NAMING THE OCEAN I SWIM IN
Metaverse, multiverse, pluriverse, parallel universes, are some of the new words today. I’ve even come across movieverse. What next? They indicate, excitingly, that there may be more than this one universe we live in. However, it bothers me that there exists another actual, real -verse that is never referred to at all! This is serious because something unnamed appears less real. This -verse is all around us, and most people on the planet have experienced it, at least momentarily. I’ve been experiencing it to some degree all my life! It is the mysterious reality that subtly interweaves itself with this material universe we are more familiar with, and it’s time we gave it a name. Otherwise, we’re like the fish that says to the other fish, “They say there’s an ocean but I can’t see it anywhere!” What I mean is the mystical ‘-verse’, and because it still lacks a scientific name, let’s call it the supraverse, – supra in the sense of ‘above’ because we cannot quite lay hold of it.
I like to give the word mystical a very broad meaning, and in humans it may occur as a kind of sixth sense, over a spectrum from slight to intense. It is an openness to, and an ability to engage with, this supraverse I’m referring to. I believe that every human who sincerely from their heart speaks into the supraverse is heard in some mysterious way. There exists an instant mystical form of communication, quicker and more reliable than Wi-Fi. We use it spontaneously, instinctively. Being sincere and humble helps us transmit clearly from the heart, which is the transmitter and receiver. It is a universal human faculty that can be cultivated.
Bookshelves of the world groan under the weight of people documenting their experience of the supraverse throughout centuries and cultures (though not under that name), and what they made of it. The all-important Book was the most notable of these, before the flood of others began. Intense communion with the supraverse changed people to the core of their being, and often altered their life paths in dramatic ways. As we can only live in communities, this contact was also experienced collectively.
The supraverse has great soft power over this material universe through its effects on humans, and has hugely influenced the course of human history. In exceptional moments it can bend the laws of nature, often interpreted as signs of some kind.
To illustrate what I mean, allow me to give some personal examples of mystical experience in the supraverse, which I believe are quite common, but which people tend not to talk about for fear of losing credibility. Indeed, it was some time before I said anything myself for that reason.
As I took care of my mother in the months before she died, I would sometimes say “Don’t worry, mom. When you’ll get to the other side, you’ll be young and beautiful forever. Won’t that be good?” She would laugh and say “Go on outta that!” Every now and then I would add, “And when it happens think of me and say, Hilda told me so!” In due course she died, in the evening time. On the following morning I was standing at the kitchen window, washing some cups, looking out into a beautiful blue sky and wondering intensely, “How is she getting on?” And, then, from nowhere, the gentlest feeling of peace and joy slowly began to invade me. It rose like a soft, exquisite tide, the most beautiful, unearthly feeling, that I would have wanted to last forever. I knew it was somehow from her. After a certain timeless moment, it faded away, as gently as it had come, impossible to hold onto. I knew she was okay.
Another time, some years later, again with my mom, lying in bed I began talking to her quite intensely from my heart, maybe apologising for not having loved her enough. Then I got up and started doing something else, but for no reason a tune she used to play on the piano floated into my head. The Echoes of Lucerne! I hadn’t remembered it for years! Why think of it now? She had heard me, of course, and she was telling me that everything was okay. Even now it brings up tears. Music has uniquely the power to do that.
The supraverse exists! It is REAL. I can’t prove it in material terms, but nothing can convince me that it is not real. We all sense it from time to time, and we can learn to attune to it more sensitively, supremely through love. Those two experiences were exceptional for me, but are easier to pinpoint than the on-going relationship I have with (well known) persons in the supraverse. That is less dramatic because it is constant.
This whole relationship greatly influences my daily life because I cultivate it through the spiritual ‘Wi-Fi’. Its effect is always for the better, inspiring me and keeping me going. I even credit the supraverse with saving my life on three or four near-miss occasions. Little serendipities here and there I read as gifts. I feel I belong to a great invisible community. I’ve got a foot in both the universe and the supraverse, and it’s a good place to be. You probably have too, if you’re reading this. So have millions. Mystics of the world, speak up!
However, how are to make sense of such experience? Neither science nor the Christian faith are having much of a conversation. They had a serious quarrel in the seventeenth century- the Galileo affair- and the Church got stung. Since then, they have mainly gone their separate ways, until they are now worlds, universes, apart. Moving at diametrical angles of vertical and horizontal.
Where are Christians? Caught in the middle between two meta-narratives of reality. We just compartmentalise somehow. Is it surprising that in western society those who identify as Christian are growing fewer?
While gratefully admiring the achievements of science, my main reason for also being open to the supraverse is its centrality to the Christian faith I was brought up in. (I leave it to other faiths to press their own versions of the truth.) The core teaching of that faith is that the supraverse and universe actually come together and unite at one unique point in cosmic history: the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This union is real, and irreversible. It has had, and will continue to have, enormous consequences. Allow me for a few moments to present the basic faith facts, according to the Gospels, of that particular life as a union of the universe with the supraverse.
The man Jesus of Nazareth was born to a human mother, of the species homo sapiens, fruit of 13.7 years of universal evolution, and made of star dust, like all other life. He had no biological human father. An unusual star appeared around the time of his birth. In his public ministry, with a single word or touch, he made blind people see, lame people walk, deaf people hear, lepers be cleansed, and healed multitudes of their infirmities. He would modestly say, “Your faith has made you whole.” He had power over nature, – to turn water into wine, discreetly multiply food, calm a storm, walk on water. He raised three people to life from death, including one buried for four days. His message was unusual: “The Kingdom of Heaven is very near to you.” As his end approached, he gave his own body to unite humans to himself in love, “Take and eat, this is my body.” The wine his followers were to drink was his blood, shed for the forgiveness of offences.
Put on trial – after a bare three years of public life, and at the age of thirty-three – he was convicted as a blasphemer and cruelly executed at the hands of authorities. He then returned to life after three days as he had foretold, in the same palpable body, but now transformed, no longer subject to space-time or death, and able to materialise at will. [If one piece of stardust actually achieved this, there is hope…!] He promised, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” Forty days later, having commissioned his followers to bring his message to the nations, he personally returned to the supraverse even more mysteriously than he had come. He remains present, however, in the bread blessed in his name.
Strangely, his life fulfilled many prophesies in the Book about one who was to come. Faithful to his promise he sent his Spirit, in the form of tongues of fire, to his followers after ten days, which inspired them to leave their hiding place and proclaim his message to all in Jerusalem, in many languages previously unknown to them.
Most of his apostles gave their lives for his message, under persecution from regimes or mindsets that felt threatened by it. This included one Saul of Tarsis, a passionate persecutor until a mystical experience of Jesus led him to become its greatest advocate. Countless numbers have continued to give their lives for it to this day. Those who lived his message of love to a heroic degree were held as role models. The Catholic Church actually seeks two miracles before declaring someone a “saint,” in order to guarantee the title ‘from above.’ Sightings of Mary in certain places, and her messages, nourish the faith and devotion of millions.
FAITH AS BEING OPEN
All these strange events can only be accepted as the work of a mysterious supraverse. Science has polished our mirror. Our knowledge of the physiology of death is such that we know only a power greater than this universe could have raised Jesus from death. I therefore see faith as being open to what lies beyond our senses and our instruments, as long as it has some kind of meaning. Faith and reason are actually friends.
What, then, is the Christ event about? In the same objective language, its ultimate purpose is no less than to unite the universe and the supraverse, leading the human race forward toward a mysterious destiny, if we are open to it. The resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the proto-moment of this new union.
NO LONGER SUSTAINABLE
Western civilisation built itself on this faith and its core values. However, in many intellectual circles today faith and religion are now regarded as remnants of an archaic past, the mist of superstition still clinging to childish minds who cannot face reality. Belief in itself is becoming rejected as unmodern. It is ‘more adult’ not to believe in anything unproven. This is a closed mentality, and it is gaining ground exponentially.
This is tragic and alarming, because it is a reductive view of the reality of who and what we are. It repudiates a whole dimension of ourselves, blindly discrediting an entire category of human experience, and its history.
How can Christians defend themselves from this, – even in their own minds- if the official dogmas of their faith still fail to accommodate the new perspectives on the universe? If faith cannot relateto the findings of science, one of them will lose ground and it won’t be science. Life in an ivory tower is no longer sustainable. This is why the Church is collapsing around us, quite apart from its lamentable human failures to live up to its values. Nothing less than presenting Christ as spearhead of universal evolution and redeemer of the universe can make the faith scintillate again, as it once did. Nothing less is big enough, if our science-based civilisation is ever to find faith again.
IS A SYNTHESIS POSSIBLE?
Thankfully, there is someone who recognised this dilemma for the Christian in the modern world, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ,  a rare human who was a specialist in both ‘-verses’. This harmful cleavage between science and faith was also the dilemma of his own personal life. He saw that both worldviews needed each other if he, and Christians generally, were to be whole. Neither on its own had the power to unify the human race, satisfy the human heart, and be humanity’s guiding light.
In The Future of Man 2 he writes,
“From the time of the Renaissance…the cosmos has looked more and more like a cosmogenesis [world becoming]; and now we find that Man, in turn, is starting to be seen as an anthropogenesis [humanity becoming]. This is a major event which must lead us to radically modify the whole structure not just of our Thought but our Beliefs.”
THE FUTURE AS GOAL
Far from being over as many supposed, Teilhard insisted that human evolution continues into the collective mental, social and cultural sphere, where it now continues as the noosphere, a converging of human minds into a psychic centre of unprecedented power. [The internet, for example, is one dramatic expression of this convergence.] The future will bring us to converge more and more, a process in full swing today. “We gather here as one big tribe and Earth is the tent we all live in,” said Morgan Freeman, opening the 2022 Football World Cup.
“Everything that rises converges,” says Teilhard. Sometime in the future evolution will converge around a goal, uniting all. This super goal he calls the omega point. Person or personhood is the highest form of energy/spirit that exists, and if the omega point can be seen as a Someone, there is a chance that love may motivate us to negotiate the arduous, even frightening path of progress, giving us the strength to evolve to its final term.
ABOVE OR AHEAD?
He continues “…For the spiritually-minded, in the East or West, one point up to now was not in doubt: that Man could only reach a fuller life by rising ‘vertically’ above the material zones of the world. Now we see a quite different line of possible progress. The long desired Higher Life, the Union, the fulfilment that up to now we sought Above, in some kind of transcendent, should we not rather seek it Ahead, pushing onward the inherent forces of evolution?
Above? or ahead? – or both?…
…This, I am convinced, is the vital issue, and the fact that up to now we have not tackled it, is the root cause of all our religious troubles; while an answer to it, which is perfectly possible, would mark a decisive step towards God on the part of Mankind. That is the kernel of the problem.” 
This may look like an irreconcilable conflict:
“The line of faith in God soars upward, indifferent to any thought of an ultra-evolution of the human species, while the line of faith in the World [horizontal] formally denies (at least in words) the existence of any transcendent God. Could there be a greater gulf, or one more impossible to bridge?” However, “… Is it not obvious that both suffer badly from their hostility, and therefore there must be a way to end their mutual isolation?”
In Teilhard’s view the ‘horizontal’ line of material progress only has a final goal of well-being, but not more-being (an increase in consciousness or psychic energy).
“Worldly faith is not enough in itself to move the world forward. But can we be sure that the Christian faith in its ancient interpretation is still enough in itself to carry the world upward?
……The Church is specifically called to Christianise all that is human in Man… But what is likely to happen…if Church authority ignores, disdains and even condemns this new aspiration [horizontal, ‘ahead’] without seeking to understand it? This and simply this: to the extent that it fails to embrace as it should everything that is human on earth, Christianity will lose the keen edge of its energy and its full power to attract. Being for its times not fully humanised, it will no longer quite satisfy even its own disciples. It will be less able to win over the unconverted or to resist oponents…. because at present our magnificent Christian charity lacks what it needs to be truly effective, the sensitizing ingredient of Human faith and hope. Without these, in reason and in fact, no religion from now on can appear to Man anything other than cold, colourless and indigestible.”
We must learn to combine both the ‘vertical’ and the ‘horizontal’ dimensions if we are to be whole. The best way forward is to move in a trajectory, so to speak, of forty-five degrees between them both, where each dimension nourishes the other.
Teilhard pursues his reasons why this is possible. Given the fact of human evolution, he asks, wouldn’t it make sense that the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ in glory, should be prepared for, as the First Coming was? This would be “…in perfect analogy with the mystery of the first Christmas which (as everyone agrees) could only have happened between Heaven and an Earth which was prepared, socially, politically and psychologically, to receive Jesus.” If we adjust our vision for the End Times in a similar way, seeing our efforts to evolve as a preparation for the Parousia, “we shall have achieved a psychic operation of huge consequences.” This means
“…that the ultra-human perfection, which neo-humanism seeks for Evolution, will coincide in real terms with the crowning of the Incarnation awaited by all Christians. The two vectors veer and draw together until they give a possible result. The super-naturalising Christian Above is integrated (not immersed) in the human Ahead! And at the same time faith in God, as it draws in and uplifts the spirit of Faith in the World within its own spirit, regains all its power to attract and convert!”
A PERFECT MATCH
That the Christian faith fits perfectly with the evolutionary story of this universe is Teilhard’s considered view. The universe and supraverse would finally merge, in a real way, in a marriage of heaven and earth.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband…Here God lives among humans. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them… The world of the past has gone. “Now I am making the whole of creation new.” (Rev 21, 1-5)
Spiritual evolution on the part of humankind is what will prepare this final fulfilment, which is also the omega point. For Christians to take responsibility for this, at least in their own minds, would tap our best energies going forward. Imagine if this were to become the world’s newly-found faith, motivating all its best energies!
If something is not named, it doesn’t exist, to all intents and purposes. We need to name the ocean we swim in, even if others don’t see it. It will strengthen us in the face of disdain, hostility or indifference.
To fulfil its mission the Christian Church needs to shed its matter-spirit dualism once and for all, and claim a whole, unified interpretation of reality as we now know it, where rightful love of creation and love of Christ reinforce each other, rather than compete.
Inspired by St Paul and St John Evangelist, Teilhard de Chardin has uniquely showed how the ancient Church can become a Church for our times. His unified Christian explanation of reality has left many of today’s Christians deeply grateful.
 A French Jesuit priest and scientist (1881-1955) who wrote extensively on integrating the worldviews of science and faith.
 A term associated with Teilhard, meaning a living layer of human minds united in communication, now encompassing the earth.
 The Future of Man, Collins, Fontana Books, 1969, a collection of essays grouped under this theme.
 The Heart of the Problem, an essay (1949) in The Future of Man, Collins, Fontana Books, 1969, pp 274-281.
 The Heart of the Problem, an essay (1949) in The Future of Man, Collins, Fontana Books, 1969, p 281.