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Cyberspace and the Dream of Teilhard de Chardin
   
by John R. Mabry

PROGRESSIVE CATHOLICS HAVE
long cherished Teilhard de Chardin and his unique and mystical vision, and for those of us who have only recently discovered the New Cosmology, his discovery is as great an epiphany as the encountering of Hildegard, Julian of Norwich, or any of the other mystics who testify to Divine immanence. Teilhard was a man possessed of rare vision who was capable of remythologizing his faith to fit the "facts" that his scientific studies convinced him of. His was not a God "out there" who disapproved of humans hypothesizing about or even tampering with the Creation. His God was an organic entity who lived and breathed the life and breath of the Creation, a Creator who was simultaneously giving birth to and being born from the magnificent organism of the universe. His views are profoundly Creation-centered, and are worthy of our present consideration not only because his thought was ahead of its time, but because his predictions, which seemed so unlikely in his own time, are coming to pass unnoticed beneath our very noses.

fossils graphicChardin was neither a psychologist nor even a philosopher in the usual sense. He was a priest and mystic, but he was also a scientist, to whom the concept of evolution held as much weight as scripture. "Evolution" is the basis for Chardin's entire cosmology. Not, as Darwinian evolution would have it, a random product, or the "survival of the fittest," but an evolution planned and guided by divine agency. "The magic word 'evo-lution' which haunted my thoughts like a tune," he writes, "was to me like unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered." Chardin's universe is one of continuous and interwoven evolutionary threads, incorporating plants, animals, the planet, the cosmos, and, most peculiar to him, not merely the physical and mental evolution of humankind, but our spiritual ascent as well. Michael Murray in The Thought of Teilhard de Chardin writes,

In Teilhard's hands the theory of evolution, far from diminishing man by relating him to the apes, as so many churchmen used to fear, actually re-establishes him at the moving apex of time-space, well above the fixed central position which he lost in the Copernican revolution.
In Teilhard's estimation, humankind is the crowning achievement of the universe, because it is in us, and as far as we yet know, only in us, that the Creation has become self-aware. Our eyes are the eyes through which the Earth finally beholds her own beauty, and, just as importantly, knows that she beholds it. Human beings are not above the Creation, but are themselves the Creation: that part of the Creation that is self-conscious.

The evolutionary ascent of human beings occurs, according to Chardin's theory, in two stages of what he calls "planetization." The first stage is the "Go forth and multiply" stage, in which humanity expanded, in both quantity (in the very number of persons), and in quality (psychological and spiritual development). As Blanche Marie Gallagher, B.V.M., explains in her introduction to her Meditations With Teilhard de Chardin,

During the long period of expansion, physical and cultural differences isolated the peoples of the Earth from each other as they spread to fill the Earth. At the beginning of our present century, with most of the habitable surface of the Earth occupied, the races began to converge. Through technology, tangential energy becomes evident in the response of the people across the Earth to each other; people are sharing their wars, their coronations, and their concerns. Thus the law of complexity-consciousness develops.

"The success of humanity's evolution in the second stage will not be determined by survival of the fittest, but by our capacity to converge and unify."We have reached the end of the expanding, or "diversity" stage, and are now entering the contracting, or "unifying" stage. At this point, Chardin's theory runs completely counter to Darwin's in that the success of humanity's evolution in the second stage will not be determined by "survival of the fittest," but by our own capacity to converge and unify. The most important initial evolutionary leap of the convergence stage is the formation of what Chardin termed "the Noosphere." Its formation, as Michael Murray explains, begins with

a global network of trade, communications, accumulation, and exchange of knowledge, cooperative research ...all go into the weaving of the material support for a sphere of collective thought. In the field of science alone, no individual knows more than a tiny fraction of the sum of scientific knowledge, and each scientist is dependent not only for his education but for all his subsequent work on the traditions and resources which are the collective possession of an entire international society composed of the living and the dead. Just as Earth once covered itself with a film of interdependent living organisms which we call the biosphere, so mankind's combined achievements are forming a global network of collective mind.
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