POSTULATE: The perception of the absolute attributes of a monotheistic “God” is none other than precognitive, intuitive awareness of the non-dual, pantheistic All (aka Brahman, Tao, al haqq, the Godhead etc), filtered through a cognitive process that, by its nature, renders the All as an object conceived by a separate subject.
Pantheism offers a monist concept of God, and it answers all the expectations of a dualist, supernatural, creator-sustainer deity without the need to retreat into supernatural explanations attempting to cover its invisibility. A monist God is as invisible as the retinae in your eyes –you won’t see it anywhere until you realize it is the ground of everything you see, then you will literally see it in/as everything.
The All is omnipresent like God, because what else could be present in its stead?
The All is omnipotent like God, because what else could be a source of power?
The All is omniscient like God, because what else could be a source of knowledge?
The All loves us because it is us, and when we recognize the All in each other and in Nature, we feel love — a sense of connection and remembrance of our common ground.
Let’s look at some of these a little closer, especially from the angles where monotheism stumbles under scrutiny.
Omnipotence — the All is the source of all action and potential. Notice how a monist concept recasts the meaning of that unconditional attribute. The All isn’t a separate entity that can use magic powers to do whatever it pleases. It doesn’t raise the dead or part the Red Sea, it doesn’t create twelve-legged insects or square circles. But it does render meaningless the popular atheist question “Can God create a rock too heavy for Himself to lift?” The theist calls it absurd. The atheist calls this a cop-out….and the pantheist says the theist is right, but not for the reason he presumes.
As a finite example of what I mean by that: Can I carry 180 pounds and walk for five miles? If I have to throw 180 pounds on my back (subject/object dualism), definitely not….but if I am those 180 pounds (monism), sure, easy peasy. So the theistic concept of omnipotence assumes that God is a subject acting upon objects; a pantheistic concept of omnipotence recasts that relationship and says the All is all possible subjects and objects, so it doesn’t act upon anything — it simply acts, like me carrying my own 180 pounds. This is the key to its omnipotence. If nothing is external to the All, the question of potency takes a whole different angle — it is a statement of the absolute potential that exists within the All. Everything from supernovas to the flapping of a butterfly’s wings to the absolute precision of electromagnetic activity with every atom — it is all an expression the All.
Omniscience is more challenging to explain and comprehend, but it works the same way. The All doesn’t have encylopedic knowledge of itself. It doesn’t know the distance between Saturn and Uranus or the air-speed velocity of an unladen European swallow. It doesn’t know what you’re going to have for breakfast tomorrow or what you did with your sex organs last night. But we are still casting these questions assuming subject/object, knowner/known dualism. What would “omniscience” mean, then, to that which is both knower and known?
Just as God is not a distinct being that can or cannot lift rocks, the All is not “All-knowing” — it is the empty canvas on which all relational objects are painted, the empty tablet on which all relational concepts are drawn. It is the common ground of every relationship between every distinct thing, and inherent in those relationships themselves is a kind of knowledge. The degree to which one chooses to examine or develop that idea will vary of course –maybe it is nothing more fanciful than “observance” of “natural laws” to the strict materialist (likely without considering what material constitutes these “laws”). But this is the philosophical basis for the idea, axiomatic in most pantheist traditions, that the Universe (or the All) itself is “pure Consciousness,” and the basic building block of panpsychism –not universal cognitive self-awareness, because we know how astronomically rare that is, but pure “interbeing”(1) of All with All. Whether that interbeing is the absolutely repeatable interaction of two molecules of hydrogen with one of oxygen to form water, or the idiosyncratic interaction of a human being with words on a computer screen, “omniscience” in a monist sense is simply saying that the All is the common source that grounds both sides of these interactions, and therefore the All is not only knower and known, but also any product of that knowledge, whether that be water flowing selflessly in a creek toward the ocean, or a reader’s delight in grokking the finer details of the mating habits of the banana slug.
Now, why is all of this important? Why don’t we just make like Nietzsche, declare God dead, and move on to a strictly scientific cosmology? Because science has no answer for the “omnis.” Immeasurable attributes are not part of the vocabulary of methodological naturalism. The absolute ground of all being (the All) is neither confirmed nor denied by science — it simply isn’t addressed. And a language that doesn’t include the biggest of Big Pictures is not an adequate way to understand Existence by itself. We need the omnis too. (2)
As long as there are people who believe in an omnipresent god that is somehow separate from the universe it creates, 1) there is also a need for pantheism as a mode of thought to address theology in the latter’s terms, lest we lose touch with divine ground in religion as well, and 2) there is hope to reach them because at least they are right about omnipresence. They are just trying to understand it through the lens of dualism, which is like fire trying to burn itself, or light trying to shine on itself.
Dualism begins with our earliest recognition of “self,” creating an environment that is “not self” or “other;” this happens before we have words to make those distinctions of course, but dualism gets more and more calcified as our cognitive skills develop and we learn distinct names for “separate” things. So dualism is inherent to the human experience….but it isn’t inherent to all of Nature, quite the opposite in fact. A rock makes no distinction between itself and the soil in which it is embedded, nor with the hammer about to break it into bits –therefore it interacts selflessly with the hammer, without fear of its dissolution. This is the key to “interbeing.” The selfless interaction of rock and hammer as aspects of the All typifies the way all of Nature “inter-is” with itself and without conflict –except in biological organisms where a sense of self creates “survival instinct.”
As creatures who ground our sense of self in the organism, and with (as far as we can tell) a unique prescience of that organism’s demise, our survival instinct is perpetually frustrated by the knowledge that our self is absolutely limited not only by space but by time as well. (We know that whatever occupies a finite space also exists for a finite time, inseparable as these matrices are.) Ah, but here is this intuitive sense of limitlessness wafting in below the cognitive maps we’ve drawn on reality….what is the source of this Wholeness??? Our cognitive brain tries and tries and tries, but it just doesn’t compute…until finally it gives up and says “it must be this mysterious Thing that has no time-space boundaries, and must be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient ….” You probably know how the story goes from there –folks dress up the All with all manner of conditional attributes and wish fulfillment catalogs, telling each other it writes books and hates fags and will rescue you from your existential crisis if you ask in just the right way, etc….
But every so often, people who are very comfortable with their sense of intuition come along and look at that illogical quandary, and take that dilemma to the precognitive level to have a look at it (meditation being the most effective technique long-term, though some will say entheogenic substances for their expediency). Then they come back and say “Um, hey folks…there’s no crisis here. We aren’t the cognitive units of identity we’ve made ourselves out to be. What we truly are is what your God is –the All. Just take a single step outside of your cognitive thoughts for a moment and you’ll see this too.”
The dualistic God-followers are baffled: “How can I be God? I’m not eternal, I was born xx years ago; I’m not omnipresent, I’m stuck on this dumb rock flying through space” etc etc….But the intuitive has a ready answer for that: “Well, think of the attributes you perceive in this God: infinitude of time-space, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience…how can these attributes not include you? What does it serve you to cut yourself off from them? Look closely at this “self” of yours –is it not part of your neighbor’s “other?” Is his self not part of yours? What does this say about the reality of these designations –do they truly exist in Nature? If we conclude that they don’t, what basis do we have to assume that any designation of “this” and “that” is real? How can we conclude anything other than that these are all aspects of the infinite All? It’s not so much that you are God –it’s that God is you. And him. And her. And them. And…”
When enough people “get it,” and start to lay down concepts and methods to help other people get it too, we have a new form of pantheism. And we are now free to do science within the infinite omnipresence of the All, tapping into its boundless omniscience without butting heads with an angry God who wants all the credit.
1-“Interbeing” is the suggested replacement word for the verb “to be,” coined by Vietnamese Buddhist monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh. It means to inter-dependently co-exist. The meaning of interbeing recognizes the dependence of any one person or thing as to all other people and objects. (from Urban Dictionary)
2. If you need more evidence that the perception of “God” is an attempt at wrapping the cognitive mind around a pantheist reality, consider this: The prefix “omni” is the Latin equivalent of the Greek “pan.” Both mean “all.” When theists talk about the “omni-” qualities of God, they might as well be calling them “pan-” qualities.