Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Everything Flows - Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology

Amazon Link

Everything Flows - Towards a Processual
Philosophy of Biology

No longer think in terms of things, objects, statism. Nope. Everything and everyone are in fluxx, flow, and states of dynamism. Not Plato. Nor Aristotle. But Whitehead, Whitehead, Whitehead.

The world of the large is made up of the world of the small constantly and forever in motion with one another. Thus Whitehead's descriptive term speaking to the metaphysical cosmology of the "Philosophy of Organism" where everything is connected to everything and all are in continual momentum of flow and change with the other.

R.E. Slater
June 8, 2021

In biological terms, we may now think of biology through Whitehead regarding the flow of biology from the world of the small to the world of the large. From neurons and quantum strings to fleshly bodies and biotic societies. Everything and everyone in fluxx and flow together with the other for good or for ill, moving steadily forward in space and time towards healing or harm.

R.E. Slater
June 8, 2021

This collection of essays explores the metaphysical thesis that the living world is not made up of substantial particles or things, as has often been assumed, but is rather constituted by processes. The biological domain is organised as an interdependent hierarchy of processes, which are stabilised and actively maintained at different timescales. Even entities that intuitively appear to be paradigms of things, such as organisms, are actually better understood as processes. Unlike previous attempts to articulate processual views of biology, which have tended to use Alfred North Whitehead’s panpsychist metaphysics as a foundation, this book takes a [Whiteheadian] naturalistic approach to metaphysics. It submits that the main motivations for replacing an ontology of substances with one of processes are to be found in the empirical findings of science.

Biology provides compelling reasons for thinking that the living realm is fundamentally dynamic, and that the existence of things is always conditional on the existence of processes. The phenomenon of life cries out for theories that prioritise processes over things, and it suggests that the central explanandum of biology is not change but rather stability, or more precisely, stability attained through constant change. This edited volume brings together philosophers of science and metaphysicians interested in exploring the consequences of a processual philosophy of biology. The contributors draw on an extremely wide range of biological case studies, and employ a process perspective to cast new light on a number of traditional philosophical problems, such as identity, persistence, and individuality.

ResearchGate - Available ebook/PDF - 

PDF File - 


彼女と彼女の猫 -Everything Flows- PV
Feb 27, 2016

Discussions in Whitehead and Process - Jay McDaniel, Richard Tarnas & Matt Segall

A Few Thoughts on Astrology
(where I wish to clarify the beauty of a process cosmos)

R.E. Slater

The subject of astrology comes up now-and-again with process non-Christians - and sometimes with Christians themselves. As a Christian, I do not look to the stars for my guidance and counsel. I would like to say simplistically, if not naively, that it comes from God and His Spirit through God's counsel with my heart and mind and soul through Scriptures, the people I meet, and how-and-what I discern in my daily readings and prayer life, etc.

Now perhaps in this regard when "listening" to the external world of God's creation through the physical, humanitarian, anthropological, and social sciences; or in the studies of earth history, its ecology and environmental responses; or in the many religions of the world such as found inherent in the Native American spiritualisms I observe every so often; or in the Eastern Oriental, Islamic, and Jewish religions around the world; or even more broadly, in those astronomical sciences of astrophysics, quantum universes, and cosmological studies, etc; or even more broadly still, the resultant "energies" intermixing and radiating from the cosmic universe, which we might include as some form of "astral energies" pervading the "cosmic energy" of the universe which so many auras (astrologers, not astronomers) speak of.... Where we might think as pervasively as possible as to what it may mean to "listen" to the external world of God, without getting tripped up over our own inner feelings, subjectivities, superstitions, local folklores, cultural mysticisms, and so on.

I mention all these considerations to say that for myself, as I suspect for so many others, when we come to the "cosmic mysticisms" of the ancient Semitic, African, Central & South American, astrology cultures there is good reason to step back and take a deep, healthy breath of skepticism in regards to these traditions. In many ways the sciences and enlightenment eras have shown good reason to disbelieve these religious "attitudes" as aural guides to our lives. Many religionists of differing faiths would also say the same.

But due to my own personal subjectivity on the matter, I need to remind myself once again that as a process theologian, God's "energy" does always reverberate throughout the cosmic structure of creation in the sense that it endlessly seeks to transform all spaces towards life, creativity, and wellbeing; especially in its relevance to its physical cosmic structures of quantum forces and energies (gravity, strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetic forces, boson forces, etc).

Perhaps this "energy" is what the more sensitive auras amongst us are feeling as they reverberate like "human tuning forks" to the creational energy radiating everywhere about us moment-by-moment from the trees and flowers, to the insects and birds, to the stars above our heads.

This kind of "creational energy" I wouldn't deny. But nor would I make more of it than what its is knowing that for any belief it can be one step away from introducing harm and suffering for others in its subjectivisms and superstitions (as even historically observed in much of Christianity by the assertion of its beliefs of God's wrath and punishment in unhealthy ways around itself in society).

Which is why here at Relevancy22 I caution again and again to lean towards love - God's love. And to portray love in action through humanitarian causes. And never towards judgment, exclusion, division, or hatred. If even in the very creational energy we sense "all around us" please know this energy is boundlessly good in its outlay and wellbeing for those around living within its organic structures. Not evil. Not harmful. Not destructive. But good. Healthy. Abounding. Novel. Loving.

Enter Process in its Astral Aspects

Since process philosophy states that all things are in synchronicity with all things I will allow astrology-under-the-category of archetypal energies without the (divine) fatalism, determinism, or prognostician which usually seems to come with the study of planetary transits, alignments, movement, etc. And also without the New Ageism beliefs which seem to lump along with astrology, including the various forms of human-mysticisms which so naturally seem to accompany the human religious psyche.

As said earlier, the cosmic energy of the universe is pervasively all around us. Everywhere we go, everything we consider, study, look at, or feel, is part of a vast cosmic mix across an energy matrix made up of physical forces and matter. From stars to rocks, from gaseous atmospheres to liquid seas of methane, from the smallest living cells to the vast scales found in more complex biological life. All is part of a complex energy matrix formed of forces and fermions. The spiritual which resides in these are no more or no less than what resides in each-and-every one of us. Not only are we "of the earth" but we are also "of the stars." The same force out there, or up there, is the same force which resides within us. It would be unnatural if we didn't reverberate with some sense of cosmic feeling and energy flow (sans the psychotic and mentally imbalanced elements which would inflict us to twist our imaginations into something more than they should be - says the skeptic within me).

Our Cosmic Journey

Having listened to Segall et al's discussion twice now, I found the first part to be very helpful but the second part I will admit does stretch me more than I wish to be in it's astral observations. However, when listening to the last 25 minutes or so I tried to hear the nuances that are being spoken over the stereotypes I normally lump everything into over the span of all my prejudices (as I had laid out above).

For myself, I think of process cosmology (PC) as requiring (i) panexistentialism (all things are relational to all things). As well as requiring (ii) a form of panpsychism (sic, a "cosmic feeling" of the universe) which is how Whitehead had initially described process cosmology - as a "philosophy of organism" {which some have interpreted as an "organic reality" (see last article further below)}. And (iii) we might add many more cosmic centers - such as a process cosmology bearing synchronistic archetypal energies (e.g., the cosmos feels itself throughout itself in its process organism in some sense or manner).
However, the "astrology" stuff is not how I wish to describe the synchronicities of the cosmos even as the mechanics of the trade do seem to give evidence to Whitehead's "organic" form of insight.

Sure, if I and others feel a certain personal enlightenment, or a personal darkness of spirit, the cosmos may be feeling similarly in some sense to how we are feeling... perhaps we are "sensing" it or it is "sensing" us. But as an astrological directive, or as a foretelling, a prognostication, a way to live my life. No.

The cosmic archetypal feeling being felt or transmitted is more like an expression of an cosmological organic feeling as a whole throughout its parts (not limited to our solar system alone).

And at the last I'll state that for me, this cosmic archetype seems more than coincidental but less than speculation into the future as the future is undetermined, open, and chaotic in process.

Process thought when conveyed in these metaphysical senses works well in incorporating the idea of "feeling" to a process-based cosmos but I'll still pray, seek the Spirit of God, ask for God's guidance, and look to human sensibilities, fellowships, counsels, and Christian experience as guides.

I will not do the same with any form of astrology, even though some say they are following this practice and finding help in it. Or, perhaps, there is some strand of "Christianized" astrology being practiced, which I' sure there is.

But in all these instances any form of astrology only lends itself to testifying to the psychological archetypes and philosophical cosmologies which process cosmology has identified within its greater structure.

So give a listen to the discussion and see what you think. I found it generally helpful while preparing my occasional cynical soul to entertain some form of witness to the mystics among us. Who, I will say, have provided a nice offset to our materialistic societies. The mystics around us balance us off neatly between the blinded real of reality and the unseen reality all around us in some sensible way.

But, at the last, if I'm going to move towards mysticism, it'll be through the process-kind of enlightened mysticism of the Spirit and not the New Ageism which appeals to some.

R.E. Slater
August 6, 2021

* * * * * * * * * *

Richard Tarnas & Matthew D. Segall – 
Journeying Within a Cosmic Journey
May 22, 2021

Maybe we’re not lost in the cosmos after all. Years ago the novelist Walker Percy wrote a book called Lost in the Cosmos, in which he showed how, overly shaped by a rigidly scientistic approach to life, we humans lack any rich connection with the universe of which we are a part and, by implication, with ourselves and our neighbors. We know a lot about the periodic table and the laws of thermodynamics, but not a lot about how to live and love, creating societies of creativity and compassion. Richard Tarnas, known for his The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche, presents a needed alternative. He invites us to imagine the universe as an unfolding journey, filled with multiple dimensions, both physical and archetypal; and to recognize our own embeddedness in this beautiful and dynamic whole. We are journeying within a cosmic journey. In conversation with Matthew Segall and Jay McDaniel, Tarnas shows how Whitehead influenced his thinking. He invites us to consider how the movements of the planets, no less than the movements of our hearts, can help us find our way in a vast and creative universe. We can be found, not lost, in the cosmos.

* * * * * * * *

#965: Primer on Whitehead’s Process Philosophy
as a Paradigm Shift & Foundation for Experiential 
December 10, 2020

Virtual reality has the potential catalyze a paradigm shift around our concepts about the nature of reality, and one of the most influential philosophers on my thinking has been [the British Philosopher] Alfred North Whitehead. His Process Philosophy emphases [the] unfolding [of] processes and relationships as the core metaphysical grounding rather than [that of] static, concrete objects. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry contrasts some of the fundamental differences to Western philosophy:
Process philosophy is based on the premise that being is dynamic, and that the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it . [And yet], even though we experience our world and ourselves as continuously changing, Western metaphysics has long been obsessed with describing reality as an assembly of static individuals whose dynamic features are either taken to be mere appearances or ontologically secondary and derivative…
If we admit that the basic entities of our world are processes, we can generate better philosophical descriptions of all the kinds of entities and relationships we are committed to when we reason about our world in common sense and in science: from quantum entanglement to consciousness, from computation to feelings, from things to institutions, from organisms to societies, from traffic jams to climate change, from spacetime to beauty.
Virtual reality is all about experiences that unfold over time, and the medium [itself] is asking to interrogate the differences between how we experience the virtual and the real. A slight shift of our metaphysical assumptions from substance metaphysics to process-relational metaphysics allows us to compare and contrast the physical to the experiential dimensions of our experiences. Process philosophy opens up new conceptual frameworks to look at the world through the lens of dynamic flux, becoming, and experience as core fundamental aspects of reality, rather than treating these processes as derivative properties of static objects.

I think process philosophy makes a lot more sense when thinking about the process of experiential design. Human beings are not mathematical formulas, which means you have no idea how other people will experience your immersive [presence] until you [act it out in space and time, being and event].

There’s within game theory an inherent agile and iterative nature of game design, software design, and experiential design, where you have to test it lots of time with lots of people. This is different than the linear, waterfall approaches of building physical buildings or producing films where there’s clearly demarcated phases of pre-production, production, and post-production.

For Whitehead, these iterative processes aren’t just metaphoric at the human scale, but he’s suggesting that these processes reveal deep insights about the fundamental nature of reality itself as having a dynamic and participatory aspect of navigating non-deterministic potentials that’s really “experience all the way down.”

The thing that I love about Whitehead is that he was a brilliant mathematician that turned to philosophy later in his life, and so has an amazing ability to make generalizations that deconstruct the linear and hierarchical aspects of language [to create] more sophisticated models of reality. He [freelyl exchanges] physics as the fundamental science with biological organisms - or more abstractly, as unfolding processes which are in relationship to one other. This creates a scale-free, fractal geometrical way of understanding reality at the full range of microscopic and macroscopic scales.

Whitehead’s thinking has also impacted a wide range of areas including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology. Some specific examples include work in quantum mechanics, new foundations for the philosophy of biology, the psychedelic musings of Terence McKenna, and has opened up new pathways to be able to integrate insights from Eastern Philosophies, like Chinese Philosophy.

On October 31, 2020, I attended The Cobb Institute’s 2-hour program on Process Thought at a New Threshold, which brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, researchers, and practitioners where summarizing how Whitehead’s Process Philosophy was transforming their specific domains. One of the presenters was philosopher Matthew D Segall, who is one of my favorite Whitehead scholars who writes and shares videos on his YouTube channel.

I wanted to get a full primer of Whitehead, his journey into philosophy, as well as how his thinking could facilitate a fundamental paradigm shift that the world needs right now. My experience is that VR (virtual reality) and AR (artificial reality) can provide an experiential shift in how we relate to ourselves and others. But Process Philosophy brings a whole-other-conceptual-level that has the potential to unlock a lot more radical shifts in all sorts of ways [and means]. I also think that the spatial nature of VR and AR is particularly suited in order to produce [fuller] embodied experiences of process-relational thinking [while also helping] artists and creators [towards a fuller] cosmological grounding that [would] help them connect more deeply to their own creative process of unlocking flow states [as they use their artful] medium to communicate about their experiences in new ways.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Philosophy of Organism

Peter Sjöstedt-H introduces Whitehead’s organic awareness of reality

The philosophy of organism is the name of the metaphysics of the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Born in Kent in 1861, schooled in Dorset, Alfred headed north and taught mathematics and physics in Cambridge, where he befriended his pupil Bertrand Russell, with whom he came to collaborate on a project to develop logically unshakable foundations for mathematics. In 1914, Whitehead became Professor of Applied Mathematics at Imperial College, London. However, his passion for the underlying philosophical problems never left him, and in 1924, at the age of 63, he crossed the Atlantic to take up a position as Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1947. His intellectual journey had traversed mathematics, physics, logic, education, the philosophy of science, and matured with his profound metaphysics, a complex systematic philosophy that is most comprehensively unfolded in his 1929 book, Process and Reality.

The philosophy of organism is a form of process philosophy. This type of philosophy seeks to overcome the problems in the traditional metaphysical options of dualism, materialism, and idealism. From the perspective of process philosophy, the error of dualism is to take mind and matter to be fundamentally distinct; the error of materialism is to fall for this first error then omit mind as fundamental; the error of idealism is also to fall for the first error then to omit matter as fundamental. The philosophy of organism seeks to resolve these issues by fusing the concepts of mind and matter, thereby creating an ‘organic realism’ as Whitehead also named his philosophy. To gain an overview of this marvelous, revolutionary, yet most logical philosophy, let’s first look at what Whitehead means by ‘realism’, then at the meaning of its prefix, ‘organic’.


‘Realism’ has a number of meanings in philosophy, but with regard to Whitehead’s interests, a realist essentially adopts the view that we perceive reality as it really is.

Although this idea may seem to many to be common sense, it is considered naïve by many in non-realist philosophical traditions. Their anti-realist stance supplants realism with representationalism – the notion that rather than directly perceiving reality itself, we perceive an indirect representation of reality – that our experience of light, say, is but a representation of waves of photons hitting our retinas.

Idealist and materialist anti-realist positions ultimately owe their mistakes to dualism, the notion that mind and matter are distinct substances. Whitehead singles out the prime dualist René Descartes (1596-1650) as the figure responsible for inaugurating the fall into anti-realism, and the consequent problems at which we arrive in modern philosophy. The Catholic Descartes attributed mind, as ‘soul’, only to humankind. The rest of nature he classified as purely mechanical, and thus explicable by means of mathematics. As a result of Descartes’ ideas, today, science and (non-process) philosophy cannot overcome the problem of solipsism – not being able to conclusively demonstrate that our experiences are truly representative of an external reality – nor interwoven issues, including the hard problem of consciousness: how mind could emerge from or be related to the activity of the brain. Further related issues concern the problems of free will and mental effort: how mind could influence matter (specifically the brain and body) if all material causality is mechanical; the problem of causality itself; why consciousness should exist at all if it has no power; why we have aesthetic tastes for music or abstract art, and so on.

The philosophy of organism’s solutions to these problems begin by rejecting the bifurcation of nature into mind and matter. With an acknowledged debt to the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Whitehead rejects such a dualism through his reformulation of perception. The underlying erroneous presupposition of anti-realism is that perception is only the representation of an object, or in general terms, of an external world. Whitehead dismisses this presupposition and replaces it with the notion that perception is part of the object or of the world. He names this reformulated notion prehension. Concisely put, such perception does not stand in relation to the world as representation-to-object, but as part-to-whole. To give a human example, the light which emanates from a star changes the eye seeing it, the optic nerve, the cortex, possibly the mouth muscles (speech); and so part of the star – its electromagnetic radiation – becomes part of me. However, as a process philosopher, Whitehead rejects the existence of solid things with fixed attributes, and asserts, as Heraclitus did in ancient Greece, that all is change, flux: a mountain is a wave, given enough time. So for Whitehead a star is only its activity, including its radiance, and its electromagnetic energy continues its activity within us – there is no absolute delineation of activity. So a part of the whole star has become part of our perception. Thus one aspect of the realist element of his philosophy is that the real object and the real subject are partially fused. We are not only made of stardust, but also of starlight. Contra solipsism, we know that we perceive reality because our perception is part of that reality and not a mere representation of it.

Materialists may edge in here and say that they accept the causal line of star radiation to physiological alteration, but then they feel the need to add a new mysterious causal line, from brain alteration to conscious representation – from matter to mind. But with this unnecessary and mystical addition come all the problems of representationalism. Organic realism keeps the original causal line pure. But this purity and parsimony entail a rather radical refashioning of what one understands reality to be, in order to explain how physiological change already involves sentient perception. This brings us to the ‘organic’ prefix.


For Whitehead the bifurcation of the world into organic and inorganic is also false. Consider descending a line of complexity from Homo sapiens to starfish, to cells, to DNA molecules, to less complex molecules, to atoms, and then to the subatomic. For Whitehead this descent is towards what he calls ‘actual entities’ or ‘actual occasions’, or ‘occasions of experience’, which we might think of as ontologically non-composite events.

Whitehead asserts everything to be organic. As he succinctly puts it: “Biology is the study of the larger organisms; whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms” (Science and the Modern World, VI, 1925). The in/organic division is then ultimately false, sanctioned by the purported mechanical universe idea, once again resulting from Descartes’ mind/matter split. Most importantly here, to Whitehead, actual entities have a degree of sentience – of awareness, feeling and purpose – as do systems, or ‘societies’ as he names them, that are organically constructed from actual entities. Consciousness as we humans have it is therefore a complex nested system of subordinate sentiences: the redefined ‘organisms’ we traced in the path from Homo sapiens to subatomic particles, each of them being self-organising systems, are also sentient to degrees, according to the integrated complexity involved. Each cell in our body is such an instrument of sentience – instruments which focus their effects in the hall of the skull. Such consciousness requires a human brain because the brain channels together the awarenesses of the subordinate entities. Where actual entities have formed into non-self-organising aggregates – such as doors and windows – there is no unified sentience associated with the aggregate itself – only the myriad lesser sentiences of which the aggregate is composed: the sentiences of the molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. Note the implication that although a brain is required for high-level animal-type consciousness, a brain is not required for mere sentience. Analogously, although an orchestra is required for a symphony, an orchestra is not required for a violin solo. Sentience, or experience, already exists as part of reality.

The concept of universal sentience is known as panpsychism, or as it is called with respect to the philosophy of organism, panexperientialism. Although panexperientialism may seem extreme to many of us raised in a post-Cartesian culture, it is arguably the most logical and parsimonious outlook on the nature of reality. The hard problem of how sentience evolutionarily emerged from insentience is resolved by denying the existence of insentience. Sentience has always existed, only its complexity evolved – a change in degree rather than the problematic change in kind.

To support Whitehead’s thinking about this, it may be noted that we have no evidence demonstrating that (so-called) matter is insentient. It may be retorted that we neither have evidence that (most) matter is sentient – a leveling that has no immediate default position. But the panexperientialist position is more parsimonious and able to resolve many traditional problems in the philosophy of mind, and so is the plausible account. It is parsimonious in that it reduces a dualism to a monism: matter and mind are one, that is, the same thing – both terms are merely abstractions from a unified concrete reality. Or we might say, matter is mindful – emotive and creative. This position also eliminates any mysterious causal connections between mind and matter (as seen, for instance in epiphenomenalism), and it fully adopts the causal efficacy of the mind as well as of matter, since they are of the same kind. So-called mechanical causes as such, involving physical force, are but abstractions from the concrete reality that includes the associated mentality. In this respect, Whitehead is akin to Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) with his idea of Will as the inner affect of observed external forces, or Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) with his notion of the Will to Power. Wielding Occam’s Razor, in organic realism we directly perceive causality because perception is causality: it’s the flow of so-called ‘external objects’ fusing into, and thereby altering, the subject. This makes David Hume’s ‘Problem of Causality’ – that we do not perceive causality itself – false; and therefore it makes Immanuel Kant’s critical project (that is, his whole later metaphysics) based on Hume’s purported problem of causality redundant. It seems Kant woke from his dogmatic slumber into an axiomatic blunder.

Organic Realism

Returning to realism, Whitehead’s metaphysics argues that perception involves the partial fusion of object and subject, of the world and the perceiving organism. In Whitehead’s words, ‘The philosophy of organism is mainly devoted to the task of making clear the notion of “being present in another entity.”’ (Process and Reality, 79-80.) There is no absolute dichotomy and magical transformation of matter into mind via some unknown causal line, as is the common concept today. Rather, the elements of the world are already sentient, so that such subject-object fusion is not merely the alteration of the organism, but the fusion of panexperiential reality with oneself. We thus do not simply perceive reality – we become one with the emotive, purposive, creative reality operating around and through us:

“Thus, as disclosed in the fundamental essence of our experience, the togetherness of things involves some doctrine of mutual immanence… We are in the world and the world is in us.” (Modes of Thought, VIII, 1938)


© Peter Sjöstedt-H 2016

Peter Sjöstedt-H is pursuing his PhD at Exeter University. He is the author of Noumenautics, and an inspiration for the new incarnation of Marvel philosopher superhero Karnak. He can be contacted via his website, www.philosopher.eu.