Pantheists generally don't wear their religion on their sleeve. In fact, they shy away from proselytizing as practiced by many organized religions.
Pantheism excels as a personal religion, rather than an organizational one, because it requires neither clergy nor congregation--Pantheism quietly sanctifies and unifies an individual's relationship with Nature, without the need for intermediaries.
Yet many Pantheists believe their Nature-based spirituality can help ameliorate the ecological crisis, and so they seek to share their joy-bringing faith with others, for example by:
--conversing with friends and acquaintances when apropos
--joining Pantheist organizations
--creating art, poetry, and writing in celebration of Pantheism
--using mass media, from letters-to-the-editor
to internet web pages, to spread Pantheist precepts
As part of its information and education efforts, PAN culls print media for favorable or unfavorable references to Pantheism and then submits commentaries to magazines/authors/publishers in response.
The commentaries serve as a springboard to publicize Pantheism.
PAN hopes the editorial offerings
below spark ideas for your own pantheistic activism!
References to Pantheism Increase by 100%
Pantheist Speaks Out
Pantheism and Cross-Cultural Harmony
Internet in the Service of Pantheism
Unitarianism and Pantheism
Reference Guides Slight Pantheism
Harrison Ford’s Ranch Land Reverence
Resurgence of Pantheism
Quarter Century of Promoting Pantheism
In July 2003, Google's search engine listed about 50,000 references to “Pantheism.” By July 2004, the number reached 100,200, doubling in a year!
Here are two excerpts culled from the wealth of online material, chosen for their focus on the universal nature of Pantheism:
“Pantheism differs from the systems of belief constituting the main religions of the world in being comparatively free from any limits of period, climate, or race. For while what we roughly call the Egyptian Religion, the Vedic Religion, the Greek Religion, Buddhism, and others of similar fame have been necessarily local and temporary, Pantheism has been, for the most part, a dimly discerned background, an esoteric significance of many or all religions, rather than a "denomination" by itself. The best illustration of this characteristic of Pantheism is the catholicity of its great prophet Spinoza. For he felt so little antagonism to any Christian sect, that he never urged any member of a church to leave it, but rather encouraged his humbler friends, who sought his advice, to make full use of such spiritual privileges as they appreciated most. He could not, indeed, content himself with the fragmentary forms of any sectarian creed. But in the few writings which he made some effort to adapt to the popular understanding, he seems to think it possible that the faith of Pantheism might some day leaven all religions alike.”
--J. Allison Picton “Pantheism, Its Story an Significance.”
“...pantheism is more an approach to life as a mysterious, great whole, a whole in which we are in a never-ending quest. But it is also a whole in which we can find fulfillment, fulfillment of constantly new kinds. Pantheism suggests very creative living, it suggests an exploration of meditation and intuition but also of science and psychology, of technology and literature; it suggests that there can be something godlike in our relationships as well. And anyone who comes from a religious background will be aware of statements of this sort in every religion. So everyone will find something here.”
--Stein von Reusch “The Hope for Pantheism.”
Joseph Bogacz lives in the suburban Chicago township of Wauconda, Illinois. In February 2004, he filed a discrimination complaint with the state because he says a “Bible Week” proclamation made at a Wauconda Board meeting that he attended violated his rights.
Bogacz maintains the pronouncement breaches his constitutional rights because it leaves out Pantheism, his religion, and all others except Christianity. He described Pantheism as “the doctrine that God is not a personality, but that all laws, forces, and manifestations, etc. of the universe are God.”
Bogacz wrote to the Wauconda Board requesting a retraction of the proclamation, and suggested that it be replaced by a “Freedom of Religion Week.”
The matter is so far unresolved, but thanks to Joseph Bogacz, the values
of equality and tolerance, and the religion of Pantheism, gained a wider
Most religions of the world harbor strands of pantheism, at times substantially, as in Hinduism, at other times slightly, as in Christianity. Many remnant tribal religions also contain a pantheistic element.
The universality of Pantheism holds potential for enhancing familiarity and friendliness between cultures, according to Leo Kreutzer, a professor of Literature and Science at the University of Hanover, Germany. He chairs “Pantheistic Religiosity and Philosophy as Unifying Aspects of Cultures,” a session of a conference entitled “The Unifying Aspects of Culture,” in Vienna, Austria, November 7-9, 2003.
To stimulate discussion Dr. Kreutzer writes:
“... the conference theme is directed at the thesis that the 21st century will be characterized by a clash of cultures, a thesis that appears to be lastingly confirmed by the experience of September 11 and the martial consequences that are being drawn from it.
“Because of the current upturn in confrontational initiatives, the "West" feels justified in its tendency to understand and represent its system as thoroughly secularized and guided by reason compared to the "rest of the world." Consequently, the role of religious attitudes gains special importance for the question about the unifying and divisive aspects of cultures. With respect to the question of what unites cultures with one another on the level of a religious worldview, the phenomenon of pantheistic religiosity and its secularized form, a pantheistic philosophy, seems to me to belong to the topics that the planned conference should examine.
“This theme could be treated in two ways: a pantheistic religiosity and philosophy can without geographical limitation be investigated as a unifying element between cultures;
It can, however, especially be discussed as a unifying factor between Europe and Africa.”
Dr. Kreutzer traces an “affinity between the pantheistic philosophy of authors of Goethe's time and a black African ‘Animism,’ which in truth deals with a pantheistic form of religiosity.” He also considers ties between the ‘magic realism’ in Latin American literature and pantheistic nature mysticism.
In a historical context, he asks “would European contact with other continents and their cultures have been able to proceed in the form of ruthless subjugation and colonization, would it not have taken a communicative and empathetic form, if European modernity had not based its rationale on a worldwide, isolating, philosophical materialism? The project of a pantheistic modernity, as authors like Lessing, Herder and Goethe had conceived as a variation of European Enlightenment, would have been able to create a supra-European, religious pantheism based on nature, and its offshoots in terms of weltanschauung would in any case have led to essentially more relaxed contacts, in the sense that it would have been easier for this form of pantheism to find its own way into a modernity, which, as pantheistically inspired, could have been constituted as diversity in unity.”
Dr. Kreutzer calls for “a reevaluation of buried possibilities...”
PAN encourages unearthing Pantheism’s prospect as a cross-cultural bridge to better understanding among all peoples of the world.
The Internet serves as a fountainhead for information about Pantheism. Google's search engine recently (2003) listed over 50,000 references to Pantheism. This cascade helps offset the trickle of information available from conventional newspapers, books, and magazines.
Many online references to Pantheism derive from detractors, particularly religious fundamentalists, who criticize what they view as the growing pantheization of religion and culture.
Pantheism's increasing influence stems largely from the internet, where Pantheist organizations disseminate ideas and communicate with fellow pantheists, and where numerous individuals create their own web pages devoted to promoting Pantheism.
Type in “pantheism,” “pantheist,” or “pantheistic” on a search engine, and click through some of the results to sample the wealth of data. New discoveries abound, often delightful and unexpected.
For example a recent ‘pantheist’ query led to finding the following poem by Robert Service:
Lolling on a bank of thyme
Drunk with Spring I made this rhyme. . . .
Though peoples perish in defeat,
And races suffer to survive,
The sunshine never was so sweet,
So vast the joy to be alive;
The laughing leaves, the glowing grass
Proclaim how good it is to be;
The pines are lyric as I pass,
The hills hosannas sing to me.
Pink roses ring yon placid palm,
Soft shines the blossom of the peach;
The sapphire sea is satin calm,
With bell-like tinkle on the beach;
A lizard lazes in the sun,
A bee is bumbling to my hand;
Shy breezes whisper: "You are one
With us because you understand."
Yea, I am one with all I see,
With wind and wave, with pine and palm;
Their very elements in me
Are fused to make me what I am.
Through me their common life-stream flows,
And when I yield this human breath,
In leaf and blossom, bud and rose,
Live on I will . . . There is no Death.
Oh, let me flee from woeful things,
And listen to the linnet's song;
To solitude my spirit clings,
To sunny woodlands I belong.
O foolish men! Yourselves destroy.
But I from pain would win surcease. . . .
O Earth, grant me eternal joy!
O Nature - everlasting peace!
Unitarianism and Pantheism
The Unitarian Universalist Association represents over 1000 liberal congregations in North America, with over a half million adherents. Members hold diverse beliefs about deity, including some congenial to Pantheism.
"Many UU’s are pantheists," says Rev. Kate Walker, who preaches at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Meadville, Pennsylvania. She defines Pantheism as “the belief that God and Nature (or the Universe) are one and the same.”
Another UU minister, Rev. Michael McGee of Arlington, Virginia, states “many Unitarian Universalists believe today that at the heart of our faith is the conviction that the universe is the ultimate focus of reverence..."
Religious scholar Robert Corrington sees Pantheism as an original and continuing presence in Unitarianism. He points to the early Spanish Unitarian theologian Michael Servetus (1599-1553) who was burned at the stake for his beliefs. Servetus implicitly embraced “a pantheism that found god to be coextensive with nature...(and) laid the groundwork for a universalist pantheism, which rejected a transcendent, sovereign, deterministic and punitive God.”
The thread of Pantheism extending back to the beginnings of Unitarianism gives impetus to its growing presence in the denomination.
PAN appreciates Unitarian Universalists pantheistic perceptions and commends UU's Purposes and Principles, especially its support for "Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.”
Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill spent 783 days perched on a small platform high in an northern California Redwood tree. Hill sought to protect the tree and to call attention to the destruction of old growth forests. She wrote a book about the experience, The Legacy of Luna, and currently works with the Circle of Life Foundation to support environmental causes.
As might be expected from the daughter of a former itinerent preacher, Hill often makes religious references, but not of the orthodox kind. “I don’t agree with organized religion in any form,” she says. “I believe that God is within us and we are God. Everything is part of this universal body of life.”
In her new book, One Makes The Difference, Inspiring Actions that Change Our World, (Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2002), she recounts a revelation: “I experienced a deeply spiritual epiphany when I entered the majestic cathedral of a redwood forest. I saw God as I had never believed possible--in the trees, in the ferns, moss, and mushrooms, in the air and water, birds and bears. I finally saw god with all of my senses, with all of who I am, from the inside out. God, both male and female. God, more than male, more than female. God of all life, in all of its forms...I had seen what was beautiful, profound, sacred.”
Julia Hill’s ardent activism exemplifies how
a pantheistic, sacramental vision of Nature can motivate great
efforts on behalf of the Earth and its life.
RESURGENCE OF PANTHEISM
The Eastern European state of Lithuania declared its independence from Russia in 1991, which allowed freer expression of religion. While two-thirds of the population profess to be Catholic, only about a fifth attend church regularly. Church officials blame sparse attendence on Lithuanians distrust of authority, western consumerism, and a renewal of Pantheism.
As the last nation in Europe to be Christianized, the Church had less time to rid Lithuania of pre-Christian elements and according to the publication City Papers, Baltics World, “the actual resurgence of Lithuania’s old pantheistic religion has alarmed some Church leaders. One of the biggest pagan revival movements is the so-called Romuva, which harkens back to the gods of the sun, water and forests, emphasizing man’s oneness with nature.”
Asked about the hierarchy's concern over the pagan revival, one member of the Romuva movement pointed the finger back at the Church, accusing it of Soviet-style heavy-handedness that it once fought.
“Earlier, it was the communists who said they were protecting the state and who made all the people afraid,” he said. "Today, it is the Catholic Church that has assumed the task of instilling fear."
In PAN’s view, it is likely that the Church will rail, but utimately fail, to supress the reappearance of Nature-based religion.
Why? Because, as Lithuania reveals, monotheism of today prevails like a soft layer of sandstone over solid granite Pantheism of the past.
In years and centuries to come, the steady rainfall of reality--the realization of our ecological dependence upon Nature, the desire to reconnect with the source of life, and to resacralize what we hold dear-- will gradually erode the monotheistic sediments and expose the bedrock truth of Pantheism.
A pantheistic conception of God is "the deity affirmed by most scientists who are philosophically or theologically inclined," according to Jeffery G. Sobosan, a Christian professor of theology. He points to Albert Einstein who "believed in the God of Spinoza."
In Romancing the Universe, Theology, Science, and Cosmology (1999), Sobosan describes why Pantheism appealed to Einstein. He also contrasts pantheistic and Christian ideas of deity, and suggests intermingling Pantheism with Christianity.
The excerpt below shows just how far some Christian thinkers have come in their assessment of Pantheism, namely from condemnations to compliments.
PAN values Sobosan's praise and positivity. It behooves Pantheists to extend respect and understanding to Christian believers whenever possible to further their open-mindedness toward Pantheism.
"...pantheism has at least three implications
that are exquisitely beautiful and were enormously attractive to Einstein.
First and foremost among them is that all creation must be treated
as sacred since comportment toward it is the same as comportment toward
God. Secondly, if one's understanding of deity is also of a purposeful
and ordering presence, then the universe, too, must be so described:
a matter of profound importance to the success of any scientist's craft.
Thirdly, pantheism tends to obscure the alienation that can occur when
God is held as distinct from the universe and claims are made that proper
access to this distinctiveness is reserved to revelatory institutions
and historical events that themselves are distinct. This third point,
of course, is precisely where the major departure between pantheistic
and traditional Judeo-Christian understandings of God occurs, since that
latter wishes to insist...that God is qualitatively other from everything
else and thus accessible only through privileged communications.
Somehow, I think, we must learn to blend the beauty of the pantheistic vision
into Christian theology..."
Marianna Torgovnick, a professor of English at Duke University, describes her religious belief in Primitive Passions (1997):
"Although I have no trouble saying God, I mean the word metaphorically to signify a nonanthropomorphized, genderless entity equivalent to the sum total of matter or energy in the universe."
This is a precise, if polysyllabic definition
of Pantheism. Like many others, she embraces a pantheistic outlook
without using the term, which underscores why Pantheism runs silent
but deep throughout the world.
"Pantheism...sees the universe as an integrated whole, a unity operating through the diverse laws of nature," writes Gerald Schroeder in The Science of God (1997).
"This is a brilliant insight," he says. "But then it claims that the laws and forces active in the universe are all that there is. If there is a god, it is those laws. The difference between pantheism and monotheism is that biblically, the laws of nature are understood as a projected manifestation of an infinite wisdom that transcends the physical universe, within which the physical universe dwells, and of which the physical universe is composed."
Schroeder's position seems better defined as panentheism than monotheism, the idea that God exists immanently within the universe, yet also transcends it.
PAN appreciates Schroeder's pantheistic plaudit, and we see his panentheistic "infinite wisdom" as a valuable view, if it brings bible believers a step closer to the realization of immanent divinity.
Just one more step, beyond transcendent deity,
would bring them to Pantheism.
The Pleasure Prescription (1996), a national bestseller by clinical psychologist Paul Pearsall, combines ancient Polynesian wisdom and modern scientific research to enhance health and well-being. Pearsall, who appears regularly on television talk shows (Oprah Winfrey calls him "our Carl Sagan of psychology"), promotes a spiritual outlook that includes Pantheism.
What Pearsall labels Polynesian Pantheism "sees God not as 'up there' or 'out there' but as 'of ' everyone and everything." He mentions Einstein's 'cosmic religious feeling' which "allows for no separation between the Creator and the created."
This same orientation to transpersonal experience," says Pearsall, "is expressed by the philosopher Spinoza, who spoke of deus sive natura, or 'god is nature'" (sic).
"Pacific pantheism, however, is much more than 'God is everything.'" According to Pearsall, "Polynesians do not just think of god as a metaphorical expression of the combined forces and laws of nature. Polynesians truly believe and behave in a way that shows how the rocks and trees are as real as God is and that talking to them is a way of talking with God. Such is the enchanted world of Polynesia."
"Western culture often fears divinity or sees it as a distant reward for good behavior and hard work," observes Pearsall. "We practice 'weekend worship' rather than regular rituals that revere nature. When the divine comes too close to daily life, we are intimidated by it. Author William W. Harwan writes that the need to desacralize the world is a defense against being flooded by emotions of humility, reverence, mystery, wonder, and awe at the amazing grace of being alive.
"To live the Oceanic way is to be unafraid of the divine--to feel a part of it, responsible for it, and invigorated by it. Polynesians live a sacred life through connection with the land and sea, valuing the secular only as an expression of the spiritual, and finding the divine in all they do and see."
PAN likes Persall's "pantheistic" affirmations,
even though they go, in his own words, "far beyond modern pantheism."
We toss leis of thanks to Paul Persall and to others who bring the
idea of Pantheism and the concept of a sacred world to a wider audience.
Hebrew scholar Ken Hanson finds a link between Kabbalah, Spinoza, Einstein, and contemporary cosmology.
Kabbalah (also spelled Kabala or Cabala) refers to mystical teachings and esoteric interpretations of Jewish scriptures. In Kabbalah, Three Thousand Years of Mystic Tradition (1998) Hanson maintains Kabbalists "asserted a certain oneness between God and the universe" and these "kabbalistic ideas strongly influenced a certain Jewish philosopher," Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677).
Spinoza, an excommunicated Dutch Jew, lived in Amsterdam and counted many Kabbalists among his fellow students. Spinoza went on to write perhaps the most rigorous exposition of a pantheistic metaphysical and religious position in all philosophic literature.
Centuries later, the father of modern astrophysics, Albert Einstein, replied to a query about his religious beliefs, "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists."
Hanson describes how the latest findings of physics and cosmology reveal infinitely small particles appearing out of energy and dissolving back into energy. This all-pervading energy is the very essence of the universe, otherwise know as 'God.'
"In a sense at least," Hanson declares, "God is one with the universe; God is the universe. While it sounds rather pantheistic, it is very much the stuff of Kabbalah....It may be no overgeneralization to say that if there is a 'religion' behind modern astrophysics, we can call it Kabbalah. 'Spinoza's God' lives on in the cosmos."
PAN prefers to call the religion behind astrophysics Pantheism, rather than Kabbalah, but we're intrigued by Hanson's kabbalistic connection.
How paradoxical for monotheistic Judaism, historically
instrumental in separating God and Nature, to also be a factor in
QUARTER CENTURY OF PROMOTING PANTHEISM
The year 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of the first and oldest Pantheist membership organization, the Universal Pantheist Society (UPS). The Society has played a prominent role in spreading Pantheism through literature dissemination, an informative website, and a quarterly journal called Pantheist Vision.
Journal editor and UPS founder Harold W. Wood, Jr. met Derham Giulianni on a Sierra Club trip in 1974 and, after many discussions, discovered that they both regarded themselves as Pantheists. "I had been thinking of the need for an organization of Pantheists earlier," recalls Wood, "and while I had met a number of people who told me they were Pantheists after I explained what the term meant according to the dictionary, Derham was the first person I met who had already figured out the name. We decided to found a Pantheist Society." Giuliannia subsequently became president of the organization, Wood served as editor-secretary-treasurer, and an elected board of directors rounded out the leadership.
UPS aims "to unite Pantheists everywhere into a common fellowship, to undertake the conveyance of information about Pantheism to the interested public, to encourage discussion and communication among Pantheists, and to provide for the mutual aid and defense of Pantheists everywhere."
Wood chose the name Universal Pantheist Society, in his words, "to provide a society for Pantheists that was 'universal,' not tied to any single view of Pantheism, but recognizing the diversity of viewpoints within it." This inclusive approach to Pantheism contrasts with the recently started World Pantheist Movement which exclusively promulgates "scientific pantheism."
PAN advocates the creation of Pantheist organizations
in all sizes and flavors, and salutes UPS for its long-standing advancement
The Synonym Finder, a popular thesaurus, lists six synonyms for PANTHEISM. Several of the words reek with disreputability and reflect misconceptions about Pantheism.
The first entry, cosmotheism, a rare word found in unabridged dictionaries, stands as the only accurate synonym. It means the "ascription of divinity to the cosmos: identification of God with the world." The term has recently been misemployed on a racist Internet site.
The second entry, nature worship, suggests excessive adoration of Nature. Most Pantheists express a deep love and reverence for Nature, but not blind devotion as implied by the term "nature worship."
Next comes paganism. A pagan by definition is a person neither Christian, Moslem, or Jew. The word often carries pejorative overtones where monotheism predominates. Pantheism is one expression of paganism, but not a synonym for paganism.
The remaining three entries lie miles from the mark.
Animism attributes conscious life to natural objects, and often includes the belief in spiritual beings separate from bodies.
Heathenism describes people unconverted to Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, thus regarded as irreligious, uncivilized, or unenlightened.
Idolatry refers to the worship of idols.
PAN encourages editors to expunge these mostly disparaging terms from the next edition of The Synonym Finder. The words have nothing to do with the religion that illumines the oneness of God and Nature and the sacredness of the Earth. Their inclusion in the thesaurus reflects misunderstanding and prejudice against non-monotheistic religion.
Their listing also underscores the need for widespread public education to let others know what Pantheism is, and isn't.
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