God Cares End Of Life Story Redemption Chapter 3

This post continues with a brief conversation between the devil and myself, and then switches over to an earlier conversation which is itself a continuation of the God’s Footprint–Determinism conversation of several posts back. That dialogue was set high in the Canadian Rockies where Stan, the English professor, Noel, the Philosophy professor, and Tony, the Physics professor, were trying to figure out the significance, if any, of the conceptual differences underlying the physics of the macro world, Relativity, and the micro world, quantum mechanics; however, in this post the dialogue moves away from physics and picks up with Stan’s interpretation of Whitehead’s process philosophy.

With The Courage To Face The Mystery The Possibility Of Communion Arises

Future Time Nine Continued

“You do realize,” said MV, “that growing closer to God is kind of a ‘coming of age journey’ and the first step in that journey is the one where you leave behind your parent’s home.”

“Tell me more,” I replied.

“Think of your parent’s house as whatever makes you comfortable,” responded MV, “upon leaving home, all preconceived notions about the world, — security and expectations, — all must go. And, as you have already pointed out, with the arrival of quantum physics, even some physicists have found themselves ‘coming of age,’ so to speak; when the concepts of causality and localization no longer apply, when the ordered world of space and time turns into a topology puzzle, there’s no going home again. Leaving solid ground behind is a scary thought, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, it’s scary, but it’s also an opportunity.”

“That’s my boy,” responded MV. “You had a good teacher eh! When an observer’s reference frame determines the veracity of measurement, and the ground under foot dissolves, that’s when the opportunity for a new kind of communion and comfort zone arises, albeit one that requires the courage to face the mystery head on and imagine new possibilities.”

“What you are saying won’t make sense to a person tucked away in their self-made protective cocoon,” I responded. “You’d be wasting your breath there! It’s too bad it took me so long to learn that lesson. I could have avoided a lot of grief if I had been just a little bit smarter.”

“Yes, you were slow,” replied MV, “but don’t be too hard on yourself. Life’s an investment you know, and everybody wants their monies worth. Even if all the evidence is against you, it’s very difficult to cast your fate to the wind and start over. It’s impossible for some people to give up their cocoon. That’s why leaving solid ground is such a scary thought—and it should be! But, getting back to the point; after a struggle, you succeeded in making sense out of those freedom and consciousness issues. It’s just too bad you couldn’t communicate that success to others. But, look on the bright side, you’ve still got me! And since I’m the ‘enabler’ here, you don’t need anybody else. Enjoy your success, and besides, it’s only a matter of time before others figure it out. Actually, your work is not that hard to comprehend. Your two term approach to reality, as opposed to Locke’s three term approach, certainly was a good start.”

“Yes, that was the beginning for me,” I replied. “When I gave that presentation back in 1981 I knew I was onto something, but I didn’t know where those ideas would eventually take me. Maybe that’s par for the course, though; after all, here I am asking the Devil to tell me about God.”

“You might say I’m helping you to remember your own work,” responded MV, “it’s a good thing too because you need all the help you can get. And, as far as giving credit where credits due is concerned, I’m the best one for the job!”

“Your reputation for humility precedes you,” I replied. “I’ll just ignore that last comment if you don’t mind. Anyway, let’s review Whitehead’s process reality; not only did Whitehead create a philosophy around the freedom-consciousness connection, he also articulated a unique understanding of divinity.

“As you wish,” replied MV.

Whitehead’s Occasions Imparted A Kind Of Sentience To Nature

Alfred Lifted The “Process” Out Of The Philosopher (Kant) And Put It Squarely Back Into Nature Where It Belonged

Consciousness All The Way Down

As I was saying in a previous post, my theory of knowledge, or the consciousness/aesthetic continuum theory of knowledge, replaces Locke’s consciousness/appearance/material world theory of knowledge. Immanuel Kant was, however, the first to eliminate the necessity of Locke’s appearance concept from knowledge. Sense experience, for Kant, was filtered through twelve categories of understanding, categories that mentally “structured” our experience of the so-called material world. In other worlds, Kant’s categories permitted knowledge of our “experienced world.” For both Kant and Locke, however, consciousness and knowledge were considered a unique human experience. Whitehead’s process philosophy changed all that.

The role of consciousness in Whitehead’s philosophy was not restricted to human awareness. For Whitehead, consciousness was not a secondary attribute of the world; rather, it became the primary attribute. His process philosophy was developed after Kant, Einstein, and the revolutionary advances of quantum physics had totally deconstructed the worldview of the 18th and 19th centuries. What follows is a three-way conversation set in the Canadian Rockies between university professors; a rendering of an actual event which took place back when Peter (my backpacking partner) and I met up with these three professors while backcountry hiking in Jasper National Park. The conversation below, however, is fictionalized. The dialogue represents my efforts to come to terms with my reading of Whitehead’s philosophy.

The Conversation Continued

“Wouldn’t you know it,” said Stan, “I’ve lost my train of thought. But I do have a few more observations, albeit a little off topic.”

“Go for it,” said Noel, “it’s time to move on anyway.”

“Well, it’s not totally new,” Stan replied, “it’s just that when I was listening to your bantering, I felt like I had heard it all before. In my youth I studied Alfred North Whitehead. In fact, he inspired my desire to attend Harvard. He ended his career teaching there. Did you read him Tony?”

“No, I shy away from metaphysics,” responded Tony. “But I know about
him. You can’t go to Harvard without becoming familiar with prestigious alumnae.”

“Whitehead spent the first half of his academic career as a Professor of Mathematics,” Stan continued, ” he and Bertrand Russell attempted to prove that the axioms of number theory could be deduced from the premises of formal logic. Their book on that subject, Principia Mathematica, is quite famous. Whitehead also published another book on mathematics in which he formalized a set of rules and theorems, from which the theorems of Euclidean geometry are derivable. All this was done, for the most part, before Einstein published his famous theories. Whitehead, not surprisingly, took a keen interest in Einstein’s published works. And, like Cassirer, he
wrote a book on relativity theory; only in his book he disagreed with Einstein. As I recall he didn’t like the elevation of the velocity of light to a law of nature and he was critical of the flexible nature of space. Whitehead’s formalism was based on the premise of uniform space, or more precisely on the ‘non-contingent uniformity in spatial relations.’ As might be expected, in the scientific community, his ideas fell out of favor, but they played a
major role in the metaphysics that he developed latter in life. In that metaphysics, Whitehead lifted the ’process’ out of the philosopher (Kant) and put it squarely back into nature where he felt it belonged. Man, the symbol-generating animal, became instead, the product of process reality.”

“I guess this is as good a time as any to bid you fine fellows ado,” interrupted Peter, “It’s past my bedtime. But thanks for making my sleeping bag look so delicious. See you in the morning.”

“Sleep tight,” Stan replied, and then throwing another log on the campfire, he continued, “what you were saying about ‘organic unities of time’ constituting our inner sense of being really made me think about Whitehead. He too believed that ‘whole movements’ or ‘epochs’ constituted individual unities of experience. He called those unities of experience occasions and then he went on to base his metaphysics on those occasions. For him, occasions came all at once or not at all and ultimately provided nature with a kind of sentience. What’s interesting is that, at their most elementary level, where occasions are overlapping events, they still possessed a kind of sentience. Is anybody familiar with what I am talking about?”

“Yeah, it’s called animism,” replied Noel, “Eh, I’m only joking.”

Whitehead Understood Occasions To Be Processes Of Self-Development, Self-Creation

Elementary Events Overlap And Become Part Of The Actual World, Develop Into A Biosphere Full Of Sentient Qualities, Which In Turn, Develop Into The Very Words We Are Speaking Now

Conversation Continued

“Sure I’ve heard of Whitehead’s metaphysics,” said Noel, “but I haven’t studied it in any depth. As I recall he turned nature into a kind of sentient being, and thus sidestepped all the epistemological problems that arise in subject-object opposition and in the self-world dichotomy. But, in his philosophy, didn’t he understand occasions as processes of self-development, or even self-creation?”

“Yes, that’s exactly right,” Stan responded. “The idea was that an
occasion was a ‘prehending entity’ in active interaction with its whole environment. Whitehead thought of these ‘prehending entities’ as processes of self-formation with ‘subjective aim.’ They began as simple overlapping events, evolved, and, as they say, the rest is history. Right?”

“Of course,” said Noel, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, you
are aware that teleological explanations of the world are not just history, they’re ancient history! Isn’t that why we call it meta-physics, eh Stan?”

“Don’t forget about the problematic areas of science,” Stan responded. “Whitehead’s metaphysics speaks directly to those issues, especially the ones at the quantum level. Just hear me out.”

“I’m all ears,” replied Noel.

“Just as in quantum theory,” Stan continued, “where physical reality is at best, quasi-continuous, where successive leaps or vibrations of energy fuse together to form physical objects perceived by us as continuous, so too in Whitehead’s occasions we see physical experience taking place in leaps of becoming. His ‘process reality’ moves from becoming to being. For him, potentiality is rendered specific with the becoming of each event. What this all means is that the whole system that we take to be space and time literally
grows out of the way that events are systematically related to one another in nature.

“Again, in quantum mechanics, where the discontinuous existence of
fundamental particles forms the continuous existence of larger physical bodies, in Whitehead’s occasions there is a parallel state of affairs going on. First, elementary events overlap and become part of the actual world. Then these enduring occasions develop into a biosphere full of sentient qualities, which, in turn, develops into this–our present state of affairs, specifically, into the words we are speaking right now. But that is not the end of it. In fact, it doesn’t end. The ‘subjective aim’ of the occasion presses in upon the environing realities of all physical, biological, and psychological phenomena, and in combination with these realities, continues to create a more fully developed reality. Species evolve, and so it goes, one occasion after another, unfolding, pushing this ‘now’ into the past while receiving ‘what is’ and ‘will be,’ again and again. Novelty arises as new forms of self-expression and new vistas of self-fulfillment unfold. Ultimately, what is going on in Whitehead’s metaphysics—in addition to eliminating the subjective /objective split that occurs in the philosophies of Descartes, Locke, and Kant, is a ‘bootstrapping’ of self-development, a bringing into existence a more self-fulfilling, self- expressive, sentient nature.”

“This is getting too ethereal for me,” said Tony. “What’s next,
God?”

“Well, yes, that’s exactly right,” responded Stan, “But apart from the God thing, I believe Whitehead’s thought speaks directly to the concerns brought up in this conversation.”

“If you say so, “Noel replied,” but what about God? How did
Whitehead perceive God, anyway?”

If The Call Is For Retributive Justice The First Mirror Will Pinpoint The Guilty

In So Far As Self-Aim Conforms To Its Immediate Past, There Is Determinism, But In So Far As Any Entity Modifies Its Response Through The Subjective Element Of Feeling, There Is Freedom

Some Freedom Is Not Divine—God Cares

“If you say so, “Noel replied,” but what about God? How did Whitehead perceive God, anyway?”

“Same o, same o,” replied Tony, “as a redeeming father figure.”

“That’s not true,” said Stan, “Well, maybe it’s a little true, but it’s more complicated than that. Whitehead would be the first to admit that if religion didn’t exist, it would have to be invented. From a sociological point of view, it does too many things for too many people for it not to exist. Religion is necessary for another reason, though. 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, God 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 all suffering, especially suffering caused by injustice. He is also there, however, in all hopes, joy, 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 taught 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, “accept the same God who is there inside another’s suffering and pain will not be there in the masochistic and sadistic cravings of those individuals who pleasure themselves by inflicting pain and suffering upon others. Nor will God be found in the laws of a society that refuse to recognize the destitute, oppressed, and persecuted—God’s children.”

“Do tell,” exclaimed Noel, “How can God be in touch with all feelings—your words not mine, yet be inside some feelings and not inside other feelings?”

“Feelings that preserve, perpetuate, and expand consciousness,” replied Stan, “always trump feelings that dehumanize, degrade, and destroy consciousness; the former is a product of divinity, the latter a product of neglect. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not proposing the impossible here; that is, the elimination of all negative feelings, 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.

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One Response to “God Cares End Of Life Story Redemption Chapter 3”

  1. cahbagoes Says:

    nice site.. very intresting!! i need updates from you.

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