TEILHARD by Mary & Ellen Lukas Lukas
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TEILHARD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The life of the French scientist-theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) has the stuff of high drama, and journalists Mary and Ellen Lukas movingly present it as a kind of noble tragedy. From childhood Teilhard was consumed with a longing for ultimate security, for feeling at home in the universe, though he ended up largely homeless and unsure of where he stood. His quest led him both to the Jesuits and to paleontology, and the aim of his career became the synthesizing of religion and science, and specifically, the linking of evolution and divine creativity. But this marriage of sacred and secular was consummated only in the privacy of his thinking and writing; concretely, it meant a life of conflict and disappointment--the Church found him dangerously unorthodox, and the scientific community (though much more appreciative) often regarded his grand theories of cosmogenesis, noosphere, Christification, planetization, etc. as naive fantasies. Though staunchly loyal to his religious vows, he was forced to spend most of his life in exile and forbidden to publish his most significant works. This ostracism caused him anguish right up to his death, but it did allow him to lead a much more adventurous life than his fellow Jesuits--shuttling between Paris and Peking, geological digs and intellectual salons; participating in major scientific discoveries and high-risk ventures; cultivating a broad spectrum of friends, including several women. Still, his superiors' ""majestic stupidity"" stymied his bold opening of Christianity to scientists and nonbelievers, and prevented the serious debate of his ideas that would have honed them into more realistic theories. His story is masterfully told: there is a fine balance of narrative summary and telling detail; the mass of supporting research is blended in unobtrusively; and the grandeur, pathos, and even suspense of a lifelong struggle with big ideas and petty superiors are forcefully evoked.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday