Recently I was attempting to discern the differences between a generic panentheism and a Whiteheadian, process-relational panentheism (as I understand it). I kept coming across little diagrams online and I quickly realized that the panentheism diagram I kept seeing did not come close to the process-relational type I was familiar with. So, I created my own little diagram (see above).

Obviously it’s just a diagram, and it’s probably very insufficient, but one of the most important things I wanted to convey was that, unlike in traditional panentheism, where the ultimate category of God (the One) is still considered to be transcendent to some degree, and privileged, Whiteheadian process-relational panentheism considers God to be co-creative and co-eternal with the Universe (mutually immanent + mutually transcendent) and, while God is considered to be different from other creatures, God is infinitely and intimately relational and dependent upon other creatures, just as we are dependent upon God. I also tried show motion and dynamic process by depicting the infinity symbol expanding over evolutionary history inside the ultimate process of ‘Creativity’ (or out of the Face of the Deep, if one prefers).

Here is to Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Adventure and Zest!

17 comments

  1. Roy Reynolds August 26, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Reply

    Dear jturri,

    If you wish, I would be glad to chat with you regarding your graphic expansion of panentheism in the Whiteheadean legacy. There is still something missing, and I would not bother to respond, except that what’s missing is missing from almost all such formulations.

    I don’t choose to be mysterious or circuitous here, but what is missing is right in front of us: space itself, open, receptive space. You may immediately wince upon reading this. Please don’t resist exploring what I am offering. To give you an inkling of where I’m going with this, notice that in Buddhism the since of dependent co-arising involves “No-Thingness.” In Taoism there is Yin, as well as Yang. In Hinduism there is both Shiva and Shakti (the formless and the formed). Whitehead and Hartshorne did not account for formlessness, for infinite space as receptive agency, for (as I sometimes put it) for Agape as well as Eros.

    Why is formlessness or space of openness seemingly always missing from western formulations of the divine? Good question, isn’t it? It’s because we give credence only to “things,” and not to “no-things.” We disregard the invisible as an active, continuous presence of absence. I can share more with you if you want. My point is that, in our western thought, we need to account for more than the One and the Many. I believe I can show how we can account for that AND remain consistent with the Whitehead-Hartshorne school of panentheism. The published thinker who seems closest to what I am saying is Catherine Keller, but she doesn’t quite have the nuances understood.

    Hope this intrigues you,
    Roy Reynolds

    • jturri August 26, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Reply

      Roy, thank you for your comment. In regard to including “formlessness” I think Whitehead’s ultimate category of ‘Creativity’ roughly translates. As far as I understand Whitehead, the Creativity has no properties of its own, and certainly no agency; it is a no-thing. Whitehead’s creative ultimate is the bare desire to enjoy something new. Creativity is passion, but as yet without a pattern, the “principle of novelty” he calls it. Richard Lubbock puts it well, Creativity is “the bare desire to advance towards greater beauty, probing everywhere. It is pure feeling: it is curiosity, alertness, aliveness and ardour; but without shape. It seeks satisfaction indiscriminately. But until it’s got a blueprint or recipe to work on, it is nothing at all; it’s not even space or time; it’s mere formless yearning. It needs a direction, or it will get nowhere; it must take instructions, or be nothing.”

      • Jasen Paul October 19, 2015 at 3:06 pm

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        I have recently been thinking on this idea of nothingness. My current line of thought is that the Creator is love, love is nothing without expression, or rather another being in which to share communion with. This correlates with the ideas of creativity. Therefore, the true essence of the One is nothingness(the Tao). This ties in nicely with the evolutionary development of humankind ; allowing for free will, and ever advancing toward being that accommodates the possibility of reciprocal communion by choice. However, without that interaction the Creator is an energy of loving potential unexpressed.

        • jturri October 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

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          Great thoughts here, Jasen. Thanks for sharing 🙂 .

  2. Rafael Reyes August 26, 2015 at 9:12 pm

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    jturri,

    Awesome graphic. I would have to agree with you that the ultimate reality, no-thingness, or emptyness, although is not primarily discussed in Whitehead’s own work (except maybe for a brief discussion in Religion in the Making), is largely discussed in John Cobb’s work, Beyond Dialogue: toward a Mutual Transformation of Christianity and Buddhism, as well as in David Ray Griffin’s edited text Deep Religious Pluralism. I write this because in the sense of space, the no-thingness, it would be held in creativity. Cobb writes “Emptiness is not to be understood as a vacuum carefully shut off from the surrounding plenum…to be empty is to lack any boundaries, any determining content of one’s own, any filter through which the world is experienced. To be open is to be perfectly open to what it there, whatever that may be.” (Cobb, BD, 190.) This is found in creativity itself. It is the allowance of the many, the disjunctive disunity, the full openness and everything and no-thing, process itself.

    • jturri August 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm

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      Thanks for the comment and feedback Rafael!

  3. Roy Reynolds August 27, 2015 at 12:59 am

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    Jturri, The responses I have composed are now being rejected as “spammy.” If you wish to chat further (as I do) please contact me by email.

    Roy

    • jturri August 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Reply

      Sorry about that Roy.

  4. Lawrence August 28, 2015 at 4:21 pm

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    I like your quote from Richard Lubbock. For me, it takes account of the will to create, the boundless or abundant potential of creativity, and creativity’s value as always positive (e.g., the drive to beauty). As a non-philosopher, my trouble is the chart’s mutual dependency of God and Universe. In a sense this dependency exists because creativity demands relationship. But dependency is too loaded a word for me because our position as thinker/observer is so limited that I am not sure how we can rationalize a combination so much “bigger”. (BTW I saw your chart on Facebook and got interested!)

    • jturri August 28, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Lawrence. If “dependency” as a term doesn’t work for you, perhaps you could think of God and the Universe being entangled or in a reciprocal relationship. The Universe needs God to for creative transformation, and as this happens, we change God too.

      • Amy October 20, 2016 at 3:59 am

        Reply

        I like the idea of being in a tangled relationship with God a lot more than I do the idea that God is dependent. I see what you are trying to convey, though. Since God is the manifestation of all elementary particles which he uses to “create”, whatever is ultimately created by those particles would necessarily change God. Does that make him dependent? I would say no. It just makes him the ultimate artist.

  5. Arch Hades March 15, 2016 at 4:44 am

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    Your version of Panentheism seems almost like Pantheism. What’s the difference? Also, I Couldn’t consider God on an equal footing with the universe since the universe is finite, and has a beginning. ‘God’ must be eternal and infinite.

    • jturri March 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm

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      Thanks for the comment, Arch.

      I think the main difference between Whiteheadian influenced process-relational panentheism and typical versions of pantheism, is that God in process-relational panentheism, while not a “being” per se, is conscious, personal and loving (more on this here: http://turri.me/?p=2181).

      And as far as the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) goes, as a process-relational person I prefer the idea of creation ex profundis (creation out of chaos) as Catherine Keller describes it. As the name implies, creation arises from out of the boundless and expanding depths of the chaosmos rather than being zapped into being from nothing. “The Beginning” does not mark a single absolute origin but a “beginning-in-process” that is both “unoriginated and endless.” Beginnings are always taking place and do not mark a definitive newness.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Roy Reynolds March 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm

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    Dear Jturri,

    I appreciate being included in these responses. This time I will need to be short and direct (due to time constraints). It is very difficult for us to actually “hear” and “see” each other via brief responses like this. Each of us dwells within a feeling ground that is rich with meanings and sensibilities. Any words we use are not likely to convey much of that deep ground of meaning. Most likely all of us who are truly keen on the wisdom of process-relational panentheism have discerned much that we cannot actually convey in normal language. We need dialogue that comes from poetic presence imbued by the “currents of feeling.” I say this because I think (and feel) that A.N. Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne crafted their panentheistic wisdom from deep feeling lives. Whitehead used the language of “prehension,” which is feeling and felt relations. It is my current presumption that feeling is the “ground” from which our intuitions arise and take shape into words. In recent years I have discovered that the technical language of process theology is inadequate. It’s obvious that Catherine Keller and Carol Christ think so as well. I have, therefore, realized that an important contribution to process theology would be “imaginal language,” that is poetic metaphors and even mythic cosmologies. As long as we remain dependent upon technical panentheistic terminology we stand apart from the world as we write and speak (and think). I choose, now, to include relational language that even moves into personification of presences. Myths and imaged beings brings a sense of presence and mutuality, which we can dwell within in communion. My bottom line is to seek embodied participation. That means that I choose to learn how to speak and write from the three perceptual centers of the Head, the Heart, and the Gut. You know I could say more, but I won’t for now.

    Thanks for reading this.

    Respectfully,
    Rev. Roy Reynolds (retired UU minister)

  7. Frank Salyers July 10, 2016 at 5:14 pm

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    Thank you for the thoughtful diagram! Personally I would exchange God for creativity and creativity for God . I think this agrees with the cosmology of the Eastern Orthadox who make a clear distinction between the essence of God and the creative energy of God .
    The process continues infinitely as we learn more about the Unknown God throughout eternity.

  8. Frank Salyers July 15, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Reply

    His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a #name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.Rev19:12

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