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pantheism (pănˈthēĭzəm) [Gr. pan=all, theos=God], name used to denote any system of belief or speculation that includes the teaching “God is all, and all is God.” Pantheism, in other words, identifies the universe with God or God with the universe. The term is thought to have been employed first by John Toland in the 18th cent., but pantheistic views are of very great antiquity. While all pantheism is monistic, it is expressed in different ways according to what is meant by the one whole that gathers up in itself all that exists, or what is meant by God. If the pantheist starts with the belief that the one great reality, eternal and infinite, is God, he sees everything finite and temporal as but some part of God. There is nothing separate or distinct from God, for God is the universe. If, on the other hand, the conception taken as the foundation of the system is that the great inclusive unity is the world itself, or the universe, God is swallowed up in that unity, which may be designated nature. Some forms of pantheism have had their beginnings in religion; others have been based upon a philosophic, scientific, or poetic point of view. Noteworthy among the religious forms is Hinduism, in which the only reality, the supreme unity, is Brahman. This conception is closely connected with the idea of emanation. Pantheism had a place in the speculations of some Greek philosophers. Xenophanes taught that the one God could know no motion or change. The conception of Parmenides left no room for development or ethical meaning. Stoicism gave a more definite expression to pantheistic doctrine, emphasizing the identity of God and the world. There is pantheism in the teachings of the Neoplatonists and of such Christian philosophers as Eriugena and such mystics as Eckhart and Boehme. The writings of Giordano Bruno of the 16th cent. carried such weight as to influence the development of modern thought, especially through Spinoza, in whose monistic system pantheism receives its most complete and precise expression. In it God is the unlimited, all-inclusive substance, the first cause of the universe, with innumerable attributes, two of which, thinking and extension, are capable of being perceived. Pantheism of a kind can be traced in the idealistic philosophy of Fichte and Schelling, Hegel and Schleiermacher. Together with mysticism, it fills a large place in literature, particularly in the poetry of nature.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a philosophical doctrine that equates god with the universe. The term “pantheist” was introduced by the English philosopher J. Toland in 1705, and the term “pantheism” in 1709 by his opponent, the Dutch theologian J. Fay.

Pantheistic concepts often concealed naturalistic tendencies, which merged god and nature, gave rise to materialism, and were opposed to the prevailing theistic religious world view. Sometimes pantheism cloaked mystical religious aspirations, in which nature was engulfed by god. In 1828 the German philosopher K. Krause introduced the term “panentheism,” to distinguish his idealist system from naturalistic and materialist pantheism. Intricately interwoven elements of both types of pantheism are sometimes found in the world view of one thinker. Pantheistic ideas are encountered in early Indian thought, especially Brah-manism, Hinduism, and Vedantism; ancient Chinese thought (Taoism); and ancient Greek philosophy (Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes). However, all of these world views were merely manifestations of the hylozoistic belief that the whole world is animated, because during the epoch of polytheism there was no concept of god as the single world spirit.

During the Middle Ages Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had a definitive, theistic understanding of god as a personality absolutely transcending both nature and man. By contrast, pantheism, most forms of which had their origins in Neoplatonic philosophy, developed the doctrine of an impersonal world spirit hidden in nature. The medieval pantheists of Europe and the Middle East drew heavily on the Neoplatonic doctrine of emanation. In opposition to the theistic idea of the divine creation of the world from “nothing,” the pantheists developed the concept of the eternal, timeless “generation” of nature by an impersonal god. An outstanding example of religious pantheism is found in the philosophical system elaborated by Johannes Scotus Erigena. One of the first materialist formulations of pantheism was developed by David of Dinant, who maintained that matter, mind, and god are one and the same. In the early 13th century, the Amalricans drew anti-Catholic ethical and social conclusions from pantheistic views traceable to Erigena. A typical expression of mysticism verging on pantheism is encountered in the views of J. Eckhart.

Pantheism’s naturalistic tendencies became more evident during the Renaissance. One of the first philosophers to come close to adopting a pantheistic position was Nicholas of Cusa, who considered god the “infinite maximum.” Bringing the concept of “god” closer to that of “nature,” the “finite maximum,” he formulated the idea that the universe is infinite. In the 16th century and the early 17th, pantheism flourished in Western Europe, serving as the foundation for most of the natural philosophy doctrines that opposed the creationism of the prevailing monotheistic religions. (Among the most outstanding representatives of the anticreationist point of view were the Italian philosophers G. Cardano, F. Patrizi, T. Campanella, and G. Bruno.) In the anticreationist doctrines god is the infinite, unseen absolute, but he is to an increasing degree merged with nature. Ultimately, in Bruno’s teachings, “god” becomes a pseudonym of “nature.” It is proper to regard as early forms of materialism both Bruno’s thesis that “nature … is none other than god in things” (Izgnanie torzhestvuiushchego zveria [The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast], St. Petersburg, 1914, p. 162) and the doctrine that there is a single substance underlying both material and spiritual phenomena.

Pantheism, “which at some times even approaches atheism” (F. Engels, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 7, p. 370), also provided the foundation for the world views of the Anabaptists and of T. Münzer, the leader of the popular Reformation in Germany. After the triumph of various Protestant faiths in a number of Western European countries, pantheistic mysticism continued to be the main outlet for dissatisfaction with moribund forms of religiosity. In 16th- and 17th-century Germany the most outstanding representatives of pantheistic mysticism were S. Frank, V. Weigel, J. Boehme, and the philosopher-poet Johannes Scheffler (Angelus Silesius). During the 17th century a number of Dutch sects, the most influential of which were the Mennonites and the Collegiants, gravitated toward pantheism. Spinoza was closely associated with the Collegiants. Drawing on the tradition of pantheism, he developed a materialist philosophical system in which the concept of “god” was equated with that of “nature.”

In the 18th century, pantheistic views were developed, following Spinoza’s lead, by Goethe and J. G. Herder, who opposed the mechanistic doctrine of the 18th-century French materialists and endeavored to develop the essentially hylozoistic elements of Spinoza’s teachings. According to Engels, the philosophical system of such German idealists as Schelling and Hegel attempted “pantheistically to reconcile the antitheses between mind and matter” (ibid., vol. 21, p. 285).


Sokolov, V. V. “K istoricheskoi kharakteristike panteizma v zapadnoevropeiskoi fllosofii.” Filosofskie nauki (Nauchnye doklady vysshei shkoly), 1960, no. 4.
Jäsche, G. B. Der Pantheismus nach seinen verschiedenen Hauptformen, vols. 1–3. Berlin, 1826–32.
Plumptre, C. E. General Sketch of the History of Pantheism. London, 1882.
Dilthey, W. Gesammelte Schriften, 2nd ed., vol. 2. Berlin, 1921.
Siwek, P. Spinoza et le panthéisme religieux, 2nd ed. Paris, 1950.
Hellpach, W. Tedeum: Laienbrevier einer Pantheologie. Berlin, 1951.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the doctrine that God is the transcendent reality of which man, nature, and the material universe are manifestations
2. any doctrine that regards God as identical with the material universe or the forces of nature
3. readiness to worship all or a large number of gods
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005