New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959. Early printing. Octavo, original blue cloth, uncut, original dust jacket. Clean cloth boards, unclipped and unfaded dust jacket with closed tears to top edge and upper flap of front panel, very faint stain to center of back panel, very slight speckling to spine of bright. A near-fine copy. Item #570
"ALONE, UNCONDITIONALLY ALONE, IN THE WORLD TODAY, CHRISTIANITY SHOWS ITSELF ABLE TO RECONCILE, IN A SINGLE LIVING ACT, THE ALL AND THE PERSON" Scarce early printing of the first English translation of The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin's equally influential and controversial opus. Forbidden by the Church hierarchy from publishing or teaching during his lifetime (due to his suspect views on evolution) the French Jesuit spent years in exile in China. In 1948, a very small number of copies were printed privately in Rome while Teilhard sought ecclesiastical approval to publish. The approval was never granted; The Phenomenon of Man remained unpublished until after Teilhard's death in New York on Easter Sunday 1955. The work consists of four main sections preceded by a brief Preface (dated Paris: March 1947) and a Foreword: Book One, Before Life Came, Book Two: Life, Book Three: Thought, Book Four: Survival. The text concludes with an Epilogue: The Christian Phenomenon (dated Peking, June 1938-June 1940) followed by a Postscript: The Essence of the Phenomenon of Man. Appendix. Some Remarks on the Place and Part of Evil in a World in Evolution. The text includes four diagrams.
The evolutionary biologist, Sir Julian Huxley provided a lengthy Introduction (dated London, December 1958) but even in death controversy followed Teilhard as contemporary scientific reviewers were often hostile and the Vatican continued to view his work with suspicion. Translated by Bernard Wall, with his brief Translator's Note discussing Teilhard's many neologisms and providing a glimpse ("the author's style is all his own") of the herculean task of preparing the text for an English-speaking audience. Chief among the neologisms was Teilhard's visionary concept of the "noosphere"—an electromagnetic "thinking layer" of the biosphere uniting human consciousness on a global scale.
The ecclesiastical disapproval continued for years but, with the triumph of the digital age, many have begun to view Teilhard's vision of the noosphere as prophetic, leading to a new appreciation of Teilhard in the Church. In recent years Teilhard has been quoted approvingly by both Pope Francis (in Laudato Si) and Pope Benedict XVI. In 2009, speaking of the Epistle to the Romans in which "St. Paul writes that the world itself will one day become a form of living worship," Benedict referenced the Phenomenon of Man. "It's the great vision that later Teilhard de Chardin also had: At the end we will have a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host." First published in the Fall of 1959: early printing, with Harper's code H-K (August 1960). Omega dust jacket designed by Guy Fleming with Phillippe Halsmann's photograph of Teilhard on the back panel.