Today's date:
Winter 2014

Teilhard’s Tale

Jacques Ellul was a French philosopher and theologian. His seminal work was The Technological Society.

For Teilhard de Chardin, evolution in general, since the origin of the universe, has represented a constant progression. First of all, there was a motion toward a diversification of matter and of beings; then, there supervened a motion toward a higher Unity. In the biological world, every step forward has been effected when man has passed from a stage of "dispersion" to a stage of "concentration."

At the present, technical human progress and the spontaneous movement of life are in agreement and in mutual continuity. They are evolving together toward a higher degree of organization, and this movement manifests the influence of Spirit. Matter, left to itself, is characterized by a necessary and continuous degradation. But on the contrary, we note that progress, advancement, improvement do exist, and hence, a power contradicting the spontaneous movement of matter, a power of creation and progress exists which is the opposite of matter. It is Spirit.

Spirit has contrived Technique as a means of organizing dispersed matter, in order simultaneously to express progress and to combat the degradation of matter. Technique is producing at the same time a prodigious demographic explosion, a greater density of human population. By all these means it is bringing forth "communion" among men; and likewise creating from inanimate matter a higher and more organized form of matter which is taking part in the ascension of the cosmos toward God.

Granting that it is true that every progression in the physical and biological order is brought about by a condensation of the elements of the preceding period, what we are witnessing today, according to Chardin, is a condensation, a concentration of the whole human species. Technique, in producing this, possesses a function of unification inside humanity, so that humanity becomes able thereby to have access to a sort of unity. Technical progress is therefore synonymous with "socialization," this latter being but the political and economic sign of communion among men, the temporary expression of the "condensation" of the human species into a whole. Technique is the irreversible agent of this condensation; it prepares the new step forward which humanity must make.

When men cease to be individual and separate units, and all together form a total and indissoluble communion, then humanity will be a single body. This material concentration is always accompanied by a maturation of the spirit, the commencement of a new species of life. Thanks to Technique, there is "socialization," the progressive concentration on a planetary scale of disseminated spiritual personalities into a suprapersonal unity. This mutation leads to another Man, spiritual and unique, and means that humanity in its ensemble and in its unity has attained the supreme goal, its fusion with that glorious Christ who must appear at the end of time. Thus Chardin holds that in technical progress man is "Christified," and that technical evolution tends inevitably to the "edification" of the cosmic Christ.

It is clear that in Chardin’s grandiose perspective, the individual problems, difficulties and mishaps of Technique are negligible. It is likewise clear how Chardin’s doctrine lies midway between the two preceding ones: On the one hand, it affirms a natural and involuntary ascension of man, a process inclusive of biology, history and the like, evolving as a kind of will of God in which Technique has its proper place; and, on the other, it affirms that the evolution in question implies consciousness, and an intense involvement on the part of man who is proceeding to socialization and thus committing himself to this mutation.