Whitehead's Description of the Feeling of Peace in Adventures of Ideas
I choose the term ‘Peace’ for that Harmony of Harmonies which calms destructive turbulence and completes civilization. Thus a society is to be termed civilized whose members participate in the five qualities—Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art, Peace.
The Peace that is here meant is not the negative conception of anaesthesia. It is a positive feeling which crowns the ‘life and motion’ of the soul. It is hard to define and difficult to speak of. It is not a hope for the future, nor is it an interest in present details. It is a broadening of feeling due to the emergence of some deep metaphysical insight, unverbalized and yet momentous in its coordination of values. Its first effect is the removal of the stress of acquisitive feeling arising from the soul’s preoccupation with itself.
Thus Peace carries with it a surpassing of personality. There is an inversion of relative values. It is primarily a trust in the efficacy of Beauty. It is a sense that fineness of achievement is as it were a key unlocking treasures that the narrow nature of things would keep remote. There is thus involved a grasp of infinitude, an appeal beyond boundaries.
Its emotional effect is the subsidence of turbulence which inhibits. More accurately, it preserves the springs of energy, and at the same time masters them for the avoidance of paralyzing distractions. The trust in the self-justification of Beauty introduces faith, where reason fails to reveal the details.
The experience of Peace is largely beyond the control of purpose. It comes as a gift. The deliberate aim at Peace very easily passes into its bastard substitute, Anaesthesia. in other words, in the place of a quality of ‘life and motion’, there is substituted their destruction. Thus Peace is the removal of inhibition and not its introduction. It results in a wider sweep of conscious interest. It enlarges the field of attention. Thus Peace is self-control at its widest,—at the width where the ‘self’ has been lost, and interest has been transferred to coordinations wider than personality. Here the real motive interests of the spirit are meant, and not the superficial play of discursive ideas. Peace is helped by such superficial width, and also promotes it. In fact it is largely for this reason that Peace is so essential for civilization. It is the barrier against narrowness.
* We supplement the notion of the Eros by including it in the concept of an Adventure in the Universe as One. This Adventure embraces all particular occasions but as an actual fact stands beyond any one of them. It is, as it were, the complement to Plato’s Receptacle, its exact opposite, yet equally required for the unity of all things. In every way, it is contrary to the Receptacle. The Receptacle is bare of all forms: the Unity of Adventure includes the Eros which is the living urge towards all possibilities, claiming the goodness of their realization. The Platonic Receptacle is void, abstract from all individual occasions: The Unity of Adventure includes among its components all individual realities, each with the importance of the personal or social fact to which it belongs. Such individual importance in the components belongs to the essence of Beauty.
In this Supreme Adventure, the Reality which the Adventure transmutes into its Unity of Appearance, requires the real occasions of the advancing world each claiming its due share of attention. This Appearance, thus enjoyed, is the final Beauty with which the Universe achieves its justification. This Beauty has always within it the renewal derived from the Advance of the Temporal World. It is the immanence of the Great Fact including this initial Eros and this final Beauty which constitutes the zest of self-forgetful transcendence belonging to Civilization at its height.
At the heart of the nature of things, there are always the dream of youth and the harvest of tragedy. The Adventure of the Universe starts with the dream and reaps tragic Beauty. This is the secret of the union of Zest with Peace: —That the suffering attains its end in a Harmony of Harmonies. The immediate experience of this Final Fact, with its union of Youth and Tragedy, is the sense of Peace. In this way the World receives its persuasion towards such perfections as are possible for its diverse individual occasions.
- Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas
The Process Way of Living
Our experiences and relationships are the building blocks of our lives. Indeed, all living beings are composed of their experiences and relationships; even the energy within the depths of matter is a kind of experience, a kind of feeling. Among these creative interactions are pivotal moments that have the potential to make a profound difference. The process way of living focuses on moments of experiential interaction between individuals, communities, and ecosystems. It emphasizes an appreciation of the beauty and poignancy of life and our capacities to change the world for the good, for love and justice, in service to the creation of compassionate communities and ecological civilization.
- The Cobb Institute: https://cobb.institute/
Peace in the Process Way an interpretation
Peace is a grasp of infinity, an appeal beyond boundaries.
It is an unverbalized feeling of Beauty and trust in the efficacy of Beauty. Peace is not static or anesthetic. It is open and receptive. It includes rather than excludes the multiplicity of the world, including the tragic side of life. It knows the joy of the world and the pain of the world. It is a union of Youth and Tragedy.
Peace is grasped or felt, but it is not something to be "acquired" in a willful way. It is not a project to be realized or a state of consciousness to be mastered. It is the outcome of a letting go, a dropping away of the desire to acquire and achieve things. Peace takes a person beyond the concerns of the finite ego and personal satisfaction into a wider field of interest where all things are felt as part of a wider Beauty.
Peace is a harmony of the soul’s activities with ideal aims that lie beyond the private self: Truth, Beauty, Adventure, and Art. When people give themselves to these ideals, and forget themselves in the giving, they are experiencing a taste of Peace.
There is something cosmic or metaphysical in the feeling of Peace. Peace is not simply a private sensation. It participates in a Harmony of Harmonies, a Supreme Adventure, the Adventure of the Universe in One.
In Process and Reality Whitehead speaks of this Harmony as the unity of the universe gathered into the ongoing life of God. It is both one and many. In Adventures of Ideas he uses the phrase "Harmony of Harmonies." Peace is an experiential attunement to, and participation in, this Harmony of Harmonies. - Jay McDaniel's interpretation, October 2020