PANTHEIST HISTORY

A History of Pantheism and its:
movements,
thinkers, readings


by Paul Harrison.     

Instilled by the power and mystery and beauty of the Universe
and Nature, Pantheism is the perennial religion.
Children are born with it,
and it continually emerges from all human spiritual traditions.
 

Pantheism is the belief that the universe and nature are numinous - that they and they alone are worthy of the reverence that traditional religions devote to "God."

Pantheism is the perennial religion. Children are born with it, and it continually emerges from all human spiritual traditions. It is the feeling of awe and wonder that reality itself inspires, onto which theistic religions project their imagined deities.

Pantheism is as old as human speculative thought. It dates as far back as the Upanishads, the Tao te Ching and the first Greek philosophers such as Thales and . Heraclitus, the Chinese Taoist Chuang Tzu, and the Stoic philosopher Zeno of Cittium.

After Christianity was enforced as the state religion of the Roman empire, it became dangerous to express pantheistic beliefs. Pantheists such as Meister Eckhart were marginalized, while others were burned and their books suppressed. Giordano Bruno, the first post-Christian pantheist, was burned at the stake in 1600 CE.

When religious tolerance spread in Europe, after the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, Pantheism was able to express itself more openly, starting with Spinoza.

Pantheism began to spread more widely in the later 18th and early 19th centuries, in  Germany with Goethe and Hegel, and in Britain with the romantic poets - Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley, and the transcendentalists in the USA - above all Emerson and Thoreau.

During the 19th century Pantheism seemed set to become the dominant religious philosophy. But the wars and ideologies of the 20th century caused some regress. Political ideologies such as Communism and Fascism, along with the wars and upheavals they caused, commanded attention. Post-war existentialism and post-modernism spread the beliefs that there were no basic truths.

Yet pantheism persisted, often among the most eminent writers and scientists, including Einstein and Hawking, D. H. Lawrence, Robinson Jeffers, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Related to pantheism is panentheism. Panentheists believe that a conscious, usually personal God is present in the sensible universe, but also extends beyond it. These include the neo-Platonist Plotinus and most Christian and Islamic panentheists. Some of these are included for comparison.

The sections below include not only summaries of each thinker or school's thoughts and lives, but also key readings that illustrate their beliefs.

See also varieties of pantheism

Native pantheistic spiritualities

Native Americans: Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle
Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield
to our animal neighbours the same right as ourselves,
to inhabit this land.

 

Greek and Roman pantheists

Greek Materialism: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes.
The universe is ensouled and full of divinities
Heraclitus - the priest of fire.
This cosmos was not made by gods or men, but always was, and is, and ever shall be ever-living fire.
Zeno of Cittium - the founding father of the Stoics.
The universe is a living thing, endowed with soul and with reason.
Marcus Aurelius - the philosopher-emperor.
Everything harmonizes with me, which is harmonious to thee,
o Universe. Nothing for me is too early or too late,
which is in due time for thee.
Plotinus - union with the One.
A sympathy pervades this single universe, like a single living creature, and the distant is near. Every interval, both large and small, is filled with Soul.

Taoist and Confucian pantheists.

Lao Tzu - the Tao of Reality.
There is a thing, formless yet complete.
Before heaven and earth it existed.
We do not know its name, but we call it Tao.
It is the Mystery of Mysteries.
Chuang Tzu - the butterfly philosopher.
The sage has the sun and moon by his side and the universe under his arm. He blends everything into a harmonious whole.
Chang Tsai - son of Heaven and Earth
Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions.

Hindu pantheists

The Upanishads - the secret wisdom.
Thou art the dark-blue bird and the green parrot with red eyes.
Thou hast the lightning as thy child. Thou art the seasons and the seas.
Bhagavad Gita - the song of God.
I see Thee, Whose face is flaming fire,
Burning this whole universe with Thy radiance.

Buddhist pantheisms

Tantric Buddhism - sexual pantheism
          I have visited in my wanderings shrines and other places of pilgrimage,
          But I have not seen another shrine blissful like my own body

Judaism

Old Testament and Talmud - the omnipresence of God.
Can there be a nearer God than this? He is as near to His creatures as the ear to the mouth.
 
Kabbalah - the oneness of God and creation
Do not say "This is a stone and not God." God forbid! Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.

Islamic pantheists.

Ibn al-Arabi - the Sufi mystic.
The existence of all created things is His existence.
Thou dost not see, in this world or the next, anything beside God.

Christian pantheists: early and medieval

The gospel roots of Christian pantheism
For in him we live, and move, and have our being.
The Gnostics - releasing the light within
I am sown in all things; and whence thou wilt, thou gatherest me, but when thou gatherest me, then gatherest thou thyself.
The Brethren of the Free Spirit - divine amorality
Rejoice with me, for I have become God. I am made eternal in my eternal blessedness.
Hildegard of Bingen: visions of divinity
I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars.
Meister Eckhart - passing beyond God
God is infinite in his simplicity and simple in his infinity. Therefore he is everywhere and is everywhere complete. God is in the innermost part of each and every thing.
Thomas Aquinas - the angelic doctor
As long as a thing has being, God must be present to it … If the divine action should cease, all things would drop into nothingness instantly.

Post Christian pantheists

Giordano Bruno - pantheist cosmologist and martyr
Nature is none other than God in things.
Whence all of God is in all things.
Think thus, of the sun in the crocus, in the narcissus,
in the heliotrope, in the rooster, in the lion.

 

Spinoza - the geometric philosopher
Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be,
or be conceived.

John Toland - inventor of the word pantheist
The sun is my father, the earth my mother,
the world is my country and all men are my family.
Rousseau - the first romantic.
I feel an indescribable ecstasy and delirium in melting, as it were, into the system of beings, in identifying myself with the whole of nature.
Pantheistic poets - Wordsworth, Coleridge, Goethe, Tennyson, Whitman etc..
A sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.
Hegel: the theology of history
Reason [God] is substance, and infinite power; its own infinite material underlying all the natural and spiritual life which it originates; and the infinite form - that which sets this material in motion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: the transparent eyeball.
I am nothing! I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.

Friedrich Nietzsche - world and life-affirmer
All things are linked, entwined, in love with one another.

Ernst Haeckel's Monism
In pantheism God is everywhere identical with nature itself  … Pantheism is the world system of the modern scientist.

Modern pantheists

Albert Einstein and the cosmic mystery.
The individual feels … the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. . . He wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.
 
Robinson Jeffers: Pantheist poet, by John Courtney
The Universe is one being, all its parts are expressions of the same
energy, and they are all in communication with each other.
This whole is so beautiful that I am compelled to love it
and to think of it as divine.
 
Gene Roddenberry - great bird of the galaxy.
I think God is as much a basic ingredient in the universe as neutrons and positrons. God is, for lack of a better term, clout. This is the prime force, when we look around the universe.
 

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