The Atomism of Spirit

September 13, 1941

With keen cosmological insight, Teilhard de Chardin argues that human plurality mirrors the multiplicity of atoms and stars. Just as matter progresses in complexity from subatomic particles to living cells, so consciousness evolves through increasing unification, culminating in the “Omega point”—supreme consciousness and union. Written in Beijing and published in Activation of Energy.


A Starting Point

The Fact and the Problem of the Plurality of Man

Whether it is a matter of climbing a peak, of cutting up a diamond, or of unravelling some complex of magnitudes tangled up by nature, the best way to get on is not generally to make a frontal attack on the difficulties that stand in our way: it is much better to look to right and left for the slight crack that can indirectly lead us without effort to the heart of the problem.

Ever since man reflected, and the more he reflected, the opposition between spirit and matter has constantly risen up as an ever higher barrier across the road that climbs up to a better awareness of the universe: and in this lies the deep-rooted origin of all our troubles. In physics and in metaphysics, as in morals, in social science and in religion, why are we constantly arguing with one another, why do we never seem to get any further? Surely the reason is that, being unable accurately to define the nature of the relationship that cosmically connects thought with the tangible, we cannot contrive to orientate ourselves in the labyrinth of things. Which is the top and which the bottom in our universe? Or are there even a top and a bottom?

In what follows, I would like to try to show that there is a roundabout path which has gradually been cleared by a series (apparently discontinuous) of intellectual conquests; and that if we take this path we are probably henceforth, without realizing it, in a position to surmount the reputedly inaccessible peak behind which, perhaps, the Promised Land awaits us.

As a starting point in our climb I shall simply take the ‘ludicrously’ evident fact of the plurality of man. There is not just one man in the world, there are any number of men, countless myriads even. Precisely as with the stars scattered over the firmament, precisely as with the particles from which are woven the bodies that surround us, number and mass are integral to man. The molecular structure of mankind is a fundamental condition of our lives which we find in no way astonishing—we do not even notice it, so ‘natural’ does it seem to us. And yet it is surely just this condition which has always been offering us the clew which we despair of finding. Here we have the truth which once again stares us in the face and yet we cannot see it.

Dismissing any scientific or philosophical preconceptions, let us try thoroughly to understand why man, immersed in the multitude, is himself multiple. We shall then, perhaps, be well on the way to having analysed the stuff of the universe, both in its texture and in distinguishing the positive or negative sign of its fibres.


First Preliminary Observation

The Dimensional Zones of the Universe

Like every reality that is synthetic in nature, our perceptions inevitably link together in a particular order. In order to see, as we know, we have to do more than simply open our eyes. In addition, our observation must, as it proceeds, be reinforced by a certain number of auxiliary ways of seeing.

In the present instance, if, that is to say, the meaning that makes human plurality plain to us is to burst upon our minds, two of these preliminary data or intuitions are required: the first of these is what I shall call ‘the vision of the dimensional zones of the universe.’

Let us begin by examining the vision.

On either side of the middle zone of the world on the scale of which our humanity is busy and active, objects, as presented to our experience, are arranged in two natural series of size—either indefinitely growing larger, or indefinitely growing smaller: towards the nebulae, or towards the atoms. Above lies the immense, below lies the infinitesimal. Since all time man has been vaguely conscious of being imprisoned in this limitless framework: so much so, that after an initial moment of bewilderment we now feel almost at home in between microns and light-years, in the new world of modern physics. What, however, still remains much less familiar to our minds is the strangeness, as yet hardly disclosed, of the two abysses between which we float. In a famous passage, Pascal imagined within a cheesemite another universe containing other mites. We are now finding ourselves obliged to think on lines that contradict this idea of a space that expands or contracts and yet retains the same characteristics. Just as the brilliance of light and the forms of life are transformed in the eyes of an observer moving along a terrestrial meridian, or descending into the depths of the ocean—so, and even much more radically, we must conceive the universe as changing shape if we try in our minds to change our position either towards the uppermost, or towards the lowest, of its two extreme zones.

As we move towards the latter (if, impossible though it would be, we could so reduce our size without losing consciousness), all sorts of odd forces (capillary attractions, osmotic currents, Brownian movement, magnetic influences, etc.) would soon fasten on us, to paralyse us, polarize us, or drag us into their feverish dance; and the lower we descended, the more we should have to say goodbye to common experience. Entering this realm of the infinitely small, where we would meet unimaginably fantastic speeds, the first thing we would find disappearing would be the chemical distinction of the elements—because we should have travelled beneath it. Losing all meaning, heat, light and resistance would vanish in turn: while the very mass of bodies (the foundation, at our scale, of cosmic stability) would become the most fluid and plastic of things.

Moving towards the top (supposing we were able to increase our size indefinitely) other no less radical changes, though of another order, would intervene in their own manner to upset the ways in which we think and see. By its nature the physics of the immense is much more difficult for us to get hold of, or even to imagine, than that of the infinitesimal. Once we are dealing with matter in colossal volumes and with almost infinitely slow speeds, what impact can it still make on our senses and our imaginations? At the same time we know enough about it to suspect that at these extremely high cosmic latitudes we no longer have any guarantee (any more, in fact, than we have ‘at the bottom’) that the three angles of a triangle will still equal two right angles, as they do in the Euclidean zone of ‘middle latitudes.’ Most important of all, we know enough to discover, to our confusion, that in the immense something so fundamental and so simple for our practical life as the coincidence (or synchronism) of two events loses practically all definable meaning or usefulness.

In short, and in contradiction of the usual preconception of the ancient philosophies, there is in nature a relationship between quantity and quality. Change the spatial dimensions of bodies, and it is their very properties that are transformed. Whether the transformation be effected (as in the case of ‘dissolving views’) simply by relative modification of values—owing to the fact that certain effects, imperceptible at the scale of the intermediate, become preponderant at extreme scales; or whether there really does exist, concentrically with ourselves, a certain number of critical spatial surfaces crossing through which physical values are reversed—in either case the fact remains that our universe is not the same at its equator (which is where we stand) as it is at its two ends. Zonally, it is divided into a number of specifically different domains.


Second Preliminary Observation

The Complexity of Living Matter

Let us now withdraw our attention from the immense and the infinitesimal, and turn to another scene, apparently of a different order. Leaving atoms and nebulae, let us take a look, in the vicinity of our own middle latitude, at living matter. Armed with ever more subtle and powerful instruments provided by science, biology is constantly pressing home its attacks on this object, so close to us and at the same time so extraordinary, which is our own flesh. Chemical analyses and syntheses of incredible delicacy; every sort of trituration, under the influence of the ‘dead’ or ‘living’ reagents which today make up the weaponry of research; finally, direct observation under the microscope, with magnifications that have now suddenly just risen from two thousand diameters to a hundred thousand—this is not the place to enumerate the exciting results to which these investigations, still hardly begun, are leading. What, on the other hand, does matter in this connexion, is to note that, dominating the vast corpus of experimental data already accumulated by biophysics and biochemistry, one general fact is emerging, which is more important for our intelligence than any particular fact. By this I mean the incredible complexity of organic beings.

First of all, there is complexity in the sheer number of associated particles. In a single molecule of protein there is the equivalent of from 6,000 to 20,000 hydrogen atoms; this number rises to 68,000 in the haemoglobin of blood; to four million in the red pigment of the liver; and to seventeen and even twenty-five million in a virus-particle. No attempt has yet been made, I believe, to work out the number for a living cell, nor indeed would it be possible to do so—and there are about a thousand million million in one human body.

Secondly, there is complexity in the variety of assembled mechanisms. The multitude of chemical elements concentrated in living or pre-living particles does not represent a homogeneous swarm. On the contrary, practically the whole series of simple bodies gradually becomes involved and used in the building up of organic bodies: and this in a state that entails combinations whose differentiation and hierarchically ordered interlocking are still beyond our methods of analysis and understanding. At the lowest level these combinations are molecular, but at a higher level there are ‘micellar,’ granular, cellular, histological, etc., combinations of every order; and all these arrangements build up on top of one another and combine in geometric progressions the mere idea of which baffles our minds.

Finally (and in consequence) there is complexity in the general mechanism that can ensure the functioning of these countless components that are fitted together.

And all this, we must remember, takes place and operates on an unbelievably minute scale. A thread of virus (as photography shows) is no more than three ten-thousandths of a millimetre in length; the smallest bacteria are about the same size. There are some thirty million million cells in a human brain…. Astrophysicists are tracking down stars in which matter would appear to be inorganically so compressed upon itself as to attain a mass far higher than those we are familiar with. In vitalized matter, it is the organization that attains an extremely high density.

The truth is that if we examine our own substance closely we are amazed at the reappearance, once again, of the abyss in a new form. It is no longer the abyss of fragmentation nor, at the other extreme, the abyss of agglomeration. It lies in a third direction, and it is the abyss of synthesis—the mesmeric depths of a matter which, at a minimum volume, contrives limitlessly to build up on itself at the very heart of our own selves.

If, then, we look at this rising whirlpool from which our thought emerges; if we reflect upon this third abyss, we can, I believe, begin to see the universe falling into shape and settling into equilibrium around the human Pleiades.


The Shaft of Light

Complexity and Consciousness

Let us, then, bring together and combine the two facts to which this preliminary essay has introduced us. On the one hand, as we began by noting, the stuff of things is transformed—there is a change in its properties—when we follow its main axis in space and either climb up towards extremely great or descend towards extremely small magnitudes. On the other hand, as we have just pointed out, there is a second way in which bodies can oscillate between the infinitesimal and the immense. While they are capable of becoming extremely small or extremely big, they can also follow another axis which runs athwart the first, and so become either ultra-simple or ultra-complicated in their internal structure. We observed, further, that the high forms of complexity appear in the zone of living substances.

If we reverse the terms of this last proposition our ideas will be clarified.

Hitherto life, as life, has seemed to be impatient of incorporation in what we call science or even to be inexpressible in scientific terms. It is impossible, we are constantly told, to include consciousness and thought in the constructions of physics. If we ask whose fault this is, the physicist blames his failure on nature; but surely the truth is rather that physics, arbitrarily limiting nature, persists in building up its universe along a spatial axis, and it is precisely along that axis that life does not appear? Once a breakthrough has been effected above ourselves, running across the very large and the very small, and so allowing the axis of the complex a clear passage, then a new cosmic milieu is created by the introduction of this additional dimension; and in this milieu the vitalization of matter immediately ceases to appear puzzling or inexplicable. On the contrary it seems as ‘natural’ as the variation in mass with high speeds or the appearance at very great distances of the effects of relativity.

As we were saying, a new dimensional zone brings with it new properties. Once the special domain or special compartment of the ultra-synthetic is recognized in the universe, life no longer comes as an explosion into the scientific picture of the real. It simply fills up what would, without it, remain a gaping void in our outlook. Life is the property that is peculiar to large organized numbers, it is the specific effect of matter carried to an extreme degree of internal structuration, and as such it falls smoothly into the position of an expected phenomenon. Following on the immense and the infinitesimal, the large complex (since it does in fact exist) cannot but have its own proper character. What that is, we shall now see.

Consciousness as an effect of complexity

Still standing on the same ground, let us continue to focus the universe from this re-adjusted point of view; it will not be long before we make a further discovery.

To speak of ‘complexity’ in the true sense we acknowledge in relation to living mater, is necessarily to imply a multitude of unified elements. The fantastic structure represented by the smallest animate particle forms a whole: in other words, were it not to some degree radially organized, it would fall back into dust. By its very nature an organism would not subsist, as it becomes more complex, nor would it function, if it did not structurally form a system that is centred.

And now, to say ‘consciousness’ is again, just as inevitably, to express the idea of a being folding back and concentrating on itself. To see, to feel, to think is to act or be acted upon as a centre of convergence for the vast fan of things which radiate around us. It is to be internally centred.

Consciousness and complexity, therefore, are two aspects of one and the same reality—the centre—depending on whether we a adopt a viewpoint outside or inside ourselves.

And this can mean but one thing: that by using this new variable it becomes possible for us to express in more fundamental and more general terms the special transformation which the universe undergoes as it makes a further ascent, in the direction of extremely high complexes.

For lack of reflection, we used, perhaps, instinctively to think that when we spoke of centres we were simply dealing with a metaphysical or geometric abstraction. If we attached a physical reality to the word, we either, maybe, attributed to that reality a ‘univocal’ value, absolute in every context; or again, quite possibly, we even thought that the simpler an element is, the more perfectly centred it is, or can become.

Now, however, these muddled views are being replaced by the emergence of the first outlines of an exact physics of centration.

If we look at things correctly, the ‘centricity’ of an object does not correspond in the world either to an abstract quality or to a sort of ‘all or nothing’ with no half-tones or degrees of intensity. It represents, on the contrary, a magnitude that is essentially variable, proportionate to the number of elements and interconnexions contained in each cosmic particle under consideration. A centre is the more simple and profound, the greater the density and the wider the radius of the sphere in which it is formed. A centre does not simply exist, it builds itself up. This is what the facts tell us. In consequence, there is an infinite number of disparate ways in which matter can become centred. Along the axis of complexity, everything around us happens as though the stuff of the universe were distilled into a rising series of continually more perfect centres. From the point of view of physics, this super-centration corresponds to the accumulation in each nucleus of an ever greater number of more varied and better-arranged particles; from the point of view of psychology, this same super-centration expresses itself in an increase of spontaneity and consciousness.

Moving towards the infinitesimal, we meet dispersion; towards the immense, agglomeration; towards the complex, centration and consciousness—in other words, vitalization.


Moleculization and Hominization


Complexity ≷ Centricity ≷ Consciousness (1)

We have just seen that, under the operation of this structural formula (which may be read in either direction at will), the universe expands at a point half-way between the infinitesimal and the immense. At its equator it swells out in a layer sui generis, on which the distance between two points is no longer measurable in size but in degrees of organization—or, which comes to the same thing, of psychism.

A qualitative scale (but involving a qualitative factor that is still measurable) running across the quantitative scale of cosmic particles. Such is the overall shape assumed by the real around us.

The first view, taken as a ‘still,’ is obviously no more than an instantaneous, infinitesimal, section of the phenomenon we are trying to picture to ourselves. Whether it is a question of atoms, of stars, or of living beings, every natural series immediately and irresistibly makes itself felt, for minds like ours that are awake to the sense of the evolutionary, as a trail of movement.

Synthesis ≷ Centration ≷ Interiorization (2)

Our first fundamental relationship (i.e. (1) above) takes this form if we transpose it to the only scientifically real setting of a space that is indissolubly linked with time.

And it is here, I believe, that the light definitely bursts through.

In the ‘common-sense’ view and even, too often, in that of a certain sort of scientist, the universe is still divided into two water-tight compartments: the domain of matter and the domain of life; the atomic world of molecules and the cellular world of plants and animals.

Now, it is precisely the surface we imagine as separating these two worlds which begins to disappear for us when we apply relationship (2)—just as does the shimmering meniscus between the liquid and the gaseous portions of a body that has reached its point of vaporization.

Beyond the albumens and proteins, but still a long way this side of cells, there are (as we discover every day more unmistakably) certain extremely large particles. From the external, chemical, point of view, we find it of absorbing interest to consider these new objects. Have we, however, given sufficient thought to the fact that if these particles are hyper-complex the reason, necessarily and correlatively, is that they are hyper-centred, and that in consequence they hold a germ of consciousness? Below life, then, there is pre-life. We have the molecular branch and the cellular branch of matter: these two segments, hitherto treated as divergent or heterogeneous, are now trending to come closer together as we examine them. From end to end they run on in line. And at this point there appears a single curve which expresses the progress of one and the same physico-biological process: noögenesis.

Let us follow the phases of the phenomenon more closely.

At the lower stages, when low molecular weights are involved, there is hardly any folding-back of matter upon itself, and in consequence the effects of consciousness can still not be observed in it; they are as impossible for us to apprehend experientially as are the variations of mass that occur in our bodies when we are in motion, were it only an aircraft travelling at maximum speed. At a higher stage, however, approaching molecular weights of several millions (in the case of the viruses, shall we say?) the differences between the inorganic and the organic begin to loom up. It is at this point that the ‘centric’ properties of matter begin to become apparent. When we reach the cell (and to do so, I suggest, we pass through a critical point) these properties have definitely emerged, and we feel that we are moving into a different world. However, even if the cell, by reason of its increased dimensions, can use in its construction methods of interconnexion (capillarity, osmosis, corpuscular chains) which are denied to small atomic assemblies, it is surely evident that it still belongs at least as much to the world of atoms as to the world of living beings—and this in view of its behaviour, its initial smallness, its condition of existing ‘in myriads,’ and its very shape: and so—once the threshold has been crossed—the process continues logically, stage by stage, up to the higher living beings and then up to and including man.

Beneath the superstructure of mechanical and physiological links which evolution has progressively added to the elementary range of intra-cellular links, we do not immediately recognize in man the natural extension of the atom. Nevertheless, once we have drawn the curve followed by a world which is advancing, along one of its axes, towards large complexes, it becomes clear (and dazzlingly clear) that in each one of us the same movement is being continued: however enriched it may be, it is still the same primordial movement form which, millions of years ago, there emerged the first elementary compounds of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon.

Hominization, then, is the particular and final term (so far as we can see at present, remember!) of universal moleculization (which amounts to saying that mankind today has not yet reached ‘the natural term of its development.’ See The Energy of Evolution).

Thus we find a natural, a genetic, explanation of the simultaneous presence in man of three fundamental characteristics whose co-existence always used to be inexplicable: extremely high degree of complexity, of consciousness, and (though small, indeed, in comparison with what is found among lower forms of living beings) of number.

At the same time we have an answer to the key-riddle we asked ourselves at the beginning of this essay: why, we wondered, is man plural—plural just as the stars and molecules?

We can now answer, quite simply, because man is precisely the most recently elaborated, the youngest, and hence the most complex and most fully centred, of molecules.


The Continuation of the Movement

The Spirit of the Earth

To have recognized that in as much as we are men we are caught up in a cosmic process of physico-psychic concentration, is thereby scientifically to formulate the problem of the future. We now undoubtedly understand, in its main outlines, the internal law of our development, and if we wish to know what we are going to become, all we have to do is to extend it. Apart from accepting the false evidence that there are in the universe two irreducible forms of matter (animate and inanimate), I know and feel that no more obstinate illusion persists in our minds than that of a complete difference between what prepared us and what we now are. Whatever the historical evidence for a movement of life behind us, we almost invincibly argue as though we had been carried along by this tide to a supreme level and were now complete, in other words brought to a halt.

It is this apparent cleavage between present and past (due to the slowness of the current which draws us with it) which we must in future dismiss from our outlook.

No—if we really observe the still extreme absence of organization, and hence of potential organization, in which the thinking portion of the earth is restlessly in movement here and nowwe have no justification for the belief that the moleculization of matter has reached its ceiling in us. Everything, rather, goes to show that, in and through mankind, the cosmos is still continuing its arduous drift towards increasing states of complexity: of centration, in consequence, and, as a further consequence, of consciousness.

Let us, instead, look around us with an informed eye and see whether, perhaps, something may not be moving in the direction we have foreseen and expected, of an ultra-synthesis.

In the case of human molecules considered in isolation, no positive result emerges from this inquiry. This is a point on which I have made my position clear elsewhere. For the last twenty thousand years during which we have known it (for that is all) there appears to have been no appreciable change in the structure or in the functioning of the brain of Homo sapiens. When, however, we leave aside the individual and turn to the collectivity of man, something new comes to light.

At this moment we have an earth spreading far and wide before us; but its geographically limited surface is being visibly compressed beneath the swelling multitude of a population whose pressure upon itself is continually being increased, not only so much by its numerical growth as by the multiplication of inter-connexions of all kinds and the amazing speeding-up of their development. We look at this vast spectacle without understanding it—we are miles from even dreaming that it can have anything in common with the organic processes of life. ‘Social relationships,’ we think, ‘an accidental and ephemeral phenomenon: superficial modifications that can be reversed. Once brains have been developed, of course, they change no more. There can be no comparison with collective structures, which are incessantly destroying and replacing one another.’

Habitually we still refuse to see in human civilization anything more than a monotonous series of reversible oscillations.

But is this in fact true? Let us rather weigh up the changes that are taking place, and try to determine the nature and the significance of their successive appearance.

A first result of the ‘mass-setting’ which mankind is gradually undergoing at this moment is that every one of us, taken in isolation, is becoming less and less materially self-sufficient. A series of new needs, which it would be puerile and anti-biological to regard as superfluous and artificial, is continually making itself felt in us. It is no longer possible for us to live and develop without an increasing supply of rubber, of metals, oil, electricity and energy of all sorts. No individual could henceforth manage to produce his daily bread on his own. Mankind is more and more taking the form of an organism that possesses a physiology and, in the current phase, a common ‘metabolism.’ We may, if we please, say that these ties are superficial, and that we will loose them if we wish. Meanwhile, they are growing firmer every day, under the combined action of all the forces that surround us; and history shows that, as a whole, their network (woven under the influence of irreversible cosmic factors) has never ceased to draw tighter.

Thus a general human life is irresistibly being constituted around our own private lives. This is not a matter of a vague ‘symbiosis’ which would simply ensure, through mutual assistance, the continued existence, as individuals, of the members of the community, or even their further development. Certain ‘effects’ are already emerging from the association that has been formed, and these are specifically proper to collectivity. We take no notice of such effects, and yet we can see countless examples of them on all sides. Take simply the case of an aircraft, or a radio, or a Leica: and consider the physics, the chemistry and mechanics such things presuppose for their existence—the mines, laboratories, factories, arms, brains, hands. By virtue of its construction (and this is undeniable) each one of these devices is, and cannot but be, only the convergent result of countless disciplines and techniques whose bewildering complexity could be mastered by no single worker in isolation. In their conception and manufacture, these familiar objects presuppose nothing less than a complex reflective organism, acting per modum unius, as a single agent. Already we see in them the work not simply of man, but of mankind.

Now, the type of solidarity which impresses itself upon us so palpably in the order of mechanics, is nothing but the tangible reflection of an even more profound psychological ‘setting.’ Leibniz and his closed monads have no place in today’s world. Henceforth man is less capable than ever before of thinking alone. We have only to consider the series of our modern concepts in science, philosophy and religion, and it will be obvious that the more general and fruitful any one of these notions is proving, the more it, too, is tending to assume the form of a collective entity: we can, it is true, individually cover one angle of it, we can make a portion of it our own and develop it, but it rests in fact on a vault of mutually buttressed thoughts. The idea of the electron or the quantum, or the cosmic ray—the idea of the cell or of heredity—the idea of humanity or even the idea of God—no single individual can claim these as his preserve or dominate them. In such things, what is already thinking, just as what is already working, through man and above man, is again mankind. And it is inconceivable, in virtue of the very way in which the phenomenon works, that the movement initiated should not continue in the same direction, tomorrow as today, becoming more pronounced and increasing in speed.

From all this we can draw only one conclusion, that the quantity of activity and consciousness contained in mankind, taken as a whole, is greater than the mere sum of individual activity and consciousness. Progress in complexity is making itself felt in a deepening of centricity. It is not simply a sum, but synthesis. And this is precisely what we were justified in expecting, if, in the domain of the social, the forward march of universal moleculization is indeed being continued (as my thesis maintained) to a point beyond our present brains.

Until man, we may say that nature was working to construct ‘the unit or grain of thought.’ It would now seem undeniable that, obeying the laws of some gigantic hyper-chemistry, we are now being launched towards ‘edifices made up of grains of thought,’ towards ‘a thought made up of thoughts’—travelling ever deeper into the abyss of the infinitely complex.

The synthesis of man—a magnificent enterprise, but at the same time, we must be careful to note, a long and delicate operation; and (like all life’s other efforts) it can succeed only through innumerable tentative gropings and after much suffering. In the case of hearts and brains, much more than in that of atoms, we must remember that not every form of combination can be good. For one human stem that has succeeded in forcing the threshold of reflection, how many millions of other ‘phyla’ are there which have come to grief! Thus the problem which faces modern man, economically and socially (since, irrespective of his wishes, synthesis is his destiny), is to discover which of the various possible forms of collectivization open to him is the good form, in other words the form that most directly prolongs the psychogenesis (or noögenesis) from which he emerged. Man must avoid the blind alleys and find where the issue of evolution lies ahead.

I shall have to return to this point in the next section. For the moment I need do no more than note the two following:

  1. First of all, when the curve of ‘moleculization’ is extended into the future, it enables us to foresee the awakening (and it may well be an explosive awakening) of irresistible inter-human affinities that are as yet unsuspected. Hitherto, in spite of external forces whose influence is to bring them together, the relations between spiritual atoms seem to be governed by an inflexible internal repulsion. The more planetary ties tend to force us together, the more do we feel the need to disengage ourselves from one another. Action and reaction: even in the domain of spirit that is how the work involved in every synthesis can be expressed. If, as I am maintaining, it is true that we are all, each and every one of us, no more than the elements of a vast unit still to come, then, once the last forms of resistance have been overcome—once the piston has passed its dead centre—we must expect to sink into that profound zone in which our forces of mutual attraction are dominant. The greatest of the energies the universe still holds in reserve (and certain indications allow us to feel it stirring) is, without doubt, not the energy we are trying to release by breaking up the atom: it is made up by the still dormant affinities that one day will hurl together the most conscious elements of the universe—in other words, ourselves.
  2. Granting that, we than have the problem of determining, in an initial approximation, the higher term, still to come, towards which we are being led by the transformation in which, in common with the world, we are involved. We can see it (for any other picture would contradict the law of moleculization) only as a state of unanimity: such a state, however, that in it each grain of thought, now taken to the extreme limit of its individual consciousness, will simply be the incommunicable, partial, elementary expression of a total consciousness which is common to the whole earth, and specific to the earth: a spirit of the earth.

And at this point we meet a final question, which brings the whole problem back with a new urgency. In just what form are we to picture this spirit of the earth? This thing which is coming to birth in us and from us, through an ascent into the super-complex—is it some sort of super-family, super-team, super-culture, or super-nation, in which no element, however high its position in the hierarchy, will experience or synthesize in itself the totality of the whole? Or is it rather, as has already happened once in nature, some super-individual that is going to appear at the term of our coming together?

When the collective is taken to its upper limit, is it still ‘collective’ or does it issue in a super-person? Is it a multi-centred or a uni-centred organism? ‘Hyper-polyzoic’ or ‘hyper-metazoic’? Towards what are we moving?

Is it possible to answer that question?

And if it is, what influence will the solution have on the interior orientation of our lives?


The Breakthrough Ahead, and Reversal upon Omega Point

So long as it is a question of disintegrated and incandescent bodies, we can succeed in penetrating the secrets of astral life. By contrast, when we are confronted with large complexes which are obscure by nature, we are still as helpless as ever. Since, in all the vast expanse of the heavens, the earth is still the only speck on which we can follow the moleculization of matter into its upper limits, we can find no term of comparison outside the earth to give us information about the limit of the phenomenon. We know today how stars are born and die; but if we are to form an idea of the way in which a planet comes to an end biologically, we are obliged to venture into the hazards of an extrapolation.

Once we have recognized and admitted the character and dimensions as ‘planetary synthesis’ of life on earth, how (in harmony with the internal laws of the phenomenon) are we to conceive its end? By extinction or explosion, in death? Or, again, by ultra-synthesis, in some super-life?

Although this problem is regarded as scientifically insoluble and is accordingly relegated to individual feeling or instinct, I shall try to show that there is a rational answer to it—provided that allowance is made in our calculation for a magnitude that I consider objective and universal: by that I mean the hope, implicit in the vital act, that the world is developing towards a limitless future.

In order to be able to function, life needs, and ever increasingly needs, to recognize that it is in itself irreversible.

At a degree that is still implicit and incipient, this inner demand can already be seen in the persistent impulse that for hundreds of millions of years has unceasingly driven organic beings ‘blindly’ towards higher forms of consciousness. In an ill-defined but already explicit state, it springs up, at the first appearance of the inevitable fact of death, in the animal that has become capable of seeing ahead. From the critical moment when consciousness turns back upon itself and so makes it its business to foresee, every being, no matter how primitive, begins to reject as intolerable the idea that it can ever disappear completely and utterly. It is only at an even higher level, however, in the upper reaches of a mankind which is in process of grouping collectively upon itself, that it becomes clearly apparent that it is physically impossible for the universe simultaneously to contain in itself both a reflective activity and a total death.

In order to be able to function, life needs, and ever increasingly needs, to recognize that it is in itself irreversible. At a degree that is still implicit and incipient, this inner demand can already be seen in the persistent impulse that for hundreds of millions of years has unceasingly driven organic beings ‘blindly’ towards higher forms of consciousness. In an ill-defined but already explicit state, it springs up, at the first appearance of the inevitable fact of death, in the animal that has become capable of seeing ahead. From the critical moment when consciousness turns back upon itself and so makes it its business to foresee, every being, no matter how primitive, begins to reject as intolerable the idea that it can ever disappear completely and utterly.

Here, again, there continues to disclose itself to us, under another aspect, the slow interior drift of which we are the unconscious plaything.

The more the centuries succeed one another, as I recalled earlier, the more men are forced against one another on our round planet, and so assume the form of elements within a unit of a higher order, now undergoing concentration. This great process of synthesis has its reaction in the intimate domain of our personal activities. Hitherto (except for the vague instinct that causes them to reproduce their kind) men were able to try at all costs to forget death by engrossing themselves in the cares and joys of an existence to which a definite limit was set. If we consider the matter, we shall find that it is this loophole which is gradually tending to close up for us. At the same time as mankind is forming one single body in space, it is necessarily, in step with that process, doing the same thing in time. The idea of a total human work to be accomplished is surely the inevitable corollary to a totalized mankind. As a consequence of this, a radical modification is insidiously altering the balance of our activities. Without realizing it, every man is becoming accustomed to fear, to entertain ambitions, to breathe in an atmosphere of universality—as though his sole support were the global success of mankind that lies ahead. Thus the bulkhead collapses which seemed to isolate our human ‘career’ from that of our descendants. The centre of gravity of our most tangible interests is shifted as though to an infinite distance ahead. Thereby, too, not only does the prospect of a death of man begin to fill our horizon: there is the further threat and horror of a death of mankind.

Superficially, this would appear to be no more than a change of scale; but here again it is precisely a change that had necessarily to be made (as in the case of all the other properties of the infinitesimal, the immense and the complex) if what we were looking for was to become unmistakably clear. We experience no immediate shock at the idea of annihilation applied to a single grain of thought; or if we do, it comes from so nice a process of introspection that we may well be doubtful about the value of our evidence. On the other hand, when the same idea is extended to the planetary dimensions of the ‘noösphere,’ we immediately recognize that it wipes out simultaneously the whole of the world’s past and the whole of its present so completely that we have no alternative but to reject it. In a universe which, through the way in which it functions, is continually concentrating the vital interests of its elements on a collective term to be attained ahead, the whole structure collapses if that upper term is found to be precarious or non-existent. Thus, in step with the progress of hominization, a need for the absolute is born in man and grows more pronounced. If nothing of what we create (or even more, if all that is best in what we create) does not win through the disintegrations of matter, then evolution, struck at its very heart by self-disgust, automatically comes to a halt in a meaningless universe.

Life—and so reflection—and so foresight—and so the demand for super-life. These four terms are linked together in a biological chain, and they increase simultaneously. In consequence what the future presages for us is neither volatilization nor senescence. The possibilities, therefore, that confront our minds are greatly narrowed. No term can be appropriate to the growing series of molecules which is not, by its nature, positive and a maximum. This means that in one way or another we are able to escape the decrepitude of the star the holds us. Beyond the spirit of the earth, something greater, more complex and more fully centred than mankind is looming up before us.

But what?

In our search for the ultra-terrestrial sequel to the process in which we are involved, we might start (this is the simplest way) by conceiving that psychological relations will one day come to be formed between our planet and other ‘thinking’ stars: the combined minds of a large number of ‘earths.’ Among these major units the cosmic synthesis would then get off to a fresh start, carried to a new order of duration and magnitude. Staggering though this phenomenon appears when we imagine it, it is nevertheless in keeping with what we now know of the vastness of astronomical dimensions. After all, is not life co-extensive with matter? Is it not enough to invoke against such alliances the fact (however impressive it may be) that no ‘elder’ planet has yet intervened to rescue us from our isolation. We must remember that the human earth is still very young. Incapable of ‘transmitting’ in its present state, can it even ‘receive?’ We are completely ignorant of the intensity the psychic charge must attain at each pole if it is to force apart in both directions the interplanetary insulation that separates two conscious centres. I shall be chary, therefore, of asserting that, within the universe of our experience, man is irrevocably doomed to remain (or to be obliged to consider himself) the only one of his species. Nevertheless, for a great many reasons this isolation is only too probable—we have only to think of the difficulties raised by the coincidence of two instances of life separated by extremely great distances in space-time: but quite apart from that, I must point out that should, by some chance, this isolation be ended, we would still be confronted by the difficulty with which we are now concerned. As I was saying, the conjunction of thinking stellar units would allow moleculization to get off to a fresh start; the end of the process would be postponed to a higher stage. However, while the problem of death would momentarily have been dismissed, it would reappear at this higher degree of complexity with even greater urgency. And it is precisely this shadow of a death (even were it still thousands of millions of years away) that we must now and for ever banish from our horizon, if we are to be able to continue to act ever more consciously.

What way out, then, can we find?

The more I study these prospects the more I am convinced that the only way in which the spirit of the earth can come to an end without perishing, is by disappearing in depth through excess of centration upon itself—whether it does this alone or with the support of other spirits it has met during its journeying. When observed in its external mechanism of complication, it is possible that the moleculization of matter may come up against some higher value which it cannot exceed (as, for example, a moving mass cannot exceed the speed of light). In any case, this moleculization—an eddy of improbability within a current whose over-all tendency is to bring bodies back to their most simple states—undoubtedly cannot be continued indefinitely: is not the network it weaves made up of the ‘perishable?’ By contrast, if it is observed in its internal aspect (that is to say, the rise of consciousness), the process appears to know no limiting-value to its developments. Every reflective act, by its nature, initiates a higher form of reflection (so that there is no point at which the continuity of the chain can be broken); but what is more, as we have just seen, the very faculty of thought demands, if it is not to be stifled, the existence of a completely free atmosphere ahead of it.

We can draw but one conclusion from this evolutionary conflict between the without (which is limited) and the within (which knows no limit) of the noösphere: that we must foresee an internal break between the two aspects of the phenomenon. We are forced to conceive that beyond a certain critical value, centration can in some way or other continue independently of the physico-chemical synthesis that was necessary, in a first phase, for its initiation: the centre throwing off its original shell of complication.

Can it break away like this?

It can—but on one condition: that we presuppose at the extreme limit of the axis of the syntheses and of time, the existence of a centre of the second species—not emerging and moved—but a centre, already emerged and actively moving, of universal convergence. As soon as we recognize such a centre, which I shall call Omega, it becomes reasonable to conclude that the grains of consciousness produced evolutively by noögenesis (once the ‘human’ point of reflection has been passed) fall into a new field of attraction: the pull is exercised on the basic foundation of the grains, and it now acts not only on the complexity of their structure but directly on their centre, independently of the structure. From this point of view, what we have called ‘moleculization’ is thus seen to be a more complicated but at the same time more radical process than we thought. In a first stage (up to hominization) there is a succession of fragile units, suspended over the void that lies behind them: there is a rising centration, but no true centre as yet perfected in nature. In a second stage (after hominization) there is a mixed state; there is a continued progress of external complexity and beneath this the universe, which henceforth carries grains of thought, begins to be inverted upon itself—like a cone that has reached its apex. An intangible physics of centres succeeds the tangible physics of centration. Lastly, in a third and final phase, there is the complete turning back of spirit (now collectively centred) upon an interior pole of consistence and total unification: hyper-centration following upon centration.

Escape in depth (through the centre), or, which comes to the same thing, ecstasis.

If we look at it in this way, which is an accurate expression of Christian faith and hope, we see that all sorts of difficulties are readily solved.

In the first place, we begin, at least vaguely, to understand how the way out opened for consciousness in the heart of things makes it possible for the spiritual charge still to build up for millions of years without causing the earth to burst asunder.

Next we discover in what perfect form it becomes possible, without falling into absurdity or the unthinkable, to conceive for our beings the natural and irreversible term of their aggregation: seeing it not simply as a polycentric mankind, arrested at the ‘colony’ stage, but as a mankind, totalized, more perfectly than any known living being, under the influence of a single higher soul—not collectivized man, but super-personalized man.

And by that very fact, we see a third thing: the most important from the point of view of how we act. On an earth that is in process of irresistible compression, we see that the great problem for man is coming to be to find out how to control in himself the inevitable but supremely dangerous work of the forces of unification. As I pointed out, for one form of synthesis that brings freedom there are hundreds of others hat lead only to the vilest forms of bondage. We are only too conscious of this; but how can we come together in such a way as to free ourselves? In virtue of the laws of moleculization, the problem obviously consists in finding the way of grouping ourselves together not ‘tangentially,’ in the nexus of an extrinsic activity or function, but ‘radially,’ centre to centre; how to associate in such a way as, by synthesis, to stimulate deep within ourselves a progress that is directly centric in nature. In other words, what we have to do is to love one another—because love is equally by definition the name we give to ‘inter-centric’ actions. By its nature, love is the only synthesizing energy whose differentiating action can super-personalize us. But just how can one ever contrive to love a multitude? If we set the two words side by side, love and multitude, surely they enclose a contradiction?

The antinomy provides its own solution as soon as we see that in a centre of our own centres it is possible for us to meet together.

What makes collectivity so monstrous is that, being by nature multiple, it has no thinking mind, no heart, no face which we can fasten on to through the depths of our being. For all that ‘society’ may stifle us in its countless arms, it can still not reach us in the core of our beings or bring us closer together. Mankind, so extolled for the last two centuries, has been brought to a halt at the collective, which is now a terrifying Moloch. We can neither love it, nor love one another within it. That is why instead of fulfilling us, it mechanizes us. Once, however, the warm glow of one and the same common soul lights up in each element of the human throng, distinct from each and yet the same in each: then, in this personalizing centre, itself endowed with supreme personality, as each particle strives to fulfil itself it finds itself flung upon all the others. We were saying earlier that a redoubtable affinity, neutralized by great numbers, still lies dormant in the human mass. We now see that under the rays of Omega it must undoubtedly one day waken into activity, no longer rendered powerless but this time multiplied by the plurality of spiritual particles. The salvation of the spirit of the earth (which is the only thing that really matters to us) is seen to depend upon the developments—now recognized as possible—of a close affective relationship, cosmic in dimensions.

And with this discovery we find that the question moves into a different context. Our having become intellectually aware, when confronted with the plurality of man, of the fact that we represent structurally the natural continuation of the atoms, transposes the problem of cosmogenesis into an interior domain. By themselves the most amazing advances of science and technology are no more than a preparation and a beginning. When all is said and done, the future of the world depends entirely upon the emergence in us of a moral consciousness of the atom, culminating in the appearance of a universal love.


Atom-Consciousness and ‘Omegalization’

Without our noticing it, a disturbing gap is constantly widening between our moral life and the new conditions created by the progress of the world. This does not mean, of course, that as a result of the hard work of the great religions we have not already succeeded in determining certain definite axes of justice and holiness. Nevertheless, however admirable and progressive these codes of interior perfection may be, they generally have the defect of having been developed, and of being kept alive, outside the perspectives of a universe in evolution. From this stems the obstinate conflict between science and religion; and from this, above all, the slowness of Christianity itself to transpose its precepts and counsels to the dimensions of a mankind which has become conscious of the historic vastness, and the collective potentialities or demands, of its development.

In the course of this last section I would like to give some idea of how the most traditional human moral system takes on a new form, new coherence and urgency—how smoothly it is integrated, and so becomes dominant in the great body of cosmic energies, once man, in regulating his behaviour, leaves behind the individualist position ‘of the monad’ and resolutely adopts, in judgment and action, the point of view of the atom. The idea, developed above, of a spiritualizing moleculization of matter does more than throw light on the stuff of the universe, in its internal structure. The same shaft of light correspondingly brings out, in their main lines, a whole new philosophy of life, a whole new ethical system, and a whole new mysticism.

a. Philosophy of Life

With the increase in his consciousness of his collective strength and duration, man experiences an exactly proportionate increase in his need to find a tangible objective for his activities. Why, he asks, are we born in chains, bound in the fetters of toil? Why do we have to search ever further afield? Why slave away in your quest? Why continue to build? Why even continue to reproduce our kind? A man does not need to have lived very long to realize how insistently this question confronts even the most humble folk at this moment—how it affects more and more of us, so that it is now becoming acute. The agony of being alive is increasing in intensity in us, given new force and super-stimulated by the recent revelation we have been given of time and space. Now, it is this anxious uncertainty about the meaning and value of existence that the notion of noögenesis enables us to dispel. As soon as we realize that there is an organic relationship between our busyness as elements and the success of the world that bears us—as soon as a God awaits us in his own person at the top of the tower that, held up by him, we can build if we unite—then, indeed, we find the impulse to live, the essential joy of living.

With Omega, it is a supreme goal and a supreme attraction that rise up, to animate and direct human endeavour. And, as a subsidiary consequence, there are three other reputedly insoluble problems that vanish from our horizon.

First, the problem of evil. Whether it be physical or moral, evil repels us only in so far as it appears to be useless or gratuitous. Suffering and sin are the expression of the delays, the mistakes, the ‘pain and labour,’ which are necessary in terms of energetics for the synthesis of spirit: they become intelligible and acceptable in so far as they appear as the condition of evolution and the price to be paid for it. Provided the peak is actually there and the game is worth the candle what mountaineer is surprised or complains at having to be inured as he climbs, or even at having to risk a fatal fall? Taken as static facts and in isolation, pain and perversity are meaningless. Taken as dynamic factors, in a system that is fluid and feeling its way, they are both vindicated and transfigured.

Secondly, the problem of inequality. If the universe culminated in mankind, in the form of isolated or divergent conscious minds, nothing could console a man for not possessing the health, the qualities, or the social opportunities accorded to others more fortunate than he. In such a universe, the more the ‘have-nots’ or the failures reflected clearly on their inferiority, the more they would be justified in experiencing a mounting fury for levelling-down and destruction directed against their misfortune and against the ‘haves.’ Here again, there is a complete transformation if, however unequal they may be in strength and status, the different thinking elements of the earth form but one single convergent mass, destined to find communion and equality in a final triumph. When the attack is in full swing, does any soldier dream of envying his commander at the head of the assault wave?

Finally, the problem of the individual and society. Is the individual for society, or society for the individual?—an exasperating question, constantly being dinned into our ears: and a bloody question, too, the inspiration at this very moment of a merciless crusade between the opposed forces of marxism and the democracies. At the same time, it is, basically, a non-existent question if only we can apprehend, in its reality and mechanism, the great phenomenon of noögenesis that is taking place around us. In a universe that is in course of centration (provided the centration be carried out in the right way) the individual and the collectivity never cease to reinforce and complete one another. The more the individual on his side associates himself in an appropriate way with other individuals, the more, as an effect of synthesis, does he enter deeper into his own being, become conscious of himself, and in consequence personalize himself. And the more the collectivity on its side concentrates itself, in an appropriate way, upon elements for whose fuller personalization it is itself responsible, the more, again, is it ‘humanized’ and personalized, and the more does it allow Omega point to be divined. The two terms are equally essential: they are inseparable. When the limit is reached, it is true—at the moment, that is, when the supreme conjunction is effected—the last step will be taken from the element towards the whole. It is the whole that will have the last word. In the final analysis (or rather ‘in the final synthesis’) we may say, therefore, that ultimately the person is for the whole, and not the whole for the human person. The reason for this, however, is that at the final moment the whole itself has become person.

b. Ethics

Since the preaching of the Gospel it was possible to believe that man had at last found a definitive and exhaustive expression of inner rectitude, and in consequence of salvation. ‘Love one another:’ it seemed as though all that was finest in morality must have reached its peak and be summed up in that precept once and for all. Today, however, after twenty centuries of experience, it would seem that we have acquired nothing from the Gospel formula. As the years go by not only does mankind seem to be as divided against itself as ever; but, what is more, a new ideal, the ideal of conquering force, has continually, for the last two generations, been increasing in strength and mesmeric power, in opposition to doctrines of gentleness and humanity.

We cannot help wondering whether, perhaps, we are witnessing the bankruptcy of charity.

It is this anxiety, I believe, that is allayed, both in theory and in practice, by the fact that the human person is rising up to consciousness of his ‘dignity as an atom.’

From the point of view of noögenesis, in the first place, it is perfectly clear that if, all together, our cosmic destiny is to become one, then the fundamental and operative law of our activity is to encourage this synthesis by associating more closely. The ‘Lord’s precept’ does not disappear under the harsh light of modern criticism: rather does it leave the domain of sentiment, to become the leading instruments of evolution. ‘It leaves he world of dreams, to enter into the system of universal energies and essential laws.’ We saw, did we not, that a love is the only milieu in which the stuff of the universe can find equilibrium and consistence at the peak of its complication and centration.

This, however, is not all. While charity is today cheapened in our eyes by the factual setback it has encountered, it undoubtedly suffers much more from its futility and its apparent impotence to justify and inspire our impassioned demand for discovery and conquest. The morality we look for can no longer be based on inter-personal considerations, it must be based on progress. What we need is not lubrication but fuel. As preached to us, charity is static and resigned, and that is why Nietzsche’s super-man is now eclipsing the loving-kindness of the Gospel. For all the beauty of the Sermon on the Mount, modern man cannot refrain from listening to the words of Zarathustra:

‘Charity—resigned and static…’

That expresses the fatal preconception which we have to shake off, and the spectacle of a world in process of concentration is at hand precisely to make us do so.

Among fixed and extrinsically associated monads, it may well be that the supreme virtue consists in easing mutual friction. It is a completely different story in the case of incomplete elements that cannot exist fully except by drawing closer together. For such particles, sympathy becomes the driving impulse to force all obstacles and open up every issue that can lead to unity. From the moment man discovers that, as an atom, he has a responsibility towards a mankind and is in solidarity with a mankind in which he is personally fulfilled, he possesses more than a motive and a driving force for loving ‘his neighbour.’ There is something much more: there opens out wide before him an unlimited domain of tangible operation into which he can introduce the things he feels. He has the whole vast battlefield of the earth in which to release, to expend and continually to rejuvenate the passion that animates him. To have to fight, to be able to fight, throughout our life, in order to create what we love! An astonishing fulfilment indeed, in which force, purified of violence, emerges from gentleness and loving-kindness, as their climax.

Contrary to the current belief, charity is not out of date, not a thing of the past, in this feverishly expanding world of ours. Rather does it reappear, at the head of the most modern, most scientifically satisfying of moral systems, once, having been transposed into a universe that is being spiritually drawn closer together, it automatically becomes dynamic.

c. Mysticism

No moral system can hold together without religion. Or, to put it more precisely, no moral system can live without developing a nimbus of worship. The measure of an ethics is its ability to flower in mysticism. From this point of view, dynamized charity is without a rival.

Let us, however, consider in the light of ‘moleculization’ what happens in the heart of a man who has awoken to a consciousness of his organic relationship with a universe in process of concentration.

In the first place, as we have just seen, such a man develops the sense of a growing affinity with elements of the same order as himself—for the multitude, that is, of other grains of thought with which he must be associated if he wishes to develop his own soul more deeply. That is the first phase.

However, since the construction, the maintenance and further advancement of human unity is in fact the operation and continuation of the whole play of universal forces, the man in question, in a second phase, is soon guided to an ascent to the reasoned sense of a basic solidarity with the whole of life and the whole of matter in motion.

Finally, because this vast system, convergent by nature, holds together only through its impulse towards some supreme pole of synthesis, the thinking atom definitely becomes submerged in the omnipresence and omni-action of a supreme consciousness.

Sense of man; then sense of the earth; and finally sense of an Omega: three progressive stages of one and the same illumination.

Thereby, too, the psychological possibility of an interior act of undreamed-of richness is confirmed for the man-element and is more exactly defined.

On the one hand, in virtue of the dynamic inter-connexion of all things in noögenesis, the least action, however humble and monotonous, is seen to be a way of co-operating in the great task of the universe.

On the other hand, in virtue of the particular, synthetic, nature of the operation that is going on, to co-operate means to be incorporated in a living reality. Every form of action (provided it be positive, that is, making for unity) is equivalent to being in communion.

Let us make sure that we fully grasp the importance of this transformation.

More or less consciously (and however convinced we may be that life has a meaning) we all experience in ourselves the saddening feeling of the fragmentation and insignificance of our own lives. With the dawn of every new day, the same obligations confront us; their monotony is heartbreaking, their multiplicity exhausts us, their apparent futility discourages us. Dispersion, routine, and above all boredom—if only we could feel that we were doing something really worth-while.

Now, it is in fact this very dust-cloud of ourselves which is illuminated and animated under the influence of Omega. At a lower level of consciousness (as long, that is, as we are unaware of our condition and function as individual atoms) we can never do more than one thing or another thing, wit one part or another of our body or of our soul. We are eating, or thinking, or working, or loving; and nothing of all that we do, taken in isolation, satisfies us, because nothing seems to be important. On the other hand, at a higher stage of initiation (once, that is, we have appreciated the relationship that links the spiritualization of the world to its complication) this multiplicity, without ceasing to be just what it is, is resolved into something new and unique: and into that new thing there flow together, as they acquire value, all the results (no matter how trifling they may be) of our efforts, and all that colours (in however intimate and private a way) our activity. At this high level a transcendent form of action begins to emerge, which embraces and fuses together, in one and the same illumination, the whole medley of things which, seen from lower down, appear to us to conflict with and neutralize one another: all that we know under the different names of activity and passivity, renunciation and possession, understanding and love. The truth is that if a man’s vision can extend beyond the immense and the infinitesimal almost into the complex, a way of acting opens up for him which has the power to synthesize and transfigure every other form of activity: by that I mean the specific act of experiencing and advancing, in and around himself—through the whole expanse and the whole depth of the real—the unification of the universe upon its deep-seated centre, with the consciousness of that unification it acquires as a consequence: the total and totalizing act (if I may so call it, for I can find no other name) of omegalization.

And it is this that leads us directly, in ‘bliss-as-atoms,’ to the high peaks of worship.

Already, in the social and biological field, the fact of our recognizing that, as a result of the properties of love, the universe becomes personalized as it concentrates, was enabling us to avoid both fragmentation through individualization and mechanization through collectivism. Now, in the domain of mysticism, the same light shows us the channel between two equally dangerous reefs. Ever since man, in becoming man, started on his quest for unity, he has constantly oscillated, in his visions, in his ascesis, or in his dreams, between a cult of the spirit which made him jettison matter and a cult of matter which made him deny spirit: omegalization allows us to pass between this Scylla and Charybdis of rarefaction or the quagmire. Detachment now comes not through a severance but through a traversing and a sublimation; and spiritualization not by negation of the multiple or an escape from it, but by emergence. This is the via tertia that opens up before us as soon as spirit is no longer the opposite extreme but the higher pole of matter in course of super-centration. It is not a cautious and neutral middle course, but the bold, higher road, in which the values and properties of the two other roads are combined and correct one another.

From this, as a final summary, I draw the following conclusion. To have become conscious of our conditions as ‘atoms patient of synthesis’ is not merely to have attained a new vision of the general relationship which links matter to thought, and thought to God. It is in addition, and by that very fact, to redefine the line followed by the immutable axis of holiness.

A neo-spirituality for a neo-spirit, in a universe whose convergent nature has been recognized.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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