Monday, January 17, 2011

The Phenomenon of Man

(For a downloadable version, click here.)

I first became aware of de Chardin in the early 1960s. In 1960 I started to work for IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY in the fledgling semiconductor industry. Some time after that, I can’t remember when, I heard an IBM speaker talking about the future of the computer industry. He closed by introducing an idea from de Chardin, the noosphere(1) . He said that the earth had gone through two stages of evolution (geosphere and biosphere) and was now entering the third (noosphere). And what our (the computer industry) purpose was to facilitate the creation of the noosphere – global knowledge, universal knowledge, accessible knowledge, and global consciousness. That was exciting, and the vision has stayed with me ever since. I still feel that I’m on that same journey, only I can see it clearer now (although it’s still a long way off).

Surprisingly (to me), I never read any of the original works of de Chardin until now when I saw the connection to the complexity thread I am following. The Phenomenon of Man was written in 1930, but not published until 1955 after de Chardin’s death (because of a conflict with the Catholic Church). The original was in French. The first English translation was in 1959.

“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of both Piltdown Man and Peking Man. Teilhard conceived the idea of the Omega Point and developed Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of Noosphere. Some of his ideas came into conflict with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and several of his books were censured.

Teilhard's primary book, The Phenomenon of Man, set forth a sweeping account of the unfolding of the cosmos. He abandoned traditional interpretations of creation in the Book of Genesis in favor of a less strict interpretation. This displeased certain officials in the Roman Curia and in his own order who thought that it undermined the doctrine of original sin developed by Saint Augustine. Teilhard's position was opposed by his Church superiors, and some of his work was denied publication during his lifetime by the Roman Holy Office. The 1950 encyclical Humani generis condemned several of Teilhard's opinions, while leaving other questions open. More recently, Pope John Paul II indicated a positive attitude towards some of de Chardin's ideas. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI praised Teilhard's idea of the universe as a "living host" although the ecclesiastical warnings attached to his works remain.” (2)

In “A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain (3) ”, Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg writes, “Teilhard felt that the spark of divine life he experienced in the Egyptian desert was a force present throughout the evolutionary process, guiding and shaping it every bit as much as the material forces described by physical science. Teilhard would later codify this force into two distinct, fundamental types of energy - "radial" and "tangential." Radial energy was the energy of Newtonian physics. This energy obeyed mechanistic laws, such as cause and effect, and could be quantified. Teilhard called radial energy the energy of "without." Tangential energy, on the other hand, was the energy of "within," in other words, the divine spark.

Teilhard described three types of tangential energy. In inanimate objects, he called it "pre-life." In beings that are not self-reflective, he called it "life." And in humans, he called it "consciousness." As Teilhard began to observe the world described by science, he noticed that in certain things, such as rocks, the radial energy was dominant, while the tangential energy was barely visible. Rocks, therefore, are best described by the laws that rule radial energy - physics. But in animals, in which tangential energy, or life, is present, the laws of physics are only a partial explanation. Teilhard concluded that where radial energy was dominant, the evolutionary process would be characterized by the traditional scientific laws of necessity and chance. But in those organisms in which the tangential energy was significant, the forces of life and consciousness would lead the laws of chance and natural selection.

Teilhard then moved this insight forward. As the balance of tangential energy in any given entity grew larger, he noticed that it developed naturally in the direction of consciousness. An increase in consciousness was accompanied by an increase in the overall complexity of the organism. Teilhard called this the "law of complexity consciousness," which stated that increasing complexity is accompanied by increased consciousness.”

Teilhard wrote, "The living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh and bone." He argued that the primary vehicle for increasing complexity consciousness among living organisms was the nervous system. The informational wiring of a being, he argued - whether of neurons or electronics - gives birth to consciousness. As the diversification of nervous connections increases, evolution is led toward greater consciousness.”

In The Phenomenon of Man, de Chardin writes, “This work may be summed up as an attempt to see and to make others see what happens to man, and what conclusions are forced upon us, when he is placed fairly and squarely within the framework of phenomenon and appearance.

Why should we want to see, and why in particular should we single out man as our object?

Seeing. We might say that the whole of life lies in that verb-if not ultimately, at least essentially. Fuller being is closer union: such is the kernel and conclusion of this book. But let us emphasise the point: union increases only through an increase in consciousness, that is to say in vision. And that, doubtless, is why the history of the living world can be summarised as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen. After all, do we not judge the perfection of an animal, or the supremacy of a thinking being, by the penetration and synthetic power of their gaze? To try to see more and better is not a matter of whim or curiosity or self-indulgence. To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe, by reason of the mysterious gift of existence. And this, in superior measure, is man's condition.”

Later in the book, he writes, “In fact I doubt whether there is a more decisive moment for a thinking being than when the scales fall from his eyes and he discovers that he is not an isolated unit lost in the cosmic solitudes, and realises that a universal will to live converges and is hominised in him.

In such a vision man is seen not as a static centre of the world-as he for long believed himself to be-but as the axis and leading shoot of evolution, which is something much finer.”

The Phenomenon of Man is organized into four books and many chapters:

  1. Before Life Came: The Stuff of the Universe, The Within of Things, The Earth in its Early Stages
  2. Life: The Advent of Life, The Expansion of Life, The Ramifications of the Living Mass, The Tree of Life, Demeter
  3. Thought: The Birth of Thought, The Deployment of the Noosphere, The Modern Earth
  4. Survival: The Collective Issue, Beyond the Collective: The Hyper Personal, The Ultimate Earth, The Christian Phenomenon, The Essence of the Phenomenon of Man
It was interesting to me to note, although not surprising, that the book books parallel the four causes of reality proposed by Aristotle (4) – Material Cause (Before Life Came), Formal Cause (Life), Efficient Cause (Thought) and Final Cause (or purpose) – Survival.

Key to de Chardin’s thought is the concept of the without and within of things. Physics deals with the without of things. He summarizes the two laws of energy in these words:

“First Principle. During changes of a physico-chemical type we do not detect any measurable emergence of new energy.

Every synthesis costs something. That is a fundamental condition of things which persists, as we know, even into the spiritual zones of being. In every domain, the achievement of progress requires an excess of effort and therefore of force. Now whence does this increase come ?

In the abstract, one might assume an internal growth of the world's resources, an absolute increase in mechanical wealth corresponding to the expanding needs of evolution ; but, in fact, things seem to happen otherwise. In no case does the energy required for synthesis appear to be provided by an influx of fresh capital, but by expenditure. What is gained on one side is lost on the other. Nothing is constructed except at the price of an equivalent destruction.

Experimentally and at first sight, when we consider the universe in its mechanical functions, it does not reveal itself to us as an open quantum capable of containing an ever greater reality within its embrace, but as a closed quantum, within which nothing progresses except by exchange of that which was given in the beginning.

That is a first appearance.

Second Principle. In every physico-chemical change, adds thermodynamics, a fraction of the available energy is irrecoverably entropised "lost, that is to say, in the form of heat. Doubtless it is possible to retain this degraded fraction symbolically in equations, so as to express that in the operations of matter nothing is lost any more than anything is created, but that is merely a mathematical trick. As a matter of fact, from the real evolutionary standpoint, something is finally burned in the course of every synthesis in order to pay for that synthesis. The more the energy-quantum of the world comes into play, the more it is consumed. Within the scope of our experience, the material concrete universe seems to be unable to continue on its way indefinitely in a closed cycle, but traces out irreversibly a curve of obviously limited development. And thus it is that this universe differentiates itself from purely abstract magnitudes and places itself among the realities which are born, which grow, and which die. From time it passes into duration; and finally escapes from geometry dramatically to become, in its totality as in its parts, an object of history.”

De Chardin was convinced that since consciousness was evident in man, it must obviously exist in all things. “It is impossible to deny that, deep within ourselves, an 'interior' appears at the heart of beings, as it were seen through a rent. This is enough to ensure that, in one degree or another, this 'interior' should obtrude itself as existing everywhere in nature from all time. Since the stuff of the universe has an inner aspect at one point of itself, there is necessarily a double aspect to its structure, that is to say in every region of space and time-in the same way, for instance, as it is granular: co-extensive with their Without, there is a Within to things.”

Later he writes, “The within, consciousness and then spontaneity-three expressions for the same thing. It is no more legitimate for us experimentally to fix an absolute beginning to these three expressions of one and the same thing than to any other lines of the universe.

In a coherent perspective of the world: life inevitably assumes a pre-life, for as far back before it as the eye can see.”

So how is consciousness related to complexity. Simple things have little consciousness, complex things have a greater consciousness. “The degree of consciousness varies in inverse ratio to the simplicity of the material compound lined by it.”

“Spiritual perfection (or conscious ‘centreity’ (5) ) and material synthesis (or complexity) are but two aspects or connected parts of one and same phenomenon.”
He sums up evolution as the movement from a very large number of simple things (low complexity and low consciousness) to less numerous but more complex things with consciousness.

“We are seeking a qualitative law of development that from sphere to sphere should be capable of explaining, first of all the invisibility, then the appearance, and then the gradual dominance of the within in comparison to the without of things. This law reveals itself once the universe is thought of as passing from State A, characterised by a very large number of very simple material elements (that is to say, with a very poor within), to State B defined by a smaller number of very complex groupings (that is to say, with a much richer within).

In State A, the centres of consciousness, because they are extremely numerous and extremely loose at the same time, only reveal themselves by overall effects which are subject to the laws of statistics. Collectively, that is, they obey the laws of mathematics. This is the proper field of physico-chemistry.

In State B; on the other hand, these less numerous and at the same time more highly individualised elements gradually escape from the slavery of large numbers. They allow their basic non-measurable spontaneity to break through and reveal itself. We can begin to see them and follow them one by one, and in so doing we have access to the world of biology.

In sum, all the rest of this essay will be nothing but the story of the struggle in the universe between the unified multiple and the unorganised multitude: the application throughout of the great Law if complexity and consciousness: a law that itself implies a psychically convergent structure and curvature of the world.”

De Chardin then discusses the concept of energy. He poses another simple statement: To think, we must eat. From this derives the concept of two energies, one for the without and one for the within.

“First of all, the dependence. This is depressingly and magnificently obvious. 'To think, we must eat.' That blunt statement expresses a whole economy, and reveals, according to the way we look at it, either the tyranny of matter or its spiritual power. The loftiest speculation, the most burning love are, as we know only too well, accompanied and paid for by an expenditure of physical energy. Sometimes we need bread, sometimes wine, sometimes a drug or a hormone injection, sometimes the stimulation of a colour, sometimes the magic of a sound which goes in at our ears as a vibration and reaches our brains in the form of inspiration.

Without the slightest doubt there is something through which material and spiritual energy hold together and are complementary. In last analysis, somehow or other, there must be a single energy operating in the world. And the first idea that occurs to us is that the 'soul' must be as it were a focal point of transformation at which, from all the points of nature, the forces of bodies converge, to become interiorised and sublimated in beauty and truth.”

Later he writes, “Once again: To think, we must eat: But what a variety of thoughts we get out of one slice of bread! Like the letters of the alphabet, which can equally well be assembled into nonsense as into the most beautiful poem, the same calories seem as indifferent as they are necessary to the spiritual values they nourish.

The two energies-of mind and matter-spread respectively through the two layers of the world (the within and the without) have, taken as a whole, much the same demeanour. They are constantly associated and in some way pass into each other. But it seems impossible to establish a simple correspondence between their curves. On the one hand, only a minute fraction of physical energy is used up in the highest exercise of spiritual energy; on the other, this minute fraction, once absorbed, results on the internal scale in the most extraordinary oscillations.

A quantitative disproportion of this kind is enough to make us reject the naive notion of' change of form (or direct trans-formation)-and hence all hope of discovering a 'mechanical equivalent' for will or thought. Between the within and the without of things, the interdependence of energy is incontestable. But it can in all probability only be expressed by a complex symbolism in which terms of a different order are employed.”

De Chardin proposes two types of energy – tangential and radial. “…this fundamental energy is divided into two distinct components; a tangential energy which links the element with all others of the same order (that is to say, of the same complexity and the same centricity) as itself in the universe; and a radial energy which draws it towards ever greater complexity and centricity-in other words forwards.

From this initial state, and supposing that it disposes of a certain free tangential energy, the particle thus constituted must obviously be in a position to increase its internal complexity in association with neighbouring particles, and thereupon (since its centricity is automatically increased) to augment its radial energy. The latter will then be able to react in its turn in the form of a new arrangement in the tangential field. And so on.”

De Chardin devotes several chapters to his ideas about the origins of life and evolution. That information is beyond the scope of this essay but has been nicely summarized in a graphic (6) .

And, it is also summarized on Wikipedia:

"Teilhard views evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity. From the cell to the thinking animal, a process of psychical concentration leads to greater consciousness. The emergence of Homo sapiens marks the beginning of a new age, as the power acquired by consciousness to turn in upon itself raises humankind to a new sphere. Borrowing Julian Huxley’s expression, Teilhard describes humankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself.

In Teilhard's conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases. Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity. This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth. Teilhard calls the new membrane the “noosphere” (from the Greek “nous,” meaning mind), a term first coined by Vladimir Vernadsky. The noosphere is the collective consciousness of humanity, the networks of thought and emotion in which all are immersed.

The development of science and technology causes an expansion of the human sphere of influence, allowing a person to be simultaneously present in every corner of the world. Teilhart argues that humanity has thus become cosmopolitan, stretching a single organized membrane over the Earth. Teilhard describes the process by which this happens as a “gigantic psychobiological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the “super-arrangement” to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves today individually and collectively subject.” The rapid expansion of the noosphere requires a new domain of psychical expansion, which “is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to look at it.”

In Teilhard’s view, evolution will culminate in the Omega Point, a sort of supreme consciousness. Layers of consciousness will converge in Omega, fusing and consuming them in itself. The concentration of a conscious universe will reassemble in itself all consciousnesses as well as all that we are conscious of. Teilhard emphasizes that each individual facet of consciousness will remain conscious of itself at the end of the process." (7)

"What Teilhard was saying here can easily be summed up in a few words," says John Perry Barlow. "The point of all evolution up to this stage is the creation of a collective organism of Mind."

Here are a few of his observations relative to evolution:

  • “The initial quantum of consciousness contained in our terrestrial world is not formed merely of an aggregate of particles caught fortuitously in the same net. It represents a correlated mass of infinitesimal centres structurally bound together by the conditions of their origins and development.” This idea is central to what we know about many complex systems – history matters but the future is unpredictable.
  • “In every domain, when anything exceeds a certain measurement, it suddenly changes its aspect, condition or nature. The curve doubles back, the surface contracts to a point, the solid disintegrates, the liquid boils, the germ cell divides, intuition suddenly bursts on the piled up facts ... Critical points have been reached, rungs on the ladder, involving a change of state-jumps of all sorts in the course of development.”
  • “This law of controlled complication, the mature stage of the process in we which we first get the micro-molecule then the mega-molecule and finally the first cells, is known to biologists as orthogenesis (8) . Orthogenesis is the dynamic and only complete form of heredity. The word conceals deep and real springs of cosmic extent.”
  • “These attitudes or ways of proceeding can be reduced to three: profusion, ingenuity and (judged from our individual point of view) indifference
  • Profusion is born of unlimited multiplication. “Once more, this time on the plane of animate particles, we find the fundamental technique of groping, the specific and invincible weapon of all expanding multitudes. This groping strangely combines the blind fantasy of large numbers with the precise orientation of a specific target. It would be a mistake to see it as mere chance. Groping is directed chance. It means pervading everything so as to try everything, and trying everything so as to find everything. Surely in the last resort it is precisely to develop this procedure (always increasing in size and cost in proportion as it spreads) that nature has had recourse to profusion.”
  • Ingenuity is the indispensible condition, or precisely the constructive facet, of additivity. “To accumulate characters in stable and coherent aggregates, life has to be very clever indeed. Not only has it to invent the machine but, like an engineer, so design it that it occupies the minimum space and is simple and resilient. And this implies and involves, as regards the structure of organisms (particularly the higher ones), a property which must never be forgotten. What can be put together can be taken apart. At an early stage of their discoveries biologists were surprised and fascinated by the fact that living beings, however perfect (or even more perfect) their spontaneity, were always decomposable into an endless chain of closed mechanisms. From this they thought they could deduce universal materialism. But they overlooked the essential difference between a natural whole and the elements into which it is analysed. By its very construction, it is true, every organism is always and inevitably reducible into its component parts. But it by no means follows that the sum of the parts is the same as the whole, or that, in the whole, some specifically new value may not emerge. That what is 'free', even in man, can be broken down into determinisms, is no proof that the world is not based on freedom-as indeed I maintain that it is. It is simply the result of ingenuity-a triumph of ingenuity-on the part of life.” This is also a concept integral to understanding complex systems. (9)
  • Indifference is transformed into solicitude. “By the phenomenon of association, the living particle is wrenched from itself. Caught up in an aggregate greater than itself, it becomes to some extent its slave. It no longer belongs to itself. And what organic or social incorporation does to extend it in space, its accession to a line of descent achieves no less inexorably in time. By the force of orthogenesis the individual unit becomes part of a chain. From being a centre it is changed into being an intermediary, a link-no longer existing, but transmitting; and, as it has been put, life is more real than lives. On the one hand the individual unit is lost in number, on the other it is torn apart in the collectivity, and in yet a third direction it stretches out in becoming. This dramatic and perpetual opposition between the one born of the many and the many constantly being born of the one runs right through evolution. As the general movement of life becomes regular, the conflict, despite occasional counter-attacks, tends to resolve itself. Yet it remains painfully noticeable to the end. The antinomy (10) only clears up with the appearance of mind where it attains its paroxysm (11) in feeling, and the indifference of the world for its constituents is transformed into an immense solicitude (12) . This is the sphere of the person.”
  • “Groping profusion; constructive ingenuity; indifference towards whatever is not future and totality-these are the three headings under which life rises up by virtue of its elementary mechanisms. There is also a fourth heading which embraces them all-that of global unity. This we have come across already-first in primordial matter, then on the early earth, then in the genesis of the first cells. Here it reappears in a still more emphatic way. Though the proliferations of living matter are vast and manifold, they never lose their solidarity. A continuous adjustment co-adapts them from without. A profound equilibrium gives them balance within. Taken in its totality, the living substance spread over the earth-from the very first stages of its evolution-traces the lineaments of one single and gigantic organism. I repeat this same thing like a refrain on every rung of the ladder that leads to man; for, if this thing is forgotten, nothing can be understood. To see life properly we must never lose sight of the unity of the biosphere that lies beyond the plurality and essential rivalry of individual beings. This unity was still diffuse in the early stages -a unity in origin, framework and dispersed impetus rather than in ordered grouping; yet a unity which, together with life's ascent, was to grow ever sharper in outline, to fold in upon itself, and, finally, to centre itself under our eyes.”
  • The arrow of evolution points towards increased complexity and consciousness. “…I think we had better go back to what I said above about the mutual relations between the without and the within of things. The essence of the real, I said, could well be represented by the 'interiority' contained by the universe at a given moment. In that case evolution would fundamentally be nothing else than the continual growth of this 'psychic' or 'radial' energy, in the course of duration, beneath and within the mechanical energy I called 'tangential', which is practically constant on the scale of our observations. And what, I asked, is the particular co-efficient which empirically expresses the relationship between the radial and tangential energies of the world in the course of their respective developments? Obviously arrangement, the arrangement whose successive advances are inwardly reinforced, as we can see, by a continual expansion and deepening of consciousness.” Later de Chardin writes, “Life seems to play as cleverly with collectivities and events as with atoms. But what could this ingeniousness and these stimulants do if applied to a fundamental inertia? And what, moreover, as we have pointed out, would the mechanical energies themselves be without some within to feed them? Beneath the 'tangential' we find the ‘radial'. The impetus of the world, glimpsed in the great drive of consciousness, can only have its ultimate source in some inner principle, which alone could explain its irreversible advance towards higher psychisms (13) .”
  • At this time evolution is faster outside of our bodies than inside them. “In the Upper Quaternary (14) period it is indeed and in the fullest sense present-day man at whom we are looking, not yet adult, admittedly, but having nevertheless reached the 'age of reason'. And when we compare him to ourselves, his brain is already perfect, so perfect that since that time there seems to have been no measurable variation or increased perfection in the organic instrument of our thought. Are we to say, then, that the evolution in man ceased with the end of the Quaternary era? Not at all. But, without prejudice to what may still be developing slowly and secretly in the depths of the nervous system, evolution has since that date overtly overflowed its anatomical modalities to spread, or perhaps even to transplant its main thrust into the zones of psychic spontaneity both individual and collective.”
  • “One after the other all the fields of human knowledge have been shaken and carried away by the same under-water current in the direction of the study of some development. Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”
  • “Thus we see not only thought as participating in evolution as an anomaly or as an epiphenomenon; but evolution as so reducible to and identifiable with a progress towards thought that the movement of our souls expresses and measures the very stages of progress of evolution itself Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself, to borrow Julian Huxley's striking expression. It seems to me that our modern minds (because and inasmuch as they are modern) will never find rest until they settle down to this view. On this summit and on this summit alone are repose and illumination waiting for us.”
  • “…the stuff of the universe, by becoming thinking, has not yet completed its evolutionary cycle, and that we are therefore moving forward towards some new critical point that lies ahead. In spite of its organic links, whose existence has everywhere become apparent to us, the biosphere has so far been no more than a network of divergent lines, free at their extremities. By effect of reflection and the recoils it involves, the loose ends have been tied up; and the noosphere tends to constitute a single closed system in which each element sees, feels, desires and suffers for itself the same things as all the others at the same time.”
Accoding to de Chardin, the noosphere was beginning to emerge in 1930 when he wrote this book. Now, 80 years later is it not more obvious? We have now spanned the earth and interconnected almost all humans on earth through electronics (Internet, TV and radio). But we don’t yet know how to have conversations (15) . Our social network tools of today will look primitive compared to what they will become in the future. Facebook and Twitter are the play toys of our childhood of this new age. We are playing in order to learn how to become.

The author wrote, “We are, at this very moment, passing through a change of age, The age of industry; the age of oil, electricity and the atom; the age of the machine, of huge collectivities and of science -the future will decide what is the best name to describe the era we are entering. The word matters little. What does matter is that we should be told that, at the cost of what we are enduring, life is taking a step, and a decisive step, in us and in our environment. After the long maturation that has been steadily going on during the apparent immobility of the agricultural centuries, the hour has come at last, characterised by the birth pangs inevitable in another change of state. There were the first men-those who witnessed our origin. There are others who will witness the great scenes of the end. To us, in our brief span of life, falls the honour and good fortune of coinciding with a critical change of the noosphere.”

Later he writes, “In the last century and a half the most prodigious event, perhaps, ever recorded by history since the threshold of reflection has been taking place in our minds: the definitive access of consciousness to a scale of new dimensions; and in consequence the birth of an entirely renewed universe, without any change of line or feature by the simple transformation of its intimate substance.”

De Chardin saw this emergence, not as inevitable, but desirable, because the alternative is destruction, instead of survival. He saw all the problems of his day as part of the earthly human sphere searching for a soul.

“Our earth of factory chimneys and offices, seething with work and business, our earth with a hundred new radiations-this great organism lives, in final analysis, only because of, and for the sake of, a new soul. Beneath a change of age lies a change of thought. Where are we to look for it, where are we to situate this renovating and subtle alteration which, without appreciably changing our bodies, has made new creatures of us? In one place and one only-in a new intuition involving a total change in the physiognomy of the universe in which we move-in other words, in an awakening.”

This is a transformation available to everyone. “The outcome of the world, the gates of the future, the entry into the super-human-these are not thrown open to a few of the privileged nor to one chosen people to the exclusion of all others. They will open only to an advance of all together, in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual renovation of the earth…”

And later he writes, “Noogenesis rises upwards in us and through us unceasingly.

We have pointed to the principal characteristics of that movement: the closer association of the grains of thought; the synthesis of individuals and of nations or races; the need of an autonomous and supreme personal focus to bind elementary personalities together, without deforming them, in an atmosphere of active sympathy. And, once again: all this results from the combined action of two curvatures-the roundness of the earth and the cosmic convergence of mind-in conformity with the law of complexity and consciousness.” (complexification)

De Chardin warns against impatience and isolationism. The process he visualized is slow with the end point far into the future. People must not be discouraged by all the forces pulling in different directions. These are but the normal human reactions to oppose transformative change. Another tendency is for people to isolate themselves from the process, becoming self centered, because they fear the loss of themselves into the collective. The noosphere is not a traditional type of collective, but one in which each individual retains identity and centeredness.

The Phenomenon of Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Harper Perennial Modern Thought, 2008, 319pp. Originally published in 1955. Also, a downloadable version is available on the Internet Archive.

  1. Noosphere, according to the thought of Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin, denotes the "sphere of human thought" Wikipedia
  2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Wikipedia
  3. A Globe, Clothing Itself in a Brain, Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg, Wired
  4. Four Causes, Wikipedia
  5. Centreity: The state of being a center, as of attraction or action, or of being situated in a center; centrality., Jana Gana Mana; Power of attraction towards a center. The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language; Each part of the essence, its centreity; Keeps to itself; it shrinks not to a nullity., Dr. H. More
  6. Teilhard de Chardin’s Evolutionary Philosophy, Kheper
  7. The Phenomenon of Man, Wikipedia
  8. Orthogenesis, Wikipedia
  9. For additional concepts on ingenuity, read Ingenuity: Humans and their Organizations at a Crossroads
  10. Antinomy literally means the mutual incompatibility, real or apparent, of two laws. It is a term used in logic and epistemology. Wikipedia
  11. A sudden outburst of emotion or action. The Free Dictionary
  12. The state of being solicitous; care or concern, as for the well-being of another. The Free Dictionary
  13. Psychism: The doctrine of Quesne, that there is a fluid universally diffused, end equally animating all living beings, the difference in their actions being due to the difference of the individual organizations. Webster Dictionary
  14. The Quaternary Period is the most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the ICS. It follows the Tertiary Period, spanning 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present. The Quaternary includes two geologic epochs: the Pleistocene and the Holocene. The Upper or Tarantian stage was 0.0117 to 0.126 million years ago.
  15. Conversation: turning around together. See Conversation and Creativity

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