David H Lane, Hataitai, Wellington, New Zealand. SPCS Executive Director.
Author of The Phenomenon of Teilhard: Prophet for a New Age (Macon, Georgia, Mercer University Press, 1996). 189 pages. ISBN 0-86554-498-0 MUP/P131
Book Review by Professor Murray Rae PhD (London) [see ref 1].
The French Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who died in 1955, has attained, at a popular level, a quite remarkable status as a prophet delivering a vision of a new spirituality which unites human beings with one another and enables them to recognise their evolutionary destiny as participants in a divine cosmos. Although Teilhard himself claims continuity between his vision and Christian tradition, there is with only a few exceptions, very little enthusiasm for his work amongst academic theologians. His prominence is largely at a popular level, amongst post-Christian New Age sympathisers.
While a great deal has been written about Teilhard and his work, most published critiques have been written by those who are largely in agreement with his philosophical position. In contrast David Lane offers a critique of the inadequacies and errors of Teilhard’s thought, outlining both the nature and extent of its divergence from orthodox Christian faith, and giving insight into the degree to which many New Age philosophies claim inspiration from the works of this populariser of the notion of spiritual evolution.
It is a moot point, as Lane himself makes clear, whether New Age thinkers are deliberately reflecting on and extending Teilhard’s thought or whether instead they are simply calling upon his name in order to give some academic respectability to their own work. Nevertheless, Lane’s book critiques the extent to which Teilhard’s attempt to graft Christianity onto evolutionary theory issues in the kinds of pantheism, monism and gnosticism favoured by New Agers. There can be little doubt, as Anne Roche Muggeridge has observed and Lane abundantly confirms that, despite his retention of the language of Christian dogma, Teilhard’s reliogio-philosophical writings empty that language of its traditional content. His appeal, amongst Christians as well as New Agers, can be attributed as much to the power of his poetic expression as to the mistaken perception, encouraged by Teilhard himself, that his work takes Christianity to the next step of its evolutionary development. [Read more…]