Transcendence and Happiness

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Transcendence and Happiness

Post  Nick_A on Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:42 am

Hi All

I read from the heading:

Can we transcend any and all limits set by our mind, society, personality etc.? Within our discussions we're searching for the best ways to be happy and healthy individually and collectively, as well as ecologically. This is also leading us to question basic understandings of our universe, the science taught to us, consciousness and how to work with it, as well as the existence of a Higher Being, fate vs. free will, the law of attraction, and what does it even mean to be happy?
Is the pursuit of transcendence the pursuit of happiness? I've come to respect the calling of transcendence, as one of objective, human, experiential, meaning and purpose rather than happiness.

I've been doing research on Simone Weil for the sake of presentations of her ideas in respect to her 100th birthday Feb.3, 2009. It is hard to find anyone with the need for transcendence on her level that includes a brilliant mind and evolved heart. In a letter shortly before her death she was responding to a friend that had questions about her life. She wrote:

Excerpts from a letter Simone Weil wrote on May 15, 1942 in Marseilles, France to her close friend Father Perrin:

At fourteen I fell into one of those fits of bottomless despair that come with adolescence, and I seriously thought of dying because of the mediocrity of my natural faculties. The exceptional gifts of my brother, who had a childhood and youth comparable to those of Pascal, brought my own inferiority home to me. I did not mind having no visible successes, but what did grieve me was the idea of being excluded from that transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access and wherein truth abides. I preferred to die rather than live without that truth.......................................

Simone referring to her mediocrity must be taken with a grain of salt. Her brother Andre when he was eight taught Simone at five to read the evening paper which she did nightly to her parents. Andre, when she was fourteen, was already being hailed as one of the finest mathematicians in France and he became a peer of Einstein. Simone and Andre were complimentary geniuses so their relationship is difficult for us to understand.

When simone Weil died there were seven outsiders at her funeral. Now she is loved around the world. People like T.S. Eliot and Albert Camus discovered her and published her letters and essays at their own expense. Albert Camus wrote in a letter to Weil's mother:

Simone Weil, I still know this now, is the only great mind of our times and I hope that those who realize this have enough modesty to not try to appropriate her overwhelming witnessing.

For my part, I would be satisfied if one could say that in my place, with the humble means at my disposal, I served to make known and disseminate her work whose full impact we have yet to measure.

Her purity regarding the transcendent calling has struck a chord in people. We know we could not be as Simone who lived her life in accordance with her philosophy but even so we get a glimpse of what the transcendent calling is.

“We must prefer real hell to an imaginary paradise.” Simone Weil

If transcendence is the pursuit of objective meaning and purpose we have to awaken to the human condition and self knowledge which is hell:

"Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness." -Immanuel Kant

Simone lived this descent which is why she has become attractive to a minority that is called at least in some degree to transcendence. Her need was for the experience of objective meaning and purpose and was willing to sacrifice temporal happiness for it. She has made me question the relationship between transcendence and happiness. Do you ever question it as well?

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  Vicky on Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:40 pm

Hey Nick!

I’m really glad that you decided to join our forum!

As for your question, I think that transcendence is the key to happiness not because of the process we have to go through in order to uncover the truth, but rather because of the truth itself. Living in a modern society, it is hard not to be contaminated by the materialistic values that are fed upon us since birth. We are taught to derive happiness from a simple equation: money + fame = happiness. Yet, after learning about transcendentalism, we will realize that the genuine sense of happiness cannot be attained through materialism. By trying to quench our thirst for wealth and popularity, we only end up satisfying this desire for a while. In time, we will become more and more avaricious – constantly looking for new sources to gain wealth and popularity just so we can delude ourselves, temporarily, that we are happy. This is not what happiness entails. Happiness embodies the spirit of perpetual joy. People who think that money and fame can bring them happiness is merely deceiving themselves.

Realizing the great impact the materialistic values have on us, we also know that on the quest for true happiness – discovering the universal truth, we will face a lot of obstacles. This is partly because we have a hard time shifting our mindsets so abruptly and so completely. The pain that we go through in the search for transcendence is actually the abstinence that our ego minds feel from being limited to fulfill its needs – or to interpret things according to its imagination, as you’ve said in regards to my discussion.

Therefore, I believe that the process of transcending oneself may bring pain to the individual. Yet, the hard work will pay off, when one finally transcends oneself, and realizes how frivolous one has been living. Achieving transcendence means having a broader view point – instead of one that is limited to the materialistic benefits in front of one’s eye.
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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  Nick_A on Mon Jun 01, 2009 11:32 pm

Hi Vicky

Our difference seems to be that you believe that transcendence is a change of mindset and I believe that transcendence is a change of what we ARE. It is the conscious equivalent of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The "being:" of the caterpillar has changed.

I don't believe that transcendence is a different mindset. That is just a beginning; the realization that human meaning and purpose is found through an inner direction and not through the external world.

As usual Simone Weil lays it on the line without hearts and flowers.

"Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it We must continually suspend the work of the imagination in filling the void within ourselves."
"In no matter what circumstances, if the imagination is stopped from pouring itself out, we have a void (the poor in spirit). In no matter what circumstances... imagination can fill the void. This is why the average human beings can become prisoners, slaves, prostitutes, and pass thru no matter what suffering without being purified."

A lot of modern thought on transcendence just invites imagination to fill the void. Consequently, we are not cleansed on the inside but rather imagination just covers over reality just like mayonnaise covers bad meat.

It is easy to underestimate what transcendence means and people can actually do harm to themselves through imagination. That is why for most it is better not to be involved with these things and just strive to be good people. This is the way stressed in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Real transcendence, a change of our being, requires facing ourselves which is only possible without preparation for the few like Simone. We need to gradually acquire the ability to become open to the reality of ourselves. As we are, we are not capable of it. Since this is not attractive to our ego, only a few are willing to make these efforts for the sake of reality that threatens our perverted ego.

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  stephsquared on Wed Jun 03, 2009 12:12 am

Hi Nick!
I'm really happy to see you in our forum!! welcome!! Very Happy

so in answering your question:
i believe that transcendence is to overcome boundaries, go beyond hindrances and barriers, break out of restraints and other obstacles--that might be created by our minds--which is related to unlimited human potential. Having unlimited human potential and inner-strength/power we're able to achieve and attain anything - including overcoming "physical" boundaries. I think transcendence is gonig beyond our physical--if they're actually physical - boundaries and going non-stop to achieve what we want. This is just the concept, the process requires incredible strength, courage, heart, passion, patience and tolerance. for example-- a marathon runner, an athlete competes in the national runner's competition. Is it possible for him to overcome the aching of his muscles or the short breaths or the heat or dehydration? There have been many cases where people have been transcended their "physical" limits and made it to the finish line. Their heart is already set at their goal so, i think it's how much they really want it. I think you're right--transcendence is a change in our being, or the drive for us to go beyond our limitations. As scientifically proven, the mind has physical effects on the body itself. So we don't know if the muscle aches or short breaths are really physical limitations or they're just illusions created by the mind. The mind can be very deceiving. SOrry, i've digressed a bit but here are my thougts on what transcendence is.

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  Nick_A on Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:45 am

Hi Steph

I think transcendence is gonig beyond our physical--if they're actually physical - boundaries and going non-stop to achieve what we want.

The question becomes what we want. A while back a tried to clarify the difference between transcendiong physical and emotional limitations and becoming the "New Man." Hopefully it explains how I view transcendence. I called this essay Jesus, Nietzsche, and Simone:

*****************************

What is the evolutionary potential for an individual? Jesus was capable of the highest form of conscious evolution which was why he could consciously experience the Crucifixion and the purity of his experience could lead to the Resurrection.

However, there was a choice. Is it better to serve in heaven or rule in hell? Naturally for the Atheist or secularist that is earthbound, the priority is the earth. But Jesus was not an Atheist.


Matthew 4:

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'[d]"

11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

So Jesus chose to serve the Father rather than be served by Man. Naturally for the Atheist or secularist, this goes over like a lead balloon. Our goal in the world is "prestige" and the ability to exert power for our own benefit. It appears ludicrous that one capable of doing so would intentionally avoid it.

Nietzsche apparently felt that the Overman was king of the world. Such a person is not bothered by fears and inabilities that stifle the normal person. The Overman is the ultimate human machine that can manipulate the world to serve its purposes. But it requires shedding all sorts of illusory fears that enable a person find satisfaction in mediocrity:

http://www.pitt.edu/~wbcurry/nietzsche/nuber.html

Notice that the Overman is "the meaning of the Earth." It is its highest evolution

"What is the greatest experience you can have? It is the hour of the great contempt. The hour when your happiness, too, arouses your disgust, and even your reason and your virtue.

The hour when you say, 'What matters my happiness? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment. But my happiness ought to justify existence itself."

So mediocre, "wretched contentment" humanity for the Overman is an abomination. The most highly developed ego with the ability to gratify it would be a normal attribute for the Overman. So he creates the new ego.

But say, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred "Yes." For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred "Yes" is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world.


But is the Overman the highest form of Man or just the beginning of a higher possibility that can come through sacrificing itself or what the Devil was willing to provide Jesus? So where Nietzsche seeks to develop the will to power, Christianity seeks the sacrifice of the attachments to earthly power for the sake of the higher good.

Simone Weil had such deep experiential understanding that her writings on such profound subjects would sometimes become high art. The following IMO is such an example. Here she allows us to rise above the domain of the to experience the mechanics of its existence and its trivial nature as compared to conscious human potential:

“The sea is not less beautiful to our eye because we know that sometimes ships sink in it. On the contrary, it is more beautiful still. If the sea modified the movement of its waves to spare a boat, it would be a being possessing discernment and choice, and not this fluid that is perfectly obedient to all external pressures. It is this perfect obedience that is its beauty.”

“All the horrors that are produced in this world are like the folds imprinted on the waves by gravity. This is why they contain beauty. Sometimes a poem, like the Iliad, renders this beauty.”

“Man can never escape obedience to God. A creature cannot not obey. The only choice offered to man as an intelligent and free creature, is to desire obedience or not to desire it. If he does not desire it, he perpetually obeys nevertheless, as a thing subject to mechanical necessity. If he does desire obedience, he remains subject to mechanical necessity, but a new necessity is added on, a necessity constituted by the laws that are proper to supernatural things. Certain actions become impossible for him, while others happen through him, sometimes despite him.”

Excerpt from: Thoughts without order concerning the love of God, in an essay entitled L'amour de Dieu et le malheur (The Love of God and affliction). Simone Weil

Startling! From this perspective, the Overman is nothing but the best working machine in blind reaction to the results of the interactions of univeral laws. Simone touches on consciousness or this latent possibility we have that allows us to serve a higher more conscious purpose rather than that of the usual collective man that functions on the level Plato described as the "Great Beast." Functioning at the level of the Great Beast we become caught up in and defend all sorts of perceived "right and wrong" which from the higher perspective is neither one but simply what happens. Christianity through the Holy Spirit can experientially reveal this higher perspective psychologically and allow man to become in touch with the level of being where man can achieve what he was created for.

It was the intent of the Christ to go through this process of change, the Resurrection, to create the path that leads to the Way. The opening of the path invites the help of the Holy Spirit for direction.

Man can then serve mechanically and unconsciously the necessity that all organic life serves but has the possibility through re-birth to serve a different quality of necessity the Overman described by Nietzsche is oblivious of and unconcerned with from its limited mechanical earthbound perspective.

Do I want to serve in heaven or be content to strive to rule in my portion of hell? Can I sacrifice it? Could the rich man sacrifice his wealth to follow Jesus? The Overman though having experienced the insufficiency of the world to satisfy the heart, would have the will to sacrifice his ego that rules in hell for his soul that could serve higher purpose through transcendence into consciousness. I guess it's what separates the men from the boys.

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  stephsquared on Thu Jun 04, 2009 1:06 am

WOW Nick!

I'll be honest-- that post was really well-written and articulated and extremely deep. Your perspective is really different from what i've stated in my previous post.

Ok. so, to clarify things and to clear up my understanding of your question/ views on transcendence-- are you meaning to discuss the potential to change one's entire BEING? and that to transcend is to change ourselves, as a whole entity? and in regards to our transcendentalism discussion-- are you trying to differentiate the difference between transcendence and happiness? ( in that transcendence-- meaning going beyond something, may not be correlated with happiness)

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  Nick_A on Thu Jun 04, 2009 4:04 am

Hi Steph

Yes. I define transcendence as an evolution of being so really cannot be correlated with happiness. When I was conversing with Vicky on another site I posted the old story of the eagle and the chicken:

"A man found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.

Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked. "That's the eagle, the king of the birds," said his neighbor. "He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth - we're chickens." So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that's what he thought he was."

Anthony de Mello
(1931-1987) Jesuit Priest

This is essentially the human condition. We want to be happy chickens not realizing our potential to be eagles.

Gene Roddenberry was far ahead of his time. In the movie Star Trek the Motion Picture, V'ger was a living machine that had basically become the Overman. It knew everything and could do everything but through an old space probe became aware of its lack of purpose. It became aware of its "nothingness." It needed to transcend into a higher quality of being.

We are like living machines lacking conscious objective purpose. You could be happy having your brain freed from your body, kept in a vat and nourished with narcotics to make you perpetually happy. Is the idea appealing to you?

Transcendence into a quality of being that experiences human meaning and purpose is beyond our conceptions though we can envision it as did Thoreau:

"The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?" - Thoreau, Walden

We simply cannot experience this as we are anymore then a caterpillar can appreciate a butterfly. Yet the change of being is its potential just as transcendence is ours. The difference is that with the caterpillar it is a mechanical transition but with Man it is conscious evolution. Any objective growth in its direction that doesn't become tainted benefits our being.

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  stephsquared on Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:07 am

Hey Nick! Thanks for that elaboration and clarification, I needed it.

Oh ok. I think i have a better understanding of your perspective on transcendence. So you're saying that transcendence is NOT correlated with happiness and that transcendence is a transition of the Being (correct me if I'm wrong) and for humans, it's the shift in consciousness-- a conscious evolution. So the evolution of the Being (transcendence) is our potential, to be something better--to acheive a higher goal except that, in reference to your Eagle/Hen story, humans want to be the happy chickens and not realizing our potential to become eagles. Also, like Thoreau said, there IS only one in a million, i agree. There is only one in a million who intellectual effective exertion, and in my opinion-- there is probably no one that i can think of whose life is completely divine and poetic, especially the younger generations, quite frankly.

So, i can see where you're coming from and transcendence IS in our potential as humans, however, just not very realistic? conscious evolution is something much greater than happiness.

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  Nick_A on Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:15 pm

stephsquared wrote:Hey Nick! Thanks for that elaboration and clarification, I needed it.

Oh ok. I think i have a better understanding of your perspective on transcendence. So you're saying that transcendence is NOT correlated with happiness and that transcendence is a transition of the Being (correct me if I'm wrong) and for humans, it's the shift in consciousness-- a conscious evolution. So the evolution of the Being (transcendence) is our potential, to be something better--to acheive a higher goal except that, in reference to your Eagle/Hen story, humans want to be the happy chickens and not realizing our potential to become eagles. Also, like Thoreau said, there IS only one in a million, i agree. There is only one in a million who intellectual effective exertion, and in my opinion-- there is probably no one that i can think of whose life is completely divine and poetic, especially the younger generations, quite frankly.

So, i can see where you're coming from and transcendence IS in our potential as humans,
however, just not very realistic? conscious evolution is something much greater than happiness.

Yes, but the calling to transcendence in itself is important. Any psychological movement in that direction is beneficial not only for society but for the "seed" of the soul. The question is if there exists in man a natural attraction for truth then the natural attraction for pleasure? This is a serious question for me and our collective future may depend on it. So I invite you and all interested others to the thread "God and Man" and compare notes on what a new conception of God and Man could be?

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Re: Transcendence and Happiness

Post  stephsquared on Sat Jun 06, 2009 11:32 pm

Ok. thanks a lot.

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