Transcendence by Robert Fritz There are two principles that profoundly impact the life-building process. One is the principle of consequences â€“ that is: the actions that we take produce consequences. Some of these consequences are intended, but many are not intended or wanted. The principle of consequences has to do with cause and effect. Almost every consequence we have in our lives was created by a previous cause. Mastery of cause and effect is one of the most important skills we can develop within the creative process because the creative process itself is concerned with causing future desired outcomes (our creations.) The other life-building principle is transcendence â€“ we can transcend the consequences we have put into motion. Cause and effect are suspended. Past actions do not become manifested in future outcomes. The past, no matter what it has been, is no longer a dynamic that must play itself out. Not only do we recognize the past is over, it is no longer at issue. We are able to re-create our lives anew. In spiritual traditions these principles are often called "Karma" and "Grace." Karma, a Sanskrit word that translates to action, is the notion that until the past is complete, resolved, made right, you will repeat past patterns. Karma is something you must "work out." You are burdened by your faulty past actions and cannot move ahead unless you resolve the past. Creating "good karma" is like putting something in the karmic bank that might be redeemable in the future. Grace is something else entirely. Grace (transcendence) supersedes the past. Past actions no longer need to be accounted for. You are freed from the influence of the past. It's not as if the past never happened. You simply do not need to do anything about it. The dynamic that compels us to want to resolve open issues, unsettled experiences, unanswered questions, is gone. The train has switched to another track. The future is not connected to the past causally. In my book The Path of Least Resistance, I use two stories to illustrate transcendence: One is Dickens' A Christmas Carol; the other is The Prodigal Son. Both stories shine a light on the difference between the principle of consequences and transcendence. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge sees his past, his current life, and his probable future, and yet he is given a second chance. His past actions were leading unavoidably to negative consequences. When he awakes on Christmas morning the past is no longer in play. He was given the chance to turnover a new leaf. He could begin anew. This is one of the most profound experiences a person can have, that of being given a second chance. The Prodigal Son story involves three main characters: the prodigal or wayward son; the "good" son; and the father. Each character represents an aspect of the human being. The father can be understood to represent the source of your life. The prodigal son is that part of yourself that has not been true to yourself (or that source.) The good son represents the times you have been true to yourself. Since the prodigal has made mistakes, gotten into trouble, has failed to live up to his promise, the logical consequences of his past actions would be to suffer the consequences he had set in motion. Yet he remembers he has a home, and he sets out to return to it. He does so without expectation and with true humility. He seeks nothing by his return. To gain insight into the principle of transcendence we need to understand his motivation. He is not attempting to resolve the past. He isn't trying to make it right or "complete it." He simply wants to return home. When the father hears of the prodigal's return, he is overjoyed. He had thought that his son was dead. He now finds that he is alive. Imagine what it would have been like to discover that a loved one who was thought dead was, indeed, alive. It is important to understand the great longing of the father to reunite with the prodigal. There is something in us that wants to reunite with what is
deepest in us, the source of our life, so to speak. For some, this source is God, for others it is a personal drive to create, for others, it is the universe, etc., etc., etc. We do not need to have a common understanding of what "the source" is to understand the deeper principles in this parable. However, we do need to understand that the father's motivation is longing to reconnect, overwhelming love, and total acceptance. The father decides to hold a feast for the prodigal's return. The "good" son is angry when he hears of this celebration. After all, he has worked the fields, done his father's bidding, and lived a life above reproach. This is an interesting reversal in the story. Can we imagine what it was like for the father to learn of the prodigal's return? If we truly cared about the father, we wouldn't complain that we weren't getting our due. Instead, we would feel joy about the father's joy. But the "good" son isn't thinking about others. His orientation is of payback. The good deeds he has accomplished suddenly seem as if he had mixed motives. They were not done for their own sake or for the sake of the father, but for some type of return on investment. He would deny the prodigal's return to the father. There is our source, a part of ourselves that has not been true to that source, and a part of us that has. The longing of the source and the desire of the prodigal to reunite is one very powerful force in play. Yet, ironically, the "good" son/daughter parts of ourselves reject the reunion. The father tried to explain to the "good" son, "You see, I thought he was dead, but he lives." The transcendent principle in this story is this: You want to come home to yourself, your deepest aspects of yourself wants this too, and yet there is a part of you that seeks "to remain in the principle of consequences," so as to resolve the past. Within transcendence, the past no longer needs resolution, even while it remains unresolved. One cannot "earn" transcendence. Robert Frost called it "Something you somehow haven't to deserve." No matter what the past has been, no matter what consequences you have set in motion, you can start again, as if life is saying to you, "Okay, take two. Let us try that thing again." Transcendence is not overcoming the past because the past is no longer at issue, no matter what it has been. This is a hard notion to get, in a similar way it is hard for some people to easily accept a gift they feel they didn't deserve. So, the irony is that, while there is nothing you can do to evoke transcendence, you do have to learn how to accept it as a gift. Why might people reject a possibility to begin anew? Because they feel the need to "resolve" the past, to somehow make it right. Neither Scrooge nor the Prodigal needed to resolve their past, and had they tried to do so, they wouldn't have succeeded. Both were given a new chance in which the consequences they had set in motion in the past no longer needed to be played out. After transcendence, you enter into a new state of consequences. In other words, you are in a position to initiate new actions which are aimed toward new desired outcomes. This is why mastering the mechanics of the creative process is so important. The new possible future is based on a new set of actions. We learn in A Christmas Carol that "Scrooge was as good as his words." Transcendence led to a new chain of cause and effect, and the principle of consequences was once again in play.