According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Saturday, April 11, 2020

John Cobb - Whitehead's Process & Reality, Part III - Class Discussions





I would like to thank Jay McDaniel for his many insights which are shared here as he has shown diligence to share with John Cobb's class on Process & Reality. His rich experiences and insights have helped through Whitehead's at times obscure material in relating it helpfully to our present context. Thank you Jay, and to many others in class for their helpful insights. - R.E. Slater


The Many Become One and are Increased by One

Interpreting Whitehead's phrase "the many become one and 
are increased by one" in the context where it appears.

WHITEHEAD VIDEO SERIES
Lesson Nine



Lesson Nine considers selected passages from six paragraphs in a section of Whitehead's Process and Reality called The Category of the Ultimate.  One of the most important ideas presented in these passages is that Creativity is, in Whitehead's words, "the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matters of fact."

His idea is that every actual fact in the universe -- every actual entity -- is a "production of novel togetherness." This means that an entity is not simply "one" but also "many." It is the many becoming one.

The video uses the example of a child's relationship to her parents to illustrate the point.  Her parents are part of who she is, and in her very inclusion of them within her own life, she is more than them. Always she is becoming herself, and the self who becomes at any given moment becomes part of a many which influence her in the future.  - Jay McDaniel


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Whitehead's Relevance to 2020's
Global Coronovirus Pandemic

Introduction by Jay McDaniel

I think of two struggles. Millions of people are struggling with the new situation, the pandemic, and how to respond to it in a deep and constructive way. A small sub-group are simultaneously struggling to understand Whitehead’s Process and Reality through an online course offered by John Cobb through the Cobb Center for Process and Practice and Homebrewed Christianity.

The first struggle is by all means the most important; in many ways the second struggle is but a distraction. Why should anyone care if the world is composed of events, not things, be they morning light or a frightening virus? Why should anyone care if, in addition to an Eternal Companion to the world’s joys and sufferings, namely God, there is also a creative abyss – a creativity – of which the self-creativity of all things, God included, are expressions?

In The Face of the Deep, the theologian Catherine Keller offers a way of seeing why some might care. Building upon Whitehead’s idea that God is the Face of the Deep, but also that there’s more to the Deep than God, I am offered a way of reminding myself that God does not create or even will the sadness, but that God within us as a steadfast love who gives us strength to endure and the courage to respond, each in our all-togetherness. Yes, nothingness is real. And so is love.


God as the Face of the Deep

Amazon Link

First published in 2003, Catherine Keller's Face of the Deep proposes that God is the face of the deep and also that the deep is more than God. 

As I read her work, the deep is akin to Whitehead's idea of creativity and to what Wallace Stevens calls the nothingness from which the earliest single light adds itself to the evening sky. 

If you have Buddhist leanings, you might imagine the nothingness as that creative abyss, sunyata, from which all things create themselves in response to inherited situations. Or to the godhead of which some Christian mystics speak, Meister Eckhart and Jakob Bohme, for example.

​The deep is not the personal God in whom Jesus placed his faith: the Eternal Companion to the world's joys and sufferings. It is not a still small voice within the heart luring toward wisdom, compassion and creativity. It is not the One who seeks to creatively transform and thus redeem all that happens in the world. It is, I suggest, the self-creativity of each and every actuality, God included.

​ A unique feature of Whitehead's work is that, in his view, the nothingness is real in its way, and God is real in God's way. Catherine Keller offers a perfect metaphor for thinking about God. God isn't the whole of the deep, but God is the face of the deep.

In our pandemic age, it may be tempting to think that viruses are created by God. I think they create themselves, as do we, as does God. I find comfort and courage in the idea that God isn't the deep as a whole, but the face of the deep who seeks the well-being of each and all, who is a healing presence, and whose steadfast love endures forever. And I am grateful to Catherine Keller for giving me the language.

- Jay McDaniel, April, 2020



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FROM AN EARLIER POST:



What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 11




Lesson Eleven
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 39
Key Idea: There are two kinds of reality: actuality and potentiality.

In Whitehead's philosophy something is "real" if it can be experienced as an object of one sort or another and thus, as an object, make a difference in experience. Lesson Eleven introduces the idea that some objects of experience are possibilities rather than actualities. They are real but not actual, because they do not feel or prehend their surroundings and do not make decisions. The most abstract of these objects are what Whitehead calls eternal objects. They are pure potentials which may be actualized in some universe or cosmic epoch, even if not our own. These objects are similar to Plato's Forms, and Whitehead was indeed influenced by Plato. The lesson concludes with remarks concerning the creative and performing arts and the natural sciences, suggesting that they are ways of exploring and presenting potentialities.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 12



Lesson Twelve
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 23
Key Idea: Propositions are not simply statements of belief; they are lures for feeling.

Lesson Twelve discusses Whitehead's idea of a proposition -- or lure for feeling -- showing how propositions are means by which novelty enters the world. By way of illustration, this segment plays some of the music of the jazz musician, John Coltrane, and presents propositions in light of the innovative spirit of jazz. Whitehead proposes that, at every moment of our lives, we are improvising responses to given situations, adding our own voice to the very history of the universe. Other creatures are doing this, too. We live in an improvisational universe, in which indeterminacy is as real, and as important, as determinacy. Thus, for Whitehead, the future is always open, and the future is never entirely pre-determined by the past or the present. This is the case even for God, who knows what is possible in the future, but not what is actual until it becomes actual.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 13



Lesson Thirteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 51.
Key Idea: Prehensions are the means by which entities are present in others. 

Lesson Thirteen introduces two of the most important ideas in Whitehead's philosophy: prehensions and subjective forms. . Every actual entity, every moment of experience, consists of acts of experiencing or prehending many realities which "become one" in the act of experiencing them. The realities can be other actual entities or pure potentialities, or combinations of them. Prehensions may be conscious or unconscious; in human life most are unconscious. Consciousness is but the tip of the experiential iceberg. Prehensions are the most fundamental element in actual entities, the means by which the universe is held together and things are present in one another. Lesson Thirteen takes a conversation between a mother and her daughter as a way of illustration prehension and their complementary notion: subjective forms.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 14



Lesson Fourteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 34.
Key Idea: Reality is thoroughly social. Molecules and atoms, planets and stars are societies, too. There are no self-contained facts.

Lesson Fourteen introduces the ideas of nexus and society to readers. Most of the macroscopic objects that we perceive around us are not single actual entities, but rather aggregates of actual entities unified by their prehensions of one another (nexus) and perhaps also by a common characteristic which they inherit from predecessors in the the nexus, thus giving them more specific definition (society). There are many kinds of societies.  A human being is a society too. She is a personally-ordered society who consists of many moments of experience (many actual entities) in succession, each inheriting from the predecessors with special intimacy. There is no single person who underlies the change; there are many subjects in succession. The idea is very Buddhist: "No thinker thinks twice and no experiencer experiences twice." Lesson Fourteen ends by offering the idea that perhaps the universe as a whole is gathered into an ongoing Life, too. This is what Whitehead means by the consequent nature of God.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 15



Lesson Fifteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 81.
Key Idea: The body plays an essential role in human life: the withness of the body.

Lesson Fifteen introduces three ideas that are important to Whitehead in Process and Reality: the withness of the body, experience in the mode of causal efficacy, and experience in the mode of presentational immediacy. Experience in the mode of causal efficacy is visceral experience. It occurs when we feel affected or influenced by bodily states and by realities outside our bodies in direct, energetic ways. It is an important part of bodily experience and serves a perpetual reminder that, in our daily lives, we are with our bodies and our bodies are with us. Whitehead calls it the withness of the body. This does not mean that our minds are precisely identical with our bodies; we can have attitudes toward our bodies which are healthy or unhealthy, and these attitudes occur in our minds. But our bodies are marvelously intricate and complex systems of energy which nourish us, give us a sense of direction, offer us wisdom, and connect us with the world. And ultimately, says Whitehead, the whole world is like a body to us. Even God -- if God exists-- is embodied. The universe is God's body.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 16




Lesson Sixteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 43
Key Idea: Decision is the very meaning of actuality

Lesson Sixteen focuses on Whitehead's idea that the very meaning of actuality lies in the notion of decision. In Whitehead's philosophy a decision is not a "conscious" decision, but rather a subjectivity activity -- conscious or unconscious -- in which some possibilities for responding to a given situation are excluded or cut off, while others are then actualizes. A woman climbing a mountain, movement by moment, is making conscious decisions which constitute her very actuality in the moment at hand. And so, thinks Whitehead, are the energy-events within the very depths of atoms. Understood in this way, decision is one of the primary expressions of the ultimate reality of the universe: creativity. Decisions may be wise or unwise, productive or destructive, violent or graceful -- whatever their nature, they are the very reason why things unfolds as they do. From Whitehead's perspective the universe is not simply an unfolding of abstract ideas. The world is not the outcome of mathematical formulas. It is the outcome of decisions.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 17



Lesson Seventeen
Key Text: Process and Reality, pages 48-51.
Key Idea: Every moment of human experience is a concrescence of the universe.

Lesson Seventeen offers the most systematic summary of Whitehead's idea of experience available in this series of videos. The diagrams were created by a student at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, USA. There is a danger in diagrams, insofar as they can lead people into overly-static and linear ways of looking at the world. Whitehead's philosophy is more holistic and dynamic. This means that, when we think of experience, we need to hold onto diagrams with a relaxed grasp, fully aware that experience is always more than images. Nevertheless, the diagrams may help viewers more fully understand Whitehead's concept of experience. In the narrative the experiencing subject is imagined as a human being, but it is important to remember that, in Whitehead's philosophy, there is subjectivity everywhere: in the infinitely small and the infinitely large. Even in the depths of atoms, and even in the depths of God, there is something akin to what is depicted in the diagrams: prehending, subjective form, and decision. However, in God, as Whitehead understands God, there is no perishing of immediacy. God is the inclusive and everlasting act of concrescence who shares in all finite moments such as those depicted above. (See Lesson Nineteen.)