Pantheism: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pantheism is the view that the Universe (Nature) and God are identical,[1] or that the Universe (including Nature on Earth) is the only thing deserving the deepest kind of reverence. The word derives from the Ancient Greekπᾶν (pan) meaning "All" and θεός (theos) meaning "God" - literally "All is God." As such Pantheism promotes the idea that God is better understood as a way of relating to nature and the Universe as a whole - all that was, is and shall be - rather than as a transcendent, mental, personal or creator entity.[2] Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. Although there are divergences within Pantheism, the central ideas found in almost all versions are the Cosmos as an all-encompassing unity and the "sacredness" of Nature.



The term "pantheist"—from which the word "Pantheism" is derived—was purportedly 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 Leibniz when he referred to "the pantheistic opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe."[3]

Thus no-one used the term Pantheism or Pantheist before the early 18th century, because these words did not exist. However, many earlier writers, schools of philosophy, and religious movements expressed essentially pantheistic ideas.

They include some of the Presocratics such as Heraclitus and Anaximander. 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 Laozi and Zhuangzi is also pantheistic.[3]

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). Spinoza's Ethics, finished in 1675, was the major source from which Pantheism spread (though Spinoza himself did not use the word.) John Toland was influenced by both Spinoza and Bruno. In 1720 he wrote the Pantheisticon: or The Form of Celebrating the Socratic-Society in Latin.[4]

In 1785 a major controversy known in German as the Pantheismus-Streit between critic Friedrich Jacobi and defender Moses Mendelssohn helped to spread awareness of Pantheism to many German thinkers in the late 18th and in the 19th century.[5]

For a time during the 19th century it seemed like Pantheism was the religion of the future, attracting figures such as Wordsworth and Coleridge in Britain; Fichte, Schelling and Hegel in Germany; Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau in the USA. Seen as a threat by the Vatican, it came under attack in the notorious Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.[6]

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 Post-Modernism. It persisted in eminent pantheists such as the novelist D.H. Lawrence, poet Robinson Jeffers, scientist Albert Einstein, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and historian Arnold Toynbee.[3]

Recent developments

In the late 20th century, as Communism fell and traumatic memories of global wars receded, Pantheism began to see a resurgence.[3] Pantheism seemed to chime with the growing ecological crisis. It was often declared to be the underlying "theology" of Paganism.[7] 1975 saw the foundation of the Universal Pantheist Society, however it remained extremely small. The creation of the naturalistic World Pantheist Movement in 1999, with its multiple mailing lists and social networks, led to much wider visibility.

As the growing global ecological crisis increased the level of concern for Nature, the popularity and prominence of Pantheism grew further in the early 21st century. Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion gave Naturalistic Pantheism increased credibility among atheists - Dawkins described it as "sexed-up atheism."[8] The Vatican gave Pantheism further prominence in a Papal encyclical of 2009[9] and a New Year's Day statement on January 1, 2010,[10] which criticized Pantheism for denying the superiority of humans over nature and "seeing the source of man's salvation in nature."[9] The all-time hit movie Avatar (2009 film) was widely reviewed as presenting a Pantheistic reverence and concern for Nature. Ross Douthat of The New York Times described the film as "Cameron's long apologia for pantheism...Hollywood's religion of choice for a generation now".[11]


All varieties of Pantheism involve reverence for the Universe or Totality rather than for any creator being or personal God. All imply some level of unity in reality. All except the idealist variety have a strong emphasis on Nature as a focus of spirituality and of ethics. There are three major categories of Pantheism, which differ as to whether they regard reality as made up of only one type of substance, or two, and what that type of substance is.[12]

  • Monist physicalist or Naturalistic Pantheism holds that there is only one type of substance, and that substance is physical, i.e. energy and matter. Historically this version was held by Stoics such as Zeno of Citium or Marcus Aurelius, and in modern times by John Toland, Ernst Haeckel, D.H. Lawrence and Paul Harrison. This version is represented today by the World Pantheist Movement. 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.
  • Monist idealist Pantheism holds that there is only one type of substance, and that substance is mental or spiritual. Ultimate reality consists of a single consciousness. This version is uncommon in modern times but is represented in the Eleatic school of Xenophanes and Parmenides and by Consciousness-Only schools of Buddhism.
  • Dualist Pantheism holds that there are two major types of substance, physical and mental/spiritual. Dualistic pantheism is very diverse, and may include beliefs in reincarnation, cosmic consciousness, and paranormal connections across Nature. It is represented most widely today in literal versions of Paganism.



Use of religious vocabulary

A significant debate within the pantheistic community is about the use of the word "God." Pantheists do not believe in a God in the common and traditional sense of a personal creator being. Some modern Pantheists avoid using God-words altogether, since they regard them as misleading. However, others consider that Pantheism can not be Pantheism without using the word God.

Some critics have argued that pantheism is little more than a redefinition of the word "God" to mean "existence", "life" or "reality".[citation needed] Many pantheists would say that if this is so, such a shift in the way we think about these ideas can serve to create both a new and a potentially far more insightful conception of both existence and God.[citation needed]

When pantheism is considered as an alternative to theism there is a denial of theistic claims. For example, theism is the belief in a "personal" God that transcends (is separate from) the world. Pantheists deny the existence of a personal God. They deny the existence of a "minded" Being that has intentional states and associated capacities like the ability to make decisions.

There are disagreements as to whether Pantheism is atheistic or not. Atheists argue the non-theistic god of pantheism is not a god (according to the traditional definition),[13] while others suggest a deity is not necessarily transcendent.[14]

Similar concepts in other religious traditions


Taoism is pantheistic at least in the writings of its leading thinkers Laozi and Zhuangzi, although it later developed into a folk religion with many deities.
The Tao te Ching by Laozi never speaks of a personal or creator God. Its central focus, the Tao or Way, is conceived of as a mysterious and numinous unity, infinite and eternal, underlying all things and sustaining them. The Tao is always spoken of with profound religious reverence and respect, similar to the way that Pantheism discusses the “divinity” of the Universe.[15] The ideal of Taoism was to live in harmony with the Tao and to cultivate a simple and frugal life, avoiding unnecessary action: "Being one with nature, he [the sage] is in accord with the Tao."[16]
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."[17]


It is generally asserted that Hindu religious texts are the oldest known literature that contains Pantheistic ideas.[18] In Hindu theology, Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all things in this Universe, and is also the sum total of all that ever is, was, or ever shall be. "poornamadah poornamidam" which in Sanskrit means "That is whole, this is whole." This idea of pantheism is traceable from some of the more ancient Vedas and Upanishads to later Advaita philosophy. All Mahāvākyas (Great Sayings) of the Upanishads, in one way or another, seem to indicate the unity of the world with the Brahman. Chāndogya Upanishad says "All this Universe indeed is Brahman; from him does it proceed; into him it is dissolved; in him it breathes, so let every one adore him calmly". It further says "This whole universe is Brahman, from Brahman to a clod of earth. Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause of the world. He is the potter by whom the vase is formed; He is the clay from which it is fabricated. Everything proceeds from Him, without waste or diminution of the source, as light radiates from sun. Everything merges into Him again, as bubbles bursting mingle with air – as rivers fall into the ocean. Everything proceeds from and returns to Him, as the web of the spider is emitted from and retracted into itself."[19] In the hymns of the Rig-veda, a pantheistic strain of thought may be discernible in the tenth book (10-121).

This concept of God is of one unity, with the individual personal gods being aspects of the One; thus, different deities are seen by different adherents as particularly well suited to their worship. As the sun has rays of light which emanate from the same source, the same holds true for the multifaceted aspects of God emanating from Brahman, like many colors of the same prism.Also Hindus worship Nature by offering prayers to sacred trees, groves and also to animals. It's believed widely among Hindus that God lives in all, a very pantheistic belief. Vedanta, specifically, Advaita, is a branch of Hindu philosophy which gives this matter a greater focus. Most Vedantic adherents are monists or "non-dualists" (i.e. Advaita Vedanta), seeing multiple manifestations of the one God or source of being, a view which is often considered by non-Hindus as being polytheistic.

Pantheism is a key component of Advaita philosophy. Other subdivisions of Vedanta do not strictly hold this tenet. For example, the Dvaita school of Madhvacharya holds Brahman to be the external personal God Vishnu, whereas the theistic school of Ramanuja espouses Panentheism.

Other religions

There are many elements of pantheism in some forms of Buddhism, Neopaganism, and Theosophy along with many varying denominations and individuals within and without denominations. See also the Neopagan section of Gaia and the Church of All Worlds.

Many Unitarian Universalists consider themselves pantheists. Many traditional and folk religions including African traditional religions and Native American religions can be seen as pantheist, or a mixture of pantheism and other doctrines such as polytheism and animism.

Related concepts

Part of a series on

General conceptions
Atheism · Deism · Henotheism · Monolatrism
Monotheism · Panentheism · Pantheism

Specific conceptions
Creator · Architect · Demiurge · Devil
Sustainer · Lord · Father · Monad
Oneness · Supreme Being · The All
Personal · Unitarianism · Ditheism · Trinity
in Abrahamic religions
(Bahá'í Faith, Christianity, Islam, Judaism)
in Ayyavazhi · in Buddhism · in Hinduism
in Jainism · in Sikhism · in Zoroastrianism

Eternalness · Existence · Gender
Names ("God") · Omnibenevolence
Omnipotence · Omnipresence · Omniscience

Experience and practices
Faith · Prayer · Belief · Revelation
Fideism · Gnosis · Metaphysics
Mysticism · Hermeticism · Esotericism

Related topics

Philosophy · Religion · Ontology
God complex · Neurotheology
Euthyphro dilemma · Problem of evil
Portrayal in popular media
List of religious texts


The term "Panentheism" was formally coined in Germany in the 19th Century, as a means of reconciling Pantheism with outright theism. Whereas in Pantheism (All=God) God and the universe are synonymous, Panentheism (All IN God) holds that God is omnipresent in the Universe, but also extends beyond the Universe and created the Universe. Thus Panentheism is highly compatible with traditional theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam, whereas Pantheism is not compatible with these.[20][21]

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ Owen, H. P. Concepts of Deity. London: Macmillan, 1971.
  3. ^ a b c d Paul Harrison, Elements of Pantheism, 1999
  4. ^ Toland: the father of modern pantheism,
  5. ^ Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
  6. ^ Syllabus or Errors 1.1,
  7. ^ Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, Beacon Press, 1986
  8. ^ The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2006.
  9. ^ a b Caritas In Veritate, July 7, 2009
  10. ^ Message Of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace
  11. ^ Douthat, Ross (December 21, 2009). "Heaven and Nature". New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2009. 
  12. ^ Paul Harrison, Elements of Pantheism, Element Books (1999)
  13. ^ Dawkins, R (2006), The God Delusion, Transworld, a Black Swan Book, ISBN 978-0-552-77331-7  "Pantheism is sexed-up atheism"
  14. ^ "With some exceptions, pantheism is non-theistic, but it is not atheistic." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Pantheism,
  15. ^ Paul Harrison, Elements of Pantheism, Element Books, 1999
  16. ^ Tao te Ching, 16
  17. ^ Chuang Tzu - the butterfly philosopher,
  18. ^ General Sketch of the History of Pantheism p. 29
  19. ^ Chandogya Upanishad 3-14 Williams Translation
  20. ^ What is Panentheism?, About Agnosticism/Atheism. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  21. ^ Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley, David B. Barrett (1999). The Encyclopedia of Christianity pg. 21. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0802824161. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge. ~ Carl Sagan

Pantheism is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent.


  • Ought not men of intelligence, and indeed men of every kind, to be stirred up to examine the nature of this opinion? For there is no need of excellent capacity for this task, that putting away the desire of contention, they may observe that if God is the soul of the world, and the world is as a body to Him, who is the soul, He must be one living being consisting of soul and body, and that this same God is a kind of womb of nature containing all things in Himself, so that the lives and souls of all living things are taken, according to the manner of each one’s birth, out of His soul which vivifies that whole mass, and therefore nothing at all remains which is not a part of God. And if this is so, who cannot see what impious and irreligious consequences follow, such as that whatever one may trample, he must trample a part of God, and in slaying any living creature, a part of God must be slaughtered? But I am unwilling to utter all that may occur to those who think of it, yet cannot be spoken without irreverence.
  • Concerning the rational animal himself,—that is, man,—what more unhappy belief can be entertained than that a part of God is whipped when a boy is whipped? And who, unless he is quite mad, could bear the thought that parts of God can become lascivious, iniquitous, impious, and altogether damnable? In brief, why is God angry at those who do not worship Him, since these offenders are parts of Himself?
    • St. Augustine, City of God (426), Book 4, Chapter 13.
  • On the whole, one might be surprised that even in the seventeenth century pantheism did not gain a complete victory over theism; for the most original, finest, and most thorough European expositions of it (none of them, of course, will bear comparison with the Upanishads of the Vedas) all came to light at that period, namely through Bruno, Malebranche, Spinoza, and Scotus Erigena. After Scotus Erigena had been lost and forgotten for many centuries, he was again discovered at Oxford and in 1681, thus four years after Spinoza's death, his work first saw the light in print. This seems to prove that the insight of individuals cannot make itself felt so long as the spirit of the age is not ripe to receive it. On the other hand, in our day (1851) pantheism, although presented only in Schelling's eclectic and confused revival thereof, has become the dominant mode of thought of scholars and even of educated people. This is because Kant had preceded it with his overthrow of theistic dogmatism and had cleared the way for it, whereby the spirit of the age was ready for it, just as a ploughed field is ready for the seed.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena (1851), Vol. I, "Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and the Real"
  • [Malebranche] teaches that we see all things in God himself. This is certainly equivalent to explaining something unknown by something even more unknown. Moreover, according to him, we see not only all things in God, but God is also the sole activity therein, so that physical causes are so only apparently; they are merely occasional causes. (Recherches de la vérité, Livre VI, seconde partie, chap. 3.) And so here we have essentially the pantheism of Spinoza who appears to have learned more from Malebranche than from Descartes.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I, "Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and the Real"
  • All pantheism must ultimately be shipwrecked on the inescapable demands of ethics, and then on the evil and suffering of the world. If the world is a theophany, then everything done by man, and even by animal, is equally divine and excellent; nothing can be more censurable and nothing more praiseworthy than anything else; hence there is no ethics.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Ch. XLVII
  • The chief objection I have to pantheism is that it says nothing. To call the world God is not to explain it; it is only to enrich our language with a superfluous synonym for the word "world".
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, A Few Words On Pantheism, 1851
  • A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.
    • Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (1994) p. 77
    • While Sagan never described himself as a pantheist, many maintain that pantheism fit his views better than any other term. This claim, while widely accepted among pantheists of all varieties, remains somewhat controversial outside the pantheist community. A similar debate surrounds the attribution of pantheism to other notable figures, including Albert Einstein.
  • Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived. God is the indwelling, and not the transient cause of all things.
    • Baruch Spinoza, Ethics
    • This citation is too vague. If complete source details are not provided, the quotation may be deleted.
  • Many persons have thought that this Pan [ Pandeism ] related to what has been called Pantheism, or the adoration of universal nature, and that Pantheism was the first system of man. For this opinion I cannot see a shadow of foundation. As I have formerly said, it seems to me contrary to common sense to believe that the ignorant half savage would first worship the ground he treads upon,--that he would raise his mind to so abstruse and so improbable a doctrine as, that the earth he treads upon created him and created itself: for Pantheism instantly comes to this
  • To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals.
  • In the context of natural theology there is reason to believe that pantheism may fare well if compared with theism. This may be part of the reason why it has been the classic religious alternative to theism.
  • Many people profess pantheistic beliefs — though somewhat obscurely. Pantheism remains a much neglected topic of inquiry. Given their prevalence, non-theistic notions of deity have not received the kind of careful philosophical attention they deserve. Certainly the central claims of pantheism are prima facie no more "fantastic" than the central claims of theism — and probably a great deal less so.
  • Michael P. Levine, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • God thus excludes the world; he is only its cause; in no sense is he effect, of himself or anything else. Pantheism (better, "pandeism," for again it is not really the theos that is described) means that God is the integral totality of ordinary cause-effects, and that there, is no super-cause independent of ordinary causes and effects.
    • Professor Charles Hartshorne, Man's Vision of God and the Logic of Theism (1964) p. 347.


  • I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings"
  • A human being is a part of a whole, called by us "universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
  • God does not die on that day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reasoning. When the sense of the earth unites with the sense of one's body, one becomes earth of the earth, a plant among plants, an animal born from the soil and fertilizing it. In this union, the body is confirmed in its pantheism
  • Until I can say what everything is, I can't say what it isn't.
    • Walter Stevenson
  • I believe in God, only I spell it "Nature". Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up pantheism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PANTHEISM (Gr. 7rav, all, 0E6s, god), the doctrine which identifies the universe with God, or God with the universe.' The term "pantheist" was apparently first used by John Toland in 1705, and it was at once adopted by French and English writers. Though the term is thus of recent origin, the system of thought or attitude of mind for which it stands may be traced back both in European and in Eastern philosophy to a very early stage. At the same time pantheism almost necessarily presupposes a more concrete and less sophisticated conception of God and the universe. It presents itself historically as an intellectual revolt against the difficulties involved in the presupposition of theistic and polytheistic systems, and in philosophy as an attempt to solve the dualism of the one and the many, unity and difference, thought and extension. Thus the pious Hindu, confronted by the impossibility of obtaining perfect knowledge by the senses or by reason, finds his sole perfection in the contemplation of the infinite (Brahma). In Greece the idea of a fundamental unity behind the plurality of phenomena was present, though vaguely, in the minds of the early physicists (see Ionian School), but the first thinker who focussed the problem clearly was Xenophanes. Unlike the Hindu, Xenophanes inclined to pantheism as a protest against the anthropomorphic polytheism of the time, which seemed to him improperly to exalt one of the many modes of finite existence into the place of the Infinite. Thus Xenophanes for the first time postulates a supreme God whose 2 Strictly, pantheism is to identify the universe with God, while the term "pancosmism" (rap, Kovµos, the universe) has frequently been used for the identification of God with the universe. For practical purposes this refinement is of small value, the two ideas being aspects of the same thing; cf. A. M. Fairbairn, Studies in Philos. Relig. Hist. (1877), p. 392. Both "Atheism" (q.v.) and "Acosmism" are used as contradictories.

characteristic is primarily the negation of the Finite. A similar metaphysic from a different starting-point is found in Heraclitus, who postulates behind the perpetually changing universe of phenomena a One which remains. This attitude towards existence, expressing itself in different phraseology, has been prominent to a greater or less degree since Xenophanes and Heraclitus. Thus the metaphysic of Plato finds reality only in the "Idea," of which all phenomena are merely imperfect copies. Neoplatonism (and especially Plotinus) adopted a similar attitude. The Stoics, with the supreme object of giving to human life a definite unity and purpose, made the individual a part of the universe and sought to obliterate all differences. The universe to them is a manifestation of divine reason, while all things come from and return to (the 660s am) Kcim) the Ir y €i a &b.irvpov, the ultimate matter. The same problems in a different context confronted the monotheistic religions of Judaism and Christianity. We find Philo Judaeus endeavouring to free the concept of the Old Testament Yahweh from anthropomorphic characteristics and finite determinations. But though Philo sees the difficulties of the orthodox Judaism he cannot accept pantheism or mysticism so far as to give up the personality of God (see Logos).

With Neoplatonism we enter upon a somewhat different though closely allied attitude of mind. To Plotinus God lies beyond sense and imagination: all the theologian can do is to point the way in which the thinker must travel. Though the spirit and the language of Plotinus is closely allied to that of pantheism, the result of his thinking is not pantheism but mysticism. This may be briefly illustrated by a comparison with the greatest of modern pantheists, Spinoza. To him God is the immanent principle of the universe - "Deus sive Natura." On the principle that everything which is determined (finite) is "negated" ("determinatio est negatio"), God, the ultimate reality must be entirely undetermined. To explain the universe Spinoza proceeds to argue that God, though undetermined ab extra, is capable of infinite self-determination. Thus God, the causa sui, manifests himself in an infinite multiplicity of particular modes. Spinoza is, therefore, both pantheist and pancosmist: God exists only as realized in the cosmos: the cosmos exists only as a manifestation of God. Plotinus, on the other hand, cannot admit any realization or manifestation of the Infinite: God is necessarily above the world - he has no attributes, and is unthinkable. Such a view is not pantheism but mysticism (q.v.), and should be compared with the theology of Oriental races.

The semi-Oriental mysticism of the Neoplatonists and the Logos doctrines of the Stoics alike influence early Christian doctrine, and the pantheistic view is found frequently in medieval theology (e.g. in Erigena, Meister Eckhardt, Jakob Boehme). The Arabic scholar Averroes gave Aristotle to western Europe in a pantheistic garb, and thus influenced medieval scientists. So Bruno constructed a personified nature, and the scientific and humanistic era began. The pantheism of Spinoza, combining as it did the religious and the scientific points of view, had a wide influence upon thought and culture. Schelling (in his Identity-philosophy) and Hegel both carried on the pantheistic tradition, which after Hegel broke up into two lines of thought, the one pantheistic the other atheistic.

From the religious point of view there are two main problems. The first is to establish any real relation between the individual and God without destroying personality and with it the whole idea of human responsibility and free will: the second is to explain the infinity of God without destroying his personality. In what sense can God be outside the world (see Deism): in what sense in it (pantheism)? The great objection to pantheism is that, though ostensibly it magnifies the Creator and gets rid of the difficult dualism of Creator and Creation, it tends practically to deny his existence in any practical intelligible sense.

See, further, Theism; Deism; ATheism; Absolute.

<< Pantelleria

Pantheon >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also pantheism





Pantheism (uncountable)

  1. Alternative spelling of pantheism.

Usage notes

  • Sometimes capitalized when discussing use as a formal theory.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

(From Greek pan, all; theos, god).

The view according to which God and the world are one. The name pantheist was introduced by John Toland (1670-1722) in his "Socinianism truly Stated" (1705), while pantheism was first used by his opponent Fay in "Defensio Religionis" (1709). Toland published his "Pantheisticon" in 1732. The doctrine itself goes back to the early Indian philosophy; it appears during the course of history in a great variety of forms, and it enters into or draws support from so many other systems that, as Professor Flint says ("Antitheistic Theories", 334), "there is probably no pure pantheism". Taken in the strictest sense, i.e. as identifying God and the world, Pantheism is simply Atheism. In any of its forms it involves Monism, but the latter is not necessarily pantheistic. Emanationism may easily take on a pantheistic meaning and as pointed out in the Encyclical "Pascendi dominici gregis", the same is true of the modern doctrine of immanence.



These agree in the fundamental doctrine that beneath the apparent diversity and multiplicity of things in the universe there is one only being absolutely necessary, eternal, and infinite. Two questions then arise: What is the nature of this being? How are the manifold appearances to be explained? The principal answers are incorporated in such different earlier systems as Brahminism, Stoicism, Neo-Platonism, and Gnosticism, and in the later systems of Scotus Eriugena and Giordano Bruno.

Spinoza's pantheism was realistic: the one being of the world had an objective character. But the systems that developed during the nineteenth century went to the extreme of idealism. They are properly grouped under the designation of "transcendental pantheism", as their starting-point is found in Kant's critical philosophy. Kant had distinguished in knowledge the matter which comes through sensation from the outer world, and the forms, which are purely subjective and yet are the more important factors. Furthermore, he had declared that we know the appearances (phenomena) of things but not the things-in-themselves (noumena). And he had made the ideas of the soul, the world, and God merely immanent, so that any attempt to demonstrate their objective value must end in contradiction. This subjectivism paved the way for the pantheistic theories of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.

Fichte set back into the mind all the elements of knowledge, i.e. matter as well as form; phenomena and indeed the whole of reality are products of the thinking Ego-not the individual mind but the absolute or universal self-consciousness. Through the three-fold process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, the Ego posits the non-Ego not only theoretically but also for practical purposes, i.e. for effort and struggle which are necessary in order to attain the highest good. In the same way the Ego, free in itself, posits other free agents by whose existence its own freedom is limited. Hence the law of right and all morality; but hence also the Divine being. The living, active moral order of the world, says Fichte, is itself God, we need no other God, and can conceive of no other. The idea of God as a distinct substance is impossible and contradictory. Such, at any rate, is the earlier form of his doctrine, though in his later theorizing he emphasizes more and more the concepts of the Absolute as embracing all individuals within itself.

According to Schelling, the Absolute is the "identity of all differences"-object and subject, nature and mind, the real order and the ideal; and the knowledge of this identity is obtained by an intellectual intuition which, abstracting from every individual thinker and every possible object of thought, contemplates the absolute reason. Out of this original unity all things evolve in opposite directions: nature as the negative pole, mind or spirit as the positive pole of a vast magnet, the universe. Within this totality each thing, like the particle of a magnet, has its nature or form determined according as it manifests subjectivity or objectivity in greater degree. History is but the gradual self-revelation of the Absolute; when its final period will come to pass we know not; but when it does come, then God will be.

The system of Hegel has been called "logical pantheism", as it is constructed on the "dialectical" method; and "panlogismus", since it describes the entire world-process as the evolution of the Idea. Starting from the most abstract of notions, i.e. pure being, the Absolute developes first the various categories; then it externalizes itself, and Nature is the result; finally it returns upon itself, regains unity and self-consciousness, becomes the individual spirit of man. The Absolute, therefore, is Mind; but it attains its fulness only by a process of evolution or "becoming", the stages of which form the history of the universe.

These idealistic constructions were followed by a reaction due largely to the development of the natural sciences. But these in turn offer, apparently, new support to the central positions of pantheism, or at any rate they point, it is claimed, to that very unity and that gradual unfolding which pantheism has all along asserted. The principle of the conservation of energy through ceaseless transformations, and the doctrine of evolution applied to all things and all phenomena, are readily interpreted by the pantheist in favour of his own system. Even where the ultimate reality is said to be unknowable as in Herbert Spencer's "Synthetic Philosophy", it is still one and the same being that manifests itself alike in evolving matter and in the consciousness that evolves out of lower material forms. Nor is it surprising that some writers should see in pantheism the final outcome of all speculation and the definitive expression which the human mind has found for the totality of things.

This statement, in fact, may well serve as a summary of the pantheistic doctrine:

  • Reality is a unitary being; individual things have no absolute independence- they have existence in the All-One, the ens realissimum et et perfectissimum of which they are the more or less independent members;
  • The All-One manifests itself to us, so far as it has any manifestations, in the two sides of reality-nature and history;
  • The universal interaction that goes on in the physical world is the showing forth of the inner aesthetic teleological necessity with which the All-One unfolds his essential being in a multitude of harmonious modifications, a cosmos of concrete ideas (monads, entelechies). This internal necessity is at the same time absolute freedom or self-realization.


The Church has repeatedly condemned the errors of pantheism. Among the propositions censured in the Syllabus of Pius IX is that which declares: "There is no supreme, all-wise and all-provident Divine Being distinct from the universe; God is one with nature and therefore subject to change; He becomes God in man and the world; all things are God and have His substance; God is identical with the world, spirit with matter, necessity with freedom, truth with falsity, good with evil, justice with injustice" (Denzinger-Bannwart, "Ench.", 1701). And the Vatican Council anathematizes those who assert that the substance or essence of God and of all things is one and the same, or that all things evolve from God's essence (ibid., 1803 sqq.).


To our perception the world presents a multitude of beings each of which has qualities activities, and existence of its own, each is an individual thing. Radical differences mark off living things from those that are lifeless; the conscious from the unconscious human thought and volition from the activities of lower animals. And among human beings each personality appears as a self, which cannot by any effort become completely one with other selves. On the other hand, any adequate account of the world other than downright materialism includes the concept of some original Being which, whether it be called First Cause, or Absolute, or God, is in its nature and existence really distinct from the world. Only such a Being can satisfy the demands of human thought, either as the source of the moral order or as the object of religious worship. If, then, pantheism not only merges the separate existences of the world in one existence, but also identifies this one with the Divine Being, some cogent reason or motive must be alleged in justification of such a procedure. Pantheists indeed bring forward various arguments in support of their several positions, and in reply to criticism aimed at the details of their system; but what lies back of their reasoning and what has prompted the construction of all pantheistic theories, both old and new, is the craving for unity. The mind, they insist, cannot accept dualism or pluralism as the final account of reality. By an irresistible tendency, it seeks to substitute for the apparent multiplicity and diversity of things a unitary ground or source, and, once this is determined, to explain all things as somehow derived though not really separated from it.

That such is in fact the ideal of many philosophers cannot be denied; nor is it needful to challenge the statement that reason does aim at unification on some basis or other. But this very aim and all endeavours in view of it must likewise be kept within reasonable bounds: a theoretical unity obtained at too great a sacrifice is no unity at all, but merely an abstraction that quickly falls to pieces. Hence for an estimate of pantheism two questions must be considered:

  • at what cost does it identify God and the world; and
  • is the identification really accomplished or only attempted? The answer to the first is furnished by a review of the leading concepts which enter into the pantheistic system.


It has often been claimed that pantheism by teaching us to see God in everything gives us an exalted idea of His wisdom, goodness, and power, while it imparts to the visible world a deeper meaning. In point of fact, however, it makes void the attributes which belong essentially to the Divine nature For the pantheist God is not a personal Being. He is not an intelligent Cause of the world, designing, creating and governing it in accordance with the free determination of His wisdom. If consciousness is ascribed to Him as the one Substance, extension is also said to be His attribute (Spinoza), or He attains to self-consciousness only through a process of evolution (Hegel). But this very process implies that God is not from eternity perfect: He is forever changing, advancing from one degree of perfection to another, and helpless to determine in what direction the advance shall take place. Indeed, there is no warrant for saying that He "advances" or becomes more "perfect"; at most we can say that He, or rather It, is constantly passing into other forms. Thus God is not only impersonal, but also changeable and finite-which is equivalent to saying that He is not God.

It is true that some pantheists, such as Paulsen, while frankly denying the personality of God, pretend to exalt His being by asserting that He is "supra-personal." If this means that God in Himself is infinitely beyond any idea that we can form of Him, the statement is correct; but if it means that our idea of Him is radically false and not merely inadequate, that consequently we have no right to speak of infinite intelligence and will, the statement is simply a makeshift which pantheism borrows from agnosticism Even then the term "supra-personal" is not consistently applied to what Paulsen calls the All-One; for this, if at all related to personality, should be described as infra-personal.

Once the Divine personality is removed, it is evidently a misnomer to speak of God as just or holy, or in any sense a moral Being. Since God, in the pantheistic view, acts out of sheer necessity--that is, cannot act otherwise--His action is no more good than it is evil. To say, with Fichte, that God is the moral order, is an open contradiction; no such order exists where nothing is free, nor could God, a non-moral Being, have established a moral order either for Himself or for other beings. If, on the other hand, it be maintained that the moral order does exist, that it is postulated by our human judgments, the plight of pantheism is no better; for in that case all the actions of men, their crimes as well as their good deeds, must be imputed to God. Thus the Divine Being not only loses the attribute of absolute holiness, but even falls below the level of those men in whom moral goodness triumphs over evil.


No such claim, however, can be made in behalf of the moral order by a consistent pantheist. For him, human personality is a mere illusion: what we call the individual man is only one of the countless fragments that make up the Divine Being; and since the All is impersonal no single part of it can validly claim personality. Futhermore, since each human action is inevitably determined, the consciousness of freedom is simply another illusion, due, as Spinoza says, to our ignorance of the causes that compel us to act. Hence our ideas of what "ought to be" are purely subjective, and our concept of a moral order, with its distinctions of right and wrong, has no foundation in reality. The so-called "dictates of conscience" are doubtless interesting phenomena of mind which the psychologist may investigate and explain, but they have no binding force whatever; they are just as illusory as the ideas of virtue and duty, of injustice to the fellow-man and of sin against God. But again, since these dictates, like all our ideas, are produced in us by God, it follows that He is the source of our illusions regarding morality-a consequence which certainly does not enhance His holiness or His knowledge.

It is not, however, clear that the term illusion is justified; for this supposes a distinction between truth and error-a distinction which has no meaning for the genuine pantheist; all our judgments being the utterance of the One that thinks in us, it is impossible to discriminate the true from the false. He who rejects pantheism is no further from the truth than he who defends it; each but expresses a thought of the Absolute whose large tolerance harbours all contradictions. Logically, too, it would follow that no heed should be taken as to veracity of statement, since all statements are equally warranted. The pantheist who is careful to speak in accordance with his thought simply refrains from putting his philosophy into practice. But it is none the less significant that Spinoza's chief work was his "Ethics", and that, according to one modern view, ethics has only to describe what men do, not to prescribe what they ought to do.


In forming its conception of God, pantheism eliminates every characteristic that religion presupposes. An impersonal being, whatever attributes it may have, cannot be an object of worship. An infinite substance or a self-evolving energy may excite fear but it repels faith and love. Even the beneficent forms of its manifestation call forth no gratitude, since these result from it by a rigorous necessity. For the same reason, prayer of any sort is useless, atonement is vain and merit impossible. The supernatural of course disappears entirely when God and the world are identified.

Recent advocates of pantheism have sought to obviate these difficulties and to show that, apart from particular dogmas, the religious life and spirit are safeguarded in their theory. But in this attempt they divest religion of its essentials, reducing it to mere feeling. Not action, they allege, but humility and trustfulness constitute religion. This, however is an arbitrary procedure; by the same method it could be shown that religion is nothing more than existing or breathing. The pantheist quite overlooks the fact that religion means obedience to Divine law; and of this obedience there can be no question in a system which denies the freedom of man's will. According to pantheism there is just as little "rational service" in the so-called religious life as there is in the behaviour of any physical agent. And if men still distinguish between actions that are religious and those that are not, the distinction is but another illusion.


Belief in a future life is not only an incentive to effort and a source of encouragement; for the Christian at least it implies a sanction of Divine law, a prospect of retribution. But this sanction is of no meaning or efficacy unless the soul survive as an individual. If, as pantheism teaches, immortality is absorption into the being of God, it can matter little what sort of life one leads here. There is no ground for discriminating between the lot of the righteous and that of the wicked, when all ,alike are merged in the Absolute. And if by some further process of evolution such a discrimination should come to pass, it can signify nothing, either as reward or as punishment, once personal consciousness has ceased. That perfect union with God which pantheism seems to promise, is no powerful inspiration to right living when one considers how far from holy must be a God who continually takes up into Himself the worst of humanity along with the best--if indeed one may continue to think in terms that involve a distinction between evil and good.

It is therefore quite plain that in endeavouring to unify all things, pantheism sacrifices too much. If God, freedom, morality and religion must all be reduced to the One and its inevitable processes, there arises the question whether the craving for unity may not be the source of illusions more fatal than any of those which pantheism claims to dispel. But in fact no such unification is attained. The pantheist uses his power of abstraction to set aside all differences, and then declares that the differences are not really there. Yet even for him they seem to be there, and so from the very outset he is dealing with appearance and reality; and these two he never fuses into one. He simply hurries on to assert that the reality is Divine and that all the apparent things are manifestations of the infinite, but he does not explain why each manifestation should be finite or why the various manifestations should be interpreted in so many different and conflicting ways by human minds, each of which is a part of one and the same God. He makes the Absolute pass onward from unconsciousness to consciousness but does not show why there should be these two stages in evolution, or why evolution, which certainly means becoming "other", should take place at all.

It might be noted, too, that pantheism fails to unify subject and object, and that in spite of its efforts the world of existence remains distinct from the world of thought. But such objections have little weight with the thorough-going pantheist who follows Hegel, and is willing for the sake of "unity" to declare that Being and Nothing are identical.

There is nevertheless a fundamental unity which Christian philosophy has always recognized, and which has God for its centre. Not as the universal being, nor as the formal constituent principle of things, but as their efficient cause operating in and through each, and as the final cause for which things exist, God in a very true sense is the source of all thought and reality (see St. Thomas, "Contra Gentes", I). His omnipresence and action, far from eliminating secondary causes, preserve each in the natural order of its efficiency-physical agents under the determination of physical law and human personality in the excercise of intelligence and freedom. the foundation of the moral order. The straining after unity in the pantheistic sense is without warrant, the only intelligible unity is that which God himself has established, a unity of purpose which is manifest alike in the processes of the material universe and in the free volition of man, and which moves on to its fulfilment in the union of the created spirit with the infinite Person, the author of the moral order and the object of religious worship.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
Facts about PantheismRDF feed

Simple English

Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are equivalent (the same thing.) A Pantheist believes that everything that exists is a part of God, and that God is nothing more than everything that exists. The name pantheism comes from the words theism (belief in God) and Pan which means all.

Any doctrine or philosophy that believes that the universe and every thing in it is God is said to be pantheism. Most pantheists believe the universe is sacred and the earth and nature are divine. Pantheists are some times called nature worshipers.

Most of the early Greek philosophers from Thales on to Aristotle believed in some sort of pantheism.

Pantheism is an important part of many eastern religions such as Hinduism and Taoism.

Some western philosophers such as Baruch Spinoza and scientists like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking are Pantheists. Albert Einstein is not a pantheist, contrary to popular belief.

"I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God." —Albert Einstein

Some Christians, Jews and Muslims are Pantheists. However, their majority believes that while God is in everything, there is more to God than just the universe. (This belief is called Panentheism)

Other websites


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address