Teilhard De Chardin – Place Of Man In The Universe Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ. (Eph. I, 4-5). These powerful words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Ephesians, I think, best characterize the spirit of Teilhard the Chardin, his idea of man and man’s place in the universe, and of the common goals of humanity. Just imagine somebody Somebody, whose whole life was a continuous prayer to God, a prayer, in which he constantly asked to break through the seal of traditional authority and common ignorance, and explore the depth of reality, the ultimate beginning and the ultimate end, and the reasons behind the emergence of life and conscious beings in the universe. Of course, that means that your books are put on the Index and you are almost made into a heretic by the True and Holy Catholic Church.
But he didn’t give up. He clearly saw his goals, his purpose. It was his life’s work, to trace back the origins of mankind, and to speculate of its goals and ultimate outcome. It was his type of spirituality, scientific spirituality, that drove him incessantly to spend sleepless nights trying to make sense out of scientific facts, to tie them together with what seemed apparent, and with that which didn’t seem so apparent. And the best he came up with was a simple statement, We Are All One.
Life is eternal, love is immortal, and death is but a horizon. Life Is, he would say if someone would have asked him, what is life? Life Is, and ever was, and forever will be – world without end. Composite matter dies and falls apart, but spirit remains. And with it – that indelible part of it, the nuclei of personality, the individual particles which have been with us from the very beginning, which grow and evolve with us, and which strive towards common union into a whole, with God as the center In my paper, I will discuss Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of man’s place in the universe, as presented in a variety of his works. I will be using mostly primary sources for my research, as well as talks delivered at the Centennial Teilhard de Chardin Symposium at Georgetown University, and books written by Teilhard’s friends or contemporaries.
In most of his works, Teilhard establishes a link between anthropology and metaphysics, between science and religion. They are an attempt to understand the universe through man, who is very much part of it. In them, we can see Teilhard’s vision of harmony of duality of the universe, which is composed of matter and spirit. Union of matter and mind, of the cosmos and the spirit of the universe, and the evolving of one into the other is one of the main ideas behind all of Teilhard’s works. He tries to prove that life didn’t emerge by accident, but was a product of evolution. And man has his own place in the evolution of the universe.
First of all, universe is not static. That is, there is no permanence in it. Everything is in the constant process of change, and a particular kind of change – evolution. How did man come to be, asks de Chardin. And the only plausible conclusion he can make is, that human being is a link in a chain of evolution.
What was before man? And how does God fit into the whole picture? Let us follow Teilhard in his understanding of the universe through ourselves, human beings. Has there always been conscious life in our universe? No, would be Teilhard’s answer. Emergence of consciousness was indeed a breakthrough in the evolution of the world. But what kind of a breakthrough? What is the primordial element that gave rise to life in the universe? What is it composed of? As a Catholic priest, he should say, well, the universe was created by God out of nothing in six days, and culminated in the creation of man out of earth. And this Old Testament myth, however surprising it may sound, is very close to what Teilhard does say in his essays. Stuff of the Universe is the name he gives to that primordial element, out of which the cosmos has been created, and which is the underlying ground for the evolution of the cosmos to bring forth consciousness, a thinking being. Out of the stuff of the universe, the cosmos was created.
And out of the cosmos, life emerged. We have to understand one thing here: Teilhard was a scientist, who believed that there was more than just the material dimension in the cosmos. He reversed the traditional scientific principles that matter was all there is to the universe, and he based his assertions on scientific premises! If the cosmos were basically immaterial, said he, it would be physically incapable of containing man – a spiritual being (120). Therefore, the inner being of the universe must be made of spiritual stuff (120). Which tell us, that the stuff of the universe contained both material and spiritual in themselves, in its primordial form.
Except that spiritual ‘part’ didn’t stream forth just as soon as the material part did. Why not? Teilhard doesn’t say. He just looks at the facts of science, and draws his verdict. From inanimate matter, emerges organic life, and from it, emerges thought and man as a conscious being. With the emergence of man, the universe became conscious of itself, personalized.
Spirit, I’m quoting, is the higher state of primal and undefinable thing – the ‘stuff of the universe’ (93). It is personality, thought, consciousness. All matter is bound to evolve to spiritual state, sooner or later. Evolution of spiritual state, on the other hand, can be unlimited, progressing to higher and higher states. Personality is one of the stages in the evolution of the spirit. Its goal is monocentrism – being conscious of being One with the All, and actual unification of all conscious entities into One Whole.
This is the true goal of human soul – union into One with the All. Teilhard points out, that we are always in the presence of the All, which is the sum total of all conscious energies of the universe, with God as the center. All the conscious energies of the universe are directed towards the common goal – evolution. The center of the universe is single, unified consciousness. And this totality is reflected partly in each of our particular consciousnesses.
God is the unifying principle, the center that directs all evolution towards unity. Teilhard further states, that the organization of human energy – God – pushes us towards the ultimate formation, over and above each personal element, of a common soul of humanity (137). So far, peak of evolution is what Teilhard calls a reflective thought – human consciousness. And the process of evolution is far from being over. So, what kind of union would it be? Teilhard maintains, that the ultimate union of all consciousness into super-consciousness is a union by differentiation, where the whole does not destroy, but emphasizes the elements it swallows. This is the only kind of union that is possible. The union between mankind and God is the goal of evolution, the necessary outcome of the evolution of what Teilhard calls the spirit of the earth – collective consciousness of mankind.
The goal of each human soul is to overcome the resistance of material plurality and to unite the spirit of the earth to God, into One (53). The evolution for Teilhard takes the following character: inanimate matter -* organic life -* thought -* monocentrism -* ? -* . -* synthesis of All into One, formed in and around God as a center of total organization. It would have to be a union of concentration, not diffusion. God is not a center, fusing and dissolving whatever reaches him, but, to quote, a focus of personalization (67). He is like love, bringing two beings together.
One doesn’t absorb the other, but rather, is united to produce …