It is an ancient religion -older than Buddhism or Christianity- and may
already count hundreds of millions among its members. Most Taoists are
Pantheists, along with many Chinese, Japanese and Western Buddhists,
deep Ecologists, Pagans, Animists, followers of many native religions, and
many Unitarian Universalists. The central philosophical scriptures of
Hinduism are pantheistic. Many Atheists and Humanists may be
Pantheists without realizing it.
The more contemporary forms of Pantheism, such as Scientific or
Natural Pantheism, do not believe in mythical deities, supernatural entities
or powers, but they do consider the Universe/Cosmos to be Divine.
Divinity does not refer to an objective property of the Universe, but to an
aspect of one's spiritual relationship with it - one's deepest awe and
recognition of the mystery, power, and ineffable beauty of All That IS.
Pantheism is the synthesis which transcends both theism and atheism;
its major tenet is that the Universe is the ultimate reality and the most
worthy object of reverence, while Nature is a sacred manifestation of the
Totality, or All-One, in which all things are inseparable components.
(Click icons for WindowsMediaPlayer to play streaming orchestral music)
Pantheistic ideas have also expanded into popular culture. Gallup reports ever-growing
numbers of people engaged in "an intensive spiritual search and a continuing desire for
inward and spiritual growth." Web sites, song lyrics, and self help books strive to
recapture a sense of the sacred that is currently missing in many lives. National
bestsellers like Hymns To An Unknown God and Spiritual Literacy strum several
As the bedrock religion of humanity, Pantheism could be bulldozed, but not banished, by
later world religions. Eastern faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism retained
thin layers of Pantheism and they never abandoned a sense of unity with Nature. Early
Christianity contained outcrops of Pantheism; Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated the
natural world and kinship with all life.
The environmental crisis has triggered reinterpretation of biblical texts to emphasize
"caring for creation." Works on ecology and theology pouring forth from religious
publishing houses contain decidedly pantheistic overtones. For example, one writer
suggests that "God can be envisioned not as a king or ruler external to the universe but
as the sacred whole of the universe itself." Another states "The cosmic process is within
God, and God is within the cosmos as the ultimate power of life." Still another observes
"The voices, coming from varying religious traditions, call us to move from a paradigm
of domination, fear, and alienation to a paradigm of partnership, mutuality, and
reverence for all living things, wherein spiritual values are reclaimed and divine
immanence is reaffirmed." The continuing quiet pantheization of mainstream religion
has the potential to contribute substantially to the sanctity and safekeeping of the world.
Of course, monotheism took several hundred years to suppress the sense of divinity in
Nature, and it could take several hundreds years more to fully restore sacrality to the
natural world. But Pantheism holds the promise to once again become a significant
world religion. In subtle ways it already is.
The persistence of Pantheism springs from its deep-seated connection to the human
heart and mind. Pantheism is a part of human nature, the natural religious disposition
of humankind. As Christian writer Robert Burrows acknowledges:
"The religious options open to humanity are limited: We can believe in no God and be
atheists. We can believe in one God and be theists. Or we can believe that all is God and
be pantheists. Of these three, pantheism has been humanityâ€™s major preoccupation
throughout history... because, as C.S. Lewis observed, "it is an attitude into which the
human mind automatically falls when left to itself."
Actually, Pantheism is an attitude into which the human mind automatically soars when
left to itself, and more people than ever are spreading their pantheistic wings to fly.
Copyright Â© 1999 Gary Suttle
Pantheist Association for Nature
Long ago Pantheism overspread the world. Yet contemporary reference books
contain scant mention of the religion. How could a once universal faith go so little
recognized today? And how could Pantheism go worldwide again tomorrow?
Scholars conjecture that a sense of divinity in Nature co-evolved with the first
emergence of human consciousness, perhaps 100,000 years ago. The earliest god was
Nature. "As far back as we are able to look into the past," says historian Colin Wilson,
"human beings seem to have worshipped nature, and connected it to a higher spiritual
reality, which they called god or the divine." Such pantheistic intuition predates all
known religions of recorded history and probably prevailed for many thousands of years.
Gradually humans elaborated on the sense of an immanent creative force in Nature.
They invested individual natural features like mountains, trees, and thunder with
divinity, which led to polytheism. Later still, monotheism supplanted natural divinities
with a single supernatural entity above and beyond Nature. Nature became profane.
Revering the Earth became a heathen heresy. Monotheism effectively demonized
Pantheism in the Middle Ages and, to this day, Pantheism retains a residual stigma of
orthodox opprobrium that helps to explain its infrequent recognition.
The rise of scientific inquiry brought Pantheism back to life. In the 19th century,
Science reduced everything to material elements working through ascertainable
natural laws. However, modern science has found that all matter consists of incredible
vibrating energy. From quarks to quasars, science reveals a Universe infinitely more
wondrous and mysterious than any supernatural world envisioned by Man. By
reestablishing the natural world as the preeminent source of awe and wonder, and by
disclosing the myriad miracles of existence, science rekindles reverence for life and
being. The idea of god as â€˜Nature and its creative forcesâ€™ dovetails with the latest
scientific discoveries. The synergy between science and Pantheism bodes well for the
future of Pantheism..
So does environmentalism. Since Earth Day in 1970, ecological issues have gained
widespread public attention. Some progress has been made, but global pollution, habitat
destruction and accelerating extinction rates keep Nature on the front page. More and
more people recognize the connection between biodiversity and human well being .
Conservation organizations, outdoor writers, ecotours, and field guides popularize the
love of Nature. Humans hold sacred what they most dearly love and value, and thus
Pantheism often arises from personal experience in Nature. Many current titles explore
this theme, including: The Sacred Earth; Writers On Nature & Spirit; and The Soul
Unearthed, Celebrating Wildness & Personal Renewal Through Nature. The continued
growth of environmentalism and the flowering of Pantheism go hand in hand.
Revering the Universe, Protecting Nature, Celebrating Life
|Without the body, the wisdom
of the larger self cannot be
- John Conger
|And oh, if there be an
Elysium on earth,
It is this, it is this!
- Thomas Moore.
|A religion old or new, that
stressed the magnificence of
the universe as revealed by
modern science, might be
able to draw forth reserves of
reverence and awe hardly
tapped by the conventional
faiths. Sooner or later, such a
religion will emerge.
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
|Do not, I beg you,
look for anything
|Observe the dawning of the PANTHEIST AGE, a new world reconciliation based upon
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|The Once and Future World Religion