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Introduction | Types of Panentheism
Introduction Back to Top

Panentheism, (also known as Monistic Monotheism), is the belief, similar to Pantheism, that the physical universe is joined to God, but stressing that God is greater than (rather than equivalent to) the universe. Thus, the one God is synonymous with the material universe and interpenetrates every part of nature (as in Pantheism), but timelessly extends beyond as well. The universe is part of God, but not all of God.

The Neoplatonism of Plotinus (in which the world itself is a God) is to some extent panentheistic with polytheistic tendencies, and philosophical treatises have been written on it in the context of Hinduism for millennia (notably in the "Bhagavad Gita" and the "Shri Rudram"). Many North American and South American Native religions are panentheistic in nature, and some elements of panentheism arise in Hasidic Judaism and Kabbalah, some Sufi orders of Islam, and Eastern and Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christianity.

However, the word "panentheism" (which can be translated as "all in God") was not coined until 1828, by the German philosopher Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (17811832), in an attempt to reconcile Monotheism and Pantheism, and this conception of God influenced New England Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was popularized by Charles Hartshorne (1897 - 2000) in his development of process theology in the 20th Century, and has also been adopted by proponents of various New Thought beliefs.

Types of Panentheism Back to Top
  • Strong Panentheism:
    This refers to the complete identity of God and the cosmos, as opposed to just God's presence in it, and therefore comes very close to Pantheism. The laws of nature, then, are not something essentially autonomous, which God must sometimes manipulate in order to make his will effective, but are part of his will.
  • Weak Panentheism:
    This refers only to the presence of God in the cosmos, as opposed to some identity between them. The laws of nature, therefore, have an autonomous status that makes them equivalent to something that is outside of God.
  • Panendeism:
    This is a composite of Deism and Panentheism. It holds that, while the universe is part of God, it operates according to natural mechanisms without the need for the intervention of a traditional God, somewhat similar to the Native American concept of the all-pervading Great Spirit.

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