The Noosphere: Our Call to Globalization of the Spirit
Louise Cowan, Ph.D.
When we speak of globalization, as we have been doing in this series of lectures, we are implicitly if not openly asking the question: How will it all end? For we have seen in our day a convergence of the world’s forces that resembles nothing so much as explosion. What will be its outcome? This human enterprise, so bent on developing and extending what it knows, so concerned to carry its information to the four corners of the globe, so ready to broadcast even its inanities—will its long history turn out to have been pointless after all? Has it been simply a mindless development with no purpose other than material expansion? Have great cultural achievements all occupied only moments in a cosmic catastrophe that will end, as T. S. Eliot said, “not with a bang but a whimper”? If we are not destroyed by a huge intergalactic accident or a radical mistake on our own part (nuclear war, the depletion of natural resources, the destruction of our atmosphere) will it be mere entropy, cosmic ennui, lukewarmness–neither hot nor cold—that winds down all life in the cosmos? And, in the process, has our highest aim for this mysterious common enterprise that we call civilization been mere physical well being?–have we been struggling only for a world devoid of hunger, with a universally high standard of living, cessation of disease, war, crime, and poverty, and life expectancy extended enough to reach a state of absolute banality?
What has it all been for? Religious thinkers seem all too content to consider this huge cosmic enterprise a temporary way-station, to be finally obliterated. And the secular idea of progress has posited so many utopian dreams that the serious thinker has been repulsed at its shallowness, impelled, along with Dostoevsky’s underground man, to resist such easy optimism by whatever means necessary, even perversity and irrationality. My mentors in this matter have been the writers in various small European and American literary resistance groups–the Russians, the Irish, the American Southerners—and now their counterparts among the post-colonials—who have tended to look with jaundiced eye upon the social philosophy of enlightenment, with its consequent technologizing of society. Fyodor Dostoevsky detested the worship of secular progress that was first introduced into Russia in the 18th century by Peter the Great. He decried both what he called “The Crystal Palace” (the self-congratulation attendant upon technological achievements)—and the Golden Age concept, so prevalent in the 19th century, viewing both as dangerous hankerings after a Utopian perfection that omits evil, pain, and suffering from its scan.
And I myself have had more than a modicum of distaste for what lies behind the gospel of progress—the metaphor of Evolution, which, as a dominant cultural paradigm, has fostered the notion of a purely mechanical process that ill applies to our views of the purposiveness of spirit. So how does one take seriously the concept of the noosphere, advanced by a Jesuit priest who was also an anthropologist /paleontologist, an evolutionist, long forbidden by the Church to teach or to speak publicly, a man who saw human beings as sharing a common consciousness and enveloped in a mutual realm of thought—the total mass impelled forward by a process of “amorization” toward an omega point where all will be united. The final end, as he saw it, was to be the realization of the Cosmic Christ, who embodies in matter the eternal glory of the Incarnation.
I am not a Teilhardian. But I have long recognized the poetic power of Teilhard’s thought. Like Dante, or Milton, he has constructed a purposeful cosmos that we can visualize–one that gives shape to our concept of final things that otherwise remains nebulous and unformed. He makes us aware of the necessity of images to give our lives scope. We here at the Dallas Institute love to quote Coleridge’s dictum about “the willing suspension of disbelief that constitutes poetic faith.” We quote it because, as I believe, it is in this light that one speaks at the Dallas Institute. The aim here is cultural, neither political or religious, as it is also not technical or specialized–but thoughtful and exploratory, ranging into other fields than one’s own.. Perhaps we could say that what we do here is polyphonic thinking, listening to the many voices of myth and imagination, along with the intellectual disciplines, avoiding the imprisonment of the univocal (the one voice, which establishes the hegemony of commonly accepted doxa).
It may be that the way in which we learn from others is to see their bodies of thought as “imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” as Marianne Moore has described poetry. For it would be unlikely indeed for us to be able immediately to endorse the theories of thinkers who have devoted their entire lives to certain projects. They’re quite likely to have worked through some aspects of their subjects that we have not before considered. So instead of the widely advocated “critical thinking” (which asks people to be skeptical of, and to resist, judging ideas as they go), the path of real learning, as I think we are agreed here at the Institute, is to remain radically open to the structures of new thought as interesting and necessary fictions for the attainment of fresh insights–which can then be evaluated in their own right. Insights in and of themselves carry with them their validation; they are capable of being recognized. But they need contexts, which are many times whole philosophical, aesthetic, and psychological systems that Donald Cowan has made us all think about as “mappings.” We are not likely to share in advance a mapping made by a truly original mind.
And the mind of Teilhard de Chardin was an original mind. One of the toads contained in his garden is the idea of the noosphere. For Chardin, a biologist, the image of this ultimate human destiny seems irrevocably tied to the theory of evolution. I’m not certain that we have to be as dedicated evolutionists as he was in order to grasp his crowning insight; and in any event, that’s not the part of the theory that is important to us tonight. Rather, I’d like us to concentrate on his ideas about our connection with each other, increasingly relevant in our era of globalization. In our time, in an epoch in which we are hurling our thoughts through space like so many missiles and have created something known as cyberspace—the worldwide Web—the concept of the noosphere seems particularly worth consideration.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, born in France in 1881, became a member of the Jesuit order when he was quite young, studied geology in England, became involved with work on the Piltdown man, eventually shown to be a hoax; he taught in Egypt for three years, went on digs; served in Europe in the trenches as a stretcher bearer during world War I; afterwards became an intellectual light in Paris and began publishing articles. The Catholic Church, however, was troubled by the way in which he seemed to confuse scientific and religious thought; he was forbidden, as a priest, to teach or to speak out in public or to publish; left Europe, went to China, became involved there in geological enterprises, continued as a loyal member of the Jesuit order, worked in the discovery of Peking Man; came to the United States; but was still forbidden to speak out in Europe. Though he was widely accepted among American intellectuals, he was lonely. Nevertheless, he kept his optimistic outlook. He wrote in 1946 (at the age of 65):
One would think that a single ray of this kind of light [he is referring to a belief in the spiritual connectedness of all humanity], falling anywhere on the Noosphere as a spark would cause an explosion strong enough to inflame and transform the face of the earth almost instantaneously. How can it be then that. . . , looking around me, still intoxicated by what has been shown to me [I] should find myself alone . . . the only one to have seen . . . the marvelous translucence that has so transfigured everything I see?(The Christic,1955
Teilhard’s thought was closely examined and his orthodoxy established after Vatican II in 1963-4; he had died in 1955 (on Easter day); his writings, after they were finally published, had a brief vogue, a dubious reputation among Catholics, and absorption into the general cultural mix. There are Teilhard societies, publications extending his thought in both science and philosophy, poets and novelists who utilize his insights (most notable, perhaps, is the work of Flannery O’Connor, who took one of Teilhard’s phrases, “everything that rises must converge” as the title of her volume of short stories. The theology advanced in Teilhard’s two major works—The Phenomenon of Man and later The Divine Milieu—was optimistic, setting forth the idea of a Cosmic Christ toward which all things are moving, basing his vision on the thought of St Paul in such passages as:
The form of this world is passing away. (1 Cor 7:31)
the whole creation has been groaning in travail until now. (Rom 8:22) and St. Ambrose: “In him the heavens rose again; in him the earth.”
But for our purposes I wish to concentrate on the idea of the noosphere, a word derived from the Greeknous, which refers to the higher intellect. Noosphere is a neologism, a coinage of this French Jesuit anthropologist-theologian-mystic, introduced to the world in the 1960s, though written about in 1925. Teilhard pointed out that what humans have that transcends the animal life of the biosphere is thought–thought that can take hold of itself, contemplate itself, know itself. The noosphere, as he wrote, has to do with the phenomenon of thought and spirit—”physically defined”by a certain tension of consciousness on the surface of the earth.” (Human Energy, 1969, written in 1937). In the process of the development of matter, there was first the geosphere, then the biosphere, and finally a sphere in which all mental processes and feeling interact. He wrote, “this amounts to imagining in one way or another, above the animal biosphere, a human sphere, a sphere of reflection, of conscious invention, of conscious souls–the noosphere if you will. It concerns the spiritual unity of humanity: that envelope of thought and feeling that represents the higher state of matter.” Evidence of this unity is to be found in the growth of a collective memory which is passed on through education; the development, through the increasingly rapid transmission of thought, of what is in effect a generalized nervous system; the growth of a faculty of common vision penetrating beyond the continuous and static world of popular conception and on into an invisible (and spiritual) realm.
The noosphere, then, as Teilhard thought of it, that layer of mind and thought spreading over the surface of the world, is the common inheritance of human beings, taught to them in their language and customs, reinforced by the lives they lead in society. As Teilhard wrote, “All around us, tangibly and materially, the thinking envelope of the Earth–the Noosphere–is adding to its internal fibres and tightening its network . . .What is really going on, under cover and in the form of human collectivisation, is the super organization of matter upon itself, which as it continues to advance produces its habitual, specific effect, the further liberation of consciousness.”
In our time, of course, it has flourished in cyberspace–the world-wide web, as we have come to call it, acknowledging that it is like a web, covering our world and accessible to all. Thus far, we would argue, the internet is a material image of the noosphere; it has remained a mechanical device, a medium useful in the promulgation of research, making amazing reaches of knowledge available to those who before were never even apparently interested in learning. Whether the internet will become an instrument of the noosphere it is difficult to say. But the opportunity is there.
Poets and prophets have always known of the noosphere: they themselves, through what they called their Muse, had access to this obscure knowledge. But it had not expanded to the extent that it now has today, as part of the human realm. For the Greeks, the noosphere was Mt. Olympus, with the different bright gods embodying aspects of the higher intellect, the nous. The gods communicated easily with each other but only occasionally with the human race; and mortals could not have access to the conversation and the laughter of the bright gods. Only some people, with especially developed empathy, could apprehend the dynamics of this exchange. When Prometheus stole fire from heaven to give to mortals, it was the fire of knowing that he brought them–though he called it techne (the arts). But these were the arts of civilization; and they were communally shared, and they took their forms from the gods. So the myth of Prometheus, one of the shaping stories of Western civilization, is about the beginning of this fearfully important exchange that takes place in the realm of intellect and imagination. And a god who suffers for the deed wanted the human race to partake of this essentially spiritual knowledge.
Further, if we look for intuitions of this spiritual connection between human beings, we can see that the concept of kleos, the undying fame granted to heroes by poets, seems to indicate participation in the noosphere, for it is assumed by the Greek poets that heroic deeds exist in a shared realm that will live forever. There is also a domain of prophecy and oracles. (Aristophanes Birds seems to be about the construction of something like an internet between the gods and the human race.] There is a darker sphere, antithesis of the noosphere in which unspeakable crimes and criminal urges dwell (Cassandra could see into it when she saw the dead and mutilated children on the rooftop of Agamemnon’s palace); Tiresias, the Theban prophet, could commune with this realm of darkness, wishing, it appears, that he did not have to see what he discovered there–the terrible secrets of other people’s destinies.) Aeneas saw beyond the veil into that realm, where it was clear that the gods were working together to drive Troy down. The region from which this knowledge comes is the domain of what Teilhard would call “diminshments,” which do not come together in the progress toward the omega point.. Yet it is distinct from the Underworld, the abode of the dead, who are cut off from human communication and only occasionally allowed to communicate with the living. But the point is, I think, that all societies before ours of the last four centuries have had some notion of a purposeful cosmos, with a divine life existing beyond the range of man’s sight, through which thoughts and prayers, however, could penetrate.
But it is not solely in prophecy, legends, folklore, mythology–realms wherein spirits and humankind have an uncanny intercommunication– that the noosphere has been authenticated in the past. In general, the way in which knowledge has spread from continent to continent—cultural styles, techniques, skills—testifies to the existence of some bond of shared intelligence between people. As Teilhard wrote, “Like particles immersed in the same spiritual field, souls cannot think or pray or act or move without waves being produced . . . which set the others in motion.”(Cosmic Life 48) Those who pray have always assumed that one person’s interior acts can help another, that, in fact, they can change objective reality. Look for instance at this poem by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas
. . “The Conversation of Prayer:
The conversation of prayers about to be said
By the child going to bed and the man on the stairs
Who climbs to his dying love in her high room,
The one not caring to whom in his sleep he will move
And the other full of tears that she will be dead,
Turns in the dark on the sound they know will arise
Into the answering skies from the green ground
From the man on the stairs and the child by his bed
The sound about to be said in the two prayers;
For the sleep in a safe land and the love who dies
Will be the same grief flying. Whom shall they calm?
Shall the child sleep unharmed or the man be crying?
The conversation of prayers about to be said
Turns on the quick and the dead, and the man on the stair
Tonight shall find no dying but alive and warm
In the fire of his care his love in the high room
And the child not caring to whom he climbs his prayer
Shall drown in a grief as deep as his made grave
And mark the dark-eyed wave, through the eyes of sleep
Dragging him up the stairs to one who lies dead.
This has always been for me a mysterious poem, grasped intuitively but not capable of rational explication. But the idea of the noosphere gives us some way in which to visualize what Thomas is depicting: Conversation means a turning with; the implication being that prayer enters a region where it is shared and used as needed. So the innocent child, who prays rather automatically, his prayer the simple one of asking for protection as he sleeps (Now I lay me down to sleep); this innocent child will through his prayer enter a region where griefs are shared, griefs beyond his years. He takes on then an anguish that he cannot comprehend, a grief “as deep as his made grave; and it is a “dark-eyed wave” that drags him “up the stairs to one who lies dead.” We would gather that, for the boy, this is one of those moments after which he is changed; he has spiritually shared a suffering that he cannot comprehend and life will have been made deeper and heavier for him.. But he has made the burden lighter for the man who is “climbing to his dying love in her high room”–to find, miraculously, “no dying but his love alive and warm/In the fire of his love.” The love which is the most important reality between lovers has not been extinguished. The man does not experience the crushing sense of loss, for the love, which is the most important reality between lovers, has not been extinguished.
Interestingly enough, it is the conversation of prayers about to be said that accomplishes this spiritual exchange, implying that it is that which precedes the spoken word or the formulated thought–that energy that leads to prayer–which is powerful enough and clear enough to accomplish in the noosphere a turning with, a conversation (there are implications here not only of exchange, but of dialogue). The spirits of the boy and the man converse, beyond age and circumstance, so that the soul of the one who needs comforting finds comfort; and the soul of the untroubled and innocent one is visited by a dark suffering.
Some of us have for some time believed that we can share each other’s burdens, that there is a mysterious unity of feeling that can take place from time to time among us. And some of us even believe that the very thoughts of individual persons affect the universe–-that internal processes are the strongest modes of action. One’s dreams and imaginings, not simply one’s actions, change the world. Christians speak of “the communion of saints,” and the Mystical Body in which all those in a state of grace participate. Dostoevsky’s Fr. Zossima tells us that “each is responsible for all” and cites his dying brother Markel’s asking forgiveness of the birds, stating, “If I had been better, they would have been happier.” And Alyosha, Fr. Zossima’s pupil, after undergoing his test of faith, is suddenly rewarded with a vision that unites the earth and sky, in a testimony to the efficacy of thought and prayer:
The vault of heaven, full of soft, shining stars, stretched vast and fathomless above him. The Milky Way ran in two pale streams from the zenith to the horizon. The fresh, motionless, still night enfolded the earth. The white towers and golden domes of the cathedral gleamed out against the sapphire sky. The gorgeous autumn flowers, in the beds round the house, were slumbering till morning. The silence of earth seemed to melt into the silence of the heavens. The mystery of earth was one with the mystery of the stars . . .
And, in this same novel, Fr. Zossima, the holy monk, declares in his testament: “Much on earth is hidden from us; but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystic sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds.” (299)
But there are other kinds of evidence than that which poets and novelists provide: sudden shifts in taste, enveloping styles in the arts; and specific events such as the invention of the calculus by several thinkers at approximately the same time: (Leibnitz, Isaac Newton, Bernouli, and others.) In our day, psychics (at least some of them) give evidence of tapping in on this realm; the psychologist Rupert Sheldrake has done experiments in which he finds that people can work a crossword puzzle more quickly on Sunday than they can on Saturday, the day on which it first comes out. He draws the conclusion that its solution on one day makes it easier to solve on the second day. Countless feats of spiritualism in our day mimic this quite genuine–and traditional–belief that human beings commune with each other through their thoughts and prayers.
Teilhard saw this noosphere as growing and expanding. His faith in its existence dates from his time in Paris as a young priest who had served in the trenches in WWI. From the vantage point of the dreadful and apparently meaningless suffering he encountered, he pondered the outcome of human existence and was not content simply to be otherworldly, to relegate this realm to the status of a waystation or a vale of tears. He was concerned about the joint destiny of the human race. In a meditation called Le Grande Monade, not published until after his death, he discovered what he called the “organicity of the human race.” In this piece “a sentry looks out, seeing the moon rising over the crest of the neighboring trenches. “Hail symbolic star!’” he says; watching it, he thinks to himself that the star which bears us, like the moon he is watching, detached itself long ago in space; and then that, after long ages, [the human] one day appeared on it; in a heroic campaign,[ human beings] gradually extended the strands of their network over the whole surface of the globe. A series of continually more serious crises marked their progress, but the time came when the human mass formed one single bloc. This was when the fluid mass set; and from this resulted the “great Monad”– the first name for the Noosphere. It is this great Monad that the sentry now sees rising ‘above the torn and blackened earth.’ He watches it ascending in glory. He hears the cry of triumph that rises from all these elements that have at last found unity. Before his eyes, man’s earth is celebrating the unity it has won. But what thoughts does this arouse in the mind of the sentry? (By a tacit fiction, God is still absent from this universe.) He looks further ahead and sees that it will not be long before the great Monad will know the anguish of feeling itself shut in. As yet there has been no catastrophe. For the thinking Monad, final death has not yet come into sight. But already, from seeing itself now drifting helplessly into the spiritual void, from feeling heavy upon itself the ‘burden of a final and total isolation,’ heavier than any cataclysm, is being born a distress that is worse than death. [And even when the viewer considers that [the human race] might move on from star to star, there is finally the cold and frozen aspect of the moon, on which he is meditating, and he imagines a conversation of this sort with it:]
Work, you seem to be telling us [he says to the moon], work to your utmost, O men, to make your dwelling lovely and a fit habitation, throw yourself passionately into the search for what is hidden and the creation of beauty. For what awaits you, too, you and your works, is the frozen immobility of my rigid shell.”
And the sentry meditates: We cannot set limits in advance to man’s cosmic exploit. The whole of space lies open to him. But his release from death will never come about by his physical migration in space. [Instead] Spirit will have, without regret, to abandon the remains of life to space, and when it is mature, escape to join not another visible star in which it would again be imprisoned and which when its turn came would itself die, but [to join] the “higher, boundless unity of the universe, the “unique circle” that embraces the whole spirit and holds nothing prisoner. O wonder-charged centre , O vast sphere, O God!
This was the early beginnings of Teilhard’s noosphere–and one does have to admit, in concession to the Church–that these remarks do sound a bit pantheistic. It seems at first as though he is saying that God is being created out of the human. But this is not the true meaning of Teilhard’s system. What he sees is the “cosmic Christ,” the incarnation, about whom St Paul has written when he insists that Christ is all in all; that he is the head and we are the members. Origen wrote in his Periarchon: “Christ is everywhere. He permeates the universe, and we should no longer think of him . . . in the limits in which a body like ours enclosed him; he was willing to assume that body during his sojourn among us on earth . . .”
But our consideration this evening is not with Teilhard as theologian or even as scientist. Primarily Teilhard’s theory of the universe has the power of myth. The last great cosmic myth we had was given to us in Dante’s poem, where we move from the loveless regions of the Inferno in the depths of the earth, to Mount Purgatory, and on to the heavenly region with its nine celestial circles, its fixed stars, and its primum mobile before reaching the Empyrean, the highest of the heavens. Western culture has not had a cosmic myth since the Copernican theory first turned our universe upside down. Milton’s cosmos in Paradise Lost seems altogether too obviously a fiction. As John Donne wrote in the same century with Milton, “the sun is lost/ and the moon; and no man’s wit can tell us where to look for it.” It is Donne, too, standing at a juncture in time who voiced for us that other great insight: “No man is an island, entire of itself, but each is a part of the main. If a clod be washed away, England is the less. . . and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” We are tied to each other, no matter how separate we have become in the last three centuries.
Certainly, one has to admit, as Teilhard says, “the conscious portion of the world” seems highly individualistic, presenting itself not as a unified mass but, as he says, ” in the form of discontinuous, tiny and ephemeral fragments: a bright dust of individualities, a flight of shooting stars.” But if we look deeper, we can see that these brilliant sparks are indicators of a shared realm, one in which “a whole network of interconnected forces operates to keep the human species in being.” Thomas Corbishley, a fellow Jesuit who has written on Chardin interprets this network of interconnected forces as “something like the pattern of iron filings which discloses the presence of a magnetic field.”(10)
But, as Teilhard wrote in the middle of the twentieth century, “a thick fog of confusion and dissension is at present drifting over the world,. Indeed one might say that men have never more vehemently rebuffed and detested one another than they do now, when everything drives them closer together.” And he wonders, “will this [universal sense] flower in time to ensure that arrived at the point of super humanity we avoid dehumanizing ourselves?”
And, Teilhard goes on, “No proof exists that Man has come to the end of his potentialities. That he has reached his highest point. On the contrary, everything suggests that at the present time we are entering a peculiarly critical phase of super humanization.” (Life and Planets, 1946)
The force that will determine our future, Teilhard makes clear, is education. It is in education that the human race preserves and extends its own evolution. It is in endowing all children with their rightful heritage that the unity of the human race will be made manifest.
That is why, he wrote, when I look for reassurance as to our future, I do not turn to official utterances, or pacifist manifestations, or conscientious objectors, I turn instinctively towards the ever more numerous institutions and associations of men where in the search for knowledge a new spirit is silently taking shape around us–the soul of mankind resolved at all costs to achieve, in its total integrity, the uttermost fulfilment of its powers and its destiny.
Teilhard saw the history of humanity in the last hundred years as undergoing a vastly different direction–with peoples spreading throughout the world, constantly in touch with each other, developing a global consciousness– moving toward a state of superhumanization from the coming together of all human minds freely working together. But he did not consider the process automatic: the time was brief, he believed, for humanity to determine its ultimate destiny: Shortly before his death in 1955 he wrote:
Everywhere on earth, he wrote, at this moment, in this new spiritual atmosphere created by the idea of evolution there float –in a state of extreme mutual sensitivity–the two essential components of the Ultra human –love of God and faith in the world.
If the truth appears once, in one single mind, that is enough to ensure that can ever prevent it from spreading to everything and setting it ablaze. (The Christic 1955)
Teilhard’s thought appeared during the time of the futurists, those prophetic thinkers in various fields who foresaw the coming of a new epoch; Norbert Wiener’ Peter Drucker, Daniel Bell, and others . . Teilhard’s influence has been broad and profound. It has the generating power of myth, a shape against confusion. The entire discipline of scientific thinking has been affected by his thought. Philosophers and theologians read him anew every day. New publications expounding on his work issue regularly from various parts of the globe. Numerous poets and writers of prose fiction have found in Teilhard’s work a mysticism, an espousal of hope, a deep spirituality, a sense of purpose for the human race that has generated –and still continues to generate thoughtful meditation.
For, despite his conviction of our common destiny, he considers that we must look at the universe in terms of the individual freedoms of which it is composed: “In virtue of some divine foreknowledge which controls the progress of the whole as a function of the freedom of each one, it is just as though there were, in the single event system that determines the state of the universe at a given moment as many independent providences as there are souls in the world. Thus each one of us has in reality his own universe” :he is its center and he is called upon to introduce harmony into it, just as though he were alone in rerum nature.
He became convinced that the age of secularism is over: At first, he comments,
“The earth was so absorbed by and took such delight in its earliest conquests, that . . . it could only relax in amazement and feel that it lacked nothing. But the yawning void, deep within it, that calls out for the Absolute, . . tried to forge for itself some Divinity . . .whose glory would crown and illuminate the endless slope of evolution: Omnipotent science, mankind, the Superman. Idols all—” (Writings in Time of War, 85)
It is in the direction and in the form of a single heart that we must look for our picture of super mankind rather even than in that of a single brain.” to pp80-81. For love is the “one fundamental element in which evolution can proceed.” As Corbishley, interpreting Teilhard, comments, ” Omit love and we are faced with the prospect . . . of standardization and enslavement. It is through love that we must look for the deepening of our most intimate selves, in the life-giving coming together of mankind. Love is the free and imaginative outpouring of spirit. (55-56)
What we must say finally is that this noosphere of which Teilhard speaks is quite real: it is a spiritual realm in which there can be human connection with each other and with the divine. All societies before our modern epoch were aware of it; it gave purpose to their lives and point to their education. And now in our time particularly has education become the way in which the human enterprise directs its evolution. It is no longer a luxury, not even a simple social necessity: but a metaphysical and a moral responsibility. It is our way of keeping the human race alive; it is our way of ensuring that the constant development of spirit once inaugurated among us is continued; it is our way of allowing the virtues room to develop; it is our way of helping in the ongoing incarnation of spirit. We are being shown in our time that all we have considered learning in the past—the accumulation of facts, the gathering of information, research, techniques, inert knowledge, even analysis–is incidental to education. For education means synthesis, means transformation, means induction into a larger being, means rising, loving, converging. It leads the way toward participating in a common truth, toward keeping one’s individuality but sharing the goals; it leads the way toward loving across all boundaries, moving into that higher conception of the human that we sense in our hearts. It demands positing a realm beyond alteration or decay, a realm that Plato and the NeoPlatonists, Augustine and Dante felt quite familiar with—a plane of truth, a mundus imaginalis, what the medievals considered to be superlunary and therefore beyond corruption. It means having some notion of an immaterial realm, a spiritual region, toward which we aspire and to which we testify, but one that existentially—and this is what is unique and important about Teilhard’s noosphere—by our work, our love, our thoughts and our prayers we help to build. The right kind of education–an education that includes the spiritual– enables us to answer the crucially important question at this crisis point in human destiny–at this time when globalization is a reality. And that question is, as we said at the beginning: How will it all end? What is it all for?
© The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture – Permission is granted to copy and redistribute this lecture on the condition that the content remains complete and full credit is given to the author.