Launching The Year Of Teilhard by Cynthia Bourgeault

A letter from Cynthia Bourgeault, January 3, 2015


Dear Wisdom Friends,

Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Renowned scientist, theologian, writer, mystic. 1881-1955

Here’s an unusual New Year’s resolution! I’d like to propose that all of us in the Wisdom network declare 2015 The Year Of Teilhard de Chardin and take on the collective task of getting to know his work better.

There’s no specific milestone to celebrate here. This year will mark the 60th anniversary of his death, but that’s probably looking in the wrong direction. The important thing is that Teilhard’s star is now rising powerfully on the horizon, heralding the dawn of an entirely new kind of Christian theology. Misunderstood in his own times, silenced and exiled by his Jesuit superiors, he is finally coming into his own as the most extraordinary mystical genius of our century and the linchpin connecting scientific cosmology and Christian mystical experience on a dynamic new evolutionary ground.

Teilhard is not easy, but there are very good guides out there who will ease the entry shock. My recommendation is that you begin with Ursula King’s Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin. King is probably the foremost Teilhard scholar of our times, and her very well-written biography gives a good overview of Teilhard’s developing vision and a useful way of keeping track of the chronology of his works. Kathleen Duffy’s Teilhard’s Mysticism is also an insightful introductory guide, introducing the major phases and themes of Teilhard’s work in five expanding “circles.” And of course, for a succinct and clear overview, you can hardly do better than Ilia Delio’s chapter on Teilhard in her Christ in Evolution.

From there, I’d dive directly into Teilhard by way of Ursula King’s stellar anthology, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (in the Modern SpiPierre Teilhard de Chardin by Ursula Kingritual Masters series, Orbis Books, 1999). King’s well-chosen selections and helpful introductory commentary will help get you up to speed as painlessly as possible. From there, go to The Heart of Matter, Teilhard’s magnificent spiritual autobiography, written near the end of his life, which offers a moving recapitulation of his lifelong themes as well as a reflection on his earlier work.

From there, wander as you will. Those of more devotional temperament will find his The Divine Milieu, Hymn of the Universe, and “The Mass on the World” moving and accessible. Those of more scientific temperament may gravitate toward Christianity and Evolution and The Future of Man. His magnum opus, The Phenomenon of Man, is notoriously challenging, but if you’ve worked your way up to it gradually, you’ll be more able to take it in stride.

Most of these volumes are easily available at and other internet websites, and Hymn of the Universe, officially out of print, is available for download.

During my upcoming Wisdom Schools this year, I will be intending to “ease in” some Teilhard where appropriate: particularly in our Glastonbury Ascensiontide retreat and our Advanced Wisdom School in North Carolina this April—so if you’re signed up for either of those schools, be sure to get an early jump of the reading trajectory I’ve just laid out. I’ll also be introducing these materials in the some of the “Communities of Practice” sessions in New England later this year, and probably in an official Teilhard Wisdom School in 2016. So be sure to stay tuned.

 “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I’m a relative newcomer to Teilhard myself, still working my way through this remarkable corpus like a neophyte spelunker in a vast crystal cave. Not surprisingly, it’s “the kids” in the Wisdom Network—Matthew Wright, Brie Stoner, and Josh Tysinger—who seem to have the best handle on the material and are already grasping its implications for the future (their future!) and unlocking its potential in sermon, song, and drama. I mention this simply to encourage you not to be intimidated by the material, or the apparent lack of an authority figure to interpret it for you. Form a reading group, use your well-patterned lectio divina method to break open a short section of text, and dive in with your energy, your insights, and your questions. How you get there is where you’ll arrive.

Okay, who wants to take me up on this New Year’s Challenge?


Love and blessing,






Advent 2014 – The Presence Before You

Advent Candle

Advent 2014

Yeshua says…
Come to know the One
in the presence before you,
and everything hidden will be revealed…

The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 5


Dear Members and Friends of The Contemplative Society,

As we approach the Fourth Sunday of Advent this logion from the Gospel of Thomas seems particularly poignant. As the days are becoming shorter we look forward to celebrating the incarnation of light and love into this world. But amidst the many distractions and temptations of busy lives it is easy to forget this presence who longs to be known yet never demands. It is only too easy to fill our lives with activity and clutter which so quickly numbs our senses and pull us away from this profound and wondrous connection.

Cynthia writes how difficult it can be to stay fully present to what she calls our “bare self” and how easy it is to lose ourselves in distraction.

Quoting Brother Raphael, Cynthia writes in Love is Stronger Than Death;

“If you can only stay present in that bare self, you’ll begin to discover how the absence of God is the presence of God.”

We are human. We want to jerk away from that moment. Fill it with distractions and activity, with our own meaning… To find the eternal communion, one must not be afraid to venture into that dark, black sea of what seems inexpressible absence…

Dwell in it…endure the tedium until something gradually emerges in it… By that very ache I know I am still connected in love; it is the bridge on which I cross. I remember Rafe saying, “It seems bare only because it’s so full of light.”


The Contemplative Society Board and I send our blessings to you as you celebrate this season of light and love. We are grateful for the financial support of our members and also your commitment to opening to and being guided by that deeper ever-abiding presence.

If you are not a member and would like to become one or simply would like to make a donation, please visit our membership/donation webpage HERE . It is the faithful support of our members that enables us to continue our ministry of supporting the work of Cynthia Bourgeault and also encouraging contemplatives in their practice.

Also, although the development of our new website is still in progress and we continue to add and update content and adjust design layout, our Audio ordering page is now restored. If you are interested in purchasing audio recordings of Cynthia’s teaching (available as MP3 download or disc sets) please see our full audio list HERE.


May you have a joyous and wondrous celebration,


Heather Page
The Contemplative Society


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