Humanizing Transcendence


Religion is a term used to package very complicated socio-political movements while also capitalizing on internal psychological states. All these components make up the soup of religion, but they are all human components.

The “New Humanist” has an essay by Kenan Malik where he explores “the humanization of the transcendent in art and literature” and recaptures the word “transcendence” for religion-free dialogue.

In my life, I can use “transcendence” to label the times when the illusion of a solitary-homogenous-stable self slips. Some may call it something else. Perhaps some folks don’t even have or recognize this experience.  Or worse, some may slip into fear, further partition or apathy when their self shifts. “Transcendence” for others may be another word for a sense of awe or wonder.

Question for readers: Tell  us your  thoughts on transcendence which is free of religious colorings.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

8 responses to “Humanizing Transcendence

  1. @ Sabio Lantz
    “Religion is a term used to package very complicated socio-political movements while also capitalizing on internal psychological states.”

    There seems to be some error in your concept of religion as given above. Do you think Atheism/Agnosticism/Skepticism/”Humanism”/secularism etc are also covered in your concept of religion?

    If yes; why?
    If no;why?

    Please give your proofs and evidences.


  2. @ paarsurrey:
    I know your agenda, paarsurrey. Since you need Islam to be the “one true-religion”, then you need to have a nice stable definition of the word “religion” or your whole argument won’t work. So, please share your favorite definition of “religion”.

    Then read my posts below to understand the issue better:

    The Myth of Definitions: Helps you understand my view of language. Actually, most linguists hold this view too. If you read that with understanding, you may realize that you will always object to my understanding words.

    Here, then, is logic issue you need to understand:
    The Reification Fallacy

    Finally, here is my fun attempt to make a definition:
    Defining Religion: a syndrome model

    Let’s see how that differs from your favorite definition.

    So hopefully this helps you, paarsurrey. Do me a favor be sure not to quote your Messiah or your holy book in your reply.

  3. I’m Buddhist, but I think my conception of transcendence isn’t tied specifically to Buddhism. It’s similar to yours, honestly, and relates to letting go of the stresses and distractions of life just long enough to realize that there’s less “me” and more “everything” in the universe. It’s kind of a feeling of belonging, and separation from the mundane annoyances that sometimes seem burdenful.

  4. @ Daniel,
    Thanx, yes, I totally agree and have the same experiences.

  5. Earnest

    I improperly conflate religion and trancendence. In good times, I have entertaining transcendent moments, to which I may or may not attach some sort of religious meaning. In bad times, the “opium of the people” allows me to avoid a spiral into dispair, and I am able to continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other, metaphorically.

  6. @ Earnest,
    Nicely put.
    I must say, however, “transcendence” for me, is just another experience, another thought/feeling — albeit pleasant, I don’t idealize it or prioritize it.

  7. David

    I often wonder if transcendence is anything more than the flip side of dissatisfaction, the human sense that nothing is ever enough, that there must be ‘something more’ out there, over the hill, round the corner, after death, beyond the obvious and immediate. It’s the carrot that draws us always to strive for something better – or just different – that makes us the restless ape and compels us to seek refuge in the infinite, the immaterial, the divine, enlightenment, or some such ungraspable concept where the imagination finds no limit. As such it’s probably responsible for all human ‘progress’ but is almost certainly seed of our own decay, as we lay waste to this planet and the ecosystems upon which we ultimately depend. We humans are forever looking for that unique faculty that sets us apart from other creatures and makes us ‘special’ – perhaps this is it. We tell ourselves that transcendence is the path of the spirit and points the way to heaven, but I suspect it leads the other way.

  8. @ “David”,

    “David” could you make your name a bit longer so as to be unique compared to many other Davids who visit here. Even if it is an alias — it would be helpful. The next most helpful thing is to link your name to something that tells us a bit about yourself. Now, on to your comment.

    I don’t buy into the Buddhist concept that “nothing is ever enough” — mind you, not all Buddhists hold this, but it is common. And I told you the way “Sabio” is using the word “transcendence”. If you are trying to make up your own definition, that is OK too. But there is no such thing as “transcendence” out there waiting to be discovered.

    So, in my world, there are lots of different feelings and experiences that are different from dissatisfaction, and I wouldn’t lump them all into one word like “transcendence”.

    You sound like you have a whole system worked out. I, for one, believe neither in a heaven, nor “the other way”.

    Are many people restless and seeking better even when they have good. Sure. I’m not sure I’d build a whole philosophical system based on that observation, however.

    Thanx for stopping by.

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