The Phenomenology of Transcendence: A Study of the Paradox of Life and Death, with a Meta-Discourse on the Holy Trinity

15.05.2024


What is Transcendence?

 
Throughout the annals of human thought, the notion of transcendence has been a perpetual and multifaceted preoccupation of luminaries from various disciplines. From the mystical realms of theology to the sublime heights of philosophy, it has remained a constant and enduring theme in human history. In this endeavor, we embark on a journey of creative exploration, delving into the essence of transcendence, its paradoxical nature, its manifold manifestations, and its profound implications on our understanding of existence. While we will inevitably touch upon theoretical and academic underpinnings of transcendence, our primary focus will be on a more nuanced and experiential approach, seeking to permeate this enigmatic concept in its complexity and beauty.

 
Note: This text constitutes a translation of the original manuscript, which I penned in Romanian between 12-14 May. The version presented here is a faithful adaptation of the original text, aimed at conveying the nuances and subtleties of the author's intention to an English-speaking audience.


Chapter 1: The Form of the Unknown


Transcendence is the essence of existence, coursing through every heartbeat like a revitalizing spring that bursts forth in the celestial expanse of the firmament and the earth. It embodies the paradox of life and death, where evil is vanquished and miracles unfold as if inscribed in the matrix of time and space. This testament to creation and its creators manifests the human heart's deepest longing, a yearning for connection with the divine.


Transcendence pulses through the celestial skies of humanity's consciousness, taking on seraphic forms that dance across the universe, inspiring and exhaling the senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, and light. It rises like an eagle, transforming the elements of air, water, fire, and earth into a higher dimension where the boundaries of space and time are transcended, because "God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and "With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8).

Transcendence is the hope of unseen colors, encapsulating the concrete and abstract, like a master potter and sculptor perfecting their art. Thus, the sublime transcendental is revealed in our intuition as the high spirit within us whispers secrets of light and wisdom. Behold, the consciousness of the divine is so close yet far from those blinded by pride and self-absorption. As it is written: "Blessed are those with pure hearts for they shall see God; Blessed are those who make peace for they shall be called sons of God; Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness' sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:8).


Chapter 2: The Nature of Transcendence


Transcendence is a celestial spectacle, a terrestrial symphony of elegance and grace, magnetizing humanity towards its divine nature, which can be found in the works of Gioachino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. It calls out to those lost in their wanderings like a river gathering its fragments and casting away the world's debris, revealing its truth. This eternal quest for transcendence is an opera of contrasts where darkness and light are reconciled as in the Hildegard of Bingen's Ordo Virtutum, Francesca Caccini's La liberazione di Ruggiero, or Barbara Strozzi's works.


The echoes of volcanoes and the paradisiacal tornado of living creatures illustrate transcendence's purifying power through flood and fire as well as through words of lamentation as in the writings of Sufi masters such as Hafiz, Navai, Sanai, and Rumi. She is a loving and protective mother who nurtures humanity through its struggles and tribulations reminding us of Aisha Al-Manoubya, Lady Amin, Rabia Al-Basri, and Aisha al-Bauniyya.


Chapter 3: The Personality of Transcendence


Transcendence delves into each person's dreams and intentions. She is the corporeal immanence of the incorporeal, a universal movement that remains stationary. Its power is unshakable, healing and purifying us, and regenerating itself as in Marguerite Porete's "The Mirror of Simple Souls" or Saint John of The Cross's "The Dark Night of The Soul". Its works are akin to the art of jewelers adorned with the sparkle of stars and the gentle perfume of angels.


Chapter 4: The Character of Transcendence

In the mind of transcendence's heart, I behold an endless cascade of wisdom known as Sophia. Transcendence is not bound by space and time or any physical limitations; it is free and all-encompassing as if revealed from cosmic memory saying "Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not comprehended it". Transcendence is the "wholly other"[1], Karl Barth. Transcendence, an essence that eludes the rigidities of human cognition, cannot be circumscribed by the ontological frameworks that endeavor to capture its essence. Rather, its sacredness manifests through a mystical symbiosis, where the boundaries of perception are transcended by the refined sensibilities of the heart, attuned to the whisperings of the divine. Though transcendent experiences can be approached through various disciplines, including theological dogma, philosophical inquiry, and syncretic practices, they cannot be reduced to these frameworks alone. In this liminal realm, where the boundaries of rationality and instinct converge, the human experience transcends the confines of logic and empirical observation, revealing the intricate tapestry of existence. Transcendence emerges as a meta-discourse of devotion and trust, conveying its essence directly to the deepest recesses of the human psyche. Here, in this liminal space, the dialectical tension between the rational and the intuitive is transcended, allowing the mystical to assume its rightful place as the primary language of the soul.


Chapter 5: The Continuum Present and its Immanence


Transcendence is an ontological manifestation of the divine, a profound and intricately textured experience that embodies the universe's genesis. She is a syncretic fusion of affection, gift-giving, attention, care, love, forgiveness, compassion, and sensitivity, encompassing the fundamental principles that govern the universe. This transcendent dimension comprises the confluence of the sacred and the human, yielding an intimacy that transcends the mundane and reveals the profound, ontological interconnectedness of all. It is the anima and animus of our ancestors, alpha and omega configuration, yin and yang—a paradox of formidable contrasts, Tao that stands before us saying "Live your life with honor, love justice, and courage, die and be reborn with dignity, let yourself be enveloped by divine love. Move with confidence, gratitude, and trust on your path. The journey is beautiful; learn to enjoy it."

Transcendence is the meeting between two hands, that continually call each other, touching between two hearts, that watch over each other, a testament to friendship between man and divinity. It is the most illustrious mystagogue, the convergence of illuminated minds by the power of sacred spirit, an unwritten book by human hands, for women and men priests, mystics, and theologians. Transcendence is everywhere, marriage with divinity, a moment, a caress between two pure hearts, a poem without flaws, the story of humanity's mysterious and majestic coronation of your love for God, and unmatchable love of God for man.


Transcendence is eternal embrace in the heart of love for God, crystalline fusion with your angels, movement—pause—rest—solemn silence, a lullaby song in memory—love. Transcendence is a heart laid on the heart in prayer.


Chapter 6: The Relationship Between Transcendence and the Holy Trinity


The relationship between Transcendence and the Holy Trinity is a fascinating and complex topic that warrants a profound exploration. From a universal Christian philosophical perspective, it is possible to argue that Transcendence is an integral constituent of the divine essence manifesting itself in the three hypostases of God, yet simultaneously existing both within and beyond them. Through this transcendence, we can observe the intricate web of relationships between the Father—the Son—and the Holy Spirit as they unfold through the sacred script.


In this context, the concept of Ein Sof from the Kabbalistic tradition warrants consideration, as it elucidates the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father. This notion underscores the dichotomy between procession and birth, a topic that has been the subject of prolonged debate among theologians. The Holy Fathers have addressed this controversy by incorporating verbiage from John 15:26 into the Symbol of Faith, thereby highlighting the pivotal role of the Holy Spirit in bearing witness to Jesus Christ. 


Another pertinent example is provided by Saint Maximus the Confessor who posits that God's love for humanity transcends human understanding and becomes a transformative force that reconciles the divine and human realms. Similarly, Saint Athanasius argues that God became human to reveal His divine nature to humanity thereby facilitating a union between the two. [2]


Throughout the biblical canon, numerous instances of transcendence are woven throughout the fabric of Christian theology, underscoring its pivotal importance in shaping our understanding of the divine. The Prologue to John's Gospel provides a paradigmatic exemplar of transcendence, as it masterfully juxtaposes the divine Logos within and beyond creation, thereby highlighting the inherent tension and harmony that characterize the relationship between the transcendent and the created. Furthermore, Jesus' poignant prayer in Gethsemane serves as a poignant illustration of the intimate connection between humanity and divinity, as his supplication assumes the form of a transcendental expression, thereby manifesting the very essence of his divine nature.


Chapter 7: Beyond the Horizon of Transcendence


As we embark upon the final leg of our odyssey, we are confronted with the enigmatic question: Can the essence of God transcend itself? Is the Divine self-aware and self-regulating? These queries arise as we navigate the labyrinthine depths of existence, imperative to recognize that the beauty of Transcendence lies not in our exhaustive comprehension of it, but in our capacity to experience it through the whispers of the heart, unencumbered by the rationalizations of the mind.


Chapter 8: Theoretical Synthesis and Explorations


In this culminating chapter, we shall embark on an examination of the concept of transcendence by engaging with influential thinkers and theorists who have significantly contributed to our understanding of this phenomenon. Through a nuanced analysis of their works, we will delve into the complexities of transcendence, uncovering the multifaceted nature of this concept and its profound implications for human existence.


A.  Theological Masterworks 

  1. Thomas Aquinas's "Summa Theologica" (1273), a seminal work of Christian theology, explores the paradoxical nature of God's transcendence and immanence, which has had an impact on Western thought.
  2. Augustine of Hippo's "The City of God" (413-426) presents a sweeping narrative of the relationship between the earthly and heavenly cities, underscoring the transcendent nature of the latter.
  3. The anonymous medieval text "The Cloud of Unknowing" (14th century) offers a mystical approach to prayer and contemplation, emphasizing the importance of transcending the limitations of human consciousness to reach the divine.


B. Notable Figures

  1. Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine abbess, visionary, and composer, wrote extensively on themes of transcendence and the unity of all creation, demonstrating her profound understanding of interconnectedness. Example: "Scivias" (1151-2).
  2. Mechthild of Magdeburg, a German mystic and writer, explored the transformative power of divine love and the experience of transcendence, revealing the profound impact that such experiences can have on human life.
  3. Rumi, a renowned Persian Sufi poet, is celebrated for his spiritual depth and insights into the nature of transcendence, which have inspired countless seekers of truth throughout history.
  4. Simone Weil, a French philosopher and mystic, wrote about the relationship between human suffering and divine love, suggesting that transcendence lies in embracing our limitations and finding solace in the depths of human existence. Works: "Waiting for God" (1950). 
  5. Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk, poet, and writer, delved into the contemplative life and the pursuit of transcendence, demonstrating the profound significance of introspection and self-discovery in achieving spiritual growth. [3]


C. Orthodox Theologians 

  1. Vladimir Losski, a Russian Orthodox theologian and philosopher, wrote extensively on the nature of God, theosis, and transcendence, providing a profound exploration of the Orthodox understanding of these concepts. Example: "Essai sur la théologie mystique de l'Église d'Orient" (1944).
  2. John Meyendorff, a Russian Orthodox theologian and historian, wrote about Byzantine theology and spirituality, offering valuable insights into the rich spiritual heritage of Eastern Christianity. Example: "Christ in Eastern Christian thought" (1969).
  3. Kallistos Ware, an English Orthodox theologian and bishop, wrote about prayer, contemplation, and transcendence, providing a nuanced exploration of these concepts within the Orthodox tradition. Known for: "The Sacraments of Healing" (2023).
  4.  Élisabeth Behr-Sigel, an American Orthodox theologian and writer, wrote about women in the Church, theosis, and transcendence, highlighting the importance of exploring these themes within an Orthodox context. Book Recommendation: "The Place of the Heart: An Introduction to Orthodox Spirituality" (2012).
  5. Dumitru Stăniloae, a Romanian Orthodox theologian and bishop, wrote about dogmatic theology and transcendence, offering a comprehensive exploration of these concepts within the Orthodox tradition. Example: Opere Complete. vol. 5 - "Chipul nemuritor al lui Dumnezeu" , Ed. Basilica, București, 2013. 


D.  Philosophical Treatises

  1. Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason", German: Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781) presents an exploration of the relationship between the phenomenal and noumenal realms, positing that transcendence resides in the ontological sphere of the noumenal.
  2. Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time" (1927) offers a profound examination of human existence (Dasein) and its inherent relationship to transcendence, arguing that human existence is fundamentally oriented towards the transcendent.
  3. William James's seminal work "The Varieties of Religious Experience" (1902) explores the phenomenology of religious experience, suggesting that it involves a direct, ontological encounter with the transcendent.


In addition to these notable thinkers and theologians, numerous other scholars have made significant contributions to our understanding of transcendence. I encourage readers to explore these works further to deepen their understanding of this complex and multifaceted concept.


Conclusion
As we conclude our journey through the realms of Transcendence, we are reminded that our odyssey has merely scratched the surface of this profound and enigmatic reality. The concept of transcendence has been a subject of profound inquiry and philosophical introspection across various disciplines, with numerous scholars and thinkers making significant contributions to this discourse.


Recommendations:

  1. Barth, K. (1960). The humanity of God. 
  2. Boingeanu, C. (2009). Între imanență și transcendență. Moltmann și Lossky în dialog despre Trinitatea Divină.
  3. Eckhart, M. (2009). The Complete Mystical Works. Yale University Press.
  4. Hildegard of Bingen. (1151-1152). Scivias.
  5. John of the Cross, S. (1577-1579). The Dark Night of the Soul.
  6. Porete, M. (14th century). The Mirror of Simple Souls.
  7. Selles, J. (1983). The spirituality of labor: Simone Weil's quest for transcendence. Institute for Christian Studies.
  8. Stăniloae, D. (n.d.). Chipul Lui Dumnezeu și responsabilitatea lui în lume. [link]
  9. ------- Opere Complete. vol. 5 - "Chipul nemuritor al lui Dumnezeu" , Ed. Basilica, București, 2013.



Personal works:

  • Nicoll-Hellen, P (2024, January 10). Plictisul ca simbol al rupturii de transcendență în filosofia și teologia medievală: O analiză a perspectivelor lui Augustin și Toma d'Aquino. Firstly published in Artesane Studio Magazine. Retrieved from [link]
  • ---- (2024, February 18). Acedia în literatura și filosofia medievală. Studiu comparativ: de la Boethius și Dante la Hildegard von Bingen, Sfântul Ioan al Crucii și Marguerite Porete. First published in ASM. Retrieved from [link]
  • ----- (2024, February 17). Lenevirea și vocația: o explorare transformativă în filosofia și mistica creștină medievală. Studiul Predicilor lui Meister Eckhart. First published in ASM. Retrived from [link]


External links: 

  1. Stăniloae, D. (n.d.). Chipul Lui Dumnezeu şi responsabilitatea lui în lume. Retrieved from [link]
  2. Boingeanu, C. (2009). Între imanență și transcendență. Moltmann și Lossky în dialog despre Trinitatea Divină. Retrieved from [link]



Categories: Theology, PhilosophyEsoterica, Spirituality/Mysticism 

Genre: Interdisciplinary Essay (Philosophical and Theological with a Poetic Touch) 

Reading Level: Advanced