Transcendence might be characterized as everything that is beyond our
all that we don't know, everything that we've forgotten and are in need
of remembering, all that is still potential.
we point toward transcendence, we point the direction of travel from
present do-be-and-have world to that which it is possible for us to
and to that which draws and empowers us to become it.
as transcendence exceeds our understanding, it is no easy target to
to. As Heraclitus says in Fragment 123: "The nature of things
in the habit of concealing itself."
we bear in mind that transcendence is beyond all that we think we know,
it may be possible to catch glimpses of mystery in the mirror of
existing things. The warrior artist Miyamoto Musashi put it
way in his A Book of Five Rings: "What is
called the spirit
of the void is where there is nothing. It is not included in
knowledge. Of course the void is nothingness. By
that exist you can know that which does not exist. This is
though the mysterious nature of things may be, as we look back over the
course of our history and evolution--from the origin of our
elements in the hearts of long-dead stars to the continual practice of
our ancestral line of trading in one form and set of habits for
we view is the fossil remains of the steps we have taken in our pursuit
Rumi, writing more than seven hundred years ago, stated the
of our situation like this: "Originally, you were
being mineral, you became vegetable. From vegetable, you
and from animal, man. During these periods man did not know
he was going, but he was being taken on a long journey
And you have to go through a hundred different worlds yet."
is no name that is sufficient to transcendence. The Tao
specifically warns, "The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao."
warning is necessary, it is because our present state of being is
based. Our practice is to approach the hidden nature of
means of words--mythic metaphors. As Joseph Campbell, the
student of myth, declared late in life: "My definition of
is: a metaphor transparent to transcendence."
period has its own names for transcendence--metaphors which link the
promising, advanced and encompassing knowledge of the time to unknown
higher possibilities and human becoming. In these concepts of
are to be found the work, the power, and also the limitation of the age.
are told in The Dabistan, attributed to Mohsin
Fani, "The sagacious
say: Every era is the epoch of the fame and dominion of a
when this epoch expires, it becomes concealed under the name which it
at the epoch of its flourishing state."
potent name of transcendence for the modern Western world has been
This metaphor has been used to include and lay claim to everything that
is and also everything that might be. However, it has been
used when those employing it have been able to remember that there is a
difference between the actual accomplishments of science and the
mystery of transcendent reality.
reminded of this in The Mysteries of Science by
Brian M. Stableford,
Newton, the man who synthesized the discoveries of the
physical scientists and astronomers into a new theory of the universe,
and provided modern science with its first great edifice of organized
spoke of himself as follows: 'I do not know what I may appear
the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on
the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother
or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay
all undiscovered before me.'
we have a great collection of smoother pebbles, and a fine array of
shells--assemblies so great that it is easy to lose ourselves in
and contemplation of their wonders. But we must realise, and
forget, that no matter how great the collection grows, the undiscovered
ocean will still surround the shores of our imagination."
the directed imagination that stands on the shores of the known and
in the waters of the void for whatever seems most urgently
What separates superior scientists from lesser ones is their awareness
that "science" has been only one name among many for this process.
essay, "Creativity--Especially in Science," biologist Peter Medawar
"I feel enlarged, not diminished, by the thought that any truth begins
life as an imaginative preconception of what the truth might be, for it
puts me on the same footing as all other people who use the imaginative
loses its power after it has been successful in fishing something that
never existed before out of the void and into present being.
circumstances become altered and new needs arise.
this process to which Lewis Mumford was referring in his book, The
of Man, when he observed: "At the very moment that
a whole is clothed, fed, sheltered adequately, relieved from want and
there will arise new conditions, calling equally for struggle, internal
if not external conditions, derived precisely from the goods that have
has visibly lost its power when it is such a worldly success that it
to cherish its pebble collections at the expense of the undiscovered
and even to confuse the two.
Campbell said: "If the metaphor closes in on itself and says, 'I'm it,
the reference is to me or to this event,' then it has closed the
it's no longer mythological."
a particular metaphor of transcendence has become an all-too-concrete
and thereby lost its ability to connect us to what is still beyond us,
then it must be swapped for another more appropriate word of power
which to approach the true nature of things.
Fort reminds us:
firmly to believe is to impede development.
only temporarily to accept is to facilitate."
of Tabriz was young, he perceived that the accustomed words of
of his time had turned into idols and that the people around him
these words had lost contact with the higher reality they formerly
When he set forth to find his own way to truth, he was taken as
overbearing and incomprehensible.
Shams tells us:
been a misfit since childhood. Nobody used to understand
Not even my father, who once said: 'You are not a madman to
in a madhouse, nor a monk to be put in a hermitage. I don't
what you are.'
'Listen to this, father. My case is like that of the duck egg
was put under a hen. When the egg hatched, the duckling
with the mother hen until they came to a pond. The duckling
into the water. The hen stayed on the bank. Now, my
after having tried the sea, I find it my home. If you choose
on the shore, I am not to be blamed.' "
are only names; take them as such. The ocean is our home--if
we can remember what we've forgotten.
Book of the Damned, Charles Fort wrote: "Our whole
is an attempt by the relative to be the absolute, or by the local to be
the universal." And he said further: "A seeker of
will never find it. But the dimmest of possibilities--he may
the light of truth in Shams of Tabriz. He wrote of him:
Be silent, listen!
There goes Shams of Tabriz
Rising from the East
Maybe we can hear
The sound of Light's footsteps.
he met Shams, Rumi threw over his former life as the leading religious
professor of his time. He took up music and dance, and began
poetry and to tell stories.
Rumi expressed the mystery of transcendence and the challenge it poses
as timelessly as anyone ever has. Over the centuries, he
this question to us and presents this proposition:
How long shall we, in the Earth-world, like children
Fill our laps with dust and stone and scraps?
Let us leave earth and fly to the heavens,
Let us leave babyhood and go to the assembly of Man.
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