Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was both a theologian and a paleontologist. He combined the worlds of religious belief and science into one. He did this through spiritual meditation, learning about the sciences, and through personal experience. When he first brought up his ideas and belief about science and religion, everyone thought he was crazy.
Teilhard was born on May 1, 1881 in Sarcenat, France. Teilhard’s mother was a very religious Roman Catholic, and his father was a farmer that enjoyed natural history. This combination of interests from both parents instilled into Teilhard, a know-how of both subjects. In 1892, Teilhard was put into a Jesuit boarding school called Nȏtre-Dame de Mergré at Villefranche-sur-Saȏne. Here, he excelled in literature and science classes. Nine years later, at the age of 19, on March 25, 1901, Teilhard took his vows as a Jesuit. After Teilhard was ordained on August 14, 1911, he traveled to many different countries. These include China, the United States, and Northern Africa.
Teilhard experienced many things during his active life. For example, Teilhard was sent to the Jesuit College of the Holy Family, which is located in Cairo, Egypt. Here he taught chemistry and physics. Here his view of science and the world became more defined. In 1912, Teilhard went to Paris to study under a professor from a natural history museum. Unfortunately, Teilhard was then caught in World War One and he went to serve in the French army as a stretcher carrier. Later in his life he was told to leave France and go to Tainjin, China, with Father Émile Licent. In China Teilhard thought of many of his ideas of science and religion such as the Omega Point (the point at which the universe converges with God) and the Noosphere (the sphere of conscious human thought). He also helped discover the Peking Man, a Neolithic human. While in China, Teilhard also wrote many papers about his ideas that he sent to the Vatican to be published. However, to Teilhard’s dismay, his papers were rejected by the Vatican filter. At this point, he traveled to different locations around the globe to help with research of prehistoric human like organisms. Unfortunately on June 1, 1947, Teilhard suffered a stroke, but this did not deter him from spreading his ideas and help. From 1951 to 1955, he lived in New York City, where he did research at the Wenner-Gren Foundation, a private anthropological institute. He later died on April 10, 1955, which was Easter Sunday.
This persistent Jesuit, through all of the opposition and difficulties that he faced, he always held steadfast to his beliefs. His few literary works, which were published after his death by close friends outside of the church community, show us his thoughts of how the science of evolution and religion are connected. One such work is The Phenomenon of Man, which discusses how Teilhard believed that as the human organism was evolving over the last few thousand years that something spiritual was also evolving. Unfortunately for Teilhard, even through all of his work and dedication, he was never beatified or canonized by the Church.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was an influential person who to this day influences our ideals about science and church. He has created an idea that allows devout religious people and those of us that love the world of science to understand and accept both of them without having to give up on one of them. Through his lifelong work to try and meld science and religion together, he has furthered our understanding of this world and the world afterwards.
Flinn, Frank K. “Jesuits.” Encyclopedia of Catholicism. New York: Facts on File, 2007. 383-384. Facts on File Library of Religion and Mythology: Encyclopedia of World Religions. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.
Flinn, Frank K. “Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1881-1955).” Encyclopedia of Catholicism. New York: Facts on File, 2007. 590. Facts on File Library of Religion and Mythology: Encyclopedia of World Religions. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Oct. 2011.
Paradowski, Robert J. “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.” Great Lives from History: The Twentieth Century. Ed. Robert F. Gorman. 10 vols. Salem Press, 2008. Salem History Web. 19 Oct. 2011
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. explorefaith.org. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.