Panentheism: Wikis


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Panentheism (from Greek πᾶν (pân) "all"; ἐν (en) "in"; and θεός (theós) "God"; "all-in-God") is a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well. Panentheism is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe.[1]

Briefly put, in pantheism, "God is the whole"; in panentheism, "The whole is in God." This means that the Universe in the first formulation is practically the Whole itself, but in the second the universe and God are not ontologically equivalent. In panentheism, God is not necessarily viewed as the creator or demiurge, but the eternal animating force behind the universe, with the universe as nothing more than the manifest part of God. The cosmos exists within God, who in turn "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God.[2] Hinduism is highly characterized by Panentheism and Pantheism[3].


Ancient panentheism


In the Americas (Pre-European)

Many North American Native Peoples (such as the Cree, Iroquois, Huron, Navajo, and others) were and still are largely panentheistic, conceiving of God as both immanent in Creation and transcendent from it. (North American Native writers have also translated the word for God as the Great Mystery [4] or as the Sacred Other[5]) An exception is the Cherokee who were monotheistic but apparently not panentheistic (as the two are not mutually exclusive).[6] Most South American Native peoples were largely panentheistic as well (as were ancient South East Asian and African cultures).[citation needed] The Central American empires of the Mayas, Aztecs as well as the South American Incans (Tahuatinsuyu) were actually polytheistic and had very strong male deities.[citation needed]

In Europe

Neoplatonism is polytheistic and panentheistic. Plotinus taught that there was an ineffable transcendent "God" (The One) of which subsequent realities were emanations. From the One emanates the Divine Mind (Nous) and the Cosmic Soul (Psyche). In Neoplatonism the world itself is God[citation needed]. This concept of God is closely associated with the Logos as stated in the 5th century BC works of Heraclitus (ca. 535475 BC), in which the Logos pervades the cosmos and whereby all thoughts and things originate; e.g., "He who hears not me but the Logos will say: All is one." Later Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus attempted to reconcile this perspective by adding another hypostasis above the original monad of force or Dunamis. This new all-pervasive monad encompassed all creation and its original uncreated emanations.

Development of a formal philosophy

The German philosopher Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781–1832) seeking to reconcile monotheism and pantheism, coined the term panentheism ("all in God") in 1828. This conception of God influenced New England transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. The term was popularized by Charles Hartshorne in his development of process theology and has also been adopted by proponents of various New Thought beliefs. The formalization of this term in the West in the 18th century was of course not new; philosophical treatises had been written on it in the context of Hinduism for millennia.

Beginning in the 1940s, Hartshorne examined numerous conceptions of God. He reviewed and discarded pantheism, deism, and pandeism in favor of panentheism, finding that such a "doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations." Hartshorne formulated God as a being who could become "more perfect": He has absolute perfection in categories for which absolute perfection is possible, and relative perfection (i.e., is superior to all others) in categories for which perfection cannot be precisely determined.[7]

Panentheism and Religion

Panentheism in the Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, God is described as a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. The connection between God and the world is that of the creator to his creation.[8] God is understood to be independent of his creation, and that creation is dependent and contingent on God. God, however, is not seen to be part of creation as he cannot be divided and does not descend to the condition of his creatures. Instead, in the Bahá'í understanding, the world of creation emanates from God, in that all things have been realized by him and have attained to existence.[9] Creation is seen as the expression of God's will in the contingent world,[10] and every created thing is seen as a sign of God's sovereignty, and leading to knowledge of him; the signs of God are most particularly revealed in human beings.[8]

Panentheism in Christianity

Panentheism is a feature of some Christian thought, but it is not everywhere accepted.[citation needed]

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity

In Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, creation is not considered to be "part of" God, and the Godhead is distinct from creation. There is, in other words, an eternal difference between the uncreated (ie, God) and the created (ie, everything else). This does not mean, however, that the creation is wholly separated from God, because the creation exists by and in the Divine energies. These energies are the operations of God and are God, but the created is not God in the Divine essence. God creates the world by the Divine will. It is not an "emanation" of God, an outworking or effulgence of the Divine, or any other process which implies that creation is part of or necessary to God in God's essence. Thus, to speak of panentheism as part of Orthodox theology and doctrine is problematic at best.

In the theology of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, God is not merely creator of the universe; his active presence is necessary in some way for every bit of creation, from smallest to greatest, to continue to exist at all.[11] That is, God's energies (that is, activities) maintain all things and all beings, even if those beings have explicitly rejected him. His love of creation is such that he will not withdraw his presence, which would be the ultimate form of slaughter, not merely imposing death but ending existence, altogether. By this token, the entirety of creation is good in its being and is not innately evil either in whole or in part. This does not deny the existence of evil in a fallen universe, only that it is not an innate property of creation. Evil results from the will of creatures, not from their nature per se (see the problem of evil).

Other Christian panentheists

Panentheistic God-models occur amongst some modern theologians. Process theology and Creation Spirituality, two recent Christian views, contain panentheistic ideas.

Some argue that panentheism should also include the notion that God has always been related to some world or another, which denies the idea of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Thomas Jay Oord advocates panentheism, but he uses the word "theocosmocentrism" to highlight the notion that God and some world or another are the primary conceptual starting blocks for eminently fruitful theology. This form of panentheism helps in overcoming the problem of evil and in proposing that God's love for the world is essential to who God is.

Panentheism was a major force in the Unitarian church for a long time, based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's concept of the Oversoul. This survives today as the panentheistic religion, Oversoul. [3] Charles Hartshorne, who conjoined process theology with panentheism, maintained a lifelong membership in the Methodist church but was also a Unitarian. In later years he joined the Austin, TX Unitarian Universalist congregation and was an active participant in that church. [4]

Many Christians who believe in Universalism hold Panentheistic views of God in conjunction with their belief in apocatastasis, also called universal reconciliation.[12] Christian Universalists often point to Bible verses such as Ephesians 4:6 ("[God] is over all and through all and in all") and Romans 11:36 ("from [God] and through him and to him are all things") to justify both Panentheism and Universalism.

Panentheism in Hinduism

Brahman is the transcendent and immanent Ultimate Reality of Hinduism. Many schools of Hinduism are panentheistic and the first and most ancient ideas of panentheism originate in the Vedas, Upanishads, as well as the Bhagavad Gita. The Purusha Sukta and Hiranyagarbha Sukta of Rig Veda and verses from the Bhagavad Gita and Shri Rudram support this viewpoint. Panenthestic views are stated explicitly in several stotras.

Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: "I pervade and support the entire universe by a very small fraction of My divine power". (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, verse 42)

The Vedasara Shivastotram says, "It is you from whom this universe of forms emerges, and it is you within whom it stays. It is you in whom it finally disappears". [5]

The panentheistic view of Hinduism has been termed by some scholars as monistic theism. For example, in Vaishnavism, it is interesting to note that the schools were all panentheistic. Vallabha's school of pure monism Shuddhadvaita, Nimbarka's school of differential monism Dvaitadvaita, and Ramanuja's school of qualified monism Vishistadvaita are all panentheistic. Additionally, Gaudiya Vaishnavism is also panentheistic, which was presented by Lord Caitanya as the doctrine of Acintya Bheda Abheda[13] (Acintya=inconceivable Bheda=difference Abheda=oneness). In Saivite theology, some schools of Saiva Siddhanta and Kashmir Shaivism are also panentheistic.

Panentheism is the view that the universe is part of the being of God, as distinguished from pantheism ("all-is-God doctrine"), which identifies God with the total reality. In contrast, panentheism holds that God pervades the world, but is also beyond it. He is immanent and transcendent, relative and Absolute. This embracing of opposites is called dipolar. For the panentheist, God is in all, and all is in God. --Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Panentheism in Islam

Several Sufi saints and thinkers, primarily Ibn Arabi, held beliefs that were somewhat panentheistic. These notions later took shape in the theory of wahdat ul-wujud (the Unity of All Things). Twelver Shi'ism has a panentheistic trend, represented by scholars such as Sayyid Haydar Amuli, Mulla Sadra (all of whom were influenced by Ibn Arabi). Some Sufi Orders, notably the Bektashis, continue to espouse panentheistic beliefs. Likewise, the Universal Sufi movement, which is inspired by Islam but is a form of Sufism separate from Islam. Nizari Ismaili follow panentheism according to Ismaili doctrine.

Panentheism in Judaism

While mainstream Orthodox Judaism is stricly Monotheistic and follows in the footsteps of Maimonides, Panentheism is inherent in certain Jewish mystical currents. A leading scholar of the Kabbalah, Moshe Idel ("Hasidism: Between Ecstacy and Magic," SUNY, 1995, pp. 17-18), ascribes this doctrine to the kabbalistic system of Rabbi Moses Cordovero (1522-1570) and in the eighteenth century, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic movement, as well as his contemporary, Rabbi Menahem Mendel, the Maggid of Bar. There is some debate as to whether Lurianic Kabbalah, with its doctrine of Tzimtzum, can be regarded as panentheistic. According to Hasidism, The Infinite ein sof is incorporeal (has no body) and is both transcendent and immanent. Aspects of Panentheism are also evident in the theology of Reconstructionist Judaism as presented in the writings of Mordecai Kaplan.

Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Kabbalism

Some branches of Gnosticism believe in a panentheistic view[citation needed] and hold the belief that God exists only as sparks of light in the visible material world. We need to know the sparks within ourselves to get back to God who is in the Fullness or Pleroma.

Gnosticism is Panentheistic,[citation needed] believing that the true God is separate from the physical universe however, there are aspects of the true God in the physical universe as well. Thus, "All-In-God" (see pantheism) as stated in one of the Sayings of Gospel of Thomas: "Lift Up A Stone And You Will Find Me There..." This seemingly contradictory interpretation of Gnosticism's theology is not without controversy. Since a good God would not manifest or work through the evil or fallen material world of the demiurge. As Mani stated, "The true God has nothing to do with the material world or cosmos",[14] and, "It is the Prince of Darkness who spoke with Moses, the Jews and their priests. Thus the Christians, the Jews, and the Pagans are involved in the same error when they worship this God. For he leads them astray in the lusts he taught them." [15][16]

Valentinian Gnosticism claims that matter came about through emanations of the supreme being, and to some this event is held to be more of an accident than of being on purpose.[citation needed] To other Gnostics, the emanations are akin to the Sephiroth of the Kabbalists - description of the manifestation of God through a complex system of reality.

See also


  1. ^ "The Worldview of Panentheism - R. Totten, M.Div - © 2000". Web page. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  2. ^ Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley, David B. Barrett (1999). The Encyclopedia of Christianity pg. 21. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0802824161. 
  3. ^ [1] Britannica - Pantheism and Panentheism in non-Western cultures
  4. ^ Russell Means, Where White Men Fear To Tread (Macmillan, 1993), pp. 3-4, 15, 17.
  5. ^ George Tinker (Osage), Spirit and Resistance: Political Theology and American Indian Liberation, p. 89. He defines the Sacred Other as "the Deep Mystery which creates and sustains all Creation".
  6. ^ Peoples of the World: The Cherokee, website found 2008-03-24.
  7. ^ Charles Hartshorne, Man's Vision of God and the Logic of Theism (1964) ISBN 0-208-00498-X p. 348
  8. ^ a b Smith, Peter (2000). "God". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 116. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  9. ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá (1981). Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 202–203. ISBN 0877431906. 
  10. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "creation". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 164–165. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  11. ^ St. Symeon in Practical & Theological Discourses, 1.1: When men search for God with their bodily eyes they find Him nowhere, for He is invisible. But for those who ponder in the Spirit He is present everywhere. He is in all, yet beyond all.
  12. ^ For example, see and
  13. ^ Caitanya Caritamrita, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
  14. ^ "Now God has no part in this cosmos nor does he rejoice over it",Classical Texts:Acta Archelai [ ] Page 76
  15. ^ Classical Texts:Acta Archelai Now, he who spoke with Moses, the Jews, and the priests he says is the archont of Darkness, and the Christians, Jews, and pagans (ethnic) are one and the same, as they revere the same god. For in his aspirations he seduces them, as he is not the god of truth. And so therefore all those who put their hope in the god who spoke with Moses and the prophets have (this in store for themselves, namely) to be bound with him, because they did not put their hope in the god of truth. For that one spoke with them (only) according to their own aspirations. [ ] Page 76
  16. ^ Likewise, Manichaeism, being another Gnostic sect, preached a similar doctrine of positioning God against matter. This dualistic teaching embodied an elaborate cosmological myth that included the defeat of a primal man by the powers of darkness that devoured and imprisoned the particles of light. Thus, to Mani, the devil god which created the world was the Jewish Jehovah. Mani said, "It is the Prince of Darkness who spoke with Moses, the Jews and their priests. Thus the Christians, the Jews, and the Pagans are involved in the same error when they worship this God. For he leads them astray in the lusts he taught them."[2]

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Panentheism is a religious doctrine that holds that the universe is part of God, but that God also transcends the universe.


  • In Emerson's case, we know who the god was--even his name and address. His utterances are too highly differentiated for mistake. The divine voice is of course one. All things are one to Emerson. But the one in this instance seems sufficiently distinguished from its other articulatenesses to involve a polytheistic rather than a generally immanent explanation. To us the god is inescapably Emerson himself; it is at least excusable, practically, to identify what you find in no other conjunction. Naturally the inference is that we are all gods, and no doubt Emerson would willingly have adopted, with whatever modifications, the current “panentheism” which unites his pantheism with theism, for though he never lost sight of the existence of the many he always saw them as ultimately resident in the one.
    • William Crary Brownell, American Prose Masters (1909), p. 143
  • There is much closer kinship to Panentheism, the creed of the noblest minds of the Renaissance, than to the distinctively Christian view which these men incline to look upon as a mere refuge for the weak and sickly.
    • Rudolf Eucken, The Problem of Human Life as Viewed by the Great Thinkers from Plato to the Present Time (1910), p. 462
  • These distinctions make sense only when AR [absolute perfection in some respects, relative perfection in all others] is assumed (hence Spinoza's failure, who assumed mere A). Just as AR is the whole positive content of perfection, so CW, or the conception of the Creator-and-the-Whole-of-what-he-has-created as constituting one life, the super-whole which in its everlasting essence is uncreated (and does not necessitate just the parts which the whole has) but in its de facto concreteness is created - this panentheistic doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations. Thus ARCW, or absolute-relative panentheism, is the one doctrine that really states the whole of what all theists, if not all atheists as/well, are implicitly talking about.
    • Charles Hartshorne, Man's Vision of God and the Logic of Theism (1964), ISBN 0-208-00498-X, p. 348

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PANENTHEISM, the name given by K. C. F. Krause (q.v.) to his philosophic theory. Krause held that all existence is one great unity, which he called Wesen (Essence). This Essence is God, and includes within itself the finite unities of man, reason and nature. God therefore includes the world in Himself and extends beyond it. The theory is a conciliation of Theism and Pantheism.

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Simple English

Panentheism is the belief that the universe is part of God. Followers believe that god, God or gods are both part of the universe and above it. To some people, this is a very confusing concept (idea) and was first created by philosophers in the early centuries AD.


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