Transcendence, Peak Experiences and Passion.

Transcendence, Peak Experiences and Passion.

Sumedh Chatterjee


Transcendence is the idea of moving beyond – the mind, the self, beyond conventional paradigms. PSYCHOLOGY- translated from greek- psyche (spirit)– in the West, they translate it to the “mind”, ology just means the study of. Middle English: from Old French transcendre or Latin transcendere, from trans- ‘across’ + scandere ‘climb’. It’s an innate human need. Maslow started to research on this topic after the top of his hierarchy of needs, self-actualization. He claimed beyond the triangle was transcendence. A search for the sacred (holy, meaningful) which allows self-transcendence. The more we push our personal boundaries, we grow. However we have to do this in a healthy compassionate manner. There was a study in the United states showing that 69% percent of people had a pressing need for spiritual growth in their lives. Mental health and psychological well being (PWB) is strongly related with spirituality and religion (Hill and Pargament, 2003).

RELIGION improves wellbeing, how? By enhancing identity, creates a network of social support, and a clear theoretical framework to deal with existential questions ( Elliot and Hayward, 2007). The rise of secularism in the mid 1900s promoted a separation between spirituality and religion and acquired distinct connotations. Religion involves group validated organized means and methods for the search. A practicing relating to God.

RELIGION is the search for the sacred and the group validated means involved in the search. SPIRITUALITY is only the first element. Religion without spiritual element feels empty. ST (self-transcendence) is shifting our own perspectives, viewpoints, truths, and construal self, as well as extension of care, compassion and concern toward others. ST helped breast cancer, homeless people and allowed greater awareness of self-bias and motivations. Greater life satisfaction includes decreases in attachment. Self-boundaries helps greater self-acceptance (inward), reaching out to others and a connection with nature (outwards). With self-acceptance, everything changes, we become more. As a child, the potential accumulating rights, wrongs have a narrower version. As we grow up, we also grow we empathy (after about 11 years old). Our original self is boundless. Transcendence can be triggered by an outward connection, for example staring into the eyes of a child or baby or staring into the horizon, or feeling connected to nature.

A Peak Experience ( Zenith Experience), is a positive experience of spiritual awakening (Sharp, 2010). A peak experiences is essentially a gentle, spontaneous crown opening and as such may be viewed as a positive, but weak version of a Mystical Experience. According to Maslow, everyone is capable of having a peak experience (Maslow, 1962) and in fact most people, when asked, report having peak experiences either in adulthood or childhood. Keutzer (2007) reports that 80% of a sample of college students reported peak experiences and that these reports were independent of religious activity, age, or course level.

A Peak Experience is characterized by a sudden feeling of intense happiness, well-being, wonder, awe, loss of fear and defensiveness, and transcendent joy (Maslow, 1971). A peak experience sometimes includes a brief mystical experience such as the realization of ultimate truths like the unity of all things, the essential oneness of creation, the holiness of consciousness, or some such high level spiritual generalization. Davis, Lockwood and Wright (1991: 88) define a peak experience as follows. A peak experience is an experience that provides:

“…an almost overwhelming sense of pleasure, euphoria, or joy, a deep sense of peacefulness or tranquility, feeling in tune, in harmony, or at one with the universe, a sense of wonder or awe, altered perceptions of time and/or space, such as expansion, a feeling of deeper knowing or profound understanding, a deep feeling of love (for yourself, another, or all people), a greater awareness of beauty or appreciation, a sense that it would be difficult or impossible to describe adequately in words.”

There’s a type of happiness called Chaironic happiness. This links to transcendence. (Wong) states it as a scream of blessing,  independent of anything in your life. An example of this kind of happiness is like during an awakening or a sudden enlightenment or the serenity a monk feels during deep meditation.

PASSION is a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, find important and invest time and energy. There’s a scale that measures passion called the Passionate Love Scale in positive psychology. There is a dualistic approach to this- harmonious passion and obsessive passion, the latter being more disadvantageous to ones growth.  Under which circumstances were your passion internalized? Since passion is a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” it is a surprise to me that in harmonious passion, there’s a sense of control or autonomy over one’s passion. So go and search for something higher, live a passionate life, make your own rules, lean into your fearless spirituality and know how to transcend the self to breakdown your ego. Your narrow vision will slowly expand and it’ll push the boundaries to what you thought to be possible. Try and push for peak experiences and believe in yourself. See yourself as who you want to be.


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