In good company: The body and divinization in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ and Daoist Xiao Yingsou

Submitted by James Miller on Tue, 02/14/2012 - 15:23
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TitleIn good company: The body and divinization in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ and Daoist Xiao Yingsou
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsBidlack, B. B.
Corporate AuthorsCornille, Catherine
Academic DepartmentProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Date Published2011
PublisherBoston College
Place PublishedUnited States -- Massachusetts
ISBN Number9781124696232
KeywordsAsian Studies, Comparative, Theology

While no dogmatic declarations have been made on the definition of the body, creeds, councils, and constitutions have affirmed its resurrection. The present work of comparative theology explores the body and divinization in Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Daoist Xiao Yingsou (fl. Song Dynasty 960-1278). Early in his writing, Teilhard loses interest in discovering the theological significance of the human body in favor of addressing the fulfillment of the Cosmic Body of Christ. Accordingly, studies of Teilhard easily overlook the individual's body. This work derives a theory of the body and its role in divinization from Teilhard by introducing an anthropological category not present in traditional theological language. Shen , the experiencing body, is the word Xiao uses to describe the Daoist in the process of divinization. Shen challenges conventional notions of body, physicality, and their importance to Christian spiritual life. The experiencing body is a living community of souls in relationship to an essential soul, who receives bonding power from Christ. On their own, humans cannot maintain the relationships within themselves, but must surrender them to perfection in Christ. Biblically, Christian anthropology departed from a monistic to a tripartite view with Paul. In the early Church, Irenaeus and Augustine defended a unity of body and soul against the gnostics heresies. Later, Thomas Aquinas formulated a theory of the body as largely defined by the soul. The bodies did not give positive contributions to people's life in God. Teilhard inherited this view of the human, but was unsatisfied with it. At the same time, he read contemporary French philosophers who provided the spark he needed to develop his ideas on creation and divinization. Early in his writing, he considers the body in light of Christology and biology. He drops the question in favor of strengthening an argument for the divinization of the entire cosmos in the Cosmic Body of Christ. Nonetheless, in the pursuit of this answer, his writings imply the individual body. Human bodies most clearly appear in his mysticism of action, which he explains in The Divine Milieu . Teilhard cannot articulate the individual body because he lacks a cosmology that does not choose between non-subsistent matter and self-subsistent spirit. Xiao Yingsou's commentary on Daoism's Scripture of Salvation provides such a cosmology. Xiao utilizes both word and image to describe a divinizing cosmic body using three terms: dong , ti , and shen . The individual's body in a process of perfection is shen . This body is not a static collection of interworking parts, but a movement of transformation that generates salvific energy for the entire cosmos. Shen highlights in Teilhard's work a body understood as a community interacting with other beings to perfect relationships in Christ. Therefore, the body is physical, but with Teilhard's expanded notion which exceeds the limitations of time and space. This view yields a body that is not an obstacle to divinization, but absolutely necessary for it.