Teilhard Got It Backwards
By Martin LeFevre
There’s a line from a Matthew McConaughey movie — I don’t remember which one — that pretty much sums up the self-made situation of the human species at present.The McConaughey character is in a bar with a woman that’s had a troubled life. Trouble with men, beginning with her father; trouble with drugs and alcohol. Some guys in the bar are running her down, and the McConaughey character shuts them up with a single line: “She’s got bottom.” We’ve all known people who don’t have a bottom, who drink until they’re dead, or sink until they can’t get out of bed. In my 20’s I was one of them, suffering through cycles of deepening depression so severe that if I hadn’t found bottom in myself, I wouldn’t have lived beyond 40. That realization enabled me to build a bottom, and turn my life around without anti-depressants. It’s the reason I advocate methodless meditation in nature so much — because it’s the single most important thing that saved me. As things stand, America has no bottom. Can one be built before Biden paves the way for Trump again, the way Obama did when Joe was vice president? It’s not looking good. As long as Democrats and recovering Republicans keep viewing America’s slide into authoritarianism in terms of Trump and “his MAGA base,” rather than as a nation that’s lost its soul (or intactness as a people if you prefer), they will contribute to the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that’s driving the USA down. There’s an old saying, “I thought they had hit bottom, but they just went ahead and dug a new one.” People don’t “hit bottom,” they find and build a bottom within themselves. A bottom doesn’t preexist the irreducible intent to not sink any further. The immediate future of the United States is secondary. As reported today, “Canada on track to produce more carbon emissions from the burning of boreal forest this year than all of its other human and industrial activities combined.” Nationalism remains the biggest obstacle to effective action on reducing burning of fossil fuels to the point that man is no longer raising the temperature of the air and oceans beyond anything that Homo sapiens has seen in our 100,000 year history. Yet “in the age of extreme weather and climate agreements, the world tabulates ecological guilt nation by nation — cutting responsibility for the current crisis into so many slices of pie.” Thus nationalism is both a symptom and a cause of the fragmentation that is ripping the Earth and humanity apart. As the writer John Vaillant points out, “Humans have always moved at a different pace than the natural world. But suddenly there’s a syncing up, with the natural world now moving as fast or faster than we are — faster than humans, faster than technology, faster than history.” What does that mean, “faster than history?” It means the opposite of what Teilhard de Chardin predicted for humankind. Teilhard was a Jesuit priest and respected paleontologist in the 20th century that took part in the discovery of Peking Man. De Chardin has become a touchstone for New Agers, and is the author of the treacly saying so often heard in New Age circles: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” A writer for a cul-de-sac organization called “Humans and Nature” described de Chardin’s philosophy this way: “Teilhard called the human-created world the ‘noosphere,’ which slowly spread like a skin over the planet, like the biological skin (the biosphere) that preceded it.” Thus the ‘noosphere’ preceded the equally unhelpful idea of the ‘Anthropocene.’ Both are attempts to lend scientific credibility and neutrality to a phenomenon — man’s dominance and decimation of the Earth — that has nothing to do with science. Teilhard went further than the current crop of geologists and other scientists labeling this the Anthropocene Age. Chardin “imagined ‘grains of thought’ coalescing at ever-larger scales until they became a single global consciousness that he called the Omega Point.” It’s amazing that many people today, including scientists and academics, have made such a notion the cornerstone of their worldview. Some emit hubristic nonsense like, “Call it social engineering or stewardship, it is up to us to turn the earth into the super-organism that Teilhard had in mind.” That’s passé of course. So many people now believe the earth is lost and man is doomed that they long for Elon Musk and his ilk to enter stage right and terraform Mars. The hard truth is that rather than an upward spiral to an imagined “Omega Point,” the arc of man is a downward spiral to either extinction or an explosion of insight. To his credit, Teilhard tried to philosophically combine science and spirituality, the human world and the natural world in “The Phenomenon of Man.” But he utterly failed to see and foresee the actual trajectory of man. His upwardly spiraling Omega Point has become a mockery of man’s vortex sucking humanity and the earth into a black hole-like singularity. So does man have a bottom? By ‘man’ I mean the rapacious primate wrongfully using the Promethean gift of symbolic thought to fragment the earth and humanity to the breaking, or in the vernacular, tipping point. A prognosis is only as good as the diagnosis that precedes it. The collective need for ‘hope’ is the product of countless individual demands for illusion and comfort. An explosion of insight that changes the disastrous course of humankind is still possible, but only if enough of us face, within ourselves, things as they are. Let future generations say, they got bottom. Martin LeFevre
|Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)|
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. email@example.com