spirit

Let Us Look Carefully

Exceprts from "Teilhard de Chardin's 'Planetary Mind' and Our Spiritual Evolution," On Being, Jan. 23, 2014: 

In these confused and restless zones in which present blends with future in a world of upheaval, we stand face to face with all the grandeur, the unprecedented grandeur, of the phenomenon of man. What has made us so different from our forebears, so ambitious too, and so worried, is not merely that we have discovered and mastered other forces of nature. It is that we have become conscious of the movement which is carrying us along. Let us look carefully and try to understand. And to do so, let us probe beneath the surface and try to decipher the particular form of mind which is coming to birth in the womb of the earth today.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, from The Phenomenon of Man (1955)

Ursula King

The milieu in the French sense is the center, but we also use milieu in terms of the environment. Something comes together, like in a diamond...but then it radiates throughout the entire. God is everywhere, in a sense, hidden, not visible, but somehow reachable.

The Divine Milieu is a wonderful phrase. I think he has this dynamic awareness from his evolutionary approach. One could call his spirituality also an evolutionary spirituality, as some people do. And he feels that we are today at a very, very important threshold of immerging into a new phase of humanization, of becoming human, in a different way from the way our forebears were.

They pull from the future and towards the future. And he's less and less interested in the past and more and more interested in where are we going, what are we doing with the potential we have, with the imagination, the creativity, the consciousness, the complexification of people thinking together and acting together. What is all this aiming for?

David Sloan Wilson

Teilhard de Chardin thought of Christianity primarily as Christian love and as the leading edge of a belief system that was capable of uniting people from all walks of life based upon love. I don't think we're any more spiritually advanced today than during Teilhard's time. I think in some ways we've gone backwards. And when we think of what it means for spirituality to be the leading edge of evolution, we need to understand what spirituality means, what words such as spirit and soul actually mean and why we're impelled to use them in everyday life. And when we do that, I think we can come up with a very satisfying meaning for them, which need not require a belief in supernatural agents. 

We can speak frankly about having a soul and even our groups having a soul, our cities having a soul, and even the planet having a soul. That actually can have a straightforward meaning...

Evolution only sees action. Whatever goes on in the head is invisible to evolution unless it is manifested in terms of what people do. So if what's inside your head, if your meaning system does not cause you to act in the right way, then it is not very good as a meaning system.

We want a meaning system that causes us to be highly motivated to act and, of course, do the right thing. And in modern life, that needs to be highly respectful of the facts of the world. And then we also need to have values that we're more aware of than ever before and we must then use those values to consult those facts in order to plan our actions basically in a world that's increasingly complex and which requires management at a planetary scale.

Andrew Revkin

I share his optimism overall. I think our potential for good as a species has always dominated the potential for bad in the end and this just amplifies those same tendencies. None of the issues that we face on the internet are unique to the internet. They're all part of who we are. In a crowded room, the loudest, angriest people, whatever their ideology, tend to get the most airtime. So one thing I try to do on my blog is try to build tools to foster some input from the quieter people.

Another metaphor that comes to mind is it's as if we've been plunked at the wheel of a speeding car, but we haven't taken driver's training and there isn't even a driver's manual for the car. We're rounding a corner and the weather is foggy and we're accelerating [laugh]. So in a moment like that, you can either be hopeful or woeful, but it almost doesn't matter in the end.

You know, we're test-driving a new system here. Turbulence is normal, experiments in communication will fail as much or more than they will succeed, but I think our overall nature, to my mind — and it's an act of faith on my part as it was on his part.

Made In Its Image

Ampersand,  Wednesday Wolf

Ampersand, Wednesday Wolf

"Genesis Revised"
by Reed Whitmore, from Fifty Poems Fifty (1970)The Past, the Future, the Present: Poems Selected and New (1990)

In my opinion this concept of the interval, detached as it is from the selection of any special body to occupy it, is the starting point of the whole concept of space.

~ Albert Einstein

Think of an "and" alone,
Nothing before, nothing after, 
Nothing and nothing. 
The "and" proposes a structure, and by the proposing
Is. And makes.
For nothing is nothing, but nothing and nothing
Are spatial, temporal; the structure does it,
A nothing there and here, a nothing then and now,
To and fro in the space-time.

But in grammar we cannot think of this. The
     "and" comes second.
We need something, then "and." 
Or if we are willing to grant, without understanding,
     a precedent "and,"
We still ask to know where it came from.
Grammar, logic, math work in the matrix
Of the space-time. "And" is the space-time. We
     in its matrix
Know what we do in it, where we are in it,
But not it.

This that we don't know we call soul, spirit.
More of it every day is found in the physics lab,
By omission.  
It is what we tend to describe by what it is not.
It is not logical, it is not metrical; it is not
     (as I now propose) grammatical.

Yet it is with us. Our minds seem made in its image,
Each a space-time kit for making a world up.
We cannot conceive of that spirit (the "and")
     a father,
Yet we cannot conceive of it otherwise. In
     Eddington's words,
The breach of causality keeps breaking the chain of
     inference. Sense leads to nonsense.

In the beginning, then, was nonsense? So every
     beginning. So far.
We cannot conceive of a nothing that makes something.
The "and" we say must be physical. Or electrical.
     Something.
Yet the something is nothing. Nonsense.
We have no grammar for nonsense; we cannot posit
A nothing-something moving between nothings.
Yet I repeat:
Think of an "and" alone,
Nothing before, nothing after,
Nothing and nothing, thereby making

The first day.  


Life Is Not The Life Of Men

From a Window
by Christian Wiman, from Every Riven Thing 


I saw a tree inside a tree
rise kaleidoscopically

as if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

to the pane as I could get
to watch that fitful, fluent spirit

that seemed a single being undefined
or countless beings of one mind

haul its strange cohesion
beyond the limits of my vision

over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
exactly as it had and would

(but why should it seem fuller now?)
and though a man's mind might endow

even a tree with some excess
of life to which a man seems witness,

that life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.


See also:

Invited to Forget Ourselves

Topiary Park, March 2, 2013

Excerpt from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

What is serious to [humans] is often very trivial in the sight of God [aka Nature, Time, Source, Mystery of Life].  What in God might appear to us as "play" is perhaps what God takes the most seriously.  At any rate the Lord plays in the garden of creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear God's call and follow in the mysterious, cosmic dance.  We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing.  When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet Basho we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash -- at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.

For the world and time are the dance of the [Source] in emptiness.  The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast.  The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair.  But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.  Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it or not.

Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

The Oneness Behind All the Religions

"Faith precedes belief systems. That means that faith is the consent or surrender to the divine reality — or to the ultimate reality or whatever its name is in the different religions — before it's broken down into different belief systems which are bound to be influenced by the cultural conditioning  of the person or the reformers who worked on that religion. So faith, when it becomes contemplative, begins to perceive the oneness behind all the religions — before the experience of God was broken down into various belief systems. " ~ Father Thomas Keating

Who's This?

Disappearing Act
by Elizabeth Ross Taylor, from Blackbird, Spring 2002

No, soul doesn't leave the body.

My body is leaving my soul.
Tired of turning fried chicken and
coffee to muscle and excrement,
tried of secreting tears, wiping them,
tired of opening eyes on another day,
tired especially of that fleshy heart,
pumping, pumping. More,
that brain spinning nightmares.
Body prepares:
disconnect, unplug, erase.

But here, I think, a smallish altercation
arises.
Soul seems to shake its fist.
Wants brain? Claims dreams and nightmares?
Maintains a codicil bequeathes it shares?

There'll be a fight. A deadly struggle.
We know, of course, who'll win. . . .

But who's this, watching?

[Thanks, Linda!]

More Like a Rut

Breathlike
by John Ashbery, from Planisphere: New Poems (2009)

Just as the day could use another hour,
I need another idea. Not a concept
or a slogan. Something more like a rut
made thousands of years ago by one of the first
wheels as it rolled along. It never came back
to see what it had done, and the rut
just stayed there, not thinking of itself
or calling attention to itself in any way.
Sun baked it. Water stood, or rather sat
in it. Wind covered it with dust, then blew it
away. Always it was available to itself
when it wished to be, which wasn't often.

Then there was a cup and ball theory
I told you about. A lot of people had left the coast.
Squirt conditions obtained. I forgot I overwhelmed you
once upon a time, between everybody's sound sleep
and waking afterward, trying to piece together
what had happened. The rut glimmered
through centuries of snow and after.
I suppose it was trying to make some point
but we never found out about that,
having come to know each other years later
when our interest in zoning had revived again.

Sublime Illusion

photo by Pez Owen

From Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat: Stillness Amidst the World:

“The sun never sets. It is only an appearance due to the observer’s limited perspective. And yet, what a sublime illusion it is.”

* * * * *

“The original reason for art is the sacred—to be a portal, an access point for the sacred. When you see it or experience it, you experience yourself. In it you see yourself reflected. In true art, the formless is shining through the form.

Ultimately, it is not everybody’s purpose to create works of art. It is much more important for you to become a work of art. Your whole life, your very being, becomes transparent so that the formless can shine through. That happens when you are no longer totally identified with the world of form.

It happens when you have access to the realm of stillness within yourself. Then something emanates through the form that is not the form.”

Make Room

Incant Against Suicide
by Mary Karr, from Viper Rum

Buy neither gun nor blue-edged blade.
Avoid green rope, high windows, rat
poison, cobra pits, and the long vanishing point
of train tracks that draw you to horizon's razor.

Only this way will another day refine you.  (Natural death's
no oxymoron) Your head's a bad neighborhood:
Don't go there alone, even if you have to stop
strangers to ask the way, and even if

spiders fall from your open mouth.
This talk's their only exit.  How else
would their scramble from your skull

escape?  You must make room first
that the holy spirits might enter.  Empty
yourself of self, then kneel down to listen.

One of Many Hoops

Black Elk with wife and daughter, circa 1890-1910. “Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all , and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

~ Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, as told to John Neihardt