pantheism(redirected from Pan-theists)
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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).
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Jäsche, G. B. Der Pantheismus nach seinen verschiedenen Hauptformen, vols. 1–3. Berlin, 1826–32.
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Dilthey, W. Gesammelte Schriften, 2nd ed., vol. 2. Berlin, 1921.
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V. V. SOKOLOV