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cheddarsox
May 22nd, 2008, 12:27 PM
I'm having a bit of a label crisis. Not an identity crisis, because I know what I believe, but some thing have got me wondering if maybe what I believe isn't pantheism.

I say this because I keep coming across lots of people , including practicing pantheists who say that pantheism means Universe=God and that everything is Divine/Sacred in a supernatural way.

I don't believe in a substitutionary form of pantheism...that the Universe fills all the roles God does for monotheists. I don't think many of those roles are valid. I also do not believe anything is supernatural. I don't deny that things I can't see and explain exist, I just believe that if they do, there is a natural explanation that is in keeping with and connected with the rest of the natural world, not above it, beyond it or different from it.

I am not sure if the label natural pantheist would solve the issue or not. or if perhaps I am a Universist...since the Universe is what I believe in, or simply a realist, which is a term I use to self describe all the time.

I would not like to keep calling myself a pantheist if I don't fit that term and lead to further confusion on what it means or mislead people by passing myself as one if indeed I am not.

So, I'm asking for input either from those who know me and my beliefs, or from pantheists on just what makes up pantheism.

I'm not attached to the label, but I am attached to my belief system, so if it turns out I'm not a pantheist, that is OK by me.

cheddar

Windsmith
May 22nd, 2008, 05:11 PM
Oh, cheddar, you're the most Pantheisty Pantheist I know!

What's at issue here is that the word "Pantheist," on its own, may not be sufficient to pinpoint anyone's beliefs. Right off the bat, there are dualistic pantheists, spiritualist pantheists, and materialistic pantheists. There are those who deify the Universe and those who do not. Among those who don't, there are, furthermore, people who honor the Universe by reading scientific journals and thinking Big Thoughts about the nature of reality, and those who honor it by taking long walks in forests, and writing poetry, and painting landscapes, and still others who perform elaborate rituals based in Neo-Pagan traditions. We're all Pantheists. That's a very cool thing, because it gives us a wide array of views to consider and draw from, but it's also a pain in the arse, because if I'm a Pantheist who does X, and you're a Pantheist who does Y, it's easy for me to get my dander up and say you're doing it wrong, or that you're not a Pantheist at all, and that the only real way to be a Pantheist is my way. And that doesn't make any more sense than it does for a Wiccan to claim that a Druid is doing it wrong, and that they're not a Pagan at all, and the only real way to be Pagan is the Wiccan way.

There are moments when I dearly wish that I (and you) didn't have so many issues with the WPM. Because I suspect that our core beliefs are most similar to theirs, and that we could derive a fair amount of benefit from interacting with them. I think that, if we didn't have so many disagreements in terms of practice and overall, um...approach to the world, then talking with them would reconfirm for us, over and over, that, yes, we are Pantheists (probably Naturalistic Pantheists is the best term for us); we are right to use that word to describe ourselves, if we choose to, and anyone who tells us that what we do isn't Pantheism is clearly talking sideways out their butts.

Fireheart
May 22nd, 2008, 06:35 PM
^ and that is why being pantheist is awesome.

I love being able to mix science and nature and spirituality. Best combination ever.

RavenStars
May 23rd, 2008, 02:52 AM
You got it, little owl! I'm not very good at it, though. I'm not very good at being a Pantheist either. Too many questions, too much uncertainty, too much wading through the past, too little time outside my studio and this town, not enough reading. Most of the time I think: "I'm a pantheist... whatever that is." But I am a Pagan with a capital "P" because I love the diversity and openness. Sure there are people who have "The Only Way" but I just avoid them. If I read you right, forgive me if I'm wrong, but there's little gremlin inside you that is pouring sand onto the gears of your mind. I have no doubt where your heart is.

I have been thinking about, which for a better way of saying it, theistic Pantheism. I'm still resonating with what you wrote about the All not being in judgment, that this is for humyns to deal with. I used to point and laugh at people and call them sheep for following the leader/trend/government/etc. I was the judge of them. But I followed a religion that did the same to me. It's everywhere, in every culture. For me, that doesn't make anyone wrong or right. My path has lead me to pantheism because the extra terrestrial judge is now something I can face. The Divine is finally without a title, a place, a face, anything that separates it from everything else. There is no where she is not. (Starhawk). And, I think I am terrified every time I face the mirror of my spirit because the one who is really in charge is me. My gremlins have names like The Helpless Child and The Blind One. They use dump trucks full of sand to seize the gears of my mind.

Sorry for this knotted mess...

Anyway, don't ask me or anyone else to judge whether you are or are not a Pantheist, or anything else for that matter. What does the mirror of heart and spirit tell you?

TygerTyger
May 23rd, 2008, 03:26 AM
My idea of Pantheism is very simple, Existence is God!

Not an anthropormorphic God, but an intelligence of infinite proportions of which everything that exists is an attribute.

I see this as truth whenever I behold the natural world, and even occasionally when I look at the human world too.

Beauty is not an accident, it is a design of subtlety that occurs in everything if we just take the time to look.

I do not worry about what type of Pantheist I might be, the word describes better than any other the nature of my beliefs. I don't want to become evangelical about my beliefs either, I accept that I might be wrong, that I might be deluding myself and that I also do not have monopoly on truth. That doesn't matter, the way my perception of existence makes me feel, how it gets me through the day, that is what matters.

The term Pantheist is a label that helps me explain to those who bother to ask where my beliefs lay and in what direction they go, it describes my path if you like.

I can't remember where I got this next bit from but it is a principle that has freed me from a vast amount of unnecessary concern with regards to what other people might think about me;

"the only opinions I care about are those held by the people I care about!"

Most of the people I care about don't understand the nature of my beliefs but what they do understand and care about is the fact that I am happy. If calling myself a Pantheist helps them to realise that I am a little bit different because of my beliefs then that is okay by me, but really I don't feel the need to apply a strictly accurate label to myself or feel the need to adhere to one.

cheddarsox
May 23rd, 2008, 07:03 AM
I don't feel the need to adhere to a label either, but if I use one, for convenience, it makes sense if I use an accurate one.

I just keep running into pantheism being defined and understood as something very different than what I believe and practice, and since language is a function of how people use it...I've been wondering if I might need to find a different term.

I don't hold with the principle that no one has the right to define who is or isn't a pantheist, because there is no sense of judgment here, and no one told me I'm not a pantheist. The reality is that words have meanings, and those meanings change and evolve over time, and they are a function of how people use them.

If the majority of people use the term pantheist to describe something different than what I am, that is not them kicking me out of the club, it is just the normal evolution/use of a term.

I don't like Universe=god, because then people think I believe the Universe is a being. I don't like Universe=Divine, because they they think I believe the Universe is supernatural.

So I am at the point of saying the Universe IS...or the Universe is the Ultimate Truth. And it seems I am drifting from the understood and classical use of the term pantheism.

So none of this is personal and unlike some I DO care if others think I am not a pantheist, because I see no point in insisting I am if what the term means doesn't include people like me.

The more often I have to explain myself, or redefine terms to get others to understand where I am coming from, the more I think...I'm not using this label accurately. So I thought I'd bounce this around in a community of self labeled pantheists.

I think, right now, the closest fit is Natural Pantheist or even Naturalistic Pagan. I seem to be in line with others who describe themselves as such.

cheddar

Windsmith
May 23rd, 2008, 04:34 PM
I accept that I might be wrong, that I might be deluding myself and that I also do not have monopoly on truth.That has been one of Pantheism's most amazing gifts to me, TygerTyger: the acceptance that everything I believe could turn out to be completely wrong, but that doesn't invalidate my time having believed it. I can allow flexibility in my beliefs, and that is a beautiful, terrifying, liberating feeling.


I don't hold with the principle that no one has the right to define who is or isn't a pantheist, because there is no sense of judgment here, and no one told me I'm not a pantheist. The reality is that words have meanings, and those meanings change and evolve over time, and they are a function of how people use them.This is certainly true. I'm not going to run around redefining every word I come across and then claim that I'm using a perfectly viable definition. But "pantheism" has so many different subtle shades of meaning these days that I, personally, have no trouble finding myself on the spectrum of what it entails. Do you really feel that there is no longer any definition of "Pantheist" that fits you?


So none of this is personal and unlike some I DO care if others think I am not a pantheist, because I see no point in insisting I am if what the term means doesn't include people like me. But who gets to decide that? Which "others" are these who don't think you're a Pantheist? Again, I'm not advocating running around willy-nilly-milli-vanilli assigning random, disassociated meanings to this word. But if we allow a small group of people to define what is or isn't Pantheism - and you just know that if they're going to be uptight about it, they're going to define it pretty narrowly to reflect their own beliefs, rather than expressing what I understand to be the broad spectrum of what Pantheism encompasses - then I for one feel that we are letting them "kick us out of the club."

Paul Harrison and the other founders and members of WPM would be gobsmacked to learn that Pantheism "can't" include people who don't deify the Universe or view it in supernatural terms - and you'd best believe they aren't about to stop calling themselves "Pantheists" just because somebody suggested that's the way it has to be done.


I think, right now, the closest fit is Natural Pantheist or even Naturalistic Pagan. I seem to be in line with others who describe themselves as such.

cheddarIt sounds to me like you want to let go of the label of "Pantheist." And I know how terrifying that can be, swapping labels, realigning yourself, going through a whole "coming out" process all over again. As a self-labeled Pantheist, I think this tent easily encompasses your beliefs. But a cheddar is a cheddar is a cheddar, and we love you no matter what you call yourself.

cheddarsox
May 23rd, 2008, 10:10 PM
if we allow a small group of people to define what is or isn't Pantheism - and you just know that if they're going to be uptight about it, they're going to define it pretty narrowly to reflect their own beliefs, rather than expressing what I understand to be the broad spectrum of what Pantheism encompasses - then I for one feel that we are letting them "kick us out of the club."

Paul Harrison and the other founders and members of WPM would be gobsmacked to learn that Pantheism "can't" include people who don't deify the Universe or view it in supernatural terms - and you'd best believe they aren't about to stop calling themselves "Pantheists" just because somebody suggested that's the way it has to be done.

It sounds to me like you want to let go of the label of "Pantheist." And I know how terrifying that can be, swapping labels, realigning yourself, going through a whole "coming out" process all over again. As a self-labeled Pantheist, I think this tent easily encompasses your beliefs. But a cheddar is a cheddar is a cheddar, and we love you no matter what you call yourself.

I don't think it's a case of letting anybody do anything. I don't know that there is some group who is trying to define the term and kick any one out of anything, at least I certainly haven't run into them. What I have run into, in my eternal wanderings around the net and endless religious fora, is that in general people, of all ilk, tend to understand the term pantheism as something rather different from what I believe.

So rather than be the appendix of pantheism and having to keep saying "yes, but MY type of pantheism is different" I was wondering if there is a term that better suits already in use. The closest I've come is nat pan or nat pagan, with nat pan being a better fit.

Actually, I am not eager to change my label, but willing if there is a more accurate one.

I know this is sort of a semantics thing, but I'm a writer so I am sensitive to words and how people understand them, it's a hobby. I write to be understood, and I try to find the right word to get my point across. My life is sort of hectic right now, and I'm not really searching for a coming of age just at this moment. :)

RavenStars
May 24th, 2008, 12:34 AM
O.k. this sounds stupid but how about non-theistic pantheist? Yeah, I guess it is stupid. Then to be epistemologically correct you will need to find the right words that work for you... and that others won't think you are something you aren't. The problem here is that people do want categories so they can understand others. An odd name can be a curiosity generator or a turn off.

cheddarsox
May 24th, 2008, 06:39 AM
O.k. this sounds stupid but how about non-theistic pantheist? Yeah, I guess it is stupid. Then to be epistemologically correct you will need to find the right words that work for you... and that others won't think you are something you aren't. The problem here is that people do want categories so they can understand others. An odd name can be a curiosity generator or a turn off.

I refer to myself as a non-theist all the time, and present pantheism as a non-theistic path. And people don't seem to have an issue with that...but then they still go the Universe=god route and go on as if the Universe is a 'god' of some sort, even though we've just been through the non-theistic thing!

I think it is must be a case of people being so unfamiliar with non-theistic spiritualities that they don't even know how to think about them, let alone discuss them, so they resort to the formula they know best. Like they reason, well, it's a religion, so it must have a god, and the god is the Universe. Rather than that the source and power is the Universe.

I like and use non-theistic all the time. It at least gets people questioning and opens the discussion (since most of this discussion is taking place online in fora that people come to discuss religion anyway) I am not running around with a t-shirt on trying to badger random people off the street into talking about my faith, lol.

some of them (honestly, always Christians) say "you are confused and deluded, there can be no religion without a god." and won't even try to grasp it. But that makes sense for a highly dualistic faith, there is their god and evil demons, and I must be worshiping one or the other, there are no other options in their understanding of the universe.

Cat
May 24th, 2008, 07:04 AM
I've always thought that pantheism=sacred being immanent in everything and everyone. But what do I know?

cheddarsox
May 24th, 2008, 03:57 PM
I've always thought that pantheism=sacred being immanent in everything and everyone. But what do I know?

That is one of the most common understandings, so you know a lot!

That is why I think natural pantheist might work to accurately describe my beliefs, as opposed to a pantheism that incorporates supernatural beliefs.

I think everything IS sacred, but in a natural way, not that there is some divine ether in everything, like water in a sponge, but that the sponge itself is sacred.

Cat
May 24th, 2008, 05:04 PM
Supernatural just seems to me to be a fancier word for 'unexplained'.

cheddarsox
May 24th, 2008, 08:50 PM
I was raised in a very mystical faith, and supernatural has a great deal more meaning to many people than just 'unexplained', which is why I don't use the term in my own belief system.

For many, supernatural encompasses another realm of beings, and existence, mostly separate from our more familiar material world. It is considered beyond and above nature and therefore not subject to the laws and forces of nature.

I don't believe anything is not subject to the laws of nature, so, no supernatural for me.