A definition of panentheism as it is used in psychology by Roberto Assagioli
Panentheism is a term Ken Wilber and the co-founder of Esalen Institute, Michael Murphy, also use to describe their philosophy. In his article on Panentheism Murphy shows how some of the great geniuses in history have reached the same conclusion (Murphy, 2012). Murphy mentions Johann G. Fichte (1762- 1814), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854), G.W.F. Hegel (1770- 1831), Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), Paul Tillich (1886-1965), Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950).
From the article: Psychosynthesis and Evolutionary Panentheism by Kenneth Sørensen Read also Assagioli’s article about panentheism.
It is important to distinguish Panentheism from “Pantheism”. According to Pantheism there is no difference between God and nature, whereas pan-en-theism adds the One (God, Brahman, Spirit) who permeates and transcends the universe. The One is both transcendent and immanent in creation. The One is in everything, but is greater than the created universe. We can also differentiate it from theism, where God creates the universe and transcends it. (see illustration).
It is through evolution and thus humanity that God’s inherent potentials are made manifest. According to this theory the human soul and all other beings emanate from God or “Pleroma,” or psychologically from the Self. The word “emanation” comes from “emanare”, which means “flow from” God’s abundance or density. All creatures thus emanates from the same divine source down through various (inner) levels of consciousness to the physical world, where humanity forget its divine source or origins. It is the unconscious/subconscious yearning to return to source, which, according to this theory, is the driving force of evolution. Hence the purpose of human existence is to awaken to our divine potential that we are here to manifest. That the One is immanent in nature and man does not imply that perfection, perfected love, is a reality. The One is present as life and as divine potential that is hidden and we are here to unfold it.
The fundamental principles of panentheism
Murphy is saying that: ”though these forerunners framed their visions in different ways, they agreed that cosmic history was impelled by God’s inexorable desire to manifest in the physical world.”
According to Murphy evolutionary Panentheism “is based on just a few fundamental principles, among them: first, that evolution is a fact (though its discovery has given rise to various theories about it); second, that our universe arises from and is constituted by a world transcending supernature, call it the One, God, Brahman, the Absolute, BuddhaNature, Allah, Geist, or the Tao; and third, that humans have a fundamental affinity or identity with that supernature, which can be known through immediate experience either spontaneously or by means of transformative practice.” (Murphy, 2012)
The question I am trying to answer is whether this metaphysical perspective is similar to that of Assagioli’s. There can be no doubt that Assagioli himself was familiar with the concept. In his booklet Meditation for The New Age, vol. 3, booklet one, Assagioli writes the following:
“The balance and synthesis between transcendence and immanence, as two aspects of the One Reality, have been recognised and proclaimed by a number of great intuitives—Philosophers, mystics and poets— throughout the ages.
This conception—which, in contradistinction to pantheism, has been called a panentheism. (that, is, “ all in God ”) — is the basic teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna’s well-known words illustrate this:
“ Having pervaded this whole universe with a fragment of Myself, I remain.”
In the West it has been voiced in neo-platonic philosophy:
“ The One is eternally with His manifestation, which eternally proceeds from Him.”
“ God is not external to any one, but is present within all things, though they are ignorant that He is so.” (Plotinus)
Panentheism in Christianity
In the early Christian tradition, we find the same inclusive view. In an extra-canonical saying attributed to Jesus (found in an Egyptian papyrus), we find the affirmation: “ Lift the stone and you will find Me, split the wood and I am there.” Paul uttered the same truth in clear terms: “ He is above all and through all and in you all.” (Ephesians, IV, 6), and in the simplest and most direct affirmation: “ In Whom we live, and move and have our being.” (Acts, XVII, 28)
Later on, and particularly in the Middle Ages, the dualistic theological conception became prevalent, and its greatest exponent, St. Thomas Aquinas, emphasised God’s omnipresence:
“ Since God is the universal cause of all Being, in whatever region Being can be found, there must be the Divine Presence.” (Summa contra Gentiles, I, III, cap. 68)
Many mystics, and with particular boldness Meister Eckhart, have expressed the same truth. In modern times the recognition of this reality has been voiced by several poets and writers, but perhaps the clearest expression of it has been given by Rabindranath Tagore:
‘ ‘ The Infinite, in order to express Himself, descends in the multiplicity of the Finite, and the Finite, in order to realise itself, must rise into the unity of the Infinite. Only then the cycle of truth is complete.” (Creative Unity)” Download the booklet here
And in another quote from the same source:
“The Divine Presence in the whole universe is only one aspect of the Supreme, Who remains, in His essential Being, transcendent, free and uninvolved in His manifestation within time and space. In the Ninth Book (of the Gita), Radhakrishnan says in his illuminating commentary,
“The Gita does not deny the world, which exists through God and has God behind, above and before it. It exists through Him who, without the world, would yet be in Himself no less what He is. Unlike God, the world does not possess its specific existence in itself. It has therefore only limited and not absolute being. The teacher inclines not to pantheism which asserts that everything is God but to panentheism that denotes that everything subsists in God. The cosmic process is not a complete manifestation of the Absolute. No finite process can ever finally and fully express the Absolute, though this world is a living manifestation of God.” (The Bhagavad Gita, by Radhakrishnan, Allen and Unwin, London, 1970, p. 239.)” Download the booklet here
See also the article: Psychosynthesis and Evolutionary Panentheism« Back to Glossary Index