Section 1 - Implications: A First Circle of Connections

Section 2 - A Second Circle of Connections: Contexts

Section 3 - A Third Circle of Connections: The Logos in the Cosmos

Section 4 - A Fourth Circle of Connections: From Within Creation

Section 5 - A Fifth Circle of Connections: Human Being

Section 6 - A Sixth Circle of Connections: The Trinity

Section 7 - A Seventh Circle of Connections: The Eucharistic Universe

Section 8 - Dimensions: Death

Section 9 - Dimensions: Love and Sex

Section 10 - Conclusion



Faith in a World of Connections

Anthony J. Kelly CSsR

Creation Within a Scientific Context

Section 2


I would now like to extend, in the following spiral of connections, some of the themes and questions already introduced. We aim here at even more critical inclusive sense of reality, to approximate to a greater holism, a more complete catholicity in the outreach of reflective faith. First of all, we stress the new inclusive quality of the basic cosmic story we share.

1. The Story

For some time now, it has been a lament of even the most critical thinkers[1]that the increasing pluralism of our culture no longer permits a meeting of minds and hearts on the discussion of even the deepest moral issues. The reason for such polarisation is the lack of any shared story. Without such an inclusive narrative, there can be no common frame of reference, no shared sense of identity, no principles from which to resolve the urgent issues of the day. When each conflicting group has its own exclusive account of the way things are, the other can be offered only the dubious role of being the adversary in someone else's story.

And yet, a new comprehensive story is beginning to be told. In a way, it is the scientific story of our origins and common belonging.[2] In the precious objectivity that genuine science offers us, it is a story that can be owned by every group and individual that prizes truth as a fundamental value. How much it conflicts with universalist religious narratives, how the story of creation relates to this new scientific story, are questions that will occupy us in later phases of exploration. But, at the moment, it might be helpful to give a couple of imaginative versions of the scientific story that is emerging as the greatest resource for a continuing conversation on how we belong, and must belong, together.

Attention to the significance of the four and half billion year story of our planet, of the fifteen billion year story of the emergence of the cosmos in all its differentiation, growing consciousness and connectedness, must, we feel, lead to a point beyond the present situation. So much time has gone into the making of the present that it would seem to be the deepest disloyalty to our history to leave the last word to mutual recrimination. Surely, such a long unfolding of life is not meant to climax in either the frenzied consumerism of our culture or leave us at the brink of self-extinction in an increasingly perilous present. It has to mean more than this.

What, then, is this inclusive, hopeful story? It can be told most vividly when the objective statements of science are embodied in the flesh and feeling of imagination. It is imagination that give body and momentum to meaning: it takes the necessary abstractions of theory out of their linear sequence; it drags the objective data from the computer screen to refashion them in the taste, the drive, the passion of incarnate existence. The result might be something like the following. 

For example, it has been generally estimated that our planet is about 4,600 million years old. To bring such a length of time into human imagination, it is helpful for each of us to assume an imaginary role in the process.  We can be shamelessly angelic for a moment, so as to think of oneself as a life-long companion to the earth as we have come to know it. It would mean thinking of yourself as about forty six years old, with each year representing, in fact, a hundred million years.[3]

In this artfully imagined world, you will have to wait till you are forty two before you thrill to the sight of a flower and smell the fragrance of a bloom. Then, four months into your present forty seventh year, you will have the special companionship of the mammals: you will see the whale blowing off the coast; the monkeys swinging in the trees; the great cats stalking through the jungles, as you begin to wonder whether you could ever tame a dog or ride a horse. But then, just four hours before midnight on the last day of your forty seventh year, another more intimate form of companionship will have been offered you.  You began to respond to the smile of a human face.

Then, in the next three hours leading up to your forty seventh birthday, after various attempts at conversation, you will have worked out with your human companions how to plant a tree and tend a crop. In that last hour, you will have exchanged many skills in building and trading; in recording and writing; in making art and, more ominously, in making war. But only in this last minute, the whistle of the great factories will be heard and their smoke begins to darken your town. Then, in the last few seconds, you will find yourself coughing and sneezing because of the poisons in the air; you will notice that the water has a strange taste; that some trees are dying, and that many of your old companions among the birds and the fish, the flowers and trees exist no more, as you thread your way through the rubbish dumps of the great cities, and hear rumours of wars that could destroy the planet itself.

Dark question stirs: what, of all the beauty and variety of such growth and companionship, will be there in the morning, to celebrate your forty seventh birthday, should either the heat or the freezing of former times return? Like Dante, you find yourself midway through life, lost in a dark forest. You have wandered far from paradise.

Speaking of the last two hundred years, Thomas Berry, one of the geological story-tellers of our day, makes an incisive remark:

During this period the human mind lived in the narrowest bonds it has ever experienced. The vast mythic, visionary, symbolic world with its all-pervasive numinous qualities was lost. Because of this loss, humanity made its terrifying assault upon the earth with an irrationality that is stunning in enormity while we were being assured that this was the way to a better, more humane, more reasonable world.[4]

Such a judgment shocks the imagination into further efforts.[5] In the present sadness, your angelic trance will look for consolation in still older cosmic memories. It will stir with recollections reaching back to the ten billion years or so before the four and half billion year history of the earth. But now, since angels have special capacities, you concentrate your long- term memory of this fifteen billion years into the span of one fantastic, cosmic year. At the beginning, you recall the great shining, the flame and blazing forth of what later generations, rather prosaically, would come to call the ‘Big Bang': the first incredibly compact point of explosive energy, the first moment of a cosmic birthday of what was to unfold, a universal January 1, at the beginning of this single, all-inclusive year. Even reduced to such a span, it is a long time back, since you know that no human word was spoken, no human face smiled or wept until ten seconds ago, the closing moments before a second year would begin.

Your dream goes through the months, stupefied by the unfurling grandeur of a great fireball, expanding and condensing in swirling, molten masses – until at the beginning of a mystical May, the great wheel of the Milky Way prompts you to recognise something you know. Then, on September 9, our little star, the sun, begins to shine distinctly in the ocean of radiant explosion. One week later, a molten droplet in the midst of all this is cast off; and our tiny planet has been born. As it cools, in the course of a week of so, our earth begins to show its promise: something is alive, moving, growing, aware – September 25!

Weeks pass, as the hesitant little movement begins to pulse more strongly. Then, in early October, these tiny living things begin to unite in ways that were as strange then as they are now: sex enters the life-force, and the opaque thing we call death begins to establish its inescapable limits. But it is another month before the air becomes fit to breathe, and larger complex living forms begin to grow and crawl in the open day: December 1.

Two weeks into December, the first worms are crawling; a few days later, the first fish move in the waters; by December 20 the first plants spring up; by December 21 the first insects buzz and swarm; and then come the animals of a kind. But not till December 23 do the first trees grow and reptiles slither by the lakeshore; dinosaurs begin to leave their footprints on December 24, while the warm blood on first mammals begins to flow on December 26. On the next day, the first birds begin to fly. December 28 awakens to the colour and fragrance of the first flowers as they begin to bud and bloom.

The great dinosaurs suddenly die out; and mammals start to give milk to their young. These flourish, as their brains become more intricate and responsive in the stimulus of the next day. Then on December 31, the first of human kind begin to play and speak and love in ways that we would recognise; and the rest, in a quite literal sense, is history.

To awaken from such a dream of the earth in terms of a middle-aged human life, or of the history of the cosmos compressed into the span of a year, takes one close to the point of prayer. In the above imaginary span of things, Christ appears only an instant ago: the earth opened to bud forth its saviour. [6]  True, the baleful effects of human influence have entered the very geology and biology of the planet, as the air, water, soil, and varied generativity of the earth have been deeply, if not irreversibly, infected. On the other hand, the human race has scarcely begun to appreciate the new feature of the universe that is the focal point of Christian witness: the mysterious Ground out of which the universe has emerged has entered, at this critical last moment, into the wonder and anguish of our world, to be itself a participant in the cosmic drama.

We are still at the great turning point in our history, the beginning of our second cosmic year when the Word as the divine self-expression has been uttered into the struggle and groaning of the universal process, so to offer a new hope of reconciled existence. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overwhelm it (John 1:5). Such hope is the telling point at which to hear the struggling life-story of our planet, and the all-inclusive story of the cosmos itself. It leaves us with a question: how can the energies of Christian faith, hope and love contribute to the getting of wisdom?

2. Homo Sapiens: Fact or Hope?

It would seem that our self-designation as homo sapiens may have been a trifle premature. Instead of self-congratulation, it has come to signify a hope that we will have the wisdom to face the crisis our misdirected energies have largely brought about.  Energy there certainly was. The past four hundred years were times of remarkable scientific discovery, geographical exploration and economic innovation and development. Our planet has been gradually drawn into a single system of technical and material interdependence. But the dimensions of such convergence have also broadened and deepened the scale of the conflicts that were hitherto localised or ignored. The global scale of both the developments and of the rising expectations, intensified by national, regional and ideological conflicts, have inexorably increased the strain upon the planet's depletable resources and upon the delicate biological mechanisms that have sustained life on earth. Human history is being forced to pause to take fresh bearings, and to redefine the meaning of progress itself.

Given the scale and intensity of the problems that confront us, wisdom has become not the presumed endowment of homo sapiens, but a hope for some kind of new enlightenment. We have begun to feel the need for both a new sensibility toward the wonder and fragility of the biosphere, and of a new solidarity in global destiny. The ‘co-existence' of mutually antagonistic ideological blocs in the Cold War era now has to give place to a more positive, collaborative form of co-existence in terms of the great cosmic story that shapes our various histories into one destiny.

In the Western philosophical and theological tradition, the quality of wisdom, of sapientia, was understood as the ability to judge and order reality from the highest standpoint.[7] It meant having a certain taste (sapere means ‘to taste'), for the deepest realities of life. This wise relishing of reality was manifested in a kind of intuitive familiarity with the whole of nature, resulting in what was termed ‘connaturality'.[8] It was understood as a sense of wholeness and depth that exceeded the multifarious, analytical calculations of human ingenuity and reason. Forms of such wisdom could be either a supreme human attainment as in a philosophical synthesis; or the highest gift of the Holy Spirit as when mystical faith tastes the depths of divine mystery. The knowledge characteristic of wisdom was eminently a sense of reality born out of a loving familiarity with, and a deep immersion in, the whole mystery of life. This classical notion of wisdom easily translates into the terms of our contemporary need of a fresh sense of the totality of life, and of a more profound, relational participation in the wholeness of existence. A larger, fresh sense of proportion lies at the heart of any new paradigm for human experience as a whole and for science in particular.

3. The New Paradigm

The elusiveness of such wisdom is exactly the problem the modern era has begun to face,, in its inability to grasp the wholeness of things and our own human position within it. ‘Know-how' has to find a larger wisdom, just as the ‘know-all' needs a new humility before the vastness and complexity of reality in all its references and connections. The developing holistic view of nature or any holographic sense of the universe are alike repelled by what is apprehended as the prevailing flattened, fragmented, mechanistic, instrumental relationship of science and technology to the realities which they pretend either to explore or transform.

The notion of a new paradigm is frequently explored in contemporary dialogue and conversation. A good example of convergences in such a method is found in a recent book recording the exchanges between an influential scientist and two Benedictine monks.[9] Evidently, the word, ‘paradigm' has come to carry a rich variety of meanings, values, associations and feelings. To speak generally, it is connotes the fundamental symbolic sense of reality which structures the methods and priorities of exploration.

The necessity for a new paradigm occurs when the former one no longer works. The map has become too inaccurate, or incomplete or roundabout. So we begin to look for a new point of entry into the unknown, one more open to the varied possibilities of the journey, one more respectful of the terrain we need to cover.  Why the old paradigm no longer works, why a new one is so urgently needed, can, I suppose, be explained in a fairly simple pragmatic fashion. After all, what doesn't work, doesn't work. This is embarrassingly obvious in geography when early Australian explorers, expecting to find an inland sea, found, instead, a desert. Again it is starkly obvious in the various sciences when it begins to be remarked that space is not filled with ether, that sub-atomic realities are not small billiard balls, that the sun does not circle the earth, and that the world did not begin five and half thousand years ago.

On the other hand, when science, and the human experience out of which it grows, wakens to its current holistic proportions, the need for a new paradigm is more difficult to either express or explain. The disconcerting element in the new holism is the presence of the human self of the explorer. The journey ‘outward' into reality needs a more firm connection to a journey ‘inward', into those mysterious dimensions of human consciousnesss.  This manifold awareness is capable of endless differentiation, as in the objectivity of the scientist, the creativity of the artist, the unutterable experience of the mystic, and in the everyday communication and action that make up the ordinary human world.[10]

We can all get better at what we are doing.  If we find that the old ways no longer work, then some new approach is desirable. But the new paradigm is more than that. What is more, we can all be more deeply converted at religious, intellectual, moral levels of our existence. For example, we might begin to experience God more fully; or perceive evidence we had long overlooked; just as conscience might stir to ranges of values, say in social justice or ecology, that had not previously troubled our routine ways. But, here too, the new paradigm is more than any of these.

Then, too, there are all the variety of differentiations of consciousness which make human conversation both difficult and enriching. Because the reality in which we are immersed is so multiform, and because our capacities are limited in taking in such a totality, human consciousness knows many differentiations or mentalities. This is borne out in the languages used in describing the various ‘real worlds' we inhabit. The language of the journalist specialises in communication within the world of the daily concerns of the population. The language of scientific theory, unhampered by the responsibilities of communicating with the laity, is designed to serve the objective exploration of matters so austerely specialised that years of training are required to make any sense of it at all. For its part, human psychology elaborates a language to express reality ‘from the inside out', as it were, in terms of the consciousness, the images of self, the feelings and concept-formation that enable human beings to speak or learn or love or create in the first place. As a further complication, artists insist on belonging to none of these real worlds in their concern to refresh our perceptions of the sheer originality, the beauty, of experience, before it can be explained, or used, or explained away. Then mystics, if they speak at all, attempt to give some expression to the intimate presence of ultimate mystery which they have tasted and felt as the origin, ground and goal of the universe itself.

While the new paradigm approximates to a newly differentiated mentality or consciousness, it seems to me to go further. It goes further because the new holistic paradigm includes all of the above. It is certainly a new learning along the lines of the skills and methods with which we might be familiar. Both the data and the methods of every science have been immeasurably extended and enriched. Certainly, too, it has elements of the beginning or deepening of conversion on religious, intellectual or moral levels. For the new shift inspires fresh considerations of religious ultimacy and destiny. It invites new ways of learning and understanding. It reveals new ranges of values in its ecological concerns and its cosmic awe. Finally, it is akin to more easily identifiable differentiations of consciousness. You might say it aims to cultivate a consciousness that brings together all the differentiations of consciousness into the human conversation, and to reveal their roots in each individual self. In promoting a consciousness of the all, and of the interconnectedness of all reality, it is preeminently an awareness of relationships, especially of those relationships that are newly known, or long ignored, with the earth itself, with the biosphere of this planet, and within the emergent process of the cosmos itself.

Even this summary indication of the ingredients of the new paradigm makes it appear more than an arbitrary option or an inspired hunch. By expressing it in the terms I have employed, I hope to have made the search for a new paradigm more open to the religious and Christian dimensions that I am here commending. Most of the terms I have employed (conversion, the structure and differentiations of consciousness, and so forth) enjoy a widespread respectability through the writings of Bernard Lonergan, above all his Method in Theology. His method, understood as ‘a framework of collaborative creativity',[11] is founded in the phenomenon of consciousness, and on the dynamics, differentiations and conversions it manifests. Such a method is inherently open and flexible, and proportionately applicable to all fields of learning. To my mind, such theological developments are not only hospitable to the new holistic paradigm, but can easily enhance it. Through the work of Lonergan and others like him, ‘wisdom has built herself a house' (Prov 9:1) in which the new holistic paradigm can flourish.

The convergences that are both possible and already taking place can be indicated by referring once more to the dialogical work cited above. Capra[12] and his Benedictine interlocutors are working with five features of the new paradigm, designed to bring both science and spirituality together.  First, there is the shift from the part to the whole. In contrast to the atomistic, analytical approaches characteristic of Bacon, Newton and Descartes, contemporary holistic sciences prioritise the inter-relational whole of any given reality. This is paralleled in theology, not only by working out more fully the interconnections of the mysteries or articles of faith among themselves, but by situating such connections in the fuller context of connections which characterise ecology and cosmology. Hence, the scope of the challenge: to connect the scientific data on the genesis of the cosmos with both the psychological data of the genesis of the self, and the religious data on the genesis of God within the world through the mystery of the Incarnation.

However, such making connections is not merely a matter of having a more comprehensive ‘look' at reality. It is rather the outcome of a method that interconnects various methods of investigation in the dynamics of consciousness. Such dynamics are brought to mind in the imperatives Lonergan objectifies, as ‘Be attentive!' (empirical consciousness); ‘Be intelligent!' (intellectual consciousness); ‘Be reasonable!' (rational consciousness); ‘Be responsible!' (moral and affective consciousness).[13]  I might remark that whereas the disciplines of either the sciences or the humanities have been content to express their new paradigms simply in terms of a new synthesis – either within one discipline or within a vaguely considered multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach –  the special complexity of religious data and the hermeneutical problems it has had to face have forced theology to come up with a unifying method of considerable refinement.  Because this refinement is based in the dynamics and demands of human consciousness, it may well emerge as a considerable resource for other forms of holistic learning.

Secondly, the new paradigm expresses itself in terms of the shift from structure to process. Structures are seen as manifestations of an underlying process or self-organisation of some kind. Theology, for its part, has begun to respond to this aspect of the shift. What have been long considered as separate structures or aspects of revealed doctrines of one kind of another, for example, creation, Trinity, incarnation, cross and resurrection, the Church, the sacraments, eschatology, are now treated in a far more dynamically unified manner.  The whole range of separated theological themes tends now to be focused in the one mystery of the self-communication of God to creation, as in the interconnective theology of Karl Rahner, or in the emergence of the Cosmic Christ, as in the evolutionary thinking of Teilhard de Chardin, or in terms of the universe of ‘emergent probability', as Lonergan describes it in his magisterial Insight, or in the evolutionary-ecological analogical sweep of the Christology of J. L. Segundo.  In such treatments, the self-communication of God is linked, in different ways, to the self-transcendence of the human in the emergent process of the world's coming to be.

While, in a sense, such thinking recovers the dynamic of impressive theologies in the past (the exitus-reditus , i.e., emergence and return, scheme of Aquinas, and Bonaventure's more Platonic sense of ‘the Good as communicating itself', i.e., bonum est diffusivum sui ), it goes much further. As in the scientific paradigm, the process explains the structure.  ‘Nature' is no longer a fixed entity but a heuristic or explanatory notion within the larger dynamics of history and evolution. More to the point, in such a shift, God is the creator and sustainer, not of a world of fixed natures, but of a world of time and process. The former ‘timeless truths' of theology are now embodied in time as the meaning and momentum of the temporal world. To revert to the traditional idiom mentioned in the second chapter of these reflections, faith seeks understanding in reference to the process of realising an ultimate destiny, for the person, for the community, and for the universe itself..

Thirdly, there is a shift from objective to ‘epistemic science' as Capra terms it. Reality is not disclosed by having a good look at it, however refined the optical instruments might be. The knower is involved, as a meaning-maker, in the process. The observer is part of the reality. In such knowing, reality is not so much confronted as enriched, while the universe becomes luminous to itself in those who explore it. This aspect of knowing, so dramatically rediscovered in the early explorations of quantum physics, likewise has theological parallels. I mentioned above Lonergan's work in grounding theological method in human consciousness. His distinctive approach can be summed up in the axiom: ‘objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity'. The truth of things is discovered only to the degree that the full capacities of the subject are involved: in sensing, imagining, questioning, pondering, responding, loving. Here the instructive instance is the knowing of another human being. An engagement, far more vital and intimate then just looking or listening or collecting data, is in play.  In this regard, Lonergan's notion of objectivity as the fruit of fully activated subjectivity has a family resemblance to the views of the scientist-philosopher, Michael Polanyi.[14] Historically, both are connected to the Aristotelian principle that mind knowing and the reality known coincide in the one act.

Fourthly, in the scientific version of the new paradigm, there is the shift from building to network as the basic metaphor for knowledge. It is not so much a matter of adding to known reality bit by bit, so to speak.  It is more a question of apprehending the whole in its interconnectedness. To treat anything as a bit or part isolated from the world of relationships in which it exists is to overlook its essential features. If a celebrated French philosopher promoted distinguer pour unir,[15] to distinguish in order to unite, as the governing principle of reflection, today the emphasis is reversed.  We make distinctions within a prior, fundamental wholeness.  The unity of the network precedes the distinctions that are made within it.

Here, too, theology must be aware of its own resources. There is an emblematic significance in the fact that the fundamental mystery of Christian faith is the Trinity: the absolute is fundamentally relational; the divine persons are self-constituted as ‘subsisting relationships' in the processive mystery of God. If God is intrinsically relational it comes as no metaphysical surprise to find that the universe is relational in its every aspect – a network in that sense. I will develop the significance of this in a later chapter. But beyond this all-important doctrinal focus, the development of theological method itself is more and more along network lines, or, as Lonergan would phrase it, method is ‘a framework of collaborative creativity'.

The former ‘building block' procedure of, say, adding to scriptural data the various defined doctrines, and then adding another level of theological opinions and philosophical reflection, is being replaced by the ‘collaborative creativity' of different interdependent specialisations. ‘Framework' is perhaps too spatial and static a metaphor for the new ideal of interchange and collaboration. Still, it makes its point. Such a method is more apt, not only to explore the realities it considers as a network of relationships, but also to perform such exploration in a network of consciously assumed collaboration.

Fifthly,  there is a shift from truth to approximate descriptions. Science has abandoned its quest for Cartesian certainty to be content with the more tentative, ever revisable notion of probability. The human search for truth proceeds by way of an ever more refined series of approximations to what probably is the case. It is not a matter of compressing the world into our scientific models, but of designing models of exploration that illumine our participation in the universal process of becoming.

Perhaps this seems the feature of the new paradigm most inimical to theological exploration. After all, faith lives from the conviction that the divine is self-revealed, and that a Yes to that cannot turn into a No. But even here, matters are not so cut and dried. First, there is the character of analogical knowledge. Even a council of the Church can allow that, though theological understanding can establish certain likenesses and analogies between normally accessible realities and revealed mysteries, we must always remember that the dissimilarity existing between the creature and the creator is greater than any similarity.[16] Further, in line with what we have already mentioned, the divinely given ‘data' are always explored in terms of the limitations and opportunities afforded by a particular stage of history. Even if the Yes of faith to the divine mystery is unconditioned and without reservation, the understanding of that faith in its real bearing in the real world of our experience is always limited by our pilgrim state. There is the increase that comes from the accumulation of experience and insight. Beyond that, there is a more deeper, more interior possibility inasmuch as believers become more religiously converted to the divine mystery in self-surrender.  This can often demand an intellectual conversion as well, as a reflective faith drops former deficient constructs of imagination or systematic meaning for a more critical objectivity.  There is ideally linked to a moral conversion as well, as newly discovered values inspired a greater responsibility and compassion. Then, too, there is the possibility of a more fundamental enrichment of knowledge as when the one consciousness becomes more differentiated in its capacities, skills, tastes, feelings, categories and language.

All this is to say that the radically inexpressible truth of faith is quite compatible with the successive approximations that history allows. In other words, doctrine develops, and the hierarchy of truths is reshaped and re-expressed to find expression within the meanings and values that inform a given culture.  While faith can and must treasure its intimate experience of God-given truth, a defensive rationalism looking for certitude in each and every instance of intelligent exploration is deeply inimical to real learning. Theology can be quite content, then, to join with other forms of thought that are less concerned to trumpet forth the certitude of their attainments, and more inclined to accept the humbler role of exploring the meanings with which the universe is illumined.

Though these remarks on the new holistic paradigm and theological understanding are necessarily general, they point to the possibility among different methods and disciplines of reciprocal enrichment in a collaborative exploration of our multidimensional universe.

4. The New Age Movement

Our reflections on the new inclusive story, or on the new paradigm of learning and on the relevance of both to Christian theology, would be naïve to ignore the vast, confusing, often contradictory, phenomenon of the New Age Movement as it has developed over the last twenty years or so. Though the bewildering variety of its theories and practices suggests no overall synthesis, a number of worthwhile emphases stand out in its representative literature.[17]

I would suggest the following nine points. It is not difficult to appreciate what is being positively affirmed in each case.  On the other hand, a certain critical reserve is necessary if constructive dialogue is to take place.

First if all, New Age thinking attempts to counteract a great range of inherited dualisms in the Western intellectual and spiritual tradition, especially as these were further intensified in the Enlightenment. Hence a new cosmology of wholeness rejects the separations of science and religion, body and spirit, matter and consciousness, thinking and feeling, male and female, transcendence and immanence, objectivity and subjectivity.

The general problem here, despite the welcome stress on holism, is that dualism is often too little distinguished from duality. The former implies a distinction in which one element is made ideologically subordinate to the other; whereas the latter is simply an expression of the capacity of human intelligence to distinguish various aspects, or principles or polarities in the concrete instance. Such distinctions have often been remarkable attainments in the history of thought. The classic example is the duality of body and soul in the constitution of the human being. Hylomorphism understands the material and spiritual to be related in such a way as to constitute the integrity of the embodied, animated, unified reality of the concrete human being. Such an Aristotelian and Thomistic position represents a great advance over the dualistic Platonic tradition which demeaned matter and body and exalted the purely spiritual. There is a danger, then,  in this aspect of New Age thinking, namely to sacrifice the constitutional richness of reality to an undifferentiated confusion: ‘No one knows better the true meaning of distinction than they who have entered into unity' (Tauler).[18]

Secondly, in contrast to the doctrine of the transcendence of God over creation, and of the infinite ontological distance between the creator and the creature, New Age thinking celebrates the immanence of the divine within all things as the ground for a universal interconnectedness.

Such an emphasis can signal a healthy recovery of a genuine sense of the divine presence within all reality. However, the danger is that God is either identified with creation, or is considered simply part of a larger whole. In contrast, the great tradition of theological and philosophical thought considered that the reason for God's unimaginable intimacy with creation lies precisely in the divine transcendence: God is the source and end of all being. Divine transcendence is not opposed to immanence, but is the reason for it. Confusion here draws the accusation that New Age thinking is a regression to paganism and pantheism.  What may be struggling for expression is an acceptable form of panentheism: all things exist ‘in God', as their source, ground and goal. In the Thomistic version of this tradition, God is neither the undifferentiated potentiality of prime matter, nor the soul of the created world, nor the universal process itself.  Creation proceeds, rather, from the processive life of the Trinity.  It is the dynamic matrix in which the universe comes to be. We shall devote a later reflection to this point.

Thirdly, an intense optimism about individual and social transformation characterises this New Age movement. The new age has finally dawned; human potential is limitless; its dynamics are beckoning and available.  Former views on sin and evil, on the necessity of redemption or the summons to conversion must yield to a world of God's good creation.  Original blessings edge out any consideration of original sin.

We can, of course, delight in the fundamental goodness of creation and the primal originality of God's creative love and grace.  But this does not mean repressing the tragedy of the human condition. Our last tragic century hardly permits any innocent optimism. Techniques of meditation and heightening of consciousness, exercises in transpersonal awareness, tantric channelling of energies and the like, can be elaborate subterfuges of denial if the deadly reality of the ‘heart of stone' is not faced.  It comes down to distinguishing between mere optimism and the transcendent character of hope. A hope-filled apprehension of the universe is a high religious achievement. It is attained in the teeth of the problem of evil.  It manifests itself in a humble but gracious acceptance of the seemingly random, entropic and humanly incomprehensible complexity of the universal process. The rhetoric of Christian tradition which would speak of the creation and the fall, of nature and of grace, of conversion from evil and conversion to the good, of the reality of human freedom blossoming only through surrender to the divine, of the cross and resurrection, of the Pauline conflict of flesh and spirit, is evidence of a far more nuanced sense of the human condition than a technique-induced New Age consciousness.[19] Still, to say this is to point to only to oppositions instead of opening up possibilities of deeper learning on both sides of the divide.

Fourthly, and less ambiguously, New Age thinking stresses the planetary dimensions of human consciousness and of ecology itself. The particularities of culture and history, often so defensive and divisive, have to yield to the global dimensions of co-existence. National or even international movements still carry the baggage of particular interests and restricted notions of the common good, when a planetary unity is called for.

The main problem here is the way in which planetisation occurs. If it takes place as a genuine ecological communication between all the differentiations of consciousness and all the varied, long term achievements of human culture, such a convergence of experience, thought and feeling would indeed promise a new global conscientisation. If, on the other hand, such a planetisation becomes something rather less than this, and more like a marketing of spiritual self-help techniques, a new spiritual consumerism, a new imposition of North American or European post-modern pathologies, New Age planetisation will be a an oppressive element in the ecology of a global culture. Transcultural communication and cosmic inter-connectedness have to mean something more than a standardised form of enlightenment.

Fifthly, New Age thinking is permeated with a sense of evolutionary consciousness.  Imagination links everything in an pan-evolutionary movement. Everything and everyone connects in a universal becoming.

It can hardly be denied that the categories of evolution and emergence are inscribed into contemporary intelligence, as it is manifested in science, philosophy and theology. The dark side to this evolutionary awareness is found in the questions it leaves unanswered, above all in those of an eschatological nature. Is the present and the past devoid of any meaning, save in reference to our present apprehensions of the future? Was all the suffering of the past just raw material for the New Age? Is there no value in the present save in its evolutionary potential? What of the frustration, failure, waste, tragedy, extinction of species, death of individuals, and the  incomprehensible randomness of both the past and the future? Does being vulnerable to all that realm of entropy leave human beings with any meaning at all?  Finally, does a simple New Age evolutionary optic tend to place its possessors outside the actual evolutionary process?  Are they spared being immersed in it, excused from the demands of patience, surrender, historical memory, and of hope against hope? An evolutionary ideology, contrary to evolutionary science, has a strange way of offering both instant success and a kind of infused knowledge on where things are tending.

The sixth point is more negative, in the way New Age thinking simply rejects the history of the West. It unwearyingly points out the deficiencies of Newtonian science and Cartesian anthropology. Such an inheritance, it is alleged, narrowed the whole scope of human experience, and diminished the range of alternative modes of perception. The human subject, in the full panoply of consciousness, has been notoriously excluded.  This results in a general disaffection with institutional religion' and with Christianity as its primary instance. The more institutionalised religion became, the more doctrinal its formulations, the more it walled up the sacred in its own mediations, it rendered religious experience inaccessible to its people. With its doctrine of sin and the need for redemption, it demeaned the body and creation, and minimised human potential. Its post-mortem promises further alienated its adherents from the material cosmos. A transcendent God from beyond the world offered a precarious salvation to spiritual souls imprisoned within it.

Such a description is not entirely a caricature. And I, in common with the generality of theologians and philosophers today, cannot but endorse a return to the subject, if it leads to the re-appropriation of the whole scope of human experience. On the other hand, matters are more intricate than a leap from one mode of knowing to another without questioning why such agility is justified or possible. Newton's fervent religiosity is well known; but the case of Descartes is perhaps more astonishing to the modern holistic mind. It gives us pause to recall that this super-rationalist, super-individualist, mathematical French philosophe considered that his discoveries were the result of a visionary experience inspired by Our Lady. Out of such a conviction, he vowed to make a pilgrimage of gratitude to Loreto, which he in fact performed in 1622.[20] Apparently, Descartes was more complex than Cartesianism.

So, we are led to ask, what was really going on then? And, what is going on now? Apart from referring to remarks made above on historical developments, differentiations of consciousness and levels of conversion, I might just add one simple point.

It comes down to this: when we attempt to evaluate the past, the actual richness of past experience is largely inaccessible to us now. What we are dealing with, unless we are gifted with extraordinary historical imagination, are very narrow objectifications of what was going on in those days, and in those now dead generations, be they Counter-Reformation Catholics, Newtonian scientists or Cartesian philosophers. Doubtless, the current holistic mentality has developed a much greater refinement in attending to the data of experience and naming it. Still, the real challenge is not one of simply dismissing the narrowness of past achievements, but of integrating all the accessible data into a comprehensive method which does justice to the complexity and richness of reality. It is not enough to have a new guiding symbol of wholeness, nor a more inclusive feeling for the whole, nor even a new scale of values and range of meanings. Some thoroughgoing integration is required, by which we can detect the lacunae or distortions of the past – an of the present, above all, within ourselves. Otherwise, the promise, say, of holistic medicine will be stopped short in its inability to find an answer to the HIV virus; and the desirability of a mystical religious experience will be unable to relate to the historical necessity of an institutional form of religion strong enough to confront the enormous social, political, economic distortions of culture.  Why should only oppression and selfishness be institutionalised, and not the forces of self-transcending faith, hope and love?

In short, a holistic mentality can only be sustained by a holistic method. Otherwise it will find itself repressing of overlooking whole ranges of data just as effectively as anything in the past.  

Seventhly, New Age thinking enthusiastically embraces ‘the new physics', the universe of quantum and holographic perception, as more hospitable to the phenomenon of consciousness and transformation.

No doubt. Still, we must ask, what is going on in terms of belief. Our culture is deeply affected by the scientific myth. The only ultimate authority, the only sure way to knowledge, is science, or what passes for it. Our world picture is formed, often enough uncritically, by what are taken to be the findings of science. It is difficult to keep in mind that genuine science is an ongoing, approximate procedure.  It employs technical expressions and mathematical symbols of extreme sophistication.  In comparison, any prose account is like the wildest kind of poetry. Often enough we are left in the position of being simple believers in what they, the scientists, really know. A consequent mistrust of our own first hand experience of the world, especially in its religious or artistic or moral dimensions, is a possibility, if not a demand. The result is that it more socially acceptable to believe in the Big Bang than in God's creative Word; more easy to believe in the billions of years of cosmic emergence (recent literature speaks of twenty, or fourteen to fifteen – most commonly – or eleven billion years.  What's a billion years one way or the other to us simple believers?  It is easier to believe in that than in the eternal Now that holds all time together; easier to believe in cosmic events taking place in the first trillionth of a second than in a providence reaching into every detail of our lives; easier to believe in the hundred billion galaxies extending beyond our Milky Way than in the value of answering the needs of our neighbour; easier to believe in the varieties of quarks than in the value of justice or forgiveness. We simple believers more easily accept refinements of relativity theory, however counterintuitive they appear in the real world of our perception, than the testimonies of prophets or mystics. One can more easily go along with the fundamental four forces unifying the physical universe than in the disclosive power of love; just as one can tend to be more impressed with the authority of the New Physics than any religious or moral tradition, however venerable and ancient. Black Holes or chaos theory or dark matter are more spontaneously credible than the reality of Christ's resurrection. Popular scientific culture prepares us more for amazement at the genetic connectedness of all life than for the cosmic significance of trinitarian relationships. Cultural belief runs more readily with the incredibly intricate abstractions of the mathematical symbolisation of the universe than with Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us.[21]

Hence a critical, extremely complex issue emerges. Belief in the authoritative findings of others is certainly a way of participating in the great historical and social process of coming to know and explore the manifold meanings of the real. Yet there are many kinds of belief: in the scientific case, we rely on the explorations of research; in scholarship, we take as worthwhile the judgment of reputable thinkers; in art, we accept the productions of the great spirits of the age; in religion, we accept the witness of the prophets, mystics and doctors of the tradition; in every-day life, we are surrounded with proliferating expertise. Still, none of these instances of belief necessarily excludes all or any of the others. Nor do any or all of them excuse us from a personal responsibility. Beliefs can be mistaken or need revision in the course of time. A usual sign of the authenticity of belief is its ability to speak to, or allow for, the whole human condition as a manifold reality. It is at that point, I would suggest, that each of us, whatever the promise of a holistic mentality or a New Age transformation, must maintain a critical reserve. Any act of belief must send us back to our responsible selves.

Then there is an eighth point exhibited by New Age thinking in its more or less mystical sense of the universe as a uni-verse, a whole, an all, long preceding the specialised analyses and divisions of sciences and all the different ways of knowing.

An anticipation of the whole and an inclusive presentiment of the all, have both a long philosophical pedigree. The dynamics of human intelligence are powered by the transcendental notions of the one, the intelligible, the true, the good, the beautiful. Categorically, the mind attains only to the particularity of this or that object only within an horizon of the totality of being.  Serious contemporary question arise concerning the nature of this unity. The manner in which Teilhard de Chardin formulates the issue documents not only something of his struggle to formulate a sense of universal event.[22] It also leads us to a distinction of vital importance, if we are to arrive at a genuinely ecological and communal sense of existence. Here is Teilhard's description of two kinds of mystical road:

The first road: ... to come together with a sort of common stuff which underlies the variety of concrete beings. Access to Aldous Huxley's ‘common ground'. This procedure leads ultimately to an identification of each and all with the common ground – to an ineffable of de-differentiation and de-personalisation. Both by definition and by structure, this is a mysticism WITHOUT LOVE.

The second road: to become one with all ... no longer by ‘dissolution' but through a peak of intensity arrived at by what is most incommunicable in each element. This procedure leads ultimately to an ultra personalising, ultra determining, and ultra differentiating UNIFICATION of the elements within a common focus, the specific effect of love.[23]

Teilhard's ‘first road' is a conception of a primal, pre-biological and pre-personal unity underlying all things, into which everything ultimately dissolves.  Characteristic of his ‘second road' is the unity based on union with the ultimate, and leading to communion within it.  Differentiated realities are not dissolved; they are brought to their interconnected completeness in being. The ultimate unifying force or energy is love, the affirmation of each and all in its irrepeatable particularity. From this love there flows an intimate knowledge of the other; indeed, in Teilhard's understanding – and this accords with the general tradition of Christian theology –  such loving knowledge is a participation in the creative knowledge and love of God, the source and goal of the universe of particular realities.[24]

The attraction of oriental monistic and mystical philosophies can be easily documented in much New Age thinking. One is left to wonder whether those who follow such a road realise the full import of the choice they have made. At first glance, it would seem to undercut the realism of any ecological commitment, to say nothing of the quality of the transformation of the self that it promises. At least, the necessity for dialogue is evident: a deeper appropriation of the much-criticised Western tradition (as, say, it appears in Aristotle, Bonaventure, Teilhard and Lonergan) will, as we will see, reveal an abundance of overlooked resources.

A mystical resacralisation, or re-enchantment of nature or science, called for in reaction to the nihilism and mechanicism of recent centuries, will mean something vastly different for those who travel the different roads.  For the first, it is a path to dissolution into a formless ‘all', a unity without difference. For the second, it means participation in a relational universe, an ultimate unity-in-difference.[25]

Ninthly, and finally, New Age thinking relativises the centrality of the human. Ecologically speaking, the human is one of millions of living species. Cosmologically, the human is a tiny phenomenon occurring within an emergence of cosmic proportions. ‘Anthropocentricity', biblical or otherwise, is on both counts a distortion.

Since this burning issue will be the subject of an extensive later reflection, I simply point once more to the complexity of the matter. Judgments on such a real or possible human self-centredness remain human judgments. They are made within human consciousness, and are communicated in human speech. Desirably, the relativisation of the human indicates an option for humility within the vastness of the cosmos, and for a profounder relationship of care for other species of life that humans have so unthinkingly exploited. Anthropcentricity, a ‘galloping case of Enlightenment epistemology' needs to be redeemed into a more tender, participative, indwelling kind of knowing.[26]. Nonetheless, extreme criticisms of anthropocentricity may mask an effort to escape from the human, to evade the issue of human culture within the ecological commonwealth, and to demean or overlook the role of the human in the unfolding of the cosmos itself. If that is the case, then, unwittingly or deliberately, anti-anthropocentricity is calling for a kind of decapitation of evolutionary process and a suppression of the consciousness in which the wonder of existence emerges.

I hope, then, that these nine emphases typical of New Age and New Paradigm thinking, are a useful enumeration of points for dialogue. Admittedly, for any of us who venture into such exciting new perceptions of reality, our explorations can easily be dismissed as eclectic or amorphous. And yet, there is evidence of a deeper search for meaning, a desire to learn by heart the movement and form of the universe in which we so uncannily exist. True, the result is often a strange conglomerate of astrophysics and astrology, of the occult and the deepest mystical and philosophical perceptions. Still, when a flatly secularised culture has so repressed the deeper perceptions and experience of human experience, these will out, in forms sometimes odd and unnerving. Perhaps the soundest tactic of all is to keep trying to get to the question that is being asked in each instance. When traditional doctrinal and conceptual forms are no longer available as answers, it becomes a matter of learning all over again what is present but too long unnamed. It could be that there is evidence of a benign conspiracy when deeply felt human values are asserting themselves in various contexts of science, economics, politics and ecology, to say nothing of religion itself. Such is the case, too, when, in these contexts, experts and amateurs can meet. The experts can find themselves disarmed in the realisation that we are all amateurs, both in regard to our shared humanity and in relationship to its place in the ever-mysterious universe. On the other hand, an amateur status in science can find new heart as the wonder of the universe is disclosed in the sophisticated techniques of scientific exploration.

Baptism of Christ

5. Pathological Holism

The situation admits, of course, no simple-minded, one dimensional response. If a new holistic vision comes to mean some form of exhaustive explanation of all that is and lives, a sense of one-ness is coming dangerously close to being merely one point of view. The reaction to such a reduction is predictable. For example, it is found in the neuralgic repulsion many feel to what they apprehend as doctrinaire ‘Greenness'. In a century that already knows enough about totalitarian pretensions, any wisdom that has resulted or that remains is extremely sensitive to even a whiff of a new kind of fascism. Dread of the future, panic about the present, the traumas of confrontation coupled with a pervasive sense of crisis – all these could easily turn into one more unredeemed struggle for power, one more fanaticism, one more fundamentalism, one more ideology rigidly excluding the whole mystery of our shared life. 

The backlash would be predictable. Some critics already protest against a supposed Leftist takeover of the Green movement.  At the other extreme, others see it as a capitalist manipulation of poorer countries to keep raw materials safe and investment potential secure.

Indeed, some ecological statements seem to come from the depths of a weird self-hatred, as though human beings were some kind of foreign body in the life of the planet, a cancer on its growth, a mutant ugliness in the perfection of unspoilt nature. From such rather raw feelings arises much of the reaction against anthropocentricity, especially when such a reaction is innocent of the realisation that it is only within human consciousness that our earth experiences either wonder or horror, or flowers to creativity and care. In the name of ecology, the ecology of our human communion on this planet is compromised. Immigration programs are restricted, the status of refugee is more and more narrowly defined, and the urgent problems of overpopulation occasion brutal, racist solutions. Humanity seems to have the special ability of turning against itself with a savagery that would never be countenanced in dealing with other species. Self-hatred has never been productive of anything; and whatever the problems we face, offering human sacrifices to an idolised nature is not the solution we want. We are not ghosts haunting a world machine, nor parasites in a vast organism; nor, for that matter, rangers in a great national park.

The use of the word, ecology, does not necessarily put one on the side of the angels. Beyond political and economic suspicions regarding the real intent of ecological interventions, somewhat deeper questions will stir.  Is the ecological movement a regression to primitivism? Is it basically a hatred of the human or a resurgence of pantheism? Is it the final spasm of the West's cultural death wish? True, we may dismiss such cross-questioning as unworthy or misplaced, but it must be entertained if we to be convincing witnesses for the defence. How, then, are we to relate to nature ‘in the round, in a down to earth ecological manner? We cannot escape from our human responsibility, just as our humanity cannot be removed from earth. To attempt either such escape or removal would be inherently destructive.

The dangers are sufficiently real to make it imperative that various visions of wholeness interact in a complementary rather than in a mutually exclusive manner. We human beings are now being drawn into a time of collaboration in this period of global history. The ecological moment is not a time for crass adversarial warfare.  One must be a conservationist not only of the variety of nature, but of the values of culture that nurture the human spirit to a sense of wonder, gratitude, hope and humility. If the nature of ecological issues is to inspire a huge collaborative multi-disciplinary effort extending over many generations, patience becomes one of its essential virtues.

We might note in passing that Christian faith has a distinctive historical experience to call on in this conflict between an ecological vision and reaction to it, between the new holistic construction meaning, and the deconstruction that disallows any definitive solution.[27] Christian history has faced such problems. On the one hand, there is the doctrine of one creator of all, and of the universe made one in the cosmic Christ in whom, through whom and for whom all things exist.  That is the fundamental ‘Catholic' vision of wholeness, presupposing a universe as  a seamless garment, apprehended in one analogical imagination. It looks back to and extends the biblical Wisdom tradition which attempts to bring faith and culture, grace and nature, history and cosmos together.

On the other hand, the end is not yet: ‘we do not yet see all things in subjection to him' (Heb 2:8); nature still groans in its eager longing for liberation (Rom 8:19); ‘It has not yet appeared what we shall be' (1 John 3:16). The pilgrim path is still a long one, with all kinds of dread self-dispossession, self-surrender, of dying into something more, something always greater.

Here we hear the voice of the reformer, the ‘Protestant', the prophet, contesting any foreclosure of vision into settled system. It demands that wisdom remain a search, an overture to what immeasurably transcends any present attainment.  That is the common sense which Christian experience, in its present ecumenical phase, has taught us. It may not be irrelevant to the conflict between holistic thinking and deconstructive suspicions in the present postmodern era.

Whatever the case, in the dialogue now possible between the various logoi of theology, ecology and cosmology, we are learning to word the teeming wonder of the world, on the way to becoming more responsible participants in the mystery of life's unfolding, and more inspired celebrants of the marvellously diversified cosmos in which we are embodied.

Education to a more wholesome ecological sense of reality has become a cultural imperative. Pope John Paul II writes:

An education in ecological responsibility is urgent: responsibility for oneself, for others, for the earth. This education cannot be rooted in mere sentiment or empty wishes. Its purposes cannot be ideological or political. It cannot be based on a rejection of the modern world or on a vague desire to return to some ‘paradise lost'.  Instead, a true education in responsibility entails a genuine conversion in ways of thought and behaviour.[28]

If an integrated ecological education does not take place, one fears that not only will the Christian sense of the whole be stunted, but the ecological movement may slowly congeal into an oppressive kind of gnosticism.  Still, it is hard to be convinced that we are very serious about the crisis that is upon us. One must suspect the presence of a deep cultural unwillingness to face the pain and the cost involved in the about-turn that is demanded. One of the keenest agonies human beings can suffer is the ‘withdrawal symptoms' associated with trying to break some dependency or addiction. We all know well enough that there can be no solution in the simple optimism that expects it will all work out with a minimum of struggle. Such an attitude is a denial of the extent of our problems.  It represses the huge anxieties inherent in the present challenge. The only way out is a larger shared imagination,[29] in which the confusion and the panic can be transmuted into both a collaborative effort and a keener dependence on the sustaining power of ultimate Life on which all hope is based. 

Ecological awareness has awoken to the necessity of a metabolic relationship of human kind to the earth. The sorry fact is that our present relationship to biosphere is more aptly described as diabolic – disruptive, sundering connections rather than respecting them.

The emerging conflict has sparked the necessity of a new symbolic (‘bringing together') sense of human existence in the living world and within the universe as a whole. Religious faith works through the great governing symbols of existence. These disclose ranges of reality broader, deeper, more ultimate, and more inclusive than a purely functional apprehension of our world. The symbolic ‘re-members' the scattered, distracted fragments of our being in the world, by intimating the mystery of it all, the healing wholeness of reality revealed as gracious. Only in a symbolically disclosed horizon can the diabolic dismemberment of our relationships to the world and to one another, find its exorcism and eventual healing in a genuine metabolic relationship with the biosphere. For this reason, the great symbols of creation, incarnation, Trinity, eucharist and sexuality will be later investigated as the foundation of the hope we most need.

The emergence of a new paradigm, not only for science, but also for life in its concrete unfolding, has become a necessity. Our culture has drifted far from its original wisdom, and is in need of a thorough-going new development. Some speak of a pervasive cultural pathology.[30] It is sobering to realise that if we don't understand that the malaise is first of all a breakdown in the inner ecology of our thinking, feelings and values, we will be numbed in our abilities to develop the larger wisdom of a fuller, more inclusive life together. There can be no remedy for the threatened environment save by paying attention to the quality of human consciousness, and the meanings and values it pursues or ignores.  A mutilated or stunted inner environment is not the best resource to bring to the problem. To act without realising how polluted our inner environment has become is to infect the wound further, rather than to heal it. Without a radical cultural transformation,[31] the threatened ecology of the planet will be addressed only with the resources of a stunted inner environment.  Ecology will be merely another theatre for an unredeemed power-struggle.  An habitual attitude of rape in regard to the earth is not easily changed into the tender exchanges of love. Again to quote Pope John Paul II,

Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle.  In many parts of the world, society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage these cause...  Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice , must become part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of careless habits of the few.[32] 

True, there are some who would see human consciousness as a miasmic mist floating on the surface of the planet, and so causing the poisoning and destruction of nature. At the other extreme, others so glorify this most mysterious self-presence of the human that they forget it is embodied, ‘earthed', in the given physical and biological processes of the planet. Between saying that we have been anthropocentric to the neglect of a larger biocentrism, and the seemingly obvious fact that it is only through human consciousness that the ecological state of the planet is perceived as a problem, lies a world of great complexity.

In fact, in a world of threatened species, the distinctively human also faces the perils of extinction or diminishment. There is an alienation, not only from without (depleted resources, poisoned air and water and earth and forests), but also from within, given the violence and hatreds that lie close to the human heart. There is no need to document what we have done to one another on the individual, familial, social, national and regional level.

Has humanity really given itself a chance – least of all on the scale on which we are called to live? What can liberate us, redeem us, into the attainment of our best selves?  That might be the new form of the question in the current situation, when the human species is in danger of lapsing into a form of self-hatred. Alienation from our biosphere and ourselves can only be remedied by the more critical self-appropriation of the best in ourselves in terms of art, intelligence, morality and faith.

One aspect of the dignity and drama of human existence is that it is that unique mode of being in which both the mystery and crisis of the world come to awareness. One feature of this awareness is its exuberance.  The human is related to the millions of other species, embodied in a cosmic matrix of elements and dynamisms that make life possible. Yet that exuberance is tempered, if not appalled, by a sense of crisis. The damage human history has inflicted is recorded in the extinction of thousands of species with which we once shared life on this planet.  Yet this unique human awareness, as it blossoms into a sense of inclusive solidarity with the earth, is becoming newly alert to the myopia and addictions that have made the human presence on the planet a major ecological threat.

We are challenged by the demands of a profound and laborious conversion.  Overcoming any addiction is a terrifying prospect. To break away from the accumulated and deeply embedded cultural patterns of an anti-life consumerism is going to produce the trauma of agonising withdrawal symptoms, as was mentioned above.  Though our world vastly different from that of one of Israel's prophets two and half millennia ago, the call to a change of heart is still piercing and urgent:

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezechiel 36: 24-26)

That prophetic expression of God's promise to the exiled, scattered, dispirited people of Israel can rightly be heard by all the present peoples of the globe in this moment of crisis. The deadly isolation of the heart of stone has to yield to a more cosmically attuned heart of flesh. Our idols must fall and our demons be exorcised if ecology is ever going to mean something.

Thus, the ecological turn in consciousness has come to mediate a deep criticism of modern culture, and the determination to find something better. The logos of ecology has come to stand for a larger logic, a larger wisdom, in a new kind of economy, a new kind of politics and world order. The kind of questions facing human history have been well phrased in the following passage:

Within the economy of God, economy, ecology and oikumene are concerned with peculiar questions. The question of economy is, Will everyone in the household get what it takes to live? The question of ecology is, Will nature be given its rights, or must it protest by dying, thereby cutting off the existence of human beings? The question of the oikumene is, Will the world become mutually habitable by the peoples of the earth? Will all people be able to live in the world as a home? Thus, the traditional content of economy has been livelihood, of ecology, symbiosis with nature, and of oikumene, mutually recognised and supportive habitat in peace.[33]

We might also add a further ‘eco-cosmological' question: How does life and the ‘home' belong to the universal cosmic process? Is the universe friendly to life and human consciousness, or fundamentally indifferent to it? Without a range of reference to the cosmic matrix of life and its conscious manifestation, without a sense of the original mystery out of which the ‘whole' and the ‘all' emerge and interconnect, ecology becomes merely eco-centricity, rather similar to the anthropocentricity to which it is so averse.

6. Models of Ecological action

Responses to the ecological crises of our day are many and varied.[34] Here I intend to consider three types of response: the pragmatic, the ethical and the aesthetic. Though dealing with types always tends toward caricature, it is instructive, to note how each attempt to objectify what ecology deals with, namely, the community of living things, and ends by demanding a greater human participation in it.

a/ The pragmatic approach:

This first approach is the most accessible. It tends, predictably, to be impatient with any talk of such arcane matters as holistic consciousness, a religious sense of creation and incarnation, or the larger disease of culture itself. The well-intentioned pragmatist might say, ‘By all means, say your prayers, and love your neighbour; but real action consists in concentrating on recycling and composting, on conserving fossil fuels, on protecting endangered species, in lobbying business and government, in getting a good educational program going, and in supporting various activist groups'.  Sensible pragmatism of this kind focuses on conditions within the environment. It aims to replace a bad environment with a good one, so that energy is conserved and the variety of life is preserved, and everything works better.

Despite the energy and expertise of this pragmatic approach, it shelves a number of radical questions.  For the pragmatic mind confront issues as problems to be solved.  In a vigorous extraversion in turns to what's wrong ‘out there'.  But its busy plans and strategic interventions makes it unlikely that underlying issues will be noticed, let alone diagnosed as a deeply distorted way of life. Pragmatists assume the role of expert problem-solvers, acting from outside the living systems they aim to protect. If there is any truth in the wry observation that those most dedicated to the solution of the world's ills are often struggling in matters closer to home, it is especially evident here. The bias of the pragmatist and the problem-solver often hurries past the deeper challenges of intimacy with the other. For this other is typically envisaged as a problem awaiting an energetic and even drastic solution. To talk of new connections, let alone an englobing mystery drawing us into deeper relationships of receptivity and participation, blunts the sharp edge of resolve.

Regrettably, the purely activist approach tends to leave out its best resources: contemplation, reflection, compassion and hope. To speak with a higher pragmatism, we can say that there is no substitute for putting our best selves into our work. But that ‘best self' is the elusive resource. For example, once someone has had a stroke or a nervous breakdown, it is usually not enough for the fragile sufferer to be greeted with the resounding summons, ‘Pull yourself together'!  For that presupposes resources that are simply not there. Suddenly to reverse the state of breakdown, or to become conscious of an underlying diseased way of life, are not practical possibilities. By extension, to think of the ecological crisis merely as a technological problem to be solved by better techniques leaves the whole character of  technological culture unexamined; and thus doomed to repeat the old mistakes, even if less lethally. If we still think of reality like a big machine, then at best we are engineers; at worst little cogs within it.

Now, of course, the army of those who are working for better technologies, for a more healthy environment, for the conservation of endangered species, and so forth, certainly deserve every commendation and support. But that is only part of the picture. A deeper involvement of the self is called for; and that comes to expression in the domain of ethics, in the consciousness of moral values.

b/ The ethical approach:

On this level, moral values are perceived as necessarily motivating ecological action. More inclusive forms of the common good, natural law, solidarity and compassion surface in a shared globally extended conscience. One version of this is the language of rights. We speak of the right to a healthy environment; even the rights of a given environment, or the living beings making it up, such as animals, rain forests, ocean reefs...[35]  However historically odd the language of animal rights and liberation must appear to be, there is no doubting the genuine, freshly perceived values its expresses.

Still, a certain reserve on the long-term usefulness of ‘rights language' is justified. The problem again turns on the peculiar externality of the ecological relationship implied. For example, campaigners for the rights of those others, ranging all the way from native cultures, to animals species such as whales, koalas or Leadbeater possums, to bio-systems such as ocean reefs and rain forests, can be uncritically secure in their own liberation. To put the matter baldly: the ‘others' to be liberated are being offered the freedom already the possession of the liberators. It is hardly noticed that the ideal of justice presumed in all this is itself rather narrow and distorted. It so often communicates a notion of rights that is militantly adversarial in tone, individualistic in content, self-assertive and competitive in style. It is born of a mistrust of consensus, uninterested in genuine conversation and impatient with the complexity of the issues. The malaise of any number of modern democracies provides ample illustration here.

The language of modern justice, increasingly detached from any gracious worldview, is the rough language formed out of a violently competitive society. It is not the language of communion, conviviality, mutual belonging and humble service. Here, the ‘medium is the message'. A morally ecological language certainly needs to be supported by a renewed sense of justice; but, as I see it, it will also need the energies of an other-directed love.  A justice detached from an inclusive sense of larger common good has been, in fact, the cultural source of our present troubles: it privileges the individual and favours those most in a position to exploit the system to their advantage. In an imperfect world, one must concede, such a notion still has its point.  But if it is tongue-tied when it comes to envisaging a world of communion, of self-dispossession for the sake of the other, any ethical concern veers toward a harsh intolerant moralism –  another version of justice for the few at the expense of the many.

In practice, ethics needs the illumination of the artist and the mystic.  It needs the support of a larger philosophy of life and the inspiration of a theology of reconciling hope. If conflict is not for the sake of a deeper conviviality, it will aimlessly disruptive. However vulnerable and utopian it will always appear, the supreme value of love is the radically real issue: the love of one's neighbour and the neighbourhood; loving one's enemy and what is strange, untamed, hitherto unnoticed or useless; loving it because it exists, given into a world of being and life beyond any calculation of one's own, already there, with its own past and future; and offered to us in a holy communion that precedes any distancing or antagonism. Such love is nourishes an attitude of welcoming and hospitality within the mystery of creation. On the other hand, a justice narrowly limited to the requirement of everyone having individual wants filled, in which each is treated in a manner they feel they deserve, is rather close to a Christian description, not of ecological communion, but of hell.

c/ The Aesthetic approach:

Nor is it a matter of aesthetics, at least in the superficial sense of human beings becoming planetary landscape gardeners.  The destruction of what was once beautiful, or the beauty of what can easily be destroyed certainly provokes its own powerful reaction. But nature is more than an inspiring ambience: concentrating on beauty alone, even the beauty of all the varied creation of plant and animal life, is not enough.  For one thing, we are placing ourselves, and a good deal of nature itself, out of the picture. We are seeing ourselves as vacationers, tourists, spectators, park rangers, landscape gardeners who want to preserve what we imagine has to be a beautiful environment. This can be the most subtle form of ecological insensitivity, in which a weed is anything I have not planted, and a pest is any creature that interferes with my plans. We are denying the full given reality of nature. And that includes death and decay; and more threateningly, plague, disease, natural disaster.

Every attractive woman has always known that being treated merely as a beautiful object can be a belittling experience.  Her essential humanity, including all the negativity and struggle implied in that, is being repressed, disallowed, denied. To be treated merely as an aesthetic or sexual object is an insult to her distinctive personality with its aspirations to relationship and fullness of life. And, of course, beauty is notoriously in the eye of the beholder. For some, an old wharf in a city harbour is an eyesore obscuring the natural shore. For others, it is beautiful, a part of the place, something to be cherished, and in the event, defended. When ecological concerns focus only on maintaining a pleasing environment, debate collapse into a clash on individual tastes. A more realistic ecological approach needs a larger horizon. It takes its stand on openness to the whole mystery of nature in all its grandeur, beauty, struggle, tension. Any activity will come out of an intimate receptivity to the whole as something to belong to, live with, work for, yield to; yet in a way that allows for the human contribution, the distinctive mutation that human beings can bring.

How, then, can we think of this transformative activity on the part of the human with regard to world of nature? It has been recently suggested that the human is related to nature less in terms of the contemplation of beauty, as in the demands of the artistic creation of the beautiful.[36]  Artists have a respectful working-relationship with their materials. Within given limits of stone or paint or tonal scale or physical movement, a creative interaction occurs. A new form is educed, as reality is illumined by the human creative act. Matter is newly imagined, released to a new intensity of existence, a new form of embodiment. This approach allows for the creative activity of the human, but only within given limits that have to be respected. To this degree, there is a certain co-realisation of artist and artwork, as nature plays itself out through artistic imagination into a life-nourishing beauty.[37] Human activity is the medium by which nature that can be elevated to a new form. In human imagination, nature stands ready to receive the inexhaustible, the surprising, the revelation. Through art, nature attends on the transcendent.[38]

This approach bears some analogy to the venerable medieval conviction of ‘grace healing, perfecting and elevating nature'.  Here, grace is understood as the loving excess of divine creativity, and nature is the creativity of human potential. In an ecological application, the human can be understood to be called by grace to embrace the larger domain of nature as a gift; thus, to heal, preserve, perfect and elevate it. In the strictly theological tradition we refer to, grace and nature were not identical, nor did grace destroy nature. Grace transformed human nature by liberating it to attain to the union with God that it natively sought.

In the present ecological context, we can locate such high mysteries in a more preliminary stage: as the God of grace deals with human nature, so human nature should deal with the rest of nature. The human maintains its own uniqueness, in creativity and freedom: grace and nature are not the same. But the difference does not mean that the human can destroy nature, since it is meant to be a healing and preserving grace for it. But there is a transformative moment: grace, in this case the human, ‘elevates', by liberating nature to a new fullness of communion and integrity.

Admittedly, contemporary theology is somewhat impatient of these venerable distinctions, preferring to reflect on the concreteness of human experience and history in the one focal, mystery of God's self-communication in Christ. I suspect, however, that these old distinctions are continuing to operate rather inarticulately in today's theological thought as it opens to the ecological and larger cosmic context. When nature is now seen, not primarily as a philosophical notion, nor as restricted to the domain of human sinfulness or creativity, but as a living, inter-related system of life and its manifold possibilities on this planet, a new set of correlations is called for. 

It will not be a purely pragmatic relationship. That would leave too much unexamined. When the human agent is untroubled by larger demands for conversion, all solutions risk being merely the projection of stunted and unredeemed culture. A deeper participation in the process is required. Nor is it merely a matter of a more ethical relationship. Without a vision of reality, without a vision of beauty, without the ongoing effort to understand the larger context and to make room for a more comprehensive sense of the common good in all its transcendent implications, ethics soon collapses into oppressive moralism.  Nor is it simply a matter of a new aesthetic. Not everything is beautiful; and life has piercing tragedies.  The problem of evil remains a problem.

Nonetheless, an artistic model suggests something of the transformative influence of the human within the whole natural order, particularly when that, in turn, is set within ultimate field of the Creator Spirit. The resources and goal of such a transformation reach their richest Christian expression only when set within the transforming experience of universal love.

7. The Transformation of Love

How is the contemplative dynamism of authentic faith located within the horizon of the ecological and cosmological relationships we have been exploring? Any answer to such a question would be incomplete without a specific consideration of Christian consciousness as informed by transcendent love.

By participating in the gift of love, the believer dwells in the universe as God's creation, to perceive it, however dimly or inchoatively, in its religious wholeness. Here contemplation blossoms, as it nurtures the ultimate relationality of our conscious being. The following points are worth consideration.

First, there is a kind of ultimate level of self-realisation that mystical faith brings about. It is the realisation of the self as radically communal. At the deepest roots of our consciousness, we are, in an essential sense, already involved with the ultimate mystery of our existence. Sebastian Moore has called it `a pre-religious love-affair with God', however unnamed or unknown such a God might be.[39] To be conscious at all is to be living a search for the ultimate affirmation of our relational being. Our consciousness unfolds within an horizon of ultimacy. What the ancients termed `a natural desire to see God', or `a desire for beatitude', modern thinkers express in more psychological terms. In both cases it is a matter of respecting the living all-involving thrust of our intelligence toward the meaning of all meaning, the sufficient reason for all our sufficient reasons, the worthwhileness of all our values, the ultimate affirmation of what living consciousness discloses us to be -- meaning-making, truth-beholden, value-drawn beings. As Lonergan puts it in his lapidary manner:

The question of God, then, lies within man's horizon. Man's transcendental subjectivity is mutilated or abolished, unless he is stretching forth toward the intelligible, the unconditioned, the good of value. The reach not of his attainment but of his intending is unrestricted. There lies within his horizon a region for the divine, a shrine of ultimate holiness. It cannot be ignored. The atheist may pronounce it empty. The agnostic may urge that he has found his investigation inconclusive. The contemporary humanist will refuse to allow the question to arise. But these negations presuppose the spark in our clod, our native orientation to the divine. [40]

Such a conclusion provokes a range of new questions. In what manner can this `region for the divine' include all the regions of our living relationality? To what extent can this `shrine of ultimate holiness' be the attainment of ultimate wholeness and universal belonging? To what degree can this `native orientation to the divine' subsume the dynamics of the interconnective and emergent universe in which we are immersed? Christian faith finds the focus of its answer in the cosmic Christ: `all things are made in him, through him and for him' (Col 1: 16). But before concentrating on that focus, let us first be aware of the more connective quality of consciousness involved; and this leads to the next point.

Secondly, and this is in agreement with the emphasis of Teilhard mentioned previously, it is a matter of love: the agape of the New Testament, the caritas of the Catholic tradition. Though this is a distinctively Christian formulation, such love is understood to be a universal gift, however different religious traditions might express it. The original overture of human consciousness to the ultimate is kindled into intimacy through the self-giving mystery of the divine (Rom 5: 5; 1Jn 4: 7-12). To participate in the transforming energies of divine love, in receiving and in giving it, is the crowning gift made to human existence: human consciousness homes to its final goal, to indwell a world radically transformed, to be freed from the void of absurdity as it is drawn into intimacy with the heart of the universe. As Lonergan puts it,

As the question of God is implicit in all our questioning, so being in love with God is the basic fulfilment of our conscious intentionality. That fulfilment brings a deep set joy that can remain despite humiliation, failure, privation, pain, betrayal, desertion. That fulfilment brings a radical peace, the peace the world cannot give. That fulfilment bears fruit in a love of one's neighbour that strives mightily to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. On the other hand, the absence of that fulfilment opens the way to the trivialisation of human life in the pursuit of fun, to the harshness of human life arising from the ruthless exercise of power, to despair about human welfare springing from the conviction that the universe is absurd.[41]

Here, too, questions arise. How does such a fulfilment of `conscious intentionality' -- the spontaneous thrust and overture of human consciousness in regard to the ultimate -- begin now to embrace, not only the human neighbour, but the whole cosmos as a neighbourhood? How does its energetic work for the sake of God's reign on earth stimulate the religious mind to include in its concerns the joy and peace of the whole of emerging process of creation? What has been said up to the present, and what remains still to be explored, is an attempt to answer such questions. But there is a third point to be emphasised.

Thirdly, then, such a self-realisation in love is experienced as a conscious fulfilment. The experience of God is not immediately accessible through theological cultivation or philosophical refinement. It is something far more intimate and transformative, taking place in our actual living of relationships. Again, to quote Lonergan, in his analysis of the dynamics of consciousness,

... it is this consciousness as brought to fulfilment, as having undergone a conversion, as possessing a basis that may be broadened and deepened and heightened and enriched but not superseded, as ready to deliberate and judge and decide and act with the easy freedom of those who do good because they are in love. So the gift of God's love occupies the ground and root of the fourth and  highest level of man's intentional consciousness. It takes over the peak of the soul, the apex animae.[42]

Such a fulfilment, with its outcome in a converted mind and heart, in the ultimate peace it intimates and in the freedom it inspires, begs to be properly set within the dynamisms and texture of contemporary culture. While it focuses on the ultimate, its basis can indeed be `broadened and deepened, heightened and enriched' to include all else. In the current ecological crisis and in the context of a new cosmological sense of the universe, the challenge is to relate the ultimacy of the experience of God to all its forms of universality. It becomes a matter of integrating the ultimate in self-transcendence with the immanence of self-involvement. To live beyond this world and its cultural distortions, holds multiple promise of living into it, with the special vitality of faith, hope and love. But another consideration arises.

Fourthly, this relationship of contemplative indwelling in the ultimate mystery is experienced as relational and dynamic. For it is manifest as a transition from isolation and emptiness to the connectedness and plenitude of communion: 

The transcendental notions, that is, our questions for intelligence, for reflection and for deliberation, constitute our capacity for self-transcendence. That capacity becomes an actuality when one falls in love. Then one's being becomes being-in-love. Such being-in-love has its antecedents, its causes, its conditions, its occasions. But once it has blossomed forth and as long as it lasts, it takes over. It is the first principle. From it flow one's desires and one's fears, one's joys and one's sorrows, one's discernment of values, one's decisions and one's deeds.[43]

It seems to me that this kind of radical affectivity is being freshly manifest in the integrative power of love coming into being in the ecological and cosmological context of today. For self-surrender to God, the `first principle', is stimulating on the planet a new range of the desires, fears, joys and sorrows, discernment of values, decisions and activity as a loving collaboration with the God of creation. It is an expansion of loving God and of all in God, for

 Being-in-love is of different kinds. There is the love of intimacy, of husband and wife, of parents and children. There is the love of one's fellow men with its fruit in the achievement of human welfare. There is the love of God with one's whole heart and soul, with all one's mind and with all one's strength (Mk 12: 30). It is God's love flooding our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us (Rom 5: 5). It grounds the conviction of St Paul that `there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of the spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths, -- nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom 8: 38f).[44]

It is now a matter of locating the transcendent, exclusive concentration of such love within the immanent, inclusive bearing of contemporary experience.  As nothing in all creation can separate us from the loving source of our existence, nothing is more calculated to link us with that creation in a joyous participative companionship. Being in love with God attains a special contemporary radiance as a falling in love with the universe of divine creation, in all its variety and in all its generative groanings, there to find a new collaboration with the Creator Spirit.

8. Faith as Contemplation

In such an understanding of the Christian experience of life, I would emphasis three features of the kind of consciousness that emerges.[45]

The first is a kind of immediate intimacy with the all-inclusive mystery. This is always in tension with the complex mediations of culture and religious tradition. These constitute an enormous and complex superstructure, articulated in word and ritual, institution and law, moral persuasion, all the variety of theologies and of scientific and philosophical theories, historical narrative, traditions, and worldviews. But through all these and reaching beyond them, faith connects with the inexpressible and ultimately inclusive realm of life and love. It leads to what Augustine termed `a learned ignorance' that takes us beyond all formulations, even those most treasured in our traditions. It enjoys the presence of the una quaedam summa res, the one surpassing reality, for which there are no adequate words -- for even the words `reality' and `cause' are limited by their earth-bound significance. Mystics speak of inhaling the perfume of the divinity, of being wounded, inflamed, possessed by it, even while being unable to name it. The range of faith exceeds all other kinds of knowing. Rather matter-of-factly, St Thomas Aquinas asserts, `the act of the believer does not terminate at a statement [about God] but at the Reality'.[46]

 In tension with the various mediations of belief, of theology, and all other kinds of knowing, the mystical contact of faith cherishes its dark intimacy with the divine. A relevant point is that God is never to be fitted into a system as a factor or a process, but is the focus in which everything is centred, the realm of ultimate communion, the breath or atmosphere vitalising all existence.

Secondly, I would add interiority. This is in tension with the ordinary apprehensions of a common sense world in which God is thought of as `up there', or as a big factor in the governing of the world, or a big `thing' within it. Similarly such interiority contrasts with the intellectual world of theory, of theology or philosophy or scientific system. For the life of faith engages the whole being, from the depths of the heart, not just our minds or moral inclination or any other human capacity. In familiar biblical and spiritual discourse, God dwells in the heart of the mystic and the mystic dwells in God. A mutual indwelling, especially characterising the writings of John. The mysticism of faith is not primarily busy in the articulation of a system or in making a synthesis. It lives in a presence, dwelling in it, surrendering to it. It is the eminent example of knowing by heart: the heart has its reasons which the head knows not of (Pascal). It is knowledge of familiarity, of the immersion of the whole self in the holy wholeness of things...[47]

Thirdly, the mystical orientation of faith is characterised by a universal and unrestricted scope. It lives from its own inherent excess. Here, too, the range of faith surpasses the particularities of doctrinal, theological or moral context. It breathes and `groans' (Rom 8:) in the mystery of the Holy Spirit who inspires hopes for a wholeness that cannot be thought, imagined or named. Such universality in the Spirit inspires the most radical form of catholicity as `openness to the all' and as waiting for what is not yet...[48]

Hence, faith, at its most radical point, dwells in a totality which no thought or system or action can express or achieve. The experience of faith, in its immediate, interior fashion, is that of an inexpressible excess. Though such consciousness is marked by all the groaning limitations of obscurity, incompleteness and tension, it does not terminate in either absurdity or ultimate futility. Its universe is not a vast reduction ad absurdum. The basic character of its unfolding is that of surrender and adoration. It works more as a  reductio in mysterium (Karl Rahner), as all things are brought back to the original and abiding mystery of everything and everyone.

In that sense of universal mystery, we bring this second circle of reflection to its conclusion.

[1]. See Alasdair McIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of  Notre Dame Press, 1981).

[2]. For extensive treatment of this ‘new story', see Thomas Berry,  The Dream of the Earth ( San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988); and Brian Swimme,  The Universe is a Green Dragon. A Cosmic Creation Story (Santa Fe: Bear and Co., 1984).

[3]. I owe this example originally to a Greenpeace publication. Unfortunately, I cannot verify the exact reference.

[4]. Berry, The Dream… , 134f.

[5]. As the basis for what follows, see Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence Random House, New York, 1977, pp. 14-16; and David S. Toolan, SJ, ` "Nature is a Heraclitean Fire". Reflections on Cosmology in an Ecological Age', Studies in the Spirituality of the Jesuits 23/5 November 1991, pp. 13-15.

[6]. Following the Advent antiphon, Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem (`Let the earth be opened and bud forth the saviour').

[7]. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., 1,1,6; 2-2, 45,3.

[8]. Summa Theol., 2-2, 45, 2.

[9]. Fritjof Capra and David Steindl-Rast with Thomas Matus, Belonging to the Universe. Explorations on the Frontiers of Science and Spirituality, Harper San Francisco, New York, 1991.

[10]. For abundant material and a great deal of dazzling insight on this inner journey as the rise of human consciousness, see Ken Wilber, Up From Eden. A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution, Shambhala, Boulder, 1983. For a stimulating collection of essays on some aspects of the new paradigm from a biological point of view, see William Irving Thompson, ed., Gaia. A Way of Knowing. Political Implications of the New Biology, Lindesfarne Press, Hudson, 1987.

[11]. B. Lonergan, Method...: `Method is not a set of rules to be followed meticulously by a dolt. It is a framework of collaborative creativity' (p. xi).

[12]. For a fuller exposition of the New Paradigm, see Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, (10th Edition), Flamingo, London, 1985; The Turning Point. Science, Society and the Rising Culture, Flamingo, London, 1984.

[13]. Hence, in the collaborative method of theology, there are eight functional specialties, each with its own distinctive procedures. Since theological learning occurs in history, it is beholden both to the past and the present/future. Hence, on the empirical level, Research examines the data of the past, and Communications relates to the emerging context of the present. On the intellectual level, Interpretation works to make sense of the past, and Systematics is an attempt to create a holistic body of meaning for the present. On the rational level, History judges the achievement of the past, and Doctrines states the priorities in the present. On the moral level, Dialectic scrutinises the conflicts of the past, and Foundations seeks to objectify the most fruitful standpoint in the present. See B. Lonergan, Method in Theology, pp. 125-145.

[14].See Richard Gelwick, The Way of Discovery. An Introduction to the Thought of Michael Polanyi, Oxford University Press, New York, 1977, pp. 135-136.

[15]. The original French title of the monumental work, Jacques Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge

[16]. See Lateran IV (1215), in Neuner-Dupuis, The Christian Faith, Collins Liturgical Press, London, 1982, p. 109.

[17]. Here is am indebted to Mary Farrell Bednarowski, `Literature of the New Age: A Review of Representative Sources', Religious Studies Review 17/3, July 1991, pp. 209-216. The article is a judicious survey of representative views, as might be found in the productions of Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal Growth and Social Transformation in the 1980s, J.P. Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1980; David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred, Dell Publishing Co., New York, 1984; J. Gordon Melton, Jerome Clark and Aidan Kelly, The New Age Encyclopedia, Gale Research, Detroit, 1990); David Ray Griffin, ed., The Reenchantment of Science: Postmodern Proposals, State Uni.. Press of NY, Albany, 1988; Louise B. Young, The Unfinished Universe, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1986; Brian Swimme, The Universe is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story, Bear and Co., Santa Fe, 1984; John E. Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, OUP, Oxford, 1979; Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, 1985; Ken Wilber, No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth, Shambhala, Boston, 1979; Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal Your Life, Hay House, Santa Monica, CA, 1984;  Starhawk( Miriam Simos), Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1987; Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1988; David Toolan, Facing West from California's Shores: A Jesuit's Journey into New Age Consciousness, Crossroad, New York, 1987; and Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1988. Of course, the possible list is endless, -- especially when even such works as this present exploration would be classified as `New Age' by some hardy traditionalists!

[18]. As quoted in Jacques Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge, trans. Bernard Wall, Geoffrey Bles, London, 1937, p. ix.

[19]. For a specially valuable presentation of the Pauline diagnosis of the human condition, see Brendan Byrne, SJ, Inheriting the Earth. The Pauline Basis for a Spirituality for Our Time, St Paul Publications, Homebush, NSW, 1990. See, too, this author's remarks on the Pauline `New Age' compared with the current phenomenon, pp. 12;24.

[20]. See R. Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature, Bantam Books, London, 1992, pp. 49f.

[21]. For a critique of the totalitarian attitudes of science, see Bryan Appleyard, Understanding the Present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man, Picador, London, 1992; and Mary Midgley, Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and its Meaning, Routledge, London, 1992.

[22]. An outstanding resource here is Thomas M. King, SJ, Teilhard de Chardin, Michael Glazier, Wilmington, Del., 1988. See especially pp. 13-64.

[23]. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Towards The Future, trans. Rene Hague, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975, pp. 209f.

[24]. For further details, see Thomas M. King, Teilhard de Chardin, pp. 15-19. Here Teilhard is more akin to Buber and Zaehner than to Huxley and Stace. More profoundly, his emphasis on particularity represents a Western philosophical and mystical tradition in contrast to the classic Eastern types. But that is a matter requiring much deeper exploration than is possible here.

[25]. See my Trinity of Love. A Theology of the Christian God, Michael Glazier, Wilmington, Del., 1988, especially pp. 234-248 for some suggestions toward a trinitarian model for the resolution of these divergences.

[26]. David Toolan, Facing West from California's Shores: A Jesuit's Journey into New Age Consciousness Crossroad, New York, 1987, p.30

[27]. How a healthy `deconstruction' is at work in the emerging eco-cosmological context has yet to be worked out. In beginning to address the problem, I have found the following valuable references: Kevin Hart, The Trespass of the Sign. Deconstruction, Theology and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1989; and Ronald H. McKinney, `Toward the Resolution of the Paradigm Conflict: Holism versus Postmodernism', Philosophy Today, Winter 1988, pp. 299-311

[28]. Peace with God the Creator: Peace with all Creation, St Paul Publications, Homebush, NSW, 1990, #13, par.3.

[29]. A work of enduring value is William F. Lynch, Images of Hope. Imagination as Healer of the Hopeless, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1965.

[30]. Brendan Lovett, Life Before Death. Inculturating Hope, Claretian Press, Quezon City, 198?, p. 7. For a practical way of responding, see Albert LaChance, Greenspirit. Twelve Steps in Ecological Spirituality, Element, Rockport, MA, 1991.

[31]. The importance, and the depth of analysis involved, of this `psychic conversion' in a world-cultural context is explored in the important book, Robert Doran, Theology and the Dialectics of History, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1990.

[32]. Peace with God..., #13, par. 1-2.

[33]. Douglas M. Meeks, God the Economist. The Doctrine of God and the Political Economy, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1989, p. 34.

[34]. For a rich context of discussion, see Neil Ormerod, `Renewing the Earth -- Renewing Theology', Pacifica 4 / ?, 1991, pp.xx; and Denis Edwards, `The Integrity of Creation: Catholic Social Teaching for an Ecological Age', Pacifica 5, 1992, pp. 182-203.

[35]. For excellent documentation and reflection on this issue, See Denis Edwards, `The Integrity of Creation: Catholic Social Teaching for an Ecological Age', Pacifica 5(1992), pp. 182-203.

[36]. Neil Omerod, `Renewing the Earth -- Renewing Theology', Pacifica 4/ 1991, pp. ; and Robert Faricy, Wind and Sea Obey Him. Approaches to a Theology of Nature, SCM, London, 1982, pp. 53-61.

[37]. On the more general aesthetic consideration, the Pope makes an interesting comment:

The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; the contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation which is called on to glorify God (Gen 1: 4ff; Ps 8:2; 104: 1ff; Wis 13: 3-5; Sir 39: 16. 33; 43: 1) (Peace with God..., #14, n.1)

[38]. This point awaits further application in the later chapter on `Wholesome Sex'.

[39]. See Sebastian Moore, The Fire and the Rose are One, Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1980, pp. 5-28.

[40]. Method..., p.103. For further applications of Lonergan's work to spirituality see John Bathersby, The Foundations of Christian Spirituality in Bernard Lonergan, SJ N.Pecheux, Rome, 1982; and the regrettably unpublished dissertation of Frank Fletcher, Exploring Christian Theology's Foundations in Religious Experience, Melbourne College of Divinity, 1982.

[41]. Bernard Lonergan, Method..., p.105.

[42]. Method..., p. 107.

[43]. B. Lonergan, Method..., p. 105.

[44]. Op.cit., p. 105.

[45]. These points beg to be developed in a larger context as, to give one excellent example, it is described in Gabriel Gomes, Song of the Skylark I-II. Foundations of Experiential Religion, University of America Press, Lanham, Md., 1991.

[46]. Summa Theol., 2-2, 1, 2 ad 2. For relevant material, see G. Gomes, The Song of the Skylark I, pp. 211-232.

[47]. See Gomes, The Song…, pp. 216-223; 239; 295.

[48]. See Gomes, The Song…, pp. 233-248.