My Days Studying Teilhard de Chardin (below)
Living at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert (below)
(The following is excerpted from an email written in August, 2000 -- Greg Kargira-Watson)
I first met Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) at someone's home in New Mexico when a Catholic Priest asked me to go with him. Ram Dass was conducting a small meditation training for a small group gathered there. Although I was glad to meet him and found it interesting, the expereince did not leave much of an impression on me at the time. I thought he was a nice guy striving to assist others along the path of search for the Higher self. For all the attention drawn to him (not there, but historically) he was humble and self-effacing—a warm and friendly spirit. It seemed to me that he had integrated his LSD experiences into his life better than Timothy Leary had, after they both quit being Harvard professors. I had met the Catholic priest at a monastery where I was visiting at the time. I was not a Catholic (and had not yet heard of the Baha'i Faith). I stayed and worked there for several months—studying not only Christianity but various philosophies, Teilhard de Chardin and world religions. Actually, the Priest and I were on our way to Mexico when we met Dr. Alpert and this seemed like a logical stop along the way. I was acting as the priest's guide on the trip. He had never been to Mexico, so he commissioned me. This priest looked like a cross between Old Dan Tucker and John Lennon. He had a beard and little John Lennon glasses and wore Tucker's hat. He ran a youth ministry on Nantucket island, in Massachusetts.
We left in a snow storm. Along the way, just south of Santa Fe, we picked up a hitchhiking mother with her baby and groceries standing on a highway in this blinding storm. We took her home—a one-room house with a dirt floor. Her husband, a wood cutter, came home shortly and they—wishing to hospitable— started a fire to make tea on the only heater in the house... a wood-burning cook stove. On the hand-hewed wooden table in the center of the house (one room) was a five inch thick copy of Amy Vanderbilt's (or maybe it was Emily Post's) handbook on etiquette. I thought to myself... "what on earth do these rustic people do with a handbook on etiquette?" Well, the husband went to start the fire in the cook stove and reaching over to the table grabbed the book on etiquette and ripped about ten pages out for kindling! I thought that I had witnessed the greatest social commentary of my life! Ha! I almost could not avoid bursting out laughing,... but of course that would have been rude... considering that this was not contrived, but merely their life. The book had value beyond the author's imagination.
By the way, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert (near Abiquiu, New Mexico) now has a web site at http://www.christdesert.org/ A photo of it can be seen here http://www.christdesert.org/noframes/day/mday.htm along with a description of what my life there was like for a few months in 1969. Here is a photo of one of the "cells" -- an eight by ten foot room where each monk slept and studied independently or in isolation — http://www.christdesert.org/noframes/day/tony/tony1.html Mostly I was a shepherd during the day, taking care of the sheep in the pastures, or painting the massive wooden vegas, or making adobe bricks. I lived like one of the monks there -- only three to five of us while I was there -- and did not stay in the guest house, http://www.christdesert.org/noframes/guest/introduction.html, which had not yet been built. Thomas Merton was one of the founders of the monastery and much of his personal library was kept there after his death. (For more on Merton see http://www.monks.org/merton.htm , http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/mys/merton.htm , http://www.merton.org/ and http://edge.net/~dphillip/Merton.html and http://home.postnet.com/~joevoid/)
Teilhard de Chardin
While I was there at the monastery we had a group-study of Teilhard de Chardin's writings. I had already read some on my own before going there. Teilhard was a paleontologist and a Catholic priest who participated in the discovery of Peking Man. He was not a psychologist, nor even a philosopher in the usual sense. He was a priest and mystic, but he was also a scientist, to whom the concept of evolution held as much weight as scripture. "Evolution" is the basis for Teilhard's entire cosmology. Not, as Darwinian evolution would have it, a random product, or the "survival of the fittest," (or "modification of species") but an evolution planned and guided by divine agency. Reading his works was pretty wonderful. I particularly like The Divine Milieu and The Phenomenon of Man—a great book that I would recommend to anyone. Teilhard perceives a unity:"My starting point is the fundamental initial fact that each one of us is perforce linked by all the material organic and psychic strands of his being to all that surrounds him."Teilhard's science had already convinced him of the validity of evolution as a paradigm fundamental to understanding the meaning of human existence. He affirms that"the belief that there is an absolute direction of growth, to which both our duty and our happiness demand that we should conform. It is his [the human] function to complete cosmic evolution." (pp. 31-33). He goes so far as to say: "Christ is realized in evolution." (p. 63).His concept of the evolution of the "noosphere" is extraordinary, and includes, I think, the idea that when Christ "returns" (or stays with us as Spirit) He returns inside our consciousness-- that our collective consciousness is accelerated into a new unity of social progress... along with the birth of the scientific revolution. It was here, I think, that I was first introduced to the idea of "teleology"... that God's purpose has a direction... an upward and progressing direction... like the ascent of an arrow in flight. You can find an interesting web site on Chardin at http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1997/mar/cunning.html
The following site http://www.noogenesis.com/chardin.html is dedicated to the exploration or the concept of "noosphere" and presents the following statement:"The term 'noogenesis' was coined by this Christian mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It means the growth or development of consciousness—the coming into being of the 'noosphere.' Noosphere is defined as the sphere or stage of evolutionary development characterized by (the emergence or dominance of) consciousness, the mind, and interpersonal relationships."It is not unrelated to the Gaia hypothesis that the earth and all the life upon it is a living being (this concept first put forward in literature by Plato and later by Lovelock). http://www.gaiamind.com/Teilhard.html is another good link, or introduction, to Teilhard.
Teilhard de Chardin passed away a full ten years before James Lovelock ever proposed the "Gaia Hypothesis" which suggests that the Earth is actually a living being, a collosal biological super-system. Long before ecology was fashionable, Chardin's writings clearly reflect the sense of the Earth as having its own consciousness, of which we are a part.
Teilhard De Chardin predicts the culmination of evolution as consciousness:
"Pushed one against the other by the growth of their number and by the proliferation of their connections, approached one to the other by the reawakening of a common force and by the feeling of a common anxiety, the future human kind will form nothing but an unified consciousness".
According to Teillhard, there exists, beyond the laws of physics, another fundamental principle of organization of the universe, another dimension: the infinitely complex. Starting from the simplest to the most complex, all matter can be put in alignment along an axis, from the most elementary particle to the most complex organism. In this progression towards an ever increasing complexity, of which the human being is the highest grade, evolution is not linear but proceeds by a series of quantitative then qualitative leaps (not unlike Thomas Khun's structure of scientific revolution). When a level of complexity reaches its point of maximum complexity, it jumps to a new different level and organization of its wholeness. The more matter becomes complex, the more it approaches to awareness. The propellant force of this evolution comes from the cosmic and all-encompassing physical-moral force of Love. (found at http://www.nettuno.it/fiera/electric.italy/noosphere.html )"Willingly or unwillingly, all our directions and needs converge to the same place"."Chardin's vision is that we all converge to the final goal, everything is directed towards the Omega point, humanity's natural point of convergence, of access, through the second coming of Christ in glory, to the creative unification of the world in God."
(This statement is found at http://www.nettuno.it/fiera/electric.italy/noosphere.html )"The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the Earth." Teilhard de ChardinOne almost gets the sense that Teilhard de Chardin had read the Baha'i writings or been impressed unconsciously in some way. I had a chance to spend some private time with Ervin Laszlo at Princeton when he spoke at the "Converging Realities" conference, which the Baha'is sponsored there. Leading thinkers and scientists (including two Nobel laureates) were speakers in panel discussions. Farzam Arbab was chair. He is now a member of the Universal House of Justice. Laszlo is practically the originator of "systems thinking" and has published widely on the subject. His book "Evolution" -- dealing with the "sciences of complexity" embraces the same idea as Chardin above. He was head of UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) for seven years and one of the founders of the Club of Rome. I quote him at the end of my paper, presented at Harvard on "Raising the Consciousness of World Citizenship" in the curriculum development section (not on my web site with the outline). Same ideas regarding our "oneness" as proved by science.
Some of Teilhard de Chardin's books can be ordered from Amazon.com re: Teilhard de Chardin.
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