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Unread December 13th, 2006, 12:56 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Self-Transcendence: Janet Doron


"It is harder for me to trace back (from an EP point of view) the roots of what is described as a psychological need for self-transcendence, and to point to its contribution to survival/society, especially considering the fact that this is usually an individual rather than a social experience. Any thoughts or references would be welcome!" Janet Doron

Outside of courtship, "dunno" is a far, far better thing to say than to feed you a line. I admire your question, I have some ideas:

1) Mental phenomena follow the same rules as "social" phenomena. Relevance: things outside your skin can provide clues to how things inside accomplish a similar outcome. See Barabasi, 2002, "Linked" in regard to emergent networks.

2) Lots of current attempts to explain religion from an evolutionary perspective err by asserting it to be a uniquely human experience. Dennett (Dennett, Daniel G (2006) Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. NY: Viking) is a fine example. I hope his gambit is to sell books to preachers and does not reflect what he thinks in the privacy of his water closet.
Bah! And an act of faith rather than one of data: self-transcendence is probably not unique to religious experience or to humans!

3) The chemists and the scanners will put a helmet on you and ask that you lift your little finger when you are in transcendence. I think some Canadian has already done it and found temporal lobe activity to be correlated with visions and sounds of God. (The kind of church and the kind of god were strongly influenced by the background music in the test session!)
4) Many of us, but not all, "get off" on large crowds: they go to malls, rallies, and football games merely to be in a moving crowd. Preachers who have their congregations sing, dance, and shout are on to something!

5) There is said to be a genetic loading for "spirituality," reflected in a bit of non shared environment that lights some of us up in those opportunities. Nick Martin and Lindon Eaves (a former priest) are sometimes at the forefront of this work.

6) My own moments of transcendence follow mastery of a new skill or an epiphany in how I arrange things that I already knew. They also scatter if I try to explain them!

7) As for what it accomplishes, perhaps a reinforcer for herd behavior that pays off indirectly in food, safety, mates, and children.

Great question, great search, seek on. (Good grief, I'm starting to sound like Ken Wilber! Not my kind of thinker but he may be yours!)

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