“As one’s level of being increases, receptivity to higher meaning increases.
As one’s level of being decreases, the old meanings return”
These past several weeks have brought an intensification of force and timing to the age old question: What is Love? But more specifically, the birds I hear singing from afar and within me are asking something even more pointed: is Conscious Love collective and personal? In our mocking of the Evangelical obsession with ‘a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ’ (for good reasons, mind you) at the expense of the whole, have we simply jettisoned ourselves into the faceless void and somewhat generic ‘ground of being?’ And in our attempt to rein back in from a collective New Age fluff into the personal again, have we basically just thrown the baby out with the bath water? Why are we humans so prone to over-rotating?
What is Love? Is it collective and personal?
So with these questions riding the chiasm of my heart, conversations with friends, and recent ruminations in the larger Wisdom communities, I grabbed Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s magnum opus, The Human Phenomenon, last evening for some Lectio Divina. I closed my eyes and placed my hands on its cover, yearned a silent prayer as one does over a deck of Tarot cards just before a reading, and opened up to page 188. And there it was, Teilhard’s section entitled “Love Energy,” where he wrestles with the particularity in the unity along the individual and cosmic terrain of this body we feel, sense, and call Love. There are very direct echoes here from last week’s post about pushing out the energies, not the virtues, of the Fruits of the Spirit into a world in triage.
And as he attempts to move beyond the collective into the hyper-personal as a way to lay a foundation for his Omega Point—that is, what St. Paul and other New Testament writers get at in their use of pleroma, when God will be all in all, when everything incomplete will be completed—he writes the following that I’d like to quote at length:
Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world are seeking one another so the world may come to be. This is no metaphor – and far more than poetry. [,,,] To grasp this ‘fontal’ cosmic energy, we must, if things have an inside, descend into the internal or radial zone of spiritual attractions. In all its nuances, love is nothing more or less than the direct or indirect trace marked in the heart of the element by the psychic convergence of the universe on itself. It is painful and distressing for us to observe how, contrary to our theoretical predictions and expectations, modern attempts at human collectivization only result in debasing and enslaving consciousness. Yet what path have we taken until now to unite ourselves?
Love alone is capable of completing our beings in themselves as it unites them, for the good reason that love alone takes them and joins them by their very depths—this is a fact of daily experience. For actually is not the moment when two lovers say they are lost in each other the moment when they come into the most complete possession of themselves? Truly, in the couple and in the team, and all around us at every moment, does love not accomplish the magic act, reputed to be so contradictory, of ‘personalizing’ as it totalizes. And if it does this on a daily basis on a reduced scale, why could it not someday repeat it in the dimensions of the Earth?
He then discusses the finitude of love that others bring up as questions to his meditation: “Isn’t it true that all a person can do is give affection to one or a few rare human beings?” To which he responds as the good Frenchman he was:
If it is impossible to have universal love as you claim, how are we to explain that irresistible instinct in our hearts that draws us toward unity each time our passion is heightened in any sense? Sense of the universe, sense of the whole. The nostalgia that seizes us in the midst of nature, before beauty, music – the expectation and awareness of a Great Presence. Except for the ‘mystics’ and their commentators, why is it that psychology has so persisted in overlooking that fundamental vibration whose tone, to the trained ear, can be distinguished at the base, rather the height, of every great moment. Resonance to the whole is the fundamental note of pure poetry and religion.
Once again, what does this phenomenon, born with thought and growing with it, reveal except a profound harmony between two realities that seek each other: the separated particle trembling at the approach of the rest?
Collectivity as such is fundamentally unlovable. And this is where philanthropy fails. Common sense is right. It is impossible to give oneself to an anonymous number. Let the universe take on ahead of us a face and a heart, become personified for us, so to speak, and then in the atmosphere created by this focal point, the elementary attractions will unfold. And it is probably then that, under the forced pressure of an Earth closing back on itself, the tremendous energies of attraction still dormant between human molecules will burst out.
I’d probably translate “the nostalgia that seizes us” as the heart’s longing, reminiscent of Psalm 27:11 that we worked with this past week in our Life in Christ circle in which the Psalmist writes: “You speak in my heart and say, ‘seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” In this cosmic courting of hide and seek, being prompted by Love within only to respond with Love outpouring, can we see—as if through the jostling of binocular lenses bringing two visions into a clearer third—can we see both the separated particles trembling and the longing for the whole in a unified field?
If Love must embrace the entire cosmos, with the passion of particular attractions and frictions under pressure, we must also embrace the personal and tremble before the objective reality that at the wedding banquet at the end of the world, “Everything that rises must converge.”
What is Love? We can barely know. But we absolutely feel it and its flames of devotion. And it feels like morphing from one degree of glory into another.
Soon, here in our local community, we will be breaking open Gospel of Thomas Logion 15, and we will do it with this resonance in heart:
Yeshua says …
When the time comes and you are able to look upon the Unborn One, fall prostrate in worship, for you have found your own true Father.
Here we are, all of us, before the divine abyss of the Uncreated Light of Being and Love. Yearning a prayer of self-remembering. Rolling up the sleeves of vigilance. Holding hands in repose. And loving the entire resonant universe into the unification of fulfillment.
A Note from Northeast Wisdom/ Wisdom Waypoints: Thanks to Cynthia Bourgeault, for identifying this as a companion piece to the conversation generated by her post found here: The Baton Has Been Passed: Now Can We Run With It? Exploring Jean Gebser, Lesson IX
Benjamin is a life-long seeker, Benedictine Oblate, Episcopal Priest & Wisdom Teacher in the Christian Contemplative path and Interspiritual Mysticism. Primarily a student of Jesus, G.I. Gurdjieff, and Cynthia Bourgeault, he seeks to facilitate the transformation of others and our planet by living the Fruits of the Spirit through the conscious work of a meditative and surrendered heart. And he believes this work can happen within the Church. Ben takes Wisdom Students through spiritual practices, retreats, and book studies by some of the great spiritual masters. He serves as Associate Rector at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton, Florida with which this Wisdom School is in partnership. He and his wife, Anna, have five beautifully wild children and enjoy laughter and life by the sea. you can find Ben at Benjamin Thomas.
Images from the top: Whirlpool galaxy, courtesy of pixy, full image; ibid, cropped; ibid, cropped; The True Trinity in True Unity, mandala by Hildegard of Bingen, 1165, Meister des Hildegardis Codex.