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Pantheism ( (pan) "all" and θεός (theos) "god"; literally "belief that God is all") is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God and that the Universe (Nature) and God are equivalent. Pantheism promotes the idea that God is better understood as an abstract principle representing natural law, existence, and the Universe (the sum total of all that was, is and shall be), rather than as an anthropomorphic entity.Pantheists do not believe in a personal god; rather, they refer to nature or the universe as God.Pantheism is a metaphysical and religious position. Broadly defined it is the view that (1) "God is everything and everything is God … the world is either identical with God or in some way a self-expression of his nature" (Owen 1971: 74). Similarly, it is the view that (2) everything that exists constitutes a "unity" and this all-inclusive unity is in some sense divine (MacIntyre 1967: 34). A slightly more specific definition is given by Owen (1971: 65) who says (3) "‘Pantheism’ … signifies the belief that every existing entity is, only one Being; and that all other forms of reality are either modes (or appearances) of it or identical with it." Even with these definitions there is dispute as to just how pantheism is to be understood and who is and is not a pantheist. Aside from Spinoza, other possible pantheists include some of the Presocratics; Plato; Lao Tzu; Plotinus; Schelling; Hegel; Bruno, Eriugena and Tillich. Possible pantheists among literary figures include Emerson, Walt Whitman, D.H. Lawrence, and Robinson Jeffers. Beethoven (Crabbe 1982) and Martha Graham (Kisselgoff 1987) have also been thought to be pantheistic in some of their work — if not pantheists.

The book recognized as containing the most complete attempt at explaining and defending pantheism from a philosophical perspective is Spinoza's Ethics, finished in 1675 two years before his death. In 1720 John Toland wrote the Pantheisticon: or The Form of Celebrating the Socratic-Society in Latin. He (possibly) coined the term "pantheist" and used it as a synonym for "Spinozist." However, aside from some interesting pantheistic sounding slogans (like "Every Thing is to All, as All is to Every Thing"), and despite promising "A short Dissertation upon a Two-fold philosophy of the Pantheists" Toland's work has little to do with pantheism

History of Pantheism

The term "pantheist"—from which the word "pantheism" is derived—was purportedly first used by Irish writer John Toland in his 1705 work, Socinianism Truly Stated, by a pantheist. However, the concept has been discussed as far back as the time of the philosophers of Ancient Greece, by Thales, Parmenides and Heraclitus. The Jewish backgrounds for pantheism may reach as far back as the Torah itself in its account of creation in Genesis and its earlier prophetic material in which clearly "acts of nature" (such as floods, storms, volcanoes, etc.) are all identified as "God's hand" through personification idioms, thus explaining the open references to the concept in both New Testament and Kabbalistic literature.

In 1785 a major controversy began between Friedrich Jacobi and Moses Mendelssohn, which eventually involved many important people of the time. Jacobi claimed that Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's pantheism was materialistic in that it thought of all Nature and God as one extended substance. For Jacobi, this was the result of the Enlightenment's devotion to reason and it would lead to atheism. Mendelssohn disagreed by asserting that pantheism was the same as theism.

Varieties of pantheism

This article distinguishes between three divergent groups of pantheists:

  • Biblical pantheism, which is expressed in the writings of the Bible with the understanding of personification linguistics as a cultural communication idiom in Hebrew language. [Isa 55:12] [Acts 17:28] [Ps. 90:1]

  • Naturalistic pantheism, based on the relatively recent views of Baruch Spinoza (who may have been influenced by Biblical pantheism) and John Toland (who coined the term "pantheism"), as well as contemporary influences. Naturalistic pantheism, founded by the World Pantheist Movement cannot be seen as theistic, since it employs the term god or gods as merely a synonym for nature and a non-sentient cosmos.

The vast majority of people who could be identified as "pantheistic" are of the classical variety (such as Hindus, Sufis, Unitarians, Neopagans, New Agers, Etc.), while most of those who self-identify as "pantheist" alone (rather than as members of another religion) are of the naturalistic variety. The divisions between the different strains of pantheism are not entirely clear and remain sources of controversy in pantheist circles. Classical pantheists generally accept the religious doctrine that there is a spiritual basis to all reality, while naturalistic pantheists generally do not and thus see the world in somewhat more naturalistic terms.

Free Will

In Pantheism, each individual, being part of the Universe or nature, is part of God.One issue discussed by pantheists is how free will may exist in this framework. In answer, the following analogy is sometimes given (particularly by classical pantheists): "you are to God as an individual blood cell in your vein is to you." The analogy further maintains that while a cell may be aware of its own environs, and even has some choices (free will) between right and wrong (killing a bacterium, becoming malignant, or perhaps just doing nothing, among countless others), it likely has little conception of the greater being of which it is a part. As a result not all pantheists accept the idea of free will, with determinism being particularly widespread among naturalistic pantheists. Although individual interpretations of pantheism may suggest certain implications for the nature and existence of free will and/or determinism, pantheism itself does not include any requirement of belief either way. However, the issue is widely discussed, as it is in many other religions and philosophies.


Some argue that pantheism is little more than a redefinition of the word "God" to mean "existence", "life" or "reality". Many pantheists would say that if this is so, such a shift in the way we think about these ideas can serve to create both a new and a potentially far more insightful conception of both existence and God.

A significant debate within the pantheistic community is about the nature of God. Classical pantheism believes in a personal, conscious, and omniscient God, and sees this God as uniting all true religions. Naturalistic pantheism believes in an unconscious, non-sentient Universe, which, while being holy and beautiful, is seen as being a God in a non-traditional and impersonal sense.

When pantheism is considered as an alternative to theism there is a denial of theistic claims. For example, theism is the belief in a "personal" God that transcends (is separate from) the world. Pantheists usually deny the existence of a personal God. They deny the existence of a "minded" Being that personifies, or is personified by, the theist, a being that has intentional states and associated capacities like the ability to make decisions. There are disagreements over whether Pantheism is atheistic or not. Atheists argue the non-theistic god of pantheism is not a god (according to the traditional definition), while others suggest a deity is not necessarily transcendent.

The viewpoints encompassed within the pantheistic community are necessarily diverse, but the central idea of the Universe being an all-encompassing unity and the sanctity of both nature and its natural laws are found throughout. Some pantheists also posit a common purpose for nature and humans, while others reject the idea of purpose and view existence as existing "for its own sake."

Pantheistic concepts in religion


Taoism is the only major religion existing today with an inarguably pantheistic view. In Taoism, there are three conceptualizations of Tao or, "the Way": The Chang-Tao, Tien-Tao and Wang-Tao. To Taoists, the Chang-Tao is the way of an ultimate reality lying beyond human rationalization and comprehension. This concept is gathered from the first chapter within Daodejing or, Tao Te Ching written in the 6th century BC by Laozi. Although subject to different interpretations, Chapter 1 states, "The Tao that, can/has capacity to/can become, told of is not the, eternal / abiding, Tao", and although to Taoists the term Chang is anything but, it can be analogized to the deist "impersonal" type god.

The Tien-Tao is the way of the cosmos, everything in it and all that humans can come to discover; everything from the smallest particle, to galaxy clusters and the universe as a whole. In Taoism, Tien-Tao is an ordered totality consisting of the transcended, embodied and flesh-made version of the Chang-Tao. Within the Tien-Tao, your body is a miniature universe and the universe is a great body. To Taoists the Tien-Tao is observable, describable and identifiable.

The Wang-Tao or, “way of humanity” has also been described as, “the way of the King”: one who rules the profound life. The Wang-Tao is Human life lived at its best. It represents the present possibility that the ideal life can and ought to be lived, and when actuated, ones destiny (not fate) becomes fulfilled. To the Taoists, it is upon actuating the "way of the King" / Wang-Tao, that no matter where a person is within nature and time, they will feel themselves to be where they belong. To the Taoists, Wang-Tao represents the way of living a life with a reason for being. When properly executed, the Wang-Tao brings the profound person into accord with Tien-Tao or the way of the heavens; it is a human life lived brought to it's fullest extent and harmonized with that which humans can and cannot come to understand. Analogously one living the "way of the king" could be considered a self-actuating/actuated individual.


It is generally asserted that Hindu religious texts are the oldest known literature that contains Pantheistic ideas. In Hindu theology, Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all things in this Universe, and is also the sum total of all that ever is, was, or ever shall be. "poornamadah poornamidam" which in Sanskrit means "That is whole, this is whole." This idea of pantheism is traceable from some of the more ancient Vedas and Upanishads to later Advaita philosophy. All Mahāvākyas of the Upanishads, in one way or another, seem to indicate the unity of the world with the Brahman. Chāndogya Upanishad says "All this Universe indeed is Brahman; from him does it proceed; into him it is dissolved; in him it breathes, so let every one adore him calmly". It further says "This whole universe is Brahman, from Brahman to a clod of earth. Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause of the world. He is the potter by whom the vase is formed; He is the clay from which it is fabricated. Everything proceeds from Him, without waste or diminution of the source, as light radiates from sun. Everything merges into Him again, as bubbles bursting mingle with air as rivers fall into the ocean. Everything proceeds from and returns to Him, as the web of the spider is emitted from and retracted into itself." In the hymns of the Rig-veda, a pantheistic strain of thought may be discernible in the tenth book (10-121).

This concept of God is of one unity, with the individual personal gods being aspects of the One; thus, different deities are seen by different adherents as particularly well suited to their worship. As the sun has rays of light which emanate from the same source, the same holds true for the multifaceted aspects of God emanating from Brahman, like many colors of the same prism.Also Hindus worship Nature by offering prayers to sacred trees, groves and also to animals. It's believed widely among Hindus that God lives in all, a very pantheistic belief. Vedanta, specifically, Advaita, is a branch of Hindu philosophy which gives this matter a greater focus. Most Vedantic adherents are monists or "non-dualists" (i.e. Advaita Vedanta), seeing multiple manifestations of the one God or source of being, a view which is often considered by non-Hindus as being polytheistic.

Pantheism is a key component of Advaita philosophy. Other subdivisions of Vedanta do not strictly hold this tenet. For example, the Dvaita school of Madhvacharya holds Brahman to be the external personal God Vishnu, whereas the theistic school of Ramanuja espouses Panentheism.


The radically immanent sense of the divine in Jewish mystical Kabbalah is said to have inspired Spinoza's formulation of pantheism. However, Spinoza's views have not been accepted in Orthodox Judaism. On the other hand, Schopenhauer asserted that Spinoza's pantheism was a result of his reading of Malebranche:

Additionally, the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, had a mystical sense of the divine that could be described as Panentheism.

Biblical Judaism asserts the origin of the Universe was brought forth by the Torah law of nature. Thus the original Torah is found not within the writing of Moses, but within nature itself. "Reading" the Torah of nature is seen as equivalent to "reading" the Torah of revelation and theoretically will agree with one another in the end [as illustrated for example in the discovery of the Big Bang in 1965]. Rabbinical Orthodoxy viewing this as a discrepancy, in order to maintain the written Torah above that given first in nature, has argued that written Torah preceded creation, and it was from the written Torah that God "spoke" creation. A view rejected by Biblical Pantheists.

Maimonides, though Orthodox, reflected the sentiment that the Torah of nature and the Torah of scripture were equivalent and found its logic inescapable, in his comments on the reconciliation of science with scripture. These instructions no doubt served as background for the development of Baruch Spinoza's later views.


There are a number of minority traditions within and around historical Christianity which trace the origins of their pantheistic beliefs to the New Testament and other related ecclesiastical traditions. The diversity of this view extends from early Quakers, to later Unitarians, to as far as within the traditional Catholic and Liberal Protestant main-line denominations themselves.

Other sources include Process theology, Creation Spirituality, the Brethren of the Free Spirit and some would claim its presence among the Gnostics. The idea has had adherents within segments of Christianity for some time.

Some Christians look at the Trinity in this sense: that the Holy Ghost holds together the Universe, and personifies itself as the Father, who personifies himself as the Son inside this Universe (meaning the Father is outside of the Universe, Time, and Space). Also held is that the Holy Spirit is conscious and usable, and thus is used by God to bless people with the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. All supernatural powers are believed to be possible by the Universe/Holy Ghost as well.

Christian pantheists assert its origin is found throughout the scriptures, from the Old Testament to the New Testament and reconciles the difficulties which Roman theologians attempted to "solve" in the Roman councils concerning both the Trinity and the Nature of Christ as the Logos (as only pantheism provides both an expression of Christ as the "Logos" of God, and the unity of Monotheism).

The Biblical equation of God to acts of nature, and the definition of God within the New Testament itself, all provide the basis of appeal to this belief system.

It is maintained by Christian pantheists that the Catholic definition of God was heavily influenced by non-biblical sources and was dominated by Neo-Platonism, rendering the definition of God as something which "exists" outside of "existence", thus rendering the definition of "God" as something which "does not exist", that is, a non-existent God. It is this basic definition of God into Neo-Platonic non-existence that Christian pantheists find unbiblical and objectionable.

Augustine rejected pantheism on the following grounds:

Ought not men of intelligence, and indeed men of every kind, to be stirred up to examine the nature of this opinion? For there is no need of excellent capacity for this task, that putting away the desire of contention, they may observe that if God is the soul of the world, and the world is as a body to Him, who is the soul, He must be one living being consisting of soul and body, and that this same God is a kind of womb of nature containing all things in Himself, so that the lives and souls of all living things are taken, according to the manner of each one’s birth, out of His soul which vivifies that whole mass, and therefore nothing at all remains which is not a part of God. And if this is so, who cannot see what impious and irreligious consequences follow, such as that whatever one may trample, he must trample a part of God, and in slaying any living creature, a part of God must be slaughtered? But I am unwilling to utter all that may occur to those who think of it, yet cannot be spoken without irreverence.

as well as:

Concerning the rational animal himself,—that is, man,—what more unhappy belief can be entertained than that a part of God is whipped when a boy is whipped? And who, unless he is quite mad, could bear the thought that parts of God can become lascivious, iniquitous, impious, and altogether damnable? In brief, why is God angry at those who do not worship Him, since these offenders are parts of Himself?

Other religions

There are many elements of pantheism in some forms of Buddhism, Neopaganism, and Theosophy along with many varying denominations and individuals within and without denominations. See also the Neopagan section of Gaia and the Church of All Worlds.

Many Unitarian Universalists consider themselves pantheists as do members of the Unity School of Christianity (New Thought).

Pantheism is an integral concept in many New Age religions and philosophies.

Paul Carus called himself "an atheist who loves God", and advocated "henism", which is often seen as monist or pantheist in nature.

The Roman Catholic church has repeatedly condemned the errors of pantheism. Among the propositions censured in the Syllabus of Pius IX is that which declares: "There is no supreme, all-wise and all-provident Divine Being distinct from the universe; God is one with nature and therefore subject to change; He becomes God in man and the world; all things are God and have His substance; God is identical with the world, spirit with matter, necessity with freedom, truth with falsity, good with evil, justice with injustice" (Denzinger-Bannwart, "Ench.", 1701). And the Vatican Council anathematizes those who assert that the substance or essence of God and of all things is one and the same, or that all things evolve from God's essence (ibid., 1803 sqq.).

Spinoza and Pantheism

It is a widespread belief that Spinoza equated God with material world. However, he openly stated in one of his letters that "It is utterly false to suppose that it is my intention to equate god and nature." For Spinoza, our univers (cosmos) is a mode under two attributes of Thought and Extension. God has infinitely many other attributes which are not present in our world. According to Karl Jaspers when Spinoza says "Deus sive Natura" he has in mind god as Natura Naturans not Naturarta. Jaspers also stated that in Spinoza's philosophical system God transcendence is attested by his infinitely many attributes. The infinitely many attributes signifies God's transcendence, the two known attributes (Thought and Extension) signifies his immanence. Even God under the attributes of thought and extension cannot be identified strictly with our world. That world is of course "divisible": It has parts. But Spinoza insists that "no attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that "the substance can be divided", and that a substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible" (Ethics, Part I, Propositions 12 and 13). Rather our world should be considered a mode under two attributes of thought and extension. Therefore the pantheist formula "One and All" would apply to Spinoza only if the "One" preserves its transcendence and the "All" were not interpreted as the totality of finite things.

Martial Guéroult suggested the term "Panentheism", rather than "Pantheism" to describe Spinoza’s view of the relation between God and the world. The world is not God, but it is, in a strong sense, "in" God. Not only do finite things have God as their cause; they cannot be conceived without God.

Related concepts


Classical pantheism has many features in common with panentheism, such as the idea that the universe is part of a god. Whereas the pantheist god and the universe are synonymous, panentheism finds God extends beyond the universe.

Many of the major world religions described as pantheistic could also be described as panentheistic. For example, elements of both pantheism and panentheism are explicitly found in Indo-European religions such as Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. Many interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita and Shri Rudram in Hinduism and the Gathas in Zoroastrianism support this view.


While the term is rarely used, and is most often simply a synonym for Pantheism, this unusual philosophy has been used rather differently, but in all cases, the feeling was that God was something created by man, perhaps even an end state of human evolution, through social planning, eugenics and other forms of genetic engineering.

H. G. Wells subscribed to a form of Cosmotheism, which he called the "world brain" (from a book of essays by the same name he printed in 1937, one of which details the creation of a Library-encyclopedia hybrid), and detailed even more in his book God the Invisible King (in which he proscribes mankind to set up a socialist system, structuring itself on social and genetic statistics, education, and eugenics, ideally someday equating itself and possibly even merging with and conquering the Pantheist god itself. See: Omega Point) and there were also some sections of his work Outline of History, which reflected this belief and his finding it in the teachings of Jesus and Siddhartha (Buddha). His book Shape of Things to Come (and the 1936 film Things to Come) also reflects this, in which mankind, surviving an apocalyptic war and an extended Feudal period, unites to form a collectivist Utopia.

In modern Israelmarker, Cosmotheism was described by Mordekhay Nesiyahu, one of the foremost ideologists of the Israeli Labor Movement and a lecturer in its college Beit Berlmarker. He felt that God was something which did not exist before man, and was a secular entity which the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalemmarker had an instrumental role in "inventing".

In the 20th century United Statesmarker, William Luther Pierce, a white nationalist associated with the American Nazi Party and founder of the National Alliance also utilised the term "Cosmotheism". In his eyes (similar to H. G. Wells'), God would be the end result of eugenics and racial hygiene (See: Nazism, Francis Galton and Theosophy).

Vladimir Vernadsky's and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's "Noosphere" could be referred to as a description of the Cosmotheist deity, as does Emile Durkheim's Collective consciousness and Carl Jung's collective unconscious.

Arthur C. Clarke makes a possible reference to the Cosmotheist Noosphere in his 1953 book Childhood's End, referring to it as the "Overmind".


Pandeism is a kind of Pantheism which incorporates a form of Deism, holding that the Universe is identical to God, but also that God was previously a conscious and sentient force or entity that designed and created the Universe. God only became an unconscious and nonsentient God by becoming the Universe. Other than this distinction (and the possibility that the Universe will one day return to the state of being God), Pandeist philosophy is identical to Pantheism.


According to Schopenhauer, pantheism has no ethics.

However, some pantheists hold that the pantheist viewpoint is the most ethical viewpoint; Neo-Pantheistic ethics are based on the belief that any action initiated resonates throughout all of existence. What is good and evil is not mandated from something outside of us, but is a result of our interconnectedness. Instead of consideration based upon fear of divine punishment or hope of divine reward, the better Pantheistic ethical decision comes from an awareness of mutual interrelation.

Traditional forms and definitions of pantheism, would however, refer to their classical bodies of sacred texts and teachers for definitions of ethics.

See also


  1. Owen, H. P. Concepts of Deity. London: Macmillan, 1971.]
  2. "Pantheism is sexed-up atheism"
  3. "With some exceptions, pantheism is non-theistic, but it is not atheistic." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Pantheism
  4. General Sketch of the History of Pantheism p. 29
  5. Chandogya Upanishad 3-14 Williams Translation
  6. City of God Book 4 Chapter 12
  7. City of God Book 4 Chapter 13,
  8. [1] to the Catholic Encyclopedia
  9. Will Durant, The story of philosophy, Simon and Schuster (1926), Chapter 4: Spinoza
  10. Karl Jaspers, Spinoza (Great Philosophers), Harvest Books (October 23, 1974), ISBN 0156847302, Pages: 14 and 95
  11. Genevieve Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Spinoza and The Ethics (Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks), Routledge; 1 edition (October 2, 1996), ISBN 0415107822, Page: 40
  12. What is Panentheism?. About Agnosticism/Atheism. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  13. "God did not create the world, He became the world"

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