Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born on May 1st, 1881 to Emmanuel and Berthe-Adele Teilhard de Chardin. His mother was the great-grandniece of Francois-Marie Arouet, more popularly known as the French auteur-philosophe Voltaire.
He was the fourth of the couple’s eleven children and was born at the family estate of Sarcenat near the twin cities of Clermont-Ferrand in the ancient province of Auvergne.
The long extinct volcanic peaks of Auvergne and the forested preserves of this southern province left an indelible mark on Teilhard. In his spiritual autobiography, The Heart of Matter, Father de Chardin writes about the hills and valleys of Auvergne
…they molded me. Auvergne served me both as a Museum of Natural History and as the wildlife preserve. Sarcenat in Auvergne gave me my first taste of the joys of discovery to Auvergne I owe my most precious possessions: a collection of pebbles and rocks still to be found there, where I lived.
(translated in Claude Cuenot, Teilhard de Chardin, Baltimore, 1938, p. 3.)
Teilhard developed his unusual powers of observation which was especially fostered by his father who maintained an avid interest in natural science. Teilhard’s earliest memory of childhood was not of the flora and fauna of Auvergne or the seasonal family houses but a striking realization of life’s frailty and the difficulty of finding any abiding reality
During his five years at this boarding school, Teilhard exchanged his security in stones for a Christian piety largely influenced by Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ. Near the time of his graduation, he wrote his parents showing that he wanted to become a Jesuit. That training provided him with the thoughtful stimulation to continue his devotion both to the scientific investigation of the Earth and to the cultivation of a life of prayer. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at Aix-Provence in 1899 & developed the ascetic piety that he had learned in his reading at Mongre.
But just two years later, in 1901, an anti-clerical movement rose in the French Republic, & the Jesuits and other religious orders were expelled, so the novitiate moved to the English island of Jersey for refuge.
Father’s de Chardin’s Map
Father de Chardin’s temperament type is a Fan Handle a variation of a bucket with an Uranian handle located in his fourth house of home, monasteries & gardening. This was important for the priest, as it shows the tear between two careers, the first in his beloved archaeological paleontology and the second in his love of God.
Zipporah Dobyns in her “Node Book” says that the nodes found in the sixth and twelfth house are typically found in religious persons. See the yellow circle above for the Dragon’s head. The tail is not shown.
The Uranian handle at 09.45 Scorpio has the symbol of the “Red Cross Nurse.” It depicts his devoted caring for the land via the academic fields of botany, geology, paleontology and archaeology — all ruled by the fourth house and which at Unverisite Paris-Sorbonne he studied. . Uranus rules also his Midheaven, so the dichotomy of his longtime hobby and his new found career in the Jesuits became morphed via the great “rug of Earth” upon which children play (21+ Aquarius MC)
Striking of course are all those planets in the eleventh house. They tell us how much his friends helped him in joint careers, via letters (Mercury), unconditional support (Jupiter and Saturn conjunct almost exactly), and a great and overwhelming desire to master (Sun) his physical world and use it for humanitarian benefits (Neptune, Venus and Chiron). None of that is surprising with his Ascendant at 21. Gemini “the barn dance” conjunct his Moon and highlighting his special desire for universal love and sympathy that would transcend the physical.
All of this sound almost prosaic, except Teilhard de Chardin could not stop from being a scientist and so he undertook a massive project of reconciling God and Science after his co-discovery of Peking Man.
Peking man, extinct hominin of the species Homo erectus, known from fossils found at Zhoukoudian near Beijing. Peking man was identified as a member of the human lineage by Davidson Black in 1927 because of a single tooth. Later excavations yielded several skullcaps and mandibles, facial and limb bones, and the teeth of about 40 individuals. Evidence suggests that the Zhoukoudian fossils date from about 770,000 to 230,000 years ago. Before being assigned to H. erectus, they were variously classified as Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus.
Peking man is characterized by a cranial capacity averaging about 1,000 cubic cm, though some individual skull capacities approached 1,300 cubic cm—nearly the size of modern man’s. Peking man had a skull that was flat in profile, with a small forehead, a keel along the top of the head for attachment of powerful jaw muscles, very thick skull bones, heavy browridges, an occipital torus, a large palate, and a large, chinless jaw. The teeth are essentially modern, though the canines and molars are quite large, and the enamel of the molars is often wrinkled. The limb bones are indistinguishable from those of modern humans.
Peking man postdates Java man and is considered more advanced in having a larger cranial capacity, a forehead, and non-overlapping canines. The original fossils were under study at the Peking Union Medical College in 1941 when, with Japanese invasion imminent, an attempt was made to smuggle them out of China and to the United States. The bones disappeared and never recovered, leaving only plaster casts for study. Renewed excavation in the caves, beginning in 1958, after Father de Chardin’s death, brought new specimens to light. Besides fossils, core tools and primitive flaked tools were also found.
Teilhard did not believe that progress was possible without pain. In an essay he had described the Christian virtue of resignation with the Cross as the symbol of struggle. he thought the Christian had no business to “swoon in its shadow” but to walk intently behind.
The Risen Christ, Teilhard wrote, would only win the faith of the doubting scientists if He were seen to incorporate the theory of evolution which was so often, and so falsely, opposed to Him. Teilhard rightly saw that “evolution” and “creationism” were separate issues but he found it hard as a theologian to separate them as both sides of the paleontological fence would not budge: scientists argued for both and the Church wanted neither. His writings were an attempt to show that evolution, development with a classification was acceptable and desired by God, but total creation out of nothing comes something, was scientific gibberish.
These arguments are still at the heart of the evolution debate today, with “evolutionists” arguing for an evolutionary creation from the unknown while believers argue for an evolutionary creation from God. Both are theories and unproven and a matter of faith.
He died in New York City, New York 12 April 1955. He was 71. You can download his obit from the New York Times here.