Why I Need A C4C Conference

Ilia DelioAs I surf the web and skim through a myriad of podcasts, conferences and ecological forums, I am reminded of the Great Shift we are in.   We long for a new world, a healthier world, a sustainable earth, an equitable planet, a world of justice and peace. The path forward, however, seems to be cruciform in nature, with tremendous suffering, death, setbacks, disappointments, failures and every roadblock one could possibly imagine. Yet, we plod on, undeterred, striving to imagine, create and transcend our present moment. There is something within this great process of life that pulls us forward, inspires us to get up from our falls, empowers us to do more and to become more. This power is the breath of life, the fire that kindles from within, the unimaginable beauty that draws us onward; that is, the power of the living God.

The world is jittery, however, like a fine piece of china rattling with the tremors of a minor earthquake. Global warming disturbs our quest for peace; racism belies it. If the world is like a living cell, the nucleus is not functioning properly. The genetic material is malformed, and the cell is slowly dying. We could look to science to fix the problem but that is exactly the problem. Science gives the illusion of problem-solving but for every problem science resolves, a new problem emerges—and this is the problem. Science is incomplete because it does not have a grasp of the whole.  We need other tools of knowledge if we are to successfully navigate our way into the future.  If science is the breadth of expansive knowledge, religion is the depth of knowledge, and only together can the breadth and depth of knowledge enliven the whole. Yet, science and religion are not on the same page; indeed, they seem to reflect different books of nature, one modern, the other, medieval. This void between science and religion has given rise to our jittery earth. Our hyper-anxious cosmos lacks any real identity; in philosophical terms, we lack a credible metaphysics.

We are metaphysically a mess today, sort of a metaphysical vegetable soup. Here is an example of what I mean. Recently, a very good book by John Haught on Teilhard’s theology was published. After reading the book and claiming to grasp the main points, one reviewer wrote, “Ultimately, I find Haught’s approach metaphysically and ontologically unsatisfying. . . for me, Aristotle’s notion of movement from potency to act is a satisfying explanation of a lot of things.” Huh? This is like saying, I appreciate my car but prefer to travel by donkey, or general anesthesia works for major surgery, but I prefer a rag with ether. Aristotle and Teilhard are like apples and oranges, both were scientists (just a apples and oranges are both fruit) but one lived in a static, fixed cosmos (Aristotle) and the other in an evolutionary universe (Teilhard) and the difference between them is infinite, primarily because matter was rediscovered in the 20th century.

No one really talks about metaphysics. Philosophers have dismissed it and theologians are tied to ancient Greek principles of metaphysics; modern culture on the whole is metaphysically dumb. If you ask a scientist about metaphysics, they might chuckle and ask, what is that?  If you ask a theologian about metaphysics, they will likely recount Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of being, or also chuckle because they haven’t thought about metaphysics since college philosophy. Without a viable metaphysics, we are epistemologically bankrupt; knowledge is like a Jasper Johns painting or a Rorschach inkblot test. Basically, the viewer determines the view which is, of course, is a point common to quantum physics. However, while reality depends on the viewer, there is still the fundamental experience of the whole, which is the basis of metaphysics. I may see things differently from you, but we both experience the whole of what we interpret.  The metaphysical question is, what makes the “whole?”

The most learned minds today in theology are sometimes the most resistant to accept the implications of modern science as the basis of philosophical reflection. As a result, we have theological patches of cloth but nothing that forms a quilt. Discussions in ecological theology or divine action and cosmology often defend the Thomistic notion of participation or primary and secondary causality. The essays often make complete sense because, theologically, we are still in the thirteenth century. Today modern spiritual ideas are like modern recipes, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that; a good dose of Thomas Aquinas, a dash of Plato and stuffed with Sufism and quantum physics.  Everything and everyone is now thrown into the mix and, as a result, we have some novel ideas and theories that appeal to some people and dismissed by others in a culture of “whatever” or “yada, yada, yada.”  Metaphysical bankruptcy is behind the pastiche of the post-postmodern milieu. One is attracted to whatever makes one feel good (the emphasis is on “feeling good”): the ocean sunrise, oreo cookies and the feminine divine. It is amazing that we are still here in one piece. And yet, it is precisely the ongoing unity of our experience that tells us something else is going on, beneath the cultural mishmash of endless experiences.

Thinkers such as Alfred North Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin saw that science and religion must be unified, if metaphysics is to be resurrected in a universe struggling for new life. Whitehead was a mathematician and Teilhard was an evolutionary biologist. Both thinkers spoke of reality as an ongoing process of relatedness and becoming. Whitehead sought to elucidate a philosophy of organism by expounding a metaphysics of becoming. While Aristotle thought that metaphysics concerns the study of being as being, Whitehead said that quantum physics has transformed being into events. The key to this transformation lies in general relativity; time is part of space and spacetime shapes the matter-energy field. Time, not space, is integral to evolution.

We can no longer afford to treat science and religion as two separate disciplines of knowledge or read about one and disregard the other.  The success or failure of the Great Shift now depends on the integration of science and religion. Alfred North Whitehead said that “religion will not regain its old power unless it can face change in the same spirit as science.”  Quite honestly, science will not regain its place in the whole unless it can face the depth dimension of life in the same spirit as religion. Teilhard wrote that “religion and science are the two conjugated faces or phases of one and the same complete act of knowledge.” This one world has many dimensions and thus no one discipline can claim total knowledge. Knowing the whole requires understanding the whole, and understanding the whole requires a collaboration between science and religion.

Each year, we at the Center for Christogenesis draw together speakers and topics in a way that we can begin to see the scientific breadth and religious depth of the world unfolding in and through our lives.This coming weekend we will begin our annual conference online. The theme of this year’s conference is “Healing God, Healing Self and Healing the Earth: The Power of Divine Love in an Evolving Universe.” I hope you will slow down, check your metaphysics and join us.

Click Here To Register

 

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6 Comments

  1. brotherfly on January 17, 2022 at 11:20 am

    OMG. Sister you are on fire. I have been reading, listening and learning from you for years. Every so often I come across a line of yours the inescapable truth of which sums EVERYTHING up. To wit: “It is amazing that we are still here in one piece.”
    Indeed, pass the rag and bottle of ether!
    Thank you for crusading (medieval retrieval intended) for the metaphysical, a reality we render a Hortonian speck, forced to holler, “I am here! I am here! I am here!”



  2. PAUL NELSON on January 17, 2022 at 11:40 am

    Thank you, Sister Ilia! Wonderful. Don’t be disheartened. You are so right.



  3. pthomasmcguire on January 18, 2022 at 10:33 am

    There is no question Chinese ways will influence the future. We are in great need of finding ways to be in dialogue with the wisdom of China. I believe Dr Yan is opening new paths for that dialogue. Sister Ilia you are making a contribution to the great dialogue that is so needed. The quote from Dr Yan gives a glimpse of the possibilities before us.

    In a recent manuscript, Dr Yan Kin-sheung, a Chinese Catholic Theologian writing about the China Dream, wrote this in the Introduction,

    “Only in the 20th century in the Church, the Trinitarian logic has emerged again with force also thanks to the relationship of the traditions of the Orthodox Church. It emerged that the Trinity is the grammar of the whole reality, not only of the mystery of God, but also of the creation, of the world, and of man. This becomes a new point of departure for a renovation of Christian thinking. The classical Greek culture, for example certain interpretations of Greek metaphysics which emphasized on substance and separation of God with the world, had become stiff and was not able to grasp the novelty… This Trinitarian vision is more dynamic and relational and is in my view much closer to the Chinese traditional thought, especially to the theme of harmony. It is interesting to see that in this way today there are conditions that are more propitious for a dialogue of the Chinese thought with the Revelation and with the tradition of theological thought of the West.”



  4. David Oliphant on January 19, 2022 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks Ilia very much. I really appreciate the way you link religion with our sense of the whole. But I worry that the word ‘religion’ carries so much baggage and is so easily dismissed that in the popular mind it cannot complement science much at all. I have hope in the concept ‘spirit’ but it needs to be given greater intellectual clarity, and that is hard in a scientific world that still largely thinks of mind as epiphenomenal. I think ‘wisdom’ has more promise. We live in a world with much science and technology but not a lot of wisdom. People get that intuitively; it makes sense given all that is going on. Science and technology add to our power to act, but cannot tell us how best to act. For that we need a different sort of knowledge, for which wisdom is an ancient and appropriate word, I think. They are different but valid forms of knowledge. One works with parts and is objective and impersonal; the other works from the whole and is subjective and personal. We need both. Hoping that science is going to save us in the future is not going to work, as you intimate.
    The question then is how to get wisdom, how to tap into wisdom, both individually and collectively. Big topic, and modern philosophy is little use. It is barely interested in wisdom, let alone loving it. More hope in thinking of ourselves and life as nested Holons. We are both wholes (microcosms of the macrocosm) and parts of a Whole. How can we together think from the most significant Whole we are all part of?
    In the recent COP 26 what was missing I think was all the delegates sitting around a large symbol of the Globe that is our planet. This is the critical Whole which has to be well and truly in mind as we think of the future. It is our deep awareness of this Whole, both in space and time, that holds the key to the Wisdom were needing.
    The link to Christ is important also. St Paul said that Christ is the wisdom of God. I suspect most let this wash over them and really think the apostle was being platitudinous. But I suspect not. I think this is part of the tradition that still needs to be fully unpacked.
    Much more could be said. Thanks for your work. I am right in there.



  5. pthomasmcguire on January 20, 2022 at 11:23 am

    Wisdom is a more inclusive than religion. Identifying wisdom as a link to exploring the ‘whole’ will facilitate dialogue with Chinese world views. Dr Yan Kin Sheung, writing about the Chinese Dream and the possibility of Christian dialogue sites Chinese traditional wisdom, he wrote:

    “Unity basically sums up the whole Chinese culture, though the Chinese love to use the term “harmony” rather than “unity” – harmony of relations between people as emphasized in Confucianism, and harmony between man and nature as emphasized in Daoism. To achieve this harmony of relationships, Confucianism stresses the importance of one’s role so as to regulate one’s relationships in the family, and in society as a consequence, a vision that correspond in some way to the idea of pieces of little stone in a mosaic. Daoism instead, emphasizes the relationship of man with the Dao, and therefore unity with the fundamental nature of the universe. The two systems of thought, complementary to one another, are the fundamentals of the Chinese culture, aiming at the total harmony, a cosmic unity, fruit of the interplay between Yin and Yang, the two vital forces of the universe.”



  6. Mary Pat Jones on January 30, 2022 at 5:43 pm

    Thank You Ilia, Your Clarity is so needed. We, as a whole think we are at higher stages than we really are. The old “The map is not the territory” rings more true every year. I think we underestimate the many deaths required. We are unconscious of our clinging. As they say you can’t move the plank you are standing on. I thought I was further than I am, until given a poor prognosis and now over the past two years I’ve found myself at a new stage of beginning again☺️ I am grateful to have some of the sand washed from my eyes. A truly World Centric view is not just regular knowledge but requires the Spiritual Gift of Knowledge, just like wisdom is not the Spiritual gift of Wisdom and neither Gift is the same.

    So we must always remain open and awake to our of our opportunities for continued deeper awareness. I am grateful for your perseverance on the path to assisting us. I am at a temporary stable physical place right now and grace is helping to polish the lenses?. Keep persevering for your gift is so required.



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