“At this point in human history, it is imperative that we find the courage to pull the masks off of our gods –not to prove, as some would say, that nothing is behind them. On the contrary, until we do this we cannot begin to see that what appears to be nothing is actually Everything; that the face behind the many masks is One and singular, and it doesn’t look like any of the images we have worshiped. The face behind the masks is Existence, whole and unbroken, timeless and spaceless, with neither beginning nor end, and we are That. For this grand unmasking is really the revelation of our Self.”
Pantheism is described by Wikipedia as “the belief that the Universe (or Nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god.” This is true in theory, but in practice, pantheism is an umbrella concept that addresses many modes of thought, spanning the often wide gap between religion and science, philosophy and poetry. To get the denizens of that kind of intellectual Tower of Babel speaking the same language would take an act of the supernatural entities that pantheism disavows.
What we have in pantheism is much more like a paradigm –a general framework from which specific philosophies and ideologies are constructed– than a philosophy or ideology unto itself. Just as philosophies and ideologies compete for attention in the marketplace of ideas, paradigms evolve and move relative to each other in macro-level tidal shifts, and these changes alter the cornucopia of offerings for the entire market.
One of the more specific (but still amply broad) definitions of pantheism –the one that drew me to the this vast field of study– regards it as an emergent quality of the mutually exclusive dialectic competition between the paradigms of theism and atheism –it draws from qualities of both to create a unique perspective on the existence of God. Like most emergent concepts, pantheism struggles to gain a toehold as an independent option in a collective consciousness that prefers nice, neat dichotomies, with adherents of the two poles trying to drag it back down like lobsters in a tank, calling it an erroneous attempt at grasping this or a sexed-up version of that.
For further reading on the sometimes contentious diversity within the pantheist community as it seeks to define itself as a viable framework, I highly recommend the Pantheism entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You will see that I strongly prefer not to get caught up in the Semantic Wars and grand parsings of logic that try to define pantheism, and focus instead on its simple role as a collective of ideas and techniques for direct experience of non-dual reality.
ARTICLES FROM NOT TWO
“In The God Delusion…Richard Dawkins dismissed pantheism as “sexed-up atheism.” He was right, in a way. But he got it exactly backwards. The small container goes inside the bigger one. Atheism is pantheism for prudes.”
All in All: How Non-Duality Pans Every Theism
This is a series of articles following the thread of inductive reasoning that led me to view pantheism as a non-dual perception rather than a belief. Written especially for the deep concept geek within us all. (NOTE: As of 1.19.17, temporarily closed for revision. I will add links as Waldo submits the revisions–JP)
Part 2: It’s the Duality, Stupid
Part 3: Breaking Down the Binary
Part 4: There Is No Outermost Doll
Part 5: The Value of Emptiness
We are the timeless essence of Existence, expressing itself in time as you and me, him and her, this and that, giving each its own unique perspective of the Whole. The experience of the soul –perhaps the verb “souling,” however clumsy for its newness, is the clearest way to convey it– is to be uniquely aware of the the universality of this expression.
In pantheistic modes of thought, faith becomes less about adherence to verbal professions of literal beliefs, and more about the suspension of belief in linear time as an absolute, despite the pervasive evidence of rational thought and the measurable fact that 78 seconds of my lifetime passed in the typing of this sentence.
There is nothing extraordinary about the mystic experience –in fact, once you know what it is, you will see that it is the most hyperordinary state of awareness you’ve ever experienced, and “normal” consciousness will seem like the mutation.
Why do we pantheists tend to maintain that consciousness is private property of the organism exhibiting it? If we understand that “you are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself,” why is it seldom suggested that our thoughts about the universe are the universe thinking about itself?
A good pantheist colleague offers this multimedia gem about the basics of pantheism
Before trying to determine what happens to us in the afterlife, I suspect, we need to be very clear about what we are in the beforedeath.
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.
One day, humanity realized that God was nowhere to be found, so it filed a Missing Person report.
Pantheism constitutes a “third option” that is neither theism nor atheism –this is a brief explanation of what this means.
What would an “everything is God” perspective have to say about Pascal’s wager? Is there a middle road between the extremes that we’ve been missing as we place our existential bets?
Imagine two people inside the belly of a giant whale. One was swimming in the ocean when the beast swallowed him while taking in krill. The other, by rather mysterious circumstances, was born inside the whale and has never been outside of it. This is the only home she has ever known.
I certainly don’t think it is wrong to present pantheism as self-evident and axiomatic by definition, but to rest on that is a shallow and even pyrrhic victory. In pantheism, we are taking a deliberate step away from this kind of reductionism that wants to rely on simple equations and definitions.
In pantheism, God is both the Dancer and the dance. We can never observe this God as we observe a dancer dancing though –not because it is supernatural or invisible as theists propose, but because the observation includes the observer. We can’t step out of existence and observe existence as a whole. We can’t even look directly at the back of our own heads, let alone at a totality that includes all of ourselves. We are part of the God we seek.
CONTEMPORARY PANTHEISTIC COMMUNITIES and other goings-on
in the words of founder Poffo Ortiz, biopantheism is “an advanced ‘metatheology’ that is both old and new, scientific as well as spiritual, mystical while at the same time rational, emotional and yet wholly based on sound logic and reasoning….based on the idea of an immanent, emergent divinity, manifesting and expressing Itself unconsciously through all life forms and coming into personal awareness and coherence presently, through us. Focusing expressly on the human condition and what is relevant and meaningful in relation to biological organisms and their surrounding ecosystems, we recognize and acknowledge the fundamental truth that the Universe is divine and we are all one.
an organization dedicated to celebrating and connecting diverse independent free thinkers who are deeply spiritual about science, nature, and our universe. We are here to educate, celebrate, and spread an awareness of pantheism – the perception of Albert Einstein, Baruch Spinoza, Alan Watts, and a wide array of scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, mystics, and poets who teach an enlightened spiritual language and advanced definition of God – that everything, altogether, is God; that we are a part of a divine unity; that paradise is here and now.”
an exciting new outreach and online community gathering place by The Paradise Project, currently in “Beta” mode but rapidly evolving
geared toward those who self-identify as “scientific pantheists,” with less emphasis on its religious or philosophical manifestations
NY Times Magazine piece from 2007 on panpsychism, a tenet of many pantheists pertaining to the consciousness of All That Is, including inanimate matter. Good intro to the concept.