Definitions

Panentheism

Panentheism

Panentheism (from Greek πᾶν (pân) "all"; ἐν (en) "in"; and θεός (Theós) "God"; "all-in-God") is a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well. Panentheism is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe.

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.

Ancient panentheism

North American Indians were and still are largely panentheistic, conceiving of God as both immanent in Creation and transcendent from it. (Indian writers have also translated the word for God as the Great Mystery or as the Sacred Other) An exception is the Cherokee who were monotheistic. Most South American peoples were largely panentheistic as well (as were ancient South East Asian and African cultures). The Central American empires of the Mayas, Aztecs as well as the South American Incans (Tahuatinsuyu) were actually polytheistic and had very strong male deities.

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. 535475 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."

Development of a formal philosophy

The German philosopher Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781–1832) seeking to reconcile monotheism and pantheism, coined the term panentheism ("all in God") in 1828. This conception of God influenced New England transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. The term was popularized by Charles Hartshorne in his development of process theology and has also been adopted by proponents of various New Thought beliefs. However despite formalization of this term in the west as late as the 18th century, the formal analysis of panentheism is not new; for example, philosophical treatises have been written on it in the context of Hinduism for millennia.

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.

Panentheism and Religion

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity

In Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity, creation is not "part of" God, and the Godhead is still distinct from creation; however, God is "within" all creation, thus the parsing of the word in Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity is "pan-entheism" (God indwells in all things) and not "panen-theism" (All things are part of God but God is more than the sum of all things).

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.

Other Christian panentheists

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 in Judaism

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.

Panentheism in Islam

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.

Panentheism in the Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, God is described as a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. The connection between God and the world is that of the creator to his creation. God is understood to be independent of his creation, and that creation is dependant and contingent on God. God, however, is not seen to be part of creation as he cannot be divided and does not descend to the condition of his creatures. Instead, in the Bahá'í understanding, the world of creation emanate from God, in that all things have been realized by him and have attained to existence. Creation is seen as the expression of God's will in the contingent world, and every created thing is seen as a sign of God's sovereignty, and leading to knowledge of him; the signs of God are most particularly revealed in human beings.

Panentheism in Hinduism

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, Manichaeism, and Kabbalism

Some branches of Gnosticism believe in a panenthiestic view and hold the belief that God exists only as sparks of light in the visible material world. We need to know the sparks within ourselves to get back to God who is in the Fullness or Pleroma. This rigid dualism is seen most clearly in the teachings of Manichaeism.

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.

New Thought Movement

Unity, Religious Science, and Divine Science are denominations that represent a panentheistic worldview within the New Thought belief system.

New Age

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.

See also

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