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(Greek: πάν ( 'pan' ) = all and θεός ( 'theos' ) = God, it literally means "God is All" and "All is God".) Pantheism is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence, and the Universe (the sum total of all that is, was, and shall be) is represented in the theological principle of an abstract 'god' rather than a personal, creative deity or deities of any kind. This is the key feature which distinguishes them from panentheists and pandeists. As such, although many religions may claim to hold pantheistic elements, they are more commonly panentheistic or pandeistic in nature.


The first known use of the term pantheism was by English mathematician Joseph Raphson in his work De spatio reali, published in 1697 and written in Latin. He defined "pantheismus" as the belief that God is all-containing and all-penetrating. The term was first used in English by Irish writer John Toland in his 1705 work "Socinianism Truly Stated, by a pantheist". He clarified the idea in a 1710 letter to Gottfried Leibniz when he referred to "the pantheistic opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe". However, many earlier writers, schools of philosophy, and religious movements expressed pantheistic ideas.

Although the term "Pantheism" did not exist before the 17th century, various pre-Christian religions and philosophies can be regarded as pantheistic. They include some of the Presocratics, such as Heraclitus and Anaximander. The Stoics were Pantheists, beginning with Zeno of Citium and culminating in the emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius. During the pre-Christian Roman Empire, Stoicism was one of the three dominant schools of philosophy, along with Epicureanism and Neoplatonism. The early Taoism of Lao Zi and Zhuangzi is also sometimes considered pantheistic.

In the West, pantheism went into retreat during the Christian years between the 4th and 15th centuries, when it was regarded as heresy. The first open revival was by Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake in 1600). Baruch Spinoza's Ethics, finished in 1675, was the major source from which pantheism spread. John Toland was influenced by both Spinoza and Bruno, and sometimes used the terms 'pantheist' and 'Spinozist' interchangeably. In 1720 he wrote the Pantheisticon: or The Form of Celebrating the Socratic-Society in Latin.

In 1785, a major controversy about Spinoza's philosophy known in German as the Pantheismus-Streit (Pantheism controversy) between critic Friedrich Jacobi and defender Moses Mendelssohn helped to spread pantheism to many German thinkers in the late 18th and in the 19th century.

For a time during the 19th century pantheism was the theological viewpoint of many leading writers and philosophers, attracting figures such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge in Britain; Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in Germany; Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the USA. Seen as a growing threat by the Vatican, it came under attack in the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.

However, in the 20th century pantheism was sidelined by political ideologies such as Communism and Fascism, by the traumatic upheavals of two world wars, and later by relativistic philosophies such as existentialism and postmodernism. It persisted in eminent pantheists such as the novelist D. H. Lawrence, scientist Albert Einstein, poet Robinson Jeffers, author Knut Hamsun, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and historian Arnold Toynbee.

See also

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