Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teilhard de Chardin

The Catholic Tradition has such immense depth and beauty! There are not enough lifetimes to really study and learn from all of the saints, theologians, writers, Desert Fathers and Mothers, not to mention the Bible itself, with its layers of esoteric meaning and symbolism.

Since I'm in the mood of finding my true self (easier said than done), here is a quote from Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) that I found to fit in well with my earlier post on soul searching. I found this quote in George Maloney's Mysticism and the New Age. Originally, the quote is from Teilhard's The Divine Milieu (confused yet? Sounds like a meta-quote, a quote inside of a quote!):
We must try to penetrate our most secret self, and examine our being from all sides. Let us try, patiently, to perceive the ocean of forces to which we are subjected and in which our growth is, as it were, steeped... I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seemed clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet... At that moment... I felt the distress characteristic of a particle adrift in the universe, the distress which makes human wills founder daily under the crushing number of living things and stars. And if someone saved me, it was hearing the voice of the Gospel... speaking to me, from the depth of the night: It is I, be not afraid.
Makes me think of Russian nesting dolls or the chrysalis that transforms into a butterfly. Could it be that we are made up of many selves, layers of selves, like layers inside an onion? As we go through life, through many stages of growth, we become something a little new and different at each higher stage. We could look back to when we were 20 years old, or 10 years old, or 3 years old, and at each phase we were different, but yet, paradoxically, the same. So, too, spiritually: we have our external outer form, our body, our appearance, and we have our inner world, our interior life, perceptions, memories, and experience. Inner and outer forms change over time, yet what we are deep down, inside our depths, is that which is eternal, our God within.

In the quote above, Teilhard says, "I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seemed clear, I went down into my inmost self." This reminds me of St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul, a famous poem and commentary you can read online that describes the journey of the soul towards God. The "lamp" could symbolize the "light of the senses," our physical senses which we use to perceive the world; Teilhard has metaphorically turned the light away from the outer, external world, to find an inner light into his inner abyss. St. John of the Cross also talks about going into the abyss within, "Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart."

It is said in many different spiritual traditions, that at some point one must stop relying on one's physical senses so as to be able to turn inward. Our physical senses are useful and necessary, but they can distract us from discovering the immense universe we have within our own souls. Here is Chapter 12 from the Taoist classic, The Tao Te Ching (translation by Feng/English):
The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.

Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
In esoteric Christianity, there is a correspondence between the five senses and the Five Wounds of Christ. Our five senses bring us our experience of the outer world, linking us with its joys and sufferings. The symbolic death of our senses is, then, a sort of gateway, an interior resurrection, that unites us with Christ and our own true self.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw your name in the theosophical ning website. Have you looked into Jiddu Krishnamurti's works? Many of his talks are also on the youtube. He is a very keen observer of human beings and the world. Give it a try and you may like what he has to say.