Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pierre!

A very happy birthday to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin! Born today in 1881, in the Château of Sarcenat at Orcines in central France, de Chardin was a French philosopher, Jesuit priest, paleontologist, and geologist who took part in the discovery of Peking Man and Piltdown Man. Teilhard conceived the idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and developed Vladimir Vernadsky's rather Jungian concept of Noosphere. He believed that "evolution is an ascent toward consciousness" and the Noosphere is expressed as a kind of collective consciousness.

I can forgive him for being a Jesuit priest since his life was dedicated to the sciences. From 1905 to 1908, he taught physics and chemistry in Cairo and traveled extensively in Asia working in the fields of geology and paleontology. Teilhard de Chardin wrote many groundbreaking and influential books in the course of his life but it was his first book, THE PHENOMENON OF MAN, which angered the Catholic Church and his Jesuit order for his scientific approach to views of history, evolution, and humanity. They felt that Teilhard de Chardin undermined the myth of original sin developed by Saint Augustine. I say anyone who pisses off the Catholic Church is doing some good work. During his life, the Church required him to stop lecturing, ordered him to leave his teaching position in France and to sign a statement withdrawing his controversial statements regarding the doctrine of original sin, refused to publish his writings, banned what books were published, forbade him to lecture or teach on philosophical subjects, forbade him to take a teaching post at the College de France, and in 1955 it forbade him to attend the “International Congress of Paleontology” despite the fact that he had been named to the French Academy of Sciences just a few years earlier. Even with all the forbidding and huffing and puffing from the Church, Teilhard de Chardin thankfully managed to use his brain (something the Church frowns upon) to become a highly respected, admired, and influential scientist, evolutionist, and philosopher.

Thank you for your contributions toward the betterment and advancement of humanity and the human experience, Monsieur Teilhard de Chardin. Happy birthday!

Here are some marvelous Teilhard de Chardin quotes to enjoy.

"The universe as we know it is a joint product of the observer and the observed."

"It doesn't matter if the water is cold or warm if you're going to have to wade through it anyway."

"You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience."

"Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation."

"In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened."

"Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth."

And I really love this passage form his book HYMN OF THE UNIVERSE in which he seemingly describes, through the third person, his own views of the Church and their campaign against him:

"So many things which once had distressed or revolted him — the speeches and pronouncements of the learned, their assertions and their prohibitions, their refusal to allow the universe to move — all seemed to him now merely ridiculous, non-existent, compared with the majestic reality, the flood of energy, which now revealed itself to him: omnipresent, unalterable in its truth, relentless in its development, untouchable in its serenity, maternal and unfailing in its protectiveness."

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