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Part I: The Transcendence of the Immanent

Lecture X: The Transcendence of the Immanent

Hitherto we have confined our attention to such forms of experience as are almost universal among civilised men and are commonly allowed to be in some measure veridical. Many who have no belief in God as Personal Spirit admit, and indeed insist upon, the august claims of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. In our own consideration of this famous trio we have noticed intimations, given through each, of a significance that carries us far beyond the meaning commonly attached to that name. But we did no more than notice these. We made no attempt to follow them up to their ultimate implications, or to correlate them under any principle that might account for them all, though it was plain that their indication, so to speak, was all in one direction. In other words, we considered only what was found to be, in the useful though tiresome current jargon, immanent in them, without enquiring how far this must also be transcendent. But we have now before us the material which enables us to take that further step. We must proceed to enquire how far, apart from any experience regarded as a direct self-disclosure of a Transcendent God, our general experience affords ground for holding that its deepest principle is not only immanent within the world as we know it but also transcendent over it. For this purpose some recapitulation may be useful.

We began our survey by considering the function of Natural Theology and the relation between Religion and Philosophy. That relation we found to be inevitably and properly one of tension. We then left Religion aside for the time and considered the structure of experience as it presents itself when no special prominence is given to Religion. Having noted the nature and consequences of what I must regard as the Cartesian aberration—a necessary and (now that we have escaped from it) even a wholesome aberration—we made an attempt to apprehend the World-Process within which human minds have their place. We remarked that the occurrence of minds within the process and as part of it tells us something of great importance concerning the process itself; it must at least be such as to give ground for the occurrence of minds. Proceeding to consider the most characteristic activities of human minds, and the objects to which those activities are directed, we found that alike in the apprehension of Truth and the appreciation of Beauty Mind is discovering itself in its object, and that the fundamental principle of Goodness is the recognition by personal Mind of its own character in all other persons, and action conforming to that recognition. And lastly we have seen that in the three activities corresponding to Truth, Beauty and Right, Mind achieves a freedom of movement by which alone those three objects are attained, and which is itself the potentiality of an extension of these characteristic activities such as seems to have no prescribed limit.

If this were all that is to be said, the result would be to encourage a certain religiousness of disposition and outlook, but nothing more. It would indicate that there exists, expressing itself in the universe, and most fully (within our knowledge) in man, a reality characterised by mind and, in some sense, by personality. The Truth of the world, that is to say its character as intellectually apprehensible, would reasonably be taken as illustrating the mental structure of that reality. To assume that the Beauty of the world expressed its nature would also be natural, though there would be no convincing answer to the sceptic who asked why its Beauty rather than its ugliness (which at first sight seems to be equally real) should be so regarded. We should wish to say, perhaps, that everything is beautiful if it is sympathetically apprehended, so that only Beauty is objectively real, while Ugliness is due to our defective apprehension. Yet this will involve difficulties, for in order to apprehend the supposed beauty of (say) cruelty, we must sympathise with cruelty, and that would at once create an opposition between our aesthetic and our moral activities.

If, again, after the example of Kant, we take the principle of these moral activities themselves as the basis of our religious outlook, there is great difficulty in relating it to the general character of experience. We do not find in nature or in history any clear indication that their sustaining principle is righteous. Kant himself, having invoked God to vindicate morality, has to postulate Immortality to supply Him with an adequate arena. We may believe as firmly as Kant in Duty, God and Eternal Life, but this adding of postulate to postulate in order to save from apparent unreality what is offered as an initial axiom is somewhat unimpressive, except, indeed, as a demonstration that the method is imperfectly adapted to the subject-matter of enquiry. And it is Kant himself who, in his intuitions, best points the way of escape from the entanglements of his argumentative method. For in his sheer reverence for Beauty and the Moral Law there is promise of a better way.

Our argument hitherto may thus be said to encourage a vague religiousness of outlook, which is likely to be more aesthetic than moral, and more intellectualist than aesthetic. In such a description we recognise the features of much contemporary culture. With such a view the thought of a specific divine revelation is not incompatible, but neither is it congenial. It would, on that view, be possible to hold that the mental reality, apprehended as finding self-expression in the structure of the world and its process, is also capable of definite and specific acts of revelation, and has in fact expressed itself also in such acts. Then these acts, accepted as being the vehicle of such self-revelation, would be taken as the clue to a fuller understanding of the process, and a whole scheme of theological philosophy could be constructed. But in that case the divine self-revelation would seem to be an abrupt intrusion of what, apart from these acts, was not known to be capable of effecting them. That is not of itself incredible; but it presents to the scientific and artistic mind difficulties so great that it is fully worth while to see whether closer inspection may not disclose a nearer affinity in men’s deepest non-religious experience to that Being Who, according to the great positive religions, has declared His nature and will by authoritative revelation. For while all living religion is a response to what is recognised as authoritative, that response is possible with full justification and self-surrender only if the voice of authority completes, rather than contradicts, the deepest intimations of such experience as is unaccompanied by any note of special and peculiar authority.

We have indeed already seen that all experience has an authoritative quality. It commands our judgement rather than submits to it; for the judgement that we make upon it claims to be true concerning it, and thus is itself exposed to correction by the experience on which it is pronounced. The growing mind, in proportion as it is emancipated from the authority of other minds, comes under the authority of Truth itself. But we have also seen that in the apprehension of Truth, the mind is meeting with what is akin to itself. Moreover the mind recognises in Truth, or in the Mind expressed in Truth, a proper object of reverence quite other than is appropriate as a part of the mind’s apprehension of bare fact. While a fact is apprehended as an almost bare particular occurrence, which is what it is but might as well have been something else, it evokes no reverence. The mind takes note, and passes on to other observations. But when it is apprehended as a constituent element in the system of Truth, it begins to acquire the qualities which compel reverence. Failure to observe this distinction leads to much confusion and bewilderment. The exalted language used about Truth and its sanctity perplexes those who think of it as a quality attaching to isolated bits of information. If I say “The sun shone all day in Glasgow on February 24, 1933”, that statement, though admittedly improbable, is either true or false. But in neither case has it any sanctity. If I am mistaken about it, that does not greatly matter. To say it while knowing it to be false would be wrong, because to deceive people is to outrage their personality; but we are here concerned, not with saying what is thought, but with thinking what is true; and there is no sanctity in correct information about particulars, nor any calamity in being misinformed, unless this leads to calamitous action. Yet there is a sense in which Truth is august and compelling. Willingly to believe what is suspected to be false is felt to be not only a degradation of the credulous believer’s personality, but an offence against the order of reality. This feeling is quite unreasonable if the order of reality is a brute fact and nothing else; it is only justifiable if the order of reality is the expression of a personal mind, for the sense of moral obligation towards Truth is of that quality which is only appropriate in connexion with personal claims.

I must confess that I know no way of arguing this last point, to which, none the less, I attach great importance. It is an intuitional judgement. It is only possible to recall the fact that the obligations arising from personal relationships have a special quality distinguishing them from, and giving them priority to, such obligations as are created by an appreciation of values conceived as impersonal. It is indeed one of the main contentions of these Lectures that the essential condition of Value is the meeting of mind with mind—or at least with what is akin to mind. But not all values are so appreciated by every one, or perhaps at all times by any one; and scientific Truth is perhaps that which it is least easy to appreciate as a directly personal relationship. My contention is that the quality of feeling entertained towards it by even materialistic scientists is often such as can only be justified if, in fact, the world-order thus apprehended is the expression of personal mind. It is no answer to that contention to say that this feeling is due to a surviving Theism which ought to be discarded, for such a reply admits the implications of the feeling, and these constitute the point of the contention. If on all grounds the conclusion is accepted that there is no personal mind expressing itself in and through the order of the universe, the existence of our feeling towards Truth may be explained by reference to the fact that during most of the ages of history men have believed that there was such a mind: the influence of that belief appeared in the form of reverence felt for Truth, and this feeling may be held to exist now as an anachronistic survival. I am not at present arguing against that as a possible hypothesis. I am urging only that most of us feel that reverence, and must either accept its implications or regard it as due to a mistake, and therefore deserving to be discarded. And it is very relevant to observe that this quality of reverence for Truth is specially evident among those who have felt bound, out of loyalty to Truth itself as they had been able to receive it, to abandon the belief which alone could justify it. It would seem as if there were some potent force compelling in them an attitude of mind which their own convictions have rendered obsolete. All this is intelligible on a basis of avowed Theism, but highly paradoxical on any other.

We have here then an intimation, though it is no more, that what the mind confronts in its search for Truth, and in the claim of Truth upon it, is something more than an intelligible system of uniformities; it is a Mind akin to itself, though so vastly greater as to be the controlling principle of that vast realm of being which our minds laboriously and very gradually apprehend. This intimation will be of great or little importance according as it receives or lacks support from other ranges of experience.

It finds support in an intimation similar to itself that comes from the pursuit of Beauty. But here the intimation itself is far clearer and more decisive. It is not only that the reverence which men feel in the presence of great Beauty, as before the claim of Truth, is such as to be reasonable only if in the appreciation of Beauty we are in communion with a master-mind, but because the apprehension of Beauty is in its own essence such communion. Lord Balfour made this point very forcibly, in a passage from which I have already quoted, in his most important Gifford Lectures on Theism and Humanism:

“If by some unimaginable process works of beauty could be produced by machinery, as a symmetrical colour pattern is produced by a Kaleidoscope, we might think them beautiful till we knew their origin, after which we should be rather disposed to regard them as ingenious. And this is not, I think, because we are unable to estimate works of art as they are in themselves, not because we must needs buttress up our opinions by extraneous and irrelevant considerations; but rather because a work of art requires an artist, not merely in the order of natural causation, but as a matter of aesthetic necessity. It conveys a message which is valueless to the recipient unless it be understood by the sender. It must be expressive.”1

Lord Balfour was well aware that some would admit this of the relation of the work of art to the artist, but would refuse to go further:

“They would grant that a work of art must be due to genius, and not, in the first instance, to mechanism or to chance. But whether, in the last resort, mechanism or chance has produced the genius, they would regard as, from the aesthetic point of view, quite immaterial. Music and poetry must have a personal source. But the musician and the poet may come whence they will.
“And perhaps, in very many cases, this is so; but not, I think, in all, nor in the highest. If any man will test this for himself, let him recall the too rare moments when beauty gave him a delight which strained to its extremest limit his power of feeling; when not only the small things of life, but the small things of Art—its technical dexterities, its historical associations—vanished in the splendour of an unforgettable vision; and let him ask whether the attribution of an effect like this to unthinking causes, or to an artist created and wholly controlled by unthinking causes, would not go far to impair its value.”2

With these passages I must quote again the paragraph in which Lord Balfour proceeds to argue the same point with reference to the beauties of nature:

“The feeling for natural beauty cannot, any more than scientific curiosity, rest satisfied with the world of sensuous appearance. But the reasons for its discontent are different. Scientific curiosity hungers for a knowledge of causes; causes which are physical, and, if possible, measurable. Our admiration for natural beauty has no such needs. It cares not to understand either the physical theories which explain what it admires, or the psychological theories which explain its admiration. It does not deny the truth of the first, nor (within due limits) the sufficiency of the second. But it requires more. It feels itself belittled unless conscious purpose can be found somewhere in its pedigree. Physics, and psycho-physics, by themselves, suffice not. It longs to regard beauty as a revelation—a revelation from spirit to spirit, not from one kind of atomic agitation to the ‘psychic’ accompaniment of another. On this condition only can its highest values be maintained.”3

Lord Balfour’s appeal is to the judgement of those who have at any time entered into a deep appreciation of beauty. For what my own experience may be worth, it entirely confirms his interpretation. Further, as was remarked at an earlier stage, the mental attitude of deep appreciation is of its own nature akin to worship. The whole aesthetic experience is unintelligible unless there comes through it a revelation from spirit to spirit. There is more in Beauty than Beauty alone. There is communication from, and communion with, personal Spirit.

The same conclusion is involved even more inevitably in Moral Goodness as we were led to understand it. For here we found two relevant considerations. First, we found that the essence of morality is personal fellowship, or respect for persons as persons, so that the one true form of the Categorical Imperative is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”—right acts being those which are prompted by such love fully and rightly understood. The second relevant consideration was that in the performance of duty, especially of difficult duty where the performance is heroic, there is a clear sense of corresponding to, and entering into, a reality which was always there, and which in itself has upon us that kind of claim which can only be exercised by persons. If it is reasonable, as it surely is, to be guided here by the standards of those who are ethically most sensitive, as in the sphere of beauty by those who are aesthetically most sensitive, there can be no doubt about the intimation of their experience. To fail in duty is felt by them not only as an injury to a neighbour, not only as a degradation of self, not only as a breach of that Moral Law on conformity to which all the welfare of man depends, but as the flouting of what justly claims our reverence. This feeling is most constant, no doubt, in those who believe that the Moral Law is the content of the Mind of God; and it is one of the chief practical advantages of a theistic belief in the moral sphere, that it enables people not specially sensitive in ethical matters by natural endowment, to feel towards the claims of duty as the most sensitive feel towards them without that added stimulus. But the feeling exists apart from theistic belief in many honourable souls, and it manifestly points to Theism as its only justification. For no Law, apart from a Lawgiver, is a proper object of reverence. It is mere brute fact; and every living thing, still more every person exercising intelligent choice, is its superior. The reverence of persons can be appropriately given only to that which itself is at least personal.

Throughout this recapitulation of the discussion of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, great emphasis has been laid on an element of experience designated by the word “feeling”. But it is clear that it is “feeling” of a special kind. It answers not to Gefühl, but to Ahnung—to which so profound an influence was ascribed by Hegel’s contemporary Jacob Friedrich Fries, whose importance as a philosopher Professor Rudolf Otto has lately emphasised.4 To myself it is evident that to doubt fundamentally the intimations of these “feelings”—

High instincts, before which our mortal nature

Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised5

involves so pervasive a “scepticism of the instrument” as to render all conviction impossible, and all opinion temerarious. If I may not trust what seems to me more sure than sight, more convincing than touch, I find no reason to accept any data of experience whatsoever. But I am aware that not every one finds these feelings or intuitions so self-evidently veridical, and while ready for myself to stand on them as a sufficient platform for the support of a theistic interpretation of experience, I yet gladly supplement them by a converging line of argument which leads to the same result.

We have directed our attention to the Process which constitutes the world of Nature. We have seen that, in the course of that Process, Mind appears—first in a rudimentary form, later in fuller development. In this fuller development we see Mind, though occurring within the Process and conditioned by it, yet capable in steadily increasing measure of selecting the direction of its own attention, and thereby determining the action which it initiates, even in the physical sphere. We cannot avoid asking for some explanation of this Process itself; and when we do so, three points immediately challenge our attention.

(1) If it is indeed true, as we have found compelling reason to believe, that Mind thus initiates activity—which includes physical movements—in the physical sphere, then the physical universe is not a closed system governed only by its own laws. If the tides of the sea retard the rotation of the earth, then so does every motion on the earth’s surface that is caused by the minds of men, whether that of their own bodies or that of other bodies set in motion by these.6 The amount of difference that pygmies like us can make to astronomical movement is, no doubt, so small as to be negligible by astronomical science. But the principle stands. The dogma of the closed system of the physical world must be abandoned if the freedom of Mind is admitted.

(2) Any account of the Process as a whole—of Nature as known to us—must account also for the occurrence of Mind as an element within it. Its explanatory principle must contain the ground of freedom as against naturalistic determinism. It must be of such a character that the occurrence of free minds within the process is recognisably congruous with that character.

(3) The ground of the universe, by reference to which the universe is explicable or intelligible, must be such that it requires no further explanation of itself. But all ways of accounting for facts or occurrences in terms of physical laws call for further explanation—and that in two ways: they explain what is by reference to what was; but this in turn calls for explanation by reference to what was before that; and the physical law itself is not self-explanatory. Why is it so, and not otherwise?

Now Mind, determined by Good as apprehended, is such a principle of explanation as is required. When Aristotle in Book A of the Metaphysics desiderated a first principle of motion, an initiation of process, he found it in the analogy of an object of desire. The First Mover kinei¤ wJ~ ejrwvmenon.7 sets other things in motion, as an object of desire does; without motion on its own part, it sets in motion the bodies of those who desire it. Perhaps Aristotle had in his mind no thought beyond the observation that objects of desire do thus initiate motion while unmoved themselves, so that the notion of an unmoved mover is nothing wholly extravagant. But in fact he indicated a possible explanation of the world-process. When Mind, determined by Good as apprehended, initiates activity, no further explanation is needed. The enquiring mind, confronted with an example of what it perfectly understands as the essential characteristic of its own being, is completely satisfied. Whenever the subject of enquiry is traced to the action of intelligently purposive mind, the enquiry is closed; Mind has recognised itself and is satisfied.

To adopt the hypothesis that the process of nature in all its range is to be accounted for by the intelligent purpose of Mind is Theism. This hypothesis, and this alone of any ever suggested, accounts for all the three considerations that were said to arise on a review of the Process as a whole. If the Process is grounded in Mind it is in no way surprising that minds should appear as episodes in the Process, and there is no reason to suppose that the physical universe is a closed system. Mens agitat molem8—that is the brief, but sufficient, explanation of the entire series of facts.

Yet there are still ambiguities. Is this Mind, which pervades, sustains, and directs the Whole, so entirely expressed in it, as to have its whole being in it or is it something over and above all that the Process contains or ever could contain? Plainly it is immanent; is it also transcendent? It will be useful here to refer to Professor Whitehead, to whom the contention of these Lectures hitherto owes much, but from whom at this point sharp difference must be expressed. Professor Whitehead recognises that the Process regarded as such stands in need of explanation, and is unable to supply this from itself. He says:

“The evolution of history can be rationalised by the consideration of the determination of successors by antecedents. But, on the other hand, the evolution of history is incapable of rationalisation because it exhibits a selected flux of participating forms. No reason, internal to history, can be assigned why that flux of forms, rather than another flux, should have been illustrated.”9

The answer to this problem is found in the “primordial nature of God”—or rather that is the concatenation of vocables offered to any one who asks the question. An answer it is not. It is a mere name for a desideratum. For this “primordial nature of God” is nothing at all except the occasion for the initiation of the flux with which we are familiar. God is, indeed,

“the actual entity in virtue of which the entire multiplicity of eternal objects obtains its graded relevance to each stage of concrescence. Apart from God, there could be no relevant novelty.”10

But this still does not tell us how, with God, there can be relevant novelty. Truly there is relevant novelty. To say that God is the ground of the possibility of this is to say nothing unless God is something other than such ground of possibility. To say God, or to say X, or to say abracadabra, is all one, if at the end we have only declared that the ground of possibility is the ground of possibility.

So again we are told that “God is the principle of concretion”;11 but how does that help us if He is no more than this? Moreover there is a force beyond God, called “creativity”, and God in His primordial nature, is the first form of this. “The primordial nature of God is the acquirement by creativity of a primordial character”.12

No doubt all this is supplemented by what is urged later concerning the “consequent nature of God”. About this Professor Whitehead has much to say that is edifying,13 but it is hard to see by what right he says it. One is glad to know that he has the consolation of believing that “the love in the world passes into the love in heaven, and floods back again into the world”, so that “in this sense God is the great companion—the fellow-sufferer who understands”.14 This is very near the Christian Gospel, and if only Professor Whitehead would for creativity say Father, for “primordial nature of God” say Eternal Word, and for “consequent nature of God” say Holy Spirit, he would perhaps be able to show ground for his gratifying conclusions. But he cannot use those terms, precisely because each of them imports the notion of Personality as distinct from Organism. The very reason which gives to the Christian scheme its philosophic superiority is that which precludes Professor Whitehead from adopting it.15

The only reason to be found for his confidence in “the perfection of God’s subjective aim” and the resultant “character of His consequent nature”16 is the consideration that if this were true it would round off the philosophy of organism. Now it is certainly true that a union of comprehensiveness with coherence is a mark of truth. But it is rash to affirm propositions on the ground that, if true, they would, in combination with those already affirmed, achieve that union, especially if the data of ordinary experience are hostile. Professor Whitehead’s optimistic conclusion is not a necessary, or in the judgement of many people even a probable, inference from the facts of ordinary experience. These point to a divorce of power from goodness at least as impressively as to their union in the perfection of a universe which is for ever being saved. The Professor finds the ground of his confidence in the “completeness” of God’s primordial nature. But how does he know that it is complete in any relevant sense? Of course it is, by definition, the ground of all actual events. But to infer from this the kind of completion posited is to assume the Leibnizian theory of “the best of all possible worlds” which has previously been described as “an audacious fudge”.17 If on the other hand we are to estimate the character of the primordial nature of God from that of the events which it has occasioned, we have inadequate ground for concluding that, as He objectifies the world in Himself, “God is the poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by his vision of truth, beauty and goodness”.18 And how many questions are begged by the use of the word “patience”?

The fact is that in his beautiful closing pages Professor Whitehead surreptitiously introduces thoughts which properly belong to Personality, though ostensibly he stops short at the category of organism. Because he ostensibly stops there, he has to present God and the world as completely correlated to each other.19 But because they are thus correlated, and each is explained by the other, the complex totality of God + World is not explained at all. It is what it is. If it is as described, we may be glad that it is what it is; but that is not the same as saying that we see why it is what it is. That could only be seen if qualities are ascribed to it which would carry us beyond Organism to Personality—beyond the notion of inner unification by co-ordination of function to the notion of self-determination by reference to apprehended good.

But Personality is always transcendent in relation to Process. Purposive action or reaction, which is a chief characteristic of Personality, differs from organic action or reaction precisely in the fact that not only is it determined by the whole being of the agent, but that the agent is determining himself both at other times and in the very moment and act of choosing his course of conduct. Here there is manifestly a reference to something over and above the observable activity. Organic differs from mechanical reaction in that the reaction is determined by the whole organism as a unity; if for example a condition arises which would increase the proportion of acid in the blood, the appropriate organs increase pari passu the supply of alkali and the balance is maintained. This results from the need of the organism as a whole for the maintenance of that balance. It cannot be accounted for on mechanical grounds; it is an instance of organic reaction. But while the organism as a whole and its vital needs thus determine the reaction of its several parts, it is the organism as it is at that moment which exerts this determining influence. There is nothing transcendent there. But in the self-determination of a personality something, which as yet is not, is envisaged as determining that which is. To say that the Self, being such as it is, acts in a certain way is to ignore the characteristic feature of this situation. The Self, being such as it is, but including in its present condition an aspiration to become what it is not, determines itself as reacting to the given circumstances, whatever they may be. Of course it is true that the future self does not exercise efficient causation upon the present self; such a contention would be manifestly ludicrous. It is the apprehension of what shall be, or at the least what may be, which exercises efficient causation over the self in its choice of conduct. But this is a form of causation that can only operate in or upon those to whom the future is a real factor in decision, as it is not for the organism. In the case of personal choice, there is more at work upon or in the “present” than is contained within that “present” as understood in the consideration of physical movements or of organisms. No doubt a personal self is a single organism, for its totality determines the behaviour of its “parts”. But it is also more than an organism, because it is also determining itself by reference to its own ideal of itself, as an organism does not. To take at once a crucial instance; self-sacrifice, such as is seen in the surrender of life for a person or a cause by one who has no belief in a future life, is not what is ordinarily meant by an organic reaction. But this self, which frames ideals of itself, is certainly something more than appears in its actions. It may be that some very small selves, or some very full lives, have attained on earth a complete correlation of personality and activity, so that taking the life of each as a whole it could be said that the personality was immanent in the conduct and in no sense transcendent of it; but even then it would be transcendent of each particular action. What we have called the freedom of mind, with the kind of self-determination that results from it, implies also self-transcendence, and therefore a self that transcends.

Such self-determination we have found reason to regard as an established fact. The principle that is to account for the World-Process must account for this fact as (amongst other things) an episode in that Process. The principle of Organism will not do this unless it be so expanded as to deserve the name of Personality. But the principle of Personality is adequate. For it supplies, as has been already said, a ground of explanation which calls for no further explanation, thus delivering us from the infinite regress. Further, it is adequate in the sense that it is equal in richness of content to those episodes in the process which are richest, so that we are not under the necessity of explaining any existent by reference to a principle lower in the scale of being than itself. Thirdly, it is a principle of which the characteristic is action in the present with a view to a future fruition, so that it combines, as nothing else does, efficient causation with rational coherence; for when a person acts purposively his several actions cohere in one intelligible scheme, while in each action the present choice, which is at that stage expressive of the constant purpose, is an efficient cause of the changes effected in the environment.

But there is a further consideration deeper than all of these. Personality exhibits itself supremely in purposes of fellowship or love—supremely, because here is it furthest removed from the mechanical or organic. Therefore it needs, for its full self-expression, the existence of other persons. If we take as our ultimate principle Personality, not only as purposive mind, but as mind of which the actual purpose is love, then the occurrence of persons within the World-Process is truly explained by the principle to which that process is referred; and there is no other principle known to us whereby human fellowship, which is the culmination of the Process hitherto, is truly explained at all.

To make that hypothesis is to go beyond the evidence so far adduced as surely as Professor Whitehead’s assumption of the “completeness” of the “primordial nature of God” from which he deduces the perfection of the “consequent nature of God”. But it is a more justifiable adventure for several reasons. (1) It employs for the explanation of all things the “highest” category in our experience, whereas Professor Whitehead employs one less than the highest whereby to account for that highest with the rest. (2) It offers a real explanation alike of itself and of the World, whereas Professor Whitehead leaves us with a totality of God + World, wherein each explains the other but the totality itself is unexplained. (3) Most significant of all, it points to the reality of a Being of such nature as to disclose His character in specific acts, which revealing acts might supply evidence to set against the apparent evidence of ordinary experience. Professor Whitehead conducts to an optimistic conclusion those who follow him. And reason clamours for an optimistic World-view, for how can a world be reasonable if it were better that it had never come into being? But the evidence of ordinary experience, taken alone, allows no more, at best, than an open verdict. And it seems clear that Professor Whitehead’s God, whether in His primordial or in His consequent nature, could not offer such disclosure of Himself in revealing acts as could be taken, if sufficiently authenticated, to outweigh the evidence of our admittedly restricted range of experience. And this is true of all ultimate theories of the world except the Theistic. But if on other grounds the Theistic hypothesis appears the most acceptable, as we have seen reason to hold, then it is capable of receiving confirmation, such as other theories altogether preclude, from events regarded as being revelatory acts of the Personal God whose existence is posited by the hypothesis. If I regard the Ultimate Principle as non-personal, I cannot afterwards regard any occurrence as a purposive self-revelation of that Principle; so I can only estimate its character, or its relation to my valuations, by observing the average tendency of the world as experienced. But if I regard the Ultimate Principle as Personal, then I am at least at liberty to interpret as acts of specific self-revelation on the part of that Principle any which can make good their claim to be so regarded; and I am then also at liberty—rather am bound in reason—to take these as indications of the character of the Ultimate Principle, even though the whole evidence of ordinary experience told the other way. In doing so I shall act by faith and not by knowledge, but by a reasonable faith.

So intimately bound up in one another are the Personality of the Ultimate and specific acts of revelation that an a priori argument for the former would be highly precarious if not supported by the latter. The general question of the actual possibility of such acts, the conditions of their occurrences and the criterion of their authenticity will occupy us in the next series of Lectures. Until these questions are handled our present argument lacks completion. But our argument has led us, provisionally at least, to the conclusion that the explanation of the world is to be sought in a Personal Reality, or to use the historic phrase, in a Living God.

But something remains to be said about the nature of His relation to the World and its Process. He is its explanation in such wise that it is dependent upon Him as He is not dependent upon it. Is it necessary, in order to be this, that He should be something more? We may readily agree that God’s relation to the universe is not that of a carpenter to a box which he is making. He is not, in that sense, outside it and acting on it from without. He is Himself its life, its informing and vitalising principle. But in order to be that we have found that He must be Personal, and Personality always transcends its own self-expression. This does not necessarily mean that if we could apprehend the entire universe, spiritual and material, in all its extent of space and time, there would still quite certainly be something in God unexpressed in that panorama. It seems more natural to suppose that the Divine Artist has in His entire creation given complete expression to His mind and nature. But the contention that God is the explanation of the world because He is Person or Spirit does mean that if all else but God were abolished, God would still be Himself, whole and entire, capable of creating another world to take the place of the world which had gone out of existence. If God is Personal, He must express Himself; the Word was in the beginning with God; but His self-expression is not the self expressed; that remains always cause, never effect.

Are we then to think of God as expressed in, or immanent in, His creation as a poet in his poems? That is an improvement on the analogy of the carpenter and his box. But it leaves God too external to the world. When I read Shakespeare’s plays, I find there the thoughts of Shakespeare, not Shakespeare the “thinking living, acting man”. When I hear my friend speak, or watch his action, I find there his living self. The principle that explains the process of the world must be no less intimately related to that process than a man to his conduct. In nature we find God; we do not only infer from Nature what God must be like, but when we see Nature truly, we see God self-manifested in and through it.20 Yet the self-revelation so given is incomplete and inadequate. Personality can only reveal itself in persons. Consequently it is specially in Human Nature—in men and women—that we see God. But Human Nature is a thing self-confessedly defective; whether still struggling to its true self-realisation, or fallen from an “original righteousness”, it can give but a fitful and distorted representation of the Personal Reality from whom it springs. If in the midst of the World-Process there should occur an instance of Human Nature free from all blemish or defect, there might be found there the perfect self-expression of God to those who share that Human Nature. So it might come, but not otherwise; and only if it so comes can the great hypothesis itself be secure.

Yet once more, if the Personal God thus indwells the world, and the world is thus rooted in Him, this involves that the process of the world is itself the medium of His personal action.21 It is commonly assumed by those who use freely the terms Immanence and Transcendence that God as immanent is unchangeably constant, while God as transcendent possesses a reserve of resource whereby He can from time to time modify the constant course sustained by His immanent action. This seems to be a mere reflection of the wholly un-philosophic dichotomy of events into normal and miraculous. The naïve religious view is that God made the world and imposed laws upon it, which it invariably observes unless He intervenes to modify the operation of His own laws. From this naïve view springs the suggestion that it would better comport with the infinite Majesty of God that He should from the outset impose such laws as would never stand in need of modification. But if, as we have seen ground for holding, the World-Process is itself the medium of God’s personal action, the whole situation is altered. There is nothing majestic about invariable constancy of personal action, which remains unaltered whether the circumstances are the same or not; rather should it be called mulish. Constancy of purpose is a noble characteristic, but it shows itself, not in unalterable uniformity of conduct, but in perpetual self-adaptation, with an infinite delicacy of graduation, to different circumstances, so that, however these may vary, the one unchanging purpose is always served.

If we adopt this view, we shall have also to hold that no Law of Nature as discovered by physical science is ultimate. It is a general statement of that course of conduct in Nature which is sustained by the purposive action of God so long and so far as it will serve His purpose. No doubt it is true that the same cause will always produce the same effect in the same circumstances. Our contention is that an element in every actual cause, and indeed the determinant element, is the active purpose of God fulfilling itself with that perfect constancy which calls for an infinite graduation of adjustments in the process. Where any adjustment is so considerable as to attract notice it is called a miracle; but it is not a specimen of a special class, it is an illustration of the general character of the World-Process.

At the present time, as was remarked in the last lecture,22 leading students of physical science are disputing about the question whether there is, for the purposes of their science, indeterminacy in the conduct of atoms; is the movement of Quanta physically indeterminate? Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans say, Yes; Einstein, Planck, and Lord Rutherford say, No. But the theistic philosopher is not greatly interested, for in either case he will maintain that in the last resort there is no indeterminacy; in either case the universal determinant is the purpose of God.

Because He is the all-comprehending Mind, the course which He sustains in Nature is orderly; that it should be in any way capricious would imply such characteristics in God as are manifest defects or limitations when they appear in men. When there is no sufficient reason for variation, none will appear. And for the vastly greater part of Nature’s course there is, so far as we can tell, no reason at all for variation, and much reason for uniformity. All purpose in finite creatures—and therefore all moral purpose—depends on the reliability of nature. We could make no plans if the rising of the sun to-morrow were not reasonably certain, or if there were serious risk of failure in the custom of gravitation. Moreover, it is good for us to be subject to the discipline of accident, so that even those occasions when we are tempted to think that Almighty Love must vary the course of nature to avert suffering from ourselves or our friends, are still illustrations of our ruling principle that the uniformity of nature is grounded in the purpose of God. But when that purpose would be itself defeated by some anticipated occurrence, that occurrence is in fact impossible—as Christ suggested when he met the alarm of His disciples with the implication that the boat which carried the hope of the world could not sink.23

This is not popular doctrine in an age for which the metaphysics of every question is overshadowed by the physics, as in an earlier period the physics was by the metaphysics. Yet I am very sure that the conception of the Divine Personality is only tenable if it is taken in bitter earnest. And then it leads us to the conviction that the immanent principle of the World Process is a purposive Mind, guiding the movement of electrons and of galaxies by the requirements of its unchanging purpose, so that for the most part their course is constant, but the cause of their constancy is itself the cause of their variation when that serves the one purpose best.

Yet that which is found in the constancy and the adjustments alike—the immanent and self-adapting Spirit—is always the expression of the truly Personal Being whose self is thus manifested in successive partial disclosures. The immanent activity varies; but the transcendent Being is eternally self-subsistent and self-identical. God in the world acts now this way and now that as He carries to accomplishment His unchanging purpose. But God Himself, the root and ground of that unchanging purpose, eternally is. He is no more unchanging than He is changeable; for both of these express persistence through time. But God does not persist through time, for time itself is grounded in Him. He creates the world and guides it from phase to phase by His sustaining spirit active in and through it. But if He be no more than that sustaining spirit, we are back at the process which as a whole explains its parts but also as a whole is incapable of explanation. There is no need to fall back into that abyss if we are true to the principle of Personality. For a person is always somebody, so to speak, on his own account, over and above his activities. So too God is active in the world, and its process is His activity. Yet He is more than this; He is creator and therefore transcendent. Because He is, and is creative, He must create; therefore the universe is necessary to Him in the sense that He can only be Himself by creating it. But He is necessary to it, because it only exists by His fiat. God and the world are not correlative terms. God as immanent is correlative with the world; but that is not the whole nature of God. The more we study the activity of God immanent, the more we become aware of God transcendent. The Truth that strikes awe in the scientist is awful because it is His thought; the Beauty that holds spell-bound the artist is potent because it is His glory; the Goodness that pilots us to the assured apprehension of Reality can do this because it is His character; and the freedom whereby man is lifted above all other nature, even to the possibility of defying it, is fellowship with Him. “Heaven and earth are full of His glory”; but He is more and other than all that is in earth and heaven.

Appendix D

I have so freely alluded to the closing sections of Professor Whitehead’s great work Process and Reality that it will probably be a convenience to the reader if I quote here in full the most important paragraphs; they are taken from the last pages of the book, pp. 488–497.

§ iii

“But God, as well as being primordial, is also consequent. He is the beginning and the end. He is not the beginning in the sense of being in the past of all members. He is the presupposed actuality of conceptual operation, in unison of becoming with every other creative act. Thus by reason of the relativity of all things, there is a reaction of the world on God. The completion of God’s nature into a fulness of physical feeling is derived from the objectification of the world in God. He shares with every new creation its actual world; and the concrescent creature is objectified in God as a novel element in God’s objectification of that actual world. This prehension into God of each creature is directed with the subjective aim, and clothed with the subjective form, wholly derivative from his all-inclusive primordial valuation. God’s conceptual nature is unchanged, by reason of its final completeness. But his derivative nature is consequent upon the creative advance of the world.
“Thus, analogously to all actual entities, the nature of God is dipolar. He has a primordial nature and a consequent nature. The consequent nature of God is conscious; and it is the realisation of the actual world in the unity of his nature, and through the transformation of his wisdom. The primordial nature is conceptual, and the consequent nature is the weaving of God’s physical feelings upon his primordial concepts.
“One side of God’s nature is constituted by his conceptual experience. This experience is the primordial fact in the world, limited by no actuality which it presupposes. It is therefore infinite, devoid of all negative prehensions. This side of his nature is free, and unconscious. The other side originates and then acquires integration with the primordial side. It is determined, incomplete, consequent, ‘everlasting’, fully actual, and conscious. His necessary goodness expresses the determination of his consequent nature.
“Conceptual experience can be infinite, but it belongs to the nature of physical experience that it is finite. An actual entity in the temporal world is to be conceived as originated by physical experience, with its process of completion motivated by consequent, conceptual experience initially derived from God. God is to be conceived as originated by conceptual experience with his process of completion motivated by consequent, physical experience, initially derived from the temporal world.

§ iv

“The perfection of God’s subjective aim, derived from the completeness of his primordial nature, issues into the character of his consequent nature. In it there is no loss, no obstruction. The world is felt in a unison of immediacy. The property of combining creative advance with the retention of mutual immediacy is what in the previous section is meant by the term ‘everlasting’.
“The wisdom of subjective aim prehends every actuality for what it can be in such a perfected system—its sufferings, its sorrows, its failures, its triumphs, its immediacies of joy—woven by rightness of feeling into the harmony of the universal feeling, which is always immediate, always many, always one, always with novel advance, moving onward and never perishing. The revolts of destructive evil, purely self-regarding, are dismissed into their triviality of merely individual facts; and yet the good they did achieve in individual joy, in individual sorrow, in the introduction of needed contrast, is yet saved by its relation to the completed whole. The image—and it is but an image—the image under which this operative growth of God’s nature is best conceived, is that of a tender care that nothing be lost.
“The consequent nature of God is his judgement on the world. He saves the world as it passes into the immediacy of his own life. It is the judgement of a tenderness which loses nothing that can be saved. It is also the judgement of a wisdom which uses what in the temporal world is mere wreckage.
“God’s rôle is not the combat of productive force with productive force, of destructive force with destructive force, it lies in the patient operation of the overpowering rationality of his conceptual harmonisation. He does not create the world, He saves it: or, more accurately, He is the poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by his vision of truth, beauty and goodness.

§ v

“The consequent nature of God is the fluent world become ‘everlasting’ by its objective immortality in God. Also the objective immortality of actual occasions requires the primordial permanence of God, whereby the creative advance ever re-establishes itself endowed with initial subjective aim derived from the relevance of God to the evolving world.
“But objective immortality within the temporal world does not solve the problem set by the penetration of the finer religious intuition. ‘Everlastingness’ has been lost; and ‘everlastingness’ is the content of that vision upon which the finer religions are built—the ‘many’ absorbed everlastingly in the final unity. The problems of the fluency of God and of the everlastingness of passing experience are solved by the same factor in the universe. This factor is the temporal world perfected by its reception and its reformation, as a fulfilment of the primordial appetition which is the basis of all order. In this way God is completed by the individual fluent satisfactions of finite fact, and the temporal occasions are completed by their everlasting union with their transformed selves, purged into conformation with the eternal order which is the final absolute ‘wisdom’. The final summary can only be expressed in terms of a group of antitheses, whose apparent self-contradiction depends on neglect of the diverse categories of existence. In each antithesis there is a shift of meaning which converts the opposition into a contrast.
“It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.
“It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.
“It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently, as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.
“It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.
“It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.
“It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.
“God and the World are the contrasted opposites in terms of which Creativity achieves its supreme task of transforming disjoined multiplicity, with its diversities in opposition, into concrescent unity, with its diversities in contrast. In each actuality there are two concrescent poles of realisation—‘enjoyment’ and ‘appetition,’ that is, the ‘physical’ and the ‘conceptual’. For God the conceptual is prior to the physical, for the World the physical poles are prior to the conceptual poles.”
“In God’s nature, permanence is primordial and flux is derivative from the World: in the World’s nature, flux is primordial and permanence is derivative from God; also the World’s nature is a primordial datum for God; and God’s nature is a primordial datum for the World. Creation achieves the reconciliation of permanence and flux when it has reached its final term which is everlastingness—the Apotheosis of the World.”
“The theme of Cosmology, which is the basis of all religions, is the story of the dynamic effort of the World passing into everlasting unity, and of the static majesty of God’s vision, accomplishing its purpose of completion by absorption of the World’s multiplicity of effort.”

§ vii

“There are thus four creative phases in which the universe accomplishes its actuality. There is first the phase of conceptual origination, deficient in actuality, but infinite in its adjustment of valuation. Secondly, there is the temporal phase of physical origination, with its multiplicity of actualities. In this phase full actuality is attained; but there is deficiency in the solidarity of individuals with each other. This phase derives its determinate conditions from the first phase. Thirdly, there is the phase of perfected actuality, in which the many are one everlastingly, without the qualification of any loss either of individual identity or of completeness of unity. In everlastingness, immediacy is reconciled with objective immortality. This phase derives the conditions of its being from the two antecedent phases. In the fourth phase, the creative action completes itself. For the perfected actuality passes back into the temporal world, and qualifies this world so that each temporal actuality includes it as an immediate fact of relevant experience. For the kingdom of heaven is with us to-day. The action of the fourth phase is the love of God for the world. It is the particular providence for particular occasions. What is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven, and the reality in heaven passes back into the world. By reason of this reciprocal relation, the love in the world passes into the love in heaven, and floods back again into the world. In this sense, God is the great companion—the fellow-sufferer who understands.”
  • 1. Lord Balfour, Theism and Humanism, pp. 66, 67. The closing sentences are repeated on p. 78.
  • 2. Op. cit. p. 68.
  • 3. Ibid. p. 81.
  • 4. See his lectures on The Philosophy of Religion.
  • 5. Wordsworth’s Ode on the Intimations of Immortality.
  • 6. “Each time the child throws its toy out of its baby-carriage, it disturbs the motion of every star.”—Jeans, The Universe Around Us, p. 198.
  • 7. Metaphysics, A, 1072 a 3.
  • 8. Vergil, Aeneid, vi. 727.
  • 9. Process and Reality, p. 64.
  • 10. Ibid. p. 229.
  • 11. Ibid. p. 345.
  • 12. Ibid. p. 487.
  • 13. See Appendix D.
  • 14. Process and Reality, p. 497.
  • 15. Miss Emmet complains of L. S. Thornton’s book The Incarnate Lord on the ground that when it comes to consider the status of Jesus Christ in the World-Order “it sacrifices the conception of an organic connexion between the eternal order and the temporal series in order to preserve a finality of revelation” (Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism, pp. 254, 5, footnote). I am not concerned to defend Father Thornton, who is fully competent to defend himself. But it never occurred to me that he was using Whitehead’s philosophy to preserve anything whatever; he seemed to me to be using that philosophy, for what it was worth and as far as it would take him, as a medium of exposition. In any case I should regard it as one of the great merits of Father Thornton’s book that he does “sacrifice” (I would rather say “transcend”) the organic connexion between the eternal and the temporal. This is necessary, not to preserve the finality of a revelation, but to secure the intelligibility of anything at all.
  • 16. Ibid. p. 489.
  • 17. Process and Reality p. 64.
  • 18. Ibid. p. 490.
  • 19. See the series of antitheses on page 492 quoted in the Appendix to this Lecture.
  • 20. The parables of Christ strongly suggest such a view of the relation of Nature to God.
  • 21. “The world of nature cannot be understood by an intelligent theist otherwise than as the ever present working of a divine power.”—A. S. Pringle-Pattison, The Balfour Lectures on Realism, 1933, p. 257.
  • 22. See pp. 228–229.
  • 23. This is not, I think, an unfair paraphrase of Mark iv. 37. The astonishment of the disciples is that the storm ceased at His bidding—a minor matter. His astonishment was that they had any anxiety.
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