The following is the second and final installment of notes on Wolfgang Smith’s book, “Theistic Evolution: The Teilhardian Heresy ” compiled and shared with us by Lorraine Davison. The influence of Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point has had a profound effect in shaping the planned effort around bio-digital convergence. You can read Lorraine’s first set of notes here.
March 28, 2023
Here are my final notes of Wolfgang Smith’s Theistic Evolution. It is a bit longer than I had intended as I had originally decided to leave out chapter eight but changed my mind as I thought some of the points might be useful. I have left out the chapters that most directly relate to Christian doctrine, but, as these final notes show, it is really impossible to understand Teilhard without some reference to his Catholic context.
Chapter Eight: The New Eschaton in Historical Perspective
The title of this chapter is a bit off-putting! It really describes the historical context in which Teilhard was able to re-define the aim of God’s divine plan for humanity. In Teilhard’s ideas we have effectively abandoned the centuries-old quest for God and replaced it with the idea of an evolutionary collective human utopia. We have now endowed “progress” with a kind of mysticism and have even begun to worship it as a futuristic new world region that is intended to replace all other religions. This shift began before Teilhard, and is the context in which he emerged.
Very briefly, during the Renaissance some influential Christians attempted to fuse neo-paganism with Christianity. This had massive and multiple ramifications for the West, but one product of this attempted fusion was secular humanism which in part furnished the path for the ascendance of rationalism (which is actually is rooted in developments in the 14th century) and then of modern science in the 18th century Enlightenment. The West came to be dominated by the quest for knowledge of the material world which gradually left no room for metaphysical speculation and thus the “above” of heaven.
From this point on the natural world began to look like a closed and self-sufficient system. No longer did we look for causes in a transcendent realm and life became flattened onto the horizontal plane. Humanity then had nowhere else to go but forward and the futuristic cult of progress became inevitable.
Enlightenment thinkers, especially Descartes and Newton, made the world into “a self-moving machine, governed by mechanical laws.” It’s not a long way from this to the inside-out robot!
Whilst the discoveries and speculations of Newton and Descartes allowed us to measure and manipulate the material world in new ways, they have been shown to be not necessarily that useful in the explanation of the true causes and nature of things. Discoveries in quantum physics since the early twentieth century have particularly brought into question the true nature of reality. Thus, the author is able to say there exist very few absolutely established scientific facts and much of what we call science is highly coloured by human subjectivism.
“Science” has a valid place within human knowledge, but it is not the only way of knowing the world. In many ways, it traps us in a world of “models” of reality that actually separate us from the true experience of multi-layered human existence. It has even changed our view of the past as our ancestors now seem superstitious and “unliberated” because they chose to subject themselves to the rules imposed by God. So, now we are to be treated to the “liberation” implicit in the new religion of evolutionary, scientific humanism.
The author argues that there are two main reasons that the majority of people are allowing themselves to be herded into this new enclosure. The first are the “miracles of technology” and the second is that the Darwinist theory of evolution is now accepted as an established fact by the vast majority of the Western population.
This is the context in which Teilhard appeared. However, the scientist-theologian has taken us a step further from the secular credo of progress to “Point Omega, the New Eschaton.” That is to say, he shifts this apparently godless worldview into the yet more dangerous territory where these developments become the divinely ordained climax of history. These are not just natural processes – they are the unfolding of God’s plan for mankind in which we as a collective become subsumed into God Himself through the processes described by Teilhard.
Teilhard enters an almost drunken “ecstasy” in his promotion of science. For him, science and not God is “the source of life” and he exults in “the divine taste of its fruit.” As the author highlights, this is an interesting choice of words with somewhat sinister echoes of the story of the Fall of mankind as told in the book of Genesis.
He clearly asserts that research is the religious function and that science will “absorb the spirit of war and shine with the light of religions.” Thus, Teilhard says that Science will eventually become the one world religion, and those who wish to share in this glorious spirit “must die and be reborn.”
There is nothing in Christianity that suggests that the way of salvation is even remotely related to natural philosophy or scientific research. Indeed, Christ seems to teach the opposite as those who wish to share in the life of the kingdom to come must be like small children.
Teilhard goes beyond the tradition of Francis Bacon which emphasizes the amassing and transmission of knowledge as central to the establishment of a secular New Jerusalem on earth. For Teilhard, such activities seem to contain the very spirit of humanity itself and thus become semi-mystical. Moreover, transmitted knowledge is becoming ever more narrowed into only those channels that are acceptable to modern science. This marks a radical departure from the traditional ways of transmitting knowledge as we jettison all older ways of knowing.
In effect we are now reduced to interpretations of reality that conform to Teilhard’s Law of Complexity. In fact, we owe our very ability to interpret the world to this process as complexity begets consciousness.
The individual human has now evolved as far as it can go in the “old” way. The only evolution now open to us is the collective one of the further complexification of socialization which has now become a biological process that gets us back on the evolutive course towards an encounter with God. And science and technology are apparently the means by which the birth of this new super-organism will be achieved.
Chapter Nine: Socialization and the Super-Organism
According to Teilhard, human evolution can only continue through the formation of social groupings from which a biological phenomenon will arise, namely the production of a collective psyche.
In the absence of any proof, he argues that the increasingly rapid transmission of thought in telephone wires and radio transmitters amounts to a global “nervous system”. But this is quite clearly not an organic entity in the sense that our nervous systems are organic. There is a clear separation in kind between the artificial and the biological. Teilhard appears not to notice this.
But his portrayal of socialization and technological processes in terms of the biological is absolutely central to his doctrine. He believes that there is a growing compulsion for us to act collectively which is a sign that out of this aggregation of biological human organisms a super consciousness is arising. Moreover, rather than subsuming our personalities in the collective, this is giving us “a greater awareness of our own personality”.
Teilhard is able to make this leap because he identifies the thinker as being the thought process. This takes Descartes’ maxim “I think therefore I am” a step further than the philosopher intended. For Descartes thought indicates the presence of a thinker who is executing the thought, for Teilhard the thought is the thinker. So, in this sense, the aggregate of all our thoughts is an aggregate of biological entities. This allows Teilhard to say that total identification with becoming part of the collective intensifies the personalization of the individual. But how do you further “personalize” an organism that is already a person?
What he seems to be referring to is the absorption of and self-identification with images and information taken in by electronic means such as the television. As we take in pictures from around the world this, in a sense, gives us a global consciousness. The sense of self is then expanded by including all other selves. The author suggests that the somewhat banal concept of “socialization” has taken on a more mystical air than it deserves and has led Teilhard enthusiasts to over-estimate the nature of a global collective consciousness. He suggests that Teilhard (consciously or unconsciously) encouraged this attribution of almost mystical qualities to this new consciousness.
In Christianity, personhood is breathed into humanity by God. It is a spiritual essence and thus not subject to evolution. But Teilhard is arguing that this personhood is now going to evolve due to “socialization”, and that this is some kind of biological evolution. The author argues that the legitimate development of personality is essentially a question of spiritual development and that by severing us from the “above” Teilhard has removed this possibility from us. In fact, he argues that true personalization will be achieved only by those able to swim against the tide of collectivization. Thus, ultimately Teilhard’s socialization does not personalize.
In removing us from the invisible spiritual realms Teilhard has also effectively wiped out all belief in the “spiritual influences” be they beneficial or malefic. Angels, demons and spirits no longer exist and Smith argues that this produces within us a spiritual blindness that is potentially disastrous.
Teilhard has brought about this vulnerability by making “spirit” merely a product of the Law of Complexity which has become the key to everything. We now only see spirit in terms of quantity—of more or less. As spirit cannot be seen in qualitative terms we can no longer talk in terms of good and evil spirits. However, he sees Evolution producing only that which is “good”. Thus, the spirit produced through the processes he describes can only be “good.” In one fell swoop we have become blinded to evil.
So, we must value all forms of human collectivism, no matter how brutal, as they are aspects of the complexification that will eventually lead to the good. We must recall his law of the conservation of personality in which he argues that any level of collective personalization (spirit) that is achieved in such efforts will be forever conserved. He even argues that all human activity is directed by the risen Christ and thus the totalitarian efforts of a Hitler or a Stalin are legitimate in the quest for spiritualization. Teilhard has thus managed to abolish all the malefic powers, including Satan himself!
For Teilhard the only legitimate human endeavor now is to build the technological super-state. We must now evolve as a collective in order to ensure the survival of the species. Smith comments:“To act, to produce and even to think collectively—that is the ‘growing compulsion’ from which there is supposedly no escape.”
In a speech given at the French Embassy in Peking in 1945 Teilhard talks of the “recent totalitarian experiments” and their descent into sub-humanity as merely the result of “clumsy” and “incomplete” execution. But despite the recent failures of Hitler and Stalin it is clear he believes that sooner or later the experiment must succeed.
All human drives are now subsumed within one neo-humanist religion which leads inexorably to convergence. Indeed, Teilhard argues that the Christian is essentially involved in a struggle to attain “a supreme center of consciousness which calls to him; the evolution of the earth ending in an act of union.” In so claiming, Teilhard places himself in opposition to over two thousand years of orthodox Christian teaching.
In his re-making of Christian doctrine, he opposes this collective “Christian spirit” to (his version) of the promethean who Teilhard maintains will steal knowledge from the gods for his own selfish and egotistical ends. He transforms the “Christian spirit” into an acquiescence to collectivism as “the spirit of love” itself. Thus, to place oneself in opposition to his teachings is to oppose Christ Himself! The author rightly asks if the development of a super-organism and its expression in the super-state is really an act of love? Is the evolution of the earth through whatever totalitarian means necessary really the essence of the teaching of Christ? Is this not, in truth, the real Promethean spirit – pitting mankind against God and ultimately forcing us to worship human evolution?
Teilhard was predictably enraptured by the development of nuclear power. Which
“…having afforded us access to the heart of the atom, would lead us to overthrow, one by one, the many other strongholds which science is already besieging. The vitalization of matter by the creation of super-molecules. The remodeling of the human organism by means of hormones. Control of heredity and sex by manipulation of genes and chromosomes. The readjustment and internal liberation of our souls by direct action upon springs gradually brought to light by psychoanalysis. The arousing and harnessing of the unfathomable intellectual and effective power still latent in the human mass.”
Smith highlights that this “Faustian fantasy” is followed by the increasingly frenzied language of the fanatic: “In laying hands on the very core of matter we have disclosed to human existence a supreme purpose: the purpose of pursuing ever further, to the very end, the forces of Life. In exploding the atom we took our first bite at the fruit of the great discovery, and this was enough for a taste to enter our mouths that can never be washed away.”
He has his eye on the tree of Life. It does not seem to perturb him in the slightest that in Christian teaching mankind was ejected from Eden precisely to keep us away from this tree!
Teilhard is clearly influenced by the teaching of St Paul regarding the Mystical Body of Christ. He seems to want to build a biological equivalent to this spiritual body in the noosphere. So, now we seem to have two super-organisms, one supernatural and the other natural. Final unity would be achieved for Teilhard when these two entities came together.
Smith points out that the Bible does indeed allude to a second super-organism and asks if this is the one to be built through the collective efforts of men. These efforts were clearly introduced in the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). It is also clear that human collective communication plays a central role in that story. Are Teilhard’s attempts to build a single planetary nervous system, facilitating global communication attempts to subvert God’s actions at Babel?
For Smith, Teilhard’s work is located within that “vast counter-movement to Christianity” that is spoken of by the apocalyptic discourses of Christ and in the Book of Revelation. Teilhard’s collective human organism “…replete with its own Antichristic ‘center of attraction’: it will in all respects be a caricature, a kind of satanic imitation or inverted image of the true Mystical Body of Christ. And this super-organism will grow and wax great by deceiving vast multitudes with its clever lies and marvelous feats. And in the end it will hoist religious colors and proclaim itself Divine.”
Teilhard proclaimed that the final convergence would involve the merging of the supernatural body of Christ and the biotechnological convergence of humanity through evolution. Yet in reality he disavows belief in the supernatural. In his true vision the only true mystical body is being developed under the power of Christ through scientific and technological means. Thus, the mystical body is the emergent super-organism.
Chapter Ten: The New Religion
Until Teilhard emerged on the scene the Darwinists believed that they had put paid to religion. But he recognised a distinctly religious element in the emerging alliance between neo-humanism and science, declaring, “A religion of the earth is being mobilised against the religion of heaven.”
This religion is the one and only true religion. It is the manifestation of this new evolutionary progression on the collective human plane, harmonized with Christianity. Having apparently outmaneuvered the atheism of traditional Darwinism, he received a rapturous response from within the Church. He had lifted Christianity out of the dust of the past and made it into the thing of the future!
However, only an already theologically weakened Church could have overlooked the fact that his doctrines were actually implacably hostile to Christianity. In personal letters he embraces his role not as the saviour of Christianity but as the founder of a new religion: a religion that could only be founded after Darwin had planted his seeds in the human heart.
The secularizing impact of this Teilhardian dogma can be seen in all Christian denominations. The author quotes the Catholic ecclesiastic Albert Drexl who talks about the connection of Teilhard’s ideas to the Second Vatican Council and gives a chilling summary of how they have formed the basis of this new religion: “Inasmuch as he turned his back to the past, fused God and the supernatural with the process of a universal evolutionism and proclaimed religion to be an active participation in a progressive development ending in Point Omega, the basis was given for a humanist cult of the secular.”
This is notwithstanding the fact that there is no firmly established scientific basis for his theories. He relegated all Christian doctrines to a subsidiary role to his three articles of faith:
- Faith in the (personalizing) personality of God, the focus of the world
- Faith in the divinity of the divinity of the historic Christ (not only prophet and perfect man but also object of love and worship).
- Faith in the reality of the Church phylum in which and around which Christ continues to develop, in the world his total personality.
In these seemingly innocuous statements, we find hidden Teilhard’s basic doctrine. Christ’s divinity is activated by the love and worship of humanity and he fulfills His role as the “focus of humanity.” But in Teilhard’s world we have seen that Christ and the focus of the world are in fact Point Omega. The “personalizing” God is the point of convergence: faith in the God of the Omega Point is the only true religion.
Teilhard’s choice of the word phylum in the third article indicates that the “Church” is a biological phenomenon—freed of all infantile supernaturalism it is now nothing more than a biologically living organism made up of all its collective human cells. He has deified evolution; infused it with religious significance and turned it into a dangerous cult masquerading as Christianity. And this “newly-hatched anti-creed has come to be accepted by millions as the true Christianity.” This notwithstanding that even if Point Omega did exist, it could not be proven that it had any connection whatsoever with Jesus of Nazareth.
In Teilhard’s hands the narrow Way of the Cross has become the broad road upon which the entire population of the planet is being shepherded. Bereft of an “above,” all of humanity is now trapped on the horizontal path and is being inexorably driven to some future point of which the majority are not even aware let alone understand. What this point truly is and where it will end no one knows for Teilhard’s science hardly stands up to scrutiny and his evolutionary religion is seriously ontologically deficient.
How did he come to be so fanatically driven to attempt this symbiosis of religion and science? In order to cast a little light on this question, the author draws our attention to Teilhard’s’ role as a mystic. Teilhard explains that Cosmic and Christic convergence “made themselves felt in the very core of my being”. However, as he looked around him, he found that he was “the only one to have seen”. Nevertheless, his faith in the collective consciousness of mankind was such that he believed that once this “fusion of love of God and faith in the world” had been ignited in one mind that “sooner or later there will be a chain reaction.” And nothing could stop the Truth being spread through the universal mind and “setting everything ablaze.”
But where did this “Truth” come from? Smith concludes his book with reference to one of Teilhard’s early works, The Spiritual Power of Matter written in 1919 but which he appends to one of his last works, The Heart of Matter. Here, Teilhard gives a dramatized account of a mystical experience. He describes a man walking in the desert being swooped upon by “the Thing” which penetrated his soul. It poured the sap of all living beings into him, renewing all the “enfeebled fibres of his being.” The young man felt the rapture of ceasing to be himself but also the oppression of some superhuman peril. This force was also “equivocal, turbid, the combined essence of all evil and all goodness.”
“The thing” says to the young man, “You called me; here I am.” It goes on to say, “grown weary of abstractions, of attenuations, of the wordiness of social life, you wanted to pit yourself against Reality entire and untamed.” It also tells the young man that he was waiting for him “in order to be made holy” and that “now I am established on you for life or for death…He who has once seen me can never forget me: he must either damn himself with me or save me with himself.”
So, we may well ask what strange being had thus impressed himself on the mind of the young man? And one last personal remark before we rush to judgment. This was written only two years after he had been subjected to the unimaginable horrors of the trenches of the Great War. Who knows what evil the young Jesuit had brought back from this hell on earth? But by the time that he was extolling the virtues of the totalitarian super-state this was an evil that had persuaded its victim that it did not exist.
2 thoughts on “Guest Post – Insights Into Teilhard de Chardin, Part 2”
Wow! Thanks so much for the succinct analysis. Despite growing up Catholic, somehow I never read him. Most of my philosophy and theology has been with ancient systems. Science and religion are both framings for explorations of existence, and construction of meanings. No need to conflate!
Thank you for this! It helped me connect some dots that were puzzling to me. Check out Article XXI from the Transhumanist Party Constitution… I had never heard of a noosphere before, so Teilhard de Chardin’s chart gave some helpful perspective!
Article XXI. All sentient entities are entitled to join their psyches to a collective noosphere in an effort to preserve self-consciousness in perpetuity. The noosphere is the sphere of human thought and includes, but is not limited to, intellectual systems in the realm of law, education, philosophy, technology, art, culture, and industry. All sentient entities have the right to participate in the noosphere using any level of technology that is conducive to constructive participation.
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