Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (Society of Jesus), (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man and Piltdown Man. Teilhard conceived the idea of the Omega Point (the maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and developed Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of Noosphere (sphere of human thought). Some of his ideas came into conflict with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. He was reprimanded and his works were denounced by the Holy Office.
Teilhard’s primary book, The Phenomenon of Man, set forth a sweeping account of the unfolding of the cosmos. Teilhard views evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity. From the cell to the thinking animal, a process of psychical concentration leads to greater consciousness. The emergence of Homo sapiens marks the beginning of a new age, as the power acquired by consciousness to turn in upon itself raises humankind to a new sphere. Borrowing Julian Huxley’s expression, Teilhard describes humankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself.
In Teilhard’s conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases. Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity. This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth. Teilhard calls the new membrane the “noosphere” (from the Greek “nous,” meaning mind), a term first coined by Vladimir Vernadsky. The noosphere is the collective consciousness of humanity, the networks of thought and emotion in which all are immersed.
The development of science and technology causes an expansion of the human sphere of influence, allowing a person to be simultaneously present in every corner of the world. Teilhard argues that humanity has thus become cosmopolitan, stretching a single organized membrane over the Earth. Teilhard describes the process by which this happens as a “gigantic psychobiological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the “super-arrangement” to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves today individually and collectively subject.” The rapid expansion of the noosphere requires a new domain of psychical expansion, which “is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to look at it.”
In Teilhard’s view, evolution will culminate in the Omega Point, a sort of supreme consciousness. Layers of consciousness will converge in Omega, fusing and consuming them in itself. The concentration of a conscious universe will reassemble in itself all consciousnesses as well as all that we are conscious of. Teilhard emphasizes that each individual facet of consciousness will remain conscious of itself at the end of the process.
He had abandoned traditional interpretations of creation in the Book of Genesis in favor of a less strict interpretation. This displeased certain officials in the Roman Curia and in his own order who thought that it undermined the doctrine of original sin developed by Saint Augustine. Teilhard’s position was opposed by his Church superiors, and some of his work was denied publication during his lifetime by the Roman Holy Office. The 1950 encyclical Humani generis condemned several of Teilhard’s opinions, while leaving other questions open. However, some of Teilhard’s views became influential in the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. More recently, Pope John Paul II indicated a positive attitude towards some of Teilhard’s ideas. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI praised Teilhard’s idea of the universe as a “living host”.
Teilhard and his work have a continuing presence in the arts and culture. He inspired a number of characters in literary works. References range from occasional quotations—an auto mechanic quotes Teilhard in Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, to inspiring William Peter Blatty to base the character of Father Lankester Merrin in his blockbuster novel The Exorcist on Teilhard. In Dan Simmons’ 1989–97 Hyperion Cantos, Teilhard de Chardin has been canonized a saint in the far future. His work inspires the anthropologist priest character, Paul Duré. When Duré becomes Pope, he takes Teilhard I as his regnal name.
The official trailer for Total Recall (2012) starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho and Bill Nighy. As the nation states Euromerica and New Shanghai vie for supremacy, a factory worker (Farrell) begins to suspect that he’s a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he’s on. Philip K. Dick would NOT be amused.
Nothing really new, but it looks action-packed, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel fighting… I’m there…
Aside from The Dead Zone (1983) and The Fly, Cronenberg has not generally worked within the world of big-budget, mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, although he has had occasional near misses. At one stage he was considered by George Lucas as a possible director for Return of the Jedi but was passed. Cronenberg also worked for nearly a year on a version of Total Recall but experienced “creative differences” with producers Dino De Laurentis and Ronald Shusett. A different version of the film was eventually made by Paul Verhoeven. A fan of Philip K. Dick, author of “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale,” the short story upon which the film was based, Cronenberg related (in the biography/overview of his work, Cronenberg on Cronenberg) that his dissatisfaction with what he envisioned the film to be and what it ended up being pained him so greatly that for a time, he suffered a migraine just thinking about it, akin to a needle piercing his eye.
In the late 1990s, Cronenberg was announced as director of a sequel to another Verhoeven film, Basic Instinct, but this also fell through. His recent work, the thriller A History of Violence (2005), is one of his highest budgeted and most accessible to date. He has said that the decision to direct it was influenced by his having had to defer some of his salary on the low-budgeted Spider, but it is one of his most critically acclaimed films to date, along with Eastern Promises (2007) a film about the struggle of one man to gain power in the Russian Mafia.
Cronenberg has collaborated with composer Howard Shore on all of his films since The Brood (1979), with the exception of The Dead Zone (1983), which was scored by Michael Kamen. Other regular collaborators include actor Robert Silverman, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, film editor Ronald Sanders, his sister, costume designer Denise Cronenberg, and, from 1979 until 1988, cinematographer Mark Irwin. In 2008, Cronenberg directed Howard Shore’s first opera, The Fly.
Since 1988’s Dead Ringers, Cronenberg has worked with cinematographer Peter Suscitzsky on each of his films. Suschitzky was the director of photography for The Empire Strikes Back, and Cronenberg remarked that Suschitzky’s work in that film “was the only one of those movies that actually looked good”, which was a motivating factor to work with him on Dead Ringers.
Cronenberg remains a staunchly Canadian filmmaker, with nearly all of his films (including major studio vehicles The Dead Zone and The Fly) having been filmed in his home province Ontario. Notable exceptions include M. Butterfly and Spider, most of which were shot in China and England, respectively. Rabid and Shivers were shot in and around Montreal. Most of his films have been at least partially financed by Telefilm Canada, and Cronenberg is a vocal supporter of government-backed film projects, saying “Every country needs [a system of government grants] in order to have a national cinema in the face of Hollywood”.
Cronenberg has also appeared as an actor in other directors’ films. Most of his roles are cameo appearances, as in Into The Night, Jason X, To Die For, and Alias, but on occasion he has played major roles, as in Nightbreed or Last Night. He has not played major roles in any of his own films, but he did put in a brief appearance as a gynecologist in The Fly; he can also be glimpsed among the sex-crazed hordes in Shivers; he can be heard as an unseen car-pound attendant in Crash; his hands can be glimpsed in eXistenZ; and he appeared as a stand-in for James Woods in Videodrome for shots in which Woods’ character wore a helmet that covered his head.
In 2008 Cronenberg realized two extra-cinematographic projects: the exhibition Chromosomes at the Rome Film Fest and the opera The Fly at the LaOpera in Los Angeles and Theatre Châtelet in Paris. In July 2010, Cronenberg completed production on A Dangerous Method, an adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, starring Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, and frequent collaborator Viggo Mortensen. The film was produced by independent British producer Jeremy Thomas.
In the October 2011 edition of Rue Morgue, Cronenberg stated that he has written a companion piece to his 1986 remake of The Fly, which he would like to direct if given the chance. He has stated that it is not a traditional sequel, but rather a “parallel story”. His next movie, Cosmopolis, is due later this year, followed by a TV series called Knifeman, based on the novel by Wendy Moore, centers on an eccentric surgeon who engages in far-reaching methods in order to learn more about the human body.