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Definition of 'pantheism'

The D.E.D. defines 'pantheism' thus:

1. The religious belief or philosophical theory that God and the universe are identical (implying a denial of the personality and transcendence of God); the doctrine that God is everything and everything is God. 2. The heathen worship of all the gods.

The second meaning can be ignored here, l so I shall take the first definition as canonical, with the parenthesis deleted. Although it is true that most positions naturally described as pantheistic deny that God is personal, there are positions which identify God and the Universe, and hold that this one thing is a person (of which all finite persons are parts). Josiah Royce, for example, held this view. As for transcendence, this is so essentially contested a concept that it will be simpler to let the implications for this fall where they will in our discussion. This is verbally a little different from the meaning which Michael Levine, in his major study, selects from a variety of definitions as the most canonical, for which Pantheism is the view "that everything that exists constitutes a unity [in some sense] and ... this all-inclusive unity is divine [in some sense]" (adapted from Alasdair Macintyre).2 However, the actually held theories covered by the term will mostly be the same whichever meaning is chosen.
2. Types of pantheism

So pantheism, in the sense in which I am taking it, identifies God and the Universe. We can take this specification a little further, and somewhat closer to Levine's favoured definition, if we say that, for the pantheist, "God is the unified totality of all things." This avoids the charge that pantheism consists merely in a cognitively vacuous renaming of the universe by a differently emotive word, for not everyone agrees that the
"Pantheism" by T. L. S. Sprigge, The Monist, vol. 80. no. 2, pp. 191-217. Copyright 1997, THE MONIST, La Salle, Illinois 61301.



universe is unified, in any sense likely to be intended; indeed some hold that there is really no such thing as the universe, just lots and lots of things. What is meant by the claim that the totality of things is unified? It means, I suggest, that the totality is at least as much of a genuine individual as the most individual part of it. In fact, it is more likely than not that anyone who believes that the universe is a unified totality will believe that it is more of a genuine individual than anything within it. As to what being more or less of a genuine individual amounts to, it is a matter of how full a conception of it may be formed which does not depend on or carry information about how it is related to things outside it.
It is not merely the aggregate of all things that we worship as God ... A sand

heap is an aggregate, but it has no unity except to perception which figures it as contained within certain bounding surfaces, and perhaps-where reflection goes beyond that-as kept together by dead weight. But the bird alighting on it has a very different and relatively a more real unity. For the bird is not a mere aggregate .... Now ... it is often dangerous and always inconclusive to attempt any analogy between the finite and the infinite. Still, in this case the reasons for rejecting the suggestion that the Universe may be a mere aggregate appear to be irresistible. 3

To the notion of God as the unified totality of all things pantheism often, indeed typically, adds the notion of God as the inner life or being of every individual thing. Somehow, for most pantheists, the whole is present in each of its parts. This means, I suggest, first that there is an identical essence present in each (for some this would be consciousness) and that the way in which it is present in each reflects the way in which it is present both in each finite other and in the infinite Whole. 4 So God, for the paradigm pantheist, is both the universe as unified totality and something one and the same, appropriately regarded as divine, existing as the inner core of everything. And this whole and this shared essence are said to be somehow identical. So much for one side of the equation, but what of the other,-God? I suggest that something is appropriately called "God" if and only if (a) he, she or it satisfies at least one of the fourteen conditions below (understood in some not too far-fetched sense), (b) he, she or it satisfies more of them than does anything else. 1. He, she or it is creator of the universe (the totality of everything not himself). (No pantheist will believe in a God answering to this description.)



2. He, she or it is uniquely all-knowing. 3. He, she or it is uniquely all-experiencing (that is, it feels the experiences of all beings). (This and the previous condition are not sharply distinct.) 4. He, she or it is either uniquely real or real to a degree which nothing else is. 5. He, she or it exists with a unique kind of necessity. 6. He, she or it is the explanation of the existence of all other things. 7. He, she or it is omni-present. 8. He, she or it is uniquely all-powerful. 9. He, she or it is morally perfect to a degree which nothing else is. 10. He, she or it is uniquely perfect in some possibly non-moral sense. 11. He, she or it is the one proper object of worship. 12. He, she or it is the one proper object towards which certain specifically religious emotions should be felt. 13. He, she or it is the one thing through appropriate relation to which a human being can be "saved". 14. He, she or it, or rather He or She, is an all-knowing and so far as He or She wants to be, all-controlling person. We cannot sample all the possible, or even actually advocated, types of pantheism allowed by our lax definitions, but I shall briefly formulate what seem to me the eleven most important. (Many pantheisms answer to more than one of these descriptions.) The parenthesis after "God" is so that we can count as pantheists some thinkers for whom something to which they deny this name largely plays the role of God in their thought and feeling.

A. God (or the somehow divine reality which takes his place for the pantheist) is the animating spirit of nature. God is the mind or animating spirit of physical nature as a whole, related to it qua consciousness somewhat as each of us is related qua consciousness to our body or our brain. He satisfies at least conditions (3), (7) and (12) and probably several of the others. (Wordsworth.) B. God (or ..) is both the world mind and the world body.
God is the total physical universe (conceived as highly unified) and a universal mind (including the minds of all true individuals in that universe) these being the same thing differently conceived. As such, God is the appropriate object of religious emotion, in particular, the right kind of



love and it is through such love alone or best that human beings can be 'saved'. (Conditions 2, 3, 7, and most of the others, 1, of course, excepted.) Spinozism is the chief example of this, but one might also cite the pantheistic idealism of Gustav Fechner.

C. God (or ) is simply the natural universe conceived as an appropriate object for religious feeling.
God is the total natural universe, more or less as scientifically conceived, and this is the most appropriate object of such religious emotions as reverence and awe; moreover, humans can only find real peace by feeling thus about it. It is unified in the sense that it depends for its existence on nothing but itself, thus contrasting with everything within it. If none, or few, of the other fourteen conditions are met we have a rather weak form of nature pantheism. Such pantheism has been called rather aptly 'materialism gone sentimental'.5 (Richard Jeffries and Robinson Jeffers may be examples.)6

D. God (or ) is a single Absolute Mind or Consciousness composed of souls and nothing else exists but Him and Them. Nothing exists except souls and their states and wholes made out of souls. God is a soul composed of all other souls. It satisfies at least conditions (3) and (8). On many variants of this position it, and it alone, satisfies most of the other conditions. This may be the position of qualified Advaita Vedanta as expounded by Ramanuja. E. The natural world and the mUltiplicity of conscious beings is an illusion, or at least a mere presentation, given to itself by a single Absolute which may be called 'God' or at least plays something of the role of God for this point of view. Salvation consists in consciously realizing one's identity with this Absolute.
The world of daily life, both physical nature and all its conscious inhabitants, are an illusion which one ultimate spiritual reality gives itself. Our salvation consists in our grasping the illusory nature of our world and of our separate existence and experiencing our identity with the One from which we were never really separate. This is the position of Advaita Vedanta as elaborated by Sankara. It is also the view of Erwin Schrodinger7



and in effect with that of the almost forgotten, but highly interesting, Christian evolutionary pantheist Allanson Picton. S F. God (or .. ) is the ultimate concrete universal of which minds like ours are the sole genuine instances God is a concrete universal whose instances are finite minds and nothing exists except this concrete universal, finite minds, and things which exist only as objects of their awareness. The explanation of all things lies in the way in which this concrete universal actualises itself in finite things as a way towards its own complete fullness of being (conditions 7 and 9). Different versions of this will be committed to different ones of the other conditions. This is one way of interpreting Hegelianism. Croce's philosophy is along these lines. G. God (or ..) is the sole ultimate concrete universal of which all finite things are the instances. God is a concrete universal whose instances are the various ordinary things of the natural world, including finite minds or conscious individuals. The explanation of all things lies in the way in which this concrete universal actualises itself in finite things as a way towards its own complete fullness of being. This satisfies condition (6) and most versions will satisfy several of the others. This is another way of interpreting Hegelianism. H. God (or ) is the identical essence present in all minds. God is an essence of which all finite minds are specifications and nothing exists except this essence and those minds. This is much the same as (F) but includes those who would not employ the notion of a concrete universal, such as Erwin Schrodinger. I. God (or ...) is the identical essence present in all finite things. God is an essence of which all finite things are specifications. This is similar to (G) but need not involve the full panoply of the Hegelian concrete universal. So far as proposition (H) or (I) is the dominant principle in a pantheistic philosophy it is more the view that every individual thing is God than that God is the totality. Levine, indeed, holds that no respectable form of



pantheism allows the former doctrine and refers to, without endorsing, Hegel's denial that any religion or philosophy has included the claim with reference to each thing that it is God. 9 I disagree with both of them. Consider the famous "Thou art that" of the Upanishads. (See especially 'The Education of Svetaketu' in the Chandogya Upanishad dialogue. IO ) The implication is, surely, not just that the whole is God but that everything within it is so too. This is likewise the meaning of the claim that 'the Atman is both the infinitely small within us and the infinitely great outside of US'.11
Concealed in the heart of all beings is the Atman, the Spirit, the Self; smaller than the smallest atom, greater than the vast spaces. 12

If each thing is God, then, of course, the totality is God (except perhaps for some who deny that there is such a thing as the totality) but a pantheist may put the emphasis more on formulation (H) or (I) than on the other more totalistic formulations. Indeed, just as the Christian finds Jesus more approachable than God the Father or the ultimate Three-in-One, so many pantheists may relate more easily to the divine essence as present in individual things than aspire to intimacy with the dizzying totality of which they are such vanishingly small fragments.

J. God (or ...) is the unified totality of all those finite experiences
which are the stuff of the world and the only such experiences are those which for our everyday ontology pertain to humans and animals.
Bosanquet would seem to be an example of this position, and so perhaps is T. H. Green. Bradleyl3 tended towards it but he also had some leanings towards position K below. Bradley was also committed to something like (H) or (I).

K. God (or ...) is the unified totality of all those finite experiences which are the stuff of the world and these experiences include many which constitute the inner essence of what are ordinarily regarded as non-sentient things.
This is the position of Friedrich Paulsen,14 and it is one to which Bradley had some inclination. Josiah Royce is an interesting exponent of this view. IS



3. Is there anything much to be said about pantheism in general?

Thus the forms pantheism can take are very many on this definition. On the face of it, there is not much in common, for example, between those views which equate God with the total natural universe and those which deny that there is such a universe, but only a spiritual One which gives itself the illusion of such a thing. The first encourages us to feel that we are likely to be closest to God when we wander in the woods and fields (or perhaps as space travellers through the wonders of the solar system and beyond) while the other suggests either that we are closest to God when we act as agents in the advance of human culture (Hegel and Croce) or, very differently, that we are so when we retire within ourselves and exclude all outward impressions (Sankara).I 6 What pantheists do have in common (by the very definition of 'pantheism') is that the totality of all that is does not divide into two great components, a creator God, and a created world. They also share the view that the rejection of the notion of a Creator still leaves room for some kind of religious or quasi-religious attitude to the world, and that its object is the totality of what is. But as to the nature of this totality, and how we should seek to relate ourselves to it, the differences between pantheists are greater than those which relate some of them to theism on the one hand and to atheism on the other. But are there any interesting features in common to all, or almost all, forms of pantheism other than those which follow analytically from its definition? Two such features have been proposed, usually as bad marks for pantheism. First, it is often thought that pantheism is bound to include a deterministic or fatalistic aspect, thus a denial of the free will often thought to be a necessary presupposition of morality.
If one adheres without compromise to an extreme form of pantheism, he must insist that God's being contains the human soul along with every finite entity in the universe. In its idealist form, such a theory would invoke the statement ... that every finite entity, including the human soul, is no more than an idea in the unity of God's mind .... Such a view, if persistently developed, would clearly pulverize ethical theory, for all moral action would issue directly from God who would be the one moral agent in the universe. 17



Second, pantheism is often charged with levelling all things up or down to a single plane so far as value goes, and thereby making choice, even if possible, largely pointless. I am inclined to agree that pantheism tends to be deterministic, but I deny that this is ethically harmful. As for the second point I think it only applies to inadequate forms of pantheism.
4. Pantheism in Indian Thought.

India has been said to be 'the native home of pantheism'. If so, there is some reason in the following observation of an early twentieth-century Scottish critic of pantheism, as most fully exhibited, so he thought, in Indian thought and religion.
If our object is to discover the effect of Pantheism upon practical life-values, we must find a set of circumstances in which Pantheism appears in its purity in an intellectual doctrine which for a lengthened period has formed a basis for a philosophy of religion and morals. Such a combination of circumstances we find in India. Nearly all writers on the subject admit that it is the native home of Pantheism. It has been described as 'radically pantheistic, and that from its cradle onwards.' In Vedic thought we may trace the pantheistic tendency back almost to its emergence in the religious consciousness. In the Rig-Veda (x. 90) we read, 'He is Himself the very universe. He is whatever is, has been, and shall be.' Through the intervening centuries we can trace an unbroken line of development through the Brahmanas, Epics, and Puranas--down to the thought of the late nineteenth and even twentieth century writers who confess themselves of the same faith as their forefathers .... 18

This is from a little known book, Pantheism and the Value of Life (with Special Reference to Indian Philosophy) by W. S. Urquhart published in 1919. 19 Apparently from Aberdeen,2o Urquhart was Senior Professor of Philosophy in the Scottish Churches College, Calcutta, and appears to have made an intensive study of Hindu philosophy.21 Although one of the book's four parts is on Western pantheism the main focus is on its Indian forms. One wishes that it said something more personal about his life in India. The work provides an informative account of some of the different schools of Hindu thought (which, so far as I can judge, is substantially



accurate) and subjects them to vigorous criticism. It provides a fascinating insight into how a British representative of Christianity reacted to Indian philosophy and religion at that time and, indeed, expresses a perspective on Hindu thought which may well continue to be the dominant one of Christians. But Urquhart was no mere cultural imperialist and in fact has much to say still worth attending to. Urquhart contends that there are basically two forms of pantheism:
The fundamental formula of Pantheism would seem to be a double oneNothing is which is not God, and God is everything which is. There can be no other source of being than God, and no other power than His. We, and the rest of the universe, are but phases of His Being. Nothing can be conceived as having even temporary separation from Him. God and the universe must be identified, and, if any part of the universe cannot be identified with Him, that part must be negated. Here at once we see the possibility of the emergence of two closely related phases of Pantheism, which might be described as negative and positive. -Urquhart, (p. 25)

The first of these says that nothing really exists except the ineffably unitary Brahman and that the ordinary world with all its variety and multiplicity is an illusion. The second says that, although the ordinary world is more than a mere illusion, it consists entirely of modifications of the one universal spirit. The first is the Advaita Vedanta of which Sankara is the great classic exponent, the second is the qualified Vedanta classically formulated by Ramanuja. Now although these seem very different, their exponents correctly infer from them some essentially identical conclusions, in particular, a denial of free will, a pessimism about the human condition, and a solution to this pessimism which, from Urquhart's point of view, only makes things more gloomy. These, he says, combine to constitute a conservative view of the world for which "whatever is, is right". The determinism or fatalism of Advaita follows from the fact that, so far as there can be said to be agency in the world at all, the only agent is Brahman. This conclusion also follows from the idea of qualified Vedanta that we are simply aspects or modes of the single world spirit. For, since this world spirit is eternal and unchanging, we cannot expect its expression to change from age to age; thus the world remains essentially the



same throughout time and cannot get better. And although each of these positions claims to offer us a way of release from our miseries, that escape is only a very negative blessing. Urquhart is able to make out his case more easily in the case of Advaita. Since all there really is is the undifferentiated One, our salvation must consist in seeing through the illusion of variety and of ourselves as individual beings. In doing so we simply become one with the One and lose our apparent separateness from it. Nor is the bliss which is supposed to be the life of the One anything like happiness in any ordinary sense. Rather, the more ineffable it is seen to be, the less can it hold any genuine attraction for us, since our finally becoming submerged in Brahman (as in truth we always really were) seems indistinguishable from ceasing to exist (that is, ceasing even to seem to exist). And, not so dissimilarly, even qualified Vedanta only holds out to us the hope of a kind of peaceful nonactive contemplation of our particular place in the One. Urquhart also sees little good in the often claimed sublimity and ethical richness of the Hindu idea that the one divine being is present in us all. It is claimed, indeed, that so far as we sense that others are essentially identical with us, we will no longer feel in competition with them, and will act nobly to all others. But, says Urquhart, if we are all the same being, there can be no harm in my having more of the advantages of the world than another, and working solely for "selfish" ends, since the beneficiary is the same whether I take the line of least resistance and think just of myself, or adopt a more altruistic style of life. What is more, since everything in the ordinary world is an illusion, nothing in it is genuinely better or worse than anything else, so that we have no motivation for seeking its improvement. Urquhart allows that the Vedas are optimistic and positive about the things of this world, but the more influential and credally more definite Upanishads, and the whole Vedanta tradition, is, he thinks, deeply pessimistic. For it depicts the ordinary phenomenal world as unsatisfying and unimprovable, while the escape it offers, through union with God, is conceived so thinly and negatively that it can only appeal to those who have despaired of any more positive good. From my limited knowledge, it seems to me that something like this is truer of Buddhism than of Hinduism (whether of the Vedanta type or otherwise). But the subject is too vast and daunting to be pursued here. More important, for our purposes, than the question whether Indian pantheism is optimistic or pessimistic is the judgement that it levels all values. Nothing in the world is really better than anything else. All are



equally illusions, from one Vedanta perspective, or manifestations of Brahman from another. Thus any object whatever is intrinsically as suitable an object for worship, or contemplation, as any other, and the only relevant criterion is the subjective satisfaction it offers. This is why pantheism of the Vedanta type, according to Urquhart, is ready to justify polytheism, since it is simply a matter of which conceived divinity produces the deeper subjective feelings. 22 What is more, the notion of the equal value and divinity of everything makes all attempts at progress futile because everything is equally good and equally bad. 23 Doubtless the judgements of a nineteenth-century Scottish Christian missionary, distressed at the difficulty of westernising India, suffer from the prejudices of those times; still, Urquhart says a good deal which is worth considering not only about Hindu pantheism but about pantheism in general. For Urquhart attempts to show that these baleful consequences follow equally, if less obviously, from pantheism in its various Western guises, the only difference being that having remained the province of philosophers its impact has not been so great. Thus he contends that, although Spinoza is often called an optimist the real upshot of his thought is pessimistic. However, his only real reason for saying this is the supposed inadequacy of Spinoza's philosophy as a preparation for dealing with the evils of life. The remedy, for Spinoza, he says, is simply to understand intellectually that they are necessary, and that there was never any real alternative to their occurrence. This he finds a gloomy view in comparison with the progressive Christian view that, through meeting them manfully, we can hope to improve things both in this world and the next so that misery is not the essential feature of the world which it must be for a naturalistic determinist. That seems to me a feeble ground for calling Spinoza a pessimist, for he certainly thought that life in the here and now could be made worth while and this is, surely, optimistic rather than pessimistic. In somewhat similar fashion, and with similar injustice, as it seems to me, he tries to show that Hegel and Hegelianism (which he rightly regards as a form of pantheism) is pessimistic despite itself, and he says the same about other pantheistic systems from the Stoics till his own time. Rather oddly Urquhart several times quotes from F. H. Bradley as though he were a fellow opponent of pantheism. In fact, although Bradley did insist that the Absolute should not be identified with the God of religion, he was ready on occasion to call himself a pantheist. However, Urquhart's charge that pantheism levels all values helps us understand



why thinkers of that period whose position seems obviously pantheistic were often reluctant to accept this classification of their positions. Thus in the following passage Bradley rejects two types of pantheism. For the one type the Absolute, although it is the sole genuine reality, is something quite apart from the illusory world revealed to our senses or to conventional thought. For the other type the Absolute is the whole of things somehow equally present in each of its parts. Each in is own way levels all things either up or down to the same value, up if the world is seen as through and through equally divine, down if the world is seen as an illusion to be transcended in our quest for unity with the undifferentiated One of Sankara's vision.
It costs little to find that in the end Reality is inscrutable. It is easy to perceive that any appearance, not being the Reality, in a sense is fallacious .... It is a simple matter to conclude further, perhaps, that the Real sits apart, that it keeps state by itself and does not descend into phenomena. Or it is as cheap, again, to take up another side of the same error. The Reality is viewed perhaps as immanent in all its appearances, in such a way that it is, alike and equally present in all. Everything is so worthless on one hand, so divine on the other, that nothing can be viler or can be more sublime than anything else. It is against both sides of this mistake, it is against this empty transcendence and this shallow Pantheism, that our pages must be called one sustained polemic. The positive relation of every appearance as an adjective to Reality, and the presence of Reality among its appearances in different degrees and with diverse values-this double truth we have found to be the centre of philosophy. It is because the Absolute is no sundered abstraction but has a positive character, it is because this Absolute itself is positively present in all appearance, that appearances themselves can possess true differences of value. Appearance and Reality p. 488

So whatever may be true of Indian thought, and many Hindus would reject Urquhart'S charge that their religion is pessimistic, pantheism in the West, in the case of thinkers like Bradley, is, surely, not pessimistic in tone; indeed, it is more plausible to regard it as tending to an excess of optimism.
5. My own pantheism

The view of reality to which my personal philosophical quest has led me answers to the description of pantheism of type (K). It may be summed up briefly as follows: (1) In literal truth, that is, in the kind of truth sought in metaphysics, there is nothing except consciousness or sentient experience (I use these expressions synonymously) and its elements.



(2) In literal truth the world consists of innumerable finite centres of experience. There is a system of mostly low level such centres which is the reality behind the physical world, this being essentially a compulsory construction through which high level centres like ourselves relate themselves usefully thereto. There must be some way in which the relatively high level centres of experience which constitute our consciousness fit into the system, but whether they do so by constituting an extra to it, functioning according to partly fresh laws, or whether they are simply standard elements within it is problematic. (3) All finite centres of experience are elements in one single cosmic consciousness, best called "the Absolute". (4) The existence of these centres is no different from the fact that there is a series of total momentary states of experience which constitute their "biographies". These experiences are all just eternally there in the Absolute, but each experience feels itself as emerging from, and passing into, another in the same "biography" (a "first" and "last" such experience perhaps excepted) so that the series seems a temporal one. (5) In at least the most familiar cases the experiences which constitute the biography of a centre each have two aspects, an active aspect which rightly feels itself to be acting either upon the not-self aspect or on what the not-self aspect symbolises. The self aspect is the ego of that centre of experience in its then state. (6) Finite centres of experience are each qualified by characteristics which they could only have as just the components they are in just that "place" within the absolute Whole. I cannot give more than a vague gesture to my reasons for holding this view. I infer it from the following premisses, for each of which I have a battery of arguments which I cannot deploy here. 24 (1) Nothing exists except experiences, and experiences are either total units of the type which constitute the "what it is like to be it" of some phenomenal individual, like a human being or an animal, or components in such total units. (2) The physical world exists, or at least something exists which is what seems to be the physical world, and does not depend upon being observed by humans or animals to do so. (3) Things can only be related to each other in virtue of the fact that they help together to constitute some individual which is more of a genuine individual than any of its parts. Exception: when the relation is the part/whole relation it is required instead that either the whole is more of a genuine individual than any of its parts or that it contains that part in



virtue of itself being part of a whole which is more of a genuine individual than any of its parts. 25 (4) The inherent character of a part of a whole which is more of a genuine individual than it is reflects the character of that whole, in the sense that nothing could be just like that without being just such a part of just such a whole. (5) There is a truth about the past to which the so-called law of bivalence applies and this can only be so if past, present and future are all eternally just there. It is through (1) and (2) that I reach the panpsychist view that physical reality either consists in, or is the appearance of, a system of innumerable mutually influencing streams of experience such as constitute the biographies of sentient individuals of various degrees of mental clarity. It is through (3) that I reach the view that all these experiences pertain to one total individual which experiences them as ingredients in its own being. It is through (4) that I reach the conclusion that each centre of experience is qualified by its precise role in constituting the absolute experience. It is through (5) that I reach the view that this total individual is not subject to change but eternally includes the experiences of all individuals at all times. These conclusions imply the somewhat Spinozistic view that the world is both a single spatio-temporal physical system (or at least what appears as such) and a single consciousness of which all finite consciousnesses are components. Thus we have arrived at a pantheism which is both of type (B) and of type (K). Or at least have done so to whatever extent the world thus conceived is appropriately called "God". So let us see how many of the fourteen conditions which favour calling something "God" apply to the universe for what I shall verbally beg the question by calling "our pantheism" or rather, for simplicity, just "pantheism". I shall put "Y" or "N" or "0" after each condition to indicate either that the universe, as I conceive it, satisfies it, does not satisfy it, or that this must be left as an open question.

1. He, she or it is creator of the universe (the totality of everything not himself). N



This is denied by our pantheism as it is by definition by pantheism in general. 2. It (he or she) is uniquely all-knowing. Y 3. It (he or she) is uniquely all-experiencing (that is, it feels the experiences of all beings). (This and the previous condition are not sharply distinct.) Y The universe or Absolute, qua consciousness including all other consciousnesses as its parts or aspects, is certainly all-experiencing, for it experiences the total experience of every individual centre of consciousness and how they relate to each other, that is, ultimately how they are arranged to constitute the one cosmic experience which it is. It seems to follow that the Absolute knows every matter of fact, for there are no matters of fact other than such facts about the character, filling and arrangement within itself of all finite centres of consciousness. Or may it experience all this and yet not know all or any such facts? After all, one may think that a lizard experiences all its experiences without knowing any facts about it. If this means that the Absolute may not know things primarily in a propositional way, (except in so far as these are matters thought of within finite centres) the point is arguable, yet as the cosmic all-container its knowledge can hardly be cognitively deficient. But what of abstract truths, say about each natural number and how it relates to each of the others? There must be such truths, surely, never entertained in any finite mind. Are we to suppose that the Absolute knows all such truths? One approach is to make a distinction like that which Whitehead made between the primordial nature of God, which is the home of eternal objects and their relations one to another, and the consequent nature of God which concerns how some of the eternal objects have entered into history or into finite thought. But whether this is the best approach must depend heavily on the general view taken of such "abstract" truths, and we can hardly enter into that issue here. The general tenor of our thought is certainly to regard the Absolute as all-knowing and all-experiencing, and thus as possessing the first two characteristics in our family resemblance type analysis of the concept of "God". 4. It is either uniquely real or real to a degree which nothing else is. Y



It is a matter of debate whether reality can have degrees. However, if we are to attach sense to this expression at all, it must, surely, be in a way in which the Absolute comes out as the maximally real being. For example, saying that one thing is more real than another may mean that it is less of an abstraction than the other. By calling something an abstraction here is meant that the proper way of conceiving it is as an element in the nature of something else.

S. It exists with a unique kind of necessity. Y

It seems to me (to speak boldly on a point of such traditional contention) that the question whether something exists or not always concerns the character or filling of something whose existence is presupposed. Thus the question whether the Loch Ness monster exists is a question about the filling of Loch Ness, the question of whether Yettis exist or not is a question about what roams the Himalayas, the question whether unicorns exist or not is either a question about what roams the earth or what roams somewhere in our physical universe. According to this view, when we come to such questions as whether the physical universe exists or not we are asking whether Reality is partly or wholly physical in character. Thus the big existential questions are questions about the character of Reality. There can thus be no question of Reality not existing, for to ask whether it does is to ask whether Reality includes or is Reality and this is either meaningless or a question whose answer must be affirmative. In either case Reality must somehow be there, whatever it is. But granted that there is a reality, the arguments just so briefly sketched show that it must be an absolute consciousness which includes all such finite consciousnesses as there are as its components, which is as much as to say that it must answer to our description of the Absolute. So it is necessarily true that something answering to our description of the Absolute exists, or at least is there. But granted that there must be such an Absolute, does it have to be an Absolute like ours in greater detail, perhaps in every detail?26 Is it, for example, not contingent rather than necessary that the absolute consciousness contains you and me behaving just as we have done and will do. The initially obvious answer is affirmative. However, the idea that things might have been different, as we ordinarily entertain it, depends heavily on the assumption that at any moment there are all sorts of things



about the future which are open. So if the Absolute contains all times, as we have contended that it does, there can be no such openness for it, and that does suggest that there is at least one sense in which things could not have been otherwise. It seems fairly obvious from all this that the Absolute is

6. the explanation of all things. Y

in the sense that an adequate grasp of it (such as only itself can have) would show that there was no alternative to things being as they are.

7. It is omni-present. Y
The Absolute for which I have argued is a uniquely genuine whole whose character is reflected in each of its parts; moreover, each part shares in the same generic character or essence of consciousness. Thus it does, indeed, in a significant sense possess this traditional feature of God. As for being

8. all-powerful. 0
This seems to me an unhelpful description but so equally is its negation.

9. It is morally perfect to a degree which nothing else is. N

The pantheist of our type will not regard God or the Absolute as a person. It is not an individual who makes choices which can be regarded as good or bad. Thus it can hardly be regarded as morally perfect.

10. It is uniquely perfect in some non-moral sense. Y

However, he may well think that there is some non-moral sense in which it is perfect.27 As a unifying consciousness including all things it must presumably have some over-all hedonic state, and it is hard to regard that as an unhappy one. For how can there be unhappiness without an urge to move to a different state of mind? Yet the Absolute includes all time, and cannot feel urges to move beyond what it is. In some sense it must be aware of itself as good. But does it have to regard itself as absolutely good, and good to a degree that nothing else is or can be? Well, since on our view there was never any real possibility of an alternative there is no alternative possible universe than which it can think itself worse. It may



be said that if there could have been nothing better equally there could have been nothing worse. That is true, but that only takes away from its perfection if its over-all state is bad rather than good. This may seem horribly optimistic in the fashion of Leibniz or of Pope. Well, the world certainly contains a vast amount of the horrible, and I cannot believe that much of this is somehow redeemed by its contribution to some greater good. I cannot accept that the Nazi concentration camps were 'partial Evil, universal Good' . I see no other solution to this pantheistic version of the problem of evil than that the whole thing is both necessary in every detail and in its totality good. As such, it includes, of necessity, much evil which does not in any way contribute to its goodness. The only compensation for this is that, on balance, the whole necessary thing is worth while.

11. It is the one proper object of worship. 0

Is the Absolute, as we have characterised it, a suitable object of worship or even the only suitable object of worship? It has been though that it is not so, since worship implies an I-thou relationship not open to pantheists of whatever stripe. 28 True, Wordsworth described himself as having been at one stage a 'worshipper of Nature' .29 However, upon the whole the notion of worship seems more at home in ceremonial contexts than in rapturous communion with Nature and it is this formalised worship (and ceremonial prayer) so essential to most of what is called "religion", which has seemed unavailable to pantheists, and not merely through their contingent failure to unite in a church. Such a view was challenged by Allanson Picton who actually envisaged the development of a pantheistic church, emerging from traditional Christianity, in which there would be ceremonies which would assist the sense of union with the intellectually unknowable one substance of which all phenomena, including ourselves, are the appearance, and which for him was the non-superstitious replacement of the traditional creator God. It would include procedures for inducing experiences of just the kind Wordsworth describes at his most pantheistic,30 Since my own pantheism is not so far from Picton's, I regard this so far unfulfilled hope (unless we regard some intellectually wild "new age" practices as such) with respect. On the other hand, I have some doubts as to whether worship of, as opposed to the search for felt participation in, is the proper attitude to our pantheistic God or Absolute, or, indeed, even to



a more traditional creator God. For worship reeks too much of the propitiation of a dangerous cosmic egotist (a "jealous God") who is a glutton for praise. Why should God not be happier expressing himself in loving human relationships or in the creativity of the artist than in being worshipped by cringing fawners upon his favours? A fuller discussion would need to consider the Vedantist view of Bhakti Yoga as the prime way in which the less sophisticated may reach union with the divine. Instead, I finish with the suggestion that religious institutions and formal worship should be seen as cultural phenomena to be judged by their moral and spiritual fruits rather than for the intellectual satisfactoriness of the associated theology or metaphysics. It would indeed be rather odd if the pantheist did not think pantheistic belief and sentiment among the world's goods, but, as Bradley for example emphasised, he need not think that the metaphysics he holds for true is everywhere and every when the best basis for a satisfactory human life.

12. It is the one proper object towards which certain specifically religious emotions should be felt. 0 This being so, the pantheist may believe that religious emotion may appropriately be felt towards various supposed divine beings, or perhaps false personalisations of the natural world, which cannot be regarded as the All. On the other hand, he is likely to feel that there is an appropriate religious emotion of a pantheistic type. It seems that this must consist in a sense of oneness with the universe, either induced by the mere belief in the truth of pantheism or, and more profoundly, by the real partial breaking down of barriers between one's own consciousness and consciousness beyond, a phenomenon of the possibility of which our pantheism may provide the best intellectual explanation. 13. It is the one thing through appropriate relation to which a human being can be "saved". Y To live a fulfilled life requires that one somehow adapts to the universe, and to one's particular place in it. If the pantheist does not believe in a life after death this seems a good a way of understanding "salvation". But does not salvation traditionally consist in winning a place after one's death in Heaven, rather than in Hell? Yes, but even if there is a life after death it can only be heavenly there, as much as here, if one is adapted to the universe and one's particular place in it. So salvation taken



in this sense will come, if pantheism is true, through, and only through, an appropriate relation to God, qua universal consciousness. As for the question of life after death, our pantheism, like most others, does not, as such, settle the matter one way or the other. 14. It, or rather He or She, is an all-knowing and so far as He or She wants to be, all-controlling, person. N If a person has to be an agent living in time and coping with an external world, then the Absolute, or pantheistic God, is not a person, so not a person of this description)! Count of the indicators Thus out of fourteen conditions which favour calling something God, the universe or Absolute, as our pantheism conceives it, satisfies eight of them, fails to satisfy three, while there are three on which I have not adjudicated. It hardly requires much argument to show that our pantheism will not acknowledge that there is anything else with a higher score than this. So it seems appropriate to call the Absolute, or the Universe as we conceive it to be, "God" and thus describe our position as genuinely pantheistic. 6. Nature Mysticism It is often supposed that the main inspiration for pantheism lies in mystical or quasi-mystical experiences of "nature" and that the pantheist believes that these experiences provide our best clue to how Reality really is. It is worth remarking, therefore, that some philosophers properly described as pantheists have shown no particular love of nature. This seems to be true of Croce, for example. II spirito, for him, seems to be expressed almost exclusively in man and his works, particularly cultural works. Actually, I agree with Santayana that those absolute idealist pantheists who seem to think that the world spirit fulfills itself almost exclusively in human life are guilty of "cosmic impiety" towards the great natural scheme of things. No pantheism or idealism to which I could subscribe would play down the vastness of the non-human (or non-animal) cosmos. Spinoza certainly does not do this, though there is no evidence of his having had any great enthusiasm for the great outdoors (after all, he had little chance to see mountains which are among the main evokers of a spiritual sense of oneness with nature, though he enjoyed a pleasant walk). On the other hand he was clearly of the opinion that God was expressing



himself as truly in the non-human as in the human. And I personally think that the pantheist should regard nature mysticism as a significant, though by no means the only, support for his view of things. Pantheism founded in nature mysticism finds its fullest expression in the poetry of Wordsworth (though in later life he moved to a more orthodox Christianity than that expressed in his earlier work) .
. . . the one interior life That lives in all things ... In which all beings live with God, themselves are God ....


Wordsworth's pantheism, at its height, (1797-1800) conceived of a power which rolls through all things and with which one communicates when entranced by natural beauty and that this is both a tranquillising and a moralising experience. Its great statement is in 1intern Abbey. IfI may be so prosaic about great poetry, Wordsworth's ideas on this matter cause me some worries. Does nature really have the almost deliberately moralising power which Wordsworth seems to ascribe to it?
One impulse from a vernal wood May teach you more of man, Or moral evil and of good Than all the sages can.3 3

But is not nature just as much as Tennyson so fearfully saw it?:

[Man] trusted God was love indeed And love Creation's final lawTho' nature red in tooth and claw With ravine, shrieked against his creed.3 4

In this connection it is significant that Wordsworth's nature descriptions mostly concern mountains, plants and the sky, not animal life (birds, to some extent, excepted).
For nature then . . . To me was all in all,-I cannot paint What then I was. The sounding cataract Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock, The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then to me An appetite ... 35

No mention of animals here, yet animal life seems the most obvious, and in some ways the most alarming, place in which to look for what a spirit rolling through all things might be like. For if there is a divine mind



present everywhere, it must, surely, be most clearly present where the fact of sentience forces itself upon us in what we observe. But perhaps the sense that the jungle, or even the countryside, is, so far as animals are concerned, primarily a scene of horror is misconceived. The moment of final fright and pain before an animal is seized by a predator are only a small part of that animal's life, and the general searching for food and mating which is the dominant theme in animal life (out of the laboratory) may be cheerful enough and may even have its pauses in which there is a certain joy in the mere fact of sentient being. Perhaps not only every plant, but every animal, 'enjoys the air it breathes'. Another worry is that the sensory panorama to which the nature lover of the more mystical kind responds does not seem to be a very genuine unit. Indeed we find Wordsworth himself congratulating Coleridge on his awareness of this fact.:
... Thou art no slave Of that false secondary power, by which In weakness, we create distinctions, then Deem that our puny boundaries are things.36

It is, indeed, of the essence of Wordsworth's pantheistic view that what the nature lover experiences is the joint product of his own activity and the power working in objective nature. All the same, it somewhat dashes quasi-mystical responses to nature to conceive it to any extent as a solipsistic, or at least merely human, creation .
. . . we receive but what we give And in our life alone does Nature live .... 37

This is particularly problematic where one is responding to a panorama whose apparent unity can hardly reflect any especial togetherness of its components, as for example with a beautiful sunset. However, a possible answer, suggested above, is that certain scenes, especially when experienced in solitude, weaken the barriers which divide our consciousness from that consciousness which is the in-itself of what surrounds us, and that this provides a joyful sense ofrelieffrom one's usual egotism and a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. One does not have to think that the surrounding environment is in itself more sublime than that in many less beautiful places, but one's barriers are kept up in the one as they are not in the other. 38



So since these experiences can be so strong, and our own metaphysics can make some sense of them, I am inclined to regard them not as mere illusions but as a genuine experience of what Spinoza called 'the union of our mind with the whole of nature'. This, then, is certainly one form of pantheism, but as the examples of Hegel and Croce show, pantheism need not be associated with any special feeling for what we loosely call "nature" in this kind of context.
7. Pantheism, Ethics and Pessimism

Does pantheism have anything much to say about ethics? I believe that it does. And I do not accept Urquhart's claim that such an ethics makes unselfishness pointless, since clearly benefiting the One by always putting oneself first will not conduce to general satisfaction. If aspects of Schopenhauer's thought were not evidently expressions of such a flawed personality, he might well be chosen as the great Western exponent of the pantheistic and Vedantic account of the basis of ethics as residing in the intuitive realization that
... all plurality is only apparent; ... in all the individuals of this world, however infinite the number in which they exhibit themselves successively and simultaneously, there is yet manifested only one and the same truly existing essence, present and identical in all of them. 39

However, Schopenhauer scorned pantheism on two grounds. First, it risks amounting to no more than the use of "God" as another name for the universe, casting no further light on its nature. Second, he thought that to call "such a mean, shabby world" as this "God" was absurd. 40 Nonetheless, his one cosmic Will meets many of the indicators for being called "God". What makes this inappropriate is that it is so nasty and futile in Schopenhauer's opinion. It is not impossible, however, to agree with Schopenhauer that the phenomenal world is the way in which a single world Will presents itself to itself, and to take a more positive view of this world Will and of its manifestations than he does. In short, much of Schopenhauer's metaphysics could be made the basis of a less pessimistic view of the world. This would, in fact, make better sense of his ethics, as the recognition of the other as in essence oneself again, which upon the whole represents for me the ethics to which pantheism points. 41 What is strange in Schopenhauer is that he bases ethics upon the fundamental identity of every subject of experience while thinking of that



identical essence (the world Will) which is present in each as pretty loathsome. Levine several times denies that pantheism holds that the universe is perfect. (This is associated with his denial that metaphysical monism is essential to or even typical of pantheism. Levine, pp. 197 and 207-218). Apart from the fact that the pantheism of Spinoza and Bradley, to which I am closest in outlook, is certainly monistic, I rather doubt his more general claim about pantheism. Similarly I believe that pantheism tends to be deterministic, something Levine denies. However, such points cannot be argued here. Thus it does not rest upon any reverence for this universal shared essence, as it does in similar Hindu treatments of ethics. What you see when you look into another person's eyes, that is the Atman, immortal, beyond fear, that is Brahman. -Chandogya Upanishad42 The ethics implied by this is nothing more novel than that of the ethics based primarily upon compassion of all the great religions at their best. So the precepts of pantheism here are not especially different from those to which we almost all give at least notional assent. However, pantheism, as the doctrine that the same world essence is identically present in each of us, and that therefore we should love our neighbour as ourself, gives its own special cognitive grounding to this, and thus its own particular answer to ethical scepticism. Such an ethics of compassion, in my opinion, must be balanced by an ethics of self-realization. Concern for others arises most healthily from the realization that their happiness matters as much as one's own, something hardly possible if one regards one's own happiness as of no account. It is not merely unrealistic, but undesirable, to attempt such complete selflessness that one has no concern for one's own flourishing. To do so is to risk being the curmudgeon which, unfortunately, accounts of Schopenhauer (one hopes unfairly) tend to represent him as having been, in contrast to Spinoza, who saw concern for others as an outgrowth of concern for oneself. Put in pantheistic terms the divine spark must be recognized in oneself if it is to be recognized in others. We saw above that W. S. Urquhart claims that pantheism is necessarily deeply pessimistic. In its Hindu form it regards the world of everyday life as an unfortunate illusion, and life in it as bound to be a wretched thing. But the only better world to which intellectual Hinduism beckons us is one in which, merged with the Absolute (for Vedanta or as monadic



individuals for Samkbya Yoga) we experience a blank dim sense of selfidentity, not so much blissful as hardly distinguishable from unconsciousness. Whether we agree or not with Urquhart that Indian pantheism is pessimistic (something Hindus today usually contest) I do not think pantheism need be so. It by no means implies that there is nothing really worth while in existence and that all is vanity or worse. Nor need it regard everything in the world as of equal value. In spite of Urquhart's attempt to depict all forms of Western pantheism, too, as implicitly pessimistic, and as flattening all values, rather the opposite seems true. Spinoza, Wordsworth (in his pantheistic days), Allanson Picton and Bradley all thought that life at its best is wonderful, but that unless societies organize themselves well, and individuals live in the light of a clear grasp of their own needs and those of others, it tends to the dreadful. But there is nothing in pantheism which suggests that life, if lived nobly, cannot be a great good, and if greater optimism than that is required of a faith, the requirement is absurd. If pantheism is deterministic, it can make the distinction Spinoza made so well, between determination by rational or intuitive insight and determination by irrational impulses, or as Wordsworth put not so different a point from a full imagination of the effects of action. Moreover, since to wish to be determined in the first more positive way is to be on the path to being so, the wish should not be in vain. 43

T. L. S. Sprigge
The University of Edinburgh
1. However, see below at n. 23. 2. Michael P. Levine, Pantheism: A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 25. I do not have the space to say much about how our views of pantheism relate; there is much agreement and some disagreement. In particular, I conceive pantheism as more intimately related to metaphysical monism (individual substance, not type of substance, monism) than does Levine. 3. J. Allanson Picton, The Religion of the Universe (London: Macmillan, 1904), pp. 152-53. 4. Throughout this article 'infinite' and 'finite' will be used, not in the mathematical sense, but to contrast the concrete whole of concrete things and its parts or part-like aspects. 5. W. S. Urquhart, Pantheism and the Value of Life with Special Reference to Indian Philosophy (London: Epworth Press, 1919), p. 614. At that period the extension of 'mate-



rialism' included naturalistic theories for which the mental was the product of the physical, even if not strictly physical itself. 6. See Richard Jeffries, The Story of my Heart and George Sessions, "Spinoza and Jeffers on Man in Nature", (Inquiry 201977), discussed in Levine p. 44 and p. 125 n. 3. 7. See Erwin SchrOdinger, My View of the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964). 8. See the work cited at n. 3, above. 9. Levine (cited in n. 2, above), p. 35. 10. Juan Mascaro (trans.), The Upanishads (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books), p. 119. 11. Urquhart, p. 35. 12. From the Katha Upanishad in Mascaro, p. 58. 13. It is true that Bradley, unlike, for example, Josiah Royce, refused to identify the Absolute with God. But he did describe himself as a pantheist, and certainly in some respects the Absolute plays the role of God for him. 14. Friedrich Paulsen (trans!.), Frank Thilly, Introduction to Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt, 1930). [First German edition was 1892.] 15. See Josiah Royce The World and the Individual, 2 vols., (New York: Dover, 1959; first pub!, 1899 and 1901) and other works. 16. Thus Vivikenanda, the turn-of-the-last-century Vedantist, says: 'We may all be perfectly sure that it [the world] will go on beautifully without us, and indeed not bother our heads wishing to help it.' by Swami Vivikenanda, Karma-Yoga (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama), p. 91. 17. Newton P. Stallknecht, Strange Seas of Thought: Studies in William Wordsworth's Philosophy of Man and Nature (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1945), p. 143. 18. Urquhart, p. 58. If it is true that Indian Hinduism is in essence pantheistic then some qualification is required of Levine's remark that pantheism has never functioned as a communal religion with 'an established body of religious teaching' . 19. See n. 5, above, for details. 20. Or at any rate with a Ph.D. thesis from Aberdeen University on which the book is based. 21. The book's reference to its sources is (like others of that time) not very full; it is not clear even whether he read the relevant texts in Sanskrit, though it would seem that he did. 22. Urquhart, pp. 425-40. 23. Urquhart, p. 659 et passim. 24. T. L. S. Sprigge, The Vindication ofAbsolute Idealism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1983). 25. The Absolute could still be proved to exist if these italicised words were replaced by "is more of a genuine than, or as much of a genuine individual as" and premiss (5) were dropped. However, the proof would establish less about the nature of the Absolute. See T. L. S. Sprigge, James and Bradley: American Truth and British Reality, (Chicago: Open Court, 1993) pp. 264-76. 26. I shall avoid the tricky and, in the end, rather pointless distinction some would make between its being necessary or contingent that the Absolute which does exist is our one, or its being necessary or contingent that our one is completely or partially just as it is. 27. I find it a little surprising that Levine says that 'in pantheism God (i.e., the divine unity) is not understood to be a perfect being' (Levine, pp. 159-60). It is so for both Spinoza and Bradley, and, surely, for many other pantheists. 28. See Levine pp. 313-28; 342-47 for an excellent discussion of the matter.



29. In "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey". For a discussion of Wordsworth's philosophical development during the years of his greatness see Alan Grob, The Philosophical Mind: A Study of Wordsworths Poetry and Thought, 1797-1805 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, 1973). See also Stallknecht. 30. J. Allanson Picton discussed the possibility of a church with institutionalised pantheistic nature worship calculated to produce an experience of nature akin to that described in Wordsworth's poetry. See Picton, p. 319ff. 31. Cf. Levine pp. 8-11. 32. From The Prelude. 33. From 'The Tables Turned". 34. 1n memoriam LV. 35. From "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey". 36. From The Prelude. 37. From Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode", iv. 38. Cf. Levine, p. 357. 39. On the Basis of Morality by Arthur Schopenhauer, transl. E. F. J. Payne (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), p. 207. The original work was first published in 1841. 40. "A Few Words on Pantheism" in Arthur Schopenhauer (selected and trans. from Parerga and Paralipomena by T. B. Saunders), Religion and Other Essays (London: Sonnenschein, 1980); see also Arthur Schopenhauer (transl. E. F. Payne), The World as Will and Representation (New York: Dover, 1966), vol. II ch. L and elsewhere in this work as indexed. 41. It is sometimes objected that this ethics of identity misses the significance of absolute otherness for ethics. However, the identity with oneself of what looks out at one from another's eyes is an 'identity-in-difference', the same theme with variations, and the required respect for otherness is satisfied by enjoyment of the fresh variation or sense that some hidden one is there. 42. Mascaro translation, (cited in n. 10, above), p. 122. 43. Postscript: Since writing this article I have found cause to modify my remarks about the possibility of a pantheistic church. This is because I have discovered that some Unitarian churches answer very successfully to this description without any of the crankiness of New Age religions.