by Ray Jason at The Sea Gypsy Philosopher
It has been 23 years since a mystical experience jolted my consciousness. But the memory of that event remains so vivid, that it could have been only 23 seconds ago. AVENTURA and I were Westbound in the immense Pacific. There was no land within a thousand miles in any direction.
Several dolphins had surrounded us, but they were behaving in a strange manner. Instead of frolicking in the bow wave as they normally do, they were repeatedly circling from bow to stern. I tried to decipher this, and guessed that they were pointing out the majestic full moon looming directly ahead. Or perhaps they were agitated by the
powerful rain squall that had just ended.
Suddenly, a particularly large dolphin approached to within a few feet, pivoted its body, and actually looked me in the eye. Mesmerized, I followed its path as it circled back behind the boat. And there, emblazoned across the sky in shimmering magnificence, was a moonbow! Bands of luminous silver, opaque white and misty lavender arched across the eastern horizon.
I shouted my thanks to the dolphins for alerting me to this phenomenon that very few people ever witness. And then a staggering awareness overwhelmed me. I realized that of the billions of humans on Planet Earth, because of my mid-ocean isolation, I was probably the only one witnessing this exquisite spectacle.
Soon the moonbow dissipated and the clouds dispersed. The universe dispatched its million twinkling messengers to remind me of its incomprehensible vastness. Lying on my back, on the deck of my tiny boat, in this gigantic ocean, on a small planet, in this immeasurable cosmos, I received my baptism as a pantheist. It was at that moment that I excommunicated myself from human-created gods, and embraced the sanctity of Nature and the glory of the Universe. This majesty – this mystery – this miracle – seemed truly worthy of human reverence.
And as I now peer at our world, 23 years later, the value of pantheism is even more evident, since humans continue to slaughter each other in the name of their multitude of “one true gods.” Whether it is muslims against christians or shiites versus sunnis or tamils battling hindus, our planet is awash in unnecessary bloodshed.
And yet it is all so easily avoidable. Name one war ever fought in the name of pantheism!!! But if I asked you to list some of the evils directly linked to human-spawned gods, the catalog would be long and horrible. It would include:
· Religious wars and crusades
· Persecutions of “infidels”
· Human sacrifice
· Fostering the terrifying myth of Hell
· Rejection of scientific discoveries
· Suicide bombers
· Demonization of our natural sexuality
· Claiming that innocent babies are born “soiled”
· Forcing unwanted children on poor, overburdened parents by threatening eternal hellfire
· Justification for slavery
· Reducing females to a subservient status to males
What a dreadful cavalcade of atrocities has been visited upon the world and its creatures in the name of organized religions. The defenders of these faiths often justify these horrors by claiming that churches are necessary because they provide a moral foundation for the world. The absurdity of such a claim would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic.
Look again at that litany of terrors and ask yourself this. “Could any of them be committed in the name of the love of Nature or in the name of basic human decency?” Of course not, but they ALL have been committed in the name of somebody’s favorite god. And this continues right up to this very moment. In fact, as I type this sentence, somewhere in the world an innocent child is probably being killed or mutilated because of religious fanaticism.
Let us consider the roots of religion. Our early ancestors were surrounded by inexplicable, terrifying forces such as thunder, lightning, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. Because of their limited knowledge, they suspected that these horrors were caused by invisible gods. And in order to obtain the mercy of these gods, they paid homage to them in various ways. So the original “religious impulse” was a survival strategy.
But with the arrival of what I call Conquest Agriculture about 10,000 years ago, religion changed from a survival strategy to an “exploitation strategy.” Food surpluses eliminated the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, and led to social hierarchies, divisions of labor and the disastrous emergence of rulers and priests. These early religious tyrants realized that if they claimed to be intermediaries between the gods and the frightened people, that they could gain enormous power and wealth.
But when reason and science were able to prove that thunder, lightning, floods, etc were not unleashed by unknowable behind-the-scenes gods, but through very knowable natural laws, the priests should have disappeared. After all, there was no longer a need for human emissaries to non-existent gods. But the bishops and mullahs and rabbis were not willing to surrender their wealth and power. So, in order to keep the “con” going, they played the “enemy” card. As long as the people could be convinced that other religions were a threat, then the need for priests could continue. It is a vile charade forced upon us by power-junkie psychopaths.
Allow me to demonstrate how pantheism can break the spell of these conjurers. But first I will clearly define what pantheism is for me. It is not the “god is everywhere” version. On the contrary, it is the “god is nowhere, but Nature is everywhere” variety. It permits me to exhibit reverence towards something that is indisputably authentic and evident as opposed to worshipping a being whose existence cannot even be proven. Now let me describe its many positive and powerful aspects.
There is no “enemy” in pantheism. People don’t go to war over who has the most beautiful waterfalls. There is no need for all of the trappings of institutional religion. Who needs cathedrals and mosques on a planet lush with redwood forests and pristine shorelines? All of the money spent on such prideful glorification could be allocated to far more important needs such as universal clean drinking water or birth control that does not diminish pleasure.
Pantheists do not dictate how people should conduct their lives. There are no commandments from invisible sky bosses. Caring deeply about the planet and all of its creatures is a far wiser ethical foundation than rules supposedly imposed by a dictator in the clouds who is paranoid that his human pawns might worship false idols.
Pantheists enjoy fuller and richer daily lives because they don’t view this existence as a dress rehearsal for some heavenly paradise. This is it, so we embrace it with vibrant enthusiasm. We are also not obsessed with the “How did this all happen?” issue. The wonders of the Cosmos are no less magical and amazing just because we cannot fully comprehend them. They are still holy, and worthy of our reverence.
Pantheism also provides a fulfilling alternative for the many borderline atheists out there who recognize the absurdity and evil in organized religion, but are troubled by the lack of spirituality in atheism. Although Richard Dawkins is a pre-eminent atheist, when I hear him speak about the wonders to be found through the microscope and the telescope, he sounds to me like a pantheist poster boy.
Finally, let me revisit the title of this essay – In Praise of Pantheism. I have tried to convince you that pantheism is the ideal spiritual practice for our present, troubled era. It eliminates all of the horrors of institutional religions that I listed earlier, and yet it fulfills our need for something outside of ourselves that is extraordinary and worthy of adoration. At a time when human activities are destroying our very life support system, how can we not turn to a sacred path that reveres our great mother, the Earth, and worships her great mother, the Universe?
After finishing this essay I googled around looking for other insights on modern-day pantheism, and discovered what appears to be an excellent organization and website. I recommend www.pantheism.net