Skip to main content

Teilhard, the Skull and Vatican Embarassment

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit preist, palaeontologist and evolutionist who is remembered in science for correctly interpreting the evolutionary significance of Peking Man is the subject of a science biography by Amir Aczel entitled "The Jesuit and the Skull". While Teilhard's science credentials are impeccable, he is best remembered in his attempt to integrate Catholic belief and science in a mystical way. For doing this,Teilhard was not allowed to publish any of his works when he was alive. The Jesuits and the Vatican ordered the embargo.

The Teilhard science bio is one of the recent books that have been published looking at the relationship of science and faith. Many of these books were written by Jesuits, the most notable are those by Guy Consolmagno SJ. While Aczel (a non Jesuit and a Scientist) tried to deal with the same subject and tried to capture the two sides of Teilhard's life,he so fails miserably. Aczel unlike Consolmagno did not have theological training and so wasn't able to reflect on the relationship of faith and science.

Nonetheless Aczel does a good job in placing Teilhard and the Peking Man fossils in the historical context. Teilhard's development as a evolutionist is handled very well but when Aczel had to deal with Teilhard's mysticism and evolutionism, he fumbles. Aczel couldn't really grasp the theology that is needed.

The fossils were lost in World War II and the discussion of their fate leads the reader away from appreciating Teilhard's position in science and faith. Perhaps this should have been the subject of a separate book.

But Aczel does a commendable treatment of the Teilhard-Lucille Swan relationship. Swan was a woman acquaintance but as their friendship deepened, Teilhard had to deal with his vow of celibacy. Aczel's treatment of this often stereotyped relationship of a priest with a woman displays a non-judgemental sensibility and respects the reason why a woman is attracted to a man and why a man may have to stand by his vow.

Aczel in the beginning chapters recounts that in the course of his research on Teilhard's life,the Jesuits tried to prevent him from seeing some documents for fear of embarrasing the Vatican. Perhaps the Vatican should really come to grips with its discomfort of evolutionary theory. Despite what John Paul II has started in this regard, the present dispensation in Rome has tried to "turn back the clock". This is so emblematic of Benedict XVI's papacy.

Teilhard's books were published after his death since he willed the manuscripts to a woman friend, Jeanne Mortier. She wasn't under obedience to Rome and had the manuscripts published.The most famous of Teilhard's books is the "Phenomenon of Man". I have read this book years ago and it was a heavy read. His books had much influence in the Post Vatican II Catholic Church. Once frowned upon by the Popes, Pope John Paul II felt it opportune to quote from Teilhard.

For those who want to have an introduction to Teilhard, Aczel's book is recommended.


Popular posts from this blog

President Manuel Luis Quezon's Code of Ethics

Being a denizen of Kyusi, in honour of the man who gave my city its name and for being the most colourful prez the Philippines ever had, I have the pleasure to post Manuel L Quezon's Code of Ethics on his birthday. Let us profit from the wisdom of the Kastila.

1. Have Faith in the Divine Providence that guides the destinies of men and nations.

2. Love your country for it is the home of your people, the seat of your affection and the source of your happiness and well-being. It's defense is your primary duty. Be ready to sacrifice and die for it if necessary.

3. Respect the Constitution which is the expression of your sovereign will. The government is your government. It has been established for your safety and welfare. Obey the laws and see that they are observed by all and that public officials comply with their duties.

4. Pay your taxes willingly and promptly. Citizenship implies not only rights but obligations.

5. Safeguard the purity of suffrage and abide by the decisions of the…

Simoun's lamp has been lit, finally.. not by one but by the many!

"So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders... If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time..."
Dr Jose Rizal "To the Filipino People and their Government"
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal's El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal's second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.

Kartilla of the Katipunan

In celebration of Andres Bonifacio Day on Nov 30, I am blogging my English translation of the Katipunan's Code of Ethics or Kartilla (Kartilya). Recruits to the revolutionary association had to learn these by heart. The code was first written by Emilio Jacinto. The Kartilya remains as relevant today as in 1896 .

My apologies for errors in translation. I know there are better translations than this one.

1) A life not spent for a holy and noble cause is like a tree without shade or a noxious weed.

2) Acts that stem from pride and selfishness do not come from a desire to help others..

3) True holiness comes from helping others, charity towards others and the measure of such is in each reasonable act or word.

4) Dark or white your skin may be, all men are equal though one may be greater in knowledge, material wealth, beauty these do not add to one’s humanity.

5) Those who are men of goodwill put honour before concern for self and those who do no good puts the self before honour.

6) For an ho…