In the previous chapter I explored the place of encounter, and noted how religious experience can pull in two quite different directions, towards transcendence or towards immanence. Both, I suggested, needed to be affirmed when thinking of God. In a later chapter which deals with architecture I shall argue that the most successful forms of religiously adequate architecture are those that try to balance precisely those two aspects in the overall expression that the building seeks to achieve. However, in the two intervening chapters (this one and its successor) it may seem from their titles that the focus will be entirely on immanence. That is not so. In Chapter 4 (on place) an element of transcendence is introduced by the way in which any absolute value for a particular place is seen to be undermined by tactics such as symbolic geography and pilgrimage, while in this chapter (on the natural world) experiences of transcendence through nature will also be found to have a clear role. Indeed, one might argue that such experiences, where they occur, are even more strongly transcendent than is the case with the icon (discussed in the previous chapter). For, while the latter draws us into another world which its iconography indicates we can one day expect to share, often experience and representations of transcendence through nature propose something quite different: God as an unqualifiedly different kind of reality from what we are. So care will be needed as we explore the range of sacramentality available through nature.
This is, of course, an investigation that could have been conducted in numerous ways other than the one I have chosen. I might, for instance, have focused on the experiential accounts of ordinary believers, literary reflections of poets and others, or on the wonder generated through scientific explanation. Landscape painting and the abstract art that developed out of it have been selected instead for a number of reasons, not least because their religious dimension