The (ephemeral) phenomenon of man

De Chardin wrote his “Phenomenon of Man” in the 1930s. I read it at University where I studied evolution, and it has been a constant influence since then. Like Jung and Buber he speaks to a unity of spirit and material. Indeed he saw the whole evolution of the universe as a story of coalescence of consciousness driven by the force of Love (aka God). Marked by phase transitions from physical evolution to chemical through biological now to the world of pure ideas, Homo Sapiens is a waypoint. A phenomenon, yes – because in us consciousness has become self aware; but ephemeral. A stage and not the end, or final purpose.

Around the same time Wilfred Bion identified the mind as simply a developing apparatus to help humans tolerate and organize experience.

“The apparatus for thinking, the capacity to have thoughts “has to be called into existence to cope with thoughts” (1967, p. 111). Thoughts exist prior to their realization. Thinking, the capacity to think the thoughts which already exist, develops through another mind providing α-function (1962, p. 83)—through the “container” role of maternal reverie.”

Our mind is the mechanism by which thoughts are made concrete.

Richard Dawkins simply stole these ideas, regurgitating them as his “memes”. Unfortunately he stripped them of context and hence of their meaning. Bions context was maternal reverie and de Chardins was Love – “the most powerful and most unknown energy in the world”. Rather than originality Dawkins simply displays through his evangelism a childlike rage against what he conceives of as God (in the image of his own father perhaps?).

I believe absolutely in purpose and progress; that there is meaning to existence and to our part in an unfolding story. I would wish that we each set aside our personal imagining of God (even when we label this “Science” or “Humanity”) and instead share this fundamental premise, and wonder together about miraculous existence.

What then of the darkness of Man? Of our destruction of the planet, of the holocaust, of loss of society to the maw of technology?

Perhaps we should look forward to a next chapter where humans are recombined with machines and connected in a giant web. Perhaps rather than contemplating that with fear – we should embrace this future as Love’s path to the Omega Point.?

Here below is Wikipedia’s summary of the book. A work of prophesy if ever there were one.

Reprint of Wikipedia ..

“The Phenomenon of Man (Le phénomène humain) is a 1955 book written by the French philosopher, paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In this work, Teilhard describes evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity, culminating in the unification of consciousness

The book was finished in the 1930s, but was published posthumously in 1955, and translated into English in 1959. The Roman Catholic Church initially prohibited the publication of some of Teilhard’s writings on the grounds that they contradicted orthodoxy.

The foreword to the book was written by one of the key advocates for natural selection and evolution of the 20th century, and a co-developer of the modern synthesis in biology, Julian Huxley.

Teilhard views evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity. From the cell to the thinking animal, a process of psychical concentration leads to greater consciousness.[3] The emergence of Homo sapiens marks the beginning of a new age, as the power acquired by consciousness to turn in upon itself raises mankind to a new sphere.[4] Borrowing Huxley’s expression, Teilhard describes humankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself.[5]

In Teilhard’s conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases.[6] Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity.[7] This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth.[8] Teilhard calls the new membrane the “noosphere” (from the Greek nous”, meaning mind), a term first coined by Vladimir Vernadsky. The noosphere is the collective consciousness of humanity, the networks of thought and emotion in which all are immersed.[9]

The development of science and technology causes an expansion of the human sphere of influence, allowing a person to be simultaneously present in every corner of the world. Teilhard argues that humanity has thus become cosmopolitan, stretching a single organized membrane over the Earth.[10] Teilhard describes the process by which this happens as a “gigantic psychobiological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the “super-arrangement” to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves today individually and collectively subject”.[8] The rapid expansion of the noosphere requires a new domain of psychical expansion, which “is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to look at it”.[11]

In Teilhard’s view, evolution will culminate in the Omega Point, a sort of supreme consciousness. Layers of consciousness will converge in Omega, fusing and consuming them in itself.[12] The concentration of a conscious universe will reassemble in itself all consciousnesses as well as all that we are conscious of.[13]Teilhard emphasizes that each individual facet of consciousness will remain conscious of itself at the end of the process.[14]

Father Hunger

This excerpt from “Under Saturn’s Shadow” by analytic psychologist James Hollis speaks to me anyway – I’ve been working on the “deficit” he speaks of much of my life…

All imagos are two-sided. If an image has a depth dimension it must express the dual character of reality. Acknowledging and maintaining the tension of opposites is a fundamental Jungian tenet. One-sidedness begets distortion, perversion, neurosis. Thus, for example, the archetype of the mother expresses the dual aspect of nature, that which giveth and that which taketh away. The Great Mother represents a life force that both begets and destroys, gestates and annihilates. As Dylan Thomas so succinctly put it, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower… is my destroyer”.

So , too, the archetype of the father is dual. Father gives life, light, energy – no wonder he has historically been associated with the sun. But father can also blast, wither, crush. The preliterate mind, playing with the image of the sun as centre of energy, the vitalising principle, evolved God the Father who energises and fecundates the feminine earth. Patriarchy replaced the worship of Earth Mother with that of Sky Father. (The halo associated with Christ is a relic of the solar aura of the Father even as the serpent associated with the maternal deities is spurned by the emergent patriarchy in Genesis.). When the experience of the father is positive, the child experiences strength, support, the energising of his own resources and modelling in the outer world. When the experience of the father is negative, the fragile psyche is crushed.

To use a modern metaphor, the child’s psyche is a set of potentialities, a data base to be shaped by the affirmation and modelling of the parents. Through his mother he may experience the world as a nurturing and protective environment. From father he may receive the empowerment to enter the world and to fight for his life.  Of course mother can help empower him and father nurture him, but archetypally they play specific roles. Mother also actives the mother complex, which must be transformed and transcended lest he remain childlike and dependent. He must leave the world of the mother and enter that of the fathers. All mythology is a playing out of some variant of two great mythologems. The mythology  of the Great Mother is the great circle, the death-rebirth motif, the Eternal Return. The mythology of the Sky Father is the quest, the journey from innocence to experience, from dark to light, from home to horizon. Each mythic cycle must be served.

When the parental imagos in the child are inadequately modelled by the parents, he carries the deficit throughout his life…

..from infinity, and beyond

As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.