Pantheism. The identification of the universe,
τὺ πᾱν, the all, with
God. This creed has appeared in nearly all ages, and in every country
where thought and meditation have been habitual; in Hindostan, in
Greece, and among the schoolmen of the Middle Ages, in more modern
times, and largely in the present day.
It takes different forms, sometimes merging
the universe in God, sometimes, and it is to be feared oftener,
merging God in the universe. The former is perhaps the pantheism
of Spinoza and of some of his followers, and in the mere
statement does not involve atheism. But the things around us
attest their reality by so strong a pressure, and
self-consciousness so enforces our own existence upon us, that
it is to be feared few can remain at this pole of pantheism, and
when it is once quitted there will be an immediate flight to the
other, and our God will be the universe, and the universe only.
Whatever poetical forms this scheme may assume, however delightful to
think of one spirit in stars and in flowers, in bird, beast, and insect,
as well as in man, it cannot amount to a recognition of the one living
and true God of Revelation, the Jehovah who spake to Moses from the
burning bush, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To approach
the God of the Bible we must believe in One who is at once the author of
the universe and distinct from it. A spirit pervading all the world and identical with it, cannot be the object of
prayer, of repentance, or of love.
No doubt though such pantheism be atheism, it , is atheism disguised,
and can assume such poetical aspect, as to present great charm in
certain moods of the mind. Hence poets fall into it we may
often suppose unconsciously. The well-known lines of Pope:
"All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and
God the soul,
That, changed through all, and yet in all the same,
Great in the earth,
as in the ethereal frame,
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
Lives through all life,
extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent,"
come very near to pantheism, and, as far as here quoted, are only redeemed from it by the clause "spreads
undivided." There is no reason to believe that Pope, who is largely
acquitted of understanding the real scope of his "Essay on Man,"
intended here anything but real theism; and in another passage he
expressly guards himself against pantheism, saying,
"The worker from the work distinct was known,
And simple reason never
sought but one."
So too Wordsworth's
"------something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and
the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of Man,
A motion and a
spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
rolls through all things,"
approaches pantheism, if it does not reach it. By pantheism the whole
poetry of Shelley is avowedly pervaded.