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  Studies in Comparative Religion
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Correspondence

Source: Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 3, No. 1. (Winter, 1969) © World Wisdom, Inc.
www.studiesincomparativereligion.com


IN DEFENSE OF TEILHARD DE CHARDIN

Sir,

It is a safe rule that so long as a writer on religious subjects is affirming beliefs (whether his own or other peoples') he is expressing the truth; but when depreciating other peoples' beliefs, his word is not to be trusted. An alien point of view can never be understood without love or empathy, which, in practice, forbid disparagement of any religious belief honestly held. Conversely, under appropriate influences, religious differences practically cease to exist, as readers of S.C.R. are gratefully aware. But, regrettably, no one of your learned contributors, it would seem, has any love or empathy for Teilhard de Chardin. If he is mentioned by any of them, whether in or outside your columns, it is only to be sniped at. Thus, one whom it would be disrespectful to name in such a context has referred to "the Darwinism of Teilhard de Chardin", which is surely a grave misrepresentation, the truth being that Teilhard is hated by Darwinians precisely for his exposition of a non-Darwinism evolutionary process directed by Divine Providence. Would you allow an unlearned but appreciative reader of your journal to submit a few reasons why Teilhard and his ideas should be accorded more tolerant treatment in a periodical dedicated to promoting harmonious relations between worshippers of the Godhead.

1.  The Sanctity of his life—a life to meditate upon; an allegory of fulfillment in frustration. A giant among scientists, a gentle priest, faithful, without resentment, to the vow of obedience which forbad him to teach or publish during his lifetime the message he believed he was destined to deliver. The facts are given, unsentimentally, in Robert Speaight's biography, for anyone interested.

2.  Christianity was originally a religion of hope, and has been swinging between optimism and pessimism since its foundation. Christian truth in abundance is to be found in the writings of all your regular contributors, but not much emphasis on hope. Teilhard is essentially among the optimists. In spite of the state of the world, he persists in applying to life of all kinds, on every level, a doctrine of hope which, so far as human life is concerned, could hardly be more succinctly summarized than in two of Shakespeare's most familiar lines :

Hamlet:  There's a divinity that shapes our ends
  Rough-hew them how we will.
Horatio:  That is most certain.

Teilhard designates the cosmic aspect of this principle Orthogenesis, and the long-term hope in it—echoing and revivifying the cosmic hope St. Paul confided in his letter to the Romans (Ch. 8, 19-23)—could be said to balance the gloom at the opposite pole of Christianity. There is, of course, a middle way between polar opposites. One can share (while realizing the truth in) both gloom and hope.

3.  Students of comparative religion who may complain that The Phenomenon of Man has little to say to a man seeking God in solitude, have perhaps yet to discover Teilhard's devotional works—Le Milieu Divin and Hymn of the Universe—which already have brought to thousands, in all parts of the world, a warming consolation and help corresponding to that which Thomas A Kempis's Imitation of Christ provided for former generations.

4.  The impact on Traditionalists of Teilhard's emergence as a Christian Evolutionist may be compared to the sensation produced by Galileo on the announcement of his adherence to the Copernican theory, threatening to undermine a geocentrically-orientated Orthodoxy. Galileo's theology may or may not have been as shaky as Teilhard's (if, as alleged, his in fact is shaky); but it certainly did not satisfy the ecclesiastical authorities of the day, although, after some re-thinking, the Church was enabled to accommodate itself to Galileo's notions about the movements of heavenly bodies. Without forcing the analogy, may I suggest that any deficiencies in Teilhard's theology are likely to be repaired, sooner or later, by neo-Teilhardians of the Catholic Faith, without damage or prejudice (whether sooner or later) to the case for Evolution under Providence.

5.  The chief weakness of Teilhard de Chardin is in the dimension of esotericism. It is not a weakness that in any way impairs the validity of his beliefs or his prophetic vision. It is rather, I suggest, a challenge. Let it be admitted that God the Creator is not conspicuously present in The Phenomenon of Man. A Darwinian, refusing in his blindness, to take Teilhard any more seriously than he takes the first chapter of Genesis, may not be so far out. Both accounts of the Creation are true. A marriage between Teilhard and the author of Genesis, under the authority of someone knowledgeable in the traditions of esoteric interpretation embodied in the Old Testament would, I will dare to say, at least neutralize the religious "case" against Orthogenesis. (The hint is offered to students of the Zohar who can pray and fast).

6.  Finally, Sir, you and your associates are undoubtedly going along with Teilhard, all the way, whether you like him or not. You are in the vanguard of a movement advancing in the noosphere towards Point Omega (under whatever language one may choose to describe the operation). The common signs are increasing and deepening consciousness with expanding compassionate sensitivity, as exemplified in the inspired researches of Frithjof Schuon with which could be bracketed many articles appearing in recent issues of your Journal.

  Hinc illae lacrimae—and hence this letter.

London, 31.1.69.

H. F. RUBINSTEIN.

Original editorial inclusion that followed the essay in Studies:
"Fashion” itself, an essentially modern invention, is in its real significance something not entirely devoid of importance: it represents unceasing and aimless change, in contrast to the stability and order that reign in traditional civilizations.
René Guénon.

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