Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

"All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through. But it is not only close to us, in front of us, that the divine presence has revealed itself. It has sprung up universally, and we find ourselves so surrounded and transfixed by it, that there is no room left to fall down and adore it, even within ourselves.

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, 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. "

About Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest, paleontologist and philosopher, was described by Aldous Huxley as "a very remarkable human being." Indeed. Ordained in 1911, Teilhard de Chardin risked his reputation and career as both a priest and a paleontologist to put forward his (re)evolutionary theory which attempted to reconcile Christianity and the theory of evolution. He had a professorship in geology at the Institut Catholique in Paris, and had studied at the Institute of Human Paleontology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Having obtained his doctorate in 1922, de Chardin's controversial views, in part, forced him away from teaching to spend 24 years in China on a paleontological expedition. During his lifetime, de Chardin was known for his work in China where he participated in the discovery of Peking man. But, after his death, he became widely known for his hugely popular magnum opus, Phenomenon of Man, which he wrote while in China. The views put forth in this masterpiece are today considered prophetic (i.e., predicting the emergence of the internet and communication systems and what Marshall McLuhan would later call "the global village") by many.

As Huxley notes in the introduction to de Chardin's Phenomenon of Man, the text involves a "threefold synthesis--of the material and physical world with the world of mind and spirit; of the past with the future; and of variety with unity, and the many with the one." If these are not the perennial questions, I don't kinow what are, and, while many may not agree with de Chardin's theory, no one can claim that de Chardin was not incredibly persuasive, remarkably creative and extremely brave in laying out such an evolutionary theory of the cosmos. He starts, however, from a rather basic foundation: that human beings as a whole, including human history and values, are appropriate phenomena for study as a scientific endeavor. In this sense, while de Chardin can be considered a "humanist" by placing human kind at the center of the universe, so to speak, he did not hold to the humanistic argument (in some circles) that human beings require a separate methodological approach from the natural sciences. Secondly, de Chardin specifically adopts an evolutionary perspective; that is, if we are to study human beings, it must be a study which takes into consideration that human phenomena are never static, but always becoming, always in process.  And yet from an evolutionary perspective, such a process of becoming is not mere chaos, but an ordered process involving the evolution of the mind, which de Chardin called "noogenesis." Yet, the "noogenesis" of the human being is not an evolutionary process which occurs in isolation but rather occurs within the context of the "cosmogenesis" of the entire universe. "Noogenesis," that is, within the context of "cosmogenesis," is an increasing process of "hominisation" wherein proto-human beings become human, and, finally, human beings achieve transcendence through a process of "ultra-hominisation." Finally, this process is not a mere push from the past--not merely causal--but fundamentally teleological in nature: that is, understood in terms of a future goal or telos.

De Chardin distinguished betwen two fundamental spheres of life: the noosphere and the biosphere. While the precise meaning of these words lack clarity, "noosphere" ("noos" being derived from the Greek, "mind") pertains to that sphere of life which is the 'mind' as opposed to the "biosphere," which seems to denote the natural world which is 'superimposed' by the 'mind.' The process of evolution of the noosphere and biosphere in concert is a process of increasing variety-in-unity or "complexification." "Complexification" for de Chardin, however, is not mere complexity but something more ordered: an emergence of the potential in all organic matter to become "mind" through an integrating process. In terms of human beings, this process was envisioned by de Chardin as a two-way "complexification": a) on the one hand, human beings would become more individuated, and b) paradoxically, on the other hand, this "complexification" would also involve increased cooperation and interdependence. In each case, the genesis is a move toward greater global unity and harmony (granted, with a somewhat utopian bias). This vision of de Chardin's, a vision of increasingly global communion, has been the central point which has attracted cyberstudies scholars and cybergurus to honor him as a prophet of the dawning electronic age. As an antidote to such an idealized, utopian vision of cyberculture, William Gibson works quite nicely.

It must not be forgotten, however, that de Chardin's primary purpose--his own telos--in developing his evolutionary psychology was ultimately a noble effort to reconcile the conflicts of his two loves: science and theology. In the final analysis, de Chardin's theory allows for a vision in which the Universal and the Personal--the Ego and the All--can be reconciled. For de Chardin, the future telos of the cosmos is not impersonal, but rather a 'beyond' which is "Hyper-Personal," which he describes as the "Omega Point." The "Omega Point" can be mistakenly read as an inflation of the Personal Ego into the All, but this is simply a mis-reading of de Chardin. It is vitally important to understand that de Chardin feels that we are only most fully ourselves when we advance not toward the 'ego,' 'self' or 'I," but rather advance toward the 'other.' In brief, it is through synthesis as a process of uniting together through a mutual, universal integration--a universal movement toward 'other'--that transcedence is ultimately possible. Such an "Omega Point" for de Chardin was nothing short of the universe becoming more itself and, finally, becoming God.

Teilhard de Chardin's cosmology, while he does not explicitly mention such influences, bears remarkable similarity to early Church mystics such as Jacob Boehme and romantic philosophers such as Schelling. With his emphasis upon the 'other,' there is room for dialogue, as well, with the French philosopher Emmanual Levinas.

Teilhard de Chardin Quotes:

"The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the universe--even a positivist one--remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 36)

"...the more we split and pulverise matter artificially, the more insistently it proclaims its fundamental unity." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 41)

"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." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 43)

"Spiritual perfection (or conscious 'centreity') and material synthesis (or complexity) are but the two aspects or connected parts of one and the same phenomenon." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 61)

"Without the slightest doubt there is something through which material and spiritual energy hold togehter 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 interiorised and sublimated in beauty and truth." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 63)

"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." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 151)

"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 into a new sphere. In reality, another world is born. Abstraction, logic, reasoned choice and inventions, mathematics, art, calculation of space and time, anxieties and dreams of love--all these activities of inner life are nothing else than the effervescence of the newly-formed centre as it explodes onto itself." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 165)

"Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it effaces itself, relieved or absorbed by another and a higher function--the engendering and subsequent development of the mind, in one word noogenesis. When for the first time in a living creature instinct percepeived itself in its own mirror, the whole world took a pace forward." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 181)

"...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 Phenomenon of Man, 1955, 221)

"The outcome of the world, the gates of the future, the entry into the super-human--these are not thrown open to a few of the privileged nor to one chosen people to the exclusion of all others. They will open only to an advance of all together, in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual renovation of the earth..." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 245)

"We are faced with a harmonised 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." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 252)"

"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 universalises itself." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955. p. 263)

"Love in all its subtleties is nothing more, and nothing less, than the more or less direct trace marked on the heart of the element by the psychical convergence of the universe upon itself." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 265)

"Christ invests himself organically with the very majesty of his creation. And it is in no way metaphorical to say that man finds himself capable of experiencing and discovering his God in the whole length, breadth and depth of the world in movement. To be able to say literally to God that one loves him, not only with all one's body, all one's heart and all one's soul, but with every fibre of the unifying universe--that is a prayer than can only be made in space-time." (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955, p. 297)


Teilhard de Chardin: brief biography
de Chardin bio
de Chardin at Provenzo and Sons
de Chardin at Encyclopedia.com
de Chardin at Infoplease
de Chardin at Encarta
de Chardin bio by Jim McClean
Toward the World Soul: An Introduction to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
"Pierre Teilhard de Chardin" by Anodea Judith
Teilhard de Chardin page at Haunted Bookstore
de Chardin at Philosophers Corner
de Chardin in China
Teilhard de Chardin Study Group
Teilhard de Chardin and Noospherics
de Chardin quotations
de Chardin quotes
Quotes from "The Activation of Energy" by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
more de Chardin quotes
de Chardin glossary
The Laws of Teilhard and the Meaning of Evolution
On de Chardin's "The Human Phenomenon"
"Teilhard and Technognosis" by Paul Groot
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Toward a Science Charged with Faith
"The Phenomenon of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin" by H. James Birx
"Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere" by Rev. Phillip J. Cunningham, C.S.P.
"Flawed Flesh: The Problem of Contingent Evolution" by Cory Gross
"Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Emergence of Machina sapiens" by Denis Susac
"Toward a Theology of the Web: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Cyberconsciousness" by J. Hayes-Bohanon
"A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain" by Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg
Teilhard de Chardin's Evolutionary Cosmology
Teilhard and Sri Aurobindo compared
"Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Theory of Evolution" by Martin Weingartner
de Chardin at the Jesuit Home Page
"The Pleromatics Project :Defining a new discipline: A work in progress" by Donivan Bessinger
Defending Teilhard de Chardin
"The Phenomenon of Man" by Sir Peter Medawar
Dialogos: An Interactive Journal of the Sciences, Philosophy, and Theology
Proof God Exists

Recommended Reading:


Phenomenon of Man
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin : Writings
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Ursula King (Introduction)

Activation of Energy
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Rene Hague (Translator)
Christianity and Evolution
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Divine Milieu
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
The Heart of Matter
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, N. M. Wildiers (Designer), Rene Hague (Translator)
Meditations With Teilhard De Chardin
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Blanc M. Gallagher
Building the Earth
by Teilhard De Chardin
Early Man in China
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
Toward the Future
by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Rene Hague (Translator)

Spirit of Fire : The Life and Vision of Teilhard De Chardin
by Ursula King
Christ in All Things : Exploring Spirituality With Teilhard De Chardin: The 1996 Bampton Lectures
by Ursula King
The Spirit of One Earth : Reflections on Teilhard De Chardin and Global Spirituality
by Ursula King
Evolution Toward Divinity : Teilhard De Chardin and the Hindu Traditions
by Beatrice Bruteau
The Phenomenon of Teilhard : Prophet for a New Age
by David H. Lane

The Philosophy of Conscious Energy : Answers to the Ultimate Questions
by Joseph P. Provenzano, Joe Provenzano
Transformation Factor : Towards an Ecological Consciousness
by Allerd Stikker
History in a Teilhardian Context : The Thought of Teilhard De Chardin As a Guide to Social Science
by Irvine Anderson
$3.50 + $2.85 special surcharge
Interpreting Evolution : Darwin & Teilhard De Chardin
by H. James Birx
Liberation Theology and Teilhard De Chardin
by Eulalio Baltazar
$3.50 + $2.85 special surcharge
A New Creation Story : The Creative Spritituality of Teilhard De Chardin
by Donald P. Gray
$3.00 + $2.85 special surcharge
Teilhard De Chardin ; A Short Biography
by John Grim
Teilhardism and the New Religion : A Thorough Analysis of the Teachings of Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
by Wolfgang Smith

This page is dedicated to one of my old professors, a wonderful, kind and brilliant man, who passed away recently: Harry James Cargas


Copyright 1999, Brent Dean Robbins

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