Practicing the Movements of Evolution – Part One
Teilhard de Chardin’s Three Pathways - Centration
One of the core questions underneath the beginning of the Integral Christian Network and our WeSpace groups was “What does practicing evolution actually look like?” How do we actively step into the process of not just talking and reading about evolution, but engage in practices—individual and collective—that press into this rising, this deepening?
Even behind these questions is the assumption that we actually can engage in evolution as an active participant, that it is not an entirely passive process that simply happens. Is this true? Perhaps the principle Christian thinker on evolution in the 20th century was Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit paleontologist and visionary of the future. He believed that we can and must choose to participate in and with evolution—indeed, even that it is the path to the greatest happiness in life. One cold December night in Peking (Beijing), China, he spoke of the three movements of personalization, or moving into the fuller living of evolving consciousness: Centration, Decentration, and Super-Centration.
In the first part of this series, we will look at the first movement, with the other two to follow.
“Being is in the first place making and finding one’s own self.”
For Teilhard, the act of centration is continual cultivation and development of the self into greater unity. Devoting ourselves to the more spiritual and elevated pursuits. This is going against the tendency to follow the path of least resistance, but choosing instead to continuously become more and more fully ourselves. This is the path of the interior life, including shadow work, meditation, self-improvement and development, and much more. In short, learning first how to find ourselves and who we are in this life.
Of course the path of self-knowledge always continues and deepens. If we continue to seek to truly know who we are, we will keep going further in our own self-identification. “Who Am I?” is the fundamental question of identity. St Francis was said to pray over and over, “Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?” On the path of growth, the layers to this question of self-reflection continually deepen and deepen over time as we release who we had previously thought we were.
This is the journey to the true self. It is the path that leads to divine identity, the inner knowing and experience of oneness, and beyond. Metaphors and symbols can be very helpful here. For me it is seen and felt in the great ocean of being, in which I am a wave and of which I am the water.
This is not just a head knowledge and something we think about, it is an inner experience of intuition and reality that is generally found in the gut, or spiritual womb. The pathway to this identity unfolds in a myriad of ways, but often through some kind of dark night experience of ego-death because we often don’t willingly choose to shed our lesser identifications. While we may get to the point where we mentally recognize our own inner divinity, we usually won’t actually deeply experience it if we are still overly identified at the egoic level. This is the mystic’s path.
Often we are at the mercy of the unfolding of this path. Life forces us to look beyond, to go deeper than our comfortable status quo. If we have chosen the path of evolution, of not settling for lesser realities and simply accepting a form of life that is not complete, then we will not last long in one place thinking we have arrived. There is always more to come, more to be revealed.
To choose to participate in this process, we can use the “Letting Go” sequence to choose to participate in this process:
I have a body. I am not my body.
I have thoughts. I am not my thoughts.
I have feelings. I am not my feelings.
I have a personality. I am not my personality.
Who am I?
You can add in any line that might speak to identifications from which you feel the need to release. Here are some other examples:
I do _______ (some action), but I am not what I do.
I have deeper intuition, but I am not my deeper intuition.
I have ______ (this shadow), but I am not my shadow.
We have also written about further gut practices that can help lead you into deeper identity and grounding. And we are seeking to learn to practice this together in our WeSpace groups.
Wherever we are on the pathway of centration—from still searching for our place and purpose in the word to a deep peace and resting in the reality of our divine self (or perhaps even both!)—that is who we bring to our life and our practice. We cannot pretend to be anything other than what we experience ourselves as. While on our own we can visualize an identity that we wish to grow toward and seek that manifestation, in WeSpace we seek to release any self-projections we carry and be present in authentic allowing.
In our groups we seek to presence ourselves into our ground of being, rooting down into our divine identity and truest self we have access to now. In our body, we experience this by moving into our gut center. This grounds us into the place where we know who we are (wherever we are). We therefore can be free from reaching out to others to name our identity. We are released from the needs for affirmation, approval, control, security, or any other ego grasping.
At least, that is the goal. We are never fully free from these impulses. But the more grounded we are in our divine identity the less we will feel these pulls from the ego. We can be with one another in an easy, restful presence of being.
While centration is for the most part an inner-personal practice, one that we experience individually rather than collectively, it is from this center that we must come in loving engagement with others. It roots us in the present reality in the here and now. It lays the foundation for our further evolution through the next movements.
Coming from our true selves is only the beginning step—though it takes all our lives. We cannot simply remain only in this interior journey, nor even can this interior journey further evolve if we only stay here. We must progress into the next movement, decentration, which we will explore next week.