Date of Award

Spring 1965

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Rev. Thomas Flynn

Abstract

At various times during the history of mankind, the intellectual atmosphere seems to have expanded upon itself or reached a critical point— a threshold— a membrane bulging with accumulated thought and waiting for, or even demanding, a man, a mind of brilliant sight, to pierce to the depths of its hidden secret and to lay bare its cherished truth. Such was the case with man’s development of the theory of evolution at the outset of the Twentieth Century, and such was the man— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

As a renowned paleontologist, world traveler, mystic, and priest, Pierre Teilhard developed what might be called a ’universal outlook'. Prom the earliest days of his youth he was attracted and even attached to the durability and strength of matter. Later, during the final stages of his seminary training in England, a new "face" of the Universe crept gradually and ever more forcibly into his way of thinking: underling and correlative with the durable exterior of the universe (matter), was a driving force, an impetus within (spirit). This was the beginning; a beginning that to all too many men would have been left to wither and die as a seed upon the desert. But Teilhard was no ordinary man. He possessed a keen power of analysis, a wide culture, and a forceful imagination. He acquired an aptitude for synthesis and sported a largeness of mind that scorned the shabby and second-rate, putting no limit to its ambition 1 and desire to understand.

Through this awareness of the within/without faces of the Universe he cane to see evolution as an all-embracing movement; a movement running through th entire duration of the Universe and, indeed, forming the Universe itself. He was quick to see that the fully conscious mind v/as the culmination of one line of evolution, and ’’such contemplation led him to his perception of the evolutive unity of the Universe, in which all energy converged toward the goal of maximum consciousness." 2 Teilhard perceived the Universe as involved in a process of involution upon itself; a process of growing from the extremely simple to the extremely complex. Inseparably bound up with this involution of complexity was a correlative increase in consciousness; as things became more complex, they simultaneously became more vitalized— more conscious.

Teilhard’s wnole purpose seems to have been to rewrite the Book of Genesis in terms of evolution. In his eyes, the 1000 million years of evolution appeared as a single act of creative power, like that revealed by Genesis. Indeed, the creative power is inherent in the Universe, and the Universe, by producing sentient, reflective beings, illuminates itself, and through human thought it gradually coverges towards communion with God. This humble scientist-priest was deeply enthralled by the mysteries of the past, but only to the extent that the past held the secret of the future. He was more attached to matter than the materialist, but only in so far as its complexification mirrored the evolving ascendancy of the spirit.

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