Today, is part two of a three part series discussing the noosphere:
One of the challenges of Teilhard de Chardin’s description of the noosphere is that he never clearly defined the term. Moreover, Teilhard often used the term noosphere to describe both in a physical sense and in a metaphysical / spiritual sense to describe the interconnectiveness of humanity. This post will focus on the Christian understanding of the latter metaphysical / spiritual connection among humanity.
Although early Christians did not use the term noosphere, nor were they aware of modern evolutionary science, they were certainly aware of the great interconnection of all humanity and the ultimate evolution towards Christ, or the Omega Point, which is centered on mutual love (See, e.g. John 1:1-5, Acts 17:28, Rom. 8:22-30, 1 Cor. 15:28, Eph. 4:12-16, Col. 1:15-20). From its beginnings Christianity had a belief in the mystical bond that united all of humanity, both living and dead. Over the years, this bond has been referred to as the “Communion of Saints” or “the Body of Christ”. As St. Paul said: “[F]or building up the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature to adulthood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ . . . Living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love”. (Eph. 4:12-16).
“One of the most distinctive and valuable insights of our modern age is our hard-won sense of our own personalities. It is a sense of subjectivity that allows us to uphold the rights of the individual in the face of any larger community. Yet if we are not careful, it can obscure an equally profound truth of how much we are part of the human community without which we cannot properly develop. It was Emile Mersch who pursued the natural, or metaphysical unity of the human race the farthest. The universe, itself, culminated in human beings, and we would need to take into account the entire universe, he felt, in order to get some idea of what it truly means to be human. But it was necessary to go farther, still. The human soul, in virtue of its very nature, indeed, of its very self-consciousness which makes us most distinctly who we are as individuals, at the very same time is our deepest bond with other people. The human spirit has inscribed within it a dynamism that drives it to embrace the universe around it and all other human beings. If we were to try to sum up all this in one image we could say that if we were to take the entire universe that we see spread out across billions of miles of space and billions of years of time, and if we were to take all the human beings that ever existed, and will ever exist, and concentrate them both into one point, this would give us a sense of what it means to be truly human. This is the kind of humanity that we carry in the depths of our souls.
Mersch took this profound sense of human unity, and saw it as the cosmic human nature, as it were, that was elevated, transformed and intensified by its assumption by the Word. This gave him an organic way of understanding just how and why the universe can be said to be summed up in Christ. Christ is not added from without, but emerges from within, and becomes the very way in whom the universe comes together and in whom we find our union with God and with each other.”
[Editor’s note: I have two comments here. First, I highly recommend James Arraj’s fantastic blog, Inner Explorations. It has a wealth of information on Christian theology, Christian mysticism, East-West dialogue, Jungian psychology and sustainable living. Second, it is possible that there was some cross-fertilization of ideas between Teilhard de Chardin and Emile Mersch. Teilhard and Mersch were contemporaries and both were European Jesuits. Although there are some significant differences (Mersch gave up his early interest in natural sciences to become a brilliant systematic theologian whereas Teilhard was prevented from pursuing systematic theology and pursued his career in paleontology), both arrived at the deeply profound Christocentric nature of human consciousness.]
Teilhard de Chardin used different language than Mersch and other conventional Christian theologians but this traditional Christian understanding deeply informed Teilhard’s description of the noosphere:
“[I]t 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 center, which I can love.” . . .
“The fact is, fortunately for me, I was born right into the Catholic ‘phylum’; and that means into the very center of the privileged zone in which the ascending cosmic force of ‘Complexity-Consciousness’ joins the descending (and so drawing up to itself) hood of personal and personalizing attraction which is introduced between Heaven and Earth by the influence of Hominization.” (emphasis added).
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1980-07-23). Heart Of Matter (Kindle Locations 535, 547-550). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
Teilhard also said that even if he were not born a Christian, his understanding of the noosphere would likely have led to his conversion to Christianity:
“Had I been an unbeliever and left entirely to the promptings of my sense of plenitude, I think that my inner exploration would have led me to the same spiritual peak; and it is even possible that a close rational study of the cosmic properties of Omega (‘the complex unit in which the organic sum of the reflective elements of the World becomes irreversible within a transcendent super-ego’) would belatedly have led me, in a final stage, to recognize in an incarnate God the true Reflection, on our Noosphere, of the ultimate nucleus of totalization and consolidation that is bio-psychologically demanded by the evolution of a reflective living Mass.
To be completely Man, it may well be that I would have been obliged to become Christian.”
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1980-07-23). Heart Of Matter (Kindle Locations 541-546). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
Leading theologians of the last fifty years have affirmed that Teilhard’s description of the noosphere is consistent with 2,000 years of Christian theology and have incorporated Teilhard’s language noosphere into Christian theology and liturgy. For example, Pope Benedict XVI, invoked the noosphere as a central component of the worship and celebration of the Catholic Mass:
“And so we can now say that the goal of worship and the goal of creation as a whole are one and the same—divinization, a world of freedom and love. But this means that the historical makes its appearance in the cosmic. The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may by chance take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense, creation is history. Against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. From very simple beginnings the path leads to ever greater and more complex unities, in which multiplicity is not abolished but merged into a growing synthesis, leading to the “Noosphere”, in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are blended into a kind of living organism. Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its “fullness’. From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological “fullness”. In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.” (emphasis added)
– Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal; Pope Benedict XVI (2009-06-11). The Spirit of the Liturgy (Kindle Locations 260-270). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
In Part III, we will discuss the internet, the Princeton University’s Global Consciousness Project and the future evolution of the noosphere.