de Chardin

June 20, 2014

focus: Potentialism Theory by David Birnbaum

de Chardin


de Chardin's Omega Point v. Birnbaum's E+

Posted by Admin On June 20th, 2014 09:42 PM |Philosophy

On Tuesday April 17, 2014,  the second afternoon of the Bard College (Upstate, NY) 4-day international academic conference on David Birnbaum’s  Summa Metaphysica series (see, as a group all the conference Panelists visited the nearby gravesite by the Hudson River of  iconic religious philosopher Teilhard de Chardin. At the gravesite, Birnbaum himself read a poem in honor of the iconic thinker.

The French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) published, in 1950 (the year Birnbaum was born) his cosmological theory which he called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. de Chardin postulates that the universe can only move towards greater Complexity and consciousness if it is being guided to do so by a Supreme being which pulls the universe onward towards Complexity. He states that this Omega Point, which he loosely identifies as Christ/God, is necessary to exist as the supreme state of Complexity, already existing and doing so outside the bounds of the universe, and He is the cause of the universe's moving towards greater Complexity.

Independent metaphysicist, David Birnbaum (see, released a theory which sounds similar on the surface. Potentialism was crafted in his three part treatise – Summa Metaphysica I: Religious Man (Ktav, 1988), Summa Metaphysica II: Spiritual Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2005), and Summa Metaphysica III:  Secular Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2014). In it, Birnbaum describes a universal formula Q4P → E+. He states that the universe is inherently designed to move forward towards greater and greater Complexity/Sophistication, towards what he calls Extraordinariation – an end-goal state of infinite Complexity/Sophistication. You'd think, at cursory glance, these two theories are just minor variations on a central theme. You would be terribly incorrect. Let us analyze de Chardin's Omega Point in comparison to Birnbaum's Extraordinariation (see

Basic tenets of the Omega Point:

Omega: It must already exist, this infinitely Complex state, as it draws the universe like a cart behind it towards infinite Complexity.

Potentialism: From a Potentialist perspective – if something is infinitely Complex.... it's done. Game over. You win. There is no point to a universe where the Super-Complex already exists. The infinitely Complex is a destination, not a starting point; it would make Complexity redundant and meaningless.

Omega: The Omega Point must be conscious. It cannot be an abstract concept. According to de Chardin, consciousness is a higher form of Complexity than physical Complexity and humans, as the first and only to achieve higher consciousness, represent the ultimate form of consciousness outside of God. Thus, it follows to de Chardin that God would be a higher form of Complexity in man's image. Or, as de Chardin puts it a bit more humbly, man is a much less Complex form in God's image. But either way you look at it, de Chardin is basically saying God has to be like us to be better than us.

Potentialism: Potentialists would look at de Chardin’s theory as man's bid for universal supremacy and “specialness”. However, Potentialists have a much more holistic view of the universe. Thought and matter are not comparable, though they can affect one another. Potentialists usually shy away from ranking them in order of importance when they exist in different realms. Inside their own realm, it is obvious there are higher orders. Molecules are higher order compared to atoms and emotion is higher ranking than instinct. But comparing cognition to nuclear fusion is a bit like comparing the number 5 to the color blue – it's hard to get a meaningful conclusion from the exercise. Likewise, Potentialists approach the subject of God (1) more inclusively to all sciences and (2) with more humility. Potentialists do not pretend to know the nature of the drive towards Complexity/Sophistication, what they refer to as the Quest for Infinite Potential. They can see its working on a day to day basis, but its nature is not self-evident. It could as easily be an abstract force as a conscious creator. More to the point though, Potentialists, while acknowledging there could be a conscious hand driving the universe, do not take to conjecturing the nature of such a necessarily unknowable force.

Omega: The Omega Point must exist at the creation of the universe. It cannot be a result of the universe. To de Chardin, the Omega Point is necessary to pre-exist to pull the universe towards Complexity. As such, he says his Super-Complex being must exist outside the universe, attracting it towards him through Complexity.

Potentialism: To Potentialists, the universe is driven by the Quest for Potential towards Complexity/Sophistication. Complexity/Sophistication is a result, not a cause in the everyday mechanics of the universe. Unlike de Chardin, a divinity in the Potentialist universe is allowed to reside there. de Chardin creates some hypothetical dimension where his Omega Point must be  isolated-to while the universe, for some reason, is eternally playing catch up to it. Potentialists place the driving universal force, organically, front and center – permeating the universe itself (see

Omega: The Omega Point must be free from the limitations of time and space, completely and autonomous - free from the confines of the physical universe. Again, to de Chardin, this requires his Omega Point to exist outside the universe.

Potentialism: A few points here. One, de Chardin speaks repeatedly about this “place” outside the universe. Potentialism is not religion, it is science (allowing space for religion). Potentialists shy from using the word “universe” cavalierly. If they say universe, they mean universe. Everything. No exceptions to try and make a theory work. The concept of an omnipotent being with a self-imposed ban from the universe is an oxymoron to Potentialists. Any higher being must be able to exist within the framework of the universe. Indeed, it is a requirement. Something cannot be omnipresent and absent at the same time. Further, to quote one Potentialist: “God doesn't need hacks.” Linear time is something humans are slaves to. There is no reason God cannot exist at all times at once. Further, by definition, one would think it is necessary to look at something supremely Omnipresent and Omniscient as existing throughout all time-space. As to the hack comment, anything Omniscient would never need to break the laws of time and space. If one knows the outcome of all events and makes all laws themselves, then the universe should be exactly what is needed to be to accommodate any wish they have.

Omega: The Omega Point is irreversible – it must happen and cannot be undone.

Potentialism: This may be the only point Potentialism and the Omega Point agree upon – the unstoppable force of increasing Complexity/Sophistication.

As you can see, Potentialism and de Chardin share very little in common short of their observation: that the universe is unstoppably increasing in Complexity/Sophistication. But de Chardin sees this as a pulling effect from some Super-Complex, human-like divinity existing in another dimension pulling the universe along to, in effect, catch up with his own Complexity.

While Potentialists do not all agree with a conscious divinity, they all do agree that there is certainly a force at work. But, Potentialists stick to what can be witnessed and proven. They identify a teleological type force which necessitates the universe's continued increase in Complexity/Sophistication. It is at least semi-cognitive on some level, but not necessarily on an organic level like humans.  Ironically, this leaves Potentialism at home with the agnostic, the spiritualist and the religious.

For the agnostic, Potentialiosm just identifies a force, which can most certainly be seen as simply another law of the natural world. For the religious, it identifies a necessary force to creation and whether you ascribe it intelligence – well, that's just as a matter of faith as it should be to the truly religious.

To the religious Potentialist, Potentialism describes a universe at home with the divine, where the divine permeates every aspect of the cosmos from the tones of a symphony to an electron's dance around its nucleus. They do not banish the divine to a lonely existence outside the universe of His own creation. To Potentialists, God is not just the end-goal Super-Complex, it is also the divine spark of creation – the Quest for the Infinitely Complex. A Potentialist would be the first to point out that God proclaiming himself the Omega was only half the story. Revelations says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last”. The beginning is the Quest towards the Infinitely Complex. The end is Extraordinariation – the expression of infinite Complexity, or as Potentialists usually put it more succinctly: Q4P → E+.

Notwithstanding all the clear differences between de Chardin’s Omega Point and Birnbaum’s E+, one cannot underestimate the extraordinary ‘common ground’ of the two.  Both propose a teleological (direction-oriented) universe. Both clearly allow ‘space’ for Religion, to put it mildly. Both confidently unify Science, Philosophy and Spirituality. Both iconoclasts open extraordinary realms and windows into the cosmic order. While springing from different religious upbringings, Jesuit and Orthodox Jewish respectively, both are kindred-spirit apex player intellectual revolutionaries (see

focus: David Birnbaum's Potentialism Theory


Cosmology, Metaphysics & Philosophy: See sample testimonial on Summa Metaphysica, David Birnbaum's philosophy treatise:


“…an intellectually engaging work. Birnbaum’s relentless inquiry and probing approach to the issue of theodicy offer the reader an adventure of ideas… I recommend the book highly.”

- Rabbi William E. Kaufman, Temple Beth El, Fall River, MA, Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, Author, Contemporary Jewish Philosophies

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