Omega Institute sign

Why call it Omega? Elizabeth Lesser shares the significance and meaning behind the name based on the works of the Teilhard de Chardin.

People often ask us about the significance of Omega’s name. Our name was chosen from the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, a visionary Jesuit priest, scientist, and philosopher. Born in France in 1881, he served as a stretcher-bearer for four years on the frontlines of World War I, studied and taught paleontology and biology, and received his doctorate from the Sorbonne. His interest in evolutionary science troubled his Jesuit superiors who banished him to China for 22 years. During those years he became an expert on Asian paleontology and was among the discoverers of the Peking man. Forbidden by the church to publish, his posthumously published books marry science and religion, technology and ecology, and psychology and spirituality. Teilhard’s interest in the unity of all thought, faiths, and cultures inspired us in the early days of conceiving Omega Institute.

Teilhard believed that humans and the Earth itself are moving toward a state of planetary unity ruled by the power of love—what he called “the Omega point.” “The day will come, he wrote, “when after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

Late in life, Teilhard de Chardin was sent by his superiors to live in New York. He died suddenly, on Easter day in 1955, and was buried on the grounds of a forgotten Jesuit monastery on the banks of the Hudson River, far from his native Paris. When we found the property that is now Omega’s Rhinebeck campus, we had no idea that we would discover, just miles down the road, the gravesite of the man from whose writings we had taken our name. It is one of those wonderful synchronicities that Teilhard de Chardin would have found meaningful.