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Teilhard De Chardin, Pierre


(b, near Orcines, Puy-de-Döme, France, 1 May 1881; d. New York, N.Y., 10 April 1955)

paleonatology, geology.

Teilhard was born into an aristocratic family at Sarcenat, the familial home. In 1898 he entered the Jesuit order and, after initial studies at Aix-en-Provence and the Isle of Jersey, was assigned to a Jesuit school in Cairo, where he taught physics and chemistry from 1905 to 1908. In Egypt he acquired his first extensive experience in fieldwork, which awakened his interest in the geology of the Tertiary. Although he published a monograph on Eocene strata in Egypt, Teilhard did not acquire true professional competence until he was transferred to the Jesuit house at Hastings, England, where between 1908 and 1912 he studied not only theology but also vertebrate paleontology. Ordained a priest, he returned to Paris in 1912 to study geology and paleontology with Marcellin Boule at the Museum of Natural History; these researches, interrupted by wartime duty as a stretcher-bearer, led to his Sorbonne thesis (1922) on the mammals of the Lower Eocene in France.

From 1920 to 1923 Teilhard taught geology at the Catholic Institute in Paris. In the latter year he made his first journey to China to participate in a paleontological mission with Émile Licent. By the time he returned to Paris, his habit of interpreting such theological questions as original sin in the light of evolutionary ideas had attracted opposition, with the result that he was forbidden to continue lecturing at the Catholic Institute. In April 1926 he departed for virtual exile in China.

The years 1908–1912 had been ones of critical intellectual formation. At Hastings he became acquainted with the evolutionary philosophy of Henri Bergson, whose book L’évolution créatriceproved to be the most important source of Teilhard’s emerging world view, although Teilhard’s notion of a converging cosmos was antithetical to that of Bergson. By 1916 (in his essay “La vie cosmique”) the main lines of Teilhard’s idea of a cosmic and directed evolutionary force had already developed. In Paris, before his definitive departure for China. Teilhard further developed his philosophical ideas in conjunction with the Bergsonian philosopher Édouard Le Roy and the Russian geologist V.I . Vernadsky. Le Roy and Teilhard attended Vernadsky’s 1922–1923 Sorbonne lectures on geochemistry, in which the Russian explicated his concept of the biosphere. It was this stimulus that led Teilhard, in a series of lectures on evolution in 1925–1926, to develop the concept of the noosphere, or thinking layer of the earth, representing a higher stage of evolutionary development. During his first months in China he set down his ideas in Le milieu divin, in which the theme of man as the culmination of the evolutionary impulse emerges in full relief.

The next few years, spent largely in collaboration with Licent, were productive ones for Teilhard. He continued work on Quaternary and Tertiary mammals, participating in 1928 in a joint study with Boule, Licent, and Henri Breuil on the Chinese Paleolithic, his contribution being studies on geology and his specialty, mammalian fauna, which he found to be quite similar to the mammals of the European Pleistocene. In 1929 he was scientific adviser to the Chinese Geological Survey and, in his own words, “heading the geological advance in China.” By the end of the decade he had terminated his relationship with Licent and had shifted his scholarly connections from French to Sino-American institutions; it was against this background that the discoveries at Chou-k’ou-tien were made. There, in 1929, a human cranium, that of the celebrated Sinanthropus, was unearthed by Pei Wen-chung. Teilhard, as the research team’s geologist (as well as coordinator of operations), was able to demonstrate the earliness of the skull, which later proved to be a close relation of the Pithecanthropus of Java.

The next phase of Teilhard’s career was devoted largely to geological research as he sought to synthesize the continental geology of Asia. In 1929 he began a series of expeditions, including the Roy Chapman Andrews Central Asia expedition (summer 1930) and th Croisieáre Jaune expedition of 1931–1932 (which Teilhard regarded as a pseudo-scientific venture but one that nevertheless enabled him to complete syntheses of the tectonics of northern China and of the Pleistocene geology of Central Asia).

By 1934 Teilhard was acting director of the Geological Survey and an active participant in the Cenozoic Research Laboratory in Peking. He next sought to connect the Tertiary and Quaternary geologic structure of northern China with that of the south, following the lines of fissure, a project that led to a trip to India with Helmut de Terra to connect the geology of the subcontinent with that of China. From 1931 to 1938 Teilhard produced a series of essays contributing to his synthesis of Asian geology and paleontology.

After 1938, with the exception of two trips to Africa, Teilhard’s fieldwork was over. During the Japanese occupation he wrote several important monographs on human paleontology and fossil mammals in China. It was during this same period that his major philosophical works were conceived, beginning with the first chapter of Le pheénomène humain in 1938.

The Teilhardian thesis is not a scientific theory but, rather, a philosophical world view based on certain themes drawn from the evolutionary synthesis and expressed in mystical, often poetic, terms. Teilhard discerned in the historical development of the cosmos a law of “complexity-consciousness,” a notion reminiscent of Haeckel’s views on the psychic unity of the organic world, only extended on a cosmic scale to include the inorganic world. According to Teilhard’s law, each successive stage in the evolutionary process is marked, first, by an increasing degree of complexity in organization and, second, by a corresponding increase in degree of consciousness. Evolution thus proceeds in orderly fashion from the inorganic to the organic, from less complex to more highly organized forms of life, through the process of hominization and beyond to “planetization,” whereby all the peoples of Homo sapiens are to achieve collectively an ultrahuman convergence, seen symbolically as a final “Point Omega.”

As a rationale for his view of an anthropocentric universe, Teilhard invoked Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to demonstrate that man is the center of all perspective in the natural world. He then applied the second law of thermodynamics to explain the complexification of the universe over time. Energy, instead of being lost through entropy, is converted into what Teilhard termed “radial energy,” a metaphysical construct standing for the evolutionary forces productive of increasing cultural complexity.

In terms of evolutionary process, Teilhard has been typically interpreted as a neo-Lamarckian exponent of orthogenesis: a process of accretion of changes tending in the same direction, toward a divinely inspired mankind. As T. Dobzhansky has noted, Teilhard’s notion of orthogenesis was an eccentric one, the teleological implications of which have been overstressed by religionists to the point of distorting Teilhard’s conception of the evolutionary process. That he was a finalist in the philosophical sense cannot be denied: but his finalism was applied to the evolutionary process only in a retrospective way, as a commentary on the cosmic past. His real understanding of evolution was considerably closer to scientific orthodoxy than has generally been supposed, and toward the end of his life it drew closer to the neo-Darwinian synthesis. He saw evolution functioning through a series of purposeful “gropings” (tâtonnements) that are random until the “purpose” is achieved. The hasard dirigé that governs the process need not be understood in a theologically teleological sense, however, but as a process of response to environmental challenges.

After the war Teilhard returned to Paris, where he labored in vain to publish Le phénomène humain. In 1947 he was ordered to refrain from philosophical writing and in 1949 was denied permission by his order to succeed to Breuil’s chair of paleontology at the Collége de France. The result of these reverses was a second “exile”–to New York (1951–1955) and a research appointment at the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. He resumed fieldwork on two trips to South Africa to inform himself of the research on Australopithecus. The African experience made it possible for him to complete his scientific synthesis of hominization, in which he characterized anthropogenesis as a bipolar process having an abortive Asian center and another in Africa that led directly to Homo sapiens. At the same time Teilhard continued to relate human origins to general geological development. In his final essays he again articulated his view of man as the primary focus of recent evolutionary development.

The diffusion of Teilhardian evolutionism is not a spurious phenomenon, but a further phase in the popularization of the theory of evolution, whereby entire sectors of society previously hostile to Darwinism have been brought into the evolutionary consensus. The primary diffusion began with the publication of Le phénomène humain in 1955, peaked around 1967, and, by 1970, had encompassed all the cultures of the Catholic West. In 1957 the Holy Office ordered the works of Teilhard removed from the libraries of Catholic institutions and forbade their sale in Catholic bookstores. This move was a prelude to the monitum of 30 June 1962 advising the faithful of errors and ambiguities in Teilhard’s philosophical and theological writings. At the same time, however, the Jesuit order relaxed its former stance and now produced the leading ecclesiastical defenders of Teilhard. That the monitum proved a dead letter can be seen from the feverish Teilhardian literary activity in France, Spain, and (with stronger opposition) Italy, which has had the effect of depolemicizing evolution in most intellectual and many educational sectors of the Catholic world.

A different phenomenon has been the reception of Teilhardism by European Marxists, especially in the Soviet Union. There, Teilhard’s teleological interpretation of evolution has been seen as convergent with dominant concerns of Marxist ideology. The future evolution of the noosphere is to be effected on the basis of the socialization of mankind into ever larger collectivities. Although economic and technological development are indispensable to this movement, both Teilhard and the Marxists believe that “spiritual” (=ideological) factors play a decisive role, particularly a belief in the supreme value of evolution (progress).


I. Original Works. The complete scientific works of Teilhard are collected in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: L’oeuvre scientifique, Nicole and Karl Schmitz-Moor-mann, eds., 10 vols. (Munich, 1971). Of the collected works in the series published in Paris, only vol. II. L’apparition de l’homme (1956), translated as The Appearance of Man (New York, 1966), contains essays that are, properly speaking, scientific. See also vol. I, Le phénomène humain (1955), translated as The Phenomenon of Man (New York, 1959); vol. III , La vision du passé (1957), translated as The Vision of the Past (New York, 1966), and vol. VIII , Le groupe zoologique humain (1963), translated as Man’s Place in Nature (New York, 1966). His fieldwork in China and Africa can be followed in Lettres de voyages (Paris, 1956), translated as Letters From a Traveller (New York, 1962).

II. Secondary Literature. The burgeoning literature on Teilhard and Teilhardism has been cataloged in several bibliographical guides: Joan E. Jarque, Bibliographie générale des oeuvres et articles sur Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Fribourg, 1970); Ladislaus Polgar, Internationale Teilhard-Bibliographie, 1955–1965 (Munich, 1965); and Daniel Poulin,Teilhard de Chardin. Essai de bibiographie (1955–1966) (Quebec, 1966). Selected works on Teilhard are listed yearly in Archivum historicum Societatis Jesu (Rome). See also Alfred P. Stiernotte, “An Interpretation of Teilhard as Reflected in Recent Literature,” in Zygon, 3 (1968), 377–425. Useful as critical apparatus are Claude Cuénot, Nouveau lexique Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1968); and Paul l’Àrchevêque. Teilhard de Chardin. Index analytique (Quebec, 1967), a composite index to the first 9 vols. of Teilhard’s Oeuvres.

Among the periodicals published by societies devoted to the thought of Teilhard, see Société Teilhard de Chardin (Brussels), Revue (1960– ) and Univers 1964– ); Société Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Paris), Carnets Teilhard (1962–); Association des Amis de Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Paris), Cahiers (1958–1965) and Bulletin (1966– ); the Teilhard Center for the Future of Man,Teilhard Review (1966– ); and Gesellschaft Teilhard de Chardin (Munich), Acta Teilhardiana (1964– ).

The standard biography of Teilhard is Claude Cuénot, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, les grandes étapes de son évolution (Paris, 1958), also in English (Baltimore, 1965). Works dealing primarily with Teilhard’s scientific career are George B. Barbour, In the Field With Teilhard de Chardin (New York, 1965); Louis Barjon and Pierre Leroy, La carrière scientifique de Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Monaco, 1964); Henri Breuil, “Les enquêtes du géologue et du préhistorien,” in Table ronde, no. 90 (June 1955), 19–24; Paul Chauchard, La pensée scientifique de Teilhard (Paris, 1965); George Magloire, Teilhard et le sinanthrope (Paris, 1964); Henry Fairfield Osborn, “Explorations, Researches and Publications of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1911–1931,” American Museum Novitates, no. 485 (25 Aug. 1931); Jean Piveteau, Le Père Teilhard de Chardin savant (Paris, 1964); and Helmut de Terra, Mein Weg mit P. Teilhard de Chardin (Munich, 1962), also in English (London, 1964).

General works on Teilhard’s philosophy are Henri de Lubac, La pensée religieuse du Père Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1962), also in English (New York, 1967); Émile Rideau, La pensée du Père Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1965), also in English (New York, 1967); and Bernard Towers, Teilhard de Chardin (London, 1966). For the “prehistory” of Teilhard’s Catholic evolutionism in France, see Henri Begouen, Quelques souvenirs sur le movement des idées transformistes dans les milieux catholiques (Paris, 1945). Among the explications of Teilhardian evolutionism, see Bernard Delfgaauw, Teilhard de Chardin (Baarn, Netherlands, 1961), translated as Evolution: The Theory of Teilhard de Chardin (New York, 1969); and Fernando Riaza, Teilhard de Chardin y la evolución biológica (Madrid, 1968). Commentary by scientists, from favorable to hostile, includes essays by Theodosius Dobzhansky in The Biology of Ultimate Concern (New York, 1969), 213–233, and George Gaylord Simpson in This View of Life (New York, 1964), 108–137; and P. B. Medawar’s famous critique in Mind (Oxford), 70 (1961), 99–106. See also Stephen Toulmin’s aʼnalysis, “On Teilhard de Chardin,” in Commentary, 39 , no. 3 (Mar. 1965), 50–55.

Studies of Teilhard’s sources are underrepresented in the literature. For his dependence on Bergson, see Madeleine Barthélemy-Madaule, Bergson et Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1963); on the fleeting, but critical, relationship with Vernadsky, see I. I. Mochalov, V. I. Vernadsky: Chelovek i myslitel (Moscow, 1970) 136–138. On Teilhard and Marxist thought, there are numerous articles by Roger Garaudy, including “The Meaning of Life and History in Marx and Teilhard de Chardin: Teilhard’s Contribution to the Dialogue Between Christians and Marxists,” in Marxism and Christianity: Studies in the Teilhardian Synthesis (London, 1967), 58–72; and “Freedom and Creativity: Marxist and Christian,” in Teilhard Review, 2 (1968–1969), 42–49.

The monitum and Catholic opposition to Teilhard are discussed by René d’Ouince, Un prophéte en procés: Teilhard de Chardin dans l’église de son temps, 2 vols. (Paris, 1970); and by Philippe de la Trinité, Rome et Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1964) and Pour et contre Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1970).

The diffusion of Teilhardism has yet to be studied systematically. Representative national studies and bibliographies are (France) J. Hassenforder, Ètude de la diffusion d’un succès de libraire (Le phénomène humain) (Paris, 1957); (England) Bernard Towers, “The Teilhard Movement in Britain,” in Month, 36 (1966), 188–196; (Germany) Helmut de Terra, Bibliographie des deutsch-sprachigen Schrifttums von und über Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1955–1964 (Frankfurt, 1965); (Italy) Elio Gentili, “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in Italia. Bibliografia,” in Scuola cattolica, 93 (1965), supp. biblio. 1, 247–334, and 95 (1967), supp. biblio. 2, 138–181; and Marcello Vigli, “Fortuna e funzioni del teilhardismo in Italia,” in Questitalia, 11 (1968), 352–370; (Soviet Union and eastern Europe) Ladis K. D. Kristof, “Teilhard de Chardin and the Communist Quest for a Space Age World View,” in Russian Review, 28 (1969), 277–288; and V. Pasika, “Teiiar de Sharden,” in Filosofskaya entsiklopedia, V (Moscow, 1970), 192–193; (Spain) Miguel Crusafont Pairó, “Teilhard de Chardin en España,” in Acta Teilhardiana, 5 (1968), 53–63. For a quantitative overview, see José Rubio Carracedo, “Quince años después: Del teilhardismo a Teilhard,” in Arbor (Madrid), 76 (1970–1971), 43–46.

Thomas F. Glick

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Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

The thought and works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin represent the widest and deepest attempt to reconcile Christian theology and the scientific worldview of biological evolution. Teilhard de Chardin noted the peculiar contributions of modern science to the vision of creation. Arguing that evolution moves toward complexity and consciousness, he noted that the order implied by creation is in the future and is achieved as a result of both the mechanisms of evolution and the action of humankind. The theological vision of the movement of creation toward unity, redemption, and salvation is now referred to as the evolutionary universe.

Early life and influences

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born in Sacernat in the French region of Auvergne in 1881, a year before the death of Charles Darwin. Teilhard died in New York in 1955. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1899 and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1911. A year later he started his scientific training in natural science with a special interest in paleontology at the Institute of Human Paleontology in Paris, under the direction of Marcellin Boule, one of the most eminent human paleontologists of that time. There Teilhard completed all his scientific training until the doctoral thesis.

Teilhard de Chardin's vocation became clear to him during the first world war; he wrote in his diary: "I would like to reconcile with God what is good in the modern worldits scientific intuitions, its social desires, it proper criticisms" (Journal, pp. 9091). For Teilhard, one of the great novelties of the modern world was evolution: the theory that life, Earth, and the whole universe are subject to a nonreversible change over time. From his point of view, evolution was not only a theory to be investigated, but also the scientific description of a peculiar way of creation, which required new approaches from theologians and philosophers "The adoption of the evolutionary mode for the formation of the world implies a particular mode of appareance 'ex nihilo subjecti' and suggests that this world has a deep ontological reason " (Journal, p. 264).

After completing his doctoral degree, Teilhard became chair of geology at the Catholic Institute of Paris. There, together with the French philosopher Edouard LeRoy and the Soviet geochemist Vladimir Vernadskij, he coined the word Noosphere, which he defined as the totality of all thinking creatures, "the psychically reflexive human surface." According to Karl and Nicole Schmitz Moormann in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, L'oeuvre Scientifique, Teilhard also started to envision a new global approach to evolution as a matter concerning the whole biosphere.

Darwin and evolution

In the meantime, he wrote a private note on original sin, in which he suggested that, in an evolving universe, order is not to be found at the beginning, only to be ruined by human sin, but order will come in the future and has to be constructed by human action. According to Teilhard, there is no gap in the history of life, no nature uncorrupted before sin and corrupted after sin. The mechanism of biological evolution, which involves the undeterministic and dramatic events first elucidated by Darwin, are present from the very beginning of life and are a general characteristic of the evolution of the universe.

Teilhard's unconventional views resulted in his removal from his academic chair and his invitation to stay in China. Yet his theological revolution was only beginning. Because the promise of order resides in the future, he speculated, Christians are not only asked to reach their own eschatological salvation in paradise, but also to construct the Earth and a new type of human on Earth. At the end of the process of evolution humankind will reach a single point of convergence, the Omega Point, where there will be the second and final coming of Christ. A new ontological value is suggested in this scientific description of nature: evolution as movement toward an endpoint, a goal. The deep meanings of the universe, from both the theological and philosophical points of view, are related to this idea of movement toward something: of matter toward life, of life toward consciousness, of consciousness toward the thinking creature and the Noosphere, the Noosphere toward the Omega Point. Teilhard considered this movement the result of the complexityconsciousness law and he argued that it recovers the theological necessity for the emergence of humankind.

Teilhard was well aware of new research and discoveries in evolutionary biology. He was most interested in the aspect of Darwinism in which chance plays a central role, but he thought that a correct scientific analysis would be able to demonstrate the presence of canalisation (the determination of a direction to evolution in a - particular phyletic branch) and parallelisms (phyletic branches that separate off a common branch evolve in parallel and develop similar characteristics). In fact, Teilhard discussed the parallelisms of primates toward increasing brain size in his first scientific papers as a trained palaeontologist. For Teilhard, if there is a general movement that characterizes evolution, this movement has to be evidenced from an experimental point of view. He grappled with the question of how to reconcile this vision with the revision of Darwinism called modern synthesis, which was in vogue at the time Teilhard was working in palaeontology and which seemed to deny any epistemological meaning to evolutionary direction.

Teilhard de Chardin believed that only a global experimental approach could demonstrate the directional movement of evolution. Most palaeontologists relied on fossil records, and the lack of a broader global approach by the proponents of the modern synthesis, who used a reductionistic approach based on genes and populations, was the epistemological reason for their rejection of the idea of evolution as moving toward a goal. Some of the innovations of biology, for example, the global approach and the definition of biology as the science of complexity, were developed by Teilhard in an attempt to answer questions posed by theology.

Global approach

Central to the evolution of Teilhard's thought was his move to China in 1923, where he worked on the geology, palaeontology, and paleoanthropology of the Asiatic continent. Here, he was able to study evolution on a large scale, both in time and space, and the possibility of a global approach to evolutionary biology became more possible. He intended such a global approach to be part of his program of studying the biosphere, and the continental evolution that he had in mind at the time was an epistemological tool, by which he could study the evolution of the biosphere on a reduced scale but without distortions.

A new model of the interaction of science and theology became apparent: Some of the characteristics of theology, such as the eschatological movement toward an endpoint, and some level of necessity of the thinking creature, are recovered as the metaphysical frame of a true scientific research program. In addition, research that describes the evolution of the universe and its mechanisms can form a starting point for a new theological program. The epistemological model of Teilhard, presented in the introduction of The Human Phenomenon (1955), is that there are points where science, philosophy, and theology converge, and these points must be handled in the correct way. The main philosophic frame is that of totality because it is the concept of totality that requires general connections, but totality is also the way to propose the global view in construction of evolutionary theories concerning the biosphere. The peculiarities of the whole can be lost in a reductionistic approach. Teilhard wrote these ideas in letters from China just after an expedition in the Gobi desert, where he envisioned the mystical experience of totality and where he was inspired to write the "Mass on the World." There is the possibility that mystical knowledge, or at least mystical experience, was at the very basis of his research program.


From these connections, Teilhard de Chardin developed the notion of "complexity" and proposed a new science called geobiology, the science of continental evolution, which he intended as part of his global program to study evolution. He was able to develop an experimental approach to fossil evolution that showed that evolution is characterised by canalisation and parallelisms. The main parallelism, at least in animals, was the moving of different evolutionary branches toward increasing cerebralization, which Teilhard saw as experimental proof of the directional movement of evolution. The present day discussion about the increasing in complexity of life evolution has in Teilhard one of its forerunners.

Finally, developing Teilhard's vision, evolution is moving toward complexity and consciousness with mechanisms not strictly deterministic: There is room for chance and blind movements. Teilhard looked for philosophical and theological meanings of these mechanisms, and found them in the idea of freedom. He believed that freedom is the third ontological characteristic of the universe suggested by modern science.

These mechanisms are not proof of the lack of purpose or design, but they are compatible with the idea that design implies freedom and that the nondeterministic structure of the universe is the only way to allow room for the free action of the thinking creature. The lack of order at the beginning of the universe gives the thinking creature room for free action in order to conduct general movement toward the Omega Point. The creation and evolution of the Earth is owed to (or thanks to) the freely accepted alliance of creator and the created. The synthesis of interaction of science and faith finds here its climax.

See also Chance; Christianity, Roman Catholic, Issues in Science and Religion; Complexity; Convergence; Darwin, Charles; Emergence; Evolution; Freedom; Incarnation; Mysticism; Paleontology


arnould, jacques. darwin, teilhard de chardin, et cie. paris: desclée de brouwer, 1996.

galleni, lodovico. "relationships between scientific analysis and the world view of pierre teilhard de chardin." zygon 27 (1992): 153166.

galleni, lodovico. "how does the teilhardian vision of evolution compare with contemporary theories?" zygon 30 (1995): 2545.

galleni, lodovico. "teilhard de chardin, le message." concilium 284 (2000): 137148.

galleni, lodovico, and groessens-van dyck, marie claire. "lettres d' un paléontologue. neuf lettres inédites de pierre teilhard de chardin à marcellin boule." revue des questions scientifiques 172, no. 1 (2001): 5104

piveteau, jean. le père teilhard de chardin savant. paris: fayard, 1964.

heller, michael. "teilhard's vision of the world and modern cosmology." zygon 30 (1995): 1123.

schmitz moormann, karl, and salmon, james f. theology of creation in an evolutionary world. cleveland, ohio: pilgrim press, 1997.

schmitz moormann, nicole, and schmitz moormann, karl. pierre teilhard de chardin, l'oeuvre scientifique, freiburg, germany: walter-verlag, 1971.

teilhard de chardin, pierre. the divine milieu, trans. bernad walls. new york: harper, 1960.

teilhard de chardin, pierre. les oeuvres complètes. paris: seuil, 19551970.

teilhard de chardin, pierre. l'oeuvre scientifique, eds. nicle schmitz-moormann and karl schmitz-moormann. freiburg, german: walter verlag, 1971.

teilhard de chardin, pierre. the phenomenon of man (1959), trans. sarah appleton-weber. brighton, uk: sussex academic press, 1999.

teilhard de chardin, pierre. "mass of the world." in hymn of the universe, trans. simon bartholomew. new york: harper, 1965.

ludovico galleni

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Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pyĕr tāyär´ də shärdăN´), 1881–1955, French paleontologist and philosopher. He entered (1899) the Jesuit order, was ordained (1911), and received a doctorate in paleontology from the Sorbonne (1922). He lectured (1920–23) at the Institut Catholique in Paris. After visiting China (1923–24), he resumed teaching at the Institut, but in 1926 he was forced by his superiors to abandon teaching and return to China because of his controversial attempts to reconcile the traditional view of original sin with his concept of evolution; at that time it was also decided that his publications should be limited to purely scientific material, a limitation that continued throughout his lifetime. Shortly after his return to China, Teilhard was named adviser to the National Geological Survey, and in that capacity he collaborated on research that resulted in the discovery (1929) of Peking man (see Homo erectus). While in China (1926–46) he also completed the manuscript of The Phenomenon of Man (published posthumously, 1955; tr. 1959), in which he outlined his concept of cosmic evolution and his conviction that belief in evolution does not entail a rejection of Christianity. Evolution he saw to be a process involving all matter, not just biological material, the cosmos undergoing successively more complex changes that would lead ultimately to "Omega Point," which has been variously interpreted as the integration of all personal consciousness and as the second coming of Christ. Teilhard's evolutionism earned him the distrust of his religious superiors, while his religious mysticism made scientific circles suspicious; but despite much opposition—or perhaps because of it—there was an unusually broad popular response to his work after its posthumous publication. The interest may be explained by his boldly anthropocentric, and somewhat mystical, understanding of the cosmos: humanity for him is the axis of the cosmic flow, the key of the universe. Teilhard de Chardin's other works (all published posthumously) include Letters from a Traveller (1956, tr. 1962), The Divine Milieu (1957, tr. 1960), The Future of Man (1959, tr. 1964), Human Energy (1962, tr. 1969), Activation of Energy (1963, tr. 1971), and Hymn of the Universe (1964, tr. 1965).

See biographies by C. Cuénot (tr. 1965), R. Speaight (1968), and M. and E. Lukas (1981); studies by M. H. Murray (1966), R. Faricy (1967), R. G. North (1967), B. Delfgaauw (1969), P. Hefner (1970), H. J. Birx (1972), T. M. King (1981), E. O. Dodson (1984), W. Smith (1988).

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Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1881–1955). French Jesuit palaeontologist and theologian. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1899 and was ordained in 1911. His theories on the origin and development of humanity, first privately circulated among his fellow Jesuits, but later published, attracted a good deal of attention, especially The Phenomenon of Man and Le Milieu divin. He argued that the stuff of which the universe is formed increases in complexity as it evolves, and likewise increases in consciousness. Humanity is one peak in this process, which moves through ever more closely knit social relationships and integration of consciousness towards the Omega Point. This, theologically, he identified with Christ. In 1962 the Holy Office gave a warning that his works had to be read with caution; they were never formally condemned.

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"Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

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"Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1881–1955) French Jesuit philosopher and palaeontologist. He worked in China (1923–46), and shared in the discovery of ‘Peking Man’ (a fossilized Stone-Age human). His philosophical works, such as The Phenomenon of Man (1955), attempt to reconcile scientific views of evolution with Christian faith. His ideas were considered unorthodox by the Church and were only published posthumously.

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