Fascinated by the concept of transcendence I have started to conceptualize what I believe such states of existence could be.
I have to say I find the use of religious terminology off putting in the extreme. I dislike intensely the concept of an overlord, an anthropomorphic (or other) master who determines my fate and who acts as a gatekeeper to a mythical realm of bliss. I can however accept religion and religious literature as an interpretation, a metaphor, or a pointer.
Hence I find much enjoyment (instruction even) in the Psalms. But I view the Psalms as a poetic and often beautiful outpouring of human need and frailty. Human longing for safety and peace in an often frightening world. When reading the psalms I do not expect Jehova to pop up from the floor and save me or even speak to me. Nor would I wish him to. Any more than I want or expect to meet Gandalf or Tom Bombadil. Or Sauron for that matter.
I live in the 21st Century and find much religious thought, let alone dogma, belittling and degrading to the human spirit.
Religion is, to quote that wonderful Eastern phrase, merely a finger pointing at the moon. God was made in the image of man, not the reverse. God was a concept we invented to explain the apparently inexplicable. To comfort ourselves that all is well and all manner of things are well.
Such moments of clarity as I have had, such moments of bliss or apparent awakening have been of an altogether different sort.
If I were ever to acquire the ability to enter permanently into such state I would be most disappointed to have a boss, a committee or indeed any fleeting remnant of what passes for authority.
I have an extreme distaste for authority, perhaps because I believe, very strongly, that in a perfect world it would be unnecessary. In the same way that police would be unnecessary if there were no crime. And medicine redundant in the absence of disease.
Because I also believe very strongly that human justice is a poor joke and all too often used for purposes of repression and injustice, to keep an established class in situ.
I also dislike intensely the grovelling concept of service so beloved of Western religion. I do not wish to serve anybody thank you very much, and in the perfect world of bliss which exists in my own imagination, such service is neither requested nor necessary. There is nobody to serve and no services required. Service can not, under any circumstances or system of logic, be perfect freedom, whoever it is you are expected to serve.
So how do I envisage bliss? The transcendent state. The release from the drudgery, fear and horrors all too readily apparent in the physical world we see around us.
The realm of god (“heaven”in English) is a different and in many ways separable concept from that of a “god”, a creator, an overlord. Or at least it is in my imagination; in my wishes. In my belief even.
It is a state in which peace is not only attainable but ever present. It is a “place” where justice is natural and a fact of existence. Where there is plenty (perhaps because physical nourishment is no longer necessary). Where there is no pain, mental or physical. Where there is contentment. Where anxiety does not exists because there is no reason to be anxious. Where guilt is an unknown and unnecessary concept.
I have often thought of that old explanation of magic, or rather what super powers must seem like to a backward and technologically ignorant race. We read much about mind, consciousness. Some still claim adherence to the concepts of Jung, some scientists even posit something not so very dissimilar to his universal consciousness.
That consciousness just is. Is a law of nature, an irreducible feature like light or the nuclear force.
Is it so very fanciful then to suppose that in the far distant future a form of consciousness may be found or indeed created without the frailties which attach to our own inferior version?
A consciousness de-coupled from matter, free from the stifling necessity of defeating entropy day in, day out.
I have heard many say that mysticism and science are perhaps not such strangers to each other. My own belief is that the future might reveal that the mystic state is what a backward people might call a reality created by a sufficiently advanced species. As stone age man might construe electricity as magic, so we deem nirvana or ecstasy. Some impossibly unattainable state which has nonetheless been achieved by others eons removed from us in sophistication.
I am sorry for my outspokenness in so far as it may upset or even insult the cherished beliefs of so many who cling to more traditional beliefs. But I do not feel that should prevent me from propounding my own equally deeply felt “beliefs”.
It would not be enough to live in the imperfect Culture. But to be a member of a Sublimed species. That might just about do the trick.
Illustration By Hill (wikipedia:it:Utente:Hill) – own work, (not derivative from nothing), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1969364
Yes!!!!!!!! I hold out hope too of being able to play in more mystic waters once the human race becomes an adult 🙂
You continue to challenge your readers with your reasoning and your straightforward approach to your subjects, and within this posting are several important areas of interest, about which I hope you will allow me to offer some mitigating counter ideas for your consideration.
Joseph Campbell, professor at Sarah Lawrence while he lived, was probably the foremost expert on mythology in the Western hemisphere, and his treatment of religious traditions as a distinct mythology all its own helped me to understand my own myths and ideas about the world. He believed that myths were “stories of our search for truth, for meaning, for significance…to understand the mysterious, to find out who we are.” He also believed that what we are really seeking through myth and through religion, “…is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” “Myths,” he said, “are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”
In reference to “God,” Campbell wrote that “God is an ambiguous word in our language because it APPEARS to refer to something that is known. But the transcendent is unknowable and unknown. God is transcendent, finally, of anything like the name “God…God is beyond names and forms…the mystery of life is beyond all human conception.” Here Campbell is suggesting that the term “God,” refers to that which cannot be expressed in words. It is probably more correct to say that man clearly has created the mythology and stories surrounding the traditional religious concept of “God,” but since the term has no comprehensible, truly informative, or relevant linguistic meaning per se, we tend to create the story which satisfies our inability to explain the concept.
None of these explanations eliminates the potential existence of that which cannot be described through language, but it does place us squarely within the true mystery which is life, and whether or not one wishes to believe in the anthropomorphic “father figure,” or “the multiple gods of the Hindu’s” or the “Great Pumpkin,” there may be some organizing force or transcendent energy to which we apply our stories, as best we can with our limited abilities as temporal beings.
Regarding your suggestion that,”Service can not, under any circumstances or system of logic, be perfect freedom, whoever it is you are expected to serve,” while you refer primarily to the concept of service to a deity in the religious sense, it is my feeling that service can, under certain circumstances embody such freedom, since the idea of service to another, according to the Shaolin tradition, is expressed thusly, “if, in serving, one is served, and in being served, one also serves, are these not the folds of the same garment?” To render service to another can serve us equally well, and in being served, we may serve an important purpose for another. We do not “serve” God by adoration or through copious hours of prayer, or by adhering to some traditional ritual concocted by ancient ancestors, but we may serve our own purposes and enhance our survival by “mitigating the fear of death and increasing cohesiveness of social support,” and allowing our individual spirit to be enriched through being open to spiritual guidance, however it might be transmitted while we seek our answers.
Our brains are ultimately the product of our genetic inheritance mainly, and while there are clear correlations between intelligence and our ability to “adapt to new and difficult environments,” there is a school of thought that “self transcendence and spiritual acceptance are also inherited in a complex manner involving many genes that correlate with PET images,” of particular brain regions, suggesting a temporal relationship with a spiritual component to our very human nature.
Your outspokenness is not a liability in my view, and if what we express of our genuine beliefs, “upsets” or “insults” someone else’s cherished beliefs, that speaks more to the uncertainty of the other than it does to the verity of our own beliefs.
Sorry this is so long….John H.
How do you understand transcendence, Anthony? And what are the states? — Fellow Mystic
Well unfortunately I am still lurching my way forward after so very many years of looking. I get the occasional moment of complete peace when everything seems absolutley as it should be. For me it would be such a moment stretched into eternity.
For me transcendence is when one sees their true nature. This is when one sees the things as they are (the truth) and feels the eternal peace (like you say). I don’t believe in a religious God, yet our true nature is God (or love, or creation, whatever works). Once one realises this, they will have transcended. Good luck on your path!