(Selection by Jacques Severin Abbatucci)
You will find thereafter the text. of a compendium made from "Toward the Future"- translated from "LesDirections de l'Avenir" by René Hague (Harvest Book, publish. New York 1975). The quotations, often scattered, are only reflecting the reader's choice (J.S. Abbatucci) and must be taken as an invitation to read the book in its entirety.
STILL UNDER WAY
Foreword by N. M. Wildiers
The Sense of Man
The Road of the West
The Evolution of Chastity
The Function of Art as an Expression of Human Energy
The Awaited Word
A Note on the Concept of Christian Perfection
Reflections on Happiness
Can Moral Science Dispense with a Metaphysical Foundation?
The Spiritual Contribution of the Far East
Two Principles and a Corollary
My Fundamental Vision
Some Notes on the Mystical Sense
A Summary of My 'Phenomenological' View of the World
p. 7 - As a student of the phenomenon of man, Teilhard de Chardin constantly refused to see in reflective consciousness a mere epiphenomenon, a mere accident thrown up by nature, unrelated to the underlying structure of our universe. He was, on the contrary, at pains to integrate this 'redoubtable phenomenon which has revolutionized the earth and is commensurate with the world" into the general structure of the world, and to disclose its origins, through the tentative gropings of evolution, in the very texture of primitive matter.
There was another thing which fascinated Teilhard even more than did the origins and slow maturing of consciousness through the evolution of life: this was the contemporary spectacle of the manifestations of spirit within a mankind that has at last achieved maturity. Wherever he looked, he could see sprit at work ; in every quarter, with unprecedented vigour and prodigality, a manifest rise of spirit was apparent in the unfolding of new ideas and the realization of new projects. Never, in its whole existence, had mankind known an age that could compare with ours.
p. 8 - A new era, profoundly different from all that had gone before us, had just been inaugurated. The noosphere was beginning to disclose its true dimensions and to reveal its possibilities for the future.
p. 9 - His view of the future was based not so much on study and interpretation of the past as on searching analysis of the great changes that were being effected in contemporary mankind. AU around him, he could detect the symptoms that pointed to a 'rebound of evolution', and the indications of a deep undertow which was sooner or later to carry us to the full development of the 'super-mankind' whose birth he foresaw.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the realist and factual character of Teilhard's forecast of the future development of the noosphere.Underlying all the events he studied, he discerned the same design and the same basic trend: progressive unification of mankind, intensification of collective consciousness, birth of a socialized mankind, and, finally, movement towards the convergent structure of evolution as it seeks out its cosmic centre. Thus it is that spiritual energy, far from.coming to a halt or sinking back, is active in mankind, and is continuing to evolve and to progress towards its full realization.
This new situation in which man found hiniself called for a new attitude towards life on his part, a new moral philosophy.
p. 11 - ...for him, Christ had come into this world not to, restore a primitive order which had never in fact existed, but to guide and in vigorate the evolution of mankind by giving it its true centre and its true goal.
Thus Christianity became for Teilhard the religion of progress, the religion of evolution. Science teaches us about an evolution; Christianity teaches us about a 'super-evolution'
p.13 - The purpose of what follows is to point out that we newcomers of the twentieth century are coinciding in time and place with a happening which is as massive as the initial formation, vitalizing, and humanizing of the earth, and is developing at a tempo which keeps pace with our own experiences. This happening is the awakening of the sense of man, by which 1 mean that terrestrial thought is becoming conscious that it constitutes an organic whole, endowed with the power of growth, and both capable of and responsible for some future.
("I have come not to abolish but to fulfil" Matthew 5: 17.)
p. 15 - The affairs of men played a large part in the thinking of the theologians and moralists of yesterday, but (as is today still too often true) there was no room for the affair of man, and still less for the affair of the universe, specifically as such, and both involved as such in the creation.
p. 16 - If we try to arrive at some sort of understanding of how the consciousness of man has developed in one hundred and fifty years, and thereby at the same time to determine more closely exactly where that consciousness is situated, we can, it seems to me, detect the simultaneous and convergent action of a number of factors; these appear to be independent, and yet the way in which they work together is most remarkable.
a. First, the influence of the natural sciences, and the discovery of time
Until the middle of the eighteenth century, as we said earlier, there was hardly anybody who had any doubt but that the earth, its elements and its living beings, was a system of fixed things, in which the only element of growth was that of individual lives.
p. 18 - The great discovery of the natural scientists, since Buffon, came when they realized that wecould speak of life, and of the earth, too, in terms of its age. Ever since that time, the universe ceased to constitute an invariable mass and structure. It was subject to a general movement...Mankind was confronted by things of which it could truthfully be said that they had a past, and with equal truth, therefore, a future.
b. The influence of the physical sciences. Mastery of cosmic energies
He still had only fire with which to harness artificially the power needed for his social development. And then, in some scores of years, suddenly everything carne in a rush: electricity, physical chemistry, radiations. It was as though a wide breach had been made in the energy reservoirs stored up by the world.
p. 19 - For the first time, perhaps, since his origins, man felt that he had real strength. After having been frightened of the elements, he thought that he might aspire to, master them. His study of nature had opened up a vast expanse of time ahead of him, and at that very moment he found that the physical sciences had provided him with the power to use that future to its full capacity.
c. The influence of the social sciences. The mass coalescing of mankind
Man questioned himself about the dignity and the natural potentialities of his activity; and he realized that the group formed by the human race was still no more than a scattered and dormant mass.
p. 20 - Future ages, I am sure, will see the time in which we are living more and more clearly as marking both the end and the beginning of a world (the end of neolithic times, as has been well said, and the beginning of the industrial age). ..But among so many great events, there is one phenomenon which, in the eyes of posterity, may well overshadow everything that has been discovered...It is the constitution, in progress at this very moment, of the organized human bloc, powerful and autonomous - the mass coalescing of mankind.
p. 21 - In earlier days (one hundred and fifty years ago) we saw ourselves as passive and irresponsible spectators watching a great terrestrial panorama. We were still children.
Today, vie have understood that we are workers pledged to a vast enterprise. We feel that vie are living atoms in a universe that is under way. We have become adult.
p. 23 - The nature of the sense of man is such that it brings men closer together, and inspires them, in the expectation of a future: in the certainty, that is to say, that something is becoming a reality whose existence is not strictly demonstrable but îs nevertheless accepted with even more assurance than demonstration and touch could afford. The sense of man is a faith.
The work now in progress in the universe, the mysterious final issue in which we are collaborating, is that 'greater unit' which must take precedence over everything, and to which everything must be sacrificed, if success is to be ours.The sense of man is a summons to renunciation.
p. 24 - We are beginning to understand, and we shall never forget, that in future the only religion possible for man is the religion which will teach him, in the very first place, to recognize, love, and serve with passion the universe of which lie forms a part.
p. 25 - Faith in the world is irresistibly establishing itself at the heart of a civilization which is still dominated by, or which at any rate was formed by, faith in Christ. Inevitably, an extremely grave organic conflict is being produced between these two principles. If we appreciate the depth of this dramatic struggle, we have a perfectly clear explanation of the troubles which, for the last century, have been disturbing the world of established religions in the west.
a. The growing indifference of men to Christianity
p. 26 - Christianity has become, in human terms, antipathetic. In earlier times it was feared or persecuted as being a power. Today, it is avoided, or kept at a distance, as a burden or encumbrance. That is the factual situation....To our minds, the Christian religion seems narrow; and our hearts tell us that we cannot breathe in its atmosphere...The sense of man believes in the magnificent future of the tangible world: and the gospel seems to despise it
p. 27 - If in these days the Church is making no headway, or can advance only with such difficulty, and that in the least active strata of the world, it is because something is lacking to the splendour of her truth; and that means that something is lacking to the fullness of her coincidence with the present needs of mankind.
b. The sickness of Christianity
If the appearance of the sense of man does indeed correspond, as we have said, to an organic (and in consequence an inevitable) modification of the fundamental religions capacity of man, then its effects cannot be limited to producing in unbelievers a certain loss of sensitivity to Christian influences. They must also be apparent in a serious disorder eating into the souls even of the faithful.
And this, surely, is exactly what we find everywhere around us.
c. The official reaction
p. 31 -
d. The salvation of the world
p. 32 - We have to replace this negative doctrine of renunciation by abstention with the positive idea of renunciation by 'devotion to the greater than self'. In itself, contact with matter most certainly does not defile the soul or drag it down: on the contrary, it feeds the soul and elevates it.
Formerly to be detached from the world could mean to desert the world. In future the phrase will mean to drive a road through the world, in other words to make a sustained effort in all domains -even in those so wrongly regarded as 'secular' - and so attain, make use of, and develop what is continually loftier, more distant, and greater in the universe.
...what the faithful must now understand is that while suffering and death - in so far as they are cosmically inevitable - can become, through God's providence, marvellous instruments of spiritual fulfilment and union, in themselves they are both, none the less, hateful to the Creator. And in consequence, if our first duty is to develop the world, a second and no less binding commandment calls on us to fight tc, the bitter end against every form of diminution and pain.
p; 33 - A more passionate detachment, a more militant resignation, a more creative charity and, we must add, a purity more inspired to informed action; a humility with more pride in its subordination to the universe; a kindliness more animated by the spirit of conquest; a virtue less akin to weakness or mediocrity; a salvation more like the success of a universal enterprise than the rescue of an individual; a propagation of the faith more clearly distinguished from a sectarian proselytism -that is what we are all looking for if we are to feel that Christianity is on the scale of our new requirements.
p. 34 - A collective optimism, realistic and courageous, must without any doubt take the place of the pessimism and individualism whose exaggerated ideas of sin and personal salvation have gradually infiltrated and distorted the Christian spirit.
p. 37 - It is written in the gospel: 'Non veni solvere, sed adimplere', ' I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.'
Whatever men may do to discover more sublime roads and develop new ideas, Christ must always, if lie is to remain the same Christ, stand ahead of their progress. At every moment Christ, and lie alone, must be able to give a sense of direction and a guarantee to the growing expectations of the modern world. It is Christ who gives fullness (adimplet) and who consummates. It will become ever more true that it is by that sign, and by that sign alone, that we shall recognize him.
p. 38 - The awakening of the sense of man cannot be anything but the dawn of a new epiphany.
Faith in Christ, a faith given vitality by man's faith (now born, and never to be lost) in some universal progress - faith in the world, a faith vindicated by the solid, exactly defined reality of Christ - the mutually supporting passion for Christ and passion for the world - these are now emerging as the twin poles of the religion of the future.(*)
Indian Ocean, February-March, 1929
(*)"The greater part of the 'Catholic clerical body' now agrees in allowing a progressively more important part in the Christian Iife to human activities. In their view, however, this part is never more than an adjunct, an extra, an overflow of the supernatural life into the secular domain. We hold, on the contrary, that participation in man's work and aspirations is by no means of subsidiary importance as an instrument in the work of salvation: it is the basic psychological core on which in every man is built, or from which is born, faith in and the gift of self to the supernatural.
In spite of the concessions that have been made, there is still a complete contradiction between these two points of view.
p. 47 - The distressing spectacle of the multiplicity of the world and of its present state of disorder, which in the end forces us into an impassioned faith in the possibility of reducing that fragmentation to unity - in that lies the common source of the various philosophical currents, and the various attitudes to prayer, whose successive emergence, much more than the creation of any empire or the discovery of any energy, is the dominating event in human history.
Without mysticism, there can be no successful religion: and there can be no well-founded mysticism apart from faith in some unification of the universe.
The One and the Many: whence comes the fragmentation? and how can there be a return to unity?
p. 41 - The modern world has examined all the possible outlets to its activity, except faith in unity. It seems permanently to have forgotten Buddha, Plato, and Paul.
Experience, however, has shown the sterility of these attempts to secularize the world. They have introduced no organic order, and they have constructed nothing; nor, indeed, by definition could they seek to or have the power to do so. Their influence has spread, but it has been as a solvent spreads. They have not converted, but perverted, the earth. To convert means to contribute a soul.
And now, the world of man - bursting with a new exuberance of energies and desires -disappointed, and yet more than ready to accept a new form - feels all the pain and anxiety of the need for a spiritual orientation. Forced back to the initial sources of action, the world is looking for the essential idea and ideal which are biologically necessary to produce (in the root meaning of the word) unanimity.
p. 42 - It has been suggested that 'primitives' had already, naturally and without effort, reached the spiritual peaks to which we are so slowly climbing. This we cannot accept. Logically, and in actual fact, the divine virtue of unity appears in direct ratio with the differentiation of the multiple with which it is in contrast.
p; 43 - The first current of true mysticism (that is to say, of a tendency towards universal union) of which traces are extant in recorded history, and whose influence can be traced right up to inodern thought, is that which originated in India some five or ten centuries before the Christian era, and has for so many years made that country the religious pole of the earth.
We do not know whether any historian has yet been able to determine what psychological or physiological antecedents, what refinements of culture or thought, are reflected (whether directly or as a reaction) in the formation of this mysterious 'cyclone' on the plains of the Ganges; but the results are still here for us to see: at a given moment, the finest portion of mankind reached a unanimity of belief in the essential unity of nature, a unity which could be achieved only by a release of tension in the universe.
'The multiplicity of beings and desires is no more than a bad dream, from which we must awake. We must suppress the effort to find knowledge and love, which means personalization, because it tends to give consistence to what is simply a mirage: and thereby (this is the key-word in the argument), as a direct consequence of the disappearance of plurality, we shall see the basic design of the picture emerge. When silence reigns, we shall hear the single note. Phenomena do not disclose the substance to us: they mask it.'
In over-simplified terms, this is the 'Eastern solution' of the perfect life, of the return, that is, to unity. For the Buddhist who drains himself away physically, as for the Brahmin who, concentrates himself mentally, the opposition between the one and the many is like that of two planes which the eye cannot see without shifting from one to the other. Unity is achieved by denying and destroying the many.
p; 44 -In our own time, there would appear to have been a renascence of 'Buddhist' mysticism, even in Europe. It has even been suggested, and with some anxiety, that the monist serenity of the East might well convert the confused pluralism of the West.
...the modern world (for reasons even more cogent than those which had formerly influenced the East) indulged, in its turn, in the dream of discovering unity at the bottom of matter.
The 'pantheist' mysticisms of the West, in their essence, respect the meaning of, and cultivate, the real values of the universe. Logically, on the other hand, these values no longer exist for the Eastern philosopher. The one stands not at the pole, but at the antipodes, of the experiential; and it is in consequence impossible to attribute to it any character or any determinant, even in an 'analogical' sense. It is impossible to conceive it at the infinitely extended term of any line of knowledge or action. The one is the mere negation of all that we call 'full'. If we are to attain this void, we must rid ourselves (and this is all we need to do) of every concept, every image, every desire.
p. 45 - This is the total death of constructive activity: the fundamental emptiness of the experiential universe.
In strict logic, the Indian sage cannot concern himself with anything the life of the world has been, is, or will be. His European followers, 1 fear, are a long way from realizing this.
Whatever may be the truth about that problem, which is a psychological one, what we call the 'Eastern' solution certainly exists in theory, and must be put forward here, if only in order to make plain the exact nature and originality of Western neo-mysticism. In the abstract we can conceive that man may pursue (what, in concrete fact, the East has perhaps literally exhausted itself in seeking) the unity of the world through direct suppression not only of the 'state of multiplicity' but of the multiple itself. Under the influence of the same universalist aspirations, it is in a diametrically opposite direction that the Western solution, or Western road, is now emerging.
p. 46 - THE ROAD OF THE WEST
In the eyes of the founders of Eastern metaphysics and mysticism, the tangible universe, from which the wise man had to free himself, formed a complex, glittering system of objects moving in a closed circle. Since the multiple, whether dream or reality, was irreparably fragmented, sanctity consisted in breaking the envelope of things and so escaping from them. In direct contradiction to this, the West's basic solution to the problem of the one and the many is to consider the experiential universe as formed from, a linked whole of elements animated, throughout the whole of duration, by an at least potential movement of internal coalescence. On this hypothesis, if we wish to arrive at unity we must refrain from the barren and foolish effort to escape from things without freeing them at the same time as we free ourselves. We must not reject things: on the contrary, we must love them and hold fast to them in their essence - which is, if I may so put it, to yield, at the cost of great effort, to a forward and upward pull towards a common centre. Understood in the good and true sense, the multiple is by nature convergent. If it is to be reduced, it must not, therefore, be suppressed - it must be extended beyond itself. The divine light does not appear in the night artificially created inside ourselves; like a supreme and inextinguishable glow, it plays over the organic shimmer of the world. The fundamental note of the cosmos cannot be heard in absolute silence; it rises over the harmony of elementary vibrations. Heaven does not stand in opposition to earth: it is born from the conquest and transformation of earth.
God is reached, not by a draining away of self, but by sublimation. Such, if we are not mistaken, is the great religions discovery of the new age.
p. 47 - To look anywhere for explicit formulation of this doctrine would, we must admit, be fruitless. No one has yet been at pains to set down this gospel in black and white. But do we need a book,when the truth can be read in the most profound needs and attitudes of a whole civilization? In fact, if we take due note, the point of view we have just set out is already so accepted and so built into our lives that it hardly needs explanation. It is this view which is coming to be adopted by all the living branches of modern religions, and to form the basis of their gradual convergence: a convergence of all, from, Christianity (see below) to the new forms of Islam and Buddhism. And the reason for this agreement is as profound as it is simple. It is only in this prospect of union (and escape) through convergence that all the demands both of our aspirations and of the experiential world can find satisfaction and mutual assistance: and this with perfect case, and with no loss or distortion.
The ancient religions of the East hardly noticed more in the experiential (that is, the multiple), and could hardly distinguish more, than the incoherent and mystifying aspects of its aimless and senseless turmoil: and that is why they were so ready to jettison it. The modern world, it is continually becoming more evident, was born, body and soul, from the discovery of the organic time of evolution. We are coming to see ever more clearly that the nebula of monads forms an ascending and contracting spiral. Flesh and spirit, each one of us is involved in a cosmogenesis which we can no longer regard with doubt or indifference.
For us, the history of the world unfolds as a significant act, instinct with the absolute and the divine, in which the spiritualizing activity of beings emerges as a sacred energy. There can no longer be any question, therefore, of setting up a simple opposition between one and multiple, between spirit and matter. Each must be sought out and worshipped through the other. Divine unity surmounts the plural by super-creation, not by substitution. Such is the road (the only road open to, it) which Western life has already instinctively adopted, and to, which it has irrevocably committed itself
p. 48 - In the Eastern picture, a similar psychological phenomenon can be produced: contempt for, and weariness of, the agitation of the cosmos drives the wise man towards Nirvana, and the appeal of Nirvana can in turn increase his repugnance for the agitation of the world: and this can continue to the extreme limits of ecstasy. Yet the whole of this process, in theory at least, is bound to take place in the negation of material things, of passions, of images, and to tend towards vacuity...the Eastern saint must try not to sublimate the tangible real, but to, thin it down to nothing.
p. 49 - The scattered charms of the universe give him a glimpse of the beauty that would unite them all in bringing them to their fullness, and his perception of this nascent beauty in the universe redoubles his admiration for the chosen, the 'elect' substance hidden in the elements of the world. Man's part, then, is to progress further in consistence by purifying and so extracting the positive essence of the multiple. The unity of the world rests on constructive work - work directed towards concentration and not release of tension. And the man who understands this, it is he who will know the intoxicating charm that comes not from vacuity but from plenitude.
p. 50 - The concept of a 'unity of convergence' is the only concept on which can be built the moral philosophy and religion of a universe based on scientific research and progress. In virtue of that principle, no conversion (if one may use the word) will ever have such deep roots as that which is now being effected under the cloak of modern unbelief.
Hitherto men have been converted primarily with a view to individual needs and hopes, or by national or racial pressures. We are now for the first time witnessing the inauguration of a spiritual movement, intimately linked with the progress of the tangible world regarded as one whole: zest for unity in order to preserve the universal zest for action; a new faith conditioning a new mankind; one single soul for the whole surface of the earth.
Penang, 8 september 1932
p. 72 - Once we have properly understood and, most important of all, have known by experience, the meaning of the words 'spiritual power of matter', the first thing we see is the disappearance, in an initial phase, of the classic distinction between holiness of body -and holiness of spirit. Material creation no longer stretches between man and God like a fog or a barrier. It develops like an elevating, enriching ambience; and it is important not to try to escape from this or release oneself from it, but to accept its reality and make our way through it. Rightly speaking, there are no sacred or profane things, no pure or impure: there is only a good direction and a bad direction -the direction of ascent, of amplifying unity, of greatest spiritual effort; and the direction of descent, of constricting egoism, of materializing enjoyment
p. 83 - Initially, man will gravitate to woman. He will take possession of her in the fullest sense; and it is the flame which explodes from. this first union which will leap up towards God. First, there is the contact of the two elements in human love; and then the dual ascent towards the greater divine centre. This process, we were saying, seems to have the advantage of most fully releasing, for God, the spiritual potentialities of passion. Without any doubt, it has been responsible for the appearance on earth of great truths and great beauties: but are there reasons why we should be wary of it ?
p. 86 - Love is going through a 'change of state' in the noosphere; and, if what all the great religions teach us is correct, it is in this new direction that man's collective passage to God is being mapped out.
Theoretically, this transformation of love is quite possible. All that is needed to effect it is that the pull of the personal divine centre be felt with sufficient force to dominate the natural attraction that would tend to cause the pairs of human monads to rush prematurely into one another's arms.
...And so we cannot avoid this conclusion: it is biologically evident that to gain control of passion and so make it serve spirit must be a condition of progress. Sooner or later, then, the world brush aside our incredulity and take this step: because whatever is the more true comes out into the open, and whatever is better is ultimately realized.
Peking, February 1934
Ed. note p. 87 - "As early as 1917, in the very middle of the first world war, Père Teilhard felt himself called to give living expression to this ultimate form of love in God: 'The true union that you ought to seek with creatures that attract you is to be found not by going directly to them, but by converging with them on God, sought in and through them. It is not by making themselves more material, relying solely on physical contacts, but by making themselves more spiritual in the embrace of God, that things draw closer to one another . . .' 'The true union is the union that simplifies ... the true fertility is the fertility that brings beings together in the engendering of spirit . . .' (Writings in Titne of War, pp. 143, 197).
p. 90 - Through its power of symbolic expression, art thus gives the spiritual energy that is being produced on earth its first body and its first face. But it fulfils a third function in relation to that energy, one that is the most important of all. It communicates to that energy, and preserves for it, its specifically human characteristic, by personalizing it. Science and thought, it is true, call for an incommunicable originality in those who excel in them; but the thinkers originality, or the scientist's, may well be swallowed up in the universality of the conclusions he expresses. The scientist is comparatively soon swamped in the collective creation to which he devotes himself The artist, precisely because he lives by his imagination, can ignore and counterbalance this cancelling-out of the human worker by his work. The more the world is rationalized and mechanized, the more it needs 'poets' as the ferment within its personality and its preservative.
In short, art represents the area of furthest advance around man's growing energy, the area in which nascent truths condense, take on their first form, and become animate, before they are definitively formulated and assimilated.
This is the effective function and role of art in the general economy of evolution.
p. 92 - Today, in the middle of the global crisis through which the world is passing, there is not a single man, believer or unbeliever, who is not longing with his whole soul for light - a light to show him that there is some sense of direction behind, some outcome to the confusion that prevails on earth. Never, perhaps, since the first year of the Christian era, has mankind found itself so cut off from its past structures, more anxious about its future - more ready to welcome a saviour.
We who are Christians know that the saviour bas already been born; but we now have a completely new phase of mankind, and should not the saviour be re-born in a form commensurate with our present needs? People are looking today (this I know from so often having heard it admitted) to Rome. Will the Church be able, at the decisive hour, to, take to herself a world which offers itself to her in the very throes of its transformation? Will she find at the critical moment the word which will explain what is happening, and so give back to us clarity of vision and joy in action - the word for which we are waiting?
p. 97 - In our own day, this, it seems to me, is the part reserved for the grand and essentially dogmatic idea of the Christian pleroma: the mysterious synthesis of the uncreated and the created - the grand completion (at once quantitative and qualitative) of the universe in God. It is impossible to read St Paul without being astounded by three things simultaneously: first, the fundamental importance attached by the apostle to this idea, interpreted with the utmost realism; secondly, the relative obscurity to which it has hitherto been relegated by preachers and theologians; and thirdly, its astonishing appropriateness to the religious needs of the present day. Here we have the concept of God gathering to himself not merely a diffuse multiplicity of souls, but the solid, organic, reality of a universe, taken from top to bottom in the complete extent and unity of its energies - and do we not find in that precisely what we were feeling our way towards?
p. 107 - What I have in mind, and what I dream. about, is that the Church should follow up the logical extension of this movement, and so make plain and actual to the world, as St Paul did to hîs converts, the great figure of him in whom the pleroma finds its physical principle, its expression, and its consistence: Christ-Omega, the Universal-Christ. 'Descendit, ascendit, tit repleret omnia'-'He descended, and he ascended, that he might fill all things.' St Paul's imagery made rather a vague impression, no doubt, on the Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, or the Colossians, because in those days the 'world', the 'whole' (with all that those words now imply for us of the organically defined), had not yet come to exist in man's consciousness; but for us, fascinated by the newly discovered magnitude of the universe, it expresses exactly that aspect of God which is needed to satisfy our capacity for worship. Between Christ the King and the Universal Christ, there is perhaps no more than a slight difference of emphasis, but it is nevertheless all-important. It is the whole difference between an external power, which can only be juridical and static, and an internal domination which, inchoate in matter and culminating in grace, operates upon us by and through all the organic linkages of the progressing world.
This figure of the Universal Christ, the prime mover, the saviour, the master and the term of what our age calls evolution, entails no risk, we should note, of the disappearance of the man-Christ, or of a deviation of mysticism into some pantheistic and impersonal form of worship.
The Universal Christ, born from an expansion of the heart of Jesus, requires the historical reality of his human nature if he is not to disappear; and at the same time, as a function of the mechanism. specific to love, he does not absorb but completes the personality of the elements which he gathers together at the term of union. Nor, again, is there any danger that the faithful who are drawn to the Universal Christ will forget heaven and allow themselves to succumb, to a pagan naturalism and be drawn into a materialist conquest of the earth: for does not the Universal Christ, in his full glory, always emerge from the Cross?
Peking, october 1940
p. 108 - At the most fundamental level, what now influences our views on the mechanics (the ascesis) of spiritualization is that spirit has ceased to be for us ' anti-matter', or 'extra-matter', and has become 'trans-matter'. As we now see it, spiritualization can no longer be effected in a breakaway from matter or out of tune with matter: it must be effected by passing through and emerging from matter. 'Descendit, ascendit, ut repleret omnia '(Ephesians 4:9-10), 'He descended, and he ascended, that he might fill all things', - there you have the very econorny of the Incarnation.
p. 115 - Historically, life (which means in fact the universe itself, considered in its most active portion) isa rise of consciousness. How this proposition directly affects our interior attitudes and ways of behaviour must, I suggest, be immediately apparent.
We talk endlessly, as I was saying a moment ago, about what is the best attitude to adopt when we are confronted by our own lives. Yet, when we talk in this way, are we not like a passenger in the Paris to Marseilles express who is still wondering whether he ought to bc travelling north or south? We go on debating the point: but to what purpose, since the decision has already been taken without reference to ourselves, and here we are on board the train? For more than four hundred million years, on this earth of ours (or it would be more correct to say, since the beginning of time, in the universe), the vast mass of beings of which we form a part has been tenaciously and tirelessly climbing towards a fuller measure of freedom, of sensibility, of inner vision. And are we still wondering whither we should be bound?
p. 116 -The truth is that the shadow of the false problems vanishes in the light of the great cosmic life. Unless we are to be guilty of a physical contradiction (unless, that is, we deny everything that we are and everything that has made us what we are) we are all obliged, each of us on his own account, to accept the primordial choice which is built into the world of which we are the reflective elements.
p. 117 - As I said earlier, life in the world continually rises towards greater consciousness, proportionate to greater complexity -as though the increasing complexity of organisms had the effect of deepening the centre of their being.
If man is to be fully himself and fully living, lie must, (i) be centred upon himself, (ii) be 'de-centred' upon 'the other'; (iii) be supercentred upon a being greater than himself.
i. First, centration. Not only physically, but intellectually and morally too, man is man only if lie cultivates himself- and that does not mean simply up to the age of twenty ... If we are to be fully ourselves we must therefore work all our lives at our organic development: by which I mean that we must constantly introduce more order and more unity into our ideas, our feelings and our behaviour. In this lies the whole programme of action, and the whole value and meaning (all the hard work, too!) of our interior life, with its inevitable drive towards things that are ever-increasingly spiritual and elevated. During this first phase each one of us has to take up again and repeat, working on his own account, the general labour of life. Being is in the first place making and finding one's own self.
p. 118 - Secondly, decentration. An elementary temptation or illusion lies in wait for the reflective centre which each one of us nurses deep inside him. It is present from the very birth of that centre; and it consists in fancying that in order to grow greater each of us should withdraw into the isolation of his own self, and egoistically pursue in himself alone the work, peculiar to him, of his own fulfilment: that we must cut ourselves of from others, or translate everything into terms of ourselves. However, there is not just one single man on the earth. That there are, on the contrary, and necessarily must be, myriads and myriads at the same time is only too obvious. And yet, when we look at that fact in the general context of physics, it takes on a cardinal importance - for it means, quite simply, this: that, however individualized by nature thinking beings may be, each man still represents no more than an atom, or (if you prefer the phrase) a very large molecule; in common with all the other similar molecules, he forms a definite corpuscular system. from which he cannot escape. Physically and biologically man, like everything else that exists in nature, is essentially plural. He is correctly described as a 'mass-phenomenon'. This means that, broadly speaking, we cannot reach our own ultimate without emerging from ourselves by uniting ourselves with others, in such a way as to develop through this union an added measure of consciousness - a process which conforms to the great law of complexity. Hence the insistence, the deep surge, of love, which, in all its forms, drives us to associate our individual centre with other chosen and specially favoured centres: love, whose essential function and charm are that it completes us.
p. 119 - Finally, super-centration. Although this is less obvious, it is absolutely necessary to understand it.
If we are to be fully ourselves, as I was saying, we find that we are obliged to enlarge the base on which our being rests; in other words, we have to add to ourselves something of 'the Other'. Once a small number of centres of affection have been initiated (some special circumstances determining their choice), this expansive movement knows no check. Imperceptibly, and by degrees, it draws us into circles of ever-increasing radius. This is particularly noticeable in the world of today. From the very beginning, no doubt, man has been conscious of belonging to one single great mankind. It is only, however, for our modern generations that this indistinct social sense is beginning to take on its full and real meaning. Throughout the last ten millennia (which is the period which has brought the sudden speeding-up of civilization) men have surrendered themselves, with but little reflection, to the multiple forces (more profound than any war) which were gradually bringing them into closer contact with one another; but now our eyes are opening,and we are beginning to see two things. The first is that the closed surface of the earth is a constricting and inelastic mould, within which, under the pressure of an ever-increasing population and the tightening of economic links, we human beings are already forming but one single body. And the second thing is that through the gradual building-up within that body of a uniform and universal system of industry and science our thoughts are tending more and more to function like the cells of one and the same brain. This must inevitably mean that as the transformation follows its natural line of progress we can foresee the time when men will understand what it is, animated by one single heart, to be united together in wanting, hoping for, and loving the same things at the same time.
p. 120 - The mankind of tomorrow is emerging from the mists of the future, and we can actually see it taking shape: a 'super-mankind', much more conscious, much more powerful, and much more unanimous than our own. And at the same time (a point to which I shall return) we can detect an underlying but deeply rooted feeling that if we are to reach the ultimate of our own selves, we must do more than link our own being with a handful of other beings selected from the thousands that surround us: we must form one whole with all simultaneously.
We can draw but one conclusion from this twofold phenomenon which operates both outside ourselves and inside ourselves: that what life ultimately calls upon us to do in order that we may be, is to incorporate ourselves into, and to subordinate ourselves to an organic totality of which, cosmically speaking, we are no more than conscious particles. Awaiting us is a centre of a higher order - and already we can distinguish it - not simply beside us, but beyond and above us.
We must, then, do more than develop our own selves - more than give ourselves to another who is our equal - we must surrender and attach our lives to one who is greater than ourselves.
In other words: first, be. Secondly, love. Finally, worship.
Such are the natural phases of our personalization.
These, you must understand, are three linked steps in life's upward progress; and they are in consequence three superimposed stages of happiness - i£ as we have agreed, happiness is indissolubly associated with the deliberate act of climbing.
The happiness of growing greater - of loving - of worshipping.
Taking as our starting-point the laws of life, this, to put it in a nutshell, is the triple beatitude which is theoretically foreseeable.
p. 127 - We can look around and note how the mysticism of research and the social mysticisms are advancing, with admirable faith, towards the conquest of the future. Yet no clearly defined summit, and, what is more serious, no lovable object is there for them to worship. That is the basic reason why the enthusiasm and the devotion they arouse are hard, arid, cold, and sad: to an observer they can only be a cause for anxiety, and to those who aspire to them they can bring only an incomplete happiness.
At the same time, parallel with these human mysticisms, and until now only marginal to them, there is Christian mysticism; and for the last two thousand years this has constantly been developing more profoundly (though few realize this) its view of a personal God: a God who not only creates but animates and gives totality to a universe which he gathers to himself by means of all those forces which we group together under the name of evolution. Under the persistent pressure of Christian thought, the infinitely distressing vastness of the world is gradually converging upwards, to the point where it is transfigured into a focus of loving energy.
p. 128 - Surely, then, we cannot fail to see that these two powerful currents between which the force of man's religions energies is divided - the current of human progress, and the current of all-embracing charity - need but one thing, to run together, and complete one another?
Suppose, first, that the youthful surge of human aspirations, fantastically reinforced by our new concepts of time and space, of matter and life, should make its way into the life-stream. of Christianity, enriching and invigorating it; and suppose at the same time, too, that the wholly modern figure of a universal Christ, such as is even now being developed by Christian consciousness, should stand, should burst into sight, should spread its radiance, at the peak of our dreams of progress, and so give them precision, humanize and personalize them. Would not this be an answer, or rather the complete answer, to the difficulties before which our action hesitates?
Unless it receives a new blood transfusion from matter, Christian spirituality may well lose its vigour and become lost in the clouds. And, even more certainly, unless man's sense of progress receives an infusion from some principle of universal love, it may well turn away with horror from. the terrifying cosmic machine in which it finds itself involved.
If we join the head to the body - the base to the peak - then, suddenly, there comes a surge of plenitude.
To tell you the truth, I see the complete solution to the problem of happiness in the direction of a Christian humanism: or, if you prefer the phrase, in the direction of a super-human Christianity within which every man will one day understand that, at all times and in all circumstances, it is possible for him not only to serve (for serving is not enough) but to cherish in all things (the most forbidding and tedious, no less than the loveliest and most attractive) a universe which, in its evolution, is charged with love.
Lecture given by Père Teilhard de Chardin in Peking, 28 December 1943
Edit. note p. 129 - "Père Teilhard had added the following quotation at the end of his original typescript: 'From the religions standpoint happiness and contentment are not things which result froni welfare in any mere material or biological sense. Were human society freed from all disease or accident, poverty, and overt crime, it might still be very miserable and intolerably dull. The only thing that brings content is the service of God; and that service can be equally real under the most variable conditions and in any station in life; for the kingdorn of God is within us. God's kingdorn is one of loyal service, whatever form the service may take. The religions perception that in that service, apart frorn its mere outward results, we are one with God, brings inspiration, strength, and inward contentment' (J. B. S. Haldane, Materialism, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1932, P. 156).
p. 132 - The more an individual, as a consequence of his metaphysical convictions, recognizes that he is an element of a universe in which he finds his fulfilment, the more closely he feels that he is bound from within himself to the duty of conforming to the laws of the universe. In those philosophies in which the universe culminates in a personal and transcendent being, this immanent obligation is backed and reinforced by a transcendent obligation of loving obedience to the will of God.
In theory, all this seems strictly true. In practice, no doubt, many men act in a moral way by instinct or by temperament. Such fidelity, however, is logically justified only by implicit acceptance of a certain vision of the world, in other words, a certain metaphysics.
For example, if philanthropical feelings are to be justified, it is essential to have a certain view of the world in which human individuals are seen to be linked together in the unity of a common destiny.
Similarly, if an enthusiasm for enquiry and progress in all its forms is to be justified, there must at all costs be an optimistic and progressive theory of the universe, extending to a demand for some irreversibility in the developments of spirit.'
It follows from. this organic and fundamental relation between moral science and metaphysics that our intellectual adherence to a particular philosophy is a complex phenomenon, in which the operation of the reason and the will are intricately combined: for if the choice of a moral system follows logically from rational adherence to a metaphysics, on the other hand a metaphysics is ultimately acceptable to us, and appeals to us, only in so far as it enables our active side to be developed as fully as we wish it to be.
Note - 'However 'empirical' it may claim. to be, a moral system cannot avoid attributing a certain primacy, be it to well-being, to pleasure, to success ... and every one of these primacies (and the very definition of the word 'success') implies essentially a solution or vision of the world as a whole - in other words, a metaphysics.
p. 133 - The test of a metaphysics is the moral system which is derived from it.
Today we are feeling the influence of new 'evolutive' views, and these, it would appear, are causing the mass of mankind to turn towards a moral system in which primacy is accorded to hard work and human unity (a system which accepts movement and looks to an ideal). This is linked with a metaphysics in which the universe is seen as a quantum of psychic energy flowing towards higher states of consciousness and spirituality.
There is a final difficulty: is the metaphysics to which every moral system looks for a backing, a true structural complement, or merely a fabricated justification, a sort of disease of the mind? And the answer: it is a structural complement, because :
i. This metaphysics provides the necessary animating force.
ii. It determines the modes and progressive developments of action.
Peking, 23 April 1945
'Developing a counter-current that cuts across entropy, there is a cosmic drift of matter towards states of arrangement that show progressively greater centro-complexity (this occurring in the direction of - or within - a "third infinite", the infinite of complexity, which is just as real as the infinitesimal or the immense). And consciousness presents itself to our experience as the effect or the specific property of this complexity, when the latter is taken to extremely high values.'
If this law of recurrence (I call it the law of 'complexity-consciousness') is applied to the history of the world, we see the emergence of an ascending series of critical points and outstanding developments, which are as follows.
Somewhere, at the level of the proteins, an initial emergence of consciousness is produced within the pre-living (at least as far as our experience goes). And, by virtue of the accompanying mechanism of 'reproduction', the rise of complexity on earth increases its pace phyletically (the genesis of species, or speciation).
Starting from this stage (and in the case of the higher living beings) it becomes possible to 'measure' the advance of organic complexification by the progress cerebration. That device enables us to distinguish, within the biosphere, a specially favoured axis of complexity-consciousness: that of the primates.
As a result of some 'hominizing' cerebral mutation, which appears among the anthropoids towards the end of the Tertiary period, psychic reflection - not simply 'knowing' but 'knowing that one knows' - bursts upon the world and opens up an entirely new domain for evolution. With man (apparently no more than a new zoological 'family) it is in fact a second species of life that begins, bringing with it its new cycle of possible patterns of arrangement and its own special planetary envelope (the noosphere).
If it is applied to the great phenomenon of human socialization, the criterion of complexity-consciousness provides some decisive evidence. On the one hand, an irresistible and irreversible technico-cultural organization, noospheric in dimension, is manifestly in progress of development within human society. On the other hand, as an effect of co-reflection, the human mind is continually rising up collectively -collectively, because of the links forged by technology - to the appreciation of new dimensions: for example, the evolutionary organicity and corpuscular structure of the universe. Here the 'organization-interiorization' pair can again be clearly distinguished. This means that all around us the fandamental process of cosmogenesis is continuing just as before (or even is making a fresh and more vigorous start) (1). Considered as a zoological whole, mankind is presenting the unique spectacle of a phylum that is organico-physically synthesizing upon itself. It is, indeed, a 'corpusculization' and a 'centration' (or centering) upon itself of the noosphere as a whole.
If it is extrapolated into the future, mankind's technico-mental convergence upon itself forces us to envisage a climax of co reflection, at some finite distance in time ahead of us: for this we can find no better (indeed, no other) definition than a critical point of ultra-reflection. We cannot, of course, either imagine or describe such a phenomenon, which would seem to imply an escape from space and time. Nevertheless there are certain precise conditions in the field of energetics that must be satisfied by the event we anticipate (a more pronounced awakening in man, as the event comes closer, of the 'zest for evolution' and the 'will to live'); and from these we are obliged to conclude that ultra-reflection coincides with a final attainment of irreversibility. This must be so, since the prospect of a total death would be so disheartening as to stop the further development of hominization.
It is to this higher term of human co-reflection (which means, in fact, unanimization) that I have given the name of 'Omega Point': the cosmic, personalizing centre of unification and union.
The more we consider the indispensability of an Omega to maintain and animate the continued progress of hominized evolution, the more clearly we can see two things.
The first is that a purely conjectural Omega - one that was arrived at simply by 'calculation' - would be powerless to keep active in man's heart a passion strong enough to make him continue the process of hominization to the very end.
The second is that if Omega does really exist, it is difficult not to accept that its supreme 'Ego' in some way makes itself felt as such by all the imperfect Egos (that is to say all the reflective elements) of the universe.
From this point of view the ancient and traditional idea of 'Revelation' reappears and finds a place in cosmogenesis - entering it, this time, through biology and the energetics of evolution.
From this point of view, again, the Christian mystical current takes on an extraordinary significance and actuality: and this because, while it is true that, by the logic of energetics, the warmth of some intense faith is absolutely indispensable to the completion of the process of complexity-consciousness, at the same time it is equally true (how true, you have only to look around the world to realize) that at the present moment no faith can be distinguished that is capable of fully taking over (by 'amorizing' it) a convergent cosmogenesis, except faith in a Christ, a Christ of the pleroma and parousia, in quo omnia constant, in whom all things find their consistence (2).
New York, 14 January 1954
1) - The only difference being that, starting with man, cosmic complexification clearly and unmistakably takes the form no longer of a merely fortuitous arrangement arrived at as a statistical consequence of large numbers - but ultimately, in its most vitally active sections, of a planned self-arrangement
2) - Colossians I : 17