The Contemplation of Immanence

from: Mysticism complied by F. C. Happold


"There is an exquisite description of it in a novel, The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton, which, though in the guise of fiction, is so vivid in quality and so penetrating in its insight, that one cannot but feel that it is founded on first-hand experience. Here it is:

A ray of sunlight started down between the tree trunks. It touched the pool with liquid gold. The pool became transparent to its green depths and her self was plunged in those depths and yet upraised with joy upon the rushing wind. The light grew stronger and turned white. In this crystal whiteness there was ecstasy.

Against the light she saw a wren fly by; the wren was made of rhythm, it flew with meaning, with a radiant meaning. There was the same meaning in the caterpillar as it inched along the rock, and the moss, and the little nuts which had rolled across the leaves.

And still the apperception grew, and the significance. The significance was bliss, it made a created whole of everything she watched and touched and heard - and the essence of this created whole was love. She felt love pouring from the light, it bathed her with music and with perfume; the love was far off at the source of the light, and yet it drenched her through. And the source and she were one.

The minutes passed. The light moved softly down, and faded from the pool. The ecstasy diminished, it quietened, but in its stead came a serenity and sureness she had never known.

All the chief characteristics of the pan-en-henic experience are present, the perception of the fusion of the one in the All, and the All in the One, of a hidden meaning and significance lying behind external phenomena, of the underlying love upholding and permeation everything, of the unity of the knower and known; and, through it all, a feeling of intense joy, sureness, and serenity.

One of the most vivid descriptions of this fresh vision of the phenomenal world is found in the Journal of George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends. ‘All things were new,’ and ‘all creation gave another smell unto me than before.’

It has been known by many of the poets, for instance by;


William Blake:

                          To see a world in a grain of sand

                          And heaven in a wild flower,

                          Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

                          And eternity in an hour.



                          Flower in the crannied wall,

                          I pluck you out of the crannies: -

                          Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,

                          Little flower – but if I could understand

                          What you are, root and all, and all in all,

                          I should know what God and man is.



                         That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,

                         That Beauty in which all things work and move,

                         That Benediction which the eclipsing curse

                         Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love

                         Which through the web of being blindly wove

                          By man and beast and earth and air and sea,

                          Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of

                          The fire or which all thirst………



                                           God is seen God


           In the star, in the stone, in the flesh, in the soul and the clod.



William Wordsworth:


            …something for more deeply interfused,

            Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

            And the round ocean, and the living air,

            And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

            A motion and a spirit, that impels

            All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

            And rolls through all things.


Francis Thompson knew it and gave it expression in The Mistress of Vision:


            When to the new heart of thee

             All things by immortal power

             Near or far,


             To each other linked are,

             That thou canst not stir a flower

             Without troubling of a star…


While John Masefield puts it into the mouth of the converted drunkard in

The Everlasting Mercy:


              The station brook to my new eyes

              Was babbling out of Paradise,

               The waters rushing from the rain

               Were singing Christ is risen again.

               I thought all earthly creatures knelt

               For rapture of the joy I felt.

               The narrow station wall’s brick ledge

               The wild hop withering in the hedge,

               The lights in huntsman’s upper story

               Were parts of an eternal glory.


Julian of Norwich – Revelation of Diving Love


“He showed me a little thing, the quality of an hazel-nut in the palm of my hand; and it was round as a ball. I looked thereupon with the eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this by? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. And I marveled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth and ever shall last, for that God loveth it. And so ALL-Thing hath the Being by the love of God.


In this Little Thing, I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second that God loveth it, the third that God keepeth it. But what are to me verily the Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover – I cannot tell.