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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Teilhard de Chardin, Paolo Soleri and Bill Fay

I was interested to read the following in the Guardian's obituary for Paolo Soleri:

'Strongly influenced by the Jesuit palaeontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Soleri spoke in a hypnotic language of his own making, dotted with strange cosmic terms such as the "omega seed" and "miniaturisation-complexity-duration". He expounded his vision in a book, The City in the Image of Man (1969), a spellbinding work filled with intricate drawings of fantasy cities – from floating communes to canyon-like structures and teetering towers built on top of dams. It was a thrilling futuristic prophecy for droves of 1970s students, whom the guru Soleri entertained on a packed lecture circuit, but one that quickly became anachronistic in the consumerist 1980s.

With environmental Armageddon back on the agenda once again now, might there be a viable future for Arcosanti and Soleri's principles of arcology after all? "Materialism is, by definition, the antithesis of green," he told the Guardian. "We have this unstoppable, energetic, self-righteous drive that's innate in us, but which has been reoriented by limitless consumption. Per se, it doesn't have anything evil about it. It's a hindrance. But multiply that hindrance by billions, and you've got catastrophe."'

Bill Fay was also profoundly influenced by Teilhard de Chardin:

"Shortly after his debut was released, Fay stumbled across an old biblical commentary and quickly developed a fascination with the books of Daniel and Revelation. With the Vietnam War still escalating and the Kent State massacres in the headlines, the dark, apocalyptic tone of the ancient prophetic literature seemed disturbingly relevant. About this same time, Fay also began reading the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a mid-twentieth century Jesuit, scientist, and philosopher, who believed that all of reality, both human and non-human, is rapidly evolving toward an eternal state of unity and peace. The earth’s present travails (war, poverty, injustice), however overwhelming they may seem, are really the birth pangs of the coming paradise—evidence of both the deficiencies of our current existence and the imminence of the world to come.

Armed with these new intellectual resources, Fay fashioned a second recording that was darker and more desperate but ultimately more hopeful than the first. Time of the Last Persecution is dominated by Fay’s vision of the coming apocalypse, vividly described in songs like “’Til the Christ Come Back,” “Plan D,” and the bleak, bombastic title cut. Fay’s eschatology on the recording is a far cry from the Us-vs.-Them cynicism of religious orthodoxy, in which the chosen people are eternally rewarded while the rest of us are cast into a bottomless lake of fire. For Fay, as for Teilhard before him, deliverance is deliverance for all (hippie and soldier, young and old, human and non-human) from the structures and institutions that oppress and alienate us. And the coming of the messiah signifies that all of reality—however senseless it may now seem—ultimately has value and significance. “The album was a commitment,” Fay recently explained, “albeit a reluctant one at first, to the belief that there will be, and has to be at some point, some spiritual intervention in the world.”' 


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