Kathleen DUFFY. Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2014. Pp. 140. &18.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-62698-085-3. Reviewed by Calvin MERCER, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858
Molecular physicist Kathleen Duffy brings a sympathetic reading to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s mystical journey in this, her second volume on Teilhard. In 2010, she edited a collection of scholarly essays, titled Rediscovering Teilhard’s Fire (Saint Joseph’s University Press). That fine collection contained four sections: Teilhard as Visionary, Mystic, Theologian, and Philosopher; Teilhard as Visionary; Teilhard in Dialogue; and Teilhard’s Contributions to Science and Technology.
The current volume is Duffy’s reflection on Teilhard as mystic, with an interest in tracing his journey through the well-known five circles of presence, consistence, energy, spirit, and person. As Duffy summarizes, “Like the universe, Teilhard’s mystical insights unfolded slowly and dramatically. As his scientific journey into the cosmos spiraled outward, his mystical journey to the heart of matter spiraled inward along those five circular paths that continued to nourish and sustain him throughout his life.” (p. 125)
As might be expected, Duffy gives particular attention to science and, in particular, to interweaving contemporary scientific examples in a way that help to “stimulate a sense of awe and wonder comparable to what Teilhard might have experienced when he confronted the science of his day.” (p. 5)
Duffy begins the book with a brief biography that presents key moments in Teilhard’s life that shed light on his mysticism. Teilhard’s autobiographical essay, “The Heart of Matter,” is most helpful here. She is particularly keen on charting how Teilhard became a mystic and how his mysticism evolved over his lifetime. In the final chapter, she interprets Teilhard’s journey as a reenactment of the Incarnation.
Duffy is a Sister of St. Joseph and professor of physics at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. Duffy’s scientific background and her service as editor of Teilhard Studies, the annual publication of the American Teilhard Association, position her well to write this book.
This is not “probably the best book on Teilhard available today,” as one reviewer wrote on the back cover. However, it is a good addition to the enormous collection of commentary on Teilhard and is worthy to be read by all those interested in his contributions and his mystical journey in particular.