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Portrait of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Philosopher and Jesuit Priest
May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist. His early years were spent as a professor of geology at the Catholic Institute in Paris. After serving in the French army during World War I, de Chardin spent many years in China, India and Java studying evolution and the development of the human species, took part in the discovery of Peking Man, and became director of the National Geologic Survey of China and director of the National Research Center of France.

He conceived the vitalist 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 concept of the noösphere.

Although many of Teilhard's writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin, Teilhard has been posthumously praised by Pope Benedict XVI and other eminent Catholic figures, and his theological teachings were cited by Pope Francis in the 2015 encyclical, Laudato si'. The response to his writings by evolutionary biologists has been, with some exceptions, decidedly negative.

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A Great Event Foreshadowed: The Planetization of Mankind

Written in Peking in December 1945. Published in the August-September 1946 edition of Cahiers du Monde Nouveau with the title La planétisation humaine.

A Note on Progress

Written in Paris and published posthumously in The Future of Man.

Cosmic Life

Cosmic Life was the first of Teilhard’s extant writings in his characteristic style. Knowing what risks he was exposed to at the warfront, he wrote it as his intellectual testament, and it contains in embryo all that was later to be developed in his thought; the “fire in his vision” which he tried to communicate. The essay was posthumously published in the 1955 book Writings in Time of War.

From the Pre-Human to the Ultra-Human: The Phases of a Living Planet

First published in Almanach des Sciences, 1951, then in The Future of Mankind.

How May We Conceive And Hope That Human Unanimization Will Be Realized On Earth?

Written in Paris and published posthumously in The Future of Man.

Life and the Planets

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin explores the concept of complexification in the universe, focusing on the ever-increasing combination of smaller elements into larger structures, and then extrapolates this behavior to humanity's current situation. What if the human species is an intermediary evolutionary stage, and what would the next rung on the ladder look like? Teilhard suggests that it will involve the merging-together of all humanity into a divine, planetized consciousness. Originally delivered as a lecture at the French Embassy in Peking (Beijing), China, later published in Études and The Future of Man.

On The Probable Existence Ahead Of Us Of An ‘Ultra-Human’

An originally unpublished essay, written in Paris, in which Teilhard talks about a vast realm of the Ultra-Human which lies ahead of us: a realm in which we shall not be able to survive, or super-live, except by developing and embracing on earth, to the utmost extent, all the powers of common vision and unanimazation that are available to us. Eventually published in The Future of Man.

Survival, Part 1: Before Life Came

Survival, Part 2: Life

Survival, Part 3: Thought

Survival, Part 4: Survival

The Atomism of Spirit

An attempt to understand the structure of the stuff of the universe, written in Peking (Beijing). Published in Activation of Energy.

The Convergence of the Universe

The End of the Species

Written in New York and published a year later in Psyché.

The Essence of the Democratic Idea

“A biological approach to the problem.” Written in response to a questionnaire from UNESCO and later published in The Future of Man.

The Formation of the Noösphere

The noösphere is the sum-total of mental activity which emerges out of a complex biosphere, and in this essay Teilhard describes how our planet is growing its very own mind. Published in Revue des Questions Scientifiques (Louvain) and later The Future of Man.

The Grand Option

Published in Cahiers Du Monde Nouveau in 1945.

The Human Rebound of Evolution and its Consequences

This essay, published in Revue des Questions Scientifiques in 1948 and reprinted in The Future of Man, follows Teilhard's train of thought on the aftermath of a potential fusing-together of humanity.

Cover image for The Phenomenon of Man

The Phenomenon of Man

Visionary theologian and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin applied his whole life, his tremendous intellect, and his great spiritual faith to building a philosophy that would reconcile religion with the scientific theory of evolution. In this timeless book (whose original French title better translates to ‘The Human Phenomenon’), Teilhard argues that just as living organisms sprung from inorganic matter and evolved into ever more complex thinking beings, humans are evolving toward an "omega point"—defined by Teilhard as a convergence with the Divine.

The Phyletic Structure of the Human Group

The Place of Technology in a General Biology of Mankind

Teilhard argues that biology and technology are the same thing: technology is simply advanced biology which has reached a minimum threshold of self-awareness, allowing it to harvest and sheperd energy from its environment and utilize it to intelligently organize matter for further evolutionary development. Written after an address given in Paris at the Salle d’horticulture (National Society of Horticulture).

The Position of Man in Nature and the Significance of Human Socialization

Is there in the universe a main axis of evolution? (An attempt to see clearly)

The Transformation and Continuation in Man of the Mechanism of Evolution