Panentheism

pregnantblue2“The Great Goddess … was the arch personification of the power of Space, Time, and Matter, within whose bound all beings arise and die: the substance of their bodies, configurator of their lives and thoughts, and receiver of their dead. And everything having form or name—including God personified as good or evil, merciful or wrathful—was her child, within her womb.”

— Joseph Campbell

Panentheism means “All in God” (pan-en-theos). Panentheism is be distinguished from pantheism, which means “All [is] God” (pan-theos). Like pantheism, panentheism posits a God who is immanent within nature. But unlike pantheism, panentheism simultaneously posits that God also transcends nature. To put it another way, panentheism and pantheism share the proposition that the world and God are in some sense “one”. However, panenthism differs from pantheism in that it preserves the “otherness” of God. Panentheism is distinguishable both from pantheism and transcendental monotheism, and tries to preserve the insights of both philosophies. Panentheism affirms that, although the world is “in” God, God is not “in” the world. That is, God is not limited to the world. God is more than the world. This more-ness, however, does not deny the essential unity of God and the world.

Some Neo-Pagans are panentheists. In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk articulates a panentheistic perspective through her description of the relationship of the Neo-Pagan Goddess and God. In the quote below, the Goddess represents the transcendent function of divinity, while the God represents the immanent function of divinity:

“The Goddess is the Encircler, the Ground of Being; the God is That-Which-Is-Brought-Forth, her mirror image, her other pole. She is the earth; He is the grain. She is the all encompassing sky; He is the sun, her fireball. She is the Wheel; He is the traveler. He is the sacrifice of life to death that life may go on. She is the Mother and Destroyer; He is all that is born and is destroyed.”

According to Starhawk’s model of the divine Spiral Dance, the God is the mortal dancer and the Goddess is the immortal Dance.

Starhawk may have borrowed this panentheistic vision from the McFarland Dianic tradition of witchcraft. Unlike both traditional British Traditional Wicca, which viewed divinity as essentially a polarity of male and female divinities, and feminist Dianic witchcraft, which viewed divinity monotheistically as a parthenogenic female, the McFarland Dianics occupied a middle ground, viewing divinity in terms of an immortal Creatrix and her mortal male consort. The Goddess of the McFarland Dianics is changeable, but undying. She possesses three aspects — Maiden, Mother, and Crone — like the moon, which is her symbol, which cycles through its aspects, but remains the same. She is the dynamic unity within the world of impermanence. The following comes from the McFarland Dianic website, which is no longer active:

“In the McFarland Dianic Tradition the Goddess was never born, and She never dies. She always was, is, and always will be. She is the fertile Void at the Center from which the universe is born. … Her Son and Consort is the Mortal principle that is born, dies and is reborn in an ever-repeating cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The God also is of the Goddess. You could say that He is Her male aspect.”

Related Pages:

Neo-Pagan Theology

Panthesim
The Mother and her Son: Zoe and bios
Process Theology

Revised 5/13/14

One thought on “Panentheism

  1. To put it another way, panentheism and pantheism share the proposition and the world and God are in some sense “one”.
    that “and” between ‘proposition’ and ‘the world’ doesn’t work.

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