American Religious Empiricism and the Possibility of an Ecstatic Naturalist Process Metaphysics


  • Demian Wheeler Union Theological Seminary



Ecstatic naturalism, American religious empiricism, process philosophy, process theology, metaphysics, Robert Corrington.


The most forceful critiques Robert Corrington mounts against Whiteheadianism target several problematic tendencies in the system of Whitehead, Hartshorne, and other leading Whiteheadian theologians rather than raze the entire legacy of process philosophy and theology. Actually, there is an alternate school of process philosophy and theology—the empiricist school—that embraces the broad contours of a processive and relational worldview while making many of the very same criticisms of Whitehead and his more rationalistic followers. But I argue an even bolder thesis: process empiricism shares enough in common with Corrington’s perspective to be ‘emancipatorily reenacted’ as an iteration of ecstatic naturalism, albeit a unique iteration. Collectively, the five American religious empiricists featured in this essay—Henry Nelson Wieman, Bernard Loomer, William Dean, Nancy Frankenberry, and Donald Crosby—open up a conceptual space within the Whiteheadian tradition for developing a kind of ecstatically inflected, ordinally chastened, and unequivocally naturalistic process metaphysics.

Author Biography

Demian Wheeler, Union Theological Seminary

Ph.D. Candidate


Brown, Delwin. 1994. Boundaries of Our Habitations: Tradition and Theological Construction (Albany: State University of New York Press).

Buchler, Justus. 1990. Metaphysics of Natural Complexes (ed. Kathleen Wallace, Armen Marsoobian, and Robert S. Corrington; Albany: State University of New York Press, 2nd edn).

Christian, David. 1991. ‘The Case for “Big History”’, Journal of World History 2.2: 223-38.

———. 2010. ‘The Return of Universal History’, History and Theory 49.4: 6-27. Doi:

———. 2011. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Corrington, Robert S. 1989. 'Review of American Religious Empiricism and History Making History: The New Historicism in American Religious Thought, by William Dean', The Journal of Speculative Philosophy: New Series 3.3: 223-30.

———. 1992a. ‘Ecstatic Naturalism and the Trans



How to Cite

Wheeler, D. (2014). American Religious Empiricism and the Possibility of an Ecstatic Naturalist Process Metaphysics. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 8(2), 156–181.