Spiritual Reading 17

17. Motor of Evolution

For Teilhard de Chardin, the cosmic Christ was born from the Sacred Heart: “Under the symbol of the Sacred Heart the divine assumed for me, the form of fire… through its power to become universal this fire proved able to invade and impregnate with love the whole atmosphere of the world in which I lived…. It is in the Sacred Heart that the conjunction of the divine and the cosmic has taken place…. There lies the power that from the beginning has attracted and conquered me…. All the later development of my interior life has been nothing other than the evolution of that seed.”

In Toward the Future (pp. 86-87), Teilhard wrote: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time, humankind will have discovered fire.” The discovery that love is the essence of evolution is the equivalent in importance of humanity finding fire and learning to generate it and use it. The Sacred Heart is a promise that the universe is converging toward love.

Teilhard wrote of a noosphere, a layer of thought consciousness in the universe. Perhaps there is also a cardiosphere, a realm of ever-increasing heart in the cosmos. Teilhard in fact, says: “The great secret, the great mystery, is this: there is a heart of the world and this heart is the heart of Christ.” In the Sacred Heart of Jesus he discovered a way to find the absolute in the tangible, the radial in the tangential, to use his terms. The materialization of divine love became the meaning of the Sacred Heart in his life. His mystical vision showed him that the Sacred Heart is the sacrality of the cosmos.

Teilhard de Chardin saw evolution as feminine and Christ as masculine energy culminating in the Sacred Heart. His devotion to and comprehension of the connection of the Sacred Heart to evolution developed throughout his life. In 1916 he wrote how the heart of Jesus fills whole world, i.e., love fills the world. This Sacred Heart was not only the love of Jesus for humanity but also a unifying force upholding the universe. The world happens because of love. In 1940, Teilhard journaled: “The Sacred Heart is the personal heart of the cosmos… the motor of evolution.” The cosmic Christ came to him as “an expansion of the heart of Jesus.” In 1950 he added: “The Sacred Heart is the heart of the heart of the world, the center of the center of the universe.” In letters to his mother, who instilled the devotion in him in his early life, Teilhard used phrases like these: “communion with the desires of the Sacred Heart”… “universal center of the convergent universe.” Quotations like these from Teilhard de Chardin show how devotion to the Sacred Heart, was, for him, a firm commitment to social and evolutionary change.

All this became one focus for Teilhard de Chardin: a fascination with matter and an adoration of Christ, a God of flesh and blood alive in the Eucharist. For him, there is a unity in the forward movement of evolution and upwardly moving desire for transcendence. In this sense Teilhard shows how desire helps us move on since our longings for a better future evince it into being. The Heart of Christ is the Omega, now seen in our new perspective not as a finality but as an ever-unfolding opening. Indeed, the universe does not so much have a goal as a direction toward greater diversity and deeper communion.

Teilhard stated many times that “union differentiates” so we become more ourselves as we relate more to others. In fact, the fullness of our being is not personal consciousness but interpersonal and ultimately transpersonal consciousness, i.e., tangential energy becoming radial energy. We do not lose ourselves as we move toward interrelatedness. We only lose our sense of separation. For Teilhard, the triune nature of God reflects this same reality of interconnection. The Trinity refers to three Persons in one God. “Person” in Greek does not mean “self” as we denote an individual self. “Person” means “being-in-relationship.” There is no such thing as an individual self in the Trinity only a perichoresis, an interrelatedness. The Trinity is indeed the essential reality of all interrelatedness. To appreciate the Trinity, we need an experience of God as community and this happens best when we are creating community here and now.

For Teilhard de Chardin evolution is gradual inter-personalization. The destiny of all creation is inter-communion, exactly what happens when Jesus offers us his heart in Holy Communion. An ever-evolving interdependence corresponds to what in ecology is the undivided web of life. The cosmos is a field of energies, structured in an organized way, and relying on continual exchanges and interdependencies. To cherish and contribute to that exchange by ecological awareness and action is devotion to the heart of Jesus since the heart of the cosmos is his.

Humans have a natural instinct for self-preservation but that will not help the planet survive. For that we need an instinct for planetary-preservation and that is not built in. It takes the spiritual practice of loving-kindness applied to nature. Once our heart is open as the Sacred Heart is, our caring includes all beings. Open means universal in reach. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus opens our ecological consciousness.

Focus penetrates illusion and gives a clear vision of reality. Teilhard de Chardin focused on the image of the Sacred Heart: “Jesus, I love you for the extensions of your body and soul to the farthest corners of creation through grace, through life, and through matter…. I love you as a world, as this world, which has captivated my heart. And it is you, I now realize, that my fellow humans, even those who do not believe, sense and seek throughout the magic immensities of the cosmos.”