The HPedia: Transcendence

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The notion of transcendence can be viewed in both supernatural and natural ways.

In the supernatural sense, it may refer to transcendence of material reality and its limitations.  Representatives of such transcendent phenomena include a soul separate from the body that controls it and survives its death, an afterlife or other world separate from the physical universe, and a divine creator or other creative principle that is in whole or in part separate from and outside its creation.  This sense is inconsistent with naturalism as well as with HP, as described here.  In theological terms, this kind of transcendence is contrasted with immanence, or the divine manifest in the natural world (see “Immanence”).

In the naturalistic sense, transcendence may refer to 1) surpassing or growing beyond one’s previous limitations, as in Drew Jacob’s heroic life; or 2) that which is vastly greater than the individual, conscious, rational ego (or “small self”) in both degree and kind, yet in which one participates.  Potential objects of naturalistic transcendence may include nature, community, and mind.

In the latter sense, the natural world or aspects of it may confront one as an Immensity, to use Brendan Myers’ term (see “Immensity”).  Such a confrontation may lead to a numinous experience of the transcendent Other, a mystical experience of oneness or communion with that which transcends, or a visionary vision of cosmic order (see “Numinous” and “Mystical”).  Finally, following Myers, the confrontation may call into question who you are and how you ought to live, and thereby lead to a change in character that transcends one’s previous self.

Criticism of the term notwithstanding, the naturalistic varieties of transcendence are thoroughly compatible with Naturalistic Paganism.

See also “Immensity”, “Mystical”, “Numinous.”

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