We must increase our understanding of where we are going in the paradigm shift and the obstacles to getting there.
This article on transcendence will contrast the simplicity (intuitive realization) of paradigm A (P-A) with the complexity (intellectual illusion) of paradigm B (P-B). The following paragraph defines transcendence in the context of paradigm A.
The transcendent is the Absolute and in biblical language is referred to in the Book of Matthew. Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48) In Paradigm A, transcendence is simply an experience of the present moment, independent of materiality. It is the state of being we experience in Simple Reality. It can be further characterized as being in response rather than in reaction; or experiencing compassion rather than fear. It is also being free of craving and aversion that accompanies the pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power. To maintain the state of transcendence usually requires The Point of Power Practice to confront and combat the old conditioning that defines P-B.
What we have just read is a simple explanation of transcendence. Nothing more need be added to make it complete. Simplicity is the essence of P-A. Contrast that simple explanation of transcendence with the following more detailed and complex exploration that the intellect tends to be fond of.
But before we begin, remember that there is nothing wrong with enjoying exercising the mind with problem solving or creating theories, models and constructs. Nothing wrong, that is, unless we fail to distinguish between intellectual activities in the context of P-B, from creation within the P-A narrative which flows from our inner wisdom, the intuition of the present moment. The important principle here is that the intellect serves and is subordinate to intuition.
At this point we are perhaps beginning to see the advantage of Simple Reality. We chose that name because P-A is just that—simple. Now let’s have some fun observing the inner-workings of some of the world’s most profound minds relating to the subject of transcendence.
Transcendence is fraught with paradox because it cannot be “achieved” in the conventional sense and yet certain efforts seem to aid in achieving it. Or as one Buddhist teacher put it:
Enlightenment is an accident:
meditation makes you accident prone.
This distinction was dealt with in the context of the history of Christianity in the controversy pertaining to grace and works. Does a Christian gain heaven by the grace of God or by how he lives his life. This argument takes us to the heart of the identity of God. Is God’s love conditional, that is to say, does one have to earn that love by “works?” Or is God’s love freely given and one enters heaven on account of God’s “grace” regardless of one’s behavior.
That debate continues among Christians but the Hindu teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj came down on the side of grace with his pronouncement that one has to “know nothing,” “have nothing,” and “do nothing” to achieve transcendence. Nisargadatta believed, in other words, that transcendence was our natural state.
Having a profound context is all important in creating higher states of awareness. If we don’t feel safe on the journey to higher states of consciousness, we will abort the journey—it will be too threatening. The Einstein question “Is the universe friendly?” must be answered affirmatively and we must have that “right view” to proceed successfully. Yes, the universe is friendly, and we must believe that before we depart toward the frontier of consciousness. So the change we are advocating takes place in two dimensions—the Absolute and the relative—P-A and P-B.
One of the pitfalls of the intellect in solving problems is that it has trouble distinguishing symptoms from problems. We offer an example of that pitfall in the context of Simple Reality relating to the “War on Drugs,” which you can find in the article entitled “Truth” in this encyclopedia.
Secondly, the intellect has historically been fond of “reductionism,” i.e. breaking down form and phenomena into the smallest possible components. In physics the pursuit of the atom and then waves and particles is an example. This has not been a waste of time in science since practical (P-B) results have been achieved by the intellect but it is not possible for the intellect to comprehend ultimate reality or Simple Reality.
The following example of the distinction between the intellect and intuition analyzes transcendence by separating it into four stages. These distinctions address the paradox of transcendence being a process and not being a process; or being stages as opposed to states of consciousness.
In a conversation with Andrew Cohen, Ken Wilber identifies the four stages and the three states. “Those stages represent one’s identity, moving from an identification merely with ‘me’ [egocentric] to an identification with ‘us’ [ethnocentric] to an identification with ‘all of us’ [worldcentric] to an identification with the ‘All’ [Kosmocentric]. As permanent realizations, those are stages; they develop and unfold.”[i]
“States on the other hand, can mean states of consciousness like waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and so on. For ordinary people in the waking state, the self they have is the ego. In the subtle or dream state, it’s the soul or what you’re calling the Authentic Self, which I refer to as the deeper psychic. And in the deep-sleep formless state, it’s the Absolute Self. Now if we describe those three as gross, subtle, causal, then those are the three major, or basic, selves that every human being possesses. We have a gross self, or ego, a subtle self, or soul or deeper psychic, and a causal, formless absolute or atman Self, a transcendental witness. States are free; stages are earned. But you have to be at least a worldcentric stage of development or it’s not going to stick.”[ii]
Another model useful as a guide to shifting our worldview and identity is that of the three T’s.
Translation (unconscious consciousness)
Translation consciousness sees the universe as fundamentally an unsafe place. Therefore, the false self creates a survival strategy investing all of its energy in the pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power. By remaining unconscious and denying reality, the false self pretends that life is satisfactory. At a collective level, human institutions engage in lies, denial and secrets to maintain the illusion that all is well.
Translation is an intellectual activity and what is merely understood is not internalized. For example, Arthur Miller described why he couldn’t write the play A View from the Bridge without first internalizing what it meant. “I saw that the reason I had not written it was that as a whole its meaning escaped me. I could not fit it into myself. It existed apart from me and seemed not to express anything within me.”[iii] After entering the present moment in the creative process, internalizing the meaning, Miller was able to complete the play.
Transformation (conscious unconsciousness)
The intellect can facilitate the process of transformation, it can help us begin the journey toward transcendence, but it cannot deliver us to the destination. “‘So psychological as well as spiritual (or meditative) development is helpful in unfolding one’s own deeper potentials,’ says Ken Wilber, ‘you can develop virtually everything from moral response to meditative absorption (Samadhi). But all of those are of the relative [P-B] manifest realm—the realm of samsara—and the whole point of enlightenment is to step off that cycle altogether [shift to P-A]. This is why Vedanta and Dzogchen also maintain that, in the last analysis, meditation will not itself bring final spiritual awareness (because such awareness, being ever present, has no beginning in time and thus cannot be entered: you cannot enter that which you have never left).’”[iv]
Thomas Moore further defines the process of transformation. “Our developmental models of human life account for progress but not major shifts in being. Linear thinking, so much a part of modern life, affects the way we understand our very lives. We imagine growing like a skyscraper under construction, reaching to the sky, not like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.”[v]
Transcendence or the Absolute (conscious consciousness)
Ken Wilber responded above to the paradoxical notion that there is a need for a process and no need for a process in attaining P-A. He continues with that theme here: “This radical realization, existing in the timeless and ever present moment, can occur at virtually any stage of development and is not the result of any cause, because it is itself timeless and ever present, uncaused and unborn. Nonetheless, there is abundant cross-cultural evidence that the higher one’s degree of consciousness development, the more likely this realization can occur. Enlightenment is not the highest stage of temporal development, but a stepping off the cycle of temporal development altogether.”[vi]
The NOW is always present and has no cause and yet Wilber says that “consciousness development can make it more likely to be realized. [I] talk about getting out of development entirely and recognizing the ever present One Taste.”[vii]
In the same letter Wilber quotes the Zen master Ma Tsu: “If there is any development in the Tao, the completion of that development is really the ruin and destruction of the Tao. But if there is no development at all, one remains completely unenlightened.”[viii] Hence, for transformation we have the need for the spontaneous insights that characterize intuition, for the paradigm shift from P-B to P-A.
C. G. Jung gives us the perspective of Jungian psychology as it relates to transcendence. “Transcendent function arises from the union of the conscious and the unconscious attitudes. There are several sources for this unconscious material, the most useful for the constructive method of therapy being spontaneous fantasies [creating in the present moment]. The patient must give himself over to his mood and give form to his fantasies and other associations by writing, visualizing, or some form of artwork. The opposite ego and the unconscious must be reconciled in order to bring about the transcendent function. The value of this transcendent function derives from the fact that it provides a way for the patient to break the dependence on the therapist and to attain liberation by his own efforts [self-reliance].[ix]
Jane Roberts in her book The Nature of Personal Reality, “channels” Seth who always has an interesting perspective when given challenging questions. About the nature of the state of grace, truer words were never spoken: “The state of grace is a condition in which all growth is effortless, a transparent, joyful acquiescence that is a ground requirement of all existence. Your own body grows naturally and easily from its time of birth, not expecting resistance but taking its miraculous unfolding for granted; using all of itself with great, gracious, creatively aggressive abandon.”[x]
“You were born into a state of grace, therefore, it is impossible for you to leave it. You will die in a state of grace whether or not special words are spoken for you, or water or oil is poured over your head. You share this blessing with the animals and all other living things. You cannot ‘fall out of’ grace, nor can it be taken from you. You can ignore it [as we do in P-B]. You can hold beliefs that blind you to its existence. You will still be graced but unable to perceive your own uniqueness and integrity, and blind also to other attributes with which you are automatically gifted.”[xi]
Returning to Hinduism as a source for the principles of transcendence we start with the necessity of transcending the ego and any thought of “I” or “me.” “It is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) in which there is not even the slightest trace of the “I” thought. This is also called Mouna (Silence) or Atma (Self). That is the only thing that is.”[xii]
Fritjof Capra in his book, The Tao of Physics, adds both Hindu and Buddhist viewpoints on transcendence. “The Upanishads, for example speak about a higher and lower knowledge and associate the lower knowledge with various sciences, the higher with religious awareness. Buddhists talk about ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’ knowledge or about ‘unconditional truth’ and ‘transcendental truth.’”[xiii]
The struggle between our desire to transcend the nightmare of P-B and our fear of doing so meet in the present moment with our choice to react or respond. Jon Kabat-Zinn was speaking of the survival strategy of the false self when he wrote: “At some level, people know they have elaborate patterns to keep themselves as far away from that deep experience as possible.”[xiv]
Seth refers to a profound response such as that made possible by The Point of Power Practice and the process of reconditioning or behavior modification which can change our reactions into responses, our fears into compassion. “Your desire of belief will literally be reaching back into time, teaching the nerves new tricks. Definite reorganizations in that past will occur in your present, allowing you to behave in entirely new fashions.”[xv]
We have come full circle in this article as we return to the perfection of the present moment. Sakyuong Mipham Rinpoche, the son of the important Buddhist teacher and founder of Naropa University, Trungpa Rinpoche, completes our exploration of transcendence. “We are saying that perfectly endowed, complete enlightenment begins with our motivation to regard everything we experience right now—and the whole world—as perfect and pristine. We call this the motivation of great purity and great equality. As Vajrayana practitioners, we are asked to develop the motivation to wake up and see ourselves and the world as we truly are.”[xvi]
We are being asked to stop making transcendence complicated, difficult and remote (P-B). We are being asked to embrace Simple Reality (P-A).
- See also these related articles and many more in this encyclopedia:
[i] Cohen, Andrew and Wilber, Ken. “The Guru and the Pandit, Following the Grain of the Kosmos, Dialog V.” What is Enlightenment? Lennox, Massachusetts, May-July 2004, p. 47.
[iii] Miller, Arthur. A View from the Bridge. New York: Viking Press, 1955, no page.
[iv] Wilber, Ken. “Letters.” What is Enlightenment? Lennox, Massachusetts, Spring/Summer 1999, p. 8.
[v] Moore, Thomas. Dark Nights of the Soul. New York: Gotham, 2004, p. 24.
[vi] Wilber, op. cit., p. 8.
[viii] Ibid., p. 9.
[ix] Jung, C. G. Abstracts of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Rockville, Maryland: NIMH, 1978, p. 46.
[x] Roberts, Jane. The Nature of Personal Reality. New York: Bantam, 1974, p. 157.
[xii] Johnson, Clive [ed.]. Vedanta: An Anthology of Hindu Scripture, Commentary, and Poetry. New York: Bantam, 1971, p. 259.
[xiii] Capra, Fritjof. The Tao of Physics. New York: Bantam, 1975, p. 14.
[xiv] Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hyperion, 1994, p. 32.
[xv] Roberts, op. cit., p. 293.
[xvi] Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham. “Seeing the Essence of Phenomena as Wisdom.” Shambhala Sun. Boulder, Colorado, May 2004, p. 46.
Find an in-depth discussion of Simple Reality on this blog and in published books by Roy Charles Henry.