A running joke that Dr. Auxier and I incorporated into our booki was the phrase, “skip to page 337.” The pagination reference is to the Free Press edition of the corrected version of Whitehead’s monumental work of metaphysics, Process and Reality (“PR” hereafter.) Page 337 of PR is the start of the fifth part of the work, his rather poetic discussion on “God,” beyond the more concrete arguments of the preceding 337 pages. By “concrete” it should be understood that Whitehead’s “God” is not some religion inspiring big daddy in the sky that you go to church to beg candy from. Uneducated rumors to the contrary not withstanding, Whitehead never invented words. But at many points in his tome on “speculative philosophy” (his preferred term for what others call “metaphysics”) he needed to identify an “omega point” which served as the entirely impersonal foundation for the rational structure of the world as well as the “font of creativity.” He called this “God.” Were he inclined to use non-English words, a better choice might have been the Greek “arché” (αρχη). But Whitehead was Whitehead, and that was never going to happen, and so it did not.
Setting aside for the moment the question of “God,” there are some important issues in the material that the people skipping over to pg. 337 are, in fact, skipping over, in their stampeding rush to gin up a “Whiteheadian” theology. There are two things I want to talk about that are left all but untouched in the secondary literature on Whitehead, one of which is interesting and the other is downright revolutionary. These things appear in the pages that many scholars ignore when the skip to pg. 337. They are what Whitehead called “strains” and “flat loci.” I’ll address these in order. But first I’ll devote a paragraph to the work on natural philosophy that Whitehead developed in the years preceding PR.