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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's vision of the future

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Who was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin?

The French theologian, philosopher and natural scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) combined a modern world view with deep spirituality. He participated in several research trips to Asia and Africa and took part in the excavation and evaluation of the so-called Peking Man in China. The church (Teilhard was Jesuit) rejected his findings and forbade their publication. So his complete works were only printed after his death. Teilhard's thinking today appears more relevant than ever. He saw the whole creation as being in the process of becoming, in a process of unification; the greatest force in this being love.

The seven main characteristics of Teilhard de Chardin's world view

Teilhard was one of the first theologians to deal with Darwin's theory of evolution and put it into a larger cosmological-Christian context. The resulting world view, which is both revolutionary and evolutionary, has seven main characteristics:

1. The whole universe is an immense, dynamically pulsating process in constant development.

2. Ever more complex forms of life have developed on earth over millions of years.

3. Things have an inside and an outside that correspond to each other: The more highly developed a living being is, the more complex it is, the more conscious it is.

4. Inside things there is a spontaneous connecting force, a force of organisation and unification: "All that rises, strives together" - "Tout ce qui monte, converge".

5. A spiritual sphere has formed around the earth, the field of consciousness of mankind, the „Noosphere“.

6. There are two separate realities. One is "natural", the other "supernatural". Teilhard called this second reality "divine sphere" (le Milieu divin). The two realities strive to come closer to each other and finally harmonize together.

7. The whole universal developmental process has a direction. The power of unification transforms everything and moves everything towards a final goal. This goal is an unimaginable, highly conscious and complex unity. Teilhard calls it the "Point Omega". This goal is not prescribed or fixed from outside. Cosmogenesis is groping its way forward, and in doing so, it designs the goal itself, step by step.

Humanity – a living organism 

As early as 1920, i.e. almost exactly one hundred years ago, Teilhard was already thinking about the future of religions in Paris:

"The being called upon to enter into the total power of earthly evolution and to come to flower must be a united humanity in which the full consciousness of each individual is united with the consciousness of all other human beings. […]

The opus humanum is a living organism. The progress of this organism eludes our gaze because, in order to recognise a thing, one must stand above it. - And yet, isn't there something in us that gradually brightens and vibrates more and more? […]

Most who suspect this level expect a new religion to replace all the cults of the past. This movement aims to promote unity in everything. […]

The foundation of the temple, where the newly inspired gather, will probably not be built on the ruins of the old religions.“

On the possible foundations of a common human creed [1]

During the Second World War Teilhard was interned in Beijing. There in 1941 he wrote an essay on the possible foundations of a common human creed. For him, it was an attempt "to bring the various secular and religious beliefs into which humanity is currently fragmented in their basics to a common ground in order to prepare the field for a new order". This contribution was "the fruit of thirty years of sincere contact with both scientific and religious circles in Europe, America and the Far East".

Here is a summary of this essay.

The quest for being more is as old and as universal as the world itself. Yes, as far as we can follow the progress of life backwards to its most humble beginnings, we see it moved by the tendency of becoming something beyond itself.

And then came the critical moment when the instinctual was reflected in the thinking. From that moment on, the unimaginably primitive man, the bearer of this stunning insight, had to feel the vital ambition to conquer everything and surpass himself.

The age-old belief in a better future

In fact, fairy tales, myths and customs are full of symbols in which the deep-rooted will shines through to find a way up to the sky. From this we can conclude that man's belief in a better future is older than any civilization, that it is the driving force of the history from which we rise.

Our consciousness, however fixed it may be in its baselines, rises at certain moments to perceive new dimensions and values. Right now we are in one of these moments of awakening and transformation.

In the course of a few generations, almost without us noticing, our view of the world has changed profoundly. Under the combined influences of science, history and social changes, a new awareness of both time and community has conquered and transformed our entire sphere of experience.

Now the future is revealing itself to us as a period of development and maturation in which we can only move forward in solidarity. This, of course, triggers a spiritual crisis. This is the process we find ourselves in today.

Voluntary association

Today, humanity is becoming aware of its unity not only backwards in blood state, but also forwards in progress. As a result, it feels the vital need to unite within itself.

Everywhere, and especially between religious groups, a movement of reunification is emerging. Above or below the divisive elements something is discovered that urges to convergence.

But where is this mysterious principle of approach to be found? Is it below or is it above? Is it in a common interest – or in a common faith?

A common interest or a common threat can bind people together for a certain time. But this form of synthesis remains fragile when it has come about under the pressure of a need or fear. Human unity, however, cannot grow and endure by external coercion, but only by voluntary union. This is where faith in man is revealed. It is a deep, common striving as a counterweight against the forces of dissolution and dispersion.

A sense for the earth

Faith in God and faith in the world: If these two energies were to combine, they could strengthen each other – but where can one find the milieu for this desirable union or transformation?

The sense for the earth unfolds and opens up towards a sense for the divine; and the sense for the divine roots and nourishes itself downwards in the sense for the earth. The transcendental, personal Divine and the evolving universe are thus no longer two contradictory focal points; rather, they form two mutually attracting poles. Just the transformation we were looking for!

The unanimity of tomorrow

A 'sacred union', the union of all those

who believe that the universe is still progressing and that we have the mission to facilitate its progress, indeed to bring it about: should this not be the solid core around which tomorrow's unanimity has to evolve?

The idea of a possible unification of our individual consciousnesses into a common 'superconsciousness' is proving every day more scientifically based and psychologically necessary. This idea also seems to be the only one capable of preparing the great event we are expecting: a new chapter of life that will open a new age.

 

 


[1] From: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Sinn und Ziel der Evolution (Sense and aim of evolution), Selected texts, edited by Peter Gotthard Bieri, Aachen 2010, Chap. 14.

 

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