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Die Urkraft des Kosmos: Dimensionen der Liebe im Werk Pierre Teilhards de Chardin.

After a period of neglect, the thought of Teilhard de Chardin is making a serious comeback; Trennert-Helwig's book is already the second volume on Teilhard in the Freiburg Theological Studies series. T. is able to build on a broader base than previous studies of Teilhard for he had access to most of the known unpublished texts (diaries, letters, retreat notes, etc.), which enables him to clear up a number of misconceptions.

After placing Teilhard's work in the context of growing contemporary awareness of the cosmos and its genesis, T. can claim the support of the best theologians of our time when he declares that "theology must dare a 'theology of nature' . . . in order to search with all one's cognitive forces for God's mystery in his work and interpret human existence, as experienced in unbreakable interconnectedness with nature, in the light of revelation" (18).

T. traces back to Teilhard's childhood the two foundations on which he built his life: the love of the earth and the love of God. T. calls Teilhard's Comment je vois "the most authentic and complete summary of [his] position with regard to God and the world" (8). Accordingly T. follows the outline of that work in dividing his own text into three parts: Physics, Metaphysics and Mysticism.

Physics is shown to mean much more to Teilhard than just the science of physics; it concerns the whole physis, the all-encompassing nature of which we are a part. After showing that Teilhard was well aware of the problems of human cognition, and defining Teilhard's phenomenology against the background of phenomenologists like Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, T. describes in detail the physical world of Teilhard. He uses actual events from Teilhard's biography to show how his ideas developed and became more concise. Evolution became for Teilhard the most basic feature of his universe, which Teilhard described by its general properties. T. analyses these as the notions of complexity and the "within" and the correlating concepts of radial and tangential energy - terms that have often been misunderstood. He shows how reflection relates the social phenomenon and the rise of the Omega point. In doing so he carefully establishes that the Omega point cannot be separated from its Christological interpretation. This is seen to distinguish Teilhard's thought from the new-age and other contemporary esoterical movements. Teilhard extended the notion of nature to include religious phenomena and believed that the Church formed evolution's "axis of convergence" (175-92). Thus, though Teilhard had difficulties with the official church and his Jesuit order, he never broke with them.

Turning to metaphysics, T. shows that Thomist concepts are inconsistent with Teilhard's thinking and with the world we know. Outlining the controversies associated with names like Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain, T. sketches a way in which Teilhard can be considered "genuinely Thomasic" (206). Teilhard's understanding of "creation as union" (207) is linked with seeing the spirit as the base of all existence: "All that exists does so on the basis of thought" (210). The idea that the whole is more than the sum of its parts (an understanding essential for Teilhard's metaphysics of becoming) is traced through texts from 1916 to 1955. Creatio ex nihilo, i.e. the beginning of creation, cannot be explained within this metaphysics. As Teilhard quite clearly recognized, it remains a postulate answered by faith, as it was in the view of Aquinas. Teilhard changes the notion of creation so that God's transcendent creative force calls forth all being "from ahead" that is, from the future; in constituting them in this way he reverses the traditional understanding of metaphysical causality (224). By using what later became system-theoretical structures, Teilhard was able to elaborate the hierarchy of evolutionary levels; T. parallels these to the work of Bertalanffy and other system theorists.

Mystically, the creative force is identified as love, and Teilhard's vision is rooted in Christ, in quo omnia constant. Final union in Christ is prepared for by all the forces of love. For Teilhard, the mystic does not refuse the energies of the world; rather he integrates and transcends them. Seeing things from this evolutionary perspective, the very nature of sin is transformed. T. views Teilhard's thought as an attempt to clear new paths, a work necessarily unfinished. But he insists that it was important for Teilhard "to preach the attitude of strained expectation, which is expressed by a passionate active love of the earth and a boundless trust in the goodness of God, the great mystery of the cosmos" (521).

T. introduces readers into Teilhard's vision in a very comprehensive way, supported by abundant references to the texts. The history of the evolution of Teilhard's thinking and its conflict with authorities within and outside his order is vividly described. This makes for a study that is interesting reading theologically and historically, and which opens new vistas for theology.

KARL SCHMITZ-MOORMANN Center of Theological Inquiry Princeton, N.J.
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Author:Schmitz-Moormann, Karl
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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