One contention often raised against Pantheism
-- and, lazily, by extension against Pandeism
, in some recent exchanges -- is that its doctrines amount to 'self-worship.' To claim our Creator to be one with our Universe and man to thusly be 'part of our Creator,' the attack goes, is identical to 'elevating man to godhood
' -- no matter how fractional and ignorant a fragment of our Creator we might be asserted to be. When leveled against Pandeism, this attack conflates one of the key errors of antipandeism
-- misunderstanding the import of the pantheistic element -- with a naked appeal to a fallacious emotional bias
. Often such attacks are framed in a way which reflects profound ignorance even of the attacker's own theological doctrines and of the essential physics underlying our Universe.
Firstly, it must be noted that for that most ancient of all religions -- Hinduism
-- this is simply not a problem which arises, for the Hindu religious texts are, as well, the oldest known literature to express Pandeistic ideas. In Hindu theology
is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality, the Divine Ground of all things in this Universe, and is at the same time the sum total of all that ever is, was, or ever shall be. Pandeism is discernible from some of the more ancient Vedas
to later Advaita
philosophy. The Great Sayings of the Upanishads universally indicate a unity of the world with the Brahman. In Chāndogya Upanishad for example it is written "All this Universe indeed is Brahman; from him does it proceed; into him it is dissolved; in him it breathes, so let every one adore him calmly"; and, further on:
This whole universe is Brahman, from Brahman to a clod of earth. Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause of the world. He is the potter by whom the vase is formed; He is the clay from which it is fabricated. Everything proceeds from Him, without waste or diminution of the source, as light radiates from sun. Everything merges into Him again, as bubbles bursting mingle with air-as rivers fall into the ocean. Everything proceeds from and returns to Him, as the web of the spider is emitted from and retracted into itself.
Pandeistic strains of thought are similarly discernible in the Rig-Veda
's hymns; and so, the proposition that Pandeism could amount to self-worship would never occur to a Hindu, that already being an ingrained idea of Hindu theology.
The radical immanence
attributed to the divine in Jewish
is claimed to have been the inspiration for the strain of Pantheism formulated by Baruch Spinoza
, though Spinoza's views are not accepted in Orthodox Judaism. Additionally, the Baal Shem Tov
, founder of Hasidism
, expressed a mystical sense of the divine which could be characterized as panentheistic
. Biblical Judaism, generally accredits the origin of the Universe to the Torah law
of nature, the original Torah being found not in the writings of Moshe, but within nature itself. And so, 'reading' the Torah of nature is equivalent to 'reading' the Torah of revelation and theoretically will agree with one another -- as claimed to be illustrated by the discovery of the Big Bang
, a time of origin of our Universe. Rabbinical Orthodoxy, viewing this as a discrepancy, sought to maintain the written Torah above the one given first in nature by asserting the written Torah to have preceded creation, it being from the written Torah that God 'spoke' creation.
Since Christianity traditionally grafts the Old Testament
as a prependation to the liturgy unique to it, it must be taken as carrying forward the pandeistic possibilities inhering in Judaism. But beyond that, it is somewhat surprising to note that a thought surprisingly similar to that expressed in Hinduism
is similarly imported into Christianity
, for it is written in Acts
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us; For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain of your own poets have said.
It must be noted as well that the Gospel of Thomas
(considered to be non-canonical
by most Christians), quotes from Jesus
, this: "I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there." And so, from whichever source, the Christian idea of God as a sustainer in whom all things move -- if the Bible is to be taken seriously -- is in fact nearly identical to the pandeistic attribution of that role to our Creator!! It is then understandable that many minority traditions within and around historical Christianity trace pantheistic beliefs to the New Testament
and related ecclesiastical traditions. This view diversely proceeds from the early Quaker
s, to later Unitarian
s, and to a degree into traditional Catholic and Liberal Protestant main-line denominations. Others would include in this reckoning Process theology
, Creation Spirituality
, the Brethren of the Free Spirit
and a presence among the gnostic
s. And so, this idea has had adherents within segments of Christianity
from the beginning, or close to it.
Some Christians even assign this significance to the doctrine of Trinity
, with the Holy Ghost
([The origin of the Holy Ghost tradition|itself arguably copied from concepts in Hinduism) holding together the Universe within itself, personifying itself as the Father, which personifies itself as the Son inside this Universe (leaving the Father outside our Universe, Time, and Space). Christian pantheists, appealing to its Biblical form, discern this theology throughout the scriptures, from Old Testament to New, and hold it up as reconciling the difficulties which Roman theologians erroneously attempted to 'solve' in the Roman councils concerning both the Trinity and the Nature of Christ as the Logos (as only pantheism provides both an expression of Christ as the "Logos" of God, and the unity of Monotheism
). The Biblical equation of God to acts of nature, and the definition of God within the New Testament itself, all provide the basis of appeal to this belief system.
A rather schizophrenic
view of Pandeism
can be found in Islam, for Islam at the same time teaches that Allah
is "the One and Only," the only thing to have actual existence -- which would, by definition make all things which exist or at least seem to exist in some sense 'part of' Allah. But at the same time Islam harshly, sometimes violently, condemns notions that nature is sacred or physical reality is sacred, or that anything at all is sacred other than some conception of Allah somehow existing separately from the physical reality which must yet exist within it. Only the spiritual brand of Islam known as Sufism
is able to express pantheistic ideas with confidence, though it does so eclectically, with different branches taking pantheistic cues from different sources. Indigenous Sufism would be most obviously influenced by Eastern texts; Hadith Sufism would be influenced by Islamic scholars from Sulaiman
period, and Qur'anic Sufis would see the Quran itself as the continuing revelation and interpret personification linguistics as with previous Biblical prophets. Ismaili
Muslims are, as well, susceptible to being described as pantheistic, or, again, more precisely panentheistic
Relating all of this back to Pandeism
No matter how it is formulated, the idea that our Universe is in some sense 'within' our Creator or is a reflection of or an extension of our Creator is the same element of Pandeism which is condemned as self-worship. Neither Pandeism not Pantheism has any doctrinal impetus to actually literally 'worship' oneself, to build an alter to oneself and in any sense deem oneself to be above any other person or any other thing. Indeed, it is an oddity that Pandeists are sometimes accused in almost the same breath of 'self-worship' and of making man no more important that dirt and rocks
. But the thing which distinguishes Pandeism from theistic faiths -- the absence of a need for the Creator to consciously change any direction of development in the Creation -- is of no matter to question of whether man is part of our Creator.
Now, there may be more of this claim to be made against those branches of Pantheism which would hold that our Universe exists statically, and that things have always been as they are, that man for example has always existed (though perhaps without remembering it), and that man alone has ever been, or will ever be conscious, existing as the only eyes and ears our Universe ever could have. Even this wouldn't rightly be called self-worship, though it is about the most vaunted position in which a theology could put man. But this is simply one strain of Pantheism, and -- because Pandeism necessarily presupposes an intelligent and once-conscious Creator
far outstripping human capacities, it is simply ignorant to extend this characterization to Pandeism.
But putting aside the misrepresentation and conflation aspects of the charge, there is still the emotional bias inherent in the claim to consider. After all, suppose some formulation of Pandeism really could credibly be framed as a form of self-worship? Perhaps the person who blithely states, 'my body is my temple' could be taken more literally than the expression usually allows; perhaps the person who pursues the sensual pleasures of life over the boredom of sitting through religious services could be accused as a 'self-worshiper'; perhaps the combination of masturbation
into an act of masturpraytion
could be so condemned. Well, then so what? To call a theology 'self-worship' is not to disprove it; to claim it is vain or egotistical first requires forgetting, as the accuser must, the vanity of vanities
inherent in believing man to be some special effort and special concern of the Creator of a Universe scores of billions of light years across. But, moreover, suppose it is
vain, and is
egotistical, so what? Man thinks himself smarter than chimpanzees
, at least along the lines of intelligence which matter most to man, such as communicating by speech or constructing mathematical equations. Is it vain to point out that, along these lines, man is indeed the more intelligent animal? Is it egotistical to believe oneself better able to contemplate philosophy than an aardvark
If logic and reason
reveal ours to most likely be a pandeistic Universe, and reveal that all other belief systems are logically accounted for in Pandeism
, then it most likely is so even if
believing this is so satisfying to the ego that it can coherently be claimed to amount to 'self-worship' in some way distinctive from the teachings of the theistic faiths. In truth, nothing in Pandeism inherently sets any man above any other, or makes man any more 'divine' than any other thing in our Universe (all things being equally part of our Creator). But even if it did, then that would simply be the nature of things as supported by the evidence, and would not amount to an observation capable of being condemned for its incidental glorification of man.