God and The Transcendental Object At The End Of History

Preparing a moka pot of coffee this morning, I decided to continue my reading of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The primary thrust of the book is to show the world-wide correlation of all holy texts from tribal tales to what we consider canonized texts of antiquity. There is indeed a unifying theme of the human experience, the drive toward religion and the seeking of a personal quest for enlightenment.

Terence McKenna once spoke of what he referred to as the transcendental object at the end of history as the unifying vision that all seekers see in the hallucinations of mushrooms, LSD, DMT, Mescaline and Ayahuasca. He described this object as the same thing, book looking different. In describing this monolithic object, he cited the mathematical concept of a free floating cone in blank space. He added that if we were to imagine this simple object viewed by many, we would see that no two people would see it in the exact same light, shape and form. In fact the view of that simple object would not be the same for any two people. It’s almost as if they were not seeing the same object at all.

And so, we understand that our views are very different even though we may bear witness to the same experience.

In my psychedelic and spiritual visions, I have often seen a massive rolling curtain of eyes, holy and mystical, floating in an endless sea of stars and bejeweled with every fine thing the eye can view. It was not a view of god per se, but a view of things as they are in a way the the two natural eyes cannot perceive. I’ve thought this for a long time now, that the objects we envision are metaphors to help us along in our path.

I wanted to see god, but instead I saw the whole universe bursting with galaxies swirling and mathematical theorems played out like a symphonic movement of sound and light. It took some time for me to realize that I was indeed seeing god, because god is everything.

Joseph Campbell says this about the matter of god and our perception of it:

“We do not particularly care whether Rip van Winkle, Kamar al-Zaman, or Jesus Christ ever actually lived. Their stories are what concern us: and these stories are so widely distributed over the world—attached to various heroes in various lands—that the question of whether this or that local carrier of the universal theme may or may not have been a historical, living man can be of only secondary moment. The stressing of this historical element will lead to confusion; it will simply obfuscate the picture message. What, then, is the tenor of the image of the transfiguration? That is the question we have to ask. But in order that it may be confronted on universal grounds, rather than sectarian, we had better review one further example, equally celebrated, of the archetypal event.”

In other words, to be hung up on the religious event as an historical fact is to miss the point entirely. See again his quoting from the Bhagavad Gita and compare it to my description of my own psychedelic experience:

The following is taken from the Hindu “Song of the Lord,” the Bhagavad Gita. The Lord, the beautiful youth Krishna, is an incarnation of Vishnu, the Universal God; Prince Arjuna is his disciple and friend.

Arjuna said: “O Lord, if you think me able to behold it, then, O master of yogis, reveal to me your Immutable Self.”

The Lord said: “Behold my forms by the hundreds and the thousands- manifold and divine, various in shape and hue. Behold all the gods and angels; behold many wonders that no one has ever seen before. Behold here today the whole universe, the moving and the unmoving, and whatever else you may desire to see, all concentrated in my body.—But with these eyes of yours you cannot see me. I give you a divine eye; behold, now, my sovereign yoga-power.”

Having spoken thus, the great Lord of yoga revealed to Arjuna his supreme form as Vishnu, Lord of the Universe: with many faces and eyes, presenting many wondrous sights, bedecked with many celestial ornaments, armed with many divine uplifted weapons; wearing celestial garlands and vestments, anointed with divine perfumes, all-wonderful, resplendent, boundless, and with faces on all sides. If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One. There in the person of the God of gods, Arjuna be- held the whole universe, with its manifold divisions, all gathered together in one. Then, overcome with wonder, his hair standing on end, Arjuna bowed his head to the Lord, joined his palms in salutation, and addressed Him:

“In Thy body, O Lord, I behold all the gods and all the diverse hosts of beings—the Lord Brahma, seated on the lotus, all the patriarchs and the celestial serpents. I behold Thee with myriads of arms and bellies, with myriads of faces and eyes; I behold Thee, infinite in form, on every side, but I see not Thy end nor Thy middle nor Thy beginning, O Lord of the Universe, O Universal Form! On all sides glowing like a mass of radiance I behold Thee, with Thy diadem, mace, and discus, blazing everywhere like burning fire and the burning sun, passing all measure and difficult to behold. Thou art the Supreme Support of the Uni- verse; Thou art the undying Guardian of the Eternal Law; Thou art, in my belief, the Primal Being.”

It is as if we see things like god in whatever way we will best understand, though we see it so differently, it is the same object at the end, timeless and wonderful. Campbell provides further detail:

“The disciple has been blessed with a vision transcending the scope of normal human destiny, and amounting to a glimpse of the essential nature of the cosmos. Not his personal fate, but the fate of mankind, of life as a whole, the atom and all the solar sys- tems, has been opened to him; and this in terms befitting his human understanding, that is to say, in terms of an anthropomorphic vision: the Cosmic Man. An identical initiation might have been effected by means of the equally valid image of the Cosmic Horse, the Cosmic Eagle, the Cosmic Tree, or the Cosmic Praying-Mantis.

“The Song of the Lord” was made in terms befitting Arjuna’s caste and race: The Cosmic Man whom he beheld was an aristocrat, like himself, and a Hindu. Correspondingly, in Palestine the Cosmic Man appeared as a Jew, in ancient Germany as a German; among the Basuto he is a Negro, in Japan Japanese. The race and stature of the figure symbolizing the immanent and transcendent Universal is of historical, not semantic, moment; so also the sex: the Cosmic Woman, who appears in the iconography of the Jains.

Symbols are only the vehicles of communication; they must not be mistaken for the final term, the tenor, of their reference. no matter how attractive or impressive they may seem, they re- main but convenient means, accommodated to the understanding. Hence the personality or personalities of God—whether represented in trinitarian, dualistic, or Unitarian terms, in poly- theistic, monotheistic, or henotheistic terms, pictorially or verbally, as documented fact or as apocalyptic vision—no one should attempt to read or interpret as the final thing. The problem of the theologian is to keep his symbol translucent, so that it may not block out the very light it is supposed to convey. “For then alone do we know God truly,” writes Saint Thomas Aquinas,” when we believe that He is far above all that man can possibly think of God.”

“To know is not to know; not to know is to know.”

Mistaking a vehicle for its tenor may lead to the spilling not only of value- less ink, but of valuable blood.

Finally, we see that the transcendental object at the end of history is indeed another version of this story; a newer form of the old revelation that continues to carry us without our former religious trappings into a vision of the eternal and divine.

These are wondrous confirmations that can unify humanity if properly understood. If we truly understand that dogma is cement trying to float in the sea of all that is ever changing. The key is to float with the change and know that it is still the experience to be envisioned, the thing to know, the thing to believe. Breaking apart the cement that we are in and stepping away from dogma in this sense draws us closer to the transcendental object, the mono-myth, the one true God.

Just as Krishna revealed himself to Arjuna as Arjuna would best understand, so does the future God reveal itself unto us in whatever form we may receive best.

This to me is a miracle and a fine example of the endless love that the universe (a term I interchange with God) has to share with us.

What a marvelous experience this life is, what a great chance we have to learn from each joy and sorrow, understanding that we are a part of God just by nature of our very existence. Though we may see things so differently, we are all viewing the same timeless event unfolding.

My book, BORN AGAIN TO REBIRTH; a tale  about leaving Christian Fundamentalism  is available HERE.

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  • chinagreenelvis

    It’s the T.A.R.D.I.S..

  • drokhole

    Thanks for another great article, Gabriel! Read an essay by Abraham Maslow recently that supports the idea called “The ‘Core-Religious’ or ‘Transcendent’ Experience”. Here’s an excerpt (can’t find the full essay posted anywhere online):

    The “Core-Religious” or “Transcendent” Experience by Abraham Maslow
    http://whitecrowbooks.com/books/feature/the_core-religious_or_transcendent_experience_by_abraham_maslow/

    An excerpt from the excerpt:

    “Also this kind of study leads us to another very plausible hypothesis: to the extent that all mystical or peak-experiences are the same in their essence and have always been the same, all religions are the same in their essence and always have been the same. They should, therefore, come to agree in principle on teaching that which is common to all of them, i.e., whatever it is that peak-experiences teach in common (whatever is different about these illuminations can fairly be taken to be localisms both in time and space, and are, therefore, peripheral, expendable, not essential). This something common, this something which is left over after we peel away all the localisms, all the accidents of particular languages or particular philosophies, all the ethnocentric phrasings, all those elements which are not common, we may call the “core-religious experience” or the “transcendent experience.””

    He famously dubbed these “peak experiences.” In that article, he goes on to describe how dogma and institutions are a result of attempting to communicate peak experiences to “non-peakers” (I’d shorten this, but it’s worth quoting at length):

    “If you will permit me to use this developing but not yet validated vocabulary, I may then say simply that the relationship between the prophet and the ecclesiastic, between the lonely mystic and the (perfectly extreme) religious-organization man may often be a relationship between peaker and non-peaker. Much theology, much verbal religion through history and throughout the world, can be considered to be the more or less vain efforts to put into communicable words and formulae, and into symbolic rituals and ceremonies, the original mystical experience of the original prophets. In a word, organized religion can be thought of as an effort to communicate peak-experiences to non-peakers, to teach them, to apply them, etc. Often, to make it more difficult, this job falls into the hands of non-peakers. On the whole we now would expect that this would be a vain effort, at least so far as much of mankind is concerned. The peak-experiences and their experiential reality ordinarily are not transmittable to non-peakers, at least not by words alone, and certainly not by non-peakers. What happens to many people, especially the ignorant, the uneducated, the naive, is that they simply concretize all of the symbols, all of the words, all of the statues, all of the ceremonies, and by a process of functional autonomy make them, rather than the original revelation, into the sacred things and sacred activities. That is to say, this is simply a form of the idolatry (or fetishism) which has been the curse of every large religion. In idolatry the essential original meaning gets so lost in concretizations that these finally become hostile to the original mystical experiences, to mystics, and to prophets in general, that is, to the very people that we might call from our present point of view the truly religious people. Most religions have wound up denying and being antagonistic to the very ground upon which they were originally based…”

    Also, have you read Philip K Dick’s recently released “Exegesis”? Pretty interesting exploration into his own “theophany” and trying to make sense of it. It’s been awhile since I read it, but if I recall, one of his (many) theories also includes existence being drawn to some kind of grand attractor. And one more book I think you’d enjoy is Carl Jung’s “The Red Book” detailing his own experiences, which was also recently released. I just started reading it, but off-the-bat he’s very cognizant of the symbolic quality of his visions…of particular interest was how he distinguishes between the “spirit of the times” and the “spirit of the depths” (which has a more ‘core’, eternal quality). Anyway, would be interesting to see an article from you about either of those books.

    • Gabriel D. Roberts

      I would like to get to these books for sure. Thanks for the input!

  • jnana

    the historical and actual incarnation of God is an important aspect of Truth because it is the expression of the possibility of the Perfect God in human form. It is a source of hope because it is by all accounts, impossible. the actual resurrection is also an apparent impossibility. to symbolize these impossibilities and say the are simply(and not also) psychic events is to reduce Faith to abstraction and separate it from one facet of life we experience in common, history.

  • jnana

    I believe that all myths of all peoples are part of our history as people. Psychic events are just as much a part of history as all the wars we learned about in grade school are. I don’t deny anyone’s interpretation of reality, even the deluded, because who isn’t to some degree.

    • Gabriel D. Roberts

      All aspects of the human experience in all its forms are part of the big story. That may be the hardest pill to swallow.

  • Rob Lai

    Nah, its probably all meaningless. Still, I’m less about bleak truths than I was when I was younger. So, there’s no harm it, if it makes sense to you and gets you up in the morning, who’m I to argue?

    • Gabriel D. Roberts

      I can understand this view, though I don’t share it. I’m a mystic and as such see things through a mystical lens. Not everyone does and that’s ok too. I think of mysticism as the art of understanding reality as a picture, or a metaphor.

      • Rob Lai

        See, people disagreeing civilly. And on the internet, too. This happens rarely enough that I feel I must note it. And maybe I don’t see what you do because I don’t feel a need for it. Maybe there is a bigger picture for those who can conceive a use for it. Because I could always be wrong.

  • mannyfurious

    “All those pathetically eager acid freaks…a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force—is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.”

    —The Good Doctor

  • Trevor Smith

    Great article

    I’ve seen the perspective of it that McKenna talks about. Its most potent manifestation is when tryptamines and beta carbolines seem to come together in meditation, but takes practice. Its a learned thing but with high doses of caapi-heavy ayahuasca brews can get there eventually, if you slip deep into the trance and the winds of the logos are at your back. Melatonin helps (read tony wrights book)…

    Its literally like an exteriorized version of your imagination. You are it. It is you. Its not just a visual thing- mckenna didn’t emphasize this enough. Its experienced in a state of profound synesthesia where all the senses and thoughts and emotions and perceptions are unified into one holistic stream of fluid conscious cosmic bliss. After encountering it during psychedelic experiences, it also seems to manifest during lucid dreams.

    • Gabriel D. Roberts

      Beautifully spoken, Trevor.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Love me some Joe Campbell and some Bhagavad Gita!

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna basically said that Theism is easier for most people than trying to be one with the ineffable, and therfore its a good path for most people. So all religious people are worshipping Krishna in their own way.

    Thats why the Bhagavad Gita is so bad ass. It contains all other religions within it.

  • http://artasith-m-nasdsnre.tumblr.com/ Simon Valentine

    beginning with tu quoque, objective envision.
    walk proceeds to ad hominem, may bear witness.
    walk proceeds to juncta juvant, same experience.
    walk proceeds to intra vires, main body tilder.
    walk proceeds to modus vivendi, outro paragraph.
    walk ends on a proto axiomatic aphoric maxim. moral of the story. Cicero. poor Cicero. dear, sweet Cicero. why do they cry Cicero? morale of the story. power structure of any story. was it that order, correct, and but which edges were the genera? why do some humans speak of disorders as if they were diseases save for that they cannot solve the problem and are instead seen to segregate according to excruciatingly mis-algorisms if not that ease is both purportedly polynomial and wrong, thus redundance, thus self-fulfilling prophecy, the booby trap, existence as a carbon based mammal acrolysis, faith, knowledge, et cetera? i know not save that i know my mind in continuity matters as it may have the key to knowing answers to non-polynomial questions, and even in proof of mathematical rigor. as mathematical rigor, rather, i should say. indeed it is the case that i know. thi sync gral. this one present is K5 such that half of the edges are genera and the vertices are labeled tu quoque, ad hominem, juncta juvant, modus vivendi, and intra vires. in which case of all the possible combinations may you know that i have written some but not all and also some number ad maxima or ad minimus? my scars shall argue for me i think. and my wounds shall heal.

  • dc1811

    Humans, so vain that we invent gods.