speech on de Chardin
Jul 05, 1994 12:48 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker
This is by Brenda Tucker. It is the first part of a three part
speech given here in L.A. in 1991. The teachings are taken from
a book by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, entitled THE HEART OF MATTER,
NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976. It was translated from the
French by Rene Hague. The speech covers only Part I of the book,
which is the 13th and last of his books, and contains 130 additional
pages of short articles on such things as "The Great Monad" and the
"Phenomenon of Man."
**From the point at which a spark in me was first struck, a
point that was built into me congenitally, the world gradually
caught fire - burst into flames until it formed a great luminous
mass, lit from within, that surrounded me. Within every being and
every event there was a progressive extension of a mysterious inner
clarity which transfigured them. (Intro., p. 15)
Enthralled with the use of these three universal components:
cosmic, human, and christic, it took me years to discover them as
approximate outlines of one and the same reality.
A sense of plenitude is best described as the feeling that one
is completely at home and completely happy. By knowledge of the
essential nature an operation a random subject is destined to
culminate in what is highest being directed toward spirit, even
though the operation has started from what is most tangible and
concrete in stuff, and by this same process, one later allows the
essential nature to make its way into and conquer everything.
These thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin are the introduction to a
speech given on one of his books. His life story is somewhat inter-
twined with his thought processes.
At a young age, 6 or 7, Teilhard was drawn toward matter and devoted
to the child Jesus, but he remembers his fascination with the
existence of an "iron" God. The lockpin of a plow hidden in a
corner of a yard, the hexagonal head of a metal bolt protruding
above the level of the nursery floor, shell splinters collected on
a firing range were all symbols which spelled "higher intelligence,"
Why Iron? Why thick and massive pieces of Iron? This
consistence, this form, in its fullest possible expression was for
him the fundamental attribute of being. This initial apprehension
of the absolute in the form of the tangible if arrested prematurely
in its growth produces the miser or collector. This iron God and
the feeling he had toward it were to him plenitude. The seeking for
satisfaction in grasping at definite objects, in which the essence
of things could be found concentrated, this consistence, this
incorruptibleness was not an effect of substance, but of
convergence, so that when he found iron could be scratched and
chipped he found it necessary to try to replace the infallible iron
with other things: a blue flame flickering over the logs, finely
colored stone, and fragments of chalcedony that he would pick up
for this substance was very hard.
The substitution of quartz for iron made him start wondering
about the constitution of the planet and nature. Metals kept him
attached to objects that were manufactured from which he could
acquire pieces, but with an attraction to minerals, he had set
himself on the road toward discovering the planetary. The sought
for consistence, the stuff of things that he looked for in hard and
dense material, finally emerged into one element which permeated all
things for it was a universal element.
A side point: the fact that he felt a secret joy over each
new and different material object, varying with age, as well as his
entry into the society of Jesus, although they looked important as
he looked back at them, were no more than minor superficial ripples
on a fundamental current that was constituted by the awakening to
the cosmic sense and the cosmic life. It is difficult for him to
work out the complicated story at that time of his life when the
various threads were just forming and had begun to be woven together
into the stuff of the universe.
For de Chardin, a solid permanent core of his system, which
provided him with a sense of the whole and increased his contact
with the solid and cosmic states, was the science of stones.
Increasingly he was attracted toward vegetal and animal nature and
later towards physics. These three columns were created: matter in
the center, surrounded by columns of life and energy. These three
supported his interior visions and felicity. Although he was
disappointed with plants and animals because of their apparent lack
of consistence, their fragility - things so perishable as a flower
or an insect - he created a substitution for the solid and
incorruptible, and this substitution was the new and the rare. He
could continue with this even into his later studies when he began
to look for new species for this was for him an important pivot
which provided him with a change of direction.
So in avoiding the morass of collecting for his own sake, he
was able to continue by nourishing his sense of the universal. Even
as he felt a glow of satisfaction in putting his hand on a really
treasured specimen - that sense of the universal enabled him to
experience a delight in a more intimate contact, a contact with the
He taught physics for three years as a layman, the pre-
quantum, pre-relativity physics. Linking the animal world and the
energy world was the common underlying foundation of the rock world.
At this point in his life he hit a dead end and he began to drift
toward a lower form of spirit - a pantheism or the pantheist spirit
- but still continued searching for the heart of matter.
Following this line of thought he found a new fascination with
the East, not for the people and their history, but for the light,
the vegetation, the fauna, and the deserts of the East. He began to
find a common substratum for his tangible world, but wasn't
satisfied with postulating it philosophically, he had to grasp it,
he had to become the other self existing in the substratum, a
mystical act, following in the traditions of the Hindu poets and
mystics. Finding self-fulfillment was only possible by becoming the
intangible. This required elf-surrender. He fostered a new
disappearing into the world of the formless.
This would have continued had it not been for the germination
of a seed. This seed was the idea of evolution. de Chardin could
feel this seed growing in him, a consciousness of a deep running
ontological and total current, embracing the whole universe as far
as tracing the process of the development of consciousness and the
stages of this consciousness, and it was difficult for him to do
this. The synthesis of matter, life, and energy acquired a new
dimension, moving from the fragmented state of static cosmos, to the
organic state and dignity of a cosmogenesis.
A complete reversal of his sense of plenitude accompanied his
moving from the ultra-material toward the ultra-living. This new
direction consumed him from that day on. He had always accepted the
heterogeneity, a duality of matter and spirit, body and soul,
unconscious and conscious, and his divine matter was always the
humble servant if not the enemy of the second, the spirit, which to
him was no more than a shadow. He had no interest in spirit, until
he went further and further into this idea of evolution. The
dualism disappeared. There were no longer two things, these were
two states of the same cosmic stuff and according to whether it was
just looked at or carried further in the direction in which it was
becoming itself or vice versa, in the direction in which it was
disintegrating, this new development then was characterized by these
words: the primacy of spirit or the primacy of the future.
Now the barrier separating the within of things from the
without of things had disappeared. His evolutionary formula was
queer because of course there is a tangible current running from the
least conscious in nature to the most conscious in nature, but that
wasn't enough to settle the question of the animate having absolute
superiority over the inanimate. Why couldn't superiority swing from
one pole to the other or settle down in the position of matter? He
was still looking for an evolutionary formula.
He did solve these questions. This cosmic movement had to be
for him irreversible. The universe was falling in the direction of
spirit. Matter was not ultra-materialized, but metamorphosed into
psyche. Spirit was not the opposite or the enemy of the tangible,
it was at its very heart. It took him a whole lifetime to
understand and to appreciate the change which had come upon him.
His prayer, his action, his thinking, all were to reform when this
change in the notion of spirit took place. The state of evolution,
directed evolution, meaning genesis, caused him to do an about turn
in his pursuit of consistence. Of course, the sense of plenitude
was so simplified, that matter could transform into thought-based
life became the consequence of Noogenesis. He identified the
solidity of things now with an extreme organic complexity.
So the question became, how could the most corruptible,
through synthesis, become the supremely indestructible? But he no
longer doubted that the sense of supreme happiness which he had
found in iron was now only to be found in spirit. The stuff of the
cosmos was able to consolidate by complexifying. Two living unities
of planetary dimensions now became distinguishable. The earth's
living envelope, or the biosphere, and total mankind, or the
It is true, spirit supplanted the mineral and the atomic by
becoming an all-embracing essence of the universe, but spirit
vaguely conceived as some sort of opposite pole to the physicist's
energy was still without any precise structure.
He had two prejudices which prevented him from facing the
facts. First, the fact that the physical/chemical instability of
the organic substances could actually be of any consistence. The
second was that the stream running through him, which spoke to him
of the primacy of the cosmos, when contrasted with the unification
of the human, the individual, the accidental, the artificial
resulted in everything that seemed to him as universal and total
becoming plural, or breaking and tearing apart.
It took him three stages before he overcame these two
prejudices. The first stage made him think of the notion of human
planetary, the Noosphere and the details and contours of the
Noosphere. The second stage disclosed to his mind the critical
transformation that the stuff of the cosmos undergoes at the level
of reflection. The third stage was the recognition of the
Noosphere's drift toward ultra-human states under the influence of
psycho-physical convergence or planetization. Human becomes
planetary through a process of recognizing the limitations of the
The first feature he noted in regard to the Noosphere is that
at the top, the surface is strictly and exclusively self-totalizing.
At the bottom, solidarity, but above, organic unity of operation.
The oneness or unicity of man stretched like a veil over the
confused multitude of living beings - astounding singleness in
cohesion fascinated him.
At this point he noted three stages in the structure of the
Noosphere. Deep down in the substance of the cosmos there is
primordial disposition for self-arrangement and self-involution.
After a certain degree of matter's physical-chemical arrangement it
reaches a critical point of reflection. It is this reflection that
releases the whole train of the specific properties of the human.
Finally as a result of reflection, we find a germinating principle
of complete and final incorruptibility.
Although de Chardin was fascinated with gravity, another kind
of attraction took its place in his fascination. This field was
more to his liking and closer to the axis of cosmogenesis. This
attraction was not the attraction of matter for itself, but the
attraction which arranges matter in larger, differentiated organic
molecules. In place of the concentration curve, he began to realize
the importance of the arrangement curve. The irresistible vortex
which spins into itself, from the most simple to the most complex,
spins ever into more comprehensive and complicated nuclei. The
result of this increase in complexity is an increase of
This man who had for years looked at matter becoming
transfigured, developing, simplifying, saw it interfering with his
worship and then suddenly, his sight changes and he sees in the
human being the very consistency of the world. The way he saw life
as an accident changed, so that he saw it in terms of the rarity of
living beings in comparison to the amount of space. This rarity is
the effect of the difficulties which are presented to the tide
inherent in matter as it wells up and becomes human life through the
emergence of a complexification force.
Once life established a foot-hold somewhere in the world, you
could expect to see it not only expand, but to see it reach the
highest degree of intensity. Now the persistent and irreversible
rise of cerebration and consciousness over the surface of the earth
shows the full significance of the hominizing phenomena of
reflection. Reflection: the critical point occurring as soon as
matter reaches a certain degree of psychic temperature and
organization. Reflection: the transition from simple life to life
complexified. Reflection: the necessary and sufficient property
that explains what we can observe between the Biosphere and the
Noosphere. Spirit became clearer to him.
The world is not following the direction of obscurity. It
falls forward in equilibrium toward the light. The stuff of things
gradually concentrates in a pure state and a cosmic peak. This it
does in its most stable form, the form that has become most
completely irreversible. To elaborate upon this, he doesn't tell of
his past, but speaks of his most advanced stage in inner
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