classes ::: Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin, Christianity, book,
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branches :::
see also :::

Instances, Classes, See Also, Object in Names
Definitions, . Quotes . - . Chapters .

object:The Divine Milieu
author class:Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
subject class:Christianity

The Divine Milieu

A reference-list of Harper Torchbooks, classified
by subjects, is printed at the end of this vo'ume.

The Divine Milieu - An Essay on the Interior Life


Harper & Row, Publishers , New York

HARPER TORCHBOOKS * The Cathedral Library









A. At the heart of our universe, each soul exists for
God in our Lord 57

b. * In our universe/ we went on to say, * in which
each soul exists for God, in our Lord, all that is sen-
sible, in its turn, exists for the soul.' 58

c We can now bring together the major and minor
of our syllogism so as to grasp the link between them
and the conclusion 61



A. The sanctification of human endeavour 65

b. The humanisation of christian endeavour 68







HANDS OF GOD page 76


a. Our struggle with God against evil 83

b. Our apparent failure and its transfiguration 84

c. Communion through diminishment 89
D. True resignation 90

Conclusion to the two first parts

Some General Remarks on Christian Asceticism 95


a. First, develop yourself, Christianity says to the
Christian 96

b. And if you possess something, Christ says in the
Gospel, leave it and follow me 97

c. Thus, in the general rhythm of christian life,
development and renunciation, attachment and
detachment, are not mutually exclusive 99







A. The coming of the divine milieu. The taste for
being and the diaphany of God 1 28

b. Individual progress in the divine milieu : purity,
faith and fidelity — the operatives 132

c. The collective progress in the divine milieu. The
communion of saints and charity 140


In Expectation of the Parousia 150

index 157


Le Milieu Divin is Volume Four in Pierre Teilhard de
Ghardin's collected works as published in France, coming
between La Vision du Passi and VAvenir de VHomme. In
England it is Volume Two in the series, having been pre-
ceded by The Phenomenon of Man in 1959. ^ ^i* Phenomenon
of Man contained the kernel of Teilhard's scientific thought,
Le Milieu Divin, written somewhat earlier, is the key to the
religious meditation that accompanied it.

All Teilhard's works involve grave problems for the
translators, and the present version of Le Milieu Divin is the
result of much discussion and collaboration. Participants
have included Mr Alick Dru, Mr Noel Lindsay, Professor
D. M. MacKinnon and my wife. Professor MacKinnon's
help was outstanding, and readers owe him a special
debt of gratitude. Perhaps what most needs explana-
tion is the retention of *the original French title. This
has been done more by necessity than by choice. The
word milieu has no exact equivalent in English as it implies
both centre and environment or setting ; and even the
normal use in England of the word milieu seems to have
insular overtones. One suggested title, * In the Context of
God ', did not meet with the approval of the French Com-
mittee in charge of the publication of Teilhard's works ;
and I myself did not feel that another, 'The Divine
Environment', was close enough to the original. As we
could reach no agreed solution, we left the title in French.

As a result of this, it was decided to retain the word
milieu throughout the text also. Readers are asked to
understand this word in the precise French connotation in
which it was used by the author.


General Editor of the Works of
Teilhard de Chardin


For those who love the world


The look in his eyes when they met your eyes revealed the
man's soul: his reassuring sympathy restored your confid-
ence in yourself. Just to speak to him made you feel better;
you knew that he was listening to you and that he under-
stood you. His own faith was in the invincible power of
love: men hurt one another by not loving one another.
And this was not naivet6 but the goodness of the man, for
he was good beyond the common measure. In him, this
belief was no mere conventional sentiment grafted on a
generous nature, but the fruit of long meditation; it was
a certainty that came only with years of reflection. It was
this deep-seated spiritual conviction that led P&re Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin to the practice of self-forgetfiilness:
self being forgotten in a sympathetic union with all men
and with every individual man.

The combination of priest and scientist is nothing new;
but in his case what was really astonishing was his closeness
to the earth and his deep feeling for the value of matter.
People who were shocked by him never realised how deep
lay the roots of this simultaneous love of God and of the
world. c Throughout my whole life,' he wrote, c during
every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been
taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop
me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within. . . The
purple flush of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold
of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal
universe. . . .

c This is what I have learnt from my contact with the
earth — the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing
universe, the divine radiating from the depths of matter

There was something paradoxical in a priest who seemed



outwardly so little the ecclesiastic, who was at home in
even the least religious intellectual circles, who took his
place in the advance-guard of thought, and devoted his
life to the study of the properties of man as animal. It
seemed paradoxical, too, that a specialist in the scientific
history of the past should be interested only in the future.
He was all this: but above all he was a priest, deeply
attached to the Church and its teaching, faithful to the end
in spite of the annoyances and difficulties, the insinuations,
too, that assailed him from every side.

Pfere Pierre Teilhard de Chardin lived during a period of
doubt and perplexity. He witnessed the modernist crisis,
with the sacrifices it entailed; he was driven from his own
country by the injustice of political strife; and when he
reached manhood he was caught up in the terrible war of
1 9 14. A few years later he saw the collapse in the heat of
revolution of social structures to which centuries of history
seemed to have given permanence. He was present when
forces were let loose which were to lead to a second world
war; he was in Pekin when the atom bombs were dropped
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was his own fate to be
misunderstood and condemned to silence, and to suffer
torments that at times came near to overwhelming him.
Like many others, he might well have retreated into his
own solitary existence and abandoned his chosen field of
activity, but his reaction was the exact opposite. In all that
he did, as in all that he taught, there was no bitterness nor
disillusioned cynicism, nothing but a constant optimism.
Far from railing against the pettiness of men or the chaos
of the world, he made it a rule never to assume the presence
of evil. And when he was unable to deny the evidence of
his eyes, he looked not for the damning but for the saving
element in what he saw: a mental attitude that surely, if
unexpectedly, provides the only road to truth.

This optimism had much more than a temperamental
basis (of which we shall have more to say later) ; it was a
conviction rooted deep in thought.

His scientific studies had taught Pfere Teilhard that the


universe has its own history: it has a past, and it must be
directed towards some final goal. ' From the smallest
individual detail to the vastest aggregations, our living
universe (in common with our inorganic universe) has a
structure, and this structure can owe its nature only to a
phenomenon of growth.' The world with all its riches, life
with its astounding achievements, man with the constant
prodigy of his inventive powers, all are organically inte-
grated in one single growth and one historical process, and
all share the same upward progress towards an era of ful-
filment. The inescapable dimension of time is a real
function of growth and maturation, essential to our indi-
vidual and collective becoming.

This growth must have some definite objective; there
must be some term to the process: c The main stem of the
tree of life/ writes Pfere Teilhard, ' has always climbed in
the direction of the largest brain,' towards, that is, greater
spontaneity and greater consciousness.

Thus the slow progress of energies must reach a peak
c from which life will never slip back '. To overcome every
obstacle, to unite our beings without loss of individual
personality, there is a single force which nothing can replace
and nothing destroy, a force which urges us forwards and
draws us upwards: this is the force of love.

We can thus appreciate the central position in P&re
Teilhard's whole philosophy, of Christ, prototype of Man-
Love; c God-Love reaching self-fulfilment only in love.
Christianity,' he tells us, ' is nothing more nor less than a
" phylum of love " within nature.'

Such, in his unshakable optimism and his passionate
following of Christ, was P&re Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Today our minds are increasingly and agonisingly dismayed
by the richness of matter and our own inability to find some
coherent rule of conduct; our souls are perplexed by what
we see happening around us and by the threat of what to-
morrow may bring; and when, puzzled and terrified, we
find a Christian with such confidence in the future both of
man and of the world, we may tend to give a shrug of
indifference and withdraw further into our shell of scepti-


cism. Some of us will feel that the real, unhappily, can have
nothing in common with the ideal; and it is to these dis-
illusioned minds that the life of P&re Teilhard provides an

Much has already been written about him; his work as a
scientist and his speculations in philosophy are beginning to
be better known, but little has been said about what sort of
a person he was in the daily business of life. It is not my
intention, then, to analyse any particular aspect of his work,
to deal with his scientific research or the expression he gave
to his thought, nor to say any more about the difficulties he
had to face and which in the end drove him into exile. My
aim is rather to give a picture of the man I knew, to follow
him through the different stages of his career and at the
same time to try to read the secret that enabled him, in
spite of the complications of his life, to achieve perfect
interior unity.

During the years in which it was my good fortune, under
unusual conditions, to live close to him and work with him,
I was able to some extent to decipher the mystery of his
personality. I only hope that I may now succeed in ex-
plaining, in all humility, certain aspects of it and so make it
easier to understand what lay behind the shining intelli-
gence whose influence we now see to be so far-reaching.

The part of France in which he was born, Sarcenat, is a
rugged country in which family life stood for a great deal.
The family lived in an eighteenth-century manor-house,
and the windows of the principal rooms gave on to a vista
of volcanoes and rounded hills. From the top of the terrace,
framed in greenery, you can see the capital of Auvergne,
the vast plain of Clermont, with the foothills of the Puy
mountains in the distance. No sound disturbs the tran-
quillity of the scene but the murmur of running water
flowing with graceful constancy in a stone fountain.

Pierre Teilhard was born on i May, 1881, in a room on
the first floor that looks out on the mountains. There used
to be a very delicate pastel drawing hanging just opposite
the left-hand window, which shows him as a curly-headed


little boy, with the candid forehead and the thoughtful
eyes that were his most striking features.

His childhood was that of an amenable little boy. c I was
an affectionate child,' he said, ' good, and even pious.'
The predominating influence was that of his mother — his
* dear, sainted maman ' — to whom he owed c all that was
best in his soul \ * To rouse the fire into a blaze, a spark
had to fall upon me; and the spark by which my own
•universe — still only halfway to being individually personal-
ised — was to succeed in centring itself on its own fullness,
undoubtedly came through my mother to light up and fire
my child's soul.'

His father, Emmanuel Teilhard de Ghardin, was a man
who held strongly to a solid body of tradition, and he de-
manded from his children (Pierre was the fourth of eleven)
active co-operation in a disciplined family life. Pierre
owed to his father * more things than I could count,' he
wrote, ' certain well-defined ambitions, no doubt, but even
more a certain basic balance on which everything else was

Every day the household gathered in the dining-room
after the evening meal to say prayers together. Pierre was
to show me later, when I accompanied him to Sarcenat,
his favourite place at prayers: he used to kneel by the wall
while his parents rested their elbows on the table in the
middle of the room.

The countryside is rich in rocks and minerals, in insect
life and wild flowers, and M. Teilhard took pleasure in
teaching his children how to understand and appreciate
natural history. During their walks they would all gather
mineral, zoological and botanical specimens and it was this
interesting collection of local history that first encouraged
Pierre's vocation as a scientist.

There was, however, another dominating interest that
was typical of his temperament. He looked always for
durability in his possessions and was not greatly attracted
by the frail colouring of butterflies or the evanescent beauty
of flowers. He has left a description of his feelings for what
he calls his c idols ' : a plough-spanner carefully hidden in


a corner of the courtyard, the top of a little metal rod, or
some shell splinters picked up on a neighbouring range.
' You should have seen me as in profound secrecy and
silence I withdrew into the contemplation of my " God of
Iron ", delighting in its possession, gloating over its exist-
ence. A God, note, of iron; and why iron? Because in all
my childish experience there was nothing in the world
harder, tougher, more durable than this wonderful sub-
stance. There was about it a feeling of full personality, .
sharply individualised [• • .] But I can never forget the
pathetic depths of a child's despair, when I realised one
day that iron can be scratched and can rust [. . .] I had to
look elsewhere for substitutes that would console me.
Sometimes in the blue flame (at once so material, and yet so
pure and intangible) flickering over the logs in the hearth,
but more often in a more translucent and more delightfully
coloured stone: quartz or amethyst crystals, and most of all
glittering fragments of chalcedony such as I could pick up
in the neighbourhood/

So we meet in his early youth the two components from
which his whole life, both interior and in his relations with
others, was to be built — a feeling for matter and a feeling
for the durable.

He was sent to the Jesuit school at Villefranche; he was a
good pupil, often at the top of his class, except in religious
instruction. Not, indeed, that he was not ready to accept
such teaching — far from it — but his mind seems to have
instinctively reacted against the way in which it was taught.
At that time the subject was still wrapped up in con-
ventional phraseology and its presentation to children was
dry and stodgy. Consider, for example, what Henri
Bremond quotes in this respect: c Nothing is sweeter than
to bask in the warmth that comes with the caress of grace.
Jesus, my own brother, how well I know that the sweetest
hours of my life are those of my monthly retreat, when I
have you for my divine teacher; you open the book of my
soul and help me to read about things that enrapture my
powers. How good it is to go through this examination in
love! 5 Poor children, adds Bremond; an examination,


and, at that, an examination in love — what an attraction! —
must have been the last straw.

It is not difficult to see that such c things ' would hardly
* enrapture the powers ' of a child like Pierre Teilhard, so
eager for the permanent, the solid and the durable.

In any case, he must have set a good example to his com-
panions, for we find him prefect (that is president) of the
sodality, and deservedly looked up to in the school. His
devotion to our Lady was tender and glowing, but it
was now to gain in virility, and he was to assign to the
Virgin Mary a dominant role in his concept of generative

At eighteen, after he had passed his baccalaureat, he said
good-bye to his family and entered the Jesuit novitiate at
Aix-en-Provence. Two years later he went to Laval to
continue with his fellow-scholastics his studies in French,
Latin and Greek. This was in 1902, when the religious
orders were expelled from France; and he had to go abroad
with the Community to seek refuge in Jersey.

He would often recall the comic epic of the move. In the
hope of travelling unrecognised, the fathers wore civilian
clothes. To give everyone a suit that fitted him would have
been quite impossible, and so they had to make do with
anything that came to hand. An appeal made to families
brought the most varied collection of garments. Grave
fathers and young scholastics found themselves donning a
funeral top-hat with a light grey jacket, or a greenish old
bowler with a long frock-coat, or a motoring-cap with a
black morning coat; fifty years later Pere Teilhard would
still laugh at the memory of that masquerade.

The Jersey period was an important one. He studied
scholastic philosophy, becoming familiar with its methods
and terminology, without, however, adopting its spirit. He
had an opportunity, at any rate, of turning over new
problems in his mind, and was able to give some time to his
favourite subject of geology. His contemporaries recall that
6 Brother ' Teilhard never went for a walk without his
geologist's hammer and naturalist's magnifying glass.

In September 1905, after three years as a scholastic, he


was sent to teach physics and chemistry at the Holy Family

College in Cairo.

He was there for three years, during which he found
time, in addition to his teaching, to deepen and extend his
still imperfect knowledge of geology and palaeontology. He
was even able to publish in the scientific bulletin of Cairo
a note on the Eocene in Upper Egypt, based on a collection
he had made of its fossil fauna.

Egypt delighted his taste for the romantic. As he travelled
along the Nile he must have dreamt, with the intense
imagination revealed in his letters, of the exuberance of
nature in unknown lands. * The East flowed over me in a
first wave of exoticism: I gazed at it and drank it in eagerly
— the country itself, not its peoples or its history (which as
yet held no interest for me), but its light, its vegetation, its
fauna and its deserts/ Little did he anticipate that twenty-
three years of his life were to be devoted to the Far East, to
his * brooding old China \

At this point in his interior development, as we have seen,
it was not man that attracted him. He had little interest in
the peoples of the earth and their history. What drew him
was nature in all its richness and diversity. The universe
had taken bodily shape for him, but he had not yet become
aware of its soul. Without realising it, Pierre Teilhard had
reached a critical point in his life. He was more conscibus
than ever of the importance of the world, but it was a purely
material world. He was in danger, if he was not careful, of
succumbing to the lure of pantheism and losing himself in
immensity: * to be all, one must be absorbed in all.' * For
only three years in Jersey, 5 he writes, * and then for another
three years in Cairo I studied (to the best of my ability)
and taught (so far as my competence allowed me) fairly
elementary physics, the pre-Quanta and pre-relativity
physics of atomic structure: which means that in this
subject I am an amateur, a mere layman. At the same time
I find it difficult to express what a sense of fulfilment, ease,
and of being at home I find in this world of electrons,
nuclei and waves. If we wish to escape the inexorable
firagility of the manifold, why not take refuge deeper, why


not get beneath it ? [. . .] Thus we may gain the world by
renouncing it, by passively losing self in the heart of what
has neither form nor dimension/

If we did not know that there may be contradictions in
every person's make-up, we would fail to understand how
P£re Teilhard could have been tempted by the eastern
' line \ its self-centred passivity so foreign to his tastes. It
is difficult to see how such an ardent and generous nature
could have withdrawn from the contest. To let oneself be
carried along passively in the cosmic eddy, to be lost in the
intangible, seems completely inconsistent with a life already
dedicated to action. It is important, therefore, to note that
it was only at the speculative level that P6re Teilhard
contemplated the * eastern ' solution: it had no influence
on his faith as a Christian.

From Egypt he was sent to England for the last stages of
his training as a priest and religious; and there a fuller and
more satisfying view of the world forcibly impressed itself
on him. It was then, one might say, that he began to direct
his thought towards a philosophy of the person. The world
now became for him a vast whole making its way towards
a supreme personality; he had a vision of a universe in
process of self-creation in which no breach could develop.
He saw the image of the absolute reflected in the filigree
of nature. ' There were times when it really seemed to me
that my eyes were about to see a universal being take shape
in nature. Already, however, it was not by looking, as I
used to look, for what is beyond matter that I sought to
grasp and pin down the inexpressible ambience, but by
looking for what is beyond the living.'

The world, the whole universe, is an evolution — a
genesis, to use P6re Teilhard's own expression. Now every
genesis presupposes inter-connections, mutual or reciprocal
dependence, with no breach. It implies in the being that is
forming itself a kinship between the composing elements;
thus a static cosmos, fragmented in make-up, is unthink-
able. If everything forms itself, everything must hold
together. Matter and spirit, then, as we know them in our
universe, are not two separate substances, set side by side


and differing in nature. They are two distinct aspects of
one single cosmic stuff and there is between them no
conflict to baffle our intelligence. Physical energy contains
in itself something of the spiritual, and since the upward
trend of energy is a fact we can observe and verify with the
increasing complexity of organisms, the law of the universe
must surely be a continually progressing, irreversible,
spiritualisation. Matter has now lost its former attraction
for P£re Teilhard: * the felicity that I had sought in iron, I
can find now only in Spirit. 5

It was during these decisive years that he was ordained
priest. Marked now with the priestly character, freed from
the commitments involved in theological studies, and
intellectually awake to the consequences of a generalised
theory of evolution, he set about building up the structure
of his own interior universe. This was now the pivot on
which turned all his activities, his mental attitudes and his
thought. He resolved in future to collaborate with all his
energies in the cosmogenesis whose reality became for him
daily more resplendent. Salvation was no longer to be
sought in c abandoning the world ' but in active ' participa-
tion ' in building it up. He would approach his scientific
work no longer as an amateur but as a qualified specialist:
and it would be undertaken not for its own sake (21s he often
insisted in conversation) but in order to release the Spirit
from the crude ore in which it lay hidden or inactive.

The 1 9 14 war did no more than delay his setting out on
the great adventure of scientific research, which in his eyes
was also the grand act of adoration. Obedient to the voice
that called him, he was ready to plunge into another dis-
tressful adventure — an experience so monstrous and ghastly
and yet, as we shall see, so exhilarating. He joined as a
stretcher-bearer the 8th regiment of Moroccan Tirailleurs,
later to become the 4th combined Tirailleurs and Zouaves.
With the humble rank of corporal he was twice decorated,
receiving the Medaille Militaire and the Legion d'Honneur.

He lived through the nightmare of war with all the
generosity of his soul, with no thought for himself. Even
amid scenes of death and devastation he was carried away


by a sense of fulfilment. In war he breathed a new invigor-
ating atmosphere. ' The man at the front is no longer the
same man.' The shell of common assumptions and con-
ventions was broken, and a fresh light shed on the hidden
mechanism by which man's will has power to shape his
development. Life takes on a new savour in the heroic
devotion to a grand ideal. P6re Teilhard felt that the reality
he had found at the front would be with him for ever c in
the great work of creation and of sanctifying humanity \

In 19 19 he returned, this time for good, to his scientific
career. He studied under Marcellin Boule at the Natural
History Museum in Paris, and in 1922 his doctoral thesis
was accepted. At the same time, somewhat against his own
inclinations, he agreed to succeed Boussac, a son-in-law of
P. Termier, who had been killed in the war, as professor of
geology in the Institut Catholique in Paris. ' Rather than
this academic post,' he wrote, * I should of course have
preferred research work in Beyrouth or Shanghai or
Trichinopoly, where men are needed.' That those places
should have come to his mind indicates the attraction to the
tropics he had already begun to experience in Cairo. They
were, in any case, familiar to him, for the French Jesuits
had universities at both Beyrouth and Shanghai; and
Trichinopoly was one of their important missions. It was
natural, accordingly, that he should have thought of them
as possible fields for a career in geology.

The brilliance of P6re Teilhard's scientific and apostolic
work was soon manifest. His influence was becoming
increasingly felt in Paris both through his geological
teaching and in his addresses to gatherings of Catholics at
the ficole Normale, the Polytechnique, and the School of
Mineralogy. The novelty and daring of his thought made
a great appeal to the enthusiasm of young people eager to
learn. It was at this moment, however, that an un-
expected decision sent him to the Far East.

In 1 9 14 one of his fellow-Jesuits, P6re fimile Licent, had
sailed for China with the intention of founding and building
up a centre of scientific research into the natural resources


of the Yellow River basin. For nine years he had been
travelling over the great plain of Tchely, the Mongolian
steppe which forms the Chinese border of the Tibetan
plateau. He had been responsible for valuable collections
bearing on its geology, botany, mineralogy and palaeont-
ology, and had built at Tientsin a museum and laboratory
which he directed and inspired. In 1920 P&re Licent had
had one of those strokes of good fortune that sometimes
attend workers in the field; he had found a number of
important fossiliferous deposits, and long camel trains had
been carrying back through the provinces of Kansi and
Shensi a precious store of mammiferous fossils collected in
the Tertiary layers of the West.

In October 192 1 Pere Licent had sent the most significant
of his acquisitions to the Paris Museum for expert appraisaL
M. Boule entrusted the work to Pere Teilhard, and a
correspondence followed between the two Jesuits. In the
end P£re Teilhard agreed to join Pfere Licent in China and
study the deposits on the spot. This was the origin of the
' French Palaeontological Mission ', of which P&re Licent
was appointed director.

On 10 April, 1923, P&re Teilhard embarked at Marseilles
for Tientsin, where he arrived on the 23rd of the next
month. He was now forty-two years old. He had volun-
teered for this distant assignment; his application had been
favourably received, and everything seemed to augur a
successful future. He was, in fact, soon to make one of the
most important discoveries in his whole career. His
personal impressions, however, on arriving, betray a
surprising weariness. c I feel,' he wrote on 27 May, ' very
much as though I had reached the limit of my powers: I
seem somehow unable to keep things in my mind. I have a
continual feeling that as far as my own life goes, the day is
drawing to a close. The only way out, I think, is to cling
to a blind and absolute faith in the meaning that all things —
even the diminishments — must hold for a man who believes
that God is the animating force behind every single event.
The further I go, the more I am convinced that the only


true science — the only one we can acquire in this ocean of
weakness and ignoranpe — is the vision that begins to take
shape under and through the multiplicity of things.'

His weariness had something in common with that felt by
missionaries when they first come into contact with North-
ern China. Everything in the North is quite different from
what they expected — flat, grey, dusty and nauseating. But
P&re Teilhard's confidence reveals another aspect of his
nature: more than once the fineness of his feelings, his
reserve towards others and even towards himself, checked
the violence of his deeper emotions. Later he admitted the
agonising distress that attacked and came close to over-
whelming him; he lost confidence in himself; he was
tortured by scruples; in spite of every effort of will he could
not always disguise his suffering. Not unnaturally, there-
fore, there were times in his life when his friends noticed
that he seemed to be abstracted and withdrawn.

Pere Teilhard stayed for some weeks in Tientsin before
setting out with Pere Licent on an expedition to inner
Mongolia and the Ordos desert. It was in this forgotten
corner of the Chinese continent that they had the good
fortune to find incontrovertible evidence for the existence of
palaeolithic man, hitherto unknown in these parts. Until
that time nothing was known of pre-historic man south of
the Yenisei. The discovery accordingly marked an essential
step in the story of man.

Later in this volume the reader will find P&re Teilhard's
account of their adventures; but it may be interesting to
note now his reaction to the East with which twenty years
earlier he had wished to become acquainted. c I'm ab-
sorbed by the work, and very interested by the extreme
novelty of what I'm seeing; interested, but not thrilled, as
I would have been ten or twenty years ago. Today what
counts for me (as for you) is the future of things [he is
writing to Abb6 Breuil] whereas here I am plunged into
the past. Mongolia strikes me as a " museum " of antique
specimens (zoological and ethnographical), a slice of the
past. Try as I will, I see no promise of progress, no ferment,


no " burgeoning " for mankind of tomorrow. This corner
of Asia (and even China outside the Great Wall) gives the
impression of an empty reservoir. 5

We may set side by side of this a somewhat disillusioned
passage from Choses mongoles which is conveniently
included in this edition of the Letters: * It is a long time
however, since I lost the illusion that travel brings us closer
to the truth. . . . The more remote in time and space is the
world we confront, the less it exists, and hence the poorer
and more barren it is for our thought. So I have felt no
disappointment this year at remaining quite untouched as
I looked over the steppes where gazelles still run about as
they did in the Tertiary period, or visited the yourts where
the Mongols still live as they lived a thousand years ago.
In what is, as in what was, there is nothing really new to be

It is easy to see how deeply P&re Teilhard was imbued
with his vision of working to build the future. Nothing else
had the power to impress itself on him. And by the future he
meant more than the building up of the material world;
he envisaged the irreversible ascent, through men's efforts,
to what he called the Omega Point.

It was during this expedition, in the stillness of the vast
solitude of the Ordos desert, that one Easter Sunday he
finished the mystical and philosophical poem, Mass upon
the altar of the World. Alone before God, he prays with
lyrical fervour: ' Christ of glory, hidden power stirring in
the heart of matter, glowing centre in which the un-
numbered strands of the manifold are knit together;
strength inexorable as the world and warm as life; you
whose brow is of snow, whose eyes are of fire, whose feet
are more dazzling than gold poured from the furnace; you
whose hands hold captive the stars; you, the first and the
last, the living, the dead, the re-born; you, who gather up
in your superabundant oneness every delight, every taste,
every energy, every phase of existence, to you my being
cries out with a longing as vast as the universe: for you
indeed are my Lord and my God.'

When he got back to France in the autumn of 1924, an


ordeal awaited him. Errors of theological interpretation
had found their way into a note in which he expounded his
new vision of the universe. His religious superiors had al-
ready taken alarm at the boldness of some of his philo-
sophical views, which appealed particularly to the young,
and thought it wise to bar him from teaching. Deeply
wounded but submissive, he returned to China, where he
became increasingly at home when he left the commercial
and banking centre of Tientsin for the intellectual centre of

It was a period of intense enthusiasm, and a succession of
Chinese scientific institutions was coming into being, backed
by eminent American and European scholars. Pere
Teilhard was completely at home in these exceptionally
cosmopolitan circles. In particular he made friends with
two outstanding characters : V. K. Ting, who had studied
in Switzerland, and Wong Wen Hao, also with a European
background (Belgium) — both geologists and both active
in the new Chinese Geological Society. Ting was later
mayor of Shanghai in Marshal Chiang Kai-Shek's admin-
istration; Wong also gave up science for politics and be-
came Minister for Communications in Nationalist China.

On Sundays, there would be a gathering at the house of
Dr. Grabau, the American palaeontologist. Grabau was
crippled with rheumatism and loved to see his friends
around him. His lively intelligence, his kindness and the
authority of his learning, carried his influence far and wide
among the young intellectuals of Pekin. It was at his house
that they discussed possible fields of study or publications
that might be issued. I was greatly struck myself at these
meetings by P£re Teilhard's winning manner. Buoyant
and vivacious, with sufficient command of English to make
jokes in it, he was, with our host, the life and soul of our
gatherings. In addition to the originality of his thought
and his personal charm, he had a quality rare in men of his
stamp : he could listen to others and seem really interested
in their suggestions. If they were too extravagant, he
simply smiled.

The circle of friends whose common interests brought


them to Pekin included men of international reputation in
the world of science — Black, the Canadian, who was to be
the first to publish an account of the Fossil-Man of Chou-
Kou-Tien; Andersson, the prehistorian; Sven Hedin, the
explorer; Granger and Barbour, the palaeontologists;
Chapman-Andrews, Hoppeli and many others. First the
war with Japan and then the civil war and setting-up of the
Communist regime were to destroy the organisation they
had so patiently and skilfully built up.

Meanwhile Pfere Teilhard had been renewing his contacts
in France. It was in 1928, in his laboratory at the Paris
Museum, that I met him for the first time. I had been
chosen by my Jesuit superiors to work with Pfere Licent at
the Tientsin Museum, and I was at the time reading for my
degree at Nancy. When Pfere Teilhard came back to France
in that year I met him at the Museum in the Place Val-
hubert. His simple and natural greeting immediately put
me at my ease. He offered me a chair, while he sat casually
on the edge of the table. His eyes, filled with intelligence
and kindly understanding, his features, finely drawn and
weathered by the winds of sea and desert, the glamour that
surrounded his name, all made a deep impression on me. I
can still hear the friendliness of his voice as he talked to me
about China and the promising future, as it then appeared,
that awaited it. For over an hour I listened to a flow of
stimulating new ideas. From that moment we were friends;
and so we were to remain until the end.

His stay in France was brief. He went back that same
year (1928) to Pekin, including on his way a visit to
Ethiopia under the guidance of Henry de Monfreid. Later
followed two important expeditions into Mongolia and
Western China, and a return to Paris to help in organising
the ' Yellow Expedition \

It was in China that I met him again, in the spring of
1 93 1. I had been working in the Gulf of Liao-Tong and on
the Shantung peninsula. I had hopes of being back in
Tientsin for Holy Week but shipping was constantly being
delayed by the necessity to guard against the sudden
attacks of the pirates who infested the area. My own


journey, as it happened, was uneventful but it was late on
Easter Sunday morning when I arrived at our house in

To my great joy, as I came in I met P&re Teilhard in the
corridor. He had been in Tientsin for some days and was on
the point of leaving for Pekin, where he was to join the
Citroen Central Asia Expedition (then held up at Kalgan
by a serious breakdown). Teilhard, from his long ex-
perience of China, realised that my journey, made alone
except for two Chinese servants, must have been one of
great hardship; and my readjustment to normal life was
made easier and quicker by his kind and tactful solicitude,
exquisite tact and kindness. The next day we left together
for Pekin. There I looked on while he identified the worked
stones found in the jumble of fossils, and the deposits col-
lected at Chou-Kou-Tien and placed in the Pekin Cenozoic
Museum. These acquisitions held evidence that Sinan-
thropus might well have been responsible for their deliber-
ate manufacture. The Abb6 BreuiPs more stringent
examination was later to confirm the authenticity of the
worked stones. P&re Teilhard's keen powers of observation
had not been mistaken. The rest of the story and the
establishment of the near-certainty of Sinanthropus
* Faber ' is well known.

The Yellow Expedition was something of a disappoint-
ment. P&re Teilhard's letters reveal the impatience of a
geologist condemned to fill in time in order to forget the
semi-captivity in which the whole party was kept by the
hostility of the Chinese authorities.

P£re Teilhard travelled later in India and several times
visited America. During his brief returns to China between
1934 and 1938, he witnessed the disbanding of the Chinese
national institutes he had seen come into being ten years
earlier. His last work in the field was when he agreed to
accompany some American friends in an investigation into
the geology and prehistory of Burma. At the end of
September 1938 he was back in Pekin; thence to Japan in
the hope of salvaging a future that was daily more menaced.
From Japan he sailed for Paris; and in August 1939, a few


weeks before the declaration of war on Germany, he
returned to Pekin.

War fastened its grip on Europe, but in China it stag-
nated for two years. The Japanese had occupied the North
with brutal cynicism. Things were even more difficult in
Tientsin, which suffered all the misery of arbitrary pro-
vocations. The territorial concessions (the districts reserved
for Europeans and Americans) were isolated from the rest
of the town by barbed-wire barricades guarded by arrogant
sentries. The situation of the Tientsin Museum became
precarious and it was decided to move it to Pekin. P£re
Teilhard agreed to spend some weeks in Tientsin helping
to organise the moving of the collections built up during
the last twenty-five years by P£re Licent, whose health had
obliged him to return to France for good. All we could do
was to contrive to hang on in spite of everything and find
some way to meet the difficulties that were aggravated for
us as Frenchmen by the political and military situation.

The new house at Pekin, an annexe to the French bar-
racks, was admirably organised. This became the Institute
of Geobiology; and although it had not been designed for
the purpose, it was pleasant, and life went on smoothly and

P£re Teilhard was in his office every morning at about
eight o'clock, and we used to chat together for half an hour
or so, seldom longer. After I had left him he used to jot
down in an exercise book (over twenty of these survive) any
comment of a philosophical, scientific or religious nature
he thought worth preserving. These notes, written in
diary form and with no apparent connecting thread, will
enable students of Pere Teilhard's thought to follow day
by day, for over twenty years, the workings of a ceaselessly
active mind. The time from nine o'clock to half-past
twelve was devoted to writing his scientific papers and
memoranda, occasionally to laboratory work; he pre-
ferred to spend his morning in writing and thinking. As
far as possible we used to leave together in the early after-
noon for the School of Medicine (the Pekin Union Medical
College) to study its palaeontological collection. Later, the


whole of our time was spent at home, for all foreign
institutions had been closed by the Japanese authorities.
About five o'clock came visits to our friends. It was in these
gatherings that you saw the real P&re Teilhard; his mere
presence brought an assurance of optimism and confidence.
He had, too, the sort of mind that needs to retain and even
multiply its contacts with the world outside; if he was to
give substance to his thought or precision to his own
personal ideas, he had to discuss his way of seeing things
with other people.

Not that his conversation was always serious or pitched
on a high level. He was often, on the contrary, lively and
gay; he appreciated good cooking and a good story; and
sometimes his simplicity, or rather his unaffected frankness,
could be embarrassing. Once, forgetting no doubt whom he
was talking to, he embarked on an explanation that might
have placed him in an awkward position. I was sitting
beside him, and to attract his attention I nudged him gently
with the tip of my toe. You can imagine my embar-
rassment when I heard him exclaim with a laugh : c Whose
was that tactful kick? '

He had a fine sense of humour: his face would light up
like a child's at a good joke; and if sometimes he could not
resist an inviting target for his sly wit — after all, on his
mother's side the blood of Voltaire flowed in his veins —
it was done with such unaffected good humour that no-one
could take it in bad part. It was one of his outstanding
characteristics that he never gave way to bitterness, not
even when decisions were taken that prevented the dis-
semination of his ideas. No wonder that he was universally
loved and admired.

Pere Teilhard was not, of course, without his opponents.
It was not everyone that shared his optimism and broad-
mindedness. There were some even who were irritated by
it; for example, there was quite a little scene once when
some remarks of P&re Teilhard's caused an Ambassador to
leave the table in the middle of a meal. As it happened,
no harm was done, for P&re Teilhard's simplicity and
modesty made it easy to patch up the difference.


Living with P&re Teilhard softened the harshness of our
isolation, but one was sometimes conscious of how burden-
some he found it to be confined within the walk of Pekin.
It did violence to his nature to be thus sealed in, and his
seeming gaiety was the fruit more of a victory of will and
moral strength than of an inherent disposition.

Many have rightly been struck by Pere Teilhard's great
optimism. He was indeed an optimist, in his attribution to
the universe of a sense of direction in spite of the existence
of evil and in spite of appearances; but in the daily life that
concerned him personally, he was far from being an
optimist. He bore with patience, it is true, trials that might
well have proved too much for the strongest of us, but how
often in intimate conversation have I found him depressed
and with almost no heart to carry on. The agonising
distress he already had to face in 1939 was intensified in the
following years, and he sometimes felt that he could
venture no further. During that period he was at times
prostrated by fits of weeping, and he appeared to be on the
verge of despair. But, calling on all the resources of his
will, he abandoned himself to the supremely Great, to his
Christ, as the only purpose of his being; and so hid his
suffering and took up his work again, if not with joy, at
least in the hope that his own personal vocation might be

Six years thus went by in the dispiriting atmosphere of
China occupied by the Japanese and cut off from the rest
of the world. In March 1946 P6re Teilhard flew from
Shanghai and there embarked in a ship that brought him
back to France at the beginning of May. There he returned
to his old room at Etudes > 15 rue Monsieur. His friends
were quick to gather round him. Then, however, came a
severe heart attack which struck him down just as he was
on the point of leaving for a tour of South Africa: the
similarity of the terrain in which the Australopithecidae
and the Sinanthropus had been found had prompted the
investigators in South Africa to ask for the assistance of an
expert. It was two years, however, before P6re Teilhard
was able to make the journey. In 1951, after his election


to the Academie des Sciences, he went to live in New York
as a member of the Wenner Gren Foundation. There he
devoted himself to anthropological studies, and became
one of their most eminent associates.

Only once did he return to Paris, and then for a short
visit. Although he always gave more than he received, he
derived a new spiritual enrichment from this contact. It
was during this last visit, in June 1954, that he expressed a
desire to see the Lascaux caves. I had the pleasure of
escorting him, and, as he had also to go to Lyons, our
journey took us through Auvergne and we passed by his
home at Sarcenat. P&re Teilhard made no comment, but
his silent absorption was sufficient indication of the
memories evoked by these childhood scenes.

This was to be his last pilgrimage to France.

New restrictions had been imposed on him by his relig-
ious superiors, and it was broken by emotion he could
hardly contain, and torn by unendurable anguish, that he
cut short his stay and returned to New York six weeks
earlier than he had intended.

In spite of the burden of spiritual distress, he took heart
again and went back to work in his little New York office.
I saw him for the last time a few days before Christmas. He
was somewhat more tranquil, and was busy organising a
scientific conference on anthropogenesis.

On 10 April, 1955, Easter Sunday, P&re Teilhard col-
lapsed to a sudden stroke just as he was about to have tea.
He was walking over to the table when he fell like a stricken
tree. For some moments there was an agonising silence and
then he opened his eyes and said * What's happened —
where am I ? * When he was reassured he quietly uttered
his last words, c This time, I feel it's terrible.' He did not
speak again. His doctor and his friend, P&re de Breuvery,
were sent for, but both were out. It was Fr. Martin
Geraghty of St. Ignatius's, New York, who came imme-
diately and administered Extreme Unction. The time was
six o'clock in the evening. The sky was dazzling and spring
was in its full splendour.

I was in Chicago at the time. I heard the news by


telephone and hurried to New York, staying in the same
hotel room he had slept in the night before. The whole
staff was grief-stricken, from the humblest servant to the

Pere Teilhard's body lay in the chapel of the Jesuit house
on Park Avenue, robed in his priest's vestments as he now
lies for ever. He was hardly recognisable, the features
drawn, the nose in sharp relief, the forehead smooth and
unwrinkled. He reminded me of his compatriot from
Clermont, Pascal.

The funeral was on Easter Tuesday, a grey, rainy day.
Ten of his friends were present, but I was the only one to
accompany him on the ninety-mile journey from New
York to Saint Andrew on the Hudson. There he was
buried, with a ceremony whose only distinction was its
poverty, in the cemetery of the Jesuit novitiate for the New
York Province.

It remains to consider a little more deeply the spiritual
powers that provided the framework of P&re Teilhard's
complex existence and gave it cohesion; for what is im-
portant in a man is not so much what he achieves but the
basic reason that inspires his activities. Since 19 12, when
he had completed his theological studies, P&re Teilhard's
aspirations were quite definitely formulated. He was a
priest and a religious, and his first duty was therefore to
Christ. At the same time he was resolved, as we have seen,
to ' participate ' in the world, not to live in isolation from it.
It was these seemingly contradictory principles, the service
of Christ and participation in the world, that had to be
reconciled. The evangelical doctrine of the Redemption
through the Cross had to be reconciled with the salvation
of the world through active co-operation in the building up
of the universe.

This is not a problem of the speculative order, but one
that calls for an immediate practical solution; and at its
centre lies the question of the interior unity of life.

In examining P&re Teilhard's answer, one point must be
borne constantly in mind: he both accepts and practises
the christian doctrine of detachment. He realises that the


consummation of the world can be achieved only through
a mystical death, a dark night, a renunciation of the whole
being. So much we can take as established. But when he
begins to look further into what constitutes renunciation,
and to determine its mechanism, it may be held that he
dissociates himself from ascetical practices hitherto ac-
cepted. His aim is to try out a new formula which, if it
should prove effective, will enable men (already increas-
ingly conscious of the tremendous impetus of technology)
to look on Christianity not as a doctrine of impoverishment
and diminution, but of expansion, and so to live as real
Christians without ceasing to be artificers of the creative
force. It matters little to him that God's omnipresent
activity may appear as a differentiation or as a trans-
formation, so long as Christ is attained and glorified: the
problem is whether renunciation, conceived as a cutting-off
of oneself from the world, is a practical proposition for the
whole body of mankind.

In the life of each one of us, a vast area is occupied by the
exertion of natural or social energies and it would be unfair
to allow the value represented by these positive expressions
of our activities to run to waste. It is not that P6re Teilhard
seeks to attach a permanent, absolute, value to these various
human achievements: he sees them as necessary stages
through which the human group must pass in the course
of its transformation. What interests him is not the partic-
ular form they take but the function they serve, and what
matters is that not only the self-denial of the ascetic and
the renunciation of the sufferer, but also our positive efforts
to achieve natural perfection and to meet human obliga-
tions, should lead us to a consciousness of our spiritual

Without, accordingly, sacrificing the mystical value of
renunciation, it is seen to be essential to urge on the
material development of the world with passionate con-
viction. Looked at from this angle, detachment and
attachment can be harmonised and so complement one
another. As he wrote to a friend who had the good fortune
to see his business affairs prosper: ' You are still having


some difficulty in justifying to yourself the euphoria of a
soul immersed in " business ". I must point out to you that
the really important thing is that you are actually ex-
periencing that feeling of well-being. Bread was good for
our bodies before we knew about the chemical laws of
assimilation. . . . How, you ask, can the success of a com-
mercial enterprise bring with it moral progress? And I
answer, in this way, that since everything in the world
follows the road to unification, the spiritual success of the
universe is bound up with the correct functioning of every
zone of that universe and particularly with the release of
every possible energy in it. Because your enterprise (which
I take to be legitimate) is going well, a little more health is
being spread in the human mass, and in consequence a
little more liberty to act, to think, and to love. . . . Because
you are doing the best you can (though you may sometimes
fail) you are forming your own self within the world, and
you are helping the world to form itself around you.'

P&re Teilhard was fully alive to the danger that might lie
in such statements. Wrongly interpreted or understood
they might engulf the Christian in a type of pantheism that
denied to the supernatural its pre-eminent position. He
himself, firm in his faith in the universal value of creation,
was in no danger of falling into this error. ' I am not speak-
ing metaphorically,' he wrote, * when I say that it is
throughout the length and breadth and depth of the world
in movement that man can attain the experience and vision
of his God.' A critic by no means over-sympathetic to this
line of thought, comments, f The driving force that runs
through his thought and carries him along is that of a
vigorous naturalism — impassioned and, without going so
far as to say reckless, a little frightening.*

It would indeed be frightening if one left out of account
the underlying structure on which he built his search for
God in and through his creatures: frightening, too, for a
man ignorant of the laws of organic evolution and satisfied
with the out-of-date concepts of a static world. There can
be no doubt about the ambiguity of some of P&re Teil-


hard's statements, for the very richness and originality of
his thought made it difficult to express. He himself was
always alive to this difficulty of expressing in adequate
and unambiguous terms the vision of a positive confluence
of christian life with the natural sap of the universe \ In
his own self the integration of life had been achieved; if he
loved God, it was through the world, and if he loved the
world it was as a function of God, the animator of all
things. c The joy and strength of my life,' he wrote a
month before his death, c will have lain in the realisation
that when the two ingredients — God and the world —
were brought together they set up an endless mutual
reaction, producing a sudden blaze of such intense bril-
liance that all the depths of the world were lit up for me.'

There was no contradiction in his soul, no ambiguity
between his humble loyalty as a son of the Church and the
boldness of his philosophical views. But in the depths of
his being there raged the excruciating torment of reconcil-
ing his complete submission to the Church with the
integrity of his thought.

In the following letter, written from Cape Town on
12 October, 1951, at the conclusion of his first visit to
South Africa, P&re Teilhard gives an excellent picture of
his state of mind at that time and of the unreserved sub-
mission of his will to the decisions of the ecclesiastical
authorities. It is addressed to his General, the Very
Reverend Father Janssens, in Rome.

Cape Town, 12 October, igji
Very Reverend Father,


I feel that my departure from Africa (i.e. after two months'
work and peace in the field) is a good moment to let you
know briefly what I am thinking and where I stand. I do
this without forgetting that you are the ' General ', but at


the same time (as during our too short interview three
years ago) with the frankness that is one of the Society's
most precious assets.

i. Above all I feel that you must resign yourself to taking
me as I am, that is, with the congenital quality (or weak-
ness) which ever since my childhood has caused my spiritual
life to be completely dominated by a sort of profound
* feeling ' for the organic realness of the World. At first it
was an ill-defined feeling in my mind and heart, but as the
years have gone by it has gradually become a precise,
compelling sense of the Universe's general convergence
upon itself; a convergence which coincides with, and
culminates at its zenith in, him in quo omnia constant, and
whom the Society has taught me to love.

In the consciousness of this progression and synthesis of
all things in Xristo Jesu, I have found an extraordinarily
rich and inexhaustible source of clarity and interior
strength, and an atmosphere outside which it is now physic-
ally impossible for me to breathe, to worship, to believe.
What might have been taken in my attitude during the last
thirty years for obstinacy or disrespect, is simply the result
of my absolute inability to contain my own feeling of

Everything stems from that basic psychological con-
dition, and I can no more change it than I can change my
age or the colour of my eyes.

2. Having made that clear, I can reassure you about my
interior state of mind by emphasising that, whether or no
this is generally true of others besides myself, the immediate
effect of the interior attitude I have just described is to
rivet me ever more firmly to three convictions which are
the very marrow of Christianity.

The unique significance of Man as the spear-head of
Life; the position of Catholicism as the central axis in the
convergent bundle [faisceau] of human activities; and
finally the essential function as consummator assumed by
the risen Christ at the centre and peak of Creation: these
three elements have driven (and continue to drive) roots so


deep and so entangled in the whole fabric of my intellectual
and religious perception that I could now tear them out
only at the cost of destroying everything.

I can truly say — and this in virtue of the whole structure
of my thought — that I now feel more indissolubly bound to
the hierarchical Church and to the Christ of the Gospel
than ever before in my life. Never has Christ seemed to me
more real, more personal or more immense.

How, then, can I believe that there is any evil in the road
I am following?

3. I fully recognise, of course, that Rome may have its
own reasons for judging that, in its present form, my con-
cept of Christianity may be premature or incomplete and
that at the present moment its wider diffusion may there-
fore be inopportune.

It is on this important point of formal loyalty and
obedience that I am particularly anxious — it is in fact my
real reason for writing this letter — to assure you that, in
spite of any apparent evidence to the contrary, I am re-
solved to remain a ' child of obedience \

Obviously I cannot abandon my own personal search —
that would involve me in an interior catastrophe and in dis-
loyalty to my most cherished vocation; but (and this has
been true for some months) I have ceased to propagate my
ideas and am confining myself to achieving a deeper
personal insight into them. This attitude has been made
easier for me by my now being once more in a position to
do first-hand scientific work.

In fact I have every hope that my absence from Europe
will allow the commotion about me that may have dis-
turbed you recently, simply to die down. Providence
seems to be lending me a helping hand towards this : what
I mean is that the Wenner Gren (formerly the Viking)
Foundation in New York which sent me here (it is the same
Foundation, incidentally, that refloated P£re Schmidt's
Anthropos after the war) is already asking me to prolong my
stay in America as long as I can: they want me to classify
and develop the data obtained from my work in Africa. —


All this allows me a breathing space and gives a purely
scientific orientation to the end of my career . . . and of my

Let me repeat that, as I see it, this letter is simply an
exposition of conscience and calls for no answer from you.
Look on it simply as a proof that you can count on me un-
reservedly to work for the kingdom of God, which is the
one thing I keep before my eyes and the one goal to which
science leads me.

Your most respectful in Xtojilius

P. Teilhard de Chardin

P&re Teilhard knew well that it was his duty to speak out
and allow others to share the fruits of his own experience.
* If I didn't write,' he told me, ' I would be a traitor.' It
was no doubt because he expressed himself with such
frankness and unaffected simplicity that he met with so
much opposition both from theologians and from scientists.
Of the latter he wrote, ' I have often felt myself impelled to
question the value of my own interior testimony. Friends
have assured me that they have never experienced this
themselves. " It's just a matter of temperament," they've
said. " You feel the need to philosophise, while with us
research is simply something we enjoy doing, like having
a drink." ' Not a very convincing answer, it is true, and
one that would by no means satisfy the scrupulous mind or
soul of P&re Teilhard, who felt it essential even in the
conceptual order to justify his activity. ' You fail,' he
replied, ' to get to the bottom of what goes on in your heart
and your mind, and that is why the " cosmic sense " and
faith in the world are still dormant in you. You may
multiply the extent and duration of progress as much as
you please, and you may promise the world another
hundred million years of growth; but if at the end of that
time it appears that the whole of consciousness must revert
to zero without its hidden essence being anywhere pre-
served, then we shall lay down our arms and there will be a
complete cessation of effort. The day is not far distant


when humanity will realise that biologically it is faced with
a choice between suicide and adoration.'

P6re Teilhard's life, his interior life, is thus seen as a
witness. * My skill as a philosopher may be greater or less,'
he writes in his notes, * but one fact will always remain,
that an average man of the twentieth century, just because
he shared normally in the ideas and interests of his time,
was able to attain a balanced interior life only in a scientif-
ically integrated concept of the world and of Christ; and
that therein he found peace and limitless scope for his being
to expand. Today, my faith in God is sounder, and my
faith in the world stronger, than ever.' Could there be a
more up to date or more faithful version of St. Paul's
doctrine of the * cosmic ' Christ ? * In him all created
things took their being, heavenly and earthly, visible and
invisible. . . . They were all created through him and in
him; he takes precedence of all, and in him all subsist. . . .
It was God's good pleasure to let all completeness dwell in
him, and through him to win back all things, whether on
earth or in heaven, unto union with himself, making peace
with them through his blood, shed on the cross ' (Coloss. I,
16-19, 20).

In the strength derived from the nobility of his task, he
could follow a road that might have led more ill-equipped
souls into dangerous misconceptions; and this in all sin-
cerity of conscience. It was no doubt because of this
serenity that he was so tolerant, with a tolerance that
bordered on weakness and often caused him to be mis-
understood; for people are more ready to give others credit
for justice than for love.

Even those who were most hostile to his philosophical and
religious views recognised the exquisite gift for sympathy
which made him a * catcher of souls \ Countless intel-
lectuals, executives, workmen and humble folk caught
from him the vital spark of illumination and found peace.
There was one limit to his tolerance : the one fault he de-
tested, the one he would have nothing to do with, was the
deliberate acceptance and delight in disgust with life, con-
tempt for the works of man, fear of the human effort. For


Pere Teilhard this lack of confidence in the efficacy of man's
vocation was the real sin. Our natural weaknesses could be
looked on with indulgence, so long as the desire to c rise ',
to progress forward and upward, was sincere. c Anything
that makes me sink lower — that, 5 he used to say, c is the real

It was this reasoned optimism, the fruit of his interior life,
that gave him strength both when he had to fight and when
he obediently gave way. It confirmed him, too, in his hope
that one day the whole world would enrol in the service of
Christ. From a continually reinvigorated search for God
he drew fresh stores of tenacity. There was nothing petty
nor rigid in this tension of the will towards union, but an
effort renewed from day to day — God knows in the midst of
what struggles — to steep himself in the divine presence,
without which he counted everything as vanity; and at the
same time he saw that, in pushing human aspirations to the
most daring extremes, man may ascend to the heights. It
was this he had in mind when he used to say, * We must dare
all things.'

He died suddenly, as he had prayed that he might, in the
full vigour of life; friend of all men, of all countries, he died
in the most cosmopolitan city in the world. It was on Easter
Sunday, in the full bloom of spring, with the city bathed in a
flood of sunshine. So it was that in the joy of the Resur-
rection Pfere Teilhard was reunited with the Christ whom
all his life he had longed to possess in the blaze of victory.

Lord, since with every instinct of my being and
through all the changing fortunes of my life, it is you
whom I have ever sought, you whom I have set at the
heart of universal matter, it will be in a resplendence
which shines through all things and in which all things
are ablaze, that I shall have the felicity of closing my

The Divine Milieu


If the form and content of the following pages are to be
rightly understood, the reader must not misconceive the
spirit in which they were written.

This book is not specifically addressed to Christians who
are firmly established in their faith and have nothing more
to learn about its beliefs. It is written for the waverers, both
inside and outside; that is to say for those who, instead of
giving themselves wholly to the Church, either hesitate on
its threshold or turn away in the hope of going beyond it.

As a result of changes which, over the last century, have
modified our empirically based pictures of the world and
hence the moral value of many of its elements, the ' human
religious ideal ' inclines to stress certain tendencies and to
express itself in terms which seem, at first sight, no longer to
coincide with the ' christian religious ideal \

Thus it is that those whose education or instinct leads
them to listen primarily to the voices of the earth, have a
certain fear that they may be false to themselves or diminish
themselves if they simply follow the Gospel path.

So the purpose of this essay — on life or on inward vision —
is to prove by a sort of tangible confirmation that this fear
is unfounded, since the most traditional Christianity, ex-
pressed in Baptism, the Cross and the Eucharist, can be
interpreted so as to embrace all that is best in the aspira-
tions peculiar to our times.

My hope is that it may help to show that Christ, who is
ever the same and ever new, has not ceased to be the
* first ' within mankind.

An Important Observation

The following pages do not pretend to offer a complete
treatise on ascetical theology — they only offer a simple
description of a, psychological evolution observed over a specified



interval. A possible series of inward perspectives gradually
revealed to the mind in the course of a humble yet ' illum-
inative ' spiritual ascent — that is all we have tried to note
down here.

The reader need not, therefore, be surprised at the ap-
parently small space allotted to moral evil and sin: the soul
with which we are dealing is assumed to have already
turned away from the path of error.

Nor should the fact arouse concern that the action of
grace is not referred to or invoked more explicitly. The
subject under consideration is actual, concrete, c super-
naturalised ' man — but seen in the realm of conscious
psychology only. So there was no need to distinguish
explicitly between natural and supernatural, between
divine influence and human operation. But although
these technical terms are absent, the thing is everywhere
taken for granted. Not only as a theoretically admitted
entity, but rather as a living reality, the notion of grace
impregnates the whole atmosphere of my book.

And in fact the divine milieu would lose all its grandeur and
all its savour for the c mystic ' if he did not feel — with his
whole ' participated ' being, with his whole soul made
receptive of the divine favour freely poured out upon it,
with his whole will strengthened and encouraged — if he
did not feel so completely swept away in the divine ocean that
no initial point of support would be left him in the end, of his
own, within himself, from which he could act.



The enrichment and ferment of religious thought in our
time has undoubtedly been caused by the revelation of the
size and the unity of the world all around us and within us.
All around us the physical sciences are endlessly extending
the abysses of time and space, and ceaselessly discerning
new relationships between the elements of the universe.
Within us a whole world of affinities and interrelated sym-
pathies, as old as the human soul, is being awakened by the
stimulus of these great discoveries, and what has hitherto
been dreamed rather than experienced is at last taking
shape and consistency. Scholarly and discriminating
among serious thinkers, simple or didactic among the half-
educated, the aspirations towards a vaster and more
organic one, and the premonitions of unknown forces and
their application in new fields, are the same, and are
emerging simultaneously on all sides. It is almost a com-
monplace today to find men who, quite naturally and un-
affectedly, live in the explicit consciousness of being an
atom or a citizen of the universe.

This collective awakening, similar to that which, at some
given moment, makes each individual realise the true
dimensions of his own life, must inevitably have a profound
religious reaction on the mass of mankind — either to cast
down or to exalt.

To some, the world has disclosed itself as too vast:
within such immensity, man is lost and no longer counts;
and there is nothing left for him to do but shut his eyes and
disappear. To others, on the contrary, the world is too
beautiful; and it, and it alone, must be adored.

There are Christians, as there are men, who remain un-
affected by these feelings of anxiety or fascination. The
following pages are not for them. But there are others who



are alarmed by the agitation or the attraction invincibly
produced in them by this new rising star. Is the Christ of
the Gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a
Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still
forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe ?
Is the world not in the process of becoming more vast, more
close, more dazzling than Jehovah ? Will it not burst our
religion asunder? Eclipse our God?

Without daring, perhaps, to admit to this anxiety yet,
there are many (as I know from having come across them
all over the world) who nevertheless feel it deep within
them. It is for those that I am writing.

I shall not attempt to embark on metaphysics or apolo-
getics. Instead, I shall turn back, with those who care to
follow me, to the Agora. There, in each other's company,
we shall listen to St. Paul telling the Areopagites of ' God,
who made man that he might seek him — God whom we
try to apprehend by the groping of our lives — that self-same
God is as pervasive and perceptible as the atmosphere in
which we are bathed. He encompasses us on all sides, like
the world itself. What prevents you, then, from enfolding
him in your arms? Only one thing: your inability to see
him. 9 1

This little book does no more than recapitulate the
eternal lesson of the Church in the words of a man who,
because he believes himself to feel deeply in tune with his
own times, has sought to teach how to see God everywhere,
to see him in all that is most hidden, most solid, and most
ultimate in the world. These pages put forward no more
than a practical attitude — or, more exactly perhaps, a way
of teaching how to see. Let us begin by leaving argument
aside for a moment. Place yourself here, where I am, and

1 At the end of his life the author reverted to Le Milieu Divin in two
autobiographical works where he expands what he means by seeing him:
• Throughout my life, by means of my life, the world has little by little
caught fire in my sight until, aflame all around me, it has become almost
completely luminous from within. . . . Such has been my experience in
contact with the earth — the diaphany of the Divine at the heart of the
universe on fire . . . Christ; his heart; a fire: capable of penetrating
everywhere and, gradually, spreading everywhere.' French Editor's Mote.


look from this privileged position — which is no hard-won
height reserved for the elect, but the solid platform built by
two thousand years of christian experience — and you will
see how easily the two stars, whose divergent attractions
were disorganising your faith, are brought into conjunction.
Without mixture, without confusion, the true God, the
christian God, will, under your gaze, invade the universe,
our universe of today, the universe which so frightened you
by its alarming size or its pagan beauty. He will penetrate
it as a ray of light does a crystal; and, with the help of the
great layers of creation, he will become for you universally
perceptible and active — very near and very distant at one
and the same time.

If you are able to focus your soul's eyes so as to perceive
this magnificence, you will soon forget, I assure you, your
unfounded fears in face of the mounting significance of the
earth. Your one thought will be to exclaim: ' Greater still,
Lord, let your universe be greater still, so that I may hold
you and be held by you by a contact at once made ever
more intense and ever wider in its extent! *

The line we shall follow in our survey is quite simple.
Since in the field of experience each man's existence can
properly be divided into two parts — what he does and what
he undergoes — we shall consider each of these parts in
turn: the active and the passive. In each we shall find at
the outset that, in accordance with his promise, God truly
waits for us in things, unless indeed he advances to meet us.
Next we shall marvel how the manifestation of his sublime
presence in no way disturbs the harmony of our human
attitude, but, on the contrary, brings it its true form and
perfection. This done — that is, having shown that the two
halves of our lives, and consequently the whole of our world,
are full of God — it will remain for us to make an inventory
of the wonderful properties of this milieu which is all around
us (and which is nevertheless beyond and underlying every-
thing), the only one in which, from now onwards, we are
equipped to breathe freely.



Note: It is of the utmost importance at this
point to bear in mind what was said at the
end of the Preface. We use the word
* activity ' in the ordinary, everyday sense,
without in any way denying — far from it —
all that occurs between grace and the will in
the infra-experimental spheres of the soul. To
repeat: what is most divine in God is that, in
an absolute sense, we are nothing apart from
him. The least admixture of what may be
called Pelagianism would suffice to ruin
immediately the beauties of the divine milieu
in the eyes of the ' seer \

Of the two halves or components into which our lives may
be divided, the most important, judging by appearances
and by the price we set upon it, is the sphere of activity,
endeavour and development. There can, of course, be no
action without reaction. And, of course, there is nothing in
us which in origin and at its deepest is not, as St. Augustine
said, ' in nobis, sine nobis \ When we act, as it seems, with
the greatest spontaneity and vigour, we are to some extent
led by the things we imagine we are controlling. Moreover,
the very expansion of our energy (which reveals the core of
our autonomous personality) is, ultimately, only our
obedience to a will to be and to grow, of which we can
master neither the varying intensity nor the countless
modes. We shall return, at the beginning of Part Two, to
these essentially passive elements, some of which form part



of the very marrow of our being, while others are diffused
among the inter-play of universal causes which we call our
' character % our ' nature * or our * good and bad luck \
For the moment let us consider our life in terms of the
categories and definitions which are the most immediate
and universal. Everyone can distinguish quite clearly
between the moments in which he is acting and those in
which he is acted upon. Let us look at ourselves in one of
those phases of dominant activity and try to see how, with
the help of our activity and by developing it to the full, the
divine presses in upon us and seeks to enter our lives.






Nothing is more certain, dogmatically, than that human
action can be sanctified. * Whatever you do,' says St. Paul,

* do it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.' And the
dearest of christian traditions has always been to interpret
those words to mean: in intimate union with our Lord
Jesus Christ. St. Paul himself, after calling upon us to c put
on Christ ', goes on to forge the famous series of words
collaborare, compati, common^ con-ressuscitare, giving them the
fullest possible meaning, a literal meaning even, and ex-
pressing the conviction that every human life must — in
some sort — become a life in common with the life of Christ.
The actions of life, of which Paul is speaking here, should
not, as everyone knows, be understood solely in the sense of
religious and devotional * works ' (prayers, fastings, alms-
givings) . It is the whole of human life, down to its most

* natural ' zones, which, the Church teaches, can be
sanctified. * Whether you eat or whether you drink ', St.
Paul says. The whole history of the Church is there to

attest it. Taken as a whole, then, from the most solemn
declarations or examples of the pontiffs and doctors of the
Church to the advice humbly given by the priest in con-
fession, the general influence and practice of the Church
has always been to dignify, ennoble and transfigure in God
the duties inherent in one's station in life, the search for
natural truth, and the development of human action.

The fact cannot be denied. But its legitimacy, that is its
logical coherence with the whole basis of the christian
temper, is not immediately evident. How is it that the per-
spectives opened up by the kingdom of God do not, by
their very presence, shatter the distribution and balance of
our activities? How can the man who believes in heaven
and the Cross continue to believe seriously in the value of
worldly occupations? How can the believer, in the name
of everything that is most christian in him, carry out his
duty as man to the fullest extent and as whole-heartedly
and freely as if he were on the direct road to God ? That is
what is not altogether clear at first sight; and in fact
disturbs more minds than one thinks.

The question might be put in this way:

According to the most sacred articles of his Credo, the
Christian believes that life here below is continued in a life of
which the joys, the sufferings, the reality, are quite incom-
mensurable with the present conditions in our universe.
This contrast and disproportion are enough, by themselves,
to rob us of our taste for the world and our interest in it;
but to them must be added a positive doctrine of judgment
upon, even disdain for, a fallen and vitiated world. ' Per-
fection consists in detachment; the world around us is
vanity and ashes.' The believer is constantly reading or
hearing these austere words. How can he reconcile them
with that other counsel, usually coming from the same
master and in any case written in his heart by nature, that
he must be an example unto the Gentiles in devotion to
duty, in energy, and even in leadership in all the spheres
opened up by man's activity? There is no need for us to
consider the wayward or the lazy who cannot be bothered


to acquire an understanding of their world, or seek with
care to advance their fellows' welfare — from which they
will benefit a hundredfold after their last breath — and only
contribute to the human task * with the tips of their
fingers'. But there is a kind of human spirit (known to
every spiritual director) for whom this difficulty assumes
the shape and importance of a besetting and numbing un-
certainty. Such spirits, set upon interior unity, become the
victims of a veritable spiritual dualism. On the one hand a
very sure instinct, mingled with their love for that which is,
and their taste for life, draws them to the joy of creating and
of knowing. On the other hand a higher will to love God
above all else makes them afraid of the least division or
deflection in their allegiances. In the most spiritual layers
of their being they experience a tension between the op-
posing ebb and flow caused by the drawing power of the
two rival stars we spoke of at the beginning: God and the
world. Which of the two is to make itself more nobly

Depending on the greater or less vitality of the nature of
the individual, this conflict is in danger of finding its
solution in one of the three following ways: either the
Christian will repress his taste for the tangible and force
himself to confine his concern to purely religious objects,
and he will try to live in a world that he has divinised by
banishing the largest possible number of earthly objects;
or else, harassed by that inward conflict which hampers
him, he will dismiss the evangelical counsels and decide to
lead what seems to him a complete and human life; or
else, again, and this is the most usual case, he will give up
any attempt to make sense of his situation; he will never
belong wholly to God, nor ever wholly to things; incom-
plete in his own eyes, and insincere in the eyes of his fellows,
he will gradually acquiesce in a double life. I am speaking,
it should not be forgotten, from experience.

For various reasons, all three of these solutions are to be
feared. Whether we become distorted, disgusted, or
divided, the result is equally bad, and certainly contrary to
that which Christianity should rightly produce in us. There


is, without possible doubt, a fourth way out of the problem:
it consists in seeing how, without making the smallest con-
cession to ' nature ' but with a thirst for greater perfection,
we can reconcile, and provide mutual nourishment for, the
love of God and the healthy love of the world, a striving
towards detachment and a striving towards the enrichment
of our human lives. . . .

Let us look at the two solutions that can be brought to
the christian problem of * the divinisation of human
activity \ the first partial, the second complete.




If we try somewhat crudely to reduce to its barest bones the
immediate answer given by spiritual directors to those who
ask them how a Christian, who is determined to disdain the
world and jealously to keep his heart for God, can love what
he is doing (his work) — in conformity with the Church's
teaching that the faithful should take not a lesser but a. fuller
part than the pagan — it will run along these lines:

You are anxious, my friend, to restore its value to your
human endeavour; to you the characteristic view-
points of christian asceticism seem to set far too little
store by Such activity. Very well then, you must let
the clear spring water of purity of intention flow into
your work, as if it were its very substance. Cleanse
your intention, and the least of your actions will be
filled with God. Certainly the material side of your
actions has no definitive value. Whether men dis-
cover one truth or one fact more or less, whether or
not they make beautiful music or beautiful pictures,
whether their organisation of the world is more or less
successful — all that has no direct importance for
heaven. None of these discoveries or creations will


become one of the stones of which is built the New
Jerusalem. But what will count, up there, what will
always endure, is this: that you have acted in all
things conformably to the will of God.

God obviously has no need of the products of your
busy activity, since he could give himself everything
without you. The only thing that concerns him, the
only thing he desires intensely, is your faithful use of
your freedom, and the preference you accord him over
the things around you.

Try to grasp this: the things which are given to you
on earth are given you purely as an exercise, a ' blank
sheet ' on which you make your own mind and heart.
You are on a testing-ground where God can judge
whether you are capable of being translated to heaven
and into his presence. You are on trial. So that it
matters very little what becomes of the fruits of the
earth, or what they are worth. The whole question is
whether you have used them in order to learn how to
obey and how to love.

You should not, therefore, set store by the coarse
outer-covering of your human actions : this can be
burnt like straw or smashed like china. Think, rather,
that into each of these humble vessels you can pour,
like a sap or a precious liquor, the spirit of obedience
and of union with God. If worldly aims have no value
in themselves, you can love them for the opportunity
they give you of proving your faithfulness to God.

We are not suggesting that the foregoing words have ever
been actually used ; but we believe they convey a nuance
which is often discernible in spiritual direction, and we are
sure that they give a rough idea of what a good number of
the 4 directed ' have understood and retained of the
exhortations given them.

On this assumption let us examine the attitude which
they recommend.

In the first place this attitude contains an enormous part
of truth. It is perfectly right to exalt the role of a good inten-


tion as the necessary start and foundation of all else;
indeed — a point which we shall have to make again — it is
the golden key which unlocks our inward personal world
to God's presence. It expresses vigorously the primary
worth of the divine will which, by virtue of this attitude,
becomes for the Christian (as it was for his divine model)
the fortifying marrow of all earthly nourishment. It reveals
a sort of unique milieu, unchanging beneath the diversity
and number of the tasks which, as men and women, we
have to do, in which we can place ourselves without ever
having to withdraw.

These various features convey a first and essential ap-
proximation to the solution we are looking for; and we
shall certainly retain them in their entirety in the more
satisfactory plan of the interior life which will soon be
suggested. But they seem to us to lack the achievement
which our spiritual peace and joy so imperiously demand.
The divinisation of our endeavour by the value of the
intention put into it, pours a priceless soul into all our
actions; but it does not confer the hope of resurrection upon their
bodies. Yet that hope is what we need if our joy is to be
complete. It is certainly a very great thing to be able to
think that, if we love God, something of our inner activity,
of our operatio, will never be lost. But will not the work
itself of our minds, of our hearts, and of our hands — that is
to say, our achievements, what we bring into being, our
opus — will not this, too, in some sense be * eternalised ' and
saved ?

Indeed, Lord, it will be — by virtue of a claim which you yourself
have implanted at the very centre of my will! I desire and need that
it should be.

I desire it because I love irresistibly all that your continuous help
enables me to bring each day to reality. A thought, a material
improvement, a harmony, a unique nuance of human love, the
enchanting complexity of a smile or a glance, all these new beauties
that appear for the first time, in me or around me, on the human face
of the earth — / cherish them like children and cannot believe that
they will die entirely in their flesh. If I believed that these things
were to perish for ever, should I have given them life? The more I


examine myself ] the more I discover this psychological truth : that no
one lifts his little finger to do the smallest task unless moved, how-
ever obscurely, by the conviction that he is contributing infinitesimally
{at least indirectly) to the building of something definitive — that is to
say, to your work, my God. This may well sound strange or
exaggerated to those who act without thoroughly scrutinising them-
selves. And yet it is a fundamental law of their action. It requires
no less than the pull of what men call the Absolute, no less than
you yourself, to set in motion the frail liberty which you have
given us. And that being so, everything which diminishes my
explicit faith in the heavenly value of the results of my endeavour,
diminishes irremediably my power to act.

Show all your faithful, Lord, in what a full and true sense
' their work follows them 9 into your kingdom — opera sequuntur
illos. Otherwise they will become like those idle workmen who are
not spurred by their task. And even if a sound human instinct prevails
over their hesitancies or the sophisms of an incompletely enlightened
religious practice, they will remain fundamentally divided and
frustrated; and it will be said that the sons of heaven cannot compete
on the human level, in conviction and hence on equal terms, with the
children of the world.




The general ordering of the salvation (which is to say the
divinisation) of what we do can be expressed briefly in the
following syllogism.

At the heart of our universe, each soul exists for God, in
our Lord.

But all reality, even material reality, around each one of
us, exists for our souls.

Hence, all sensible reality, around each one of us, exists,
through our souls, for God in our Lord.

Let us examine each proposition of the syllogism in turn


and separately. Its terms and the link between them are
easy to grasp. But we must beware : it is one thing to have
understood its words, and another to have penetrated the
astonishing world whose inexhaustible riches are revealed
by its calm and formal exactitude.

A. At the heart of our universe, each soul exists
for God in our Lord

The major of the syllogism does no more than express the
fundamental Catholic dogma which all other dogmas
merely explain or define. It therefore requires no proof
here; but it does need to be strictly understood by the
intelligence. Each soul exists for God in our Lord. We
should not be content to give this destination of our being
in Christ a meaning too obviously modelled on the legal
relationships which in our world link an object to its owner.
Its nature is altogether more physical and deeper. Because
the consummation of the world (what Paul calls the
Pleroma) is a communion of persons (the communion of
saints), our minds require that we should express the links
within that communion by analogies drawn from society.
Moreover, in order to avoid the perverse pantheism and
materialism which lie in wait for our thought whenever it
applies to its mystical concepts the powerful but dangerous
resources of analogies drawn from organic life, the majority
of theologians (more cautious on this point than St. Paul)
do not favour too realist an interpretation of the links which
bind the limbs to the head in the Mystical Body. But there
is no reason why caution should become timidity. If we
want a full and vivid understanding of the teachings of the
Church (which alone makes them beautiful and accept-
able) on the value of human life and the promises or
threats of the future life — then, without rejecting anything
of the forces of freedom and of consciousness which form
the natural endowment proper to the human soul, we
must perceive the existence of links between us and the


Incarnate Word no less precise than those which control, in
the world, the affinities of the elements in the building up
of ' natural * wholes.

There is no point, here, in seeking a new name by which
to designate the super-eminent nature of that dependence,
where all that is most flexible in human combinations and
all that is most intransigent in organic structures, merge
harmoniously in a moment of final incandescence. We will
continue to call it by the name that has always been used:
mystical union. Far from implying some idea of diminution,
we use the term to mean the strengthening and purification
of the reality and urgency contained in the most powerful
interconnections revealed to us in every order of the
physical and human world. On that path we can advance
without fear of over-stepping the truth; for everyone in the
Church of God is agreed upon the fact itself, if not upon
its systematic statement: by virtue of the powerful in-
carnation of the Word, our soul is wholly dedicated to
Christ and centred upon him.

B. * In our universe' we went on to say, * in which each soul

exists for God, in our Lord, all that is sensible, in its turn,

exists for the soul. 9

In the form in which we have given it, the minor of our
syllogism is tinged with a certain * finalist ' doctrine which
may shock those with a positivist cast of mind. Nevertheless
it does no more than express an incontrovertible natural
fact — which is that our spiritual being is continually
nourished by the countless energies of the perceptible
world. Here, again, proof is unnecessary. But it is essential
to see — to see things as they are and to see them really and
intensely. We live at the centre of the network of cosmic
influences as we live at the heart of the human crowd or
among the myriads of stars, without, alas, being aware of
their immensity. If we wish to live bur humanity and our
Christianity to the full, we must overcome that insensitivity
which tends to conceal things from us in proportion as they


are too close to us or too vast. It is worth while performing
the salutary exercise which consists in starting with those
elements of our conscious life in which our awareness of
ourselves as persons is most fully developed, and moving
out from these to consider the spread of our being. We
shall be astonished at the extent and the intimacy of our
relationship with the universe.

Where are the roots of our being? In the first place they
plunge back and down into the unfathomable past. How
great is the mystery of the first cells which were one day
animated by the breath of our souls ! How impossible to
decipher the welding of successive influences in which we
are for ever incorporated! In each one of us, through
matter, the whole history of the world is in part reflected.
And however autonomous our soul, it is indebted to an
inheritance worked upon from all sides — before ever it
came into being — by the totality of the energies of the earth:
it meets and rejoins life at a determined level. Then, hardly
has it entered actively into the universe at that particular
point than it feels, in its turn, besieged and penetrated by
the flow of cosmic influences which have to be ordered and
assimilated. Let us look around us : the waves come from
all sides and from the farthest horizon. Through every cleft
the world we perceive floods us with its riches — food for the
body, nourishment for the eyes, harmony of sounds and
fullness of the heart, unknown phenomena and new truths,
all these treasures, all these stimuli, all these calls, coming
to us from the four corners of the world, cross our conscious-
ness at every moment. What is their role within us ? What
will their effect be, even if we welcome them passively or
indistinctly, like bad workmen ? They will merge into the
most intimate life of our soul and either develop it or poison
it. We only have to look at ourselves for one moment to
realise this, and either feel delight or anxiety. If even the
most humble and most material of our foods is capable of
deeply influencing our most spiritual faculties, what can be
said of the infinitely more penetrating energies conveyed to
us by the music of tones, of notes, of words, of ideas ? We
have not, in us, a body which takes its nourishment


independently of our soul. Everything that the body has
admitted and has begun to transform must be transfigured
by the soul in its turn. The soul does this, no doubt, in its
own way and with its own dignity. But it cannot escape
from this universal contact nor from that unremitting
labour. And that is how the characteristic power of under-
standing and loving, which will form its immaterial
individuality, is gradually perfected in it for its own good
and at its own risk. We hardly know in what proportions
and under what guise our natural faculties will pass over
into the final act of the vision of God. But it can hardly be
doubted that, with God's help, it is here below that we
give ourselves the eyes and the heart which a final
transfiguration will make the organs of a power of
adoration, and of a capacity for beatification, particular
to each individual man and woman among us.

The masters of the spiritual life incessantly repeat that
God wants only souls. To give those words their true value,
we must not forget that the human soul, however indepen-
dently created our philosophy represents it as being, is in-
separable, in its birth and in its growth, from the universe
into which it is born. In each soul, God loves and partly
saves the whole world which that soul sums up in an in-
communicable and particular way. But this summing-up,
this welding, are not given to us ready-made and complete
with the first awakening of consciousness. It is we who,
through our own activity, must industriously assemble the
widely scattered elements. The labour of seaweed as it
concentrates in its tissues the substances scattered, in
infinitesimal quantities, throughout the vast layers of the
ocean; the industry of bees 21s they make honey from the
juices broadcast in so many flowers — these are but pale
images of the ceaseless working-over that all the forces of
the universe undergo in us in order to reach the level of

Thus every man, in the course of his life, must not only
show himself obedient and docile. By his fidelity he must
build — starting with the most natural territory of his own
self — a work, an opus, into which something enters from all


the elements of the earth. He makes his own soul throughout
all his earthly days; and at the same time he collaborates
in another work, in another opus, which infinitely trans-
cends, while at the same time it narrowly determines, the
perspectives of his individual achievement: the completing
of the world. For in presenting the christian doctrine of
salvation, it must not be forgotten that the world, taken as a
whole, that is to say in so far as it consists in a hierarchy of
souls — which appear only successively, develop only col-
lectively and will be completed only in union — the world,
too, undergoes a sort of vast c ontogenesis ' (a vast becom-
ing what it is) in which the development of each soul,
assisted by the perceptible realities on which it depends, is
but a diminished harmonic. Beneath our efforts to put
spiritual form into our own lives, the world slowly accum-
ulates, starting with the whole of matter, that which will
make of it the Heavenly Jerusalem or the New Earth.

c. We can now bring together the major and minor

of our syllogism so as to grasp the link between

them and the conclusion

If it is true, as we know from the Creed, that souls enter so
intimately into Christ and God, and if it is true, as we know
from the most general conclusions of psycho-analysis, that
the perceptible enters vitally into the most spiritual zones
of our souls — then we must also recognise that in the whole
process which from first to last activates and directs the
elements of the universe, everything forms a single whole. And
we begin to see more distinctly the great sun of Christ the
King, of Christ amictus mundo, of the universal Christ, rising
over our interior world. Little by little, stage by stage,
everything is finally linked to the supreme centre in quo
omnia constant. The streams which flow from this centre
operate not only within the higher reaches of the world,
where human activities take place in a distinctively super-
natural and meritorious form. In order to save and estab-
lish these sublime forces, the power of the Word Incarnate


penetrates matter itself; it goes down into the deepest
depths of the lower forces. And the Incarnation will be
complete only when the part of chosen substance con-
tained in every object — given spiritual import once in our
souls and a second time with our souls in Jesus — shall have
rejoined the final centre of its completion. Quid est quod
ascendity nisi quod prius descendit, ut repleret omnia?

It is through the collaboration which he stimulates in us
that Christ, starting from all created things, is consum-
mated and attains his plenitude. St. Paul himself tells us so.
We may, perhaps, imagine that the creation was finished
long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still
more magnificently, and at the highest levels of the world,
Omnis creatura adhuc ingemiscit etparturit. And we serve to com-
plete it, even by the humblest work of our hands. That is,
ultimately, the meaning and value of our acts. Owing to
the interrelation between matter, soul and Christ, we bring
part of the being which he desires back to God in whatever
we do. With each one of our works, we labour — in individual
separation, but no less really — to build the Pleroma; that
is to say, we bring to Christ a little fulfilment.


Each one of our works, by its more or less remote or direct
effect upon the spiritual world, helps to make perfect
Christ in his mystical totality. That is the fullest possible
answer to the question : How can we, following the call of
St. Paul, see God in all the active half of our lives? In fact,
through the unceasing operation of the Incarnation, the
divine so thoroughly permeates all our creaturely energies
that, in order to meet it and lay hold on it, we could not
find a more fitting setting than that of our action.

To begin with, in action I adhere to the creative power of
God; I coincide with it; I become not only its instrument
but its living extension. And as there is nothing more
personal in a being than his will, I merge myself, in a sense,


through my heart, with the very heart of God. This com-
merce is continuous because I am always acting; and at the
same time, since I can never set a boundary to the per-
fection of my fidelity nor to the fervour of my intention, this
commerce enables me to liken myself, ever more strictly
and indefinitely, to God.

The soul does not pause to relish this communion, nor
does it lose sight of the material end of its action; for it is
wedded to a creative effort. The will to succeed, a certain
passionate delight in the work to be done, form an integral
part of our creaturely fidelity. It follows that the very
sincerity with which we desire and pursue success for God's
sake reveals itself as a new factor — also without limits— in
our being knit together with him who animates us. Origin-
ally we had fellowship with God in the simple common
exercise of wills; but now we unite ourselves with him in
the shared love of the end for which we are working; and
the crowning marvel is that, with the possession of this end,
we have the utter joy of discovering his presence once again.

All this follows directly from what was said a moment
back on the relationship between natural and supernatural
actions in the world. Any increase that I can bring upon
myself or upon things is translated into some increase in my
power to love and some progress in Christ's blessed hold
upon the universe. Our work appears to us, in the main, as
a way of earning our daily bread. But its essential virtue is
on a higher level: through it we complete in ourselves the
subject of the divine union; and through it again we some-
how make to grow in stature the divine term of the one with
whom we are united, our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence what-
ever our role as men may be, whether we are artists, work-
ing-men or scholars, we can, if we are Christians, speed to-
wards the object of our work as though towards an opening
on to the supreme fulfilment of our beings. Indeed, without
exaggeration or excess in thought or expression — but
simply by confronting the most fundamental truths of our
faith and of experience — we are led to the following observ-
ation: God is inexhaustibly attainable in the totality of our
action. And this prodigy of divinisation has nothing with


which we dare to compare it except the subtle, gentle
sweetness with which this actual change of shape is wrought;
for it is achieved without disturbing at all (non minuit, sed
sacravit . . .) the completeness and unity of man's en-


There was reason to fear, as we have said, that the intro-
duction of christian perspectives might seriously upset the
ordering of human action; that the seeking after, and
waiting for, the kingdom of heaven might deflect human
activity from its natural tasks, or at least entirely eclipse any
interest in them. Now we see why this cannot and must
not be so. The knitting together of God and the world has
just taken place under our eyes in the domain of action. No,
God does not deflect our gaze prematurely from the work
he himself has given us, since he presents himself to us as
attainable through that very work. Nor does he blot out,
in his intense light, the detail of our earthly aims, since the
closeness of our union with him is in fact determined by
the exact fulfilment of the least of our tasks. We ought to
accustom ourselves to this basic truth till we are steeped in
it, until it becomes as familiar to us as the perception of
shape or the reading of words. God, in all that is most
living and incarnate in him, is not far away from us,
altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell
and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in
our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in
which he is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my
needle— of my heart and of my thought. By pressing the
stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged, to its
ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end to-
wards which my innermost will tends. Like those formid-
able physical forces which man contrives to discipline so as
to make them perform operations of prodigious delicacy, so


the tremendous power of the divine attraction is focused on
our frail desires and microscopic intents without breaking
their point. It sur-animates; hence it neither disturbs any-
thing nor stifles anything. It sur-animates; hence it intro-
duces a higher principle of unity into our spiritual life, the
specific effect of which is — depending upon the point of
view one adopts — either to make man's endeavour holy, or
to give the christian life the full flavour of humanity.

A. The sanctijication of human endeavour

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that nine out
often practising Christians feel that man's work is always at
the level of a ' spiritual encumbrance \ In spite of the
practice of right intentions, and the day offered every
morning to God, the general run of the faithful dimly feel
that time spent at the office or the studio, in the fields or in
the factory, is time taken away from prayer and adoration.
It is impossible not to work — that is taken for granted.
Then it is impossible, too, to aim at the deep religious life
reserved for those who have the leisure to pray or preach
all day long. A few moments of the day can be salvaged for
God, yes, but the best hours are absorbed, or at any rate
cheapened, by material cares. Under the sway of this
feeling, large numbers of Catholics lead a double or crippled
life in practice : they have to step out of their human dress
so as to have faith in themselves as Christians — and inferior
Christians at that.

What has been said above of the divine extensions and
God-given demands of the mystical or universal Christ,
should be enough to demonstrate both the emptiness of
these impressions and the validity of the thesis (so dear to
Christianity) of sanctification through fulfilling the duties of
our station. There are, of course, certain noble and
cherished moments of the day — those when we pray or
receive the sacraments. Were it not for these moments of
more efficient or explicit commerce with God, the tide of
the divine omnipresence, and our perception of it, would


weaken until all that was best in our human endeavour,
without being entirely lost to the world, would be for us
emptied of God. But once we have jealously safeguarded
our relation to God encountered, if I may dare use the
expression, c in his pure state ' (that is to say in a state of
being distinct from all the constituents of the world), there
is no need to fear that the most trivial or the most absorbing
of occupations should force us to depart from him. To
repeat: by virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the
Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who
know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred to
the men who can distinguish that portion of chosen being
which is subject to Christ's drawing power in the process of
consummation. Try, with God's help, to perceive the
connection — even physical and natural — which binds your
labour with the building of the kingdom of heaven; try to
realise that heaven itself smiles upon you and, through
your works, draws you to itself; then, as you leave church
for the noisy streets, you will remain with only one feeling,
that of continuing to immerse yourself in God. If your
work is dull or exhausting, take refuge in the inexhaustible
and becalming interest of progressing in the divine life. If
your work enthrals you, then allow the spiritual impulse
which matter communicates to you to enter into your taste
for God whom you know better and desire more under the
veil of his works. Never, at any time, ' whether eating or
drinking ', consent to do anything without first of all
realising its significance and constructive value in Christo
Jesu, and pursuing it with all your might. This is not
simply a commonplace precept for salvation: it is the very
path to sanctity for each man according to his state and
calling. For what is sanctity in a creature if not to adhere
to God with the maximum of his strength? — and what
does that maximum adherence to God mean if not the ful-
filment — in the world organised around Christ — of the
exact function, be it lowly or eminent, to which that
creature is destined both by natural endowment and by
supernatural gift?

Within the Church we observe all sorts of groups whose


members are vowed to the perfect practice of this or that
particular virtue: mercy, detachment, the splendour of the
liturgy, the missions, contemplation. Why should there
not be men vowed to the task of exemplifying, by their lives,
the general sanctification of human endeavour? — men
whose common religious ideal would be to give a full and
conscious explanation of the divine possibilities or demands
which any worldly occupation implies — men, in a word,
who would devote themselves, in the fields of thought, art,
industry, commerce and politics, etc., to carrying out in
the sublime spirit these demands — the basic tasks which
form the very bonework of human society ? Around us the
' natural ' progress which nourishes the sanctity of each
new age is all too often left to the children of the world,
that is to say to agnostics or the irreligious. Unconsciously
or involuntarily such men collaborate in the kingdom of
God and in the fulfilment of the elect: their efforts, going
beyond or correcting their incomplete or bad intentions,
are gathered in by him ' whose energy subjects all things to
itself \ But that is no more than a second best, a temporary
phase in the organisation of human activity. Right from
the hands that knead the dough, to those that consecrate it,
the great and universal Host should be prepared and
handled in a spirit of adoration.

May the time come when men, having been awakened
to a sense of the close bond linking all the movements of this
world in the single, all-embracing work of the Incarnation,
shall be unable to give themselves to any one of their tasks
without illuminating it with the clear vision that their
work — however elementary it may be — is received and put
to good use by a Centre of the universe.

When that comes to pass, there will be little to separate
life in the cloister from the life of the world. And only then
will the action of the children of heaven (at the same time
as the action of the children of the world) have attained the
intended plenitude of its humanity.


b. The humanisation of christian endeavour

The great objection brought against Christianity in our
time, and the real source of the distrust which insulates
entire blocks of humanity from the influence of the Church,
has nothing to do with historical or theological difficulties.
It is the suspicion that our religion makes its followers

' Christianity/ so some of the best of the Gentiles are
inclined to think, * is bad or inferior because it does not lead
its followers to levels of attainment beyond ordinary human
powers; rather it withdraws them from the ordinary ways
of humankind and sets them on other paths. It isolates
them instead of merging them with the mass. Instead of
harnessing them to the common task, it causes them to lose
interest in it. Hence, far from raising them to a higher
level, it diminishes them and makes them false to their
nature. Moreover, don't they admit as much themselves ?
And if one of their religious, or one of their priests, should
happen to devote his life to research in one of the so-called
secular disciplines, he is very careful, as a rule, to point out
that he is only lending himself for a time to serve a passing
whim of scholarly fashion or even something ultimately of
the stuff of illusion, and that simply in order to show that
Christians are not, after all, the stupidest of men. When a
Catholic works with us, we invariably get the impression
that he is doing so in a spirit of condescension. He appears
to be interested, but in fact, because of his religion, he
simply does not believe in the human effort as such. His
heart is not really with us. Christianity nourishes deserters
and false friends: that is what we cannot forgive.'

We have placed this objection, which would be deadly if
it were true, in the mouth of an unbeliever. But has it no
echo, here and there, within the most faithful souls ? What
Christian who has become aware of a sheet of glass insulating
him from his non-believing colleagues, has not asked him-


self uneasily whether he was not on a false tack or had not
actually lost touch with the main current of mankind ?

Without denying that some Christians, by their words
more than their deeds, do give grounds for the reproach of
being, if not the ' enemies ', at least the ' stragglers 9 of the
human race, we can safely assert, after what we said above
concerning the supernatural value of our work on earth,
that their attitude is due to an incomplete understanding
and not at all to some ineradicable flaw in our religion.

How could we be deserters, or sceptical about the future
of the tangible world? How could we be repelled by
human labour? How little you know us ! You suspect us of
not sharing your concern and your hopes and your excite-
ment as you penetrate the mysteries and conquer the forces
of nature. c Feelings of this kind,' you say, ' can only be
shared by men struggling side by side for existence ; where-
as you christians profess to be saved already.' As though for
us as for you, indeed far more than for you, it were not a
matter of life and death that the earth should flourish to the
uttermost of its natural powers. As far as you are con-
cerned (and it is here that you are not yet human enough,
you do not go to the limits of your humanity) it is simply a
matter of the success or failure of a reality which remains
vague and precarious even when conceived in the form of
some super-humanity. For us it is a question in a true sense
of achieving the victory of no less than a God. One thing
is infinitely disappointing, I grant you: far too many
Christians are insufficiently conscious of the c divine *
responsibilities of their lives, and live like other men, giving
only half of themselves, never experiencing the spur or the
intoxication of advancing God's kingdom in every domain
of mankind. But do not blame anything but our weakness:
our faith imposes on us the right and the duty to throw
ourselves into the things of the earth. As much as you, and
even better than you (because, of the two of us, I alone am
in a position to prolong the perspectives of my endeavour to
infinity, in conformity with the requirements of my present
intention), I want to dedicate myself body and soul to the


sacred duty of research. We must test every barrier, try
every path, plumb every abyss. Nihil intentatum . . . God
wills it, who willed that he should have need of it. You are
men, you say? Plus et ego.

Plus et ego. There can be no doubt of it. At a time when
the consciousness of its own powers and possibilities is
legitimately awakening in a mankind now ready to become
adult, one of the first duties of a Christian as an apologist
is to show, by the logic of his religious views and still more
by the logic of his action, that the incarnate God did not
come to diminish in us the glorious responsibility and
splendid ambition that is ours: of fashioning our own self
Once again, non minuit, sed sacravit. No, Christianity is not,
as it is sometimes presented and sometimes practised, an
additional burden of observances and obligations to weigh
down and increase the already heavy load, or to multiply
the already paralysing ties of our life in society. It is, in fact,
a soul of immense power which bestows significance and
beauty and a new lightness on what we are already doing.
It is true that it sets us on the road towards unsuspected
heights. But the slope which leads to these heights is linked
so closely with the one we were already climbing naturally,
that there islaothing so distinctively human in the Christian
(and this is what remains to be considered) as his detach-


There hardly seems room for any dispute between Christians
about what we have so far said about the intrinsic divinis-
ation of human endeavour, since we have confined our-
selves, in establishing it, to taking, in their proper strict
sense, certain universally recognised theoretical and
practical truths and confronting them with each other.

Nevertheless, some readers, though without finding any
specific flaw in our argument, may feel vaguely upset or
uneasy in the face of a christian ideal which lays such stress


on the preoccupations of human development and the
pursuit of earthly improvements. They should bear in
mind that we are still only halfway along the road which
leads to the mountain of the Transfiguration. Up to this
point we have been dealing only with the active part of our
lives. In a moment or two, when we come to the chapter
on passivities and diminishment, the arms of the Cross will
begin to dominate the scene more widely. Let us consider
it for a moment. In the very optimistic and very broaden-
ing attitude which has been roughly sketched above, a true
and deep renunciation lies concealed. Anyone who devotes
himself to human duty according to the christian formula,
though outwardly he may seem to be immersed in the con-
cerns of the earth, is in fact, down to the depths of his being,
a man of great detachment.

Of its very nature work is a manifold instrument of
detachment, provided a man gives himself to it faithfully
and without rebellion. In the first place it implies effort
and a victory over inertia. And then, however interesting
and intellectual it may be (and the more intellectual it is,
the truer this becomes), work is always accompanied by the
painful pangs of birth. Men can only escape the terrible
boredom of monotonous and commonplace duty to find
themselves a prey to the inner tension and the anxieties of
* creation \ To create, or organise, material energy, or
truth, or beauty, brings with it an inner torment which
prevents those who face its hazards from sinking into the
quiet and closed-in life wherein grows the vice of self-
regard and attachment (in the technical sense). An honest
workman not only surrenders his calm and peace once and
for all, but must learn continually to jettison the form which
his labour or art or thought first took, and go in search of
new forms. To pause, so as to bask in or possess results,
would be a betrayal of action. Over and over again he
must go beyond himself, tear himself away from himself,
leaving behind him his most cherished beginnings. And on
that road, which is not so different from the royal road of
the Cross as might appear at first sight, detachment does
not consist only in continually replacing one object with


another of the same order — as miles, on a flat road, replace
miles. By virtue of a marvellous mounting force contained
in things (and which will be analysed in greater detail when
we consider the * spiritual power of matter '), each reality
attained and left behind gives us access to the discovery
and pursuit of an ideal of higher spiritual content. Those
who spread their sails in the right way to the winds of the
earth will always find themselves borne by a current
towards the open seas. The more nobly a man wills and
acts, the more avid he becomes for great and sublime aims
to pursue. He will no longer be content with family,
country and the remunerative aspect of his work. He will
want wider organisations to create, new paths to blaze,
causes to uphold, truths to discover, an ideal to cherish and
defend. So, gradually, the worker no longer belongs to
himself. Little by little the great breath of the universe has
insinuated itself into him through the fissure of his humble
but faithful action, has broadened him, raised him up,
borne him on.

It is in the Christian, provided he knows how to make the
most of the resources of his faith, that these effects will
reach their climax and their crown. As we have seen: from
the point of view of the reality, accuracy and splendour of
the ultimate end towards which we must aim in the least of
our acts, we, disciples of Christ, are the most favoured of
men. The Christian knows that his function is to divinise the
world in Jesus Christ. In him, therefore, the natural
process which drives human action from ideal to ideal and
towards objects ever more internally coherent and com-
prehensive in their embrace, reaches — thanks to the support
of Revelation — its fullest expansion. And in him, con-
sequently, detachment through action should produce its
maximum effectiveness.

And this is perfectly true. The Christian as we have
described him in these pages, is at once the most attached
and the most detached of men. Convinced in a way in
which the 4 worldly ' cannot be of the unfathomable
importance and value concealed beneath the humblest
worldly successes, the Christian is at the same time as


convinced as the hermit of the worthlessness of any success
which is envisaged only as a benefit to himself (or even a
general one) without reference to God. It is God and God
alone whom he pursues through the reality of created
things. For him, interest lies truly in things, but in absolute
dependence upon God's presence in them. The light of
heaven becomes perceptible and attainable to him in the
crystalline transparency of beings. But he wants only this
light, and if the light is extinguished, whether because the
object is out of its true place, or has outlived its function, or
has moved itself, then even the most precious substance is
only ashes in his sight. Similarly, within himself and his
most personal development, it is not himself that he is seek-
ing, but that which is greater than he, to which he knows
that he is destined. In his own view he himself no longer
counts, no longer exists; he has forgotten and lost himself
in the very endeavour which is making him perfect. It is no
longer the atom which lives, but the universe within it.

Not only has he encountered God in the entire field of
his actions in the perceptible world, but in the course of
this first phase of his spiritual development, the divine
milieu which has been uncovered absorbs his powers in the
very proportion in which these laboriously rise above their



While man by the very development of his powers is led to
discover ever vaster and higher aims for his action, he also
tends to be dominated by the object of his conquests and,
like Jacob wrestling with the Angel, he ends by adoring
what he was struggling against. The scale of that which
he has unveiled and unleashed brings him into subjection.
And then, because of his nature as element, he is brought to
recognise that, in the final act that is to unite him to the All,
the two terms of the union are utterly disproportionate.
He, the lesser, has to receive rather than to give. He finds
himself in the grip of what he thought he could grasp.

The Christian, who is by right the first and most human
of men, is more subject than others to this psychological
reversal whereby, in the case of all intelligent creatures, joy
in action imperceptibly melts into desire for submission,
and the exaltation of becoming one's own self into the zeal
to die in another. Having been perhaps primarily alive to
the attractions of union with God through action, he begins
to conceive and then to desire a complementary aspect, an
ulterior phase, in his communion: one in which he would
not develop himself so much as lose himself in God.

He does not have to look far to discover possibilities and
opportunities for fulfilment in this gift of self. They are
offered him at every moment — indeed they besiege him on
all sides in the length and depth of the countless servitudes
which make us servants far more than masters of the

The moment has come to examine the number, the
nature and the possible divinisation, of our passivities.




The passivities of our lives, as we said at the beginning of
this study, form half of human existence. The term means,
quite simply, that that which is not done by us, is, by defini-
tion, undergone.

But this does not in any way prejudge the proportions in
which action and passion possess our inner realm. In fact,
these two parts of our lives — the active and the passive —
are extraordinarily unequal. Seen from our point of view,
the active occupies first place because we prefer it and
because it is more easily perceived. But in the reality of
things the passive is immeasurably the wider and the deeper

In the first place the passivities ceaselessly accompany our
conscious deeds, in the form of reactions which direct,
sustain or oppose our efforts. On this ground alone they
inevitably and precisely coincide with the scope of our
activities. But their sphere of influence extends far beyond
these narrow limits. If we consider the matter carefully we
in fact perceive with a sort of dismay that it is only the fine
point of ourselves that comes up into the light of self-
consciousness and freedom. We know ourselves and set our
own course but within an incredibly small radius of light.
Immediately beyond lies impenetrable darkness, though it
is full of presences — the night of everything that is within
us and around us, without us and in spite of us. In this
darkness, as vast, rich, troubled and complex as the past
and the present of the universe, we are not inert; we react,
because we undergo. But this reaction, which operates
without our control by an unknown prolongation of our
being, is, humanly speaking, still a part of our passivity. In
fact, everything beyond a certain distance is dark, and yet
everything is full of being around us. This is the darkness,
heavy with promises and threats, which the Christian will


have to illuminate and animate with the divine presence.

In the midst of the confused energies which people this
restless night, our mere presence immediately brings about
the formation of two groups which press in upon us and
demand to be treated in very different ways. On one side,
the friendly and favourable forces, those which uphold our
endeavour and point the way to success — the ' passivities
of growth \ On the other side, the hostile powers which
laboriously obstruct our tendencies, hamper or deflect our
progress towards heightened being, and thwart our real or
apparent capacities for development: these are the * passi-
vities of diminishment \

Let us look at each group in turn; let us look them in the
face until, in the depth of their alluring, unrevealing or
hostile gaze, we discern the kindling light of the blessed
countenance of God.


Growth seems so natural to us that we do not, as a matter of
fact, pause to separate from our action the forces which
nourish that action or the circumstances which favour its
success. And yet quid habes quod non accepisti? (what do;st
thou possess that thou hast not previously received ?) We
undergo life as much as we undergo death, if not more.

We must try to penetrate our most secret self, and
examine our being from all sides. Let us try, patiently, to
perceive the ocean of forces to which we are subjected and
in which our growth is, as it were, steeped. This is a
salutary exercise; for the depth and universality of our
dependence on so much altogether outside our control all
go to make up the embracing intimacy of our communion
with the world to which we belong.

. . . And so, for the first time in my life perhaps (although
I am supposed to meditate every day!), I took the lamp
and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relation-

ships where everything seems clear, I went down into my
inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my
power of action emanates. But as I moved further and
further away from the conventional certainties by which
social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that
I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent
a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was
no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when
I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from
beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and
out of it came — arising I know not from where — the current
which I dare to call my life.

What science will ever be able to reveal to man the
origin, nature and character of that conscious power to will
and to love which constitutes his life ? It is certainly not our
effort, nor the effort of anyone around us, which set that
current in motion. And it is certainly not our anxious care,
nor that of any friend of ours, which prevents its ebb or
controls its turbulence. We can, of course, trace back
through generations some of the antecedents of the torrent
which bears us along; and we can, by means of certain
moral and physical disciplines and stimulants, regularise
or enlarge the aperture through which the torrent is re-
leased into us. But neither that geography nor those
artifices help us in theory or in practice to harness the
sources of life. My self is given to me far more than it is
formed by me. Man, Scripture says, cannot add a cubit to
his stature. Still less can he add a unit to the potential of
his love, or accelerate by another unit the fundamental
rhythm which regulates the ripening of his mind and heart.
In the last resort the profound life, the fontal life, the new-
born life, escape our grasp entirely.

Stirred by my discovery, I then wanted to return to the
light of day and forget the disturbing enigma in the
comfortable surroundings of familiar things — to begin
living again at the surface without imprudently plumbing
the depths of the abyss. But then, beneath this very spec-
tacle of the turmoil of life, there reappeared, before my
newly-opened eyes, the unknown that I wanted to escape.


This time it was not hiding at the bottom of an abyss; it
disguised its presence in the innumerable strands which
form the web of chance, the very stuff of which the universe
and my own small individuality are woven. Yet it was the
same mystery without a doubt: I recognised it. Our mind
is disturbed when we try to plumb the depth of the world
beneath us. But it reels still more when we try to number
the favourable chances which must coincide at every
moment if the least of living things is to survive and to
succeed in its enterprises. After the consciousness of being
something other and something greater than myself— a
second thing made me dizzy: namely, the supreme im-
probability, the tremendous unlikelihood of finding myself
existing in the heart of a world that has survived and
succeeded in being a world.

At that moment, as anyone else will find who cares to
make this same interior experiment, I felt the distress
characteristic to a particle adrift in the universe, the distress
which makes human wills founder daily under the crushing
number of living things and of stars. And if something saved
me, it was hearing the voice of the Gospel, guaranteed by
divine successes, speaking to me from the depth of the
night: ego sum, noli timere (It is I, be not afraid).

Tes, God, I believe it: and I believe it all the more willingly
because it is not only a question of my being consoled, but of my
being completed: it is you who are at the origin of the impulse,
and at the end of that continuing pull which all my life long lean do
no other than follow, or favour the first impulse and its developments.
And it is you who vivify, for me, with your omnipresence {even
more than my spirit vivifies the matter which it animates), the myriad
influences of which I am the constant object. In the life which wells
up in me and in the matter which sustains me, I find much more
than your gifts. It is you yourself whom I find, you who makes
me participate in your being, you who moulds me. Truly in the
ruling and in the first disciplining of my living strength, in the
continually beneficent play of secondary causes, I touch, as near
as possible, the two faces of your creative action, and I encounter,
and kiss, your two marvellous hands — the one which holds us
so firmly that it is merged, in us, with the sources of life, and


the other whose embrace is so wide that, at its slightest pressure,
all the springs of the universe respond harmoniously together. By
their very nature, these blessed passivities which are, for me, the
will to be, the wish to be thus and thus, and the chance of ful-
filling myself according to my desire, are all charged with your
influence — an influence which will shortly appear more distinctly
to me as the organising energy of the mystical body. In order to
communicate with you in them in a fontal communion (a com-
munion in the sources of Life), I have only to recognise you in
them, and to ask you to be ever more present in them.

God, whose call precedes the very first of our movements,
grant me the desire to desire being — that, by means of that divine
thirst which is your gift, the access to the great waters may open
wide within me. Do not deprive me of the sacred taste for being,
that primordial energy, that very first of our points of rest : Spiritu
principali confirma me. And you whose loving wisdom forms me
out of all the forces and all the hazards of the earth, grant that I
may begin to sketch the outline of a gesture whose full power will
only be revealed to me in presence of the forces of diminishment and
death; grant that, after having desired, I may believe, and believe
ardently and above all things, in your active presence.

Thanks to you, that expectation and that faith are already full
of operative virtue. But how am I to set about showing you and
proving to myself, through some external effort, that I am not one of
those who say Lord, Lord! with their lips only? I shall work
together with your action which ever forestalls me, and will do so
doubly. First, to your deep inspiration which commands me to be,
I shall respond by taking great care never to stifle nor distort nor waste
my power to love and to do. Next, to your all-embracing providence
which shows me at each moment, by the day's events, the next step
to take and the next rung to climb, I shall respond by my care never
to miss an opportunity of rising * towards the level of spirit \

The life of each one of us is, as it were, woven of those
two threads : the thread of inward development, through
which our ideas and affections and our human and religious
attitudes are gradually formed; and the thread of outward
success by which we always find ourselves at the exact point
where the whole sum of the forces of the universe meet
together to work in us the effect which God desires.


God, that at all times you may find me as you desire me and
where you would have me be, that you may lay hold on me fully,
both by the Within and the Without of myself, grant that I may
never break this double thread of my life.


To cleave to God hidden beneath the inward and outward
forces which animate our being and sustain it in its develop-
ment, is ultimately to open ourselves to, and put trust in, all
the breaths of life. We answer to, and * communicate *
with, the passivities of growth by our fidelity in action.
Hence by our very desire to experience God passively we
find ourselves brought back to the lovable duty of growth.
The moment has come to plumb the decidedly negative
side of our existences — the side on which, however far we
search, we cannot discern any happy result or any solid
conclusion to what happens to us. It is easy enough to
understand that God can be grasped in and through every
life. But can God also be found in and through every
death? This is what perplexes us deeply. And yet this is
what we must learn to acknowledge as a matter of settled
habit and practice, unless we abandon all that is most
characteristically christian in the christian outlook; and
unless we are prepared to forfeit commerce with God in
one of the most widespread and at the same time most

1 If, in speaking of evil in this section, we do not mention sin more
explicitly, it is because the aim of the following pages being solely to show
how all things can help the believer to unite himself to God, there is no
need to concern ourselves directly with bad actions, that is, with positive
gestures of disunion. Sin only interests us here in so far as it is a weaken-
ing, a deviation caused by our personal faults (even when repented), or
the pain and the scandal which the faults of others inflict on us. From
this point of view it makes us suffer and can be transformed in the same
way as any other suffering. That is why physical evil and moral evil are
presented here, almost without distinction, in the same chapter on the
passivities of diminishment.


profoundly passive and receptive experiences of human life.

The forces of diminishment are our real passivities. Their
number is vast, their forms infinitely varied, their influence
constant. In order to clarify our ideas and direct our
meditation we will divide them into two groups correspond-
ing to the two forms under which we considered the forces
of growth: the diminishments whose origin lies within us,
and the diminishments whose origin lies outside us.

The external passivities of diminishment are all our bits
of ill fortune. We have only to look back on our lives to see
them springing up on all sides: the barrier which blocks
our way, the wall that hems us in, the stone which throws us
from our path, the obstacle that breaks us, the invisible
microbe that kills the body, the little word that infects the
mind, all the incidents and accidents of varying importance
and varying kinds, the tragic interferences (upsets, shocks,
severances, deaths) which come between the world of
c other ' things and the world that radiates out from us.
And yet when hail, fire and thieves had taken everything
from Job — all his wealth and all his family — Satan could
say to God: ' Skin for skin, and all that a man hath he will
give for his life. But put forth thy hand, and touch his
bone and his flesh: and then thou shalt see that he will
bless thee to thy face. 5 In a sense the loss of things means
little to us because we can always imagine getting them
back. What is terrible for us is to be cut off from things
through some inward diminishment that can never be

Humanly speaking, the internal passivities of diminish-
ment form the darkest element and the most despairingly
useless years of our life. Some were waiting to pounce on us
as we first awoke: natural failings, physical defects, intel-
lectual or moral weaknesses, as a result of which the field of
our activities, of our enjoyment, of our vision, has been
pitilessly limited since birth. Others were lying in wait for
us later on and appeared as suddenly and brutally as an
accident, or as stealthily as an illness. All of us one day or
another will come to realise, if we have not already done so,
that one or other of these sources of disintegration has


lodged itself in the very heart of our lives. Sometimes it is
the cells of the body that rebel or become diseased; at
other times the very elements of our personality seem to be
in conflict or to detach themselves from any sort of order.
And then we impotently stand by and watch collapse,
rebellion and inner tyranny, and no friendly influence can
come to our help. And if by chance we escape, to a greater
or lesser extent, the critical forms of these assaults from
without which appear deep within us and irresistibly
destroy the strength, the light and the love by which we
live, there still remains that slow, essential deterioration
which we cannot escape : old age little by little robbing us
of ourselves and pushing us on towards the end. Time,
which postpones possession, time which tears us away from
enjoyment, time which condemns us all to death — what a
formidable passivity is the passage of time. . . .

In death, as in an ocean, all our slow or swift diminish-
ments flow out and merge. Death is the sum and con-
summation of all our diminishments : it is evil itself —
purely physical evil, in so far as it results organically in the
manifold structure of that physical nature in which we are
immersed — but a moral evil too, in so far as in the society to
which we belong, or in ourselves, the wrong use of our free-
dom, by spreading disorder, converts this manifold com-
plexity of our nature into the source of all evil and all cor-

We must overcome death by finding God in it. And by
the same token, we shall find the divine established in our
innermost hearts, in the last stronghold which might have
seemed able to escape his reach.

Here again, as in the case of the c divinisation ' of our
human activities, we shall find the christian faith absolutely
explicit in what it claims to be the case, and what it bids us
do. Christ has conquered death, not only by suppressing its
evil effects, but by reversing its sting. By virtue of Christ's
rising again, nothing any longer kills inevitably but every-
thing is capable of becoming the blessed touch of the divine
hands, the blessed influence of the will of God upon our


lives. However marred by our faults, or however desperate
in its circumstances, our position may be, we can, by a
total re-ordering, completely correct the world that
surrounds us, and resume our lives in a favourable sense.
Diligentibus Deum omnia convertuntur in bonum. That is the
fact which dominates all explanation and all discussion.

But here again, as in the matter of the saving value of our
human endeavour, our mind wants to validate to itself its
hopes so as to surrender to them more completely.

Quomodo Jiet istud? This study is all the more necessary
because the christian attitude to evil lends itself to some
very dangerous misunderstandings. A false interpretation
of christian resignation, together with a false idea of
christian detachment, is the principal source of the antag-
onisms which mate a great many Gentiles so sincerely hate
the Gospel.

Let us ask ourselves how, and in what circumstances, our
apparent deaths, that is to say the waste-matter of our
existences, can find their necessary place in the establish-
ment, around us, of the kingdom of God and the milieu of
God. It will help us to do this if we thoughtfully distinguish
two phases, two periods, in the process which culminates in
the transfiguration of our diminishments. The first of these
phases is that of our struggle against evil. The second is that
of defeat and of its transfiguration.

A. Our struggle with God against evil

When a Christian suffers, he says ' God has touched me.'
The words are pre-eminently true, though their simplicity
summarises a very complex series of spiritual operations;
and it is only when we have gone right through that whole series of
operations that we have the right to speak those words. For
if, in the course of our encounters with evil, we try to dis-
tinguish what the Schoolmen term c the instants of nature %
we shall have, on the contrary, to begin by saying ' God
wants to free me from this diminishment — God wants me


to help him to take this cup from me.' To struggle against
evil and to reduce to a minimum even the ordinary physical
evil which threatens us, is unquestionably the first act of our
Father who is in heaven; it would be impossible to conceive
him in any other way, and still more impossible to love

It is a perfectly correct view of things — and strictly con-
sonant with the Gospel- — to regard Providence across the
ages as brooding over the world in ceaseless effort to spare
that world its bitter wounds and to bind up its hurts. Most
certainly it is God himself who, in the course of the cen-
turies, awakens the great benefactors of humankind, and
the great physicians, in ways that agree with the general
rhythm of progress. He it is who inspires, even among those
furthest from acknowledging his existence, the quest for
every means of comfort and every means of healing. Do not
men acknowledge by instinct this divine presence when
hatreds are quenched and their protesting uncertainty
resolved as they kneel to thank each one of those who have
helped their body or their mind to freedom? Can there be
any doubt of it ? At the first approach of the diminishments
we cannot hope to find God except by loathing what is
coming upon us and doing our best to avoid it. The more
we repel suffering at that moment, with our whole heart
and our whole strength, 2 the more closely we cleave to the
heart and action of God.

b. Our apparent failure and its transfiguration

With God as our ally we are always certain of saving our
souls. But we know too well that there is no guarantee that

2 Without bitterness and without revolt, of course, but with an antici-
patory tendency to acceptance and final resignation. It is obviously difficult
to separate the two ' instants of nature' without to some extent distorting
them in describing them. But there is this to note : the necessity of the
initial stage of resistance to evil is clear, and everyone admits it. The
failure that follows on laziness, the illness contracted as a result of un-
justified imprudence, could not be regarded by anyone as being the
immediate will of God.


we shall always avoid suffering or even those inward defeats
on account of which we can imagine our lives to ourselves as
failures. In any event, all of us are growing old and all of
us will die. This means to say that, however fine our resis-
tance, at some moment or other we feel the constraining
grip of the forces of diminishment, against which we were
fighting, gradually gaining mastery over the forces of life,
and dragging us, physically vanquished, to the ground.
But how can we be defeated if God is fighting on our side ?
or what does this defeat mean?

The problem of evil, that is to say the reconciling of our
failures, even the purely physical ones, with creative good-
ness and creative power, will always remain one of the most
disturbing mysteries of the universe for both our hearts and
our minds. A full understanding of the suffering of God's
creatures (like that of the pains of the damned) presupposes
in us an appreciation of the nature and value of c partici-
pated being ' which, for lack of any point of comparison,
we cannot have. Yet this much we can see: on the one
hand, the work which God has undertaken in uniting
himself intimately to created beings presupposes in them a
slow preparation in the course of which they {who already
exist, but are not yet complete) cannot of their nature avoid the
risks (increase?! by an original fault) involved in the im-
perfect ordering of the manifold, in them and around them;
and on the other hand, because the final victory of good
over evil can only be completed in the total organisation of
the world, our infinitely short individual lives could not
hope to know the joy, here below, of entry into the Promised
Land. We are like soldiers who fall during the assault
which leads to peace. God does not therefore suffer a pre-
liminary defeat in our defeat because, although we appear
to succumb individually, the world, in which we shall live
again, triumphs in and through our deaths.

But this first aspect of his victory, which is enough to
assure us of his omnipotence, is made complete by another
disclosure — perhaps more direct and in every case more
immediately experienceable by each of us — of his universal


authority. In virtue of his very perfections, 8 God cannot
ordain that the elements of a world in the course of growth
— or at least of a fallen world in the process of rising again —
should avoid shocks and diminishments, even moral ones:
necessarium est ut scandala eveniant. But God will make it good
— he will take his revenge, if one may use the expression —
by making evil itself serve a higher good of his faithful, the
very evil which the present state of creation does not allow
him to suppress immediately. Like an artist who is able to
make use of a fault or an impurity in the stone he is sculpt-
ing or the bronze he is casting so as to produce more
exquisite lines or a more beautiful tone, God, without
sparing us the partial deaths, nor the final death, which
form an essential part of our lives, transfigures them by
integrating them in a better plan — provided we lovingly trust in
him. Not only our unavoidable ills but our faults, even our
most deliberate ones, can be embraced in that trans-
formation, provided always we repent of them. Not every-
thing is immediately good to those who seek God; but
everything is capable of becoming good: omnia convertuntur
in bonumA

What is the process and what are the phases by which
God accomplishes this marvellous transformation of our
deaths into a better life? Drawing on analogies from what
we know how to bring about ourselves, and reflecting on the
constant attitude and practical teaching of the Church
with regard to human suffering, we may perhaps hazard an
answer to this question.

It could be said that Providence, for those who believe in
it, converts evil into good in three principal ways. Some-
times the check we have undergone will divert our activity
on to objects, or towards a framework, that are more pro-
pitious — though still situated on the level of the human ends

8 Because his perfections cannot run counter to the nature of things,
and because a world, assumed to be progressing towards perfection, or
* rising upward*, is of its nature precisely still partially disorganised. A
world without a trace or a threat of evil would be a world already con-

4 On the 'miraculous' effects of faith, see p. 136. There is obviously
no intention of giving a general theory of prayer here.


we are pursuing. That is what happened with Job, whose
final happiness was greater than his first. At other times,
more often perhaps, the loss which afflicts us will oblige us
to turn for the satisfaction of our frustrated desires to less
material fields, which neither worm nor rust can corrupt.
The lives of the saints and, generally speaking, the lives of
all those who have been outstanding for intelligence or
goodness, are full of these instances in which one can see the
man emerging ennobled, tempered and renewed from some
ordeal, or even some downfall, which seemed bound to
diminish or lay him low for ever. Failure in that case plays
for us the part that the elevator plays for an aircraft or the
pruning knife for a plant. It canalises the sap of our inward
life, disengages the purest * components ' of our being in
such a way as to make us shoot up higher and straighter.
The collapse, even when a moral one, is thus transformed
into a success which, however spiritual it may be is, never-
theless, felt experimentally. In the presence of St. Augustine,
St. Mary Magdalen or St. Lydwine, no one hesitates to
think felix dolor or felix culpa. With the result that, up to
this point, we still * understand * Providence.

But there are more difficult cases (the most common ones,
in fact) where human wisdom is altogether out of its depth.
At every moment we see diminishment, both in us and
around us, which does not seem to be compensated by
advantages on any perceptible plane: premature deaths,
stupid accidents, weaknesses affecting the highest reaches
of our being. Under blows such as these, man does not
move upward in any direction that we can perceive; he
disappears or remains grievously diminished. How can
these diminishments which are altogether without com-
pensation, wherein we see death at its most deathly, be-
come for us a good ? This is where we can see the third way
in which Providence operates in the domain of our diminish-
ments — the most effective way and the way which most
surely makes us holy.

God, as we have seen, has already transfigured our
sufferings by making them serve our conscious fulfilment.
In his hands the forces of diminishment have perceptibly


become the tool that cuts, carves and polishes within us the
stone which is destined to occupy a definite place in the
heavenly Jerusalem. But he will do still more, for, as a
result of his omnipotence impinging upon our faith, events
which show themselves experimentally in our lives as pure
loss will become an immediate factor in the union we
dream of establishing with him.

Uniting oneself means, in every case, migrating, and
dying partially in what one loves. But if, as we are sure, this
being reduced to nothing in the other must be all the more
complete the more we give our attachment to one who is
greater than ourselves, then we can set no limits to the
tearing up of roots that is involved on our journey into
God. The progressive breaking-down of our self-regard by
the ' automatic * broadening of our human perspectives
(analysed above on p. 72), when accompanied by the
gradual spiritualisation of our tastes and aspirations under
the impact of certain setbacks, is no doubt a very real fore-
taste of that leap out of ourseWes which must in the end
deliver us from the bondage of ourselves into the service of
the divine sovereignty. Yet the effect of this initial detach-
ment is for the moment only to develop the centre of our
personality to its utmost limits. Arrived at that ultimate
point we may still have the impression of possessing our-
selves in a supreme degree — of being freer and more active
than ever. We have not yet crossed the critical point of our
ex-centration, of our reversion to God. There is a further
step to take: the one that makes us lose all foothold within
ourselves — oportet ilium crescere, me autem minui. We are still not
lost to ourselves. What will be the agent of that definitive
transformation ? Nothing else than death.

In itself, death is an incurable weakness of corporeal
beings, complicated, in our world, by the influence of an
original fall. It is the sum and type of all the forces that
diminish us, and against which we must fight without being
able to hope for a personal, direct and immediate victory.
Now the great victory of the Creator and Redeemer, in the
christian vision, is to have transformed what is in itself a


universal power of diminishment and extinction into an
essentially life-giving factor. God must, in some way or
other, make room for himself, hollowing us out and empty-
ing us, if he is finally to penetrate into us. And in order to
assimilate us in him, he must break the molecules of our
being so as to re-cast and re-model us. The function of death
is to provide the necessary entrance into our inmost selves.
It will make us undergo the required dissociation. It "will
put us into the state organically needed if the divine fire is
to descend upon us. And in that way its fatal power to
decompose and dissolve will be harnessed to the most
sublime operations of life. What was by nature empty and
void, a return to bits and pieces, can, in any human
existence, become fullness and unity in God.

c. Communion through diminishment

It was a joy to me, God, in the midst of the struggle, to feel that
in developing myself I was increasing the hold that you have upon
me; it was a joy to me, too, under the inward thrust of life or
amid the favourable play of events, to abandon myself to your
providence. Now that I have found the joy of utilising all forms
of growth to make you, or to let you, grow in me, grant that I
may willingly consent to this last phase of communion in the course
of which I shall possess you by diminishing in you.

After having perceived you as he who is ' a greater myself \
grant, when my hour comes, that I may recognise you under the
species of each alien or hostile force that seems bent upon destroying
or uprooting me. When the signs of age begin to mark my body
(and still more when they touch my mind) ; when the ill that is to
diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within
me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken
to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last
moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely
passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have
formed me; in all those dark moments, God, grant that I may
understand that it is you {provided only my faith is strong enough)


who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate
to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within

The more deeply and incurably the evil is encrusted in my flesh,
the more it will be you that I am harbouring— you as a loving, active
principle of purification and detachment. The more the future opens
before me like some dizzy abyss or dark tunnel, the more confident I
may be — if I venture forward on the strength of your word — of losing
myself and surrendering myself in you, of being assimilated by your
body, Jesus.

Tou are the irresistible and vivifying force, Lord, and because
yours is the energy, because, of the two of us, you are infinitely
the stronger, it is on you that falls the part of consuming me in the
union that should weld us together. Vouchsafe, therefore, some"
thing more precious still than the grace for which all the faithful
pray. It is not enough that I should die while communicating.
Teach me to treat my death as an act of communion.

d. True resignation

The above analysis (in which we have tried to distinguish
the phases by which our diminishments may be divinised)
has helped us to validate to ourselves the christian formula,
which is so comforting to those who suffer, ' God has
touched me, God has taken away from me. His will be
done.' As a result of this analysis we have understood how
the two hands of God can reappear, more active and more
penetrating than ever, beneath the evils that corrupt us
from within, and the blows that break us up from without.
But the analysis has a further result, almost as priceless as
the first. It puts those of us who are Christians in a position
to justify to those who are not Christians the legitimacy and
the human value of resignation.

There are many reasonable men who honestly consider
and denounce christian resignation as being one of the most
dangerous and soporific elements in ' the opium of the
people \ Next to disgust with the earth, there is no attitude
which the Gospel is so bitterly reproached with having


fostered as that of passivity in the face of evil — a passivity
which can go as far as a perverse cultivation of suffering and
diminishment. As we have already said, with reference to
* false detachment * : this accusation, or even suspicion, is
infinitely more effective, at this moment, in preventing the
conversion of the world than all the objections drawn from
science or philosophy. A religion which is judged to be
inferior to our human ideal — in spite of the marvels by
which it is surrounded — is already condemned. It is therefore
of supreme importance for the Christian to understand and
live submission to the will of God in the active sense which,
as we have said, is the only orthodox sense.

No, if he is to practise to the full the perfection of his
Christianity, the Christian must not falter in his duty to
resist evil. On the contrary, during the first phase, as we
have seen, he must fight sincerely and with all his strength,
in union with the creative force of the world, to drive back
evil — so that nothing in him or around him may be
diminished. During this initial phase, the believer is the
convinced ally of all those who think that humanity will not
succeed unless it strives with all its might to realise its
potentialities. And as we said with reference to human
development, the believer is more closely tied than anyone
to this great task, because in his eyes the victory of humanity
over the diminishments of the world — even physical and
natural — to some extent conditions the fulfilment and con-
summation of the quite specific Reality which he adores.
As long as resistance is possible, the son of heaven will resist
too — as firmly as the most worldly children of the world —
everything that deserves to be scattered or destroyed.

Should he meet with defeat — the personal defeat which
no human being can hope to escape in his brief single com-
bat with forces whose order of magnitude and evolution
are universal — he will, like the conquered pagan hero, still
inwardly resist. Though he is stifled and constrained, his
efforts will still be sustained. At that point, however, he
will see a new realm of possibilities open out before him,
instead of having nothing to compensate for and master his
coming death except the melancholy and questionable


consolation of stoicism (which, if carefully analysed, would
probably prove in the end to owe its beauty and consistency
to a despairing faith in the value of sacrifice) . This hostile force
that lays him low and disintegrates him can become for
him a loving principle of renewal, if he accepts it with faith
while never ceasing to struggle against it. On the experi-
mental plane, everything is lost. But in the realm of the
supernatural, as it is called, there is a further dimension which
allows God to achieve, insensibly, a mysterious reversal of
evil into good. Leaving the zone of human successes and
failures behind him, the Christian accedes by an effort of
trust in the greater than himself to the region of supra-
sensible transformations and growth. His resignation is no
more than the thrust which lifts the field of his activity

We have come a long way, christianly speaking, from the
justly criticised notion of ' submission to the will of God '
which is in danger of weakening and softening the fine steel
of the human will, brandished against all the powers of
darkness and diminishment. We must understand this well
and cause it to be understood: to find and to do the will of
God (even as we diminish and as we die) does not imply
either a direct encounter or a passive attitude. I have no
right to regard the evil that comes upon me through my
own negligence or fault as being the touch of God. 6 I can
only unite myself to the will of God (as endured passively)
when all my strength is spent, at the point where my activity,
fully extended and straining towards betterment (under-
stood in ordinary human terms), finds itself continually
counter-weighted by forces tending to halt me or over-
whelm me. Unless I do everything I can to advance or
resist, I shall not find myself at the required point — I shall
not submit to God as much as I might have done or as
much as he wishes. If, on the contrary, I persevere courage-
ously, I shall rejoin God across evil, deeper down than evil;

6 Though the harm which results from my negligence can become
the will of God for me on condition I repent and correct my lazy or
indifferent attitude of mind. Everything can be taken up again and re-
cast in God, even one's faults.

I shall draw close to him; and at that moment the optimum
of my * communion in resignation ' necessarily coincides
(by definition) with the maximum of fidelity to the human


It is interesting to compare these pages on 'the divinisation of the
activities and passivities' with the following clarifications taken from a
letter written shortly before Le Milieu Divin, in which the author sets out
his spiritual doctrine to Pere Auguste Valensin, one of his closest friends:

I agree, fundamentally, that the completion of the world is only con-
summated through a death, a 'night', a reversal, an ex-centration, and a
quasi-depersonalisation. . . . Union with Christ presupposes essentially
that we transpose the ultimate centre of our existence into him — which
implies the radical sacrifice of egoism. . • .


If Christ is to take possession of all my life — of all life — then it is
essential that I should grow in him not only by means of the ascetic
constraints and the supremely unifying severances of suffering, but also
by means of everything that my existence brings with it of positive effort,
and the perfecting of my nature.

The formula for renunciation, if it is to be total, must satisfy two

1 . It must enable us to go beyond everything there is in the world

2. And yet at the. same time compel us to press forward (with con-
viction and passion) the development of this same world.

Speaking in general, Christ gives himself to us through the world
which is to be consummated in relation to him.

You should note the following point carefully: I do not attribute any
definitive or absolute value to the varied constructions of nature. What
I like about them is not their particular form, but their function, which
is to build up mysteriously, first what can be divinised, and then, through
the grace of Christ coming down upon our endeavour, what is divine. . . .

To sum up, complete christian endeavour consists, in my view, in three
things :

1. collaborating passionately in the human effort in the conviction
that, not only through our fidelity and obedience, but also through
the work realised, we are working for the fulfilment of the Pleroma
by preparing its more or less near-to-our-hand material .

2. in the course of this hard labour, and in the pursuit of an ever
widening ideal, achieving a preliminary form of renunciation and
of victory over a narrow and lazy egoism


3. cherishing the 'hollownesses' as well as the * fullnesses* of life —
that is to say its passivities and the providential diminishments
through which Christ transforms directly and eminently into him-
self the elements and the personality which we have tried to de-
velop for him. . . .
In that way detachment and human endeavour are harmonised. It
should be added that the ways in which they can be combined are
infinitely varied. There is an infinity of vocations. Within the Church
there are St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Vincent de Paul side by side with
St. John of the Cross. There is a time for growth and a time for diminish-
ment in the lives of each one of us. At one moment the dominant note is
one of constructive human effort, and at another mystical annihila-
tion. • • •

All these attitudes spring from the same inner orientation of the mind,
from a single law which combines the twofold movement of the natural
personalisation of man and his supernatural depersonalisation in
Christo. • • •



Having observed the progressive invasion of divinisation
into the active and passive halves of our lives, we are now in
a position to take a general view of the heavenly layers into
which this tide of light has plunged us. That will form the
third part of this work.

But before setting ourselves to contemplate the divine
milieu, we must, for the sake of clarity, sum up in general
terms the ascetic doctrine running through the preceding

We shall do this in three sections under the following
headings: i. Attachment and detachment; 2. The
meaning of the Cross; 3. The spiritual power of matter.


Nemo dat quod non habet. No sweet-smelling smoke without
incense. No sacrifice without a victim. How would man
give himself to God if he did not exist? What possesssion
could he transfigure by his detachment if his hands were

These common-sense observations enable us to solve, in
principle, the question which is formulated often rather
clumsily in the following terms : ' Which is better for a
Christian: activity or passivity? Life or death? Growth or
diminishment ? Development or curtailment? Possession
or renunciation ? '

The general answer to this is : ' Why separate and con-
trast the two natural phases of a single effort ? Your essen-
tial duty and desire is to be united with God. But in order



to be united, you must first of all be — be yourself as com-
pletely as possible. And so you must develop yourself and
take possession of the world in order to be. Once this has been
accomplished, then is the time to think about renunciation;
then is the time to accept diminishment for the sake of
being in another. Such is the sole and twofold precept of
complete christian asceticism. 5

Let us consider the two terms of this method more closely,
and observe their particular interplay and the resulting

A. First, develop yourself ^ Christianity says to the Christian

Books about the spiritual life do not generally throw this
first phase of christian perfection into clear enough relief.
Perhaps it seems too obvious to deserve mention, or seems
to belong too completely to the c natural ' sphere, or
possibly it is too dangerous to be insisted upon — whatever
the reason, these books usually remain silent on the subject
or take it for granted. This is a fault and an omission.
Although the majority of people understand it easily
enough, and although its essentials are common to the
ethics of both layman and religious, the duty of human
perfection, like the whole universe, has been renewed, re-
cast, supernaturalised, in the kingdom of God. It is a

1 ' First', in this sense, clearly indicates a priority in nature as much as,
or more than, a priority in time. The true Christian should obviously
never be purely and simply attached to whatever it may be, because the
contact he seeks with things is always made with a view to transcending
them or transfiguring them. So that when we speak here of being at-
tached, we mean something penetrated and dominated by detachment.
(See below in the text.)

Nevertheless, the use and proportion of development in the spiritual life
are very delicate matters, for nothing is easier than to pursue one's
selfish interests under cover of growing and of loving in God. The only
real protection against that dangerous illusion is a constant concern to
keep very much alive (with God's help) the impassioned vision of the
Greater than All. In the presence of that supreme interest, the very idea of
growing or enjoying egotistically, for oneself, becomes insipid and


truly christian duty to grow, even in the eyes of men, and
to make one's talents bear fruit, even though they be
natural. It is part of the essentially Catholic vision to look
upon the world as maturing — not only in each individual
or in each nation, but in the whole human race — a specific
power of knowing and loving whose transfigured term is
charity, but whose roots and elemental sap lie in the dis-
covery and the love of everything that is true and beautiful
in creation. This has already been explained with reference
to the christian value of action; but here is the place to
recall it: the effort of mankind, even in realms inaccurately
called profane, must, in the christian life, assume the role of
a holy and unifying operation. It is the collaboration,
trembling with love, which we give to the hands of God,
concerned to attire and prepare us (and the world) for the
final union through sacrifice. Understood in this way, the
care which we devote to personal achievement and em-
bellishment is no more than a gift begun. And that is why
the attachment to creatures which it appears to denote
melts imperceptibly into complete detachment.

b. And if you possess something, Christ says in
the Gospel, leave it and follow me

Up to a certain point the believer who, understanding the
christian meaning of development, has worked to mould
himself and the world for God, will hardly need to hear the
second injunction before beginning to obey it. Anyone
whose aim, in conquering the earth, has really been to
subject a little more matter to spirit has, surely, begun to
take leave of himself at the same time as taking possession of
himself. This is also true of the man who rejects mere
enjoyment, the line of least resistance, the easy possession
of things and ideas, and sets out courageously on the path
of work, inward renewal and the ceaseless broadening and
purification of his ideal. And it is true, again, of the man
who has given his time, his health, or his life, to something
greater than himself — a family to be supported, a country


to be saved, a truth to be discovered, a cause to be defended.
All these men are continually passing from attachment to
detachment as they faithfully mount the ladder of human

There are, however, two forms of renunciation which are
reserved, and the Christian will not embark upon them
except at the invitation or on the express order of his
Creator. We refer to the practice of the evangelical counsels
and the use of diminishments, neither of which is justified
by the pursuit of a clearly defined higher good.

Where the first are concerned, no-one will deny that the
religious life (which was also discovered, and is still
practised, outside Christianity) can be a normal and
* natural * flowering of human activity in search of a higher
life. Nevertheless the practice of the virtues of poverty,
chastity and obedience does represent the beginnings of a
flight beyond the normal spheres of earthly, procreative
and conquering humanity; and for this reason they had to
wait, before becoming generally valid and licit, for a Due in
Altum to authenticate the aspirations maturing in the
human soul. That authorisation was given once and for all
in the Gospel by the Master of things. But it must also be
heard individually by those who are to benefit from it:
it is * vocation '.

With the practice of the forces of diminishment, the
initiative must, even more clearly, come entirely from God.
Man can and should make use of penances of some kind to
organise the hierarchy of, and liberate, the lower powers
within him. He can and should sacrifice himself when a
greater interest claims him. But he has not the right to
diminish himself for the sake of diminishing himself.
Voluntary mutilation, even when conceived as a method of
inward liberation, is a crime against being, and Christianity
has always explicitly condemned it. The Church's most
firmly established teaching is that it is our duty as creatures
to try and live more and more by the higher parts of our-
selves, in conformity with the aspirations of the present life.
That alone is our concern. The rest belongs to the wisdom


of him who alone can bring forth another life from every
form of death.

There is no need to be wildly impatient. The Master of
death will come soon enough — and perhaps we can already
hear his footsteps. There is no need to forestall his hour nor
to fear it. When he enters into us to destroy, as it seems, the
virtues and the forces that we have distilled with so much
loving care out of the sap of the world, it will be as a loving
fire to consummate our completion in union.

c. Thus, in the general rhythm of christian life,

development and renunciation, attachment and

detachment, are not mutually exclusive

On the contrary, they harmonise, like breathing in and out
in the movement of our lungs. They are two phases of the
soul's breath, or two components of the impulse by which
the christian life uses things as a springboard from which to
mount beyond them. 2

That is the general solution. In the detail of particular
cases, the sequence of these two phases and the combina-
tions of these two components are subject to an infinite
number of subtle variations. Their exact blending calls
for a spiritual tact which is the strength and virtue proper
to the masters of the inner life. In some Christians detach-
ment will always retain the form of disinterestedness and
endeavour, which belongs to human work faithfully carried

2 From this * dynamic ' point of view the opposition so often stressed
between asceticism and mysticism disappears. There is nothing in man's
concern for self-perfection to distract him from his absorption in God,
provided the ascetic effort is simply the beginning of* mystical annihila-
tion \ There is no longer any reason to distinguish between an (ascetic)
' anthropomorphism ' and a (mystical) ' theocentrism ' once the human
centre is seen and loved in conjunction with (that is, in movement
towards) the divine centre. Of course as God takes possession of man,
the creature finally becomes passive (because it finds itself newly created
in the divine union). But that passivity presupposes a subject that reacts
and an active phase. The fire of heaven must come down on something:
otherwise there would be nothing consumed and nothing consummated.


out: the transfiguration of life will be wholly inward. In
others a physical or moral caesura will occur in the course
of their lives which will cause them to pass from the level of
a very holy normal life to the level of elected renunciations
and mystical states. But for all of them, in any event, the
road ends at the same point: the final stripping in death
which accompanies the recasting, and is a prelude to the
final incorporation, in Christo Jesu. And for all of them
again, what makes or mars their life is the degree of har-
mony with which the two factors of growing for Christ,
and diminishing in him, are combined in the light of the
natural and supernatural aptitudes involved. It would
clearly be as absurd to prescribe unlimited development or
renunciation as it would be to set no bounds to eating or
fasting. In the spiritual life, as in all organic processes,
everyone has their optimum and it is just as harmful to go
beyond it as not to attain it. 3

What has been said of individuals must be transposed
and applied to the Church as a whole. It is probable that
the Church is led, at different times in the course of her
existence, to emphasise in her general life now a greater
care to collaborate in the earthly task, now a more jealous
concern to stress the ultimate transcendence of her pre-
occupations. What is quite certain is that her health and
integrity, at any given moment, depend upon the ex-
actitude with which her members, each in their proper

8 One thus evades the basic problem of the use of creatures if one
solves it by saying that in all cases the least possible should be taken from
them. This minimum theory is no doubt the product of the mistaken
notion that God grows in us by destruction or substitution rather than by
transformation (see note, p. 1 10) or, which comes to the same thing, that
the spiritual potential of the material creation is now exhausted. The
minimum theory may be useful in reducing certain seeming risks; it does
not teach us how to get the maximum spiritual yield from the objects
which surround us — which is what the reign of God really means. The
one absolute rule upon which we can depend in this matter would seem
to be this : * To love in the world, in God, something which may always
become greater.' All the rest is a matter of christian prudence and
individual vocation. See pp. 106 and 107 on the utilisation by each of us
of the spiritual forces in matter.


place, fulfil their functions which range from the duty of
applying themselves to what are reputed to be the most
profane of worldly occupations, to vocations which call for
the most austere penances or the most sublime contempla-
tion. All those different roles are necessary. The Church
is like a great tree whose roots must be energetically
anchored in the earth while its leaves are serenely exposed
to the bright sunlight. In this way she sums up a whole
gamut of beats in a single living and all-embracing act,
each one of which corresponds to a particular degree or a
possible form of spiritualisation.

In the midst of all that diversity there is, however, some-
thing which dominates — something which confers its dis-
tinctively christian character on the organism as a whole (as
well as upon each element in it) : it is the impulse towards
the heavens, the laborious and painful bursting out beyond
matter. It is important to remember (and we have not
finished insisting on it) that the supernatural awaits and
sustains the progress of our nature. But it must not be for-
gotten that it purifies and perfects that progress, in the end,
only in an apparent annihilation. The inseparable alliance
between the two terms, personal progress and renunciation
in God; but also the continual, and then final, ascendency
of the second over the first — it is these that sum up the full
meaning of the mystery of the Cross.


The Cross has always been a symbol of conflict, and a
principle of selection, among men. The Faith tells us that
it is by the willed attraction or repulsion exercised upon
souls by the Cross that the sorting of the good seed from the
bad, the separation of the chosen elements from the un-
utilisable ones, is accomplished at the heart of mankind.
Wherever the Cross appears, unrest and antagonisms are
inevitable. But there is no reason why these conflicts


should be needlessly exacerbated by preaching the doctrine
of Christ crucified in a discordant or provocative manner.
Far too often the Gross is presented for our adoration, not
so much as a sublime end to be attained by our transcend-
ing ourselves, but as a symbol of sadness, of limitation and

This way of preaching the Passion is, in many cases,
merely the result of the clumsy use of pious vocabulary in
which the most solemn words (sacrifice, immolation,
expiation), emptied of their meaning by routine, are used,
quite unconsciously, in a light and frivolous way. They
become formulas to be juggled with. But this manner of
speech ends by conveying the impression that the kingdom
of God can only be established in mourning, and by
thwarting and going against the current of man's aspira-
tions and energies. In spite of the verbal fidelity displayed
by the use of this kind of language, a picture is presented
that is utterly unchristian. What we said just now about
the necessary combination of attachment and detachment
allows of giving christian asceticism a much richer and a far
more complete meaning.

In its highest and most general sense, the doctrine of the
Cross is that to which all men adhere who believe that the
vast movement and agitation of human life opens on to a
road which leads somewhere, and that that road climbs
upward. Life has a term: therefore it imposes a particular
direction, orientated, in fact, towards the highest possible
spiritualisation by means of the greatest possible effort. To
admit that group of fundamental principles is already to
range oneself among the disciples — distant, perhaps, and
implicit, but nevertheless real — of Christ crucified. Once
that first choice has been made, the first distinction has
been drawn between the brave who will succeed and the
pleasure-seekers who will fail, between the elect and the

This rather vague attitude is clarified and carried further
by Christianity. Above all, by revealing an original fall,
Christianity provides our intelligence with a reason for the
disconcerting excess of sin and suffering at certain points.


Next, in order to win our love and secure our faith, it un-
veils to our eyes and hearts the moving and unfathomable
reality of the historical Christ in whom the exemplary life of
an individual man conceals this mysterious drama: the
Master of the world, leading, like an element of the world,
not only an elemental life, but (in addition to this and be-
cause of it) leading the total life of the universe, which he
has shouldered and assimilated by experiencing it himself.
And finally by the crucifixion and death of this adored
being, Christianity signifies to our thirst for happiness that
the term of creation is not to be sought in the temporal
zones of our visible world, but that the effort required of
our fidelity must be consummated beyond a total trans-
formation of ourselves and of everything surrounding us.

Thus the perspectives of renunciation implied in the
exercise of life itself are gradually expanded. Ultimately
we find ourselves thoroughly uprooted, as the Gospel
desires, from everything perceptible on earth. But the
process of uprooting ourselves has happened little by little
and according to a rhythm which has neither alarmed nor
wounded the respect we owe to the admirable beauties of
the human effort.

It is perfectly true that the Cross means going beyond the
frontiers of the sensible world and even, in a sense, breaking
with it. The final stages of the ascent to which it calls us
compel us to cross a threshold, a critical point, where we
lose touch with the zone of the realities of the senses. That
final ' excess \ glimpsed and accepted from the first steps,
inevitably puts everything we do in a special light and
gives it a particular significance. That is exactly where the
folly of Christianity lies in the eyes of the * wise ' who are
not prepared to stake the good which they now hold in
their hands on a total c beyond \ But that agonising
flight from the experimental zones— which is what the
Cross means — is only (as should be strongly emphasised)
the sublime aspect of a law common to all life. Towards
the peaks, shrouded in mist from our human eyes, whither
the Cross beckons us, we rise by a path which is the way of
universal progress. The royal road of the Cross is no more


nor less than the road of human endeavour supernaturally
righted and prolonged. Once we have fully grasped the
meaning of the Cross, we are no longer in danger of finding
life sad and ugly. We shall simply have become more
attentive to its barely comprehensible solemnity.

To sum up, Jesus on the Cross is both the symbol and the
reality of the immense labour of the centuries which has,
little by little, raised up the created spirit and brought it
back to the depths of the divine milieu. He represents (and
in a true sense, he is) creation, as, upheld by God, it re-
ascends the slopes of being, sometimes clinging to things for
support, sometimes tearing itself from them in order to pass
beyond them, and always compensating, by physical
suffering, for the setbacks caused by its moral downfalls.

The Cross is therefore not inhuman but superhuman.
We can now understand that from the very first, from the
very origins of mankind as we know it, the Cross was placed
on the crest of the road which leads to the highest peaks of
creation. But, in the growing light of Revelation, its arms,
which at first were bare, show themselves to have put on
Christ: Crux inuncta. At first sight the bleeding body may
seem funereal to us. Is it not from the night that it shines
forth ? But if we go nearer we shall recognise the flaming
Seraph of Alvernus whose passion and compassion are
incendium mentis. The Christian is not asked to swoon in the
shadow, but to climb in the light, of the Cross.


In pages that were not, like Le Milieu Divin, intended for c the waverers
both inside and outside ', Pere Teilhard, in the course of a meditation,
freely expressed the capital importance which he attached to the priestly
and religious vocation, to the evangelical counsels, and to the redemptive
power of death. The following short extracts will give an idea of the
substance of his convictions :

Every priest, because he is a priest, has dedicated his life to the


work of universal salvation. If he is conscious of the dignity of his
office, he should no longer live for himself but for the world, following
the example of him whom he is anointed to represent.

To the full extent of my power, because I am a priest 9 1 wish from now
on to be the first to become conscious of all that the world loves,
pursues and suffers ; I want to be the first to seek, to sympathise and to
suffer; the first to open myself out and sacrifice myself — to become
more widely human and more nobly of the earth than any of the
world's servants. ...

At the same time, by the practice of the counsels and through renun-
ciation, I want to recover all that there may be of heavenly fire in the
threefold concupiscence — I want to sanctify, through chastity, poverty
and obedience, the power invested in love, in gold and in independ-

Was there ever a humanity, O Lord, more like, in its blood, an
immolated victim; more adapted, by its inward unrest, to creative
transformations; more rich, with its violence, in sanctifiable energy;
more close, in its anguish, to supreme communion? . . .

priests! Never have you been priests in so full a sense as now,
merged and submerged as you are in the pains and the blood of a
generation — never so active, never so directly on the path of your
vocation. . . .

1 feel so weak, Lord, that I hardly dare ask you to let me participate
in that beatitude. But I perceive it clearly enough, and I proclaim it:

Happy are those of us who, in these decisive days of the Creation
and the Redemption, are chosen for this supreme act, the logical
crowning of their priesthood : communion unto death with Christ,
• • . (From Le PrStre)


The same beam of light which christian spirituality, rightly
and fully understood, directs upon the Cross to humanise it
(without veiling it) is reflected on matter so as to spiritualise

In their struggle towards the mystical life, men have often
succumbed to the illusion of crudely contrasting soul and
body, spirit and flesh, as good and evil. But despite certain
current expressions, this Manichean tendency has never had
the Church's approval. And, in order to prepare the way


for our final view of the divine milieu, perhaps we may be
allowed to vindicate and exalt that aspect of it which the
Lord came to put on, save and consecrate: holy matter.

From the mystical and ascetic point of view adopted in
these pages, matter is not exactly any of the abstract entities
defined under that name by science and philosophy. It is
certainly the same concrete reality, for us, as it is for physics
and metaphysics, having the same basic attributes of
plurality, perceivability and inter-connection. But here we
want to embrace that reality as a whole in its widest possible
sense: to give it its full abundance as it reacts not only to
our scientific or analytical investigations, but to all our
practical activities. Matter, as far as we are concerned, is
the assemblage of things, energies and creatures which
surround us in so far as these are palpable, sensible and
* natural ' (in the theological sense of the word). Matter is
the common, universal, tangible setting, infinitely shifting
and varied, in which we live.

How, then, does the thing thus defined present itself to
us to be acted upon? Under the enigmatic features of a
two-sided power.

On the one hand matter is the burden, the fetters, the
pain, the sin and the threat to our lives. It weighs us down,
suffers, wounds, tempts and grows old. Matter makes us
heavy, paralysed, vulnerable, guilty. Who will deliver us
from this body of death?

But at the same time matter is physical exuberance, en-
nobling contact, virile effort and the joy of growth. It
attracts, renews, unites and flowers. By matter we are
nourished, lifted up, linked to everything else, invaded by
life. To be deprived of it is intolerable. Non exui volumus
sed superindui (2 Cor. v, 4). Who will give us an immortal

Asceticism deliberately looks no further than the first
aspect, the one which is turned towards death; and it re-
coils, exclaiming c Flee ! ' But what would our spirits be, God,
if they did not have the bread of earthly things to nourish them, the
wine of created beauties to intoxicate them, and the conflicts of human
life to fortify them? What feeble powers and bloodless hearts your


creatures would bring you if they were to succeed in cutting them-
selves off prematurely from the providential setting in which you
have placed them! Teach us, Lord, how to contemplate the sphinx
without succumbing to its spell; how to grasp the hidden mystery in
the womb of death, not by a refinement of human doctrine, but in the
simple concrete act by which you plunged yourself into matter in
order to redeem it. By the virtue of your suffering incarnation dis-
close to us, and then teach us to harness jealousy for you, the
spiritual power of matter.

Let us take a comparison as our starting point. Imagine a
deep-sea diver trying to get back from the seabed to the
clear light of day. Or imagine a traveller on a fog-bound
mountain-side climbing upward towards the summit bathed
in light. For each of these men space is divided into two
zones marked with opposing properties: the one behind
and beneath appears ever darker, while the one in front and
above becomes ever lighter. Both diver and climber can
succeed in making their way towards the second zone only
if they use everything around and about them as points of
leverage. Moreover, in the course of their task, the light
above them grows brighter with each advance made;
and at the same time the area which has been traversed,
as it is traversed, ceases to hold the light and is engulfed in
darkness. Let us remember these stages, for they express
symbolically all the elements we need in order to under-
stand how we should touch and handle matter with a
proper sense of reverence.

Above all matter is not just the weight that drags us
down, the mire that sucks us in, the bramble that bars our
way. In itself, and before we find ourselves where we are,
and before we choose, it is simply the slope on which we
can go up just as well as go down, the medium that can
uphold or give way, the wind that can overthrow or lift up.
Of its nature, and as a result of original sin, it is true that it
represents a perpetual impulse towards failure. But by
nature too, and as a result of the Incarnation, it contains
the spur or the allurement to be our accomplice towards
heightened being, and this counter-balances and even
dominates the fomes peccati. The full truth of our situation


is that, here below, and by virtue of our immersion in the
universe, we are each one of us placed within its layers or
on its slopes, at a specific point defined by the present
moment in the history of the world, the place of our birth,
and our individual vocation. And from that starting point,
variously situated at different levels, the task assigned to us
is to climb towards the light, passing through, so as to attain
God, a given series of created things which are not exactly
obstacles but rather foot-holds, intermediaries to be made
use of, nourishment to be taken, sap to be purified and
elements to be associated with us and borne along with us.
That being so, and still as a result of our initial position
among things, and also as a result of each position we sub-
sequently occupy in matter, matter falls into two distinct
zones, differentiated according to our effort: the zone
already left behind or arrived at, to which we should not
return, or at which we should' not pause, lest we fall back —
this is the zone of matter in the material and carnal sense ; and
the zone offered to our renewed efforts towards progress,
search, conquest and c divinisation \ the zone of matter
taken in the spiritual sense ; and the frontier between these two
zones is essentially relative and shifting. That which is good,
sanctifying and spiritual for my brother below or beside me
on the mountainside, can be material, misleading or bad
for me. What I rightly allowed myself yesterday, I must
perhaps deny myself today. And conversely, actions which
would have been a grave betrayal in a St. Aloysius Gonzaga
or a St. Anthony, may well be models for me if I am to
follow in the footsteps of these saints. In other words, the
soul can only rejoin God after having traversed a specific path
through matter — which path can be seen as the distance
which separates, but it can also be seen as the road which
links. Without certain possessions and certain victories, no
man exists as God wishes him to be. Each one of us has his
Jacob's ladder, whose rungs are formed of a series of
objects. Thus it is not our business to withdraw from the
world before our time; rather let us learn to orientate our
being in the flux of things; then, instead of the force of


gravity which drags us down to the abyss of self-indulgence
and selfishness, we shall feel a salutary ' component '
emerge from created things which, by a process we have
already described, will enlarge our horizons, will snatch us
away from our pettinesses and impel us imperiously to-
wards a widening of our vision, towards the renunciation of
cherished pleasure, towards the desire for ever more
spiritual beauty. Matter, which at first seemed to counsel
us towards the maximum pleasure and the minimum effort,
emerges as the principle of minimum pleasure and maxi-
mum effort.

In this case, too, the law which applies to the individual
would seem to be a small-scale version of the law which
applies to the whole. It would surely not be far wrong to
suggest that, in its universality, the world too has a pre-
scribed path to follow before attaining its consummation.
There can really be no doubt of it. If the material totality of
the world includes energies which cannot be made use of,
and if, more unfortunately, it contains perverted energies
and elements which are slowly separated from it, it is still
more certain that it contains a certain quantity of spiritual
power of which the progressive sublimation, in Christo Jesu y
is, for the Creator, the fundamental operation taking place.
At the present time this power is still diffused almost every-
where: nothing, however insignificant or crude it may
appear, is without some trace of it. And the task of the
body of Christ, living in his faithful, is patiently to sort out
those heavenly forces — to extract, without letting any of it
be lost, that chosen substance. Little by little, we may rest
assured, the work is being done. Thanks to the multitude
of individuals and vocations, the Spirit of God insinuates
itself everywhere and is everywhere at work. It is the great
tree we spoke of a moment ago, whose sunlit branches refine
and turn to flowers the sap extracted by the humblest of its
roots. As the work progresses, certain zones, no doubt,
become worked out. Within each individual life, as we
have noted, the frontier between spiritual matter and
carnal matter is constantly moving upward. And in the


same way, in proportion as humanity is christianised, it
feels less and less need for certain earthly nourishment.
Contemplation and chastity should thus tend, quite
legitimately, to gain mastery over anxious work and direct
possession. This is the general ' drift 9 of matter towards
spirit. This movement must have its term: one day the
whole divinisable substance of matter will have passed into
the souls of men; all the chosen dynamisms will have been
recovered: and then our world will be ready for the Par-

Who can fail to perceive the great symbolic gesture of
baptism in this general history of matter ? Christ immerses
himself in the waters of Jordan, symbol of the forces of the
earth. These he sanctifies. And as he emerges, in the
words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, with the water which runs off
his body he elevates the whole world.

Immersion and emergence; participation in things
and sublimation; possession and renunciation; crossing
through and being borne onwards — that is the twofold yet
single movement which answers the challenge of matter in
order to save it. 1

Matter , you in whom I find both seduction and strength, you in
whom I find blandishment and virility, you who can enrich and

x The sensual mysticisms and certain neo-pelagianisms (such as
Americanism), by paying too much attention to the first of these phases,
have fallen into the error of seeking divine love and the divine kingdom
on the same level as human affections and human progress. Conversely,
by concentrating too much on the second phase, some exaggerated forms
of Christianity conceive perfection as built upon the destruction of
• nature \ The true christian supernatural, frequently defined by the
Church, neither leaves the creature where he is, on his own plane, nor
suppresses him: it ' sur-animates ' him. It must surely be obvious that,
however transcendent and creative they may be, God's love and ardour
could only fall upon the human heart, that is to say upon an object pre-
pared (from near or from afar) by means of all the nourishments of the
earth. It is astonishing that so few minds should succeed, in this as in
other cases, in grasping the notion of transformation. Sometimes the
thing transformed seems to them to be the old thing unchanged; at
other times they see in it only the entirely new. In the first case it is the
spirit that eludes them; in the second case, it is the matter. Though not
so crude as the first excess, the second is shown by experience to be no
less destructive of the equilibrium of mankind.


destroy, I surrender myself to your mighty layers, with faith in the
heavenly influences which have sweetened and purified your waters.
The virtue of Christ has passed into you. Let your attractions
lead me forward, let your sap be the food that nourishes me; let
your resistance give me toughness; let your robberies and inroads
give me freedom. And finally, let your whole being lead me towards



Nemo sibi vivit, out sibi moritur . . . Sive vivimus,
sive morimur, Christi sumus.

No man lives or dies to himself. But whether
through our life or through our death we belong
to Christ.

The first two parts of this essay are simply an analysis and
verification of the above words of St. Paul. We have
considered, in turn, the sphere of activity, development and
life, and the sphere of passivity, diminishment and death in
our lives. All around us, to right and left, in front and
behind, above and below, we have only had to go a little
beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see
the divine welling up and showing through. But it is not
only close to us, in front of us, that the divine presence has
revealed itself. It has sprung up so universally, and we find
ourselves so surrounded and transfixed by it, that there is no
room left to fall down and adore it, even within ourselves.

By means of all created things, without exception, the
divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined
it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped
in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awaken-
ing from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which
we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect
with which we habitually regard places with no sacred
association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not
know it. Venite, adoremus.

Let us withdraw to the higher and more spiritual ether
which bathes us in living light. And let us take joy in making
an inventory of its attributes and recognising their nature,
before examining in a general way the means by which we
can open ourselves evermore to its penetration.





The essential marvel of the divine milieu is the ease with
which it assembles and harmonises within itself qualities
which appear to us to be contradictory.

As vast as the world and much more formidable than the
most immense energies of the universe, it nevertheless pos-
sesses in a supreme degree that precise concentrated par-
ticularity which makes up so much of the warm charm of
human persons.

Vast and innumerable as the dazzling surge of creatures
that are sustained and sur-animated by its ocean, it never-
theless retains the concrete transcendence that allows it to
bring back the elements of the world, without the least con-
fusion, within its triumphant and personal unity.

Incomparably near and perceptible — for it presses in
upon us through all the forces of the universe — it neverthe-
less eludes our grasp so constantly that we can never seize it
here below except by raising ourselves, uplifted on its waves,
to the extreme limit of our effort: present in, and drawing
at the inaccessible depth of, each creature, it withdraws
always further, bearing us along with it towards the com-
mon centre of all consummation. 1

Through it, the touch of matter is a purification, and
chastity flowers as the transfiguration of love.

In it, development culminates in renunciation; attach-
ment to things yet separates us from everything disintegrat-
ing within them. Death becomes a resurrection.

Now, if we try to discover the source of so many astonish-
ingly coupled perfections, we shall find they all spring from
the same c fontal ' property which we can express thus :

1 1 attain God in those whom I love to the same degree in which we,
myself and they, become more and more spiritual. In the same way, I
grasp him in the Beautiful and the Good in proportion as I pursue these
further and further with progressively purified faculties.


God reveals himself everywhere, beneath our groping
efforts, as a universal milieu, only because he is the ultimate
point upon which all realities converge. Each element of
the world, whatever it may be, only subsists, hie et nunc, in
the manner of a cone whose generatrices meet in God who
draws them together — (meeting at the term of their indiv-
idual perfection and at the term of the general perfection of
the world which contains them). It follows that all created
things, every one of them, cannot be looked at, in their
nature and action, without the same reality being found in
their innermost being — like sunlight in the fragments of a
broken mirror — one beneath its multiplicity, unattainable
beneath its proximity, and spiritual beneath its materiality.
No object can influence us by its essence without our being
touched by the radiance of the focus of the universe. Our
minds are incapable of grasping a reality, our hearts and
hands of seizing the essentially desirable in it, without our
being compelled by the very structure of things to go back to the
first source of its perfections. This focus, this source, is thus
everywhere. It is precisely because he is at once so deep and
yet so akin to an extensionless point that God is infinitely
near, and dispersed everywhere. It is precisely because he is
the centre that he fills the whole sphere. The omnipresence
of the divine is simply the effect of its extreme spirituality
and is the exact contrary of the fallacious ubiquity which
matter seems to derive from its extreme dissociation and
dispersal. In the light of this discovery, we may resume our
march through the inexhaustible wonders which the divine
milieu has in store for us.

However vast the divine milieu may be, it is in reality a
centre. It therefore has the properties of a centre, and above
all the absolute and final power to unite (and consequently
to complete) all beings within its breast. In the divine
milieu all the elements of the universe touch each other by that
which is most inward and ultimate in them. There they
concentrate, little by little, all that is purest and most
attractive in them without loss and without danger of
subsequent corruption. There they shed, in their meeting,
the mutual externality and the incoherences which form


the basic pain of human relationships. Let those seek
refuge there who are saddened by the separations, the
meannesses and the wastefulnesses of the world. In the
external spheres of the world, man is always torn by the
separations which set distance between bodies, which set
the impossibility of mutual understanding between souls,
which set death between lives. Moreover at every minute
he must lament that he cannot pursue and embrace every-
thing within the compass of a few years. Finally, and not
without reason, he is incessantly distressed by the crazy
indifference and the heart-breaking dumbness of a natural
environment in which the greater part of individual
endeavour seems wasted or lost, where the blow and the
cry seem stifled on the spot, without awakening any echo.

All that desolation is only on the surface.

But let us leave the surface, and, without leaving the
world, plunge into God. There, and from there, in him and
through him, we shall hold all things and have command
of all things. There we shall one day rediscover the essence
and brilliance of all the flowers and lights which we were
forced to abandon so as to be faithful to life. The beings we
despaired of reaching and influencing are all there, all re-
united by the most vulnerable, receptive and enriching
point in their substance. In this place the least of our
desires and efforts is harvested and tended and can at any
moment cause the marrow of the universe to vibrate.

Let us establish ourselves in the divine milieu. There we
shall find ourselves where the soul is most deep and where
matter is most dense. There we shall discover, where all its
beauties flow together, the ultra-vital, the ultra-sensitive,
the ultra-active point of the universe. And, at the same
time, we shall feel the plenitude of our powers of action and
adoration effortlessly ordered within our deepest selves.

But the fact that all the external springs of the world
should be co-ordinated and harmonised at that privileged
point is not the only marvel. By a complementary marvel,
the man who abandons himself to the divine milieu feels his
inward powers clearly directed and vastly expanded by it
with a sureness which enables him to avoid, like child's


play, the reefs on which mystical ardour has so often


In the first place, the sojourner in the divine milieu is not a
pantheist. At first sight, perhaps, the depths of the divine
which St. Paul reveals to us may seem to resemble the
fascinating domains unfolded before our eyes by monistic
philosophies or religions. In fact they are very different, far
more reassuring to our minds, far more comforting to our
hearts. Pantheism seduces us by its vistas of perfect universal
union. But ultimately, if it were true, it would give us only
fusion and unconsciousness; for, at the end of the evolution
it claims to reveal, the elements of the world vanish in the
God they create or by which they are absorbed. Our God,
on the contrary, pushes to its furthest possible limit the
differentiation among the creatures he concentrates within
himself. At the peak of their adherence to him, the elect
also discover in him the consummation of their individual
fulfilment. Christianity alone therefore saves, with the
rights of thought, the essential aspiration of all mysticism:
to be united (that is, to become the other) while remaining
oneself. More attractive than any world-Gods, whose eternal
seduction it embraces, transcends and purifies — in omnibus
omnia Deus (En pasi pantaTheos) — our divine milieu is at the
antipodes of false pantheism. The Christian can plunge
himself into it whole-heartedly without the risk of finding
himself one day a monist.

Nor is there any reason to fear that in abandoning him-
self to those deep waters, he will lose his foothold in revela-
tion and in life, and become either unrealistic in the object
of his worship or else chimerical in the substance of his
work. The Christian lost within the divine layers will not
find his mind subject to the forbidden distortions that go to
make the * modernist ' or the * illuminati \

To the Christian's sensitised vision, it is true, the Creator
and, more specifically, the Redeemer (as we shall see)
have steeped themselves in all things and penetrated all
things to such a degree that, as Blessed Angela of Foligno
said, * the world is full of God.' But this augmentation is


only valuable in his eyes in so far as the light, in which
everything seems to him bathed, radiates from a historical
centre and is transmitted along a traditional and solidly defined
axis. The immense enchantment of the divine milieu owes
all its value in the long run to the human-divine contact
which was revealed at the Epiphany of Jesus. If you sup-
press the historical reality of Christ, the divine omni-
presence which intoxicates us becomes, like all the other
dreams of metaphysics, uncertain, vague, conventional —
lacking the decisive experimental verification by which to
impose itself on our minds, and without the moral authority
to assimilate our lives into it. Thenceforward, however
dazzling the expansions which we shall try in a moment to
discern in the resurrected Christ, their beauty and their
stuff of reality will always remain inseparable from the;
tangible and verifiable truth of the Gospel event. The
mystical Christ, the universal Christ of St. Paul, has
neither meaning nor value in our eyes except as an expan-
sion of the Christ who was born of Mary and who died on
the cross. The former essentially draws his fundamental
quality of undeniability and concreteness from the latter.
However far we may be drawn into the divine spaces
opened up to us by christian mysticism, we never depart
from the Jesus of the Gospels. On the contrary, we feel a
growing need to enfold ourselves ever more firmly within
his human truth. We are not, therefore, modernist in the
condemned sense of the word. Nor shall we end up among
the visionaries and the * illuminati \

The real error of the visionaries is to confuse the different
planes of the world, and consequently to mix up their
activities. In the view of the visionary, the divine presence
illuminates not only the heart of things, but tends to invade
their surface and hence to do away with their exacting but
salutary reality. The gradual maturing of immediate
causes, the determinate systems of material order in their
complex inter-relationships, the infinite susceptibilities of
the universal order, no longer count. Through this veil
without seam and these delicate threads, divine action is


imagined as appearing naked and without order. And then
the falsely miraculous comes to disconcert and obstruct the
human effort.

As we have already abundantly shown, the effect pro-
duced upon human activity by the true transformation of
the world, in Jesus Christ, is utterly different. At the heart
of the divine milieu, as the Church reveals it, things are
transfigured, but from within. They bathe inwardly in
light, but, in this incandescence, they retain — this is not
strong enough, they exalt — all that is most specific in their
attributes. We can only lose ourselves in God by prolonging the
most individual characteristics of beings far beyond themselves :
that is the fundamental rule by which we can always dis-
tinguish the true mystic from his counterfeits. The heart of
God is boundless, multae mansiones. And yet in all that
immensity there is only one possible place for each one of
us at any given moment, the one we are led to by un-
flagging fidelity to the natural and supernatural duties of
life. At this point, which we can reach at the right moment
only if we exert the maximum effort on every plane, God
will reveal himself in all his plenitude. Except at this point,
the divine milieu, although it may still enfold us, exists only
incompletely, or not at all, for us. Thus its great waters do
not call us to defeat but to perpetual struggle to breast their
floods. Their energy awaits and provokes our energy. Just
as on certain days the sea lights up only as the ship's prow
or the swimmer cleaves its surface, so the world is lit up
with God only when reacting to our impetus. When God
desires ultimately to subject and unite the Christian to him,
either by ecstasy or by death, it is as though he bears him
away stiffened by love and by obedience in the full extent
of his effort.

It might thenceforward look as though the believer in
the divine milieu were falling back into the errors of a pagan
naturalism in reaction against the excesses of quietism and
illuminism. With his faith in the heavenly value of human
endeavour, by his expectation of a new awakening of the
faculties of adoration dormant in the world, by his respect
for the spiritual powers still latent in matter, the Christian


may often bear a striking resemblance to the worshippers of
the earth.

But here again, as in the case of pantheism, the re-
semblance is only external and such as is so often found in
opposite things.

The pagan loves the earth in order to enjoy it and confine
himself within it; the Christian in order to make it purer
and draw from it the strength to escape from it.

The pagan seeks to espouse sensible things so as to extract
delight from them; he adheres to the world. The Christian
multiplies his contacts with the world only so as to harness,
or submit to, the energies which he will take back, or which
will take him, to heaven. He pre-adheres to God.

The pagan holds that man divinises himself by closing in
upon himself; the final act of human evolution is when the
individual, or the totality, constitutes itself within itself.
The Christian sees his divinisation only in the assimilation
by an ' Other * of his achievement : the culmination of life,
in his eyes, is death in union.

To the pagan, universal reality exists only in so far as it is
projected on to the plane of the perceptible: it is im-
mediate and multiple. The Christian makes use of exactly
the same elements: but he prolongs them along their
common axis, which links them to God : and, by the same
token, the universe is thus unified for him, although it is
only attainable at the final centre of its consummation.

To sum up, one may say that, in relation to all the main
historical forms assumed by the human religious spirit,
christian mysticism extracts all that is sweetest and strongest
circulating in all the human mysticisms, though without
absorbing their evil or suspect elements. It shows an
astonishing equilibrium between the active and the passive,
between possession of the world and its renunciation, be-
tween a taste for things and an indifference to them. But
there is really no reason why we should be astonished by
this shifting harmony, for is it not the natural and spontan-
eous reaction of the soul to the stimulus of a milieu which
is exactly, by nature and grace, the one in which that soul
is made to live and develop itself? Just as, at the centre of


the divine milieu, all the sounds of created being are fused,
without being confused, in a single note which dominates
and sustains them (that seraphic note, no doubt, which
bewitched St. Francis), so all the powers of the soul begin
to resound in response to its call ; and these multiple tones,
in their turn, compose themselves into a single, ineffably
simple vibration in which all the spiritual nuances — of love
and of the intellect, of zeal and of tranquillity, of fullness
and of ecstasy, of passion and of indifference, of assimilation
and of surrender, of rest and of motion — are born and pass
and shine forth, according to the times and the circum-
stances, like the countless possibilities of an inward attitude,
inexpressible and unique.

And if any words could translate that permanent and
lucid intoxication better than others, perhaps they would
be € passionate indifference \

To have access to the divine milieu is to have found the
one thing needful: him who burns by setting fire to every-
thing that we would love badly or not enough; him who
calms by eclipsing with his blaze everything that we would
love too much ; him who consoles by gathering up every-
thing that has been snatched from our love or has never
been given to it. To reach those priceless layers is to ex-
perience, with equal truth, that one has need of everything,
and that one has need of nothing. Everything is needed
because the world will never be large enough to provide
our taste for action with the means of grasping God, or our
thirst for undergoing with the possibility of being invaded
by him. And yet nothing is needed ; for as the only reality
which can satisfy us lies beyond the transparencies in which
it is mirrored, everything that fades away and dies between
us will only serve to give reality back to us with greater
purity. Everything means both everything and nothing to
me; everything is God to me and everything is dust to me:
that is what man can say with equal truth, in accord with
how the divine ray falls.

6 Which is the greater blessing, 5 someone once asked, * to
have the sublime unity of God to centre and save the


universe ? or to have the concrete immensity of the uni-
verse by which to undergo and touch God ? '

We shall not seek to escape this joyful uncertainty. But
now that we are familiar with the attributes of the divine
milieu, we shall turn our attention to the Thing itself which
appeared to us in the depth of each being, like a radiant
countenance, like a fascinating abyss. We can now say
' Lord, who art thou? '




We can say as a first approximation that the milieu whose
rich and mobile homogeneity has revealed itself all around
us as a condition and a consequence of the most christian
attitudes (such as right intention and resignation) is formed
by the divine omnipresence. The immensity of God is the
essential attribute which allows us to seize him everywhere,
within us and around us.

This answer begins to satisfy our minds in that it circum-
scribes the problem. However, it does not give to the power
in quo vivimus et sumus the sharp lines with which we should
wish to trace the features of the one thing needful. Under
what form, proper to our creation and adapted to our
universe, does the divine immensity manifest itself to, and
become relevant to, mankind? We feel it charged with
that sanctifying grace which the Catholic faith causes to
circulate everywhere as the true sap of the world; which,
in its attributes, is very like that charity (manete in dilectione
mea) which will one day, the Scriptures tell us, be the only
stable principle of natures and powers; which, too, is
fundamentally similar to the wonderful and substantial
divine will, whose marrow is everywhere present and
constitutes the true food of our lives, omne delectamentum in se
habentem. What is, when all is said and done, the concrete


link which binds all these universal entities together and
confers on them a final power of gaining hold of us?

The essence of Christianity consists in asking oneself that
question, and in answering: ' The Word incarnate, our
Lord Jesus Christ.'

Let us examine step by step how we can validate to our-
selves this prodigious identification of the Son of Man and
the divine milieu.

A first step, unquestionably, is to see the divine omni-
presence in which we find ourselves plunged as an omni-
presence of action. God enfolds us and penetrates us by creat-
ing and preserving us.

Now let us go a little further. Under what form, and
with what end in view, has the Creator given us, and still
preserves in us, the gift of participated being? Under the
form of an essential aspiration towards him — and with a
view to the unhoped-for cleaving which is to make us one
and the same complex thing with him. The action by
which God maintains us in the field of his presence is a
unitive transformation.

Let us go further still. What is the supreme and com-
plex reality for which the divine operation moulds us ? It is
revealed to us by St. Paul and St. John. It is the quanti-
tative repletion and the qualitative consummation of all
things: it is the mysterious Pleroma, in which the sub-
stantial one and the created many fuse without confusion in a
whole which, without adding anything essential to God, will
nevertheless be a sort of triumph and generalisation of

At last we are nearing our goal. What is the active
centre, the living link, the organising soul of the Pleroma?
St. Paul, again, proclaims it with all his resounding voice:
it is he in whom everything is reunited, and in whom all
things are consummated — through whom the whole created
edifice receives its consistency — Christ dead and risen qui
replet omnia 9 in quo omnia constant.

And now let us link the first and last terms of this long
series of identities. We shall then see with a wave of joy
that the divine omnipresence translates itself within our


universe by the network of the organising forces of the
total Christ. God exerts pressure, in us and upon us —
through the intermediary of all the powers of heaven, earth
and hell — only in the act of forming and consummating
Christ who saves and sur-animates the world. And since,
in the course of this operation, Christ himself does not act
as a dead or passive point of convergence, but as a centre of
radiation for the energies which lead the universe back to
God through his humanity, the layers of divine action
finally come to us impregnated with his organic energies.

The divine milieu henceforward assumes for us the savour
and the specific features which we desire. In it we recognise
an omnipresence which acts upon us by assimilating us in
it, in unitate corporis Christi. As a consequence of the Incarna-
tion, the divine immensity has transformed itself for us into
the omnipresence of christification. All the good that I can do
opus et operatio is physically gathered in, by something of
itself, into the reality of the consummated Christ. Every-
thing I endure, with faith and love, by way of diminish-
ment or death, makes me a little more closely an integral
part of his mystical body. Quite specifically it is Christ whom
we make or whom we undergo in all things. Not only diligentibus
omnia convertuntur in bonum but, more clearly still, con-
vertuntur in Deum and, quite explicitly, convertuntur in

In spite of the strength of St. Paul's expressions (formu-
lated, it should be remembered, for the ordinary run of the
first Christians) some readers may feel that we have been
led to strain, in too realist a direction, the meaning of
' mystical body ' — or at least that we have allowed our-
selves to seek esoteric perspectives in it. But if we look a
little more closely, we shall see that we have simply taken
another path in order to rejoin the great highway opened
up in the Church by the onrush of the cult of the Holy

When the priest says the words Hoc est Corpus meum 9 his
words fall directly on to the bread and directly transform it
into the individual reality of Christ. But the great sacra-
mental operation does not cease at that local and moment-


ary event. Even children are taught that, throughout the
life of each man and the life of the Church and the history
of the world, there is only one Mass and one Communion.
Christ died once in agony. Peter and Paul receive com-
munion on such and such a day at a particular hour. But
these different acts are only the diversely central points in
which the continuity of a unique act is split up and fixed, in
space and time, for our experience. In fact, from the
beginning of the Messianic preparation, up till the Parousia,
passing through the historic manifestation of Jesus and the
phases of growth of his Church, a single event has been
developing in the world: the Incarnation, realised, in each
individual, through the Eucharist.

All the communions of a life-time are one communion.

All the communions of all men now living are one com-

All the communions of all men, present, past and future,
are one communion.

Have we ever sufficiently considered the physical im-
mensity of man, and his extraordinary relations with the
universe, in order to realise in our minds the formidable
implications of this elementary truth?

Let us conjure up in our minds, as best we can, the vast
multitudes of men in every epoch and in every land. Accord-
ing to the catechism we believe that this fearful anonymous
throng is, by right, subject to the physical and overmaster-
ing contact of him whose appanage it is to be able omnia sibi
subicere (by right, and to a certain extent in fact; for who
can tell where the diffusion of Christ, with the influence of
grace, stops, as it spreads outward from the faithful at the
heart of the human family?). Yes, the human layer of the
earth is wholly and continuously under the organising in-
flux of the incarnate Christ. This we all believe, as one of
the most certain points of our faith.

Now how does the human world itself appear within the
structure of the universe? We have already spoken of this
(pp. 58 fF.), and the more one thinks of it the more one is
struck by the obviousness and importance of the following
conclusion: it appears as a zone of continuous spiritual


transformation, where all inferior realities and forces with-
out exception are sublimated into sensations, feelings, ideas
and the powers of knowledge and love. Around the earth,
the centre of our field of vision, the souls of men form, in
some manner, the incandescent surface of matter plunged
in God. From the dynamic and biological point of view it is
quite as impossible to draw a line below it, as to draw a line
between a plant and the environment that sustains it. If,
then, the Eucharist is a sovereign influence upon our human
natures, then its energy necessarily extends, owing to the
effects of continuity, into the less luminous regions that
sustain us; descendit ad inferos, one might say. At every
moment the eucharistic Christ controls — from the point of
view of the organisation of the Pleroma (which is the only
true point of view from which the world can be under-
stood) — the whole movement of the universe: the Christ
per quern omnia, Domine, semper areas, vivificas et praestas nobis.

The control of which we are speaking is, at the minimum,
a final refinement, a final purification, a final harnessing, of
all the elements which can be used in the construction of
the New Earth. But how can we avoid going further and
believing that the sacramental action of Christ, precisely
because it sanctifies matter, extends its influence beyond the
pure supernatural, over all that makes up the internal and
external ambience of the faithful, that is to say that it sets
its mark in everything which we call c our providence * ?

If this is the case, then we find ourselves (by simply
having followed the ' extensions * of the Eucharist) plunged
once again precisely into our divine milieu. Christ — for
whom and in whom we are formed, each with his own
individuality and his own vocation — Christ reveals himself
in each reality around us, and shines like an ultimate
determinant, like a centre, one might almost say like a
universal element. As our humanity assimilates the
material world, and as the Host assimilates our humanity,
the eucharistic transformation goes beyond and com-
pletes the transubstantiation of the bread on the altar.
Step by step it irresistibly invades the universe. It is the fire
that sweeps over the heath ; the stroke that vibrates through


the bronze. In a secondary and generalised sense, but in a
true sense, the sacramental Species are formed by the
totality of the world, and the duration of the creation is the
time needed for its consecration. In Christo vivimus, movemur
et sumus.

Grant, God, that when I draw near to the altar to com-
municate, I may henceforth discern the infinite perspectives hidden
beneath the smallness and the nearness of the Host in which you are
concealed. I have already accustomed myself to seeing, beneath the
stillness of that piece of bread, a devouring power which, in the
words of the greatest doctors of your Church, far from being con-
sumed by me, consumes me. Give me the strength to rise above
the remaining illusions which tend to make me think of your touch
as circumscribed and momentary.

I am beginning to understand: under the sacramental Species it
is primarily through the ' accidents 9 of matter that you touch me,
but, as a consequence, it is also through the whole universe in propor-
tion as this ebbs and flows over me under your primary influence.
In a true sense the arms and the heart which you open to me are
nothing less than all the united powers of the world which, penetrated
and permeated to their depths by your will, your tastes and your
temperament, converge upon my being to form it, nourish it and bear
it along towards the centre of your fire. In the Host it is my life
that you are offering me, Jesus.

What can I do to gather up and answer that universal and
enveloping embrace? Quomodo comprehendam ut compre-
hensus sim ? To the total offer that is made me, I can only answer
by a total acceptance. I shall therefore react to the eucharistic
contact with the entire effort of my life — of my life of today and
of my life of tomorrow, of my personal life and of my life as linked
to all other lives. Periodically, the sacred Species may perhaps fade
away in me. But each time they will leave me a little more deeply
engulfed in the layers of your omnipresence: living and dying, I
shall never at any moment cease to move forward in you. Thus the
precept implicit in your Church, that we must communicate every-
where and always, is justified with extraordinary force and precision.
The Eucharist must invade my life. My life must become, as a
result of the sacrament, an unlimited and endless contact with you
— that life which seemed, a few moments ago, like a baptism with


you in the waters of the world, now reveals itself to me as com-
munion with you through the world. It is the sacrament of life.
The sacrament of my life — of my life received, of my life lived,
of my life surrendered. . . .

Because you ascended into heaven after having descended into
hell, you have so filed the universe in every direction, Jesus, that
henceforth it is blessedly impossible for us to escape you. Quo ibo
a spiritu tuo, et quo a facie tua fugiam. Now I know that for
certain. Neither life, whose advance increases your hold upon me;
nor death, which throws me into your hands; nor the good or
evil spiritual powers which are your living instruments; nor the
energies of matter into which you have plunged; nor the irre-
versible stream of duration whose rhythm and flow you control
without appeal; nor the unfathomable abysses of space which are
the measure of your greatness, neque mors, neque vita, neque
angeli, neque principatus, neque potestates, neque virtutes,
neque instantia, neque futura, neque fortitudo, neque
altitudo, neque profundum, neque ulla creatura 1 — none of
these things will be able to separate me from your substantial love,
because they are all only the veil, the c species % under which you take
hold of me in order that I may take hold of you.

Once again, Lord, I ask which is the most precious of these two
beatitudes: that all things for me should be a contact with you?
or that you should be so ' universal 9 that I can undergo you and
grasp you in every creature?

Sometimes people think that they can increase your attraction
in my eyes by stressing almost exclusively the charm and goodness of
your human life in the past. But truly, Lord, if I wanted to
cherish only a man, then I would surely turn to those whom you
have given me in the allurement of their present flowering. Are
there not, with our mothers, brothers, friends and sisters, enough
irresistibly lovable people around us? Why should we turn to
Judaea two thousand years ago? No, what I cry out for, like every
being, with my whole life and all my earthly passion, is something
very different from an equal to cherish: it is a God to adore.

To adore . . . That means to lose oneself in the unfathomable,
to plunge into the inexhaustible, to find peace in the incorruptible,
to be absorbed in defined immensity, to offer oneself to the fire and the

1 Rom. viii, 38.


transparency, to annihilate oneself in proportion as one becomes more
deliberately conscious of oneself, and to give of one 9 s deepest to that
whose depth has no end. Whom, then, can we adore?

The more man becomes man, the more will he become prey to a
need, a need that is always more explicit, more subtle and more
magnificent, the need to adore.

Disperse, Jesus, the clouds with your lightning! Show
yourself to us as the Mighty, the Radiant, the Risen! Come to us
once again as the Pantocrator who filed the solitude of the cupolas
in the ancient basilicas! Nothing less than this Parousia is needed
to counter-balance and dominate in our hearts the glory of the world
that is coming into view. And so that we should triumph over the
world with you, come to us clothed in the glory of the world.


The kingdom of God is within us. When Christ appears in
the clouds he will simply be manifesting a metamorphosis
that has been slowly accomplished under his influence in the
heart of the mass of mankind. In order to hasten his com-
ing, let us therefore concentrate upon a better understand-
ing of the process by which the holy presence is born and
grows within us. In order to foster its progress more intel-
ligently let us observe the birth and growth of the divine
milieu, first in ourselves and then in the world that begins
with us.

A. The coming of the divine milieu. The taste
for being and the diaphany of God

A breeze passes in the night. When did it spring up?
Whence does it come? Whither is it going ? No man knows.
No one can compel the spirit, the gaze or the light of God to
descend upon him.

On some given day a man suddenly becomes conscious
that he is alive to a particular perception of the divine


spread everywhere about him. Question him. When did
this state begin for him ? He cannot tell. All he knows is
that a new spirit has crossed his life.

6 It began with a particular and unique resonance which
swelled each harmony, with a diffused radiance which
haloed each beauty. . . . All the elements of psychological
life were in turn affected; sensations, feelings, thoughts.
Day by day they became more fragrant, more coloured,
more intense by means of an indefinable thing — the same
thing. Then the vague note, and fragrance, and light began
to define themselves. And then, contrary to all expectation
and all probability, I began to feel what was ineffably
common to all things. The unity communicated itself to
me by giving me the gift of grasping it. I had in fact
acquired a new sense, the sense of a new quality or of a new
dimension. Deeper still: a transformation had taken place
for me in the very perception of being. Thenceforward being
had become, in some way, tangible and savorous to me;
and as it came to dominate all the forms which it assumed,
being itself began to draw me and to intoxicate me.'

That is what any man might say, more or less explicitly,
who has gone any distance in the development of his
capacity for self-analysis. Outwardly he could well be a
pagan. And should he happen to be a Christian, he would
admit that this inward reversal seemed to him to have
occurred within the profane and c natural ' parts of his

But we must not allow ourselves to be deceived by
appearances. We must not let ourselves be disconcerted by
the patent errors into which many mystics have fallen in
their attempts to place or even to name the universal Smile.
As with all power (and the richer, the more so) the sense of
the All comes to birth inchoate and troubled. It often
happens that, like children opening their eyes for the first
time, men do not accurately place the reality which they
sense behind things. Their gropings often meet with nothing
but a metaphysical phantom or a crude idol. But images
and reflections have never proved anything against the
reality of objects and of the light. The false trails of


pantheism bear witness to our immense need for some
revealing word to come from the mouth of him who is. With
that reservation, it remains true that, physiologically, the
so-called * natural ' taste for being is, in each life, the first
dawn of the divine illumination — the first tremor perceived
of the world animated by the Incarnation. The sense (which
is not necessarily the feeling) of the omnipresence of God
prolongs, sur-creates and supernaturalises the identical
physiological energy which, in a mutilated or misdirected
form, produces the various styles of pantheism. 1

Once we realise that the divine milieu discloses itself to us as
a modification of the deep being of things, it is at once possible to
make two important observations touching the manner in
which its perception is introduced and preserved within
our human horizons.

In the first place, the manifestation of the divine no more
modifies the apparent order of things than the eucharistic
consecration modifies the sacred Species to our eyes. Since
the psychological event consists, at first, solely in the appear-
ance of an inward tension or deep brilliance, the relations
between creatures remains exactly the same. They are
merely accentuated in meaning. Like those translucent
materials which a light within them can illuminate as a
whole, the world appears to the christian mystic bathed in
an inward light which intensifies its relief, its structure and
its depth. This light is not the superficial glimmer which
can be realised in coarse enjoyment. Nor is it the violent
flash which destroys objects and blinds our eyes. It is the
calm and powerful radiance engendered by the synthesis of
all the elements of the world in Jesus. The more fulfilled,
according to their nature, are the beings in whom it comes

1 In other words and more simply: Just as in the love of God (charity)
can be found, quite obviously, the human power to love in its super-
natural state — so, in the same way, we believe that at the psychological
origin of the ' feeling of omnipresence ', experienced by the Christian,
can be found ' the sense of universal Being ' which is the source of the
majority of human mysticisms. There is a soul which is naturaliter
Christiana. It should be remembered (cf. the Introduction) that these
pages contain a psychological description, not a theological explanation,
of the states of soul met with.


to play, the closer and more sensible this radiance appears ;
and the more sensible it becomes, the more the objects
which it bathes become distinct in contour and remote in
substance. If we may slightly alter a hallowed expression,
we could say that the great mystery of Christianity is not
exactly the appearance, but the transparence, of God in the
universe. Tes, Lord, not only the ray that strikes the surface, but
the ray that penetrates, not only your Epiphany, Jesus, but your

Nothing is more consistent or more fleeting — more fused
with things or at the same time more separable from them —
than a ray of light. If the divine milieu reveals itself to us as
an incandescence of the inward layers of being, who is to
guarantee us the persistence of this vision ? No-one other
than the ray of light itself. The diaphany . . . No power in
the world can prevent us from savouring its joys because it
happens at a level deeper than any power; and no power
in the world — for the same reason — can compel it to appear.

That is the second point, the consideration of which
should be used as the basis for all our further reflections on
the progress of life in God.

The perception of the divine omnipresence is essentially a
seeing, a taste, that is to say a sort of intuition bearing upon
certain superior qualities in things. It cannot, therefore, be
attained directly by any process of reasoning, nor by any
human artifice. It is a gift, like life itself, of which it is un-
doubtedly the supreme experimental perfection. And so we
are brought back again to the centre of ourselves, to the
edge of that mysterious source to which we descended (at
the beginning of Part Two) and watched it as it welled up.
To experience the attraction of God, to be sensible of the
beauty, the consistency and the final unity of being, is the
highest and at the same time the most complete of our
* passivities of growth \ God tends, by the logic of his
creative effort, to make himself sought and perceived by us:
Posuit homines . . . si forte attrectent eum. His prevenient grace is
therefore always on the alert to excite our first look and our
first prayer. But in the end the initiative, the awakening,
always come from him, and whatever the further develop-


ments of our mystical faculties, no progress is achieved in
this domain except as the new response to a new gift. Nemo
venit ad me, nisi Pater traxerit earn.

We are thus led to posit intense and continual prayer at
the origin of our invasion by the divine milieu, the prayer
which begs for the fundamental gift : Domine, fac ut videam.
Lord, we know and feel that you are everywhere around us; but it
seems that there is a veil before our eyes. Illumina vultum tuum
super nos — let the light of your countenance shine upon us in its
universality. Sit splendor Domini nostri super nos — may your
deep brilliance light up the innermost parts of the massive obscurities
in which we move. And, to that end, send us your spirit, Spiritus
principalis, whose flaming action alone can operate the birth and
achievement of the great metamorphosis which sums up all inward
perfection and towards which your creation yearns: Emitte
Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur, et renovabis fagiem


B. Individual progress in the divine milieu;
purity, faith and fidelity — the operatives

Ego operor . • . Pater semper operatur. The delight of the
divine milieu (heavy with responsibilities) is that it can
assume an ever-increasing intensity around us. One could
say that it is an atmosphere ever more luminous and ever
more charged with God. It is in him and in him alone that
the reckless vow of all love is realised: to lose oneself in
what one loves, to sink oneself in it more and more.

It could be said that three virtues contribute with
particular effectiveness towards the limitless concentration
of the divine in our lives — purity, faith and fidelity; three
virtues which appear to be c static * but which are in fact
the three most active and unconfined virtues of all. Let us
look at them one after the other and examine their gener-
ative function in the divine milieu.

i. Purity

Purity, in the wide sense of the word, is not merely abstain-


ing from wrong (that is only a negative aspect of purity),
nor even chastity (which is only a remarkable special
instance of it). It is the rectitude and the impulse intro-
duced into our lives by the love of God sought in and above

He is spiritually impure who, lingering in pleasure or
shut up in selfishness, introduces, within himself and around
himself, a principle of slowing-down and division in the
unification of the universe in God.

He is pure, on the other hand, who, in accord with his
place in the world, seeks to give Christ's desire to consum-
mate all things precedence over his own immediate and
momentary advantage.

Still purer and more pure is he who, attracted by God,
succeeds in giving that movement and impulse of Christ's an
ever greater continuity, intensity and reality — whether his
vocation calls him to move always in the material zones of
the world (though more and more spiritually), or whether,
as is more often the case, he has access to regions where the
divine gradually replaces for him all other earthly nourish-

Thus understood, the purity of beings is measured by the
degree of the attraction that draws them towards the divine
centre, or, what comes to the same thing, by their proximity
to the centre. Christian experience teaches us that it is pre-
served by recollection, mental prayer, purity of conscience,
purity of intention, and the sacraments. Let us be satisfied,
here, with extolling its wonderful power of condensing the
divine in all around us.

In one of his stories, Robert Hugh Benson tells of a
* visionary ' coming on a lonely chapel where a nun is pray-
ing. He enters. All at once he sees the whole world bound
up and moving and organising itself around that out-of-
the-way spot, in tune with the intensity and inflection of
the desires of that puny, praying figure. The convent
chapel had become the axis about which the earth revolved.
The contemplative sensitised and animated all things
because she believed; and her faith was operative because


her very pure soul placed her near to God. This piece of

fiction is an admirable parable.

The inward tension of the mind towards God may seem
negligible to those who try to calculate the quantity of
energy accumulated in the mass of humanity.

And yet, if we could see the * light invisible * as we can
see clouds or lightning or the rays of the sun, a pure soul
would seem as active in this world, by virtue of its sheer
purity, as the snowy summits whose impassable peaks
breathe in continually for us the roving powers of the high

If we want the divine milieu to grow all around us, then
we must jealously guard and nourish all the forces of union,
of desire, and of prayer that grace offers us. By the mere
fact that our transparency will increase, the divine light,
that never ceases to press in upon us, will irrupt the more

Have we ever thought of the meaning of the mystery of
the Annunciation ?

When the time had come when God resolved to realise
his incarnation before our eyes, he had first of all to raise up
in the world a virtue capable of drawing him as far as our-
selves. He needed a mother who would engender him in
the human sphere. What did he do ? He created the Virgin
Mary, that is to say he called forth on earth a purity so great
that, within this transparency, he would concentrate him-
self to the point of appearing as a child.

There, expressed in its strength and reality, is the power
of purity to bring the divine to birth among us.

And yet the Church, addressing the Virgin Mother,
adds : Beata quae credidisti. For it is in faith that purity finds
the fulfilment of its fertility.

ii. Faith

Faith, as we understand it here, is not — of course — simply
the intellectual adherence to christian dogma. It is taken
in a much richer sense to mean belief in God charged with
all the trust in his beneficent strength that the knowledge of
the divine Being arouses in us. It means the practical con-


viction that the universe, between the hands of the Creator,
still continues to be the clay in which he shapes innumer-
able possibilities according to his will. In a word, it is
evangelical faith, of which it can be said that no virtue, not
even charity, was more strongly urged by the Saviour.

Now, under what guise was this disposition so untiringly
revealed to us by the words and deeds of the Master?
Above all and beyond all as an operative power. But, intim-
idated by the assertions of an unproven positivism, or c put
off 5 by the mystical excesses of Christian Science, we are
sometimes tempted to gloss over the disconcerting promise
that the efficacy of prayer is tangible and certain. Yet we
cannot ignore it without blushing for Christ. If we do not
believe, the waves engulf us, the winds blow, nourishment
fails, sickness lays us low or kills us, the divine power is
impotent or remote. If, on the other hand, we believe, the
waters are welcoming and sweet, the bread is multiplied,
our eyes open, the dead rise again, the power of God is, as it
were, drawn from him by force and spreads throughout all
nature. One must either arbitrarily minimise or explain
away the Gospel, or one must admit the reality of these
effects not as transient and past, but as perennial and true
at this moment. Let us beware of stifling this revelation of a
possible vitalisation of the forces of nature in God. Let us,
rather, place it resolutely at the centre of our vision of the
world — careful, only, that we understand it aright.

When we say that faith is * operative ', what do we mean ?
Is divine action, at the call of faith, going to replace the
normal interplay of the causes which surround us ? Do we,
like the * illuminati 5 , expect God to bring about directly,
upon matter or upon our bodies, results that have hitherto
been obtained by our own industrious research?

Obviously not. Neither the internal inter-relations of the
material or psychical world, nor man's duty to make the
greatest possible effort, are in any way undermined, or even
relaxed, by the precepts of faith. Iota unum aut unus apex non
praeteribit. All the natural links of the world remain intact
under the transforming action of * operative faith ' ; but a
principle, an inward finality, one might almost say an addi-


tional soul, is superimposed upon them. Under the
influence of our faith, the universe is capable, without out-
wardly changing its characteristics, of becoming more
supple, more fully animate — of being c sur-animated \
That is the 6 at the most ' and the c at the least ' of the belief
expressly imposed upon us by the Gospel. Sometimes this
' sur-animation ' expresses itself in miraculous effects —
when the transfiguration of causes permits them access to
the zone of their 'obediential potency \ At other times, and
this is the more usual case, it is manifested by the integration
of unimportant or unfavourable events within a higher
plane and within a higher providence.

We have already mentioned and analysed (p. 86) a very
typical example of this second form of divinisation of the
world by faith (a form no less profound and no less precious
than more striking prodigies) . In considering the passivities
of diminishment we saw how our failures, our death, our
faults even, could — through God — be recast into some-
thing better and transformed in him. The moment has
come to envisage this miracle in its most general sense and
from the particular point of view of the act of faith which is,
on our part, its providential condition.

In our hands, in the hands of all of us, the world and life
(our world, our life) are placed like a Host, ready to be
charged with the divine influence, that is to say with a real
presence of the incarnate Word. The mystery will be
accomplished. But on one condition: which is that we shall
believe that this has the will and the power to become for us
the action — that is to say the prolongation of the Body of
Christ. If we believe, then everything is illuminated and
takes shape around us : chance is seen to be order, success
assumes an incorruptible plenitude, suffering becomes a
visit and a caress of God. But if we hesitate, the rock re-
mains dry, the sky dark, the waters treacherous and shift-
ing. And we may hear the voice of the Master, faced with
our bungled lives: c O men of little faith, why have you
doubted . . . ? *

Domine, adjuva incredulitatem meam. Ah, you know it
yourself. Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as man: on


certain days the world seems a terrifying thing : huge, blind and
brutal. It buffets us about, drags us along, and kills us with com-
plete indifference. Heroically, it may truly be said, man has contrived
to create a more or less habitable zone of light and warmth in the
midst of the great, cold, black waters — a zone where people have eyes
to see, hands to help, and hearts to love. But how precarious that
habitation is! At any moment the vast and horrible thing may
break in through the cracks — the thing which we try hard to forget
is always there, separated from us by a flimsy partition : fire,
pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral
forces — these callously sweep away in one moment what we had
laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all
our love.

Since my dignity as a man, God, forbids me to close my eyes to
this — like an animal or a child — that I may not succumb to the
temptation to curse the universe and him who made it, teach me to
adore it by seeing you concealed within it. Lord, repeat to me the
great liberating words, the words which at once reveal and operate:
Hoc est Corpus meum. In truth, the huge and dark thing, the
phantom, the storm — if we want it to be so, is you! Ego sum,
nolite timere. The things in our life which terrify us, the things
that threw you yourself into agony in the garden, are, ultimately,
only the species or appearance, the matter of one and the same

We have only to believe. And the more threatening and
irreducible reality appears, the more firmly and desperately
must we believe. Then, little by little, we shall see the
universal horror unbend, and then smile upon us, and then
take us in its more than human arms.

No, it is not the rigid determinism of matter and of large
numbers, but the subtle combinations of the spirit, that give
the universe its consistency. The immense hazard and the
immense blindness of the world are 01 lly an illusion to him
who believes. Fides, substantia return.

Hi. Fidelity

Because we have believed intensely and with a pure heart in
the world, the world will open the arms of God to us. It is
for us to throw ourselves into these arms so that the divine


milieu should close around our lives like a circle. That ges-
ture of ours will be one of an active response to our daily
task. Faith consecrates the world. Fidelity communicates with it.

To give a worthy description of the ' advantages ? of
fidelity, that is to say of the essential and final part which it
plays in our taking possession of the divine milieu, we should
have to go back to what was said in the first two parts of this
study. For it is fidelity which releases the inexhaustible re-
sources offered by every ' passion ' to our desire for com-

Through fidelity we situate ourselves and maintain our-
selves in the hands of God so exactly 21s to become one with
them in their action.

Through fidelity we open ourselves so intimately and
continuously to the wishes and good pleasure of God, that
his life penetrates and assimilates ours like a fortifying
bread. Hoc est cibus meus 9 utfaciam voluntatem Patris.

And finally, through fidelity we find ourselves at every
moment situated at the exact point at which the whole
bundle of inward and outward forces of the world converge
providentially upon us, that is to say at the one point where
the divine milieu can, at a given moment, be made real for

It is fidelity and fidelity alone that enables us to welcome
the universal and perpetual overtures of the divine milieu;
through fidelity and fidelity alone can we return to God the
kiss he is for ever offering us across the world.

What is without price in the ' communicating ' power of
fidelity is that, like the power possessed by faith and purity,
it knows no limits to its efficacy.

There is no limit in respect of the work done or the diminish-
ment undergone, because we can always sink ourselves
deeper into the perfecting of work to be achieved, or into
the better utilisation of distressing events. We can always
be more industrious, more meticulous, more flexible. . . .

Nor is there any limit in respect of the intention which
animates our endeavour to act or to accept, because we can
always go further in the inward perfecting of our conform-


ity. There can always be greater detachment and greater

And there is no limit, indeed there is still less limit, in
respect of the divine object in the ever-closer espousal of which
our being can joyfully wear itself away. This is the moment
to abandon all conception of static adherence; it can only
be inadequate. And let us remember this: God does not
offer himself to our finite beings as a thing all complete and
ready to be embraced. For us he is eternal discovery and
eternal growth. The more we think we understand him, the
more he reveals himself as otherwise. The more we think
we hold him, the further he withdraws, drawing us into the
depths of himself. The nearer we approach him through all
the efforts of nature and grace, the more he increases, in one
and the same movement, his attraction over our powers,
and the receptivity of our powers to that divine attraction.

Thus the privileged point which was mentioned a short
time back — the one point at which the divine milieu may be
born, for each man, at any moment — is not a fixed point in
the universe, but a moving centre which we have to follow,
like the Magi their star.

That star leads each man differently, by a different path,
in accord with his vocation. But all the paths which it
indicates have this in common: that they lead always up-
ward. (We have already said these things more than once,
but it is important to group them together for the last time
in the same bundle.) In any existence, if it has fidelity,
greater desires follow on lesser ones, renunciation gradually
gains mastery over pleasure, death consummates life.
Finally the general drift throughout creation will have been
the same for all. Sometimes through detachment of mind,
sometimes through effective detachment, fidelity leads us
all, more or less fast and more or less far, towards the same
zone of minimal egoism and minimal pleasure — to where,
for the more ecstatic creature, the divine light glows with
greater amplitude and greater limpidity, beyond the inter-
mediaries which have been, not rejected, but outstripped.

Under the converging action of these three rays — purity,
faith and fidelity — the world melts and folds.


Like a huge fire that is fed by what should normally
extinguish it, or like a mighty torrent which is swelled by the
very obstacles placed to stem it, so the tension engendered
by the encounter between man and God dissolves, bears
along and volatilises created things and makes them all,
equally, serve the cause of union.

Joys, advances, sufferings, setbacks, mistakes, works,
prayers, beauties, the powers of heaven, earth and hell —
everything bows down under the touch of the heavenly
waves; and everything yields up the portion of positive
energy contained within its nature so as to contribute to
the richness of the divine milieu.

Like the jet of flame that effortlessly pierces the hardest
metal, so the spirit drawn to God penetrates through the
world and makes its way enveloped in the luminous
vapours of what it sublimates with him.

It does not destroy things, nor distort them; but it
liberates things, directs them, transfigures them, animates
them. It does not leave things behind but, as it rises, it
leans on them for support; and carries along with it the
chosen part of things.

Purity, faith and fidelity, static virtues and operative virtues,
you are truly, in your serenity, nature 9 s noblest energies — those
which give even the material world its final consistency and its
ultimate shape. Tou are the formative principles of the Mew Earth.
Through you, threefold aspect of a same trusting adoration, c we
shall overcome the world 9 : Haec est quae vincit mundum,
fides nostra.

c. The collective progress in the divine milieu
The communion of saints and charity

i. Preliminary remarks on the c individual ' value of the divine

In the foregoing pages we have been concerned in practice
with the establishment and progress of the divine milieu in a
soul envisaged as alone in the world in the presence of God.
* But what about its relationship to other people ? ' more


than one reader must have thought; c where do other people
come in ? What sort of Christianity is this, that thinks it can
build up an edifice without regard to love of neighbour ? '

Our neighbour, as will now be seen, has an essential
place in the edifice whose general outline we have tried to
trace. But before we could insert him within its structure,
we had to deal thoroughly with the problem of the
* divinisation of the world ' in the particular case of an
individual man; and this for two reasons.

In the first place for reasons of method; for, by sound
scientific rules, the study of particular cases must precede an
attempt at generalisation.

In the second place, for reasons of nature ; for whatever
extraordinary solidarity we have with each other in our
development and in our consummation in Christo Jesu, each
of us forms, nonetheless, a natural unit charged with his
own responsibilities and his own incommunicable possibil-
ities within that consummation. It is we who save ourselves
or lose ourselves.

It was all the more important to stress this christian
doctrine of individual salvation precisely as the perspectives
developed here became more unitary and more universalist.
It must never be forgotten that, as in the experimental
spheres of the world, each man, though enveloped within
the same universe as all other men, presents an independent
centre of perspective and activity for that universe (so that
there are as many partial universes as there are individuals),
so in the realm of heavenly realities, however deeply im-
pregnated we may be by the same creative and redemptive
force, each one of us constitutes a particular centre of
divinisation (so that there are as many partial divine
milieux as there are christian souls).

Men, as we know, according to the dimness or excellence
of their senses and intelligence, react so differently in the
same circumstances and in the presence of the same
opportunities of perception and action, that if per impossibile
we could migrate from one consciousness into another we
should each time change our world. In the same way, God
presents and gives himself to our souls under the same


temporal and spatial * species ', but with very different
degrees of reality and fullness, according to the faith,
fidelity and purity which his influence encounters. An
achievement or a disaster which involves a whole group of
men has as many different facets, finalities and ' souls ' as
there are individuals involved: blind, absurd, indifferent
or material to those who do not love and do not believe, it
will be luminous, providential, charged with significance
and love to those who have succeeded in seeing and
touching God everywhere. There are as many sur-
animations by God of secondary causes as there are forms
of human trust and human fidelity. Although essentially
single in its influx, Providence is pluralised when in contact
with us — just as a ray of sunlight takes on colour or loses
itself in the depths of the body which it strikes. The uni-
verse has many different storeys and many different com-
partments: in eadem domo, multae mansiones.

That is why, in repeating over our lives the words the
priest says over the bread and wine before the consecration,
we should pray, each one of us, that the world may be
transfigured for our use; ut nobis Corpus et Sanguinis fiat
D.N. Jesu Christi.

That is the first step. Before considering others (and in
order to do so) the believer must make sure of his own
personal sanctification — not out of egoism, but with a firm
and broad understanding that the task of each one of us is to
divinise the whole world in an infinitesimal and incom-
municable degree.

We have tried to show how this partial divinisation is
possible. It only remains for us to integrate the elemental
phenomenon and see how the total divine milieu is formed by
the confluence of our individual divine milieux, and how, in
order to complete them, it reacts in its turn upon the
particular destinies which it clasps in its embrace. The
time has come to generalise our conclusions by multiplying
them to infinity by the action of charity.

ii. The intensification of the divine milieu through charity

In order to measure and understand the power of divinisa-


tion contained in love for one's neighbour, we must re-
examine some of the themes already considered, and
especially those passages in which we discussed the total
unity of the eucharistic consecration.

Across the immensity of time and the disconcerting
multiplicity of individuals, one single operation is taking
place: the annexation to Christ of his chosen; one single
thing is being made : the mystical body of Christ, starting
from all the sketchy spiritual powers scattered throughout
the world. Hoc est Corpus meum. Nobody in the world can
save us, or lose us, in our despite; that is true. But it is also
true that our salvation is not pursued or achieved except in
solidarity with the justification of the whole c body of the
elect \ In a real sense, only one man will be saved:
Christ, the head and living summary of humanity. Each
one of the elect is called to see God face to face. But his act
of vision will be vitally inseparable from the elevating and
illuminating action of Christ. In heaven we ourselves shall
contemplate God, but, as it were, through the eyes of

If this is so, then our individual mystical effort awaits an
essential completion in its union with the mystical effort of
all other men. The divine milieu which will ultimately be
one in the Pleroma, must begin to become one during the
earthly phase of our existence. So that although the
Christian who hungers to live in God may have attained all
possible purity of desire, faith in prayer, and fidelity in
action, the divinisation of his universe is still open to vast
possibilities. It would still remain for him to link his
elemental work to that of all the labourers who surround
him. The innumerable partial worlds which envelop the
diverse human monads press in upon him from all around.
His task is to re-kindle his own ardour by contact with the
ardour of all these foci, to make his own sap communicate
with that circulating in the other cells, to receive or pro-
pagate movement and life for the common benefit, and to
adapt himself to the common temperature and tension.

To what power is it reserved to burst asunder the
envelope in which our individual microcosms tend jealously


to isolate themselves and vegetate? To what force is it
given to merge and exalt our partial rays into the principal
radiance of Christ ?

To charity, the beginning and the end of all spiritual re-
lationships. Christian charity, which is preached so
fervently by the Gospels, is nothing else than the more or
less conscious cohesion of souls engendered by their com-
munal convergence in Christo Jesu. It is impossible to love
Christ without loving others (in proportion as these others
are moving towards Christ). And it is impossible to love
others (in a spirit of broad human communion) without
moving nearer to Christ. Hence automatically, by a sort of
living determinism, the individual divine milieux, in pro-
portion as they establish themselves, tend to fuse one with
another; and in this association they find a boundless in-
crease of their ardour. This inevitable conjunction of
forces has always been manifested, in the interior lives of the
saints, by an overflowing love for everything which, in
creatures, carries in itself a germ of eternal life. We have
already examined c the tension of communion ' and its
wonderful efficacy for directing man towards his human
duty. It enables him to extract life even from powers
which seem most heavily charged with death, and its
ultimate effect is to precipitate the Christian into the love of

The man with a passionate sense of the divine milieu
cannot bear to find things about him obscure, tepid and
empty which should be full and vibrant with God. He is
paralysed by the thought of the numberless spirits which are
linked to his in the unity of the same world, but are not yet
fully kindled by the flame of the divine presence. He had
thought for a time that he had only to stretch out his own
hand in order to touch God to the measure of his desires.
He now sees that the only human embrace capable of
worthily enfolding the divine is that of all men opening
their arms to call down and welcome the Fire. The only
subject ultimately capable of mystical transfiguration is the
whole group of mankind forming a single body and a single
soul in charity.


And this coalescence of the spiritual units of creation
under the attraction of Christ is the supreme victory of faith
over the world.

/ confess, my God, that I have long been, and even now am,
recalcitrant to the love of my neighbour. Just as much as I have
derived intense joy in the superhuman delight of dissolving myself
and losing myself in the souls for which I was destined by the
mysterious affinities of human love, so I have always felt an inborn
hostility to, and closed myself to, the common run of those whom
you tell me to love. I find no difficulty in integrating into my inward
life everything above and beneath me (in the same line as me, as it
were) in the universe — whether matter, plants, animals; and then
powers, dominions and angels: these I can accept without difficulty
and delight to feel myself sustained within their hierarchy. But ' the
other man \ my God — by which I do not mean ' the poor, the halt,
the lame and the sick \ but ' the other ' quite simply as ' other \ the
one who seems to exist independently of me because his universe
seems closed to mine, and who seems to shatter the unity and the
silence of the world for me — would I be sincere if I did not confess
that my instinctive reaction is to rebuff him? and that the mere
thought of entering into spiritual communication with him disgusts

Grant, God, that the light of your countenance may shine for
me in the life of that 6 other \ The irresistible light of your eyes
shining in the depth of things has already guided me towards all
the work I must accomplish, and all the difficulties I must pass
through. Grant that I may see you, even and above all, in the
souls of my brothers, at their most personal, and most true, and most

The gift which you call on me to make to these brothers — the
only gift which my heart can make — is not the overwhelming tender-
ness of those specially privileged affections which you have placed
in our lives as the most potent created factor of our inward growth,
but something less sweet, but just as real, and more strong. Between
myself and men, and with the help of your eucharist, you want the
foundational attraction (which is already dimly felt in all love, if it is
strong) to be made manifest — that which mystically transforms the
myriad of rational creatures into a sort of single monad in you,
Jesus Christ. You want me to be drawn towards ' the other \ not


by simple personal sympathy, but by what is much higher: the
united affinities of a world for itself, and of that world for

Tou do not ask for the psychologically impossible — since what I
am asked to cherish in the vast and unknown crowd is never anything
save one and the same personal being which is yours.

Nor do you call for any hypocritical protestations of love for
my neighbour, because — since my heart cannot reach your person
except at the depths of all that is most individually and concretely
personal in every 6 other 9 — it is to the * other 9 himself, and not to
some vague entity around him, that my charity is addressed.

No, you do not ask anything false or unattainable of me. Tou
merely, through your revelation and your grace, force what is most
human in me to become conscious of itself at last. Humanity was
sleeping — it is still sleeping — imprisoned in the narrow joys of its
little closed loves. A tremendous spiritual power is slumbering in
the depths of our multitude, which will manifest itself only when we
have learnt to break down the barriers of our egoisms and, by a
fundamental recasting of our outlook, raise ourselves up to the
habitual and practical vision of universal realities.

Jesus, Saviour of human activity to which you have given
meaning, Saviour of human suffering to which you have given living
value, be also the Saviour of human unity; compel us to discard our
pettinesses, and to venture forth, resting upon you, into the un-
charted ocean of charity.

Hi. The outer darkness and the lost souls

The history of the kingdom of God is, directly, one of a
reunion. The total divine milieu is formed by the incorpora-
tion of every elected spirit in Jesus Christ. But to say ' elect*
is to imply a choice, a selection. We should not be looking
at the universal action of Jesus from a fully christian point
of view if it were seen merely as a centre of attraction and
beatification. It is precisely because he is the one who
unites that he is also the one who separates and judges. The
Gospel speaks of the good seed, the sheep, the right hand of
the Son of Man, the wedding feast and the fire that kindles
joy. But there are also the tares, the goats, the left hand of
the Judge, the closed door, the outer darkness; and, at the


antipodes of the fire that unites in love, there is the fire that
destroys in isolation. The whole process out of which the
New Earth is gradually born is an aggregation underlaid by a

In the foregoing pages (solely concerned with rising to-
wards the divine focus and with offering ourselves more
completely to its rays) our eyes have been systematically
turned towards the light, though we have never ceased to
feel the darkness and the void beneath us — the rarefication
or absence of God over which our path has been suspended.
But this nether darkness, which we sought to flee, could
equally well have been a sort of abyss opening on to sheer
nothingness. Imperfection, sin, evil, the flesh, appeared to
us mainly as a retrograde step, a reverse aspect of things,
which ceased to exist for us the further we penetrated into

Tour revelation, Lord, compels me to believe more. The
powers of evil, in the universe, are not only an attraction, a deviation,
a minus sign, an annihilating return to plurality. In the course of
the spiritual evolution of the world, certain conscious elements in it,
certain monads, deliberately detached themselves from the mass that
is stimulated by your attraction. Evil has become incarnate in
them, has been ' substantiated 9 in them. And now I am surrounded
by dark presences, by evil beings, by malign things, intermingled
with your luminous presence. That separated whole constitutes a
definitive loss, an immortal wastage from the genesis of the world.
There is not only nether darkness; there is also outer darkness.
That is what the Gospel tells us.

Of the mysteries which we have to believe, Lord, there is
none, without a doubt, which so affronts our human views as that
of damnation. And the more human we become, that is to say
conscious of the treasures hidden in the least of beings and of the
value represented by the smallest atom in the final unity, the more
lost we feel at the thought of hell. We could perhaps understand
falling back into in-existence . . . but what are we to make of
eternal uselessness and eternal suffering?

You have told me, God, to believe in hell. But you have
forbidden me to hold with absolute certainty that any single man
has been damned. I shall therefore make no attempt to consider the


damned here, nor even to discover — by whatsoever means — whether
there are any. I shall accept the existence of hell on your word,
as a structural element in the universe, and I shall pray and
meditate until that awe-inspiring thing appears to me as a strengthen-
ing and even blessed complement to the vision of your omnipresence
which you have opened out to me.

And in truth, Lord, there is no need for me to force either my
mind or things in order to perceive a source of life even in the
mystery of that second death. We do not have to peer very closely
into that outer darkness to discover in it a great tension and a
further deepening of your greatness.

I know that the powers of evil, considered in their deliberate
and malign action, can do nothing to trouble the divine milieu
around me. As they try to penetrate into my universe, their influence
(if I have enough faith) suffers the lot common to all created energy;
caught up and twisted round by your irresistible energy, temptations
and evils are converted into good and fan the fires of love.

I know, too, that considered from the point of view of the void
created by their defection from the mystical body, the fallen spirits
cannot detract from the perfection of the Pleroma. Each soul that is
lost in spite of the call of grace ought to spoil the perfection of
the final and general union; but instead, God, you offset it
by one of those recastings which restore the universe at every
moment to a new freshness and a new purity. The damned are
not excluded from the Pleroma, but only from its luminous aspect,
and from its beatification. They lose it, but they are not lost to

The existence of hell, then, does not destroy anything and does
not spoil anything in the divine milieu whose progress all around
me I have followed with delight. I can even feel, moreover, that it
effects something great and new there. It adds an accent, a gravity,
a contrast^ a depth which would not exist without it. The peak
can only be measured from the abyss which it crowns.

I was speaking a moment or two ago — looking at things from
marts point of view — of a universe closed, from below, by nothing-
ness, that is to say of a ladder of magnitudes that somehow stops
dead at zero. But now, God, tearing open the nether darkness
of the universe, you show me that there is another hemisphere at


my feet — the very real domain, descending without end, of existences
which are, at least, possible.

Does the reality of this negative pole of the world not double
the immensity and the urgency of the power with which you come
upon me?

Jesus, our splendidly beautiful and jealous Master, closing my
eyes to what my human weakness cannot as yet understand and
therefore cannot bear — that is to say, to the reality of the damned — /
desire at least to make the ever present threat of damnation a part
of my habitual and practical vision of the world, not in order to
fear you, but in order to be more intensely yours.

Just now I besought you, Jesus, to be not only a brother for me,
but a God. Now, invested as you are with the redoubtable power
of selection which places you at the summit of the world as the
principle of universal attraction and universal repulsion, you truly
appear to me as the immense and living force which I was seeking
everywhere that I might adore it: the fires of hell and the fires of
heaven are not two different forces, but contrary manifestations of the
same energy.

1 pray, Master, that the flames of hell may not touch me nor
any of those whom I love, and even that they may never touch
anyone (and I know, my God, that you will forgive this bold
prayer) ; but that, for each and every one of us, their sombre glow
may add, together with all the abysses that they reveal, to the blazing
plenitude of the divine milieu.



Segregation and aggregation. Separation of the evil
elements of the world, and ' coadunation * of the elemental
worlds that each faithful spirit constructs around him in
work and pain. Under the influence of this twofold move-
ment, which is still almost entirely hidden, the universe is
being transformed and is maturing all around us.

We are sometimes inclined to think that the same things
are monotonously repeated over and over again in the
history of creation. That is because the season is too long by
comparison with the brevity of our individual lives, and the
transformation too vast and too inward by comparison
with our superficial and restricted oudook, for us to see the
progress of what is tirelessly taking place in and through all
matter and all spirit. Let us believe in revelation, once
again our faithful support in our most human forebodings.
Under the commonplace envelope of things and of all our
purified and salvaged efforts, a new earth is being slowly

One day, the Gospel tells us, the tension gradually
accumulating between humanity and God will touch the
limits prescribed by the possibilities of the world. And then
will come the end. Then the presence of Christ, which has
been silently accruing in things, will suddenly be revealed
— like a flash of light from pole to pole. Breaking through
all the barriers within which the veil of matter and the
water-tightness of souls have seemingly kept it confined, it
will invade the face of the earth. And, under the finally-
liberated action of the true affinities of being, the spiritual
atoms of the world will be borne along by a force generated
by the powers of cohesion proper to the universe itself, and
will occupy, whether within Christ or without Christ (but



always under the influence of Christ), the place of happiness
or pain designated for them by the living structure of the
Pleroma. Sicut fulgur exit ab Oriente et paret usque ad Occi-
dentem . . . Sicut venit diluvium et tulit omnes . . . Ita erit adventus
Filii hominis. Like lightning, like a conflagration, like a
flood, the attraction exerted by the Son of Man will lay
hold of all the whirling elements in the universe so as to re-
unite them or subject them to his body. Ubicumque fuerit
corpus congregabuntur et aquilae.

Such will be the consummation of the divine milieu.

As the Gospel warns us, it would be vain to speculate as
to the hour and the modalities of this formidable event.
But we have to expect it.

Expectation — anxious, collective and operative expecta-
tion of an end of the world, that is to say of an issue for the
world — that is perhaps the supreme christian function and
the most distinctive characteristic of our religion.

Historically speaking, that expectation has never ceased
to guide the progress of our faith like a torch. The Israelites
were constantly expectant, and the first Christians too.
Christmas, which might have been thought to turn our gaze
towards the past, has only fixed it further in the future. The
Messiah, who appeared for a moment in our midst, only
allowed himself to be seen and touched for a moment before
vanishing once again, more luminous and ineffable than
ever, into the depths of the future. He came. Yet now we
must expect him — no longer a small chosen group among
us, but all men — once again and more than ever. The Lord
Jesus will only come soon if we ardently expect him. It is an
accumulation of desires that should cause the Pleroma to
burst upon us.

Successors to Israel, we Christians have been charged with
keeping the flame of desire ever alive in the world. Only
twenty centuries have passed since the Ascension. What
have we made of our expectancy ?

A rather childish haste, combined with the error in per-
spective which led the first generation of Christians to
believe in the immediate return of Christ, has unfortunately
left us disillusioned and suspicious. Our faith in the king-


dom of God has been disconcerted by the resistance of the
world to good. A certain pessimism, perhaps encouraged
by an exaggerated conception of the original fall, has led us
to regard the world as decidedly and incorrigibly wicked.
And so we have allowed the flame to die down in our sleep-
ing hearts. No doubt we see with greater or less distress the
approach of individual death. No doubt, again, our prayers
and actions are conscientiously directed to bringing about
* the coming of God's kingdom \ But in fact how many of
us are genuinely moved in the depths of our hearts by the
wild hope that our earth will be recast? Who is there who
sets a course in the midst of our darkness towards the first
glimmer of a real dawn? Where is the Christian in whom
the impatient longing for Christ succeeds, not in sub-
merging (as it should) the cares of human love and human
interests, but even in counter-balancing them? Where is
the Catholic as passionately vowed {by conviction and not by
convention) to spreading the hopes of the Incarnation as are
many humanitarians to spreading the dream of the new
city? We persist in saying that we keep vigil in expectation
of the Master. But in reality we should have to admit, if we
were sincere, that we no longer expect anything.

The flame must be revived at all costs. At all costs we
must renew in ourselves the desire and the hope for the
great Coming. But where are we to look for the source of
this rejuvenation? We shall clearly find it, first and fore-
most, in an increase of the attraction exercised directly by
Christ upon his members. And then in an increase of the
interest, discovered by our thought, in the preparation and
consummation of the Parousia. And from where is this
interest itself to spring? From the perception of a more
intimate connection between the victory of Christ and the out-
come of the work which our human effort here below is
seeking to construct.

We are constantly forgetting that the supernatural is a
ferment, a soul, and not a complete and finished organism.
Its role is to transform ' nature ' ; but it cannot do so apart
from the matter which nature provides it with. If the
Jewish people have remained turned towards the Messiah


for three thousand years, it is because he appeared to them
to enshrine the glory of their people. If the disciples of St.
Paul lived in perpetual expectation of the great day, that
was because it was to the Son of Man that they looked for a
personal and tangible solution to the problems and the
injustices of life. The expectation of heaven cannot remain
alive unless it is incarnate. What body shall we give to ours
today ?

That of a huge and totally human hope. Let us look at the
earth around us. What is happening under our eyes within
the mass of peoples ? What is the cause of this disorder in
society, this uneasy agitation, these swelling waves, these
whirling and mingling currents and these turbulent and
formidable new impulses? Mankind is visibly passing
through a crisis of growth. Mankind is becoming dimly
aware of its shortcoming and its capacities. And as we said
on the first page, it sees the universe growing luminous like
the horizon just before sunrise. It has a sense of premonition
and of expectation.

Subject, like everyone else, to that attraction, the
Christian, we said, sometimes wonders, and is uneasy. May
he not be bestowing his adoration on an idol?

Our study, now completed, of the divine milieu suggests
an answer to this fear.

Those of us who are disciples of Christ must not hesitate
to harness this force, which needs us, and which we need.
On the contrary, under pain of allowing it to be lost and of
perishing ourselves, we should share those aspirations, in
essence religious, which make the men of today feel so
strongly the immensity of the world, the greatness of the
mind, and the sacred value of every new truth. It is in this
way that our christian generation will learn again to

We have gone deeply into these new perspectives: the
progress of the universe, and in particular of the human
universe, does not take place in competition with God, nor
does it squander energies that we rightly owe to him. The
greater man becomes, the more humanity becomes united,
with consciousness of, and master of, its potentialities, the


more beautiful creation will be, the more perfect adoration
will become, and the more Christ will find, for mystical
extensions, a body worthy of resurrection. The world can
no more have two summits than a circumference can have
two centres. The star for which the world is waiting, with-
out yet being able to give it a name, or rightly appreciate
its true transcendence, or even recognise the most spiritual
and divine of its rays, is, necessarily, Christ himself, in
whom we hope. To desire the Parousia, all we have to do
is to let the very heart of the earth, as we christianise it, beat
within us.

Men of little faith, why then do you fear or repudiate the
progress of the world ? Why foolishly multiply your warn-
ings and your prohibitions? * Don't venture . . . Don't try
. . . everything is known : the earth is empty and old : there
is nothing more to be discovered.'

We must try everything for Christ; we must hope every-
thing for Christ. Nihil intentatum. That, on the contrary, is
the true christian attitude. To divinise does not mean to
destroy, but to sur-create. We shall never know all that the
Incarnation still expects of the world's potentialities. We
shall never put enough hope in the growing unity of man-

Jerusalem, lift up your head. Look at the immense crowds of
those who build and those who seek. All over the world, men are
toiling — in laboratories, in studios, in deserts, in factories, in the vast
social crucible. The ferment that is taking place by their instrumen-
tality in art and science and thought is happening for your sake.
Open, then, your arms and your heart, like Christ your Lord, and
welcome the waters, the flood and the sap of humanity. Accept it,
this sap— for, without its baptism, you will wither, without desire,
like a flower out of water; and tend it, since, without your sun, it
will disperse itself wildly in sterile shoots.

The temptations of too large a world, the seductions of
too beautiful a world — where are these now?

They do not exist.

Now the earth can certainly clasp me in her giant arms.
She can swell me with her life, or take me back into her dust.
She can deck herself out for me with every charm, with


every horror, with every mystery. She can intoxicate me
with her perfume of tangibility and unity. She can cast me
to my knees in expectation of what is maturing in her
breast. . . .

But her enchantments can no longer do me harm, since
she has become for me, over and above herself, the body of
him who is and of him who is coming.

The divine milieu.

November 1926-March 1927


In March 1955, the last month of his life, Pere Teilhard de Chardin's
thoughts went back to Le Milieu Divin, and he wrote at the beginning of a
final profession of faith:

It is a long time now since, in La Messe sur le Monde and Le Milieu
Diviriy I tried to put into words the admiration and wonder I felt as I
confronted perspectives as yet hardly formulated within me.

Today, after forty years of constant reflection, it is still exactly
the same fundamental vision which I feel the need to set forth and
to share, in its mature form, for the last time. With less exuberance
and freshness of expression, perhaps, than at my first encounter
with it, but still with the same wonder and the same passion.

No work of this great believer can be understood except in relation to
this 'fundamental vision' of Le Milieu Divin — the vision (always
implicit, even when not stated) of Christ as All-in-every thing; of the
universe moved and com-penetrated by God in the totality of its


Adoration, 127-8
Aloysius Gonzaga, St., 108
Americanism, lion.
Anderson, Dr., 28
Angela of Foligno, Blessed, 1 16
Annunciation, 134
Anthony, St., 108
Asceticism, 53, 95-1 1 1
Augustine, St., 49, 87

Baptism, no

Barbour, Dr. George, 28

Benson, R. H., 133

Black, Dr. Davidson (director of
the Geological Service of the
Chinese University), 28

Boule, Marcellin (of the Natural
History Museum, Paris), 23

Bremond, Henri, 18

Breuil, Abb6, 29

Chapman-Andrews, 28
Chardin, Emmanuel Teilhard de

(father of Pierre), 17
Chardin, Pierre Teilhard de:

childhood (b. 1881); mother,
17; father, 17; early interest
in natural history, 1 7

education and training in So-
ciety of Jesus, 18-22; or-
dained priest, 18-22

stretcher-bearer in First World
War, 24, and awarded Legion
d'Honneur, 22

Professor of Geology at l'lnstitut
Catholique (1922), 23

with Pere Licent in Tientsin

(1923), 27
barred from teaching in France
(1924), 27

returns to China (1924)9 27
visits France (1927-8), 28
short visit to Ethiopia (1928), 28
visits France (1946), 28
visits France (1954), 33
death (1955), 33-4
personality and appearance,

censorship and publication of

his works, 31, 39
his spiritual power, 34-7
on material prosperity, 35
relations with superiors in So-
ciety of Jesus, 33-6

Choses Mongoles, 26
Mass upon the Altar of the World,
Charity, 121, 142-4
Chastity, 133

Christ, 15, 38, 46, 57, 61-3, 82,
93-4, 101-4, 117, 122-5, 134
Christian Church, 57-8, 100-1
Christianity, 68-70, 122
Christians, 69, 70-2, 74, 144
Christian Science, 135
Communion, 124-7
Creation, 66
Gross, the, meaning of, 10 1-4

Death, 81, 82, 88-9, 113
Divine diaphany: milieu: omni-
presence: will — see under God

Egypt, 20-1

England and the English, 21

Evil, 83-6


Ordos desert (1923), 25-6
Citroen " yellow " expedition


i 5 8 INDEX

to Central Asia (1931), 28-9 divine diaphany, 46n., 128-9

Faith, 134-7
Fidelity, 137-40

Chardin's visits: (1927-6), 28;
(1946), 32; (i954)> 33
Francis, St., 120


at the centre of an expanding
universe, 13

his omnipresence, 46-7, 64, 112,
121, 131

his divinisation of men's activi-
ties, 49-73

his will, 55

sensible reality exists through
men's souls for God, 56-8

his mystical union with men,

inexhaustibly attainable in
totality of men's actions, 63-

. 4 . . .

his divinisation of men's passi-
vities, 74-95

his Erst act is to struggle against
evil, 83

the Greater than All, 96n.

grows in us by transformation,

divine milieu, 112-49; its attri-
butes, 1 1 3-2 1
its nature, 12 1-8
its growth, 128-49
its coming, 128-32
its " individual " value, 140-

its intensification through
charity, 142-6
its consummation, 151

the ultimate point on which all

realities converge, 1 14
he centre that fills the whole
sphere, 114

Grabau, Dr., 27
Gregory of Nyssa, St., no

Hedin, Sven, 28
Hoppeli, 28

Hwang-Ho, R., see Yellow River
Hwang-Ho-Paiho Museum, see
under Tientsin

Incarnation, 58, 61-2, 66, 70, 107,

122, 134, 152
Intention, 53
Israelites, 151, 152-3

Jacob, 112; Jacob's ladder, 108

Janssens, Very Rev. Fr., 37

Jersey, 19, 20

Job, 81, 87

John, St., 123

John of the Cross, St., 94

Lascaux, 33
Love, see Charity
Lydwine, St., 87

Man : past and future evolution of,


religious effect of knowledge of

the universe, 45
as citizen of universe, 45-6
his inability to see God, 49
divinisation of his activities, 49-

nothing if apart from God, 49,


every life to some extent in
common with life of Christ, 50
Man: the next life, 51

drawn by both God and the
world, 52-3

evaluating men's actions by in-
tention only, 53-7

each soul exists for God, 57-8



sensible reality exists for men's

souls, 56, 58-61
his mystical union with God,


in each man through matter the
world's history is reflected, 59

his soul is touched by every-
thing that touches his body,

makes his own soul while shar-
ing in the completion of the
world, 60-1

divinisation of his passivities,

ends by adoring what he was

struggling against, 74
his passivities described — wider

and deeper than his activities,

passivities of growth, 76-9
exploration of the secret self,

76-8, 128-9
his power to will and to love, 77
passivities of his diminishment,

76-9 m
exploration of the secret self,

76-8, 128-9
his power to will and to love, 77
passivities of his diminishment,

his essential duty is to be united

with God, 95-6
self-development, 96-7
renounces the world for God,

may not practise self-diminish-

ment for its own sake, 98
Man: his development and re-
nunciation complementary,


every man has his optimum in
the spiritual life, 100

and matter, 1 05-1 10

in all things, makes or under-
goes Christ, 123

his physical immensity, 124

one's neighbour, 141

each man is a particular centre

of divinisation, 141
lost souls, 146-9
Manicheism, 105-6
Mary Magdalen, St., 87
Mary, Virgin, 134
Matter, 59, 61, 66, 109, 117;
sanctification of, 116; spiri-
tual power of, 104-10
Mongolia and Mongols, 25-6
Mysticism, 99n., 1 17-19, 130

Naturalism, pagan, 1 18-19
Neo-pelagianism, 11 on.

Obedience, 54
Ontogenesis, 61
Ordos, 25

Pagans, 1 18-19

Pantheism, 116, 130

Parousia, no, 124, 150-5

Paul, St., 46, 50, 57, 62, 112, 116,
117, 122-3, 127

Peking, 27-8, 29-32
Cenozoic Museum, 29
Geological Society, 27
Geo-biological Institute, 30
Union Medical College, 30

Pelagianism, 49

Pleroma, 57, 62, 122, 125, 143,

Positivism, 135

Prayer, 132, 133

Priests, 68, 104-5

Purity, 132-4

Quietism, 118

Religious life, 97-9
Renunciation, 93, 98-101
Resignation 90-3
Resurrection, 82

Revelation, 72


Sacraments, see Baptism; Com-
Salvation, 61, 65, 141, 143
Sin, 80 n., 147
Stoicism, 87-8

Thomas Aquinas, St., 94
Tientsin, 24-7, 30

Hwang-Ho-Paiho Museum
(founded by Pere Licent), 24
Ting,V. K.,27
Transfiguration, 71

Universe: human world within,
124-5; individuals within,

45-6, 140-2; transformation
of, 150

Vincent de Paul, St., 94
Visionary, 1 16-17, ll &> *35


First World, 22-3

Second World, 30-2
Wenner Gren Foundation, 39
Wong Wen Hao (of the Chinese

Geological Service), 27
Work, 20-4, 31, 33-7

" Yellow Expedition," 28-9
Yellow River, 24

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The Divine Milieu
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--- DICTIONARIES (in Dictionaries, in Quotes, in Chapters)

--- QUOTES [2 / 2 - 1 / 1] (in Dictionaries, in Quotes, in Chapters)

KEYS (10k)

   2 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


1:By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite, adoremus. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu ,
2:God reveals himself everywhere, beneath our groping efforts, as a universal milieu, only because he is the ultimate point upon which all realities converge. Each element of the world, whatever it may be, only subsists, hic et nunc, in the manner of a cone whose generatrices meet in God who draws them together-(meeting at .the term of their individual perfection and at the term of the general perfection of the world which contains them). It follows that all created things, every one of them, cannot be looked at, in their nature and action, without the same reality being found in their innermost being-like sunlight in the fragments of a broken mirror-one beneath its multiplicity, unattainable beneath its proximity, and spiritual beneath its materiality. No object can influence us by its essence without our being touched by the radiance of the focus of the universe. Our minds are incapable of grasping a reality, our hearts and hands of seizing the essentially desirable in it, without our being compelled by the very structure of things to go back to the first source of its perfections. This focus, this source, is thus everywhere. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu ,

*** NEWFULLDB 2.4M ***

1: The 90th Year
High in the jacaranda shines the gilded thread
of a small bird's curlicue of song-too high
for her to see or hear.
I've learned
not to say, these last years,
‘O, look!-O, listen, Mother!'
as I used to.
(It was she
who taught me to look;
to name the flowers when I was still close to the ground,
my face level with theirs;
or to watch the sublime metamorphoses
unfold and unfold
over the walled back gardens of our street…
It had not been given her
to know the flesh as good in itself,
as the flesh of a fruit is good. To her
the human body has been a husk,
a shell in which souls were prisoned.
Yet, from within it, with how much gazing
her life has paid tribute to the world's body!
How tears of pleasure
would choke her, when a perfect voice,
deep or high, clove to its note unfaltering!
She has swept the crackling seedpods,
the litter of mauve blossoms, off the cement path,
tipped them into the rubbish bucket.
She's made her bed, washed up the breakfast dishes,
wiped the hotplate. I've taken the butter and milkjug
back to the fridge next door-but it's not my place,
visiting here, to usurp the tasks
that weave the day's pattern.
Now she is leaning forward in her chair,
by the lamp lit in the daylight,
rereading War and Peace.
When I look up
from her wellworn copy of The Divine Milieu,
which she wants me to read, I see her hand
loose on the black stem of the magnifying glass,
she is dozing.
‘I am so tired,' she has written me, ‘of appreciating
the gift of life.'
~ Denise Levertov,

--- IN CHAPTERS (in Dictionaries, in Quotes, in Chapters)


   2 Christianity

   2 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

   2 Hymn of the Universe

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