The Planetary Pentecost – Part I

Hot on the heels of Pentecost and the American Teilhard Association’s annual meeting, Gabrielle (Brie) Stoner ties together the liturgical holiday with the dawning of a new “Church”.


Ilia Delio, guest speaker at ATA annual meeting - May 15, 2016

Ilia Delio, guest speaker at ATA annual meeting – May 15, 2016

This past weekend, I made a brief escapade to the Big Apple for the American Teilhard Association annual meeting featuring guest speaker, Ilia Delio.

The brief trip was as crammed with experiences as Manhattan is crammed with people, and Pentecost Sunday wound up being an unexpected culmination of the three days.

As many of you know, Pentecost is the celebration in the liturgical Christian calendar of the arrival of the Holy Spirit ten days after the ascension of Jesus, and celebrates the “birthday” of the church. According to the gospels, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of tongues of fire that rested above each of the disciples and, in turn, gave them the capacity to speak in different “tongues”. People who heard them started gathering and, as they heard all these languages being spoken, it created a lot of confusion (like it would), and some even chalked up these “fiery fluent crazies” as being drunk (a most rational conclusion). The traditional phrase that you’ll often hear on Pentecost is “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which translates as “Come Holy Spirit,” an ancient invocation of the “Bring it on!” variety.

American Teilhard Association annual meeting - May 15, 2016

American Teilhard Association annual meeting – May 15, 2016

While I have been following the liturgical calendar a bit more closely this year, I wasn’t thinking particularly about the unique correlation between this special day and the American Teilhard Association gathering. During the question and answer time following Ilia Delio’s address, however, someone raised the question about why young people don’t seem interested in the church, and what that might mean evolutionarily for the future of world religions. Ilia gave a response in which she criticized (as Teilhard did) the outdated theology and doctrine that is simply becoming incompatible with the future generations of humanity.

Mary Evelyn Tucker (a board member of the ATA and one of the hosts of the event) jumped in to add that this is why she, Mary Evelyn, believed it was important to just “take the God language out” in projects such as her “The Journey of the Universe” project to make it more appealing to younger generations.

While I do agree that “God language” is often off-putting to those of us who might be in the “spiritual but not religious” camp, I have to disagree that the answer is to simply take “God language” out of the equation. Omission is not evolution, and while many among us are atheists, there are also many who, as Teilhard describes, might be more aptly called “unsatisfied theists”:

We are surrounded by a certain sort of pessimist who continually tells us that our world is foundering in atheism. But should we not rather say that what it is suffering from is unsatisfied theism?…are you quite sure that what they are rejecting is not simply the image of a God who is too insignificant to nourish in us this concern to survive and super-live to which the need to worship may ultimately be reduced?¹

Rather than throwing out “God” with the dirty bathwater of what no longer serves humanity in religion, it is our task to transcend and evolve the language of a “God who is too insignificant for us to worship”. Our ideas must expand and deepen in order touch upon the mystical heart that so enraptured and informed Teilhard: the fiery center of the universe he called the heart of God, the beating personal center of all traditions and whose fabric we shape with our very lives.

I happen to think that many of us in the Millennial cohort believe in God, just not of the white-bearded-up-in-the-sky variety. What we are leaving behind is tribal exclusionary religion and instead intuiting our way forward into a faith that believes whomever God is, God has to be the dynamism and sum of all relationships in this great system in the process of evolution. Whomever God is, God has to be intimately and inextricably shining through every facet of this incredible material world. And whatever that faith is, it has to include everyone, everywhere, and must offer us solutions of the salvation of the planet NOW, not later. 

Some scholars describe this as the birth of Second Axial age religion and, unsurprisingly, this new vision and language of God is spreading like wildfire and is creating a lot of confusion for those that prefer the older language of God. 

Fire, new language, translation issues, confusion. Now where have we heard that before?

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Welcome to the Planetary Pentecost and the birth of a church as big as the cosmos itself. 

Veni Sancte Espiritus. Bring it on.

(to be continued…)


  1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, p.239-240.
10 replies
  1. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    What a great article! “Omission is not Evolution” fantastic….exactly what I’e been thinking all along! I think you nailed it! I live in LA, and millinnials surround me, I love them!!! No bearded old men in the sky for them, yet they do have a deep sense of, as Thomas Berry would say, “The Divine”. Words fall in and out of favor, and concepts need retooling for the 21st century and beyond… You are on the right path…welcome to the Ecozoic! I’ll be looking forward to reading more of your thoughts!

    Reply
  2. Bill Sams
    Bill Sams says:

    Excellent article. Teilhard has opened my mind to the proposition that theology and technology are a unity rather than a duality. I like the term Cosmic Force. The language of the Cosmic Force is mathematics which is one of the few things in the world that is universally true for everyone. The voice of the Cosmic Force can be found in music which is itself a mathematical representation. And the entire course of evolution and human development has been a continuous revelation of the Cosmic Force. We now stand on the door step off technology advances that will cure aging and disease. Within the lifetimes of people living today we see the merging of organic and inorganic intelligence. At that point we literally become one with the universe. Isn’t this exactly what many religions have foretold or seek as the ultimate. This should be the most exciting time to live that there has ever been. Yet we continue to look through the wrong end of the telescope. The Cosmic Force is not out there, it is everywhere and everything.

    Reply
  3. Diane Furlough
    Diane Furlough says:

    Thanks. As part of the older generation I look forward to seeing what evolves and what our younger generation creates through the spirit.

    Reply
  4. Carole Pentony
    Carole Pentony says:

    Dear Gabrielle, Very pleased to make your acquaintance as a Guest Columnist and a Bring It On. Thank you for giving us this wonderful window to a Planetary Pentecost.

    You made every word count in this post where, for me, the kaleidoscope shifted once again. I found the finish, starting with the Millennial cohort paragraph, to be especially strong. Looking forward to Part Two.

    Reply
  5. Nancy Burnett
    Nancy Burnett says:

    Wow! I can only echo “bring it on”! This perspective is not only critical for our youth, but is equally so for those of us who got lost in translation a long while back. I spent 20 years wandering in the wilderness of alternative wisdom traditions. I learned plenty and my meander brought me home through this new door. Thank you Gabrielle for your beautiful articulation of this shared dilemma.

    Reply
  6. Deborah Foster
    Deborah Foster says:

    Thank you, Gabrielle. This is so helpful. I do think we need to re-language much of our current expression of our Christian tradition. Not just cosmetically, but with a deeper understanding of the richness of this path and the evolution of our awareness. If we are all becoming everyday Mystics, Reformation Christianity won’t meet our need, nor will Imperial based Christianity. Truth is, we haven’t yet really understood who Jesus really was, nor who the Christ really is. The most recent book by Diana Butler Bass, “Grounded” so very well expresses the dilemma many of us are experiencing. If us older folk are so very frustrated, no wonder the younger generations have moved on. Interesting that our contemporary prophets have been addressing this for quite some time…

    Reply

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