This article, without the endnotes included here, was published in New Thought 84 (Spring 2000): 26-27.
The Fall 1999 New Thought contains a helpful interview, "Quantum Physics, Quantum Consciousness, And The New Science," with Friedbert Karger.1 It emphasizes the importance of intuition as being in line with our basic spiritual nature and urges us to develop our intuition.
I am elaborating on that spiritual nature, which is characteristic not only of intuition, but of all reality.
Karger observes that quantum physics goes beyond earlier notions of what an atom is like and discovers
not matter, but energy, symmetries, principles of order-something which you would call "spirit." . . . So now we have quantum physics, and some fundamentally different concepts about how the world works. The underlying reality, its essence, is what you don't see. Furthermore, everything is interconnected. There are no discrete parts; you do something to one part, it changes something in another part, and ultimately everything is affected.He goes on to note that the mechanical paradigm of classical physics left no room for free will, but that quantum physics does.
Taking it all in
Intuition dispenses with both thinking and sensory perception, yet gathers information. We are likely to think of this as unusual, whereas it is exactly what one would expect in the sort of universe that physics and process philosophy have revealed. In order to understand all this as meaningfully as possible, we have to turn from science to philosophy. A man who very helpfully did this and was thoroughly familiar with both physics (to the point of working out his own theory of relativity) and philosophy was Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947).
Whitehead recognized quanta, the momentarily existing packets of energy, not as lifeless energy but as basic units of experience. Experience is any sort of psychic activity, from the most minimal degree of unconscious feeling to the most profound thinking. Since the term intuition ordinarily suggests conscious awareness, it would not be helpful to say that quanta of energy intuit. Instead, Whitehead said that they (and we) prehend (grasp, feel, be aware of, latch on to, take in, include) one another and react to one another with at least a primitive degree of choice-relatively free will. Intuition, mystical experience, extrasensory perception (telepathy and clairvoyance), sensory perception, and reasoning, although differing from one another, all involve more complex forms of the same basic process of prehending that is characteristic of the simplest units of reality.
The many become one
As intuition helps to make us aware, there is no separation of experiences/minds. Each includes all the earlier ones, providing continuity. In Whitehead's words, "the many become one"2 in each experience; and this new unity is added to the collection that enters into all later experiences, all of which are forever preserved with greatest clarity in the divine unity. God's inclusion of everything is the ultimate case of inclusion (prehension) of one experience by another.
The world is all one type of reality: mind/experience, but there are a great many minds. Each of the many minds or experiences has its own existence, not just as an idea in one mind, although the most permanently significant residence of each mind is in the ever-growing mind known as God. Many New Thoughters who are not yet familiar with prehension attempt to explain how everything is united yet related by resorting to the theory that there is only one mind, but this presents great problems of how there could be freedom and even genuine human and other existence. Prehension, as the only form of immanence, does away with any need for such a theory. We can continue to say that everything is in God and God is in everything, but we should reject physical-like notions of inclusion. Inclusion is prehension.
Our bodies are many-at-a-time collections of relatively low-level experiences, but we are personal one-at-a-time successions of high-level experiences, each of which includes (prehends) its predecessors in the line of personhood, and of course also prehends everything else that came before (including the collection of experiences constituting one's body, each experience of which prehends the person with whom it is most closely associated, as well as all else).
In addition to God's perfectly, permanently prehending every other mind with a clarity impossible to non-divine minds, an even more important distinction is that God has a different function. God is the mind or spirit or experience or succession of experiences required by all non-divine minds in order for them to have the opportunities to differ to some extent from earlier minds. God is correlative, complementary, to the other minds. The essential difference is that God begins each moment with awareness of all possibilities and shares these appropriately with each other mind (by means of the other minds's prehending it) as most relevant for it, while a non-divine mind begins its split-second career with awareness of everything that already has become and then a fraction of a second later blends it with the possibilities, aims, offered to it by God. God provides other minds with the possibilities that they need, and they provide God with the actualities, the accomplishments, that God needs for the ever-growing divine store of experience.
Giving, as well as taking
When we consider intuition, usually we are looking at things from the viewpoint of getting. There is also giving, which is the function that an experience has after it has completed its moment of relatively free blending of past and possible. After anyone or anything receives, it must give, however intentionally or unintentionally. It gives what it has become, to contribute positively or negatively to the future. Especially in New Thought, we often encounter the sorts of giving that could be called intuition in reverse: consciously giving in the forms of prayer or mind treatment. This is received (prehended consciously or unconsciously), regardless of distance, since space is not real in itself, but is, as Charles Hartshorne puts it, "multiple lines of inheritance,"3 from various experiences.
The interview emphasizes that we should develop intuition. Because everything to some extent influences everything that comes after it, our development of intuition can, as Karger believes, "have an influence on the direction of science." I add, on everything else, also. As we have seen, a mind's influence on later minds is by being included in them by prehension.
David Ray Griffin summarizes prehension:
Through Whitehead's category of prehension-the nonsensory sympathetic perception of antecedent experiences-we are able to reduce several apparently very different types of relations to one fundamental type of relation. [It] explains not only memory and perception, . . . but also temporality, space, causality, enduring individuality (or substance), the mind-body relation, the subject-object relation in general, and the God-world relation.4
Hartshorne writes of prehension, "In a single conception it explains the spatiotemporal structure of the world, the possibility of knowledge, and the reality of freedom. It is, in my opinion, one of the supreme intellectual discoveries."5
Intuition is a significant instance of prehension, which is central to a process form of pluralistic idealism that some of us consider the crowning achievement of the rational, reflective activity of humanity.
I have dealt with some aspects of this topic, including brief references to Emerson and Bergson, in a paper, "Metaphysics in the Metaphysical Movement," given at a meeting of the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion, and now available at metameta.htm.
For more on prehension, see my prehen.htm.
1. GFP, "Quantum Physics, Quantum Consciousness, And The New Science: An Interview with Dr. Friedbert Karger from Max Planck Institute in Germany, New Thought 83 (Fall 1999): 26-27.
2. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: Macmillan, 1929), p. 32; Corrected Edition (David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, eds. New York: Free Press, 1978), p. 21.
3. Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co, 1970), p. 219.
4. David Ray Griffin, "Charles Hartshorne," in David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Jr., Marcus P. Ford, Pete A. Y. Gunter, and Peter Ochs, Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 209.
5. Charles Hartshorne, Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972), p. 127.
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