Eco- ‘Cosmo-theandric’ Vison of Raimon Panikkar

April 21, 2018 Author: Dr. Bosco Correya OCD 0 Comments


The three major areas of theology are God, man and cosmos. It is because reality is ‘cosmotheandric’ as envisaged by RaimonPanikkar[1]. It is a vision of the reality which sees the universe (cosmos), God (Theos) and the human (Anthropos), as one reality, where God, human and nature meet together. This universe is an integrated whole, where the cosmos, God and human are no longer three different and independent entities, but they constitute one differentiated unity in advaitic sense.

Religion in fact invites us to a holistic  approach to reality. Religion comprises our relationship to God, to humanity and to the cosmos. Being religious is being relational. To be human is to be related. A person is a relational being. The early stages of theological studies gave more focus on the understanding of God; the next period shifted its focus to the study of human beings; it is now time that our focus undergo a paradigm shift towards Nature, a much neglected or ignored area in the curriculum of theological enterprise. It is in this new vision the subject of ecology is gaining a fresh momentum.

Since ecology is the science of the relationships between organisms and their environments, man can in no way ignore his surroundings. That is how it becomes a branch of sociology that is concerned with studying the relationships between human groups and their physical and social environments. More than ever it studies the detrimental impact of modern civilization upon the environment, with a view especially to preventing irreversible damage to the eco system. So ecology today has greater relevance for the humanity than ever before. We are coming to realize that there is no genuine spirituality or religion or philosophy or culture or science that can afford to be unmindful of the ecological issues surrounding us. What we need today is a new philosophy of life – a new creed aiming at the wellbeing of the whole cosmos. No wonder, a new theology of nature and a new spirituality with ecological overtones, are emerging in our times.

    In this paper, we attempt to focus our attention on the harmonious relationality of the Divine, the human and the nature in the light of the insightful vision of Raimon Panikker’s cosmotheandrism. His quasi advaitic or non-dualistic approach, can easily be rendered more holistic and universally acceptable. It is a holistic and an advaitic or non-dualistic approach to the reality, where God, human and cosmos meet together in a differentiated unity, overcoming dualism and avoiding monism. Advaita suggests, the absence of separateness and oneness. The three realities are not totally different nor totally one. The biblical approach itself seems to be cosomethandric as we shall see.  And in the concluding remark, we try to draw out some of the ethico- spiritual implications of this cosmotheandric vision.


The Earth as God’s Poem

The Bible begins with the story of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis and ends with the story of a new creation in the last book, the Revelation, where St. John writes, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21.1). The Genesis story of creation is meant to show that God willed creation to be harmonious, happy and blissful. “God saw everything that he had made and behold everything was good” (Gen. 1.31). God himself certifies it as good. The whole setting is one of goodness and unity, emerging from a cosmic togetherness of the Divine, human and the nature. And God appointed the humans, the crown of creation, to take charge of His creation (Gen. 1/27-30). And so disrespect and irresponsibility to this plan and will of the Creator will mean that creation violates itself and that will end up in disorder, disharmony and chaos, as we have begun to experience today.

                A re-reading of the biblical episode of creation from an ecological perspective would lead us to have a ‘cosmo-theandric’ vision of the reality. “The Lord God planted a garden in the East in Eden” (Gen. 2.8). The myth of the garden is one of the most beautiful and significant metaphor in the Bible. The paradise of God is not different from the earth and all its manifold nature.  The first book of the Bible speaks of the unity between heaven and earth; the last book, the Revelation, affirms “the new heaven and new earth”. Paradise embraces the Divine, the human and the nature. The paradise  is ‘cosmo-theandric’.

Creation according to the Bible is for re-creation. It is for this “that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom, 8. 22-23).

Eco-spirituality is ordered towards this final redemption and glory of the whole of the created world. This is something we hope for. “In this hope we are saved…we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8. 24-25). As we live in this hope we have an inherent responsibility and obligation too to the cosmos. The term eco-spirituality denotes spirituality based on ecology. The word Ecology is derived from the Greek noun “Oikos” which means a house or home. Ecology concerns you and me, everyone and everything around us. The air we breath, the water we drink, the food  we eat, the earth on which we live and move are all part of us. Together, the whole nature and the human beings form the “Oikos”, the house in which we live; together, this “Oikos” owes its existence to God ‘in whom everything lives and moves and has their being ‘(Acts. 17.28). This “Oikos” house includes the Divine, the human and the nature. Today’s  spirituality is concerned with making people more at home on Mother earth in view of their final destination. Everything in creation is imprinted with the seal of the Spirit (Wis. 12.1) and at the same time, it is a “sacrament of God’s presence”. The creation displays the infinite splendour and glory of God. “The whole earth is full of his glory’ (Isa. 6.3). The earth and all that is in it reminds us of God. The psalmist proclaims, “O Lord, our God, how majestic is thy name in all the earth” (Ps. 8.1). Everything on earth is His personal handiwork (Ps. 19.1), “work of thy fingers” (Ps. 8.3). He formed man ‘of the dust of the ground’, the same ground from which the Lord God made every plants and trees that are pleasant to the sight and good for the food  (Gen. 2. 7-9).

The Bible also speaks of creation as the expression of God’s word. “He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood forth”(Ps. 33.6.9; Ps.148.5). As St. John states in the first chapter of his gospel , “In the beginning was the Word, … all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made”(Jn.1.1-3) Hence the whole cosmos is the thought of God and His Word, because everything came into being in and through God’s Word.[2]  John Paul II, who is considered to be an ecological Pope, invites us to read the marvelous “book of nature” which is revealed by God.[3] Hence we have two books – ‘book of nature’ and ‘book of Scripture’, both are revealed by God. Hence we can say ‘book of nature’ is the first book written by God.[4] Pope Benedict XV1 who is usually known as the rigid theologian has become now ‘the greenest pope in the history’. He speaks of the cosmic dimension of the Word of God in his Encyclical Verbum Domini and he quotes the words of St. Bonaventure, “every creature is a Word of God, since it proclaims God”[5].  Our present Pope Francis in his Encyclical letter “Lumen Fiedei”, invites us to look at the creation in the light of faith which reveals ‘the love of God the Creator and enables us to respect the nature all the more, and to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care.’[6]

As entire cosmos has been created in and through the divine Logos, the Word of God, there is a beautiful cosmic order and harmony. St. John says, ‘He is the life of the world’ (Jn. 1.4). The divine logos is the immanent life-giving principle of the universe. In every atom there is the vibration of the Logos; in every living cell there is the throbbing of every heart. “Nothing that exists can exist except in and through the Logos” (Jn.1.3, 10). “All things were created through him and for him…and in him all things hold together” (Col.1. 16-17). The immanence of the divine Logos holds every atom, every living cell and the entire cosmos in a constant movement and wonderful harmony. All the manifold things of this universe obey the command and divine will of the Creator, and they never waver from the role assigned to them. In the earliest period of Christianity we can find St. Clement of Rome meditating on this cosmic harmony. He writes:

The sun and moon and the dancing stars according to His appointment circle in harmony within the bounds assigned to them…The earth bears fruit in fulfillment of His will…The seasons of Spring and summer and autumn, and winter give way in succession to one another in peace. The winds in their several quarters at proper season fulfill their ministry without disturbance; and the ever flowing fountains, created for enjoyment and health, without fail give their breasts which sustain life for men. Yes, the smallest of living things come together in concord and peace.[7]

As we look at these words of St. Clement, they tell us that the entire cosmos fulfills God’s will and hence there is beauty and cosmic harmony. Everything is good, and serves for our well-being. Everything in nature has its amazing order because it fulfills the will of the Creator.

Our Indian Darshana also resonates well with this experience of the cosmic immanence of the Divine. The Hindu as well as Christian traditions help us to experience the Divine in creation. Some of the Indian Rishis perceived the Divine self (Atman) at the core of reality. The Atman, the Ground of Being (Tait. Up. 3.1) is ‘hidden in the heart as well as in the highest heaven’ (Tait. Up. 2.1). The Divine Self “pervades the entire realm of reality like butter in milk” (Svet. up. 1.16). The Bhagvad Gita describes that the divine Lord is present at ‘the heart of all things’, as their ‘source of life’, as their inner light’ and ‘final goal’ (15:15, 7:9, 13:18). In Indian Darshana, cosmic Rta (harmony) and Sanatana Dharma (eternal law) are intimately connected. The physical order is interwoven with a moral order.  Sanatana Dharma is synonymous with righteous living. The reason why there is cosmic order is because the entire universe fulfills this Sanatana Dharama. Hence nature is harmonious and spiritual. As we humans are endowed with freedom and consciousness, we have to obey the Sanatana Dharma consciously. At times this beautiful harmony is broken because we neglect and fail to fulfill the Sanatana Dharma.

The divine Atman is the axis of the ever-rotating cosmic wheel. The entire realm of reality is the dance of the divine Lord. The dancing Siva, Nataraja, is so profoundly interesting. ‘It is a powerful icon of the cosmic dance of the Divine within the vibrant space of the atom as well as in the orbit of the galaxies’.[8]Nataraja is one of the great figures of the Indian mythology. He is represented with four arms dancing in a circle of fire, dancing at the heart of creation. It is a cosmic dance. It represents the power that permeates and penetrates the whole cosmos. God pervades every grain of matter, every living thing and every human being. ‘He holds everything in Him’ (col. 1.16). He sustains the whole universe. ‘In his hands are the depths of the earth’ (Ps. 95. 4). The holding of the universe in his hand is a kind of dance, the dance of the universe, and the Lord Siva is dancing in every human heart. We have to recognize the Lord’s dancing in our hearts and we need to participate consciously in his dance and dance with Him. And that is the way to fulfill the Sanatana Dharma.

This cosmic dance of the Lord Siva reveals that everything is the universe is inter-dependent and inter-connected. Everything in the universe exists in Him, move in Him and have its being in Him. This cosmic dance invites us also to realize our ontological relationship with God. As there is no ontological difference between dance and dancer, everything in the universe is ontologically related to the Dancer, the Supreme Lord. The dancing Siva is a powerful metaphor of inter-connectedness and inter-dependency of everything in the cosmos.

Human’s Cosmic Dimension

Human being is a child of nature. He/she was formed ‘of the dust of the earth’. Human being is part of this earth from which Lord God made to grow all plants and trees. Hence he/she has intrinsic bond with it. Our earth is not inert matter out there. It is rather the extended form of our body and our bodies are, as Shakespeare says somewhere, “the quintessence  of the dust” highly transformed  and evolved earth. Our brain which is the matrix of all consciousness is extremely complex and sophisticated earth (clay).  “Human is earth waking to consciousness”.[9]Teilhard De Chardin defines human being, ‘man is evolution becoming conscious of itself’. ‘Cosmos becomes consciousness’ in man. ‘Once the matter attains a certain threshold of complexity, consciousness emerges.’[10] Teilhad in his master- product The Phenomenon of Man, says “man is nothing but evolution becomes conscious of itself”[11]. This is precisely where the cosmos is differentiated from the human and human from the Divine. 99% of the cosmos appears totally unconscious. The Divine is super- consciousness from eternity to eternity. While the cosmos takes millons of years to engender enkindle a tiny spark of consciousness, apparently depending on delicate a complexity that can easily be thrown out of gear. Yet this tiny atom of consciousness can seem to have cosmo-theandric visions!

This incarnate dimension of the consciousness or the mind is very well brought out in the word human. The word human suggests a more integrated insight: it reminds us that we are humus plus mens. They are derived from two Latin words: humus = earth and mens = mind. We are earthy minds.[12] We are intelligent matter. There is a wise crack in the scientific circles. They say ‘stars are my sisters and stones are my cousins’. It is because you and me, stones and the distant stars are made of the same basic elements – protons, neutrons and electrons. Cosmos is a web of interconnectedness.

This incarnate and integrated dimension of the consciousness is very explicit in the definition of the human being by one of the greatest theologians and thinkers of our age, Karl Rahner i.e., even as he titles his philosophical work, Spirit in the world. Human being, for Rahner, is spirit – but not spirit in the usual understanding as the contrary of matter, but in a sense of that which is able to transcend the world by his/her consciousness. Human being is a mysterious spirit that must be involved with the world.

Humans are therefore the offspring of the mother earth and he/she has ‘earthy mind’ or ‘solidified spirit’ which enables him/her to be open to the world. When we look around us at the world in which we live, we notice four types of beings, basically. First there is ‘the mineral kingdom’ which comprises various elements, some solid, some gaseous and some liquid – the non-living things. Then there is the ‘the vegetative kingdom’, with which we enter the realm of living things: plants, fruits, vegetable, trees and such like which are products of the earth, the mineral world. The food of the vegetative world is mineral world. All the food that we eat is the transformed earth. A loaf of bread is a lump of the earth in an edible form. Then there is the ‘animal kingdom’, the living things that have sensation and are capable of locomotion. The food of these animals are mostly from vegetation and mineral world, and the air that we and they breathe.

 Finally there is ‘the human kingdom’. Human being is the finest of all species endowed with spiritual faculty. We are born of the earth and we are constantly nourished and nurtured by produce of the earth. We are integral part of this earth. But our minds transcend matter in such a way as to enable us to have not only cosmo-theandric visions, but also to make plans to travel into space and calculate the distances between the stars.

Human being cannot consider himself/herself to be an independent spectator or a mere consumer or a selfish utilizer or exploiter of this universe. He is considered to be a small cosmos (microcosm), reflecting the great universe (macrocosm). Everything that is seen in this cosmos is succinctly epitomized in human being. Every strata of existence in the cosmos can be reduced into material world, vegetative life, animal and human life. Human being is the summary of all various forms of life, a small conscious cosmos. Above all, he/she has the image and likeness of the Creator. Both ancient Greek and Indian thinkers considered human being as the microcosm. Human body being the epitome of the cosmos, he/she has a moral responsibility to love and take care of the creation, to ‘till it and keep it’ (Gen.2.15), his/ her ‘earth home’.

God’s Image in Human beings and their Task of Cosmic Justice

God has entrusted the whole cosmos and creation to human beings because they are created ‘in His own image and likeness’ (Gen. 1.26). As we humans reflect the image and likeness of God in all glory, so do all the creatures, although dimly and in different degrees bear the imprint of God.  In the book of Genesis we read: “The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the water” (Gen.1.2). In the book of wisdom we read: “The immortal spirit is in all things” (Wis. 11. 26). God has put something of His nature in all that He has created, just like something of the nature of the mother/father is given to the child or an artist gives his own idea or nature in the canvas.

Going by the first two chapters of the book of Genesis, God has willed humans to ‘take possession’ of the earth. The biblical words like ‘dominion and ‘subduing’ are not to be understood in an aggressive and authoritarian tone nor is it a license for the unbridled and unjust exploitation and subjugation of the nature.[13] Since humans are created in the image and likeness of God, he/she has the moral obligation to act on behalf of God to love and to take care for the creation. Human beings are responsible to take care of creation with a steward-compassion and shepherding care, like God the good shepherd.

                We are God’s representative to take care of the creation. God loves every creature for its own sake, ‘since He sends forth His Spirit, and they are created’ (Ps.104.30). Hence God’s own image is reflected on various scales in all creation. God’s love has no limits and excludes nobody. It should be noted that God Himself looked at the creation and said “good”. For Chardin, creation is God’s ‘divine milieu’ which is the title of one of his books. St. Thomas Aquinas had a tremendous openness to the creation and he said: “Sicut anima in corpora sicut Deus in mundo.( As the soul is in the body, God is in the world)”[14] Hence love of the earth is love of God.  It is an integral and holistic vision that the non-human beings have their own intrinsic value apart from the utility to humans. Cosmic justice demands that we have no right to reduce the diversity of the non-humans. This means that we learn to grow in respect, regard and reverence for creatures and not make use of them selfishly as resource for human disposal. We have a moral responsibility to preserve them in their God- given order and integrity.[15] Any rash and selfish act of disintegration done to the creation is a sin against nature. To pollute air, earth, water and various grains and food sources, to denude the forest and to extinguish animal and bird species is to disintegrate the whole created order and a sin against nature. It is therefore a sin against the humans themselves and God, the Creator. Anyone who disintegrates the nature, he/she is anti-comos, anti-human and anti-God, because reality is cosmo-theandric. Everything in the world is interrelated and inter-dependent.

Humans are given the duty ‘to till the ground and keep it’. The earth belongs to Yahweh. Humans are only guardians and trustees of the earth. We are commissioned to co-operate with God to create a ‘new heaven and new earth’. Therefore humans have to become responsible co-workers. To build the earth is a sacred duty, a cosmic liturgy, a religious commitment. Thus it is a vocation of human beings and also a challenge to become co-creators with God to build the earth and to conserve the diversity and richness of the different species for the future generation.

Cosmic Fall

Though the primal vision was one of unity and harmony, Genesis depicts that separation and enmity began with the fall of Adam and Eve.  Fall meant disharmony and separation between human and non-human, which is symbolically presented in the hatred between the woman and the serpent(Gen. 3/15). This conflict and alienation with human and non-human gradually culminates in the mutual rebellion among humans, which is narrated in the story of killing Abel. God’s words to Cain are profoundly meaningful in this context: “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Gen. 4. 10-11). It affirms every sin is a sin against nature. Every sin disintegrates the cosmic-web of life.

Human’s reckless attitudes of conquering and possessing reach its apex in the construction of the tower of Babel. And the modern man exploited the nature assuming the truth of the dictum of philosopher Protagoras ‘man is the measure of all things’. He/she saw the nature as an inexhaustible resource for human disposal. Man became the lord of the cosmos. Anthropocentrism triumphed in the wrong direction. Humans turned to valuate nature in terms of utility. He/she became consumeristic and eco-fiendish. Humans threw themselves out of the heart of the nature. But they soon saw the cry of nature and realized that a holocaust of our beautiful planet is taking place rapidly.  Though very late, they came to learn the bitter truth that if we destroy the nature, the nature will ultimately destroy us in turn. It is said ‘God forgives us always, human forgives sometimes but nature never forgives.’ Though rather late, an inner cry within the soul of humanity is finally emerging from a feeling of helplessness about the misuse of the earth and the fear of future, which in fact is the groaning of the whole cosmos within us. Though almost irreversibly late, it is a cry for the reconciliation of our broken relationship with it. If ‘option for the poor’ is a must, ‘option for nature’ becomes an absolute must!

This late realization has given birth to various organizations and groups in the world to advocate and work for the conservation of ecology; to heal, love and care for our nature. We need to join with them and preach a philosophy of life which considers reality in its totality and integrity, because the fundamental problem of ecology is that of man’s alienation and fragmentation from the reality.  One of the ways in which we can cooperate with them is by imparting to them the biblical vision of God’s creation, and of man’s place in that creation.  A holistic vision helps to avoid and overcome the forces that cause alienation and fragmentation.

We need to learn to see the reality as cosmo-theandric. A holistic response to the cry and groaning of the cosmos demands that we accept and promote a cosmo-theandric vision, outlook and approach. This means that the Divine, human and non-human are not three independent and separable realities, but they are in a harmonious blend of each other. As the advaitic outlook of the reality points to us, there is an unbreakable link between God, human and cosmos. Panikkar speaks of cosmo-theandrism in the advaitic or non-dualistic sense without falling a prey to monism.[16] Reality has a Trinitarian structure and differentiated unity. Panikkar says:

The cosmotheandric principle could be stated by saying that the divine, the human and the earthly – however we may prefer to call them – are the three irreducible dimensions which constitute the real, i.e., any reality inasmuch as it is real…Everything that exists, any real being, presents this triune constitution expressed in three dimensions.[17]

Differentiated unity of the Divine, the human and the cosmos can be compared to a Tree. Tree has been a primordial teacher of man. A reflection about tree will reveal to us the cosmotheandric  relationality of the divine, human and cosmos. A tree, as we all know, has two parts: one below the ground and the other, above the ground. Let us first look at what is below the ground regarding a tree, namely, the root of a tree. The divine can be compared to the root of a tree. Hidden under ground, the root controls the growth and shape of a
tree; it sustains the tree. In short, we could rightly say of a tree that everything comes forth and everything lives through its hidden root. The unseen root is the source of life; the designer of what is above the ground, the invisible intelligence in the visible.  The stem of a tree is comparable to the visible Nature or Cosmos.

The branches are the offspring of the stem. The  humans are like the branches born and constantly nourished andsustained by the vital sap supplied by the root flows through the stem and the braches.  The invisible life-giving energies of the divine who is immanent in whole creation radiate through the cosmos and the humans. There is a kind of metaphorical or analogical unity between the root and the stem and the branches. That is to say, the root,the stem and the branches are different from each other, though not totally, nor are they the same totally.  In the same way, the Divine, human and cosmos are radically related in a differentiated unity.

The Biblical Vision: Cosmic Redemption

It is interesting to note that the Paradise includes the Divine, human and non-human. The book of Genesis shows us that the paradise of God is not different from the earth. It speaks of unity between heaven and earth. The last book, Revelation in its apocalyptic vision narrates the new heaven and new earth. The episode of creation depicts earth itself as a divine milieu. The Spirit of God was moving and removed the darkness and chaotic state into a beautiful cosmos. The Divine Spirit promotes harmony among creatures. Creation and evolutionary progress of the universe is an ongoing activity of the Spirit. There is a beautiful metaphor which reveals the dynamic presence of the Divine in the world. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3.8). Walking is an active and ongoing sign of presence and friendship. Earth is a beautiful garden which has the footprint of its Creator in its each detail. God is always walking with His creatures. God pervades, permeates and penetrates every part of this universe. The creation narratives in Genesis are a reminder to us that the earth is our home since it is ‘God’s own home and temple’. The whole cosmos is a sacrament of God.

We have to live on our earth-home as if we are living in paradise, then only we will be fit and capable of entering into the eternal paradise. For if God says, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my Foot stool; all these things my hand has made, and so all these are mine’ (Is. 66.1-2), and the same God promises us an eternal paradise.  We humans have a duty to care for this nature, and make it a paradise, Godly, beautiful and good for living, where we all can feel life worth living. Besides the book of Genesis certifies, “God saw everything that he had made and behold everything was beautiful. This is perhaps the most powerful and profound metaphor in the biblical literature concerning the nature which is his handiwork. St. Basil explains to us the act of God as God’s contemplative look at his own handiwork and invites us to learn from the attitude of God and imitate him.[18] When we look at this handiwork of God with contemplative eyes, everything in the universe evoke in us wonder and amazement and we become Eucharistic, in the sense that praise and thanksgiving arises in our hearts like incense.

The Pauline spirituality speaks of the primacy of Christ in the order of creation (col. 1.18-20) and in the order of redemption (Eph. 4.13). Christ is the keystone of the cosmos, the Lord of all creation. He is the person who personalizes the universe and the universe comes to a head, as it were, in him. The whole cosmos is groaning for redemption (Rom. 19-23). Teilhard De Chardin perceived the cosmos as the body of Christ. He is the unifying centre of the cosmos and the mankind. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of whole creation. Hence He is the Cosmic Christ. Chardin has an evolutionary worldview – an expansion and convergence in progressive integration, the goal of which is the Omegaization of the whole cosmos. Christ is that point who will draw everything into himself. In Christ, there is unity and transformation of the cosmos.

The incarnation and the resurrection express the ultimate meaning of human and the cosmos in relation to God. By incarnation the whole cosmos is Christified. It is the injection of the Divine into the heart of the cosmos. The cosmos is permeated with the divine. The divinized universe is perceived as theocosm. It is the immanence of God in the universe, a God who continually reveals Himself in the myriad creatures in their variegated splendour. Through the incarnation the Word assumed the human body embracing all the creation in love and ennobling the cosmos. Jesus was very much an earth-man. The full meaning of the incarnation is the assumption of the whole universe and the whole of humanity into the Divine life. Christ is the indwelling Spirit, the Self of the cosmos, who redeems it by assuming the human body and by his suffering, death and resurrection.

In the resurrection of Jesus, we witness the ultimate goal of God’s cosmic agenda. The human body which is a miniature form of the entire universe, a microcosm of the macrocosm – the mineral, vegetative, animal and the whole cosmos is glorified. The whole cosmos have put off their “secularity” and put on “sacrality”.[19] At the Ascension the body of Christ, the miniature form of the cosmos, is taken up to the Godhead. It is amazing when we begin to grasp it, that the matter which exploded in the so called Big Bang at this divine mystery of Christ-event was finally transformed and glorified. In fact, this transformation of the cosmos is going on every day in the Eucharistic celebration. The Bread and wine which is the produce of the earth and the work of human hands become the vehicle of the divine mystery. The earth produces, and the work of humans are penetrated by Divine life and love. In the Eucharist the Divine, human and nature meet together.  They sacramentalize the resurrected and transformed body of Christ. Hence everything in the cosmos is sacred and sacramental.


Concluding Remarks: Ethical and Spiritual Implications

1 The Sacramental dimension of the Created world

The cosmos, with all manifold beings in it, reminds us of God. The mysterious life force in nature, the sun, moon and starry space above us appear before us as a standing witness to the glory of God (Ps. 19.1-6). “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth”(Ps.8.1). God is immanent in every created thing in nature, even in a grain of sand. Everything has its being in God. God reveals Himself in the whole creation and makes Himself known in human being, as he/she is endowed with consciousness. Everything in the cosmos is created through the Word of God (Ps.33.6), and everything is sustained and supported by Him and everything in nature will be transformed to participate in His Divine life. Hence we have to approach all created realities in the nature with a certain ‘sacramental sensitivity’. The cosmos is the home of God, the temple of God and the sacrament of God. Everything in creation speaks about God and leads us to God.

Everything in creation participates in the self-effacing and self-giving nature of God. The spirituality of the nature is self-emptying. The Sun gives us light and heat. A river quenches our thirst. The cool breeze brings serenity to the soul. A flower offers its scent to us. A cloud empties itself. The tree gives food, breath, shade and shelter. Everything in the nature is a source of blessing for us. The visible world mediates the invisible presence of God. Everything is the nature is sacramental, leading the soul to God.


2 Nature is our Teacher

The whole creation invites us to listen to this cosmic harmony and become as Karl Rahner says, “hearers of the Word”.[20] God speaks to us and His wisdom is revealed in and through the creation. The Psalmist says, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all” (Ps. 104.24) “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jer. 10.12).

The book of Job invites us to establish an existential relationship with the entire creation by listening to every living thing, vegetation, birds, animals, fish etc. They teach God’s wonderful providence and give glory to God.

“Ask the beasts, and they will teach you;

the birds of the air, and they will tell you

or the plants of the earth, they will teach you,

and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

Who among all these does not know

That the land of the Lord has done this?

In his hand is the life of every living thing,

and the breath of all mankind” (Job. 12. 7-10)

It is evident that Jesus was a keen observer of nature and he was in deep communion with it. In his preaching, He made use of the insights he got from nature. The relationship between Jesus and his disciples is beautifully described in his words; ‘’I am the Vine and you are the branches”. He was fascinated by the birds of the air. We are challenged to learn the providence of God from the birds of the air and lilies of the field. With a poetic instinct, he compares the lilies of the field to the glories of the king Solemon. The different seasons and direction of the wind and rain evoked in him wonder and amazement. He was a cosmic person, cosmic lover and cosmic mystic. The entire nature reacted to the death of this eco-friendly earth-man. ‘The sun light failed, there was darkness over the whole land, the earth shook and the rocks were split”.

St. Francis Assisi was a cosmic lover and mystic who constantly listened to the creation and learned wisdom from all created things in the nature. He was a ‘hippie saint’ and ‘cosmic priest’ who praised and glorified God together with and on behalf of all non-human realities of the whole cosmos. At the same time, He was a mystical Politician who defended the democracy of all creatures and declared brotherhood and sisterhood of all created realities. His religiosity was an eco-friendly religiosity. Cosmic mysticism is an existential listening to the wisdom of all creation.

The Wisdom psalmists challenge us to ask the most enigmatic question which the sages and philosophers have posed from time immemorial. ‘What is man?’ (Ps. 8. 4, 144. 3). The answer of the psalmist is quiet simple, namely, he/she is fragile being, fading dream, passing shadow, a fleeting breath (Ps. 144.4). Humans are like grass which is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed, in the evening it fades and withes’ (Ps. 9.5). It is a plain truth of human existence put in a colorful language.

3 Our Ontological and Moral relationship with the nature

The earth is considered as the extended form of our body. Our body is transformed earth. All the food that we eat, cereals and vegetables, fruits and pulses are in fact transformed earth, because they are the products of the earth. The relationship of human to earth is deep and ontological. Both the human and the earth are basically related to each other and conjoined to each other, and the earth-mother gives existence, sustenance, support and meaning to the humans.[21] Hence we are ontologically related to the earth on which we live, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. They are part of our body. Human is seen as a world in miniature, a microcosm of the macrocosm. We have an ethical imperative and a moral obligation to the nature. We do not have any right to do anything we like with the earth. On the contrary, our relationship to the earth is an “ought” relationship: what we ought to do to conserve, heal, protect and love the nature, our mother earth.

The mother earth is a bountiful giver. The earth sustains the lives of humans and non-humans. Our moral and spiritual obligation to the nature is seen by the Hindu Darsana as “Bhuta-Yajna”, which is one of the “Pancha-maha-Yajna”, (five great sacrifices) which the humans ought to do. Bhuta is the power, the spirit that pervades and permeates in the nature. They are the basic elements of air, water, earth, etc. A devout Hindu has to perform everyday five great sacrifices. They are Deva-Yajna, sacrifice to God, Brahma-Yajna, surrendering to the Word of God which is a real sacrifice, Pitr-Yajna, sacrifices offered to the ancestors whose fruits of labour we now enjoy, Bhuta-Yajna, our selfless service to the nature, and the Nara-Yajna, the selfless service we ought to render to others. The underlying idea of the Pancha-maha-yajna is that in order to have an integrated and holistic personality, we are bound to share what we are and what we have with God through consecration, with the Word of God by Sravana, manana and nididhyasana, with our departed ancestors and cultural heritage through prayer, study and assimilation, with every layer of nature: mineral, vegetative and animal through work, and with the people through selfless service and love. Pancha-maha-Yajnachallenges us to share our entire self, our being and having with these five constituents of reality – God, the Word of God, forefathers, the nature and other humans. This is just, because we do not have anything really as our own, or which we have not received in one way or another from these five constituents of reality.  This obliges us to render selfless services to the five constituents of reality. A genuine person has to have complete openness, relation and availability to these five strata of reality in order that his/her personality is holistic, integral and cosmotheandric.

This relatedness to the five constituents of reality can be interpreted as the cosmotheandric relationality, reality being a harmonious blend of Divine, human and nature. The reality is experienced not in fragments but as a unified and integrated whole. A holistic person has an existential openness to the Divine, human and the cosmos. Being a microcosm, each person has to consider that ecological obligation as a God-given imperative. When we try to conserve, heal, protect and preserve the richness and diversity of all forms of life in the nature, we not only fulfill God’s will but we also do a service to the future generation. God, human and nature meet together when we fulfill our ecological responsibility.

  1. Eco- Cosmo-theandric Mysticism.

                The practical side of this mystical approach is to see God in everything and everything in God. This insight seems to co-inside with the biblical teaching on divine omnipresence and immanence which St. Thomas Aquinas explains philosophically in his Summa and many Christian mystics, like Saints Ignatius, Francis Assisi, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and others have experienced. It is a genuine Christian Advaita. Advaita means “not-two”. Reality is neither totally one nor totally two. But ‘not-two’. This can be explained in the human experience. A human person is a complete substance of body and soul – two incomplete substance – body and soul, not two independent substances – but one substance. The human is soul and body. But they are not two different realities put together from outside. Myself and my body are not-two. They are not one either. My body is not totally different from myself. I am essentially my body. This is why we never say, ‘my body feels pain’, or ‘my body slept ‘or ‘my body weighs 60 kg’. We rather say, ‘I feel pain,’ ‘I slept’ or I weigh 60 kg.’ It is myself that exists bodily. The body is not my instrument. Yet I am more than my body. My body is totally dependent on me in a way I am not dependent on my body. There is only one-sided dependent relationship. Similarly God and the cosmos are not two. They are not one either. The world is totally dependent on God. God is not dependent on the world. They are not-two[22]. This world, you and I are real, but with a completely and ontologically relative reality. This world, you and I without God is a pure illusion. There is no being outside God. This shows that the mystics and metaphysicians seem to meet each other at the end. In the metaphysics of St. Thomas we find a solid, ration, in-depth philosophical foundation for this omnipresence and immanence of God. Metaphysically speaking ‘whatever is not being by its very essence depends totally and ontologically on the Being that is Being by its very essence.’

Spirituality is basically religious. Religion has got tremendous influence on human, because it provides him/her with a creed or a philosophy of life. There cannot be any genuine religiosity and spirituality without ecology and there cannot be any genuine ecology without religiosity and spirituality. Religion is nothing other than our relationship to God, human and the nature. This Trinitarian structure is the constituents of the reality. Raimon Panikkar has a non-dualistic (advaitic) approach to this triadic structure. These three aspects of reality are radically related with differentiated unity. Hence, cosmo-theandic vision is not monism. There is no undifferentiated unity in the triadic structure of reality comprising the Divine, human and cosmos. So the indwelling presence of God in the universe is not pantheism as some people would say. It could be called ‘panentheism’, that God is in everything and everything is in God, but nothing is God. God transcends everything.

While God is immanent in all creatures; and they are forever the expressions of God, charged with His energy and alive with His presence. And human being alone is made in His own image and crowned him ‘with glory and honour’ (Ps. 8.5). The entire creation is entrusted under the stewardship of the humans for tilling the earth and guarding it, and they are commissioned to be His co-creators. His/her vocation to be stewards or care-takers of creation takes on the central stage for the unfolding of eco-spirituality. The whole creation is a gift of God to humankind. This gift becomes a creative blessing of God for the humans when they fulfill their task and responsibility toward this earth-home.

Everything that we enjoy in nature today is not only a gift of God, but also the fruits of the human labour. Therefore we have to enjoy even a cup of tea with cosmo-theandric gratitude and sensitivity. It is because even in a cup of tea, we encounter the Divine, the human and the nature. It is the gift of God, gift of the nature and the work of the human hands. Gratitude is possible when we see everything as a gift. Nature gives humans plentifully and we have not earned it. God is a bounteous giver through the nature. Everything in the universe is beautiful because it is full of godliness. Nothing in nature is empty of godliness.

We are also recipients of many blessings from others’ hard labour. We are deeply indebted to the nature and the people around us. From the time we wake up, the paste, the brush, the water we use until we go to bed at night, the daily food that we take and the multifarious things we use throughout the day are made and provided by hundreds of other people for us. First and foremost they belong to the nature; they are the works of humans and above all God’s gift in and through nature and others. Human existence is a web of interrelationship and interdependence. And so any sin, in the strict sense, is a violence to or violation of this interconnectedness, and breaking the harmony between God, human and the nature. Each being is a part of the cosmic totality which contributes to creation in its own way, thus making the world a better place. Hence cosmo-theandric spirituality invites us to be grateful and sensitive to other humans and to the nature and above all to God, who is the source of everything. Based on the basic insight of the cosmo-theandric vision, we can attribute a threefold value to every being. Firstly, value and respect every being in the nature for its own sake and every human for his/her own sake; secondly, every being is an inalienable part of the cosmic web; every being  reminds us of God, since each creature is His personal handiwork (Ps. 19.1), ‘work of thy fingers’ (Ps. 8.1). And thirdly human beings as the finest beings and the crown of  the cosmos and the stewards of creation, have the mission and vocation to become co-creators with the Creator and lead the whole creation into the freedom that God has planned.

(When I met Fr. Paul D’Souza for the first time in Pius Nagar in 1971, I realised that I was in contact with a very genius person. My relationship to him was all the more deepened when I started my priestly ministry in 1980. During these period I used to consult him on matters of theology and philosophy, especially subjects such as metaphysics and cosmology. Later in my teaching career his advices was of immense help to me)




[1]RaimonPanikkar (1918-2010) coins this word “cosmothandric” from three Greek words cosmos+theos+ anthropos. His mother was Spanish Catholic and his father came  from a well-known Hindu family. He had been brought up in Europe and had his academic career in USA and Europe and taken degrees in science, philosophy and theology. He had come to India to discover the rich Indian heritage and culture.

[2] Bede Griffiths, Return to the Center, (London, Harper Collins Pub.1971, p. 36.


In Chandogya Upanishad, V1, ii, 1, we see that Brahman is One only, without a second and It thought to Itself, “let me be many” and the whole universe came into existence. In Mandukya Upanishad, 11, we see that “everything here is Brahman”. The entire universe is the manifestation of this One Reality, Brahman.

[3] John Paul 11, Fides et Ratio, no.19

[4] The nature is called PrakrtiPrag+krti (Primary book)

[5] Benedict XV1, Verbum Domini, 8.24

[6] Pope Francis, “Lumen Fidei”, no. 55

[7]Emmanuel Kaniyamparambil, OCD, “Ecological Wisdom of the patristic tradition”, Indian Journal of Spirituality, January-March, 2011.Vol.XX1V., St. Clement of Rome, First Letter to the Corinthians 20, 3: 4;9;10. Eng. Tr. Of J.B. Lightfoot (ed. And tr.), The Apostolic Fathers, Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, Part One, Vo..2: (Michigan: Baker House, 1981), p. 282.

[8] S. Painadath SJ, The Spiritual Journey, ISPCK, 2006, p. 103.

[9] Ibid. p. 99

[10]Desbruslais Cyril SJ, The Philosophy of human person’, JnanaDeepaVidyapeeth Pune, 1997, p. 21

[11] Teilhad, The Phenomenon of Man, (New York, Harper and Row, pbs. 1959), p. 221

[12]Idid. P. 22

[13] Dr. R.L. Raja, SJ, Eco-Spirituality, N.B.C.L.C. Banglore, 1997, p. 4

[14] ST 1-11, q. 17, a.8, ad.2

[15] Dr. R.J. Raja SJ, p. 40

[16] Joseph Prabhu, “Trinity: Unity and Pluralism in the Thought of RaimonPanikkar and Bede Griffiths”, Vidyajyoti, vol. 75, No. 2, Feb, 2011, p. 140

[17] Panikkar, The Cosmotheandric Experience, Emerging Religious Consciousness ( New York: Orbis Books), 1993, p.60

[18] Emmanuel Kaniyamparambil OCD, p.60

[19] Dr. R.J. Raja SJ, Eco-Spirituality, p. 48

[20] It is the title one of the famous books of Karl Rahner.

[21] Dr. R.J. Raja SJ, Eco Spirituality, p. 6

[22] Michael Amaladoss, S.J., ‘New trends in Indian Theology’, Vidyajoti (Platinum Jubilee issue), vl. 76, no.12, December 2012, p. 896

Author: Dr. Bosco Correya OCD