Is the Cosmos God?

Is the universe a conscious divine entity? Does it direct human lives on some level? Are the Supreme Absolute (God) and the Cosmos one? Pantheism, which teaches that God and the universe are the same, has been held by many eminent thinkers, and the tendency toward pantheism is rapidly increasing in those who become spiritual seekers in our Post-Modern world. What is the perennial truth on this issue?

What is Pantheism?
First, it is helpful to define pantheism. Pantheism teaches that the cosmos is God and that God is the cosmos. Things may seem to differ from one another in substance, but in reality there is only one substance, and all things are modes of being or manifestations of the one infinite and eternal substance. We human beings, with all that we think and do, are but a part of the grand panorama of changing phenomena that marks the evolution of God in the form of the universe. The pantheistic deity isn't a personal God. It isn't really intelligent, since it operates on natural laws, nor is it transcendent or possessing of will. It can't be known outside material science, can't be prayed to, can't hear our cries, and is forced by natural law to look upon all suffering with cold indifference. It is simply the universe, manifesting itself variously, now as simple matter, another time as animal life. It isn't a sovereign being (if a being it can be called at all) and we aren't subject to it at all, since we can defy nature's laws in many ways and manipulate the natural world for our ego's sake. This "cosmos deity", thus, can't be the source of moral law. In fact, there is, strictly speaking, no moral law, as things happen as they must, and viewing any violent or abusive act, such as rape, murder or genocide, is just the cosmos acting differently in various circumstances. When you carefully examine this idea, it is obvious that pantheism is another atheism: a pantheistic god is no god at all. 

It is easy enough to think of the universe as a unit and then give it a name—the "Be-All" or the "All-One", or whatever other name is preferred by New Age proponents this year —but if one gets no further than that in addressing the logical problems with the idea, then we are failing to honestly seek truth. It is easy to construct a system of pantheism and give it an air of scientific completeness; it is quite another thing to reconcile all the contradictions which the system involves. The pantheist doesn't simply read a unifying principle into the aggregate of things which are substantially different (we Theists do the same but from a very different position), but goes as far as asserting that all things constitute but one substance—one nature—which evolves itself, by some law of necessity, in various forms of being and in varying phenomena. 

What meaning can the terms "substance" and "nature" really convey to the mind of a pantheist? Given a certain substance, whatever its nature is, can it evolve itself in contradictory qualities? Can it be wise and foolish, for instance, at the same time and in regard to the same objects in the moral order? And yet the pantheist combines all the wisdom and ignorance in the world in one being, whom (or which) he identifies with the cosmos. The same is true of all other categories of thought, feeling and action. No matter how incompatible two attributes may seem to be, they are found side by side in the accommodating nature of the cosmos. A pantheist might say, on observing any phenomenon of mind or matter, "That is the universe manifesting itself in that particular way." If he encountered someone who believed a very unsound philosophy, he would say, "There is the universe under the aspect of a bad philosopher." If the next moment he meets another person whose philosophy was a complete contradiction of the first person's, he would say with equal sincerity, "Ah, there is the universe again under the aspect of a good philosopher." The pantheist is forced to unite all sorts of contradictions in his conception of the pantheistic deity. Morality and immorality, wisdom and folly, knowledge and ignorance, must be ascribed to this one all-embracing being. If all things are one, it is easy to imagine what strange antics the pantheistic deity must play. It is at once the lion and the lamb when the latter is devoured by the former. It kills itself and yet survives the killing when a thunderbolt strikes a man dead, for thunderbolt and victim are identified in the one being. 

Pantheistic Errors
Experience, aided by reason, tells us that many things differ from one another substantially. Living beings, for instance, can't be confounded with non-living. One chemical element can't be identified with another. The individuals of a species differ, and among human beings one differs from another and lives, so to speak, in a social circle of his own. Has pantheism discovered a cryptic philosophy which reduces all things to one? The truth is that the pantheist is seized by the desire for reducing multiplicity to unity. He is not satisfied, or professes not to be satisfied, with the Theistic conception of the origin of things —a conception at once simple and logical—according to which, before the cosmos manifested, all things existed in the mind of the Supreme Absolute, not formally, that is to say, as they are when something is created, but eminently, or in a much higher manner, inasmuch as the Supreme Absolute had from eternity not only a conception of the universe in all its details, but also the power to bring it into existence. The pantheist fails to recognize that the cosmos is an effect, and all effects have a cause. In the Vedic conception, the cosmos is the external energy of the Supreme Absolute, and isn't really created, but as an energy of Godhead is eternal, but manifesting as the material world for a finite period of time and will eventually contract, dissolving the material world in an eternal cycle of expansion/contraction. This concept at least holds scientific merit, as we know the universe began as an infinitely tiny point, is expanding and will eventually begin to collapse. The pantheist professes not to be satisfied with the evidence for this genesis of the cosmos, and instead turns to a philosophy abounding in contradictions. Beyond these contradictions, pantheism also suffers from the following defects.

1. Nature As A Person-The idea of "mother" earth and the like is a poetic way to allow us to participate in nature in a way that perhaps science doesn't. But the pantheist takes such poetic language to an extreme, much like the Christian fundamentalist. The approach to reality is the same in both. That is, the poetic ways in which we speak of the material universe aren't understood as simply poetic, but literal. The earth is literally a mother, and the cosmos is literally a person. This is an error. The only part of the cosmos that is really a person is that part which can realize itself, and that is because this person transcends the material world. That person is the Atman (Soul) at play in the material cosmos. We are the participants in the cosmos, which is the external energy of the Divine. Apart from us the material world has no consciousness, but merely operates according to material laws.

1. An Evolving Deity- Perhaps the crowning absurdity of pantheism is its conception of the way in which the pantheistic deity evolves itself and advances toward its perfection. First of all, the only determinate existence it has consists in the changing facts or phenomena of the universe. Prior to and apart from these phenomena, it is nothing determinate. And yet the entire evolution of things is produced by something inherent in its nature, to which, therefore, we must refer back all things as to their efficient cause. In other words, it is the cause of determinate existence and yet has no determinate existence of its own—which is a logical absurdity. The primal cause of things must have an existence of its own, and therefore a determinate mode of existence—otherwise it is nothing. Hence, the pantheist presents us with the idea of production out of nothing, the atheist viewpoint, in a new form. He repudiates the idea of the  manifestation of the external energy of the Supreme Absolute, which is the production of a thing from its own substance by the act of an omnipotent Divine Being, and then turns to contemplate nothing producing something without the aid of divine omnipotence! The objection against the Theistic view, urged by pantheists and atheists, that out of nothing nothing is made, may now be turned against this morass of contradictions which passes under the respectable name of pantheism. It is an absurdity.

2. No Moral Foundation- As a result of these things, on the topic of pantheism and morality, logically the pantheist can't account for morality any more than the atheist can; for morality supposes a universal moral law which has its primal origin in a personal Divine Lawgiver. Pantheism can furnish no such basis for morality. The pantheist may profess to recognize two opposite moral aspects in human actions, but why he should call the one good and the other bad he has no reason furnished by his system of philosophy. With him morality is essentially a matter of convention or of expediency, and thereby ceases to be morality. It is merely opinion or tradition, but holds no objective character.

Pantheism, nevertheless, seems to inspire a certain mystical response in spiritual seekers, which appeals to those who mostly seek to reject a personal Divine Being; but mysticism is one thing, and objective truth another. The pantheistic deity is not personal, creative, wise, self aware, omnipotent, or omniscient. The Supreme Absolute revealed in the sacred literature of the world's spiritual traditions, however, is all of these things and more. In infinite love for humanity the Supreme Absolute has entered even into time and space, interacting with us as we grow in Self Realization. Is the cosmos God? The cosmos is the material manifestation of the external energy of the Supreme Absolute. In a sense, that energy is one with the Divine Being, just as your voice is "one" with you. However, it is also different from the Supreme Absolute. It is both at the same time. Remember: dualistic non-dualism. Our relationship with the Supreme Absolute is only fruitful if it is with a person. The external energy (cosmos) is not the person of the Supreme Absolute. Impersonalism is an absurd error. You should pursue knowledge of the person of the Supreme Absolute.

Meanwhile, the pantheist finds his consolation in drifting with the ages and ending in — nothing!

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