1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Immanence
IMMANENCE (from Lat. in-manere to dwell in, remain), in philosophy and theology a term applied in contradistinction to “transcendence,” to the fact or condition of being entirely within something. Its most important use is for the theological conception of God as existing in and throughout the created world, as opposed, for example, to Deism (q.v.), which conceives Him as separate from and above the universe. This conception has been expressed in a great variety of forms (see Theism, Pantheism). It should be observed that the immanence doctrine need not preclude the belief in the transcendence of God: thus God may be regarded as above the world (transcendent) and at the same time as present in and pervading it (immanent). The immanence doctrine has arisen from two main causes, the one metaphysical, the other religious. Metaphysical speculation on the relation of matter and mind has naturally led to a conviction of an underlying unity of all existence, and so to a metaphysical identification of God and the universe: when this identification proceeds to the length of expressing the universe as merely a mode or form of deity the result is pantheism (cf. the Eleatics): when it regards the deity as simply the sum of the forces of nature (cf. John Toland) the result is naturalism. In either case, but especially in the former, it frequently becomes pure mysticism (q.v.). Religious thinkers are faced by the problem of the Creator and the created, and the necessity for formulating a close relationship between God and man, the Infinite and Perfect with the finite and imperfect. The conception of God as wholly external to man, a purely mechanical theory of the creation, is throughout Christendom regarded as false to the teaching of the New Testament as also to Christian experience. The contrary view has gained ground in some quarters (cf. the so-called “New Theology” of Rev. R. J. Campbell) so far as to postulate a divine element in human beings, so definitely bridging over the gap between finite and infinite which was to some extent admitted by the bulk of early Christian teachers. In support of such a view are adduced not only the metaphysical difficulty of postulating any relationship between the infinite and the purely finite, but also the ethical problems of the nature of human goodness—i.e. how a merely human being could appreciate the nature of or display divine goodness—and the epistemological problem of explaining how finite mind can cognize the infinite. The development of the immanence theory of God has coincided with the deeper recognition of the essentially spiritual nature of deity as contrasted with the older semi-pagan conception found very largely in the Old Testament of God as primarily a mighty ruler, obedience to whom is comparable with that of a subject to an absolute monarch: the idea of the dignity of man in virtue of his immediate relation with God may be traced in great measure to the humanist movement of the 14th and 15th centuries (cf. the Inner Light doctrine of Johann Tauler). In later times the conception of conscience as an inward monitor is symptomatic of the same movement of thought. In pure metaphysics the term “immanence-philosophy” is given to a doctrine held largely by German philosophers (Rehmke, Leclair, Schuppe and others) according to which all reality is reduced to elements immanent in consciousness. This doctrine is derived from Berkeley and Hume on the one hand and from Kantianism on the other, and embodies the principle that nothing can exist for the mind save itself. The natural consequence of this theory is that the individual consciousness alone exists (solipsism): this position is, however, open to the obvious criticism that in some cases individual consciousnesses agree in their content. Schuppe, therefore, postulates a general consciousness (Bewusstsein überhaupt).