Luminaries of Pantheism
Throughout history, there have been free-thinking individuals who have experienced a profound, pantheistic realization: Everything in our universe is connected. From this epiphany came a deeply spiritual respect for science and nature. The Paradise Project honors these scientists, philosophers and poets as 'Luminaries'-- people who, despite prevailing cultural ideologies and dogmas, sensed the awe-inspiring truth of our existence. Here are just a few of these inspiring pillars of pantheism:
For Spinoza, God was the natural unity of all that exists. He was excommunicated from the Jewish community as a result. He is considered to be one of the most influential rationalist philosophers to have ever lived, with followers such as Albert Einstein, George Eliot and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosopher Hegel said of all modern philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."
- "Desire is the very essence of man."
- "One and the same thing can at the same time be good, bad, and indifferent, e.g., music is good to the melancholy, bad to those who mourn, and neither good nor bad to the deaf. "
- "God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. "
- "Happiness is a virtue, not its reward."
- "I call him free who is led solely by reason."
- "The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free."
- "If men were born free, they would, so long as they remained free, form no conception of good and evil."
- "I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion."
- "We feel and know that we are eternal."
- "Whatsoever is contrary to nature is contrary to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd."
- "Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived."
Impressionable young children are often forced to identify with a specific religious word when describing themselves and their ethnicity. But that didn't stop the amazing scientist and thinker Albert Einstein, a Jew whose family was not observant of Jewish religious practices: "For me the Jewish religion--like all others--is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."
Einstein was also a humanist and a supporter of ethical culture. Serving on the advisory board of the First Humanist Society of New York, he observed, "Without 'ethical culture,' there is no salvation for humanity."
- (Conflicts between science and religion) "have all sprung from fatal errors … science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
- "If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
- "My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment."
- "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth."
- "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."
In their cover story on him, Time Magazine called Carl Sagan “The Showman of Science.” His son, Dorion Sagan stated, "My father believed in the God of Spinoza and Einstein, God not behind nature but as nature, equivalent to it." Sagan was not just an astronomer and astrophysicist; He was a man devoted to educating the public and promoting a thoughtful modern way of thinking.
- "A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge."
- “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
- “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”
- “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
- “Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
- “The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.”
- "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."
- "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
- "It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out."
- "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff."
- "How is it that hardly any major religion has looked and science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?" Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."
- "The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
- "But I could be wrong."
Many have died for science and reason, but this man is actually known to be the first "martyr of science." We take our 'rights' of free speech for granted today, but imagine being burnt alive on a stake as a "heretic" for holding opinions that are contrary to the church. That is what this high profile man did for us as a contribution to the evolution of science and thoughtfulness.
- "It may be that you fear more in your need to deliver judgment upon me than I fear the judgment. "
Ralph Waldo Emerson
America's most influential voice of intellectual culture in the 19th Century was a son of a minister and himself became a minister in 1829. Three years later he resigned his position. Ralph Waldo Emerson subsequently became a famous lecturer and author who espoused a new worldview, that God is nature. Emerson is considered America's most influential thinker.
- "Man is timid and apologetic. He is no longer upright. He dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist perfect in every moment of its existence."
- “Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good”
- “Every hero becomes a bore at last”
- “God enters by a private door into every individual”
- “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”
- “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
Friedrich Nietzsche lays out his vision of the future of faith in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, one of many extraordinary works that have grown more popular with time. He envisions an aggressive faith in reason that challenges popular faiths: "Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones, but by contrary extreme positions."
Nietzsche is a passionate philosopher and poet who has a high respect for logic and science, as he emphasizes a love of the earth and the body. When he discovered Spinoza, he stated, "I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza...In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness."
- "All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses ... There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy."
- Without restraint he criticizes those who worship the dead and the imaginary and cautions the reader about defining words:
- "Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead. "
- Throughout his work and life, it is apparent that Nietzsche seemed to be very frustrated with the fact that few understood his love and passion:
- "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."
- "Is man one of God's blunders? Or is God one of man's blunders?"
- "Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?"
In spite of present day attempts to re-write history, the third American president and author of the Declaration of Independence believed in a God based on science, experience and reason. He rejected so-called sacred texts,supernatural events, the clergy. One of the most important figures of the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson identified as a deist, but shared many pantheistic beliefs.
- "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise."~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams,Aug. 15, 1820
The intellectual mastermind behind the American Revolution was Thomas Paine. He was considered a radical for being vehemently opposed to slavery, believing in free education for all, and believing that religion should play no role in government whatsoever. He was the first to open up a public debate about independence and revolution by publishing America's number one best seller of the 18th century, Common Sense. He ended up playing a major role in helping America win the war and inspiring America's leaders. Later, he also published the popular Age of Reason, which helped inspire the revolution in France.
Thomas Edison had this to say about Paine: "I have always regarded Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic . . . It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine's works in my boyhood . . . it was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker's views on political and theological subjects. Paine educated me, then, about many matters of which I had never before thought. I remember, very vividly, the flash of enlightenment that shone from Paine's writings, and I recall thinking, at that time, 'What a pity these works are not today the schoolbooks for all children!' My interest in Paine was not satisfied by my first reading of his works. I went back to them time and again, just as I have done since my boyhood days."
- "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
- "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right."
- "Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true."
- "Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man."
- "An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot."
- "A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."
- "One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests."
- "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."
- "The opinions I have advanced . . . are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God."
George Carlin was much more than a comedian. He was a political commentator and in many ways a philosopher. His words were oftentimes not only funny, but thoughtful scathing criticisms of 'average' ways of thinking.
- "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."
- "I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."
- "Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong!"
- "The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."
- "If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
- "There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past."
Other Inspirations Include: Nikola Tesla; Swami Vivekananda; Charles Darwin; Walt Whitman; H.D. Thoreau; Goethe; Emily Dickinson; Lao Tzu; Terrence McKenna; Rachel Carson; Hypatia; Marcus Aurelius; Bill Hicks; John Lennon; Vincent Van Gogh; Beethoven; Ludwig Wittgenstein; William Blake; D.H. Lawrence; Jiddu Krishnamurti; John Muir; Adi Shankara; Heraclitus; Helena Blavatsky; Elizabeth Cady Stanton; and many more...