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Various: Deities and Transcendence

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.mythology,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Various: Deities and Transcendence
Date: 20 Dec 1997 15:20:32 -0800


Jeffery Smith wrote:
>Somewhere amid the verbiage about Horus and ancient Egypt, someone
>brought up the point of transcendent gods, and then showed that they
>have an at best mistaken idea of what transcendence is--in that they
>stated (not extact wording) that a deity that transcends manifest
>existence would by that token be unable to have any effect on manifest

>A truly transcendent deity transcends everything, including the concept
>of transcendence and the concept of existence.  All our human concepts
>and ideas do not apply to such a being, but whatever we say about it will
>not be accurate, and require us to immediately assert the opposite to
>even approach accuracy.  So to say that God transcends (in the common
>sense of the word) manifest existence means that not only does God
>transcend, but that God does not transcend, manifest existence (i.e., is
>immanent).  The same "Being" is both beyond and within manifest
>existence, and is in fact the Something that gives the Nothings of
>manifest existence their manifest existence.
>If you want a better explanation, refer to the "Mystical Theology" of the
>Corpus Areopagiticum,  or its early English translation by the author of
>the Cloud of Unknowing (Dionysius Hid Divinitie), which is the classic
>Western statement of the matter.

This discussion deals with more than the notion of transcendence itself; it
deals with that and immanence, and with indefinability, and with
coming-into-being.  At any rate, the allegedly mistaken idea can only be
seen through the eyes of a different definition of transcendence.

Transcendence and immanence:

As for "classic Western statement," the fact is, beyond the work mentioned
in the quote given above, transcendence has been a theological concept ever
since Plato, and classical transcendentalism even owes the codification of
its "grammar" to the same (Kenney 1991.  Mystical Monotheism.  Hanover:
Brown University, p. 1).

In respect to the meaning of the word, English owes the verb _transcend_ to
Latin _transcendere_ "surmount" or "climb beyond" (Skeat, pp. 519 and 416).
Hence in English, using the verb's basic sense, one may say "That which is
sublime transcends the beautiful, for it inspires awe as well rather than
delight alone."  And yet this statement does not require a balancing
negation in order for it to be accurate, or at least for it to effectively
communicate an idea.

But, as when discussing the nature of a deity, _transcendent_ typically
refers to a condition or manner of being outside of the corporeal world.
As an explicit example of a contemporary usage of the word:  monotheisim
"is defined simply as the thesis that there is an ultimate divine principle
transcendent of the physical universe"  (Kenney 1991, xxiii).  Kenney's
statement does not contain its opposite, that a god, transcending the
physical universe, must also not transcend it.

In respect to immanence in particular, the following:  monotheism is in
direct contrast to pantheism, wherein divinity is described as being
everywhere present in the physical universe, i.e. immanent, simply owing to
a deity's proposed relationship to the physical universe.  It is the
opposition between transcendence and immanence that distinguishes
monotheism from pantheism, for the one quality is logically exclusive of
the other.  Said another way, something that is everywhere in the physical
universe cannot at the same time be nowhere in it.  Not logically.  (If one
always decries logic, then one is a hypocrite for reading, writing,
speaking, and listening.)

What is more, _manifest existence_ as I use the term refers to perceptible
being; check your dictionary for the meaning I give to _manifest_:  it is
something that is at hand, something plain to the sight or to intellectual

Something that is manifest is in this world as a being separate from other
beings, else it could not be perceived, could not be distinguished for
separate qualities from other things.

Show me immanence.  Show me transcendence.  Show me how either of these
things are manifest here and now.

The sun-god appearing in the horizon is manifest in the horizon as the sun.
Being manifest, he is separate from the horizon itself and other things.
Being separate from other things, he is not present everywhere, is not
immanent.  Also, being apparent in the physical world, here and now, he has
not transcended the same.  In a theological context, "the sun-god of the
horizon is not a transcendent god" is a true statement.

On the other hand, one could rightly say "the sun transcends the horizon at


Jeffery Smith wrote:
>All our human concepts
>and ideas do not apply to such a being [a truly transcendent deity], but
>>whatever we say about it will
>not be accurate, and require us to immediately assert the opposite to
>even approach accuracy.

If you mean to say that spoken or written words, since at least carried by
a medium of material substance, cannot accurately describe a deity which
transcends such a medium, then I agree.  On the other hand, that one is
required to immediately assert an opposite is a doctrine, a dogma, not
something which logically follows from the imperfection of words' media.
Nor yet from the imperfection of representative communication, the words

Moreover, the notion that any-god-you-like is indefinable, that is,
insusceptible to description, is a dogma, and a contradictory one, for it
is by definition itself that such a god is indefinable.  Such a definition
is useless in the here and now.

But this is not to say that it is useless elsewhere, or in getting there.
In fact, the concept of indefinability is a key feature of, for example,
Christian theology in respect to the father, and of for another example
Plotinus, also in respect to the father, and well before him.  And even

(Incidentally, the reader ought not understand that the present use of
logic can be construed as being indicative of a partisan attitude toward
the same, or for a disregard for irrationality.  Theology is not
revelation, faith, religion, or a substitute for any of these.)


Jeffery Smith wrote:
>The same "Being" is both beyond and within manifest
>existence, and is in fact the Something that gives the Nothings of
>manifest existence their manifest existence.

Your family has been too long away from Israel; that sounds almost like a
Christian dogma, as when the Father, transcendent, brings into being the
universe via the mediation of the Son, and may be immanent in the universe
via the Holy Ghost, or the like, though all the while each of these three
names refers to a single, undivided deity.

Dogmatically, along with or similarly to a Christian, one could say that
there is a deity who is transcendent of the physical universe, who is also
the instrumentally creative mediator between itself and the physical
universe, and who at the same time fully permeates the physical universe.
And no one in this world could disprove it, though one could show, as I
have just now done, that such a statement is logically untenable.  Such a
statement, not being derived from argument, is a dogmatic one, a statement
of irrational creed, faith, or perhaps even revelation, but is nevertheless
a definition whose only support is itself.

Which brings me to the last point:


In saying "A truly transcendent deity transcends everything, including the
concept of transcendence and the concept of existence" one has offered
another's special definition of "a truly transcendent deity."

One could say "You prove yourself mistaken in saying that _Mesopotamia_
includes part of the Zagros mountains; it most certainly does not."  Anyone
can give any definition to any word and insist that other usages of such a
word are mistaken.

I will not say that my usage of transcendence is the only right one, or
even one right one, but it at least has the advantage of having been
adopted from a person who has examined the documents wherein this
theological concept first becomes coherent in the West, from one who speaks
a jargon understood by theologians living now.

In the same way, I use my dictionary whenever I wish to support my use of a
word, but this is not to say that my dictionary's definition of a word is
the only right one; there might be some dictionary that gives totally
different meanings for my entries, in which case perhaps what I might have
to say would not be understandable to those other-dictionary users.  But I
would sincerely hope that such an other-dictionary user, based soley upon
his other dictionary, would not have the insolence to tell me that an idea
I associate with a word is "mistaken."


Jeffrey Smith :

Harold, I am not saying that your use of the word "transcendent" is 
mistaken; but it is not (pace Kenney and all the other jargonites you 
have investigated) the meaning that classic Western mysticism applies to 
the word.  Panentheism is found from Neoplatonism on, at least; the form 
I give to it is not Christian, but directly from Rabbinical Kabbalah. And 
there is nothing inherently illogical. It is in fact very logical.  
1) The Deity transcends (in the standard dictionary meaning you quote) 
everything that is part of the tangible universe.
2) Our ideas, concepts, etc. are part of the tangible universe.
Therefore 3) the Deity transcends our ideas, concepts, etc.
4) Transcendence and existence, immanence and (in)definability are idea 
and concepts--
5) therefore the Deity transcends even such things as transcendence and 
6) So the the standard formulations of transcending, etc. do not apply 
because we find the Divine Transcending of Transcendence implies the 
Divine Immanence when it is examined in detailed in light of the above.

While you may find fault with some parts of the above, I think you 
objections would be answered from other parts of the syllogism, and that 
the general idea is valid.  The idea that in talking about the Divine (by 
which I do not mean any god, but purely any divine being who is claimed 
to be truly transcendent) one must assert the opposite is just another 
working out of the above.  One could even apply the fourfold Buddhist 
logic of it is A, is not A, is both A and not-A, is neither A nor notA 
with no impediment.

As for the tangibility or manifestness of the Divine Transcendent and 
Immanent, just look into yourself....


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