New Directions (1976-1978)

In 1976 we found in International House on Riverside Drive a most satisfactory locale for our Annual Meeting and Luncheon. That year we were saddened by the death of Dr. Dobzhansky and subsequently elected to invite Mlle. Mortier to fill the role of Honorary Vice-President. (In her reply, Mile.Mortier wrote, "Father Teilhard did not very much like honours and during the years of our acquaintance he taught me to retire behind the task to be accomplished." Happily, though, she accepted.) The officers were all reelected and Bishop Belshaw and Dr. Mary Schmitt (biologist) were asked to come on the Board of Directors.

Dr. Margaret Mead, the renowned anthropologist, long a member of our Advisory Board, was our speaker and her topic was, "An Anthropologist Looks at the Converging of the Peoples of the World Today."

In September, Michael Murray, who had been a speaker at the 1967 Conference of the French Fondation at Vezelay, again attended their Conference, held this year at the Grand Seminairede Char-u-es,taking the greetings of the American Association to Mile.Mortier. Although an Episcopal minister, he was asked to concelebrate the daily Eucharist in the superb cathedral. He reported that more than a dozen distinguished speakers from almost as many countries, including Hungary and Poland, spoke on a wide variety of subjects, showing how the thought of Teilhard touches and inspires every aspect of human endeavor from politics and science to psychology and devotional life.

Back in New York, the expenses of running the Association were proving to be larger than our income - this despite the fact that the Temple of Understanding now gave us a monthly contribution in order to use our office as their New York headquarters. We were going through a cycle of dropping membership while the cost of services - insurance, postage, xeroxing, even rent - continued to rise. Because the Secretary now worked almost alone, with generously-given but only sporadic volunteer help, she had to have the Newsletter professionally printed, using the Martin Printing Company recommended by St. James' Church.

To add to our growing concern, a letter from the Vestry of St. James' Church gave notice of a reappraisal of all the tenants in the building we occupied. There was a feeling that our work did not fall within the guidelines laid down by the Committee on the use of the building. Dr. Coburn was no longer Rector, so we did not have strong support within the church, but the three Episcopal ministers on our Boards did write the vestry of St. James' in support of our work. Several months of uncertainty faced us.

Early in the spring of 1977 the Mary Lukas and Ellen Lukas biography, Teilhard, was published by Doubleday, giving evidence of continuing interest in Fr. Pierre.

At the Annual Meeting of 1977, again held at International House, all the officers were reelected except the Treasurer. Pemala Alderson became a member of a Fund Raising Committee headed by Gertrud Mellon. Dolores Knorr, Comptroller of the Museum of Primitive Art, was elected Treasurer.

Two former Board members, who had resigned when they were out of the country, returned and were reinstated: Fr. Almagno from his six years in Italy and Dr. Wolsky from his year in Saudi Arabia.

Robert Muller, Director and Deputy to the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Inter-Agency Affairs and Coordination, was elected to the Advisory Board as was Gregory Abels and George Torok, of Hallel Communications, and James McPartlin, who is active in Teilhard affairs on Long Island.

It had long been a concern of the Secretary that the substance of the discussion groups and seminars held in the New York Center was not available to members who lived outside the city. The possibility of offering cassette tapes was investigated but they proved too expensive. An answer came through Gregory Abels who had joined the Association a few years earlier while studying Teilhard's thought under Donald Gray's direction. He was now Vice-President of Hallel Communications, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization of professional communicators who used the media in the service of society, specializing in the areas of public service, human values, social justice, culture, education and spiritual concerns. They undertook to underwrite the production of three tapes, the Association to share in any profit that might accrue after the expenses had been met. The three tapes were:
I. The Religious Experience of Teilhard by Donald Gray. This tape explores Teilhard's personal spirituality and calls on us to respond to Teilhard's invitation to "come and see and to expand our horizons.
II. The Spirituality of the Earth by Thomas Berry. This tape is concerned with the need for a new spirituality, a spiritual perception of the earth and the creative process.
III. The Crisis of the Future by Ewert Cousins. This tape emphasizes that in awakening to the crisis of the future we might be inspired by Teilhard's attention to the mystical dimension of consciousness and by his call for an increase in global awareness that is future oriented. Humanity must take responsibility for evolution; the challenge is one of survival. These were offered to members at a cost of $23.00 for the three tapes, and to the general public at $26.00. Hallel was later to say that they were pleased at the response from this country, Canada, and Great Britain.

That fall saw, at long last, the fruition of a plan that had been long in the making: the publication of the first issue of Teilhard Studies. This was made possible by a gift of $500.00 specially designated for this purpose. The New Story by Thomas Berry attracted very favorable response from many sources. One letter came from a former member in New London, Connecticut, who wrote:

Dear Friends: I enclose a check for $15 with which I wish to reestablish my membership... . The immediate reason for this action, which I felt I could not afford, is the statement offered by Thomas Berry in The New Story. Nowhere have I seen a more clear and helpful record of the Phenomenon of Man. I felt that I could not afford to lose contact with the development of Teilhardian directions..."

The cover is from the work of a well-known Japanese artist, Kazumi Amano. Upon reading The Phenomenon of Man he was fired by Teilhard's concept of the spiritual evolution of humanity, moved to this country and now devotes his time and talent to the abstract presentation of this vision.

That same autumn found the Association facing the reality of declining membership (now down to about 390),lower attendance at our evening programs and the perennial problem of our inadequate bank balance. Our financial plight was both short term and long term. A plea for help to members of our two Boards brought in about $3000.00 for which we herewith record our grateful thanks. But this was the answer to only the short-range problem. The long-range problem remained. We have from the beginning existed almost solely upon membership income - an uncertain and inadequate source. In fact, it is a completely unrealistic financial base.

Though the vestry of St. James' Church agreed to continue to allow us to occupy the building for the present, it reserved the privilege of rescinding its agreement if a request came from an organization whose work fell more within their guidelines.

Change seemed to be forcing itself upon us.

After much deliberation the Executive Committee came to some conclusions that it presented to the Annual Board Meeting which was held on April 29th at International House.

But, first, at that meeting the following officers were reelected: Thomas Berry, President; Mlle. Mortier, Honorary Vice-President; Donald Gray, Vice-President; Winifred McCulloch,Secretary; Dolores Knorr, Treasurer. Emily Binns, formerly of the Advisory Board and a Professor of Theology, was elected to the Board of Directors and to the Second Vice-Presidency to head the Committee on Fund Raising. The Board accepted with much regret the resignations, for personal reasons, of Pieter de Jong and Gertrud Mellon. There were two elections to the Advisory Board: Faith James and Mary Lukas.

The Executive Committee's proposals were unanimously accepted and as a result the following changes were made:
On May 20th the library of 670 books and the archives were moved to Donald Gray's office at Manhattan College, 4513 Manhattan College Parkway, Bronx, New York 10471.
On the same day the files and records were moved to the Riverdale Center of Religious Research, 5801 Palisade Avenue, Bronx, New York 10471. There Thomas Berry has made available both office space and a conference room for seminars and meetings.
Mrs. Faith James, one of the new Advisory Board members, is taking charge of the membership records from her house in White Plains. The general mailing address of the Association now becomes: Box 67, White Plains, New York 10604.
Winifred McCulloch continues to edit the Newsletter.
It was voted not to offer subscriptions to The Teilhard Review any longer; members may subscribe directly from London. And, it was voted to raise the basic annual membership rate to $20.00.

Ninety-five people came to our Annual Luncheon on April 29th and some sixty others came to the afternoon talks, attesting to the popularity of these annual occasions. The speakers were Robert Muller and Thomas Berry who addressed the general topic "New Experiences of the Sacred." Robert Muller spoke on "The Sacred as Perceived by the International Community" and Thomas Berry, on "The Sacred as Perceived by the Ecological Community."

As this account of the American Teilhard Association is brought to a close in October of 1978 it finds the Association in a period of change but also with plans for the future. Thomas Berry, in an editorial written for the October 1978 Newsletter, 'emphasizes the importance of the Association's publications to keep in touch with our widespread membership and to communicate Teilhard's thought more effectively to them and to society at large. It is planned that ideas formulated in lectures and discussion groups taking place at the Riverdale Center, and those set forth at the Annual Meetings, will be made available in some written form.

But, the editorial goes on to say, there is another dimension to Teilhard's vision. It is not only something intellectual to be made available in books and lectures and publications, it is also "a vital movement of human beings caught up in a personal, living process that will shape the human community of the future. Teilhard was not thinking of some limited group of persons who would be affected by his writings but of the human community in its full breadth across the earth and the full dimensions of human historical development. Yet his vision has from the beginning been received, sustained, communicated and activated by both formal and informal associations throughout the world. The number of these associations is constantly increasing just as the number of writings about Teilhard is mounting each year. Associations now exist on the European continent, in England, Canada, South America, Australia, and the United States. The spontaneity whence these associations have arisen witnesses to the efficacy of Teilhard's vision.

"Our own future is bound up with this larger movement which in turn we might well consider to be bound up with the emerging earth process itself. We can believe that the earth process is groping toward its future in and through our own efforts at clarifying our vision of the future and activating those energies that are needed to bring the future into being in a desirable form.

"The challenge is surely great; but we cannot deny that the sources human and spiritual that are available for substantial human achievement in the future are also great... .

"We today, helped by Teilhard to see the challenge that faces humanity and the earth, must have the energy and the courage to carry on the process. Our own most glorious life task must be in sustaining this expansion in a difficult period, in enabling a damaged earth to recover and renew itself until the inner communion of all its living and non-living systems is achieved."

The year 1981 will be the Hundredth Anniversary of Teilhard's birth, and the Association hopes to mark the occasion in a significant way. This is one of our goals for the near future.