On Freedom & Transcendence



"Self-transcendence is, at its core, about transcending (or rising above) the self and relating to that which is greater than the self. In simpler terms, it is the realization that you are one small part of a greater whole, and acting accordingly."



Freedom is a word humans around the world have fought and died for centuries.

As a young Air Force officer, I took an oath to defend American freedoms.  Actually the oath was to "support and defend the constitution" which for many Americans is a symbol of American freedom.

However, after studying history and supporting combat operations in different parts of the world, what I have come to realize is that there are many different degrees of Freedom. Said differently, freedom exists on a spectrum.

One end of the spectrum is complete bondage of the human body, mind and spirit (slavery or modern prisons) and on the other end is complete liberation from the body.  

In the middle of this spectrum are freedoms like: the ability to speak your mind, express yourself through faith, creativity, labor and investment; to love who you choose or to travel the world without restriction, etc.

The middle-ground is what most define as freedom and like most, I pursued this "middle-ground expression of freedom" most of my life only to conclude I never felt fully free because there was always a desire for more or some restriction to overcome.

Although I am ready to exit the body whenever my time arrives, intentionally causing this to happen is not a part of my plan to experience freedom. This leaves out the other end of the spectrum.

I needed a freedom that no one could give or take away.  

Enter Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" model.  

In Psychology 101 we learn that self-actualization is the top need for humans according to Abraham Maslow's model.  This is incorrect along with the view that we must obtain each of these needs one at a time before obtaining the next higher one.

Don't believe me?  I've got receipts.

Transcendence is actually at the top of Maslow's model.  He had this realization just before his death and didn't fully develop this part of his model. This is likely the reason it wasn't included in our textbooks.  However, the study of transcendence, later known as or Transpersonal Psychology was developed alongside Dr. Stanislav ""Stan"" Grof and documented in many of Maslow's journals. Maslow's Transpersonal Psychology builds on the works for Carl Jung and William James.

Maslow defined self-actualization to be "self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming." Maslow (1943) Psychological Review 50, pp. 370-396. A Theory of Human Motivation.

Said differently, self-actualization is like the slogan from the U.S. Army commercials of the 80's 90's and early 2000's "Be all that you can be."

Self-transcendence is, at its core, about transcending (or rising above) the self and relating to that which is greater than the self. In simpler terms, it is the realization that you are one small part of a greater whole, and acting accordingly. One who experiences transcendence sees beyond the self, their views, accomplishments and possessions. These individuals hold spiritual or cosmic perspectives and although they seem to be "rising above," it could be argued that they are actually going deeper within.

Consciously knowing or re-membering myself as life force beyond the body; as one with a universe of billions of galaxies; as an energy that was never created and cannot be destroyed creates a different relationship to freedom for me.  

Being present to this reality, the true reality is the only place I have ever found freedom.  

In this awareness, there is nothing for me to do, fix or have. I AM infinite and timeless. My  purpose is not defined by job roles, or anything to do with human doingness. It is merely to exist; to know myself in harmony with all that is and to be a supporting force for the further emergence of life. Everything else about this life is extra curricular.

For me freedom is not something to be fought for, won or lost.  It is to be experienced in the remembrance of who and what I truly am.