Christianity and Pantheism
by Michael W. Fox
In a Nietzcheian sense, we have a choice -- Dionysian or Apollonian, to either celebrate or control and dominate the forces, powers, and potentialities of Nature. There is no compromise. To believe that it is possible to celebrate domination and enjoy control is a profane, selfish rationalization, the antithesis of reverent celebration, ecstatic enjoyment and freedom.
As creatures of reason and emotion, with the power of creative and destructive dominion over the world, our ancestors elaborated various cults and religions that reflected their world view - - and the conflicting world views of the times.
Thus we find the Dionysian, Dianic, Druidic, and Wicca Nature-centered cults that see the significance of all created things and therefore revere them. By contrast, the human-centered cults of Industrialism, Materialism, Scientism, and Christian patriarchy see only human-utility in all created things and therefore exploit them.
These religions, cults, and ideologies span the political spectrum from pan-species democracy to biological fascism and imperialism. But it is a documented historical fact that the major religion of this age of instrumental rationalism and materialism, Christianity, destroyed Nature-centered religious feelings, for it posited an ideology whereby Nature was a resource under Man's God-given dominion. Nature-religion was branded as Demonic: Pan became the archetypal figure of Satan, and Nature- religions were regarded as Satanic, worshipping the Devil. The forces of Nature were evil, unpredictable, and were to be controlled and used, not feared and revered. The subordination of Nature, and of human nature alike, was given religious sanction in order to maintain the status quo and enhance Western Civilization's material, technological, and commercial expansion. This paradigm has now reached global proportions. People all over the world are fighting for liberation from the tyranny of fascism and imperialism - be it capitalist or socialist: Blacks in America; intellectuals in Russia; peasants in "third world" countries; and Native Indians and Aboriginal people from North and South America to Australia. And at the same time Nature and the animal kingdom are being destroyed.
Yet Christianity partially grew out of earlier Nature-religions. This was inevitable because adherents of the latter could never accept the former if there were not some acceptable beliefs, such as animals and Nature being part of God's creation and therefore worthy of respect because they are His and only ours in trust, to steward with compassion and to "dress and keep" the Edenic garden of Nature, the biosphere we call Earth.
Some of the gods and symbols of earlier Nature-centered religions were incorporated into a Man-centered Christianity: Diana, Artemis, and other female fertility and Earth-mother figures became the Virgin Mary. That this female icon is part of Roman Catholicism and not revered in any other Christian religion, may be explained by the fact that it was the Catholic theocracy of Rome that had direct contact with our ancestral European Nature-centered religions.
These European Nature-centered religions and the world view they embrace have close affinities with those of the Native American Indians, Australian, and other Aboriginal people, such as the !Kung Bushman. Being Nature-centered rather than humanocentric, spiritual and practical rather than moralistic and materialistic, they also have close affinities with today's neo-pagan, pantheistic revival, and with the deep ecology (Earth First!) and animal rights movements.
The mythic gods, of Rome and Greece, notably Pan, Diana  , Dionysus, and Artemis, however anthropomorphic, embodied the spiritual principles of right human conduct with respect for each other, animals, Nature, and for the principles of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all living things (pan-species democracy).
It is also significant that pre-Christian Nature-religions accepted such doctrines as the immortality of the soul and its transmigration or reincarnation. Both reincarnation and pantheism (or panentheism from pan-en-theos, divinity in all things) were evident in early Christianity, but for political reasons these doctrines were rejected. Thus, Christianity became increasingly separated from Nature and more human-centered.
According to some authorities  , Dionysus (Bacchus) was purportedly born of virgin on December 25th, was put to death by the Titans and rose again from the dead on March 25th, and was always called the Savior. There is evidence that the Druids celebrated the birth of the Sun god on December 25th. There are many other examples of Christian incorporation of various significant aspects of earlier Nature-religions. Also in Judaism, for example, we find the word Adoni for Lord derived from Adonis, the Sun god.
It should be emphasized that the earlier Nature - centered religions did not worship Nature per se, but the Divinity or Creator that was both manifest in Nature and also transcendent. From a Christian viewpoint that is human - centered, this is pagan idolatry or heresy. But is it not self-idolatry and heresy to make Christianity into a human - centered religion that excludes Nature and the rest of God's creation? Yet there is a glimmering of a return to a more pantheistic Nature-centered world view of Christianity today, as witness the statement by The Very Reverend James Morton, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City: "Ecology is the science of the body of Christ, through which we of the earth community learn our sacred connectedness."
1. Diana was the Roman goddess of the wood and helper of women and childbirth. She was later identified with the Greek goddess Artemis and was represented as a virgin huntress and worshipped as a moon goddess.
2. See Manley P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages , (Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc., 1978).
Dr. Michael W. Fox is a veterinarian, the Scientific Director of The Humane Society of the United States, and is author of several books on human-animal relations.
Source: "Christianity and Pantheism" by Michael W. Fox
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