Emotional Pantheism: where the logic ends and the feelings start

Logically, I am an atheist. Emotionally, I am a pantheist.

I am the kind of person who does not really believe in anything unless it can be empirically proven in some way. I do have a lot of scope for entertaining theoretical constructs that can be logically laid out – I have an imaginative analytical brain, and I love to theorise and philosophise. And certainly, not everything that is even self-evident can be properly accounted for empirically. The universe as we know it and experience it is not by any means fully understood. But although there are theological and philosophical theories and intangible concepts that excite me and are meaningful to me, I’m not sure that I could be said to believe in divinity in any real way.

But when it comes to how I resonate emotionally, I have very strong pantheistic feelings. Although I may not see divinity as something that can even be defined, let alone proven, I feel as though the universe is divine. It is not something I believe in the way that I believe in science and physics and the physicality of my day-to-day existence. But it is something that I feel at my very core. It is an emotional response to awe, to beauty, to mystery. And that emotional response is very strong in me.

My spirituality is built on emotion.

I’ve come to the understanding that this emotion is what is most important to my spiritual practice. My need for ritual and a spiritual practice and belief is reinforced by my logic and intellect – the mysteries of the universe are certainly awe-inspiring to even the most sceptical. But its seed is in emotion, in an inherent response that is so natural as to be almost a reflex.

My beliefs and therefore my practice are certainly naturalistic. I leave room for the unexplained, and engage in practices that might seem empty or pointless to some naturalists or atheists. But I don’t take many leaps of faith intellectually, everything is based in reason. In this way I am a naturalistic Pagan.

Where I do take those leaps of faith is in the emotional sphere. By engaging in this spiritual practice, I open myself up to experiencing things beyond the mundane. In many ways, it is in exercise in allowing myself to feel without judgement. My spirituality is my way of allowing my pantheism a space in my life.

I have chosen to not choose between naturalism and theism.

I am aware of a certain amount of paradox within this spirituality that I am carving out for myself. I could be accused of being, illogically, a theistic atheist – of holding onto the two concepts or labels. As I’ve previously pointed out, the two are semantically opposed.

But I am comfortable with this duality within my personality and within my spirituality. I think sometimes we get too bogged down in trying to narrow ourselves into one particular fit – we try to pare away the inconsistencies in an effort to build up an ego that is simpler and less challenging. But we are too complex as individuals to ever hope to accomplish this. Paradoxes will always abound, and I’m learning that it’s important to embrace the difference facets of your personality, to incorporate it all into your life.

So when I perform ritual – when I light my altar candles and utter words of dedication and devotion – I am not merely marking a changing season or an astronomical event. I am, emotionally, reaching out the divinity that I see in the Cosmos.

12 thoughts on “Emotional Pantheism: where the logic ends and the feelings start

  1. I wonder why you use the word divine rather than the word sublime?

    I use rituals, mediation and do experience feelings of joy and peace. A feeling of oneness with everything. Yet I wonder if its just the language we use which separates us rather than our interpretation.

    Two blog posts that expand this:

    https://homoeconomicusnet.wordpress.com/2008/01/03/why-i-am-not-a-buddhist/

    https://homoeconomicusnet.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/ethics-beyond-religion/

    • Good point – I guess I’ve always felt the word “divine” to resonate more with me. I associate “sublime” with the awe it inspires in me, but I suppose the feeling goes somewhat deeper than that, if you know what I mean. I feel as though I’m responding to something that I perceive to have more depth than what I can observe – and I’m building my practice on that perceived something rather than the response to it. I’m not sure if that makes any sense! I’m sure I’ll be doing more posts on it in the future as my thoughts solidify.

      Thanks for the links, I’ll certainly be checking those posts out, I always love reading about other naturalistic spiritual practices!

  2. What you describe feels very similar to my thoughts. Our emotional needs seem to be built into us, part of our psyche, so I just roll with it for now that it is there for a good reason – nature not seeming to be inclined to waste resources, as it were. I am normally tend to look at things “locigally” and scientifically, but have also had personal experiences that can only be considered paranormal, and have put some degree of effort into trying to prove/disprove their validity. And why not feel emotionally about our spirituality? We embrace our other emotions, like love. Maybe that sense of, yes, the divine, is our emotional response to recognizing that which is a part of us, and that we are a part of. Full of wonder, and yet familial at the same time. After all, we *are* all made out of the same “stuff!”

    • Well said! As you point out, nature doesn’t waste resources, so yes I am inclined to believe that we feel these things for a reason – that ritual and religion and such feelings are necessary to the human experience, for most of us or many of us anyway. There is definitely a familial element to it – I guess that sort of bonded emotion is our best frame of reference for that sense of connectedness. :)

  3. (Quote):”Although I may not see divinity as something that can even be defined, let alone proven, I feel as though the universe is divine. It is not something I believe in the way that I believe in science and physics and the physicality of my day-to-day existence. But it is something that I feel at my very core. It is an emotional response to awe, to beauty, to mystery. And that emotional response is very strong in me” (End Quote)

    Excellent post! Though I am an Atheist and logic is the name of the game, the natural world leaves me in absolute awe also. And yes, it is very much of an emotional response isn’t it. Keep writing! ~Mistress Babylon

  4. I used to study a bit of cognitive science of religion, and I learned that the mind generally has both a rational and non-rational ‘centre of meaning’. The non-rational, intuitive, emotional way of thinking/feeling is older in evolutionary terms, and I think the reason it has stuck around is because it is, or was, an adaptive pro-survival trait. So why not use all the mental tools at your disposal?

    Logic is great, but it is one tool for a specific function. Logic alone won’t get you far in love, or art, or (if you want to use the term) spirituality. Obviously that doesn’t mean anything-goes belief, we still need to be grounded in reality, but I think the occasional emotional flight of fancy is healthy!

    Thanks for another thoughtful post, I think we share a lot of ideas in common.

    • I love this comment. I’ve read bits and pieces about cognitive science and psychology too, but I hadn’t made the connection as clearly as you do here. And yes it does feel as though I’m just embracing all the tools available to me! Both centres of meaning are important.

      You’re very welcome! Yes I think we do, meeting like-minded people is one of the things I love most about blogging and the Pagan community in general. :)

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