stressed that inner freedom is to be attained through
submission to providence, and rigorous detachment
from everything not in our power.
philosophy got its name from the Stoa Poikile, a
hall in Athens where it was first formulated around
300 BC by Zeno of Citium. All of Zeno's writings
are lost. The philosophy was developed by Cleanthes
(331-232) and Chrysippus (280-207), who organized
it into a system. Marcus Aurelius based his views
in part on the later version, which was developed
by the freed slave Epictetus (55-135). The Stoics
were the first thoroughgoing pantheists: God is
the universe, the universe is God. The wise and
virtuous learns one's place in the scheme. According
to Stoic Ethics, the goal of human existence is
to live consistently with Nature, which means "consistently
holds that the cosmos, taken or conceived of as
a whole, is synonymous with the theological principle
of God. The Cosmos is divine, and the earth sacred.
do not propose belief in a deity; rather, they hold
nature itself as a creative presence. Pantheism
reconciles science and religion through ecology
leading to strong environmental awareness.
believe in Divine Immanence. To the Pantheist, divinity
does not transcend reality; it surrounds, and is
within it. All share divinity. This leads the pantheist
to personal ethics of tolerance and understanding.
"atheism" the term "pantheism" was used in the eighteenth
century as a term of "theological abuse," and it
often still is abused (Tapper 1987). A.H. Armstrong
says the term "pantheism" is a "large, vague term
of theological abuse," (Armstrong 1976: 187). With
some exceptions, pantheism is non-theistic, but
it is not atheistic. It is a form of non-theistic
monotheism, or even non-personal theism. It is the
belief in one God, a God identical to the all-inclusive
unity, but pantheists generally do not believe God
is a person or anything like a person. The fact
that pantheism clearly is not atheistic, and is
an explicit denial of atheism, is disputed by its
critics. The primary reason for equating pantheism
with atheism is the assumption that belief in any
kind of "God" must be belief in a personal God,
because God must be a person.
his non-pantheistic phase, Coleridge claimed that
"every thing God, and no God, are identical positions"
(McFarland 1969: 228). Owen (1971:69-70) says, "if
'God' (theos) is identical with the Universe (to
pan) it is merely another name for the Universe.
It is therefore bereft of any distinctive meaning;
so that pantheism is equivalent to atheism." Similarly,
Schopenhauer (1951: 40) said that "to call the world
'God' is not to explain it; it is only to enrich
our language with a superfluous synonym for the
word 'world'." The charge that pantheism is atheistic
is as old as pantheism itself. Christopher Rowe
(1980: 54-5) says, "When Cicero's Velleius describes
Speusippus' pantheism as an attempt to 'root out
the notion of gods from our minds', he is echoing
a charge that was commonly made against the pantheism
of the earlier Greek natural philosophers ... like
Anaximander or Heraclitus. These tended to be identified
as atheists in the popular mind; and indeed Plato
himself implies a similar view ... the opponents
who classify them as atheists are in reality attacking
them for undermining traditional beliefs about the
gods-or, to borrow a phrase from the indictment
against Socrates, 'for not believing in the gods
the city believes in'.
most, what Schopenhauer, Coleridge, Owen etc. can
show, and all that they probably intend, is that
the pantheistic Unity can be explained in terms
that would either eliminate the notion of deity
from pantheism altogether, or that it is incoherent.
They want to show that believing in a pantheistic
God is a convoluted and confused way of believing
in something that can adequately be described apart
from any notion of deity-and in this they are mistaken.
and prayer are not suitable to pantheism. It has
often been claimed by theists and atheists that
pantheistic worship (e.g. worshipping the Unity)
is idolatrous. It is worshipping a false god. Unlike
the theist or atheist, however, the pantheist believes
a divine Unity exists--a kind of god. So pantheists,
if they do worship the Unity, reject the idea that
they are worshipping a false god. What is wrong
with pantheistic worship is not that it is idolatrous,
but something more basic having to do with both
the nature of worship and Unity. Even if the Unity
exists, worshipping it would not be proper pantheistic
worship might naively be thought to be a kind of
self-worship; worshipping something of which one
is a part or identified with. This too is a mistake.
As we have seen, pantheism is not the view that
"everything that exists," including oneself, is
god; and it is not the view that every particular
thing or person is equally god. If worship is not
acceptable religious practice for pantheists, it
is for reasons other than that such practice involves
adoring and venerating (i.e. worshipping) oneself.
Worship and prayer are not consonant with pantheism.
Like "evil" and "salvation," they are connected
to the theistic world-view that pantheists reject.
Therefore, except in a highly derivative sense (i.e.,
derivative from theism) worship and prayer are types
of practice that are not acceptable to pantheists.
Devotion to the universe, artistic expression, nature
observation, etc., are not types of worship as theistically
understood--though they may be ways of respecting,
honouring, and revering.
makes worship and prayer inappropriate for the pantheist
is not the lack of ontological separation from the
Unity that theism claims God has from the world.
If there is a sense in which pantheists are ontologically,
or in other ways, distinct from the divine Unity,
worship and prayer are still inappropriate. If a
necessary condition of worship is that it has to
be in some significant sense "other regarding,"
then worship would not on that account be inappropriate
to pantheism. What makes it unsuitable is that worship,
and especially prayer, are basically directed at
"persons" or at a being with personal characteristics
separate and superior to oneself. Whether one's
reasons for worship are petitionary or devotional
is irrelevant; and so is one's motivation--whether
a Freudian way of coping with guilt, or a rationally
based sense of duty.
of worship are not oneself, and perhaps not even
ontologically distinct from oneself as theism claims,
but they are generally taken to be conscious, personal
the nature and goal of worship, objects of worship
must have a personal character. It might be thought
uninteresting to show that the pantheistic Unity
should not, on conceptual grounds, be worshiped.
That may be right. The implications of this result,
however, are anything but insignificant. For the
pantheist, the practical consequences of worship
and prayer being unavailable as forms of religious
practice are enormous.
the theistic view, worship and prayer are practically
synonymous with religious practice. And, even in
theoretically non-theistic religious traditions
such as Buddhism and Taoism, worship and prayer
are frequent if not prevalent. Yet, the pantheist
is faced with the problem of finding a way to practice
pantheism that is consistent with the finding that
worship and prayer make sense only in a theistic
context. As a result, one of the defining and most
noticeable characteristics of pantheism will be
the type of practice it takes up. The practices
involved, whatever they are, will be different not
only from those in theistic traditions, but also
from those in non-theistic ones in which theistic
practice is so much a part.
© Marc V. Mulay All Rights Reserved
V. Mulay is a father, husband, jazz/rock/fusion/funk
'n blues guitarist, composer, poet, writer, former
salesman, stockbroker, flyer,...and yes, practitioner