Reviewed by Ian Mowll.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) was born in the Auvergne region in France and became a Jesuit Priest. He was deeply committed to his spiritual journey and, throughout his life, he did not waver from his vision of a loving divine presence embedded in the world. However, his scientific work, particularly in palaeontology where he became an advocate for evolution, put him at odds with the dogma of the Catholic Church. This caused deep friction and much anguish for Teilhard, something that was never fully resolved during his life. Since then, the Catholic Church has changed its mind and now embraces Teilhard’s ideas.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Teilhard did not shy away from his obligations and put his compassion into practice by becoming a stretcher bearer – sometimes putting his life at risk. His bravery and service won him the French ‘Legion of Honour’, the highest French order of merit, both military and civil.

After the war, his palaeontology work took him to China where he was involved in the discovery of Peking Man; this was an important step in proving the evolution of humans from apes. It was interesting to see the comment in the film of how this kind of scientific work bought together scientists and people of all backgrounds and beliefs – including atheists. Evolution and Nature can be such important ways of bringing all peoples on Earth together as we realise we have a shared ancestry and shared home – the Earth.

The central theme of the documentary is Teilhard’s idea of bringing together spirit and matter. For centuries, the Catholic Church taught that these were separate and Teilhard had a profound impact on people showing that spirit and matter are one. We often need stories of real people to bring to life ideas, just as the Catholic Church does with saints, and this documentary brings Teilhard’s ideas alive.

Teilhard’s ideas continue to be essential today. Science needs to have values embedded into it to make it both meaningful and beneficial for the world. This can help to steer us away from such things as animal testing, weapons and pollution. Instead, with values driven science, we can move towards sustainability, welfare and peace.

The closing clip in the documentary is a quote from Teilhard, this is a poignant ending to a wonderful film:

It remains for us now, if we wish not to perish, to set aside the ancient prejudices and build the earth.

At the time of writing, this documentary could be viewed here:

and it is also available on DVD.