Sunday, February 10, 2008

Teilhard de Chardin: "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." Mark 6:4

One of my favorite mystics of the twentieth century is French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 - April 10, 1955). A geologist/ paleontologist by training, Chardin rejected the literal account of creation detailed in the Book of Genesis and instead embraced more scientifically driven theories that supported his teleological views of the universe and of humankind. Chardin was a strong proponent of evolution, but within a Christian context.

In his writings and personal philosophy, Chardin believed the Earth's evolutionary trajectory was gradually developing "a sphere of human thought" - an interlinked system of consciousness and information, a global net of self-awareness, instantaneous feedback, and planetary communication. He called this emerging cognizance the noosphere. Although he never used the term "internet" one can easily conclude that this visionary described the principals of this present day device. And did so in the first half of the twentieth century.

According to Chardin, evolution did not cease with the development of the noosphere. Man continues to evolve to a greater plane of consciousness he referred to as the Omega Point. All of nature, matter, the cosmos, and consciousness - after exhausting its potentialities and continuity - was converging towards this final Omega Point. To Chardin, this point of ultimate complexity and evolution he termed Omega Point, was God. In other words, all the lines of human and cosmic evolution merge in the Second Coming of Christ.

Despite the fact that his writings were profoundly theologically beautiful, and formulated from traditional Christian doctrine, Pierre's views were clearly ahead of his time. And although he was completely orthodox in the practice of his faith, his superiors detected a hint of heresy in his rejection of the literal account of Creation and subsequently prohibited his books from publishing within his lifetime. He was exiled to China and the United States by the Jesuit order in order to limit his influence and European popularity. It was not until the reign of Pope John XIII that Chardin was rehabilitated and his many works posthumously published.

Chardin's mysticism has had a tremendous impact on my personal faith because he has helped clarify some of my own believes that I had tremendous difficulty putting into words. Think about what he is saying: Right under our noses, in the monotony of our every day lives; in our sufferings and in our comings and goings; as we sleep or while wide awake; wether we realize it or not, the Sovereign Lord of History is calling you and the universe to Him. What an absolutely beautiful thought.

And you thought salvation and all the promises He made involved only us and nothing else.

"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire."

"Heart of Jesus, heart of evolution, unite me to yourself." ~~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

1 comment:

Katie Alender said...

Do you listen to podcasts? I think NPR's Science Friday did a show about him a month or two ago. You should be able to find it on iTunes.