THE FEMININE

Teilhard offered reflections on the feminine in his own writings, and that perspective may also be found in the writings of others, presented here.

In his autobiograpical essay, written when he was approaching 70, Teilhard wrote:  “It was inevitable that sooner or later I should come up against the Feminine.  The only curious thing is that it was not until my thirtieth birthday that this happened.

This coincides with the year he began his scientific studies in Paris and became reacquainted with his cousin Marguerite Teillard-Chambon, who became his closest confidante for the rest of his life.

Teilhard wrote two essays on “The Feminine,” bridging some 16 years, from 1918 to 1934.  The first, written during his military service in World War I, was a hymn to love, personalizing the Ideal Femiine in the first person, entitled “The Eternal Feminine.”  The second, written in China, was more analytical from a scientific perspective, entitled “The Evolution of Chastity.”



Ever since my childhood I had been engaged in the search for the Heart of Matter, and so it was inevitable that sooner or later I should come up against the Feminine. The only curious thing is that in the event it was not until my thirtieth year that this happened: so powerful was the fascination that the Impersonal and the Generalized held for me.

It was, therefore, a strange time-lag.

On the other hand, it was rewarding, because the new energy entered into my soul at the very moment, on the eve of the war, when my Sense of the Cosmos and Sense of Man were emerging from their childhood; thus there was no longer any danger that it might divert or dissipate my forces. Instead, it was superimposed, at just the right moment, on a world of spiritual aspirations whose vastness, still a little lacking in warmth, needed only that energy in order to ferment and become completely organized.

As I tell the story in these pages of my inner vision, I would be leaving out an essential element, or atmosphere, if I did not add in conclusion that from the critical moment when I rejected many of the old molds in which my family life and my religion had formed me and began to wake up and express myself in terms that were really my own, I have experienced no form of self-development without some feminine eye turned on me, some feminine influence at work.

When I say this, you will understand, of course, that I mean simply that general, half-worshipping, homage which sprang from the depths of my being and was paid to those women whose warmth and charm have been absorbed, drop by drop, into the life-blood of my most cherished ideas.


Ab initio creata sum (I was created from the beginning).

When the world was born, I came into being. Before the centuries were made, I issued from the hand of God — half- formed, yet destined to grow in beauty from age to age, the handmaid of his work.

Everything in the universe is made by union and generation — by the coming together of elements that seek out one another, melt together two by two, and are born again in a third.

God instilled me into the initial multiple as a force of condensation and concentration.

In me is seen that side of beings by which they are joined as one, in me the fragrance that makes them hasten together and leads them, freely and passionately, along their road to unity.

Through me, all things have their movement and are made to work as one.

I am the beauty running through the world, to make it associate in ordered groups: the ideal held up before the world to make it ascend.

I am the essential Feminine.

(Page 72)  The feminine was to symbolize for him something universal, the unitive element in the cosmos, expressed in this essay in largely idealized, spiritual form, whether seen as wisdom, the handmaid of God’s creation, as mother nature, or as the figure of Mary and the church.

He used the well-known expression “the eternal feminine” from Goethe’s Faust, but this eternal universal reality also expressed itself in many individual faces and forms, through the presence and friendship of particular women without whom Teilhard’s personal spiritual growth would not have occurred the way it did.

(Page 74)
[The feminine was awakened in him by his mother.]
But he discovered the full power of “the ideal Feminine” and its “unfading beauty” (Writings in Time of War, 199) only when he encountered his cousin Marguerite as an adult woman, a woman of a cultivated, fine mind, great grace, and loveliness as well as deep faith and devotion.  When meeting on the eve of the war, they fell deeply in love with each other.  She became the first listener to his ideas, his first audience and reader, his first critic.  Theirs was an intellectual and spiritual collaboration, but Marguerite was also the first woman who loved him as a man, and it is through her that he full found himself.


Perhaps Teilhard’s most famous quote on love is found at the end of this essay:
“Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”