Helmut Maaßen (1946–2023)

The editors and friends of the Critical Edition of Whitehead (CEW) regret to report the recent death of one of the European members of the CEW Board of Advisors, Dr. Helmut Maaßen, Director of the European Center for Process Studies and recently-retired Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter in the Department of Philosophy at Henrich Heine University (Düsseldorf, DE).

Helmut was born in Recklinghausen, West Germany, December 18, 1946, where he grew up and attended gymnasium. His college years were spent at the universities of Münster and Tübingen, followed by a DAAD which took him to the Union Theological Seminary of Columbia University. He spent some years serving the church as a vicar before moving to teach religious studies at in Duisburg-Rheinhausen, 1974–1980. In 1974 he married his spouse of 49 years Lalitha, and moved shortly thereafter to Pont, near the border with the Netherlands, where he lived until his death. He taught philosophy and religion at the Kardnial-von-Galen Gymnasium in Keveler from 1980 until his retirement in 2007. After his formal retirement, Helmut taught philosophy at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, and became the editor of the book series European Studies in Process Thought (ESPT). He spent research sabbaticals at Boston University (1990) and Jawarhalal Nehru University, Delhi/India (2000). He taught at Claremont School of Theology/CA in 2007. He published several books on A.N. Whitehead and Charles S. Peirce and numerous scholarly articles.

Helmut was a specialist in Whitehead’s aesthetics,[1] and was at work on a projected two-volume study of the understanding of music in the history of philosophy, in which Whitehead and his eminent student, Susanne K. Langer were to figure prominently.[2] Helmut was a close friend another of Whitehead’s students, Dorothy Emmet of Cambridge University, and was curator of her papers. He published an early version of the notes she had taken while attending Whitehead’s lectures at Harvard University during the academic year 1928–29.[3] This volume also included a previously unpublished manuscript by Whitehead.[4]

Dr. Maaßen was originally slated to co-edit the third volume of the CEW Harvard Lectures containing the Emmet notes with two of his doctoral students. Over the 10-year period from 2010–2020, Helmut co-directed the biennial European Summer School for Process Thought, which met in several different cities. He also brought together an international gathering of process philosophers and musicologists in 2022 in Leipzig, an experiment in interdisciplinary dialogue, joining his two great professional passions. Helmut was President of the German Whitehead Society (since 2009), and President of the European Society for Process Thought (since 2012); he was also Executive Director of IPN (International Process Network). Most recently, he co-organized the 13th international Whitehead Conference in Munich (2023).

Helmut Maaßen has been among the best expositors and developers of Whitehead’s ideas for many years. He loved music and food, and remained active in sports well into his 60s, especially swimming, cycling, and soccer. Soft-spoken but mighty-of-intellect, Helmut was a true scholar and gentleman. His passing is a loss to the entire Process Philosophy community, as well as to those who have had the privilege of being his friend. We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Helmut’s beloved wife Lalitha, and to convey our profound sadness at his untimely passing.

-Randall Auxier and George Lucas

[1] “The Aesthetic Turn.” In Variations on Process Metaphysics, Alexander Haitos & Helmut Maaßen, eds. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2020: 110–128).

[2] See: “Vibrations: Music and Ontology,” KRITIKOS: an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image (Volume 17, Spring 2020) ISSN 1552-5112:

[3] “Dorothy Emmet’s Notes on Whitehead’s Harvard Lectures, 1928–29,” in European Studies in Process Thought, eds. James Bradley, Stephen Gardner, Peter Norman, Helmut Maaßen, (Leuven 2003): 1–30.

[4] “A.N. Whitehead, ‘The Analysis of Process’. An unpublished manuscript by A. N. Whitehead, found, edited and annotated by H. Maaßen,” in European Studies in Process Thought, eds. James Bradley, Stephen Gardner, Peter Norman, Helmut Maaßen, (Leuven 2003): 33–51.