Teilhard de Chardin Pierre - Human Energy

Author : Teilhard de Chardin Pierre
Title : Human Energy
Year : 1963

Link download : Teilhard_de_Chardin_Pierre_-_Human_Energy.zip

FOREWORD. In the previously published volumes of the works of Teilhard de Chardin, the different essays he left, in so far as they did not form an entire volume, were grouped around some great theme such as the theory of evolution in general (The Vision ofthe Past), the emergence of man (The Appearance of Man), and hopes for the future resulting from a study of the past (The Future of Man). Among his unpublished writings bearing on his 'phenomenology', however, are a number of essays that could not be collected in the previous volumes, but are nevertheless of the first importance for the sound understanding ofhis teaching. They are perhaps some of the most original and valuable expositions that he made. These small works are now gathered, in chronological order, into two volumes entitled Human Energy and The Activation ofHuman Energy. Undoubtedly, many ideas will be found in these writings that have already been elaborated from another angle in essays already published. But these ideas are here developed in greater detail; they are notably filled out and explored in greater depth. They therefore make an invaluable contribution to the understanding of Teilhard's vision, the inner coherence and almost inexhaustible fecundity of which are here displayed anew. It will become increasingly evident that Teilhard's work as a whole has a profound unity and develops a primary intuition. On the occasion of a lecture on the subject of 'The Philosophical Intuition' given at Bologna on 10 April, 191 1, Henri Bergson strikingly demonstrated that there are two ways of approaching a philosopher's work: 'A philosophical system seems at first to stand up like a complete building of skilful architecture, in which arrangements have been made for the comfortable accommodation of all problems. It is possible to consider this edifice from the outside, to go all round it, to examine each of its features separately and identify the materials used by its maker and the source from which he obtained them. This method may be useful, though it tells us very little about its internal coherence and the motives that determined its overall conception. 'There is however a second way of approach to a thinker's work. This is to penetrate to the very heart of the building, "to take our place in the philosopher's mind." Then the system undergoes a total transformation. The coherence and necessity of all its elements become suddenly perceptible. "Then everything converges to a single point, to which we feel we can draw closer and closer, though we must despair ofever reaching it".' 1 All this very largely applies to the work of Teilhard de Chardin. In his case also, it is not enough to consider his work from outside and examine the elements ofwhich it is built one by one, though this analysis may be useful. It is much more important to make the effort to study his work in some way from within, and discover the central point from which the author has built and which has given him perpetual new inspirations. Putting aside his theological writings, it is apparent that the point of departure of Teilhard's whole work is the wish to penetrate as deeply as possible into the fundamental structure of the universe in which we live and ofwhich we form part. More than any other philosopher, he took the findings of the sciences as his starting point, since these enabled him to grasp the world in its historical dimension. From this point of view—which to him became evidential—he tried to discover the inner coherence and essential direction of universal history, which, despite the multitude and diversity ofphenomena, reveals to his eyes a fundamental unity and harmony which guide even our activity as men in that direction. All his essays start from this primal conviction and try to show us the nature of that fundamental unity and the prospects it opens up on human existence. Bergson's words apply also to him: 'The whole complexity ofhis teaching, which might stretch to infinity, is therefore only the incommensurability between his simple intuition and the means of expressing it that are at his disposal/1 I do not think we should be far from Teilhard's primal intuition if we were to seek it in the neighbourhood of what he called the law of progressive complexity and increasing consciousness, in other words the problem of the relation between spirit and matter. Impelled by his desire to see the world as a unity, Teilhard was compelled to ask the following question. 'How can the two realms of our experience, those of the outer and inner world, be brought to a unity within the framework of an evolutionary universe ?' At first sight this might seem a purely philosophical problem. For centuries past, it is the philosophers who have drawn parallels permitting an approach to it. However the way in which Teilhard de Chardin sets about solving the problem is not primarily philosophical, although his ideas undoubtedly open up metaphysical prospects in the end. Teilhard chose his point of departure in the findings ofscience, and he appeals to hypotheses of a scientific type. In this realm he adopts the theory of the dual character of the Weltstoff, or stuffof the universe. If we adopt the hypothesis that everything has a without and (virtually at least) a within, and that these two aspects ofreality evolve throughout history towards an ever growing complexity/consciousness, the universe begins to become a coherent and intelligible reality to us, which it will never do without this hypothesis. In the author's opinion this is no question of founding a philosophical theory, but exclusively of a scientific working hypothesis. This position is ofcapital importance. Teilhard de Chardin certainly does not begin from any sort of philosophical panpsychism. Being used to a scientific method of thought, he constructs a provisional hypothesis, which he subsequently compares with reality. So, in the scientific manner, the hypothesis, according to Teilhard, derives its whole value and power from the harmony and coherence it supplies as soon as it is accepted. He therefore ceaselessly strives to examine the results produced by this hypothesis when confronted with reality, and the further he explored in this direction the more convinced he became that he had found the key to a sound understanding of the universe, and in particular of the place occupied by man in that universe. It is not surprising therefore to see him continually returning to this theme and applying it in all directions. In so far as Teilhard is working on the scientific plane, it is not difficult to accept his arguments. No one can object to an attempt ofthis sort. Difficulties only occur when one faces the task ofinterpreting the results obtained by this kind of work from a philosophical point of view. It cannot of course be denied that sooner or later this task is unavoidable, since the question is bound to arise: To what extent can these arguments be reconciled with traditional philosophy ? Teilhard de Chardin was conscious of the philosophical repercussions ofhis ideas. In a letter to a friend and colleague, to whom he sent his Sketch ofa Personalistic Universe, he wrote: 1 am going to send you my latest essay in which I have attempted a brief synthesis of the question. This essay runs the risk of conflicting with your metaphysics at several points. But I am certain that a more traditional interpretation ofmy view is possible. The role of my paradoxes may be to call urgent attention to the points on which classical philosophy needs either to be widened or made more flexible/ (Letter of 15 August, 1938). It is clear from this passage that in Teilhard's opinion, classical philosophy (there can be no doubt that it was the Aristotelian metaphysics of the Scholastics that he had in mind) needs supplemeriting and extending at certain points, but that it is substantially compatible with his ideas. On this last point we have the vital evidence of a highly qualified philosopher, Pere Marechal, s.j. In a letter to Pere Auguste Valensin, sj., he wrote in these terms: 'As in his works, the author presumes that a certain continuity of evolution from matter to man is admissible. This can be understood in a perfectly orthodox sense and indeed fits easily into the Aristotelian theories of causality . . . Believing that the spiritual soul is only created "m corpore", and only operates in conjunction with matter, they (the philosophers and theologians) automatically accept a "noosphere" linked with the rest of the material world by necessary correlations. There is therefore in their view a "natural science" not only of the human body but of the entire man. This natural determinism of the whole man does not exclude spontaneity, even in its highest expression; a free act.' The essays published in this volume will undoubtedly give rise to discussion in this field, and thus stimulate and enrich further research. The essays touching on this particular question therefore must be considered principally as a working tool which may be useful for a subsequent examination of the problem raised. According to the author's own intentions, they must be equally considered as a provisional contribution to the solution of a problem which has already occupied men's minds for a very long time, and will perhaps never be completely solved. This statement presents the general problem of the relationship ofTeilhard's thought to scholastic philosophy. Although developed from a phenomenological standpoint, his arguments lead in the long run to a metaphysic. The opposite would be quite unimaginable. His analysis of the cosmic phenomenon leads us to the threshold ofphilosophical thought, throws a new light on old problems and even indicates the direction in which this philosophical thought should be carried further. Jean Danielou, s.j., recently underlined this point in a striking manner: 'One has the feeling that he rediscovers metaphysics as the Pre-Socratics must have discovered them at the beginning. He builds a metaphysic as an extension of the science of his day.'1 Exactly so. By going back to the living sources of a true metaphysic, that is to say to a complete recognition of reality, as it appears by the light of empirical science, Teilhard has opened the way to a renewal of philosophical reflection. Here Pere Danielou points to one of Teilhard de Chardin's particular merits. Certainly, he was not always happy in the framework of traditional scholasticism. 'On the one hand , indisputably he felt hampered by it. His thought is never expressed in terms of the scholastic categories of action and potentiality, matter and form, substance and accident. Teilhard definitely wants to start afresh from zero, that is to say base himself on his contact with the science of his day. He belongs to the age of nuclear physics, which has revolutionized our conception of matter by showing that matter and energy are interchangeable, and that matter can therefore be considered as a field of energetic forces. He belongs to the age in which biological evolution has shown itself the most acceptable explanation of a collection of facts, and a law that makes them intelligible. Teilhard's language is the language ofthis science, which differs from the language of traditional scholasticism.' What is the philosophical significance of Teilhard de Chardin? That he universalizes the language ofthe sciences and extends it to the whole of existence: 'He translates the scientific categories into metaphysical categories . . . His thought can be interpreted in this sense: that at different levels of existence we find analogies which reveal a certain resemblance. Teilhard thus isolates some general laws of life; the law of complexification, the law of evolution, the law of personalization, the law of socialization. These laws can be verified at all levels. They therefore enable us to think in terms of a totality, to establish links. Metaphysics is precisely this. No metaphysics without analogies. Now modern thought too often fails to recognize the value of analogies for the gaining of knowledge.' Considered in this way, Teilhard de Chardin's work has indeed an outstanding philosophical significance. But at the same time it is evident how closely and to what an important extent the sequence of his ideas is linked to Aristotelian and Thomist philosophy: 'This also begins with a physical and biological analysis, and its metaphysical truths are conceived analogically by an extension of this analysis. Teilhard thus appears to go back to the basic attitudes of the traditional philosophy of the Church, but divests it, one might say, of a language belonging to an out-ofdate science, and invents for it a new language expressive of modern science. But if this was possible, for Teilhard, it was because he had inherited the scholastic philosophy and preserved its essentials. It was this that saved him from materialism, pantheism and evolutionism. The categories of personality, creation and God which constitute his thought belong to scholasticism. But he has only retained its basic categories. He has interpreted it in terms of the scientific findings of his day.'1 We have quoted this passage in its entirety because it eminently expresses the philosophical bearing of Teilhard de Chardin's work, and at the same time saves us from making too hasty a judgement of the acceptability or non-acceptability of his ideas. For Pere Danielou clearly shows that on a higher plane Teilhard remained faithful to the spirit of the scholastic and Aristotelian mode of thought. Indeed his faithfulness was infinitely more real than if it had taken the form of a simple repetition of traditional phrases. It is not his least achievement that he thus re-established the links between metaphysics and the sciences, for their connexion is too easily lost sight of. We should be exceeding our task were we to attempt to comment here on the various problems raised by Teilhard de Chardin in the essays contained in these books. They would require a full and deep discussion and perhaps on certain points they might demand criticism. But before attempting this task, we must first study his writings with all necessary attention and view his conclusions in their true light, which, alas, has not always been done in the past. We venture to hope that the essays here collected will be received in the spirit that inspired them, and that they will afford precious help to all those who are trying to find a real solution, in so far as this is within our power, of the great questions raised by the existence of man. N. M. WILDIERS ...

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