Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 - April 10, 1955) was a Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher involved in popularising the concept of the NooSphere, and present at the discovery of Peking Man.
He was above all a relentless researcher. He was one of the first to propose a synthesis of the History of the Universe as it is generally explained by present-day scientists. The vision he puts forward in his different writings, particularly in the Phenomenon of Man, is hinged on evolution. His outstanding concepts include the theory that the earth is enveloped in a layer of thought, which he calls the "noosphere", and his explanation of the planetisation phenomenon with which we are faced to-day.
articles and links:
The Human Phenomenon
(published in English under the mis-translated title "The Phenomenon of Man")
Teilhard de Chardin
The following was published in 1955 by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, a Jesuit Father and distinguished paleontologist, in his book, Le Phenomene Humain, or The Human Phenomenon (mistranslated in the book from which this was excerpted as "The Phenomenon of Man").
The coalescence of elements and the coalescence of stems, the spherical geometry of the earth and psychical curvature of the mind harmonising to counterbalance the inidividual and collective forces of dispersion in the world and to impose unification--there at last we find the spring and secret of hominization.
But why should there be unification in the world and what purpose does it serve?
To see the answer to this ultimate question, we have only to put side by side the two equations which have been gradually formulating themselves from the moment we began trying to situate the phenomenon of man in the world.
Evolution=Rise of consciousness,
Rise of consciousness=Union effected
The general gathering together in which, by correlated actions of the without and the within of the earth, the totality of thinking units and thinking forces are engaged - the aggregation in a single block of a mankind whose fragments weld together and interpenetrate before our eyes in spite of (indeed in proportion to) their efforts to separate - all this becomes intelligible from top to bottom as soon as we perceive it as the natural culmination of a cosmic process of organisation which has never varied since those remote ages when our planet was young.
First the molecules of carbon compounds with their thousands of atoms symmetrically grouped; next the cell which, within a very small volume, contains thousands of molecules linked in a complicated system; then the metazoa in which the cell is no more than an almost infinitesimal element; and later the manifold attempts made sporadically by the metazoa to enter into symbiosis and raise themselves to a higher biological condition.
And now, as a germination of planetary dimensions, comes the thinking layer which over its full extent develops and intertwines its fibres, not to confuse and neutralise them but to reinforce them in the living unity of a single tissue.
Really I can see no coherent, and therefore scientific, way of grouping this immense succession of facts but as a gigantic psycho-biological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the 'super-arrangement' to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves today individually and collectively subject.
Mega-synthesis in the tangential, and therefore and thereby a leap forward of the radial energies along the principal axis of evolution: ever more complexity and thus ever more consciousness. If that is what really happens, what more do we need to convince oursleves of the vital error hidden in the depths of any doctrine of isolation? The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of 'everyone for himself' is false and against nature. No element could move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.
Also false and against nature is the racial ideal of one branch draining off for itself alone all the sap of the tree and rising over the death of other branches. To reach the sun nothing less is required than the combined growth of the entire foliage.
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....
We have used the term mega-synthesis. Within a better understanding of the collective, it seems to me that the world should be understood without attenuation or metaphors when applied to the sum of all human beings. The universe is necessarily homogeneous in its nature and dimensions. Would it still be so if the loops of its spiral lost one jot or tittle of their degree of reality or consistence in ascending ever higher? The still unnamed Thing which the gradual combination of individuals, peoples and races will bring into existence, must needs be supra-physical, not infra-physical, if it is to be coherent with the rest. Deeper than the common act in which it expresses itself, more important than the common power of action from which it emerges by a sort of self-birth, lies reality itself, constituted by the living reunion of reflective particles.
And what does that amount to if not (and it is quite credible) that the stuff of the universe, by becoming thinking, has not yet completed its evolutionary cycle, and that we are therefore moving towards some new critical point that lies ahead. In spite of its organic links, whose existence has everywhere become apparent to us, the biosphere has so far been no more than a network of divergent lines, free at their extremities. By effect of reflection and the recoils it involves, the loose ends have been tied up, and the noosphere tends to constitute a single closed system in which each element sees, feels, desires, and suffers for itself the same things as all the others at the same time.
We are faced with a harmonised collectivity of consciousnesses equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness. The idea is that of the earth not only becoming covered by 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.
This is the general form in which, by analogy and in symmetry with the past, we are led scientifically to envisage the future of mankind, without whom no terrestrial issue is open to the terrestrial demands of our action.
To the common sense of the 'man in the street' and even to a certain philosophy of the world to which nothing is possible save what has always been, perspectives such as these will seem highly improbable. But to a mind become familiar with the fantastic dimensions of the universe they will, on the contrary, seem quite natural, because they are simply proportionate with the astronomical immensities.
In the direction of thought, could the universe terminate with anything less than the measureless - any more than it could in the direction of time and space?
One thing at any rate is sure - from the moment we adopt a thoroughly realistic view of the noosphere and of the hyper - organic nature of social bonds, the present situation of the world becomes clearer; for we find a very simple meaning for the profound troubles which disturb the layer of mankind at this moment.
The two-fold crisis whose onset began in earnest as early as the Neolithic age and which rose to a climax in the modern world, derives in the first place from mass-formation (we might call it a 'planetisation') of mankind. Peoples and civilisations reached such a degree either of frontier contact or economic interdependence or psychic communion that they could no longer develop save by interpenetration of one another. But it also arises out of the fact that, under the combined influence of machinery and the super - heating of thought, we are witnessing a formidable upsurge of unused powers. Modern man no longer knows what to do with the time and the potentialities he has unleashed. We groan under the burden of this wealth. We are haunted by the fear of 'unemployment'. Sometimes we are tempted to trample this super - abundance back into the matter from from which it sprang without stopping to think how impossible and monstrous such an act against nature would be.
When we consider the increasing compression of elements at the heart of a free energy which is also relentlessly increasing, how can we fail to see in this two-fold phenomenon the two perennial symptoms of a leap forward of the 'radial' - that is to say, of a new step in the genisis of mind?
In order to avoid disturbing our habits we seek in vain to settle international disputes by adjustments of frontiers--or we treat as 'liesure' (to be whiled away) the activities at the disposal of mankind. As things are now going it will not be long before we run full tilt into one another. Something will explode if we persist in trying to squeeze into our old tumble-down huts the material and spiritual forces that are henceforwared on the scale of a world.
A new domain of psychical expansion - that is what we lack. And it is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to look at it.
Peace through conquest, work in joy. These are waiting for us beyond the line where empires are setup against other empires, in an interior totalisation of the world upon itself, in the unanimous construction of a spirit of the earth.
Teilhard de Chardin in Le Phenomene Humain (The Phenomenon of Man)
Bernard Wall translation.
First HARPER COLOPHON edition published 1975
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