To be very honest I never liked this word much. Transcendence. To me it always has a taste of “rising above” something, of rejecting something, of gaining superiority in comparison to something. In fact the first word coming up as a synonym in the English dictionary when you look up transcendence is: superiority. Somehow that seems like the exact opposite of what I feel it actually points to. Hence I tend to use transformation more often in its place, even though one could make a case that they are inherently different, I always felt transformation is a more grounded, more earthy form of transcendence, containing more humility, at least in describing it.
My sense is that transcendence in its essence needs no description, or rather loses its supremacy in describing it. It often sounds wrong when someone speaks of having transcended something. As if, would that be true, there would be no need of speaking about it. Differently so with transformation, for some mysterious reason. Perhaps because it is a more earthly, more human form of conversion.
So why talk about Transcendence then? Well, it is a commonly used principle, especially in the Spiritual world, and while I look upon its claim and formulation skeptically, I in no way would want to invalidate its power.
There is a paradox in how we approach transcendence, similarly to that of loosing its innate quality when talking about it. This paradox lies in the discrepancy of speaking “about” non-duality, so claiming transcendence rather than being transcended, an account of non-duality from a dual perspective. There is a contradiction inherent in FORMulating that which is formless.
From another angle of my suspicion of our spiritual culture’s relationship to transcendence, I can’t help but look at the implications of the basic longing to transcending something. Therein lies yet another incongruence.
Adyashanti, a modern spiritual teacher, describes it like this: “A total acceptance of yourself brings about a total transcendence of yourself:”
I believe this statement to be true, and yet my experience and observations have been that the basic “striving for” transcendence insinuates a non-acceptance of either parts, or even the whole, of who we are as human beings.
We want to transcend anger, jealousy, suffering, greed, hate etc. (usually negative places is ourselves), in the hope of higher states. Doesn’t that totally defeat Adyashanti´s premise? What a dilemma.
Would that not consequentially mean that transcendence lies in embracing these “negative” states whole heartedly? Would that not mean that “wanting” to transcend them in the first place would be counter-“productive” in the light of that premise.
Well, if we could agree on that conclusion it would mean that the best thing you can do to transcend anything, is to not feed the need to transcend it at all. This is a paradox again. Which makes it so hard for me to have conversations around either wanting to transcend anything, or worse even, having transcended something already. As my inquiry keeps on leading me back to the conclusion (admittedly a conceptual one) in which acceptance is transcendence and that that which is transcended is no longer.
So, no need to yearn for it or talk about it. Which leaves me at square one, where transcendence is not a subject that I feel is easy or, dare I say it, relevant, to talk about.
Make what you will of it, this is but a musing on transcendence and its’ apparent relevance as a spiritual concept that might inspire the contemplation of letting go of the idea of having to transcend anything without letting go of transcendence as a reality.
See it as an invitation to embrace the paradox that is life.
K a n i k a F r i n g s
Co-Founder DIMA Mallorca, Centre for Conscious Living