Pantheism

TREE-INCARNATION-ssp

“Tree Incarnation” by Mark Henson

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips.
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it.
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down.
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now.

— Peter Mayer, “Holy Now” (song)

Pantheism means “All is God” (pan-theos). Pantheism is the belief that the divine is not remote or separate from nature, but present within nature. According to David Waldron, pantheism, the percep­tion of divinity as manifest in the physical world, is the quintessential component of Neo-Pagan identity. For many Pagans, “Goddess” is the name given to this immanent divinity.

For Starhawk, the related concept of immanence …

“names our primary understanding that the Earth is alive, part of a living cosmos. What that means is that spirit, sacred, Goddess, God—whatever you want to call it—is not found outside the world somewhere—it’s in the world: it is the world, and it is us. Our goal is not to get off the wheel of birth nor to be saved from some­thing. Our deepest experiences are experiences of connec­tion with the Earth and with the world.”

Starhawk explains how belief is an unnecessary condition for experiencing the pantheistic Goddess:

“People often ask me if I believe in the Goddess. I reply ‘Do you believe in rocks?’ It is extremely difficult for most Westerners to grasp the concept of a manifest deity. The phrase ‘believe in’ itself implies that we cannot know the Goddess, that She is somehow intangible, incom­prehensible. But we do not believe in rocks. We may see them, touch them, dig them out of our gardens, or stop small children from throwing them at each other. We know them; we connect with them. In the Craft [Neo-Pagan Witchcraft], we do not believe in the God­dess—we connect with Her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all. She is the full circle: earth, air, fire, water, and essence—body, mind, spirit, emotions, change.”

Pantheism may be understood in contrast to transcenden­tal theism that posits a God who is not a part of the world or crea­tion, a God who is radically “other” or transcendent. Most forms of Christian monotheism are examples of transcenden­tal theism. The logical outcome of transcendental theism is either a fundamental dualism, in which God and the world are radi­cally separate and humankind is alienated from God, or a mon­ism that conceives of the world as unreal or illusory. Most forms of Christianity fall into the former category, while some forms of Buddhism and Hinduism are examples of the latter. In contrast, Neo-Pagans view the world as neither fallen nor illusory.

Updated 2019

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