Whitehead’s Process Theology
Process Theology owes its origin to the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.
Whitehead was a 20th century whose focus was primarily in philosophy itself and less on theology. The theology of Process Philosophy was later expanded on and developed by scholars like Charles Hartshorne, John Cobb and Philip Clayton. However, the origins of the Process concept of God are found primarily in Whitehead’s work Process and Reality.
In Process and Reality Whitehead explains his doctrine of God’s nature in an attempt to clarify and correct some of the inconsistencies found in Classical Theism and Christian Theology in general. As we have just seen the inconsistencies of Thomistic theology can be found when trying to reconcile the concept of God being absolute and yet unchanging. Classical Theism claims that God is transcendent, perfect and immutable, and yet somehow is still infinite and absolute. The obvious problem is how can God be unchanging and absolute and yet there exists a universe that exists separate from God that is changing and temporal?
Whitehead answers this question by introducing the doctrine of Di-Polar Theism. Whitehead attempts to address this contradiction by calling into question the idea of God’s immutability. Immutability is based on the idea of God’s Perfection because that which is perfect cannot need or want for anything and in turn any type of change would make God incomplete in some way. Whitehead claims that this is erroneous and due to the climate of the new physics emerging in the 20th century, Whitehead feels the need to reconcile the image of God from one who is separate from the world to one who is receptive and engaged in the world.
Di-Polar theism is the concept that God has two natures. One of the natures is immutable, unchanging and incorruptible, as in Classical Theism, and Whitehead calls this nature the “primordial nature of God”. The primordial nature of God is the transcendent nature of God and possesses the qualities Classical Theism would place on God. However, in Di-Polar Theism the primordial nature is coupled by the consequent nature of God. The consequent nature of God is both changing and receptive to the physical universe. In this way God has a transcendent quality in its primordial nature and an integrating quality in its consequent nature.
Whitehead explains the two natures as such: “the nature of God is di-polar. He has a primordial nature and a consequent nature. The consequent nature of God is conscious; and it is the realization of the actual world in the unity of his nature, and through the transformation of his wisdom. The primordial nature is conceptual; the consequent nature is the weaving of God’s physical feelings upon his primordial concepts.”
In this passage from Process and Reality we see that Whitehead sees the primordial nature of God as a type of potentiality that exists in perfection much in the way Plato’s Forms were treated. The primordial nature is “conceptual” in that it exists in principles and stasis rather than actualized existence. The consequent nature of God is “conscious” and is therefore receptive and actively engaged in the process of the physical universe. As the physical universe changes that consequent nature of God is that part of God that is able to respond, interact and literally feel the love and suffering of human beings. The God of Classical Theism, being immutable, had no ability to interact with the universe because that would require the concept of reciprocity and change. Whitehead addresses this by introducing the consequent nature of God.
On the primordial nature he adds: “One side of God’s nature is constituted by his conceptual experience. This experience is the primordial fact in the world, limited by no actuality by which it presupposes. It is therefore infinite, devoid of all negative prehensions. This side of His nature is free, complete, primordial, eternal, actually deficient and unconscious.” The primordial nature is seen as the complete and infinite aspect of God. The fact that God is unconscious in its primordial nature suggests an aspect of immutability and perfection because consciousness implies being involved in a changing reality.
The conscious aspect of God is described as: “The other side originates with physical experience derived from the temporal world, and then acquires integration with the primordial side. It is determined, incomplete, consequent, ‘everlasting’, fully actual and conscious. His necessary goodness expresses the determination of his consequent nature.” The consequent nature is in turn, fully engaged in the processes of the changing universe. Without this aspect, God would be distant and unable to be involved directly in the spiritual lives of human beings. By being rooted in the physical experience of the world, God is capable of receiving and giving love and feeling and healing suffering. He also makes the distinction between everlasting and eternal in these two statements. Eternal signifies an unchanging infinite state of being, where as everlasting implies a living process subject to change which is also infinite. These two infinite realities form the integrated natures of God and therefore God is di-polar.
This sense of Di-Polar theology is also seen in the teachings of God’s love. God’s creative love is seen as an aspect of God’s primordial nature from which the Son and the universe is born, and God’s receptive and responsive love is seen as an aspect of God’s consequent nature. This is explained in this in this quote from John Cobb and David Griffin’s work, Process Theology: “In addition to the presence in the world of the creative love of God (the Primordial Nature); there is also the presence of the responsive love of God (the Consequent Nature). The responsive love of God is just as fully God as is the creative love of God.” God’s fully manifests in a di-polar fashion and each aspect of God’s love is fully a part of the being of God.
Whitehead further explains on his cosmology by taking a very Platonist position on the make-up of the higher levels of the universe and the aspects that both go into the creation of physical reality, but also to God's relationship to the universe. In this passage from Religion in the Making, Whitehead explains the Platonic cosmology: “The temporal world and its formative elements constitute for us the all inclusive universe. The formative elements are: 1. The creativity whereby the actual world has its character of temporal passage to novelty; 2. The realm of ideal entities, or forms, which are in themselves not actual, but are such that they are exemplified in everything that is actual, according to some proportion of relevance; 3. The actual but non-temporal entity whereby the indetermination of mere creativity is transmuted into a determinate freedom. This non-temporal actual entity is what men call God- the supreme God of rationalized religion.”
For Whitehead, God's primordial nature contains within itself, both the ability to create and the ability to conceptualize all possible actualized realities, which he calls, actual occasions. Actual occasions can be atoms, events, or beings, but the potential for their actualization is contained within the primordial nature of God as universal ideas. This concepts is admittedly Platonic and is derived from Plato's concept of the Forms. The potential ideas therefore, are the infinite possibilities of actualized reality, in the physical universe. This infinite potentiality is then contained within the conceptualization of the mind of God. God's creation of the physical universe, is in turn, God's actualization of potential ideas, manifested as physical reality in the universe. Whitehead expands on this definition in this passage: “God, who is the ground antecedent to transition, must include all possibilities of physical value conceptually, thereby holding the ideal forms apart in equal, conceptual realization of knowledge. Thus, as concepts, they are grasped together in the synthesis of omniscience.” God's knowledge is therefore, not an objective knowledge of external objects, but a subjective conceptualization of all possible manifestations of real objects, and it is through making actual God's ideas, that God creates in the universe.
For Whitehead, the universe is connected through God's ideas as potential to actual reality. However,. for Whitehead, there is a necessary dependence between both God and the universe. Some Process theologians like Bracken and Clayton dispute this, but Whitehead clearly felt that God was as equally dependent on the actualized physical universe, as the actualized physical reality of the universe was dependent on the infinite potentiality of God to exist. Some Process theologians take this to be more true than others, but in this passage we can clearly see Whitehead's position: “The abstract forms are thus the link between God and the actual world. These forms are abstract and not real, because in themselves they represent no achievement of actual value…. Apart from these forms, no rational description can be given of God, or of the actual world. Apart from God, there would be no actual world; and apart from the actual world with its creativity, there would be no rational explanation of the ideal vision which constitutes God.”
For Whitehead, God's existence is necessarily linked to the universe, and in turn the universe is dependent upon God to exist. This is in direct antithesis to the Classical Theistic doctrine of Perfection. Perfection is defined by the concept that God is complete and is in need of nothing in order to be complete. Whitehead's position is that God's Perfection is dependent on the existence of the physical universe and therefore God is incomplete without the actualization of its potential ideas.
Whitehead, even takes this a step further by claiming that God is not only limited in Perfection, but limited in Absoluteness or Infinity, by placing it ontologically in relationship to the universe as a distinct substance. Rather than pursue an argument that includes the actualization of God's potentiality as an extension of God's own substance, Whitehead opts for a position that claims distinct substances in relation to God's substance. In this passage we see this position defined: “But the main point of all such philosophies is that they presuppose individual substance, either one or many individual substances, “which requires nothing but itself in order to exist.” This presupposition is exactly what is denied in the more Platonic description which has been given in this lecture. There is no entity, not even God, “which requires nothing but itself in order to exist.”
Therefore, not only does Whitehead take the position that God is dependent upon the universe to exist, he claims that this relationship is one of distinct substances in a dependent relationship. In doing so Whitehead is claiming God is both limited in Perfection and Absoluteness as defined in Classical Theism.
Whitehead's position is based upon the idea that the universe is "societal". By society, Whitehead means an interconnected whole where the parts are neither independent of the whole, nor consumed by the whole. The universe from its formative elements to its complexity in actualized physicality operates in an inter-relational society, where the parts are interdependent and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Whitehead describes societal organization as such: “According to the doctrine of this lecture, every entity is in its essence social and requires the society in order to exist. In fact, the society for each entity, actual or ideal, is the all inclusive universe, including its ideal forms.” Therefore, nothing not even God is exempt from its participation and necessary dependence on the society to exist and function. As we will see later, this concept is actually used by Bracken to support the inter-relational aspects of the Trinity, and therefore Bracken restores God's Perfection in terms of dependence, by making the Trinity a societal relationship that then shares with creation the divine life shared among the persons of the Trinity.
Panentheism: Triangular Comparison
Roland Faber underlines Whitehead’s Panentheism in his work God as Poet of the World. In his text he describes the “triangular comparison” of three schools of thought in relation to Classical Christian Relations, which is the Christian concept that a transcendent God has an immanent “relationship” with the world through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Whitehead explains that there are three antithetical concepts to Realtionalism. These three are the concepts of Extreme Transcendentalism, Extreme Immanantism and Extreme Monism. Extreme Transcendentalism is the Semitic concept that this universe is completely ontologically separate from God. God transcends the physical universe and is in no way engaged in the universe as a changing process. Extreme Immanentism is a type of pantheism, or literally “all is God”, where the identity of God is completely dissolved into the identity of the physical universe. In this type of pantheism the physical universe itself is seen as the whole of reality and is in essence God. Extreme Monism is a type of pantheism, where the identity of the world is completely dissolved into the identity of God. You can find this type of pantheism in the Advaita (Non-Dualistic) Vedanta of the Hindu teachings of Shankara.
Whitehead expressed the need for a middle ground between these concepts and in turn laid the groundwork for people like Charles Hartshorne and Philip Clayton to suggest types of panentheism, or literally “all-in-God”. Panentheism suggests that the physical universe is neither the same as God, nor completely ontologically distinct from God. The universe is literally contained within God, and God is able to retain its distinct separate nature without the existence of the universe (Although, some Process Theologians claim that God is also dependent on the universe).
Process Panentheism requires that the universe is inherently of a distinct "substances" from God. Monistic cosmologies suggest that the component structures of the physical universe are composed of the same substance that God is composed of, In Extreme Monism, the physical universe is considered to be not only a part of God, but ultimately indistinct from the substance of God.
Process Panentheism speaks directly of the interconnection of God and the universe, but as the etymology of the term Panenthesim suggests, "all" is contained in God, and therefore, Process Panentheism suggests an ontologically distinct substance in relationship to God itself. Although Process theologians will tend toward seeing the universe in itself as one substance itself, Process Panentheism is predicated on the concept that God and the universe are distinct substances, as we saw Whitehead define earlier. Philip Clayton is even more clear in this definition of a two substance Panentheism.
This predication of an ontologically distinct substantial relationship between God and the universe, also therefore requires by necessity that God must be in some sense limited in terms of its Absoluteness. In order for there to be a another distinct substance in relationship to God, God's Absoluteness and Infinity must be limited ontologically. Whitehead, holds this view, and as we will see, Process Theologians take this even further by claiming it is also God's Omnipotence that is also limited.
Whitehead is entirely comfortable claiming that God is limited in terms of its existence in relationship to the universe. In fact, Whitehead claims that God's limitation is essential to its loving relationship with the universe: “The limitation of God is his goodness. He gains his depth of actuality by his harmony of valuation. It is not true that God is in all respects infinite. If He were, He would be evil as well as good. Also this unlimited fusion of evil with good would mean mere nothingness. He is something decided and is thereby limited.” Without expanding on my objection to his doctrine of theodicy just yet, I will point out that for Whitehead the universe and God are in a polar relationship. In order to understand that relationship, Whitehead claims we must revise our Classical Theistic concepts of God's Infinity and Absoluteness, and recognize it's ontological limitation as part of God's harmonious and loving relationship in which God's love and creative will can become manifest in reality in our lives and in the universe itself.
Charles Hartshorne’s Panentheism
Charles Hartshorne one of the primary scholars who helped develop the concepts found in Whitehead’s philosophy into a working theology. Hartshorne expanded on Whitehead’s assault on Classical Theism by underlining six major errors he found in Classical Theism in his work Omnipotence and other Theological Mistakes.
The first two are the most important for our discussion of cosmogony and panentheism. The first is that the concept of God’s Perfection is flawed because it implies a state of immutability. For this Hartshorne sides with Whitehead in claiming that Perfection need not include immutability, otherwise it negates God’s absoluteness.
The second is God’s Omnipotence. Classical Theism, especially Calvinistic Protestantism, claims that the universe is set in divine order by God’s all powerful will and in turn all things happen according to God’s divine plan. This negates the possibility of a free-will. Hartshorne responded to this by claiming that God creates a changing universe in which things themselves have the ability to create events, and in turn God becomes receptive to these vents through its consequent nature
For Hartshorne it was important to preserve the supremacy and infinite nature of God primordial nature and not let the concept of Process dissolve to transcendental nature of God’s existence. To distinguish his doctrine of pantheism, or what he calls surrelativism, he states: “Is surrelativism a pantheistic doctrine? Not if this means a doctrine which denies the personality of deity; nor yet if it means that deity is identical with a mere collection of entities, as such, even the cosmic collection.”
From this passage from Hartshorne’s work The Divine Relativity, Hartshorne is clear to distinguish surrelativism from strict pantheism as Whitehead did in his triangular comparison. Hartshorne is showing the relationship of the two types of pantheism (extreme immanentism and extreme monism) from surrelativism by maintaining God’s ability to be ontologically distinct from the universe but yet be directly immanent in the universe while it exists.
He clarifies this further by stating: “Traditional Theism or Deism makes God solely independent or non-inclusive. Thus there are logically the three views: (1) God is merely the cosmos, in all aspects inseparable from the sum or system of dependent things or effects; (2) he is both this system and something independent of it; (3) he is not the system, but is in all aspects independent. The second view is panentheism.”
For Hartshorne, God and the world are intimately integrated in a mutual relationship where God is not only present in its design, but active in its evolution and change. However, Hartshorne reinforces the concept that God is independent from the universe and exists above and beyond the scope of the finite physical universe itself. For Hartshorne God is not simply the whole of the universe. God exists outside the universe as well as immanently throughout it.
Mind Body Analogy
Hartshorne uses the Mind/ Body analogy found in Neo-Platonism and Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita Vedanta to describe the relationship of God to the universe. The mind/body analogy suggests that the God/universe relationship is similar to the idea that the mind (or soul) in habits and is intertwined with the physical body. In this analogy the physical body and the mind are both mutually dependent on each other to exist as an individual being, but the s mind (or soul) can exist without the body after death.
For Hartshorne, the universe is similar to God’s body. The term “society” is used to describe the idea that the physical body is a “society” of cells, and universally God’s body is a society of actualized events and beings. God is the “World –Soul” of the universe. The universe relates to God as a “society” of actualization and it in turn is reflective of the mind/body analogy in that the “society” is similar to the “body” of God. This type of analogy is used throughout panentheistic theologies, but is always seen as an analogy not simply a direct reference to the universe as an actual physical body of God.
Types of Panenetheisms
David Griffin’s Process Panentheism
David Griffin uses the mind/body analogy as well in describing his vision of a panentheistic theology. Griffin’s as well as John Cobb’s theology uses a Neo-Platonic vision of creation where the universe is formed by God out of a preexistent state of chaos and random events.
In Griffin’s panentheism, the universe is seen as somehow within God. The universe is created within the being of God; however the universe has an element of independence from God either necessarily or through the will of God. God is then in a reciprocal relationship with the universe where the universe is influenced by God’s will and love and God, in turn, is also influences and receptive to the events of the physical universe. This makes God an active agent of change in the universe, and can be seen in relation to universe as the mind is to the body. Both the mind and body have some sort of independent essence and they both reciprocally influence and are influenced by each other.
He describes panentheism as such: “According to process panentheism, God is essentially the soul of the universe, God’s relation to it belongs to the divine essence. This does not mean, however, that our particular universe- with its electrons, universe square law, and Planck’s constant- exists necessarily.”
For Griffin panentheism is the intimate relationship of God and the universe and is very similar to Hartshorne’s vision of panentheism. However, Griffin emphasizes the concept of creation from chaos, and argues against creatio ex nihilo, or creation from nothing, as in Classical theism. Creatio ex nihilo is essential to Classical Theism because it reinforced the idea of God’s omnipotence and that nothing exits without being created from God. This Platonic image of creation suggests a state of being prior to creation that is not God’s infinite nature and is composed of chaotic events.
Griffin describes this state of being as such: “This universe was divinely created, evidently 15 billion years ago. It was even created out of “no-thing” in the sense that, prior to its creation, there were no enduring individuals sustaining a character through time (such as quarks and photons), which is what is usually meant by “things”.
However as seen from this quote from Griffin’s work Process Theology, co-written by John Cobb, Griffin fully comprehends this state of no-thingness to be an actual state of being pre-existent and different from God’s infinite being: “Process theology rejects the notion of creatio ex nihilo, if that means creation out of absolute nothingness. That doctrine is part and parcel of the doctrine of God as absolute controller. Process theology affirms instead a doctrine of creation out of chaos (which was suggested by Plato but also by more Old Testament passages than those supporting the doctrine of creation out of nothing). A state of absolute chaos would be one in which there is nothing but very low-grade actual occasions happening at random, i.e., without being ordered by individuals.”
Creation from Chaos is challenged by many Process theologians especially those who try to develop stricter Christologies. Most Process theologians claim creatio ex nihilo in some fashion rather than creation from chaos. I will be arguing a creatio ex deo, or creation from God’s being, model as the primary concept behind Emanationist Panentheism.
Philip Clayton’s Kenotic Trinitarian Panentheism
Clayton tries to bridge the gap between transcendence and monism, while maintaining a more monistic concept than Griffin, especially in terms of creation. First Clayton explains his position as a middle ground between monism and transcendence: “What happens when we return with this result to the question of God’s relation to the world? Earlier we found ourselves pulled between the monism of Spinoza’s “one substance with many modes” and the separation of God and the world based on the demands of divine perfection. Di-polar panentheism suggests a more dialectical answer: not unity or difference, but unity-in-difference. The world is neither indistinguishable from God nor (fully) ontologically separate from God.”
Then Clayton describes the process of creation as an emptying or “kenosis” of God’s being so that he can create an empty space within God’s being for the universe to form. He describes this process in the article Kenotic Trinitarian Panentheism, where he describes kenosis as the action of creation where God’s infinite being empties itself in such a way so that God can create the finite temporal world . Clayton claims the universe then “emerges” from God as a process of creation. However, in this article he leaves the door open for creatio ex nihilo, as the actual process of creation.
Clayton is a Christian Trinitarian who views God as a field of activity, that willfully creates the universe with itself and is actively engaged in both ongoing creation within the universe and interpersonal relationships with people in the world. Here he explains Trinitarian Process Theology in the words of Joseph Bracken: “Bracken begins by postulating that God has existed eternally as a Trinitarian field of forces, as tri-personal identity. Each aspect of God is personal, or more than personal, and together they constitute “a single unbounded field of activity.” Open panentheists add that at some point God freely chose to share the divine life, creating finite centers of activity within the space of the divine being.” Unlike some more Platonist Process Theologians, Open Pantheists believe in the direct personal interaction of God in the universe.
Clayton is also responsible for bringing in Kenosis to the Process dialogue more fully. However, for Clayton, as with Hartshorne, the focus of God's limitation and self-emptying, is not so much in the ontological sense, but more in the sense of God's omnipotence. “According to the doctrine of “kenotic creation”, creation itself is a kenotic, relational act. God freely limited God’s infinite power in order to allow for the existence of non-divine agents. This self limitation is best understood as a self emptying, insofar as God chose to limit or “empty Godself of” qualities that would otherwise seem to belong to the divine essence, such as omnipotence or the unlimited manifestation of divine glory and agency. We might therefore label the resulting position open kenotic panentheism.”
The most important aspect of Clayton's theology to this thesis is his Panentheistic vision of Pneumatology. Unlike Classical Theists, Process Panentheistic Pneumatology, does not involve a distinct substantial separation between spirit and matter. Although there are differing opinions on this, Process Theology recognizes that spirit and matter must be seen as intimately intertwined: “We likewise eschew all dichotomies between Spirit and matter or between Spirit and body, following the lead of emergent theories of human personhood. Even if the divine Spirit precedes all creation, every manifestation of Spirit in the world depends essentially on the evolutionary process. Nor can the divine Spirit be a timeless entity standing immutably outside the flow of cosmic history. The divine Spirit- by which I mean that aspect of the divine being that correlates with the spirit of which we have knowledge of ourselves- must also be temporal, the emergent result of a long term process of intimate relationship with beings in the world. In this view, then, the Spirit is not a fundamentally ontological category but an emergent form of complexity that living things within the world begin to manifest at a certain stage in their development.”
I personally further emphasize that spirit and matter are specifically two aspects of the same substance and will be arguing for a "creatio ex deo" model of the universe. Clayton on the other hand emphasizes the distinction between God and finite things more directly. For Clayton, Kenotic Panentheism allows for a creatio ex nihilo" model of creation, which he and other Christian Process Theologians interpret to be the correct theological approach. Here we can see Clayton's opinion on "creatio ex nihilo": "The hypothesis of a kenotic creation out of nothing serves as a crucial component in the mediating position of open panentheism. This view accepts the process insight that a God who is love must exist eternally in relation, yet it locates that relatedness already within the divine nature itself as a model for God’s subsequent relatedness to all things. God then freely creates space within the divine life for other selves or entities. These others are like God in that they too are centers of activity; hence creation is, as the tradition has held, imago Dei."
Kenotic Effluent Panapotheism
Neo-Platonism provides us with a structural cosmological framework on which we can base the following argument. Neo-Platonism offered philosophy with a metaphysical cosmology that attempted to answer the problem of how the One can interact and interrelate with the Many. In other words, how the physical universe with its seemingly infinite multiplicity, can be united and grounded in the singular simple principle of the One.
The One is the metaphysical principle that is devoid of qualities, enumeration, dualities, and is the ultimate source of all crated being in the physical universe. The One is the principal creative force in the universe and the ground of all being. However, the One does not create directly on its own. Plotinus postulated the existence of a second hypostasis called the Intellect. The Intellect involves all potential divisions and relationship in the universe, and contained within itself the equivalent of Plato’s Forms. These Intellectual Forms are the potential structure of all possible manifestations in the created physical universe.
The Intellect participates directly in the One and is a dimmer reflection of the perfection of the One, however, it is not directly responsible for the creation of the physicality in the universe as well. The Intellect becomes the framework for the third hypostasis that is the cause of actualizing the potentiality in the Intellectual Forms. This hypostasis is then called the Soul.
The Soul is active creative principle in the universe that participates in the Intellect by transforming potentiality in the Intellectual Forms into actuality in the physical universe. In this way, the Soul acts as the mediating [principle between the Intellect and the physical universe by becoming the mean s in which Form in communicated to matter, and it is the hypostasis responsible for forming the universe in the image of the Intellectual Forms.
The Soul is then defined by different levels of the Soul. The highest levels of the Soul participate directly in the Intellect and the highest levels are only attainable through the individual Intellectual soul found in creatures possessing an Intellectual Soul. There is however a lower aspect of Soul commonly referred to as the Soul of the All. This level of Soul is literally the Soul if the physical universe itself. In this way it encompasses and is omnipresent through the structure and design of the universe. The Soul of the All is the level of Soul that structures and communicates the design of the Intellectual Forms directly to every level of the physical universe. It is literally the point of actualization that occurs at every instance of materiality, and can be considered the soul of every physical manifestation in the universe. Normal physical structures only participate at this level of Soul, and are incapable of rising up to comprehend the higher levels of Soul. Life forms with the capability of intellectual comprehension are the only things in the universe capable of participating in the higher levels of Soul (spiritual or human).
As the “light”, to use Father Coppleston’s metaphor, extends farther from the One, it becomes dimmer and dimmer. What this means is, from the infinitely radiant being of the One, emanates a dimmer reflection of the perfection of the One called the Intellect. From the Intellect, we have an actualization of the potentiality found in the Intellectual Forms called the Soul. From the Soul’s closest levels to the One we have a more limited aspect of the Soul whose only participation is in the structuring of the universe.
Finally, extending from the Soul of the All, we have the lowest form of Soul, Nature, and following that we have Matter, which together form the physical universe we observe today. Nature is an unconscious aspect of Soul that simply carries out the will of the Soul. It shapes and forms the universe as directed by the higher aspects of Soul, but does so as the forces of nature, and does not in itself ever consciously alter its own course. Matter is the simplest level of physicality that takes the form communicated to it from Nature./ Together Nature and Matter are the finally formative aspect of physical reality. As with our previous explanation. Matter is the farthest from the One and therefore the most limited in terms of being. Plotinus describes Matter as the privation of being, although he does not claim it is absolute privation. IN this way the emanations become more and more limited as they get farther from the source., the One.
This cosmology offers us the first structure that can offer us a complete description of the physical universe and offers us a complete metaphysical vision that answers the basic problem of how multiplicity can interact and be united as one whole, through progressively self limiting emanations. However, Neo-Platonism suffers from one very serious flaw. Plato believed the Demiurge formed the universe from preexisting chaos, and the Neo-Platonists tended to argue that both Aristotle and Plato believed that the universe itself had no beginning in time. We obviously know now that the universe had, at some point 15 billion or so years ago, a definite beginning called the Big Bang.
This causes many enigmatic problems for Neo-Platonism. Plotinus and Proclus especially, claimed that the hypostases were in some sense eternal, yet they still claimed successive emanation from the One. If the emanations progress in succession, how then can they be seen to exist eternally outside of time? It is because of this essential error we need to look further into similar cosmologies to find a solution to these errors.
Hermeticism offers us the Platonic cosmological hierarchy, and helps answer the problem of where the universe itself came from. In the Corpus Hermeticum, there is a clear Platonic hierarchy, beginning with God, who is responsible not only for order, but for the actual creation of the universe itself. Like Platonism Hermeticism postulates the Nous, or Intellect of God as the first aspect of creation. Creation happens within the Mind of God and from the Mind of God we have a successive hierarchy of created principles that all lead finally to the created universe itself.
Hermeticism suggests that creation is an Intellectual act of the Mind of God, and through a series of created principles. The physical universe is created as these successive principles, each of which is less complete that the prior principle, are created and extend farther from the source, God.
Hermeticism also introduces the concept of the Logos or Divine Reason into the cosmology. Heremeticism clearly defines Divine Reason as being something contained within the Mind of God.
However, Hermeticism suffers from two very distinct and serious problems. Hermeticism attempts to incorporate the successive hierarchy of created principles, but still refers to this hierarchy in terms of its creation pre-eternity. God somehow creates eternity and the principle of Mind and Logos in succession, yet claims eternity is at the same level of Mind and Logos. This is the same problem Platonism suffered from, but at least in Platonism they could argue that the universe had no beginning and therefore there is no need to address the question of successive emanations in terms of a beginning of the universe. For Hermeticism the introduction of God as Creator of the universe, and Creator of Mind and Logos, introduces the metaphysical problem of how God can create these principles of successive principles if they themselves exist before the creation of time itself.
In Philo of Alexandria's work, we see the Hellenistic philosophical tradition slowly merging with the Judaic doctrine of God and Creation. Philo incorporates this concept of Divine Reason within the Mind of God without distinguishing between God's Mind and its Reason. For Philo God's Divine Reason, or Logos, is the means by which God creates the physical universe and man in God's image. For Philo not only is there no distinction between the Mind of God and God's Reason, but there is no distinction between God and God's Reason or Logos. In other words, God does not create a separate entity called Mind or Reason, as in Platonism and Hermeticism. For Philo God's Divine Reason is a part of God Himself, not a distinctive principle from God itself.
Luranic Kabbalah offers us the first concept of Kenosis, incorporating Platonist concepts of Form and emanation with Judaic concepts of willful creation. For Isaac Luria it was important to show that God was infinite and simplistic, without division or enumeration. God prior to creation had no other to be reflected in. God was a simple unified state of Being. The Kabbalists realized if God was then to create a universe, it would have to undergo a state of self limitation in order to allow for something other than pure unity and being to exist.
Lurianic Kabbalah postulated the concept of Tzimtzum which is God's willful contraction and act of self limitation to create a void in which to create the physical universe. Te physical universe is then created directly out of a measured amount of its own being. This act of self limitation, both in creating the void and creating the universe from a limited measured amount of its own Divine Light, is the first instance of a solid doctrine of Kenosis in terms of creation and cosmology.
Lurianic Kabbalah then incorporates its own version of the concept of Mind or Logos as Adam Kadmon or the Archetypal Man. Adam Kadmon serves as an eternal reflection of the Eyn of, or the Limitless. Adam Kadmon then serves as the geometric prototype and the image of God that is reflected in the created universe.
Whitehead does, in my opinion a brilliant job of incorporating Platonic concepts of potentiality and actuality in his definition of universal principles and his definition of how things come to exist in the physical universe. God creates from conceptual principles or ideas contained within its infinite being, and actualizes these potentialities as "actual occasion" in the physical universe. However Whitehead's theology too suffers from some critical flaws.
Process Theology attempts to address Classical Theism's inconsistencies by suggesting further limitations on God. In an effort to make God more personal and relational to the moving changing and evolving universe, Process Theologians suggest that God, is not only relational to the universe, but necessarily mutually dependent on the universe to exist. In an effort to explain God's personal relationship with living beings and the changing universe, Process Theologians also suggest that God must limit its own power, to accommodate other creative beings.
According to Whitehead, not only is God limited in its infinity by being a relational substance to the universe. God is limited in its Perfection by being mutually dependent on its relationship to the substances in the universe in order to in fact exist. Bracken and Clayton address this problem by reaffirming a Trinitarian doctrine that claims, God is not dependent upon the universe to exist because within its Trinitarian nature it already has a mutual dependency and simply shares this Divine life and interdependence with the universe in a relational manner. However, this then still requires creatio ex nihilo, in Clayton's Panenthesim. Clayton claims the universe is then created "out of nothing" as a distinct substance and remains in a mutual non-dual relationship with God. In order to allow for this relationship, God then must undergo kenosis and limit its power in order to facilitate the creation of this secondary substance in which to become relational with.
Kenosis as an Act of Creation in the First Three Hypostases
If we follow the argument laid out so far, the source of the physical universe is what Plotinus called the One, and what Isaac Luria called Eyn Sof (The Limitless). Luria points out that in order for the One, which is pure undifferentiated being, to create a universe in relationship to itself it must first in some way limit itself, or empty itself of its own being. Eyn Sof for Luria, infinitely fills all space and there is nothing, and no space that is no occupied by Eyn Sof. Therefore, Eyn Sof must undergo an emptying and limitation in order to create space for a universe to be created within itself,
Luria calls this action Tzimtzum, or contraction, and it is the willful contraction of God's own self to create a void into which God can create the physical universe we know today. This is the first act of limitation that the One, or The Limitless undergoes, but it is not the last.
Following Plotinus' concept of successive emanations that become progressively limited and less perfect the farther they emanate from their source in the One, we then come to the next act of self limitation. Plotinus calls this the Intellect, Luria calls this Adam Kadmon. The Intellect is the reflection of the One in a comprehensive structure. Although this emanation is a reflection of the perfection of the One, it is limited in that it is not a equal to, or as perfect as the One.
The One is a simplistic and unified one-ness, whereas the Intellect and Adam Kadmon are qualified by certain aspects and structures within it. Whitehead calls this concept the "ideas" of God. Taking from Platonist philosophers, Whitehead's "ideas" in the mind of God, are pure potential possibilities of creation. Within the mind of God, God can conceptualize all possible relationships to itself in potentiality. The entire physical universe, with every infinite possible manifestation can be contained within the mind of God.
Also taking from Plato, Plotinus refers to this as the Intellectual Forms. The Intellectual Forms are the prototype structures in the Intellect of the One which are not yet created, and exist in pure infinite potentiality. The shapes of stars, the possible species that can evolve from DNA strains, every possible physical manifestation is contained in infinite potentiality in the mind of God.
From this emanation come the next aspect of self limitation, the Soul. Plotinus refers to the Soul as that which actualizes potentiality in the physical universe in the images of the Intellectual Forms. This is an act of self limitation as the Soul is less perfectly complete than the Intellect or the One, and also is the principle that actualizes actual instances of reality from the infinite potentiality in the Intellect.
Whitehead refers to this in the previous quote: "3: The actual but non-temporal entity whereby the indetermination of mere creativity is transmuted into a determinate freedom." Whitehead is admittedly very Platonic in this declaration and he clearly is referring in some sense to the Soul of Plotinus' cosmology.
Kenosis as an act of creation needs a distinct concept of Spirit and matter in order for this to make sense. Like Clayton, I assert that a substantial distinction between spirit and matter, mind and body and God and the universe is erroneous. Science is pushing further and further past Cartesian dualism concerning mind and body, and it is necessary for theology to understand that a Vitalistic approach to spirit and matter is not only flawed but unnecessary.
In this model Soul, is the will of God, and God's ability to limit itself from pure infinite potentiality into a specific thread if actualized reality. The Soul of God enters the void created by its self limitation as pure creative energy. This process can best be likened to Plotinus concept of the World Soul as being the limited aspect of Soul that acts literally as the Soul of the universe.
This would be closest to Hartshorne's and Griffin's Process Panentheism, where God is seen as the soul of the universe and the universe as the body of God. In this way, Soul exists prior to creation as God's creative energy and throughout creation as the source and "soul of the universe". Soul creates actualized reality from the infinite potentiality of the Logos, and the three hypostases together form the creative principles of the universe itself.
In order to fully comprehend how this is possible we need to take a brief look at the Big Bang Theory and the Standard Model of Quantum Field Theory. According to Stephen Hawking, approximately 15 billion years ago, the universe was infinitely hot and had zero size . At the moment of creation, there was simply pure energy. This energy expands into empty space and as it does it cools and becomes less energetic. Between 10exp-43 seconds and 10exp-10 seconds after the Big Bang the energy cools enough so that the four forces of nature become distinguishable and quarks and bosons become distinguishable. The four forces of nature are gravity, electromagnetic force, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Quarks are the fundamental particle of matter and bosons are the particles which are said to carry the four forces. At one millisecond into the expansion of this energy, the quarks begin to cool enough so that they are unable to overcome the effect of the strong nuclear force, and protons and neutrons begin to form. Three minutes in the expansion and cooling process, the protons and neutrons being to form basic nuclei. Approximately 500,000 years into the expansion and cooling the particles are no longer energetic enough to overcome the electromagnetic force and atoms being to form as protons and electrons bond to form hydrogen and helium atoms. Fast forward millions of years and the cooling atoms being to be overcome by the gravitational force and form stars, and from these stars we begin to see the more complex elements forming in the center of these stars.
The important point I am trying to make here is that universe begins as pure creative energy. The physical universe we know today was not created in its entirety at the moment of creation. In fact, it is more appropriate to say that as this creative energy undergoes a limiting process of its own and cools and dissipates as it expands through the void, potential forms become actualized as physical reality. The complex forms we see in our universe today all began as pure undifferentiated creative energy and its complexity emerged through a process of cooling and self limiting. Therefore, I assert it is more appropriate to claim that Kenosis is the actual means of creation. Physical reality is not created by means of simply manifesting physical objects in the universe. All physical reality emerges from pure simple undifferentiated creative energy.
God's Soul enters the void and creates the universe. As in Luria's Kabbalah, The Eyn Sof emits one ray of its "divine light" that fills this void. The eternal Soul of God enters simply as one ray of itself , and one thread of actualized reality taken from the infinite potentiality of the Intellect of the One. This aspect of Soul is similar to the World Soul of Plato and Plotinus as it is the Soul of the universe. And as this Soul undergoes self limitation, the next aspect of Plotinus' cosmology comes to be: Nature.
I assert that Plotinus's Nature can be equated to the four forces of nature that act upon matter without a consciousness or will of its own, and communicates directly to Matter the Forms of the Intellect. Nature is a further limited aspect of Soul, that is the means in which the World Soul creates more and more complex levels of complexity, and the means by which Spirit controls the motions and behavior of the physical universe.
It is therefore also my assertion that what Plotinus called Matter and what some Aristotelians called Prime Matter can be equated to the quarks and leptons that are formed into particles, atoms, molecules, stars and life by the forces of nature, which communicate form from the Logos of God directly onto the mass particles within matter itself.
Therefore, what we see if we follow Platonist, Hermetic and Kabbalistic logic about the successive emanations from the One, we see a process of self limitation that occurs first as the One limits itself into relational potentiality in the intellect, which is in itself a less perfect reflection of the perfect One. The Intellect is then limited from potentiality into actualized reality through the Soul, the Soul becomes the World Soul as it creates the physical universe in the images of the Intellect. The World Soul is then limited into rational forces of nature, which in turn form and shape matter into the forms found in the Intellect. As Plotinus' analogy of light becoming dimmer the farther it gets from its source, so does the Being of the One self-limit progressively until it reaches the state of elementary mass particles, which is a near absolute privation of Being itself.
I have chosen the term Effluent to refer to the act of the One creating the universe through successive stages. The reason for this is purely semantic. There are three useful terms to describe a "flowing forth" or "flowing out of". These terms are Emanation, Emergence and Effluence. Emanation and Emanationism has come to be understood academically, as the necessary affect of Deity in Neo-Platonist and other systems, where creation is not willful but simply a natural occurrence. I did not want to use this term because this technically is a different system than Neo-Platonism as it refers to an actual creation of the physical universe in the past.
Emergence has come to be understood academically in terms of Biological Emergence, and more relevantly in Process Theology as way to describe the emergence of consciousness and life from lifeless atoms, and the emergence of new species in the evolving universe as an act of "Strong Emergence". Strong Emergence implies there is something outside the reductionist science of biology that is responsible for life and evolution.
Therefore, Emanationism and Emergence, not only both did not explain the concept I was trying to convey accurately, I also ran the risk of being misunderstood to mean something found in those other schools of thought. Effluence, for myself, is a much more eloquent way of using the root for fluidity, to explain a system where the One undergoes a willful act of self limitation in order to create and "flows forth" and creates the universe from its own being.
In order to further elucidate this concept I was forced to create a new Theological term as well. As in Luria's system the universe is a single instance of God's own being. Technically, this could be called a Monism or a "creatio ex deo" (creation from God) model. However, both these terms are insufficient to fully explain this system, and I feel that theological terminology needs to be evolving and expanding in terms of its definitions and concepts.
The term Pan-apo-theism, like Pan-en-theism, is a word derived from Greek root words. Pan-en-theism means "All-in-God"(ism). However, like Emergence, Panenthesim has come to be understood academically in Process Theology as a relational universe, where the "World" is contained in some sense within God. This allows for the possibility for substantial distinction, which you find in Eastern Orthodox Christian Panentheisms, and allows for the possibility for "creatio ex nihilo" models like Philip Clayton's.
The problem with the terms Monism (or Pantheism), and "creatio ex deo", is that they are always followed by the same response by critics. Critics will claim that Monism dissolves either God or the universe's identity into one principle. In order to preempt that argument I wanted a term that would emphasize relationailty between the One and Matter, but draw a more monistic line than Panentheism could.
Therefore, I took the Latin phrase "creatio ex deo" and adapted it in Greek to Pan-apo-theism, or All-from God. This term suggests a distinction between God and what God creates, However, it also stresses that what is created is of the same essence and substance as its source. As in Luria's system The Limitless, creates the universe as a willful act of self limitation and the result is a universe of actualized potentiality from within God's own being, not created from external material and not simply created from nothing.
Criticisms against this theology can come from both scientific and theological angles. The scientific criticisms are two-fold. First, an atheist scientist has ground to argue that because I have claimed that the soul and matter are essentially co-substantial, there is no need to speak of the creative principles in terms of a conscious God. A scientific reductionist can argue that the only thing that makes us conscious is the bioelectromagnetic fields created by our brains and physiology and therefore, the concept of a “God” is irrelevant.
Although I am inclined to agree that an anthropomorphic concept of the creative principles is a bit of a metaphysical fallacy, my rebuttal to this argument uses the same science that an atheist might use. For myself, the idea that bioelectromagnetism is the root of life and consciousness, and this substance is the same substance as the creative principles, is actually more reassuring than anything. The study of Bioelectromagnetism, is the study of bioelectricity and biomagnetism created by the matter and electrical charges created by the brains and organs in living beings. The fact that that which makes one conscious, namely bioelectricity, is not only interconnected within the environment on a subatomic level, but is also connected universally through the Electromagnetic Force all the way back to the very creative energy that creates the universe, suggests to me, that I am intimately intertwined metaphysically with the universe and my reality. This is no way undermines my belief or philosophical structure.
Criticism from the theological angle would most likely suggest that by suggesting a ‘one substance’ argument, that I am reducing God to mere matter and energy. My response to this is first that I feel the metaphysical arguments I made for the hypostases of the Intellect and the Soul in no way suggest I have reduced God in any way. But more importantly, my rebuttal is that religious Vitalism, which would suggest there must be a substance other than that which science can explain is an inherently flawed perspective, one which will inevitably be proven to be false as science explains deeper and deeper levels of the physical universe.
I began this thesis with the intention of exploring Quantum Field Theory and Emergent Biology, and use Neo-Platonism to create a framework to understand how Intellectual Forms can non-locally act to form emerging complexity. This not only turned out to be a difficult endeavor, but I realized before I could even make claims regarding these sciences, I needed to actually prove the metaphysical and theological model that I was using to make these claims.
My focus then turned to this particular focus. In this thesis I attempted to establish a cosmological foundation, on which further sciences and philosophies could be built. Using Panapotheism, I feel that one can explain the origins of emergent complexity in the universe, and through Kenosis, I feel we can further explain Quantum Field Theory. As levels of emergent complexity are formed from particles to stars to compounds to life, these things take on form, and this form is communicated to it non-locally. What I mean by this is that in a cloud of elements in space, such as a nebula in which stars are born, throughout all of those atoms runs Quantum Fields. The electromagnetic field that runs through every atom in that cloud and whose range is infinitely distant, contains or communicates all potential forms to these atoms. If this cloud contains hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus, every possible DNA structure that we know of is contained within potentiality, non-locally to the atoms themselves. Somehow the field itself contains these potentials and the qualities of each life form within the field throughout this cloud.
This is where I would like to take this research in the future. I would like to use Neo-Platonist metaphysics to explore the behavior of Quantum Fields and Emergence in Evolutionary Biology. Needless to say, this particular endeavor was a little extensive for this particular thesis.
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