A History of Pantheism: movements, thinkers, readings
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
Greek and Roman pantheists
Greek Materialism: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes
Heraclitus – the priest of fire
Marcus Aurelius – the philosopher-emperor
Taoist and Confucian pantheists.
Lao Tzu – the Tao of Reality
Chuang Tzu – the butterfly philosopher
Chang Tsai – son of Heaven and Earth
The Upanishads – the secret wisdom
Bhagavad Gita – the song of God
Tantric Buddhism – sexual pantheism
Post Christian pantheists
Spinoza – the geometric philosopher
Rousseau – the first romantic
Romantic poets – Wordsworth, Whitman et al
Hegel: history as theology
Ralph Waldo Emerson: the transparent eyeball
Albert Einstein and the cosmic mystery
Robinson Jeffers: Pantheist poet, by John Courtney
Gene Roddenberry – great bird of the galaxy
HISTORY of PANTHEISMPaul Harrison