Panentheism is a religious studies term coined in 1828 by the German philosopher Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781–1832).
Today, it belongs within the umbrella term, pantheism. However, Krause’s concept is more specific.
Panentheism refers to the belief in an eternal God grounded in but also greater than creation. Put simply, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Krause is an interesting character. Largely overlooked by Western philosophy, his predominantly mystical thought was overshadowed by Schelling,¹ Fichte, and Kant, who were his professors. He was also passed over by academe, like a lot of bright people with a bit too much insight and individuality.²
His view of society reminds me of Émile Durkheim’s but with an added mystical flair. For Krause, the universe is an organic whole. And the more that individuals and groups fall into line with that whole, the better society functions.
Krause endeavoured to reconcile the ideas of a God known by faith or conscience and the world as known to sense. God, intuitively known by conscience, is not a personality (which implies limitations), but an all-inclusive essence (Wesen), which contains the universe within itself. This system he called panentheism, a combination of monotheism and pantheism.
Ideal society results from the widening of the organic operation of this principle from the individual man to small groups of men, and finally to mankind as a whole.³
Variations of this view are found in Taoism and Hinduism, as well as the works of Spinoza and Hegel. But we should be wary of oversimplifying. Important differences are sometimes glossed over by educators, religious authors and New Age enthusiasts.
That may sell sugar coated self-help books and fool gullible students. But it’s far from the truth.4
¹ Schelling is considered by some to have coined the term unconscious and his saying, “Nature is visible Spirit; Spirit is invisible Nature” would make a perfect inspirational quote for social media.
² I’m coming to think that, with a few notable exceptions, the brightest people in the humanities do something better than teach at a university. The more dull-witted stay behind, churning out their conventional, politically correct or trendy tracts mostly designed to get funding and ensure financial security. Nothing wrong with that. But nothing spectacular either.
³ https://www.diigo.com/user/earthpages This is a link to highlighting (notes) I made. I thought it would be a good idea to link to this so additional info that didn’t make this article could be seen. My Diigo page also has the original source.
4 Unless one adheres to the ‘truth’ of selling no matter what b.s. you’re spinning.
Sociology’s Stagnation (3quarksdaily.com)