Teilhard de Chardin's Vision of Ultimate Reality and Meaning
in the Light of Contemporary Cosmology

Note: The following paper was delivered at the 10th. biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Human Ideas on Ultimate Reality and Meaning. Reproduction of this paper is limited by permission of the author and the publishers of Ultimate Reality and Meaning: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Philosophy of Understanding (University of Toronto Press, Inc., Journals Dept. 5201 Dufferin St., North York, Ont. M3H 5T8, Canada)

1. Introduction

The evolutionary ideas of the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin have now been public for nearly forty-five years since the posthumous publication of his masterwork, Le Phenomene humain, in 1955. Born in 1881 into a family of wealthy land-owners in the Auvergne (with ties, through a paternal grandmother, to the painter Chardin, and on his mother's side, to the philosopher Voltaire) Teilhard joined the Jesuits in 1899, was ordained a priest in 1911, and after serving as a stretcher-bearer in the trenches with the French Army from 1914-1918, went on to earn a doctorate in geology from the Institut Catholique in Paris in 1922. Shortly after he began his teaching career he was assigned to do paleontological work in China (largely because of the controversy that began to surround his theological ideas) -- an "exile" that eventually brought him professional fame for his important work relative to dating the fossil evidence of Sinanthropus or "Peking Man." Returning to Paris at the end of Second World War, he was exiled again, this time to New York where he became a research coordinator for the Wenner Gren Foundation and continued as a consultant to UNESCO, and where he died on Easter Sunday (April 10) 1955.

Quickly translated into English and many other languages, The Phenomenon of Man (to which we shall refer simply as "The Phenomenon" or PM in the notes) soon became center of discussion and of debate. This volume was quickly followed by the publication of his spiritual testament, Le Milieu divin, and eventually some eleven other volumes of his collected essays, several collections of his letters and about ten more volumes of his technical papers. The key to this phenomenal success was largely due to the fact that "The Phenomenon" traced out, simultaneously on several levels, not only what seemed to be a coherent and recurring pattern to the evolutionary process revealed by modern science, but even more, a purpose or goal for that process or in other words, what amounts to a vision of ultimate reality and meaning.

Nevertheless, Teilhard's thought has drawn sharp criticism. While some of it appears to have been rather ideologically motivated, such as that of biologist Sir Peter Medawar who (in a long review in Mind, 70, [1961]) rated it as a kind theological science-fiction, as contrasted to Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, who in his final book, condemned it as "a reversal of the Christian perspective" and "a new gnosticism", four more or less distinct criticisms have been directed against Teilhard's thought:
1st. (in the realm of biology) -- his apparent anthropocentrism and its accompanying idea of evolutionary "progress";
2nd. (in terms of his "ultraphysics") -- his apparent "pan-psychism" coupled with his dual concept of energy;
3rd. (in terms of theodicy) his invincible optimism and his statistical approach to the problem of evil;
4th. (in terms of his theology) -- his insistent "high christology" and rather unecumenical "christocentrism".

After summarizing Teilhard's views (Part 2), this paper will proceed to examine each of the above objections, grouping them into two broad areas:

First (Part 3) -- dealing with his phenomenological views and their interpretation -- an attempt will be made to show how contemporary science, particularly cosmology and planetary astronomy, tends to confirm Teilhard's basic intuitions about the ultimate structure of reality.

Second (Part 4) -- dealing with his more theological and specifically "christological" views -- it will be shown how the concept of the "Pleroma" suggests a final solution to the question of ultimate meaning, even while it, in turn (Part 5), raises further questions.

2. A Survey of Teilhard's Views

Teilhard would not have been surprised by the diverse reactions to his thought -- in fact, he predicted them (see LT, p.263). And to some extent he may have brought such criticism (even from his sympathizers) upon himself when he dared to present his vision blending elements of evolutionary science with philosophical, theological and even psychological speculation. Although he wrote, in his introduction to The Phenomenon, that his book was meant to be "uniquement et exclusivement comme un memoire scientifique" (Oeuvres 1.21), few would see it simply as that. But there can also be no doubt that when the last three words of the above statement were translated, in the first English language edition, as "a scientific treatise", the impression given to the specialists -- especially the scientists among them -- was even more disconcerting.

Thus, a special caution about his "science". By that word, of course, we can mean empirical knowledge gained strictly through the scientific method -- something that, if published in an extensive form, might indeed rate as a "treatise". Or, more broadly speaking, we can mean a generally phenomenological approach -- even when this latter involves quite a bit of speculation (hence Teilhard's choice of the word "memoire"). No doubt Teilhard engaged in quite a bit of the latter, particularly when argued by way of "extrapolation". However, as soon as one passes into this more speculative realm, one then also moves into that philosophical mode of reasoning that Teilhard called a "hyperphysics" (PM, p.30) or alternately "ultra-physics" (see HE, p.70). While it is almost impossible to separate these two elements in Teilhard's thought as they intermingle in points 2.1 through 2.4.2 below, items 2.4.3 through 2.5 seem to fall clearly into the philosophical-theological realm, while point 2.6 appears to fall into the general area of psychology.

2.1 Matter-Spirit and the "Law" of Complexity-Consciousness

Absolutely basic to Teilhard's thought is his conviction that matter and spirit are fundamentally two dimensions -- the "without" as contrasted to the "within" -- or vectors of one and the same reality. Spirit is not opposed to matter, but the two are seen as poles of a single weltstoff (PM, p.39f. and AE, p.362) and what appears to be pure materiality evolves, through a process or a "law of complexification" (PM, p.48) or of "complexity-consciousness" (AM, p.215) into what is more and more capable of self-determination and freedom. While it is not exactly an accurate characterization of his thought to say he believed that "rocks think", nevertheless he did believe that it is impossible to explain the evolutionary pattern of development unless one admits, even in what appears to be mere matter, a certain potentiality toward complexification leading eventually to the emergence of life, awareness, and thought. While some may dismiss all this as "panpsychism", from Teilhard's point of view the burden remains on them, even on the purely biological level, to otherwise explain this evolutionary advance from non-life to life, and from simple psychisms to reflective consciousness -- other than simply denying that this represents any kind of an advance.

Although Teilhard denied that he was giving any explanation as to why these phenomena work as they do, and as much as possible tried to avoid speculation as to how the crossing of the "thresholds" from non-life to life and from simple awareness to reflective (human) awareness (i.e. the process of "hominization", see PM, p.163f.) takes place, these fundamental observations more than suggest that for Teilhard, the evolutionary process itself is the sufficient if not the ultimate cause in terms of the scientifically-established or attributable explanations. (See esp. North, 1967.) This is not to rule out a certain divine causality, but neither does it invoke it at this level. No doubt it is this philosophical and theological reticence that allowed "The Phenomenon" (minus its christological epilogue) to pass the Communist censors in its Russian and Chinese translations.

2.2 The Two Forms of Energy

Much the same might be said of Teilhard's division of energy into two forms: first, tangential energy as all those manifestations of energy measured by the empirical sciences, and second, radial energy to describe the energy that propels evolution forward or "upward" to higher levels of being. (See PM, p.63f.) Nevertheless, here we enter into a more philosophically speculative mode of reasoning -- as well as problematic one. While the overt reason Teilhard gives for this division of energy is the evolutionary phenomenon itself, it would also seem to be invoked to explain how entropy (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) does not determine the ultimate fate of the universe (PM, pp. 66, 271). In other words, as Teilhard saw it, as the primal material aspect or vectors of evolution run out, a more rarefied or spiritualized phenomenon takes its place.

2.3 Noogenesis

As a result of these processes, another phenomenon is occurring, one that Teilhard described as "noogenesis" -- the formation of a thinking layer of the earth's biosphere, thus forming a the "skein" or "envelope" of thought or reflective awareness upon the curved surface ("noosphere") of the earth (see PM, pp. 181-84, also VP, 63). As the world's population grows, so the effect of global "compression" will tend to intensify this interaction, thus accelerating this process, which includes the advances being made in the realms of communications. (How Teilhard might have celebrated the growth of the internet!)

2.4 Omega

The prominence of the role assigned to reflective thought in turn explains Teilhard's almost obsessive use of the term "Omega", which for him represented a triple, later on often reduced to a double, focal point of evolution:

2.4.1 The Omega-Point -- the final concentration of the noosphere upon itself, or the convergence of humanity and the whole cosmos (PM, p.260; HE, p.145); or again "the cosmic personalizing center of unification and union" (see TF, p.214).

2.4.2 The Omega-God -- the actual pole of psychic convergence "already ... supremely present", as opposed to the conjectural (as above) as an attractor of evolution toward "total synthesis"... "ahead in time and space" (see PM p 269 and HE p.145). There is little or no discussion of the "Alpha" or Creator God in Teilhard's writings. For Teilhard creation is primarily an on-going process of union (AE, pp. 259-60, 262, 272.), a "cosmogenesis" yet to be fully consummated in...

2.4.3 The Christ-Omega -- the meeting point or synthesis of the two omegas of experience and faith, "a Christ finally identified ... as the final summit of an evolution firmly recognized as a movement of convergence" the final synthesis of the cosmos and the divine. ("The God of Evolution" in C&E, p.291.)

2.5 The Pleroma

This Greek term, of Stoic philosophical origin, but utilized freely in the later Pauline "captivity" Epistles (especially Colossians and Ephesians) eventually, perhaps even more than "Omega", became for Teilhard the prime symbol of the ultimate state of the universe, indeed, the ultimate state of God. In his 1924 spiritual testament, Teilhard defined this Pleroma as:

the quantitative repletion and qualitative consummation of all things...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 generalization of being. (DM, p.100)

2.6 Teilhard's "Energetics" and Faith in the Future of Man

Clearly, as we pass from the basics of his phenomenological analysis into these more philosophical interpretations and theological concepts, we have also passed into the realm of what was, for Teilhard, both as a scientist and as a Christian, the locus of "ultimate meaning". Although he seems to have never used this phrase with any special connotations, there emerges a neologism which expresses his special slant on the subject -- it is the term "energetics". This word, for Teilhard, designated the science which has to be developed "in order to make all the forces provided by the earth serve to advance the progress of the improbable" and "to insure that the human mass retains its internal tension" and thus must be concerned with "the maintenance, canalization, and increase of human hopes and passions" (see S&C, p.96).

It is clear from this great concern of his that for Teilhard, ultimate meaning had to be something more than a purely contemplative vision. It must be an "Operative Faith" -- the title of an early essay of his -- a force to be reckoned with for the sake of the future evolution of the human race (see WTW, pp.225-248). This same sentiment is often repeated, in one way after another, with increasing intensity in Teilhard's writings, especially in the volume of his collected essays titled The Future of Man, and most starkly in the 1937 essay titled "The Grand Option" (see FM, pp.37-60). Either the human race puts aside its pessimism to evolve into a greater unity (an "ultra-humanity") or it is going to fragment itself into a paroxysm of violence and mutual self-destruction. Later, in Paris in the aftermath of World War II, and still later on in New York, it was essentially the same message, even if the terminology varied with the occasion or audience.

3. Teilhard's Vision Within a Cosmological Context

While some authors, especially biologist Stephen J. Gould, have attempted to discredit Teilhard because of his unwitting association with the Piltdown hoax back in his student days and his somewhat embarrassed silence (along with many other paleontologists of his time) when the fraud was finally uncovered, the real source of criticism of Teilhard's scientific ideas center around his interpretation of what all the paleontological evidence means in terms of evolutionary progress. In this regard, the foreword to The Phenomenon, entitled "Seeing" (PM, pp.26-31), with it's emphasis on the centrality of the human phenomenon as the key to unlocking the riddle of evolution, addresses what is perhaps also the greatest cause of misgivings about his thought for many contemporary minds. Yet, as this paper will attempt to show, the problem is fundamentally one of perspective. Viewed narrowly, especially within the context of recorded history, we may well dispute the inevitability of evolutionary advance. But viewed within a cosmological context, both new answers -- as well as new questions -- invariably arise.

3.1 Objections to "Orthogenesis" or the Inevitability of Evolutionary "Progress"

Arguments over "advance" (or lack of it) in evolution, or even more, arguments over claims to see "purpose" in what appears to be advancements, are really issues that are more philosophical rather than biological, although arguments can be marshalled from the fossil evidences to support both camps. Even Teilhard's close friend, George Gaylord Simpson (whose study of the evolution of the horse made him famous) argued with Teilhard over this point. But it always remained a friendly argument.

However, more recently, Gould has repeatedly attacked Teilhard and others whom he suspects of "teleology" or any other concept of "direction" or "advance" in evolution. Needless to say, there are plenty of other scientists and philosophers who would take issue with Gould, not the least being those who would still stand by the definition of evolution drawn up at the 1959 Darwin Centennial, as "a one-way irreversible process in time, which during its course generates novelty, diversity, and higher levels of organization." (See Goudge, 1961.)

What particularly seems to disturb Teilhard's critics was his rather singular use of the word "orthogenesis", which to most biologists implies a predetermined development of characteristics inherent in a specific line of evolution. For Teilhard, this term was understood in a more global sense to describe the two major phenomena which he saw as characteristic of evolution as a whole -- increasing complexification and increasing consciousness. In no way did he intend the term to rule out the role of chance or of opportunistic selection in the process. (Compare PM, p.108, n.1 and the statements in "The Reality and Significance of Human Orthogenesis" [1950] and "In Defense of Orthogenesis" [1955] in VP, pages 250-51 and 273.)

3.2 Objections to Teilhard's "Hyper-physics"

While some may find in Teilhard's appeal to a "hyper-" or "ultraphysics" a semantic dodge -- he never felt comfortable with pure metaphysics -- they are likely to raise a more serious objection to his contrast between two kinds of energy, as encountered in The Phenomenon and many of his later writings. Teilhard's concept of "radial energy" in particular seems reminiscent of Bergson's now widely-repudiated "elan vital".

However, it should be realized that Teilhard himself never completely satisfied that he had hit upon the best formula. In fact, notes in his later and still unpublished journals indicate that he was casting about for a more satisfactory formulation regarding the relationship of spirit and matter, especially as it involves the basic energies of the universe. It is not that his earlier formulations were so much wrong -- there is but one fundamental energy -- it is rather that the descriptions "radial" and "tangential" are functional descriptions, not unlike the dual descriptions of light as both "waves" and "particles". So he was beginning to find his earlier formulation to be rather problematic. Indeed, if matter and energy are convertible, and matter is, in fact, simply a congealed form of energy, then it would seem logical that the evolutionary advance into psychism be seen as a permutation of energy at its most basic or fundamental level. It should be noted, however, that for Teilhard, it was matter in all its various forms, rather than simply energy as such, that held the great fascination, almost from the beginning of his life. (See esp. "The Names of Matter" [1919] in HM, pp.225-39) and as the "matrix" of the spirit, continued to hold his attention until the very end. (See "The Heart of Matter" [1950] in HM, pp. 35 & 45.)

One other development, that of computers (included by Teilhard in his 1953 reflections "On Looking at a Cyclotron, AE, p. 352) also throws his twofold division of energy into question, even while it perhaps reenforces, in a rather paradoxical way, his convictions about matter as the "matrix of spirit". So too, in his 1947 reflections on "The Place of Technology" in human evolution. Can we not see here, especially in the science of cybernetics, the emergence of a kind of prolongation or intensification of human psychic activity? Here Teilhard had already spoken (as had Bergson) of the impossibility, from an evolutionary perspective, of making "any distinction between the artificial and the natural, between technology and life, since all organisms are the result of invention." (See AE, pp.158-61.) But whether or not "information theory" makes Teilhard's theory of energy obsolete as some might claim (see Barrow and Tipler, p. 198) depends, one might suppose, on both one's definition of life and intelligence. We might admit (paraphrasing Teilhard's famous dictum contrasting reflective thought to mere knowledge) that in a very real sense "computers know" but still ask if "computers know that they know?" (See PM, p.164.)

3.3 Objections to the Omega

Finally, there is the problem that many may have regarding Teilhard's postulation of an Omega-point towards which humanity or even the whole universe is progressing -- not so much as a philosophical concept, but as a supposedly or even strictly phenomenological observation. Even Julian Huxley's "Introduction" to the English language translation of The Phenomenon expresses reservations about this matter (PM, p.19). However, it has been Frank Tipler, one of those persons who has been the most enthusiastic about an "Omega-Point Theory" (see Russell, Stoeger, and Coyne, pp. 313-31) who in the view of this author, has done the most to throw Teilhard's views into doubt. My reasons for saying this, however, I will momentarily postpone until after our discussion of a topic that, had Teilhard lived to be a centenarian, surely would have intrigued and engaged him.

3.4 Cosmology and the Anthropic Principle

Beginning with the 1974 speculations of physicist Brandon Carter and the claim of some other scientists to have discovered some sort of "Anthropic Principle" at work in the evolution of the universe, the AP (as it is generally termed) has been variously defined and even more extensively discussed. According to astrophysicist John Barrow and mathematical-physicist Frank Tipler (whose 1986 co-authored book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, is widely regarded as the tour de force on the matter), based on the wide range of possibilities the incipient universe could have taken in contrast the exceedingly narrow range of conditions that have allowed life to evolve, the universe in some odd way appears to be "fine-tuned" to produce life, especially intelligent life such as ours.

While some write off this phenomenon as a mere tautology (i.e., we see our universe in this way because we are here to see it) or propose other variations associated with what is some call the WAP or the "weak anthropic principle", others take the same reasoning seriously enough to counter with the suggestion that there may even be other universes where this may not be the case. Then there are those who take the evidence as indicative of a deliberate design implying a Designer -- which Barrow and Tipler characterize as the SAP or "strong anthropic principle". [Note: there seems to be some confusion from author to author as to what would constitute a "strong" versus "weak" formulation of the concept -- especially as to whether or not a so- called "strong anthropic principle" is meant to be either equivalent to speaking of a divine Designer while some others see as as substitute for such.] Still others would go so far as to suggest a "Participatory Anthropic Principle" (PAP) based on the infamous "Copenhagen Interpretation" of quantum indeterminacy, implying that it is we who have thought the universe into its present shape! Add to all this those professional philosophers who seem to resent scientists who stray into an area where philosophers long ago had decided they had spoken the final (and futile) word.

However, putting that last problem aside, it is not surprising that Barrow and Tipler pay not a little attention to Teilhard's pioneering thought (ibid., p.195-205). In fact, they even go so far to argue, much as Teilhard did, that once intelligent life has appeared in the universe, it cannot cease to exist (ibid. p.23). They call this assertion their "final anthropic principle" or FAP.

3.4.1 The Possibility of Extra Terrestrial (Intelligent) Life

However, regarding the question of life, especially intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is where a curious discrepancy appears. As early as 1920, in his essay "Fall Redemption and Geocentrism" (see C&E, pp. 38 & 44) Teilhard had taken notice of the probability of there being other galaxies (to be finally confirmed by Hubble just a few years later) in the universe and began to wonder what other possibilities of life they might harbor. Although, in The Phenomenon, Teilhard appears to at first confined himself to describing the evolution of life on our planet and to have allowed in his 1945 lecture on "Life and The Planets" (FM, p.97-123) that life-supporting planets might be exceedingly rare, still, he suggests that, even if this should be true, to discount the phenomenon on the basis of the comparative rarity of life in the universe may be a sign that we are looking through the wrong end of our telescope! (ibid. p. 104.)

Tipler, unlike Teilhard, has a major problem with the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. In fact, in his book with John Barrow, the argument is made that, contrary to Teilhard's 1920 statement, that Teilhard really did not believe, except at the very end of his life, that intelligent life was possible in other parts of the universe (Barrow & Tipler pp.202-3). In addition, Tipler argues that there can be no such ETs because if there are, we would have contacted them or been contacted by them by now (see ibid. pp. 576-601).

The reasons behind Tipler's argument become more apparent in his later book, The Physics of Immortality, where he transfers Teilhard's imagery of the "noosphere" as "converging" from an anthropological or sociological context to a cosmic scenario demanding a "closed universe". Apparently, based on Tipler's mathematical calculations, (the accuracy of which some critics have questioned: see http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/graham_oppy/tipler.html ) the existence of other intelligent, energy-using creatures would seriously jeopardize the whole outcome, which he sees as being a kind of infinite subjective prolongation of human thought by computer "emulation" and transported to other planets (ibid., pp.20-44), even within the admittedly finite time-line of a closed universe (ibid. 128-38) reaching its apotheosis only within final a cosmic collapse (ibid., pp.140-42). So again, Tipler repeats his argument -- especially his exclusion of ETs -- in upper-case letters in a footnote (ibid., p.351). Thus Tipler's reasoning in his later book appears to be directed to proving the possibility of a FAP or Final (or unending) Anthropic Principle -- even while abandoning the AP terminology.

Yet we must ask: if there were no other occurrences of life elsewhere in the universe, at least in other galaxies, would we not be very hard to argue that any anthropic principle is at work in the universe at all? Teilhard, to the contrary, had no doubt that life would emerge wherever else in the universe favorable conditions might exist (C&E, p.230-1).

3.4.2 The Closed versus Open Universe Debate

Apart from Tipler's curious reasoning, if there was to be any real danger to Teilhard's vision in these matters, it would have been the alternative anti-entopic views later fielded by Fred Hoyle and his colleagues, in one form or another ranging from steady-state (no Big Bang) to reciprocating (many Big Bangs) universes. Nor, despite the growing evidence to the contrary, had Hoyle given up, at least as of 1990 (see Hoyle's "Assessment of the evidence against the steady-state theory" in Bertotti et al, 1990). But even if evidence could still be found for a "closed universe" in which energy-matter is continually or periodically recreated, this would not insure that such a universe would leave the First Law of Thermodynamics contested or invalid. According to Berkeley astronomer and cosmologist Joseph Silk, at best such a closed universe could only repeat the Big Bang scenario a few times. (See Silk, 1985, pp.388-93).

However, despite intensive efforts over the past decade or so to discover hitherto unknown forms of "dark matter", ranging from large numbers of "brown dwarf" and "red dwarf" stars to ubiquitous neutrinos -- and, most recently, dark galaxies -- all the most recent data suggest that at most, the total mass of the universe is, at most, only about one-fifth of that which would be required to halt its expansion. Not only that, but the most recent observations of Type Ia supernovas conducted by several teams of astronomers engaged in what is called the "Supernova Cosmology Project", backed up as well by a team of radio astronomers from Princeton studying other cosmic phenomena, puzzled the world with reports early in 1998 that the expansion rate of the universe might even be accelerating rather than slowing down, contrary to all previous assumptions -- both of the "open" as well as "closed" models of the universe. These results have been recently further confirmed. (As reported by the Berkeley Lab Home Page [ http://www.lbl.gov/supernova/ ] See also Science Magazine, December 1998.)

Thus currently there seems to have been an almost complete abandonment of any hopes for an eternal or self-perpetuating universe in favor of an inflationary Big Bang universe that is ultimately "open" or entropic, suggesting that not only was Einstein wrong about postulating a "cosmological constant" to keep the universe from collapsing upon itself (the biggest mistake of his career, he admitted) but may have been wrong again in rejecting it -- this time for the wrong reason!

3.4.3 The Number of Inhabitable Planets

In a note later added to The Phenomenon (PM, p.67), apparently after his 1945 lecture on "Life and the Planets", Teilhard remarked how astronomers seemed as of late to be returning to the old hypothesis of Pierre Laplace that every star has its nebula out of which planets are gradually formed. Yet until recently, even the most liberal estimates confined the possible existence of planetary systems to those stars which were not part of binary or multiple star systems -- which in turn was believed to represent the situation of only about one-third or at most half of all stars. But now, even the idea that binary, trinary, or more stellar groupings may harbor planets is not being ruled out. Of those extra-solar planetary systems already detected by various means (most commonly by minute wobbling of the parent star) about twenty or so, so-far (including one planet that is believed to have actually been sighted) approximately 40% are believed to contain a planet within life-sustaining zones, i.e., not too close or not too far from the host star to possibly support some form of life. Then add to all this what might be deduced if the claims made for evidence of life (however rudimentary) having once existed on Mars turn out to be confirmed, then we might end up concluding that in the universe, like spring in Oklahoma, life is "busting out all over"! (See the article by Allan Treiman, Ph.D. in the April 1999 issue of Sky & Telescope, pp. 52-58 or Treiman's website at http://cass.jsc.nasa.gov/lpi/meteorites/mars_meteorite.html )

While Teilhard certainly believed that evolution was teleologically oriented, he never assumed that life on planet earth could be its sole intelligent product. In fact, after again admitting in 1950 (in his essay "The Heart of the Matter"-- see HM p. 56) "the increasing probability .... of other thinking planets", by 1953 he had come to the "inevitable conclusion" that it is "practically certain" that "millions" of other galaxies exist in the universe where in which there are "thousands of millions of solar systems...in which life has equal chances of being born and becoming homininized" (see C&E, pp. 230-31). Had Teilhard lived until today, when the current estimate of the number of galaxies in the observable universe now numbers around 125 billion, and now that astronomers are confirming the existence of other planetary systems in our galaxy at a rate that begins to make us suspect that, at the very least, 50% of all stars have such systems, then the possibility of life elsewhere far outstrips even Teilhard's "thousands of millions".

Thus, even if Teilhard did not think such contact with such life likely, he took the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligent life for granted and was all the more convinced of his general noogenic or orthogenic theory because of it. In other words, Teilhard's "orthogenesis" amounts to an "anthropic principle" in which anthropos (i.e. "humanity) itself may be but an infinitesimally small but typical specimen in a universe teeming with life.

3.5 A Leap to Ultimate Meaning

Nevertheless, whether "open" or "closed", the end of our present universe still represents the end of all the evolution that we know of which has so-far taken place. Nor does the number of inhabited planets really change the basic equation -- since none of them are destined to survive forever. Thus evolution appears to culminate in virtual nothingness -- which is what, one may suspect, kept up many non- believing scientists' slowly-failing hopes that the universe is "closed" and able to repeat itself indefinitely for ever so long. Ultimately was not astronomer James Jeans (whose gloomy views Teilhard quoted in his 1945 lecture) correct?

What does life amount to? We have tumbled, as though through error, into a universe which by all the evidence was not intended for us. We cling to a fragment of a grain of sand until such a time as the chill of death shall return us to primal matter. We strut for a tiny moment on a tiny stage, well knowing that all our aspirations are doomed to ultimate failure and that everything we have achieved will perish with our race, leaving the Universe as though we never had existed.... The Universe is indifferent and hostile to every kind of life." (See FM, p.104.)

Of course, this is precisely the kind of interpretation of the universe that Teilhard protested, one that left Teilhard no choice but to all the more strongly hold to his theory predicated on the complete transformation or spiritualization of matter. Otherwise, there would be no other way out for the human race. The zest for life would be inevitably undermined by a certain "cosmic angst" (AE p.184) or by "the morbid symptoms" of Sartrian existentialism (FM, p. 296).

Nevertheless, even if Teilhard looked rather disparagingly on the pessimism of the existentialists, was he not posing an existential question of his own? It would appear that our only real hope, according to Teilhard, lies in evolution eventually reaching an "Omega-point" at the term of evolution, but which because entropy still has the last word within that same process, must somehow permanently escape it. But is it not equally clear that in having reached this point in his reasoning, we will have passed from what may be seen as Teilhard's more or less "scientific" phenomenology and the extrapolations drawn from it into a realm of speculation that can only be seen as involving a kind of "leap of faith"?

4. Ultimate Meaning Within A Pleromic Context

However, this "leap of faith" is not, at least to begin with, a specifically religious one. It is, first of all, as Teilhard described in his essay "How I Believe", a faith in the inevitability of evolution, indeed even in the "infallibility" of the universe (C&E, pp.96-137) But on what grounds? However ubiquitous life may now be, does not entropy win in the end? Thus we come the other two big issues or objections to Teilhard's thought: his optimism in the face of evil (which is really a kind of moral entropy) and his reliance on a specifically Christian solution to the problem of ultimate meaning.

4.1 The Problem of Evil and the Optimism of Teilhard de Chardin

If, in the face of the paleontological as well as growing cosmological evidence, the doctrine of Original Sin troubled Teilhard -- the problem of evil in general continues to trouble many of his critics, even secular friends like Huxley who deemed Teilhard's treatment somewhat "inadequate or at least unorthodox" (PM, p.21). Some later critics were even more upset at his apparently casual treatment of the nuclear threat and his praise for the potentials of atomic energy (See FM, pp.140-48). But in general, it is this overall optimism, which often seems to have bordered on the naive, that bothers many people. What is to be said?

4.1.1 God Plays Creatively with Chance

For Teilhard, the key to understanding evil was to be found in the evolutionary play of large numbers, and in the lack or arrangement (or what we might today call "chaos") which nevertheless is involved or utilized in what he alternately called, depending on the element being emphasized, "orthogenesis", "noogenesis", or "cosmogenesis", or in any case, the process of advance (see PM, pp. 311-13). Unlike Einstein, who is said to have refused to believe that God plays dice with the universe, Teilhard might well be said to have believed that God plays creatively with chance. But the price thus paid is not inconsiderable. Indeed, in his 1945 lecture "Life and the Planets" Teilhard allowed that even if planets are rare -- especially ones on which life might evolve -- then all the more does not this suggest that "in every order of Nature, and at every level, nothing succeeds except at the cost of prodigious waste and fantastic hazards?" (FM, p.110).

But would it not stand to reason that if human intelligence is a result of evolutionary process, one in which the play of chance has taken a major role, then it follows that human freedom, in which reflective knowledge is plays an essential part (Gabriel Marcel's distinction between "willing" and mere "choice") then all the chance happenings, including all disasters and the so-called "acts of God" are a necessary expenditure. You simply can't have one without the other. (See Kropf, 1984; also physicist John Polkinghorne, 1996.) So too, suppose also that the 1996 claim of the discovery of the fossilized remains of life in meteorites of Martian origin eventually is confirmed, the idea that life may appear in many locations in the universe, yet be either slowly or suddenly extinguished, should make us stop and think. At the very least, such a view would counter Jung's complaint about the Christian view of God, for Teilhard's view encompasses the "dark side" as well as the light. Ultimately speaking, nothing occurs which does not have its place in the totality of Being yet in process. So in a certain sense, it is ultimately impossible to separate the occurrence of all sorts of apparent disasters from the emergence of human freedom -- and of course, with that freedom, sin. The main difference is that while physical evil and suffering seem to be to a large extent unavoidable, moral evil, because it at least theoretically avoidable, is immeasurably worse.

4.1.2 Entropy, Evil and Providence

Nevertheless, Teilhard's critics continue to be scandalized by what they call his "statistical" approach to evil, and particularly his use of a phrase borrowed from the writer Leon Bloy: that "everything that happens is adorable." In a universe that is ultimately entropic in nature, can this really be true? Despite the distinctions Teilhard made between the various types of evil and why they are necessary in his 1948 appendix in The Phenomenon and an extensive treatment of the subject in The Divine Milieu and elsewhere, many remain unconvinced.

Nevertheless, I think it must be said at this point that Teilhard's irrepressible optimism undoubtedly had another cause, and that was not just his belief in God, but his belief in the "infallibility" of evolution itself -- a conviction that was particularly singled out by his ecclesiastical critics. Claude Cuenot, in his biography of Teilhard, (repeated by Speaight in his) has recalled one incident that is particularly revealing. In an informal 1947 debate in Paris with the Dominican, D. Dubarle, Teilhard was reminded that a comet could at any moment wipe out the whole human race. But Teilhard refused to admit the possibility, responding that as believers, our life must be one of faith (Cuenot, p. 258; Speaight, p. 271). Thus is evident his conviction that ultimately, evolution is providentially destined to arrive at a final consummation (an Omega-point), is in some way already guaranteed, because it already exists (C&E, p.99).

Yet, we must ask, if there are a plurality of "humanities" in the universe, why should ours be so special as to rule out the possibility of its failure to achieve, at least in any collective sense, the Omega Point? Or is the Omega Point simply the spiritual distillation of all reflective beings from around the whole universe? And if that be so, what is the relationship of such a process to the historical drama of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as redeemer of the human race? So it is here, from this vastly expanded cosmological setting, that we must venture into Teilhard's theological outlook and -- we might add -- our head-on collision with his Cosmic Christ.

4.2 Teilhard's Christocentrism

Perhaps the most important writing for understanding Teilhard's christology is to be found in some of his earliest essays, especially those collected in the volume titled Hymn of the Universe, the connection between Christ and the World is seen as quite literal and organic. The key linking concept, as his 1916 "Christ in the World of Matter" (HU, pp.42-58) written on the eve of the Battle of Verdun), makes clear, is the Body of Christ -- a radiating presence beginning with the physical body of Jesus, extended through the sacramental body of the Eucharist, and the "mystical" body of the Church, even to the whole universe.

The second of these essays, Teilard's 1919 "Spiritual Power of Matter", written on the Isle of Jersey, goes even further, depicting the universe or "universal matter" revealing "the dimensions of God" or even matter itself being described as "the hand of God", or the "flesh of Christ" in a way that is almost pantheistic -- or certainly "panentheistic" in Whiteheadian terms. Again, in his later 1923 meditation "Mass on the World" (HU, pp 19-37), written while on an expedition in the Ordos Desert of Western China, it is the transformative power of the divine energy that makes possible "the innumerable prolongations of your incarnate Being in the world of matter" -- "your body in this its fullest extension" (HU, p. 37).

We have already alluded to Teilhard's problems, expressed in the 1920 essay "Fall, Redemption and Geocentrism" (C&E, pp.36-44) and again his 1922 "Note on Some Possible Historical Representations of Original Sin" (C&E, pp.45-55), with the whole "original sin" scenario -- and his "exile" to China that was to result. Add to this the questions we have just asked about the future of humanity in a universe whose own future is in doubt. Put them all together, it becomes obvious as to why, for Teilhard, far more than the usual Christian "high" christological emphasis on the death of Jesus as an act of "atonement" for humanity's sins, the whole logic of Christianity had to be shifted towards an even higher christology, with its ancient patristic theme proclaiming that "God became man that man might become God". So too, Gabriel Allegra, once a missionary in China, wrote of his conversations with Teilhard on this matter, comparing his views with those of John Duns Scotus as against those of the Thomists who kept insisting that the major reason for the incarnation had to be seen as a remedy for sin -- particularly the original one. The fact is, however, that even Aquinas himself seems to have been shifting to this more "Scotist" position -- at least by the end of his life (see the Compendium theologiae, Chapter 201). But, in his emphasis on the divine taking on human form, Teilhard even went so far as to describe the Incarnation as a divine "inoculation" of the universe (see S&C, p.61). For Teilhard, if this high christology of divine "descent" is to retain any relevance in this ever-expanding universe, then it can only be by and through an "ever-greater Christ".

4.2.1 Problems with the Theologians

Nevertheless, other developments on the theological scene were to further complicate things. As far back as 1929, while complaining to a friend about the effects of the "Modernists" were having on our understanding of Christ, Teilhard wrote that:

Christ must be endowed with certain physical properties -- 'theandric' as theology puts it -- radically different from those of a simple prophet -- who is a vehicle of truth without being in the least a centre which organizes the universe. Christ must always be far greater than our greatest conceptions of the world, but for two or three centuries we have allowed him to appear hardly equal to them, or even smaller. That is why Christianity is so anaemic at the present moment. (Letter to Pierre Lemare: see Speaight, p.162)

But when Teilhard returned from his long exile in China during the years preceding and including World War II, the situation had grown, in his estimation, even worse. He was shocked and dismayed to find that Catholic biblical scholarship (with which he had been largely out of touch) was rapidly abandoning its traditionally high christological emphasis to take much more seriously the resumed search for "the historical Jesus" with its correlative shift to a low christology, one detailing the ascent of the human Christ to his post-Resurrection status as "Son of God." So while Teilhard found himself impelled to promote his ever-greater Christ, he complained as to how some biblical exegetes seemed intent on diminishing him! (Letter to J. Mortier, Mar.21, 1951; see Kropf, 1980, p.150.)

4.2.2 A "Third Nature" of Christ?

Nevertheless, still undaunted by all of this, perhaps even spurred on by the determination to counteract it, Teilhard began to conjecture, toward the end of his life, about a "third nature" of Christ. The notion first appears in a Journal (XV [iii] p.97) note dated Feb. 7, 1948, but seems to remain otherwise relatively hidden until expressed in a note added to the 1953 essay "A Sequel to the Problem of Human Origins: The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds" (see C&E, pp.229-36). In it Teilhard rejects what he calls the two "easy solutions" -- either to deny that the original sin would have affected other planets, or else to claim that the saving knowledge of Christ could somehow be spread. He seems to have in no way entertained the possibility of any more than one Christ. Instead, we are told, in a still another note (apparently added by the editor, ibid. p.235) that the "J.M. Hypothesis" Teilhard speaks of in the first note is one that holds that the Incarnation of Christ is spread over the whole universe both of space and time in such a way that Christ needs to have been born, died and risen only once to effect the outcome of the whole process, quite independently, it would, from any knowledge of what is going on.

Certainly, this opinion would be consistent with Teilhard's earlier characterization of the Incarnation as a kind of "inoculation" of the universe with the "Universal Christ" (S&C, p.61) But was it his last word beyond all doubt? In another Journal note, dated Sept. 28, 1953, Teilhard admitted that he has still not decided as to whether or not the Jesus of history is not more or less a "virtual projection" of a "trans-Christ" or a sort of "unleashing" [declenche'] of Christ. (Journal XX [viii], p.23) Nevertheless, despite these doubts, we find in his very last essay, "Le Christique" (March 1955), his insistence that the universe must have a "christic centre" and thus (again) that Christ should be seen as having a "third aspect or function"... even "third 'nature' (neither human nor divine but cosmic)" in order to accomplish this task (HM, p.93). Thus, at least to Teilhard's mind, there is no backing away or way out of accepting his vision of ultimate reality and meaning without accepting his explicitly Christian claims. This does not mean that he felt that only Christians could be "saved", but rather to be a question of the objective order of things, a somewhat "ex opere operato" view of the divine economy, rather than an appeal to any necessity of subjective knowledge or personal acceptance. Nevertheless, there seems to be an inborn tension even within this view. Otherwise, why propose a "third nature" for Christ? Do we not have to find a more universal or universally satisfying solution?

4.3 A Pleromic Solution?

In a long note written on Sept 20. 1954, Teilhard outlined a proposed essay on "Ecumenism & Convergence", occasioned by reports of the deliberations of the World Council of Churches meeting being held about that time in Evanston, Illinois. In it Teilhard criticized attempts to remedy the divisions of Christianity either by a return to the classic definitions of the past (typical of Catholic and Orthodox appeals) or by some new effort to find a "common denominator" (the approach of liberal Protestantism). Instead, he states that the divided churches need a totally new approach based on the future needs of humanity -- what he calls "The Pleromic Solution" providing not only a meeting point for the various branches of Christianity but a "threshold of convergence" where both the Christian and "pan- religious" elements of the world can meet (Journal XX, [viii] pp. 70- 71). Thus while Teilhard emphasized the christic nature of this solution, he seems to have set his sights on a kind of ecumenism that goes far beyond just the unity of Christians or Christianity. In any case, his "solution" reaches far beyond any simple identification with Jesus of history. It calls for "Revelation of the Pleroma" -- one that appears to involve a "Revolution Christique!" (ibid. p.71).

4.3.1 The Active Sense of the Pleroma

We have already seen Teilhard's basic description of the Pleroma (see the conclusion of Section 2.5 above). But it is important that we note a gradual intensification of a certain "active" rather than passive meaning already hinted at when he used the phrase "une sorte de triomphe et de generalisation de l'etre." (Oeuvres 4.149).

Although the later pauline "captivity epistles" use the term pleroma to designate the completion of God's plans for the universe and the fullness of God's presence in the universe (that is, the universe completed by God), the term gradually became, for Teilhard, ultimately nothing less than the fullness or completion of God. This may not always appear to be so clear in many of his essays, where despite the prevalence of the term "Pleroma" and its cognates like "pleromization", Teilhard was always careful to apply them either to creation or to Christ, whom he saw as both the instrument and beneficiary of this fulfillment.

On several other occasions Teilhard pushed the meaning much further towards an "active" or fulfilling role. A more direct, even if somewhat qualified, statement appears in Teilhard's 1937 essay on "Human Energy" where he speaks of the Christian who "[w]hether he lives or dies, by his life and by his death, he in some way completes his God." (See HE, page 155, emphasis mine.) But the ontological import of his thought on the matter -- answering the implied question in the phrase "in some way" of the previous statement -- only comes through in his highly autobiographical 1950 essay, "The Heart of the Matter", where he writes of the World not "as an object of "Creation," where "classical metaphysics had accustomed us to seeing a sort of extrinsic production, issuing from, out of an overflowing kindness..." but instead as

a mysterious product of completion and achievement for Absolute Being itself, no longer Being participated through extra-position and divergence, but Being participated through pleromization and convergence. It is an effect, not so much of causality, but creative union." (See HM, p.54: Teilhard's emphasis.)

In other words, the Pleroma is not so much that which is fulfilled but that which fulfills!

While there is evidence that in a later draft of this essay Teilhard softened the force of the words "de completion et d'achevement" by substituting a simple "de satisfaction" in their place (See Tresmontant, 1959, p.93), it may have been done more out of considerations of prudence than from a change of conviction. Nor was that alteration to stand. For as late as January 1952, Teilhard remarked in a letter to Francois Richaud:

In that which touches God and the World, contemporary intellectual systems (e.g. Scholastic, Vedic . , ,) are always caught in a dilemma: either to divinize or to minimize [annihilate] the World. And yet the truth may very well be in the notion of the "Pleroma" of St. Paul: Creation in some way "completing" God. There is, in other words, some kind of absolute perfection in the Synthesis of the One "a se" and of the Multiple. Pleromization in addition to [en outre] Trinitization. (Correspondence "R" #118, Archives of the Fondation Teilhard de Chardin. Translation mine. See Kropf 1980, p.191)

4.3.2 Pleromic Meaning

In the spring of 1953, Teilhard returned to this problem of the "completion" of God, but this time in slightly different language but in a form that speaks most directly to our concern for Ultimate Meaning. This particular essay, titled "The Contingence of the Universe and Man's Zest for Survival", is subtitled with a question: "How Can One Rethink the Christian Notion of Creation to Conform with the Laws of Energetics?" Here he tied the problem of the complementary nature of the Pleroma for the last time with what he considered the root problem -- the inadequacy of the scholastic categories of thought to cope with an evolutionary view of reality or even worse, to provide a motive or meaning for human activity.

Strictly deduced from a particular metaphysics of potency and act, this thesis of creation's complete gratuitousness was acceptable in the Thomistic framework of a static universe in which all the creature had to do was to accept his existence and effect his own salvation. By contrast, it becomes dangerous and virulent (because disheartening) as soon as, in a system of cosmogenesis, the participated being we all are begins to wonder whether the radically contingent condition to which the theologians reduce it really justifies the pain and labour required for evolution. For, unless only individual happiness is to be sought at the term of existence (a form of happiness we have definitively rejected [see C&E, p.115]), how could man fail to be robbed of his zest for action by this alleged revelation of his radical uselessness?" (C&E, pp. 224-25.)

Such extrinsicism, in Teilhard's mind, had to be counteracted by a new concept of God's transcendence, one that is associated not with a splendid isolation of God from his universe but in a convergence of that God with that same universe. It would call for an uncompromising change of perspective, one that in this same essay he entitled: "A Corrective to Contingence: The Notion of the Pleroma". In this final section Teilhard went on to say:

Let us, in fact, forget about "Ens a se" and "Ens ab alio" and go back to the most authentic and most concrete expressions of Christian revelation and mysticism. At the heart of what we can learn or drink in from those, what do we find but the affirmation and the expression of a strictly bilateral and complementary relationship between the world and God? ....

In truth, it is not the sense of contingence of the created but the sense of the mutual completion of the world and God which gives life to Christianity. And, that being so, if it is just this soul of "complementarity" which Aristotelian ontology fails to get hold of, then we must do what the physicists do when mathematics is found wanting -- change our geometry. (C&E, pp. 226-27.)

But where exactly is this "complementarity" to be consummated? is on this final point that Teilhard's flirtation with the idea of a third nature of Christ must be put in perspective. So between the abridged quotations immediately above, Teilhard interjects with the remark:

If we reread St. John and St. Paul...what a sense we find of the absolute value of a cosmic drama in which God would indeed appear to have been ontologically involved even before his incarnation and, in consequence, what emphasis on the pleroma and pleromization! (C&E, p.226)

4.3.3 The Pleromizing Christ

Thus despite his renewed emphasis on the Pleroma, Teilhard never really backed away for long from his christocentrism. In a September 1954 letter to his secretary in Paris, Teilhard discussed his intentions for his final essay on "le Christique" and "the coming together of the pleromizing-Christ of Revelation and the convergent Evolutive of Science." (See HM, pp. 80-81) Thus, for Teilhard, ultimately Christ and the Pleroma are one. You just can't reach one without the other! How explain this?

There are several notes in Teilhard's 1948 Journal that may give a further hint. One of them speaks of "two bodies": one, which is "cosmic (coextensive with Time-Space)", and the other as "organic" [or so the note seems to indicate] to be measured in terms of the "complexity of the respective centres" (Journal XIV p.139, dated July 30, 1948). There is no indication of what "body" Teilhard is speaking about, but ten days earlier, another note refers a "cosmic coextension of domination" ascribed to "Christ after Resurrection" as contrasted to a "cosmic coextension of interaction" that in some way applies "to each of us" (ibid. p.137). This notion of "co-extension", the idea that everything in the universe to some extent interacts with everything else -- not unlike Whitehead's concept of the "continuum" - - is a key idea going way back in Teilhard's thought (see "What Exactly is the Human Body?" S&C, esp. the note on p.13 or again C&E, p. 127). Then in a note written just a few days later we can find some rather cryptic (and apparently inconclusive) lines regarding two "species" of concentration: one preceding the explosion of Lemaitre's primal atom (what we now call the "Big Bang") and the other being a "post-explosive" concentration of arrangement or "centration" (Journal XV (iii) p. 141).

Are these three notes all connected? Maybe not except by their relative proximity, but they each display a similar pattern of thought, a sequential phasing which leads one to distinguish a "before" and "after" on the pleromic horizon -- a cosmic BC and AD so to speak. So while in some vague sense the universe can be seen as a kind of "Body of God" (to borrow the title of Sally McFague's book on a theology of nature), for Teilhard the universe in its final, fully evolved or "pleromic" state can only be a universe that has become centered in God through Christ and transformed or "resurrected" with him. In other words, while everything is encompassed by the Pleroma, the Pleroma can only, at least to Teilhard's mind, be understood within a process of becoming that is dominated by the "Ever-greater Christ."

Or, again, in the very last of his journal notes, written three days before he died, under the caption "What I believe", he wrote: first, in a "Centered Cosmos", and second, that "Christ is the centre of the Cosmos (noogenesis = Christogenesis)" -- to which he added: "neo- Christianity" which both "saves noogenesis" and "is saved by it" (see HM, p. 104).

5. Conclusion: Some URAMic Questions

Given all this, and especially considering his insistent christocentrism in the face of our present cosmological horizons, we must ask just how well might Teilhard's vision serve today as an answer to humanity's search for "Ultimate Reality And Meaning"?

On the one hand, in terms of his interpretation of the evolutionary phenomena and even more, for his attribution of an ultimate goal or purpose in the face of the entropic fate of the universe, Teilhard's account has won high praise and respect, even from those who are otherwise agnostic, or even to some degree, openly atheistic, such as has been the case under the Communist regimes in China and the former Soviet Union. Even the name under which Teilhard was and still is known in China, Teh (or De) Ri-Jin or "Virtue Progressing Daily", captures something of both his personal and ideological appeal. This respect speaks well for the truth of what Teilhard himself frequently said in so many ways: that to capture the allegiance of the human race, the faith which Christianity must offer the world has to be first of all human. It cannot be a faith that is abstracted from or at variance with the highest or most progressive currents of evolution in this world (see especially "What the World is Looking for from the Church of God at this Moment" in C&E, pp. 212-20).

But on the other hand, is the faith that Teilhard proposed really any longer identifiably "Christian"? Maritain, the most highly respected Catholic philosopher of our age, thought that, despite Teilhard's frequent invocation of the figure of Christ, it was not. Certainly, if Teilhard's radical revision, or even repudiation, of classical ontology (especially in his understanding of the "Pleroma") is any indication, Teilhard was ready to "reverse the Christian perspective", or drastically revise the "geometry" of the usual Christian understanding of the relationship between the Creator and creation, to the point where we might speak of both (as did Whitehead) in terms of a "before" and "after" state, not just of the universe, but of God.

The only thing that Teilhard did not do, in my estimation, despite penchant for neologisms, was to radically revise his theological vocabulary enough to meet the needs of the new "geometry" (especially as it is revealed by cosmology) -- hence his struggling with ideas such as a "third nature" of Christ. One cannot but get the impression that, in his efforts to keep his vision essentially Christian, if Teilhard (to paraphrase his celebrated kinsman, Voltaire) could not find a Christ able to fit his needs, then he was obliged to invent one -- far beyond what even the "highest" orthodox christology seems able to do.

It is not that I would fault Teilhard's basic Christian instinct: we need a God-goal with whom we can identify within the process and not altogether beyond or outside of it -- otherwise all our human travails and joys, not to mention the appalling evils, appear meaningless and trivial -- at best, unworthy of a loving God. But in the light of a universe in which there well may be "thousands of millions" of "thinking planets" one may well wonder if the great Cosmic Attractor to which Teilhard's vision beckons us must not reach far beyond anything Christian theology has yet conceived, one which -- to borrow, perhaps too literally, from Teilhard's one cryptic hint of a "trans-Christ" -- far-transcends his ties to both the "Historical Jesus" or even the "Christ of Faith" that we have so-far known.

Richard W. Kropf


Allegra, Gabriel M., My Conversations with Teilhard de Chardin on the Primacy of Christ, Chicago, Franciscan Herald Press, 1971.

Aquinas, Thomas, Compendium of Theology, St. Louis, London, B. Herder Book Co., 1947.

Barrow, John D. & Tipler, Frank E., The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1988

Bertotti, Balbinot, Bergia, & Messina, Modern Cosmology in Retrospect, Cambridge University Press, 1990

Cuenot, Claude, Teilhard de Chardin: A Biographical Study, Baltimore, Helicon, 1958.

Goudge, T. A., The Ascent of Life: A Philosophical Study of the Theory of Evolution, University of Toronto Press, 1961.

Kropf, Richard W., Evil and Evolution: A Theodicy, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/ Associated University Presses, 1984.

Teilhard, Scripture & Revelation, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/ Associated University Presses, 1980.

Maritain, Jacques, The Peasant of the Garonne, New York, Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1968.

North, Robert, Teilhard and the Creation of the Soul, Milwaukee, Bruce Publishing, 1967.

Polkinghorne, John, Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity, New York, Crossroad, 1996.

Russell, Robt., Stoeger, Wm. & Coyne, Geo. Eds. Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, Vatican Observatory/ Notre Dame University Press, 1988.

Speaight, Robert,Teilhard de Chardin: A Biography, London, Collins, 1967.

Silk, Joseph, The Big Bang, Revised and Updated Edition, New York, W. H. Freeman, 1980, 1989.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (Note: the following abbreviations and English language titles are listed, with the exception of LT and LTF, in the order of publication of the Oeuvres de Teilhard de Chardin series published by Editions du Seuil, Paris.)

LT - Letters From a Traveler, translated by Bernard Wall, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1962 (Lettres de Voyage, and Nouvelle Lettres de Voyage, Paris, Editions Bernard Grasset, 1956, 1957).

LTF - Letters to Two Friends, translated by Helen Weaver, New York, New American Library, 1968 (Accomplir l'Homme, Paris, Grasset, 1968).

PM - The Phenomenon of Man, Translated by Bernard Wall, London, Collins, 1959; New York, Harper & Row, 1959 (Oeuvres 1).

AM - The Appearance of Man, translated by J.M.Cohen, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1965 (Oeuvres 2).

VP - The Vision of the Past, translated by J.M. Cohen, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1966 (Oeurves 3).

DM - The Divine Milieu, translated by Bernard Wall, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1960 (Oeuvres 4).

FM - The Future of Man, translated by Norman Denny, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1964 (Oeuvres 5)

HE - Human Energy, translated by J.M. Cohen, London, Collins, 1969 (Oeuvres 6).

AE - The Activation of Energy, translated by J.M. Cohen, London, Collins, 1969 (Oeuvres 7).

MPN - Man's Place in Nature, translated by Rene' Hague, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1966 (Oeuvres 8).

S&C - Science & Christ, translated by Rene' Hague, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1968 (Oeuvres 9).

C&E - Christianity & Evolution, translated by Rene' Hague, London, Collins; New York, Harper & Row, 1971 (Oeuvres 10).

TF - Toward the Future, translated by Rene' Hague, London, Collins; New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975 (Oeuvres 11).

WTW - Writings in Time of War, translated by Rene' Hague, London, Collins: New York, Harper & Row, 1968 (Oeuvres 12)

HM - The Heart of Matter, translated by Rene' Hague, London, Collins; New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978 (Oeuvres 13).

BE - Building the Earth, Wilkes-Barre Pa., Dimension Books, 1965 (Construire le Terre, Cahiers de Teilhard de Chardin No.1, Editions du Seuil)

Tipler, Frank J., The Physics of Immortality, New York, Doubleday, 1994.

Tresmontant, Claude, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: His Thought, Baltimore, Helicon, 1959.

Whitehead, Alfred North, Process and Reality, New York, Macmillan, 1929, Harper & Row Torchbooks, 1960

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