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Prehending God in and through the World

by Joseph A. Bracken, S.J.

Joseph A. Bracken, S.J., is Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 4-15, Vol.29, Number 1, Spring-Summer 2000. 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.


In recent issues of Process Studies there has been a spirited discussion among several contributors about whether or not God can be prehended by finite actual entities either in terms of the divine consequent nature or in virtue of a somewhat revised understanding of the divine primordial nature. In "The Enigmatic ĎPassage of the Consequent Nature to the Temporal World,í" for example, Denis Hurtubise questions Whiteheadís own statement in Process and Reality that the divine consequent nature "passes into the temporal world according to its gradation of relevance to the various concrescent occasions" (350) because it is a metaphysical claim inconsistent with the rest of his system (Hurtubise 100-01). He writes: "Whitehead simply asserts the immanence of the consequent nature in the temporal world without describing it in the framework of his system" (104). Hence, further work must be done to explain in terms fundamentally compatible with Whiteheadís overall metaphysical scheme how this is possible. In the same issue, Palmyre Oomen takes up this challenge. She contends that, if one takes into account the priority of the conceptual pole (the divine primordial nature), over the physical pole (the divine consequent nature), within God, one can propose that the divine consequent nature is prehensible by "worldly" actual occasions since it is constantly integrated with the fully determinate valuation of eternal objects characteristic of the divine primordial nature. "According to this view" Oomen writes, "Godís consequent nature can be prehended, because it is continually fully determinate [in virtue of its integration with the divine primordial nature], even if never complete and therefore [. . .] Ďalways in concrescence"í (117). Finally, in still a third article in the same issue of Process Studies, Lewis Ford initially commends Oomen for her highly original solution to the problem of Godís prehensibility by worldly actual occasions but finds problems with her own (and Whiteheadís) consequent inability to distinguish real possibilities here and now emergent within the divine consequent nature from the atemporal pure possibilities forever contained in the divine primordial nature (Ford 140). Furthermore, in line with his own position that God is strictly imprehensible, Ford believes that Oomen sacrifices the divine subjectivity to Godís objectivity or prehensibility (143-45). Thus, what is needed in his view is a new understanding of Whiteheadian creativity which is indeterminate in itself but "particularized into individual finite concrescences" (146).

In the next issue of Process Studies (27.3-4), Oomen responded to Ford that he had unintentionally misrepresented her. He does not distinguish properly, for example, between the abstract non-temporal divine valuation "linking possible situations (containing many data) to the best possibilities of synthesis of those data," and the concrete divine evaluation or actual choice of a specific initial aim in the light of what has just happened in the world and thus been prehended by the divine consequent nature ("Consequences" 330). The abstract non-temporal valuation proceeding from the divine primordial nature is not a conscious act on Godís part; only the concrete evaluation or actual choice of an initial aim for a given worldly situation is a conscious act on Godís part which thus contributes to Godís concrescence or ever-growing satisfaction. Yet one may ask whether Godís unconscious primordial valuation of possible situations and their resolution in terms of potential initial aims, while fully determinate in itself can represent a satisfaction for God in any meaningful sense. Would not the satisfaction come about through the linkage of possibility and actuality, the primordial and consequent natures of God, in the conscious evaluation or actual choice of a divine initial aim for a given worldly situation? Ford seems to make the same point when he notes that for Oomen there can be "no radical Ďbecoming,í no divine concrescence which first brings the satisfaction into being" (140).

Finally, in the third successive issue of Process Studies (28.1-2), Duane Voskuil likewise critiques Oomenís hypothesis in the light of his own commitment to a Hartshornean understanding of God as a "personally ordered" society of actual occasions in which there are successive satisfactions corresponding to each sequential moment of the divine life. Oomenís postulate of a single divine satisfaction which is always in concrescence, therefore, represents in Voskuilís eyes a confusion between the generic and the specific; a single generic divine satisfaction is simply an abstraction from the particular satisfactions of successive moments of the divine life (130-31). Similarly, Voskuil contests Oomenís claim that the unity of God is determined by a single divine aim arising out of the non-temporal valuation of the divine primordial nature: "a constant aim is only an abstraction from actual aims, not an actual aim itself. An actual ~m is conditioned by the physical content of the process. The primordial nature has no aim, nor can it exist by itself, because it is abstract, and abstractions are only characteristics of concretes" (134). Voskuil is also by implication opposed to Lewis Fordís understanding of God as an ever-concrescing divine subjectivity which cannot be prehended by worldly actual occasions. This became evident in subsequent exchanges between Voskuil and Ford over the Internet in the process philosophy discussion list which cannot be adequately summarized here.

At the risk of further complicating an already complex discussion, I would like at this point to propose still another solution to the question of Godís relation to the cosmic process. For, with Denis Hurtubise, I believe that, while Whitehead himself intuited what kind of interactive God-world relationship he wanted, he apparently never found a way to explain it within the parameters of his own metaphysical scheme. Hence, the task for contemporary Whiteheadians is to make whatever modest revisions are needed in that scheme so as to justify Whiteheadís own non-systematic vision of God in dynamic interrelationship with the world as presented in the final pages of Process and Reality. Likewise, with Lewis Ford I believe that God is objectively nonprehensible, but not for the same reasons. As noted above, Ford contends that God is objectively non-prehensible because God as a never-ending concrescence or pure subjectivity exists only in the future as a universal creativity which becomes "particularized into individual finite concrescences" (146). I argue that God exists in all three time-dimensions simultaneously: as a determinate past actuality in virtue of the divine consequent nature, as an indeterminate future reality in virtue of the divine primordial nature, and as a concrescing present reality in virtue of the ongoing integration of the divine primordial and consequent natures.1 Yet, while I agree with Ford that there is no way for finite actual occasions objectively to prehend that integration of the primordial and consequent natures within God even in terms of their own self-constitution here and now, I would also contend that finite actual occasions still feel the feelings of God toward themselves as a result of that integration of the primordial and consequent natures within the divine being. For, these divine feelings are mediated to the occasions through the already existing structure of the world within which they are concrescing.

Here, of course, is where my long-standing hypothesis about the nature of Whiteheadian societies comes into play. In many books and articles over the years, I have argued that Whiteheadian societies, while not possessing agency in and of themselves, nevertheless possess an objective ontological unity from moment to moment in virtue of the collective agency of their constituent actual occasions2 The unity thus achieved is in my view the unity of an ongoing structured field of activity for successive generations of actual occasions undergoing concrescence within the field. The field, to be sure, cannot exist apart from the dynamic interrelation of its constituent actual occasions. But successive generations of actual occasions likewise would not exist with basically the same common element of form from moment to moment unless they were able to prehend the lawlike environment of that same structured field of activity. As Whitehead himself notes in Process and Reality, "in a society, the members can only exist by reason of the laws which dominate the society, and the laws only come into being by reason of the analogous characters of the members of the society" (91).

Admittedly, Whitehead seems to solve this problem of the transmission of a common element of form for an ongoing society of actual occasions in a different way, namely, with his doctrine of objectification whereby individual concrescing actual entities positively and negatively prehend the eternal objects ingredient in their predecessors within the same society and "transmute" them into an eternal object suitable for the society as a whole (Process 25, 27, 41-42). But, as I argued in a previous publication, while this approach is logically possible, it is certainly cumbersome, especially when one recalls that even non-living actual occasions have to go through this same process of transmutation in order to maintain continuity with their predecessors in the same society ("Proposals" 12). Much simpler, as I see it, is my own hypothesis that individual actual occasions prehend the ongoing structure of the field of activity (society) in which they and themselves and basically conform their own process of self-constitution to it, with due allowance, of course, for the varying degrees of spontaneity which the individual occasions themselves may possess.3

In any event, given the plausibility of this field-oriented approach to the doctrine of societies, one is in a position dramatically to rethink the God-world relationship within Whiteheadís metaphysical scheme. For, in line with this proposal one can postulate that the universe or cosmic process is at any given moment an all-encompassing "structured society" or structured field of activity for all the actual entities emergent within it.4 Each actual entity, therefore, is able to derive its defining characteristic or common element of form from the ongoing structure of the society or societies to which it belongs. There is no need for the concrescing actual occasion objectively to prehend some complex eternal object derivative from the consequent nature of God so as to initiate its process of self -- constitution since there is an objective order of things apart from God already in place for it to prehend and incorporate into its self-constitution. The concrescing actual occasion, however, does need to prehend Godís feelings toward that objective order of things in order to initiate its own appropriate feeling-level response to that situation. If it fails to note, or in any case fails to heed, Godís feelings toward its existential context, then the actual occasion is likely by its own self-constituting decision to extend further or even aggravate an already disordered state of affairs which it has inherited.5

I am making, to be sure, a number of assumptions here which need to be set forth explicitly and, where needed, further explained. My first assumption is rather conventional, namely, that Godís own feelings toward a given existential situation in the world are effected through an integration of the divine primordial and consequent natures within the divine being; what could be and should be is somehow reconciled with what de facto is the case but in a way that only God fully knows and understands. My second assumption, as noted above, is that the concrescing actual entity does not have to prehend directly this objective integration of the primordial and the consequent natures within the divine being but only to prehend Godís feelings toward itself in virtue of that same integration within the divine subjectivity. Godís initial aim for the concrescent actual entity is thus expressed in the form of a feeling for what is better for it and the world to which it belongs, given the structural possibilities already present within the cosmic process. But, one may ask, how does the finite actual entity prehend Godís feelings toward itself? Here I make a third assumption, namely, that the concrescing actual entity prehends Godís feelings toward it in the same way as it prehends the feelings of all other actual entities toward itself -- in and through the structured society or common field of activity to which they all belong. God shares, in other words, a common field of activity with finite actual entities (an issue which we will lay out in further detail below). Likewise, God transmits Godís feelings toward these actual occasions in their self-constitution through this common field of activity, just as concrescing actual occasions prehend not only the objective structure of their predecessorsí self-constitution but also the subjective form or "satisfaction" of their predecessors in the latterís process of self-constitution (cf. Whitehead, Process 85).

Here one might object that I am thus avoiding the basic issue at stake here, namely, how a finite actual occasion can prehend Godís feelings toward itself, given the fact that according to Whitehead God is an ever-concrescing actual entity which never reaches "satisfaction" and thus never attains a determinate state of feeling toward any given actual occasion or indeed toward the entire world of actual occasions. My response is that Whitehead still maintains that there is an integration of the primordial and the consequent natures within the divine being at every moment (Process 345) and that in virtue of this integration "God is the great companion -- the fellow sufferer who understands" (Process 351). Hence, I fully agree with Oomen ("Prehensiblity" 111-14) that, even though God never reaches complete "satisfaction," God still has quite determinate feelings vis-a-vis what is happening in the world. Where I differ from Oomen is in my proposal that a finite actual occasion does not directly prehend the objective integration of the primordial and consequent natures within God but only the results of that integration, namely, Godís feelings toward itself as mediated in and through the occasionís prehension of the objective structure of the world within which it is concrescing. God, in other words, is communicating with the actual occasion in its process of self-constitution through a feeling-level evaluation of the de facto situation in which the occasion finds itself. The objective possibilities for the occasionís self-constitution are already present in the field; Godís role is to make clear on a feeling-level which of those possibilities are to be preferred and in what order.6

Furthermore, this proposal for prehension of God in and through the world coheres nicely with my generalized theory of societies as structured fields of activity. That is, in terms of my overall proposal, a society or structured field of activity functions both for the transmission of formal structure and for the communication of feeling from one actual occasion (or set of actual occasions) to another. Objectively considered, a society or field exists to transmit formal structure from one actual occasion to another. But, subjectively (or intersubjectively) considered, the field exists to transmit feelings from one subjectivity to another.7 Both functions are clearly needed to sustain the creative process. Yet, given the logical problems connected with the notion of a finite actual entity somehow prehending the objective integration of the primordial and consequent natures within God (as indicated above), it makes sense to think of Godís influence on the concrescing actual occasion simply in terms of divine feelings vis-à-vis objective possibilities already present in the world as a common field of activity for God and all finite actual occasions.

In what sense, however, can one say that God and the world of finite actual entities share a common field of activity? For, neither Whitehead nor Hartshorne use that language in speaking of the God-world relationship. Whitehead, however, in Process and Reality notes: "The actual world must always mean the community of all actual entities, including the primordial actual entity called ĎGodí and the temporal actual entities" (65). If God and all temporal actual entities share a common world, then they must likewise share a common field of activity. Moreover, this common field of activity within Whiteheadís scheme of things should logically be the extensive continuum. As the "one relational complex in which all potential objectifications find their niche," (Process 66) for Whitehead the extensive continuum certainly corresponds to the breadth of vision of the divine primordial nature, even as the space-time continuum as a partial realization of the extensive continuum corresponds to the more limited character of the divine consequent nature here and now Thus, even though Whitehead does not make explicit use of field-oriented imagery to describe the God-world relationship, the concepts are at hand to sustain that line of thought.8

Likewise, Charles Hartshorne does not use explicit field-imagery in his conception of the God-world relationship. But it is relatively easy to translate his understanding of the nature of God and of the God-world relationship into a field-oriented conception. Hartshorne, for example, thinks of God as a personally ordered society of actual occasions rather than as a single transcendent actual entity. As such, he maintains, God is equivalently the "soul" of the universe, while the universe is the "body" of God (174-211). Given my above-stated hypothesis that a society should be understood as a structured field of activity for its constituent actual entities, then it is relatively easy to picture the field of activity proper to God as a personally ordered society of actual occasions as overlapping the field of activity created by the universe as a very complex structured society. Even more perfectly than the human soul with its field of activity can be said to overlap the field of activity proper to the brain and through the brain the other interrelated fields of activity within the human body, so God as the soul of the universe shares a common field of activity with the universe as an all-encompassing social totality.9

In brief, then, given the legitimacy of a field-oriented approach to the God-world relationship in terms of either Whiteheadís or Hartshorneís metaphysics, one can readily provide, as I see it, an appropriate explanation for Whiteheadís enigmatic remarks at the end of Process and Reality about the "passage" of the consequent nature to the temporal world. This "passage" is effected, not directly through the finite actual entityís objective prehension of the ongoing integration between the primordial and consequent natures within God, but indirectly through the transmission of feeling from God to that same actual entity about its social location within the cosmic process and its possibilities for self-constitution as a result. This transmission of feeling from God to the finite actual entity takes place in the same way and at the same time as the transmission of feelings from previous finite actual entities, namely, through the structured field of activity common to both God and all finite actual entities, as indicated above. As a result, the divine initial aim for the finite entityís self-constitution can be easily overlooked or ignored since it is only one feeling among many others being received by the concrescing actual occasion for its self-constitution. But, at least in principle, it is constantly available to guide the concrescence of the actual entity in line with Godís own vision of what is appropriate for it at this particular time and place.10

When I compare this approach with those taken by Oomen, Ford and Voskuil to provide an explanation for the "passage" of the consequent nature to the temporal world, I see the following advantages for my own approach. First of all, I can confirm Fordís insight that God is not objectively prehensible by finite actual entities. At the same time, I do not have to endorse his further contention that God is "pure subjectivity" somehow identified with creativity as an indeterminate activity which becomes particularized in finite actual occasions (see Ford 145-46). For, in terms of my scheme, God is a determinate reality which achieves ongoing satisfaction in interaction with the world of temporal actual entities but in a way which is incomprehensible to us since we prehend only Godís feelings toward us at the moment rather than Godís nature or inner life. For the same reason, I do not think it is necessary to choose between Whiteheadís (and Oomenís) conception of God as a transcendent actual entity and Hartshorneís (and Voskuilís) rival conception of God as a personally ordered society of actual occasions in setting forth ones understanding of the God-world relationship. Since according to both schemes, as noted above, there exists a common field of activity linking God and temporal actual entities, then the transmission of feeling from God to those same entities can be justified either in terms of a single divine subjectivity undergoing continuous change or in terms of a series of determinate moments for that same divine subjectivity. That is, the structural component of the divine initial aim in each case does not come from God but from the structure of the field (or fields) within which the actual entity is originating. Only Godís feelings toward that same structure are mediated to the actual entity through the field of activity common to both of them. Precisely how those feelings originated within God is a purely speculative question, quite unimportant for the self-constitution of the actual entity here and now.

I myself, to be sure, favor the Hartshornean conception of God because I find it easier to adjust to a trinitarian understanding of God than the Whiteheadian approach. That is, it is easier to propose that the trinitarian God of Christian orthodoxy is a structured society of three personally ordered societies of actual occasions than to think of three persons as somehow coexisting within the one ever-concrescing transcendent actual entity in Whiteheadís scheme. At the same time, by thinking of Whiteheadian societies as ongoing structured fields of activity for their constituent actual occasions, I think that I can remedy one of the classical defects of the Hartshornean concept of God vis-á-vis the Whiteheadian. That is, the common objection to Hartshorneís model is that there are inevitably moments of indeterminacy for God between successive divine actual occasions, however quickly they succeed one another (cf. Oomen, "Prehensiblity" 116). But, if one focuses on the society as a structured field of activity for its constituent actual occasions, then the continuity in the divine being, which is such an important feature of Whiteheadís approach to the reality of God as an ever-concrescing actual entity, is likewise present in Hartshorneís scheme. Not the succession of divine actual occasions, but the divine field of activity thereby created and sustained, is the principle of continuity within the divine being. That is, just as the human mind is, in terms of my theory, an enduring intentional field of activity for successive moments of consciousness, so the enduring reality of God is an intentional field of activity which overlaps the structured field of activity proper to the universe. Furthermore, whether that divine intentional field of activity is constituted by a single personally ordered society of actual occasions (as in Hartshorneís scheme) or by three interrelated personally ordered societies of actual occasions (as in my trinitarian scheme) is irrelevant to the point at issue here, namely, how to guarantee the continuity of the divine being, given the presumption of successive moments of divine consciousness.

To sum up, then, thinking of the God-world relationship in terms of a common field of activity for both God and the world of temporal actual entities holds, in my judgment, great promise for resolving some of the thorny speculative issues raised by Whiteheadís inspirational but highly controversial remarks at the end of Process and Reality. For, in this way, as Hurtubise comments, one can legitimately speak of God as immanent within the world of creation without stipulating that the finite actual entity somehow objectively prehends God in the moment of divine concrescence as a precondition for its own self-constitution. No doubt, theoretical objections will also be raised to this proposal as well as to its predecessors. But we humans are, after all, trying to make sense out of a reality at once immensely bigger than ourselves and yet all-important for our own well-being.

 

Notes

1. Here I agree with Robert Neville in his book Eternity and Timeís Flow that eternity or the divine act of being is "the togetherness of the modes of time -- past, present, and future -- so that each can be its temporal self "(60). All three modes of time are constantly changing in terms of their specific content, but their formal relation to one another never changes. The divine act of being as the togetherness of the modes of time thus makes possible the flow of time out of the future, into the present and thence into the past, while itself remaining unchanged. Where I differ from Neville is in the belief that this divine act of being does not proceed from a totally indeterminate source but is rather the nature or common principle of activity for the three divine persons of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity who thus have a common past, present and future in terms of their relations to one another as well as with reference to all their creatures (cf. Bracken, The Divine Matrix 138-40).

2. For example, see Bracken, Society and Spirit: A Trinitarian Cosmology 39-56 and "Proposals for Overcoming the Atomism within Process-Relational Metaphysics," 10-24.

3. Presumably Whitehead himself never thought of this possibility because his basic image of a society was that of an aggregate of actual entities, sometimes dominated by a higher-order actual entity which equivalently acts as a "soul" or principle of unity for the others, but otherwise without any centralized organization or control. He also knew that societies survive while actual entities come and go (cf. Adventures 204). But he apparently could not envision what a society as an ontological whole distinct from its constituent actual occasions might be in and of itself. He notes, for example, that his notion of society "has analogies to Descartesí notion of Ďsubstance"í (Adventures 204). Yet he evidently could not return to the classical understanding of substance without undermining his entire metaphysical system. Hence, he stayed with the notion of societies as aggregates of actual occasions even though these aggregates constantly change in their membership and thus do not really provide the principle of continuity through change that he, strictly speaking, needed to justify his remark that societies survive while actual occasions come and go.

Ironically, Whitehead had at hand an alternative explanation for societies as principles of continuity in a changing world in his passing remarks in Process and Reality to the effect that "a society is, for each of its members, an environment with some element of order in it, persisting by reason of the genetic relations between its own members" (90). Moreover, in a follow-up comment a few sentences later, the field-metaphor also figures: "the world of actual entities is to be conceived as forming a background in layers of social order, the defining characteristics becoming wider and more general as we widen the background" (90). Not actual entities, therefore, which perish as soon as their process of self-constitution is complete, but societies when understood as environments or structured fields of activity for those same actual entities seem to be the true analog for the classical notion of substance within process-relational metaphysics. Admittedly, there are other features of Whiteheadís metaphysical scheme which seem to resist this interpretation of the notion of society. Whitehead, for example in Process and Reality, proposes that "the final real things of which the world is made up" (18) are actual entities, not societies. But he also notes a few pages later that nexas along with actual entities are among the eight foundational Categories of Existence (22). Perhaps the most telling argument, however, against the field-oriented approach to Whiteheadian societies in these same pages is that, in line with the Category of the Ultimate, "The many become one and are increased by one" (21), the only source of unity within a Whiteheadian universe seems to be the unity of an actual entity in its self-constitution out of the data of its past world (26). Here I have argued in a series of publications, as noted above, that creativity logically must also be at work in the formation of societies of actual entities, albeit in and through its activity in the self-constitution of the constituent actual entities of those same societies. Thus at one and the same time creativity empowers an actual occasion to exist both in itself and as a member of one or more societies. This is an extension of the Category of the Ultimate ("The many become one and are increased by one") which Whitehead himself apparently overlooked in his preoccupation with the novel doctrine of actual entities as ultimate constituents of reality.

4. Admittedly, I am here presupposing that the universe is indeed a universe, a single all-comprehensive structured society of subsocieties with their constituent actual entities and that this all-comprehensive structured society possesses as a result a defining characteristic or common element of form which is analogously reproduced in the self-constitution of the myriad number of actual entities concrescing in the universe at any given moment. While this might seem highly implausible to some because of the enormous size of the universe and the consequent inability of different parts of the universe causally to affect one another, there have been cautious proposals put forth in the field of quantum mechanics about the "non-locality" of interrelated quantum-events separated from one another by a distance greater than the speed of light (cf. Ian Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues 175-77). Hence, the issue of the objective reality of the universe as an all-encompassing social totality or, in Whiteheadian terms, structured society cannot be resolved empirically at the present time; accordingly, one should be free to postulate it as a trans-empirical hypothesis as I am doing here.

5. Here, of course, one might well argue that my proposal severely constrains the range of possibilities for the self-constitution of finite actual occasions since they are effectively limited to those possibilities which are already present in the field(s) of activity to which they belong. My counter-argument would be that, while God through the integration of the divine primordial and consequent natures might be able to envision further theoretical possibilities for a given actual occasion, the realistic possibilities for the self-constitution of that same actual occasion (even for God) are those already objectively present in the field(s) to which the occasion belongs. The deeper issue is rather which among the multiple objective possibilities already present in the field are the ones which will in all likelihood prove to be much more effective both for the individual actual occasion and for the society (societies) to which it belongs. Here the divine wisdom based on the integration of the primordial and consequent natures within God should be invaluable in assisting the individual occasion to make an appropriate choice among many alternatives.

6. In line with previous publications (e.g., Society and Spirit 127-29 and The Divine Matrix 57), I also argue that God is the source of the creativity at work in the self-constitution of the concrescing actual occasion since creativity is in the first place the principle of activity for the divine being and only by Godís gracious free choice likewise the principle of activity for finite actual occasions. This belief in the origin of creativity for finite occasions within God, incidentally, is still another point on which Lewis Ford and I are in agreement, even though for different reasons.

7. Compare my views on this point with Judith A. Jones, Intensity: An Essay in Whiteheadian Ontology. While I do not fully endorse her hypothesis that actual entities retain their subjectivity as "superjects" impacting upon the concrescence of subsequent actual entities, I am very sympathetic to her presupposition that there is a continuous transfer of feeling as well as a transmission of form from one actual entity to another within the cosmic process.

8. See, for example, John B. Cobb, Jr., A Christian Natural Theology 192-96, where he argues for the notion of God as having an all-inclusive standpoint within the extensive continuum, at least within the present cosmic epoch.

9. My own trinitarian conception of the God-world relationship, as expressed in previous publications, lends itself even more dramatically to a field-oriented understanding of the God-world relationship since it makes clear how the three divine persons of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity can be said to possess a field proper to their own divine being which likewise serves as the "matrix" or ontological ground for the field of activity proper to creation (see, for example, The Divine Matrix 52-69 and "Panentheism from a Process Perspective"). But the focus of this article is not on a specifically trinitarian understanding of the God-world relationship in terms of field-imagery but rather on a more generic process-relational understanding of the God-world relationship in terms of that same field-imagery.

10. In the same issue of Process Studies in which the articles of Hurtubise, Oomen and Ford appeared, George Allan published a critique of Fordís thesis that God exists in the future as Creativity which is continually adjusted to meet the needs of actual occasions concrescing in the present. While not endorsing his critique of Ford completely, I share Allanís misgivings about the awkwardness of this conception of God. It seems much simpler to me to say that the structural possibilities for the self-constitution of currently concrescing actual entities are present in the society or field of activity to which the entities belong, but that only God in virtue of the divine primordial nature has an infallible understanding which possibilities will be genuinely fruitful and to what extent they will be fruitful and which possibilities will ultimately be fruitless, at least in terms of the achievement of higher goals and values. Finite actual entities, in other words, may well opt for foolish rather than wise possibilities without divine assistance which always is prehended in the form of a feeling or "lure" (along with other feelings, to be sure, from still other sources). In any event, mutatis mutandis, I think that I could endorse Allanís statement at the end of his critique which he himself seems to dismiss as wishful thinking but which I think could be vindicated in terms of my own hypothesis:

Thereís a moral grandeur to these finite creatures [concrescing actual occasions] recognizing the contributions others make to what they achieve, thus recognizing the ways their achievements might contribute to what others make, and shaping their own efforts in the light of these interoccasional dependencies. Thereís moral grandeur to a God whose role is as a contributor to these makings, aiding in the deepening of harmonies by luring the creatures toward a widened sense of the other harmonies thought relevant. (76)

 

Works Cited

Allan, George. "God as the Future: On Not Taking Time Seriously." Process Studies 27 (1998): 64-77.

Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. San Francisco: Harper, 1997.

Bracken, Joseph A., S.J. The Divine Matrix. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1995.

-- "Panentheism from a Process Perspective." Trinity in Process. A Relational Theology of God. Ed. Joseph A. Bracken, S.J. and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki. New York: Continuum, 1997: (95-113).

-- "Proposals for Overcoming the Atomism within Process-Relational Metaphysics." Process Studies 23 (1994): 10-24.

-- Society and Spirit: A Trinitarian Cosmology. Cranbury: Associated UP, 1991.

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

Ford, Lewis S. "The Consequences of Prehending the Consequent Nature." Process Studies 27 (1998): 134-46.

Hartshorne, Charles. Manís Vision of God and the Logic of Theism. 1941. Hamden, Conn.: Archon, 1964.

Hurtubise, Denis. "The Enigmatic ĎPassage of the Consequent Nature to the Temporal Worldí in Process and Reality: An Alternative Proposal." Process Studies 27 (1998): 93-107.

Jones, Judith A. Intensity: in Whiteheadian Ontology. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 1998.

Neville, Robert. Eternity and Timeís Flow. Albany: State U of New York P, 1993.

Oomen, Palmyre M. F. "Consequences of Prehending Godís Consequent Nature." Process Studies 27 (1998): 329-31.

-- The Prehensiblity of Godís Consequent Nature." Process Studies 27 (1998): 108-33.

Voskuil, Duane. "Discussion of Palmyre M. F. Oomenís Recent Essays in Process Studies." Process Studies 28 (1999): 130-36.

-- "Ford/Voskuil" Online posting. Sept. 1999 <http://www.mailbase. ac.uk/lists/process-philosophy/>.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Adventures of Ideas. 1933. New York: Free Press, 1967.

-- Process and Reality. 1929. Corrected Edition, Eds. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: Free Press, 1978.


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