pantheism

pantheism (pănˈthēĭzəm) [key] [Gr. pan = all, theos = God], name used to denote any system of belief or speculation that includes the teaching "God is all, and all is God." Pantheism, in other words, identifies the universe with God or God with the universe. The term is thought to have been employed first by John Toland in the 18th cent., but pantheistic views are of very great antiquity. While all pantheism is monistic, it is expressed in different ways according to what is meant by the one whole that gathers up in itself all that exists, or what is meant by God. If the pantheist starts with the belief that the one great reality, eternal and infinite, is God, he sees everything finite and temporal as but some part of God. There is nothing separate or distinct from God, for God is the universe. If, on the other hand, the conception taken as the foundation of the system is that the great inclusive unity is the world itself, or the universe, God is swallowed up in that unity, which may be designated nature. Some forms of pantheism have had their beginnings in religion; others have been based upon a philosophic, scientific, or poetic point of view. Noteworthy among the religious forms is Hinduism, in which the only reality, the supreme unity, is Brahman. This conception is closely connected with the idea of emanation. Pantheism had a place in the speculations of some Greek philosophers. Xenophanes taught that the one God could know no motion or change. The conception of Parmenides left no room for development or ethical meaning. Stoicism gave a more definite expression to pantheistic doctrine, emphasizing the identity of God and the world. There is pantheism in the teachings of the Neoplatonists and of such Christian philosophers as Erigena and such mystics as Eckhart and Boehme. The writings of Giordano Bruno of the 16th cent. carried such weight as to influence the development of modern thought, especially through Spinoza, in whose monistic system pantheism receives its most complete and precise expression. In it God is the unlimited, all-inclusive substance, the first cause of the universe, with innumerable attributes, two of which, thinking and extension, are capable of being perceived. Pantheism of a kind can be traced in the idealistic philosophy of Fichte and Schelling, Hegel and Schleiermacher. Together with mysticism, it fills a large place in literature, particularly in the poetry of nature.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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