'The Phenomenon of Man' and 'The Heart of Matter' by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (1940, 1950).

"All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through. But it is not only close to us, in front of us, that the divine presence has revealed itself. It has sprung up universally, and we find ourselves so surrounded and transfixed by it, that there is no room left to fall down and adore it, even within ourselves.
By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. "

A selection from De Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man, 1940, and The Heart of Matter, 1950.

De Chardin was a Jesuit priest and Paleontologist who was involved with the discovery of 'Peking Man' in China. In an essay called Homonization he wrote in 1925 (and published in his work The Vision of the Past, 1966), de Chardin introduced the term Noosphere "for the Earth's thinking envelope" based "on the model of Suess's Biosphere." Although de Chardin finished The Phenomenon of Man in 1940 it was not published until after his death. The essay The Heart of Matter was written in 1950. In that essay, which he wrote towards the end of his life, he "tried to describe in a sort of autobiography the general process and the principal stages of 'the emergence of the picture'".

Although this book represents an attempt to bridge religion and science, the religious order to which de Chardin swore a vow of obedience forbade its publication (the Superior General of the Jesuit order) on the grounds that it contradicted orthodoxy, and when it was eventually published, after his death, it was largely rejected by his scientific peers as 'unscientific'. In his review of the book published in the journal Mind, the British immunologist Peter Medawar dismissed it as full of "metaphysical conceits", a sentiment which Richard Dawkins echoed when he called it "the quintessence of bad poetic science." Although the book has been largely ignored by evolutionary biology, except in footnotes on discussions on 'teleology', 'directed evolution' and 'orthography', it has been taken up in 'process theology' (note: see Barbour's essay Whitehead and Teilhard De Chardin published in Process Theology: Basic Writings edited by Cousins).
In the introduction he wrote for The Phenomenon of Man, Julian Huxley described de Chardin as a "very remarkable human being." Philip K. Dick, in his Exegesis, was surprised to find that many of de Chardin's ideas according with his own 'hylozoic cosmology', and Terence Mckenna elaborated some of de Chardin's lines of thought in his many talks and lectures and frequently referred to The Phenomenon of Man.

The Phenomenon of Man


This book deals with man solely as a phenomenon; but it also deals with the whole phenomenon of man.
[...] Put quite simply, what I have tried to do is this; I have chosen man as the centre, and around him I have tried to establish a coherent order between antecedents and consequences. [...] ...on the plane of experience, I have identified... the combined movement towards unity... .
[...] Like the meridians as they approach the poles, science, philosophy and religion are bound to converge as they draw nearer to the whole. [...]
The pre-eminent significance of man in nature, and the organic nature of mankind; these are two assumptions that one may start by trying to reject, but without accepting them, I do not see how it is possible to give a full and coherent account of the phenomenon of man.



Man has a double title, as the twofold centre of the world, to impose himself on our effort to see, as the key to the universe.
Subjectively, first of all, we are inevitably the focus of our own observation. In its early, naive stage, science... imagined that we could observe things in themselves, as they would behave in our absence. Instinctively physicists and naturalists went to work as though they could look down from a great height upon a world which their consciousness could penetrate without being submitted to it or changing it. They are now beginning to realise that... when they reach the end of their analyses they cannot tell with any certainty whether the structure they have made is the essence of the matter they are studying, or the reflection of their own thought. [...] ...man willy-nilly finds his own image stamped on all he looks at.
It is tiresome and even humbling for the observer to be thus fettered, to be obliged to carry with him everywhere the centre of the landscape he is crossing. But what happens when chance directs his steps to a point of vantage... from which, not only his vision, but things themselves radiate? In that event the subjective viewpoint coincides with the way things are distributed objectively, and perception reaches its apogee. The landscape lights up and yields its secrets. He sees.
[...] By virtue of the quality and the biological properties of thought, we find ourselves situated at a singular point, at a ganglion which commands the whole fraction of the cosmos that is at present within reach of our experience. Man, the centre of perspective, is at the same time the centre of construction of the universe.
[...] Yet he has only just begun to take a scientific view of his own significance in the physical world.  [...] For man to discover man and take his measure, a whole series of 'senses' are necessary, whose gradual acquisition... covers and punctuates the whole history of the struggles of the mind:
A sense of spatial immensity, in its greatness and its smallness... ;
A sense of depth, pushing back laboriously through the endless chains of events and measureless distances of time which a sort of sluggishness of mind tends continually to condense for us in a thin layer of the past;
A sense of number... ;
A sense of proportion, realising as best we can the difference of physical scale which separates, both in rhythm and dimension, the atom from the nebula, the infinitesimal from the immense;
A sense of quality, or of novelty, enabling us to distinguish in nature certain absolute stages of perfection and growth... ;
A sense of movement, capable of perceiving the irresistible developments hidden in extreme slowness-- extreme agitation concealed beneath a veil of immobility... ;
A sense, lastly, of the organic, discovering... structural unity under the superficial juxtaposition of successions and collectives.
Without these qualities to illuminate our vision, man will remain indefinitely for us... what he still represents to so many minds: an erratic object in a disjointed world. Conversely, we have only to rid our vision of the threefold illusion of smallness, plurality and immobility, for man effortlessly to take the central position we prophesied-- the momentary summit of an anthropogenesis which is itself the crown of a cosmogenesis.
No longer will man be able to see himself entirely unrelated to mankind, neither will he be able to see mankind unrelated to life, nor life unrelated to the universe.
Thence stems the basic plan of this work: Pre-Life: Life: Thought-- three events sketching in the past and determining for the future (Survival) a single and continuing trajectory, the curve of the phenomenon of man.
When I try to picture the world before the dawn of life, or life in the Palaeozoic era, I do not forget that there would be a cosmic contradiction in imagining a man as spectator of those phases which ran their course before the appearance of thought on earth. I do not pretend to describe them as they really were, but rather as we must picture them to ourselves so that the world may be true for us at this moment. What I depict is not the past in itself, but as it must appear to an observer standing on the advanced peak where evolution has placed us.
His over-pronounced individuality conceals from our eyes the whole to which he [man] belongs; as we look at him our minds incline to break nature up into pieces and to forget both its deep inter-relations and its measureless horizons: we incline to all that is bad in anthropocentricism.
The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the universe-- even a positivist one-- remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world.
In fact I doubt whether there is a more decisive moment for a thinking being than when the scales fall from his eyes and he discovers that he is not an isolated unit lost in the cosmic solitudes, and realises that a universal will to live converges and is hominised in him.
In such a vision man is seen not as a static centre of the world-- as he for long believed himself to be-- but as the axis and leading shoot of evolution, which is something much finer.

Book One

Before Life Came

Chapter One

The Stuff of the Universe

To push anything back into the past is equivalent to reducing it to its simplest elements. Traced as far as possible in the direction of their origins, the last fibres of the human aggregate are lost to view and are merged in our eyes with the very stuff of the universe.


Plurality, unity, energy: the three faces of matter.

A. Plurality

[...] Man has needed neither microscope nor electronic analysis in order to suspect that he lives surrounded by and resting on dust.  [...] The scaling down is unlimited. Like the tiny diatom shells whose markings, however magnified, change almost indefinitely into new patterns, so each particle of matter, ever smaller and smaller, under the physicist's analysis tends to reduce itself into something yet more finely granulated.

B. Unity

On the other hand the more we split and pulverise matter artificially, the more insistently it proclaims its fundamental unity.
[...] Molecules, atoms, electrons... these minute units (at any rate when viewed from our distance) manifest a perfect identity of mass and of behaviour. In their dimensions and actions they seem astonishingly... monotonous.
[...] However narrowly the 'heart' of an atom may be circumscribed, its realm is co-extensive, at least potentially, with that of every other atom.

C. Energy

Under this name... physics has introduced the precise formulation of a capacity for action, or more exactly, for interaction. [...]
From the aspect of energy... material corpuscules may now be treated as transient reservoirs of concentrated power. ...energy nowadays represents for science the most primitive form of universal stuff. Hence we find our minds instinctively tending to represent energy as a kind of homogeneous, primordial flux in which all that has shape in the world is but a series of fleeting 'vortices'. From this point of view, the universe would find its stability and final unity at the end of its decomposition. It would be held together from below.
[...] A more complete study of the movements of the world will oblige us, little by little, to modify it; in other words, to discover that if things hold and hold together, it is only by reason of complexity, from above.


The history of consciousness and its place in the world remain incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen first of all that the cosmos in which man finds himself caught up constitutes, by reason of the unimpeachable wholeness of its whole, a system, a totum and a quantum:  a system by its plurality, a totum by its unity, a quantum by its energy; all three within a boundless contour.


Physics was born, in the last century, under the double sign of fixity and geometry. Its ideal, in its youth, was to find a mathematical explanation of a world imagined as a system of stable elements in a closed equilibrium. Then... it was inevitably drawn by its own progress into becoming a history. Today, positive knowledge of things is identified with the study of their development. ...the vital revolution in human consciousness brought about by the quite modern discovery of duration. ...our views about matter are enlarged by the introduction of this new dimension.
In essence, the change wrought in our experience by the appearance of what we shall soon call space-time is this, that everything that up to then we regarded and treated as points in our cosmological constructions became instantaneous sections of indefinite temporal fibres. To our opened eyes each element of things is henceforth extended backwards (and tends to be continued forwards) as far as the eye can see in such a way that the entire spatial immensity is no more than a section 'at the time t' of a trunk whose roots plunge down into the abyss of an unfathomable past, and whose branches rise up somewhere to a future that, at first sight, has no limit. In this new perspective the world appears like a mass in process of transformation.

A. The Appearance

...the evolution of matter, in current theory, comes back to the gradual building up by growing complication of the various elements recognised by physical chemistry. To being with, at the very bottom there is still an unresolved simplicity, luminous in nature and not to be defined in terms of figures. Then, suddenly(?) came a swarming of elementary corpuscles... (protons, neutrons, electrons, photons)... . Then the harmonic series of simple bodies, strung out from hydrogen to uranium on the notes of the atomic scale. Next follows the immense variety of compound bodies in which the molecular weights go on increasing up to a certain critical value above which, as we shall see, we pass on to life. [...] This fundamental discovery that all bodies owe their origin to arrangements of a single initial corpuscular type is the beacon that lights the history of the universe to our eyes. In its own way, matter has obeyed from the beginning the great law of biology to which we shall have to recur time and time again, the law of 'complexification'.
...must all the elements mount each successive rung of the ladder from the most simple to the most complicated by a kind of onto-or phylo-genesis in order to raise themselves in the series of simple bodies? Or do the atomic numbers only represent a rhyhmic series of states of equilibrium, sets of pigeon-holes, as it were, into which nuclei and electrons fall in rough assemblages? [...]
At the present time we are less well informed about the ascending evolution of atoms... than we are about the previvified and vivified molecules. It is none the less true... that from its most distant formulations matter reveals itself to us in the state of genesis or becoming... . First of all, to begin with a critical phase, that of granulation... . Next, at least from the molecular level, of going on additively by a process of growing complexity.
Everything does not happen continuously at any one moment in the universe. Niether does everything happen everywhere in it.
[...] Historically, the stuff of the universe goes on becoming concentrated into ever more organised forms of matter. But where, then, do these metamorphoses take place, beginning, let us say, with the framework of molecules? [...] ...only in the heart and on the surface of the stars. From having considered the infinitely small elements we are abruptly compelled to raise our eyes to infinitely great sidereal masses. 

[...] ...because of its consequences even up to the genesis of the intellect, we must notice and record the definite connection which, genetically, associates the atom with the stars. [...] ...one thing is certain and is enough to guide our steps along the ways of anthropogenesis. That is that the making of greater material complexes can only take place under cover of a previous concentration of the stuff of the universe in nebula and suns. [...] The stars are laboratories in which the evolution of matter proceeds in the direction of large molecules... .
[...] ...the evolution of matter reveals itself to us... as a process during which the constituents of the atom are inter-combined and ultra-condensed.



On the scientific plane, the quarrel between materialists and the upholders of a spiritual interpretation... still endures. [...]
I am convinced that the two points of view require to be brought into union, and that they soon will unite in a kind of phenomenology or generalised physic in which the internal aspect of things as well as the external aspect of the world will be taken into account. Otherwise, so it seems to me, it is impossible to cover the totality of the cosmic phenomenon by one coherent explanation such as science must try to construct.


If there is one thing that has been clearly brought out by the latest advances in physics [i.e., quantum mechanics], it is that in our experience there are different orders of 'spheres' or 'levels' in the unity of nature, each of them distinguished by the dominance of certain factors which are imperceptible or negligible in a neighbouring sphere or on an adjacent level. [...] By the stands of our human existence ['on the middle scale of our organisms'], the mountains and stars are a model of majestic changelessness. Now we discover that, observed over a sufficiently great duration of time, the earth's crust changes ceaselessly under our feet, while the heavens sweep us along in a cyclone of stars.
In the eyes of the physicist, nothing exists legitimately, at least up to now, except the without of things. The same intellectual attitude... breaks down completely with man, in whom the existence of a within can no longer be evaded, because it is the object of a direct intuition and the substance of all knowledge.
The apparent restriction of the phenomenon of consciousness to the higher forms of life has long served science as an excuse for eliminating it from its models of the universe. A queer exception, an aberrant function, an epiphenomenon-- thought was classed under one or other of these heads in order to get rid of it. But what would have happened to modern physics if radium had been classified as an 'abnormal substance' without further ado? ...consciousness, in order to be integrated into a world-system, necessitates consideration of the existence of a new aspect or dimension in the stuff of the universe. We shrink from the attempt, but which of us does not constantly see identical problems facing research workers, which have to be solved by the same method, namely, to discover the universal hidden beneath the exceptional?
...an irregularity in nature is only the sharp exacerbation, to the point of perceptible disclosure, of a property of things diffused throughout the universe, in a state which eludes our recognition of its presence. Properly observed, even if only in one aspect, a phenomenon necessarily has an omnipresent value and roots by reason of the fundamental unity of the world. Whither does this rule lead us if we apply it to the instance of human 'self-knowledge'?
'Consciousness is only completely recognisable in man' we are tempted to say, 'therefore it is an isolated instance... '.
'There is evidence for the appearance of consciousness in man', we must continue, correcting ourselves, 'therefore, half-seen in this one flash of light, it has a cosmic extension, and as such is surrounded by an aura of indefinite spatial and temporal extensions'.
The conclusion is pregnant with consequences, and yet I cannot see how, by sound analogy with all the rest of science, we can escape from it.
It is impossible to deny that, deep within ourselves, an 'interior' apepars at the heart of beings, as it were seen through a rend. This is enough to ensure that, in one degree or another, this 'interior' should obtrude itself as existing eveywhere in nature from all time. Since the stuff of the universe has an inner aspect at one point of itself, there is necessarily a double aspect to its structure, that is to say in every region of space and time--... : co-extensive with their Without, there is a Within of things.
...primitive matter is something more than the particulate swarming so marvellously analysed by modern physics. Beneath this mechanical layer we must think of a 'biological' layer that is... absolutely necessary to explain the cosmos in succeeding ages. [...]
In a coherent perspective of the world: life inevitably assumes a 'pre-life' for as far back before it as the eye can see [Teilhards note: These pages had been written for some time when I was surprised to find their substance in some masterly lines recently written by J.B.S Haldane:

We do not find obvious evidence of life or mind in so-called inert matter, and we naturally study them most easily where they are most completely manifested; but if the scientific point of view is correct, we shall ultimately find them, at least in rudimentary forms, all through the universe.

And he goes on to add these words which my readers would do well to recall when I come to unveil... the perspective o the 'Omega Point':

Now, if the co-operation of some thousands of millions of cells in our brain can produce our consciousness, the idea becomes vastly more plausible that the co-operation of humanity, or some section of it, may determine what Comte calls a Great Being. (Essay on Science and Ethics in The inequality of Man, Chatto, 1932, p.113).



Whatever instance we may think of, we may be sure that every time a richer and better organized structure will correspond to the more developed consciousness.
The simplest form of protoplasm is already a substance of unheard-of complexity. This complexity increases in geometrical progression as we pass from the protozoon higher and higher up the scale of the metazoa. And so it is for the whole of the remainder always and everywhere.
...a consciousness is that much more perfected according as it lines a richer and better organised material edifice.
Spiritual perfection (or conscious 'centreity') and material synthesis (or complexity) are but the two aspects or connected parts of one and the same phenomenon.
...all the rest of this essay will be nothing but the story of the struggle in the universe between the unified multiple and unorganizsed multitude: the full application of the great Law of complexity and consciousness: a law that itself implies a psychically convergent structure and curvature of the world.


Since the inner face of the world is manifest at the very base of our human understanding, and there reflects upon itself, it would seem that we have only got to look at ourselves in order to understand the dynamic relationships existing between the within and the without of things at a given point in the universe.



Some thousands of millions of years ago... a fragment of mater... was detached from the surface of the sun. Without breaking the bonds attaching it to the rest, and just at the right distance from the mother-star to receive a moderate radiation, this fragment began to condense, to roll itself up, to take shape [authors note: Once again astronomers seem to be returning to a more Laplacean concept of the birth of planets by the effect of knots and bulges in the cloud of cosmic dust originally floating around each star. Editors note: 'protoplanetary disc'].


At the extreme temperatures occurring in the stars, matter can only survive in its most dissociated states. Only simple bodies exist on these incandescent stars. On the earth this simplicity of the elements still obtains at the periphery, in the more or less ionised gases of the atmosphere... and, probably, far below, in the metals of the 'barysphere'. But between these two extremes comes a long series of complex substances, harboured and produced only by stars that have 'gone out'. Arranged in successive zones, they demonstrate from the start the powers of synthesis contained in the universe. FIrst the siliceous zone, preparing the solid crust of the planet. Next the zone of water and carbonic acid, enclosing the silicates in an unstable, mobile and penetrating envelope.
In other words we have the barysphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and stratosphere.

A. The Crystallising World

Silicates, water, carbon dioxide-- these essential oxides were formed by burning up and neutralising... the affinities of their elements. Carrying the scheme progressively further, the result is the rich variety of the 'mineral world'.
But it is a world relatively poor in compounds, because of the narrow limits to the internal architecture of its elements.
[Looking at them 'biologically', because of] their innate structure the molecules are unfitted for growth. To develop beyond a certain size they have in a way to get out of themselves, to have recourse to a trick of association... whereby the atoms are linked together without true combination or union. Sometimes we find them in strings as in jade, sometimes in planes as in mica, and sometimes in a solid quincunx as in garnet.
In this way, by simple juxtaposition of atoms or relatively simple atomic groups in geometrical patterns, regular aggregates may be produced whose level of composition is often very high... ; they are an indefinitely extended mosaic of small elements-- such as we know to be the structure of crystals... . And such is the organisation, simple and stable, which the condensed matter around us has by and large perforce adopted from its origins.
Considered in the mass, the earth is veiled in geometry as far back as we can see. It crystallises.
But not completely.

B. The Polymerising World

In the course and by virtue of the initial advance of the elements on earth towards the crystalline state, energy was constantly released and liberated (just as, today, it is released by mankind as a result of machinery).
[...] When it became too weak to escape in incandescence, the free energy of the new-born earth was compensated by the power of reacting on itself in a work of synthesis. [...] This is the realm of polymerisation [authors note: I trust I shall be forgiven (as later in the case of 'orthogenesis') for using this term in so generalised a sense, i.e., to include (as well as the strict polymerisation of the chemists) the entire process of 'additive complexification' producing large molecules.], in which the particles 'concatenate' and group themselves, as in crystals, in a theoretically endless network. Only, this time it is molecules with molecules in such a way as to form on each occasion... an ever larger and more complex molecule.
This world of 'organic compounds' is ours. We live among them and are made of them. [...] ...despite its incredible wealth of forms, which far surpasses the variety of mineral compounds, it concerns... a tiny part of the substance of the earth... .
If we wish later to fix the place of man in nature, it seems to me essential to restore to this phenomenon its true physiognomy and its 'seniority'.
Whatever the quantitative disproportion of the masses they respectively involve, inorganic and organic chemistry are only and can only be two inseparable facets of one and the same telluric operation. [...]
There is good reason to think that around our nascent planet... there was the outline of a special envelope... : the temperate zone of polymerisation... . To ignore that tenuous film would be to deprive the infant earth of its most essential adornment. For, as we shall see, it is in this that the 'within of the earth' was soon to be gradually concentrated... .


When I speak of the 'within' of the earth, I do not of course mean those material depths... only a few miles beneath our feet... . The 'within' is used here, as in the preceding chapter, to denote the 'psychic' face of that portion of the stuff of the cosmos enclosed from the beginning of time within the narrow scope of the early earth. [...] Matter no longer spreads out beneath our eyes in diffuse and undefinable layers. It coils up round itself in a closed volume. How will its 'inner' layer react to such involution?
First let it be noted that, by the very fact of the individualisation of our planet, a certain mass of elementary consciousness was originally emprisoned in the matter of earth. [...] By its initial chemical composition, the early earth is itself, and in its totality, the incredibly complex germ we are seeking [editors note: recall that the etymology of the English 'matter', or 'matiere' in French, is 'mother'].
...pre-life is no sooner enclosed in the nascent earth than it emerges from the torpor to which it appeared to have been condemned by its diffusion in space. Its activities, hitherto dormant, are now set in motion par passu with the awakening of the forces of synthesis enclosed in matter. And at one and the same stroke, over the whole surface of the new-formed globe, the tension of internal freedom begins to rise.
That which permits the growth of elementary freedom is, essentially, I repeat, the growing synthesis of the molecules they subtend. And let me also repeat that this synthesis itself would never take place if the globe as a whole did not enfold within a closed surface the layers of its substance.
Thus, wherever we look on earth, the growth of the 'within' only takes place thanks to a doubly related involution, the coiling up of the molecule upon itself and the coiling up of the planet upon itself [authors note: Precisely the conditions we find later on, at the other end of evolution, presiding over the genesis of the 'noosphere'.].
By the very mechanism of its birth, the film in which the 'within' of the earth was concentrated and deepened emerges under our eyes in the form of an organic whole in which no element can any longer be separated from those surrounding it. Another 'indivisible' has appeared at the heart of the great 'indivisible' which is the universe. In truth, a pre-biosphere.
And this brings us to the envelope which, taken in its entirety, is to be our sole preoccupation from now on.
As we continue peering into the abyss of the past, we can see the colour changing.
From age to age it increases in intensity. Something is going to burst out upon the early earth, and this thing is Life.





...that each new being has and must have a cosmic embryogenesis in no way invalidates the reality of its historic birth.
Through a duration to which we can give no definite measure but know to be immense, the earth, cool enough now to allow the formation on its surface of the chains of molecules of the carbon type, was probably covered by a layer of water... . [...]
Then at a given moment, after a sufficient lapse of time, those same waters here and there must... have begun writhing with minute creatures. And from that initial proliferation stemmed the amazing profusion of organic matter whose matted complexity came to form the last... of the envelopes of our planet: the biosphere.


The cell is the natural granule of life in the same way as the atom is the natural granule of simple, elemental matter.
Marvellous as it is... the cell, like everything else in the world, cannot be understood... unless we situate it on an evolutionary line between a past and a future. [...] It is on its origins, that is to say on its roots in the inorganic, that we must now focus our research if we want to grasp the essence of its novelty.

A. Micro-organisms and Mega-molecules

Without exaggeration it may be said that just as man, seen in terms of paleontology, merges anatomically with the mass of mammals that preceded him, so, probing backwards, we see the cell merging qualitatively and quantitatively with the world of chemical structures. Followed in a backwards direction, it visibly converges towards the molecule.
...advances in biochemistry are beginning to establish the reality of molecular aggregates whcih really do appear to reduce to measurable proportions the gaping void hitherto supposed to exist between protoplasm and mineral matter [editors note: 'macromolecules']. ...the molecular weights of some of the natural proteinous substances (such as the viruses so mysteriously associated with the zymotic diseases in plants and animals)  may well be in terms of millions. Much smaller than any bacteria... the particles forming these substances are none the less colossal compared with the molecules normally dealt with in organic chemistry. [...]
Thanks to the discovery of these giant corpuscles the foreseen existence of intermediate states between the microscopic living world and the ultra-microscopic 'inanimate' one has now passed into the field of direct experimentation.
So... in accordance with our theoretical anticipation of the reality of a pre-life, some natural function really does link the mega-molecular to the micro-organic both in the sequence of their appearance and in their present existence.

B. A Forgotten Era

In the constellation of species, everything which exists and the place which it occupies implies a certain past, a certain genesis. In particular every time the zoologist meets a more primitive type than those he is familiar with (take the amphioxus, for example) the result is not merely to extend by one more unit the range of animal forms: no, a discovery of that sort ipso facto implies a stage, a verticil, another ring on the tree-trunk of evolution.
Thus, between our cellular zone and our molecular zone... another, the mega-molecular zone, has now insinuated itself. [...] Another circle on the trunk of the tree means another interval of time in the life of the universe.
Naturally we are not yet in a position to say anything definite concerning the length of time required for the establishment of the mega-molecular world. [...]
In the first place, it must have been narrowly dependent on the general conditions, chemical and thermal, prevailing on the surface of the planet.

C. The Cellular Revolution

From an external point of view... the essential originality of the cell seems to have been the discovery of a new method of agglomerating a still larger amount of matter in a single unit.
Chemistry teaches us that the cellular edifice is based on albuminoids, introgenous organic substances (amino acids) of enormous molecular weight (up to 10,000 and over). In combination with fats, water, phosphorus, and all sorts of mineral salts (potassium, sodium, magnesium, and various metallic compounds) these albuminoids constitute a 'protoplasm', a sponge made up of innumerable partciles in whcih come appreciably into play the forces of viscosity, osmosis, and catalysis which charaacterise matter when molecular groupings have reached an advanced stage. And that is not all. In the centre of this agglomeration a nucleus containing 'chromosomes' may generally be seen against the background of the surrounding 'cytoplasm', perhaps itself composed of fine rods or filaments ('mitochondria'). With the increased powers of the microscope and advances in the use of stains, new structural elements continue to appear in the complex...  .
We are right to look on them [cells] as the first of living forms. But are we not equally entitled to view them as the representatives of another state of matter, something as original in its way as the electronic, the atomic, the crystalline, or the polymerous? As a new type of material for a new stage of the universe?
In this cell... what we have is really the stuff of the universe reappearing once again with all its characteristics-- only this time it has reached a higher rung of complexity and thus, by the same stroke... , advanced still further in interiority, i.e., in consciousness.
It is generally accepted that we must assume psychic life to 'begin' in the world with the first apperance of organised life, in other words, of the cell. I am thus at once with current views and ways of stating them when I assume a decisive step in the progress of consciousness on earth to have take place at this particular stage of evolution.
Given that a sort of rudimentary consciousness precedes the emergence of life, I would say it must even be true (above all be true) that such an awakening or jump (i) could, or, better, (ii) was bound to, happen, and hence (iii) we have a partial explanation for one of the most extraordinary renewals which the face of the earth has undergone historically.
And now... let us look once again at the astounding spectacle displayed by the definitive budding of life on the surface of the early earth; at the thrust forward in spontaneity; at the luxuriant unleashing of fanciful creations; at the unrbidled expansion and the leap into the improbable. Surely the explosion of internal energy consequent upon and proportioned to a fundamental super-organisation of matter is precisely the event which our theory could have led us to expect.
...an essentially new type of corpuscular grouping, allowing the more supple and better centred organisation of an unlimited number of substances at all degrees of particulate magnitude, involves a double and radical metamorphosis (in regard to what is specifically original in it) in terms of which we can reasonably define the critical passage from the molecule to the cell-- the transit to life.


Because the apparition of the cell was an event which took place on the frontiers of the infinitesimal, and because the elements involved were delicate in the extreme, now absorbed in sediments transformed long ago, there is no chance, as I have said already, of our ever finding traces of it. [...]
Fortunately there are a number of different ways in which our minds can reach reality.

A. The Milieu

It was in... a liquid, heavy and active-- at all events it was inevitably in a liquid environment-- that the first cells must have formed.
At this distance of time their form can only be vaguely surmised. By analogy with what we must assume to be their least altered traces today, the best we can do is to imagine this primordial generation in terms of granules of protoplasm, with or without an individually differentiated nucleus. But if the outline and individual structure remain inscrutable, certain characteristics of another order stand out sharply... . I am referring to their incredible smallness and-- natural consequence-- their bewildering number.

B. Smallness and Number

Measurable only in terms of microns, the first cells must have been numbered by the myriad. Hence as we get as near as we can to the threshold of life, it manifests itself to us simultaneously as microscopic and innumerable.
[...] Surely it is natural that life, as it just emerges from matter, should be 'dripping with molecularity'.

C. The Origin of Number

From our standpoint it may be said that life no sooner started than it swarmed
...the first cells multiplied almost instantaneously-- as crystallisation spreads in a super-saturated solution. For surely the early earth was in a state of biological super-tension.
[...] However slender we may suppose it, the initial peduncle of terrestrial life must have contained an appreciable number of fibres rooted in the enormity of the molecular world.  [...]
From whatever angle we look at it, the nascent cellular world shows itself to be already infinitely complex. Either on account of its multiple origin, or because of its rapid variegation from a very few points of emergence, or again, we must add, because of regional differences (climatic or chemical)..., we are led to envisage life on the protocellular level as an enormous bundle of polymorphous fibres.

D. Inter-relationship and Shape

However tenuous it was, the first veil of organised matter spread over the earth could neither have established nor maintained itself without some network of influences and exchanges which made it a biologically cohesive whole. From its origin, the cellular nebula necessarily represented, despite its internal multiplicity, a sort of diffuse super-organism. Not merely a foam of lives but, to a certain extent, itself a living film. A simple reappearance, after all, in more advanced form and on a higher level of those much older conditions which we have already seen presiding over the birth and equilibrium of the first polymerised substances on the surface of the early earth. A simple prelude, too, to the much more advanced evolutionary solidarity, so marked in the higher forms of life, whose existence obliges us increasingly to admit the strictly organic nature of the links which unite them in a single whole at the heart of the biosphere.


It would be quite conceivable a priori that the mysterious transformation of mega-molecules into cells, accomplished millions of years ago, might still, unnoticed, be going on around us at the extreme limits of the microscopic and the infinitesimal. [...] Nor has the organic world ceased to produce new buds at the tips of its countless branches. [...]
From the fact that, in the laboratory, life never appears in a medium from which all germs have previuosly been eliminated, it would be a mistake to deduce... that the phenomenon may not have happened under other conditions in other ages. Pasteur's experiments could not and cannot now in any way disprove the birth of cells on our planet in the past.
...it is not astonishing that we should live in the illusion that nothing happens any more. Matter seems dead. But could not the next pulsation be slowly preparing around us?
...all around us, deeper than any pulsation that could be expressed in geological eras, we must suppose there to be a total process... defining the total evolution of the planet... . An ever-ascending curve, the points of transformation of which are never repeated; a constantly rising tide below the rhythmic tides of the ages-- it is on this essential curve... that the phenomenon of life, as I see things, must be situated.
From this point of view... the 'cellular revolution' would now be seen as a critical singular point, an unparalleled moment on the curve of telluric evolution, the point of germination.
Life was born and propagates itself on the earth as a solitary pulsation.
It is the propagation of that unique wave that we must now follow, right up to man and if possible beyond him.




A. Reproduction

At the base of the entire process whereby the envelope of the biosphere spreads its web over the face of the earth stands the mechanism of reproduction which is typical of life.

B. Multiplication

The more the phenomenon of cellular division spreads, the more it gains in virulence. Once fission has started, nothing from within can arrest its devouring and creative conflagration... .

C. Renovation

At the same time, however, it transforms what was only intended to be prolonged. [...] The process is one of pluralisation in form as well as in number. The elemental ripple of life that emerges from each individual unity... is diffracted and becomes iridescent, with an indefinite scale of variegated tonalities. The living unit is a centre of irresistible multiplication, and ipso facto an equally irresistible focus of diversification.

E. Association

At the bottom we find the simple aggregate, as in bacteria and the lower fungi. One stage higher comes the colony of attached cells, not yet centralised, though distinct specialisation has begun, as with the higher vegetable forms and the bryozoa. Higher still is the metazoan cell of cells, in which by a prodigious critical transformation an autonomous centre is established (as though by excessive shrinking) over the organised group of living particles. and still frather on, to round off the list, at the present limit of our experience and of life's experiments, comes society-- that mysterious association of free metazoans in which... the formation of hyper-complex units by 'mega-synthesis' seems to be being attempted.
...the self-organising effort of matter culminates in society as capable of reflection.

F. Controlled Additivity

Reproduction, conjugation, association... No matter how far they are extended, these various activities of the cell in themselves only lead to a surface deployment of the organisms. If it had been left to their resources along... it would have been like an aeroplane which can taxi but not become airborne. It would never have taken off.
It is at this point that the phenomenon of additivity intervenes and acts as a vertical component.
[...] This law of controlled complication, the mature stage of the process in which we get first the micro-molecule then the mega-molecule and finally the first cells, is known to biologists as orthogenesis [authors note: On the pretext of its being used in various questionable or restricted senses, or of its having a metaphysical flavour, some biologists would like to suppress the word 'orthogenesis'. But my considered opinion is that thw rod is essential and indispensable for singling out and affirming the manifest property of living matter to form a system in which 'terms succeed each other experimentally, following the constantly increasing values of centro-complexity'.]
[...] The word conceals deep and real springs of cosmic extent. [...] Thanks to its characteristic additive power, living matter (unlike the matter of the physicists) finds itself 'ballasted' with complications and instability. It falls, or rather rises, towards forms that are more and more improbable.
Without orthogenesis life would only have spread; with it there is an ascent of life that is invincible.

A Corollary: The Ways of Life

Once more, this time on the plane of animate particles, ...we find the fundamental technique of groping... . Groping is directed chance. [...] Next comes ingenuity. This is... the constructive facet, of additivity.
Groping profusion; constructive ingenuity; indifference towards whatever is not future and totality;-- these are the three headings under which life rises up by virtue of its elementary mechanisms. There is also a fourth heading which embraces them all-- that of global unity.
[...] Though the proliferations of living matter are vast and manifold, they never lose their solidarity. A continuous adjustment co-adapts them from without. A profound equilibrium gives them balance within. Taken in its totality, the living substance spread over the earth-- from the very first stages of its evolution-- traces the lineaments of one single and gigantic organism.
I repeat this same thing like a refrain on every rung of the ladder that leads to man; for, if this thing is forgotten, nothing can be understood.
To see life properly we must never lose sight of the unity of the biosphere that lies beyond the plurality and essential rivalry of individual beings. This unity was still diffuse in the early stages-- a unity in origin, framework and dispersed impetus rather than in ordered grouping; yet a unity which, together with life's ascent, was to grow ever sharper in outline, to fold in upon itself, and, finally, to centre itself under our eyes.


A. Aggregates of Growth

From this element, taken as centre, we have seen different lines radiating orthogenetically, each recognisable by the accentuation of certain characters. By their construction these lines diverge and tend to separate. Yet, so far, we have no reason to suppose that they may not meet with other lines radiating from neighbouring elements, become enmeshed with them and so form an impenetrable network.
[...] ...the fibres of a living mass in the process of diversification tend to draw together, to bind, following a restricted number of dominant directions. [...] ...having reached a certain degree of mutual cohension, the lines isolate themselves in a closed sheaf that can no longer be penetrated by neighbouring sheaves. From now on, their association, the 'bundle', will evolve on its own, autonomously. The species has become individualised. The phylum has been born.
The phylum. The living 'bundle'; the line of lines.
[...] There are simple phyla and phyla composed of phyla. Phyletic unity is not so much quantitative as structural; so we must be ready to recognise it on every scale of dimension.
...the phylum has a dynamic nature. It only comes properly into view at a certain depth of duration, in other words only in movement. When immobilised in time, it loses its features and, as it were, its soul. Its motion is killed by a 'still'.
Considered without these provisos, the phylum might well be thought to be just one more artificial entity carved for classification purposes out of the continuum of life. But looked at in proper magnification and light, it can be seen to be a perfectly defined structural reality.
What defines the phylum in the first place is its 'initial angle of divergence', that is to say the particular direction in which it groups itself and evolves as it separates off from neighbouring forms.
...what serves not only to define the phylum, but also to classify it without ambiguity as one of the natural units of the world, is 'its power and singular law of autonomous development'. If we say that it behaves 'like a living thing' this is no mere figure of speech, though it does so in its own way; it grows and flourishes.

B. The Flourishing of Maturity

...the development of a phylum is strangely parallel to the successive
stages undergone by an invention made by man. We know those stages well from having seen them for about a century constantly around us. Roughly the idea first takes the shape of a theory or a provisional mechanism. Then follows a period of rapid modifications. The rough model is continually touched up and adjusted until it is practically completed. On the attainment of this stage; the new creation enters its phase of expansion and equilibrium. As regards quality, it now only undergoes minor changes; it has reached its ceiling, but quantitatively it spreads out and reaches full consistence. It is the same story with all modern inventions, from the bicycle to the aeroplane, from photography to the cinema and radio. In just this way, the naturalist sees the curve of growth followed by the branches of life. At the outset, the phylum corresponds to the 'discovery', by groping, of a new type of organism that is both viable and advantageous. But this new type will not attain its most economical or efficient form all at once.
In one way or another it splits up along the whole front of its expansion. It subdivides qualitatively at the same time as it spreads quantitatively. [...]
The final picture generally presented by a phylum in full bloom is that of a verticil of consolidated forms.
Once it has achieved this last progress in consolidating and individualising the extremities of its ramification, the phylum can be said to have attained its full maturity.
...the formation of a verticil is explained in the first place by the phylum's need to pluralise itself in order to cope with a variety of different needs or possibilities. [...] The concept of fanning out applied to the phylum involves a forest of exploring antennae.

C. Effects of Distance

For the process to be seen as it really is, we should require a terrestrial witness simultaneously present through the whole of duration, and the very diea of such a witness is monstrous. In reality, the ascent of life can only be apprehended by us from the standpoint of a short instant, that is through an immense layer of lapsed time. What is granted to our experience and which subsequently constitutes the 'phenomenon' is thus not the evolutionary movement in itself; it is this movement corrected according to its alteration by the effects of distance. How can this alteration be expressed? Quite simply through the accentuation (rapidly increasing with the distance) of the fan-structure deriving from the phyletic radiations of life.
Only an infinitesimal number of the organisms that have grown successively on the tree of life exist for us to inspect today.

Nothing is so delicate and fugitive by its very nature as a beginning.
Beginnings have an irritating but essential fragility, and one that should be taken to heart by all who occupy themselves with history.
[...] In biology, in civilisation, in linguistics, as in all things, time, like a draughtsman with an eraser, rubs out every weak line in the drawing of life. [...] Except for the fixed maxima, the consolidated achievements, nothing, neither trace nor testimony, subsists of what has gone before. [...]
With that understood, there is nothing surprising in our finding, when we look back, that everything seems to have burst into the world read made [authors note: If our machines (cars, planes, etc.) were swallowed up in some cataclusm and 'fossilised', future geologists, finding them, would get the same impression as we get from the pterodactyl. Represented only by the latest makes, these products of our invention would seem to them to have been created without any previous evolutionary groping-- invented and 'fixed' simultaneously.]


A. The Main Lines

The development of the Tetrapods in Grades (Birds omitted).
The figures on the left are millions of years.

[Note: maybe fill in this gap a little, before p. 130]

...when we go back towards its origins, the immense and complicated ramification of the walking vertebrates folds back and closes in upon itself in a single stem.
As we go back, the vertebrates appear less and less ossified internally.
With the vertebrate branch we have, within the biosphere, the greatest definite group known to systemic biology.
There seems no reason to doubt that in the abysses of time these various lines [of the phylum] converge towards some common pole of dispersion.
...the roots of the tree of life are lost to view in the unknowable world of soft-tissue and the metamorphosis of primeval slime.

B. The Dimensions

...having sketched, for what it is worth, the expansion of life, it is incumbent on us to restore to the elements of our diagram their true dimensions, in number, in volume and in duration.
Anyone who wishes to think in terms of evolution, or write about it, should start off by wandering through one of those great museums-- there are four or five in the world-- in which (at the cost of efforts whose heroism and spiritual value will one day be understood) a host of travellers has succeeded in concentrating in a handful of rooms the entire spectrum of life. There, without bothering about names, let him surrender himself to what he sees around him, and become impregnated by it... . [...] And for each word, which brings to our minds a dozen manageable forms, what multiplicity, what impetus, what effervescence! And to think that all we see are merely the survivors! What would it be like if all the others were there too? In every epoch of the earth, on every level of evolution, other museums would have displayed the same teeming luxuriance. Added together, the hundreds of thousands of names in our catalogues do not amount to one millionth of the leaves that have sprouted so far on the tree of life.
Looking at it, we may well receive an initial shock-- the sort of shock we get when an astronomer speaks of our solar system as a simple star, of all our stars as a single Milky Way, and of our Milky Way as a mere atom among other galaxies [Editors note: these lines were probably written within a decade of Hubble's discovery of 'intergalactic distance' and the birth of a galacto-centric astronomy].
If it takes five thousand years for a mere sequoia to reach its full growth (and no one yet has seen one die a natural death) what can be the total age of the tree of life? [Editors note: recent discoveries of microbial life in the 'deep biosphere' (kilometers under the earths surfaces) measure there life cycles in geological periods of time, their metabolic activity is so slow that it seems to congeal into immobility].

C. The Evidence

Now we can see the tree of life standing before us. [...] A clearly drawn tree... with its superimposed foliage of living species. In its main lines and vast dimensions, its stands there before us covering all the earth.
To provide anthropogenesis with a natural framework and man with a cradle... one thing, and one thing only, is necessary. Namely that the general phylogenesis of life (whatever the process and springboard of it may be) should be as clearly recognisable as the individual orthogenesis through which we see without the least astonishment every living creature pass.
Under our efforts at analysis life sheds its husk. It breaks down to an infinite degree into an anatomically and physiologically coherent system of overlapping fans. [...] ...the whole assemblage, animal and vegetable, forming by association one single gigantic biota, rooted perhaps, like a simple stem, in some verticil steeped in the depths of the mega-molecular world. Life would thus be a simple branch based on something else.
...we can go on for years arguing about the way in which the enormous organism could have come into being. As we look closer at the bewildering complexity of the mechanism, our brains begin to reel. How are we to reconcile this persistent growth with the determinism of the molecules, the blind play of the chromosomes, the apparent incapacity to transmit individual acquisitions by generation? [...] Though we take it apart, we still cannot understand how the machine works. This may well be, but the machine is meanwhile standing in front of us; and it works all the same. [...]Like all things in a universe in which time is definitely established as a fourth dimension, life is, and only can be, a reality of evolutionary nature and dimension.



By a continuous accumulation of properties (whatever the exact hereditary mechanism involved) life acts like a snowball. It piles characters upon characters in its protoplasm. It becomes more and more complex. [...]That there is an evolution of one sort or another is now, as I have said, common ground among scientists. Whether or not that evolution is directed is another question. Asked whether life is going anywhere at the end of its transformations, nine biologists out of ten will today say no, even passionately.

Science in its development—and even, as I shall show, mankind in its march—is marking time at this moment, because men’s minds are reluctant to recognise that evolution has a precise orientation and a privileged axis. [...]
Leaving aside all anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism, I believe I can see a direction and a line of progress for life, a line and a direction which are in fact so well marked that I am convinced their reality will be universally admitted by the science of tomorrow.


as we are dealing here with degrees of organic complication, let us try to find an order in the complexity.
Contemplated without any guiding thread, it must be recognised that the host of living creatures forms qualitatively an inextricable labyrinth. What is happening, where are we going through this monotonous succession of ramifications? [...]
There are so many different ways in which an animal can become less simple—differentiation of limbs, of tissues, of sensory organs, of integument. According to the point of view adopted, all sorts of distributions are possible. In these multiple combinations, is there really one which can be said to be truer than the others? Is there one, that is to say, which gives to the whole of living things a more satisfying coherence, either in relation to itself, or in relation to the world... ?
To answer this question, I think we had better go back to what I said above about the mutual relations between the without and the within of things. [...] In that case evolution would fundamentally be nothing else than the continual growth of this ‘psychic’ or ‘radial’ energy, in the course of duration, beneath and within the mechanical energy I called ‘tangential,’... . And what, I asked, is the particular co-efficient which empirically expresses the relationship between the radial and tangential energies of the world in the course of their respective developments? Obviously arrangement, the arrangement whose successive advances are inwardly reinforced, as we can see, by a continual expansion and deepening of consciousness. 
[...] ...let us just try to see whether, amongst all the combinations tried out by life, some are not organically associated with a positive variation in the psychism of those beings which posses it. [...] We have merely to look into ourselves to perceive it-- the nervous system. [...] So let us attempt to classify living beings by their degree of 'cerebralisation'. [...]
To begin with, let us turn to that part of the tree of life we know best, partly because it is still full of vitality and partly because we belong to it ourselves—the Chordate branch. In this group an outstanding characteristic is apparent, one which has for long been emphasised in palaeontology. It is that we find from layer to layer, by massive leaps, the nervous system continually developing and concentrating.

In general it may be said that, taking any offshoot from any verticil, it is only rarely that we find that (provided it is long enough) it does not lead in time to more and more ‘cerebralised’ forms.
Taking another branch, the arthropods and the insects, we find the same phenomenon. [...] From group to group and age to age, these forms, psychologically so far removed, display, like ourselves, the influence of cerebralisation. The nerve ganglions concentrate; they become localised and grow forward in the head.

I have said enough, however, to show how easily the skein is disentangled once we have found the end. For obvious reasons of convenience, naturalists setting out to classify organic forms have been led to make use of certain variations of ornament, for instance, or functional modifications of the skeleton. Guided by orthogenesis affecting the coloration and nervation of wings, the disposition of limbs, or the shape of teeth, their classification sorts out the fragments or even the skeleton of a structure in the living world. But because the lines thus traced correspond only to the secondary harmonics of evolution, the system as a whole has neither shape nor movement. On the other hand, from the moment that the measure (or parameter) of the evolving phenomenon is sought in the elaboration of the nervous systems, not only do the countless genera and species fall naturally into place, but the entire network of their verticils, their layers, their branches, rises up like a quivering spray of foliage. Not only does the arrangement of animal forms according to their degree of cerebralisation correspond exactly to the classification of systematic biology, but it also confers on the tree of life a sharpness of feature, an impetus, which is incontestably the hall-mark of truth. Such coherence—and, let me add, such ease, inexhaustible fidelity and evocative power in this coherence—could not be the result of chance.
Among the infinite modalities in which the complication of life is dispersed, the differentiation of nervous tissue stands out, as theory would lead us to expect, as a significant transformation. It provides a direction; and therefore it proves that evolution has a direction.
[...] ...the brain is continually perfecting itself with time, so much so that a given quality of brain appears essentially linked with a given phase of duration.
Since, in its totality and throughout the length of each stem, the natural history of living creatures amounts on the exterior to the gradual establishment of a vast nervous system, it therefore corresponds on the interior to the installation of a psychic state coextensive with the earth. On the surface, we find the nerve fibres and ganglions; deep down, consciousness. We were only looking for a simple rule to sort out the tangle of appearances. And now (entirely in keeping with our initial anticipations on the ultimately psychic nature of evolution) we possess a fundamental variable capable of following in the past, and perhaps defining in the future, the true curve of the phenomenon.


what is brought to light by this simple change of variable is the place occupied by the development of life in the general history of our planet.[...] The earth, we said, should be regarded as the seat of a certain global and irreversible evolution, much more important for scientists to consider than any superficial oscillations. We said, moreover, that the primordial emergence of organised matter marked a critical point on the curve of this evolution.
After that the phenomenon seemed to become lost in the multitude of ramifications, to the point that we almost forgot it. But now we see it emerging again, on the tide, with the tide (duly recorded by the nervous systems), whose flood carries the evolving mass ever onward towards more consciousness This is the great primeval movement reappearing, whose sequel we now grasp.
[...] The axis of geogenesis is now extended in biogenesis [editors note: de Chardin uses biogenesis here in much the same way as we would use 'abiogenesis' today], which in the end will express itself in psychogenesis.
We see life at the head, with all physics subordinate to it. And at the heart of life, explaining its progression, the impetus of a rise of consciousness.
b. The impetus of Life. This is a question hotly debated by naturalists ever since the understanding of nature has been hinged on the understanding of evolution. Faithful to their analytical and determinist methods, biologists persist in looking for the principle of vital developments in external stimuli or in statistics: the struggle for survival, natural selection and so on.

Beneath the ‘tangential’ we find the ‘radial.’ The impetus of the world, glimpsed in the great drive of consciousness, can only have its ultimate source in some inner principle, which alone could explain its irreversible advance toward higher psychisms.
How can life respect determinism on the without and yet act in freedom within?

It is one thing to notice that in a given line in the animal kingdom limbs become solipedal or teeth carnivorous, and quite another to guess how this tendency was produced.
According to current thought, an animal develops its carnivorous instincts because its molars become cutting and its claws sharp. Should we not turn the proposition around?
The number of bones, shape of teeth, ornamentation of the integument—all these ‘visible characters’ form merely the outward garment round something deeper which supports it. [...]To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh and bone. From the biosphere to the species is nothing but an immense ramification of psychism seeking for itself through different forms. That is where Ariadne’s thread leads us if we follow it to the end.

Now that, beneath the historically increasing intricacy of forms and organs, we have discovered the irreversible increase, not only in quantity but also in quality, of brains (and therefore consciousness) we are forced to realise that an event of another order—a metamorphosis—was inevitably awaited to wind up this long period of synthesis in the course of geological time.
We must now turn our attention to the first symptoms of this great terrestrial phenomenon which ends up in man.


Let us return to the wave of life in movement where we left it, i.e. at the expansion of the mammals or, to situate ourselves concretely in duration, let us go back to the world as we can imagine it towards the end of the Tertiary period.
In short, the landscape is not too dissimilar from that which we are today seeking to preserve in National Parks—on the Zambesi, in the Congo, or in Arizona. Except for a few lingering archaic forms, so familiar is this scene that we have to make an effort to realise that nowhere is there so much as a wisp of smoke rising from camp or village.
It is a period of calm profusion. The mammalian layer has spread out. Yet evolution cannot be stopped. Something, somewhere, is unquestionably accumulating and ready to rise up for another forward leap. But what? And where?
To detect what at this moment is maturing in the womb of the universal mother, let us make use of the index which we have henceforward at our disposal. Life is the rise of consciousness, we have agreed. If it is to progress still further it can only be because, here and there, the internal energy is secretly rising up under the mantle of the flowering earth.
Specialisation paralyses, ultra-specialisation kills. Palaeontology is littered with such catastrophes.

What makes the primates so interesting and important to biology is, in the first place, that they represent a phylum of pure and direct cerebralisation. [...] Pari Passu with their psychical development, horse, stag and tiger became, like the insect, to some extent prisoners of the instruments of their swift-moving or predatory ways. For that is what their limbs and teeth had become. In the case of the primates, on the other hand, evolution went straight to work on the brain, neglecting everything else, which accordingly remained malleable. That is why they are at the head of the upward and onward march towards greater consciousness. In this singular and privileged case, the particular orthogenesis of the phylum happened to coincide exactly with the principal orthogenesis of life itself: following Osborn’s term which I shall borrow while changing it’s sense, it is ‘aristogenesis'-- and thus unlimited.
Hence this first conclusion that if the mammals form a dominant branch, the dominant branch of the tree of life, the primates (i.e. the cerebro-manuals) are its leading shoot, and the anthropoids are the bud in which this shoot ends up.
Thenceforward, it may be added, it is easy to decide where to look in all the biosphere to see signs of what is to be expected. We already knew that everywhere the active phyletic lines grow warm with consciousness towards the summit. But in one well-marked region at the heart of the mammals, where the most powerful brains ever made by nature are to be found, they become red hot. And right at the heart of that glob burns a point of incandescence.
We must not lose sight of that line crimsoned by the dawn. After thousands of years rising below the horizon, a flame bursts forth at a strictly localised point.
Thought is born.





From a purely positivist point of view man is the most mysterious and disconcerting of all the objects met with by science. In fact we may as well admit that science has not yet found a place for him in its representations of the universe.

[...]Between the last strata of the Pliocene period, in which man is absent, and the next, in which the geologist is dumbfounded to find the first chipped flints, what has happened? And what is the true measure of this leap?


A. The Threshold of the Element: the Hominisation of the Individual

Biologists are not yet agreed on whether or not there is a direction (still less a definite axis) of evolution... .

reflection is, as the word indicates, the power acquired by a consciousness to turn in upon itself, to take possession of itself as of an object endowed with its own particular consistence and value: no longer merely to know, but to know oneself; no longer merely to know, but to know that one knows. By this individualisation of itself in the depths of itself, the living element, which heretofore had been spread out and divided over a diffuse circle of perceptions and activities, was constituted for the first time as a centre in the form of a point at which all the impressions and experiences knit themselves together and fuse into a unity that is conscious of its own organisation.
The being who is the object of its own reflection, in consequence of that very doubling back upon itself, becomes in a flash able to raise itself into a new sphere. In reality, another world is born. Abstraction, logic, reasoned choice and inventions, mathematics, art, calculation of space and time, anxieties and dreams of love—all these activities of inner life are nothing else than the effervescence of the newly-formed centre as it explodes onto itself.
[...] It is not a matter of change of degree, but of a change of nature, resulting from a change of state.
[...] Life, being an ascent of consciousness, could not continue to advance indefinitely along its line without transforming itself in depth.

By the end of the Tertiary era, the psychical temperature in the cellular world had been rising for more than 500 million years. From branch to branch, from layer to layer, we have seen how nervous systems followed pari passu the process of increased complication and concentration. Finally, with the primates, an instrument was fashioned so remarkably supple and rich that the step immediately following could not take place without the whole animal psychism being as it were recast and consolidated on itself. Now this movement did not stop, for there was nothing in the structure of the organism to prevent it advancing. When the anthropoid, so to speak, had been brought ‘mentally’ to boiling point some further calories were added. Or, when the anthropoid had almost reached the summit of the cone, a final effort took place along the axis. No more was needed for the whole inner equilibrium to be upset. What was previously only a centred surface became a centre. By a tiny ‘tangential’ increase, the ‘radial’ was turned back on itself and so to speak took an infinite leap forward. Outwardly, almost nothing in the organs had changed. But in depth, a great revolution had taken place: consciousness was now leaping and boiling in a space of super-sensory relationships and representations; and simultaneously consciousness was capable of perceiving itself in the concentrated simplicity of its faculties. And all this happened for the first time.Those who adopt the spiritual explanation are right when they defend so vehemently a certain transcendence of man over the rest of nature. But neither are the materialists wrong when they maintain that man is just one further term in a series of animal forms. [...] From the cell to the thinking animal, as from the atom to the cell, a single process (a psychical kindling or concentration) goes on without interruption and always in the same direction.
...to culminate in man at the stage of reflection, life must have been preparing a whole group of factors for a long time and simultaneously... .
[...] Life does not work by following a single thread, nor yet by fits and starts. It pushes forward its whole network at one and the same time. [...] ...the birth of intelligence corresponds to a turning in upon itself, not only of the nervous system, but of the whole being.
the access to thought represents a threshold which had to be crossed at a single stride; a ‘trans-experimental’ interval about which scientifically we can say nothing, but beyond which we find ourselves transported onto an entirely new biological plane.
A moment ago we compared the simplicity of the thinking mind with that of a geometrical point. It would have been better to speak of a line or an axis. [...] It centres itself further on itself by penetration into a new space, and at the same time it centres the rest of the world around itself by the establishment of an ever more coherent and better organised perspective in the realities which surround it.
Caught up in the chain of succeeding generations, the animal seemed to lack the right to live; it appeared to have no value for itself. It was a fugitive foothold for a process which passed over it and ignored it. Life... was more real than living things.
With the advent of the power of reflection... everything is changed, and we now perceive that under the more striking reality of the collective transformations a secret progress has been going on parallel to individualisation. [...] The animal grew in relation to the species. [...] The cell has become 'someone'.
Above the point of reflection, does the whole interest of evolution shift, passing from life into a plurality of isolated living beings?
Nothing of the sort.

Only, from this crucial date the global spurt, without slackening in the slightest, has acquired another degree, another order of complexity. The phylum does not break like a fragile jet just because henceforward it is fraught with thinking centres; it does not crumble into its elementary psychisms. On the contrary it is reinforced by an inner lining, an additional framework. Until now it was enough to consider in nature a simple vibration on a wide front, the ascent of individual centres of consciousness. What we now have to do is to define and regulate harmoniously an ascent of consciousnesses (a much more delicate phenomenon). We are dealing with a progress made up of other progresses as lasting as itself; a movement of movements.
Let us try to lift our minds high enough to dominate the problem.

B. The Threshold of the Phylum: the Hominisation of the Species

to all appearances, propagation, multiplication and ramification went on in man, as in other animals, after the threshold of thought, as busily as before. Nothing, one might think, had altered in the current. But the water in it was no longer the same. Like a river enriched by contact with an alluvial plain, the vital flux, as it crossed the stages of reflection, was charged with new principles, and as a result manifested new activities.
rises through living beings: that was about all we were able to say. But from the moment the threshold of thought is crossed its progress becomes easier to unravel; for life has not only reached the rung on which we ourselves stand, but begins to overflow freely by its free activity beyond the boundary within which it had been confined by the exigences of physiology. The message is more clearly written, and we are better able to follow it, because we recognise ourselves in it. [...]
I referred to the unparalleled complexity of the human group—all those races, those nations, those states whose entanglements defy the resourcefulness of anatomists and ethnologists alike. There are so many rays in that spectrum that we despair of analysing them. Let us try instead to perceive what this multiplicity represents when viewed as a whole. If we do this we will see that its disturbing aggregation is nothing but a multitude of sequins all sending back to each other by reflection the same light. We find hundreds or thousands of facets, each expressing at a different angle a reality which seeks itself among a world of groping forms. We are not astonished (because it happens to us) to see in each person around us the spark of reflection developing year by year. We are all conscious, too, at all events vaguely, that something in our atmosphere is changing with the course of history. If we add these two pieces of evidence together (and rectify certain exaggerated views on the purely ‘germinal’ and passive nature of heredity), how is it that we are not more sensitive to the presence of something greater than ourselves moving forward within us and in our midst?

C. The Threshold of the Terrestrial Planet: the Noosphere

The biological change of state terminating in the awakening of thought does not represent merely a critical point that the individual or even the species must pass through. Vaster than that, it affects life itself in its organic totality, and consequently it marks a transformation affecting the state of the entire planet.
We have been following the successive stages of the same grand progression from the fluid contours of the early earth. Beneath the pulsations of geo-chemistry, of geo-tectonics and of geo-biology, we have detected one and the same fundamental process, always recognisable—the one which was given material form in the first cells and was continued in the construction of nervous systems. We saw geogenesis promoted to biogenesis, which turned out in the end to be nothing else than psychogenesis.
Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it effaces itself, relieved or absorbed by another and a higher function—the engendering and subsequent development of the mind, in one word noögenesis.
As regards our understanding of the earth [the consequences of this discovery] are decisive.

Geologists have for long agreed in admitting the zonal composition of our planet. We have already spoken of the barysphere, central and metallic, surrounded by the rocky lithosphere that in turn is surrounded by the fluid layers of the hydrosphere and atmosphere. Since Suess, science has rightly become accustomed to add another to these four concentric layers, the living membrane composed of the fauna and flora of the globe, the biosphere, so often mentioned in these pages, an envelope as definitely universal as the other ‘spheres’ and even more definitely individualised than them. For, instead of representing a more or less vague grouping, it forms a single piece, of the very tissue of the genetic relations which delineate the tree of life.
The recognition and isolation of a new era in evolution, the era of noögenesis, obliges us to distinguish correlatively a support proportionate to the operation—that is to say, yet another membrane in the majestic assembly of telluric layers. A glow ripples outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever widening circles till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence. Only one interpretation, only one name can be found worthy of this grand phenomenon. Much more coherent and just as extensive as any preceding layer, it is really a new layer, the ‘thinking layer,’ which, since its germination at the end of the Tertiary period, has spread over and above the world of plants and animals. In other words, outside and above the biosphere there is the noösphere.
With that it bursts upon us how utterly warped is every classification of the living world (or, indirectly, every construction of the physical one) in which man only figures logically as a genus or a new family. This is an error of perspective which deforms and uncrowns the whole phenomenon of the universe. To give man his true place in nature it is not enough to find one more pigeon-hole in the edifice of our systematisation or even an additional order or branch. With hominisation, in spite of the insignificance of the anatomical leap, we have the beginning of a new age. The earth ‘gets a new skin.’ Better still, it finds its soul.
[...] Among all the stages successively crossed by evolution, the birth of thought comes directed after, and is the only thing comparable in order of grandeur to, the condensation of the terrestrial chemism or the advent of life itself.
[...] ...steeped as we are in what is human like a fish in the sea, we have difficulty in emerging from it in our minds so as to appreciate its specificness and breadth. But let us look round us a little more carefully. This sudden deluge of cerebralisation, this biological invasion of a new animal type... , this irresistible tide of fields and factories, this immense and growing edifice of matter and ideas... seem to proclaim that there has been a change on the earth and a change of planetary magnitude.
[...] ...to a Martian capable of analysing sidereal radiations psychically no less than physically, the first characteristic of our planet would be, not the blue of the seas or the green of the forests, but the phosphorescence of thought.
The greatest revelation open to science today is to perceive that everything precious, active and progressive originally contained in that cosmic fragment from which our world emerged, is now concentrated in and crowned by the noosphere.


Man came silently into the world. As a matter of fact he trod so softly that, when we first catch sight of him as revealed by those indestructible stone instruments, we find him sprawling all over the old world from the Cape of Good Hope to Peking. Without doubt he already speaks and lives in groups; he already makes fire. After all, this is surely what we ought to expect. As we know, each time a new living form rises up before us out of the depths of history, it is always complete and already legion.

It is not in their germinal state that beings manifest themselves but in their florescence. Taken at the source, the greatest rivers are no more than narrow streams.
To grasp the truly cosmic scale of the phenomenon of man, we had to follow its roots through life, back to when the earth first folded in on itself. But if we want to understand the specific nature of man and divine his secret, we have no other method than to observe what reflection has already provided and what it announces ahead.



In order to multiply the contacts necessary for its gropings and to be able to store up the multifarious variety of its riches, life is obliged to move forward in terms of deep masses. [...]
Our picture is of mankind labouring under the implusion of an obscure instinct, so as to break out through its narrow point of emergence and submerge the earth. [...]
We will now try, in a few bold strokes, to map out the phases of successive waves of this invasion.


Almost everywhere, at this period [the early Early Quaternary period, Pleistocene epoch,
Villafranchian age, i.e., 2.5 million years ago, or in anthropological terms lower Paleolithic, Oldowan or 'stone age', whose date may extend as far back as 3.5 million years (see Kenyanthropus)], we find the land being drained, ravines being carved, and thick layers of alluvium spreading over the plains. Before this great upheaval we can establish no certain trace of man anywhere. Yet is was barely over when we find chipped stone mixed with the gravels on almost all the raised lands of Africa, Western Europe and Southern Asia.


A mutation as fundamental as that of though, a mutation which gives its specific impetus to the whole human group, could not in my opinion have appeared in the middle of the journey; it could not have happened half-way up the stalk. It dominates the whole edifice. Its place must therefore be beneath every recognisable verticil in the unattainable depths of the peduncle, and thus beneath those creatures which (however pre-hominid in cranial structure) are already clearly situated above the point of origin and blossoming of our human race.
...zoologically speaking, the human group in the Lower Quaternary period still formed only a loosely coherent group in which the divergent structure, usual in animal verticils, was still dominant.


When the curtain rises again some sixty thousand years ago... we find that the pre-hominids have disappeared. Their place is now occupied by the Neaderthaloids.
This new humanity is much better represented by fossil remains than the preceding one, not only because it is more recent, but also through the effect of multiplication.
...Neanderthal man... in spite of his remarkable and persistent distribution over the whole of Western Europe, seems really to represent the last florescence of a dying stock.


We find the sudden invasion of Homo sapiens, driven by climate or the restlessness of his soul, sweeping over the Neanderthaloids.
Where did he come from, this new man? Some anthropologists would like to see in him the culmination of certain lines of development already pin-pointed in earlier epochs-- a direct descendant, for example, of Sinanthropus [editors note: i.e., 'Peking man', reclassified as 'homo erectus']. [...] Without doubt, somewhere or other and in his own way, Upper Palaeolithic man must have passed through a pre-hominid phase and then through a Neanderthaloid one. [...] We find imbrication and replacement rather than continuity and prolongation: the law of succession once again dominates history. I can thus easily picture the new-comer as the scion of an autonomous line of evolution, long hidden though secretly active-- to emerge triumphantly one fine day doubtless in the midst of those pseudo-Neanderthaloids whose vital and probably very ancient 'bundle' we have already mentioned. But on any supposition, one thing is certain and admitted by everybody. the man we find on the face of the earth at the end o fther Quaternary era is already modern man-- and in every way.
First of all anatomically without any possible doubt. [...] So clearly are they ours that, from this moment onwards, the palaeontologist, accustomed to working on pronounced morphological differences, no longer finds it easy to distinguish between the remains of these fossil men and men of today.
...when we study upper Palaeolithic man, not only in the essential features of his anatomy but also in the main lines of his ethnography, it is really ourselves and our own infancy that we are finding, not only the skeleton of modern man already there, but the framework of modern humanity.
...with homo sapiens, it is a definitely liberated thought which explodes, still warm, on the walls of the caves. [...] And thanks to the language of this art, we can for the first time enter right into the consciousness of these vanished beings whose bones we put together. [...]
Are we to say, then, that the evolution in man ceased with the end of the Quaternary ear?
Not at all. But, without prejudice to what may still be developing slowly and secretly in the depths of the nervous system, evolution has since that date overtly overflowed its anatomical modalities to spread, or perhaps even at heart to transplant itself, into the zones of psychic spontaneity both individual and collective.


Even in the Upper Palaeolithic era, the peoples we meet with seem to have constituted no more than loosely bound groups of wandering hunters. It was only in the Neolithic age that the great cementing of human elements began which was never thenceforward to stop. The Neolithic age [i.e., about 12,000 years ago], disdained by pre-historians because it is too young, neglected by historians because its phases cannot be exactly dated, was nevertheless a critical age and one of solemn importance among all the epochs of the past, for in it Civilisation was born.
In this decisive period of socialisation, as previously at the instant of reflection, a cluster of partially independent factors seems to have mysteriously converged to favour and even to force the pace of hominisation. [...]
First of all come the incessant advances of multiplication. [...] The groups pressed against one another. [...] Agriculture and stock-breeding, the husbandman and the herdsman, replaced mere gathering and hunting.
From that fundamental change all the rest followed. In the growing agglomerations the complex of rights and duties began to appear, leading to the invention of all sorts of communal and juridical structures... . [...]

...in the more stable and more densely populated environment created by the first farms, the need and the taste for research were stimulated and became more methodical. [...] ...the selection and empirical improvement of fruits, cereals, live-stock; the science of pottery; and weaving. Very soon followed the first elements of ideographic writing, and soon the first beginnings of metallurgy.
Mankind was of course still very much split up. To get an idea of it, we must think of what the first white men found in America or Africa—a veritable mosaic of groups, profoundly different both ethnically and socially.
[...] Traditions became organised and a collective memory was developed. Slender and granular as this first membrane might be, the noosphere there and then began to close in upon itself-- and to encircle the earth.


the periods called ‘historic’ (right down to and including the beginning of ‘modern’ times) are nothing else than direct prolongations of the Neolithic age. Of course, as we shall point out, there was increasing complexity and differentiation, but essentially following the same lines and on the same plane.

So long as science had to deal only with pre-historic human groups, more or less isolated and to a greater or less extent undergoing anthropological formation, the general rules of animal phylogenesis were still approximately valid. From Neolithic times onwards the influence of psychical factors begins to outweigh-- and by far-- the variations of ever-dwindling somatic factors.
In such privileged places [as "extended archipelagoes, junctions of valleys, vast cultivable plains, particularly when irrigated by a great river"] there has been a natural tendency... for the human mass to concentrate, to fuse, and for its temperature to rise. Whence the no doubt 'congenital' appearance on the Neolithic layer of certain foci of attraction and organisation, the prelude and presage of some new and superior state for the noosphere. [...] But they were all largely independent of one another, each struggling blindly to spread and ramify, as though it were alone destined to absorb and transform the earth.
Basically can we not say that the essential thing in history consists in the conflict and finally the gradual harmonisation of these great psycho-somatic currents.
[Can we not] recognise, yet once again, beneath these successive oscillations [i.e., from Mesopotamia on the Euphrates, Egypt on the Nile, and Greece on the Mediterranean, with Rome soon to be added, "with its Judaeo-Christian ferment which gave Europe its spiritual form"], the great spiral of life: thrusting up, irreversibly, in relays, following the master-line of its evolution? Susa, Memphis and Anthens can crumble. An ever more highly organised consciousness of the universe is passed from hand to hand, and glows steadily brighter.
Later on, when I come to speak of the current planetisation of the noosphere, I shall try to restore to the other fragments of mankind [i.e., the Maya centre, Polynesian centre, plain dwellers of Asia and North Africa, China, "unable to lift itself above the soil where it was formed" and where it remained 'encrusted', India, the 'anticyclone' whose mystical influence we are greatly indebted but "with their excessive passivity and detachment... were incapable of building a world"]  the great and essential part reserved for them in the expected plenitude of the earth. ...during historic time the principle axis of anthropogenesis has passed through the West. [...]
...a neo-humanity has been germinating round the Mediterranean during the last six thousand years, and precisely at this moment it has finished absorbing the last vestiges of the Neolithic mosaic with the buddin of another layer on the noosphere, and the densest of all.



A Change of Age

Like a great ship, the human mass only changes its course gradually... .
What we are up against is the heavy swell of an unknown sea which we are just entering from behind the cape that protected us. [...] We have only just cast off the last moorings which held us to the Neolithic age.


A. The Perception of Space-Time

...it seems to us incredible that men could have lived without suspecting that the stars are hung above us hundreds of light years away, or that the contours of life stretched out millions of years behind us to the limits of our horizon.
Between them and us what, then, has happened?
It was only really in the time of Galileo, through rupture with the ancient geocentric view, that the skies were made free for the boundless expansions which we have since detected in them. The earth became a mere speck of sidereal dust. Immensity became possible, and to balance it the infinitesimal sprang into existence.
For lack of apparent yardsticks, the depths of the past took much longer to be plumbed. The movement of stars, the shape of mountains, the chemical nature of bodies—indeed all matter seemed to express a continual present. The physics of the seventeenth century was incapable of opening Pascal’s eyes to the abysses of the past. [...] It was thus through a narrow crack (that of 'natural history', then in its infancy) that from the eighteenth century onwards light began to seep down into the great depths beneath our feet. [...] After the walls of space, shaken by the Renaissance, it was the floor (and consequently the ceiling) of time which, from Buffon onwards, became mobile. Since then, under the unceasing pressure of facts, the process has continually accelerated. [...]Yet in these first stages in man’s awakening to the immensities of the cosmos, space and time, however vast, still remained homogeneous and independent of each other; they were two great containers, quite separate one from the other... .
It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century, again under the influence of biology, that the light dawned at last, revealing the irreversible coherence of all that exists. [...] The distribution, succession and solidarity of objects are born from their concrescence in a common genesis. Time and space are organically joined again so as to weave, together, the stuff of the universe. That is the point we have reached and how we perceive things today. [...] One after the other all the fields of human knowledge have been shaken and carried away by the same under-water current in the direction of the study of some development. [...]
IN the last century and a half the most prodigious event, perhaps, ever recorded by history since the threshold of reflection has been taking place in our minds: the definitive access of consciousness to a scale of new dimensions... 
What makes and classifies a 'modern' man... is having become capable of seeing in terms not of space and time alone, but also of duration, or-- and it comes to the same thing-- of biological space-time; and above all having become incapable of seeing anything otherwise-- anything-- not even himself.
This last step brings us to the heart of the metamorphosis.

B. The Envelopment of Duration

Obviously man could not see evolution all around him without feeling to some extent carried along by it himself. Darwin demonstrated this.
Nevertheless, looking at the progress of transformist views in the last hundred years, we are surprised to see how naïvely naturalists and physicists were able at the early stages to imagine themselves to be standing outside the universal stream they had just discovered. Almost incurably subject and object tend to become separated from each other in the act of knowing. [...] ...as though they were spectators, not elements, in what goes on.
From the very first pages of this book, I have been relentlessly insisting on one thing: for invincible reasons of homogeneity and coherence, the fibres of cosmogenesis demand their prolongation in us in a way that goes far deeper than flesh and blood. [...]
How indeed could we incorporate thought into the organic flux of space-time without being forced to grant it the first place in the processus [editors note: 'processus' is an anatomical term for 'outgrowth of tissue']? How could we imagine a cosmogenesis reaching right up to mind without being thereby confronted with a noogenesis?
[...] Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself, to borrow Julian Huxley's concise expression.

C. The Illumination

The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself.
With that very simple view, destined, as I suppose, to become as instinctive and familiar to our descendants at the discovery of a third dimension in space is to a baby, a new light—inexhaustibly harmonious—bursts upon the world, radiating from ourselves.
Step by step, from the early earth onwards, we have followed going upwards the successive advances of consciousness in matter undergoing organisation. Having reached the peak, we can now turn round and, looking downwards, take in the pattern of the whole. [...] From top to bottom, a triple unity persists and develops: unity of structure, unity of mechanism and unity of movement.
The social phenomenon is the culmination and not the attenuation of the biological phenomenon.
The passing wave that we can feel was not formed in ourselves. It comes to us from far away; it set out at the same time as the light from the first stars. It reaches us after creating everything on the way.
Man is not the centre of the universe as once we thought in our simplicity, but something much more wonderful-- the arrow pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of life.
Transplanted by man into the thinking layer of the earth, heredity, without ceasing to be germinal (or chromosomatic) in the individual, finds itself, by its very life-centre, settled in a reflecting organism, collective and permanent, in which phylogenesis merges with ontogenesis. From the chain of cells it passes into the circumterrestrial layers of the noosphere. [...]
...heredity now springs to life, supremely active, in its noospheric form-- that is to say, by becoming hominised.
...evolution, by becoming conscious of itself in the depths of ourselves, only needs to look at itself in the mirror to perceive itself in all its depths and to decipher itself.


A. Modern Disquiet.

The whole psychology of modern disquiet is linked with the sudden confrontation with space-time
...the 'malady of space-time' manifests itself as a rule by a feeling of futility, of being crushed by the enormities of the cosmos.
The enormity of space is the most tangible and thus the most frightening aspect. Which of us has ever in his life really had the courage to look squarely at and try to 'live' a universe formed of galaxies whose distance apart runs into hundreds of thousands [editors note: millions] of light years? [...]
Enormity of duration—sometimes having the effect of an abyss on those few who are able to see it, and at other times more usually (on those whose sight is poor), the despairing effect of stability and monotony. [...]
Corresponding enormity of number... . An ocean in which we seem to dissolve... . The effort of trying conscientiously to find our proper place among a thousand million men. Or merely in a crowd.
Malady of multitude and immensity…
[...]As motionless or blind (and by that I mean so long as we think of them as motionless or blind) time and space are indeed terrifying. Accordingly what could make our initiation into the true dimensions of the world dangerous is for it to remain incomplete, deprived of its complement and necessary corrective-- the perception of an evolution animating those dimensions. [...] ...time and space become humanised as soon as a definite movement appears which gives them a physiognomy.‘There is nothing new under the sun’ say the despairing. But what about you, O thinking man? Unless you repudiate reflection, you must admit that you have climbed a step higher than the animals. ‘Very well, but at least nothing has changed and nothing is changing any longer since the beginning of history.’ In that case, O man of the twentieth century, how does it happen that you are waking up to horizons and are susceptible to fears that your forefathers never knew?
What makes the world in which we live specifically modern is our discovery in it and around it of evolution.

b. The Requirements of the Future

...is not the end and aim of thought that still unimaginable farthest limit of a convergent sequence, propagating itself without end and ever higher? Does not the end or confine of thought consist precisely in not having a confine? Unique in this respect among all the energies of the universe, consciousness is a dimension to which it is inconceivable and even contradictory to ascribe a ceiling or to suppose that it can double back upon itself. [...]Hence this remarkable situation—that our mind, by the very fact of being able to discern infinite horizons ahead, is only able to move by the hope of achieving, through something of itself, a supreme consummation—without which it would rightly feel itself to be stunted, frustrated and cheated.

If progress is a myth, that is to say, if faced by the work involved we can say: ‘What’s the good of it all?’ our efforts will flag. With that the whole of evolution will come to a halt—because we are evolution.

c. The Dilemma and the Choice

And now, by the very fact that we have measured the truly cosmic gravity of the sickness that disquiets us, we are put in possession of the remedy that can cure it.
Either nature is closed to our demands for futurity, in which case thought, the fruit of millions of years of effort, is stifled, still-born in a self-abortive and absurd universe. Or else an opening exists-- that of the super-soul above our souls; but in that case the way out, if we are to agree to embark on it, must open out freely onto limitless physic spaces in a universe to which we can unhesitatingly entrust ourselves.
Between these two alternatives of absolute optimism or absolute pessimism, there is no middle way... .
At this cross-roads... we cannot stop and wait because we are pushed forward by life... .
To bring us into existence [life] has from the beginning juggled miraculously with too many improbabilities for there to be any risk whatever in committing ourselves further and following it right to the end. If it undertook the task, it is because it can finish it, following the same methods and with the same infallibility with which it began.
In last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen is that it appears to us as vitally necessary.
This is enough for us to be assured.... .
...that there is for us, in the future, under some form or another, ... not only continuation but also survival.
...to imagine, discover and reach this superior form of existence, we have only tot hink and to walk in the direction in which the lines of passed by evolution take on their maximum coherence.





...with the onset of reflection, an element partially liberated form phyletic servitudes began to live for itself. So is it not in a line continuous with that initial emancipation that further advance must be lie?


A. Forced Coalescence

By their very nature, and at every level of complexity, the elements of the world are able to influence and mutually penetrate each other by their within, so as to combine their 'radial energies' in 'bundles'. [...] ...in this case also, it operates only in virtue of the 'tangential energies' of arrangement and thus under certain conditions of spatial juxtaposition.
And here there intervenes a fact,... one of the most fundamental characteristics of the cosmic structure-- the roundness of the earth. The geometrical limitations of a star closed, like a gigantic molecule, upon itself. We have already regarded this as a necessary feature at the origin of the first synthesis and polymerisations on the early earth. Implicitly, without our having to say so, it has constantly sustained all the differentiations and all the progress of the biosphere. But what are we to say of its function in the noosphere?
Originally and for centuries there was no serious obstacle to the human waves expanding over the surface of the globe... . Then, from the Neolithic age onwards, these waves began, as we have seen, to recoil upon themselves. All available space begin occupied, the occupiers had to pack in tighter. That is how, step by step, through the simple multiplying effect of generations, we have come to constitute, as we do at present, an almost solid mass of hominised substance.
Through the discovery yesterday of the railway, the motor car and the aeroplane, the physical influence of each man, formerly restricted to a few miles, now extends to hundreds of leagues or more. Better still: thanks to the prodigious biological event represented by the discovery of electro-magnetic waves, each individual finds himself henceforth (actively and passively) simultaneously present, over land and sea, in every corner of the earth.
Thus, not only through the constant increase in the numbers of its members, but also through the continual augmentation of their area of individual activity, mankind-- forced to develop as it is in a confined area-- has found itself relentlessly subjected to an intense pressure, a self-accentuating pressure, because each advance in it caused a corresponding expansion in each element.
...the play of cosmic forces... operates towards a concentration of the energies of consciousness; and so powerful is this effort that it even succeeds in subjugating the very constructions of phylogenesis... .

Mankind... has succeeded, not only in becoming cosmopolitan, but in stretching a single organised membrane over the earth without breaking it.
To what should we attribute this strange condition if not... the coalescence upon itself of an entire phylum?
Here again, at the base of the process, lies the exiguity of the earth on which the living stems are forced by their very growth to writhe and intertwine their living branches like serried shoots of ivy. But this external contact was and would always have remained insufficient to reach a point of conjunction without the new 'binder' conferred on the human biota by the birth of reflection. Until man came, the most life had managed to realise in the matter of association had been to gather socially together on themselves, one by one, the finer extremities of the same phylum. [...] From man onwards, thanks to the universal framework or support provided by thought, free rein is given to the forces of confluence.
as happens on a sphere where the meridians separate off at one pole only to come together at the other-- this divergence gives place to, and becomes subordinate to, a movement of convergence in which races, peoples and nations consolidate one another and complete one another by mutual fecundation.
Anthropologically, ethnically, socially, morally, we understand nothing about man and can make no valid forecasts of his future, so long as we fail to see that, in his case, ‘ramification’ (in so far as it still persists) works only with the aim-- and under higher forms of agglomeration and convergence. Formation of verticils, selection, struggle for life-- henceforward these are secondary functions, subordinate in man to a task of cohesion, a furling back upon itself of a ‘bundle’ of potential species around the surface of the earth, a completely new mode of phylogenesis.

B. Mega-Synthesis

The coalescence of elements and the coalescence of stems, the spherical geometry of the earth and psychical curvature of the mind harmonising to counterbalance the individual and collective forces of dispersion in the world and to impose unification—there at last we find the spring and secret of hominisation.
The general gathering together in which... the totality of thinking units and thinking forces are engaged... all this becomes intelligible from top to bottom as soon as we perceive the natural culmination of a cosmic processus of organisation which has never varied since those remote ages when our planet was young.
 First the molecules of carbon compounds with their thousands of atoms symmetrically grouped; next the cell which, within a very small volume, contains thousands of molecules linked in a complicated system; then the metazoa in which the cell is no more than an almost infinitesimal element; and later the manifold attempts made by the metazoa to enter into symbiosis and raise themselves to a higher biological condition.
And now, as a germination of planetary dimensions, comes the thinking layer which over its full extent develops and intertwines its fibres... to reinforce them in the living unity of a single tissue.
Really I can see no coherent, and therefore scientific, way of grouping this immense succession of facts but as a gigantic psycho-biological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the ‘super-arrangement’ to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves totally individually and collectively subject.
Mega-synthesis is the tangential, and therefore and thereby a leap forward of the radial energies along the principal axis of evolution: ever more complexity and thus ever more consciousness.


A. Mankind

'Mankind' was at first a vague entity, felt rather than thought out, in which an obscure feeling of perpetual growth was allied to a need for universal fraternity. [...]
In the eyes of the 'prophets' of the eighteenth century, the world appeared really as no more than a jumble of confused and loose relationships... . [...] In the course of a few generations all sorts of economic and cultural links have been forged around us and they are multiplying in geometric progression. [...] If words have any meaning, is this not like some great body which is being born-- with its limbs, its nervous system, its perceptive organs, its memory-- the body in fact of that great Thing which had to come to fulfil the ambitions aroused in the reflective being by the newly acquired consciousness that he was at one with and responsible to an evolutionary All?
[...] But what we are better able to perceive, because we stand on their shoulders, are its cosmic roots... .
Mankind was a fragile and even fictitious construction so long as it could only have a limited, plural and disjointed cosmos as a setting; but it becomes consistent and at the same time probable as soon as it is brought within the compass of a biological space-time and appears as a continuation of the very lines of the universe amongst other realities as vast as itself.
[...] It appears either as a general idea, a legal entity, or else as a gigantic animal. [...] ...from now on we envisage, beside and above individual realities, the collective realities that are not reducible to the component element, yet are in their own way as objective as it is.
It is in the last resort only definable as a mind. [...] ...an organic super-aggregation of souls.

B. Knowledge

From this point of view, intellectual discovery and synthesis are no longer merely speculation but creation. Therefore, some physical consummation of things is bound up with the explicit perception we make of them. And therefore, they are (at least partially) right who situate the crown of evolution in a supreme act of collective vision obtained by a pan-human effort of investigation and construction [authors note: To think 'the world' (as physics is beginning to realise) is not merely to register it but to confer upon it a form of unity it would otherwise (i.e., without being thought) be without.].
Of old, the forerunners of our chemists strove to find the philosopher's stone. Our ambition has grown since then. It is no longer to find gold but life... . [...] With the discovery of genes it appears that we shall soon be able to control the mechanism of organic heredity. And with the synthesis of albuminoids imminent, we may well one day be capable of producing what the earth, left to itself, seems no longer able to produce: a new wave of organisms, an artificially provoked neo-life. [...]  ...life rebounds forward under the collective effect of its reflection. ...thus, by grasping the very mainspring of evolution, seizing the tiller of the world.

C. Unanimity

The still unnamed Thing which the gradual combination of individuals, peoples and races will bring into existence, must be supra-physical, not infra-physical, if it is to be coherent with the rest. [...]
...the stuff of the universe, by becoming thinking, has not yet completed its evolutionary cycle, and that we are therefore moving forward towards some new critical point that lies ahead. [...]
We are faced with a harmonised collectivity of consciousnesses equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness. The idea is that of the earth not only becoming covered by myriads of grains of thought, but becoming enclosed in a single thinking envelope so as to form, functionally, no more than a single vast grain of thought on the sidereal scale... .
This is the general form in which, by analogy... , we are led scientifically to envisage the future of mankind... .
[...] ...to a mind become familiar with the fantastic dimensions of the universe [perspectives such as these] will... seem quite natural, because they are directly proportionate with astronomical immensities.
One thing at any rate is sure-- from the moment we adopt a thoroughly realistic view of the noosphere and of the hyper-organic nature of social bonds, the present situation of the world becomes clearer... .



The nineteenth century had lived in sight of a promised land. It thought that we were on the threshold of a Golden Age, lit up and organised by science, warmed by fraternity. Instead of that, we find ourselves slipped back into a world of spreading and ever more tragic dissension.
After all half a million years, perhaps even a million, were required for life to pass from the pre-hominids to modern man. Should we now start wringing our hands because, less than two centuries after glimpsing a higher state, modern man is still at loggerheads with himself? Once again we have got things out of focus. To have understood the immensity around us, behind us, and in front of us is already a first step. ...to this perception of depth another perception, that of slowness, [must be] added... . Each dimension has its proper rhythm. Planetary movement involves planetary majesty. Would not humanity seem to us altogether static if, behind its history, there were not the endless stretch of its pre-history? Similarly, and despite an almost explosive acceleration of noögenesis at our level, we cannot expect to see the earth transform itself under our eyes in the space of a generation. Let us keep calm and take heart.
In spite of all evidence to the contrary, mankind may very well be advancing all round us at the moment—there are in fact many signs whereby we can reasonably suppose that it is advancing. But, if it is doing so, it must be—as is the way with very big things—doing so almost imperceptibly.
There are imponderable currents which, from fashion and rates of exchange to political and social revolutions, make us all the slaves of the obscure seethings of the human mass. [...]
At no previous period of history has mankind been so well equipped nor made such efforts to reduce its multitudes to order. We have ‘mass movements’—no longer the hordes streaming down from the forests of the north or the steppes of Asia, but ‘the Million’ scientifically assembled. The Million in rank and file on the parade ground; the Million standardised in the factory; the Million motorised—and all this only ending up with Communism and National-Socialism and the most ghastly fetters. So we get the crystal instead of the cell; the ant-hill instead of brotherhood. Instead of the upsurge of consciousness which we expected, it is mechanisation that seems to emerge inevitably from totalisation.
[...] Monstrous as it is, is not modern totalitarianism really the distortion of something magnificent, and thus quite near to the truth?


A. The Personal Universe

We have seen and admitted that evolution is an ascent towards consciousness. [...] Therefore it should culminate forwards in some sort of supreme consciousness. [...]  Are we not at every instant living the experience of a universe whose immensity, by the play of our senses and our reason, is gathered up more and more simply in each one of us? And in the establishment now proceeding through science and the philosophies of a collective human Weltanschauung in which every one of us co-operates and participates, are we not experiencing the first symptoms of an aggregation of a still higher order, the birth of some single centre from the convergent beams of millions of elementary centres dispersed over the surface of the thinking earth?
[...] Because it contains and engenders consciousness, space-time is necessarily of a convergent nature. Accordingly its enormous layers, followed in the right direction, must somewhere ahead become involuted to a point which we might call Omega, which fuses and consumes them integrally in itself.
In the perspective of a noogenesis, time and space become truly humanised-- or rather super-humanised. Far from being muturally exclusive, the Universal and Personal (that is to say, the 'centred') grow in the same direction and culminate simultaneously in each other.
It is therefore a mistake to look for the extension of our being or of the noosphere in the Impersonal. The Future-Universal could not be anything else but the Hyper-Personal-- at the Omega Point.

B. The Personalising Universe

It is by this eternal deepening of consciousness upon itself that we have characterised... the particular destiny of the element that has become fully itself by crossing the threshold of reflection... . ...the same type of progress reapperas here, but this time it defines the collective future of totalised grains of thought. There is an identical function for the element as for the sum of the elements brought together in a synthesis. [...]
The time has come to... analyse still further the nature of the personal centre of convergence upon whose existence hangs the evolutionary equilibrium of the noosphere. What should this higher pole of evolution be, in order to fulfil its role?
In every organised whole, the parts perfect themselves and fulfil themselves. [...] ...following the confluent orbits of their centres, the grains of consciousness do not tend to lose their outlines and blend, but, on the contrary, to accentuate the depth and incommunicability of their egos. The more 'other' they become in conjunction, the more they find themselves as 'self'. How could it be otherwise since they are steeped in Omega?
By its structure Omega... can only be a distinct Centre radiating at the core of a system of centres; a grouping in which personalisation of the All and personalisations of the elements reach their maximum, simultaneously and without merging, under the influence of a supremely autonomous focus of union.
To be fully ourselves it is... in the direction of convergence with all the rest, that we must advance-- towards the 'other'.


If there were no real internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level—indeed in the molecule itself—it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in ‘hominised’ form. By rights, to be certain of its presence in ourselves, we should assume its presence, at least in an inchoate form, in everything that is. And in fact if we look around us at the confluent ascent of consciousnesses, we see it is not lacking anywhere. Plato felt this and has immortalised the idea in his Dialogues. Later, with thinkers like Nicholas of Cusa, mediaeval philosophy returned technically to the same notion. Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being. This is no metaphor; and it is much more than poetry.
Love in all its subtleties is nothing more, and nothing less, than... the psychical convergence of the universe upon itself.
...if the universe ahead of us assumes a face and a heart, and so to speak personifies itself, then in the atmosphere created by this focus the elemental attraction will immediately blossom. Then, no doubt, under the heightened pressure of an infolding world, the formidable energies of attraction, still dormant between human molecules, will burst forth.


..the idea that some Soul of souls should be developing at the summit of the world is not as strange as might be thought from the present-day views of human reason.
...the cosmic function of Omega consists in initiating and maintaining within its radius the unanimity of the world's 'reflective' particles. But how could it exercise this action were it not in some sort loving and lovable at this very moment?  [...] Accordingly, however marvellous its foreseen figure, Omega could never even so much as equilibrate the play of human attractions and repulsions if it did not act with equal force, that is to say with the same stuff of proximity. [...] Neither an ideal centre, nor a potential centre could possibly suffice. A present and real noosphere goes with a real and present centre. To be supremely attractive, Omega must be supremely present.
...Omega... is discovered to us at the end of the whole processus, inasmuch as in it the movement of synthesis culminates. ...under this evolutive facet Omega still only reveals half of itself. While being the last term of its series, it is also outside all series. Not only does it crown, but it closes. [...] When, going beyond the elements, we come to speak of the conscious Pole of the world, it is not enough to say that it emerges from the rise of consciousness: we must add that from this genesis it has already undergone emergence... . If by its very nature it did not escape from the time and space which it gathers together, it would not be Omega.
In Omega we have in the first place the principle we needed to explain both the persistent march of things towards greater consciousness, and the paradoxical solidity of what is most fragile. Contrary to the appearances still admitted by physics, the Great Stability is not at the bottom in the infra-elementary sphere, but at the top in the ultra-synthetic sphere. [...] By its radial nucleus it finds its shape and its natural consistency in gravitating against the tide of probability towards a divine focus of mind which draws it onward.
Thus something in the cosmos escapes from entropy, and does so more and more.
During immense periods in the course of evolution, the radial, obscurely stirred up by the action of the Prime Mover ahead, was only able to express itself, in diffuse aggregates, in animal consciousness. [...] But as soon as, through reflection, a type of unity appeared no longer closed or even centred, but punctiform, the sublime physics of centres came into play. When they became centres, and therefore persons, the elements could at last begin to react, directly as such, to the personalising action of the centre of centres. When consciousness broke through the critical surface of hominisation, it really passed from divergence to convergence and changed, so to speak, both hemisphere and pole. Below the critical 'equator' lay the relapse into multiplicity; above it, the plunge into growing and irreversible unification. 

...for each of them ['souls'], by the very nature of Omega, there can only be one possible point of definitive emersion-- that point at which, under the synthesising action of personalising union, the noosphere (furling its elements upon themselves as it too furls upon itself) will reach collectively its point of convergence-- at 'the end of the world'.



We have seen that without the involution of matter upon itself, that is to say, without the closed chemistry of molecules, cells and phyletic branches, there would never have been either biosphere or noösphere. In their advent and their development, life and thought are not only accidentally, but also structurally, bound up with the contours and destiny of the terrestrial mass.
But, on the other hand, we now see ahead of us a psychical centre of universal drift, transcending time and space and thus essentially extra-planetary, to sustain and equilibrate the surge of consciousnesses.
The idea is that of noögenesis ascending irreversibly towards Omega through the strictly limited cycle of a geogenesis.


When the end of the world is mentioned, the idea that leaps into our minds is always one of catastrophe.
Generally we think of a sidereal cataclysm. There are so many stars hurtling around and brushing past; there are those exploding worlds on the horizon; so, surely, by the implacable laws of chance, our turn will come sooner or later and we shall be stricken and killed... .
We could very well, and at any moment, be crushed by a gigantic comet. [...] However possible [these manifold disasters] may be in theory, we have higher reasons for being sure that they will not happen.
...man has been the leading shoot of the tree of life. That being so, the hopes for the future of the noösphere (that is to say, of biogenesis, which in the end is the same as cosmogenesis) are concentrated exclusively upon him as such. How then could he come to an end before his time, or stop, or deteriorate, unless the universe committed abortion upon itself, which we have already decided to be absurd? In its present state, the world would be unintelligible and the presence in it of reflection would be incomprehensible, unless we supposed there to be a secret complicity between the infinite and the infinitesimal to warm, nourish and sustain to the very end-- by dint of chance, contingencies and the exercise of free choice-- the consciousness that has emerged between the two. It is upon this complicity that we must depend. [...]
What we should expect is not a halt in any shape or form, but an ultimate progress coming at its biologically appointed hour... .


...life still has before it long periods of geological time in which to develop. Moreover, in its thinking form, it still shows every sign of an energy in full expansion. On the one hand, compared with the zoological layers which preceded it..., mankind is so young that it could almost be called newborn. On the other hand, to judge from the rapid developments of thought in the short period of a few dozen centuries, this youth bears within it the indications and the promises of an entirely new biological cycle.
...along what lines of advance... are we destined to proceed from the planetary level of psychic totalisation and evolutionary upsurge we are now approaching?
The truth is that, as children of a transition period, we are neither fully conscious of, nor in full control of, the new powers that have been unleashed.
We can envisage a world... in which giant telescopes and atom smashers would absorb more money and excite more spontaneous admiration than all the bombs and cannons put together... . [...]


Until the coming of man, life was quickly arrested and hemmed in by the specialisations into which it was forced to mould itself so as to act, and became fixed, then dispersed, at each forward bound. Since the threshold of reflection, we have entered into an entirely new field of evolution... . [...] ...we have as yet no idea of the possible magnitudes of 'noospheric' effects. [...] Have we ever tried to form an idea of what such magnitudes represent?
[...] Under the increasing tension of the mind on the surface of the globe, we may begin by asking seriously whether life will not perhaps one day succeed in ingeniously forcing the bars of its earthly prison, either by finding the means to invade other inhabited planets or (a still more giddy perspective) by getting into psychical touch with other focal points of consciousness across the abysses of space. The meeting and mutual fecundation of two noospheres... . Consciousness would thus finally construct itself by a synthesis of planetary units. Why not, in a universe whose astral unity is the galaxy?
...it is difficult to see how man could acclimatise himself to another planet, even if he were capable of navigating through interplanetary space. The sidereal durations are so immense that it is difficult to see how, in two different regions of the heavens, two thought systems could co-exist and coincide at comparable stages of their development [editors note: this problem is usually formulated in terms of the Drake equation]. For these two reasons among others I adopt the supposition that our noosphere is destined to close in upon itself in isolation, and that it is in a psychical rather than a spatial direction that it will find an outlet, without need to leave or overflow the earth.
Now when sufficient elements have sufficiently agglomerated, this essentially convergent movement will attain such intensity and such quality that mankind, taken as a whole, will be obliged... to abandon its organo-planetary foothold so as to pivot itself on the transcendent centre of its increasing concentration. This will be the end and the fulfilment of the spirit of the earth.
The end of the world: the overthrow of equillibrium, detaching the mind, fulfilled at last, from its material matrix, so that it will henceforth rest with all its weight on God-Omega.
In this arrangement of values I may have gone astray at many points. It is up to others to try to do better. My one hope is that I have made the reader feel both the reality, difficulty, and urgency of the problem and, at the same time, the scale and the form which the solution cannot escape.



By its very structure the noosphere could not close itself either individually or socially in any way save under the influence of the centre we have called Omega.
If Omega were only a remote and ideal focus destined to emerge at the end of time from the convergence of terrestrial consciousness, nothing could make it known to us in anticipation of this convergence. [...]
If, on the other hand, Omega is, as we have admitted, already in existence and operative at the very core of the thinking mass, then it would seem inevitable that its existence should be manifested to us here and now through some traces. To animate evolution in its lower stages, the conscious pole of the world could of course only act in an impersonal form and under the veil of biology. Upon the thinking entity that we have become by hominisation, it is now possible for it to radiate from the one centre of all centres-- personally. Would it seem likely that it should not do so?
...somewhere around us, in one form or another, some excess of personal, extra-human energy should be perceptible to us if we look carefully, and should reveal to us the great Presence. It is at this point that we see the importance for science of the Christian phenomenon.
The Christian fact stands before us. It has its place among the other realities of the world.


In the centre, so glaring as to be disconcerting, is the uncompromising affirmation of a personal God: God as providence, directing the universe with loving, watchful care; and God the revealer, communicating himself to man on the level of and through the ways of intelligence.


The universe fulfiling itself in a synthesis of centres in perfect conformity with the laws of union. God, the Centre of centres. In that final vision the Christian dogma culminates.


Christianity is in the first place real by virtue of the spontaneous amplitude of the movement it has managed to create in mankind. It addresses itself to every man and to every class of man, and from the start it took its place as one of the most vigorous and fruitful currents the noosphere has ever known.
...the appearance of a specifically new state of consciousness.
I am thinking here of Christian love.
Christian love is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it.
It is a phenomenon of capital importance for the science of man that, over an appreciable region of the earth, a zone of thought has appeared and grown in which a genuine universal love has... been conceived and preached... .


The bigger the world becomes and the more organic become its internal connections, the more will the perspectives of the Incarnation triumph. [...] If the world is convergent and if Christ occupies its centre, then the Christogenesis of St. Paul and St. John is nothing else and nothing less than the extension, both awaited and unhoped for, of that noogenesis in which cosmogenesis-- as regards our experience-- culminates. Christ invests himself organically with the very majesty of his creation.

...the Christian movement, through its rootedness in the past and ceaseless developments, exhibits the characteristics of a phylum.
Reset in an evolution interpreted as an ascent of consciousness, this phylum, in its trend towards a synthesis based on love, progresses precisely in the direction presumed for the leading-shoot of biogenesis.
In the impetus which guides and sustains its advance, this rising shoot implies essentially the consciousness of finding itself in actual relationship with a spiritual and transcendental pole of universe convergence.
To confirm the presence at the summit of the world of what we have called the Omega Point, do we not find here the very cross-check we were waiting for? Here surely is the ray of sunshine striking through the clouds, the reflection onto what is ascending of that which is already on high, the rupture of our solitude. The palpable influence on our world of an other and supreme Someone... Is not the Christian phenomenon, which rises upwards at the heart of the social phenomenon, precisely that?




The astronomers have lately been making us familiar with the idea of a universe which for the last few thousand millions years has been expanding in galaxies from a sort of primordial atom. [...] Reduced to its ultimate essence, the substance of these long pages can be summed up in this simple affirmation: that if the universe, regarded siderally, is in process of spatial expansion (from the infinitesimal to the immense), in the same way and still more clearly it presents itself to us, physico-chemically, as in process of organic involution upon itself (from the etremely simple to the extremely complex)-- and, moreover, this particular involution 'of complexity' is experimentally bound up with a correlative increase in interiorisation, that is to say in the psyche or consciousness.
[...] ...the particular property possessed by terrestrial substances-- of becoming more vitalised as they become increasingly complex-- is only the local manifestation and expression of a trend as universal as... those already identified by science... .
If that be so, it will be seen that consciousness (defined experimentally as the specific effect of organised complexity) transcends by far the ridiculously narrow limits within which our eyes can directly perceive it.
On the one hand we are logicall forced to assume the existence in rudimentary form... of some sort of psyche in every corpuscle ['radial energy'], even in those (the mega-molecules and below) whose complexity is of such a low or modest order as to render it (the psyche) imperceptible... .
On the other hand, there precisely in the world where various physical conditions... prevent complexity reaching a degree involving a perceptible radiation of consciousness, we are led to assume that the involution, temporarily halted, will resume its advance as soon as conditions are favourable.
Regarded along its axis of complexity, the universe is, both on the whole and at each of its points, in a continual tension of organic doubling-back upon itself, and thus of interiorisation. [...]
It is in my opinion necessary to take one's stand in this actively convergent cosmic setting if one wants to depict the phenomenon of man in its proper relief and explain it fully and coherently.


A second original point in my position in The Phenomenon of Man-- apart from the interpretation of life as a universal function of the cosmos-- lies... in giving the appearance of the human line of the power of reflection the value of a 'threshold' or a change of state. [...] ...from the threshold of reflection onwards we are at what is nothing less than a new form of biological existence... .


To what extent and eventual under what form does the human layer still obey (or is exempt from) the forces of cosmic involution which gave it birth?
The answer to this question is vital for our conduct, and depends entirely on the idea we form... of the nature of the social phenomenon as we now see it in full impetus around us.
As a matter of intellectual routine... the constantly increasing auto-organisation of the human myriad upon itself is still regarded more often than not as a juridical or accidental process only superficially, 'extrinsically', comparable with those of biology.
How can we fail to see that after rolling us on individually-- all of us, you and me-- upon our own axes, it is still the same cyclone (only now on the social scale) which is still blowing over our heads, driving us together into a contact which tends to perfect each one of us by linking him organically to each and all of his neighbours?
'Through human socialisation, whose specific effect is to involute upon itself the whole bundle of reflexive... fibres of the earth, it is the very axis of the cosmic vortex of interiorisation which is pursuing its course'... .
...this organic interpretation of the social phenomenon explains, or ever in some directions allows us to predict, the course of history. [...]
...the power of invention, so rapidly intensified at the present time... [makes it] already possible to speak of a forward leap of evolution.
...the human group is in fact turning, by arrangement and planetary convergence of all elemental terrestrial reflections, towards a second critical pole of reflection of a collective and higher order; towards a point beyond which (precisely because it is critical) we can see nothing directly... that transcendent focus we call Omega, the principle which at one and the same time makes this involution irreversible and moves and collects it.
...how can we fail to see that, in the case of a converging universe such as I have delineated, far from being born from the fusion and confusion of the elemental centres it assembles, the universal centre of unification (precisely to fulfil its motive, collective and stabilising function) must be conceived as pre-existing and transcendent.

The Heart of Matter


At the heart of Matter
A World-heart,
The Heart of a God.

What I shall try to do in the pages printed here... is
quite simply this: to show how, starting from the point at which a spark was first struck, a point that was built into me congenitally, the World gradually caught fire for me, burst into flames; how this happened all during my life, and as a result of my whole life, until it formed a great luminous mass, lit from within, that surrounded me.


When I look for my starting point, for a clue to lead the reader through these pages, for an axis that will give continuity to the whole, I find that the first thing I have to do is to give a picture of... [what] for want of a better name I shall call... the Sense of Plenitude. [...] To be completely at home and completely happy, there must be the knowledge that 'Something, essential by nature' exists, to which everything else is no more than an accessory or perhaps an ornament. To know and endlessly to enjoy the awareness of this existence-- I must indeed confess that if ever in past years I have been able to recognize my own self and follow my own development, it has been only by picking up this note or tint, or particular flavour, which it is impossible (once one has experienced it) to confuse with any other spiritual emotion, whether joy in knowledge or discovery, joy in creation or in loving: and this not so much because it is different from all those emotions, but because it belongs to a higher order and contains them all.
The Sense of Plenitude, the Sense of Consummation and of Completion: the 'Pleromic Sense'.
...everything that follows will be simply the story of a slow unfolding or evolving within me of this fundamental and 'Protean' element which takes on ever richer and purer forms.
[...] ...while destined to culminate upon what is highest in the direction of Spirit, it started in the first place.... from what is most tangible and most concrete in the Stuff of Things, later to make its way into and conquer everything.

I was certainly not more than six or seven years old when I began to feel myself drawn by Matter-- or, more correctly, by something which 'shone' at the heart of Matter.
[...] [Although, "under the influence of my mother", I was raised a Christian, as a child] I withdrew into the contemplation, the possession, into the so relished existence, of my 'Iron God'. Iron, mark you. I can still see, with remarkable sharpness, the succession of my 'idols'. In the country there was the lock-pin of a plough which I used to hide carefully in a coiner of the yard. In town, there was the hexagonal head of a metal bolt which protruded above the level of the nursery floor, and which I had made my own private possession. Later, there were shell-splinters lovingly collected on a neighbouring firing-range... I cannot help smiling, today, when these childish fancies come back to my mind; and yet I cannot but recognize that this instinctive act which made me worship, in a real sense of the word, a fragment of metal contained and concentrated an intensity of resonance and a whole stream of demands of which my entire spiritual life has been no more than the development.
Why Iron? and why, in particular, one special piece of iron? (It had to be as thick and massive as possible.) It can only have been because, so far as my childish experience went, nothing in the world was harder, heavier, tougher, more durable than this marvellous substance apprehended in its fullest possible form . . . Consistence: that has undoubtedly been for me the fundamental attribute of Being. [...] Providentially, in my case the seed was destined to grow. [...]
Already this was the Sense of Plenitude, sharply individualized and already seeking for satisfaction in grasping a definite Object in which the Essence of Things could be found concentrated.
It was precisely what, after many years of experience and thought, I was to begin to discern in an evolutive Pole to the World!
It is a long way, however, from a piece of iron to Omega Point. . . And I was gradually to find, to my cost, to what a degree the Consistence of which I then dreamed is an effect not of 'substance' but of 'convergence'. I so well remember the pathetic despair of the child who one day realizes that Iron can become scratched and pitted-- and can rust. 'Quo tinea non corrumpit'.
And then, to comfort myself, I looked for things that would take its place. Sometimes it would be a blue flame (at once so material, so impossible to grasp and so pure) flickering over the logs on the hearth; more often some more transparent or more finely coloured stone: quartz or amethyst crystals and, best of all, glittering fragments of chalcedony such as I could pick up in the countryside.
[...] ...it was precisely through the gateway that the substitution of Quartz for Iron opened for my groping mind into the vast structures of the Planet and of Nature... .

Then it was that my newly born attraction to the world of 'Rocks' began to produce the beginning of what was to be a permanent broadening of the foundations of my interior life.
Metal (such metal as I could find at the age of ten) tended to keep me attached to objects that were manufactured and so mere pieces. Mineral, on the other hand, set me on the road towards the 'planetary'. I woke up to the notion of 'the Stuff of Things'. And that famous Consistence, which I had hitherto looked for in the Hard and the Dense, began in a subtle way to emerge in the direction of an Elemental permeating all things-- whose very ubiquity would produce incorruptibility.
[...] ...during the whole of my life there was but one thing which would irresistibly bring me back (even at the expense of palaeontology) to the study of the great eruptive masses and continental shelves: that was an insatiable desire to maintain contact (a contact of communion) with a sort of universal root or matrix of beings.
[...] First of all,... forming the solid permanent core of the system [of my beliefs], was my taste for geology... . ...I could not explain, or follow myself, the vicissitudes of my psychic evolution if I did not emphasize once again the central position invariably occupied by my passionate study of the science 'of Stones', through the whole of my spiritual embryo-genesis.
Thus, between the ages of ten and thirty... lay a continued and increased contact with the Cosmic 'in the solid state'. Already, however, in a semi-subordinate way, there was the newly emerged attraction towards vegetal and animal Nature... . [...]
Because of its apparent fragility... the living World greatly worried and disconcerted me as a child. On the one hand, when I thought of Plants and Animals... I felt quite certainly drawn towards them by my constantly watchful 'Sense of Plenitude'. On the other hand, I had to justify to myself the interest aroused in me by objects so shockingly lacking in consistence and so perishable as a flower or an insect... . [...]
[...] ...if the initial call that I had heard was in fact coming from Matter, then (someone kept whispering within me) why should I not look for the essence of Matter, for its 'heart', precisely in that direction in which all things are 'ultra-materialized'... . [...]
[...]... there gradually grew in me, as a presence much more than as an abstract notion, the consciousness of a deep-running, ontological, total Current which embraced the whole Universe in which I moved; and this consciousness continued to grow until it filled the whole horizon of my inner being. [...] I can remember very clearly the avidity with which, at that time, I read Bergson's Creative Evolution. [...] ...World... had suddenly acquired a new dimension and had thereby moved from the fragmented state of static Cosmos to the organic state and dignity of a Cosmogenesis.
[...] All that I can remember of those days (apart from that magic word 'evolution', which haunted my thoughts like a tune: which was to me like an unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered)-- all that I can remember is the extraordinary solidity and intensity I found then in the English countryside, particularly at sunset, when the Sussex woods were charged with all that 'fossil' Life which I was then hunting for, from cliff to quarry, in the Wealden clay. There were moments, indeed, when it seemed to me that a sort of universal being was about to take shape suddenly in Nature before my very eyes. Already, however, I was no longer trying, as I had tried earlier, to apprehend and pin down the Ineffable Ambience by looking towards some 'ultra-material'. I was already turning my eyes towards some 'ultra-living'. [...]
You can well imagine, accordingly, how strong was my inner feeling of release and expansion when I took my first still hesitant steps into an 'evolutive' Universe, and saw that the dualism in which I had hitherto been enclosed was disappearing like the mist before the rising sun. Matter and Spirit: these were no longer two things, but two states or two aspects of one and the same cosmic Stuff, according to whether it was looked at or carried further in the direction in which (as Bergson would have put it) it is becoming itself or in the direction in which it is disintegrating.
[...] ...
I never really paused for a moment to question the idea that the progressive Spiritualization of Matter-- so clearly demonstrated to me by Palaeontology-- could be anything other, or anything less, than an irreversible process. By its gravitational nature, the Universe, I saw, was falling-- falling forwards-- in the direction of Spirit as upon its stable form. In other words, Matter was not ultra- materialized as I would at first have believed, but was instead metamorphosed into Psyche. Looked at not metaphysically, but genetically, Spirit was by no means the enemy or the opposite pole of the Tangibility which I was seeking to attain: rather was it its very heart.
[...] By the direct leap I had taken from the old static dualism, which I found paralysing, to emerge into a Universe which was in a state not merely of evolution but of directed evolution (that is, of Genesis) I was obliged to make a complete about-turn in my fundamental pursuit of Consistence. Until that time, as I said earlier, my guiding Sense of Plenitude tended to point and settle down in the direction of the 'extremely simple' (in other words, of what cannot be broken down into physical components). In future, since the unique and precious essence of the Universe had assumed for me the form of an 'Evolutive' in which Matter was transformed into Thought as an extended consequence of Noogenesis, I found myself inevitably, and paradoxically, obliged to identify the extreme Solidity of things with an extreme organic complexity. Yet how could what was most corruptible become, as a result of synthesis, the supremely Indestructible? Because I had not yet perceived 'the biological laws of Union' and recognized the amazing attributes of a universal Curvature, I was still uncertain of the solution to that problem; but I no longer doubted but that the supreme happiness I had formerly looked for in 'Iron' was to be found only in Spirit.
...two immense living Unities were beginning to rise over my inner horizon-- unities of planetary dimensions in which I could distinguish, precisely as an effect of an excess of combination and organicity, the emergence within the Stuff of the cosmos of an extraordinary capacity for 'consolidation by complexification'.
[...] This was the Earth's living envelop-- the Biosphere.
And the other was totalized Mankind-- the Noosphere.


Today Man (or, to speak more correctly, the Human) forms the pivot upon which the whole structure of my interior Universe rests, around which its links are formed and it coheres and moves. Yet the Human was far from occupying this cardinal position in my picture of the world immediately and without resistance.
As a result of the awakening in me of the notion of Evolution, Spirit (as I have just related) had, in my view, supplanted the Mineral and the Atomic in their dignity as the immutable and all-embracing essence of the Universe. [...] ...if the World does indeed represent an organo-dynamic system which is in process of psychic interiorization, then it is through the Flesh, by process of Hominization, that Noogenesis operates.

It was only, if I am not mistaken, in an article on Man, written about 1927 [editors note: the article was called Homonization and published in 1925]..., that I first allowed myself-- on the model of Suess's Biosphere-- to use the term Noosphere for the Earth's thinking envelope. ...it was ten years earlier that the vision itself had germinated in my mind through prolonged contact with the huge masses of mankind that were then facing one another in the trenches of France, from the Yser to Verdun.
The atmosphere of 'the Front'... . The 'Human-million', with its psychic temperature and its internal energy, became for me a magnitude as evolutively, and therefore as biologically, real as a giant molecule of protein. ...because the individual human being represents a corpuscular magnitude he must be subject to the same development as every other species of corpuscles in the World: that means that he must coalesce into physical relationships and groupings that belong to a higher order than his. It is, of course, quite impossible for him to apprehend these groupings directly as such (because they are of the order of n+I), but there are many indications that enable him to recognize perfectly well their existence and the influences they exercise. This gift or faculty of perceiving, without actually seeing, the reality and organicity of collective magnitudes is still comparatively rare: but I have no doubt at all (as I said earlier) that it was the experience of the War that brought me this awareness and developed it in me as a sixth sense.

Once I had acquired this complementary sense, what emerged into my field of perception was literally a new Universe. By the side of (or above) the Universe of large Masses, I saw (what I shall speak of later) the Universe of large Complexes. Looking at the Earth, my first instinct would originally have been to give particular consideration to what was most central and heaviest (the Barysphere, we might say). As things were, my attention and my interest (still guided by the same fundamental need for Solidity and Incorruptibility) were gradually and almost imperceptibly climbing up from the extremely simple central core of the Planet to its ridiculously thin, but dauntingly active and complex, peripheral layers. It was not merely that I found no difficulty in apprehending, more or less intuitively, the organic unity of the living membrane which is stretched like a film over the lustrous surface of the star which holds us. There was something more: around this sentient protoplasmic layer, an ultimate envelope was beginning to become apparent to me, taking on its own individuality and gradually detaching itself like a luminous aura. This envelope was not only conscious but thinking, and from the time when I first became aware of it, it was always there that I found concentrated, in an ever more dazzling and consistent form, the essence or rather the very Soul of the Earth.
Deep down, there is in the substance of the cosmos a primordial disposition, sui generis, for self-arrangement and self-involution.

I mentioned earlier the curiously seductive power that the phenomena of gravity exerted on my mind while I was still very young. Was it by mere chance that the place of this mysterious energy, whose study was technically beyond my powers, was taken by another entity, as wide in its embrace and as powerful in its attraction, which gradually became apparent to me in a field that was both easier for me to work in and closer to the very axis of Cosmogenesis? This was no longer universal 'attraction' gradually drawing around itself the cosmic Mass-- but that as yet undiscovered and unnamed power which forces Matter (as it concentrates under pressure) to arrange itself in ever larger molecules, differentiated and organic in structure. Beyond and above the concentration-curve I began to distinguish the arrangement-curve . . . not the gentle drift towards equilibrium and rest, but the irresistible 'Vortex' which spins into itself, always in the same direction, the whole Stuff of things, from the most simple to the most complex: spinning it into ever more comprehensive and more astronomically complicated nuclei. And the result of this structural torsion is an increase (under the influence of interiorization) of consciousness, or a rise in psychic temperature, in the core of the corpuscles that are successively produced.
[...] Vitalized Matter: the delicate foam that floats precariously on the surface of the planetary crucible...
...And then suddenly I saw in you the very consistency of the World; it was welling up in you like sap, through every fibre, it was leaping up like a flame.
[...] ...as soon as I had recognized and accepted the great bio-physical principle of 'maximum arrangement' in Matter-- which does not contradict, but rather complements or even dominates the mechanical principle of 'least effort'-- as soon as I had done that, I could see quite clearly that once life has established a foothold somewhere in the World we might expect to see it not only expand but (as a result of ultra-complexification) reach the highest degree of intensity upon our vitalized planet. It was this that explained the persistent and irreversible rise of Cerebration and Consciousness over the surface of the Earth that runs through the geological eras. It was this, again, that showed me the real significance of the hominizing phenomenon of Reflection: Reflection, the 'cosmic' critical point which at a given moment is inevitably met and traversed by all Matter as soon as it exceeds a certain degree of psychic temperature and organization. Reflection: the transition (which is like a second birth) from simple Life to 'Life squared'. Reflection: the necessary and sufficient property that explains the marked discontinuity-- the 'take-off' we might almost say-- that we can observe experientially between Biosphere and Noosphere.
Matter is the matrix of Spirit. Spirit is the higher state of Matter.
These two propositions became the real axis of my inner vision and progress, and in them the word spirit was henceforth to bear a precise and concrete meaning.

There is, fortunately, an ever increasing number of persons who can overcome certain ingrained intellectual habits and certain anatomical illusions and are beginning to distinguish a Noosphere which is like a halo around the Biosphere; but even among these, agreement is far from being reached as yet on the question of determining whether this 'corona' of reflective peri-terrestrial substance has, or has not, finished its planetary evolution.
If we were to believe those who preach a certain sort of 'common sense', we would say that the process of cosmic involution from which the human zoological type emerged towards the end of the Tertiary came to a complete standstill some thousands of years ago. Could Mankind, they are continually asking us, produce anything superior to Beethoven or Plato? On the contrary, is my answer : how can we fail to see that the process of convergence from which we emerged, body and soul, is continuing to envelop us more closely than ever, to grip us, in the form of- under the folds o£ we might say - a gigantic planetary contraction?
The irresistible 'setting' or cementing together of a thinking mass (Mankind) which is continually more compressed upon itself by the simultaneous multiplication and expansion of its individual elements: there is not one of us, surely, who is not almost agonizingly aware of this, in the very fibre of his being. This is one of the things that no one today would even try to deny: we can all see the fantastic anatomical structure of a vast phylum whose brandies, instead of diverging as they normally do, are ceaselessly folding in upon one another ever more closely, like some monstrous inflorescence-- like, indeed, an enormous flower folding-in upon itself; the literally global physiology of an organism in which production, nutrition, the machine, research, and the legacy of heredity are, beyond any doubt, building up to planetary dimensions; the increasing impossibility of die individual's attaining economic and intellectual self-sufficiency-- although we recognize all this, why is it that we are still, for the most part, obstinately blind to the cosmogenic (or, more correctly, 'noogenic') significance of the phenomenon? Why, in other words, do we not recognize in die accelerating totalization against which we are struggling, sometimes so desperately, simply the normal continuation at a level above ourselves of that process which generates Thought on Earth? Why do we not see that it is a continuing process of Cerebration?

But that Hominization in its essence (that is, the con- centration upon itself of global terrestrial Psychism) should now have come to a final halt: to my mind, that is formally contradicted by die fantastic spectacle, staring us in die face, of a rapidly rising collective Reflection, moving in step with an increasingly unitary organization.
We have only to look around us to see how complexity (under compression) and psychic 'Temperature' are still rising: and rising no longer on the scale of the individual but now on that of the planet. This indication is so familiar to us that we cannot but recognize the objective, experiential, reality of a directionally controlled transformation of the Noosphere 'as a whole' [editors note: Teilhard uses the English words 'as a whole', as if to emphasize the globe girdling dimensions of that 'universal langauge'].
[...] For a long time now... I have always had a feeling that at the head of Cosmogenesis there stands a Pole, not simply of attraction, but of consolidation-- and that means a Pole which imparts the quality of irreversibility.
And so finally this mysterious focal point... of Noogenesis became experimentially real for me. In one single and irresistible movement, as the result of convergence, the Incorruptible of which I had always dreamed was simultaneously becoming universalized and personalized.
The 'piece of iron' of my first days has long been forgotten. In its place it is the Consistence of the Universe, in the form of Omega Point, that I now hold, concentrated (whether above me or, rather, in the depths of my being, I cannot say) into one single indestructible centre, WHICH I CAN LOVE.


The discovery of Omega brings to a close what I might call the natural branch of the inner trajectory I followed in my search for the ultimate consistence of die Universe. As we have just seen, it was not simply in the vague direction of 'Spirit' but in the form of a well-defined supra-personal focal point that a Heart of total Matter was disclosed to my experiential quest.[...]
The cosmic sense and the christic sense: these two axes were born in me quite independently of one another, it would seem, and it was only after a long time and a great deal of hard work that I finally came to understand how, through and beyond the Human, the two were linked together, converged upon one another, and were in fact one and the same.

a. The Heart of Jesus

For all its unitive and 'communicant' power, and for all the emotional charge that from the very beginning resulted from that power, my contact with, and consciousness of, the Universe was bound, if left on its own, never to go beyond a certain comparatively low degree of intimacy and warmth. Moving along the cosmic and biological road, Omega Point always lay just outside my grasp... . A meeting of Center with Centre, of Heart with Heart, these were anticipated rather than realized. [...]
It called for a spark to fall upon me, if the glow was to burst into flame.
That spark, through which 'my Universe', as yet but half personalized, was to attain centricity by being amorized, that spark undoubtedly came to me through my mother: it was through her that it reached me from the current of Christian mysticism and both illuminated and inflamed my childish soul.
[...] ...I have never, experienced the least difficulty in addressing myself to God as to a supreme SOMEONE. So true is this that I now understand that a certain 'love of the Invisible' has always been active in me [Teilhard's note: more or less stimulated and fed by the influence of the Feminine], parallel to the 'congenital' cosmic sense which , as we have seen, is the 'backbone' of my inner life.
Everybody knows the historical background of the cult of the Sacred Heart (or of the Love of Christ)... .
The moment I saw a mysterious patch of crimson and gold delineated in the very centre of the Saviour's breast, I found what I was looking for... .
It would be difficult for me to convey how deeply and forcefully... my religious life in the pre-war years developed under the sign of the Heart of Jesus... .

...the great synthesis was beginning to be effected in which my life's whole effort was to be summed up: the synthesis of the Above with the Ahead.
It was the immersion of the Divine in the Corporeal... .
There was no longer a patch of crimson in the centre of Jesus, but a glowing core of fire, whose splendour embraced every contour-- first those of the God-Man-- and then those of all things that lay within his ambience.

b. The Universal Christ

On one side - in my 'pagan' ego - a Universe which was becoming personalized through convergence.
And on the other side - in my Christian ego - a Person (the Person of Christ) who was becoming universalized through Radiation. 

By each of these two roads, that is to say, the Divine was joining itself, through all Matter, to all the Human, in the direction of the infinity of the ages lying ahead ...
...the Universal and the Personal came together and gradually closed up, over my head, to form one single vault.

Christ. His Heart. A Fire: a fire with the power to penetrate all things-- and which was now gradually spreading unchecked.
At the root of this invasion and envelopment I can distinguish, I believe, the rapidly increasing importance that was being assumed in my spiritual life by the Sense of 'the Will of God': fidelity to the divine Will, by which I mean fidelity to a directed and realized omnipresence, which can be apprehended both actively and passively in every element of the World and in all its events. Although at first I did not precisely realize the bridge by which this eminenty Christian attitude connected my love of Christ and my love of Things, nevertheless I have always, ever since the first years of my religious life, gladly surrendered myself to this active feeling of communion with God through the Universe.
From the point of view of the convergent Evolution... the whole cosmic Event may be reduced in its essence to one single vast process of arrangement... .
If it is taken to its limit in the direction of a cosmic pole of unification, everything we experience and even everything we see displays a singular 'bias' for transforming itself into love.
...I managed to climb up to the point where the Universe became apparent to me as a great rising surge
, in which all the work that goes into serious enquiry, all the will to create, all the acceptance of suffering, converge ahead into a single dazzling spear-head-- now, at the end of my life, I can stand on the peak I have scaled and continue to look ever more closely into the future, and there, with ever more assurance, see the ascent of God.

For a long time, absorbed in the delight of seeing how every single thing around me was simultaneously centred, consolidated and amorized, I confined my attention to one thing only... ; and that was the rise within my own self of the forces of Communion. Everything was directed towards the intensification of the Stuff of the cosmos, so that in that Stuff the Presence of God might be intensified for me.
...as God 'metamorphized' the World from the depths of matter to the peaks of Spirit, so in addition the World must inevitably and to the same degree 'endomorphize' God. As a direct consequence of the unitive process by which God is revealed to us, he in some way 'transforms himself' as he incorporates us.
All around us, and within our own selves, God is in process of 'changing', as a result of the coincidence of his magnetic power and our own Thought. As the 'Quantity of cosmic Union' rises, so his brilliance increases and the glow of his colouring grows richer.
from the depths of the cosmic future as well as from the heights of Heaven, it was still God, it was always the same God, who was calling me. It was a God of the Ahead who had suddenly appeared athwart the traditional God of the Above, so that henceforth we can no longer worship fully unless we superimpose those two images so that they form one.
A new Faith in which the ascensional Faith that rises up towards a Transcendent, and the propulsive Faith that drives towards an Immanent, form a single compound - a new Charity in which all the Earth's dynamic passions combine as they are divinized: it is this, I now see with a vision that will never leave me, that the World is desperately in need of at this very moment, if it is not to collapse.
[...] ...I see in the World a mysterious product of completion and fulfilment for the Absolute Being himself. [...] ...the effect, no longer of creative Causality, but of creative Union.
In a system of Creative Union, it is not only the Universe but God himself who is necessarily 'Christified' in Omega, at the upper limits of Cosmogenesis.

Prayer to the Ever-Greater Christ

Because, Lord, by every innate impulse and through all the hazards of my life I have been driven ceaselessly to search for you and to set you in the heart of the universe of matter, I shall have the joy, when death comes, of closing my eyes amidst the splendour of a universal transparency aglow with fire . . .
It is as if the fact of bringing together and connecting the two poles, tangible and intangible, external and internal, of the world which bears us onwards had caused everything to burst into flames and set everything free.
[...] ...that same humanity which once was born and dwelt in Palestine began now to spread out gradually everywhere like an iridescence of unnumbered hues through which, without destroying anything, your presence penetrated-- and endued with supervitality-- every other presence about me.
And all this took place because, in a universe which was dis- closing itself to me as structurally convergent, you, by right of your resurrection, had assumed the dominating position of all-inclusive Centre in which everything is gathered together.

As mankind emerges into consciousness of the movement that carries it along, it has a continually more urgent need of a Direction and a Solution ahead and above, to which it will at last be able to consecrate itself.
Who, then is this God, no longer the God of the old Cosmos but the God of the new Cosmogenesis-- so constituted precisely because the effect of a mystical operation that has been going on for two thousand years has been to disclose in you, beneath the Child of Bethlehem and the Crucified, the moving Principle and the all-embracing Nucleus of the World itself? Who is this God for whom our generation looks so eagerly? Who but you, Jesus, who represent him and bring him to us?
...God, complete in relation to yourself and yet, for us, continually being born... .
Let your universal Presence spring forth in a blaze that is at once Diaphany and Fire.
O ever-greater Christ!