04 June 2008

On Transcendence: Conclusion (6 of 6)

Conclusion: Transcending Experiences

Given the above material on transcending experiences, it appears that much of the meaning central to Judeo-Christianity derives itself from some form of transcending event. The events all seem to deal with separation—either establishing it or overcoming it. Other events could certainly qualify as transcendent; however, for our purposes here, we can now reflect on transcendent events and their significance.

Creation, fall, atonement, and conversion all involve an experience and the object of that experience. We usually speak not merely of creation, but of the creation of the world. Similarly the fall refers specifically to the fall of Adam and Eve. The atonement is the atonement of Jesus Christ and conversion is the conversion of [for example] Abraham. Because each of these transcending events involves the event and its object, they teach about experience with the sacred. The events could not happen without an object; however, an individual cannot create the event. The event marks the crossing (or transcending) of the individual with the sacred, overcoming the separation alluded to in our section on the creation. Thus transcending events illustrate how such experience with sacred things reveals itself. Because of this self-revelatory nature, the nihilistic outlook on the sacred dissolves into a transcending testimony in each individual of the meaningful moments that connect the individual experience with the transcendent.

The relationship between subject and object in transcendent events was mentioned in connection with conversion. This relational approach to events seems to defy other attempts to describe them. An event might be characterized as happening to a subject. Under this view, the subject remains seemingly stationary whereas the objects around it move about, causing changes to result. This seems inadequate to describing the transcending events described above. Likewise, attempts to characterize such events as involving the subject undergoing all of the changes (through some modifications in the subject’s manner of perception) fail. Such an attempt would ignore the influence of every subject on the objects with which it comes in contact. Both theories fall short of lived experience because of the interconnectedness between subject and object. As an illustration, the relationship indicated above between a faithful reader and a scriptural text seems illuminating. When the reader explores the various facets of the text, the reader’s subjective experiences may seem to change the experience of reading, despite the object’s seemingly stationary position. On the other hand, the scriptural text works changes in the reader such that an attentive reader is altered by each reading. Thus, when a reader truly engages in an active reading of the text, the text changes the reader. But the reader also does incorporate his or her individual experiences separate from the text with the reading. So the reader changes the text.

This examination, then, allows individuals to identify events in their own lives that transcend themselves and in so doing to find meaning beyond the individualistic and (hence) selfish nature of modern living. Examining ourselves within the context of the world as it presents itself to us allow us to partake of viewpoints that might otherwise be overlooked. By incorporating all such points of view, we find that the meaning that many feel they have lost was really hiding within the relationship that the individual has with the world around him. When a transcending event changes that relationship (by adding to or taking away from some degree of separation), the individual changes as does his understanding of the world around him.

It seems, too, that transcending events can happen without our realizing that they have. One could undergo the change without recognizing that anything is different. Thus, as responsible and striving individuals, if we want to find the transcendent meaning in life, it becomes our task to study the history of the world and its religious, literary, philosophical, and other realms in order to identify what is transcendent in us. When this has been accomplished to even a small degree, through self-reflection, we find that our efforts in recognizing transcendence have paid large dividends and that our lives have been enriched thereby. Such continued self-reflection and outward reaching as seem warranted in our future endeavors as a result of this introductory evaluation of the significance of and meaning inherent in transcendent experiences can expand our understanding until we have satisfied our longing for meaning and true living.

No comments: