I apologize for my previous posting; my error was to re-post the 5th rather than the 6th (missing from the archives) of my series on the concepts introduced by
Teilhard de Chardin.
His ideas challenge
us to think holistically rather than compartmentally.
Underlying his body of work is the
conviction of interconnectedness of all being, with a purposeful direction
inherent in the evolutionary process.
As a paleontologist Teilhard traced evolutionary development
back to its most distant origins, then followed its path forward to the
He discovered a pattern at work
that he called complexity-consciousness.
The slow development of life on earth has proceeded from
simple to complex.
In our first biology
class we learned that life gradually emerged from the simple one-celled ameba
to the indescribably complex human form, not just by changing in size and
shape, but also by the increasing complexity of interacting systems.
On the one hand this kind of progression can
simply be accepted as the way it should be, but on the other hand it suggests a
profound intentionality with direction and purpose.
Teilhard saw its significance—life gradually unfolding
by increasing in complexity and moving toward self-awareness.
from Google/Wikipedia: “The law of
Complexity-Consciousness is the postulated tendency to become more complex over
time and at the same time to become more conscious . . . The law was first
formulated by Teilhard de Chardin in his 1955 work The Phenomenon of Man.”
Before we look further at complexity-consciousness it is
necessary to consider another of Teilhard’s concepts—that of the ‘without’ and
Life (or existence)
displays two dimensions.
is the stuff of the universe.
we can see and touch, can experience as material solid objects, the so-called
‘real’ that we know and that to which science gives attention.
The ‘within’ is the non-material, what is
called the subjective dimension . . . it is that to which religion, mysticism
and psychology gives attention; it includes emotions and the elusive—still not
The ‘complexity part of the law is more readily understood
and accepted as science has long traced that aspect of the pattern—simple
organisms evolve to more complex ones.
Yet there is another aspect of this law to understand.
In complexifying, there is a flow between the
lower and higher state—potential for the higher state pre-exists.
In the evolutionary process nothing can come
to be in an advanced state that did not pre-exist in some rudimentary form.
The new emerges from the potential carried in
the earlier state
(think of butterflies,
or oak trees).
Yet the new is a
Teilhard states, “In the world,
nothing could ever burst forth as final across the different thresholds
successively traversed by evolution (however critical they be) which has not
already existed in an obscure and primordial way.”
It is important to realize both the ‘without’ and ‘within’
are equally bound to the principle that ‘for every synthesis . . . its end is
already implied in the beginning’
Since the focus of science is on the ‘without’ it is easy
for scientists to be dismissive of the appearance of consciousness in the human
as a ‘fluke’ or an anomaly or an epiphenomenon and simply ignore it.
Teilhard makes the point that consciousness
pre-existed in a rudimentary state in even the lowest life forms and came to
flower in the human and is yet continuing to evolve.
Consciousness is THE crowning phenomenon that
has revolutionized the earth.
development as it appeared in the human can be charted: from cave-men just
beginning to use tools and fire, to the inventors of modern technology; from a
world of landscapes without indications of human habitation, to networks of
highways and bridges crisscrossing the globe; from markings on cave walls, to countless
books and elaborate communication systems, etc.
The human is much more than ‘just another animal’—a random product of blind
chance . . . the human, endowed with consciousness, has emerged from the long
complex evolutionary process armed with reflective awareness that enables the
species to make of this world whatever they would have it be.
May the consciousness in the species continue
to evolve to enable it to reach the potential intended.
As we see a pattern emerging and can trace order in
development, it belies creation by random chance.