The Perils of Panentheism

The Advaita Vedānta school within Hindu philosophy holds that the self is identical with God. A student of mine recently lamented that too many Westerners who claim to follow this doctrine draw precisely the wrong lesson from it. Instead of freeing themselves from the limitations of their selfish egos and looking at the world from the divine point of view, they deify their selfishness. They bring God down to their level rather than rising up to His level.

Well, that is annoying. The trouble is that startling identity claims have a way of boomeranging. The Vedantist says “You are God!” hoping to shock his listener out of his egotism. The shallow listener thinks “Wow, I am God!” and his egotism is only reinforced. He puts the accent on the “I” rather than on “God.” And why not, if he and God really are identical?

Philosopher Ed Feser, “A is A” December 9, 2010.

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