Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (pyĕr tāyärˈ də shärdăNˈ), 1881–1955, French paleontologist and philosopher. He entered (1899) the Jesuit order, was ordained (1911), and received a doctorate in paleontology from the Sorbonne (1922). He lectured (1920–23) at the Institut Catholique in Paris. After visiting China (1923–24), he resumed teaching at the Institut, but in 1926 he was forced by his superiors to abandon teaching and return to China because of his controversial attempts to reconcile the traditional view of original sin with his concept of evolution; at that time it was also decided that his publications should be limited to purely scientific material, a limitation that continued throughout his lifetime. Shortly after his return to China, Teilhard was named adviser to the National Geological Survey, and in that capacity he collaborated on research that resulted in the discovery (1929) of Peking man (see Homo erectus). While in China (1926–46) he also completed the manuscript of The Phenomenon of Man (published posthumously, 1955; tr. 1959), in which he outlined his concept of cosmic evolution and his conviction that belief in evolution does not entail a rejection of Christianity. Evolution he saw to be a process involving all matter, not just biological material, the cosmos undergoing successively more complex changes that would lead ultimately to “Omega Point,” which has been variously interpreted as the integration of all personal consciousness and as the second coming of Christ. Teilhard's evolutionism earned him the distrust of his religious superiors, while his religious mysticism made scientific circles suspicious; but despite much opposition—or perhaps because of it—there was an unusually broad popular response to his work after its posthumous publication. The interest may be explained by his boldly anthropocentric, and somewhat mystical, understanding of the cosmos: humanity for him is the axis of the cosmic flow, the key of the universe. Teilhard de Chardin's other works (all published posthumously) include Letters from a Traveller (1956, tr. 1962), The Divine Milieu (1957, tr. 1960), The Future of Man (1959, tr. 1964), Human Energy (1962, tr. 1969), Activation of Energy (1963, tr. 1971), and Hymn of the Universe (1964, tr. 1965).


See biographies by C. Cuénot (tr. 1965), R. Speaight (1968), and M. and E. Lukas (1981); studies by M. H. Murray (1966), R. Faricy (1967), R. G. North (1967), B. Delfgaauw (1969), P. Hefner (1970), H. J. Birx (1972), T. M. King (1981), E. O. Dodson (1984), W. Smith (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre


Born May 1, 1881, in Sarcenat, Puy-de-Dôme, near Clermont-Ferrand; died Apr. 10, 1955, in New York City. French paleontologist, philosopher, and theologian. Member of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1950).

Teilhard de Chardin began his studies at a Jesuit college in 1899. From 1920 to 1923 he was a professor at the Catholic Institute of Paris. As a result of a conflict between his views and official Catholic doctrine, Teilhard was removed from his teaching position and was prohibited from publishing his philosophical works. Teilhard lived in China from 1923 to 1946. He carried on geological, paleontological, and archaeological research in China, India, Burma, Java, and elsewhere.

Teilhard was one of the original discoverers of the Peking Man (Sinanthropus pekinenis). Drawing on the achievements of modern science, he attempted to create an integral world view, “scientific phenomenology,” in which the conflict between science and religion is supposed to be eliminated. His chief methodological principle is the concept of evolution, to which he gives a teleological interpretation. He depicts the evolution of the universe (cosmogenesis) as a series of stages in the growing complexity of a single substance, the “stuff of the universe,” which represents a modification of a special radial energy having a psychic nature. The ultimate goal and, at the same time, the regulator of cosmogenesis is the “Omega point,” the spiritual center that influences the course of things through radial energy that is manifested as a form of divine grace.

Teilhard sees the key to understanding the evolution of the universe in “the phenomenon of man.” Man is the summit of evolution that is directed into the future. In transforming matter, man becomes included in the creation of evolution. According to Teilhard, the history of humanity is the crowning stage of cosmogenesis. The prerequisite of the history of humanity is “personalization,” the appearance of personality and thought, and the formation of the noosphere (an ideal, spiritual layer, or “skin,” surrounding the earth). The further improvement of evolution is possible only on a collective basis. Technological progress and economic development are prerequisites for this process, but the spiritual factor is supposed to play the decisive role. Religion, while laying the foundations of morality, is supposed to unite with science and provide a new interpretation of its own principles, becoming a religion of action. Thus, Teilhard developed a Christian variation of evolutionist ethics.

The doctrine of Teilhard is extremely self-contradictory. On many points, his Christian evolutionism proves to be a variety of pantheism. The optimism, humanism, and collectivism of Teilhardism distinguish it from the predominant currents in contemporary bourgeois philosophy. The life-affirming spirit of Teil-hard’s philosophy won him considerable authority among the contemporary Catholic intelligentsia. His supporters continue to exert a reforming influence on official Catholic doctrine.


Oeuvres, vols. 1–9. Paris, 1955–65.
Hymne de I’Univers. Paris, 1961.
Blondelet Teilhard de Chardin: Correspondance. Paris, 1965.
Lettres intimes .... Paris, 1972.
In Russian translation:
Fenomen cheloveka. Moscow, 1965.


Levada, Iu. A. “‘Fenomen Teiiara’ i spory vokrug nego.” Voprosy filosofii, 1962, no. 1.
Zenkovsky’, V. V. Osnovy khristianskoi filosofii, vol. 2. Paris, 1964.
Płiżański, T. “Nekotorye cherty vozzrenii Teiiara de Shardena.” In the collection Ot Erazma Rotterdamskogo do Bertrana Rassela. Moscow, 1969.
Sovremennaia burzhuaznaia filosofiia. Moscow, 1972. Chapter 16.
Guénot, C. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Les Grands Étapes de son évolution. Paris [1962],
Guénot, C. Ce que Teilhard a vraiment dit. Paris, 1972.
Hengstenberg, H.-E. Mensch und Materie: Zur Problematik Teilhard de Chardins. Stuttgart, 1965.
Płiżański, T. Marksizm a fenomen Teilhard. [Warsaw] 1967. (References.)
Polgar, L. Internationale Teilhard-Bibliographie, 1955–1965. Freiburg-Munich, 1965.
Poulin, D. Teilhard de Chardin: Essai de bibliographie (1955–66). Quebec, 1966.
Baudry, G.-H. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Bibliographie (1881–1972). Lille, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
(5) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, jesuita frances, morreu em 1955, nos Estados Unidos, esta na base do pensamento de Herbert Marshall McLuhan.
(3) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, trans.
Jeanne-Marie Mortier founded "L'Association des Amis de Pierre Teilhard de Chardin" in Paris in 1961 to promote Teilhard's ideas and to oversee the publication of his works; she also set up "La Fondation Teilhard de Chardin" at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris in 1962.
Thoughts on Death in Heidegger and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Or should I begin when Father Robert McGuire, a Jesuit teacher, invited me to help him explore with his students the spirituality of the influential French mystic, philosopher, and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin? Teilhard's concept centered around an omega point, or "Christic" influence, that permeated and yet transcended matter, drawing the world into a new stage of evolution.
Altizer), who took their cue not only from Friedrich Nietzsche and William Blake but also from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Borrowing from Teilhard's mystic Christology, Altizer taught that the Incarnation of God in Jesus wrought, through his death, an irrevocable and radical immanence in the Godhead: "The radical Christian proclaims that God has actually died in Christ, that this death is both a historical and a cosmic event, which cannot be reversed by a subsequent religious or cosmic movement." The doctrine of the Ascension of Christ is rejected as a "religious reversal of the death of God [that] cannot reverse or bring to an end the progressive descent of Spirit into flesh" (103).
He focuses on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French priest and anthropologist, whose works first appeared in English in the 1950s when the antagonism between pragmatism and Catholicism was peaking.
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, "Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love.
If human beings are like poems in the sense of being worlds unto themselves, living unities that defy fragmentation and analysis, then Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is a metaphor for this truth.
I discovered the answer to my quest for meaning through reading the works of three seminal thinkers whose work is still changing the world: Abraham Maslow, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and R.