Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Religion & Spirituality
  3. General Religion

Teilhard de Chardin, "Hymn to Matter."

The following is taken from a little-known book, Hymn of the Universe, by Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard was a French Jesuit mystic, scientist and poet. He had a deep faith in God and a profound interpretation of spirituality which reconciled evolution, consciousness and the divine. The Church officially condemned his writings and ordered him not to publish his ideas. Consequently, he lived a rather quiet life in China doing anthropological work and privately accumulating a great amount of writings which were to be published post-humously. He is most well known for popularizing the term "noosphere," and "The Law of Complexity/Consciousness."

For Teilhard, matter was divine. It was the clay from which God would shape creation over great spans of time. Evolution was doubly divine, for it was Spirit-in-process, working to awaken to itself. Humanity held a special place in Teilhard's cosmology, because we represented the axis of evolution itself. Evolution was a work-in-process, and progress, so it didn't stop with human kind. The next great emergence, of which we were playing a part in creating, was a "noosphere," an emergent "Mind" which included not just a thinking layer, but a Spiritual layer of the Earth.

Matter groped for Mind, Mind groped to awaken Spirit within itself. The Soul of the Earth was thus in the midst of being born. But first, we had to evolve beyond our petty differences and realize these vast, emergent processes at work in evolution. We had to realize what was being born through us, from us. Something greater than individualism, "Omega." The pinnacle of becoming.

Teilhard saw Christ as the living symbol of what was yet-to-come. A human being who was both flesh and divine. Something great was yet to come, and we were through our unconscious efforts giving birth to that new age, and new humanity.

Reading his most famous work, The Phenomenon of Man, one gets a sense that telling the story of evolution through this new lens was a sacred act for him. He had a mystical vision that united and reinvented Christianity for an age of science and evolution. Perhaps future generations will value his work as a formative text in a new planetary age.

"Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God. Blessed be you, impenetrable matter: you who, interposed between our minds and the world of essences, cause us to languish with the desire to pierce through the seamless veil of phenomena.

Blessed be you, mortal matter: you who one day will undergo the process of dissolution within us and will thereby take us forcibly into the very heart that which exists.

Without you, without your onslaughts, without your uprootings of us, we should remain all our lives inert, stagnant, puerile, ignorant both of ourselves and of God. You who batter us and then dress our wounds, you who resist us and yield to us, you who wreck and build, you who shackle and liberate, the sap of our souls, the hand of God, the flesh of Christ: it is you, matter, that I bless.

I bless you, matter, and you I acclaim: not as the pontiffs of science or the moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured–a mass of brute forces and base appetites–but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature.

I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay molded and infused with life by the incarnate Word."

Stay tuned for more selections and "spotlight" authors in the Evolutionary Spirituality series!

Comments

  • Terry Hurlbut - Creationism Examiner 4 years ago

    The problem: Chardin worships the crea/tion/ rather than the crea/tor/.

  • Hugh Kramer, LA Atheism Examiner 4 years ago

    The problem: Chardin makes assertions but where's his supporting evidence?

  • Jeremy J, Religion & Culture Examiner 4 years ago

    To both of your questions!

    Hugh:

    The supporting evidence? He is interpreting the emergent complexity of the nervous system throughout the history of life on earth. Aside from that, Teilhard held a teleological philosophical framework about evolution. It had direction. This is notably contesting the neo-darwinian philosophical grounding.

    Hi Terry:

    Depends on how you look at it. He called the Universe itself the "cosmic Host" of Christ.

  • montreal women's issues, health and mental health 4 years ago

    quite interesting, and interesting comments from Terry

  • Hugh Kramer, LA Atheism Examiner 4 years ago

    Hello Jeremy.

    "interpreting the emergent complexity of the nervous system throughout the history of life on earth"

    Interpretation isn't evidence. How does the emergence of complex nervous systems imply Chardin's conclusion? Is his the only possible interpretation and, if not, what suggests that his is the most likely interpretation? Science requires a lot more methodological rigor than philosophy, Jeremy. A scientist has to incorporate all pertinant evidence in an explanatory model -and that they justify his assumptions. Chardin doesn't. All he has to do is make sure is that his model is logically consistant with his assumptions.

  • Jer, Religion & Culture Examiner 4 years ago

    "All he has to do is make sure is that his model is logically consistent with his assumptions."

    There are plenty of philosophical assumptions a scientist holds as well. Interpreting data is part of the scientific process! The facts do not always speak for themselves, especially when speaking of narratives and origins. We must find a way for the "facts" to come to life. To say a scientist is unbiased is naive at best. Refer to Thomas Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions."

    His most famous book, "Phenomenon of Man" is just that, a phenomenon. The emergent complexity of the nervous system is a fascinating phenomenon that, for all intensive purposes, is not adequately "explained away." He sees this as an inherent direction of life to develop more consciousness as it gets more complex. A natural direction or movement, a phenomenon of the universe itself. Facts do not speak without us telling their story.

  • Jer, Religion & Culture Examiner 4 years ago

    Some really interesting alternative evolutionary models:

    Lynn Margulis' theory of symbiotic relationship driving evolution.

    Also see Evo Devo page for some fascinating and controversial cases for new evolutionary models (epigenetics, etc).

    Science is a human system. It is intricately woven into our unconscious biases and assumptions, so much so that a set of "facts" and "data" can sometimes completely be re-interpreted by the next generations. This is good! If we keep ourselves in check and do not develop a kind of "naive realism," or as Whitehead called it, a "misplaced concreteness" in the "facts." Often, the empirical "facts" have unconscious projections placed in them. It's a reflection of the old saying, "We see what we are."

Advertisement