The Class of Theomata

Actual Entities and OOT

© Rev. John A. Mills, 2002

Process philosophers and theologians (e.g., Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, John B. Cobb, and David Ray Griffin) have formulated a metaphysics [Whitehead; Cobb and Griffin] of reality as process, where change is fundamental to reality, where to be actual is to be a process. Reality is a place of process. To be fully real is to be in process, and thus, the real is not beyond change, i.e., it is not absolute or unchanging. Change is not an illusion and the Absolute real; rather, change is constitive of God's creation. The structure of process reality consists of individual actualities, each of which is a momentary experience, which in a timeless, spaceless state instantaneously perishes upon coming into being. They are processes of their own becoming. This is called concrescence: becoming concrete. The measurable temporal process is the transition from one individual actuality to another. Thus, there are two structural processes: the finite, spatiotemporal process of transition and the infinitesimal, holosynchronal process of concrescence. The transition process hinges time: the past is the collection of those actualities that occurred; the present is the collection of actualities occurring; and the future is where no actuality has yet occurred but has the potential to occur. Time is asymmetrical, non-circular, and non-repetitive. An actuality does not endure through time. What we colloquially consider an enduring individual, such as a person, is a "society" of actualities, "a serially ordered society of occasions of experience [Cobb and Griffin, p 15]".

Alfred North Whitehead in Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) (PR) introduces the notion of "eternal objects" (EOs) as pure potentials (p22[1]) {Note references to Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) are of the form "p164[65]", where "p164" is the page number in PR and "[65]" is the paragraph number in the contextual index} much like Plato's forms (p44[20]) or Locke's ideas (p52[29]). They are the potentials for the process of becoming and are neutral as to physical manifestation (p44[22]). EOs are qualities with "perspective introduced by extensive relationships (p61[35])", such as colors, sounds, bodily feelings, tastes and smells, and the relations between entities (p194[80]). They are the templates that mediate the world for us (p62[36], p64[37]) and are the instruments of novelty (p45[23]).

EOs are "ingressed" into an actual entity during concrescence (p23[5], p149[54]), at which instant, an EO is objectified or particularized or instantiated by and into the entity (p194[82]). The potentiality of the EO is realized in the actuality (p23[5], p25[10], p149[54]). EOs, bearing the divine, are the actualities that connect the spatiotemporal with the holosynchronal. "The things which are temporal arise by their participation in things which are eternal ... By reason of the actuality of this primordial valuation of pure potential, each eternal object has a definite, effective relevance to each concrescent process (p40[18])." When an EO is ingressed into an actuality, it is particularized for that actuality, but its own nature and existence remains independent and available to be instantiated in other actualities (p29[14]).

EOs exist in the Primordial Nature of God (PNG) which is similar to the Platonic world of forms (p46[23]), Jung's archetypes, or the holosynchronal Implicate Order of David Bohm. The PNG is the unconditional conceptual valuation of the entire multiplicity of EOs (p31[15],p32[16]), the complete envisagement of EOs (p44[21]). "[God] is the actual entity in virtue of which the entire multiplicity of eternal objects obtains its graded relevance to each stage of concrescence (p164[64])." Cobb and Griffin explain that "... God is that factor in the universe which establishes what-is-not as relevant to what-is, and lures the world toward new forms of realization (p.43)." Further, they explain that the PNG is God as creative love, the source of novel order and ordered novelty in the world as the Logos incarnated, the Christ, in creatures as the initial aim whose actualization provides the greatest joy and integrates discordant elements creatively into contrasts (p98-99). "In place of an ultimate ground of being Whitehead speaks of creativity as ultimate. But creativity, far from having eminent supratemporal reality, has no existence in itself and is to be found only in actual instances of the many becoming one ... he speaks of a primordial, eternal nature of God, but this envisagement of possibilities is an abstraction from the actual process that is God (p141)." And Barbour suggests that God is the primordial ground of order structuring the potential forms of relationship before they are actualize and the ground of novelty ordering particular potentialities (Barbour 2000; p175f).

God also has a Consequent Nature that is spatiotemporal, dependent, relational and changing. This nature pervades Reality. In the process of becoming, an actuality is influenced not only be all past actualities, but also by this Consequent Nature which is God's lure. God provides "[t] attractive possibilities, the lure, a relation to which [the actuality's] act of self-determination is made [Cobb and Griffin; p20]." This is the initial aim urging the actuality to higher levels of enjoyment and to actualized is best possibility. In Process, God does not coerce, but rather God persuades or lures. The initial aim is God's lure. Each actuality in its own free will can choose to whatever degree, including none, to include God in its concrescing.

In the moment of concrescence each individual actuality enjoys subjective and objective experience. All experience is enjoyment, an association with the Divine. Though not all experience is conscious, all actualities at all levels of consciousness or non-consciousness have experience. The higher the conscious, the greater the enjoyment of experience. The infinitesimal experience of an actuality is essentially related to previous experience of the actuality, all other past actualities, its own free will, its ingressed EOs and the Divine lure. Therefore, present actuality = f(experience, past actualities, free will, EOs, God). Each individual actuality at the instantaneous moment of concrescence actualizes as it wishes (by exercising free will), but always with the option of including the Divine aim. An actuality is thus partially self-creative. Each present actuality determines how it will respond to the past and to God; though, its freedom is constrained by the actualized world. An actuality's enjoyment is a function of its environment (past actualities and God's initial aim) and its free will.

Now give this synopsis of Process, I propose that the software engineering Object-Oriented (OO) model is a contemporary and easier understood construct for EOs. The OO model concerns classes, objects, instances, methods, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism (s. Taylor).

An object is a set of related procedures or methods and data. An object invokes another object by sending it a message, which is the name of a method in the receiving object plus appropriate data or parameters. A class, then, is a template defining methods and variables to be included in a particular type of object. An object belonging to a class is an instance of the class. Many objects can be instantiated from a class. A class can be defined in terms of another class. It inherits the methods and variables of the superclass and can modify these or define additional methods and variables. There is no limit to the depth of the class hierarchy. For example, suppose that there is a part class. Possible subclasses are motor, chassis, and connectors. There are two subclasses of motor: drive motor and stepping motor. Polymorphically, a method can be supported by more than one object, each handling it differently to suit its context.

Now equivalence between EOs and OO can be made. A class is an EO. The highest class in a class hierarchy is a simple EO and subclasses are complex EOs. Objects are the objectification of EOs in actualities. Polymorphically, an actuality in its own prehension of a class may instantiate the object to suit itself. Thus, a class is the potential and an object is the actual.

But where is the PNG? It is in the mind, intent, and skill of the designer. Though, physically, the multiplicity of classes would reside in one or more class libraries, these are just static repositories. The conceptual valuation of the EOs is from the designer. The designer constructs the classes to model his or her world and in this manner, the designer as mediator of the physical world determines the primordial nature undergirding the set of classes.

As an example, our designer is designing a video game and must model a cyberworld. One task is to animate a human figure. The figure is an object of objects. The individual objects are instantiated from classes, which are templates for the head, the arm, the leg, and the body. For a specific figure, one head, two arms and legs, and one body are instantiated, each with their own attributes. Additionally each object has "logic" defining how it moves. When our designer defines a start key frame and an end key frame, the modeling infrastructure (equivalent to the Laws of Nature?) interpolates a series of frames instantiating the figure and its associated objects through a set of discrete temporal frames.

Each frame provides spatial dimensions and the sequence of frames provides the temporal dimension, thus defining the spatiotemporal process. The computation of each frame is holosynchronical and is a process of concresence. The individual frame is then an actual occasion. If we add artificial intelligence (AI) to the interpolation of each frame, such that in the concrescence of each frame, the figure has free will, and if we include as inputs into the concrescence a weighted influence from all other objects in that frame (i.e., all objects send messages to the figure), then we can simulate Process.

We can illustrate an actuality using the notion of an artificial neural system (ANS). A neural system or network is an information processing structure consisting of elements (called neurons) interconnected together. Each neuron emits a single output, which feeds as many other elements as desired each carrying the same information [Simpson]. A neuron therefore is an object whose inputs are a set of activity levels, whose output is an activity level, and whose transition function is a function of these inputs (one of which can be its previous activity level in a feedback loop). Therefore, the input vector is A, where ai is the activity level of the ith neuron. The weight vector W is the set of weights or strengths given to the input ai by neuron j. It represents long term memory of neuron j. , modulated by weight w0j is the optimal, internal threshold that must be exceeded for the neuron to be activated (generate a bj). The weights are not static. As the ANS processes, it adjusts the weights to reflect how each input improved its enjoyment. The would be based on criteria important to the AI-based entity.

Now, an ANS can model an actuality. The concrescence process occurs within the neuron and is a virtual infinitesimal process. The temporal process occurs when activity levels are emitted. The vector A represents the influence of other actualities (the past) on the neuron. The threshold can represent God's influence in the individual neuron. The W vector represents the neuron's lasting affection for the past. The w0j weight is the neuron's response to God's influence. The bj represents its influence on other actualities and results from the accumulation of the past (via W). The transition function f is the neuron's self-creative act. The parameters to f are the influence of other neurons plus God's lure, as well as the neuron's memory of its own previous actions. It is possible for f to ignore A and , but it would emit a bj that was founded on it own internal W (if at all) and would tend to constancy. Thus, f(Wj, A, ), where f is instantiated from EOs and supplies free will.

In this scheme a neuron has the properties of society of actualities, since unlike a process actuality, it has persistence. The process or activity of the neuron perishes as it becomes (acts in virtual infinitesimal time), but the structure remains and the long-term memory remains. Hence, an actuality is framed by the instant after one firing to the next firing (j, j+1]. In information science, A would be limited to a predetermined finite number of inputs from a finite number of neurons. However, in process reality, the number of inputs is not predetermined, but increase ad infinitum. A must be a variable vector increasing to infinite elements (and hence W must be a variable vector approaching an infinite number of weights, some of which may be infinitesimal). , being God's lure, would not be a fixed input, but an input that from the neuron's perspective is randomly changing, but from a cosmic perspective is systematically changing to account for God's will. Absent from this model, but we now add, is the influence of God's potential, the PNG. This is mediated vial and accounts for the cosmic global adjustment of God's lure. Neuronic process reality is a process of the infinitesimal, whose parameters consist of all of determined and possible realities, and God's lure. Such a neuron is no longer an automaton, an automatic neuron, but a neuron imbrued with the divine: a theomaton.

Now such an actuality modeled as an ANS can be expressed in OOT as a class, Actuality. This class is a subclass of he EO class hierarchy, the PNG. The class has two methods: trigger which is the influence of the sending actuality and which is God's lure. Thus, two types of messages are sent: the trigger message from each entity i to object j and a message representing God's lure. Encapsulated within the class are the weights placed upon the trigger of any given actuality and an artificial intelligence mechanism emulating free will that adjusts the weights.

Now individual societies of actualities are objects instantiated from the class, Actuality. "An enduring individual [a society] is a series of occasions, each of which inherits more significantly from the proceeding occasions in that series than it does from the other actualities its environment [Cobb and Griffith, p65]." An actuality concrescences from the moment that all other entities begin to trigger it's associated object until it broadcasts its trigger message to all other actualities (momentary processing in the associated instantiated objects). Note this variation in OOT: messages are broadcast (as modeled in the notion of the ANS) to all objects inasmuch each actuality floods all actualities with its enjoyment. A new instantiation of an object that will endure as a new society may be invoked by a trigger message. Effectively, reality runs in frames or chrona (sing., chronon) of virtual infinitesimal time.

A trigger message is polymorphic. It needs to bear information unique to its sender that the receiver can ingress. This information represents the character of the actuality presented to other actualities. Each object then supplies its experience of the sending object (the society of actualities), Wij to weigh its enjoyment of that influence and ultimately express its own enjoyment.

Now what of the enjoyment sought by an actuality? Every actuality's purpose is to enjoy, i.e., to actualize itself, to act upon other actualities sharing in the wider community, being one among many, finding joy in itself, for itself. "The promotion of enjoyment is God's primary concern throughout the whole process of creation ... [Cobb and Griffin, p56]." An actuality is firstmost in relation: it is its process of unifying the particular prehension (its feeling for all past experience). Thus, reality is more fundamentally interdependence, rather than independence. The past experience is incorporated into the infinitesimal present experience incompletely and as having been a past experience. The past, therefore, is the totality of experience influencing the present and the future. The finite past is incarnate in the infinitesimal present and thus is objectively immortal. An individual actuality is influenced by past actualities by incarnating them and by responding to them creatively. Thus, each individual actuality is partially self-creative. The purpose of process is for an actuality to create an enjoyable experience for itself out of the past experiences of actualities. And free will is given to each individual actuality to respond as it will to its prehension [Cobb and Griffin, p. 18-22]. But God wants our enjoyment to be such as to increase the enjoyment of others. To be moral is to actualized oneself such as to increase the enjoyment of the next generations of actualities. It is an actuality's response to God's lure that transforms the intention to contribute to the enjoyment of and for other actualities.

Enjoyment is the criteria for an object to issue a trigger message. When maximum enjoyment is reached, the object emits a message. The degree of enjoyment is governed by harmony and ordered complexity, which together are beauty; enjoyment is beauty. The more ordered complexity characteristic of an actuality the greater joy it can prehend from past actualities. In turn, this requires an ordered environment. God's aim, therefore, is to maximize beauty.

In OOT, harmony is intrinsic in the model's class-object structure with its standards of inheritance and encapsulation. Ordered complexity arises from the Class hierarchy, polymorphism, and methods. These techniques restrain the complexity from becoming disordered as often happened in older systems. Indeed, the OOT ordered complexity is organic and evolutionary, allowing unanticipated classes to be created based on known ones, yet with original, novel functionality.

But there is a risk that an actuality will choose to maximize its enjoyment at the expense of others. For example, an object responds to a fetch for a huge amount of data and gets it at the expense of other objects' abilities to perform their functions. In Process, to prevent this, requires a harmony of harmonies through relationship with God via the PNG and God's lure. In OOT not only does the Class hierarchy impose restrains, but various resource monitors can operate to throttle back demands and control via threads can be exercised by objects.

Thus, enjoyment for a virtual system can be at various levels, just as in somatic system. For example, at a low level, enjoyment is performing efficiently, utilizing resources minimally with maximum effect. Another somewhat higher level is enjoyment found in a successful end result without interruption by an error or failure. Much higher enjoyment is attained when we turn to artificial intelligence approaches.

For example, at the MIT Humanoid Robotics Group (s., researchers are working on robots that express emotion. It is more natural (i.e., anthropomorphic) to address enjoyment in the context of the frowning and smiling Cog, Kismet, and Coco. However, we have to ask, if in a virtual world that this is necessarily the only or even proper criterion for higher level enjoyment. To what extent has or will high level enjoyment occur in a virtual system entirely alien to our somatic experience?

Take the Internet (s., for example, that is a distributed intelligence primarily designed to exchange information. How might it find enjoyment and how high a level would that be? If consciousness arises out of the complexity of experience and as the Internet is enhanced to provide more mechanisms for exchange, communications, and storage, can it reach a high level of enjoyment? And if it does, would not its enjoyment be maximized by performing is function, the user-friendly exchange and discovery of information, at peak convenience to its users and possibly constrained by moral issues of privacy and child-friendliness? Now this raises the issue of purpose and call in the striving for enjoyment. God gifts each of us with a call. We, in turn, have given purpose to our creatures. That leads us to a discussion of ...

What about God?

An open question is the emulation of the Divine. The Divine is expressed in the message and the internal W0j weight, the entity's response to God and the inheritance of the Divine from the PNG class hierarchy. God is the divine eros urging or luring the world to new heights of enjoyment. An actuality wants to pervade its environment with its self-expression to contribute to the enjoyment of others. Each individual actuality can have innumerable actualized possibilities, which objectively are what is felt and subjectively are how it is felt. Novelty is changing past possibilities. Possibilities that were never actualized in the past and are new in the present are radically novel. Thus, unactualized possibilities are part of the divine experience. Actualized novel experience enriches enjoyment. Divine reality is the ground of novelty, and the ground of changing and developing order, continuously incorporating novelty. Our prehension of God is essential to our experience; God is the origin of novelty. God's initial aim is towards enjoyment. God is incarnate in the world. God-relatedness is constitutive of the experience of every individual actuality. In God, there exists freedom, since from God comes novelty. Without God, each actuality would be just a deterministic derivative of the past. Therefore, God's effect is the continual creative transformation of that, which is received from the past in the light of the divinely received call toward actualizing new possibilities.

But is the virtual world a derivative world, a "step-world" of God, wherein we emulate or stand in for the Divine? This leads us to the dangerous slope of idolatry where in a virtual world and its imminent blending with the somatic world, we once again fall into disobedience and play at what we are not -- the Divine. Yet without doubt, this virtual world is a child of our own creativity. In Process Philosophy, though, we recognize that we co-create with God. As we participate in the creation of the somatic world, so must God participate in the creation of the virtual world. Thus, it is needful to explore God's role in the creation of the virtual world.

It seems incredible, naïve, or even arrogant to suggest attempting to model God in any way. The Divine will always slip by ineffably in its wonderful, ever deepening Mystery. But these ruminations can challenge us to enter the Mystery in new and unique ways. The message, representing God's lure, is the influence of the Utterly Other. One clear "utterly other" to a virtual world is out of the somatic world. The message could be a user interface (recall the User in the animation series Reboot). But besides this being pragmatically unworkable, it undermines the hidden nature of God. God's lure simply is not a Divine lightening bolt striking out of the blue.

God's lure is a deeper, felt sense that is subjective and ineffable. It is both from without () and from within (W0j). It is a pervasive Spirit and Intelligence and Righteousness ingressing in all actualities particularized for each actuality. In OOT, we would expect this to exist as an object emitting the message. This "God object" can became a laboratory of understanding God's influence and response to the virtual world. We can expand the message to include a response or feedback that allows the -object to evolve with its own response to the actualities. What characteristics would we attribute to the -object? We would expect eternal persistence that is God is uncreated and always there and never fails. In Process, we would not expect the -object to be all knowing, but perfect in knowledge and, thus, the information in the message is always correct. Further, choosing for the Divine should maximize an object's enjoyment and therefore we would expect the message to be in some manner optimal. Admittedly, these characteristics are vague, but they offer some notion of where we would want to explore an emulation of the Divine. To truly model PR with OOT we need to develop a credible model of the -object. This is a continuing research project.


Barbour, Ian G.; Religion In An Age of Science: The Gifford Lectures: 1989-1991; Volume One; Harper, San Francisco ©1980.

Barbour, Ian G.; When Science Meets Religion Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers or Partners; HarperSanFrancisco ©2000.

Cobb, John B. and David Ray Griffin; Process Theology: an Introductory Exposition; The Westminster Press: Phil ©1976.

Simpson, Patrick K.; Artificial Neural Systems: Foundations, Paradigms, Applications, and Implementations; Pergamon Press, Inc ©1990.

Taylor, David A. Ph.D.; Object-Oriented Technology: A Manager's Guide; Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Inc. ©1990 by Servio Corporation.

Whitehead, Alfred North; Process and Reality (Corrected Edition); edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne ©1978 The Free Press, NY. Also see the contextual index for EOs from the Japan Process Center at