Essence Precedes Existence

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People of this world confuse themselves. We believe in one thing but don’t truly know what it means. Some practice religion; some don’t. We try to pretend that we know our purpose but do we really know? In Grendel by John Gardner, it talks about this creature/monster that is in conflict with what his purpose in life is. Gardner incorporates twelve different philosophies and the astrological symbols that Grendel, the monster, deals with. Grendel tries to fit in with the Danes (humans) but finds that the Danes are afraid of him and they want to destroy him.

Grendel doesn’t know why that is happening and runs off. He comes in contact with a dragon, who knows the past, present, future. The dragon gets Grendel thinking about what is his purpose in life. Who knew it is so hard to find a purpose? Are we designed to live a life that is already played out? Or are we creating our own lives? Gardner ends the novel a bit ambiguous. He doesn’t make it clear if Grendel ever found a purpose. Grendel takes a leap of faith. He definitely found his meaning; he found it through theology. “Essence precedes existence! ” In Process Theology: A Basic Introduction by C. Robert Mesle, it states that in process theology, instead of God forcing people to do good deeds, he shares “with us a vision of the better way,” (Mesle 13). Mesle is saying that God creates a better way on purpose. We are predestined. In other words, God creates us and then gives us life. We might think that we make our own decisions, but we don’t. J. R Hustwit says in his article about process philosophy that “when one actual occasion is internally related to another, the past occasions participate in and contribute to the intrinsic character of the present,” (Hustwit).

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This basically means that a present occasion is influenced by the past, essentially. Hustwit explains Alfred North Whitehead’s start of process theology. The notable characteristics of process theology are its “(1) method of metaphysical speculation, (2) event (rather than substance ontology, (3) assertion of panpsychism or panexperimentialism, (4) description of ‘prehension’ in place of perception, and (5) panentheist doctrine of God,” (Hustwit). All the characteristics of process theology pertain to God being involved in every occasion.

William Stegall says that “all reality is energy, being composed of a complex combination of energy events” and that “there is no such thing as spiritual matter versus physical matter,” (A Perspective from Process Theology). Stegall, Mesle, and Hustwit share the same feelings of what process theology means and why it is important. When Stegall says that “there is no such thing as spiritual matter versus physical matter,” he argues that we are predetermined and there is no fighting it. Grendel uses process theology as a way of finding his purpose. “‘He is the eternal urge of desire establishing the purposes of all creatures.

He is an infinite patience, a tender care that nothing in the universe be vain,’” (Gardner 132). Gardner explains that God gives us a purpose. Grendel doesn’t realize that his purpose was just to live; live as there was no tomorrow. God doesn’t give you life just so you can waste it. On page 174 of Grendel, Grendel finally takes a leap of faith. Stegall indicates “process always has been; meaning there never was a start, a creation from nothing. And, there is no final end to creation; it shall go on eternally. ” This quote ties in closely to Grendel’s leap of faith. I think he initially thought this but was just conflicted.

Grendel realizes that there never will be an end to society. There will be new people, new monsters. It is just a cycle that continues. Grendel spent too much time watching others that he didn’t get to live a full life. He figured everything out at the end. It was all an accident. I liked that process theology focused on essence. I got really into it and learned more about what I already believed. I definitely agree with all three authors. Mesle says that every person will experience God’s loving care for its creativity (Mesle 59). After reading about Grendel and theology, it all made sense.

God puts us here for a reason. Learning about theology I say very many positives. It is very spiritual. The only negative that I say was in Hustwit’s article. Hustwit gives an example “that the quality of ‘being like Shakespeare’ could not have existed, even in God’s mind before Shakespeare’s actual existence,” (Hustwit). There is some truth to that but I still believe we are predestined. Shakespeare would have existed already, in essence. I realize that I practice process theology more than I knew what it was. I am a sipirtual person, but I like to keep to myself.

I don’t flaunt my religion or try and convert someone. I believe in essence preceding existence. That’s how I was brought up. From what I;ve experienced in life, I can honestly say im glad it happened. Whether it was a negative point in my life or a positive, it has all made me who I am. Like grendel, I didn’t know what my purpose was. I was an average student in school and didn’t feel like I could get into any college. I had an epiphany and just looked at what I had done to my life. I started to go to church more and I felt so much more different. I believe I was predestined to make mistakes and learn from them.

I wasn’t going to waste away my life. There is so much more to life than being stuck thinking about what your purpose is. We will all have those times where we choose the wrong path. We will live and learn. Grendel found his purpose but it was too late. It saddens me about Grendel but at least he found his way. Philosophy can teach us many things. We will always believe in something. Even though you believe in nothing, nothing is still something; therefore, you believe in something. Life gets confusing and we just need to learn how to deal with it. We can’t change the past we can only change the future.

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Essence Precedes Existence. (2017, Jan 31). Retrieved from

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