How to prevent a drop of water from drying? By throwing it into the ocean. This Buddhist saying synthesizes the principles of the pantheist philosophy.
Pantheism has been misinterpreted and feared for centuries. It is difficult to trace the origins of such knowledge, as some of the most ancient cultures developed a kind of pantheist thinking that survived through eastern religions and crossed the oceans in antiquity, influencing the Egyptian and the European civilizations.
Pantheism almost completely disappeared in the western world during the middle ages when the Church prosecuted whoever defended pantheist principles, but not even the holy fire was able to prevent this beautiful philosophy from re-emerging in the Renaissance, and thanks to the efforts of Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, and other great thinkers, humanity could be reminded about the ancient wisdom which had long been forgotten.
Basic Principles of Pantheism
The world has a soul. Not many different souls, but one. Humans, animals, plants, minerals, all of these creatures are an indivisible part of this one soul, just like drops of water belong to an ocean. The problem is, given the nature of the physical body, people erroneously believe that they are separate individuals and that they exist independently from each other. According to pantheist philosophy, this is an illusion created by the senses.
Imagine an ocean. If you fill millions of vases with water from the sea, wouldn’t the water inside the vases, still be sea water? Humans, attached to the physical body and to the physical sensations, forget that their true nature belongs to the whole and assume that they are their bodies, as if the drops of water started to believe that they are the glasses that imprison them.
Alternatively, it is possible to think of electricity and light bulbs as an analogy to pantheism. The electricity is the same everywhere (electricity as a potence), but every light bulb is different. Break the light bulb and that electricity will still exist. Use different kinds of light bulbs with more or less watts and different colors, they will manifest in diverse appearances, but the electricity animating them will still be the same. This is why the ancient pantheists said that everything is God, God is this energy inside every light bulb which are our physical bodies. So, there is no difference between things and God, Creator and creature are one.
Pantheism is sometimes understood as a kind of atheism, but this is a common misconception as it simply does not view God as a person, but an energy without which there would be no life. Pantheists were prosecuted by the Church in the middle ages, mainly for claiming that God is not a separate entity.
Mystical Philosophy and Monistic Pantheism
In nearly every culture, the pantheist philosophy appears in the heart of the main religions, becoming less pure as these religions spread, but in some belief systems it is possible to identify the remnants of the pantheist premises, even when adepts strongly fight against them. The mystical facet of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Gnosticism, the ideas that pervade most of the Orphic and the Egyptian beliefs are basically pantheist in nature.
The purest form of pantheism is monistic, but there are variations. Mainly, the mystical philosophy that gave birth to many religions share these same principles:
All things that exist belong to one soul, the Cosmic soul. This soul is temporarily manifested in different bodies, but it remains one;
When the bodies are destroyed, the soul returns to its original condition – like a drop of water returning to the ocean;
The ultimate goal of the soul is to find the way back to the source, but some forms of pantheism hold that it takes many incarnations in different bodies until the return is complete – Buddhists, Hindus and Egyptians defend this view;
The universe has many planes of existence, the physical world is the most material of them and where the separation of the Cosmic soul occurs through different bodies, and;
The Cosmic soul is eternal, even if all bodies disappear, unmanifested life continues to exist, like electricity without light bulbs to manifest light.
The Purpose of Manifestation
Every student of mystical philosophy has wondered why physical manifestation is necessary. Why does the Cosmic soul need to be divided into millions of separate pieces, only to return to its original condition? The myths of all cultures have told this story – the Cosmic soul is Osiris’ body in pieces, scattered through the Nile as the Egyptian mythology tells, but perhaps the answer to this question can be found in the ancient eastern texts of the Tao Te Ching, which teaches that in order to acquire consciousness, it is necessary to see the contrasts.
Good only exists in comparison to evil, beauty only exists when compared to ugly, and, in order to recognize peace, one has to know violence. How would electricity ever know its potential to enlighten, if no one had ever created a light bulb to manifest its light in a dark room? The physical experience gives the Cosmic soul the consciousness. We are the instruments through which God knows Himself.