The Unmoved Mover is not fixed or rigid. Nor does she exist in a single location with a fixed address. She is everywhere at once, all the time. She is not frenetic or fickle or scattered. There is a constancy to her, a power and a strength. She is always twirling in the same placeless place, which is everywhere, in a spirit of love. She is unmoved in that she not moving from one location to another, as if she is "here" but then goes to "there." There is no "there" for her. All that she experiences is "here." If you send a letter to her, or a prayer, you best send it to the evolving universe, because the universe is her only home, except for a part of her that is beyond space and time altogether, but not fully actual. And yet in her un-moving she is always dancing, always twirling, always affected by all that happens. Everything that happens outside her, in each life and in the universe as a whole, also happens inside her. She is relational and with a wide heart. The sufferings of the world are part of her, and so are the joys. She is a divine companion. She responds to what happens, all the time, by providing fresh possibilities, lures for feeling, for each living being and all living beings: possibilities for taking a next step, given whatever is possible. She is a divine guide. For her all beings, even inorganic beings, are living. The idea of dead matter is an illusion, made up by men who seek to be in control of everything. In truth everything is dancing along with her, all the time, sometimes tragically and sometimes splendidly. The dance of the universe is not always pretty; sometimes it is quite violent. This hurts her. But she does not fight violence with violence. Power is in her nature, but not violence. She is changing with the universe even as she is not moving, always in a loving way. She is like a grandmother or an aunt. Or an uncle or a grandfather. She is tolerant of many different images and names, not at all jealous or boastful. And she doesn't need to be noticed all the time or flattered. She is happy with the dancing. She is the Unmoved Mover of process theology.
- Jay McDaniel
Changing without Moving
A Relational Understanding of the Unmoved Mover
Does God change? Process theologians believe so, and in three ways.
The first two are emotional and nurturant. God feels the feelings of all living beings and is affected by what God feels, and God responds to what is felt by providing fresh possibilities for the next step in life. Neither of these forms of change entails moving from one location to another; rather, they involve transformations within God's nature. If by movement we mean moving from one location to another, then in the first way God is an unmoved receiver as holy companion, and in the second an unmoved provider of lures for creative transformation, In both instances God dances without moving.
The third type of change is more physical and pertains to the movements of things in the world, such as the flight of birds, the swimming of fish, and the celestial motions of the stars. These movements constitute the objective content of God's own subjective life, existing inside God rather than outside of God. Here God is not a bird flying through the sky, but the activity of birds flying is part of God's very life. As the birds move, God moves.
Back, then, to the first two forms of change. The first, God as companion, is the idea that God undergoes an internal transformation through subjective feelings of events in the universe, integrating them into God's ongoing existence as they occur. In this process, God empathetically experiences the emotions of all living beings and is influenced by their emotional states. God changes.
In the second, God as lure giver, God undergoes change by responding to the movements and events in the universe, presenting new possibilities for subsequent development. Here, too, God changes. In both of these ways God changes because new things happen in God that had not happened before: new feelings emerge and new responses to what is felt. This doesn't mean that God's personality changes; it remains constant and reliable: loving. However, the tangible embodiments of divine love - companionship and lure-giving - undergo continuous adjustment to each circumstance. God is inwardly changed.
This does not mean that God moves in a physical way.
Of course there are many kinds of movement: physical movement, emotional movement, intellectual movement, and spiritual movements. God is indeed moved emotionally. The sufferings and joys of the world are felt by God, and God is "moved" again and again. God may also be "moved" intellectually. New ideas may emerge in God's mind relative to new circumstances in the world and these ideas may not have existed before. For example, if God wants me to be a pediatrician but I want to be priest instead, a new idea may emerge in God's mind: I might become a pediatrician and a priest. And God may be moved spiritually in that divine love may surpass itself as the universe unfolds because over time there is even more to love. This doesn't mean that God becomes more perfect. It means that God's own perfection, understood as love, is in process, becoming even more perfect through time. My point is that, if we think of emotion in terms of emotions, ideas, and spirituality, God may be moving all the time.
However, for many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word "movement" is physical movement, movement through time and space, from one location to another. They have in mind:
A bird flying through the sky
A fish swimming in the ocean
A car driving down the road
A person walking down the street
A dancer performing a ballet
A wave crashing on the shore
The wind blowing through the trees
The Earth rotating on its axis
The planets orbiting around the sun
And also, let us add:
A bomb dropping from the sky
A bullet moving through the air
A car crashing into another car
A man jumping from a building
A woman injecting heroin into her arm
In process theology, God does not move in these ways. God is not located in a particular region of the space-time continuum such that God could move from place to place. Instead, God is everywhere in that God is in all places at all times; and God is always here and now but not fixed in a specific location. Everywhere here-now: that is the unmoved part of the divine mover. God is an unmoved mover, not because God is unmoved emotionally but because God is not moving from one location to another. God is a cosmic dancer who twirls but stays in one place. God's twirling is her love.
And yet this is not the whole story. The twirlings of the world - the flying of the birds, for example, the children crossing the street, and, yes, the bullets flying through the air - are inside God's own life, just as the happenings in an embryo happen inside a mother's womb. They are part of what Whitehead calls the "objective content" of God's own experience, and this content is part of God, not apart from God. If God is, as TS Eliot says, the still point of the turning world, then the turning world is likewise part of the still point.
Thus, God is moving in this third sense. The still point includes the turnings and the twirlings. The moving world is immanent within God.
An affirmation of this immanence is important for several reasons. It offers a way of recognizing and appreciating divine vulnerability; it offers a way of awakening to forms of religious experience that see movement in its many forms, some quite beautiful, as part of the divine life; and it offers a way to realize that, when we set our sights on the world, in its beauty and tragedy, we are setting our sights on God, too. God isn't just "up there" in the sky, albeit as a companion and nurturer, God is also "down here" and "all around" as a place where God is found. As some put it, the world is God's body.
For many in the Christian tradition, the latter is especially important when dealing with theodicy. It goes without saying that horrible things happen in the world: things occur in the world that are felt by God but not controlled by God. Most of these are physical movements of one sort or another: the movements of bombs, the movements of diseased cells, the movements of sexual assaults; the movements of tears. If we are to "consent," as Jonathan Foster says, to God, it sure helps to say that these movements are in God in some way. Not caused by God, but immanent within God. If God remains aloof from the world of movement, God remains aloof from life.
In Foster's theodicy, indigo, he speaks of the death of his daughter, Quincy, in a car accident and asks where God was. His answer, in the spirit of Elie Wiesel, is that God was in the accident itself, with his daughter. He "consents" to God, not by finding God in a world beyond motion, but in the movements of the world. His point is not that God was a companion to the suffering, it is that the suffering, in its sheer physicality, was part of God.
The upshot is that God is changing without moving and that the movements of the world are part of God's changing. There is a side of human life that wants and needs a God who can dance in amazing and reliable ways, everywhere at once, without moving from one location to another, because unconstrained by the limits of time and space, but who is nevertheless so loving that he or she or they include the world within her own constitution. Understood in this way, God is indeed an unmoved mover, relational not aloof, who forever twirls within us and beyond us, and whose fluid stillness, forever faithful to life, includes the turning world.