A History of Pantheism: movements, thinkers, readings
by Paul Harrison.     

Children are born pantheists. Instilled by the power and mystery and beauty of the Universe
and Nature, Pantheism is the perennial religion, continually re-emerging 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. It is the feeling of awe and wonder that reality itself inspires, onto which theistic religions project their imagined deities. Children are born with it, and it continually emerges from all human spiritual traditions. 

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.

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

After the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, religious tolerance spread in Europe. Pantheism was able to express itself more openly, starting with Spinoza. It began to spread more widely starting in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with Lessing, Goethe and Hegel. In Britain it flowered in 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 a very widespread religious philosophy – the Vatican thought it worthy of denunciation. The world wars, and wars of secular ideologies like Communism and Fascism from 1917 to 1945, diverted attention to ,aterial issues. More recently movements like 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.

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 et al.
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.

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

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.

Romantic poets – Wordsworth, Whitman et al
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: history as theology
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 marvelous 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.