Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pantheism

Additional Links

(from πᾶς, all, and θεός, God), a general name for a belief in the identity of God and nature.

I. Definition. This philosophical dogma has been very variously conceived, and is therefore liable to many definitions. According to Waterland, "it supposes God and nature, or God and the whole universe, to be one and the same substance one universal being; insomuch that men's souls are only modifications of the divine substance" (Works, 8:81). According to Wegscheider, pantheism is "essententia, qua naturam divinam mundo supponunt et Deum ac mundum unum idemque esse statuunt" (p. 250). Lacoudre says, "Pantheistee qui contendunt unicam esse substantiam, cujus partes sunt omnia entia qua existunt." Weissenborn defines pantheism as "the system which identifies God and the all of things or the unity of things." To the critical student of the history of philosophy pantheism presents itself in six different forms. These are,

(1) mechanical or materialistic God the mechanical unity of existence;

(2) ontological (abstract unity) pantheism the one substance in all (Spinoza);

(3) dynamic pantheism;

(4) psychical pantheism God is the soul of the world;

(5) ethical pantheism God is the universal moral order (Fichte);

(6) logical pantheism (Hegel).

But, though pantheism has exhibited these varieties, the generally prevailing pantheistic notions may be subdivided until there remains only one phase that is generally understood to be referred to as pantheistic. That doctrine which is uncritically called the purely pantheistic, and which teaches that pantheism means absorption of God in nature, is atheistic in fact, and should be treated under atheism. (q.v.). That form of pantheism which teaches the absorption of nature in God of the finite in the infinite amounts to an exaggeration of theism (q.v.). Those forms above spoken of as ethical and logical pantheism, and now seen in their culmination in Strauss's writings, the most anti-christian of them all, denying a personal God and a historical Christ, are properly rationlism (q.v.), because they are not strictly philosophic but semi-religious, seeking to supplant Christianity as a religion, and not as a philosophical system. Pantheism, then, strictly speaking, is the doctrine of the necessary and eternal co-existence of the finite and the infinite of the absolute consubstantiality of God and nature considered as two different but inseparable aspects of universal existence. True, this doctrine conducts to the same result as atheism, yet theoretically it is widely different, and starts from exactly the opposite premise. The Atheist begins with nature, perceives and recognizes the material universe, but denies that there is any God; the Pantheist starts with the assumption of the existence of a Divine Being as a truth which the soul cannot deny, and maintains that he is identical with nature-in other words, denies that there is any nature except God. Quite differently, the Christian maintains the existence of both God and nature. He accepts the doctrine of Scripture, which is that God existed before the universe, and is ever apart from it and above it; for he made it by a spontaneous act, and in infinite wisdom and power still upholds it. It is a revelation of him but no part of him; not God, but the voluntary manifestation of God. It is not what he is, but what he has willed to be. In other words, God is the Being present everywhere in and controlling nature, as the soul the body, but distinct from it.

II. Scriptural Doctrine. Some attempts have been made to maintain that the germs of pantheism are to be found in the Bible, as in such declarations as that of 1 Corinthians 15:28, "That God may be all in all;" but it is evident that belief in an omnipresent God regnant in nature and belief in an impersonal God identical with nature are widely different. Not to press the language of Scripture unfairly into questions which it only touches incidentally, we think the following clearly bears against the pantheistic theory of the relation of God to the universe: "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made which was made" (John 1:3). This surely is deism, not pantheism. The first clause states that all things came out of nothing into being by the will of the Logos; the second clause confirms this by denying the contrary proposition that anything ever came into being either of itself or by any other will than that of the Word. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the same way speaks of creation having both a beginning and an end: "They shall perish, but thou endurest: and they all shall wax old as a garment, and as a vesture thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be. changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not change." Here the contrast is emphatically marked between a perishing universe and its unchanging and unchangeable Author. It rests on the deistical axiom that the things which had a beginning must also have an end. If the Son of God had a beginning in time, he too should subside before the change of time. His is the only existence outside of God which does not follow the fixed conditions of the creation, and therefore he is one with God, and is God. The argument is identical with that of the evangelist John, and both alike rest on a deistical conception of the universe. Take one more passage in James, where it is said of God that "with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The reference is to that Light of lights, the Father of lights, which, unlike the sun, has neither annual orbit nor daily decline. The material sun rises and sets daily, and yearly climbs the sky to the solstice, and then declines to the tropic, but the uncreated Sun shines on, fixed and immovable. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.

Scripture, indeed, fairly interpreted, knows nothing of that immanence of God in nature which lies at the root of all pantheistic modes of thought. Physical pantheism, which confounds God with nature and nature with God, and looks on the world as a huge animal with a rational and sensitive soul, repels by its very grossness, and has few votaries, except perhaps among the fanatics of the table-moving and spiritual-manifestation school Intellectual pantheism, which is more recondite and plausible, asserts that all the diversities of nature are resolvable into a unity of essence, and that this essence is God. He is the substance substans the occult substratum which underlies and upholds everything that we see. (Such was the pantheism of Benedict Spinoza.) But the nounmenon, or substance, can never be known except as phenenomenon, or appearance; and, therefore, Spinoza's God was nothing more than a grand conception, a nonentity. Yet Mr. Lewes says, "Spinoza stands out from the dim past like a tall beacon, whose shadow is thrown athwart the sea, and whose light will serve to warn the wanderers from the shoals and rocks on which hundreds of their brethren have perished" (Hist. of Philos. 2:154). The logical consequence of pantheism, whether physical or intellectual, is really to ignore the personality alike of God and of man; to subvert the foundation of all moral government; to eradicate a consciousness of sin; to turn man into a self- idolater; and to load him with the chains of a crushing and inexorable fatalism." To paraphrase a well-known expression of Hobbes, we should call pantheism the ghost of atheism sitting crowned upon its grave. "Nous ne savons pas ce que Dieu est," were the last words of philosophy according to Pascal; "ni s'il est" was the mocking addition of those who garbled his text; The fact is instructive; it teaches us how far philosophy can go, and what it must end in without the lamp of revelation. The unknown God of philosophy ends in the no-God of the Positivist, or the all-God of the Pantheist. Nor are. the two so far apart as some imagine. Impatient of the anthropomorphism of Scripture, and blind to the truth that the Father of our spirits is not far from every one of us, those who are unable to rest in materialistic atheism profess a spiritualistic pantheism which is curiously like and unlike the old dreary negation from which it is a recoil. The dynamical philosophy has replaced the mechanical: force and not matter is now at the beginning of all things; but force is no more God than matter. When the spiritual desires of humanity are really kindled, it can no more rest in the one than in the other. What we crave is a living person, not an abstract principle a hand to direct us, an eye to look on us, and a heart. to love and pity us. Philosophy shrinks from anthropomorphism of this kind, and in its pride of intellect despises the vulgar for making to themselves a magnified man as God. But the genuine needs of human nature are not to be reasoned away with a sneer; divine philosophy, unlike human, sees the felt necessity, and meets it. In the words of a modern writer:

"Pantheism expresses the astonishment of reason to see nature separate from God. It is the speculation of the soul which ought to be one with the Eternal, but is robbed of the divine treasure, and cannot realize her loss... But is vain to sigh for a speculative unity, when the moral unity is broken. It is us into deny the mystery of change, because we cannot see how it is to be reconciled with the existence of the. Unchangeable. It is vain to attempt by means of syllogism to represent the Creator and his universe is one shoreless, waveless oceann, profound, equable, unbroken ... There is, indeed, an ocean of being, and the soul which sighs and reasons may think itself a wave upon the surface. But in one sense the comparison fails to hold. It is not at the mercy of the winds, nor wholly determined by the vast waters which support it. It has a unity and a moving power of its own. In another sense the comparison holds good. "The war of elements, the confusion we see everywhere, belongs only to the surface. The ocean is deeper than the waves. It cannot be influenced by the winds of time, nor stirred from its place by the billows which dash themselves, and foam, and are broken on the shore of human life ... The floods have lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their waves- but the Lord on high is mightier than the voice of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea'" (Tulloch, Christian Theism, 1:204, 205).

The attempt to transcend such a conception as that of our Father in heaven, and to test it as a mere accommodation or landing-stage in the development of the human mind, from fetichism up to the pure philosophy of the absolute, only recoils on those who make it. We get no nearer the true absolute by using the phrase; on the contrary, by ridding ourselves of so much anthropomorphism, we only get out of the region in which true religious emotion is possible at all, viz. that of the emotions and affections. Men will not adore what they can neither love nor fear. In the legend of Icarus, Daedalus made him waxen wings, but as he soared nearer the sun the wax melted; and so the higher he rose the greater his fall. In the case of the modern Icarus there is the same failure, though from an opposite cause. In attempting to soar into the region of the absolute and unconditioned, men do not really reach the sun of absolute being, they only rise into a region where the air is too rarefied to breathe, and where, for want of a refracting medium, the light is as darkness. Their wings do not melt with the warmth of the sun's rays; on the contrary, they are frozen to death at these ungenial altitudes, and if they descend at all in safety, it is to learn the lesson that, if we would know God at all, we must know him as he has been pleased to reveal himself. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?"

To the careful student of the sacred Scriptures the O.T. writings reveal a healthy realism in their conception of God. He is above the world and outside it. He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. He weighs the hills in scales and the mountains in balances. To the Psalmist, e.g., God is present in nature; but never once in the highest flights of devotional poetry does he let fall an expression as if the things we see were anything else than his handiwork. They are never co-eternal with God on the contrary, they are his creatures. "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;" it is God who "appoints the moon for seasons; the sun knoweth his going down." He "opens his hand, they are filled with good." God is in the growing grass and the rolling thunder, in "the great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping and innumerable, where go the ships, and where is that leviathan who is made to play therein." The rain is "the river of God," and "the cedars of Lebanon" are said to be his planting; but we search in vain for a syllable or a hint of that mystical immanence of God in nature, such as modern pantheism conceives of as the relation of God to the universe. We may strip the Bible bare of its poetry, or translate it into the baldest; and dryest prose, but it yields up in no case any other sense than that of theism. The Deus opifex is there throughout, and almost in express terms. The argument of design, so much decried in our days, as if it had been an invention of the same school that invented the "Evidences," is, by implication, if not in express terms, found in the O.T. "He that planted the eye, shall he not see; he that formed the ear, shall he not hear?" It is foreign, of course, to the simplicity of Scripture to introduce illustrations of contrivance in the adaptation of the organs of men and animals to the preexisting laws of matter. But the argument of Paley has been anticipated in principle, if not in detail.

Man is the last of the works of God, and as the world was adapted to him, so he was adapted to the world. Light existed before there was a single human eve to behold it, and therefore, as the properties of light existed before there was the organ to observe it, that organ was accommodated to the laws of light not the laws of light to the organs of seeing. The stress of Paley's argument lies in this. And the Scriptures, rightly interpreted, tell the same tale. The transcendetal, not immanent thought of creation is, as we have seen, the keynote of Hebrew inspiration. There is an advance in the N.T. writings. The governmental character of God sinks a little into the background, and the Fatherly relation becomes more prominent in its stead. But the N.T. never oversteps itself or falls into the language of mysticism, confounding the Creator with his works.True, it glances at the thought that there shall be a time when even the Son, who must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet, shall give up the kingdom to him that hath put all things under him, that so God may be all in all. But this is very unlike pantheism, though it maybe taken to mean pantheism by those who wish to wrest that meaning out of Scripture. All that it implies is the ultimate and final elimination of moral, and with it physical evil out of the active universe. God is to be all in all in the sense that he shall become the supreme truth of the universe a truth which is law in the unconscious and love (or, at least, submission) in the conscious class of his creatures. The reign of right will then be unbroken, not only from pole to pole of the universe, but also through all ranks and degrees of agents endowed with free will.

III. History. The origin of pantheistic doctrine is as obscure as the dogma itself. The name Pantheists was first employed by the English Deist Toland in A.D. 1705. This somewhat learned man was at that time secretary and chaplain of a society which advocated the peculiar speculative view of God and his creation now known as Pantheism. A defense which he then published of this strange class of religionists they claimed to be such he entitled Socinianism Truly Stated,... by a Pantheist to His Orthodox Friend. In A.D. 1720 he published an exposition of the society's doctrines, and he entitled that work Pantheisticon. Toland then said expressly that he had borrowed his notion from Linus, which the motto of his Pantheisticon expressed as "ex toto sunt omnia, et ex omnibus est totum," briefly put by his antagonist Fay as "Pantheistarum Natura et numen unum idemque ssunt." But though Toland may have framed the doctrines of his society after Linus, we are sure that the antiquity of pantheism is far beyond any such modern period. We find that it had its origin at a very remote period in the East, for it is prevalent in the oldest known civilization in the world the Hindû. Yet it is a later development of thought than polytheism (q.v.), the natural instinctive creed of primitive races, and most probably originated in the attempt to divest the popular system of its grosser features, and to give it a form that would satisfy the requirements of philosophical speculation. We have said above that the notion of the immanence of God in nature lies at the root of all pantheistic modes of thought.

The student of Eastern religions will confirm us in this, at least so far as these ancient religions of Asia are concerned. The Oriental mind is saturated with the emanation notion.The doctrine, reappears in a thousand shapes; it exhales alike in poetry and philosophy. Creation signifies the summoning into existence of that which before was not. Emanation is a mere modification of that which is; it maintains the self- same existence, though under other forms and other conditions; it is the developed fruit of the quickened germ. It supposes an infinite eternal substance which arouses itself into action by a self-energy, and clothes itself with a multiplicity of forms that in the aggregate make up the universe. Thus the idea of the divine is that the whole is all things, and all things are the whole, and in the end all things will return once more into the inscrutable oneness from whence they came forth. Such was the groundwork of the Brahminical system. It is taught in the Upanishad (q.v.), the Vedanta (q.v.), and Yoga (q.v.) philosophies, in the cosmogony of the most ancient Indian writing, the Institutes of Menu (q.v.), and in those poetical books which embody the doctrines of the Hindû philosophies, e.g. the Bhagavad Gita, which follows the Yoga doctrine. It is poetical and religious rather than scientific, at least in its phraseology; but is substantially similar to the more logical forms of Western development.

1. Hindû Pantheism. Hindû philosophy proceeds upon the fundamental axiom that Brahm (q.v.) alone exists; all else is an illusion. Accordingly when mall regards external nature, and even himself, as distinct from Brahm, he is in a dreaming state, realizing only phantoms. But when he recognizes Brahm as the one totality, he rises to a waking state, and science is this awakening of humanity. It is at death, however, that the soul of the sage will be completely freed from illusion, and finally blended and lost in Brahm, the one infinite being from whom all things emanate, and to whom all things return. Pantheism is the necessary result of such a system. It denies true existence to any other than the one absolute, independent Being. It declares that what is usually called matter can have no distinct separation or independent essence, but is only an emanation from and a manifestation of the one so existing spiritual essence, Brahm. He is the vast ocean of which the surface waves are the whole external form, the foam and surge that go to make up his substance.

He is at once active and passive; active in the continued evolution of emanations that degenerate more and more from original perfection; and passive as being himself the degenerating emanations that are evolved. All, too, is Magian illusion: light yearned for increase, and its multiple became water; water similarly produced earth. The more visible creation becomes the more it degenerates, and the more is illusion intensified. It is only by contemplation that all forms and names and illusive appearances vanish the one real substance is perceived; and the truth is apprehended that the contemplative mind is one with the Infinite. In one sense this philosophy was devout, it was penetrated with a sense of the divine in everything, but on the other hand every part of nature was only a part of Brahm. The cow, the elephant, the flower were all some fractions of him. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, the teacher, tells Arjuna, his pupil, that he is the universe. "I," says the teacher, "am the creation and dissolution of the whole universe. There is not anything greater than I. All things hang on the sun as precious gems upon a string. I am moisture in the water, light in the sun and moon, invocation' in. the breeze, sound in the firmament, sweet smelling savors in the earth, glory in the source of light. I am life in all things, and zeal in the zealous; I am the eternal soul of nature; I am the understanding of the wise, the glory of the proud, the strength of the strong, free from lust and anger." "I," continues Krishna, "am the sacrifice, I am the worship, I am the spices, I am the fire, I am the victim, I am the father and mother of the world." All this is what is termed pure pantheism, that confusion of science and religion which is at once the weakness and the strength, the glory and the shame of the Hindû mind. (See Wuttke, Gesch. des Heidenthums, 2:241 sq., 282 sq., 318 sq.; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 1:178 sq., 195 sq.)

2. Egyptian Pantheism. As in the Hindû, so again in the Egyptian system, one inscrutable Being gives a first impulse to creation by the evolution of intelligence, Kneph (q.v.), the conceptive Demiurge; and next of Phtha (q.v.), the organizer of the world, the vital principle of fire and warmth. The various succeeding emanations in ogdoads and decades and dodecads are by pairs or syzygies, whereof the secondary principle is more or less antagonistic to the primary, representing the various phenomena of nature; such, too, are the φιλία and νεῖκος of Pythagoras and Empedocles. Thus Osiris (q.v.), radiant with white light, was combined with Isis (q.v.) in the many-tinted robe of nature; and Typhon (q.v.), the principle of evil, by union with Nephthys (q.v.), the ideal of consummate beauty produced the checkered state of good and evil which is the world of man. Life, as the spirit that pervades all nature, could never again be extinguished; its deification is read clearly in deciphered hieroglyphics, and death is only the narrow doorway that leads back to the fresh life of perpetual youth. In all this we see the remote elements of Gnosticism (q.v.). In the Egyptian therefore, as in the Indian system, the world of matter, whether real or phantasmal, emanates from and is, in fact, one with the Deity. The antagonism of the Egyptian theogony became a dualistic system in Chaldaea and Palestine, where Bel and Nebo, or Nergal, Matter, were made to proceed from the precosmic Ur, Light; and in Persia, as seen in the antagonism of Ormuzd (q.v.) and Ahriman. The sect of Lipari, adorers, claiming to return to pre-Zoroastrian truth, professed a modified Zabianism that was wholly pantheistic. The Dabistan (School of Morals), a work on all the Oriental forms of religious belief Magianism, Brahminism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and that which the author, Moslau-Fairi, terms the "religion of philosophers" names other pantheistical sects (Dabistan, Oriental Fr. Comm. 1:203); but they have had nothing to do with the origin of similar principles in Europe. (See Stuhr, Die Religionssysteme der heidnischen Volker des Orients [Berlin, 1836]; Uhlemann, Handb. d. gesammten agyptisch. Alterthumskunde, esp. 2:244 sq.; Wuttke, Gesch. des Heidenthums. 2:145 sq.; Cudworth, Intellectual System, 2:237 sq., 245 sq.; Rawlinson, The Great Monarchies, vol. on Egypt; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 2:244 sq. et al.; British and For. Evangel. Rev. July, 1875, art. 8.)

3. Greek Pantheism. Those who distinguish in philosophy between science and ethics the former dealing with what is, the latter with what ought to be point us to Hindu speculation as philosophy within the swaddling bands of theology, and claim that it was left for Greece to free man's mind from these trammels. Yet the philosophy of the Greeks in its earliest forms has a decidedly Oriental coloring, and naturally so, for Greece received its first ideas of civilization from Egypt and the East. Thales, indeed, professed the dualism of Chaldaea and Egypt. The Orphic doctrines which embody the teaching of Linus and of his disciple Orpheus from their very remote antiquity, are shrouded in mystery. But they are supposed by Dr. Cudworth (Intell. System, 2:94) and other eminent modern philosophers to have been pantheistic in their character. The material world is termed "the body of Zeus" in a poetic fragment said to have been written by Orpheus. At a later period we find the doctrine of emanations taught by Pythagoras (q.v.), an adept in ancient Orphic theology, and by other Greek philosophers, more especially by Xenophanes (q.v.), the founder of the Eleatic school ( (See ELEATIC SCHOOL); and compare Creuzer, Symbolik; Irenaeus, Introd. xlii-xlv, Cambr. ed.; Aristotle, De Xenophane, iii; Diogenes Laertius, 2:19; De Ginando, i, vi). Pythagoras (B.C. 569-470) taught that. "one is all and all in a wide development of the unit. The monad produces the dyad; the two constitute the triad, and the product symbolizes the absolute unity that holds, as it were, in free solution spirit and matter. Unity becomes a multiple of itself by factors of increasing power, and this multiple is the universe, the very beginning of the divine unity, quickened in all its parts with the divine life. The soul of the world is the divine energy that interpenetrates every portion of the mass, and the soul of man is an efflux of that energy.

The world, too, is an exact impress of the eternal idea, which is the mind of God." A poetical theogony was easily engrafted on such notions, and a polytheistic religion for the people. The philosophy of Anaximander (B.C. 610-547) the Milesian may almost, with equal accuracy, be described as a system of atheistic physics or of materialistic pantheism. Its leading idea is that from the infinite or intermediate (τὸ ἄπειρον ), which is "one yet all," proceed the entire phenomena of the universe, and to it they return. Xenophanes (B.C. 620-520), who, by the way, was the author of the famous metaphysical mot, "Ex nihilo, nihil fit," is really the first classical thinker who promulgated the higher or idealistic form of pantheism. Denying the possibility of creation, he argued that there exists only an eternal, infinite one or all, of which individual objects and existences are merely illusory modes of representation; but as Aristotle finely expresses it and it is this last conception which gives to the pantheism of Xenophanes its distinctive character "casting his eyes wistfully upon the whole heaven, he pronounced that unity to be God" Heraclitus (q.v.), who flourished a century later, reverted to the material pantheism of the Ionic school, and appears to have held that the "all" first arrives at consciousness in man, whereas Xenophanes attributed to the same universal entity intelligence and self-existence, denying it only personality.

But it is often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to draw or to see the distinction between the pantheism of the earlier Greek philosophers and sheer atheism. In general, however, we may affirm that the pantheism of the Eleatic school was penetrated by a religious sentiment, and tended to absorb the world into God, while that of the Ionic school was thoroughly materialistic, and tended to absorb God into the world, and differed from atheism rather in name than intact. Zeno (B.C. 494), the distinguished Eleatic philosopher, maintained that there was but one real existence in the universe, and that all other things were merely phenomenal, being only modifications or appearances of the one sibstratunm All was false and hollow that was based upon the suggestions of sense. Thought and its object are identical. Through his dialectical reasoning the school of the Sophists originated. By them it was denied that simple substance can fill space; next it was stripped gradually of every attribute, until it reached the vanishing point of the pantheistic perspective; substance, then, being wholly neutral and void of color, ceased to have any appreciable quality, and the schools of philosophy subsided into the blank atheism of Leucippus (B.C. 500) and Democritus (B.C. 460-357), whose atomic fatalism finds a close parallel in the Zabianism of the Babylonians, Phoenicians; with other idolatrous offsets of the Shemitic stock. The deepest questions that can occupy the human intellect were bandied to and fro in sophistical discussion; all was problematical, all was doubt, and the only principle which met with universal acceptance was the skeptical maxim, μέμνασο ἀπιστεῖν .

With Socrates (B. C. 468-399) opens a new epoch in Greek speculation. Hereafter we meet again with pantheistic notions, but they are no longer in extensive acceptance. The philosophers up to the days of Socrates had been simply physicists; they looked on nature or φύσις as an entity in itself. The other or complementary truth of real or correct philosophy had to be discovered. It was dreamed of by Pythagoras, but first fully discerned by Socrates; and we do not wonder that the wise said of him, "He first brought philosophy down from heaven to earth" meaning that he was the first teacher who brought her down from airy abstractions and generalizations about matter and its origin to questions of human interest: our duty here, our hopes hereafter. From this time, too, dates the distinction of the two branches in philosophy, science and ethics, (See PHILOSOPHY); and henceforth the great problem of Greek philosophy, as of all philosophy, became, "What is the ἀρχή the first principle the ground and cause and reason of all existence?" The final answer of that age is found in Plato (q.v.), for "Platonism was the culmination, the ripened fruit of the ages of earnest thought which preceded Plato. He gathered up, co-ordinated, and grasped into unity the results bequeathed by the mental efforts of his predecessors. The Platonic answer to this great question of philosophy is clear and unequivocal. A perfect MIND is the primal source of all being a mind in which intellect, efficiency, and goodness are one and identical" (Cocker, Theistic Conception, p. 38, 39; comp. also his Christianity and Greek Philosophy; Butler, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy; Lewes, Biogr. Hist. of Philos.; and the references in the articles PLATO and PLATONISM). One of the first of the Platonic disciples to advocate pantheistic views was Speusippus ( B.C. 339), Plato's sister's son, and the successor of Plato as scholarch (from 347 to 339). Speusippus pantheistically represents the Best or Divine as first indeed in rank, but as chronologically the last product of development, and he finds the principles of ethics in the happiness of a life conformed to nature (comp. Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. 1:133,134, and the literature there quoted). Dicaearchus (B.C. 300), a disciple of Aristotle, and therefore a Peripatetic (q.v.). also advocated pantheistic notions. He taught that: "there exist no individial substantial souls, but only in their stead one Universal, vital, and sensitive force, which is diffused through all existing organisms, and in transiently individualized in different bodies" (Ueberweg, 1:183).

The Stoics (founded B.C. 310) likewise taught this doctrine of force. Plato and his predecessor Socrates had endeavored to reduce all being (esse) to Unity, admitting only reason for a channel of knowledge. Aristotle, the disciple of Plato, but the founder of an independent school (known as the immanent in distinction from the Platoiic, which is known. as the transcendent), believing his senses as well as his reason left the dualism of mind and matter unreconciled. With Plato God was one and all things; with Aristotle God was one, and the universe a distinct existence. But as nothing can be which has not been before; as there can be no addition to the totality of existence, Aristotle made two eternals, the one Form, the other Matter-God, and the material from which the universe was made. The Stoics were not satisfied with the duality. They felt with Plato that all must be one, that an infinite cannot leave a finite standing over against it. They were willing to trust the testimony of sese, and to admit that logically mind and matter, God and the world, are separate and distinct; yet the Stoics contended that actually they must be one. They therefore made it their problem to show how God and the universe were distinct and yet one. Hence they came to teach that, "since the world contains parts endowed with self-consciousness, the world as a whole, which must be more perfect than any of its parts, cannot be unconscious: the consciousness which belongs to the universe is Deity. The latter permeates the world as an all-pervading breath, as artistically creative fire, as the soul and reason of the all, and contains the rational germs of all things" (λόγοι σπερματικοί ). Hence they conceive the human and even the divine spirit, not as immaterial intelligence (νοῦς ), but rather as a force embodied in the finest and highest material substances (comp. Ueberweg, 1:194, and the article (See STOICS) ). But by far the most decided and the most spiritual representatives of the pantheistic philosophy among the Greeks were the so-called Alexandrian Neo-Platonists (q.v.), in whom we see most clearly the influence of the East upon Greek thought. The doctrines of emanation, of ecstasy, expounded by Plotinus and Proclus, no less than the fantastic deamonism of Iamblichus, point to Persia and India as their birthplace, and in fact differ from the mystic teaching of the Vedanta only by being presented in a more logical and intelligible form, and divested of the peculiar mythological allusions in which the philosophy of the latter is sometimes dressed up.

4. Early Christian Pantheism in the East. In the Church of Christ also, in the various Gnostic sects, subject to the same influences as the Neo- Platonists, we can plainly trace the same tendency as in the Neo-Platonists. This is especially true of those Gnostics who were monarchical, believing in one principle, i.e. who made God the universal idea, which includes the world, as the genus includes the species. They were the pure Gnostic Pantheists; such were Apelles (A.D. 188), Valentinus (A.D. 140), Carpocrates (A.D. 120), and Epiphanes (A.D. 180). Those, however, who were dualistic, making two eternal principles, mind and matter, as did Saturninus (A.D. 111), Bardesanes (A.D. 152), and Basilides (A.D. 134), whose systems were borrowed from Zoroaster and issued in Manicheism .(q.v.), were scarcely pantheistic Gnostics. See Guericke, Handbuch der KirchenzGesch. 1:195 sq.

5. Pantheism in the Church of the West. As we have just seen, most of the Christian sects of the early Church known as Gnostics were pantheistic in tendency. They were the first Christian Pantheists probably. With their disappearance pantheism disappears for a time from the Church. The foundation of schools of learning by Charlemagne in the 9th century restored Neo-Platonic ideas to the Church, and with it pantheism. Speculation had up to this time been held in with tight reins by the Church. But now John Scotus, surnamed Erigena, appeared with a translation of the mystical writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. This work was followed by an original contribution from the pen of Scotus himself, entitled De Divisione Naturae, in which he teaches that God is the essence of all things, and that what men call creation is a necessary and eternal self- unfolding of the divine nature. He describes the Universal as a mighty river flowing from its source in an indefinite stream, quickening all things in its course, and carried back to the fountain-head by natural exhalation and condensation, to be again rolled forth as before (De Div. Nat. 3:103). The going forth of finite beings from the Deity Scotus called the process of unfolding (analysis, resolutio); the return of all things unto God, or the congregation of the infinite plurality of individuals in the genera, and finally in the simplest unity of all, which is God, so that then God should be "all in all," he termed their deification (reversio, deificatio). As Scotus stands midway between the more ancient and modern Pantheists the corner- stone of the old system constituting the foundation of the new he is usually spoken of as the link between the two systems. In the 11th century William of Champeaux, the immediate precursor of the scholastic system, broached a theory which, if it were not pantheistic, led straight to pantheism. His notion of universals, borrowed from Plotinus, taught that all individuality is one in its substance, and varies only in its non-essential accidents and transient properties. In the following century his theory was followed out into a thorough-going pantheism by Amalric of Bone (a disciple of Abelard), and his pupil David of Dinant. They declared that God is not the efficient cause merely, but the material, essential cause of all things. All positive religion, both doctrine and worship, is with them a synzbol; true religion a tranquil, intuitive absorption into the divine, all comprehending essence. They were condemned as heretics by a Church council held at Paris (q.v.) in A.D. 1210. Later versions of the Arab philosopher Averroes (q.v.), and Orientalized paraphrases of Aristotle, tended to give a still more decided pantheistic tinge to scholasticism (q.v.). Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus, and Raymond Lully were the principal delinquents (comp. Encyclop. Metrop. 11:809). As has been aptly said, "The fermentation of philosophic thought had brought the scum of pantheism once more to the surface."

In the 14th century the practical extravagance of the schoolmen's pantheism was repeated by the Mystics, not, however, in a materialistic, but in an idealistic form. They held creatures to be in and of themselves a pure nullity, and God alone to be the true being, the real substance of all things. All things are comprised in him, and even the meanest creature is a partaker of the divine nature and life. Such was the doctrine of the Beghards (q.v.), the Brethren of the Free Spirit (q.v.), and the later Cathari (q.v.). These Pantheists of the Middle Ages held different shades of opinion, which it is difficult accurately to distinguish. Some claimed for themselves a perfect identity with the Absolute, which reposes in itself, and is without act or operation. Another class placed themselves simply and directly on an equality with God, alleging that, being by nature God, they had come into existence by their own free will. A third class put themselves on a level with Christ, according to his divine and human nature. A fourth class finally carried their pantheistic notions to such an extravagant length as to land themselves in pure nihilism (q.v.), maintaining that neither God nor themselves have any existence.

Among the pantheistical Mystics of the 14th century Eckart occupied a very high place, having wrought his doctrines into a regular speculative system. "This system," says Dr. Ullmann, "resembles the dome of the city in which he lived, towering aloft like a giant, or rather like a Titan assaulting heaven, and is for us of the highest importance." Not unacquainted with the Aristotelian scholasticism, but more attracted by Plato, the great priest, as he calls him, and his Alexandrian followers, imbued with the mystical element in the works of Augustine, though not with his doctrine of original sin, and setting out from the foundations laid by the Areopagite, Scotus Erigena, and by the earlier Mystics of the Middle Ages, but adhering still more closely to the pantheistic doctrines which Amalric of Bone and David of Dinant had transferred to the sect of the Free Spirit and to a part of the Beghards, Master Eckart, with great originality, constructed out of these elements a system in which he did not expressly design to contradict the creed of the Church, but which nevertheless, by using its formulas as mere allegories and symbols of speculative ideas, combats it in its foundations, and is to be regarded as the most important mediaeval prelude to the pantheistic speculation of modern times." The fundamental notion of Eckart's system, which approached gross pantheism nearer than that of any other Mystic, is God's eternal efflux from himself, and his eternal reflux into himself the procession of the creature from God, and the return of the creature back into God again by self-denial and elevation above all that is of a created nature. Accordingly Eckart urges man to realize habitually his oneness with the Infinite. From this time the doctrine of a mystical union with God continued to occupy a prominent place in the writings of those German divines who were the forerunners of the Reformation. The language was pantheistic, but the tenet designed to be inculcated was accurate and spiritual. "This mysticism," says Mr. Vaughan, "clothes its thought with fragments from the old philosopher's cloak, but the heart and body belong to the school of Christ."

6. Modern Pantheism. Spinoza has usually been regarded as the father of modern pantheism, but in the writings of Giordano Bruno (q.v.), who wrote in the course of the latter half of the 16th century, a system as decidedly pantheistic as that of Spinoza is fully developed. It is a mixed system, partly Pythagorean, partly hylozoic, and partly borrowed from the writings of Proclus. He and his productions were burned, and his writings are consequently scarce, but Hallam (Introd. to the Lit. of Europe, 2:146- 154) has supplied the English reader with copious extracts. Bruno boldly lays down the principle that all things are absolutely identical, and that the infinite and the finite, spirit and matter, are nothing more than different modifications of the one universal Being. The world, according to this system, is simply the unity manifesting itself under the conditions of number. Taken in itself, the unity is God; considered as producing itself in number, it is the world. Birth is expansion from the one center of life;. life is its continuance; and death is the necessary return of the ray to the center of light. The doctrine, somewhat modified, has in more recent times been taught in Italy by Vincenzo Gioberti (q.v.), but he can hardly be classed with Pantheists. He adhered to the Church as a communicant, and, with conditions, accepted the doctrines of Christianity. (See the sketch of Italian philosophy by Dr. Botta in Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy, 2:499 sq.)

It was reserved for the Jew Baruch Spinoza to first exhibit the dogmas of pantheism in the regular form of a demonstration. He stands today the representative of the pantheism of modern times. His system is alone worthy of the name of a philosophy. Yet its fallacy is not indiscernible, and proves most clearly that man must depend on revelation rather than on his own consciousness for a knowledge of the Infinite, and a hope in a life beyond the grace. An Old-Testament disciple simply, Spinoza ignored the teachings of Christ and his apostles, and accepted merely the belief in God. Spinoza was not a disbeliever in God as Bayle erroneously claims, but rather a disbeliever in the world. He was an Acosmist, to use Jacobi's expression, rather than an atheist. Spinoza's system, suggested primarily by the Cabala (q.v.) of Judaism, will be set forth in detail in the article SPINOZAISM (See SPINOZAISM).

It is sufficient for us to say here that, aside from a study of the speculations of his own people, Spinoza was a careful student of Cartesianism, which derives existence from thought. Spinoza more fully developed this principle in his own system. He identified them, and referred both to the one Infinite Substance of which everything besides is simply a mode or manifestation. His natura naturans expresses the extended Deity. "Life is the divine expansion; thought is an attribute of the Deity, rather it is the Deity itself as sentient substance, though perfectly passive and impersonal." This deity of Spinoza, then, is not a conscious and intelligent individual, but whatever of mental faculties it possesses can only be the aggregate of the mental powers and actions of the innumerable beings (if we may so call them) that possess intelligence. The extension (=the material universe) is eternal and self-existent. The personal identity of men and other supposed beings is an illusion. All religions are but salutary inventions to keep men in civil order and society, and to promote a virtuous and moral life. To speak of the intelligence or the will of the Deity is to speak of him as a man; it is as absurd as to ascribe to the Deify bodily motion. There is nothing whatever in common between the Divine Mind and human intelligence. "Cogitatio Deo concedenda, non intellectus." There is no such thing as freedom of thought or will; everything is one extended chain of consequences, and thought begets thought by a necessity that is under no other control than the fatal law of its own being. Evil is inconceivable where all is equally divine and necessary, and where liberty is null. All is good where all is order; it is our own ignorance of ultimate results, and of the necessary relation of things, that makes us think things evil which are not substantially so. Of a future state Spinoza speaks mistily. He is unable to imagine the soul separate from the body. Immortality consists in a return to God, to the annihilation of all personal and individual existence; it is the idea of Averroes (q.v.) again revived.

Spinoza, like Scotus, was never the representative man of a school; yet to this philosophy, propounded in the 17th century, can be most reasonably referred that pantheistic spirit which has pervaded the philosophy as well as the theology of Germany since the beginning of our present aera. Schelling (q.v.) and Hegel (q.v.), in fact, have proved themselves most faithful disciples of Spinoza, carrying out to their legitimate extent the principles of this rigid logical Pantheist. Fichte (q.v.), by his subjective idealism, had banished from the realms of existence both nature and God, reducing everything to the all-engrossing Ego. Schelling reproduced what Fichte had annihilated, but only to identify them with one another, thus declaring the universe and God to be identical, nature being, in his view, the self- development of Deity. The philosophy of Hegel was equally pantheistic with that of Schelling, inasmuch as he declared everything to be a gradual evolving process of thought, and God himself to be the whole process.

Thus "the fundamental principle of philosophical (i.e. modern) pantheism," to use the language of Dr. Buchanan (Faith in God and modern Atheism compared), "is either the unity of substance, as taught by Spinoza, or the identity of existence and thought, as taught, with some important variations, by Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. The Absolute is conceived of, not as a living Being to whom a proper personality and certain intelligible attributes may be ascribed, but as a vague, indeterminate somewhat, which has no distinctive character, and of which, in the first instance, or prior to its development, almost nothing can be either affirmed or denied. But this absolute existence, by some unknown inherent necessity, develops, determines, and limits itself: it becomes being, and constitutes all being: the infinite passes into the finite, the absolute into the relative, the necessary into the contingent the one into the many; all other existences are only so many modes or forms of its manifestation. Here is a theory which, to say the very least, is neither more intelligible nor less mysterious than any article of the Christian faith. And what are the proofs to which it appeals, what the principles on which it rests? Its two fundamental positions are these that finite things have no distinct existence as realities in nature, and that there exists only one Absolute Being, manifesting itself in a variety of forms. And how are they demonstrated? Simply by the affirmation of universal Identity.' But what if this affirmation be denied?

What if, founding our reply on the clearest data of consciousness, we refuse to acknowledge that existence is identical with thought? What if we continue to believe that there are objects of thought which are distinct from thought itself, and which must be presented to the mind before they. can be represented by the mind? What if, while we recognize the ideas both of the finite and the infinite, the relative and the absolute, the contingent and the necessary, we cannot, by the utmost effort of our reason, obliterate the difference between them, so as to reduce them to one absolute essence? Then the whole superstructure of pantheism falls along with the idealism on which it depends; and it is found to be, not a solid and enduring system of truth, but a frail edifice, ingeniously contrived out of the mere abstractions of the human mind."

Pantheism is by, no means confined to the philosophic schools of Germany. It has been taught, also, from her pulpits and her theological chairs (comp. Bretschneider, Dogmatik, 1:13; Ebrard, Kirchen- u. DogmenGesch. 4:267 sq.; Schwarz, Gesch. der neuesten Theologie [3d ed. Leips. 1804, 8vo], bk. i and ii; Dorner, Gesch. der Protest. Theologie; Baur [Tubingen school, and therefore in defense of pantheism in Christian theology], DogmenGesch. 3:320 sq.). Extreme Rationalists have not hesitated to pronounce Schleiermacher a Pantheist in the tendency of his doctrines, Hunt, in his Essay on Pantheism, has accepted this decision. There seems, however, to be no ground for such an assertion. Schleiermacher admired Spinoza, and even lauded that great thinker. In one of his famous Discourses on Religion, Schleiermacher exclaims with enthusiastic adoration "Offer up reverently with me a lock of hair to the manes of the holy repudiated Spinoza. The high World Spirit penetrated him; the Infinite was his beginning and his end; the universe his only and eternal love," etc. This is but a tribute which one thinker believed due to another. Schleiermacher coveted inquiry, a fair and full investigation of all things, feeling confidence from his own experience that Christianity could endure the test. He did not ignore the great services of the philosophers, and recognized in Spinoza what services he had rendered the world. But it is absurd to accuse Schleiermacher of pantheism, because in his religious discourses he now and then used expressions to his refined hearers thoroughly impregnated with the speculations of their day which can be twisted into a shape where pantheistic notions can be discerned. It is about as reasonable as to deduce them from the expressions in Scripture to which we. had occasion to refer in the early portion of this article. Jacobi (q.v.) had spent his life's strength in breaking down the old Rationalists, who placed religion in reason, and had pleaded that religion is devout feeling, or an immediate self-consciousness. Schleiermacher closely followed this teacher, and out of Jacobi's system drew his entire theology. (See SCHLEIERMACHER).

It is at the Tubingen University principally that pantheism has obtained its favorable exponents and heartiest advocates. The boldest and most reckless of pantheistic divines is undoubtedly Dr. David Friedrich Strauss (q.v.), who represents the left wing of the Hegelian system, as applied to theology. A personal God and a historical Christianity are alike rejected, and the entire doctrines of the Bible are treated as a congeries of mnythological ideas. The worship of human genius is recommended as the only real divinity. With Hegel, Strauss believes God to have no separate individual existence ("Ohne Welt is Gott nicht Gott"), but to be a process of thought gradually unfolding itself in the. mind of the philosopher. Christ also he regards as simply the embodied conceptions of the Church. The thought of the personality of Christ is "a purposeless residuum." Humanity is the anointed of the Lord. The incarnation means, not the union of two natures in one personal subsistence, but union through the spirit of the absolute and the finite; the Deity thinking and acting in universal humanity. The resurrection and ascension the corner-stones of the Christian building are a mere representation of human progress by a double negation; the negative of all that is worth the name of life, followed by a resolution of that negative condition through quickened union with the Absolute. Thus there is no room for faith or trust, no sense of individual support, no hope of answered prayer, in this soulless and hopeless system. The "sting of ignorance" is ignorance of Straussian and Hegelian ideas; its removal is the only "resurrection to life." Such extreme infidelity as this is scarcely exceeded by that of Feuerbach, who pronounces religion a dream of the human fancy. It is the extreme point to which pantheism has been carried in Germany, and at this point it becomes nearly, if not completely, identical with atheism.

There arose, also, after the French Revolution of 1830, a school of light literature which went by the name of Young Germany, and which, combining German pantheism with French wit and frivolity, had as its avowed object, by means of poems, novels, and critical essays, to destroy the Christian religion. This school, headed by Heine, Borne, and others, substituted for the Bible doctrine that man was created in the image of God, the blasphemous notion that God is no more than the image of man. The literary productions, however, of this class of infidel wits were more suited to the atmosphere of Paris than that of Berlin, and accordingly some of the ablest writers of the school left Germany for France, and Young Germany, having lost its, prestige, was speedily forgotten. In more recent literature the pantheistic notions abound again, but not in such an objectionable shape. One of the ablest modern advocates of Spinozaism is the well-known German novelist, Berthold Auerbach, like his master in philosophy, of the Jewish profession, and, like him, a man of the highest moral life. While it must be conceded that Auerbach has purified and ennobled the infidel notions of the German masses, he yet has failed to quicken them spiritually, and there is only, as heretofore, a religion enthroned in the reason. (See RATIONALISM).

The pantheistic system is too abstract and speculative in its character to find acceptance with the French mind generally. Near the beginning of the last century, however, Denis Diderot (1713-84), one of the Encyclopaedists (q.v.), passed from theism and faith in revelation to pantheism, which recognizes God in natural law, and in truth, beauty, and goodness. By the conception of sensation as immanent in all matter, he at once reached and outran the final consequence of materialism. In the place of the monads of Leibnitz, Diderot put atoms, in which sensations were bound up. The sensations became conscious in the animal organism. Out of sensations grows thought. He sought to construct a system. that should supersede the Christian, but in the attempt he was led away into utter darkness, and became the most heartless of atheists. (See DIDEROT).

The prevailing philosophy of France. in our day, is deeply imbued with pantheism. It is to be attributed to Victor Cousin (1792-1867), the founder of the modern eclectic school of France. He declares God to be "absolute cause, one and many, eternity and time, essence and life, end and middle, at the summit of existence and at its base, infinite and finite together; in a word, a trinity, being at the same time God and Humanity." In what words could pantheism be more plainly set forth than in those just quoted? Yet Cousin anxiously repels the charge of pantheism, simply because he does not hold with Spinoza and the Eleatics that God is a pure substance, and not a cause. Pantheism, however, as we have seen, assumes a variety of phases, and though Cousin may not, with Spinoza, identify God with the abstract idea of substance, he teaches the same doctrine in another form when he declares the finite to be comprehended in the infinite, and the universe to be comprehended in God. (See Morell, Hist. of Philosophy, 2:478 sq.; Farrar, Critical History of Free Thought, p. 297 sq.; Princeton Review, April, 1856, art. viii.) .

The system of philosophico-theology, which maintains God to be everything, and everything to be God, has extensively spread its baleful influence among the masses of the people in various Continental nations. It pervades alike the communism of Germany and the socialism of France. Feuerbach, in the one country, holds that God is to be found in man, and the Saint Simonian, Pierre Leroux, in the other, that humanity is the mere incarnation of Divinity. In England and America also the same gross pantheism, decked out with all the charms of poetry and eloquence, is taught in our day. Man-worship is, indeed, the pervading element of the philosophy taught by the Emerson school, or Intuitionists, and is advocated and believed by a considerable number of speculative thinkers in England and America. "Standing on the bare ground," says the apostle of this latest form of pantheism, "my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me. I am part or particle of God." "The world proceeds from the same Spirit as the body of man. It is a remoter and inferior incarnation of God-a projection of God in the unconscious." "Intellectual science has been observed to beget invariably a doubt of the existence of matter." "The soul is... wider than space, older than time, wide as hope, rich as love." Mr. Emerson regards Jesus as belonging to a true race of prophets, because he said, "I am divine;" but his Christ is plainly not an exceptional person, only one of a class. The language of the Bible he uses in a most extraordinary way, and all who insist on finding monotheism in the Scriptures, and not pantheism, as he does, he calls "dogmatical bigots." The God of the Bible is a father with a father's pity for his children, but the God of the Pantheist is eternal fate which devours all things. "Believe in the God within you," says Mr. Emerson. On principle Mr. Emerson is no philanthropist, but a disapprover of acts of charity. He counts a man no more sacred than a mouse, and confounds the good with the bad (see Prof. Prentice's articles in Meth. Quar. Rev. July, 1874; April, 1875). Mr. Carlyle shares these opinions. The Pantheists themselves claim Frederick Robertson as theirs; but there is no more ground forth this than for their claim on Schleiermacher. Indeed, Robertson's view of the relation of God to the world is as near to Schleiermacher's as it well can be. (See ROBERTSON).

Theodore Parker is also claimed by the Pantheists, but we think with as little propriety as Robertson. True, Parker was not as devout a man and as ardent a believer. in Christianity, but he was a believer in Providence and the immortality of the soul. His chief work A Discourse on Religion, and his after declarations present him to us as a Deist, and not a Pantheist. He was influenced by Schleiermacher, but got farther away from the Church and Christianity, and may be said to have held the position now assumed by Renan, the author of the Lift of Christianity. Both accept the essence of Christianity as essential to the needs of humanity, but refuse to acknowledge as lord and master the author thereof. (See PARKER).

Hunt, the author of an essay on pantheism, and a noted English divine of our day, is the modern apostle of Christian pantheism. He insists that Christianity and pantheism must be reconciled, otherwise it will be the worse for Christianity:

"Pantheism is on all hands acknowledged to be the theology of reason

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pantheism'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/pantheism.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
Prev Entry
Panteon
Next Entry
Pantheon