WASHINGTON (AP) _ Richard W. Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, returned to the United States on Monday from a six-day Middle East journey that failed to culminate in a preliminary meeting with a joint Palestinian- Jordanian delegation.

Despite the U.S. failure to advance that peace process to the point where such a meeting could be held, State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said it was ''obvious that the process is not dead and that we are continuing to pursue it.''

Redman said Murphy, on his return, would consult with President Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz to determine what step to take next.

The spokesman said a meeting between the United States and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation was still possible, and he would not comment on whether Murphy's Middle East trip had advanced that cause.

During his trip, Murphy met with leaders of Egypt and Israel, as well as Jordan.

The ultimate aim of a such a meeting would be to set the stage for direct peace talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Jordan has given the United States a list of seven Palestinians from which to select negotiators. Israel has rejected all but two of the names, and the United States said it is still reviewing the list.

Redman said the lack of a meeting with a joint delegation during Murphy's visit was more a question of resolving how it would advance the peace process toward direct negotiations than a matter of selecting acceptable names from the list.