The Matter with Pantheism: Race, Gender, Divinity, and Dirt

A lecture by ICE Fellow Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Dartmouth Hall, Room 105, 4 p.m.–5 p.m.

Most commonly attributed to the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, pantheism teaches that what we mean by “divinity” is the immanent, creative-destructive power of the universe itself. God, in other words, is the universe. This heretical teaching infamously led to Spinoza’s excommunication in 1656 from his Jewish community in Amsterdam. In subsequent centuries, pantheism has suffered nearly universal rejection—usually in the form of ridicule—by Western philosophers and theologians. This lecture will investigate the reasons behind this often panicked repudiation, suggesting that the horror over pantheism has less to do with theological orthodoxy or philosophical rigor than with a visceral reaction to matter, which is persistently racialized and feminized in the tradition that refuses to ascribe divinity to it.

Mary-Jane Rubenstein is a Professor and Chair of the Religion Department at Wesleyan University. Her current research and teaching interests lie primarily in the intersecting histories of philosophy, religion, and science.