Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I had my first full look at Ong's folder on Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, the Jesuit paelontologist, theologian, who was one of the discoverers of Homo Pekinensis (Sinanthropus), more commonly known as Peking Man. Fr. Ong met Fr. Teilhard in Nov. 1950 when Ong arrived in Paris. The two both lived in the Jesuit house Etudes, 15 Rue Monsieur, for about a year, until Teilhard left for the United States. The two kept in contact until Teilhard's death on Easter Sunday, 1955.

The folder has some letters, a number of items about Teilhard, and Teilhard related topics. Of note is a 17-page typed transcript on Ong talking about Teilhard, taped on 24 Sept. 1965. Here's Ong on Teilhard's influence on Ong's own work:

"It's difficult to know what the exact affect of Father Teilhard on my own work and writing is. There's certainly some. Many of the things he was interested in, I was already interested in, and consequently when I came across his thinking -- I'm often a little at a loss to know just where I owe something to him and where I don't. IN fact, I have to be a little bit careful, as I suppose most people do who are in some kind of active contact with his thought, because it's a very active and fertile type thought and it's likely to set in motion your own thinking and if you don't watch, you'll be attributing things to Teilhard that he doesn't really say, things which he may be in a way responsible for since he's toughed off certain reactions in your own mind.

"I suppose that his -- what's been called his optimism -- was rather attractive to me because I've been accused of something of this sort myself.

"Then, his tendency to, well what you might call the anti-Manichaen tendency, to interpret matter as something which has positive potential -- incidentally which is a very Christian tendency, it's really always been the church's teaching. After all, the Incarnation of Our Lord reminds us that matter is holy, and the devotion to our lady is another reminder of this sort of thing -- this kind of thinking is very congenial to me, and it's one of the things that made Teilhard's thought so attractive to me.

"As a matter of fact, just before I'd left England and came to France, I had written an article which had appeared first in The Month, in London, called "The Lady and the Issue," about the recent definition of the Assumption of our Lady as dogma of the faith, and the psychological implications of this dogma. This article actually made the point that this kind of exhaltation of womanhood, because that's what it is, womanhood, is really a special kind of exhaltation of matter. Our lady gave Our Lord his body. [But I knew nothing of Teilhard at this time.] This is an instance of what I mean of Teilhard's working around in areas where other people were working too and being able to fertilize their thought. Right here you can see how I welcomed the kind of thing that he does. It helped me" (10-11).

Ong's concept of noobiology is clearly connected to Tielhard's noosphere, but as Ong said in the 1965 interview, he'd begun thinking about such issues before encountering either Teilhard or Teilhard's thought.

Farrell's "In Memoriam" contains some on the connections between Ong and Tielhard.

Some sites about Tielhard de Chardin:

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