Monday, January 16, 2012

Let's Define Pantheism!

Okay, so, I recently wrote an article on the bardic tradition of satire and the modern Pagan use of "deep play" in ritual as spiritual responses to the lack of transcendent/supernatural authority in the theological worldview of pantheism, drawing parallels between the incompetent king and the absent creator/god-figure.

I thought it was a pretty intriguing idea, even though I'm not actually a pantheist myself but a somewhat soft animistic polytheist type. But in typical fashion, many of the comments I'm getting on the article are overlooking the actual topic of the piece and instead focusing on whether or not they agree with my use of the word "pantheism." (Which kind of makes me want to go ::headdesk:: and "THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS." and so forth.)

So I thought I'd turn to the ever-awesome TC for some feedback. How do you all define pantheism?

When I was earning my degree in comparative religious studies and doing field work interviewing people in various religious communities, I used the term "pantheism" in a pretty straight forward way: the belief that God/Spirit is identical to the Universe, that there is no supernatural deity or transcendent reality but that the physical world itself is sacred. Naturally, this theological perspective entailed certain other beliefs, like for instance that there is no afterlife in which a transcendent "self" survives the physical death of the body.

I'd never heard that this was a controversial definition, though obviously there are going to be nuances in belief among individuals. I was really surprised when someone accused me of making "blanket statements" when I used the word pantheism in this way. The same way I would have been surprised if someone made that accusation about me defining polytheism as "belief in many gods." I thought that's just what the word meant!

It seems from the comments I'm getting that people are either eliding polytheism and pantheism, and/or treating pantheism as just another synonym for "nature reverence." Is that how most of you use it? Does anyone else use the word "pantheism" in the way I defined it above? Is this actually a controversial subject, or just another example of Pagan-PC-labeling gone mad? (Can we Pagans please have a conversation about something other than labels someday-maybe-plzkthnx?)

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