Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit priest who had previously worked in archaeology and paleontology. He was involved in the archaeological digs which uncovered both Piltdown Man and Peking Man.
Several of his books were denied publication during his lifetime and others were censured by the church as they challenged the Augustinian concept of “original sin.”
His most important work was “The Phenomenon of Man,” but the work I enjoy the most is, “The Hymn of the Universe.”
Teilhard viewed the universe as a cradle from which all life evolves. Although it can be cold and violent it also is nurturing. It is God’s way of bringing life into being.
In the book, Teilhard describes one Sunday night that he was working on a dig in China and realized that he had not yet fulfilled his priestly responsibility to celebrate the Eucharist. And he couldn’t – at least in the traditional way of offering up bread and wine – as he had neither of them. As he describes standing on the open Chinese plain, “the stars filled the sky – attesting to the omnipresence of God.”
During the canon of the mass, Teilhard offered back to God what He had given us – the majesty of His Universe.
It must have been a remarkable service.
“Per aspera ad astra” (A difficult road leads to the stars)
I love this photo of the Eagle Nebula – gas clouds forming new stars. It’s almost surrealistic – an artist’s imaginary vision rather than a physical reality. It fits in very neatly with my interest in science and science fiction – though not so well with the late astronomer Fred Hoyle’s vision of a static state universe. I was very comfortable with that theory of the universe – but I’m adjusting to the current one called the “Big Bang.” Who knows what we will theorize in another fifty years?
I’d like to think that one day (if we have become sufficiently civilized to be good citizens) that mankind will one day set foot on many of the planets which must inevitably provide habitable opportunities for life. That we are not alone in this universe seems inarguable to me. Even many of the founding fathers believed that two and a half centuries ago. And who am I to contradict them?
I have religious friends who are troubled by the concept of extra-terrestrial life. It is difficult for me to understand the reason for their resistance to the concept. Somehow, I think that to their minds, it minimizes “mankind’s” importance in the over all scheme of things.
My friends are equally confused by my attitude as a person who has a faith-based view of life. The way I look at it, consigning God to the role of being creator of one group of now seven billion on one small planet in a remote corner of a rather ordinary galaxy is to demean the Creator – rather than giving him credit for being Omnipresent.
Considering the job we have collectively done during our recorded history – I’m sure that we have not yet earned the right to walk among the stars. I know that we don’t presently have the technology – and that is good. In my heart of hearts I like to think that there are one or more advanced alien races who are holding us in check until we have developed sufficiently to be accepted as good citizens by more advanced species.
There has never been a time in our history when there has not been a war on-going someplace on earth. Our prejudices causes us to turn in anger against people whose skin color is different than ours; whose religion is different than ours; whose national origin is different than ours; who are in any way different than we are. Imagine our reaction to seeing the anatomical development of other species if we cannot overlook minor differences among ourselves.
It is a difficult road that leads to the stars. And as a species, we have merely embarked on the first step of many which are yet to come.