Pantheologies

14 Apr 2023 09:54 - 04 Oct 2023 02:57
Open in Logseq
    • tl;dr: Pantheism is marginalized because its melding of two different spheres (nature and god) violates some primordial axiomatic structure of the Western worldview. But taking it seriously can perhaps liberate us from the metaphysical dichotomy of choosing between an obsolete anthropomorphic theism and an impersonal de-animated cosmos.
    • Preface

      • The problem it seems is that pantheism not only unsettles and not only entangles, but demolishes the raced and gendered ontic distinctions that Western metaphysics (with some critical exceptions) insists on drawing between activity and passivity, spirit and matter, and animacy and inanimacy – distinctions that are rooted theologically in the Greco, Roman and Abrahamic distinction between creator and created, or God and world. Insofar as pantheism rejects this fundamental distinction, it threatens all the other privileges at map onto it: male versus female, light versus darkness, good versus evil, and humans over every other organism.
      • OK I'm in.
    • Introduction

      • Such para-scientific theories can be loosely assembled under the category of theories of immanence , or of post- or nonhuman studies, and include such formations as ecofeminisms, “new” materialisms, new animisms, animal studies, vegetal studies, assemblage and actor-network theories, speculative realism, complexity theory, and nonlinear science studies. In their loosely collective, “strung-along” effort to decenter “the human,” these modes of immanent analysis open the possibility of something like a pluralist pantheism—or, to mobilize the plurality, “pantheologies.” They do so, first, by dislodging agency and creativity from humanity (theism’s perennial “image of God”) and second, by locating agency and creativity in matter itself. Viewed through the manifold lenses of such studies, the “world” with which the pantheist would identify God is neither inert and passive, as classical theism would have it, nor total and unchanging, as the monist would have it. Rather, “world” names an open, relational, and self-exceeding concatenation of systems that are themselves open, relational, and self-exceeding. (p24, emph added)
      • A fun racist quote from DH Lawrence objecting to Walt Whitman's expansive inclusion of everything.
    • Ch 1 Pan

      • I am sure that two very different meanings if not more lurk in the word, One. —Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      • Random irritable note: I've been hearing critiques of Western male rational whatever for decades, and suggestions that wisdom from the East females indigineous whatever would fix its problems. All of these sound perfectly plausible, but when is this going to actually happen? I'm getting impatient.
    • Ch 2 Hyle

      • ...modern sciecne "freed" the mateial world from its ecclesiastical imprisonment only to intensify matter's traditional degradation...This total denial of agency to materiality culminated in the determinism of Newtonian mechanics and the mechanical compulsion of neo-Darwinist evolution. (p88)
      • Hm weird to fold Newton and Darwin together like that; Darwin is a theory of how the material achieves agency (sort of).
      • The ongoing effort to "reframe and reclaim" the tranditionally insulting and ironically indistinct category of animism — an effort oft encoded as "new animism" — can be traced back to Irving Hallowell's renowned study of the Ojibwa nation of the Great Lakes and Central Canada...the "worldview" of the Ojibwa breaks open and relativizes the central category of anthro-pology because its structuring concept of personhood...is not confined to humanity. A person for the Ojibwa is a being who can act, speak, move, and change–and as such, the sun is not a thing or an object, but rather a person "of the other-than-human class" (p92)
      • Also cites Rose on "Plumwood's Philosophical Animism", man, there is a lot of this stuff.
      • In 1954, Hallowell (1955i [1954]: 109) stated that an individual Ojibwe “is not an «animist» in the classical sense”, by which he meant that the Ojibwe beliefs are not related to Edward B . Tylor’s (1871: I, 258) “doctrine of universal vitality”, nor do their beliefs fall within the framework of a conventionally defined religion, i .e ., one characterized in the Tylorian way in terms of spirituality, supernaturalism, and worship (Hallowell 1992: 81) . As a result, Hallowell reached for the concept of worldview, using Robert Redfield’s (1952: 30) anthropological explication, according to which a worldview is an “outlook upon the universe that is charac- teristic of a people”1
      • Far from abolishing or preventing distinctions, then, this sort of animacy produces differences locally and interactively. Beings become the kind of beings they are in relation to the other beings who interact with them in a particular time and place. In short, beings do not carry properties around with them; rather...they obtain those properties by means of the relational apparatus that produces them. (p94)
        • remarkably sensible
    • Ch 4 Theos

      • ... it is precisely pantheism's unthinkability that calls for thinking. Less dramatically stated, pahtheism's promise likes in its discomfiting refusal of those traditional Western metaphysical divisions of theism and atheism, God and world, spirit and matter, and indeed science and religion—divisions that manage, regardless of the camp one chooses, consistently to privilege light over darkness, male over female, and a carefully circumscribed "humanity" over everything else. (p149)
      • Like!
      • p161: Einstein wasn't a real relativist, his idea of god was too old fashionedly monistic and centralized.
      • ...the refusal of a priori binarism does not amount to a denial of difference—much less does it add up to a proclamation that "all is one". To the contrary, animist differences are constantly, relationally, and locally produced, so that a stick in the hands of an adept healer during ritual practice is alive, whereas the same stick in the hands of a U.S. curator is not. (p171)
      • Such thinking would therefore affirm a kind of pancarnation: divinity's inability not to express itself in and as the endless, srubbornly un-totalized run of all things. This is not to say that everything is divine to every agent, nor is it to say that everything is the same. Rather it is to acknowledge that what looks like an inert rock from one perspective is a sacred ancestor from another; that the catfish one perosn serves for dinner could be kin to her popartner and a great creative being to both of them...such perspectival pancarnation would be different from relativism: if the latter asserts that there are many ways to interpret the same world, the former would asser that worlds—and therefore divinities–take shape differently depending on the points of view that interagentially construct them. (p 173)
      • But what if, instructed by the new animisms, we refuse to confine the category of personhood to humanity? What if anything we can call agential — which is to say anything in active relation with other things, anything that participates in the ongoing creation, destruction, and re-worlding of worlds —can from some perspective also be called a person? In that case there would be an alternative to the equally unplatable theologemes of anthropocentrism on the one hand and impersonalism on the other. (p181)
      • Ethics

        • (p174) A long section on ethics, the problem of evil and whether it is a worse problem for standard theism or for pantheistic animism. The latter comes out ahead, since the world has multiple competing agencies (see OGU vs MU).
        • But such efforts become unnecessary in the absence of a single, anthropomorphic creator. Indeed, there is no "problem of evil" for those non-monotheistic cosmogenies that affirm a proliferation of shape-shifters, tricksters, and demiurges; their answer to the question of the origin of evil is simply that there have been competing interests among limited beings from the very beginning—and that the beginning has always been in the middle of things. For self-identified animists, Graham Harvey explains, "the world and its various powers are neither good nor bad...but open, efficacious, and above all, relational." "Evil" in such frameworks is therefore not a mystery to be explained but rather a concrete reality to negotiate and try to overcome.
        • I broadly agree with this but also can't help thinking it is dodging something. There is some unity to the cosmos or it wouldn't be the cosmos. Perhaps it is unknowable or beyond good and evil. The problem with theism is not unity, its that it pretends to be able to characterize that unity in terms of human-level concepts.
        • In the absence of an extra-cosmic governor, there can be no exra-cosmic ethic—no static or a priori delineation of the boundaries of "good" or "evil". Rather, as Spinoza explains...such terms describe relations rather than essences...rather than being absolute terms, good and evil become as perspectival as anything else... (p178, emph added)
        • Seems eminently sensible.
        • There is, then, no pantheological resignation to "the way things are", far less an edorsement of all things as "good". Rather what pantheologies affirm when they say "all things are divine" is that all things participate—to greater or lesser intensity and to all manner of competing, collaborative, and disjunctive ends—in multiple, ongoing processes of cosmic makings and unravelings. (p176, emph added)