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A discussion of Atheistic Pantheism and Classical Deism

by Lewis Loflin

Pantheism is just spiritual atheism, that has no relation to Deism. It claims to be based on science, but is poisoning science with pagan philosophy and mindless mysticism. It's become a type of fundamentalist' religion increasingly driven by emotion devoid of reason. This discussion will look at just what pantheism is and how it is a threat to humanity.

Just wanted to say that Pantheism isn't just thinking nature is god, it's more the believe that the Universe is god. Believing that people would also be god is not a 'request' for pantheism. And I also need to disappoint you with the fact that Pantheism isn't New Age (at least, in your description of New Age) Also, saying that Pantheism is without reason isn't right as well (I am pantheist because of reason) Overall, Pantheism is the definition of people who believe in that the universe is divine, it's therefore more an extension to Deism.
Atresica <>
The Netherlands - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 07:31:33 (PDT)

Rational? Really? No it's not it's about feelings not reason. Most of the universe is simply rock, gas, and metal completely devoid of life or real purpose, but the worship of this is rational? This person would go on and claim his belief was derived from chat boards and never bothered to look up the historical and dictionary definitions of the term.

This is a common problems with alleged deism websites that refuse to even define deism and openly reject its historical context - while claiming the authority of it. Many modern deists simply seek a way to attack theism.

Referring to New Age Religion from in their article that listed New Age beliefs:

"Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe."

According to Quakers and Deists and from John Punshon's Portrait in Grey: A Short History of the Quakers they quote Deism as,

"Deism, the "doctrine that God is quite other than the cosmos and entirely transcends it. Having created it as a closed system, he remains aloof from its operations and lets it go its own way" (160). This is God the creator, the "father." People who adhere to this theology tend to stress rational thought and science as a way of discovering truth, they tend to also place great emphasis on classic religious texts. Orthodox Quakerism is more sympathetic to Deism. For deists "the light was the inherent rational capacity of the mind." (161)"

And pantheism as,

"Pantheist, "the view that God and the universe are one entity, and that the divine is wholly immanent in the creation." (160). This is God as Spirit, as Holy Ghost, as Sanctifier. Silent and unprogrammed worship is most compatible with this theology, since it facilitates awareness of the spiritual dimensions of reality.

It also leads to Universalism (as we define it, the belief that all religions are means to approach a the same spiritual reality) since many other faiths also practice this form of spiritual worship, e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism. Gandhi's book "All Religions Are True" is consistent with this philosophy. Pantheist Quakers view the "light [as] the direct operation of God upon the soul, something which the deist cosmology in principle refused to admit." (161)."

My dictionary says on pantheism, "a form monism that identifies mind and matter...making them...the self developing universe, conceived as a whole, as God...The worship of all as Gods...." So says Funk and Wagnalls.

I know of no Deist that believes what Atresica stated above. Deism says God created the universe, not God created God nor made the universe divine or is the universe divine. Deism rejects the divinity of the material world be it the universe or its parts or contents. This kind of pantheism and other Eastern style religion led to transcendentalism that is at total odds with both Deism and its close cousin Christian Unitarianism. Let me remind the reader of what traditional five articles of English Deism, which in no manner God merely created the universe and went away:

1. belief in the existence of a single supreme God
2. humanity's duty to revere God
3. linkage of worship with practical morality
4. God will forgive us if we repent and abandon our sins
5. good works will be rewarded (and punishment for evil) both in life and after death.

What is not outright stated for Deism is God doesn't meddle in day to day life.

Pantheism is not an extension of Deism but the polar opposite of Deism. Nobody said a pantheist is without reason, but New Age religion is a rejection of reason in favor of "inner feelings" whatever that amounts to. Pantheism goes back to the ancient Greek Stoics and is a forerunner to Deism says Leo Rosten's Religions of America page 259. Go argue with him. While Deists may adopt some Stoic ethics, it rejects Stoic religious beliefs.

But quoting Gary Suttle of the Pantheist Association for Nature,

"Pantheism is the synthesis which transcends both theism and atheism...that the Universe is the ultimate reality and the most worthy object of reverence, while Nature is a sacred manifestation of the Totality, or All-One, in which all things are inseparable components...Most Taoists are Pantheists, along with many Chinese, Japanese and Western Buddhists, deep Ecologists, Pagans, Animists, followers of many native religions, and many Unitarian Universalists...Many Atheists and Humanists may be Pantheists without realizing it..."

But Gary gets to be even more fun, "more contemporary forms of Pantheism, such as Scientific or Natural Pantheism, do not believe in mythical deities, supernatural entities or powers, but they do consider the Universe/Cosmos to be Divine. Divinity does not refer to an objective property of the Universe, but to an aspect of one's spiritual relationship with it - one's deepest awe and recognition of the mystery, power, and ineffable beauty of All That IS."

Mystery or mysticism? He sounds New Age to me, and he seems to think a lot of people are pantheists.

"Since Earth Day in 1970, ecological issues have gained widespread public attention...Conservation organizations, outdoor writers, ecotours, and field guides popularize the love of Nature. Humans hold sacred what they most dearly love and value, and thus Pantheism often arises from personal experience in Nature. The continued growth of environmentalism and the flowering of Pantheism go hand in hand..."

Many eco-beliefs also run hand in hand with socialism.

Quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia on Pantheism,

"the view according to which God and the world are one." The name pantheist was introduced by John Toland (1670-1722) in his "Socinianism truly Stated" (1705)...there is probably no pure pantheism". Taken in the strictest sense, i.e. as identifying God and the world, Pantheism is simply Atheism....Two questions then arise: What is the nature of this being? How are the manifold appearances to be explained? The principal answers are incorporated in such different earlier systems as Brahminism, Stoicism, Neo-Platonism, and Gnosticism...

Strict pantheism isn't theism, rejecting a belief in a transcendent or personal God as the creator of the universe and the judge of humans. Pantheists seem to reject even the word "God." Naturalistic pantheism believes that the Universe either originated itself out of nothing, or has existed forever.

In other words, the universe "self-created" itself. Modern scientific pantheism is materialistic, believing that design in the universe can be fully accounted for by principles of evolution and self-organization. It rejects the notion of separate spirits or survival of the soul after death.

For most of the rest of my discussion I'll refer to naturalistic (materialistic) pantheism as opposed to traditional pantheism as found in Hinduism. Pantheism is also distinguished from Panentheism, which holds that God is in everything, but also transcends the Universe. Panentheism makes no rational sense at all.

These naturalistic beliefs are identical with atheism. So why do atheists insist on covering their atheism with pantheism or inserting this de-facto atheism into Deism? The avoid the negative label of "atheist" and there's a "feel good" aspect of having something real to believe in. Deism also supplies a collection of alleged famous people to elevate the belief beyond the mere new-age sounding character of the belief.

Pantheism uses the exact same critiques of transcendental religions and supernatural beliefs as does atheism. It's a secular religion, claiming to be a product of science, and seems to reduce science to a type of mysticism. Alternate names includes religious atheism, affirmative atheism, Monism, or Cosmism. It is also very close to Taoism, some forms of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, and neo- Confucianism. That's why Eastern religion is so attractive to so many atheists/pantheists. Let's call it what it is, atheism.

Unlike atheism alone, pantheism seems to be an emotional response of atheism. It focuses not simply on bashing transcendental beliefs and religions, but attempts to stress the positive aspects of life and nature - the profound aesthetic and emotional responses that most people feel towards nature and the night sky. In other words, it's a feel-good form of atheism. It also avoids many scientific facts about Nature, indulging in wishy-washy spiritualism.

They claim all of this is possible without retreating one millimeter from the rigorously empirical attitude of reality found in modern science. A good example is the environmental movement, often filled by spiritualists that have little regard for science and operate off emotion. As writer and scientist Michael Crichton noted,

we live in a secular society in which many not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths...

In other words, we have our war of the bad people (eco-defilers or consumers or those that live in developed nations) versus the good people (environmental earth protectors) working towards a spiritual (and often socialist) utopia. Like closely related New Age religion, it's a hodge-podge grow your own religion. Some also seem to promote primitivism. Pantheists and New Age types have hijacked environmentalism and as Crichton points out are killing people in pursuit of religious myth. Marxism is also another religion for the urban atheist. Ref. Remarks to the Commonwealth Club by Michael Crichton

Other forms of pantheism

Common with New Agers, is pan-psychic pantheism - the belief that the universe/God has a collective soul, mind or will. This version was most clearly expressed by Hegel, and in more modern times by A. N. Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin (process metaphysics?). Another variant is the idea that humans are in some way the mind of the universe (the global brain?). Our evolution - indeed our active help - is seen as helping the universe to attain its full potential. (Creative Immortality). (Wikipedia) Seems New Age to me.


While the term is rarely used, and is most often simply a synonym for Pantheism, this unusual philosophy has been used rather differently, but in all cases, the feeling was that God was something created by man, perhaps even an end state of human evolution, through social planning, eugenics and other forms of genetic engineering.

H. G. Wells subscribed to a form of Cosmotheism, which he called the "world brain" (from a book of essays by the same name he printed in 1937, one of which details the creation of a Library-encyclopedia hybrid), and detailed even more in his book God the Invisible King (in which he proscribes mankind to set up a socialist system, structuring itself on social and genetic statistics, education, and eugenics, ideally someday equating itself and possibly even merging with and conquering the Pantheist god itself.

In Omega Point and also some sections of his great work Outline of History reflected this belief and his finding it in the teachings of Jesus Christ and Siddhartha. His book Shape of Things to Come (and the 1936 film Things to Come) also reflects this, in which mankind, surviving a Nuclear war and an extended Feudal period, unites to form a collectivist Utopia.

In the 20th century United States, William Luther Pierce, a white nationalist associated with the American Nazi Party and founder of the National Alliance also utilized the term "Cosmotheism". In his eyes (similar to H. G. Wells'), God would be the end result of eugenics and racial hygiene (Nazism and Theosophy). Ref. Wikipedia

More words from pantheists

I got a response back form Atresica,

Well, I do not refer to any sources or something, I merely go by what I believe and have seen at the regular Deism/Pantheism community. but I must say that you are giving to everything your own twist, you claim to say that deists should follow christen bases, but deism only means that you believe in God, nothing more, nothing less. Don't give things more meaning than they actually have. And why classify Pantheism as New Age? That makes no sense I truly have the feeling most of the things you have on your website are more from your perspective than from facts.

Gee wiz, Deists do believe in God, you do not. Here is some material right off talk.religion.pantheism, something they call a "pantheist deity"

The natural is the supernatural and vice-versa- well, sort of. Thus, to me, all of reality- all of existence is "supernatural"- in a sense- in the sense that it's utterly amazing and miraculous.

That is, I really do sense, not just believe, that the All is The Only Thing There IS- you know, like Taoism- The Tao is the name of the Nameless one- once you name it- then you no longer have Unity- so the Tao isn't really the Tao, only a name for something nameless- the ultimate Unity- matter, energy, spirit- they're all the same thing.


hmmm.... I'll top Einstein as I think it's not just about energy and matter being related, or the different sides of the same coin- the unified field theory Einstein didn't figure out can't be figured out without a third element- spirit- which is not just a ghost like thing- it's as real or unreal (depending on perspective) as matter and energy- so, somehow, it must be factored into that equation- somehow, someway, if you have energy and matter is some proper combination, you'll get SPIRIT.

He/she who comes up with the formula will have immense powers.


Joe, this is precisely what De Quincey was saying in 'Radical Nature' (reference above): spirit (aka soul) coexists with matter/energy. It is a different type of stuff to matter in that it has no extension in space and cannot, therefore, be quantified but it exists and it exists in all matter, all the way down. He presents no formula as, unlike Einstein, he is not a physicist but a philosopher but he does make a very good case (if a somewhat challenging read).


The supernatural is just something we don't understand yet.

One of the original Pantheists, Heraclitus of Ephesus said some 2600 years ago that it "is now, forever was, and forever will be an EVER-LIVING FIRE".

No beginning. No end. Just constant FLUX. Modern cosmology suggests that an infinite number of "universes" such as ours are produced by that process. -- L.

OK, enough of this nonsense. I think I'll use academic references, not chat boards. Thank you Atresica for your valuable insights.

How pantheism led to Christianity

Ephesus plays a major role in creating Christianity. In nearby Miletus, Thales was born around 640 BC. He would be the father of modern science, sort of. Thales believed the universe was not erratic in its workings, and not under the arbitrary control of gods and spirits. The universe operated by fixed rules (laws of nature) and these laws could be worked out by man through observation and reason. This is the basis of modern science, and Thales never denied God/gods.

Then he seems to delve into pantheism believing "motive force was not a supernatural being. It was a force within the universe itself. Thales never invoked a power that was not present in nature itself, because he believed that he had recognized a force which underpinned the events of nature." He also believed the earth floated on water. (IEP)

Later came Heraclitus of Ephesus, not far from Militus in modern Western Turkey. He would coin a new term Logos, to represent the rational principle which the world was created. Logos ("Word" in English) in Greek refers to the whole rational structure of knowledge and we use it in modern science terms. For example, zoology meaning (words concerning animals); geology (words concerning the earth); etc. It seems Heraclitus was also a mystic, and later Greek mystics (including Plato) would expand the idea in such a way this Logos would become a god, or the rational, creative mind of god. The Judaism this would be "Wisdom." (Ref. Asimov's Guide to the Bible, pages 960-65.) The Stoics and Epicureans borrowed from Heraclitus.

Both Heraclitus and Thales would go on to influence Plato and other Greek philosophers and mystics. (Most were pantheists creating a confused mess of science and mysticism. One group would be the Stoics, whose major centers of learning included Tarsus, the home city of the Apostle Paul. Philo of Alexandria "produced a synthesis of both traditions (Greek Platonisn and Stoicism with Judaism) developing concepts for future Hellenistic interpretation of messianic Hebrew thought, especially by Clement of Alexandria, Christian Apologists like Athenagoras, Theophilus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and by Origen. He may have influenced Paul, his contemporary, and perhaps the authors of the Gospel of John and the Epistle to the Hebrews." (IEP)

Tertullian, another former pantheist and Platonist, claimed, "Jerusalem has nothing to do with Athens...I believe because it is absurd...that religious faith is both against and above reason." He proclaims, "when we believe, we desire to believe nothing further." (IEP)

Paul would establish one of his main churches in Ephesus, which by tradition the writer of the Gospel of John wrote his works after 90 AD. Here we have the full blown Logos (Word) of God; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:1-3) They also decided that the Holy Spirit, a pantheist' entity, was also the same as God. It's also a fact most of the Church Fathers were Platonists. This is what happens when one tries to mix science, mysticism, philosophy, and religion, which pantheists tend to do.

Note IEP is the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Why Deism differs from pantheism

Here is a typical Deist' view from Kathy,

I first signed your guest book about two years ago when I first discovered your site. I've been reading from it since then, some times more often than others.

I was raised many brands of Christian, including a few years in the JW cult. Then, I believed that I was atheist for something like eight years during my 20s, but that didn't work for me because reason doesn't support spontaneous life nor the desire of most humans to do what's right and good (even if we do fail at it often). I tried Christianity again, but there are too many inconsistencies in the New Testament that I could see before even reading them documented here.

Then, although it's not Biblical, the Trinity never made sense to me. Even as a small child, I knew that three isn't one and one isn't three. If there must be three, even a small child can tell you that the three would be the Father, the Mother and the (holy) Child, which brings me to another problem that I have with Judeo-Christian tradition and beliefs and that is the total disregard and even hatred of women. Eve was an afterthought who taught Adam to sin and the view of women just went downhill from there. No, I'm not buying it. Then, like A from GA, I realized that I'm a Deist upon discovering Deism.

It's too bad that you can't put all of this info that you've brought together into a book or series of books. I know that I'd buy them for the convenience of reading this in book form. But I suppose that the legal issues would be outrageous due to the number of sources and authors that you've brought into one place. And let's don't even think about the number of religions and cults, chock full of dogma, that would be created as a result of the book(s), which would totally defeat the purpose, right?

Deism is more than trashing other religions as it's used today, and is much more widespread than Christians or atheist/pantheists want to admit. Most Christians don't believe everything they read in the Bible. Most would never believe getting sick is caused by evil spirits that can be caste out, they go to the doctor. Deism was the result of two issues within Christianity: clerical abuse and control, and a way to reconcile reason and science with God. In other words, God without the fundamentalism. A Deist subordinates Scripture to reason. For on this issue see At the Origins of English Rationalism by T.E. Wilder.

One confusion for fundamentalists is the belief everyone that walks into church is somehow "born again." Nonsense, I like Kathy on occasion attend a Methodist Church, or I join in with a non-Orthodox Jewish group. I celebrate a number of holidays from both faiths, having no need to convert anyone. In fact, my license plate says "DEIST" so there's no mistaking my position. Many of this nation's founders attended church, but were also Freemasons and various forms of free thinkers.

Deists will reject issues such as virgin births as absurd or the Trinity (based on Greek philosophy) or other forms of mysticism. Deists don't believe God controls everything, leaving it up to us to make our own way. In other words, Deism embraces free will and freedom to act, and rejects atheist/pantheist determinism, the idea what you do today is controled by events in the past, and Christian predistination. Two of the worst in this were John Calvin and Spinoza.

Now this from Brian,

I read your discussion of pantheism and deism, and I protest that you are overlooking "pandeism", a theory combining elements of pantheism with deism. Pandeism posits that an active "deistic" God designed and created the universe, but in the act of creating the universe, this God became a passive pantheistic God conterminous with the universe (which explains why we can no longer communicate with the creator-God).

This idea is, I suppose, more of the new-age type religion on which you commented, but elements of the idea can be found in the writings of Heraclitus, the Epicureans, Bruno, Kant, and most clearly in Spinoza. I would welcome your thoughts on this theory!

Why not keep to the simple explanation as much as possible? I keep Deism within its Christian and Jewish roots to counter gross superstition. Pandeism is just pantheism. What I see is a desire by many of those that do this is a continued attempt to strip out the roots of Deism. By doing so they fill it in with various philosophies or tend towards mysticism. This is what happened when pseudo-Gnostics like Paul and the Greek writer of John screwed around with Judaism by introducing various Greek philosophies and mysticism producing Gnosticism and Christianity, nearly destroying the original faith and killing lots of others in the process.

That is what you are trying to do here. You don't understand traditional Deism or simply don't like it. You are substituting other things to replace it. One problem with Greek philosophers is ancient Greece never separated mathematics from mysticism. Spinoza was heavily influenced by the Stoics and was a first class mystic.

Deism once again believes in a transcendent God, not a god combined with Nature or the material world. Thus we avoid mysticism and pseudo-science, often followed by the Greek philosophers. The trouble is science has been invaded once again by mysticism, and this mysticism is the part of science used by pantheism to promote their "true religion."


In conclusion pantheism often runs with New Age religion, but not always. Pantheism is often drawn from Greek philosophy, and tends to invade other belief systems like a virus. The idea, in particular with the environmental movement, is it opens the door to genocide. The belief that humans have no more worth than bacteria, makes the human race expendable. Further, the belief that we must not conquer and use nature for human benefit, has led to the death of millions in the Third World by denying them technology like pesticides and nuclear power. Further, science is being invaded and undermined as it is misused and distorted to justify an often fantasy utopia. Nature after all has now become divine, and humans are mere insects in their view. It's the preferred religion of atheism, often within the environmental movement.

Deism doesn't reduce nature to an abstract divinity. Deism holds humans as God's greatest creation, flaws and all. By separating divinity from nature, we can make rational decisions on both using and protecting our world for the benefit of the human race. Humans are better than bugs and slugs. Science has no business being mixed with spiritualism.

Resources Exposition of Pantheism:

Evaluation of Pantheism:

Additional Information

pantheism [Greek pan=all, theos=God], name used to denote any system of belief or speculation that includes the teaching "God is all, and all is God." Pantheism, in other words, identifies the universe with God or God with the universe. The term is thought to have been employed first by John Toland in the 18th cent., but pantheistic views are of very great antiquity.

While all pantheism is monistic, it is expressed in different ways according to what is meant by the one whole that gathers up in itself all that exists, or what is meant by God. If the pantheist starts with the belief that the one great reality, eternal and infinite, is God, he sees everything finite and temporal as but some part of God. There is nothing separate or distinct from God, for God is the universe. If, on the other hand, the conception taken as the foundation of the system is that the great inclusive unity is the world itself, or the universe,

God is swallowed up in that unity, which may be designated nature. Some forms of pantheism have had their beginnings in religion; others have been based upon a philosophic, scientific, or poetic point of view.

This conception is closely connected with the idea of emanation. Pantheism had a place in the speculations of some Greek philosophers. Xenophanes taught that the one God could know no motion or change. The conception of Parmenides left no room for development or ethical meaning. Stoicism gave a more definite expression to pantheistic doctrine, emphasizing the identity of God and the world.

There is pantheism in the teachings of the Neoplatonists and the writings of Giordano Bruno of the 16th century carried such weight as to influence the development of modern thought, especially through Spinoza, in whose monistic system pantheism receives its most complete and precise expression. In it God is the unlimited, all-inclusive substance, the first cause of the universe, with innumerable attributes, two of which, thinking and extension, are capable of being perceived. Pantheism of a kind can be traced in the idealistic philosophy of Fichte and Schelling, Hegel and Schleiermacher. Together with mysticism, it fills a large place in literature, particularly in the poetry of nature.

emanation, in philosophy

emanation [Latin, flowing from], cosmological concept that explains the creation of the world by a series of radiations, or emanations, originating in the godhead. It is characteristic of Neoplatonism and of Gnosticism and is frequently encountered in Indian metaphysics. In the history of Western thought it has been to some extent, as in Neoplatonism, opposed to the Judeo-Christian conception of creation, in which the eternal God makes all from nothing.

To explain the relation of a totally transcendent God to a finite and imperfect world, the belief in emanation denies that God directly created the world but maintains rather that the world is the result of a chain of emergence through emanations. From God (the One, or the Absolute), the one prime principle, flows the divine substance; his own substance never lessens. As the flow proceeds farther from God, however, its divinity steadily decreases. When a stone is dropped into water, the circles ever widening from the point (God) where the stone fell are emanations, becoming fainter and fainter.

Emanation never ceases, the whole process moving continuously outward from God. In the 3d cent. A.D., Plotinus and other Neoplatonists developed a clear system of emanation. The Neoplatonists ascribed to Plato an emanative concept in his Idea of the Good as being supreme, the lesser ideas being in some way related to the Idea of the Good.

Epictetus c.A.D. 50-c.A.D. 138, Phrygian Stoic philosopher. He wrote nothing, but his teachings were set down by his disciple Arrian in the Discourses and the Encheiridion. Epictetus emphasized indifference to external goods and taught that the true good is within oneself. His Stoicism was outstanding in its insistence on the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. Note: there are elements of Eastern Religion in Stoicism.


Stoicism, school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium (in Cyprus) c.300 B.C. The first Stoics were so called because they met in the Stoa Poecile [Gr.,=painted porch], at Athens, a colonnade near the Agora, to hear their master Zeno lecture. He had studied with Crates the Cynic, and his own teaching included the Cynic adaptation of the Socratic ideals of virtue, endurance, and self-sufficiency. He added to them the explanation of the physical universe given by Heraclitus and something of the logic of Aristotle.

The development and organization of Zeno's doctrines into a great system of metaphysics was the work of Chrysippus (c.280-207 B.C.), successor to Cleanthes. Among the acknowledged leaders of the Stoics in the following period was Panaetius of Rhodes, who in the 2d cent. B.C. introduced Stoicism into Rome. He and his pupil Posidonius sought to lessen the attacks of critics by mingling with the Stoic doctrines some of Plato's psychological views. Cicero, a pupil of Posidonius, was indebted to a work of Panaetius for the basis of his own treatise De officiis.

The Romans, who had received Stoicism more cordially than they did any other Greek philosophy, can claim the third period as their own. To it belong the philosophers Seneca and Epictetus of Phrygia and the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism, with its roots in earlier doctrines and theories of the human person and the universe, built up an ideal of the virtuous, wise man. Regarding philosophy as divided into physics, logic, and ethics, the Stoics made logic and physics a foundation for ethics. The physical theory underlying Stoicism is materialistic.

All that has reality is material. Force, which is the shaping principle, is joined with matter. The universal working force, God, pervades all and becomes the reason and soul in the animate creation. In their ethical creed, the Stoics accepted virtue as the highest good in life. They identified virtue with happiness, claiming that it was untouched by changes in fortune. "To live consistently with nature" was a familiar maxim among the Stoics. Only by putting aside passion, unjust thoughts, and indulgence and by performing duty with the right disposition can people attain true freedom and rule as lords over their own lives.


See J. M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy (1969); A. A. Long, ed., Problems in Stoicism (1971); A. A. Long and P. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, (2 vol., 1987); M. Reesor, The Nature of Man in Early Stoic Philosophy (1989).

mysticism [Greek, the practice of those who are initiated into the mysteries], the practice of putting oneself into, and remaining in, direct relation with God, the Absolute, or any unifying principle of life. Mysticism is inseparably linked with religion. Because of the nature of mysticism, firsthand objective studies of it are virtually impossible, and students must confine themselves to the accounts of mystics, autobiographical and biographical, or, as the mystics themselves say, they must experience for themselves. The terms mystic and mysticism are used very broadly in English, being extended to mean magic, occultism, or the esoteric. As used on this webpage, mysticism excludes magic, occultism, and the esoteric.

The Nature of Mysticism

There are certain common fallacies current about mysticism: that mystics are not "practical" and that they are revolutionary; on the contrary, many of the greatest mystics have been both intensely active as well as submissive to authority of whatever sort. Nor is the "solitary thinker" necessarily, or even usually, a mystic. There is no accepted explanation of mysticism.

There are two general tendencies in the speculation of mystics-to regard God as outside the soul, which rises to its God by successive stages, or to regard God as dwelling within the soul and to be found by delving deeper into one's own reality. The idea of transcendence, as held most firmly by mystics, is the kernel of the ancient mystical system, Neoplatonism, and of Gnosticism. Their explanation of the connection between God and humans by emanation is epoch-making in the philosophy of contemplation. Among those who think of God, or the Supreme Reality, as being within the soul are the Quakers.

The language of mysticism is always difficult and usually symbolic. This is readily seen in the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, in the book of Revelation in the New Testament, and in the writings of William Blake. Mystics, especially those of the Roman Catholic and the Islamic traditions, have made use of a terminology borrowed from ordinary human love.

A conventional analysis is as follows: The soul undergoes a purification (the purgative way), which leads to a feeling of illumination and greater love of God (the illuminative way); after a period the soul may be said to enter into mystical union with God (the unitive way), which begins with the consciousness that God is present to the soul; the soul progresses through a time of quiet and an ecstatic state to a final perfect state of union with God (spiritual marriage).

Late in this process there is an experience (the dark night of the soul) wherein the contemplative finds himself completely deserted by God, by hope, and, indeed, even by the power to pray; it lasts sometimes for years. Visions, voices, ecstasies may accompany any or none of the states of contemplation before the final union.

It is because of these external and nonessential manifestations that the erroneous idea has arisen that all enthusiastic and nonintellectual religious movements are necessarily mystical. The positive convictions of the mystic arise from the fact that they are based on what he or she must regard as objective reality directly perceived.

Among great Protestant mystics are Jakob Boehme and George Fox, founder of Quakerism, the foremost Protestant mystical movement. In Judaism the mystical tradition represented by the kabbalah was continued in the modern Hasidism. For Islamic mysticism, see Sufism. For Buddhism, Zen Buddhism; Buddha, also Taoism.

Bruno, Giordano, 1548-1600, Italian philosopher, b. Nola. He entered the Dominican order early in his youth but was accused of heresy and fled (c.1576) to take up a career of study and travel. He taught briefly at Toulouse, Paris, Oxford, and Wittenberg, but, personally restless and in constant opposition to the traditional schools, he found no permanent post. His major metaphysical works, De la causa, principio, et uno (1584, tr. The Infinite in Giordano Bruno, 1950) and De l'infinito, universo et mondi (1584), were published in France. Further works appeared in England and Germany.

Bruno also wrote satire and poetry. In 1591 he returned to Venice, where he was tried for heresy by the Inquisition. After imprisonment at Rome, he was burned to death. Bruno challenged all dogmatism, including that of the Copernican cosmology, the main tenets of which, however, he upheld.

He believed that our perception of the world is relative to the position in space and time from which we view it and that there are as many possible modes of viewing the world as there are possible positions. Therefore we cannot postulate absolute truth or any limit to the progress of knowledge. He pictured the world as composed of individual elements of being, governed by fixed laws of relationship. These elements, called monads, were ultimate and irreducible and were based on a pantheistic infinite principle, or cause, or Deity, manifest in us and in all the world. Bruno's influence on later philosophy, especially that of Spinoza and Leibniz, was profound.

Bibliography: P. H. Michel, The Cosmology of Giordano Bruno (tr. 1973); S. Drake, Copernicus-Philosophy and Science: Bruno-Kepler-Galileo (1973); F. A. Yates, Lull and Bruno (1982).

Toland, John, 1670-1722, British deist, b. Ireland. Brought up a Roman Catholic, Toland became a Protestant at 16. He studied at Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Leiden and after 1694 lived at Oxford for several years. In 1696 he published Christianity not Mysterious, in which he tried to reconcile the scriptural claims of Christianity with the epistemology of John Locke. He asserted that neither God nor his revelation is above the comprehension of human reason.

The book was widely attacked, and it was burned in Ireland in 1697. Toland's next work (1698) was a biography of John Milton, which also caused a scandal; it contained a passage that was believed to cast doubt on the authenticity of the New Testament. His Anglia Libera (1701), in support of the Act of Settlement (see Settlement, Act of), brought him favor from the court of Hanover, where he was received by the Electress Sophia.

To her daughter, Sophia Charlotte, he addressed his Letters to Serena (1704), in which he argues that motion is an intrinsic quality of matter, thus repudiating the Cartesian conception. In his Pantheisticon (1720) he develops the pantheistic ideas implicit in the Letters. He is believed to have been the first to use the term pantheism. Below, from IEP article Faith and Reason


Reason generally is understood as the principles for a methodological inquiry, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, or religious. Thus is it not simply the rules of logical inference or the embodied wisdom of a tradition or authority. Some kind of algorithmic demonstrability is ordinarily presupposed. Once demonstrated, a proposition or claim is ordinarily understood to be justified as true or authoritative. Comment: science should only deal with methodological inquiry into the workings of nature, not delve into moral or theological questions.

Faith, on the other hand, involves a stance toward some claim that is not, at least presently, demonstrable by reason. Thus faith is a kind of attitude of trust or assent. As such, it is ordinarily understood to involve an act of will or a commitment on the part of the believer. Religious faith involves a belief that makes some kind of either an implicit or explicit reference to a transcendent source. The basis for a person's faith usually is understood to come from the authority of revelation. Revelation is either direct, through some kind of direct infusion, or indirect, usually from the testimony of an other.

Both of these schools of thought derived certain theological kinds of thinking from physics and cosmology. The Stoics generally held a cosmological view of an eternal cycle of identical world-revolutions and world-destructions by a universal conflagration. Absolute necessity governs the cyclic process and is identified with divine reason (logos) and providence. This provident and benevolent God is immanent in the physical world. God orders the universe, though without an explicit purpose. Humans are microcosms; their souls are emanations of the fiery soul of the universe.

The Epicureans, on the other hand, were skeptical, materialistic, and anti-dogmatic. It is not clear they were theists at all, though at some points they seem to be. They did speak of the gods as living in a blissful state in intermundial regions, without any interest in the affairs of humans. There is no relation between the evils of human life and a divine guidance of the universe. At death all human perception ceases.

The Rise of Christianity

Christianity, emerging from Judaism, imposed a set of revealed truths and practices on its adherents. Many of these beliefs and practices differed significantly from what the Greek religions and Judaism had held. For example, Christians held that God created the world ex nihilo, that God is three persons, and that Jesus Christ was the ultimate revelation of God. Nonetheless, from the earliest of times, Christians held to a significant degree of compatibility between faith and reason.


The writings attributed to St. Paul in the Christian Scriptures provide diverse interpretations of the relation between faith and reason. First, in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul himself engages in discussion with "certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers" at the Aeropagus in Athens (Acts 17:18). Here he champions the unity of the Christian God as the creator of all.

God is "not far from any one of us." Much of Paul's speech, in fact, seems to allude to Stoic beliefs. It reflects a sympathy with pagan customs, handles the subject of idol worship gently, and appeals for a new examination of divinity not from the standpoint of creation, but from practical engagement with the world. However, he claims that this same God will one day come to judge all mankind.

But in his famous passage from Romans 1:20, Paul is less obliging to non-Christians. Here he champions a natural theology against those pagans who would claim that, even on Christian grounds, their previous lack of access to the Christian God would absolve them from guilt for their nonbelief. Paul argues that in fact anyone can attain to the truth of God's existence merely from using his or her reason to reflect on the natural world.

Thus this strong compatibilist interpretation entailed a reduced tolerance for atheists and agnostics. Yet in 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul suggests a kind of incompatibilism, claiming that Christian revelation is folly the Gentiles (meaning Greeks). He points out that the world did not come to know God through wisdom; God chose to reveal Himself fully to those of simple faith.

These diverse Pauline interpretations of the relation between faith and reason were to continue to manifest themselves in various ways through the centuries that followed.


Tertullian took up the ideas of Paul in 1 Corinthians, proclaiming that Christianity is not merely incompatible with but offensive to natural reason. Jerusalem has nothing to do with Athens. He boldly claimed credo quia absurdum est ("I believe because it is absurd"). He claims that religious faith is both against and above reason.

In his De Praescriptione Haereticorum, he proclaims, "when we believe, we desire to believe nothing further." On the other hand, Justin Martyr converted to Christianity, but continued to hold Greek philosophy in high esteem. In his Dialogue with Trypho he finds Christianity "the only sure and profitable philosophy."

In a similar vein, Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata called the Gospel "the true philosophy." Philosophy acted as a "schoolmaster" to bring the Greeks to Christ, just as the law brought the Jews. But he maintained that Greek philosophy is unnecessary for a defense of the faith, though it helps to disarm sophistry.

He also worked to demonstrate in a rational way what is found in faith. He claimed that "I believe in order that I may know" (credo ut intelligam). This set Christianity on firmer intellectual foundations. Clement also worked to clarify the early creeds of Christianity, using philosophical notions of substance, being, and person, in order to combat heresies.