The Sad Divorce of Mr. Substance and Mrs. Process
Until just a second ago, I had always had an issue with the idea that the self is a process, as opposed to a kind of stable entity. It seems like a sneak attack on the soul, as in the perspective of neurology, which reduces the self to a process of the brain only: in other words, the self is just an emergent phenomenon of brain activity.
It's a bit like the Buddhist view, which also regards everything as a process with no substance underneath. In fact, to see any enduring substance is to be trapped in maya-illusion. The cosmos is just a big sand painting and we have a head cold, so we're always one sneeze away from Obliteration.
However, it is not the idea of process that's wrong, only the reduction. For if man is a fractal of God, and God is a kind of interior process, then every created thing should reflect this, human beings quintessentially so.
"With the decline of Newtonian physics and the emergence of quantum theory and relativity, the physical world-picture in the West became centered around a process concept" (in Nature, Man, and Society). I would qualify this somewhat, in that, although the metaphysic has changed, the People haven't heard the news, and continue to live in the Machine Cosmos of their collective imagination.
As we've discussed a number of times, Alfred North Whitehead was the first to understand the philosophical implications of the new physics, and yet, it is not as if everyone suddenly became a Whiteheadian.
Far from it. I don't even want to know who the fashionable philosophers are today among the tenured, but these academic blackhats owe nothing Whitehead. Rather, for the most part, they have utterly rejected even the possibility of a Grand Metaphysical Narrative, and instead fallen -- or enthusiastically leapt -- into the tyranny of relativism.
I suppose the orthoparadox at the heart of this is that the Absolute is a process. Intuitively we think of the Absolute as static and unchanging. But if I understand God rightly, he wants us to know that this is not the case, and that he is indeed a process. Being that he went to some lengths to press the point home to earthlings, I think we ought to listen.
So, the emergence of quantum physics should have alerted all and sundry to "the end of the stiff mechanistic absolutism based on the substance view" (ibid.). However, I would again modify this, and say that substance and process are complementary, not opposite. Therefore, "to be," -- in the formulation of Norris Clarke -- "is to be substance-in-relation" (note that that is OneWord in three).
As it applies to man, I would say that we continue to have a center, but that this center is more analogous to the central point of the worldpool or the I of the cosmic hurricane. Or better, a strange attractor in the complex phase space of our interiority. Looked at this way, it is impossible to say whether the process is "obeying" the attractor, or whether the attractor emerges from the process.
Again, complementarity: substance and relation "belong together in any adequate metaphysics," writes Clarke "as intrinsically complementary aspects, distinct but inseparable..." This complementarity conveys "what it means to be, to be a real being in the full and proper sense of the term" (ibid.).
So, we are human beings, not human islings or itlings. Who knew?
When you think about it -- think about it in the Raccoon way, I mean -- we're really talking about that sameold primordial marriage of He & She, Adam & Eve, Absolute & Infinite, Earth & Sky, Math & Music, etc. But "Unfortunately the two notions, originally joined together, have become sundered and more opposed to each other as modern philosophy has unfolded since Descartes..." (ibid.).
In fact, Clarke suggests that we could call this metaphysical divorce "The Sad Adventure of Substance in Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Whitehead."
Another key idea that emerges from this view is that reality is intrinsically communicative. How's that? Well, let's start at the top (or bottom, if you like), with the Trinity. Obviously the Trinity is "communicative" within itselves, Father-to-Son, Son-to-Father, Holy Ghost to everyone, etc. There is nothing beneath, before, or above this eternal comm-union of love-in-relation. Or, just say Love, which is unthinkable in the absence of relation.
By the way, why can't it be Hate, as implied by Islamist theology or leftist vilification?
Because primordial hatred is always a severing, a rupture, a rejection, a failure of communion and integration. We will return to this idea shortly, as it is a central principle of Interpersonal Neurobiology. In fact, this entire coonversation will eventually lead back to and extend the ideas put forth in that book, i.e., to an interpersonal theoneurobiology.
As Clarke describes it, substance-in-relation "has an intrinsic dynamic orientation towards self-expressive action, toward self-communication with others, as the crown of its perfection, as its very raison d'tre, literally..." After all, if it's good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for the likes & loves of us, right?
To reiterate, a certain kind of self-expression is the "crown of perfection" and our reason for being. I hope it doesn't sound like Brian Willams-level pomposity to say that this is indeed my reason for being. Not the only reason, but certainly the highest, as there is nothing I desire more than the knowledge of truth AND the ability to share and communicate it. The former would be a little anemic -- not to mention narcissistic or even Ønanistic -- in the absence of the positive joy of the latter (and this is naturally to be distinguished from the perverse joy of communicating lies, as in the case of an Obama or Williams).
Why should the communication of truth be such a joy? Again, if it's good enough for God...