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Pantheism is a word derived from the Greek (pan) meaning "all" and the Greek (theos) meaning "God". It is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God,[1] or that the Universe (or Nature) and God (or divinity) are identical.[2] Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, or anthropomorphic god. As such, pantheism denotes the idea that every single thing is a part of one Being ("God") and that all forms of reality are either modes of that Being or identical with it.[3] The central ideas found in almost all pantheistic beliefs are the view of the Cosmos as an all-encompassing unity, reverence for the Cosmos, and recognition of the sacredness of the Universe.



[edit] History

The first known use of the term pantheism was by English mathematician Joseph Raphson in his work De spatio reali, published in 1697 and written in Latin. He defined "pantheismus" as the belief that God is all-containing and all-penetrating. The term was first used in English by Irish writer John Toland in his 1705 work "Socinianism Truly Stated, by a pantheist". He clarified the idea in a 1710 letter to Gottfried Leibniz when he referred to "the pantheistic opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe".[4] However, many earlier writers, schools of philosophy, and religious movements expressed pantheistic ideas.

Although the term "Pantheism" did not exist before the 17th century, various pre-Christian religions and philosophies can be regarded as pantheistic. They include some of the Presocratics, such as Heraclitus and Anaximander.[4] The Stoics were Pantheists, beginning with Zeno of Citium and culminating in the emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius. During the pre-Christian Roman Empire, Stoicism was one of the three dominant schools of philosophy, along with Epicureanism and Neoplatonism. The early Taoism of Lao Zi and Zhuangzi is also sometimes considered pantheistic.[4]

In the West, pantheism went into retreat during the Christian years between the 4th and 15th centuries, when it was regarded as heresy. The first open revival was by Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake in 1600). Baruch Spinoza's Ethics, finished in 1675, was the major source from which pantheism spread.[5] John Toland was influenced by both Spinoza and Bruno, and sometimes used the terms 'pantheist' and 'Spinozist' interchangeably.[6] In 1720 he wrote the Pantheisticon: or The Form of Celebrating the Socratic-Society in Latin.[7]

In 1785, a major controversy about Spinoza's philosophy known in German as the Pantheismus-Streit (Pantheism controversy) between critic Friedrich Jacobi and defender Moses Mendelssohn helped to spread pantheism to many German thinkers in the late 18th and in the 19th century.[8]

For a time during the 19th century pantheism was the theological viewpoint of many leading writers and philosophers, attracting figures such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge in Britain; Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in Germany; Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the USA. Seen as a growing threat by the Vatican, it came under attack in the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.[9]

However, in the 20th century pantheism was sidelined by political ideologies such as Communism and Fascism, by the traumatic upheavals of two world wars, and later by relativistic philosophies such as existentialism and postmodernism. It persisted in eminent pantheists such as the novelist D. H. Lawrence, scientist Albert Einstein, poet Robinson Jeffers, author Knut Hamsun, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and historian Arnold Toynbee.[4]

[edit] Recent developments

In the late 20th century, pantheism began to see a resurgence.[4] Pantheism chimed with the growing ecological awareness in society and the media. It was described as "Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now",[10] and often declared to be the underlying "theology" of Neopaganism.[11] 1975 saw the foundation of the Universal Pantheist Society, which was the first organization to treat pantheism as a religion in itself. The creation of the World Pantheist Movement in 1999, with its multiple mailing lists and social networks, spread further awareness of one form of pantheism.

Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion gave Naturalistic Pantheism increased credibility among atheists by describing it sympathetically as "sexed-up atheism." [12] The Vatican gave Pantheism further prominence in a Papal encyclical of 2009[13] and a New Year's Day statement on January 1, 2010,[14] criticizing Pantheism for denying the superiority of humans over nature and "seeing the source of man's salvation in nature".[13]

In 2008, Albert Einstein's 1954 German letter in which he dismissed belief in a personal God was auctioned off for more than US$330,000. Einstein wrote, "We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul ("Beseeltheit") as it reveals itself in man and animal." in a letter to Eduard Büsching (25 October 1929) after Büsching sent Einstein a copy of his book Es gibt keinen Gott. Einstein responded that the book only dealt with the concept of a personal God and not the impersonal God of pantheism. Einstein usually identified himself as agnostic, but admitted a belief in "Spinoza's God".[15] "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly," he wrote in another letter in 1954.[16]

In 2011, an 1866 letter written by William Herndon, Abraham Lincoln's law partner, was auctioned off for US$30,000[17] . In it, Herndon writes of the U.S. President's evolving religious views, which included Pantheism.

Mr. Lincoln’s religion is too well known to me to allow of even a shadow of a doubt; he is or was a Theist & a Rationalist, denying all extraordinary - supernatural inspiration or revelation. At one time in his life, to say the least, he was an elevated Pantheist, doubting the immortality of the soul as the Christian world understands that term. He believed that the soul lost its identity and was immortal as a force. Subsequent to this he rose to the belief of a God, and this is all the change he ever underwent.[17][18]

The subject is understandably controversial, but the contents of the letter is consistent with Lincoln's fairly lukewarm approach to organized religion.[18]

[edit] Varieties

There are several ways to categorize the different varieties of pantheism.[19]

[edit] Determinism or Indeterminism

American philosopher Charles Hartshorne used the title Classical Pantheism to describe the theological deterministic pantheist philosophies of Baruch Spinoza, the Stoics, and other like-minded deterministic pantheist philosophies[20]. Pantheism (All-is-God) is often associated with monism (All-is-One) and some have suggested that pantheism logically implies determinism, in which the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously as one.[21][22][23] The "Encyclopedia of religion: Volume 10; Volume 10" refers to this form of Pantheism as an "extreme monism" stating that with Classical Pantheism, "God decides or determines everything, including our supposed decisions."[24]

Examples of deterministic-inclined pantheisms include those of Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Examples of indeterministic-inclined pantheisms include those of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and William James.

[edit] Monisms and Dualism

Varieties of Pantheism can also be categorized into physicalist and idealist varieties, which emphasize different types of basic substance that makes up the Universe/God (physical, or mental/spiritual). Dualistic varieties of pantheism emphasize both these types of substances.

Monist physicalist pantheism or Naturalistic Pantheism holds that there is only one type of substance, and that substance is physical, i.e. able at its most basic level to be described by physics, though more complex phenomena such as life, consciousness and societies can appear through emergence. Physicalism is a strong form of metaphysical naturalism. This position was held by John Toland, Ernst Haeckel, and D.H. Lawrence. In this version, the term god — if used at all — is basically a synonym for Nature or Universe, seen from the point of view of reverence.[4]
Monist idealist pantheism holds that there is only one type of substance, and that substance is mental or spiritual. Physical reality is regarded as an illusion or projection of the individual mind which is seen as a part of the cosmic mind. This version is common in Hindu philosophies and Consciousness-Only schools of Buddhism, as well as in Religious Science and New Age writers such as Deepak Chopra.[4]
Dualist Pantheism holds that there are two major types of substance, physical and mental/spiritual, which interact or are unified in some way. This type of pantheism can be found in the Dvaita Vedanta tradition of Hinduism, which teaches that the Atman (Soul) is eternal but dependent on the Paramatman (Supreme God).[4]

[edit] Theistic or Atheistic

A common distinction is made between two types of pantheism, [25] one being closer to theism and the other closer to atheism.[26][27] The Columbia Encyclopedia describes this basic distinction in this way:

"If the pantheist starts with the belief that the one great reality, eternal and infinite, is God, he sees everything finite and temporal as but some part of God. There is nothing separate or distinct from God, for God is the universe. If, on the other hand, the conception taken as the foundation of the system is that the great inclusive unity is the world itself, or the universe, God is swallowed up in that unity, which may be designated nature."[28]

Examples of the theistically-inclined pantheisms include Baruch Spinoza and Ibn Arabi. An example of atheistically-inclined pantheism include the views of Ernst Haeckel [29]. There are of course many intermediate forms.

[edit] Pantheism in World Religions

[edit] Taoism

Taoism in the tradition of its leading thinkers Lao Tzu and Zhuangzi, is comparable with Pantheism, as The Tao is always spoken of with profound religious reverence and respect, similar to the way that Pantheism discusses the "divinity" of the Universe. The Tao te Ching never speaks of a transcendent God, but of a mysterious and numinous ground of being underlying all things. Moreover Taoism stresses the importance of living in harmony with Nature.[4] Zhuangzi emphasized the pantheistic content of Taoism even more clearly: "Heaven and I were created together, and all things and I are one." When Tung Kuo Tzu asked Zhuangzi where the Tao was, he replied that it was in the ant, the grass, the clay tile, even in excrement: "There is nowhere where it is not… There is not a single thing without Tao."[30]

[edit] Hinduism

It is generally asserted that Hindu religious texts are the oldest known literature that contains pantheistic ideas.[31]

In Hindu Sanatana Dharma theology,as per the divine revelations i.e.the Vedas, Brahm/Parabrahma is the one unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all things in this Universe. If one adds two whole parts the result is one whole and if one whole is subtracted from another whole the result is another whole - it means there is one whole universe and it is all prevaded by "Him".Since the universe has come forth from the Divine, all things and beings are sacred and must be treated so in human thought and action. The Divine sleeps in minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals and thinks in humans.

"That is an aggregate; this is an aggregate. The aggregate come out of the aggregate. Removing the aggregate from the aggregate, the aggregate still remains".

Just as all rivers lead to the one ocean, Hindus believe that all religious pathways lead to the same eternal truth. Sanatan Dharma therefore teaches religious tolerance. Even within Hinduism, there are different approaches to reaching the Divine based on an individual’s own characteristics. This idea of pantheism is traceable from the Puranas which are the nearest allegorical representations created for the masses whereas Vedas were for the highly literate. All Mahāvākyas (Great Sayings) of the Upanishads, in one way or another, seem to indicate the unity of the world with the Brahman. It further says, "This whole universe is Brahman, from Brahman to a clod of earth." Pantheism is a key component of Advaita philosophy. Other subdivisions of Vedanta do not strictly hold this tenet.

[edit] Wicca

Wiccans venerate both a god and a goddess who are variously understood through the frameworks of pantheism, as being dual aspects of a single godhead. Dianic Wiccans see the Great Goddess as pantheistic, while the Church and School of Wicca regard the pantheistic Godhead as genderless. Other gods and goddesses from different cultures may be viewed as aspects of one pantheistic deity. According to the Witches Janet and Stewart Farrar, who held a pantheistic, duotheistic and animistic view of theology, Wiccans "regard the whole cosmos as alive, both as a whole and in all of its parts", but that "such an organic view of the cosmos cannot be fully expressed, and lived, without the concept of the God and Goddess. There is no manifestation without polarization; so at the highest creative level, that of Divinity, the polarization must be the clearest and most powerful of all, reflecting and spreading itself through all the microcosmic levels as well".

[edit] Other religions

There are many elements of pantheism in some forms of Buddhism, Sufism, Sikhism, Judaism, Gnosticism, Neopaganism, and Theosophy as well as in several tendencies in the major theistic religions. See also the Neopagan section of Gaia and the Church of All Worlds.

Many Unitarian Universalists consider themselves pantheists. The Islamic religious tradition, in particular Sufism and Alevism has a strong belief in the unitary nature of the universe and the concept that everything in it is an aspect of God itself, although this perspective leans closer to panentheism and may also be termed Theopanism. Many traditional and folk religions including African traditional religions and Native American religions can be seen as pantheistic, or a mixture of pantheism and other doctrines such as polytheism and animism.

[edit] Distinction from related concepts

Some other theological models have attempted to combine the perceived benefits of pantheism and classical monotheism.

The term panentheism (from Greek πᾶν (pân) "all"; ἐν (en) "in"; and θεός (theós) "God"; "all-in-God") was formally coined in Germany in the 19th century in an attempt to offer a philosophical synthesis between traditional theism and pantheism, stating that God is substantially omnipresent in the physical universe but also exists "apart from" or "beyond" it as its Creator and Sustainer.[32] Thus panentheism is distinct from pantheism, in which God and Universe are considered to be identical.[33] However, in some cases such as Schleiermacher, Schelling or even Spinoza, there are disagreements when assigning a particular philosopher to one or the other.[34]

Pandeism is another word derived from pantheism and is characterized as a combination of reconcilable elements of pantheism and deism.[35] It assumes a Creator-deity which is at some point distinct from the universe and then merges with it, resulting in a universe similar to the pantheistic one in present essence, but differing in origin.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Paul Edwards. New York: Macmillan and Free Press. 1967. pp. 34. 
  2. ^ The New Oxford Dictionary Of English. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1998. pp. 1341. ISBN 0-19-861263-X. 
  3. ^ Owen, H. P. Concepts of Deity. London: Macmillan, 1971, p. 65.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Paul Harrison, Elements of Pantheism, 1999.
  5. ^ Genevieve Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Spinoza and The Ethics (Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks), Routledge; 1 edition (October 2, 1996), ISBN 978-0-415-10782-2, Page: 24
  6. ^ R.E. Sullivan, "John Toland and the Deist controversy: A Study in Adaptations", Harvard University Press, 1982, p. 193
  7. ^ Toland: The father of modern pantheism (
  8. ^ Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (
  9. ^ Syllabus or Errors 1.1 (
  10. ^ Heaven and Nature, Ross Douthat, New York Times, December 20, 2009.
  11. ^ Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, Beacon Press, 1986.
  12. ^ The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2006. pp 11-12
  13. ^ a b Caritas In Veritate, July 7, 2009.
  14. ^ Message Of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace.
  15. ^ "Einstein letter dismissing God sells for $330,000 US". CBC Canada. 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  16. ^ "Belief in God a 'product of human weaknesses': Einstein letter". CBC Canada. 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  17. ^ a b William Herndon (February 4). "Sold - Herndon's Revelations on Lincoln’s Religion" (Excerpt and review). Raab Collection. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  18. ^ a b [|Adams, Guy] (17 April 2011). "'Pantheist' Lincoln would be unelectable today". The Independent (Los Angeles). Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  19. ^ Levine, Michael, "Pantheism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  20. ^ "Classical Pantheism." In Philosophers Speak of God, ed. Charles Hartshorne and William Reese (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), pp 165-210]
  21. ^ F.C. Copleston, "Pantheism in Spinoza and the German Idealists," Philosophy 21, 1946, p. 48
  22. ^ Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool, "Proceedings of the Liverpool Literary & Philosophical Society, Volumes 43-44", 1889, p 285
  23. ^ John Ferguson, "The Religions of the Roman Empire", Cornell University Press, 1970, p 193
  24. ^ Jones, Lindsay, "Encyclopedia of religion: Volume 10; Volume 10", 2005
  25. ^ Plumptre, C.E., "General Sketch of the History of Pantheism", Samuel Deacon & Co., 1878, pp. 3-4
  26. ^ James Hastings ed. "Encyclopaedia of Religion & Ethics, {Pantheism (Introductory) by A.S. Gaden}", Vol. 9, p. 609.
  27. ^ Allison, Lincoln, "Ecology and Utility: The Philosophical Dilemmas of Planetary Management", Associated University Press, 1991, p. 32
  28. ^ "Pantheism". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press., 2012. 13 Jun. 2012.
  29. ^
  30. ^ Chuang Tzu - The butterfly philosopher (
  31. ^ General Sketch of the History of Pantheism, p. 29.
  32. ^ John W. Cooper, The Other God of the Philosophers, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 27.
  33. ^ Pantheism: A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity By Michael Philip Levine, pg 11[1].
  34. ^ John W. Cooper, The Other God of the Philosophers, Baker Academic, 2006, pp 71-72, 87-88, 105.
  35. ^ Sean F. Johnston (2009). The History of Science: A Beginner's Guide. pp. 90. ISBN 1-85168-681-9. 

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