Panentheism

For a long time, I believed that there was an unbreachable chasm between the Divine and humankind. I thought that only our prayers could ever hope to reach God, who was so far away and remote. I thought that human beings were islands unto themselves and separate and isolated from one another.

However, by practicing meditation and reflecting on the truths of interdependence and interconnectedness, my initial thoughts were revealed to be false. If there is a Divine, then It is constantly creating the universe and humanity is constantly involved in communion with it in each moment of new creation. Perhaps there is also some truth to the mystic doctrine that God created the universe in order to experience Itself from infinite angles.

Certainly, all of the universe is interdependent and interconnected; if we look deeply into a flower, for instance, we can see all of the sufficient conditions that enable it to manifest: the sun, the water cycle (and all the rivers, oceans, rivulets, streams, etc. of the earth), the nutrients of the earth, the ecosystem in which it exists and all of the animals and plants within it, the biosphere, the atmosphere of the planet, the makeup of the solar system (in relation to the sun especially), etc., etc.

If there is a Divine, then the entire universe exists interdependently with It as well. Spatially, it is meaningless to say that God exists at any distance from anything in the universe, because God is not an object in the universe; if there is a God, then It has no spatio-temporal boundaries, because these would pose limitations on its nature, and if limited, it would not be God. The Qur’an expresses this idea with a beautiful image: “God is closer to you,” it says, “then your jugular vein.” This idea of being closer to you than your own body expresses the idea of the Divine’s non-distance from us or anything else in the universe.

If there is a Divine, then I believe it is both transcendent and immanent in the universe. I’ll leave it to Christian theologians to elaborate on the arguments for this position (as they have done extensively already). If there is a Divine, then I am not a pantheist, but a pan-en-theist. I would believe, not that God is reducible to the universe, but that God is both beyond the universe (transcendent) and present in every molecule of it (immanent). Christ spoke extensively of the Kingdom of Heaven within. This, seems to me, to be the inward presence of the Divine, perhaps as pure awareness itself whose nature is “Eheieh” (I Am that I Am or I shall be what I shall be).

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