Lessons In Apologetics #6: Pantheism
By: Frederick Meekins
If Deism is the belief that God is so transcendent from the cosmos He created that He no longer participates directly in it, Pantheism must be the worldview at the other end of the continuum believing that a higher power exists as Pantheism holds that God is so immanent with the universe that God and the universe are one. As a worldview, Pantheism has plagued the religious thought of both the East and West from ancient times on up through our contemporary day.
Though there are various forms of Pantheism, most share a set of common characteristics. Pantheists will agree that ultimately there is but one substance.
Parmenides hypothesized that there is either being or nonbeing and in order to exist there must be being. And if everything possesses this quality, everything is of the same substance as to differ by nothing would be not to exist at all.
Though everything is ultimately one under Pantheism, what we perceive as multiplicity or distinction are either manifestations or emanations of the absolute unity.
In the “Enneads”, the Greek mystic Plotinus said that from this impersonal unity flowed the various levels of reality starting with unity, then inward into mind, then the world soul, then multiple souls, then to the lowest level of matter. It is man, Geisler writes in “Christian Apologetics” of this brand of Pantheism as “the microcosm who possesses mind, soul, and matter” that the journey back to unity and oneness begins (175).
Though slightly different, other forms of Pantheism share considerable similarity. For example, in Spinoza’s pantheism, God is a substance of infinite attributes and we exist as transient manifestations of the absolute that are eventually reabsorbed back into it. And in Hinduism, though that world religion is noted for its multiplicities of divinities, in its philosophically complex variants, the various gods all the way down to the material components of the physical world are the assorted levels of the comprehensive totality known as Brahman.
Though many Pantheists claim to embrace tolerance as they contend all religions are merely human efforts to understand the same all-encompassing God, one is really taking the serpent to oneâ€™s bosom when dealing with Pantheism. For example, in much of Pantheist thought, it is held that both good and evil flow from God much in the same way there is both a light and dark side of the Force in the Star Wars epic. Other Pantheists claim that God is beyond good and evil as understood by human beings.
Such positions could be used to not only to justify any number of atrocities but also to view them in a disturbingly detached manner or even positively in an around about fashion. For example, if good and evil are simply just human conceptions useful for ordering social relations, what is so inherently immoral about the Holocaust?
After all, were not the Jews the ones anyway that set the ball rolling on the theism that ended up promoting the conceptual dualism that now hinders the expansion of consciousness? Besides, by liberating them of their physical materiality, arenâ€™t we doing them a favor by reuniting them with universal oneness? Under Pantheism, the â€œisâ€ becomes the â€œoughtâ€ and that is why one sees cows strutting freely down the streets of India with the baby girls tossed out with the trash.