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The Journal of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Preface by Nicole Schmitz-Moormann

Part I: Introduction  |  Part II: Themes and Abbreviations  |  Part III: Editor's Notes

It has been almost fifty years since Father Pierre Teilhard's Phénomène Humaina was published as the first volume of his Oeuvre. Twelve volumes of his philosophical and theological writings followed between 1955 and 1976. His scientific writings, collected and edited in 11 volumes in 1971b, revealed the impact of his vast research program during his lifetime and on science today. Numerous collections of letters to his family, relatives, friends, colleagues, etc., have also been published.

His essays were written with a mind to possible publication, and his letters were written for the benefit of a precise person. In each case Father Teilhard adapted his style and language to the specific purpose. Although he never distorted or hid his ideas, Teilhard knew the public or the reader that he was addressing, and he wanted them to follow his exposition. Therefore he was cautious not to display all details of his thoughts, so that he might not put a barrier of partial incomprehension between them.

Hand-written on French school copybooks, known as cahiers, the Journal that Father Teilhard began in August 1919 "to while away the boredom of quartering and to oblige [him] to think, to observe and to clarify" shows a gap between July 1925 and July 1944, and it ends three days before his death in April 1955. In March 1946, when he had the first opportunity to leave Beijing, he only could bring back with him to France notebook XIII, which was full (July 18, 1944 – October 10, 1945), and notebook XIV, started on October 27, 1945. Today original notebooks I – IX are kept with members of his family, the legal heirs. The notebooks left behind in China have yet to be located. Notebooks XIII – XXI are kept with the Society of Jesus in France.

Dates covered by the Notebooks:

I1: August 26, 1915 – September 22, 1916. 75 pages.

II2: October 5, 1916 – December 2, 1916. 22 pages.

III3: December 2, 1916 – November 10, 1917. 47 pages.

IV: December 6, 1917 – May 13, 1918. 66 pages.

V: May 14, 1918 – January 4, 1919. 61 pagesc.

VI: January 5, 1919 – May 21, 1919. 64 pages.

VII: May 20, 1919 – February 25, 1920. 72 pages.

VIII: February 28, 1920 – February 26, 1922. 113 pagesd.

IX: March 12, 1922 – July 17, 1925. 99 pages.


XIII4: July 18, 1944 – October 27, 1945. 163 pages.

XIV: October 27, 1945 – April 6, 1945. 153 pages.

XV: April 6, 1947 – December 31, 1948. 188 pages.

XVI: September 30, 1948 – November 5, 1948. January 1, 1949 – August 6, 1949. 78 pages

XVII: August 10, 1949 – October 31, 1950. 183 pages.

XVIII: November 1, 1950 – June 19, 1952. 168 pages.

XIX: June 23, 1952 –June 18, 1953. 77 pages.

XX: Retraite 1952. June 24, 1953 – October 8, 1954. 76 pages.

XXI: October 10, 1954 – April 7, 1955. 39 pages.

No intimate or emotional outpourings will be found in the Journal. Very rarely Father Teilhard mentions a person, an event or a crisis, and then only in a few words, and without clearly naming them.

At the beginning of this "kind of diary," titled "Notes and sketches,"e Teilhard reports first about war-related events, like a soldier who, out of intellectual and spiritual curiosity, looks at what is happening around him. He addresses basic issues, like evil and social questions only briefly. But very soon his focus changes and war events become secondary, making place for an outpouring of new ideas which flash in short sentences. The boundaries of this world-vision, based on the theological and philosophical scholastic education that he received at Hastings and Ore Place, do not resist, in the end, the experience of life and death on the front lines. 

For Father Teilhard his Journal was the foremost tool for intellectual reflections. He wrote down a multitude of ideas and reflections which he developed and deepened over a period of days, or weeks, or sometimes even months and years (see indices). Some ideas, partly abandoned, never appeared explicitly in any of his published essays. Certain points, only briefly addressed, were not picked up again, although they showed a surprising lucidity about the relevance, the importance, or the impact of the subject. Other ideas would be revised later and corrected. Others, elaborated and polished at a certain time or in a certain context, would be integrated later into his vision; and then, having become very clear to him, they would appear in his essays as definitive. This last occurrence may be explained in two ways:

1) Apart from the earlier years, when he still expected the approval to publish, Teilhard soon became aware of difficulties that he would meet. Having a premonition that he would never be able to introduce all his ideas, he limited himself to the definition of main ideas and to the formulation of conceptions that might be accepted by revisors within his religious order.

2) Since he spent most part of his life outside of France, he had relatively few opportunities, besides his correspondence, conferences, and symposia to share and discuss his ideas and reflections with other scholars and colleagues.

Nevertheless, to make his ideas known he relied on "clandestins," that is on essays that were distributed among friends and other interested people. He also addressed listeners in closed circles and salons.

a Le Phénomène Humain. Editions du Seuil, Paris. 1955.
The Human Phenomenon. Edited and translated by Sarah Apleton Weber.

b L'Oeuvre Scientifique. Ed. and comp. Nicole and Karl Schmitz-Moormann. Preface by Jean Piveteau. 11 vol. Walter Verlag, Olten.

c Journal (Cahiers I – V) Edited by Nicole and Karl Schmitz-Moormann. Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris. 1975.

d Tagebücher ( Cahiers I – VIII ) edited and translated by Karl and Nicole Schmitz-Moormann. Walter Verlag. Olten 1971.

e Journal I.

1 Number given by the editors.

2 Number given by the editors.

3 Number given by Father Teilhard.

4 Number given by Father Teilhard.

Part I: Introduction  |  Part II: Themes and Abbreviations  |  Part III: Editor's Notes

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