Tactics for Improving Our Milieu


Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life is a work of resistance against the forces in the world that dominate and dehumanize us. He uses the terms “strategy” and “tactics” to describe our actions. Strategies would be the plans of action used by the rich and powerful to dominate their areas. In war, strategy is used when you see the whole field. Tactics are plans of action by the weaker opponents who do not see the whole picture, but try to survive while resisting.  The weak everyday people use tactics in daily life. The powerful own the places. The weak use the spaces. His work explores the “arts” that we use to keep ourselves human and in some control of our history. For example, written language would be a strategy of the rich who control people by laws. We are all registered into the system. The weak use their voices as a resistance. When the words scratch our throats we feel alive using language in a sensitive way. Our voice is our way of being that resists our printed names on legal documents. Teilhard’s Divine Milieu can be seen as a work of resistance against the modern forces of science that try to rule out the spiritual in existence.[i] Certeau uses tactics to keep himself human. Teilhard uses “human” tactics. We must understand our human milieu to transcend to the divine. This paper will explore Teilhard’s spirituality in the first two parts of The Divine Milieu. We will look at Teilhard as a voice responding to the need of God after Darwin. I will “essay” to understand parts one and two of The Divine Milieu with references from Certeau and some twentieth century French writers from the “symbolist poetry” heritage. We will try to understand the irony of establishing an asceticism, a spiritual detachment from the natural world, by attaching ourselves vigorously to it.


                                    Spiritual Risk and the “Anti-intellectual” Milieu


            Teilhard is writing along side a generation of French writers who grew up on the symbolist poetry aesthetics of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarmé. Bergson in philosophy and Gide in literature are part of an “anti-intellectual movement” against the powers of science and reason to have all the answers. Bergson puts emphasis on intuition as a way to knowledge, while Gide prefers the spontaneous to the planned. Following the path of the symbolist poets, these modern thinkers, including Teilhard, use symbols and sins to explain the world. Teillard sees evolution as a sign of a universe that is evolving to a higher and higher level. He sees the saving “resurrection” elements in all the weaknesses, sufferings and failures. With rewards there are risks.  In the “Foreward” to The Divine Milieu, Pierre Leroy cites Teilhard. “The main stem of the tree of life has always climbed in the direction of the largest brain” (xv). The “largest brain” means greater spontaneity and greater consciousness according to Leroy (xv). 


                                                The Divine Milieu


            In the Preface Teillard is telling us this book s for those “whose education or instinct leads them to listen primarily to the “voices of the earth” have a certain fear that they may be false to themselves or diminish themselves if they simply follow the Gospel path” (3). He assures them/us that the new discoveries in science are compatible, and even embraced, by traditional Christianity expressed in Baptism, the Cross, and the Eucharist (4). Just as Certeau insists on the value of our voice to feel our being, Teilhard stresses the real sounds and senses of nature.[ii]

            In the Introduction, Teillard scopes the book. He brings us to the Agora in the Acts of the Apostles where Paul tells us God made man that he might seek him. He is pervasive and perceptible as the atmosphere we bath in(8).  Like Saint Paul, this book will teach us to see God everywhere. The two stars are the transcendent God and the beautiful “pagan” world. Teilhard will reconcile the two stars. He will show how God appears in our human field of experience, which he divides into active and passive. God truly waits for us in all things, unless he actually advances to meet us (10). God’s presence, instead of harming or putting less emphasis on our human activities, actually brings them to their fullest expression (10).


                                                Divinisation of the Active Side


            The sanctification of everyday life poses a problem. The “here-below” pales in comparison to Christ’s cross and heaven. How can our human activities, endeavors and developments have sacred value?  In Michel de Certeau’s book The Practice of Everyday Life, “practice” is the translation of “les arts de faire.” The tactics we use to live and to survive are “arts of doing.” They include shopping, cooking, walking, reading, and remembering. The rich own the places, the everyday humans use the spaces. The powerful travel by train. The people walk and have direct contact with their space. Museums hold artifacts without history. The people’s memory holds real stories. The real danger is crossing over to the “power-strategy” side. Possession of the terrain makes you lose contact with it. You cannot use what you don’t let go. A possessive attitude makes you lose your human side of doing and using. As Certeau raises ordinary human endeavors to the status of art, Teilhard sanctifies them.

            The classic transcendent view of God, which offers no value to human actions, conflicts with the concept of the resurrection of the body (18). He offers a syllogism that connects all of nature to God. All “sensible” (sensitive etc.) things exist for souls and all souls exist for God. We must understand this connection and overcome our insensibility to the natural world. If we succeed, we participate in our salvation. Paul Claudel, a contemporary French dramatist-poet of Teilhard, develops this “communion of saints” idea in all his plays. There is a mysterious rapport between God, the world, and the people. We are all responsible for each other at all times. If we see this rapport we collaborate in our salvation. The metaphor/symbol is where this rapport is found. For example, in Claudel’s Partage du midi, the protagonists learn of divine love through their human suffering. In their acts of forgiveness they experience the compassion of the creator for creatures who do not love him back. Human love becomes a metaphor of divine love here. Teilhard calls this “communion through action” (27).

            Why do we have to detach ourselves from the world then? I think here Teilhard means we cannot stop to own anything. We have to move on. Art, according to Certeau, is a balance that we are never sure of. It seems absurd. The only way to live more intensely is to die to each present moment.


                                                Divinisation of our Passive Passions


            Ironically we have a tendency to be dominated by the objects of our conquest. Passion is a root of passive. We are acted upon. If I have a passion for playing the piano and golf, it must mean that these activities have a hold on me and not the other way around. I never associated passion with passive, but I guess that is what love is. Teilhard calls this side of us the “lower” side, but he also says it is deeper, and just as inhabited by God. “Growth” passivities  plunge me into the abyss searching for who I am. More has been given to us than is formed by us (43). Teilhard prays to God to give him the sacred taste for being, the knowledge that God is his active source of being (44-5).

            “Diminishment” passivities of death, suffering, failures, hatred, and evil are also enriched with the presence of God. We transform ourselves through our failures. We thus have many opportunities for resurrection experiences. Detachment plays more of a role here on our passive side. All our failures and sufferings are prefigures of the big detachment of death. We must be able to let go of things if we are to ascend to a higher level. Claudel’s couple in the afore mentioned play find the grace of God to forgive each other and to return to each other in a place of certain death. Their total human, egotistical, illicit love has been transformed to a more divine forgiving love where they have given themselves up to the other. According to Teilhard, detachment has to come after you have totally resisted death. The human experience has to be so intense that when you submit, the submission is one that really counts (60). Claudel’s lovers letting go of the human love, show how great that love was in their submission.


                                                Conclusion or Changing Milieus


            Christian asceticism, according to Teilhard is a combination of attachment/detachment. We have to develop our human side, and then let go. If we do it right, we will be entering into a milieu that is greater than the one we left (64-8). Teilhard compares the Church to a tree whose roots are anchored to the earth, but whose leaves are exposed to the sunlight.[iii] The mystery of the Cross tells us that we have to be ready to uproot ourselves. The cross (or the possibility of failure, suffering, and death) is at the top of every slope we climb. But now, it becomes the symbol and reality of Christ. This Cross now has Christ’s loving bleeding arms on it (73). It rises with its sunlit leaves making sap and returning it to the earth for more use (78-9).  I would like at arrive at a “tree-cross” metaphor of the body of Christ. The sun lit leaves in turn die to make way for the newer leaves. Deaths to our human activities make way to deeper activities. We move to a deeper milieu.

            Teilhard uses Latin, especially when he cites the scriptures. He cites Paul telling us that every human life has to become a life common with the life of Christ.We should put on Christ in the words collaborare, compati, commuri, con-ressuscitare- to labor with, to suffer with, to die with, to rise with. Teilhard resurrects a dead language. It brings back our past, but it also projects us to the future in a participating relationship with the creator.

                                                Works Cited

Certeau, Michel de. ThePactice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1988.

Fowlie, Wallace. A Guide to Contemporary French Literature. Cleveland: Meridian,

            1967. (The Claudel and anti-intellectual material)

________. Dionysus in Paris: A Guide to Contemporary French Theater.Gloucester,

            Ma.: Peter Smith, 1971. (The Claudel material.)

Haught, John F. God After Darwin: a Theology of Evolution. Boulder, Co.: Westview

            Press, 2001.

McBrien, Richard P. Catholicism.  San Francisco: Harper, 1994.

Proust, Marcel. Du côté de chez Swann. Paris: Gallimard, 1988.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Divine Milieu.  New York: Perennial Classics, 2001.     



From the Divine Milieu to the Phenomenon of Man: Poetic Science


            When Teilhard uses poetry (poetic language and metaphors) and theology in conjunction with his scientific research on evolution, there may be a tendency to associate the theology with the non-rational and the poetry with the purely aesthetical realms. Poetry is an essential component in all creative arts and sciences that allows us to see new worlds and make new connections or metaphors.[iv] The goal of poetry for the symbolist poet Mallarmé is to “explain the world.” Poetry explains major human experiences of creative joy, death and failure, like finding a vocation, losing one, or quitting one. Everything in nature helps us see these experiences, like swans caught in ice and a human being walking in the forest of symbols. Teilhard’s science co-exists with his theological and poetical searches. His poetry establishes metaphors from his research in science, and vice-verse. Understanding our human milieu is the best way to understand and experience the divine. In searching for origins of the divine in ourselves, we are also led to universalize the origins of the divine in all of creation. In The Divine Milieu Teilhard maps out how we as individuals are arriving at our own “omega” points – points where we experience a heightened consciousness of the eternity of our beings. In The Phenomenon of Man, he questions how all the matter in the universe evolved into a conscious-mental state. This has to do with the nature of the Creator. The study of our own personal origins is heightened by a study of the earth’s origins. A reading of the two (the world’s origins and our individual origins) together will produce a deeper reading of our condition in the world, than if we read them separately. The interdisciplinary study of science, theology, philosophy, and poetry will help us see the world better. This paper will try to understand how Teilhard shifts from the personal evolution in the The Divine Milieu, and enters into The Phenomenon of Man to understand God and the birth of consciousness on a more universal level.  From a hard base in science, he will create metaphors that will reveal spiritual knowledge of his own consciousness and nature’s. The big experiences of Baptism, the Cross, and the Eucharist will be transubstantiated in real life, and back out to the future.


                                    Christ Baptizes Us with Passionate Indifference


            Part One of The Divine Milieu sounds like hubris. We can feel what Christ feels when we actively do things like create, love and forgive. Part Two reveals the irony and tragedy, and the need for humility. The very things that we think to dominate control us. The word passion is a two edged sword revealing our complex human nature that wants to be a “subject” who controls things, but can only experience the world as an “object.” [v] However, the diminishing passivities of suffering, failure and death also have Christ in them. These experiences allow for resurrections. In Part Three, Teilhard elaborates on the attributes of his asceticism for experiencing the Divine Milieu. It is a balancing of experiencing the world, and then letting go. “Passionate indifference” is a summary of how we must act. The things of God are poured out to us (85).  All sounds are fused into one (92). “Fused” means a melting together, a pouring out. All the creative joys and sufferings are fused into one. We have to use the earth’s things, but be ready to let them go for a higher experience. Pantheists are too much on the God side, leaving no room for the human (87-8). Pagans are not ready to give up the earth for a higher form of reality (91). Teilhard ‘s Divine Milieu (not the book) is a “fontal” experience (85). All of Christ’s human joys and sufferings are poured out to us. We are baptized into the complete humanness, death and resurrection of Christ. We experience it all, and then are prepared to give it up in order to do Christ’s will (indifference). The transubstantiation of the Eucharist is also seen in this experience. Christ invading the world with His presence transubstantiates all our actions into His Body (98-9). Teilhard uses the word “things” when he means the natural world. He calls Christ the “Thing itself” (93). The world with Christ’s love poured on it, is a zone of transformation to the spiritual (97, 112). It is a process. We are being Baptized, and in Communion with Christ everyday, we practice faith in the Divine Milieu.

            Teilhard also asks to see and feel God through the eyes and hearts of “others” (122-3). In order to understand the Divine Milieu better, we need to share our visions with others, and to search when, or how, the Divine Milieu actually came to the world.  God’s manifestation is not only epiphanous, but diaphanous (105). The light has always been there shining through the cracks of suffering.  The Divine Milieu is tied in to our “inward” selves. This “within” side and its origins will be explored in The Phenomenon of Man.

                                                Why study the human phenomenon?


In the Introduction to The Phenomenon of Man, Julian Huxley states the goal of Teilhard’s work – to study how and when matter reached a mental state – how living matter became “aware.”(27-8).  After the evolution to a mental state, humans became the most important/dominant creatures who then evolved psycho-socially to higher and complex forms of life. An interdisciplinary, intertextual attitude of cooperation of all the arts and sciences is necessary to study all these evolutions. In the preface Teilhard insists that his work is primarily scientific, the “phenomenon of man,” but that science is confronted with questions of philosophy and theology once it attempts to make theories and formulas. Science, religion, and philosophy converge in breaches of continuity of the theories and formulas. In the “ForewardTeilhard talks about “seeing” being synonymous with consciousness/knowing. We either see or perish (31). But, like Pascal thinks, we see badly. Our biases get in the way (32-3). We see ourselves as the center (endomorphism), but could very well be changed by other things  (metamorphism). The “awareness” stuff of the universe has always been here. It is a matter of seeing how it evolved. With hard scientific research on our origins, some of the scales will fall off our “St. Paul” eyes (36).


                        The Before-life Grains: the “Without” to the “Within”


 The Phenomenon studies the evolution of consciousness from  ‘Before Life ‘ to  “Life” to “Thought.” The first chapter deals with the “stuff” of the universe from its “without”side. The small tiny atoms interrelate and combine to give shape to bigger molecules (44-5). The plurality, then unity of atoms through “energy,” makes the atoms arrive at shapes that will hold together. Through a “complexification” process (which I need to understand!) all matter is in a state of genesis to higher forms. Teillard says that science is comfortable dealing with the “without” side (52). The determinists study only what they see physically and computate with numbers and rules.

In chapter 2, Teillard studies and gives shape to the “within.” “Finalists” look at the “within” where consciousness develops. Teilhard is a “finalist” (as opposed to a determinist) who gives a quantitative and qualitative shape to this area. He proceeds from the mechanical to the biological to the study of the “within” where consciousness and novelty are located. Consciousness is restricted to higher life forms (55). As organisms get complex their inner life increases (58). The world seems to be evolving to a lesser number of bigger organisms with larger thinking capacities. Teilhard establishes a terminology to see the “within.” It is composed of tiny particles that connect and crystallize into larger particles in a process called granulation (58-9). Atomicity, granulation and consciousness are all tied in here. (help!) Roland Barthes talks about “the grain of the voice.” He says that the voice scratches against the throat and makes sounds that are particular to the owner of the voice. Each voice has a grain. I take it that grains are not only “small” particles, but also form together and form patterns in wood, and give stones and leather their texture. Thus, Barthes  “grain of the voice” is the texture of the voice that the particular body-soul makes. A bodily physical voice can be pleasant to listen to, but we really are interested in the “grains” that have experienced life and are producing thoughts. This is soul territory, the focal point where all forces converge and produce thoughts, says Teilhard (63-4). Tangential energy keeps the “without” side together, and moving.  Radial energy is what motivates and motors the “within” (65).[vi] In the third chapter, the crystallizing world would be that of the “without.” Things grow by repeating themselves. The polymerising world is where we get to not just bigger molecules, but more complex molecules (70-1). Studying organic compounds like those of rocks, and how they evolve into more complex molecules, will give us a vocabulary and metaphors to study the growth into spiritual complexity.

In God After Darwin, John Haught counters the materialists who say that a lack of design equals a lack of purpose, and therefore a pessimistic outlook (23-5). He says that Teilhard offers an optimistic look. The world is evolving to an eschaton. God is not above, but ahead.   Haught cites Bonhoeffer, Moltmann, and Schillebeeckx who see God as a suffering humble servant who points the way to sacrifice and humility. They are more Pascal people. Teilhard wants to make more than a charitable use of our sufferings. We will get higher and smarter too. He uses the word “inchoative” a lot. It means an early stage. Literally it means to harness the strap to the yoke. Looking to the origins of things will give us insights on how we are right now. I may look into my past to try and find the originating moments of why I harnessed onto all the French literature stuff. It should point me to more love and more study. It’s a communal search of the baptismal experience of our vocations. Teilhard studies rocks and how we cleave (DM96), like the rock of ages that was cleft for me.


                                    Works Cited


Barthes, Roland. “The Grain of the Voice,” in Image, Music, and Text.

Haught, John F. God After Darwin: a Theology of Evolution. Boulder, Co.: Westview

            Press, 2001.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. “L’Art pour tous.” Oeuvres completes. Paris: Pléiade, 1988.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Divine Milieu.  New York: Perennial Classics, 2001.     

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Phenomenon of Man. Trans Bernard Wall. New York:

Perennial, 2002.

Zajonc, Arthur. “Spirituality in Higher Education: Overcoming the Divide.” Liberal

Education (Winter, 2003) 50-58.




                        The Fruit of Demeter: from Sponge to Sponge Bob


“Demeter! Earth-Mother! A fruit? What fruit?…is looking to be born on the tree of life?” Teilhard’s prayer to the Earth Goddess in the French edition Phénomène humain (137), is not in Bernard Wall’s translation at the start of the chapter on Demeter and cerebralization. What is the fruit? Is it consciousness being born, or is it thought that will be born after consciousness? Why is it edited out of the translation? In Book Two of his study, Teilhard explains how matter evolves into life. Matter evolves into a cell that goes through an orthogenesis, a complicated and increasingly complex growth, as the tree of life branches out and up with living organisms arriving at more and more consciousness as the brain develops higher and higher. “Linear” and “vertical” become paradigms. The linear usually deals with what Teilhard calls the “without, “ the “stuff” of the universe that we can analyze, count and see. The “within,” associated with the spiritual inner life and consciousness, has more “vertical” language.  This paper will use the concept of “linear/vertical” to help understand conflict between vitalism and evolutionary determinism/materialism discussed by John Haught.  We will also look at the “stuff” of the universe in light of the French derivative “étoffe” which means textured cloth. Structuralism and deconstruction can help us grasp the vertical concept. We will use it as we gloss over Teilhard’s three chapters on “Life.” His world is a “text” or composite of texts with different textures (étoffe) that we need to learn how to read. A baptism of spirituality will grace us in the effort.

                                    Vitalism vs. Evolutionary Materialism


            John Haught offers the concept of “information” to keep the “sacred” in evolution. Vitalists, like Henri Bergson, insist that a life force has to initiate life. “Hierarchy” means sacred order, which the vitalists accuse materialists like Dennett and Dawkins of denying with their concept of atomization ((61).[vii] The concept of “information” retains much of the sacred in evolution. DNA and RNA are examples. Information, according to Haught, is an overall ordering of atoms, cells, molecules and genes. Nature is not a purely “horizontal” continuum. There is a quality and mystery of timelessness that orders the world (70-1). Haught claims that he is not evoking the supernatural. He places “information” on a different plane than the “horizontal.” Hard science is uncomfortable on any “non-horizontal” plane.  In chapter six ( dealing with God “not above” but “ahead” in time), Haught introduces the concept of novelty and subjectivity which are not treated very well by the materialists (83, 88). I personally thought that “information” is a bad word when opposed to knowledge. We get so much of it, that it takes an effort to sort it out from what’s worth knowing. But, here, information is a “process” where we are developing a sense of order (form) within our being (in). This subjectivity is on a different plan than the horizontal – and a very positive concept.


                                    Structralism and the Deconstruction of Signs


            The “stuff” of the universe in French is “étoffe.” “Etoffe is textured cloth. It’s the “right stuff” you need to cope in the world. Teilhard reads the textures of the universe and fits well with his contemporaries (Saussure, Levi-Strausse, Benjamin) who were developing the science of structuralism and deconstruction to read texts.[viii] Language operates on horizontal (syntagmatic) and vertical (paradigmatic) chains. The horizontal chains are sentences, but, through structuralism, can be expanded to any linear text or process. “Text” is a key word. We look for structures that repeat or can be substituted on the linear chains. They become patterns or paradigms. They deal with how signs mean what they mean. Style is a synonym. What particular words I use in my sentences can reveal meanings, even ones of which I am not aware.  They are vertical in nature. Teilhard, for example, uses “linear” type vocabulary when he discusses the observable “without” world, but more “vertical” type words when discussing the functions of interiority and subjective thought process. History is the big text to study. Deconstruction reverses the order of texts and places emphasis on a minor text to reveal a major one.[ix] Deconstruction de-centers reality in order to search for origins of meaning. It calls for serious reading, extensive justification of one’s interpretations, and is not concerned with relative lax morality as I hear so often. Teilhard is a close reader of the texts of the universe and tries to deduce meanings from the texts he sees to the ones he cannot.


                                    From the Apparition of Life to Expansion


            In the chapter, “The Advent of Life,” Teilhard claims that the cell is the natural granule of life (81). Micro organisms evolved into macro molecules which in turn evolved into cells. The phase from the macro molecule to the cell, or the cellular revolution is a “forgotten era,” The cell is like a sponge whose edifice is made up of amino acids, containing fats, water, all sorts of minerals. This protoplasm/sponge is made up of innumerable particles that come into play with forces of viscosity, osmosis and catalysis (87). The cell’s closed-in surface is what makes its “interiority” and potential spirituality possible. The “within” is allowed to develop in contrast to the “without.” (89). The “without” is moving linearly while the inside has a more interior synthetic upward movement which corresponds to a growth in consciousness (89).

            As the “without” side of the cells starts to develop by reproduction, conjugation, and association, something else happens to cause the cells not just to multiply, but become more complex. This process of orthogenesis is due to the factor of “controlled additivity.” It is a “vertical” component.  The cells become more than just the sum of their parts. With the additions, in a process called “ingenuity,” the cell becomes diversified and able to do newer functions (110). When chemists deconstruct the parts they see new values arising from the whole that were not visible in the individual parts. There is an insight to the complexity of the freedom/determinism struggle. While many of the parts may be determined to act in certain ways, we have no way of knowing what new values will arise with the parts together (110). Freedom and determinism exist side by side. It is ironic that the “without” can be held by the deterministic forces in the universe, but the “within” can be free of them (149). We must cultivate the tension.

            All living matter has a solidarity, which it has always had from the beginning. This will allow Teilhard to believe in God and evolution. “Taken from its totality, the living substance spread over the earth – from the very first stages of its evolution – traces the lineaments of one single gigantic organism” (112). The “lineaments” or [linear] outlines of shapes deal with the “without” of organisms.  As organisms branch out on the tree of life and develop more and more consciousness, there will also be a gyrating upward movement. The vertebrates have more consciousness and their name indicates a vertical movement.


                                                Demeter and Ariadne’s Thread: the “Within”


            In the third chapter on “Life” Teilhard shows how the brain developed more and more as branches ascended the tree of life (145). There is a mystery. Does life have a direction or is it guided by chance?  Teilhard uses Ariadne’s thread to take him back to the beginnings of life. The development of the brain coincides with what gives living matter its “within,” its interiority, which will, in turn, give living matter the capabilities of growing. “Radial” energy provides growth and the ability to diversify. Theseus used Ariadne’s thread to find his way out of the labyrinth after he slew the Minotaur. Teilhard uses this pagan myth to get back at the origin of where life took off and developed. He does add the concept of the “within” His first thread is to discover the origins of life. His second thread is the “within” itself of all living matter. The “within” will link us back to our earliest ancestors whose brains started to develop.[x]

            Specialization is what will make us extinct. If we get so tied up in the mechanical process of what we do, we will be imprisoned by it and not be able to think our way out. We will eventually be annihilated by a superior force. The phylum, or branch, of primates focuses on pure and direct cerebralisation (159), and not any specific mechanical specialization. At the end of this chapter Teilhard notices a flame on the horizon of these developed primates. “Thought” is being born in a vertical movement. This is the “fruit” that Teilhard was asking Demeter about. It comes from the pagan world of the “without” – the material world. Teilhard will make it compatible with the Christian myth of creation. The translator does not include Teilhard’s prayer to Demeter. Is this a pre-Vatican II fear of using the pagan world of flesh and blood? Teilhard advises us to stay horizontal, to use the natural “pagan” world as we climb to the spiritual. Sponges baptized by the Creator become Sponge-Bobs.

                                                Works Cited


Culler, Jonathan.  Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics , and the Study of

Literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1975. (Structuralist material)

________. On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism. Ithaca, NY:

Cornell UP, 1982.  (Deconstruction material)

Haught, John F. God After Darwin: a Theology of Evolution. Boulder, Co.: Westview

            Press, 2001.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre.. The Phenomenon of Man. Trans Bernard Wall. New York:

Perennial, 2002.

________. Le Phénomène humain. Paris: Seuil, 1955.





A La Recherche des Pas Perdus (Lost Steps): Teilhard’s Drama of Thought


            Is life under evolution one of Greek tragedy or Christian optimism? John Haught fears that a universe interpreted under the laws of chance with no purpose is one of Greek pessimism (105). In Greek tragedy humankind’s efforts are powerless against the fate of the gods. He sees the Hebrew dualism, with hope in the soul’s life only as a compromise, but does see hope or “promise” in an evolutionary god, a self-emptying lover (108-9) whose Divine absence ironically endows the world with autonomy and hope in the future. The third book in The Phenomenon of Man is a drama of thought from its birth in the universe to its possible extinction, or survival.  We will study this section in light of Greek drama and Pascal’s sense of tragedy of man not being able to stay in his room and think. The 20th Century concept of “mise-en-abyme” and mirrors will help us to locate the reality of God in the development of thought. Haught is able to establish an ethics of responsibility based on the aesthetics of a progressing earth (140). Proust’s search for time past is not a search for some lost paradise, but a search in the past for new realms of knowledge, new forms of beauty. Teilhard’s thresholds and steps to higher levels of life are Proustian moments.


                                    Pascal, Nietzsche, and Greek Tragedy


I don’t see Greek tragedy as pessimistic as Haught and Whitehead do (203, note#6). The tragic hero asserts free will by fighting destiny, but is ultimately defeated.  Catharsis and being part of a community witnessing a major human drama gives me hope and a feeling of solidarity. Nietzsche calls the “catharsis” notion of Aristotle an intellectual approach. He takes a more sensitive approach, saying that the essence of Greek tragedy comes from the spirit of music. The Greeks celebrated Dionysus’s death and rebirth every spring. The Greeks felt the tragedy and felt a part of the earth – the way you feel when you experience music. Apollo and Dionysus are two forces in every tragedy. After a bloody Dionysian death scene, there is usually an Apollonian vision or resurrection. More than understanding the tragedy, we experience it. Nietzsche’s experience of tragedy would fit more with Teilhard’s process theology of experiencing the Divine Milieu. Evolutionary science may point to our extinction, but we see we are also in the process of greater perfection.

Pascal’s tragedy comes from our failure to use our thinking capacity. Our thinking faculty is what makes us great, but our failure to use it makes us miserable. Teilhard attributes the genesis of thinking to when we became bipeds. The hands, now doing the grasping, enabled the jaw to relax, thereby giving the head more room for the brain to expand. Yet we still refuse to think. Pascal says we want to avoid thinking about our miserable condition - - that we are condemned to death. We seek divertissement and cannot stand to be alone. Modern and postmodern philosophers might say that we still use metaphoric “jaws” and consume things. Our consumer attitude makes us want to “buy” reality rather than experience it (postmodern reification). Teilhard takes us through the birth of thought to its modernist crisis. Will thought come to a tragic end?



                                    The Steps of Thought

            Thoughts differ from instincts. Humans know themselves (se connaître) and they know (savoir) that they know (165). From the atom to the threshold of the cell, from the cell to the threshold of consciousness, and from consciousness to the threshold of thought, nature took “steps.” Teilhard distinguishes “steps” from the “thresholds.” Bernard Wall, the translator, does not. The steps represent leaps that we cannot see since they are so long in evolving. Teilhard describes the “step to thought” like a long boiling process of water, or the movement of a base of the cone to its summit. The space gradually comes to a “point” or no surface area. After boiling, and with a little more heat, consciousness starts to really jump. With a little more movement, the centered surface became a center (168-9). We cannot see these beginnings, but we know they had to be crossed in a leap during a trans-experimental interval (172). Artists and scientists explore the beginning moments of creative thought. To get close to these moments is an enchantment.

            The step from individual to group or species hominisation (spiritualization/arrival of thought) took place as grains of life became grains of thought (174). Psychological and mental needs, including being with others, changed the aspects of the species’ soul (179). The noosphere, the thought layer over the earth, develops in the next step, as the earth gets a new “skin,” a soul.  From geo to bio to psycho and now to noogenesis, the mind began to form when instincts looked at themselves and perceived themselves in the mirror. The next step is the change that takes place over the surface of the earth because of thought. For example, Robert Frost’s old woodpile that the poet discovers is really the earth as noosphere. The woodpile was something of human order on a natural place. The mirror is a symbol and reality of thought or reflection. We really do not know the origin of the thought as we think about it. The thought reflects back and forth from the thinker to the thought.

            The noosphere is already flourishing when we see it. We do not see one couple, but crowds of couples (186). Teilhard uses the image of a fan on the tree of life. Stems, leaves, and species fan out and up. Humankind broke out and became a fan of its own.  Mallarmé uses fans as metaphors of poetry. A fan is “éventail” in French. As the lady waves the fan, dust will rise and become poetry. Wind and wing are in the word (“vent” and “aile”).

            The noosphere develops rapidly as humankind fans out to the Neolithic age where farmers replace hunters and conservation of land makes arts and traditions necessary (203-6). Out of the five major nestings of humans, it was the West that developed the highest because of its combination of reason and religion (211).


                                    The Modern World: Apocalypse or Echaton


With the arrival of the modern world, the noosphere develops to an extent that space and time are brought together in the concept of duration. The artificial, moral and juridical become hominised versions of the natural, the physical and the organic (222). The gropings of the first cell links up with the learned gropings of scientists. Teilhard asks us to bow our heads with respect under the “breath” that inflates our hearts with anxieties and joys of trying all and discovering all (French version 224). The passing wave was not formed in us, but came from afar. It came from the same light of the first stars and reached us after creating everything on its way. This “spirit of research and conquest” is the permanent soul of evolution (224). The English translation leaves out “breath.” I think it should be retained. The divine breathes the spirit in us. A trinitarian creator uses real world breathing to activate our spirit to research our being and the reality of God in creation. The collective memory and intelligence of what we have done assists us. We are confronted with ironies of all sorts. Heredity becomes more active in the noosphere as we study the conflicting presence of selfish determining genes with the spontaneous activity of our minds (225-6). Evolution is looking at itself in the mirror. We seem responsible for our actions and we are not sure of their origins. 

We are super smart with super anxieties. Modern “disquiet” (“inquietude” in French – a big Gide word) is the price we pay for being at the summit of thought over the abyss of infinity. The romantic hero René experiences the “mal du siècle.” He is on the abyss on top of a volcano. He aspires to perfection and the infinite, but is troubled by the fires of indecision and worry in the depths of his soul. Teilhard compares us to workers who have become aware of our exploited nature (230). Life becomes a game of chance. Is there meaning in the world or should we just refuse to act? Like Pascal, Teilhard proposes we use our thought-ability to rise higher. “Survive” also means a “super” life. By thinking we will live on a new level.


                        Researching the Steps of the “Mise-en-abyme


            Mise-en-abyme” or “setting in abyss” is a “modern” term showing the problem of locating the origins of looks or thoughts. Its concept is mirror-based. For example, in a Gide novel, a character sees another character stealing something from a view in the mirror. Later on he finds out that the person who stole the article was aware that he was being looked at. The question is who is looking at whom? In a narration you have the real author, the narrator and characters. Where is the focus of he story? In modernism it is always problematic. In Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu is the real title, and not Remembrance of Things Past. Lost time is the time we were unaware of when the actual events were happening. With memory and art we are able to bring back a purer picture of the past. This memory is usually tapped by a physical sensation in the present (a taste, a smell, a sound) associated with the past. This “lost time” search is really for new forms of beauty that Haught was calling for (142). It is the time that we really cannot pinpoint, but which is extremely vital and real. When do we actually fall asleep? (a Proust question)  When does a child begin to walk?

            In Paul Valéry’s “The Steps,” the poet is waiting for the lover to come and hears the steps.[xi] He wants to put off the love-making, or artistic creativity, and savor this moment of anticipation where the love is real in its thought rhythm, but not yet in concrete form. This is that moment of creation where we do not know who is coming to whom. It is the “mise-en-abyme” of two looks of love. Who originated the look? It is impossible to fix a point in time or to place the look of love. This setting and time is God’s milieu. 

                                                            Works Cited

Haught, John F. God After Darwin: a Theology of Evolution. Boulder, Co.: Westview

            Press, 2001.

Gide, André. The Immoralist.

Nietzsche, Frederick. The Birth of Tragedy.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. “L’Eventail de Mme Mallarmé.”

Proust, Marcel. A la recherché du temps perdus.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Phenomenon of Man.  Trans. Bernard Wall. New York:

Perennial, 2002.

________. Le Phénomène humain. Paris: Seuil, 1955.

Valéry, Paul. “Les pas.”




                        Omega Points, Personalization and a Sacred Heart


            The Omega point for Teilhard sounds boring. In a “perfect” world we will be like those ancestors in the Family Circus comic strip, walking on white clouds in Roman togas. There has to be something more. There is. In the Phenomenon of Man, Omega has many characteristics. It has to do with soul, where physical and spiritual energy converge and become “interiorized” and sublimated in beauty and truth (63). Omega is the progress of building a soul (179). It is the growth of our mental life. Omega is the animating force(s) of the soul. The soul is born when we take on a tradition and memory (202). The soul of the earth is the noosphere, the layer of thought that wraps around the earth’s surface, thus changing its appearance (183). When the earth takes on a “personal” form, it is said to be human and have a soul. Omega is happening now (269).  In the long term, Omega is Christ. Christogenesis is the ultimate of orthogenesis (development of life). We are evolving into Christ. In this paper I will try to evolve into really loving Jesus in a material way by seeing Teilhard’s concept of Omega and Christogenesis. I will study Teilhard’s concept/drama of being a person, being human, and the forces that act against it (Phenomenon, Book Four). I will then compare Teilhard’s concept of complexification with the “symbolist” poetry concept of density of language. The mythic level of poetic language and Mallarmé’s comparison of theater and the Mass will help us read Teilhard’s concept of Christogenesis. Baptism, Eucharist and Cross form one sacrament that enables us to evolve into the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


                                    Dehumanization versus Personalisation


            In the evolution to “subjectivity” and “inwardness,” John Haught places Alfred North Whitehead, whose “pan-experientialism” theory has all matter possessing subjectivity and inwardness from the start of creation, against Hans Jonas, whose “metabolic” theory has the mind evolving from matter in a more mechanistic way (166-79). Haught wants to reconcile the two in order to show the place of a Creator with a promise of hope. I think a more important drama is the development of our soul, our humanness against the depersonalizing forces of mechanistic materialism. Whitehead’s more important contribution is his dialogue with science and philosophy. He prefers personal knowledge to impersonal, which cannot be trusted (Haught 179). The fight against the dehumanizing forces of modernism unites Whitehead to Teilhard. Book Four of the Phenomenon is about developing thought. “Survival,” the title, means more than staying alive. It also has to do with “sur living,” living “more.” By developing our “spiritual/personal/soul” side, we intensify our whole being. Person is interchanged with spirit in this part.  Sur-vival” is really the progress of the soul in its development 

            In the first chapter, Teilhard warns of forces that will stop the progress of the soul. As the material earth gets smaller, spiritual elements intensify and socialize with each other (250) in a  “forced coalescence” that leads to a higher life. However, this “super- bundling” of elements can be fuel for fascists and super breeders. “Faisceau” is the French word for bundle and is a root word for “fascism”- - an extreme ideal grouping of people. There is no problem with Teilhard’s heart. He is against both isolation of groups and individualism. His “planetisation” is the “new life” process of giving every element final value by grouping them in unity with the whole (250). We have to keep ourselves as individual humans, but not lose ourselves in function with the whole of humanity. We have to stay unified and individualistic without being too individualistic and without being totalitarian. This is the “Omegan” development into a “person.” In turn, the “noosphere,” the thought layer on the earth becomes “personalized”  (262-5).  The hypra-personal is the goal, the Omega. The Omega is arrived at by the convergence of the person (“spirit” in French). The Universe becomes personalized in a reflection process, but we still retain our particular selves. “Union differentiates” is an apt name for all of us different folk who make up the whole. It is in losing ourselves in others that we really find out about our personhood. By studying foreigners, for example, we gain greater insight into our own culture, while also seeing the total cultural picture.[xii]

            Love is the passion, and the Omega is the search for the universal passion (267). Love is the energy that allows us to progress and find our personhoods. “Love is cosmic energy at the font”(265). We are baptized by this love and its spirit of research cannot be reversed. The “passivities of diminishment” in The Divine Milieu are really ways of growing in spirituality. Flannery O’Connor, in her bout with lupus, used her passions to overcome her sufferings and reach her Omega. Teilhard says we “hominize” death (272). Hominisation is the development of thought. Our death becomes, not an end of life, but a new phase of life as the universe inherits and assimilates our thoughts in the development of its noosphere. Proust calls our thoughts and accomplishments  “hostages” against death, making death less fearful and -- less likely. The Omega has something to do with our thoughts crossing the next threshold (death?). The last chapter of Book Four, “The Ultimate Earth” is “terme” in French. “Term” is a more complex word. It means the end, a boundary, a meaning of a word, a course of study. Language is the spiritual tool of persons empowering them to cross big thresholds, and we see language in its flower in the symbolist poetry and poetics of Mallarmé.


                        Complexification of the Drama of Thought and Mallarmé’s Mass


            Poetic density is a goal of symbolist poetry. In explaining and creating major human experiences, poems come at us like music or painting, like persons. We do not denote meanings. We have to connote them. Mallarmé’s swan (“cygne” in French) is caught in the ice for not having flown South.[xiii]  “A swan of yesteryear remembers that it was he, magnificent but without hope [who] gave himself up for not having sung the region of life when winter poured out its trouble.” The swan is a sign (“cygne” and “signe” sound the same) of something. An artist stuck in a frozen lake is in exile. He cannot write, or his work is not accepted. Poetic language is in exile of ordinary language. The swan tries to break free of the frozen lake, but remembers when he was caught. Jupiter as a swan is remembered. So is Mary in the “Magnificat” as she is about to give birth to Christ. Giving birth becomes the mythic meaning of this poem. Giving birth to a god, to the divine.

            As matter converges and produces higher and higher life forms, words complexify and produce higher and higher experiences. Mallarmé is divinising his activities here and giving us the drama of giving birth. Proper language combines with figurative language. The poet personifies the swan and the experience of producing thought. Poets animate dead things with apostrophe and personification. They “suranimate” experiences by giving them greater complexity and meaning.  

            Mallarmé’s poet has to explain the world. To endure, explanations have to reach the stage. There the public will preserve them. Mallarmé’s metaphor of the stage is the Catholic Mass. Two key moments are the Consecration, where Christ is incarnated into the world, and the Communion, where the faithful form a block in shared belief.  The final form of poetry is the stage or the Mass. For Teilhard, the final form of the phenomenon of man is the Christian phenomenon. It’s more than love, grace, and progress. It is the whole milieu that allows all these things to happen.


                                    Christogenesis: Saying More - Saying Mass


            “Epilogue” from the Greek means to say a little more. It is usually a summing up with a nice moral. Teilhard’s epilogue is the big finale of where evolution is going, has always been going – Christogenesis. This evolution has to do with personhood. Israel’s God was a personal God that Paul universalized (293). Pantheism would rule out the personal aspect of the universe.  Teilhrad’s Omegian evolution retains the personal in all creation. By perennial acts of communion and sublimation, Christ has not left the world. It is not symbolic love that Christ represents, but an evolutionary love of all matter into life, consciousness, thought and soul (293-4). The love is real. Metaphors help us see it. The psychic fan (300), that closes in on itself and then opens up, is a beautiful image of how we interiorize and grow out. Love is real capital that begets life (296). The “new biology” will have spirit and feelings as part of its curriculum (303-4). The final appearance of the soul will be in the collective form.

            We already have the Omega with us in the Eucharist. Teilhard reminds us that the Divine Milieu, the Omega, is right here in one continuous Eucharistic service, one Mass (DM 96-99). When the priest says, “This is my body,” it is not only the bread/host that becomes Christ’s body; it is the whole world which is evolving into richer and complex life forms created by Christ and becoming Christ. Haught advises ecology.  The earth is a sacrament, not only because it was created by God, but because it is God. We have to preserve the world because it is our combined human-divine milieu  (148-50). We are baptized in this milieu. The earth is poured out to us. We immerse ourselves and emerge. The word “mass” does mean a sending out after the communion (ita missa est).


                        The Sacred Heart: The Double Play of Language and the Cross


            The Cross is not only expiation of sins, but the energy and passion that is needed to make progress.  The heart is the center of the body, keeping its organs functioning. The soul is the heart of the whole complex body-mind. We are evolving into the complex of Christ’s sacred heart. In baseball, defense is the key to surviving. Good defense turns hits into double plays, thereby giving our team a chance to get on offense. The double play of language, proper and figurative, enables our body-mind person to grow. We turn our passivities of diminishment into sacred hearts and passions. In The Divine Milieu, Teilhard talks about the evil of  “a little word that infects the mind” (47). Through the double play of language, we can also heal minds and hearts with little words of love. 

                                                Works Cited


Haught, John F. God After Darwin: a Theology of Evolution. Boulder, Co.: Westview

            Press, 2001.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. “Crayonné au théatre.” Oeuvres completes. Paris: Pléiade, 1988.

(for Mass and theater comparison)

Proust, Marcel. Du côté de chez Swann. Paris: Folio. 1989.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Divine Milieu.  New York: Perennial Classics, 2001.     

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Phenomenon of Man. Trans Bernard Wall. New York:

Perennial, 2002.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World. New York: MacMillan, 1925.  

(science and religion)



Letter To My Father Thirty-Three Years After His Death         (James Tomek) 


-You’re reading Teilhard de Chardin?

I saw you with a copy of The Phenomenon of Man

About 3 years before your soul left your body

Why would an inventory banker with an eighth grade education want to read that?

I thought to myself

-Pretty tough stuff I hear. Do you understand it?

-Some of it, you replied

I would have loved to talk to you about it

But I really only knew his name at that time

Chance has lead me to taking theology courses

Spent six hot weeks reading The Phenomenon

Same light blue cover you had!

I thought I would discuss it with you

Telling you how I understand the four parts

And how they fit in to your life.

We are evolving to a higher and higher life        nice thought

To a God who is in our future

We came from the material world of atoms

But everything that we are now and will be

Was always there                 in germ

Orthogenesis – everything evolving with a purpose to a goal

Remember the orthopedic Dr. Harryman who

Orthoed” my crooked broken leg?

Book One       Before Life

We go from atoms to more complex molecules

Complexification   the concept of growth from matter to soul

Crystallisation     things just get bigger   but more of the same            tangential energy

Polymerisation     things get bigger but with mutations too                  radial energy

Something has happened

A “within ness” has occurred

Tangential/mechanical  turns over to radial/passional

I see you now as a guy in the process of complexification

In 1967 with your Teilhard and philosophy books


Book Two            Life

From complex molecules to cells      life       centered stuff

Stuff with centers      things to center on          consciousness       thoughts will be coming

I remember that day you kept 12 year old me from playing ball with my friends

Needed help                  jacking up the garage

Leave it to my father to do what I never saw any normal person do

-I need to balance it or the left wall will give way       you said

As we worked       you advised me

-Jimmy make sure you study English real well

-I always wished I could express myself better

-Yeah    OK I said

Then I said to myself     - let’s finish this shit so I can go down to the field

Then do you remember?

Two of my friends passed the house asking me to go play ball

When I said I couldn’t              that I had to help you

You told me to go with them  (I guess all you wanted was me wanting to help)

You were already conscious then of your need to read and think more

You were right about the garage too!

It kept its withinness as you were deepening your own


Book Three           Thought

From cells and consciousness to thought

Seeing the dangers of specialization         extinction

We lose our humanity doing the same old job

Our instincts start to answer each other and ask each other

What the hell are we doing?

When did we first cross the threshold to thought?

When did we center on ourselves?     Center

You taught me how to hit those fastballs

You said pick a spot out in front of you where you want to make contact

A point that you focus on   a nothingness that you have hope will be the point

Of contact

After you died Annie [my mother] finally got her drivers license

Learned to drive from a school

She was elated the day she got her license

But I broke her bubble    told her she couldn’t drive worth a damn

What an insensitive jerk!  I still feel crummy about it

BUT I did tell her I would work with her

We practiced and practiced

She improved         but really didn’t have the knack

Then one day as we were driving back from Duke to Jersey on I 85

I gave her the wheel for highway practice

I noticed her eyes were on the lane lines

-What the heck are you looking at         I asked

-I’m keeping the car between the lanes

Remembering your hitting advice I told her

Just pick out a middle spot in front of the car and keep going at it

As we get to the Virginia border

She is singing “Knock 3 times on the ceiling if you want me”

Along with Tony Orlando on the radio

-You got it don’t you      I remarked

She passed the threshold     she was driving

I helped her through your hitting advice     and her practice of course


Groping and invention are also part of Book Three

From the first cell we inherit the desire to learn

Divino Afflante  Spiritu

The divine breath of God passed through you to me

Always wanting to learn

Winning was never important

Understanding and doing it right

Always the right form    it had to look good          something about the long run

Heredity goes from passive to active in this section

We inherit things and turn around and give them back to the noosphere

That’s what we call the earth now with its layer of thought coating


Book Four            Survival

Survival doesn’t just mean keeping from dying

It means super living      getting a soul

As thoughts converge      And person converges on its own person

As persons converge on persons

Hominization   the universe becomes personalized     the soul

Complexification brings us to the Omega  the highest place of life

Which is the Epilogue’s title

It’s Christ     Christogenesis    developing into Christ

The earth has changed because of us and our love

Do you remember Wally Schwenk?

The crazy guy who played air-raid warden and traffic cop?

On our front steps of busy Teaneck Road

I thought one of my son’s friends looked like him

I was worried that they were playing cops and would turn out to be Wally Schwenks

I told Barb [my sister]

Her only reply

-Yeah Dad was tough at times        but gentle too              he had a way of talking

With people like Wally Schwenk                     making them feel important

Communal memory with Barb made me remember how generous your heart was


I heard you once say to mom when you thought I was asleep

-You know Anne, he’s really such a good kid 

I have that with me always    no one can take it away

We receive the Host at Mass      Lots of hosts

Christ has become incarnated into the world

This is my body   is the world becoming Christ’s body

The world is the host of the divine      host as holder              you host Christ’s love

Christ is the host at communion          the suffering victim who is love for us

I take the above threshold moments of you with me to my grave

These moments           especially you telling Annie I was a good kid

Are (to borrow a Proust notion) hostages against death  (there’s that host word again)   

We take these notions with us and death in front of them is less fearful    and less likely

Thanks for all the Godly love             I need it        I am a Wally Schwenk

Talk to you soon    I have to call Joey [brother] tell him I spoke to you

And remind him you thought he was a good kid too





[i] Richard P.McBrien sees spirituality as a comprehensive term pertaining to our way of living as a Christian, as Christ (1016).  To be “spiritual” means to live according to the knowledge that there is more to life than meets the eye (1019). Christian spirituality is a matter of living with the knowledge that God is in us giving us the power to transcend to higher levels of existence. “It is rooted in the life of the triune God, centered on Jesus Christ, situated in the Church, ever responsive to the Holy Spirit, and oriented always to the coming of God’s Reign in all its fullness at the end of history” (1020). Being spiritual, then, means living on a deeper level than just a material realm.

                Evolutionary science seems to have put an end to including God in creation. John Haught’s God After Darwin seeks a theology based on evolution. Natural selection seems to deny an intelligent designer of a purposeful universe. Surviving organisms do not care about ethics or suffering. If there is no God, how do we make sense of the world? If there is no God, and we are all programmed because of what has happened in the past, we are destined to a sad end one day. There does not seem to be a higher form of life that has formed us. Darwin’s science challenges theology to think of God in a new way, as something more than just an intelligent designer (Haught 21-2).


[ii] Teillard also mentions that this “spiritual ascent” is a psychological evolution over a specified interval (4). The interior spirituality he is accessing is musical. Bergson insists that the interior knowledge of our intuition is musical. Proust’s protagonist-narrator in In Search of Lost Time (my translation) uses music and sounds as a memory device. The “sobs” he feels at a present moment link him to the identical sobs he emitted when his mother acquiesced to stay the night in his bedroom when he was afraid to go to sleep. The narrator says that these sobs never stopped. They were like Church bells in the city, which you think are silent in the day, but begin to sound again in the middle of the night. In reality, they never stop, just as the sobs never stopped. It was only that the narrator was older, with less noise in his life, that he was able to hear them again. The same sobs at two different intervals join the past to the present. There are connections to Proust and Teilhard. Proust uses certain sensations of taste, touch and sound to link him to the past and relive it in a more complete and understanding way. This plunge in the past, coupled with new knowledge from the present, gives the narrator-protagonist insights into the spiritual realm of his being. He is projected forward into the infinity of his being. Teilhard studies “things past” to grasp an understanding of the future progression to the infinite world to God.

[iii]  Claudel also uses a tree as a symbol of the Communion of Saints in his short story  Death of Judas. Everything is useful to god, even sin. Judas’s role is important in salvation history, and he ironically has a place as he hangs from the tree of the Communion of Saints.


[iv] The difficulty of integrating spirituality into the college curriculum, laments Arthur Zajonc, a physics professor at Amherst, is that the separation of Church and State has created a “wrong map” in education. Science, reason, natural knowledge and facts are right or suitable subjects to study while their counters of religion, faith, moral knowledge, and values remain on the wrong side, being too associated with religion to be academic subjects. While being a proponent for separation of church and state, he still wants to include spiritual, aesthetic and moral cognition as part of the inquiry and interpretative process (53-55).



[v] Pascal has a similar absurd position. Man or human kind is in between two infinities. Compared to the infinite, he is nothing, but compared to nothing, he is everything. He has grandeur because he can think, but he is misfortunate and miserable because he refuses to do it (He cannot stay alone in his room and think about his condition. He seeks divertissement). Pascal, a scientist-philosopher,  is saying that we need humility and the grace of God to help our miserable side. His thoughts are a reaction to the liberalism of the Jesuits’ casuisty practice (finding loopholes to forgive sins) and the optimism , in general, of the 17th Century. While Teilhard, a scientist-philosopher also,  is aware of our absurd condition, he is reacting in an optimistic way against the materialist-determinists of his time. They both observe human kind very closely in making their points. They both uses their hearts in conjunction with their science methods



[vi] Radial and tangential energy can be appreciated in the performance of elegant athletes like Secretariat, Greg Maddox, Michael Jordan(?). Their actions seem so effortless. The expended much tangential energy to develop their styles. The radial energy is what gave them the force and love to pursue their crafts. When we see the “effortless” performance we can start to see the intense radial energy that protrudes from their being.



[vii] Readers of Haught might get a false impression of Bergson and Dawkins.  Bergson was not primarily interested in proving an “”elan vital,” a living thrust that caused life. He was more focused on exploring the qualities of intuition and spontaneity as the creative parts of our beings. He influenced many artists of the 20th century including Proust, Gide and Sartre. Likewise Richard Dawkins did much work in defense of retarded people. In his book on “Selfish Genes” he was looking into areas where life seemed to sacrifice itself for something higher.

[viii] With structuralism, everything in the world develops in the form of language. Therefore if we know how language works, we will be in a better position to see how other things (disciplines, biological functions and organs, politics) develop. Language is a system of signs. Structuralists focus more on knowing how the signs mean (“signifiers”) rather than on what they mean (“signifieds”). For example,  the visual form of smoke (signifier) might mean fire (signified) whereas the written form (signifier) might mean just smoke (signified). Context tells us the meanings – the place that the sign occupies on the horizontal syntagmatic chain (syntax) of language.

[ix] Intertextuality is where we would use one text to help us read another. A musical text may help us read a historical text.  At first sight two works may seem different, but there may be similarities in their textures to connect them and thus give insight to greater meaning. For example, Springsteen’s “Dancin in the Dark” helps me see the frustration in Emily Dickinson’s “Loaded Gun.” Intertextuality is also a reversal of textual order. By studying a minor element, you may get insight into an overall picture. A minor element in a story may point to a major theme.

[x] This desire to see the beginnings will tie Teilhard with Proust. We cannot see the beginnings of life because they are so spread out in time, that when we notice a shape, it has already come into being (Phenomenon 120-121). Yet, our desire to see the beginnings of things is what makes our brains develop and understand the past in greater detail. When Proust uncovers a past moment, it comes back in a more complete manner than when he actually lived it. The power of memory adds to what we know. What is this “memory” when we bring it over to scientific research? – insightful metaphors on meanings of life?

[xi] Your steps children of my silence, slowly saintly placed to the bed of my vigilance proceed mute and frozen. Pure person, divine shadow how sweet they are your reserved steps!/ God! All the gifts that I can divine come to me on these naked feet. If from your advanced lips you are preparing to appease to the inhabitant of my thoughts the nourishment of a kiss, don’t hasten this tender act, sweetness of being and non-being, because I have lived waiting for you. And my heart was only your steps.



[xii] In 1932 Emmanuel Mounier, along with catholic laity, founded a review Esprit. It was an “ecumenical” interdisciplinary review to form an alternate view from the “materialistic’ aspect of communism and the extreme views of the far Catholic right. Mounier developed his philosophy of “personalism” in this review. Personalism is existentialism with a community point of view. It is a process way ofliving that preferred group mentality to a “hero” ruler mentality. Christ is more a model to be lived than a hero who saved us from our sins.  Contributions to the review covered many fields: André Bazin and Renoir in cinema, Tillich in religion, Ricoeur in philosophy, and Teilhard. Esprit is still active today, although it is more sociological now. 

[xiii] The full sonnet –             The virgin, the lively, the beautiful today

                                                Will it tear open for us with a blow from it drunken wing

                                                This hard lake that haunts under the frost

                                                The transparent glacier of flights not flown


                                                A swan of former times remembers that it is he

                                                Magnificent but who without hope gave himself up

                                                For not having sung the region of life

                                                When sterile winter poured out its trouble


                                                All his neck will shake off the white agony

By space inflicted to the bird who denied it

But not the horror of the ground where his plumage was caught


Phantom to this place his pure brilliance assigns him

He immobilizes in the cold look of scorns

That wears in his useless exile the swan