Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Brief History of Tielhard de Chardin

                                                                                                                        Series - 2nd

            I have frequently made references to Teilhard de Chardin in entries throughout this blog and as I now begin this series (mentioned here in my last entry two days ago) I will fill in a brief history of his life.

            He was born in France on May 1, 1881.  In 1892 he entered the Jesuit school of Notre Dame at Lyons; at age 20 he took his first vows as a Jesuit.  From 1905 to 1908 he taught physics and chemistry at a Jesuit secondary school in Cairo, Egypt.  In 1911 at age 30 he was ordained a priest, then in 1912 he was assigned to studies in scientific research in paleontology.  World War I interrupted his studies.

            From 1914 to 1919 Teilhard served as a stretcher-bearer on the front lines of the war in North Africa.  Being a priest, he could have served as a Chaplin but instead volunteered to go into the thick of battle to aid the wounded.  Witnessing bloodshed and death had a profound effect upon him, his notebooks from that time contain the seeds of his insights which were to appear later in his formal writings.

            In May 1918 he made his final Jesuit vows and after the War returned to his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris from 1919 to 1922.  Next, Teilhard secured a teaching position in the Sciences at the Institute Catholique and was later promoted to a professorship in Geology.  He also pursued religious and philosophical questions in the private papers he wrote.  He was a popular teacher, a good speaker, and a forward thinker who was an advocate of evolution; it made many traditionalists uneasy.  A colleague asked him to write a brief paper explaining his thoughts on original sin; in it he pointed out difficulties between traditional teachings and scientific discoveries and suggested new ways of understanding the concept.  The paper somehow got to the Vatican—it is not known how.  The Vatican censors and authorities of his order were sever.  In 1927 he was forbidden to teach and was exiled to China where he spent a total of 25 years working with celebrated paleontologists.

            In 1948 he visited Rome to request the lifting of the ban on his teaching and writing, presenting what he saw as his scientific work, The Phenomenon of Man.  All requests were denied.  Soon there was a new exile—to the USA where he lived out his life from 1951 to 1955.  He died on Easter Sunday April 11, 1955.

           Soon after his death in 1955 his books began to be published, first in French, then in English.  His two best known titles are: 'The Phenomenon of Man', (more recently retranslated as 'The Human Phenomenon'), and 'The Divine Milieu'.


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