In panentheism, God is not exactly viewed as the creator or demiurge but the eternal animating force behind the universe, with the universe as nothing more than the manifest part of God. The cosmos exists within God, who in turn "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God. Panentheism holds that God is the "supreme affect and effect" of the universe.
Neoplatonism and Hermeticism are polytheistic and panentheistic. Plotinus taught that there was an ineffable transcendent "God" (The One) of which subsequent realities were emanations. From the One emanates the Divine Mind (Nous) and the Cosmic Soul (Psyche). In Neoplatonism the world itself is God. This concept of God is closely associated with the Logos as stated in the 5th century BC works of Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), in which the Logos pervades the cosmos and whereby all thoughts and things originate; e.g., "He who hears not me but the Logos will say: All is one."
Beginning in the 1940s, Hartshorne examined numerous conceptions of God. He reviewed and discarded pantheism, deism, and pandeism in favor of panentheism, finding that "panentheistic doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations." Hartshorne formulated God as necessarily being able to become "more perfect," contending that God had absolute perfection in categories for which absolute perfection was possible, and relative perfection (i.e., was superior to all others) in categories for which perfection can not be precisely determined.
The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches have a doctrine called panentheism to describe the relationship between the Uncreated (God, who is omnipotent, eternal, and constant) and His creation that bears surface similarities with the panentheism described above but maintains a critical distinction.
Most specifically, these Churches teach that God is not the "watchmaker God" of the Western European Enlightenment. Likewise, they teach that God is not the "stage magician God" who only shows up when performing miracles. Instead, the teaching of both these Churches is that God is not merely necessary to have created the universe, but that His active presence is necessary in some way for every bit of creation, from smallest to greatest, to continue to exist at all. That is, God's energies maintain all things and all beings, even if those beings have explicitly rejected Him. His love of creation is such that he will not withdraw His presence, which would be the ultimate form of slaughter, not merely imposing death but ending existence, altogether. By this token, the entirety of creation is sanctified, and thus no part of creation can be considered innately evil. This does not deny the existence of evil in a fallen universe, only that it is not an innate property of creation.
This Orthodox Christian panentheism is distinct from a fundamentalist panentheism in that it maintains an ontological gulf or distance between the created and the Uncreated.
Panentheistic God-models are exceptionally common amongst professional theologians (exegetes, Christian ethicists, and religious philosophers). Process theology, Creation Spirituality and Panentheist Circle, three Christian views, contain panentheistic worldviews. Their models of panentheism are distinct from that of the Orthodox Churches. A similar statement attributed to Jesus by the John 10:30 and interpreted by the New Thought movement as being synonymous: "The Father and I are one."
Some argue that panentheism should also include the notion that God has always been related to some world or another, which denies the idea of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Thomas Jay Oord advocates panentheism, but he uses the word "theocosmocentrism" to highlight the notion that God and some world or another are the primary conceptual starting blocks for eminently fruitful theology. This form of panentheism helps in overcoming the problem of evil and in proposing that God's love for the world is essential to who God is.
Panentheism was a major force in the Unitarian church for a long time, based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's concept of the Oversoul. This survives today as the panentheistic religion, Oversoul. Charles Hartshorne, who conjoined process theology with panentheism, maintained a lifelong membership in the Methodist church but was also a Unitarian. In later years he joined the Austin, TX Unitarian Universalist congregation and was an active participatent in that church.
Many Christians who believe in Universalism hold Panentheistic views of God in conjunction with their belief in apocatastasis, also called universal reconciliation. Christian Universalists often point to Bible verses such as Ephesians 4:6 ("[God] is over all and through all and in all") and Romans 11:36 ("from [God] and through him and to him are all things") to justify both Panentheism and Universalism.
Panentheism is often viewed as component of Hasidic Judaism and Kabbalah. Aspects of Panentheism are also evident in the theology of Reconstructionist Judaism as presented in the writings of Mordecai Kaplan.
Several Sufi saints and thinkers, primarily Ibn Arabi, held beliefs that were somewhat panentheistic. These notions later took shape in the theory of wahdat ul-wujud (the Unity of All Things). Twelver Shi'ism has a panentheistic trend, represented by scholars such as Sayyid Haydar Amuli, Mulla Sadra, and Ayatollah Khomeini (all of whom were influenced by Ibn Arabi). Some Sufi Orders, notably the Bektashis, continue to espouse panentheistic beliefs. Likewise, the Universal Sufi movement, which is inspired by Islam but is a form of Sufism separate from Islam. Nizari Ismaili follow panentheism according to Ismaili doctrine.
Brahman is the transcendent and immanent Ultimate Reality of Hinduism. Many schools of Hinduism are panentheistic and the first and most ancient ideas of panentheism originate in the Vedas, Upanishads, as well as the Bhagavad Gita. The Purusha Sukta and Hiranyagarbha Sukta of Rig Veda and verses from the Bhagavad Gita and Shri Rudram support this viewpoint. Panenthestic views are stated explicitly in several stotras.
Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: "I pervade and support the entire universe by a very small fraction of My divine power". (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, verse 42)
The Vedasara Shivastotram says, "It is you from whom this universe of forms emerges, and it is you within whom it stays. It is you in whom it finally disappears".
The panentheistic view of Hinduism has been termed by some scholars as monistic theism. For example, in Vaishnavism, it is interesting to note that the schools were all panentheistic. Vallabha's school of pure monism Shuddhadvaita, Nimbarka's school of differential monism Dvaitadvaita, and Ramanuja's school of qualified monism Vishistadvaita are all panentheistic. Additionally, Gaudiya Vaishnavism is also panentheistic, which was presented by Lord Caitanya as the doctrine of Acintya Bheda Abheda (Acintya=inconceivable Bheda=difference Abheda=oneness). In Saivite theology, some schools of Saiva Siddhanta and Kashmir Shaivism are also panentheistic.
Panentheism is the view that the universe is part of the being of God, as distinguished from pantheism ("all-is-God doctrine"), which identifies God with the total reality. In contrast, panentheism holds that God pervades the world, but is also beyond it. He is immanent and transcendent, relative and Absolute. This embracing of opposites is called dipolar. For the panentheist, God is in all, and all is in God. --Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
Gnosticism is Panentheistic, believing that the true God is separate from the physical universe however, there are aspects of the true God in the physical universe as well. Thus, "All-In-God" as stated in one of the Sayings of Gospel of Thomas: "Lift Up A Stone And You Will Find Me There..." This seemingly contridictory interpretion of Gnosticism's theology is not without controversy. Since a good God would not manifest or work through the evil or fallen material world of the demiurge.
Valentinian Gnosticism claims that matter came about through emanations of the supreme being, and to some this event is held to be more of an accident than of being on purpose. To other Gnostics, the emanations are akin to the Sephiroth of the Kabbalists - description of the manifestation of God through a complex system of reality.
Panentheism is an integral concept in many "New Age" philosophies; it is supported most specifically by the Seth readings given by the psychic Jane Roberts (1929-1984). Seth, the "entity" whom Roberts purportedly channeled, said that God is composed of mental energy, that God's mental energy is the formative substance of all beings and things, and that God's consciousness is carried on this energy, thus making God's consciousness omnipresent. Seth frequently referred to God as "All That Is" and said "All faces belong to God." Seth described God as a gestalt of all the individuals within it; he said that God knows itself as itself, yet also knows itself as each individual. See Cosmotheism.