pantheism/panentheism

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

pantheism
panentheism

Pantheism is the view that God is identical to the temporal world.

Panentheism is the view that the world is “contained” or “in” God. There is no principle other than God from which the world could derive. But God transcends every part of temporal reality. As Paul says in Acts, “In Him we live and move and have our Being.” Even Calvin refers to this:

Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. (Institutes Chapter I)

Vollenhoven was aware of the term ‘panentheism.’ In his Schematische Kaarten (2nd edition, 2000), there are separate entries in the Index of Keywords for both ‘pantheism’ and ‘panentheism.’ He says that pantheism is monistic (he distinguishes at least four forms of this monism). Because dualism presupposes a double origin, there can be no consequent pantheism in a dualistic worldview. In contrast to the monism of pantheism, panentheism is dualistic, distinguishing a higher universal divine nature in which the higher part of human nature participates, from a transcendent Godhead. Malebranche is an example of panentheism. For him, God was not in the world; rather, the world was in God. The term ‘panentheism’ comes from the German philosopher Karl C.F. Krause. For him, God was nevertheless transcendent. The relation of universal to individual in panentheism is that the universal contains and includes [omringt en insluit] all individual beings.

Dooyeweerd was familiar with Krause. See NC I, 471.

While they were students, both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven were made aware of controversies regarding pantheism and panentheism. They both contributed to the journal Opbouw. Vollenhoven was actually an editor of this journal, although he did so under the pseudonym ‘Th. Voorthuizen.’ The journal Opbouw published a favourable review by Br. Elffers of a translation of Boehme’s works by A.H. de Hartog. Elffers says,

Dit is een kostelijk boek
Het zet ons te midden van het wereldrumoer stil met ons zelf.
‘t Heft ons uit boven den den sleurgang van dit aarde-leven, ‘t daalt met ons af in duistere diepten, waar eewigheids-glanzen ons toelichten.
Inderdaad, dit is een boek van wijsheid en schoonheid.

[This is a splendid book.
In the midst of the world’s uproar, it sets us at rest in our self.
It raises us above the routine of earthly life, it descends with us into dark depths, where we are elucidated by beams of eternity.
It is really a book of wisdom and beauty.]

Elffers refers to the following lines in the book:

Wien tijd geworden is als eeuwigheid
En eeuwigheid als tijd,
Hij is bevrijd van allen strijd.

[For whom time has become as eternity
And eternity as time,
He is freed from all strife.]

In the book (p. 8), de Hartog refers to the significant work on Boehme by Schelling and Baader. On p. 50, De Hartog gives an annotation, where he says that Boehme sees all things vertically, “sub specie aeternitatis,” from the standpoint of the eternal now. He saw that the phrase “Everything in God” [“Alles in God”] reminds him of Krause’s idea of panentheism. This is the philosopher that Vollenhoven says first used the term ‘panentheism.’

But de Hartog’s thought was attacked by the theologian Ubbink, who wrote a series of articles in Opbouw, where he claimed that de Hartog’s views were pantheistic. De Hartog strongly denied this charge of pantheism. He said that on Ubbink’s reasoning, even Paul’s reference in Acts to God “in whom we live and move and have our being” would be pantheistic. But de Hartog said that pantheism asserted an identity with God–the pantheist “vereen-zelv-igt” God and world. But he stressed that the theist distinguished world and God and yet knew them to be one.

Wij toch hebben t.a.p. gezegd, dat de pantheïst God en wereld “vereen-zelf-igt” (let op het “zelf”), terwijl de theïst deze “twee onderscheidt en toch één weet.” “Eenheid bij onderscheidenheid” beteekent volstrekt nog niet “vereenzelviging” (al voert Dr. Ubbink zijn philosofisch woordenboek aan): de Heer wil in Zijn souvereine almacht en liefde Zich mededeelen aan het schepsel, waar Hij Goddelijke en menschelijke natuur aldus “vereenigt,” dat ze “ongedeeld en ongescheiden, onvermengd en onverandered” blijven; maar daarom heeft Hij de Goddelijke en menschelijjke natuur nog niet “vereenzelvigd.”

[We have said elsewhere that the pantheist “I-dentifies” God and world (pay attention to the “I”), while the theist “distinguishes the two and yet knows them to be one.” “Unity in diversity” certainly does not mean identity (whatever Dr. Ubbink’s dictionary may say): The Lord, in His sovereign power and loves wants to impart Himself to creation, where in this way he “unites” divine and human nature, so that they remain”undivided and inseparable, unmixed and unchanged; but this does not mean that He has “identified” divine and human nature.]

The idea that world and God are distinguished and yet “one” is neither pantheistic or monistic. Neither is it dualistic. It is nondual. It may perhaps best be compared to Ramanuja’s version of nondualism, known as modified nondualism (vishishtadvaita) is a theistic version that emphasizes the continued distinct identity of humanity, which is not identical with the Divine, but is separate in order to allow for the relation of love and devotion.

One of the editors of Opbouw, Br. Elffers, wrote an article against Ubbink, and defending de Hartog (“Dr. Ubbink’s Aanval Getoetst,” Vol. 3, p. 1). Elffers says that Ubbink’s attack was unreasonable and not well thought-out. Ubbink had raised the question whether the world is made out of God [uit God] or by God [door God]. Elffers says that both must be brought into a synthesis, that “uit, door en tot God all dingen zijn” [all things are from, out and to God]. Now Dooyeweerd uses this same phrase “from, through and to” [uit, door en tot] in reference to God as Origin. From the very controversial articles in Opbouw, Dooyeweerd was aware that these were contentious words. But he used them anyway.

Dooyeweerd’s Idea of the “image of God” may raise more concerns. If it means that we are the expression of God, how does that differ from an emanation from God? Even the idea of “emanation,” might be acceptable, provided that it is understood that God still transcends all of creation, and that temporal being, and our supratemporal heart, do not exist in themselves, but have meaning and existence only in God their Origin, from Whom and to Whom they exist. And yet De Hartog makes a good point that ’emanation’ implies something involuntary, by accident, something unforeseen. For that reason he uses the word ‘creation’–emphasizing the will of God in the act of creation (“De Schepping,” Nieuwe Banen, Jan/1910, p. 37).

Although Dooyeweerd rejects a “chain of being” argument linking creation to God, this is because he does not want to allow any Idea of a self-sufficient substance or being alongside of God. Our existence is only in God. That which makes reality into meaning lies beyond the limit of time (NC II, 30).

If we do not see created reality as an expression of God, then it must receive its origin from some independent reality. And that is what Dooyeweerd objects to.

In some sense we are not different from Christ, nor from God, because we participate in Christ. And we are called to Sonship.

What about the idea of the supratemporal heart? Is it pantheistic? Kuyper at one time adopted the idea of the heart as the undivided point in our consciousness. He later says that this idea is pantheistic. He thought that the only way to avoid pantheism was to maintain a dualism between body and soul. It is unclear why he thought this conclusion was necessary. Dooyeweerd follows Baader here, in emphasizing the “unity” of the heart and rejecting any dualism between body and soul.

Baader expressly rejects pantheism. Baader says that we can say that everything is God, but not that God is everything. Pantheism is when we confuse the dynamic relation in God with the act of creation (Werke 12, 154 and 339). He says that the sum of all creation does not constitute a creator, as pantheists think. The center is not the sum of all the periphery-points [Peripherie-Punkte], but stands as Inbegriff [essence] over them (Begründung 63 ft. 7). There is to be union and not confusion between creature and Creator (Werke I, 203). The immanence or inexistence of all things in God must not be understood as a pantheistic identity of all things with god (Werke 8, 241; 14, 31, 70). The Christian doctrine of immanence, in contrast to the pantheistic doctrine of identity is a teaching of acting, willing and knowing in God (Werke 5, 252).

Baader also says that pantheism is the view that God becomes God when he becomes Creator. (Philosophische Schriften I, 304). Baader objects to the views of Schelling and Hegel that God was required to create in order to express Himself. Baader holds to the view that God has His own “nature” within which He expresses Himself, within the Trinity. There is already an eternal communion, so God had no need to create.

Es its Pantheismus, wenn man die eigene Entfaltung (Dreifaltung) der Einheit mit dem Schaffungsact zusammenfallen lässt (Des err. Werke 12, 154).

[There is a pantheism if we confuse the proper unfolding (the Three) from Unity with the act of creation].

Baader refers to the statement that Jung also liked to quote,

God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. Deus est sphaera, cuius centrum ubique, circumfrentia nusquam. (Werke 8, 283; 11, 371).

This statement illustrates God’s immanence everywhere but yet a presence that transcends all limits or circumference.

Man kann wohl sagen: Alles ist Gott, aber nicht: Gott ist Alles. (Espr Werke 12, 339)

[We may properly say, “Everything is God.” But not, “God is everything.”]

Baader also refers to philosophers in India after Herder; they speak of God as Being of beings. The All is not this Being itself; no thing is a part of him, all things are in him, they are his impression.” (Lichtstrahlen 98).

Abhishiktananda’s response to this kind of argument is that in view of God’s love, we must ask whether God could conceivably have held back from creating the universe. (Saccidananda, pp. 116, 117. Diary, p. 145 (19.2.56). Abhishiktananda asks whether the distinction between God’s freedom and His essence is not already maya or illusion. See also Diary, p. 223 (3.11.59): God is beyond necessity and freedom. But elsewhere, Abhishiktananda says that it is important for the Christian to affirm and to safeguard both viewpoints:

It is absolutely essential for him to safeguard, both in his thought and in his formulations of it, the complete liberty of God in his decision to create and the distinction between created being and the uncreated being of God. However, he must equally strongly affirm the ekatvam, the oneness of the mystery of God and the mystery of man. (Meeting Point, p. 66).

Jules Monchanin objected to Abhishiktananda’s assertion that God had to create out of love. Like Baader, Monchanin wanted to preserve the doctrine of God’s freedom of creation–that God did not have to create the world.

It is interesting that although Baader saw the Hindu idea of aham as pantheistic, he did see some opposition to pantheism within Hinduism. He opposes to pantheism a prayer to Vishnu:

“O Vishnu, we do not want absorption, but a state where we can see You eternally, where we can serve You eternally as our master” (Werke I, 244)

In a recent book, Peter Koslowski distinguishes Baader’s orthodox theosophy from pantheistic theosophy. See Philosophien der Offenbarung (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2001).

Revised June 5/04

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