World Pantheist Movement
|Type||501(c)3 non-profit religious|
The World Pantheist Movement (WPM) is the world's largest organization of people associated with pantheism, a philosophy which asserts that spirituality should be centered on nature. The WPM promotes naturalistic pantheism
The WPM grew out of a mailing list started by Paul Harrison in 1997, arising around his Scientific Pantheism website. An initial group of 15 volunteers worked on a joint statement of agreed beliefs (the Pantheist Credo). The WPM officially opened for membership in December 1999.
Beliefs and practices
The official views of the World Pantheist Movement are listed in the nine points of the Belief Statement (see external links). These are summarized as follows:
- Reverence, awe, wonder and a feeling of unity with Nature and the wider Universe.
- Respect and active care for the rights of all humans and other living beings.
- Celebration of our lives in our bodies on this beautiful earth as a joy and a privilege.
- Realism - acceptance that the external world exists independently of human consciousness or perception.
- Strong naturalism - without belief in supernatural realms, afterlives, beings or forces.
- Respect for reason, evidence and the scientific method as our best ways of understanding nature and the Universe.
- Promotion of religious tolerance, freedom of religion and complete separation of state and religion.
The specific Statement is as follows:
- 1. We revere and celebrate the Universe as the totality of being, past, present and future. It is self-organizing, ever-evolving and inexhaustibly diverse. Its overwhelming power, beauty and fundamental mystery compel the deepest human reverence and wonder.
- 2. All matter, energy, and life are an interconnected unity of which we are an inseparable part. We rejoice in our existence and seek to participate ever more deeply in this unity through knowledge, celebration, meditation, empathy, love, ethical action and art.
- 3. We are an integral part of Nature, which we should cherish, revere and preserve in all its magnificent beauty and diversity. We should strive to live in harmony with Nature locally and globally. We acknowledge the inherent value of all life, human and non-human, and strive to treat all living beings with compassion and respect.
- 4. All humans are equal centers of awareness of the Universe and nature, and all deserve a life of equal dignity and mutual respect. To this end we support and work towards freedom, democracy, justice, and non-discrimination, and a world community based on peace, sustainable ways of life, full respect for human rights and an end to poverty.
- 5. There is a single kind of substance, energy/matter, which is vibrant and infinitely creative in all its forms. Body and mind are indivisibly united.
- 6. We see death as the return to nature of our elements, and the end of our existence as individuals. The forms of "afterlife" available to humans are natural ones, in the natural world. Our actions, our ideas and memories of us live on, according to what we do in our lives. Our genes live on in our families, and our elements are endlessly recycled in nature.
- 7. We honor reality, and keep our minds open to the evidence of the senses and of science's unending quest for deeper understanding. These are our best means of coming to know the Universe, and on them we base our aesthetic and religious feelings about reality.
- 8. Every individual has direct access through perception, emotion and meditation to ultimate reality, which is the Universe and Nature. There is no need for mediation by priests, gurus or revealed scriptures.
- 9. We uphold the separation of religion and state, and the universal human right of freedom of religion. We recognize the freedom of all pantheists to express and celebrate their beliefs, as individuals or in groups, in any non-harmful ritual, symbol or vocabulary that is meaningful to them.
The WPM encourages wonder and awe at the beauty and mystery of the Universe and fosters the full range of positive emotional responses to life. It promotes ethical principles such as respect for the rights of humans and other living creatures, non-discrimination, justice and peace.
It respects the scientific method as humanity's most accurate approach for deepening its understanding of nature, while accepting that science is a never-ending quest and that some technologies have created massive social and environmental problems. It accepts that there are some questions that science may never answer - such as why anything exists, rather than nothing at all. It does not give any credence to ideas such as a separate soul distinct from the body, or of the consciousness' survival after death, but believes that people achieve a form of immortality through the ongoing effects of their actions, the things they create, others' memories, the legacy of their genes, and the recycling of their elements in nature.
It does not prescribe any particular set of religious practices, instead leaving the matter up to individuals. Pantheistic activity is viewed not as a ritual that must be upheld in order to placate gods and spirits, or to follow rules prescribed in scripture, but rather as an individual expression of one's deep feelings towards Nature and the wider Universe. Among members and friends of the WPM, the most common practices are meditation and close, daily observation of nature. Both of these are sometimes accompanied by the use of natural objects such as pebbles, shells, bark etc. About a quarter of WPM members report using some form of pagan celebration, but this is done for self-expression and fun, rather than out of literal belief in pagan theologies.
Members and friends may meet in small groups, the format of which varies. Groups may discuss general ideas; watch and discuss relevant (often nature-related) books, or films; share personal experiences; go on nature outings; or participate in nature conservation projects or other forms of community service.
Viewing the recycling of human elements in soil, water, and the atmosphere as a major element of human "immortality," the WPM supports the "natural death" approach. In this context, it seeks to return the elements to the natural cycle in the fastest and most responsible way possible, such as burial in a biodegradable container in nature-reserve type grounds.
Organization and activities
The WPM is governed by a board of 13 directors. Its main forms of activity consist of:
- A Facebook Page with over 162,000 members
- A richly featured social network with over 3,000 members with wide-ranging discussions and interest groups, as well as 34 local forum groups.
- Its periodical, Pan explores the possibilities of naturalistic spirituality across a wide range of fields.
- Saving land to be managed in the interests of native wildlife, through direct sponsorship of conservation organizations, member click groups, and a pantheist wildlife reserves scheme. 300 acres (1.2 km2) have been saved to date.
- A small Folding@home group that has contributed 204 work units.
- An associated SETI@home group that has amassed 2,138,435 credits
The World Pantheist Movement symbol is the spiral as seen in the curves of the nautilus shell, or in the spiral arms of a galaxy, showing the link between the cosmic physical (thousands of light years) and the biological. Sometimes the Nautilus spiral alone is used; it embodies the Fibonacci series and the golden ratio.
Diversity of beliefs
The WPM has a policy of accepting a diversity of language and methods of celebration among its members, although - following large surveys of its website visitors' preferences - it generally avoids overtly theistic or religious language in its official literature. Some members view themselves as atheists, while others hold agnostic stances. Some members use theistic vocabulary, however they do not believe in a thinking creator god, and simply use the word "God" to describe their feelings of reverence towards Nature and the wider Universe. Some members, while accepting the basic naturalistic beliefs of the WPM, like to combine these with symbols and ceremonies from other traditions, most commonly paganism, philosophical Taoism, and Buddhism.
The WPM does not interfere with or promote any specific personal choices regarding sexuality or the use of recreational or psychotropic drugs. Similarly, members have a diversity of views on vegetarianism, hunting, non-violence, and many other political, social, and technological issues. All these issues are left to members' understanding of Naturalistic Pantheistic morality and the Belief Statement.
Relationship to other pantheist organizations
Paul Harrison, the World Pantheist Movement founder, was vice president of the Universal Pantheist Society (UPS) in the mid-1990s, but resigned after becoming skeptical of the possibility of promoting "generic" pantheism given the very wide variety of beliefs held by different types of pantheist (specifically, by those with naturalistic beliefs and those with dualist or idealist beliefs). The WPM has since gained a membership considerably larger than the UPS, along with a wider circle of non-members who participate in its online forum and Facebook pages.
- Taylor, Bron (2008). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. A&C Black. pp. 1341–1342. ISBN 1441122788. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
- "The Pantheist Credo". World Pantheist Movement. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- "Naturalizing Death" (PDF). World Pantheist Movement. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "Pantheism Facebook group". Retrieved 21 September 2016.
- "Pantheism Forum at Ning". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "Public PAN Magazine Issues". Scribd. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- "Team 13161's contributions to Folding@home". Folding@Home. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "Scientific Pantheist". SETI@Home. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Harrison, Paul. "Pantheist Art" (PDF). World Pantheist Movement. Retrieved 7 June 2012.