In an age of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) it can help if process theology is presented in mathematical terms. This does not mean that every aspect of process theology is quantifiable. Nor does it mean that process theology is built upon self-evident axioms from which an understanding of the world and God are logically derived. There is a spontaneity in the universe, a capacity for self-creativity, that eludes and transcends axiomatic methods and deductions. We cannot "deduce" what the world is like, or how to live. We cannot deduce God's existence, either.
It does mean that the use of mathematical symbols and notions can be helpful for those who think in terms of equations and formulas, even if some symbols and notations represent qualitative not quantitative concepts. I offer three below, all created with help from artificial intelligence.
A word about my own background. I took calculus in college twice. The first time I had to drop out because I just didn't get it. The second time I made an A. The difference was that, at the very outset, my professor introduced calculus as a form of poetry. He invited students to think of it as "beautiful." That stuck with me, and I still find all forms of mathematics beautiful, even as I don't get some of them.
From a Whiteheadian perspective mathematics explores a realm of potentiality which may or may not be embodied in the actual world, and, more specifically, a realm of potentiality for quantifiable states of affairs. Whitehead believed that there is another side to the realm of potentiality which deals with what is subjective and emotional, and thus qualitative not quantitative. In my view the arts (music, film, poetry, sculpture, dance, storytelling) are much better at presenting this side of life.
This means that there is something missing in what you find below. It can wrongly suggest that process theology is primarily about the quantifiable. Not so. It is about both sides of life. Any equations purporting to introduce process theology must be complemented by stories, music, and poetry. Process theology must be felt, not just understood; and aspects of it are wonderfully imprecise or vague, illustrative of the fact that aspect of life, too, are imprecise and vague. Sometimes the mystery at the heart of the universe, God, lures us to be inexact not exact, imprecise not precise, vague not clear - for truth's sake.
Still, with these caveats in mind, I offer the three equations below. Any mathematician will quickly see their limitations. The variables are not weighted and some of the variables are unabashedly imprecise: love and mystery, for example. There is more to life than equations. But not less.
- Jay McDaniel
B = k * R * (C - D) * P * I * (1 - A) * (1 - U) * L * M
Variables: B: B represents Beauty, which encompasses the overall well-being of the universe, including all forms of life and even the well-being of God, who is the sacred whole of the universe, understood as a Life in whose consciousness the universe unfolds. This well-being is quantified in terms of harmonious intensity and includes felt connections between entities, as all entities are interrelated. Beauty is both individualized and relational. Beauty includes natural beauty, moral beauty, soul beauty, artistic beauty, and tragic beauty.
k: k is a constant factor representing the influence of divine lures, customized for each creature and situation, with the aim of promoting Beauty in individuals and in the universe as a whole. k is the strength or power of the divine lure.
R: R signifies the receptivity of worldly creatures to God's callings and divine lures. It measures how prepared creatures are to respond to divine influences.
C: C represents the quantified constructive aspect of self-creative spontaneity of events, focusing exclusively on harmonious intensity. It accounts for positive and harmoniously intense spontaneous occurrences that enhance overall well-being in the universe.
D: D represents the quantified destructive aspect of self-creative spontaneity of events, focusing on elements that diminish harmonious intensity. It accounts for negative or destructive spontaneous occurrences that may reduce overall well-being by counteracting harmonious intensity.
P: P represents the rates at which creatures are receptive to divine callings and divine lures. It measures the pace at which creatures evolve in their receptivity to these influences.
I: I represents the well-being of an individual, which is important in itself and to God. It transcends concerns for overall well-being and can be measured in terms of the strength of beauty experienced by an individual at a given moment.
A: A represents ambiguity, measured by the degree of uncertainty in categorizing events in the universe as purely positive or negative. It acts as a modifier, reducing the well-being score when events are ambiguous.
U: U represents quantum uncertainty, a measure of the inherent unpredictability of the probable future based on quantum mechanics. It also acts as a modifier, reducing the well-being score when quantum uncertainty is present.
L: L stands for Love, the highest form of beauty and a profound positive force in the universe. It encompasses feelings of care, compassion, empathy, and connection among creatures and with the divine. Love fosters harmony, unity, and a sense of well-being, contributing to the flourishing of life. While challenging to precisely quantify, love's influence on well-being is profoundly significant and goes beyond mathematical measurement.
M: M stands for Mystery, signifying the unquantifiable, enigmatic aspects of existence that resist complete understanding. It embraces the idea that certain elements of the universe, including love and divinity, elude precise measurement and categorization. Mystery adds depth and richness to the human experience, sparking curiosity, wonder, and exploration. It reminds us that not everything can be fully explained or captured by equations, preserving a sense of awe and humility in the face of the unknown.
This equation seeks to capture the intricate relationships between divine influence, receptivity, constructive and destructive aspects creaturely agency, evolution, ambiguity, quantum uncertainty, love, mystery, and individual well-being within the framework of process theology.
It's essential to recognize that the equation is a metaphorical representation of complex spiritual and philosophical ideas. It can be considered a mathematical formula in the sense that it uses mathematical symbols and notation to express a relationship between variables. However, it is not a formula in the traditional mathematical sense, where you can plug in specific values to calculate a numerical result.When taken too literally, it can lead to a false sense of mastery over the divine-human relationship, which may inadvertently shift the focus towards control rather than trust and faith.
Still, as a metaphor, it has practical value. When we respond to divine love, we are opening ourselves up to the transformative power of God's love. This transformative power can help heal the world, to bring about justice and peace, and create a more loving and compassionate world. It can also help heal an individual.
A Divine Calculus: Differential and Integral
Differential calculus analyzes instantaneous rates of change at specific points in time or on a particular moment, while integral calculus deals with the cumulative change or accumulation of a quantity over an interval or range of time.
Calculus is a branch of mathematics that focuses on the study of rates of change and the accumulation of quantities. It is used in physics, engineering, economics, and biology. How about in theology? Since process theology proposes that there is change in God, might this change be described with help from calculus? How fast is God changing at any given moment in the history of the universe? Can this change be quantified? Does God change as rapidly as the universe changes? Does change in God include not only changes in the universe but also changes in diving feelings? Here differential calculus might help.
What is the total amount of change that God has experienced over time, given that God includes and remembers the entire past history of the universe? Here integral calculus might help? How much time has God experienced and been changed by? Here integral calculus might help. Differential calculus does indeed analyze instantaneous rates of change at specific points in time or on a particular moment, while integral calculus deals with the cumulative change or accumulation of a quantity over an interval or range of time. How much accumulation has God experienced?
It can seem blasphemous to render God into terms of calculus. And perhaps so. But Whitehead spoke of the importance of thinking of God in secular as well as religious terms. Perhaps calculus can be used in secular process theology, that is, in process theology not associated with religious feelings. Moreover, even for people who are religious, mathematical equations can be "lures for feeling" and "springboards for the imagination." Below I offer two calculus equations for process theology.
A differential equation: dG/dt = K * F
dG/dt still represents the rate of change of God (G) with respect to time (t). 'Time' refers to any kind of sequentiality: physical as in the passing of time and the flow of events in the universe, and emotional as in the flow of feelings and thoughts within a psyche. In God includes temporal changes in the universe, which influence God, and also God's feeling or awareness of the world: the subjective side of God's life.
K remains a constant, signifying the degree or intensity of God's interaction with the universe, but it may also reflect the depth or richness of God's experience and feeling.
F now represents the feeling or awareness of the world within God. It encapsulates the evolving and dynamic nature of God's internal experience as God perceives and relates to the changing circumstances of the universe.
God's change is not solely determined by external factors or engagement with the world but also by the internal dynamics of God's awareness, consciousness, and feeling in response to the world. It reflects the idea that God's experience and perception of the world play a significant role in process theology. God has feelings, too. And these feelings change.
An integral equation
H(t) = ∫[-∞, t] P(u) du
H(t) represents the divine experience or knowledge at a given moment in time 't'.
P(u) represents the past history or knowledge of God at a particular moment 'u' in the past.
The integral sign (∫) extends from negative infinity (-∞) to the current moment 't'. This infinite integral captures the idea that God's awareness encompasses an infinite or eternal past.
The equation, in this context, symbolizes that God's experience contains the entirety of the past, whether it is finite or infinite. It acknowledges the notion that God's knowledge and experience continue to grow and encompass an unending history. Again, it's crucial to understand that this equation is abstract and symbolic, meant for philosophical and theological discussion rather than precise mathematical calculation. It is doubtful that quantitative values can be inserted. It serves as a representation of the theological concept of divine awareness and the inclusion of past history, whether that past is finite or infinite in duration.
Practicing Process: A Holistic Way of Living
P = (E + R + I) * C + (L + B) + (G + T + S) + (H + CO)
Let P represent "Practicing Process Theology" and "P(x)" means the concept of "Practicing Process Theology" as a function that can vary based on different contexts and circumstances. It symbolizes the idea that the practice and interpretation of process theology principles are not fixed but can adapt and change depending on the specific situation denoted by "x."
P(x) = [(E + R + I) * C + (L + B) + (G + T + S) + (H + CO + H) + U] * D(x)
E represents "Experience," signifying the importance of lived experiences as the basis for understanding the world and God. Experience can include felt connections with the more-than-human world, learning from elders, learning from sacred texts, personal relationships and family life. etc. It can also include learning from dreams.
R represents "Relationality," emphasizing the interconnectedness and mutual influence of all entities.
I represents "Immanence," highlighting the belief in a divine presence, a spirit of creative transformation, within and throughout all things. This spirit is not all-powerful.
C represents "Creativity," indicating the ongoing, dynamic, and evolving nature of reality, including the divine.
L represents "Listen Actively," symbolizing the importance of active listening to diverse voices and perspectives.
B represents "Beauty and Wonder," reflecting the appreciation of beauty, wonder, and the depth of human experiences.
G represents "Global and Local Consciousness," acknowledging the significance of both global and local perspectives, fostering a sense of interconnectedness.
T represents "Tolerance and Diversity," promoting the celebration of differences and rejecting a one-size-fits-all approach to life.
S represents "Spiritual Awareness and a Celebration of Life," emphasizing the acknowledgment of a divine presence and celebrating the richness of existence, including joy, wonder, and relationships.
H represents "Humility," underscoring the importance of humility in recognizing our limited understanding and perspective.
CO represents "Compassion," highlighting the value of compassion and empathy in our interactions with others and the world.
H represents "Hospitality," emphasizing the principle of welcoming others and creating a sense of openness and acceptance.
U represents "Unity and Community," emphasizing the importance of building just, compassionate, and joyful communities, with no one left behind.
D(x) represents the derivative function that accounts for the relative nature of practicing these principles in different contexts and circumstances.
WB(t) = F_world(t) + F_self(t) + DL(t)
GWB(t) = GWB(0) + ∫[0, t] [ΔF_G/Δt + ΔSC_G/Δt] dt
Process theology emphasizes relationality, and more specifically internal relations. Relations are internal when they are an integral part of the entity in question; the entity's very identity is inseparable from these relations. However, relationality always carries a temporal component. Entities are internally related to one another based on the circumstances in which they exist, and these circumstances evolve over time. Everything in the universe is in a state of constant flow and change, and this holds true for God as well as the cosmos. Or at least that part of God which is everlastingly responsive to the world. (It does not hold true for that side of God which is timeless.) As God responds to the world, God changes along with everything else. Electrons, human beings, and all forms of life in galaxies far away are subject to this this kind of change.
In the context of process theology, a "relation" is a feeling—an activity of taking into account something else and responding to it from a subjective standpoint. God's relationship with the universe consists of divine feelings or prehensions. God "feels the feelings" of every event across time and space, and when God experiences these feelings, they become an integral part of God's own existence in that moment. Thus God's experience of time is cumulative. There is experience in God today than there was yesterday. As a result, God is in a state of constant change alongside the evolving world. This change pertains to God's existential nature and not necessarily to moral attribute. God always responds empathically, with love: a fellow sufferer who understands.
In response to what has transpired, God also offers fresh possibilities to each entity, tailored to its specific situation. This supply of fresh possibilities is relative to the circumstances at hand. These are God's lures or initial aims.
For entities within the world, relations are also feelings or acts of prehensions. Even electrons exhibit the capacity to feel and respond to their environments. This concept aligns with what process theologians refer to as pan-experientialism or, as an alternative term, pan-prehensionality.
Within these internal relations, both God and the universe experience a degree of well-being. Well-being is the "richness of experience" an entity encounters in the present moment. It encompasses elements of harmony and intensity or "lived beauty." In Process and Reality, Whitehead speaks of it as self-enjoyment. It is not a means toward another end, it is an end in itself.
For creatures, the richness of their experiences is variable and contingent on various factors. Similarly, God's well-being varies, influenced in part by what God feels, thus impacting God's well-being in the present moment. In times of great suffering and pain on Earth, such as when innocent children are subjected to tragic events, God shares in that pain, and God's own well-being is affected, diminished by the sorrow that is felt. And the joys, too, of a little child and many others are shared by God.
Abrahamic traditions often emphasize that we should devote our lives to the service of God, which means that God, not our private or collective egos, should be the center of our lives. In process theology, service to God and service to the world cannot be sharply separated. If we serve God, we serve the world; if we serve the world, we serve God. This is the deeper meaning of relationality. Divine well-being and the well-being of creatures in the universe go hand in hand, illustrating the interconnectedness and interdependence of all existence within the cosmic process.
WB(t): Well-being of an entity at time (t)
RF(t): Relational factors influencing well-being of an entity,
SC(t): Self-creativity contributing to well-being of an entity: it's own response to the world it experiences.
F_world(t): Feelings influenced by the actual world
DL(t): Responsiveness to the divine lure toward well-being
GWB(t): God's well-being at time (t)
F_G(t): Divine feelings or prehensions
SC_G(t): God's self-creativity
ΔF_G/Δt: Change in divine feelings or prehensions over time
ΔSC_G/Δt: Change in God's self-creativity over time
∫: Integral symbol representing accumulation of change
dt: Differential of time
For an entity's well-being (WB) as influenced by relational factors (RF), self-creativity (SC), feelings influenced by the actual world (F_world), self-creative responses (F_self), and responsiveness to the divine lure toward well-being (DL), all within the temporal component (t):
WB(t) = F_world(t) + F_self(t) + DL(t)
For God's well-being (GWB) at a given time, as influenced by divine feelings or prehensions (F_G), self-creativity (SC_G), and the temporal component (t), including the integral component:
GWB(t) = GWB(0) + ∫[0, t] [ΔF_G/Δt + ΔSC_G/Δt] dt
These equations and symbols collectively represent the dynamic nature of well-being, internal relations, self-creative responses, and responsiveness to the divine lure, both for individual entities and for God in the context of process theology. They provide a mathematical framework to illustrate how these factors interplay over time. However, it's important to note that these equations are abstract and simplified representations of complex philosophical concepts. The actual processes are more qualitative and nuanced.