“The Cross is not a shadow of death, but a sign of progress.”
This quote reminds me of my tendency of see the negative before I see the positive. As Teilhard might have observed based on physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Where there is a negative implication, there also is a positive one available for our discovery. Teilhard visualized a three step process of growth involving centration (development of self identity), decentration (there is more to life than withdrawal into one’s self), and super-centration (fulfillment in life through relationship with the radical or wholly other, God). In this context, death is seen as a necessary step in the fulfillment of life, “a sign of progress”, super-centration. But how does one move toward fulfillment of life?
We know from psychology that teenagers go through a process of individuation, a step that distinguishes each of us from everyone else. Roughly the first half of life is spent developing a strong sense of self (centration). Moving from self-identity to a focus that includes others (decentration) is stimulated by our interpersonal relationships. As we are able to share with others, feeling their joy, pain, and experiences of life, broader dimensions of life open. These relationships may be deep and meaningful, but they still involve issues of reduction and assimilation, according to Teilhard. Thus, in interpersonal relations we feel the need to be more like others (assimilation) and to be less than our complete selves (reduction) to fit in.
Teilhard felt from his own experience that relationship with the radical other, God, provides the space to be truly ourselves and find fulfillment in life (super-centration). By its impersonal nature, this radical other provides a holding for each of us just as we are. We don’t need to worry about hurting God’s feelings! Teilhard saw death as a necessary step in the accomplishment of a fulfilling life. Perhaps it is in this final step that the distinction between self and radical other finally dissolves, leaving undifferentiated consciousness.
Where are you in this three step developmental process? How do you see the role of death?