We were standing in the shade by the creek taking a short break from our work. Joel pointed and said, “I saw a small snake just there”. That started an inevitable discussion as I replied, “Everyone has a snake story.” To my surprise Joel recounted how he had been bitten by a poisonous snake and spent two weeks in the hospital.
Like snake tales, most people have one or more stories of an encounter with the transcendent. Transcendence means: exceeding usual limits; extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience; being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge; being beyond comprehension; transcending the universe or material existence. This word is popular today because it is not associated with Judeo-Christian religion. However, It is similar to Spirituality and recognizes that there is more to human existence than merely the physical or natural plane in which we live.
I believe most, if not all, people believe there is a transcendent dimension, until they chose to reject it. They can tell about an event or experience that transcends explanation. These accounts often deal with life or death experience, such as sudden deliverance from accidents or serious harm. Many have miraculously recovered from terminal illness. Such stories witness a transcendent event beyond all norms and reason, often Doctors and First responders can certify the facts of the event. Similar stories come from military personnel during combat. However, there are countless stories and encounters that are not so dramatic, but no less real and true to the person to whom it happened. These involve knowing a future event or having a chance encounter that brings about significant change. Of course, these stories also fuel UFO sightings and alien encounters. But perhaps the most common are found in those who believe in the Spiritual dimension. Believers of all faiths pray to their God for help, provision, protection or whatever they need, because they believe in a transcendent being and existence. A very high percentage of people believe that angels, demons, ghosts and other spiritual beings reside in a transcendent state which occasionally intersects the physical world.
Finally, there is one other class of transcendent experience that is universal in the heart of mankind – love. All humans can and do experience love, which can not be defined completely, explained accurately, nor proven in the laboratory. Yet, it exists, motivates, empowers, transforms, creates, inspires, strengthens, moves, endures through time and space, and is not of this world. Songs, books, poetry, movies, art, and every form of human expression declare the transcendence of Love.
Two opposing views remain, the first is the traditional perspective that encompasses all expressions, naming conventions, and responses, but simply is a belief that there is more to the universe than that which our senses can detect, a supernatural transcendence. The second is held by a tiny minority who believe in nothing but a physical naturalistic existentialism. Among these are the Humanist dictators and tyrants that worship human power and proclaim themselves god. Some scientists, politicians and billionaires have joined their ranks in these modern times. Their belief is not based on a personal event, sense, or acknowledgement of human limitations, but rather, upon their rejection of these, together with the vast evidence from history, science, mathematics, and observation that there is more. The Bible describes these poor souls, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” ( Romans 1: 21, 22, 25).