Naturalistic pantheism, also known as scientific pantheism, is a form of pantheism. It has been used in various ways such as to relate God or divinity with concrete things,[1] determinism,[2] or the substance of the universe.[3] From these perspectives, God is seen as the aggregate of all unified natural phenomena.[4] The phrase has often been associated with the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza,[5] although academics differ on how it is used. Natural pantheists believe that God is the entirety of the universe and that God speaks through the scientific process.

Component definitions

The term "pantheism" is derived from Greek words pan (Greek: πᾶν) meaning "all" and theos (Greek: θεός) meaning God. It was coined by Joseph Raphson in his work De spatio reali, published in 1697.[6] The term was introduced to English by Irish writer John Toland in his 1705 work Socinianism Truly Stated, By A Pantheist, which described pantheism as the "opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe".[7] The term "naturalistic" derives from the word "naturalism", which has several meanings in philosophy and aesthetics.[8] In philosophy, the term frequently denotes the view that everything belongs to the world of nature and can be studied with the methods appropriate for studying that world, i.e. the sciences.[9] It generally implies an absence of belief in supernatural beings.[8]

Early conceptions

Joseph Needham, a modern British scholar of Chinese philosophy and science, identified Taoism and the technology of the Wuxing as "a naturalistic pantheism which emphasizes the unity and spontaneity of the operations of Nature".[10] This philosophy can be dated to the late 4th century BCE.[11] The Hellenistic Greek philosophical school of Stoicism (which started in the early 3rd century BCE)[12] rejected the dualist idea of the separate ideal/conscious and material realms, and identified the substance of God with the entire cosmos and heaven.[3] However, not all philosophers who did so can be classified as naturalistic pantheists.[13]

Modern conceptions

Naturalistic pantheism was expressed by various thinkers,[5] including Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for his views.[14] The 17th century Dutch philosopher Spinoza became particularly known for it.[5] In 1705, the Irish writer John Toland endorsed a form of pantheism in which the God-soul is identical with the material universe.[7][15][16] German naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919)[17] proposed a monistic pantheism in which the idea of God is identical with that of nature or substance.[18] The World Pantheist Movement, started in 1999, describes naturalistic pantheism as including reverence for the universe, realism, strong naturalism, and respect for reason and the scientific method as methods of understanding the world.[19] Paul Harrison considers its position the closest modern equivalent to Toland's.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language by Quentin Smith, 1998, Yale University Press, p. 226
  2. ^ Paul Tillich: Theologian of the Boundaries by Paul Tillich, Mark K. Taylor, Mark Lewis Taylor, Collins, 1987, p. 165
  3. ^ a b Panentheism--The Other God of the Philosophers, John W. Cooper, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 39
  4. ^ Lectures on Divine Humanity by Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Lindisfarne Press, 1995, p. 79
  5. ^ a b c The History of European Philosophy: An Introductory Book by Walter Taylor Marvin, Macmillan Company, 1917, p. 325: "Naturalistic pantheism had already made its appearance in the sixteenth century and most notably in the writings of Giordano Bruno; but its most famous teacher was the seventeenth century philosopher Benedict Spinoza."
  6. ^ Ann Thomson; Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment, 2008, page 54.
  7. ^ a b c Harrison, Paul. "Toland: the father of modern pantheism". Pantheist History. World Pantheist Movement. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b A Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. T. Mautner, Blackwell, 1996
  9. ^ Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich, Oxford University Press, 1995
  10. ^ Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 2, Joseph Needham, Cambridge University Press, 1956, p. 38
  11. ^ Kirkland, Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. (London and New York: Routledge, 2004). p. 61. ISBN 978-0-415-26321-4
  12. ^ Stoicism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  13. ^ Cooper, John W. (2006). Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present. Baker Academic. p. 16. Naturalistic pantheism anticipates Bruno, Spinoza, Toland, Einstein (not Schelling, Hegel) defining God in terms of Nature should not be construed as naturalistic pantheism. By "Nature" Eriugena means something like "Reality" rather than the mere physical universe. "But his position is in fact closer to the naturalistic pantheism of ancient Stoicism. The World-Soul is not a higher reality that generates the physical world but the rational causal agent immanent in the world"...
  14. ^ Turner, William (prof. of philosophy at the Catholic University), "History of Philosophy", 1903, p. 429
  15. ^ "Materialism in Eighteenth-Century European Thought" in New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 2005, ed. Peter Machamer and Francesca di Poppa
  16. ^ The Middle Works of John Dewey, Volume 2, SIU Press, 1976, p. 184
  17. ^ "Ernst Haeckel – Britannica Concise" (biography), Encyclopædia Britannica Concise, 2006, Concise. webpage: CBritannica-Haeckel Archived 2006-11-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ The Presbyterian and reformed review, Volume 7, Anson D.F. Randolph, 1896, p217
  19. ^ "Is your spiritual home right here on Earth?". World Pantheist Movement. Retrieved 7 September 2012.