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Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

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Katara, meet Vincent Harding.

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Comments

After listening to this broadcast, I was surprised I had not heard of Teilhard at some time in my life. Although I don't agree with a lot of what I heard about Teilhard’s writings and ideas, especially in the matters of evolution, it was interesting to hear about how he thought "...humanity would develop capacities for collective, global intelligence; that a meaningful vision of the earth and the universe would have to include, as he put it, "the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter." (Tippett and Teilhard). Some of what he said could be almost foreshadowing how connected the world is today.

In Teilhard's time, there was the capacity in the world to communicate with almost anyone in the world, but it did take a lot more time. The things that have changed today are the medium used, and the speed at which communication can happen. With advances in internet technologies, and satellite transmissions, everyone in the world, given the right technology, is capable of communicating with another person(s) on the opposite side of the world instantly. This could almost seem like two halves of a brain working together. I didn't really take what Teilhard said as a single organic global intelligence, but one compromised of all peoples from all places through the use of our technology.

From what I understood, Teilhard believed in God and in the theory of evolution. He believed that we, as a species, were still evolving, but maybe in a new way. It seemed like he thought humans were going to evolve more in the mind than in form. I could see how humans may appear to be "evolving" in a way due to the technology we have developed, and how it has allowed us to communicate in 'real time' across the globe, but I don't see us all being telepathically linked, or becoming some hybrid like the Borg (yes mentioned the Borg).

Dr. Wilson said, “…cultural evolution can produce this field of behaviors that enables humans to adapt to certainly all environments. That's why we spread over the planet and hundreds of ecological niches put us humans in a new environment. And we'll adapt, but only because we have this flexible system of symbolic thought that enables us to adapt. That's why it qualifies as a new evolutionary process and why we became the dominant species on earth for better or for worse." The kind of evolving he is talking about really doesn't sound like the theory of evolution, but rather a human’s normal ability to adapt and overcome obstacles that get in our way, like different environments. I don't see how this really qualifies as a new evolutionary process.

Despite some of my disagreements with Teilhard, some of his idea almost seemed to foreshadow our global communications of today. Knowing what I do today, if I was sent to Teilhard’s time, my knowledge may also seem pretty farfetched to the people of days past. I may have to look more into Teilhard to have a better understanding of his thoughts and theories. A very interesting man.

I discovered Teilhard through a former Dominican priest and biblical scholar who teaches Catholics about the Scripture. He linked Paul's teachings of the Body of Christ in Colossians, Galatians and other passages to Teilhard's vision of us all accelerating toward the Omega point which is one and the same as the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To understand Teilhard is to understand the Jesuit training and development of the spiritual aspect of the human through the Spiritual Exercises. And then you realize there is no seperation between the secular and the sacred. It's not unlike what many eastern philosophies are based on, in particular Buddhism. And there is no past or present, things both living now and those that once lived just Are. Some of this is my own formulation of thoughts that are pulled from my own readings of Thomas Merton, Watt's The Way of Zen, scripture studies of Paul's letters (which in my opinion are some of the most timely and timeless prose and relevant for all eras), spending five days chanting the Psalms in a Benedictine monastery, and praying daily. Everything that Teilhard has written has made sense to me and I have found his voice from the last century, the voice of my teenage years when I thought there should not be any separation between the Creation and Evolution camps, as I studied theology in Catholic high school. What I find most interesting is that everything points to this harmonic convergence of matter and unbounded by time as God sees it, which can be attained from any point of study, but most simply and complete if you have only the faith that resides within the mustard seed. Devout Catholics as the parents of Teilhard knew this without doubt, just as simply breathing. And I offer today for my fellow Catholics and all others that the Contemplation and daily prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will illuminate your mind and make all this very transparent and comprehensible as it has for me. I come from a Catholic background that was based on a pragmatic routine as well as a spiritual having parents practicing devotions to both Mary and Jesus. And the keyword is practice. Anything you do with joyful conviction reaps wonderful enlightenment and success. I agree with Andrew Revkin that you have no choice but be optimistic as Teilhard was because in my opinion this is the summation of all Gifts from God. It is the smile on your face.

Teilhard De Chardin was a rather fastinating man. He was a paleontologist, a priest and a philosopher. He even served in WW1 as a stretcher bearer for the french army. During the war he saw many horrible things that most people would never see in their lifetime. This really had an impact on Teilhard and his spiritual thinking.

Teilhard's thoughts, ideas and theories seemed to be way ahead of his time. He talked about evolution and spirituality and how they move towards each other. Humans evolve not only physically but spiritually as well. As we continue to evolve, so does our technology. Teilhard vision was that humans would communicate on a much bigger scale. He says humans will "intensify communication." But it is not just creating this means of communication he stressed but how people would use this technology and what would they go on to do with it.

Now days with the internet, Facebook, Twitter and so on, it seems that Teilhard was right. Our communication is on such a large scale right now. I can send a message to someone in China and they would recieve it within just moments. We have come a long way as a society since the time of Teilhard.

He also talks about how the human being longs to share experiences with one another. This is so true. How many kids love to show their parents something they learned or how many of us come back to work from an exciting weekend and can't wait to tell our co-workers. It seems that sharing the human experience is a rather important part of our lives. And now with Youtube, Facebook and other social media, you can share the human experience with the world.

It is a great time to live in with so many new technological advancements. We are basically living in Teilhard's vision. We are the future and we have to figure out how to utilize this great technology we have and bring us forward.

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is Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol.

is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University in New York.

is Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University. His blog at The New York Times is called Dot Earth.

Production Credits

Host/Executive Producer: Krista Tippett

Head of Content: Trent Gilliss

Technical Director: Chris Heagle

Senior Producer: Lily Percy

Associate Producer: Mariah Helgeson

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Funding provided in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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