Theology Professor Thomas King, S.J., spoke about how the French priest and advocate of world unity Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) influenced his life to about 25 students in Sellinger Lounge on Tuesday.
“I think there is something more involved in life,” King said. “That makes me turn to Teilhard.”
A philosopher, theologian, geologist and paleontologist Teilhard’s book The Divine Milieu is dedicated to “those who love the world.” The book describes the idea that the world is involved in unifying common life on the planet into a larger entity. According to Teilhard’s idea, as atoms build molecules, molecules build cells and cells build humans, humans simultaneously evolve to build into an organic composition, which Teilhard defined in the words of Saint Paul as “the body of Christ.”
According to King, “[Teilhard addresses] the human problem of `Can we learn to live together?’ It’s one world, whether we like it or not,” he said.
“Teilhard awakened interest in many different levels,” King said. The economist Kenneth Bolding, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey and philosopher Frederick Copleston, S.J. all were influenced by Teilhard. King also said that an architect has designed a building in Arizona, a Nobel Prize winning chemist has studied molecules and an individual has organized inter-religious dialogues – all with Teilhard’s philosophy in mind.
According to Wired Magazine, Teilhard even predicted the breakdown of cultural separation long before the time of electronic media.
“It’s a way to unify all the fields, ideas and culture which is absolutely essential for a fulfilled life,” Dan Eyler (COL ’05) said.
King also offered anecdotes of couples who wanted Teilhard’s work to be read at their wedding and of a woman in deep physical pain who was comforted by passages in Teilhard’s letters about the meaning of human suffering.
“I point to these people who are not scholars – Teilhard speaks to them too,” King said.
Many of the students said they agreed with King and saw his philosophy reflected in his many campus roles – whether as a theology professor, a Knight of Columbus, or as the celebrant of the 11:15 p.m. mass in Dahlgren Chapel.
David Russo (COL ’04) said he enjoyed the lecture.
“Fr. King is passionate, as he always is. He drives home things that are important – the human values of love and faith,” Russo said.
According to King, faith was always a part of his life. “I’ve always been devout – as a kid and as an adult. I haven’t lost it,” he said. “It gives me a great love of life.”
King admitted that he was first reluctant to pick up one of Teilhard’s books when a friend suggested that he read it. However, his view changed suddenly. “I read just very few pages and I was very taken into the work,” he said.
King introduces Teilhard to freshmen in his Problem of God course, which features Teilhard’s The Divine Milieu. King also teaches a theology class focusing on the works of Teilhard, entitled “Teilhard and the Theory of Evolution.”
King’s speech, entitled “Faculty Unplugged: What Teilhard means to Fr. King,” was sponsored by Georgetown University Lecture Fund.