Double edged sword

costly grace is meaningful only if we are actually responsible. it only offends us if we know we could have done other than we did, and are not secure/confident we did as we should.

if we are not actually responsible (could not have done otherwise), or we are secure/confident we did as we should…why the protest?

grace is like a flaming sword. it can cauterize and heal, if we let it.

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Erotic Representations of the Divinelocked

Published online: 22 December 2016

Erotic representations of the divine occupy a pivotal place in religious myths, poetry, liturgy, and theology. Reading eros as a category of religious love highlights its ubiquitous presence in sacred literary sources; moreover, it renders the nexus of erotic love and the divine critical to comprehending religiosity as an immanent and embodied phenomenon, rather than as an abstract idea. As an embodied phenomenon, religious love is subject to an investigation of topics such as gender and sexuality, and its multiple cultural meanings and contexts. Western philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, (Pseudo-)Dionysius, and the Neoplatonist renaissance thinker Leone Ebreo, delineate a hierarchy or a “ladder of love” differentiating lesser and higher subjects and objects of love from love of the particular, to the universal, cosmic, and divine. An interrelated distinction is ascertained between “desire” as a state of lack often seen as a lower state, and “love” as the higher state, in which fulfillment and joy of the union with the object of one’s love is achieved. Love and desire as marked yet interrelated emotions are contextualized in religious phenomena cross-culturally, most obviously in theistic frameworks in which a personal and intimate relationship with the divine is an ideal. Poetry and autobiography are the most common genre of depicting the intimate and passionate encounter of human and divine. Despite the prominence of male voices in the sources, the contributions of medieval Christian and Muslim women mystics to this literature are significant. Key base-texts from which mystics and philosophers are inspired and draw upon to elucidate their own personal experience of yearning for the divine, include the biblical Song of Songs, Bhagavata Purana (Book 10), and the Gitagovinda. Although the yearning for the divine, associated with an emotional, embodied state and therefore seen as problematic from a rational perspective, this yearning is also a cherished state, even for rationalists such as the medieval Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides. The significance of erotic love for the divine is confirmed, not only by Sufi and Hindu bhakti poets such as Rumi and Jayadeva, but also by philosophers such as Ibn Arabi and Rupa-Goswami. The idiom of erotic desire and love for God is particularly poignant and integral not only in poetry but also in theology, as exemplified in Hindu bhakti and Christian theology. Exploring the meanings of erotic love in religious poetry, theology, liturgy, and the history of religion more broadly offers a rich scholarly and personal medium for contemplating the reality of human and divine nature.
Keywordsdivine lovedesireerosallegorypoetrySong of SongsGitagovindaembodimentbhaktiRumiSt. Theresa of Avila

SubjectsComparative ReligionsMysticism and Spirituality

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I think the further we get from the beginning, the more difficult it is to understand the metaphor between marriage and union with the Original. But we all want to cling to this idea of family and kinship, and Jesus was the first to begin redefining it after he was informed his bio fam had come to get him away from what he was doing, …even after Peter (a friend/brother as Jesus defined it) did the same.

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The Phenomenon of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


During the first half of the twentieth century, famous geopaleontologist and controversial Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) tried to reconcile scientific evolutionism with his religious beliefs. A devoted spiritualist, he presented a mystical interpretation of cosmic evolution in his major work, The Phenomenon of Man, but he was silenced by the Roman Catholic Church for his unorthodox view of our species within dynamic reality. Nevertheless, Teilhard’s bold vision of this evolving universe introduced the fact of evolution into modern theology and religion.

Are science and theology reconcilable in terms of evolution? As both an eminent scientist and cosmic mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) presented a dynamic worldview. He argued that our species does occupy a special place within a spiritual universe, and that humankind is evolving toward an Omega Point as the end-goal of converging and involuting consciousness on this planet.

With his steadfast commitment to the fact of pervasive evolution, Teilhard as geopaleontologist and Jesuit priest became a very controversial figure within the Roman Catholic Church during the first half of this century. Actually, because of his bold interpretation of our species within earth history and this cosmos, he was silenced by his religious superiors for taking an evolutionary stance at a time when this scientific theory was a serious threat to an entrenched orthodox theology. Going beyond Charles Darwin (1809-1882), Teilhard even maintained that evolution discloses the meaning, purpose and destiny of our species within life, nature and this universe.

As a geopaleontologist, Teilhard was very familiar with the rock and fossil evidence that substantiates the fact of evolution. As a Jesuit priest, he was acutely aware of the need for a meta-Christianity that would contribute to the survival, enrichment and fulfillment of humankind on this planet in terms of both science and faith. Sensitive to the existential predicament of our species, with its awareness of endless space and certain death, Teilhard as visionary and futurist ultimately grounded his personal interpretation of evolution in a process philosophy, natural theology and cosmic mysticism that supported panentheism (the belief that God and the World are in a creative relationship of progressive evolution toward a future synthesis in terms of spirit).

Galileo Galilei had endured humiliation and was put under house arrest, as a result of his claiming that the earth does in fact move through the universe; a discovery that the aged astronomer was coerced into recanting by his dogmatic persecutor, Pope Urban VIII (formally Cardinal Maffeo Barberini), under the intolerant Jesuit inquisitor, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine.

As a direct result of the conservative standpoint taken by his religious superiors, Teilhard would suffer alienation and discouragement because he rightly claimed that species (including our own) evolve throughout geological time, or they become extinct; his daring evolutionism discredited fixity and essentialism in biology and philosophy.

Discovering Evolution

As a child, Teilhard showed an interest in both natural science and religious mysticism. Sensitive to his beautiful Auvergne surroundings in France, and particularly drawn to the study of rocks, Teilhard found delight in a plowshare which he supposed was an enduring object free from change and imperfection. However, after a storm, the youth discovered that his ìgenie of ironî had rusted. Teilhard tells us that he then threw himself on the ground and cried with the bitterest tears of his life. As a result of this devastating experience, he would have to seek his ìone essential thingî beyond this imperfect world of matter and corruption.

To be ìmost perfectî (as he put it), Teilhard at the age of 17 entered the Jesuit society in order to serve God. Even so, he intensified his interest in geology on the channel island of Jersey. Throughout his entire life, the scientist-priest would never abandon his love for science, concern about human evolution, and devotion to mystical theology (especially eschatology).

In 1905, as part of his Jesuit training, Teilhard found himself teaching at the Holy Family College in Cairo, Egypt. This three-year experience offered him the unique opportunity to do research in both geology and paleontology, expanding his knowledge of earth history. It also exposed this priest to a rich multiplicity of cultures, both past and present, that surely jarred him from European ethnocentrism. Following this teaching obligation, he then finished his theology studies at Hastings in England.

It was during his stay in England that Teilhard read Henri Bergson’s major book, Creative Evolution (1907). This metaphysical work had an enormous influence on the scientist-priest, since it resulted in his lifelong commitment to the brute fact of evolution. It is worth emphasizing that it was not Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) or The Descent of Man (1871) but rather Bergson’s interpretation of evolution that convinced Teilhard that species are mutable, including our own, throughout organic history.

While on one of his field trips, Teilhard unfortunately became involved in the discovery of the controversial Piltdown skull (later determined to be a fraud). Although he had questioned the validity of this fossil evidence from the very beginning, one positive result was that the young geologist and seminarian now became particularly interested in paleoanthropology as the science of fossil hominids.

After his stay in England, Teilhard returned to France where, during World War I, he was a stretcher bearer at the front lines. It is remarkable that he emerged from his horrific experiences in the war trenches even more optimistic that evolution had been preparing the earth for a new direction and final goal in terms of the spiritualization of the human layer of this planet. In fact, during the global war, Teilhard had several mystical experiences which he recorded for posterity. It was this emerging mysticism that would eventually allow him to reconcile science and theology within an evolutionary vision of a converging and involuting spiritual reality (as he saw it).

In 1923, as a result of an invitation, Teilhard next found himself as a geologist participating in a scientific expedition into inner Mongolia. A year in China gave the Jesuit a splendid opportunity to begin his career as a specialist in Chinese geology. It was during this time, while in the Ordos Desert, that Teilhard essayed ìThe Mass on the Worldî (a mystical account of his offering up the entire world as a Eucharist to a Supreme Being as the creator, sustainer, and ultimate destiny of an evolving universe). He expresses his dynamic Christology when he writes: "I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world…You know how your creatures can come into being only, like shoot from stem, as part of an endlessly renewed process of evolution."1

It is to Teilhard’s credit that he never took seriously a strict and literal interpretation of Genesis as presented in the Old Testament. Instead, he will continue to devote his life to synthesizing science and theology in terms of the indisputable fact of pervasive evolution.

Returning to France, Teilhard ran into serious problems with the Roman Catholic Church because of his unorthodox beliefs. In Paris, he began giving public lectures on and teaching about evolution. This priest was even bold enough to offer a personal interpretation of Original Sin in terms of cosmic evolution and the emergence of our own species in a dynamic but imperfect (unfinished) universe; he saw this cosmos as a cosmogenesis moving from chaos, multiplicity and evil to order, unity and perfection.

When a copy of his controversial essay fell into the hands of some Jesuits, Teilhard was immediately silenced by his superiors. They, of course, had a failure of nerve in not facing head-on the fact of evolution and its ramifications for understanding and appreciating the place of humankind within nature. Because his audacious vision challenged Christian dogma, Teilhard was censored by the Church: he could no longer teach or publish his own theological and philosophical views, and furthermore he was even exiled from France by the Jesuit order (finding himself back in China).

Nevertheless, the ostracized scientist-priest wrote his first book, The Divine Milieu (1927), a spiritual essay on the activities and passivities of the human being. In this work, he argues that a personal God is the divine Center of evolving Creation. His position is in sharp contrast to biblical fundamentalism or so-called scientific creationism: views that hold the creation of this entire universe to be a completed event that happened only about ten thousand years ago! Teilhard writes: "We may, perhaps, imagine that the creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still more magnificently, and at the highest levels of the world."2

Fortuitously, Teilhard now found himself a member of the Cenozoic Laboratory at the Peking Union Medical College. Starting in 1928, geologists and paleontologists excavated the sedimentary layers in the Western Hills near Zhoukoudian. At this site, the scientists discovered the so-called Peking man (Sinanthropus pekinensis), a fossil hominid dating back at least 350,000 years but now relegated to the Homo erectus phase of human evolution. Teilhard became world-known as a result of his popularizations of the Sinanthropus discovery, while he himself made major contributions to the geology of this site. Likewise, Teilhard’s long stay in China gave him more time to think and write about evolution, as well as continue his scientific research.

The Phenomenon of Man

Bringing his scientific knowledge and religious commitments together, Teilhard now began writing a synthesis of facts and beliefs. He aimed to demonstrate the special place held by our species in this dynamic universe. After two years, writing several paragraphs each month, Teilhard completed his major work, The Phenomenon of Man (1938-1940, with a postscript and appendix added in 1948). For other religionists, his evolutionary synthesis was a threat to traditional theology and, consequently, the Vatican denied its publication. In retrospect, it is with bitter irony that this book was so controversial because it does offer an earth-bound, human-centered, and God-embraced interpretation of spiritual evolution that seems more-or-less conservative from today’s perspective. The work is primarily an ultra-anthropology grounded in a phenomenology of evolution in terms of the structures and intentionality in emerging consciousness (spirit).

In The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard writes:

Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow…The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself…Man is not the center of the universe as once we thought in our simplicity, but something much more wonderfulóthe arrow pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of life. Man alone constitutes the last-born, the freshest, the most complicated, the most subtle of all the successive layers of life…The universe has always been in motion and at this moment continues to be in motion. But will it still be in motion tomorrow?..What makes the world in which we live specifically modern is our discovery in it and around it of evolution…Thus in all probability, between our modern earth and the ultimate earth, there stretches an immense period, characterized not by a slowing-down but a speeding up and by the definitive florescence of the forces of evolution along the line of the human shoot.3
For Teilhard, the Mosaic cosmogony is replaced by an emergent evolution within which the biblical Adam and Eve become fossil apelike forms! Not surprisingly, the evolutionary stance taken by this Jesuit priest in The Phenomenon of Man resulted in the condemnation of this unorthodox book by the dogmatic religionists of his time.

Teilhard argues that this universe is a cosmogenesis. Essentially, the unity of this universe is grounded not in matter or energy but in spirit (the within-of-things, or radial energy); thereby he gives priority to dynamic spirit rather than to atomic matter (the without-of-things, or tangential energy). Moreover, Teilhard was a vitalist who saw the personalizing and spiritualizing cosmos as a product of an inner driving force manifesting itself from material atoms, through life forms, to reflective beings. He discerned a direction in the sweeping epic of this evolving universe, particularly with the emergence of humankind. However, his alleged cosmology is merely a planetology, since the scientist-priest focuses his attention on this earth without any serious consideration of the billions of stars in those billions of galaxies that are strewn throughout sidereal reality.

Of primary significance, Teilhard argues that the assumed order in nature reveals a pre-established plan as a result of a divine Designer, who is the transcendent God as the Center of creation or Person of persons; the general direction in evolution is a result of the process law of complexity-consciousness. Teilhard was deeply interested in and concerned about the infinitely complex that would emerge in the distant future as a spiritual synthesis, rather than occupying himself with the infinitely great and the infinitely small.

For Teilhard, this cosmic law of increasing complexity and consciousness manifests itself from the inorganic atoms through organic species to the human person itself. Or, this process law has resulted in the appearance of matter, then life, and finally thought. Evolution is the result of ìdirected chanceî taking place on the finite sphericity of our earth. Teilhard emphasized that evolution is converging and involuting around this globe: first through geogenesis, then biogenesis, and now through noogenesis. The result is a geosphere surrounded by a biosphere, and now an emerging noosphere (or layer of human thought and its products) is enveloping the biosphere and geosphere. For this Jesuit priest, noogenesis is essentially a planetary and mystical Christogenesis, i.e., the evolution of Christ to God-Omega as the divine destiny of humankind.

Unlike the iconoclastic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who prophesied the coming of the superior overman as a creative intellect independent of society, Teilhard envisioned the emergence of a collective humankind that would advance to a spiritual union with a personal God in the distant future. Interestingly enough, several Marxist philosophers appreciated Teilhard’s emphasis on the collective and directional evolution of our species; of course, as pervasive materialists, they could never accept Teilhard’s spiritual and mystical interpretation of dynamic reality.

The idea of a developing noosphere was also explored in the writings of the Russian scientist Vladimir I. Vernadsky (1863-1945). Similar to Teilhard’s comprehensive orientation, Vernadsky had presented a holistic view of life on earth in his major work, The Biosphere (1926). Even so, it was Teilhard who seriously considered the long-range ramifications of noogenesis.

Teilhard stressed that the process of evolution has not been a continuum: from time to time, evolution has crossed critical thresholds resulting in the uniqueness of both life over matter and thought over life; a person represents an incredible concentration of consciousness or spirit, resulting in the immortality of the human soul. Consequently, the Jesuit priest claimed that the human being is ontologically separated from the great apes (orangutan, gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo).

For Teilhard, the ongoing spiritual evolution of our species is rapidly moving toward an Omega Point as the end-goal or divine destiny of human evolution on this planet. His theism maintains that God-Omega is one, personal, actual and transcendent. In the future, God-Omega and the Omega Point will unite, forming a mystical synthesis.

Grounded in agapology and centrology, Teilhard’s interpretation of evolution claims that the human layer of consciousness engulfing our earth is becoming a collective brain and heart; in the future, as a single mind of persons, this layer will detach itself from the globe and, transcending space and time, immerse itself in God-Omega. As such, the end-goal of evolution is a final creative synthesis of the universal God-Omega with a spiritualized and united humankind. Thus, his panentheism becomes (at least in part) a mystical pantheism. Yet, the Jesuit priest did not take exobiology and exoevolution seriously, e.g., the possibility that Omega Point events have happened or will happen elsewhere in this universe.

Tragic Consequences

After The Phenomenon of Man was denied publication by his superiors, Teilhard then wrote Man’s Place in Nature: The Human Zoological Group (1950). This book is a more scientific statement of his interpretation of evolution. With controlled enthusiasm but focusing on our species, he writes: "Man is, in appearance, a ëspecies,í no more than a twig, an offshoot from the branch of the primatesóbut one that we find to be endowed with absolutely prodigious biological properties…Without the earth could there be man?"4

Unfortunately, the publication of Teilhard’s third book was also denied along with his request to teach in Paris. In fact, on August 12, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued the Encyclical Letter Humani generis; obviously, this Papal warning from the Vatican was (at least in part) a direct result of Teilhard’s unsuccessful request for the publication of his slightly revised version of The Phenomenon of Man written in 1948, as well as his 1950 work on human evolution.

Leaving Paris for New York City, Teilhard spent the last years of his life reflecting on both human evolution and his mystical vision of a spiritual future for our species. Of particular interest is the fact that the secular humanist Sir Julian Huxley was sympathetic to Teilhard’s religious humanism. However, Huxley the biologist could never accept Teilhard’s overall commitment to spiritual transcendence rather than seeing evolution as a strictly naturalistic process.

While in New York City, Teilhard had the opportunity to visit twice the fossil hominid sites in South Africa. Unfortunately, at the end of his distinguished life, he became removed from the new developments in evolutionary science, e.g., the discovery of the DNA molecule and population genetics research. For the evolutionist as materialist, organic creativity is grounded in chance genetic variation, necessary natural selection, and historical contingency (not teleology and spiritualism). And even though he espoused a geological perspective and saw our species continuing to evolve for millions of years, Teilhard still held that humankind would never leave this planet. Instead, he offers a myopic vision in which our species is nailed to the earth and absolutely alone in this universe. Of course, this suffocating centrology was necessary in order for him to believe in the formation of an unique Omega Point at the end of human evolution on earth. If he were alive today, then what would Teilhard think about the far-reaching ramifications of space exploration and genetic engineering?

No doubt, one finds it very disconcerting that the aged Teilhard wept and was depressed about his pathetic ordeal within the Jesuit order. And, one may find it somewhat unsettling that, as a Jesuit priest, he spent considerable time traveling and communicating with several beautiful women whose friendship he encouraged, even though they could never find a lasting intimate relationship with this spiritual and mystical man who gave preference to a transcendent God over those individuals who loved him in this world. Of course, Teilhard was a man of flesh and blood who, struggling with his own beliefs and commitments within an intellectually hostile environment, no doubt needed that human companionship provided by those who found him attractive in every way.

On Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, Teilhard died of a sudden stroke in New York City. He was buried at Saint Andrew’s on the Hudson, in the cemetery of the Jesuit novitiate for the New York Province (as such, his earthly remains are far removed from France). By the fall of that year, the first edition of The Phenomenon of Man was published in its author’s native language.

In 1962, a Monitum decree issued by the Holy Office on Teilhard’s works went as far as to warn bishops and heads of seminaries about those doctrinal errors that were held to be inherent in the Jesuit scientist’s evolutionary and mystical interpretation of humankind within nature. In fact, as his writings were published posthumously, Teilhard became more controversial in death than he had been while he was alive.

Teilhard’s hopefulness seems to have overlooked the extensive roll that extinction plays throughout organic evolution (not to mention the excessive evil in the world): those mass extinctions, that caused all the trilobites, ammonites and dinosaurs to vanish forever, should tarnish the unbridled optimism of any rigorous evolutionist. Furthermore, Teilhard’s vision will not convince many serious thinkers that it was inevitable for our species to appear in this universe. An obvious expression of wishful thinking, the anthropic principle represents anthropocentrism in its most extreme form.

Claiming that everything that rises must converge, Teilhard grounds his philosophy of evolution in teleology and spiritualism: the movement of matter, then life, and finally thought is both forward and upward to a mystical union with God-Omega (the beginning and end of cosmic evolution). For the Jesuit priest, the chaos and probability throughout nature are giving way to order and certainty. But most scientists will not accept Teilhard’s directional interpretation of this evolving universe.

Teilhard’s severest critic was the British zoologist Sir Peter Medawar, a Nobel laureate who found the mystic’s evolutionism to be not only preposterous but also an attempt at self-deception. Furthermore, the Harvard paleontologist Steven Jay Gould even claims that Teilhard was directly involved with the infamous Piltdown hoax. It is surprising and disappointing that Gould has besmirched the international reputation of a distinguished natural scientist and virtuous human being by suggesting that the Jesuit priest had been a conspirator in the Piltdown fraud, without there being a single thread of incontestable evidence to support such a damaging accusation. Invoking ìinnocent until proven guiltyî and in light of his reputation as a most commendable person, it seems only fair to assume that Teilhard is blameless of any wrongdoing in this singularly outrageous perpetration of a false discovery in human evolution research.

Some Final Thoughts

Teilhard was committed to science, evolution and optimism despite his daring speculations and mystical orientation. He was a religious humanist: a visionary and futurist who foresaw the collective consciousness of our global species increasing in terms of love, information and technology as a result of God’s existence. Surely, Teilhard would be delighted with the Internet, seeing it as a planetary force that is uniting the consciousness and spirituality of humankind. It is to his lasting credit that he introduced into modern theology the fact of organic evolution at a time when this scientific theory was rejected by many who saw it as a threat to their religious beliefs and traditional values. Unfortunately for him, in trying to reconcile the natural with the supernatural, this Jesuit priest satisfied no intellectual community. Even today, although wisely not opposed to the fact of evolution, the Roman Catholic Church offers no comprehensive and detailed evolutionary explanation for the origin and history of life or the emergence and future of humankind.

Teilhard focused exclusively on the earth and gave special attention to our own species. In this respect, he was not in step with those modern thinkers who offer a truly cosmic perspective in which humankind is merely a fleeting event in this material universe.

Surprisingly, on October 23, 1996, Pope John Paul II issued a statement to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in which he endorsed evolution as being ìmore than just a theoryî; thereby both biblical fundamentalism and so-called scientific creationism were dealt yet another blow to their vacuous claims about the origin of this universe and the history of life forms on our earth. With bitter irony, it was the silenced Teilhard who had committed himself to the fact of evolution as well as the indisputable powers of science, reason and free inquiry (albeit within a theological framework).

Today, a rigorous evolutionist sees reality grounded in energy (not spirit) and manifesting no evidence of a divine plan unfolding throughout cosmic history. Our species is linked to material nature, and it is presumptuous to claim that a mystical destiny awaits it at the end of planetary time. Even so, through science and technology, humankind is more and more able to direct the future of organic evolution (including our own species) on earth and elsewhere.

Teilhard was a unique human being of intelligence, sensitivity and integrity. He experienced both the agony and ecstasy of time and change. His optimistic commitment to cosmic evolution flourished while he served on the blood-stained battlefield of a war-torn humanity, researched among the rocks and fossils of a remote past, and reflected in the deepest recesses of his profound soul on the meaning and purpose of human existence. As such, Teilhard himself exemplifies the phenomenon of man.


  1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 19, 22.

  2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu, rev. ed. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1968), p. 62.

  3. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper Colophon, 1975), pp. 218, 220, 223, 227, 228, 277.

  4. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Man’s Place in Nature: The Human Zoological Group (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), pp. 15, 25.

Further Readings

Barbour, George B. In the Field with Teilhard de Chardin. New York, Herder and Herder, 1965.

Bergson, Henri. Creative Evolution (1907). Mineola, Dover, 1998.

Birx, H. James. Interpreting Evolution: Darwin & Teilhard de Chardin. Amherst, Prometheus Books, 1991, esp. pp. 178-222.

CuÈnot, Claude. Teilhard de Chardin: A Biographical Study. Baltimore, Helicon, 1965.

Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man (1871). Amherst, Prometheus Books, 1998. Refer to the introduction by H. James Birx, pp. ix-xxviii.

Dawkins, Richard. Climbing Mount Improbable. New York, W.W. Norton, 1996.

Dawkins, Richard. ìThe Improbability of Godî in Free Inquiry 18(3):6-9, Summer 1998.

de Terra, Helmut. Memories of Teilhard de Chardin. New York, Harper & Row, 1964.

Dodson, Edward O. The Phenomenon of Man Revisited: A Biological Viewpoint on Teilhard de Chardin. New York, Columbia University Press, 1984.

King, Ursula. Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin. Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 1996.

Kuvakin, Valerii A., ed. A History of Russian Philosophy: From the Tenth Through the Twentieth Centuries. 2 vols. Amherst, Prometheus Books, 1994, pp. 399-409, 521-534.

Lukas, Mary, and Ellen Lukas. Teilhard. rev. ed. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1981.

Mortier, Jeanne, and Marie-Louise Aboux, eds. Teilhard de Chardin Album. New York, Harper & Row, 1966.

Raven, Charles E. Teilhard de Chardin: Scientist and Seer. London, Collins, 1967.

Schmitz-Moormann, Nicole, and Karl Schmitz-Moormann. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Scientific Works (1905-1955). 11 vols. Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau, Walter-Verlag, 1971.

Speaight, Robert. Teilhard de Chardin: A Biography. London, Collins, 1967.

Vernadsky, Vladimir I. The Biosphere (1926). rev. ed. New York, Nevraumont/ Copernicus/Springer-Verlag, 1998.

Vernadsky, Vladimir I. ìThe Biosphere and the Noˆsphereî in American Scientist 33(1):1-12, 1945.

Walsh, John Evangelist. Unraveling Piltdown: The Science Fraud of the Century and Its Solution. New York, Random House, 1996, pp. 128-148.

Wilson, Edward O. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.

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Relevance to prior narrative regarding the position of pope Benedict with that of Pope Francis, re: the ‘gnostic’ interpretation.

Is it a matter of opinion or, that of a mystically iintrajected summa?

The redux from Omega to Alpha presents a complex image of appearent irreducibility, qua image, but then the singular vision is cut at a very critical point in interpretation, seeming like the objective intention is both: of physical intensive , while retaining it’s metaphysical transcendence.

Paris, France 4,502 6 91
August 10, 1920
 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Written in Paris and published posthumously in The Future of Man.
The conflict dates from the day when one man, flying in the face of appearance, perceived that the forces of nature are no more unalterably fixed in their orbits than the stars themselves, but that their serene arrangement around us depicts the flow of a tremendous tide—the day on which a first voice rang out, crying to Mankind peacefully slumbering on the raft of Earth, “We are moving! We are going forward!” …
It is a pleasant and dramatic spectacle, that of Mankind divided to its very depths into two irrevocably opposed camps—one looking toward the horizon and proclaiming with all its newfound faith, “We are moving,” and the other, without shifting its position, obstinately maintaining, “Nothing changes. We are not moving at all.”
These latter, the “immobilists,” thought they lack passion (immobility has never inspired anyone with enthusiasm!)1, have commonsense on their side, habit of thought, inertia, pessimism, and also, to some extent, morality and religion. Nothing, they argue, appears to have changed since man began to hand down the memory of the past, not the undulations of the Earth, or the forms of life, or the genius of Man or even his goodness. Thus far practical experimentation has failed to modify the fundamental characteristics of even the most humble plant. Human suffering, vice, and war, although they may momentarily abate, recur from age to age with an increasing virulence. Even the striving after progress contributes to the sum of evil: to effect change is to undermine the painfully established traditional order whereby the distress of living creatures was reduced to a minimum. What innovator has not retapped the springs of blood and tears? For the sake of human tranquility, in the name of Fact, and in defense of the sacred Established Order, the immobilists forbid the Earth to move. Nothing changes, they say, or can change. The raft must drift purposelessly on a shoreless sea.
But the other half of mankind, startled by the lookout’s cry, has left the huddle where the rest of the crew sit with their heads together telling time-honored tales. Gazing out over the dark sea they study for themselves the lapping of waters along the hull of the craft that bears them, breathe the scents borne to them on the breeze, gaze at the shadows cast from pole to pole by a changeless eternity. And for these all things, while remaining separately the same—the ripple of water, the scent of the air, the lights in the sky—become linked together and acquire a new sense: the fixed and random Universe is seen to move.
No one in the world who has seen this vision can be restrained from guarding and proclaiming it. To testify my faith in it, and to show reasons, is my purpose here.
It is clear in the first place that the world in its present stat is the outcome of movement. Whether we consider the position of the rocky layers enveloping the Earth, the arrangement of the forms of life that inhabit it, the variety of civilizations to which it has given birth, or the structure of languages spoken upon it, we are forced to the same conclusion: that everything is the sum of the past and that nothing is comprehensible except through its (Text sourced from … n-progress) history. “Nature” is the equivalent of “becoming,” self-creation: this is the view to which experience irresistibly leads us. What can it mean except that the Universe must, at least at some stage, have been in movement; that it has been malleable, acquiring by degrees, not only in their accidental details but in their very essence, the perfections which now adorn it? There is nothing, not even the human soul, the highest spiritual manifestation we know of, that does not come within this universal law. The soul, too, has its clearly defined place in the slow ascent of living creatures toward consciousness, and must therefore in one way or another have grown out of the general mobility of things. Those who look reality in the face cannot fail to perceive this progressive genesis of the Universe, and with a clarity which leaves no room for doubt. Whatever the other side may say, clinging to their imaginary world, the Cosmos did once move, the whole of it, not only locally but in its very being. This is undeniable and we shall not discuss it further. But is it still moving? Here we have the real question, the living, burning question of evolution.
It is the fundamental paradox of Nature as we see it now that its universal plasticity seems suddenly to have hardened. Like an ocean-wave caught in a snapshot, or a torrent of lava stiffened by cooling, the mountains and living things of the Earth wear the aspect, to those who study them, of a powerful momentum that has become petrified. Nature seen at a distance appears to be malleable and in motion; but seek to lay hands on it, to deflect by force even the least of Life’s directions, and you will encounter nothing but absolute rigidity, an unshakably stubborn refusal to depart from the preordained path.
But let us note that this present rigidity of Nature does not, as some people believe, in any way (Text sourced from … n-progress) lessen the certainty of its past mobility. What we regard as the fixity of present organisms may be simply a state of very slow movement, or of rest between spells of movement. It is true that we have not yet succeeded in shaping life to our requirements in the laboratory; but who has shaped or witnessed the shaping of a geological stratum? The rock which we seek to compress crumbles because we work too fast or with over-small fragments. Calcareous matter, if it is to be made malleable, needs to be embedded in a vast mass, and perhaps its reshaping is a process of immense slowness. If we have not seen the upward thrust of mountain ranges it is because their rise was accomplished either in widely spaced jerks or with so slow a rhythm that since the coming of Man nothing of the kind has happened, or at least nothing that has been perceptible to us. Why should not Life, too, be mobile only in great masses, or through the slow action of time, or in brief stages? Who can positively affirm that at this moment, although we perceive nothing, new forms are not taking shape in the contours of the Earth and of Life? …
The plasticity of Nature in the past is an undeniable fact; its present rigidity is less capable of scientific proof. If we had to choose between transformism and fixism, that is to say between two absolutes—everything incestantly in motion, or everything for ever immovable—we should be bound to choose the first. But there is a third possible hypothesis, namely that everything was at one time fluid but is now irrevocably fixed. It is this third alternative that I wish to examine and dismiss.
The hypothesis of a definitive halt in terrestrial evolution is, to my mind, suggested less by the apparently unchanging nature of present forms than by a certain general aspect of the world coinciding with this appearance of cessation. It is most striking that the morphological change of living creatures seems to have slowed down at the precise moment when Thought appeared on Earth. If we relate this coincidence to the fact that the only general line taken by biological evolution has been in the direction of the largest brain—broadly speaking, of the highest state of consciousness—we are compelled to wonder whether the true fundamental impulse underlying the growth of animal forces has not been the “need” to know and to think; and whether, when this overriding impulse eventually found its outlet in the human species, the effect was not to produce an abrupt diminution of “vital pressure” in the other branches of the Tree of Life. This would explain the fact that “evolving Life,” from the end of the Tertiary era, has been confined to the little group of higher primates. We know of many forms that have disappeared since the Oligocene, but of no genuinely new species other than the anthropoids. This again may be explained by the extreme brevity of the Miocene as compared with other geological periods. But does it not lead us to surmise that the “phyla” possessing higher psychic attributes have absorbed all the forces at Life’s disposal?
If we are to find a definitive answer to the question of the entitative progress of the Universe we must do so by adopting the least favourable position—that is to say, by envisaging a world whose evolutionary capacity is concentrated upon and confined to the human soul. The question of whether the Universe is still developing then becomes a matter of deciding whether the human spirit is still in process of evolution. To this I reply unhesitatingly, “Yes, it is.” The nature of Man is in the full flood of entitative change. But to grasp this it is necessary (a) not to overlook the biological (morphogenic) value of moral action, and (b) to accept the organic nature of interindividual relationships. We shall then see that a vast evolutionary process is in ceaseless operation around us, but that it is situated within the sphere of consciousness (and collective consciousness).
What is the difference between ourselves, citizens of the twentieth century, and the earliest human beings whose soul is not entirely hidden from us? In what respects may we consider ourselves their superiors and more advanced than they?
Organically speaking, the faculties of those remote forebears were probably the equal of our own. By the middle of the last ice age, at the latest, some human groups had attained to the expression of aesthetic powers calling for intelligence and sensibility developed to a point which we have not surpassed. To all appearance the ultimate perfection of the human element was achieved many thousands of years ago, which is to say that the individual instrument of thought and action may be considered to have been finalized. But there is fortunately another dimension in which variation is still possible, and in which we continue to evolve.
The great superiority over Primitive Man which we have acquired and which will be enhanced by our descendants in a degree perhaps undreamed-of by ourselves, is in the realm of self-knowledge: in our growing capacity to situate ourselves in space and time, to the point of becoming conscious of our place and responsibility in relation to the Universe.
Surmounting in turn the illusions of terrestrial flatness, immobility, and autocentricity, we have taken the unhopeful surface of the Earth and “rolled it like a little ball”; we have set it on a course among the stars; we have grasped the fact that it is no more than a grain of cosmic dust; and we have discovered that a process without limit has brought into being the realms of substance and essence. Our fathers supposed themselves to go back no further than yesterday, each man containing within himself the ultimate value of his existence. They held themselves to be confined within the limits of their years on Earth and their corporeal frame. We have blown asunder this narrow compass and those beliefs. At once humbled and ennobled by our discoveries, we are gradually coming to see ourselves as a part of vast and continuing processes; as though awakening from a dream, we are beginning to realize that our nobility consists in serving, like intelligent atoms, the work proceeding in the Universe. We have discovered that there is a Whole, of which we are the elements. We have found the world in our own souls.
What does this conquest signify? Does it merely denote the establishment, in worldly terms, of an idealized system of logical, extrinsic relationships? Is it no more than an intellectual luxury, as is commonly supposed—the mere satisfaction of curiosity? No. The consciousness which we are gradually acquiring of our physical relationship with all parts of the Universe represents a genuine enlarging of our separate personalities. It is truly a progressive realization of the universality of the things surrounding each of us. And it means that in the domain external to our flesh our real and whole body is continuing to take shape.
That is in no way a “sentimental” affirmation.
The proof that the growing coextension of our soul and the world, through the consciousness of our relationship with all things, is not simply a matter of logic or idealization, but is part of an organic process, the natural outcome of the impulse which caused the germination of life and the growth of the brain—the proof is that it expresses itself in a specific evolution of the moral value of our actions (that is to say, by the modification of what is most living within us).
No doubt it is true that the scope of individual human action, as commonly envisaged in the abstract theory of moral and meritorious acts, is not greatly enhanced by the growth of human knowledge. Inasmuch as the willpower of contemporary man is not in itself more vigorous or unswerving than that of a Plato or an Augustine, and individual moral (Text sourced from … n-progress) perfection is still to be measured by steadfastness in pursuance of the known good (and therefore relative) we cannot claim as individuals to be more moral or saintly than our fathers.
Yet this must be said, to our own honor and that of those who have toiled to make us what we are: that between the behavior of men in the first century A.D. and our own, the difference is as great, or greater, than that between the behavior of a fifteen-year-old boy and a man of forty. Why is this so? Because, owing to the progress of science and of thought, our actions today, whether for good or ill, proceed from an incomparably higher point of departure than those of the men who paved the way for us toward enlightenment. When Plato acted it was probably in the belief that his freedom to act could only affect a small fragment of the world, narrowly circumscribed in space and time; but the man of today acts in the knowledge that the choice he makes will have its repercussions through countless centuries and upon countless human beings. He feels in himself the responsibilities and the power of an entire Universe. Progress has not caused the action of Man (Man himself) to change in each separate individual; but because of it the action of human nature (Mankind) has acquired, in every thinking man, a fullness that is wholly new. Moreover, how are we to compare or contrast our acts with those of Plato or Augustine? All such acts are linked, and Plato and Augustine are still expressing, through me, the whole extent of their personalities. There is a kind of human action that gradually matures through a multitude of human acts. The human monad has long been constituted. What is now proceeding is the animation (assimilation) of the Universe by that monad; that is to say, the realization of a consummated human Thought.
There are philosophers who, accepting this progressive animation of the concrete by the power of thought, of Matter by Spirit, seek to build upon it the hope of a terrestrial liberation, as though the soul, become mistress of all determinisms and intertias, may someday be capable of overcoming harsh probability and vanquishing suffering and evil here on Earth. Alas, it is a forlorn hope; for it seems certain that any outward upheaval or internal renovation which might suffice to transform the Universe as it is could only be a kind of death—death of the individual, death of the race, death of the Cosmos. A more realistic and more Christian view shows us Earth evolving toward a state in which Man, having come into the full possession of his sphere of action, his strength, his maturity and his unity, will at last have become an adult being; and having reached this apogee of his responsibility and freedom, holding in his hands all his future and all his past, will make the choice between arrogant autonomy and loving excentration.
This will be the final choice: whether a world is to revolt or to adore.2 And then, on an act which will summarize the toil of centuries, on this act (finally and for the first time completely human) justice will set its seal and all things be renewed.
The truth can now be seen: Progress is not what the popular mind looks for, finding with exasperation that it never comes. Progress is not immediate ease, well-being, and peace. It is not rest. It is not even, directly, virtue. Essentially Progress is a force, and the most dangerous of forces. It is the Consciousness of all that is and all that can be. Though it may encounter every kind of prejudice and resentment, this must be asserted because it is the true: to be more is in the first place to know more.
Hence the mysterious attraction which, regardless of all setbacks and a priori condemnations, has drawn men irresistibly toward science as to the source of Life. Stronger than every obstacle and counterargument is the instinct which tells us that, to be faithful to Life, we must know; we must know more and still more; we must tirelessly and unceasingly search for Something, we know not what, which will appear in the end to those who have penetrated to the very heart of reality.
I maintain that it is possible, by following this road, to find substantial reasons for belief in Progress.
The world of human thought today presents a very remarkable spectacle, if we choose to take note of it. Joined in an inexplicable unifying movement men who are utterly opposed in education and in faith find themselves brought together, intermingled, in their common passion for a double truth; namely, that there exists a physical Unity of beings, and that they themselves are living and active parts of it. It is as though a new and formidable mountain chain had arisen in the landscape of the soul, causing ancient categories to be reshuffled and uniting higgledy-piggledy on every slope the friends and enemies of yesterday: on one side the inflexible and sterile vision of a Universe composed of unalterable, juxtaposed parts, and on the other side the ardor, the faith, the contagion of a living truth emerging from all action and exercise of will. Here we have a group of men joined simply by the weight of the past and their resolve to defend it; there a gathering of neophytes confident of their truth and strong in their mutual understanding, which they feel to be final and complete.
There seem to be only two kinds of mind left; and—it is a disturbing thought—all natural mystical power and all human religious impulse seem to be concentrated on one side. What does this mean?
There are people who will claim that it is no more than a mode, a momentary ripple of the spirit—at the most the passing exaggeration of a force that has always contributed to the balance of human thinking. But I believe we must look for something more. This impulse which in our time is so irresistibly attracting all open minds toward a philosophy that comprises at once a theoretical system, a rule of action, a religion, and a presentiment, heralds and denotes, in my view, the effective, physical fulfillment of all living beings.
We have said that progress is designed to enable considered action to proceed from the willpower of mankind, a wholly human exercise of choice. But this natural conclusion of the vital effort, as we can now see, is not to be regarded as something consummated separately in the secret heart of each monad. If we are to perceive and measure the extent of Progress we must look resolutely beyond the individual viewpoint. It is Mankind as a whole, collective humanity, which is called upon to perform the definitive act whereby the total force of terrestrial evolution will be released and flourish; an act in which the full consciousness of each individual man will be sustained by that of every other man, not only the living but the dead. And so it follows that the opus humanum, laboriously and gradually achieved within us by the growth of knowledge and in the face of evil, is something quite other than an act of higher morality: it is a living organism. We cannot distinctly view its progress because the organism encloses us, and to know a thing synthetically one has to be able to see it as a whole. Yet is there any part of ourselves which does not glow and responsively vibrate with the measure of our growth?
We need only to look about us at the multitude of disjointed forces neutralizing each other and losing themselves in the confusion of human society—the huge realities (broad currents of love or hatred animating people and classes) which represent consciousness in potency but have not yet found a consciousness sufficiently vast to encompass them all. We need only recall those moments in time of war when, wrested out of ourselves by the force of a collective passion, we have a sense of rising to a higher level of human existence. All these spiritual reserves, guessed at and faintly apprehended, what are they but the sure evidence that creation is still on the move, but that we are not yet capable of expressing all the natural grandeur of the human mission?
Vistas such as these, I know, do not appear to come within the Christian perspective; and because of this most of those who point to them and welcome them seem, at least by implication, to be heralding the appearance of a religion destined to supplant all earlier creeds. But how does it all arise—the challenge on the one hand, and the mistrust on the other—except out of the fact that neither we nor our adversaries have sufficiently measured the powers of growth with which Christ endowed his Church?
For my own part I accept the reality of the movement which tends to segregate, within the bosom of Mankind, a congregation of the faithful dedicated to the great task, “Advance in unity!” Moreover, I believe in its truth; I consider the fact that it contains in its ranks a great number of sinners, of “the maimed, and the halt, and the blind,” to be evidence of this truth. But this does not cause me to believe that the eager multitude crying out today for guidance is in search of any Shepherd other than He who has already brought it bread.
Christ, as we know, fulfills Himself gradually,3 through the ages in the sum of our individual endeavors. Why should we treat this fulfillment as though it possessed none but a metaphorical significance, confining it entirely within the abstract domain of purely supernatural action? Without the process of biological evolution, which produced the human brain, there would be no sanctified souls; and similarly, without the evolution of collective thought, through which alone the plenitude of human consciousness can be attained on Earth, how can there be a consummated Christ? In other words, without the constant striving of every human cell to unite with all the others, would the Parousia be physically possible? I doubt it.
That is why I believe that this coming together, from all four corners of the intellectual world, of a great mass of naturally religious spirits, does not portend the building of a new temple on the ruins of all others but the laying of new foundations to which the old Church is gradually being moved.
Little by little the idea is coming to light in Christian consciousness that the “phylogenesis” of the whole man, and not merely the “ontogenesis” of his moral virtues, is hallowed, in the sense that the charity of the believer may more resemble an impulse of constructive energy and his self-detachment be more in the nature of a positive effort.
In response to the cry of a world trembling with the desire for unity, and already equipped, through the workings of material progress, with the external links of this unity, Christ is already revealing himself, in the depths of men’s hearts, as the Shepherd (the Animator) of the Universe. We may indeed believe that the time is approaching when many men, old and new believers, having understood that from the depths of Matter to the highest peak of the Spirit there is only one evolution, will seek the fullness of their strength and their peace in the assured certainty that the whole of the world’s industrial, aesthetic, scientific, and moral endeavor serves physically to complete the Body of Christ, whose charity animates and re-creates all things.
Fulfilling the profound need for unity which pervades the world, and crowning it with renewed faith in Christ the Physical Center of Creation; finding in this need the natural energy required for the renewal of the world’s life; thus do I see the New Jerusalem, descending from Heaven and rising from the Earth.
He who speaks these words before the Tribunal of the Elders will be laughed at and dismissed as a dreamer.
“Nothing moves,” a first Sage will say. “The eye of common sense sees it and science confirms it.”
“Philosophy shows that nothing can move,” says a second.
“Religion forbids it—nothing must move,” says a third.
Disregarding this triple verdict the Seer leaves the public place and returns to the firm, deep bosom of Nature. Gazing into the depths of the immense complex of which he is a part, whose roots extend far below him to be lost in the obscurity of the past, he again fortifies his spirit with the contemplation and the feeling of a universal, stubborn movement depicted in the successive layers of dead matter and the present spread of the living. Gazing upward, toward the space held in readiness for new creation, he dedicates himself body and soul, with faith reaffirmed, to a Progress which will bear with it or else sweep away all those who will not hear. His whole being seized with religious fervor he looks toward a Christ already risen but sill unimaginably great, invoking, in the supreme homage of faith and adoration, “Deo Ignoto.”
For the status quo of life as it exists: the “immobility” of the Christian, or of the Stoic, may arouse fervor because it is a withdrawal, that is to say an individual anticipation (more or less fictitious) of consummated progress. :leftwards_arrow_with_hook:
My purpose is not to show that a necessary or infallible line of progress exists, but simply to establish that, for Mankind as a whole, a way of progress is offered and awaits us, analogous to that which the individual cannot reject without falling into sin and damnation. :leftwards_arrow_with_hook:
In his Mystical Body: cf. the last paragraph of Comic Life. :leftwards_arrow_with_hook:
 ×




The juxtaposition I’m seeing is Nietzsche’s overman (rooted in nature), de Chardin’s spiritual union (what is his view of the body/nature?), Jesus’ “I in you, you in me, Father in me, I in the Father”… versus gnosticism’s leaving the body/nature behind.

Love is not love without demonstration. Biggy is right: We need a context.

On earth as it is in heaven. New heaven & new earth. Resurrection.

Coeternal, but subsumed.

Total understands no here except the ‘body’ has more than appearent physical presence, the ‘intelligence is coded within the requirements for resembling attributition, and it get’s close…

Yeah. It’s all supernatural. Interwoven.

Even with Supra-natural?!?

You’re not tricking me. Supra is super. But okay, we can replay this from last week:

And I said this earlier today, and I’ll say it again:

Shall we accept diamonds from God, and not accept rust?

That’s enough reminding for now. Thanks, though.

I mean that sincerely.

Of corse, and that is admittedly true, and agreement is not even needed for proof, Ichthus, the whole theme about the accessibility of the miraculous has acceded that much.

ok eminemo

even if you stripped away all appearance/revelation, you could still refuse. the demons know (intellectually… not Kierkegaard’s subjectivity) and shudder.

but it is privation, not creation, to refuse wholeness

i hope we agree

under communism any state that prioritizes the establishment clause (into all spheres) over free expression … with or without goulash

but it is privation, not creation, to refuse wholeness‘

True, but how can deprivation not be intimated per: some sun-general appearance(phenomenal, revelation) : if such epiphenominal occurrence to be afforded a general succession of evolving objectives?

That is the crux of what is happening nowadays, the irreducibility of ideal modeling of both: the religious iconic and the aesthetic erotic image , which has amialated in many archaic belief systems, not open to Western aesthetic religious experience. I dunno how to put it more clearly, but, this is an important part which separates the super objective and the Supra intensive framework of defining modeling, not excluding AI platforms.

And this is what is of distinctive separation, as subtle as it is, between analysis and presumptive archytipical possession of intelligence, ( deus, ex- machina) ‘

Ref: Pascal Boyer

Reminds me of Matthew 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 7:34.

Celibate as a Teutonic Nun :wink: for as long as the Lord allows, or vice versa. Volunteered m’self.

Many are called… no one seeks without being called…

…but few are chosen. All still have right of refusal.