The British Teilhard Association

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(Note, where you see superscript numbers, e.g. 1, click on the number for further notes)

Chronology

By Siôn Cowell

1325 Pierre Teilhard, notary in Dienne, Cantal, is mentioned in a deed between the lord of Dienne and his parishioners.
1538 Francis I (1494-1547) ennobles Astorg Teillard (1478-1549), ancestor of the Teilhard de Chabrier, Teilhard de Chardin, Teilhard de Chazelles, Teilhard d'Eyry, Teilhard de Féligonde, Teilhard du Ranquet, Teilhard de Térisse, Teilhard de Tissonnière, Teilhard de Ranquet, Teilhard de Rochecharles-Beaurepaire, Teillard-Chambon, Teillard de Beauvezeix, Teillard de Montclar, Durand Teilhard and other families.
1722 Jacques Teilhard is parish priest in Vivargues, Cantal.
1789 Pierre Teilhard de Rochecharles-Beaurepaire sits with the nobility in the States-General. Later he nearly loses his head in the Revolution.
1826 Philippe Buchez (1796-1865), President of the Constituent Assembly in 1848, discovers faith through evolution. 1
1841 The Teilhard and de Chardin families are united on the marriage of Pierre-Cirice Teilhard and Victoire Barron de Chardin.
1844 Birth of Teilhard's father, Alexandre-Victor Emmanuel Teilhard de Chardin (1844-1932). 2
1845 John Henry Newman (1801-1890) publishes his Essay on the Development of Christian Development.
1853 Birth of Teilhard's mother, Berthe-Adèle de Dompierre d'Hornoy (1853-1936). 3
1858 Papers on evolution by Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) are read to the Linnean Society (1 July).
1863 Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) publishes his Man's Place in Nature.
1864 Newman publishes his Apologia pro Vita Sua.
1873 Failure of the final attempt to restore the Bourbon dynasty in France (23 October).
1875 Alexandre-Victor Emmanuel Teilhard de Chardin marries Berthe Adèle de Dompierre d'Hornoy (1853-1936) (18 May). Emmanuel Teilhard, archivist-palaeographer, petrographer (petrologer), is permanent secretary of the Académie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Clermont-Ferrand. Birth of Teilhard's eldest brother Albéric (1875-1902).
1879 Count Henri Bégouën (1863-1956) first uses the expression 'evolutionary creation' that is later taken up and developed by Teilhard. 4 Birth of Teilhard's sister Françoise (1879-1911).
1881-1889 Early years
1881 Pierre Marie Joseph Teilhard de Chardin 5 is born at Sarcenat, commune of Orcines, Puy de-Dôme, 7 kms west of Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne (Sunday 1 May). Fourth of eleven children, Pierre is deeply influenced by his background. From his father Emmanuel, a distant relative of Pascal (1623-1662), he learns love of the earth; from his mother Berthe-Adèle, a great grand-niece of Voltaire (1694-1778), love of God. His father's love of the earth is infectious. From an early age he collects mineral, botanical and zoological specimens while wandering the rich Auvergne countryside. His mother's love of God is equally infectious. It deeply influences the development and future direction of his religious and mystical sense. 6
1883 Birth of Teilhard's favourite sister Marguerite-Marie (1883-1936).
1889 Birth of Teilhard's brother Joseph (1889-1978).
1892-1897 Pupil of the Jesuits of Notre-Dame de Mongré at Villefranche-sur-Saône, Rhône (April). First communion at Mongré (26 May). His tutor in humanities is the future academician Henri Bremond (1865-1933), then still a Jesuit. Bremond later publishes several articles on Newman (1801-1890), three volumes of Newman translations (1905-1906) and Newman, essai de biographie psychologique (1906). 7
1896 Passes baccalaureate (first part). Leaves Notre-Dame de Mongré (July).
1897 Passes baccalaureate (philosophy).
1898 Passes baccalaureate (mathematics).
1899-1905 Jesuit training
1899 Enters the Jesuit novitiate (Province of Lyon) at Aix-en-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône (20 March).
1900 Completes novitiate. First year of juniorate at Laval, Mayenne (September).
1901 First vows at Laval on the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March). Second year of juniorate at Bon-Secours, Jersey (October). 'Loi sur les associations' (1 July): the anti-clerical 'laws of exception' (1901, 1904, 1905) force the withdrawal of many religious congregations from France. First crisis. Love of earth and love of God appear to contradict one another. How can he resolve the apparent contradiction? Should he abandon all to serve God? His novice master, Paul Troussard SJ, persuades him otherwise. Love of God and love of the earth can be reconciled, not by renouncing one in favour of the other, but by loving one through loving the other. 8 In La Vie cosmique Teilhard later writes: 'There is a communion with God and a communion with the earth and a communion with God through the earth ... In this first basic vision we begin to see how the Kingdom of God and cosmic love may be reconciled: the bosom of Mother Earth is, in some way, the bosom of God.' 9
1902 First year as scholastic in Jersey. Receives his licence ès lettres (Caen). His eldest brother Albéric (b. 1875) dies at Sarcenat (27 September).
1902-1905 The Jesuits transfer their philosophy scholasticate from Laval to St Louis, Jersey, and their theology scholasticate from Lyon-Fourvière to Hales Place, Canterbury. The latter moves to Ore Place, Hastings, in 1906. They do not return to Lyon until 1926. Teilhard receives his Licence ès lettres from Caen University.
1904 Teilhard's sister Marie-Louise (b. 1891) dies aged 13 (4 August). Teilhard is classified as fit for auxiliary military service.
1905-1908 Egypt
1905 Leaves for Egypt as lecturer in physics and chemistry at Jesuit College of the Holy Family, Cairo (end August).
1906 Field trip to Jebel Mokattem (August).
1907 Pius X (1835-1903-1914) condemns modernism in his decree Lamentabili and his encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis (8 September). Vigilance committees are set up in every diocese to weed out modernism. As Secretary of State (1903-1913) and later as Secretary of the Holy Office (1914-1930), Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930) vigorously pursues modernists wherever they can be found. Teilhard is no modernist. 'The modernist 'volatilises' Christ and dissolves him in the world. While I am trying to concentrate the world in Christ.' 10 Teilhard readily distances himself, for example, from Alfred Loisy (1857-1940) who is excommunicated on 7 March 1908. 11 Field trip to Kasa-el-Sagha site in El Fayum (April).
1908 Field trip to Upper Egypt (January).
1908-1912 Hastings
1908 Begins four-year theology course at Ore Place, Hastings (September). This is a period of deep friendships with fellow Jesuits including Albert Valensin (1873-1944), Auguste Valensin (1879-1953), Joseph Huby (1878-1948), Pierre Charles (1883-1954), Pierre Rousselot (1878-1915), Victor Fontoynont (1880-1958), Christian Burdo (1881-1961) and Paul Doncoeur (1880-1961). The young Jesuits discuss the Church in C20: Teilhard is given the task of evangelising the gentiles. 12 In his second year in Hastings he becomes convinced of the truth of evolution. The evidence is in the earth, the rocks, the fossil record. 13 'Once upon a time everything seemed fixed and solid. Now, everything in the universe has begun to slide under our feet: mountains, continents, life and even matter itself. If we look at it from a sufficient height, we no longer see the world revolving but a new world gradually changing, colour, shape and even consciousness. No longer cosmos but cosmogenesis.' 14 John Henry Newman (1801-1890) is one of Teilhard's heroes. Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Development (1845) and his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864) head his reading list. 15 Newman declares himself ready 'to go the whole hog' with Darwin. 'I cannot imagine why darwinism should be considered inconsistent with catholic doctrine.' Evolution has important philosophical implications: 'I saw that the principle of development not only accounted for certain facts, but was in itself a remarkable philosophical phenomenon.' 16 Newman's Essay on Development influences not only Teilhard's own thinking on doctrinal development but also, by transposition, his views on cosmic evolution. 17 Le Phénomène humain echoes Newman: 'One after the other every field of human knowledge has been shaken and carried away by the same deep current towards the study of some development.' 18 Newman uses the idea of evolution in theology more than ten years before it becomes common in the natural sciences. His Essay on Development is published in 1845 while Darwin and Wallace's paper on evolution does not appear until 1858 and Darwin's Origin of Species until 1859. 19
1909 Motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum requires all clergy to subscribe to an anti-modernist oath. Teilhard first meets Charles Dawson (1864-1916) near Hastings (May). Field trip in the Weald. 20
1910 Pius X condemns Le Sillon of Marc Sangnier (1873-1950) in his encyclical Notre charge apostolique to the French bishops (25 August). 21 Teilhard takes the anti-modernist oath (26 November 1910). 22
1911 Charles Dawson 'discovers' Piltdown Man (Eoanthropus dawsoni) (1908-1912) near Uckfield. Records Piltdown 'findings' (3 June). Teilhard becomes involved, by association, with the Piltdown Scandal which is to break many years later (1953-1954). 23 Teilhard's sister Françoise (b. 1879) dies in China (7 June). Ordained priest by Mgr Peter Amigo (1864-1949), Bishop of Southwark (1904-1949), at Ore Place (24 August), Teilhard says his first mass on the Feast of St Louis (25 August). Visits St Mary's, Oxford, with its many memories of Newman (October). 24
1912 Dawson visits Ore Place (20 April). Teilhard passes his theology oral exam (14 July). Attends conference on religious ethnology at Leuven (3 September). Returns to France (October) to join palaeontologist Marcellin Boule (1861-1942) at the Natural History Museum.
1912-1914 Paris
1912-1914 Palaeontological Laboratory of the Natural History Museum.
1913 Field trip with Henri Breuil (1877-1961), Hugo Obermaier, Miles Burkitt and others to the prehistoric caves of Castillo and Altamira in north-western Spain (June). Finds Piltdown Man's 'canine tooth' (30 August). 25
1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary (b. 1863) is murdered by Serb terrorists in Sarajevo (28 July). Germany declares war on France (3 August). Teilhard begins his tertianship at Hales Place, Canterbury (August). His younger brother Gonzague (b. 1893) is killed near Soissons (12 November). Teilhard is mobilised at Clermont (December).
1915-1919 Military service on the Western Front
1915 Attached to 13th hospital section (20 January). Leaves for front as stretcher-bearer (2nd class) in 8th Tunisian Tirailleurs (4th Mixed Zouaves-Tirailleurs) and takes part in major battles including Champagne (1915), Verdun (1916), Chemin des Dames (1917), Marne (1918). Promoted corporal (13 May). Mentioned in divisional dispatches (29 August). Awarded Croix de guerre (1 September).
1916 First writings: La Vie cosmique (24 March) and his three Benson stories, Le Christ dans la matière (14 October). Re-reads Newman's Apologia and Essay on Development. 'I have been reading Thureau-Dangin's Newman catholique ... I feel more than ever in sympathy with the great Cardinal, so undaunted, so firm of faith, so full, as he says himself, 'of life and thought' - and, at the same time, so thwarted.' 26 4th Mixed Zouaves-Tirailleurs are sent to Verdun (May). Mentioned in army dispatches (17 September). Remains in ranks although no longer serving as stretcher-bearer. Refuses post of divisional chaplain with rank of captain: continues to serve as non-combatant priest without official function.
1917 Awarded Military Medal (24 June). Completes Le Milieu mystique at Beaulieu-les-Fontaines, Oise (13 August).
1918 L'éternel féminin (19-25 March) is inspired by his reading of Dante's Divine Comedy. Teilhard's brother Olivier (b. 1887) is killed at Mount Kemmel in Flanders (3 May). Final vows at Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon (26 May). 'I, Lord, for my very lowly part, would wish to be the apostle and (if I dare be so bold) the evangelist of your Christ in the universe.' 27 4th Mixed Zouaves-Tirailleurs are stationed in Strasbourg (29 November).
1919 4th Mixed Zouaves-Tirailleurs are posted to Goldscheuer, Baden (February). Teilhard compares Benson and Wells. 28 Teilhard is demobilised (10 March). Makes his retreat at St Louis, Jersey (August). Meets Léontine Zanta (1872-1942) through his cousin Marguerite Teillard-Chambon (1880-1959). 29
1919-1926 Paris
1920 Chargé de cours in palaeontology and geology at the Catholic Institute of Paris (10 June). Field trip to Reims (July). Meets philosopher édouard Le Roy (1870-1954) through Christophe Gaudefroy (1878-1971).
1921 Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (21 May). Johan Gunnar Andersson (1874-1960) and Otto Zdansky begin working at Choukoutien (Zhoukoudian), 50 kms SW of Peiping (Peking) and discover 2 human molars.
1922 Defends his doctoral thesis on Les mammifères de l'éocène inférieur français at the Sorbonne (22 March). At the request of the rector, Mgr Alfred Baudrillart (1859-1942), later cardinal, his provincial, Jean-Baptiste Costa de Beauregard SJ (1877-1947), agrees to his appointment as assistant professor of geology at the Catholic Institute of Paris (November, to 1928). Henri de Lubac SJ (1896-1991) first meets Teilhard. Before Easter 1922, Teilhard prepares, at the request of Louis Riedenger SJ, professor of dogmatic theology at Enghien (Belgium), a private discussion paper, Note sur quelques représentations historiques possibles du péché originel, which sees the Fall as a cosmic event over time, not in time (April). The paper is frankly evolutionary. It rejects the idea of a primaeval 'earthly paradise.' 30 Awarded the Prix Gustave Roux and Prix Visquenel. Receives invitation from émile Licent SJ (1876-1952) to visit China (13 August).
1922-1923 President of the Geological Society of France.
1923 Leaves on mission to China via Suez, Ceylon, Sumatra, Hong Kong and Shanghai (6 April). Arrives in Tientsin (23 May). First field trip with Licent to the Ordos (June). Travels a country ravaged by brigands. His palaeontological discoveries are assembled at the Hoang-ho Pai-ho Museum founded by Licent to house plant, insect and bird fossils. In the Ordos (summer) he composes his Mass on the World to divinise the new day. 31 'I am a pilgrim of the future on my way back from a journey made entirely in the past.' 32 The Holy Office puts the Manuel biblique by Auguste Brassac (1873-1941) on the Index. 33
1924 Field trip with Licent to Eastern Mongolia (April). Returns to Paris (13 September) where he renews contacts with édouard Le Roy. 'There are few men I have admired and loved as much as édouard Le Roy. So serene, so completely human and so deeply Christian.' 34 Second crisis. Receives letter from Costa de Beauregard ordering him to Lyon (13 November). 'One of my papers (one in which I develop three possible ways of representing original sin) has been sent, I do not know how, to Rome ... I expect I shall be labelled a heretic or a hurly-burly.' 35
1925 Sun Yat-sen (b. 1866) dies in Peking (12 March). Teilhard returns to teaching at the Catholic Institute. Gives talks to the Union Sociale des Ingénieurs Catholiques and to catholic students of the école Normale Supérieure. Visits Ipswich Museum (3 April) and Cromer, Norfolk (6-9 April). 36 His line of thinking increasingly alarms the Jesuit authorities in Rome under constant pressure from Merry del Val to take a closer look at the orthodoxy of the philosophical leanings of its members. Despite protests from Mgr Baudrillart, his provincial, Costa de Beauregard, tells him he is to leave Paris (15 May). 'They have given me another six months to complete my current work and prepare my return to China next Easter.' 37 He is asked to sign six propositions on original sin (June). He does so with certain reservations. These propositions cannot now be traced. 38 Retreat at Saint-étienne (late July). His faith in the Church remains unshaken. 'I believe in the Church, mediatrice between God and the world.' 39
1926 'I continue to see Le Roy regularly. Really, these Wednesday evenings have become for me one of the best spiritual exercises of the week.' 40 First meets philosopher Jean Guitton (1901-1999). Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950) first uses the expression '(w)holism' later taken up and developed by Teilhard into an evolutionary doctrine of universal application. 41
1926-1946 Chinese period
1926 Teilhard leaves for China (April). Remains on the staff of the Institute but is shown 'on leave' (until 1928). Arrives in Tientsin (10 June). Takes part in Pan-Pacific Congress in Peking (December). His stay in China, interspersed with visits to France, US, Africa, India, Burma, etc., is to last twenty years. 'It was in the Far East, on the road already trodden by Francis Xavier, de Nobili and Ricci, 42 that Teilhard de Chardin, man of science and man of prayer, was to realise the ignatian ideal of contemplation in action.' 43 Action française is condemned (29 December).
1927 Completes Le Milieu divin (March) but the Jesuit curia forbids publication. The book is not published until after his death. 'Up to then (1927) Teilhard had been deeply conscious of the attraction of the earth and its phenomena but had not really grasped their grandeur. And it was Asia that was to reveal this grandeur to him.' 44 'The world is full of potency but is floundering and suffocating because no one, not even the Christian, will set an example or point the way to a fully human life and action which is actively and passionately open to everything that is good and beautiful and true.' 45 Birger Bohlin discovers a third molar: Davidson Black calls it Sinanthropus pekinensis. Nanking becomes the Chinese capital (10 October); Peking is renamed Peiping. Teilhard leaves for France (27 August).
1928 Pierre Leroy SJ (1900-1992) first meets Teilhard (spring). Mgr Bruno de Solages (1885-1983) meets Teilhard at an 'intellectual retreat' organised by the Oratorians of Juilly, near Meaux, Seine-et-Marne (1 August). 46 Leaves France (7 November). Breaks his journey to China with a two-month visit to Somalia and Abyssinia (28 November-29 January) on the invitation of adventurer and writer Henry de Monfried (1879-1974). Peï Wan-chung (Pei Wenzhong) recovers skull fragments, mandibles and teeth at Choukoutien.
1929 'As far as I am concerned the "greatest consciousness" has replaced "entropy" as the essential function of the cosmos.' 47 'Calm has now returned and I am more than ever convinced that there is no possible way ahead for the noosphere outside the Christian axis. But what a difference between this axis which is unlimited in its extensions and its field of attraction, and the little cage which is so often presented to us as authentic Christianity.' 48 Teilhard is appointed scientific advisor to the National Geological Survey of China (March). Peï Wan-chung discovers the first Peking Man skullcap at Choukoutien (2 December). Teilhard, as geologist, plays a key role in dating the find (± 200,000 years). Sinanthropus pekinensis is later recognised as Homo faber (Homo erectus pekinensis). 49 'Peking Man' subsequently turned out to be 'Peking Woman' and is called Nancy. Some forty Homo erectus individuals have since been found on the Choukoutien site. The Holy Office places Le Roy's Dogme et critique (1907) and Le Problème de Dieu (1929) on the Index. 50
1930 Central Asiatic Expedition under Roy Chapman Andrews in the Gobi Desert (22 April-21 May). 'The rash of Chinese houses and cultivation is spreading over what was yesterday a boundless steppe. There is something dramatic in it, if looked at as a human effort, to exist and multiply in conditions of the most extreme severity. Here you see the very lowest strata of humanity.' 51 Visits France (late September-late January 1931).
1931 Visits New York to lecture (in English) and help organise the Citroën Croisière Jaune expedition (January-February). Two motorised columns converge from east and west following the old camel route through the heart of China (12 May 1931-12 February 1932). Teilhard takes full advantage of every opportunity to collect rock and fossil specimens. Peï Wan-chung records the use of fire at Choukoutien. The Holy Office places more works by Le Roy on the Index (24 June): L'exigence idéaliste et le fait de l'évolution (1927), Les origines humaines et l'évolution de l'intelligence (1928), Le problème de Dieu (1929) and the second volume of La pensée intuitive (1930). 52 The Mukden Incident in Manchuria precipitates undeclared war between China and Japan (18 September).
1932 The Japanese set up a separate Manchukuo state (2 January). Teilhard's father Emmanuel (b. 1844) dies (11 February). The Holy Office puts Loisy's collected works on the Index (1 July). Teilhard leaves for Shansi (4 July) and for France (September). Stays in France to end January 1933.
1933 Talks on suffering to the Catholic Union of the Sick (end January). Leaves on fifth journey to China (February-March). Peiping is now threatened by Japanese forces. Takes Chinese and Mongolian fossils (22 June) for examination by the Museum of Natural History in New York. In Washington he presents a book on fossil man in China and gives a paper at the International Geological Congress (20-30 July). Spends four weeks in California on expedition to the Sierra Nevada and Grand Canyon (August-September). Returns to China (end September). Writes in English a sort of profession of faith in which he sees the evolution of the universe as convergent, not divergent, tending towards a final unity; this unity is spiritual where spirit is understood, not as an exclusion, but as a transformation or sublimation of matter; the centre of spiritualised matter must be supremely conscious and personal with both a face and a heart (end September). For each individual, life and death become a continuous discovery and conquest of the divine and overwhelming presence. 53 Teilhard never doubts the existence of a personal God or the Incarnation of the Son of God. 54 'God is a person. God is a person. We must think of him as a person. A God who is not personal would not be a God.' 55 Completes Christologie et évolution in Peiping (25 December).
1934 Pu-yi (1906-1967), last Manchu emperor (1908-1912), becomes emperor Kang Teh of Manchukuo (1 March). Davidson Black dies in Peiping (16 March). Leaves for the Yangtze (11 April). Accompanies George Brown Barbour (1890-1977) to Nanking and the Yangtze (13 May-June). Leaves for Honan (17 July). Teilhard and Yang Chung-chien (Yang Zhongjian) 56 publish their work on the sinanthropus deposits. 'I cannot see any way out or any strength for me outside the (theoretical and practical) synthesis of passionate faith in the world and passionate faith in God. Being fully human and Christian, one through the other.' 57 He summarises his faith: 'Faith in the world, faith in the spirit in the world, faith in the immortality of the spirit in the world, faith in the ever-growing personality of the world.' 58 Teilhard's youngest brother Victor dies (October). Completes his personal credo in Comment je crois written at the request of Bruno de Solages (1895-1983), Rector of the Catholic Institute of Toulouse (October): 'I believe the universe is an evolution; I believe evolution proceeds towards spirit; I believe spirit, in the human, completes itself in the personal; I believe the supreme personal is the Cosmic Christ.' 59
1935 Leaves for Canton region (January). Returns to France (May). Visits Punjab and Kashmir (from 20 September). Leaves Calcutta for Batavia (22 December). 'The past has revealed to me how the future is built. And preoccupation with the future tends to sweep everything else aside.' 60
1936 Visits Java (January). Sails for China (15 January). Leaves for Shantung (end July). Teilhard's mother Berthe (b. 1853) dies (7 February) and his sister Marguerite-Marie (b. 1883) dies (17 August). 1936 is a critical year: German reoccupation of the Rhineland (7 March), Italian annexation of Abyssinia, civil war in Spain (18 July), escalation of the war in China ... The growing world crisis reinforces Teilhard's concern: 'What you tell me about the political situation continues to preoccupy me deeply - even from the theoretical point of view of the human future ... I conceive a new movement rallying the progressive energies of the earth around the following programme: universalism, futurism (that is, faith in a renewal of the earth) and personalism. This programme may be less eloquent than the old "liberty, equality and fraternity" but it could reconcile kindred forces which at the present time are divided between the old (already) worn out categories of democracy (confusing universalism and individualism), communism (confusing universalism and individualism) and fascism (confusing past and future). Once we have agreement on the general direction to follow we would only have to find the politico-economic forms which, technically, would be the best (whether the American, Italian or Russian type is all the same to me). But above all, the new spirit must be freed. I admire many things in Italy and Germany but I am alarmed by the attraction which the various fascisms have for so many intelligent (?) minds who see nothing more in them than the hope of a return to the neolithic age.' 61 Completes his essay Sauvons l'Humanité (November). 'Christianity is universalist ... Christianity is supremely futurist ... Christianity is specifically personalist.' 62 The essay subsequently finds its way into the hands of French army officers (1939-1940) who later pin the text to the wall of their hut after capture by the Germans.
1937 Leaves for America (25 February). At the Palaeontological Congress in Philadelphia (18-23 March) Teilhard is awarded the Gregor Mendel Medal. 63 Later becomes an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute. The Commission des Hautes études offers Teilhard a post in the Palaeontological Laboratory of the Sorbonne (April). Arrives in France (19 April). Leaves France (6 August). Arrives in China (17 September). Leaves for Burma (6 December). Begins drafting his seminal work which is later to become Le Phénomène humain which he intends to complete by 'Le Phénomène religieux' (September). 64 Teilhardian phenomenology now takes on its distinct form. It is wholly different from that of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) or Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Teilhardian phenomenology is a phenomenology of nature. 'Essentially, the thought of Fr Teilhard de Chardin is expressed not in a metaphysics but in a sort of phenomenology.' 65 Japanese forces capture Peiping (28 July), Tientsin (29 July), Shanghai (9 November) and Nanking (12 December). Choukoutien is now in no-man's land.
1938 Expeditions to Burma (January-24 March) and Java (to 16 April) with Helmut de Terra (1900-1981). Jesuit general Wladimir Ledochowski SJ (1866-1942) agrees to Teilhard accepting the palaeontological post at the Sorbonne (26 April). Teilhard sails from Kobe for America (21 September) and arrives in France (November-June 1939). Spends Christmas with the Bégouëns. Henri Breuil, professor at the College of France since 1929, is elected to the Institute.
1939 Visits England (24-31 March). Leaves for United States (23 June) where he takes part in a congress at Berkeley (California). Lands in Shanghai (30 August). Licent returns to France.
1940 Wang Ching-wei (1883-1944) sets up a pro-Japanese government in Nanking (30 March). Philippe Pétain (1856-1951) becomes head of government (16 June). Franco-German armistice (22 June). The National Assembly votes full powers to Marshal Philippe Pétain as head of state (10 July). Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard (1874-1949) becomes archbishop of Paris. 'One thing I do not doubt is that you are reacting with all your strength to the defeat and are trying to find the way to a renaissance which will not be a bourgeois "restoration." From this distance, it is the spectre of such a "restoration" which disturbs me most. The Vichy copy-book maxims for good children seem to me to lack entirely the flame which alone can bring out the virtues so rightly advocated ... ' 66 Founds the Institute of Geobiology in Peiping with Pierre Leroy (May). Teilhard visits the Western Hills outside Peiping (17 November) and Choukoutien (13 December).
1941 Lectures at the French Embassy (3 March). Le Phénomène humain arrives in Rome (April). Teilhard and Leroy visit Tokyo where they meet Prof. Tokunaga of Waseda University. 67 Teilhard's brother Gabriel (b. 1885) dies (October). Pearl Harbour (7 December) brings America into the war (8 December). The French colony in Peiping is increasingly isolated. 'In the universe there is both the immense and the minuscule. But there is also the complex and it is in the complex that consciousness appears ... You will see that I am more and more into the "existential." But that is my weakness and the weakness of our time.' 68
1942 Léontine Zanta (b. 1872) dies in Neuilly (14 June). Teilhard lectures at the Aurora University in Shanghai (November). Explains his law of complexity-consciousness in La Place de l'homme dans l'univers (15 November). 'Never, for twenty years, have I lived so fixed an existence. In three years (except for a visit this summer to the coast on the Manchukuo border) the trip to Shanghai is my first move.' 69
1944 Teilhard learns Rome has refused permission to publish Le Phénomène humain (6 August). Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963), the future Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), is named papal nuncio in France.
1945 Atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki (9 August). Armistice in China (15 August). Japanese in China surrender (2 September).
1946-1951 Paris
1946 Leaves Peiping (15 March). Sails from Shanghai (1 April). Arrives in Paris (3 May). Visits the estate of the Marquis de Solages at Carmaux, Tarn (September). Forms a lifelong friendship with Julian Huxley (1887-1975), grandson of Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), Darwin's 'Bulldog,' takes part in debates with Nikolay Berdyayev (1874-1948), Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) and Louis Lavelle (1883-1951), and writes a paper on The Degrees of Scientific Certainty in the Idea of Evolution for the International Philosophy Congress in Rome (November).
1947 Meeting with de Lubac and de Solages at Carmaux (Tarn) to review the text of Le Phénomène humain (6-8 January) Appointed Research Director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Symposium on palaeontology and genetics (April). First heart attack (1 June). Long convalescence with the sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Saint Germain-en-Laye. Officer of the Legion of Honour (25 June). Jesuit symposium at Versailles (August). His provincial, Auguste Décisier SJ (1878-1965), tells him he can only publish strictly scientific work (August). 70 Bruno de Solages acclaims the value and opportune appearance of Teilhard's work in La Pensée chrétienne face à l'évolution, Toulouse, 1947. 'Has he not already done magnificent work in correcting the theory of evolution from within, in snatching the weapon from the hand of the materialist and turning it against him, and so offering the theologian a theory of the universe both evolutionary and uncompromisingly spiritual?' 71
1948 Teilhard leaves on his sixth trip to America (25 February). He is invited to succeed Henri Breuil at the College of France but the Jesuit curia refuses permission. Teilhard repeats he will only leave the Jesuits when he dies. Lectures at Versailles on modern neo-humanism (September). Visits Rome to explain and defend himself (5 October-7 November).
1949 Communists capture Tientsin (15 January). People's Republic of China is proclaimed in Peiping which is renamed Peking (1 October). Lectures at the Sorbonne (February). Pleurisy attack (March). Convalescence at Saint Germain-en-Laye (April-May). Completes Le Groupe zoologique humain which is shorter and more up-to-date than Le Phénomène humain (4 August). Stays with his brother Joseph at Les Moulins (August). Attends the international congress on the philosophy of science in Paris (October).
1950 Charles Jacob proposes Teilhard as a candidate for the Institute (Academy of Sciences). He is elected a non-resident member on 22 May. Stays with Joseph Teilhard at Les Moulins (15 August). Lectures in Liège (October). 'My views hardly change ... but have become simplified and intensely articulated in the interplay ... of what I call the two curves (or convergences) ... cosmic (natural) and christic (supernatural).' 72 Pope Pius XII (1876-1939-1958) condemns 'certain false opinions' in his encyclical Humani generis (12 October 1950). Humani generis criticises polygenism (descent of humankind from several couples). So does Teilhard who also questions monogenism (descent of humankind from a single couple). Humani generis makes life difficult for the French Jesuits. 73 'What amazes me is that, while in the case of the encyclical Pascendi it is thinking that diminishes the reality and the grandeur of Christ that is attacked, in that of (Humani generis) a line of thinking is envisaged that is solely concerned with developing a Christology truly worthy of the immense and organic universe that is being discovered in human consciousness today.' 74 Teilhard insists on the need for a clear distinction between the 'two sources of knowledge: science and revelation. The mistake of theologians is to imagine that the two sources are independent ... ' 75 The papal constitution Munificentissimus Deus defines the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (1 November). 'To define the Assumption is to affirm (through the facts) that "Revelation continues," that is, that dogma grows (that it lives): no more magnificent proof that Christianity (like the living and the human) evolves (in the correct "genetic" sense of the word).' 76
1951 Suggests to Julian Huxley the creation of 'a research institute for studying and controlling the forces of self-(ultra-) evolution' (22 March). 77 Attends conference of catholic intellectuals in Paris (May). Embarks at Southampton for South Africa (12 July). Before leaving Paris, Raymond Jouve SJ (1896-1952), editor of études, suggests he appoint Jeanne-Marie Mortier (1892-1982) as his executor (2 July). 78 'Above all,' Teilhard tells her, 'take care of the publication of my religious work. That's what concerns me most. There'll always be someone to publish my scientific work.' 79 Visits sites of Australopithecus (28 August). Visits Hopefield site (October).
1951-1955 American period
1951 Leaves South Africa for America via Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro (November). Arrives in New York (10 December) where he begins work as a research associate at the Wenner-Gren Foundation set up by the Swedish industrialist Axel Leonard Wenner-Gren (1881-1961) to promote anthropological research. 'My idea is to work on three levels: 1) on an incontestably scientific level: organisation of global research on fossil man; 2) on a sufficiently scientific level to allow me to consider myself to be in line with Rome: organisation of research, beginning with man, on the problem of a "convergence on itself" of zoological evolution (this, it seems to me, is the strategic point of attack on which everything else in science, morality and mysticism depends); 3) on a strictly personal level (that is, in contact with a strictly limited number of "friends"): rethinking Revelation and Christology in terms of a recognisably convergent universe ... ' 80 His provincial, André Ravier SJ (1905-1999), provincial of Lyon (1951-1957), now gives him greater freedom to pursue his rethinking of Christianity and Christology. 81
1952 Trip across America (July). Visits the cyclotron at Berkeley (July). Visits Glacier Park, Montana, before returning to New York (July). 'There is no question of "replacing" the Christian God. But if he is to remain himself he must become capable in our eyes of containing ... the organic and dynamic enormity of the universe we are beginning to discover around us. The God of the Greek Cosmos (must become) a God of Cosmogenesis. The God of the Gospel (must become) the "God of Evolution."' 82
1953 Leaves New York (1 July) for Southern Rhodesia and South Africa where Homo rhodesiensis representing a para-sapiens civilisation has recently been discovered. Visits sites (18 July). Flies to Northern Rhodesia (end August). Returns to America via Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad (October). Auguste Valensin SJ (b. 1879) dies in Nice (13 December).
1953-1954 The Piltdown Scandal breaks in England. Teilhard is suspected by some of complicity in the plot but his standing in the scientific community is reflected in the composition of the international scientific committee formed after his death to promote publication of his collected works. Mary and Ellen Lukas maintain Teilhard's innocence of any conscious involvement in the Piltdown deception. 83
1954 Makes his retreat (April) to bring himself closer 'to he who "brings himself closer" and of whom I have increasing need if I am to finish well. I have tried above all to clarify the vision and intensify the presence within me of what I call the "christic" ... ' 84 Pierre Charles SJ (b. 1883) dies in Leuven (7 February). 85 Last visit to France (June-August). Sails from New York (3 June) and arrives in Paris (9 June). Speaks at the Hotel des Sociétés Savantes, Paris (28 June). 'If I have had a mission to fulfil, it will only be possible to judge whether I have accomplished it by the extent to which others go beyond me.' 86 Visits, with Pierre Leroy and Rhoda de Terra, Sarcenat, his brother Joseph (and his great-nephew Olivier) at Les Moulins (5 July) and the Lascaux caves (July). Leaves Paris (5 August) for London where he stays five days (6-10 August) before returning to New York. 'I can tell you,' he says to Pierre Leroy (22 December), 'that I am now living constantly in the presence of God.' 87
1955 Teilhard is now increasingly concerned with understanding the mystical vision of St Ignatius (1491-1556) and the Spiritual Exercises within the framework of a universe and a God in evolution. 88 On 15 February he repeats in his diary the formula first used in Cosmic Life (1916): 'There is a communion with God and a communion with the earth - and a communion with God through the earth.' Completes Le Christique (March) which he sees as a sort of update or new edition of Le Milieu Divin which he knows can only be published after his death as a testimony of his faith in the Cosmic Christ. Here he brings together the spiritual discoveries of a long and rich life: amorisation of the universe through Christ, divine milieu and diaphany, universal transubstantiation, continuous creation, cross and resurrection, Universal Christ and Cosmic Christ, the Church's axial place in tomorrow's Christianity, etc. 89 Le Christique fills the gap left by his obedience to his religious superiors. It is the grand finale to the Teilhardian Symphony. 90 Declines an invitation from Jean Piveteau to take part in the palaeontological symposium at Sorbonne in April. Expresses over dinner at the French consulate in New York (15 March) the hope that he might die on the 'Day of the Resurrection.' 91 His wish is granted when he dies at about 18.00 in New York on Easter Sunday 10 April. He is buried in the Jesuit cemetery of St Andrew-on-Hudson, near Poughkeepsie, NY, 160 km north of New York (12 April) - the house and grounds now belong to the Culinary Institute of America (1993).
1955 Teilhard Posthume 92
1955 Charles Jacob pays tribute to Teilhard in the Academy of Sciences (25 April). Le Phénomène humain is published in France (December) with the support of an international committee of distinguished scientists.
1956 Count Henri Bégouën (b. 1863) dies (4 November). 93
1957 Le Milieu divin is published in France. A Holy Office decree orders the removal of Teilhard's books from catholic libraries and bookshops (6 December). Death of Félix Pelletier SJ.
1959 The Human Phenomenon is published in the UK and US. Roger Garaudy initiates the marxist-teilhardian dialogue. Marguerite Teillard-Chambon (b. 1880) is killed in a car accident (10 September).
1960 The Divine Milieu is published in the UK and US.
1961 The Association des Amis de Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is set up in Paris. Henri Breuil (b. 1877) dies (14 August). 'The teilhardian vision is an authentic vision of Christian faith which Christians may read and find enriching ... Teilhard de Chardin's work is an interpretation of the scientific factors of Christian dogma.' 94 Peter Medawar (1915-1987) attacks Teilhard in Mind (January).
1962 While John XXIII (1881-1958-1963) is temporarily indisposed the Holy Office publishes a Monitum (Osservatore Romano, 30 June). It speaks of 'grave errors which offend catholic doctrine.' It does not detail these 'errors.' Note: a Monitum is a warning, not a condemnation. 95 Henri de Lubac SJ publishes (with nihil obstat and imprimatur) his study of Teilhard's religious thought, La pensée religieuse du Père Teilhard de Chardin. Pax Romana seminar on Teilhard and catholic thought, Venice (13-15 December). Lucile Swan (b. 1890) dies in New York (2 May).
1962-1965 Second Vatican Council (11 October 1962-8 December 1965). Many council fathers speak warmly of Teilhard's work. 96 The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) is arguably its most important document (7 December 1965). Its tone is deeply teilhardian. 'Some parts of the Church in the Modern World, especially the Introduction, read as though they had been dictated by Teilhard himself.' 97
1965 UNESCO symposium on Teilhard and Einstein, Paris (13-15 December). Creation of the Fondation Teilhard de Chardin and the Pierre Teilhard de Chardin Association of Great Britain and Ireland.
1971 Christophe Gaudefroy (b. 1878) dies in Amiens (19 September).
1973 René d'Ouince SJ (b. 1896) dies in Paris (21 December).
1978 Ida Treat dies in America.
1981 Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (1914-1998), secretary of state (1979-1991), on behalf of John Paul II (1920-1978), pays homage to Teilhard on the centenary of his birth (12 May). Seminar on Teilhard at the Catholic Institute, Paris (18 May). Pedro Arrupe SJ (1907-1991), Superior General of the Society of Jesus, pays homage to Teilhard (30 May). Colloquium on Teilhard at the Centre Sèvres, Paris (13 June). Symposium on Teilhard at UNESCO, Paris (16-18 September). Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (1926-) celebrates mass for Teilhard at Nôtre-Dame de Paris (20 September). émile Rideau SJ (b. 1899) dies (22 May). Max-Henri Bégouën (b. 1893) dies.
1982 Pierre Leroy SJ celebrates mass for Teilhard at St. Sulpice, Paris (11 February). Jeanne-Marie Mortier (b. 1892) dies in Paris (8 October).
1983 Henri de Lubac SJ is created cardinal (5 January). Mgr Bruno de Solages (b. 1895) dies in Toulouse (12 November).
1989 European Teilhard de Chardin Centre charter ceremony at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (22 September).
1991 Henri de Lubac SJ (b. 1896) dies in Paris (4 September). Charles Combaluzier (b. 1903) dies in Marseille (22 November).
1992 Pierre Leroy SJ (b. 1900) dies in Versailles (23 May). Claude Cuénot (b. 1911) dies in Paris (17 July).
1993 étienne Borne (b. 1907) dies in Paris (14 June).
1995 Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, and Timothy Radcliffe OP, Master of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), pay tribute (9 March and 8 April) to Teilhard on the fortieth anniversary of his death (10 April). Abel Jeannière SJ dies in Paris (1 October).
1996 Norbertus Maximiliaan Wildiers OFMCap (b. 1904) dies near Antwerpen (18 August). Karl Schmitz-Moormann (b. 1928) dies in Princetown NJ (30 October).
1997 Yves Sainsaulieu MAfr (b. 1913) dies in Paris (5 September).
1998 Francis Elliott SJ (b. 1920) dies in Heverlee, Belgium (15 March).
1988 Ina Bergeron FMM (b. 1906) dies in Paris (16 March). André Ravier SJ (b. 1905) dies in Paris (19 May).

Assessment

Teilhard died as he had lived - faithful to his Church, to his Order and to his apostolate. His example lives on. So does his timeless message.

'Everything that he preached, he had intensely lived. With all the strength of his soul he had believed in the Christ of St Paul and the Christ of St John.' 98 - Pierre Leroy SJ (1900-1992)

'From the first day I met Teilhard I was convinced that any study of his personality which did not start with his interior life would be deficient and that any interpretation of his writings would then risk being falsified: this is something we should never forget. Teilhard is, above all, a religious, a son of St Ignatius, a priest and a missionary.' 99 - André Ravier SJ (1905-1999)

'Teilhard is fundamentally a mystic, or, more correctly, a "cosmo-mystic" ... ' 100 - Claude Cuénot (1911-1992)

'Teilhard's originality, among mystics, is to be a mystic of both heaven and earth - or more correctly, a mystic of the cosmos… ') - Louis Barjon SJ (1901-1986), Le Combat de Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 214

'It was in the Far East, on the road already trodden by Francis Xavier, de Nobili and Ricci, that Teilhard de Chardin, man of science and man of prayer, was to realise the ignatian ideal of contemplation in action.' 101 - Alain Guillermou

'Teilhard de Chardin ... is a religious genius and one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the century.' 102 - étienne Borne (1907-1993)

'His breadth of vision, his sense of totality and his indestructible faith in man and God make him truly one of the great figures of our epoch.' 103 - François Russo SJ (1909-1998)

'Teilhard de Chardin ... is the greatest apologist for Christianity since Pascal.' 104 - Bruno de Solages (1895-1983)

'Teilhard's thought is a very conscious negation of jansenism ... The teilhardian cosmology is fundamentally optimistic.' 105 - étienne Borne (1907-1993)

'Almost certainly his "ideas" and especially his cosmology will, like all cosmologies, become dated. What will remain is that at a particular moment of history, in a particular cultural milieu, a particular believer had a vision of the undoubted grandeur of the world. After a certain period of decline I believe that the influence of Teilhard will take on a new lease of life. He will be read as we read the great classics ... ' 106 - René d'Ouince SJ (1896-1973)

'Christianity has always united and synthesised the two notions of immanence and transcendence. But in emphasising transcendence have we not been too inclined to neglect immanence? The great mystics of the Middle Ages like Eckhart, Ruysbroeck and Tauler insisted on immanence. Mysticism is consciousness of the presence of the divinity within us. It is to this that Teilhard de Chardin invites us to return. But for the mystics of the Middle Ages the presence of God is static; for Teilhard it is an active presence within a world in evolution.' 107 - Norbertus Maximiliaan Wildiers OFMCap (1904-1996)

'In the Middle Ages SS Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas achieved a synthesis between the doctrine of Christian faith and the natural philosophy of Aristotle. Teilhard was absolutely convinced of the fact that the time had come when it was necessary to prepare a new synthesis between the doctrine of the Gospels and the modern idea of the world which, by its dimensions and dynamic structure, differs wholly from the old idea of the universe.' 108 - Norbertus Maximiliaan Wildiers OFMCap (1904-1996)

'Teilhard de Chardin's merit is not only to have discovered and popularised the idea of evolution to explain man's place in the universe or to have shown how its use could be extended to the field of religion but also to have demonstrated that the idea allows the Christian to discover an aspect of the Revelation of Christ which had been left in the dark until now: Christ, centre of the universe, animating the ascent of the world by his spirit.' 109 - Francis Elliott SJ (1920-1998)

'Teilhard de Chardin has often been ignored, disdained, or attacked by scientists unable to look beyond the reductionist cartesian framework of their disciplines. However, with the new systems approach to the study of living organisms, his ideas will appear in a new light and are likely to contribute significantly to general recognition of the harmony between the views of scientists and mystics.' 110 - Fritjof Capra

'If one were to ask what it is that makes Teilhard's contribution so significant, the answer should not be sought either in the simple affirmation of evolution and the cosmos or in his effort to reconcile reason and faith in a non-contradictory way, but on an even deeper level, namely in the insight that it is Christ who is the centre of the cosmos which perfects itself through evolution towards him. For Christians the person of Christ has always symbolised the centre of the universe ... Teilhard [ ... ] prepares the foundations of a unified world view. He creates a spiritual atmosphere in which science and theology may come closer to each other, provided they make every effort to examine seriously their own positions. It is clear that whenever and insofar as this takes place that modern natural science and Christian theology are perfectly compatible; indeed, that they necessarily complement one another.' 111 - Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ (1928-)

'His life showed the beautiful unity of faith and reason. He dared to let the most recent scientific discoveries lead onwards, confident that all understanding helps us to draw near to God, the maker of creation, its source and its goal. He suffered much for his intellectual integrity, but he bore this with courage and faith. A few days ago, staying in a Dominican house under the shadow of Mount Fuji, I found a place where people of prayer, men and women, Christian and Buddhist, come to meditate together and honour the one God. Here, in this place of silence and poetry, Teilhard would have been at home.' 112 - Timothy Radcliffe OP

' ... I was quite unable to follow him in his conclusions about Christification, Point Omega, and the like. But this in no way detracts from his essential achievement of linking science and religion across the bridge of evolution.' 113 - Julian Huxley (1887-1975)

' ... I was quite unable to follow him in his approach to what he believed was the ultimate goal of evolution's march, his so-called Point Omega, in which natural and supernatural are combined in a mystical and to me incomprehensible manner.' 114 - Julian Huxley (1887-1975)

Editor's Note

'E' indicates the page reference in the English translation of Teilhard's Collected Works. 'F' indicates the page reference in the original French text of Teilhard's œuvres complètes. Roman numerals indicate the French volume number.

 

© The 2009 British Teilhard Association