A reader asked, “What is the point of this transcendence, this oneness which for a short time is us?” How to answer this question? On what level of awareness is this being asked?
I guess, to begin, I never think of anything as transcendence, per se. I think of life as being a many-leveled form of existence. But then, I am now used to living in three realms, if I may call them that. I live in the body, I live in the mind, and I, at least, live in the spirit. That is what makes a whole life, for me.
But, I can remember when I had no idea I had a spirit. Because I did not know it was there, I had no idea anything was missing. So, on this level of being, my physical realm, I guess there isn’t much point in knowing about spirit. I went about my daily life in my own way. I think I can say we all do that, however we each do that, some of us leading full happy lives, and with many of us suffering in some way, often struggling to make ends meet. In many cultures that means not knowing where the next meal will come from. Possibly not even knowing where there is a a safe place to sleep. In our Western culture, we are privileged, to a point. We pretty much know where we will sleep, though in these days of stray bullets from seemingly random gunfights, we never know how truly safe we are. But at least, we feel safe, and that is a big step up from not having a safe place to sleep. We also know, more often than not, that we are going to have another meal, to the point of expecting the cultural norm of three meals a day, for most people. Not for all, but for most, relatvely speaking. That describes our physical realms.
Then there are our mental realms. We really only get to visit our mental realms once our physical needs are taken care of. In our culture, with most of us being born into safety, we don’t even realize there are people who do not have what we take for granted having. Now, with full bellies, and safe beds, we can look for more. For me, right now, my mental world centers mostly around my computer device, presently a handheld tablet. I can sit anywhere I want in my home, and reach out into the world though the internet, meeting all kinds of people I could never even think to have met under old, pre-internet conditions. And, when I put my tablet down, I can let my imagination run wild. I can think of many different things on many different levels. Philosophy, religion, non-religion, science, nature, conditions of life, other people, even sex and pleasure. The world of imagination is boundless. But, having said that, it can also be lonely, cold, heartless, conniving, and cruel. Not everyone has it great. Still, our culture gives us so many opportunities, opportunities that people living in some other cultures cannot even imagine. We are free to do whatever we want to do, not just what we need to do. Read a book. Watch TV. Play golf. Go for a walk. Almost anything. Life is good for a lot of us. Again, not for all. But a lot of us. And for many of us, that is all we need. All these this happen in the mental world, where we can think, consider, feel feelings, and use our imaginations.
And we can communicate. With the advent of the internet, we can communicate as we have never communicated before. We can talk to people all over the world. People like us. People unlike us. People we would never meet in real life. People we will probably never meet in real life. People with different thoughts. People with different ways of doing things. People with different goals in life. People with no goals in life. And people with different dreams! For as much as we are alike, being human beings, we are also unlike. And for as much as we are unlike, we can (usually) find common ground. Because we are human. We are all connected, in some way.
But not everyone feels those connections the same way. Some barely feel any connection at all. Family connections, most of us feel, at least to some extent. Friendship connections, if we have friends. People connections, if we want to be connected to other people. But for a lot of people, that is where connections stop. I am not saying for all people, I try to never say anything for all people. But humans are just one species of living beings amongst millions of species of living beings. And while some people feel connections to other living beings, like pets, wildlife, houseplants, even some tree huggers, there are billions of us who don’t even think we can have connections to any non-human living beings, generally speaking.
(I apologize for seeming to be off on a tangent here, but hopefully down the line I will make the connections clear. For now, it is time to address the third realm I live in.
As I said, when I was younger, I knew about the physical realm, and I knew about the realm of mind, but I was always looking for something more. Many people found their more in learning, religion, in science, even in politics or community affairs, or whatever. But I was looking for something on a more individual level, something that spoke to me about meaning, I guess you could call it. I asked myself the big question, “Does my life have meaning? Does my life have purpose?” In the words of the reader I quoted above, I asked myself, “What’s the point?”
Sometimes I worded it differently, as in “Does life have meaning?”, but I didn’t know if that questioning pertained to others. When I tried to talk to others, I either got blank stares, or answers that were meaningless to me, like “God gives life meaning.” or even, “There is no meaning to life!” But those answers were not helpful. Somewhere, deep, deep, inside of me, I felt my life had a meaning of some kind, so I went in search of it… And, for me, I found something that gave my life meaning. And, as time went on, I came to call that something spiritual atheism.
But to be clear, spiritual atheism is not a thing. It is a only symbol to describe how I feel deep down inside of me. That is where I discovered my spirit, that part of me that, while connected to the being that is me here on the physical (body) and metaphysical (mind) realms, exists in its own realm, the realm I call spirit. How to describe that realm? You cannot experience it with your senses. Nor can you truly experience it with your thoughts and imagination. But you can experience it through the connections you feel for others, if you allow yourselves to do so. I have learned how to do so.
A number of years ago, a university group did a study on spirit, and they declared it to exist, though even they could not define it very well. They found it in such things as team spirit, or workplace spirit, or school spirit. Anywhere people strove together to reach a singular goal. If the goal was achieved, or even just approached, all the teammates or workers or students felt uplifted in some way. They shared a feeling of success, and all were happy. However, if the team could not reach its goals, if the workers did not achieve creating whatever they were spending all their energy to create, they felt sad, bordering on or even crossing into depression. Their spirit sagged.
In some groups, religious congregations for example, where people often worshipped together (the type of religion did not matter), they found that fewer members of the group suffered from serious diseases, including mental diseases. It did not matter what they worshipped, it only mattered that they did it together. That they connected with each other.
Now, this type of spirit probably does not directly speak to the kind of spirit I am trying to describe to you, but yet I think it operates on a similar level. When you are with the group you feel the spirit. When you are away from the group you feel apart from it, you feel somehow diminished. A level of this happens to me too.
When I am living only in my body, concentrating on survival, I feel alone and neglected, like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. But, when I am living in my mind, generally I am feeling good about myself. And, when I am living with all three, including my spirit, I have a joy inside me, like my life is worth living. And when I first discovered this feeling in me, it changed my life. I didn’t yet know what the point would be, but at least I knew I had a point, a purpose, a meaning.