"Ces gens-là (les théologiens romains)..., en sont encore à avant Galilee: ils ne comprennent pas que l'Univers, tel que tout le monde (suf eux) le voit aujord'hui, a une "organicité" qui interdit certaines imaginations...tout en ouvrant par compensation à notre pensee des possibilites magnifiques de solutions nouvelles."
Teilhard to Mme. Raphael, 30 August 1950
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, paleontologist and philosopher, was born 1 May 1881 at Sarcenat, in the Department of Puy de Dôin France, and educated at the College of Mongré in Villefranche-sur-Saône. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1899 at Aix-en-Provence and was ordained a priest in 1911. From 1912-1914 he studied paleontology under Marcellin Boule in Paris.
After a period of teaching in Cairo, service in World War I as a stretcher-bearer, and further teaching at the Institut Catholique in Paris, Teilhard began a series of visits to China. He spent the greater part of the period from 1923 to 1947 in China, Mongolia and Southeast Asia, participating in a number of geological and paleological expeditions. During this period he was involved with the discovery and research on Peking Man (Sinanthropos), as well as projects on the fauna and artifacts of a number of sites where early Man was found.
Throughout his life, Teilhard published a large number of articles and monographs on his expeditions and research. His best known works, however, are the relatively few, later, philosophical works he wrote to synthesize his paleological research with his Christian faith. Teilhard's most important philosophical work, The Phenomenon of Man, "effected a threefold synthesis--of the material and physical world with the world of mind and spirit; of the past with the future; and of variety with unity, the many with the one" (Sir Julian Huxley).
Because the Church had difficulty understanding his radical synthesis of scientific evolution and theology, Teilhard was forbidden from publishing or lecturing on his philosophy from the 1940's; The Phenomenon of Man was not released until after his death, in 1959. Despite the ecclesiastical disapproval of his philosophy, Teilhard continued to work and to write on scientific subjects. He made a number of trips to South Africa during the 1950's, and worked for a time with the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York. He died in New York on 10 April 1955.
These letters are an important source for tracing Teilhard's movements during the 1940's, and also for the many expressions of his philosophy found in them. In a number of letters, Teilhard describes his thoughts on a new, broader "Science of Man" to replace anthropology; one can also find expressions of his disappointment with the Church's view of his philosophy.