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Thread: Teilhard de Chardin

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    Teilhard de Chardin


    GERMAN PHILOSOPHER (1874-1928)
    Ethics, Evolution, Capitalism, Knowledge, Metaphysics, Philosophical Anthropology, Pragmatism, Religion, Phenomenology, Politics and Morals, Science, Sociology.

    Max Scheler was born in Munich, Germany, August 22, 1874. His father was Lutheran, his mother orthodox Jewish. As an adolescent, he turned to Catholicism, likely because of its conception of love. Around 1921 he became increasingly non-committal.

    Scheler studied medicine in Munich and Berlin, philosophy and sociology under W. Dilthey and G. Simmel in 1895. He received his doctorate in 1897, and his associate professorship (habilitation-thesis) in 1899 at the University of Jena. His advisor was Rudolf Eucken, a 1908 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and a correspondent of William James. Throughout his life, Scheler entertained strong interest in the philosophy of American Pragmatism.

    He taught at Jena University from 1900 to1906. In 1902 he met the then renowned phenomenologist E. Husserl for the first time in Halle. Scheler was never a student of Husserl's. Overall, their relationship remained strained. Scheler was rather critical of the "master's" "Logical Investigations" (1900/01) and "Ideas I" (1913), and he also harbored reservations of Heidegger's Being and Time whom he also met various times. Nevertheless, after Scheler's demise in 1928, Heidegger noted, as Ortega y Gasset did, that all philosophers of the century were indebted to Scheler. Many others considered Scheler's sudden death to be an irreplaceable loss of European thought.

    From 1907-1910 he taught at the University of Munich. He joined the Phenomenological Circle in Munich around M. Beck, Th. Conrad, J. Daubert, M. Geiger, D. v. Hildebrand, Th. Lipps, and A. Pfaender. Due to personal matters he was unfairly caught between the predominantly Catholic University and the local socialist media, leading to the loss of his Munich teaching position in 1910.

    From 1910 to 1911 Scheler lectured at the Philosophical Society of Goettingen. He made other and renewed acquaintances here with Th. Conrad, H. Conrad-Martius, M. Geiger, J. Hering, R. Ingarden, E. Husserl, A. Koyre, and H. Reinach. Edith Stein was one of his students. She was impressed by him "way beyond philosophy." Scheler unwittingly influenced Catholic circles to this day, including his student Edith Stein and Pope John Paul II who wrote his inaugural dissertation and many articles on Scheler's philosophy.

    While his first marriage had ended in divorce, Scheler married Märit Furtwaengler in 1912, who was the sister of the noted conductor. During WW I (1914-1918) Scheler was drafted, but discharged because of astigmia of the eyes.

    In 1919 he became professor of philosophy and sociology at the University of Cologne. He stayed there until 1928. Early that year, he accepted a new position at the University of Frankfurt, a.M. He looked forward to meeting here A. Cassirer, K. Mannheim, R.Otto and R.Wilhelm, sometimes referred to in his writings. In 1927 at a Conference in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, arranged by Graf Keyserling, Scheler delivered a lengthy lecture, entitled "Man's Particular Place" (Die Sonderstellung des Menschen), published later in much abbreviated form as Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos [literally: "Man's Situation in the Cosmos"]. His well known oratory style and delivery had captivated his audience -- for about four hours!

    Toward the end of his life, many invitations were extended to him, among them those from China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States. However, on advice of his physician, he had to cancel reservations already made with Star Line.

    At the time Scheler increasingly focused on political development. He met the Russian emigrant-philosopher N. Berdyaev in Berlin in 1923. Scheler was the only scholar of rank of the then German intelligentsia who warned as early as 1927 in public speeches of the dangers of the growing Nazi-movement and Marxism. "Politics and Morals," "The Idea of Eternal Peace and Pacifism" were subjects of talks he delivered in Berlin 1927. His analyses on Capitalism revealed it to be a calculating, globally growing "mind-set," rather than an economic system. While economic capitalism may have had some roots in ascetic Calvinism (M. Weber), its very mind-set, however, is shown to have its origin in modern, sub-conscious angst expressed in increasing needs for financial and other securities, for protection and personal safeguards as well as for rational manageability of all entities. However, the subordination of the value of the indiviual person to this mind-set was reason enough for Max Scheler to denounce it and to outline and predict a whole new era of culture and values, which he called "The World-Era of Adjustment."

    Scheler also advocated an international university to be set up in Switzerland. Already at that time he was supportive of programs such as "continuing education," and of what he seems to have first called a "United States of Europe." He deplored the gap existing in Germany between power and mind, which gap he regarded to be the very source of an impending dictatorship and the greatest obstacle toward establishing a German democracy. Five years after his demise, the Nazi dictatorship (1933-1945) suppressed Scheler's work. Scheler died in Frankfurt-am-Main., May 19, 1928. He is buried, with his third wife, Maria, nee Scheu, in Cologne, Suedfriedhof Cemetery (lot: Fl.XVIII, 366).

    There are two biographies: (1) Wilhelm Mader, Max Scheler.2nd. Edition: 1995. It uses archival material and is available through Bouvier Verlag, 53114, Bonn, Germany. It is written in German. (2) John R. Staude, Max Scheler. New York: The Free Press, 1967.

    Scheler's turbulent years at the University of Cologne, are covered in Koelner Universitaetsgeschichte, Band II, Das 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Eds.: Bernd Heimbuechel, Klaus Pabst. Koeln Wien: Boehlau Verlag, 1988. .

    Synopsis of his Thought

    It is custumary to divide Max Scheler's philosophy into two periods of development. The first period spans the time between his dissertation (1897) up to his work On the Eternal in Man (1920/22). Most of this period is covered in volumes 1 through 7 of the Collected Works.
    The second period spans the years 1920/22 to 1928, and is covered in volumes 8 through 15 of the Collected Works.

    During the first period, the predominant areas of investigation were value-ethics, feelings, religion, political theory, and related areas thereof, all treated under the aspect of Max Scheler's very own understanding of phenomenology.

    (1) [1897-1920/22] In his first two major works, The Nature of Sympathy and Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, Scheler focused on human feelings, love, and the nature of the person. He showed that the ego, reason and consciousness presuppose the sphere of the person and denied the possibility of a pure ego, pure reason or pure consciousness. In this, Scheler criticized the well known positions held by Husserl, Kant, and German Idealism. It is the human "heart" or the seat of love, rather than a transcendental ego, reason, a will or sensibility, that accounts for the essence of human existence. He distinguished many types of feelings, most of them are quite hidden and personal, and among which human love is shown to be the center. The human person is at bottom a loving being (ens amans). From this followed a major tenet that runs through the entire first period: feelings and love have a logic of their own, quite different from the logic of reason. In this Scheler followed the seventeenth century French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal.

    In their initial inceptions, all feelings are conjoined to experiences of values. There are five value ranks feelable by all humans. They are felt in variable body-feelings, feelings of needs, feelings of life, and feelings of the person and of the Divine. Feeling values are comparable to seeing colors. Just as colors are independent of the things they are on (blue can be the sky or a cloth), so also values are independent of the things they are felt with. The value of holiness, for instance, can be experienced with God, but also with a fetish, or with mother earth as in American Indian cultures. Nevertheless, throughout the countless variegated feelings of values, there is a hidden order just as there is a hidden spectral order among the countless variegated colorations.

    The spectral order of values is fivefold, situated deeply in man's order of love, or "ordo amoris," quite different from a rationally contrived order. Each rank of this order is felt in particular kinds of feelings. The order begins with the lowest rank of sensible values, the pragmatic values of usefulness and needs, values of life, the rank of mental values (having three kinds: aesthetic values, juridical values, and values of the cognition of truth) and, finally, the value of the holy (plus all their respective negative values).

    Scheler’s ethics is based in large part on the initial "leaning" towards values, or what he calls pre-rational “preferring.” If a person freely leans toward something, say, toward a value higher than one given at the moment, the difference of the heights of those values is pre-rationally intuitive, although we might subsequently make judgments that contradict those initial leanings. Whenever an initially preferred value is being realized, however, a good automatically “rides" on the back of the realization of this higher value. If a child, for instance, spontaneously leans toward giving his or her mother a hug rather than keeping on playing with cookie cutters in a sand box, the child realizes a value higher (loving) than that of playing even without specifically “willing” to do so.

    Since the emotive depths of all personal feelings can also be insincere and subject to deceptions, Scheler offered a number of studies into value deceptions. To such studies belong, among others, Ordo Amoris, The Idols of Self-Knowledge, Repentance and Re-Birth, and Ressentiment. These studies appear to be rare masterpieces on their respective subject, replete with inspiring insights into our emotional life, even in our era of technology when feelings are frequently minimized by rational explanation and calculation that often fail to show what is truely going on within us, or in others.

    While both his earlier and later works cannot be separated from Scheler's pioneering work on Sociology of Knowledge (1924), his book On the Eternal in Man is the nearest bridge to his second period. In this book, Scheler's philosophy of religion suggests that the Absolute is given in a "sphere" or region of our mind that offers two alternatives: (1) it is either filled out with faith in God, or (2) with belief in idols. In either case, however, this "sphere" of the Absolute in us remains unaffected even if it is filled out with nothingness as may be the case with an agnostic or a nihilist. This sphere of our mind is a tether between human existence and the Ground of Being accessible only in religious acts such as of repentance, etc. -- acts, only Scheler has shown to be different in essence from all others acts of the mind.

    Mention should be made also of some other current topics Scheler addressed, among others, during his first period of production, such as "Shame and Modesty," "The Meaning of Suffering," "Death and After-Life," "The Meaning of the Feminist Movement", "On the Tragic," and "Problems of Population."

    (2) [1920/22-1928] Scheler defies the notion of a creator-God. Deity, Man, and World form one becoming process of unification taking place in absolute time. Absolute time is no measurable clock-time used in science and daily life. Absolute time resembles the time that passes when we are not thinking of time, e.g. while you had been reading on this site. Absolute time is inherent in all processes of self-regeneration, aging, self-modification; atomic processes, plants, and animals included. While a number of geniuses of modern science and philosophy (e.g., Einstein, Heidegger, Husserl, Kant, Newton) had their own understanding of time, Scheler’s concept is quite different. Simply put: without a self-generating life, no time. And absolute time, in turn, is the condition, Scheler shows, for the measurable time we are so used to identify as time per se. Insofar as he associated with it a four-dimensional expanse, however, his concept of absolute time does come close to Einstein’s general theory of relativity with which Scheler was quite familiar.

    The process of a universal, cosmic becoming in absolute time has two increasingly mutually penetrating poles; (1) an uncreated vital energy, or “Impulsion,” and (2) “Spirit.” Without life, which is the form of impulsion, spirit is shown to be impotent to bring anything into existence. Spirit needs realizing factors such as life-conditions, history, economics, geo-politics, social and geographic conditions that make possible for spirit to realize ideas “with” them. Sometimes such realizing factors allow ideas to at least in part work in practice, sometimes, as we all know, they just don’t. Needless to emphasize that Scheler’s position on the functions of impulsion and spirit is akin to pragmatism, especially that of W. James whom he considered to be a “genius.”

    One can get a glimpse of the unity of the becoming of the unfinished Deity, World, and Humanity, in Scheler’s essay Man’s Place in Nature. But the posthumous bulk of this is contained in Volumes 11 and 12 of the Collected Edition. References to Buddha can be found in these volumes, especially with regard to the notion of suffering and non-resistance. Max Scheler's non-Darwinian theory of evolution is more compatible with recent archeological findings in Chad (Toumaï) which point to a previously unknown genus-species being at the basis of humankind's famiily tree, rather than to the ape-hypothesis.

    The second period is characterized by almost daring elucidations of the Deity as unfinished and becoming along with the becoming of the cosmos and human history themselves.

  2. #2

    Cyberspace and the Dream of Teilhard de Chardin

    Cyberspace and the Dream of Teilhard de Chardin

    by John R. Mabry

    Progressive Catholics have long cherished Teilhard de Chardin and his unique and mystical vision, and for those of us who have only recently discovered the New Cosmology, his discovery is as great an epiphany as the encountering of Hildegard, Julian of Norwich, or any of the other mystics who testify to Divine immanence. Teilhard was a man possessed of rare vision who was capable of remythologizing his faith to fit the "facts" that his scientific studies convinced him of. His was not a God "out there" who disapproved of humans hypothesizing about or even tampering with the Creation. His God was an organic entity who lived and breathed the life and breath of the Creation, a Creator who was simultaneously giving birth to and being born from the magnificent organism of the universe. His views are profoundly Creation-centered, and are worthy of our present consideration not only because his thought was ahead of its time, but because his predictions;which seemed so unlikely in his own time;are coming to pass unnoticed beneath our very noses.

    Chardin was not a psychologist, nor even a philosopher in the usual sense. He was a priest and mystic, but he was also a scientist, to whom the concept of evolution held as much weight as scripture. "Evolution" is the basis for Chardin's entire cosmology. Not, as Darwinian evolution would have it, a random product, or the "survival of the fittest," but an evolution planned and guided by divine agency. "The magic word 'evo-lution' which haunted my thoughts like a tune," he writes, "was to me like unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered." Chardin's universe is one of continuous and interwoven evolutionary threads, incorporating plants, animals, the planet, the cosmos, and, most peculiar to him, not merely the physical and mental evolution of humankind, but our spiritual ascent as well. Michael Murray in The Thought of Teilhard de Chardin writes, "In Teilhard's hands the theory of evolution, far from diminishing man by relating him to the apes, as so many churchmen used to fear, actually re-establishes him at the moving apex of time-space, well above the fixed central position which he lost in the Copernican revolution." In Teilhard's estimation, humankind is the crowning achievement of the universe, because it is in us, and as far as we yet know, only in us, that the Creation has become self-aware. Our eyes are the eyes through which the Earth finally beholds her own beauty, and, just as importantly, knows that she beholds it. Human beings are not above the Creation, but are themselves the Creation;that part of the Creation that is self- conscious.

    The evolutionary ascent of human beings occurs, according to Chardin's theory, in two stages of what he calls "planetization." The first stage is the "Go forth and multiply" stage, in which humanity expanded, in both quantity (in the very number of persons), and in quality (psychological and spiritual development). As Blanche Marie Gallagher, B.V.M., explains in her introduction to her Meditations With Teilhard de Chardin, "During the long period of expansion, physical and cultural differences isolated the peoples of the Earth from each other as they spread to fill the Earth. At the beginning of our present century, with most of the habitable surface of the Earth occupied, the races began to converge. Through technology, tangential energy becomes evident in the response of the people across the Earth to each other; people are sharing their wars, their coronations, their concerns. Thus the law of complexity-consciousness develops."

    We have reached the end of the expanding, or "diversity" stage, and are now entering the contracting, or "unifying" stage. At this point, Chardin's theory runs completely counter to Darwin's, in that the success of humanity's evolution in the second stage will not be determined by "survival of the fittest," but by our own capacity to converge and unify. The most important initial evolutionary leap of the convergence stage is the formation of what Chardin termed "the Noosphere." It's formation, as Michael Murray explains, begins with "a global network of trade, communications, accumulation, and exchange of knowledge, cooperative research ...all go into the weaving of the material support for a sphere of collective thought. In the field of science alone, no individual knows more than a tiny fraction of the sum of scientific knowledge, and each scientist is dependent not only for his education but for all his subsequent work on the traditions and resources which are the collective possession of an entire international society composed of the living and the dead. Just as Earth once covered itself with a film of interdependent living organisms which we call the biosphere, so mankind's combined achievements are forming a global network of collective mind."

    "The idea," writes Chardin, "is that of the Earth not only covered by myriads of grains of thought, but enclosed in a single thinking envelope so as to form a single vast grain of thought on the sidereal scale, the plurality of individual reflections grouping themselves together and reinforcing one another in the act of a single unanimous reflection." One hesitates to invoke the terms "group-mind" or "hive mentality," but they are, perhaps, leaps made by far less developed creatures than we that presage our own ascent. We know that such a thing can and does exist in a variety of species, especially ants, migratory birds, and others. We also know the evidence regarding the "hundredth monkey" (once a learned behavior is taught to a significant portion of a population ;in this famous example, of monkeys;the behavior becomes instinctual even for those completely isolated from the community which acquired the behavior). If C.G. Jung has given us the notion of the "collective unconscious," Chardin, then, speaks of the "collective conscious."

    Chardin waxes poetic (as he often does) when he describes it: "Noosphere ...the living membrane which is stretched like a film over the lustrous surface of the star which holds us. An ultimate envelope taking on its own individuality and gradually detaching itself like a luminous aura. This envelope was not only conscious, but thinking...the Very Soul of the Earth." Not only are our bodies the stuff of the Earth's body, but our minds are the consciousness of this being, the Earth. We have supposed that we are individuals, yet we "are dust, and to dust ye shall return." We have supposed our minds are our own, that even if the Earth is conscious of herself in us, she is conscious of being many little selves; but perhaps, as theorists in the field of transpersonal psychology suggest, we are mistaken. Chardin, in fact, argues that it must be so, that "what we are aware of is only the nucleus which is ourselves. The interaction of souls would be incomprehensible if some Aura' did not extend from one to the other, something proper to each one and common to all." Chardin believes, too, that this consciousness is not only psychological, but of the greatest spiritual importance, as well. "Nothing is precious," he says, "except that part of you which is in other people, and that part of others which is in you. Up there, on high, everything is one."

    The Noosphere is a fascinating and intriguing idea, one that many of us desperately want, on some level, to be true. But as we have been describing it thus far, it seems little more than science fiction. How is it that such an awesome phenomenon could possibly come to be? Amazingly, Teilhard predicts the evolution of a machine that hardly even existed in his time beyond being a glorified abacus: the computer. "Here I am thinking," he writes in Man's Place in Nature, "of those astonishing electronic machines (the starting-point and hope of the young science of cybernetics), by which our mental capacity to calculate and combine is reinforced and multiplied by a process and to a degree that herald as astonishing advances in this direction as those that optical science has already produced for our power of vision." Teilhard's vision of what computers would do for us is twofold. First, computers will achieve the completion of our brains, in that there would be the instantaneous retrieval of information around the globe. Second, computers will improve our brains by facilitating processes more quickly than our own resources can achieve them.

    It is also interesting that Chardin predicts the use of the prefix "cyber" in regards to the computer/human matrix, since "cyber" is all the rage in computering circles. In fact, what can be seen as the progenitor of Teilhard's Noosphere is now being termed "Cyberspace" by the computer press, in reference to that mystical field of inter-connecting computer pathways wherein all of the exchanges are made. As Michael Benedikt describes it in his Collected Abstracts from the First Conference on Cyberspace, "Cyberspace is a globally networked, computer-sustained, computer-accessed, and computer-generated, multi-dimensional, artificial, or Virtual' reality. In this world, onto which every computer screen is a window, actual, geographical distance is irrelevant. Objects seen or heard are neither physical nor, necessarily, presentations of physical objects, but are rather;in form, character, and action;made up of data, of pure information. This information is derived in part from the operation of the natural, physical world, but is derived primarily from the immense traffic of symbolic information, images, sounds, and people, that constitute human enterprise in science, art, business, and culture."

    The form most of these exchanges take is the computer "bulletin board." On this, any person with the simplest of computers and a modem can call a central, master computer with which literally any number of other users may be linked. Once connected, a person may receive or distribute messages on any given topic to one or a million people. As John Barlow describes it, "In this silent world, all conversation is typed. To enter it, one forsakes both body and place and becomes a thing of words alone. You can see what your neighbors are saying (or recently said), but not what either they or their physical surroundings look like. Town meetings are continuous and discussions range on everything from sexual kinks to depreciation schedules." ("Trouble in Cyberspace," The Humanist Sept/Oct 1991)

    The extent of these data expressways is staggering. There are literally thousands of individual bulletin boards around the world, and nearly all of them are linked by one incredible, global network, the Internet. Sounding like some sinister creation of an Ian Fleming villain, the Internet links more than 8,000 separate bulletin boards and networks, accommodating ten million people around the world. As Jon Katz notes in Rolling Stone, "Nobody can even calculate how much information is on it, what its boundaries are or who will eventually control it. It contains entire scientific and academic archives, complex networks from aeronautics and African wildlife to the CIA World Factbook. Companies share data between different offices, and hundred of libraries in dozens of countries are putting their catalogs on it. ("Bulletin Boards: News from Cyberspace," Rolling Stone, April 15, 1993)

    Those who study such things predict that the users of Internet are likely to double each year. Vinton Cerf, designer of the Internet system, says that by the year 2000, there will be more than 100 million users. "This kind of reaching out from anywhere in the world," he says in Katz' article, "has got to change the way we think about our world. It will become critical for everyone to be connected. Anyone who isn't will essentially be isolated from the world." And perhaps, in Darwinian terms, be selected out of the emerging node of evolution.

    In light of developments such as computer bulletin boards and "super- information highways" like the Internet, Teilhard's fantastic notions don't seem so fantastic. He is, it turns out, the unsung prophet of our collective future. It is time that we begin to look forward to what these developments are going to mean to us personally, developmentally. Chardin says that "Humankind is now caught up, as though in a train of gears, at the heart of a continually accelerating vortex of self-totalization." We need to consider how the inevitable changes in our nature are going to affect us as individuals, spiritually, psychologically, and pathologically. One advantage, though, to facing what is happening to us is that we can stop "groping about" in the dark, and take conscious control of our evolution to speed it on its way.

    We are, therefore, in the latter twentieth century, at the threshold of another great leap in evolution, the contraction and unification of the human species, the construction of the Noosphere, the focusing of our psychic energies. "The powers that we have released," Chardin states in Human Energy, "could not possibly be absorbed by the narrow system of individual or national units which the architects of the human Earth have hitherto used. The age of nations has passed. Now unless we wish to perish we must shake off our old prejudices and build the Earth." (Italics mine.) How we accomplish this is by correcting our errant perception of reality as being made up of separate units. Chardin insists that "to love is to discover and complete one's self in someone other than oneself, an act impossible of general realization on Earth so long as each can see in the neighbor no more than a closed fragment following its own course through the world. It is precisely this state of isolation that will end if we begin to discover in each other not merely the elements of one and the same thing, but of a single Spirit in search of Itself."

    The result of such a realization is the Noosphere, towards which we are moving even now, via our cybernetic interconnections, know it or not, like it or not, want it or not. As our consciousness of unity progresses, the standard of morality will eventually not be placed on the maintenance of private property, but upon the health of the Whole, which will become more and more perceptible to us as Noogenesis unfolds. Chardin himself admits that "these perspectives will appear absurd to those who don't see that life is, from its origins, groping, adventurous, and dangerous. But these perspectives will grow, like an irresistible idea on the horizon of new generations." Indeed, it seems less and less absurd as this very process unfolds before us.


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    An interesting read. One thing I think they forget to realise though, is that though Humanity exists as an Organism, it also has it's "parts", which can be reduced on a scale from Race to Nation to Individual and I am sure has many more parts without which it could not function.

    Nature creates and sustains diversity, though not the diversity as is preached in Western Society. They effectively seek to destroy all true diversity in the West, as they mix and thus destroy all unifying factors, creating the ultimate consumer society.

    We will in time grow far closer together, but that does not entail destroying those things which set us apart from eachother, it means moving beyond them. The World will be able to do that once Humanity has moved beyond the need to use other's for one's own advancement. Working together compared to using eachother.

    A World of Diverse Peoples, having their own Cultures and Identities and Likenesses, able to work together for common purposes, building eachother up, rather than destroying the other to enrich the self.

    Give it time, Work towards it, and it will Happen.


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