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.”

The World Below the Surface

Posted by Carpefeline in Palau tales –

Throughout the history of humanity, within every culture, and among all levels of society within those cultures, some variation of acknowledgement of a transcendent aspect to existence has appeared in the writings, art, mythologies, and narratives, relevant to the particular culture. In the modern world, we take our awareness of our cultural heritage for granted, and most young adults with a reasonably typical level of education are generally versed in the traditional stories within their cultures. We sometimes forget that this was not always the case. For the earliest human societies, there was no previously constructed and well established cultural foundation of the sort we enjoy today, particularly when humanity was only just beginning to develop what could be described as clearly useful cognitive talents.

© NASA / JPL-Caltech

Ancient humans, at some point, finally possessed an adequate cognitive capacity to devise not only sophisticated means of enhancing their ability to flourish in the ancient world, but also to combine these enhanced abilities with useful memories of success and failure, methods of acquiring and exploiting available resources, and ultimately with ways of communicating meaningful associations and lessons to their descendents. Ever since the hominid brain evolved sufficiently to provide modern humans with an adequate degree of cognitive talent, the blossoming of conscious awareness slowly provided Homo sapiens with the ability to not only be aware that they exist, but to utilize this new ability deliberately and with purpose.

Human cognitive capacities and functions, while clearly dependent upon the architecture and electrochemical processes of the human brain, have not only provided us with a distinct survival advantage, but also with a degree and quality of consciousness that transcends all other known varieties on Earth. Our awareness of a richly-textured “inner experience,” and the ubiquitous cultural acknowledgement of some sort of existence beyond the temporal or corporeal sort, while also mitigated by our degree and quality of cognitive ability, at the very least, points toward the possibility that our experience of consciousness may involve influences and energies that exist beyond what we recognize as the temporal.

While these early humans may not have recognized what was transpiring in a comprehensive sense, the gradual accumulation of experience and memory eventually began to coalesce into a primitive self-awareness, and with it, the beginning of wonder and awe at the expansion of that awareness. It must have been both exhilarating and confusing for our hominid ancestors to experience this gradual ability to begin to comprehend the world in a more meaningful way, as well as to slowly grow more “conscious” of their own identities and roles as individual living creatures who “knew” they existed. We can only imagine what it must have been like for those first truly “self-aware” human beings to look up at the night sky and ponder the sight of millions of shimmering points of light, trying to comprehend the spectacle, and how it made them feel.

It is only in the remotest regions of my inner silence that I seem to be able to connect to the core matter which occupies my whole being these many years. It is far away from the experience of everyday life, and recently, I have been struggling a fair amount just to arrive in that place. In my aloneness, in the stillness of my inner self, I approach the gates only briefly it seems before I must reluctantly return to the surface. When in those rare moments I have been able to connect to this inner space, I have flung open the doors of my soul and welcomed those moments joyfully, hoping to illuminate the world which I can feel blossoming within me. There are many ways to avoid these connections, but at some point, if we are to move forward in our understanding, we must attempt to engage them fully. Life on the physical plane is only a shadow of the fullness of our existence, a manifestation of a much deeper and richer completeness. Overcoming the illusions of life in the physical universe requires a leap toward the spirit.

Even as 21st century humans, we can still experience a sense of awe when we turn our gaze to the panorama of stars on a crisp, clear winter night, but unlike our ancient ancestors, most of us are fully aware of what we see when we observe the night sky. In spite of our more comprehensive awareness of the world, and our place in the expanding universe, we still have a sense of something beyond what we can discern with our senses. In many ways, it is precisely because we have a greater comprehension of our temporal existence that the persistent sense of “something more” behind it all continues to engage us. A strictly materialist view of existence may be as comforting to the empiricist as this sense of “something more” can be to those who embrace the idea of the “human spirit,” but to deny its existence completely in the face of the extraordinary history and literature of humanity through the millennia, and in consideration of every possible avenue of exploration we currently possess seems, at best, short-sighted.