I Walk Imperfectly

Transcendence and Immanence

Sun 17 April 2016 |

I learned a new word recently. "Immanence".

There were a large number of times, when I was a child and adolescent, when I felt intense spiritual feelings, often as answers to prayer. Those declined in my 20s.

I know the church would say that's my fault and I just need to read/pray/obey more. But their blaming rolls off my back much more easily now than it used to.

I admit that I still do sometimes feel those moments of transcendence. But now I'm wary of calling them the Holy Ghost. I know about thinks like oxytocin and the vagus nerve and how these feelings can be manufactured.

But back to the new word.

While transcendence takes upward into the pure God place and separates us from the mundane, immanence does something possibly the opposite. It reveals the beauty, or even divinity, that's all around us. This is easy with conventionally beautiful things like flowers and mountains and children's laughter, but immanence helps me see the beauty in ugly things too. Sagebrush. Tears. Wasps. Annoying teenagers at McDonald's.

One source I was reading discussed how immanence was replacing transcendence for him. I think I've seen some of that in my life. But I'm not ready to give up on transcendence. I still have my moments.

Sometimes I wonder, if I were to design a religion for the maximum good it could do in people's lives, what would go in it? I think it would need to teach and provide opportunities for both transcendence and immanence. I don't yet know exactly what those would be, but I'm thinking about it.