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Teilhard's Gnosis: Cosmogenesis

by Beatrix Murrell

Part 1

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest-theologian and a
distinguished geologist-paleontologist, who was born in France in
1881 and died in New York City in 1955.  Following teaching posts
in Paris and Cairo, he was assigned to China for many years.  In
China Teilhard became imbued with a vision of working to build
the future.

By the future he meant more than the building up of the physical
world; he envisaged the irreversible ascent, through man's collective
efforts materially and mentally, to reach what he called the
Omega Point. For Teilhard the Omega was the cosmic apex, the Christ
who was the Spirit of the Earth.  He began writing out his ideas.
Teilhard the scientist began to view the cosmos as a holistic entity
in process.  The foundation of his ideas is scientific, based on the
principles of geological and biological evolution.  Teilhard the
theologian intermixed these evolutionary cosmic concepts with Christian
creedal theology.  Because of these innovative efforts he was
considered subversive and so he was silenced by the Vatican throughout
much of his adult life.  His works, written over a period from 1924
to 1955, were only published after his death.

This essay will deal mainly only with those aspects of Teilhard's
cosmosgenesis theory that are based on the rationale of geological and
biological evolution.  Although the essay will certainly consider
Teilhard's cosmological and ontological ideas, it will *not* address
his religious creedal theories.

The main thrust of Teilhard's gnosis was a foundational understanding
of the Universe, which was expressed in his theory of Cosmogenesis.
According to Teilhard, the universe is no longer to be considered a
static order, but rather a universe in process.  And it is a continuing,
upslope trajectory of evolution that Teilhard declares a cosmogenesis.
The process of Teilhard's holistic cosmos is broken into the following
categories: the Without and Within of things; the evolution of matter,
life, consciousness; and the Omega Point.

The world without consists of inorganic and organic matter.  Looking
at elemental matter, Teilhard notes that the characteristic of minerals
have "chosen a road which closed them prematurely in upon themselves."
He calls this condensed matter.  Eventually, in order to develop,
molecules of an innate structure have in some way to get out of

They do.  Teilhard observes that atoms aggregate, in geometrical
patterns, into simple groups, then into more complex groupings.  This
is crystallization.  During this crystallizing state of elemental
matter, Teilhard observes that energy was constantly being released.
The earth's energy became capable of building up "carbonates, hydrates,
and nitrates."  This led to polymerization, in which molecular particles
"group themselves and exchange position," thus developing into "larger
and more complex" organic compounds.

Teilhard considers the earth's early inorganic and organic developments
to be "two inseparable facets of one and the same telluric operation."
Teilhard's refrain to this is boggling: "In the world, nothing could
ever burst forth as final across the different thresholds successively
traversed by evolution which has not already existed in an obscure and
primordial way."  Teilhard believes that there is a Within in the heart
of things!

Teilhard specifically stresses that the Within is used to "denote the
psychic fact of that portion of the stuff of the cosmos enclosed from
the beginning of time within the narrow scope of the early earth."  The
exterior world is lined with an interior one!  He links this Within
with enfoldment.  He notes that the very individualization of the earth
suggests that a "certain mass of elementary consciousness was originally
emprisoned in the matter of the earth."  Teilhard is alluding to a kind
of embedded cosmic intelligence or encoded information.

Moving from inanimate matter, the next step in Teilhard's cosmic process
is the outburst of life.  The cell is the "natural granule of life."
The cell merges "qualitatively and quantitatively" into a multitude of
living and even more complex individualized and personalized forms.  In
the cell, Teilhard believes that "we have...the stuff of the universe
reappearing once again with all its characteristics...only this time it
has reached a higher rung of complexity," and thus has advanced "still
further in interiority, i.e. in consciousness."  Teilhard labels this
vast network of living creatures the *biosphere.*

This biosphere, this advancing network of life, has thus far resulted
in the culminating development of man.  With the advent of man, Teilhard
believes that cosmic evolution has finally become conscious of
least on this planet, which is woven into the cosmic whole.  Teilhard
opines that the destiny of man is to culminate into a consciousness of
the species.

This consciousness of mankind will ultimately become the "thinking layer
of the earth," which Teilhard calls the *noosphere.*

Cosmic evolution will not cease with the noosphere.  Teilhard does not
consider the human species to be the epitome of the universe; rather,
he believes that Nature provides us with yet another evolutionary
opening...that of a "super-soul above our souls."  The whole "gigantic
psycho-biological operation" of cosmic evolution points toward a
"mega-synthesis" of all the thinking elements of the earth forcing an
entree into the realm of the super-human.

Teilhard refers to the super-human as the Omega Point.  It is, for him,
the apex of cosmic evolution.  Teilhard, scientifically speaking, can
only imagine what the reality of Omega might be like...a *pure conscious
energy.*  Teilhard proclaims this cosmic energy almost in the mode of
poetry.  "In the discovery of the sideral world, so vast that it seems
to do away with all proportion between our own being and the dimensions
of the cosmos around us, only one reality seems to survive and be capable
of succeeding and spanning the infinitesimal and the immense: energy...
that floating, universal entity from which all emerges and into which all
falls back as into an ocean; energy...the new spirit; energy...the
new god."

Now I would like to move more deeply into Teilhard's model of the cosmic
process.  The structural outline of this model is as follows: the Ground
of All Existence; Matter; Consciousness; and the Cosmic Apex.

THE GROUND OF ALL EXISTENCE:  The stuff of the universe, according to
Teilhard, necessarily has a "double aspect to its structure."  By this,
he means that in every region of time and space, the stuff of the
universe has an inner aspect of itself: "co-extensive with their
Without, there is a Within to things."

At the very depths of the ground of all existence, Teilhard believes
that there exists a special energy.  For Teilhard, "somehow or other,
there must be a single energy operating in the world" that holds
everything together.

Teilhard talks of an interdependent energy between the Within and the
Without; he believes that this energy is "psychic" in nature, but that
it is divided into two distinct components: a tangential energy and a
radial energy.  Teilhard believes that tangential energy "links an
element with all others of the same order."  Radial energy draws an
element towards "ever greater complexity and centricity," which for
Teilhard means spiritual perfection.

This psychic, radial energy follows what Teilhard coins the Cosmic Law
of Complexity-Consciousness.  Teilhard explains it thus: "if the
universe, regarded siderally, is in process of spatial expansion
(from the infinitesimal to the immense), in the same way and still more
clearly it presents itself to us, physico-chemically, as in process of
organic involution upon itself (from the extremely simple to the
extremely complex)...and, moreover, this particular involution of
complexity is experimentally bound up with a correlative increase in
interiorization, that is to say in the psyche or consciousness."

MATTER-INANIMATE AND ANIMATE: Teilhard considers that matter has three
faces: plurality, unity, energy.  Our sensory experience, as it pursues
the depths, the minuteness of matter, breaks down into an abstraction.
The world becomes blurred in its plurality.  And yet, says Teilhard, the
more we artificially (through instruments) observe matter, the more
"insistently it proclaims its fundamental unity."  The realm of the atom
is co-extensive with that of every other atom.  There is a "collective
unity" bonded by energy.  Each element of the cosmos is positively woven
from all the others.  There is no dichotomy in this universe.

Teilhard states that "Everything, in some extremely attenuated extension
of itself, has existed from the very first."  Teilhard uses a marvelous
term to explain this: *cosmic embryogenesis.*  This cosmic embryo implies
development.  Though referring to the earth, Teilhard could be commenting
on cosmogensis.  The " passing through a consecutive series
of moving equilibria; all probability it is tending towards some
final state.  It has a birth, a development, and presumably a death ahead."

The ascent of life is an exciting expression of this cosmogenesis.
Coming from the point of view of biology, Teilhard declares that "there
is an ascent of life that is invincible."  There is movement within life
at all levels; and Teilhard detects certain characteristic attitudes in
this movement.  They are profusion, indifference, and ingenuity.

Life is a milieu of unlimited multiplication.  Accepting the concepts
of Darwinian evolution, still prevalent in his day, Teilhard admits that
"millards of germs and millions of adults jostling, shoving and devouring
one another, fight for elbow room and for the best and largest living
space."  And the individual unit of life seems to count for little in the
process *at this state.*  Admitting that there appears to be a lot of
ferocity and waste, Teilhard submits that underlying all this is a certain
efficiency in the struggle for life.  "By reckless self-reproduction life
takes its precautions against mishap.  It increases its chances of
survival and at the same time multiplies its chances of progress."
Teilhard believes that groping...or directed change.

There is an ingenuity in all this groping Teilhard declares.  Pervading
life tries out all the paths, it mutates, and eventually it accumulates
in "stable and coherent aggregates."  This is reflective of cleverness.
Not only does life "invent" itself, but it has to "design" itself.  Life
also ramifies, expanding into natural hierarchial units.  Even early on
there is the intimation of information, of intelligence in the process of

This wonderful groping, grasping movement, at least on this planet, has
led to the globalization of life, a "living substance spread over the
earth."  For Teilhard, this stage of the cosmic process has culminated
into the "unity of the biosphere that lies beyond the plurality and
essential rivalry of individual beings."

What lies ahead?  For Teilhard it is the development of consciousness.

                  Beatrix Murrell //
                   RestonScholar Alternatives Research

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