Can Panpsychism align with Christianity? Panpsychism revolves around the idea that each particle in the universe is inherently conscious at some level. This idea has recently been embraced in the scientific community as a means of explanation for the origin of consciousness. Is this a philosophical and theological concept that Christians need to grapple with?
What Is Panpsychism?
Panpsychism is the idea that everything, no matter how small, has some semblance of a mind. This can mean quite a variety of things depending on one’s definition of “mind” and “everything”. When I use the term mind, I really am referring to consciousness or an awareness of self. This isn’t to say that each particle actively thinks or is even self aware, but rather that each particle in the universe is somehow impacted by consciousness as though it were a force, much like they way that gravity affects particles.
Panpsychism may sound a bit strange on the surface, and admittedly it sounds a bit far fetched when compared to what is observable in the world around us, but it has been accepted by a great deal of credible philosophers and has recently gained traction in the academic community.
Why should we think common sense is a good guide to what the universe is like? Einstein tells us weird things about the nature of time that counters common sense; quantum mechanics runs counter to common sense. Our intuitive reaction isn’t necessarily a good guide to the nature of reality.– Philip Goff
How Does This Tie Into Christianity?
The Christian view of God is fairly unique, however the Holy Spirit is generally understood to be everywhere or omnipresent. This would imply that God’s consciousness is everywhere and it then logically follows that, if God’s consciousness is everywhere, consciousness can be found in, or can affect, all things.
“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Can a man hide in secret places where I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.– Jeremiah 23:23-24
If we revise our worldview to include consciousness as a fundamental aspect of reality, a “natural force” like gravity, then the idea that matter can develop conscious awareness is no longer a scientific leap. If we attribute that same universal consciousness to God, then there is no longer a gap between the scientific understanding of consciousness and the theological understanding. This worldview allows us to be independent beings with free will, while also maintaining God’s full sovereignty over us as well as His awareness of all things in the universe.
When embracing a worldview such as this, we should be careful not to also restrict consciousness to matter. There is no observable consciousness within matter, much like gravity itself is not a visually observable force. The effects of gravity can be seen, but gravity itself cannot be seen. The effects of consciousness can be seen, especially in self aware beings capable of communication, but consciousness itself cannot be seen.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure—who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart; I examine the mind to reward a man according to his way, by what his deeds deserve.Jeremiah 17:9-10
Here we see that God knows our thoughts, He is capable of examining our minds. If consciousness is a fundamental part of our universe, and we attribute that consciousness to God, then it logically follows that God would be aware of our thoughts and intentions.
I don’t think that there are legitimate grounds to make any of the conclusions that I have made in this article, however, science is beginning to embrace this path of thought and I wanted to play through some of the impacts of this theory. As more developments are made, perhaps we will find ourselves examining this much more closely. For now, you can reference the links below for more information.