Teilhard de Chardin & Ernesto Cardenale on Soul & Cosmos

We have been celebrating the vastness of soul that we all carry within us—or better, that carries all that is within us, our bodies included.  Scientist and mystic Teilhard de Chardin and poet Ernesto Cardenale, who blends Latin American history to the new creation story of the universe in his epic poem Cosmic Canticle (Cantico cosmico), speak to the reality of cosmos and expanded soul. 

Yaling Wu from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences read an excerpt of ‘The Mass on the World’ (La Messe sur le monde) by Teilhard de Chardin. Video by eRenlai Ricci.

Says Teilhard: 

Our own age seems primarily to need a rejuvenation of supernatural forces to be effected by driving roots deeply into the nutritious energies of the Earth. Because it is not sufficiently moved by a truly human compassion, because it is not exalted by a sufficiently passionate admiration of the universe, our religion is becoming enfeebled.*

Over sixty-five years ago, Teilhard proposed that “our religion is becoming enfeebled.” The reason being that we are too cut off from awe and wonder and a “passionate admiration of the universe.”

Regimented houses with maximum indoor space and minimal land to tend: “Housing Development, American Fork.” Photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash.

We are too anthropocentric, living our lives entirely in boxes and a consciousness that is too small.

What follows is that we lack a “truly human compassion,” and are cut off from our deepest roots, which derive from “the nutritious energies of the Earth.”  Only the Earth can save us from our smallness and the enfeeblement of culture that follows from that.  The Earth being a daughter of the universe, as Thomas Berry reminds us when he says “ecology is functional cosmology.” 

Teilhard elaborates on the “cosmic sense” that we all have access to when he writes:

Deep in the Ecuadoran rainforest: a home in the indigenous Shuar community by the Pastaza river. Photo by Leahb on Flickr.

I give the name of cosmic sense to the more or less confused affinity that binds us psychologically to the All which envelops us…. The cosmic sense must have been born as soon as humanity found itself facing the frost, the sea and the stars. And since then we find evidence of it in all our experience of the great and unbounded: in art, in poetry, and in religion.**

Speaking of art, poetry and religion, and the “cosmic sense,” what does poet and activist priest and contemplative Ernesto Cardenale tell us about the cosmos and our own souls?  (Cardenale, who was from Nicaragua, once joined the monastery where Thomas Merton lived and Merton was his novice master.  He did not remain for a particularly long time however.) 

He says:

In 1992 Jim Wilson got the idea to slow down a recording of chirping crickets. The revealed sound simply was called “God’s cricket chorus”. Video by Rick Grunwald.

Nature is religious in its very essence. The star-studded firmament, for example, is one great supplication. The spirit of every landscape is a spirit of prayer, and so is the deep silence of solitary places.

The crickets and the stars speak to us of God, and what they are telling us is that they were created by God.

The entire cosmos aspires to a union with that God from whom it has gone forth. . . . . The law of love is the supreme physical and biological law of the universe and also the one and only moral law (“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you”).***

*Teilhard de Chardin, Writings in Time of War (NY: Harper & Row 1968), p. 262

**Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy (NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), p. 82.

***Ernesto Cardinale, To Live is To Love: Meditations on Love and Spirituality (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1974), p. 88.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, # 218, 227, 334.

Banner Image: Monsoon storm producing a forked lightning bolt from the Red Hills Visitors Center at Saguaro National Park in Southern Arizona. Photo by Pete Gregoire for NOAA Weather in Focus Photo Contest 2015

Do you experience nature as” religious in its very essence”?

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9 thoughts on “Teilhard de Chardin & Ernesto Cardenale on Soul & Cosmos”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The cricket symphony into today’s DM, is utterly amazing. I listened to it over and over, with tears welling up in my eyes. It brought to my remembrance a sacred moment I experienced a couple of years ago, of being gently sung to sleep, on a hot summers night, after a particularly stressful day with the songs of the crickets. In that moment I felt like I was being personally serenaded by this orchestra of God’s creation that did in fact lead me to peace. What comes to mind are Jesus words… my peace I give to you, not as this world gives, but as I have designed to give it to you… through the beauty and goodness of the all and the everything of creation. (Personally paraphrased).

  2. Avatar

    Thank you, Jeanette. When I first moved to Prescott, Arizona in 2001, I used to go to sleep in the summer (windows open) with the sound of crickets and awaken to the sound of birds. Sadly, Prescott has nearly doubled in size and there are far fewer birds and I seldom hear the crickets. I wonder if on some subconscious level we do hear the whole symphony sung by the crickets, slowed down as it is in Mr. Wilson’s recording, not just the scratchy though soothing sound picked up by the conscious mind. Perhaps you were being personally serenade by the cricket orchestra, perhaps we all are.

  3. Avatar

    Ooooh, those crickets, reminding us that there are miracles everywhere, especially if we slow down. Totally blew me away.

  4. Avatar

    The cricket serenade is beyond amazing. At first, I was suspicious because it sounds so much like parts of the hymn, “How Great Thou Art”, and then I thought, maybe the hymn came from this. It is the most fundamental praise song. Thank you. I too loved hearing the crickets as a child.

  5. Avatar

    “ecology is functional cosmology” — I wish I could attribute that statement to myself, but Thomas Berry stated it well and succinctly . . . What I do know is that my sons, professors of ecology and cosmology respectively, are in agreement and can talk intelligently at length about that statement. }:- a.m.

  6. Avatar

    Yes, i do experience nature as religious/sacred/ and spiritual in its essence. Mother Nature has always captivated me and held me in awe at the immensity of her beauty, perfection, and unfolding potential. i used to go on camping trips by myself and was frequently brought to tears at the sights She displayed…hidden and obvious,
    audible and inaudible, heightening all of my senses.
    Although from outward appearances and other people’s perspective, i was alone…. i never felt alone and knew
    i was not alone in the arms of Her loving care. There is NO SEPARATION between the Supreme, nature, and Her
    creation or creatures. My prayer is that all will come to know and respect Her in Her Divinity. Eternity

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Eternity, thank you for sharing your deep appreciation of the Goddess and/or the Divine Feminine!

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