Feeding the Zest for Life: Spiritual Energy Resources for the Future of Humanity, by Ursula King

Feeding the Zest for Life: Spiritual Energy Resources for the Future of Humanity, by Ursula King

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Metanexus Sophia. 5,491 Words

Will questions of spiritual development one day become an integral part of our efforts to ensure global developments toward peace and justice? What efforts are currently being devoted toward developing the inner resources of human beings, their power to love, care, and be compassionate, as well as peaceful and happy, so that we can ensure the growth of human flourishing for all peoples in the world? What the world needs most of all is a new global order and a new global ethics on whose fundamentals we can begin to agree. How much could be achieved, for example, if all Muslims and Christians in the world, who represent half the global population, worked closely together for the well-being of the whole human community.


Spiritual Energy Resources for the Future of Humanity

By Ursula King

Reflections on the future of humankind and its further social, cultural and spiritual development feature prominently in the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. His thoughts on these matters can be a splendid resource for our contemporary efforts to move forward in building a more interdependent network of mutual responsibility and care within the global community. He expressed with clarity and forcefulness that we are one humanity, with one origin, and one destiny. We are also a group of humans that has not yet reached maturity in terms of its possibilities, but its immense problems somehow resemble the turmoils of youth. Teilhard argued that all of humankind bears a profound sense of responsibility for the shape of its own future, and that humanityís future must be developed in close interrelation with all forms of life, with the whole of nature in its global and planetary dimensions. Central to his thinking about creating a more integrated future form of oneness for humanity are several key ideas: the zest for life in advancing the growth of humanity to achieve a better life for all; the noosphere as an expanding sphere of human thought and invention, of will and work, of love and action; the need for material and spiritual energy resources in assuring the future of humanity; and the contribution of world faiths in providing spiritual energy resources for feeding the zest for life.

I shall briefly say something about each of these as they are mutually embedded and interdependent on each other.

The future of humanity and the zest for life

Many reflections on building the future of one humanity are found in Teilhard de Chardinís book The Future of Man,1 whose essays are preceded by the motto: ëThe whole future of the Earth, as of religion, seems to me to depend on the awakening of our faith in the future.í2 He combined such faith in the future with what he called ëfaith in maní (that is, in the potential and further development of human beings), with faith in peace, and with faith in the greater unityand global collaboration among the peoples of the earth.

Such reflections first began to emerge after the first World War; they were subsequently developed and further clarified during the 1920s, 1930s and especially the 1940s, when he completed his magnum opus, the book The Human Phenomenon,3 written during his stay in China. Teilhardís concern for the future of human beings and all of life was expressed with a new urgency after the second World War, when he became increasingly aware of the radical transformations occurring within the human community on planet earth. It was in post-war Paris that he also got involved with a pioneering group of interreligious encounter and dialogue, Le CongrËs Universel des Croyants, founded as a French branch of the British World Congress of Faiths, set up by Sir Francis Younghusband in London in 1936. Teilhardís association with this group remains largely unknown, but he refers to it in his correspondence, and he wrote five essays between 1947-1950 specifically addressed to them.4 In 1947 he was invited to provide the inaugural address, represented by his essay ëFaith in Maní5 for Le CongrËs Universel des Croyants. Here, as elsewhere, he expresses his faith in the further intellectual, moral and spiritual development of human beings around the globe. He writes: ëA profound common aspiration arising out of the very shape of the modern world ñ is not this specifically what is most to be desired, what we most need to offset the growing forces of dissolution and dispersal at work among us.í6

How equally true is this today! We are experiencing so much strife and tension, inequality and injustice, numerous wars, violence, disaster, and immense human suffering in so many parts of the globe. Yet the hope and longing of so many millions of human beings, the need for greater human unity and integration, for mutual help and encouragement, for the sharing of material and spiritual resources ñ and that includes the sharing of ideas and visions ñ is greater than ever. Already more than fifty years ago Teilhard sensed this great contradiction between our deepest longings and the genuinely new possibilities for humankind, the insufficiency of our efforts, the lack of will and action, the shortcoming of our thinking and practical initiatives to make the world a better place. In the same year 1947 when he wrote his address on ëFaith in Maní, a year before the United Nationsí Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Teilhard also drafted a three page statement on ëSome Reflections on the Rights of Maní,7, published by UNESCO in 1949, wherein he refers to a ënew Charter of Humanityí and argues for the mutual interdependence of the development of the individual person and that of the larger human group. Teilhard speaks of ëthe well-ordered integrationí of the individual ëwith the unified group in which Mankind must eventually culminate, both organically and spirituallyí and of the ëtwo processes of collectivisation and personalisationí as interdependent.8 However, he was well aware that this is not an automatic process whose positive outcome is guaranteed but, on the contrary, it presents itself as a huge task for the human community, an ideal to aim and work for, and one beset by immense problems.

Part of this problem is where to find the ethical criteria for making the right choices in shaping the future of humanity, and where to obtain the necessary energy resources for feeding the zest for life and human action? He addressed this question in his 1950 lecture on ëThe Zest for Livingí, given to another meeting of the CongrËs Universel des Croyants9. We cannot live without a zest for life, we cannot advance the world without it. We need to love life, live it to the full, and contribute to its growth. In a metaphorical sense he sees the zest for life as ënothing less than the energy of universal evolutioní but, at the human level, the feeding and development of this energy ëis to some degree our responsibilityí.10

How can this be done? And where do we find the necessary resources for this ëfeeding and developmentí of the zest for life in the global community today, when we are faced with so many different groups and nations, with opposing political interests and powers, clashing beliefs and mutually exclusive identities? To build a common future for humanity presents us with a tremendous task, greater than any ever met before in the history of humankind. To refer to this task as ëbuildingí may be too external and positivistic a description. Given the biological, organic texture of life as well as the current interest in the new field of Emergence in science and the research into as yet undiscovered ëinformation-gatheringí processes in nature, it may be more appropriate to speak about ëgrowingí rather than ëbuilding the futureí. The verb growing better expresses the emergent, dynamic nature of creating and working for the future of humanity – a process which is not entirely within human control, but contains elements of novelty, chance and uncertainty within it. I also prefer the reference to ëgrowingí because of Howard Thurmanís expression of looking to ëthe growing edgeí11, rather than the customary, more instrumental ëcutting edgeí, in moving life and research forward. This is a more organic, potentially richer way of thinking that relates more creatively to our contemporary ecological sensibilities. Teilhard de Chardin spoke of a new threshold in the development of human consciousness and organisation, not simply a search for living on, for mere survival, but an effort to create a higher form of life, a more unified humanity. As he wrote in The Human Phenomenon:

Like children come of age and workers who have grown ëconsciousí, we are in the midst of discovering that something is developing in the world by means of us ñ perhaps at our own expense. And even more serious, we are now aware that in the great game we are engaged in, not only are we the players, but the cards and the stakes as well. If we get up from the table, nothing will go on. And there is nothing, either, to force us to stay seated. Is the game worth it?Ö
ÖThe danger is that the elements of the world may refuse to serve the world through the very fact that they think; or, even more precisely, that the world may refuse itself in becoming aware of itself through reflection. What is forming and swelling beneath our modern uneasiness is nothing less than an organic crisis in evolution.12

Where to gather the necessary energy resources to advance human life and its futher evolution?

Biosphere, noosphere, and the sense of the earth

The above quotation from The Human Phenomenon implicitly expresses how the organic evolution of life continues in the reflective effort of thinking; in other words, it implies that biological, social and cultural evolution are closely interrelated. We hear a great deal about the biosphere these days, especially in environmental and ecological debates, but few people will know that Teilhard de Chardin was an early promoter of the idea of the biosphere, a term first coined in 1875 by the Austrian scientist Eduard Suess who later wrote a large study on The Face of the Earth (5 volumes, 1904-1924)13 Already in 1921 Teilhard used this title ëThe Face of the Earthí for an essay published in the Jesuit journal …tudes, wherein he wrote:

SuessÖsaw the biosphere stretching like a veritable stratum of animated matter, the stratum of living beings and humanity. The great educational value of geology consists in the fact that by disclosing to us an earth which is truly one, an earth which is in fact but a single body since it has a face, it recalls to us the possibilities of establishing higher and higher degrees of organic unity in the zone of thought which envelops the world. In truth it is impossible to keep oneís gaze constantly fixed on the vast horizons opened out to us by science without feeling the stirrings of an obscure desire to see people drawn closer and closer together by an ever-increasing knowledge and sympathy until finally, in obedience to some divine attraction, there remains but one heart and one soul on the face of the earth.14

This sentence of 1921 points already to the new concept of the noosphere which Teilhard created in the mid-twenties in collaboration with his philosopher friend Edouard Le Roy who was the first to use it in his writings. Soon it was also taken up by several scientists, although it became never as popular as the term biosphere. The origin of the idea of the noosphere as the sphere of the human mind within the biosphere stems from Teilhardís consciousness of the immensity of the earth and its peoples, their common origin and destiny, and their place in nature; it is rooted in his geological and biological studies, his extensive travels in North Africa and Asia, especially in China, but also in his life in the trenches of the first World War when, during his night watches, the whole world appeared to him as one great ëthingí, as if perceived from the moon. He then described the globe as surrounded by a layer of blueness which for him symbolised the density of thought. Many years later, the image of our bluish-green planet suspended in the blackness of space became known all over the world through the famous photograph taken of the earth from the moon, an image so aptly named ëEarth-Riseí.

The word noosphere is derived from the Greek word nous or mind, understood as integrating vision, and it refers specifically to the layer of mind, thought and spirit within the layer of life covering the earth, but it must not be reduced to a merely intellectualised or spiritualised interpretation, as often happens. The noosphere is deeply rooted in, and embedded within, the organic layers of the biosphere of which it represents a further unfolding and flowering. It is not enough either to understand it merely as a sphere of knowledge and invention; it represented for Teilhard a sphere of both human thought and will, of love, action and interaction, all of which are closely interwoven and interdependent. When discussing the formation of the noosphere, Teilhard presented it as a ëbiological interpretation of human historyí.15

The mutual embeddedness and co-evolution of biosphere and noosphere, and the contemporary usage of these concepts by western and Russian scientists, is well documented in The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader (1999) , edited by the environmental scientists Paul R. Samson and David Pitt.16 Reflecting on different understandings of the noosphere in relation to contemporary global issues, they write:

Regardless of which world view is taken, the noosphere represents an essential phase in the history of our planet. In essence, it involves the ëcoming of ageí of a species ñ in this case, Homo sapiens – which, in reflecting on itself and its environment, fundamentally alters the evolutionary process and future development on EarthÖWhat matters is that the noosphere is an unprecedented event on Earth and that society appears to be entering a critical period in this phase. In many senses, the Earth has become a single system, an interwoven relationship of global mind and global action.í17

They refer to the United Nations and some of the NGOs, but also to new guidelines such as the Earth Charter as ënoospheric institutionsí and speak of ënoospheric structuresí which are network-like and participatory rather than oppositional and exclusive, thus stressing the holistic nature of the noosphere concept which includes pluralistic and flexible approaches, together with the notion of balance. Drawing on many Teilhardian ideas, they conclude:

If the unity of humankind will prove to be a crucial factor in human development, community with nature will be at least equally important. The environmental movement is therefore central to the noosphere, alongside the preservation of cultural heritage. This complementarity of diversity is not a contradiction, since the unity and holism of the noosphere ñ as with the biosphere ñ is made up of a mosaic of different, and sometimes conflicting, components. It is not unlike Lovelockís notion of the living planet with its diverse elements, interactions and species that produces an emergent sense of the whole.18

One of the strongest expressions of Teilhardís sense of the earth and of humanity as one is found in his 1931 essay ëThe Spirit of the Earthí19 which he planned for a long time. In 1926 he wrote to a friend that he wanted to provide an ëAccount of the Earthí in which he did not speak as ëa Frenchman, not as a unit in any group, butÖsimply as a ìterrestrianî,í who wanted to express ëthe confidence, desires and plenitude, also the disappointments, worries and a kind of vertigo of a man who considers the destinies and interests of the earth (humanity) as a whole.í 20 He describes this sense of the earth as ëthe passionate sense of common destiny that draws the thinking fraction of life ever further forwardí, and speaks of ëthe evolution of a greater consciousnessí whereby human thought ëintroduces a new era in the history of natureí which involves a renewal of life, morality, and spirituality, presenting us with a ëcosmic problem of actioní and a ëcrisis of birthí.21 Here, and elsewhere in his work, Teilhard de Chardin expresses deep concern for ëbuilding the earthí and for developing ëthe spirit of one earthí, that is, with seeing the whole world and all peoples within it as one. Beyond the external forces of unification, or globalisation as we would say today, brought about by scientific research, economics, finance, political power, media communication or militarization, Teilhard was looking for the ëmiracle of a common soulí,22 for a greater convergence and union of the diverse elements of humanity. This cannot be achieved without the powers of love and compassion, and without developing the spirit of the earth, nor without what he calls ëthe arising of Godí, that is to say the continuous development of the idea of God on earth, or what some might perceive as the openness to the presence of the spirit.

Teilhard points to human hesitation and resistance ëto open our hearts wide to the call of the world within us, to the sense of the earthí.23 Yet this sense can reveal to us ëthe newly freed energies of love, the dormant energies of human unity, the hesitant energies of research.í24 He explains these in both metaphorical and religious terms. Love is described as ëthe most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forcesí. ëHuge, ubiquitous and always unsubduedí, love is a ëwild forceí, but also ëa sacred reserve of energyí – it is ëlike the blood of spiritual evolutioní. 25 As to human unity, human beings often experience more of ëinstinctive repulsioní, isolation and distance from each other than genuine attraction; we cannot truly love millions of strangers but are often profoundly disturbed by the plurality we encounter. The ëspirit of the earthí and the experience of human unity seem at present more of a dream than a reality, yet Teilhard felt that this ësense of the earthí, this feeling for greater human unity is now ëin process of formationí; it is íthe irresistible pressure which unites people at a given moment in a passion they share.í26 This creates a movement towards human convergence and union through a new form of love practiced through mutual ëinterlinkingí rather than mere personal attraction.27 This is the active moving forward of the noosphere which, in Teilhardís view, may produce ëa superabundance of loveí that can overcome human isolation and break down the innumerable partitions that still divide human activity. The active forefront of this growth of the noosphere is ëa systematic organization and exploration of our universeí and the pursuit of research at all levels. Far from being ëan accessory, an eccentricity or a dangerí, research is for Teilhard ëthe highest of human functionsí which will ëabsorb the spirit of war and shine with the light of religionsí.28

Seen from hindsight, this remark written in 1931 seems incredibly over-optimistic, undiscerning and naÔve, especially when taking into account some of the controversial applications of contemporary scientific research, and the excesses of material production and consumption. It invites strong critique, but to be fair, Teilhard also diagnosed the many symptoms of a growing crisis, not only in the psychological, intellectual, and spiritual spheres of modern life, but also in the political and economic domains of contemporary society. He wrote in the same essay:

From the economic and industrial point of view the crisis is evidentÖToo much iron, too much wheat, too many automobiles ñ but also too many books, too many observations; and also too many diplomas, technicians and workmen ñ and even too many children. The world cannot function without producing living beings, food, ideas. But its production is more and more patently exceeding its powers of absorption and assimilationÖwe must ask what this excess production means. Is the world condemned, as it grows, to automatic death by stifling beneath its own excessive weight?

He answered this question in the negative and interpreted the numerous problems as a ëcrisis of birthí, a process of raising ëthe edifice of life to a new stageí. Using the familiar metaphor of ëbuildingí, he writes:

The resources at our disposal today, the powers that we have released, could not possibly be absorbed by the narrow system of individual or national units which the architects of the human earth have hitherto used. Our plan was to build a big house, larger but similar in design to our good old dwelling places. And now we have been led by the higher logic of progress which is in us, to collect components that are too big for the use we intended to make of them.

The 1931essay then moves on to a powerful and visionary statement that is often quoted:

The age of nations has passed. Now, unless we wish to perish we must shake off our old prejudices and build the earthÖThe more scientifically I regard the world, the less can I see any possible biological future for it except the active consciousness of its unity.29

To reach the desired ëhigher plane of humanityí requires a complete change in peopleís ëfundamental way of valuation and actioní, and the earth ëwill only become conscious of itself through the crisis of conversioní.30 This leads to questions about the future of the spirit on earth, the further spiritual evolution of our planet, and of the role of religion within the human community in process of further unification. From the perspective of his Christian faith, which believers of other faiths might share, it is the function of religion ëto sustain and spur on the progress of lifeí,31 and this religious, or we might prefer to say spiritual, function grows in parallel with the growth of humans and the growth of the noosphere around the world.

Spiritual energy resources to feed the zest for life and advance human unity

An enormous number of material and spiritual resources (sometimes described as cultural and spiritual capital) are needed to ensure a viable future for humanity. Certain external and internal conditions have to be fulfilled if human and natural life is to remain in balance, and if these conditions are not met, life on earth will fail. Teilhard was well ware of our precarious situation, as clearly stated in his work Manís Place in Nature:

Should the planet become uninhabitable before mankind has reached maturity; should there be a premature lack of bread or essential metals; or, what would be still more serious, an insufficiency, either in quantity or quality, of cerebral matter needed to store, transmit, and increase the sum total of knowledge and aspirations that at any given moment make up the collective germ of the noosphere: should any of these conditions occur, then, there can be no doubt that it would mean the failure of life on earth; and the worldís effort fully to center upon itself could only be attempted again elsewhere Ö32

The necessary internal conditions are linked to the full exercise of human freedom: ëa know-how to doí to avoid various traps and blind alleys such as ëpolitico-social mechanisation, administrative bottle-necks, over-population, counter-selectionsí and, most important ëa will to doí, not to opt out, not to be discouraged by difficulties or fears.33 Teilhard often speaks about the need to examine all available energy resources, especially those required for nourishing and sustaining human growth and action. A nuanced treatment of this theme is found in his important essay ëHuman Energyí (1937)34. Central to maintaining the dynamic of action is the zest for life, the will to live and love life ñ indispensable for the continuity of life and the development of a higher life. The enemy number one is indifference and boredom, the loss of a taste for life, the absence of inner resources, and the danger of dropping out, Teilhard warned. He pointed to the contradiction:

that all over the earth the attention of thousands of engineers and economists is concentrated on the problem of world resources of coal, oil or uranium ñ and yet nobodyÖbothers to carry out a survey of the zest for life: to take its ëtemperatureí, to feed it, to look after it, andÖto increase it.35

In looking at its resources, the human community does not give the same attention to its available spiritual energy resources as it does to the calculation of its available material energy reserves. Yet spiritual energy resources are indispensable for sustaining persons and planet; human beings bear the responsibility to locate them, use them for their sustenance, and increase them. The religious and philosophical traditions of the world ñ our global religious heritage – contain irreplaceable resources on which we must draw to nourish our zest for life, sustain the biosphere, foster the growth of the noosphere, and advance the balanced integration of the diverse groups and nations of the global community. Nowhere is this better expressed than in Teilhardís 1950 address on ëThe Zest for Livingí to the CongrËs Universel des Croyants, mentioned earlier. At the deepest level, the zest for life is linked to an act of faith:

Öwhat is most vitally necessary to the thinking earth is a faith ñ and a great faith ñ and ever more faith.
To know that we are not prisoners.
To know that there is a way out, that there is air, and light and love, somewhere, beyond the reach of all death.
To know this, to know that is neither an illusion nor a fairy tale. That, if we are not to perish smothered in the very stuff of our being, is what we must at all costs secure. And it is there that we find what I may well be so bold as to call the evolutionary role of religions.36

Teilhard recognized the diversity and complementarity of what he called ëthe active currents of faithsí, the living religious traditions present in the world today. All religions are undergoing profound transformations under the impact of modernity and the exponential development of modern science and technology, but each of them still contains ëfragments of visioní and bears witness to ëexperiences of contactí with a supreme Ineffable – elements that are most precious in feeding the zest for life. The global religious heritage of humankind contains spiritual resources that are ëas indispensable and irreplaceable for the integrity of a total terrestrial religious consciousness as the various ìracialî components.í37 In developing this idea further, I suggest that similarly to the way in which we are concerned to preserve the biodiversity of life forms, we need to take conscious account of and responsibility for maintaining the rich ënoosphericí diversity of religious and spiritual ideas since they provide us with irreplaceable resources for feeding the zest for life.

Teilhard de Chardin favored a closer contact and dialogue between members of different faiths, and encouraged their active collaboration in making the world a better place through promoting a greater integration of the diverse elements of humanity. He also stressed that contemporary religious needs are different from those in the past, and that our historically new situation and consciousness require a new spirituality and a new image of God. A spirituality mainly concerned with the individual is no longer sufficient; what is needed is a faith in humanity and the earth. Teilhardís own spirituality was deeply rooted in what he called the ëdivine milieuí, a a deep faith in a divine center and heart of the world that suffuses every context and environment with the energy, presence, and grace of the spirit whose dynamic action animates the entire universe. Thus the noosphere is not only a sphere of human evolution, but one that bears the traces of divine love and transfiguration. Love is for him both a human task and an ëeffect of ìgraceî and ìrevelationî.í38 To create stronger bonds within the human community and bring about a better world for all, the energies of love – the highest form of human energy – in all its different dimensions and practical expressions are what is needed most.


Teilhard de Chardinís vision of how to feed ëthe zest for lifeí within ourselves and within the world is truly empowering and inspirational, if we really want to seed and grow a better future for the whole of humanity, and not only for its privileged members. There now exist a growing number of ënoospheric institutionsí which are working in ever so many fields for the good of the inhabitants of the earth. New processes of global networking are constantly emerging, and the possibilities for a ëglobal-interlinking-through-loveí that Teilhard first perceived in the 1930s, have grown exponentially through the fast advances of electronic means of communication. Nowhere is this more evident than in the global aid efforts for the victims of the recent tsunami disaster in Asia. Is this only a passing event soon to be forgotten again, or will it serve as an inspiring example for future collaboration on planet earth? We need more such global cooperation to help also the victims of the Iraqi war or the Sudanese famine, for transcending numerous forms of deeply engrained violence, human rights abuses, and for healing the lethal scars of war and hatred.

Traditional religions, spiritualities, and ethics provide irreplaceable resources to help our thinking and decision-making, but they are not ready-made blueprints. We need both ancient and modern streams of wisdom to effect the planetary transformation and renewal we seek, as Thomas Berry has so well explained in his challenging book The Great Work,39where he lists besides the wisdom resources of the classical religious and philosophical traditions those of native traditions, the newly discovered wisdom of women and, interestingly, also the new wisdom of science. There is no shortage of spiritual energy resources, of inspiring visions and ideals, of pioneering groups and movements in the world today, yet it is also true that we still have to reap the benefits of these ideas and emergent practices, for so many hopes, visions, and ideals have yet to translate into concrete transformations in the lives of the poor and the oppressed. The significance and transformative potential of our visions and hopes for the future of humanity is immense, but their practical realization is so often still opposed by violent and powerful political and economic forces which have to be strongly counteracted and fought against.

At the present critical stage of the world we have to pay attention to the deep need for spiritual well-being beyond the existing physical, mental, and moral needs of humankind. This was already recognized long ago by former Assistant Secretaries General of the United Nations, such as U Thant, and Robert Muller, who reflected on the place of spirituality in secular society in his book New Genesis ñ Shaping Global Spirituality.40 Today we hear much about development, but this is mostly understood in material and economic terms; it is seen as a problem of wealth and justice, as the distribution of resources and the balance of power. But Teilhard was asking for more than that when he posed the question of how far we have thought of the spiritual dimensions and the spiritual energy resources available for the further development of persons and planet. Will questions of spiritual development one day become an integral part of our efforts to ensure global developments toward peace and justice? What efforts are currently being devoted toward developing the inner resources of human beings, their power to love, care, and be compassionate, as well as peaceful and happy, so that we can ensure the growth of human flourishing for all peoples in the world? What the world needs most of all is a new global order and a new global ethics on whose fundamentals we can begin to agree. How much could be achieved, for example, if all Muslims and Christians in the world, who represent half the global population, worked closely together for the well-being of the whole human community.

To change our world means that we have to foster the resolve, the commitment, and the will to change our ways. Only then can we create a new global order animated by a different, a new spirit. This will not be possible without a spiritual renewal, a return to the values of life, and a common commitment to a qualitatively better life for all. Religious and spiritual renewal are now occurring in a secular, pluralistic context, and religions must relate and speak to that context too.

Tremendous spiritual energy resources exist in each faith tradition and in many other sources of wisdom we possess. We can draw on all these as never before, and these resources can help us in developing more harmonious relations between humans, the earth and our cosmic environment. We can also find many seeds for peace-making in the worldís religions, but at the same time we need to recognize and address the existing seeds of violence and hatred. To transform our planet from one of dissension and disorder, from war, violence and strife, into one of peaceful co-existence and prevent ecological disaster, does mean a change of heads and hearts. At present we have a world more torn apart than ever before, yet it is also a world that longing to be one. The widespread public desire for closer collaboration and for a more just and peaceful world among so many people around the globe today may be well ahead of what many national governments are still thinking and planning.

As Teilhard de Chardin wrote long ago in The Human Phenomenon, some elements of the world may well ërefuse to serve the worldí41 at this critical time of its development, but if our vision and will can grow large and strong enough, we can find the necessary energy resources to feed the zest for life, and work together toward a more hopeful future for all of humanity.


1. London: Collins, 1964. Further references to this book are given as FM.

2. FM, 7.

3. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Human Phenomenon. A New Edition and Translation of Le phÈnomËne humain by Sarah Appleton-Weber. With a Foreword by Brian Swimme. Brighton & Portland: Sussex Academic Press 1999. References to this book will be cited as HPh.

4. I have discussed these in detail in my essay on ëTeilhardís Association with the World Congress of faiths, 1947-1950í in Ursula King, the Spirit of One Earth. Reflections on Teilhard de Chardin and Global Spirituality, New York: Paragon House, 1989: 135-146; see also chp 4 in my book Towards a New Mysticism. Teilhard de Chardin and Eastern Religions. London: Collins and New York: Seabury Press, 1980.

5. See FM, 185-192.

6. FM, 190.

7. FM, 193-195.

8. FM, 194.

9. See Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy. London: Collins, 1970: 229-243. Further references to this book use the abbreviation AE.

10. AE 231, 232.

11. Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart. Boston: Beacon Press, 1981: 134.

12. HPh, 161.

13. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Popular as a textbook in geology for many years, this is a translation of his work Das Antlitz der Erde, published 1883-1901.

14. See ë La Face de la Terreí, …tudes 169 (1921): 585-602, translated as ëThe Face of the Earthí in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Vision of the Past, London: Collins 1966: 26-48. The quotation given here forms part of an excerpt of this essay reproduced in a somewhat different translation in P. Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe, London: Collins Fount Paperbacks 1986, 75; the text in The Vision of the Past is slightly different.

15. See his article ëThe Formation of the Noosphere. A Biological Interpretation of Human Historyí (1947) in FM, 155-184.

16. Paul R. Samson and David Pitt, eds., The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader.Global Environment, Society and Change London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

17. Samson and Pitt, 181.

18. Samson and Pitt, 186.

19. Published in his book Human Energy, London: Collins 1969: 19-47; hereafter cited as HE.

20. Quoted in HE 19, note 1.

21. These quotations are found in HE 31, 27, 28, 29, 37.

22. HE 35.

23. HE 31.

24. HE 32.

25. HE 33, 34.

26. HE 35 (my translation).

27. The French original reads ëlíamour díinterliaison, au-dessus de líamour díattraití; see Lë…nergie Humaine, Paris: …ditions du Seuil 1962: 44.

28. HE 38.

29. This as well as the previous quotations are from HE 37f.

30. Ibid.

31. HE 44.

32. P. Teilhard de Chardin, Manís Place in Nature, London: Collins, 1966, 118.

33. See ibid.

34. Found in the book of the same title; see HE 113-162.

35. AE 236.

36. AE 238.

37. AE 241. A fuller discussion of this is found in my book Towards a New Mysticism. Teilhard de Chardin and Eastern Religions (see note 4 above).

38. AE 242. I have discussed Teilhardís understanding of love in my article ëLove ñ A Higher Form of Human Energy in the Work of Teilhard de Chardin and Sorokiní, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 39/1 (2004), 77-102.

39. Thomas Berry, The Great Work. Our Way into the Future, New York: Bell Tower, 1999.

40. New York: Doubleday 1982.

41. HPh 161.

Ursula King, Ph.D., RSA, is Professor Emerita and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol where she held the Chair in Theology and Religious Studies from 1989-2001, after teaching for many years at the University of Leeds, in London, and in India. She was Visiting Professor in Feminist Theology at the University of Oslo (1998-2001) and, during the fall semester of 1999, she held the Charles Brueggeman Chair in Ecumenical Theology and Interreligious Dialogue at Xavier University, Cincinnati. She is currently also an Associate Member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Bristol and a Professorial Research Fellow of the Centre for Gender and Religions Research at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

She has published numerous books and articles, especially on the French thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and has contributed to many broadcasts and TV programs. Among her recent publications are Christian Mystics (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001), the edited volumes Spirituality and Society in the New Millennium (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2001) and Faith and Praxis in a Postmodern Age (London: Cassell 1998), the 1996 Bampton Lectures at the University of Oxford: Christ in All Things ó Exploring Spirituality with Teilhard de Chardin (London: SCM Press and Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1997) and Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1996). Her current research is concerned with aspects of contemporary spirituality, and with comparative gender perspectives in different world religions. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Edinburgh University (1996), Oslo University (2000) and the University of Dayton, Ohio (2003). Her lecture is part of her ongoing research on Teilhard de Chardin’s understanding of the phenomenon of love in cosmic and human evolution.

©2005 Metanexus Institute

Published 2005.10.13