Monday, September 19, 2011
Blessed Are You, Mystical Matter!
Teilhard De Chardin was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of both Piltdown Man and Peking Man. Teilhard conceived the idea of the Omega Point and developed Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of Noosphere. Some of his ideas came into conflict with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and several of his books were censured. (Wikipedia)
For Teilhard de Chardin, matter is divine. It is the clay from which God shapes creation over great spans of time. Matter is the support for God’s Revelation and Christ’s Incarnation. Incarnation symbolizes the human face of God. Evolution is Spirit-in-process, working to awaken to itself. Humanity holds a special place in Teilhard's cosmology, because we represent the axis of evolution itself.
This fits perfectly with a physical science idea of Potential Energy (process) or Source, Energy or Spirit, and Matter or Incarnate Spirit. These living energy states are Trinitarian and they constitute an integrative understanding of both the divine and physical nature of reality.
Teilhard De Chardin’s extended reflection on the nature of spirit and matter which he based on the story of Elijah, beginning with 2 Kings 2:9-13:
9And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 10And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. 11And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. 13He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
Teilhard De Chardin continues the story… from HYMN TO MATTER (Hymn of the Universe)
The Man fell to his knees in the chariot of fire which carried him.
And he said this:
"Blessed be you, harsh matter, barren soil, stubborn rock: you who yield only to violence, you who force us to work if we would eat.
'Blessed be you, perilous matter, violent sea, untameable passion: you who unless we fetter you will devour us.
‘Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.
‘Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God.
‘Blessed be you, impenetrable matter: you who, interposed between our minds and the world of essences, cause us to languish with the desire to pierce through the seamless veil of phenomena.
‘Blessed be you, mortal matter: you who one day will undergo the process of dissolution within us and will thereby take us forcibly into the very heart of that which exists.
‘Without you, without your onslaughts, without your uprootings of us, we should remain all our lives inert, stagnant, puerile, ignorant both of ourselves and of God. You who batter us and then dress our wounds, you who resist us and yield to us, you who wreck and build, you who shackle and liberate, the sap of our souls, the hand of God, the flesh of Christ: it is you, matter, that I bless.
‘I bless you, matter, and you I acclaim: not as the pontiffs of science or the moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured — a mass of brute forces and base appetites — but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature.
‘You I acclaim as the inexhaustible potentiality for existence and transformation wherein the predestined substance germinates and grows.
‘I acclaim you as the universal power which brings together and unites, through which the multitudinous monads are bound together and in which they all converge on the way of the spirit.
‘I acclaim you as the melodious fountain of water whence spring the souls of men and as the limpid crystal whereof is fashioned the new Jerusalem.
‘I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word.
‘Sometimes, thinking they are responding to your irresistible appeal, men will hurl themselves for love of you into the exterior abyss of selfish pleasure-seeking: they are deceived by a reflection or by an echo.
‘This I now understand.
‘If we are ever to reach you, matter, we must, having first established contact with the totality of all that lives and moves here below, come little by little to feel that the individual shapes of all we have laid hold on are melting away in our hands, until finally we are at grips with the single essence of all subsistencies and all unions.
‘If we are ever to possess you, having taken you rapturously in our arms, we must then go on to sublimate you through sorrow.
‘Your realm comprises those serene heights where saints think to avoid you — but where your flesh is so transparent and so agile as to be no longer distinguishable from spirit.
‘Raise me up then, matter, to those heights, through struggle and separation and death; raise me up until, at long last, it becomes possible for me in perfect chastity to embrace the universe.’
Down below on the desert sands, now tranquil again, someone was weeping and calling out: ‘My Father, my Father! What wild wind can this be that has borne him away?’
And on the ground there lay a cloak.
Entire text here: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=1621&C=1537
Gen 2:19, 6. Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. Then the LORD God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, …27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Human is derived from the word humus or soil. Adam, from the masculine form of the word adamah meaning ground or earth and related to the words adom (red), We are, as all of the living, breathing cosmosphere, material life forms created from organic matter in harmony with this beautiful blue organism we call “Earth.” We are human before any other label we may call ourselves. We are humans, stewards of life, co-creators with Source, Imago Dei. May the blessing, and the responsibility, of this identity keep you in the mighty and fragile flow of Grace! Peggy
Comment: Every one of Teilhard De Chardin's blessings and praises of Matter is a discussion of the "realities" that living incarnate produces. This phrase has always struck my own heart: "If we are ever to possess you, having taken you rapturously in our arms, we must then go on to sublimate you through sorrow."
I would love to hear your comments!
Artwork: Elijah's Mantle recording artists, album cover Psalms from Invocations 1998