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Pantheism is the philosophy that everything is God (pan="everything" theos="God") or that the universe and nature are divine

Pantheism is distinguished from panentheism, which holds that God is in everything, but also transcends the Universe.

Strict pantheism is not a theism. It does not believe in a transcendent or personal God who is the creator of the universe and the judge of humans. Many pantheists feel the word "God" is too loaded with these connotations and never use the word in their own practice - though they may use it to simplify, or to explain things to theists.

Pantheism has often been accused of atheism, and not just because it rejects the idea of a personal creator God. Strict or naturalistic pantheism believes that the Universe either originated itself out of nothing, or has existed forever. Modern scientific pantheism is materialistic. It believes that design in the universe can be fully accounted for by principles of evolution and self-organization. It does not believe in separate spirits or survival of the soul after death. Pantheists concerned about personal immortality seek it in realistic ways - through children, deeds, works, and the memories of the living.

Because it shares these naturalistic beliefs with atheism, the arguments for pantheism are the same as the arguments for atheism. Pantheism puts forward exactly the same critiques of transcendental religions and supernatural beliefs as does atheism. It is a secular religion, firmly rooted in the real world of the senses and of science.

This form of pantheism is identical with movements variously called religious atheism, affirmative atheism, Monism, or Cosmism. It is also very close to Taoism, some forms of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, and neo- Confucianism.

Strict pantheism differs from conventional atheism only in its emotional and ethical response to the material universe. It focusses not simply on criticizing transcendental beliefs and religions, but stresses the positive aspects of life and nature - the profound aesthetic and emotional responses that most people feel towards nature and the night sky.

Naturalistic pantheism draws ethical conclusions from these feelings. Humans should seek a closer harmony with nature. We should preserve biodiversity and the delicate ecological balances of the planet, not just as a matter of survival, but as a matter of personal fulfilment.

Pantheism offers ways of expressing these feelings in ceremonies, celebrating significant times and places which underline our links with nature, the solar system and the universe. All this is possible without retreating one millimeter from the rigorously empirical attitude to reality found in modern science.

There are other forms of pantheism. Modern pagans frequently claim to be pantheists. Those who are concerned with logical consistency regard their various deities as symbolic rather than real. Those who are not so concerned combine pantheism with literal polytheism and belief in magic, reincarnation and other supernatural phenomena.

An alternative, quite common among New Agers, is pan-psychic pantheism - the belief that the universe/God has a collective soul, mind or will. This version was most clearly expressed by Hegel, and in more modern times by A. N. Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin (see also: process metaphysics). Another variant is the idea that humans are in some way the mind of the universe (see also: the global brain). Our evolution - indeed our active help - is seen as helping the universe to attain its full potential (cf. Creative Immortality).

For further background, see:

Copyright© 1997 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

Paul Harrison

Mar 28, 1997 (modified)
Aug 1993 (created)


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