Transcendence

“For thousands of years philosophers in China, India, and the West have given utterance to a thought which is everywhere and at all times the same, though diverse in its expression: man can transcend the subject-object dichotomy and achieve a total union of subject and object, in which all objectness vanishes and the I is extinguished. Then authentic Being opens up to us, leaving behind it, as we awaken from our trance, a consciousness of profound and inexhaustible meaning. For him who has experienced it, this becoming One is the true awakening, and the awakening to consciousness in the subject-object dichotomy is more in the nature of sleep.” — Karl Jaspers

“Transcendence beyond the world or before the world is called God.” — Karl Jaspers

Is there “God”, and if there is, what is it? When we think about this concept, we have to see, first of all, the constraining boundaries of our thinking.

The fundamental attributes of our existence are space, time, freewill, causality, and the dichotomies of transcendental (subjectivity) and phenomenal (objectivity), transcendent and immanent aspects of consciousness. The stream of our existence is a continuous process, aka “time” and “change”: time flows, everything changes, each “moment” — each phenomenal and underlying transcendental state of consciousness — is replaced by another “moment” which is replaced by another “moment”, and so forth, again and again, as long as we remember ourselves. We are always within this process, for we are this process, and since we cannot get out of it, for it would mean getting out of our individual existence, we cannot think of anything outside of this process, as well as outside of other fundamental attributes of our existence. But we are not explicitly aware of these constraining boundaries of our thinking, and therefore we do not notice that when we think, for instance, of eternity, we think of the infinite duration of time, rather than of nontemporality that we cannot imagine in principle. The same applies to other fundamental attributes of our existence that constrain our thinking as its natural boundaries.

Now, if we examine the religious concept of “God”, we will discover that this concept is an anthropomorphic construct of our constrained thinking that has not escaped its natural boundaries. For instance, “God” of religions exists in time: “God” successively decides and acts, rests and observes, creates and destroys, etc. The reason why the anthropomorphic images of “God” have been so popular for thousands of years is the inability of most believers to realize that, when they fantasize about “God”, they think within the boundaries of their existence, whereas the Divine is transcendent to these boundaries, and hence the Divine cannot be conceived discursively in principle.

“One of the greatest favors bestowed on the soul transiently in this life is to enable it to see so distinctly and to feel so profoundly that it cannot comprehend God at all. These souls are herein somewhat like the saints in heaven, where they who know Him most perfectly perceive most clearly that He is infinitely incomprehensible; for those who have the less clear vision do not perceive so clearly as do these others how greatly He transcends their vision.” — St. John of the Cross

“We cannot doubt the existence of mystical experience, nor can we doubt that mystics have always been unable to communicate what is most essential in their experience. The mystic is immersed in [Transcendence]. The communicable partakes of the subject-object dichotomy, and a clear consciousness seeking to penetrate the Infinite can never attain the fullness of that source. We can speak only of that which takes on object form. All else is incommunicable.” — Karl Jaspers

“[The ascetic] correctly understands the [transcendent] Reality, the fact that [its] essence is inexpressible. This is called emptiness (śūnyatā) rightly grasped, rightly penetrated through correct transcendent wisdom.” — Bodhisattvabhūmi

“To think of something, I must think of something definite. Definite being is a mental conception. Transcendent Being is inconceivable and undefinable.” – Karl Jaspers

“Why dost thou prate of God? Whatever thou sayest of Him is untrue.” — Meister Eckhart

We can approach in our thinking that of which no representations are possible through negation, consistently negating all images of divine Transcendence as false. To think of “God” the only correct way, we must negate not only all false representations of Transcendence imposed on us by religions but also the word “God” itself that inevitably gives rise to associations with religious myths.

“[T]o philosophy the tangible symbols of religion seem like deceptive veils and misleading simplifications. Religion denounces the God of philosophy as a mere abstraction, philosophy distrusts the religious images of God as seductive idols, magnificent as they may be.” — Karl Jaspers

“Transcendence is beyond all form. We ascertain the philosophical idea of God as thinking fails us, and what we grasp in this failure is that there is a Deity, not what it is. … We find here no personal God of wrath and of grace, no relevance of a life of prayer as religious action, no lasting visuality of the Deity for our senses, in symbols as objects of faith.” — Karl Jaspers

The negation of false images of Transcendence is not a negation for the sake of void, but only the removal of conceptual rubbish and the clearing of intellectual space where we will begin our progress towards truth. Each of us should start this movement only by himself and only from the very beginning — from the fundamental question “What is?”. And for the first time we encounter the mystery of Transcendence when for the first time in our meditations we are deeply astonished by the mystery of consciousness.

The only empirical reality that is ever given to us subjectively and intersubjectively is the reality of phenomenal consciousness: thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, illusions, hallucinations, dreams, worldly colorforms, sounds, sensations (olfactory, gustatory, tactile, etc.), and meanings; everything else that we imagine to explain the nature of this phenomenal reality is explanatory abstractions (e.g., the metaphysical concept of “physical matter”) which are nothing but thoughts, ideas. Thus, we never experience a non-phenomenal substance to which phenomena can be reduced. Hence, the substance of phenomena is transcendent, it is an absolute mystery of transcendent consciousness-in-itself — Transcendence.

“Because it shows us no new object, the idea [of Transcendence], measured by our customary worldly knowledge, is empty. But by its form it opens up to us infinite possibilities in which Being may manifest itself to us, and at the same time lends transparency to everything that is. It transforms the meaning of the world of objects, by awakening in us a faculty of sensing what authentically is in the phenomenon.” — Karl Jaspers

“The eye of true Being looks at us from existence, as its Transcendence.” — Karl Jaspers

Our mundane thinking resists the idea of Transcendence because it lacks an objective content, empty (that explains why in Buddhism one of the names of Transcendence is “emptiness” — śūnyatā). We cannot think outside of the subject-object dichotomy, for all thinking is carried out within this division, outside of it there is nothing thinkable; therefore, we cannot think Transcendence, for Transcendence is not an object. We can point to Transcendence by the negative arguments of reason, but we can never make a positive assertion about Transcendence, for it would mean turning into an object that which transcends all objects. Therefore, Transcendence can be only a matter of philosophical faith.

“Philosophical faith is the indispensable source of all genuine philosophizing. From it comes the striving of individuals in the world to experience and investigate the appearances of Reality with the aim of attaining the reality of Transcendence ever more clearly.” — Karl Jaspers

“Pure immanence without Transcendence remains nothing but deaf existence. … Transcendence does not enter into a blind soul.” — Karl Jaspers

Transcendence is unthinkable, but we can directly experience Transcendence in a mystical (transpersonal) experience of self-transcending to that which is experienced by the mystics, yogins, and psychonauts of all epochs as the ineffable nondual Light.

“[Transcendence] (tathātā) … is something that is perceived directly. That state cannot be expressed because it is to be personally experienced. … Since it is [Transcendence] that is personally experienced, it is not within the sphere of dialectics, and there is no example in the world that is able to represent it and cause it to be known.” — Vasubandhu

We cannot imagine Transcendence, but can experience our Ultimate Self under certain conditions that cannot be spoken of except by the poetry of mysticism:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Pure immanence without Transcendence remains nothing but deaf existence.” — Karl Jaspers

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Misha Rogov

Misha Rogov

“Pure immanence without Transcendence remains nothing but deaf existence.” — Karl Jaspers

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