|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.
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
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.
|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.
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
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
|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
|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.