A Lecturer Speaks to an Assembly of Theology Students
Forerunners to Our Path & Practice
Deism, Process Theology, Stoicism, Freemasonry, Positivism, Secular Humanism, Existentialism, Skepticism, Pragmatism, Unitarianism, and Transcendentalism: These eleven are the main Western theological and philosophical forerunners to our Path of Continuing Creation. Many of the concepts in our Book evolved from them. These eleven Theological and Philosophical Forerunners are the subjects of this Essay.
Many readers of this Book of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos may say that our Practice is “just like Deism,” or “just like Process Theology.” Those two theologies are probably the most well-known antecedents of Continuing Creation, and we will talk about them fairly early. In addition to discussing those two, we will take up the other forerunners, not in chronological order or in order of importance, but as they have suggested themselves.
As we talk about all these philosophies, theologies, and spiritual paths, keep in mind the classic properties of a traditional Abrahamic (i.e., Jewish, Christian, Muslim) God. The anthropomorphic Father-God of these faiths is conventionally thought to possess the “Four Omni’s,” i.e., He fully possesses all four of the following traits all of the time:
- Omnipotent (all-powerful),
- Omniscient (all-knowing),
- Omnipresent (always present), and
- Omnibenevolent (always good)
In addition to theology’s “Four-Omni’s” describing the properties of God, we will be talking about the following age-old theological debates:
- Is there an objective reality outside the mind? Or, since we can only know things through our senses and minds, is all reality subjective for us?
- Does God exist outside of and/or before the universe, or is God only within and part of the universe?
- Is there a trend happening in the universe? Is it going from material to informational? From imperfect toward perfect? From bad to good, or from good to bad? Maybe the universe cycles round and around forever, from creation to destruction, to creation again and again.
- Does God have personal interactions with individual humans? Or does he only shape main events and trends? Or did God only create the universe, and then step away?
Stated another way, as we look at each religion, spiritual path, or philosophy, we should ask these seven questions of it:
- What does it say is the “Source” and “Sustenance” of the universe? (Various appellations for “Source” include: Ultimate Cause, Fundamental Force, Primal Power, God, Great Spirit, Higher Power, Ultimate Consciousness, and the Whole of All Wholes. See Appendix B for many more “names of God.”)
- Where is this Source/Sustenance? (Outside the universe, e.g., on a throne in heaven? From the death or outgrowth of a prior Universe? From Inside (part of) the universe? From an Eternal Ultimate Consciousness?
- How Does the Source/Sustenance Work? By miracles performed by a superbeing? By the attraction of Humans toward God? By natural processes following the laws of physics? Does it change over time? Does it evolve? Does it progress? Does it cycle or repeat? Does it die when suns die, explode, or get sucked into black holes?
- What is the Role, the Purpose of Humans? (To “glorify God?” To obey God? To be moral and honorable? To discover, create, and build? To love and care for one another? To love and care for the Earth? To travel to other planets? To merge with “Ultimate Consciousness,” e.g., Brahman or Nirvana?)
- Does the Source/Sustenance communicate with humans? By personal conversation? By inspiration only? By revelation? Through the words and actions of other people? Through our observations and our logic, including the scientific method? Through one or more of the above? Through none of the above?
- What is the Eventual Outcome for the Universe? Is there a Heaven and a Hell? Continual elaboration of creation, with increasing organization? With increasing meaning as well? Eventual heat death or gravity death? Compression into a black hole or into a point of singularity? Eventual cold death? Attenuation within ever-expanding space?
- What is the Eventual Outcome for Humans (and other Earthlings)? (Some people in Heaven, some in hell? Some endlessly reincarnated, and some whose minds are merged with Ultimate Consciousness? Continued battle between good and evil wherever humans live? Conquest of all disease, or the continual rise of new diseases? Human Progress toward one or more of these goals: peace, freedom, goodness, love? Human extinction on Earth due to ecological, medical, military, or astronomic events?
Note: Many of these seven questions are classified into traditional theological categories. Ontology, for example, is the study of “what is.” Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Other categories include are phenomenology and teleology. However, we think a discussion of these categories would be too time consuming and confusing for our purposes in this Essay.
Important Topics We Will Not Cover in this Essay
- We will not cover the three Eastern philosophical forerunners to our Book of Continuing Creation – Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen. They are just as important as the Western forerunners. We will devote two separate Essays to them. The Essay, Evaluating Taoism and Zen is posted and readable. The Essay on Buddhism should be posted up to our website in the first of 2022.
- This Essay does not address the many advances in science which are even more important forerunners to the Book of Continuing Creation than are the philosophies and theologies we discuss in this Essay. The forerunners from science include paleontology, evolution, genetics, sociobiology, ecology, anthropology, microbiology, modern physics, cybernetics, and others. Essays on some of these subjects have already been written and posted to our website. See the list of published Essays in the right-hand column of this webpage.
- Finally, this Essay will not cover the important contributions of Nature-based spiritual traditions to Our Way of Continuing Creation. These spiritual paths, including ancient Druidism and Native American traditions, as well as modern Gaia and Wiki-centered spiritual paths, will be discussed in other Essays of this Book.
- We will not cover the three Eastern philosophical forerunners to our Book of Continuing Creation – Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen. They are just as important as the Western forerunners. We will devote two separate Essays to them. The Essay, Evaluating Taoism and Zen is posted and readable. The Essay on Buddhism should be posted up to our website in the first of 2022.
Note: Appendix B lists over 30 different names or appellations for “God” or “Higher Power,” not including the 92 Traditional Names for Allah in Islam (such as The Beneficent, Absolute Master, The Exalted, and The Designer), many of which are particularly beautiful in Arabic.
Free Thinking or Freethought
Starting in the 1600’s, people who formed their own ideas and opinions rather than accepting those of political authorities or religious teaching, began to be called “Free Thinkers.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines freethinking as, “The free exercise of reason in matters of religious belief, unrestrained by deference to authority; the adoption of the principles of a freethinker.” Freethinkers hold that knowledge should be grounded in facts, scientific inquiry, and logic. The skeptical application of science implies freedom from the intellectually limiting effects of confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, urban myth, prejudice, or sectarianism. Early Freethought groups arose in Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. In the U.S., freethinking was strong in communities of German immigrants, and among early Unitarian Universalists. 1
The Theology of Deism
Deism arose in the 1700’s, in Europe and North America. Deism rejects revelation (divine word or knowledge given directly by God) as a source of religious knowledge and asserts that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to establish the existence of a Supreme Being or Creator of the universe. 2
From the time of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Christian thought had recognized two sources of knowledge of God: revelation i.e., biblical scripture and “natural reason.” The study of the truths revealed by reason was called “natural” theology.
But during the Age of Enlightenment (circa 1700-1800), especially in Britain and France, “Deist” philosophers began to reject revelation as a source of knowledge. The following positions are the common expressions of Deism; but not all Deists held all of these positions.
- Having absorbed Isaac Newton’s Laws of Classical Physics (the law of gravity, laws of motion, etc.) in 1687, most Deists regarded God as a “watchmaker;” a distant Creator and First Mover who constructed and wound up the universe, set it in motion, and then “stepped away.”
- Having established Nature’s fundamental natural laws, God didn’t need to keep tinkering with his creation. He could let it grow and watch it evolve.
- Deists rejected the possibility of miracles. (Although some continued to accept the possibility of miracles; God after all was all-powerful and could do anything at all, including temporarily bypassing his own natural laws.)
- It seemed clear to many Deists that God did not “reach down” to intervene in the lives of individual humans. Consequently, they concluded it was pointless to pray to a God who wouldn’t grant miracles. In other words, they rejected the idea of a personal.
- However, less-certain Deists tried to live as though God exists, and kept trying to believe in Him, as insurance against going to hell if God really does (As advised by “Pascal’s Wager.”)
- With the denial of revelation as a source of truth, Deists progressed to the rejection of all “sacred” books, including the Bible, that claimed to contain divine revelation.
- The Deists rejected the mystical notion of the Trinity being “God in Three Persons.” God could not logically be One Person and Three Persons at the same time.
- And Deists rejected other religious “mysteries” – such as Yahweh speaking from a burning bush, Jesus’ walking on water and rising from the dead, and the transubstantiation of properly blessed wine and bread into the blood and flesh of Christ during Catholic mass.
Although most Christian Deists rejected the divinity of Jesus, most of them accepted Jesus as an actual historical person and held him in high regard as a moral teacher. One of them, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), produced a Bible in which all the miracles were edited out, known today as The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English. A number of other American revolutionary leaders, including Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, were also Deists.
Many Deists considered themselves to be “True Christians” because they understood that the real truth of Jesus was his great moral teaching. Deists thought these moral truths were the essence of Christianity. Moreover, since these truths are timeless, Deists often held that they predated Jesus’ teachings. This was the thrust of Matthew Tindal’s (1657-1733) Christianity as Old as the Creation, published in 1730, which came to be called “The Bible of Deism.”
Another premise of Deism was that the religions of the day were corruptions of an original religion that was pure, natural, simple, and rational. Humanity lost this original religion when it was subsequently corrupted by “priests” who manipulated it for personal gain and for the class interests of the priesthood. They believed it was this self-serving that encrusted the Bible and the Catholic Church with superstitions and “mysteries” – irrational theological doctrines. They referred to this manipulation of religious doctrine as “priestcraft,” an intensely derogatory term. 3
Deists declared that laymen were thus kept dependent on the priesthood for information about the requirements for salvation and baffled by these “mysteries” – giving the priesthood a position of great power, which they worked to maintain and increase. Deists saw it as their mission to strip away “priestcraft” and “mysteries.” Tindal, an early and influential Deist writer in England, wrote that this was the proper original role of the Christian Church in his book, Christianity as Old as the Creation (XIV).
Deism as a distinct intellectual movement declined toward the end of the 18th century and eventually disappeared. However, many of its tenets continue to live on as part of other intellectual movements – including Unitarianism and our own Path of the Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Universe.
The following quote from Albert Einstein (1879-1955) offers a good Deistic description of God:
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”
We Participants in Continuing Creation agree that the laws of physics are fundamental and most likely appeared (or “separated out” or “froze out”) at the Big Bang or Original Singularity. 4 However, we cannot say if there was a God e.g., a “Prime Mover,” a “Watchmaker,” who existed prior to, outside of, and/or created the Big Bang/Original Singularity. Therefore, we cannot say if The Watchmaker “stepped away” after “making the Watch.”
We likely can never say that there is no “God,” no all-knowing intelligence that created the laws of physics and the Big Bang. In order to say that we would have to be able see before the beginning of time and before the existence of the Universe. Since we humans are part of the universe, we cannot “stand outside” the universe to see if God is located there.
It’s just simpler to start with what we perceive and know. We know of the Big Bang and we do perceive the Processes of Continuing Creation happening all around us in chemistry, biology, technology, and culture. In this Book we have described many examples of complexity emerging from simplicity. Why not let that very evident Process of Continuing Creation itself be the source of our spirituality?
Followers of Continuing Creation reject Deism’s “watchmaker” analogy. While a pocket-watch is indeed designed and hand-made by a creator (a human creator), living things are not. Instead, modern science informs us that bacteria, plants, and animals have evolved on Earth over millions of years. (See our Essays on Evolution, including “Answering Evolution’s Critics.”)
We agree with Deism that there is no personal God who responds to prayerful requests or to animal sacrifices. We also agree that the Bible, the Koran, and other “sacred” books do not contain wisdom that is fundamentally more significant than, say, the wisdom found in Plato’s Dialogues or Aesop’s Fables. While most Practitioners of Continuing Creation hold that Jesus was a real person, none of us would say that Jesus was God or the biological Son of God. During his very mortal life, Jesus was in many respects a wise teacher; although he over-emphasized equal sharing and under-emphasized cultural and technological creativity and progress. (See our Essays, Evaluating Jesus’ Teaching; and Radical Sharing and Love Don’t Work.)
Note: For a more detailed explication of the Book of Continuing Creation’s position on the beginning of the Universe, see Appendix A to this Essay.
In Deism, God has all four of His “Omni Powers,” but he elects not to use them on day-to-day things here on Earth. After starting the world, He has “stepped back.” Why would He do that? The traditional Abrahamic explanation is that God stepped back and allowed evil because Humans disappointed him by committing Original Sin. Deists rejected that idea because (a) it would mean that God is vindictive and not omnibenevolent, and (b) the Garden of Eden story is simply too far-fetched (and the traditional ideas of Heaven and Hell are even more far-fetched).
Given today’s knowledge about the vastness of the universe, we hold that Processes of Continuing Creation have likely started the evolution of millions of life forms in other solar systems, thousands of which may well be intelligent. (For support, see this link: “The Drake Equation.”) If this is true, there’s no reason why the Processes of the Growing, Organizing, Direction would “favor” the life on Earth over the life on any other suitable planet.
Spinozism – The Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza
Spinozism, the philosophical system written in the 17th century by Baruch (“Benedict”) de Spinoza (1632-1677), was a forerunner of Process Theology, Process Philosophy, and the concept of pantheism (We will discuss each of these in the next few pages.)
In his book Ethics, (1665) Spinoza was one of the first thinkers to argue that the Universe comes not from an anthropomorphic super-person, nor from a supremely intelligent “Mind,” but from something that is abstract and impersonal. 5
Spinozism re-defined “God” as a singular self-subsistent Natura (Nature) or Substantia (Substance). Spinoza wrote that Natura is absolutely infinite, self-caused, and eternal; and it causes the infinite number of attributes and forms (or modes) that we see around us. He regarded both physical matter and thought as derivative attributes or modes of Natura.
The Way of Continuing Creation agrees with Spinoza that “Nature” in its broadest and most active sense can be another name for Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos.
We agree with Spinoza’s idea that God/Continuing Creation/Natura is not a super-person and does not have intent or feelings. But rather than describing God/Continuing Creation/Nature as a basic “substance,” we say it is a set of creative Processes that work on substances by channeling supplying energy into and through processes.
Pantheism (and Panentheism)
Pantheism and the lesser-known Panentheism can be thought of as theologies (just as Deism is). However, they are usually treated as important characteristics of varied theologies and belief systems.
Pantheism is an important aspect of Continuing Creation. Pantheism says that God (or, Continuing Creation, “CC”) and the Universe are one and the same thing. God (CC) did not create a universe that stands outside of Himself (itself), or which is smaller-lesser than Himself. Pantheism is the belief that the “divine” pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe; but it does not extend to some Source-of-the-Divine that is beyond space and time.
While Pantheistic concepts date back thousands of years, Pantheism was popularized in Western culture as a theology and philosophy based on the work of philosopher Baruch Spinoza, particularly his book Ethics, (1655). 6
In contrast to Pantheism, Panentheism, says that God is in everything in the universe, but that some portion (likely a huge portion) of God also exits outside (or beyond, or before) the universe. Therefore, God “as a whole” is greater than the universe as a whole. 7
However, Continuing Creation is also different than pantheism. Pantheism says The Ultimate is everything, while Continuing Creation is only about the creative systems of the Universe. Those are the systems that have a flow-through of energy that creates something. Such systems include evolution, natural selection, steam engines, radio communications, and poets writing poems. A rock sitting somewhere in outer space is usually not part of a creative system, although over eons or time that rock might run into a moon and create a crater. Destruction and erosion can be creative, but usually only over the long, long term.
Process Theology (mid-1880’s to today) emphasizes events instead of substances. It is about dynamic change rather than static existence. Wikipedia also has articles for Process Philosophy and Process Theory.
Process Theology looks at the suffering of the world and concludes that God [we say Continuing Creation, CC] does not have a full complement of “Omni Powers.” Since there is suffering and evil, God [CC] must not be simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent.
If God is short on just one of the categories, evil can exist. For example,
- If God/CC lacks power, he may not be able to correct evil or ensure good outcomes.
- If He [or Her or It] doesn’t know about some of the evil, He [Her, It] can’t correct it.
- If God/CC is not perfectly good, then God/CC he won’t care about eliminating all evil.
Process Theology says that “Yes, God’s [Continuing Creation’s] powers and processes are working, and working in a positive direction, but they are not yet working perfectly.” The Processes have not yet achieved their ultimate goal, their “Omega Point” of final perfection.
Catholic priest and Process theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) coined the term Omega Point to mean the maximum level of complexity, consciousness, and justice towards which he believed the universe was evolving. Process Theology says it is the job of God’s (Continuing Creation’s) human agents here on Earth to help God bring about an Omega Point of universal health, peace, prosperity, and justice on Earth.
In doing so, Humans will not only be helping the universe improve, we will also help God (for us, Continuing Creation) become more complete, more perfect. In other words, God (Continuing Creation) is Himself (itself) an improving, growing process. (Of course, people on Our own Secular-Spiritual Path already know that.)
(Note: Many Christians would argue that the judgmental and vengeful God of the Old Testament has already been replaced by the forgiving and loving God of the New Testament. However, the New Testament still includes the bizarre Book of Revelation which still describes the horrors in store for the sinful during the apocalypse.
Process Theology says that the Perfection of God is not at the start of human history (i.e., with Adam and Eve), but at its end.
What will that Omega Point look like? Well, for traditional Christians, it will be a wonderful family life, including human-like bodies, here on Earth or in Heaven (depending on your denomination). Hindus and Zen practitioners, who traditionally think the real world of insufficient food, of disease, and warfare will never be improved, hold that the Omega Point is a mystical union of human consciousnesses with the God-consciousness — called Brahman or Nirvana respectively.
Weavers in Continuing Creation are not sure we will reach an Omega Point, although we certainly work toward achieving it. If we do attain it, it will be here on Earth, and/or on other planets and moons we may occupy, not in some imaginary Heaven. It will feature less suffering, justice within and between all races and all species, environmental sustainability, challenge, learning, discovery, rewarding relationships, and a good deal of health and happiness.
Process Theology was principally originated by the English mathematician and philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). With his student Bertrand Russell, (1872-1970) he wrote Principia Mathematica, (circa 1925), a landmark attempt to derive all of mathematics from a single set of logical axioms. His equally famous philosophical works were written later in his life, including The Concept of Nature (1920) and Process and Reality (1929).
Process Theology’s emphasis on dynamic change over static substance partly evolved from German Idealism, including the philosophers Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
Here are Some of the Tenets of Process Theology:
- God is not omnipotent in the sense of being powerfully commanding and coercive. The Divine is powerfully persuasive, rather than coercive. He attracts rather than compels.
- God (we say Continuing Creation or “CC”) affects and is also affected by the world (including by human actions). Thus, humans have an important role in shaping the Evolution of the Future.
- Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially ordered events, which are experiential in nature.
- The universe is characterized by process and change. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe (e.g., through emergence and evolution), not just human beings. God/CC does not force anything to happen, but rather gives his creations choices between different paths. For non-conscious entities, like the pinecone on a tree, the “choice” is simply a range of probabilities about where its seed might fall.
- Some versions of Process Theology embrace Pantheism (see above). Because God/CC and the changing universe are at one with each other, whenever the universe changes, so does God/CC. In other words, God/CC is affected by the actions that take place in the universe over the course of time. The Path of Continuing Creation agrees with this interpretation. Note: In contrast, Panentheistic versions of Process Theology (see above) hold that the part of God remaining outside of, and greater than, the Universe is the God-part that is All-Good, i.e., Omnibenevolent. That Good Part also retains the other “three-Omni’s.” The Path of Continuing Creation does not agree with this interpretation.
- People do not experience a personal immortality, but they may have a kind of immortality in that their experiences live on forever “in God,” who contains all that ever lived within His Consciousness (or the Brahman) Continuing Creation Followers would say – Probably not in “God’s Consciousness,” but surely in the very real accumulation of history, digital information, technology, and culture which Teilhard de Chardin calls the “noosphere.”
- Process theology affirms that God is working in all persons to actualize their potentialities. Each world religion is a manifestation of the Divine working in a unique cultural way to bring out the beautiful and the good. Continuing Creation people emphasize that not all people will attain actualization due to their own faults, chance, or the imperfection of the Processes of the Growing, Organizing, Direction.
Note: The above list of tenets is from “Philosophy of Religion,” (Chapter 6), a course offered at CUNY. (Go to:
We Weavers in Continuing Creation see a Directional arrow — in both natural history and recorded history. For us it is an arrow of increasing organized complexity. But we are less confident that human goodness will win out in the end.
However, Professor Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature; Why Violence Has Declined, makes a persuasive case that over the long run, violence is being replaced with peace. Other scholars, including R. Brian Ferguson, Robert Epstein, John N. Gray. Craig S. Lerner, and Edwin S. Herman, disagree with Dr. Pinker. 8
Followers of Continuing Creation generally hold that the physical and social worlds are being improved. Therefore, we can direct the workaday world toward an Omega Point that is a land of freedom, justice, and physical prosperity here on Earth – for humans, other living things, and ecosystems.
Today, a number of conventionally religious people have adopted a kind of Process Theology. They would say that God is “incarnate” in the lives of all people when they act according to a “call” from God. Some Christians would say Jesus was not God, but rather a human who was “perfectly synchronized to God at all moments of life.” Muslims would say the same thing about Muhammad; and certain Tibetan Buddhists would make the same claim for the Dalai Lama.
The Path of Continuing Creation is pantheistic rather than panentheistic. We hold that the Processes of the Growing, Organizing, Direction are “in-and-of” everything. Those processes (systems, patterns, and information) organize the emergence of every event and every single material thing that is more elaborate than a quark or an electron. Many of those created things (e.g., volcanos, leaves, humans, computers) go on to themselves direct and carry out other Processes of Continuing Creation.
Although Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) labored to keep a place for God in their writings on Process Theology, before too long other thinkers were applying and extending their ideas without mention of God, and this effort is now known as Process Philosophy. (Clearly, Process Philosophy harks back to Baruch Spinoza.)
Wikipedia defines Process Philosophy, as an approach in philosophy that identifies processes, changes, or shifting relationships as the only real experience of everyday living. In opposition to the classical view of change as illusory (as argued by Parmenides) or accidental (as argued by Aristotle), process philosophy posits transient occasions of change or becoming as the only fundamental things of the ordinary everyday real world.
The Book of Continuing Creation is more in tune with Process Philosophy than it is with Process Theology, although the latter has a more developed literature.
Wikipedia says that the following thinkers “appeal to process rather than substance:” the Buddha, Heraclitus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Martin Heidegger, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, Alan Watts, Robert M. Pirsig, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and others. In physics, Ilya Prigogine distinguishes between the “physics of being” and the “physics of becoming.” All of these philosophers can be called “Forefathers” to The Book of Continuing Creation.
Today, we see that the explanatory power of the science about process has outstripped both the older Process Theology and Process Philosophy. Processes are now widely studied in many fields of engineering and science including chemistry, biology, political science, education, sociology, and complexity theory. (See our Essay, Complexity and Continuing Creation.)
Being and Becoming
Being and Becoming (or Being versus Becoming) are important topics within Process Theology and Process Philosophy. “Being and becoming” are also important in the philosophies of Existentialism and Pragmatism, which we will take up shortly.
Process theologians and philosophers share the guiding idea that natural existence consists of modes of becoming and types of occurrences. They hold that the world is an assembly of physical, organic, social, and cognitive systems that interact at and across levels of dynamic organization. Since change never stops (and in fact seems to be accelerating), natural existence is more about Becoming than Being; the dynamic is more prevalent and more important than the static.
As a result, Process Philosophy casts a wider net than materialism, because it addresses not just material things – like rocks and molecules, but also non-material, relational things like games, strategies, developments, laws, transformations, and consciousness as worthy of study and explanation. A traffic jam is not really a “thing,” it is an event, a system, and a process. Like all events, systems, and processes, the traffic jam has typical causes, sequences, and resolutions that take place through time.
If we say that processes, and not things in our world, are basic entities, we can reason about phenomena like quantum entanglement, computation, government, metabolism, climate change, spacetime, mind, morality, war, health, and beauty.
Process philosophy also allows us to connect science to the rich tradition of reflection in the great schools of Eastern thought. Thus, the famous physicist Fritjof Capra (1939- ) could come to publish a best-seller called The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism in 1975. Science writer Gary Zukav would write another best-seller, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, in 1979.
The book you are now reading, The Book of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos, is a direct descendant of Process Theology and Process Philosophy. Our book shows how Spirituality can be achieved in our human lives by following not a supernatural God, but the Natural Processes of Creating. Ours is a Spiritual Path that is true to Nature, Reason, Science, and factual History, and is without any myths or miracle stories.
Listing the Processes of Continuing Creation
Books about Process Philosophy often never really say what the “process” is. For us, it is the Process of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos, whereby an energy flow such as we have here on Earth from our sun, combines simple components (atoms) into ever more differentiated and complex structures – molecules, simple one-celled organisms, millions of diverse complex organisms, consciousness, tools and tool use, culture, art, science, and engineering.
We can be more specific by listing out many of the sub-processes that make up the Process of Continuing Creation. Almost anyone can easily write down such a list. Some of the sub-processes are words that end in “-sis,” like synthesis, photosynthesis, catalysis, electrolysis, and analysis. Others are words that end in “-ence,” like transference, transcendence, and emergence. And there are process-words that appear to be fairly unique – like birth, life, growth, and death.
But the biggest group of Continuing Creation sub-processes seems to be words that end in “-ion.” In no particular order, these include:
Creation, differentiation, combination, organization, elaboration, extension, competition, cooperation, fusion, evaporation, crystallization, eruption, formation, reproduction, invention, fission, radiation, escalation, evolution, reaction, ionization, accretion, socialization, education, fertilization, dissolution, dispersion creative-destruction, democratization, demarcation, taxation, representation, delineation, gentrification, predation, attraction, group-selection, perforation, transformation, erosion, hydration, reduction, polymerization, condensation, visualization, symbolization, expression, enumeration, codification, comprehension, sterilization, vaccination, mobilization, transportation, navigation, decoration, randomization, replication, migration, and construction.
Of course, the list is hardly complete. The words come from many fields — physics, geology, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociobiology, and political science. Some of the processes are “natural” (pre-human), and some are human-made. We include the human-made processes because the actions we human beings can be important contributions to Continuing Creation. (The current Geological Epoch, the Anthropocene, is named after us because the human effect on our planet has been so dominant.)
Many of these Processes fall under the heading of Complexity Science (see our Essay, Complexity and Continuing Creation, and others under the heading of Evolution Science; but there is considerable overlap. All of them (and many more) ought to be included in a partial list we posted in J.X. Mason’s 2019 blog-post titled, What Are the Processes of Creating?
Note that none of these processes are Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, or Omnibenevolent. Therefore, the summation of them all is not a mythical “Omni-God;” rather, their summation is the very real and imperfect “Processes of Earth & Cosmos,” as we know them.
In describing how Continuing Creation works, the two most extensive processes are probably Emergence and Evolution. We devote complete Essays to each of them: Emergence is explained in two Essays: Patterns of Information-How Creation Works; and Complexity and Continuing Creation. Evolution is explained in the Essay, The Processes of Evolution and Their Meaning. Many traditional conservative theologians in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam reject the Science of Evolution. We refute their arguments in our Essay, Answering Evolution’s Critics.
Now we turn to several philosophies and theologies which are also forerunners to The Path of Continuing Creation — namely Freemasonry, Stoicism, Humanism, Existentialism, Transcendentalism, Unitarianism, Pragmatism and Skepticism. Some of these originated in ancient times, and others are relatively young. Many people would say that some or all of these are just as important as Deism and Process Theology to the evolution of The Book of Continuing Creation.
With the possible exceptions of Pragmatism and Skepticism, all these philosophies say that humans should act virtuously, even though they may find themselves in the midst of Earthly misfortune and injustice.
The philosophy of Stoicism is the oldest of the three. It dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans who lived between the third century BCE and the fourth century CE. Famous Stoics include Zeno of Citium, Seneca the Younger, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius (who was the 17th Emperor of Rome, ruling from 161-180, CE). Stoicism became the foremost popular philosophy among the educated elite in the Hellenistic world and the Roman Empire, 9 Marcus Aurelius’ book of Stoic Meditations remains widely read even today.
Stoics taught that virtue is sufficient for happiness; riches, power, and victories are not required. Stoics should develop self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. These virtues are supported by clear and unbiased thinking, allowing Stoics to understand Universal Reason (Logos) and bring their minds into agreement with Nature. (Nature was held to be, at least on balance, good.) Personal relationships should be free from anger, envy, and jealousy.” 10 Stoics should even accept slaves as “equals of other men, because all men alike are products of nature.”11 Of course, classics scholars do not completely agree on all the aspects of Stoicism.
Stoic theology is a fatalistic and naturalistic pantheism: God is never fully transcendent (not outside the universe) but always immanent. Stoicism equates God with the totality of the universe.
According to the Stoics, the Universe consists of passive matter and an “intelligent ether or primordial fire” which can be called Fate or Universal Reason (Logos), which acts on the passive matter. Logos is the active reason or anima mundi pervading and animating the entire Universe.
Humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine Logos, which is the primordial fire and reason that controls and sustains the Universe. 12
The Gospel of John equated Jesus Christ with the Greek Logos, which was translated from the Greek into our English as “The Word.” This is an early instance of trying to bolster Christian doctrine with Greek philosophy. (See our Essay, Evaluating Jesus’ Teaching.)
Like the Hindu conception of existence, the Stoics teach that time has no starting point, but is considered to be infinite and cyclic. (Hinduism says that the current Universe was preceded by an infinite number of Universes and is doomed to be destroyed and to be followed by another infinite number of Universes). See our Essay, Evaluating Hinduism.
Philosophy for a Stoic is not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims; it is a way of life involving constant practice and training (or askēsis). Stoic philosophical and spiritual practices included logic, Socratic dialogue and self-dialogue, contemplation of death, mortality salience, training attention to remain in the present moment (similar to some forms of Buddhist meditation), journaling, and daily reflection on everyday problems and possible solutions. Philosophy for a Stoic is an active process of constant practice and self-reminder.
Stoicism can be likened to a military philosophy of duty, honor, and loyalty. A stoic keeps on fighting even in the face of great hardship and great odds. Why? Because virtue (honor) is its own reward.
The Practice of Continuing Creation agrees with much of Stoicism. But we find it too fatalistic, probably because it was written and taught before there was little modern understanding of progress in science, technology, and (maybe) in government.
Freemasonry(1100’s to today) consists of fraternal organizations that trace their origins to the local medieval guilds of stonemasons. Members of those guilds were responsible for designing and building the magnificent Romanesque and gothic cathedrals of Europe. Their skills at gauging the stresses of weight within arched patterns were highly sophisticated… and kept secret. Masonic building skills erected fortresses as well as cathedrals, thus providing protection to farmers and townspeople during centuries of threatened attack by enemy armies. Freemasonry has a long history — from the 1100-‘s until today.
Because the Masonic brotherhoods were based on secular science and math-based skills, their lodges had great appeal to men of the Enlightenment who favored reason and natural law over Biblical dogma. The existing Masonic lodges already opposed ignorance, fanaticism, and tyranny with tolerance, brotherhood, and egalitarianism. And so, in the 1700’s educated men of science and letters joined the Masonic organizations because they were ready-made bastions of freethinking. As a result, during the 1700’s the old craft guilds evolved into social and charitable fraternities open to men from all walks of life.
Today, modern Freemasons only require members to believe in some personal conception of God, some Higher Power of one’s own individual understanding. Freemasonry invites people of all faiths, even if they use different names for the “Nameless One of a hundred names.” Freemasonry teaches that its “Great Architect of the Universe” is representative of all gods in all religions.
Masons believe they are able to improve their character and behavior through acts of charity, moral living, and voluntary performance of civic duty. They hold that humanity possesses the ability of moving from imperfection toward total perfection.
Modern Masonic meetings feature a long series of rituals whereby men advance over the years through as many as 33 “degrees” of Masonic knowledge. The degrees of Freemasonry retain the original three grades of medieval craft guilds — Apprentice, Journeyman or Fellow, and Master Mason. The degree rituals are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. Candidates for the degrees are progressively taught the symbols, hand grips, signs, and words of each Masonic Degree.
Freemasonry is a clear and important forerunner to the Path of Continuing Creation because they both promote constructive building as a fundamental characteristic of a good and honorable life. Freemasons and Builders in the Growing, Organizing, Direction both devote themselves to the positive and active construction of their family lives, professions, trades, and communities.
Also, Practitioners of Continuing Creation have an “engineering attitude” toward science and mathematics: knowledge that works to solve the world’s problems is precious even though fundamental issues in physics (waves versus particles, dark matter, parallel universes, etc.,) remain unsolved. In other words, both Freemasonry and Our Way of Life are pragmatic.
Shortcomings of Freemasonry: Although women now routinely become Masons in Europe, this trend is unfortunately only just beginning in the United States. Also, Freemasonry’s emphasis on elaborate ritual is overdone, and it is rooted in mythical characters involved with the construction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Lastly, Followers of Continuing Creation doubt that humans can “reason away” all their unpleasant instincts, at least not without genetic therapy.
Notes: While your author, J.X. Mason, took his penname from the construction craft of “masonry,” he does not speak for, and has never been affiliated with, any organized part of Freemasonry. For further reading, we recommend Freemasonry: An Introduction, by Mark E. Kolta-Rivera, Pd.D., 2007, Penguin Books. We also recommend “Mysteries of the Freemasons,” a balanced and scholarly one-hour documentary appearing on The History Channel, December, 2017.
Positivism (circa 1750-1880)
Today, when we say a person is “positive,” we mean that he or she has an optimistic, confident, and progressive attitude. While such an attitude is certainly an enabling virtue among Weavers of Continuing Creation, the Philosophy of Positivism (circa 1750-1880) means something different – it has to do with how “positive” we can be about the accuracy of our facts and knowledge.
The philosophy of Positivism states that in order for knowledge to be valid and certain, it must be based on natural phenomena. Thus, information derived from sensory experience, interpreted through reason and logic, is the source of all certainty. 13 Positivism holds that “positive” knowledge, i.e., valid knowledge or objective truth, is found only in this experience-derived (a posteriori) knowledge.
Verified data (positive facts) received from the senses, including data from observation and experimentation, are known as empirical evidence; thus, positivism is based on Empiricism.
Positivism also holds that society, like the physical world, operates according to general laws. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected, as are metaphysics and theology, because metaphysical and theological claims cannot be verified by sense experience coupled with reason. Since we cannot demonstrate that people rise from the dead, Designers in Continuing Creation do not believe that Jesus did so.
Today, the positivist toolbox for research and experimentation includes validity, reliability, replicability, and peer review of published studies.
In books written between 1830 and 1848, the philosopher Auguste Comte extended Positivism to cover the newly developing social sciences. He believed that the certainty of science decreases as we move from physics to chemistry, decreases again as we move to biology, and again as we come to the new science of sociology. However, Comte said that sociology could be empirically studied quite effectively through the use of statistical methods.
Comte went on to develop Positivism into a “Religion of Humanity.” His view was that society had evolved from theocracy, to aristocracy, to democracy. Comte’s democracy is a liberal democracy,
meaning that individual rights and freedoms are protected against tyranny through the rule of law and the separation of powers.
Diagram of the Scientific Method
More recently, anti-positivists and even some modern skeptics would argue that the human is too dominated by innate core instincts (for survival, sex, domination, sexism, racism, confirmation bias, etc.) and cognitive biases (confirmation bias, ambiguity effect, anthropomorphization, the clustering illusion, The Ben Franklin effect, etc.) to permit us to ever declare that any knowledge is in fact objective. Since all human knowledge lies in the human mind, it is all subjective, and all uncertain. Today, many modern physicists believe that the best truth we can hope for in particle physics is “model-dependent truth,” also called “model-dependent reality.” (We discuss this more thoroughly in our Essays on science.)
The Book of Continuing Creation recognizes that a good number of modern physicists are skeptical that we can ever reach certainty in the science of physics. Many of them say that the best we can do is to achieve “model-dependent” truths or model-dependent realism. (We discuss these topics further in other Essays.)
Weavers of Continuing Creation make every effort to apply Positivism everywhere we can so that we can get close to finding objective truth. When we look at natural history and human history, we perceive a clear progression of complexity – atoms, molecules, organisms, cultures.
Even if the fundamental structure of sub-atomic Physics is confused, as it is today, model-dependent truths are objective enough to give us lasers, CAT scans, cellphones, solar power, gene-editing, and other advances in science. For Travelers in Continuing Creation, this is the ultimate measure of real-world progress.
Rationalism and Empiricism
In the section above, we mentioned that Positivism was historically based on Empiricism. Empiricism holds that true knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience, including observation and experimentation. Its champions were the philosophers Francis Bacon, John Locke, and David Hume. Historically, empiricism was associated with the “blank slate” concept (tabula rasa), according to which the human mind is “blank” at birth and develops its thoughts only through later experience. 15
Continuing Creation shows us that knowledge comes from both logical deduction and the observation of Nature, so both Rationalism and Empiricism are forerunners of Continuing Creation.
Humanism (principally from the Renaissance until today) is a philosophy and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively.
Like Positivism, Humanism champions critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over religious dogma and superstition.
Humanism generally affirms the notions of human freedom and progress. It views humans as capable of, and responsible for, the development of their own individual lives. 16
Humanism has a very long history, going back to the earliest world religions and the philosophies of Ancient Greece. After the medieval age, The Western Renaissance (1300-1600) reinvigorated the admiration of Greek philosophy and the promotion of human values and ideals.
Humanism received a further boost by Europe’s Age of Enlightenment (1700’s). The Enlightenment centered on the sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state. 17 The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method.
It is commonly said that for Humanists, “Man [not a mythical God] is the Measure of All Things.” 18
Today, Humanism usually refers to nontheistic living that understands the world through science rather than through revelations from a supernatural source. In most people’s minds, Humanism is also linked to Secularism; in fact, the combination is known as Secular Humanism. In 2004, American Humanist Association, along with other groups representing agnostics, atheists, and other freethinkers, joined to create the Secular Coalition for America which advocates in Washington, D.C. and nationally for separation of church and state and for the greater acceptance of nontheistic Americans.
Most modern Atheists and Agnostics would say that Humanism, and not religion, provides the foundation of their morality and ethics. Almost all Humanists advocate the strict separation of Church and State, as is written into the Constitution of the United States.
- Articles 1–2 established the basic concepts of dignity, liberty, and equality.
- Articles 3–5 established other individual rights, such as the right to life and the prohibition of slavery and torture.
- Articles 6–11 refer to the fundamental legality of human rights, with specific remedies for violations thereof.
- Articles 12–17 established the rights of the individual towards the community (including such things as freedom of movement).
- Articles 18–21 sanctioned the so-called “constitutional liberties, with spiritual, public, and political freedoms, such as freedom of thought, opinion, religion and conscience, word, and peaceful association of the individual.
- Articles 22–27 sanctioned an individual’s economic, social and cultural rights, including healthcare. Article 25 states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” It also makes additional accommodations for security in case of physical debilitation or disability and makes special mention of care given to those in motherhood or childhood.
- Articles 28–30 established the general ways of using these rights, the areas in which these rights of the individual cannot be applied, and wherein they cannot be overcome by governmental actions against the individual.
Humanists say that decisions about right and wrong must be based on the individual and common good, with no consideration given to metaphysical or supernatural beings. The ultimate goal is human flourishing: making life better for all humans.
It is important to note that Nature is held to be the source of all the good qualities and methods within Humanism. In other words, since Nature is basically good at the root, Humankind is also basically good at the root, and the evils that humans both do and suffer result from humans not acting naturally and thus distorting Nature. And so, Humanism is optimistic about humankind and our future.
However, Practitioners in Continuing Creation hold that human beings are not good at the root. Our genetic make-up includes both cooperation and competition, peace and warfare. (For more detail, see our forthcoming Essays on The Evolution of Morality and on Human Evolution.)
Also, Followers in Our Path contend that Humanism is too much about humans. Today we view constant (and often maudlin) advertisements on cable television to give money in support of disadvantaged humans, and to rescue abused dogs and cats, while appeals to rescue endangered species from extinction are few and far between. Even rarer are the even more important appeals to save the ecosystems which support all life on our Earth. (For more discussion of these issues, see our Essays, “Overpopulation Threatens Continuing Creation,” and “Radical Sharing and Universal Love Don’t Work.”)
While modern environmentalism continues to persuade more and more Humanists to promote the welfare of other sentient beings and the planet as a whole, the Humanist focus so far remains on doing good for humans in the here and now. So far, Humanism does not seem to have made a strong effort to incorporate the well-being of Earth and its ecosphere into its body of major concerns. The Weave of Continuing Creation sees this as a clear shortcoming in Humanist Doctrine.
In contrast, Weavers in Continuing Creation say that the wellbeing of the environment outweighs the wellbeing of humans. Our stance results in our making choices very different from Humanist choices. For example: If we were faced with a stark choice between saving the lives of 20,000 children somewhere on Earth, or saving the last 20,000 honeybees anywhere on Earth, we hold that the only moral and practical choice would be to save the honeybees. We doubt that Humanists would agree. Instead, they would strive to do both, and likely end up doing neither.
The philosophy of Existentialism arose after the Enlightenment and after the scientific and industrial revolutions. Although it peaked around 1960, it is still very much with us today. Existentialist thinkers were clearly aware of the human progress produced by those two revolutions, they nevertheless remained very pessimistic about the human condition. They would argue, “Yes, we have conquered one disease after another, but new ones always spring up. We have invented fantastic technologies, but we are destroying our environment with many of them.”
What Existentialists find particularly flawed and unjust are the human systems – corrupt governments, rigged markets, bogus charities — which are supposed to deliver the benefits of science and engineering to all people, but don’t. As Existentialists see it, one religion after another, one government after another, proves disappointing. Moreover, human nature has not changed: we still have wars, and people are still victimized by crime and cruelty.
Many existentialists regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience. 19 In the view of the existentialists, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude,” i.e., a sense of disorientation, confusion, or dread in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. 20 Existentialists deeply fear that the meaning of life will never be found; that life will never really improve. This attitude is called “existential despair.”
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) laid the philosophical groundwork for Existentialism. They looked away from science and focused on subjective human experience, discussing dark human traits like “the will to power” and nihilism.
They were followed by literary figures like Feodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and Albert Camus (1913-1960) who wrote novels where people soldier on through life in spite of tragic human faults (Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment) and terrible natural disasters (Camus’ The Plague).
The key idea of Existentialism is this: despite the meaninglessness of existence, we must each make what we think are the correct moral choices, and act on those choices. Thus, we have the famous Existentialist saying: “Existence Precedes Essence,” which means we must each live, make choices, and take action even though we fail to find any religion or philosophy that convincingly tells us what the right thing to do is.
As Sartre said in his lecture, Existentialism is a Humanism: “…man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world—and defines himself afterwards.” He or she can choose to be a conventionally cruel person, or a conventionally good person. 21
Existentialists say that the world and human life have no meaning unless people, almost arbitrarily, give them meaning: We find ourselves existing in the world, and then we give ourselves meaning, or ‘essence’. As Sartre said, “We are condemned to be free.” This means that we have no choice but to choose, and yet we have full responsibility for our choices.
The primary virtue of Existentialism is said to be Authenticity. This means that the correct choice of action for any individual is the action which is authentic to that one person; it is the action which truly reflects that person’s true inner being. Clearly, this choice is subjective, and is as much an emotional as it is an intellectual choice.
Throughout the Book of Continuing Creation, we work to explain that humans have evolved to be both cooperative and competitive, and that these conflicting tendencies push and pull at our every decision.
In addition, there are “good and evil” extremes in both cooperation and competition. Senseless wars that achieve nothing are extreme evils of competition. An evil extreme of cooperation would be for humans to live in blind, thoughtless lockstep like ants do, as the North Koreans currently do, or as the fictional “Borg” do in the television series, “Star Trek.”
Despite the presence of suffering and evil in our human condition, Followers of our Growing, Organizing, Direction agree with Existentialists that we must carry on, we must keep trying and working to make things grow and to make things better. That must be the “existential choice” for all of us Builders and Constructors in Continuing Creation.
We Co-Creators hold that Existentialists are wrong to say we can freely choose good over bad, or cooperative over competitive, because both good and bad exist within our biological makeup. However, we can and must try to make the right choices in our behavior.
Meanwhile, regardless of the outcome, the creative trend of the universe may well continue even without humans altogether. After all, we humans evolved long after the crashing meteor drove the dinosaurs to extinction; so perhaps a new reign of the insects… or the machines… will rise up after our own species is extinguished.
Our Practice holds that the information in the universe is increasing (getting more complex) all the time (at least so far here on Earth, powered by the Sun’s energy flow). But human-type goodness will not necessarily increase as complexity (interconnected and organized knowledge) increases. Human values may be lost in a world that is far more complex, but run by and for computerized machines. Besides, human values are not always the same as ecological values; not the same as Earth’s values.
Skepticism (from the Greek word for “inquiry”) is a philosophical school of thought that questions the possibility of certainty in knowledge. Skeptic philosophers either (a) deny the possibility of any and all objective knowledge or (b) suspend judgement about some areas of “knowledge” due to an inadequacy of evidence.
The Path of Continuing Creation holds that ideas, facts, theories should always be initially questioned. Only after exhaustive and verified research and/or experimentation can asserted explanations be declared to be provisionally true. Even then, all explanations must always remain open to further inquiry. Further inquiry can result in one or more new explanations. A new explanation can replace the old one because it is more true (e.g., more accurate, more specific, or more encompassing) than the old one; or it can be true in different circumstances than the old explanation.
For example, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was said to “replace” Newton’s earlier Laws of Motion and Gravity. However, Newton’s laws remain accurate and useful for most things here on Earth. Einstein showed that Newton’s laws are actually a subset of the more comprehensive Theory of Relativity. Relativity also explains what happens elsewhere in the universe, when gravity and speed can become very, very great.
So, both Newton’s and Einstein’s Laws (or “models) are “true” under different conditions. That is, both work in different arenas (or on different scales) of the real universe. If both sets of laws usefully work, even in different circumstances, then they are “real and true knowledge” for Followers of Continuing Creation.
Our statement just above, and our earlier discussion of Freemasonry, show that The Practice of Continuing Creation is pragmatic: Our mission in life is to design and build what works, providing we take account of any and all side effects.
Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes. Words and thoughts are not just descriptive, they are also tools for prediction, problem solving, and action.
The philosophy of Pragmatism holds that the most important aspect of any one thing (or event) is what that thing/event is doing to all the other things and events around it and coming after it.
Pragmatism as a philosophical movement began in the United States in the 1870s. Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) is given credit for its development, along with later twentieth century contributors, including William James (1841-1910), author of The Varieties of Religious Experience, and the famed educator, John Dewey. (1859-1952). 22
Co-Creators in Continuing Creation agree with Pragmatism that any scientific concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes “ultimate reality” (if “ultimate reality” can ever be described).
Pragmatism also takes a pluralist view that there is more than one sound way to conceptualize the world and its content. It is okay if a doctrine or science “works” in some arenas, but not others.
However, the search for fundamental truths, for “ultimate reality” in science, should continue, because historically this search has often succeeded in explaining more and more about the universe, and has often led to revolutionary new technologies and medical advances.
Engineering is a major forerunner and a critically important force behind Continuing Creation. Science can only create new knowledge. Applied Science and Engineering are required to convert new knowledge into new pharmaceuticals, new rockets, new bridges, ships, solar panels, fabrics, websites like the one you are now reading, and everything else we humans use whenever we act as Agents of Continuing Creation. One of the most important references that J.X. Mason used for the Book of Continuing Creation is Adrian Bejan‘s book, Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization. (Written with J. Peder Zane, Anchor Books, 2011. Dr. Bejan is a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University.) Dr. Bejan says that when a moderate, continual flow of energy meets a receptive collection of varied elements and minerals, then patterned structures of increasing complexity will emerge over time. Each new iteration will allow for a more efficient flow-through of energy.
Unitarianism began in the mid-1600’s in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in Transylvania as a Christian theological movement named for its belief that the God in Christianity is one person not a Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Most Unitarian Christians believe that Jesus was inspired by God in his moral teachings, but Jesus is not a biological Son of God, nor is Jesus God incarnate.
- In England, the first Unitarian Church was established in 1774 in London. From colonial times through the 1850’s, Unitarianism became widespread in the American northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
- In 1961, the American Unitarian Association merged with the Universalist Church of America, to form the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and members are called Unitarian-Universalists (“UU’s”). About 800,000 people identify themselves as Unitarian Universalists today, with 200,000 of them living in the United States. “UU-ism” is very much an active spiritual movement in the North America today.
In addition to their objection to the Trinity, Unitarian Universalists are also known for rejecting the doctrines of original sin, predestination, and the infallibility of the Bible. Also, most UUs do not believe in the existence of punishment in an eternal hell.
Today, many Unitarian Universalists are not Christians, or even theists. A large number of them draw morality and inspiration from several (or even all) world religions and from secular philosophy. Many UU’s would consider themselves to be followers of Process Theology or Process Philosophy. Others describe themselves as UU-Buddhists, UU-Agnostics, or UU-Christians.
Unitarians place emphasis on the ultimate role of reason in interpreting everything they read. Freedom of conscience and freedom of the pulpit are core values. Study and new experiences can lead to new teachings and community practice. Unitarians affirm each individual’s freedom of conscience.
Unitarian Universalism has no set creed or statement of faith. Instead, it promulgates the following…
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Under discussion is an “Eighth Principle” which calls, in part, for “…Creating Beloved Community… by dismantling racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
As a Unitarian Universalist Minister, The Reverend Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.” (See https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles.)
The author of The Book of Continuing Creation, J.X. Mason, has been a member of a UU Congregation for 23 years. Mason fully supports UU’s Principles, listed above, none of which are in conflict with the tenets of Continuing Creation.
The Six Sources of the UU Living Tradition:
“UU’s” draw their beliefs and spirituality mainly from the following “Six Sources”…
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
- Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Both the Seven (or Eight) Principles and the Six Sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association grew out of grassroots of UU communities, were affirmed democratically, and “are part of who we [UUs] are.”
UU’s Unity Temple, designed by
Frank Lloyd Wright, Oak Park, IL
Most Travelers on the Path of Continuing Creation would be able to fit into a Unitarian Universalist Congregation. However, many Followers of our Growing, Organizing, Direction would say that the UU Principles neglect the critical roles of creativity, science, and technology in solving the problems of healthcare, ecology, and social injustice.
Many Co-Creators on the Our Path would also say that equal love for all human beings fails to recognize our naturally stronger bonds with family, friends, and shared cultures over our concerns for human beings in general.
Many People following the Way of Continuing Creation would also find that UU-ism over-emphasizes political demands for world resource sharing and under-emphasizes “world resource creating” — the creative power of concentrated capital — financial, human, and informational capital — to solve world problems through science, technology, and innovation.
Note: Your author, who writes under the pen name J.X. Mason, was an active Unitarian-Universalist for over twenty years. This book is partly a result of his own “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” He has “sought wisdom from the world’s religions,” and from the “spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which… instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.”
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820’s and 1830’s largely among American Unitarians (a dominant religion of that time in Boston) who felt that their church doctrine was overly intellectual. However, Transcendentalism did affirm the Unitarian Principle that every individual has a right to freely pursue their own spiritual path, if their search is earnest and the path is moral.
Transcendentalism emphasizes subjective intuition over objective empiricism. Adherents believe that individuals are capable of generating original insights with little attention and deference to past masters. Transcendentalists saw divine experience inherent in the everyday, rather than believing in a distant heaven. Transcendentalists saw physical and spiritual phenomena as part of dynamic processes rather than discrete entities.
As in Humanism, a core belief of Transcendentalism is in the inherent goodness of people and Nature. 23 Transcendentalists believe (as do Romantics, discussed below) that society and its institutions have corrupted the natural goodness and purity of the individual, and they have faith that people are at their best when they are “self-reliant” and independent.
But Transcendentalists go beyond the Humanist stance to emphasize the powerful spiritual lift that individuals can have though direct personal experience of interpersonal love and also of Nature, i.e., direct experience of the great outdoors. The noted Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson (who served as a Unitarian minister for a number of years) wrote this famous passage in his classic essay, Nature, published in 1836:
“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball — I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me — I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances-master or servant, is then a trifle, and a disturbance. I am a lover of uncontained and immortal beauty.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Spiritual Unity through appreciation of Nature is also a central theme of Henry David Thoreau’s transcendentalist memoir, Walden; or Life in the Woods. Thoreau built a tiny cabin at Walden Pond, near Concord MA, and lived there from 1845-47. In this classic book, Thoreau extolled the beauty of leading a simple life of “being in the now,” as we would say today.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Thoreau was more than a profound philosopher and writer. In the second half of his life, he efficiently ran his family’s pencil factory, and invented a way to make wooden pencils using machines, instead of all by hand, that is still used today. He also began adding clay to the pencils’ graphite, resulting in non-smearing handwriting. This (and other) successful works of practical engineering make Thoreau doubly admired in the eyes of Continuing Creationists. 24 Thoreau also opposed the U.S. War with Mexico (1846-1848) and went to jail for refusing to pay his taxes because the money would support that war.
Transcendentalism emerged from English and German Romanticism, the skepticism of David Hume, the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and German Idealism in general. 25 It was also strongly influenced by Hindu texts on philosophy of the mind and spirituality. (See our Essay, Evaluating Hinduism.)
Romanticism — An antecedent of Transcendentalism, Romanticism (peaking between 1800-1850) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of the past and of nature, and it preferred the medieval art and architecture to the classical. Romanticism was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the seemingly “cold” scientific analysis of nature. Romanticism wanted to return to a more natural, heroic, “romantic” age. 26
German Idealism — An antecedent of both Romanticism and Transcendentalism, German Idealism (1780’s – 1830’s) held that the human self (or “transcendental ego)” constructs understanding out of sense impressions by classifying them under universal “categories” that Idealist philosophers considered to be innate in the human mind. The categories included Unity, sexuality, plurality, totality, reality, negation, limitation, substance/property, cause and effect, community, possibility/impossibility, existence/non-existence, and necessary/contingent. German Idealist philosophers included Immanuel Kant,(1724-1804), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) and Georg Hegel (1770-1831).
In several Essays of this Book, The Path of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction recognizes Transcendental experience as an important part of our spiritual lives. It is wonderful to feel “aglow” in the presence of a loved child or partner, in contemplation of a sunset at sea, in the sight of light filtered through green leaves, in beautiful music, in the symmetry of pattern, poetry, and mathematics, and in a million other wonderful things of our world.
Each such experience prompts a transcendental feeling of personal wholeness with all of Nature. However, Continuing Creation holds that transcendental experiences are not “better” or “higher” than practical experiences in the real world nor experiences which enlist reason and analytic thinking and active building – they are just different.
Transcendence Through Creating
However, many Participants in Continuing Creation would say that our strongest experience of transcendence comes when we do something creative. While transcendence through appreciation of Nature is essentially passive, transcendence through creating is active. Many famous artists – Vincent van Gogh, Walt Whitman, Ludwig van Beethoven – found creating so fulfilling that they would endure poverty, physical disability, and family tragedy in order to keep practicing their art. Even the multi-billionaire Bill Gates would have said, in his early days, that he wrote software for personal computers because he enjoyed that challenge, not because he foresaw it would lead to a personal fortune.
Life is difficult, and if Taoism or Zen works for you, we have no desire to turn you away from it. But if you seek a different path, or if you have questions, consider The Practice of Continuing Creation.
Continuing Creation: On the Origin of the Universe and The Operation of Its Processes
The Book of Continuing Creation maintains that we do not and cannot know if God/Substance/Nature created the universe because we ourselves cannot stand “outside,” or see “before,” the universe. It is possible that our universe was “born” out of the collapse of another universe.
- Space-Time (Space and Time)
- Fundamental particles of matter (such as quarks and electrons) as described by the Standard Model. However, many physicists think that all the particles in the Standard Model may be made up of vibrations of minute one-dimensional “strings.”
- Dark Matter. Inferred but not yet detected.
- A unified force shortly “separated out” into The Four Fundamental Forces — the Strong Nuclear Force, the Weak Nuclear Force, Electromagnetism, and the Force of Gravity. (At the time of this writing, we’re still not sure Gravity “froze out” in the same way as the three.)
- Dark Energy. Inferred but not yet detected.
- The Laws of Physics (and therefore of chemistry), which humans sufficiently understand to put them to use in technology, but which still hold considerable mystery.
The Book of continuing Creation provisionally holds that those six things have interacted to create all the objects and events we perceive in the universe.
We also hold that if there is some guiding force, pattern, or Consciousness that created the universe (or all universes), there is no evidence that it consciously controls specific events, that it intervenes in human lives, or provides counsel to individual human beings.
Theological Names (or Conceptual Terms) for “God.”
If we look back in this Essay at the “-isms” that are forerunners of The Book of Continuing Creation, we’ll see some of the many different names that theologians and philosophers have used for “The Deity,” i.e., for God or Higher Power. For reference, below is a list of those “deity names,” along with some others. We set out these names in five categories:
- God as a human-like Super-Person (Usually a man and usually a Creator God)
- The Great Spirit
- Zeus, Odin, etc.
- Jehovah, Yahweh (YHWH in written Hebrew, so could be Yahweh), Elohim
- The Holy Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
- Great Architect of the Universe
- The Divine
- The Sum of All Energy
- The One
- The Light
- The Way
- Ultimate Cause
- Ultimate Source
- Primal Power
- Prime Mover Unmoved
- Higher Power
- The Summation of all “Being,” (usually, but not always, intended to all living beings)
- The Universal Being (used by the transcendentalist writer, Ralph Wald Emerson)
- The Absolute — In the German idealist philosophy of Schelling and Hegel, The Absolute is “the sum of all being, actual and potential”. In monistic idealism, it serves as a concept for the “unconditioned reality which is either the spiritual ground (i.e., foundation) of all being or the whole of things considered as a spiritual unity. In other words, das Absolute is the all-inclusive Whole of everything.
- The Omega Point (Teilhard de Chardin) — In idealist philosophy, the Absolute is “the sum of all being, actual and potential.” In monistic idealism, it serves as a concept for the “unconditioned reality which is either the spiritual ground of all being or the whole of things considered as a spiritual unity.
- The Ground of all Being (Paul Tillich) — If God is ‘being,’ then God is a creature, even if the highest one, and thus cannot be the Creator. Rather, God must be understood as the “Ground-of-Being Itself. This unique phrase means that God is the ground – the soil –from which everything sprouts and grows; and it means that God is the background against which all things must be defined (in the way that light has no meaning, no existence, except against a background of dark).
- The Summation of all Consciousness
- Logos – Universal Reason or The Generative Reasoning or Discourse of the Universe (clumsily translated as “The Word”).
- Logos endiathetos – “The Word remaining within.”
- The Sum of all Information
- The Sum of all Pattern
- The Sum of all Wisdom
- Love; Pure Love; The Summation of All Love
- The Holy; the Holy of Holies
- The Transcendent
- The Numinous – This is not really a name for God, but for a person’s experience of God. Rudolf Otto, in his book The Idea of the Holy, writes that the numinous is a “non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self.” This feeling is similar in meaning to the English word “awe,” as in feeling awe in the presence of the “Holy,” or in the presence of Nature.
- Brahman – from Hinduism, meaning the Ultimate Reality or Universal Principle. All Hindu Gods and Goddesses are aspects or facets of the Brahman. Also translated as “the creative principle which lies realized in the whole world.” 27 (See our Essay, Evaluating Hinduism.)
- The Godhead – Divine nature; Divine essence. The unknowable aspect of God, which lies beyond its actions or emanations. Often used as the English translation for Brahman.
- The Mind of God.
- The Summation of all Systems, including all their Interactions and Interrelations
- Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction, of the Cosmos
- The Interconnecting Sum of all Creative Processes
- The Connection of All Connections
- The Whole of All Wholes
- The System of all Systems
- The Sum of All Sums
- The Totality of All Creative Systems Moving Through Time
- The Flow, The Way, The Path
- The Tao – as perfectly described in the world’s shortest “sacred” book, The Tao Te Ching, written, according to legends, by the sage Lao Tsu.
“The Tao is like a well:
Used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
Filled with infinite possibilities.
It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it. It is older than God”
— Lao Tso, The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 4. (Stephen Mitchell, translator, 1988, Harper Perennial)
Footnotes to This Essay and its Appendices A and B:
- “Who Are the Freethinkers,” Freethinkers.com, 2018-02-13, Retrieved 2-14-2018. See also, “What Is Freethought? Daylight Atheism, 2-26-2010, Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 2012. See also Jewish Encyclopedia, 2010. Also, Alan W. Gomes, Alan W. (2011). See The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, 4 Volume Set, 2011. And see The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. doi:10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0408. ISBN 9781405157629.
- Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part 2, 1795, p. 129.
- See our Essay on the Big Bang and Evolution of the Early Universe. See also https://web.njit.edu/~gary/202/Lecture26.html.
- Michael Della Rocca (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Spinoza, Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 288.
- Michael Della Rocca (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Spinoza, Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 288.
- The term Panentheism was coined by the philosopher Karl Krause in 1828 to distinguish the “German Idealist” philosophies of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854) from the term “Pantheism” used to describe the thought of Baruch Spinoza.
- For a synopsis of Dr. Pinker’s book, see: Peter Singer, “Is Violence History? A review of The Better Angels of Our Nature,” New York Times, October 11, 2011. For more on the views of Dr. Pinker’s opponents, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature.
- Amos, H. (1982). These Were the Greeks. Chester Springs:
- Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, 1945, Simon & Schuster, p. 264.
- Bertrand Russell, Ibid., p. 253.
- A. Tripolitis, Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 37–38.
- John J. Macionis and Linda M. Gerber, Sociology, Seventh Canadian Edition, Pearson Canada.
Opposing this view was Rationalism, which says that knowledge is primarily in-born and the intellect, the inner faculty of the human mind, can therefore directly grasp or derive logical truths. For example, given a few fundamental assumptions, all of Euclidean geometry may be deduced by human brain’s logical reasoning. Rationalism’s champions were Rene Descartes (1596- 1659), Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716). 14 Erhard Scheibe, Erhard. (2001). Between rationalism and empiricism: selected papers in the philosophy of physics, 2001, Springer. ISBN 0-387-98520-4. OCLC 45888831,
- Domenic Marbaniang, “Developing the Spirit of Patriotism and Humanism in Children for Peace and Harmony,” Children At Risk: Issues and Challenges, Jesudason Jeyaraj (Ed.), Bangalore: CFCD/ISPCK, 2009, p.474.
- Dorinda Outram, Panorama of the Enlightenment, 2006, Getty Publications, p. 29, ISBN 9780892368617. See also Milan Zafirovski, The Enlightenment and Its Effects on Modern Society, 2010, p. 144.
- Believed to have been first said by the pre-Socratic Sophist philosopher Protagoras (490-420) BCE.
- Ernst Breisach, Introduction to Modern Existentialism, 1962, p. 5.
- Robert C. Solomon, Existentialism, 1974, McGraw-Hill, pp. 1–2.
- Wilfred Desan, The Tragic Finale: An Essay on the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre,1960, Harper Torch Books, p. xiv.
- G.J.J. Biesta, & N. Burbules, 2003. See also, Pragmatism and Educational Research, 2003, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
- Russell Goodman, Russel, “Transcendentalism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015.
- John Lienhard, “Thoreau’s Pencils,” Engines of Our Ingenuity No. 339, https://uh.edu/engines/epi339.htm.
- Philip F. Gura, Philip F (2007), American Transcendentalism: A History, 2007, Hill and Wang, p. 8, ISBN 0-8090-3477-8.
- “Romanticism.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 30 January 2018, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Britannica.com.