Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) was a French Jesuit, a distinguished paleontologist and geologist, and especially well known as a religious writer, the author of The Human Phenomenon and The Divine Milieu, and other books. He was a fervent Christian mystic, a deeply caring pastor of souls, and a thinker who developed and projected forward the meaning of the Christian gospel in the light of modern science and evolution.

Teilhard (pronounced “Tay-yah”) developed the concept of “the noosphere”, the emergence of a layer of thought and spirit that surrounds the globe – as the biosphere is a layer of life surrounding the earth, and the atmosphere the layer of air over the earth. The noosphere embodies human influence and interaction, stimulating bonds of unity and “convergence” through increasing consciousness and “spiritualization” to an ultimate consummation in what he calls “Christ-Omega”.

The spiritual heritage of the world religions Teilhard saw as of great importance in providing spiritual energy resources. We are responsible for our further evolution, for developing higher social and cultural values and unification of the human community, but this can only be achieved through spiritual rather than through material resources, the greatest of these being love – a theme that was central in his thought.

Teilhard attempted a meaningful explanation of the Christian faith in terms of bringing science, religion and mysticism together – reflecting on God and the world, and the figure of Christ in “three natures”, human and divine, and what Teilhard tentatively called his “cosmic” nature – something he would leave to future theologians to develop. He reflected also on ecology, interfaith encounter, the greater unification of humanity, the place of the feminine and of love in creating greater unity, and the central importance of spirituality and mysticism in religious life – all ideas that need further development and discussion. Central, though, is his affirmation of the incarnation as a vision of the universal cosmic Christ, of significance for the whole world and for all human beings.

Not uncritical of religion – including Christianity – as being too past-orientated, he recognised that all religions in their insights can inspire human thought and action. He saw humanity as being in need “of a faith”, a “faith in a state of expansion”, qualitively, by fostering world-transforming love and justice and by promoting worship “in spirit and in truth”. The religions have an important role in providing essential ideas for the further development of the human community.

(The above is drawn from Prof. Ursula King’s essay on Teilhard de Chardin, “Philosophy of Religion”)