Monday, April 20, 2009

(3) The Spirit

By this time I had grown quite fond of America, or at least New
England. During academic breaks at Harvard, I explored the
coastline, the hills, the mountains and the cities and villages that
was New England. So with this experience behind me, I felt quite
bound to consider America in terms of a future career. Still, I was
not adverse returning to Britain, Consequently, I sent professional
resumes to a number of major colleges and universities in both

As it turned out, I was most pleasantly surprised by the responses
to my job inquiries from various universities. I interviewed with
a number of them, but the one place that strongly struck me was
the Claremont School of Religion. Perhaps it was the tropical
paradise of Southern California that lured me to Claremont, a
city some 35 miles east of the megalopolis of Los Angeles.
Regardless, in due course I found myself a young, happy
assistant professor teaching various courses at Claremont--
but mainly that of Pneumatology.

At the very beginning, I got into what I called the "Two T's." I
borrowed the twin approaches of two great theologians: Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic Jesuit, and Paul Tillich, a
Protestant theologian.

Teilhard, who was also a paleontologist, developed what is
known as his "Cosmogenesis Theory." It was evolutionary in
its bent, in that the whole of Creation is evolving towards an
"Omega Point," which for Teilhard was the Cosmic Christ.
Teilhard talked about two aspects of the world, the "Without"
and the "Within." And his emphasis was on how the Within
worked on and into the Outer world. For Teilhard it was a
slow evolutionary unfolding that worked through various
spheres of development. The highest sphere he called the
"Noosphere," that was all about reaching a nearly mystical
level of Mind.

As for Tillich, he moved into Mind as well. In his Systematic
Theology, he referred to what he called the "Urgrund und
Urbild." Translated, Tillich was talking about the Logos/Pneuma
and the Archetype of such.

I was aware that theologians were beginning to move fast
into Psychology. Earlier they had been scared silly by a little
psychological monograph written by Sigmund Freud, wherein
he narrowed down religious inclinations to the Fear of the Father.
It set Theology on its head, but happily not for too long. Along
came Freud's protege, Carl Jung--who was disowned by Freud,
because he dared to get into religious myth, dreams, etc., and
discovered the archetypal constellation that whirled around in
our minds. In his travels, Jung even visited America, talking to
American Indian elders about their religious experience and
their sense of the Great Spirit.

Having never considered this indigenous American concept of
Spirit, at my first opportunity I made a trip up into South Dakota.
I had laid hands on some writing about "Wakan Tanka," the
Great Spirit, by a Sioux spiritual master. Living at a reservation
near the Black Hills, I went to meet this fellow. He taught me yet
another concept of the Spirit, one that helped the People relate
to Nature, to the Earth.

This relationship spurred me to think in new ways--ways that I
considered more naturally oriented. It was early on, but Natural
Theology was moving into a more central position when it came
to what theologians call "Divine Action." And as it turned out, I
was at the right place at the right time.

Standing there in my own Claremont backyard was the Center
for Process Studies.

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