The word Pantheism comes from two Greek words "pan" = all + "theos" = god. In Pantheism, "all is god."
Many Pantheists define "god" as Nature and its creative forces. God and Nature are one in the same.
In contrast, many Monotheists (from "mono" = one+ "theos" = god) define "god" as a supernatural individual. God and Nature are separated.
To identify god with Nature, rather than with a hallowed personage, seems odd to those unfamiliar with Pantheism. But actually Monotheism is less common than Pantheism in the history of religion. For tens of thousands of years, humans viewed the Earth as a sacred place with divinity everywhere. Religious scholar Denise Carmody notes "The oldest God is nature...in the beginning, human beings sensed that their habitat was sacred. With twists and turns and numberless permutations, they played out this primal intuition."
Modern Pantheism revivifies our species' gene-deep intuition that the Earth is indeed holy. Divinity infuses the world, the skies, the seas, the rocks, the trees, the animals, and ourselves. Pantheism gives perspective to all we do and instills a reverence for Nature which can help reverse the ecological crises of our times.
As old as antiquity, and as fresh as today, Pantheism holds the promise for a brighter tomorrow.
These definitions relate the oneness of God and Nature as the keystone of Pantheism.
The doctrine identifying the deity with the various forces and workings of nature. (The American Heritage Dictionary, Second Edition, 1970)
The belief that God is identical with the universe. All is God and God is all. The universe taken as a whole is God. God and Nature ( the totality of all that there is) are synonymous, two words for the same thing. (The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, Second edition, 1992)
Pantheism denotes religions which identify God with the universe. (Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1970)
The view that God is identical with everything. It may be seen as the result of two tendencies: an intense religious spirit and the belief that all reality is in some way united. (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995)
The religious belief or philosophical theory that God and the universe are identical (implying a denial of the personality and transcendence of God); The doctrine that God is everything and everything is God. (The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989)
The worship of nature (Greek pan=all) as divine (Greek theos=god). (The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought, 1977)
The doctrine that the universe conceived of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe.(The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, 1998)
Pantheism is taken to express the belief that all is God or God is all, merging all things into the divine and denying personality to God or anyone else. (A Dictionary of Non-Christian Religions, Geoffrey Parrinder, 1971)
In pantheistic views, God and the world are essentially identical; the divine is totally immanent. (The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1997)
The doctrine that the world as a whole, nature
in the widest sense, is identical with God. (A Dictionary of
Philosophy, Edited by Thomas Mautner, 1996)
If someone were to ask me whether I believed in God, or saw God,
or had a particular relationship with God,
I would reply that I don't separate God from my world in my thinking.
I feel that God is everywhere.
That's why I never feel separated from God or
feel that I must seek God
any more than a fish in the ocean feels it must seek water.
In a sense, God is the "ocean" in which we live.
As Nature and its creative forces, God is everything --all visible matter and all invisible vibrating energy within matter. Divinity fills the universe, at once infinitesimal and infinite, from the smallest atomic particle to the largest galaxy. This perception of god as both the tangible world and the intangible energy underlying the world comprises the pantheistic concept of deity.
The stars, the Sun, the Earth, and every living thing are manifestations of Nature's creative energy. The origin of it all remains incomprehensible, the tremendous mystery. Scholar Joseph Campbell describes the energy as "an undefinable, inconceivable mystery, thought of as a power, that is the source and end and supporting ground of all life and being."
Some Pantheists sense Nature's creative energy as a divine presence, and feel themselves at one with the Universe through this felt presence of divinity. Such feelings may be termed 'mystical' in that they stem from direct communion with the ineffable "supporting ground of all life and being." These feelings arise from the wonder and mystery of Nature, and have nothing to do with supernaturalism. While other religions seek oneness with a supernatural deity, Pantheism finds oneness with a natural deity, in other words, with Nature (the material world, and the powers and processes that produce and control all phenomena in the Universe). Nature is ultimate reality.
Although Nature produced conditions amenable to life on Earth, that same energy brings death, disease, and natural disasters. From a human standpoint, Nature is far from perfect-- its generative powers show indifference to humanity.
But to realize that divinity resides in a rattlesnake as well as in a robin, and in a hurricane as much as in a breeze, helps to explain the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world. In most cases, the joys of living eclipse the darker happenings, and Nature’s greatest treasure-- the gift of life itself-- enriches all our days.
To accept Nature and its creative forces as they are, rather than accede to man-made visions of a ideal realm, engenders a surprisingly carefree confidence. The winds of truth set us free, and its exhilarating updrafts lift us to new spiritual heights.
A Note On The Word "GOD."
The word god, observes scientist and author Chet Raymo, has a independent usage, "that is universal, non-sectarian, and inclusive, that goes back to the origins of religious observance. The Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis writes: 'We have seen the highest circle of spiraling powers. We have named this circle God. We might have given it any other name we wished: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness, Absolute Light, Matter, Spirit, Ultimate Hope, Ultimate Despair, Silence. But we have named it God because only this name, for primordial reasons, can stir our heart profoundly...'"
Some Pantheists don’t use the term "god" because they associate the word with traditional beliefs. PAN respects this position. No one word or phrase is valid for everyone, and it’s the concept (the divinity and oneness of matter and energy) that is most important, not the word.
In PAN’s view, the term "god" evokes ultimate reality far more powerfully than any other term; monotheism or polytheism have no monopoly on its use. Also, the word "god," pantheistically defined, acts as a bridge to interested persons from mainstream religions accustomed to using the term. Pantheism literally signifies "all is god." A Pantheist, then, is an "all is god" person. To acknowledge the "theos" in Pantheism rings true to the meaning of the word.
An extensive entry in The New Encyclopedia Britannica lists seven forms of Pantheism, but actually, there are as many forms of Pantheism as there are Pantheists to express them! Why? In Christianity and numerous other faiths, adherents follow the teachings of charismatic leaders. In Pantheism, everyone is the 'leader' of their own religion, frequently self-discovered from feeling a sense of divinity in Nature (many persons are at first unaware that there is a name for their self-discovery).
Imagine looking through a colorful kaleidoscope to view the varieties of Pantheism. Like all pieces in a kaleidoscope, all Pantheists fit together harmoniously, united by their belief in the oneness and sanctity of creation. Yet every piece in the kaleidoscope has unique colors and shadings, just as every Pantheist has unique colors and shadings which personalize their beliefs.
The following diagram generalizes contemporary pantheistically inclined viewpoints. Adherents spread across the spectrum, some in the center of a category, others at some point in between. From modern reference book-defined Pantheism, to the strict materialism of Scientific Pantheism, and the broad transcendence of Panentheism, all outlooks consider the Universe divine, and all contain a religious sensibility rich in poetry, mystery, and imagination, kindled by the enthralling wonder of Nature.
Note: PANENTHEISM, coined by K.C.F.Krause (1781-1832) means God is immanent in the universe, as a part though not the whole of his being. This view preserves the idea of God as Creator. The phrase "scientific pantheism" appeared in a biography of John Burroughs (1924) and in later works including a Greek-Roman history book (1960), a study of Spinoza (1971), and a biography of John Muir (1981). SCIENTIFIC PANTHEISM, as defined in the 1990's by Paul Harrison on his website refers to "a consistent, empirical, materialist and non-dualist brand of pantheism." Paul relates that "Scientific pantheism never uses the word God." It is "identical with religious atheism....scientific pantheism is just as materialist as atheism, the only real difference is that pantheists have strong feelings of reverence, love, and sense of belonging to nature and the universe." Similarly, Paul notes that "many atheists hold powerful feelings toward nature and the universe; feelings of reverence, love, awe, and a sense of belonging to nature and the material universe."
Scientific pantheism grades into atheism, naturalism,
and humanism, which reject the divinity of Nature. Panentheism grades
into theism, polytheism, and spiritualism, which may acknowledge divinity
in Nature (and in so doing can lead to confusion with Pantheism).
However, theism, polytheism, and spiritualism incorporate supernatural entities
(such as angels and devils) and otherworldly elements (such as communication
with the dead) entirely incompatible with Pantheism's view of a wholly natural
--Essays by Gary Suttle
Photo Courtesy Kazushi Tamada
Copyright © 1998 - 2004 Gary Suttle