Teilhard de Chardin and the Internet — A Re-appraisal

Don Dulchinos
30 min readAug 23, 2021


Teilhard and the Internet — A Re-appraisal

Don Dulchinos

President, Neurosphere Technologies




In the 1990’s, spiritually-oriented members of the high-tech community argued that the Internet represented the emergence of Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere. But first the overwhelming profits of Internet companies, and then later problems like Facebook’s influence on elections and the rise of surveillance capitalism — seemed to undercut that argument. This paper will attempt to situate the Internet and social media of the last 20 years more appropriately as a partial emergence, referencing the social development theories of Clare Graves. It will then predict that an even deeper integration of Internet technology with individual humans, including such breakthroughs as portable brain-computer interfaces, is coming and may contribute to an ever-more-substantial noosphere. The paper will then review some of the more recent divisive uses of the Internet and social media, and explore how Teilhard’s more unitive vision could serve as a guide and toolkit for a collective practice of technology and spirit.


Teilhard was adopted as a patron saint by some of the utopian technology thinkers in the 1980s and 90s, and even as they were developing the consumer version of the Internet. My book on these ideas, Neurosphere (after Teilhard’s noosphere,) was published in 2005, and steeped in that utopian thinking. [1] In some important ways, my discussions of technology were off base or incomplete, not to mention limited by my still unfolding understanding of Teilhard’s ideas. My recent research, and recent emergent phenomena like the unexpected effects of Facebook on human behavior, e.g. the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, has led me to a re-appraisal and hopefully a more mature consideration. But the fundamental premise, that Teilhard’s hopeful, optimistic and unifying vision is manifesting itself partly through these information and communications technologies, seems more on point than ever.


The Human Phenomenon was published posthumously in 1955, and published in English in 1959 as The Phenomenon of Man.[2] The book laid out Teilhard’s view that, as summed up by biologist Julian Huxley: “man was evolution becoming conscious of itself.” Huxley and others responded favorably to Teilhard’s synthesis of theology, science and technology.

In Pere Teilhard’s view, the increase of human numbers combined with the improvement of human communications has fused all the parts of the noosphere together, has increased the tension within it, and has caused it to become ‘infolded’ upon itself, and therefore more highly organized. Mankind as a whole will accordingly achieve more intense, more complex, and more integrated mental activity, which can guide the human species up the path of progress to higher levels of hominization. [3]

Toward the end of the 1960’s The Phenomenon of Man was a favorite of Whole Earth Catalog editor Stewart Brand along with other hippie gurus. The more thoughtful of the hippies were looking for a framework to fit their drug-mediated visionary experiences. They had experienced a deep sense of unity in their LSD explorations, believed in the fundamental rightness of their peace and love ethos, but did not find in doctrinal Christianity a vision of the future that fit their experiences. Eastern religions seemed closer to the mark to many, but some students of the matter discovered Teilhard. I was among this latter group, as Teilhard became a guidepost for me at the beginning of my personal journey of discovery and my career in the world of technology.

In the 1980’s, an assortment of the next generation of philosophers and technology geeks (often embodied in the same person — Brand was an early proponent of the personal computer movement) contributed to the development of the Internet as we know it. As Internet technology developed, a number of observations from Teilhard’s works, in particular from The Human Phenomenon, caught the attention of these explorers as prophetic of their present moment.

These technology pioneers were student of Teilhard’s philosophical view, which had begun to emerge in a letter during a lull in the activities of his WWI regiment in Belgium in the winter of 1916. “Over the landscape of loss and disintegration that stretched out on every side, he superimposed his vision of another world — healthy whole and growing.” [4]

I think one could show that the front isn’t simply the firing line, the exposed area corroded by the conflict of nations, but the “front of the wave” carrying the world of man toward its new destiny. When you look at it during the night, lit up by flares, after a day of more than usual activity, you seem to feel that you’re at the final boundary between what has already been achieved and what is struggling to emerge. [5]

This emergent vision resonated with the veterans of “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” Further resonance was found in Teilhard’s conception that the key characteristic of the evolutionary process leading to man is convergence.

Teilhard observed that the higher you go up the evolutionary chain, the smaller the variety among the members of a species. The phenomenon first appears in the emergence of mammals. Current mammals for the most part represent but a single one of the many stems into which the Jurassic verticil of the mammals was divided.” And further, homo sapiens emerged as a single branch of the primates, and ceased further physical evolution as it has successfully inhabited every ecological niche. With the emergence of humanity, evolution has “overtly overflowed anatomical modalities to spread, and perhaps even to transplant its main thrust into the zones of the psychic spontaneity, both individual and collective.” [6]

Convergence reoccurs on the societal level — “we have seen an evolutionary pattern in fanning out of nations and races…are we seeing single verticil [represented by the] late capitalist world consumer unit.” [7] With social convergence comes traditions and collective memory. This is the beginning of the group mind of humanity, the noosphere.[8]

Further, “[f]rom Neolithic times onwards, the influence of psychical factors begins to outweigh the variations of ever-dwindling somatic factors. Thus, the appearance above the genealogical of political and cultural units.”[9] And, “[i]n valleys [and] cultivatable plains, there has been a natural tendency ever since the installation of settled life for the human mass to concentrate, to fuse, and for its temperature to rise.” [10] By temperature, he meant for human activity to increase in speed and in intensity of communication.

My point in Neurosphere, and that I still believe today, is that Teilhard’s “rise in temperature” is reflected in the unprecedented technological and social phenomenon of the World Wide Web, which was only five years old as I was writing. Again, “[i]n every epoch, man has thought himself at a ‘turning point of history.’ And to a certain extent, as he is advancing on a rising spiral, he has not been wrong.”[11] And so, I concluded confidently in 2005, “I believe the Internet represents the latest manifestation, in the material world, of the ongoing evolution of consciousness.” [12]

Teilhard was perhaps the first to take a spiritual view of technology. Twentieth century telecommunications technology, in Teilhard’s view, was a mechanism for the inexorable evolution of this noosphere. “A consciousness is that much more perfected according as it lines a richer and better organised material edifice.” And if humanity is an organism, then Teilhard proposed that “we should endeavour to equip it with sense organs, effector organs and a central nervous system.” Indeed, “thanks to the prodigious biological event represented by the discovery of electro-magnetic waves, each individual finds himself simultaneously present in every corner of the earth.”[13]

And so, if the industrial era and the information age are epochs of incredibly compressed growth and change, then it seemed reasonable in the early 2000’s to believe that the rapid adoption of the Internet by the general public and the corporate world, especially following the introduction of the World Wide Web interface, was an even more vivid confirmation of Teilhard’s conceptualization. Even in 2005, the increasing integration of the Internet into our lives — for shopping, for learning, for communication, seemed to illustrate the fulfillment of Teilhard’s predictions. Each human, as Teilhard observed 70 years ago, “now demands not only food but a daily ration of iron, copper, electricity, cinema and international news.” [14]

As Internet technologists of the 1980’s contemplated Teilhard’s prophecies, the original tech view was utopian, and explicitly “millennial.” Technology visionaries from journalist Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg [15] to John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation cited Teilhard’s noosphere as a model or metaphor for the emerging and evolving Internet. In those years, spiritually-oriented members of the high-tech community argued that the Internet represented the emergence of a noosphere. Cobb Kreisberg brought the underlying cultural movement into the light via WiredMagazine, the self-styled avatar of the new technological age. She name-checked everyone from Grateful Dead lyricist Barlow to Al Gore as fans of Teilhard. “Teilhard saw the Net coming more than half a century before it arrived…The Net, that great collectivizer of minds, is the primary tool for our emergence into the third phase. ‘With cyberspace, we are, in effect, hard-wiring the collective consciousness,’ says Barlow.” [16]

I was in full agreement with that spirit:

“It looks to me like the development of telecommunications and information technology, and their ultimate achievement of the Internet, is just the type of rapid environmental change that brings about additional evolutionary changes in consciousness.”

In hindsight, the millennial view was all the more remarkable considering the primitive state of the internet circa 1995.No social networks, no smart phones. Some might say, ruefully, a golden age… Even so, many technologists who were paid to project future software and hardware development drew inspiration from Teilhard and expected the Internet to draw us closer together.

In summary, considering the state of technology, I was happy with my manuscript, largely complete in 2000, and felt it was still on point upon publication in 2005. I still held fast to my conclusions even in the face of ground shaking events both technological — the bursting of the dotcom bubble — and cultural — the events of 9–11. But the next decade after 2005 was to give me pause.


In today’s technology moment, Teilhard’s view of a more unifying technology sometimes seems remote as the deep flaws of social media have become all too apparently. The fundamental question before us is, does collective consciousness and a tech-enhanced noosphere always carry a shadow, or can it help bring us closer to Christ as Omega Point?

My views in Neurosphere were shaped in early online communities, in particular The Well conferencing system founded by none other than Steward Brand again. Idealist technologists working professionally in the information technology business were at first able to integrate explicitly Teilhardian thought into their network designs and community building.

The Net is “organic” because we who build it are organic and it is a reflection of its builders. Not only its builders’ egos and ambitions, but the subconscious of its builders as well, and the parts of our own consciousness that lay beyond the flashlight of awareness…We are building the infinitude inside ourselves outside ourselves, as best we can. It is not surprising that the Net itself appears to be “alive,” even autonomous. It’s sculpted of mind-stuff.[17]

However, Teilhard’s vision and his technological disciples were swamped as the first dotcom tidal wave inundated the world the late 1990s. The era’s beginning is usually dated to browser company Netscape’s initial public offering in 1995. Suddenly, experts in the field were in huge demand by the new generation of tech startups that followed Netscape — Amazon, Yahoo and eBay all launched in the 1990’s. I watched as one by one some of the best talent and most idealistic thinkers vanished from the community sites like the Well and went all in to seek a financial payout. Magazines like Wired, after spending some time balancing social and even spiritual commentary with tech news, (editor Kevin Kelly had formerly edited the Whole Earth Review), became huge beneficiaries of tech company advertising, and shifted focus to the rise of the tech world as the dominant player in the financial world we live in today.

Social impacts of the Internet revolution continued to draw attention, but a spiritual quality that had been present seemed to disappear. That spiritual quality has re-entered the discussion, I would contend, with the emergence of social media, sometimes called Web 2.0.

Social media seemed to re-introduce the notion of community that early adopters had felt. At first, some of those early pioneers held out hope that Facebook and others might not only offer a business model that would scale the human element of the Internet to a global phenomenon, but also offer the salutary effects that Teilhard had always assumed would accompany convergence.

“[The noosphere will bring] sympathy on the part of all the elements for the general impulse that carries them along. Sympathy of each separate element for all that is most unique and incommunicable in each of the co-elements with which it converges in the unity.” [18]

The controversy over Facebook that emerged especially in 2016 illustrated both the promise and the peril of millennial thinking. Those of us who did hold onto the Teilhardian dream were forced to seriously reconsider our theories in this current era of surveillance culture, Facebook influence on elections, the polarizing nature of digital media algorithms, and other unforeseen (by us) emergent phenomena.

When it became known that Russian activity on Facebook affected the 2016 elections, and that Facebook’s algorithms had polarizing effects on people’s behaviors, the shadow side of social media became more widely discussed. Critic Paul Virilio, for example, observed that [t]here is something in the synchronization of emotion that surpasses the power of standardization of opinion that was typical of the mass media in the second half of the 20th Century.”[19]

Eventually, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to defend and apologize for various aspects of the controversy in polished Congressional testimony and other scripted remarks. But I had observed that Zuckerberg’s affect in early interviews was different. He appeared genuinely bewildered and even scared as he became aware of emergent, second order effects that he never anticipated, and his company never explicitly designed into the system. This was not surprising as the company was focused on the primary importance of his business model of data collection and monetization, and its leaders not especially introspective or contemplative.

Consider some of Zuckerberg’s public facing messages –the execution was strictly according to the business model, but the aspiration is Teilhardian, if not consciously so.

“- On our journey to connect the world…

- History is how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers — from tribes to cities to nations. Facebook now stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community.

- The most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works of all of us.

- [Terrorism, climate change] need coordinated responses from a worldwide vantage point.

- Facebook can explore examples of how community governance might work at scale… participate in collective decision making.”[20]

That kind of utopian thinking still keeps trying to poke its way out of the Internet. I would propose that the second order effects are not the business model Facebook management designed for, but may be hints of a next level that is more truly consonant with a Teilhardian vision. In my interpretation, Zuckerberg was scared by the autopoiesis (self-organizing systems emergence) that had just happened — effects that appear as a global mind slowly wakes up.

The idea that higher level systems may still contain negative aspects, even as they are drawn to an Omega Point, is a tenet of an emergent psychology as developed by Clare Graves. This one of several perspectives on Teilhard that have emerged since the Internet technologists first tried to build on the Teilhardian vision, and it may be helpful to review these before assessing the current state of an Internet-mediated noosphere.


Multiple developments in Teilhardian studies have developed over this same time period. Although I am not working in the mainstream of those studies, I felt these developments were a renaissance in Teilhardian studies, a broader application of his thought to 21st century cultural trends and global challenges. As examples, I grouped some of these into the Theologians, the Environmentalists, and the Developmentalists.

Theologians — A look through the Teilhard Studies publications of the period since around 1990 will show that Teilhardian theologians have worked to expand the applications of Teilhard’s thought. Ursula King, John Haught, Thomas King and others have extended the lessons of Teilhard’s life and work to such diverse topics as belief, mysticism, feminism, community, and perhaps process theology in general. Technologists would do well to encounter this field of inquiry, and learn from Teilhard to ”look for the Divine not in a cleavage with the physical worlds but through matter, and, in some sort of way, in union with matter.” [21]

It is worth noting that Teilhard is more recently favorably viewed by the formal institutions of the Catholic Church. The monitum, issued by the Holy Office in 1962 for “dangerous ambiguities and grave errors” (left unspecified), is now the subject of proposals that it be lifted. [22] This movement gained some momentum when Pope Francis footnoted Teilhard favorably in the encyclical Laudato Si:

“all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” [23]

This development led a group of scientists to prepare a petition to the Pope asking him to consider declaring Teilhard a Doctor of the Catholic Church. [24]

And in an even more popular context, Episcopal Reverend Michael Curry, presiding over the British royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, quoted Teilhard “that if human beings ever harness the energies of love, then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.” [25]

My hope is that this positive theological renewal around Teilhard’s work can be provide helpful grounding and purpose for the next wave of technological work.

Environmentalists — The American Teilhard Association has long been a vehicle for theological discussions, but its immediate past president, John Grim, represents the rise in recent years of a religious engagement with environmental issues. This engagement has been partly inspired by Teilhard, and represented most prominently in the ATA by Thomas Berry, who wrote in Teilhard in the Ecological Age, “The glory of the human has become the desolation of the earth.” [26]

Grim and his partner Mary Evelyn Tucker founded the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University in 1998. [27] One can see in historical files that “Climate Change” starting to enter the language of the Forum around 2008. Ecology as a movement dates back to perhaps Earth Day in 1970, but Teilhardian ideas more explicitly re-enter the discussion as climate change begins to call forth the need for a global consciousness to solve global problems. The Forum newsletter recently forwarded this notice, contemplating the planet beginning to speak for itself:

“Betsey Crawford recently wrote an evocative article entitled “When Rivers Go to Court.” She asks, “What if the Hudson River had had rights on its own to go to court? To speak through a guardian, to refuse to have poisons dumped in its waters, refuse to have its ecosystem polluted?” This article reflects the idea of Earth Jurisprudence as articulated by Thomas Berry.” [28]

DevelopmentalistsGlobal solutions for global problems is also a rallying cry for one final group who reference Teilhard’s work as a touchpoint and an aspiration. Some developmental psychologists are grounded in the work of Clare Graves (1914–1986), who posited that humans and societies move through levels of development (he was a colleague of Abraham Maslow), and that transitions only happen in response to life conditions which create new needs.

Two major schools based on Graves developed starting in the 1990’s and well into the 21st century, one more focused on social, business and political applications as led by Don Beck and Chris Cowan (FTN), and the other more personal and spiritual and let by popular philosopher Ken Wilber. This is not a school of thought represented in Teilhard Studies, but its practitioners are well-versed in Teilhard and cite his work as representative of higher/deeper developmental stages (see below).

Graves wrote, “The psychology of the mature human being (society) is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.” [29] Graves had identified six levels, based on the evidence of history, but also noted a cyclical pattern that enabled him to predict new, “second tier” levels that would emerge.

Graves — Levels of Existence







Integrative (2d Tier)

Holistic (2d Tier)

As an example, the Communitarian/Egalitarian stage, while supporting environmental goals, seeks to solve the problem without communicating effectively to groups who are centered at earlier levels and still trying to solve problems of stability and survival. These groups are receptive to leaders (e.g., President Trump) who say things like “environmentalism causes job loss.” And so, groups at the Communitarian/Egalitarian level can see the problem, but don’t have enough depth and breadth to solve it, at least historically. It may be that the Green for All proposal in recent years, (or the Blue Green Alliance of environmental groups and labor leaders) is a more appropriately in-depth, “second tier” proposal, providing for the needs (jobs, economic security) of individuals at all levels as part of the solution.

Gravesian disciple Don Beck has characterized the highest stage as Holistic. “The stage appears early on as a strong urge, more so among those of us centered in Green.”[30] The problems of the Holistic stage “cut across all classes, countries, and are characterized by global catastrophes.” (Note that in 2005, as he wrote those words, global climate change was still only beginning to reach a wider awareness.) “While Integrative [level] legitimizes all of the vMeme codes, and works to keep each happy, Holistic [level]:

- detects holistic energy flows that bind everything together

- constructs large scale mandates in acting on behalf of all life

- finds unity in ideas and goals of whole-earth impact

- [finds] self is part of a larger, conscious whole [31]

No surprise then that Beck, in cataloguing Models and Metaphors of Holistic Thinking, led off the list with Teilhard’s noosphere. (The more popular Gravesian Ken Wilber also associates Teilhard’s vision with this stage of development.[32]) In Gravesian terms, such a concept represents a super-ordinate goal, one that transcends all previous levels, but speaks to each level as a goal that helps with the particular life conditions faced at that level. I believe this distinction between the Communitarian and Holistic levels helps explain why Neurosphere was fundamentally flawed, as I had confused essentially Communitarian characteristics of technology emergence as being truly Holistic in the way Teilhard tried to convey.

It is worth noting in this model that values become more inclusive at higher levels but behavioral flaws still can exist at each level. The good and the bad are both in there. Teilhard understood this:

[M]onstrous as it is, is not modern totalitarianism really the distortion of something magnificent, and thus quite near the truth? [33]

In that spirit, the next section seeks to identify more recent technology developments that may emphasize the positive, hopeful elements of Facebook and other social media. In particular, it explores the notion of whether emerging brain-computer interfaces represent a difference in level compared to earlier applications of the collectivizing capabilities of the Internet. And if that notion seems true, then it might be helpful, or indeed necessary, to inject Teilhardian guidance into that next wave of technology development.


This paper attempts to situate the Internet and social media of the last 20 years more appropriately as a partial emergence of a technology-enhanced noosphere, and propose that an even deeper integration of Internet technology with individual humans, for example through breakthroughs in brain-computer interfaces, will more truly constitute elements of a literal noosphere. To repeat Teilhard, this time as invocation:

“A consciousness is that much more perfected according as it lines a richer and better organised material edifice. [And if humanity is an organism,] we should endeavour to equip it with sense organs, effector organs and a central nervous system.” [34]

In Teilhard’s era, that “central nervous system” was represented by radio waves and later television. At the time of my Neurosphere, that central nervous system seemed even more clearly enabled by TCP/IP, HTML and the World Wide Web. I would contend that the next wave of unitive technology is emerging in brain-computer interface technology, a more immediate connection between individual minds and technology, and between individual and other individual nodes on the Internet.

It is important to distinguish technology trends from the state of human wellbeing. As noted earlier, the twin flaws of surveillance capitalism and the polarizing algorithms of social media have emphasized the negative impacts of a more broadly based “central nervous system.” (For that matter, so has COVID.) But even the negative impacts have only served to reinforce how much more tightly knit we are with each other, like it or not.

Developmental theory of the Gravesian persuasion predicts even tighter integration of more of the population over time. Graves’ theory does not necessarily predict greater understanding and peace across humanity, but it does expect greater percentages of population at greater levels of economic and social security, which is expected to allow people to be more rather than less peaceful. Some researchers claim that data shows human wellbeing is improving for more people over time. For example, Stephen Pinker supports the notion that technology generally has brought more improvements to more people’s lives over time, at least on a percentage basis, but the numbers, biases and conclusions of such analyses are still a matter of disagreement. [35] And while some observers contend that high tech has brought unequal benefits to different portions of the population, others point to the large rise from lower to middle class lifestyles in Chinese and other Asian populations.

Part 5 of this article will return to Teilhard for guidance on how to recognize, align and support an increase in wellbeing, and love if you will, which he predicted would occur along with technology and convergence among humans, and perhaps help to remediate the ills of surveillance and polarization.

The remainder of this section will further explore how technology is evolving into greater interconnection, with particular reference to mental and cognitive health technology. In a fairly new technology trend, brain sensing equipment (such as EEG) has entered the same development path as computers and the Internet itself, driven by Moore’s Law to increase performance at lower costs. [36] In recent years, I have worked with a small working group of next-generation, self-styled Consciousness Hackers.[37] I have some experience now in managing software development, and in parallel I have developed perhaps a more mature viewpoint about what’s technically possible and what’s probable in terms of human development in our lifetimes. As Stanford researcher Paul Saffo once said, “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”

EEG medical technology began entering the consumer electronics industry about ten years ago, with the development of consumer-priced (under $1,000) headsets. These devices offer a relatively low degree of granularity in measurement of brain activity, but bring some excitement that current medical wonders like brain-controlled prosthetic limbs might reach widespread availability. The ability to progress from EEG representation of motor skills to memory to higher functions of consciousness, and to transmit and receive on that level, strikes me as the building blocks of a noosphere, a collective consciousness. I am more convinced that the brain-computer interface technology, along with the near universal interconnections of the wired and wireless internet, represents “the material edifice” of an emerging noosphere.

Electroencephalographic (EEG) technology has been around for many years, and research continues to translate EEG measurements into a fuller map of the human brain. The mapping correlates activity in particular brain regions to motor activity or physical resting states. The software experts of our Consciousness Hacking group connected output signals from an EEG headset (the Emotiv — a $750 device,) signals representing particular brain signals that correlate with intention to move, with the input interface of a humble remote controlled vacuum cleaner, and used the brain signals to send movement commands to the machine. After a day-long hackathon, we reported:

“Successful testing of an initial proof-of-concept of using device output from mental commands to move a third-party device. This path has great potential to provide assistive technology solutions to the disabled community. See the video here!”[38]

The next technology baby step, and one being pursued by several start-up companies, is to apply these brain outputs to affordable assistive technology devices or prosthetics used by disabled, paralyzed individuals in order to communicate or move. [39](This had already been proven and deployed with very high end equipment.)

But is it reasonable to extrapolate that further improvements to inexpensive EEG devices, beyond the motor skills correlation, could communicate one individual’s memories to another individual’s brain? Is it reasonable to assume that a fuller representation of that individual’s personality, or one’s higher consciousness, or soul, can be transmitted to or synchronized with the brain of another individual?

The answers to these questions may lie far in the future, but I am proposing that an even deeper integration of Internet technology with individual humans, through more fully developed BCI, will more truly constitute a literal noosphere. This deeper integration may constitute a physical (in the sense of a nervous system) and societal infrastructure. Whether a “global brain” mediated by digital technology is metaphor or literal is a question of some debate. Teilhard himself sought to transcend the debate — “There are no longer two compartments in the universe, the spiritual and the physical; there are only two directions along one and the same road. The Supreme Good — the centre of universal convergence towards which everything tends.[40]


In view of the earlier discussion of the negative dimensions of social media technology, it is important to acknowledge that brain-computer interface technology development does not carry with it any inherent increase in love, or reduction in strife. Indeed, in the Graves model, every higher stage, while it solves problems of life conditions at prior levels, creates its own challenges and carries healthy and unhealthy expressions of its values at that level. It is enough to say for now that BCI does appear to represent the leading edge of even tighter interconnection of human populations. But as some of us participate in this technology development, what moral or ethical guidance can we draw from Teilhard as the world gets closer to the noosphere?

Some Teilhardian theologians are skeptical about the linkage of technology to Teilhard’s vision. In trying to find the roots of this skepticism, I did find that theologians who at least pay some attention to technology seem to limit the scope of their critique to the role of classic Jesuit apologists. [41] Some rail against the strawman of transhumanism, a strain of Internet culture that on the surface represents an eschatological position of humans becoming godlike. But transhumanism hardly represents a majority view in the tech circles I have spent my career in. In any case, skepticism about transhumanism does not invalidate the idea that technology is linked to Teilhard’s vision. In fact, arguing against such a linkage seems kind of uninformed to even suggest (perhaps an attempt by some Jesuit apologists to “reform” Teilhard without challenging church dogma?) It seems to me that Teilhard’s view in The Human Phenomenon clearly was that twentieth century telecommunications technology is an aspect and mechanism for the inexorable evolution of the noosphere.

“A consciousness is that much more perfected according as it lines a richer and better organised material edifice.” [Indeed,] “thanks to the prodigious biological event represented by the discovery of electro-magnetic waves, each individual finds himself simultaneously present in every corner of the earth.”

Critiques of technology were not especially common in the early industrial age, the Luddites notwithstanding. Teilhard himself saw convergence as inexorable, both technology and otherwise, and that convergence was a purely positive force.

“If there were no real internal propensity to unite”, wrote Teilhard, “even at a prodigiously rudimentary level — indeed in the molecule itself — it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, in hominised form.” [42]

Teilhard was a good (and obedient) Jesuit, and believed that God loved humanity and that Jesus would return. He chose to treat Christian eschatology more metaphorically, and looked to fit the scriptures to the world as he saw it. The ultimate unification of humanity was the Omega Point, and in Christian terms was the equivalent of the second coming.

“Sympathy on the part of all the elements for the general impulse that carries them along. Sympathy of each separate element for all that is most unique and incommunicable in each of the co-elements with which it converges in the unity. Sympathy will make telepathy both general and normal.” [43]

Teilhard expected to see “each particular consciousness remaining conscious of itself at the end of the operation. Each particular consciousness becoming still more itself and thus more clearly distinct for others the closer it gets to them in Omega.” [44]

Teilhard fully expected that unity would lead to more efficient production of the world’s goods and their distribution and assurance to all who need. It will become more natural to encourage “redirection of resources away from the military and toward solving problems…So far we have certainly allowed our race to develop at random, and we have given too little thought to the question of what medical and moral factors must replace the crude forces of natural selection should we suppress them.” [45]

So, what does all this mean? How do we apply Teilhard’s thought to serve a better outcome with the new technology than what happened with social media like Facebook? I believe Teilhard’s more unitive vision can, and perhaps must, serve as a guide to and inform a collective practice of technology and spirit. This will become all the more important if, as I expect, technologies like brain-computer interfaces draw us even more closely together. I will suggest just a few guiding principles taken from Teilhard’s work.

Purpose and Meaning — Teilhard counsels, in The Human Phenomenon and elsewhere, belief in progress and purpose. As much as he was a scientist and adhered to the scientific method, Teilhard was always grounded in the belief that evolution had a purpose. He noted that differentiation of nervous system tissue stands out as a significant transformation in the history of life on earth — “[i]t provides a direction; and therefore it proves that evolution has a direction.” [46] It is the case here in the 21st century that many scientists believe that reductive science explains what is happening in evolution without reference to spirituality or meaning. Some scientists become aggressive advocates for atheism, and spiritual seeking has been largely missing from current generation Internet technologists and business executives. As ever, the desire for wealth seems to crowd out higher purpose.

One example of a potential vehicle in which to embed Teilhard’s guidance might be the “Conscious Capitalism” movement. “Our communities include business leaders, entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants and others interested in changing the perception and practice of business with Conscious Capitalism, so that it is seen as a force for good.” [47] In Gravesian developmental thought, this kind of mission statement is called a super-ordinate goal — it does not seek to change the day-to-day functioning of people focused at a business level (Achiever/Strategic), but urges them to align with the higher (Holistic) goal.

Morality — Teilhard anticipated movements like Conscious Capitalism. As we progress toward the noosphere, he argued that it will become more natural to encourage “redirection of resources away from the military and toward solving problems…So far we have certainly allowed our race to develop at random, and we have given too little thought to the question of what medical and moral factors must replace the crude forces of natural selection should we suppress them.” [48]

It is interesting that global threats to humanity, like climate change, and like the threat of nuclear war before it, are among the few phenomena that drive scientists to stop and think about the “moral factors” implicit in their discoveries. Visionaries like Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme can provide role models for Teilhardian thinking while speaking the language of science. Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, the “Green Patriarch,” as Grim and Tucker have pointed out, can provide broad leadership and awareness of the spiritual dimensions of global trends, while at the same time reaching all developmental levels within his flock. The shortcomings of technology are subject to some public policy debates, but the field generally still needs its moral leaders and role models.

Sympathy — Rather than a global village, technology can, as in the case of Facebook, facilitate disinformation and discord rather than a global village or noosphere characterized by sympathy as Teilhard had expected. It is a common observation that social media and for that matter email before that, tended to have a flattening effect — strong emotions, like fear and anger, are foregrounded, and users are guided by algorithms to more extreme versions of their own views. Polarization is precisely the opposite of collectivity and sympathy.

Teilhard himself expected to see “each particular consciousness remaining conscious of itself at the end of the operation. Each particular consciousness becoming still more itself and thus more clearly distinct for others the closer it gets to them in Omega.” [49] Technology design embedding such an expectation would work precisely to moderate “flattening” and polarization. But such embedding needs to be perceptible to the user. Millions used Facebook without realizing its design would encourage polarization.

Equity — I was reminded by reviewers of this paper’s first draft that “technology development continues to further entrench inequalities.” It is acknowledged in Gravesian terms that, while technology gets more complex and solves more problems at each higher stage, the application of benefits accrues first to privileged audiences. It also seems true that policy prescriptions such as “broadband for all” tend to lag in addressing such gaps, even as each new Presidential administration seems to support it. [50]

But Teilhard predicted that “[T]he entry into the superhuman [is] not thrown open to a few of the privileged nor to one chosen people…[it] will open only to an advance of all together.” [51]

In looking for evidence of this, one might note that smart phones are ubiquitous at all income levels, and in many developing nations have leapfrogged the western world’s development of hardwired, landline telephone systems with the lighter weight and more capable wireless solutions.

It is interesting that some brain-computer interface devices are already cheaper than smart phones. But as Big Pharma has shown, profit-maximizing business models often skew the availability and targeting of new medical solutions and the prices charged for those solutions. [52] It is incumbent on myself and other Teilhardians to foster Teilhard’s “advance of all together.”

Love — Finally, even if equitably available, it remains to be seen whether all choose to take advantage of the technology, and participate in this form of group consciousness with a positive spirit. A group of technologists called the Global Brain Institute has speculated on exactly that issue. To them, it’s an engineering problem, and like engineers, they are not eloquent about emotion.

To effectively use the cognitive power of the Web, we must reduce the distance between user and Web…With a good enough interface, there should not be a difference between internal and external thought processes…The question remains whether individuals would agree to be so intimately linked into a system they only partially control. On the one hand, individuals might refuse to answer a request from the super brain. On the other hand, no one would want to miss the opportunity to use the unlimited knowledge and intelligence of the superbrain for solving one’s own problems. However, the basis of social interaction is reciprocity. People will stop answering your requests if you never answer theirs. [53]

Teilhard was not specifically prescriptive about technology development. Rather he saw it as just an emergent fact of societal evolution. Teilhard was fundamentally hopeful about humanity’s evolution, and the likelihood we would be drawn together and in communion.

Within a now tranquil ocean, each drop of which, nevertheless, will be conscious of remaining itself, the astonishing adventure of the world will have ended. [54]

It is my hope in presenting this paper to a Teilhardian audience, to find support for the idea that the evolution of technology will be informed and inspired by him.

Humanity is building its composite brain beneath our eyes. May it not be that tomorrow, through the logical and biological deepening of the movement drawing it together, it will find its heart. [55]

[1] Donald P. Dulchinos, Neurosphere, Red Wheel Weiser, 2005.

[2] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, New York: Harper & Row, 1959. Page numbers footnoted are from Harper Colophon edition, New York, 1975.

[3] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 17.

[4] Mary Lukas and Ellen Lukas, Teilhard; A Biography, McGraw Hill, 1981, p. 50.

[5] Letter quoted in Lukas and Lukas, 1981.

4 Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 127.

[7] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 222.

[8] The Human Phenomenon represents Teilhard’s engagement with evolution, but was completed prior to later work on epigenetics (see David Sloane Wilson, This View of Life, 2019.) which has served to define and describe a mechanism for group development that is consistent with Teilhard’s predictions of the evolutionary development of humanity.

[9] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 178, 180.

[10] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 208, 210.

[11] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 213.

[12] Donald P. Dulchinos, Neurosphere, 2005, p. 23.

[13] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 240.

[14] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 246.

[15] Jennifer Cobb, “A Globe — Clothing Itself with a Brain”, Wired Magazine, June 1995, p. 108–111.

[16] Ibid.

[17] The Well — Post by Steve Silberman (digaman) on Fri, Nov 24 ’95; retrieved 2001.

[18] Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, Image Books, Doubleday, 1946, p. 172.

[19] Paul Virilio, The Administration of Fear, Semiotext(e), 2012, p. 30.

[20] https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/building-global-community/10154544292806634/ — retrieved March 28, 2019.

[21] Teilhard de Chardin, Science and Christ, p. 44.

[22] https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/05/inquiry-or-inquisition-looking-again-at-father-teilhard-de-chardin/

[23] Laudato Si footnote 53. In this horizon, we can set the contribution of Fr Teilhard de Chardin

[24] https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/declare-pierre-teilhard-de-chardin-s-j-a-doctor-of-the-roman-catholic-church

[25] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/05/royal-wedding-curry-sermon-science-chardin-fire/

[26] Thomas Berry, Teilhard in the Ecological Age, Teilhard Studies №7, American Teilhard Association, Fall, 1982, p. 1.

[27] http://fore.yale.edu/about-us/

[28] Teilhard Perspective, 2019. Reference to Thomas Berry: A Biography, by Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, and Andrew Angyal, Columbia University Press, 2019.

[29] Clare Graves, “Levels of Existence: An Open System Theory of Values,” The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Fall 1970, Vol. 10. №2, pp. 131–154.

[30] This paragraph adapted from Don Beck’s handout materials from a Spiral Dynamics training session in Boulder Colorado, 2005.

[31] Adapted from Don Beck handout materials from a Spiral Dynamics training session in Boulder Colorado, 2005.

[32] See for example Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, 1995.

[33] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 257.

[34] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, 1959, p. 240.

[35] Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now, Penguin, 2018.

[36] See for example the Muse headset, www.choosemuse.com, or the Emotiv, www.emotiv.com . A longer discussion of price/performance trends may be found in Moore’s Law and Brain-Computer Interface Technology, presented at Science of Consciousness 2020, September 14–18, 2020.

[37] See Consciousness Hacking Meet-up Group.

[38] https://www.facebook.com/463101430730696/videos/551332315290864/

[39] See for example https://www.cognixion.com

[40] Science and Christ, p. 51

[41] From Teilhard to Omega, Orbis Books, 2014. I found one scientist, and no technologists among the authors represented.

[42] Ibid, p. 264.

[43] Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man.

[44] Teilhard, p. 262.

[45] Teilhard, p. 279- 282.

[46] Ibid, p. 146.

[47] Conscious Capitalism organization web site — https://www.consciouscapitalism.org

[48] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 279- 282.

[49] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 262.

[50] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/

[51] Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, p. 244.

[52] I explored these dynamics in a recent article on technology treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease: https://donaldpeterdulchinos.medium.com/neuromodulation-for-treating-alzheimers-why-not-now-b9adbff13c5a

[53] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=

[54] Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, p. 310.

[55] Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, p. 172.



Don Dulchinos

Experienced senior tech exec. Consulting as Neurosphere Technologies on cognitive issues, wellness, and development; and as Smart Home and Away on clean energy.