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The Phenomenon of Man Paperback – Import, 1965
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Top Customer Reviews
Teilhard is a genius and the best modern example of the intellectual firepower that can come from the Catholic Church and the Jesuits in particular. Although he and the Church didn't always get along (most of his stuff was censored in some way) I think this is due to the fact that Teilhard was so far ahead of his time that the hierarchy really didn't know what to do with him. Surely, 50 or even 20 years from now Teilhard de Chardin will be regarded as one of the most prolific Catholic minds in the last few centuries.
The "noosphere" or "thinking layer", according to Chardin, comes about at that point in time when humans evolve to the realization of a global human consciousness and is totally aware of itself and then headed for the ultimate destination- the "Omega Point" or "Kingdom of God". At this point, the earth is enveloped by a collective human consciousness.
Chardin uses both science and theology to support this theory and his dissertation on this is fascinating and thought provoking. Unlike most of his religious peers, he was a proponent of directional evolution and that Darwin had hit upon the proof of God's intent, that final destination of the human conscious evolution where the Creator is realized. Darwin, of course, preferred to distance himself from theological assumptions of species evolution, especially so with us humans and his religious wife.
Chardin distinguishes humans from all other life-forms because of our abilities to contemplate our existence, hence, the uniqueness of or the "phenomenon of man". Hopefully, he concludes, that the human family will evolve to be totally conscience, intelligent and loving, cooperative, and rising far above our current chaotic existence. Amen to that lofty, but desirable goal!
The evolutionary path of the noosphere is laid out in Chardin's earth evolution and stated as: "We have been following the successive stages of the same grand progression from the fluid contours of the early earth. Beneath the pulsations of geo-chemistry, of geo-tectonic and of geo-biology, we have detected one and the same fundamental process, always recognizable-the one which was given material form in the first cells and was continued in the construction of nervous systems. We saw geogenesis promoted to biogenesis, which turned out in the end to be nothing less psychogenesis." (p 181). And leading therefore, to "noosgenesis" or global consciousness. Finally, and due to the interconnectedness and seemingly intentional direction of life on earth, Chardin gives Earth a soul: Gaia thinking- Earth "intentionally" supports life.
No wonder then that Chardin is referenced and quoted in a mountain of science and religious works. His theories have influenced such great thinkers as: Lewis Thomas
("The Lives of a Cell"), Buckminster Fuller ("The Dymaxion Map"), the Gaia Theory- Earth as a conscious, intentional, self-regulating life-support system and expounded upon by Guy Murchie ("The Seven Mysteries of Life") and later by James Lovelock (Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine"), Thomas Berry ("The Dream of the Earth") and many, many more.
Chardin traveled the world on his scientific investigations and he was present at the discovery of the Peking Man in China. Some historians have intimated that much of Chardin's travels were at the behest of the Catholic Church for they were not thrilled with his attempts to blend science and religion and the farther away from Rome he was, the better.
The church cautioned him not to publish any of his works and faithful to that edict, he left them to a friend in the U.S. to publish posthumously to avoid further conflict and retaliation from the Church- bad memories of the history of the Catholic Church's terrible treatment of scientist and thinkers whose musings drifted from repressive, suffocating church dogma, i.e., Galileo Galilei, et al.
No matter where one's leanings are on religion or science, this is a potent dissertation on bringing science and religion together for awe and respect of life and eventual peace on Earth through global consciousness.
It is a genial work and should be more wide-read. Unfortunately the church banned him from publishing it, and as a Jesuit (though the foundation of this book is his scientific work as a palaeontologist) he did not break his vow of obedience, so he left the manuscripts with a friend, who had them published only after his death.
The science in this book is first class and the man predicted the internet in the 1940s.
If you are a hardened atheist, but with an actual open mind, instead dog just a "non-religion" religion, this book may well change your views quite radically. I know I didn't want to "accept" Christianity as in any way valid, but the evidence here is obvious once he laid it out. Honestly I think one of the ten most important books ever written, and I have read thousands.
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