Dr. Helmut Maaßen (1946 – 2023)

It is with great sadness that we have to inform you on the untimely death of our good friend, colleague and mentor Dr. Helmut Maaßen. Helmut was co-founder and president of the German Whitehead Society (2010-2023) and president and co-founder of the European Society of Process Thought (ESPT) from 2012 to 2023.

Helmut was born on December 18, 1946 in Recklinghausen, West Germany, where he spent his childhood and completed his school training with the Abitur. He then studied at the universities of Münster and Tübingen and finished his studies at the Union Theological Seminary of Columbia University with a stipend of the DAAD. Back in Germany he served as a vicar in Bethel as well as in his hometown Recklinghausen but moved to teaching religious studies at a school in Duisburg-Rheinhausen from 1974 to 1980. He married his wife Lalitha in 1974 and moved to Pont (Geldern) where he lived until his death. He continued teaching philosophy and religious studies at the Kardnial-von-Galen Gymnasium in Kevelaer from 1980 until his retirement in 2007.
Over the years Helmut taught many courses in philosophy at Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, where he established the German Whitehead Society and with its help founded the Whitehead-Archive, donating many of his own books and making them accessible to the public. He has spent a research sabbatical at Boston University in 1990 where he edited a scholarly edition on Charles S. Peirce’s essays on the philosophy of religion and he taught at Claremont School of Theology/CA in 2007.

Since the foundation of the ESPT in 2010 Helmut co-organized the European Summer School in Process Thought, thereby building a network and community of Whitehead scholars that spans over many different countries. He was the series editor of the European Studies in Process Thought, the first volume being Dorothy Emmet’s Notes on Whitehead’s Harvard Lectures, 1928-29. His engagement in process philosophical scholarship and in cross-cultural discourse, which he both practiced and cherished throughout his life, made him one of the most important figures in Whiteheadian studies. He served as Executive Director of the International Process Network and not only connected countries but continents with his persistent effort.

Helmut published numerous scholarly articles and books on various topics and was a specialist in Whitehead’s as well as in Whiteheadian aesthetics. Over the last few years, he was combining two of his passions while working on a comprehensive historical study of music in philosophy. He was an active musician, a member of the teacher’s band for many years and a singer in the university choir. In this spirit he organized an interdisciplinary symposium in Leipzig in 2022, bringing together musicologists, composers and process philosophers. And in 2023 he co-organized the 13th International Whitehead Conference in Munich.

Helmut Maaßen was a remarkable combination of a deep and highly accomplished intellectual and a beautiful and generous spirit. He was passionate about literature, music and all the arts, he was an active sportsman well into his 60s, he loved food and was always gregarious and cheerful. He was a kind, warm and caring soul and an important figure in the lives of many people all over the world. Our heartfelt condolences go particularly to his dear wife Lalitha Maaßen.


– Lennart Posch