AskDefine | Define immanence

Dictionary Definition

immanence n : the state of being within or not going beyond a given domain [syn: immanency, inherence]

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  1. the state of being immanent
  2. the presence of a deity in the real world


See also

Extensive Definition

distinguish Imminence Immanence, derived from the Latin in manere "to remain within", refers to philosophical and metaphysical theories of the divine as existing and acting within the mind or the world. This concept generally contrasts or coexists with the idea of transcendence.

Immanence in religion

In worship, a believer in immanence might say that one can find God wherever one seeks. This understanding is often used in Hinduism to describe the relationship of Brahman, or the Supreme Being, to the material world (i.e., monistic theism). Hinduism posits Brahman as both transcendent and immanent — varying emphasis on either quality is made by the different philosophies/denominations within the religion. Immanence is one of the five key concepts in Druze, and is represented by the color white. Scholars such as Henry David Thoreau, who popularized the concept of immanence, were influenced by Hindu views.
Belief in the immanence of the transcendent God is a distinguishing characteristic of both Christianity and Judaism. It is common for both Jews and Christians to refer to God as "My God," a phraseology seen as inappropriate by Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists. Christians also have the distinction of referring to God as "Abba Father", a personally endearing term akin to "daddy" used by Jesus in Mark 14:36 and later by Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6.


In Christianity, the 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 believed to be the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. In Orthodox theology the immanence of God is expressed as the hypostasises and or energies of God. God who in his essence is incomprehensible and transcendent.
This is most famously expressed in St Paul's letter to the Philippians, where he writes:
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
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."
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 ).


According to LDS theology all of the material creation we see is filled with and indeed empowered by an immanence known as the "Light of Christ". This same immanence is responsible for the intuitive conscience born into man. It maintains and sustains the physical universe. This belief is in addition to the more commonly discussed belief in Mormon theology that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings (and probably most accurately described as "transcendent").

Tzimtzum in the Kabbalistic theory

In Jewish Mysticism, Tzimtzum (צמצום Hebrew: "contraction" or "constriction") refers to the notion in the Kabbalistic theory of creation that God "contracted" his infinite essence in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which a finite, independent world could exist. The concept of Tzimtzum contains a built-in paradox, as it requires that God be simultaneously transcendent and immanent:
  • On the one hand, if the "Infinite" did not restrict itself, then nothing could exist — there would be no limits, and hence we could not have the infinite variety of limited things that comprises Being in the world that we inhabit. Because each limited thing results from a restriction of God's completeness, God itself must transcend (exist beyond) these various limited things.
  • On the other hand, God continuously maintains the existence of, and is thus not absent from, the created universe. "The Divine life-force which brings all creatures into existence must constantly be present within them ... were this life-force to forsake any created being for even one brief moment, it would revert to a state of utter nothingness, as before the creation ...". (Tanya, Shaar Hayichud Chapter 2-3, By Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad)


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 the early common era to the present. A paradoxical non-dual awareness or rigpa (Tibetan — vidya 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 remains 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. 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 . This theology further explains that Zeus is called Demiurge (Dêmiourgos, Creator), Maker (Poiêtês), and Craftsman (Technitês). The nous of the demiurge proceeds outward into manifestation becoming living ideas. They give rise to a lineage of mortal human souls. The components of the soul are: 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.

Immanence in philosophy

The term "immanence" is usually understood to mean that the divine force, or the divine being, pervades through all things that exist, and is able to influence them. Such a meaning is common in pantheism and panpsychism, and it implies that divinity is inseparably present in all things. In this meaning immanence is distinct from transcendence, the latter being understood as the divinity being set apart from or transcending the World (an exception being 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 "transcendent" critique, for example, 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. 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.
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. Similarly, Giorgio Agamben writes in The Coming Community (1993): "There is an effect something that humans are and have to be, but this is not an essence nor properly a thing: It is the simple fact of one's own existence as possibility or potentiality".
In a similar vein, the term has been used by the Kennesaw School to show the emergent nature of communal relationality and the potential for becoming within an Age of Globalization.


See also

External links

immanence in Czech: Imanence
immanence in German: Immanenz
immanence in Estonian: Immanentne
immanence in French: Immanence
immanence in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Immanentia
immanence in Italian: Immanenza
immanence in Hebrew: אימננטיות
immanence in Dutch: Immanentie
immanence in Norwegian: Immanent
immanence in Polish: Immanencja
immanence in Portuguese: Imanência
immanence in Russian: Имманентный
immanence in Slovak: Imanentizmus
immanence in Ukrainian: Іманентність
immanence in Chinese: Immanence

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