The Phenomenon of Teilhard: Prophet for a New Age (Macon, Georgia, Mercer University Press, 1996). 189 pages. ISBN 0-86554-498-0 MUP/P131
By David Lane, Wellington, New Zealand
In The Phenomenon of Teilhard, David Lane makes a thorough and well-documented case for the thesis that a relatively obscure Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), exerted a major influence on the evolving modernist theology of the church as well as the New Age movement within Western civilization. Teilhard de Chardin’s numerous writings of a philosophical or theological nature were considered so harmful by the Roman Catholic Church that they were banned in 1947. This only added to his prestige as Teilhard “seemed to delight in seeing himself as a modern-day Galileo” (p. 13). Throughout his life, Teilhard privately wrote a succession of essays and letters revealing his evolving synthesis of philosophy and theology with the theory of evolution. He wrote in a lyrical, evocative style laced with highly personalized neologisms and ephemeral imagery lulling his followers along a mystical pathway toward what he called the “Omega Point,” where allegedly all reality, consciousness, and mankind in general spirituality unite in perfect godhead. Chardin believed that: “Science, in all probability, will be progressively more impregnated by mysticism” (p. 83).
Teilhard’s marked influence as an “evolutionary natural philosopher” was largely due to his degrees in geology and paleontology (p. 11). He wrote at a time in history when society was fascinated by all that claimed to be “scientific.” Teilhard was determined to reconcile the doctrine of evolution with Christianity, and Lane shows how he changed the Christ presented in Scripture into a universal redeemer, the “cosmic emergence of the Spirit” (p. 20).