ON THE PATH TO GOD

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Insofar as occasions conform to their environment, insofar as the “self-aim” conforms to its immediate past, there is determinism, but, insofar as any entity modifies its response through the subjective element of feeling, there is freedom.


Discussion in thin air

“Practical merit was not the only reason religion was important to Whitehead,” said Stan. “It deals with permanence amid change, and for Whitehead that meant connecting the idea of permanence up with the idea of ‘extensive connection’, or the general ordering that takes place in process reality. In other words, God is co-continuous with all the ‘happenings’ of the world.”

“Go tell that to Dostoyevsky,” replied Tony, “As far as he was concerned God was a mass murderer of innocent children.”

“Okay, Tony, for the sake of Dostoyevsky, lets hold God accountable for all the world’s sins,” responded Stan, “but first lets look to see on whose behalf God exists. Remember, occasions are environing events with a self-aim; they represent the creation of novelty and change—and, as such, the entire physical universe is processing its way back to God–the conceptual, eternal, side of God. God is ‘eternal presence’ and bears witness to all past and present occasions. The future, however, is like an unused role of film. Being exposed, it is always in the process of being developed. The untimely deaths of innocents are part of that process, part of the internal constitution of God as God works through the transition from the eternal to the actual, and from the actual back to the eternal. God is the reason for all becoming, and nothing exists that is separate from God. All ‘passing’ is absorbed back into the eternal witness of God.”

“That’s not good enough,” Tony replied, “whose pain or whose suffering, is not the issue. The fact that there is way too much pain and suffering is the issue. With all the pain, cruelty, and injustice in the world, we just can’t let God off the hook, even if, as Whitehead believes, God shares in all of it. Believe me, He would be convicted by a jury of his peers.”

“Tony’s right,” Noel replied, “God has to go.”

“I’m not finished yet,” Stan responded, “there’s more than just witnessing what’s going on here. In fact, there’s a dynamic that shouts out for change. If indeed a retributive justice is called for here, then one has to look no farther then the first mirror to pinpoint the guilty.”

“Hold on! Who’s getting huffy now,” replied Tony, “I didn’t start this. I didn’t ask to be born. I’m just here, doing what I can to stay alive. How the hell can I be held responsible for God’s handiwork?”

“Do you feel sad when you see dying children,” said Stan.

“What’s that supposed to mean; of course I feel sad,” shot back Tony, “but I can’t change it. I block it out of my mind.”

“Well that’s what brands you as guilty,” Stan replied. “It’s the playing out of those self-expressive, self-fulfilling feelings that you can’t avoid that gets you into trouble. Insofar as occasions conform to their environment, insofar as the ‘self-aim’ conforms to its immediate past, there is determinism, but insofar as any entity modifies its response through the subjective element of feeling, there is freedom. Feeling and freedom are codependent for Whitehead, and God is in touch with all feelings. He is there, inside agonizing screams, and He is there in suffering, especially suffering caused by injustice. He is also there, however, in all hopes, joys, and happiness, in addition to fears, regrets, and sorrows. Good feelings move the world forward to a better place. It is feeling that gives subjective aim to occasions. We encounter, in good feelings, the ‘allure of realization.’ It is possible to create a more humane, peaceful, and loving world. Whitehead said as much, and Gandhi told us how to proceed, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’—both in life and love.”

“I must say, that’s an interesting brand of pantheism,” responded Tony.

“It’s not pantheism,” replied Stan, “it’s a divinely anchored process reality.”

“You can call it anything you like,” said Tony, “its still pantheism.”

“Not according to Whitehead,” replied Stan, “The future is empty, and in that emptiness resides the freedom to create a better world–the freedom to replace emptiness with ‘goodness.’”

“Or the freedom to create a worse one,” interrupted Noel, “if change is pervasive, it doesn’t have to be good.”

True enough,” replied Stan, “except it is not likely that the same God that is there inside the screams of pain, suffering, and injustice will also be there in the masochistic and sadistic cravings of those individuals who pleasure themselves in that way. If you ask me, that would be a God-
contradiction. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that all negative feelings will disappear, but striving for that goal is divine. Everything else is just plain human.”

“I don’t know,’ said Noel, “Whitehead’s got himself a hard sell there. The God thing aside, nobody has ever been successful in merging feelings with reason, if indeed that’s what he’s trying to do. I’m afraid I just don’t buy it. It’s not doable. Go ask Plato if you don’t believe me.”

“Not doable because you don’t buy it,” said Stan, “or not doable because it can’t be done?”

“Both,” replied Noel.

“That’s ditto from the scientific point of view,” chimed in Tony, “that’s why in science we make the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. It’s the electromagnetic radiation that makes contact with the eye that turns the sky blue. The color blue is simply the effect of the effect.”

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One Response to “ON THE PATH TO GOD”

  1. wings Says:

    “The future is empty, and in that emptiness resides the freedom to create a better world–the freedom to replace emptiness with ‘goodness.’” Freedom all the way around, right? I operate best from finding order in randomness…give me something linear and I will mess it up just to to give myself a shot at understanding it to some degree. Not connection for connection sake. But connections in pursuit of the detached but fully engaged “freedom”. I could probably listen to Stan for hours, providing I could resist pestering the heck out of him with questions and interruptions. Smile.

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