2014 Religious Trends
Our Senses as Conduits to the Divine
Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Spirituality community here.
We are living in a cataclysmic evolutionary season of personal and global change. In the words of the late Jesuit priest and geologist/paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, "We are swimming in the divine milieu." Teilhard's concept may be defined as the intensity or presence of divine energy in one's inner or external world. He believed that everything in the cosmos is always and forever evolving, including human consciousness.
Teilhard's revolutionary book of Christian spirituality The Divine Milieu, (written in 1929 and published in 1957) is regarded by author Louis M. Savary as "perhaps the only integrative spirituality that can truly satisfy our twenty-first century experience." Savary's book, Teilhard de Chardin—The Divine Milieu Explained, provides practical guidance integrating faith and science in accordance with Teilhard's evolutionary spirituality.
Savary believes that "God has a great project going on ... much more than just keeping souls from falling into sin and hell ... and that we are all invited to become fully and actively involved in this divine project."
Savary's suggested spiritual practices and additional practices such as meditation, contemplative prayer, journaling, labyrinth walking, etc., provide grounding, focus, and sustenance in this time of shifting paradigms. Sacred practices help to expand the inner horizon and paradoxically provide an anchor to the present moment as we swim the ever-changing current of contemporary life.
Within all that we are experiencing a question arises. Could there be an inherent invitation to revisit ancient wisdom to inform the present as we navigate this era of shifting paradigms?
When I was researching medieval life and spiritual beliefs for my historical novel, Ink and Honey, I found many references from the early Christian feminine mystics pertaining to the importance of their senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, and intuition) as conduits with the Divine Presence.
Hildegard of Bingen, 12th-century abbess and mystic offers us her wisdom...
We are dressed in the scaffold of creation:
in seeing...to recognize all the world,
in hearing...to understand,
in smelling...to discern,
in tasting...to nurture,
in touching...to govern.
In this way humankind comes to know God, for God is the author of all creation.
And so, humankind full of creative possibilities is God's work.
Humankind alone is called to assist God.
Humankind is called to co-create.
In ancient times people relied daily on their senses for valuable information. They sniffed meat at the marketplace to be sure it was safe to eat. Brows were touched to discern a fever. The clouds were watched to determine when an oncoming storm would arrive. The senses of the ancient ones were connected to the natural world and the understanding of the interrelatedness of all living things, to the God within. In this way, through the senses, our ancestors had an understanding that they were "swimming in the Divine milieu."
What is the invitation being offered to us at this pivotal time of interior and exterior evolution and the thinning of the veil?
Perhaps we are being invited to step away from our computers and our over-scheduled, stressful daily demands to reconnect with our senses and the natural world. Perhaps Teilhard de Chardin and the medieval mystics remembered something that we have forgotten; perhaps at last the veil has grown thin and we have the sacred opportunity to glimpse the possibilities awaiting us as co-creators with the Divine.
Sibyl Dana Reynolds is a Spiritual Director, Author, Visual Artist and Founder of Sacred LifeArts.com. Dana nurtures connections between soul work and creative expression. For the past twenty years, she has been a facilitator for the feminine spiritual/creative process. She is passionate about the importance of themes drawn from her study and research of the lives of medieval women including; pilgrimage, monasticism, art, craft, and mysticism.