This service is entitled “Transcending Thoughts”. Which caused at least one Facebook friend to ask me if that meant I’d be sharing thoughts ABOUT transcending (something you might expect from “mainstream” clergy). Or, if thoughts themselves would be transcended during this hour (meaning, if we would be encouraged to “not think”)!
In the spirit of a Buddhist Zen Master of my acquaintance, my answer is, annoyingly: yes and no, on both counts!
Yes, it is about “transcending”- in that Transcendentalists sought to transcend/to rise above the idea made popular by Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: that our material existence (the here and now) is the be-all-end-all.
They sought to transcend the idea that reason/intellect is the “only” way to understand anything about life. They sought to transcend the growing materialism of the industrial revolution, and the awkward dependence this young country still had upon the cultural and intellectual standards of the European continent.
Transcendentalists sought to rise above race and class and sex, celebrating unity and equality and infinite human perfectibility! They sought to rise above restrictive relationship and living arrangement norms; to rise above the dry trappings of religious dogma and ritual in order to connect “authentically” with the timeless, universal, religious impulse – the mysterious Living Source of all True Religion!
The flipside is that this transcendence, recognized as so essential to the health of the soul, was believed to happen most readily when the intellect is de-emphasized. When we make room for intuition; when we allow ourselves to walk in silence, to observe and relish beauty; to pay attention to the physical world, allowing nature to breathe through us and, in so doing, bring Divine love to expression!