While reading Wicca’s Charm, a Christian commentary on Wicca, I came across a term I hadn’t encountered before: panentheism. I decided to visit Technorati to see what other bloggers had written on the topic. Of the posts I read, this one seemed to offer the best explanation of the term. Its author compared and contrasted it with another term it’s apparently often mistaken for, pantheism. An excerpt appears below.
Pantheism is the view that God is wholly immanent. God IS the universe. The pantheist God is not at all personal, and is often little more than a “metaphor” for nature, or “the ground of being”, etc. Some famous pantheists include Einstein, Spinoza, Joseph Campbell, and the followers of many Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism.
Panentheism, while affirming with the pantheists that the universe is included in God, distinguish themselves from pantheists in their belief that God is also personal and transcendent (or more than) the universe. God for the panentheists is more than a metaphor for being or for nature, but a personal transcendent deity.
While the definition of panentheism presented above strongly echoes my beliefs about the nature of the Divine, I feel it also places unnecessary limitations on God’s form (i.e., as a single deity rather than as any manifestation She/He/It chooses). Before I continue, let me say that though the labels we place on various schools of thought are helpful in establishing common understanding, they can also be limiting due to the myriad of different meanings each individual attaches to them. I don’t believe words are capable of fully and accurately representing how each person who believes in a Higher Power views and relates to that Higher Power.
That said it should come as no surprise that I identify as a polytheist given my religious affiliation. However what polytheism means to me may differ from the meaning other Wiccans or Pagans associate with the term. My view of a Higher Power is thus:
- There is a central, sentient source of Love that creates all that is. Every being, the earth, sun, and stars are all sacred because the Source is sacred and the Source is where all originates.
- The Gods and Goddesses of Old are separate and distinct facets of the Source. One Wiccan author (I can’t remember who) described the Source as an immense diamond and the Goddess(es) and God(s) as separate faces on its surface. (In other words, this author and I see the Goddess and God as manifestations of the Source.)
As I continue to ponder how panentheism partially describes my view of the Divine (as both present in all creation as well as “a personal, transcendent deity”), I also start to wonder how this concept can be reconciled with polytheism (if at all). Perhaps these musings will result in my adoption of a new label to describe my beliefs – “poly-panentheist.”