Immanence, Transcendence, and the Dynamic Ground

by Kathy Kundalini
March 13, 2010



Human experience is always an immanent happening, precisely because it is an experience. But experience is also dynamic, an opening onto the universal context of change, development, instability and disintegration. Immanent does not mean static, because life is not static. It is also an engagement with a beyond,  but this beyond is not something that is entirely separate, or rigidly distinct, from the immanent experience. Rather, since experience is also an engaged openness, it immediately finds mediation within itself in its engagement toward this beyond, and beyond this beyond. The immanent thus finds a movement within itself toward something transcendent. This transcending movement is also the potential within immanence itself. It is engagement with the gift, the gift of existence-consciousness-world. When phenomena appear as something "outside" then we have a relationship, we also have our "small mind", a mind of limitation and finiteness. When phenomena are experienced as mind-waves, as waves within the mind, then we can say we have our "big mind", as this big mind experiences everything within itself. Actually, both minds are the same mind, but seen from different sides, from differing but interfused dimensions. One mind is related to things, the other includes all things within it, but both minds are the same. Big mind is transcendent to small mind, yet both share the experience of the immanent, as both are experiential. In a sense, for the small mind, all objects are transcendent to it. For big mind, the transcendent objects are immanent within it. But this immanence contains the transcendent as well —  as the content of its own interior being.

Human experience itself is already a transcendence. That is the nature of its immanence. Human experience, as a self-aware possibility of freedom, is already a movement "over-and-above" the flatland of mere unconscious determination. Human awareness contains within itself its own physicality as its base-of-operations, yet it also transcends this base by way of taking up within itself its own body-self and giving it will, desires, and engagement with objects and subjects. Human Beings vector towards activity, freedom. Our modes of free activity cannot be separated from our own sense of self-awareness — the light of consciousness. Thus our consciousness is a transcendence-in-acts. And thus, our sense of immanence emerges as a result, a product, and is nested within a transcendent act, the act of self-consciousness. I have the entire history of the universe within me, as my interior body, and I am that transcending movement. I am this universe rendered conscious and alive to itself.

A human life can be understood as a series of translations, transformations, and transcendences. "Growing up" is a series of stages of nested potentials, each stage resting on its necessary predecessor, but also exceeding its limited world. These transcendences can also be understood as divisions, developments, and even repressions within self, and within self-and-world, and they are necessary for growth and development of the human being. Consider the stages of growth from fetus through early childhood. This time is a series of divisions and developments, of cell, body, brain, organs, system — a holonic series of biological orderings manifesting as the potential of human growth, including self-consciousness. The infant emerges from what can be called the "dynamic ground" — the primal, unmanifested-manifesting, potential of pure being. The infant is born via her mother's womb, the womb-world as home, giving way to the new home, as a being-in-the-world. And so we have the first emergence, via growth and a maturity already highly developed, via the first radical division-- from the dynamic ground itself, and then the Mother, as the representative of dynamic ground. This division is not absolute, but relative, as the dynamic ground is always ever-present, always invisible with its manifested forms, and also repressed into the background, the underpinning of body and consciousness. The child may slide back and forth, from visible dynamism to dynamic unconsciousness, the dynamic ground now assuming its place as a silent, relentless, underground, the heart beat of existence itself. The child becomes alive, awakening, entranced, asleep. She has emerged from within the pure potential, from which all existence draws its being-ness — and now she is also emergent into the "outside" — into the bright light of awareness. She can now begin discovering qualities, contours, tastes, sensory potentials everywhere, and things, lots of things, and here also is the living presence of the heat of human life. She begins to evolve her humanness, as someone desiring and needful, suffering and satiated, hungry and fulfilled. Her metaphysics has now naturally evolved into the realm of biological/psychological phenomena, which are overwhelming in their pleasures, and demanding in their frustrations. She is already a suffering being.

A human life has successfully emerged from the Mother's womb, and now lives within a nexus of separation, division, fusion, and autonomous dependency. She is now a separate, unique being, asleep and awake, in her mother's arms. This is a process of transcendence, of a someone, becoming this person, alive with organic potentials. The child is already "complete." Yet please do not curtail her further completion! Aid her in this growth and struggle. And who knows what wonders course through those connecting synapses? She is already beginning to overflow with potential. The immanent wholeness harbors development as its internal and dynamic structure. The perfect child will also be more. As the infant grows, there ensues the dance between Mother (or primary caretaker) and child, a trajectory of dependence, and eventual distancing and separation, and thus a simultaneous repression and growth towards a greater autonomy and wholeness. In a sense, for a while, the mother is the dynamic ground, its representative, for she answers the child's needs, and provides nurturance, sustenance, security. She is a world for the child, the child's life is her life and her life is the child's, yet this interfusing is destined to become merely symbiotic, merely nurturing, and then separation-in-relation, a relation eventually opposed to itself through a loving embrace of related autonomies. The growth of self-consciousness has this requirement. The child is destined to become her own being, again, via a kind of repression and separation, and through the action of ascendent transcendence.

This process can be viewed very dramatically around the age of two to three years old. At this time the child usually makes some very major strivings toward autonomy by way of two emergent human skills and potentials. These are upright walking and language acquisition. Walking means movement, maturation, skill. accomplishment, and, of course running, exploring, playing, and the freeing the hands, even within the action of mobility, for carrying, manipulating, exploring, grasping, throwing, etc. The child becomes "vertical" to her own world, which opens a new dimension of experience — a clear statement of a transcendence accomplished. She also has a new potential for "messing" with that world, with all its wonders and dangers, its secrets, creations, potentials. This development is, of course, the result of a whole series of skill developments, physical growth, and experiential learning. But the point here is this new sense of possibility and autonomy . The child can now find, acquire, access, and use what she wants (within limits), rather than totally relying on the caregiver. A paradigm has been broken and surmounted — precisely by way of its own success. Transcendence-in-action, potential-in-motion. She awakens, engaged as human, discovering a world, seemingly for the first time....embedded, embodied, emergent....dazzling with powers and energies.....surrounding, appearing, infusing, confusing, contextualizing, resolving, vanishing.....If she had words, to think in these terms, then "amazement", "perplexity", and "astonishment" might be be appropriate descriptors for the world she is discovering. And also she has grown from and infant state where the world and her were not clearly separate into a world which stands "outside" her as its own autonomous world. Again, growth and transcendence also require a kind of separation and repression. Further, and equally importantly, at this time, there comes the beginning of verbal language. She says her first words! She is learning to talk! But soon not only words, but sentences and ideas — and needs, desires, exclamations, frustrations, etc. can begin to be conceptually expressed, communicated, and understood. The child learns language from her caregivers, but she learns faster, more completely, more intuitively and thoroughly than her caregivers can themselves teach her. Everyone and everything are becoming her teachers. Her potential for language is her own programmed and emergent potential, a flower awaiting blooming and fulfillment. But this is because of nature of human evolution, and development of human culture. She is moving into a culture — the child now enters a new world — a membership world, a culture with its paradigms, signs and symbols, concepts, abstractions, myriads of forms of communication, and social-historical memories that reach far beyond the confines of mother and home. The child is coming up onto a new plateau of human being-ness and with all its soon-to-be-discovered connections and meanings, which are complex, multi-faceted, and express a context of space and time, planet, history, and the forms of human interaction. This indeed is a transcendent series of events, for better or worse.

At this stage of growth, immanence is certainly present, but always as the conscious-presence within the acts of transcendence. That is, the immanent presences are the result of transcendent potentials working their way into actuality. The transcendences are "tips of the iceberg" shining with immanence. The immanent experience becomes self-consciously present because the transcending movements create a "vertical" depth within human being. There comes a hierarchical deepening in the human psyche, as a more "purely bodily" consciousness is reduced in the body, but expanded in the "mind, and experience becomes more mind-full and aware, yet also separated and repressed within a body/mind split. But this is not a total severance but only a relative distinction, a repression, separating the conscious and unconscious, but seemingly making a more worldly-engaged consciousness possible. Consciousness as a nexus of control migrates away from the body to be re-centered in the head, but with its tentacles of body access and sensory modalities interfacing throughout the system. It is surely not a coincidence that it is usually around three years old that "self-awareness" "turns on"--  as an accessible experience connected with a memory stream. The child is growing up — again, through a naturally human growth that combines division and separation (and repression) with realized potential and transcendence. One could say that there emerges a kind of hierarchy of splits and transcendences, such that the superseded is not lost, but rather becomes part of the "internal" structuring of the emergent transcendent stages. This internal hierarchy includes a series of division/transcendences, such as: dynamic ground / personal embodiment; infant / mother; body / mind; consciousness / unconsciousness; id / ego. In fact, this series will eventually transcend into further stages of  latency, adolescence, puberty, young adulthood, etc.  -- which all become stages developing toward adult ego-life. This adult ego-life then finds itself involved with what can be called its the "identity project." It creates around its ego a whole series of identifications with which to fill-in with one's life trajectory and history, a kind of socialized biography of project, identification, mirroring, purpose, meaning. The ego knows (or thinks it knows) what it is and who it is, that is, until the completed identity project itself comes to "break open" to the potential disruption of its own self-questioning. At each stage, one could say, there is always a "complete" person, overflowing with experiences which are immanently felt and lived. But again, this immanence is also an engaged immanence, it is an opening toward the world, and even beyond that world. It transcends itself towards the world, and in, and through, its own active engagements and potentials. The immanence is not self-enclosed and static, but rather, self-developing and dynamic. It is ongoing and immanently transcending via growth, development, and crisis.

The fate of our current human immanence might not find closure within the confines of the ego identity project. The dynamic ground is always present, even if repressed and rendered unconscious. The awesome power hidden within its depths may still assert itself, not as a regressive tendency towards ego dissolution, but also toward a kind ego transcendence, and a new kind of human being, and a new way of being-in-the-world. This would be a reconstituting, a dynamic wholeness made explicit, realized, individuated, and universalizing. This is existential crisis, within global crisis, within spiritual crisis. But such a transcendence might appear as threat, even as some kind of death, not only to the "powers-that-be" but also to the small human ego itself. Each stage of human consciousness and its social forms involves mediations, certain ways of being, and forms of communication, conceptualizations, world-views, reality principles. Consciousness is thus involved, and formed and determined, with a set "translatable" ideas and experiences, views, possibilities, realities. There is an ongoing, and usually all-present, set of communicative conceptualizations and possibilities within a given paradigm, and thus within the social world, and within human minds. They are the cultural-social-psychological structures and modes of being within which we grow and develop. Such translations-of-experience appear, are activated, and employed, between people and their processes, and within social and individual consciousness. These reflect, underscore, and manifest, not only as a content of life, but also as the forms of consciousness. The translations appear within an established "reality principle", which seems to appear as an interlocking system of reflection and reinforcement, present pretty much everywhere, not only because our material life embodies and reflects this living ideology, but also because this is how we, ourselves, think and see the world. But translation can also be contrasted with transformation, especially with transcendent transformation. In transcendent transformation, the "horizontal" translations are superseded via the expression of a reconstituting transformative transcendence. It is a paradigm-busting, ground-breaking supersession. The disruptive potentials held within a particular horizontal plane are taken up and realized in a "vertical" movement — an ascent toward a dimension of experience for which the words, ideas, concepts of the lower stage may be quite inadequate. The ways of transcendence may appear quite mysterious....

The question then is: can there be a dimension of human experience beyond what we now experience as our ego-based immanence? Such a transcendence, given that our sense of ego is "what we are", may appear from inside our paradigm as a kind of death, because, in a sense, the ego would be asking of itself to "dissolve the walls" holding itself as separate within its abstract distinctiveness. But conversely the act of transcendence would come by way of a search for a greater wholeness. The kiss of death is the kiss of love. But this is an illusory way of thinking, because the dissolution would only be of an abstract exterior and a repressed interior. It would come by way of a reintegration of the repressed, separated, confined stages of its own interior growth and development. Its reconstituting wholeness would not only be a seeking for something "beyond", but also a search for something "within" — a "regressive" de-repression of its own interior separations., that which was cut-off and exiled through the stages of growth and development. This would a transcendence occurring from within the experienced ego-immanence, a kind of "regression in the service of transcendence."  In other words, ultimately, the "transcendence of the ego" comes via a progressive reintegration of the dynamic ground itself, in all its hierarchical forms, "filled" and developed through the series of growth-transcendences of human individuation. The sense of individual existential experience, in this scenario, would potentially evolve toward a new sense of subjectivity — as the dynamic ground itself, enriched and embodied, and without losing the sense of individuality. In other words, individuality, formerly experienced as ego-self, would not be lost, but rather integrated and transcended within a higher synthesis, the fullness and depth of a more universal being. In the same way that earlier transcendences did not mean mere negation of transcended stages, but rather their repressed separation "held within" a higher stage, so there would be a "return of the repressed" in a liberating movement of de-alienation. The dynamic ground itself becomes our liberated playground.

The power of the dynamic ground already permeates and potentializes everything we are, everything we experience. Its energies overflow and connect, becoming the things of our world, including our consciousness of this world. It transcends into its own dimensional structures, manifesting as space, time, matter, life, and the space-time of lived consciousness. Each moment appears and vanishes and reappears in transcending quantums of time. We are all bathed in the "water of life." A cascade of vibrational waves and pulsations contour and fill experience. As vibrations interface in consciousness, there appear qualities and attributes, things and their adjuncts, dancing like jewels — things mesmerizing, disturbing, desirous, repulsive, neutral.... Our emergence, embodiment, embeddedness, and various transcendences disclose our being and that which gives rise to our being. Our pre-ego world gives a taste of our post-ego world — embodiment individualized into spirit, dancing on the dynamic ground itself, and we ourselves, are that dance.

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