Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
- Bio link: the formative years, the years of travel, and the final years in New York : from the American Teilhard Association.
"Teilhard was one of the first scientists to realize that the human and the universe are inseparable. The only universe we know about is the universe that brought forth the human. Teilhard understood this. He understood that the human story and the universe story identified with each other. The immersion into the deep creative powers of the universe is the most direct contact a human can have with the divine. Such is the spirituality that Teilhard makes available to us. A spirituality that is rooted not in the spatial cosmos of Ptolemy, but in the time-developmental universe that the scientists have detected."
- Thomas Berry, geologian 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955 was a Jesuit Priest and a member of the Society of Jesus, trained as a paleontologist and a philosopher, and was present at the discovery of Peking Man. Teilhard de Chardin conceived such ideas as the Omega Point and the Noosphere, which many suggest predicted the internet or something like it.
"De Chardin was a Jesuit priest and Paleontologist who was involved with the discovery of 'Peking Man' in China. In an essay called Homonization he wrote in 1925 (and published in his work The Vision of the Past, 1966), de Chardin introduced the term Noosphere "for the Earth's thinking envelope" based "on the model of Suess's Biosphere." Although de Chardin finished The Phenomenon of Man on the brink of the second World War it was not published until after his death decades later. The Heart of Matter was written in 1950. In that essay, which he wrote towards the end of his life, he "tried to describe in a sort of autobiography the general process and the principal stages of 'the emergence of the picture'" sketched out in The Phenomenon of Man."
2. From the Wikipedia:
"Teilhard de Chardin wrote two comprehensive works, The Phenomenon of Man and The Divine Milieu.
His posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, set forth a sweeping account of the unfolding of the cosmos and the evolution of matter to humanity, to ultimately a reunion with Christ. In the book, Teilhard abandoned literal interpretations of creation in the Book of Genesis in favor of allegorical and theological interpretations. The unfolding of the material cosmos is described from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is "pulling" all creation towards it. He was a leading proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal-driven way. Teilhard argued in Darwinian terms with respect to biology, and supported the synthetic model of evolution, but argued in Lamarckian terms for the development of culture, primarily through the vehicle of education. Teilhard made a total commitment to the evolutionary process in the 1920s as the core of his spirituality, at a time when other religious thinkers felt evolutionary thinking challenged the structure of conventional Christian faith. He committed himself to what the evidence showed.
Teilhard made sense of the universe by assuming it had a vitalist evolutionary process. He interprets complexity as the axis of evolution of matter into a geosphere, a biosphere, into consciousness (in man), and then to supreme consciousness (the Omega Point). Jean Houston's story of meeting Teilhard illustrates this point.
Teilhard's unique relationship to both paleontology and Catholicism allowed him to develop a highly progressive, cosmic theology which took into account his evolutionary studies. Teilhard recognized the importance of bringing the Church into the modern world, and approached evolution as a way of providing ontological meaning for Christianity, particularly creation theology. For Teilhard, evolution was "the natural landscape where the history of salvation is situated."
Teilhard's cosmic theology is largely predicated on his interpretation of Pauline scripture, particularly Colossians 1:15-17 (especially verse 1:17b) and 1 Corinthians 15:28. He drew on the Christo-centrism of these two Pauline passages to construct a cosmic theology which recognizes the absolute primacy of Christ. He understood creation to be "a teleological process towards union with the Godhead, effected through the incarnation and redemption of Christ, 'in whom all things hold together' (Col. 1:17)." He further posited that creation would not be complete until each "participated being is totally united with God through Christ in the Pleroma, when God will be 'all in all' (1Cor. 15:28)."
Teilhard's life work was predicated on his conviction that human spiritual development is moved by the same universal laws as material development. He wrote, "...everything is the sum of the past" and "...nothing is comprehensible except through its history. 'Nature' is the equivalent of 'becoming', self-creation: this is the view to which experience irresistibly leads us. ... There is nothing, not even the human soul, the highest spiritual manifestation we know of, that does not come within this universal law." The Phenomenon of Man represents Teilhard's attempt at reconciling his religious faith with his academic interests as a paleontologist. One particularly poignant observation in Teilhard's book entails the notion that evolution is becoming an increasingly optional process. Teilhard points to the societal problems of isolation and marginalization as huge inhibitors of evolution, especially since evolution requires a unification of consciousness. He states that "no evolutionary future awaits anyone except in association with everyone else." Teilhard argued that the human condition necessarily leads to the psychic unity of humankind, though he stressed that this unity can only be voluntary; this voluntary psychic unity he termed "unanimization". Teilhard also states that "evolution is an ascent toward consciousness", giving encephalization as an example of early stages, and therefore, signifies a continuous upsurge toward the Omega Point which, for all intents and purposes, is God.
Teilhard also used his perceived correlation between spiritual and material to describe Christ, arguing that Christ not only has a mystical dimension but also takes on a physical dimension as he becomes the organizing principle of the universe — that is, the one who "holds together" the universe (Col. 1:17b). For Teilhard, Christ forms not only the eschatological end toward which his mystical/ecclesial body is oriented, but he also "operates physically in order to regulate all things" becoming "the one from whom all creation receives its stability." In other words, as the one who holds all things together, "Christ exercises a supremacy over the universe which is physical, not simply juridical. He is the unifying center of the universe and its goal. The function of holding all things together indicates that Christ is not only man and God; he also possesses a third aspect—indeed, a third nature—which is cosmic." In this way, the Pauline description of the Body of Christ is not simply a mystical or ecclesial concept for Teilhard; it is cosmic. This cosmic Body of Christ "extend[s] throughout the universe and comprises all things that attain their fulfillment in Christ [so that] ... the Body of Christ is the one single thing that is being made in creation." Teilhard describes this cosmic amassing of Christ as "Christo-genesis". According to Teilhard, the universe is engaged in Christogenesis as it evolves toward its full realization at Omega, a point which coincides with the fully realized Christ. It is at this point that God will be "all in all" (1Cor. 15:28c)."
Pierre de Chardin as a Mystic
Ursula King (Earthlight):
"PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN'S vision was one of consuming fire, kindled by the radiant powers of love. It was a mystical vision, deeply Christian in origin and orientation. Yet it broke through the boundaries of traditional orthodoxies -- whether those of science or religion -- and grew into a vision which is global in intent.
His deepest desire was to see the essence of things, to find their heart, and probe into the mystery of life, its origin and goal. In the rhythm of life and its evolution, at the center of the cosmos and the world, Teilhard believed, is a divine center, a living heart beating with the fiery energy of love and compassion. Now, the heart is really a fleshly reality But the image of this very flesh, this concentration of living, breathing matter, came to symbolize for Teilhard the very core of the spirit.
His entire outlook on life was profoundly mystical, yet his mysticism was firmly grounded in contemporary scientific research. For Teilhard the mystic, seer, and believer, the immense research efforts and advances of contemporary science, despite their negative side effects and the new ethical problems they cause, ultimately lead to the adoration and worship of something greater than ourselves, to the celebration of and surrender to divinity, to the heart and soul of the world.
[Teilhard's] ideas were developed in direct living contact with the world, especially the Earth, the stuff of the Earth. As a scientist in the fields of geology and paleontology, he was in constant contact with the world of rocks and stones, fossils and bones, plants and animals. But he also was in touch with many different places and peoples. All of these were, for Teilhard, the tangible concrete stuff of the universe.
While he worked on his scientific papers in his laboratory and office, he created most of his religious and philosophical writings in an unusual setting different from most academics, far removed from any library. His first essays were written in the trenches of the First World War, in woods and farmhouses, whenever there was respite from battle. In later years, he often composed the final version of his essays on the long boat journeys between Asia, America, and Europe, or during vacation time in his family home in the old land.
As he wrote in his 1918 essay "My Universe": "It seems to me that every effort I have made, even when directed to a purely natural object, has always been a religious effort. Substantially, it has been one single effort. At all times, in all I've done, I'm conscious that my aim has been to obtain the absolute. I would never, I believe, have had the courage to busy myself for the sake of any other end. Science, which means all form of human activity, and religion have always been one and the same thing for me. Both have been, so far as I am concerned, the pursuit of one and the same object.
THE SYMBOLISM OF FIRE was to occur in his writings again and again in the years to come. Nowhere is this vision more radiant and empowering than in the description of his mystical experiences. They truly express a vision of fire which filled him with wonder and amazement, ecstasy and joy, and made him see the world burst into flames. It is this fire which he wanted to pass on and kindle in others. His vision of fire was one of spiritual transformation drawn from the insides of both science and religion. The universe in evolution, studied in great detail in his scientific work, stimulated his zest for being. His Christian faith made him see the universal presence of Christ in all things.
Teilhard loved the Earth and its peoples. He loved his church and his order. And he was filled with the fire of love for the ever-great Christ. For him, the symbol of fire meant the warmth and radiance of love and light, the energy to fuse and transform everything. But fire is, of course, ambivalent. I t can destroy as well as transform. In Teilhard's understanding, it is the transforming power of the energies of love which alone can create a truly human community and provide it with its strongest points. Thus, the fire of love may be the only energy capable of extinguishing the threat of another fire, namely that of universal conflagration and destruction.
He considered the phenomenon of religion as central to human evolution, and the phenomenon of spirituality as the key element in religion. At the center of spirituality he perceived the phenomenon of mysticism, which he distinguished into different types. The core of mysticism, the most important and energizing type, was mysticism centered on love, a mysticism of action, which radiated outward and helped to transform and build up the spirit of the world.
Science, religion, and mysticism are always closely intertwined in Teilhard¹s thought, for his science is of central significance to a new mysticism of action and a new understanding of the world. This mysticism of action is the mysticism of unification, of bringing everything, all the diverse elements (the cosmic, human, and divine) together. It's a mysticism of transformation and of sanctification, where holiness is understood as wholeness.
Just a few days before his death, Teilhard wrote his last six pages, which are entitled "Research, Work, and Adoration." One might consider this text his last intellectual testament. In it, he speaks of the conflict between science and religion -- and its solution. He refers to the fire of a new faith in the human, to be combined with religious faith.
Teilhard endeavored to seek an ultimate coherence for our manyfold experiences and quests, and tried to convey a vision greater than what either traditional religion or science alone can offer us. From this perspective, religion and mysticism are part of the human search for union -- or communion -- with God via the evolutionary process of the growth and unification of the world. All human efforts, whether scientific or religious, whether action or contemplation, must finally lead to worship, adoration, and ultimately greater unity.
If mysticism, especially the mysticism of love, is the very heart of religion, it must provide us with the deepest springs of energy for both action and interaction with others. It cannot be a mere spirit duality, but must stand for spirit-in-and-through-matter mentality. Spiritual development and religious experience are best seen as closely interrelated with and inseparable from our human experience in general. F. C. Happold has remarked that for Teilhard, human activity in all its forms was capable of divinization. And therefore he described Teilhard's mysticism "as a mysticism of action, action springing from the inspiration of a universe seen as moved and com-penetrated by God in the totality of its evolution...this is a new type of mysticism, the result of a profound, lifelong reconciling meditation on religious and scientific truth, and it is thus of immense relevance and significance for a scientific age such as ours." (Mysticism. Pelican Books, London, 1978, p. 395.)"
- See the Wikipedia:Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin entry
- This book by a fellow Jesuit and long-time friend who had access to private and unpublished papers is considered one of the best explanations of Teilhard's religious views: . Henri de Lubac. The religion of Teilhard de Chardin, trans. Rene Hague, (New York: Desclee Co., 1967).
- Books by and on Teilhard recommended by the British Teilhard Network, at https://www.teilhard.org.uk/publications/recommended-books/
- 199 books available via the Internet Archive, for reading or listening: https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL26868A/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin