Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Teilhard de Chardin, fully Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

French Philosopher, Paleontologist, Geologist, Jesuit Priest and Author

"There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe."

"The world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite, adoremus."

"The world is round so that friendship may encircle it."

"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."

"Through the incarnation God descended into nature in order to super-animate and take it back to him."

"Those who spread their sails in the right way to the winds of the earth will always find themselves born by a current towards the open seas."

"To be fully ourselves it is in the opposite direction, in the direction of convergence with all the rest, that we must advance--towards the 'other.' The peak of ourselves, the acme of our originality, is not our individuality but our person; and according to the evolutionary structure of the world, we can only find our person by uniting together. There is no mind without synthesis. The same holds good from top to bottom. The true ego grows in inverse proportion to 'egoism.' Like the Omega which attracts it, the element only becomes personal when it universalizes itself."

"Thus a general human life is irresistibly being constituted around our own private lives. This is not a matter of a vague symbiosis' which would simply ensure, through mutual assistance, the continued existence, as individuals, of the members of the community, or even their further development. Certain 'effects' are already emerging from the association that has been formed, and these are specifically proper to collectivity. We take no notice of such effects, and yet we can see countless examples of them on all sides. Take simply the case of an aircraft, or a radio, or a Leica: and consider the physics, the chemistry and mechanics such things presuppose for their existence - the n-Lines, laboratories, factories, arms, brains, hands. By virtue of its construction (and this is undeniable) each one of these devices is, and cannot but be, only the convergent result of countless disciplines and techniques whose bewildering complexity could be mastered by no single worker in isolation. In their conception and manufacture, these familiar objects presuppose nothing less than a complex reflective organism, acting per modum unius, as a single agent. Already we see in them the work not simply of man, but of mankind."

"To love is to approach each other center to center."

"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."

"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."

"We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other."

"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."

"We are faced with a harmonized collectivity of consciousness equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness. The idea is that of the earth not only becoming covered in 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."

"We have reached a crossroads in human evolution where the only road which leads forward is towards a common passion. . . To continue to place our hopes in a social order achieved by external violence would simply amount to our giving up all hope of carrying the Spirit of the Earth to its limits."

"We are like soldiers who fall during the assault which leads to peace."

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

"We have only to believe. And the more threatening and irreducible reality appears, the more firmly and desperately we must believe. Then, little by little, we shall see the universal horror unbend, and then smile upon us, and then take us in its more than human arms."

"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."

"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."

"We only have to look around us to see how complexity and psychic temperature are still rising: and rising no longer on the scale of the individual but now on that of the planet. This indication is so familiar to us that we cannot but recognize the objective, experiential, reality of a transformation of the planet as a whole."

"What is finally the most revolutionary and fruitful aspect our present age is the relationship it has brought to light between Matter and Spirit: spirit being no longer independent of matter, or in opposition to it, but laboriously emerging from it under the attraction of God by way of synthesis and centration. But what is the effect, for Christian faith and mysticism, of this redefinition of the Spirit? It is simply to confer absolute reality and absolute urgency upon the double dogma on which the whole of Christianity rests, and by which it is summed up: the physical primacy of Christ and the moral primacy of Charity."

"We still hesitate, as I have said, over the form which we may conveniently attribute to Space-Time. But the fact is that we have no more time for quibbling. If it is to be adjusted to Man, the high point and effective spearhead of evolution; if it is to contain and propagate the Noogenesis [evolving group mind] through which the march of events expresses itself with an increasing clarity, Space-Time must be given whatever form is most appropriate. Caught within its curve the layers of Matter (considered as separate elements no less than as a whole) tighten and converge in Thought, by synthesis. Therefore it is as a cone, in the form of a cone, that it can best be depicted. To accept that Space-Time is convergent in its nature is equally to admit that Thought on earth has not achieved the ultimate point of its evolution."

"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."

"You have told me, O God, to believe in hell. But you have forbidden me to think...of any man as damned."

"Without the slightest doubt there is something through which material and spiritual energy hold together and are complementary. In the last analysis, somehow or other, there must be a single energy operating in the world. And the first idea that occurs to us is that the 'soul' must be as it were the focal point of transformation at which, from all the points of nature, the forces of bodies converge, to become interiorized and sublimated in beauty and truth."

"You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience."

"You whose divine influence is active at the very heart of matter, and at the dazzling center where the innumerable fibers of the multiple meet: you whose power is as implacable as the world and as warm as life, you whose forehead is of the whiteness of snow, whose eyes are of fire, and whose feet are brighter than molten gold; you whose hands imprison the stars; you are the first and the last, the living and the dead and the risen again; it is to you to whom our being cries out a desire as vast as the universe: In truth you are our Lord and our God! Amen."