Concerning the explanation
of "spiritual" phenomena there are, generally speeking, two major
approaches. The naturalistic approach, arguing that all phenomena
in cosmos and existence eventually can be explained according to natural
laws, and the supernaturalistic view, claiming that there are, at
least, two totally different substances, two "natures", matter and spirit.
This controversy started several centuries ago, and still continues.
A third approach
considers matter as a form of spiritual substance. It can be considered
as a special form of supranaturalism.
Several more or less
synonymous labels are used to indicate both approaches, some of them calumniations
of the other approach. Naturalists are often called materialists, agnostics
. Supernaturalists are labeled as dualists, idealists, spiritualists,
the faithfull, and their approach a naive superstition.
The problem to reconcile
both approaches is that each of both fundamental hypotheses (one/two substances)
often is used as a mere argumentation in a hidden or open dispute about
the consequences of this hypothesis. Already the dictionary describes materialism
as the interest in and the desire for money, possessions, etc.,
rather than spiritual or ethical values.  I think that most of believers
in the naturalistic approach will find this description offending. The
same way spiritualism is defined as belief that the disembodied spirits
of the dead, surviving in another world, can communicate with the living
in this world, esp. through mediums. . I know of many religious
people who don't belief in this kind of paranormal phenomena.
Each approach seems
to imply and to suggest some related convictions, at least according to
the interpretation of the opposite approach, that seem unacceptable, so
that sticking to the own principle seems to be inevitable or logically
The naturalists reproach
the supernaturalists that the phenomena they describe either don't exist
and are mere hallucinations, or that they can be explained by natural laws
(even if such laws are still to be discovered) or as pure primitive psychological
phenomena, occurring often indeed with "primitive" people or hysterical
patients. Moreover, they consider the claim of the existence of a spiritual
substance, including God(s), angels, saints, performing from time to time
revelations, miracles and appearances, as an authoritarian excuse to dictate
moral and ethical guidelines, and to block scientific, technological and
even socio-cultural progress at each possible instance. The supernaturalistic
approach is in itself paralysing critical and creative thinking, resulting
into cultural fatalism and stagnation for centuries. In a moving
essay, the Nobel Prize Winner Steven Weinberg concludes:
the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible
for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible
for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment. The supernaturalists
reproach the naturalists of a short-sighted view of existence, of rejecting
ethical and moral values, opening the doors to arrogance, materialism,
egotism, and lack of respect for human dignity. Moreover, by reducing human
existence to what can be observed between birth and death, and by considering
human existence as an insignificant variant of animal life, they insinuate
a certain insensitivity and even a tactless indifference for deep emotions
and intuitions concerning contact with suffering, dying and dead beloved.
but clearly suggested related negative attitudes make it difficult for
a honest thinker to consider himself a sensible naturalist or a progressive
Is there another
approach possible, with the qualities of each and without the negative
implications of each?
of Enriched Naturalism
If we consider traditional
naturalism as the conviction, the postulate that all that exists is built
up from one substance --traditional matter--, then we define Enriched Naturalism
as an improved form of naturalism. It is defined as a working hypothesis,
plausible and useful, but not yet proven. It distinguishes itself from
traditional naturalism by some crucial nuances.
"naturalistic" theories about the "Stuff of the Universe"
Imagining the substance,
the Stuff of our Universe I can't think to nothing different than Energy,in
different forms and states, but only energy. The different
states of energy evolve according to an evolutional path which represents
the Life Cycle of the universe that unfolds itself: Spirit-God-Alpha,
Radiation, Matter, Consciousness, Spirit-God-Omega. Nothing can be created
or destroyed, everything is transformed according to the natural laws of the universe by the different forms of energy transmission. [Rudolf
I think, as you do, that "the stuff of the universe" is natural, and anyway
unique, I shouldn't go so far to call it energy, because I think
that matter and energy are only two aspects, two manifestations
of the same fundamental stuff we don't yet understand. Energy appears
to be only one aspect of it. I don't see how traditional energy can be
converted into matter and the other substances you enumerate. So I don't
see any evidence to select just one manifestation as the essential one.
I think we should be prudent with this kind of hypotheses, and take the
simplest one as long as more evidence is lacking. Sometimes I wonder if
meaning shouldn't be a third manifestation of this fundamental stuff,
unless we differentiate between macro-energy, changing structures,
and micro-energy, just giving signals. This approach is elaborated
in pages about the General Systems Theory. Some
(1) The naturalistic
principle ("all that exists is built up form one substance --traditional
matter--") is a working hypothesis, not a proven law. This principle seems
most plausible because:
1. up to
now no exceptions were encountered in science. There are just some phenomena
that, by lack of experimental tools (e.g. in philosophy, psychology, religion,
economics, etc.), are not yet accessible for experimental science. (2) The naturalistic
approach has to remain prepared for the discovery of new, completely unexpected
phenomena in nature. Why should scientific discoveries stop in 1950? It
is still possible that yet unknown fields, forces, rays and particles are
discovered. Quantum physics and modern cosmogony brought some revolutionary
observations yet to understand, and paradoxes yet to solve. Even if future
"scientific" explanations remain naturalistic in their fundamentals, they
risk to sound very unusual in traditional "scientific" ears.
2. most phenomena,
advanced as "proofs" for non-naturalistic substances and interactions,
failed to be objectivated. Most of times, they fall short of predictions,
made by the sometimes very tricky and most of times not popularily known
laws of statistics. Skeptical websites profusely advance evidence of these failures.
3. the naturalistic
principle is the most useful attitude for the advancement of science, because
it keeps us searching and believing in our possibilities.
4. the naturalistic
principle is the most simple approach. A cautious principle in science
is that when we can choose between a simple and a complex explanation,
the most simple is probably the most plausible, unless we have positive
reasons to consider the more complicate one.
5. explaining things
by projecting them to other worlds and natures, e.g. "life didn't start
on earth but comes from Mars" doesn't explain anything; one has to explain
now how life emerged in Mars.
6. to suppose repeated
interventions by God, His Son and His host of Saints is offending for God:
it implies that in the beginning His creation was rather clumsy, making
many corrections and interventions necessary. A not intervening God is
more congruent with His alleged Almightiness, Wisdom, and respect for our
(3) The control of
the plausibility of a hypothesis, and hence the notion of "scientism" in
itself are urgently to be extended. As argued elsewhere,
the traditional experimental scientific method is only one way to achieve
reliable plausibility. Domains less accessible for experimenting, measuring
and calculating up to now where supposed to wait until exact measuring
became available for their field, and until then nothing distinguishes
them from unscientific myth and confabulation. This waiting time could
take some more centuries. But in the meantime it became clear that integration is a means to achieve a comparable degree of plausibility. This integrative
method doesn't intend to replace the exact method, but to complement it
in fields apparently inaccessible for this method. The problem is that
the fundamental attitudes to achieve integrative thinking appear to be
radically opposed to the traditional academic approach, which tends to
an even higher specialization in even more subdivised fields of knowledge.
Also people being
sensitive for "psychic" phenomena have to nuance some of their viewpoints,
to enable an enriched naturalistic approach:
(1) It is clear that
fine-tuned and highly complicated "matter" connections, as the nervous
system, computers and neural networks, make "artificial" intellectual processes
possible. Also emotional and creative processes, still not within the reach
of artificial brains, can be explained by neuropsychological interactions.
It can be expected (but still not proven) that once the AI devices are
quantitatively comparable with human brains, and probably will be enriched
with processing paradigms completely different from exact deductive thinking,
e.g. unexact and associative thinking, those devices will produce other
than cool intellectual performances. With all possible respect, super-animal
phenomena don't imply nor prove the existence of supernatural psychic entities
or interactions, however honest, emotive and convinced the person who experiences
it might be.
(2) The laws of
probability sciences can yield very surprising and decieving predictions
and results, often contrary to common sense. This explains most of "unexpected"
observations of paranormal phenomena.
(3) Still less explored
is the phenomenon of collective thought. Inspired by our shared
life experiences and common instincts, people completely without any contact
with each other can come to the same conclusions, often even simultaneously.
This occurs as well for the basics of human concepts, as illustrated by
the archetypes, as for creative thinking at the edge of progress,
as illustrated by creative scientists, independently coming to the same
theory or discovery. Those striking similarities between complicated concepts
do not necessarily presuppose mysterious forms of communication nor a common
predecessor, terrestrial nor extraterrestrial.
(4) Even the still
intriguing concept of consciousness isn't a proof for a super-natural
sunstance. If one defines consciousness as an interiorized internal
"image" of external reality, many misunderstandings fade away. As argued
this interiorization includes a strong linking with emotional and behavioural
reactions, and the "internal image" includes, apart from memorized facts
and observations, a very complex system of general, abstract hypotheses
and categories, and presuppositions about things not yet observed and possibilities
yet to come. The comparison of consciousness with a camera, that holds
an internal image of extern reality but isn't conscious of that reality,
is confusing and deceiving. A camera doesn't interiorize its experiences
and observations. A better comparison should be a computer: the words memorized
by a word processor are not interiorized because they never change the
behaviour of the computer (and can be compared with a camera), but the
words composing a computer program highly determine the computer's behaviour,
as does the brain contents with men.
(5) If one defines
consciousness as the most elaborate form of system control or internal
organization (see an article on the development
of consciousness), one easily understands that more primitive forms
of living beings, and even inanimated systems, feature a primitive form
of "consciousness" or encoded experience, without presupposing primitive
forms of souls or other psychic organs.
(6) The absence of
contact, since long considered as the most typical difference between
man and machine, is only typical for primitive forms of artificial intelligence.
When one defines personalization as warmth and empathy, it seems
to presuppose another human, sympathizing being, most probably of "psychic"
nature. But if one considers personalization as a kind of attention, taking
every aspect of the encountered person into account, also very individualized
needs and feelings not immediately important for the current activity or
interview, and even needs of the interviewer himself, it's very likely
that this could be "programmed". Some conversations with HAL9000, the supercomputer
in 2001, A Space Odyssey illustrate this possibility. Even the pubertal
revolt of this computer reflects a touch of humaneness.
(7) It is possible
to explain the old human immortality dream as a kind of Global Mind (as
argued in an article on immortality). This
Global Mind is to be interpreted as a kind of universal "psychic" software,
and doesn't imply some supernatural substance.
(8) It is important
to consider some intrinsic contradictions in the traditional supernatural
hypothesis. When the nature of such supernatural bodies --which guide and
"animate" us-- is evolutive, how is this compatible with alleged abilities
as jumping in time and space? The necessity to evolve is precisely provoked
by the unability to collect wisdom without trying and experiencing everything.
Furthermore, this evolution strongly suggests that these "psychic" bodies
are rather dependent form material evolution than otherwise. On the other
hand, if those immaterial entities don't evolve but were perfect from the
first moment --as ghosts are supposed to be--, why didn't they inspire
us and our animated predecessors to more wise forms of evolution than the
exhausting and painful way we seem deemed to follow?
Concluding we can state that an "enriched" naturalistic hypothesis could be accepted
by everybody without hampering scientific thinking nor humanistic experiencing.
Both of the traditional, conflictuous approaches can be interpreted as
one-sided reductions of the integrative hypothesis.
Some authors, other
than Teilhard, often suggest theories that seem to imply the existence
of two substances: a "psychic" apart from our mundane matter. Some of the
most popular amongst them are Popper, Lovelock, Bohm --at least as I understood
Without denying the
least bit of their grandeur in their primary field of knowledge and experience,
I fear that precisely their enormous and successful expertise in some rather
restricted scientific domain could be indicated as responsible for their
two-nature approach. Even the fact that sometimes they are Nobel Prize
Winners doesn't protect them from such "unscientific" statements. For that
matter, other Nobel Prizes including Steven Weinberg come to completely
different conclusions. I fear that their hyperspecialization in one or
a restricted number of very physical or biological domains obscures them
perhaps for well founded conclusions outside that domain.
For many, Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin seems to suggest the existence of souls and all
kinds of psychic phenomena. He even extends this traditional religious
notion by seemingly attributing primitive forms of soul to pre-human beings.
1. Souls. Personally,
as I read Teilhard, it never occurred to me that he explicitly suggests
the existence of such supernatural beings. It strikes me that he always
uses abstract terms to describe such phenomena: consciousness, psychism,
the Inner Side, noogenesis, cephalization, cerebralization, individuation,
psychic transformation, etc. Why should he stick to phrên in stead of simply using soul? And elsewhere he states clearly:
the mind, fulfilled at last, from its material matrix"  For me this sentence
clearly defines the mind as a product of the material structures, and not
as something exterior to these.
Yes, I believe you
are quite right here in perceiving Teilhard as being in the camp of those
who support enriched naturalism. For the French Jesuit, mind or spirit,
in the created cosmos, emerges out of matter. In addition to the text which
you cite above (from 'The Phenomenon of Man') we might also consider the
is finally the most revolutionary and fruitful aspect of our present age
is the relationship it has brought to light between matter and spirit;
spirit being no longer independent f matter, or in opposition to it, but
laboriously emerging rom it under the attraction of God by way of synthesis
and entration.'  And, elsewhere, Teilhard
'...spirit is neither super-imposed nor accessory to the cosmos, but...it
quite simply represents the higher state assumed in and around us by the
primal and indefinable thing that we call, for want of a better name, the
"stuff of the universe".  Also, apropos of spirit
emerging out of created matter, he French Jesuit states:
is the matrix of spirit. Spirit is the higher state of matter.'  2. Even God is
mostly indicated as an abstraction:
henceforth rest with all its weight on God-Omega." [3 ibid.] Some, of course, might
not consider the term "God-Omega" as a term that is all that abstract.
However, for the sake of argument, suppose we grant that it is abstract.
At this point the following interesting question may arise in our minds:
"By the use of a possibly abstract term such as "God-Omega", does Teilhard
wish to suggest "that God is little more than a mere abstraction?"
-- In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming in favour of a negative
response to this question.
The Divinity, for
Teilhard, is a really existing, uncreated 'Ens a se'  or "Being from
itself", the unengendered Source of itself and of all that was, is and
will be. From the French Jesuit's perspective, 'God', literally, 'sustains
and animates and holds together' created being also known as 'participated
being'.  Thus God is ontologically real and actual from the Teilhardian
perspective. The Divinity, for the French Jesuit, would appear to be significantly
more than an abstraction, using this term in the sense of a sort of construct
or projection of the human mind.
In the view of Teilhard,
'God' is 'the transcendent aspect of Omega'.  Now Omega, for the French
Jesuit, is spirit, and so God, as an aspect of Omega, must be spirit as
well. We know that Teilhard considers Omega to be spirit because he tells
us that 'is...outside all series'  Being outside of all series means,
of course, among other things, standing outside the spatial series, standing
outside the series in which matter has its being. So, as non-material,
and yet ontologically actual, the Divinity must be spiritual.
We may also note
that in being outside all series, God, for Teilhard, is also outside of
the temporal series. The Deity, from the Teilhardian perspective, transcends
time, is situated, in fact, in the realm of the eternal. In this connection,
the French Jesuit speaks of 'God' as the 'eternal Being-in-himself'. 
The Deity, then,
for Teilhard is uncreated, unengendered, transcendent, eternal Spirit,
the Source of the existence of itself and of all else besides itself. Now
as unengeredred, God cannot have arisen out of matter, for then, matter
would have engendered God. So, the uncreated Divinity, while being spirit,
is of a different order of spirit from the spirit which arises out of created
matter. From Teilhard's standpoint, the Divinity is not an abstraction
in the sense of a form of existence that arises, "abstracts itself" from
I believe we stand of safe ground if we claim that, for Teilhard, God is
not an abstraction. In the eyes of the French Jesuit, the Supreme Being,
is not an abstraction in the sense of a mental construct or projection
of the human mind. On the contrary, the Divinity is a very real, actually
existing Being. Nor is God an abstraction in the sense of a form of existence
that arises from or "abstracts itself" from created matter. So, even if
we grant that the French Jesuit may, on occasion, use abstract terms in
reference to the Divine, it does not seem to be the case that, by utilizing
such terms, he wishes to suggest any reduction from the full and absolute
ontological plenitude of what he calls the "eternal Being-in-himself".
extensive approach on The Nature of God and Creation is posted elsewhere by Brian Cowan]
I think you're right
that I shouldn't have put God at the same level of the spirit-software
emerging from matter.
Yes, I think that
we are in agreement that unengendered, uncreated, divine Being is in a
whole different ontological category from engendered, created, non-divine
being. For example, the former is the Source of its own existence and of
all other existence. The latter, on the other hand, is completely dependent,
for its existence, on the former.
But I would like
to add some nuances:
1. In the expression
"God-Omega" you put the stress on "God". But I rather considered the aspect
"Omega". Omega and God are not synonymous, I think. Omega is the
ultimate state of the created universe, in which state it intensely participates
in an interaction with God. The name "Christogenesis" (the "Mystic Body")
even suggests that the completed universe will be a part of the Trinity,
a kind of Second Person. Of course, for the timeless standpoint of God
the Trinity is already completed, and -from a timless point of view- has
always been. But for us, captives of the constant and one direction time
axis, we are still in the process of becoming the "second person". What
I want to state is that, even when God is a supernatural existing real
entity, the notion of Omega can be considered as an abstraction: the ultimate
moment of evolution.
I would agree that
"God" and "Omega" are not synonymous. And, indeed, Omega (in the sense
of Omega less its divine component) is in the process of building itself
up, of, in some sense, "abstracting itself" from the cosmos. Your take
on cosmogenesis as a Christogenesis involving the building up of a sort
imitative second trinitarian person (as a kind of mimetic likeness of an
eternal Second Person of the Trinity) is intriguing.
2. If we consider
two hypothetical possibilities of the Performer of the Creation (Big Bang),
one possibility is that an intelligent Being was
responsible for it. This being, apart from matter and evolution, is
God. But there is a second hypothesis: the universe could be created
by a kind of completed universe, either another universe or our own
universe in a kind of ouroboros closed time loop. In this case "God" is
the name we give to our perception of this creating Completed Universe.
In this context "God" becomes an abstraction: it is a state of an evolving
material universe, the ultimate state. This sheds another light on Teilhard's
expression "God-Omega": the last state, the Omega Point --an abstract notion--,
of an evolving universe, performing the creation of another universe as
its last meaningful act, is perceived by that new universe, looking back
to its origin, as a powerful Being, called God. So what we, anthropomorphically,
see as a Being of some nature that is different from ours (we --at this
stage--don't have neither the wisdom nor the power to perform the creation
of a universe), is in fact only the last moment of another universe (or
our own if we consider a time loop).
Your second creational
hypothesis to the effect that our universe could, in some sense, "be created
by a kind of completed universe", is, I believe, a possibility that cannot
be ruled out. What you are suggesting here seems to tie in well with Teilhard's
opinion that often 'when the primal cause operates, it does not insert
itself among the elements of this world but acts directly on their natures,
so that God, as one might say, does not so much "make" things as "make
them make themselves". (1) So, your suggestion that one universe might
"make" another universe does not seem at all far-fetched.
3. Then we have the
mysterious expressions as "detaching the mind, fulfilled at last, from
its material matrix" and "spirit is the higher state of matter".
How could we translate this with the knowledge we have today? I think that
this is described in my page on the evolution of consciousness. In the
early stages of evolution, progress towards more evolved and complex organisms
is always performed by structural adaptations. To evolve means: to change
one's structure, enabling more possibilities than before. But from the
biologic stage on, the brain with his thoughts and learning abilities (its
"software") could enhance these possibilities without anatomical (or structural)
changes. But these animals kept their thoughts inside their brain, so they
still seemed to be a part of the matter, just "states" of the brain. With
the development of language --not only enabling communication but also
inner speech and abstraction-- this "software" literally left its neurological
matrix. Other hardware for the same software is conceivable, as AI and
nanotechnology demonstrate. The "matrix" becomes completely unimportant,
because the "mind" could eventually perhaps be transplanted from brain
to brain, to computer etc., as if "mind" starts living by itself. This
is what we call the Global Mind, one of the plausible hypotheses for immortality.
For me, the mind-soul-psychism-brainsoftware is Teilhard's "spirit". A
hypothetical God has to include such a Supermind, or could even be nothing
more than such a Supermind. I know that, in comparison with todays' computer
software, this kind of analogy seems "cold" and even "unrespectful", denying
all the warm personal en emotional dimensions of "contact with other people
and with God". But I think far more developed software, including personalized
interactions and tender care (as in 2002, A Space Odyssey) is conceivable.
You have suggested
that with the development of language and technology (including artificial
intelligence technology), aspects of the human mental "software", or mental
life, "literally left" their "neurological matrix". This is an intriguing
proposal. Perhaps the jumpings of our mental life out of its neurological
matrices, that we have witnessed so far, in the history of our planet,
are but dim prefigurations of the jumpings, of the same nature, which the
future may behold.
These and many more
expressions convince me that Teilhard sees the psychic as a kind
of software of the brain, not as a supernatural, animating principle
coming from elsewhere. I think a supplementary reason for this is that
he wanted to avoid direct conflict with the religious authorities. By replacing
supernatural phenomena --which he considered as unscientific-- by abstract
notions, without explicitly refuting them, he kept outside of heresy properly
speaking, but suggested another approach. At the same time he performed
an impressive process of integration.
Collins English Dictionary, 1993
word coined in 1869 by T.H.Huxley, to indicate that the answer on these
fundamental hypotheses cannot be known with certainty. From a- not,
+ -gnostic, one who fully knows.
P. Teilhard de Chardin, Survival, p. 288
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'The New Spirit', in 'The Future of Man' (Harper
& Row, 1969), pp. 96-97.
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'The Phenomenon of Spirituality', in 'Human Energy'
(Collins, 1969), p. 94.
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'The Heart of Matter', in 'The Heart of Matter'
(Harvest Book, 1978), p. 35.
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'My Fundamental Vision', in 'Toward the Future'
(Harvest Book, 1975), p. 208.
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'Cosmic Life' (at the conclusion of 'The End of
the Species'), in 'Future', p. 318.
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'Outline of a Dialectic of Spirit', in 'Activation
of Energy', (Harvest Book, 1970), p. 146.
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'The Phenomenon of Man' (Fountain Books, 1977),
P. Teilhard de Chardin 'The Heart of Matter', in 'Heart', p. 66.
Teilhard de Chardin'The Transformist Question
et. al.', in 'The Vision of the Past' (Collins, 1966), p. 25.