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§ 5. Pantheism.

A. What Pantheism is.

If the etymology of the word Pantheism be allowed to determine its meaning, the answer to the question, What is Pantheism? is easy. The universe is God, and God is the universe. Τὸ πᾶν Θεος ἔστι. This is not only the signification of the word and the popular idea usually attached to it, but it is the formal definition often given of the term. Thus Wegscheider says, “Pantheismus [est] ea sententia, qua mundum non secretum a numine ac disparatum, sed ad ipsam Dei essentiam pertinere quidam opinati sunt.254254Institutiones Theologiæ, fifth edit., Halle, 1826, p. 215. This, however, is pronounced by the advocates of the doctrine to be a gross misrepresentation. The idea that the universe, as the aggregate of individual things, is God, is, they say, a form of thought, which the earliest philosophy of the East had surmounted. It might as well be said that the contents of a man's consciousness, at any one time, were the man himself; or that the waves of the ocean were the ocean itself. It is because so many Pantheists take the word in the sense above indicated, that they deny that they are Pantheists, and affirm their belief in the being of God. As the system which is properly designated Pantheism, does exclude the popular view of the subject, derived from the etymology of the word; and as it has been held in very different forms, it is 300not easy to give a concise and satisfactory answer to the question, What is Pantheism? The three principal forms in which the doctrine has been presented, are, (1.) That which ascribes to the Infinite and Universal Being, the attributes (to a certain extent at least) of both mind and matter, namely, thought and extension. (2.) That which ascribes to it only the attributes of matter, Materialistic Pantheism. (3.) That which ascribes to it only the attributes of spirit, Idealistic Pantheism.

General Principles of the System.

For the purpose of theological instruction it is sufficient to state what these several systems unite in denying, and what they substantially agree in affirming.

1. They deny all dualism in the universe. The essential distinction between matter and mind, between soul and body, between God and the world, between the Infinite and the Finite is repudiated. There is but one substance, but one real Being. Hence the doctrine is called Monism, or, the All One doctrine. “The idea,” says Cousin,255255Pyschology, by Henry, first edition, p. xviii. “of the finite, of the infinite, and of their necessary connection as cause and effect, meet in every act of intelligence, nor is it possible to separate them from each other; though distinct, they are bound together, and constitute at once a triplicity and unity.” “The first term (the infinite), though absolute, exists not absolutely in itself, but as an absolute cause which must pass into action, and manifest itself in the second (the finite). The finite cannot exist without the infinite, and the infinite can only be realized by developing itself in the finite.”

All philosophy is founded, he says, on the ideas of “unity and multiplicity,” “of substance and phenomenon.” “Behold,” he says, “all the propositions which we had enumerated reduced to a single one, as vast as reason and the possible, to the opposition of unity and plurality, of substance and phenomenon, of being and appearance, of identity and difference.”256256History of Philosophy, translated by Wight, N.Y. 1852, p. 78. All men, he says, believe, “as it were, in a combination of phenomena which would cease to be at the moment in which the eternal substance should cease to sustain them; they believe, as it were, in the visible manifestation of a concealed principle which speaks to them under this cover, and which they adore in nature and in consciousness.”257257Ibid. p. 121. “As God is made known only in so far as he is absolute cause, on this account, 301in my opinion, he cannot but produce, so that the creation ceases to be unintelligible, and God is no more without a world than a world without God.”258258Psychology, fourth edition, N.Y. 1856, p. 447. It is one of the most familiar aphorisms of the German philosophers, “Ohne Welt kein Gott; und ohne Gott keine Welt."

Renan in his “Vie de Jésus,” understands by Pantheism, materialism, or the denial of a living God. This would exclude all the forms of the doctrines held by idealistic pantheists in all ages. Dr. Calderwood pronounces Sir William Hamilton's doctrine of creation pantheistic, because it denies that the sum of existence can either be increased or diminished. Sir William Hamilton teaches that when we say God created the world out of nothing, we can only mean that “He evolves existence out of himself.” Although all the forms of Pantheism are monistic, except Hylozoism, which is properly dualistic, yet the mere doctrine of the unity of substance does not constitute Pantheism. However objectionable the doctrine may be that everything that exists, even unorganized matter, is of the substance of God, it has been held by many Christian Theists. This does not necessarily involve the denial of the essential distinction between matter and mind.

2. However they differ as to the nature of the Infinite as such, whether it be matter or spirit; or that of which both thought and extension (potentially) can be predicated; or, whether it be thought itself, or force, or cause, or nothing, i.e., that of which nothing can be affirmed or denied; a simple unknown quantity; they all agree that it has no existence either before or out of the world. The world is, therefore, not only consubstantial, but coeternal with God.

3. This of course precludes the idea of creation; except as an eternal and necessary process.

4. They deny that the Infinite and Absolute Being in itself has either intelligence, consciousness, or will. The Infinite comes into existence in the Finite. The whole life, consciousness, intelligence, and knowledge, at any time, of the former, is the life, consciousness, intelligence, and knowledge of the latter, i.e., of the world. “Omnes (mentes),” says Spinoza, “simul Dei æternum et infinitum intellectum constituunt.259259Ethices, v. xl. schol. edit. Jena, 1803, p. 297. “God alone is, and out of Him is nothing.”260260Von seligen Leben, p. 143, edit. Berlin, 1806.Seine Existenz als Wesen ist unser Denken von ihm; aber seine reale Existenz ist die Natur, zu welcher das einzelne Denkende als moment gehört.261261Strauss, Dogmatik i. p. 517.


5. Pantheism denies the personality of God. Personality as well as consciousness implies a distinction between the Self and the Not Self; and such distinction is a limitation inconsistent with the nature of the Infinite. God, therefore, is not a person who can say I, and who can be addressed as Thou. As He comes into existence, intelligence, and consciousness only in the world, He is a person only so far as He comprehends all personalities, and the consciousness of the sum of finite creatures constitutes the consciousness of God. “The true doctrine of Hegel on this subject,” says Michelet,262262Geschichte der letzen Systeme der Philosophie in Deutschland, vol. ii. p. 647. “is not that God is a person as distinguished from other persons; neither is He simply the universal or absolute substance. He is the movement of the Absolute ever making itself subjective; and in the subjective first comes to objectivity or to true existence.” “God,” he adds, “according to Hegel, is the only true personal Being.” “As God is eternal personality, so He eternally produces his other self, namely, Nature, in order to come to self-consciousness.”

It follows of necessity from the doctrine, that God is the substance of which the universe is the phenomenon; that God has no existence but in the world; that the aggregate consciousness and life of the Finite is, for the time being, the whole consciousness and life of the Infinite; that the Infinite cannot be a person distinct from the world, to whom we can say, Thou. On this point Cousin says, “Take away my faculties, and the consciousness that attests them to me, and I am not for myself. It is the same with God; take away nature, and the soul, and every sign of God disappears.”263263Lectures on the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, trans. Wight, N.Y. 1854, p. 365. What the soul would be without faculties and without consciousness, that is God without the universe. An unconscious God, without life, of whom nothing can be predicated but simple being, is not only not a person, but he is, for us, nothing.

6. Man is not an individual subsistence. He is but a moment in the life of God; a wave on the surface of the sea; a leaf which falls and is renewed year after year.

7. When the body, which makes the distinction of persons among men, perishes, personality ceases with it. There is no conscious existence for man after death. Schleiermacher, in his “Discourses,” says, the piety in which he was nurtured in his youth, “remained with me when the God and immortality of my childhood disappeared from my doubting sight.”264264Hunt’s Essay on Pantheism, London, 1866, p. 312. On this avowal, Mr. Hunt, curate of St. Ives, Hunts, comments: “The 'God and immortality' of his 303childhood disappeared. The personal God whom the Moravians worshipped was exchanged for the impersonal Divinity of philosophy. Nor did this theology seem impious. No, it was the very essence of true religion.” There is good reason to believe that with regard to the personal existence of the soul after death, Schleiermacher sacrificed his philosophy, as he certainly did in other points, to his religion. This, however, only the more clearly shows how inconsistent the pantheistic view of the nature of God is with the doctrine of conscious existence after death. The absorption of the soul in God, of the Finite into the Infinite, is the highest destiny that Pantheism can acknowledge for man.

8. As man is only a mode of God's existence, his acts are the acts of God, and as the acts of God are necessary, it follows that there can be no freedom of the will in man. Spinoza says,265265Ethices, part ii. prop. xi. coroll., vol. ii. p. 87, edit. Jena, 1803.Hinc sequitur mentem humanam partem esse infiniti intellectus Dei: ac proinde cum dicimus, mentem humanam hoc vel illud percipere, nihil aliud dicimus, quam quod Deus, non quatenus infinitus est, sed quatenus per naturam humanæ mentis explicatur, sive quatenus humanæ mentis essentiam constituit, hanc vel illam habeat ideam." “In mente nulla est absoluta sive libera voluntas. Mens certus et determinatus modus cogitandi est adeoque suarum actionum non potest esse causa libera.266266Ibid. prop. xlviii. Demon. vol. ii. p. 121.Eodem hoc modo demonstratur, in mente nullam dari facultatem absolutam intelligendi, cupiendi, amandi, etc.267267Ibid. Scholium.

Cousin says, “We are thus arrived then in the analysis of the me, by the way of psychology still, at a new aspect of ontology, at a substantial activity, anterior and superior to all phenomenal activity, which produces all the phenomena of activity, survives them all, and renews them all, immortal and inexhaustible, in the destruction of its temporary manifestations.”268268Elements of Psychology, translated by Henry, N.Y. 1856, p. 429. Thus our activity is only a temporary manifestation of the activity of God. All our acts are his acts.269269Princeton Review, 1856, p. 368.

Mr. Hunt, analyzing Spinoza's system, and using mainly his language on this point, says, “Spinoza ascribed to God a kind of freedom: a free necessity. But to created existences even this kind of freedom is denied. 'There is nothing contingent in the nature of beings; all things on the contrary are determined by the necessity of the Divine nature, to exist and to act, after a certain fashion. 'Nature produced' is determined by 'nature producing. 304It does not act, it is acted upon. The soul of man is a Spiritual automaton. . . . . There can be nothing arbitrary in the necessary developments of the Divine essence.”270270Essay on Pantheism, p. 231.

As Pantheism makes creation an eternal, necessary, and continuous evolution of the Infinite Being, all liberty of second causes is of necessity excluded. A distinction may be made between the necessity by which a stone falls to the ground, and the necessity by which a mind thinks; but the necessity is as absolute in the one case as in the other. Liberty in man is rational self-determination, that is, spontaneity determined by reason. But reason in man is impersonal, according to Pantheism. It is God as explicated in us. All the acts of the human mind are the acts of God as determined by the necessity of his nature. The same doctrine of fatalism is involved in the idea that history is merely the self-evolution of God. One idea, or phase of the Infinite Being, is exhibited by one age or nation, and a different one by another. But the whole is as much a necessary process of evolution as the growth of a plant.

Sir William Hamilton, therefore, says that Cousin destroys liberty by divorcing it from intelligence, and that his doctrine is inconsistent not only with Theism but with morality, which cannot be founded “on a liberty which at best only escapes necessity by taking refuge with chance.”271271Hamilton’s Discussions, p. 43. And Morell, a eulogist of Cousin, says, that according to Cousin: “God is the ocean, we are but the waves; the ocean may be one individuality, and each wave another; but still they are essentially one and the same. We see not how Cousin's Theism can possibly be consistent with any idea of moral evil; neither do we see how, starting from such a dogma, he can ever vindicate and uphold his own theory of human liberty. On such Theistic principles, all sin must be simply defect, and all defect must be absolutely fatuitous.”272272History of Modern Philosophy, N.Y. 1848, p. 660.

9. Pantheism in making man a mode of God's existence, and in denying all freedom of the will, and in teaching that all “phenomenal activity" is “a transient manifestation" of the activity of God, precludes the possibility of sin. This does not mean that there is in man no sentiment of approbation or disapprobation, no subjective difference between right and wrong. This would be as absurd as to say that there is no difference between pleasure and pain. But if God be at once God, nature, and humanity; if reason in us be God's reason; his intelligence our intelligence, his activity our activity; if God be the substance of which the world is the 305phenomenon, if we are only moments in the life of God, then there can be nothing in us which is not in God. Evil is only limitation, or undeveloped good. One tree is larger and finer than another; one mind is more vigorous than another; one mode of action more pleasurable than another; but all alike are modes of God's activity. Water is water, whether in the puddle or in the ocean; and God is God, in Nero or St. John. Hegel says that sin is something unspeakably higher than the law-abiding motion of the planets, or the innocence of plants. That is, it is a higher manifestation of the life of God.

Spinoza teaches that “sin is nothing positive. It exists for us but not for God. The same things which appear hateful in men are regarded with admiration in animals. . . . . It follows then that sin, which only expresses an imperfection, cannot consist in anything which expresses a reality. We speak improperly, applying human language to what is above human language, when we say that we sin against God, or that men offend God.”273273Hunt, p. 231.

It is the necessary consequence of the doctrine that God is the universal Being, that the more of being the more of God, and therefore the more of good. And consequently the less of being, the less of good. All limitation, therefore, is evil; and evil is simply limitation of being. Spinoza274274Ethices, iv. prop. xx., vol. ii. p. 217, edit. Jena, 1803. says, “Quo magis unusquisque — suum esse conservare conatur et potest, eo magis virtute præditus est; contra quatenus unusquisque — suum esse conservare negligit, eatenus est impotens." In the demonstration of this proposition, he says, “Virtus est ipsa humana potentia,”275275Ibid. making power and goodness identical. Professor Baur of Tübingen,276276In the Tübingen Zeitschrift, Drittes Heft, p. 233. says: “Evil is what is finite; for the finite is negative; the negation of the infinite.”

It is only, as just said, another form of this doctrine that power, or strength, is in man the only good. This does not mean the strength to submit to injury; the strength of self-sacrifice; the strength to be humble and to resist evil passion, but the power to carry out our own purposes in opposition to the will, interests, or happiness of others. That is, that might is right. The victor is always right, the vanquished is always wrong. This is only one manifestation of God, suppressing or superseding a less perfect manifestation. Spinoza's doctrine is, “To the pursuit of what is agreeable, and the hatred of the contrary, man is compelled by his nature, for 'every one desires or rejects by necessity, according to the laws of his nature, that which he judges good or bad.' To 306follow this impulse is not only a necessity but it is the right and the duty of every man, and every one should be reckoned an enemy who wishes to hinder another in the gratification of the impulses of his nature. The measure of every one's right is his power. The best right is that of the strongest; and as the wise man has an absolute right to do all which reason dictates, or the right of living according to the laws of reason, so also the ignorant and foolish man has a right to live according to the laws of appetite.”277277Hunt, p. 233. A more immoral and demoralizing principle was never expressed in human language. To say that it is the duty of every man to seek his own gratification, to satisfy the impulses of his nature; that he is an enemy who attempts to hinder that gratification; that the only limit to such gratification is our power; that men have the right, if so inclined, to live according to the laws of appetite, is to say that there is no such thing as moral obligation; no such thing as right or wrong.

Cousin repeats ad nauseam the doctrine that might is right; that the strongest is always the best. “We usually see in success,” he says, “only a triumph of force, . . . . I hope I have shown that, inasmuch as there always must be a vanquished party, and inasmuch as the vanquished party is always that which ought to be vanquished, to accuse the vanquisher and to take part against victory, is to take part against humanity, and to complain of the progress of civilization. It is necessary to go further; it is necessary to prove that the vanquished party deserves to be vanquished; that the vanquishing party not only serves the cause of civilization, but that it is better, and more moral than the vanquished party.” “Virtue and prosperity, misfortune and vice, are in necessary harmony.” “Feebleness is a vice, and, therefore, it is always punished and beaten.” “It is time,” he says, “that philosophy of history put beneath its feet the declamations of philanthropy.”278278Cousin’s History of Modern Philosophy, translated by Wight, New York, 1852, vol. i. pp. 186, 187, 189. It must, of course, be true, if God is the life of the world, all power his power, every act his act, not only that there can be no sin, but that the most powerful are always morally (if that word has any meaning) the best; and that might is right. This is the theory on which hero worship is founded, not only among the heathen, but among Christians, so called, of our day.

10. Pantheism is self deification. If God comes to existence only in the world, and if everything that is, is a manifestation of God, it Follows that (so far as this earth is concerned, and so far as 307pantheists allow or acknowledge) the soul of man is the highest form of the existence of God. As the souls of men differ very much one from another, one being much superior to others, the greater the man the more divine he is, i.e., the more does he represent God; the more of the divine essence does he reveal. The highest step of development is reached only by those who come to the consciousness of their identity with God. This is the precise doctrine of the Hindus, who teach that when a man is able to say, “I am Brahm,” the moment of his absorption into the infinite Being has arrived. This is the ground on which the pantheistic philosophers rest their claim of preeminence; and the ground on which they concede the preeminence of Christ. He, more than any other man, saw into the depths of his own nature. He was able to say as no other man could say, “I and the Father are one.” But the difference between Christ and other men is only one of degree. The human race is the incarnation of God, which is a process from eternity to eternity. “Mankind,” says Strauss, “is the Godman; the key of a true Christology is, that the predicates which the Church gives to Christ, as an individual, belong to an idea, a generic whole.”279279Dogmatik, ii. p. 215.

11. There is only one step further, and that is, the deification of evil. That step Pantheists do not hesitate to take; so far as evil exists it is as truly a manifestation of God as good. The wicked are only one form of the self-manifestation of God; sin is only one form of the activity of God. This dreadful doctrine is explicitly avowed.

Rosenkranz says,280280Encyklopädie, p. 51.Die dritte Consequenz endlich ist die, dass Gott der Sohn auch als identisch gesetzt ist mit dem Subject, in welchem die religiöse Vorstellung den Ursprung des Bösen anschaut, mit dem Satan, Phosphoros, Lucifer. Diese Verschmelzung begründet sich darin, dass der Sohn innerhalb Gottes das Moment der Unterscheidung ist, in dem Unterschied aber die Möglichkeit der Entgegensetzung und Entzweiung angelegt ist. Der Sohn ist der selbstbewusste Gott." Such a sentence as the foregoing has never been written in English, and, we trust, never will be. The conclusion it avows, however, is unavoidable. If God be everything, and if there be a Satan, God must be Satan. Rosenkranz says, that the mind is horrified at such language, only because it does not recognize the intimate connection between good and evil; that evil is in good, and good in evil. Without evil there can be no good.


It me because of this deification of evil, that a recent German writer281281Leo, the historian, we believe. said that this system should be called Pandiabolism instead of Pantheism. He, if we mistake not, is the author of the article in Hengstenberg's “Kirchen-Zeitung,”2822821836, p. 575. in which it is said. “this is the true positive blasphemy of God — this veiled blasphemy — this diabolism of the deceitful angel of light — this speaking of reckless words, with which the man of sin sets himself in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. The Atheist cannot blaspheme within such power as this; his blasphemy is merely negative. He merely says: 'There is no God.’ It is only out of Pantheism that a blasphemy can proceed, so wild, of such inspired mockery, so devoutly godless, so desperate in its love of the world, — a blasphemy so seductive, and so offensive that it may well call for the destruction of the world.”

Pantheism, however, becomes all things to all men. To the pure it gives scope for a sentimental religious feeling which sees God in every thing and every thing in God. To the proud it is the source of intolerable arrogance and self-conceit. To the sensual it gives authority for every form of indulgence. The body being a mode of God's extension, according to Spinoza's theory, as the mind is a mode of the divine intelligence, the body has its divine rights as well as the soul. Even some of the most reputable of the Pantheistic school, do not hesitate to say in reference to the trammels of morality: “It is well that the rights of our sensual nature should, from time to time, be boldly asserted.”283283Bischer, quoted in Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung, 1839, p. 31. This system, therefore, as even the moderate Tholuck says, “comes to the same result with the materialism of French encyclopedists, who mourned over mankind for having sacrificed the real pleasures of time for the imaginary pleasures of eternity, and the protracted enjoyments of life, for the momentary happiness of a peaceful death.”

Pantheism, therefore, merges everything into God. The universe is the existence-form of God; that is, the universe is his existence. All reason is his reason; all activity is his activity; the consciousness of creatures, is all the consciousness God has of himself; good and evil, pain and pleasure, are phenomena of God; modes in which God reveals himself, the way in which He passes from Being into Existence. He is not, therefore, a person whom we can worship and in whom we can trust. He is only the substance of which the universe and all that it contains are the ever 309changing manifestation. Pantheism admits of no freedom, no responsibility, no conscious life after death. Cousin sums up the doctrine in this comprehensive paragraph: “The God of consciousness is not an abstract God, a solitary monarch exiled beyond the limits of creation, upon the desert throne of a silent eternity, and of an absolute existence which resembles even the negation of existence. He is a God at once true and real, at once substance and cause, always substance and always cause, being substance only in so far as He is cause, and cause only so far as He is substance, that is to say, being absolute cause, one and many, eternity and time, space and number, essence and life, indivisibility and totality, principle, end, and centre, at the summit of Being and at its lowest degree, infinite and finite together, triple, in a word, that is to say, at the same time God, nature, and humanity. In fact, if God be not everything, He is nothing.”284284Philosophical Fragments, Preface to First Edition. See History of Modern Philosophy, translated by Wight, N.Y. 1852, vol. i. pp. 112. 113.

History of Pantheism.

Pantheism has proved itself to be the most persistent as well as the most wide-spread form of human thought relative to the origin and nature of the universe, and its relation to the Infinite Being, whose existence in some form seems to be a universal and necessary assumption. Pantheistic ideas underlie almost all the forms of religion which have existed in the world. Polytheism, which has been almost universal, has its origin in nature worship; and nature-worship rests on the assumption that Nature is God, or, the manifestation, or existence form of the infinite unknown. Of course it is only the briefest outline of the different forms of this portentous system of error, that can be given in these pages.

B. Brahminical Pantheism.

Ethnographically the Hindus belong to the same race as the Greeks, Romans, and other great European nations. In prehistoric periods one division of the great Aryan family spread itself westward over the territory which now constitutes Europe. Another division extended south and east and entered India, displacing almost entirely the original inhabitants of that large, diversified, and fertile region.

Long before Greece or Rome became cultivated communities, and when Europe was the home only of uncivilized barbarians, India was covered with rich and populous cities; the arts had 310reached the highest state of development; a literature and language which, in the judgment of scholars, rival those of Greece and Rome, had been produced, and systems of philosophy as profound, as subtle, and as diversified as the human mind ever elaborated, were already taught in her schools.

The Hindus number nearly two hundred millions of souls. They are now, in the essential principles of their philosophy, their religion, and their social organization, what they were a thousand years before the birth of Christ. Never in the history of the world has a form of religious philosophy been so extensively embraced, so persistently adhered to, or so effective in moulding the character and determining the destiny of a people.

Few questions of the kind, therefore, are of deeper interest than what the true character of the Hindu religion actually is. The decision of that question is not free from difficulty; and it has, therefore, received very different answers. The difficulty in this case arises from various sources.

1. The religious books of the Hindus are not only written in Sanskrit, a language unintelligible, except to a small class of learned men, but they are exceedingly voluminous. The Vedas, the most ancient and authoritative, fill fourteen volumes folio. The Institutes of Menu, the Puranas, and the sacred poems, “Ramayana" and “Mahabhrata,” are equally extensive. The former of these poems consists of a hundred thousand verses, and the latter of four hundred thousand, while the Æneid has only twelve thousand, and the Iliad twenty-four thousand. Sir William Jones said that the student of the Hindu literature and religion, found himself in time presence of infinity.

2. It is not only, however, the voluminousness of the authoritative sacred books, but the character of their contents, which creates the difficulty of getting a clear idea of the system which they teach. The Vedas consist mainly of hymns of various ages, interspersed with brief obscure, philosophical or theological explanations and comments. The Puranas are filled with extravagant legends; which are to be interpreted historically, and which mythically, it is difficult to decide.

3. The spirit of exaggeration is so characteristic of the Hindu mind that statements meant to be understood literally shock the mind by their extravagance. Thus their books make the earth a circular plane one hundred and seventy millions of miles in diameter; they speak of mountains sixty miles high, and of periods of four thousand millions of millions of years.


The Religion of the Hindus not originally Monotheistic.

It is a common opinion that the Hindu religion was originally and for centuries monotheistic; that out of monotheism gradually rose the present complicated and monstrous polytheism, and that contemporaneously among the philosophical class, were developed the different forms of Pantheism. But this is contrary to well established facts, and is altogether unsatisfactory as a solution of the great problem of Hindu life.

It is indeed true, as we know from the Bible, that monotheism was the earliest form of religion among men. And it is also true in all probability that the Vedas, which are collections of ancient hymns, contain some which belong to the monotheistic period. Most of those, however, which appear to assume the existence of one God, are to be understood in a pantheistic and not in a theistic sense. These recognize one divine Being, but that one includes all the other forms of being. The history of religion shows that when monotheism failed among men because “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” it was replaced by the worship of nature. This nature-worship assumed two forms. The different elements, as fire, air, and water, were personified, endowed with personal attributes and divine powers, giving rise to polytheism. Or nature as a whole was the object of worship, giving rise to Pantheism.

It is evident that among the highly intellectual Aryans who settled in India, between one and two thousand years before Christ, the pantheistic view had obtained the ascendency, not as a philosophical theory merely, but as a religious doctrine. It became, and has continued until this day, the foundation of the religious, civil, and social life of the Hindu. It is this which gives it its paramount importance. It stands alone in history. In no other case, among no other people, has Pantheism become the controlling form of religious belief among the people, so as to determine their institutions and to mould their character. The Hindus, therefore, have an interest for Christians and for the religious philosopher which attaches to no other heathen nation. They show, and were doubtless intended to show, what are the legitimate effects of Pantheism. That doctrine has had dominant control for millenniums over a highly cultivated and intelligent people, and in their character and state we see its proper fruits.


It was Pantheistic.

That the religion of the Hindus is fundamentally pantheistic, is evident —

1. From what their sacred writings teach of the Supreme Being. It is designated by a word in the neuter gender, Brahm. It is never addressed as a person. It is never worshipped. It has no attributes but such as may be predicated of space. It is said to be eternal, infinite, immutable. It is said to have continued for untold ages in the state of unintelligent, unconscious being. It comes to existence, to consciousness, and life, in the world. It unfolds itself through countless ages in all the forms of finite existence; and then by a like gradual process all things are resolved into unconscious being. The illustrations of the origin of the world commonly employed are sparks issuing from a burning mass; or, better, vapour rising from the ocean, condensing and falling back to the source whence it came. Being as such, or the Infinite, is, therefore, viewed in three aspects: as coming to existence, as developing itself in the world, as receiving everything back into the abyss of simple being. These different aspects are expressed by the words, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, to which our terms, Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer, answer very imperfectly.

We have here the constantly recurring pantheistic formula, Thesis, Analysis, Synthesis; Being. Development, Restoration. The Infinite, the Finite, and their Identity. The principal difference between the Brahminical system and the theories of the later pantheists, is that the latter make the universe co-eternal with God. The Infinite from eternity to eternity develops itself in the Finite. Whereas, according to the former, there was an inconceivably long period of repose antecedent to the process of development, and that process after millions of millions of ages, is to be followed by a like period of unconsciousness and rest.

Relation of Infinite Being to the World.

2. The relation of God to the world, or rather of the Infinite to the Finite, is the same in the Brahminical, as in other pantheistic systems. That relation has been already intimated. It is that of identity. The world is the existence-form of God. God is every thing, good and evil; and everything is God. But in very different degrees. There is more of Being (i.e., of God) in a plant than in unorganized matter; more in an animal than in the plant more in man than in either; more in one man, or race of men, than in another.


Relation of Pantheism to Polytheism.

3. The vast polytheistic system of the Hindus is founded on Pantheism and is its logical consequence. In the first place, as just remarked, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, commonly called the Hindu Trinity, are not persons, but personifications, or different aspects under which Infinite Being is to be regarded. In the second place, as the Infinite Being manifests itself in different degrees in different persons and things, anything extraordinary in nature, any remarkable man, is regarded as a special manifestation or embodiment of God. Hence the frequent avatars or incarnations of the Hindu mythology. In this way the gods may be, and have been indefinitely multiplied. Any person or thing, or quality, may be deified as a manifestation of infinite Being. In the third place, this accounts for the facts that the Hindu gods are regarded as destitute of moral excellence, and that even evil, as under the name of Kali, the goddess of cruelty and patroness of murderers, may be the special object of reverence. In the fourth place, no god, not even Brahma or Vishnu, is, according to the Hindu system, immortal. All gods and goddesses are at length to be merged in the abyss of infinite, unconscious Being.

Effect of Pantheism on Religion.

4. Pantheism, as it makes being, God, as it recognizes no attribute but power in the objects of worship, divorces morality from religion. It is not in the power of any system, however sincerely embraced, to reverse the laws of our nature. And, therefore, in despite of the prevalence of a doctrine which denies the possibility of either sin or virtue, and makes everything dependent on fate, or the power of arbitrary being, the people in various ways recognize the obligation of the moral law and the excellence of virtue. But this has nothing to do with their religion. The great object of all religious observances was final absorption in God; their proximate object was to propitiate some power by which the worshipper would be raised one or more steps toward the state in which that absorption is possible. On this point Professor Wilson says:285285Essays and Lectures chiefly on the Religion of the Hindus, vol. ii. p. 75; edit. London, 1862. “Entire dependence upon Krishna, or any other favorite deity, not only obviates the necessity of virtue, but it sanctifies vice. Conduct is wholly immaterial. It matters not how atrocious a sinner a man may be, if he paints his face, his breast, his arms with certain sectarial 314marks; or, which is better, if he brands his skin permanently with them with a hot iron stamp; if he is constantly chanting hymns in honor of Vishnu, or, what is equally efficacious, if he spends hours in the simple reiteration of his name or names; if he die with the word Hari, or Ráma, or Krishna on his lips, and the thought of him in his mind, he may have lived a monster of iniquity, — he is certain of heaven.” “Certain of heaven,” is a Christian form of expression, and conveys an idea foreign to the Hindu mind. What such a worshipper hopes and expects is that when next born into the world it may be in a higher state and so much the nearer his final absorption. As Professor Wilson is not only moderate, but almost apologetic in the account which he gives of the religion of the Hindus, the above quoted statement cannot be suspected of unfairness or exaggeration.

Character of the Hindu Worship.

The two leading characteristics of the Hindu worship are cruelty and indecency. And these are sufficiently accounted for by the Pantheism which underlies the whole system. Pantheism denies the distinction between virtue and vice; it recognizes no attribute but power; it deifies evil; it “sanctifies vice;" passion, sensual or malignant, is as much a mode of divine manifestation as the most heroic virtue. Indeed, there is no room for the idea of moral excellence. Hence the prescriptions of religion have reference almost exclusively to rites and ceremonies. The Brahmin when he rises must bathe in a certain way, stand in a certain posture, extend his fingers in a prescribed manner; he must salute the rising sun, resting on one foot; he must repeat certain words. When he eats, the dish must be placed according to rule; he must make prescribed motions with his hands, and so on through the whole day. Every act is prescribed, everything is religious; everything either defiles or purifies, ceremonially, but of moral defilement or purity there seems to be in their religion no recognition.

The Anthropology of the Hindus.

5. The anthropology of the Hindus proves the pantheistic character of their whole system. Man is only a part of God, a mode of his existence. He is compared to a portion of sea-water inclosed in a bottle and thrown into the ocean. The water in the bottle is the same in nature as that without. As soon as the bottle is broken the water within it is lost in the surrounding ocean. Another illustration of the destiny of the soul is that of a lump of 315salt thrown into the ocean, which immediately disappears. Its individuality is lost. This absorption of the soul is the highest beatification which Pantheism offers to its votaries. But this, in the case of the vast majority of men, can be attained only after a long process of transmigrations extending, it may be, through millions of years. If a man be faithful and punctilious in his religious observances, he comes into the world after death in a higher state. Thus, a Soudra may become a Brahmin. But if unfaithful, he will be born in a lower form, it may be, in that of a reptile. It is thus, by these alternations, that the wished for absorption in Brahm is ultimately attained. With regard to the sacred, or Brahminical caste, the process may be shorter. A Brahmin's life is divided, according to the Institutes of Menu, into four periods: childhood, student life; life as householder; and finally, the ascetic period. As soon as a Brahmin feels the approach of old age, he is directed to retire from the world; to live as a hermit; to subsist only on herbs; to deny himself all business and enjoyment, that by continued self-negation he may not only destroy the power of the body, and free himself from the influence of the things seen and temporal, but also lose the consciousness of his individuality, and be able at last to say, “I am Brahm,” and then be is lost in the infinite.

The Hindu life is dominated by this doctrine of absorption in God after a long series of transmigrations, and by the division of the people into castes, which has in like manner its foundation in their theory of the relation of God to the world, or, of the Infinite to the Finite. The Brahminical, or sacred class, is a higher manifestation of God than the military class; the military, than the mercantile; the mercantile, than the servile. This is popularly expressed by saying that the first proceeds from the head, the second from the arms, the third from the body, and the fourth from the feet of Brahm. The member of one of the lower castes cannot pass into either of those above him, except that by merit (ritual observances) he may on his next birth into the world be advanced to a higher grade; and one of a higher caste, by neglect of the prescribed rule of living, may at his next birth find himself degraded into a lower caste, or even into a beast or a reptile. Hence the horror of losing caste, which places a man out of the line of advancement, and consigns him to an almost endless state of degradation.


The Effect of Pantheism on the Social Life of the Hindus.

6. The whole religious and social life of the Hindu is controlled by the radical principle that all things are God, or modes of his existence, and all destined to return to Him again. To a Hindu his individual existence is a burden. It is a fall from God. Hence to get back, to be lost in the Infinite, is the one great object of desire and effort. As this end is not to be attained by virtue, but by asceticism, by propitiation of the gods, their religion is simply a round of unmeaning ceremonies, or acts of self-denial, or self-torture. Their religion, therefore, tends to destroy all interest in the present life, which is regarded as a burden and degradation. It cuts the nerves of exertion. It presents no incentive to virtue. it promotes vice. It has all the effects of fatalism. The influence of the worship of deities without moral excellence, some of them monsters of iniquity; the belief that cruelty and obscenity are acceptable to these deities, and secure their favor, cannot be otherwise than debasing. The world, therefore, sees in India the practical working of Pantheism. The system has been in unrestricted operation, not as a philosophy, but as a practical religious belief, for thousands of years, and among a people belonging to the most favored of the various races of men, and the result is before our eyes.

“Greece and India,” says Max Müller,286286A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, so far as it illustrates the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans, pp. 18, 19. “are, indeed, the two opposite poles in the historical development of the Aryan man. To the Greek, existence is full of life and reality; to the Hindu it is a dream, an illusion. . . . . The Hindu enters this world as a stranger; all his thoughts are directed to another world; he takes no part even where he is driven to act; and when he sacrifices his life, it is but to be delivered from it. No wonder that a nation like the Indian cared so little for history; no wonder that social and political virtues were little cultivated, and the ideas of the useful and the beautiful scarcely known to them. With all this, however, they had what the Greek was as little capable of imagining as they were of realizing the elements of Grecian life. They shut their eyes to this world of outward seeming and activity, to open them full on the world of thought and rest. Their life was a yearning after eternity; their activity a struggle to return into that divine essence from which this life seemed to have severed them. Believing as they did in a divine and really existing eternal Being 317(τὸ ὄντως ὄν), they could not believe in the existence of this passing world. If the one existed, the other could only seem to exist; if they lived in the one, they could not live in the other. Their existence on earth was to them a problem, their eternal life a certainty. The highest object of their religion was to restore that bond by which their own self (âtman) was linked to the eternal Self (paramâtman); to recover that unity which had been clouded and obscured by the magical illusions of reality, by the so-called Maya of creation.”

In order to show “How largely this idea of the Atman, as the Divine Spirit, entered into the early religious and philosophical speculations of the Indians,” he quotes from one of the Vedas a Dialogue in which, among other things, one of the speakers says: “Whosoever looks for this world, for the gods, for all beings, for this universe, elsewhere than in the Divine Spirit, should be abandoned by them all. This Brahmahood, this kshatra-power, this world, these gods, these beings, this universe, all is the Divine Spirit.”287287History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, etc., p. 23. The illustrations used by the speaker to show the relation of the phenomenal universe to God, are derived from the sounds issuing from a drum or a lute, smoke rising from a fire, vapour from the sea. He adds, “It is with us, when we enter into the Divine Spirit, as if a lump of salt was thrown into the sea, it becomes dissolved into the water (from which it was produced), and is not to be taken out again. But wherever you take the water and taste it, it is salt. Thus is this great, endless, and boundless Being but one mass of knowledge. As the water becomes salt, and the salt becomes water again, thus has the Divine Spirit appeared from out the elements and disappears again into them. When we have passed away, there is no longer any name.”288288Ibid. p. 24.

There can therefore be no reasonable doubt that Pantheism lies at the foundation of all the religion of India. There is, indeed, the same difference between the present complex and corrupt polytheism of the Hindus and the teachings of the Vedas, that there is between the Roman Catholicism of our day and primitive Christianity. There is, however, this important distinction between the two cases. Popery is a perversion of Christianity by the introduction of incongruous elements derived from Jewish and heathen sources, whereas the religion of modern India is the legitimate and logical result of the principles of the earliest and purest of the Hindu sacred writings.

The most accessible sources of information on the literature 318and religion of India, are the writings of Sir William Jones; the writings of Colebrooke; the Journal of the Asiatic Society; the works of Prof. Wilson of Oxford, specially his “Essays and Lectures on the Religion of the Hindus”; Max Müller's work just quoted. Dr. Duff's “India and Indian Missions,” and the histories of India, by Macaulay, Elphinstone. et al.

C. Grecian Pantheism.

The remark of Max Müller, that “Greece and India are the two opposite poles of the development of the Aryan man,” is strikingly correct. The Greek believed in, and lived for the present and the visible; the Indian believed in, and lived for the invisible and the future. Nevertheless there was a tendency in the higher minds among the Greeks to adopt the same speculative views as to God and the universe, the Infinite and the Finite, as prevailed in India. With the Greek, however, it was a matter of speculation; with the Hindu, it was a practical religious belief.

Speaking in general terms, the different forms of Grecian philosophy are characterized by the effort to reduce all the forms of existence to unity; to discover some one substance, principle, or power, to which all modes of manifestation of being could be referred. Sometimes this one substance was assumed to be material; sometimes spiritual; sometimes the obvious incompatibility between the phenomena of mind and those of matter, forced the admission of two eternal principles: the one active, the other passive; the one spiritual, the other material. The fundamental principle or idea, therefore, of the Grecian philosophy was pantheistic, either in its materialistic, spiritualistic, or hylozoistic form.

The Ionic School.

The earliest school among the Greeks was the Ionic, represented by Thales the Milesian, Anaximander and Anaximenes also of Miletus, and Heraclitus of Ephesus. These philosophers flourished from about 600 to 500 B. C. They were all materialistic in their theories. With Thales the one primal universal substance was water; with Anaximenes it was air; with Heraclitus it was fire. “It was the endeavour of this oldest of the Ionic philosophies, to reduce the origin of all things from one simple radical cause, a cosmical substance, in itself unchangeable, but entering into the change of phenomena; and this was why these philosophers had no room in their doctrine for gods, or transmundane beings, fashioning and 319ruling things at will; and, in fact, Aristotle also remarked of the old physiologists, that they had not distinguished the moving cause from matter.”289289Döllinger, The Gentile and the Jew, translated by Darnell, London, 1862, vol. i. p. 250. Of Heraclitus, Döllinger, in his able work “The Gentile and the Jew in the Courts of the Temple of Christ,” says he “meant by his 'fire,' an ethereal substance as primal matter, the all-pervading and animating soul of the universe, a matter which he conceived to be not merely actual fire, but caloric, and this being at the same time the only power at work in the world, all-creative and destructive in turns, was, to speak generally, the one real and veritable existence among all things. For everything had its origin only in the constant modification of this eternal and primal fire: the entire world was a fire dying out and rekindling itself in a fixed succession, while the other elements are but fire converted by condensation or rarefaction into a variety of forms. Thus the idea of a permanent being is a delusion; everything is in a state of perpetual flux, an eternal-going to be (Werden), and in this stream spirit is hurried along as well as body, swallowed up and born afresh. . . . . Heraclitus, as any thorough-going Pantheist would, called the common soul of the world, the all-comprehending primal fire, Zeus; and the flux of perpetual change and tendency to be, into which it enters, he termed poetically Zeus playing by himself.”290290Ibid. vol. i. p. 252.

Cousin says, “For the Ionic school in both its stages, there was no other God than nature. Pantheism is inherent in its system. What is Pantheism? It is the conception of the universe, to. pa/n, as alone existing, as self-sufficient, and having its explanation in itself. All nascent philosophy is a philosophy of nature, and thus is inclined to Pantheism. The sensationalism of the Ionians of necessity took that form; and, to speak honestly, Pantheism is nothing but atheism.”291291Histoire Generale de la Philosophie, Paris, 1863, vol. i. p. 107.

Cousin frames the definition of Pantheism so as to exclude his own system. With him the material universe alone is not God. He believes in “God, nature, and humanity.” But these three are one. “If God,” he says, “be not everything, He is nothing.” This, however, is as truly Pantheism (although in a more philosophical form), as the Materialism of the Ionians.

The Eleatic School.

The Eleatic or Italian school, of which Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Zeno, are the principal representatives, was inclined to the 320other extreme of denying the very existence of matter. Of these philosophers, Cousin says, “They reduced everything to an existence absolute, which approached nearly to Nihilism, or the denial of all existence.”292292Historie Generale de la Philosophie, Paris, 1867, vol. i. p. 116; edit. 1863, p. 111. Of Xenophanes, born in Colophon 617 B. C., Döllinger293293The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 260. says, “With all his assertions of monotheistic sound, he was still a Pantheist, and, indeed, a material Pantheist, and is universally understood to be such by the ancients. Certainly there was present to his mind the idea of a being, one and spiritual, embracing the whole complement of existence and thought within himself; yet this being was in his view but the general nature-power; the unity of God was to him identical with the unity of the world, and this again but the manifestation of the invisible being, called God, and therefore also he explained it to be uncreate, everlasting, and imperishable.” It is hard to see how this differs from the modern pantheistic doctrine, that God is the substance of which the world is the phenomenon; or why Xenophanes should be regarded as a materialist more than Schelling or Cousin.

Parmenides of Elea about 500 B.C. was more of an idealist. He attained to the idea of a pure and simple being in opposition to the material principle of the Ionic school. This “being,” however, was not a “pure metaphysical idea, for,” says Döllinger, “he so expressed himself as to seem to represent it at one time as corporeal, and extended in space, at another as thinking. 'To think, and the object of which the thought is, are one and the same, was a saying of his. . . . . There was no bridge for Parmenides that had led from this pure simple 'being' to the world of phenomena, of the manifold, and of motion; and therefore he denied the reality of all we see; the whole world of sense owed its existence only to the illusions of sense and the empty notions of mortal men built thereon.”294294Ibid. vol. i. p. 261. Thus Parmenides anticipated Schelling in teaching the identity of subject and object.

The Stoics.

The Stoics take their origin from Zeno of Cittium, in Cyprus (340-260 B.C.). Their doctrine has already been noticed under the head of Hylozoism. Döllinger, indeed, says, “The Stoic system is utter Materialism, built upon Heraclitic doctrine. It adopted corporeal causes only, and is only acquainted with two principles — matter, and an activity resident in matter, from eternity, as power and giving it form. Everything real is body; there are no incorporeal 321things, as our abstractions, space, time, etc., have merely an existence in our thoughts; so all that really exists can only be known through the senses.”295295The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 349. This judgment, however, is modified by what he says elsewhere. It is very plain that the later Stoics, especially among the Latins, as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, regarded the general principle which animated matter as having all the attributes of mind. On this point Döllinger says, “The two principles, matter and power, are to the Stoics but one and the same thing viewed in different relations. Matter required for its existence a principle of unity to give it form and keep it together; and this, the active element, is inconceivable without matter, as a subject in and on which it exists and dwells, and in which it works and moves. Thus, the positive element is matter; yet conceived without properties; the active one, running through and quickening all, is God in matter. But in truth, God and matter are identical; in other words, the Stoic doctrine is hylozoic Pantheism.” “God is, therefore, the world-soul, and the world itself no aggregate of independent elements, but an organized, living being, whose complement and life is a single soul, or primal fire, exhibiting divers degrees of expansion and heat. . . . . God, then, in his physical aspect, is the world-fire, or vital heat, all-penetrating, the one only cause of all life and all motion, and, at the same time, the necessity that rules in the world: but, on the other side, as the universal cause can only be a soul full of intelligence and wisdom, he is the world-intelligence, a blest being, and the author of the moral law, who is ever occupied with the government of the world, although he is precisely this world itself.”296296Ibid. pp. 349-350. “The one substance is God and nature together, of which all that comes into being, and ceases to be, all generation and dissolution, are mere modifications. Seneca explains Zeus or God's being at once the world and the world's soul by pointing to man, who feels himself to be a single being and yet again as one consisting of two substances, body and soul.”297297Ibid. p. 350.

The Stoics adopted the Hindu doctrine of the dissolution of all things, and the redevelopment of God in the world, after long successive periods. “In the great conflagration which takes place after the expiration of a world period or great year,” all organized beings will be destroyed, all multiplicity and difference be lost in God's unity; which means, all will become ether again. But forthwith, like the phoenix recovering life from his own ashes, the formation of the world begins afresh; God transforms 322himself once more by a general renovation into a world in which the same events, under similar circumstances, are again to be repeated down to the minutest detail. Many of these great catastrophes have already happened, and the process of burning by fire will follow again upon this regeneration, and so on ad infinitum.298298The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 351.

This system as well as every other form of Pantheism, excludes all moral freedom: everything is under the law of absolute necessity. It therefore precludes the idea of sin. “Acts of vice, Chrysippus said, are movements of universal nature, and in conformity with the divine intelligence. In the economy of the great world, evil is like chaff falling, — as unavoidable and worthless. Evil also was said by this school to do the service of making the good known, and yet at last all must resolve itself into God.”299299Ibid. p. 351.

Thus the Ionic, the Eleatic, and the Stoic forms of Grecian philosophy were in their fundamental principles pantheistic. The two great philosophic minds of Greece, and of the world, however, were Plato and Aristotle, the one the philosopher of the ideal world, and the other of the natural. The latter was the disciple of the former, although in most points of doctrine, or at least of method, his antagonist. It is only with the views of these mind-controlling men, concerning the nature of the supreme Being, and of his relation to the phenomenal world, that the theologian as such has anything to do. And this, unfortunately, with regard to both, is the point in regard to which their teachings are the most obscure.


Plato united in his comprehensive intellect, and endeavoured to harmonize the elements of the different doctrines of his predecessors in the field of speculation. “The Socratic doctrine of the absolute good and beautiful, and of the Deity revealing himself to man as a kind Providence, formed the basis on which he started. As channels for the Heraclitic doctrine of the perpetual coming into being and flux of all things, together with the Eleatic one of the eternal immutability of the one and only Being, the dogma of Anaxagoras of a world-ruling spirit was serviceable to him, and with it he had the skill to connect the Pythagorean view of the universe, as an animated intelligent whole, in a spiritualized form.”300300Ibid. p. 307. These are sufficiently incongruous materials. An intelligent Deity exercising a providential control over the world; the Heraclitic doctrine which involved the denial of all reality and resolved 323everything into a perpetual flow of phenomena; the Eleatic doctrine of a one and only Being; and the Pythagorean idea of the universe as an animated and intelligent whole. It was not possible but that first one, and then another of these elements should be made the more prominent, and consequently that the great philosopher should speak sometimes as a Theist and sometimes as a Pantheist. Neither was it possible that these incongruous elements should be moulded into a consistent system. It is not, therefore, a matter of surprise that Döllinger, one of the greatest admirers of Plato and one of the ablest expounders of his writings, should immediately add to the passage above quoted. “Plato never arrived at a finished system, rounded off and perfect in itself; nevertheless there is unmistakable evidence in his works of a continual progress, an effort after an increasing depth of foundation, and a stronger internal articulation, joined to a wonderful exuberance of ideas, often excessively bold.”301301The Gentile and the Jew, p. 307.

Plato was not a Theist, in the ordinary and Christian sense of that word. He did not recognize the existence of an extramundane God, the creator, preserver, and governor of the world, on whom we are dependent and to whom we are responsible. With him God is not a person. As Anselm and the Realists generally admitted the existence of “rationality" as distinct from rational beings; a general principle which became individual and personal in angels and men; so Plato admitted the existence of an universal intelligence, or νοῦς, which becomes individualized in the different orders of intelligent beings, gods, demons, and men. God with him was an Idea; the Idea of the Good; which comprehended and gave unity to all other ideas.


What then were ideas in Plato's sense of the term? They were not mere thoughts, but the only real entities, of which the phenomenal and sensible are the representations or shadows. He illustrated their nature by supposing a man in a dark cave entirely ignorant of the external world, with a bright light shining behind him, while between him and the light there continually passes a procession of men, animals, trees, etc. The moving shadows of these things would be projected on the wall of the cavern, and the man would necessarily suppose that the shadows were the realities. These ideas are immutable and eternal, constituting the essence or real being of all phenomenal existence. “Plato teaches that for as 324many general signs of our conceptions as we have, there are so many really existing things, or Ideas, in the intelligible world corresponding: to man these are the only solid and worthy objects of thought and knowledge; for they are eternal and immutable, existing only in themselves, but separate from all things and individual, while their manifold copies, the things perceptible by sense, are ever fluctuating and transitory. Independent of time and space, as well as of our intellect and its conceptions, Ideas belong to a world of their own, of another sphere, transcending sense. They are not the thoughts of God, but the objects of his thought; and, according to them, He created the world in matter. They only and God are really existing beings; and therefore earthly things have but the shadow of an existence, and that only derived from a certain participation in the Ideas, their types.”302302The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. pp. 308 and 309.

The Relation of Ideas, in Plato's Philosophy, to God

What is the relation of these ideas to God? This is the decisive question so far as the theology of Plato is concerned. Unfortunately it is not a question easily answered. It is a point about which the commentators differ; some saying that Plato leaves the matter undecided, sometimes identifying ideas with God, and at others representing them as distinct; others say that he clearly identifies ideas with God, or includes them in the divine essence; while others again understand him as making a marked distinction between God and the ideas after which the universe was moulded. It is not easy to reconcile what Döllinger says on this subject. In the passage above quoted he says that ideas are not the thoughts of God, but the objects of his thought. But on the same page303303Ibid. p. 309. he says, “These Ideas are not to be conceived as beside and external to God. They are founded in God, and God is the all comprehensive Idea, embracing all partial archetypes in an unity.” He had before said, that with Plato Ideas and God are the only “really existing beings.” If this be so, and if God is “the all comprehensive idea, embracing all others in unity,” then God is the only really existing Being; and we have pure Pantheism. According to Cousin, Plato not only gave ideas a real and proper existence, but, “en dernière analyse il les place dans la raison divine: c’est la qu’ elles existent substantiellement.304304Historie Generale de la Philosophie, Paris, 1863, p. 122. Döllinger, in commenting on a passage in the Timæus, in which “God is styled the Father, who has begotten the world like a son, as an image of 325the eternal gods, i.e., ideas,” says, “Had Plato ready intended here to explain the idea of procreation as a communication of essence, he would have been a pure Pantheist.”305305The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 329. Plato, however, he says306306Ibid. p. 312. “is no Pantheist; matter is, with him, entirely distinct from God; still he has a pantheistical bias in his system; for all that there is of intelligence in the world, down even to man, belongs, in his view, to the divine substance.” Plato, therefore, escapes Pantheism only by admitting the eternity of matter; but this eternal matter is as near nothing as possible. It is not corporeal. It is “something not yet entity.”

As Plato made ideas eternal and immutable; as they were all included in the idea of God, i.e., in God; and as they constitute the only really existing beings, all that is phenomenal or that affects the senses being mere shadows of the real, it can hardly be denied that his system in its essential character is really pantheistical. It is, however, an ideal Pantheism. It does not admit that matter or evil is a manifestation of God, or mode of his existence. Only what is good, is God; but all that really is, is good.

The Cosmogony of Plato.

Plato's cosmogony and anthropology confirm this view of his theology. Nothing has ever been created. All that is, is eternal; not indeed in form, but in substance. Matter, something material, has always existed. This in itself is lifeless, but it has “a soul,” an unintelligent force by which chaotic or disorderly agitation or motion is produced. This unintelligent force God endowed with a portion of his own intelligence or νοῦς, and it becomes the world-soul, i.e., the Demiurgus, the formative principle of the world. God is not therefore himself even the framer of the world. This is the work of the Demiurgus. This world-soul pervades the visible universe, and constitutes one living, animated whole. This “world-soul" is individualized in star-gods, demons, and human souls. Thus Plato's system makes room for polytheism.

The Nature of the Soul.

The soul, according to this theory, consists of intelligence which is of the substance of God, and of elements derived from the world-soul as distinguished from the νοῦς which did not originally belong to it. All evil arises from the connection of the divine element in man with matter. The object of life is to counteract this evil influence by contemplation and communion with the ideal 326world. Plato taught the preëxistence as well as the immortality of the soul. Its state in the present stage of existence being determined by its course in its previous forms of being. It is, however, according to his common mode of representation, strictly immortal. “Plato's monotheistic conception of God,” says Döllinger,307307The Gentile and the Jew, p. 329. “is one of the most refined to which ante-Christian speculation attained; yet he contributed nothing whatever to the knowledge of the perfect, living, personality of God, and its absolute and unconditional liberty.” His monotheism, it would seem, consisted in the acknowledgment of a universal intelligence which manifested itself as reason in all rational beings.


Aristotle, although the disciple, was the great opponent of Plato and his philosophy. He rejected Plato's doctrine of ideas as chimerical, as a hypothesis which was unnecessary and without evidence. In like manner he denied the existence of preëxistent matter out of which the world was fashioned. He believed the world to be eternal both in matter and form. It is, and there is no reason to doubt that it always has been and always will be. He admitted the existence of mind in man; and, therefore, assumed that there is an infinite intelligence, of which reason in man is a manifestation. But this infinite intelligence, which he called God, was pure intelligence, destitute of power and of will; neither the creator nor the framer of the world; unconscious, indeed, that the world exists; as it is occupied exclusively in thought of which it is itself the object. The world and God are coeternal; and yet, in a certain sense, God is the cause of the world. As a magnet acts on matter, or as the mere presence of a friend stirs the mind, so God unconsciously operates on matter, and awakens its dormant powers. As the universe is a cosmos, an ordered system; and as innumerable organized beings, vegetable and animal, exist in the world, Aristotle assumed that there are “forms" inherent in matter, which determine the nature of all such organizations. This is very much what in modern language would be called “vital force,” “vitality,” “vis formativa,” “Bildungstrieb,” or Agassiz's “immaterial principle,” which is different in every distinct species, and which constitutes the difference between one species and another. The soul is the “forma" of the man. “It is the principle that gives form, motion, and development to the body, the entelecheia of it; i.e., that substance, which only manifests itself in the body which is formed and penetrated by it, and continues energizing in it as the 327principle of life, determining and mastering matter. Thus, the body is nothing of itself; it is what it is, only through the soul, the nature and being of which it expresses, to which it stands in the relation of a medium in which the object, the soul, is realized; and so it cannot be imagined without the body, nor the body without it; one must be produced contemporaneously with the other.”308308The Gentile and the Jew, p. 338. Of course there can be no immortality of the soul. As no plant is immortal, as the vital principle does not exist separately from the plant, so the soul has no existence separate from the body. The two begin and end together. “The really human in the soul, that which has come into being, must also pass away, the understanding even; only the divine reason is immortal; but, as the memory belongs to the sensitive soul, and individual thought depends on the understanding or passive nous only, all self-consciousness must cease with death.”309309Ibid. p. 339. “Thus, then, Aristotle's doctrine of the soul shows that his defect, as well as that of Plato, and indeed of all antiquity, was his imperfect acquaintance with the idea of personality; and on that head he cannot be acquitted of a pantheistic tendency.”310310Ibid. p. 340. “His God is not a really personal one, or is only an imperfect personality.”311311Ibid. p. 336. “The nous, or reason, allows souls, with their bodies, to sink back into nothingness, from which they severally issued. It alone exists on, ever the same and unalterable, for it is no other than the divine nous in individual existence, the divine intelligence enlightening the night of human understanding, and must be conceived just as much the prime mover of human discursive thought and knowledge, as of his will.”312312Ibid. p. 339.

This brief review of the Grecian philosophy in its relation to theology, shows that in all its forms it was more or less pantheistic. This remark will not be recognized as correct by those, who with Cousin, limit the use of the word Pantheism to designate either the doctrine which makes the material universe God; or that which denies the existence of anything but matter and physical force, which is atheism; nor by those who take the word strictly as meaning the theory which admits of only one substance, which is the substance of God; and which consequently makes matter as much a mode of God's existence as mind. Its correctness, however, will be admitted by those who mean by Pantheism the doctrine which makes all the intelligence in the world the intelligence of God, and all intellectual activity modes of the activity of God, and which necessarily precludes the possibility of human liberty and responsibility.


The authorities on this subject are, so far as Plato and Aristotle are concerned, of course their own writings; with regard to those philosophers whose works are not preserved, or of which only fragments are extant, their systems are more or less fully detailed by the ancient writers, as Plutarch and Cicero. The general reader will find the information he needs in one or more of the numerous histories of philosophy; as those of Brucker, Ritter, Tenneman, and Cousin; among the latest and best of which is Döllinger's “The Gentile and the Jew in the Courts of the Temple of Christ,” London, 1862.

D. Mediæval Pantheism.

The Neo-Platonists.

Pantheism, as it appeared in the Middle Ages, took its form and character from Neo-Platonism. This was an eclectic system in which the Eleatic doctrine of the unity of all being was combined with the Platonic doctrine concerning the phenomenal universe. The philosophers recognized as the representatives of this school are Plotinus (A.D. 205-270), Porphyry (born A.D. 233), Jamblichus in the fourth century, and Proclus in the fifth. Neo-Platonism was monism. It admitted of only one universal Being. This Being considered in itself was inconceivable and indescribable. It was revealed, or self-manifested in the world-soul, and world-reason, which constituted a trinity; one substance in different aspects or modes of manifestation. The world is therefore “the affluence of God,” as fire emits heat. The soul of man is a mode of God's existence, a portion of his substance. Its destiny is absorption in the infinite Being. This was not to be attained by thought, or by meditation, but by ecstasy. This constituted the peculiar feature of the Neo-Platonic school. “Union with God" was to be attained by “a mystical self-destruction of the individual person (Ichheit)" in God.313313History of Philosophy. Translated from the German by Julius H. Seelye, p. 157. Schwegler314314Ibid. p. 158. says: “From the introduction of Christianity monism has been the character and the fundamental tendency of the whole modern philosophy.” This remark, coming from an advocate of that theory, must be taken with no small amount of allowance. It is, however, true that almost all the great departures from the simplicity of the truth as revealed in the sacred Scriptures, have assumed more or less distinctly a pantheistic tendency.


John Scotus Erigena.

The most pronounced Pantheist among the schoolmen was John Scotus Erigena. Little is known of his origin or history. From his name Scotus and designation Erigena (son of Erin), it has been generally assumed that he was an Irishman. It is known that he enjoyed the protection and patronage of Charles the Bald of France, and that he taught in Paris and perhaps in England.

His principal work is that “De Divisione Naturæ.” By nature he means all being. The fourfold divisions which he makes of nature, are only so many manifestations or aspects under which the one Being is revealed or is to be contemplated. Those divisions are: (1.) That which creates and is not created. (2.) That which creates and is created. (3.) That which does not create but is created. (4.) That which neither creates nor is created. “This division of nature,” says Ritter,315315Geshichte der Christlichen Philosophie, vol. iii. p. 224. “is made simply to show that all is God, since the four natures are only revelations of God.”

Scotus agreed with most philosophers in making philosophy and religion identical, and in admitting no higher source of knowledge than human reason. “Conficitur,” he says, “veram esse philosophiam veram religionem, conversimque veram religionem esse veram philosophiam.316316De Prædest. cap. i. 1, Migne, Patr. vol. cxxii. p. 358, a

The leading principles of his philosophy are the following: (1.) The distinction with him between being and not-being, is not that between something and nothing, between substantial existence and non-existence, but between affirmation and negation. Whatever may be affirmed is; whatever is denied is not. (2.) All being consists in thought. Nothing is but as it exists in the mind and consciousness. (3.) With God, being, thought, and creating are identical. God's being consists in thinking, and his thoughts are things. In other words, the thought of God is the real being of all that is. (4.) Consequently the world is eternal. God and the world are identical. He is the “totum omnium.”

His system is, therefore, a form of idealistic Pantheism. Ritter devotes the ninth book of his “Geschichte der Christlichen Philosophie,”317317Vol. iii. pp. 206-296. to the exposition of the philosophy of Scotus. The few following passages from the “De Divisione Naturæ,” are sufficient to show the correctness of the above statement of his principles.

Intellectus enim omnium in Deo essentia omnium est. Siquidem id ipsum est Deo cognoscere, priusquam fiunt, quæ facit, et 330facere, quæ cognoscit. Cognoscere ergo et facere Dei unum est.318318De Divisione Naturæ, II. 20; edit. Westphalia, 1838, p. 118.Maximus ait: Quodcunque intellectus comprehendere potuerit, id ipsum fit.319319Ibid. I. 9, p. 9.Intellectus enim rerum veraciter ipsæ res sunt, dicente Sancto Dionysio, ‘Cognitio eorum, quæ sunt, ea, quæ sunt, est.’320320Ibid. II. 8, p. 95.Homo est notio quædam intellectualis in mente divina æternaliter facta. Verissima et probatissima definitio hominis est ista: et non solum hominis, verum etiam omnium quæ in divina sapientia facta sunt.321321Ibid. IV. 7, p. 330. Omnis visibilis et invisibilis creatura Theophania, i.e., divina apparitio potest appelari.322322Ibid. III. 19, p. 240. Num negabis creatorem et creaturam unum esse?323323Ibid. II. 2, p. 88. “Creation [with Erigena] is nothing else than the Lord of creation; God in some ineffable manner created in the creation.”324324Ritter, vol. iii. p. 234.

Scotus translated the works of the so-called St. Dionysius, the Areopagite, and in so doing prepared the way for that form of mystical Pantheism which prevailed through the Church down to the period of the Reformation. The pseudo-Dionysius was a Neo-Platonist. His object was to give the doctrine of Plotinus a Christian aspect. He adopted the principle of the unity of all being. All creatures are of the essence of God. But instead of placing the self-manifestation of God in nature, in the world-soul, he placed it principally in the hierarchy of rational being, — cherubim, seraphim, thrones, principalities, and powers, and souls of men. The destiny of all rational creatures, is reunion with God; and this reunion, as the Neo-Platonists taught, was to be attained by ecstasy and the negation of Self. It was this system, which, in common with all other forms of Pantheism, precluded the idea of sin, which was reproduced by the leading mystics of the Middle Ages, and which, when it found its way among the people as it did with the Beghards and Brethren of the Free Spirit, produced, as substantially the same system has done in India, its legitimate fruits of evil. Of the mystical Pantheism of the Middle Ages, however, enough has already been said in the Introduction, in the chapter on Mysticism

E. Modern Pantheism.


The revival of Pantheism since the Reformation is principally due to Spinoza; he was born at Amsterdam in 1634, and died at Ghent in the forty-fourth year of his age. He was descended from a wealthy Jewish Portuguese family, and enjoyed the advantage of 331a highly finished education. He early devoted himself to the study of philosophy, and was at first a disciple of Des Cartes. Leibnitz characterizes the system of Spinoza as Cartesianism run wild. Des Cartes distrusted the testimony of the senses. His starting-point was the consciousness of existence, “I think.” In that proposition the existence of a thinking substance is necessarily included. The outward world produces impressions on this thinking substance. But after all, these sensations thus produced, are only states of self-consciousness. Self, therefore, and its varying states, are all of which we have direct knowledge. It is not all, however, that Des Cartes believed actually existed. He was a sincere Catholic, and died in communion with the Church. He acknowledged not only the existence of mind, but also of God and of matter. Our knowledge, however, of God and of matter as substances distinct from our minds, was arrived at by a process of reasoning. The validity of that process Spinoza denied. He admitted the existence of only one substance, and gave such a definition of the word as precluded the possibility of there being more substances than one. With him substance is that which exists of itself, of necessity, and is absolutely independent. There is, therefore, but one substance possible. We come, however, everywhere into contact with two classes of phenomena: those of thought and those of extension. Thought and extension, therefore, are the two attributes of the one infinite substance. Individual things are the modes under which the infinite substance is constantly manifested. In Spinoza's system there are the three radical ideas of substance, attribute, and mode. Of these that of substance alone has any reality. The other two are mere appearances. If we look at anything through a glass colored red the object will appear red; if the glass be blue, the object will appear blue; but the color is not really an attribute of the object. Thus substance (the one) appears to us under one aspect as thought and under another as extension. The difference is apparent and not real. The finite has therefore no real existence. The universe is sunk into the Infinite; and the Infinite is a substance of which nothing can be affirmed. Of the Infinite nothing can be denied, and therefore nothing can be affirmed for “omnis determinatio est negatio.” The Infinite, therefore, is practically nothing

A sufficient account of modern Pantheism in its general features as represented by Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and their successors and disciples, has been given already at the commencement ol this chapter. More detailed information may be found in the numerous recent histories of philosophy, as those of Morell, Schwegler, 332Michelet, and Rosenkranz, and in Hunt's “History of Pantheism.”

F. Conclusion.

The fact that Pantheism has so extensively prevailed in every age and in every part of the world, is a proof of its fascination and power. Apart from a divine revelation, it seems to have been regarded as the most probable solution of the great problem of the universe. Nevertheless it is so unsatisfactory, and does such violence to the laws of our nature, that it has never to any extent taken hold on the hearts of the people. India may be regarded as furnishing an exception to this remark. But even there, although Pantheism was the ground form of the popular religion, it had to resolve itself into polytheism in order to meet the necessities of the people. Men must have a personal god whom they can worship and to whom they can pray.

The most obvious remark to be made of the whole system is that it is a hypothesis. From its very nature it is incapable of proof. It is a mere theory assumed to account for the phenomena of the universe. If it did satisfactorily account for them, and did not contradict the teachings of the Bible, it might be safely admitted. But it is not only inconsistent with all that the Scriptures reveal concerning the nature of God and his relation to the world, but it contradicts the laws of belief which God has impressed on our nature, subverts the very foundation of religion and morality and involves even the deification of sin.

Had we no divine revelation on the subject, Theism merely as a theory could not fail to secure the assent of every devout mind in preference to Pantheism. Theism supposes the existence of a personal, extramundane God, the creator and preserver of the universe; everywhere present in his wisdom and power, directing all events to the accomplishment of his infinitely wise designs. It supposes the material universe to be distinct from God, dependent on his will, upheld by his power, and pregnant with physical forces ever active under his control. It supposes that man is the creature of God, owing his existence to the will of God, created after his image, a free, rational, moral, and accountable agent, capable of knowing, loving, and worshipping God as a Spirit infinite in his being and perfections. Although this theory may have, for the reason, some problems, such as the origin and prevalence of evil, without a satisfactory solution, yet as it meets and satisfies all the demands of our nature, and solves the problem as to the origin and nature of the universe, it commends itself to the reason, the heart, 333and the conscience with a force which no sophistry of speculation can resist.

Pantheism, on the other hand, does violence to our nature, and contradicts the intuitive convictions of consciousness.

1. We are conscious that we are free agents. This is a truth which no man can deny with regard to himself, and which every man assumes with regard to others. This truth Pantheism denies. It makes our activity only a form of the activity of God, and assumes that his acts are determined by necessity as much as the development of a plant or animal.

2. It is intuitively certain that there is a real distinction between moral good and evil: that the one is that to which man is bound to be conformed, and the other that which he is bound to hate and to avoid; that the one deserves approbation, and that the other deserves disapprobation, and merits punishment. These are convictions which belong to the rational nature of man; and they cannot be destroyed without destroying his rationality. Pantheism, however, pronounces these convictions delusions; that there is no such thing as sin, in the sense above stated; that what we call sin is mere weakness; imperfect development, as unavoidable as feebleness in an infant. It goes further: it pronounces evil good. It makes the sinful acts and passions of men as much the acts and states of God as holy acts and holy feelings. There is no good but being; and the men of power are the men of being; and, therefore, the strongest are the best; the weak are to be despised; they deserved to be conquered and trodden under foot. Hence where Pantheism has become a religion the deities who represent evil are the most honoured and worshipped.

3. Pantheism not only destroys the foundation of morals, but it renders all rational religion impossible. Religion supposes a personal Being endowed not only with intelligence and power, but with moral excellence; and to be rational, that Being must be infinite in all his perfections. Pantheism, however, denies that an infinite Being can be a person; that it is intelligent, self-conscious, or possessed of moral attributes. It is just as impossible to worship such a Being as it is to worship the atmosphere, or the law of gravitation, or the axioms of Euclid.

4. It is no extravagance to say that Pantheism is the worst form of atheism. For mere atheism is negative. It neither deifies man nor evil. But Pantheism teaches that man, the human soul, is the highest form in which God exists; and that evil is as much a manifestation of God as good; Satan as the ever-blessed and adorable 334Redeemer. Beyond this it is impossible for the insanity of wickedness to go.

5. Man, according to this system, is no more immortal than the leaves of the forest, or the waves of the sea. We are transient forms of universal Being.

Our nature is indestructible; as it is impossible that we should not believe in our own individual existence, in our free agency, in our moral obligations; in our dependence and responsibility to a Being capable of knowing what we are and what we do, and of rewarding and punishing as He sees fit, so it is impossible that Pantheism should ever be more than a philosophical speculation, where the moral nature of man has once been developed by the knowledge of the living and true God.

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