A Cosmic Spirituality for a New Theology; Teilhard de Chardin’s Evolutionary Journey to Omega Christ

02/06/2015Print This Post

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In the first half of the 20th century (1881-1955), a French Jesuit priest, Fr. Teilhard de Chardin SJ, combined his theological, philosophical and scriptural studies with a growing interest in the structure of rocks and fossils (geology), the material aspects of the universe (paleontology) and in the far distant origins, evolution and ultimate purpose and end of the universe (cosmology).

Journey to Omega Christ 02His work combines religion, spirituality and science in a comprehensive, harmonious and dynamic  whole. It portrays a deep spiritual vision of the interior unity, complexity, diversity and evolving consciousness of all creation and the whole universe with God. It portrays God as still actively involved in creating His universe and guiding all humanity forwards and upwards in ever evolving and deepening consciousness towards Himself.

Evolving human consciousness refers to one’s level of self-awareness and one’s relatedness to others, to the whole of creation and to God. It refers to one’s inner ability to act freely and not compulsively, to be fully alive with joy and hope for the future and openness to infinite possibilities in the evolution from matter to spirit to full unity with Omega God.

For Chardin, ‘Evolution is a light illuminating all facts’ about the universe and its relationship with God. Chardin combines science and religion into a form of mysticism that sheds an ever deepening understanding and spiritual illumination on both.

Journey to Omega Christ 03Chardin’s comprehensive vision (‘an impassioned vision of the earth’; Chardin) was birthed in the inhumanity of the First World War. Chardin refused a commission as an officer, his entitlement as a priest, and chose instead to serve as a stretcher-bearer with a mostly Muslim regiment. Within that vision he likened the world-changing ‘harnessing for God the energies of Love’ with the ancient, world-changing discovery of fire. Both can radiate massive energy. The recognition of God’s unconditional and eternal love would set the world on fire with a new, divine energy infusing the actions of men and women.

Chardin developed a new way of understanding the evolution of the cosmos. However, the Vatican and his Jesuit superiors, overreacting to the anti-religion extremes of 18th century Enlightenment, were antagonistic towards evolutionary theory. His work on Original Sin was deemed by them to be in error. They had a radically different world vision from Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and thus forbad him to publish any further work to avoid the possibility of future theological error. Chardin responded with complete obedience throughout the whole of his life time.

However, his all-encompassing theory of evolution, perhaps better described as a cosmic vision for the whole universe and crafted in his various writings published after his death, now seems to have much to offer religion in general, and Christian theology, spirituality and ecology in particular, in spite of its complexity and specialised terminology. His vision is the basis of a new theology,  spirituality and ecology, often coming through other movements. His ideas have been quoted and used by Pope St. John Paul 11, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, and many others, including the well known blogger and spiritual author Fr. Richard Rohr OFM (founder of Centre for Action and Contemplation). I suspect it will shine through much of Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on climate change.

Chardin’s wider and deep vision of evolution reflects the universal Christology of St. Paul, especially in his letter to the Church at Colossae (1:15); “He (Christ) is the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and earth.”  It also reflects the mysticism of John the Evangelist; ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God….Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him.’ (John 1:1& 2).  A brief exposition of the relevant theologies of these two New Testament writers will help reveal the scriptural foundation of much of Chardin’s complex and comprehensive vision of evolution – a vision which he sees as underlying all theories about Jesus the Christ, creation, the universe and evolution.

St. Paul sees creation, not as something completed and static, but as ‘groaning in labour pains’ (Romans 8:22) as it slowly comes to birth and progresses on its long journey to maturity. He sees the resurrection of Jesus as bringing about the eventual resurrection of all humanity and all of creation in Himself; ‘…the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.’ (St. Paul to the Ephesians 1:23). Within the divine unity of creation, reflecting the divine unity of spirit and matter within Jesus the Christ, Paul sees no distinction between peoples; “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).  There will be no exceptions! St. Paul compares Jesus the Christ to Adam, saying that since the sin of Adam caused the death of all humanity, so “in Christ all will be brought to life.” (1Cor. 15:21). Note the ‘all’, which allows of no exceptions. Jesus the Christ is the cosmic Saviour of all creation – material and spiritual.  Through Him all creation will be restored fully and eventually by God. “Then he will send the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:20)

The mysticism of John the Evangelist is reflected in Chardin’s portrayal of the sense of consciousness of God’s presence and self-communication within all humanity, creating a divine union between Creator and created and between all created being and all of creation – the human and material universe; “Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make a home in him.” (John 14:23 and Ch. 24).  John often refers to God abiding in us and we in Him; “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” (John 6:56). It is not that we and God are one and the same person but that, while remaining distinct, God abides intimately within everyone He creates and they within Him. Every human being is thus essentially a divine spirit, inhabiting a human body for a while before transforming through death to be eternally and spiritually present with God. This is what some theologians call ‘a communion of will and action’, an immanent presence in a community of life and love and through programmes reaching out in mercy and practical love to others. It is Love that holds the community together. Chardin’s work incorporates John’s mysticism of God’s love (c.f. John’s great odes to God’s love in 1John 4:7-10 & John 15:9-17); ‘God is the unlimited depth of love of all that is, a love that overflows into new life.’ (Chardin).

Journey to Omega Christ 04The creation of the universe commenced, according to modern scientific estimates, around fourteen to 16 billion years ago.  According to Teilhard de Chardin it has been evolving from the very beginning in complexity, unity-in-diversity, inter-dependence and consciousness. Complexity is material complexity. Unity is the unity of matter and spirit into life, unity of inner-consciousness of the self and outer-consciousness of the fundamental relationship of self to all others and to the whole universe and finally to unity of intimate fellowship between Creator and all of His creation – the ultimate Omega Point of evolution.

Teilhard de Chardin posited the view that the world as we know it has been, and still is, evolving and expanding onwards, outwards and upwards to Omega God, the cosmic Christ. Omega was a term used by the evangelist John when he refers to Jesus in his New Testament Book of Revelation (1:18) as “the Alpha and the Omega….who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” For Chardin, this Omega Point is the eternal Christ of divine revelation in whom and to whom all evolution is moving. This point of convergence will reach perfection in the Parousia, the perfect realisation of the Kingdom of God, when Jesus the Christ returns to earth in all His glory, bringing forth the perfect unity of God and humankind, spirit and matter, sacred and secular, Creator and all that He created.

Evolution, for Chardin, is not a blind or mindless process. He sees it as a divinely guided process of creation-in-progress rather than creation completed and now static. His is a dynamic understanding of God. It is of a God intimately, continuously and lovingly involved with ongoing creation and humanity. The mystery of the incarnation is that in Jesus the spiritual and material dimensions of the universe co-exist in perfect harmony. To that Omega point of perfect harmony – “what we are to be in the future” (1John 3:2) – all creation is evolving and unfolding. Jesus of Nazareth, eternal and Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became the cosmic, universal Christ within all creation and for all time through His death, resurrection and ascension. Those three acts gave universality, unity, freedom and complexity, powered by love and the indwelling Spirit, to the future trajectory of evolution. The evolutionary development of the world will bring all humanity and all of creation to recognition of that divine Presence and the power of love. Chardin talked of ‘the holiness of evolution’.

Chardin developed a cosmic theology of Jesus the Christ, to match, or balance, the important human aspects of incarnational theology; “The image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” (Paul in Colossians 1:15). The ‘cosmic Christ’ is Christ at one with, and intimately involved in, His universe. Chardin’s evolutionary vision is more about the evolution of universal human consciousness and ‘the interior of things’ – the essence of matter and of the human and material milieu that unites all creation – than about the evolution of ‘the exterior of things’ – as in Darwinian evolutionary theory. However he saw all matter as having the potential to evolve into more complex and divergent states of being (which he terms ‘cosmogenesis’), with increasing levels of consciousness. Chardin’s vision of evolution embraces the whole of the cosmos, the whole of creation, the whole of humanity and the whole human person – matter, mind and spirit. For Chardin, humanity is not a passive receptacle of evolutionary processes but an active participant in them. Where he alive today he might add that human beings sometimes seriously damage nature and thwart its divine purpose by their sinful greed and ecological ignorance or indifference.  Chardin sees evolution as a dynamic movement forwards and upwards to Christ, and the whole of creation as being in a continuing process of evolutionary development – creation in process of becoming, of becoming again one-with-God.

Teilhard de Chardin’s vision for the universe is full of hope. It is deeply embedded in the material world he studied so carefully and in the God He served so faithfully. His knowledge of the Bible and his experience of the sacramental life of the Catholic Church were an integral part of that vision. Chardin’s spirituality is one of full engagement with the world and joy in its materiality. At the incarnation materiality became the tabernacle of God Among Us. He understands God to be fully, actively and eternally present in the world, in both its spiritual and material dimensions, in the ‘innerness’ and ‘outerness’ of things. Within that presence God is eternally transforming and redeeming creation, increasing the spiritualisation of matter, the material grounding of spirituality and the deepening of human consciousness.

Journey to Omega Christ 05Chardin understood matter as evolving into life and inner consciousness, and human life and  inner consciousness into personal and universal ‘at-one-ness’ with Jesus the Christ –spiritual consciousness – the Omega point of evolving creation.  For Chardin, inner consciousness becomes integrated thinking, the conscious layer of creation which spreads or evolves around the earth like its physical atmosphere and unites people (the world wide web?). He terms this layer the ‘noosphere’. Human consciousness enables the whole of creation to become aware of itself. This is not pantheism, a belief that God and the created universe are one and the same thing. It is a belief in God as soteriologically infusing the world with His divine presence. God is the ultimate reality underlying and supporting the whole of creation.  In Buddhism this is termed ‘Aum’, in Hindiusm ‘brahman’, in Judaism ‘Shekinah’ and in Christianity ‘The Kingdom of God’. For Teilhard de Chardin it is Omega; “Omega, He towards whom all converges, is concurrently He from whom all radiates. Impossible to place Him as a focus at the summit of the universe, without at the same time diffusing His presence in the intimate heart of the smallest movement of evolution.” (Chardin).  When that complete convergence occurs, the Kingdom of God will have reached its full perfection on earth.

The whole of creation is permeated by the active presence of God, its creator, whose Holy Spirit ultimately guides the evolutionary process towards completeness in God, its original and continuing Creator. Chardin sees creation as it was poetically described by the Jesuit poet Gerard Manly Hopkins: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” The great hope contained in Chardin’s vision is that, while human sin draws humankind away from God, the resurrection of Jesus will eventually win-back all creation to God and restore the primal relationship of Creator and created, to the relationship intended by God at the first moment of creation; when God looked at what he had created “He saw that it was good” (Genesis); “for God so love the world” (John 3:16)

For Chardin the expansion of the universe is not a geographical expansion into outer space but rather an expansion into an increasing range of as yet unknown dimensions, from the current five dimensions of time, space-length, space-breadth, space-depth and the still not universally recognised spiritual dimension of the universe, to other, perhaps more complex, dimensions. (Modern superstring theory posits ten such dimensions.) Only the spiritual dimension, through the silence of contemplation, can ‘learn’ otherwise unknown truths, make one aware of God’s inner presence throughout all creation and bring peace and healing to the soul. These dimensions govern the universe and the laws of nature. Omega Christ is the Essential Unity holding all creation in all its dimensions and complexity together. He is at the heart of all matter, within what Chardin terms a ‘divine milieu’, a concept flowing from St. Paul’s vision of Jesus the Christ as “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

For Chardin, mature spirituality is full engagement with the world, not hiding from it. It is engagement with matter, not despising it as sinful but as infused with the very presence of God. Humankind evolved from matter and it is through the consciousness of humankind that the universe observes itself. Humanity is ‘the axis and arrow of evolution’ (Chardin). Spirit and matter, soul and body, are two dimensions of the one reality, two dimensions in harmonious relationship with each other, with others, with the whole of creation and with God. The spirit component infusing matter propels it towards ever greater integration and ever higher forms of consciousness towards Omega Christ. In biblical/Hebrew terms, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit – of the Presence of God within matter.

This is very different from those aspects of ancient Egyptian and Greek philosophy and cosmology  – the Platonic dualism dividing matter and spirit from each other, body from soul. This division was later adopted by St. Augustine and had a dominant influence on the moral theology of the Church from the 4th century onwards. It permeated much Church ethics and spirituality, and still does. In that philosophy spirit and matter are seen as at constant war with each other within the human person; changing and inferior matter warring against unchanging and superior spirit. Matter (bodily functions) was seen as intrinsically evil, the source of all sin. It imprisoned the soul. Independent spirit (mind, consciousness and soul), on the other hand, was the source of all goodness. ‘While we are in the body, and while the soul is infected with the evils of the body, our desire will not be satisfied. And our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us because of the mere requirement of food.’ (Plato’s Phaedo).  Hence the material body and its functions, especially its feelings, emotions and sexual drive, were to be feared and despised and constantly disciplined, even to the point of flagellation.
Journey to Omega Christ 06aChardin’s conception of the universe is very different. He sees matter and spirit as a dynamic unity of two elements in intimate relationship with each other, each infused with the divine and each contributing the grace of its own unique charisms. Chardin, for example, would never have seen the bodily materiality of sexual activity within a faithful relationship as something verging on the sinful, as did St. Augustine, and hence ontologically inferior to virginity and celibacy. He would have seen it as a reavowal of a couples’ covenant love and need for each other, as participation in the divine creativity of God which both creates new life and creates and reflects the love which is the divine energy binding all human life together. ‘God is the unlimited depth of love of all that is, a love that overflows into new life.’ (Chardin). Chardin’s position reflects that of the Bible wherein there is no cosmological antithesis between matter and spirit. Humanity (spirit and matter), created in the image of God, is redeemed by God incarnating Himself into the material matter of the universe which He had created ‘and saw that it was good’ (Genesis) and calling everyone into a fellowship of unconditional love with Him and with each other. Pope Francis colourfully describes this full involvement in the life of the material universe as taking on ‘the smell of the sheep’.

As men and women evolved in consciousness of their individual personhood, they also evolved into universal socialised beings. They evolved into needing each other in a way reflective of the divine Trinitarian community of Creativity (Father), Love (Holy Spirit) and Relationship (Son). These individual (personal) and universal (community) aspects of evolving creation and human consciousness will eventually converge into the Omega point of all evolution, into Christ Himself. The energy propelling and directing that evolutionary process is Love, eventually making itself known in Jesus the Christ as eternal, unconditional love, as the love which says “I shall not forget you. Look, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16). That was the love of father for his prodigal son, the love demonstrated by the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s spirituality is thoroughly grounded in God and in the material reality of His universe, in the human body and in all aspects of human existence. He sees all humanity and every dimension and aspect of the universe as infused or divinised with the transforming presence of God and as having an inward, evolutionary movement towards God, its Omega point of fulfillment and complete transformation. His vision is of a universe that is dynamic and evolving, not static and unchanging. It is inter-connected, a universe groping its way forward and upwards through trial and error, sin and grace. That vision has major implications for Catholic spirituality, theology and ecology (human and environmental), particularly its view of the nature and purpose of Church, its view of Natural Law, the degree of prominence given to issues of justice and ecology and the way it understands its Sacred Tradition – a continuity that allows development, a Sacred Tradition that grows by incorporating sacred evolution of beliefs and practices through listening to the voice of the whole Church, in whom God resides. The teachings on biblical inspiration and inerrancy will also need to be revisited, as God’s revelations to humanity were in step with the evolution of humanity’s moral and religious understanding. God is forever drawing our understanding of  Himself forwards, outwards and upwards to Omega Christ.

Jesus the Christ is at the centre and apex of the evolving universe. His divine love gives it meaning, purpose and direction as we are drawn imperceptibly into God’s eternal and unconditional love in Omega Christ. A major result of Jesus the Christ being the Cosmic Christ is that every human being, in whom He resides and through whom He continues His evolving creation and universal redemption, is thus a cosmic and divine person too – a central and intrinsic part of the whole material universe while throbbing with divine life and the divine energy of the Spirit.

Meditation on God’s Word in the Bible, the silent prayer of contemplation (transformation and understanding without words and thoughts) and practical love and mercy for others are ancient ways for each of us to be at one with the cosmic evolution of all creation. They aid our final, eternal and perfect transformation and incorporation into cosmic Christ, foreshadowed now in Eucharist – Christ’s programme of strengthening us to outreach to others in mercy and practical, loving actions, especially to the poor, marginalised and downtrodden.

The role of Christianity, and other world religions, is for their individual members, and the faith community as a body, to reveal to all humankind – through the love, joy and hope that radiate from their lives – the inner divine Presence and all encompassing divine Love, as they ‘proclaim the Good News to all creation’ (Mark 16:15) and grope their pilgrim way onwards, outwards and upwards to Omega Christ.

Aidan Hart 180

More can be found out about Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s vision of evolution in his major works, published after his death:  The Divine Milieu (1927), The Vision of the Past (1935), Building the Earth (1937), The Phenomena of Man (1940), and The Future of Man (1941).

Comments

13 Responses to “A Cosmic Spirituality for a New Theology; Teilhard de Chardin’s Evolutionary Journey to Omega Christ”
  1. Martin Murray says:

    “His (Chardin’s) vision is of a universe that is dynamic and evolving, not static and unchanging. It is inter-connected, a universe groping its way forward and upwards through trial and error, sin and grace. That vision has major implications for Catholic spirituality, theology and ecology (human and environmental), particularly its view of the nature and purpose of Church, its view of Natural Law, the degree of prominence given to issues of justice and ecology and the way it understands its Sacred Tradition – a continuity that allows development, a Sacred Tradition that grows by incorporating sacred evolution of beliefs and practices through listening to the voice of the whole Church, in whom God resides.”

    Its too bad that too many in the church consider our teaching to be carved in stone. They need to be reminded by Chardin’s work that that stone is evolving and so must our theology.

    Thank you for this timely article in light of the much anticipated new encyclical on the environment.

    • Justina says:

      There is no room for evolving Christology. We are to keep the faith delivered once and for all to the Apostles, which was defined (not invented not developed) in answer to the heretics who challenged it.

      Teilhard’s Omega point is not Jesus Christ.

  2. soconaill says:

    “His (de Chardin’s) work on Original Sin was deemed by them (the Vatican and his Jesuit superiors) to be in error.”

    This caught my attention, Aidan. How exactly did de Chardin’s account of evolution try to integrate Catholic teaching on original sin – and what exactly was the point of disagreement by the church establishment?

    And does the doctrine of original sin depend upon the historical facticity of a first couple, Adam and Eve, who sinned exactly as described in Genesis?

    Recently Cardinal Pell in defending Genesis is reported to have described it as theological myth. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/adam-and-eve-thats-just-mythology-says-pell/story-e6frg6nf-1226322379822

    If this is so, surely an understanding of original sin as involving an historical act of deliberate defiance of a direct order of God must be abandoned?

    So what would happen to De Chardin’s ‘take’ on original sin if it were stated today?

  3. soconaill says:

    Just as I have misgivings about an ‘evolutionism’ that excludes the possibility of God, I have misgivings about what might be called ‘divine evolutionism’ also. Yes, it’s important to hope that we humans can overcome those shortcomings that currently so depress us (corruption, violence, exploitation of the weak, environmental vandalism) but is there a danger in supposing that human success is inevitable, that the divine evolutionary plan will carry us through, whatever, so not to worry?

    I too can amaze myself with macrocosmic evolutionary speculation, but doesn’t that become mere escapism when we are faced with the deepest experiential trauma – e.g. the death of someone very close, or news of a possibly terminal illness. At such times I lapse into a state of foetal dependence upon the umbilical cord of prayer: meditation upon the grandeur of creation and evolution simply wouldn’t be anywhere near my ‘to do’ or even ‘possible’ list.

    So I sometimes wonder about the practical importance of ‘divine evolutionism’. When we do it are we merely ‘getting off’ on an intellectual rhapsody in ‘soft’ times which will simply evaporate when push comes to shove?

    • Aidan says:

      Thank you Soconaill.
      Teilhard’s article on Original Sin was given to a Jesuit colleague and then mysteriously found its way to Rome years later. As far as I know the content of the article has never been revealed by the Jesuit Order or the Vatican so I can’t say what exactly was the point of disagreement. As you know, the Vatican at that time was fighting Modernism. I think Teilhard’s article and evolutionary way of thinking got caught up in that battle.

      The doctrine on Original Sin used to be closely bound up with the belief that the Bible’s account of creation in the first three chapters of Genesis had to be believed as objective history. However, St. Pope John Paul 2nd, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and most modern Catholic scripture scholars would accept Adam and Eve and the Genesis account of creation as a parable, based on such well-known popular mythological/folk stories at the time the oral tradition of Genesis came into being, as the Atrahasis Epic, The Epic of Gilgamesh and Enuma Elish. Early oral accounts of Genesis chapters 1-3 date back to around the 10th century BC. These were later redacted in post-exilic times by the priestly class in Jerusalem into what we have today in our Bible. The author(s) and redactors of Genesis adapted important aspects of the above Mesopotamian myths to fit what God wanted to reveal to humankind at that time. Later times would see further evolutionary developments. That is an ongoing evolutionary process.
      You will find more on Original Sin, Evolution and Teilhard de Chardin at a Jesuit website, which also deals with Teilhard’s ‘take on original sin’;
      https://whosoeverdesires.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/evolution-and-original-sin-the-problem-of-evil/
      I think the articles on the above website might also answer your second concern about ‘divine evolutionism’. Teilhard certainly believed in the existence of sin and evil. He could hardly do otherwise after his experiences as a stretcher bearer during some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the First World War. The final incorporation of all creation into Omega Christ at the Parousia does not mean that there will be no evil or suffering along the way or that it has no effect on the intermediary evolutionary processes. But not on its final outcome into Omega Christ.

      • Justina says:

        Consider this: Genesis is not Mesopotamian mythology reworked. Indeed, it is far too terse and sane for that. Mesopotamian mythology is a warped version of the truth, which was preserved in the records of one family which Abraham came from, and supplemented by God.

  4. soconaill says:

    Fighting ‘Modernism’ – the night-time hydra of the ‘pull up the drawbridge against modernity’ brigade. Yes, Aidan, it makes sense that Teilhard would have suffered from that hysteria, which almost torpedoed Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) also.

    That Jesuit article is a keeper too Aidan. You are an amazing reference point for questions that have been in my head for ages.

    Irish bishops are meanwhile throwing the ‘Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults’ at us, which seems to me to imply that our bishops are still committed to Adam and Eve as historical characters. The same trope recurred in their document ‘the meaning of marriage’. Which of them will first face open questions on all of this, I wonder?

    I am much impressed by the possibility of thinking of original sin as ‘unfinishedness’. And for me this is present psychologically in our tendency both to doubt our own value and to seek reassurance from ‘the world’ – that social context which always exploits this weakness by dangling all sorts of ‘glittering prizes’ in front of us.

    What you have told me seems to be telling me: ‘it’s OK to think like that’ – so I am most grateful.

    • Aidan says:

      Thank you soconaill

      Part of the ‘glittering prize’ you refer to is the mistaken belief that we now possess all Truth, so further change or development within the Catholic Church is, at best, unnecessary, at worst harmful to the Deposit of Faith. It is also based on a mistaken belief that the current Deposit of Faith has been in existence from the very beginning and so never changed or grew, that the world is not evolving, circumstances are not changing, new and unforeseen problems are not arising which need new solutions, no old problems persist without a realistic and just solution, and no new developments are taking place in the study of theological, biblical, spiritual and human sciences.

      That sacrilegious worship of ‘feeling secure by holding on indiscriminately to all of the past’ and refusing to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep the Church moving on with hope and relevance into the future and to what He will reveal to us there – which might be an enhanced way of understand a past revelation, – is also part of Original Sin.

      It holds us in incompleteness. Had the early Church Fathers and Mothers taken that view in the first few centuries after the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, we would not have much of what we believe in today. To take one example from the liturgical season we are in, we would not have the foundational belief in One God as Trinity of Three Persons in a divine community of love. That was only confirmed in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD, expanded and completed in 360 AD at the Council of Constantinople. Much debate and accusations of heresy preceded those Councils over a period of more than 200 years, some of the latter accusations made no doubt by those resistant to change.

      That same resistance to change can be seen today in a number of Cardinals and Bishops coming together to resist any movement by Pope Francis at the forthcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, scheduled for October. A number of priests around the world have also signed letters to Pope Francis to that effect. And all Pope Francis seems of a mind to do at this stage in our evolutionary journey to Omega Christ is not to change doctrine but to have it applied with mercy and compassion. That seems too much for those whose inner security is wedded to the questionable certainties of the past and the rigid application of ‘Law without mercy’. They fail to trust the Holy Spirit acting through the initiative of Pope Francis and the current voice of the whole People of God.

      Is resistance to all change wrong? Certainly not!

      Resistance to change is part of the evolutionary process. It filters change to ensure that only the best attested changes and what is still valuable from the past survive into the future. Dysfunctionality, and hence sinfulness, result when resistance to change is institutionalised within the Church and becomes the imposed norm to any and all proposed change, no matter the large number of God’s people whose reflective thinking over a long period of time deem it necessary or the promulgated decrees of a Vatican Council.

      It is also dysfunctional when clerics with insecure personalities who feel threatened by change and compulsively resist it are appointed to positions of power within the Church. Dysfunctional resistance to change by the Vatican for the last few hundred years, partly in inappropriate response to the Protestant Reformation and later age of Enlightenment and partly to protect their clerical power structures, has left the Catholic Church seriously weakened in its mission, priesthood and membership.

      Open and honest debate in searching for the truth, and the most loving, just and merciful way of applying the consequences of a given truth at this time in our evolving history, is always healthy. It is part of psychological and spiritual growth. However, it should be conducted in prayerful listening and humble sharing and in the Spirit of serving humanity rather than in issuing threats of a split if one group doesn’t get its own way. Such a split, or even threat of a split in these circumstances, would indeed be attributable to that aspect of Original Sin which refuses to evolve within its own inner dynamic – onwards, outwards and upwards to Omega Christ.

      I trust this is helpful.
      Aidan

      • “It holds us in incompleteness.”

        Might ‘inertia’ be better here – as incompleteness can probably never be overcome?

        How strange also that modern communications should be such a powerful inertial force. When whatever a priest says in Clifden can be reported in Rome the same day, the Seamus Heaney protocol must kick in: ‘whatever you say, say nothing’.

        And when nothing can be said, why go to listen?

        • Aidan says:

          In the scenario I painted above, inertia is really the refusal to change and leads to personal and organisational incompleteness and dysfunction.
          Feeling that I as a person or the Church as an organic organisation already is complete and has no need for further development or evolutionary growth leaves us with a religious/spiritual incompleteness at a particular point of time (which, for the person, can be later remedied with openness to appropriate change if he/she so chooses to engage with it) or with a incompleteness we bring to the grave by opposing change throughout our lifetime, which cannot be later remedied by us after death. In the later case we rely on the post-death mercy of God as we are drawn into divine forgiveness and eternal completeness in Omega Christ. I suspect the latter scenario includes most of us in varying degrees.

          Such opposition to change can leave an organisation like the Church with stunted growth which can never be put right for those who live and die during its time of refusal to grow. So, the refusal of the Church to listen to the justified complaints of Fr. Martin Luther and engage in necessary reform can never put right the incompleteness of many Christians, lay and clerical, living at that time who were held back in their spiritual development by the corruption fairly rampant in the Church. They can never recover the human joy and freedom of the children of God that should have been theirs to experience. The longer resistance to necessary change persists in the Church the more damage is done to ever increasing numbers of people and the more damage is done to its evolutionary trajectory to Omega Christ.

          It would be a great pity if the Seamus Heaney protocol kicked in as a response to current corruption and resistance to necessary change by some of our laity, clergy and hierarchy. That would be a response of despair and a refusal to exercise our God-given duty as disciples to protest and work to put things right, as Jesus did throughout His lifetime in opposition to the caricature of religion prevalent at that time. We need to keep speaking out in various ways, as well as listening, in the hope that our voices will eventually be heard, and to sustain the hope of those who feel isolated and think there are no means of making their voice or concerns heard.

          Surely, Sean, that is the vision of ACI.

  5. soconaill says:

    Yes indeed, Aidan. Inertia is definitely not OK, and we must try all means of ending it, as advised by the Holy Spirit. We lay people have far greater liberty of action and speech – and must not be inactive or silent.

  6. Aidan says:

    Soconaill, I have been reflecting more on Teilhard de Chardin and Original Sin.

    I accept evolution and that Genesis chapters 1-3 is an allegory adapted in two slightly different versions from ancient Mesopotamian folk tales to encapsulate divine revelation in a form that could be understood by an ancient people. One of the core revelations revealed in that parable is God gifting the evolved humanoids with a human soul which incorporated the great gift of free will. Free will came with the spiritual faculty of conscience and human intelligence to guide it. Conscience and human understanding are part of the evolutionary process and are still evolving.

    At that point the humanoids became fully human. The evolved, and still evolving, self-consciousness of human kind from then on had the possibility of knowing and freely loving God and each other. But they (I don’t see how we can all have evolved in a physical line from two original parents; that raises too many unsolvable theological and scientific problems.) soon discovered that their free will also gave them the possibility of freely choosing the flip-side of love; selfishness, greed, violence, injustice etc.

    Original Sin, which all human beings possess, is the life-long struggle necessarily inherent within free will, against using that divine gift to choose evil instead of good, to desire mimetically the fleeting and superficial, without much care about how they are obtained, rather than a deep, loving relationship with God who dwells within everyone.

    I say ‘inherent within free will’ as love cannot be chosen freely unless I am also free to reject it. The gift of conscience, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit granted to all human beings at their creation, and use of rational thought, guide our path to the right choices that free will offers, but still leaves us free to choose the wrong path. Hence the importance of family, Church community, word and sacrament, religious education, prayerful reflection and friends helping young people to inform their conscience appropriately. Conscience can be strengthened by the above influences or weakened by harmful influences.

    Baptism and the other sacraments of the Church give us God’s gift of Himself to strengthen our constant fight against choosing the wrong path (the wrong side of free will) and offering us forgiveness and mercy when we do. Failure prayerfully reflected upon is part of our learning and growth process. Those without these sacraments or membership of a Christian Church have their conscience and rational thought to guide them on their journey to the Kingdom of God on earth.

    Aidan Hart

    • Justina says:

      evolution has some problems, severe enough that many scientists have dumped Darwin for punctuated equilibrium, saltation, intelligent design and creationism (old earth and young earth). radiometric dating is flawed, with the two rock dating systems giving irreconciliable and radically different ages for the same specimen.

      “self consciousness” is an ill defined notion, sounds like a gnostic conceit like thinking we have a spirit makes us in God’s image, and with no proof whatsoever supposedly animals lack spirit, which is not even biblically sound.

      the image and likeness of God is an interesting concept, given at least four generations of exposure to Egyptian ideas by the ISraelites. Only the pharaoh was in the image and likeness of the top deity in the pantheon, who became his father at his coronation or perhaps had do to with his conception. Genesis says everyone is in the image and likeness of YHWH, which is somewhat democratic. in Deuteronomy the future kings are warned not to elevate their hearts above their people. Being permanently upright and free hands fits us to manage nature under God. And we have in our species the combined character features of God, which are scattered in the rest of creation among animals. (some might have some wisdom, others not. some have determination some don’t.)

      self awareness is evident in all animals, in that they know themselves from other creatures and don’t aimlessly bumble about.

      But teilhard himself is a major problem. Aside from his writing being hypnotic and lacking substance, he is clearly heretical. The fall in the meantime, is not inherent to free will but an inherent POTENTIAL with free will, and has already happened, a one off deal the struggle you describe is the result of this.
      Teilhard info here from sources some friendly to him yet showing his true nature.
      http://fightthenewage.blogspot.com/2016/03/research-on-teilhard-de-chardin.html

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