Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thoughts of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

“Lord Christ, you who are divine energy and living irresistible might: since of the two of us it is you who are infinitely the stronger, it is you who must set me ablaze and transmute me into fire that we may be welded together and made one. Grant me, then, something even more precious than that grace for which all your faithful followers pray: to receive communion as I die is not sufficient: teach me to make a communion of death itself.” (Hymn of the Universe by Teilhard de Chardin, NY: Harper and Row 1965.)

I first learned about Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.  and his work in a retreat given by Henri Boulad, S.J. in 1972 in Cairo, Egypt.

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) holds a special legacy in the Catholic Church. With his research as a paleontologist in China and his theological insight he sought to unify the scientific Theory of Evolution with the spiritual development of humans that in his view will culminate and be held together in the eschatological Cosmic Christ, The "Omega Point" of history (Cf. Revelation 22, 13). The Cosmic Christ is Jesus now in glory after his resurrection in which he brings humanity to the Father by the power of His Spirit. Teilhard's thought with regard to creation and the cosmos can be summarized in his two popular books "The Phenomenon of Man" and "Le Milieu Divin" in which he attempts to recapture and develop the interpretation of Genesis in allegorical and theological methods in the footsteps of St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo. But his mystical approach to creation can be summarized in his "Cosmic Liturgy of Creation." Because of suspicions by his superiors about a certain pantheistic thought in his ideas, Teilhard was forbidden to publish books until his death in 1955. In the Second Vatican Council, however, Michel Hakim observed that the spirit  of Teilhard seemed to "hover" over the optimistic deliberations and declarations that made an impact in the reform ushered by the Council.  The most distinct point of his thought is the complexification of matter into the biosphere which would be encompassed in the leap from the animal realm to the noosphere or human mind which, while still biologically animal, can ask himself about himself and raise questions about his origin and future. This is the step where Man starts to worship a divinity that, in his research, Marcea Eliade categorizes as the "Sky God." Revelation in the Judaic-Christian Tradition is a response by God to man's fearful questions that progressively reveal the merciful and faithful God. In Jesus Christ, God is fully revealed as eternal Love.

In his book "Introduction to Christianity" the young Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1968 about Teilhard de Chardin as part of his excellent exposition on the Resurrection of Christ:
"We can start again from the dictum about love and death and say: Only where someone values love more highly than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death. If it is to be more than death, it must first be more than mere life. But if it could be this, not just in intention but in reality, then that would mean at the same time that the power of love had risen superior to the power of the merely biological and taken it into its service. To use Teilhard de Chardin's terminology; where that took place, the decisive complexity or "complexification" would have occurred; bios, too, would be encompassed by and incorporated in the power of love. It would cross the boundary--death--and create unity where death divides. If the power of love for another were so strong somewhere that it could keep alive not just his memory, the shadow of his "I", but that person himself, then a new stage in life would have been reached. This would mean that the realm of biological evolutions and mutations had been left behind and the leap made to a quite different plane, on which love was no longer subject to bios but made use of it. Such a final stage of "mutation" and "evolution" would itself no longer be a biological stage; it would signify the end of the sovereignty of bios, which is at the same time the sovereignty of death; it would open up the realm that the Greek Bible calls zoe, that is, definitive life, which has left behind the rule of death. The last stage of evolution needed by the world to reach its goal would then no longer be achieved within the realm of biology but by the spirit, by freedom, by love. It would no longer be evolution but decision and gift in one." The full exposition can be found here:

In  "La Priere du Père Teilhard de Chardin" published in 1964, and translated to English under the title "The Faith of Teilhard de Chardin" in 1965,  Henri de Lubac, S.J. (major contributor to Vatican II, made cardinal in 1983) made the case for the authentic Christian thought of his friend Teilhard. "Omnia in ipso constant - 'in him all subsists' - This sentence from the Epistle to the Colossians had long fired Teilhard's enthusiasm...he said that ' Christ is the term supernaturally, but also physically, assigned to the consummation of humanity', nor again in saying that for St. Paul, 'all energies hold together, are welded deep down into a single whole, and what the humanity of our Lord does is to take them up again and re-weld them in a transcendent and personal unity.'"


  1. What a wonderful reflection. I discovered "Introduction to Christianity" and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin when I was diving deep into life's big questions and those events were life changing. I have started a blog devoted to the life and writings of Teilhard de Chardin.

    W. Ockham

  2. William,
    Please let me know by email how to contact you. Mine is


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