“Actually, there are many reports of alien abduction that had multiple witnesses, left radar and other physical evidences, and not only left marks on the victim’s body but left behind strange implanted devices. Scientists routinely dismiss such evidence without investigation.”

We are getting WAY off topic here. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that scientists regularly ignore credible reports of alien abductions this would have nothing to do with the ability of science to directly investigate the transcendent. Alien abductions, if they occur, involve physical intelligent creatures visiting earth in physical spaceships and, at least sometimes, sticking physical things into human orifices or inserting probes under physical human tissue. Even if I had no experience with surgery, I would have difficulty understanding what these experiences could possibly have to do with spirituality/transcendence, which I’ve consistently argued is beyond direct scientific investigation regardless. I realize you’re attempting to make the point that science sometimes ignores phenomena you think it shouldn’t, but since my position is science can’t study transcendence directly the example of alien abductions wouldn’t bring us any closer to agreement even assuming I accepted your argument regarding science’s reaction to instances of alleged alien abductions.

“I’m really only trying to determine whether or not you believe the transcendent is product of, or is in any way depended on, human beings. It’s not a ‘gotcha’ question. What does the transcendent transcend? Is it human minds or something else?”

Words are forever going to fail to precisely define or describe the transcendent. Metaphor is as close as we can get to conveying what is meant by it. Again, if I could tell you exactly what “it” was it would cease to be transcendent. The best I can come up with is something like the ground of all being. The transcendent is, like the “source” from which our universe comes, eternal, which is to say it has neither a source nor an end as such. Attempting to describe the transcendent is a bit like trying to answer questions like why is our universe (or multiverse) made up of something instead of nothing or what was it like before time existed. Experiencing the transcendent requires us to set aside both questions and answers and just be in the moment as fully as possible. Let the mystery be for a while and just see where the spirit or whatever you want to call it takes you.

Obviously, I think humans can and do experience transcendence, however fleeting these experiences may be. Indeed, I think we do so daily, though we may not always realize it or call it transcendence. Words like awe and wonder, at least in certain contexts, are perfectly interchangeable with transcendent. Sometimes we dismiss it or fail to spend any time examining the experience and just move on. From a spiritual point of view, or even philosophical one, these represent missed opportunities. Nonetheless, to say it’s an experience that only humans have access to or that in any way is dependent upon our existence would be an incredibly arrogant claim. For all I know, at least some other creatures that share this planet with us experience it daily too, albeit in their own way. I do not profess to know, let alone claim that it is possible to find out how a dolphin, an elephant, or a dog might experience transcendence. And then there are those aliens who may or may not be paying us regular visits from outer space to abduct us to consider (only being somewhat snarky).

I can tell you what I call transcendent experiences, but this will not reveal to you what transcendence is any more than it has revealed it to me. Again, if you’re trying to find transcendence by defining it you won’t succeed. Transcendent/spiritual/wonderful experiences are, at least in my case, glimpses of timelessness in which all notion of self falls away. During these experiences I am not sitting there thinking “wow, this is a transcendent experience”, or even thinking about any thing at all. That I had a transcendent experience is only obvious in retrospect after it is over and it’s possible to reflect back upon it. It’s because we so often fail to engage in that reflection that we frequently miss the fact that we had a brush with the transcendent.

My experiences have generally been associated with meditation. However, I’ve also had experiences in nature where I’ve been surprised by scenes or circumstances that triggered the same or a very similar sense of being part of an eternal process beyond all comprehension. A clear star-filled night far from any city lights, for example. If you could stick me in an MRI machine at those moments, and stick 100 other people in one at similar moments too, no doubt you would discover a similar pattern of brain activity in all of us. Perhaps blood work and other tests would reveal other physiological changes that correlate strongly with these types of experience. There is merit in such scientific work, provided we understand the limits of what it can reveal. For example, no MRI scan or blood work can tell you anything about what a profoundly transcendent/wonderful/awe inspiring/sublime experience (take your pick) is actually like to have, let alone what transcendence is. The moment you start objectifying the transcendent by arguing it is “really this” or “really that” you are making the same mistake as any scientist who might argue an MRI image can actually explain the experience is making. The model or map is not the territory. To know the territory at all you have to visit it personally. Visions of particular things, symbols, people, or other beings are archetypes that can open us to the transcendent but ultimately the transcendent is beyond form. If you begin identifying the transcendent with a particular form by arguing “this is it” the vision or belief system built up around it has become an obstacle rather than a vehicle.

Finally, we need not rely upon unusual events or circumstances to experience the transcendent. In this context all life is magical. You might experience transcendence while playing with your child or grandchild, during an intimate moment with your partner, or while in a state of flow doing something you love. You could experience it anywhere at any time. If you’ve read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” you will know it’s even possible to experience it while imprisoned in a place like a Nazi concentration camp, though it obviously takes considerably more effort. In spite of what I said above, I suppose you could even experience it after being abducted by aliens and while being probed. Who am I to say you couldn’t? Regardless, neither science nor religion is ever going to tell you anything of much value about what it is like to have the experience and it is absolutely never going to prove it exists out there somewhere. At best, science, religion, and philosophy can only point you in the right direction.

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US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

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