The word transcendence is an abstract term for many people. Most of those who have a generic idea of what this concept means, usually associate it with God and religion aspects.
Lawrence Auster considers that the loss of our traditional culture and habits represents the denial of transcendence. This term plays a significant role in everyone’s life. Hence, it does not apply strictly to God and religious views.
Both “transcendental” and “transcendence” are used in Philosophy and convey the basic ground concept from the word’s literal meaning. “Transcendence” comes from Latin and means climbing or going beyond. However, the word’s meaning has various connotations in its different historical and cultural stages.
The initial transcendence definition is the one with reference to God’s relation with the world and it was important in the theology domain. In this context, the word “transcendent” means that God is beyond the physical world, compared with the notion that God is manifesting himself in the world.
This type of transcendent definition originates in the Aristotelian view of God, a non-material self-consciousness that is above and beyond the material world as we know it. In comparison to this view, the philosophers of stoicism and pantheism periods sustain that God is in fact manifested in the world and is completely present in all material things in the world.
Transcendent Definition and Meaning During Medieval Times
In the Medieval period, a second transcendence definition and meaning appeared. During those times, the word “transcendent” was used to describe concepts and things that were broader than what the human mind could perceive.
The main examples of the transcendence concept back then were those of unity, truth, and goodness.
The Modern Philosophy Approach and Input On the Transcendent Definition
Kant was the one to introduce a new term, transcendental, this way creating a third meaning. This third concept has to do with the possibilities of knowledge. As opposed to “transcendent”, which in his opinion meant something that goes beyond human comprehension, “transcendental” is described as a knowledge about our cognitive faculty.
He said that we become transcendental in the moment we know things and objects even before we experience them. In his theory, Kant thought that normal ordinary knowledge is that of the objects, while transcendental knowledge is the human possibility to experience those objects and categorize them as being objects.
Furthermore, Kant states that the human mind contributes to the objects’ features such as persistence, casual relationships between humans and objects around them, etc. He explained how there is a strong connection between the ability to have self-transcendence consciousness and the ability to experience the world of objects. For Kant, the “transcendent”, as opposed to the “transcendental”, is that which goes beyond our faculty of knowledge.
In phenomenology, the transcendence definition describes that which transcends our own consciousness.
The Colloquial Usage of the Transcendence Concept
Nowadays, in the ordinary language, transcendence means “going beyond”. It still has something to do with the spiritual part of the existence, sometimes even with mystical experiences. In these experiments, the sense of a separate self is abandoned. “Self-transcendence” is believed to be psychometrically measurable.
In other words, transcendence is the act of rising above something to a superior state. There can be many transcendental experiences, from meditation to achieve a high-feeling state at a rock concert.
As I previously stated, the word “transcendence” comes from the Latin prefix “trans” which means beyond, and the word “scandare” which means “to climb”. When someone achieves the transcendence state means he/she has gone beyond ordinary limitations.
This concept is usually used to describe a religious or spiritual state, but it is also used in the case of moving beyond physical needs and material realities.
The concept of transcendence does not apply only to cultural, and moral elements of our existence but also to social categories and well-represented roles like that of a minister, a man, a woman, even humans in general, etc. Every individual has a meaning that goes beyond his material form. Some philosophers and writers think that all individuals are “transcendent” because their inner self-awareness is not something they can sense or feel or touch, though we know about its existence and is a valuable source of every person.
So, transcendental means above, higher than something else, and even independent from all the others. We can even talk about an athlete whose abilities transcend all others.
In relation to God, transcendent is the idea that He exists above and independently from all creation. In other words, there is no other form of existence that can match the power of the Creator. God is seen as transcendent in terms of the power He has in the world, because of the fact that He created all living creatures and all objects of the world, and last, but not least, He is sinless.
Transcendence as the form of God also means that He is eternal. No other living thing can possess this ability. However, the transcendent definition also includes earthlier meaning such as elusive, or beyond perception.
Transcendence as A Form of Meditation
Transcendental Meditation is a specific form of mantra meditation called the Transcendental Meditation technique. This method was introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in India, in the 1950s. This movement became more popular during the 1960s and 1970s.
During those years, Maharishi switched to a more technical presentation, and his meditation techniques were practiced even by celebrities. By 2000, Transcendental Meditation has been taught to millions of people, and the global organization had grown to include educational programs, health products, and other related services.
However, Transcendental Meditation dates back to the Vedic traditions in India.
Transcendental Meditation Technique
The meditation involves a series of practices consisting in the use of mantra. This ritual is practiced for 15-20 minutes twice per day while sitting in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
This seems to be one of the most practiced and researched meditation techniques. There is even a seven-step course available worldwide. This method of meditation has been described as both religious and non-religious. This is due to the fact that it has a non-religious practice specially created for self-development purposes.
Transcendental Meditation has many followers and fans all over the globe. It is said to reduce stress and to induce psychological changes as well as a state of consciousness. However, some studies made in the 1970s showed that many individuals who were meditating for the first time, napped during their period of sitting with their eyes closed.
Meditation, in general, is considered to be benefic for both the mind and body, releasing stress and inducing a more relaxed state of mind as well as calmness.
Buddhism and Transcendent Mediation
In Buddhism, transcendence encourages the process of dis-identifying from our lives, because focusing on escaping the world one tends to accept it as it is.
Buddhist transcendent meditation has a significant impact on more than just one level: psychological, social, linguistic, and more. The only downside that some see in this method is the fact that one should separate himself from the others and from the world. This could have negative consequences on the individual, as part of a social group or community.
Buddhists say that their meditation is not made to exclude yourself from the world or from the society, but to accept its social limitations and let go of oneself, realizing one’s nonduality with it. This helps people regain their eager of thinking, feeling, etc., because in this society of high consumerism we tend to work too much and lose the ability of emotional experiences.
Furthermore, the whole idea of the transcendence in our modern world is to discover and explore your inner world, you mind, instead of the external one. If awakening means transcending this suffering world, we can ignore its problems.
However, some say that Buddhists try to avoid an informative discussion about the role of transcendence in their methods. In many popular books about Buddhism the subject of transcendence is not often mentioned.
Transcending means, as you could read above, to have gone beyond certain limits such as psychological limits, material form, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies, and more. These elements do not have any connections to the true self. The things one can discover through a transcending phase are beyond those seen by the human eye. This happens because the eye is also a form of the material world.
For modern Buddhists to believe that nirvana is not transcendent is strange and difficult to understand. This is a reflection of how much materialism affected and impacted modern culture.
Furthermore, Buddha teaches that liberation is the true meaning of nirvana. Some say that this liberation is, in fact, the experience of having transcended the five psychophysical elements that are representations of suffering: form, feeling, perception, consciousness, and formations.
In Buddhism, one can achieve the desired liberation by transcending the world of suffering which includes the physical body.
The Main Characteristics of Buddhism
- In Buddhism, the concept of an all-knowing God does not exist. There is no superior being that rewards the good and punishes the bad, and there is no Judgement Day.
- Buddhism is not strictly a religion in which one worships a higher power that governs the world.
- Buddha is not a savior, nor he rescues the sinners from their mediocre lives. Buddhists seek in Buddha the path to achieving a higher state of mind. However, a Buddhist does not think he can achieve the highest level of self-discovery through Buddha, in order to clear others’ sins and bad behaviors.
- To achieve a higher level of inner strength is everyone’s responsibility. Buddhists do not have blind faith in their beliefs. It is more an issue of self-discipline, self-reliance, and individual struggle.
- Buddhists believe that all living creatures have Buddha Essence inside them, as a supreme enlightened being).
- Karma is a cornerstone in Buddhism. It is about an important metaphysically but also abstract concept concerning actions and their consequences.
- One of the main elements of Buddhism is the idea of rebirth which is closely related to karma. However, there are small differences when comparing rebirth with the Hinduism’s ideology of reincarnation. Buddhism does not reiterate the fact that there is a permanent migration of the souls.
- Another key element is the one of non-attachment. Buddhism teaches more than just to be good and have a good behavior. A person who wants to follow the path of Buddhism must not remain attached to the idea of being good, otherwise, it is considered to be a similar manifestation to the one of craving for something.
- Sufferings are explained and analyzed in Buddhism.
- Buddha is omniscient but is not omnipotent.
- In Buddhism there is Samsara. This is a fundamental concept that refers to the perpetual cycles of existence. In other words, there are endless rounds of rebirths. This cycle will only end when the being achieves Nirvana, the supreme state.
- Buddhism belief of the Universe is different than the one of other religions. Buddhists think that there are billions of solar system and that Earth is not the only place with living beings.
Some modern people, that are not Buddhists nor strong believers of any kind of religious or spiritual ideology, say that there is transcendence even in the sensory perception of humans. They talk about the complexity and details of taste, smell, textures, as well as of the visible and audible senses.
Our sense of hearing is particularly acute while our visual ability is no less amazing. Each sensory perception triggers a complex circuit within the cerebral cortex, processing the sensory stimulus and providing for its interpretation.
Due to this belief, it should be possible to transcend using all five senses. However, it is believed that the easiest way to transcend is through sound.
To sum up, when talking about transcendence definition, we may refer to the good, spiritual, and valuable elements of one’s self. True values are transcendent and we cannot understand or preserve them without a transcending experience.