AN OBSCURE JESUIT priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,set down the philosophical framework for planetary, Net-based consciousness 50 years ago.
He has inspired Al Gore and Mario Cuomo. Cyberbard John Perry Barlow finds him richly prescient. Nobel laureate Christian de Duve claims his vision helps us find meaning in the cosmos. Even Marshall McLuhan cited his "lyrical testimony" when formulating his emerging global-village vision. Whom is this eclectic group celebrating? An obscure Jesuit priest and paleontologist named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose quirky philosophy points, oddly, right into cyberspace.
Teilhard de Chardin finds allies among those searching for grains of spiritual truth in a secular universe. As Mario Cuomo put it, "Teilhard made negativism a sin. He taught us how the whole universe - even pain and imperfection - is sacred." Marshall McLuhan turned to Teilhard as a source of divine insight in The Gutenberg Galaxy, his classic analysis of Western culture's descent into a profane world. Al Gore, in his book Earth in the Balance, argues that Teilhard helps us understand the importance of faith in the future. "Armed with such faith," Gore writes, "we might find it possible to resanctify the earth, identify it as God's creation, and accept our responsibility to protect and defend it."