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In 1834, publisher Giovanni Silvestri posthumously published a volume of sermons delivered by Padre Filippo Nannetti di Bibulano (aka il Filippo Nani, Padre da Lojano) who had died five years earlier in 1829. In one of these sermons, specifically Sermon XVIII on Miracles, Nannetti had railed, "Ma questa religione predestinta col taumaturgo segnale si trova ella nel mondo i' Dove? in qual gente? in qual lido? Nelle sinagoghe giudaiche, o nelle meschìte dell l'Asia? Nelle pagoda cinesi, o nella società di Ginevra? Giudei, Maomettani, Gentili, Scismatici, Eretici, Pandeisti, Deisti, geni torbidi, e inquieti." ("This religion predestined by the thaumaturgist signal, where in the world is she? in which people? on which shores? In Jewish synagogues, or mosques of Asia? A Chinese Pagoda, or in society in Geneva? Jews, Muslims, Gentiles, Schismatics, Heretics, Pandeists, Deists, and troubled, restless spirits.") (at page 284 in Silvestri's version.) Here, Nannetti named Pandeism amongst the beliefs he seemed condemnatory of (and right after Heretics, at that.)

And so commenced the Italian Cluster, a curiosity in the history of Pandeism -- a sudden upwelling of concern for this theological theory (mostly on the critical end) arising in Italy in the 1820s to 1830s. The thing about Pandeism in the context of history is that it seems to pop up in fits and starts, a few people in a certain country speaking of it over the course of a few years, and then silence on the subject for decades. Perhaps it is that it makes no sense in a world where evolution is unknown and ours is imagined to be the only star orbited by planets, and the only galaxy of stars.

Nannetti went further in specifically criticizing Pandeism, declaring, ""A te, fatal Pandeista! le leggi della creata natura son contingenti e mutabili; non altro essendo in sostanza che moti e sviluppi di forze motrici." ("To you, fatal Pandeist! the laws that create nature are contingent and mutable, not another being in substance with forces driven by motions and developments.") (at page 286 in Silvestri's version.)

Now remember, the earliest use of a variation of the word Pandeism had come 40 years earlier, in Germany, when bookseller Gottfried Große had annotated his 1787 edition of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History with the description of Pliny as "wo nicht Spinozisten, doch einen Pandeisten nennen konnte, ist Natur oder Gott kein von der Welt getrenntes oder abgesondertes Wesen. Seine Natur ist die ganze Schöpfung im Konkreto, und eben so scheint es mit seiner Gottheit beschaffen zu seyn." ("if not a Spinozist, then perhaps a Pandeist, Nature is not a being divided off or separated from the world. His nature is the whole of creation, in concrete, and the same appears to be true also of his divinity.") Did Nannetti at some point in his travels read Große's estimation of Pliny and nod in agreement? Did he hear of the concept elsewhere? Or was Nannetti's condemnation of "Pandeisti" a coinage in his own voice, a coincidental reinvention of the same theological category? Or did he intend to condemn "Panteisti" (Pantheists) and experience a slight slip of the tongue, or his chronicler one of the pen? Eight decades later, Max Bernhard Weinstein would write in his Welt- und Lebensanschauungen, Hervorgegangen aus Religion, Philosophie und Naturerkenntnis "Wenn auch nur durch einen Buchstaben (d statt th), unterscheiden wir grundsätzlich Pandeismus vom Pantheismus." ("Even if only by a letter (d in place of th), we fundamentally differ Pandeism from Pantheism.") But perhaps Nannetti had not quite the same sense of distinction arising from those syllables. Certainly nothing else across the face of his sermons answers this mystery; nor does Nannetti present the final question in this curious trail....

For, within a few years thereafter came the 1838 publication of an anonymous treatise, Il legato di un vecchio ai giovani della sua patria ("The Legacy of an Old Man to the Young People of his Country"), whose author, discussing the theory of religion presented by Giambattista Vico a century earlier, mused upon the religious implications of man first seeing meteor showers: "Il selvaggio Nomado ex lege arrestato nelle spelonche dallo spavento, e dall'ammirazione con l'imponente spettacolo delle meteore, per la prima volta rivolse sopra se stesso lo sguardo della debole ragione, conobbe un potere fuori di lui più colossale della sua erculea brutalità, e per la prima volta concepì un culto. La robusta immaginazione gli fe ravvisare gli effetti come causa, quindi deificando i fenomeni naturali divenne un Pandeista, un istitutore della Mitologia, un sacerdote, un Augure." ("The wild nomad (who lived outside the law) stopped in the caves with fear and admiration at the impressive meteor shower, for the first time saw that reason was powerless, experienced a most colossal power outside himself of his Herculean brutality, and for the first time he understood worship (or conceived of a cult). His robust imagination recognized the effects as a cause, then deifying natural phenomena, he became a Pandeist, an instructor of Mythology, a priest, an Augur."). Again, the context is insufficient to corral a certain definition intended for "Pandeista." And again, we have no proof of the source of knowledge -- did this anonymous author hear or read Nannetti's sermon? Hear of the philosophy elsewhere?

And lastly, in that same year, phrenologist Luigi Ferrarese in his Memorie Riguardanti la Dottrina Frenologica ("Thoughts Regarding the Doctrine of Phrenology") excoriated Victor Cousin's philosophy as a doctrine which "colloca la ragione fuori della persona dell'uomo dichiarandolo un frammento di Dio, una spezie di pandeismo spirituale introducendo, assurdo per noi, ed al Supremo Ente ingiurioso." ("locates reason outside the human person, declaring man a fragment of God, introducing a sort of spiritual Pandeism, absurd for us, and injurious to the Supreme Being.") Now this, obviously, is much more directly an identification of Pandeism in its modern understanding. And again, there is no telling whether Ferrarese read Große or Nannetti or the writer of Il legato (or even whether Il legato or Memorie Riguardanti came first).

Incidentally, The next mention of Pandeism in Italy is not found for nearly another half century, in 1896 -- when historian Gustavo Uzielli, in his Ricerche Intorno a Leonardo da Vinci, described the world's population thusly: "Certo è che quel concetto forma una delle basi morali fondamentali di religiosi i cui segnaci sono oltre i due terzi della popolazione del globo, mentre è influenzato dall'indole speciale di ciascuna di esse, cioè da un idealismo sovrumano nel Cristianesimo, da un nichilismo antiumano nel buddismo, e da un pandeismo eclettico nell'incipiente ma progrediente Bramoismo indiano; e a queste credenze che ammettono il principio ideale della fratellanza universale..." ("It is certain that this concept forms a fundamental moral bases of religious whose cable markers are more than two-thirds of the world's population, while special influence on the capacities of each of them, by a superhuman idealism in Christianity, by an anti-human nihilism in Buddhism, and by an incipient but growing pandeism in Indian Brahmanism; and those who admit the principle ideal of universal brotherhood....")

It is an intriguing mystery to understand how most any theological theory is shaped, how knowledge of it is passed on, but this is especially so in the case of Pandeism, with its sparsity of early references, which nonetheless can be shockingly crisp when they do arise. It seems odd, perhaps unlikely even, that this Italian Cluster, this grouping of references in one country, one language, one decade would be wholly unconnected -- and so perhaps there are more writings out there addressing the subject in this time and place, simply unknown by dint of their not yet having come to the attention of another modern innovation which Pandeism itself seems to imagine -- the Internet.

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