Teilhard’s Influence on My Life and Work

By Sister Celia Ashton, OCD, DDS

 

The life and writings of Teilhard de Chardin have captivated my imagination and inflamed my passion and my desire for God. In Teilhard, I have found a fellow traveler and a companion who delighted in the wonder and beauty of creation and who allowed himself to be absorbed by the God who courses through every blade of grass, glides on the back of every soaring bird, dances in each sparkling ray of light, bursts forth in every blossoming flower, and enlivens all Matter, even the most inanimate object, with Spirit. Teilhard has helped me to see the luminosity of God radiating from the Sacred Heart into the farthest corners and deepest recesses of the cosmos, weaving a network of intricate fibers that carry the pulsating Love of God into each human heart. Moved by the magnetism of God, Teilhard charted a pathway to transformation and communion that resonates with me, one that I hope to spend a lifetime exploring.

Teilhard has helped me to leave the mythical garden of Eden and relish in the dynamism of the unfolding universe, which is continually in the process of becoming. This unfinished and expanding universe is being lured into its future by the Cosmic Christ, who embraces all in Love. This is who excites and energizes me—this God of evolution’s future. Like Teilhard, I want to harness for God the energies of love and to become Love at the heart of the universe through graced participation in the divine life.

As Carmelites, when we enter the novitiate we take a title—a name of God that is significant for us. Inspired by Teilhard, I chose the Cosmic Christ. In choosing this title, I wanted to express the interconnectedness of every living being, including the earth and the entire cosmos; an interconnectedness that in and through the living Christ leads to a profound communion, and a transformation of consciousness that carries with it the possibility of true liberation. A liberation from the individualistic, small self that lives in competition with the whole, and moves us into the realm of the deeply personal self who shares consciousness with the whole: the ultrahuman.

Teilhard’s conceptualization of the noosphere has been incredibly significant for me and my understanding of it deepened throughout the pandemic when we relied on various technologies, such as Zoom, to connect us in a new way. This sphere of human consciousness enveloping the world became so evident to me as our community shared prayer over Zoom with people throughout the world. I couldn’t help but feel that through these virtual connections we were engaging the dynamism of the noosphere and were pressing into the realm of the ultrahuman. We weren’t just individuals in little boxes on the screen. Much like Teilhard’s vision of “the picture” he describes in “Christ in the World of Matter,” the sharp demarcations of each box began to merge and I could sense that the energy flowing between each person was not only animating each of us, it was affecting the consciousness of every particle of Matter across the miles that separated us—enmeshing us into the depths of God’s Love, a force which unites and compels us to lean into the collective WE for the sake of the transformation of the world and the future of humanity.

Shortly before the pandemic, Sr. Liz Sweeney, SSJ, introduced our community to WE Space Dialogue, a contemplative practice where we shift our attention from the “I” to the “WE” and lean into what is emerging among us. Our community continued this practice over Zoom throughout the pandemic and I have come to see it as a vital part of our becoming pioneers of this evolutionary future.

For many of us the language of emergence is new. The shift in focus from what we have done to who we are becoming leaves us with new questions, opens us to new possibilities and new conversations, and is sure to bring new challenges. However, as Teilhard indicated, the next step on this evolutionary journey is for us to do our part to usher in a new consciousness of shared being and to transcend the boundaries that have traditionally defined us.

As is evident each time I turn on the news, we are a people on the way, living in an unfinished universe. While the work of an evolutionary God moves us onto “the edge of chaos,” it also allures us into the future with a sense of wonder, and element of surprise, and abundant hope. As I encounter the pain of the world, I am tempted to despair. The image that comes to mind is that of individual particles—repelling, colliding, destroying, bursting into flames. And I wonder, what is the threshold whereby these repelling particles will begin to unite?

This question leads me to the hope I feel Teilhard holds out to us in 2022—the conviction that by continuing to put love on the currents of human consciousness and allowing ourselves to be woven into the fabric of the noosphere, we will reach a critical mass whereby the energy of Love will impel us to live from a place of communion and wholeness. Confident of this, I join Teilhard and all of you, in offering to God the labors and sufferings of the world this day.