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LadyCelt
May 10th, 2007, 01:49 AM
Maybe I am a bit confused, but where does the concept of deity/God/gods fit in? Does pantheism view everything as essence of deity/divine? Can you believe in there being true beings/gods if you are pantheist?

Xentor
May 10th, 2007, 01:58 AM
Of course.

My path for instance has divinity immanent in the entirity of our universe, but also allows for local deity. This is possible because of our definition of deities: those with the most amount of power within a specific area of influence.

This differs from immanent divinity because we believe the deity responsible for this divinity sacrificed their unicity. Local deities didn't sacrifice their unicity, otherwise they wouldn't be able to yield their power.

Limits of the areas of influence are open to discussion, meaning that in a very local sense, I am the god of my house, my wife is the god of our dogs, mol is the god of Mystic Wicks, Gaia is the goddess of the Earth, etc.

Agaliha
May 10th, 2007, 10:33 AM
Here's what the Pantheism.Net FAQ says:




What is the relationship between paganism and pantheism?
There are many points in common between paganism and Pantheism. Most pagans say they are pantheists. They too revere Nature and the Universe and regard them as in some sense unified wholes. They too celebrate solstices, equinoxes and other natural passages. They too have a strong environmental ethic and a deep love of nature.
Many pagans are straight pantheists, using polytheism as a metaphoric way of expressing their reverence for the Universe and Nature. Some people feel the need for symbols and personages to mediate their relationship with nature and the cosmos. There is no harm in this, as long as the symbols help us to connect to Reality and do not block or distort our view of Reality.
Pantheists can also relate directly to the universe and to nature, without the need for any intermediary symbols or deities. The cosmos manifests itself directly to us in nature and the night sky.
However, many pagans are literal polytheists, and believe in magic, reincarnation, and the irrational. Modern pantheists are not polytheists, and do not believe in magic, or disembodied spirits. Most of them do not believe in a personal afterlife, whether through reincarnation or transport to any kind of non-material "heaven."
If by the irrational, people mean a strongly emotional and aesthetic approach to nature and the universe, then we support it just as strongly as any pagan. But we see no conflict in principle between this and science, reason or logic. The findings of science have often been abused to harm nature and humans, but to correct the harm we need better, more ethical science and better public control over science and technology - not an abandonment of science. Without science we would have no hope of saving the earth, and no hope of understanding the universe we live in.
However, if the irrational means abandonment of science, reason and logic, then pantheists reject it. Once these are abandoned, all beliefs are equally valid - including racism, fascism and the wildest superstitions.


There's also:



Is pantheism just theism in disguise?
No. Theism means belief in a personal God who is greater and older than the universe. This God may or may not be present in the universe. Pantheism says simply that the universe is worthy of the deepest reverence. This is a statement about the attitude we should adopt towards the universe and nature - an attitude which we have no choice but to adopt of we open our eyes to the full awe and mystery of reality.The universe has some features in common with the God of traditional religions - its power, immensity, and mystery. But it is not personal. It has no mind apart from the minds of intelligent species within it. It is neither loving nor vengeful. It does not sit in judgement over us and mete out rewards and punishments in an afterlife. Before we can really understand the "numinousness" of the cosmos, we must forget everything we have learned about traditional gods, and learn to look at what is in front of our eyes with an open mind.


For more: http://www.pantheism.net/beliefs.htm

I personally don't see the gods as literal, living, and interceeding.
I see them as very complex symbols, archetypes, personifications and metaphors for understanding the world and Universe. I'm agnostic about the gods.
I mentioned more HERE (http://www.mysticwicks.com/showpost.php?p=2582881&postcount=37). And various other places.

...not sure if that helps.

Eleisawolf
May 10th, 2007, 11:45 AM
LadyCelt

Ask 12 different pantheists, you'll possibly get about 25 different definitions of pantheism. There are a lot of us out there with a lot of different varieties of belief about what the divine is. Some of us don't express a belief in divinity at all but are simply inspired "spiritually" by the realities of existence in general. Some of us feel that the the universe itself is the only divine presence. Some of us, including myself, have had what we term to be divine or spiritual experiences for which we have explanations based in human psychology or expect there will someday be an understanding in line with the laws of the physical universe that we don't know about fully yet.

The key for pantheists is that we don't need to conceive of a deity that exists outside of the physical, existing universe or outside of what can be demonstrated by scientific, objective observation. For us, deity is a very subjective concept, not an objective one. For me, my relationship with life and the world around me is what is divine. The lessons I learn from my spirit guides and deities are not brought to me out of some ether that can't be shown to exist through science in the physical universe, but may be keyed in by realities that exist in my own mind, in the collective consciousness, and in symbolism that has meaning to me and guides me through my life. When I see my "deities," I'm not seeing some otherwordly presence, but something that is firmly grounded in human experience only. My dog would not experience my concept of the divine. Neither would my husband. Neither would anyone else but me, because the divine as I experience it is born through my relationship with life, the universe, and everything. Still, I call it divine because I do experience it and it has helped to shape the person that I am, which does make it real, but only subjectively. My concept of the divine would not exist for you, either. Does that make sense? We don't reach for divinity outside of what we know to be the physical universe that we experience daily. For some pantheists, that means divinity doesn't have to be a part of our belief at all. I'm a bit more of a romantic... ;)

This is the reason, in my opinion, spirituality and religion vary throughout the world--in fact, I believe that the understanding of the divine is different for each single individual person, regardless of the homogeneity of their religious dogma. It is all based on mental, cultural, and emotional subjectivity... not some big objective reality that exists outside of our ability to perceive it.

Peace

cheddarsox
May 10th, 2007, 05:13 PM
In my practice, I hang onto the term "Divine", but do not use the term "deity", because to me, "deity" implies a personal being distinct from the universe (having boundaries).

"Divine", as I understand it, can imply that something has the ultimate control, is the ultimate cause. I believe the universe has that ultimate control and is the ultimate cause. So, to me, the universe is Divine, but it is in no way a deity.

I know pantheists who use deities as archetypes, focal points, tools in their spiritual practice. I don't understand how someone who believes in deities as literal distinct beings can still be a pantheist...not saying it is not possible, just that I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

The longer I am a pantheist...the more I understand why people consider it "atheistic". I am not "against God", but I do not have a "God", a deity. There is nothing like that in my faith. I recently wrote an essay in which I wrote..I gave up god and gained the whole universe.

The idea of a deity is very limiting for me. It always feels like less than the whole, as a distraction. That is where I am. It may be a stage...I don't know.

cheddar

Windsmith
May 10th, 2007, 05:42 PM
Ask 12 different pantheists, you'll possibly get about 25 different definitions of pantheism.I suspect this goes double for "divinity."

For myself, I view all that exists as divine simply for existing. The odds of life existing in the Universe - heck, the odds of the Universe existing at all! - were so slim that just being part of it inspires me with feelings of awe and reverence that really are best described as worship, loaded though that word is. But I feel no need to look beyond that amazing, numinous Cosmos for a creator deity - I find plenty of divinity in the world around me.

I view gods and goddesses as ideas created by humankind to help us explain natural phenomena and to help give us a sense of being connected to something beyond our physical selves. Personally, I find that they unnecessarily clutter up my spirituality, so I stay away from invoking them or working with them in other ways, but I appreciate that some Pantheists find them useful from an archetypal and ceremonial standpoint.

LadyCelt
May 11th, 2007, 02:16 AM
Thanks for the replies

Xentor
May 11th, 2007, 08:53 AM
Welcome!

Birdy
May 15th, 2007, 11:58 PM
It should probably be mentioned that while Modern Pantheism does not have deities, Classical Pantheism, for example Hinduism, as well as some ancient Greek philosophy do incorporate deities. The deities are seen as manifestations of aspects of Brahma or the Cosmos existing as part of the fabric of nature (not supernatural) like everything else.

A lot of people seen to think pantheism was made up by 18th century romantics but African scholars say it is the worlds oldest spirituality, originating in indigenous hunter gatherer African traditions who saw the Earth/Sky as all encompassing. This earliest form of pantheism was animistic and incorporated spirits.

...or at least that's my limited understanding of it.

HadouKen24
May 16th, 2007, 12:55 AM
As I've said before, it comes down to the distinction between God and the gods. I believe that God is immanent in the world. I'm somewhat agnostic about the gods, though I have an idea of what sort of beast they might be.

Agaliha
May 16th, 2007, 05:12 PM
Birdy mentioned Hinduism and Brahman (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/brahmanmain.asp) (<--articles) not to be confused with Brahma, so I thought I'd say something...(Hinduism is the one faith I actually considered converting to...before).

Pantheism is an aspect of the faith and I can see myself agreeing with many aspects of Brahman. The many gods (330 million some say) are seen as aspects of Brahman, but not Brahman itself. They're tools (I've seen them said as such on many sites) for the person to connect with Brahman, people can chose which form and god they want to use to connect with. Using that thinking one can still follow the Hindu path where you see the gods as symbols and expressions of Brahman (which is unknowable, all that is, will be, etc...Very much like the Tao, which is Pantheistic). Not literal, but ways to explain aspects of the Universe. Which is basically how I see the gods, so it sort of works. In fact if you look at the images of the Hindu gods they're full of deeper meaning and symbolism--Shiva Nataraja for example, in a basic sense symbolized the endless creation and destruction of the Universe. For more about the symbolism, see here (http://www.lotussculpture.com/nataraja1.htm). Pretty awesome. All the deities have tons of symbolism and such...So I still find myself drawn to Hinduism, in that aspect. Though I think it's important not to get completely lost in the symbolism of the gods and forget about nature and the world all around me. So I'm trying to have a balance.

And...yeah. I didn't really have a point...
_inabox_

cheddarsox
May 17th, 2007, 04:21 PM
Birdy mentioned Hinduism and Brahman (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/brahmanmain.asp) (<--articles) not to be confused with Brahma, so I thought I'd say something...(Hinduism is the one faith I actually considered converting to...before).

Pantheism is an aspect of the faith and I can see myself agreeing with many aspects of Brahman. The many gods (330 million some say) are seen as aspects of Brahman, but not Brahman itself. They're tools (I've seen them said as such on many sites) for the person to connect with Brahman, people can chose which form and god they want to use to connect with. Using that thinking one can still follow the Hindu path where you see the gods as symbols and expressions of Brahman (which is unknowable, all that is, will be, etc...Very much like the Tao, which is Pantheistic). Not literal, but ways to explain aspects of the Universe. Which is basically how I see the gods, so it sort of works. In fact if you look at the images of the Hindu gods they're full of deeper meaning and symbolism--Shiva Nataraja for example, in a basic sense symbolized the endless creation and destruction of the Universe. For more about the symbolism, see here (http://www.lotussculpture.com/nataraja1.htm). Pretty awesome. All the deities have tons of symbolism and such...So I still find myself drawn to Hinduism, in that aspect. Though I think it's important not to get completely lost in the symbolism of the gods and forget about nature and the world all around me. So I'm trying to have a balance.

And...yeah. I didn't really have a point...
_inabox_

This all makes good sense.

Here is what I think happens, over time, in cultures and religions...metaphors for the Divine crop up...deities, powers, etc..that help us conceptualize aspects of What Is. But people tend to fall in love with the metaphors. They are easier to hold onto than the Ultimate truth, the What Is, the big (and seemingly amorphous) picture. Over time...they get their fad followings, and what they represent gets lost in the process.

This doesn't have to happen, not in an organized religion, or in people's individual practices. But I think that it has a tendency to happen. This is what I have observed...in many faiths.

This is why I stay away from those metaphors, because I don't trust myself...at this time..to be able to hang onto the big picture and not get distracted by the metaphors.

I've tried a few times over the years.

Sometimes I think my overactive imagination is the culprit. I can take a metaphor to extremes...to details..hear a voice, inflections, sense a personality...all in a heartbeat. (I write fiction) So it is really easy for me to fall prey to, and fall in love with my own imaginings of a deity.

My personal spiritual discipline is to NOT GO THERE.

I am jealous of people who can gracefully entertain both notions in their lives.

but...I can't handle the metaphor.

sigh

cheddar

Agaliha
May 17th, 2007, 06:26 PM
That's understandable Cheddar. I have to keep myself in check too or else I might drift back into my theistic tendencies (but not because I whole heartedly believe in the gods, for other reasons).

I think it's important not to lose sight of what the deity or symbol is symbolizing (like the dawn for Aurora/Ushas/Eos, the dawn would be the important thing, not the symbol of dawn). Shiva Nataraja's dance can be seen played out in physics-- the atoms creating, changing and destructing...only to be created again. The cosmic dance within us and outside of us, all around. His dance is one found in science and faith (for those who see it that way). I find the image of Shiva Nataraja to be a beautiful expression and symbol of this dance of life, death and renewal. But I don't find myself looking at it more than that...not as a literal god that's capable of talking and communicating with me. Though I do believe we can recieve signs and messages and things like sychronicities from something, the Universe perhaps. Shiva Nataraja seems pretty Pantheistic to me, except for a few aspects. Anyway, if I were to chose a symbol to encompass the Universe, I think it'd be Shiva Nataraja.

Some quotes:



I saw cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were destroyed and created in rhythmic pulses; I saw the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I heard its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers.
—Fritjof Capra, Tao of Physics
http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/culture/indology/chidambaram.asp




Fritzof Capra in The Tao of Physics beautifully relates Nataraj's dance with modern physics. He says that "every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction…without end…For the modern physicists, then Shiva's dance is the dance of subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena."
http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa031002a.htm


Snippet from his site. (http://www.fritjofcapra.net/shiva.html)<---here

I put his Tao of Physics of hold at my library, seems interesting.

A poem


"The source of all movement,
Shiva's dance,
Gives rhythm to the universe.
He dances in evil places,In sacred,
He creates and preserves,
Destroys and releases.
We are part of this dance
This eternal rhythm,
And woe to us if, blinded
By illusions,
We detach ourselves
From the dancing cosmos,
This universal harmony…"
http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa031002a.htm


For more about Shiva Nataraja. (http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0oGkwNB1kxGr3oBC4ZXNyoA?p=shiva+nataraja&ei=UTF-8&x=wrt) :)



I completely understand why one wouldn't want to get into symbols and metaphors though.


ETA: Just found this--



Images of Hindu gods can appear chaotic to the Western eye. Though the surreal depictions of deity reflect their religious and cultural context, the symbolism need not be so strictly interpreted. “Using human characteristics is most common in talk of god, but such anthropomorphizing does not mean that god is literally understood in human form.”[vii (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn7)] (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn7) In the process of creating spiritual significance, the Hindu perspective has clothed eloquent metaphors for the endless cycles of creation, preservation, dissolution, and rebirth in personified forms. Throughout the history of Hindu tradition the specifics of such embodiments have shifted, but the core of what they represent has been cyclically recreated. Each new deity was relevant to the time in which it arose, and older deities were reborn in new aspects and contexts.
Shiva, though he may be seen in a personal, anthropomorphic sense, is also an analogy for the Hindu cosmogony. He gives visual form to the cycle of being: creation, preservation, and destruction. His depiction as Nataraja, or Lord of Dancers, shows all of these aspects. Reincarnation – The Phoenix Fire Mystery quotes Dr. Henderson’s description of Nataraja:
In the night of Brahma, nature is inert, and cannot dance till Shiva wills it; He rises from His rapture, and dancing sends through inert matter pulsing waves of awakening sounds, and lo! Matter also dances appearing as a glory round about Him. Dancing, He sustains its manifold phenomena. In the fullness of time, still dancing, he destroys all forms and names by fire and gives new rest. This is poetry; but none the less, science. . . .And there is no need to end this cycle which will be repeated throughout eternity in the dance of death and rebirth.[viii (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn8)] (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn8)

James A. Kirk calls the story of Shiva Nataraja “A Parable in Sculpture”. (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn9) In the words of Basil Gray, “The cosmic dance of Shiva is… the manifestation of primal, rhythmic energy.... In a delicately balanced composition, the divine dancer moves with effortless grace. A vertical lift or levitation seems to propel and sustain him, for a timeless moment, suspended in the air”.[x (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn10)] (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn10) Shiva is circled by the cosmos, pervading and enlivening it. His dynamic poise stems from the stability gained in treading upon the dwarfed demonic representation of consciousness. Huston Smith said, “Only when that ego is… solidly subdued, the foot planted solidly on it, then our whole attitude toward the world… can be changed from a blind mechanism into a dance of joy.”[xi (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn11)] (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm#_edn11) Shiva’s motion charges the entirety of being, allowing it to live and to evolve.
*
[I]For more: Shiva Nataraja and the Atom (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm)
Spiritual Macrocosm Meets Scientific Microcosm (http://www.lotussculpture.com/shivaatom.htm) -- It's pretty interesting!
For example the drum he has, symbolizes sound which symbolizes creation, that can be linked to the Big Bang.


And according to another article, Carl Sagan is a fan of the Nataraja's symbolism. Ha, I'm learning even more...
ETA:



The late astrophysicist, Carl Sagan (http://www.hinduwisdom.info/quotes21_40.htm#Q34) (1934-1996) in his book, Cosmos, asserts that the Dance of Nataraja (Tandava) signifies the cycle of evolution and destruction of the cosmic universe (Big Bang Theory). "It is the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of." Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but also the very essence of inorganic matter. For modern physicists, then, Shiva's dance is the dance of subatomic matter. Hundreds of years ago, Indian artist created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. Today, physicist have used the most advanced technology to portray the pattern of the cosmic dance. Thus, the metaphor of the cosmic dance unifies, ancient religious art and modern physics.

He further says: " The most elegant and sublime of these is a representation of the creation of the universe at the beginning of each cosmic cycle, a motif known as the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The god, called in this manifestation Nataraja, the Dance King. In the upper right hand is a drum whose sound is the sound of creation. In the upper left hand is a tongue of flame, a reminder that the universe, now newly created, with billions of years from now will be utterly destroyed."
(source: Cosmos (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375508325/qid=1043805949/sr=2-3/ref=sr_2_3/002-4287918-1447203) - By Carl Sagan p. 213-214).
http://www.hinduwisdom.info/quotes251_270.htm#Q270

Birdy
May 17th, 2007, 11:54 PM
Wow, thanks Agaliha, I didn't know this was a common perspective.

I was always taken by the many layered meanings of the Hindu deities.

cheddarsox
May 18th, 2007, 06:37 AM
I used to attend a UU church, and when teaching sunday school to preschoolers, we did a lesson on some other religious holidays. There was once where the people celebrated Shiva coming to dance with them.

I love the image of that, of God coming to dance with us.

If there is anything that I hold in a "deity" like position at this time..it is probably spider-man. I have shrines to spidey in several places in my life. I sleep with a big spidey plush doll.
I am going through a rough place in my life, and the spidey imagery helps.

It also helps that the guy who invented him is alive, and that I see spidey in comic books. Helps me keep perspective.

HadouKen24
May 18th, 2007, 09:59 AM
I myself am not entirely sure where the border between "literal" and "metaphor" is. For instance, our view of the atom as a kind of miniature solar system, with particles whizzing around a nucleus, is a metaphor. Particles don't really look like miniature planets; they don't look like anything at all. They act both as waves and particles, defying our visualization. Even our perception of gross physical objects is only metaphor, in a sense. Science informs us that our perception of color is actually just a perception of light bouncing off of matter and into receptors in our eyes. The idea that these objects have color in themselves (if the idea of a thing-in-itself even makes sense) is only a metaphor for what's really going on. To make things even more confusing, even the scientific model of light bouncing and eye receptors is only a metaphor in mathematical language of the events underneath our experiences.

To be sure, there are different kinds of metaphors and different ways that they may be used. To use the metaphor of demons playing tricks on us and making us only think we see things is not particularly useful, and may be using an improper kind of metaphor to describe the world. Nonetheless, I think there is a sense in which the metaphor of the gods (as opposed to God) is useful and coherent. This sense may be the very same which we use when we say that something is a "metaphor" in a poetic sense, but I'm not entirely sure that it must be.

I suppose having the concept of a "spirit realm" (not the best description, but close enough to what I mean) at my disposal makes belief in the gods easier. Though I don't think that this realm is any closer to God or the Divine; it's just another form of what we often call "nature."

Eleisawolf
May 18th, 2007, 01:02 PM
That's very well put, HadouKen!

Thanks...

Peace

cheddarsox
May 18th, 2007, 03:48 PM
Thanks, I'm going to let my mind sit with that awhile. That is really a fresh perspective for me.

thank you for this gift.

cheddar

Li'lEverythingGirl
May 19th, 2007, 07:10 PM
I'm still figuring this out as I go along, so this is all very transitory... but I'm currently trying at working with various Gods from the Hellenistic Pantheon as sort of conduets to explore aspects of the 'bigger picture' - to explore what of the overall Divine holds most significance to me personally at this point in my life.

What HadouKen24 says is very true - all metaphores within metaphores. The whole Truth, the eternal Divine, Life, the Universe and Everything - whatever you wanna call it - is so BIG... for the moment, having deities allows me to think of it in a way that fits inside of my brain.

peggyelizabeth
May 20th, 2007, 06:51 PM
The whole Truth, the eternal Divine, Life, the Universe and Everything - whatever you wanna call it - is so BIG... for the moment, having deities allows me to think of it in a way that fits inside of my brain.


To me this is the perpetual issue. Metaphors may be the only way we humans have to come closer to understanding the vastness, but when we use them, are we really any closer to truly understanding, or do we just understand the metaphor itself?

(rhetorical question girl signing off...)