Perception and Transcendence

Layered Perceptions: Mixed Media Digital Manipulation output on vellum and watercolor papers, pastel embellished, layered onto copper and wood. copyright 2008-2012. Adele Kurtz. All rights reserved

Reviewing my personal journals recently, I once again encountered the writings of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and author, whose arrival in my literary life sparked a renewal of urgency in my personal writing, and was an essential component of the unraveling of a numbing mental depression years ago that nearly caused me to abandon any hope of making progress in discerning the cause of the devastating turmoil in my life at that time. His willingness to acknowledge the existence of a transcendent aspect to human life–a human connection to the infinite–and to a spiritual core at the heart of human life, all resonate through my subsequent writings concerning the existence of a transcendent aspect to life, to consciousness, and to the physical universe in which all of this transpires.

“Man has been robbed of his transcendence by the shortsightedness of the super intellectuals. Man’s task is…to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

“We do not know how far the process of coming to consciousness can extend, or where it will lead. It is a new element in the story of creation, and there are no parallels we can look to…(and)cannot know what potentialities are inherent in it.”
– from Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.”

With the possible exception of philosophers and poets, the inclusion of these concepts in a comprehensive understanding of consciousness continues to be problematical. The suggestion that non-physical energies or forces or components could have a vital role in explaining our subjective experience of the world, especially in consideration of the profoundly important developments in neuroscience, genetics, and cognitive studies, often seems less appealing since empirically establishing such connections is currently beyond our established cognitive talents. Whether or not we may eventually discover empirical proofs, or perhaps expand our capacities in a way that could allow empirical confirmation of some sort, is still an open question. It is my contention, however, that the only way for such discoveries or capacities to be realized, is to vigorously engage the possibility.

Santorini, Greece – Copyright 2010 Andy Ilachinski

Consciousness is a word we use to describe a transcendent awareness–a manifestation of a non-physical source. We struggle to describe it and to justify our descriptive terms because we are, of necessity, utilizing our temporal talents to address elements which do not originate completely in the temporal realm. Perception is the key!

In a recent TED lecture, scientist Brian Greene attempted to describe string theory as something which may rely on dimensions that are currently outside of our perceptual abilities. Even in the highly controversial forefront of theoretical physics, where scientists like Greene pursue the concept of vibrating strings as the foundation to all matter, we seem far more willing to tolerate the idea of unobservable phenomena, inaccessible dimensions, and multiple universes, than we are to even entertain the existence of a fundamentally transcendent aspect to our experience of the the world. In spite of the affirmation of the theoretical possibility of multiple layers to nearly every aspect of temporal existence, the suggestion that our conscious experiential awareness could be reliant upon non-physical layers of existence is disparaged as metaphysical.

Consider the perception of light. Light exists before we actually “see” it. We infer this as we recognize that the speed of light requires time to reach us from great distances. It is only when we perceive the light that we can confidently affirm its existence.

Light also exists in spite of the inability of particular individuals to perceive it, although those individuals cannot subjectively affirm it.

Our perceptual awareness of all existence requires both a perceptual ability and a functional perceptual apparatus. However, every aspect of existence is not perceived by us directly, as Brian Greene suggests, but the existence is there before we are born and continues after we perish. It is my contention that consciousness is the intersection of the transcendent source with the temporal universe. The source itself exists in a state or a dimension that is beyond our current perceptual capability, and only by remaining open to the possibility and placing ourselves directly on the path of transcendence can we even hope to begin to discern its true nature.

Astonishing leaps of scientific accomplishment utilizing current neuroscientific technologies can reveal the most subtle activities of brain function, can point to areas of malfunction, and aide in diagnosis through penetrating scans of the inner layers of the very organ responsible for the existence of the technologies in the first place. At the heart of the dilemma in bringing these two disparate ends together is not so much the inexplicable resistance to the unconventional ideas that Jung referred to in his autobiography, as it is the essential quality of maintaining a degree of certainty from considering both sides that is only truly possible to experience subjectively.

Christian Wertenbaker, author of “The Eye of the Beholder: Paradoxes of the Visible Universe,” calls for the inclusion of both science and consideration of “ancient spiritual truths,” in attaining “a more encompassing view” of our universe–an “understanding that is both rational…and beyond rationality, ineffable, indescribable, and non-visualizable.” He points out that while our physical senses and brains are marvels to be sure, well-suited to our needs as humans in the physical universe, that like visible light–which is only a small portion of the entire spectrum of light–our brains only provide “a limited view of reality.”

7 thoughts on “Perception and Transcendence

  1. ‘It is my contention that consciousness is the intersection of the transcendent source with the temporal universe.’
    This is as good – and better – an hypothesis to describe the nature of consciousness as any I have ever read or heard.
    Thanks, John.

    1. It is, at least for me, a beginning–an opening to the realm of possibility–that may inspire us and enable us to move forward in our understanding. If we expand our view beyond what we have already considered, and observe how our understanding has progressed in other areas like the broad spectrum of light, relativity, quantum theory, and now with string theory, it becomes apparent that our five familiar physical senses, combined with our astonishing cognitive abilities, as miraculous and useful as they are, do not reveal the totality of even our temporal world.

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words……John H.

  2. I fear I do not operate at your intellectual level, John. I am pretty much tethered to the earthly realm in my responses, but I do like to read these posts and I do wrestle with their content. My mind begins to wonder what this belief about consciousness you are espousing means to you. I want to make sense of the philosophy through the man who dispenses it. When I saw the movie, A Dangerous Method, it was very helpful to me to see the characters of Freud and Jung playing out their lives, and to see the world from which their ideas emerged. Have you seen that film? I didn’t particularly consider it great cinema, my brief review of it when I left the theatre with Jim was, “Reading letters, reading letters, spanking a lady on the butt!” Jim thought that very funny. Still, the movie was so helpful to me in beginning to understand the way Freud’s interest in science, his total marriage to it, contrasted with Jung’s interest in the unknown, and as yet unquantifiable.
    What was most helpful between the two was the contrast between their view of what a therapist brings to their work. Jung brought us the concept of the wounded healer. Jung thought it important people try to make meaning of their experiences. Freud didn’t really see how this would be helpful.

    The film was more sympathetic to Jung, I thought. I can see how you are inspired by his ideas. Me, I am cautious about stepping too far outside the authority of my senses. Yet I do recognize their authority and all this implies as not being fully understood by me. I guess I am saying, I do not fully understand the power of my senses, I am open to the idea I am incapable of apprehending their unique capacities.

  3. Your response provides a marvelous opportunity to elaborate on some of the most important aspects of my philosophy, and I encourage you to allow yourself to consider its implications while remaining true to your own thoughts as you see fit. I present my thoughts as an opening to an expanded view, not as any sort of definitive view to be apprehended necessarily. I have similar thoughts regarding your intellectual level when I read your writing, but it really isn’t so much about where we are located intellectually, as it is how we utilize the resources at our disposal, whatever they are. We are both explorers and investigators in our own way, and many of the results of those explorations are intriguing by virtue of their unique character, without consideration of how they rank by any other criteria.

    The contrasting views of Jung and Freud are indeed illuminating with regard to the range of what might be possible within the realm of consciousness, and while I have not seen the film you mentioned as yet, I am familiar with the relationship between these two great minds, and have read extensively about the relationship in biographies and other related writings regarding how it unfolded and eventually ended. Your characterization of these two opposing worldviews is reasonable as a summary view, but it is in the complexities of their relationship where my fascination with Jung began to take hold, as well as my intense interest in exploring his writings.

    I also have studied many of the writings of Joseph Campbell, who wrote several of the most influential and important books for me personally, including, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” and “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space,” not to mention his collaboration with Bill Moyers from the PBS documentary, “The Power of Myth.” I recommend Campbell to anyone who seeks a broader perspective regarding our human nature, and credit him with steering me toward Jung’s works.

    I would not describe Jung’s interests as being “the unknown,” so much as being the “as yet unquantifiable.” There is much that can be inferred as a result of Jung’s determined and thorough examination of the human psyche, as well his astonishing, voluminous, and exhaustive treatment of the foundations for his theories of psychoanalysis and the archetypes of the unconscious. My own abrupt and traumatic encounter with my own “unconscious contents,” as a younger man found solace and a beginning to heal from it in Jung’s works, and I hope to contribute something important to the expansion of our comprehension of human consciousness as my own work progresses.

    Considering your own writings, and in view of your competence as a therapist and thinker, I would say you are more than capable of understanding the power of your senses, as well as apprehending their unique capacities, but as I am fond of saying to those who question our abilities as humans to comprehend our world, we must first believe that something is possible, before it ever will be. I believe in YOU wholeheartedly, and in the importance of considering the broad realm of possibility as the only way to apprehend the fullness represented in our relationship to our consciousness as human beings.

    Thank you so much for your considered commentary and for sharing yourself so unselfishly with all of us here at WordPress……John H.

  4. Hi John,
    In reading through your post, it occurred to me a conversation I had recently in which I elaborated on our ability to perceive the world around us. It is a stark reality to know that the two canines in my house, could potentially smell molecular components to a sensitivity that I will never perceive. Likewise a mantis-shrimp ( can see the spectrum of light in ways I simply can not. The difference being that mantis-shrimp and dogs, do not question their ability to perceive the world (or at least I don’t think they do!).

    It is in this awareness of our limitations and our gifts of perception that I believe we find the seat of our consciousness. It is also my summation (potentially in error) that our search for understanding our perceptual limitations, interferes with our ability to use our subconscious mind to integrate information. Freud’s scientific inquiry seemed to discredit it so readily.

    For instance, we chock up to chance and circumstance our dreams of premonition, and yet it occurs all the same. Now on this path I’ve started to layout, I have to confess my ignorance because very quickly I encounter the notion that perhaps our conscious efforts are merely entertainment and a convenient distraction from actual living. Instantly I follow that logic into what would happen if we choose a state of humanity bereft of consciousness, one in which we are all in a perpetual case of reckless abandon without thought or consequence. As I traipse back and forth through what I know intuitively to constitute conscious thought (words, symbols, feelings, perceptions, and other mental constructs), and try to place value on their function with our presence as humans in the context of a larger universe that we can not ever fully perceive, I am brought back to the dog and the mantis-shrimp, and that what I can do, is to trust their perceptions, and trust in the ways of nature without my conscious interference. Not discredit my consciousness but treat it as phenomena similar to weather patterns forming in across our ecospherical existence.

    Too often we abstract our experiences as truth, when they can only ever be our subjective perspectives. Remembering our place in context, and trusting in the natural order that brought about a creature of our efficacy, allows us to unfold all the connections that our unique intersections consist of, the experiences of body, mind, spirit, temporally, and ephemerally.

    A fledgling am I and you’ve touched on much, much more than just what I’ve brought about here. Thank you for sharing your insights.

    1. Erik,

      Your response to my posting gives me a pretty good sense of your thoughts regarding our humanity in its limitations and gifts, and I appreciate that you took the time to respond so thoroughly. Let me see if I can articulate my reactions to what you wrote in similar fashion.

      What is so clearly different about most every other known species on Earth is that no matter how gifted they are in their perceptual or cognitive talents, it does not appear that any of them possess our comprehensive, penetrating, and complex awareness of our limitations and gifts. There are a few with exceptional perceptual talents that far exceed our own, and several species with many similar capacities that seem to indicate at least some level of awareness, but as yet, nothing truly indicative of a human-like consciousness.

      This is not to say that we are somehow better or more important than any other species, only that our experiential subjective awareness of our existence, and our ability to express it, and contemplate it, and influence it, and to deliberately and purposefully alter the world as a result of it, is not evident in a clearly discernible way in any other part of nature. There are a great many species on our planet with amazing perceptual differences from us, and which can perform at levels no human could hope to do, and you are right to appreciate these differences, and not to suppose that just because we have an apparently significant cognitive advantage, that we always get it right or do things better. One look at the totality of the human presence in the world and it is clear we often make mistakes, in spite of that advantage.

      What is even more revealing, in my view, is not only our inclination to associate meaning and purpose to many of our experiences, but that we tend to dismiss many of the experiences we have as being chance and circumstance, when there truly is meaning and purpose to be gleaned from them. Deepok Chopra once wrote in detail about human life at the cellular level, and spoke eloquently about how our cells and systems within our bodies are often telling us things that we ignore or dismiss as indigestion or something, when in fact, our human cells, evolved over millions of years, have not as yet evolved enough to doubt their own thinking. Our human cognitive system sometimes seems to embrace doubt where there should be none, and, at other times, moves confidently into circumstances where doubt would be of genuine value. The benefit bestowed upon us by higher cognitive capacity, can also prevent us from perceiving the value of the natural world, and from embracing the perceptions of our fellow creatures, whose instincts are not mitigated by doubt.

      It is my view that our richly-textured, experiential subjective awareness of our existence, and our development as a cognitive species, is a great deal more significant than “weather patterns forming in across our ecospherical existence,” but obviously made possible by a natural evolutionary endowment achieved as cognitive temporal beings in a physical universe. As much as I have studied and contemplated the richness, diversity, and astonishing complexity of the human brain, and as clearly as one can conceivably comprehend it in context of life on Earth, our human consciousness has not only pointed out our perceptual limits physically, but provided humanity with access to an awareness that transcends the physical universe, opening up our hearts and minds and spirits to a richness beyond perception.

      It looks like I am going to have to end this response here for now, but I will certainly be elaborating further on this subject as I go forward…….John H.

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