24 May 2016
Revisiting an inspiring conference with Ilia Delio where she shares thought provoking knowledge about moving into the new paradigm and experiencing Christian life afresh.
Seminar with Ilia Delio
Ilia graciously gave the following interview on the eve of the seminar. To hear it, ensure your speakers are turned up and click on the arrow.
Ilia Delio is a phenomenal woman. Accomplished to the level of doctoral degrees in fields of science and theology, she harmonises these specialised areas into an innovative vision of where we are right now on the process of evolution. During a day and a half in mid-June, Ilia gave generously of her learning, bringing the assembled crowd of two hundred and fifty people through an account of pre-history and history, all the way to a view of how technology may influence life into the future.
It was the Presentation Sisters who organised this vibrant event in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel in West Dublin. They had been reading her books and viewing her on YouTube. Some of their sisters attended a seminar organised by the Mercy Sisters in Aotearoa/New Zealand, which featured Ilia. This confirmed their decision to bring her to Ireland.
Ilia, doing some final preparation.
The framework for Ilia Delio’s input is one measurement of time, recognising moments of huge change. She marks one of these moments of change in Axial Consciousness, as having happened during 800-200 BCE. From this age, there was a new, growing sense of the human person as an individual, with adjunct notions of autonomy, freedom and transcendence coming to birth. This was also the stage of the growth of the great world religions. We are in the midst of another moment of radical change of Axial Consciousness today.
Some of the assembly
In looking through this next period of development, Ilia spoke of the influence of Greek philosophy on Christianity. From Thomas Aquinas’s revelation of the need to view the book of nature alongside the book of scripture, church preferred to see the divine as being at the top of a hierarchy. This is mirrored in church architecture. There were contemplatives in the Middle Ages, such as Hildegard of Bingen, who gave reminders of the need to ponder the cosmos. However, when Copernicus ventured that the sun and not the earth is the centre of the universe, the Christian church did not want to know. Ilia treated the group to a clear presentation of the increasing divergence between science and religion, including quantum physics and the theories of Einstein to illustrate this.
Relating all to Religious Life, Ilia put it to us that there is a global movement from closed systems, which wear themselves out through resisting change, to open systems where maintenance is not important. What choices we make will determine our future. We are storytellers, Ilia assured us and this gives meaning to our lives. Part of the story is that we are interconnected. Ilia talked about such concepts as Chaos Theory, Strange Attractors, Fractals, Morphogenic Fields and Quantum Entanglement. While this may sound beyond understanding, what seemed to be the main points were that what we do matters and that all of life is inter-connected. The more open to the new we can be, the more the new can emerge, and what we do locally can have global effects.
Betty Downey and Margaret Quinn are among the many Mercy Sisters, who attended the event.
Ilia Delio is a follower of Teilhard de Chardin and spoke at length on the process of evolution, as he viewed it. Chardin identified Radial Energy as that which goes forward and Tangential Energy as a moving together. She echoed his belief that the attractive power of love is the energy that is central to all life. Ilia went on to open up the whole experience of God, quoting from such great minds as Meister Eckhart and Karl Rahner, all to invite us to move beyond limited views of God, allowing the adventure of the Holy to be set free and to realise our need to be co-creators in an evolutionary universe.
Mairéad King and Marie Therese, two Presentation Sisters, both of whom live in George's Hill.
Ilia also gave a new view of death. Jesus spoke of his own death in terms of needing to go to the Father, so that the Spirit could come. Death, therefore, is a release into wholeness, not an end, but the fullness of life. Believing in the Risen Christ means viewing the world with new eyes; living from a new centre of love. The Christian is connected through the heart to the whole of life. Ilia finished the first day by putting it to us that if we want a different world, we must become a different people. The last question she posed was: what are we becoming?
Úna Purcell and Mary Doherty, both Mercy Sisters, were among many, who travelled from theWestern Province for the seminar
While the first day was excellent and attention was palpable, the second presentation was one of fire. Here, Ilia put forth the power of technology. Interpersonal relationships are thinning because of our dependence on computers. [For a personal illustration of this, I heard some younger people recently, telling how they can spend time on Twitter or Facebook chatting to different friends but, on meeting the friends in person, have no desire for personal engagement.] The 1950’s saw the first computer and the rise of artificial intelligence. Even as we humans can spend time arguing about the true religion, the Cyborg, a hybrid of biology and machine, is being developed. Technology is developing exponentially, while we humans can be described as Cyber Sapiens, creatures capable of steering our own evolution.
Aisling Harmey, Director of Communications with the Presentation Sisters, along with Ilia.
We may have noted the radical disconnect because of the rise in cyber video games, which is giving rise to more aggressive behaviour, and children being diagnosed as suffering from nature deprivation. The robotic age is dawning, with the development of, for example, robotic truck drivers in Japan. Alongside such change, we can tend to be more lonely and isolated. Chardin was fascinated by the beginnings of computers because of their potential to bring us to a new level of consciousness. His hope was that a new unity in love could emerge and that Christianity would be a religion that could really engage with this stage of evolution. Ilia suggested a need for cyber-fasts and cyber-sabbaths. She was clear that there can be no outer evolution without an inner evolution and that we need to find a place of openness within to strange attractors.
Once again, Ilia returned to the question of whether we can become something new. We need to become new wineskins, finding a new union of risen life in God. Telling us that transcendence does not hover above us but actually empowers us from within, Ilia asked if we can re-discover the soul. The Christogenic Universe is calling, where God and we act as one. Chardin tells us that, “A new vision of the universe calls for a new form of worship and new method of action.” Ilia echoed this vision by telling us that, “we are not fixed essence but dynamic becomings.”
Rita McAuley and Brendan O'Gorman enjoy the seminar
Some final words were that, “a little chaos goes a long way,” to be careful in this mechanistic world of treating each other accordingly but rather to live in slow time, recovering a capacity for wonder and awe, and living in the primacy of love. Do we long together for a new humanity? To free ourselves to be more creative, can we enjoy play-dates and the capacity to have fun? Ultimately, each of us is called to give birth to God. Watch this space!
This final, short video gives some of the opening of the seminar and the response of some participants. There is a lot of background noise towards the end - all because of the enthusiasm of those gathered.
Click here to order copies of the CD of Ilia Delio's talks at the recent conference.
Suzanne Ryder rsm