Posts Tagged ‘identity’

Meditation For The 21st Century

December 12, 2009

While I was deciding where I wanted to go with my Footprint story I stumbled across this meditation and decided very quickly that it was a good summary of my Footprint story. Except for posting on the web, this meditation represents the only other time I attempted to “tell my story” to others. I presented this meditation to the philosophy club at the university where I work. The student President of the club felt I should be compensated, so he passed me off as a visiting lecturer and I walked away with $100. I guess that makes me (or made me) a one time professional!God’s Civilizing Attribute

I have found that many of the paradoxes associated with thoughtdissolve when I consider the point of view that existence, in general, and identity, in particular, ensues from the expressive aspects of God not being God’s own non-being. The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some commentary to this idea:

“The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition, the otherness of God has remained unthought and conceptually forgotten in exactly the same manner as has the question of the meaning of being. …What cannot be thought, in the tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

I realize that many people find elitist the notion of a privileged-human-nature, but I disagree. When considered from the point of view of this meditation it is not that human beings are superior, rather, it is that human beings are born into a much larger and richer reservoir of potential freedom, and, I might add, that in this privileged space (if indeed privilege is the right word) advantage and responsibility are joined. Ian Barbour, in his book, Issues in Science and Religion (1966, p.29.) puts it this way:

“In the capacity for abstract thought and symbolic languagethere is a radical distinction between man and animal. Self-conscious awareness, critical self-reflection, and creative imagination are found nowhere else in nature. In memory of the past, anticipation of the future, and envisagement of ideal potentialities, he transcends his immediate environment. He is unique in his search for truth, concern for moral values, and acknowledgement of universal obligation –and above all, in his relationship to God.”

In a supportive environment, life propagates and grows more complex. The same holds true in a knowledge environment –the self-conscious environment of the human being.

When non-being occurs in being (~bb), the self-consciousness of being becomes, by implication, conscious of itself. When the negative condition of continuity gets experienced in the higher dimension of a factual event (b~b~bb), knowledge, in its propositional and signifier sense, gets liberated. Analytically speaking, this condition identifies the source of the principle of logical contradiction and thus denotes the original precondition for the evolutionary development of language and mathematics. Rene Descartes, was, as far as I can tell, the first person to isolate and consciously describe the experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity (~bb). Descartes’ methodological doubting brought him to recognize, in his “Cogito ergo sum”, the fundamental bottom line of human experience: I experience non-being therefore I am. But, Descartes’ cogito occurs in its own physical event environment (b~b), and here we discover the less than articulate evolutionary development of this cogito.

With every new dimension of non-being (~~b, ~bb, b~b~bb) comes a new beginning for the resurgence of complexity. In the human dimension (b~b~bb), this movement from simple to complex continues to take place, only now history and civilization evolve right along side biology and adaptation. In the initial stages of human history, Descartes’ cogito was hidden behind the participatory moments of human consciousness. Here the thread of human history–cultural evolution (to paraphrase Cassirer) — may be traced back to that point in time where man/woman ceased to passively accept their negative condition (physical environment), and, in setting themselves in opposition to it, began to create and form it. This act, the transformation of mere impressions into pure expression, began the human psyche’s progress, via the development of myth, ritual, art, language, music and science, toward the liberation of its own non-being.

At this point in the meditation, I would like to point out that there are many comprehensive philosophies that directly illuminate the human spirit’s capacity for liberation. Spinoza, Heidegger, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are just a few names that spring to mind, but the person who I feel best represents my own position is Ernst Cassirer. In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, (1957), Cassirer’s thesis suggests that as man interacts with his environment through his desires, emotions and work he acquires the capacity, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature – the nature of his inner and outer reality. Objectification here is not meant as a thing to be apprehended but rather as a movement toward constancy, endurance and certainty. Accordingly, the self that we take to the library, the store, a music recital, or sometimes to the bar, must be understood as the ongoing product of human history, which, in turn, must be further understood, according to this meditation, as the being-of-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is in its pursuit to free itself from its own limiting conditions.

Our immediate experience of this process is temporality. In addition to establishing our “I”, — the awareness of being aware of our own non-being (implicative affirmative of the not-me-self), this liberation process also implies (as a consequence of the physical event b~b~bb) an environment of factual events. Here we not only experience ourselves as a degree of permanence in the midst of constant flux, we also experience the forward movement of an implied knowledge of our environment.

Knowledge expands as a consequence of time. We are born into a world of knowledge and knowing, but the throttle of this knowing process–the actualization of what is unique in human freedom, lies in our capacity to actualize our own non-being. Simply put, every time we ask a question we actualize in the question our own non-being. Whether we like it or not our knowledge expands, but when we ask questions we accelerate that expansion by detaching ourselves from being in our capacity as non-being in order to more fully appropriate the world around us. Our passive experience of time does not produce a great deal of knowledge, but because we bring the logical relationships implicit in God’s freedom to bear on an event, we are free to create judgments (and the values which arise from those judgments) concerning the significance and probable cause of an event. These judgments, concerning the nature of an event, are determined valid across a continuum that ranges from sensation divorced from theory, at one end, to sensation reinforced by the most advanced and respected scientific theory available.

There are no guarantees that the answers we propose in response to our questions will match up with corresponding events, yet scientists have a pretty good track record when it comes to the discovery and confirmation of these answers. In experience that is not accountable to scientific confirmation, however, we determine, via our judgments and emotions, appropriate behavior. It is at this level of preferred behavior, this level of “willed consciousness participation” (as it is called by Owen Barfield), that we encounter our potential for the highest order of expressed freedom.

When God’s freedom becomes aware of itself, something very remarkable happens. From our point of view, we see our past, present, and future possibilities, thus, we become free to actualize those possibilities. But, from the divine point of view, it’s simply an “awareness of presence.” For me, this is an emotionally charged consequence since it brings home the notion that God is, in a very real sense, all-knowing and all-present. But even more astonishing is that, via our intentions and concerns, we are responsible for the content of God’s “presence.” Here I am reminded of the words of Walt Whitman, where in his poem “Song To Myself,” he wrote: “Whoever degrades another degrades me. And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.” It follows that if just one person recognizes an act of injustice and becomes outraged, God becomes outraged. Suffice it to say, that if humanity would recognize its own conscience, then perhaps conditions would arise where a sensitive human being might be able to look out upon the social milieu without a shudder.

We begin our conduct with the recognition of desirable behavior, but putting this awareness into action takes on special significance. Just as the validity of a scientific hypothesis is authenticated when it is confirmed against experimental results, so, too, is behavior authenticated when it is made to conform to behavior that has previously been judged appropriate by the individual. In Goethe’s play “Faust,” which records Goethe’s own life-long spiritual development, Faust rebuffs Mephistopheles temptations with the words: “So realm and rule to me will fall—The glory’s naught, the deed is all.” Faust is acting on his supreme vision of a free land and a free people, and, in so doing, his authenticity—better know as character, honor and integrity—arises.

The question that needs to be answered here is, “How is the appropriateness of behavior determined?” Almost always, answers to this question suggest contrary examples, but in this case there is only one answer—that the behavior, which is determined appropriate, is the behavior that is judged appropriate by the individual. Simply put, behavior is a measure and a product of freedom. Herein we may appreciate the significance of those teachers and teachings that encourage students to think for themselves while stressing heightened awareness and social responsibility; and, since freedom is actualized at different levels by different people, it follows that, whenever possible, a responsible person will posture herself or himself as a student or a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Recognizing the appropriate occasion to accommodate these postures comes with experience.

In the world of experience our thoughts and feelings are experienced as separate from the universe as a whole. That is as it should be for it follows from the nature of God’s freedom. It is precisely because of this limitation that we are able to seek and hopefully satisfy our needs and desires. In the world of non-being, where suffering, injustice, and cruelty occur, we sometimes feel compelled to look upon satisfaction and fulfillment as somebody’s idea of a joke, like some carrot, always out of reach, dangling in front of our noses; and further, we find ourselves, in one stage or another, of the ultimate indignity -our mortality. Without question, the price of freedom is high, but it follows from the nature of God’s freedom that in our suffering, God suffers. We share the price of freedom with God, but more importantly, in our rejoicing, God rejoices, and it is in this light that we, as active agents of transformation, may come to understand our responsibility to work toward a happier, healthier humanity. Ultimately, religion, science, law, art …all of civilization, must be understood as the expression of the freedom of God that works toward this transformation.

Certain aspects of the world cannot be changed, however. Our mortality, for instance, is a condition of God’s freedom and therefore must be experienced and endured. Yet it is in our mortality that we may come to discover an incredible comfort and release. Many of our desires are automatically fulfilled in the realization that we are one with God’s presence in the here and now. With this understanding we arrive at the heart of the experience that is poetically described by mystics and other spiritually evolved individuals. In the immediately grasped indeterminate, all-embracing oneness of God’s freedom lies the source of the knower and consequently the knower’s freedom. All intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion flows from this all embracing oneness common to man’s nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and dimensions of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the human dimension as love, caring, happiness and reverence. The telling factor behind this whole process comes with the knowledge that the “I” of God and the “I” of you and me are one and the same (paraphrased from the teachings of Meister Eckhart).

For more information concerning how the above ideas were discovered see my last seven posts starting with the We Voice of Humanity post

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Fleeing An Identity Crisis

November 5, 2009


I guess I forgot to post last week  so this is a two for one blog–this one and the one below.

Here is a small list of ways people flee an identity crisis. Tension-arousing circumstances are uncomfortable, sometimes so uncomfortable that they force a person to question their own identity and values. However, a person can be flexible and consistent when forced to choose between alternative, and, at times, conflicting value systems.

When A Crises Of Identity Causes Ambivalence-Induced Distress, A Person Flees

Giving Up Faculties Of Critical Judgment In Exchange For The Convictions Supplied By An Authority Whose Rules Cover Most Aspects Of Life, Is A Reasonable Alternative For Some People

In reflexive self-awareness, when a person becomes aware of the simultaneous presence of positive and negative affects, these incongruities or inconsistencies, according to Rosenberg and Abelson (1960), “are ‘tension-arousing’ – ‘they set in motion processes directed toward their removal’, because ‘if the ambivalences are not removed, they continue to be unpleasant, even painful, to the subject so long as he continues to think about the concepts at issue’” (Billig, 1987: 147). When a crises of identity causes ambivalence-induced distress, this distress is temporary because a person tends to flee ambivalence.

There is more than one way to remove ambivalence. Ambivalences, for the most part, according to Freud, are consciously or unconsciously repressed. When ambivalence arises as a result of the parent/child relationship, according to Adorno, the child may flee ambivalence by identifying with closed-minded authority figures. In a like manner, a person may escape the burden that comes with “the freedom to choose” by identifying with a person in authority. “[Giving] up faculties of critical judgment in exchange for the convictions supplied by an authority whose rules and provision cover most aspects of life,” is, according to Giddens (1991: 196), a reasonable alternative for some people. Also, we have all had the experience (I presume) of turning to consumption (for at least as long as it takes before our “practical consciousness” returns) in order to lesson the severity of an ambivalence-generating emotional crisis.

For some individuals, in particular, individuals who have invested a great deal of time analyzing questions of the existential variety, –questions like, “What is, Being, non-being, self-purpose, freedom, etc.?” — the question of identity has been pushed aside and, accordingly, so has the possibility of an identity crisis.

[Footnote. Existential questions concern the defining boundaries of human life, and are answered by the way we “go on” in the contexts of social activity. They presume, according to Giddens (1991: 55), the following ontological and epistemological elements:

Existence and being : the nature of existence, the identity of objects and events.

Finitude and human life: the existential contradiction by means of which human beings are of nature yet set apart from it as sentient and reflexive creatures.

The experience of others: how individuals interpret the traits and action of other individuals.

The continuity of self-identity: the persistence of feelings of personhood in a continuous self and body.]

These individuals, rather than identify with a self, have reduced the “self” to the existential proposition that takes the human condition to be in a state (at its most fundamental level) of dread (Angst). According to Flew (1979: 14):

“…[dread is] occasioned by man’s realization that his existence is open towards an undetermined future, the emptiness of which must be filled by his freely chosen actions. Anxiety characterizes the human state, which entails constant confrontation with possibility and the need for decision, with the concomitant burden of responsibility.”

For those of us who are less likely to philosophize about the human condition (or, perhaps, entertain a more worldly philosophy) an identity crisis usually ends up with a reassessment of personal values. Fortunately, a crisis of personal identity is not a necessary condition before a reassessment of values can take place.

In The Struggle For Synthesis A Person’s Self/Non-Self Boundaries Shift Continually

It Is Through Evaluative Juxtaposing Of Collective Voices Of Generalized Others That Allows James To Maintain A Stabilized Set Of Values; That Is, Stabilized Only For As Long As It Takes Before He Finds Himself Listening To A More Powerful And Persuasive Collective Voice

Values tend to get reassessed in the critical juggling of collective voices of generalized others when they are reflexively juxtaposed one to another. According to Hermans and Kempen (1993: 120):

“In the course of development, however, the growing child and adult learns not only to incorporate an increasing variety of opposing and conflicting positions in the self, but is also challenged to synthesize them in such a way that he or she learns, more or less, to live with a complex mixture of positive and negative self-valuations. In this development, the developing person finds himself or herself somewhere between splitting and synthesis and, therefore, the struggle of synthesis is always associated with a continuous shifting of the self/non-self boundaries.”

The mental juxtaposition of collective voices of generalized others, in addition to teaching a person how to live with a complex mixture of positive and negative self-valuations, also makes possible the development of the kind of autonomy that permits a person to stay the course in the midst of the push and pull of many collective voices.

The self (biography and negation) exerts its autonomy by selecting (differentiating) the collective voices that are to be juxtaposed one to another. Collective voices, though they are products of society, are still accountable, as Billig pointed out (1987: 5), “to the inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self.” It is through the distinguishing and opposing of collective voices that the autonomy of the self gets expressed. For instance, if we return to the example of James’ reference to opposing me-self voices (1890: 295): “As a man I pity you, but as an official I must show you no mercy; as a politician I regard him as an ally, but as a moralist I loathe him,” it can be assumed that preceding these value judgments, James, had to have a pretty good idea of what it meant to be a man, a judge, a politician, and a moralist. In order to come up with an answer to the question: “What is a man?,” it is reasonable to assume that James, in posing the question to himself, had to chew on the meaningful content of the answer for a considerable length of time. Mead, of course, told us that a person encounters meaning by taking the roles of others, but, by actively pursuing the meaning of roles in terms of the collective voices of generalized others (reflexively in the form of interrogation and reply), we find that role meanings must be considered from a level of meaning which includes the concept of consistency.

When a person juxtaposes collective voices one to another a loci arises wherein the discovery of consistency becomes possible. In this respect, me-self autonomy is expressed in the consistent fixing of collective voices to their respective social roles (as opposed to fixing a desired object to a convenient collective voice). For example, James fixes the opposition of the collective voice espousing the imperfect character of human beings to the collective voice of the responsibility of a judge to uphold the law. In this case, James is fitting the collective voice of law and order to the case specific situation of the violation of law and order. If a judge on odd days were to act true to the maxim “to error is human, to forgive is divine” and release lawbreakers, while on even days imprison lawbreakers, it would not take long before the disapproval of society would pressure the judge into reassessing her/his sense of justice. If the judge, on the other hand, by fixing the collective voice of “law abiding citizen” to the social role of “good citizen” and then, based on this linkage, chose to consistently sentence defendants, then community pressure would cease and the judge would not feel the need to reevaluate her/his sense of justice. It is this type of evaluative juxtaposing of collective voices of generalized others that allows James to maintain his sense of values in the midst of conflicting collective voices, and it is this type of evaluative juxtaposing of collective voices that allows the rest of us to maintain a stabilized set of values, stabilized that is, for only as long as it takes before we find ourselves listening to a more powerful and persuasive collective voice.

The Non Being Of Rationality The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

October 7, 2009

By replacing the I/me distinction with the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me self self-autonomy and self-reflexivity increases while the novelty and originality that identifies Mead’s I-self, his psychological mechanism for the inner restructuring of experience into self and other, and his theory of developmental stages is preserved and enhanced.

The Not-Me-Self Identifies A Person’s Biography And The Self/Other

In Order To Simplify The Continuity/Discontinuity Distinction, Provide A Theoretically Consistent Interpretation Of Collective Voices Of The Generalized Other, And Account For The Ambivalent-Like Condition Of What Simmel And Thom Suggest Lies At The Seat Of Self-Conscious Activity, I Propose That Mead’s Concept Of The I/Me Couplet Be Replaced With The Concept Of The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

Mead reversed the content of the I/Me distinction, which, originally, was a psychological construct created by James to describe a multiplicity of social selves.

[Footnote. James’ multiplicity of social selves preceded Mead’s generalized other. It was James who said: “…a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind” (James, 1890:294). Hermans and Kempen concede this point and state that in their position, “…the concept of collective voice comes… closer to James than to Mead” (Hermans and Kempen, 1993:119)]

For Mead, the me-self, as it accounts for the rules and conventions of the generalized other, guaranteed continuity of self. The me-self, for James, on the other hand, since it guaranteed the multiple social selves that are occasioned in a heterogeneous society, accounted for the self’s discontinuities, that is, the multiple varieties of social selves that a person identifies with. The I-self, on the other hand, in Mead, was identified with novelty and originality and therefore gave an account of the self’s discontinuous nature. But, for James, the I-self unified all the separate, socially generated me-selves that are occasioned in society (the I takes the position of “mine” for every me-self), thus, the I-self guaranteed the continuity of self. In order to arrive at his concept of the collective voice of the generalized other, Hermans and Kempen, had to adapt James’ version of the continuity/discontinuity distinction of the I-self and me-self.

As has already been noted, the basis for Mead’s social behaviorism resides in his characterization of the logical structure of meaning. It is in the triadic relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the social act which the gesture initiates, where socially generated meanings arise. More specifically, this meaning (the location of the stimulus) becomes processed in the adjustive response, that is, the I/me couplet, where the subject reflexively indicates to herself/himself the significances that her/his actions or gestures have for other individuals. In order to simplify the continuity/discontinuity distinction, provide a theoretically consistent interpretation of the collective voices of the generalized other, and, account for the ambivalent-like condition that Simmel and Thom suggest lies at the seat of self-consciousness activity, I propose that Mead’s concept of the I/me couplet be replaced with the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. In other words, a more appropriate interpretation for the adjustive response component of Mead’s triadic relation characterizing the logical structure of meaning will be found in the relational qualities of the concept of the implicative affirmation of the negated me-self.

Put simply, the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self identifies both a person’s biography and the social and psychological mechanism for the inner restructuring of experience into self and other. By biography I mean any component of self; that is, the expressive and limiting aspects of one’s personal history that can be brought to bear on the present experience of the person. “The human animal’s past,” according to Mead (1934:116), “is constantly present in the facility with which he acts….”

The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self Affirms Biography

The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self Is Consistent With Mead’s Concept Of Self While It Adds Increased Capacity For Self-Autonomy And Self-Reflexivity

For Mead, a person who acts rationally does so based on her/his ability to indicate the significance of past events to another person or to herself/himself. From this indicative act emerges the significance of possible future events, events that, via the act of rational reflection, permits the person a certain amount of autonomy and control in the implementation of her/his future.

[Footnote. It is this indicative act based in rational self-reflection that Angyal (1941) identified with the symbolic part of the biological subject. According to Angyal, it was this symbolic state within the biological state that permitted a person to greatly increase her/his autonomy and control.]

The not-me-self, as a linguistic expression, is meant to characterize the functional mechanism relating to how a person is going to respond in terms of her/his substantive identity and behavior in any given situation.

When Mead describes, in his characterization of the logical structure of meaning, the response on the part of the second organism to the gesture of the first, the second organism is there as a presence-to herself/himself, in addition to being there as, a presence-to the first organism. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is located in this presence-to of the organism, as an affirmation of the organism’s history.

[Footnote. A person’s past experience in the present is what is being affirmed in the not-me-self. Sartre (1966: 176), in his description of what is implied in the concept of “presence” develops this idea when he says: “Anything which can be present to must be such in its being that there is in it a relation of being with other beings. I can be present to this chair only if I am there in the being of the chair as not being the chair. A being which is present to can not be at rest “in-itself….”]

Specifically, in Mead’s context of the relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the social act, which the gesture initiates, the second organism is called to respond to the first organism’s gesture by first sifting through its own historical experience (memory) in order to come up with an “appropriate response” to the first organism’s gesture. Once this meaningful historical content is identified (the interpretation of the gesture), then the organism reacts. After the second organism “responds appropriately,” the first organism is, in a like manner, expected to respond in kind. This is how the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self substitutes for Mead’s I-self in Mead’s conversation of gestures.

In Mead’s theory of child developmental stages, the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self acts in a similar manner. In terms of early child development the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is the same as Mead’s functional mechanism for learning behavior; that is, a child, by engaging in role taking, becomes socialized to cultural norms. This developmental process is permitted because a person is capable of acting toward herself/himself in the same manner that she/he acts toward other people. In this respect, it is the generalized other and the social organization represented by the generalized other that gives continuity to the not-me-self.

The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is consistent with Mead’s concept of self while it adds to Mead’s concept of self an increased capacity for self-autonomy and self-reflexivity. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, in addition to being able to take the role of the “other”, is also able to refrain from taking the role of the “other”. For instance, in as much as a child learns how to respond to others, —how to resist, retaliate, giveaway, co-operate, exchange, reward, punish, joke, obey, request, compose, describe, criticize, remain silent, etc., —the child also learns how to apply these same techniques to herself/himself, and, in as much as she/he applies these same techniques to herself/himself, she/he is reflexively acting out the capacity to negate the me-self. It is in the utilization of the capacity to negate the me-self where inner self-deliberations are carried on and through these inner self-deliberations a person accesses the strength to reverse the internalization process which, if left unchecked, produces “over socialized agents.” But, if we are to understand how the individualization process occurs we must first ask what is implied by negation?

September 30, 2009

100_3109The Defining Condition Of Ambivalence/Self Becomes Identified With A “Neither This Nor That” Circumstance

Prospectus Continued

If the genesis of ambivalence can be located in the differentiating space [to paraphrase Thom’s (1983, p.187) description of Simmel’s concept of a person], arising between what is simultaneously social and individual, social, in the form of the product of sociological categories, and individual, as the stranger existing outside of sociological categories, then the defining condition of ambivalence/self becomes identified with a “neither this nor that” circumstance. It is for this reason that ambivalence, in its most primitive form, becomes objectified as a “flight from ambivalence.” This “flight from ambivalence,” in turn, may be understood to be a powerful contributing factor to both the closing of the mind of the bigot, and, the modern penchant for division, domination, order, and technology.

In modern society’s matter-centered universe a human being’s “so-called” value and worth is never far removed from some objective measure that claims to be able to scientifically predict and explain human behavior. In this research project I propose to challenge this idea by putting forth a theory of self that recognizes ambivalence to be the locus of self where cognitive objects acquire salience. In this way I hope to show that science, or, as F. S. Northrop defines it (1946, p. 301), “the hypothetically proposed, apriori, theoretical component indirectly confirmed through its deductive consequences,” is merely one of the many expressive possibilities of a creative self and should, therefore, be judged accordingly.

In so far as I am to identify, in this research project, the locus of convergence of three relatively unrelated research areas – prejudice, ambivalence, and self-theory, I have made a survey of the relevant literature in the various research fields. Since the scope of this project is large, my survey of the literature has been more selective than comprehensive, so, in the interest of brevity and coherence, I will describe this literature from its convergent theoretical perspective. Therefore, the next section of this prospectus combines my survey of literature with my theoretical perspective.

It Is The So-Called Democratic Personality Who Is Saddled With Painful Ambivalences

I Will Argue How Ambivalence, In Its Most Elemental Form, and Self (As Defined By a Three-Term Relationship), Are Reflections Of One Another
Prospectus Continued

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation

There will be a brief overview of theories concerning prejudice. My focus will be on prejudice as way to harden cognitive boundaries. In this respect, prejudice and fear will be connected. Sartre (1965) and Held (1980) will be quoted in support of this connection. I will continue to explore prejudice by citing Aboud’s (1988, p.4) definition: “Prejudice refers to an organized predisposition to respond in an unfavorable manner toward people from an ethnic group because of their ethnic affiliation.” I will briefly discuss Allport’s (1958) reflective theory of prejudice, that is, the idea that prejudice is a product of an environment where power, status and competition are reflected in the attitudes of the people who compete for power and status; and then I will turn to Adorno’s (et al., 1950) view of prejudice as it may be understood as a result of a child’s inner conflict with his/her authoritarian parents. The cognitive developmental theory of prejudice will also be mentioned (Piaget and Weil, 1951), as will a number of studies linking prejudice, or, attitudes toward marginal groups, with ambivalence (Myrdal, 1944; Katz, 1981; Katz and Hass, 1988; Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, and Eisenstadt, 1991; and Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey and Moore, 1992).

At this point I will turn my attention to the literature of ambivalence beginning with Merton’s (1976) use of Bleuler’s (1910) coinage of the word. Bleuler identified three types of ambivalence which, according to Robert Merton (1976, p.3), may be characterized as: “the emotional (or affective) type in which the same object arouses both positive and negative feelings, as in parent-child relations; the voluntary (or conative) type in which conflicting wishes make it difficult or impossible to decide how to act; and the intellectual (or cognitive) type, in which men hold contradictory ideas.” Ever since Bleuler, ambivalence has been an object for investigation by psychologists and sociologists alike.

I will briefly discuss the basis of ambivalence as it is presented by Freud (1939) and further interpreted by Thom (1983). I will then take a much closer look at how ambivalence, as a motivating factor, plays itself out in Adorno’s (et al., 1950) Authoritarian Personality. Using quotations from Billig (1982) and Gregg (1991), I will argue that an ambivalence grounded self is perpetually looking for an escape from ambivalence. Both of these authors have argued in a similar fashion and a good example of what this means for the individual is readily expressed in the following quote from Billig. Although ambivalence may generate negative as well as positive affects, this particular quote is an example of a positive affect. According to Billig’s (1982, p. 147) reading of Rosenberg and Abelson’s Congruity Model of cognitive consistency, ambivalence may be defined in the following way:

“Ambivalence refers to ‘the simultaneous presence of positive and negative affect in reaction to a cognized object’. Ambivalences are forms of inconsistency or incongruity, and as such they are ‘tension-arousing’ – ‘they set in motion processes directed toward their removal’, because ‘if the ambivalences are not removed, they continue to be unpleasant, even painful, to the subject so long as he continues to think about the concepts at issue’. Thus there is an implication that the authoritarian personality, whose basic motivation, according to the theory of Adorno et al., is an intolerance of ambiguity, is someone who has been able to remove inconsistencies; it is the so-called democratic personality who is saddled with painful ambivalences.”

Focusing on Thom’s (1984, p.xi) treatment of self as “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference….(and,) as some combination of difference and equality, dividing and making equal or identical,” I will begin to argue how ambivalence and self are intrinsically connected. Continuing this line of reasoning, I will discuss Simmel’s (Levine, 1971) concept of man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries, and, Billig’s (1987, p.5) presentation of the categorization/particularization interdependence that characterizes the “inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self,” I will then proceed to argue how ambivalence, in its most elemental form, and self (as defined by a three-term relationship) are reflections of one another.

This argument will begin with a description of Descartes’ cogito (Flew, 1979), giving specific attention to the “identity” inference implied by this cogito. This inference is described by Anscombe (Ed. Cassam,1994, p152) as: “The thinking that thinks this thought–that is what is guaranteed by cogito”. I will then describe how the self, when the self is understood in terms of a triadic relationship, – “me-self,” the negation of the “me-self,” and, the “I-self,” – offers a different conceptual basis from which to derive the “identity” inference without attaching itself to Descartes’ excess baggage, or, as this baggage is described by Hermans, et al., (1993, p. 39), “the existence of a unitary, closed, highly centralized subject or self, as an entity in itself, having an existence ‘above’ or ‘outside’ the social environment.”

With the triadic self-concept in place, I will then proceed to describe why “a relativity to a basis,” according to Evans (Ed. Cassam, 1994, p. 196), “becomes a conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates,” and, why acquiring knowledge (accessing the truth or falsity of knowledge) invokes an act of self-reference where the subject is required to reflect on the credibility, or basis, of the knowledge in question.

From this model of a triadic concept of self I will be able to forcefully argue that much of what Mead (1934) and James (1890) described as the socially generated component parts of self, is, in fact, an accurate description of self. However, I will also argue that, as a consequence of the conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates, a second, inner component of self is at work. It is this inner component of self that generates the salience of cognitive objects, and, in so far as this inner-self is capable of instantiating inner directed values, e.g., numbers, sets, multi-valued logics, this inner-self makes possible the hypothetical-deductive method of scientific explanation and prediction. It is relevant that the source of these inner values can be traced to the space that differentiates the self into a “neither this” (social), “nor that” (individual), circumstance, as opposed to Descartes’ “clear and distinct ideas” that, since the time of Descartes, have been identified as the source of these values. My discussion of science as a type of self-investigation of informational states should make this idea more clear. In lieu of this discussion I will cite literature on negation as it pertains to differentiation and affirmation (Billig, 1982; Blanco, 1975, Thoms, 1962, Gale, 1976).

After citing some friendly theoretical perspectives (Angyal, 1941; Jung, 1969; Billig, 1987 & 1982; Gregg, 1991; Hermans & Kempen 1993), that I believe are sympathetically disposed to my own position, – that of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self concept, – I will turn my attention to the literature of Self-Cognizing Research and the literature of Self-Inference Process and Motivation. In this literature clarifying insights and supportive empirical data will be cited.

The Defining Condition Of Ambivalence/Self Becomes Identified With A “Neither This Nor That” Circumstance

Prospectus Continued

If the genesis of ambivalence can be located in the differentiating space [to paraphrase Thom’s (1983, p.187) description of Simmel’s concept of a person], arising between what is simultaneously social and individual, social, in the form of the product of sociological categories, and individual, as the stranger existing outside of sociological categories, then the defining condition of ambivalence/self becomes identified with a “neither this nor that” circumstance. It is for this reason that ambivalence, in its most primitive form, becomes objectified as a “flight from ambivalence.” This “flight from ambivalence,” in turn, may be understood to be a powerful contributing factor to both the closing of the mind of the bigot, and, the modern penchant for division, domination, order, and technology.

In modern society’s matter-centered universe a human being’s “so-called” value and worth is never far removed from some objective measure that claims to be able to scientifically predict and explain human behavior. In this research project I propose to challenge this idea by putting forth a theory of self that recognizes ambivalence to be the locus of self where cognitive objects acquire salience. In this way I hope to show that science, or, as F. S. Northrop defines it (1946, p. 301), “the hypothetically proposed, apriori, theoretical component indirectly confirmed through its deductive consequences,” is merely one of the many expressive possibilities of a creative self and should, therefore, be judged accordingly.

In so far as I am to identify, in this research project, the locus of convergence of three relatively unrelated research areas – prejudice, ambivalence, and self-theory, I have made a survey of the relevant literature in the various research fields. Since the scope of this project is large, my survey of the literature has been more selective than comprehensive, so, in the interest of brevity and coherence, I will describe this literature from its convergent theoretical perspective. Therefore, the next section of this prospectus combines my survey of literature with my theoretical perspective.

It Is The So-Called Democratic Personality Who Is Saddled With Painful Ambivalences

I Will Argue How Ambivalence, In Its Most Elemental Form, and Self (As Defined By a Three-Term Relationship), Are Reflections Of One Another
Prospectus Continued

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation

There will be a brief overview of theories concerning prejudice. My focus will be on prejudice as way to harden cognitive boundaries. In this respect, prejudice and fear will be connected. Sartre (1965) and Held (1980) will be quoted in support of this connection. I will continue to explore prejudice by citing Aboud’s (1988, p.4) definition: “Prejudice refers to an organized predisposition to respond in an unfavorable manner toward people from an ethnic group because of their ethnic affiliation.” I will briefly discuss Allport’s (1958) reflective theory of prejudice, that is, the idea that prejudice is a product of an environment where power, status and competition are reflected in the attitudes of the people who compete for power and status; and then I will turn to Adorno’s (et al., 1950) view of prejudice as it may be understood as a result of a child’s inner conflict with his/her authoritarian parents. The cognitive developmental theory of prejudice will also be mentioned (Piaget and Weil, 1951), as will a number of studies linking prejudice, or, attitudes toward marginal groups, with ambivalence (Myrdal, 1944; Katz, 1981; Katz and Hass, 1988; Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, and Eisenstadt, 1991; and Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey and Moore, 1992).

At this point I will turn my attention to the literature of ambivalence beginning with Merton’s (1976) use of Bleuler’s (1910) coinage of the word. Bleuler identified three types of ambivalence which, according to Robert Merton (1976, p.3), may be characterized as: “the emotional (or affective) type in which the same object arouses both positive and negative feelings, as in parent-child relations; the voluntary (or conative) type in which conflicting wishes make it difficult or impossible to decide how to act; and the intellectual (or cognitive) type, in which men hold contradictory ideas.” Ever since Bleuler, ambivalence has been an object for investigation by psychologists and sociologists alike.

I will briefly discuss the basis of ambivalence as it is presented by Freud (1939) and further interpreted by Thom (1983). I will then take a much closer look at how ambivalence, as a motivating factor, plays itself out in Adorno’s (et al., 1950) Authoritarian Personality. Using quotations from Billig (1982) and Gregg (1991), I will argue that an ambivalence grounded self is perpetually looking for an escape from ambivalence. Both of these authors have argued in a similar fashion and a good example of what this means for the individual is readily expressed in the following quote from Billig. Although ambivalence may generate negative as well as positive affects, this particular quote is an example of a positive affect. According to Billig’s (1982, p. 147) reading of Rosenberg and Abelson’s Congruity Model of cognitive consistency, ambivalence may be defined in the following way:

“Ambivalence refers to ‘the simultaneous presence of positive and negative affect in reaction to a cognized object’. Ambivalences are forms of inconsistency or incongruity, and as such they are ‘tension-arousing’ – ‘they set in motion processes directed toward their removal’, because ‘if the ambivalences are not removed, they continue to be unpleasant, even painful, to the subject so long as he continues to think about the concepts at issue’. Thus there is an implication that the authoritarian personality, whose basic motivation, according to the theory of Adorno et al., is an intolerance of ambiguity, is someone who has been able to remove inconsistencies; it is the so-called democratic personality who is saddled with painful ambivalences.”

Focusing on Thom’s (1984, p.xi) treatment of self as “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference….(and,) as some combination of difference and equality, dividing and making equal or identical,” I will begin to argue how ambivalence and self are intrinsically connected. Continuing this line of reasoning, I will discuss Simmel’s (Levine, 1971) concept of man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries, and, Billig’s (1987, p.5) presentation of the categorization/particularization interdependence that characterizes the “inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self,” I will then proceed to argue how ambivalence, in its most elemental form, and self (as defined by a three-term relationship) are reflections of one another.

This argument will begin with a description of Descartes’ cogito (Flew, 1979), giving specific attention to the “identity” inference implied by this cogito. This inference is described by Anscombe (Ed. Cassam,1994, p152) as: “The thinking that thinks this thought–that is what is guaranteed by cogito”. I will then describe how the self, when the self is understood in terms of a triadic relationship, – “me-self,” the negation of the “me-self,” and, the “I-self,” – offers a different conceptual basis from which to derive the “identity” inference without attaching itself to Descartes’ excess baggage, or, as this baggage is described by Hermans, et al., (1993, p. 39), “the existence of a unitary, closed, highly centralized subject or self, as an entity in itself, having an existence ‘above’ or ‘outside’ the social environment.”

With the triadic self-concept in place, I will then proceed to describe why “a relativity to a basis,” according to Evans (Ed. Cassam, 1994, p. 196), “becomes a conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates,” and, why acquiring knowledge (accessing the truth or falsity of knowledge) invokes an act of self-reference where the subject is required to reflect on the credibility, or basis, of the knowledge in question.

From this model of a triadic concept of self I will be able to forcefully argue that much of what Mead (1934) and James (1890) described as the socially generated component parts of self, is, in fact, an accurate description of self. However, I will also argue that, as a consequence of the conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates, a second, inner component of self is at work. It is this inner component of self that generates the salience of cognitive objects, and, in so far as this inner-self is capable of instantiating inner directed values, e.g., numbers, sets, multi-valued logics, this inner-self makes possible the hypothetical-deductive method of scientific explanation and prediction. It is relevant that the source of these inner values can be traced to the space that differentiates the self into a “neither this” (social), “nor that” (individual), circumstance, as opposed to Descartes’ “clear and distinct ideas” that, since the time of Descartes, have been identified as the source of these values. My discussion of science as a type of self-investigation of informational states should make this idea more clear. In lieu of this discussion I will cite literature on negation as it pertains to differentiation and affirmation (Billig, 1982; Blanco, 1975, Thoms, 1962, Gale, 1976).

After citing some friendly theoretical perspectives (Angyal, 1941; Jung, 1969; Billig, 1987 & 1982; Gregg, 1991; Hermans & Kempen 1993), that I believe are sympathetically disposed to my own position, – that of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self concept, – I will turn my attention to the literature of Self-Cognizing Research and the literature of Self-Inference Process and Motivation. In this literature clarifying insights and supportive empirical data will be cited.100_3109

Lift A Stone And God Is There; Ask A Question And God Is There

August 22, 2009

jasper daveIn The Beginning was the paradox: How does unity coexist with multiplicity? How does oneness make room for otherness? How does the all- perfect source become something less than it-self? God, being up for this challenge, solved the dilemma, and She did this by (gender is optional here, in fact, it’s probably best to think of God in terms of process, in terms of “processing divinity”) the liberation of Her own non-being. This event had to be performed in such a way so as God could both be and not be God in the same phenomenon. Her solution is doable, even logically doable, in the form of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this double negation, God becomes free in the phenomenon of not, not being God, while affirming (by implication) the God that is free to not be God. In other words, the liberation of God’s non-being becomes God’s immanence while, at the same time, there exists an implied transcendent God. God’s immanence is particularly important to humans because divine immanence gets called “reality.”

Bare with me here, I’m learning how to negotiate my World Press blog. I just started using tags and I tried it out on an old post but it did not work the way I had hoped, so I created this post (from some other writing of mine) and using a bit of  my old post (with the old tags) I, hopefully,  will learn how to blog better.  What follows is from the old blog:

So, to begin this imagined conversation (at a High School class reunion which I never attended): after a few beers and the friendly chit chat out of the way, and after hearing the life stories of everybody sitting at the table, it was my turn to contribute to the conversation. After verbally celebrating my wife, two children, pets, and my never ending love for music, I had run out of things to say; that is, until the conversation had turned away from health issues and the topic of religion came up. After listening to my friends religious views which ranged from non-belief to Christian belief to a belief in a kind of pantheism, I surprised everyone by giving a different point of view. I said, “I’ve been searching for God most of my life, but after about 40 years of searching I found something to believe in.” Well, as you might imagine, everyone wanted to know which God I had found. So I told them—“God, the God of all religions, even the God that is purported not to exit, is alive and well and doing just fine.” And again, as you might expect, this assertion was quickly challenged and even became the object of some ridicule. Paul, however, came to my rescue when he asked me to expand on what the God of all religions means.

“For me,” I said, “God is not only one with nature, God is also one with the learning process that both asks and answers questions, questions pertaining to God, nature, and everything else. And because of this, God has many names; in fact there is no one name that can fully express God’s divinity. The expression of ‘difference, no difference,’ since that expression encompasses all distinctions, all identities, all differences, all that ‘is’ and ‘is not,’ seems to me to be the best description of the God that I believe in. So, basically, my search for God ended when I found that I could express God, the functionality of God, in the linguistic expression ‘difference, no difference.’”

“And what pray tell is the functionality of God?” asked Paul.

“The short answer to your question,” I replied, “is that there isn’t a short answer to your question, but I’ll give it a go anyhow. We encounter the manifestation of ‘difference, no difference’ in the physical nature of ‘quantum strangeness,’ and again in the terminal state of death in the biological sciences, and yet again in the maintenance of our own ‘conscious identity,’ the identity that demonstrates a degree of permanence in the midst of constant change. All of this and more is the functionality of God. In other words, everything—our physical environment, life, identity, analysis, truth, justice, and religious meaning, are attributes of the functionality of God.”

“So how is your vision of God different from pantheism,” replied Paul.

“As functionality,” I responded, “God manifests ‘difference,’ but as Divinity, God manifests ‘no difference.’ In other words, God is both immanent in nature, while being transcendent to nature. Also, God’s functionality, as it evolves, evolves qualitative differences, differences that emerge in the human being as the quest for truth, justice, and religious meaning. Functional differences, all of them, are made whole through Divinity, but in human consciousness, the qualitative difference of free will emerges. Free will separates and divides Divinity, but even this divided Divinity is made whole in the God of transcendence, and that is why the concept of pantheism is really not adequate when it comes to expressing my vision of God.”

“Christians understand ‘judgment day,’” responded Paul, “as a balance to free will. How does this God of yours handle unnecessary suffering, rewards and punishments?”

“Even though I am expressing my own personal vision of God,” I replied, “others have expressed concepts of Divinity similar to mine. In Whitehead’s process reality, for instance, the judgmental God of Christianity does not exist, but Divinity exists, and within this Divinity judgment, rewards and punishments also exist. God is ‘eternal presence,’ for Whitehead, and as such God 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. God works through the transition from the eternal to the actual, and from the actual back to the eternal and in this respect, the entire physical universe is processing its way back to God. God is the reason for all becoming, and nothing exists that is separate from God. So how does Whitehead deal with unnecessary pain, cruelty, and injustice? He combines freedom with feelings and that unique combination changes everything because if a retributive justice is called for here, then one has to look no farther then the first mirror to pinpoint the guilty. 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. God is there, inside agonizing screams, and God is there in suffering, especially suffering caused by injustice. God is there also, 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.’ This is the Divine dynamic that shouts out for change in the world and if no action is taken to prevent unnecessary pain, cruelty and injustice then we only have ourselves to b
lame. In my vision of God, feelings and freedom are necessarily connected also. Ultimately then, all that is meant by spirit and the spiritual— all intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion—is there in the whole of Divinity, embracing human nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and transformations of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the life long pursuit of love, caring, happiness and reverence. And, all of this too, represents the functionality of God.”

God—The Topic Of Conversation

April 11, 2009
Creation Of Adam

Okay, the other day I found myself mulling over whether or not I wanted to go to my next High School class reunion and almost immediately I was overcome with this feeling of dread; after all, do I, a life long janitor, really want to throw myself into that mix of story telling, story telling that on one level amounts to real communication, while, on a different level, offers up the evenings real entertainment of pinning the tail on the people who made it as opposed to the under achievers. Well, I didn’t have to think very hard before I came up with my “no answer” to that question. The problem was, though, that I couldn’t help but keep thinking about what it would be like if I did go to that class of ‘66 reunion. It was a slow Friday at work, so I proceeded to follow my imaginings until I had enough content to proceed with this writing project, which I now offer up as a light hearted “time out” from my structuralism posts. I guess I should point out that it’s been twenty years since I last attended my high school reunion. I do not feel bad about that, but I do feel a bit guilty about not attending the last scheduled reunion because a high school friend telephoned to encourage me to attend that reunion and begged off. Anyway, what follows is a bit of what I imagined I would say to my friends if indeed I ever do attend a future class reunion, but first some context details.

In high school I grouped with the smart kids (I was kind of an outlier, but my curiosity and enthusiasm for learning always garnered approval). All my friends were on the fast track to success. I came from a small school in a small town, so the kind of success I’m talking about is mostly the kind that keeps society moving along on an even keel– middle class success, but there were/are always exceptions. For instance, after I googled the name of the friend that telephoned me (let’s call him Paul), I stopped clicking the computer mouse after page seven. The list of his accomplishments continued, however.

So, to begin this imagined conversation: after a few beers and the friendly chit chat out of the way, and after hearing the life stories of everybody sitting at the table, it was my turn to contribute to the conversation. After verbally celebrating my wife, two children, pets, and my never ending love for music, I had run out of things to say; that is, until the conversation had turned away from health issues and the topic of religion came up. After listening to my friends religious views which ranged from non-belief to Christian belief to a belief in a kind of pantheism, I surprised everyone by giving a different point of view. I said, “I’ve been searching for God most of my life, but after about 40 years of searching I found something to believe in.” Well, as you might imagine, everyone wanted to know which God I had found. So I told them—“God, the God of all religions, even the God that is purported not to exit, is alive and well and doing just fine.” And again, as you might expect, this assertion was quickly challenged and even became the object of some ridicule. Paul, however, came to my rescue when he asked me to expand on what the God of all religions means.

“For me,” I said, “God is not only one with nature, God is also one with the learning process that both asks and answers questions, questions pertaining to God, nature, and everything else. And because of this, God has many names; in fact there is no one name that can fully express God’s divinity. The expression of ‘difference, no difference,’ since that expression encompasses all distinctions, all identities, all differences, all that ‘is’ and ‘is not,’ seems to me to be the best description of the God that I believe in. So, basically, my search for God ended when I found that I could express God, the functionality of God, in the linguistic expression ‘difference, no difference.’”

“And what pray tell is the functionality of God?” asked Paul.

“The short answer to your question,” I replied, “is that there isn’t a short answer to your question, but I’ll give it a go anyhow. We encounter the manifestation of ‘difference, no difference’ in the physical nature of ‘quantum strangeness,’ and again in the terminal state of death in the biological sciences, and yet again in the maintenance of our own ‘conscious identity,’ the identity that demonstrates a degree of permanence in the midst of constant change. All of this and more is the functionality of God. In other words, everything—our physical environment, life, identity, analysis, truth, justice, and religious meaning, are attributes of the functionality of God.”

“So how is your vision of God different from pantheism,” replied Paul.

“As functionality,” I responded, “God manifests ‘difference,’ but as Divinity, God manifests ‘no difference.’ In other words, God is both immanent in nature, while being transcendent to nature. Also, God’s functionality, as it evolves, evolves qualitative differences, differences that emerge in the human being as the quest for truth, justice, and religious meaning. Functional differences, all of them, are made whole through Divinity, but in human consciousness, the qualitative difference of free will emerges. Free will separates and divides Divinity, but even this divided Divinity is made whole in the God of transcendence, and that is why the concept of pantheism is really not adequate when it comes to expressing my vision of God.”

“Christians understand ‘judgment day,’” responded Paul, “as a balance to free will. How does this God of yours handle unnecessary suffering, rewards and punishments?”

“Even though I am expressing my own personal vision of God,” I replied, “others have expressed concepts of Divinity similar to mine. In Whitehead’s process reality, for instance, the judgmental God of Christianity does not exist, but Divinity exists, and within this Divinity judgment, rewards and punishments also exist. God is ‘eternal presence,’ for Whitehead, and as such God 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. God works through the transition from the eternal to the actual, and from the actual back to the eternal and in this respect, the entire physical universe is processing its way back to God. God is the reason for all becoming, and nothing exists that is separate from God. So how does Whitehead deal with unnecessary pain, cruelty, and injustice? He combines freedom with feelings and that unique combination changes everything because if a retributive justice is called for here, then one has to look no farther then the first mirror to pinpoint the guilty. 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. God is there, inside agonizing screams, and God is there in suffering, especially suffering caused by injustice. God is there also, 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.’ This is the Divine dynamic that shouts out for change in the world and if no action is taken to prevent unnecessary pain, cruelty and injustice then we only have ourselves to b
lame. In my vision of God, feelings and freedom are necessarily connected also. Ultimately then, all that is meant by spirit and the spiritual— all intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion—is there in the whole of Divinity, embracing human nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and transformations of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the life long pursuit of love, caring, happiness and reverence. And, all of this too, represents the functionality of God.”