PTC

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In 1925, Teilhard was ordered by the Jesuit Superior General Wlodimir Ledochowski to leave his teaching position in France and to sign a statement withdrawing his controversial statements regarding the doctrine of original sin. Rather than leave the Jesuit order, Teilhard signed the statement and left for China. This was the first of a series of condemnations by certain ecclesiastical officials that would continue until long after Teilhard's death. The climax of these condemnations was a 1962 monitum (reprimand) of the Holy Office denouncing his works. From the monitum:


Teilhard's writings, though, continued to circulate — not publicly, as he and the Jesuits observed their commitments to obedience, but in mimeographs that were circulated only privately, within the Jesuits, among theologians and scholars for discussion, debate and criticism. As time passed, it's been argued that the works of Teilhard were gradually becoming viewed more favourably within the Church. For example, on June 10, 1981, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli wrote on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano


However, others have rejected Cardinal Casaroli's comments as an attempt at rehabilitation and revision. The Holy See clarified that those statements by members of the Church, in particular those made on the hundredth anniversary of Teilhard's birth, were not to be interpreted as a revision of previous stands taken by the Church officials. Thus the 1962 statement remains official Church policy to this day. Although some Catholic intellectuals defended Teilhard and his doctrine (including Henri de Lubac), others condemned his teaching as a perversion of the Christian faith. These include Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson and Dietrich von Hildebrand.

Pope Benedict XVI stated in 2009, "It's the great vision that later Teilhard de Chardin also had: At the end we will have a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host" and "Let's pray to the Lord that he help us be priests in this sense... to help in the transformation of the world in adoration of God, beginning with ourselves."


Teachings

In his posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard writes of the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is "pulling" all creation towards it. He was a leading proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal-driven way, argued in terms that today go under the banner of convergent evolution. Teilhard argued in Darwinian terms with respect to biology, and supported the synthetic model of evolution, but argued in Lamarckian terms for the development of culture, primarily through the vehicle of education.


Teilhard makes sense of the universe by its evolutionary process. He interprets complexity as the axis of the evolution of matter into a geosphere, a biosphere, into consciousness (in man,) and then to supreme consciousness (the Omega Point.) Teilhard's life work was predicated on the conviction that human spiritual development is moved by the same universal laws as material development. He wrote, "...everything is the sum of the past" and "...nothing is comprehensible except through its history. 'Nature' is the equivalent of 'becoming', self-creation: this is the view to which experience irresistibly leads us. ... There is nothing, not even the human soul, the highest spiritual manifestation we know of, that does not come within this universal law." There is no doubt that The Phenomenon of Man represents Teilhard's attempt at reconciling his religious faith with his academic interests as a paleontologist. One particularly poignant observation in Teilhard's book entails the notion that evolution is becoming an increasingly optional process. Teilhard points to the societal problems of isolation and marginalization as huge inhibitors of evolution, especially since evolution requires a unification of consciousness. He states that "no evolutionary future awaits anyone except in association with everyone else." Teilhard argued that the human condition necessarily leads to the psychic unity of humankind, though he stressed that this unity can only be voluntary; this voluntary psychic unity he termed "unanimization." Teilhard also states that "evolution is an ascent toward consciousness", giving encephalization as an example of early stages, and therefore, signifies a continuous upsurge toward the Omega Point, which for all intents and purposes, is God.

Our century is probably more religious than any other. How could it fail to be, with such problems to be solved? The only trouble is that it has not yet found a God it can adore.


Influence

Evidence of what is probably Teilhard's greatest influence on science comes from the work of Theodosius Dobzhansky, the eminent 20th Century biologist credited along with a handful of key researchers for the development of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis that accounts for natural selection in the light of Mendelian genetics. Dobzhansky's famous essay Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution draws upon the insistence of Teilhard that evolutionary theory must be placed at the center of how man understands his relationship to nature.