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Process Philosophy Explained


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Dutch,

I've not read Whitehead, only a small bit of others' material drawn from and based on his ideas.

But what have of it, it has seemed to me that Whitehead's thinking in some ways carries forward with access to discoveries of modern physics, some ideas and concepts expressed in the philosophy of 5-6th B.C.D. Heraclitus. That ancient philosooher's concept, or model, of nature, the cosmos, reality, as constant change, the unity of opposites and relationships between them. Also, as Heraclitus used "Logos", seems very consistent to as expressed in John of Logos/The Word, and extending that thought, to Whitehead's ideas about process through which what appears to us to be/come to be exists.

Do you think there's similarities and parallels between Heraclutus and Whitehead ideas and theories of the nature of the cosmos and the reality as we percieve it?

 

Jenell

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Jenell,

 

I don't know about Heraclitus or how he compares with Whitehead and my knowledge of Whitehead is limited.

 

I do get the part of "everything being relationship or process". Right now I am trying to find the words that make sense to me with some topical focus. This moment's question - can I say that all evolved from the urge for relationship? - seems to find a dialog with the following from Process Theology: A Basic Introduction by C. Robert Mesle. How much does God have to know 'before' the Big Bang? Can the becoming of the universe and the becoming of the Other, who became two so that there might be relationship, have started at equal levels. How much does this Other (God) have to know before all this becoming 'begins'?

 

"...God is unchanging in the same sense that God loves the [universe] perfectly. But for that very reason, the expressions of God's love are constantly changing in response to the decisions and needs of the [universe].

Is the way that God - I'll get to a better word later I hope - is the way that God loved 377000 years after the big Bang, when the formation of hydrogen was at its height, in some way different than God's love is manifested now?

 

Process theologians would say that God has eternally had perfect and unchanging knowledge of all the possibilities for the [universe]. But because the [universe] has real freedom to choose [among] those possibilities, God's knowledge of the actual choices made is is constantly changing as the [universe] changes.

I understood, and I could be wrong, that all the actualities, after they occur, are added to the possibilities for the next moment. To evolution and Whitehead novelty is essential. If it is a true novelty it has to be something that is new to God, not just as a different actuality from the same group of eternal possibilities, but something new that can now be added to the all the other possibilities. As Papa in The Shack says, "Surprise me!"

 

An error in reflecting on evolution is that we tend to assume that our current understanding of the universe and God can be projected reliably on the past. For example: that love and compassion as they exist today are the same as at the time of the formation of hydrogen. I wonder if they even exist then. Are they not a property of relationship that then had yet to evolve? Or is love like hydrogen: eternally present but in greater complexities?

 

That's what I am wondering about today.

 

Dutch

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The relationship between Whithead and Heraclitus is unambiguous as Whitehead is quite clear about this in Process and Reality. Where Whitehead appeals to Herclitus, he could just as well appeal to Buddha as the perspectives are very similar. That, is an element in Whitehead that is crucial, but seldom acknowledged.

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Thank you, myron, as I noted, I haven't actually read Whitehead. I encountered Heraclitus in Intro to Philosophy, and really kind of immediately hooked into his view of change as reality, and his use of The Logos. Just resonated with me, i found it amazing, had never encountered that kind of view of the nature of things before that.

 

Jenell

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Thank you, myron, as I noted, I haven't actually read Whitehead. I encountered Heraclitus in Intro to Philosophy, and really kind of immediately hooked into his view of change as reality, and his use of The Logos. Just resonated with me, i found it amazing, had never encountered that kind of view of the nature of things before that.

 

Jenell

 

Jenell,

 

Happy you found it of use. I know you have been interested in Jung and, as I have said before, Jung and Whitehead are quite similar in their perspective.

 

Not much of what Heraclitus wrote survived and, as some historians have noted, the history of Western philosophy and Christianity might have been different had more of his work survived.

 

Myron

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There is, however, always the 'however'. What Whitehead and Jung attempted to show is that "reality" is both static and dynamic and this is one area where the 'law of the excluded middle' does not apply.

 

Put another way, nature and nurture interact (relate) to produce change.

 

But, that brings into question the old view of a 'fall' from perfection ... a view NOT unique to Christianity.

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Is the way that God loved 377000 years after the big Bang, when the formation of hydrogen was at its height, in some way different than God's love is manifested now?

Some process theologians say that the soul evolved.

Process Theology sees human souls as evolved from lower animals in a model that stresses the process of becoming:
  • Process Theologians believe that there is compelling evidence that as we move “down” the animal kingdom, the experiences of living creatures become less and less complex.
    • a. Abstract thinking disappears first.
    • b. Certain emotions associated with the ability to see far into the future or remember and interpret the past also disappear.
    • c. As we move further “down” in the animal kingdom, other emotions and intentionality are lost.
    • d. Probably “consciousness” depends on a central nervous system, so as we move down to lower animal forms, consciousness is lost.
    • e. Below this level, there is “unconscious experience.”

However, even non-living things have some experiences.

If the soul evolves then does God?

 

Dutch

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Dutch,

 

Your most recent post agrees with much of contemporary cognitive science ... and with Pierre Janet's definition of "progressive thought". Consider that Janet's theory is over 100 years old ... now you might see the frustration some have with ideas that are old to some and new to others.

 

Myron

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Myron,

 

I always appreciate your comments. I thought i would do some reading to hurry my self along the road. Trying to understand how the metaphysical evolves or doesn't along with physical.

 

To return to our conversation long ago: if God is changed by our participation and our evolution, as process thought suggests, I still have a problem with God holding eternally all possibilities. I understand that our actualizations add to the whole of God's knowledge of everything there is to know, but don't the novelties we participate in increase the possibilities that God makes available in the next moment? so then doesn't that mean the eternal possibilities have been increased by one? And since God exists in time then these possibilities are not eternal?

 

Dutch

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Myron,

 

I always appreciate your comments. I thought i would do some reading to hurry my self along the road. Trying to understand how the metaphysical evolves or doesn't along with physical.

 

To return to our conversation long ago: if God is changed by our participation and our evolution, as process thought suggests, I still have a problem with God holding eternally all possibilities. I understand that our actualizations add to the whole of God's knowledge of everything there is to know, but don't the novelties we participate in increase the possibilities that God makes available in the next moment? so then doesn't that mean the eternal possibilities have been increased by one? And since God exists in time then these possibilities are not eternal?

 

Dutch

 

You have the key ... there are possibilities and there are actualities. Some acutalities are present, and some future. But, future acualities are constrained by what can exist. But, then, evolution will eventually determine what can exist ... evolution is not a priori. Human minds struggle with that reality.

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Before I encountered any of these philosophers/thinkers, I had some personal experiences that had brought the idea of an onderlying 'connectedness' in all things, at some level underlying our common perception of material reality through which all things were not separate as they deemed, but all integratred within 'one whole'.

At the very beginning of a period of tremendous psychological/emotional upheaval that I eventualy recognized as a transformative process of remarkable nature, I begn to experience 'strange coincidences' that simply seemed TOO coincidental to be random...some in religious contexts I mentioned them to did tell me they were 'spiritual affirmations' or some such...I'd never even heard the term 'sychronicity' nor any experience with ideas of Jung or Campbel of others. But there was some really deep and profound 'processing' going on in my mind, against, strange things that I'd never heard of, so 'crazy' I was not only afriad to tell others of them, but honestly at times questioing my own sanity. I had found myself drawn deeply, even obsseively, into studying and meditating upon Jesus' words, teachings, parables, etc. I had a sense there was "something there", very important, just out of my reach, just out of my concious awareness, and my mind felt driven to tease it out, unravel it as if a thread,to see it as it was.

At the point I began to form in my mind what seemed quite a crazy idea at the time, even for me, that this kindgom of Heavem Kingdoem of God, Jesus was talking about was some kind of spiritual 'network', field of interconnected conciousness and energy we are all part of and plugged into, whether aware of it or not. That all we think, feel, not just act out in matieral reality, really does affect others, and others affect us, in an invisible network or common energy field. Remember, I was entirely unexposed to anyhting considered 'new age' or 'occult.

Once that idea, that concept, seemed to emerge into my mind, my conciousness, in something of a full blown form, that at once both fascinated me, but also made me wonder even more about my sanity, I just couldn't seem to stop niggling at it, trying to break it down, examine it, test it, in my mind.

As that hed just really broken into my conciousness, and I had actully begin to pray on it, seeking spiritual help, to understand it, but mainly, to help me decide if I was crazy of something, I experience a series of most remarkable events all within a single day. I had a pet grooming buisnes at the time, and grooming is one of those things you can busy your body and one part of your mind at, while leaving other parts of the mind free to wander and consider upon other things...a sort of carry water/chop one kind of actvities, lol. and my mind was much on that idea of a connectedness, a 'spritual or energy network.

 

First thing that morning, as man, a freind of a friend, who I was helping by allowing him to keep his menagerie of pets here while he got moved into a new house, came by tp care for them...one was a molty game hen. He walked in, jokingly said, there's not much I can give you for helping me with this, but, here, the hen laid an egg. He gave me an egg. The only egg the hen laid while she was there, lol. Before that one day was over, various of my grooming customers coming in to drop off or pick up their pets, has given me a most interesting little collection of gifts....which itself wasn't common, for customers to bring me gifts. Each was from a person I had helped in some little way, gone out of my way for, or, as one, just been nice to, as she was kind of dingy, had a speech imprediment, and people often weren't.

But the end of the day, in addition to the egg, I had two nice frozen flounder from someone that had been fishing, a 6-pak of bagels with only 5 bagels in it...the woman had heard people talk about bagels, bought a pack and tried one, didn't care for them), and a nice new cotton housedress, brightly colored with a pattern of big lilies on it! That was my "affirmation expeirence" of sychronicity, though it would still be awhile before I learned of that word. I could never doubt it reality again.

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Dutch, in your thoughts on "soul" as something that has evolved as part of the evolution of the whole of the cosmos, I think you are saying in something of a sense of "God=Soul" in the greater sense? Evolution of God as Soul and Soul as God? A "macro Soul?"

 

If I am understanding that correctly, then, "macro Soul" embracing, even made up of, many "micro souls," as like cells of a body? Or perhaps a better metaphor, as "society is to individual members within that society?"

 

Jenell

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Jenell,

 

I am using the word soul because it is handy. It is not a word I am familiar with. I would not say that God=soul. I might entertain the notion that "soul" is how we access God, transcendence. I don't care for micro-macro we have a bit of god in us. Before I say anymore about soul I want to have a better understanding of feelings in Whitehead's view as the way we access beauty, truth, etc.

 

i don't have much time tonight.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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After a little reading I will stop using "soul". Soul is a thing not a process. How about "awakening"? In the our evolution there is the possibility of increased awakening, to or consciousness of, the beckoning of the divine towards love. After 13.7 billion years we are capable of being conscious of or being awake to God's call. Such realization is now part of the possibilities which may be actualized.

 

An additional part has not added to humanity but we have evolved a new ability which increases the likelihood that we will see the lure of love.

 

Dutch

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I think that expresses the idea you are trying to relate, at least as i'm understanding it, better. You are right, both in that 'soul' is a thing, not a process, and, frankly, 'soul' is a difficult word to try to use in any context, because it is already so loaded with various connotations in our language and thinking.

 

Jenell

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In Process and Reality, Whitehead was very clear regarding his concept of the "soul":

 

"The doctrine of the enduring soul with its permanent characteristics is exactly the irrelevant answer to the problem which life presents. The problem is, How can there be originality? (Whitehead, 1929, p. 104)"

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"The doctrine of the enduring soul with its permanent characteristics is exactly the irrelevant answer to the problem which life presents. The problem is, How can there be originality? (Whitehead, 1929, p. 104)"

He sounds frustrated.

 

I was following my mind around and found, among other things this article by Charles Birch, Why I became a panexperientialist. I haven't had time to process it all.

 

In panexperientialism, matter and mind necessarily evolve together. One doesn't come after the other. The evolution of mind from elemental beginnings in the electron to richness of conscious mind in the human makes logical sense.
[Professor W.E. Agar, the professor of Zoology in the University of Melbourne] went on to give a picture of cosmic evolution and the evolution of mind. The majority of biologists picture mind as emerging at some stage in the evolution of animals. Before that time there was no mind. From no mind comes mind. Agar proposed the alternative that there has been no moment in evolution when mind made its first appearance. Minds and bodies evolved together even though that body be only a proton or an atom. It is more reasonable to suppose that both objective and subjective have existed as long as anything has existed than to suppose that the subjective has emerged from the non-­subjective or that it does not exist at all.

Now that was an original idea. :rolleyes:

 

Dutch

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I have enjoyed this conversation immensely. I have been interested in process theology for a while, and you have increased my desire to learn more, and have helped me "process" what little I do know. Thanks for sharing this and don't stop now! :D

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Same for me.

A question that I have, if someone more well versed in this area might help explain for me...I've encountered both terms "process philosophy" and "process theology" and I'm thinking they are actually not one and the same, not interchangeable, though they seem to get used that way sometimes.

Can someone help clarify that, the distinctions, how they differ?

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Dutch posted:

Quote

 

"The doctrine of the enduring soul with its permanent characteristics is exactly the irrelevant answer to the problem which life presents. The problem is, How can there be originality? (Whitehead, 1929, p. 104)"

He sounds frustrated.

 

Something touched up in several of the Religious Studies courses I took that dealt with Christian theology and doctrine is that the idea, concept, of an eternal, immortal, durable individual human soul, can neither be drawn from nor supported within biblical scipture, but is rather an idea borrowed from the pagan Greeks and Romans. A feature, or quality, gained in "the new birth", the "spiritual birth", is to "inheret eternal life," This does seem to negate the idea of a durable soul that survives mortal death of the body, a universal "life after death" in which one's eternal fate will be reward of heaven or eternal suffering in Hell, Hell itself also a concept borrowed from Pagan Greeks and Romans.

 

The Old Testament doesn't provide clear support for a life after death, or even much that could support the idea of some mass "ressurection" of all the dead for judgement and sentencing to heaven or hell.

 

Jenell

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Yvonne, Jenell,

Here is a link to the article I quoted above. It is process thought primarily applied to science. The main theme is that everything is internally related as well as externally related. The study of the external relations is what most people call science. To do science from the viewpoint that everything is internally related changes the way observations are and experiments are done.

 

Why I became a Panexperientialist

 

The Center for Process Studies is not just about theology.

http://www.ctr4process.org/

 

Dutch

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