TEILHARD DE CHARDIN (Pierre)
"French Jesuit paleontologist (Sarcenat, Puy-de-Dôme, 1881 - New York 1955). The scientific work of Teilhard de Chardin is situated primarily in Asia: discovery of the Peking Man (1929), explorations in India, in Java, participation in the Yellow Crossing (1931, etc.). His theological and philosophical writings, banned from publication during his lifetime, have been disseminated since his death. Enlightened by a synthesizing vision of the universal unfolding of evolution, they give validity to the phenomenon of the cerebral complexification of the human phylum, ending in the abrupt appearance of the consciousness of self (the "threshold" of reflection), then in a worldwide communication network of human thought, the noosphere, at the heart of which is acting "Christ, the capstone of evolution", who is conducting humanity, in a simultaneously immanent and transcendent fashion, towards the "Omega point" (the Kingdom of God). His principal work, the Phenomenon of Man,appeared after his death."
Le Grand Larousse Universel, Tome 14, p.10095 (Translation by Janice B. Paulsen)
Maria Luiza Glycerio and Janice B. Paulsen
|1. Noogenesis and the Noosphere||4. Possible Outcomes for the End of the World|
|2. The Rebound of Evolution||5. The Future Progress of the Noosphere ?|
|3. The Effects on the Noosphere||6. Bibliography|
1. Noogenesis and the Noosphere
First, let us clarify these two words which cause such great misunderstanding of the two realities to which they refer.
Noogenesis, from the Greek noos = psyche (soul, spirit, thought, mind, consciousness) and genesis = origin (formation, creation, such as "the creation of the world"), is a word which indicates the act of the creation of something psychic.
Noosphere, also from the Greek noos = psyche (soul, spirit, thought, mind, consciousness) and sphere (a body limited by a round surface) , is a word which represents the psychic layer born of Noogenesis which is growing and enveloping our planet above the Biosphere (the mass of living beings which covers the globe).
When Man first appeared in nature, "at the heart of the primates", [he] "flourished on the leading shoot of evolution" ( PM p. 36. ), or to more exactly translate Teilhard's French "axe et flèche de l'Evolution" as "Evolution's Arrow" ( PH p.24 ). He was like the other creatures except that he bore within himself a very special difference: the still dormant capacity for reflection. During the earliest evolutionary phases of hominization, the first hominoids had a brain containing the latent capacity to reflect, but an as yet primitive nervous system. The dispersive movement of the first peopling of the Earth did not favor communication within communal gatherings. Later, however, during the early evolutionary stage of Homo Sapiens at the dawn of the Neolithic Age, humanity began to come together, forming a convergent line on the Earth; grouping had become a necessity. This favorable circumstance encouraged man to cross the "Threshold of Reflection". At that point a very special phenomenon began to take place, the birth of a new planetary sphere, above the Biosphere : the Noosphere. Noogenesis is the name given to this process of creating a new planetary envelope formed entirely by human thought. ( PM, pp. 164-166. )
Thus the result of Noogenesis is the birth of the Noosphere: a more mature, expansive and definitive layer, in an ongoing process of convergence of the collective thought of Homo Sapiens. It is open to every subtle modification from the primitive stage until it can encompass all human knowledge, all ideas and all the increasingly complex technologies, indeed the entire planetary consciousness.
In order that the brain might become capable of this almost unlimited absorption and that human thought might be able to develop up to modern times, Man's brain and nervous systems have had to undergo essential modifications. In the primitive brain certain structures were already capable of developing in a movement similar to that of Evolution, a movement of "turning inward upon itself", characterized by two specific forms. One can differentiate them into soma, which expresses the general phenotype, and phrên , which evolves at the same time but with different rhythms and functions (GZH, Chap. 2, p.57 ). Of particular interest is the phrên, a Greek word which refers to psyche or mind, since it is the human psyche which is going to "nourish" the special planetary sphere called the Noosphere.
Beginning with the minimally complex organism of the fish, ancestor of man in the Chordate-Vertebrate branch of the "Tree of Life" ( PM, pp. 122-140 ), one can distinguish "two particularly significant zones of the brain mass" ( GZH, p.62 ) : the cerebellum or " the little brain ", and the two cerebral hemispheres. These are zones that have evolved more than the others and that man possesses in a scale of much greater complexity, in the great evolutionary line of "involution" ( GZH, pp.62-150 ):
Thus, what the Comparative Anatomy of living forms teaches us (without even any recourse to Paleontology), is that from group to group, beginning with the Fish, two particularly significant zones of the brain mass tend to take precedence over the others, that is say tend to concentrate within themselves the progress of cephalization: on one hand, the cerebellum, - and on the other, above all, the cerebral hemispheres; the latter undergoing in the most advanced Reptiles (Birds), and even more so in the Mammals (at least apart from several layers, and following certain phyla), a rapid, revolutionary and all invasive development: up to the point of monopolizing so to speak the cranial cavity and covering the cerebellum." ( GZH, p.62 )Evidently, Man's brain is becoming better equipped. However, confronted with so many destructive forces at the beginning of this third millennium, one can wonder if the brain will become sufficiently complex, sufficiently reflective in the "noospheric" sense, to be able to illuminate the way for the future. Will there be a new complexification or orientation in the Mind of Man so that Humanity may avoid its self-destructive route in the future, so that Noogenesis may progress along the evolutionary path toward "collective human reflection ? Will Man, "the axis and leading shoot of Evolution" ( PM p. 36 ), become more open-minded towards his "Neighbor", and more spiritually open towards the source of his Creation? Will the Evolutionary process cause Man to chose to employ all the enormous material and technico-social resources of the planet in order to create more economic, social and spiritual ties, rather than allow Humanity to capitulate to the forces of repulsion and disintegration?
2. The Rebound of Evolution
Teilhard has expressed his conviction that with the Earth now undergoing the "Socialization of compression " Humanity has entered a period of "The Rebound of Evolution and Neo-cerebralization" and is evolving "Towards more brain" (GZH, p.148-150 ):
"In this manner, in the interior of the Noosphere in process of compression, [we have] a new chain, particularly central and direct: the cerebralization (a higher order effect and parameter of cosmic involution) closing in upon itself in a process of self-completion; an auto-cerebralization of Humanity becoming the most concentrated expression of the reflective rebound of Evolution.*
*"Here reappears and becomes accentuated up to the point of becoming dominant, the distinction between soma and phrên posited above, ( GZH, Chap. 2, p.57 ) - With the appearance on Earth of the " Socialization of compression" (where the important factor is no longer the multiplication of individuals, but their ultra-cerebralizing arrangement) a new regime of biological evolution establishes itself; in fact, one in which the individuals, all the while still functioning as links by their germen (phyletic reproduction within the Human phylum, in the form of still recognizable hereditary fibers, although more and more intermingled), are affirming themselves, by their phrên , as constituatory elements of the "noospheric brain" (the organ of collective human reflection)."Evolution, Teilhard has assured us, is not complete; it is rebounding in the same process of "curving back upon itself"; but this time as an Evolution conscious of itself, thus giving birth to a new stage of Noogenesis, which did not stop after the creation of the Noosphere. Quite the contrary, by the very overpopulation of the Earth, Noogenesis is progressing rapidly towards the future, right before our very eyes.
Then how are we to recognize this progression, this new stage of Noogenesis? Is there any hope for a real planetary consciousness in the third millennium? Dare we hope for an age in which Matter will be put to the service of the Mind rather than the exact opposite which occurs today? If so, how does this change take place?
According to Teilhard, this rebound of Evolution is taking place by subtle mutations, from generation to generation along a continuum , following the genetic phylum begun in the shadows of the enormous Past of Mankind. It is visible to alert eyes in the small nuances that one observes in each difference noticeable in the space of a few generations. Let us take the phenomenon of Prolepsis, or the difference in height between a given generation and its descendents. Let us say, for example, that F 2 is taller than F 1. This phenomenon has already been observed by science for several decades and is becoming more frequent. Noticed before only in the peoples of northern Europe, this phenomenon is evident today in peoples of the entire world, without distinction of race or color.
Parallel to this mutation, there is an increasing difference in the IQ of younger generations; one can easily observe a noticeable difference in favor of the F2 generation. That proves, recalling the Law of Complexity-Consciousness that rules Evolution and keeping in mind the development of the structures of the brain, that this is a question of a movement of Cerebralization . This is a cerebral complexification, as physical as it is psychic: physical, given the specialization of the neurons with the augmentation of nerve fibers necessary in order to occupy more space in a physical body of greater height and a more complex brain; and psychic, in relation to the behavior of Man, who, following the principle law, is becoming more conscious of himself and seeking more and more Individuation through an inner convergence in harmony with the evolutionary directive.
Teilhard has reminded us, however, that "Evolution is a primarily psychic transformation" (PH p. 163). Thus, due to the "organic limits of the brain", the movement in the future will be in the direction of the Mind of Mankind (PM p. 278) .
"...followed upward towards the very large complexes, the same 'psychic ' element from its first appearance in beings, manifests, in relation to its matrix of ' complexity ', a growing tendency to mastery and autonomy. At the origins of life, it would seem to have been the focus of arrangement (F 1) which, in each individual element, engenders and controls its related focus of consciousness (F 2). But, higher up, the equilibrium is reversed. Quite clearly, first from the ' individual threshold of reflection ' ---if not before--- it is F 2 which begins to take charge (by ' invention ') of the progress of F 1. Then, higher still,...at the approaches (conjectured) of collective reflection, we find F 2 apparently breaking away from its temporo-spatial frame to join up with the supreme and universal focus Omega. After emergence comes emersion. In the perspectives of cosmic involution, not only does consciousness become co-extensive with the universe, but the universe rests in equilibrium and consistency, in the form of thought, on a supreme pole of interiorisation." (PM p. 309 )A question occurs at this point, for which the response is almost impossible to find, so hidden in the depths of time at the beginning hominization . Is the evolution of Mankind a question of one single genetic phylum or rather of diverse phyla? If it is a question of diverse phyla , that would explain the difference between the races of man and the dispersive peopling of the earth in the beginning, ---apparently without logic, by chance, ---but later grouping themselves together and establishing distinct zones of the planet.
This question has perhaps already been considered and discussed by modern scholars, who, thanks to Modern Science, now have more resources in order to lift the veil of these ancient "mysteries",
In Teilhard's opinion "all human lines join up genetically, but at the bottom, at the very point of reflection". ( PM p. 188 ) He further states, in a footnote, his conviction that "the Science of Man can come out decisively, it seems, in favor of monophyletism (a single phylum)".
Here we have, in essence, the explanation of the single genetic phylum in the beginning. It is not likely that science can prove empirically the veracity of the different phyla theory. That is unfortunate, for we are left in the dangerous territory of questions without answers, important questions which relate to the new dimension of Man and his psyche.
Nevertheless, when examining man's behavior today, we have to scrutinize his deeper motivations and not get lost in needlessly detailed considerations of his physical structure, however perfected, which seems to crown Evolution. Rather, in order that this human phenomenon may have a sense, we have to suppose another dynamic structure in Man --- his Mind or Soul; which would seem to have no discernable "dwelling place" in all these specialized cerebral ramifications; ---but which is going to orient his psychic behavior from this time forward towards greater spiritual development in order to prepare for the coming age.
Teilhard firmly believed that "the march of Humanity, as a prolongation of that of all other animate forms, develops indubitably in the direction of a conquest of Matter put to the service of the Mind. ...Thought might artificially perfect the thinking instrument itself; life might rebound forward under the collective effect of its Reflection." ( Survival, PM pp. 249-250 )1
(1 More detailed quotations from this final book of the Phenomenon of Man may be found at: PM: Book IV-Survival . )
It would seem that there is still a long march ahead for Humanity "in the direction of a conquest of Matter put to the service of the Mind" as this new millennium begins.
In despair of finding "peace on Earth", much less thinking of
peace at home; in order to escape conflicts and distance himself from the
negative forces of disintegration, repulsion, materialization
, mechanization, totalitarianism, and false ideologies which
destroy reflection; the thinking man of today interiorizes by turning
inward upon himself in the quest of greater Individuation. He
seems prone to "break away as far as possible from the crowd of others
...to be more alone so as to increase his being".
(PM pp. 237-238)
By the excesses of his individualization and his struggle for the "good
life", he all too often succumbs to the doctrines of materialism, survival
of the fittest and racism, or he dreams of getting away from others and the
Earth by seeking other planets or other dimensions of existence.
3. Effects on the Noosphere
This whole process of the rebound of Evolution could not take place without being in conformity with the principle law of Complexity-Consciousness ; and without simultaneously encompassing the planetary corpusculization of the entire Cosmos which, following the law of Convergence ( "All that rises, converges" ), leads us to envision a Universe which is turning inward upon itself while expanding.
It is as if this process of convergence were subjugating our little planet, with its tendencies, recognized by Modern Science, of entropy and disintegration of energy. However, these processes are not entirely negative. Although entropy destroys order; at the same time, with the energy saved from on-going disintegration, it contributes to the construction of new parameters of order at a higher level, based on the mutations born of the Noosphere in process of compression.
Since the Noosphere is an envelope made up of human thought and information, it evolves along with the totality of this planetary consciousness. Yet, man today in this age of Socialization of Compression seems primarily preoccupied with trying to escape the tensions produced by ethnic overpopulation, the still menacing Totalitarianisms, the aforementioned Entropy and Disintegration of Energy as well as the fear that increasing ecological disasters are destroying the resources of our planet.. These factors all seem to render impossible the perspectives of a worthwhile and peaceful existence for mankind in the near future.
It would appear that we are arriving at an impasse. Could the Noosphere be reaching its Saturation point, -- a point at which its chances of success or lack of success are already either irreversible or not even worthy of concern in the eyes of materialistic modern man?
What can be done to herald, foster and ensure the positive outcome
of the Socialization of compression
, ---the "auto-cerebralization of Humanity becoming the
most concentrated expression of the reflective rebound of Evolution"?
4. Possible Outcomes for the End of the Terrestrial World
In his article, "Noosphère et hypermonde" , Pierre Berger, journalist for Le Monde Informatique and Vice President of the Conseil d'Administration de l'Association Française des Sciences et Technologies de l'Information, cites these thoughts of Teilhard (from L'Avenir de l'Homme - "The Future of Man") concerning the possible outcomes for Evolution and the terrestrial world :
(AH, p. 360 *) "Omega (is) the great attractive force of the regime of compressive socialization that we have just entered; nothing leads us to foresee its relaxation, much less its end. Granted such conditions, it will do us no good, evidently, to seek to evade the whirlwind pressing in on us. Quite the contrary, it is extremely important that we learn, in the midst of this turmoil, how to orient ourselves and how to conduct ourselves spiritually; so that this totalizing restraint to which we are submitted might result, not in dehumanizing us by mechanization, but rather (as it seems possible) in super-humanizing us, by intensifying our capacities to understand and to love.
... Without a doubt, deep down in the most spiritualized zones of our being, certain interior needs subsist which are inexorably forcing us to pursue our forward march. ... Doubling, and little by little relaying the push coming from the bottom, the appearance of an attraction descending from the top reveals itself as organically indispensable for the rest of the operation; --- indispensable for sustaining the vital evolutionary thrust; and indispensable, at the same time, for surrounding Humanity in the process of totalization with the psychic warmth, the cordial atmosphere; without which the economico-technical grip on the world would only result in crushing souls one against another, without ever succeeding in welding them together and unifying them. ...There can be ...only one kind of Universe ---convergent, [with]---some illumination, some vivifying revelation at the end of the tunnel..."
(AH, p. 363 *) "Two partially divergent solutions present themselves. ...According to one (the "collectivist solution "), it would suffice, in order to assure the biological success of our evolution, that Humanity succeed somewhat in arranging itself globally in a sort of closed circuit where each thinking element... connected with all others might arrive at a certain final clarity of vision and a certain warmth of mutual understanding ---yet all of this without any appearance of a center. ... According to the opposing hypothesis (the "personalist solution"), ... it is just such a Center of assemblage , it is precisely such a capstone that must be anticipated and applied. .... If indeed... a real form of love does not surge up in the heart of evolution ---love stronger than all private egotism and all special passion, ---how can one ever expect the Noosphere to stabilize? ...In all truth, in order to hold together the human multitude without crushing it, ....a powerful and simultaneously irreversible field of attraction appears indispensable... Thus, have been reasoning and feeling (at least implicitly) for two thousand years, all Christians. And thus, under the urgency of events, will find themselves obliged to think, an ever increasing number of biologists and psychologists. So much so, that the greatest event today in the course of the history of the Earth would be indeed perhaps just that gradual discovery ... not only of Some Thing, but of Some One at the summit engendered by the convergence upon itself of the Universe in evolution."
According to Teilhard, that will depend on us,
on our refusal or our acceptance of this "SomeOne at the summit".
He envisions two almost contradictory possible outcomes, yet indicates that
in any case we must turn our efforts toward "the Good".
(Survival, pp. 287-289)
Représentation schématique du Phénomène Humain (interprétation personnelle - J. S. Abbatucci) - http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jacques.abbatucci/thephenomenon.htm
(p. 287-288) "The end of the world: the overthrow of equilibrium, detaching the mind, fulfilled at last, from its material matrix, so that it will henceforth rest with all its weight on God-Omega."
(p. 288) "The end of the world: critical point simultaneously of emergence and emersion, of maturation and escape."
According to the first hypothesis, ...evil on the earth at its final state will be reduced to a minimum. ...The final convergence will take place in peace.2
(Note 2 - Though at the same time ---since a critical point is being approached ---in extreme tension . ...)
But there is another possibility. Obeying a law from which nothing in the past has ever been exempt, evil may go on growing alongside good, and it too may attain its paroxysm at the end in some specifically new form.
There are no summits without abysses.
Are we to foresee a mechanizing synergy under brute force, or a synergy of sympathy? Are we to foresee man seeking to fulfil himself collectively upon himself, or personally on a greater than himself?
Refusal or acceptance of Omega? A conflict may supervene."
pp. 288-289 "In that case, the noosphere, in the course of and by virture of the process which draws it together, will when it has reached its point of unification, split into two zones each attracted to an opposite pole of adoration. ...Universal love would only vivify and detach finally a fraction of the noosphere so as to consummate it ---the part which decided to ' cross the threshold ', to get outside itself into the other.
Ramification once again, for the last time."Therefore, the only possible way out would be of the spiritual order, having confidence in the great and laborious work of Evolution; which, having succeeded in creating human beings with such care, cannot be conceived as having been organized by chance. We need to confirm, with Teilhard, that "Yes", this is a directed Evolution, conscious of itself; for there is a Motor which orients it and attracts it to Itself, the Omega Point. Then, why not say it? This "Motor" is God, the generating and at the same time final principle; which is realizing within itself the meeting of the two poles of attraction, the Alpha and the Omega, and giving Man the conscious thought, the Mind, the Soul, the Faith and the Energy of Love in order to continue his way of Peace in the Construction of a better Future for all. 1
1 Is not this what Saint Paul has already told us in his letter to the Ephésiens (1:9-10, RSV) ? "For God has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."
This is what Saint Paul called the " Pleroma ", as Teilhard explains in the second chapter of Le Milieu Divin: ( The Divine Milieu, p. 122): "What is the supreme and complex reality for which the divine operation moulds us? It is revealed to us by Saint Paul and Saint John. It is the quantitative repletion and the qualitative consummation of all things: it is the mysterious Pleroma, in which the substantial one and the created many fuse without confusion in a whole which, without adding anything essential to God, will nevertheless be a sort of triumph and generalisation of being. ...The active center, the living link, the organising soul of the Pleroma is Christ."
(pp. 293-294) "As early as in St. Paul and St. John we read that to create, to fulfil and to purify the world is, for God, to unify it by uniting it organically with himself. How does he unify it? By partially immersing himself in things, by becoming 'element ', and then, from this point of vantage in the heart of matter, assuming the control and leadership of what we now call evolution, Christ, principle of universal vitality because sprung up as man among men, put himself in the position (maintained ever since) to subdue under himself, to purify, to direct and superanimate the general ascent of consciousnesses into which he inserted himself. By a perennial act of communion and sublimation, he aggregates to himself the total psychism of the earth. And when he has gathered everything together and transformed everything, he will close in upon himself and his conquests, thereby rejoining, in a final gesture, the divine focus he has never left. Then, as St. Paul tells us, God shall be all in all ."
(p. 294) "The universe fulfilling itself in a synthesis of centres in perfect conformity with the laws of union. God, the Centre of centres. In that final vision the Christian dogma culminates. And so exactly, so perfectly does this coincide with the Omega Point that doubtless I should never have ventured to envisage the latter or formulate the hypothesis rationally if, in my consciousness as a believer, I had not found not only its speculative model but also its living reality."5. The Progress of Noogenesis in this Third Millennium???
Under what form, along what lines, therefore, can we expect Noogenesis to progress in the future?
Here, written more than fifty years ago, is Teilhard's optimistic vision of the future development of Noogenesis (Survival, pp. 279-280, p. 287 ):
(p. 277) " Assuming success ---which is the only acceptable assumption ---under what form and along what lines can we imagine progress developing during this period?
---In the first place, in a collective and spiritual form. We have noticed that, since man's advent, there has been a certain slowing down of the passive and somatic transformations of the organism in favour of the conscious and active metamorphoses of the individual absorbed in society. We find the artificial carrying on the work of the natural ; and the transmission of an oral or written culture being superimposed on genetic forms of heredity (chromosomes)."
(p. 278) It may well be that in its individual capacities and penetration our brain has reached its organic limits. But the movement does not stop there. From west to east, evolution is henceforth occupied elsewhere, in a rich and more complex domain, constructing, with all minds joined together, mind. Beyond all nations and races, the inevitable taking-as-a-whole of mankind has already begun
(p. 285) "Always pushing forward ...and taking advantage of the immense duration it has still to live, mankind has enormous possibilities before it.
Since the threshold of reflection, we have entered into an entirely new field of evolution, ---thanks to the astonishing properties of ' artifice ' which separate the instrument from the organ and enable one and the same creature to intensify and vary the modalities of action indefinitely without losing anything of its freedom; and thanks to the prodigious power of thought to bring together and combine in a single conscious effort all the human particles."
(p. 286) "...We have as yet no idea of the possible magnitude of ' noospheric ' effects, ---human vibrations resounding by the million ---a whole layer of consciousness exerting simultaneous pressure upon the future and the collected and hoarded produce of a million years of thought. Have we ever tried to form an idea of what such magnitudes represent?1
(Note 1 - ...each supporting the other (making a single arch or a single mirror) our modern souls see and feel today a world such as (in size, inter-connections and potentialities) escaped all the great men of antiquity. To this progress in consciousness, could anyone dare to object that there has been no corresponding advance in the profound structure of being?)"As these words of Jean-Pierre Luminet, astrophysicist, director of research at the French National Center of Scientific Research , bear witness, the "collected and hoarded produce" of planetary Consciousness is indeed evidenced by the Internet as this third millennium begins; giving reality to the active, on-going progress of Teilhard's predicted "noospheric" effects:
"With the Internet this famous planetary consciousness, so extolled by precursors such as Teilhard de Chardin, becomes obvious. In the cyberworld, the notion of foreigner does not exist."
And the Noospheric Progress in this third millennium?
--- THAT WILL BE UP TO US!
English version, Richmond, VA, U.S.A.
last update 28 October 2002.
© 1999-2002 The late Maria Luiza Glycerio (Brazil, deceased June 2000) and Janice B. Paulsen (U.S.A.)