Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., was professor of geology at the Catholic Institute in Paris, director of the National Geologic Survey of China, and director of the National Research Center of France. He died in New York City in 1955.
Published by Harper & Row, New York and Evanston, 1959. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
(ENTIRE BOOK) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest, paleontologist and Christian mystic. This collection of his essays reveals his concepts of “social heredity” and progress, “the planetization of mankind,” and the Noosphere — a biological interpretation of human history. Teilhard was prevented by the church from publishing his work while he remained alive.
- Translator’s Note by Norman Denny
The elaborate neologisms and allusive formulations of words used by Teilhard to get around the shortcomings of language in expressing his thought, causes great problems to the translator. Some French does not translate well into English (and, of course, the reverse is often just as illusive).
- Chapter 1: A Note on Progress
The world is the outcome of movement. Whether we consider the rocky layers enveloping the Earth, the arrangement of the forms of life that inhabit it, the variety of civilizations to which it has given birth, or the structure of languages spoken upon it, we are forced to the same conclusion: that everything is the sum of the past and that nothing is comprehensible except through its history. ‘Nature’ is the equivalent of ‘becoming’, i.e., self-creation.
- Chapter 2: Social Heredity and Progress: Notes on the Humanist-Christian Value of Education
Primarily through education, biological heredity proceeds to higher zones of consciousness. Therefore it is through education that there is progress to these higher zones. Thus progresses the gradual incorporation of the world into the Word Incarnate.
- Chapter 3: The Grand Option
The mass of mankind, when it has passed beyond its ‘critical point of socialisation,’ will penetrate for the first time into the environment which is biologically requisite for the wholeness of its task.
- Chapter 4: Some Reflections on Progress
However bitter our disillusionment with human goodness, there are stronger scientific reasons than ever before for believing that we do really progress and that we can advance much further still, provided we are clear about the direction in which progress lies and are resolved to take the right road.
- Chapter 5: The New Spirit, 1942
In order to match the new curve of Time, Christianity is led to discover the values of this world below the level of God, while Humanism finds room for a God above the level of this world.
- Chapter 6: Life and the Planets
What does the world-adventure upon which we are embarked look like, when we seek to interpret it both objectively and hopefully in the light of the widest, soundest and most modern concepts of astronomy, geology and biology?
- Chapter 7: A Great Event Foreshadowed: The Planetization of Mankind
The rising of the masses and the socialisation of Mankind is associated with the closed shape of the earth, the mechanics of generation and the psychic properties of human matter. In the cosmic sense, because it is the expression and prolongation of the primordial process whereby, at the uttermost extreme from the disintegrating atom, psychic force is born into the Universe and continuously grows, fostered by the ever more complicated grouping of matter.
- Chapter 8: Some Reflections on the Spiritual Repercussions of the Atom Bomb
Each of our actions has its deep-seated repercussions upon our subsequent inner orientation. The final effect of the light cast by the atomic fire into the spiritual depths of the earth is to illumine the over-riding question of the ultimate end of Evolution — that is to say, the problem of God.
- Chapter 9: Faith in Peace
Faith in peace is not possible except in a world dominated by faith in the future and the progress of Man.
- Chapter 10: The Formation of the Noosphere: A Biological Interpretation of Human History
The vast industrial and social system by which we are enveloped does not threaten to crush us, or to rob us of our soul. The energy emanating from it is free in the sense that it represents forces that can be used and also because, in the Whole no less than in the least of its elements, it arises out of a state that grows.
- Chapter 11: Faith in Man
Man is an organic and organized whole, possessing a future consisting not merely of successive years but of higher states to be achieved by struggle, not merely survival, but some form of higher life or super-life.
- Chapter 12: Some Reflections on the Rights of Man
Each individual has a duty to develop his own personality, to be placed in circumstances as favorable as possible to his personal development and not to be deformed by external coercion but inwardly super-organized by persuasion, in conformity with his personal endowments and aspirations.
- Chapter 13: The Human Rebound of Evolution and its Consequences
From the coming of Man, biological evolution not only rebounds but it rebounds reflectively upon itself. The Darwinian era of survival by Natural Selection is thus succeeded by a Lamarckian era of Super-Life brought about by calculated invention. In Man evolution is interiorized and made purposeful.
- Chapter 14: The Position of Man in Nature and the Significance of Human Socialization
Everything makes sense, everything glows with life; and the flow of human sap rises to the very heart of the Christian faith. How can we do other than feel that Mankind is in process of re-assessing and re-grouping itself?
- Chapter 15 The Directions and Conditions of the Future
Absolutely nothing can arrest the progress of social Man towards ever greater interdependence and cohesion.
- Chapter 16: The Essence of the Democratic Idea: A Biological Approach
The spirit of Democracy is identified with the ‘evolutionary sense’ or ‘the sense of species’ — signifying, in the case of Man, not merely the instinct for permanence through propagation, but also a will to grow through the organized arrangement of the species upon itself — i.e. super-reflection.
- Chapter 17: Does Mankind Move Biologically Upon Itself? Galileo’s Question Re-Stated
Mankind infolds upon itself. Human socialization has biological value. Human Totalization develops mind; it goes hand-in-hand with ‘psychogenesis’ and is therefore natural, biological.
- Chapter 18: The Heart of the Problem
The total Unity of which we dream still seems to beckon in two different directions, towards the zenith and towards the horizon. We see the dramatic growth of a whole race of ‘spiritual expatriates’ — human beings torn between a Marxism whose depersonalizing effect revolts them and a Christianity so lukewarm in human terms that it sickens them.
- Chapter 19: On The Probable Coming of an ‘Ultra-Humanity’
A vast realm of the Ultra-Human lies ahead of us: a realm in which we shall not be able to survive, or super-live, except by developing and embracing on earth, to the utmost extent, all the powers of common vision and unanimazation that are available to us.
- Chapter 20: How May We Conceive and Hope that Human Unanimization will be Realized on Earth?
Mankind as a whole is not only capable of unanimity but is actually in process of becoming unanimized. Man’s urge towards Some Thing ahead of him cannot achieve its full fruition except by combining with another and still more fundamental aspiration — one from above, urging him towards Some One.
- Chapter 21: From the Pre-Human to the Ultra-Human: The Phases of a Living Planet
The critical point of planetary Reflection, the fruit of socialization, far from being a mere spark in the darkness, represents our passage, by Translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the Universe — not an ending of the ultra-human but its accession to some sort of trans-humanity at the ultimate heart of things.
- Chapter 22: The End of the Species
Until Darwin, Man, although he knew that the human race might continue to exist for a long time, had not suspected that it had a future. Now however, because he was a species, and species change, he could begin to look for and seek to conquer something quite new that lay ahead of him.
As the end of time approaches a terrifying spiritual pressure will be brought to bear on the limits of the Real, born of the effort of souls desperately straining in their desire to escape from the Earth. The extraordinary adventure of the World will have ended in the bosom of a tranquil ocean, of which, however, each drop will still be conscious of being itself. The dream of every mystic will have found its full and proper fulfillment.