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Immanence is the religious and metaphysical concept of a supreme divine force or being existing and acting within the physical 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 Him. This understanding is often used in Hinduism to describe the relationship of Brahman or the Cosmic 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 popularised the concept of immanence, were influenced by Hindu views.

Immanence and Jesus in Christianity

In Christianity, the transcendent, almighty and holy God, who cannot be approached or seen, becomes immanent primarily in the God-man Jesus the Christ, who is the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity.

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. [1]

Tzimtzum in the Kabbalistic theory

Main article: Tzimtzum

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 - everything would be overwhelmed by God's totality. Thus existence requires God's transcendence, as above.
  • 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...".


Tantric Buddhism and the pinnacle of the path, Dzogchen, posits a state free from dualistic constrictions. The state of non-dual awareness or rigpa (Tibetan -vidya in Sanskrit) - is the 'self perfected state' of all beings. It is a state that is free from any duality, but is not monistic as some Western philosophers mistakenly assume. The non-dual state is both immanent and transcendent, it is neither, nor both. This is the Madhyamaka refutation of extremes that the great philosopher-boddhisattva Nagarjuna spoke of with much eloquence.

Rigpa is an experience that one must be introduced to by a qualified master, but there are practices that one can employ before such introduction to help in recognizing this state. For instance: tantric ngondro, samatha and vipassana practice, yidam practice, Madhyamaka dialectics, and etc. Samatha or vipassana practice is found within all the various Buddhist schools, but the emphasis is different depending on the specific yana or vehicle. Samatha is translated as 'calm abiding', and is described as 'finding one's presence of awareness in the abscence of thought'. One maintains awareness as thoughts arise and dissolve within the 'field' of mind, one does not accept or reject them, rather one enjoys the play of mind. Vipassana or insight is the integration of one's 'presence of awareness' with that which arises in mind. That which arises in mind could be a thought, a feeling, a passing noise, and etc. The term has the connotation that one enters into such an arising of phenomena. Non-duality or rigpa is the recognition that both the quiet, calm abiding state as found in samatha and the movement or arising of phenemena as found in vipassana are not separate. In this way it could be stated that Dzogchen is a method or recognition of the 'pure immanence' that Deleuze sought out. It must be noted that within Dzogchen as well as all Buddhist schools, no notion of a creator is postulated.

Alternative Meaning (Contained)

Another meaning of immanence is that it is something that is 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.

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 & 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. Gilles Deleuze qualified Spinoza as the "prince of philosophers" for his theory of immanence, which Spinoza resumed by "Deus sive Natura" ("God is 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. [2] 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.[1] 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".


It is derived from the Latin words, in and manere, the original meaning being "to exist or remain within."


  1. The Bible, Philippians 2:6-8, (KJV)
  2. See Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics (transl. 1991, Minnesota Univ. Press)

See also

External links


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