© 2000 - 2003 by Ann K Elliott
Consummation as Conflagration
Consummation is both an individual and a cosmic event, happening sequentially in time as the soul’s return to the Whole, and simultaneously beyond time as the culminating event of creation. In Teilhard’s words, the Consummation will occur when
the substantial one and the created many fuse without confusion in a whole which, without adding anything essential to God, will nevertheless be a sort of triumph and generalisation of being . . . [with Christ as] . . . the active center, the living link, the organising soul of the Pleroma.(2)
The Consummation is the moment of the conflagration by which the scattered parts of the many are reunited into a cohesive Whole. Individually it occurs when the spark from the flaming heart at the center of creation ignites and sets the soul afire. It happens collectively as one soul ignites another, each a link in the chain reaction by which human consciousness is being re-configured according to the Christ pattern. Teilhard calls the process “Christogenesis”:
Like lightning, like a conflagration, like a flood, the attraction exerted by the Son of Man will lay hold of all the whirling elements in the universe so as to reunite them or subject them to his body.
Such will be the consummation of the divine milieu.(3)
In The Gospel According to Thomas, Jesus says,
Whoever is near to me is near to the fire, and whoever is far from me is far from the Kingdom.(4)
In another place,
I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I guard it until it (the world) is afire.(5)
The Chain Reaction
Teilhard’s “blazing plenitude” was Dante’s immense, luminous rose, a vision that cleaved the poet’s mind “in a great flash of light.” In turn, Dante’s creative spirit ignited Dore’s imagination, and through whom came his familiar Celestial Rose (Chapter Four, Plate IV-9) of “tier upon tier” of “myriad thrones” turning
Over the course of the soul’s return its vision expands to cosmic proportions until finally it beholds the reflection of its own glorious Self in the radiating presence of the Christ. Thus Paul could say
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another . . . .(7)
Unlike the disciples, Paul never knew the flesh and blood Jesus. Nor was he among those who witnessed the post-Resurrection appearances through the Ascension. Yet on the road to Damascus the man Saul, who would become Paul, was struck down as by a bolt of lightning, a light so bright as to blind him. Deep in trance “he heard a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” When he asked “Who are you, Lord?” the voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."(8)
Thus Paul became a link in the chain
reaction. And from that moment for the rest of his life he knew without a
doubt that the flesh and blood person the disciples had known as Jesus was
the still-living Christ he knew. Moreover, it was on this dime of one man’s
blinding experience of the risen Christ that the entire history of Western
civilization would turn.
Michelangelo’s Conversion of Paul
Among the Vatican’s treasures is a fresco by Michaelangelo in which Paul’s high moment of divine intervention is captured in what could be called an intrusion of the divine into a human life.
As the over-zealous persecutor of those he judged to be the over-zealous followers of false messiah, Paul was an unlikely choice for the task of turning a small Judaic sect into a world religion. His story is, in fact, hope for our times: that under certain circumstances God does meddle in human affairs in order to fulfill the divine design for creation. This precise moment Michelangelo captures portrays Paul as one slain by the Spirit and who, upon awakening, begins to fulfill his divine destiny to give shape to the message of God’s love incarnate in the person of Jesus, and in a form that insures it universal spread.
The high drama of such an event is an indication of its impact on the collective. Michelangelo shows this with the twister-like beam of light that funnels down from the powerful arm of Christ (in the painting’s upper level), with an impact that knocks Paul off his horse and leaves him unconscious (at the bottom of the fresco). Through the artist’s creative genius the viewer is there as witness to the transdimensional impact of the mind of Christ on the mind of Paul. By the proximity of the foreground, Michelangelo draws us into the scene. We are also there because what is happening to Paul is of such import that it is happening collectively to all and for all times.
What were the circumstances that led to Paul’s encounter with the living Christ? When was the wedge driven into his pharisaic mind? Some say it was at the stoning of Stephen when “the witnesses laid down their garments at Saul’s feet."( 9) Or perhaps Paul’s conversion was God’s answer to Stephen’s dying prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them."(10) The circumstances surrounding the conversion suggest several questions for personal reflection:
Where and under what circumstances did my cosmic egg begin to crack?
When has the light of a higher, spiritual awareness broken through into my ordinary conscious mind?
One thing was
certain, when Paul regained consciousness he was on the high road to
spiritual attainment, and into an intimate personal relationship with the
everywhere-present, still-living Christ. Moreover, his new mission was to
encourage and build up the faith of the very ones he had been persecuting as
his enemies. Thus Paul, as must happen to all on the spiritual path, found
that those (or what) he had feared and rejected were now his allies.
Teilhard’s Vision of the Cosmic Christ
Nearly twenty centuries after Paul’s encounter, Teilhard would experience a comparable transdimensional experience of the Cosmic Christ. It happened one day when he was in a church seated before an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that "the planes which marked off the figure of Christ from the world surrounding it melded into a single vibrant surface whereon all demarcations vanished."
First of all I perceived that the vibrant atmosphere which surrounded Christ like an aureole was no longer confined to a narrow space about him, but radiated outwards to infinity. Through this there passed from time to time what seemed like trails of phosphorescence, indicating a continuous gushing forth to the outermost spheres of the realm of matter and delineating a sort of blood stream or nervous system running through the totality of life.(11)
vision Teilhard the mystic and Teilhard the scientist converged so as to
conclude with Paul that in the Son, “all the fullness of God was pleased to
swell."(12) Both Paul and Teilhard, because of what they personally,
experientially knew, could envision something similar happening to
others, and in the fullness of time happening collectively as the birth of
the many sons and daughters of God for whom “the whole of creation has been
groaning in travail."(13)
Of Rocks and God
Once Teilhard had caught sight of the Christ of all of creation--the Cosmic Christ--he was free to yield to a love he had felt since childhood for things both material and spiritual: the rocks he had carried in his pocket and the love of God his devout mother had instilled in his heart. From these two early loves--God and rocks--Teilhard the man formulated the twin propositions that would guide him in his explorations into “the heart of matter”:
Matter is the matrix of Spirit.
Being “In Christ”
Nor was Teilhard ever dissuaded--not by Rome or by any other by hierarchical authority--from following where his supramentally-received conviction led. Although separated by an entire age, Teilhard and Paul both spoke from the common ground of their personal experiences and their conviction that the influence of the Christ they so intimately knew extended to and filled the whole of creation. Both held that “in Christ” all things come into being and are held together.(15) Both understood the purpose of the Incarnation as God in Christ “reconciling the world to himself."(16) And here Paul answers the why of the Incarnation--to reconcile--which Webster defines as “to bring back to harmony,” “to cause to be friendly again.”
Even though through revelation Paul had come to understand Christ as present in all of creation, the science of his day lacked the vision and the nomenclature for expressing the vastness of the universe. Today, however, this manner of speaking is idiomatic, as in The Book of Common Prayer’s Eucharistic prayer:
At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.(17)
As self-portrayed in his Letters, Paul was a complex person, sometimes contradictory and at times contentious. Nonetheless, his mysticism was simple and uncomplicated. It was simply a matter of “putting on” the mind of Christ, of letting, allowing, permitting, inviting the transcendent God to become personally immanent. Similarly for Teilhard, “being in Christ” meant being part of an “attracting force” of evolutionary magnitude by which creation was being drawn towards its Consummation, when “Sooner or later there [would] be a chain-reaction."(18) This made perfect scientific as well as spiritual sense to Teilhard, as it had to Paul, but to him in terms of the cosmology of his day. Both were seeing the same Truth, but through the lenses and in the parlance of their own times. As Jung pointed out, even eternal Truth needs a human language in which to be recast in the spirit of the times.
As a scientist
and a mystic, Teilhard could think both analytically and symbolically, and
without the two modes in conflict. This, however, was not the case for his
ecclesiastical superiors who could accept his science, (about which they
were in the dark,) but not his visionary insight, (which infringed on their
own turf.) With his ideas considered “heretical” and “pantheistic,” and
their publication forbidden, his choice was to endure the emotional pain of
having his life work rejected or of leaving his order and the priesthood.
Endure he did, but without ever wavering from his conviction that God and
rocks and spirituality and evolution were inseparably linked--the one the
higher reality of the other. Nor did he ever doubt that this was what his
life was about.
The Evolutionary Spiral
According to Teilhard, humanity’s evolutionary path is an ascending spiral that is converging towards “Point Omega” as the Consummation or Christing of creation. He writes that “the Universe is centrated--Evolutively,” and goes on to explain that the movement of evolution is both upward and forward through space and time. (Figure VIII-1)
Teilhard’s four “genesises” have a number of correspondences to other schema examined in previous chapters, and as charted in Figure VIII-2.
The Myriad Rungs of Consciousness
With quantum physics advising that energy and light, in varying wave lengths, move through space spirally, the “worlds” of the scientist and the mystic are convering. And with the more recent focus of physics on the inner space of microcosmic, subatomic, non-tangible reality, science and religion as allies stand poised for the next great leap in the evolution of consciousness.
Blake’s spirit-driven imagination envisioned Jacob’s ladder as a spiral stairway spanning heaven and earth, and on which angels were descending and ascending. (Plate VIII-2) The painting moves the eye around four predominant, upwardly-spiraling turns, creating a visual correspondence to Teilhard’s evolutionary spiral.
According to Jung, Jacob’s ladder is a symbolic representation of the ego/Self “axis of communication.” The establishment of this axis depends on the ego first gaining a sense of its own strength, thus building a stairway between the lower and higher realms of consciousness. The Self is also Aurobindo’s connection to the supramental--a level of consciousness infinitely wiser than the intellect, and in touch with the source of all knowing. In this connection, Jung advises that the realms of higher spiritual consciousness are not to be confused with intellectual achievements. He warns, in fact, that the intellect can “harm the soul when it dares to possess itself of the heritage of spirit.” Going further, he explains that “the spirit is something higher than intellect,” and includes the feelings as well. The attainment of this higher consciousness is the goal towards which life is striving. It is the path leading to “shining, supra-human heights."(19) Aurobindo’s clarification of higher consciousness agrees:
Consciousness is not a way of thinking or feeling (in any case not exclusively that) but a power of entering into contact with the myriad rungs of existence visible or invisible. The more our consciousness develops, the more its radius of action and the number of degrees it can encompass grow. . . . .Our body, our thought, our desires are only a thin film of our total existence.
If the answer to the question of the purpose of human life is the creation of consciousness, a further question might be: What ultimate purpose for human life does an increase of consciousness serve? What, if given a choice, would motivate a person to choose the trials, tribulations and uncertainties of human existence over simply remaining in the paradisal garden of unconscious bliss--the place where the journey begins?
Consummation as the Marriage of Heaven and Earth
For the marriage “contract” to be “ratified” it must be consummated. The two, on the most intimate physical level, must be joined as one, and from there grow closer together in soul, mind and spirit as well. Consummation, in this sense, is a process of ascending degree by degree to higher levels of union.
The path of the mystic as traditionally described is in three stages: illumination, purgation, and consummate union with God. In the Alchemist’s opus, the goal is the union of heaven and earth, symbolized in the mysterium coniunction as the sun and the moon—the inner marriage of heaven and earth, the masculine and feminine principles, spirit and matter. Jung compares the three-fold alchemical pattern of union to that of classical mysticism: In the first stage, the illumination, spirit and soul are united; in the next, spirit and soul are united with the physical being for the purgation; with the final consummate union joining the three--body, soul and spirit--to what the Alchemist terms “the world,” and the mystic “the One.”
Among Jung’s alchemical discoveries was a series of sixteenth century German woodcuts. One of these (Plate VIII-3) is a picture worth a thousand words in the symbolic details it contains relevant to the three-stage process by which the major opposites of the psyche are united, completed and consummated.
In the woodcut, the king is standing on the sun, symbolic of the masculine principle, and the queen on the moon, symbolic of the feminine principle. Their left hands are touching to signify contact with the unconscious archetypes each represents. Union on this level of the archetypes and instincts is fundamental to the process. In their right hands each holds out to the other a leafing branch, symbolic of the growth in consciousness which will be the ongoing interchange between them. The crossing of the right-hand-held branches establishes the diagram’s overall flow of energy as a circulation between the masculine and feminine poles of the psyche the two figures represent. The circulation is in the rhythmically-balanced interchange of a figure eight which, as a double quaternity symbol, signifies wholeness in both poles.
In the image as a whole, the six-pointed star in the highest position points to the process’ projected completion as the same conjunction of opposites visualized earlier in the two-dimensional Star-of-David, and three-dimensionally as the star tetrahedron. The emphasis of the alchemical star, however, is on its three axes, symbolic of the three-fold union represented. In the diagram, the lines of the axes are repeated in the three branches, their resting or grounding points on the joined left hands to confirm the archetypal unconscious as where the mystery of the conjunction--the inner marriage--is taking place.
It is on this deepest, collective, psychoid level of nature that the duality inherent to human nature, in its triune mind/body/spirit expression finds resolution and the final reconciliation of spirit, mind and body. As a three-fold process, the horizontally-crossed axes speak of the work of the first two stages—illumination and purgation--known to the Alchemists as the “lesser conjunction.” But it is the bird, vertical axis that points to the grand conjunction--the culminating union of the divine and the human.
The animating spirit of the process is represented by the dove from whose beak the branch of peace is extended. But this dove is not the third person of the all-masculine Trinity. Rather it reverts to an earlier symbolism still prevalent in the Eastern Church, where the dove is identified with Holy Wisdom--with Sophia—and the Old Testament theme of the love of wisdom.
Nor can this amazing sixteenth century correspondence to the mystical union be left without noting one further significance: the star’s three axes as formed by an “I”—for the Greek Iesus--and an “X”--for the “Ch” of Christus—the earliest and most widely used monogram for Jesus the Christ.
Consummation and Assumption
Although Christian liturgy celebrates the return to the heavens of Christ the King, from early on the common people recognized something as missing in the kingship imagery. And so, in their prayers and in their spiritual practices, they added the Virgin Mother to the heavenly court, honoring her as the Queen who reigns beside the Son.
It is well known how overjoyed Jung was when, in 1950, Mary’s bodily assumption to the heavens was by papal proclamation declared official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. He saw this as the long-awaited restoration of the feminine principle to the Godhead, and the single most significant religious event since the Reformation. Many, though, called it “scandalous,” while Protestant theologians, in particular, were quick to label it “just that--an assumption.” Jung, however, based his elation on what he believed to be the psychological validity of the decree. What since medieval times had been a grass-roots effort to restore a balance between the two most important poles of the human psyche, was at last officially acknowledged.
Mary’s precursory elevation to the heavens had been evidenced in Christian art for over a millennium before the papal declaration, and her “coronation” celebrated for as long in the prayers and devotion of those who looked upon her as their heavenly Mother. The centuries-old illustration of Plate VIII-4 is an example. Note how astoundingly its central images of Jesus, Mary, God the Father, and the Dove correspond in design to Plate VIII-3 analyzed above. Here the Dove (as Sophia) hovers both to bless and to lend to the painting the equal balance of the feminine: as the fourth; the principle of matter; the inspiriting of matter which brings completion or Consummation to the life-of-Christ journey.
Chapter Eight Illustrations & Figures
VIII-1 - Teilhard’s Evolutionary Spiral
VIII-2 - Correspondences to Teilhard’s Four Evolutionary Births
VIII-3 - The Greek Initials for Iesus Christus
Chapter Eight Notes