Pantheism And How It Could Offer A New Approach To Preserving The Planet

Pantheism And How It Could Offer A New Approach To Preserving The PlanetShutterstock


The scientists responsible for the “doomsday clock” moved it 30 seconds closer to midnight – the symbolic point of total catastrophe for humanity and the planet – at the beginning of 2018. The minute hand now hovers ominously at two minutes to 12, the closest point it has ever been (matching the previous peak of 1953 – the height of the Cold War).

This judgement is a reflection of the multiple threats we face as a species, the most urgent being nuclear war and climate change. The former has loomed over humanity for decades. But the latter emergency has only become apparent relatively recently (to the extent that some people and powers even deny that it is a problem). Yet the scientific consensus is clear and alarming. Unless we manage to limit global warming this century to 2°C, then we are in devastating, civilisation threatening trouble.

We’ll need many things to help combat this emergency: technological innovation and scientific and engineering advances which allow us to harness renewable energies. It will also require new patterns of working and living in more sustainable ways. And I think we will also need something that is both subtler and yet perhaps more profound than these revolutions: a new vision of nature itself.

Over the past few centuries, various perspectives on nature have dominated public discourse – generally to the detriment of the environment. The first is the view that humankind has “dominion” over the Earth – that we rule over the planet in some consequential sense. This in itself is not necessarily problematic. It is conceivable that this could be aligned with an ethos of responsible and careful stewardship. But this “dominion” perspective has been widely allied with a mechanistic view of nature that views it as devoid of any intrinsic worth, identity, and purpose beyond its instrumental value to human beings.

The result is a dominant ideology which regards the natural world primarily as a resource that humans are free to plunder at will. This perspective has surely played a pivotal role in our planetary emergency.

But although much damage has already been done, I still believe we could redeem ourselves and set our relationship on a better path if we could develop an alternative vision – of which many can be found across human history and culture.

I’ve recently encountered a wealth of these through my research, which focuses on “untranslatable” words which relate to well-being. Such words are significant, as they represent ideas and practices which have been overlooked or under-appreciated in one’s own culture or time period, but have been recognised by another culture or era. These include visions of nature which have long been neglected in favour of the dominant ideology outlined above. A case in point is the idea of “natura naturans”.

Natura naturans

Albert Einstein was once asked whether he believed in God, and replied: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists – not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

Baruch Spinoza, born in Amsterdam in 1632, was a pioneer of rationalism and helped lay the foundations for the Enlightenment. He was a controversial figure in his day – with his works placed on the Catholic Church’s List of Prohibited Books – mainly because he was accused by critics of promulgating atheism.

But his philosophy was more nuanced than simply being a direct rejection of the sacred. Rather, he is now seen as one of the first modern advocates of a perspective known as pantheism. This is the idea that God and the cosmos are indivisible – one and the same. To explain this idea, he deployed the Latin phrase “natura naturans” – nature naturing. God is the dynamic process and manifestation of creation itself, nature unfurling in all its glory.

Since then, many thinkers have aligned themselves with a pantheistic perspective, even if many have dispensed with the notion of a theistic deity. In this modern sense of the term, the cosmos itself is regarded as sacred or precious in some way, as per Einstein’s reference to “the orderly harmony of what exists”.

Many contemporary scientists and philosophers share this view. They may not believe in God, per se, but the awe the universe inspires in them does appear to come close to religious devotion. For instance, the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins has spoken approvingly of “Einstein’s God”, which he describes as “the laws of nature which are so deeply mysterious that they inspire a feeling of reverence”.

The ConversationThis vision of nature as sacred – which seems to have the potential to appeal to all people, religious and nonreligious alike – may be just what is needed if we are to preserve this planet, our one and only home in the cosmos.

About The Author

Tim Lomas, Lecturer in Positive Psychology, University of East London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related Books:

Elements of Pantheism: A Spirituality of Nature and the Universe
Author: Dr Paul Harrison
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
List Price: $9.99
Offers - Buy New From: $8.96 Used From: $4.00
Buy Now

Standing In The Light: My Life A A Pantheist
Author: Sharman Apt Russell
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Horseshoe Books
List Price: $15.50
Offers - Buy New From: $14.99 Used From: $14.71
Buy Now

A Reluctant Pantheism: Discovering the Divine in Nature
Author: Walt McLaughlin
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Wood Thrush Books
List Price: $13.95
Offers - Buy New From: $13.61 Used From: $13.55
Buy Now




Passive housing cuts costs – and global warming
by Alex Kirby
Buildings which heat and cool themselves – passive housing – save householders money and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar lamps light up more African nights
by Paul Brown
Solar lamps are shining more brightly in Africa, tackling poverty, ill-health and natural hazards, thanks to Chinese…
GMO crops could expect a brighter future
by Paul Brown
Genetically modified (GMO) crops remain controversial, but scientists still have faith that they will help both to…
Planting trees will not slow global warming
by Tim Radford
Nothing, not even the creation of huge plantations of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, is a viable alternative to…
Green energy tips good for business
by Paul Brown
Sharing energy-saving ideas such as using seawater pumps to heat buildings is helping big charities and businesses cut…
Bigger isn't better for energy savings
by Inga Vesper
The desire for more spacious cars and houses is cancelling out energy savings made by environmentally friendly…
Nuclear waste problems start gold rush
by Paul Brown
Staggering sums of money involved in the long-term challenge of solving the world’s nuclear waste problems make it a…


How Climate Change Is Making Winter Colder in the Northeast US
by Jeremy Deaton
Rising temperatures are weakening the jet stream, allowing frigid Arctic air to reach further south.
Agrivoltaics: Solar Panels on Farms Could Be a Win-Win
by Sarah Shemkus
Massachusetts is leading the charge in dual-use solar installations, making it possible to grow some crops and pasture…
Why Are Sea Levels Rising So Unevenly?
by Marlene Cimons
Scientists say the answer is in the ice. Scientists know that sea levels have risen more in some places during the past…
How Carbon Taxes Can Work
by Gilbert E. Metcalf
A carbon tax makes fossil fuels like oil and coal more expensive. That, in turn, leads consumers and industries to use…
Why There Are Dark Days Ahead For Coffee
by Adam Moolna
Is your morning coffee an espresso or a skinny latte? Is it from a darkly roasted French or Italian blend?
Anybody Seen My Good Friend Robin? Can You Tell Me Where He's Gone?
by InnerSelf Staff
I spend many hours working on my computer while sitting in front of sliding glass doors so as to be part of nature.
How The World Is Progressing On Clean Energy
by Dr Iain Staffell
Rapid progress towards clean energy is needed to meet the global ambition to limit warming to no more than 1.5C above…
Should We Engineer The Climate?
by Rob Bellamy and Matthew Watson
2018 has been a year of unprecedented weather extremes around the world.