Process Thought as Source for Ethics

By Dr. Arlette Poland

In Judaism, community and ethical behavior go hand in hand. We are told that our community is our life and our life is best when it is ethical. To be ethical, of course, involves following the mitzvoth (commandments/good deeds). Added to that, however, is the underlying realization that all existence is somehow connected to the One, Ha Shem (Hebrew: the Name). Since Ha Shem has no boundary, then the connection of Ha Shem to us means that we are all connected to each other as well. When one person in a community acts in a mean or disrespectful way (or worse), the entire community is deleteriously affected. Even praying requires a community in Judaism –called a minyan (10 people) – for most prayers to be recited.

In Process theology, G_d is in each becoming event. Some Process thinkers image or postulate that this energy of G_d is a lure. Some posit that It is a nudge. The lure theory implies that G-d is in front (in the future looking back) of the becoming event luring it. The nudge oriented thinkers claim G_d is behind and within (part of the becoming experience) the event as an offer, opportunity or nudge. Either way, G_d is around and in each becoming event that becomes an actual occasion in the moment and for the future becoming events.

All the past is available to all the moments that are now. If a person believes in a deity, then that deity is part of all the past as an offer or opportunity. If, however, one does not believe in a deity, in Process thought there is a connection from the past as both a lesson and an opportunity whether for good or ill.

Because Process thought through the model of becoming translates to connection and interdependence everything we do counts for the now and the future. Everything we do and say becomes part of the actual past that is offered to each moment and the future. Therefore, whether you believe in a deity or not, Process thought is a realistic and adequate model that can offer us inspiration to know that we matter. We can know that everything we do and say, and maybe even think, will impact the next moment and on into the future.

Ethical behavior is best funded by a connection and concern for community. If we can know, through the Process model of becoming that we are all connected through time and space, then perhaps care and connection can fund ever more ethical behavior.

So, for instance, if we want peace to reign, we have to BE that peace. When we are the peace, then that is what we bring to the next moment and the next … and the next…