“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit priest, mystic philosopher, and paleontologist, a principle figure in one of the great discoveries in the evolutionary chain of human history, the discovery of Peking Man, a homo erectus predecessor to modern homo sapiens that lived approximately 750,000 years ago in China.
While being an important figure in the world of field paleontology, Teilhard’s great mission in life was to resolve the gulf between religion and science that centered on the issue of evolution, for he was a man of both worlds, unique in so many ways, and absolutely brilliant. His perspective on evolution was radically visionary in a manner that put him not in conflict with his faith, but rather in confirmation of it. For him, the issue wasn’t that human beings evolved from a common ancestor as that of apes; this was only the most recent evolutionary event and only a superficial analysis of the much greater truth. For Teilhard de Chardin, what was evident was that human beings were the natural result of the evolution of the Universe. The only point of beginning for the human species, as with all life, could be the birth of the Universe, the Big Bang. From that moment, an inexorable process of increasing complexification of matter led to the inevitable emergence of consciousness, for, he speculated, as science is now confirming, consciousness is an inherent property of matter.
As is being discovered in the field of quantum physics, sub-atomic particles behave in ways that can only be explained by attributing consciousness into the equation. This is supportive of Teilhard’s hypothesis that the Universe is a unified field of both matter-energy and consciousness-energy, what he called spirit, and that the Universe was a unified field of spirit-matter, manifesting as objects within the field of universal energy which complexified in consciousness as it complexified in physical organization. In the known Universe, the most complex organization of matter is the human brain which then manifests the most complex consciousness. Teilhard wrote: “There is neither spirit nor matter in the world; the stuff of the universe is spirit-matter.”
This perspective on existence is in keeping with many cultural traditions in which that which is called “God” is not the creator of the Universe in any kind of mechanistic and dualistic sense, as in God is in Heaven and the World is made “out there” but rather, God is the world, Divine consciousness infusing all Creation. In this mystical equation one plus one equals One and the many. There are infinite manifestations of one – stars, planets, comets, rocks, and at least on this planet Earth, many, many manifestations of life-forms, all making up the One that is the Universe, with consciousness permeating the One and manifesting as individual consciousness in the higher levels of organization called sentient beings. This is the Natural World. It is a system of unified energy manifesting infinite individual systems of energy, all still within the One.
“When the energy simply flows through us, just as it flows through the grass and the trees and the ravens and the bears and the moose and the ocean and the rocks, we discover that we are not solid at all. If we sit still like the mountain Gampo Lhatse in a hurricane… then we are not this separate being.” – Pema Chodrin
This intuitive realization of our individuality existing within a Great Oneness is the essential mystical spiritual realization. It is not adequate to hold this as an intellectual realization, it has to be intuitively experienced, a combining of subtle physical and mental perception of our Beingness, our essence as energy connected energetically with the multiplicity and singularity of Life. To hold the idea of oneness brings no peace, no sense of completeness and perfect belonging in the World; the conflict of competing individual forms and human egos (psychological separate forms) is too overwhelming. To experience and live this peace requires what Buddhists call the “felt sense,” and since what we are addressing here is the reality of our existence as “spirit-matter” energy, it can of course be felt. It is our hypnotic belief in separate solid bodies and individual minds that prevents the feeling being realized, numbing us to this experience of living within the Sacred One. This belief constitutes what Buddhists refer to as a “barrier” or “gate” of egoic delusion that blocks our opening to the felt sense. The realization certainly can be addressed at an intellectual level, as I am attempting here, and as mystical teachers throughout history (including Jesus) have attempted with their words. It is, however, with their presence, which embodies this unified connected energy much vaster than a single individual, that the true communication, or what is sometimes referred to as “direct transmission,” can occur, opening and unlocking the “gate.”
“We can feel peaceful because our presence and the presence of the universe are exactly in the same place. This is what we call wholeheartedness or “with your whole mind.” – Dainin Katagiri
“God” is everything and no-thing since all things are only appearances of spirit-matter, all of which is The One that is Life. Only humans can create an artificial reality with their highly complex self-aware consciousness in which we experience as our primary reality our separateness. This is what led Carl Jung to say, “‘God’ is “a word for the non-ego.” For mystically awakened Buddhists, or the American or Australian indigenous peoples, there is no anthropomorphic “God,” Life itself is the source of all and experienced as sacred. They live in the reality of Teilhard’s spirit-matter.
“For the Zen Buddhist, everything that exists, apart from man – animals and plants, stones, earth, air, fire, water – lives undemandingly from the center of being, without having left it or being able to leave it. If man, having strayed from this center, is to know security and innocence of existence… he must go back… and return home to the “house of truth”… He must become… like forest and rock, like flower and fruit, like wind and storm.” – Eugen Herrigel (The Method of Zen)
Born to have a human experience,
not a squirrel’s, a daffodil’s or a bird’s,
The Flowing River of Universal Energy
contracts to a one,
humbly, awkwardly, vulnerably emerging
with the first breath inhaled.
Air and earth combine,
animated with the spark of The One,
a story begins, the story of one.
A human being begins,
lost in the teeming, bumping, yearning, struggling,
loving, hating, striving, hoping, despairing
sea of humanity, all looking for their place.
Insecure, often afraid, sometimes
full and triumphant, then again,
beset by incompleteness, frustration, fear.
Growing, learning, striving, asking:
“Is this my place?” “Is this my place?”
So many to challenge for “the place.”
So many to sow confusion about
what is “the place?”
The one who struggles,
the one who seeks,
has never been taught
of the One who already,
always is the place –
This watcher, this experiencer
that is the experience,
not the one chasing after experience,
chasing after place. –
We must come to know
the One who is more than one,
who is the One watching
this human experience.
And if from birth the watcher is an ancient one,
they carry the knowing of I Am,
and they live their human experience
struggling to remember what they already know.
And if they seek the quiet, the still voice within,
the remembering occurs,
and the human experience carries
less and less angst, less and less suffering,
more and more knowing the place
is here, right where I always am .
There is an awakening into I AM
who was not born,
who does not die.
The KNOWING grows,
the place is HERE,
the HERE that is the
flowing energy of the Universe – everywhere.
And when their story of one comes to its last breath,
in the last exhalation there is a sigh – “Home.”
And The River takes them back to
The One they had never left.
And when time and space
and soul are ready,
from The One,
again the soul sets out
to experience being one –
A squirrel, a daffodil, a bird,
a human being,
swirling, dancing in The One
that looks like many.
To realize our wholeness, we must, as the mythic mystic master, Yoda, said, “unlearn what you have learned.” And as Obi Wan said to Luke, “You must reach out with your feelings.” Then and only then, can we experience “The Force” that is us all, one experiencing One.