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The Riddle of Religion in the Making

by Lewis S. Ford

Lewis S. Ford is Emeritus Professor at Old Dominion University, and founding editor of Process Studies Periodical (1971 - 1995). The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 42-50, Vol. 22, Number 1, Spring, 1993. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


For many, the riddle is how to make sense out of chapter three. The other chapters of Alfred North Whitehead’s Religion in the Making (1926) are quite straightforward, but this metaphysical sketch is practically impenetrable, particularly if one has a good grasp of Process and Reality (1929).

Yet this riddle may be of our own making. The more we treat both books as expressing roughly the same metaphysical position, the more difficulty we shall encounter. The third chapter of Religion in the Making is not so much an abbreviated version of the final system, as a particular stage in the trajectory of Whitehead’s metaphysics in the making. This trajectory begins roughly with the background metaphysics of the core chapters of Science and the Modern World (1925). Its theory of divisible events was dramatically transformed into a theory of atomic occasions in the chapters on "Abstraction" and "God" also included in that same book,1 which launched Whitehead into an intensive metaphysical inquiry culminating in the final chapters of Process and Reality.

Chapter three of Religion in the Making adds to the notion of the (SMW) actual occasion the idea of a mental occasion. (The [SMW] actual occasion is strictly a physical occasion, except in the final qualifying paragraphs of the chapter on "Abstraction.") The mental occasion provides for the possibility of novelty, unobtainable in the simpler model of purely physical actual occasions, but it also means that actualization may require two successive unifications, one physical, one mental. Process and Reality, beginning with part III, dissolves the initial physical unification into a simple multiplicity of physical prehensions. Then the unification of the various conceptual feelings is conceived as a means for the unification of the physical feelings. Instead of an initial physical occasion superseded by a mental occasion, there could be a single concrescent movement.

As the difficulties of the third chapter resolve themselves by patient attention to its intermediate status in Whitehead’s development (EWM, ch. 6), I do not see them as particularly constituting the riddle. The riddle lies elsewhere, not within the book, but in Whitehead’s use of the book in Process and Reality: why is so little of its rich personalistic theism used in the (early stages of the) next book?

Many would say that there is no issue here: "After Religion in the Making, nothing really new is added to the doctrine of God" (CNT 149).2 Of those arguing for the continuity between Religion in the Making and Process and Reality, few have been so forceful as David Ray Griffin (PS 15/3)3

He concedes that the consequent nature in the narrow sense as the explicit attribution of physical feelings of the temporal world comes later, but "Whether or not RM contains the consequent nature in the broad sense depends on whether it moves beyond SMW’s doctrine of God as an impersonal principle of concretion (or limitation) to the later idea that God is affected by and knows the world" (PS 15: 1980. There can be intermediate stages. I take Religion in the Making, at least in chapter four, to present God as personal and subjective, but while this could be justified in terms of Western religious theism, it is not justified conceptually. Whitehead’s intuitions seem to outrun any philosophical framework he had erected.

The question is not whether the six passages I quote can be interpreted in terms of the later theory of divine temporality (EMW 140-47). Obviously they can; otherwise they would not have been chosen. The question is rather whether Whitehead himself, at the time he wrote them, intended such temporalistic connotations.

Let us consider the passage Griffin quotes (PS 15:199), which is a perplexing passage to interpret:

Since God is actual,4 He must include in himself a synthesis of the total universe. There is, therefore, in God’s nature the aspect of the realm of forms as qualified by the world, and the aspect of the world as qualified by the forms. His completion, so that He is exempt from transition into something else, must mean that his nature remains self-consistent in relation to all change. (RM 95f~ EWM 142, italics added.)

From the standpoint of Whitehead’s final theory, as interpreted in terms of Hartshorne’s distinction between God’s abstract nature and concrete totality, it is quite natural to interpret the last sentence as Griffin does: "The passage does not say that God as a whole must be unchanging; it only says that God’s nature must remain self-consistent" (PS 15:200). But does Whitehead use the term in this way? Later he refers to the everlasting dynamic concrescence of physical feeling as the consequent nature. There is nothing abstract about that. The abstract nature for most process theists is the primordial nature, but here God’s nature is described as also containing "the world as qualified by the forms."

Quite apart from this nature/totality issue, Whitehead elsewhere describes "God," and not simply the divine nature, as ‘above change" (RM 95). What is most perplexing, then, is how an unchanging God can include the world.

Basically the word "aspect" here has been ignored. It has been ignored in the first part of the second sentence because we have too hastily identified it with the primordial envisagement of all forms. This need not be the case. All that need be included are not the forms but the aspect of the forms pertaining to actualities.5

That aspect could be provided by the principle of limitation, for it limits the scope of eternal objects to those which could possibly ingress into actual occasions (SMW 178). The principle of limitation does not contain or synthesize all the eternal objects. Because it is actual, the principle of limitation is not itself an eternal object. As "the actual but non-temporal entity" (RM 88) God provides the way in which eternal objects are related to actual occasions in general.

As mediating between the actual and the ideal the principle of limitation also includes "that aspect of the world [=actual occasions in general] as qualified by the forms." By selecting forms to be relevant to the world God has thereby partially ordered the world. (If the world had all forms, there would be "indiscriminate modal pluralism," a very fancy name for chaos.) As structured by those forms selected for the world, the world has its basic order, even if it is not totally ordered.

I deem it methodologically sounder to interpret this passage in terms of views that Whitehead had clearly once held (and might be expected to continue to hold) than in terms of views which he might not yet hold, even though they are essential to the final view he came to hold. At least this is so if our purpose is not so much to weave an inclusive synoptic interpretation as to show as precisely as possible how he came to hold those views. We may be excited by process theism, but it is much more likely that Whitehead originally became some sort of classical theist who thought his way into process theism than that he had been a process theist all along.

We must realize the abstract character of this description of God in chapter three. This may be a description of the general metaphysical description prior to the categorical limitation God introduces (SMW 178). On the general metaphysical level it is not yet determined whether God is personal or not. In chapter four that determination is made on the basis of Western theistic experience, or Whitehead’s own intuitions, but not on the basis of the metaphysical scheme.

Thus far we have been considering the different interpretations of this passage Griffin quotes. If we step back from this particular passage, and attend to our different hermeneutical strategies, we shall see that most of the continuity we discern between these books will depend upon the interpretative unit we select for Process and Reality. For most of us that has been the whole book, interpreted in terms of those parts making the most sense, i.e. parts III and V, especially V.2. Insofar as possible. Religion in the Making is read in terms of that interpretation.

If we proceed genetically, however, in terms of the stages of Whitehead’s own development with respect to the theory of God, a different picture emerges. I believe there is warrant for three different conceptions: (1) The original level depicts God as nontemporal and nonconcrescent. (2) The middle level conceives God as a nontemporal concrescence of all eternal objects. (3) The final level presents God in terms of both primordial and consequent natures. Also we must attend to issues of justification, for the appeal to religious experience is largely absent from Process and Reality (except for PR 343).

In order to sort these issues out, it will be necessary for me to show how the three conceptions can be found within Process and Reality. In most books, only the final view is evident, for authors seek to revise earlier positions to conform with the final one.6 All three notions are present in the text, however, for Whitehead in revising did not erase all traces of his earlier formulations. In fact, there is evidence that he did not revise anything, seeking rather through insertions to persuade readers to interpret earlier texts in the light of his final view.

The riddle based on discontinuity properly applies to the first stage only: why is Whitehead’s concept so minimal at this stage, rarely going beyond what can be inferred from the bland assertion that God is the nontemporal actual entity? Why does he not exploit the comparative riches of his concept of God in Religion in the Making? In its final chapter God is conceived as personal and as nontemporal. Some would also interpret God to be temporal. In the initial stage of Process and Reality, however, God is not clearly personal or impersonal, and is strictly nontemporal.

We can best get at this first stage by putting the others to one side. The whole account of the consequent nature of God, which originated process theism, seems to have been added, possibly to resolve a problem concerning consciousness. According to Whitehead’s sophisticated theory, consciousness requires both physical and conceptual feelings (PR 266f). God, if heretofore conceived as having only conceptual feelings, would then be unconscious (PR 343). Thus the introduction of God’s physical nature, so eloquently expressed in the final chapter (V.2), does not seem to have arisen before the final chapter of part III (III.5).

But, you may object, the ‘consequent nature of God’ is mentioned quite early (e.g. PR 12f, 32). And if not this term, then the contrasting term ‘primordial nature of God’ is (e.g. PR 31-33, 44). (In earlier contexts, where there was no contrast Whitehead speaks of ‘the primordial actuality’ or ‘the non-temporal actual entity.’) Mention of either contrasting terms would indicate that Whitehead had it in mind throughout composition of his book, reserving detailed presentation until the end. It would, if these were not later insertions. Yet scrutiny of the mentions of ‘primordial’ and ‘consequent natures’ shows that all can be plausibly construed as later insertions.7

Consider, for example, Whitehead’s discussion of the three-fold character of an actual occasion:

(i) it has the character ‘given’ for it by the past; (ii) it has the subjective character aimed at in its process of concrescence; (iii) it has the superjective character, which is the pragmatic value of its specific satisfaction qualifying the transcendent creativity. (PR 87)

This passage probably comes from the original text of "The Order of Nature" (II.3.IC) as part of the 9 1/2 chapters Whitehead wrote in the summer of 1927. Shortly before he delivered the Gifford Lectures in June 1928 he may have added this comment:

In the case of the primordial actual entity, which is God, there is no past. Thus the ideal realization of conceptual feeling takes the precedence. God differs from the other actual entities in the fact that Hume’s principle, of the derivate character of conceptual feelings, does not hold for him. (PR 87)8

At this point no mention is made of the ‘consequent nature,’ nor of any contrasting ‘primordial nature.’ In place of the ‘primordial nature’ we have ‘the primordial actual entity’ as a designation of the whole divine being. If God were then conceived as having physical prehensions of the temporal world, ‘the primordial actual entity’ would be a strange and inexact way of referring to the God of process theism. God is described solely in terms which later would refer only to the primordial nature, as "the ideal realization of conceptual feelings."9

Still later, however, Whitehead inserts a second comment, reconciling his position on God more with the first passage:

There is still, however, the same threefold character: (i) The ‘primordial nature’ of God is the concrescence of a unity of conceptual feelings.... (ii) The ‘consequent nature’ of God is the physical prehension by God of the actualities of the evolving universe.... (iii) The ‘superjective’ nature10 of God is the character of the pragmatic value of his specific satisfaction qualifying the transcendent creativity in the various temporal instances. (PR 87f)

The juxtaposition of these two comments on the threefold character of an actual occasion indicates that Whitehead expressed at least two different conceptions of God in Process and Reality, and at least some of the passages depicting the final concept are insertions.11 It turns out that all of them can be so construed, except for the main text (V.2.3-6) which Whitehead reserved for the end.

Another passage makes this same point. The italicized portion is a partial depiction of the middle concept in which the whole of God is conceived as an infinite totality of conceptual feeling; the part in ordinary print indicates how this account could be revised, by means of insertion, to accord with Whitehead’s final view.

Viewed as primordial, he is the unlimited conceptual realization of the absolute wealth of potentiality. In this aspect, he is not before all creation, but with all creation. But, as primordial, so far is he from ‘eminent reality,’ that in this abstraction he is ‘deficiently actual’ -- and this in two ways. His feelings are only conceptual and so lack the fullness of actuality. Secondly, conceptual feelings, apart from complex integration with physical feelings, are devoid of consciousness in their subjective forms.

Thus, when we make a distinction of reason, and consider God in the abstraction of a primordial actuality, we must ascribe to him neither fullness of feeling, nor consciousness. He is She unconditioned actuality of conceptual feeling at the base of things; so that, by reason of this primordial actuality, there is an order in the relevance of eternal objects to the process of creation. His unity of conceptual operations is a free creative act, untrammeled by reference to any particular course of things.... (PR 343f)

While the final concept appears in insertions, it is quite possible that the earlier conception of a nontemporal concrescence of conceptual feeling is part of the original text. Yet at least one passage illustrating this earlier conception can be seen as an insertion, if we attend to the different meanings of ‘transcendent decision’ it uses:

The limitation whereby there is a perspective relegation of eternal objects to the background is the characteristic of decision. Transcendent decision includes God’s decision. He is the actual entity in virtue of which the entire multiplicity of eternal objects obtains its graded relevance to each stage of concrescence. Apart from God, there could be no relevant novelty. Whatever arises in actual entities from God’s decision, arises first conceptually, and is transmuted into the physical world (cf. part III). In ‘transcendent decision’ there is transition from the past to the immediacy of the present; and in ‘immanent decision’ there is the process of the acquisition of subjective form and the integration of feelings. (PR 164/248C)

In the original text (here italicized) ‘transcendent decision’ refers to transition in contrast to the ‘immanent decision’ of concrescence.12 But because ‘transcendent’ is so closely identified with the divine, Whitehead uses this occasion to introduce his notion of nontemporal concrescence.

The middle concept is also expressed in the next passage (which initiates III.3.3). This insertion is more complex, however, containing a further insertion [marked in brackets] within itself:

Conceptual feelings are primarily derivate from physical feelings, and secondarily from each other. In this statement, the consideration of God[’s intervention] is excluded. [When this intervention is taken into account, all conceptual feelings must be derived from physical feelings.] Unfettered conceptual valuation, ‘infinite’ in Spinoza’s sense of that term, is only possible once in the universe; since that creative act is objectively immortal as an inescapable condition characterizing creative action.

But, unless otherwise stated, only the temporal entities of the actual world will be considered. We have to discuss the categoreal conditions for such derivation of conceptual feelings from the physical feelings relating to the temporal world. By the Categoreal Condition of Subjective Unity -- Category I -- the initial phase of physical feelings... (PR 247)

The italicized context first announces Hume’s principle, as Whitehead applies it to his own philosophy, and then proceeds to justify it prior to articulating the fourth category of Conceptual Valuation (PR 248). Later (in the nonitalicized text, minus the sentence in brackets), when Whitehead has developed the notion of God as unfettered conceptual valuation, he realizes that divine conceptual feelings, since many pertain to unrealized eternal objects, cannot possibly be derived from physical feelings. Moreover, the divine concrescence is nontemporal, occurring only once.

The bracketed portion indicates that Whitehead returned again to this passage, now with the concept of hybrid physical prehension in mind. All conceptual feeling for finite occasions could now be derived from physical prehension, including the hybrid physical prehensions of God. What is ignored in this emendation is the status of God’s own conceptual feelings, which even in the final concept cannot all be derived from physical feelings. God’s own experience is exempt from Hume’s principle.

These two passages presenting the divine nontemporal concrescence can plausibly be construed as insertions, as can all other passages introducing the idea or examining the implications thereof.13 As we have seen, the passages concerning the consequent nature can also be considered insertions (except for the final chapter). On the other hand, very few if any of the passages mentioning God in the rest of the text can plausibly be thought to be insertions.14 From these considerations we may conclude that Whitehead wrote most of Process and Reality before he discovered either the primordial envisagement or the consequent nature. This includes everything except some preliminary materials (1:2-3), the ninth categoreal obligation (II.1.4), the living person (II.3.5-11), strains (II.4.9, IV.4, 5.1), and coordinate division (IV.1): (here see EWM 233-44). The material on the primordial envisagement was then added by various insertions, as was the material concerning the subjective aim (PS 21/1).

If these are indeed insertions, and there is good reason to think that they are, then it is the original text, as so reconstructed, that we ought to compare with Religion in the Making. If there is continuity between the conceptions of the two books, it should be in terms of the original text, before Whitehead introduced those ideas which revolutionized his philosophy to create process theism. In that case we not only find little continuity but a distinct impoverishment in the theistic conceptions used.

The original level of Process and Reality (except for V.1) was not directly concerned with God, as Whitehead was primarily developing his metaphysics. Even so it is peculiarly abstract and meager. We may summarize its affirmations as holding that God is a nontemporal actual entity, transcendent, immanent, eternal, cause of itself, the basis for reasons of the highest absoluteness, and possibly the source of the eternal principles of value. By studied omission it remains quite neutral as to whether God is personal or impersonal. The idea that God could be conceived in terms of concrescence is not considered. Most of these properties can be inferred from what is required for a nontemporal actual entity.

Some of its more interesting statements include:

‘Actual entities’ -- also termed ‘actual occasions’ -- are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going behind actual entities to find anything more real. They differ among themselves: God is an actual entity, and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space." (PR 18)

The reasons of things are always to be found in the composite nature of definite actual entities -- in the nature of God for reasons of the highest absoluteness, and in the nature of definite temporal actual entities for reasons which refer to a particular environment. The ontological principle can be summarized as: no actual entity, then no reason. (PR 19)

The description of the generic character of an actual entity should include God, as well as the lowliest actual occasion, though there is a specific difference between the nature of God and that of any occasion. (PR 110)

The immanence of God gives reason for the belief that pure chaos is intrinsically impossible. (PR Ill).

These statements are more than typical of the mentions of God scattered throughout over two hundred pages of Whitehead’s Gifford lectures in natural theology. They are important in their own right, but they hardly reach the level of insight expressed in this passage:

God has in his nature the knowledge of evil, of pain, and of degradation, but it is there as overcome with what is good. Every fact is what it is, a fact of pleasure, of joy, of pain, or of suffering. In its union with God that fact is not a total loss, but on its finer side is an element to be woven immortally into the rhythm of mortal things. (RM 148f/155: EWM 144f)15

This excerpt (and others like it) proposes a richer conception of God than Whitehead permits himself throughout most of Process and Reality, compositionally regarded. Why? What happened to cause Whitehead to draw back from this magnificent portrayal of God? This is the real riddle of Religion in the Making.

We also have independent confirmation that Whitehead felt it necessary to start all over again as if that fourth chapter (of RM) had never existed. In conversation with A. H. Johnson, he pronounced "his Religion in the Making a complete failure" (EWP 9). The relative poverty of Whitehead’s theism in the early composition of Process and Reality certainly seems to reflect this judgment. Yet we are still left in the dark. Why did Whitehead deem the earlier book "a complete failure"?

 

References

CNT -- John B. Cobb, Jr. A Christian Natural Theology. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965.

EWM -- Lewis S. Ford. The Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, 1925-1929. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.

EWP -- Explorations in Whitehead’s Philosophy. Ed. Lewis S. Ford and George L. Kline. New York: Fordham University Press, 1983.

PS 15/3 -- David Ray Griffin. Critical Review of The Emergence of Whitehead ‘s Metaphysics. Process Studies 15/3 (Fall, 1986): 194-207.

PS 21/1 -- Lewis S. Ford, "Subjectivity in the Making." Process Studies 21/1 (Spring, 1992): 1-24.

 

Notes

1. See my essay on "Whitehead’s First Metaphysical Synthesis," International Philosophical Quarterly 17/3 (September, 1977), 251-64, or the first chapter of EWM.

2. I doubt whether Cobb now would assent to this claim without considerable qualification. I cite it here only as a succinct expression of this position.

3. With respect to any internal development in RM (re Griffin, pp. 200f), I now find that any shift from an impersonal monism in chapters one and two to a pluralism sustaining a personal theism in chapters three and four to be rather unlikely.

I still maintain, however, that Whitehead is a classical theist throughout Religion in the Making, conceiving of God as the nontemporal actual entity (RM 88).

4. That is, a synthesis. See RM 90: "Thus an actual entity is the outcome of a creative synthesis. . ."

5. Just as the aspect provided by God is general, so the actual occasion renders that aspect particular: "In the concretion the creatures are qualified by the ideal forms, and conversely the ideal forms are qualified by the creatures. Thus the epochal occasion, which is thus emergent, has in its own nature the other creatures under the aspect of these forms, and analogously it includes the forms under the aspect of these creatures" (RM 90f, emphasis added).

Here is another use of ‘nature’ to signify the totality of the composition of an actuality.

6. In this case, God would be conceived as having both primordial and consequent natures. Such a God is both nontemporal and temporal, or more properly, everlasting.

7. Here is a list of known passages mentioning ‘primordial’ or ‘consequent nature of God’:

12.38-13.6=18.36-19.12. 1+ insertion into l.l.5C. cng
31.4-21=46.4-27. 1+ insertion into 1.3.1G.
31.22-32.3=46.28-47.20. 1+ insertion into 1.3.1G. cng
32.4-9=47.21-27. 1+ insertion in 1.3.1G.
33.38-50 few 1+ adds to I.3.l G
44.l9-27. 1+ insert in I1.l.3C
87.40-88.11=134.21-135.5 1+ insertion in II.3.IC.
88.12-26=135.6-25. 1+ insertion in II.3.IC.
88.27-30=135.26-30. 1+ insertion in II.3.IC.
189.4-17=287.21-33. 1+ insertion at end of II.9.IC.
207.27-45=315.16-316.4. 1+ in II.9.8C+.
230.45-231.19 1+ in III.l.9D. cng
257.7-15 1+ (probably only 257.9) in 278.27 1+ in III.5.8F

Decimal points refer to lines, marking the bounds of the insertion. Where there are equal signs (=), the second notation indicates where these passages can be found in the original Macmillan 1929 edition of PR.

1+ means passage from 1 or from a later stratum. On strata A-M, see EWM.

8. Denis Hurtubise first recognized this passage as belonging to the middle concept.

9. Griffin proposes "that Whitehead began PR with the idea of God as dynamically primordial, i.e., as a primordial actuality which knows and interacts with the world. We could then suppose that when Whitehead developed the idea of the consequent nature in the narrow sense, he created the "primordial nature" as a contrasting term This hypothesis would make sense of the present text of PR without supposing that Whitehead began working on the Gifford Lectures only with a noninteractive God little different from the abstract principle of concretion of SMW" (PS 15: 200).

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be the evidence for any primordial actuality which knows the world prior to the development of the final view, except possibly PR 349, which I once took as pertaining to the earlier conception, but which I now regard as the first expression of the final concept.

There is no indeterminate notion from which the primordial/consequent contrast could emerge. Rather we have first the primordial nature, narrowly conceived, existing by itself, to which the consequent nature is added.

10. Following the punctuation of the original 1929 edition. The corrected edition has ‘superjective nature,’ assimilating this instance to ‘primordial nature’ and ‘consequent nature,’ overlooking its specific difference.

Although there is ample mention of the ‘primordial nature’ and the ‘consequent nature, this is the only mention of any ‘superjective’ nature. Note that Whitehead’s formulation is identical with the superjective character of an actual occasion. It seems that Whitehead was able to present a threefold character in appearance only, signaled by the single quotation marks around the ‘superjective’ nature.

See my note, "Is There a Distinct Superjective Nature?," Process Studies 3/3 (Fall 1973), 228.

11. Another passage to consider is PR 31. It is primarily a text introducing the nontemporal concrescence as "the unconditioned conceptual valuation" of the eternal objects. The inserted words modifying the passage in the direction of the final concept are readily apparent.

12. Whitehead writes in terms of his earlier theory of concrescence whereby concrescence, the immanent decision, starts from the datum provided by a prior transcendent decision effected by transition (EWM 189-198; cf. PR 150).

13. Here is a list of the passages presenting the nontemporal concrescence of eternal objects:

3l.4-18a=46.4-27. 1.3.IG.*

31.22-32.3=46.28-47.20 1.3.IG.

32.21-40a=48.14-33. 1.3.1G.

33.38-50 1.3.1G.

40.3-32 G insertion in II.1.IC.

44.19-27 G insertion in II.l.3C.

46.4-12 G insertion in II.l.3C.

65.17-21, 29-39 G insertion in Il.2.2C.

164.7-12=248.30-37 G insertion in II.7.4aC+.

244.14-16, 31-35 G elements of III.3.1Gb.

246-247.15 G section III.3.2 in F

247.21-25=378.5-10. G insertion in III.3.3F.

249.43-250.11 G insertion in III.3.3F

257.7-15 G insertion in III.4.IE [connected to 256.33-35]a

343.35-39, 344.3b-14a G elements in V.2.2.1

Decimal points refer to lines, marking the bounds of the insertion. Where there are equal signs (=), the second notation indicates where these passages can be found in the original Macmillan 1929 edition of PR.

*I.3.l is basically a section devoted to the nontemporal concrescence. It seems to have been originally placed at V.2.3, but was then replaced by the new account of the consequent nature.

14. God is mentioned in the original texts, that is in the material not including purported insertions, at 18, 19, 74, 75, 93, 95, 110, 111, 144, 190, 208, 222, 248, 256, 325. 7.19-22 may be an insertion; if so, it most likely belongs to the middle group.

15. Many believe that this divine knowledge of evil, pain, and degradation is not possible apart from the actual physical prehension of the actualities of the world as they happen. Also, how is the fact united with God unless God integrates that physical feeling into the divine concrescence? While the technical concepts may be missing, many insist, the thought must be already there.

On the other hand, the evidence of compositional analysis suggests that Whitehead first introduces the notion of a nontemporal divine concrescence after most of Process and Reality was written, and the notion of adding physical prehensions to this concrescence comes even later. The means for an understanding of God as temporal is absent from the first two levels, which regard God as the nontemporal actual entity.

If so, this passage should be interpreted non-temporally. To do so requires the discipline of trying to read Religion in the Making on its own terms, and not to read into it ideas derived from Process and Reality. Everything depends on its conception of divine knowledge. The "synthesis of omniscience" is described as including "all possibilities of physical value conceptually, thereby holding the ideal forms apart in equal, conceptual realization of knowledge" (RM 147). Nothing is said about omniscience including any direct prehension of actuality.

Judged by the later standards of Process and Reality, this understanding of omniscience may well be insufficient. Yet it is quite appropriate to a strictly nontemporal deity. God’s knowledge of evil, pain, and degradation is then "the ideal vision of each actual evil" to which God has an alternative ideal which can "issue in the restoration of goodness," or so Whitehead hopes.


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