The Mystic Teilhard de Chardin and the Heart of Jesus


(Parts of this article appeared previously on Ilia Delio’s Omega Center’s website)

Throughout my life, through my life, the world has, little by little, caught fire in my sight until, aflame all around me, it has become almost completely luminous from within.... Christ, his heart a fire, capable of penetrating everywhere, and gradually, spreading everywhere.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a man ahead of his time—and just right for ours. He was a paleontologist, geologist, lecturer, essayist, world traveler, war hero, and part of the team that discovered Peking Man, as well as a Jesuit Catholic Priest. He was a scholarly Indiana Jones, traveling around the world, discovering new mysteries of science and spirit.

While often known for his intellectual prowess and visionary intimations of the future, he was also a man deeply connected to the personal Jesus. This dynamic of his life, too, is crucial for our time now. Going beyond many other giant intellects, Teilhard’s experience of a deep mystical relationship to God and Jesus was the heart of his passion and vision.  

Sacred Heart by Odilon Redonn Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

Sacred Heart by Odilon Redonn Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

While Teilhard introduces us to a Universal Cosmic Christ (God-beyond-us), he refuses to leave behind the personal Jesus, his beloved Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Eucharist (God-beside-us and God-Being-Us). He continues to pray to the “Lord Jesus.” (Teilhard, The Heart of the Matter)

Teilhard’s mystical journey began with an awareness of a subtle Presence pervading the atmosphere in which he lived. Teilhard says, “Mysticism is a science that requires a sixth sense, one that opens to a dimension of the world that is available to all, yet not easily accessed by many. To practice this science is to learn to discern more than that which the eye can see, the ear can hear, the nose can smell, the tongue can taste, and the skin can feel—more than what our best scientific instruments can detect.” (Duffy, Teilhard’s Mysticism)

While many Postmoderns have accepted this deeper spiritual reality, they are still often reluctant to embrace Jesus as God-Beside-Us. Perhaps it reminds them of the often habit-filled, pleading, projection-packed “praying” in traditional Christianity that they have well left behind. Many people in the world today admire Jesus. They find Jesus’ wisdom and penetrating critique of the religious, social, and political world of his day relevant to our day. They respect his willingness to live and die for his liberating beliefs. However, sometimes these same people ignore or dismiss Jesus’ own understanding and intimate personal experience of God. An honest reading of the life and teaching of Jesus shows that he believed the source of his wisdom and liberating acts came from his deep communion and personal relationship with the God who was always beside him.

Cosmic Christ by John Lenz

Cosmic Christ by John Lenz

Teilhard embraced the visions and intimacy of God in Jesus. One of his first mystical experiences, called “The Picture,” took place in a church where he was gazing at a portrait of Jesus offering his heart to humankind. Teilhard recounts that the outlines of Jesus’ figure, although originally solid, gradually seemed to dissolve, and all seemed to merge as it were (though without vanishing away) into the rest of the picture. It was as though the planes which marked off the figure of Jesus from the world surrounding it were melting into a single vibrant surface where all demarcations and separations vanished. Here was a vision that began with the image and presence of Jesus and ended with an image of the Cosmic Christ.

In another vision, Duffy, writing in Teilhard’s’ Mysticism, says, “Up ahead, the person of Christ was coming into view … his presence became ‘as immediate and all – embracing as Life.’  The charm of his person, the tenderness of his glance, the embrace of his ‘more than human arms,’ the gentle touch of his ‘two marvelous hands,’ hands that by the slightest pressure are capable of shaping the cosmos as if it were as pliable as clay—all of these attracted Teilhard to him. The warmth of his person, the radiance of his countenance, the attractive power of his soul, drew Teilhard so profoundly that he longed to be possessed.”

This is a passionate description of personal communion with Jesus himself!  Duffy continues, “He [Teilhard] knew that he was no longer capable of loving and surrendering to anything less than a person. In fact, captured by the beauty of the person of Christ at the heart of a glowing universe and by the Divine Presence radiating from the depths of blazing matter, he became convinced that the universe is evolving into a Person whom he could love.”

He wrote down his own personal prayer on a holy card of the Sacred Heart, and he carried with him for use everywhere he went. Below is a picture of that card and the litany he wrote on the back. Notice that it is not the traditional picture of a blood-red physical heart, but rather a softly glowing heart radiating white light.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus

The world-zest,
The essence of all energy,
The cosmic curve,
The heart of God,
The issue of cosmogenesis,
The tide of cosmic convergence,
the God of evolution,
The Universal Jesus,
Focus of ultimate and Universal energy,
Center of the cosmic sphere of cosmogenesis,
Heart of Jesus,
Heart of evolution,
Unite me to yourself.


What are we to take from the mysticism of Teilhard?  

Often when mystics are spoken of, it is with an attitude of reverence and awe toward these holy people who were bestowed special visions and uncommon intimacy. While this is partly true, mysticism is not a lottery chance with astronomical odds. I believe mysticism with Jesus is accessible to anyone and everyone, at any time. It’s one of our core values in the Integral Christian Network, and we seek to cultivate and practice it, in the spirit of evolution, in our WeSpace groups.

Organized religion has often been suspicious of the mystics, because they cut out the middle man and can’t quite be controlled. But what if we tried to organize around the mystical? What if that were the center of our spiritual practice and expression in community? That’s just what we’re trying to explore. You can be a part of that too.