Etheric Imagination in Process Philosophy from Schelling and Steiner to Whitehead

I’ve just submitted my dissertation proposal for review. Click on the title below for the PDF.

Etheric Imagination in Process Philosophy From Schelling and Steiner to Whitehead

I welcome suggestions, critiques, sources, and/or extensions.

Basically, I’m doing a comparative study of the philosopher Friedrich Schelling, the esotericist Rudolf Steiner, and the mathematician and cosmologist Alfred North Whitehead. In particular, I want to interpret their respective “etheric” ontologies (Schelling’s “world-soul/universal organizing principle,” Steiner’s “etheric formative forces,” and Whitehead’s “evental ether/Creativity”) as typical of the process-relational imagination.
solis6The plate above, a painting of the Philosopher’s Tree, is from Splendor Solis, an alchemical treatise published by Solomon Trismosin in 1582.

8 Replies to “Etheric Imagination in Process Philosophy from Schelling and Steiner to Whitehead”

  1. Matt– wow!

    so many great things here. wonderful subject..can’t wait to hear about esoteric sources of Schelling/Whitehead since Plato. Dietrich von Engelhardt’s chapter “Natural Science in the Age of Romanticism” in Faivre and Needleman’s Modern Esoteric Spirituality introduced me to Naturphilosophie…great read.

    Something about nature as telos…

    “The history of human beings, races, and peoples is generally associated with nature by way of the metaphysical identity of nature and spirit and also indirectly at the level of phenomena. All the epochs of history are given a relative value; the idea of the whole development is decisive. With the end there is a return to the beginning and the totality is realized; the original is found in the copy . The “kingdom of God” is to prevail in a “natural world” which is in the process of establishing itself; art, science, and faith are to become one with life. Like the natural development, the historical development substantially has its foundation at the ideal level; concrete factors are recognized, and finality is set above causality; history is the history of ideas.” 116

    One thing I immediately think of reading Schelling’s “’world-soul/universal organizing principle,’ Steiner’s ‘etheric formative forces,’ and Whitehead’s ‘evental ether/Creativity’ as typical of the process-relational imagination,” is Sheldrake as a modern complement to Schelling, Steiner, and Whitehead, with Formative Causation/Morphic Resonance offering a similar alternative (ecologized, pan-psychic) modernity to mechanistic science. Science (Naturphilosophie) Set (Process) Free (Etheric Imagination)?

    I’ve only skipped through the abstract/chapter breakdowns but I was curious why the esoteric Christian imagination wasn’t given a specific category in your history section. Early Church fathers or early gnostic/Hermetic texts might be a fun addition, or spreading interpretations of Christ over a longer period… Hildegard? Eckhart? Conway? Steiner’s image of Christ as etheric mediator between spirit and nature, the spiritual technology of an esoteric cosmology?

    Other thoughts you spark is Swimme’s seamlessness/cosmic powers as a lens for III.B (Ether in Modern Scientific Theory), and Jungian interpretation of integrated opposites in the emerald tablet. What are your sources for Steiner’s etheric imagination? Any parallels to Jung’s Active Imagination?

    Don’t think you need any suggestions–your work is brilliantly engaging and a philosophical wonderland. It is looking like it will be a beautiful piece of art.

    P.S> your appendices are gold 🙂

  2. “Ideas are not merely represented inside an individual conscious mind, they are detonated in the
    imaginal depths of the world itself. Exploding Ideas seed symbolic vibrations that reverberate
    along the cosmic membrane (or “plane of immanence”) and unfold at the level of
    representational consciousness as a profound complicity between mind and nature: Ideas
    generate synchronicities…”

  3. I rather like your appendices, Matt. As a lay criticism, I’d say I’m more partial to Schickler’s method. Your approach is fascinating, pulsating with ideas, concepts, and new terminologies forcing the reader to dive in with you. Schickler, on the other hand, lays out each argument in much detail making it easier, I think, to follow him to rather bold conclusions. Interesting contrast.

    As to other sources, I wonder if you have read the authors of The Nature institute http://www.natureinstitute.org/index.htm. Craig Holdredge has a book called “Thinking Like a Plant: A Living Science for Life ” but the authors here draw from Goethe/Steiner/Barfield. There work is directly engaged with Science as such and a concrete example of a different approach to, for example, the life sciences.

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