The New Human

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Erin Virgil

Erin Virgil

Members of this site are watching an eight-week video series on Eight Agreements for An Emergent Culture. The series could also be called Eight Agreements for Personalization in Spiritual Communities. The reason I developed these is that over my 28 year career in church, it was my experience that people are under-resourced when it comes to presenting ourselves as fit for community life. And that church general speaking makes a fundamental assumption that humans are born, not made. But we evolve into our humanity, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. This assumption leaves many congregations floundering because too many of our folks don’t possess the fundamental competencies for what constitutes a truly human being.  What follows is an excerpt from a new chapter in my book, T’he Emerging Church, which is being re-printed with new content (scheduled for fall 2014).

 

French priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was among the first scientist-theologians to intuit within the evolutionary process itself a biased trajectory in and toward the Christ Mystery, made known in Jesus. Another word he uses for this is that Jesus was the full “personalization” of the cosmos. What was happening in Jesus’ incarnation, in his view, was that evolution’s purpose was being revealed in the human domain. The cosmos was being completed, or perfected (to use a Pauline metaphor), through Jesus, who was the fully personalized expression of evolution after 13.8 billion years. Jesus represented the new Human (what Ezekiel called “the son of the Human”).

 

Paul called this the second Adam, a new human for a new age, wherein a New Humanity, which Jesus inaugurated by his life, death, and resurrection, was emerging. In evolutionary theology, the core transformation of those who follow Jesus is to be “personalized” – to consciously incorporate, yet transcend the First Adam into a new Humanity. We could playfully call this the Human 2.0. Teilhard believed that in Jesus we get a glimpse of where the universe is headed – what he called the “amorization” of the universe, or the fulfillment of love. St. Paul intuited this evolutionary trajectory with his quite remarkable statement that all of creation prior to the human was like a mother eagerly “longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Romans 8:20). This “eager longing” of creation comes to full conscious awareness in the human ones, who are offspring of creation’s evolutionary process, with a new and glorious capacity to feel from within, and to be animated by, a holy longing to realize the New Human inaugurated by Jesus.

 

I recently watched the film Hannah Arendt, which looks at a four year period in this philosopher’s life, during the trial of Adolph hannah arendtEichmann, a Nazi bureaucrat who “processed” Jews for extermination. Her courageous and very controversial conclusion was that evil was “banal”. It was much less dramatic than the popular notions of Satan possessing unsuspecting souls. Evil grows in those who refuse personhood, or personalization,  as Eichmann refused to think for himself, and simply carried out orders. The system, the hierarchy, G_d, the church, the corporation, the state, each of these can act as substitutes for our humanity, and where they do, evil grows.

 

All of creation, Paul says, has been waiting patiently for and participating in the birth of the sons and daughters of God. Our unique function and capacity as humans is to participate in the longing of all creation, come to conscious awareness in us, for the New Human. In short, our fundamental vocation is to listen to this natural, sacred yearning within us to be more. The goal of creation, says Teilhard, is not simply bien-être (well-being), but plus-être (more being): more love, more justice, more beauty, goodness, and truth. The first steps in becoming the New Human, prefigured in Jesus, are to feel, trust, and consciously activate this holy longing consciousness within us, and then to organize our lives around this yearning. This is the presence of the evolutionary impulse within us. Using theological language, this is how we experience the Holy Spirit. To feel this longing and to honour it by letting nothing get in the way of its expression and realization is what it means to be “in Christ” in evolutionary theology. We are animated from within, and drawn by a future promise, to become the New Human. This is the mission of the emerging church.

 

What this means  is that congregations or spiritual communities are  domains of creative emergence. We consciously create the conditions in which the One who “makes all things new” and in whom a novelty that opens up new futures receives our allegiance. And, in particular, churches are a domain where the New Human, shaped by the Heart of the Christ Mystery, known in Jesus and in other illuminated souls, is formed. This is what it means to be “raised with Christ.” We die with him, says Paul, in order that we might also be raised with him as exemplars of this New Human.

Alex Grey

Alex Grey

 

But as I’ve stated earlier, this kind of Human is made, not born. We live in a materialistic, consumerist culture that has inherited much trauma. The New Human, the resurrected Human, will emerge only in communities that intentionally counteract the cultural conditioning that leaves us disconnected from our true, or essential natures. It is my experience that while we use the traditional language of being the “Body of Christ,” which is simply another way of talking about the New Human, so much of our potential is wasted on the egoic posturing and dramas of the small and contracted self in the context of congregational life. The culture-shifts I describe in this book need to happen, not just at the structural or systemic levels, but also at the personal and interpersonal levels. By “culture” I simply mean our shared core agreements and values about how we show up for each other and with each other as communities of faith. Agreeing to and enacting the following eight core agreements supports what I am calling an “emergent” or evolutionary culture. This is the kind of culture that honours the holy longing to be become Human, which is committed to organizing for evolutionary transformation of social systems, and which is dedicated to supporting the spiritual evolution of souls. This is one way in which the Christ Mystery is enacted in the 21st century.

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Comments

  1. says

    I am in The Living School with the Center of Action and Contemplation (Fr. Richard Rohr). The narrative above is sweet music for me. I am devouring Teilhard just now and locked in with all of your above thought completely. Thank you.

    • Bruce Sanguin says

      Say hello to Richard for me. We’ve never met, but he is such a light. TDC’s spirit is alive in souls like yourself.

  2. brandonandrhian says

    In your opening piece you talk about the reaction people have to the evolutionary perspective, the reaction of exhaustion or just overwhelm as they can’t imagine how they could take that on. I’ve certainly felt it myself! But I wonder if this is where it is a good moment to talk more explicitly about how we are connected to something greater than ourselves: to God or the Divine or whatever people want to call it. That orienting of realizing that we are not separate individuals resting solely on our own limited talents but instead have access to this larger, evolving energy that can fill us up, transform us and is unlimited means that we don’t, in fact, have to do this on our own. Just a thought.

    • Bruce Sanguin says

      And it’s a good thought Rhian, it’s the small self, the unsupported, and often traumatized self (the one that forgets we can ask for support and be re-Sourced), that exhausts itself. The hero’s journey, I think, needs to be replaced by the supported and resourced human journey. With support evolution happens. Without it, it’s slowed down—which also speaks to the need for community.

  3. Norma Macmaster says

    Thanks, Bruce. You’ve made me want to browse in ‘Romans’ yet again!

    refreshing stuff,

    • Bruce Sanguin says

      Norma, I think Romans is an amazing glimpse into the mind of a master. I know Paul gets a bad rap from some quarters, but I’m typically inspired by him.

  4. Cloyce Terrell says

    That Jesus represented a prototype of what we humans are to become has been a mainstay for confidence in my Essence. And since the process of our evolution has been made a given beyond sane argument, far more than that of our consciousness, but proceeding, ostensibly, in the same established direction, I have no choice but to concur with Bruce’s general thesis. But putting physical evolution together with growth in consciousness, I have tended to question growth in ‘personalization’ as counterproductive to wholeness; as fragmentary and reductionistic instead of proceeding toward a Reality which is direct, absolute, and available now in its alignment with ;what Is': which is to say that our present cultural growth and rational paradigm is problematic, questionable, and dysfunctional:; so should we not instead be looking for an impersonal stasis for our growth and for opening the door to the ‘Omega’ point. My slip is showing, but I don’t wear slips.

    • Bruce Sanguin says

      Thanks Cloyce, I agree with you that “our present cultural growth and rational paradigm is problematic”, etc. One of my assumptions that humans are made not born, and by “personalization” I mean ( along with Teilhard) humans that have been initiated into wisdom, who have interpersonal competency, know themselves to be ecologically embedded, and who understand that they way forward is transrational, (not irrational and not rational). To be “personal” is not simply to be warm and vertical and an unconscious reflection of the dominant culture (which again, as you say, is in many ways destructive). The evolutionary challenge is to create supportive environments for humans to actually evolve in wisdom, and this means humans/persons who reflect the Wholeness you describe.

  5. Peter B. Todd says

    Bruce, what you have written on your posting reads as a poetic and inspired account of the evolution of God which is in the spirit of both Teilhard de Chardin and Carl Jung. Through ongoing incarnation in humanity God becomes conscious and is completed by humankind in directed evolution. Like the fourteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart, Carl Jung believed in a continuing incarnational process rather than a singular historical event or epiphany of the numinous Self archetype. The incarnation is an integral part of evolution and implies a continuing process as Jung’s term “divine paradigm” referring to Christ in his essay Answer to Job (1958:401) implies. God and humanity are in an entangled state so that the individuation or evolution of both cannot be separated and are dependent upon one another for completion.

    Teilhard’s poetic phrase “hymn of the universe” captures these mystical concepts beautifully. Humanity not only participates in a numinous dimension but also in co-creative divinisation by directing the future of the noosphere and biosphere and culminating in a Christ-Omega point or divine focus of mind. One in which science and religion are integrated and co-exist in a relationship of complementarity. Collective human consciousness evolves into one of mystical unanimisation implying the interconnectedness and sacredness of all human beings and the ecosystems which sustain all life on earth.

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