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25 June 2008updated 27 Sep 2015 2:30am

Loving life as a Pantheist

In the third installment of his four-part series, Paul Harrison explains Pantheism's "vibrant affirm

By Paul Harrison

One of Pantheism’s greatest attractions to me is its vibrant affirmation of our bodily life. Many of the world’s religions tend to view the main priority as the peace or eternal fate of the soul. Life in a physical body, on this physical Earth, is seen as merely a prelude and gateway to Nirvana or Paradise. A best the body is seen as a distraction, at worst as a temptation and a torment.

There are other paths that endorse very positive attitudes to living, such as Western Zen Buddhism or the Creation Spirituality of Matthew Fox. But I much prefer Pantheism, because it doesn’t encumber me with the terminology or metaphysics of traditional religions. I don’t have to worry about squaring my beliefs with Christology or the Tripitaka.

Pantheism is probably the only spirituality that fully embraces and celebrates our physicality. The body is not God’s temple – it is your own temple, in and through which you celebrate life, Nature and the Universe. This is a religion for anyone actively concerned about their mental and physical health and fitness. It encourages careful thought about diet and exercise – because the spirit is the body and nothing else, exercise becomes a spiritual activity. Since food is one of the most meaningful ways in which we interact with Nature and each other, eating becomes a way of communion.

Pantheism bears not a trace of the Christian guilt about sex, but instead offers a powerful endorsement of this most natural of acts and most transporting of Nature’s gifts. There is no condemnation of any particular gender or sex preference, but a joyful acceptance of any non-harmful options. There is no veto on mind-altering substances – it’s a personal choice.

Pantheism is a religion for all who live primarily in the present rather than in the past, the future, or the imaginary. It’s a religion of exuberance for surfers, rafters, sailors, divers, climbers, skiers, sky-divers – for anyone who gets their kicks from fitting their muscles and minds to the dynamics of waves, whitewater, snow, air, rock. It’s a religion for naturalists, one that encourages patient attention to the detail of nature: the shapes and colours of bark and rock, the cadence of birdsong or of ocean waves.

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