Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Teilhard de Chardin, fully Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

French Philosopher, Paleontologist, Geologist, Jesuit Priest and Author

"… presented a vision of the universe progressing towards a goal, the spiritual development of humanity… noosphere – the mind’s capacity to know itself."

"The whole of life lies in the verb seeing."

"The world seems to me to ‘tumble’ forward and upward upon the spiritual... Entropy has been replaced for me by the highest consciousness as the essential physical function of the universe."

"Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete."

"All the communions of a life-time are one communion. All the communions of all men now living are one communion. All the communions of all men, present, past and future, are one communion."

"Already, in the social and biological field, the fact of our recognizing that, as a result of the properties of love, the universe becomes personalized as it concentrates, was enabling us to avoid both fragmentation through individualization and mechanization through collectivism. Now, in the domain of mysticism, the same light shows us the channel between two equally dangerous reefs. Ever since man, in becoming man, started on his quest for unity, he has constantly oscillated, in his visions, in his ascesis, or in his dreams, between a cult of the spirit which made him jettison matter and a cult of matter which made him deny spirit: omegalization allows us to pass between this Scylla and Charybdis of rarefaction or the quagmire. Detachment now comes not through a severance but through a traversing and a sublimation; and spiritualization not by negation of the multiple or an escape from it, but by emergence. This is the via tertia that opens up before us as soon as spirit is no longer the opposite extreme but the higher pole of matter in course of super-centration. It is not a cautious and neutral middle course, but the bold, higher road, in which the values and properties of the two other roads are combined and correct one another."

"As a result of changes which, over the last century, have modified our empirically based pictures of the world and hence the moral value of many of its elements, the ' human religious ideal ' inclines to stress certain tendencies and to express itself in terms which seem, at first sight, no longer to coincide with the 'Christian religious ideal '."

"A more complete study of the movements of the world will oblige us, little by little, to turn it upside down; in other words, to discover that if things hold and hold together, it is only by reason of complexity, from above."

"A first result of the 'mass-setting' which mankind is gradually undergoing at this moment is that every one of us, taken in isolation, is becoming less and less materially self-sufficient. A series of new needs, which it would be puerile and anti-biological to regard as superfluous and artificial, is continually making itself felt in us. It is no longer possible for us to live and develop without an increasing supply of rubber, of metals, oil, electricity and energy of all sorts. No individual could henceforth manage to produce his daily bread on his own. Mankind is more and more taking the form of an organism that possesses a physiology and, in the current phrase, a common 'metabolism'. We may, if we please, say that these ties are superficial, and that we will lose them if we wish."

"A breeze passes in the night. When did it spring up? Whence does it come? Whither is it going? No man knows."

"A universal love is not only psychologically possible; it is the only complete and final way in which we are able to love."

"Above all I feel that you must resign yourself to taking me as I am, that is, with the congenital quality (or weakness) which ever since my childhood has caused my spiritual life to be completely dominated by a sort of profound 'feeling' for the organic realness of the World. At first it was an ill-defined feeling in my mind and heart, but as the years have gone by it has gradually become a precise, compelling sense of the Universe's general convergence upon itself; a convergence which coincides with, and culminates at its zenith in, him in quo omina constant, and whom the Society has taught me to love."

"As soon as we recognize such a center, which I shall call Omega, it becomes reasonable to conclude that the grains of consciousness produced evolutively by noogenesis (once the 'human' point of reflection has been passed) fall into a new field of attraction: the pull is exercised on the basic foundation of the grains, and it now acts not only on the complexity of their structure but directly on their center, independently of the structure. From this point of view, what we have called 'moleculization' is thus seen to be a more complicated but at the same time more radical process than we thought. In a first stage (up to hominization) there is a succession of fragile units, suspended over the void that lies behind them: there is a rising centration, but no true center as yet perfected in nature. In a second stage (after hominization) there is a mixed state; there is a continued progress of external complexity and beneath this the universe, which henceforth carries grains of thought, begins to be inverted upon itself - like a cone that has reached its apex. An intangible physics of centers succeeds the tangible physics of centration. Lastly, in a third and final phase, there is the complete turning back of spirit (now collectively centerd) upon an interior pole of consistence and total unification: hyper-centration following upon centration."

"Bearing this in mind, the ultimate form to be assumed by mankind should not be conceived on the lines of a stem that is swollen with the sap of all the stems it killed as it grew. It will be born (for born it cannot but be) in the form of some organism in which, obeying one of the universe's most unmistakable laws, every blade and every fascicle, every individual and every nation, will find completion through union with all the others. No longer a succession of eliminations, but a confluence of energies -'synergy'. Such, if we have cars to hear, is the message of biology."

"At the root of the major troubles in which nations are today involved, I believe that I can distinguish the signs of a change of age in mankind."

"As I pointed out, for one form of synthesis that brings freedom there are hundreds of others that lead only to the vilest forms of bondage. We are only too conscious of this; but how can we come together in such a way as to free ourselves? In virtue of the laws of moleculization, the problem obviously consists in finding the way of grouping ourselves together not 'tangentially', in the nexus of an extrinsic activity or function, but radially', center to center; how to associate in such a way as, by synthesis, to stimulate deep within ourselves a progress that is directly centric in nature. In other words, what we have to do is to love one another because love is equally by definition the name we give to 'inter-centric' actions. By its nature, love is the only synthesizing energy whose differentiating action can super-personalize us. But just how can one ever contrive to love a multitude? if we set the two words side by side, love and multitude, surely they enclose a contradiction?"

"Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth."

"By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers."

"At the heart of our universe, each soul exists for God, in our Lord."

"Beneath our eyes, extending from the electron to Man by way of the proteins, viruses, bacteria, protozoa and metazoa, a long chain of composites is forming and unfolding, eventually attaining an astronomical degree of complexity and arrangement. Why should we not simply define Life as the specific property of Matter, the Stuff of the Universe, carried by evolution into the zone of highest complexity? And why not define Time itself as precisely the rise of the Universe into those high latitudes where complexity, concentration, centration and consciousness grow and increase, simultaneously and correlatively?"

"Biologists or philosophers cannot conceive a biosphere or noosphere because they are unwilling to abandon a certain narrow conception of individuality. Nevertheless, the step must be taken."

"But if Charity is transplanted into the cone of Time nothing remains of these apparent limitations and restrictions. Within a Universe of convergent structure the only possible way in which an element can draw closer to its neighboring elements is by tightening the cone -that is to say, by causing the whole layer of the world of which it is a part to move toward the apex. In such an order of things no man can love his neighbor without drawing nearer to God and, of course, reciprocally (but this we knew already). But it is also impossible (this is newer to us) to love either God or our neighbor without assisting the progress, in its physical entirety, of the terrestrial synthesis of the spirit: since it is precisely the progress of this synthesis which enables us to draw closer together among ourselves, while at the same time it raises us toward God. Because we love, and in order that we may love even more, we find ourselves happily and especially compelled to participate in all the endeavors, all the anxieties, all the aspirations and also all the affections of the earth-in so far as these embody a principle of ascension and synthesis."

"By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see."

"Creation, incarnation and redemption are to be seen as no more than three complementary aspects of one and the same process."

"Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things ... as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value."

"Everything that rises must converge."

"Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves."

"Far from being swallowed up by Evolution, Man is now engaged in transforming our earlier ideas of Evolution in terms of himself, and thereafter plotting its new outline."

"From all this we can draw only one conclusion, that the quantity of activity and consciousness contained in mankind, taken as a whole, is greater than the mere sum of individual activity and consciousness. Progress in complexity is making itself felt in a deepening of centricity. It is not simply a sum, but synthesis. And this is precisely what we were justified in expecting, if, in the domain of the social, the forward march of universal moleculization is indeed being continued (as my thesis maintained) to a point beyond our present brains."

"From an evolutionary point of view, man has stopped moving, if he ever did move."

"Faith in humankind does not appear capable of being satisfied without a fully explicit Christ... Any other method would only lead to confusion or to syncretism without any vigour or originality... What we lack is the clear perception of a well-defined (and real) Îtypeâ of God and an equally well-defined Îtypeâ of humankind. If each group maintains its own type of God and its own type of humankind... no agreement can be taken seriously: it will do no more than produce equivocations or pure sentiment."

"Evolution is gaining the psychic zones of the world... life, being and ascent of consciousness, could not continue to advance indefinitely along its line without transforming itself in depth. The being who is the object of his own reflection, in consequence, of that very doubling back upon himself becomes in a flash able to raise himself to a new sphere."

"God is inexhaustibly attainable in the totality of our action."

"From this, as a final summary, I draw the following conclusion. To have become conscious of our condition as 'atoms patient of synthesis' is not merely to have attained a new vision of the general relationship which links matter to thought, and thought to God. It is in addition, and by that very fact, to redefine the line followed by the immutable axis of, and by that very holiness."

"Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven't committed."

"He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend must have a long head or a very short creed."

"He recognized with absolute certainty the empty fragility of even the noblest theorizings as compared with the definitive plenitude of the smallest fact grasped in its total, concrete reality."

"Human Energy presents itself to our view as the term of a vast process in which the whole mass of the universe is involved. In us, the evolution of the world towards the spirit becomes conscious. From that moment, our perfection, our interest, our salvation as elements of creation can only be to press on with this evolution with all our strength. We cannot yet understand exactly where it will lead us, but it would be absurd for us to doubt that it will lead us towards some end of supreme value. From this there finally emerges in our twentieth century human consciousness, for the first time since the awakening of life on earth, the fundamental problem of Action. No longer, as in the past, for our small selves, for our small family, our small country; but for the salvation and the success of the universe, how must we, modern men, organize around us for the best, the maintenance, distribution and progress of human energy?"

"Henceforth man is less capable than ever before of thinking alone. We have only to consider the series of our modem concepts in science, philosophy and religion, and it will be obvious that the more general and fruitful any one of these notions is proving, the more it, too, is tending to assume the form of a collective entity: we can, it is true, individually cover one angle of it, we can make a portion of it our own and develop it, but it rests in fact on a vault of mutually buttressed thoughts. The idea of the electron or the quantum, or the cosmic ray - the idea of the cell or of heredity - the idea of humanity or even the idea of God -no single individual can claim these as his preserve or dominate them. In such things, what is already thinking, just as what is already working, through man and above man, is again mankind. And it is inconceivable, in virtue of the very way in which the phenomenon works, that the movement initiated should not continue in the same direction, tomorrow as today, becoming more pronounced and increasing in speed."

"I am far from denying the destructive and disintegrating forces of passion. I will go so far as to agree that apart from the reproductive function, men have hitherto used love, on the whole, as an instrument of self-corruption and intoxication. But what do these excesses prove? Because fire consumes and electricity can kill are we to stop using them? The feminine is the most formidable of the forces of matter. True enough. Very well, then, say the moralists, we must avoid it. Not at all, I reply, we take hold of it. In every domain of the real (physical, affective, intellectual) danger is a sign of power. Only a mountain can create a terrifying drop. The customary education of the Christian conscience tends to make us confuse tutiorism with prudence, safety with truth. Avoiding the risk of transgression has become more important to us than carrying a difficult position for God. And it is this that is killing us. The more dangerous a thing, the more is its conquest ordained by life: it is from that conviction that the modern world has emerged; and from that our religion, too, must be reborn."

"I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my innermost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the 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 had faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came--arising I know not from where--the current which I dare to call my life."

"If I should lose all faith in God, I think that I should continue to believe invincibly in the world."

"If there were no internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level — indeed in the molecule itself — it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in hominized form.... Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being."

"If the event that characterizes our epoch is a growing awareness of the convergent nature of Space-Time, then nothing can be more ill-founded than this pessimism. Transferred within the cone of Time, and there transmuted, the Christian system is neither disorganized nor deformed. On the contrary, sustained by the new environment, it more than ever develops its main lines, acquiring an added coherence and clarity."

"In the beginning was Power, intelligent, loving, energizing. In the beginning was the Word, supremely capable of mastering and molding whatever might come into being in the world of matter. In the beginning there were not coldness and darkness: there was Fire."

"In a universe that is in course of centration (provided the centration be carried out in the right way) the individual and the collectivity never cease to reinforce and complete one another. The more the individual on his side associates himself in an appropriate way with other individuals, the more, as an effect of synthesis, does he enter deeper into his own being, become conscious of himself, and in consequence personalize himself. And the more the collectivity on its side concentrates itself, in an appropriate way, upon elements for whose fuller personalization it is itself responsible, the more, again, is it 'humanized' and personalized, and the more does it allow Omega point to be divined. The two terms are equally essential: they are inseparable."

"In the spiritual life, as in all organic processes, everyone has their optimum and it is just as harmful to go beyond it as not to attain it."

"In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened."

"In a concrete sense there is not matter and spirit. All that exists is matter becoming spirit. There is neither spirit nor matter in the world; the stuff of the universe is *spirit-matter*. No other substance but this could produce the human molecule. I know very well that this idea of spirit-matter is regarded as a hybrid monster, a verbal exorcism of a duality which remains unresolved in its terms. But I remain convinced that the objections made to it arise from the mere fact that few people can make up their minds to abandon an old point of view and take the risk of a new idea. ... Biologists or philosophers cannot conceive a biosphere or noosphere because they are unwilling to abandon a certain narrow conception of individuality. Nevertheless, the step must be taken. For in fact, pure spirituality is as unconceivable as pure materiality. Just as, in a sense, there is no geometrical point, but as many structurally different points as there are methods of deriving them from different figures, so every spirit derives its reality and nature from a particular type of universal synthesis. Whatever its purity, however great its purity, it is the crown and expression of a genesis. The higher a being is in duration, the greater and more finely unified the complexity that it contains in its solid parts. The reality of spirit-matter is inevitably translated into and confirmed by a structure of the spirit."

"It doesn't matter if the water is cold or warm if you're going to have to wade through it anyway."