Always present in subtle ways

Yesterday, I began reading Sarah Appleton-Weber’s 2003 translation of Pierre Teilhard’s The Human Phenomenon. Appleton-Weber (1930-2013) wrote: This translation is dedicated to the memory of Ida Treat Bergerer, paleontologist, journalist, and writer, who was my teacher at Vassar College and in whose home in 1952 I first saw a photo portrait of Teilhard and first heard his name.

Brian Swimme’s Foreword mentions his mid-career “search for wisdom” that directed him to Aurelio Peccei’s statement that “Our best hope is Thomas Berry.” Swimme expressed to Berry his “misery and confusion” about the destruction of the planet. Berry gave him Teilhard’s The Human Phenomenon, saying: To see as Teilhard saw is a challenge but increasingly his vision is becoming available to us. I fully expect that in the next millennium, Teilhard will be regarded as the fourth major thinker of the western Christian tradition. These would be St. Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Teilhard.

Swimme’s Foreword concludes:

…what is needed now for the universe’s unfolding story is not a new galaxy or a new star. What is needed now is a new form of human being.

Begin your study of Teilhard with the confidence that … the creative intelligence of the universe … is always present in subtle ways. … and … swooped into your life with the aim of transforming you into a power that can participate in our great work of building a vibrant Earth Community.

When Teilhard’s sculptor friend Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) sent him a photo of her bronze Elemental Man statue in 1939, he had completed his original French manuscript of Le phénomène humain. He told her that he hoped a photograph of her “Man emerging out of the elemental forces” statue would be on the frontispiece of the book, which he planned to publish after World War II ended. The Jesuit order (and the Vatican) did not allow it to be published during his lifetime. Hoffman’s statue is on the campus of Syracuse University.

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