Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Teilhard’s Litany : (5) Axis of the cosmic vortex/tide of cosmic convergence

An absolutely  fascinating part of the icon is to be found right in the centre of the heart, surrounded by the omega sign: it is a spiral or vortex.   The spiral was, for Teilhard, the great symbol of an evolutionary universe.  Christ himself is also surrounded by another spiral -  a striking red swirling mandorla.  

I think was so very clever and inspired of Ian to have so elegantly captured  the idea of the spiral and vortiginous nature of the Sacred Heart as a cosmic  attractor.  Ian  first picked up on this idea of the swirling mandorla when ( see his post for  June 13th )  he decided to explore some patterns in the famous tiles in the Alhambra in Spain. He noted then that:

'A nimbus or mandorla is a representation of God's glory and power, and so using this shape as one presents a reflection of the Uncreated Energies found in creation in the patterns and forms of power we find around us in the very fabric of creation.'

As we noted in an earlier post, because God is animating and driving evolution – pulling creation towards his heart – the universe is folding in on itself.  Evolution  for Teilhard was a dynamic, convergent and an enfolding process.  Teilhard  expressed this in a very memorable way when he said: ‘Tout ce qui monte, converge.’ ‘ Everything that rises must converge.’ (' Faith in Man’, in The Future of Man, p 192.)

Teilhard's evolutionary spiral :click on image to enlarge
In the Phenomenon of Man  he writes of the ‘great spiral of life’.   The spiral was therefore a powerful symbol of the convergence of life – both physical, mental and spiritual.   God’s creation was not fixed or static it was dynamic. The universe was in a process of becoming and evolving towards God-Ahead.  We – as human beings – were not just running round and round getting nowhere!  We were not in a cycle of birth and death – and that is it!  A universe which is being pulled towards God was evolving, rising and converging.  We too were in the process of evolving and converging towards the great attractor of divine love.  The universe is not a closed system, it was an open system - open to the universal energy of love.  Inside the circle of existence was a divine attractor pulling us ahead, forwards and upwards: an evolving universe was a ‘great spiral’.  It was a convergent universe.  Hence in his litany he refers to the Sacred Heart as the ‘tide of cosmic convergence’, which suggests that the Sacred Heart is like a wave or pulse of energy pulling us by a kind of gravitational force into the very heart of God.  He also says the Sacred heart is the ‘axis of the cosmic vortex’, which again conveys the idea that the Sacred Heart is at the centre of a cosmic vortex or spiral pulling all things into to itself. 

The icon beautifully represents  this sense of a dynamic cosmos: the circles within circles, and the swirling mandorla  which contains a spiral or vortex acting as the dynamic core, axis or pole of the cosmos.  This effect is enhanced by the subtle way in which  Ian has designed the icon so that  St Mary Magdalene  is a little higher than Adam opposite her and St John is a little higher than the Blessed Virgin opposite.   The measuring angel is also slightly higher than the seraph. And even St Michael’s wing  is higher than St Gabriel’s wings.  This gives a sense of the circles and outer hexagon – the New Jerusalem - as moving or turning upwards to the left.  The effect of movement is also helped by the beams of light radiating from the centre.   Overall, this sense of movement is greatly enhanced by the way in which the icon reacts to light which gives the whole composition a sense of movement and life.  Which is what  people tend to say when they see the actual icon - it is 'so full of life'. *

All of which serves to give the viewer a real sense of a universe that is moving and spiraling into the vortex of the Sacred Heart in the middle of the icon.

*I must confess when I look at the icon I do get a sense of Dante’s vision of God: when he writes of three circles inside one another which drive all the other circles of heaven and all creation.   (Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, lines 142-145)

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