Pantheism and Beyond

It is common in theological or philosophical circles to discuss abstract concepts about God, the universe and the creation of the universe. We frequently find that various qualities are attributed to God by most religions, such as omnipotence, omniscience, infinity, omnipresence and eternity. In other words, God is all powerful, all-knowing and without limits.

At the same time, we have a mysterious “disconnect” between these abstract qualities and the question of the existence of the world and our own presence in the world. We find many of these religions and philosophical directions attributing lesser (or no) reality to the forms and forces in the world, and they call it an illusion, Maya, or some other terms that imply non-reality; or they speak of the creation of the worlds and the beings inhabiting them as if God were something of a divine sculptor, taking so much clay and shaping it into forms. The question of “where does the clay come from” and “what is the nature of the clay” is simply ignored in most cases, or else treated as some kind of hallucination or illusory creation, maybe a simulation or a hologram, but not ‘real’.

What is interesting about this is that the first definition would imply that the world, all its creations, and all its actions must be REAL and of the substance of God, not something separate or external.

There are those who do indeed acknowledge this and they are generally known as “pantheists” who see God everywhere. Most of these however, make God co-equal with the creation but do not go the step beyond to indicate that God is not only co-equal with the creation but also transcendent of the creation–exceeding and not limited by the specific forms that are manifested.

The Gita takes up this question and affirms both that God transcends the creation and constitutes the creation, thus providing a real and satisfying answer to the questions that have daunted humanity for ages. Sri Aurobindo explains: “He is the being, all are his becomings. He does not create out of a void, out of a Nihil or out of an unsubstantial matrix of dream. Out of himself he creates, in himself he becomes; all are in his being and all is of his being.”

“His being is in no way limited by his becoming; he is in no degree bound by this world of relations. Even in becoming all he is still a Transcendence; even in assuming finite forms he is always the Infinite.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pp. 333-334