He studied at the Jesuit College at Mongre. From 1901 to 1905 he studied philosophy and continued his training as a priest at the Jesuit house on the Isle of Jersey.
In 1908 Teilhard returned to England where he studied theology at Hastings. He then went to Paris and studied at the Museum of Paris under Marcellin Boule, one of the foremost paleontologists of the day.
In 1922 Teilhard received a doctorate in paleontology from the Sorbonne.
He spent the interval from 1905 to 1908 at Cairo, Egypt, where he taught physics and chemistry and developed an interest in the mammals of the Eocene era. He was ordained a priest in 1911.
During World War I he served in the French army as a stretcher bearer. From 1922 to 1926 he served as assistant professor of geology at the Catholic Institute of Paris, but his interpretation of original sin as applied to the evolutionary origin of man seemed unorthodox to his superiors, who asked him to leave the institute and take a research post in Tientsin, China, with Emile Licent, a Jesuit pioneer in paleontology.
The rest of Teilhard's life was spent in exile, first in China and then in the United States. In 1929, while engaged in stratigraphic work at the Chouk'outien excavations near Peking, Teilhard participated in the discovery of Peking man (Homo erectus) and gained wide recognition for his account of the discovery. He gained further fame in 1931 when he and Henri Breuil established that Peking man had used both tools and fire. During World War II Teilhard continued to work in Japanese-occupied Peking, where his movements were highly restricted. In 1946 Teilhard returned to Paris. He visited Rome and unsuccessfully sought the permission of his superiors to publish his philosophic theories and religious writings. Copies of his essays and lectures were privately circulated, however, and exerted wide influence. In 1952 he took a post at the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in New York City.
Teilhard wrote only two full-length books: Le Phenomene humain (1955; The Phenomenon of Man, 1959), which was addressed to the scientifically minded, and Le Milieu divin (1957; The Divine Milieu, 1960), which was written for the more religiously inclined reader. Such other works as L'Apparition de l'homme (1956; The Appearance of Man, 1966), La Vision du passe (1957; The Vision of the Past, 1967), and Science et Christ (1965; Science and Christ, 1969) are collections of Teilhard's essays and lectures. Collections of his correspondence and reminiscences were published in English under the title Letters from a Traveller (1962).
He had a strong personal piety and his vision of the Church as the community of those who are consciously inspired by Christ's elevating and community-building influence. The Church is hence the "spearhead of evolving humanity. " Teilhard felt, however, that Church doctrine tends to be expressed in terms of a too static and dualistic world-view, making too little connection between nature, history, human salvation, and God's supernatural grace. Since man is called to be a co-worker in the completion of God's creation, his faith should move him, not to escape from matter and history, but rather to seek union with God through devoting himself, each in his special vocation, to the sacrificial task of furthering the creative process and building community among men.
In Teilhard's view evolution is a cosmic, purposeful process in which the matter-energy that constitutes the universe has progressively grown in the direction of increasing complexity and spirituality. He held that the elements of primal chaos were initially in infinite multiplicity. They passed over successive thresholds of syntheses to produce such increasingly complex entities as atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms. Finally, in the human body, the nervous system reached a degree of complex unity at which mind emerged as self-conscious, purposeful, and morally responsible. Thus, life, mind, spirit, and freedom emerged from the material matrix and man began to take conscious control. Teilhard taught that direction and progress were evident in the evolution of matter-energy to form the earth, or geosphere, which became, with the evolution of living beings, a biosphere. This biosphere, in turn, became, with the evolution of intellectual beings, a noosphere (from the Greek nous, meaning mind). Teilhard was convinced that evolution did not culminate in the human being as an individual, but rather proceeds as humans unite in societies with growing differentiation of individual functions and correspondingly greater bonds of interdependence--a trend greatly accelerated by modern technology, urbanization, telecommunications, and cybernation. The global network of corporate knowledge, research, and a sense of human interdependence is what Teilhard meant by the term "noosphere. " The whole evolutionary process Teilhard graphically described as the "cone of space-time, " at whose base lay multiplicity and chaos and whose apex is the point of ultimate convergence in complex unity that he called "Omega. "For Teilhard the Omega point toward which evolution is ever tending is God, who by His attractive force gives direction to and provides a goal for progressive evolutionary syntheses, toward Himself. Teilhard saw the process of evolution as a natural preparation for a supernaturalization that is inaugurated by Christ. When through evolution matter-energy has exhausted all its potential for further spiritual development, the convergence of the cosmic natural order and the supernatural order will be consummated through the Parousia, a Second Coming of Christ, the "unique and supreme event in which the Historic will be fused with the Transcendent. "God's creative Word (Logos), immanent in nature from the beginning, is the synthesizing power that "creates by uniting, " drawing the elements into ever more improbable combinations against the tide of entropy. By His incarnation in the historical Jesus, the Word of God revealed His evolutionary power in its highest form as personal love. By his self-sacrificial death, he demonstrated God's love for men, calling them to turn from sin (egocentric resistance to God's unifying love) in order to center themselves on Christ, the true "center of centers. " By his resurrection, he moved ahead as the cosmic Christ to be the ultimate pole of attraction (Omega), drawing men by their own free choice into organic union with each other around himself. Believers are thus freed from lower, biological determinisms. Teilhard's theology thus underlies and completes his scientifically described cosmogony.
"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire."
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
"Love is the most powerful and still most unknown energy in the world."
He entered the Society of Jesus in 1899.
Quotes from others about the person
“Brian Swimme wrote "Teilhard was one of the first scientists to realize that the human and the universe are inseparable. The only universe we know about is a universe that brought forth the human."
In 1972, the Uruguayan priest Juan Luis Segundo, in his five-volume series A Theology for Artisans of a New Humanity, wrote that Teilhard "noticed the profound analogies existing between the conceptual elements used by the natural sciences — all of them being based on the hypothesis of a general evolution of the universe."”