Panentheism, the Background and Spirit in the Thought of Arthur Eddington

Gerald R. Baron
16 min readFeb 6, 2024

This, the second in a series of personal reflections on panentheism, focuses on the basis within our scientific understanding of the world that leads to the view of God as the underlying foundation of both mind and matter. Arthur Eddington serves as our primary guide.

In the previous post I explained how investigating the idea of dual aspect monism led me to a belief in something that goes deeper than what we know or possibly can know about nature through science. Past the molecules, past the elements, past the atoms, past the electrons, protons and neutrons, past the quarks and Higgs boson. Below all that there is a “background.” Some today might consider it the “quantum background” which some have said is the “nothing” from which the universe emerged, but is filled with zero point energy. Pre-geometry, John Archibald Wheeler called it, the “mother-sea” William James called it, the “holomovement” David Bohm called it, the unus mundus Pauli and Jung called it. But Eddington, a theist, is the one who considered it “the background” and called it “spirit.” I shall call it Spirit and consider it the Third Person of the Trinity.

The mind-body problem

One implication is the potential for this view to address perhaps the greatest mystery in science today: consciousness. The fact that we are experiencing creatures and that our experience includes an awareness of being, and that we exist as a person or an entity we call “self” creates some of the biggest divisions in science, philosophy and religion. Descartes wanted the understanding of the universe to progress and saw the existence of an immaterial soul as a hindrance so he conveniently divided that off. That left us with dualism and we have struggled with that separation ever since. How can the immaterial control or influence the material and vice versa? How are they connected? The pineal gland won’t work. Are there two very different things that make up reality, or just one?

Materialism, or the more up-to-date term, physicalism, provided two answers: since matter and forces are all there is, that means consciousness emerges from matter. How? We don’t yet, but give us time and a few more billions and we’ll figure it out. The other answer is we are only fooled by the…

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Gerald R. Baron

Dawdling at the intersection of faith, science, philosophy and theology.