The first world war has now become a part of history, but curiosity about the effect this first of the great European butcheries had upon the minds of those who endured it grows rather than lessens. It is no accident that Teilhard de Chardin—now fully recognized as one of the greatest prophetic voices of our times—should have been profoundly marked by his experiences in the trenches and the front line. True to the traditions of his family and class, Teilhard volunteered for service where the fighting and the suffering was most intense. But despite the slaughter around him, the demands on his time and emotions (he was twice decorated for gallantry as a stretcher-bearer) his mind remains active throughout and it was during the period 1916-1918 (the same period that was covered by his letters to his cousin and published in The Making of a Mind: Letters from a Soldier-Priest) that he wrote the pieces collected in this volume. They are introduced and annotated by Henri de Lubac, S. J., and Mgr. Bruno de Solages, one of Teilhard’s closest friends. Their intense interest derives not only from their reflection on Teilhard’s response to the spiritual problems he had already diagnosed in the midst of war, but equally from the extraordinary development they reveal. In these writings is contained the entire scheme of his later thought set down with a firmness and confidence that is totally unexpected in the light of the scanty writings that date from before the war. Here for instance in The Priest is the foreshadowing of the great Mass on the World in Hymn of the Universe. Again Cosmic Life, written by him as his ‘intellectual testament’ in case he should not survive the war, contains the germ of all the later thought that was to flower in The Phenomenon of Man while The Mystical Milieu anticipates Le Milieu Divin which he did not write until a decade later. Both these essays together with Mon Univers and The Struggle against the Multitude express with a passion and a poetry and an intensity the great central themes of Teilhard’s thought: the underlying unity of all life spiritual and material; the splendour of the evolutionary process and the entry of Christ into evolution. They reflect the richness of Teilhard’s response to the totality of life even in the middle of its apparent denial; they reveal also the supremacy of the deep spiritual certainty which preserved him not only throughout the Great War but throughout his life.
Writings in Time of War, Teilhard de Chardin, Collins, 1968
Hardback. Octavo. Red cloth binding. Ex-library. Stamps to endpapers, title and copyright pages, otherwise unmarked. Appears never to have been withdrawn and seems unread. 315 pp.