Tag Archives: Teilhard de Chardin

Sophia in Egypt: Four

The next day our tour bus takes us to Saqqara on the West Bank of the Nile, about 18 miles south of Cairo. We walk over sand fields to see Old Kingdom Pyramids, some looking now like haphazard piles of stones. It is furnace-hot and we are reminded to drink lots of water.

We emerge from exploring a tomb, its walls alive with colourful scenes from the life of Mereruka, the man buried there. The sun is a cylinder of fire against a distant pyramid, then a copper coin in the darkening sky, as the earth rolls eastwards. By the time we reach the Step Pyramid, it is fully dark, and a pale moon is gathering her energy to light our way. I see a few faint stars, but do not recognize any constellations.

Our group gathers in silence before the entrance to the Step Pyramid, some five to six thousand years old, the first route of initiation in the ancient Egyptian Mystery Rites. In a rush of awareness, our reason for being in Egypt fills me. I am fully here.

With Jean Houston leading the way, we enter a long narrow passageway with tall pillars and a high roof. To our left and right, deep arches open out to the night, like the side altars in a cathedral. The wind is rising, stirring the air through which we walk, creating a pleasant coolness after the day’s heat. I reach into my backpack, pull out my shawl, glad of its warmth. I am aware of the burden of backpack, purse, water bottle, camera… items no ancient initiate would have carried. Ahead of us, Jean is emerging from the passageway, calling out to the ancient ones: Open yourselves to us as we open to you.

We are in an inner courtyard, already dusky in the failing light. Across an expanse of sand, the Step Pyramid huddles against the sky, a black shape, a mythic beast, a cave of unknowing, awaiting us. The doorway is narrow, and we enter single file.

step-pyramid

The Step Pyramid

Inside we walk along a corridor, stone walls and ceilings strengthened against calamitous collapse with steel bars, structures of wood. Here and there electric lights bless the darkness. We walk in silence, with great care, aware of danger.

Ahead, Jean is waiting for us at the edge of a sheer drop. One by one we are invited to look down. I stand at the edge, unprotected by any kind of barrier, leaning forward in order to see all the way down, some three or four stories, to the burial chamber. The cavernous darkness is unrelieved by any artificial light except that which seeps down from the high place where we stand.

I am looking into a walled chamber, the stone darkened by millennia of dampness, to the small stone floor where once Djoser’s body rested. I see only emptiness, an emptiness that is in its way more disturbing than seeing what belongs there. I see all of this in a glance, realize a glance is all I want.

 “Deep are the wells in our minds, our hearts, our being,” Jean says. “ Here we are in the land of depth, here in the oldest architectural structure known to humankind. There are many, many tunnels that bridge from here, three miles of tunnels in this the principal, first route of initiation.

“We think of so many things in which and to which we require initiation. For many of you the initiation is into new life, into new ways of being, into the emerging of what is possibly the end of times but it is also the opening time. Here in this ancient place which was the annunciation of the prophetic moment, is the annunciation that we have entered into a whole new order of civilization.

“Let us take it in our hearts that from this moment forth, from this primordial place, this great sacred mound, from which the genius of Imhotep emerged to create a structure that would be known from time out of mind, from this place of initiation, this place from which a great, great civilization grew … that this is the place from which we affirm, we say, we heartfully know that a great world civilization will begin again.We are in the ending times, we are in the closing times, we are in the opening times.

“Let us speak aloud the words of ancient Egypt: SA the creative breath of life, infusion of new life, energy, inspiration; SEKHEM the creative word of power, that can move in all of us so that we can take the fullness of our creative power into the world; SAHU the perfectly realized being within, the essence who holds the measuring, who holds the beginning and the end and the new beginning, that holds the love that moves the sun and all the stars, that creates the entrance to new life, the energy to be a vehicle of the patterning.”

We reach out to touch one another lightly, as might astronauts about to step out onto the moon.

“The new begins now,” Jean says. “The new that Teilhard de Chardin saw: The day will come when after harnessing space, the winds, tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”                                                                                                                                        

 

We are again in the large sand covered courtyard, now in full darkness. Each of us is offered a candle, already lighted, to guide our way back. We are walking slowly, looking up to where the night sky is alive with stars. I am stunned at the beauty, seeing patterns as ancient as the universe, as new as my own breath.

 

As we enter the corridor of pillars, tears well up in my eyes, fall freely. An inner wave of emotion surges though my body, as the encounter with the Sacred Feminine in my community’s prayer room two months earlier takes on deeper meaning. I know now I am experiencing a triptych of healing that is a rebirthing: with my mother, with my community, with the Holy Feminine, whoever she is, by whatever name I call her: Mary? Isis? At this sacred moment, names do not matter.

Powers of the Universe: Radiance

 

The mystics intuited Radiance long before the physicists described it. Hildegard of Bingen, the astonishing 12th c. abbess and genius, wrote:

From my infancy until now, in the 70th year of my age, my soul has always beheld this Light, and in it my soul soars to the summit of the firmament and into a different air….The brightness which I see is not limited by space and is more brilliant than the radiance around the sun …. I cannot measure its height, length, breadth. Its name, which has been given me, is “Shade of the Living Light”….Within that brightness I sometimes see another light, for which the name “Lux Vivens” (Living Light) has been given me. When and how I see this, I cannot tell; but sometimes when I see it, all sadness and pain is lifted from me, and I seem a simple girl again, and an old woman no more!

All the powers of the universe are one, seamlessly involved with one another, present everywhere in the universe, coursing through us, trying to bring forth Radiance. In his concluding talk in the DVD series, “The Powers of the Universe” Brian Swimme speaks about Radiance.

The most powerful presence of Radiance is the sun. In its core, the sun creates helium out of compressed hydrogen, releasing light. The process of fusion generates photons. Light emanates in waves which collapse into photon particles, creating light. The sun is also giving off messenger particles called gravitons that mediate the gravitational interaction by penetrating the earth, pulling the earth to the sun. We see the light, and feel the gravitational pull.

The moon also has Radiance, but not from creating light through fusion as the sun does.

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The photons that come from the moon are created by the sun’s activity on the moon. The moon releases the light thus created, also bathing us with gravitons, to which the earth responds, as in the tides of the seas.

It is an ongoing activity of the universe to radiate. Even in the depths of the earth, everything radiates LIGHT. Radiance is the primary language of the universe.

We are frozen light… Brian Swimme says that every being we meet holds fourteen billion years of radiance. The twentieth century mystic Thomas Merton saw with clarity the gap between this stunning reality and our capacity to see it, and wondered how we might tell people that they are walking around shining like the sun!

Yet, by a willingness to see deeply, we can develop a subtle spirit that responds to the depths of spirit in another, a container that responds to the beauty of the other. The archetypal example of this kind of depth perception, Swimme says, is a mother beholding her child. What is a mother seeing in the eyes of her child? This is the depth perception of beauty. When we look into the eyes of another do we see colour and shape only as in a surface, machine-like mentality or do we see flowing, radiating out of the eyes, the essence, the fullness of the person, his or her depth? Light is a flow of emotions: light as joy, sadness, pouring out from another. Think what can happen with one glance where we fall in love so deeply that the rest of our life is changed: we contain the Radiance that is streaming out of another.

When, on a sleepless night, Swimme suggests, we go outdoors and see the stars, difficulties melt away and we are smothered with deep peace. Something glorious is streaming into us, something so deeply felt that we find peace in our at-homeness in the universe. When we look down and see fireflies (flashing to interest their mates) we realize we are participating in an amazingly sacred event.

We are drawn into the depth of things and when we go there we find the future direction of the universe. The earth makes rubies and sapphires out of elements that come together, that explode and sparkle with Radiance, as though the universe is trying to tell us something about our aliveness in the realm of possibility!

We sit by the ocean, drawn into what is really real, something that is attempting to establish a deep bond with us. The magnificence of ocean/sand/sky wants to sparkle forth like a sapphire. We feel what reverberates out, Swimme says, as if completing the beauty that’s there.

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We enter into relationship with the Radiance of the universe through resonance and that is the primary form of prayer. Reverberation is the primary sacrament. We become the radiance that is flooding the world. If the resonance is deep enough, it fills our being so that we reverberate with the being of the other. The Radiance becomes the being. We are resonant with another when we begin to reverberate with the one we see. We are then in a non-dual relationship with another. There is great joy in developing this level of interaction with life.

Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit priest and paleontologist who died in 1955, wrote:

Throughout my whole life during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within…The purple flash of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal universe…This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth – the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, the divine radiating from the depth of matter a-flame. (The Divine Milieu)

 

Mystics, the Universe and Sophia

As we awaken to the presence of Sophia in our lives, we are coming to know her as creative partner of the Love at the heart of our universe. In the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom/ Sophia speaks:

The Lord created Me at the beginning of His work, the first of His ancient acts.
I was established ages ago, at the beginning of the beginning, before the earth…
When He established the heavens, I was already there.
When he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When he established the fountains feeding the seas below…
I was beside Him, the master builder.
I was His daily delight, rejoicing before Him always.
Rejoicing in His inhabited world, and delighting in the human race.
(Proverbs 8: 22-31)

For the next several weeks, we take on the magnificent task of exploring the new story of the evolutionary universe, seeking within it a new way of knowing the Love at its deep heart. Mystics, like Julian of Norwich, Teilhard de Chardin, and Hildegard of Bingen were so in tune with the sacred centre of themselves that they intuited things about life in the universe that are only now being affirmed scientifically.

Julian of Norwich, fourteenth century English mystic, writes that God showed her:
in my mind’s eye…something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, and I perceived that it was as round as any ball. I looked at it and thought “what can this be?” And I was given this general answer: It is everything which is made. I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that it was so little that it could suddenly fall into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God. (Showings, Colledge and Walsh p. 130)

Look now at the photo that has become a major icon in our lifetime:

earth from Apollo 17

(earth from Apollo 17)

Seven hundred years after Julian saw the earth as something small…as round as any ball in the palm of her hand, the U.S. Astronaut James Irwin wrote:

The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. (p. 158 The Hand of God)

If you have ever had, in a moment of deep prayer, in an out-of-body or near-death experience, a knowing beyond that available through your senses, you, like Julian, have had a mystical experience. Mystics fascinate philosophers, psychologists and scientists especially now when perceptions by mystics and physicists about the universe are coming into startling coherence.

Who or what is mystic? Theologian Margaret Brennan offers a response that opens the door where we all might enter with grace:

Mystics are people who come in touch with the sacred source of who they really are and are able to realize and experience that in their lives. When we have come in touch with the deep centre of ourselves/our lives we realize that we are more than what we seem to be, that there’s something deeper in ourselves than meets the eye.

Evelyn Underhill, early 20th c. English scholar and mystic, gives this descriptor:

Mysticism…is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience – one whose religion and life are centred, not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which (s)he regards as first-hand personal knowledge.

In Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood, 2002, Mary Conrow Coelho speaks of the relevance of mystics for us today:

The contemplative tradition certainly provokes many questions about the nature of matter, the identity of the person, the meaning of the word God.
It once seemed impossible to understand and accept the contemplative’s claims, given Western assumptions about matter and God. But now this has changed. Within the new story of the evolutionary universe and the new cosmology and new physics by which it is informed, the contemplative tradition finds a central place.

When the 20th c. Physicist David Bohm said that we are “frozen light” did he know that in the 12th century, Hildegard had proclaimed that “every creature has a radiance”?

The mystics intuited the interconnection of all of life long, long before physicists in our time made the same discovery. Hildegard of Bingen wrote: Everything that is in heaven, on the earth and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness…with relatedness.

W.T. Stace, a contemporary scholar of mysticism writes: The whole multiplicity of things which comprise the universe are identical with one another and therefore constitute only one thing, a pure unity. The Unity, the One…is the central experience and the central concept of all mysticism, of whichever type.

He quotes the medieval Dominican Mystic Meister Eckhart:

All that a (person) has here externally in multiplicity is intrinsically One. Here all blades of grass, wood and stone, all things are One. This is the deepest depth.

20th century mystic Thomas Merton experienced this oneness with life: One only ceases to be absurd when, realizing that everything is absurd when seen in isolation from everything else, meaning and value are sought only in wholeness. The solitary must return to the heart of life and oneness, losing himself, not in the illusion but simply in the root reality, plunging through the center of his own nothingness and coming out in the all, which is the void, and which is, if you like, the Love of God. (Journals, June 20, 1966)

As we journey together into the insights now available to us about our universe, we shall also be deepening our understanding of ourselves, for we are beings who live in the universe and the universe lives in us.

A Promise Born in Light Part Two

This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth — the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, the divine radiating from the depths of matter a-flame.     Teilhard de Chardin

Restless today, unable to settle to any task, I walk outdoors. Surprised to find this day in late October warm, sunlit, lovely.139

Yesterday’s events in Ottawa are still stirring within me: unmixed feelings, understandings, reactions, slowly melding together into what is close to gratitude, even joy. Like the beauty of trees reflected in the Bonnechere River, the beauty of my country shines back through the ripples of the stone thrown into our peaceful existence. The stone sinks, forgotten. The river reflects what lasts.

Alone here by the river yesterday, I listened to the voices that came to me from CBC Radio. I heard Tom Allen on “Shift” offering comfort through the timeless beauty and strength of music: Beethoven and Samuel Barber blended with contemporary music about home. I turned to the news, heard voices that called into the Ottawa CBC Radio station. I heard reminders of what we value about our country; I heard compassion rather than anger; I heard gratitude for those nameless ones who rushed to help the fallen guard at the War Memorial; I heard of strangers reaching out to offer directions to safety when people were walking around the area unaware; I heard the good-humoured pride in the report that the Mounties who called people to move, stop, stay, added the so-Canadian word, “please”. I heard voice after calm voice resolve that one deranged/radicalized young man would not change our country. I heard the welcome reminder that Canadians were once peacekeepers, that we need to reclaim what we really value most, what best matches our national soul….

This morning, wakening to a day suddenly brilliant in autumn sunlight, I feel the return of life. Parliamentarians are in their places. Most telling, the Prime Minister crosses the floor of the House of Commons, reaches out to hug both leaders of opposing parties.
Yes, there are voices that call for reprisals, but there are many more that call for wisdom, calm, seeking to redress the deep causes of radicalization among our young.
I remember the tale of the Native elder whose grandson spoke of two wolves within him: one of fear and hatred, one of courage and love.
“Which one will win, Grandfather?” the boy asked.
“The one that you feed,” the elder answered.

Teilhard de Chardin, the twentieth century Jesuit paleontologist and mystic who intuitively saw that a cosmos in evolution revealed a God who calls us forward into a future full of hope, spoke of the universe as unfinished.

Neither scientist nor theologian, I am a storyteller. I know how a change in the story has power to alter and illuminate our lives. Changing the story that once shaped our lives changes everything. If we live in a story of a completed universe where once upon a perfect time our first parents, ecstatically happy in a garden of unimagined beauty, destroyed everything by sin, what have we to hope for? The best is already irretrievably lost. Under sentence of their guilt we can only struggle through our lives, seeking forgiveness, trusting in redemption…. The suffering around us will still speak to us of punishment for that first sin, and the burden of continuing to pay for it with our lives…. Despair and guilt are constant companions. Hope in that story rests only in release from the suffering of life into death.

But if we live the story as Teilhard saw it, seeing ourselves in an unfinished universe that is still coming into being, everything changes. In a cosmos that is still a work in progress, we are called to be co-creators, moving with the Love within the universe towards a future filled with hope. We know ourselves held in love by a God whose yearning for our happiness, our fullness of life, is greater even than our own.

Our human hearts long for joy, and we love to hear stories where suffering and struggle lead to happiness, to fulfillment, to love. The possibility that there could be peace, reconciliation, compassion, mercy and justice to an increasing degree on our planet is a profound incentive for us to work with all our energy for the growth of these values.

Yesterday we were offered a glimpse of what a future full of hope might look like, a future we grow towards with each act of courage, forgiveness, compassion and rootedness in deeply-cherished values.

A promise born in light that emerges out of darkness.