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John F. Haught Lecture Notes on Teilhard de Chardin (2007)

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John F. Haught: Lecture Series on Science and Christian Faith

This 2006-2007 Lecture Series was sponsored by Metanexus Institute and Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA

Annotated Lecture Notes of February 19th 2007 taken by Peter Krey

See www.religiononline for Teilhard’s book, Future of Man and his Hymn of the Universe.

[Teilhard was] animated by a great hope and love for humanity.

Our essential work is saved in the life of God. Society has to give us back ourselves, and not in a depersonalized way.

True unity differentiates, [it does not confound.[1]] The Nazis exiled, annihilated whatever was different. History proceeds from the tribe to city state to nations to globalization. Neo-collectivism [returned] in a perverse way in the 1900’s.

The building up of the Kingdom of God makes all things new. [The Kingdom comes by the process of] emergence and by a process of centration, too. [We have] individual angst – [when] we are not the center, thus [we have] de-centration. Community is a higher value, [we have] a super-centration here.

Centration brings individual happiness.

De-centration means enlarging our base (for the communal)

Super-centration means joining together for a higher purpose.

To be leads to love leads to worship.

[Teilhard felt that we] make our way to heaven through the earth (i.e. nature) pace Marx.

[Let me take the last first. Marx makes the intellectual superstructure depend completely on its basis, the material infra-structure. I do not know if John Haught used the following apt citation, because Teilhard has other critique of Marx in his work: “We need to remind ourselves again, so as to offset this truly pagan materialism and naturalism, that although the laws of biogenesis by their nature presuppose, and in fact bring about, an improvement in human living conditions, it is not well-being but a hunger for more-being which, of psychological necessity, can alone preserve the thinking earth from the taedium vitae (disgust and weariness with life). And that makes fully plain the importance of what I have already suggested, that it is upon its point (or superstructure) of spiritual concentration, and not on its basis (or infra-structure) of material arrangement, that the equilibrium of Humankind biologically depends.[2]]

[Secondly,] we make our way to heaven through the earth (i.e. nature): [“But let there be revealed to us the possibility of believing at the same time and wholly in God and the World, the one through the other: In a Christ no longer seen only as the Savior of individual souls, but (precisely because He is the Redeemer in the fullest sense) as the ultimate Mover of anthropogenesis.”[3] (If I may comment with some of my own ideas: In this way Teilhard is not only writing about individuals becoming Christ, but the new genotype, the new phylogeny of the children of God to come. Because of the convergence of species, the coming ones will evolve in the new frontier, and now more quickly, within, i.e., in the internal dimension.)]

First God will be Christ. [Our emergence] needed spirituality for Christ to germinate. Cosmogenesis is at heart Christogenesis. Evolution’s purpose is Christ.

To create is to unite matter, life, mind, and spirit. Matter is spirit in the state of disbursal.

What we do on earth is heaven. [What we do is woven] forever into the fabric of heaven and our lives matter everlastingly. Our essential work is saved in the life of God.

Socio-biology is scientific materialism and naturalism. It is a modern expulsion of mind from nature and the universe – like the myth of the exiled soul – [from The Symbolism of Evil by Paul] Ricoeur: [If I can conjecture Haught’s analogy here: the exile of the soul is like the heavenly person driven out of the earthly one, where the soul as heavenly first gave meaning to the body as earthly. It is somewhat like Adam and Eve driven out of the Garden of Eden. The exile then, is like taking the heavenly (God, the spiritual, and mind) out of the earthly (the natural, the material, the body),[4] which constitutes the beginning of science as natural philosophy, where natural explanations are given for natural events, excluding God and the spiritual.[5] ] matter for trial, purification, etc.

Teilhard (1881-1955) [wrote of] communing with God through the earth. God is not above us but ahead of us.[6] The Biblical God is calling the universe to a new future. Primordial radiation progressed to human mind. The Earth is clothing itself with a brain and crossing the collective threshold of thought.

The Law of Complexity and Consciousness: [the more complex the organism or organization or institution the higher the possible consciousness. In Teilhard’s own words: “The more complex a being is, so our Scale of Complexity tells us, the more it is centered upon itself and therefore the more conscious does it become. In other words, the higher degree of complexity in a living creature, the higher its consciousness; and vice versa.”[7]]

Purpose equals the actualization of value.

Spirit equals matter in a state of unity (centration).

Matter per se is not integrated.

The unity of centration [is associated with] (multiplicity, complexity).

[The High Priestly Prayer of] John – that all may be one [is basic to Teilhard’s thoughts here].

[Thus Teilhard] held a great hope in common-religion, cosmological religion. Through religion the cosmos searches for a center. What’s going on [can be explained in terms of] the three Kantian questions: [What can I know? What ought I do? For what can I hope?]

[There’s a] mediation of the universe of us and God. Being born and developing as a function of a cosmic stream for more being.

Teilhard’s Grand Option [has] three vital decisions:

1/ pessimism versus optimism, 2/ optimism of withdrawal versus the optimism of evolution, and 3/ communion versus the individual [for] more being.

[At] the critical threshold, divergence becomes convergence and the emergent human person [becomes] the dominant cell.

(My soul was in turbulence when I took these notes and I missed a lot so that they became quite disjointed. John Haught’s books God after Darwin (Second Edition 2008) and In Search of a God for Evolution (2002) must contain some of these ideas.)


[1] [Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1964), pages 55-57, 316. Totalisation (in terms of reflective psychism) by its nature does not merely differentiate, but personalizes what it unites (page 265).

[2] [Pierre Teilhard, The Future of Man, page 317.]

[3] [Pierre Teilhard, The Future of Man, page 281.]

[4] [Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967), page 279ff. Perhaps Haught related the myth of the exiled soul with the expulsion of mind from nature and the universe by the materialism of socio-biology. But the way the soul conceals the body and the body conceals the soul, the mind might be concealed from materialists. In this Orphic myth the soul exiled from heaven is expiated by the body-prison in which it is punished by the torments of this life. This relates to trial and purification.]

[5] [cf. Paul Ricoeur, page 18. “Divine as to the soul, earthly as to the body, the [human being] as the forgetting of the difference and the myth tells how that happened.” (page 280) “The soul of the sleeping wakes and the soul of the waking sleeps. Soul and body, then have inverse possibilities, which conceal each other. The soul is the witness of the other world, hidden while we are awake in this life and revealed in dreams, ecstasies, love, and death.” (page 286)

[6] [Pierre Teilhard, The Future of Man, page 281-282.]

[7] Ibid., page 116.

Written by peterkrey

August 28, 2011 at 6:37 am