Teilhard de Chardin, heretic or mystic?

I attended a high school staffed by Dominican nuns and Teilhard was very big in the 60s, a theologian and philosopher who was, I believe a paleontologist. Most of what I read by him in college was so far over my head I couldn’t understand a word of it. Obviously a great mind, but has the Church ever definitively condemned or approved all or part of his writings? I recall some idea called the “noosphere” which I took to mean God present within creation. What about Henri Lubac who had been his teacher and mentor, and his writings?

I started to read “The Future of Man” once and also “The Divine Milieu,” but never got far. Your post reminded me that maybe I should try again.

The Vatican was worried enough about his theology that I believe they issued a ‘monitum’ or warning that his writings might not be compatible with sound doctrine. But I think the two parties may have been miscommunicating.

He was a paleontologist. The only impression I have of his work was that he seemed to want to apply a sort of progressive evolution to the development of mankind in the sphere of thought and spiritually. It seemed to me more a combination of evolutionary science, poetic metaphor, and philosophy, and also tying in theology, than a methodically developed hypothesis fitting any of those categories.

But, I didn’t read the books! Maybe now I will.

“Several works of Fr. Pere Teilhard de Chardin, some of which were posthumously published, are being edited and are gaining a good deal of success. Prescinding from a Judgment about those points that concern the positive sciences, it is sufficiently clear that the above mentioned works abound in such ambiguities. and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine. For this reason, the eminent and most revered Fathers of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries, as well as Superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth. against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers.”
"Given at Rome, from the palace of the Holy Office, on the thirtieth day of June, 1962

This, I believe, was an admonition to Lubac. Teilhard defied papal authority on a consistent basis. He had a 40 some odd year history of sanctions and condemnations of his teaching, his writing, and his theology by the Society of Jesus and the Vatican.

With free advertising like that, what wonder his writings are still in print? Because of his teleological theories, Teilhard has never been taken seriously by mainstream scientists, which raises the intriguing question of who’s been buying all those books.

I thought that perhaps he was a better scientist than theologian. Sounds like he might not have excelled in either. But I still wonder just what he was trying to say.

Perhaps neither. Or perhaps both. The terms are not in logical opposition.

I love his Mass on the World.

I think that his main problem was that his views on theistic evolution did weaken the Augustinian Original Sin.
And of course scientist cannot accept his view that evolution was comanded to produce a certain result becasue that is not falseable.
But for being a Mystic and Scientist that put a Christian spin on evolution, I love his work.

I have always felt a certain sadness concerning Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J. His popularity was immense when he died in 1955. In his own writings he begged the reader to read his works only as science. He protested that he was not writing philosophy or theology. But his works got translated (often poorly) in many languages. And the French theories of science of Claude Bernard and Henri Poincare were not accepted as valid. Certainly not in the English speaking world which held to logical positivism. Teilhard could defend his works as pure science alone according to the conventualism of Henri Poincare.
I have seen Catholic universities give several courses on Teilhard at the same time. In one he would be treated as a scientist and another as a philosopher and another as a poet.
The Catholic critics of Teilhard accused him a saying he was writing science just to escape the Holy Office.
On the other hand I have known atheists who were firm followers of Teilhard who bitterly regretted the fact that he had been a Jesuit priest as it made their job of spreading his ideas so much more difficult.
He was, not doubt, brillant. But his followers broke into many factions.

I have no idea. I’ve only heard of him a few times before and when I did hear of him, I only heard of his name and nothing more. This thread is interesting by the way. :slight_smile:

Careful observers will note that the Monitum against Teilhard was issued in 1962 and he had died in 1955. A monitum is a warning but not a condemnation. Interesting to recall is the fact that Pope Pius XII would not permit a monitum against him. John XXIII allowed it complaining that Teilhard was so complicated.
Catholic disciples of Teilhard (eg. Ursula King et al…) love to point out in Teilhard’s favor that he was completely obedient to his superiors. His books began to appear in rapid succession after his death. So he never “published” while he was alive. But he wrote them out long hard which according to the law is not publishing. Then in his will he left all his writings of a non-Jesuit. This is also legal. So after his death the publication began fast and furious beginning with the Phenomenon of Man.
Critics of Teilhard point to the strange nature of his obedience.
In any case it meant he was no longer alive to help in the correct interpretation of his works.
(I do not know if their was any relationship between Teilhard: 1881 - 1955) and Cardinal Henri de Lubac: l896 - 1991. Both were Jesuits. Teilhard lived out his last years and died in NYC at Fordham University then a Jesuit university.)

Not a heretic probably a mystic but most of what exists nowadys is interpretation:goethals.org/teilhard.htm

I’ve never read any of his books, so I don’t know much about him at all. But I have heard or read about him from some other sources.

–I heard in a talk given by the historian Fr Bernard Basset, SJ (now deceased) that de Chardin served in WWI as a stretcher bearer. While in the trenches, he read a fururistic novel called Lord of the World, by Robert Hugh Benson. This novel, about the rise of the anti-Christ and the creeping secularization of society, had a profound influence on his life. (This book is still in print, BTW.)

–Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote about de Chardin in his book, The Charitable Anathema, in chapter XX “Teilhard de Chardin: Towards a New Religion.” These are the first few paragraphs of the chapter, though the total length is 27 pages:

I met Teilhard de Chardin in 1951 at a dinner arranged by Fr Robert Gannon, SJ, then president of Fordham University. The noted scholars Henri de Lubac and Msgr Bruno De Solages had highly recommended him. I was therefore full of expectations. After the meal, Fr Teilhard delivered a long exposition of his views. The lecture was a great disappointment, for it manifested utter philosophical confusion, especially regarding Teilhard’s conception of the human person. I was even more upset by his theological primitiveness, because he ignored completely the decisive difference between nature and supernature. After a lively discussion in which I ventured a criticism of his ideas, I had the occasion to speak to Teilhard personally. As our talk touched on St Augustine, he exclaimed violently: “Don’t mention this unfortunate man; he spoiled everything by introducing the supernatural.”

This remark confirmed the impression I had gained of the crass naturalism of his views; but it also struck me in another way: the criticism of St Augustine–the greatest of the Fathers of the Church–betrayed Teilhard’s lack of a genuine sense of intellectual and spiritual grandeur.

It was only after reading several of Teilhard’s works, however, that I fully realized the catastrophic implications of his philosophical ideas, and the absolute incompatibility of his theology-fiction (as Etienne Gilson calls it) with Christian revelation and the doctrine of the Church.

Many Catholics view Teilhard de Chardin as a great scientist who has reconciled science with the Christian faith by introducing a new theology and metaphysics that take modern scientific findings into account and thus fit into our scientific age. But a reconciliation of science and the Christian faith has never been needed because true science (as distinct from false philosophies disguised in scientific garments) can never be incompatible with Christian faith. Science can neither prove nor disprove the truth of faith. . . .

I too read Teilhard in college and found him to be fascinating, especially since I was in science.
Since he spent a good portion of his work life in China, he would be a big hit today with the olympics being there.


Marie-Joseph Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is his name.:slight_smile: Yes, Henri de Lubac wrote a book about Teilhard. I luv him. There are misunderstandings by many people that have misinterpreted his writings. I have quite a number of rare books written by him or another individual. I’ll have to return to this subject later.

Father Teilhard loved the Scared Heart of Jesus as do I. :smiley: I like to think of myself as a little soldier for Jesus. :smiley:

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Why is it that so many Catholics feel the need to either accept and praise everything a theologian writes, or condemn and criticize it all? I’ve read Teilhard de Chardin, and I find much of what he says edifying and useful. His works are not dangerous if you evaluate what he says critically, based on Tradition, Scripture, and the teachings of the Magisterium.

“All the communions of a life-time are one communion. All the communions of all men now living are one communion. All the communions of all men, past and future, are one communion.” (Teilhard de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 124)

So, he was not a heretic, even though is theology is flawed in some places, and he was not a mystic, even though he had some mystical insights, like the above quote.

“All the communions of a life-time are one communion. All the communions of all men now living are one communion. All the communions of all men, past and future, are one communion.” (Teilhard de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 124)This is a remarkable quote, and perfectly in accord with Catholic theology of the Eucharist. Christ has but one body. We do not receive a thousand bodies of Christ or more over the course of a lifetime; neither does each member of the congregation receive a different body of Christ. By receiving the one body, we knit together our lives over the span of many communions, and are joined in unity with all who have or will receive. It is how the Eucharist brings into one body those who are seemingly divided by time and space.

I also love his Mass on the World. It is one of my favorite spiritual readings.

However, I also had a difficult time understanding some of his other writings.:confused:

I’ll have to look for that, I never read it.

That’s a bad thing? :confused:

I have read his Divine Milieu, and also the Phenomenon of Man; I liked them, but that was years ago.

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