Tag Archive | Teilhard de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ (1881 – 1955)

 You might have seen this blog before, as I originally posted it last summer.  A mysterious technical problem arose, resulting in my receiving dozens of comments that were about other topics, all with the Teilhard de Chardin heading. Perhaps there was a better way to handle this, but my solution was to temporarily take it offline by making it a Draft. That stopped the irrelevant and weird comments, but I didn’t want to keep it offline forever.
(Discussion/Reflection questions are at the end.)images
I recently had a conversation with a person who gave, as an example of someone who had wasted his life’s energy writing obscure books, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Well, one man’s opinion. 
My take on Teilhard is that his writings, though misunderstood by those in authority (who warned the faithful about them as lately as 1981) have probably influenced the lives and thinking of all Christians exploring science and religion, matter and spirit, faith and the Universe Story. If you’ve been impacted by Thomas Berry or Mary Evelyn Tucker, or many others who share a similar vision, you have experienced the influence of this French Jesuit. Many of my contemporaries— and possibly the present reader —  were thrilled by reading  his manuscripts in their youth. Most of us have read at least one of his books. Many are familiar with quotes from him and have experienced over time the wisdom his words hold. They are profound, they are challenging, they are pregnant with life and love. 
Of possible interest to SHCJ: Soeur Marie St. Jean Teillard-Chambon, SHCJ, was a cousin of Pierre!

 FOLLOWS IS A SAMPLING OF QUOTES: The first two are a transition from my last blog, about exploration into God.
I am more and more convinced that the great event of our time is a kind of change in the face of God in which the pure “God of above” of yesterday is being combined with a kind of “God of ahead.” 
Not “God who is dying,” as Nietzsche said, but “God who is changing.”
To those who know how to see, nothing is profane. 
By his Incarnation [Christ] inserted himself not just into humanity but into the universe which supports humanity.
The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself. (I heard that first from Miriam Therese MacGillis, OP, in 1979. It sailed high over my head, but somehow I felt called to comprehend it. This took me well-spent years!)
Because it is not sufficiently moved by a truly human compassion, because it is not exalted by a sufficiently passionate admiration of the universe, our religion is becoming enfeebled.
(That was written in 1918!)
 [About the “other” who usually appears a danger, nuisance, and obstacle:] I shall like them as soon as I see them as partners in the struggle.
 Do not brace yourself against suffering. Try to close your eyes and surrender yourself as if to a great loving energy. This attitude is neither weak nor absurd, it is the only one that cannot lead us astray. 
Unquestionably, Jesus is still he who bears the sins of the world; in its own mysterious way suffering makes reparation for moral evil . . . The full and ultimate meaning of redemption is no longer seen to be reparation alone, but rather further passage and conquest. 
images-2The presence of the Incarnate Word penetrates like a universal element. It shines at the heart of all things.
There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.
Love is the most powerful and still the most unknown energy of the world.
The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.
A prayer
When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind);
when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me;
 when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old;
and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive
within the hands of the great unknown forces
 that have formed me;
in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you 
(provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being
in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.
Possible discussion/reflection starters:
I had hoped to keep the quotation list brief, but I was unable to do so. Which one(s) might you have omitted and why? images-1
If you had to limit them to three, which ones would you have chosen and why?
If you have a favorite that is missing, please add it to the comments!
If you have found “communion with others who have a large vision,” how do you nurture it?
For more, see 
Blanche Gallagher’s Meditations with Teilhard de Chardin, Bear and Company, 1988
Arthur Fabel, Donald St. John, ed., Teilhard in the 21st Century: The Emerging Spirit
of Earth, Orbis, 2003
Any book written by Teilhard  (The Phenomenon of Man is now titled The Human Phenomenon.)



Readers who believe that all of life is interconnected, and that God has been living and acting in planet Earth throughout its 4½-billion-year story, are highly motivated to respond to the March 31, 2014
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Report by the
world’s international climate experts. (Summary Report: http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf The Chinese proverb’s warning was never more needed: Unless we change our direction, we’ll end up where we’re going.

IPCC Report 

The peril is even more certain, and more frightening, than past IPCC assessments stated. The Summary begins starkly: Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems. Climate extremes are unequivocally caused by human activity. 

Risks, benefits, and outcomes of adaptation are predicted for the near-term and longer-term. Statements are labeled by authors’ confidence degree: very high, high, medium, or low.  The list of  very high confidence  risks is staggering. All risks, and solutions, involve emission levels. Greenhouse gas emissions will have to drop by 40-70% by 2050.

Earth has had 5 extinctions. None had human causation, obviously. No human should want to be responsible for #6 —  though many factors indicate we are already causing it. 

IPCC’s Reasons for Hope

But it is not too late to keep the global temperature at a manageable level — if the world embarks quickly on an intense effort over the next 15 years.

10-05-2012zClimate change can be addressed without affecting living standards, they report, and with only a tiny reduction in economic growth. The IPCC report concludes that diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%. This investment would save the billions needed to repair losses from extreme climate events. 

In addition, it would prevent deaths and destruction from future weather extremes. It would provide   global economic opportunity we can seize today,  Sec. of State John Kerry said. So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available, and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago, Kerry said. And cleaner air and fewer climate calamities would have positive effects for, e.g., health, job creation, and food production.

The report is clear: the more you wait, the more it will cost [and] the more difficult it will become,  said EU commissioner Connie Hedegaard. 

What’s Needed?

Rapid action can limit global warming to 2˚C, the internationally agreed safe limit, if low-carbon energy triples or opportunity-costquadruples by 2050. Companies and individuals must rapidly wean themselves off coal, gas and oil and fund low-carbon growth in poorer countries. Along with measures that cut energy waste, renewable energy – such as wind, hydropower and solar – is viewed most favorably by the report as a result of its falling costs and large-scale deployment in recent years.

Readers already committed to reducing fossil fuel emissions that exacerbate climate change are often puzzled by climate deniers and those who continue to spew greenhouse gases that clog our atmosphere. Will this report wake us all up to the immanent danger and changes that must be made immediately?

Action Suggestions

Here are some of many actions that can be taken to change attitudes and atmosphere. Trust that still, small voice that says: This might work and I’ll try it.  (Diane Mariechild)

– Appreciate the gift of creation and the billions of years of evolution. Don’t do anything, just stand there! (David S. Toolan, SJ) Fall in love with creation! Be awed by what has evolved and what we and future generations could lose.

– Imagine/ Vision: How old will your children/ grandchildren be in 2029? Picture the planet you want them to enjoy. We cannot choose whether or not to create the future; we can only choose whether or not to create the future we want for them.

– What would you say to parents who continued to give their children food that already makes them sick and that 97% of reputable food experts judge to be toxic? What could you say to climate deniers you know?

– Be able to explain the climate change/fracking connections (e.g. https://ecospiritualityresources.com/media; Triple Divide, from Public Herald; Gaslands 2).

– Deepen empathy for those who have invested in land and machinery, lobbying and media ads  for mining fossil fuels. It won’t be easy for them to change. Send strong, loving energy to support their, and its, “conversion.” Pray for Mother Earth’s healing.

– Lobby and join groups acting to reduce use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) locally and nationally (e.g., 350.org, various frack-free and Keystone XL organizations).

– Transition to renewable energy sources for home and business (e.g., Credo: You can switch right now to 100% clean energy from Ethical Electric, America’s Progressive Energy Company.)

– Support expansion of renewable energy locally and nationally.

– Lobby for reduction of military budgets and for applying those massive sums for renewable energy. (According to TIME, April 28, 2014, the U.S. defense spending totals $640 billion, $452 billion more than #2 defense spender, China.)

– Encourage institutions to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewables. (Archbishop  Desmond Tutu advocates an anti-apartheid-type campaign against fossil-fuel companies, which he blames for the  injustice  of climate change.)

– Reduce driving, but if necessary, drive no faster than 55 – 60 MPH. This results in notable reduction of fuel and of pollution — and it saves money at the pump.


All ministry will be futile if — through our ignorance, indifference, or refusal to act — Earth’s ecosystems are destroyed. Nobody makes a greater mistake than those who do nothing because they could only do a little!



EASTER AND EARTH DAY: life-death-life


(Luke 24:26)

Lent is transitioning injesus-christ-ressurected-115to Holy Week and Easter — with Earth Day very soon thereafter —    images
a good time to reflect on death and new life within the context of the new creation story. The chaos and seeming hopelessness of Good Friday, and the bitter cold and icy winter many have experienced, will both result in new life. It’s a cosmic pattern.

Cosmic Beginnings

When we think of Jesus’ death bringing him and us all new life, we can remember that the beginning of this death-to-life paradox can be traced back far beyond Scripture. When we start in the very beginning  — “a very good place to start,” as Julie Andrews reminded us —  we arrive at the Flaring images-1Forth (recently confirmed by John Kovac and his colleagues at the South Pole) and the subsequent formation and deaths of stars. It would have seemed unlikely that anything of substance would result from dying stars, but we know that by dying, each generation of them created more complex elements for new worlds and complex life.

Evolution continued for 13.8 billion years, always by way of some beings giving up their independent existence to create something new. Over billions of years, elements became molecules that bonded in ever more complex patterns. Major extinctions on Earth gave space
for new life forms. Created in God’s image, all of nature incarnates God’s generous. lavish, immense pouring out. Dying to live, living to die is an old, old pattern.

Plants and People

dying-seed1Death for life is obvious in plant life: Unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it does die, it will bear much fruit (John 12:24). For a beautiful piece on regeneration of trees by coppicing (a special pruning and cutting technique that dates to the Neolithic period and that allows for continual, healthy wood harvesting from the same trees, often for centuries) see http://ncronline.org/node/73506.

In human growth and development, infancy gives way to adolescence get-attachment.aspxthat gives way to adulthood. Each moment cells die to give space/opportunity for others. David S. Toolan, SJ, writes: We regrow our entire physical body as we do hair and nails. Nothing in our genes was present a year ago. The tissue of our stomach renews itself weekly, the skin is shed monthly, and the liver regenerates every six weeks. Every moment, a portion of the body’s 10[28] atoms is returning to the world outside, and ninety-eight percent of them are replaced annually. It’s automatic!

Chosen deaths

These automatic deaths, of course, were also true for Jesus. But Jesus gave us the ultimate example of chosen self-giving throughout his life.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else Evangelii-Gaudium-Imagethan the culmination of the way he lived his entire life, Pope Francis reminds us in The Joy of the Gospel. Jesus’ total self-giving so that we might have new life confirmed his participation in the fabric of creation.

Jesus modeled for us how to live lovingly and selflessly for the good of others — with both love and justice. His life and death were obviously unique, but, like him, we who follow his life pattern have both automatic and chosen deaths.

Our Turn

We try to make the conscious deaths with love and joy, no longer, as in the past, for our small selves, for our small family, our small country; but for the salvation and the success of the universe. (Teilhard de Chardin) Aware of our interconnection with all being, we “die” to what we judge holds us (personally and globally) from abundant life – usually selfishness in some form. We can be confident that the Spirit of Life can bring new life both within and without us and all creation. We can be sure that our efforts for justice will bear fruit.

Thomas Merton recognized this principle in all religions: All mature religion must and will talk about the death of anyUnknown notion of a separate, and therefore false, self. Merton suggests we substitute the word “separate” whenever we read “sin” in the Scriptures! Try this when renewing Baptismal promises! (Do we renounce feeling separate from any part of creation, whatever the “ism”?) In Baptism the “separate self” dies so a new, more self-giving and Christlike person can grow and realize its place and responsibilities in the Christian (and unavoidably the cosmic) community.

The certainty of this pattern can give comfort when deaths are not self-chosen: those of loved relatives and friends, of physical and mental abilities, of beloved organizations . . . .

Michael Morwood writes: Everywhere we look we can observe the perpetual rhythm of new life, followed by death, followed by new life. So we do not believe that death is the final end of anything, nor is it for us the start of a journey to somewhere else. Rather, it is a transformation and a continuation of the ebb and flow of existence in ways we do not understand. 


How can we better follow this ancient pattern of death leading to new life in order to become more benevolent members of the Christian and of the Earth communities?

How can we more deeply root ourselves in Jesus’ story and Earth’s story?

How can our choices contribute to the new life of Easter and spring?




April 2014  Nannette Manley: There is so much food for thought in these meditations. I will keep them for future reference. Thank you so much.