There’s a lot of promised posts still to do, and many other things besides…but, I don’t have much time today, so it will have to be the following.
And, I realize this could be a much longer post than it will likely be, but perhaps this is a subject that doesn’t need to be elaborated upon too much to make the point I’m seeking to at present.
Of the various matters that get mentioned theologically amongst a variety of pagans, “pantheism” and “panentheism” are kind of buzz-words that a lot of people like to use, often in conjunction with polytheism. While I think there is an obvious bit of discord with monism and polytheism (which may not exist for other people–and if it doesn’t and you’re one of those people, good for you! But don’t try and tell me that I’m wrong for not finding that theological formulation adequate for my own purposes or experiences), many don’t feel this is the case with pantheism or panentheism.
Whether that is true or not, the biggest problem I find with the terms “pantheism” and “panentheism” as they are used amongst pagans today is that the second part of the word, “-theism,” isn’t really present in them. Or, theoi get re-defined to the point that they don’t really exist within the term any longer, and it becomes not unlike monism (where “everything is divine,” which is somewhat tantamount to saying “nothing is sacred”–what is sacred or what is divine is necessarily different in quality and kind than things that are not) in practice and in conceptual realities, which is why I think that monism and pan(en)theism often get paired together.
Certainly, anything can become sacred, it’s an in-built property of the universe, I think, that everything from the most humble piece of matter to the highest divine being can become holy and powerful and filled with the capacity to awe and to exalt those who encounter such things. But, they’re not all “automatically” at that level; if they were, we wouldn’t be able to get through a day without being constantly and consistently overwhelmed with amazement at every moment…which would make driving impossible, talking to people impossible, or doing any of the jobs that any of us are paid for impossible. If pantheism or panentheism are really what they say they are, then that would have to be the default state of people who believe in that fashion, or what they aspire to…and, to be honest, I find anyone who suggests that is their default state or their aspiraton to be dishonest, unless they are so fortunate and privileged as to be in a position where they can just become a monk and have that be their full-time occupation.
It almost seems as if these terms have been engineered to edit the theoi out of one’s existence. I know that a lot of pagans have an allergy to anything that looks like “worship” or “holy awe” at anything other than their own power or divinity, and these positions have the advantage of making oneself a part of that divine spectrum by default as well. It’s not that I don’t think it is possible for humans to attain that–indeed, I revere a number of former humans who have done exactly that!–but I don’t think it’s good to assume that anyone or everyone or even a single someone (like myself!) starts at that point from the beginning.
But, whenever I state an opinion like this, people are bound to take offense…so, it’s likely that such will happen again here. Oh well.
I would be interested, though, in hearing whether my interpretation of these terms as they are practiced is off in the experience and perceptions of a variety of readers here. Go ahead, folks…