Pantheist Mysticism vs. Created Reality
The orthodox Christian believes in the God of the Bible Who is apart from and above all things visible and invisible as their Creator out of nothing, and their sovereign Lord and Sustainer. The atheist believes that there is no God, claiming that empirically verifiable matter in motion is all there is. Such empirical reductionism is becoming eclipsed today, however, by what Thomas Molnar has called
the spontaneous bent of the archaic mind which predominated in most parts of the world and which threatens to prevail once more in our time the temptation. to identify God and self, to recognize in the soul a divine substance, indeed the seat of divinity.1
We are witnessing the phenomenal growth of revived pantheist mysticism, which believes that God and nature are fundamentally one. To the modern "Western" as to the traditional "Eastern" pantheist mystic, "(t)here is no God 'out there' to relate to; there is only one's own inner divinity to discover."2 The historical roots of pantheist mysticism are ancient indeed. One modern pantheist mystic was Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968), chairman of the department of sociology at Harvard University from 1930-1959. He stated that the roots of his religious philosophy, "Integralism," were in
... the ancient, powerful, and perennial stream of philosophical thought represented by Taoism, the Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita. shared by all branches of Buddhism, including the Zen Buddhist thinkers. . by Heraclitus and Plato. . . reiterated by. . thinkers of the Neo-Platonic, the Hermetic, the Orphic, and other currents of thought.3
During the first three centuries A.D. several schools of pantheist mystic thought engaged in a protracted struggle against fledgling Christianity. They came to be known as "gnosticism" because they emphasized "gnosis" (Greek for "knowledge"), a special, esoteric type of knowledge available only to an inner spiritual elite of enlightened ("illuminated") initiates who had supposedly actualized their own latent divinity by means of their knowledge. Gnosticism comprised a very heterogeneous assortment of esoteric cults and teachings. All of them denied Biblical creation ex nihilo, "the Hebrew-Christian concept of separating God and man as Creator and created, or not confusing their natures, their persons, their powers."4
Molnar shows that when Gnosticism was defeated by the spreading Christian faith in the fifth century A.D., it was not totally extirpated but went underground, to survive and eventually resurface, especially during the Renaissance. One of its branches was "the Jewish Cabala which claimed to go back to the Jews' captivity in Babylon where they had supposedly studied the Brahmanic texts of india, and, later, the Persian spirituality."5 Another major strand of gnostic-pantheist mysticism Rosicrucianism goes back to Egypt, to the Persian magi, the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece, and to Arabia. Gnostic-pantheist mysticism in the forms of esoteric freemasonry, astrology and alchemy also flourished during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Astrology and alchemy are "as old as the earliest mining and metallurgical activities of men . These esoteric teachings are intimately related."6 These teachings are in vogue again in our own days, sometimes violently. R.C. Zaehner, an Oxford historian of Oriental religions, has shown the link between ancient Brahmanic thought, the practice of Zen, and the beliefs of the Charles Manson Family, the Satanist cult which shocked America with the Tate-La Bianca murders in August 1 959~7 Revived astrology meets us today in every major daily newspaper.
Since alchemy, an important part of the pantheist mystic revival in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, is supposedly extinct today, the following points need to be made. Gary North has written:
The mental image of the alchemist in the minds of most people, if any, is that of . . . the precursor of the modern chemist. Take one alchemist, remove his lust for gold, add the principles of secular Enlightenment philosophy, plus a dash of Cartesian methodology, and shake gently for two centuries; out pops modern chemistry. Not so. It was not the Enlightenment which produced modern science, but the Reformation (North bases this statement upon Robert K. Merton's doctoral dissertation, Social Theory and Social Structure, Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1957, chapter 18) . . alchemy was established on the principle of secret knowledge. It was the science of Gnosticism. Its technique was based on the idea that in the endless mixing of the same chemicals chemical opposites they would somehow transcend themselves after a hundred or a thousand repetitions.8
Now this tenet of alchemy that, given enough time and trials, chemicals will somehow transcend themselves is nothing but the scenario of modern emergent evolutionism. It resembles George Wald's famous dictum that if given enough time, the emergence of life from non-life by random processes, which is impossible according to modern scientific research and data, becomes possible, probable, and eventually virtually certain. It reminds us of the steady-state hypothesis of the origin of the universe proposed by Fred Hoyle in 1948 (and abandoned by him in 1965), which posits that there is such a thing as self-creating matter, namely. hydrogen, which, given enough time, condenses into galaxies, within which evolve stars, planets, animals and people. Another twentieth-century alchemist or rather, emergent evolutionist is the patron saint of "theistic" evolution, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). Teuhard's typically gnostic-pantheist-mystic world view envisions the emergence of God from matter. culminating in the total transformation of matter into God, or "pure Spirit," or "Point Omega", or "the cosmic Christ." Teilhard himself wondered whether this Christ was the same as the Christ of the Gospels, in a letter to his close friend, Leontine Zanta.9
Lurking behind the transformation of matter into spirit is the transformation of man into God. Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier wrote:
The real aim of the alchemist's activities. . is the transformation of the alchemist himself, his accession to a higher state of consciousness. The material results are only a pledge of the final result, which is spiritual. Everything is oriented towards the transmutation of man himself, towards his deification, his fusion with the divine energy, the fixed center from which all material energies emanate.10
Now since there is no room for a God "out there" who can bestow grace on man to do His will, man's mandate in the gnostic-pantheist mystic scheme of emergent evolution participation in God depends upon the initiative of man. Therefore it is all-important to discover and practice proper techniques to contact and fuse with one's "deepest self", "divine essence," or "universal Mind" (the terminology of pantheist mysticism varies). This inner divine essence is also the "self," "essence", "mind" or "spirit" permeating everyone and everything else in the pantheist-mystic scheme, (Separation between men and animals, plants and minerals is of course fundamentally an illusion in pantheist mysticism.) Thus it is not surprising that Sorokin, as the head of an endowment-funded organization known as the Harvard Center for Creative Altruism, conducted an analysis of
the ancient techniques of Yogas, Buddhism, Zen-Buddhism, Sufism the techniques invented by the founders of great religious and monastic orders Oriental and Occidental . . . the techniques of the eminent secular educators, such as Comenius, Pestalozzi, Montessori, Froebel and others.11
The goal of this analysis was "increased 'production, accumulation, and circulation of love energy,' . . . an extension of unselfish love of everyone on everyone in mankind,"12 Most of these same techniques are included in an exhaustive list of "psychotechnologies systems for a deliberate change in consciousness"13 by Marilyn Ferguson, an enthusiastic pantheist mystic, in her important book The Aquarian Conspiracy published 1980. The list contains many ultra-modern techniques not yet invented, or still controversial, during the life of Sorokin. Here is a condensation of Ferguson's list:
Sensory isolation and overload: biofeedback; chanting; Psychodrama; the "consciousness-raising" strategies of various social movements calling attention to old assumptions; self-help and mutual-help networks cooperating with "higher forces" (sic) by looking inward; hypnosis and self-hypnosis; meditation including Zen, Tibetan Buddhist, chaotic, Transcendental, Kabbalist, kundalini, raja yoga, tantric yoga, etc.; various shamanic and magical techniques; seminars "which attempt to break the cultural trance and open the individual to new choices"; dream journals; Arica, Theosophy, and Gurdjieffian systems "which synthesize many different mystical traditions and teach techniques for altering awareness;
Contemporary psychotherapies; body disciplines and therapies, such as hatha yoga, Reichian, the Bates system for vision improvement, aikido, karate, running, dance; sensitivity groups, encounter groups; solitary activities "which foster self-discovery and a sense of timelessness."14
Ferguson anticipated and endorsed the consensus of leading evolutionists gathered in Chicago in October 1980, and then publicized by Science and Time, that the Darwinian gradualist evolution model is obsolete in view of the fossil record. She welcomes the replacement model proposed by Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard and Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of History, "punctualism" or "punctuated equilibrium," as significant because
it opens us up to the possibility of rapid evolution in our own time, when the equilibrium of the species is punctuated by stress., . Pioneering becomes an increasingly psychospiritual venture since our physical frontiers are all but exhausted, short of space exploration. Given what we are learning about the nature of profound change, transformation of the human species seems less and less improbable.15
Ferguson also speculates that mankind's imminent "evolutionary leap" may be prompted by a "collective need," and lead to a community analogous to a Kenyan flattid-bug community which "is, in a sense, a single individual, a single mind, whose genes were influenced by its collective need."16 Just how the exterior "collective need" can change genetic material is not spelled out. The horrendous pictures of genetic manipulation ("the Bokanovsky process") to produce human flattid-bugs or ants imagined by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World are overlooked. So are the even more frightening pictures of psychological conditioning combined with torture (i.e. brainwashing) to produce human flattid-bugs or ants painted by George Orwell in 1984 (with Communism and Nazism as its real-life models). There is no hint in Ferguson that some of her recommended "psychotechnologies" are well-known ingredients in the brainwashing systems of modern totalitarian states (such as sensitivity and encounter groups, "sensory isolation and overload," or "solitary activities which foster self-discovery and a sense of timelessness"). Some of Ferguson's "psychotechnologies" are plain witchcraft ("various shamanic and magical techniques"). A certain camouflage, including occasional deceptive references to Bible passages and supposedly Christian beliefs and practices, is part of her presentation.
The approval of mankind's "evolutionary leap" into one single world-wide collective of necessity includes a push for openness towards communist views. Thus Stephen Jay Gould is quoted by Ferguson in connection with the new punctualist" evolution model:
we should consider alternative philosophies of change to enlarge our realm of constraining prejudices. In the Soviet Union, for example, scientists are trained with a very different philosophy of change They speak of the "transformation of quantity into quality." This may sound like mumbo jumbo, but it suggests that change occurs in large leaps following a slow accumulation of stresses that a system resists until it reaches the breaking point. Heat water and it eventually reaches a boiling point. Oppress the workers more and more and they suddenly break their chains.17
Gould's and the Soviet philosophy of change as "transformation of quantity into quality" parallels Teilhard de Chardin's dream of transformation of matter into spirit. Teilhard also fervently desired mankind's progress (?) toward a collective status like that of the Kenyan flattid-bugs. For example, in his essay "The Spirit of the Earth" he wrote about the "conspiracy" (sic) of individuals from every class and background he had seen while visiting America in 1931, and which, he thought (probably correctly), was engaged in a great effort to raise mankind to a new, higher stage, when men would "shake off their ancient prejudices and turn as one Man (emphasis added) to building the earth."18
It should not surprise us that the goal of pantheist mystics is a collectivistic "one world." Such a world would merely incarnate the pantheistic oneness they see underneath all things. What some of them may sincerely not perceive (Teilhard stressed his belief in "democracy"), or may willingly deceive themselves and each other into overlooking, is that all societies built by pantheist mystics in the past, or envisioned in fundamentally pantheist-mystical utopian fiction, have been variations of the Soviet inferno of the "Gulag Archipelago,"19 and must be such of necessity! For a collective society is administered by an oligarchy or a dictator, and for it to behave "as one Man" means the strict enforcement of total bondage to the administrators. A society cannot be truly pluralistic and monolithic at one and the same time. If mankind's next "evolutionary leap" makes mankind "in a sense, a single individual" then woe to men and women who will not fit the collective mold! They must be conformed to it by any and all means (for indeed that end, world-wide oneness in fusion with the god of the world justifies all means!) - or they must be discarded in the name of their own and the collective's welfare, the definition of "love." (And since they merely dissolve into chemicals when they are discarded - which chemicals still belong to the one world what harm is done, anyway? In the pantheist mystics' world, you can do no real wrong.) How fittingly Orwell named his "change agency for the transformation of society" "the Ministry of Love ("Miniluv")" in 1984!
This inherent pantheist-mystic drift toward totalitarianism may explain the curious blindness often found in the writings of pantheist mystics towards communist reality, and even occasionally towards fascism or Nazism. It is part of their all-pervading and fatuous optimism about the future "one world", which in turn is rooted in their denial of original sin. Again, if the reality in which we live and move is "all one" if "God" is us and we are God then the concept of good and evil as absolute opposites must be false. At most, "good" and "evil" are bound up with the pantheist world's evolutionary process This process is fondly seen in a continuous upward or forward direction in which, in horrible perversion of Romans 8:28, "all things work together for good."
Thus Teilhard could believe that the end of evolution was man joining with other men to make a kind of simple organism with a single Personal God. When that goal was reached, he proclaimed, "Everything that is hard, crusty, or rebellious. . . all that is false and reprehensible. . . all that is physically or morally evil will disappear . . . Matter will be absorbed into Spirit."20 Teilhard could also "once again" suggest in 1948 "the adoption of a truly human faith" combining the "rational force of Marxism" with the "human warmth of Christianity."21 The French Communist Roger Garaudy could quote Teilhard at some length in defending Communist-Roman Catholic dialogue, and he concluded his argument with a statement by Teilhard: "The synthesis of the (Christian! God of the Above and the (Marxist! God of the Ahead: this is the only God whom we shall in the future be able to adore in spirit and in truth."22 Teilhard also asserted in The Future of Man that "the modern totalitarian regimes, whatever their initial defects, are neither heresies nor biological regressions: they are in line with the essential trend of 'cosmic' movement."23 In Science and Christ he wrote: "Fascism represents possibly a blueprint, rather successfully done, of the world of tomorrow."24 Teilhard also anticipated the transformation of mankind into one single unit by the tool of eugenics, a notorious Nazi "change agent" to transform Germany into a pure Aryan society. In a 1946 debate on the subject of "Science and Rationality" he shocked the French Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel by
. . refusing to permit even the appalling evidence of the experiments of the doctors at Oachau to modify his faith in the inevitability of human progress. "Man," he asserted, "to become fully man, must have tried everything ..." . . . since, unlike the lower animals, man no longer acted purely out of instinct, he would presumably abandon every new experiment the moment he saw it did not lead him to greater personalization..... Prometheus !" Marcel had cried, articulating the astonishment of most of the audience. "No," Teilhard replied, "only man as God has made him."25
Teilhard also saw the progress of humanity in the invention of nuclear weapons, and thus did not disapprove in principle of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima.26
It must be pointed out again that these Teilhardian views are not an aberration but rather a corollary of a consistent pantheist mystical world view. Within that view, however, divergence is possible and exists about the final state, goal or consummation of the entire process. Will the end state be personal or impersonal? Here Teilhard opted for progressive personalization. For instance, he objected to a famous Indian guru's "raw pantheism" because "(t)here could be no real love of neighbor without individuation a thing impossible in the pantheist perspective."27 The defense of Teilhard by his adherents against the accusation of heresy, for instance by Henri de Lubac, is based upon such Teilhardian "personalism."
Teilhard based his reconciliation of man's union with God and man's individuation at first sight incompatible within the pantheist mystic scheme upon his view that "union differentiates." However, union cannot differentiate if understood as fusion of the uniting entities; and it must inevitably be understood fundamentally and ultimately as fusion in a pantheist-mystical world view seeing the whole world as "all-one" already to begin with. Teilhard apparently never resolved this internal contradiction of his thought, but kept defending both distinct personality of individuals, and what he once called "totalization of the individual in the collective man."28 Like Sorokin, Teilhard thought of love as "cosmic energy."29 Viewed from the Biblical perspective, if Satan, the god of this world, and a person, is behind the gnostic-pantheistmystical scheme, as indeed he is according to the Scriptures Ephesians 6:12; I Corinthians 10:20; II Corinthians 4:4), then this internal contradiction between personalism and impersonalism within pantheist mysticism will be resolved in favor of personalism for those more truly attuned to their god.
Teilhard attempted to present his system as a Christian one, although he himself was aware of the difficulties of doing so. He wrote Leontine Zanta that he was trying to establish and diffuse
a new religion (let's call it an improved Christianity, if you like) whose personal God is no longer the great 'neolithic' landowner of times gone by, but the Soul of the world as demanded by the cultural and religious stage we have now reached.30
In order to spread this new religion under the label "Christian" which Teilhard desired in his capacity as a French Catholic priest, and a member of the Jesuit order a restatement of pivotal Christian beliefs was imperative. Regarding the doctrine of original sin, Teilhard wrote in a letter to a friend; "Evil is not 'catastrophic' (the fruit of some cosmic accident), but the inevitable side effect of the process of the cosmos unifying into God."31 Here he is merely anticipating what we have said about the pantheist mystics' denial of original sin Denial of original sin entails a reevaluation of the meaning of Christ's death at Calvary for the sins of the world. Teilhard accordingly wrote an essay on the meaning of Christ's cross in September 1952, in which he stated:
Only when the Church accepted evolution's part in the Divine Plan, he reasoned, and saw the Cross as the symbol of this agonizing process, could she restore true value to the sign.. Only the concept of a Christ who was crucified not simply "to carry the sins of a guilty world" but "to carry the weight of an evolving world" could convert the "sign of contradiction" into the seal of strength.32
We have dwelled upon Teilhard in so much detail because he is so typical of modern "Western" pantheist mystics. and because they themselves cherish and acknowledge him as one of their most influential spokesmen.33 His church was not blind to his divergence from true Christianity; his prolific writings were and are considered heretical by the papacy, and banned from Catholic schools and bookstores (although this writer's copy of Teilhard's Letters to Leotine Zanta is prefaced by lower Catholic officials' Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, implying that it is "considered free from doctrinal and moral error"). The papal encyclical Human Generis, issued by Pope Pius XII on August 12, 1950, was directed against Teilhard-type evolutionism in no uncertain terms In Paragraph 37 it upheld the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and of a literal "individual Adam" who actually committed a sin from which original sin proceeds. Paragraphs states in part: "Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution."34 Paragraph 37 also rules out polygenism (the descent of man from more than one original first man). which was a pet theory of Teilhard's. Paragraph 36 enjoins the discussion of evolution pertaining to the origin of man
. . in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure . . .35
This sounds very much like the "two-model approach" creationists are demanding in American public schools. Humani Generis should be shared with Catholic friends concerned about evolutionism and Teilhardianism as the papacy's official pronouncement on this issue.
What is the practical outworking of the pantheist-mystic "conspiracy" right now? Ferguson's listing of certain "psychotechnologies" gives usa cue: (a) the "consciousness-raising" strategies of various social movements calling attention to "old assumptions": (b) self-help and mutual-help networks cooperating with "higher forces" by looking inward: and (c) seminars "which attempt to break the cultural trance and open the individual to new choices." Common to all three is the questioning of "traditional morality" (the "old assumptions" of our supposed "cultural trance"). Now "traditional" morality, though doubtless adulterated by sin, is the offspring of Biblical morality,35 which is rooted in the holiness, wisdom, and sovereign authority the character of the God of Creation. Now as ever since their god "raised the consciousness" of Adam in Eden, pantheist mystics will not submit to the God of the Bible and His created reality.
They are making tremendous headway today. For example, the "values clarification" techniques now being used in many American public schools37 are evidently part of their intended "transformation of society," in which teachers admittedly function as "change agents." The key premise of "values clarification" is that there is no absolute right or wrong (based upon emergent evolutionism in this monist universe), and that therefore each man, woman and child may and should determine his or her own relative value system or "alternative lifestyle" in which the Charles Manson Family is as good as the Bible-based "traditional" family. The gnostic-pantheist mystic will accept you with tolerant condescension it you refrain from murder, theft, fornication etc. because that is "your own thing." "But the temperature drops," C.S. Lewis wryly remarks, "as soon as you mention a God who has purposes and performs particular actions, who does one thing and not another, a concrete, choosing, commanding, prohibiting God with a determinate character."38 The most furious attack upon Christians today is that we "impose our morality upon others" especially on the subject of abortion, "gay rights," and even (still mutedly) incest.
The gnostic-pantheist mystic has ever resented that God created man male and female and charged him with procreation of his kind and with stewardship over the rest of material creation (Genesis 1:27-28). This resentment is directed against the created, fixed identity of man (men and women) and the creative decree of God circumscribing mankind's duties under Him. It is expressed either by extreme ascetic abstinence from sex and material things the "touch not, taste not, handle not" warned against in Colossians 2:2Off. or else by unbridled indulgence or perversion. This asceticism-libertinism dichotomy has been a notorious aspect of gnostic-pantheist mysticism throughout its history.39 The reasons should be obvious: one, the denial of original and all sin; and second, that once one says, "all is god/spirit" one may (ascetically) shun matter as "illusion" one may plunge into matter as divine one may even gorge upon matter in order to lose one's taste for it and so fuse with "pure spirit" it does not matter which. Ultimately nothing does mailer in the gnostic-pantheist mystic scheme, for despite all the glow of optimism about the next "evolutionary leap" and the upward and forward cosmic movement to some "Omega Point" where all that is is pure spirit no real transcendence to a really "higher state" is possible. If you are already god, and if all that is is already god - and if there is nothing else then haven't you reached your "goal" already? Alternately, is not talk about some future or goal meaningless? This is the ultimate void faced by the pantheist mystic. He has three options: (1) eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die; (2) hasten your absorption into Nirvana where you are freed from individual consciousness (Gautama Buddha's answer); (3) don't think about it all too much. There is, of course, another alternative: call upon the God of Creation and receive your life's meaning in Him, absolutely.
We must guard against viewing pantheist mysticism as some "new" development of our own day; it is merely the same old "religion" of the worshippers of the god of this world. C.S. Lewis gave us gripping fictional portraits of gnostic-pantheist mystic personalities in his Professor Weston, the "un-Man" of Perelandra, and in Straik, Wither and Frost of That Hideous Strength. Less striking but equally true is this great Christian apologist's sketch of the system itself which will sum up and conclude our discussion:
So far from being the final religious refinement, Pantheism is in fact the permanent natural bent of the human mind . . It is the attitude into which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself. , . . If "religion" means simply what man says about God, and not what God does about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. And "religion" in that sense has, in the long run, only one really formidable opponent namely Christianity. . . . It is nearly as strong today as it was in ancient India or in ancient Rome. Theosophy and the worship of the life-force are both forms of it: even the German worship of a racial spirit (Lewis wrote shortly after World War II) is only Pantheism truncated or whittled down to suit barbarians. yet, by a strange irony, each new relapse into this immemorial "religion" is hailed as the last word in novelty and emancipation.40