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Co-Developing the Noosphere
Born near Clermont-Ferrand on May 1, 1881
French Jesuit, geologist, paleontologist, and philosopher-theologian.
His teaching career at the Catholic Institute in Paris was terminated because his views were regarded as unorthodox by his religious superiors. He took a research position in China, where he remained, except for a few intervals, for almost 20 years, engaged in paleontological research and philosophical reflection. He was one of the participants in the excavation that resulted in the discovery of Peking Man (Sinanthropus Pekinensis). In 1952 he became associated with the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, located in New York, where he met Julian Huxley, an agnostic biologist-philosopher, who came to roughly the same evolutionary concepts.
He died in New York City, on April 10, Easter 1955. In the years to come his works were published, and became extremely popular.
In 1962, the Holy Office, disconcerted by the unexpected success of Teilhard's writings, all published and translated within a couple of years, issued a monitum, or simple warning, against acceptance of his ideas.
He was one of the first to extend the evolutionary concept from Big Bang (Alpha) to Socialization and beyond (Omega). The cornerstone of his theory is the structuration of universal evolution in layers , each describing how systems become more complex within one layer (e.g. from atom 1, Hydrogen, to atom 92, Uranium). At a certain moment this in-layer complexification comes to a halt (a natural ending point), but complexification itself continues on a superior layer, with systems of the lower layer as building elements for the higher system, that starts an analogous complexification. Along with this complexification there occurs a progressive development of consciousness.
His theory can be seen as the history of natural systems.
The layers known up to now (some discovered after Teilhard's death) are: (1) strings, (2) photons, gravitons etc., leptons and quarks, (3) hadrons (protons, neutrons) and baryons, (4) atoms, (5) molecules, (6) eobionts (including viruses and formerly independent entities, now playing the roles of nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes, chloroplasts in the cell), (7) protozoa, (8) metazoa including plants, primates and man, (9) socialization. Remarkably, the duration of these stages (measurable from stage 3 on) is shortening with the factor 0.618 (the Golden Section).
These stages of evolution towards complexification/consciousness can be grouped in a lithosphere (or dead matter, from layer 1 to 5, also called geosphere or physiosphere), where organizing experience is transmitted by the structure of the system, i.e. hardware, biosphere (or living matter, from layer 6 to 8), where organizing experience is transmitted by central encoding, from DNA to chromosomes, i.e. firmware, and noosphere (or thinking matter, layer 9) where organizing experience is transmitted by ideas, or software. Consciousness evolves to spirituality, its highest form.
A close study of the laws of this evolutionary process lead to some conclusions as (1) biological evolution has come to an end, so the future is not genetical, (2) man is the last element of the metazoa layer, so we have not to expect a superman or übermensch, (3) socialization is the last stage of evolution but will not be limited to earth, (4) a fundamental characteristic of layer 9 in comparison with the former ones, is that the building element -man- doesn't lose his individuality. Socialisation is not a superindividual being as suggested by the Gaian hypothesis of e.g. Lovelock, although ultimately there is a convergence in the minds of men into a superconsciousness that Teilhard called the Omega Point.
His theory can be seen as so fundamental, that some authors (e.g. Wildiers) call it hyperphysics, because it's describing total reality, going from elementary physics to spirituality, including Darwin's biological evolution, but never leaving the scientific frame as do metaphysics. For Teilhard, science and religion are two approaches to the same reality, but several religious and philosophical intuitive concepts have to be adjusted and reformulated in the light of evolving science. Hence his conflict with his religious superiors, who considered traditional christianism as final and unquestionable, and who tried to remove him as far as possible from western intellectual life, and blocked his major publications during his lifetime.
His work is still condemned by catholic church. The admonition can be read on internet.
Teilhard's works include The Human Phenomenon (1955; transl. 1959, but publication blocked since 1939), Letters from a Traveller (1956; transl. 1962), The Divine Milieu (1957; transl. 1960), and The Future of Man (1959; transl. 1964).
HIS LAST QUOTATION (Three days before his death)
Site francophone sur Teilhard - Teilhard Yahoo eGroup
A critical evaluation of some aspects of his vision, by Kris Roose
The Emergence of Consciousness - From Biology to Religion
The Christian Inspiration of Teilhard's Work, God and the Creation by Brian Cowan
Important quotations: Noogenesis - The Collective Future - The Essence
A more detailed biography
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