God and Creativity: A Revisionist Proposal within a Whiteheadian Context
by Stephen T. Franklin
Stephen T. Franklin is President of Tokyo Christian University. 3-301-5-1 Uchino. Inzai City; Chiba Prefecture 270-1347 Japan. E-mail: email@example.com. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 237-307, Vol. 29, Number 2, Fall-Winter, 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 Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysical system, God is not the source of creativity and, in that sense, not the Creator-God. For Whitehead, the relation of creativity to God has two sides. On the one hand, he designed his doctrine of creativity to eliminate the need for a Creator-God. Whitehead argued instead that each actual entity is self-creating. He wrote: "There are not two actual entities, the creativity and the creature. There is only one entity which is the self-creating creature" (Religion 202). The term "creativity" names that act of self-creation.
On the other hand, Whitehead’s doctrine of creativity does require the existence of a God, not as creator but as the ultimate source of eternal objects and, thus, of both novelty and order. That is, each actual entity, precisely to be self-creating, requires a supply of possible characteristics with which to create its own identity. It requires, in Whitehead’s vocabulary, a stock of eternal objects. If we ask where these eternal objects come from, Whitehead gives us two answers. At one level, they come from the past (finite) actual entities. But at another level, Whitehead locates the final supply of eternal objects in a single actual entity he calls God. Thus a complete explication of creativity requires a God (in the sense of a location of and a principle of relevance among all eternal objects). But this God is not the source of creativity and therefore not a creator-God.
I will suggest a revised doctrine of creativity in which I affirm God as the source of creativity. I hold that my revision coheres better with the rest of Whitehead’s system than does his own doctrine in that it provides additional evidence for many features of his doctrine of God and in some cases reduces the arbitrariness of those features. I also claim that my revision provides a more fruitful description of human experience. And lastly I maintain that the most powerful reasons for separating God from creativity do not apply to my revised understanding of creativity and of God as the creator.
I. Reasons for the Separation of Creativity and God
The weightiest reason for separating creativity from God, likely in Whitehead’s own thinking and certainly in the arguments of many followers, was to preserve the freedom of the creatures.
Whitehead offered an analysis of freedom among the most subtle and persuasive of any in the twentieth century. The most relevant factors are these: (a) Freedom requires an autonomous subject. That is, freedom requires a decision-making agent that exists in distinction from other agents and whose decisions stem from itself and not from an other. (b) Those decisions are always from among a range of options. The subject’s decision among those options, to be free, must not be totally explicable by reference to efficient causes, to prior causes, whether "internal" or "external" to that subject. To that extent the free decisions are spontaneous and resistant to any causal analysis. (c) The decisions must be for a purpose or have a goal, where this teleology is not reducible to causation. Thus the spontaneity of free decisions, while random from the standpoint of an external, scientific causal analysis, is neither purely arbitrary nor beyond understanding. Free decisions are purposeful and thus understandable. (d) Freedom requires a context of order and causality. The full explications of freedom and causality require reference to each other. And (e) other actual entities establish the limits of the range of options from which the subject can choose. And other agents greatly determine the "quality of those options. And the subject may have only a very limited capacity (that is, lack consciousness, have a deficient environment, etc.) with which to make its choices. Thus freedom is a matter of "more and less." While a subject’s freedom may be restricted and trivial, it is, however, never totally absent as long as the subject remains a subject.
Process thinkers argue that the traditional1 understanding of God as the creator undercuts the freedom of the creatures because, as Whitehead wrote, "the freedom inherent in the universe is constituted by this element of self-causation" (Process 31). According to the standard process argument, a God who creates ex nihilo, "works the will" of the creatures, thus compromising their autonomy That is, the traditional way of unpacking the claim that God creates "all things in heaven and in earth" results in a view of God as the ultimate cause of each detail of the universe thus compromising finite freedom. Some defenders of the traditional doctrine of creatio ex nihilo hold that cause has a series of analogous meanings, making the divine cause significantly unlike ordinary causes and, thus, not a threat to creaturely freedom. Process thinkers, however, would maintain that this still leaves us with causation, structure, and form, but no genuine freedom. In such a world, the creatures have a fate but not a destiny (to use Tillich’s wonderful phrase). In the past, process thinkers have argued that the best way to "save" creaturely freedom is to separate God and creativity.
By separating creativity from God, according to his advocates, Whitehead also contributed significantly to theodicy. Process thinkers ask: if God is the ultimate creator or cause of each detail of the universe, then is not God the author of evil? It is not hard to find examples of monotheistic theologians against whom this charge could be leveled quite convincingly. Other traditional theologians, however, have argued that God is not the cause of each detail of the universe because God chose to give some creatures "free will." These particular "traditional" theologians agree with the process thinkers that a creature’s decisions cannot be free if God is the cause of those decisions. Most process thinkers grant this advances in the right direction, but not far enough. They have challenged this form of the free will defense on several grounds, the most basic of which we have already mentioned: because the traditional doctrine of creation affirms that God creates the agent’s free will, it ought to follow that the traditional God works the free will of the creatures, where this is inconsistent with the doctrine of freedom outlined above. If, however, we separate creativity from God, so that each creature is self-creative, then clearly God does not work the will of the creature, thus effectively sustaining a free will theodicy.2
It is possible to develop other reasons for the separation of creativity and God that Whitehead himself did not advance and that process thinkers, to my knowledge, have not considered in depth. I have in mind the work of Tillich and Heidegger. In discussing their views, it is convenient to distinguish between (a) a doctrine of God, (b) a doctrine of Being or Being-Itself, and (c) a doctrine of particular beings such as Aristotle’s substances or Whitehead’s actual entities. Tillich designated Being-Itself as God. Tillich then argued, however, that Being-itself could not really function as Being-itself if it were merely "a" being. Tillich, thus, radically separated particular beings (the furniture of the universe) from his doctrine of God/Being-Itself. Whitehead’s creativity may be likened, in some ways, to Tillich’s Being-Itself. And it might be argued that creativity could not really be creativity if it were located in a particular, concrete entity. On this point, Whitehead would agree with Tillich. Unlike Tillich, however, Whitehead chose not to identify his creativity with God. Rather, he considered God to be a particular actual entity Whitehead can even call God a creature, (and, thus, a part of the furniture of the universe). In refusing to identify creativity with any particular being, Whitehead confirms Tillich’s view that Being-Itself must not be "confined" within any particular entity
Heidegger would agree with both Tillich and Whitehead that Being must not be identified with particular beings.3 Unlike Tillich, however, Heidegger also refused to identify Being with God, at least in any traditional definition of "God." This would seem to parallel Whitehead’s refusal to identify creativity with God. In short, the separation of creativity and God, it would seem, both confirms and is confirmed by; these two major twentieth century thinkers.
In the work of John Cobb, we find another powerful argument for Whitehead’s separation of God and creativity Cobb argues that Whitehead’s metaphysics allows us to affirm two absolutes, creativity and God. On the one hand, Buddhism has explored the mystical and metaphysical dimensions of creativity under such rubrics as emptiness and absolute nothingness. Creativity/emptiness may be called the ultimate reality. Christianity has explored the ethical, historical, and personal implications of the existence of God. God is the ultimate actuality. These two absolutes, ultimate reality and ultimate actuality, do not conflict, but rather complement each other. This serves, from Cobb’s point of view, to confirm Whitehead’s separation of creativity from God (Beyond 12).
II. Reasons for Reuniting Creativity and God
Given that the arguments of process thinkers against the traditional doctrine of God the creator are correct, there would appear to be little reason to affirm that God is the source of creativity. There are, however, powerful arguments against the separation of God and creativity.
While my primary arguments in favor of the recombination are metaphysical, I do wish to mention one theological consideration. In the classical monotheistic religions -- certainly in Christianity and perhaps in Islam and Judaism as well -- the term "God" refers to a single ultimate. This single ultimate has no competitor. Anselm’s definition brings this out powerfully: "God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived." The existence of two ultimates, no matter how compatible, defeats the logic of monotheism. Therefore, if creativity and God can both be called ultimates as in Cobb’s argument, or if Being is granted the status of an ultimate but denied the name of God as in Heidegger’s argument, the inner structure of monotheism, at least of Christian monotheism, would seem to be jeopardized thus making their recombination quite imperative.4
An interesting point in Cobb’s argument must also be considered. Cobb names God as the ethical, historical, and personal ultimate, that is, where this God is a particular actual entity A good case can be made that ethical principles, historical existence, and personhood cannot exist apart from the specificity of some concrete and particular being. If we grant, as Judaism, Christianity; and (within certain limits) Islam all do, that the category of "God" gives an ultimacy to ethics, history; and personhood, it follows that such a God must somehow be intimately connected with, or even identified with, a particular being. In short, in a monotheistic religion, the term God not only names Being or Being-Itself, it also names an individual entity, a particular being. In Islam, God is the Sovereign who commands our obedience. In Judaism, God is YHWH who led the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery into the promised land. And in Christianity, God is the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who raised him from the dead. In this paper, I intend to defend the claim that God is the source of creativity, thereby reuniting the creator with a particular actual entity. In short, 1 combine what Whitehead, Tillich, and Heidegger all separated, each in his own way, namely, a doctrine of God, a doctrine of Being or Being-Itself, and a doctrine of actuality or, more accurately, of particular "activity"5
Langdon Gilkey argues that a Christian understanding of history requires the reconnection of creativity with God:
Our suggestion is that because of the obscurity; the difficulties and even the incoherence of Whitehead’s concept of creativity as thc principle of transition from occasion to occasion -- a principle which he radically separates from the divine principle -- that "creativity" be included under the providential activity of God and thus made coherent with the notion of God as transcendent to the continuation of passage as well as immersed within it. . . . Thus the first principle of providence is the conquest of the passingness of time and the continual creation and recreation of each creature through the creative power of God: or, as it was put in the classical tradition, the first element of providence is the preservation of the creature over. (250-51)
Gilkey himself, however, does not explain how it might be possible, within a basically Whiteheadian context, to reconnect creativity and God. That is my task.
At a more strictly metaphysical level, it can also be argued, correctly in my opinion, that Whitehead never really deals with the question of creation at its most radical level. Whitehead, like Aristotle, assumes the existence of the universe and then proceeds to deal with the factors needed to account for its structure and character. I will note later that Whitehead, despite himself, does ask why any one particular actual entity exists. Nonetheless, the radical question of existence never systematically enters his metaphysics. I will argue that the separation of creativity and God cannot be considered well-established until that radical question has been raised. And once it is raised, we will discover that there are strong arguments in favor of the recombination of creativity and God.
Other scholars have seen this same issue, although no one, to my knowledge, has fully dealt with it from the general standpoint of Whitehead’s metaphysics. Reto Fetz records the objection of two German scholars, Robert Spaemann and Wolfhart Pannenberg, who held that Whitehead does not deal with creation in the radical sense:
Like Aristotle, Whitehead was content to accept an analysis of corning into being of entities which are assumed to be given, without ever inquiring into what it is that actualizes their being or investigating the grounds for the possibility of this enactment.. . the question (is) whether, and how; creation (as effected by God) can be conceived as the condition for the possibility of the creativity (of the creatures). (208 n74)
Spaemann’s and Pannenberg’s question is a metaphysical one. To answer it, I will provide a reading of creativity that, while rooted in the Whiteheadian text, expands, moves beyond, and, in some points, reverses Whitehead’s own position. My revised doctrine of creativity will, for its own completion, require the further claim that God is the ultimate source of creativity and, thus, the creator of the universe.
Seriously entertaining Spaemann’s and Pannenberg’s radical question about the being-here of the particular entities within the world will start us down a path that Whitehead himself, as well as most of his disciples, chose not to tread. To take this question as fundamental to my argument opens several new possibilities. First, it facilitates a dialogue between process philosophy and the more traditional Western philosophers, especially Thomas Aquinas. That is, serious reflection on the question of being at its most radical level will allow us to incorporate many aspects of Aquinas’ notion of "being" or "esse" into a process context. This in turn will further allow us to produce a more consistent and less arbitrary process philosophy, particularly but not exclusively a more coherent doctrine of God. In short, taking seriously the radical question of being -- a question that Whitehead did not consider -- will require us to introduce factors and connections that the process literature has mostly overlooked and that, as we will argue, not only produce a more consistent, less arbitrary, and more powerful process philosophy but also a different one.
My arguments in this paper will be metaphysical and only incidentally theological. It is as a metaphysical argument that I will show that my reading of creativity and affirmation of God as the source of that creativity will result in an improvement in the coherence and consistency of Whitehead’s system, including his doctrine of God. I believe, however, that my revision of Whitehead’s doctrine of God offers a more nuanced explication of religious experience, where we may appeal to such experience as significant evidence in support of my revisions. In addition, I am deeply concerned about the issues raised by monotheistic theology in general and Christian theology in particular, and I will, therefore, indicate a few of the theological implications of my revisionist form of process philosophy.
Whitehead insisted that God should not be an exception to the metaphysical system. He expressed this conviction in the memorable phrase that scholars should not pay "metaphysical compliments" to God. This, however, raises the question of what it means to be an "exception" to the principles or categories of a metaphysical system. In my opinion the refusal to pay metaphysical compliments to God should not mean that God has no unique features. Every actual entity has unique features. Nor should it even mean that God has no unique cosmic or metaphysical roles. Not even Whitehead could maintain such a standard. Rather, whatever his own view of "metaphysical compliments," I will take it to mean that everything I want to say about God should be expressible in terms of the basic principles of the system.
III. The Question of Divine Presence in a Postmodern Age
A well-known deconstructionist scholar, while visiting Tokyo, met with a small group of English-speaking Christian theologians for an evening of conversation in which he argued that God is obviously dead. My task now is to recognize that when we unravel what we call the self, or truth, or good and evil, we will find nothing. The rhetorical and metaphorical quality of language is so pervasive that the reference of language is always dubious. As a result, our language must always work to the advantage of some people and to the disadvantage of others. Knowing that he was speaking to theologians, he connected his deconstructionist task with the biblical tradition of unmasking the idols, of lifting the veil that hides sin.
I asked him if he could find any room for creation or salvation as well as for sin. He answered no. The only Christian doctrine that remains is sin. Perhaps, because sin normally means sin against God, he should have talked about a doctrine of evil. His bottom line, however, stood: there is neither creation nor salvation in our "postmodern" world.
The deconstructionist considered his position as "postmodern." Postmodernism, however, is not limited to deconstructionism. According to Nancy Murphey and James Win. McClendon, Jr., the postmodern world differs from the modern world on three counts. First, the modern world assumed that our knowledge and culture must rest on secure foundations. The foundationalists thought that such axioms could be found; the skeptics thought that they could not. The postmodern world is non-foundationalist, not in the skeptical sense, but in the sense that we can have such modest knowledge and cultural forms as we need without any appeal to absolute, apodictic, self-evident, incorrigible, irrefragable, or indubitable foundations. In particular, according to postmodernist epistemologies, our knowledge is given to us in "holistic" units rather than as individual facts as taught in the modern world. Second, the moderns assumed that language can provide truth about the world only if it represents some fact in the world; otherwise, it is merely "expressive" of, for example, the speaker’s own subjective attitudes, commitments, or feelings. In the postmodern world, language is understood in terms of its functions within the cultural and social world which it helps to organize and sustain (as in the overworked slogan, "meaning is use"). Third, in the areas of politics and ethics, modern culture oscillated between individualism and collectivism (between John Locke and Karl Marx). Postmodern culture asserts an "organic" view of society in relation to ethics and politics. It is worth noting that Murphey and McClendon (n29) consider theories that are cosmological in scope to be premodern as opposed to the anthropological orientation of modern and postmodern thought.
A critic could easily construe these deconstructionist and postmodern motifs as arguments for rejecting a "Creator-God." From the critic’s point of view, a "Creator-God" provides a foundation we now know is unnecessary. In addition, it would be all too easy to interpret this divinely sanctioned foundation as the expression of established interests. In short, these motifs constitute powerful arguments in favor of Whitehead’s separation of God from creativity. And, thus, these motifs require us to explain how our reconstructed doctrine of a creator God avoids falling into the pitfalls uncovered and so eloquently articulated by the postmodernists.
Let us note that at the heart of a monotheistic religion, and perhaps of other religions as well, lies a "presence" that cannot be subsumed under the category of sin. It differs from any evil presence. According to John Hick, all the major religions -- at least those emerging during and after the Axial Period -- share a commitment to salvation, whether defined as enlightenment, forgiveness, satori, or something else (21-35). Many years ago, William James made much the same point. According to Nancy Frankenberry, James argued that every religion "consists of two parts: (a) an uneasiness; and (b) its solution"(94). The postmodernists, such as the visiting deconstructionist in Tokyo, clearly have found the pulse of the "uneasiness" that pervades our world. But have they really presented us reasons for discounting the "solution?"
Many postmodernists dismiss out of hand the possibility of any presence that could sustain the religious "solution." David Tracy points to Derrida as such a figure: "Any hope for a full ‘presence’ of meaning is, for Derrida, the most characteristic gesture of Western logocentric thought. This [is an] illusory hope (57). To put the issue in the vocabulary of this paper, a metaphysics of presence seems particularly suspect when pressed into the service as a "foundation" on which to base our philosophies, sciences, religions, morals, languages, notions of truth, or self-understandings. Tracy writes:
Above all, Derrida joins Levi-Strauss and all structuralists in exposing the illusory character of the self portrayed as a self-present user of language as an instrument, the self as a reality-founding ego. For this ego is never fully present to itself-not even in Descartes’ moments of certainty or Husserl’s transcendental reduction. Indeed the modern Cartesian ego has collided with its own language use only to awaken and not know who, or what, it is. (85)
Derrida provides another reason for separating creativity from God. If God were simply an actual entity with the extraordinary power of conferring "being" on the creatures, the temptation to draft God into the service of our self-sufficient and self-centered egos might well be overwhelming. Who among us would not want to control his own being, who would not want to be the source of the being of the world around her.
While we must take such criticisms of a "presence" seriously it remains true that religion has yet to disappear from modern, postmodern, or "advanced" societies. In the 1980s, during the Ceausecu regime in Romania, I participated in an "underground seminary" for men and women who served as de facto pastors for Protestant churches. After the cultural revolution in China, I had several opportunities to visit China and to talk with Christians who survived that terrible event. In both cases, European and Oriental, the mere continued existence of faithful Christians served as a powerful sign that Marxism’s modernist analysis of religion had erred. In addition, Christianity shows no signs of disappearing from postmodernist North America, nor Buddhism from postmodernist Japan. Of course, one could say that the continued existence of the religions, and of their witness to a sustaining presence, is a mere anachronism. But one could also wonder if it might not be possible to give an account of the presence to which the religions witness, an account that fully considers the criticisms of our non-foundationalist, holistically-oriented, sometimes nihilistic postmodern situation.
I will argue that my revised view of creativity allows us to illumine the presence to which the religions witness while taking into account our current, postmodern social and intellectual situation. "Taking into account" does not necessarily mean "agreeing with." While generally sympathetic, my affirmation of postmodern themes must include certain elements of dissent. For example, I do not accept postmodernity’s anti-cosmological stance.
IV. Creativity and Particularity
I begin my reconstruction of Whitehead’s doctrine of creativity by drawing attention to an analogy Whitehead himself made between Aristotle’s "matter" and his own "creativity" (Process 31), the key point being that both matter and creativity are protean and need characterization. For Aristotle, the "forms" provides such characterization, whereas for Whitehead, the "eternal objects" provide this characterization. It must be quickly added that this analogy is quite loose and that the differences between matter and creativity are as important as the similarities.
Stated somewhat crudely, we may say that for Aristotle, it is matter that brings the Platonic forms down to earth. Matter, thus formed, is a substance. For Whitehead, eternal objects characterize creativity. Creativity, thus characterized, is an actual entity.
Aristotelian matter and Whiteheadian creativity both point to the concreteness of an actual entity. According to Whitehead, the presence of creativity is what distinguishes the merely conceptual from the physical. It is, therefore, creativity that allows us to feel and not just to think. Indeed, Whitehead claims that thinking emerges Out of feeling, because thoughts about eternal objects are abstractions from our feelings of actual entities (Process 229-30).
For Whitehead, being a real, concrete fact is closely tied to particularity and, thus, to creativity. The "hereness" of a real fact is more than the mere combination of characteristics, of eternal objects; and yet this "more" this "particularity" of a real fact cannot be characterized conceptually since that would reduce it to one more universal or eternal object. This particularity can only be physically felt.
There is another equally important analogy between Aristotle’s matter and Whitehead’s creativity. Whitehead does not himself make this analogy, although it is basic to his metaphysics. Both matter and creativity serve to individuate.6 For Aristotle, matter guarantees that one substance is numerically distinct from every other substance. For Whitehead, creativity guarantees that the new actual entity is numerically distinct from every other actual entity, including those past actual entities that, in one sense, have been incorporated into the very identity of that new actual entity. I will make additional use of creativity’s individuating role in Section VII of this paper.
The disanalogies between traditional matter and Whiteheadian creativity are as important as the analogies. For Aristotle, matter is the passive principle. For Whitehead creativity is the principle of activity. In the Whiteheadian triad of creativity, the one, and the many, it is creativity’s role to guarantee the movement back and forth between the many and the one, as we will discuss shortly. Thus creativity has a dynamism -- what I will call an "activity" -- that is lacking in Aristotle’s passive matter. Again, Aristotle’s matter is the ultimate potentiality, whereas Whitehead’s creativity in its role as particular, concrete activity, includes both potentiality and actuality and, thus, is more than either.
Before leaving this section, I wish to raise the question of how to understand creativity. Since creativity has no characteristics, we can neither point to it nor define it in any ordinary sense. My method is to understand creativity by understanding its context in the entire metaphysical scheme. A nuanced and powerful metaphysics will create a rich context for creativity. Creativity illumines the other factors, and the contextual factors illumine creativity. This is different from claiming that creativity has its own characteristics, its own eternal objects that make it to be creativity. Thus, creativity can be understood without appeal to any specific eternal objects that might characterize it; but creativity cannot be understood apart from an analysis of its relation to the category of eternal objects, and other factors, in the metaphysical scheme.
V. Creativity, the One and the Many
Whitehead groups creativity, the one, and the many under "the category of the ultimate"(Process 21-22). For Whitehead, the "category of the ultimate" is the most important context for the articulation of creativity. Creativity is not derived from the one and the man’s; nor are the one and the many derived from creativity. Rather, each is needed to understand the other.
The category of the ultimate describes a world pulsating with many actual entities. In each new actual entity, the many past entities are fused into a new reality in the present. Actuality fuses with potentiality to establish that new reality as an activity, and order fuses with freedom to give the new activity its capacity to create its own identity and, so, to influence its environment. Whitehead calls this fusion "concrescence." Here the many become one.
After the completed feeling has been achieved, that is, after a "satisfaction" has been reached, the dynamic actual entity stops concrescing and thereby becomes a completed actual entity. This completed actual entity is one of many similar completed actual entities. In other words, the appearance of each new completed actual entity adds another member to the set of completed actual entities, thereby creating a new set. Here the one has become a part of the many Whitehead calls this "transition."
Transition, thus, produces a new "many" that is, a new set of completed actual entities. This new "many" must be integrated into yet another "one," into still another new, dynamic actual entity. That is, the many past actual entities must be included in the new concrescing actual entity as potentials for further integration by that new concrescence. This, however, brings us back full circle to the notion of concrescence. In sum, the category of the ultimate presents us with a dynamic universe in constant oscillation between concrescence and transition, between the many becoming a new one, and each new one becoming a part of a new many.
While creativity accounts for both concrescence and transition, we must assign precedence to concrescence. We humans have "life," "decision" "subjectivity," and "enjoyment" only in the process of concrescence.7 Thus, creativity’s role in accounting for the concrescence of an actual entity has a certain priority over its role in accounting for the transition between actual entities, although a full understanding of either role requires reference to the other.
I contend that a process metaphysics must understand creativity as more basic than either potentiality or actuality, that creativity gives meaning and context to both. Creativity, in this sense, may be described as including both actuality and potentiality. Not only does creativity name the activity (concrescence) that reduces potentiality to actuality, it also names the process (transition) whereby past actualities become elements of a new potentiality In short, both actuality and potentiality require creativity for their full explication. I explain as follows.
From a process perspective, to identify creativity with actuality alone leads to a loss of dynamism. Process philosophy forms, at this point, a striking contrast with the Aristotelian-Thomistic paradigm which closely correlates actuality with reality. My position is different. I hold that creativity refers in the first instance to present activity where such present activity includes both past actuality as well as future potentiality. Since creativity as activity includes both actuality and potentiality, it is more fundamental and inclusive than either alone.
In order to clarify my claim that actuality’ and potentiality require each other within the context of creativity; let us take a closer look at a past actual entity; according to process thought. Such an entity presents us with pure actuality devoid of all potentiality. It is, so to speak, dead. That is, past entities, having achieved a "satisfaction," are totally actual, with no potentiality; no room for growth in their identities. It might seem that here we have a case of pure actuality that can be adequately described without any reference to potentiality This, however, I deny. Rather, to fully understand such a past, completed actuality; we must still refer indirectly to potentiality For example, a past actual entity once had a potentiality, where this potentiality evaporated upon achieving satisfaction. That is, the past actual entity was once a concrescing entity mixing actuality and potentiality; but when it completed its concrescence, it lost its potentiality for further growth.
There is another sense in which any past actuality’ requires reference to potentiality for its full understanding. Let us note that a past actual entity can contribute to the identity of future actual entities, and in that limited sense, the past actuality has a potentiality We can even call this, if we wish, a form of efficient causation. That is, the past actuality has the capacity to cause the new entity to have this-but-not-that characteristic. The actual entity has this capacity, however, not because the past actual entity somehow survives as an "active entity" into its transcendent future, but because the future actual entity will include that past actual entity as a part of its own identity. Therefore, this potentiality for integration into future actual entities -- that is, this capacity to be an efficient cause -- while essential to those future actual entities, does not affect that past actuality itself. Rather, this "potentiality" properly belongs to the future concrescing actual entities. However -- and this is my point -- we cannot fully understand how that past actual entity may be said to he actual unless we also understand its role as a potential element in future concrescences. The key claims are these: first, actuality in a process metaphysics is not the paradigm case of reality, and, second, a full understanding of actuality requires reference to potentiality.
Just as it is impossible to identify creativity with pure actuality, it would also be a mistake to identity creativity with potentiality alone. In a process metaphysics, potentiality has several meanings, some of which we have already discussed. The paradigm case of potentiality, however, is an eternal object. The point is this: an eternal object is a potential characteristic or quality of a concrescence, where it is the nature of a concrescence to move towards actuality. In short, the potentiality of eternal objects demands, for its complete explication, a reference to actuality.
As we have seen, there is a sense in which past actual entities can also be potentials. Past actual entities, once they have been organized into the "actual world" of the new actual entity; become potentials for further integration. This second form of potentiality, however, also requires actuality for its complete explication. The past actual entities, precisely as potentials, contribute to the new actual entity’s final self-identity, that is, to its actuality. This of course is a different kind of potentiality than that belonging to eternal objects; but in this case also, potentiality incorporates a reference to actuality.
In sum, creativity in naming both concrescence and transition points to the fusion of potentiality and actuality in the act of concrescence, and it points to the interaction between actuality and potentiality in the transition between actual entities. A complete articulation of creativity will also refer to eternal objects, which are potentials for actual entities. Thus any full explication of creativity must incorporate references to both actuality and potentiality.
It may be helpful to dispel a common misunderstanding of creativity. At one point, Whitehead calls creativity the "universal of universals characterizing ultimate matters of fact" (Process 21). By "characterizing," Whitehead does not mean that creativity is an eternal object, not even the "thinnest" or "most abstract" of all eternal objects. Rather, Whitehead means that whatever else may be said about an actual entity, each actual entity must be an instance of creativity. It implies that the category of the ultimate (that is, creativity; the one, and the many) is the final and most basic context for our understanding of any actual entity.
Lastly, I would like to reinforce and expand on a methodological point made before. Whitehead begins, and I follow him on this, by asking what is necessary to understand an actual entity. The full analysis of an actual entity requires us to speak of a factor called creativity; along with other factors such as the ingredient eternal objects. This gives a certain primacy to actual entities. Whitehead gives formal expression to this primacy under the title of the "ontological principle," which he defines this way:
That every condition to which the process of becoming conforms in any particular instance has its reason either in the character of some actual entity in the actual world of that concrescence, or in the character of the subject which is in process of concrescence. . . It could also be termed the "principle of efficient, and final, causation." This ontological principle means that actual entities are the only reasons so that to search for a reason is to search for one or more actual entities. (Process 24)
The doctrine of creativity emerges out of the need to find an adequate analysis of actual entities. Therefore, even though creativity is a member of the triadic "category of the ultimate," it does not "float" above all actual entities as if it were a metaphysical mirage of some sort. That is, since creativity certainly functions as a "reason," it follows that, according to the ontological principle, creativity must function as an element in one or more actual entities. Process thought begins by trying to find an adequate analysis of actual entities, and it ends by linking the factors it finds in that analysis, such as creativity; back to those actual entities. This is the naturalistic bent inherent in Whitehead’s metaphysics, a bent I fully affirm.
VI. Creativity in Esse
Consider these quotations from Whitehead, all of which seem to imply a "causative" role for creativity:
"Creativity" is the principle of novelty. . . . The "creative advance" is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to each novel situation which it originates. (Process 21; second emphasis added)
The ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction. (Process 21; emphasis added)
In the abstract language here adopted for metaphysical statement, "passing on becomes "creativity In the dictionary sense of the verb creare, "to bring forth, beget, produce." (Process 213)
The initial situation includes a factor of activity which is the reason for the origin of that occasion of experience. This factor of activity . . . I have called "Creativity."(Adventures 230, emphasis added)
It is extremely difficult to know how, within Whitehead’s own system, to interpret such passages. In traditional Christian theology, it is often said that God freely creates our world, and this free act explains why there is a world at all. These Whiteheadian passages might be read as claiming that the explanation for the existence of the world lies, not in God, but in something called creativity. This interpretation is wrong. John Cobb, while admitting that "sometimes it almost sounds as if ‘creativity’ is intended as an answer to that question," goes on to explain, correctly, that the "rejection of the radical question as to why there is anything at all is . . . characteristic of Whitehead" (Christian 208-09).
If creativity does not account for why the world exists, perhaps Whitehead has assigned creativity the more modest role of accounting for the existence of each new actual entity. Here the focus is on particular actual entities as they emerge one by one, case by case. Lewis Ford, however, has considered this possibility and denies that Whitehead had this role in mind for creativity. In Ford’s own terminology, Whitehead did not consider creativity to be a type of "transient causality"’ that brings the actual entities into existence ("Whitehead’s" 396). If nothing else, the ontological principle would prevent Whitehead from assigning such an "effective" role to creativity. According to the ontological principle, only actual entities can be genuine "causes."
Yet we still have these fascinating passages that ascribe an active efficacy to creativity, the power to bring actual entities into existence. And there are other passages to the same effect. Whitehead himself once observed (Process 171) that David Hume’s pen sometimes "slipped," revealing insights that Hume’s own position would not allow him to express. Perhaps Whitehead too occasionally let his pen "slip," expressing important insights beyond his system.
Whatever Whitehead’s position may have been, I will here stake out my own interpretation of creativity Previously I argued that an analysis of an actual entity reveals that each actual entity has a "particularity" for which creativity provides an account. I also argued that an analysis of an actual entity reveals two fundamental factors, the eternal objects and creativity. At this point, I wish to argue that an analysis of an actual entity’ reveals another factor, specifically its "being-here" for which we must also account. This can be compared with Aquinas’ notion of "esse," which has been glossed as "the power ‘to be.’" 8 In examining a "really real thing," according to Thomas, I will describe what that thing is, that is, what characteristics it has; but after I have noted the role of "prime matter" (here Aquinas is following Aristotle) in bringing those characteristics together in one particular object, a complete analysis will also require us to note that it exists. To express this insight in a process metaphysics, we would have to say that creativity, in one of its roles, points to and accounts for the activity, the "being-here," the "sheer existence," the "thatness" of a really real thing.
My view of creativity may be compared to Aquinas’ esse in another way. Both point to novelty in the most radical possible sense. Each new actual entity is numerically different from every other entity; each has its own particularity Each actual entity is a new actual entity. This newness is more than a novel rearrangement of eternal objects. It is more than the exemplification of an eternal object, or set of eternal objects, for the first time. It is more than the first-time conceptual grasp of a new eternal object. And this radical novelty is more than the occupation of a new region in the extensive continuum. Rather, this is radically and totally the first time that that actual entity’ has ever existed. It is also, of course, the last time that it will ever exist.9 A past actual entity can be included in new actual entities, and in that limited sense, it can be "repeated," but that past entity’ can never be literally repeated because all new entities, while including that past entity, nonetheless are necessarily different actual entities.
In addition to the similarities between my creativity-esse and Aquinas’ esse, however, there are also some important differences. My view of creativity is set within a Whiteheadian metaphysical context and thus possesses at least partially different roles.
First, creativity is tied to the "one and the many" in ways not true of Thomas’ esse. When I say that creativity accounts for the being-here of a new actual entity, I necessarily point to the roles of transition and concrescence. Thus, creativity, within its context of the one and the many, not only accounts for the appearance of any one particular actual entity, it also accounts for its inherent interconnectedness with other actual entities. While neo-Thomistic philosophers have long argued for a more dynamic interpretation of Thomas’ notions of "act" and "esse," I would still argue that Whitehead’s notions of the "one and the many" and "concrescence" provide a hermeneutical context that gives creativity’ a radically "process" orientation. It may also be noted that within the triad of "creativity, the one, and the many," creativity is the basic member because it accounts for the real being-here of the actual entities. Without that being-here of the actual entities, both the "one" and the "many" would be mere abstractions, not real factors accounting for the dynamic pluralism of a real world. Of course, creativity without its contextual factors -- such as the one and the many -- would also be empty, a mere abstraction, but not quite in the same sense as those other factors.
Creativity-esse’s connection with actuality’ gives us a second major difference between it and the Thomistic esse. Creativity does not point to pure actuality so much as it points to activity, that is to process. In the previous section, I made the case that both an isolated pure potentiality as well as an isolated pure actuality are but parts torn from that whole which alone makes them complete and real. Thus creativity-esse accounts for the being-here of an activity in which both potentiality and actuality are intertwined.10
A third difference is the greater simplicity, and the greater complexity; of my view of creativity-esse. Creativity’ is simpler because it serves as the analogue not only of Thomas’ esse but of his matter as well. In that sense, I have reunited what Aquinas put asunder. At the same time, however, creativity has a more complex set of roles than any one of Thomas’ factors.
This leads to a fourth difference. For Aristotle and Thomas, matter is a kind of potentiality; but for the neo-Platonists and Augustine, matter is more closely identified with nonbeing. That is, for Thomists, matter-potentiality stands in contrast to actuality; while for Augustinians, matter-nonbeing stands in contrast to actuality. For my view of process philosophy; however, creativity as activity includes both potentiality’ and actuality, and either in isolation is nonbeing. Thus, I differ from both Augustine and Thomas in identifying not only pure potentiality but also pure actuality, apart from their interaction with each other, as nonbeing.11
Before moving to the next section, perhaps I should add that creativity may be described as energetic but not as energy. In Whitehead’s earlier writings, especially Science and the Modern World (51, 190), he refers to the "general flux of the world," which is an early description of creativity. We will return to this issue in Section X. Here I wish merely to deny that creativity is a form of energy. If it were a force or energy, it would be an "ordinary" object. Rather than being the esse of actual entities, it would be a "thing" with its own characteristics, about whose esse, and about the source of whose esse, we would have to inquire. This would drive us back from this energy -- from this pseudo-creativity -- to the real underlying creativity. In short, if creativity were a force or a type of energy, it could not function as creativity.
VII. Creativity and Characterization
Creativity cannot stand alone. Just as matter required form for Aristotle, and just as esse required substance for Aquinas, creativity requires the "ingression" of eternal objects for a process metaphysics. An actual entity requires not only creativity but also requires that the creativity be formed or shaped, that it have certain characteristics. I turn now to the connection between creativity and those characteristics.
An actual entity is what it does. An actual entity is the creation of a final, actualized self-identity Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that an actual entity is the movement towards an increase of definite characterization.12 An actual entity is the decision to exhibit some characteristics and not others. Creativity is the activity whereby a concrescing entity "creates" its own identity.
Thus, within the concrescence we find two related but distinguishable roles for creativity. First, creativity gives the concrescence its particularity and makes that entity a real agent that truly exists. We may call this creativity-esse (or creativity’ as matter and as esse). Second, this existence is nothing else than the process whereby the new concrescence eliminates some possible characteristics and opts for others, and so creates its own identity We may call this the power of characterization or creativity-characterization.
There is but one creativity. Creativity does not "first" create an existing actual entity that "later" makes decisions. Rather, the actual entity is a process of decision-making, of creating a self-identity. While the roles must be distinguished, creativity-esse is not a separate factor from creativity-characterization. There is the danger of a semantic quagmire here. On the one hand, creativity-as-esse precedes creativity-as-characterization in the sense that esse is the presupposition of characterization. On the other hand, creativity-esse has no identity apart from that characterization. In sum, these two roles must be distinguished and not collapsed into each other, and yet there is only one creativity. The being-here of the actual entity is the actual entity’s process of characterizing itself and, thereby, the world.
Before we can deal more fully with creativity-characterization, we need to ask a prior question: where do the characteristics come from? The actual entity may choose between alternative characteristics, alternative eternal objects -- that is, alternative options for self-identity -- but it does not create them.13 This means that the new actual entity always chooses its self-identity within a given context. Not all things are possible for each actual entity. The environment provides a structure and causal order that, on the one hand, provides a range of options to the new actual entity and that provides the stability to make those options genuinely workable; but such structure and order also, on the other hand, limit the range of options. The question, once more, is this: where do these eternal objects come from?
The first answer is: from the past actual entities. The transition of the many past entities into the actual world (at the first stage) of the new concrescence may’ be attributed to creativity-esse. But in that very act, the past entities and their characteristics, at least those that are not excluded via negative prehensions, become a part of the real internal constitution of the new entity These past entities are (a part of) what the new entity is. Thus, their characteristics become characteristics of the new actual entity. The new entity during its concrescence, can do many things with those characteristics, such as recombine them, enhance or diminish their importance, etc. But, at least at its initial stage of concrescence, the new entity cannot not have those characteristics. This is Whitehead’s explanation of the capacity of past actual entities to continue to "function" as efficient causes (that is, as causing the appearance of certain characteristics in the transcendent future). In other words, the past actual entities, precisely’ as included in the new actual entity; are the efficient causes of the initial set of characteristics of the new entity. This clever explanation allows Whitehead to avoid a contradiction between two of his claims: (1) the past actual entities, having reached a satisfaction, are fully actual and not active in any sense, and (2) the past actual entities continue to function as efficient causes into the transcendent future. I will later consider what else the past actual entities contribute to the new actual entity.
The second answer is: eternal objects come from God’s gift of an initial subjective aim to the new actual entity. The many past entities may have conflicting characteristics and conflicting purposes that cannot be integrated into a single feeling. Therefore, the transition from the "many" past actual entities to the "one" new actual entity requires additional structuring beyond that inherent in the many past actual entities themselves. Even if we attribute the transition to the efficacy of creativity, we cannot attribute this additional structuring to creativity alone. The basic reason is this. Creativity, even in conjunction with the one and the many, is not the source of characteristics (any more than matter is the source of form). Rather, this additional structuring, this additional source of eternal objects comes from God’s gift to the new actual entity’ of its initial subjective aim. Thus, while creativity-esse may account for the transition from the past "many" to the new "one," it is God’s gift of a subjective aim that organizes the past world into the actual world of the new entity.
The third answer is this: eternal objects ultimately come from the primordial nature of God. Despite noting how the past actual entities provide some eternal objects and that God’s gift of an initial subjective aim provides additional organization of those past entities into a consistent and compatible "actual world" for the new entity, there remains a need for radically new possibilities. There needs to be a storehouse of characteristics that were not present in nor even implicated in the past. There needs to be, in short, a womb of novelty, both good and evil. Without a source of novelty beyond that implicit in the past, the present would be condemned to repeat the past. It should be noted that God’s primordial nature actually fulfills two cosmic functions. First, it is the source of the novelty that emerges in history; both in natural history and in social history. Second, since creativity requires form (eternal objects) before it can function as the esse, as the being-here of any actual entity; the primordial nature also functions as creativity’s "first limitation."14
We can now return to the function of creativity The past actual entities, God’s gift of an initial subjective aim, and God’s primordial nature as the storehouse of all eternal objects provide the new entity’ with the resources for its own journey (concrescence) towards a final self-identity. But only the actual entity itself, in its own subjectivity; during its own concrescence can choose among the available options. Only the concrescing actual entity can create itself (within the range of available possibilities). This self-creation, this self-definition is creativity-characterization. In a Whiteheadian metaphysics, the self-definition of the various actual entities accounts for the actual character of our world.
The distinction between creativity-esse and creativity-characterization sheds light on our modern use of the word "creativity"’ in which an artist, a culture, or even nature is creative. In the West, since the end of the Middle Ages, but ever more intensely since the enlightenment, people have been convinced that human history has produced genuinely new facts. And quite apart from humans, nature itself, we believe, has produced new species of plants and animals, new environments, and other important new facts.15 To interpret this use of the word "creativity"’ from the standpoint of our metaphysics, we may claim that the production of such novelty’ has to do exclusively (with the exception to be discussed below) with characterization. When we describe an artist, a scientist, an historical epoch, or even nature as creative, we are referring to its capacity to characterize the world in new ways. That is, we are referring to its power to actualize novel eternal objects and to actualize old eternal objects in novel combinations. But this is creativity-characterization. What we are as people, our wisdom and stupidity, our goodness and perversity; our industriousness and laziness, our laughing and our weeping, our hope and our fear -- all this is a matter of characterization. We are creative at the level of creativity-characterization.16
We must, however, place one important limitation on the claim that personhood, culture, freedom, and novelty’ in nature are entirely issues of characterization. Consider our sense of having been "gifted" with being or, put more negatively having been "thrown into" the world. It is through this experience that we become aware that, however creative we may be, the sheer being-here of our creativity does not derive from ourselves. Our existing precedes all aspects of our creativity-characterization -- that is, it precedes our knowing, our ethics, our feeling, our imagining, our inventing, our thinking, our walking, our dancing, our breathing, and anything else -- in this sense: we discover ourselves as thinking, acting, and feeling agents who did not bring into being that thinking or acting. Thus reason, art, culture, and personal identity are more than just the actualizing of new forms and ideas. They also point to the "coming to be" of esse, given by God (as I will argue) and expressed through the concrescing actual entity’s engagement in creativity-characterization.
Thus, reason, art, science, and even life itself have, in Tillich’s phrase, a "depth." To ignore esse would only trivialize the process of characterization and, thus, culture and life. Rather, creativity-esse produces the most radical and fundamental of all novelties, the novelty of creativity/esse/activity/being/act. Other forms of novelty stem from this novelty of esse. All novelties of characterization emerge out of the prior novelty of "esse," deriving their depth from it.
The power of "creativity-characterization" establishes both freedom and order, as well as the subtle dialectic between them. But creativity-characterization, while maintaining a conceptually distinct role from creativity-esse, is nothing other than creativity-esse. Thus freedom, in dialectic with order, structure, and causality, is the being of the world.
VIII. Each Actual Entity is Numerically Distinct
Whitehead’s metaphysics is pluralistic in the sense that each actual entity is a different actual entity from every other actual entity. One role of creativity, in conjunction with the category of the ultimate, is precisely to guarantee this pluralism. If the new actual entity is not a different actual entity, then the notion of creativity, along with the one and the many, loses its significance. Specifically, if the new actual entity is not a different actual entity, then the concrete particularity of each actual entity would vanish and the role of creativity lost.
1 will claim later that God is the sole source of each actual entity’s creativity. We must avoid, however, saying that a "drop" or "spark" of creativity passes from God to the new concrescence. Such a claim would entail that the creature’s creativity is actually a part of God’s creativity and, thus, that each finite entity’s existence is an aspect of God’s existence, completely undermining the pluralism of process metaphysics. Such talk, however, of a "spark of creativity" passing from God to the creature reflects a conceptual confusion. It would require the "drop" or "spark" of creativity to have its own characteristics -- otherwise we could not identify it as the "same" in both God and the creature. It would, in other words, presuppose that creativity is a "thing" or a "form of energy rather than the "protean" factor of particularity. That would turn creativity into another entity -- perhaps even an actual entity.
Because the claim that the creativity in any one actual entity is the same as the creativity in some other actual entity is meaningless, and because, at the same time, creativity guarantees the particularity of each actual entity, it follows that each actual entity is its own act of existence (to use the Thomistic term), its own subjectivity, its own concrescence. It has its own freedom. This requires me to articulate my theory of God as the source of the creatures creativity in monotheistic terms. In particular, it will require me to avoid the conclusion that because God is the source of the creature’s creativity, of the creature’s esse, that God is somehow identical with that creature or with its "being" or that the creature is somehow identical with God, with some aspect of God, or with some aspect of God’s "being."
Concerning the Metaphor of "Inclusion"
I have argued that each actual entity is numerically distinct from every other actual entity. I have also argued that each new actual entity "includes" its past actual entities. This may seem contradictory to many readers. Therefore, I will present a brief but rather technical discussion of this metaphor of "inclusion." The correct reading of Whitehead’s own position is a matter of considerable debate. I believe that the following discussion fairly, if somewhat crudely, presents Whitehead’s position. But even if it does not, I will affirm it as my own.
Let me restate the problem: if one entity enters into the very identity of another entity, then how can we claim that each actual entity is numerically distinct (has a separate existence) from all other actual entities? The following diagram will help us answer this question.
Diagram One: An Actual Entity
Diagram One is a two dimensional diagram of a four dimensional reality. (At least in our cosmic epoch, space-time, what Whitehead calls the extensive continuum, is four dimensional.) The arrow represents the time line, so that the remaining dimension on the sheet of paper represents the three dimensions of space.
Circle "a" divides two "cones," the one with thick lines to the left representing the past for the new actual entity, and the one with thin lines to the right representing the future. Each cone, past and future, extends indefinitely; neither has a base. The past cone is divided into regions, which in the diagram are arbitrarily drawn and labeled as region "b," region "g," region "d," etc. There is no "empty space" between the regions, and there is an indefinite number of such regions extending indefinitely into the past.
The new actual entity, which we will call A, exists throughout the entire left-hand cone, including region "a." Region "a" is the position from which the new concrescence prehends its past. Regions "b," "g," "f," "S," "d," etc. all fall into A’s past and, thus, are parts of the very identity of the new actual entity A.
We can also imagine past actual entities B, G, F, S, D, and so forth. Actual entity B would prehend its past from region "b." Actual entity G would prehend its past from region "g," and so forth. It would make the diagram quite messy, but we could draw cones for each of the past actual entities. For example, we could draw a "past cone" for actual entity B to the left of region "b" and a "future cone" to the right of region "b." Region "f" would be a part of B’s past, while region "a" would be in its future.
The key points to note are these: (a) actual entity A is not limited to "a," but exists in all the regions in the left-hand cone; thus (b) actual entity A is a four dimensional reality that includes the indefinite past regions as a part of what it is; (c) actual entity A not only includes the past regions but it includes the past actual entities as a part of its very identity Thus, A not only exists in regions "b," "f," etc., but it also includes actual entities B, F, etc. as parts of its own identity. Or to be more precise, A must include at least some aspects of B, F, etc. The past is a part of the very identity of A. The same analysis holds true of actual entity B. Actual entity B not only is located in region "b" but also exists throughout every region in its past. In addition, B must include actual entity F and its other past actual entities within its own identity; (d) while the past is part of the very identity of the concrescing actual entity, the same is not true of the future. Consider the case of actual entity A. For A, the future regions are purely potential, that is, potential sites from which future actual entities will prehend their worlds. While A will prehend the future regions as potentials, it will not (in any direct sense) prehend the actual entities that will occupy them. The reason is simple: the future actual entities do not exist when A concresces.
Whitehead expresses this point in terms of "internal" and "external" relations. Actual entities are internally related not only to their past regions but also to their past actual entities. In short, the new actual entity requires not only the past regions but the past actual entities as elements In its own constitution. The new entity’s relation to its future, however, is quite different. Actual entities have an internal relation to their future regions but only an external relation to the future actual entities that will occupy those regions. That is, the future actual entities are not a part of the identity of the new actual entity. For example, actual entities B, G, and F all enter into the very identity of actual entity A, because they are in A’s past. But actual entity A does not enter into the identity of actual entities B, G, and F, because A is in their future.
Thus, Whitehead has presented us with a doctrine of "asymmetrical cumulative penetration." The past actualities enter into the identity of the new concrescence, whereas that new concrescence has no effect upon the past actualities. This asymmetry is foundational to Whitehead’s affirmation that each actual entity includes its past entities as a part of its very identity while remaining numerically distinct from those past entities. This asymmetry between the present and the past entails another asymmetry between the present and the future -- namely, an entity does not literally include its future (or for that matter its contemporary) entities within its own identity, and thus it remains numerically distinct not only from its past but also from its future (and contemporary) entities.
Let me make the same point in different terms. I have noted the close association of creativity with subjectivity Past actual entities have completed their concrescence, they are settled in every way, and they have "perished" in the sense that they have stopped functioning. The past actual entities have lost their subjectivity. Therefore, the new entity, even though it includes them as elements in its own identity, cannot enter into their, now vanished, subjectivity/identity In short, the past actual entity and the new actual entity will exist as distinct subjectivities, each actual entity, thus, remaining numerically distinct from all other actual entities. Likewise, the future entities do not yet have their own subjectivity during the concrescence of the new actual entity, and, thus the future entities cannot enter with their subjectivity into the new actual entity. Consequently, the future and the present actual entities remain numerically distinct from each other.17
IX. Three Grammatical Analogies for Creativity
I have stressed that creativity is an activity. Both at the level of creativity-esse and at the level of creativity-characterization the "actual" entity is really the "active" entity. The actual entity is concrete and particular, and as such it freely creates its own identity. This is the operation of creativity-characterization. The concrescing actual entity has autonomy, responsibility Its destiny -- within the limits of the options given it -- is in its own hands. This brings us to my first analogy. As the activity of the active entity, we may say that creativity is like a verb. The analogy to a verb applies most directly to creativity-characterization.
We may also speak of creativity in the objective case, which is our second analogy. The concrescing entity has physical feelings of past actual entities. These past entities have been infused with that particularity, concreteness, and being-here that we attribute to creativity Yet these past entities are in no sense ‘active" entities. They are completely "actual" entities and, as such, can neither act nor react; but they do retain their stubborn factuality. It is this stubborn factuality that makes it possible for these past entities to be included in the future actual entities and, thereby, for these past actual entities to function as efficient causes of certain aspects of those future actual entities. In addition, as a result of this stubborn factuality, when these objective-case actualities are included in our actual world, it is we who must adjust and not those past actual entities. For example: because of creativity in the objective case, hitting Peter on his head with a sledge-hammer (the hammer, in Whitehead’s interpretation, being a collection of past actual entities) will really hurt Peter and will amuse no one, whereas merely thinking about it is not a disaster and, in certain situations, may make even Peter laugh.
Earlier, I discussed the contribution of past actual entities to the concrescing entity. I noted their contribution of various characteristics to the new entity, a contribution that not only provides (a portion of) the resources with which the new entity creates its own self-identity but a contribution that also limits the range of options available to that new entity. I can now add that the past entities further contribute their objective-case creativity. This is the source of the "heaviness" of the world, of our sense of the past being physically, concretely, and massively in, with, and under us. This is particularly true of the very recent past. In short, the past does not solely contribute eternal objects, that is, mere characteristics. Rather it contributes those eternal objects as embedded in fully concrete past actualities with their solid, weight; and unchangeable objective-case creativity. If that past is good, this heftiness enriches us with joy’s golden destiny If bad, this same solidity oppresses us with sorrow’s leaden fate. In either case, the past contributes its objective-case creativity to the present.
When an "active" entity achieves a final self-identity, being unchangeably related to each element of its world, it becomes an "actual" entity. Creativity-as-a-verb has fossilized, in that situation, into creativity-in-the-objective-case. The subject becomes the superject and, as such, a concretized entity Its subjectivity and activity have vanished. Creativity-characterization has been become actuality. Creativity as a verb has become creativity in the objective case.
My third analogy is creativity as an adverb, which applies primarily to creativity -- esse. This is the poorest of the three grammatical analogies, but we need some way to think about creativity in its role as the ultimate "prius." As I noted at the end of Section VII, at the human level we find ourselves already feeling, thinking, enjoying, hating, loving, and acting; in short, we discover ourselves as existing. This existence, this capacity to be an agent, is not something we create; rather, it is something given to us as the presupposition of our participation in a real world. That is, creativity-esse establishes each new actual entity as autonomous and responsible, but the new entity is not responsible for its own being-here, for being that autonomous and responsible agent. While the responsibility for its decisions (within the limits of its given range of options) rests solely with the new actual entity no actual entity makes a decision to be, to be active, or to be free within a context of causality. Creativity as an ad verb points to our being gifted -- or fated -- to be agents with power within a world of power. Thus we can deny our responsibility and we can hide from it, but we cannot not be responsible. Even the decision to reject freedom presupposes at least some degree of freedom.
While it is easiest to grasp the prius of creativity-esse in the human case, a process metaphysics sees at least a faint glimmer of subjectivity (which for process thinkers does not imply consciousness!) in even the least consequential actual entity. Thus, creativity-esse is not only the prius for the human world, but also for the most remote black hole, for a comet’s energy, and for the photons that travel billions of years in the vast voids between the galaxies.
I call creativity-esse adverbial because it can never be grasped as an object, nor is it an activity -- a verb -- that we can guide or direct or that, in a straightforward way, is available to us or under our control. Adverbial creativity always operates behind our backs, over our shoulders, and around the corner. It moves in the periphery of our vision, not in focal center. Adverbial creativity-esse functions as the presupposition of any investigation or research project, of any wonder or planning. It accounts for the being-here of a real world. I will return to this theme in the final section of this paper.
X. God the Creator: The Basic Argument for the Claim that God is the Sole Source of Creativity
This is not a traditional argument for the existence of God. Rather, I am merely making a proposal to consider God as the sole source of creativity I assume two conditions: (a) that we accept the context of Whitehead’s metaphysics; and (b) that we accept the revised understanding of creativity developed in this paper. I then build a case that given these conditions, my proposal is reasonable and well-grounded.
In this section I will present an argument which may be outlined as follows. I first mention two common but incorrect views of creativity These incorrect views would entail that "creativity" does not need any "location," whether in God or elsewhere. The first of these incorrect views I call "nominalist." According to this view, creativity is merely the name for the general fact that the world consists of actual entities. Therefore, creativity would not need a location. The second incorrect view seems to have been Whitehead’s own opinion at an early stage of his development. According to this view, creativity is the "substantial activity at the base of things." In this case also, though for very different reasons, creativity would not need a location.
In contrast to these two views, my interpretation understands creativity as a factor that accounts for a variety of important things, such as an actual entity’s particularity, its being-here, its capacity to chose freely a self-identity, etc. The ontological principle requires that creativity be "located" in, and thus have its source in, one or more actual entities. There are three possible types of actual entities that might serve as the source of the new actual entity’s creativity. The first is the new actual entity itself. The second is the past finite actual entities. I give reasons for rejecting both these options. The last option is the actual entity that Whitehead calls God. I then present reasons for accepting this option. I reserve for the next two sections exactly what it means to say that God is the source of the new actual entity’s creativity and what the implications are for the structure of a process metaphysics.
(a) Rejection of the Nominalist Interpretation of Creativity
John R. Wilcox has given the name "nominalist" to certain interpretations of Whitehead’s doctrine of creativity. According to Wilcox, the distinguished Whiteheadian exegete William Christian advocated one such nominalist interpretation. According to a nominalist:
Creativity . . . is merely "the name for a general fact" . . . namely that the world consists of self-creative actual entities. Christian’s interpretation of creativity as a general name squares well with an extreme nominalist interpretation of Whitehead’s designation of creativity as the "universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter of fact."18
I have developed an interpretation of creativity that is far from "nominalist." Creativity emerged from my analysis of actual entities in order to account for the particularity and the being-here of each actual entity Along with the one and the many, it accounts for the actual entity as an active concrescence that freely chooses its final self-identity. And along with the one and the many, creativity accounts for the transition from the many past actual entities to the one new concrescence. Thus, the nominalist interpretation of creativity is incorrect.
Yet there is a certain plausibility to the nominalist interpretation. Apart from actual entities, creativity is just an empty abstraction. In a process metaphysics, the only true agents are concrete, specific active entities. In itself, creativity is the "protean" factor in an actual entity that needs to be characterized by eternal objects before it can be said to be real. Thus, in isolation from actual entities, creativity is just "a name for a general fact" -- and maybe not even that! The same could be said for Aristotle’s matter and Aquinas’ esse, providing that one substitutes, for example, Aristotle’s "substance" for Whitehead’s "actual entity."
The European scholar Jan Van der Veken wants to ascribe four roles to creativity in a process context, where each role may be considered as a counter argument to a nominalist interpretation. They are: (a) creativity is active; (b) as something real; c) as having explanatory value; and (d) as a ground or reason (183). I can affirm each of these four roles so long as they are not assigned to creativity in isolation from its status as a factor in actual entities.
Earlier, I noted the positions of Paul Tillich concerning Being-Itself and of Martin Heidegger concerning Sein. As this essay has unfolded, certain analogies between creativity and Being-Itself and Sein have become gradually apparent, and more analogies will emerge later. But there is at least one major dissimilarity: Tillich and Heidegger affirm Being-Itself or Sein as more than a factor in particular objects. On my analysis, in contrast, creativity cannot function except as a factor in the various actual entities, that is, in the various particular beings. Creativity emerges into a process metaphysics precisely out of an analysis of what it means to be an "active" entity. Creativity apart from its role in actual entities would violate the ontological principle, and there would be no grounds for affirming such an "isolated" abstraction. Any analogies between creativity and Being-Itself or Sein would, from a process perspective, have to take into account the role of creativity as a factor inherent in the actual entities. Heidegger might object to my position as "having become lost in the particular beings." Nonetheless, to the extent that my analysis of creativity has been persuasive, and to the extent that we accept the ontological principle, we have an adequate reason for rejecting the Tillichian and Heideggerian sundering of creativity from the concrete active entities. In short, the doctrines of God and of Being must find their context and metaphysical justification only in connection with a doctrine of particular beings (that is, of active entities).
(b) Rejection of the Interpretation of Creativity as "The General Flux of the World"
Previously (at the end of Section VI) I noted that in his early works, Whitehead sometimes referred to "the general flux of the world" or to a "substantial activity" at the base of things. Whitehead himself abandoned this view of creativity, but some process thinkers have suggested a return to it (Rapp and Wiehl 63).
The idea of such a "substantial activity" comes from Spinoza. In Spinoza’s case, there turned out to be one true substance, which he identified as nature or God, all ordinary substances becoming its modes of being. If we push the analogy between Spinoza’s Nature/God and the early Whitehead’s substantial activity, the result would to turn that substantial activity into the only true actual entity, with all ordinary actual entities serving as its modes through which it expressed itself. In short, pluralism would be lost. In addition, the working of this one ultimate actual entity through its many modes would entail, it seems to me, the loss of the freedom of these subordinate modes as well. Perhaps these problems -- the loss of pluralism, finite autonomy, and freedom -- adequately explain why Whitehead dropped this "substantial activity" and developed his metaphysics in other directions. Another way to express this would be to say that a "substantial activity" at the base of things, if performing the role of creativity -- especially, creativity-esse -- would stand in considerable tension with creativity’s role as the principle of individuation. Creativity explains why each actual entity is numerically distinct from every other actual entity. The substantial activity would, if understood in analogy with Spinoza, compromise creativity’s role as individualizer.
I have four of my own arguments against the reinterpretation of creativity as the substantial activity at the base of things; (a) first, assuming that we reject a nominalist interpretation, and assuming that this substantial activity cannot be parsed as a factor in one or more actual entities, it would have to have some kind of identity of its own. A "free-floating" power divorced from the various actual entities and totally devoid of all characteristics could not "do" anything. To ground this creativity/flux, that is to prevent it from floating freely, we might be tempted to give it some specific characteristics. That, however, would turn this creativity/flux into an actual entity because an "activity" plus "characteristics" defines an actual entity; (b) second, a free-floating cosmic flux that actually provided an explanation for some aspect of our world would violate the ontological principle; (c) third, suppose we understood this substantial activity as a kind of cosmic energy that would account for the general movement of nature and history. In that case, we would need to raise the question of its esse, of its being-here. This cosmic energy, therefore, would not be a substitute for my view of creativity but would be one of the items for whose being-here creativity would have to account; (d) fourth, it is sometimes suggested that the general flux can serve in place of Whitehead’s notion of God (Emmet in Rapp and Wiehl). However, once we articulate the set of roles to be given such a substantial activity, we have an actual entity in all but name. For example, if we assume this cosmic flux accounts for the transition from the many past actual entities to the one new concrescence, then this substantial activity would have to interact with the particularities and specific identities of those past entities. A creativity/flux able to deal with (prehend) such specifics would be functioning as an actual entity Again, suppose we assign this substantial activity such roles as (a) providing the new concrescence with its various positive and negative prehensions of the past entities and (b) giving that new concrescence its initial subjective aim. Such roles would, even more, require that this "general flux" interact with (prehend) the specifics of the past entities. The result would be that this general flux or substantial activity would be another actual entity. It would in fact be indistinguishable from Whitehead’s notion of God. Perhaps this line of reasoning provides an additional explanation of Whitehead s move from his early notion of a general flux to his later category of God.
(c) Creativity and the Ontological Principle
In Section V, I cited Whitehead’s statement of the ontological principle, the main thrust of which is always to bring us back "to earth," to actuality (or activity), to actual entities. The ontological principle is central to my argument. When applied to creativity, as I have developed it, the ontological principle requires that creativity be located "in" one or more actual entities. The only question is which one(s). My answer will be God.
Creativity and the ontological principle interpret each other, nearly as much as creativity and the "one and the many" interpret each other. My doctrine of creativity emerges out of my analysis of actual entities, and I understand the meaning of an actual entity by reference (among other things) to the doctrine of creativity.
Creativity points to the ontological principle in the sense that to understand the doctrine of creativity one must understand actual entities. For example, creativity, the one, and the many have no meaning except as they are worked out in actual entities. Again, creativity in its role as esse requires its completion in its role as characterization, where characterization is nothing other than the process in which an actual entity as a subject creates its own identity.
The ontological principle points to creativity in the sense that it is creativity that makes actual entities to be real agents. It is creativity that distinguishes an actual entity from the idea of an actual entity, that distinguishes experiences of real objects from thoughts about those objects. At a human level, creativity is the "prius" of all our feeling, acting, thinking, and hoping, of our reality as language-speakers and as conscious deciders. In short, to understand an actual entity, one must understand creativity.
In sum, having rejected the nominalistic interpretation of creativity, and having rejected the notion that creativity is the basic flux of the universe, the ontological principle requires us to turn to the actual entities themselves to provide the location(s) of creativity.
(d) Creativity is Not Derived from the New Actual Entity Itself
It is well-known that Whitehead describes actual entities as self-creating. Does this mean that a new entity derives its existence from itself? The answer is no because the functioning of the new actual entity presupposes the past actual entities as already organized into an actual world, it presupposes a subjective aim, it presupposes the availability and relevance of eternal objects that are new for that situation, etc. Self-creation from nothing is, therefore, not an option.
From a starting point, and within the limitations of that starting point, the concrescing actual entity creates its own identity As I have parsed the concept of creativity, however, such self-creativity is only partial and has to do with the power of characterization and not with the radical question of the origin of the actual entity’s esse. Self-creation in the sense of an actual entity’s origination of its own being-here is not an option.
(e) Creativity is Not Derived from the Past Actual Entities
If the new concrescence does not derive its creativity from itself, then does it derive it from the past, finite actual entities? The answer is no, and this for two reasons: first, the past actual entities are, in the most literal sense, actual and not active. They are objects and not subjects; they exhibit only objective-case creativity. Lacking creativity-characterization and, especially, creativity-esse, they cannot function as real agents, and, thus, they cannot establish the new actual entity with its own creativity
The second reason comes from Whitehead, and operates at the level of what I have called creativity-characterization. Whitehead points out that the past actual entities are not all compatible for integration into the new concrescence. The past entities, in their freedom, however slight, developed characteristics that sometimes contradict each other, and they completed their concrescences with appetitions for the future that are sometimes incompatible. The new concrescence, to be an actual entity, must prehend some features of the past positively and some negatively This interweaving of inclusion and exclusion constitutes the new entity’s "actual world." On the one hand, the new actual entity presupposes its actual world with its chiaroscuro of inclusion and exclusion and cannot, therefore be the source of that world. On the other hand, the past entities themselves are not capable of producing that actual world; rather, the mosaic of positive and negative, of inclusion and exclusion, must be imposed upon those past entities. Whitehead therefore postulated the existence of a non-finite actual entity, which he called God. This God organizes the past entities into the actual world of the new entity. That is, this God establishes the mixture of positive and negative feelings of the various elements in the new entity’s actual world upon which it depends.
I reaffirm this argument along with the proviso that the creation of an actual world for the new entity is not just a matter of organizing characteristics. Rather, this organization at the level of creativity characterization presupposes the prior reality of creativity-esse. Without esse, the entire process is just a possible arrangement of possible characteristics, and not an activity in a real, concrete world.
A similar argument could be made in relation to the need for novel characteristics not found in the past in order to account for the emergence of genuine novelty Neither the past nor the present finite entities can provide that novelty. Rather it must be found in a non-finite entity, which Whitehead called God. God thus functions as the organ of novel options for the new actual entities. Again I agree with the proviso that this activity at the level of characterization presupposes the operation of esse.
In sum, the role of a finite past actual entity is: (a) to be an element in the actual world of the new entity; (b) to contribute its solidity and objective-case creativity to the new entity. This is the heaviness of the past; (c) to contribute its characterization to the new entity. This is only true, however. insofar as its characteristics are not eliminated by the new entity’s negative prehensions but are included in a positive prehension; and (d) insofar as the new entity positively prehends a past entity and includes it in its actual world, the new entity can use that past entity as a kind of potential. That is, the new entity can integrate that past entity in various ways into its own final self-identity In that sense, the past "actual" entity functions as a "possibility" and contributes that "possibility" to the new entity: (e) what a past entity does not and cannot contribute is the new actual entity’s esse.
Past actual entities affect the future; they do not effect the future.
(f) An Objection to my Understanding of the Role of Past Actual Entities
The preeminent process theologian and philosopher John Cobb has offered a challenge to my position which we are now in a position to explore.19 Cobb clearly expresses one kind of counter argument to my project we are likely to encounter among orthodox Whiteheadians.
The essence of Cobb’s objection is this. The past entities form a many. According to the category of the ultimate, these many become one. The many becoming one" is the new concrescing entity Thus, Whitehead’s own metaphysical system, as it now stands, is perfectly capable of accounting for the new actual entity.
Cobb writes: "to treat the many becoming one as itself a one distinct from the one that becomes, . . . is a misunderstanding." Cobb has given us a terse and extremely precise formula It can be expanded as follows. "The many becoming one" refers to the past actual entities that are included in the new actual entity "The one that becomes" is the new actual entity that includes those many past entities. Cobb is claiming that when we understand that the new actual entity is the many past actual entities, then we do not have to ask for the source of the "being" of that new entity as though it were something above and beyond its many constituent past entities. In sum the category of the ultimate accounts for the fact that the many past entities are brought together as the new actual entity, where the new actual entity is nothing other than those many past actual entities in the process of becoming a new determinate fact, that is, a new one.
In support of his position, Cobb notes not only that the past entities have a role to play in their transcendent future, but he claims that this role is active, and not merely passive. In this regard, Cobb can appeal to Whitehead’s own language in which the past entities, as we have already noted, are described as "causally efficacious" in relation to their futures. If the many past actual entities are dominated, for example, by anger, then those past entities become the efficient causes of the appearance of anger in the new actual entity. Thus, if we may restate Cobb’s position, the past actual entities retain an enduring "presence" into their transcendent future that is sufficient to account for -- in conjunction with the category of the ultimate -- the appearance of the new actual entity.
In response to Cobb, let us first note the structure of his argument. His analysis operates at the level of creativity-characterization, and he is in effect arguing that there is no need to move beyond that level to creativity-esse. There is, according to Cobb, no radical question about the being-here of either the world as a whole or of any actual entity in it. Even at the level of creativity-characterization, and even on Whitehead’s own terms, however, we have some questions as to whether "the one that becomes" can be identified with the "many becoming one" without remainder. Consider again Diagram One, above. Of course, this is my diagram, but it does, I believe, accurately reflect Whitehead’s point of view The diagram shows that even on Whitehead’s own account, the "many be coming one" (that is, past actual entities B, G, D, etc.), while included in the "one that becomes" (that is, actual entity A), is not completely identical with the "one that becomes" (that is, with A). For example, neither individually nor as a group, do the past entities prehend their past(s) from region "a." Only the new actual entity A perceives its world from region "a." This gives the "one that becomes" (that is, actual entity A) its own distinct identity This kind of consideration, however, while important, does not bring us to the center of the problem.
We come somewhat closer to the heart of the matter when we turn to Cobb’s claim that the past actual entities retain a type of activity into their transcendent future. We noted that there is a strong exegetical basis in Whitehead’s own writings for the claim that the past actual entities are efficient causes of various factors in the new actual entity Previously I noted that if the past actual entities are dominated by anger, this past anger will become the efficient cause of the new actual entity’s feeling of anger. The question, however, is how to unpack this claim. My interpretation is that the new actual entity includes its past entities as a part of its real internal constitution. Thus the new entity is nothing without the inclusion of those past entities, even though it is more than those past entities. That is, the past entities, with their objective-case creativity and with (some of) their characteristics, have entered into the very identity of the new entity. As a result, during its initial (conformal) stage of concrescence, the new entity will exhibit those characteristics because they have become a part of what that new entity is. Whitehead calls this causal efficacy, or, more precisely; "prehension in the mode of causal efficacy." This is Whitehead’s analysis of physical power. Thus, to return to our illustration of anger, because the past entities with their feelings of anger have been included in the new actual entity as a part of its very identity, then those past feelings of anger are a part of the very identity of the new actual entity which thereby also feels anger.
The new actual entity, during its later stages of concrescence, may move beyond a purely physical relation to its past by enhancing or diminishing those characteristics, (such as anger), but it cannot avoid an initial physical coercion. Notice, however, that while my’ analysis of causal efficacy certainly requires the real being-here of the past entities, it does not require that they be active in any sense of "active" either in ordinary language or in Whitehead’s metaphysics. The past is casually efficacious on the future not because the past entities are "active," but because the future entities will incorporate them into their own identities.
We move still closer to the heart of the issue between the orthodox Whiteheadians and my own, when we note that actual entity A (to return to Diagram One) has its own subjectivity where this subjectivity is distinct from the subjectivities of B, G, D, etc., whether considered singly or as a group. This subjectivity is closely related, in my analysis, to the particularity of the new actual entity, to its activity, and to its status as a real agent in a real world. On my analysis, the new actual entity most truly is, that is, is most fully real, during the activity of its concrescence as it decides its own final identity. When the actual entity achieves that final identity, it becomes something "actual." As actual, we may still say that the actual entity is, but not in the fullest sense of that word.
It is important to note that we may talk about the "identity" of an actual entity in two distinct, albeit related, senses. During its concrescence, an actual entity clearly has an identity It has its own subjectivity, its own particularity, its own power to react to its past, and its own power to choose (to some extent) which characteristics it will actualize. During its concrescence an actual entity possesses some characteristics determinately or actually, while it possesses other characteristics only potentially, This brings us to the second sense of "identity" The concrescing entity’ will choose to actualize some potential characteristics and to not others. The outcome of the concrescence of the finite entities, on Whitehead’s analysis, is a fully determinate self-identity in the sense of a complete set of characteristics, with no room for alteration.
In summary, during its concrescence an actual entity has a self-identity with its own subjectivity, its own particularity, its own mixture of actual and potential characteristics, and its own power to choose among the potential characteristics. In virtue of this first self-identity, the concrescing actual entity is, in the fullest sense of the word. The outcome of the concrescence, however, is an actualized self-identity in which the actual entity is fully characterized with no possible alteration.20 In virtue of this second self-identity, the actual entity is, in the sense of being completely actual, but this is somewhat less than the richest sense of the verb is.
In contrast, the many past actual entities form a mere collection. A collection does not have its own subjectivity and thus cannot make its own decisions. Nor does a collection have its own particularity. To grant the set of past actual entities the power to make decisions or to assert that the set of past entities has its own particularity; its own being-here, would be to commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It follows, therefore, that the self-identity of the concrescing entity cannot be reduced to the identities, either individually or collectively of the many past entities that are included in that new concrescing entity. It is this self-identity for which we must give an account.
At the level of creativity-characterization, Whitehead’s system as it now stands has much to offer. It can account for the contribution by the many past entities of their characteristics and their objective-case creativity to the new actual entity That is, Whitehead offers a convincing explanation of causal efficacy. Whitehead’s system can also account for the concrescence of the actual entity, which includes the many past actual entities, into a new determinate, completely actualized entity, it can give an account of the freedom of the new actual entity’ to choose its own final self-identity (from among a set of alternative possibilities). What Whitehead’s system cannot do, however, is to account for the real being-here of the concrescing entity- that makes all these other factors possible, that makes all these other processes to be genuine events in a real world. Thus, to account for the real "being-here" of the concrescing entity with its own new particularly; subjectivity; and freedom, we must appeal to creativity-esse.
(g) Creativity is Derived from God
An entity called God is already available within Whitehead’s process metaphysics with the following characteristics and roles. God as a single everlasting concrescence is contemporaneous with each new entity;21 God contributes the initial aim, organizes the past entities into the new entity’s actual world, contains (in the primordial nature) the potentiality of the universe, and so forth.
Because God is an everlasting concrescence, God’s creativity, either as esse or as characterization, never converts into objective-case creativity. Rather, God is active and contemporary with each new entity and, thus, always available as the source of each new entity’s esse. If such an actual entity were not already available to serve as the cosmic cause of creativity, we would have to invent one.
Note what I have done: I have reunited at the most basic level what Whitehead and most of his followers rent asunder: God and creativity I have combined the notion of "Being" or "Being-Itself" with a particular existent. From Heidegger’s point of view I have located (the source of) Sein within a particular seiende. From the point of view of Tillich, I have combined God as Being-Itself with God as part of the furniture of the universe. Even Aquinas might accuse me of thoroughly’ confusing and commingling primary and secondary causality In relation to Whitehead, Heidegger, Tillich, and Aquinas, my position is highly unorthodox. And yet, despite this consensus of the doctors, certainly the Christian New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, and possibly the Koran as well, picture God as not only the creator of the world but also as able to act within that world. The article as a whole, but particularly the next two sections constitute my argument for this highly unorthodox (but, from the standpoint of the founding texts of the great monotheistic traditions, profoundly orthodox) combination.
XI. The Basic Thesis: God is the Creator
My basic thesis states that God alone is the source of each actual entity’s creativity; That is the most important part, but only a part, of what we mean when we call God the "creator of heaven and earth." In discussing my basic thesis I will make six basic points.
The first point to note is that God’s role as the source of the creature’s creativity does not compromise the creature’s freedom. Once the new entity is established as a concrescence, it is numerically distinct not only from God but from all other actual entities as well.
Previously I denied that a "drop" or "amount" of creativity passes from God to the creature. I can now provide an additional reason for this denial. It is precisely the role of creativity to establish each actual entity as a distinct entity with its own particularity. In this sense, each finite entity’s creativity is its own and not God’s. The resulting actual entity’ is autonomous, making its own decisions. It chooses its own final, completed identity through its own power of creativity-characterization.
God as the sole source of each creature’s creativity, not only establishes that creature in its esse, but also establishes that creature as a free agent with its own capacity to partially choose, that is, to partially characterize its own identity. Yet because that creature is numerically distinct from God, not only its creativity-esse but also its creativity-characterization is its own and not God’s. Therefore, God in the act of giving the creature its creativity does not "work the will" of the creature in any sense. I maintain the creature’s radical freedom to create its own identity, as the process tradition has consistently affirmed.
God and the creature are not locked into a "zero-sum game" over the source of creativity-esse. That is, decreasing God’s role as the giver of esse would not result in an increase in the creature’s role. Rather, the more completely we identify God as the source of all creativity; the more fully we affirm the creature’s own particularity, its numerical distinctiveness from God, and its own concrescence and decision-making.
When we describe God as the sole source (that is, cause) of the creativity’ of the universe, we stand in a tradition that sees God as Being-Itself (for example, Tillich), as Sein (for example, those theologians influenced by Heidegger), and primary cause (for example, the Thomists). In Whitehead’s own metaphysics, however, God has none of those roles. Rather, Whitehead’s God is one particular actual entity who interacts with other actual entities. This raises a question: do we have to choose between these traditions? I answer, no. My revised understanding of creativity allows us to accept Whitehead’s doctrine of God at the same time as we claim that God is the sole source of each creature’s esse. From my perspective, I may say that Whitehead has described God’s operations at the level of creativity-characterization, at the level where God helps shape the character of the world in very specific ways, including its moral, aesthetic, natural, and cultural qualities.
At the level of creativity-characterization, we must admit the legitimacy of many of the traditional concerns concerning divine power. Would not an all-powerful God, at this level, threaten the integrity and reality of creaturely freedom? Whitehead certainly thought so, strongly denying God’s omnipotence. To put this into different language, we may say that, in contrast to the level of creativity-esse, there is, at least potentially, a "zero-sum game" in relation to creativity-characterization. That is, an increase in God’s power may result in a decrease in the creature’s power.22 Here, God is responsible for some things but not others.
We are now in a position to raise our second main point, which I will pose as a question. Exactly how does God shape the world, as one entity among other entities, at the level of characterization? The answers bring us to well-trodden paths in process philosophy which Whitehead himself developed quite elegantly and which I have mentioned previously. Here I will only bring out the implications for God’s role as creator-characterizer, given my revised interpretation of creativity: (a) God gives the new entity its actual world; (b) God provides each new entity its initial subjective aim, in which the new concrescence feels some identities as more desirable than others. In establishing the new entity’s actual world (with its mosaic of inclusion in and exclusion from the identity of the new entity) and in choosing the new entity’s initial subjective aim, God takes account of the specific character of the past actual entities. God must do this because those past entities are part of what the new concrescence is. Thus, not only God but the past actual entities as well shape the world. In addition, of course, during the course of its concrescence, the new actual entity has the freedom to modify its subjective aim, thus once again limiting God’s role in shaping the world; (c) God’s primordial nature houses all possibilities, good and evil, old and new. God chooses those which promote good. By organizing the new entity’s actual world and by giving the new creature a subjective aim, God moves the creatures towards the concrete implementation of the good. And thereby God also moves the creatures towards the implementation of truly novel possibilities. Yet in driving toward the implementation of the good and of the new, God must interact with the character of the past world. Thus even in driving towards goodness and even as the organ of novelty, God shapes the world as only one of many agents; and (d) this brings us back to the concrescing entity itself. With its actual world in place, with its initial subjective aim in place, and with its gift of creativity-esse in place, the new actual entity must then engage in the act of defining itself. Because future actual entities must include (at least) some portion of the concrescing entity’ as a part of their internal constitutions, it follows that by shaping itself the concrescing entity is also shaping its world. This is the sole responsibility of that concrescence. That is, while the character of the past may limit or enhance the range of options available to the concrescing entity; and while God may limit or (as the organ of novelty) expand that range of options, the actual choices come not from the past entities nor from God but from that concrescence itself. Thus, God shares the role of shaping the world not only with the past entities but also, and supremely, with the concrescing actual entity itself.
These considerations point to a pervasive divine influence even at the level of creativity-characterization. According to some process theologians, these pervasive influences warrant the claim that God may’ be called the creator of the universe, quite apart from any consideration of God as the source of each entity’s creativity-esse (Cobb, Christian 203-6). That is, even at the level of "secondary causality"’ (creativity-characterization), God’s influence is so pervasive that we may refer to God as creator. I accept this, so long as we remember that, while it is certainly true that God at this level has unique roles to play (those listed above), yet God is not the only creator. All entities have some share in determining the character of the world. And I accept this so long as we remember that, as the source of creativity-esse, God is the only creator.
We may now move to the third point in my explanation of the thesis that God is the creator. It would be a mistake to say without qualification that creativity-esse causes the emergence of a new actual entity. According to the ontological principle only actual entities can be causes. Thus God, and not creativity-esse as such, causes the new actual entity to emerge as a concrescence. Again it is not creativity-characterization as such that decides how the new entity will shape its reaction to its world; rather, it is the new actual entity-itself that makes those decisions. "Creativity-characterization" is the new actual entity’s capacity to shape (to a greater or lesser degree) its own identity’. Creativity-characterization has a role, power, or explanatory capacity only insofar as it functions as factor to be discovered in an analysis of actual entities. Only actual entities are truly agents. Creativity in any of its roles, apart from actual entities, is a mere abstraction that does not, and cannot, "do" anything.
Fourth, when parsing the doctrine of God as creator, we may note two different types of novelty. There is the radical novelty of creativity as esse. In this context, only God can create something new. A new concrescence is absolutely new That particular entity has never been before and that particular entity never will be again. There is also the novelty of creativity-characterization. In this context, both God and the creatures create new facts. What we call novelty in most artistic, scientific, ethical, and other cultural contexts as well as the natural creativity of the physical and biological world refers to the novelty inherent in creativity-characterization.
The two forms of novelty interact. For example, we may note how creativity-characterization expresses novelty in two way’s: (a) Creatures can and regularly do produce novel forms and ideas; they produce "new things never before seen." As we have noted, such new things depend partially on God and partially on the creatures. (b) Each such novel form, however, is a real fact in a real world. It is a characteristic of one or more actual entities. Each new entity is new in the pure and radical sense of creativity-esse. This radical novelty is the foundation of the novelties of characterization. Until rooted in being, the novel characterizations remain purely imaginary. But rooted in esse, the creatures novelties are real, and have real consequences. Thus, without the radical novelty of creativity-esse, the creatures production of new characterizations would remain purely abstract and hypothetical, unrelated to any event in the world. Previously we noted how creativity-esse may be said to provide a "depth" for the activities of humans and nature. We may also say that the radical novelty of esse gives "depth" -- that is, significance and meaning -- to the derivative novelty of humans and nature.
Whitehead considers God as the organ of novelty. In the divine primordial nature, the womb of potentiality; God envisions all possibilities. God can make new options available to the concrescing entity where these move beyond anything present or implicated in the actual world of the new entity. This is the novelty of characterization. In one sense, all novelty of characterization stems from God, in that it ultimately emerges from God’s primordial nature. But the actualization of those options depends, not just on God, but also on the free decisions of the concrescing entities. Thus, in one sense, at the level of characterization, God is the source of all novelty while remaining only one of several factors needed to account for the actualization of those novelties. In contrast, God is not only the sole source of the novelty of creativity-esse, but no other agent enters, even in part, into the explanation of the source of that radical novelty.
Fifth, does God create ex nihilo? When speaking of God as the source of each new entity’s creativity, the answer is yes. When speaking of God as one actual entity interacting with other actual entities, the answer is no. We turn first to the sense in which God does create ex nihilo. When creating a new concrescence, God does not derive its creativity-esse from the past entities. Nor does God derive that creativity from the new entity. Nor, as I mentioned previously, does God serve as the "material" source of the entity in the sense that a "drop" of creativity’ passes from God to the new creature. Rather God is the "source" of the new entity’s creativity’-esse only in the sense that God brings that entity into being. Thus, God does not create the new entity’ from anything. God creates ex nihilo.23
When we turn to God’s role as one actual entity among others, all of whom characterize the world, the term ex nihilo is not appropriate. While God has some unique roles to play in the characterization of the universe (organizing the new entity’s actual world, etc.), these roles do not eliminate the reality of each entity’s choice of its own final character, of its own final identity. So in relation to creativity-characterization, God is only one of several agents that create the actual identity of the world. In addition, there is no basic difference in creativity-characterization for God and for the new concrescence. For example, even God’s gift of an initial subjective aim for the new concrescence depends on the character of the past finite entities, that is, on the character of the new entity’s actual world. Therefore, in relation to creativity-characterization, even God’s decisions, while genuinely novel, cannot be absolutely novel. In this sense, both God and the creatures create new forms out of the stock of pre-existing facts and possibilities. Not even God creates ex nihilo at this level.24
Lastly, it may be helpful to compare my understanding of creativity; both in its similarities and its differences, with the thrust of the classical doctrines of creation. Many of these doctrines claim not only that God creates the new entity ex nihilo, but they also claim that God creates the creature’s free decisions ex nihilo. The classical doctrines, in other words, combine what I have distinguished -- namely; God’s creation of the new entity and the new entity’s own acts of introducing novelty and characterizing fact.
My doctrine, however, is similar to the classical doctrine in the following sense. Because I hold that creativity-characterization is nothing other than creativity-esse in another role, and because God gives the creature its creativityesse and, thereby, its creativity-characterization, we can say that God creates the creature’s freedom. But, and this is my central point, we cannot say’ that God creates, ex nihilo, the creature’s decisions. That is, I claim that while God creates ex nihilo the creature’s activity and thus its decision-making, the decisions themselves remain the creature’s and not God’s.25
XII. Additional Conformation for our Doctrine of God
I claim that my revised interpretations of creativity and divine creation enhance Whitehead’s doctrine of God, giving it a greater coherence and reducing its arbitrary features. This greater coherence and reduced arbitrariness constitutes significant evidence for my thesis. I focus on three of Whitehead’s statements about God that, within his own system, seem somewhat arbitrary. My revised doctrines of creativity and God entail that these three statements, far from being arbitrary; are in fact natural and necessary. The three propositions are (a) that God is contemporaneous with every other entity; (b) that, while all finite actual entities originate from the physical pole, God originates from the mental pole, and (c) that while all finite actual entities reach a "satisfaction" and then cease their activity; God is a single never-ending activity; an endless concrescence. I begin with the first claim because it is the least well-established in Whitehead’s own writings.
(a) God as Contemporaneous with Every Other Actual Entity
There are some technical problems with the claim that God is contemporaneous or simultaneous with every other entity;26 I will propose, however, two definitions of contemporaneity that apply to the relation of God and a finite entity. First, if two entities, A and B, should prehend each other, then in Whitehead’s metaphysics it would be appropriate to call them simultaneous. Second, if actual entity A were to prehend actual entity B daring B’s concrescence, then it would be appropriate to call them contemporaries. With regard to the first definition, we may note that even on Whitehead’s original scheme, quite irrespective of any revision, God and each finite actual entity’ mutually prehend each other. That is, the new entity prehends God at the first stage of its concrescence, this being the source of the new entity’s subjective aim and the novel eternal objects that enter the world. And Whitehead plainly states that God prehends each actual entity at the end of its concrescence, with no eliminations or alterations (for example, Process 346). Therefore, even on Whitehead’s original understanding, God and each finite entity mutually prehend each other which means, on the definition provided above, that God is contemporaneous with every actual entity.
Interpreters have had a difficult time dealing with the implications of the mutual prehension of God and an actual entity. Consider just two of the outstanding Whiteheadian exegetes: John Cobb and Lewis Ford. Because, among other reasons, of the problematic status of mutual prehensions between God and an actual entity, John Cobb has suggested abandoning Whitehead’s view of God as a single actual entity and reinterpreting God as a series of actual entities (Christian 188). Again, Lewis Ford notes that Whitehead’s own view requires mutual prehensions between God and each finite entity; and he discusses the problems involved. Ford suggests that not only can contemporaries mutually prehend each other, which is the clear implication of Whitehead’s own view of the relation of God to the world, but that God prehends each entity during that entity’s concrescence ("Whitehead’s" 1-23).
Given my revision of the notion of creativity, it follows that God and each new concrescence must be contemporaneous. Only concrescing entities have creativity-esse and creativity-characterization. If God should cease to concresce, then God could not serve as the source of the new entity’s creativity. God would then have objective-case creativity only, where objective-case creativity is creativity that has "solidified" into a "dead" stasis. Therefore, God must be concrescing during new actual entity’s concrescence. In short, God and the finite entity must be contemporaneous.
I end with a comment about the presence of God, a theme I will continue in the last section. I wish to note that God is present to the new entity in two ways. The first has to do with how God prehends the finite entity; the second, with how the finite entity’ prehends God.
First, God prehends each actual entity throughout its concrescence. Thus, God not only’ knows perfectly, and preserves perfectly; the finite entity’s final satisfaction, but in addition God knows and preserves the entity’s joys and sorrows, hopes and fears as they happen. This is not to say that the entity continues to concresce "in" God. Such a claim would undermine Whitehead’s pluralism and turn it into a pantheistic scheme. It does mean, however, that while every future finite entity’ will prehend and thus "know" that finite entity only as a completed concrescence, God will prehend and thus "know" the concrescence in its subjectivity. This gives us an interpretation of Whitehead’s otherwise mysterious comments that each finite entity is prehended into God’s (consequent) nature without the loss of immediacy -- or in different words, without the loss of the "unison of immediacy," of "mutual immediacy;" or of the "unison of becoming" (Process 340, 346, 349, 350, 351).
Second, the finite entity’ prehends God at the beginning of its concrescence. That means that God is present throughout all stages of the finite entity’s concrescence. I explain this as follows. A concrescence is a development, but it is not a temporal development. In our ordinary sense of time, one moment is gone when a new moment comes. In the case of a concrescence, however, each stage is present to every other stage, giving us a radically different sense of "before and after."27 Thus, God as prehended at the entity’s first stage of concrescence is present throughout every stage of that concrescence. Moreover, in the case of God, the finite entity prehends God during God’s concrescence. Thus, the finite entity prehends the very life, dynamism, and subjectivity of God, which then remains with that entity throughout every stage of its concrescence. While God’s creativity, life, dynamism, and subjectivity remain numerically distinct from the creature’s life and subjectivity, nonetheless God’s life and dynamism are present throughout the creature’s concrescence.
(b) God as a Single, Everlasting Actual Entity
Whitehead argued that God is a single everlasting concrescence. This idea has engendered considerable controversy for two reasons. On the one hand, God is the sole example of such an actual entity; all other actual entities having both a beginning and an end. This is a problem for Whitehead because his explicit goal is to articulate a metaphysical scheme that applies to all actual entities without exception. On the other hand, it may not be necessary that God, under Whitehead’s own system, actually be a single actual entity. I have already mentioned John Cobb’s idea that God is a series of actual entities, a series without beginning or end. Cobb’s proposal seems at least as well grounded in the basic principles of Whitehead’s system as Whitehead’s own view. Thus, the claim that God is a single actual entity, without beginning or end, seems ungrounded and therefore arbitrary
The doctrine of God as I have developed it, however, requires that God be a single, everlasting concrescence. The argument is simple. If God were not everlasting, if God were to come to a satisfaction, then God would be completely actual, inactive, and lacking in subjectivity’. As such, God would have no creativity-esse or creativity-characterization and thus would be incapable of doing anything, including the evocation of new entities into being/activity In fact, God could not even prehend the new finite entities after they reached their satisfaction. Therefore, God is always in act but never actual -- a single, never-ending concrescence.
The same argument, it might be added, applies to the view, such as Cobb’s, that God is a never-ending series of actual entities. My case runs as follows: if God were a series of actual entities, then where would the new divine entity get its creativity? Not from the past divine entity because that entity; having achieved a stasis, would have no living creativity to contribute. Like any other past actual entity, it would have only objective-case creativity. The creativity might come from a "super-God" beyond the series of divine entities. But this super-God would have to be an actual entity, contemporaneous with each member of the series, always active, never coming to a stasis -- in short, this super-God would be none other than the God for whom we have been arguing.
Several interesting consequences flow immediately from my view of God as a single actual entity that as the source of all creativity never reaches a stasis. I argued in Section VII that creativity’ is "activity-" which includes both actuality and potentiality, but that it is more than either. As such, God is the paradigm of activity and cannot be identified with either pure actuality or with pure potentiality.28
I also argued in Section VII that this activity; this concrescence, is the locus of life, subjectivity, and the intensification of experience. It follows that subjectivity increases with the sense of postponed completion, with the possession of an identity that is always in dynamic development. God as the source of creativity must always be an activity and never a mere actuality nor a mere potentiality (though including both), and thus God is the model of intense and heightened subjectivity and life.29
As we have seen, on Whitehead’s own account, God never perishes (that is, never achieves a final, actualized stasis). Thus God does not forget any aspect of the past, and the past never fades for God. This is because God, having no need for negative prehensions, feels the past in its completeness. This much Whitehead himself explicitly affirmed, but my interpretation of the doctrine of creativity adds another dimension to his position. Because God is fully creative in all senses and, thus, the model of subjectivity and vivid feelings, and because God feels the finite entity during its concrescence (and not just after it has achieved its stasis), it follows that God feels the world with a constant freshness and rich intensity that Whitehead’s own position prevented him from fully articulating.
My revision also allows us to retrieve the vocabulary of God’s "eternity" from the classical tradition. Articulating "eternity" has always been difficult. Eternity has never meant mere timelessness. It differs significantly from the "tenseless" truth of mathematics. Nor does it mean merely endless duration through time. Boethius offered the most famous definition of eternity: "the simultaneous and perfect possession of limitless life." Following some hints in Augustine’s Confessions, I have sometimes glossed this for my students as the "simultaneous possession of all nows." This definition, while intuitively plausible, provides no explanation on how this might be. Perhaps I can shed some faint light.
God is a single never-ending concrescence. This may sound as if God has endless duration through time, but that is not what is meant. In process thought, "time" is reserved for the transition between entities. Thus time does not apply to the relations within a concrescence. Rather, Whitehead worked out a sophisticated account of concrescence that (a) allows the use of "before" and "after" in reference to the various stages of concrescence while (b) also affirming that each stage of the concrescence is fully present to every other stage.30 In finite entities, the concrescence has "bounds," that is, we can assign temporal limits "within which" a finite concrescence takes place.31 God’s concrescence is not so bounded. Thus, all stages of the divine concrescence are fully present to each other without any bounds of time (or space). In short, God’s concrescence has many of the earmarks of the traditional notion of divine eternity.
The divine concrescence, however, is not simply identical with the traditional notion of eternity. God prehends each finite entity and is prehended by each finite entity. Thus, God prehends or feels the temporal relations of the creatures. This means that God takes those temporal relations into the divine concrescence. God experiences those very temporal relations that God created. This does not mean that God is temporal, that is, it does not mean that God’s concrescence had a beginning in time nor that it will have an end. It does mean, however, that as God incorporates the creatures’ experiences of temporal beginning and end, God experiences (and not just "knows about") temporality within the larger framework of the divine concrescence.32
We can consider several additional points about eternity The finite creature’s experience of concrescence provides it with an analogue of eternity; and this in three senses. First, the finite entity experiences the objective-case creativity of the past actual entities in its actual world. As the finite entity prehends these past concrescences, it prehends what once was a living image of eternity This is the least significant way in which the new entity experiences eternity. Second, the new concrescence, in its very identity as a concrescence, exercises its creativity-characterization. That is, it expresses its creativity in a verbal mode. Here, the concrescence itself in the free creation of its own identity -- not in time but in its own mode in which all stages are jointly present -- presents an analogy of eternity. To the extent that the concrescence can become reflective on its own activity, it can directly’ experience itself as an analogue of eternity. Third, the new concrescence gets its status in "being" from creativity-esse. Creativity-esse presents the most profound analogy of eternity, because creativity-esse establishes the concrescence as a real entity, with a real subjectivity, with a real freedom to decide (within limits) its own identity, and with a real power to shape the world. Thus creativity-esse points to the togetherness of "before" and "after" in the concrescence, not as a mere theory’, but as the depth and power of concrete existence. Here, eternity is not something merely speculative in the negative sense but is nothing less than the deepest level of each actual entity. We must remember, however, that creativity-esse has an adverbial quality. Even for us humans, it is not the object of our experience, either directly like creativity in the objective case, nor reflexively’ as in the case of creativity in the verbal mode. Thus we do not directly experience the deepest analogy of eternity; it always remains much too close to us for that. This deepest analogy remains around the corner, behind our backs, and in the periphery of our vision. Eternity is not so much what we experience, or what we decide, as it is that out of which we experience and decide.
There is a sense, however, in which each entity moves beyond the possession of mere analogues to eternity and actually contacts eternity and incorporates it into itself. I can explain this as follows: each finite entity; in experiencing God during God’s concrescence, has a direct access to the divine eternity itself. Thus, the analogies in our own concrescence of God’s eternity connect directly with our experience of God’s eternity. The finite entity may lack consciousness and may want the powers of thought and language to become aware of this experience, or the finite entity may suppress that foundational experience during its concrescence as it develops its "normal" modes of consciousness and articulates its "practical" and "secular" concerns, but the experience of God’s eternity is never wholly absent. Thus not only do our lives express their own analogies of eternity,33 but we always live out of our never-wholly-eliminated, concrete, (normally) preconscious experience of God’s own eternity.
(c) God as Not Originating from the Physical Pole
According to Whitehead, every actual entity has two sides. He calls the one side the physical pole and the other its mental pole. In this case, the term "mental" carries no connotation of "consciousness" nor of "mind" in any ordinary sense. Perhaps Whitehead should have chosen different words.34
In its technical definition, however, the physical pole is the entity’s prehensions of other, past entities in all their actuality, particularity, and concreteness. The physical pole also includes the prehension of the eternal objects as they are embedded in those other actual entities. The mental pole is the entity’s prehensions of eternal objects, not as embedded in past actualities, but as potentials apart from their role in any particular entity. The mental pole also refers to the entity’s use of those eternal objects in constructing its own identity.35
Finite entities originate from their physical pole because they originate out of their feelings of past entities and their feelings of God. God also is dipolar. God’s mental or conceptual pole is termed the "primordial nature," and God’s physical pole is termed the "consequent nature." God, in contrast to the finite entities, originates from the conceptual or mental pole (Whitehead, Process 87, 224, etc.). Whitehead can provide a reason out of his own unrevised system for God’s unique origination, namely, there must be an eternal (in the sense of "timeless") supply of potentiality as the presupposition of any actuality.
My view of God as the source of all creativity provides an additional perhaps more convincing, explanation for God’s unique origination. Rather than arguing that God originates from the mental pole, however, I will be content to argue that God does not originate from the physical pole.
From my perspective, the primary reason a finite actual entity’ originates from its physical pole is that its creativity must be derived from another. It is not the source of its own creativity; The finite entity’s creativity-esse comes from God; and even its "heaviness," in the sense of the drag (or liberating momentum) of history; comes from the past finite actual entities that constitute its actual world. But God does not derive creativity from another, and thus cannot originate out of connections with another entity; However, to say that God does not originate out of the prehension of other entities is to say that God does not originate out of the physical pole.
We can also recast, in terms of my revised doctrine of creativity; Whitehead’s own reason for the priority of the mental pole in God. We hold that creativityesse necessarily issues into creativity-characterization. And so God’s role as the source of creativity-esse wears well with God’s role as the ultimate source of all characterizations, of all eternal objects. God’s existence as an actual entity; in other words, does not derive from God’s physical prehension of the other entities but derives from the divine entity itself, where God is not only the source of creativity-esse but is also the source of all possible characterizations (eternal objects). Thus, both at the level of creativity-esse and at the level of creativity-characterization, it follows that God, as the source of creativity, could not originate from the physical pole.
In this section, I have shown how my revisions reduce the arbitrariness of Whitehead’s God. To avoid arbitrariness, however, does not require us to hold that God has no unique features. Every actual entity has unique features. Nor should this reduction in arbitrariness require us to hold that God plays no unique cosmic/metaphysical roles. Rather, to repeat a methodological point noted at the end of Section II, it means that everything we want to say about God should be expressible in terms of the basic principles of the system.
XIII. Countering the Arguments Originally Offered in Support of the Separation of God and Creativity
At the beginning of this paper, I noted that the primary reason for separating creativity from God was to preserve the freedom of the creatures. No revision reuniting creativity and God, however plausible in other respects, will stand in process thought unless it preserves that creaturely freedom. My revised doctrine of creativity and my revised view of God as creator preserve precisely that freedom.
I explain this as follows: God’s gift of creativity-esse to a new actual entity establishes that entity as numerically distinct from God (and from all other actual entities). That gift of esse also establishes that entity as a subject, having its own interiority and its own subjectivity. When the new entity implements its gift of creativity-esse in the form of creativity-characterization, this is the new actual entity’s own activity. It is not God’s. Thus, its decisions are its own and not God’s (nor any other entity’s). My revised understanding of God as the source of creativity, therefore, maintains the principle that freedom requires the subject’s autonomy.
Freedom not only requires subjectivity, but it also requires a range of alternatives from which to choose. These alternatives have to do with what Whitehead calls eternal objects. This brings us to the level of creativity-characterization. At this level, God operates as one actual entity among others (in all the ways we have noted, such as maintaining causal order, organizing the actual world, providing novel options, and giving the initial subjective aim, etc.). Here, God not only can increase but, when necessary, reduce the range of options available to the new entity. As we have seen, however, God can no more reduce that range to zero than can any’ other actual entity. At the level of creativity-characterization, I have kept intact those aspects of Whitehead’s system that guarantee that even God cannot wholly eliminate that range of options.
There is a deep connection between God’s role as creator ex nihilo and the nature of God’s role as one actual entity’ among other actual entities. To my previous claim that creativity’-esse is creativity-characterization, I can add the further claim that creativity-characterization is the subject’s free choice of an identity within the context of causality-. That is, the very being of an entity during its concrescence is its free subjective functioning within some causal context. To reduce that subjectivity to zero or to reduce the range of available options to zero would be to destroy the freedom of the concrescence and, thus, annihilate it. Since God’s creation ex nihilo of a new entity is the establishment of that entity as a free subject, it follows that it would be a contradiction in terms to imagine that God (or any other agent), at the level of creativity-characterization, could eliminate that concrescence’s subjectivity, reduce its range of options to zero, or wholly destroy its freedom. That is, the finite concrescence s subjectivity and freedom cannot be wholly expunged because the concrescence cannot both be and not be at the same time. Thus my revised doctrine of creativity reinforces Whitehead’s claim that each actual entity is the creator (in part) of its own identity.
To be free, a decision must be made for a purpose, where a purpose is categorically distinct from a cause. Once again, nothing in my revised doctrines of creativity and of God as creator would call this into question. I conclude that my revisions do not in any way undercut the values of creaturely autonomy and freedom that led Whitehead and many others to separate God from creativity. To the contrary, these revisions strengthen that finite freedom.
In Section 1, I noted the closely related argument, common among process thinkers, that the separation of God and creativity results in improvements in theodicy because it establishes a radical freedom for the creatures, where God does not create the creatures’ particular decisions. Basically, this is a version of the free will defense. In the traditional version, the creature free will stems from a voluntary "withdrawal" of God’s power, where God could have intervened but chose not to intervene in the creature’s operations. The key move in process metaphysics was to make creaturely freedom necessarily inherent in the creature’s very existence; and the best way to do this, it was thought, was to separate creativity from God, making each creature "self-creative."
I now have an answer to this "argument from theodicy" for the separation of God and creativity. My reformulation of the notion of creativity maintains the key process insights that (a) freedom is inherent in the very reality of creaturely existence and that (b) freedom belongs to a creature which is numerically distinct from God. Given that I have maintained points (a) and (b), it follows that I have an effective refutation of the "argument from theodicy" for the separation of God and creativity. I believe that I have not only maintained these two points, but that I have established them in a more complete and radical way than Whitehead himself was able to do. In short, whatever advantages for theodicy that are inherent in process thought’s traditional separation of God and creativity remain available on my revisions. In fact, by raising the radical question of the "being-here" of actual entities and showing that their very "being-here" consists in their freedom, those advantages now have a firmer grounding.
I have argued that God is not just Being-Itself but is also an actual entity who provides novel possibilities, organizes each entity’s actual world, and provides each entity with a subjective aim. Here, God’s actions do result in specific characterizations of fact. When referring to such divine activities, the process tradition has taught that God operates through "persuasion," where persuasion is good, much better than "coercion." I agree that persuasion is a valuable method of acting. When this persuasion takes the form of love (as process thinkers assume it normally does), I would argue that it is the supremely valuable form of acting. It is unclear to me, however, why an entity that has the influence that God has at the level of creativity-characterization could never be said to have the capacity to coerce another entity Sureh; through granting and withholding novel forms, through organizing the network of inclusion and exclusion of past characteristics in the provision of the new entity’ with its actual world, and through shaping the very purposes of the new entity; God can sometimes act in ways that in ordinary language we would consider to be coercive.36 But these considerations do not stem from any of my revisions. God’s roles at the level of what I have called creativity-characterization are precisely the set of roles that Whitehead and the process tradition have always assigned to God.
Thus, whatever problems or advantages may stem from the claim that God can (or cannot) sometimes engage in coercive activity; these remain the same in Whitehead’s original version as in my revision. My position, however, does guarantee that this coercion can never be complete and total. To be is to be free, and no matter what influence God, as one actual entity among many, may have on a creature, God cannot, as I have shown, eliminate that creature’s subjectivity nor erase all squiggles of its freedom. My revision of the doctrine of creativity therefore shows how God, in granting creativity-esse to that creature, thereby establishes a freedom so deeply rooted that even God, when acting as one agent among other agents at the level of creativity-characterization, cannot wholly eliminate it. Thus while Whitehead himself claimed that the freedom of the actual entities could never be wholly eliminated, my doctrine of creativity-esse provides a reason and foundation for that claim -- a reason that was missing in Whitehead’s original system.
Finally, in Section 1, I noted the insistence of such scholars as Tillich that God, as Being-Itself, cannot be "a" being, a part of the furniture of the universe. Heidegger went further and distinguished not only’ between Being and particular beings, but between Being and God. In Section II, however, I noted that founding documents of Judaism, Christianity; and Islam never make that sort of separation. If we wish to talk about Being-Itself or Sein in a monotheistic context, it is imperative to locate Being-Itself in a particular being called God. The best response to the concerns of Tillich and Heidegger is to create an actual case in which God functions both as the source of Being, what I called creativity-esse, and as one agent among other agents, at the level of what I called creativity-characterization. I believe I have established such a case. My revision of creativity and the affirmation of God as the Creator not only enhances the coherence of the process doctrine of God and not only is adequate to our postmodern context (as I shall discuss in the next section), but is religiously available at least to the monotheistic heritage.
XIV. The Presence of God in a Postmodern World
In Section III, I noted some postmodernist objections to a "sustaining presence," whether that of the world-founding Cartesian ego, the expressive self of the romantics, or the presence of God. According to the deconstructionists, our language is only arbitrarily connected to the larger world. Therefore, neither nature nor history can provide a sure and certain center to serve as an objective criterion for truth or ethics. Indeed, deconstructionists such as Derrida may be classified as modern gnostics. The original gnostics (considered heretics by the mainstream of early Christianity) claimed that we are innocent souls trapped in a world of matter. To escape that material entrapment, we need special wisdom or knowledge (gnosis). In our contemporary setting, we find Derrida and other deconstructionists asserting that we are "selves" trapped by’ the buildup of past structures, above all by our language. According to deconstructionist thinking, our current language is the silt or residue of past social practices. The deposit of these practices incorporates the unjust, ideological, and power-driven habits of previous generations and thus binds those today who still speak their languages. To escape from this bondage, as our guest in Tokyo said, we need to "deconstruct" those linguistic structures to unmask the idols that still haunt them. This produces the "knowledge" that frees those held captive by the idols, so that they can "get what they want. I might add that such deconstructionists assume that those in the past who produced the entangling structures of language were ideologically; driven and therefore guilty, while those who do the deconstructing are innocent. Presumably those on whose behalf this deconstruction is undertaken, particularly if they qualify as victims, are also innocent.
The following passage describes, quite accurately but somewhat ironically, many post-modernists including Derrida. (‘The irony stems from the claim common among postmodernists -- particularly those engaged in literary criticism -- to have moved beyond the romantic view of the self as finding "truth" through its own pure powers of imagination and the romantic understanding of literature as the expression of that imagination.)
The postmodernist is in every way a child of the romantics, one who stands alone in nature, defying demands upon the self and searching for that which will satisfy. The difference is that the postmodern self no longer harbors hopes of discovering truth or secure principles. Instead, driven by the ideals of therapy and consumption, it seeks, by whatever means will work, to provide satisfactions for the unencumbered self; it strives to reduce all individual moral actions to matters of choice for which there are no authoritative guidelines or binding principles. In the culture of therapy and interpretation there is nothing to direct the self except its preferences. There is no goal for the actions of the self save the fulfillment of its desires. (Lundin 75)
When we turn to Whitehead, we discover many’ passages that read as if he were an extraordinarily’ precocious modern who managed, almost preternaturally, to anticipate the main themes of the postmodern world: each creature as searching for its own "satisfaction"; each creature as possessing not merely re-creative but also creative powers; each creature as expressing its own individual freedom; each creature as creative of its own identity; each creature as living from its own "perspective" from which it "interprets" the world; each creature as "contingent" and therefore not bound by any necessary laws that govern its being; and many more.
Whitehead affirmed all these themes, but only in part. Let me note one example. For many postmodernists, history is a major source of our problems and, thus, liberation means escape from our entrapment by the past. Let me scrutinize this claim from a process point of view. Process thought holds that each new actual entity includes its past (actual) world as a part of its own identity. This inclusion of the past does not threaten the subjectivity of the new actual entity; rather, it makes that subjectivity possible. Thus, the deconstruction’s goal of liberation from the past makes no sense. That is, to be wholly free from the past, one would have to be free from oneself -- not just one’s past self -- but from one’s present subjectivity as well.
Even from Whitehead’s perspective, however, the past can and often does become a heavyweight, crushing the present. The present subjectivity; may and often does need liberation from particular elements in that past. Whitehead observed, however, that we can move beyond those constricting elements in the past only if we have a supply of novel options. But the new actual entity’ cannot produce those novelties de novo from itself. Novel options originate outside the new entity’; they’ come from an "other." In part -- and here Whitehead differs profoundly from the deconstructionists -- the new options come from the past finite entities, but ultimately they come from God who is the womb of potentiality. It is up to the new entity to opt to actualize one or more of those liberating novelties, but it does not create them. In short, liberation does not come from the "self" alone but from the self in relation to the world, to history, to the "other," and to God.
One might also add the note, seldom encountered in postmodernist writings but basic to Whitehead’s metaphysics, that even novelty makes sense only within the context of causal order, where this order is also a gift from the past and from God, and where the new entity must also work to sustain that order. In addition, Whitehead understood that while novelty is a necessary element in our liberation from oppressive structures in the past, the wrong novelty can also destroy those hard-won patterns of order on which depend our life, liberation, and creativity (in the everyday meaning of that word). Only as rooted in a larger world can the self evaluate the promise and the danger of a novelty. Our enchantment, therefore, does not follow from our rootedness in the larger world as such but only’ from certain negative elements in that larger world This point the deconstructionists tend to de-emphasize while Whitehead places it at the heart of his philosophy.
Whitehead’s critique, however, extends to a much deeper level. The late enlightenment, the romantic movement, and postmodernism are all deeply indebted to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. The heart of Kant’s philosophy lies the split between the noumenal and phenomenal worlds. According to Kant, the noumenal world -- that is, reality as it is "in itself" -- lies forever beyond the grasp of human reason. The phenomenal world -- that is, the world as it enters into our experience -- is not merely discovered, it is constructed. Kant thought there were a priori rules for this construction. His romantic, modernist, and postmodernist descendants argue that we create even those rules. Thus, according to Kant and his descendants, our reason has no access to "reality as such" (the noumenal); the only reality we can know is what we ourselves have constructed (the phenomenal).
In the earliest, first reaction to this philosophy, no one (including Kant himself) was willing to abandon the quest for some relation to reality as it is in itself, to the noumenal world. Kant argued that in ethical action we obtain, if not knowledge of the noumenal world, then at least a relation to it. Later, however, the romantics favored imagination as the approved route to re-establish contact with reality. The romantics, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, believed that as the individual traveled deeply into his or her imagination, that he or she would find that universal truth (that noumenal reality, if you will) that is the same for all people. To sustain such a philosophy; Emerson had to assume the basic goodness of each person, of each self.
The romantic movement collapsed. In the end, imagination did not produce universal value and truth but only private visions. Romanticism could not sustain a credible belief in the existence, or least the accessibility of, the noumenal world, of reality itself. One way to view the postmodernist movement is to see it as the recognition that we humans have no contact with reality itself, whether through reason, imagination, feeling, or anything else. According to the deconstructionists, however, this decentered world, rather than producing despair, now offers us wider options for human liberation. We are now free to undermine the accumulated prejudices of our languages and allow each individual to construct his or her own world on no other basis than preference and desire.
Another reason, it must be added, for the collapse of the romantic movement was the increasing implausibility’ of assuming the fundamental goodness of the human self. Without this assumption, we have no reason to hope that our imagination can reconnect us with reality its elf, with the noumenal world that is valid for all people. The assumption of an essential human innocence looks implausible, if not obscene, after Freud, Marx, and the other masters of suspicion, to say nothing of two world wars, the Turkish holocaust against the Armenians, the Stalinist purge of the peasants, the Nazi extermination of the Jews, the Maoist rage against the Chinese reactionaries, and the Cambodian communist holocaust against those who could read or merely owned eyeglasses. The deconstructionists, however, have an ambivalent relation to this denial of innocence. They tend to agree on the guilt of the self when referring to those in the past or even those in the present who continue to reinforce the injustices such as we find in the past. They tend, however, to exempt themselves and certain "victims" from this criticism. They need to affirm their own goodness if their deconstruction of the unjust structures of language and society is to be plausible.
Whitehead launched what to me is the most profound critique yet made of the Kantian split of noumena from phenomena37 and thus he launched a most extraordinary attack on the foundations of the late enlightenment, romantic, modern, and postmodern worlds. The heart of his critique lies in two claims: first, the past enters into the very identity of the new actual entity; while the present actual entity does not enter into the identity of the past entities; and second, this is possible because the basic entities are events and not substances as Descartes and the mainstream of Western philosophy after him understood a substance.38 On the basis of these two claims, Whitehead asserts that we are rooted in a reality’ that precedes us, a reality that precedes our knowing, a reality that guides us in the use of our freedom, self-expression, and self-creation, and that provides us with patterns of coordinated value which link us to all other entities. Thus, at the very deepest level, Whitehead, while partially affirming the postmodern emphases, denies the very heart of postmodernism. The world is primary; and all entities, including the human entities with their cultures, first emerge out of the world, and only then do they shape it.
Whitehead’s philosophy does not lead to a naive realism; rather it entails a critical realism. As such, it undercuts the claim that the relation of language to reality is completely arbitrary and conventional (while not denying an arbitrary and conventional element to that relation). And this in turn would undercut Derrida’s claim that our language and culture lacks any normative connection to nature and history. This critique of Derrida and the other postmodern deconstructionists stems from Whitehead’s more basic critique of the Kantian split between noumena and phenomena, between what is the case objectively and what we feel subjectively.
We now are in a position to raise an important question. Does the success of the Whiteheadian critique of the Kantian split between noumena and phenomena, and thus of the deconstructionist bifurcation of the self from the world, lead to a reinstatement of the Cartesian reality-founding ego? The answer is not as clear as one might wish. Whitehead dealt explicitly, clearly, and decisively with certain aspects of Descartes’ philosophy; for example, with the Cartesian split between self and world. Let me note in this connection that Kant affirmed this same split, and therefore Whitehead’s argument against Kant also applies to Descartes. That is, to the extent that the past (as the "actual world") enters into the new entity; we have a strong reason for denying the complete separation of the self from the world, and thus of the absolute self-sufficiency of the new entity, of what Descartes would call the "self." Again, Whitehead has a very effective argument against the Cartesian focus on the self as conscious mind. Whitehead shows how consciousness emerges out of our being-in-the-world, and thus the conscious self cannot "ground" the world in which it lives.39 In this sense, Whitehead truly does have a "reformed" subjectivist principle in contrast to Descartes’ "naive" subjectivist principle.
It may be, however, that Whitehead’s reformed principle is not quite "reformed" enough. Whitehead’s version of each actual entity’s self-creation may lend itself to certain distortions which, we assume, Whitehead did not intend. According to Whitehead, every actual entity prehends God. At the human level, this means that aspects of God’s identity enter into our real internal constitutions. We might call this Whitehead’s "incarnational theme." God becomes an object for us and enters into our identity. We can then use those divine resources we have prehended into ourselves to create ourselves. In doing so, we also shape God and the world. In short, God enters into our identity in such a way that, along with the past finite actual entities, we have a foundation for constructing ourselves and shaping our world. It is but a short step from this interpretation of the entity’s act of self-creation to that distortion in which God, along with the world, functions as a basis for a "reality-founding ego."40 In short, the same themes that allow Whitehead to overcome the Kantian split between noumena and phenomena (and this by itself is one of the greatest achievements of twentieth century philosophy) also tend to support -- or at least to allow -- the self-centered aspects of the Cartesian ego.
Depending only on the resources in Whitehead’s philosophy as he developed it, we arrive and remain at this impasse. I believe, however, that my reformulation of the doctrines of creativity and God moves us beyond this impasse. God as the sole source of each creature’s creativity-esse may be said to create ex nihilo. As the creator ex nihilo, God never comes under our control. Whatever we do, or think, or say, or feel, or question, we do as agents who are already real. Even to question God is to presuppose our own reality as questioners and thus to presuppose not only the prior operation of creativity-esse but also the prior reality of God as the source of that esse. God as the creator ex nihilo is always and everywhere present in us and through us, and yet always and everywhere remains hidden in the shadows as the Prior One who has already given reality to our questioning, praying, cursing, loving, and hating.
Can such a God be pressed into support of a reality-founding, self-centered ego? To answer this question, we must remember that there is one God who is the source of all creativity. But just as this creativity can be analyzed at two levels -- creativity-characterization and creativity-esse -- we can also consider God’s operations at two different levels. At the level of characterization, we already have our answer. Not only can we try to use the divine resources to establish ourselves at the world-center, we can actually succeed, at least to some extent. The problem with the Cartesian ego, as it sets itself up as the center of the world, is that it actually works! Descartes was not the first to discover this fact. The author of the story of the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden recognized that same fact all too clearly. Thus, God is truly vulnerable, in all the ways that the events on the cross manifested two millennia ago and that process theologians have recently articulated so well.
It is dramatically different when we turn to God the creator ex nihilo. We can, and often do, try to make ourselves into reality-founding egos, the absolutely secure source of our own being. But we can never succeed. Any effort even to imagine ourselves at the center of reality presupposes our real existence as people who imagine -- that is, we can only imagine ourselves as the guarantors of our own being because we were first established in reality and thus as really capable of imagination. The creature’s attempt to appropriate God’s role as creator ex nihilo, while never successful, always brings tragedy in the trying. The result of the attempt has been, in the post-Cartesian west, the catastrophic isolation of each "self" from other selves (except when it submerges itself in the collective, where it becomes "faceless" and loses its creativity, in the popular sense of that word). This isolation from other selves extends to isolation from history; from nature, from culture, from the world, and from God. In short, on the one hand, we end with the ecological crisis, and on the other hand, we end with the futile attempts of Derrida and other postmodernists to deconstruct the self’s relation to history and nature so that it can create itself on the basis of nothing other than its own desires and preferences. It is absolutely, metaphysically, and categorically impossible that sin, in relation to God the creator ex nihilo, should succeed -- which sadly enough does not prevent us from trying.
We have seen that as one entity among other entities, that is, at the level of creativity-characterization, God is vulnerable to human misuse. God is not vulnerable, however, at the level of creatio ex nihilo, that is, at the level of creativity-esse. Nothing that humans or other creatures can do will ever threaten, to say nothing of actually usurping, God’s role as the creator ex nihilo. Any attempt to co-opt some portion of God’s role as the source of creativity-esse will presuppose the prior operation of God’s power to create ex nihilo, and thus have no effect on that power. The medieval claims that God is impassible, while totally in adequate in relation to the God of the incarnation, of the cross -- that is, inadequate in relation to God at the level of creativity-characterization -- seems quite appropriate to the creator ex nihilo. Nothing could have the slightest effect on this role because the creator ex nihilo operates, absolutely and without qualification, prior to all attempts to usurp that capacity.
We must remember, however, that creativity-esse and creativity-characterization, while conceptually distinguishable, must not be forced apart. Thus, while God is impassible vis-à-vis the capacity to create ex nihilo, the same God is quite passible vis- à -vis the divine roles at the level of characterization. Thus, while the attempt to establish ourselves as the creator ex nihilo has no affect upon God as the sole source of esse, it has a profound affect upon God in other ways, particularly upon God as the one who knows about and cares about each of us. In short, it affects God profoundly in those areas that we called "incarnational."
I have two final points. First, God is present with us. This is most obvious at the "incarnational" level. Earlier, at the end of the subsection (a) of Section XII, "God as Contemporaneous with Every Other Actual Entity;" I showed how God’s very life is present to and throughout the concrescence of the new actual entity. Our relation to God is, therefore, more intimate than to our own bodies, at least as Whitehead explicates our bodily experience. According to Whitehead, before I can experience an actual entity in my own body; that bodily entity must have reached a satisfaction and have become fully "actual." As such, that bodily actual entity has only its patterns of order and its objective-case creativity to contribute to my present subjectivity. These patterns and this particular objective-case creativity (that is, the "withness" of my body and its concreteness and solidity) are of course extremely important to me for without them I cannot survive. Nonetheless, because I experience God during the divine concrescence with its intensely developed subjectivity; it follows that God is more "alive" to me than is my body (or my own past).41 This presence, however, can be abused and turned into a support for the reality-founding ego.
More fundamentally God is present with us as the source of our being. We may say that while God’s gift of esse establishes the entity in its own reality and as numerically unique, at the same time God as the source of that esse -- that is, as the source of the entity’s reality and uniqueness -- is closer and more basic to that creature than it is to itself. No critique, not even that of the deconstructionists, has the slightest effect upon that presence, for the critique itself presupposes it. This also means that such a presence can never be pressed into the service of the reality-founding ego. Here we find the absolute priority of God. At least in part, we can identify this with religious claim, fundamental not only to Christianity but to Islam and Judaism as well, that God is Lord. This Lordship, unlike many other forms of Lordship in those traditions, never comes under our control and cannot, even in principle, be abused, although we can certainly try with the inevitably tragic consequences.
We have now moved from philosophy and metaphysics back to religion, which brings us to my second point. God at the incarnational level is both comforter and judge. Here we can find both forgiveness and condemnation. And yet we are still in our "ordinary" world. Even as judge, God is not strange to us, Religion in relation to God as the creator ex nihilo, however, moves into a fearful and strange dimension, where nothing is ordinary God’s goodness can be found at both levels. At the incarnational level, God’s goodness is an ordinary goodness -- that is, God urges us on to moral development. At the level of esse, however, God is still good, but in an ontological sense. Being itself is good and is a gift of divine goodness. And yet this divine esse is good because it not only makes ordinary goodness to be really good but because it also makes ordinary evil to be really evil in a real world with real consequences. The divine esse not only makes God’s incarnational goodness to be something real and to be desired, but it also makes God’s incarnational judgment to be something real and to be feared.
In relation to God’s incarnational goodness and incarnational judgment, we can interact with God in an endless variety of way’s: repentance, good works, faith, forgiveness, anger, atonement, and many more. In relation to God’s ontological goodness, we cannot interact, we can only receive. We have no choice but to receive the gift of creativity-esse. Our only choice concerns how we receive. We can receive in faith or in unfaith. If we receive in unfaith, we try the impossible -- to hoard this esse for ourselves, to bring it under our control, to guarantee our own reality. If we receive in faith, we leap into the void-without-characteristics and trust that divine power to sustain us, as the empty air sustains the clouds. This is frightening. As we grasp that this is the same God who becomes incarnationally available to us -- Christians would say, in Jesus Christ -- it is also healing.
1. When process thinkers refer to the "classical view of God," they normally’ have in mind the doctrine(s) of God as developed in the Augustinian-Thomistic tradition. There is of course enormous variety among just the Thomists, to say nothing of the Augustinian-Thomistic axis. Nonetheless, the process critique, to the extent that it is successful, would apply to the major Augustinian and Thomistic thinkers. Many orthodox Protestants have very similar views of God as the Augustinians and Thomists, for example, the Princeton Theologians including the two Hedges and B. B. Warfield. The process critique, to the extent it is successful, would therefore apply to them also. So far as I am aware, process thinkers have not critiqued the traditional Islamic doctrines of God; but the process arguments would seem to be far more devastating when applied, say; to the "occasionalism" of al-Ashari’s doctrine of divine power than to the Augustinian or Thomistic notions of God.
David B. Burrell, in his Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions (102, 201 n15) complains that process theologians use "classical theism" as a belittling term. I certainly do not intend to use "classical theism" pejoratively. Rather my goal is to move the process and classical doctrines of God towards each other. Burrell restates Aquinas’ doctrine of God so as to avoid the process and other modern arguments against it. In this paper, I will evaluate neither the process critique of the traditional doctrine of God nor the recent defenses of that doctrine as articulated by Burrell and others. Rather, that I offer a reinterpretation of the doctrine of God as creator that, while standing within the larger world of process thought and while consistent with those aspects of the process critique of the traditional view of God I mention in the main text, nonetheless incorporates certain aspects of the classical doctrine that enhance my process understanding of God as the creator.
2. In Chapter Three of his Divine Power in Process Philosophy, David Basinger argues that the theodicy of process theism reduces to one form of the "free will" defense. In this interesting book, Basinger argues that the free will defense is successful, but that the process form of that defense fares no better, and no worse, than the free will defense in a traditional context (which holds that God created some creatures with free will, that God could "intervene" to over-ride that free will, but that God does not normally do so).
There are two important presuppositions here: first, that the category; of "intervention" is coherent, and second that God can create creatures with a free will. I will argue in this paper that whatever "intervention" may mean, any intervention that completely eliminated a creature’s freedom and subjectivity would annihilate that creature. As for the second presupposition, that God can create creatures with a free will, I wholeheartedly agree. What Basinger does not provide, however, is an explanation of how a creator-God can create an agent with genuine free will, assuming that God is the creator of all things in heaven and on earth. This explanation is what I will provide in this paper.
3. Something like this must have been Heidegger’s point when he urged us not to forget "Being" (Sein) by getting lost in the many particular "beings."
4. Cobb argues that his commitment to two ultimates is compatible with the basic thrust of Christianity. Because ultimate reality is empty, God is neither subordinated to it nor threatened by it and, thus, the concerns of monotheism are not jeopardized. This general line of thought have been developed more fully in a creative article by T. Nobuhara, "How Can Principles be More than Just Epistemological or Conceptual?: Anselm, Nagarjuna, and Whitehead."
5. A fascinating dialogue between a Buddhist, Masao Abe and six Christian and one Jewish theologian touches repeatedly on the issue of history, ethics, and personhood. The dialogue was printed as The Emptying God: A Buddhist-Jewish-Christian Conversation, edited by John B. Cobb, Jr. and Christopher Ives. Abe wants to show how the Buddhist notion of "dynamic emptiness" can shed considerable light on the Pauline notion of kenosis (Philippians 2:5-8). The notion of "kenosis" interests Christians, obviously, more than it interests most Jews. None of the six Christian partners are wholly content with Abe’s presentation of the kenotic theme in Christianity; but none can deny the genuineness of his insight into this traditional, albeit, controversial, Christian doctrine. Their hesitation primarily stems from the question of whether the notion of emptiness, conceived as a dynamic emptying of all distinctions, can sustain a commitment to ethics, history’, and personhood with the seriousness and even ultimacy that they, precisely as people standing in the Christian tradition, think necessary The Jewish participant, while less concerned with kenosis, shares their concern for the potential loss of ultimacy in the realm of historical action with its ethical norms and deep sense of personhood.
Abe has a rebuttal at the end of the book in which he tries to provide a justification for giving history and ethics, and thus persons, the kind of seriousness that the Western participants insist on. But it does not seem successful to me. The problem is precisely the way Abe would empty all distinctions. Once we empty the various distinctions, no matter how dynamically we conceive this emptiness and no matter how seriously we take the claim to have emptied emptiness (which is supposed to bring us back to our world as it is), it is impossible, on Abe’s metaphysics, to grant seriousness, let alone ultimacy, to ethics, history, and personhood. The command, for example, to love one’s neighbor loses much of its urgency if the distinction between you and the neighbor is "empty;" If the whole world is present in this "here-now," and if this "here-now" is present throughout the whole world, then the significance and even the reality of the particular developments in history have been radically compromised. In short, if we take ethics, history, and personhood seriously, and even ultimately; we must also take seriously; and even ultimately, the distinctions which serve as their presupposition. This brings us back to our claim in the main text: our doctrine of God must not only be reunited with a doctrine of Being or Being-Itself, it must also be reunited with a doctrine of particular actualities (or particular activities).
Lastly, I note that not all Buddhist scholars would accept Abe’s doctrine of emptiness. Even within the Kyoto School of Mahayana Buddhism, out of which Abe comes, there are alternative formulations of the doctrine of emptiness that do not accept the emptying of all distinctions. Such articulations of Buddhist emptiness, it would seem to me, might serve as more adequate tools in the attempt to articulate a Buddhist foundation for ethics, history, and personhood.
6. In this paper, I will not distinguish between "particularity" and "individuation." A complete analysis of Whitehead’s theory of individuation would have to analyze his understanding of the role of "regions" in the "extensive continuum." I would be willing to argue however that creativity is more basic than the extensive continuum in this regard: it is creativity, as we shall see, that makes actual entities to be real things, real facts. In addition, one could point to Whitehead’s claim that past, present, and future, are defamed, not by the extensive continuum, but the actual entities in that continuum, which in turn brings us back to the seminal role of creativity. For a fuller discussion of these issues, see Stephen T. Franklin, Speaking from the Depths: Alfred North Whitehead’s Hermeneutical Metaphysics of Propositions, Experience, Symbolism, Language, and Religion 140-69, and especially 142 and 153-54. See also Jorge Nobo’s book, Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity, which is devoted to this issue.
7. It may be that our these categories of human experience will force us beyond Whitehead’s atomism of events to some sort of enduring event or actual entity. That is, to adequately conceptualize our humanity; it may be necessary to consider the possibility of actual entities that maintain their self-identity over the course of the coming to be and the perishing of many other actual entities.
There would be several requirements for such a revision, the most basic of which is this. Whitehead has overcome Kant’s distinction between noumena and phenomena precisely because each new event includes its entire past within itself as a part of his own identity; Among other desirata, a revised understanding of an actual entity would have to maintain Whitehead’s profound refutation of the Kantian split between noumena and phenomena. I have presented the nub of Whitehead’s critique of Kant in this paper. For an in-depth analysis, see Franklin, Speaking from the Depths 78-82.
8. The classic exposition of Aquinas’ notion of esse remains Etienne Gilson’s Being and some Philosophers. In his helpful Freedom and Creation, Burrell places the issue of "being and creation" into the larger medieval context in which the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions interact. His primary commitments, however, are to Aquinas, whom he defends not only against modern criticism of the sort made by process thinkers but also against the older criticisms of Medieval Jewish, Muslim and even other Christian thinkers (e.g., Duns Scotus). W. Norris Clarke’s stimulating book, Person and Being, provides a creative interaction between Aquinas and modern scholarship, including process thought, on the issues of "being" and "person."
9. I grant that the rearrangement of eternal objects, the first-time exemplification of an eternal object, and the first time conceptual grasp of an eternal object all constitute enormously important forms of novelty in their own right. I also grant the occupation of new region in the extensive continuum is an important form of novelty. But none of these express the total newness -- the sense of never before with its associated total uniqueness and the sense of never again to which creativity points.
10. In place of Whitehead’s name, "actual entity;" I prefer the term "active entity" to describe the really real things that make up the world. In one sense of the word "process," it is not "process and reality" in my revised metaphysics, but "process is reality"’ (that is, process marks that which is most basic and most real). Only in a rather narrow sense of the word "reality" can we talk about "process and reality." To refer to process and reality, we must limit "reality" to "completed actuality;" which is but one factor in the larger dynamic of transition and concrescence.
11. Thus, I could agree with Thomas’ description of God as pure "act" if that means activity. But I could not agree with his description of God as "actual" if that means an actuality devoid of all potentiality and, thus, of all passion, or all capacity to "under-go."
12. God is an actual entity who on Whitehead’s own account never reaches a final satisfaction. Nonetheless, the divine concrescence always increases in characterization.
13. So far as I am aware, Whitehead always assumes that each eternal object is a fully determinate possibility waiting to be actualized or, to use his vocabulary, waiting to ingress into an actual entity. Nowhere does Whitehead justify his understanding of each possibility as being fully determinate, with a clear identity, prior to actualization. It would be possible to work out a view of eternal objects in which each "possibility" represents a "range" of potentiality. In that case, the actual entity’s free act of creating its own identity would entail that the actual entity also gives precision and determination to that potentiality. In a sense, in addition to creating its own identity; the concrescence would be creating a new determination of possibility. As a range of potentiality; the eternal object would still be "eternal," but the concrescing entity would create not only a new self-identity, would not only actualize a new combination of eternal objects, but would also create a new determination of the ingressed eternal objects, and those determinations would not be "eternal." I suspect that there are good reasons for Whitehead’s assumption that each eternal object is a fully determinate possibility. For example, this may be the presupposition of his understanding of symbolic logic; it may be necessary to account for precise, scientific hypotheses about the future, etc. But it would be helpful to see such arguments spelled out.
Should it be possible to interweave both views of "possibilities," i.e., in some cases as determinate characteristics and in other cases as a range of potentiality which is indeterminate within that range, then an extremely significant result would follow. The concrescing actual entity would not only choose among a set of determinate possible identities (a set of eternal objects), but it would also create, within certain limits, the identity it chooses (it would determine, within certain limits, the eternal object it chooses). That is, the concrescence would not only actualize some "prior" possibility but would, within limits, determine the possibility itself. This would result in a more radical freedom than what Whitehead himself envisioned.
Such a revision would still require that the ranges of potentiality be eternal, and thus it would not eliminate the need for the primordial nature of God. Such a revision would not assign the creature the role of creating the ranges of potentiality; rather, it would only assign the creature the role of "cutting off" a specific possibility that had previously existed only "vaguely" within the range of potentiality. To explicate this, certain analogies from mathematics come to mind. For example, between any two numbers there exist an infinite number of points corresponding, for example, to the rational numbers. Each point is specifiable with a specific rational number, but there are more points than we can actually specify. Transfinite number theory -- such as Casitor’s levels of infinity -- opens up even more interesting way’s of understanding the freedom of a concrescence.
14. In God, the eternal objects are organized at two distinct levels. The first level is also the most abstract: the collection of all eternal objects in the divine primordial nature. The second is this: God has an appetition towards the realization of certain combinations of eternal objects (the good) and an aversion to others (the evil). This appetition and aversion, which stems from God’s own subjective aim, produces an additional level of ordering of the possibilities in God’s primordial nature. For a discussion of this issue, see Franklin, Speaking from the Depths 160-62.
At an early stage of the development of his metaphysics, Whitehead had one more source of eternal objects, namely, "reversion." As he thought through the implications of the primordial nature of God, however, he dropped the category of reversion as an independent source of eternal objects. For details of this development in the category of reversion, see Lewis S. Ford, The Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics 1925-1929 235-37.
15. In the following passage, Reto L. Fetz shows that the ancients and mediaevals, including Aristotle and Aquinas, did not believe that nature could produce any new thing. Nature could only reproduce what already existed. Thus, in contrast to our modern understanding, they held that nature was not genuinely creative:
Thomas’ metaphysics is built on Aristotelian physics. This physics understands natural events in their extension through time as essentially reproductive. They are events in which the natural beings are nor produced as genuinely new natural beings, but are constantly reproduced. This conception is theoretically founded on the affirmation of the priority of actuality over potentiality, which applies, according to Aristotle, explicitly in a temporal sense to the members of species: There must always be an actual member of a species that precedes its potential successors. Thomas accepted this thesis and incorporated it into his Metaphysics of creation. (201, emphasis in the original)
According to the notion of creativity adopted in this paper, we may say that creativity-esse precisely is the establishment of the possibility of the production of new characterizations. Thus creativity-esse leads, as expressed in creativity-characterization, not merely to the world’s reproduction of old forms but also to the world’s production of characterizations that had never before been present, either explicitly or implicitly; in the world. This capacity’ to produce novel forms is, in our understanding, what we moderns and postmoderns ordinarily mean when we use "creativity" in its popular sense.
In summary, the implementation of creativity-esse in creativity-characterization allows the concrescence to alter the status of a form from that of a pure potential to an actual determinant of fact. While nature, as I will show later on, is not the source of creativity-esse, it does engage in creativity-characterization and thus is "creative" in the common use of that word in our contemporary culture.
16. The notion of creativity-characterization not only extends the capacity’ of process metaphysics to thematize human personhood, but it also points to an additional area in which a process metaphysics needs to be rethought at the deepest level. I note first the positive side. It is commonly asserted, correctly I think, that personhood is a creation, a construct. It is constructed both through the internalization of social factors and through the individual’s free choice. The development of a "self" requires an adequate nervous system and an adequate supporting environment including oxygen, food, and the like. It also needs an adequate social world. The primary mechanism for mediating between the "internal" self and the "social" world is language. (For an in-depth analysis of Whitehead’s hermeneutics of language, see Franklin, Speaking from the Depths.) Whitehead’s system illuminates this dimension of self-hood brilliantly. For example, it takes seriously the "nature versus nurture" debate while subtly integrating that causal side of our formation with the teleological side, thus affirming and explaining the genuine freedom we have to create our own identities within that causal framework. All this works strictly at the dimension of creativity-characterization.
I turn now to the side where Whitehead’s metaphysics must, in my opinion, be rethought. Despite his "reformed subjectivist principle," Whitehead does not, in my opinion, adequately address such high level human experiences as responsibility and our sense of a sustained "being-here" over time. We addressed this issue previously where I noted the need to create a more nuanced understanding of different types of actual entities. We will continue this theme in later endnotes.
17. I will consider the question of prehensions between contemporary actual entities in Section XII (a), "God as Contemporaneous with Every Other Actual Entity."
18. John Wilcox, "Monistic Interpretation of Whitehead’s Creativity"’ 164. I further note that his nominalist interpretation of creativity gives Christian significant problems in understanding how, in Whitehead’s system, past actual entities remain available for prehension by concrescing entities.
19. Personal letter from John Cobb to the author, dated November 2, 1995.
20. This is the standard description of Whitehead’s theory of concrescence. It is incomplete, however, because it does not apply to his doctrine of God. God, on Whitehead’s account, is a single actual entity whose concrescence never reaches a conclusion. Thus, the most accurate description of concrescence one that applies to God also, is not that it leads to a completely actualized self-identity without any potential for growth. Rather, as the concrescence progresses, the new actual entity makes decisions. These decisions result in an increase in definiteness in the actual entity. But at least in the case of God, this increase in definiteness never reaches a climax. The potentiality for further growth always remains.
If we were to reconceptualize conscious agents such as human beings so that, at least in this one regard, they were more like God, then we would have an entire class of actual entities which did not immediately reach complete actuality Rather they would continue to concrescence while prehending, and being prehended by; many other actual entities. In the case of these actual entities also, however, concrescence would always mean an increase in definiteness, in actualized characteristics, even though those actual entities either completely avoided or greatly postponed the attainment of a satisfaction, of a total actuality.
21. Normally, Whitehead defines "time" and, thus, "contemporaneity" in terms of transition between actual entities, and thus "time" is limited to entities occupying the extensive continuum, which of course God does not. Moreover, time does not apply to the sequence within a concrescence. Whitehead defines contemporary entities as entities in the continuum such that neither prehends the other. In contrast, God and the new entity are "contemporary," as I am using the word in this article, in the sense that God prehends the new entity and the new entity prehends God. They are contemporary precisely because they both prehend each other. For a complete explication of Whitehead’s own theory, see Franklin, Speaking from the Depths 42-51, 60-61, 132-39.
22. This claim needs several qualifications. First, God is not the only factor that can limit the range of freedom of the new concrescence; the past actual entities also can do so. Thus God’s power, both to increase and decrease the freedom of the concrescing entity, interacts with that of the past. Sometimes the character of the past can be positive, in which case God uses the resources of the Primordial Nature to enhance the range of opportunity for the new entity. Sometimes the character of those past entities can be extremely restrictive and oppressive. At a human level, we all know what it is like to be trapped in a bad situation or to be the prisoner of our own past actions. In this case also, God uses those resources of the Primordial Nature on behalf of the new concrescing entity. But -- and this is the key -- God’s activity on behalf of the new concrescing entity may result in a decrease of options for that new entity, a limitation of the new entity’s freedom. The divine power may result, for instance, in blocking the past’s poisonous influence. Whitehead himself makes this point when he quotes the phrase, "He giveth his beloved sleep." Thus, even though the divine power at the level of creativity-characterization may always be "for the good," this divine power can, and sometimes does, result in the diminishment of creaturely freedom. This is the point I stress in the main text.
This brings us to my second point. An increase in divine power can also result in an increase of creaturely freedom. Whitehead and the process tradition have emphasized this side of God’s power. Even in the case of a bad past, it is not always necessary for God to "give his beloved sleep." God as the organ of novelty (drawing upon the Primordial Nature) can often produce alternatives and options to a bad past which allow the new entity to overcome it. In short, the more power God has, even at the level of creativity-characterization, the more God can use the resources of the Primordial nature to increase the new entity’s options and range of freedom. Thus while the allocation of power at the level of creativity-characterization may be a "zero-sum game," it does not have to be. An increase in divine power can, and normally does, result in an increase in creaturely power.
23. Burrell, in his Freedom and Creation, objects to the theory that God creates by "actualizing" possibilities, where these possibilities are fully formed prior to their actualization. He writes:
For if we can speak of individuals as fully constituted short of "their" coming into existence, then existing is indeed an "accident" (or in the undifferentiated discourse of contemporary metaphysicians, a property), for it is something which "happens to" the already constituted individual; namely, its "actualization.". . So transferring the existential valence of existing to "actuality"’ has the logical effect of reducing our ordinary sense of "existing" to that of "self identity" and so picture the act of creation as one of adding existence to already constituted individuals. That is why I suggested that it effectively turns the creator into a demiurge, and centers the action in will rather than intellect, thus offering a voluntarist rendition of the divine wisdom manifested in creation. 44-45)
In talking about the concrescing entity’s creation of a self-identity, Whitehead routinely refers to it as a process of decision-making and choosing among alternatives. It would be natural to interpret this as a choice between fully determinate options (i.e., an eternal object or a set of eternal objects), each option needing only the addition of "ingression" or "actualization" to make it real. There are, however, some other considerations which must be mentioned before we can develop a full picture of Whitehead’s position on this issue.
First, Whitehead’s writings are remarkably free of references to "all-possible worlds" as if each world were fully determinate, lacking only the addition of "existence." Whitehead had an empiricist bent in his philosophy. His goal was to discover the richest and most adequate set of concepts needed to interpret this world. He never argued, to my knowledge, from the character of any possible world to the character of this world.
Second, Whitehead carefully preserved the integrity of each actual entity’s concrescence. He considered his eternal objects to be potential, though fully determinate, characteristics; that is, he considered them to be possible characteristics. But they never function as a kind of a-priori essence for the actual entity. For Whitehead, the actual entity’s freedom consists precisely in its capacity (within limits) to put these characteristics together in new ways. Thus, one does not pick up from Whitehead’s writings the sense that the concrescence is merely giving "actuality" to an already constituted self-identity; or even choosing among a set of predetermined, fully determinate options. Of course, Whitehead cannot entirely avoid the description of a concrescence as a choice between given options. According to Whitehead, God gives each new entity an "initial subjective aim," where an initial subjective aim is precisely an ideal self-identity. Nonetheless, even here one gets the impression that the given "self-identity" need not be a fully determinate "essence." It could just as well consist of certain "principles" or "parameters" that God thinks that the new concrescence should meet if, given its actual world, it is to sustain maximum intensity of experience and a maximum of achieved value both for itself and for its relevant future.
Third, in note 13, I argued that it might be possible to interpret an eternal object, not as a fully determinate possibility but as a range of potentiality. This would make the concrescence’s act of self-creation into more than a choice to actualize this-but-not-that already-fully-determinate possible identity. Rather, the actual entity would (in some cases) create the possibility that it actualizes. That is, it would specify the precise cut to be made in the "range of potentiality." Thus, the concrescence’s act of self-creation would include choosing among alternatives and would include actualizing this-but-not-that characteristic, but it would be more. It would also include the determination, within limits, among those ranges of possibilities, sometimes creating "cuts" that had never before been even conceived. Here the creature has a power that in a slight way resembles, but falls far short of, creatio ex nihilo.
Lastly; let me mention an additional nuance that flows directly from our revision of creativity. I have argued that there is only one creativity As a result, creativity-esse can never be divorced from creativity-characterization. I also argued that the two roles must not be conflated, the one being the presupposition of the other. Applied to the issue at hand, this means that while creatio ex nihilo can never the divorced from the actualization of particular eternal objects, neither can the ex nihilo ever be identified with such actualization. Rather, just as esse is the presupposition of characterization, so creatio ex nihilo is the presupposition of actualization.
24. Creativity gives the actual entity a deep particularity, making that activity we call creativity-characterization the profound expression of that actual entity’s uniqueness and subjectivity. In the previous endnote, we noticed one way in which the creature’s power of creativity characterization resembles the divine creatio ex nihilo. I may now introduce a second resemblance. Because of each actual entity’s deep particularity and self-determination, we may say that its exercise of creativity-characterization resembles slightly, but only slightly, God’s radical power of creatio ex nihilo. This should not surprise us because the entity’s power of creativity-characterization emerges out of, and, in a sense, is nothing other than the creativity-esse God bestowed upon that entity.
25. In Section VIII, "Concerning the Metaphor of ‘Inclusion,’" I discussed how each actual entity is numerically distinct from every other actual entity but also, and at the same time, internally related to every past entity. The same situation emerges in the creature’s relation to God: God and the creature are numerically distinct from each other, as required by the doctrine of creativity; and yet when the creature prehends God, God (or, more precisely, some aspects of God) becomes a part of the very identity of the creature. Thus there is a parallel between the creature’s relation to God and the creature’s relation to its past finite entities.
Genuine differences between the creature’s relation to God and to the past entities do emerge, however, at two points. First, God and the new creature are contemporaries. As Whitehead’s metaphysical system is presently constituted, the creature is contemporary with no other actual entity. (This is a point at which Whitehead’s metaphysics may need revision, if we are to account for our human experience of a strong continuity over time.)
Second, the new creature’s status as an entity in a real world comes from God’s gift of esse to that new entity. The new entity’ is related in the strongest possible sense to its creativity-esse. In other words, that esse is necessary to the new creature, not in the weak sense that if some characteristic had been different, the creature would have been different, but in the strong sense that without that esse, the new creature would not "be" at all and would have no characteristics of any sort, either essential or accidental. Let me restate this in my own vocabulary. At the level of creativity-characterization, the new entity is related to God in a way no different in principle than its relation to finite entities in its past. But at the level of creativity-esse, the new entity is related to God in that most powerful of all relations: its very esse stems from God and from God alone.
Thomas Aquinas used the phrase "participation in God" to describe something very similar. Given its neo-Platonic roots, the phrase is understandable, though still unfortunate. In a substance philosophy, such as Thomas’, "participation" carries the image of the creature "sharing" some "portion" of God’s creativity, which on my understanding would undermine the numerical uniqueness and particularity of each actual entity and, thus, its proper distinction from God.
26. As we noted in note 21, Whitehead’s definition of simultaneity (contemporaneity) presupposes that the entities are in the extensive continuum. This definition does not apply to God because God, as understood by Whitehead, is not in the extensive continuum. However, Whitehead also defined simultaneity’ in terms of prehensions. This definition (or, more precisely, this aspect of his definition) we develop in the main text.
27. For an extensive discussion of Whitehead’s use of "before" and "after," "first" and "last," "earlier" and "later," and "prior and posterior" within the concrescence, see Franklin, Speaking From the Depths 42-52.
28. There is a long tradition in the west in which actuality is identified with finitude and potentiality with infinitude. Many medieval scholars took it as a self-evident axiom that an "actual infinity" is a self-contradiction in terms. Thomas, for example, seems to have invoked this axiom in ruling out an "infinite regress of causes" in his proofs for the existence of God. In any case, there is some tension in the tradition between the identification of potentiality with infinity on the one hand and the doctrine that God is both actual and infinite on the other.
From my point of view, at the level of creativity-esse, if God transcends the distinction between actuality and potentiality, then God must also transcend the distinction between finitude and infinitude. At the level of creativity-characterization, however, God is finite in some ways and infinite in others. For example, in giving each actual entity its subjective aim, God chooses a certain range of options as appropriate for that entity’s self-characterization and rejects other options. This rejection or cutting off implies a kind of finitude. But God’s envisioning of all possibilities -- that is, God’s Primordial Nature -- is infinite or even transfinite (in Cantor’s sense of various levels of increasingly complex types of infinity). God’s prehension of all the details of the universe -- that is, God’s Consequent Nature -- displays a mixture of finitude and infinitude. The finite entities chose some options and excluded others, which is a type of finitude. In prehending this selection of options, God in a sense incorporates that finitude into the Consequent Nature. At the same time, however, God eliminates no choice ever made by the finite entities, which are themselves infinite in number. Thus God incorporates an infinitely rich number and complexity of details into the Consequent Nature.
29. To argue that God is in dynamic development, a theme shared by all process philosophies and theologies, is not to argue that God’s development is completely open. It is not to argue, for example, that God might turn into a malicious being. The Bible affirms a God who remains unchangingly loyal to the covenants with "the people of God." The New Testament calls God, "the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow of turning." From a process point of view, this is to say that God has a subjective aim towards goodness, variety; and ever-increasing intensity of (rich and positive forms of) experience. This is the permanent and changeless side of God. Here we can speak truly and faithfully about God’s self-identical and unalterable nature. Whatever adventures God may experience during the divine concrescence, they take place within this context. Unlike Nietzsche’s "Overman," not all things are possible for God, and there is absolutely no reason, from a process perspective, why they should be.
30. Whitehead’s position and a defense of it are discussed in note 27.
31. More precisely, each finite entity occupies a region in the extensive continuum from which it feels the world. The new entity- may be said to "occupy" that region. The concrescence includes the entire past continuum and at least some aspects of all past entities in that past section of the continuum. (See the discussion in Section VIII, "Concerning the Metaphor of ‘Inclusion’"). But, and this is the point, the new entity includes that past from the perspective of a particular location, i.e., from the position of the region it occupies. This region always has temporal as well as spatial boundaries. And each stage of the concrescence presupposes the entire temporal spread of that occupied region. Whitehead taught that God, in contrast to the finite entities, does not occupy a particular region in the extensive continuum. It is unclear, but apparently Whitehead also held that God does not occupy the entire continuum.
32. After completing this paper, I discovered Lewis S. Ford’s article, "Boethius and Whitehead on Time and Eternity." On the issue of divine eternity, Ford and I have come to some remarkably similar conclusions. Ford states his case using the helpful notion of an "inclusive simplicity." An inclusive simplicity is "inclusive" because it is a whole that contains within itself subordinate parts, none of which loses its distinctive identity. It is "simple" because the whole in which these parts are included cannot be reduced to those parts. This may be applied to the process view of God. The divine concrescence contains many parts, specifically it includes the prehensions of each finite entity. But the divine concrescence also has an integral wholeness that cannot be reduced to those included parts.
Building on the distinction between "everlasting" and "eternal," Ford argues that God is both everlasting and eternal. God is "everlasting" in the sense that God prehends all finite entities as they occur, one after the other, without any terminus. But God is eternal in the sense that these finite entities are taken up into the divine concrescence where each stage and each element in the divine life is co-present with every other.
My paper adds to Ford’s position in three points. First, whereas Ford holds that "we cannot claim even to approximate any concrete intuition of what this divine presence is like" (52), I would hold that the finite creature’s own concrescence provides it with an analogue of eternity which, as I explain in the main text can take several forms. Second, as I also argue in the main text, each finite entity, because it derives its creativity-esse from God, actually makes contact with God’s eternity I confess, however, that this contact takes place adverbially; that is, behind our backs and in the corner of our eye -- not directly before us. Lastly, the foundation for these analogies and points of contact is God’s creation of each creature ex nihilo through the gift of creativity-esse to that creature. The distinction between creativity-esse and creativity-characterization lies at the heart of our reformulation of the relation between God and creativity-and is not duplicated, to the best of our knowledge, anywhere else.
The three points do not contradict Ford’s position, but they certainly do add new elements to Ford’s discussion, creating a somewhat different context in which to appropriate his insights.
33. Perhaps it would be possible to develop an expanded view of a human being. According to Whitehead, a human being includes a "regnant" actual entity It may be possible to enlarge the notion of an "actual entity" so that some created actual entities, while having a temporal beginning, just as any other finite actual entity; would not immediately attain a "satisfaction" or stasis. Thus, a human being would include a regnant actual entity in an expanded sense. That is, this regnant actual entity would prehend, and be prehended by the many actual entities in that person’s body. Thus, there would be the introduction of new data from the body throughout the life of that regnant actual entity. And the actual entities in the body-or at least some of them-would prehend that regnant actual entity during its concrescence. In that case, human beings at the level of this regnant actual entity or "soul," would have a truly profound analogy in their own innermost being of God’s eternity.
34. Instead of "physical pole," one might suggest the term, "absorptive pole," "receptive pole," or "pole of inclusion (of other, actual entities and eternal objects)." For "mental pole," one might suggest "reactive pole," "self-creative pole," or even "pole of transformation." Whitehead’s own terms, however, are now well established in process thought. That the term "mental pole" carries no necessary reference to consciousness is clear enough to process scholars. Yet it remains a misleading phrase to those who, lacking a technically precise knowledge of Whitehead’s vocabulary, understand the term "mental pole" by analogy to the ordinary meaning of "mental."
35. This is extremely rough as an exegesis of Whitehead. In large part, the power of his system stems, in fact, from the subtle way’s in which he interweaves actuality and potentiality in physical purposes, propositions, conscious perceptions, and intuitive judgments. For an extensive analysis of this side of Whitehead’s philosophy, see Franklin, Speaking from the Depths.
36. I can see no way of ascertaining a priori the extent of God’s power, or lack of power, to coerce. The only way to come to a reasonable estimate is to examine the world and to note the mix of good and evil that we find it in. (We may assume that God always works for the good.) At the level of creativity-characterization, not only can God limit the powers of the creatures, but the creatures can limit the power of God. For example, God can only constitute the new entity’s actual world out of the past actual entities that actually exist. If those past entities are consistently evil or trivial, then, perhaps God can do no more than mitigate the influence of that past.
If we conclude that God has some, but not unlimited, power to coerce, we must still confront the traditional argument that it is sometimes best not to use one’s powers of coercion even if one has such powers. It has often been noted, for example, that the capacity for pain adds to the ability to survive. Again the creation of mature persons requires a world in which there are serious moral choices with serious consequences, some of which imply that innocent people will suffer. Such considerations add to the difficulty of coming to a definitive conclusion about the extent of God’s power to coerce. Nonetheless, given the clear existence of Nazi extermination camps, chattel slavery; and intense suffering in some small children, the conclusion does seem inescapable, that God’s power to coerce in particular situations is significantly limited.
It is certainly possible that God, at the level of creativity-characterization, may have other powers in addition to persuasion and coercion. For example, consider this analogy: a master chess player may not be able to predict or coerce the moves of an erratic, unskilled opponent and yet by greater insight and knowledge be able to guarantee victory in the long run. Perhaps God may not be able to coerce or even perfectly predict the decisions of each finite entity and yet, given the conceptual resources of the primordial nature, God may know the general outcome in the long run. Christians have also believed that the resurrection of Jesus points to God’s capacity to overcome evil, at least in the long run for those who trust God. The resurrection points to an additional power: the power to overcome evil by absorbing it and transforming its consequences. Even the resurrection, however, should it be true, does not completely clarify for us the exact mix of God’s persuasive, coercive, cognitive, and transformative powers.
We may conclude that only our actual experience can guide us to an estimate of the extent of God’s powers at the level of creativity-characterization, but that it is difficult in the extreme to come to any precise conclusion. When we move to creativity-esse, however, we may know with certainty that God’s power to create ex nihilo is absolute and unlimited.
37. For a complete and technical elaboration of boxy Whitehead challenges the Kantian bifurcation of reality into noumena and phenomena. See the reference in note 7.
38. A substance, according to the Cartesian tradition, is a subject of change that is itself unchanging except for (a) purely external changes such as location, etc. and (b) its creation or annihilation. In addition if substance X incorporates substance Y, then Y must cease to exist as Y Material substances, according to Descartes, are inert, lacking all subjectivity.
This is not the only possible definition of a substance. As an alternative, we might consider a substance, for example, to be a subject that, while not unchanging, maintains its integrity over a series of interactions with other subjects in which it partially or wholly incorporates those other subjects into its own identity and in which those other subjects partially or wholly incorporate it into their identities. On this definition, God is a substance in Whitehead’s system, for God remains a single subject with a consistent subjective aim and structure while nonetheless prehending, and being prehended by, all other actual entities. On this view of substance, a human being, if we adopt the suggestions in notes 7, 20, and 33 would also be a substance. But this definition of a "substance" would also allow a substance to be an "event," which is a radical departure from the definition that prevailed in Descartes and his heirs as well as from the earlier Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of substance.
40. For a discussion of Whitehead’s view of consciousness and its context, not just in the mind but in the larger world, see Franklin, Speaking from the Depths, 28-29, 245-47.
41. Of course, at the level of characterization, God can also limit our freedom and thus threaten that same "reality-founding ego."
42. One task of religious language and practice, at least in the Christian tradition, is to shift the living presence of God from the shadowy background of ones consciousness to center-focus.
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