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Teilhard de Chardin's Evolutionary Philosophy

Scheme of The Phenomenon of Man
Scheme of The Phenomenon of Man by J.S. Abbatucci.
graphic from external link Teilhard de Chardin The PHENOMENON of MAN Translated by Bernard Wall (important extracts of the book)

"For invincible reasons of homogeneity and coherence, the fibers of cosmogenesis require to be prolonged in ourselves far more deeply than flesh and bone. We are not being tossed about and drawn along in the vital current merely by the material surface of our being. But like a subtle fluid, space-time, having drowned our bodies, penetrates our soul. It fills it and impregnates it. It mingles with its powers, until the soul soon no longer knows how to distinguish space-time from its own thoughts. Nothing can escape this flux any longer, for those who know how to see, even though it were the summit of our being, because it can only be defined in terms of increases of consciousness. For is not the very act by which the fine point of our mind penetrates the absolute a phenomenon of emergence? In short, recognized at first in a single point of things, then inevitably having spread to the whole of the inorganic and organic volume of matter, whether we like it or not evolution is now starting to invade the psychic zones of the world.... The human discovers that, in the striking words of Julian Huxley, we are nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself. It seems to me that until it is established in this perspective, the modern mind...will always be restless. For it is on this summit and this summit alone that a resting place and illumination await us.... All evolution becomes conscious of itself deep within us.... Not only do we read the secret of its movements in our slightest acts, but to a fundamental extent we hold it in our own hands: responsible for its past and its future."
Link to Amazon com The Phenomenon of Man
(thanks to Tom Huston - external link A Brief History of Evolutionary Spirituality, for picking out the quote

According to Teilhard, Consciousness and Matter are aspects of the same reality, and are called the "Within" and the "Without" respectively.  Evolution is the steady increase in the "Within" or degree of consciousness and complexity, through a number of successive stages: the various grades of inanimate matter; life or the "Biosphere"; man or thought or mind, the "Noosphere" (Teilhard's cosmology reflects the Christian anthropocentric bias in  having man as the first species capable of self-reflective thought); and finally the uniting of all humans in a single Divine Christ- consciousness.

Teilhard thus follows the evolutionist understanding of an evolutionary progression from inanimate matter through primitive life and invertebrates to fish, amphibia, reptiles, mammals, and finally man; always an increase in consciousness.  With man a threshhold is crossed - self-conscious thought, or mind, appears.  But even humans do not represent the end-point of evolution, for this process will continue until all humans are united in a single Divine Christ-consciousness, the "Omega Point" (so-called after the last letter of the Greek alphabet - hence the Hellenistic statement attributed to Christ (but unlikely to be said by him, as he would not have known Greek - "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end").  Teilhardian cosmology thus revolves around the idea of an evolutionary progression towards greater and greater consciousness, culminating first in the appearance of self-conscious mind in humankind, and then in the Omega point of divinisation of humanity.

Teilhard's concept of the Omega Point
Teilhard's concept of the Omega Point
image from Phylum Sinter myspace blog Saturday, December 20, 2008

Teilhard refers to "Centeredness" as a characteristic of the universe on all levels.  Each corpuscle of matter has a centre "within", its principle of organisation.  The more complex the being, the greater degree of centreity.  Teilhard teaches that Centreity is the true, absolute measure of being in the beings that surround us, and the only basis for a truely natural classification of the elements of the universe.  The axis of evolution stretches from the lowest degree of centreity to the highest, and entities having the same degree of centreity constitute "isopheres", forming universal units of the same type of being.  So pre-living entities are ordered on Earth in the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere.  Organic beings make up the biosphere, and thinking entities (which in Teilhard's system solely means man) the noosphere.  When ranked in their natural order, the whole family of isopheres will define at the heart of the system a focus-point of universal synthesis, the Centre of centres, Omega [Teilhard de Chardin, Link to Amazon com Activation of Energy: Enlightening Reflections on Spiritual Energy, pp.10-13, 102; Beatrice Bruteau, Evolution towards Divinity, p.138]

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page uploaded 21 June 1998, last modified 26 July 2009