The Boundless Joy of Transcendent Evolution
Practicing Teilhard’s Movements of Evolution – Part Three: Super-Centration
“You find a joy, a joy that is both higher and deeper—a joy full of power: the explosive joy of a life that has at last found a boundless area in which to expand.”
~ Teilhard de Chardin
The last two weeks, we’ve explored how our previous two movements of evolution take us deeply into ourselves into our truest divine self in the ground of being through centration, and then how we carry this up into our hearts and emerge from ourselves into loving union with others in decentration. Now the third and final movement of evolution from Teilhard is the movement of joy, expanding beyond ourselves in super-centration.
Just as decentration builds upon centration, this movement only finds it’s true evolving power if it is integrated with our other movements, if it is flowing through each of the “centers.” Each of these centers correspond with a center of being in our bodies, and each of the Three Faces of God! Integrating all of these in evolution lead us into a new way of participatory transcendence—one that calls forth our own presence and involvement in the work of God—full of joy.
Another word Teilhard uses for super-centration is worship. This is a somewhat loaded word for many people, positively, negatively, and everything in between. It points to some of what Teilhard is expressing here, but only a small piece. It is worship through action, rooted in empowered creativity, loving devotion, and joyful transcendence. If the word “worship” is helpful for you, hold it throughout this exploration. If it is not, let it go.
“It is in a deep and instinctive union with the whole current of life that the greatest of all joys is to be found.”
~ Teilhard de Chardin
As we begin to absorb an understanding of a God who is not just “out there,” but discover more of the mystery of the inner-face of God deep in our ground of being, the divine within us leads us to recognize that God is not distant. The divine is ever-present in everyone and everything. This is the presence of Christ. It is universal, but it is also definitively immediate and present in each individual expression. The face of God-being-us is also each of us-being-God.
Super-centering to the divine within is a movement of empowering your creative action as a participatory member of God’s action in this universe. This is no passive worship, but a call for each “to do what we are able to do as well as we can.”
Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with all that is going on in the world. We don’t know what we can do and how we can help with the myriad of disasters and problems put before us by a sensationalized 24-hour news cycle that wants our attention. But like Mother Teresa encouraging each to “find their own Calcutta,” Teilhard says that life and evolution progresses through our own particular response: “Each one of us, therefore, is the only person who can ultimately discover for himself [sic] the attitude, the approach (which nobody else can imitate) which will make him [sic] cohere to the utmost possible degree with the surrounding universe as it continues to progress.”
“We must add one stitch, no matter how small it be, to the magnificent tapestry of life” Teilhard says. From conscious solidarity with the universal, our personal response in super-centration is to act, even if it be the smallest thing. The tiniest actions become charged with power and peace because they flow from the deep current, expressed creatively through the vital energy of our own particular life and circumstances. When our actions are tapped in to this source, we discover that they are expressed with creativity and bolstered by a great joy.
What is your divine act? What is your work of God, right now in your life today?
“At all times and in all circumstances, it is possible…not only to serve (for serving is not enough) but to cherish in all things (the most forbidding and tedious, no less than the loveliest and most attractive) a universe which, in its evolution, is charged with love.”
~ Teilhard de Chardin
While our creative expressions flow from the universal/particular divine within, they become charged with love in our hearts through decentering into the personal other(s). As much as we can find deep meaning in ideas and possibilities, our greatest actions need to be motivated by love. That is why Teilhard says, “[If the drive for evolution] “is to be sustained, it must be harmonized and synthesized with the Christian drive.”
This is not a statement of exclusivity, but rather a calling upon the great force of loving energy from the heart of Christ. An evolved universe is a beautiful idea, but evolution is not just a substitute for the word “progress.” Teilhard affirms the humanistic effort for betterment, but presciently saw the need for it to be joined with and suffused in love. Actions done without a source of love will too often be poisoned by anger and bitterness. This can fuel us, but it is not healthy, won’t usually last long enough, and won’t lead into the true change of an evolution suffused with love.
We can really only experience this love personally. Love and worship need a personal object, a personal God. This is one of the gifts of Christianity. Incarnation, discovered in the presence of Christ in all things, but experienced in the personal, loving presence of God in Jesus. The resurrected, Living Jesus is still available to us today—to talk to, to love, to receive from, to rest in.
We worship Jesus not praising him for past actions, but by super-centering—placing our hearts, our centers into his presence, his work, his wisdom. As Jesus, he is filled with love and care that we can soak in and receive. As Christ, he is connected to all of the universe and can guide us in our evolving work. This 2nd person relationship with Jesus localizes and fuels our devotion for empowered creative acts, filled with loving care.
Some have lost, or have never experienced this personal presence of the resurrected Jesus. You can invite him, cautiously and tenderly, to be with you. He’s always been there. He never left.
If Jesus is too difficult, or has too much baggage for you, other personal spiritual guides can give us wisdom, insight, passion, dedication, and much more. Connecting with others in the work of evolution through loving energy, such as in a WeSpace group, also expands our capacity for love.
Jesus is also “the least of these,” and we can find the surge of love in the face of a refugee child just as we can find it in the presence of Jesus with us, or the child beside us in our lives. May our actions be creative expressions always charged with loving energy, embracing the intimate face of God who is always close by.
Who are you drawn to love in this moment? Who would pour love on you if you would just receive it?
“To find joy in what is out of scale with us, in what we can as yet neither touch nor see.”
~ Teilhard de Chardin
And now we integrate our whole body, joining the ground of being in our gut in participatory creation, with the devoted heart suffused with love, and into our heads. Super-centration is not so much a movement in the mind as it is a great expansion through recognition and a seeing. This insight, this vision, is that which we witness from the perspective of a center far beyond our own locality. It is a transcendence, a placement of our center beyond and into the mystery of God unfolding in the universe.
When we experience transcendence, perhaps through music, nature, art, or worship, we are taken beyond ourselves, to a vision of some great beauty, some reality that supersedes all of our immediate concerns. It’s almost as if I don’t matter anymore. And that is always an experience of absolute freedom and joy. Our mind is freed from its worrying obsessions, at least for those few moments.
The paradox is that when the moment of transcendence is over, you find that you care more about the world, about those around you, and about what you can humbly offer. You want to give yourself to some kind of meaningful creative expression. You want to love more. You want to work for something not from your own limited designs and plans, but from the expansive space of boundless joy you have just discovered.
As humans, we long for transcendence. We need to worship. We need something beyond ourselves because we know that we alone are not the ultimate. While we glimpse this in great beauty, art, and nature—we only discover “the surge of plentitude” continuously accessible within us when our super-centration is a whole-body movement beyond, deeply connected to our own creative empowerment as a gift to the world, our own experience of personal loving devotion, and ultimately to a transcendent God beyond ourselves, who is leading the work of evolution, drawing the whole universe to the Omega Point of completion and love.
Where do you find transcendence? How can you practice evolution with your whole being in your life right now?
This three-part series on practicing evolution, as informed by Teilhard de Chardin, provides much of the philosophical and theological groundwork for Integral Christian Network. If you find this vision inspiring, please take up the work yourself by signing up for the mailing list, joining a WeSpace group, or supporting the work!