PAN recommends the following titles
which, to varying degrees,
support the ideas and ideals of Pantheism

Reagan, Michael, Editor. Reflections on the Nature of God. Atlanta, Georgia: Lionheart Books, Ltd., 2004.

Quotes and photographs plumb “the nature of God, and God’s relationship to nature” in this attractive book.

Theologian Martin Marty contributes a well-articulated introduction to the lofty undertaking.   Lines from scientists, philosophers, and many others compliment striking photos of the cosmos (from NASA), and the natural world (mostly from the National Geographic Image Collection).

Underwritten by the John Templeton Foundation, an organization which pursues "new insights at the boundary between theology and science," Reflections on the Nature of God professes a pacesetting outlook, yet limns deity in largely conventional ways.

Marty does twice mention Pantheism in his introduction:

“The nature of God as a large Being often gets matched by the notion that God is also ubiquitous, everywhere--as pantheists believe--or present in the smallest, nearest, parts of creation as well as the largest and most distant.”

In refering to various forms of matter, he states “God may be ‘in’ them, and to the pantheist, they are ‘in’ God.  But there are so many other kinds of theism than pan-: monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, and more, and readers devoted to any of these are to be as welcome in this probe as are pantheists.”

Perusing the pages leads to the conclusion that Judeo-Christian readers would feel especially welcome.

Of some 116 quotations, approximately 50% reflect a patriarchal personage as the embodiment of god (“This is my father’s world...” ), while only a handful express a Pantheist viewpoint (“I believe God is everything...Everything that is or ever was or ever will be.  And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It...” ).

The remaining passages have either a Panentheist cast, with the divine taken to be both immanent and transcendent (“God is constantly creating, in us, through us, and with us...” ), or reflect no particular religious outlook (“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous”).

References to a ‘loving’ divinity (“When you are in the presence of the Holy are loved and you are held in this love”), and a nod to biblical literalism (“We also were created in the image of God”) reinforce the dominant anthropomorphism.

Nonetheless, Pantheism hovers throughout the text and occasionally sweeps to the fore:

“The forest is not merely an expression or representation of sacredness nor a place to invoke the sacred--the forest is sacredness itself.  Nature is not merely created by God, nature is God. Whoever moves within the forest can partake directly of sacredness, experience sacredness with his entire body, breath sacredness and contain it within himself, drink the sacred water as a living communion, bury his feet in sacredness, open and witness the buring beauty of sacredness.”

Such pantheistic/panentheistic expressions bring readers to the simple yet profound view that the nature of God is Nature itself.

Petic, Zorika.  Cascadilla Creek.  Kearsarge Mountain Books, 2001. A beautiful collection of poems about nature and human relationships, many imbued with pantheistic feelings. The New York poet, writer, and editor immigrated to the United States as a World War II refugee.  She grew up in a pastoral setting, gaining an intimacy with nature that infuses her work. 

From “Horses in a Summer Pasture”:

They stand dozing under
an ancient oak. It is hot noon,
and they are lined up head to tail
for swishing the flies away.
A mantra of birds and clouds
circles them, and they feel it.
They leave sleep to lick
a salt block and drink from a stream.
Their coats, in late summer,
are flashes of chestnuts, blonds,
and onyx under the dappled
blowing of leaf shadows.
The flies drone around the horses,
bees drone around the goldenrods
and asters. Everything has been
said and understood in the pasture,
the way, without words,
you can hear the hidden source...  

From "Spring Marsh":

Stars and a few raindrops
swim on the marsh.
Peeper bells ride the breeze...

From “Cascadilla Creek”:

On days I'm feeling modern, I throw a glance
at Cascadilla from the safety of my home.
To walk in faith beside it or dip my hand
into its life means leaving me behind,
maybe for the final trip.
Minus the shell
of thought, how do I keep from fusing
with the creek, its ripples scarcely concealing
the rainbowed yet nameless fish, the rocks
privy to millennia and still no word,
the feathery hard-earned mud, the oak leaves
at the bottom adding their wine, the distillings
drawn as if by magnet away, until they among
countless theys merge at last with the lake.

Lovelock, James.   Gaia, A New Look at Life on Earth.  Oxford University Press, 1987. Paperback reprint of the path breaking book, (with a new preface by the author) that describes how the Earth carries on self-regulating processes as a life-like entity.  Lovelock elaborates the thesis in The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth, [W. W. Norton & Company,  revised and updated edition, 1995].  The ancient poet Homer wrote "I shall sing of Gaia, universal mother, firmly founded, the oldest of divinities.”  By evoking Gaia, “Mother Earth,” as the nurturer of life, Lovelock encourages a contemporary resacralization of Nature, a point made by both the author and detractors:  Lovelock believes we should “revere and respect Gaia,” while critic Çalvin Beisner describes the Gaia Hypothesis as “mystical, gnostic, and New Age thinking... which some environmentalists have incorporated into a modern pantheism.”

Bachleda, Lynne F.  Blue Mountain--A Spiritual Anthology Celebrating the Earth.  A collection of poetry, proverbs, song lyrics, and passages, some with pantheistic/panentheistic tones.  Bachelda writes “Nature alone has always been regarded by all peoples as an authentic cache of the Holy....The music of the earth, of which we are players and instruments, never conductors, connects us with the ancients, with the All, with Dylan Thomas’ ‘force that through the green fuse drives the flower.’”

Seed, John, Macy Joanna, Fleming, Pat, and Naess, Arne.  Thinking Like a Mountain--Toward a Council of All Beings.  New Society Publishers, 1988. In this classic work, Australian environmental activist John Seed pioneers ‘Council of All Beings’ workshops, “a form which permits us to experience consciously both the pain and the power of our interconnectedness with all life.”  In an invocation, Seed calls “...upon the power which sustains the planets in their orbits, that wheels our Milky Way in its 200 million year spiral, to imbue our personalities and our relationships with harmony, endurance, and joy.  Fill us with a sense of immense time so that our brief, flickering lives may truly reflect the work of vast ages past and also the millions of years of evolution whose potential lies in our trembling hands...”

Light, Andrew Light and Holmes, Rolston III, Editors.  Environmental Ethics, An Anthology.  Blackwell Publishing, 2003.  A scholarly collection of 40 essays, some classic, some cutting-edge, on themes including the welfare of animals versus ecosystems, the intrinsic value of nature, deep ecology, ecofeminism, and wilderness preservation.

Damasio, Antonio.  Looking for Spinoza. Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2003.

George Santayana described Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), the renowned Dutch philosopher and proponent of Pantheism, as "one of those great men whose eminence grows more obvious with the lapse of years. Like a mountain obscured at first by it foothills, he rises as he recedes."

So it is that Spinoza’s ideas, largely suppressed as heresy in his own time, have received appreciative treatment in several recent works, notably in Looking for Spinoza.

Author Antonio Damasio, head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center, links cutting edge  neurobiological research with the Spinoza’s philosophy.  As it turns out, they dovetail beautifully.   Damasio relates how Spinoza anticipated modern findings about the biological basis of feelings and consciousness.

The chapters on the nature of emotions and feelings (2,3,4, and 5) contain  articulate, but involved and heavily detailed information on brain functioning.  The chapters on Spinoza’s life and the relevance of his perception of reality to neurobiology and to modern life (1, part of 5, all of 6 and 7) can be read almost as a separate book. 

Damasio warmly describes his pilgrimage to Spinoza’s home in the Hague and nicely accounts for the philosopher’s then radical departure from viewing mind and body as separate entities. Metaphysically, Damasio observes that "Spinoza's God was everywhere, could not be spoken to, did not respond if prayed to, was very much in every particle of the universe, without beginning and without end.”

Although Damasio  plumbs the biological underpinnings of spirituality, he strives to avoid reductionism:

“By connecting spiritual experiences to the neurobiology of feelings, my purpose is not to reduce the sublime to the mechanic and by so doing reduce its dignity.  The purpose is to suggest that the sublimity of the spiritual is embodied in the sublimity of biology and that we can begin to understand the process in biological terms.  As for the results of the process, there is no need and no value to explaining them:  The experience of the spiritual amply suffices."

“Accounting for the physiological process behind the spiritual does not explain the mystery of the life process to which that particular feeling is connected.  It reveals the connection to the mystery but not the mystery itself.  Spinoza and those thinkers whose ideas have Spinozian elements make feelings come full circle, from life in progress, which is where they originate, to the sources of life, toward which they point.”

Interestingly, although Demasio clearly describes Spinoza’s pantheistic perceptions, he doesn’t use the term “Pantheism” in the book.  When ask in an interview about his personal view of Pantheism, he replied:

“No matter how much I struggle to clarify myself, I have to be honest about the fact that some will understand pantheism in a way different from how I understand it. There are different notions of pantheism.

I am sympathetic to the idea that there is something in living organizations that is representative of some special inclination of nature to organize and create and have some form and process. In some of Spinoza's writings, one can say this amounts to a form of pantheism, in the sense of an incredible creative force inherent in biological structures. So in that sense, I guess you could say I'm sympathetic to Spinoza's pantheism.” 

Demasios’ illuminating book clearly manifests that sympathy.

Schauffler, F. Marina.  Turning to Earth: Stories of Ecological Conversion. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003.

David Brower, the renowned 20th century conservationist, repeatedly referred to  environmentalism as "the religion." Indeed, a growing number of individuals view their environmental efforts as more a sacred calling than a secular one. Turning to Earth examines the often religiously-cast “dynamic inner process by which people come to ally themselves with the natural world and speak out on its behalf.”   Marina Schauffler calls this process “ecological conversion.”

Schauffler relates how ‘convert’ Terry Tempest Williams and other notable writers including Rachel Carson, Alice Walker, Edward Abbey, Scott Russell Sanders and N. Scott Momaday gained their faith in Nature. She explores their childhood activities, family influences, literary mentors, and other sources of inspiration.  She describes their activism, rituals, and revelations which affirm the “sense of belonging to a sacred whole.” 

The book illustrates that “a path to the heart of environmental change” frequently traverses sacramental ground.

Powell, Corey S.  God in the Equation, How Einstein Became the Prophet of the New Religious Era.  New York:  The Free Press, 2002.

Mauna Kea,  a 13,000 foot high peak in Hawaii, now stands as the spiritual center of the world, according to author Corey Powell.  From the mountaintop, scientists position huge telescope mirrors to gather light from multi-billion year old stars, and their latest findings spur a “new step in the history of human spirituality,” which Powell calls sci-religion.

Albert Einstein's lifework and spiritual outlook make him “the founder and greatest prophet of  sci-religion,”  says Powell. Einstein “recognized the search for truth as an inherently spiritual endeavor... (with) common ground between the material and the mystical."
The book recounts Einstein’s ideas, focusing on “lambda,” his denotation of a “cosmological constant” to account for the primal force underlying the workings of the universe. Einstein never found Lambda, but latter day researchers think they have.

Powell describes how modern scientists, notably Saul Perlmutter and Brian Schmidt, find the universe expanding, rather than contracting from the pull of gravity (as previously thought). They account for the acceleration by the “stupendous discovery” of anti-gravity.  This “dark energy” pervades the universe and it appears to be Einstein’s cosmological constant.  The universe looks full of empty space, but it actually seethes with potential energy and matter.  Powell explains the interconnectedness of mass, matter, and energy revealed by quantum physics, and he explores the spiritual implications of the revelations.

Although informative and well written, the book has shortcomings.  Powell notes the famous philosopher of Pantheism, Benedict Spinoza, and his “radical notion of a God that does not interfere in the operation of the world but is fully defined by his laws of nature.”  He also  quotes Einstein’s affirmation of Spinoza: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.”  However, Powell never employs the term ‘Pantheism,” even though the book’s central thesis extols Einstein’s pantheized sense of divinity.

Powell  maintains the “old time religion” has given way to “this new faith (which) has acquired millions of converts and permeated every corner of American culture.” If this is the case, why are biology departments around the country having to accommodate so-called “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution?  And why can a fundamentalist preacher recently sell more than 50 million books based on bible prophesies?

Certainly, in many ways, science has overtaken theology in answering questions about the nature of existence. But clearly the “old time religion” still holds sway.

Finally, Powell agrees with cosmologists who claim to be on the verge of an all-encompassing understanding of the universe.   But the author should have also elaborated on Albert Einstein’s more humble projection:  "All our knowledge is but the knowledge of school children... we shall know a little more than we do now. But the real nature of things, that we shall never know, never ...Measured objectively, what a man can wrest from Truth by passionate striving is utterly infinitesimal. But the striving frees us from the bonds of the self and makes us comrades of those who are the best and the greatest.”

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous, Perception and Language in a More than Human World. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.  A dense but fascinating account of how we lost and can regain a close relationship with the natural world.  Abram combines science and mysticism to rekindle an animistic dimension of perception and feeling without jettisoning rationality.

Adams, Cass, Editor. The Soul Unearthed, Celebrating Wildness & Personal Renewal Through Nature. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1996. Over 60 stories, poems, and essays examine how wilderness affects us spiritually. The anthology approaches wilderness as a place of worship.  The editor calls for a new spirituality of wilderness  "based in gratitude, humility, respect and broad vision rooted in real-life experience....Wilderness is innate to who we are.  You do not have to go far to find wildness, only as far as your own beating heart and the joy you find in life."

Barlow, Connie. Green Space, Green Time, The Way of Science. New York: Copernicus, 1997. The author describes how some of today's leading scientists and philosophers are working to reunite knowledge of the world with a sense of the sacred. Barlow states "the ecoreligious revolution is unfolding along five distinct-but not mutually exclusive-paths." These paths include the greening of traditional beliefs, retrieving ancient faiths, meditation, mysticism, and science. Science can "nurture reverence for the natural world...and promote beautiful acts of a decidedly green hue."

Callenbach, Ernest.  Ecology: A Pocket Guide.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. A compact (154 page) introduction to sixty basic ecological concepts.  These concepts underly current environmental issues, and author Callenbach relates how to employ the principles to help secure a sustainable future.

Carroll, John E,, Editors. The Greening of Faith, God, the Environment, and the Good Life. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1997. An anthology by writers of various faiths call on us "to awaken from our benumbed and bewitched state" which allows such rampant environmental degradation. "A profound sense of sacredness throughout nature" can help us recognize our responsibility to protect biodiversity.

Coates, Peter. Nature, Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. A kaleidoscopic survey from a British scholar examines Nature from five standpoints: as a physical place, as the collective phenomena of the world or universe, as an essence, quality, or principle that informs the workings of the world, as a guide and source of inspiration, as the conceptual opposite of culture. Includes many ideas at odds with pantheistic precepts (and makes no reference to pantheism in the index), yet despite a humanistic (rather than biocentric) bias and occasional condescension, the book contains much interesting material and closes with the thought that "we need a god and nature is a good god, perhaps the only good god."

Eldredge, Niles.  Life in the Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.  Emphasizing the importance of biodiversity to human life, Eldredge illustrates how sundry creatures rely on one another for survival.  To stem the rate of extinctions he calls for stabilizing human population, balancing economic needs with the requirements of healthy ecosystems, and improving the welfare of poorer nations.

Gardner, Jason, Editor. The Sacred Earth, Writers on Nature & Spirit. Novato, California: New World Library, 1998. A splendid collection of excerpts and quotations from more than 60 mostly comtemporary writers which aims "to rediscover and reconnect our spirituality with the natural world." With a forward by David Brower.

Goodenough, Ursula. The Sacred Depths of Nature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. An articulate biology professor strives to "reconcile the modern scientific understanding of reality with our timeless spiritual yearnings for reverence and continuity." The author examines evolution, emotions, sexuality, death and other topics through the lens of science and then focuses on religious emotions elicited by the findings of science. Goddenough describes herself as a"religious naturalist," yet she observes that God may be apprehended "as a pantheistic-inherent in all things."

Gottlieb, Rodger, Editor. This Sacred Earth, Religion, Nature, Environment. New York: Routledge, 1996. The 75 selections from historical and contemporary writers, naturalists, theologians, and others examine relations between ecology, religion, and society. The book is described as "an introduction to the theory and practice of religious environmentalism.

Harrison, Paul.  Elements of Pantheism, Understanding the Divinity in Nature and the Universe.  London and New York: Element Books, 1999.  A wide-ranging account of the history, theory, and practice of Pantheism.   Harrison, the originator of the Scientific Pantheism website, writes eloquently on Pantheist ethics, ceremony, celebrations, and much more. The book interchanges the terms 'pantheism' and 'scientific pantheism' and links pantheism with atheism, calling the 'Pantheist Credo' "...the belief statement for the scientific, naturalistic, strand of pantheism also known as religious atheism or religious humanism."  Harrison estimates that Pantheism may currently be "the unspoken outlook of up to 300 million people world-wide," and he believes it could become a major religion in the century ahead.

Hayden, Tom. The Lost Gospel of the Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996. A longtime activist, environmentalist, and politician argues that the displacement of tribal religions by monotheism contributed to the environmental crisis. Hayden explores ways people can again live in kinship with a sacred natural world.

Liebes, Sidney, Sahtouris, Elisabet, & Swimme, Brian. A Walk Through Time, From Stardust to Us, The Evolution of Life on Earth. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. A current, richly illustrated account of evolution within the immensity of geologic time. Author Liebes asks "Is it possible that a sense of awe, wonder and humility, of origins, place, possibilities, and recovery of a belief in the sacredness of nature, can, and perhaps must, become operational imperatives in guiding humanity into the future?"

Mattill, A. J.  A New Universalism For A New Century.  Gordo, Alabama: Flatwoods Free Press, 1989. A clear and concise description of the numinous elements in religion that transcend traditional beliefs.  The author cites Pantheists Ernst Haeckel and John Burroughs among his sources of inspiration, as he delineates a reverence for truth, beauty, life, and the mystery of the universe.

Nash, Roderick Frazier. The Rights of Nature, A History of Environmental Ethics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. An overview of philosophical and religious beliefs regarding Nature. An informative chapter detailing "the greening of religion," makes a specific reference to the Universal Pantheist Society.

Oelschlaeger, Max. The Idea of Wilderness from Prehistory to the Age of Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. A sweeping scholarly account of our relationship with Nature which includes many direct and indirect references to pantheism, particulary in the examination of Paleolithic religion and in the discussion of Muir and Jeffers.

Petrie, Tom, Editors. Temple Wilderness, A Collection of Thoughts and Images On Our Spiritual Bond with the Earth. Willow Creek Press, 1996. Nature photography and quotations of past and present writers, poets, theologians, and others from around the world. The compilation contains a number of pantheistic passages and strives for "a higher understanding of the spiritual connection between humankind and the Earth."

Sessions,George, Editor.  Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New Environmentalism. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.  A compilation of 39 articles, with lucid introductions by the editor.  Deep ecology emphasizes the intrinsic value of Nature apart from its utility to humankind.

Shepard, Paul.  Coming Home to the Pleistocene. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1998.  Many consider the author among the great ecological thinkers of our century.  This book, written shortly before his death, amplifies Shepard's original idea, that we suffer spiritual and physical debilitation because "we have, in the course of a few thousand years, alienated ourselves from our only home, planet Earth, our only time, the Pleistocene, and our only companions, our fellow creatures."   Other highly recommended titles by Shepard, recently reprinted by the University of Georgia Press, include The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game (1973), Thinking Animals (1978), and Nature and Madness (1982).

Spretnak, Charlene.  States of Grace, The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age.  San Francisco:  Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.  We exist in a state of grace, says the author, "when we experience consciousness of the unity in which we are embedded, the sacred whole that is in and around us..."  Spretnak searches the 'wisdom traditions' of Buddhism, Native American beliefs, Goddess spirituality, and Abrahamic religions to finds ways to restore our 'cosmological grounding.'  Ecotheologian Thomas Berry calls the work "A spiritual classic (from) one of the finest and most perceptive minds of our times."

Suzuki, David, with Amanda McConell. The Sacred Balance, Rediscovering Our Place in Nature. New York: Prometheus Books, 1998. An acclaimed geneticist artfully explains the diverse web of life, our kinship with other species, and declares "Nature is the ultimate source of our inspiration, of our sense of belonging, of our hope that life will survive long after we are gone. In order to realize this hope, we must learn to regard the planet as sacred."

Tobias, Michael and Cowan, Georgianne.  The Soul of Nature, Celebrating the Spirit of the Earth.  New York: Plume Books, 1996.  Nature writers, scientists, theologians, and others explore eco-spirituality in 32 essays aimed at reaffirming "the sanctity of the Earth and the creatures who live here."

Torrance, Robert M., Editor. Encompassing Nature. Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998. An encyclopedic anthology described as a sourcebook on Nature and Culture from ancient times to the modern world. Hundreds of interesting entries with helpful introductions by Torrance. Regrettably, the tome contains only five indexed references to Pantheism in 1224 pages of text (four of which refer to Bruno and Spinoza), yet pantheistic themes surface repeatedly in the selections. Gary Snyder writes of the book, "What is encompassed, on a scale vaster than we could have imagined, are the many ways in which human beings have understood and represented the natural world. There are themes of gratitude, playfulness, and intimacy with the wild running through most of it..."

Zimmerman, Michael E. et. al. Environmental Philosophy from Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, Second Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998.  A rich collection, edited by leading environmental philosophers, includes sections on environmental ethics, deep ecology, ecofeminism, and political ecology.

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Copyright © 1998 - 2002 Gary Suttle