sharing and caring

in grateful works of healing, nurture and justice for all people,

indeed the creation. “The environment” is not there mainly for us

to use and admire. It has its own integrity whether our species

is there or not. It’s not “ours” but we are invited to play a special

role as fellow-species within it, acknowledging our duty of care.

 

FALSE MYTH 4

The global behemoth known as The Market can be trusted

to channel growth of sustainable well-being with justice for all, both

the human species and the entire biosphere, through future centuries.

 

Nope

Let’s begin by asking who and what are the drivers of

the mysterious creature called The Economy in the media.

Who is accountable? To whom? Personally and locally, as

experienced by all the people who work, consume, create,

husband resources, nurture family life, under its power?

Are values like health, justice and long vision into future

generations assigned more preciousness than

drivers of fear and greed.

To what extent has monetarism parted company with the

realities of the planet, the quality of all its life, including the

most vulnerable of our species, now and

through the centuries ahead?

Is this thing “The Economy” more real, more earthed,

than a mega-abstraction?

Why the widening inequality gap? Why is excessive gross

consumption encouraged daily by the marketers?

Why is net per-capital debt (household, state, local businesses)

so high? Such questioning will confirm that some influential

leaders, corporations, financiers, politicians and other players

indeed act with reasonable ethics given their unavoidable

constraints. But surely it’s important to the inheritance

of human generations far into the future, indeed to the health

of the whole planet, that such questions are asked,

and the answers debated, at the grassroots of society.

 

FALSE MYTH 5

Science can diagnose all that’s wrong in the

world now and all that threatens life’s fullness in future

generations, offering the seeds of remedies for development

by the wonder-workers of technology.

 

Nope

Science in a historically short recent time has achieved

and continues to achieve wondrous understandings of

“life, the universe and everything.”

As every important piece of research is completed,

more new theories, more questions, more mysteries emerge.

I suggest that there are points at the leading edge of research

calling for meetings of minds and souls between scientists and

true mystics. Mysticism, as understood here, addresses the

really real, the natural world, not supernaturalism.

That, problematic as it is, raises one

caveat to the idea that science merits all-encompassing faith.

A second is raised by posing many of the questions raised

about faith in “The Market.”

To what extent does the funding of science compromise its

integrity as seeker after unbiased truth?

The same question is more obviously answered in respect

to technology.

There’s need for critically informed public forums on this;

a challenge to education, to free journalism and to religion.

© Boyd Wilson 2017

Myths true and false

November 24, 2017

MYTHS TRUE AND FALSE

Myths are understood here as narratives, both ancient and modern, embodying popular ideas about natural or social phenomena. A myth never defines a deep truth in a verifiably objective manner, nor do its originators make such a claim. Nevertheless, myths (including, for example, the creation myths of all ancient cultural traditions including the Judeo-Christian and Maori) often convey insights into truths deeper than the scientifically verifiable. Yet in this age of confusing abstractions it is all too easy for people at the grassroots to passively accept a myth that conveys verifiable falsehood. This piece of writing describes only one myth said to be “true,” then discusses several popularly spread myths that may not stand up to critical scrutiny.

A MYTHIC TRUTH
In the deep core of each of us from conception grows
the seedling of the loveliest truth: life is wondrous.

We emerge breathing delight: embracing, wide-eyed,
immediate unquestioned openness to joy,
love, beauty, grace, wonder, relationships;
pain of course as the necessary obverse of delight,
death to be seen far off in the undreamed future
as the necessary precursor to vibrant new life.
But the new-born’s tiny universe is known to be
embraced, nourished, centred, in the wonder of now.

Thus, unlearned, we arrive ready-gifted with the
mythic vocabulary, the inner reality, of early childhood.
Those of us who reckon we’ve outgrown the life-myth
need to observe, truly listen to, small children
if we’re to be reborn in the spirit of truth.
Their wisdom is the wisdom of all the ages.

The true mystics, today and since the dawn of human
inquiry, are indeed childlike. They may be hard to find,
not at all famous in the eyes of the world and its institutions
because the invariable trait of those who go really deep,
beneath the smokescreens of the hoped-for but false self
and of trite religiosity, is joyous humility.

FALSE MYTH 1
Space-time is finite, linear, complete.

Nope.
There’s no outer boundary.
Yet this moment in this tiny spot in the universe is the
only one presented to you personally right now.
Read the ancient myths again and the latest in science.
Know that the creation is always in process,
that humankind is a very recent presence in the story of
life’s evolution, that everything, everyone, from sub-atomic
particle to galaxy, the life of topsoil and your life in
partnership-family-neighbourhood-community-society-
work-farm-garden is centred not in individual positions
but in the inner content of relationships.
Know too that “heaven” is not just for “later.”

FALSE MYTH 2
Gifted faith among us humans is to do with an all-powerful,
supernatural, remote being playing favourites
(only within humankind),
contactable when we feel like it,
occasionally intervening from “out there.”

Nope.
How about vulnerable self-giving love: natural, down-to-earth,
here and now, poured out indiscriminately for all, to be
encountered in all that is natural including all people,
enjoying and caring for all life, graciously inviting our
responsive celebration and sharing, individually and together,
in the same work of the presence of love incarnate in the world?

FALSE MYTH 3
We humans are supernaturally endowed with unique,
elite status in the universe, each of us having an individual value
in a bell-curve of worth, whether allotted from “on high”
or by trickling down to passive consumers from powers here below.

Nope.
Those who seek deep truth using the eye of the soul via
contemplation, whether in a religious tradition
(Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, shamanist, whatever)
or a superficially secular tool like modern mindfulness,
are rendered humble by that truth, knowing the love at the
beginning and end of everything is for each intimately and
all unconditionally.

True mystics rubbish the notion that the leaders
and scholars of at least some religious institutions have,
as it were, supernatural hotlines to the throne of grace
so the rest of us think we can leave the deep stuff to them.
As for elite species status, look and listen to what’s happening
in the vast ecologies of topsoil, forest floor, ocean depth,
bee populations!

Our gifts of freedom, consciousness, language,
are not for our gratification but for sharing and caring
in grateful works of healing, nurture and justice for all people,
indeed the creation. “The environment” is not there mainly for us
to use and admire. It has its own integrity whether our species
is there or not. It’s not “ours” but we are invited to play a special
role as fellow-species within it, acknowledging our duty of care.

FALSE MYTH 4

The global behemoth known as The Market can be trusted
to channel growth of sustainable well-being with justice for all, both
the human species and the entire biosphere, through future centuries.

Nope
Let’s begin by asking who and what are the drivers of
the mysterious creature called The Economy in the media.
Who is accountable? To whom? Personally and locally, as
experienced by all the people who work, consume, create,
husband resources, nurture family life, under its power?
Are values like health, justice and long vision into future
generations assigned more preciousness than
drivers of fear and greed.

To what extent has monetarism parted company with the
realities of the planet, the quality of all its life, including the
most vulnerable of our species, now and
through the centuries ahead?

Is this thing “The Economy” more real, more earthed,
than a mega-abstraction?
Why the widening inequality gap? Why is excessive gross
consumption encouraged daily by the marketers?
Why is net per-capital debt (household, state, local businesses)
so high? Such questioning will confirm that some influential
leaders, corporations, financiers, politicians and other players
indeed act with reasonable ethics given their unavoidable
constraints. But surely it’s important to the inheritance
of human generations far into the future, indeed to the health
of the whole planet, that such questions are asked,
and the answers debated, at the grassroots of society.

FALSE MYTH 5

Science can diagnose all that’s wrong in the
world now and all that threatens life’s fullness in future
generations, offering the seeds of remedies for development
by the wonder-workers of technology.

Nope
Science in a historically short recent time has achieved
and continues to achieve wondrous understandings of
“life, the universe and everything.”
As every important piece of research is completed,
more new theories, more questions, more mysteries emerge.
I suggest that there are points at the leading edge of research
calling for meetings of minds and souls between scientists and
true mystics. Mysticism, as understood here, addresses the
really real, the natural world, not supernaturalism.
That, problematic as it is, raises one
caveat to the idea that science merits all-encompassing faith.
A second is raised by posing many of the questions raised
about faith in “The Market.”
To what extent does the funding of science compromise its
integrity as seeker after unbiased truth?
The same question is more obviously answered in respect
to technology.
There’s need for critically informed public forums on this;
a challenge to education, to free journalism and to religion.

© Boyd Wilson 2017

Dusting off Teilhard

November 3, 2017

DUSTING OFF TEILHARD
Boyd Wilson
I was moved to turn back half a century to Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) by a rash of writers declaring that the life of this planet has quite recently jumped irrecoverably from the Holocene epoch (beginning with early human moves from nomadic hunting-gathering to settled tilling and trading thousands of years before Abraham and Sarah enter the narrative of faith, trekking from early civilization in search of space, simplicity) to the Anthropocene (meaning one species, ours, is saddled as never before with near-absolute power over and responsibility for the future of the entire web of life on Earth through the millennia ahead). Jesuit palaeontologist Teilhard, whose writing in the first half of the 20th Century was suppressed by the timid Church until after his death, was a key figure for me, helping blow away the distorting screens of both religiosity and blinkered science early in my earthed quest for the really real.
I’m excited afresh by the prescient depth, breadth and relevance to today’s pressing issues of the man’s insights – scientific, poetic, philosophic and spiritual. Well worth revisiting! I’ll tack on below a few brief quotes, most from “The Phenomenon of Man.” I’m deliberately downplaying Teilhard’s profound theology and inner life because I believe it important that scientific thinkers – physicists, ecologists, cosmologists and the legion of other seekers of truth, all encountering mystery but too-seldom seeing relevance in religious faith traditions – should engage him with open minds.
Teilhard, writing in the 1940s, would, I think, be amazed and disturbed (as well as feeling the justification of a true prophet) if he were to learn of what’s been happening in the accelerating story of Planet Earth in the mere flicker (in the context of his worldview spanning tens of thousands of years) of the last seven decades:
• The trebling of the human population.
• The exponential growth of scientific and technological knowledge, global media and so on.
• The neoliberal market economy’s rise as object of faith, arrogant in insistence that the creation exists primarily to serve our species, mining the biosphere as a right, blind to a future beyond the next couple or so human generations.
• The individualism and yawing inequality-gap, in stark contrast with Teilhard’s vision of homogenization.
• The serious possibility of biosphere collapse in the next few short centuries, with our species not only culprit but also among those to be disempowered if not rendered extinct.
• The dismal news (given that the key human trait in Teilhard’s somewhat optimistic plotting of the evolution of Homo sapiens was THOUGHT) of the shallow depth and short vision of recent democratic mandates in the US, UK and many other countries including New Zealand.
• The fragmentation, inward-looking self-justifications and apparent loss of confidence (in the view of most of humankind outside it) of what Christians claimed for many centuries as one Church: united, holy, inclusive and sent out as sower of the seeds of good news for all.
• … and more.

Teilhard is still occasionally said to sail a bit too close to pantheism – belief that every earthed thing is God and God is everything. Not at all! Teilhard the Jesuit was, of course, imbued in his formation with the Ignatian imperative to “Seek and find God in all things.” Along with a host of the wonderful contemplatives in each of the 20+ centuries of the story of Christ-centred faith, he held the intimate presence in tension with the infinite, thus, “God is further than everything and deeper than everything, and present in everything.”

He toys in passing with eugenics as (a bit too optimistically in my opinion) he looks to the fullness of what he claims to be the ascendency of the human involvement in creation in the final consummation of his Christic Omega Point. I think can let that go as a brief conjecture.

Teilhard reignites in me a yearning for a great surge of ecumenism in the world. The need is far deeper and wider than polite conversations between leaders of Christian denominations. The word “ecumenical” is rooted in the Greek oukumene, meaning the whole inhabited Earth. Thus, I suggest, respectful listening to one another in conversations involving not only all spiritual traditions but also the true sciences from quantum to ecology, sociology and cosmology, technologies, education. The surge must first be generated not from the top down but from the grassroots up, in neighbourhoods, pubs, school rooms, breaking through barriers with social media. The starting point, I think, is as simple as the common feeling that, for all the great progressions in these times, something just seems to be wrong when we share in trying to look with hope for sustainable justice for all the planet’s life including all humankind beyond the next few human generations.

Teilhard’s Christology is deeply centred, but broad and robust enough to engage folk of other faiths, even agnostics and self-proclaimed atheists. He and his ilk have certainly challenged, deepened, broadened and energised my stumbling contemplative centring through the decades. I’ve resolved to leave it at that in hope that readers may not, assuming mere religiosity, decline to engage the mind and heart of this prophet for our times. To Christians and other seekers wishing to pursue Teilhard’s specific Christology after reading “The Phenomenon of Man” I commend other work of his including “Le Milieu Divin” (English translation 1960) and “The Mass on the World” in “Hymn of the Universe” (1965).

Brief quotes to encourage others to read Teilhard
(In choosing them I am not necessarily agreeing.)

“The biological change of state terminating in the awakening of thought does not represent merely a critical point that the individual or even the species must pass through. Vaster than that, it affects life itself in its organic totality, and consequently it marks a transformation affecting the state of the entire planet.” (p.181)

“What has made us in four or five generations so different from our forebears … so ambitious, and so worried, is not merely that we have discovered and mastered the other forces of nature. … it is … that we have become conscious of the movement which is carrying us along, and have thereby realised the formidable problems set us …” (p.215)

“Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.” (p.219)

“Man is not the centre of the universe as once we thought in our simplicity, but something much more wonderful – the arrow pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of life. … we see that the further advance of the vital wave beyond us depends on how industrially we use those powers.” (P.224f)

“Zoologically speaking, mankind offers us the unique spectacle of achieving something in which all previous species had failed … stretching a single organized membrane over the earth without breaking it … , a completely new mode of phylogenesis.” (P.241ff)

“Of old, the forerunners of our chemists strove to find the philosophers’ stone. Our ambition …. Is no longer to find gold but life. … We are faced with a harmonized collectivity of consciousnesses equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness.” (p.249ff)

“…. The great human machine is designed to work, and must work, by producing a super-abundance of mind. … if it produces only matter, this means that it has gone into reverse.” (p.257)

“The goal of ourselves, the acme of our originality, is not our originality but our person; … we can only find our person by uniting together.” (p.263)

“Considered in its full biological reality, love – that is to say the affinity of being with being – is not peculiar to man. … Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. … Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as complete and fulfil them …” (p.264f)

“ … science … was born of the curiosity of dreamers and idlers. … living in a world which it can justly be said to have revolutionized, it has acquired a social status; sometimes it is even worshipped. … Less is provided annually for all the pure research all over the world than for one capital ship. Surely our great-grandsons will not be wrong if they think of us as barbarians.” (p.279).

“Neither in in its impetus nor its achievements can science go to its limits without being tinged with mysticism and charged with faith.” (p.284)

“Is the Kingdom of God a big family? Yes, in a sense it is. But in another sense it is a prodigious biological operating – that of the Redeeming Incarnation.” (p.293)

“To be able to say literally to God that one loves him, not only with all one’s body, all one’s heart and all one’s soul, but with every fibre of the unifying universe – that is a prayer that can only be made in space-time.” (p.297)

And finally, from Pensee 76 in “Hymn of the Universe”, “The world can no more have two summits of fulfilment than a circumference can have two centres.”

(Page numbers from the 1959 English translation of “The Phenomenon of Man” with introduction by Julian Huxley).

Sacramental Connection with Everything

June 21, 2017

Sacramental Connection with Everything

Instutions, individuals, land, community

April 25, 2017

Institutions, individuals, communication

Creed

December 20, 2016

Challenged to clarify the bottom line of my Christian belief rather than sit on the fence critically listing what I don’t believe, I came up with this.

creed

When is prayer real?

May 9, 2013

“If you want to pray,” wrote Evagrius of Pontus more than 16 centuries ago, “you need God, who gives prayer.”
Prayer is understood as the inner content of a real, mutual relationship between a person or group and the Infinite Other. So merely labeling a text or activity as prayer does not mean it is any such thing. It may be as removed from true communion as masturbation from lovemaking; perhaps harmless and pleasant but not engaged in any movement toward ultimate truth and wholeness.
(From “With our feet on the ground,” by Boyd Wilson, 2012)

Easter learning from cats

April 14, 2013

Just when we think we’ve got you sussed
as we wander our garden in sedate self-comfort
you jump out at us from
behind the least likely bushes
yelling “Yo! Get a life!”

I’ve lived with cats like that all my life,
with mutual enjoyment
both comfort and disruption,
and never owned one.

Another thing about cats:
they purr and rub
on laps I wouldn’t
be seen dead on.

From “With our Feet on the Ground,” meditations, poems, Psalm reflections and essay, by Boyd Wilson (paperback from the author and on-line stores e.g. Amazon.com).

February 13, 2010

"With our feet on the ground" (click on page at right)

memoir