In some ways our human concerns have changed little in the past century, which has seen an extraordinary revolution in technology and scientific understanding. What Teilhard de Chardin wrote about decades ago remains relevant.
1925, for instance, was the year the Scopes “Monkey Trial” fanned a conflict between evolution and biblical fundamentalism into a national conflagration. The same year in France Teilhard de Chardin was repressed by his Jesuit superiors under pressure from the Vatican for teaching that evolution forces a re-interpretation of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. Today the divide between science and religious fundamentalism is wider than ever. Witness the laws now on the books in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Virginia designed to protect freedom of religion from the teaching of evolution.
On a more positive note, the insights of Teilhard into the sacredness of the earth and the interrelatedness of all creatures has spawned a thriving ecological movement across religious boundaries. His mystical sense continues to inspire deep currents of spirituality both within and outside of formal religion. His speculation about the ongoing emergence of the “ultrahuman” echoes today’s growing transhumanism movement which speculates on where the human species is headed as a technologized being. His projection of an evolving global consciousness which he labeled the “noosphere” has become tangible in the internet, social media and globalization.
Everywhere we turn we are reminded of something he wrote, always with an optimism and hope that inspires some, and which others consider to be naïve. One does not have to agree with Teilhard to profit from engagement with his ideas. He was not only a transformative thinker for his own day (he died in 1955) but he continues to offer a comprehensive vision that embraces both all the sciences and the experience of spiritual reality beyond the reach of science.
We will dedicate this space in the coming weeks and months to topics that pop up in the news that remind us of the legacy of Teilhard.