In November 2016, I attended a retreat at the Garrison Institute, a renovated former Capuchin Monastery in a scenic setting by the Hudson River. Presentations by Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and priest, provided a contemplative approach to exploring the spiritual dimension of evolution. The retreat’s guidebook included selected short texts taken from writings by theologians, spiritual teachers, and mystics including Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry. Here, for example, is an excerpt from Berry:
Each particular being in the universe is needed by the entire universe. With this understanding of our profound kinship with all life, we can establish the the basis for a flourishing Earth community, . . . A vast mystery is being enacted in which we participate in a unique way.
During the retreat, part of my free time was spent reading The Human Phenomenon where Teilhard invites us to see the earth as having undergone three major stages of development since its birth as a planet, stages that can be described as three concentric spheres, the geosphere, biosphere, and noosphere (cf. the preceding post). Because of the evocative power of the book’s vision and the retreat’s contemplative focus on God’s love in an evolving universe, my outdoor walks during this time became meditations on particular aspects of the monastery grounds: the remarkable outcroppings of stone; the deep green of moss amidst the autumn colors of shrubs, trees, and fallen leaves; the evidence everywhere of human activity including the monastery and its current inhabitants, but also artifacts and symbols from different religious traditions to be found within and outside the building. In other words, I was learning to see the many aspects of my surroundings as parts of the whole of what Berry calls the Earth community.
Tibetan prayer flags
The Dalai Lama