The Jesuit Priest who influenced Transhumanism
- Category: Articles
By Aaron Franz
first posted Friday May 1, 2009
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin lived from 1881-1955. He was a Jesuit priest, philosopher and paleontologist. Through the study and practice of these three supposedly separate disciplines he developed ideas which are just now starting to be advocated by Transhumanists. The relationship between religion, philosophy and science has been distorted in modern times. The truth is that all three are part of one over-arching force. Teilhard obviously was well aware of this.
Teilhard took the scientific concept of evolution and applied it to the Christian notion of spiritual rapture. He believed that technology was the tool which would bring about the ultimate spiritual evolution of mankind. According to him, this is the work of Christ.
Interestingly Teilhard's beliefs also reconcile panpsychism with Christianity. Panpsychism is traditionally thought of as a pagan belief. It is the idea that all matter is intelligent (to varying degrees.) This intelligence also translates to consciousness. All material in our world is therefore "alive", as it possesses consciousness. Panpsychism is also known as pantheism. From this standpoint the entire Earth is seen as a living organism. Teilhard developed an Omega Point Theory, which posits that all the organisms on Earth will reach a higher evolutionary point by merging together into one unified consciousness, a "planetized spirit."
Before the entire planet can evolve into one being, first humans have to merge their collective intelligence into one super-mind. The medium of realizing this is computational technology. Technology itself was seen as a living thing to Teilhard. Its nervous system would eventually cover the globe. Many see this as a prediction of today's internet. He called this the "technosphere", which would grow in intelligence by learning from all those who contributed their knowledge to it's global database. This would be:
"the manifestation of a kind of super-brain, capable of attaining mastery over some supersphere in the universe."
This is Teilhard's conception of a hive mind. He saw the merge of mankind and technology as a necessary first step in the collective evolution of the universe. This natural evolution is brought about by the deliberate scientific use of man's intelligence. Teilhard was well aware that this was a eugenic notion, and had no problem talking about it:
"So far we have certainly allowed our race to develop at random, and we have given too little thought to the question of what medical and moral factors must replace the crude forces of natural selection should we suppress them. In the course of the coming centuries it is indispensable that a nobly human form of eugenics, on a standard worthy of our personalities, should be discovered and developed. Eugenics applied to individuals leads to eugenics applied to society."
Materialistic science is but a means to reach our ultimate spiritual redemption. As a member of the Society of Jesus, this is the driving force behind Teilhard's work. By merging human consciousness with that of the "technosphere" we can reach new spiritual heights. Within the physical machine lies that intangible spiritual nature which remains unseen, but is the guiding force behind the actual operation of the machine. This will facilitate man's "translation" into a spiritual superman, a "trans-human." We will: "break through the material framework of time and space" and enter the "pleroma." The "pleroma" is that spiritual realm within the overarching technosphere that will allow us to recreate our past physical existence through digital simulation. This is Teilhard's conception of the rapture, the way in which we will all be "born again."
Laughing all of this off was much easier to do while Teilhard was still alive. At that time computers were a completely new thing. The idea of using one in your house would have been seen as a radical idea. No one was ready to hear about Omega Point Theory. Even today these ideas are pure science fiction to most people, but reality seems to be pointing toward the creation of radical technologies which could very well facilitate these kinds of miracles. We certainly should not disregard them as pure fantasy.
It is very telling that Teilhard practiced Christianity, paleontology, philosophy, and also advocated eugenics. He had no problem merging these ideas. He believed in a coming egalitarian world government. He saw everything as being interconnected. His ideas are only now making their way into the mainstream as the dawning of the new age approaches. We are all being told that we live in "One World" as the virtues of "global citizenship" are being preached from the highest pulpits. Although the wonders of converging technology haven't been fully disclosed to the public as of yet, they will be in due time. The old social paradigms are being steadily eroded as each generation's world-view evolves into something that would have been unthinkable to their forebears. This is the way in which humanity "evolves." This process is much larger than you or me. It is something worth thinking about for anybody who truly wants to make a difference in this world.
The mental trap of labeling Teilhard a religious nut, or on the other side of the coin, a materialistic non-believer doesn't work. There are closed minded people on both sides of this fence that need to open their minds to the bigger picture. Our collective future depends upon our ability to grow up intellectually, to start seeing things as they truly are, and not how we want them to be. I don't agree with Teilhard's philosophy, but that doesn't mean that I disregard what he says. There is important truth to be found by reading between the lines.