In this learning circle, we will contemplate the vision of the human evolutionary future as seen by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
“Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”
Facilitated by Dr. Ernie Tamminga, this discussion group will evaluate how (and whether) Teilhard de Chardin’s hope-filled perspective on the human evolutionary future can still inspire us in a time full of conflicts and division. We begin with a facilitated study of his masterwork, The Human Phenomenon. (Its title was originally translated into English as The Phenomenon of Man, back when it was common to refer to humanity as “Man.” That has been corrected in more recent editions of the book.)
Teilhard rejected the Dualism of classic Western thought, and developed instead what he called an “evolutionary monism.” He maintained that consciousness is a fundamental property — the “inner dimension” — of the universe. Its complexification into reflective consciousness in ourselves marks an evolutionary breakthrough: the emergence of a noosphare in which our planet will eventually come to “know itself.” The dynamic force powering this emergence, Teilhard says, is love — not a sentimental fantasy but evolution’s inbuilt impetus. Like consciousness, Love flowers into self-awareness over evolutionary time.
Teilhard himself was a professional paleontologist as well as a Jesuit priest, and The Human Phenomenon was his attempt to synthesize his scientific knowledge with his intense spirituality. Was he naïve, or prophetic, or both? Let’s talk about that!
“Right at its base, the living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh and bone. From the biosphere to the species is nothing but an immense ramification of psychism seeking for itself through different forms.”
About the Facilitator
Ernie Tamminga has been reflecting on Teilhard’s vision for over 50 years. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where for five years he was a member of Raimon Panikkar’s graduate seminar in Cross-Cultural Religious Anthropology. His dissertation was an analysis and critique of Teilhard’s notion of a “privileged axis” of evolution. Ernie is a trained Spiritual Director, and for 20 years was a member of the board and teaching faculty of Stillpoint: The Center for Christian Spirituality. A Long Time Ago, he was a board member of “The Phenomenon of Man Project,” a nonprofit that offered retreats and presentations centered on the vision of Teilard de Chardin. He describes himself as a “planet empath.” He and his wife have, between them, 12 grandchildren, a fact that intensifies his sense of urgency about what we are doing to our beloved planet.