tran·scend·ence noun the quality or state of being transcendent.
- Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.
- Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception.
- Transcending the Aristotelian categories.
- In Kant’s theory of knowledge, being beyond the limits of experience and hence unknowable.
- Being above and independent of the material universe. Used of the Deity.
While transcendence does have spiritual implications, it is not limited to the spiritual. It seems to me that the spiritual implications of transcendence–that the Earth is not our home, that we are somehow of a different, higher, spiritual substance and we are only temporarily stuck or sojourning in this material reality–have fused with the problems of progressive, linear-time-based civilization which seeks to transcend the limits of the Earth through industry. It seems apparent to me that industrial civilization, in its zeal to reach the end-point of transcending the physical limits of the Earth, has been tearing heedlessly down a highway of environmental disregard and destruction. The question then arises: when do we slow down? When do we pause to reconsider our actions and our mode of operation? It seems like it would be prudent to do so; however, implicit in the transcendent model of linear/progressive time is the idea that somewhere up ahead, often just around the corner, we are going to hit upon the magic source of technological transcendence which will surpass the limits of nature.
Put another way, the object of industrialized society (which is supported by spiritualites of transcendence) seems to have become a transcendent one–not in a spiritual sense, but in the sense of surpassing predefined physical limits. In the early stages of industry, we simply did not recognize the limits of the Earth. As we progressed, however, we happened upon ecological knowledge that very clearly indicates that the Earth has finite resources and is a web of interdependent life that is affected negatively by waste, pollution, maximum production, and excessive specialization. So far we have tried to mitigate our damage through new technological measures: massive recycling programs, green industries; we’ve even toyed with scaling down, but that never happened (Small is Beautiful, anyone?). What we haven’t seriously considered is that the finite limits of the Earth might not be ours to transcend; that is, our mechanical and computerized technology may not be the cornucopian escape hatch we’ve been hoping it would be.
I think we need to seriously consider that humans are part of the Earth and as such need a healthy, diverse, functioning Earth in order to survive. When we approach our problems from this angle, we must begin to recognize that the supposed panaceas of technology are actually excesses. The uber-technologized paradigm/approach is the problem, and we will not be able to sufficiently address that problem by continuing the problem itself–what that means is: we cannot use more and more advanced technologies to fix the problems inherent in industrial-scale technology. We’ve been trying that and trying that, and in doing so the problems are not going away; rather, I’d say that they are getting worse. Indeed, arguments could be made that this continual fixation with ultra-technology is insane: repeating what is essentially the same behavior and expecting a different result.