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BUILDING THE EARTH

Translation by Noël Linsay

Cahiers Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Ed. Le Seuil Paris 1958

 

These papers have been published very soon after Père Teilhard's death. "Building the Earth" collects a foreword by Max H. Begouen and five articles with their translation in english, german, russian, and arab, under the following titles :

- We must save Mankind

- The Spirit of the Earth

- Human energy

- Thoughts on Progress

- On the possible Basis of a common Credo

 

FOREWORD

by MAX H. BÉGOUËN.

The extracts which follow comprise the first Cahier of the Association of Friends of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The gravity of the present times induces us to make these extracts known immediately, pending the full publication at a later date of the whole corpus of his writings on the Future of Man and on Human Energy.

That luminous scientific mind and that great heart, warm enough to encompass the whole world, gave him the power, as long ago as 1937, to discern the rising tide of destructive forces which would threaten our planet, and led him to, call upon all mankind to unite in building their universal Citadel.

The peoples of the Earth, "the natural units of humanity" must, he said, achieve terrestrial Harmony through the variety of their racial characteristics--characteristics which reciprocally enrich each other. He gave each of them this watchword: "Remain on your own line, but move ever upwards towards greater consciousness and greater love. At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge."

Just as the various cells and members of the body grow and develop to form a single living being and find their ultimate perfection only by constituting that being, so the constant goal of individual and national development should be the unity of mankind, which individuals and nations are called upon to achieve if they are to live to the full.

In all countries a new ferment is working towards this end, still largely unperceived. May the countries be delivered from the fatal temptation of building for themselves alone; for the sap which is rising in them is destined for the total achievement :

"The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the Earth."

May there be an end to the hostile factions which whip up the forces of destruction to a frenzy, and may there be mani-fested instead a spirit of universal co-operation inspired by the passion to construct a World worthy of Man. The value of a Vision of the Future is demonstrated by the dynamic force which it engenders; it does not need the atom bomb in order to convince. Teilhard de Chardin knew that above all the moribund ideologies there was one incomparably vast and powerful Ideal. To this Ideal he devoted himself with all his heart and he sweeps us along with him in his train.

A social or ethnic group which could find no better answer to the tragic circumstances which hem us in than to increase its own selfish demands, would prove its moral bankruptcy; Love, the supreme form of Energy, does not make demands; it strives and progresses. It realises what the condition of mankind should be, and, sweeping all obstacles aside, leads us onward to purify, elevate and fulfil the Earth.

The substance of the new world is being born, despite the rending of internal oppositions, in the very flesh of the peo-ples. We must realise this miraculous expectation; we must concentrate our spiritual forces in peace; we must, in every country, prepare the men who, at first in the circle around them, and then at the head of nations, will preside over the true destiny of Mankind.

We must be the Vanguard of this Crusade for Human Advancement, the call to which is sounded in thefollowing pages by one who, front the summit he so heroically reached, caught a glimpse of the magnificence which might be the Earth of Man.

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THE SPIRIT OF EARTH

The phrase, "Sense of Earth" should be understood to mean the passionate sense of common destiny which draws the thinking part of Life ever further onwards. In principle there is no feeling which has a firmer foundation in nature, or greater power. But in fact there is also no feeling which awakens so belatedly, since it can only become explicit when our consciousness has expanded beyond the broadening, but still far too restricted, circles of family, country and race, and has finally discovered that the only truly natural and real human Unity is the Spirit of Earth.

Stimulated by consecutive discoveries, which in the space of a hundred years, have successively revealed to our generation, first the profundities and significance of duration, then the limitless spiritual resources of Matter, and lastly the power of living beings acting in association, it seems that our psy-chology is in the process of changing. A conquering passion begins to show itself, which will sweep away or transform what has hitherto been the immaturity of the Earth. And its salutary action comes just at the right moment to "control", awaken, or order the emancipated forces of Love, the dormant forces of human Unity, and the hesitant forces of Research.

a) Love.

Love is the most, universal, formidable and mysterious of cosmic energies.

From the point of view of spiritual Evolution, it seems that we might be able to give a name and a value to this strange energy of Love. Could it not be, in essence, quite simply that very attraction which is exercised upon each conscious element by the Centre of the Universe? The call towards the great Union, whose realisation is the only Business now afoot in Nature... - On this hypothesis, under which (in conformity with the findings of psycho-analysis) Love is the primitive and universal psychic energy, does not everything around us become clear to the intelligence and obvious in action?

It is really the Universe which, through Woman, is advancing towards Man.

If Man fails to recognise the true nature and the true object of his love, the disorder which follows is profound and irre-mediable. Desperately striving to appease upon something too small a passion which is addressed to All, he inevitably tries to cure a fundamental disequilibrium by constantly increasing the number of his experiences, or making them more material in character. Vain attempts, and, in the eyes of anyone who partly perceives the inestimable value of the "spiritual quantum" of mankind, a frightening waste.

Look quite coldly, as a biologist or an engineer, at the red-dening sky over a great city at night. There, and indeed eve-rywhere else, the Earth is continuously dissipating, in pure loss, its most miraculous power. The Earth is burning "in free air". How much energy do you think is lost to the Spirit of Earth in one night?...

Man must, instead, perceive the universal Reality which shines spiritually through the flesh. He will then discover the reason which has so far frustrated and perverted his power to love. Woman is put before him as the attraction and the symbol of the World. He can only unite with her by enlarging himself in turn to the scale of the World. And because the World is always larger, and always unfinished and always in advance of us, Man finds himself embarked, in order to achieve his love, upon a limitless conquest of the Universe. In this sense, Man can only reach Woman through the consummation of theuniversal Union.

-Love is a sacred reserve of energy, and the very bloodstream of spiritual Evolution; that is the first discovery we make from the Sense of Earth.

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b) Human Unity.

In singular opposition to the irresistible attraction manifested in Love is the instinctive repulsion which, as a general rule, drives the human molecules away from each other. This repulsion can in fact result only from the timidity or cowardice of an individual in face of an effort of expansion which would ensure his liberation.

What an increase there is in his powers when, in research or in battle, Man catches the breath of affection or comradeship; what fulfilment when, in the instant of danger or enthusiasm, he finds in a flash that he has attained the marvels of a common soul. These faint brief glimmerings should make us realise what a formidable power of joy and action still slumbers in the human layer. In isolation, men suffer and stagnate without fully realising it; they have need of a higher impulse from without to force them from the immobility o their dead point and bring them on to the beam of their profound affinity. The Sense of Earth is the irresistible pressure which will come at the right moment to unite them in a common passion.

The love of interaction, above the love of attraction-elements which merge, to undergo Union. Who can speak of the still almost unknown fulfilment of quality, the immense exhilaration of fraternal love which, in the Noosphere, would accompany the conquest of its residue of internal multiplicity, that is to, say the achievement of ultimate consciousness of human Unity for advancement?

c) Research.

The Spirit of Earth comes to explain to Men the reason for their superfluity of love, and the way in which it might be put to use. By the same stroke, it reveals itself as the force which is destined to set under way and organise the overwhelming mass of human production and discovery.

Is the World condemned, in growing, to perish, automatically stifled by the excess of its own weight?

By no means; but it is in the process of gathering the elements of a new and better body. The whole question, in this crisis of birth, is the rapid emergence of the soul which by its appearance will organise, lighten and vitalise this mass stagnant and confused material. This soul can only be a "conspiracy" of individuals associated in order to add another storey to the edifice of Life. The resources now available to us, the powers we have unleashed, cannot be ab-sorbed into the narrow system of individual and national com-partments which has so far served the architects of the human earth. The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to shake of our ancient prejudices, and to build the Earth.

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The more I look at the World as a scientist the less I see any other possible biological issue except the active consciousness of its unity. Life can only progress on our planet in future (and nothing will prevent it from progressing, not even its own internal servitudes) by throwing down the barriers which still wall off human activity, and by giving itself up without hesitation to Faith in the Future.

We must put in the forefront of our concrete preoccupations the systematic arrangement and exploration of our Universe, understood as the true country of Mankind. Then material energy will circulate, and, more important still, spiritual energy, corrupted by the petty jealousies of modern society,will find its natural outlet in the attack launched against the mysteries of the World. The time has come to realise that Research is the highest human function, embracing the spirit of War and bright with the splendour of Religion. To keep up a constant pressure on the surface of the Real, is not that the supreme gesture of faith in Being, and therefore of adora-tion? All that is ours, if we understand how to avoid stifling within us the Spirit of Earth.

Whoever wishes to bc part of this spirit must die and bc born again, for others and for himself. In order to reach this higher plane of humanity lie must bring about a complete transformation in his whole sense of values and his whole action.

Yet a little while and the Spirit of Earth will emerge with its specific individuality and its own character and physiognomy. And then, on the surface of the Noosphere, gradually sublimated in thought and passion, ever striving to solve more lofty problems, to possess greater objects, the tension towards being will be at its maximum.

What will happen at this critical stage in the maturation of terrestrial Life? Shall we bc able at that moment to link up with other centres of cosmic life, to continue the labour of universal synthesis on a higher scale? More probably, something else will happen, something which can only be glimpsed when the influence of God is brought into the reckoning.

It would be nursing a great illusion if the Man of our times were to think that, having attained a fuller understanding of himself and of the World, lie had no further need of Religion. There has been a multiplication of systems in which the exis-tence of religion has been interpreted as a psychological phenomenon associated with the childhood of Mankind. At its maximum when Civilisation is beginning, it should gradually fade away, giving place to more positive constructions, from which God (particularly a personal and transcendent God) would be found to be excluded. In reality, for anyone who has eyes, the great conflict from which we shall have emerged will merely have consolidated in the World the need to believe. Having reached a higher degree of self-mastery, the Spirit of Earth will experience an increasingly vital need to adore; out of universal evolution God emerges in our consciousness as greater and more necessary than ever.

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The only possible Motive Power of a life which bas reached the stage of Reflection is an Absolute, or in other words a Divine, Term. Religion has sometimes been understood as a mere antidote to our evils, an "opiate". Its true Purpose is to sustain and spur on the progress of life. It is the profound need of an Absolute, sought from the start through every pro-gressive form of religion. Once this starting point is realised, it becomes evident that the "religious function" born of Hominisation and linked thereto is bound to grow continuously with Man himself. The more Man is Man, the more he will feel the need to devote himself to something which is bigger than he is. Is it not that which we can ascertain around us? At what moment in the Noosphere bas there been a more urgent need to find a Faith, a Hope to give meaning and soul to the immense organism we are building?

By the capital event of Hominisation the most "advanced" part of the Cosmos found itself personalised. This simple change in a variable introduced for the future a two-fold condition of existence which cannot be escaped.

Since everything in the Universe, starting from Man, takes place in the personalised being, the ultimate Term of the uni-versal Convergence must also possess (in a supreme degree) the quality of a Person. To super-animate, without destroying, a Universe made up of personal elements, lie must himself be a special Centre. Thus re-appears, no longer instinctive, but closely linked with contemporary ideas on evolution, the tra-ditional conception of a God exerting an intellectual influence upon immortal monads, distinct from himself be a special Centre. Thus re-appears, no longer instinctive, but closely linked with contemporary ideas on evolution, the traditional conception of a God exerting an intellectual influence upon immortal monads, distinct from himself.

The current which raises Matter should be conceived less as a simple internal impulse than as a tide. The Multiple rises, attracted and incorporated by the "Already One".

In the first phase -before Man- the attraction was vitally, but blindly, felt by the World. Since Man, if is awakened, at least partially, in reflective liberty, and it sustains Religion. Religion, which is not an option, or a strictly individual intuition, but represents the long unfolding, through the collective experience of all Mankind, of the existence of God -God reflecting himself personally on the organised sum of thinking monads, to guarantee a sure issue, and to lay down exact laws for their hesitant activities.

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ON THE POSSIBLE BASIS OF A COMMON CREDO

0nce the rerality of a Noogenesis is admitted (the concentration and collective march forward of human Thought) the believer in the World finds himself obliged, to give a growing place in his thoughts on the future to the values of personality and transcendence. Of personality, since a Universe on the road of psychic concentration is identically a Universe- which is becoming personalised. And of transcendence, because a last pole of "cosmic" personalisation, if it is to be supremely consistent and unifying, can hardly be conceived except as emerging from elements which it super-personalises by uniting them.

Still in the same perspective, assuming it is admitted that here is a cosmic genesis of the spirit, the believer in Heaven realises that the mystic transformation of which he dreams presupposes and confirms all the tangible realities and laborious conditions of human Progress. To be super-spiritualised in God, must not Mankind first be born and grow in conformity with Me whole system of what we call evolution ?

The sense of Earth opening and flowering upwards in the sense of God, and the sense of God rooted and nourished from below in the sense of Earth. The transcendent personal God and the Universe in evolution, no longer forming two antago-nistic poles of attraction, but entering into a hierarchic conjunction to uplift the human mass in a single tide. Such is the notable transformation which the idea of the spiritual evolution of the Universe implies in theory and which is beginning to come about in practice in a growing number of minds, free-thinkers as well as believers. The very transfor-mation we are searching.

The new spirit for a new world.

To unify the vital human forces, so lamentably disunited at this moment, the direct and effective way would simply bc to sound the alarm and to form a block of all those who either on the right or the left, believe that the great affair for modern Mankind is to break its way out by forcing some threshold of greater consciousness. Whether Christians or not, the men who are animated by this conviction form a homogeneous category. Although in the march of Mankind they take their stations on opposing wings, they can advance hand in hand, because their attitudes, far from being exclusive, virtually prolong each other, and ask only to be completed. What are they waiting for, in order to set up the common front of all those who believe that the Universe is moving forward, and that it is our task to make it move forward? Would not this be the solid nucleus around which to-morrow's unanimity must develop?

In spite of the wave of scepticism which seems to have swept away the hopes (over-simplified and over-materialist) upon which the nineteenth century lived, faith in the future is not dead in our hearts. Better still, it is this hope, deepened and purified, which seems bound to save us. It is not only that the idea of a possible awakening of our consciousness to a super-consciousness becomes daily scientifically better based on experience and psychologically more necessary to keep alive in man the zest for action; in addition, pushed to its logical conclusion, this very idea seems the only one capable of making ready for the great event which we are awaiting; the discovery of a synthetic act of adoration in which are allied and mutually exalted the passionate desire to conquer the World, and the passionate desire to unite ourselves with God; the vital act, specifically new, corresponding to a new age of the Earth*.

Peking, 30th March 1941

*These thoughts, written on the occasion of the New York Congress on Science and Religion, were designed to map out the ground on which all men who desired progress might begin to understand and help each other to attain the highest truth which full co-operation would bring within their reach.

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