The Bigness of Pantheism

As I’m writing this, tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I grew up in a Christian home where Easter and Christmas were celebrated as religious holidays, along with their more secular aspects, but when these days roll around, I always find myself focusing on what pantheism means to me. I still celebrate those occasions with family, but now it’s more about spending time together, the symbolism of the changing seasons, and gratitude.

I see each day as a “holy day.” There’s always something to appreciate, celebrate, or find amazing. Maybe it’s those abundant purple violets growing in my yard this year, there have never been so many, or the cardinal’s familiar and comforting song coming from high in the pear tree, an unexpected rainbow, my granddaughters’ laughter. The list is long.

Recent conversations with other pantheists have also have given me reason to think more deeply lately about pantheism and its importance in and for my life. I no longer believe it’s just about nature, its beauty and, admittedly its terribleness at times, or saving the environment from people who would destroy it and the creatures and plants who live here, for profit. It’s about everything. Pantheism is my religion, philosophy, and worldview that informs all things about my life, how I look at them, the decisions and choices I make. Its emphasis on nature is certainly what drew me to it when I was deliberately searching for a spiritual path almost twenty years ago, and I often quote Frank Lloyd Wright as my “elevator speech” about pantheism: “I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E,” but over the years I’ve come to realize it’s about much more than science and the outdoor world we associate with the word “Nature.”

We pantheists are always saying humans aren’t above Nature or separate from it, but part of it, so aren’t our issues part of our humanity and worthy for discussion from a pantheist point of view? For me, then, pantheism is also about social justice, marginalized people who need help, immigrants, wars, sacred grounds, racism, sexism, poverty and wealth, jobs, eating, spirituality/religion, politics, physical and mental health, community/family, and more. They’re all interconnected. It’s about music and art, poetry and literature. The recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral was hard for me to watch, and I was glad to know there are people in the world with money who want to help rebuild it. Yet they have been criticized for not giving their money instead to help homeless people, starving children, nature organizations, rebuilding the “cathedrals of nature,” etc. Perhaps some of them contribute to all those things (as many people support more than one charity), and humanity as a whole is certainly capable of paying attention to many projects at one time. Those are obviously worthy causes, but imagine a world without architecture, paintings and sculptures, beautiful songs, poems, and collections of stories, landmarks of our human history. I simply can’t do it. We each choose our focus, what we want to put our time, energy, and money to. Must we judge each other’s choices? Is a person wrong for donating to a children’s charity over an animal shelter or vice-versa? Should a pantheist forego a pledge to a music foundation in favor of Greenpeace? Or helping out the local art gallery instead of a river cleanup project?

All of these matter, and all of them fall under the purview of pantheism, in my opinion. That’s why I want to be able to have conversations about all these different topics with fellow pantheists in our pantheist groups. Some people apparently feel there’s no place for such discussions, but I hope they can recognize that some of us pantheists do want these conversations, too, even need them. I’ve let myself feel a little frustrated, probably wrongly so, because I’ve been met with a bit of resistance when simply bringing up a political post that wasn’t a judgment or an opinion, but merely a factual report of what this administration has done in regard to some issues concerning the environment. I wonder if other pantheists simply see pantheism differently than I do, and certainly it’s up to each of us to define our own specific path and expression of our beliefs. We won’t agree on everything or vote the same way or donate money to the same organizations, but surely we can civilly, intelligently, and respectfully discuss the current administration’s policies on not only climate change and the environment and laws about killing animals and endangered species, but also their policies on immigration and health care, just as an example. Isn’t it through conversations such as these, difficult though they may be sometimes, that we move forward and find solutions, or at least better ways to cooperate and coexist, rather than always just focusing on the lovely, aromatic, sweet aspects of nature or protecting the wilderness (that we tend to agree about) or current scientific discoveries? Isn’t pantheism bigger than that?

Pantheism is dear to my heart. Participating in a pantheist group is a calling for me of sorts, I guess I could say. I want to share it, but it doesn’t always mean specifically using the word “pantheism” or “Nature.” Sometimes it’s not even about words, but how I live my life. It’s not just a label for who or what I am; it’s a point of view, a place I live FROM.

I, along with other pantheists online, share a lot of lofty words and ideas and memes that are beautiful and inspiring, and I appreciate and love those. We need them. Sometimes, though, I wish we could and would go deeper, down to the nitty gritty of what pantheism means to us, how it affects our everyday lives, why it’s important to us. Through that sharing, I feel like we become more of a community, but I also know it can’t be forced. The way I look at it, nature and science and the environment are also connected to a host of other social issues, and pantheism is that thread that runs through it all for me. It’s something I think about literally every day because it’s more than lofty words; it’s right there in the messes and the joys of my life.

Regardless of the direction our conversations go from here forward, I can sincerely say that I always appreciate and enjoy the time I spend participating in a pantheist group and meeting some really cool people around the world. Even through short snippets of words or opinions or shared memes, an occasional photograph or a brief personal observation, I get to know them a little better and have a window into places I’ll likely never see. That’s a gift.


(Originally published in Pantheist Vision)