Transcendence: Thoughts Silenced
THERE is then a twofold sort of truth in things divine for the wise man to study: one that can be attained by rational enquiry, another that transcends all the industry of reason. This truth of things divine I do not call twofold on the part of God, who is one simple Truth, but on the part of our knowledge, as our cognitive faculty has different aptitudes for the knowledge of divine things. [St. Thomas Aquinas, Of God and His Creatures, Ch. IX].
God’s existence permeates all phases of nature but our eyes never see God physically. Our physical life is limited and transient, so we only see a reality that reflects material qualities.
Our relationship with the Divine is intimate yet remote. We can be wrapped in sacred thoughts, while still separated by incomprehensible dimensions.
Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true. [Thomas Merton]
The mind likes to think of itself as knowing, for thinking is what it does best. It rehearses thoughts, thinks again, then assumes it knows something. But, there is more to knowledge than meets the mind.
Our human condition includes transcendence, a state beyond the range of sensory perception, outside the limits of materiality and cognition. It doesn’t take much research or study to realize that existence is much more than what we think.
… the power of religious truth is a moment of insight, and its content is oneness or love. Source and content may be conveyed in one word: transcendence. Transcendence is the test of religious truth. A genuine insight rends the enclosure of the heart and bestows on man the power to rise above himself. [Rabbi Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 162].
We can become so immersed in physical and intellectual experiences that we perceived them as the ultimate reality. In the words of French priest, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Our senses and mind are partners in the production of intellect. However, by definition, transcendence is beyond intellectual cognition, and independent of the material universe.
. . . in the diligent exercise of mystical contemplation, leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being and nonbeing, that you may arise by unknowing towards the union, as far as is attainable, with it that transcends all being and all knowledge. [Dionysius the Areopagite, Mystical Theology].
We describe the Divine as all-pervasive, immanent, touching the very essence of our being. However, this immanence in all things doesn’t affect God’s transcendence.
The Divine Reality encompasses all phenomenal thoughts about existence, but extends far beyond all its boundaries. We need something higher than our mind to stand upon to perceive it.
When we cultivate mystical awareness or transcendent identity … what happens is that we begin to take a witness position on our own lives, and that includes our minds. We break the illusion that we think our own thoughts, which is not always the case. [James Redfield].
Paths to Transcendence
Transcendence comes in different modes and conditions. At times, a mystical moment fills us with a lifetime of joy. It may be a beautiful sight, an emotional encounter, a glimpse of nature’s wonder.
… as there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God. [Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson].
At other times, we train as spiritual athletes, so that our intellect and emotions become unified in a higher consciousness. We immerse ourselves in Divine thoughts, seeking transcendence as the grand prize.
Indeed, by its very nature, reason is open to the Creator, and it is on a continuous quest for Him. So long as it is not totally overcome by lusts or desires, reason pursues light—and once it has transcended worldliness, it changes into a store of knowledge of God, beginning to live in love and eagerness for Him, and to suck milk from the same breasts as those from which the heart nurses. [Fethullah Gülen].
Immersed in Divine Reality
The only way all our thoughts can be immersed in the Divine Reality is to remember God always. We must think, speak, do godly things, until all that proceeds from our self is godly.
Is that possible? We cannot pray all day and night. However, our intention to please God activates the best properties of our soul. Our submission to the Divine Will places our thoughts in the Divine Reality.
When we are spiritually free, we do not have to worry about what to say or do in unexpected, difficult circumstances. When we are not concerned about what others think of us or what we will get for what we do, the right words and actions will emerge from the centre of our beings because the Spirit of God, who makes us children of God and sets us free, will speak and act through us. [Henri J. M. Nouwen].
Immersion in the Divine Reality is a state of mind and an attitude, having significance beyond intellectual comprehension, with implications and consequences more profound than we can understand.
God’s unity encompasses all realities and all knowledge, yet nothing encompasses Him. His expansiveness transcends all time and space. He is without beginning or end — immeasurable, timeless.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. [Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)].
God’s existence permeates all phases of nature but our eyes never see God physically. Our mind cannot comprehend His essential character, yet He offers His Presence to the sincere supplicant. We recognize His attributes and glorify His Names, but all the components we may imagine do not comprise His totality.
God! there is no God but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there who shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-high, the All-glorious. [Quran 2.255]