Conferencia Internacional Teilhard de Chardin
Asociación Ecuménica de Teólogos/as del tercer mundo.
Adonde la Humanidad, adonde Asia, adonde Sri Lanka.
Dossier Edited by Sri Lankan EATWOT
Volume XXXVIII Nº 2015/1 New Series January-March 2015
CONTENTS – CONTENIDO
Presentation / Presentación………………………………………………………9
Teilhard International Conference…………………………………………….15
Teilhard's Mysticism: The Circle of Presence……………………………….17
The emerging power of Teilhrd's Vision
In the March of Humanity Towards a Common Destiny……………………31
Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL JOWAI
From Noosfere to Omega Point
the Actuality of Teilhard de Chardin's Vision………………………………..45
The Challenge of Teilhard's Vision to the contemporary world<
Science, Religion and Planetary Humanity……………………………………..53
Teilhard de Chardin and Indian Thought
with Special Reference to Aurobindo Ghoshe and Rabindranath Tagore.69
Religous Life in a Teilhardian Perspective…………………………………….87
El presente número de la revista VOICES agrupa tres bloques de material bien diferenciados.
En primer lugar, nuestra revista se goza en acoger en sus páginas la publicación de las ponencias de la «Conferencia Internacional sobre Teilhard de Chardin», celebrada recientemente en Sri Lanka, inédita hasta ahora. Agradecemos a los organizadores y miembros de EATWOT-ASIA que han participado y que lo han hecho posible, especialmente, de una manera muy significativa, a Shirley Lal Wijesinghe. Estamos contentos de inaugurar así en VOICES este año 2015, que registra el 60º aniversario de la muerte de Teilhard de Chardin, en Nueva York, el 10 de abril de 1955. Son muchas las entidades, de los más diversos tipos, y las revistas teológicas y científicas que están organizando iniciativas de profundización y evaluación del pensamiento de Teilhard de Chardin con esta ocasión. VOICES se suma ya desde este su primer número del año del aniversario a este trabajo investigativo y a este homenaje.
Pero no quedará aquí nuestro homenaje a Teilhard de Chardin: nuestro próximo número de VOICES, monográfico, ofrecerá a los lectores un buen conjunto de estudios y reflexiones de teólogos/as, principalmente latinoamericanos/as, sobre este tema: Teilhard de Chardin hoy, visto desde el Sur. Esperamos con ilusión poder ofrecerles este material, que ya estamos procesando.
El segundo bloque de este número de VOICES es un «Cuaderno» para el diálogo inter-religioso, producido y coordinado por la Comisión Teolçogica Latino-americana de la ASETT/EATWOT de cara a su participación en el WFS, Foro Social Mundial, a ser celebrado próximamente en Túnez. Publicado aquí en VOICES, queda a disposición pública para ser utilizado, incluso reproducido, libremente, como material de animación en nuestras comunidades religiosas e inter-religiosas, o en actividades civiles o académicas de diálogo inter-religioso o de reflexión inter-cultural. Agradeceremos cualquier comentario o crítica sobre su contenido, o cualquier informe sobre su utilización práctica.
El tercer bloque presenta la traducción al alemán del conocido «Paradigma Pos-religional», propuesta teológica lanzada por la Comisión Teológica Latinoamericana en el marco del IV Simposio Internacional de Teología y Ciencias de la Religión que tuvo lugar en la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Minas, de Belo Horizonte, en septiembre de 2011. Todo aquel material, fue publicado por VOICES, en su primer número de 2012 (disponible en la red, eatwot.net/VOICES). Pero la propuesta como tal, el texto emblemático por el que es conocida, no había sido todavía traducida al alemán, aunque ya estuviese en cinco idiomas (inglés, español, portugués, italiano y francés). Ahora se hace accesible también en la bella lengua de Göthe.
Esperamos con ilusión la fecha para compartir con ustedes ese próximo número monográfico, sobre Teilhard de Chardin, visto hoy y desde el Sur, trabajado por un excelente grupo de teólogos y teólogas convocados por nosotros, que han escrito sus textos originales expresamente para la EATWOT. Se lo agradecemos desde ya.
Disfruten la lectura y el uso pastoral de este número de VOICES que tienen en sus manos, o en sus pantallas.
José Maria VIGIL
VOICES' General Editor
Whither Sri Lanka.
Teilhard de Chardin International Conference
The vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has been kept alive in Sri Lanka for the last twenty-five years through the initiatives of Rev. Fr. Mervyn Fernando of the Subodhi Institute of Integral education. He founded the Teilhard Centre of the Institute in 1989. The relevance of the vision of Teilhard to the theologian, astrophysicist, microbiologist, chemist, psychologist and those engaged in conflict-reconciliation to name a few fields has been studied and researched at the Teilhard Centre over the last 25 years.
To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Teilhard Centre (1989-2014) and to inaugurate the commemoration of the 60th death anniversary (1955-2015) of Teilhard de Chardin, the Teilhard Centre organized an international conference on the relevance of the vision of Teilhard to the modern world. The conference dealt with the relevance of Teilhard de Chardin’s vision to global, Asian and Sri Lankan crises, challenging human tendency to commit evil, yet asserting the capacity of Human Beings to forge a bright future.
The conference dwelt on the theme “Whither Humanity, Whither Asia, Whither Sri Lanka” attracting specialists in Teilhardian, Asian and Sri Lankan studies. Included in this issue of Voices are the papers which were made available for publication by Jacques Arnould of the French Space Agency (CNES), France, Rev. Dr. Kathleen Duffy SSJ of Chestnut Hill College, USA, Rev. M.D. Joseph of the Archdiocese of Guwahati, India, Prof. Ursula King, Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, UK, Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Menamparampil, the Archbishop of Guwahati, India, and Rev. Dr. Leopold Ratnasekera OMI, of the Oblate Scholasticate, Ampitiya, Sri Lanka.
I wish to thank Rev. Dr. Mervyn Fernando, the Founder-Director of Subodhi Institute of Integral Education who envisioned and organized the international conference and the experts who made their texts available for the publication in our theological journal VOICES from the Third World.
Shirley Lal Wijesinghe
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
EATWOT, Sri Lanka
The Circle of Presence1
Kathleen DUFFY ssj
There were moments, indeed, when it seems to me that a sort of universal being was about to take shape suddenly in Nature before my very eyes.2
Abstract: In an early essay, Teilhard provides a road map through the intensely mystical environment in which he lived and moved, describing the stages of his mystical growth in terms of five concentric circles. These circles, more properly imaged as loops of a spiral that he revisits throughout his life, provided him with stepping stones into an ever deepening reality, a reality informed as much by the science of his time as by his religious tradition. They plot his growth and development as he sinks ever more deeply into the heart of matter and into the heart of God. This journey began with an awareness of a subtle Presence pervading the atmosphere in which he lived, and culminated in the perception of the radiance of a loving, cosmic Person—the God for evolution. In this paper, I trace Teilhard’s life journey through the first of these, the Circle of Presence, where Teilhard became attuned to the beauty of Earth and his sensitivity to nature opened him to the Divine Presence.
From my perspective as a Catholic scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has developed one of the most creative approaches to mysticism in modern times. What makes his approach particularly unique is the fact that it was fostered to a remarkable degree by both his love for Earth and his devotion to science, especially the science of evolution. Troubled as a young adult about how to love both God and science with his whole heart, he learned to rely equally on his inner psychological experience, his scientific knowledge, and his religious tradition. He allowed these influences to interact until they produced a view of God and the world that satisfied him.
In an early essay entitled “The Mystical Milieu,” he describes the five stages of his mystical journey into the heart of God as circles that actually form a spiral: the Circle of Presence, the Circle of Consistence, the Circle of Energy, the Circle of Spirit and the Circle of Person. In this paper, I focus on the first of these: the Circle of Presence.
Teilhard’s mystical journey began in the Circle of Presence. A nature lover from his youth, he was strongly affected by the lush beauty of the sense world that surrounded him. Something as simple as a song, a sunbeam, a fragrance, or a glance would pierce his heart and heighten his awareness of an unexplainable presence. The aesthetic pleasure that these encounters elicited enveloped him and penetrated to the depths of his soul. Although such moments were fleeting, they set up cosmic vibrations that invaded his being and took possession of him. Such encounters opened him to a new dimension that he yearned to explore. They stirred in him a desire to become one with the cosmos, to become “immersed in an Ocean of matter.”3 Each encounter fostered in him “an insatiable desire to maintain contact . . . with a sort of universal root of being.”4 Apparent from his childhood, Teilhard’s openness to this numinous presence would continue to grow within him in clarity and in depth. This innate ability to lose himself in the numinous would lead him to experience a Divine Presence gleaming at the heart of matter.
Many people are surprised that Teilhard, a scientist who understood so well the physical properties of sound and light, would give himself over to the lure that these moments can provide. Yet, the pleasure that came to him from contact with the physical world stimulated his mystical life and provided him with images capable of describing an experience that is otherwise unutterable. Moreover, his strong understanding of physical phenomena served to further amplify his mystical sense.
Teilhard’s love affair with rock, his captivation with its hardness and density, and his overwhelming natural appetite for the solid, the everlasting, and the changeless initiated him into the world of mysticism. So profound was his passion for rock that he eventually chose geology and paleontology as fields of graduate study, fields for which he showed great natural talent. Throughout his life he was ever on the lookout for fossils and unusual specimens of rock, “never without his geologist’s hammer, his magnifying glass, and his notebook.” Years of careful collecting found him “gifted with very sharp sight.” In fact, his friends claim that “his quick eye would catch any chipped or chiselled stone that lay on the ground.”5 This sensitivity to the shape of the arrowhead and the print of the fossil kept him always alert to the beauty and texture of the landscape.6
Field work in geology and paleontology brought Teilhard great satisfaction. His professional activity entailed observing geological formations and searching for fossils and primitive tools to discover clues about how Earth’s rocky surface evolved and how the variety of life forms emerged on Earth. These pursuits satisfied his need for prolonged contact with Earth. They were his way of touching what he sensed was animating and directing everything.7 The sparks of Divine Presence that he discerned within Earth’s rocky layers enlivened him, nourished him,8 and fueled his desire to be fused with Earth. They helped him to deepen his relationship with a Presence, “a sort of universal root or matrix of beings.” 9
Although Teilhard focused much of his attention on rock, he was actually a keen observer of the natural world in whatever form it presented itself and never missed a chance to enjoy Earth’s beauty. Letters to friends and family are full of observations about the people that he met, the work that he was doing, and the thoughts that he was thinking. But they are also full of rich and sensuous detail about the landscape. For instance, he wrote to his cousin Marguerite about the “cranes, swans, geese, spoonbills and beautiful ducks with dazzling plumage [that] nest and swim almost as fearlessly as the birds in a public garden.”10 During his long ocean voyages he often spent time contemplating the beauty of the sea and sky. In a letter to Marguerite written on his way to China, he described an unusual sunset:
Yesterday I could never tire of looking to the east where the sea was uniformly milky and green, with an opalescence that was still not transparent, lighter than the background of the sky. Suddenly on the horizon a thin diffuse cloud became tinged with pink; and then with the little oily ripples of the ocean still open on one side and turning to lilac on the other, the whole sea looked for a few seconds like watered silk. Then the light was gone and the stars began to be reflected around us as peacefully as in the water of a quiet pool.11
The songs of the birds and their plumage, the wild hum of insects, the tireless blooming of the flowers12—all of these touched him deeply. His senses were alive to the colors, odors, and sounds that enveloped him. In one of his wartime essays, he remarked: “I have contemplated nature for so long and have so loved her countenance.”13
Teilhard often found himself drawn by something shining at the heart of matter.14 Nature exerted power over him. A mysterious inner clarity seemed to transfigure for him every being and event.15 In an early essay he wrote: “I have always loved and sought to read the face of Nature; but . . . my approach has not been that of the ‘scientist’ but that of the votary.”16 Reverence, awe, and devotion were aspects of this exquisite relationship. Later in life, while reflecting on the days when he studied theology in Hastings, he still vividly recalled
the extraordinary solidity and intensity I found then in the English countryside, particularly at sunset, when the Sussex woods were charged with all that “fossil” Life which I was then hunting for, from cliff to quarry… There were moments, indeed, when it seemed to me that a sort of universal being was about to take shape suddenly in Nature before my very eyes.17
The aesthetic aspect of his encounter with nature served to amplify the pleasure he derived from the experience. As he gave himself over to nature’s allure, Beauty reverberated at the very core of his being18 and drew him out of himself, filling him with “an impassioned awareness of a wider expansion and an all-embracing unity.”19 In fact, he claimed that he was “so surrounded and transfixed by [the Divine Presence], that there was no room left to fall down and adore.”20
Teilhard’s senses were particularly alert to the interaction of sunlight with the landscape. Like Impressionist artist Claude Monet, who tried to capture in his paintings the play of sunlight on water, haystacks, and water lilies as it changed throughout the day, Teilhard was fascinated with the way the sun’s “deep brilliance”21 seemed to make “the whole surface of things sparkle.”22 For instance, he described the view from the window of the room that he occupied in Tientsin, China: “I still have a wide vista of fields and fresh water which enchants me every evening with the sweetness and purity of the hues it takes on in the setting sun.”23 In his letters he would often mention unusually beautiful details about his surroundings, such as the “large black butterflies with metallic-green reflections and long tails,”24 or the way “the sea often becomes sleek and oily . . . its surface . . . white and opaque, like milk,” or how storms that break over the mountains “form thick clouds which the setting sun paints glorious colors.”25 He was always conscious of the landscape.
Teilhard’s sensitivity to light and color opened another pathway to the Divine Presence. It began, he says, “with a diffused radiance which haloed every beauty” that day by day became “more fragrant, more coloured, more intense.”26 Sometimes, he was enchanted with “the play of colours [as] on a transparent bubble”;27 at other times, a crown of light seemed to surround everything and disclose the unique essence of the universe.28 Just as rays of sunlight strike dust particles, making the rays suddenly visible to the eye, so Divine Light impinged on his inner eyes from all sides and caressed them.29 And like the reflections caused by “sunlight in the fragments of a broken mirror,”30 this Light was reflected and scattered in all directions so that his inner world eventually became luminous.31 Speaking of the Divine Light, he said: “This light is not [a] superficial glimmer, nor is it [a] violent flash that destroys objects and blinds our eyes. It is instead the calm and powerful radiance engendered by the synthesis of all the elements of the world.”32
Teilhard compared the Divine Presence that he experienced “gleaming at the heart of matter”33 with a candle that is placed within a lamp constructed from translucent materials. When candlelight penetrates the outer covering of such a lamp, it transfigures the lamp from within. For Teilhard, nature, like the lamp, is continually “bathed in an inward light.”34
Not only could Teilhard see the light of Divine Presence, but he could also taste it. It not only filled his eyes but also impregnated his affections and thoughts.35 As his perception of the inner light intensified and its color became more brilliant, he was drawn to explore its nature and to bathe in its warmth. This inner light, he says, “becomes perceptible and attainable . . . in the crystalline transparency of beings.”36 He wanted only this light: “If the light is extinguished, because the object is out of place, or has outlived its function, or has moved itself, then even the most precious substance is only ashes.”37
Although he was able to write essays with a poetic flair, Teilhardsometimes wished that he had been gifted with a talent for music instead. Because music is more immediate than language, it “has a much larger world of associations at its disposal” 38 and speaks more directly to the soul.39 Its ambivalent and ephemeral nature and the intangibility of its content would have afforded him, he thought, a better means of communicating his mystical experience to others. To one of his friends he confided: “I would like to … translate as faithfully as possible what I hear murmuring in me like a voice or a song which are not of me, but of the World in me.”40 Yet, in his efforts to express his mystical experience, he found that “it is not possible to transmit directly by words the perception of a quality, a taste.” 41
He noted how certain types of sound, and particularly music, poetry, and uplifting conversation, feed the soul: “If even the most humble and most material of our foods is capable of deeply influencing our most spiritual faculties, what can be said of the infinitely more penetrating energies conveyed to us by the music of tones, of notes, of words, of ideas?”42 Although the stimulus of color provided him much nourishment, it was more often “the magic of sound passing through [his] ears as a vibration and emerging in [his] brain in the form of an inspiration”43 that moved him. He realized that music can excite powerful emotions—sometimes simply by allowing a single musical tone to arise from the silence, or, at other times, by weaving into an intricate harmony several voices, each with its own melodic beauty.44 In fact, composers have at their disposal a glorious diversity of melodies, harmonies, tempos, intensities, and rhythms that can effectively excite emotional response:45 the sound of a cello or of a French horn playing a haunting melody, the interplay of voices in a fugue, the complex rhythms of jazz—each of these can cause delight at a level beyond the auditory and can open the listener to love. By first setting a mood of anticipation and then by providing either immediate satisfaction or postponed gratification with the use of carefully controlled dissonances, musicians engage the listener at a deep level.
“Hearing is a way of touching at a distance.” 46 To the complex organ that is the human ear and to the brain that eventually relays its message to the rest of the body, this touch can be gentle and loving or harsh and cold. Molecules of air are collected by the shell-shaped pinna of the outer ear and then pound against the eardrum causing it to vibrate. These vibrations set up mechanical waves in the middle ear that are next transformed into pressure waves in the inner ear and finally into the electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain. This complex aural mechanism allows us to differentiate tones and to appreciate harmonies. Although we are often unaware of the soundscape in which we are embedded and of its effect on our psyches, our ears are constantly bombarded with sound waves—nature sounds such as the howl of a strong, gusty wind, the song of a bird, mechanical sounds from traffic and motors, and background music. And when we do become aware, it is difficult to close off our ears to unwanted sonic incursions. Our outer ears are at the mercy of whatever noise pollution is being broadcast through the air at any moment. “Music,” on the other hand, “educates our ears making us more receptive and sensitive to our sound environment.”47
From his study of physics Teilhard would have had a rich understanding of the physical basis for harmony. He would have known how the human ear is trained and how the mind is psychologically conditioned to respond favorably to certain harmonies, to certain combinations of tones that work well together. Although composers have intuited how to assemble consonant combinations and have constructed rules to guide harmonic practice, scientists have been able to demonstrate a physical basis for their choices. Structures in the cochlea of the inner ear determine the kinds of harmonies that are pleasing. Auditory signals that enter the cochlea cause hairs along the basilar membrane to vibrate in resonance at the same frequency, causing some combinations to be pleasing and others to be disturbing. Tones that are very close in frequency excite hairs that are quite close together along the basilar membrane, thus producing a physical disturbance in the ears that renders the combination dissonant.
For centuries, the frequencies and intensities of the overtones produced by pipe and string have served as the basis for the harmonic practice of Western music. Pipes and strings produce harmonic overtones, patterns of consonant sounds that blend well together. Yet, harmonic practice differs from culture to culture and from age to age, and as composers continue to experiment with new combinations of sound, new rules emerge. In recent years composers have experimented with a variety of musical harmonies, including those that avoid a tonal center and those with musical tones whose frequencies fit somewhere between two of the adjacent tones that make up the chromatic scale.
Even though Teilhard was not able to compose music, he often used the language of musical acoustics to describe his experience of Presence. By doing so, he hoped to show others how to listen to their inner music and become caught up in its charm. The resonant frequencies of a plucked string or of an open or closed pipe had their counterpart in the resonant response of his heart to the inner music that delighted him. The harmonious sound created by the interplay of seemingly divergent voices spoke to him of the great harmony of communion that is the goal of all mystical experience and the direction toward which it points.
The music of Teilhard’s outer world initiated the music of his inner world. “It began,” he says, “with a particular and unique resonance which swelled each harmony.” His initial sensitivity to nature sounds helped him to listen more deeply for that unique musical tone that was singing in his heart. Just as
all the sounds of created being are fused, without being confused, in a single note which dominates and sustains them . . . so all the powers of the soul begin to resound in response to its call; and these multiple tones, in their turn, compose themselves into a single, ineffably simple vibration in which all the spiritual nuances—of love and of ecstasy, of passion and of indifference, of assimilation and of surrender, of rest and of motion—are born and pass and shine forth.48
Not only did Teilhard experience the Divine Presence radiating from within all things, but he also heard this Presence pulsating at the heart of matter.49 “There is a . . . note,” he says, “which makes the whole World vibrate” 50 with “a vibration that passes all description, inexhaustible in the richness of its tones and its notes, interminable in the perfection of its unity.”51 The “resonance that lies muted in the depth of every human”52 caused the very core of his being to vibrate in response.53 Like a musical instrument, his spirit resonated with the unique tone emitted by the Divine Presence, and within his whole being, he felt reverberate “an echo as vast as the universe.”54
For Teilhard, the duty of the mystic is to be aware of the inner rhythm of the world and to listen with care for the heartbeat of a higher reality.55 As a result of this kind of listening, he was drawn out of himself “into a wider harmony . . . into an ever richer and more spiritual rhythm,”56 so that he eventually became “caught up in the essential music of the world”57 and responded to “the fundamental harmony of the Universe.” 58 At this privileged place, he tells us, “the least of our desires and efforts . . . can . . . cause the marrow of the universe to vibrate.”59 “Indeed,” he wrote, “we are called by the music of the universe to reply, each with [our] own pure and incommunicable harmonic.”60
In music as in life, listening to the other, entering into the emotions of the other is as important as expressing oneself. Performers must be aware of the relationship between their own voice and the many other voices with which they are conversing. Beauty and balance are achieved only when each strand of a polyphonic texture is played so distinctly and woven together so smoothly that each voice can be heard and appreciated as part of a single whole.61 Teilhard’s sensitivity to music and to nature sounds kept him ever attentive to the Divine, whose heartbeat reverberates within each and every fragment of the world 62 and whose voice becomes evident to those who know how to hear. It was this voice that guided him as he encountered and responded to the joys and sufferings that composed his life.
Yet, despite his extreme sensitivity to the music of the cosmos, Teilhard sometimes felt like “a deaf man straining in his effort to hear a music which he [knew] to be all around him.”63 The Divine Presence is illusive. Just as the penetrating energies of a musical experience delight the heart and elicit a subtle response only to fade into silence, a mystical experience often lasts but a moment and then evaporates with only its memory to haunt us.64 However, especially toward the end of his life, Teilhard found himself constantly aware of the Divine Presence.
Unlike the sense of hearing, the sense of smell is a direct sense and one that often arouses vivid memories. Organic molecules called esters evaporate from a fragrant substance, float through the air, enter the nostrils, travel to the top of the nasal passages past the hair-like projections called cilia that filter out dirt from the air, dissolve in the mucous, and bond to the smell receptors located on the olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal epithelium. This bonding triggers neurons in the brain, which then interprets and classifies the stimulant as one of about ten thousand potential odors, and causes the perception of smell.
Just as he was so deeply moved by Earth’s sights and sounds, Teilhard was also alive to Earth’s fragrance, to the “atmosphere heavy with the smell of orange trees in bloom,” to the “hot desert regions of Arabia, all perfumed with incense and coffee,”65 to the flowers such as the lilac and lavender that “smelt good and sparkled gaily in the hot light.”66 These lovely scents allured him and encouraged him to “hasten… freely and passionately”67 along the mystical path.
Teilhard also came to recognize and to respond to the Divine Presence shining through the eyes of others. While pursuing him doctorate in geology and paleontology in Paris at the Institut Catholique, the Collège de France, and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, he spent time with his cousin Marguerite Teillard-Chambon, whom he had not seen since they were young children. The two found that they had similar interests and developed at that time a deep and lasting relationship. As they shared what was deepest in their souls, Teilhard was drawn to the light he saw shining from Marguerite’s face, “a light glow[ing] for a moment in the depths of [her] eyes.”68 “Under the glance that fell upon [him], the shell in which [his] heart slumbered burst open.”69 A new energy emerged from within, causing him to feel as vast and as rich as the universe. Marguerite had awakened the feminine aspect of his being. His love for her drew him out of himself, sensitized him, and stimulated his capacity for deeper and more intimate relationships.70
As a stretcher bearer during the war, Teilhard had occasion to look into the eyes of many a dying soldier. Just before the moment of death, a strange light would often appear in a soldier’s eyes. Teilhard was never sure whether the eyes were filled with “unspeakable agony or . . . with an excess of triumphant joy.”71 Each time the light went out and the wounded soldier died, Teilhard was overcome with a deep sense of sadness.
Goethe once wrote that “every new object, well contemplated, opens up a new organ of perception in us.”72 This assertion certainly proved true for Teilhard. Overwhelmed by nature’s grandeur, he seemed capable of perceiving ever new dimensions within the texture of the cosmos.
This scintillation of beauties was so total, so all embracing, and at the same time so swift, that it reached down into the very powerhouse of [his] being, flooding through it in one surge, so that [his] whole self vibrated to the very core . . . with a full note of explosive bliss that was completely and utterly unique.73
In response to the diverse and captivating beauties that surrounded him, “all the elements of his psychological life were in turn affected; sensations, feelings, thoughts.”74 He was experiencing an emotion that “is impossible (once one has experienced it) to confuse with any other spiritual emotion, whether joy in knowledge or discovery, joy in creation or in loving: and this not so much because it is different from all those emotions, but because it belongs to a higher order and contains them all.”75
Contact with the beauty of nature and of person began to break down the senses of radical separation that he would naturally experience between himself and others, between subject and object,76 and began the process of dissolving his dependency on his ego. The more deeply touched he was by Beauty in whatever form—whether a soft touch, a brilliant tone, an exquisite flavor, or a delicate tint—the more he felt free to experience true union with the other.77 Beauty “drew him out of [himself], into a wider harmony than that which delights the sense, into a richer and more spiritual rhythm.”78 Being captured by something outside himself and losing himself in something beyond himself was an effective step toward disempowering his ego.79 Moments of ecstasy blurred the boundaries of his being, engulfed him in feelings that were oceanic, and revealed his bonds to the larger world.80 He began to see with the eyes of an artist who is sensitive to the soul’s inner currents,81 so that Beauty found its way into his life and healed his wounds.82 These ecstatic moments gave him a greater grasp of the world,83 enabling him to move away from feelings of isolation and to perceive the “unity of a higher order.” 84 As a result, he became capable of stepping forth from his self-imposed and imagined limits, of surrendering his autonomy, and of opening himself to the larger reality that was presenting itself to him.85 Having invaded his being and penetrated to its core, having pierced through to his depths, Beauty drew him into that single privileged point where Divine Presence exists equally everywhere, and where all diversities and all impurities yearn to melt away.
Although Teilhard was overcome by the sensible beauty of nature, he eventually realized that to become absorbed in what is beautiful is not satisfying enough. Somehow, he knew that matter itself was not the true source of his joy. Instead, he was actually being allured by the Divine Presence embedded deep within the sensible world, drawn inward ultimately to be invited to flow outward.86 Rather than holding him prisoner, Beauty continually reawakened him to an impassioned awareness of a wider expansion and an all-embracing unity. Once having entered into the very depths of his being, Beauty would withdraw from him and bear him away.
Earth’s beauty fed Teilhard’s soul and led him to perceive something shining at the heart of matter. Illuminated by the radiance that emerges from its very Center, the world became transparent. He savored this experience. He “had in fact acquired a new sense, the sense of a new quality… of a new dimension. Deeper still: a transformation had taken place for [him] in the very perception of being.”87 He had reached a place “in which things, while retaining their habitual texture, seem to be made out of a different substance,”88 a place where the Divine Presence “discloses itself to us as a modification of the deep being of things.” Teilhard was learning something that Thomas Merton expresses so well:
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness . . . There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out . . . from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.89
Teilhard knew the Divine Presence as “a seeing, a taste . . . a sort of intuition bearing upon certain superior qualities in things [that] cannot be attained directly by any process of reasoning, nor by any human artifice.” 90 He knew that underlying Earth’s surface charms a vivid Presence lies hidden within and penetrates all things. This was the only source that could give him light and the only air that he could ever breathe.91 He yearned to sharpen his sensibilities so that he could see ever more deeply into the heart of matter. Along the first circle, the palpable world had truly become for him a holy place,92 a divine milieu, permeated with a vast, formidable, and charming presence. Clearly, this was “a gift, like life itself,”93 a gift for which he was most grateful. Fortified with this gift, he was motivated to continue his journey through the next four Circles: the Circle of Consistence, the Circle of Energy, the Circle of Spirit, and the Circle of Person into the heart of God.
1 This is an edited version of Chapter 2, K. DUFFY, Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution (Orbis Books; Maryknoll, NY 2014). (Used with permission.)
2 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Heart of Matter (tr. René Hague) (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.; New York 1978) 26. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 20.
3 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 20.
4 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 20.
5 C. CUÉNOT, Teilhard de Chardin: A Biographical Study (tr. V. Colimore) (Burns and Oates; London 1965) 129, 156, 91.
6 According to those who knew him, Teilhard had a marvelous talent for observation. “George Le Febre, for example, noted . . . that ‘his downcast eyes would spot the smallest bit of cut stone betraying itself by its redness on the bare greyness of the wind-swept soil’” (CUÉNOT, Teilhard de Chardin, 91). His co-worker George Barbour notes that he “could spot a single Palaeolithic implement in a bed of gravel three metres away without dismounting” (ibid., 156). His friend Helmut de Terra says that he “recognized Palaeolithic artifacts with an uncanny sort of instinct. Often he would pick one of these from the ground, look at it briefly from all sides, and hand it to me, saying: ‘It is suspicious; we must find more to be absolutely sure’” (CUÉNOT, Teilhard de Chardin, 190).
7 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters from a Traveler (tr. Bernard Wall) (Harper & Row; New York 1962) 66.
8 CUÉNOT, Teilhard de Chardin, 33, n. 27.
9 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 20.
10 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters from a Traveler, 119.
11 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters from a Traveler, 67.
12 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War (tr. René Hague) (Harper & Row, Publishers; New York 1968) 194.
13 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 32.
14 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 17
15 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 15.
16 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 198.
17 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 25–26.
18 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 117.
19 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 118.
20 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 112.
21 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 130.
22 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends (tr. Helen Weaver; ed. Ruth Nanda Anshen) (The New American Library; New York 1967) 123.
23 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 50.
24 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 39.
25 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 24.
26 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 129.
27 P.TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Hymn of the Universe (tr. Simon Bartholomew) (Harper & Row, Publishers; New York 1961), 44.
28 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 119.
29 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 118.
30 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 114
31 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 246.
32 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 130.
33 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Journal, Tome I, 26 aout, 1915 – 4 janvier, 1919 (ed. N. Schmitz-Moorman and K. Schmitz-Moorman) (Fayard; Paris 1975) 13.
34 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 130.
35 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 118
36 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 73.
37 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 73.
38 D. BARENBOIM, Music Quickens Time (Verso; Brooklyn 2008) 3.
39 For a discussion of Teilhard and music, see T.M. KING, SJ, “Teilhard, Beauty, and the Arts” Rediscovering Teilhard’s Fire (ed. K. DUFFY, SSJ) (St. Joseph’s University Press; Philadelphia, PA 2010).
40 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 44.
41 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 59.
42 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 59.
43 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Human Phenomenon (tr. Sara Appleton Weber) (Sussex Academic Press; Portland, OR 1999) 29.
44 L. BERNSTEIN, The Joy of Music (Simon and Schuster; New York 1959) 239.
45 R. JOURDAIN, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures our Imagination (William Morrow and Company; New York 1997), 309, 312.
46 R.M. Schafer, The Tuning of the World: A Pioneering Exploration into the Past History and Present State of the Most Neglected Aspect of Our Environment: The Soundscape (Alfred A. Knopf; New York 1977) 11.
47 J.M. ORTIZ, The Tao of Music: Sound Psychology—Using Music to Change Your Life (Samuel Weiser; York Beach, ME 1997) 213.
48 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 120.
49 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Human Energy, trans. J.M.Cohen (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; New York 1969) 123.
50 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 31.
51 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Science and Christ (tr. René Hague) (Harper & Row, Publishers; New York 1968) 39.
52 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 101.
53 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Hymn of the Universe, 46.
54 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 101.
55 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 119.
56 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 117.
57 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 101.
58 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Toward the Future (tr. René Hague) (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; New York 1975) 59.
59 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 115.
60 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Human Energy, 150.
61 BARENBOIM, Music Quickens Time, 53, 50, 131.
62 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Christianity and Evolution (tr.René Hague) (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; New York 1969) 63.
63 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 40.
64 BARENBOIM, Music Quickens Time, 7.
65 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 24,
66 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters from a Traveler, 97.
67 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 192.
68 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 117.
69 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 118.
70 See U. KING, Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin (Orbis Books; Maryknoll, NY 1996) 75.
71 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 65.
72 J.W. VON GOETHE, Goethe’s Werke: Hamburger Ausgabe, vol. 13, 5th ed. (Christian Wegner; Hamburg 1966) 51.
73 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 65.
74 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 129.
75 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Heart of Matter, 17.
76 See T.M. KING, Teilhard’s Mysticism of Knowing (The Seabury Press; New York 1981) 67.
77 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 117–18.
78 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 117.
79 D. SOELLE, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (Fortress Press; Minneapolis 2001) 212.
80 JOURDAIN, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, 327.
81 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Letters to Two Friends, 30.
82 SOELLE, The Silent Cry, 222.
83 JOURDAIN, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, 331.
84 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 15.
85 SOELLE, The Silent Cry, 27.
86 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 118.
87 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 129.
88 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 246.
89 C. PRAMUK, Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton (Liturgical Press; Collegeville, MN 2009) 301.
90 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 131
91 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Writings in Time of War, 123.
92 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 112.
93 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Divine Milieu, 131.
The emerging power of Teilhard's Vision
in the march of Humanity towards a Commom Destiny
Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL JOWAI
Abstract: Teilhard's prediction about the gradual emergence of a collective human thinking is coming true with the intensification of communications and more frequent interactions within the human race. A sort of convergence of human thought is actually taking place. This has led to the development of a sense common belonging. According to Teilhard, the mission of enlightened and responsible citizens is to strengthen this process of socialization with an aim to bring hearts and mind together, while respecting the differences that exist between individuals and communities.
Meanwhile the forces of dispersion too are evidently at work. One easily notices in our times tensions between nations, ethnic groups, and ideologies. Memories of historic hurts between nations and societies aggravate the situation. It is for responsible leaders to work for the healing of the memories of historic injuries. A society has a future only if intellectuals within it take note the negative memories in the minds of its members and work for their healing, ease tensions between individuals and groups and bring people together into happy relationships. In Teilhard's understanding, a commitment to harmony among people is the right way to contribute to further human evolution towards the Omega Point.
I. Teilhard’s Concepts on Evolution
In the evolutionary thrust of the upward and forward is shown at every point across the board. The focus of this paper, in the main, shows how the thrust of the Noosphere is tightening the strands of the whole social body. The author speaks of a Theology of Cooperation, which opens out into the domains of the personal, local, regional and Universal. But, the anti-thesis of conflict, national, ethno-centric etc. which has to be recognised and combatted at all levels. Nothwithstanding, this convergence is spreading through inter-locked network of psychical and socio-economic global order.However, According to Teilhard the points of breakthrough will be internalised in the "Mystery of Togetherness" through Enlightened Minds and Hearts.
A Jesuit and a paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) is considered one of the greatest minds of the contemporary world for attempting to suggest a vision of the world which scientists, philosophers and theologians would find coherent. It is indeed a seductive ‘global vision’ that he presents on the universe “wherein matter and spirit, body and soul, nature and supernature, science and faith find their unity in Christ” (Cardinal Feltin). Teilhard sees matter passing from an undifferentiated state to that of organized forms of more and more complex structure leading to the emergence of consciousness in living things and to the development of self-consciousness in human beings and the expansion of collective human thinking (noosphere) on the earth. He saw the human being as the arrowhead of the cosmic flow and the key for understanding the universe.
Teilhard’s vision is coming true with the intensification of communications and more frequent interactions within the human race in recent years, leading to a gradual confluence of human minds and convergence of human thought at the world level. He felt convinced that the mission entrusted to the human family was to press ahead in the same direction until humanity fully realized its ultimate destiny and converge at the Point Omega. Evolution of the human person further is not to produce the fittest individual or a new species, but to promote the growth of the human species through socialization and deepening and strengthening the union among the members of the humankind. The optimism of this prophetic visionary and the synthetic sweep of his vision made a wide appeal on all sections of people.
While there are still forces in society pulling humanity apart, growing interaction among human groups and communities have greatly contributed to the development of a sense of common belonging, e. g., through activities like mutually dependent commerce, intense political interactions, travel, migration, development of communication especially after revolutionary changes in the digital world. These changes in recent years have made it possible for us to be immediately aware of the joys and sorrows, successes and failures, disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, conflicts and peace efforts in every place on the planet no matter how distant it is. However, this awareness should also evoke a sense of responsibility in us for each other.
II. Teilhard’s Predictions about the Noosphere Coming True
1. Convergence of Human Thought
In the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan felt that the means of social communications had brought the world so close together that it seemed like a ‘global village’. Today its size has been further reduced to the size of the “Round Table” of King Arthur, or to the “Coffee Table” of discussion groups. We communicate instantly with people who are at great distances and feel close to them; we discuss and debate, make major decisions or change people’s minds, as though they were just on the other side of the Round Table. Thus Teilhard was not wrong in foreseeing a gradual convergence of human thought.
McLuhan’s conviction was that the New Media would change our collective self-awareness and bring into existence a new self-consciousness as the human family; that it would strengthen people’s sense of responsibility for world events, both for tragedies and for achievements. This was exactly what Teilhard had predicted. In earlier times men depended more directly on nature, today they increasingly depend on each other. In a developed society this mutual dependence finds diverse expressions. We continuously feel the need of the assistance of the computer expert and the health specialist, the electrician and the engineer, the telephone operator and the postman, the plumber and the pilot. Human society has become just a large family (Maroky, 16-17).
2. “A Single Thinking Envelope”
Our inter-relationships are moving further ahead. The digital revolution that has transformed the world beyond recognition could not have been imagined even 50 years ago: the blogs, text messaging, other social media and digital tools. The blogs were first initiated in 2002 and has remained very youth-friendly. One can blog about anything: boxing, music, politics, or about social responsibility. Today there are group blogs, corporate blogs, commercial blogs, institutional blogs. You can educate, encourage, expose excellence, evaluate, and evangelize (Vogt, 117-19). As long as you are natural and spontaneous, you remain interesting.
More than one-third of the world population are already Internet users. The social consciousness so created has profoundly transformed politics, business, education, and human self-consciousness itself. Individuals and groups find it easy to establish a public presence at very little cost, each promoting their causes with spectacular success; for example, the Arab Spring used Facebook and Twitter to stir Egypt, Tunisia and other nations. In the same way entrepreneurs capture markets and social activists draw people to commitment. Enthusiasm just spills over. “…The earth is not only becoming covered by myriads of grains of thought, but becoming enclosed in a single thinking envelope… individual reflections grouping themselves together and reinforcing one another in the act of a single unanimous reflection”. A sort of superconsciousness seems to be emerging (Teilhard, The Phenomenon, 276-77).
In this context, responsible citizens can win the attention of society and contribute towards shaping a healthy public opinion But they must make sure to present balanced views on controversial issues and preserve a human touch in everything. They can chronicle their ideas, exchange views, debate, comment, and build up new relationships (Vogt, 58). Anonymity also can be an advantage for bloggers who desire to remain unknown.
There is no doubt that people are eager for information, inspiration, encouragement, and connection. That is why when committed citizens speak with fire in their hearts, people know it. When many do it, they make an impact. Even a strongly amoral world cannot ignore a passionate group of committed people, even if they constitute a small minority. They speak as having authority.
3. Constantly Expanding Digital Continent
The Facebook for social networking was started by the Harvard students in 2004 and it gained 200 million users in 8 months. In 2008 Google reported over one trillion websites. Cyberspace today is flooded with information, images, videos, and sounds. The younger generations seem “natives” on the “Digital Continent” where the elders are only “immigrants”. They have developed a vernacular of their own, think differently from others, and relate among themselves in their own way. They show a preference for small, self-organizing groups, networks, and equality-based relationships.
Such web relationships have brought to postmodern youth a heightened consciousness of togetherness and of human solidarity. They are eager for a holistic view of things and open to the mystical and spiritual, though deeply immersed in a modern scientific worldview. People with relevant and valid ideas can connect with them through social media if they know how to relate meaningfully. The network of psychic and economic inter-relationships around the world is strengthening themselves. We are forced to think together. The world of co-thinking and relationships that Teilhard spoke about (noosphere), seems to be emerging in unforeseen ways.
4. Teilhard’s Socialization is not Mobilization of the Masses, not Mob-pulling
With increasing social disharmony in various parts of the world, the most serious question we need to ask ourselves today is whether this togetherness is meant to be merely that of an anonymous impersonal crowd. Even where we seem to be together like at world assemblies and regional gatherings, we do not seem to have a sense of co-belonging. We may know how to make use of each other or of each other’s competences, but we fail to build up relationships with each other as persons manifesting mutual esteem and love. We fail to respect the personhood of individuals and the identity of communities in order to build up the human family. Socialization in Teilhard’s mind is not crowd-mobilization, it is not manipulation of the masses; it comes from a union of hearts, with due respect for individualities, identities, and differences of people.
Where force decides issues, what come into existence are pseudosocieties. The socialization imposed by Nazism, Fascism and Communism during the last century turned out to be monstrous perversions. Similarly today, lawless Capitalism, reducing people to the status of mere labour and market on the one hand and devaluing the social dimension of human life and fostering the cult of the isolated individual on the other, is a monstrosity. The union that Teilhard was speaking of must bring together what is best in individuals and in diverse communities (Maroky, 18-19).
5. Human Interests are Getting Inter-locked
Nature itself draws us into continuous interactions and relationships. According to an estimate, in every cubic centimeter of air there are 30 billion billion molecules made up of any number of atoms interacting among themselves (Gould, 31). We keep moving in space amidst trillions and trillions of waves of energy in different lengths and force fields like fish in water functioning in harmony (Gould, 59). We notice several models of various patterns of inter-relationships and integrated systems: atoms, molecules, organs, body; individuals, families, tribes, societies, and nations. As the material world is made up of an inseparable network of linkages, and as the human body and nature itself are self-regulating systems, in the same way we belong to each other in an intimate fashion within the human family. That is what makes scholars of various disciples come together and cooperate so that their conclusions can be more holistic.
Economies are getting inter-locked. Even a nation that hates another as a competitor or as an opponent, stands in need of their markets, natural resources, or manpower. Health experts speak of the need for holistic approaches, scholars of interdisciplinary collaboration. The professors from mathematics, biology, evolutionary psychology, ethics, history of science, philosophy, philosophy of science, theology recently came together at Harvard University to research on “The Theology of Cooperation.” Such cooperation has become necessary in every sphere of life and community, and it is fully in keeping with the concept evolutionary “strategy” that spontaneously arises for the very survival of the human species. It is the continuation of the cooperation that emerged when molecules began working together, and later chromosomes, bacteria, and primate societies to the level of human societies. But further breakthroughs are possible only if humans play a conscious part (Nowak, 2).
III. Developing a Sense of Responsibility
1. Humans are Architects of Their Own Destiny
During the Easter Week of 1916 Teilhard was in the trenches of Dunkirk. He wrote a prayer which concluded, “Lord Jesus, you are the centre towards which all things are moving” (Faricy at Maroky, xxiv). The burgeoning French philosopher understood the Christian mission as cooperation with God’s plan to progressively unite all things in Christ. It is towards this end that the human being must work with vigour and enthusiasm for progress in every area of human life. In this effort he may have to make high demands of himself/herself. For Teilhard, as he explains in the The Divine Milieu, it is the ‘Cross’ precisely in this form that the Christian believer must take up daily in order to follow Christ. He must work for human progress even through suffering and intense effort (Faricy at Aroky, xxi). Thus humans become the makers and architects of their own future and take forward the Evolution of the cosmic reality towards the Omega Point.
2. Every Individual and Every Community and Culture (Society, Nation, Civilization, Faith) can Make its own Contribution if they avoid Ethnocentrism and Pessimism
As we can see, we are moving into a fast globalizing world and into most exciting times. World economy is taking new directions and revealing new potentialities, innovations in communications are bringing peoples and communities together, international solidarity offers indefinite possibilities for generous services to each other. There are increasing opportunities for communities, cultures, civilizations, and faiths to dialogue with each other, to listen to each others’ insights, and learn from each others’ wisdom.
But that is not what is happening. Daily we hear of war and violence, corruption, deception on a gigantic scale, damage to environment, threat of global warming, democratically elected leaders betraying people’s trust, and misuse of media. These are counter-evolutionary trends, weakening the energies generated from the co-thinking in the noosphere. They are calculated to drive the human race back to the mud from which took its origins. It is time that Enlightened Citizens awaken a sense of responsibility to re-capture the dynamism of true evolutionary thrust.
As with individual citizens, so with communities and civilizations to make their own contribution. At a given period of history an individual society (civilization) can be over-confident and grow unconcerned about the destinies of other societies…. or become pessimistic about itself and lose confidence for its own future. The West was exuberant during the period of its awakening (Renaissance) and expansion (exploration, discovery, colonial expansion). This mood changed during the World Wars. Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) predicted the decline of the West, arguing that having rejected religion and opted for rationalism, mass manipulation, economics and physical expansion, it had lost its soul. Some of his points seem to have been valid which became evident by the time the two World Wars ended and the colonial era concluded. The recent economic recession and the phenomenon of aging population have been pointers to an uncertain future for the dominant regions of the world.
However, we need to be cautious of ethnocentric philosophies of history and social theories in spite of their merit as thought-provokers. While it may be difficult to go all the way with Spengler, it may be easier to agree with Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) who in his 12-volume A Study of History argues that a community’s growth comes from its positive response to a challenge, and that it maintains its progress as long as it keeps tapping its spiritual forces. That reminds us that we need to give a positive response to the challenges of today.
3. Violence: “Privatization of the Means of Destruction” in our Times
There are moments during this endeavour we may get discouraged. For, the forces of dispersion seem to be gathering strength in our times. Tensions are noticeable: nation against nation, class against class, ethnic group against ethnic group, majority against minority and vice versa, people who follow one ideology against those who follow another, theological radicals against others. The strong usually have their way. No wonder that dominant nations and groups are perceived as exploiting the weaker. Those who feel that they are unjustly treated take to violence in response. There are also enough people to foster anger against every perceived injustice in the name of culture, ethnicity, minority status, gender, colour, environment, and even to the point of violence. All slogans are about ‘rights’; there is not enough reference to duties. Every claim of rights seems to be valid until its exaggerations make its limitations evident. Meantime peace keeps eluding the human race.
All religions have taught peace, impartiality, and fairness. And yet there are instances of violence in the name of religion in any number of places: Israelis-Palestinians, Serbs-Croats-Muslims, Indians-Pakistanis;tensions in Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Philippines, Indonesia. Nor can we forget the violence caused by the ‘secular religions’ (ideologies) of our days. Eric Hobsbawm calls the ideological wars of last century “the most militant and bloodthirsty of the religious wars”, which were linked with secular pieties like personality cult and utopian confidence in permanent solutions to human problems (Hobsbawm, 563). Solutions however never came. And today, we in Asia, the continent of Ahimsa, may be spending more on purchasing arms than any other continent in the world.
Wars in ages past were between kings, emperors, dynasties or sovereign nations. In our times they are often between ethnic groups and local activists: caste against caste, ethnic group against ethnic group, vested interest against vested interest, majority against minority and vice versa, social activists against the Establishment. Hobbes said people usually fight over necessities, but often enough also over trifles (Fukuyama, 1992:155). That is to say that many human quarrels rise over non-issues, as expressions of petty self-assertions and puerile pride (of leaders who want to take advantage of the anger rising out of the injured pride of an ethnic group, a party or a nation), or a trivial mistake on the part of a person who represented a group at a given time. This is true of conflicts from the time of the Kurukshetra War and the epic performance of Greek heroes to those of our own days.
Hobsbawm argues that the weakening of state power during the second half of the 20th century has led to the “democratization or privatization of the means of destruction” (Hobsbawm, 560). Studying the present trends, there is no way we can feel confident that the age of Holocausts, Hiroshimas, and bloody revolutions is over.
4. Mission of Healing of Historic Memories, of Anger-reduction
One reason is that that there are rooted prejudices in people, strong memories of historic injuries, and deep convictions about the other party’s vested interests. Historically, we have hurt each other as ethnic groups, nations, or civilizations. It is part of the work of committed citizens to heal the memories of historic wounds, at the ethnic, cultural, national and even civilizational levels. It is not easy. And it is here that we often fail. And yet we know that the healing of negative memories of recent events or of historic past is absolutely necessary for building a confident future for any society or nation. It is precisely while offering this service we see that the evolutionary energies of the cosmic reality come alive.
Having worked in the area of reconciliation between communities in conflict for about two decades, I know the meaning of ‘collective anger’. It is terrible. The work of anger-reduction has become central to the service that an intellectual ought to offer almost everywhere in our times: anger of class against class, caste against caste, ethnic group against ethnic group, tribe against tribe, religious group against religious group, ideologies against ideologies, theological vision against theological vision, economic interest against economic interest, national ambition against national ambition, political alliance against political alliance. Can we become the ‘Lambs of God’ (John 1:29) who take away the ‘Anger of the World’? At least reduce that anger? While we sing with the angels on Christmas night ‘Peace to men of good will’ (Luke 2:14), can we help generate this ‘good will’ that seems to be absent?
The main argument of Arnold Toynbee’s Study of History is precisely that collective violence in one direction is usually a response to similar earlier violence in the opposite direction. Only a healing of memories can bring a less destructive world into existence. In recent years, prayer-services and commemoration of the dead have been conducted on sites associated with wars, with unhealed or unacknowledged collective wounds: Verdun, Gettysburg, Auschwitz, Hiroshima (Russ Parker, Healing Wounded History, Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 2001, 57). We cannot change our past, but we can change our response to the past.
Further, with the weakening of the credibility of established authorities, today there is an undefined anger against authorities of every kind. There is a suspicion, in like manner, of all systems of thought, ideologies, comprehensive explanations, which, our society feels, have been instrumentalized for power. The same suspicion and anger are extended analogically to all forms of established order and authority, moral codes, standard explanations, and religious admonitions. We need intelligent and committed guides, inspirers with no self-interest.
5. A Sense of Responsibility Proposes Developing the Art of Dialogue, Persuasion….not of Weapons
History has shown down the centuries to what cruel forms of inhumanity human groups can descend when they look at each other as threats and not as friends and fellow-travellers towards a common destiny. Driven by hatred, people can find hidden resources and unlimited energies in themselves to be able to inflict mortal injuries on the supposed ‘enemy’. Hatred has strength. But what I want to argue today is that love is stronger, especially when it is enlightened and committed. It is in keeping with the law of Evolution; in fact, that is the law of law that guides all things to their cosmic destiny.
“It is through dialogue, not weapons, that controversies are resolved,” said Pope John Paul II during his visit to Kazakhstan soon after the attack on World Trade Centre in New York. In this era of increased assertiveness and tensions it is good to search for paths that lead to conversation, reconciliation, collaboration, and communion… to convergence of thought and relationship. It is in this way that Teilhard’s vision comes true.
IV. Enlightened Persons Must Show the Way
1. The Noosphere is Built by Intellectuals Who Show the Way
Indeed, in this divided and confused world, we would be fulfilling the mission that Teilhard visualized only if we acted as agents of unity and of positive social transformation. It is our duty to exert ourselves to promote freshness in thinking and the re-emergence of genuine human values in society. We ought to act as agents of peace, promoters of integrity in a corrupt society, protectors of nature where environment is threatened, supporters of good governance in weak states, advocates of responsible media in a world of biased and distorted reporting.
But for this, we need to be prepared to pay the price. A society has a future only if intellectuals within it keep themselves informed and show the way. This assistance has become all the more necessary in our fast changing times when there is a blurring of ethical horizons. We need people who think, reflect and discern their way forward amidst the new anxieties that are continuously arising. If responsible citizens want to act as a vigorous and fruitful current in the noosphere (Teilhard, Phenomenon, 323) they should take this mission seriously. There lies the secret of mutual fecundation (Teilhard, Phenomenon, 315).
By intellectuals, in this context, I mean those who have reflected over human affairs, transformed their knowledge into ‘wisdom’, and developed a profound ‘sense of responsibility’ for the common good. Such leaders become reliable guides who show the way. That is the role I am proposing that genuine intellectuals take up.
In the Rig Veda we read “One ignorant of the land asks of one who knows it; he travels forward instructed by the knowing guide. This, indeed, is the blessing of instruction; one finds the path that leads straight onward” (Rig Veda, 10.32.7).
Toynbee used to insist that it was always a “Creative Minority” that led a particular society to its true greatness. Whatever be the expression that you use, intellectuals, thinking element, knowing guide, what I would like to do is to invite a sense of responsibility from persons who are truly ‘Enlightened’ in our society. Teilhard used to say “We have as yet no idea of the possible magnitude of ‘noospheric’ effects”; we would understand it only if we took note of the effect of human vibrations on the cosmic processes (Teilhard, Phenomenon, 313). That is why Teilhard used to suggest a new science called human energetics (Teilhard, Phenomenon, 311).
2. The Mission of the ‘Creative Minority’
There were periods in ancient history when human beings were reduced to becoming cogs in the wheel of a mighty imperial machinery, e.g. as slaves and forced labour serving the cause of an empire. Similarly totalitarian (Nazi, Fascist, Communist) regimes even in modern times held the masses in slavery making use of bureaucrats, technicians, scientists and slave-soldiers. These were situations when Evolution was put on the reverse, human beings seeking to return to the slush from where they rose.
In a similar way today, a society today that is driven only by its economic concerns is producing reduced personalities who are satisfied with a wide choice of consumer goods, as the Roman slaves were happy with ‘bread and circuses’. It is claimed that citizens in market-led democracies enjoy freedom in full measure and that they can express their dissent and displeasure in whatever manner they choose; that they can freely protest. But the truth may be that the road-shows of the masses today and their street demonstrations are not the ‘upsurge of consciousness’, but a display by blind hordes. They are mere mimesis, poor mechanical imitations of civic protests that had significance and depth when they were organized by the great heroes of the past for a great cause.
This is the result of transforming thinking men into mechanical robots in factories and pay-lines. These demonstrations are merely taking the negative fruits of mechanization to the streets. And those mechanized men are protesting against the very evil that they have not removed from their hearts and their life styles (corruption, lust, rudeness). The forces of dispersion seem to be growing stronger these days than those of convergence. And they go counter to the laws of cosmogenesis, Christogenesis and Omegization.
To such worrying situations as these, Teilhard’s response is positive. “In the presence of such a profound perversion of the rules of noogenesis, I hold that our reaction should not be one of despair but of a determination to re-examine ourselves” (Teilhard, Phenomenon, 282). After all, the human mind is creative and can produce a super-abundance of what is good even in difficult situations. But if, instead of re-thinking our lifestyles and goals, we allow economic and political powers to dictate to us, we can look forward only to a bleak future. For, material achievements are not the ultimate measure of the progress of a civilization, as Toynbee held firmly. For this reason, the self-congratulation of Modern Civilization for its unparalleled technological and economic success is misplaced. In fact, the greatest material achievements may be made by a civilization even when it is well on the way to decline. Is that already happening?
3. People Listen to a Sober Voice
Solutions to our problems will ultimately come only when we learn to take inspiration from each other. We in South Asia have borrowed many ideas and traditions from other societies: democracy, technology, industrialization, socialism, Marxism, the Market. But, it has not always been that the best met the best. Unfortunately, we learn faster about nuclear devices and corruption practices than about creative peace efforts and ways of integrity. Humanity will find its way forward only when what is best in each civilization/culture meets what is best in others. That seems to be in keeping with the message of Teilhard de Chardin.
No doubt, thinkers like Marx suggested that historical progress can be achieved only through conflict (Capra, 1983:16). What they often forget is the fact all struggle in nature takes place within the wider context of cooperation. Social observers do admit that in times of transition tensions are possible. It is in view of this possibility that I. Ching suggested centuries ago that conflict should be reduced in times of social transition (Capra, 1983:16-17). Lao Tzu had the same thing in mind when he suggested “by nonaction everything can be done” (Capra, 1983:20). In this context “nonaction” would mean a relaxed and appropriate approach to things, an intelligent and balanced way of handling problems.
But, we have to face the reality we see today of even normally fairminded persons surprising the world with cruel, inhuman deeds during ethnic or religious clashes. It is in such contexts that one should ‘stand out’ of one’s own identity and distance oneself from the immediate issue and listen to a sober voice, whoever is able to give it. Every person seeking to be a conscientious citizen has a duty to equip himself/herself for this great mission. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in this way while he was on a campaign in Parthia, “So: one thing is worth a lot, to live out one’s life with truth and justice, and with kindliness toward liars and wrong doers” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, at Nussbaum, 224). He knew how to ‘stand apart’ in his inner world even while leading a campaign. Teilhard too knew how to do it while serving in the trenches, committing his thoughts into writing.
The deeper the interiority of an individual, the more effective the contribution he/she can make to social evolution. Such persons know that they are participants in the subtle mystery of an unfolding cosmic destiny. They know that when they do what is good (e.g. show an extraordinary gesture of generosity, make a unique discovery, have an intense experience of the divine, hit a target with perfection, write an inspired poem, give a spiritual message) they are in harmony with the cosmic forces of the Universe, and that they are fulfilling a plan formed long ago without realizing it. They will not allow any narrow self-interest to limit, diminish or trivialize this perception of reality.
4. Be Gentle as Doves
Hegel noticed that in a warlike situation people became ready for sacrifice and in comfortable contexts they became self-absorbed and effeminate (Fukuyama, 1992:329). Hence his belief that conflict was the driving force of history. Such a belief easily finds acceptance in contexts where a warrior ethos prevails, as an economy-driven society would insist that human beings can be motivated by profit alone. But we see that leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Gandhi or Nehru were led forward by the power of their ideas and ideals and that they were able to contribute in abundant measure to the progress of human society. They could stir the hearts of millions towards a common goal even at enormous sacrifice (Nussbaum, 2).
In this endeavour of communicating a vivifying message, my advice is, “Be gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16); that is the ‘Asian way’ of sharing ideas. For we know and appreciate the wisdom contained in such teachings as this: “Those who lead others in harmony with the Tao (Way) do not use force to subdue others, or attempt to dominate the world through force of arms. For every force there is a counterforce. Violence, even when well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself” (Tao Te Ching, 30). A non-adversarial approach to each other, listening to another’s voices than one’s own, readiness to accept the wisdom of the wider community…that is the Asian way. Dhammapada says, “Do not speak harshly to anybody; those who are spoken to will answer thee in the same way. Angry speech is painful, blows for blows will touch thee” (X, 133). “One cannot steal, lie, commit adultery or go along the banks of the Ganges striking, laying waste, mutilating and commanding others to mutilate, oppressing and commanding others to oppress”, without reaping the consequences (Digha Nikaya I, 52).
Referring to a gentle approach the Physicist David Peat says, “Gentle action is global… It addresses itself not just to practical issues, as the price of oil or the efficiency of a given factory, but also to values, ethics, and the quality of life…. Like the ripples around the point, it moves inward to converge on a particular issue. Gentle action works not through force and raw energy but by modifying the very processes that generate and sustain an undesired or harmful effect… Gentle action… gives a new dimension to the whole idea of social action…It suggests that the origins of effective action can lie in ordinary people, both as individuals and as members of a group—and with their values, ethics, goals, and desires” (Hathaway, 387).
“Learn from me”, Jesus said, “because I am gentle and humble in spirit” (Matt 11:29).
F. CAPRA, The Turning Point, Flamingo (Harper Collins; London 1983).
F. FUKUYAMA, The End of History and the Last Man (Penguin Books; London, 1992).
F. FUKUYAMA, The Origins of Political Order (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; New York 2011).
D. GOULD, Science and the Soul (Paragon House; St. Paul MN 2006).
E. HOBSBAWM, The Age of Extremes (Vintage Books; New York, 1995).
P. MAROKY, Convergence (Oriental Institute of Religious Studies; Kottayam).
M. NOWAK, Evolution, Games, God (Harvard University Press; London 2013).
M. NUSSBAUM, Political Emotions (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 2013).
P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Phenomenon of Man (Fontana Books; London 1967).
A. TOYNBEE, A Study of History (one-vol. ed.Thames & Hudson; Oxford 1995).
B. VOGT, The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor; Huntington 2011).
From Noosphere to Omega Point
The actuality of Teilhard's vision
Abstract: Sixty years after the death of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, his intellectual and spiritual heritage has perhaps never been so pertinent to prepare the future of humankind. The emergence and development of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), especially by using space opportunities, have realized the technical dimension of what Teilhard and Vernadsky have named: the noosphere. The challenge is now to build an ethical corpus, related to this new situation. It requires a new vision of humankind, of common responsibility, where the idea of convergence could be e key reference. Consequences of the Christian tradition would be the necessity to elaborate a Cosmic Christology, without fear to lose the foundations of faith but, in the contrary, to discover new dimensions.
(1) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died April 10, 1955 in New York, Albert Einstein the 18th of the same month and the same year at Princeton, in nearby New Jersey. Each in their own way, these two men have profoundly influenced our understanding of the reality: that which precedes us, that to which we belong, that which we build but also destroy, that will survive us.
I suppose, Einstein and Teilhard de Chardin have never had the opportunity to meet together, but they were apparently motivated by close beliefs and perspectives of philosophical, spiritual and theological quest.
“I want to know how God created the universe”, said Albert Einstein to his student Esther Salaman, in Berlin in the 1920s. “I'm not interested by this or that phenomenon, this or that element. I want to know the mind of God; the rest is just details.”
Teilhard de Chardin was inhabited, as we know, by the same quest for God.
On the other hand, if Einstein was nicknamed the “Jewish Saint” and Teilhard belonged to the society of Jesus and the Catholic Church, both claimed and retained freedom against religious hierarchies, to defend and develop their own answers to theological questions that they arose: Einstein believed in a God close to that of Spinoza, as Teilhard put in question the historicity of the narratives of Genesis and proposed to reintroduce the cosmic Christology of the Early Churchs Fathers.
Finally, both believed in a God whose “dimensions” would be compatible with those conferred on reality by science; a “growing Christ” wrote the Jesuit.
But Einstein and Teilhard de Chardin did not forget humanity. Both have lived, differently but painfully, the two world wars. They were forced to leave their homeland, they have suffered exile. In 1933, Einstein, because he was Jewish, had to leave the Germany and was even expelled from the Academy of Prussia; Teilhard, we know, was condemned to silence by his superiors and returned only by episodes in France, his homeland. Perhaps these exiles have given to their work, their thoughts a more international, a more universal dimension, a deep concern for humanity as a whole.
I wanted to talk about Albert Einstein, not to minimize Father Teilhard de Chardin thought, but to relativize his ideas, I mean to articulate them to the field of more general reflections on God, humankind, world. This field has been profoundly shaken up and changed by the scientific and technological developments, in the 20th and the 21st centuries. Each with their own personality, knowledge, faith, life, Einstein and Teilhard were giants on whose shoulders we are perched, today, to now address the future.
(2) A century after the beginning of the first World War in 1914 and seventy years after the D-Day, the invasion of Normandy by the Allies in Normandy in June 1944, 2014 is a favorable year to remind the influence of the two World Wars of the 20th century on the thought of Teilhard. He speaks about them as two earthquakes that shook all the living beings of Earth, and especially human kind. These disasters have shown weaknesses of our species, have cracked it, sometimes broken, but never dislocated human block.
Yet in 1918 as in 1945, he marveled, he was enthusiastic because, behind “a psychological veil of weariness and resentment”, he has seen “an irresistible physical process: human collectivization” (Un grand événement qui se dessine: la planétisation humaine, 1945).
We know the both physical and metaphysical origins of the vision of Teilhard, his fascination with combined processes of complexity and consciousness which characterize the universe. Although it is not the outcome of his thought, Le Phénomène humain describes this momentum, this rise from the simplest material to more sophisticated organisms, these successive layers, without borders. Until the emergence of humans, the first beings to have the conscience, Homo sapiens sapiens, the first elements of what Teilhard chooses to call the noosphere.
(3) Teilhard de Chardin did not create the term, nor the concept of noosphere. The term seems to appear in the mind of Edouard Le Roy. But the idea, if it can be already guessed in the posthumous book of Huyghens Cosmotheoros, published in Russia in the 18th century, is mainly the work of Russian Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky. In an article published in 1943, he defends the idea that the noosphere is the final stage of the evolution of the biosphere, through strictly geochemical processes. The man is the center of a additional and singular process, that of the cephalisation, i.e. to increase his brain capacity; it's a irreversible, progressive process, by which living matter is entering into a new era, the era known as anthropogenic or even as the age of the noosphere. “We are entering the noosphere, writes Vernadsky. This new geological process takes place in a troubled period, that of a destructive world war. But the most important is that our ideals democratic are granted the basic geological processes, laws of nature and the noosphere. Thus, we face the future with confidence. It is in our hands. We must not let him escape.”
Teilhard de Chardin fits into this perspective. For him, every individual, every group occupies a center, a focal point, whose value lies not in their particular position but the connections that they maintain with each other more. “Under the effect of reflection, and the reploiements that it entails, the chains close; and the Noosphere tends to form a single closed system-where each element to itself sees, feels, desires, suffers the same things as all of them at once.” (Le Phénomène humain, 1948)
(4) Many people have said Teilhard de Chardin and sometimes Vernadsky are the prophets of the internet and Information and Communication Technologies, in general, because they had proposed the concept of noosphere.
With the Modern Period, human have been able to navigate on the seas and all around the Earth globe, to navigate in the air since the beginning of the 20th century, to navigate in space since the middle of the 20th century. And now they are navigating, surfing on computer and virtual networks. Does it mean that we approach the time, the realization of the noosphere described by Vernadsky and Teilhard?
“Gain altitude, and mount high enough so that over superficial details disorder, you can discover significant regularity of some great phenomenon” (Un grand événement qui se dessine: la planétisation humaine): what Teilhard, in 1945, could only imagine (but remember that Arthur C. Clarke has published the same year an article explaining the concept of the geostationary satellite and its possible utilization for communication) has been accomplished with the space technics. And philosopher Hannah Arendt saw in the flight of Sputnik October 4, 1957, a “event, that nothing, not even the fission of the atom, cannot overshadow” (The human condition). Not only because the human species appeared to be able to escape out of the earthly prison, but also because these techniques enabled it to reconsider its own relationship to the world and to itself, to articulate in a completely new way the overall, global level and the local level. We have to precise this evolution.
From the 16th century and from the West, the navigation capabilities, first marine, then air, finally space, helped to draw routes on the whole of our planet. We owe them an intensification of trade and internationalization of the economy, what we call in French “mondialisation”. During the 20th century, an another, more intense phenomenon has occurred, that of globalization: this term means that it is not only the establishment of interconnections, but now a process of integration. Each of us can now move between multiple scales, from local to global, an experience of compression of space and time, of immediacy and simultaneity; and we cannot escape to this phenomenon. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the famous French pilot and writer, also a contemporary of Teilhard de Chardin, wrote in Le Petit Prince:
“The policy has not changed, said the igniter. That is the drama! the planet from year to year has turned increasingly faster, and the policy has not changed!”
In the mid-20th century, Teilhard sees the emergence of “planetisation” or “unanimisation” movement; the next step, always in Teilhard’s perspective would be the emergence of the “ultrahumain”. Are we really engaged on this way, in this process? On the way, perhaps, but to the destination yet. Because the challenges facing humanity are difficult, especially one that Teilhard mentions: the establishment of a friendly phase (“phase sympathique”).
(5) “Yes, we call on all the European Governments, the Europe of the twelve, to consider all solutions, including the use of force to stop the war. Tomorrow, they will not be able to say that they did not know, they will not be able to say that they could not.”
These words of the French journalist Jacques Julliard, in november 1992, in part summarizes the ethical issue launched by new information and communication technologies: if many worry about their impact on the privacy of each of us or the maintenance of cultural diversity, a more imperative issue is the emergence of a new scale of responsibility. We humans in the 21st century, are we not new Cain who are asked with the same question: “What have you done to your brother?” Because we now know so much about life, health, needs of all the inhabitants of this planet, we can be obliged to take our responsibilities to each of them. We know; but what are we ready to do? Perhaps Teilhard was right to talk about the need for "friendly, sympathetic phase."
If we have learned to know the life of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, if we have read his correspondence, we know how much he loved cultivating friendship. He said one day: “The Earth is round, that friendship can do the tour of it.” And Teilhard himself, real globe trotter, has never ceased to forge a genuine network of friends. Let me mention just a few.
During the First World War, while he was a young Jesuit priest Teilhard lives in the trenches. The soldiers respect him, even when they are Muslims. Teilhard takes care to send letters to the families of the soldiers killed. After having published a book on Teilhard de Chardin in 2005, I received from a family the copy of one of these letters, piously conserved for almost a century!
During his journeys in the Red Sea, he founds a surprising friendship with Henry de Monfreid, the “Pirate of the Red Sea”, this adventurer who is involved in trafficking of weapons, drugs, slaves perhaps. Thanks to him, Teilhard was able to conduct expeditions in Abyssinia.
During his long stay in China, Teilhard also forges links of very strong friendship, for example with Davidson Blake, one of the discoverers of the Sinanthrope. When Blake dies suddenly in 1934, Teilhard swears to “fight more than ever to give a hope to work with human research”. The same friendship links Teilhard to many scientific colleagues, their families, on several continents.
Teilhard has many friends among his Jesuit colleagues. Pierre Leroy, with which he has long lived and worked in Beijing, faithfully kept the memory of this friendship, at the same time as the thought of his elder. When I had the opportunity to meet and know him and to serve at his mass for almost two years; when we exchanged shortly before his own death in 1992, he was still inhabited by this great fraternity and friendship.
The Teilhard friendship overview would be incomplete without an oversight on Teilhard relation with the women: the respectful admiration for his mother, the spiritual closeness with his cousin and war correspondent Marguerite Teillard-Chambon, the same passion for philosophical research with Léontine Zanta, the special friendship for the artist Lucile Swan, etc. He acknowledged that there were sometimes “too many petticoats” around him, but also owed to his female friendships a part of the completion of his spiritual quest.
Thus, in the eyes and in the practice of Teilhard, as he wrote in his Esquisse d’un univers personnel (1936), the friendship is not the lovingpassion, which focuses on the persons themselves, in an exclusive quest. Friendship, on the contrary, remains open to a growing multiplicity. The individuality is not forgotten or denied; it joined a common interest: the pursuit of an ideal, the advocacy, the adventures of a search. Not penetration from the other, precise yet Teilhard, but rather progress together in a new world, “affinity more or less confused that connects us psychologically to all enveloping us”, what Teilhard called the cosmic feeling, consciousness.
(6) This cosmic sense, which, for Teilhard, has to inspire the highest human relations, which gives them the taste for friendship and a sense of sympathy, this cosmic sense has deep theological roots. Because, as we know, Teilhard finds the inspiration, has the genius to rediscover a theological field forgotten by the Christians of the West since the end of the patristic era: the Cosmic Christology.
The tradition Biblical, patristic and theological of the cosmic Christ then sets out, develops, and confesses to the idea of a Christ which summarizes in him all creation to save it and finish it:
“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Epistle to the Colossians 1:19-20)
This work of reconciliation is part of a world and a story where death and Sin still exist, but yet are already saved by Christ, in the faith of the Creation and the Redemption by God. Is this religious perspective prohibiting any historical vision which would be marked by the contingency? Does this require to introduce a finalized vision, led by orthogenic evolution? It seems that Teilhard makes the choice to do so, even if he is in opposition, during the 1950s, with many scientific colleagues.
I will not engage here in the field of epistemology but in the theological one. There, I believe, Teilhard shows a interesting originality. While the debates between believers and non-believers are often reduced to oppose a strict necessity triumphant coincidence, Teilhard invites to rediscover the meaning of theological affirmation that Christ attracts the created reality to him. Its power of attraction is great, but it is not total, necessary: the human being remains free to consent or refuse. Moreover, Teilhard considers that man becomes more free that he is approaching to the Omega Point in this process of unification: “operated in sympathy, the union does not limit, it enhances the possibilities of being” (La formation de la noosphère, 1947). A sum of freedoms that can act freely: here’s how Teilhard conceived the approach of the Omega Point, which he identifies with the Christ of the Parousia.
(7) Without any doubt for me, Cosmic Christology requires more interest from contemporary theologians, to better present and explain the Christian faith in the context of increasing globalization in which humanity is involved, but also in the context of a scientific understanding of the world whose dimensions are not those of our only planet. Two 'trends' that can frighten the Christians, too inclined to link christocentrism and anthropocentrism. Thanks to Teilhard de Chardin, they need not fear to think a ever greater Christ and, subsequently, a ever greater creation, without, however, losing the human scale. I repeat, never Teilhard, following Christian tradition, confuses the process of convergence under the effect of the “attracting” Christ, with a kind of process of confusion which would contain or conduct to a form of Pantheism.
We know that Teilhard has discovered and experienced the beauty and the attractiveness of a pantheism all impregnated of Eastern mysticism, especially during his period in a Jesuit school in Egypt. Many facets of his personality and his history could lead him to take the pantheistic way and spirituality. But other facets, deeply enrooted in his familial culture and Christian tradition, stop the pantheistic “temptation” and give him the capacity to transform this attraction in the rediscovery of the cosmic dimension of the faith and the Christian tradition. He takes more awareness of this personal and perhaps original trend, a few years later, on the front of the First World War. In his Diary, February 7, 1916, he writes: “I have always had, I believe, the pantheistic soul. It is very convenient to be Christian.” And, finally, this affirmation to Father Fontoynont, in March 15, 1916: “I will divert the drunkenness of the pagan pantheism for Christian use, acknowledging creative and formative God’s action in all hugs and all clashes, in all passivity unavoidable and irreducible.”
Escaping to pantheism, Teilhard can dock his theology of convergence in a perspective which respects individuals, personalities, without denying the links that exist between them. It is in this sense that his theology, all inspired by Christ and Christian tradition, can now offer foundations to ethics that humanity needs to really enter the technical reality of a technical and tomorrow psychological and spiritual noosphere, to give it a horizon, a goal, a hope. For Teilhard, it still remains the main concern: how to maintain, during the immense periods of the future, the desire not only to survive, but the passion, the enthusiasm to move forward? Without this passion, all our physical and chemical powers remain miserably inert in our hands (L’énergie d’évolution, 1953), for Teilhard, going forwards, progressing is essential: “finding God in the act of progress itself… The future leads us to the extent of our faith…” (Journal, October 10, 1917).
The Challenge of Teilhard's Vision
to the Contemporary World
Science, religion and planetary humanity
Abstract: Teilhard de Chardin was a great thinker, a great scientist, a great mystic – he was above all an extraordinary human being whose inspiring vision still remains far too little known. He so much stressed the importance of seeing, of having a vision that pulls us forward and upward. For him, life is vision. I will examine how this vision – embracing science, religion and the future of planetary humanity – presents a challenge to the contemporary world and an inspiration to create a better future for all people.
The first part of my essay looks at our world in crisis, dominated by science, but politically fragmented, suffering from much injustice, poverty and violence. Where are we going? Teilhard’s evolutionary, convergent and universalist thinking can be a guiding light for the contemporary world to move ahead.
The second part highlights important features of planetary humanity faced with the responsibility of its further self-evolution. Has the human species the evolutionary capacity for developing its life to a higher stage, for truly transformative action to create greater collaboration and unity, more universal peace and justice?
The third part examines the spiritual energy resources needed for the further development of the human community, especially the necessary zest for life, the all-transforming power of love and compassion, and the need for an environmentally and ecologically sound way of life to ensure the wellbeing of all people and the planet.
The fourth part deals with the challenge of Teilhard’s life and vision for the contemporary world, showing that we need a new spiritual awake ning, and a deeply mystical, action-oriented spirituality to take humanity forward. The brief conclusion sums up Teilhard’s legacy and integral vision, rooted in both modern science and a fervent Christian faith, which represent an inspiring and powerful challenge for life, thought and action of contemporary humanity.
The Teilhard Centre at the Sri Lankan Subodhi Institute of Integral Education is probably unique in the whole of Asia. It owes its existence to the foresight, passionate dedication and hard work of Father Mervyn Fernando to whom deepest thanks are owed for developing this inspiring centre with so much imagination, thought and love. I came to Sri Lanka long ago, to a meeting in early 1982, when I lectured on Teilhard for a seminar on “Human Development and Eastern Religions” organized by the Subodhi Institute. Unfortunately, due to illness, I had to miss the Silver Jubelee celebration of the Teilhard de Chardin Centre for Science, Spirituality and the Future during 2014, but I was there in spirit.
I want to mention the important fact that, from 1923 onwards, Teilhard de Chardin visited Sri Lanka briefly on several occasions when he was travelling by boat to China. In 1926 he wrote with enthusiasm about his visit to Colombo, to its beautiful Botanical Garden and its museum where he was particularly interested in looking at some fossils.1
Teilhard was a great thinker, a great scientist, a great mystic – he was above all an extraordinary human being whose inspiring vision still remains far too little known. He so much stressed the importance of seeing, of having a vision that pulls us forward and upward. For him, life is vision, as he wrote in the Foreword on “Seeing” in his great book The Human Phenomenon.2
In order to show what a challenge Teilhard’s vision presents to us,I begin with some general comments about the critical state of today’s world (1); then reflect on planetary humanity at the crossroads (2); in order to consider what spiritual resources we possess for ensuring the future wellbeing of people and planet (3). Finally I will conclude by summing up the challenge of Teilhard’s life and vision for the contemporary world (4).
1. A world in crisis: where are we going?
We are living in a highly interconnected, global world with many seemingly insoluble problems: there is the runaway growth of the human population, the maldistribution of resources, the existence of widespread military and structural violence, the absence of stable peace. There are also the profoundly unjust inequalities linked to the growing imbalance between the extremes of abject poverty and those of ostentatious wealth, and there is the threat of ecological disaster looming large on the horizon. Our age is often described as an age of unbelief, with its growing secularism, especially in the northern hemisphere, where many people appear to be spiritually impoverished, marked by a crass materialism, much greed, and a loss of transcendence. Yet at the same time we know of many people with a deep ethical commitment to transformative social and ecological action, attracted to a new spirituality emerging from within the secular.
The great intellectual adventures of modern times have primarily been connected with scientific and technological inventions. These represent an ongoing, continuing quest for the exploration and understanding of the world around and within us, of cosmos, nature, life, and human beings – their immense diversity and richness, and the social, cultural and spiritual evolution of the human species.
The scientific quest can be described as a quest for ever more knowledge, a quest which expands our perception and experience of the boundaries of the real, which ultimately seeks the unity and interrelatedness of all knowledge. But like all human endeavours, the pursuit of science is characterised by profound ambivalence and many ethical problems.
Teilhard de Chardin saw perhaps less of this dark side of modern science, its power for evil and destruction, than we perceive today. His own practice, praise and love of science were undertaken from a position of responsibility and deep reverence, permeated by a religious spirit. He understood the scientific quest as a search for the unity of knowledge and saw it at its deepest level as closely related to the great human longing for union that expresses itself in the scientific, religious and mystical quest.
Yet he was also never tired of pointing out how our understanding of science is much too narrow, particularistic and fragmentary. Its power of analysis must now be matched by attempts at synthesis, by a more holistic and global way of thinking. Teilhard saw everything from a wider, more universal perspective and in need of transformation. Science and mysticism are not in opposition to each other but ultimately interrelated. For him the rational and mystical are much closer to each other than generally thought. Teilhard’s holistic vision is grounded in both science and faith; both are approached from an all-embracing perspective that is evolutionary, convergent, and universalist. Its comprehensiveness and depth offer a tremendous challenge that can empower people to think, act and live differently – what Teilhard called to “superlive”: to live a fuller, better, more rewarding life shared with our fellow human beings. Through his temperament and travels, and through his detailed scientific studies of the history of human life on earth, Teilhard developed an extraordinary sense of the earth as a whole, and of humankind as one. He spoke early of the ‘planetisation’ of humankind, or what we today would call ‘globalisation’. One of the strongest expressions of this sense of the earth and of humanity as one is found in his 1931 essay “The Spirit of the Earth”.3
He saw the whole world and all peoples within it as one. Beyond the external forces of unification or globalisation, brought about by scientific research, economics, finance, political power, media communication or even militarization, Teilhard was looking for the “miracle of a common soul”,4 for a greater convergence and union of the diverse elements of humanity. This cannot be achieved without the powers of love and compassion. It is an deal that cannot be reached without developing the spirit of the earth, nor can it be found without what he calls “the arising of God”, that is to say, the continuous development of the idea of God on earth, or what some might perceive as the openness to the presence of the spirit.
Teilhard recognized that there may exist resistance “to open our hearts wide to the call of the world within us, to the sense of the earth”.5 Yet this sense can reveal to us “the newly freed energies of love, the dormant energies of human unity, the hesitant energies of research.”6 He explains these in both metaphorical and religious terms. Love is described as “the most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces”. “Huge, ubiquitous and always unsubdued”, love is a “wild force”, but also “a sacred reserve of energy” – it is “like the blood of spiritual evolution”.7
As to human unity, human beings often experience more of an “instinctive repulsion” and distance from each other than genuine attraction; we cannot truly love millions of strangers but are often profoundly disturbed by the plurality of human beings we encounter. The “spirit of the earth” and the experience of human unity seem at present more of a dream than a reality, yet Teilhard felt that this “sense of, this feeling for greater human unity is now ‘in process of formation’”; it is “the irresistible pressure which unites people at a given moment in a passion they share.”8 This creates a movement towards human convergence and union through a new form of love practiced through mutual “interlinking” rather than mere personal attraction.9
Teilhard also diagnosed many symptoms of a growing crisis in different spheres of human activity. He wrote:
From the economic and industrial point of view the crisis is evident… Too much iron, too much wheat, too many automobiles – but also too many books, too many observations; and also too many diplomas, technicians and workmen – and even too many children. The world cannot function without producing living beings, food, ideas. But its production is more and more patently exceeding its powers of absorption and assimilation…we must ask what this excess production means. Is the world condemned, as it grows, to automatic death by stifling beneath its own excessive weight?
He answered this question in the negative and interpreted the numerous problems in the contemporary world as a “crisis of birth”. He finished his essay on “The Spirit of the Earth” with the powerful, visionary statement:
The age of nations has passed. Now, unless we wish to perish we must shake off our old prejudices and build the earth…The more scientifically I regard the world, the less can I see any possible biological future for it except the active consciousness of its unity.10
Teilhard’s way of thinking is thoroughly shaped by the evolutionary dynamic of becoming. For him, the world is going somewhere! His essay “How I Believe” (1934) sums up his vision in evolutionary terms:
I believe that the universe is an evolution.
I believe that evolution proceeds towards spirit.
I believe that spirit is fully realized in a form of personality…
I believe that the supremely personal is the universal Christ.11
In other words, evolutionary processes are universal; they embrace all realities, from the depths of matter to the height of spirit, from the cosmic to the human and divine. Teilhard perceived this divine presence everywhere and encountered above all in the incarnate and cosmic Christ. The universe was not simply an object of scientific enquiry for him, but a living, evolving reality. The world of nature, “Mother Earth”, which he passionately loved and embraced as something alive, pulsating with energy and growth, revealed to him a greater presence, an environment suffused with divine life.
He sees humanity moving into a new environment, into “a world that is being born instead of a world that is”,12 with a new relationship between matter and spirit, a new humanism, and a new understanding of God – complementary movements which perhaps mark “the beginning of a new era for humankind”.13
2. Planetary Humanity at the Crossroads
This is the rise of a truly planetary humanity where the increasing complexity of matter and material organisation results in an accompanying rise of consciousness and spiritual awareness. For Teilhard this is connected with the mutual embeddedness of the biosphere with what he called the “noosphere”, the specific human sphere of thinking and action, today sometimes described as the “planetary mind”. This also includes important aspects of what we today call eco-justice and social justice, animated above all by the transformative and healing powers of love. For Teilhard, the noosphere has also a deeply spiritual dimension which he described as “the divine milieu”, a field of divine energy and a central focal point which is both immanent and wholly transcendent at the same time.
Teilhard was a great scientist. He qualified in geology, was well acquainted with biology, physics and chemistry, and excelled in palaeontology, the study of human origins, where he gained an international reputation. But the more closely he studied ancient fossils, the more he turned away from the past and developed a fascination with the present, and even more the future. Reflections on the future of humankind and its further social, cultural and spiritual development feature prominently in his work. He expressed with clarity and forcefulness that we are one humanity, with one origin, and one destiny. We are also a group of humans that has not yet reached maturity in terms of its possibilities. Its immense problems somehow resemble the turmoils of youth in individual human development.
Wherever we live today, it is becoming obvious that ever more people are developing a new planetary vision and sense of the earth. The general awareness of the history of the earth, of life and the great biodiversity of our planet is much greater today than ever before.
A new consciousness is emerging in the world in connection with our understanding of the story of the universe, linked to our knowledge of the immensity of space, the depth of time, and the complexity of life and of human cultures in a globally interconnected world. This aweinspiring story is beautifully told in the film “The Journey of the Universe. The Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth, and Human Transformation” produced by Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim and Brian Swimme.14 It demonstrates clearly that the story of humanity emerges out of the story of the universe and is an integral part of the vast, interconnected web of life covering our planet Earth.
The discovery of universal evolutionary processes implies a profound revolution in human thinking and action; it gives rise to an altogether new awareness of the universal processes of evolutionary becoming that now call for the further self-evolution of humanity. This implies that humanity bears a tremendous responsibility for the future evolution of the whole human species and the planet itself.
Teilhard asked how can we be “architects of the future”? How can we develop a better, higher life for the human community? He reflected on the conditions and criteria by which human beings might become more united – economically, politically, and spiritually. How will the human species evolve further? His book The Future of Man carries the motto: “The whole future of the Earth, as of religion, seems to me to depend on the awakening of our faith in the future.”15 He combined such faith in the future with what he called “faith in man”, that is, a faith in the further development of human beings, and in the greater global collaboration and unity among the peoples of the earth. He spoke of a new threshold in the development of human consciousness and organization, not simply a search for the continuity of life or mere survival. What is needed is the development of life to a higher stage which involves an effort to create a higher form of life, a more unified humanity.
The problem of the future is paramount for the present: will humanity survive or be annihilated, will it progress or stagnate? Teilhard thought we have no decisive evidence for either hope or despair, but we have today perhaps more reasons to be pessimistic than he was more than sixty years ago. One thing is certain: we need to find the right road, make the right choices and put our will into effective action to create the right world for humanity today. Teilhard was certainly convinced that despair cannot provide the necessary energy for action, but hope can.
In a postscript to the The Human Phenomenon he describes the social phase of human evolution as “the rise toward a collective step of reflection”, a second stage of hominisation whose final success is by no means certain, although this process has certain irreversible features, one of which is “a revealing association of technical arrangement and psychic centration”. How can we fail to recognize this as the work of “the very same force that made us?” he asked.16
Humanity now bears full responsibility for its own future; both education and scientific research play a great role in this. It is also an immense challenge – the kind of future we will get depends to a large extent on the quality of people who shape it. Teilhard emphasised the need for a “homo progressivus”,17 for future-oriented and future-affirming human beings who possess a wide, open awareness,and the necessary energy of thought and perception to recognise the problems of the future and find their solutions.
This is a bold vision entailing tremendous challenges and risks – a vision that may instil fear in some of us and invite others to new experiments and great daring. Teilhard was a pioneer in calling attention to the problems of the future; again and again he insisted on the need for a scientific study of and consciously planned work for the future. The social integration of people around the globe into some kind of “super-humanity” presupposes the further self-evolution of human beings towards a higher order. Like some of his scientific colleagues Teilhard took it for granted that a basic mutation has already taken place in modern post-Darwinian, post-Marxian and post-Freudian consciousness, but he postulates yet another necessary mutation: a greater awareness of humanity’s necessary collectivity and the emergence of a higher shared consciousness to form together new, more integrated collective and collaborative reality, just as the larger reality of the individual human brain is formed through the association and collaboration of innumerable cells.
Teilhard’s firm personal belief in a finally successful outcome of evolution was directly related to his detailed scientific knowledge, but his interpretation of the overall direction and ultimate goal of evolution was ultimately grounded in his fervent Christian faith and deep Christian hope in the light of which he interpreted all the data of evolution available to him. In an essay called “The Grand Option”(1939)18 he discussed the possible paths humanity might take next, now that it finds itself at the threshold of higher human socialisation. What road should be taken?
1. That of pessimism or optimism?
2. If the latter, would it be an optimism of withdrawal or an optimism of evolution?
3. Should the further evolution of the human community occur interms of more plurality or a higher unity of humanity?
For Teilhard, the right choice consists always in the necessary action for the higher unification and unity of humanity. This is the overall direction of the further evolution of the human species.19 In his view, humanity has practically lived for most of human history without analyzing its own activities; it has existed from hand to mouth in the pursuit of more or less limited aims, guided more by instinct than by reason. But now, with the expansion of our thought, the environment of human action has changed; with our new awareness of the immensities of space and time, of past and future, of living in an evolutionary and convergent universe we experience a sense of “universal unification”.
He saw these general, irreversible developments as indications “that the spirit has acquired an added dimension”, that a “wave of new life” penetrates all our undertakings and that everything is animated “with a flow of Presence and Love”, a love which he also described as “the free and imaginative outpouring of the spirit over all unexpected paths”.20 He spoke of a
general and irreversible readjustment of the values of existence… showing our accession, beyond all ideologies and systems, to a different and higher sphere, a new spiritual dimension.
He also referred to “the greatness of the present moment”, to a “new world into which we are being born”.21 These inspiring words come from a great visionary thinker seeing far ahead. Yet this text makes painful reading, if set into the socio-political context of 1939 when these words were written, six months before the outbreak of the Second World War. Yet Teilhard was fully aware of the length of time and the many battles it might take for planetary humanity to evolve to this higher stage of life.
As always, he remained a prophet of hope to the last, presenting an empowering vision to suffering humanity. After the end of the Second World War, he spent another decade working out what resources we can draw upon for nurturing the zest for life and the desire to evolve in order to create a worthwhile future for all people and the planet. Given the immense problems of the contemporary world, we are more painfully aware than ever before that planetary humanity is now truly at the crossroads: much decisive action is needed to find acceptable solutions for our immense social, political and environmental problems. Which of Teilhard’s ideas can challenge and inspire us?
3. Spiritual resources for the future wellbeing of people and planet
An enormous number of material and spiritual resourcesare needed to ensure a viable future for humanity. Certain external and internal conditions have to be fulfilled if human and natural life are to remain in balance. If these conditions are not met, life on earth will fail. Teilhard often speaks about the need to examine all available energy resources, especially those required for nourishing and sustaining human growth and action. Central to maintaining the dynamic of action is the zest for life, the will to live and love life. Enemy number one is indifference and boredom, the loss of a taste for life, the absence of inner resources, and the danger of dropping out of acting altogether. Teilhard highlighted the existing contradiction
that all over the earth the attention of thousands of engineers and economists is concentrated on the problem of world resources of coal, oil or uranium – and yet nobody…bothers to carry out a survey of the zest for life: to take its ‘temperature’, to feed it, to look after it, and… to increase it. 22
The taste and zest for life, for all life, human and non-human, is essential for the future of our planet. 23
Teilhard favoured a closer contact and dialogue between members of different faiths, and encouraged their active collaboration in making the world a better place. After his return from China, he was actively involved in interfaith dialogue in Paris between 1947-50, but this is generally little known. On several occasions he reflected on the contribution of different world faiths to the ongoing convergence of religions. 24
In looking at its resources, the human community does not give the same attention to its available spiritual energy resources as it does to the calculation of its available material energy reserves. Yet spiritual energy resources are indispensable for sustaining persons and planet; human beings bear the responsibility to locate them, use them for their sustenance, and increase them. The religious and philosophical traditions of the world – our global religious heritage – contain irreplaceable resources on which we must draw to nourish our zest for life, sustain the biosphere, foster the growth of the noosphere, and advance the balanced integration of the diverse groups and nations of the global community. Nowhere is this better expressed than in Teilhard’s 1950 address on “The Zest for Living”25 given to an interfaith group in Paris. He says that at the deepest level, the zest for life is linked to an act of faith:
…what is most vitally necessary to the thinking earth is a faith –and a great faith – and ever more faith.
To know that we are not prisoners.
To know that there is a way out, that there is air, and light and love, somewhere, beyond the reach of all death.
….And it is there that we find what I may well be so bold as to call the evolutionary role of religions. 26
He stressed that contemporary religious needs are different from those in the past, and that our historically new situation and consciousness require a new spirituality and a new image of God. A spirituality mainly concerned with the individual is no longer sufficient; what is needed is a faith in humanity and the earth. Teilhard’s own spirituality was deeply rooted in what he called the “divine milieu”, a deep faith in a divine centre and heart of the world that suffuses every context and environment with the energy, presence, and grace of the spirit whose dynamic action animates the entire universe. Thus the noosphere is not only a sphere of human evolution, but one that bears the traces of divine love and transfiguration. Love is for Teilhard both a human task and an “effect of ‘grace’ and ‘revelation’.”27 To create stronger bonds within the human community and bring about a better world for all, the energies of love in all their different dimensions and practical expressions are needed most. Love is the highest form of human energy and “the blood of spiritual evolution”,28 as already mentioned.
We cannot advance the world and the flourishing of people and planet without a zest for life. He described this zest as “nothing less than the energy of universal evolution” but, at the human level, the feeding and development of this energy, of this zest, “is to some degree our responsibility”. 29
This theme preoccupied him until the day of his death. In one of his last essays, the profoundly personal and mystical text “The Christic”,30 written in March 1955, he speaks of “the primordial sources of the Energy of Evolution” which modern science has discovered, but also of the need for humanity “to find a way to increase the Drive of Evolution”:
If humanity is to use its new access of physical power with balanced control, it cannot do without a rebound of intensity in its zest to act, in its zest to seek, in its zest to create”. 31
Teilhard’s vision of how to feed “the zest for life” within ourselves and within the world is truly empowering and inspirational, if we really want to seed and grow a better future for the whole of humanity, and not only for its privileged members. There now exists a growing number of“noospheric institutions” (like the United Nations and so many NGOs) which are working in ever so many fields for the good of the inhabitants of the earth. New processes of global networking are constantly emerging, and the possibilities for a “global-interlinking-through-love” that Teilhard first perceived in the 1930s, have grown exponentially through the fast advances of electronic means of communication and other ways of networking around the globe, and that also includes multiple new ways of understanding spirituality today. This is an important point to make, especially in Asia where religious pluralism is so vividly present everywhere, from multiple indigenous religious traditions to the richness of Indian, Chinese and Japanese religions as well as different Christian traditions.
4. The challenge of Teilhard’s life and vision for the contemporary world
The greatest challenge of all lies perhaps in Teilhard’s own example, in the powerful testimony of his life and experience in which a scientific and spiritual vision of life, humanity and God are so deeply interwoven.
Teilhard de Chardin had an extraordinary life, full of adventures of mind and spirit, yet in his own church he was marginalized and made to suffer, ostracized for his integral vision of combining the insights of evolutionary science with those of a fervent Christian faith. In the words of his former Jesuit superior, Fr René d’Ouince, Teilhard was truly “a prophet on trial” in the church of his time. Today he has become somewhat more accepted and better known than sixty years ago, but he is also still largely ignored, especially among Catholics.
Few people will know thatin the early twentieth century Teilhard already thought about cultural and religious diversity, global interdependence and a growing “planetisation” of the human community, about biodiversity and the fragility of life on the planet, but also about the significant contribution of China in shaping the future of humanity. It was amidst the killing fields of the First World War that he first perceived the rise of human interthinking and interaction. He eventually described this as the rising of the “noosphere”, of a layer of interlinking connections that encircles our planet like the geosphere, the biosphere, the atmosphere and other layers surrounding the earth. For some people this extraordinary foresight makes Teilhard almost a patron saint of what we now know as the internet.
To sum up the unity of Teilhard’s life and thought, it seems to me most appropriate to characterise him by one metaphor he so frequently uses himself – that of fire, flame, and spark. He truly was a “Spirit of Fire”32 who followed the “road of fire” throughout his life and writings. He was a man of deep thought and faith, but also of great depth of feeling – a passionate thinker rather than a merely intellectual one. This is evident from many of his letters, diary entries and essays, especially the spiritual autobiography The Heart of Matter (1950), written late in his life.
But his integral vision is there from his very first essay on “Cosmic Life” (1916) which celebrates “communion with God through the world”. Traditionally, religious people have often sought communion with God by separation and escape from the world whereas secular people, immersed in the world, have pursued the development of the world or immersion in nature without a link to the divine. For Teilhard, both these “fires” or “energies” need to be combined in “communion with God through the world” where God is loved like a world and the world is loved as something divine, as animated by the spirit of God. In many ways this is an ancient Christian vision going back to the cosmic hymns of St Paul and the early Greek fathers, but Teilhard translates this into a partly new vision that is rooted in a dynamic, evolutionary universe.
Another important, unusual element of his spirituality is his emphasis on the feminine which he also calls the “unitive element”. By this he refers particularly to the love he had experienced through the influence of several women in his life – initially the nurturing presence of his mother, the love of his sisters and cousins, and later his lasting friendships with a number of outstandingly creative women. It was through these experiences that he really felt that the universe is suffused by love. Love is the secret thread that runs through the universe, the outpouring of the spirit over all unexplored paths.
Teilhard argued that humanity has to harness the powers of love and develop them to a much greater potential than ever before. Human beings need love as much as they need light, oxygen and vitamins. We need love to be well, whole, and connected in communion and union. His understanding of love refers not only to love between individuals, but envisages a new kind of love that creates the strongest bonds across the whole human community. This is what he understood by building up the earth: the amorization of planetary humanity and the whole universe.
Teilhard can only be understood in the wider context of evolution, providing us with a new cosmology and a new Earth consciousness. It is as if all his thoughts were nested within ever expanding circles of the universe. This may be the reason why Thomas Merton entitled his essay on Teilhard’s Divine Milieu “The Universe as Epiphany”. Teilhard provides a great example of “seeing anew” by celebrating a vision at once cosmic, human, and divine. 33
He discovered the heart of God in all creation, in the heart of matter, at the centre of life, and of humanity. The divine heart beats throughout the evolving cosmos, and for Teilhard it was above all encountered in the cosmic Christ “clothed in the glory of the world”. Living in the divine milieu means discovering fire through the all-transforming power of love, forging a new spirituality in and for an evolutionary world, a spirituality that is linked to a new mysticism of action, love, and unification.
Teilhard once described himself as “consumed by fire from within”. His spirituality may be described as a pan-christic fire and heart mysticism, 34 but also a mysticism that in Kathleen Duffy’s poignant expression is closely interwoven with “seeing the inner face of evolution”.35
Where is Teilhard’s legacy debated today, his prophetic voice listened to, where are his ideas experienced as energising and empowering? These questions will be answered differently, depending on where one is coming from. Even after a thorough critical sifting Teilhard’s ideas still provide many enriching perspectives for fresh creative thinking, whether on the evolutionary understanding of the universe and planetary humanity, or in relation to contemporary process thought, or in the context of the ecological movement and sustainability debates. Although global thinking has much advanced in all these areas, elements of a truly balanced ecological spirituality can be found in many of Teilhard’s writings. In fact, some of the powerful statements in the new Earth Charter, aimed to ensure the future of the community of life on our planet, would have deeply resonated with him.36
It is particularly Teilhard’s personal experience and understanding of spirituality and mysticism, centred in the cosmic Christ and a deeply personal Christian faith related to the dynamic of the contemporary world, which attracts many of his followers. Yet even in contemporary works on spirituality Teilhard is rarely given the careful attention he deserves as a creative thinker in this field, and as someone who embodies some of the best Christian spiritual practice.
Let us celebrate the unique legacy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and congratulate the Teilhard Centre at Subodhi on completing 25 years of its important educational work. Together we can rejoice that the Catholic tradition has brought forth such a man of faith and dynamic vision wherein science, religion and mysticism are so creatively interrelated. Far from being outlived and passé, Teilhard’s ideas will attract a renewed interest since they can enrich our discussions on the future of people and planet, and provide a strong witness to the life-giving powers of a deep religious faith that relates to the great hopes and desires of the world we live in. To finish with Teilhard’s own words:
In truth, at the rate the consciousness and the ambitions of the world are increasing, it will explode unless it learns to love. The future of the thinking earth is organically bound up with the turning of the forces of hate into forces of love.”37
1 P.Teilhard de Chardin, Letters to Two Friends. London: Collins Fontana Books, 1972, hereafter LTF, 26. The first time he called there was in April 1923 – see his description in his Letters from a Traveller (1966), 67-69.
2 P. Teilhard de Chardin, The Human Phenomenon. A New Edition and Translation of Le Phénomène humain by Sarah Appleton-Weber. Brighton & Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 1999, 3. Hereafter cited as HPh.
3 Published in his book Human Energy. London: Collins 1969: 19-47; hereafter cited as E.
4 HE, 35.
5 HE, 31.
6 HE, 32.
7 HE, 33, 34.
8 HE, 35 (my translation).
9 The French original reads ‘l’amour d’interliaison, au-dessus de l’amour d’attrait’; see L‘Énergie Humaine. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1962: 44.
10 HE, 37f.
11 P. Teilhard de Chardin,Christianity and Evolution, 96. For Teilhard’s discovery of evolution see Ursula King “A Vision Transformed: Teilhard de Chardin’s Evolutionary Awakening at Hastings”. The Heythrop Journal 54/4 (2013) 590-605.
12 See the essay “The New Spirit” (1942) in P. Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man. London: Collins, 1964: 82-86 (hereafter FM); see 88 for the quotation.
13 FM, 96.
14 See www.JourneyoftheUniverse.org
16 HPh, 220.
17 FM, 137.
18 FM, 37-60.
19 In what follows I paraphrase FM, 59-60.
20 FM, 55.
21 FM, 60.
22 P. Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy. London: Collins, 1970 (hereafter AE), 236.
23 An extensive discussion of Teilhard’s understanding of “the zest for life” is found in my two essays “Feeding the Zest for Life; Spiritual Energy Resources for the Future of Humanity” in Thierry Meynard, S.J., ed., Teilhard and the Future of Humanity. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006: 3-19, and “The Zest for Life: A Contemporary Exploration of a Generative Theme in Teilhard’s Work” in Ilia Delio, ed., From Teilhard to Omega. Co-creating an Unfinished Universe. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014: 184-202.
24 See Ursula King, The Spirit of One Earth. Reflections on Teilhard de Chardin and Global Spirituality. New York: Paragon House, 1989, especially chp. 7 “Exploring Convergence: The Contribution of World Faiths” and chp. 8 “Teilhard’s Association with the World Congress of Faiths, 1947-1950”.
25 AE, 229-43.
26 AE, 238.
27 AE, 242. I have discussed Teilhard’s understanding of love in my article ‘Love – A Higher Form of Human Energy in the Work of Teilhard de Chardin and Sorokin’, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 39/1 (2004) 77-102.
28 HE, 34.
29 AE, 231, 232.See also Ursula King, “The Zest for Life: A Contemporary Exploration of a Generative Theme in Teilhard’s Work” (details in note 23 above).
30 See P. Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter. London: Collins, 1978, 80-102. Hereafter cited as HM. The Challenge of Teilhard's Vision: Science, Religion and Planetary Humanity 68 ·
31 HM, 96-97 (my translation).
32 I have used this as the title of my biography of him; see Ursula King, Spirit of Fire. The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996. A revised version will be published by Orbis Books in 2015.
33 This great cosmotheandric vision provides the structure for his autobiographical essay “The Heart of Matter” found in Teilhard’s book of the same title; see HM 15-29.
34 See Ursula King, “ ‘Consumed by Fire from Within: Teilhard de Chardin’s Pan-Christic Mysticism in Relation to the Catholic Tradition”. The Heythrop Journal 40/4 (1999), 456-77.
35 See Kathleen Duffy, Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014.
36 See the essays edited by Celia Deane-Drummond, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on People and Planet. London and Oakville: Equinox Publishing, 2006. I contributed “One Planet, One Spirit: Searching for an Ecologically Balanced Spirituality”, ibid., 74-95.
37 P.Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe. London: William Collins Sons & Co, 1965,125.
Teilhard de Chardin and Indian Thought
to the Contemporary World
With special reference to Aurobindo Ghose
and Rabindranath Tagore
Abstract: This paper titled Teilhard de Chardin and Indian Thought with Special Reference to Aurobindo Ghose and Rabindranath Tagore, is an effort to see and understand the Indian view of evolution and to know how relevant Teilhard has been to humanity with special reference to Aurobindo Ghose and Tagore who are considered as some of the prominent thinkers of contemporary India. It has been particularly the hope of Teilhard that his vision will be carried forth in the years to come in all cultures of the world particularly in the field of Science and Religion.
1.0. Indian Thought
When anyone wants to know all about Indian Philosophy, the question arises, “what does Indian Philosophy really mean and what are the problems which have figured prominently in Indian Philosophy?”1 In order to understand Indian Philosophy, we have to go back to its authentic roots in the Upanishadic thought.2 It is in the Upanishads that the Indian Philosophy can be said to have its origin.3 Thus Dr. Daniel Acharuparambil points out;
…The oldest among the living great religions of the world, with a history of more than 4000 years, Hinduism has been the fruit of a gradual development of the religious quest of the people of India. It has no historical founder. It doesn’t possess a centralized authority for defending the limits of orthodoxy in doctrines, beliefs and observances. … far from being a simple, monolithic religion; it may well be qualified as ‘league of religion.’ With all its complexity and heterogeneity, Hinduism possesses some well defined Sacred Scriptures as the main source of all its teachings and practices. These scriptures, written in Sanskrit language, come under two categories: revelation (sruti), and tradition (smrti). The scriptures considered as ‘revelation’ are called Veda and they are believed to embody eternal, infallible, transcendent truths. Vedas as recognized: Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda, of which the first is the most important.4
As regards to tradition (smrti) come all the rest of the sacred books, such as the two great epics called Ramayaïa and Mahabharata, the Bhagavadgita (The Song of the Lord) – the ‘New Testament of Hinduism,’ the law books called Dharmasastra, the mythological accounts of the Purana and so on. 5
Thus, Dr. Ved Prakash Gaur points out;
The main problem that Indian thinkers took up was that of an enquiry into the nature of Brahman i.e. Being from which everything that has originated, that in which everything sustains and that into which everything returns, an enquiry into the nature of truth; the reality behind all that is, the permanent as the ground of the transient.6
It is here that one can find a similar pattern of Teilhard’s thought to ‘Indian Thought.’ Thus according to Teilhard “Law of Complexification,” governs the evolutionary process. This law prompts the inorganic matter, which in turn is evolved into life forms.7 He holds that humans are not all together separate and peculiar beings. They bear the marks of their origin in their organism and they are material system within a larger physical system.8 Thus, viewed introspectively, a human being is a self-conscious creature with rationality and freedom, having capacity for action and inquiry.9 Each element in the world has some of this dual exterior and interior aspects, though consciousness arises only late in the evolutionary history.10
He believed that it is illogical to doubt that matter can give rise to mind or any basis for reducing mind to matter. Thus, the prospects of humanity are gratifying as evolution accelerates through the law of complexification with the freedom of human choice. He calls it Omega; that is for him Christ’s fullness which includes a unified humanity at peace.11
1.1. Evolution in Indian Philosophy
In the course of the study of Teilhard and Indian Thought, it is most fitting that we examine the concept of evolution in the ancient philosophical systems of India.12 Thus Dr. Jacob Kattackal points out that there are certain striking similarities between the ancient Indian Philosophical concept of evolution and the Teilhardian view of evolution.13 Samkhya and Vedanta, among the six Indian philosophical systems (viz. sad-dar-sanas are: Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Viseshika, Purva-mimasa and Vedanta), have developed the ‘parinama-vada,’ or the evolution theory.14 In all probability, it is the Samkhya that has originally developed the evolution theory in a systematic manner; Vedanta later adopted it and adapted it to the Vedantic system.15
1.1.1. Evolution in Samkhya
Dr. Kattackal points out;
The dualism of Samkhya postulates (Purusha and Prakrti-the two eternal-infinite-ultimate principles): Prakrti is the principle of materiality, and is devoid of intelligence; while Purushaa is the principle of spirituality and intelligence; Prakrti is the dull primordial matter while Purushaa is her animator. The unintelligent Prakrti alone undergoes evolution at the mere glance and proximity of Purusha. And this Prakrti, through her evolutionary process, produces the myriads of objects of this universe. In this Samkhya system, at least in its later form, there is practically no place for God, unless one conceives the Purusha or Parama-purusha (as in Rgveda 10.90) the Supreme Being. 16
1.1.2. The Vedantic Concept of Evolution
While the non-dualistic system of Advaita, on the contrary does not accept any ultimate principle besides Brahman, the Supreme; Brahman is ‘one without a second’ – advitiyam.17 Thus Kattackal affirms;
There is no Brahman plus world’ – situation in Advaita, there is ‘no Infinite plus finite,’ ‘no Spirit and matter’ in Advaita, for the Advaitin, the world is nothing but Brahman appearing in the form of the world: world is Brahman’s self-manifestation. 18
Therefore, for the Advaitins, through the evolution (parinama) that is going on in Brahman, the world comes into Being. Just as clay is transformed into jugs and jars and pots, etc., so too Brahman evolves itself into the various objects of this world. 19 But many of the later Advaitins reject the term ‘parinama’ (real change) and accept ‘vivarta,’ instead; which means apparent modification in evolving subject.20 Thus, the later Advaitic vivarta-vada consists in the idea that ‘Brahman the un-changeable does not suffer any real change in the process of worldevolution or creation.’21 Thus, the Samkhyans and Vedantins-Advaitins as well as Visishtadvaitins-base their evolution theory on ‘sat-karya-vada’ or the ‘effect-in-cause’ theory which holds that the effect, before its production from the material cause, pre-exists in its material cause (upadanakaraïa), and that effect is essentially non-different from its material cause, as oil remains in oil-seeds identical with the oil-seeds, or cloth exists in threads non-different from the threads. Though the Samkhyans and Vedantins draw contradictory conclusions out of this theory. 22
188.8.131.52. Shankara’s Concept of Evolution
Sri Shankara, the great exponent of Advaita-Vedanta emphatically combats the atheistic Samkhya theory that the inanimate and irrational world (jada-prakrti) evolves without any guidance or control of a rational agent.23 He argues that the universe was evolved, and still evolves, under the supervision of the Supreme Intelligence.24 Thus he says;
We must assume that the world was evolved at the beginning of the creation in the same way as it is at present seen to develop itself by names and forms, viz. under the relationship of an intelligent creator; for, we have no right to make assumptions contrary to what is at present actually observed. 25
For him this universe is of amazing beauty and harmony, as has Brahman for its creator. Further, Shankara refutes the Samkhyans who hold the theory that Prakrti (primordial matter) is the material cause or upadana-karana; who also hold that there is no efficient cause or nimitta-karana; for the world of evolution.26 Dr. Kattackal points out that according to Shankara;
‘The intelligent Brahman is the material and efficient cause of the world.” 27 Quoting Brahmasutra 1.4.26: Shankara declares: “The Paramatman (Brahman) is the object of action (material cause) as well as the agent (efficient cause); the Paramatman is the operative (efficient) as well as the material cause (cf. 1.4.24); Brahman is the material cause of the world, for the reason also that the Scriptures speak so. 28
1.1.3. A Comparison
The Samkhya-Vedánta sat-karya-vada (i. e. ‘the-effect-pre-exists-inthe-cause theory’) has remarkable affinity with the Teilhardian concept of “cosmic embryogenesis.”29 Thus the Satkarya-vadins hold that ‘an utterly non-existing thing cannot come into existence nor can an existing thing cease to exist.30 In similar fashion, Teilhard affirms that only what already is, can come to be.31 Thus in the discussion on the ‘advent of life’ in his The Phenomenon of Man Teilhard says; “everything, in some extreme attenuated extension of itself, has existed from the very first.” 32 Thus he says; “on the experimental and phenomenological plane, a given universe and each of its parts can only have one and the same duration, to which there is no backward limit.” 33
Though there is an affinity of Teilhardian theory of ‘cosmic embryogenesis,’ with sat- karya-vada, the two theories differ on an important issue.
Thus Dr. Kattackal points out:
Teilhard would not subscribe to the Samkhya-Vedantic doctrine that the effect is essentially non-different from its material cause. Teilhard is very emphatic on the point that cosmic embryogenesis should not be understood, in such a way that it excludes the historic birth of things. The coming to-be or becoming for Teilhard is not mere explicitation of what was already implicitly in the material cause; he conceives ‘coming-to-be’ in terms of real growth and real birth. But some Advaitins like Gaudapada have come to deny all kinds of origination; they hold ‘non-origination.’ Teilhard affirms that proper life which blossoms from pre-life brings into the universe something “profoundly original. 34
As for the Samkhyans evolution starts with Prakrti, and ends with the evolution of the five gross elements35 (viz. air, fire, earth, water, and akasa or ether: vayu-tejas-prithvi-ap-akasa), 36 and later in the next age or ‘yuga’ everything goes on to dissolution or ‘pralaya,’ and this process of creation-dissolution goes on in eternal cycles. However, Teilhard, foresees ‘cosmogenesis’ as an arrow towards an irreversible Omega; for him evolution comes to an absolute end once it attains the Omega point. 37
The Samkhya philosophers hold that Prakrti’s evolution is progressive because evolution brings about the liberation of the fettered ‘purushas’ or ‘spirits.’ 38 Thus Dr. Kattackal claims; “on this issue Teilhard sees eye to eye with Samkhayans. In his creed he says, ‘I believe that the universe is an evolution. I believe that evolution proceeds towards the spirit.’”39
For the Indian mind perfect liberation (moksha) of the individual is the end of evolution. For Teilhard too such is the ultimate goal of evolution. For him the Omega at which cosmogenesis culminates is the supremely personal and personalizing Centre.40 And humans by uniting themselves with the Supreme Centre will achieve perfect liberation. But in their liberation by Omega they do not cease to be themselves.41 Omega superpersonalizes the persons. 42
Teilhard holds that the universe is in the process of unification at Omega, which calls for the humanity to a responsible involvement in the evolving world; (while the Vedantins insist on the necessity of mystic experience or intuitive vision).43 For Teilhard the world is full of the active presence of God. The world is His milieu. And humans by their love inspired actions in the world, no matter how small and low they may appear, are ‘co-operating with God who is operating’ in the world to unify it. 44
Teilhardian view is in harmony with the Gita-doctrine of ‘action for the love of the Lord, which reads;
Whoever offers to Me (Lord) with love a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water,
I relish that love-offering of that devout person.
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer, whatever penance you perform, do it all for my sake. (Bhagavad-gita, 9.26- 27).45
Thus as Dr. Kattackal points out that for Teilhard, love inspired actions always generate more love. For when there is more love in the world, the world becomes more God-centered, because God is Love.46
1.2. Aurobindo Ghose and Teilhard de Chardin
Aurobindo Ghose and Teilhard de Chardin are two significant religious thinkers of the twentieth century. One a believing Christian and renowned scientist, who arrested his attention of the world by his conception of man (humans) and the universe formed in the light scientific discoveries and his religious experiences. 47 While Aurobindo’s fame rests on his interpretation of the advaita vedanta in the light of the modern theory of evolution, 48 who is considered as one of the master-minds of modern India, who among Teilhard’s contemporary thinkers stands closest to him. 49
Aurobinodo is considered as the greatest of the mystics of the twentieth century India, who started his life as a lecturer and a literary man. But he soon entered into active politics which he abandoned in order to devote himself for speculation and contemplative life.50
Thus Dr. Veliathil affirms;
Even in the early periods of his life, while teaching at the Baroda College and working as the private secretary of King of Baroda, he was having profound mystic experiences and seems to have been living in a state of cosmic consciousness.51
In like manner, Teilhard being the member of a big religious order and thus the heir of a rich spiritual heritage was called for a religious life with its spiritual and ascetical practices. At the same time by his very nature was prone to see the divine everywhere and he did not hesitate to call his system, ‘a superior form of ‘pantheism.’52
Teilhar’s words about the time he spent in the First World War as a stretcher-bearer bear witness to his life having lived in constant cosmic consciousness. Aurobindo and Teilhard, though mystics accepted the temporal reality and tried to discover the eternal significance in the temporal reality. 53 Thus, a mystic’s approach to reality with his (her) supera-rational mystical instinct. While the philosopher approaches reality by his (her) analyzing and synthesizing reason.54 The approach of both Aurobindo and Teilhard was evidently that of a mystic as reason for both of them was inadequate for knowing reality fully.55 Thus Teilhard writes in The Phenomenon of Man;
Scientifically we can envisage an almost indefinite improvement in the human organism and human society. But as soon as we try to put our dreams into practice, we realize that the problem remains indeterminate or even insoluble unless, with some partially super-rational intuition, we admit the convergent properties of the world we belong to. Hence belief in unity.56
In similar fashion Aurobindo emphasizes in his The Hour of God; “intellect cannot comprehend life and reality. Intellect goes round the object, intuition enters into the object.”57 Another important theme of the mystics is the convergence of human personality on the Divine Being. Thus for Aurobindo and Teilhard this was the most interesting theme. But they differ from other mystics in explaining how it takes place. According to them this convergence takes place as a consequence of the evolution of the universe. Evolution was so real and meaningful that it became the key-note of their thought.58 Thus R. C. Zaehner writes in his Evolution in Religion: A Study in Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p.25;
Teilhard and Aurobindo, then are united… in their belief that evolution is nothing less than the ascent from the kingdom of matter to the kingdom of spirit through man who is the bridge between the two.59
Aurobindo is considered as one of the most original thinkers of the contemporary India. The striking point of his thought was his mystical experiences as he says; “I had to write down in terms of intellect… and philosophy was there automatically.” 60 He expressed his thoughts mainly in the form of commentaries of the ancient Indian Religious Scriptures as Dr. Radhakrishnan writes in his The Brahma Sutra; “even the most original of thinkers do not claim to expound a new system of thought, but write commentaries on the three great works, the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and Brahma-Sutra.” 61 In similar manner, Teilhard is one the most original interpreters of Christianity of the twentieth-century, who depends for his new interpretation of his faith mainly on St Paul and St John. 62 Thus Dr. Veliathil affirms;
By their interpretations both of them brought out an aspect of their religions which had been long neglected. The inspiration to reinterpret their religions was drawn from an evolutionary and dynamic world view. 63
They were fully convinced that only science and technology can unify the modern world externally as sciences and technology create ever larger units cooperating voluntarily and purposefully in stupendous enterprises, and the ever-accelerating progress of science and technology seems to provide man (humans) with unlimited possibilities of further coming together.64 Thus Dr. Veliathil affirms that Aurobindo and Teilhard are the greatest visionaries of this century. They had the firm hope of bringing out on earth the City of God. 65 This they believed, will be simply the end-result of the evolution of the universe, man (humans) finds his (her) fulfillment in the deliberate cooperation in achieving it and in taking his (her) place there.66
According to them matter is not an illusion, on the contrary, it is fully real and the evolution of the material universe is no a mere hypothesis, but a fact as well as the fundamental law of the universe. Thus they attempt to give the reason of the origin of matter and its evolution.67 For this, Aurobindo takes the basis on his non-dualistic concept of reality, while Teilhard relies on his observations as a Christian scientist. For Aurobindo the origin of matter is to be found in the Supreme Being, Brahman. 68 Thus he writes in his The Hour of God; “before there could be any evolution, there must needs be an involution” 69 and this “act of involution is the graded descent from Saccidananda to Supermind, Overmind, intuition, illumined mind, higher mind, soul, life and finally matter.” 70 So “matter is not other than or different from Brahman,” writes Aurobindo in his The Divine Life. 71 And the “secret of terrestrial evolution is the slow and progressive liberation of the latent indwelling spirit,” says Aurobindo in his The Hour of God.72
Teilhard, as a Christian, defended the concept of creation out of nothing as the only reasonable explanation of the origin of the world. At the same time he did not hesitate to interpret the concept of creation in a way that would suit better his view of the world. 73 Thus he says in his Writings in Time of War, “to create as it appears to me, means to condense, concentrate, organize, unite.” 74 For him once matter is formed, it has to evolve because it is created with a conscious inner phase that keeps matter on the path of evolution and development. He says that there is a conscious inner phase that everywhere duplicates then ‘material,’ external phase. And all that is in the universe comes into existence because of this evolution and all things are interrelated. Thus the universe is a living totality that is constantly evolving.75
Evolution, according to Aurobindo and Teilhard is a process of ascent from the kingdom of matter to the kingdom of spirit through man (humans) who is the bridge between the two. For both of them the phenomenon of man (humans) evolved is very significant in the process of evolution. 76 Thus until man (humans) appeared in the universe, evolution went on automatically without the conscious awareness and influence of its participants. 77 But once man is evolved, his reflective activity can direct evolution, and the future of evolution becomes the result of human reflective activities. Thus, the fact that man (humans) can think about his (her) world and anticipate the future, means that he (she) can, if wills, direct his (her) own evolution to a certain extent at least. 78
According to Teilhard evolution, till the appearance of man was growth in multiplicity and complexity. But with man (humans) the process of evolution begins to converge on one centre as we have seen earlier, he call this centre, Omega.79 Aurobindo also speaks about a point of convergence.80 For him it is the Supermind who is the very Saccidananda, the Absolute, considered under its dynamic aspect. 81 For them, these states are supreme consciousness.82 For Teilhard, evolution has been a growth in ‘complexity’ and hence in ‘consciousness.’ 83 Thus he believed that mankind (humanity) is destined for super-consciousness and superunity in the realm of the Spirit which brings Teilhard to the conclusion that Omega should evolve.84
On the other hand, Aurobindo from his religious and philosophical presupposition reached the conclusion that the Supermind should evolve.85 Thus he affirms that the existence of the Supermind is a logical necessity arising directly from the position with which we have started.86 Thus, both for Teilhard and Aurobindo, the appearing in the individuals of cosmic-consciousness is a guarantee of the future ‘cosmic-consciousness,’ that may one day be born. 87
The main theme that runs through the works of Teilhard and Aurobindo is that of ‘becoming,’ or ‘evolution.’ 88 They are not the first or the only persons to formulate some of the problems raised by the nineteenth century discovery of evolution. But they are the first to grasp the immensity of the change in thinking to which the discovery of evolution would give rise.89
1.3. Teilhard de Chardin and Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the Goethe of India, through his work Sadhana revealed himself as completely noble and harmonious thinker, who belongs not only to India but to the entire human race.90 In similar manner Teilhard has influenced modern man’s thinking in a remarkable way as G. Sukumaran Nair says;
His thought is a harmonious blend of science, religion and philosophy. The fascinating Teilhardian synthesis is given chiefly in The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard’s magnum opus. It was published soon after his death in 1955. Sir Julian Huxley considers it “a very remarkable book by a very remarkable human being.” 91
A comparison can be made between Teilhard de Chardin and Rabindranath Tagore, which also can bring out the relevance of Teilhard and his works to humanity in the context of Indian Thought. Thus Prof. Sukumaran Nair says; “a comparison of the mystic philosophies of these two thinkers gives scope to the research worker who wishes to pinpoint a wholesome philosophy of the macrocosm, the microcosm and of God.”92 Thus, Teilhard by his works is not trying to present a more mysticism of action. But what he tries to present is what we do and what we endure should aim at making life whole and holy. For him holiness and wholeness is as synonymous terms. 93
In similar manner Tagore in his The Religion of Man says that this whole Universe is intimately related to us.94 In his Fruit Gathering, he would say that a bit of dust can hide your image.95
Thus he writes,
I don’t comprehend its meaning. Now I have achieved more discriminative knowledge. I can read whatever was once hidden to me. The bit of dust is coloured by the petals of flowers. The waves have brought the dust to the shore. The cliffs are trying hard to preserve the dust on their heads. Oh! God! I have turned my face away from you. So I could not understand its meaning. Now I have grasped its meaning.96
Likewise, Teilhard affirms that man (humans) follows the Creator God through minute things. He faces God everywhere in his (her) activity and everywhere his visible universe surrounds him. For him before man (humans) in the first stage of his (her) spiritual progress, the divine environment confronts him (her).97 The divine universe contains and encloses all his (her) potentialities and powers. But this containedness and enclosedness are in exact proportion to man’s (humans’) efforts towards spirituality.98 Thus he writes in his The Divine Milieu; “‘In our Universe,’we went on to say, ‘in which each soul exists for God, in our Lord, all that is sensible, in its turn, exists for the soul.’” 99
He further writes;
God is inexhaustibly attainable in the totality of our action. And this prodigy of divinization has nothing with which we dare to compare it except the subtle, gentle sweetness with which this actual change of shape is wrought; for it is achieved without disturbing at all (non minuit, sed sacravit…) the completeness and unity of man’s endeavour. 100
Thus, he affirms;
God, in all that is most living and incarnate in him, is not far from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which he is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle-of my heart and my thought. By pressing the stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged, to its ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end towards which my innermost will tends. 101
In similar fashion Tagore writes in his Sadhana;
In his effort to proclaim his own glory man tries to isolate himself from the material universe. Man regards the material world as a stumbling block to his spirituality. As his knowledge increases, man realizes that this view of the material world is meaningless. He begins to learn that the material world and himself should grow together and they are to be in close harmony. 102
He would indicate in his Fruit Gathering that man kisses this world with his hands and feet. He keeps to his heart the world in different layers. He fills up his days and nights with his thoughts, until he achieves the harmony of his life with the world. 103
This is also the view of Teilhard regards to life as Prof. Sukumaran Nair points out that Teilhard exhorts us to see and love the dynamic relationship between the ‘human existential centre,’ and the ‘Divine Centre.’104 For him there is no difference between the spiritual discipline focused in man (humans) and the mysticism in God’s Centre.105 For him when man enters into an unitive life with God, he becomes a new creature and then by becoming completely divine, starts on his journey to eternal rest.106 He does not see any conflict between development and renunciation, attachment and detachment in Christian life.107
Teilhardian view of life reminds us of the lines of Gitanjali-the Nobel-prize-winning book of Tagore. He writes; “Deliverance-where is it? Our Creator has taken upon his shoulders the relations of creation and the shackles of creation with perfect joy.”108 These lines of Tagore remind us that God is eternally bound to us, the human race. He expressly criticizes the escapist view of life and dry-as-dust asceticism. 109 For him salvation is the divine life on earth as God has created this Universe. God co-operates with loving servitude to man.110
Teilhard was influenced by the western humanist outlook, evolutionism and a Christian humanistic outlook. And as Prof. Sukumaran Nair points out that with this synthetic vision he wrote his The Appearance of Man, The Vision of the Past and The Phenomenon of Man.111
Thus, Sukumaran Nair affirms:
Teilhard’s book “Le Milieu Divin” is to explicate the union of the macrocosm with the microcosm Jesus Christ. He considered the transforming life towards unity the divine work which keeps us intact before the presence of God. The Kingdom of God is within us. The arrival of the Divine milieu reveals the metaphysical quest in man and the diaphany of God. We are not coming across only epiphany. The divine environment grows through love and takes us to mystic experience. With this way of thinking, Tagore agrees wholeheartedly. Teilhard has given us a vision the constituents of which are: (1) the unique feature of freedom in human relations-individual human contacts (2) the ethical flavor of creatureliness. Tagore and Teilhard would say with one voice that all sensory experiences and objects exist for the sake of the soul. 112
As Teilhard is for the glorification of humanity and its development through science and technology, in Tagore too we can see the constant glorification of human life and the perfecting of humanity. Thus he writes in his Personality:
Our personalities can fully express themselves only when our hearts open with the pressure from love or such a great emotion. That personality begins to express for expression’s sake. Then art arrives. We break asunder the shackles of necessity. We are delivered from the miserliness and utility. ‘The spires of our temples begin to kiss the stars up above and the musical notes in us start plumbing the depths of inarticulate bliss.’ 113
These have been some of the striking similarities between Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist, philosopher-theologian from the West of the last century and Tagore – the Nobel Prize Laureate, who is considered as the Goethe of India, from the East, which also tells us remarkably how relevant has been Teilhard from the West and his works to humanity with his fellow-pilgrims.
To summarize Teilhardian Vision and Indian Philosophy, into a few pages is not an easy task. Thus Swamy Siddinathananda writes;
Teilhard was a priest-scientist. He was a religious of the Society of Jesus and at the same time a first-rate paleontologist. He seems to have inherited his scientific genius from his father and the spiritual thirst from his mother. But the two traits co-existed in him not without conflict. The long drawn war between religion and science that was raging in the west had its repercussions on this scion of both. The scientist in him was drawn to the world. But the Christian in him was drawn to God. These two attractions pulled him in opposite directions. His problem was to combine and harmonize them. Can one be a good scientist genuinely interested in building up this world and be at the same time a sincere Christian? This is the issue which Teilhard wanted to tackle. 114
The Hindu mind also raises a similar question. How can we combine harmoniously our social obligations with our spiritual aspirations? How can one combine karma and tyaga, action and renunciation? 115
This effort has been partly an answer to similar questions and to bring out a synthesis of science and religion dialogue in the context of Indian Thought and Teilhard with special reference to Aurobindo and Tagore. At this it could be also brought to our attention that Teilhard may look pessimistic as regards to Indian thought and its civilization as he writes in The Phenomenon of Man;
India-the region par excellence of high philosophic and religious pressures: we can never make too much of our indebtedness to the mystic influences which have come down to each and all of us in the past from this ‘anticyclone.’ …The primitive soul of India arose in its hour like a great wind but, like a great wind also, again in its hour, it passed away. How indeed could it have been otherwise? Phenomena regarded as an illusion (Maya) and their connections as a chain (Karma), what was left in these doctrines to animate and direct human evolution? A simple mistake was made-but it was enough-in the definition of the spirit and in the appreciation of the bonds which attach it to the sublimations of matter. 116
To this view of Teilhard, R.C. Zaehner writes:
It is clear enough that Teilhard’s acquaintance with Hinduism was neither extensive nor adequate. Had he had a better acquaintance with Hinduism, especially with the Gita, he would not have so easily written off Hinduism, as superannuated religion. 117
At the same time it could be pointed out that in some of his later writings, Teilhard is very optimistic about the eastern religions though his thinking tends towards the west. Thus he writes in his I Believe:
The great appeal of the Eastern religions (let us, to put a name to it, say Buddhism) is that they are supremely universalist and cosmic. Never perhaps has the sense of the whole, which is the lifeblood of all mysticism, flowed more exuberantly than in the plains of India. It is there, when a synthetic history of religions comes to be written, that we shall to locate, some centuries before Christ, the birth of pantheism. It is there again, when the expectation of a new revelation is growing more intense, that in our days the eyes of modern Europe are turned. Governed, as I have described, by love of the world, my own individual faith was inevitably peculiarly sensitive to Eastern influences; and I am perfectly conscious of having felt their attraction, until the day when it became clear to me that by the same words the East and I understand different things. For the Hindu sage, spirit is the homogeneous unity in which the complete adept is lost to self, all individual features and values being suppressed. All quest for knowledge, all personalization, all earthly progress are so many diseases of the soul. Matter is dead weight and illusion. By contrast, spirit is for me, as I have said the unity by synthesis in which the saint realizes his full being, carrying to the furthest possible point what differentiates its nature, and the particular resources it possesses! Knowledge and power-that is the only road that leads to freedom. Matter is heavily loaded, throughout, with sublime potentialities. Thus the East fascinates me by its faith in the ultimate unity of the universe… 118
As I conclude, I take the words of Swamy Siddinathananda:
Verily, seekers of Truth and at all times are fellow-pilgrims. Their visions and views are fundamentally identical. This fact furnishes us with hope that the concord and amity prevailing among the followers of the diverse religions of the world will grow stronger. AMEN. 119
May the vision of Teilhard leads the world to its Omega with his fellow pilgrims wherever they are found!
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M.E. TUCKER – J. GRIM, “Teilhard de Chardin: A Short Biography”, Science and Religion Dialogue and Cosmic Future: The Perspective of Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, An International Symposium (ASSR Publications, Pune January 2-6, 2006) 134-139.
V.V. RAMAN, “The Quest for Unity: Between Science and Religion and Among Religions”, in Modern Science, Religion and The Quest for Unity (ed. Job Kozhamthadam) (ASSR Publications; Pune 2005) 21-38.
1 V.P. GAUR, Indian Thought and Existentialism, with Special Reference to the Concept of Being in Gabriel Marcel and the Upanishads, (Eastern Book Linkers; Delhi 1985) 2.
2 V.P. GAUR, 2.
3 V.P. GAUR, 2.
4 D. ACHARUPARAMBIL, Hindu Spirituality Christian Insights, (Trivandrum; Kerala 2010) 1.
5 D. ACHARUPARAMBIL, 2.
6 V.P. GAUR, 2.
7 M. D. JOSEPH, “Teilhardian Contribution to the Understanding of Human Being and Science-
Religion Dialogue,” MPh diss., Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth Pune, Maharashtra, India, February 2007,
1 / M.D. JOSEPH, “Teilhardian Contiribution to the Understanding of Human Being and Science-
Religion Dialgoue,” Parangat (MA) Philosophy diss. Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune, India, May 2007, 1.
8 M. D. JOSEPH, 1.
9 M. D. JOSEPH, 1.
10 K.E. YANDELL, “Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre”, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, version. 1.0. (ed) London.
11 M. D. JOSEPH, 1.
12 J. KATTACKAL, “Evolution in Indian Philosophy and Teilhard”, Convergence: A Study on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Other Eminent Thinkers,” (ed. Paul Maroky) (CMS Press; Kottayam 1981) 61.
13 J. KATTACKAL, 61.
14 J. KATTACKAL, 61.
15 J. KATTACKAL, 61.
16 J. KATTACKAL, 61.
17 J. KATTACKAL, 62.
18 J. KATTACKAL, 62.
19 J. KATTACKAL, 62.
20 J. KATTACKAL, 62.
21 J. KATTACKAL, 62.
22 J. KATTACKAL, 62.
23 J. KATTACKAL, 70.
24 J. KATTACKAL, 70.
25 J. KATTACKAL, 70-71.
26 J. KATTACKAL, 71.
27 J. KATTACKAL, 71.
28 J. KATTACKAL, 71.
29 J. KATTACKAL, 75.
30 J. KATTACKAL, 75.
31 J. KATTACKAL, 75.
32 J. KATTACKAL, 75.
33 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Phenomenon of Man (William Collins; London 1959) 77.
34 J. KATTACKAL, 76.
35 J. KATTACKAL, 76.
36 J. KATTACKAL, 69.
37 J. KATTACKAL, 76.
38 J. KATTACKAL, 76.
39 J. KATTACKAL, 76.
40 J. KATTACKAL, 77.
41 J. KATTACKAL, 77.
42 J. KATTACKAL, 77.
43 J. KATTACKAL, 77.
44 J. KATTACKAL, 77-78.
45 J. KATTACKAL, 78.
46 J. KATTACKAL, 78.
47 J. VELIATHIL, “Aurobinodo Ghose and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin”, Convergence: A Study on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Other Eminent Thinkers, (ed. Paul Maroky) (CMS Press; Kottayam
48 J. VELIATHIL, 92.
49 J. VELIATHIL, 92.
50 J. VELIATHIL, 92.
51 J. VELIATHIL, 92.
52 J. VELIATHIL, 92-93.
53 J. VELIATHIL, 93.
54 J. VELIATHIL, 93.
55 J. VELIATHIL, 93.
56 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Phenomenon of Man, 284.
57 J. VELIATHIL, 93.
58 J. VELIATHIL, 93.
59 J. VELIATHIL, 93.
60 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
61 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
62 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
63 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
64 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
65 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
66 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
67 J. VELIATHIL, 94.
68 J. VELIATHIL, 94-95.
69 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
70 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
71 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
72 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
73 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
74 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
75 J. VELIATHIL, 95.
76 J. VELIATHIL, 96.
77 J. VELIATHIL, 96.
78 J. VELIATHIL, 96.
79 J. VELIATHIL, 96.
80 J. VELIATHIL, 96.
81 J. VELIATHIL, 96.
82 J. VELIATHIL, 97.
83 J. VELIATHIL, 97.
84 J. VELIATHIL, 97.
85 J. VELIATHIL, 97.
86 J. VELIATHIL, 97.
87 J. VELIATHIL, 97.
88 J. VELIATHIL, 99.
89 J. VELIATHIL, 99.
90 G.S. NAIR, “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Rabindranath Tagore”, Convergence: A Study on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Other Eminent Thinkers”, (ed. Paul Maroky) (CMS Press; Kottayam 1981) 100-101.
91 G.S. NAIR 100.
92 G.S. NAIR, 101.
93 G.S. NAIR 102.
94 G.S. NAIR, 102.
95 G.S. NAIR 102.
96 G.S. NAIR, 101-102.
97 G.S. NAIR, 102.
98 G.S. NAIR, 102.
99 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Divine Milieu, (Harper & Row; NY 1965) 58.
100 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Divine Milieu, 63-64.
101 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, 64.
102 G.S. NAIR, 102.
103 G.S. NAIR, 102.
104 G.S. NAIR, 102.
105 G.S. NAIR, 102.
106 G.S. NAIR, 102.
107 G.S. NAIR, 102.
108 G.S. NAIR, 103.
109 G.S. NAIR, 103.
110 G.S. NAIR, 103.
111 G.S. NAIR, 103.
112 G.S. NAIR, 103.
113 G.S. NAIR, 103.
114 Swamy SIDDINATHANANDA, “Teilhard and Karmayoga”, Convergence: A Study on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Other Eminent Thinkers, (ed. Paul Maroky) (CMS Press; Kottayam 1981) 79.
115 Swamy SIDDINATHANANDA, 79.
116 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Phenomenon of Man, 210, / Cf. Swamy SIDDINATHANANDA, 87.
117 Swamy SIDDINATHANANDA, 87.
118 P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, How I Believe (Harper & Row; NY 1969), 68-70.
119 Swamy SIDDINATHANANDA, 91.
in a Teilhardian Perspective
Leopold RATNASEKERA omi
Abstract: Teilhard de Chardin, himself a Jesuit and a Catholic Priest, is a pioneering Christian thinker, scientist and mystic, whose efforts are well known for demonstrating the harmony between science and faith, nature and the transcendent within the theory of the process of evolution, which he sees as tending rectilinearly towards a final point of consummation and fulfillment. This final stage is referred to as the “Omega Point” which he identifies as the Cosmic Christ. This on-going process proceeds through a steady phylum of love in which one can locate the life and mission of consecrated men and women in religious life. It is significant that Vatican II and the Synod document “Vita Consecrata” explain religious life which is one of detachment and search for the divine, as the pursuit of perfect charity and as a witness to the power of God’s love that transforms human life. Religious life, therefore, has to be located in the context of a Teilhardian vision, within the process of perfect hominization in the “noosophere” and “Christogenesis” in the “theosphere”. Religious being those in search of a profound experience of the divine and union with it, thus shine out as living cells of the Body of Christ which grows into perfection and completion of the New Man and new humanity in the power of the Spirit – the Pleroma. Life in the spirit and witness to it explain the dynamism of religious life. It is, hence, clearly a facet of the Phylum of love which Teilhard de Chardin identifies as the Christian Phenomenon in the process of evolution.
The topic of this presentation is to propose an understanding of Christian religious life in the context of the evolutionary categories of matter, energy and spirit as propounded by the scientist cum philosopher and spiritualist Teilhard de Chardin who himself was a Religious in the Jesuit order for 56 years and a Catholic priest for 44 years. He was well schooled in the famous classical spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, his founder, which stress the systematic discipline of self leading to inner purification as a requirement to attain the sublime heights of spiritual experience ending in union with God in total love. He would constantly relate the detachment and the contemplative elements constitutive of the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience together with its communitarian dimensions to his own spiritual ascent to the transcendent. For him it was to be filled with the Cosmic Christ, the high point of the evolution of the spirit. On the other hand, the paleontologist and the scientist that he was, he would constantly weigh this spiritual experience over against the transformation of the human into the image and fullness of Christ, which he defined as Christogenesis. Perfection in religious life therefore, would be a person’s total transformation and immersion in the mystery of Christ, self-emptied totally in incarnation, crucifixion, Resurrection and diffusing his Spirit. This Spirit is the purest source of all sanctity, which means to being filled with God, so that God may be all in all. The later Christian reflections of sacred authors like Paul, the missionary apostle and John the Beloved, would prove to be very relevant to our discussion, since they speak about integration of all in Christ and primacy of love that is fullness of life, respectively. The religious life of all consecrated men and women, who embrace the life-style of the evangelical counsels, has to be located in the phylum of love that grows into the Omega-Point, the Pleroma or the Fullness of Christ. They form an important segment in the Christian Phenomenon. 1
This paper will be divided into three major parts:
I – Basic Teilhardian premises relevant to the nature and mission of religious life.
II – Identifying the basic spiritual elements of consecrated life of the evangelical counsels.
III – The emerging concept of Religious Life in a Teilhardian perspective.
Part I – Basic Teilhardian Premises
Teilhard de Chardin was a deeply spiritual man, judging from what he has written especially in the “Divine Milieu”. Three specific premises of his spiritual thinking can be enunciated which in reality form the three evolutionary spiritual principles of his thought.
1. The Neo-logisms: Geosphere, Cosmogenesis, Noosphere, Biogenesis, Anthropogenesis, Christogenesis.
The whole cosmos is filled with the divine presence and is directed towards a transcendent fulfillment consummated in an Omega Point or term of evolution which is spirit-filled. The whole universe of which matter is the foundational element is continuously being transformed resulting in its energy growing into a harmonious universe of a cosmic universal dimension, This is the stage of evolution which is termed “Cosmogenesis”, the birth, begetting or appearance of a harmonious material world. It is basically the transformation of energy in the direction of a cosmic harmony. This aspect is the evident external manifestation of creation which is supremely teleological. They are not hap-hazard movements at random. Some transcendental force is behind its guidance in an orderly manner. The beautiful cosmos that we experience is a result of this creative and integrative action. He based his entire theory on the three faces of matter: plurality, unity and energy.2
From Cosmogenesis evolves anthropogenesis, which is the appearance of hominization to which is linked the noosphere of the phenomenon of the mind, which is a prerogative of rational creatures. This sphere exhibits consciousness and the process of thinking and is defined in relation to “nous” which is the Greek term for the mind. However, it should not be confused with the “soul” of Greek philosophy or the “world soul” of Plato because Teilhard very clearly denounced a pantheistic conception of the external world. It is a question of all things being in God and not God in all things as if, divinity fills every created thing. The sphere of “nous”, thought and consciousness belong specifically to the anthropological realm which witnesses to the manifestation of the appearance of man, the human with rationality and self-awareness. We can bring in here the element of free-will and free choice. All these elements come together in his classical title: “The Phenomenon of Man”. of Man”.
Under the guidance of the movement of the spirit of God, homogenesis in a slow but steady process is transformed into Christogenesis which is the christification of man and in him the entire universe.3 For, man is a micro-cosmos where all the elements of a harmonious cosmic order is present and active but in a conjoint manner. One can say that in the stage of homogenesis or anthropogenesis, the entire evolutionary process upgrades itself, attaining a superior stage of growth and perfection. It is the emergence of thought and consciousness as has been pointed out earlier. The evolutionary process sees here one more step of advancing towards the Omega-Point. The Omega-Point for Teilhard de Chardin is nothing else than Christ, the cosmic Christ which is personification at his highest evolutionary point. Unless the personal and socially collective stage are not reached, evolution would still be lacking its movement towards perfection. This is why, to hold his evolutionary thought together in a consistent manner, he sees the categorical need of positing the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. Hence, the evolutionary process of cosmogenesis leading to anthropogenesis (noosphere) and finally to Christogenesis (Omega-Point) is one of the fundamental working principles of Teilhard’s thought.4 This is integrated consequently into his spirituality and God-experience. It is the philosophy of humanity and history. The Phenomenon of Christianity appears precisely in this context. of Christianity appears in this context.
2. The Phylum of Love
Through the zig-zag movement of the evolutionary process, that might have its ups and downs, moments of positive growth and negative diminishment such as life and death in the various stratifications, there is however a clear rectilinear movement that lances always forward. This direction is identified as the phylum of love. There might be many points of convergences when the evolutionary process moves in conciliatory directions. These meeting points are real progressive points of convergence that line up in a forward movement to carry the evolution process to its fulfillment, which evidently is the high point of love. It has to be the in-breaking of divine love, Agape/Eros, if you may call it. The fulfilling point is the Omega, identified as the Cosmic Christ, in whom all things are integrated and reconciled. Love engendering activity or interpersonal relationships bring persons towards each other and towards the Centre (Omega). Love-energy governs the noosphere as physical energies do in the plane of matter. 5 The evolution of the universe is a trajectory of the evolution of love. 6 “Love” says Teilhard, “is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution”. 7
The variety of different leaps works through the initial cell becoming “someone”. After the grain of matter, Teilhard says, evolves the grain of life; and now at last we see constituted the grain of thought. We are now in the complexity of individualization and personalization with the advent of the power of reflection. The more highly, each phylum became charged with psychism, the more it tended to granulate.8 In fact, true religion is a link with a Father-God. It is the religion of the personal. Christianity is first and foremost the religion of the person. It is through Christ’s message and through his operation, that the personifying depth of Love is both revealed and realized. 9 A phylum is precisely an evolving branch of life or a life’s species taking a leap towards thought and hominization within the noosphere of thought and consciousness. It encapsulates the energy that moves from within each phylum. phylum.
The phylum of Love is really the Spirit of God acting within. It is always through Love that God fills the universe and especially the humans in their deepest of depths of awareness. The Greek “menein” explains it very clearly. The world abides in God’s Love. But Teilhard has taken good care not to allow his system and insights of thought being interpreted in pantheistic terms. He was an open critic of pantheistic concepts of the Godhead. We are guests of the divine milieu.10 Aren’t we not told that it is in Him that we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). So, Teilhard had been clearly faithful to this prime truth, constantly recalled in Scripture and Christian Tradition, by the Fathers of the Church and no less than the Mystics.11 Hence we can see that the phylum of Love is none other than the Creator, savior and the sanctifying God whom we are called to contemplate as existing in every one of his creatures. his creatures.creatures.
3. The Christian Phenomenon
Religious life locates itself within this phylum. Teilhard leads us to recognize the fundamental root from which the sap of Christianity has risen from the beginning and is nourished. One cannot reduce it to a gentle philanthropism. It is in Christianity that the most realistic and most cosmic of beliefs and hopes are to be found. It is a prodigious biological operation – that of the redeeming Incarnation. 12 Christianity offers itself to every human and to every class of humans, and from the start it took its place as one of the most vigorous and fruitful currents the noosphere has ever known. It adds a qualitative value by the appearance of a specifically new state of consciousness. Teilhard thinks here of Christian Love. It is the heart-beat of charity.13 This is how the intensification of the divine milieu is effected with its over-arching environment of love of neighbor in which rests the power of divinization. Charity is the beginning and the end of all spiritual relationships. Christian charity is nothing else than the more or less conscious cohesion of souls engendered by their communal convergence in Jesus Christ. 14
Christ in fact is the term supernaturally, but also physically assigned to the consummation of humanity. In his theandric being, he gathers up all creation. In him all subsist. 15 Christ who is defined as the Cosmic Christ, the image portrayed in St. Paul’s letter to the Colosians and the Word become Flesh, the Alpha and Omega of Revelation as St. John presents, is the point of convergence and the Pleroma of the Phylum of Love, to which evolution leads us finally. The collective personalization of this movement is concretized in the life and progress of the religious community of the Christians of all ages, who keep activating this movement. The only subject capable of mystical transfiguration is the whole group of humankind forming a single body and a singe soul in charity. 16 This is the Christian phenomenon within the evolutionary process that constitutes a fulfilling history. According to Teilhard, human history is teleological and not just haphazard. It leads to the Omega-point, the eschatological fulfillment of humankind and its history. It is incarnated in the Christian Church’s journey of faith, liturgy sacraments and mission, the people of faith who form the Mystical Body of Christ, the Pleroma.
The essence of Christianity is Love as energy. It must be considered in its dynamism and its evolutionary significance. 17 Naturally it has to manifest itself as a personal collectivity – a community of persons. In fact, Teilhard says “At the present time no other energy of a personal nature could be detected on earth save that represented by the sum of human persons”. 18 Personalism and universalism is well attested by Christianity. It bears witness to the fact that thousands of men and women are daily renouncing every other ambition and every other joy save that of abandoning themselves to Christian Love and laboring within it more and more completely. Mystics have drawn from its flame a passionate fervor that outstrips by far in brightness and purity the urge and devotion of any human love. 19 Teilhard has summed up his reflection on this subject by saying “Christianity as a phenomenon exhibits a true characteristic of a phylum in its rootedness in the past and ceaseless development. Reset in an evolution interpreted as as ascent of consciousness, this phylum, in its trend towards a synthesis based on love, progresses precisely in the direction presumed for the leading-shoot of biogenesis.” 20
Part II – Christian Religious Life: Its Basic Features
This section will look into two special documents that address the subject of Religious Life in the Christian tradition: Vatican II Decree Perfectae Caritatis on renewal of religious life and the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata. 22 Religious are men and women in consecrated life who have embraced the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. They wish to live a spirituality of discipleship of Jesus Christ and of being his witnesses and missionaries of his Gospel, which promotes a culture of life and a civilization of love. 23 Concretely, this style of life demands renunciation of material goods, family life and one’s own will principally for the sake of exclusively pursuing God’s Kingdom and its experience. Hence, it represents a profound life-style of renunciation from material things. Consecrated life is nurtured through exercise of prayer and life lived in community. Every religious congregation, both contemplative and active will have its own particular Charism and mission in the Church for the sake of the world.
It is very significant that Vatican II defines religious life as a quest for Perfect Charity, 24 meaning union with God in love for him and with love for Neighbor rooted in the former. Religious Life is imitation of Jesus Christ who is taken as a supreme model of this way, truth and the life and in turn is a parable and a symbol of the Kingdom of God. Kingdom of God means the pervasive presence of God and the realization of His rule in the hearts of people. It has personal, communitarian, collective, historical and cosmic dimensions. The manifestation of the Kingdom of God is documented in the Old Testament of the Bible in the religious and secular history of the nation of Israel and later in the New Testament, in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ who fulfills the messianic expectations of Israel and who empowers the community of his disciples, the historical Church, to continue in the missionary task of proclaiming the Kingdom, celebrating its faith, fostering its values and transforming the city of man into the City of God25 so that in the fullness of time, indicated as the final coming of Christ at the end time (Parousia), God will be all in all. It will be the dawn of the new creation of which St. Paul has written and attested to by the Book of Revelation of St. John – a new heaven and a new earth. Besides, solidarity in sin is transcended with the overflowing solidarity of mankind Christ, who is a grace – upon-grace gift (Rom 5: 12-21).
The theology of the Body of Christ alive with many charisms and gifts, which refers to the communion of all Christian communities in St. Paul 26 with its wonderful classical text of Christian love27 provides a good background to understand what religious life is, dedicated as it is to a life of love and being a dynamic element in the growth of the Body of Christ. Each religious congregation is a special charism enriching the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work in these charismatic operations. Life in the Spirit is the standard path of holiness for men and women in consecrated life as Paul teaches in the letter to the Galatians. 28 Life in the spirit, which is the way of a life of love is well clarified by St. Paul in his catechesis to the Romans. 29 It is this love-involved spirit-filled life that makes a disciple cry out to God as “Abba-Father”!
Religious men and women therefore are life the salt of the earth and the leaven in the dough taught in the sermon on the Mount by Christ and their life itself is a leaven of the Beatitudes themselves as exemplifying the nature of the Kingdom of God which is basically people under the spell of the love of Christ and his spirit. Discipleship with Christ chaste, poor and obedient in his total love commitment to the Father makes of religious, sharers in the very breath and heart-beat of Jesus Christ, in whom they live, move and have their being. They are in communion with Jesus at the service of humanity. 30 Religious live a fraternal life in love and are called to be a leaven of communion at the service of the universal Church with their gifts meant for the growth of the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Here we see a note of universality and communion, essential to understand the evolutionary transformation posited by Teilhard. 31
In the light of the above considerations, we perceive how consecrated life of discipleship of Christ which enables an authentic life of the beatitudes and for which prayer means a God-experience as a loving “Abba” contributes dynamically to the enriching of the phylum of love which is Christianity: lived and enlivened in the Church as a communion of committed persons. However, this committed life involves working for the Kingdom of God which takes up necessarily the transforming of temporal realities or sanctification of the world. 32
This commitment takes on a prophetic role as well. Vita Consecrata teaches that discipleship of Christ involves prophetic witness. It requires discernment of spirits and through denouncing of that which contravenes with God’s will and through exploring new ways to apply the Gospel in history, in expectation of the dawn of God’s Kingdom. A discerning prophetism must be the hall-mark of any branch of the Body of Christ that plays a socially transforming role. 33 Isn’t Teilhard de Chardin himself taking on his prophetic role blazing this new trail in synthesizing the evolutionary perspective of modern science with the Christian world-view! Naturally, there had been negative reactions from the official Church to his writings. 34 The position of Teilhard stands in stark opposition to militant atheism today, which explains the universe solely by evolution through natural selection reinforced by the denial of a divine creative act.
Part III – Towards a Teilhardian Understanding of Religious Life
We have seen in studying Teilhardian categories the centrality of cosmogenesis, anthropogenesis (with the dawn of the noosphere with its features of the mind and consciousness) generates hominisation which eventually leads to Christogenesis or the christification of humanity and its world in the theosphere. This last stage identifies with the reaching of the Omega-Point which for us is the Cosmic Christ. This is how the God of revelation becomes identified with the God of Evolution and how matter charged with energy is spiritualized to attain that incredible but totally possible spirit-filled universe, the dream of escatology: the Pleroma of creation.
In relation to the above, three observations can be made regarding religious life as: 1) an effective agent in the christification of humanity; 2) as the path of love which answers the groaning of creation thirsting for freedom (Rom 8: 19-23); and 3) as a channel of cosmic fulfillment realized in the Church, the personalized community of love anchored on Cosmic Christ and drawing sap and life from Him as the branches from the vine.
1. Christification: Embracing a life of evangelical counsels means that a person wishes to live a life in the spirit in union with Jesus Christ, the head of the mystical body which is the Church of communion of persons. The mystics realize in this state of total contemplation a marvelous life of communion and union with God who fills their life. The soul of their life is the Spirit that fills them, body, mind, consciousness and their inner personal centre. They have entered a path of cosmic integration in which they are in communion with creation and the creator. St. Francis of Assisi is a perfect example of such intimacy with creation and its creator. In such a person, creation itself reaches fulfillment for in him all the function of a living being, all the activities of a sensitive nature and that of the spiritual intellect conjointly operates in harmony. It is easy for such a person to be freed from all that would slow down the process of christogenesis. If man is christified, in him the entire nature is transformed too for each human being is the cosmos in miniature. In a religious community life, socialization too takes place. The christified universe is the kingdom of heaven and is replete with love, joy, harmony and peace. It is the peace which surpasseth all understanding.
2. The religious vows are actually the path of inner freedom as exemplified in chastity that enables one to become more fervent in the love for God and for all humanity. Religious therefore recall the wonderful nuptials made by God which will be made manifest in the age to come, and in which the Church has Christ alone for her Spouse. 35 The striking example of Mother Teresa is a radiant instance of the breaking in of God’s love into her love, intimacy and care of the most destitute of humans, seeing the wounds of Christ incarnate in their wounds, pains and afflictions. She transmitted love and affection to them in healing that wounded and disfigured humanity. It is becoming that phylum of love that divinizes humanity. Evangelical poverty enables them to share in the poverty of Christ who for our sake became poor, though he was rich, so we can be enriched through his poverty (2 Cor 8:9; Mt 8:20). 36 St. Francis of Assisi lived this incredible joy of poverty by which he could identify with poor and heal an otherwise alienated Church of extravagance and worldliness. Religious obedience is no destroyer of freedom. On the contrary, one is freed to be at the service of the Church and humanity in being united to God’s saving will and to Christ who laid down his life for the redemption of many. Thus, they endeavor to attain to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). 37 Religious orders in enclosed monasteries far from being away from the world are in intimate union with it in their intercessions and love for humanity. “Ora et labora” sums it up all too well. They are with the sacred for the sanctification of the world. 38 All religious are in search for the sacred and long to experience it intimately, for immersed in it only would all human restlessness come to rest as St. Augustine has taught. 39 Contemplative religious thus, is a symbolic articulation of the thirst and hunger for the fullness of life that can be found only in God: more precisely in that mystical nuptials with Christ the spouse. Monasteries indeed do not shut out the pangs of the world. They are intercessory communities.
According to Teilhard, a religious “hallows through chastity, poverty and obedience, the power enclosed in love, in gold and independence”. 40 A saint therefore is not one who escapes matter, but one who seeks to make all his powers (gold, love, freedom) transcend themselves and cooperate in the consummation of Christ and who so realizes for us the ideal of the faithful servant of evolution. He says that “no one denies that religious life can be a normal and natural flowing of the human activity in search of a higher life. Nevertheless, the practice of virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience does represent the beginnings of a flight beyond the normal spheres of earthly, procreative and conquering humanity; and for this reason they had to wait, before becoming generally valid and licit, for a “Duc in Altum” to authenticate the aspirations maturing in the human soul. That authorization was given once and for all in the Gospel by the Master of things. This must also be heard individually by those who are to benefit from it; it is ‘vocation’. 41 In religious life, he might be interpreted to say further that, “attachment and detachment, development and renunciation are not mutually exclusive… They harmonize like breathing in and out of the two lungs…They are two components of the impulse by which one uses things as a springboard from which to mount beyond them.” This is typical Teilhardian idiom. 42
3. The above considerations manifest the actualization of the phylum of love that is central to the teleological movement of evolution in the life of all who are wedded to the sacred reality and the divine even on this earth. They are part of the activated divine milieu. So, the One who is at the centre of Teilhardian thought is Christ, the prototype of Man-Love; God-Love reaching fulfillment only in love and with it he can conclude to a Christianity which is nothing more nor less than a phylum of love, within nature. 43 It is within this phylum that consecrated life of men and women find its proper place, identity and function. They are a blessing on all humanity groaning for fullness of life who cannot but be Christ incarnate, crucified and Risen glorious, the name above every name before whom the entire cosmic powers must bow, proclaiming him Lord for the Glory of God the Father, as one of the most ancient confessions of faith and a liturgical hymn puts it (Phil 2: 9-11). It is striking too, that Vatican II has presented Christ as Perfect Man who sums up all things in himself, and as the one in whom the entire mystery of man comes to light and his enigma solved for good. This reference is one of those poignant texts of the council that brims with a Teilhardian flavor and subtitled: Christ-Alpha and Omega. Incidentally, it is located in the document that talks about Church-world relations which strikingly has a Christological flavor. Therefore, it is worth quoting it in full: “The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of the humanity, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfillment of all aspirations. Animated and drawn together in his Spirit, we press onwards on our journey towards the consummation of history which fully corresponds to the plan of his love: to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” 44
Further, the exhortation Vita Consecrata covers some radically essential elements of the Teilhardian vision: namely, consecrated life as a sign of communion in the Church (Chapter II) and as a service of Charity (Chapter III). The latter paraphrases it to say, that it is a manifestation of God’s love in the world. It is a fraternal life in love (n 42), a leaven of communion (n.47). It has for its mission, to be at the service of God and humanity (n 73) and exercising the act of loving with the heart of Christ himself (n 75). Christogenesis is crystal clear at this point. Magisterium of the Church now teaches that man with his limitations, inner conflicts and possibilities as well is the way for the Church and that Christ is the way for man. 45 Here we see the inter-active relationship between homogenesis, Christogenesis and Ecclesiogenesis. “The Church is like a great tree whose roots must be energetically anchored in the earth while its leaves are serenely exposed to the bright sunlight. In this way she sums up a whole gamut of beats in a single living and all-embracing act, each one of which corresponds to a particular degree or a possible form of spiritualization”. 46 Consecrated men and women in religious life exemplify this Christian experience par excellence in a way that ordinary laity cannot prophetically express.
Coming to the end of this paper, we are led to accept that much of Pauline and Johanine theology that speak about the christification of the human being and his universe, harping clearly on the reality of the Cosmic Christ offers a strong basis for the thought of Teilhard de Chardin. He was convinced that the energy of evolution will finally reach the Omega point of a spirit-filled universe of which human being is part and perfected in Christ: he who is center of all centers and the point of integration. Consecrated life is given to experience and witness to the sense of the Sacred, immersed in the mystery of love, which in turn becomes the phylum of love in which God’s presence is consciously appropriated. In a religious, the “love-energy” immerses the person in the mystique of evolutionary transformation. In Teilhard himself, the scientist and mystic, the secular and the sacred so fused in such a fine harmony that it offers a brand new paradigm of modern spirituality, fit and relevant enough to a culture of science and progress.
If religious life is meant for the pursuit of perfect charity, it is drawn to loving with the heart of Jesus Christ, the Omega Point. This would be achieved in the right use of creatures, the assumption of human values, perfect detachment in a life that is not cut off from the world, thecontemplation of God in and beyond all things and the acceptance of his will loved for its own sake, passionate love of Jesus Christ and the desire for his kingdom and the boldness of grand designs to serve Him. 47
In this manner, the religious life of all men and women in consecrated life embellishes the phylum of love, energizes the spiritual evolution centripetally to the Omega point, so that God may be all in all in Jesus Christ, the Man-love, in a process permanently projected further to the future. Being a category of a personalized and at the same time a collective force, it spearheads a prophetic mission in fulfilling the energy of love which is nothing by the nature of the essence of God.
P. TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Phenomenon of Man, (Harper Torch books; New York 1965).
____ , Le Milieu Divin: An Essay on the Interior Life (Fontana Books, Collins; London & Glasgow 1964/1971).
____, Human Energy (Collins; London 1969).
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia (Claretian; Bangalore 1997).
H. de Lubac, Teilhard de Chardin. The Man and His Meaning, (New American Library; NY 1967.
M. Fernando, Whither Mankind? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Vision of the Human Future (Subodhi Publications, Sri Lanka 2009).
John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation following Bishops’ Ordinary Synod IX) 25 March 1996.
Vatican II, Perfectae Caritatis (Decree of on the Up-to-Date Renewal of Religious lIfe) 28 Oct. 1965.
____, Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution of the Church n the Modern World), 7 Dec. 1965.
1 Religious life represents a segment of Christianized humanity, where contemplation and chastity tend to gain legitimate mastery over anxious work and direct possession. Cfr. Le Milieu Divin. An Essay on the Interior Life (Collins; London 1964) 110.
2 The Phenomenon of Man (Harper & Row, NY 21965) 40.
3 Pope John Paul II. His first encyclical begins with the same idea when he says: “The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the universe and history”, Redempptor Hominis, 4th March 1979, n.1
4 In other words, the evolutionary process goes from the geosphere (sphere of matter), through the biosphere (sphere of life) to the noosphere (sphere of the mind). It is a movement of vitalization of matter proceeding to a hominization of life.
5 M. Fernando, Whither Mankind (Subodhi Institute 2009) 20.
6 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Human Energy (Collins; London 1969) 33.
7 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Human Energy, 34.
8 Phenomenon of Man, 173
9 These references and comments made by Henri de LUBAC, Teilhard de Chardin. The Man and His Meaning, (The New American Library; 1967) 25-26
10 Henri de LUBAC, 28-30.
11 Henri de LUBAC, 31.
12 Phenomenon of Man, Epilogue, 293.
13 Phenomenon of Man, Epilogue, 295.
14 Le Milieu Divin, 142-144.
15 Cfr. Henri de LUBAC, 42-43.
16 Le Milieu Divin, 144.
17 Phenomenon of Man, 264.
18 Phenomenon of Man, 291.
19 Phenomenon of Man, 295.
20 Phenomenon of Man, 298. In a letter from Cape Town to his superior General dated 12th Oct. 1951, Teilhard mentions three of his convictions: “The unique significance of Man as the spear-head of Life, the position of Catholicism as the central axis in the convergent bundle of human activities and finally, the essential function as consummator assumed by the Risen Christ at the centre and peak of Creation”. He says that these have driven roots very deep and have entangled in the whole fabric of his intellectual and religious perception (Cfr. Le Milieu Divin, 38-39).
21 One of the sixteen documents of this 21st Ecumenical Council, voted on 28th Oct 1965.
22 Issued by Pope John Paul II on 25th March 1996 following the 9th Bishops’ Synod of October 1994.
23 Cf. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Encyclical, 25th March 1995 (esp. ch. IV). Christianity is for a culture of life as against a culture of death that is prevalent in our times: abortion, violence, euthanasia, wars etc.
24 Perfectae Caritatis, n 1. Cf. significant parallel on Charity in Le Divin Milieu, 142-144.
25 Cf. the classical work of St. Augustine: “The City of God” where he contrasts it with the city of man with its mythologies, forms of idolatry and social structures of domination and hedonism. Both cities originate from two kinds of loves as explained in Book XIV: One is born of life according to the flesh, the other according to the spirit.
26 I Cor 12:12-30; Rom 12:4-5.
27 I Cor 13.
28 Gal 5:22-25; Rom 12:1-2.
29 Rom 6:1-17.
30 Cf. Vita Consecrata, nn. 95, 100, 105.
31 Cf. Vita Consecrata, n. 47.
32 Many see the influence of Teilhard’s thought in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II in general.
33 Cf. Vita Consecrata, nn. 82 and 84. Para 82 highlights the necessary feature of ‘option for the poor’.
34 His application to publish “Le Groupe Zoologique Humain” was refused by Rome in 1950. After his death, thirteen volumes of his essays published by a friend were also forbidden. On 30th June 1962 the Holy Office issued a “monitum” (warning) about the writings of Teilhard, since they “abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine.” In 1981 the Holy See reiterated this warning against rumors that it no longer applied in the communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See. Cf. L’Osservatore Romano, 30th July 1981.
35 Perfectae Caritatis, n. 12.
36 Perfectae Caritatis, n. 13.
37 Perfectae Caritatis, n. 14.
38 Cf. Divine Miliieu: “The Christian Perfection of Human Endeavor”, 64-73.
39 Confessions, Book I, ch. 1
40 Writings in Time of War (Collins, Harper & Row; 1968) 222.
41 Citation from Le Milieu Divin, 98.
42 Le Milieu Divin, 99; Cf. 2 Cor 4:10-12: “We carry the death with us in our body, the death that Jesus died, that in this body also, life may reveal itself, the life that Jesus lives”.
43 Le Milieu Divin, 15.
44 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, n. 45. An earlier text says: “The Church likewise believes that the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of human history is to be found in its Lord and Master … in Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 10).
45 Cf. John Paul II, Redeemer of Man, Encyclical, 04th March 1979, n. 14. Pope Benedict XVI referred to this sayng in his Homily at the Beatification of John Paul II on 01st May 2011.
46 Le Milieu Divin, 101.
47 Cf. comments by Henri de Lubac, 113-114.