Back to France, 1946 - 1951
With the war's end Teilhard received permission to return to France where he engaged in a variety of activities. He published numerous articles in the Jesuit journal, Etudes. He reworked The Phenomenon of Man and sent a copy to Rome requesting permission for publication. He was also asked to stand as a candidate for the prehistory chair at the Sorbonne's College de France soon to be vacated by his long-time friend, the Abbe Henri Breuil.
During this period he renewed contacts in the intellectual world and became friendly with Sir Julian Huxley (brother of Aldous Huxley), English zoologist and physiologist, first Director of Unesco (1947-1948). Teilhard was entirely wrapped-up in theoretical research, investigating anthropogenesis, the new science of the genetic structure of Humanity.
By May of 1947 Teilhard had exhausted himself in the attempt to restate his position and to deal with the expectations of his sympathetic readers. His exhaustion caused a heart attack on June 1st, 1947.
For Teilhard this illness meant a postponement in joining a University of California expedition to Africa sponsored by the Viking Fund of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York. Teilhard had looked forward to the trip as an interlude before the confrontation with Rome over The Phenomenon of Man and the teaching position at the Sorbonne.
On June 25, 1947 Teilhard was honored by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for "Outstanding services to the intellectual and scientific influence of France" and was promoted to the rank of Officer in the Legion of Honor.
"A week ago I had a letter from my General (Rome) forbidding me (in a perfectly courteous way) from publishing anything that involved philosophy or theology. And that neatly cuts out a large part of the activity still left open to me (...) All this isn't making life any brighter. Still, it is forcing me back upon 'the one thing that is necessary'. 'Everything that happens is worthy of worship'."
From Teilhard's letter to the Abbe Breuil, September 1947.
"The greater our power of manipulating inert and living matter, the greater proportionately must be our anxiety not to falsify or outrage any part of the reflective conscience that surrounds
us." From a Teilhard essay in the Future of Man. 1947
In October 1948, Teilhard traveled to the United States. At this time he was invited to give a series of lectures at Columbia University. Permission was refused by the local Jesuit Superior. Suddenly, in July 1948, Teilhard received an invitation to come to Rome to discuss the controversies surrounding his thought. Gradually Teilhard realized that the future of his work depended on this encounter.
Rome in 1948 was a city just beginning its recovery from the war's devastation. The Vatican Curia was also beginning its reorganization, for Pius XII who had assumed the Pontificate in March 1939 had been in relative isolation during the war years. In the late 1940s he developed his plans for the holy year of 1950. As a former Vatican diplomat, Pius XII continued the Curia's conservative stance with a more sophisticated and more intellectual effort.
"I'm leaving this very evening for Rome, where I expect to stay until the beginning of November. I have been invited there in a very friendly spirit. We have to try to come to some agreement about the publication on The Phenomenon of Man. If, as I hope, it goes well, there's a good chance that I may be given permission to stand for the College de France (...) Whatever happens, however, I shall have had a chance to 'unburden my soul' by telling the supreme authority (in a friendly but perfectly open way) what seems to me to be the weakness and also the strength of Christianity today. What a neo-humanism that looks to the future must have is nothing less than a more profound Christianity, re-thought to fit the new dimensions of the world."
(To George Barbour, October 2, 1948)
When Teilhard came to Rome he stayed at the Jesuit residence in Vatican City. After several meetings with the Jesuit general, Fr. Janssens, Teilhard realized that he would never be allowed to publish his works; furthermore, that he would not be granted permission to accept the position at the College de France. Those who spoke with Teilhard when he returned to Paris could sense the frustration that enveloped him as he groped to understand the forces against which he was so powerless.
In 1950, Teilhard was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences, and rested for a while at his brother Joseph’s home, Château des Moulins, Neuville, where he received visits from several academics, philosophers and scientists.