The form of beauty

Christ and animalsAs Cynthia Bourgeault has commended Teilhard de Chardin as focus of shared attention over the course of this year, 2015, I have recently obtained a copy of Ilia Delio’s The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution and the Power of Love (Orbis, 2013) as offering a contemporary context and approach to Teilhard. I come to this with a degree of ambivalence, having spent time with the critique of modern science done some years ago by Philip Sherrard. One of Sherrard’s papers, in particular, critiques the project of Teilhard and the concept of evolution. At the time, I found all that persuasive. Bishop Kallistos has seen no conflict between evolution and the Orthodox Christian faith as, according to him, these are concerned with two different realms of discourse.

It seems to me that a motivation of contemporary interest in Teilhard is a desire the unify or harmonize these two realms of discourse–in other words, to harmonize, religion and modern science. In itself, this desire can be an entirely good thing, as a kind of ascesis or yoga of human consciousness. A problem, however, as I see it, has to do with a tendency to give science the final or last word and with a tendency to attempt reconciliation with a science that has not first been subjected to profound and thoroughgoing critique. Science, it seems to me, does require the critique that Sherrard cogently offers in his books, The Eclipse of Man and Nature: An enquiry into the origins and consequences of modern science (Golgonooza, 1987) and Human Image: World Image: The Death and Resurrection of Sacred Cosmology (Golgonooza, 1992; reprinted by Denise Harvey, 2004).

As the languages of science and religion derive from two different perspectives or orientations of human consciousness, a project of harmonizing these cannot recognize these as having equal authority. More promising contemporary academic work is being done by those (such as Celia Deane-Drummond) with some awareness of the modern Russian sophiological tradition associated with the names of Sergius Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, and Vladimir Soloviev. Unless Teilhard’s “Omega Point” is proposed as a notional object for reflection along with the possibilities of the sophianic divine-humanity, it is seems somehow split off from the fullness of the tradition. The magnetic force, if you will, that draws all things to their ultimate end is (Christ as) the Form of Beauty.

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