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What is a transcendent ideal?


A transcendent ideal refers to a concept, value, or principle that is regarded as universally valid or existing beyond the limits of human experience and knowledge. These ideals are often seen as timeless and unchanging, transcending the particularities of individual cultures, historical periods, and subjective experiences.  In philosophy, transcendent ideals are often associated with the realm of metaphysics and ethics. For example, the concept of “truth” or “goodness” can be considered transcendent ideals. They are not tied to specific physical objects or circumstances but are seen as overarching principles that guide human thought and behaviour.


Transcendent ideals play a significant role in various philosophical systems. For instance, in Plato’s theory of Forms, abstract entities like beauty, justice, and equality are considered perfect and immutable forms existing in a realm beyond the physical world. In Kantian ethics, the notion of the “categorical imperative” (an unconditional moral law) reflects a transcendent ideal of moral duty.  These ideals also intersect with spiritual and religious beliefs, where they are often linked with the divine or the ultimate reality. In such contexts, transcendent ideals may be seen as reflecting a higher order of existence or a path towards spiritual enlightenment.  We mystics for instance spend much of our lives grasping towards God, and in moments of sublime epiphany we often find him, but it’s fleeting, for just a single moment frozen in time we feel transcendent, filled with a sensation of having pushed beyond our physical limits, beyond our ability to understand fully, to be upon the cusp of discovery, to have learned something new in a blinding flash of insight that is like sunlight to the petals of beautiful flower, in that we have no choice but to unfurl before it, it’s presence forces us to grow but in what direction we do not choose.


In the context of everyday life, transcendent ideals serve as guiding principles or goals that people strive towards. They provide a sense of direction and meaning, offering a benchmark against which actions and beliefs can be measured.  We work in the service of transcendent ideals whenever we willingly choose to dedicate ourselves to doing what is right in the service of the highest possible good for ourselves, our family, our community and our brothers and sisters in divinity.  When we work for the highest possible good, we approach the transcendent and put ourselves in its service giving us the occasional glimpse of a higher purpose and ethical dimensions of human existence that naturally derive from its discovery.

What is transcendence?



Spiritual and Religious Transcendence:

In many religious and spiritual traditions, transcendence is a key concept. It often involves a sense of connection to a higher reality, divinity, or a deeper level of consciousness. This can include experiences where one feels a profound sense of unity with the divine, the universe, or a higher state of being. In Eastern philosophies and religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, transcendence is often related to enlightenment and the overcoming of worldly suffering and illusion, in other words it’s the ability to see clearly beyond material affairs or material concerns, surpassing physical existence, exceeding ordinary limits in the pursuit of a goal or cause greater than oneself.  The concept of transcendence can manifest in various ways across different fields:


Philosophical Transcendence:

In philosophy, transcendence often involves surpassing the limits of the physical world and human experience. For example, in metaphysics, it might refer to the existence of realities beyond empirical observation or physical phenomena. Immanuel Kant discussed transcendental ideals, which are concepts like freedom, God, and immortality that, while not empirically verifiable, guide human reason and moral action.



Psychological Transcendence:

Psychologically, transcendence can refer to states of being that go beyond the normal human experience. This can include peak experiences, moments of intense joy, creativity, or insight that surpass ordinary consciousness. Abraham Maslow included self-transcendence as the highest level in his famous hierarchy of needs, representing the human drive to pursue a cause greater than oneself.


Artistic and Creative Transcendence:

In the arts, transcendence can describe moments where a work of art or a creative experience lifts the individual out of the ordinary and provides a sense of connection to something larger or more profound. This can be a deeply personal and subjective experience.  For someone with interests in philosophy, spirituality, and the meaning of life, the concept of transcendence might resonate deeply. It encompasses the pursuit of understanding beyond the tangible and immediate, seeking higher truths or deeper meanings in life, which aligns with philosophical inquiry and spiritual exploration.



How do you approach transcendence?


Approaching transcendence, given its multifaceted nature, can vary widely depending on one’s individual beliefs, interests, and practices. Here are several ways to explore and experience transcendence.


Philosophical Inquiry:

Engaging with philosophical texts and concepts can be a way to approach transcendence intellectually. Delving into the works of philosophers who have explored metaphysical, ethical, and existential questions can provide insights into transcendent ideals and the nature of reality beyond the physical world.


Meditation and Mindfulness:

Many spiritual traditions use meditation as a tool to transcend ordinary states of consciousness and connect with higher realities or deeper aspects of the self. Mindfulness practices can also help in becoming more aware of the present moment, potentially leading to moments of insight or transcendence.


Spiritual Practices and Rituals:

Engaging in spiritual practices or rituals specific to a tradition you resonate with can be a path toward transcendence. This could involve prayer, chanting, participating in religious ceremonies, or other spiritual exercises that aim to connect with the divine or a higher state of consciousness.


Art and Creativity:

If you appreciate the arts, engaging with or creating art can be a transcendent experience. Art has the power to convey and evoke emotions and ideas that transcend ordinary experience, offering a glimpse into deeper truths or realities.


Nature and the Outdoors:

Immersing yourself in nature can also be a path to transcendence. The beauty and vastness of the natural world can evoke a sense of awe and wonder, offering a perspective that transcends everyday concerns.  The transcendence that comes through simple living and the study of nature was made famous by Henry David Thoreau’s book ‘Walden,’ or ‘life in the woods.’


Intellectual and Creative Collaborations:

Engaging in deep conversations about life, spirituality, and the universe, can facilitate moments of transcendence. Sharing and exploring ideas with others can lead to new insights and perspectives that transcend individual understanding.


Personal Reflection and Journaling:

Reflecting on your life experiences, thoughts, and feelings through journaling or contemplative practices can lead to greater self-awareness and moments of transcendence, as you connect with deeper aspects of yourself and existence.


Reading and Learning:

Exploring literature, religious texts, or scientific works that probe into the mysteries of life and the universe can also be a way to approach transcendence, especially if these readings challenge you to think beyond conventional boundaries.


Physical Exercise and Yoga:

Activities like yoga, which combines physical postures with breath control and meditation, can be a path to transcendence, as it aims to unite body, mind, and spirit.  Each of these paths offers a unique way to explore and experience transcendence, resonating differently depending on personal inclinations and interests. As you explore these avenues, you might find that some resonate more deeply with you, guiding your journey towards understanding and experiencing transcendence in your life.


How does it benefit you?

Engaging in practices and experiences that lead to transcendence can offer several profound benefits, particularly for someone like you who is deeply invested in philosophy, spirituality, and personal growth. Here are some keyways in which transcendence can be beneficial:


Enhanced Self-Awareness and Personal Growth:

Transcendent experiences often lead to deeper self-awareness. They can provide insights into your own thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, fostering personal growth and self-improvement.


Increased Sense of Connection:

Transcendence can create a sense of connectedness with others, the world, or the universe as a whole. This can foster feelings of empathy, compassion, and understanding, reducing feelings of isolation and separateness.


Greater Life Satisfaction and Purpose:

Experiences of transcendence can give a sense of purpose and meaning to life. Understanding or feeling connected to something larger than oneself can be deeply fulfilling and can help in navigating life’s challenges with a broader perspective.


Improved Mental and Emotional Well-being:

Many practices that facilitate transcendence, such as meditation and mindfulness, have been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and to enhance overall mental and emotional well-being.


Heightened Creativity and Innovation:

Transcendent states often open up new ways of thinking and perceiving the world, which can enhance creativity.


Philosophical Insight and Wisdom:

For a philosopher, transcendence can deepen understanding of complex philosophical concepts and enrich intellectual pursuits. It can provide a unique perspective on existential questions and ethical dilemmas.


Spiritual Fulfilment:

If you have spiritual inclinations, transcendence can lead to a deeper spiritual understanding and fulfilment, potentially reinforcing or reshaping your spiritual beliefs and practices.


Enhanced Empathy and Altruism:

Transcendent experiences often cultivate a sense of empathy and altruism. By feeling a connection to a larger whole, you may find yourself more inclined to act in ways that benefit others.


Resilience in Facing Life’s Challenges:

The perspectives gained from transcendent experiences can provide resilience in the face of life’s challenges. By understanding the broader context of your experiences, you might find it easier to navigate difficult situations.  In summary, the pursuit and experience of transcendence can enrich your life in multiple dimensions, from deepening self-awareness and enhancing well-being to fostering a sense of connectedness and purpose. The specific benefits can vary greatly depending on your individual experiences and the paths you choose to explore transcendence.



About Post Author

Comicus Muo

Comicus Muo loves dualism, Existentialism, Nihilism, Absurdism and a plethora of helpful philosophies from the ancient world such as Stoicism, not to mention a healthy dose of Cynicism. Comicus is also a reasonable theist, atheistic in his thinking but also a Mystic, spiritual rather than religious and keenly aware that it's the Judaeo-Christian heritage of the west and it's enlightenment values that allow him to be this way.
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