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Visionary theologian and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin applied his whole life, his tremendous intellect, and his great spiritual faith to building a philosophy that would reconcile religion with the scientific theory of evolution. In this timeless book, which contains the quintessence of his thought, Teilhard argues that just as living organisms sprung from inorganic matter and evolved into ever more complex thinking beings, humans are evolving toward an "omega point"—defined by Teilhard as a ...
Visionary theologian and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin applied his whole life, his tremendous intellect, and his great spiritual faith to building a philosophy that would reconcile religion with the scientific theory of evolution. In this timeless book, which contains the quintessence of his thought, Teilhard argues that just as living organisms sprung from inorganic matter and evolved into ever more complex thinking beings, humans are evolving toward an "omega point"—defined by Teilhard as a convergence with the Divine.
Posted May 17, 2015
PERHAPS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPRESSION OF "THEISTIC EVOLUTION"
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French theologian, Jesuit priest, and paleontologist/geologist who took part in the discovery of Peking Man, and was later unjustly accused by Stephen Jay Gould of participating in the Piltdown Man fraud (see Gould's book [[ASIN:0393308197 The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History]], and see Charles Blinderman's book [[ASIN:0879753595 The Piltdown Inquest]] for a refutation). Teilhard was forbidden to publish his writings during his lifetime, the 1950 encyclical 'Humani Generis' condemned several of his opinions, and in 1962, the Holy Office issued a 'Monitum' or warning that his books contained ambiguities' and 'serious errors,' that offended Catholic doctrine. But more recently, Pope John Paul II cited Teilhard approvingly, as has Benedict XVI. This book was published posthumously in 1955.
He wrote in the Preface, “this book … must be read not as a work on metaphysics, still less as a sort of theological essay, but purely and simply as a scientific treatise… This book deals with man SOLELY as a phenomenon; but it also deals with the WHOLE phenomenon.” (Pg. 29) He adds in the Foreword, “Man is unable … to see mankind unrelated to life, nor life unrelated to the universe. Thence stems the basic plan of this work: Pre-Life: Life: Thought---three events sketching … a single and continuing trajectory, the curve of the phenomenon of man… the views I am attempting to put forward here are… largely tentative and personal. Yet … they give an idea… of the way in which the problem of man presents itself in science today.” (Pg. 35)
He says, “This fundamental discovery that all bodies owe their origin to arrangements of a single initial corpuscular type is the beacon that lights the history of the universe to our eyes. In its own way, matter has obeyed from the beginning that great law of biology to which we shall have to recur time and time again, the law of ‘complexification.’” (Bk. One, Ch. 1, 3A, pg. 48)
He observes, “I am convinced that the two points of view [materialists and spiritualists] require to be brought into union, and that they soon will unite in a kind of phenomenology or generalized physic in which the internal aspect of things as well as the external aspect of the world will be taken into account.” (Ch. 2, pg. 53) He asserts, “It is impossible to deny that, deep within ourselves, an ‘interior’ appears at the heart of things… Since the stuff of the universe has an inner aspect … there is necessarily a DOUBLE ASPECT to its structure… co-extensive with their Without, there is a Within to things.” (Ch. 2, 1, pg. 56) He summarizes, “all the rest of this essay will be nothing but the story of … the application throughout of the great Laws of complexity and consciousness.” (Ch. 2, 2C, pg. 61)
He notes, “That there is AN evolution of one sort or another is now… common ground among scientists. Whether or not that evolution is DIRECTED is another question.” (Bk. Two, Ch. 3, pg. 141) He says, “Among the infinite modalities in which the complication of life is dispersed, the differentiation of nervous tissue stands out… as a significant transformation. It provides a direction; and therefore it proves that existence has a direction… among living creatures, the brain was the first sign and measure of consciousness. We have now added that, among living creatures, the brain is continually perfecting itself with time.” (Ch. 3, 1, pg. 146) He adds, “To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from WITHIN.” (Ch. 3, 2, pg. 150-151)
He contends, “everywhere the active phyletic lines grow warm with consciousness towards the summit. But one well-marked region at the heart of the mammals, where the most powerful brains ever made by nature are to be found, they become red hot... After thousands of years rising below the horizon, a flame bursts forth at a strictly localized point. Thought is born.” (Ch. 3, 3, pg. 160)
He contends, “[this brings us to] the fundamental discovery with which our study of the phenomenon of man is to culminate---the convergence of the spirit.” (Bk. Three, Ch. 1, 1B, pg. 176) He continues, “Man only progresses by slowly elaborating from age to age the essence and the totality of a universe deposited within him. To this grand process of sublimation it is fitting to apply … the word ‘hominisation.’ Hominisation … [is] the individual and instantaneous leap from instinct to thought, but it is also… the progressive phyletic spiritualization in human civilization of all the forces contained in the animal world.” (Ch. 3, 1B, pg. 180)
He goes on, “Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it effaces itself… in one word ‘noogenesis.’ When for the first time in a living creature instinct perceived itself in its own mirror, the whole world took a pace forward.” (1C, pg. 181) He adds, “Thus we see not only thought as participating in evolution … [but] Man discovers that ‘he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself,’ to borrow Julian Huxley’s striking expression. It seems to me that our modern minds will never find rest until they settle down to this view.” (Ch. 2, 1B, pg. 221)
He suggests, “The coalescence of elements… the spherical geometry of the earth and psychical curvature of the mind harmonizing to counterbalance the individual and collective forces of dispersion in the world and to impose unification---there at last we find the spring and secret of hominization. But why should there be unification in the world and what purpose does it serve?... Evolution = Rise of consciousness; Rise of consciousness = Union effected.” (Bk. Four, Ch. 1, 1B, pg. 243)
He asserts, “Man is irreplaceable. Therefore, however improbable it might seem, he MUST reach the goal, not necessarily, but infallibly.” (Ch. 1, 1, pg. 276) He asks, “along what lines of advance… judging from the present condition of the noosphere---are we destined to proceed…? … They are: the organization of research, the concentration of research upon the subject of man, and the conjunction of science and religion. These are three natural forms of one and the same progression.” (Ch. 1, 2, pg. 278)
He says, "The universe fulfilling itself in a synthesis of centres in perfect conformity with the laws of union... In that final vision the Christian dogma culminates... so perfectly does this coincide with the Omega Point..." (pg 294)
He argues, “we can hope for no progress on earth without the primacy and triumph of the PERSONAL at the summit of MIND. And at the present moment Christianity is the UNIQUE current of thought… can we not say that Christianity fulfills all the conditions we are entitled to expect from a religion of the future; and that hence, through it, the principal axis of evolution truly passes, as it maintains?” (Epilogue, 3, pg. 297-298)
Persons opposed to a non-materialistic interpretation of evolution may hate this book; but others (including Julian Huxley, who wrote a lavishly laudatory Introduction to this book) of us may be absolutely captivated and largely persuaded by Teilhard’s vision.
Posted July 2, 2003
I read with great interest the review written by John Fennelly. I do not have either his deep knowledge of , or faithful devotion to the writings of Teillhard de Chardin. Therefore I am somewhat reluctant to throw the bit of cold water, I am about to throw on his very enthusiastic remarks. But I was reading this morning the words of another spiritual master, the Rebbe of Kotzk who tells us we should never be afraid, or feel guilty about telling the truth. So I will try to tell what I conceive to be the truth about this work. The problem is I have far more questions than I do answers. It seems to me it is mistaken to look at the present state of mankind and see it solely as a kind of ' higher point than we have ever gotten to' and yet transitional to the one we will get to next. In many ways we are living at the most dangerous time mankind has known, when we have developed more ways of destroying ourselves than most of us can even imagine. Secondly, the great power we have acquired in seemingly coming to the 'Omega point' where we are conscious of ourselves, and seemingly in control of our future evolution is very questionably that .Are we really in control?And who is the we? And in what direction are we really going? If the terrorist fanatics of radical Islam take over our world, what will happen to scientific truth, democracy, freedom of expression, civilization itself? Secondly, the developments of science seem to me to have outpaced Chardin's vision. We are now doing things in regard to understanding the genetic basis of life which may shortly lead us to engineer humanity out of existence.This is not a process one can suppose is simply beneficient. Where history and the whole motion of life are going are questions which can in part be determined by human actions. All this is to say that I do not believe Chardin's vision of the overall development of mankind is something we can simply believe in as an absolute. From my own religious point- of- view in which I have great sympathy for a Jewish thinker, Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohen Kook of blessed memory whose work in some way parallels Chardin's I too would not take for granted the overall redemptive evolutionary process he calls for. I believe Mankind is in deep trouble, and in deep need of reconsideration at all levels of its own situation, its ideal ends and goals. What good for instance would it be to bring back by ' cloning' the dead if this is to bring them into a world where their own selfish needs are the only reality?That is not goodness, love or life in the deepest sense. From my own point- of- view despite my deep longing for those I love who are no longer here, I cannot imagine myself being happy to be resurrected so as to fit into some ' overall World- Spirit ' Perhaps each of us has a life and a story which G-d gives us, and all we can do is pray to make that in the best way we can. I too look up when I look to G-d, and pray for a human future greater and better than the human past. I am not sure it will come. And I do not believe any human being, even Teillhard de Chardin who tells me it must come. Let us be kinder and better to one another, let us help our neighbors, and listen to their thoughts and their arguments, and hopefully learn from them. Let us pray that the world of our children will be a better world than our own.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2001
THE PHENOMENON OF MAN [LE PHENOMENE HUMAIN] (henceforth LPH) of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J. [i.e., Jesuits!] (henceforth Chardin) was the Oeuvre Grand of Father Chardin's life as a scientist, adventurer, traveler, theologian, priest, and man. It is the summation of the results of all his experiences, interacting with his mind, and then generating a total picture of the way ALL things are, and are going to be, after great reflection. It is the book with which to begin reading and appreciating the life work of this great Man of God and of the World. Few people realize the contribution made by Chardin, and this book to so much of our ways of looking at the World, and our ways therefore of dealing with the World. My own well-worn and well-traveled copy, the same as the copy whose image you look at in the B&N offering here, was purchased just as I was out of high school [A Jesuit High School!] in 1965 and has been with me all my life. Chardin died in 1955. But he and his work were still a lively object of discussion in my high school. Contrary to what some may believe, we were encouraged to read his works. Now, it has finally come to pass that he has been recognized in LPH as a great Christian mystic, and that rather that being theologically incorrect, LPH shows the way in which science helps us to see the World in true clarity. After reading LPH we realize that science can open up to religion the knowledge of the World that can only be found by means of the instrumentalities and conceptions of science. We see that religion can pose questions that science could not pose, but then turn to science for the answers to those questions. Through all that there is the constant refrain, that God works through His creation. God works, in particular, through humankind. The scientist thus serves the same priestly function as the theologian, in developing humankind's understanding of the evolution of the World, of the World itself, and of how the World is moving into the future. We see the working out of the destiny of the World, being done through the divinely inspired actions of humans, as given hints by God, and other signs of Divine influences. We see how the transformation from the earlier primitive Worlds, that have existed even before humankind did (seen through the paleontological records of the Earth's geology), is accomplished with the assistance of humankind, and as we go into the future, more and more by the direct action of humankind, usually under Divine inspiration. Eventually most of the transformations of the Earth, of the World, of Life, and of Humankind, will be largely carried out by the actions of humankind itself. We converge on the Omega Point. We get there through our own hard work, over the next many millenia that it might take. Consider human cloning as a first step. Resurrection of the Dead at the Parousia? One cell from each person is all that will be needed. We will be able to clone everybody back into life. We simply await the necessary better technologies and better metrologies. [No! Rael the flying-saucer alien clone-be-cloner is not that guy!] But the recent work with the DNA of Neandertals is a slight indication of how the evolution of science is going to bring us all, including the theologians, in those directions. Or this one: Engineer the surface of the Earth? We already do that in some limited ways too. Chardin's point was that by the Second Coming of Christ, predicted by Christian Theology [and several others in differing ways, such as the first coming of the Sashoyant of the Zoroastrians, and the real Messiah of the Jews, the return of 12th Imam of Shia Twelver Islam, Buddha's encore performance, with a possible encore by Guru Nanak of the Sikhs, etc.] things would be well underway and well in hand, being mostly done by humans. So the Lord Christ, after he flys in on Saint John's cloud, will be able to simply lean back in a comfy chair, with a wine cooler [I'd say mint julep, but theyWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.