Teilhard Series - 6th
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 present. 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 the ‘within’. Life (or existence) displays two dimensions. The ‘without’ is the stuff of the universe. The things 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 clearly defined—consciousness.
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 different entity.
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’ (T)
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. Its evolving 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.