Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin

French Philosopher, Paleontologist, Geologist, Visionary and Jesuit Priest

Author Quotes

The scientist cannot prove directly that the hypothesis of a single Adam should be rejected. But he can show indirectly that the hypothesis has been made scientifically untenable by everything we believe we presently know about the biological laws of "speciation" (or "genesis of species")... This leaves us with two options. Either the essence of the scientific laws of speciation will change (which is hardly likely) or (which seems fully in accord with recent advances in exegesis) theologians will come to see one way or another that, in a universe as organically structured as ours where today we are in process of awakening a human solidarity far closer than the one they seek "in the bosom of Mother Eve," is readily found in the extraordinary internal liaison of a world in a state of cosmo- and anthropogenesis around us.

To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by conscious clothes in flesh and bone.

We must try to penetrate our most secret self, and examine our being from all sides. Let us try, patiently, to perceive the ocean of forces to which we are subjected and in which our growth is, as it were, steeped... I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seemed clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet... At that moment... I felt the distress characteristic of a particle adrift in the universe, the distress which makes human wills founder daily under the crushing number of living things and stars. And if someone saved me, it was hearing the voice of the Gospel... speaking to me, from the depth of the night: It is I, be not afraid.

The stars are laboratories in which the evolution of matter proceeds in the direction of large molecules.

Today, of course, we all inevitably think and act as if the World were in a state of continual formation and transformation. This is far from meaning, however, that this general frame of mind has yet reached its final and complete expression in our thought. At a first stage, and that the vaguest, to evolve can mean to change, irrespective of the nature and modalities of the changing: they may be irregular or methodical, continuous or periodical, additive or dispersive and so on. At this elementary level, we may say that so far as Physics and Biology are concerned there is no longer any uncertainty. The movement that animates the Stuff of the Universe in and around us, is no mere agitation and no mere drifting into the homogeneous.

We see not only thought as participating in evolution as an anomaly or as an epiphenomenon; but evolution as so reducible to and identifiable with a progress towards thought that the movement of our souls expresses and measures the very stages of progress of evolution itself. Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself.

The truth is, indeed, that love is the threshold of another universe. Beyond the vibrations with which we are familiar, the rainbow-like range of its colors is still in full growth. But, for all the fascination that the lower shades have for us, it is only towards the ultra that the creation of light advances. It is in these invisible and, we might almost say, immaterial zones that we can look for true initiation into unity. The depths we attribute to matter are no more than the reflection of the peaks of spirit.

Unquestionably, Jesus is still he who bears the sins of the world; in its own mysterious way suffering makes reparation for moral evil? The full and ultimate meaning of redemption is no longer seen to be reparation alone, but rather further passage and conquest.

We're not human beings having a spiritual experience; we're spiritual beings having a human experience.

The two-fold crisis whose onset began in earnest as early as the Neolithic age and which rose to a climax in the modern world, derives in the first place from mass-formation (we might call it a 'planetization') of mankind. Peoples and civilizations reached such a degree either of frontier contact or economic interdependence or psychic communion that they could no longer develop save by interpenetration of one another. But it also arises out of the fact that, under the combined influence of machinery and the super-heating of thought, we are witnessing a formidable upsurge of unused powers. Modern man no longer knows what to do with the time and the potentialities he has unleashed. We groan under the burden of this wealth. We are haunted by the fear of 'unemployment'. Sometimes we are tempted to trample this super-abundance back into the matter from from which it sprang without stopping to think how impossible and monstrous such an act against nature would be.

Until man, it is true enough that living branches develop primarily by stifling and eliminating one another - the law, in fact, of the jungle. By contrast, starting with man and within the human group, this is no longer true: the play of mutual destruction ceases to operate. Selection, no doubt, is still at work and can still be recognized, but it no longer holds the most important place; and the reason for this is that the appearance of thought has added a new dimension to the Universe. Through spirit's irresistible affinity for its own kind, it has created a sort of convergent milieu within which the branches, as they are formed, have to come closer together in order to be fully living. In this new order of things, the whole balance is changed, though with no diminution of the system's energy. It is simply that force, in its earlier form, expresses only man's power over the extra- or the infra-human. It has been transformed, at the heart of mankind, among men, into its spiritual equivalent - an energy not of repulsion, but of attraction.

What increasingly dominates my interest is the effort to establish within myself, and to diffuse around me, a new religion (let?s call it an improved Christianity if you like) whose personal God is no longer the great neolithic landowner of times gone by, but the Soul of the world.

The zest for life, which is the source of all passion and all insight, even divine, does not come to us from ourselves... It is God who has given us the impulse of wanting him.

Until man, we may say that nature was working to construct 'the unit or grain of thought'. It would now seem undeniable that, obeying the laws of some gigantic hyper-chemistry, we are now being launched towards 'edifices made up of grains of thought', towards 'a thought made up of thoughts' - traveling ever deeper into the abyss of the infinitely complex.

What paralyzes life is lack of faith and lack of audacity. The difficulty lies not in solving problems but expressing them. And so we cannot avoid this conclusion: it is biologically evident that to gain control of passion and so make it serve spirit must be a condition of progress. Sooner or later, then, the world will brush aside our incredulity and take this step : because whatever is the more true comes out into the open, and whatever is better is ultimately realized. The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

There is a two-fold and serious difficulty in retaining the former representation of original sin. It may be expressed as follows: ?The more we bring the past to life again by means of science, the less we can accommodate either Adam or the earthly paradise.

Very definitely there was no Adam and Eve and no Original Sin.

What paralyzes life is lack of? The difficulty lies not in solving problems but expressing them. And so we cannot avoid this conclusion: it is biologically evident that to gain control of passion and so make it serve spirit must be a condition of progress. Sooner or later, then, the world will brush aside our incredulity and take this step : because whatever is the more true comes out into the open, and whatever is better is ultimately realized. The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

There is the evidence contained in the superiority of my vision compared with what I had been taught - even though there is at the same time an identity with it. Because of their very function, neither the God who draws us to himself, nor the world whose evolution we share, can afford to be, the former less perfect a Being, the latter less powerful a stimulant, than our concepts and needs demand. In either case ? unless we are going to accept a positive discord in the very stuff of things ? it is in the direction of the fullest that the truth lies. Now, as we saw earlier, it is in the ?Christic? that, in the century in which we are living, the Divine reaches the summit of adorability, and the evolutionary the extreme limit of activation. This can mean only one thing, that it is in that direction that the human must inevitably incline; there, sooner or later, to find unity.

We are aware of being contained in a World whose two halves (the physical and the mystical) are slowly closing in with planetary force upon a Mankind that is born of their approach to one another. And then we realize that we are moving into a hyper-milieu of Life, produced by the coincidence of an emergent Christ and a convergent Universe.

What would become of our souls if they lacked the bread of earthly reality to nourish them, the wine of created beauty to intoxicate them, the discipline of human struggle to make them strong? What puny powers and bloodless hearts Your creatures would bring to You were they to cut themselves off prematurely from the providential setting in which You placed them!

There is the evidence provided by the contagious power of a form of Charity in which it becomes possible to love God ?not only with all one?s body and all one?s soul? but with the whole Universe-in-evolution. It would be impossible for me, as I admitted earlier, to quote a single ?authority? (religious or lay) in which I could claim fully to recognize myself, whether in relation to my ?cosmic? or my ?Christic? vision. On the other hand, I cannot fail to feel around me ? if only from the way in which ?my ideas? are becoming more widely accepted ? the pulsation of countless people who are all ? ranging from the border-line of unbelief to the depths of the cloister - thinking and feeling, or at least beginning vaguely to feel, just as I do. It is indeed heartening to know that I am not a lone discoverer, but that I am, quite simply, responding to the vibration that (given a particular condition of Christianity and of the world) is necessarily active in all the souls around me. It is, in consequence, exhilarating to feel that I am not just myself or all alone, that my name is legion, that I am ?all men?, and that this is true even in as much as the single-mindedness of tomorrow can be recognized as throbbing into life in the depths of my being.

We are faced with a harmonized collectivity of consciousnesses equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness. The idea is that of the earth not only becoming covered by myriads of grains of thought, but becoming enclosed in a single thinking envelope so as to form, functionally, no more than a single vast grain of thought on the sidereal scale, the plurality of individual reflections grouping themselves together and reinforcing one another in the act of a single unanimous reflection.

When I say ?neither among the religions of the Ahead?, I speak advisedly. It may be because they are nervous of admitting the reality of a biological convergence of Mankind upon itself and the consequences that this entails; or it may be because they persist in seeing in the evolutive rise of the Psychic no more than an ephemeral epi-phenomenon: whatever the reason, all the existing forms of Humanism (even the least materialist) are demonstrably equally incapable of giving Man the stimulus of confidence that is indispensable to his advance towards a supremely desirable and ?what is even more important ? indestructible goal, lying at the term of his activities. Whether the reason be the depersonalizing socializing of individuals or the unexorcized threat of a total death, there is not a single one of the ?religions? as yet produced by Science in which the Universe does not become hopelessly icy, hopelessly closed (and that ultimately means uninhabitable) ahead, in its ?polar? zones. There you have the truth!

This fundamental discovery that all bodies owe their origin to arrangements of single initial corpuscular type is the beacon that lights the history of the universe to our eyes. In its own way, matter obeyed from the beginning that great law of biology to which we shall have to recur time and time again, the law of ?complexification.?

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French Philosopher, Paleontologist, Geologist, Visionary and Jesuit Priest