Thursday, 4 September 2008


There are two forms of transcendence; ontological and epistemological. Ontological transcendence being the idea that some world of ideal Platonic forms or divine essence exists beyond the world (I reject this) and epistemological transcendence being the idea that transcendence can be experienced in collectivity - the experience of coinherence, for example, or the moment of identification of the Beloved with the world ("Thou art that"). I imagine that A N Whitehead (and most Pagans) would have no problem with epistemological transcendence, which is entirely consistent with the immanence of the divine. For me, the transcendent quality I experience in the contemplation of Nature is in identifying with it, not in the idea that it points to some ideal Platonic form.  I sometimes experience Nature transfigured (though not all the time) but I believe the transfiguration is in my perception of it (as in Blake's assertion that if the doors of perception were cleaned, everything would appear as it is, infinite) not in the breaking through of Divine essence.

I am interested in Teilhard de Chardin's idea of the Omega Point but he regards the world as being drawn towards the Omega Point by a complex consciousness residing in the future, which seems unnecessarily elaborate.

The Pagan version of cosmic consciousness is Oberon Zell-Ravenheart's Gaia Thesis, formulated in his book Theagenesis (1970).  This simply posits that the Earth, as a complex system, has consciousness (maybe as an emergent property).  It predates the better-known Gaia Hypothesis of James Lovelock by four years; and Lovelock and Zell actually corresponded on the subject in the 1970s.

In the Tao Te Ching, the Ten Thousand Things are born of the Tao, and include everything - there is no artificial distinction between good and bad.
The Valley Spirit never dies
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
It is there within us all the while;
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
They also return to the Tao, because it is in their nature to do so:
In Tao the only motion is returning;
The only useful quality, weakness.
For though all creatures under heaven are the products of Being,
Being itself is the product of Not-being.
Note that "Not-being" is probably not the same as "divine essence"; in Buddhism, the distinction is between being and not-being, rather than between essence and energy/existence.  I would imagine the same was true of Taoism.


Regina Clare Jane said...

Wow, Yvonne- I had to read this a couple of times because I just don't think this way- I mean, it's a very intelligent post! Not that I'm not intelligent, but this is a whole new language for me. I really appreciate you taking the time to make posts like this- I learn something new all the time!
Now, off to check out some of these links!
p.s. I did start blogging again- I just needed a focus. ;)

Yewtree said...

Just realised on re-reading this that I did not explain the terms very clearly.

Ontological transcendence: the idea that God exists outside the world, and created it.

Epistemological transcendence: the experience of transcending the ego and belonging to something bigger, such as the community or the universe.

Coinherence: 1. The idea that we are all members of each other; 2. the idea that the three persons of the Trinity indwell each other, and that we can participate in that co-indwelling; 3. the idea idea that all religions share the same truth space.

Immanence: the idea that the Divine / deities indwell the world, are its essence and spirit.

rugged pathways said...

This has cleared up a great deal of confusion for me. Thanks Yvonne.
Epistemological transcendence - yes, I can 'do' that !

Barry Bell said...

thanks,yewtree, for your very helpful comment. Of course Teilhard de Chardin - and all the other religious who can't see past the existence of God as an entity - have to think in ontological terms.

Those who are happy with responding to their spirituality without such a being will be much happier thinking epistemological ranscendence (God! I sound as if I understand what I'm talking about!)