Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Mercè Piqueras on Vladimir Vernadsky and biospheres

The concept of a biosphere comes from putting together data furnished by several disciplines such as biology, geology, chemistry and biochemistry, which link living matter and the matter of the upper layers of the planet. The term biosphere, which has been usually attributed to Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863–1945), seems to have been coined by Eduard Suess (1831–1914). However, when Suess first used it, in his book Die Entstehung der Alpen (1875), he only intended to make a distinction between the lithospere—which is the upper layer of the Earth, made up by the Earth crust and the Earth upper mantle—, and the thin spherical film where living beings are found [1, 23]. For Suess, the biosphere comprised life and environmental conditions such as temperature, pressure, and chemical compounds. Vernadsky used for the first time the term biosphere in 1924, in his essay La Géochimie, which was based on a series of lectures he had given at La Sorbonne in 1922 and 1923. Philosopher and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941), and mathematician and philosopher Eduard Le Roy (1870–1954) attended those lectures, and they and Vernadsky influenced to each other’s thoughts [1]. It is the concept of biosphere related to biogeochemistry, expressed in La Géochimie, that is widely accepted today. Vernadsky understood biosphere as the external envelope of the Earth which is inhabited by living things, and comprises both all the living organisms of the planet and the elements of inorganic nature providing the medium for their habitat. Thus, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and other elements and chemical compounds involved in the vital process are constituent parts of the biosphere. As are the products of organisms activities, such as animal burrows and lairs, birds’ nests, deposits of lime and of fossil fuels. Even water is a component—a major component—of the biosphere [8]. Solar radiation, which is crucial for the maintenance of life on Earth, should be considered also a biosphere’s component, and so should products of human activities. In fact, the human species is a major changing force in the current composition of the biosphere.

The study of the biosphere cannot be made only by biologists. To study its components and their interactions, a multidisciplinary approach is needed. However, at Vernadsky’s times nobody even thought of interdisciplinarity. His theory was actually far ahead of the times when it arose. By portraying life as a global phenomenon, in which the sun’s energy was transformed on Earth into a kind of “green fire”—it referred to photosynthesis—he made an anticipation of global ecology; and he made also an anticipation of the concept of “ecosystem” [7, 29].
Mercè Piqueras [ @lectoracorrent ] in the Introduction to her paper “Meeting the Biospheres: on the translations of Vernadsky’s work” (PDF).  Published in International Microbiology: The official journal of the Spanish Society for Microbiology, Volume 1, ISSN: 11396709, (Barcelona, Spain: Springer, June 2, 1998), p. 165.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on body and soul

Where are the roots of our being? In the first place they plunge back and down into the unfathomable past. How great is the mystery of the first cells which were one day animated by the breath of our souls! How impossible to decipher the welding of successive influences in which we are forever incorporated! In each one of us, through matter, the whole history of the world is in part reflected. And however autonomous our soul, it is indebted to an inheritance worked upon from all sides—before ever it came into being—by the totality of the energies of the earth: it meets and rejoins life at a determined level. Then, hardly has it entered actively into the universe at that particular point than it feels, in its turn, besieged and penetrated by the flow of cosmic influences which have to be ordered and assimilated. Let us look around us: the waves come from all sides and from the farthest horizon. Through every cleft the world we perceive floods us with its riches—food for the body, nourishment for the eyes, harmony of sounds and fullness of the heart, unknown phenomena and new truths, all these treasures, all these stimuli, all these calls, coming to us from the four corners of the world, cross our consciousness at every moment. What is their role within us? What will their effect be, even if we welcome them passively or indistinctly, like bad workmen? They will merge into the most intimate life of our soul and either develop it or poison it. We only have to look at ourselves for one moment to realise this, and either feel delight or anxiety. If even the most humble and most material of our foods is capable of deeply influencing our most spiritual faculties, what can be said of the infinitely more penetrating energies conveyed to us by the music of tones, of notes, of words, of ideas? We have not, in us, a body which takes its nourishment independently of our soul. Everything that the body has admitted and has begun to transform must be transfigured by the soul in its turn. The soul does this, no doubt, in its own way and with its own dignity. But it cannot escape from this universal contact nor from that unremitting labour. And that is how the characteristic power of understanding and loving, which will form its immaterial individuality, is gradually perfected in it for its own good and at its own risk. We hardly know in what proportions and under what guise our natural faculties will pass over in the final act of the vision of God. But it can hardly be doubted that, with God’s help, it is here below that we give ourselves the eyes and the heart which a final transfiguration will make the organs of a power of adoration, and of a capacity for beatification, particular to each individual man and woman among us.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life, (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 59-60. Originally published in the French as Le Milieu Divin: Essai de vie intérieure, (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1957). Translated by Alick Dru, Noel Lindsay, D. M. MacKinnon, and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Wall. Also available in a translation by Siôn Cowell as The Divine Milieu, (Brighton, England: Sussex Academic Press, 2004), p. 17.

Google Book Viewer

"Where are the roots of our being?"