meditations on panentheism


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OK, I don't mind starting it;)

"God created all things in such a way that they are not outside himself, as ignorant people, (his wording, not mine), falsely imagine. Rather, all creatures flow outward, but nonetheless remian within God." Meister Eckhart

"It is in God that we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 17:28

"God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God and God in her." 1 John 4:16

"Make your home in me, as I make mine in you, I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears plentiful fruit." John 15: 4, 5

"The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw...all things in God...and God in all things." Mechtild of Magdeburg

Take care, Earl
Excellent, earl! Thank you for starting this thread. :) Meister Eckhart is on my reading list. In the meantime I'll try to find something to add to this thread.

Now thought I'd post some of the notions of John Scotus Eriugena, that mystical 9th c.e. Celtic Christian philosopher who was influenced by earlier Christian thinkers such as Psuedo-Dinoysius.

"For just as God is both beyond all things and in all things-for He who only truly is, is the essence of all things, and while He is whole in all things. He does not cease to be whole beyond all things, whole in the world, whole around the world, whole in the sensible creature, whole in the intelligible creature, whole creating the universe, whole created in the universe, whole in the whole of the universe and whole in its parts, since He is both the whole and the part, just as He is neither the whole nor the part-in the same way human nature in its own world (in its own subsistance)in its own universe and in its invisible and visible parts is whole in itself, and whole in its whole, and whole in its parts, and its parts are whole in themselves and whole in the whole."

Goes on to say human nature is "wholly in the wholeness of the whole created nature and seeing that in it every creature is fashioned, and in it all are linked together and into it all shall return"

On the issue of Man being made in image of God, he had two answers: " an image is not an image unless it is identical to its exemplar in all respects 'except number or subject"...but difference in number does not mean that God and man stand apart from each other...Neither God nor Man is in space or time, both are incorporeal, and hence numerical difference, or difference in subject...have meaning in that the first will always differ from what comes after the first...A second answer he gives is that God is creator and Man created, but since creation is self-manifestation, that amounts to saying God manifests in man....he qualifies this by saying that man is by grace what God is by nature. But elsewhere states that theophany or divine manifestation fuses the notion of nature with grace: all natures are theophanies, that is produced by grace. God is the source of both 'dona,' (gifts of grace) and 'data' (what are given in nature), both are revelations of the divine nature. He went on to quote Maximus in saying "God and man are paradigms of each other....that One is at the heart of the other."

He concluded by saying, "For if Christ Who understands all things, Who indeed is the understanding of all things, really unified all that He assumed, who doubts then that what first took place in the Head and principal Exemplar of the whole human nature will eventually happen in the whole?"

Gee, perhaps I could have posted this in the Christian section;) Earl
I'm a panentheist, so I'll post some quotes. :)

You already mentioned Eurigena- I love the old Celtic Christians. Their beliefs are much like my own. Creation and humanity is seen as essentially good; though sometimes clouded by evil and wrong-doing, the God-given core of goodness cannot be undone by anything. And so Christ and the Church is to lead us back into the deepest part of ourselves, rather than outward into new frontiers, to bring us back to God. God is perceived, then, to be immanent in all creation, including us. Erugina basically said that "goodness is not an attribute of being; rather being is an attribute of goodness... goodness is not simply a feature of life but gives rise to life... nothing in nature is evil in itself. If we become evil, we are acting contrary to our essential nature" (Newell). Thus the answer to evil is not to look away from life, and seek to escape it, but rather to look further within ourselves and all life- to face the darkness within and, through the grace of God, overcome it to arrive at the inner divine light deep in our souls.

We then recognize the Presence of God within us, and in others, and the unity of ourselves and All that is.

In form you are the microcosm;
in reality you are the macrocosm.
-Mathnawi [IV, 521] // Islam

For the Self is everything.
When the seeker knows this,
He falls silent.
He no longer thinks,
"I am this, I am not that."
Such thoughts melt away.
-Ashtavakra Gita 18:9 // Hinduism

Indeed, if God is the Life behind all life, the Being behind all being, we cannot not be in God's Presence, though we can choose not to recognize it. The Living God is literally living- in us, and through us, and beyond us.
"We want to worship a living God. I have not seen anything but God all my life, nor have you. To see this chair you first see God, and then the chair in and through Him. He is everywhere, saying “I am.” The moment you feel “I am,” you are conscious of Existence. Where shall we go to find God if we cannot see him in our own hearts and in every living being?"
- Vivekananda // Hinduism

Pelagius believed that the life of God can be glimpsed through the goodness of creation and heaven and earth were entwined: "everywhere narrow shafts of divine light pierce the veil that separates heaven from earth." All life was perceived as beautiful and containing the Spirit of God: "Look at the animals roaming the forest. God's spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: god's spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God's spirit dwells within them... There is no creature on earth in whom God is abset... When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look at the wild flowers and the grass in the fields; look even at your crops. God's spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God's spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God's eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly."

Or, as one lovely Hindu teaching put it:
"The world is the wheel of God, turning round
And round with all living creatures upon its rim.
The world is the river of God,
Flowing from him and flowing back to him."
-Shvetashvatara Upanishad // Hinduism

Interestingly, when we believe that all created contain the spirit of God, our society of "people" opens up to include all living creatures and beyond, rather than only human beings. So Christ's command to "love neighbor as self" is expanded to mean all living beings. Furthermore, there is an understanding of Christ as fulfilling the true inseparable nature of heaven and earth, human and divine. Jesus Christ is the example of one who manifested fully and solely the divine nature within, the example of our truest selves- the self we should strive to become. As Brooke Westcott said, "We see in the risen Christ the end for which man was made, and the assurance that the end is within our reach." I do not know if she meant such a statement as I interpret it, but it is a profound thought. This awakening of the self to one's true nature, and commitment to reach this lofty potential is found in many religions: "The body will be turned by the power of the spiritual consciousness into a true and fit and perfectly responsive instrument of the Spirit" -Sri Aurobindo // Hinduism.

Overall, Celtic Christianity united the Word in the scriptures and the Word in nature. Combining Christianity with its Druidic/Pagan roots, it became monotheist but retained a sense of enchantment of life. The everyday, the ordinary was thoroughly pervaded by God's spirit, and the spiritual realm was not distant at all, but close as one's next heartbeat. Thus, the spiritual life of the people reflected such unity of heaven and earth, God and humanity, and nature and humanity. Celtic artwork, with never-ending knots and spirals, reflects the mystery of "eternal interweaving of heaven and earth, time and eternity- the immediacy of God in all created life" (Newell). Celtic prayers reflect a union of nature and God, and a reflection on the personal spiritual nature of all creation, as well as a sense of the significance of the mundane. No time or space is not sacred, and none is beyond the grace of God. Human prayer joined the prayers of all creation, giving glory to God. One Celtic woman explained: "My mother would be asking us to sing our morning song to God... as Mary's lark was singing it up in the clouds, and as Christ's mavis was singing it yonder in the tree, giving glory to the God of the creatures for the repose of the night, for the light of the day, and for the joy of life." There was nothing in creation that was not essentially good and part of God's reach, even our own bodies and sexuality.

Ultimately, it is we who separate ourselves from God- and we only perceive it to be so. When we turn toward God- by turning outward toward creation, or inward toward our deepest selves, or peering beyond in scripture- we can catch a glimpse of the greatness of God, and His all-encompassing embrace. And feeling the warmth of this loving embrace, whether in the joy of our own life, or His glory in creation, or in sacred text and ritual- we in turn long to return to Him and embrace the mystery. We have a moment, even if fleeting, of being at one with the All and of coming closer to our own potential, and we know, deep down in our souls even if our brains cannot really comprehend or express it, that beyond all distinction lies this Unity.
"If you are confused, there are a thousand differentiations, ten thousand distinctions. If you are enlightened, everything is the same one family."
-Wu-chien // Buddhism

"There is only one way to know the Self,
And that is to realize him yourself.
The ignorant think the Self can be known
By the intellect, but the illumined
Know he is beyond the duality
Of the knower and the known."
-Kena Upanishad // Hinduism

Beyond the intellect, the brain- there is illumination, divine revelation, the communication between the soul and God. We need only acknowledge and embrace it. And then we see, in startling clarity, the joy and glory in everything around us. Our souls become unfettered, free to dance in the moonlight and rejoice in the sunlight, to lift our voices in praise in the great symphony of the All, and to love the divinity manifest in all life, in our family of humanity, animals, plants, elements, and stars. We come to recognize the wonder of every atom of existence, and to marvel at the fellowship we can have with all that is.
I wanted to post one more long quote, so I thought it best on its own. I couldn't resist- this is too beautiful! This is from a prayer of George MacLeod, modeled on the ancient St. Patrick "Breastplate" hymn:

"Christ above us, Christ beneath us,
Christ beside us, Christ within us.
Invisible we see you, Christ above us.
With earthly eyes we see above us,
clouds or sunshine, grey or bright.
But with the eye of faith
we know you reign,
instinct in the sun ray,
speaking in the storm,
warming and moving all creation,
Christ above us...

Invisible we see you, Christ beneath us.
With earthly eyes we see beneath us
stones and dust and dross...
But with eyes of faith,
we know you uphold.
In you all things consist and hang together.
The very atom is light energy,
the grass is vibrant,
the rocks pulsate.
All is in flux;
turn but a stone and an angel moves.
Underneath are the everlasting arms.
Unknowable we know you, Christ beneath us.

Inapprehensible we know you, Christ beside us.
With earthly eyes we see men and women,
exuberant or dull, tall or small.
But with the eye of faith,
we know you dwell in each.
You are imprisoned in the... dope fiend and the drunk,
dark in the dungeon, but you are there.
You are released, resplendent,
in the loving mother... the passionate bride,
and in every sacrificial soul.
Inapprehensible we know you, Christ beside us.

Intangible, we touch you, Christ within us.
With earthly eyes we see ourselves,
dust of the dust, earth of the earth...
But with the eye of faith,
we know ourselves all girt about of eternal stuff,
our minds capable of Divinity,
our bodies groaning, waiting for the revealing,
our souls redeemed, renewed.
Intangible we touch you, Christ within us.

Christ above us, beneath us,
beside us, within us,
what need have we for temples made with hands?"
Thanks for all the quotes from different traditions, Path. These are examples of why that old adage, "all mystics speak the same language" is more true than not and frankly to me also suggests what Panikkar was saying about "the divine light of wisdom" refracting through all the various religious traditions of the world. Eriugena's comments about the relationships between parts and wholes is interesting as it sounds almost indenticle to the thinking of the prolific contemporary philosopher of spirituality, Ken Wilber and how he discusses such relationships in terms of holons. (for those wanting an intro to the guy, could check out some of his Beliefnet articles and links at )

But in my simplified thinking to use the body metaphor, each specific cell of my body is not the whole of my body, nor is it other than my body; my body is not my mind, nor is it other; my mind is not my soul, nor is it other; my soul-well you see where I'm going with that.

While the panentheistic model of thinking about the Divine works better for me than any other at this point, do always try to remind myself of what some of those old Christian mystical writers wrote about "Absolute Reality," such as 15th c.e. Nicholas of Cusa who liked to use geometrical images and spoke of how all our conceptualizing about God being approximations were like a polygon made of many tiny straight lines passing for a true circle-we find that if we look closely at our reasonings, despite their appeal to our intellect/insight, still come up short. Or like Pseudo-Dionysius the 6th c.e. Christian thinker's quotation I'd posted here recently said: all our assertions and denials about the "Cause" are of what is next to it, while nothing can be asserted or denied about the "Cause" itself.

In zen buddhism the paramount icon is a circle symbolizing their insight that Ultimate reality excludes nothing/asserts nothing and their mode of being to find this Being is likewise a circle or opening of consciousness that allows all to manifest and flow through. No little "polygonic corners" for the flow to get hung up in. That's what I try to aim for: an openness of Being to allow whatever of the Divine to manifest moment to moment. Also why i like the apophatic form of mysticism-too many concepts, ideas, expectations of Life & "God" square off that circle.

well enough of my babbling for now as obviously this is the kind of topic I could really go on about.

Take care, Earl
Hi, and Peace to All Here--

Thanks for that, path_of_one. I was waiting for your comments--and somehow I knew you would post that hymn. Go figure.:)

I thought it might be good to post the following from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, since "panentheism" is likely to get mixed up with "pantheism". They are two different things. For the sake of a little clarification for those who (like me, until recently) might not know--(forgive me, if someone has already submitted this).

It is derived from Greek (I won't even try to write it now) and it basically means "everything".

Oxford defines it this way: "The belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in Him, but ([contrary to]Pantheism), that His Being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the universe. The word was coined by K.C.F. Krause (1781-1832) for his own system...."

Now, I have deliberated a great deal regarding whether or not I should say what I am about to say. So I guess I have decided to say it anyway:eek: .

I believe that "the Trinity" is a concept expressed in the Bible, even though it is a phrase coined by man. It is attributed to different people and times throughout history, but I personally see it as an integral part of The Word. But here is what I also see--as much as I subscribe to that concept (truth, to me), I also believe that it is limiting. I believe that the great "I Am" can and does manifest in many, many ways. Some may think what I say is "adding to" the Word. But I believe this, and so, I guess I am willing to suffer whatever slings and arrows come my way. It feels really good to say it. (And please, I am NOT interested in turning this into an in-depth discussion of the Trinity--there are plenty of other threads in this forum that more than address it and are more appropriately suited for that particular debate.)

And if I, InLove, should not have even mentioned it, then I apologize--it's just that I see it as very relevent to the discussion at hand.

By the way--I have always been particularly struck by the relation that I see between the opening verses of Genesis, and the opening ones in the Gospel of John, Earl. And Path, I am reading what I can find for free right now from Newell. Thanks.

Look forward to a continuing study, and hope my post does not serve to derail.

(Edited to add: Hi, Earl--I think we may have been posting at the same time, so I hope I did not throw the discussion off--off to read what you have added, now:)).

earl and PathofOne, thank you for the wonderful passages. I feel quite the slacker, with not much to add at this point. :)

InLove, I am very interested in what you were attempting to say about the Trinity and panentheism. I am wondering, do you think the two are compatible, or incompatible? I also believe the Trinity and for much the same reason as you gave, and I do not find it incompatible with panentheism. What do you think?

Hi, dear lunamoth--

I find it totally "do-able" in the Logic of Love:). More than completely compatible.

Trinity? Perhaps Jesus was the fullest, most complete example of panentheism; sort of like what Eriugena was saying in that concluding quote as re Christ. Since we're putting our personal beliefs out here in this thread, allow me to say that I've long believed that despite whatever ultimate nature Jesus/Christ is/was, his mission on earth I believe was not to gather worshippers of him, per se, nor followers of the man, Jesus, but to remind us as to the nature and way of connecting to Spirit within and without, as in Jesus' words in John 14:20-
"At that time you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you."

Bless you all, Earl
Hi, Peace Be Upon All Here--

Thank you, Earl--May I suggest the whole of chapter 17 as a follow-up? It is beautiful, and I understand it, because it is offered in Love.

lunamoth said:
Thanks, InLove. Good thread-weaving. :)
Thanks, luna--I weave and weave, but that golden thread is always the telling one.;)

I thought for the heck of it I'd post a link to a website for Shin Buddhism- a form of Pureland Buddhism, particularly as on this page it discusses and contrasts its teachings with various views of typical monotheism & "God" while literally referring to itself here by the term "panentheistic" Buddhism. In fact, its belief system would sound nearly identical in my book to that of a panentheistic "Christian" & pretty well sums up my own heretical brand of "Buddhism/Christianity." I actually wonder how much disagreement would really exist between Buddhists & mystical Christians over the notion of a "Creator God," if panentheism was the foundation for dialogue.

Your "relatively universalist," Earl
Hmm, did same thing again & didn't link up accordingly. How odd. Well, actually this site I'm thinking of is operated by the Buddhist Faith Fellowship of Connecticut which is an integrated Shin/zen approach. I'd imagine if 1 wanted to accurately find the html I was thinking about they could google name of this group, get on their site & proceed from there. Sorry about that. I may be into apophatic mystery but I ain't about spreading confusion:D Take care, Earl
Good for you, Earl:). I know this is going to sound a bit crazy, maybe, but I just have to tell it--There is a certain "brand" of country music that is not exactly mainstream, and it comes out of places like the Hill Country of Texas. I don't remember who sang this song or wrote it, but one of the lines goes something like this :"Buddha was not a Christian, but Jesus would have made a good Buddhist."

Just thought I would add that for smiles:).

Great posts everyone. :)

A small contribution from the Book of Common Prayer. In this Thanksgiving over the Water in the Holy Baptism I see us living under and in and through God.

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt inot the land ofpromise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. ...

Hi, and Peace to Everyone--

Thanks for posting that, lunamoth--the pastor where I attend church says something similar during baptisms. I have always loved what the words symbolize.

Have long been inspired by the mystical writings of the Sufis. Just ran across a quotation by the Sufi, Ibn Arabi that I thought so well encapsulated panentheism, (not to mention encapsulated my own unique "heretical" brand of zentheism:p )

"It is none other than He who progresses and journeys as you. There is nothing to be known but He; and since He is Being itself, He is therefore also the journeyer. There is no knower but He; so who are you? Know your true Reality. He is the essential self of us all. But He conceals it by the appearance of otherness, which is you. If you hold to multiplicity, yoou are with the world; and if you hold to Unity, you are with the Truth...Our names are but the names of God; at the same time our individual selves are His shadow. He is at once our identity and not our identity...Consider!"

Interesting here the use of the term "Unity"- not "oneness." The latter term would seem to extinguish ontologically any form of differentiation while "Unity" implies panentheism-a separateness that is also an integral whole.

Take care, Earl