I have been embracing Panentheism since I graduated from the Vancouver School of Theology at the University of British Columbia with a Master of Theology degree in May 2002. Panentheism, my theological and philosophical framework for peace and peacebuilding, posits that God is both immanent within the universe and transcendent beyond it. This dual aspect presents a vision of a harmonious cosmos where the divine permeates every aspect of existence while simultaneously transcending it. This personal statement of panentheistic worldview articulates a harmonious relationship between God and the cosmos and how this perspective fosters a sense of cosmic harmony.

Definition and Core Principles

Panentheism, derived from the Greek words “pan” (all), “en” (in), and “theos” (God), literally means “all in God.” It is distinct from both traditional theism and pantheism:

Theism: God is a transcendent, personal being separate from the universe.

Pantheism: God is identical to the universe.

Panentheism: God interpenetrates the universe but also exists beyond it.

Immanence and Transcendence

Immanence: God is present within all parts of the universe. Every aspect of creation is imbued with the divine presence, reflecting God’s nature and essence.

Transcendence: God extends beyond the universe, maintaining a distinct existence that surpasses the physical realm. This aspect ensures that God is not limited by the cosmos but encompasses and transcends it.

Historical and Philosophical Foundations

Ancient and Eastern Origins

Hinduism: The Upanishadic concept of Brahman, which is both immanent in the world and transcendent, aligns closely with panentheism. Brahman is the ultimate reality that pervades everything while remaining beyond all.

Taoism: The Tao is an underlying principle that both transcends and inhabits the universe, influencing the harmony of all things.

Western Philosophy

Plato and Neoplatonism: Plato’s idea of the World Soul and Plotinus’ concept of the One provide early Western antecedents to panentheistic thought. The One is a transcendent source from which everything emanates, yet it also indwells all existence.

Process Philosophy: Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy, emphasizing the dynamic nature of reality and God’s involvement in temporal processes, offers a modern articulation of panentheism.

Harmonious Cosmos in Panentheism

The Cosmos as the Body of God

Panentheism often describes the universe as the “body of God,” suggesting an intimate and dynamic relationship between the divine and the cosmos. This metaphor emphasizes:

Interconnectedness: All parts of the universe are interrelated, reflecting the divine presence in a web of relationships.

Participation: The cosmos participates in the being of God, with each element contributing to the divine life.

Theological Implications

Dynamic Interaction: The relationship between God and the universe is not static but dynamic, characterized by mutual influence and co-creation. The divine is affected by the cosmos and vice versa.

Holistic Vision: Panentheism promotes a holistic vision of reality, where the spiritual and material are integrally connected. This unity fosters a sense of cosmic harmony, where every element plays a part in the divine order.

Cosmic Harmony and Ethical Implications

Spiritual Awareness

Panentheism fosters a spirituality that emphasizes the sacredness of all creation. Recognizing the divine in every aspect of the universe leads to —

Reverence for Life: All life forms are seen as manifestations of the divine, warranting respect and care.

Ecological Consciousness: The environment is viewed as an integral part of God’s body, promoting a commitment to ecological preservation and sustainability.

Ethical Responsibility

Interconnectedness and Morality: The interconnected nature of all existence in panentheism implies that actions affecting one part of the cosmos impact the whole. This understanding fosters a sense of ethical responsibility towards others and the environment.

Justice and Compassion: The presence of the divine in all beings encourages principles of justice and compassion, recognizing the intrinsic worth and dignity of every individual.

Panentheism in Contemporary Context

Dialogue Between Science and Religion

Panentheism offers a framework compatible with scientific understanding, bridging the gap between science and spirituality. It encourages —

Integration: Scientific discoveries about the cosmos are seen as uncovering the divine order, enhancing the sense of wonder and reverence for creation.

Holistic Approach: Emphasizing both the material and spiritual dimensions of reality, panentheism supports a more comprehensive understanding of existence.

Interfaith Dialogue

Panentheism’s inclusive nature makes it a valuable perspective in interfaith dialogue. By incorporating elements of both Western and Eastern religious thought, it provides common ground for —

Mutual Understanding: Facilitating conversations between different faith traditions by highlighting shared beliefs about the divine’s immanence and transcendence.

Unity in Diversity: Promoting a vision of religious harmony that respects diverse expressions of spirituality while recognizing a common underlying truth.

Why I chose this perspective of Final Reality

Panentheism presents a vision of a harmonious cosmos, where the divine and the universe are deeply intertwined yet distinct. This worldview fosters a sense of cosmic harmony, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all existence and promoting ethical responsibility and ecological awareness. By bridging the gap between theism and pantheism, panentheism offers a comprehensive and integrative perspective that enriches our understanding of the divine and our place in the universe. As a bridge between science and religion, and between different faith traditions, panentheism holds promise for a more unified, compassionate, and harmonious worldview.

潘 道義

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