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The Divine Milieu


Author Text to Follow

In a newly-revised translation by Siôn Cowell
With a Foreword by Thomas M. King, SJ

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s spiritual masterpiece, The Divine Milieu, in a newly-revised translation by Siôn Cowell, is addressed to those who have lost faith in conventional religion but who still have a sense of the divine at the heart of the cosmos. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” sings the Psalmist. Teilhard would agree. “We are surrounded,” he says, “by a certain sort of pessimist who tells us continually that our world is foundering in atheism. But should we not say rather that what it is suffering from is unsatisfied theism?” He sees a universe in movement where progress is the spiritualisation of matter and its opposite is the materialisation of spirit. Teilhard opts for progress. The Divine Milieu is both the divine centre and the divine circle, the divine heart and the divine sphere.

The Divine Milieu is an essay on the notion of grace. It is written for those who listen primarily to the voices of the Earth: its purpose is to provide a link to traditional Christianity (as expressed in Baptism, Cross and Eucharist) in order to demonstrate that the fears prevalent in contemporary world society as it abuses its very foundation – Mother Earth – may be better understood by the Gospel path. Teilhard’s primary purpose is to show a way forward which he sees as the “Christian religious ideal”.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-903900-58-1
Hardback Price: £29.95 / $50.00
Release Date: February 2004
Page Extent / Format: 160 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Foreword by Thomas M. King SJ
Translator's Note


The Divinization of Our Activities

1 The christian problem of the sanctification of action
2 An incomplete solution: sanctification by intention alone
3 The definitive solution: completion of the world 'in Christo Iesu'
4 Communion through action
5 Christian perfection of human effort
A. Sanctification of human effort
B. Humanization of christian effort
6 Detachment through action

The Divinization of Our Passivities

1 Extent, depth and forms of human passivities
2 Passivities of growth: the two hands of God
3 Passivities of diminishment
A. Struggle with God against evil
B. Our apparent failure and its transfiguration
C. Communion through diminishment
D. True resignation

General Remarks on Christian Asceticism

1 Attachment and detachment
2 The sense of the Cross
3 The spiritual power of matter

The Divine Milieu

1 Attributes of the divine milieu
2 Nature of the divine milieu: the Universal Christ and the great communion
3 Growth of the divine milieu
A. The appearance of the divine milieu: the zest for being and the diaphany of God
B. Individual progress in the divine milieu: purity, faith and fidelity—the operatives
C. Collective progress in the divine milieu: the communion of saints and charity
Remarks on the individual value of the divine milieu
Intensification of the divine milieu through charity
Outer darkness and lost souls



Teilhard believes, like Bergson, that true religion is dynamic and not static, and that mysticism provides its essential impulse … Readers of theology and devotional writing will identify [in The Divine Milieu] several sustaining harmonies, such as the action–passion distinction fundamental to Thomist cosmology, according to which human life is seen as both active and passive: sometimes we enjoy autonomy, but at other moments we are shaped by forces beyond our control … Teilhard challenges standard definitions of faith as practice or as direct interior illumination of the soul by God. His concern is, rather to teach his readers how to see. Faith demands awareness of the perceptual world as a subject which ‘enters vitally into the most spiritual zones of our souls’. Illumination of the soul is thus a product of the illumination of the world. True vision becomes, in turn, a gift which enables us to pay attention to the world, thereby enhancing its radiance.

Reflections of the spiritualisation of matter move beyond gravity to remind us of physical exuberance and the joy of growth … There is a beautiful limpidity about the translation … A great contribution to Teilhard Literature.
The Scientific and Medical Network Review

The volume includes a scholarly and most helpful Foreword by Jesuit scholar Thomas M. King, who outlines the life of Teilhard de Chardin and helps the reader to understand the context in which The Divine Milieu was written. He writes of a Jesuit Priest whose work did not sit easily with the Roman Catholic hierarchy of the early twentieth century. He portrays a man in some spiritual turmoil, living through events of great magnitude, who is seeking to make sense of all that is around him and of his own reaction to those events. The Divine Milieu was not written for those who were comfortable in their Catholic faith, but for the doubters and waverers – those for whom classical expressions of religious faith had long lost their meaning. I commend this volume.
Rev. Adrian Burdon, Reviews in Religion and Theology

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