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Institute for Cultural Evolution
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What Does “Transcendence” Mean?
“Transcendence” or “the transcendent” generally refers to the people and things that are ultimately more important than yourself or your perceived self-interest. For example, that which is transcendent for you could include: Your family, humanity, your deepest convictions, the environment, God, Oneness, your country, animals, freedom, adventure, art, science, a better world, or anything you consider authentically “higher.” Your personal ideals of transcendence are grounded in the people and things that you’re dedicated to, and might even lay down your life for, if it became necessary. Your ideals of transcendence therefore help define your life’s higher purposes.
The word transcendence is used in this exercise as an umbrella term that is friendly to both spiritual and secular notions of transcendent higher purposes. In other words, you don’t have to be religious to recognize the significance of transcendent ideals. Our attraction to a greater good that lies beyond ourselves—our ceaseless striving to serve something higher and create something better—is a fundamental part of what makes us human.
The connection between your ideals of transcendence, your virtues, and your basic moral obligations—to self, to others, and to the transcendent—is illustrated by the graphic below. The specific virtues shown in this graphic are the 7 fundamental virtues, but the specific 7 virtues you choose in this exercise may differ from these classical 7.
For more on virtues and their relationship with transcendence, see the book Developmental Politics, by this exercise’s author, Steve McIntosh.