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Where'd You Get That Spark?

David Cowles

Mar 8, 2022

Is the spark of the Hasidim the same thing as Whitehead’s Primordial Nature of God?

In my last “Thought”, I pointed out that our mental apparatus is attuned to finding differences more readily than similarities. But similarities abound! Every entity – any thing with a distinct and independent existence – is both similar to and different from every other entity. No two entities are exactly the same as each other, but also, no two entities are entirely different either. In the real world, there are no absolute synonyms…or antonyms. Every entity is both alike and unlike every other entity.

British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called these complementary facts of life the Ontological Principle (no entity is exactly like me) and the Solidarity Principle (no entity is entirely different from me). All entities have a past, and all pasts overlap, but no two entities have exactly the same past. The actual world of an entity consists of the multiplicity of other actual entities that lie in its past plus the unique perspective from which that entity takes hold of its past. (According to Whitehead, the Primordial Nature of God – “the perfection of God’s subjective aim, derived from the completeness of his primordial nature” – lies in the inherited past of all actual entities.) In other words, at the core of everything is God’s perfect intent.

Plus, each novel entity puts its own stamp on “the process of becoming” (something Whitehead called ‘creativity’), so every actual entity also makes a unique contribution to a common future. (According to Whitehead, the Consequent Nature of God lies in the shared future of all actual entities, but each entity makes a unique contribution to that Consequent Nature.) So we are all siblings – not just of one another, not just of all humans, not just of all animals, not just of everything living. Saint Francis of Assisi was on to something, and possibly aware of such a conception of thought, when he wrote, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.”

According to the teachings of Hasidic Judaism, a divine spark (the portion of God in exile within all things) is present in everything that is – in every actual entity, animate or otherwise. Is the spark of the Hasidim the same thing as Whitehead’s Primordial Nature of God? According to the Hasidim, the divine spark that lies at the core of each and every actual entity will ultimately be reunited with all sparks to form the Shekinah, our common future…the Consequent Nature of God.

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