The Christian Inspiration
of Teilhard's Work
by Brian COWAN

[With comments by Kris Roose and comments by Grahame Fallon]


The Christian inspiration of his worldview

It is evident to all who read his writings that Teilhard de Chardin thinks from a pronounced Christian perspective. Indeed, so all-pervasive is his Christian faith that we find references to it even in his strictly scientific works. Thus in his book, 'The Phenomenon of Man', we find him alluding to the scriptural writings of 'St. Paul and St. John' on the subject of 'Christ, (the) principle of universal vitality'. [1] Some readers will, perhaps, find it disconcerting that his scientific conclusions, on occasion, get a Christian interpretation placed on them. Such readers may complain: "I don't want religion mixed in with my science!"

I think religion and science are two different approaches, each with its own methodology, but converging towards one eventual integrative knowledge. In the meanwhile I'm afraid neither of both has the complete truth, so in the meanwhile it is inevitable that members of each approach are feeling uneasy with the intrusion of another way of thinking.
[Convergence scheme]

For Teilhard, Christianity is a religion based, to some degree, on a nucleus of truths revealed by God to humanity mainly by way of scripture. Thus he talks of Christianity 'resting on a core of "revelation"'. [2] And elsewhere, with reference to God, he alludes to the 'revealed datum' of the 'triune nature' of the 'First Being', the 'Omega Point'. [3]

The theory of the Third Nature of Christ

Teilhard goes so far as to posit a 'third Christic nature', finding support for such a theological view 'in the writings of St. Paul'. [4] Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to regard the French Jesuit's notion of a third nature associated with Christ as something of an innovation within Christian theology. What he appears to be claiming here is that in addition to the human and divine natures of Jesus of Nazareth, there is a further nature which constitutes the essence of a 'cosmic Christ of faith'. [5] From Teilhard's perspective, the cosmic Christ is a personal 'cosmic element' [6], that is to say, a personal 'Some One' [7], who diffuses himself throughout the cosmos. Let's continue to consider aspects of this cosmic Christ, or incarnate Word, about which the Auvergnian Jesuit theorizes on the basis of his religious faith.

As Teilhard sees it, Christ, the incarnate Word of God, 'both physically and metaphysically' pervades the universe co-extensively with the 'the totality of time and space'. [8] The cosmic Christ is identified, by the French Jesuit, with 'Christ the King', and 'Christ-Omega, the Universal Christ'. [9] Further, this Universal Christ, through all time and all space, enjoys a 'co-extension of sovereignty' [10] with the universe. From the Teilhardian perspective, since time began, Christ-Omega has, everywhere in the cosmos, been in possession of 'the control and leadership of what we now call evolution'. [11] Christ, in the eyes of the French Jesuit, by his very nature, his third nature, is 'organically the prime mover and controller, the "soul", of evolution'. [12]

Christ, then, as "the soul of evolution", is for Teilhard, the Logos, or more accurately, 'the neo-Logos of modern philosophy -- the evolutive principle of a universe in movement'. [13] The Auvergnian Jesuit's Christic Logos is not, of course, the old 'Alexandrian Logos' [14], or divine world-soul, of ancient Greek philosophy (mainly in the Platonic and Stoic traditions). As the French Jesuit points out, the Logos, or world-soul, of ancient Western philosophy can be pretty well equated 'with the ordinating principle of the stable Greek kosmos'. [15] No, the Logos that is constituted by Christ-Omega is the animating principle, not of a stable 'cosmos' that is static 'order', but, of a dynamic 'cosmogenesis' that is a developing 'process'. [16] Nonetheless, it is at least arguable, it seems to me, that Teilhard's Christic "soul of evolution" has its conceptual roots in the notions of a divine Logos, or world-soul, postulated by the Greek philosophers, particularly the Platonists and the Stoics, of long ago.

I'm not sure we're allowed to speak about a third nature. That should have been a heresy in the eyes of RCC. When his work was censored --thanks to a Belgian theologist from Louvain, I'm ashamed-- then it was most by his theories about evil and the Original Sin. Christian Church considers herself as the continuation of Christ's Redemption. When there is no original sin by Adam and Eve, Christ died for nothing and the church is superfluous. He tried to add a chapter to his publication, redefining evil, but the Belgian theologian didn't fall into the trap.

For me the Cosmic Christ isn't a third nature, but an image taken from the church fathers, describing the church as Christ's Mystic Body. I think this was the deeper sense of Teilhard's ill-defined Christogenesis: Christ didn't pass on earth to redeem us, but to evolve, together with us -the Church, Christian community- towards Omega. Teilhard, and the ancient fathers, saw the Creation as as the Second Person in the Trinity, still emerging.

In this sense Christ is the soul of evolution, but not in the sense of a Creator or Vitalizer, but rather as a mystic fruit of the Love of the Father.

Christian inspiration

Now, it is readily apparent that no amount of observation of the world and no amount of thinking about such observations, will ever lead the human mind to conclusions such as the following.

1. Christ vitalizes the universe.
2. God, the Supreme Being, is triune.
3. Christ has three natures: human, divine and cosmic.
4. Christ is the neo-Logos of the universe.
No, these conclusions are entirely faith-based; they rest wholly on a foundation of Christian religious belief. Further, these conclusions of faith repose completely on interpretations of holy writ which, in some sense, and to some degree, is perceived as containing messages, of indubitable certitude, from God to humanity. At this point, we are forced, it seems to me, to surmise that Teilhard, sincere Christian that he was, did accept all of the foregoing, faith-based conclusions (and, no doubt, others as well) on the basis of what be believed to be messages from God, revelations from God, contained in scripture.
I'm not totally convinced of this statement. I think Teilhard, intuitively using the integrative method, was only too happy to have elaborated a vision in which both approaches --the scientific and the old human intuition, or "Revelation"-- coincided. This discovery was for him a proof for the truth of his vision. This was perhaps also the most convincing argument that Christianism, at least if you reformulate, translate its views into the "hyperphysical" wordings of Teilhard, was right, however shortsighted and narrowminded the hierarchy's judgment was. Apparently they had learnt nothing from the disillusionments of the Renaissance, and engaged rambunctiously into the next missed historical opportunity.

I think it is possible to come to the conclusions you quote, by observing and thinking about it. Let's take a difficult point: the Trinity. The most fundamental law in the universe seems to be:

to exist = to generate existence

Every thing that exists is included somewhere in an interactive system. You can model nature and reality by an unlimited number of cycles, i.e. interacting systems, passing matter, energy and information to each other. Most systems in nature do it automatically, unconsciously, human (and to a certain extent the pre-hominids) do it consciously. This scheme represents the most generalized activity in the cosmos:

[System interaction scheme]

The step from this universal law to a trinitary system is not so big: God the Father = System 1, God the Son = Christ = Creation = System 2 (still emerging = Christogenesis), God the Holy Spirit = the Interaction.

I have no problem giving serious consideration to a trinitarian system along the lines that Kris proposes, and for the very reason (i. e. that to exist = to generate existence) he proposes it.

But I also wonder if this form of trinitarianisn would constitute orthodox Christianity. I'm not sure that Christian theology would be willing to countenance equating Christ with Creation. Would not the theologians claim that the part of Christ who is the Son of God is uncreated, while Creation is created? And would Christian theology be willing to countenance the Holy Spirit as a mere Interaction between two systems? Might not the theologians claim that this Spirit is a divine Person in it's own right, equal to God the Father and God the Son? And, further, might not Teilhard, himself, be inclined to go along with the theologians on some of these issues?

1. I find that hard to accept. With respect - how can existence generate existence? That sounds like "tautology" to me - rather like Self creating Self. (...)

1. When you bring an electron and its anti-matter equivalent, a positron, together, they disappear, because each "force" is neutralized by its antiforce, leaving no force / influence / observable activity for us to observe it. At the other hand, at an unexpected place suddenly two elements of such an invisible couple scatter, giving existence to an electron and a positron. Along traditional approach, these elements not really disappear: they are most probably still there, but have become unobservable, as everything in your room does when you swith off the light. But from a modern physics approach those things really disappear, and you could "pass through it" as a spectre is supposed to pass through a brick wall. For the same reason, modern physists call the second phenomenon a "creation", and not just an "appearance", a kind of transition from invisibility to visibility. I think that the second Law of Thermodynamics will need some day to be refreshed one more time, as Einstein did already when he introduced his relativistic laws.

2. in 1966 I was also struck by the analogy between Einstein's E=m.c2 and my fundamental law. If we describe m (mass, matter) as "existence" and E (energy) as "generating existence", both formulations coincide. This analogy probably points towards a very profound feature of existence. It's important to state that Einstein not just suggested some mathematical relation, but put forward that matter really diappears, and -when the energy rays arrive at their destination- they can re-"create" themselves into matter, e.g. photons. Matter could be defined as resting energy, as energy could be defined as transiting matter. We see two things in it, nature only one.

3. An ever returning phenomenon in the development of concepts, and I don't know if Kuhn (in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and Toynbee (A Study of History) mention this, is the constant necessity to redefine concepts that at a certain moment seemed fundamental, eternal and irrevocable. "Logical" definitions such as "matter" and "energy", two things 'completely different' and 'easily distinguishable from each other', appeared to be based upon a nice illusion. The same thing applies for phenomena such as a flat world (why our friend Tony Kelly, to take just an example :-], doesn't tumble "downwards"?), the 'clear difference between bodies and mere vibrations of some "etherical" substance' (e.g. the corpuscular and oscillatory nature of elementary bodies in quantum physics - two different things for us, one for nature-), and the innumerable paradoxes yet to solve? Each time we transgress some critical boundaries in science, as we are now doing with the transition from modern to postmodern times, with Einstein and Teilhard as two of its most brilliant heralds, we'll need to adjust some fundamental concepts. BTW, to integrate is a continuous reformulation of concepts from their simpler formulation -however evident within a limited context- to their more elaborate formulation.

4. And, wondering again what Kuhn and Toynbee should have thought about it, I think we can observe, ever and again, what I'ld call the Copernicus-Darwin Drama, or the Paradigm Transition Phobia (PTP). When new theories emerge, especially when they suggest a new fundamental paradigm, much protest is elicited. This protest is not so much pointing at alleged errors in the argumentation of the new theory, but at other implications that, in fact, don't depend from the obsolete view, but simplistically were linked to it. The idea that the sun, rather than the earth, was the centre of the universe was shocking, because it seemed to imply that man was no longer the most central thing in the universe; Darwin's suggestion that we descend from a kind of ape was another instance of this degradation of human dignity. Socrates experienced the same problem, when he suggested that man doesn't consciously do bad things. So, should criminals be tolerated? The French Jesuit collided with this phobic reflex. His theories were rejected by our Mother the Holy Church, not because they found some errors in his reasoning, but because some of his visions, especially his approach of evil and the original sin, seemed to make Christ's redemption and hence the mission of the Church useless. I'm sure that the "linked convictions" in fact don't need this linkage. Even when humans are nowadays far more remote from "the centre of the universe" than in Copernicus's days, the are still "the most important systems/beings". Their superior "value" --because now it is the highest attained level in evolution-- doesn't presuppose any central place in space. I'm afraid that the reformulation of more central concepts including God, creation, Christ (as in the Christogenesis), promoting integration as a replacement for democracy, and the like, by our Noospherian virtual society and postmodern science in general, will elicit some more PTP.

2. The fundamental mystery of the universe is not existence but being. We ask: why or how is there something rather than nothing? Indeed - what or here is nothing? Just a word,about which there is little or nothing more to be said! Nothing exists nowhere, except in our minds! - a figment of our imagination.

3. God alone can truly say I am. (...) God alone is. All else exists. Personally - I am, (...) because God is - and because God is Love. God has loved every creature into existence [whether directly or by the process of evolution] - and sustains us with that Love [which is God]. [Grahame Fallon 7/4/02]

I do not know if Kris would agree with the following reformulation of his claim. But let me try, anyway, to reformulate it in a manner that might make it appear somewhat more in conformity with Teilhard's thinking.

Suppose, by way of reformulation, we were to say something like:

An important law in the universe seems to be:
to exist = to move towards fuller existence.

I confirm that this element surely is present in most forms of existence, but for me this new wording doesn't enough suggest the interactive dimension of existence. The only 'objective' sense of existence is what it means for other existing systems. The only 'subjective' meaning of existence is --in systems with a kind of consciousness-- the experience of pleasure, and its equivalent in full conscious beings, i.e. full consciousness of the integration of personal needs and the needs of the environment (you could also call this Love --as Grahame reminds us).
This way of restating Kris's claim might tie in with the French Jesuit's concepts of auto-arrangement and auto-evolution, both of which concepts appear to portray existence at one level moving on to levels of fuller, more complex existence. Let's consider what Teilhard says:
...the most exact definition for our intelligence of the nature of the universe is (at the opposite pole from mass-phenomena) the process of "auto-arrangement". It is in virtue of this latter that, in the course of a drift which affects the totality of space and time, "matter" passes, locally and partially (though at the same time in an overall operation) from more simple and less conscious states to states that are both physico-chemically more complex and psychically more interiorized. [25]
If I have understood him correctly, Teilhard is here saying that it is of the very nature of parts of the universe, by a sort of law in the universe, to move or drift from more simple and less conscious states of existence to fuller states of existence that are physico-chemically more complex and psychically more interiorized. And such moving or drifting of the universe from lesser to fuller states of existence he calls auto-arrangement.

Auto-evolution seems, for Teilhard, to a form of auto-arrangement at the reflective level, at the level of hominization. He writes:

Starting...with man (that is, under the increasingly powerful governance of auto-evolution), a second and new type of driving force -- by which I mean the reasoned passion for progress -- emerges as ever more physically indispensable to ensure the continuation and the ultimate success of the cosmic movement of complexification. [26]
Here what the French Jesuit appears to stating is that the passion for progess, which is inherent in the human mode of existence, is a driving force behind that existence moving from lesser, simpler states of existing to fuller, more complex states of existing. And this movement from lesser to fuller states of human existence he calls auto-evolution.

So, as I see it, what Teilhard appears to be claiming is something like the following:

"What exists on a given plane has a tendency to move to a fuller plane of existence. Simpler existence seems to have the inherent propensity to auto-arrange and auto-evolve itself into fuller, more complex forms of existence. In a certain sense (i. e. the sense of auto-arrangement or auto-evolution), existence that is simpler and less complex generates, out of itself, an existence that is fuller and more complex."

We have considered a slight reformulation of Kris's claim (a reformulation with which he may, or may not, agree). This reformulated claim states that an important law operating in the universe seems to be that, in some sense, existence generates fuller existence. In the light of the foregoing reflections, possibly, Kris' claim is, in some sense, not incompatible with Teilhard's concepts of auto-arrangement and auto-evolution.

When I formulated this "fundamental law of existence" back in 1966, I did it in Dutch, my native language. I stated "bestaan = doen bestaan", where "doen" is not exactly the same as "to do" in English. "Doen" is more a complete activity which implies some result, perhaps closer to "make", "engender", "provoke", "generate", "contribute to" than "to do", which in English has rather the function of an auxiliary verb. So I chosed for "generate", but perhaps the 'Anglophones' could suggest a better choice.

The same problem I had with "bestaan". This word sounds, in Dutch, less philosophical than "existence" or the German "Dasein". Its closer to "to be", or the French "être" and the German "bestehen".

But I think that reducing the definition of "creation" to "put into existence from nothing" is not justified. I think we are allowed to state that an artist creates his work, even if all substance already exists, and even if we can retrace the structure of his work to earlier art works by himself or by other artists or non-artists. Otherwise, only a (hypothetical) God could perform "creation" and the we should compse another word. But -honestly- we don't know yet if, for this performance, He didn't use some supernatural matter, energy, ideas or the combination of them. One of the hypotheses about "things beyond evolution", as I suggested on this page, is precisely that the completed Universe, at the Omega Point, starts another universe, using all of its own matter and energy for that. So, in this case, the notion of "God" is just a projection, from our weak standpoint, to such a Superbeing behind our Alpha point. We interpret such a System with our anthropomorphic instinct as an Old, Grey, Wise Man (in fact the "Father" of Jesus), but from a postmodern view it rather might be a "Supreme, High-technological Team" that could include -and along Teilhard probably will include- all humanity, socialized into one Noosphere.

So I'm looking for (1) a word that means something very fundamental, including each of the following aspects:

- bringing something into existence from elements already existing, but not having the same global possibilities
- supporting (or rather: co-supporting) its development and continued existence
- enhancing the quality of its existence
- giving sense to one's own existence
The act of "making" and subsequently raising a child is perhaps the most complete image for that.

And also I'm looking for (2) a word that means:

- having an observable existence
- performing a continuous development, growth, evolution, or whatever you want to call it, this development being induced as well by external influences, as by internal "reflections" upon those influences, observations and communications
- having an "existence generating" effect upon other systems
- giving sense to the existence of the other systems/beings.
The structure of the Supreme System can only be trinitary, by evidence and logical thinking. Existence is always and everywhere generating existence. A system that just is but does nothing simply doesn't exist --in the existentialist sense of the word.
What Kris says here may well have merit. In antiquity, within the framework of a static cosmos, the neo-Platonic philosophers (of whom the most prominent was Plotinus) arrived at a sort of Supreme Trinitarian System as follows:
1. The One (The Supreme God above all gods, the Ultimate Source of all that was, is and will be.);
2. The Intellect (an outflow from the One and subordinate to the One);
3. The World-Soul (an outflow from the Intellect and subordinate to the Intellect).

In the neo-Platonic Trinity and in the Christian Trinity all three members are divine. But in the Christian Trinity all three members are equal whereas in the neo-Platonic Trinity there is a hierarchy of a superior and subordinates. Now, it does seem to me that the neo-Platonic Trinity could be just as well adapted to Kris' system as the Christian Trinity. But, if we were to adapt Plotinus' Trinity to Kris' system, we would not likely receive approval of the Christian theologians because the three members of this Trinity would be unequal to one another. I, personally, would not object to our giving serious consideration to an adaptation of the neo-Platonic Trinity to fit the principle of: "to exist = to generate existence"; but would the Christian theologians accept such an adaptation, would Teilhard? At this point, I must confess that I am not convinced that the theologians or Teilhard would do so.

So while I do think that what Kris is proposing has merit, I'm just not 100% sure that Teilhard and Christian theology would grant their full blessing to that proposal.

As to the nature of God - Christians believe that what they know about God has been revealed to us mostly by the word and Spirit of God (...) constituting the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. In other words - God has been revealed to us as a Trinity - a trinity of persons - one in their goodness or godness. Their unity is beyond our comprehension - but has been described by some of the mystics as the Godhead. In their own time - eternity - having made the basic stuff of creation "through Christ, in Him and for Him" [Col.1:16] - they said, "Let us make man to reflect our own image and likeness" [Gen.1:26]. Together with Christ - "having been chosen in Christ before the world was made" [Eph.1:4] - "We are meant to constitute the perfect or complete man - fully mature with the fullness or grace-fulness of Christ himself" [Eph.4:13] (...) [Grahame Fallon 7/4/02]

But Teilhard did not simply content himself with passively accepting these conclusions of faith; rather he actively embraced them with fervour and devotion. Indeed, it appears that so passionate was he about his faith that he could not stop himself from having it, on numerous occasions, spill over into his scientific writings.

So, to a significant degree, Teilhard's standpoint in the world is one that rests on his Christian faith, a faith that, not infrequently, relies on revelation rather than observation. And, apropos of standpoints, the French Jesuit makes the interesting statement 'that nothing in the world is perceptible unless one adopts the right standpoint for seeing it'. [17] And, for him, of course, the Christian standpoint is the right one for seeing the world as it should be seen, for perceiving reality properly, as it should be perceived. From his faith perspective, he regards 'Christianity', in general, and 'Roman Catholicism', in particular, as the 'living, organic axis' of a veritable spirituality and as 'the religion of tomorrow'. [18]

The question

I have frequently asked myself: "What led Teilhard de Chardin to his passionate, dynamic faith?"

I suggested that is was the convergence, the integration, of his scientific findings and his reformulated Christian view.
On occasion, I wonder why, following his phenomenological inductions, he did not simply content himself with updating the stable-order Logos of the ancient Greek philosophers so as to bring it into line with a dynamic-process Logos that would be compatible with "the neo-Logos of modern philosophy". For what reason did he feel impelled to go beyond such a mere updating and identify Christ with the neo-Logos? How did he arrive at a standpoint which tended to infuse a pronounced Christian "tint" into so many of his observations and into so many of his reflections on those observations? In what remains of this article I would like to ponder these questions further and, perhaps, suggest something of a response to them.

Elements of an answer

Teilhard's subjective explanation

The search for answers to my questions has led me to a consideration of Père Teilhard's childhood and youth. In a 'Prayer to the Ever-Greater Christ', which he appears to have composed in 1950, the French Jesuit addresses Christ as: 'Lord of my childhood and Lord of my last days'. [19] And, indeed, it does appear that Christ was the Lord of young Pierre's childhood, that Christianity was a dominant influence on his early life. Let's explore some aspects of his young life a little further.

Referring, many years later, to his arrival on our planet, Teilhard writes: '...I was born right into Catholic "phylum"'. [20] His mother, Berthe-Adèle, a deeply pious woman, had a considerable influence on her son's religious development. In this regard, he writes: '..."my mother's God" was primarily, for me as much as for her, the incarnate Word.' [21] In addition, he states that 'the "devotion" with which my mother constantly sustained me (was a) devotion to the Heart of Jesus'. [22] So from the cradle onwards, the child, Pierre, was steeped in Christianity, a Christianity which he, and virtually everyone in his entourage, regarded as, quite literally, divinely revealed.

We also find Teilhard telling us: 'However far I go into my memories (even before the age of ten) I can distinguish in myself the presence of a strictly dominant passion: the passion for the Absolute.' [23] When we combine this childhood mystical impulse towards the Absolute with a home environment permeated with Christianity, with concepts such as "the incarnate Word" and "the Heart of Jesus", it is not to be wondered at that the Christian world-view penetrated deeply into the very core of young Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's personality.

Objective data

Ursula King, a professor of theology at the University of Bristol, England, has, of recent years, written a biography of the French Jesuit entitled: 'Spirit of Fire, The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin' [24]. The first three chapters (pages 1 through 17) of Dr. King's book provide us with a picture of the uninterrupted Christian milieu in which the young Pierre Teilhard de Chardin lived out his formative years up to the age of about twenty. The following four paragraphs contain data taken from these three chapters.

1. His youth at home

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born in May 1881 in the province of Auvergne, France. He was the fourth of the eleven children of Emmanuel and Berthe-Adèle Teilhard de Chardin. The family that welcomed into its midst the new baby boy, soon to be called Pierre, was of noble lineage and enjoyed the ownership of ancestral land. Up to the age of ten, Pierre was schooled at home by his parents and by governesses. It was his mother who took on the responsibility of giving the children their instruction in religious education or, as it was then called, catechism. Besides regular family visits to church, there were also daily evening prayers in which all of the household members participated.

2. His education at the Jesuit College

At the age of ten Pierre left the religious environment of home and entered another pious milieu, that of a Jesuit-run boarding school not far from Lyon. When we call to mind Teilhard's going off to a Jesuit educational institution in his eleventh year of life, we might be tempted to think of him as having been, in some sense, a member of the Society of Jesus from that tender age. To think in such a fashion would, of course, be to engage in exaggeration. But it would be no exaggeration to say that, from at least the age of ten, he came under the influence of the Jesuit approach to Christian spirituality, an approach which, among other things, accorded a place of honour to revealed doctrines.

I was myself 12 years in such a Jesuit College and I can assure you that a strong "spiritual" influence is transmitted upon you. But I'd like add that they use a severe selection, the style of English Public schools. So I'm not sure they transmit the spirit by their education, or only conserve this spirit in their educational atmosphere by a selection of those people who, by temperament or education at home, already exhibit the gist of such a spirit.
Ursula King tells us that, while he was a boarder at the Jesuit school, the youthful Teilhard joined a number of devotional, extra curricula, student societies sponsored by the authorities of that educational institution. Indeed, in due course, he even became the secretary and then the prefect of one such society. Perhaps his membership in such pious student groups served to convey to him additional aspects of Christian spirituality above and beyond those imparted within the regular curriculum.

3. The spirituality of the Company of Jesus

Very possibly, also, the spiritual atmosphere permeating his boarding school was a factor in young Pierre's decision to formally associate himself with the Society of Jesus. And this association began when, at the age of seventeen, in March of 1899, Teilhard became a Jesuit novice. In joining the Jesuit order, of course, he placed himself in a further pious milieu replete with Christian spirituality, a milieu in which he was destined to spend the rest of his life.

A few years ago (1989), when the Company of Jesus existed since 450 years, I made a thorough study of the Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises, their basic training, from a psychological viewpoint. I even gave several conferences, also to Jesuits, about this fascinating topic. Ignatius's vision surpasses the spirit of his time by several centuries! But during the 19th century the real consciousness about it progressively faded away, to be replaced by a more common Christian attitude, without the brilliance of Ignatius's spirituality. It's only during the last decades that there was a revival, partly due to a study of the Spanish sources of Ignatius's writings, which led to the discovery that much was lost by translating this sensible language into a rather simple and military sounding Latin. So I fear that also Teilhard, despite his high personal qualities, only was confronted with a lukewarm version of this worthwhile Spirituality.

So, we find Teilhard, up to the age of ten, in a family milieu within which the Christian outlook enjoyed a prominent place of honour. There follows a further six or seven years at a Christian boarding school. And finally, from the age of seventeen into early adulthood, he situates himself within a religious order where the Christian world-view, not unexpectedly, is dominant.

We see, then, that during his formative years, from the cradle to early adulthood, Teilhard was steeped in profoundly Christian environments. Consequently, we may not be too far off the mark if we conclude that these environments combined with his strong innate "passion for the absolute" to propel him along the path of a devout Christian mysticism, a mysticism in which figure prominently a number of doctrines said to be divinely revealed.


Perhaps the foregoing facts, as well as our reflections on these facts, may shed some light on the process by which Teilhard's profoundly Christian standpoint was built up. By the time he reached adulthood, his religious foundation, his faith, may have become sufficiently well established in his make-up to constitute, for him, almost a second nature. And this second nature of sorts may have formed, in his eyes, the "right standpoint" for seeing the world properly, as it should be seen. Further, given that his Christian standpoint, his faith was one that overflowed with energy, dynamism and vitality, the fact that such a faith spilled over into many areas of his thought may be less occasion for surprise than what might have seemed to be the case at first sight. Simply put, Teilhard's perspective on the world was deeply Christian, and consequently, so was his interpretation of that world.

[1] 'The Phenomenon of Man' [Fountain Books, 1977], p. 322.
[2] 'Introduction to the Christian Life', in 'Christianity and Evolution' [Harvest Book, 1974], p. 167.
3] 'My Fundamental Vision', in 'Toward the Future' [Harvest Book, 1975], pp. 193-194.
[4] 'My Fundamental Vision', in 'Toward', p. 198.
[5] 'Suggestions for a New Theology et. al.' in 'Christianity', p. 180.
[6] 'My Fundamental Vision', in 'Toward', p. 199.
[7] 'On the Probable Existence of an "Ultra-Human" et. al.', in 'The Future of Man' [Harper & Row, 1969], p. 293.
[8] 'My Fundamental Vision', in 'Toward', p. 199 (in footnote # 40).
[9] 'The Awaited Word', in 'Toward', p. 98.
[10] 'My Fundamental Vision', in 'Toward', p. 199 (In footnote # 40).
[11] 'Phenomenon', p. 322. [12] 'Suggestions for a New Theology et. al.' in 'Christianity', p. 180.
[13] 'Suggestions for a New Theology et. al.' in 'Christianity', p. 181.
[14] 'Suggestions for a New Theology et. al.' in 'Christianity', p. 180.
[15] 'Suggestions for a New Theology et. al.' in 'Christianity', p. 181.
[16] Cf. 'The Heart of the Problem', in 'Future', p. 274.
[17] 'The Natural Units of Humanity', in 'The Vision of the Past' [Collins, 1966], p. 199.
[18] 'Introduction to the Christian Life', in 'Christianity and Evolution' [Harvest Book, 1974], p. 168.
[19] 'The Heart of Matter', in 'The Heart of Matter' [Harvest Book, 1978], p. 58.
[20] 'The Heart of Matter', in 'Heart', p. 39.
[21] 'The Heart of Matter', in 'Heart', p. 42.
[22] 'The Heart of Matter', in 'Heart', p. 42.
[23] Cited in 'Spirit of Fire, the Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin', by Ursula King, Orbis Books, 2000, p. 5. (Original Source: 'My Universe')
[24] Orbis Books, New York, 2000.
[25] 'The Zest for Living', in 'Activation of Energy' (Harvest Book, 1970), p. 233.
[26] 'From Cosmos to Cosmogenesis et. al.', in 'Activation', p. 265.

Posted 2/4/02 - Comments added 7/4/02