Immanence Explained

Immanence refers to philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence, in which the divine is seen to be manifested in or encompassing of the material world. It is often contrasted with theories of transcendence, in which the divine is seen to be outside the material world. It is usually applied in monotheistic, pantheistic, or panentheistic faiths to suggest that the spiritual world permeates the non-spiritual.

Immanence is generally associated with mysticism and mystical sects, but most religions have elements of both immanent and transcendent belief in their doctrines. Major faiths commonly devote significant philosophical efforts to explaining the relationship between immanence and transcendence, but these efforts run the gamut from casting immanence as a characteristic of a transcendent God (common in Abrahamic faiths) to subsuming transcendent "personal" gods in a greater immanent being (Hindu Brahman) to approaching the question of transcendence as something which can only be answered through an appraisal of immanence (Buddhism, and some philosophical perspectives).

Immanence in religion

Immanence implies the omnipresence of a divine entity or essence. It is related to issues such as omnipotence and omniscience, but not all faiths consider the divine to be an 'actor' or a 'knower'.

Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

According to Christian theology the only transcendent, almighty, and holy God, who cannot be approached or seen in essence or being, becomes immanent primarily in the God-man Jesus the Christ, who is the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. In Eastern Orthodox theology the immanence of God is expressed as the hypostases or energies of God, who in his essence is incomprehensible and transcendent. In Catholic theology, Christ and the Holy Spirit immanently reveal themselves; God the Father only reveals himself immanently vicariously through the Son and Spirit, and the Divine Nature, the Godhead is wholly transcendent and unable to be comprehended.

This is expressed in St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, where he writes:

Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.

Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.

He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.[1]

The Holy Spirit is also expressed as an immanence of God.

and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."[2]

The immanence of the triune God is celebrated in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodoxy during the liturgical calendar feast as the Theophany of God (see Feast of Theophany).

Pope Pius X wrote at length about philosophical-theological controversies over immanence in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

In the theology of Karl Rahner, it is said that "the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity." That is to say, God communicates Himself to humanity ("economic" Trinity) as He really is in the divine Life ("immanent" Trinity).

Mormonism

According to Latter Day Saint theology all of the material creation is filled with by an immanence known as the "Light of Christ". This same immanence is responsible for the intuitive conscience born into man.The Light of Christ is understood as the source of intellectual and spiritual enlightenment. It is the means by which God is in and through all things.[3] These scriptures identify the divine Light as the mind of God, the source of all truth, and the conveyor of the characteristics of the divine nature (God’s goodness). The brilliance or glory of God when seen reflects the “fullness” of this spirit within God’s being.[4] Similarly, mankind can incorporate this spiritual light or divine mind and thus become one with God.[5] This immanent spirit of light bridges the scientific and spiritual conceptualizations of the universe.[6]

Verse 36 in section 93 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants says "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth."

Judaism and the Kabbalah

See main article: Tzimtzum. Traditional Jewish religious thought can be divided into Nigleh ("Revealed") and Nistar ("Hidden") dimensions. Hebrew Scripture is traditionally explained using the four level exegesis method of Pardes. In this system, the first three approaches of the Simple, Hinted and Homiletical interpretations, characterise the revealed aspects. The fourth approach of the Secret meaning, characterises a hidden aspect. Among the classic texts of Jewish tradition, some Jewish Bible commentators, the Midrash, the Talmud, and mainstream Jewish philosophy utilise revealed approaches. Other Bible commentators, the Kabbalah, and Hasidic philosophy, utilise hidden approaches. Both dimensions are traditionally seen as united and complimentary. In this way, ideas in Jewish thought are given a variety of ascending meanings. Explanations of a concept in Nigleh, are given inherent, inner, mystical contexts from Nistar.

Descriptions of Divine immanence are found in Nigleh, from the Bible to Rabbinic Judaism. In Genesis, God makes a personal covenant with the forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Daily Jewish prayers refer to this inherited closeness and personal relationship with the Divine, for their descendants, as "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". To Moses, God reveals his Tetragrammaton name, that more fully captures Divine descriptions of transcendence. Each of the Biblical names for God, describe different Divine manifestations. The most important prayer in Judaism, that forms part of the Scriptural narrative to Moses, says "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." This declaration combines different Divine names, and themes of immanence and transcendence. Perhaps the most personal example of a Jewish prayer that combines both themes is the invocation repeatedly voiced during the time in the Jewish calendar devoted to Teshuva (Return, often inaccurately translated as Repentance), Avinu Malkeinu ("Our Father, Our King"). Much of the later Hebrew Biblical narrative recounts the reciprocal relationship and national drama of the unfolding of themes of immanence and transcendence. Mainstream Jewish thought and philosophy further describes and articulates these interconnected aspects of the Divine-human relationship.

Jewish Mysticism gives explanations of greater depth and spirituality, to the interconnected aspects of God's immanence and transcendence. The main expression of mysticism, the Kabbalah, began to be taught in 12th Century Europe, and reached a new systemisation in 16th Century Israel. The Kabbalah gives the full, subtle, traditional system of Jewish metaphysics. In the Medieval Kabbalah, new doctrines described the 10 Sephirot (Divine emanations) through which the Infinite, unknowable Divine essence reveals, emanates, and continuously creates existence. The Kabbalists identified the final, feminine Sefirah with the earlier, traditional Jewish concept of the Shekhinah (immanent Divine Presence). This gave great spirituality to earlier ideas in Jewish thought, such as the theological explanations of suffering (theodicy). In this example, the Kabbalists described the Shekhinah accompanying the children of Israel in their exile, being exiled alongside them, and yearning for Her redemption. Such a concept derives from the Kabbalistic theology that the physical World, and also the Upper spiritual Worlds, are continuously recreated from nothing by the Shefa (flow) of Divine will, which emanates through the Sefirot. As a result, within all creations are Divine sparks of vitality that sustain them. Medieval Kabbalah describes two forms of Divine emanation, a "light that fills all worlds", representing this immanent Divine creative power, and a "light that surrounds all worlds", representing transcendent expressions of Divinity.

The new doctrines of Isaac Luria in the 16th Century completed the Kabbalistic system of explanation. Lurianic Kabbalah describes the process of Tzimtzum (צמצום meaning "Contraction" or "Constriction") in the Kabbalistic theory of creation, where God "contracted" his infinite essence in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which a finite, independent world could exist. This has received different later interpretations in Jewish mysticism, from the literal to the metaphorical. In this process, creation unfolds within the Divine reality. Luria offered a daring cosmic theology that explained the reasons for the Tzimtzum, the primordial catastrophe of Shevirat Hakelim (the "Breaking of the Vessels" of the Sefirot in the first existence), and the messianic Tikkun ("Fixing") of this by every individual through their sanctification of physicality. The concept of Tzimtzum contains a built-in paradox, as it requires that God be simultaneously transcendent and immanent:

Dzogchen

Tantric Buddhism and Dzogchen posit a non-dual basis for both experience and reality that could be considered an exposition of a philosophy of immanence that has a history on the subcontinent of India from early AD to the present. A paradoxical non-dual awareness or rigpa (Tibetanvidya in Sanskrit) — is said to be the 'self perfected state' of all beings. Scholarly works differentiate these traditions from monism. The non-dual is said to be not immanent and not transcendent, not neither, nor both. One classical exposition is the Madhyamaka refutation of extremes that the philosopher-adept Nagarjuna propounded.

Exponents of this non-dual tradition emphasize the importance of a direct experience of non-duality through both meditative practice and philosophical investigation. In one version, one maintains awareness as thoughts arise and dissolve within the 'field' of mind, one does not accept or reject them, rather one lets the mind wander as it will until a subtle sense of immanence dawns. Vipassana or insight is the integration of one's 'presence of awareness' with that which arises in mind. Non-duality or rigpa is said to be the recognition that both the quiet, calm abiding state as found in samatha and the movement or arising of phenomena as found in vipassana are not separate. In this way it could be stated that Dzogchen is a method for the recognition of a 'pure immanence' analogous to what Deleuze theorized about.

Pagan philosophy

Another meaning of immanence is the quality of being contained within, or remaining within the boundaries of a person, of the world, or of the mind. This meaning is more common within Christian and other monotheist theology, in which the one God is considered to transcend his creation.

Pythagoreanism says that the nous is an intelligent principle of the world acting with a specific intention. This is the divine reason regarded in Neoplatonism as the first emanation of the Divine.[7] Noetic (from Greek nous) is usually translated as "mind", "understanding", "intellect", or "reason". From the nous emerges the world soul, which gives rise to the manifest realm. Pythagoreanism goes on to say the Godhead is the Father, Mother, and Son (Zeus). In the mind of Zeus, the ideas are distinctly articulated and become the Logos by which he creates the world. These ideas become active in the Mind (nous) of Zeus. With him is the Power and from him is the nous.[8] This theology further explains that Zeus is called Demiurge (Dêmiourgos, Creator), Maker (Poiêtês), and Craftsman (Technitês).[9] The nous of the demiurge proceeds outward into manifestation becoming living ideas. They give rise to a lineage of mortal human souls.[10] The components of the soul are:[11] 1) the higher soul, seat of the intuitive mind (divine nous); 2) the rational soul (logistikon) (seat of discursive reason / dianoia); 3) the nonrational soul (alogia), responsible for the senses, appetites, and motion. Zeus thinks the articulated ideas (Logos). The idea of ideas (Eidos - Eidôn), provides a model of the Paradigm of the Universe, which the Demiurge contemplates in his articulation of the ideas and his creation of the world according to the Logos.[12]

Immanence in Continental philosophy

An exception to this idea would be Giovanni Gentile's "Actual Idealism" wherein immanence of subject is considered identified with transcendence over the material world. Giordano Bruno, Baruch Spinoza and, it may be argued, Hegel's philosophy were philosophies of immanence, as well as stoicism, versus philosophies of transcendence such as thomism or Aristotelian tradition. While risking oversimplification, Kant's "transcendental" critique, can be contrasted to Hegel's "immanent," dialectical idealist critique. Gilles Deleuze qualified Spinoza as the "prince of philosophers" for his theory of immanence, which Spinoza resumed by "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature"). Such a theory considers that there is no transcendent principle or external cause to the world, and that the process of life production is contained in life itself.[13] When compounded with Idealism, the immanence theory qualifies itself away from "the world" to there being no external cause to one's mind.

In the context of Kant's theory of knowledge Immanence means to remain in the boundaries of possible experience.

Political theorist Carl Schmitt used the term in his book Politische theologie (1922), meaning a power within some thought, which makes it obvious for the people to accept it, without needing to claim being justified.[14] The immanence of some political system or a part of it comes from the reigning contemporary definer of weltanschauung, namely religion (or any similar system of beliefs, such as rationalistic or relativistic world-view). The Nazis took advantage of this theory creating, or resurrecting, basically religious mythology of race, its heroes, and its destiny to motivate people and to make their reign unquestionable, which it became.[15]

The French 20th century philosopher Gilles Deleuze used the term immanence to refer to his "empiricist philosophy", which was obliged to create action and results rather than establish transcendentals. His final text was titled Immanence: a life..., spoke of a plane of immanence.[16]

Furthermore, the Russian Formalist film theorists perceived immanence as a specific method of discussing the limits of ability for a technological object. Specifically, this is the scope of potential uses of an object outside of the limits proscribed by culture or convention, and is instead simply the empirical spectrum of function for a technological artifact.[17]

Endnotes

  1. Philippians 2:6–8, (KJV)
  2. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=49&chapter=3&verse=22&version=31&context=verse Luke 3:22
  3. Doctrine and Covenants Section 88:6-13. Lds.org
  4. Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1891) particularly chap. V. Google Books Search
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 93:6-18 Lds.org and 50:24 Lds.org; John 17:22; cf. John 1:16 and 2 Corinthians 3:18
  6. B.H. Roberts "Divine Immanence", The Seventy's Course in Theology, Fifth year, pp. 1-34.John A. Widstoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968) [originally 1908] pp. 136-137.
  7. http://www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/divine.htm Sofiatopia.org
  8. http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/III.html#creationdemiurge Utk.edu
  9. http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/III.html#craftsman Utk.edu
  10. http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/V.html#basicprinciples Utk.edu
  11. http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/III.html#creationothers Utk.edu
  12. http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/III.html#selfcontemplating Utk.edu
  13. See Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics (transl. 1991, Minnesota University Press)
  14. Carl Schmitt: Political theology 1922, found in: Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty", University of Chicago Press.
  15. Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe & Nancy, Jean-Luc: The Nazi Myth (1990), Critical Inquiry 16:2 (winter), 291-312: the University of Chicago Press
  16. http://www.egs.edu/library/gilles-deleuze/biography/ Gilles Deleuze.
  17. Robert Stam, Film Theory, 2006 p.48

See also

External links