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Pandeism: Gaeia Theory, Universal

Pandeism: Gaeia Theory, Universal

Brian Dean Abramson

When astronomer Carl Sagan was asked to quantify his belief in God, he would issue a predetermined clever response: “If you define ‘God’ as the sum of all the forces in the Universe, then, yes I do.” This was a response tailored to leave the critics of atheism and agnosticism sitting in a stunned and queried silence, trying to figure out exactly what the good Dr. Sagan meant, and whether it fit into either what they expected to hear or what they wished to hear. Sagan’s simple rhetorical trick was to redefine ‘God’ in his answer, to provide a true statement that fails to fulfill the intent of the petitioner.

What the individual making the inquiry likely meant (and does not think to specify) was “do you, Dr. Sagan, believe in ‘God’ defined as the God of my Bible, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenificent Creator of the Universe who loves and cares for all mankind.?”

But of the concepts which have been presented, Dr. Sagan’s answer comes closest to the idea of Pantheism, an identification of the Universe itself with the divinity which governs the Universe. Of course, this is not what Sagan was actually saying either, nor what he means – this is, rather, merely a trick of semantics. Sagan could just as easily have said, “if you define ‘God’ as the sum of all of the light in this room…” or “if you define ‘God’ as the chair in which Whistler’s mother is sitting in the painting of Whistler’s Mother…”

Sagan, in equating a certain sum of forces with “God,” was interpreting something which must be incomparable as though it were mundane, with the intent of enunciating it as something he can believe without offending anyone. However, “the sum of all of the forces in the Universe” is:

a. possibly a finite sum, thus not necessarily omnipotent, thus not the popular conception of ‘God’;

b. not necessarily omniscient—or even conscious—thus not the popular conception of ‘God’; and

c. not necessarily omnibenificent, or even moral, again thus not the popular conception of ‘God.’

Therefore, when Dr. Sagan responded was really a statement of disbelief in the popular conception of “God.” The true materialist pantheist does not acknowledge the existence of ‘God’ either; but unlike Dr. Sagan, this order of pantheist does envision the presence of a connection between all things material that surpasses the material itself. It is, perhaps, the Gaeia theory on a Universal scale.

The Gaeia theory purports that the entire planet Earth is a single living organism. In late Twentieth Century models, mans rampant multiplication and our exploitation and pollution of the Earth is said to parallel the reproduction of a virus within an animal or plant which makes the entire organism ill through its exploitation. Like the virus, we feed on the material body of our host, and return a waste product that causes her harm. It is therefore explained in this analogy that global warming is in fact the Earth getting a fever to subdue this maleficent virus. As is sometimes the case in the microcosm, it is foreseeable that we, the macrocosmic virus, will also ultimately lead to the death of our host.

This same model could be rewritten on a larger scale and be applied to the Universe. An examination of the nature of the Universe will reveal that this broad parallel – organism, Earth, Universe – is an appropriate and justifiable one. In the field of physics, for example, certain reoccurring themes are found on varied scales, such as the orbit. The electrons orbit the nucleus; the satellites orbit the planets, which orbit the stars, which orbit in long, lazy paths around the centers of galaxies, which may themselves yet be found to occupy a longer, lazier path of orbit around some structure greater still. In every case it is clear that the trend is for the larger scale of orbits to take a longer period of time; thus our sun orbits the center of the Milky Way in millions of years, Jupiter orbits the sun in dozens of years, the moons of Jupiter orbit in dozens of days, and electrons circle the atomic nucleus several thousand times per second.

Another astronomical principle, that of the rotation of bodies, can also be applied at these many levels. These repetitions imply a great deal, for they uphold the contention that this Universe operates not by random principles, but by clever design. The regular use of such an efficient model in the design provides evidence that the structure of the Universe is more than a convenient accident.

But the Gaeia theory proposes much more than the reoccurrence of simple designs. It purports that the laws of nature governing not the mere movements of objects, but the very interactions of life within an organism take place on the sum scale of a planet. Is it possible, then, that such sophisticated interactions occur on some other level which allows them to conquer the void of empty space?

We come now to the idea of the Gaeia Universe, where the whole of the Universe would be a single living entity of which all mankind is barely an organelle. But unlike the organisms of Earth, the elements of the Universe, energy and matter, are not connected by the bloody and battering interaction of consumption that we experience on Earth, but by the same forces of physics and mechanics which govern the aforementioned astronomical principles. The concept of pantheism proposes an additional connection, one of an overarching divine presence. In this divinity, mind and matter are one, and all things in the Universe are evenly connected.

The Gaeia theory of Earth draws one other inevitable parallel with the microcosm – just as the living organism is born, lives, and dies, so was the Earth born several billions of years ago, and so does it live now, and so will it likely die. The funeral dirge of this world must come, though it may be billions of years hence, unless we determine an artificial means to sustain the appearance of its life. Even so, such a measure would only be window dressing, for a planet which has died but for the presence of parasites capable of sustaining the illusion of life by feasting on one another is dead nonetheless. Such may currently be the case of the “divine spirituality” of the Universe.

Like the Earth, and like Gaeia, the Universe may have had a birth, a point at which it existed after having not existed. This we know thanks to the efforts of the good Dr. Hubble, who demonstrated that the universe is continuously expanding away from its point of origin. It is equally conceivable that the Universe will have a death. This death may come when all of the energy is finally used up and nothing remains but empty lifeless shells that once burned as stars. A more positive theory is that eventually the gravitational attraction between all masses will overcome the outward movement of the galaxies, pulling them home to the point of origin from which they will once again explode outward into the foundation of a new Universe…

Now let us suppose that Gaeia were to die. The planet Earth, third stone from the Sun, would not therefore cease to exist. Rather, it is the intricately interacting network of life encompassing the stone that would cease. Following this line of reasoning, we could ask what would happen to the Universe if the metaphysical force directing its development were to die. Would the matter and the motion and the energy already in existence cease as well?

Logically, it would not. The pieces of matter that construct the Universe are set in their paths, and every one of them is wholly predictable because no force other than the hand of man – or another guiding hand – will divert them from their prescribed paths. But these paths had to have been prescribed somehow.

Albert Einstein once commented (before capitulating to Plank and Heisenberg), “I do not believe that God plays dice with the Universe.” It is apparent from the design of the Universe that it may well have been designed with purpose, but the fact of forethought in the design, should there be one, does not require the continued existence of the designer after the original directions and motions of the atoms have been put into place. This claim still applies whether the designer was some all-powerful being who exists, and has existed, outside the Universe since all eternity, or whether the designer was the Universe itself, and only existed as a designer for those few brief moments of Creation.

Thus we come, finally and inevitably, to the philosophy of Pandeism, the child of Pantheism and Deism, a philosophy which recognizes that the mother of the Universe was the Universe, and that this mother ultimately died in order to give birth. To understand pandeism, we must first examine its roots:

We first observe that Pantheism is the idea that the metaphysical force underlying the existence of the Universe (but not necessarily “God”) is not above or outside the Universe, but is present, active, manifest in the Universe itself. Thus, the Universe is permeated with a “divine spirituality” that resonates through every sub-atomic particle and every piece of energy – but this “spirituality” does not require the characteristics which traditionally define God – it does not need to be a sentient force, nor must it be a moral entity possessed of love or kindness or goodness, nor must it be invested with a personal interest in the well being of mankind. Nor, as will be noted, must it be eternal.

Deism is the concept that God created the Universe and set the laws of nature in motion, but does not interfere with the workings of the Universe. One common idea expressed in the literature of Deism is that God will again be manifest at the end of the Universe as He was in the beginning, acting as the cause of its end as He was the cause of its beginning. There exists an absolutist concept of Deism, that God has left, never to return; that he set the laws in motion, then abandoned the enterprise, leaving a yet unborn humankind to fend for itself.

Pandeism, therefore, is a marriage of the fundamental aspects of these two concepts, and can best be described as a spiritual variation of deism. It is the understanding that there has never been a God who is separate from the Universe, but that a metaphysical presence was at one time manifest – operative throughout the physical structure of the Universe. This presence has now disappeared; like water that permeates the fibers of a sponge, the spiritual force of the Universe has evaporated.

Pandeism denies the atheist’s assertion that there is no divine spirituality in the Universe, nor has there ever been. Instead, the conception put forth is that in the moment when the Universe was created, when all of the matter and energy was gathered together in one pinpoint location, in the heart of the fire that would become a million million stars, therein was God. Therein was sentience, knowledge of what was to come, and not just of certain futures, but of every possible future of the Universe. Everything that could exist was known in that moment to the coalesced “Everything,” the “Pan,” that lived where there was no space between particles to prevent the perfect flow of consciousness, of thought between the pre-elemental energy, where the very force of a universe straining to exist provided the required limitless energy for the assertion of the Universal Will.

Here is where the Universe was an overarching divinity, all that was, was one, and all that would be was inherent in this one. The laws that would govern the dispersion of particles, and the possibility of life, all of these were designed in those few eternal moments (for a being of infinite capacity, any moment offers sufficient time to capture an eternity of thought). In the following moments, the Universe as we know it was born – and the consciousness of the Creator of the Universe died.

The proposition of Pandeism, when properly placed among the hierarchy of the existing theories on the nature of the metaphysical basis of the Universe, can be charted like this:

Theories on the Spiritual Basis of the Universe Human beings can access the energy of the Spiritual Basis of the Universe Human beings can not access the energy of the Spiritual Basis of the Universe

The Spiritual Basis of the Universe is incorporated in a Conscious, Sentient “God” Theism Deism

The Spiritual Basis of the Universe is incorporated in the Fabric of the Universe itself Pantheism Pandeism

There is no spiritual basis in the Universe, only coincidence. Atheism

This scenario leaves several vital questions barking at our doorstep, the most important if which (to us) is the one that follows. What does it mean for humankind that there may never have been a transcendent God distinct from the Universe, and if the immanent divine spirituality has disappeared from the fabric of the Universe, and has therefore forever gone beyond the reach of mankind?

If there was indeed a divine spirituality present at the beginning of the Universe, on which helped to organize the fundamental elements, but which has since ceased, the actual effect on human affairs may be negligible. Even if the divinity survived the birth of the Universe for some short period of time, the cessation of this force occurred may billions of years ago, long before the introduction of humanity, or any other sentience, to the Universe, long before the formation of the Earth even. The laws of nature, the natural order of things, the ratio of electrons to protons and the orbits of planets are all long and well established, and are unaffected by the absence of their progenitor.

If the pandeistic postulate is true, than we are no better or worse off today for knowing it than we were yesterday – unless we are to find that the veracity of this conception destroys our would view.

If by some revelation (how and to whom yet unimagined) it were to be made known to every one of us that there was no God above and beyond our Universe, had never been such a God so long as the fabric of the Universe had been fixed, and that what metaphysical union of all things in the Universe there was had lasted only as long as was required to set the world in order – how then should we act?

If we are deists, then there is little change for us, for instead of occupying a Universe abandoned by a transcendent God, we occupy a Universe abandoned by a spiritual force that is similar in purpose but of a scope that might be more inclusive to the individual. Perhaps we expected God to return for us at some later judgment day, but we know that our elements will be recycled a million times over before the Universe comes to an end. And perhaps when this ending occurs, our consciousness will be revived by the merging of all into one once again, mixed in a grand synergistic formula of unity with the knowledge of all that we have been – for all that we have been encompasses not only the experiences of our lifetime, but also the experiences of every atom which passes through us from the beginning of time to the end, and in this way, surely all things are fundamentally linked…

If we are pantheists, we find our beatific connection to the Universe cut. Having thought that we were all linked by something greater than ourselves, we find that ling to have been shattered. But at the same time, as this theory embraces the potential consequences of all matter, it reinforces our idea that the mind is simply properly organized thinking matter. Thus the materialist pantheists do find themselves partially justified, enough perhaps to assuage their concerns over losing the critical universal connection.

Of course, the idealist pantheists must now struggle with the concept that the material Universe is not an illusion after all – or they can escape the dilemma by declaring this concept to be an illusion as well. There is no argument sufficient to overcome the assertion that all arguments are illusory, just as there is often no turn of logic strong enough to overcome devout faith.

In either scenario, the pantheistic doctrine that all things are interconnected has not been discarded, for we remain inexorably tied together in one eternal destiny.

If we are atheists, we must contend with the once-before existence of a supernatural spirituality, a mind which defies the science upon which we have come to depend to explain the order of the Universe through chance and scientific laws. We can, perhaps, raise our heads in glory in having been right about the lack of ongoing deistic interference with the order of the Universe, and we can even go so far as to describe the properties of the Pandeistic Universe in its transitory, conscious stage in terms of scientific principle instead of supernatural principle. But we can never again boldly assert that the dynamically elegant structure of the Universe is merely a product of chance and coincidence.

It is also no mere coincidence that the greatest impact of a substantiated pandeistic doctrine is impressed on the greatest number, for if we are theists, we find ourselves utterly abandoned. We are, then, without the overlooking God to support our souls, to give us moral direction. We are, indeed, without souls separate from the physical form of our bodies, and our afterlife is limited to only a brief eternity, the moment in which all of us and everything is God, before we return to the state of separation.

But before we take the leap of casting ourselves into this possible emotional void, we must ask – what proof have we to support the theory that this Pandeistic Universe is the real Universe?

Cosmological and Teleological arguments

The typical cosmological and teleological arguments would actually support this system. The most famous cosmological argument is that devised by the Thirteenth Century Italian philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas, the five ways presented in the Summa Theologica. “The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God,” begins this man some refer to as the Angelic Doctor, and thence he sets forth his five arguments.

The first is the Prime Mover; that all moving things must, in some way, be set in motion. Thus, the Universe, a vastly moving thing, must have been set in motion at some point. If we assume that matter and energy are eternal, but the presence of order is finite in that it required a consciousness to set it forth, this argument supports Pandeism.

We can apply it similarly to Gaeia, that the Earth existed before life on Earth existed, but that the planet required these pre-programmed rules of nature to allow itself to flourish as an organism. The pandeistic deity is thus the Prime Mover, as it is equally the First Cause, following the second argument that there must have been an uncaused First Cause from which all other causes flow.

The pandeistic deity also falls into the other three arguments, serving as the Necessary Being upon which all others are contingent, the Most Excellent in the hierarchy of excellence, and the creator of apparent order in the Universe.

While experiences of mysticism are reported often, no sign of an existing prevailing deity has proven conclusive. But just as we can find skeletons to demonstrate where living things passed away, we should be able to find remnants of this divine spirituality left from its withdrawal. Perhaps these mystical reports of miracles and magic, of moments of clarity, are in fact sudden connections with the billions of atomic memories that we each store within the very fabric of our bodies.

Perhaps, instead of searching the heavens and searching our souls, we should be investing our spiritual energy in searching the physical reality of our being. Perhaps it is there that we may find the memory of God, in the electrical archways of the human brain that parallel the birth – and death – of the Universe.


Aquinas, Saint Thomas. Nature and Grace: Selections from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. Westminster John Knox Press, June 1978.

Buber, Martin. I And Thou. Free Press, February 1971.

Einstein, Albert. Ideas & Opinions. Wings, December 1988.

Frazier, Allie M. Issues in Religion: A Book of Readings. Wadsworth Publishing Company, January 1975.

Mendoza, Ramon G. Pantheism. In-class handout. March 1996.

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth: Giordano Bruno's Prelude to Contemporary Cosmology. Element Books, June 1995.

Sagan, Carl. Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science. Ballantine Books, October 1993.

Sagan, Carl. The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence. Ballantine Books, December 1989.

Schmidt, Roger. Exploring Religion. Wadsworth Publishing Company, February 1988.

Simpson, D. P. Concise Latin-English, English-Latin Dictionary. Cassell's, August 1987.

St. Augustine. The City of God. Modern Library, February 1994.

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