Chapter 5: The Changing World and the Experience Human
The value of a philosophical structure is directly related to how well it illuminates our experiences as human beings. All other considerations are secondary to this one question: does the integrated philosophy we have constructed up to this point in any way add to our understanding of our own experiences or how those experiences relate to that of the universe complete? When we look at process philosophy in the manner we have described in the previous chapters, do we see anything new that can help us understand ourselves, or our place in existence? Without these questions answered, no philosophy can truly be called useful or valuable on any level. For it is not enough that the great thinkers of the world try to think up good ideas just because they fit into some reasoning framework; it’s the application, the usefulness, that defines a philosophy’s true value. Great minds must never reserve themselves to sitting on mountaintops, in old houses and advanced institutions of higher learning, thinking up complex theories and intricate systems of thought that have no real use in our daily lives. Perhaps one great complaint that could be made about both Whitehead and Teilhard is that while their philosophies have been shown to be very illuminating to human experiences, they themselves often use language and modes of thinking that seem unintelligible to the common reader. At this point, it may seem that this treatise is dedicated to working the same way, and perhaps too much ascent to complex language has been made (we may want to work on this BIG TIME) but a major part of the impetus behind this essay was to try and find a way to make the individual philosophies of Whitehead and Teilhard even MORE illuminating to human existences, and that quest will begin in earnest in this chapter. The reason for the construction up to this point, the technical language and the deep, abiding study of process thought as whole, is because in order to see if any philosophy (or philosophies) helps to illuminate our lives as individuals and as the human species, we must first have a philosophy to work FROM. In the last chapter, we began a general philosophical integrative process, and from that base of assumptions we will move towards a more detailed worldview, one that expands our knowledge and understanding of both secular and religious experiences. In the following sections, we will try to see how such ideas as Omega as Divine Aim, Mechanical and Organic Processes, Aesthetical and Organic Geneses, and the end of secular and religious compartmentalization as we have described them can be used to help illuminate the current human understanding of history, socio-economic (social) existence, the experience of the individual, and finally general religious experience.
II. Integrative Process And The Historical Experience
a. Why History?
When examining the value of our Teilhardian-Whiteheadian view it is important to begin by looking at the historical becoming of our world and species, for both men concentrated in different ways on the historical experience as a major inspiration and support for their ideas. Teilhard’s primary field of expression was paleontology, which naturally demands a detailed study of history, and Whitehead’s theory was deeply rooted in anthropology and sociology, which are similarly very historically oriented. Another reason history is an important field of examination when it comes to process thought is because history itself is very process-relational. What that means is that when you look at history its easy to see a long, detailed process of becoming that is composed of events that create by unification of past experience. Many could point out that quite often the world seems in regression when historically viewed, it seems to be falling instead of transcending, but overall there is a definite sign of change and advance that involves the unification of separate parts into a cohesive, organic whole. The Dark Ages, perhaps one of the longest periods of regression in human history, only lasted about 1000 years, compared to 20,000 years of known human growth. History is the endless integration of human experiences into the experience of the human species complete, and any test of a process theory should inevitably begin there.
b. Historical Regression and The Nature of Suffering
Both process perspectives provide us with a unique view of the nature of evil and suffering, and thus also give various explanations for the reason for regression found at varying points within history. One of these regressive periods, perhaps the most well known to us today (because of its close proximity in the temporal scheme) is the rise of fascism and totalitarianism, which included the domination of Europe by the Nazi Party. This terrible period of evil and suffering threw a black cloud across the planet, and its effects are still evident in almost everything in the current socio-political scheme to this day. The fascists killed millions upon millions, and changed the very face of human history for every point afterwards; the holocaust alone impacts the becoming of individual human entities and organic human societies daily. In the last chapter we talked of the necessity of finding a way to transcend the Whiteheadian views of evil as a misuse of free will and of suffering valued by the growth of the universe, as well as the Teilhardian view of suffering and evil as a necessary part of our own growth towards Omega. In order to reach for such a conceptualization, perhaps the best place to start is in the historical view, because it is there that the limitations of each view and the value of transcending them becomes most apparent. For a Whiteheadian, the ultimate triumph over the evil of the Nazi era comes because God, and humanity itself, will still take value from such a historical setback. However, is it fair to say that the value pulled from the regression was not inherent in the regressive element itself, what I mean is, do we deny the intuition that suffering in some ways is meant as a means by which humanity can perfect itself? The Whiteheadian view misses the fact that communally, humanity has needed its challenges so it can face something ugly within itself. Hitler’s Nazis embodied a principle that has dominated humankind for centuries. In many ways, seeing the extreme nature of hatred, isolationism, colonialism, classism, racism, taken to such extremes caused us to look at our own selves, no doubt the holocaust of the Jews is a root cause of the galvanization of the west’s own movement towards an end to such practices as segregation. If we had not faced the Nazis, we may never have tended to globalization, and in the end, our whole of history has been pointing to a showdown of such magnitude, one that would finally begin a whole new chapter for the human species, such change cannot come without upheaval, however painful it may be. Thus the Whiteheadian view concentrates too much on the nature of individual becoming, and ignores the organic nature of the human species complete. The Teilhardian view conceptualizes the Nazi party as a necessary part of collective humanity moving into new areas of growth, the natural part of our evolutionary move towards Omega. The limitation here comes in the application of its principle to individual becoming experiences of which the Nazi societal organism was composed. In other words, while the collective organism-society of the Nazis could be looked at as a necessary part of human communal becoming, the individuals that it was composed of must still be looked at as supremely responsible for the evil they wrought. In the end, those people who took part in the mass killing of the Jews and other atrocities cannot be looked at as simply the victim of historical circumstance. Whatever else is true about human evolution and historical victories, people who took part in the Nazi rise embodied things to overcome, and chose of their own free will to negatively prehend the best humanity could be and opt for what its most evil aspects could become. The ultimate valuation of the moment still gives God final say on what is right and wrong for the individual, and anyone who chooses the other side is choosing to deny the divine aim inherent in every experience. Nor must we put too much of the Nazis defeat on the side of necessity. Many writers have pointed out that the rise of Fascism was doomed to destroy itself, and its very nature dictated its own defeat. However, we do not want to consider what horrible effects would have come to the world had those who stood up and defied the evil of the Nazis not done so, and many did at great personal cost. Those that took up responsibility to defeat hatred and tribal logic, took a stand for the true divine aim of humanity, and ensured that we would find our way out of darkness, a test taken for our own advancement does not necessitate whether we pass or fail, we do. Further, those who choose to become part of an animated dark force within humanity still choose to deny the call of the guiding mind of the universe and heed the darkest impulses of this world.
b. The Omega in History
Simply put, we can learn a lot about historical regression by looking at Omega as the essence of the divine aim, present in every moment of becoming. The Omega is both social and individual; it exists as the simultaneous prehended best reality for the human species and that point of “perfection” that drives individual beings forward. It is simultaneously the binding point of personal love, and its source. The human society complete is the most used source of prehensions for any individual becoming of which it is composed. In other words, the prehensions of reality that any individual human uses to self-create comes from the human society that individual is a part of. However, societies can be looked as subspecies within the realm of consciousness each growing and receding depending on its ability to stretch beyond into an even more organic state closer to Omega; an individual relates to the subspecies of which they are a type more readily than humanity complete. This does not decry the fact, however, that few individuals of a reality lack the ability to transcend those more immediate forces to which they are exposed. The Omega is present NOW for each INDIVIDUAL, and individuals are always capable of prehending their own best possible becoming, although their choices can be made more difficult due to the social organism of which they are a part. The following story is a great illustration:
In August of 1943 Austrian peasant, Franz Jaggerstatter was executed for treason because he refused to serve in Hitler's armed forces. Before that fateful day Jaggerstatter has lived most of his life in a tiny Upper Austrian village of St. Radegund. He was a devout Roman Catholic and daily communicant.
Long before the Nazi's had come to power he recognized that Nazism was evil. As a result when he was called up to serve in the armed forces of the Third Reich he refused on the grounds that the Nazis were fighting an unjust war. In his own words:
"I cannot and may not take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war....I cannot turn the responsibility for my actions over to the Fuhrer....Does anyone really think that this massive blood-letting can save European Christianity or bring it to a new flowering ? ...Is it not more Christian to offer oneself as a victim right away rather than first have to murder others who certainly have a right to live and want to live--just to prolong one's life a little while ?"
Jaggerstatter had read the Bible often and had come to the conclusion that no Christian could serve in the armies of Hitler and still be Christian! One cannot knowingly participate in evil and still be followers of Jesus Christ. Before Jaggerstatter chose to reject his call to serve in the armed forces he had consulted his local priest and Bishop. Both had told him to enlist. But he could not do so in conscience. Such a man is an example of what it means to follow one's conscience in faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Such a choice by an individual must be based on the understanding that sometimes one must stand alone for truth--all leaders are ultimately forced to do so if they wish to remain leaders, especially in the Christian community.
At the present time there is a movement in Austria to have Franz Jaggerstatter canonized a saint for his heroic Christian witness. Such a movement helps to point out a central fact of Christian life--that when open to God's grace, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Jaggerstatter summarized what he believed and how that could meet the signs of the times in the following manner:
"The situation in which we Christians of Germany find ourselves today is much more bewildering than that faced by the Christians of the early centuries at the time of their bloodiest persecution...I am convinced that it is still best that I speak the truth even though it costs me my life. For you will not find it written in any of the commandments of God or of the Church that a man is obliged under pain of sin to take an oath committing him to obey whatever might be commanded him by his secular ruler. We need no rifles or pistols for our battle, but instead spiritual weapons--and the foremost of these is prayer."
The implications of such a life cannot be ignored: no matter how much society may act as an organic whole, no matter how much societal prehensions influence an individual, that individual is still presented a higher calling, a higher prehension, one that cannot be discounted without a choice being made to do so. Thus Omega stands within each individual becoming, presenting to them the highest possibility for man. Like Teilhard, Jaggerstatter saw this possibility, this guiding force in the form of Christ Himself, and using this image transformed himself into a light that will shine throughout history as a point where individual becoming overcame the forces of societal becoming and revealed the true power of the Omega.
History is the first proving ground of process thought. It is in the context of history that such thinking is most often applied and examined. History IS process, and how well our new integrative process philosophy applies to human experience is going to depend on how well it enlightens our understanding of the historical perspective. Our historical experience is a story made up of stories, an experience composed of experiences somehow thread together in a cohesive organic unit. Some of these experiences are stories of triumph and the power of the human spirit; others are stories of setbacks and defeats. Paradoxically, from seeds planted during those defeats our triumphs often come, and it is obvious that in some sense the defeats are a basic part of the growth. However, Omega must be seen as both corporate and individual, as both the result of the becoming process and something inherent in every aspect of it. When humanity is confronted by the possibilities Omega contains, it must overcome obstacles, when an individual is presented those same possibilities, he/she must overcome all questions within and choose the highest choice over all others presented. Responsibility and necessity must go hand-in-hand, the power of self-creation and the inherent problems in the advance of human consciousness, are bound together, only once we gain an understanding of both, can we truly move towards a complete understanding of such ideas as individuality, good and evil, the nature of human existence, and the place of the individual within it.
III. The Socio-Economic Experience
Intimately related to the historical experience of mankind are the social and economic experiences that shape our current world. It is out of past communal prehensions and experiences that the modern human experience has been created, and in general much of what we talk of in this section will expand what we saw in the last. The difference is that here we will try to show more readily how a view balancing the organics of Teilhard and the mechanics of Whitehead can effectively help us understand the nature of man as a social and self-creating being, and see how the source of man’s interconnection: namely economics, can further be enlightened by such a view.
a. Social Constructions and Organic Experience
One of the most effective ways to understand the nature of societies from an integrative process view is by looking at each “social subspecies” of the human collective as valuated by its ability to operate more like an individual organism in and of itself. In other words, each society is a living being, an organic collection of experiences interconnected and moving in some ways with a collective consciousness, the survival of a society and its values is dependent on how well the organism operates. The economic and political success of modern societies is directly related to how well those societies act in an organic way. Those that move more with a group mind, such as under democratic and free market systems, are decidedly more successful than those that are governed by highly individualized systems of control, such as dictatorships. One objection here may be to the free market system, come may claim Marxism as a more communal way of doing things, but there is a mistake often made here. Living systems exist through a process of group satisfaction by individual satisfaction. If every collection of cells (such as the body’s organs) does not gain satisfaction by its existence, the whole of the body will not gain satisfaction either; you cannot be satisfied if your hand is burning. Communist systems underestimate the power given to the government under Marxism, those that control the economic systems, whether they possess the wealth or not, are in command of great power, and wind up with a system that neither satisfies its individual parts nor truly takes on an organic structure. However, it must also be noted that classic economic models must also be rethought as we move into a wider and wider human organic society. For many process thinkers have noted that the overt individualism inherent in normal market models does not take into account a complete understanding of human nature, for it is not fully recognized in such a system that an individual can gain so much power from economic success that they actually gain the ability to manipulate the system to the derision of the organic whole. What, then, are the lessons to be taken from process philosophy in general and our Teilhard-Whitehead fusion philosophy in particular? The key to understanding how self-satisfaction and organic function interact, one must understand two aspects of the nature of self: individual satisfaction and self-transcendence. Process philosophies of both types suggest that through individuation, unification will occur. What this means is, humans are social organisms. An individual cannot find true satisfaction except by transcending the self and in some way interacting with the whole. The problem comes from the fact that individual satisfaction can be supplemented by inauthentic living, one can trick oneself into feeling transcendent when in fact personal growth is nil. It is very easy to surround oneself with so much money, power, and material wealth that the true nature of self-satisfaction as found in relation with the whole can be lost. Thus the organic whole has a right to protect itself by putting strict checks and balances on those systems of economic growth that allow individuals to gain great power. Certain strict stock market laws, put in place due to the depression of the 30s, were recently lifted in the late 90s, the result was an unnaturally large Bull Market, one that was manipulated by certain companies until the bottom fell out, allowing certain individuals to get disproportionably rich while many hard working, middle class individuals were devastated economically. However, this does not decry the fact that transcendence of societies often results from the freedom of individuals to transcend their selves. Reinhold Neibuhr, in his book The Children of the Darkness and The Children of The Light went into the subject of process-relational economics in detail, his book is perhaps one of the greatest and most useful examinations of the proper understanding of society and economics from the process point of view ever written. The question now becomes: to what extent does our Whiteheadian-Teilhardian integrative philosophy enhance our ability to model a socio-economic scheme that enlightens the nature of self-fulfillment, self-transcendence and the organic nature of societal experience? Understanding the mechanics of Whitehead and the organics of Teilhard can in fact help us understand how society has formed in our society and will form in the future. In some ways, Whitehead understood better and had a better model for how the social and self-creating aspects of human existence interacted with one another, while Teilhard had a better understanding of how organic systems operate. Quite simply, the Whitehead tells us all the parts, and Teilhard helps us put them together. Whitehead was right when he said individual and social existence is intimately intertwined, a truly self-transcending being naturally moves the whole forward, though usually it is a slow process, slower than what I think Whitehead realized. Teilhard’s general mistrust of OVERT individuality, his fear of individuals rising possessed of great power, the idea that those individuals and groups that divert growth will fall away and die out, indicates an overt trust in the biological systems that cannot always be adhered to. The human society that creates evil must inevitably fight it off, lest a “tumor” grow too large to deal with. A society made of individuals who receive their prehensions from the group must necessarily be responsible for controls that prevent an individual from becoming anathema to the organism complete. The end goal, however, is not a complex series of controls that can often serve to give other individuals overt power, rather the end goal, the divine aim that pull humanity towards Omega, is a society of individuals controlled by the society of individuals. Part of this is accomplished through the media; information is power, especially where the social organism is involved. The rise of the Internet, that modern symbol of Teilhard’s Noosphere, is but one example of a widening sphere of control that is shared by individuals within societies. As the individuals take more direct control, the world prehends a greater reality that guides the world to even greater heights of directed collective consciousness, eventually embracing the mind of the universe itself which is present with us and guiding us to our highest level of consciousness. Again we see the importance of recognizing the power and nature of self-creation concerning individuals, and the value of looking at the entire scheme in an organic way.
b. Aesthetic Growth And Genesis of Societies
Now one may ask, to what extent does our understanding of the aesthetic and organic growth of processes enlighten us to the nature of societal organisms? In the above section, we suggested that societies themselves could be seen as organic systems, from one point of view as collectively a subspecies of the human species complete, or as a singular organism in and of itself; the survival of a society depends on how well it favors the latter over the former. When we observe earlier societal interactions, we see certain subspecies or organisms growing as any other life form(s) would when ruled by tangential energy, one group would gain power, become more dominant due to certain evolutionary factors, and thus would absorb other subspecies into its community, utilizing any factors that would be useful and leaving the other to the sideline. However, as history grew more and more on the level of consciousness, as human beings became more fully themselves, there was a gradual reduction in the old evolutionary paradigm. In the old paradigm, the one would dominate, and the other would die off, but in the much more recently-developed paradigm, they would co-exist, as a non-competitive grouping, independent of the collective, changing an organism individual by individual rather than collectively, and this seems to lead us down the line towards radial energy’s ability to unify by individuation. In Laymen’s Terms, what this means is that in humanity’s earlier days (until about 600 BCE), a singular society would exist more like a subspecies and less like an individual. A subspecies, due to certain advantages, would then overtake another, absorbing it and allowing its weaker or undesired factors to fall to the wayside. However, as radial energy became more influential, and tangential energy continued to decline in importance, the older rules no longer applied. An individual, if possessed of enough understanding of divine aim, if capable of expressing a higher aesthetic value effectively, could transform other individuals, and even if defeated militarily the idea of which they were possessed would live on, spreading through the society like wildfire. This process of individual alignment with aesthetic aim, transforms societies into less of a subspecies and more of a singular individual. A great example of this can be seen in the spawning and growth of the Christian Church. Christ has been prehended by many to be the supreme example of aesthetic value, he is beauty, morality, and truth all rolled into one, he is, for many, the embodiment of the individual and communal divine aim, and represented to Teilhard the very essence and form of Omega. Christ’s message, one of individual fulfillment through total devotion to God and humanity, struck a cord within many who heard it. Although the earliest Christians were constantly killed, tortured and maimed, the very heart of the idea did not die, in fact, it was able to transform the very society that threatened it: The Roman Empire, into the center of Christian society. Further the nature of this society was not one of a species within a species, but rather of a single body, one living organic unit, moved by a singular mind, and for a singular purpose. A Christian society cuts through many barriers: racial, cultural, if you are a “good Christian” and you can find another “good Christian”, you have found another part of yourself, that is the power of the Christian message, and other societies like it. Another more secular example could be found in the rise of the United States. When the American Colonies revolted, it may have seemed to be particularly anti-organic, a societal organism turning against itself, but there was a higher force that was guiding it. Those that fired the “shot heard round the world”, may have had ulterior motives but the animating force behind the revolution, the “Spirit” of it, the ideas that were its foundation, had universal appeal, partially because they were based on spiritual intuition applied to secular human society. The idea of all men created equal, of endowment of gifts by heaven that are inherent within them, ie, the inherent human dignity and value present within every human being, the concept of man ruled not by man but by law, all have their beginnings in philosophical and religious groups. Thus sometimes the growth of a society may not seem to be, or may not in fact be, for the betterment of the organic whole, but rather for the advance of the individuals of which that whole is composed. A society of individuals that then transcend themselves creates a transcendent whole organism, which will similarly act more organically and naturally move towards a greater sense of satisfaction by individuals moving towards self-fulfillment through self-transcendence. Naturally, the ideas of the American Revolution became exported back into the original organism of European society, and transformed them, further unifying the world by advancing individuation. The danger comes when that society itself begins to grow stagnant, for under the new paradigm any organic society that begins to work less organically, usually by limiting the capacity for true individual satisfaction but also by interacting less successfully with other organisms working towards unification more effectively, is destined to self-destroy, break apart, or be absorbed into the newer paradigm by those closer towards exemplifying the Omega-aim.
The final point is that if you look at the nature of true growth, and in fact the nature of radial growth, it tends more towards aesthetic growth, more than simply growth of complexity and growth of an organic nature. A revolution may seem to act in a way that is cancerous to the rest of the human societal organism, but it can just as easily be a break away from a more-species oriented form of society to a more-organism form of society, and often this is defined by the aesthetic nature of growth-towards-Omega over the organic nature. The mechanics of Whitehead’s aesthetic universe can give us a greater view into how unification by individuation can take place, as well as give us a superior understanding of the nature of radial energy’s ability to move us forward over tangential energy. However, without the full “philosophy of organism” in view, certain aspects of our historical growth are shaded, and seeing how it all “fits together” is far more difficult without a definite point to the process, The Omega, in view. That is because if we are making value judgments, they must not be arbitrary, and if we are to try to find an arrow of order within the context of society and history, a comparative by which we may make a value judgment ourselves, we must be possessed of some idea of the “point” of the genesis of our current societies, and those to come.
IV. The Individual Experience
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Whitehead’s philosophy is that it gives us a very wide and in-depth picture into the nature of individuality and free will. I would daresay that no postmodernist has a greater understanding of the nature of self-creation without the abandonment of any kind of absolute moral order, and without negation of any use of a god-concept. Without a doubt, Whitehead’s view of how an individual entity constructs its decisions and builds its reality allows us to retain our understanding of human beings as social beings that relate to other individuals and the universe complete without descending into a new grouping of excuses, which was the reason for the rise of existentialism, positivism and objectivism: religious philosophies had degraded into easy outs for anyone who “believed”. The evil in the world was the fault of the devil, the good in the world was the absolute plan of God acting in the world, and humans were almost left out of the very history and society that they were creating. Whitehead demands that we understand each experience within the field of “solitariness”. The idea of all experiences being intimately related to all others may seem to reduce the self-creating factor of individual becomings, seeing as an individual can only create itself based on what other experiences have created before. It may also seem that by turning individuals into the constituents of a larger species-becoming-organism that we reduce their own ability to make decisions for themselves by making them influenced and dependent on the organic whole. The truth is, however, that by utilizing our new integrative process philosophy we can gain a deeper understanding of the way in which beings exist “separate from the group”. Prehensions are pre-created datum, all sensory information, all knowledge, all influences that an individual uses to create their reality, are created BEFORE the data is received by the epochal occasion, the individual experience. Thus all experiences self-create in a solitary way, the being creates itself separate from the rest of existence, it is the information that the experience uses to create itself that comes from a societal influence. So while the creation process may be influenced by pre-created experiences (as represented by prehension), the actual occasion of self-creation happens within a sphere of existence, a reality, that is only that of the becoming/being itself. Further, Teilhard’s understanding of the organic interaction of becomings can begin to widen our understanding of how these individual “separate” becomings can still fit together into a cohesive whole.
a. Self-Fulfillment and Self-Transcendence
One big question that has arisen throughout our study of human experience is this: to what degree is an individual satisfied by its relationship with the whole, and to what extent is an individual satisfied by its own self-creation? In other words, we must define what we mean by “self-fulfillment” and what we mean by “self-transcendence”, and try to find a way by which the two modes of experiential satisfaction are concomitant with one another. When we look at self-fulfillment, it is often more beneficial to observe the Whiteheadian view of satisfaction of experience. When an experience/becoming is initiated, that is, when an experience can be said to “begin”, it is in fact initiated by the satisfaction that is expected to come at the end of the temporal markers that we can point to at its “end”. A child is born because of the hopes of his parents that he/she will grow to be a fuller, more advanced version of the parents themselves; an atom begins being affected by the structure of another atom so that they can at some point become unified in a molecule; and a painter begins painting to creates something definitive; these are all examples of experiential initiation, and that initiation is in fact intimately tied to the experiences prehended possible outcome. No experience begins unless the experience itself has a definitive end of satisfaction, and thus an individual must invariably try to reach for a level of self-satisfaction, independent of the collective. However, the nature of this satisfaction is not merely predicated on the individual’s own expectations of self, in part it is influenced by the prehened possibilities of which we are all a part, the universe’s satisfaction is part of what satisfies the individual, and part of the prehended possibilities of self includes Omega, and a view of a “oneness” and “otherness”, which is present in all experience. Therefore, part of what satisfies us is what satisfies the universe, for we are but a part of a larger whole that seeks its own self-satisfaction. That is the importance of seeing the mind of the universe, and Omega, as something that is growing within the universe itself, not something merely outside it or something we are growing towards, but something that is moving us and moving with us right NOW. If we conceptualize Omega as an active part of the mind of the universe, growing and changing with it, then we can see our own assent to self-satisfaction as an assent to the satisfaction of all creation, and thus self-transcendence is in fact an inherent part of self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment. In order to truly be a complete being, one must ascend to otherness, ascend to the order of the universe, or else something will be missing and true satisfaction will never be achieved. Ascent to this mind, invariably means ascent to the whole in some fashion, we satisfy our sense of connection to the universe by being a part of the societal organism of what we are apart. However, this does not always mean an easy decision, and often it is better to seek a true growth of self over complete loss of self to the betterment of another. The mind of the universe wants to be happy THROUGH our own happiness, and living life zestfully, whatever that may mean for you, is the path by which the transcendence of the universe takes place. Responsibility to the organic whole must always be tempered with a true search for better living and happiness, without zestful self-satisfaction, the move towards Omega can never take place, and sometimes ascent to the universal order means ascent to your own fulfillment. If a person, group, or family is so in need you find the zest drained from your own existence, better you abandon that other member of the organic unit to its own self-creation (or destruction) than lose any hope of successfully finding satisfaction in your own experiences. As Russell Pregeant writes so succinctly, “As the our own inner feelings have told us all along, we cannot utterly negate the drive toward fulfillment as the individuated selves we are…what I am not called to do (by the ordering mind of existence) is to deny all personal dignity and sense of worth.” (Mystery Without Magic, 130) The Omega is unification by individuation not a pull towards unification at the complete loss of the individual self.
b. The Search for Truth
When searching for a final understanding of self-fulfillment by transcending oneself through service of the universal order, you may begin to question whether there is an ultimate organic point to the general aesthetic growth of the universe. For we have shown that ultimately, service to the group is secondary to service to the more advanced moral order of the universe, that it is the ordering mind, the Omega itself. By willing ourselves towards the highest order, we will invariably conflict with certain parts of the older orders that came before. However, in general, assents to the higher order, the higher ideal, whether political, economic, social, or personal, will have a tendency towards complexity-consciousness, and even radical ideas will usually have a more unifying effect, they have to, or else they will inevitably die off or decrease to the point of negation, that is evident from our historical experience. Ascent to the highest order is assent not necessarily to a greater conformity of what the order of the world is, but rather to what the order of the world COULD be. Thus we once again see the value of seeing Omega as present here and now, present as a possibility that the universe is using to guide us forward, as well as the ultimate point of the process. Whitehead considered aesthetics to be the highest order of valuation, but for many, truth and beauty are one and the same. By seeking to understand what we truly are, we then reach forward to what we all one day could become. We seek to find a path by which we can most effectively and accurately understand our universe and our place within it through science, religion, and many other forms of experiential study; all of our studies are the studies of experience; science and religion are but two sides of the same cosmic coin. Searching these roads to understanding as a singular unit, seeking an end to the compartmentalization of our spiritual and secular existence, will cause further radical moves away from the general societal organism that is “mainstream society”. Some of these moves may not be possessed of an ascent to higher order, but invariably some will. Testing all things against the spirit, truly searching in ourselves the highest possibilities, will help us find our way through these confusing times. If enough find the way to self-transcendence, and through that group transcendence, then perhaps the possibility of the Omega is truly just a reality waiting to happen. Our enemies, as always, are fear, laziness, and close-mindedness. The way in which we bring down these stumbling blocks is through a search for genuine living, and avoiding the weakness that always limits any move towards more complexity, namely optimism without prudence, self-importance, and a general non-dogmatic dogma that limits us from seeing the complete value of our traditional modes of understanding. We can never pretend to be too sure of ourselves, lest the basic ideas upon which our theories are based become moot.
V. The Religious Experience
Finally, we move to the ultimate expression of relatedness in solitariness, that is, the primary mode by which one relates to the universe while building it from within. All decisions are the act of self-creation, and some set system is going to decide within each event how that experience will be played out. This is baseline intuition, the most basic “feeling” or rather valuation of prehensions, by which any mechanism is going to self-create. In atoms, this is determined by structure and by the created forces of the surrounding atoms, the structure of the atom will take the forces of some but not others. To some degree, however, this is something that “just happens”; self-creation is constituent on the general nature of the universe, the self-creating entities past influences, and (apparently) a general valuation system by which all creation bases its self-creation. However, in the end, the self-creating progress takes place within the “complexity” of the entity, it is in “someplace”, separate from all other things. A structure is just an abstract without its expression in “withoutness”, a mind is just an abstract without a body to express itself and work within. Both are presented here in the state of solitary existence, literally separate from all other things, experiences then create new prehensions with the old, furthering the process of self-creation that the whole universe goes through in its own solitariness. No one can know what your thinking, and thus the decisions one makes in their own head invariably is the true test of whether the universe is value-neutral. If an no inherent value system pushes the becoming forward by providing actual valuations, then invariably solitariness is only a place of selfishness and evil, but if somehow values are an imposed part of reality, then within a person is going to respond in a way that will try to favor value. Perhaps no person can read what you do in solitariness, but perhaps God can.
a. Religion AS SOLITARINESS
Consider the following from Religion In The Making:
Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness. It runs through three stages, if it evolves to its final satisfaction. It is the transition from God the void to God the enemy, and from God the enemy to God the companion.
Thus religion is solitariness; and if you are never solitary, you are never religious. Collective enthusiasms, revivals, institutions, churches, rituals, bibles, codes of behaviour, are the trappings of religion, its passing forms.
They may be useful, or harmful; they may be authoritatively ordained, or merely temporary expedients. But the end of religion is beyond all this.
Accordingly, what should emerge from religion is individual worth of character. But worth is positive or negative, good or bad. Religion is by no means necessarily good. It may be very evil. The fact of evil, interwoven with the texture of the world, shows that in the nature of things there remains effectiveness for degradation. In your religious experience the God with whom you have made terms may be the God of destruction, the God who leaves in his wake the loss of the greater reality.
In considering religion, we should not be obsesses by the idea of its necessary goodness. This is a dangerous delusion. The point to notice is its transcendent importance; and the fact of this importance is abundantly made evident by the appeal to history.
The religious experience is the experience of one’s solitary relationship to the universe, nullifying any other issues of relatedness to other experiences. An individual must take all information one comes across and turn it into some kind of satisfying experience called life, or existence. The ability of an individual to 1) live well and to 2) live better is predicated on its own decisions, and its ability to deal and use the decisions of others, and how well one does this is directly related to the individual’s ability to valuate situations. Without some kind of valuation system, an individual is incapable of making truly fulfilling experiences, for themselves or (consequently) for the group. Satisfaction of experience can only be found by transcending the experiences of before, if the whole is not more than the sum of its parts, its aesthetic value is lower. Thus in solitariness an individual is possessed of a baseline valuation system, that being its “religion”, or its general relationship to the universe, that relationship upon which all others are based. Those with stronger valuation systems are usually happier and more fulfilled (and fulfilling) people, those with weaker valuation systems for individual existence are inherently more hard-pressed to in fact experience actual existential growth. To feel “God” or to feel any spiritual valuation is to have a reason, in solitariness, to favor self-transcending fulfillment over a mask that easily replaces authentic living. Recent studies following kids who do and do not go to some kind of church revealed that religious kids end up with a stronger moral center. Teilhard also provides us with a conceptualization of self-creation, especially in advanced and complex systems, such as a tendency towards complexity within unification processes and a wider understanding of zest. The intuition to try and live according to valuation, is supplemented by a natural tendency in our evolution towards complexity, we seek to be more complex and to move towards more consciousness. Our level of understanding must increase, or else our satisfaction will decrease; fulfillment comes from becoming more conscious. This does not negate the fact, that part of our ability to fulfill and exist in solitariness is due to the confidence that living life creatively is living life well, and when the zest of our natural existence pulls us in a direction, we should always be more afraid by the things we leave undone rather than the things we may do wrong. Still, the aesthetic valuation of Whitehead can clue us in to how the ordering mind of existence is present in all aspects of the experience, not just as divine aim (which is the best possible reality the mind prehends) but as an immediate valuation by which we can confidently make our decisions right now. The highest valuation, the final yardstick against which all things are examined, is Omega.
b. Existing as a part of a Universal Organism
In what way, might you ask, does this solitariness relate to the individual as a societal organism? For a more complete understanding of that, we will turn to Teilhard and a general understanding of evolution of the consciousness. These ideas will be expanded upon in later chapters, but there is a necessary analogy to make here, and it can perhaps enlighten us to a wider understanding of Omega and the nature of our forward evolutionary motion. As we have left behind the biological evolution that brought us to this point, we are now brought forward by evolution of the consciousness; it is through our expansion of self-understanding that the impetus for our ability to expand our minds comes. In other words, the key is now to use the potential we already have, and not to gain more by evolving bigger brains or what not. Einstein himself only used little over 10% of his brain; there is no telling what a mind that has had its full potential tapped could create and achieve. So how does a mind understand itself? In solitariness, it self-examines. The understanding of the self creates a prehension that invariably brings others of a similar type to greater levels of self-understanding, and those beings of similar types will invariably seek to organize to higher states to benefit in the greater ability of information (prehensions) to be shared, enhancing each individual’s self-understanding and self-satisfaction that are involved. This self-understanding then adds to the self-understanding of the whole, and if we further assume that self-understanding is part of satisfaction of individual experience, then part of that understanding will be a realization of one’s dependence and organic connection with the whole. We need more prehension of self-understanding, and they need our contribution as well. Individual becomings organize as part of a more organic whole, a more unified whole that reflects the value of working towards Omega. This kind of attenuation toward group self-understanding, must further be a reflection of attenuating oneself (in solitariness) to the universe complete. Organized Religions are ways in which individual becomings most effectively trade self-understandings, and thus operate more effectively as a whole. When individuals are cultivating similar self-understandings, or rather (as a Whiteheadian would say) when they all “tune in” to the same valuations system, it allows them to easily (through a system of symbols and creative acts and ideas), reach for and transfer to one another the truth that is the mind of the universe. As religions organize, they do so dangerously, lest they themselves become stagnant and useless, but when effective a good strong base for shared experience coupled with the search for the highest aesthetic value possible, can create the most effective societal organism we know. In this way, we can perhaps understand why Teilhard held so strongly to Christ-imagery, and find a real logical (and not just “revelatory” value behind it. First of all, Christ Teilhard’s a way to understand that the quest is not a biological, but nooshperic evolution that we were in. For him, Christ was the one who had most effectively embodied the Omega, his potential was fully realized; he needed no more biological evolution to become the perfected Omega aim for humanity both individually and communally. Christ, for Teilhard, proved that we have nowhere to go biologically, for no being could be as perfect as Christ; all we needed was to find the fullest expression of our own potential. Second, Paul’s understanding of The Pleroma was a perfect example of a religious community’s ability to unify through individuation, and to organize through solitariness. However, the point must never lead us to an extreme Christian centrality; it is the IDEA of what Christ represented, not necessarily Jesus as man or God (or both). We can see great organic living in Buddhist monasteries, and a greater adherence to relating to past experiences in Chinese Philosophy. It should be pointed out, however, that the Jesus-event has become one in which great number of peoples have found commonality of self-understanding and a general growth towards organization.
We do not possess a systematic detailed record of the life of Christ; but we do possess a peculiarly vivid record of the first response to it in the minds of the first group of his disciples after the lapse of some years, with their recollections, interpretations, and incipient formularizations.
What we find depicted is a thoroughgoing rationalization of the Jewish religion carried through with a boundless naiveté, and motived by a first-hand intuition into the nature of things.
The reported sayings of Christ are not formularized thought. They are descriptions of direct insight. The ideas are in his mind as immediate pictures, and not as analysed in terms of abstract concepts. He sees intuitively the relations between good men and bad men; his expressions are not cast into the form of an analysis of the goodness and badness of man. His sayings are actions and not adjustments of concepts. He speaks in the lowest abstractions that language is capable of, if it is to be language at all and not the fact itself.
In the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Parables, there is no reasoning about the facts. They are seen with immeasurable innocence. Christ represents rationalism derived from direct intuition and divorced from dialectics.
The life of Christ is not an exhibition of over-ruling power. Its glory is for those who can discern it, and not for the world. Its power lies in its absence of force. It has the decisiveness of a supreme ideal, and that is why the history of the world divides at this point of time.
The degree to which our integrative philosophy is of use to us is directly related to how well we can use it to understand who we are an where we came from.
Humans have created an incredible present collective experience out of the myriad experiences that have preceded it. In history we exist as organism, the very foundation of our true nature is revealed in great detail, the only problem is seeing how the pieces fit, without the mass/energy conversion ratio first known, the charge of an electron could never have been measured. If our assumptions about human history in any way enlighten our understanding of our past, then perhaps we are on the way to find the formulism by which a greater view our place in universe can also be reached. And from a greater view of historical experience we can further find better routes for the self-satisfaction of those individuals present in society. By reflecting on the nature of the individual, and its relation to the whole, we can begin to see a complete map of how the Omega will move us forward to a fuller expression of what we really are.