North Atlantic Books, 2014
Reviewed by June Raymond
Albert LaChance had been a seriously damaged child whose parents were alcoholics and he endured severe physical and later sexual abuse at Catholic schools. Unsurprisingly as a young man he became addicted to drugs and alcohol from which he finally escaped with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. He was clearly a highly intelligent and extremely sensitive person and had that spiritual hunger which is often characteristic of addictive personalities. Even before his recovery he devoted his life to a journey of spiritual enquiry. He was attracted by the writing of T. S. Eliot and later discovered Teilhard de Chardin. He spent a time with Matthew Fox but eventually found the teacher who really formed him in Thomas Berry, who became a personal friend as well as a teacher. It is clear from his writing that he was widely read and also much influenced by Joseph Campbell and the ideas of Jung among many others. His daughter, Rebecca, grew up with LaChance’s ideas from an early age and clearly understands them and loves them in equal measure. She has made theology her academic study and brings real intelligence and clarity to her exposition of her father’s thought. This is particularly valuable as his style does need some perspective and unravelling.
LaChance’s understanding of Berry’s thought is profound and he has made it his own. He develops its spirituality seeing our journey as a manifestation of the divine consciousness which is within and beyond creation. We have lost our awareness of our true identity and the next phase of the human story must be to reconnect with what we truly are. This he sees as the only way we can rescue both ourselves and the planet we are so effectively destroying. He has interesting things to say about how our psychology is connected at twelve different levels to the different levels of creation from self consciousness to the least animate level and finally back to what he calls the ‘Pre-Temporal Cosmological Psyche’. Our psychological ills are not just personal but collective, resulting from every level of planetary degradation. He also has a developed ‘The Twelve Steps of Ecological Spirituality’ in which our addiction to consumerism, which he sees as the cause our despoliation of the Earth, is addressed along the lines of the AA programme of recovery.
While LaChance’s ideas are both interesting and deeply thought provoking the English reader will have problems with much of the language which can seem convoluted, obscure and inflated. LaChance loves to make up words, such as ‘soulology’ or ‘Unitive BioLogos’. He typically uses ‘Avatar Voice’ where we would simply say ‘Spirit’ and likes to replace ‘Jesus’ with the Aramaic ‘Yeshua’. More serious than this is the problematic voice of the ‘poet mystic’ who coming from a genuinely troubled upbringing has to see himself as the chosen one whether of Berry or for a mission given by Jesus. He had a vision which to many would seem to have been a purely personal answer to a question and he interpreted it as appointing him to carry his message of ‘The Third Covenant’ to the world. His voice, oddly lacking in self knowledge and humility, weakens what could be an important contribution to the legacy of De Chardin and Berry.