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The Synthesis that Failed

A Look at Whitehead's Philosophy in this Field


We have considered in Predestination and Freewill, the elements in this field and seen in this and the other six volumes in such themes, the answers to the questions raised by these things, from the biblical perspective. The perennial human desire to confuse or misuse them, depreciating God instead of appreciating the confusion which obtains when the mind tries to grapple without Him, and so appreciating God Himself the more, is well illustrated in the doctrines of Whitehead, the British philosopher.  These have a strange stress on the synthetic and the eventive, rather like synthesising white and black, and satisfying neither with grey, or making a French impressionist painting to comprise impressive dots of different character, and failing to find the key to their presence, the basis, the creative insight which they merely attest, differentiable because of a power beyond all points, that has a point of its own, a purpose past deployment.

One can see the church background in Whitehead's efforts to move from his first formed subjective-objective mish-mash of inadequate construction theory, by which names act as in philosophy, without any operative interface, merely words to conjoin the disparate. He wanted events to have a non-sensory perception aspect and his 'God' to be a persuasive agency only, influencible by his environment as a participant in all, which as a totality has no basis. Whence liberty, whence authority, how combine them ? Alas, he defiled both and explained nothing by having a universe so composite that it could not produce the required results, itself resultant from no known cause, despite its aptitude as a container of law and liberty, both compromised by imaginary constructions from his own mind, without the burden of meeting the empirical facts.

A fluency of speech however does not create a fluidity of components in the universe, or the universe itself; nor does everything being influencible rather than simply coercive, fit the facts. Coercion by death in the case of tens of millions does not fit well in the synthetic universe of Whitehead's construction. In fact, in the area of the observably influencible, there are coercive elements and there are persuasive, which may act according to domain and dynamic as installed. Efforts to imagine a composite may please fancy, but do not even flirt with fact. There are cosmoi of law and thought, will and imagination, deliberation and dynamic. Their unification merely mars their specificity and accomplishes nothing but confusion. Their separation into fields is not precise, but becomes in Whitehead, an embroiled self-defeating set of qualities at cross-purposes with each other, unfounded, unfunded  daubs of imagination.

Further, their combination in one field ignores the creation of laws without consent, their operation without permission and the deliberate efforts of man to breach them by his influence. Whitehead's construction looks like a combination of weak Arminian theology without its God, and social philosophy in the form of democratic movements, built up into a personalised 'god', which however being an outcome has no basis for being the ground, so that all this remains in the air of imagination without a logical basis.

 For the uncontingent, you need law and construction, that it might be so. For the contingent, you need liberty that it might be so. For liberty you need what is beyond event, as a push or putsch, so that it cannot be merely another name for the same thing, with a quality painted on, but without any  essential differentiation to enable and account for its operation. The contingent, the persuasible, which he features,   has to be constitutionally different, not merely procedurally so, if it is to have what it takes to perform such functions. Making events king neither explains their appearance nor their operation, nor our power to envisage and characterise them. Thus Whitehead tends to condense the  categorically different into one compressed system, where words do not have ontological differentials, so making a witless confusion.

Thus in coming to consider God more carefully and seriously, he has him as a persuasive agency,  source of the non-determinate, but occupied in taking a place in the whole, and so not individually differentiable or assignable as its entire cause, either in capacity or in actuality. Again, the thought itself is compressed and undifferentiated. If there is a persuasive agency not coerced in itself, then it has to have what is necessary in order to have such unintegrated facilities, such liberties, such capacities to propound, expound and present cases apart from mere eventive actualities that also occur. Events require their construction that they might occur, rather than confusion, and be sequential and correlative, rather than bitzas, operational nullities without meaning; and even then, they need the cause of this degree of construction. From nothing you get nothing, by definition.

What then ? To be thus, there has to be an ontological state coherent with the function, and this cannot be mere participation, which in the event world is itself coercive, in that while it has aspects, it does not have liberty in itself to BE persuaded.

Without this, there is neither ground for any of the paraphernalia of Whitehead's ideas, nor for their effective functionality as prescribed.

Just as you need a state of being for persons, to be influencible but not coercively controlled, so you need a state of being for God, to influence, without being coerced, controlled like timber on the beach of time,  thrown up by whatever inherent powers the whole thing is imagined to have for no particular reason, being a complex of law and liberty of a sort, with limitations, delimitations, coercions and combinations, like the preparations for a particularly tasty omelette. But the ingredients and the mixing bowl ? these appear to come from nowhere. It is a marvellous intellectual kitchen, its diverse entities coming and combining without being self-generative, or generated from an adequate base. Of such stuff is the fabric of fairies in that exhibit of the liberty of man, his power to invent what has no relationship to actuality, and to present it as if it did.

Needed by the constraints of logic, however, whatever may be the fancies of imagination, is a Being both eternal and self-sufficient, to account for them beyond the delimited dynamics with which they are in fanciful thought, accredited.

Liberty for man has to have its place if influence is to be meaningful; and liberty for God is to be beyond any place, if it is to be capable of the acts of persuasion, rather than persuasively or even coercively controlled in itself. Moreover, just as you need a cause for the operative whole, in itself as constituted and instituted, if you do not desire a causeless notion to control the whole, and so being delivered up to irrationality, become a mere example of antinomy: so you need a source for the purity and reality of each component. In particular, you require a basis for systematic causes of our own personal type in this world, so that they have logical validity, but not logical uniformity, since the causal power to create our type of delimited causation, cannot be simply part of it, and at the same time its creator. There is thus the cause for our type of causal nexus, one with its personal and particulate ingredients, this being causality with the ingredient of time delay, and on the other hand,  the operational power of what is not so limited by created barriers or constraints.

Merging the disparate without their aetiological basis merely destroys their qualities without supplying their cause, or that of their mutual involvement, in what then appears like a cloud from the North, a dynamic coming however in a system already there, with elements proposed propositionally, but not with reason.

An immersed god in an immersed totality, where the subjective is a phase and not a standpoint, is merely a self-contradictory and unharmonious totality, which needs separation into the components with their own necessary bases and ontology, and the anterior Causal Being with its eternity and its powers the only possibility for logical outcome. As to Whitehead, his extension of perception to the unperceptive in terms of descriptive investigation becomes a type of pseudo-celestial poetry, with as little relationship to ground and cause as many merely literary enthusiasms often possess, though without the understanding that these have, that this is a thrust of imagination to excite wonder but not reasoned discourse.  It is like having Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream presented as an explanatory discourse rather than a poetical felicity of roving, roaming imagination, to stir a tired mind or a heavy heart.

It is therefore necessary to have separately endowed or endued or able Creator, creation and image-of-God creation, so that the necessitous may be in its sphere, uncompromised, the evidentially indicated in its site, without addition or poetic floss flown in, and so regular laws may be operational and so formulable and hence formulated in the beginning, with a causal basis for their powers and containment, so that the level of liberty accorded to man to think or blink or wink at reality at will, may be actual and not just a word, and that the operational totality might, being sourced where sufficiency eternally is, have a basis from eternity at the will of Him whose it is, and who made it. Nothing in eternity, as a postulated source,  has no results, explaining nothing. Everything in eternity has no cause, being ordered, determined or enabled variously, without ground.

The causatively adequate (cf. Causes) is only to be found in eternal self-sufficiency,


 requiring no cause since it is unlimited,


both the source of our processive causality,
and itself dependent on no force or ground,
being the start of all and its finish,


the prelude to events that are organised,


 the proponent of laws that become inherent in the universe,
delimited and defined,


the purveyor of imagination and intelligence, Maker of the same in man,


whose is then the place and site
for the power to overview these constructions and perceive events,


being made in the image of the Maker, and hence equipped to discern


what response to make in actuality to Him, as to all His works,


to what is differentially imaginable by will,


correctly, directively or seductively construable by desire,


 and so have liberty.

Whitehead blurred the horizons and did not cover their origin logically, in a synthetic bubble, neither explaining what is its source with the qualities of that, nor the nature and ground of its arrival  Thus he failed for lack of basis to account for what is discernible in man, a freedom without autonomy, divinely enabled but not divinity, a deliberating power without suppression, a roving imagination without control, except by his liability to lesser themes such as sickness or ignorance or intellectual confusion which can intervene. Yet this liberty in man is one able and willing to ponder and even create his own principles and the breach them, discern those operative and mischaracterise them at will, creating and then covering up in an intensive masterpiece of liberty. This may thus seduce itself with lack of integrity not a little, leading both to guilt and anger, depending on who is doing what to whom.

As he surmises his preferred course in will, selecting by imagination, deliberates and operates with preferences which underlie, rationally or irrationally, so his liberty depends ultimately on the AVAILABILITY of what he seeks, an absolute platform for true pondering, and a reliable will, not kinky with shrouded purposes.

This is impossible without access to truth, without which no liberty is even in principle possible, but is rather dynamic and illusion or delusion; and as to truth,  that is impossible without scope for access PLUS the provision of access, for there is much that would be useful IF accessible, which does not for that reason become so.

For truth, you need what is ABSOLUTELY free both of confinement to events and their inherent and effective power to push and control, and similarly absolutely available. If it required the operation of man's will and comprehension to MAKE it available, then the result would be warped or influenced or limited by the condition of the same, so that the truth would not in itself result. When however it is not only available but MADE available as it is, then man has confirmation not only of what he discerns logically as to the nature of God, but a valid and verifiable exposition of the same from the same. Truth does not stand on man's expertise, but vice versa.

When it comes, and is considered as operative, man's expertise however is one which he both should, for his safety, and can test, not in poetic and unaetiological rampancy, but in sober reality.

Thus liberty has its basis, the Bible is the testable revelation as so often explained in detail (as for example in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, and Deity and Design...), and at the same time, the universe has its causative construction explained, including the command-construction language and its potent exercise, a construction in words to enable construction in worlds, a symbolic masterpiece wedding action and command, capacity and consequence in the most imaginatively competent and effectual masterpiece in the realm of the visible, available to the eye of man - that is, his own being.

Efforts to construct liberty and universes without God fail alike, for the former requires Him qualitatively and the latter assertorially, to bring its analytically diverse elements both into existence and into non-deletive combination. You do not combine by poetry, but by prescription, whether in the form of DNA, or formalised dynamic in non-sensory construction and constriction. Without prescription, the marvel of form and power of matter, mind and spirit do not 'arise'  from nowhere, or from nothing, or any sequence, which itself has to have its ground that it might be sequential, and something with which to do the sequencing.

From nothing, that is what you get, nothing. It is scarcely relevant except as a reductio ad absurdum. Culture cannot supply it nor can man. Insist on this lordly nihilist notion, and desist from logic; and hence from all argument.

C. S. Lewis had a book, The Great Divorce.

The concept of man's divorce from God, ideationally, idealistically is a fruitful one, and biblically sound (Ephesians 4:17-19, Romans 5). With this, you have everything with various degrees of begging the question, or simple nothing, and so confused man in a capitulated world, under constant duress and furious fighting without resolution: he is divorced from his metaphysical, psychological and political basis.  With return to the Lord of creation and liberty, love and licence, you have ground for everything, but not without imposed constraints, for man is never god, and God in spirit is never man, though the entire hope of escape of and for man comes from the fact that IN FORM, God came as man, that IN FACT man might be redeemed and brought back to God.

There is persuasion in that. There is resistance for that. There is scope and ground, meaning and witnessed result in this, capable of consideration as such, and confirmation on biblical grounds, which are highly descriptive, explicative and overtly testable (as in Isaiah 41, 48).

Hence God, not willing for his creation, man, to perish,  has transcended man, before amending man, not as an event, which merely signifies something happening, without showing why and how, but as a resolution, for each person. Being God, this has been done as only He could, past the culling of events,  in the power of His foreknowledge, before systems graced the universal tarmac of events, and corruption inhibited the results. He knows each one as His or not, as preferring darkness or not, that great and stated criterion of judgment or else mercy, proceeding from a mercy without limit (cf. Micah 7:19ff., Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2), but truth, and without stay from love, and which stays in place in the heart  where it is received as it is, and is not merely imagined to be (John 3:16-19, 5:24, I John 4:7ff., 5:11ff.).

So persuasion does not rule, nor yet law, though both operate. God as the source of reality for man rules and will has its preferences in man which in the end, God does not abort (John 3:19, Colossians 1:19ff.), knowing all beyond mere events (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 9:11); for indeed, what sort of a preference can become what it detests, as its outcome, and what sort of compulsion can relate not only to persuasion, but to preference! Man is and remains responsible for his preferences; God for man's existence, His mind for ours, His truth for our actuality and strength and weakness, as it is subjected by human will to depraved contortion, or met in truth, which being His, He has liberally despatched in word and works.