The service, on Memorial  Day 2004, went very well. There were thirty to forty people
in attendance. In a UU church the sermon  is never the last word, and the talk-back
ran almost as long as the presentation. Considering that I was reading the talk from my
printed address, nobody fell asleep on me. The day was very enjoyable.

Hymns and readings from
Singing the Living Tradition




TALK (see below)


(My first choice, #27,
was deemed too unfamiliar)








Introductory Reading: Lao Tsu Chap 25

Did you ever look up at the night sky and feel a sense of awe? Have you ever
looked at an animal and pondered the miracle of life? Do you have a feeling of wonder
about the world around you, knowing there is no god looking down at you that created this,
but feeling that mere atheism is inadequate to express your sense of the sacredness of
existence? Then you are probably a pantheist.

Pantheists simply believe that all that is sacred, all that is holy arises not
from outside the universe, but is the universe. E. O. Wilson has talked about the
religious sense as being part of the biological makeup of the human mind. The Pantheist
recognizes this sense and revels in it, but does not focus these feelings upon an object
of adoration. Instead, the pantheist says that the sacred encompasses the totality of
existence, all humans, all living creatures, even the stars and the planets. All is holy.

Most religions in the world have had a belief in God. All through human
history, people have prayed to their gods, but as time has progressed, the gods have
gotten fewer. And all through history, the heresies of atheism and pantheism have arisen
time and again.

Pantheism is not a religion founded by a single prophet or having a single
dogma. Even in communities of pantheists, such as the ones that arose as a matter of
course out of the naturalist and ecological movements of the last century, individuals
differed in their unique sets of beliefs. Just like a congregation of UU’s there is no
dogma to bind them together.

Pantheists tend to disagree on the level of spirituality they experience in the
world. At one extreme is the dualists who experience both a physical and spiritual plane
of existence. They also tend to be the ones who are the most likely to be panentheists. A
panentheist is someone who, instead of strictly equating God with the Universe, say that
the Universe is a manifestation of a God who is greater than existence itself. At the
other extreme are the materialists, such as the Scientific Pantheists, who are profoundly
moved by the sacredness of being, and use this as a driving force to apply reason to
achieve a deeper understanding, which reveals this sacredness in it intricacy and depth.
In this presentation, I shall let the words of different pantheists speak to the wide
range of beliefs that have this name. In collecting these quotes, I am indebted to Paul
Harrison’s book, ‘The Elements of Pantheism’.

Pantheism has arisen in many times and many places. Some of the oldest
religions such as Hinduism are pantheistic at their most abstract. As the Chandogya
Upanishad says:

Verily this whole world is Brahman. Tranquil, let one worship it as that from
which he came forth, as that into which he will be dissolved, as that in which he breathes
… One should reverence the thought ‘I am the World All.’

The Svetasvatara Upanishad says: Thou art the dark-blue bird and the green
parrot with red eyes. Thou hast the lightening as thy child. Thou art the seasons and the

One of the most Pantheistic of the ancient religions is Taoism. Chapter 51 of
the Tao Te Ching says: Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. It springs
into existence, unconscious, perfect, free, takes on a physical body lets circumstances
complete it. That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao.

In the West, Pantheism arose with the beginnings of philosophy in ancient
Greece. Heraclitus was one of the earliest pantheists. He inspired the Stoics, who
retained his view of the nature of the cosmos. As Chrysippus said:

‘God is the common nature of things, also the force of fate and the necessity
of future events. In addition, he is fire, and the aether … Also things in a natural
state of flux and mobility, like water, earth, air, sun, moon and stars; and he is the
all-embracing whole.

Another Greek philosophy with traces of Pantheism was Epicureanism. Both
Stoicism and Epicureanism were preserved by the Romans. Marcus Aurelius was a famous
Stoic, and the poet Lucretius was an epicurean. Plotinus, a Neo-Platonist was also a
pantheist who influenced later Christian philosophy. He said:

‘This universe is a single living being, embracing all living beings within it
and possessing a single Soul that permeates all its parts… A sympathy pervades this
single universe, and … in a living and unified being there is no part so remote as not
to be near, through the very nature that binds the living unity in sympathy. Soul enlivens
all things with its whole self and all Soul is present everywhere…And vast and
diversified though this universe is, it is one by the power of soul and a god because of
soul. The sun is also a god, because ensouled, and the other stars, and if we ourselves
partake of the Divine, this is the cause.’

With the arrival of Christianity and Islam, pantheism and panentheism would
appear in greater or lesser forms. This despite the antipathy of these religions to
Pantheism. The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas says ‘The Kingdom is within you, and it is
outside of you… Cleave a piece of wood, I am there. Raise up a stone, and you will find
me there. In Islam, the Sufis had panentheistic ideas.

Catholicism consider pantheism to be anathema – accursed. Meister Eckhart was
pantheistic in his beliefs. Although highly regarded, by the end of his life he was
charged with heresy. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his pantheist views. He
wrote ‘There is one simple Divinity found in all things, once fecund nature, preserving
mother of the universe in so far as she diversely communicates herself, casts her light
into diverse subjects and assumes various names. This nature is none other than God in
things…To the extent that one communicates with Nature, so one ascends to Divinity
through Nature.

The two most influential pantheists before the nineteenth century are Benedict
Spinoza and John Toland. In his Ethics, Spinoza gives a logical analysis of moral behavior
based on the knowledge of God. His conception of God is ‘Nothing exists but God. God is
one, that is, only one substance can be granted to exist in the universe… Whatsoever is,
is in God and without God nothing can be, or be conceived.’ Insofar as Spinoza considered
God to have existence that transcended substance, he can be considered to be
panentheistic, but the thrust of his belief was primarily pantheistic.

John Toland, an Irish writer, coined the term pantheism, in his last work the
Pantheistikon. He said ‘The sun is my father, the earth is my mother and all men are my
family.’ He advocated setting up pantheist groups, which would start their meetings with a
recital of a pantheist credo: ‘All things are One, and One in all things. What is in all
things is God, and God is eternal, has not been created and will never die.’

Pantheism developed a following in the nineteenth century, with poets and
philosophers such as Goethe, Hegel, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman and
Emerson having pantheist beliefs, such as the worship of nature. Emerson writes ‘ Standing
on the bare ground- my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space –
all mean egotism vanishes, I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing! I see all; the
currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.

The first organized pantheist movement was the Monist League created in 1906 by
Ernst Haeckel. His identification of God with the universe and his pantheistic approach to
science, esthetics and religion, was combined with a respect for evolution that
unfortunately led to the distasteful racist ethics of the Eugenics movement. His beliefs
influenced the Nazis and their extermination of the unfit, although they adopted a Nordic
paganism. The Monist League was disbanded in 1933, but its influence still lives on in a
branch of pantheism know as cosmotheism that is advocated by white supremacists currently,
such as the founder of the National Alliance, the late William Pierce.

In the twentieth century, two groups where pantheist beliefs are often
expressed are in naturalists or environmentalists and in scientists.. The most famous of
the naturalists who called himself a pantheist was John Muir, the founder of the Sierra

A talented writer and essayist, John Muir, by bringing the love of nature to a
greater audience, was instrumental in the establishment of the national parks. His
writings were suffused with spirituality. Here is a sample:

‘A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving,
swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the
outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is
throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is
ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s
first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the
farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.’

Another famous naturalist was John Burroughs. He considered himself a
Scientific Pantheist. He writes:

It seems to me that there is no other adequate solution to the total problem of
life and Nature that what is called ‘Pantheism’, which identifies mind and matter, finite
and Infinite, and sees in all these diverse manifestations one absolute being. God becomes
the one and only ultimate fact that fills the universe and from which we can no more be
estranged than we can be estranged from gravitation.

‘When we call the power back of all God, it smells of creeds and systems, of
superstition, intolerance, persecution; but when we call it Nature, it smells of spring
and summer, of green fields and blooming groves, of birds and flowers and sky and stars. I
admit it smells of tornados and earthquakes, of disease and death too, but these things
make it all the more real to us to conceive of God in terms of universal Nature – a nature
God in whom we really live and move and have our being, with whom our relation is as
intimate and constant as that of the babe in its mother’s womb, or the apple upon the
bough. This is the God that science and reason reveal to us – the God we touch with our
hands, see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and from whom there is no escape – a God
whom we serve and please by works and not by words, whose worship is deeds, and whose
justification is in adjusting ourselves to his laws and availing ourselves of his bounty,
a God who is indeed from everlasting to everlasting.

The most famous scientist with pantheist leanings is Albert Einstein. When
asked if he believed in God, Einstein replied ‘I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals
himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with
fates and actions of human beings.’ He also said ‘The most beautiful and most profound
religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this
mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is
a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence,
my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that
reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and
feeble minds.

Many thoroughgoing atheists reveal a pantheistic sensibility. One of these
cases is Carl Sagan. In an interview he said: ‘I remain inexorably opposed to any kind of
revealed religion and reject any talk of a personal god. But millions of people believe in
a god that is not that kind of god.’

In the Pale Blue Dot he wrote ‘A religion old or new, that stressed the
magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth
reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later,
such a religion will emerge.’

A member of the World Pantheist Movement is Ursula Goodenough, a professor of
biology. She writes in her book The Sacred Depths of Nature ‘So we raise our eyes to the
heavens and we ask, Is this Other? Is this God? Is this the Perfection of Understanding?
Or are there overwhelmingly powerful mental experiences, with Immanence a particularly
intense form of self-awareness and Enlightenment a detachment from self-awareness so that
all else can penetrate? How can we tell? And then: Does it matter?

As a non-theist, I find I can only think about these experiences as wondrous
mental phenomena. But in the end it doesn’t matter. All of us are transformed by their
power. I have yet to reach in meditation anything approaching Nirvana, but when I am
invaded by Immanence, most often in the presence of beauty or love or relief, my response
is to open myself to its blessing. It is the path to the holy, taken by seekers before me
and seekers to follow, and I give myself over to the mystic potential, to the possibility
of becoming lost in something much larger than my daily self, the possibility of
transcending my daily self.

Finally, I would like to mention that the beliefs of Pagans and Wiccans. While
acknowledging the existence of Gods and Goddesses, in their beliefs, the nature of the
divine verges upon the pantheistic. For example Margot Adler says in Drawing Down the Moon
‘Divinity is immanent in all Nature. It is as much within you as without.’

From a commonly used Charge of the Goddess: Hear now the words of the Star
Goddess, the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the
universe: ‘I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and
the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me. For I am the
soul of nature that gives life to the universe. From Me all things proceed and unto Me
they must return. Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold – all acts of
love and pleasure are My rituals. Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion,
honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And you who seek to know Me, know that
your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that
which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold,
I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of

I will conclude with my own journey to Pantheism. Having been raised an
Anglican in Canada, I became an agnostic at thirteen and an atheist at twenty. But even in
my atheism, I found myself in touch with transcendence. The way I would put it, I referred
to god in the poetic sense. Having joined the Unitarian Church in Summit in 1985, I
continued my spiritual journey, finding Taoism about 13 years ago. I became a pantheist at
45, about six years ago. At the time I was working at Bell Labs in Holmdel NJ, a large
facility with many religious clubs that met during lunchtimes. After a number of years
attending the Baha’i group until it fell apart, I joined the Creation Science club. As a
hard-bitten atheist, I was accepted with a bemused toleration. One of the members of the
group lent me a copy of Mortimer Adler’S How to Think About God, which made reference to
pantheism, so I decided to learn more. This led me to the World Pantheist Movement, a
group of Scientific Pantheists, which I joined in 1999.

As a computer programmer working in speech recognition, the understanding and
use of logic forms a large part of my professional life. Through the contemplation of the
Goedel Incompleteness Theorem and its corollaries and the further study of Computational
Learning Theory and Kolmogorov Complexity, I came to the realization that there is a depth
and complexity to reality that logic alone is not capable of plumbing. I consider myself,
then to be a rational mystic, the word mystic being used in the sense of bringing forth a
sense of mystery and wonder, mystery being that part of reality that is hidden or an
enigma. My Taoism is still intact – it is one of the most beautiful expression of this
essential mystery.

For me, one of the best times of the day, is when I walk to work. I leave on
the 645 train from Hackettstown to Madison, then walk the mile and three quarters to
AT&T Labs at Florham Park. This walk, as much as any time spent in the forest
primeval, gets me in touch with the sacred. The half hour or so, three times a week,
regenerates and renews me. I experience the change of the seasons and see it first hand.
In the winter, I watch the sun coming up over the hills. I scuff my shoes walking in the
fall and enjoy the smell of the autumn leaves. I enjoy a sunny day, but just as much enjoy
the scudding sky and the grey clouds of a day of constant rain. I endure the heat and
humidity of summer, baking in the days where there is not a breath of wind, but love to
watch on other days the wind in the leaves, waving and ruffling with their white noise. I
love the crisp smell of a winter morning. As I walk I see the dirt, mud, rocks and twigs
that line my route. Even in the city, I can see the hills streams woods and plains that
humanity covers, but never totally obliterates. I love the scent of spring flowers and the
red glow of the clouds at sunset followed by the sight of Venus following the sun into the
Earth. I follow the change in the color of green of the grass through the seasons, and see
the crickets, worms, birds, bugs, slime, rabbits, dogs, snails and ants – the riot of life
even in the city. It is a form of worship. Everywhere I go, my god is with me.