Friday, June 22, 2007

"Gentle Pantheism"

Lately I have been contemplating God's immanance and metaphysical representation in our reality. For example, how does a pine tree portray qualities of God or speak God's voice or fulfill its function for which it was created? It grows. It is dependent; and unable to sustain itself alone. It contributes to and is part of something greater than itself. These are just a few qualities that immediately come to mind when I contemplate this issue. The same questions may be asked about everything in our world of reality.

The Post-Cartesian philosopher Benedict De Spinoza held the fascinating idea that the world is only made of one substance: God (Monism). He denied the distinction between attribute and substance therefore claiming that all things could be made up of one infinite substance (God) which contains infinite attributes. This allowed Spinoza the basis to believe in a Pantheistic reality in which God is exhisting through (and in and of and from) everything. Critics debate whether or not Spinoza believed in a strict Pantheism where God is literally the world; or whether he believed that all of God's attributes are somehow expressed in the world. Still, Spinoza's idea is captivating and I find there is support for his argument.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk and modern Christian contemplative, writes that the only true identity we can possess is to find our purpose in God just as a flower or a bird does. "Each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now." It is this fulfillment of function that grants Divine purpose. Therefore, I am led to believe that, in all its submission to function and purpose, all creation is representitive to God.

Aristotle touched on this idea of the fulfillment of function in his Nicomachean Ethics. According to Aristotle the only way to reach Eudaimonia - the happy life - was to figure out the function for which we are created and attain it. However, Aristotle was very vague in describing exactly what this function was.

However, of course, there is an exception to the fulfillment of Divine purpose in reality: me. And you and all human beings. Spinoza believed that humans were granted two attributes of God which were Thought and Extension. With these attributes we have the ability to maneuver away from our purpose. And, I would like to point out that it is obvious that the assumption at the base of these thoughts is the existence of God.

Though this is the end of my post, it is far from the end of my contemplation on this topic. Perhaps a future post ("Brutal Pantheism?") will be written on this. I have dubbed my idea here "Gentle Pantheism" because unlike strict Pantheism I am not avdocating the equity between creation and God; but I am perplexed by creation's gentle, hidden voice which speaks of purpose and Divine perfection.

1 comment:

  1. Read the process theologians (Cobb, Fides, Oord)? Their take on pan-entheism is a kind of "gentle pantheism."