A mere human being cannot discover the Transcendent

The topic I would like to discuss and encourage others to discuss is whether a mere human being can ever come to know the Transcendent by himself. I contend that it is impossible and even if they did, they will not know they have grasped the Transcendent.

I present the following argument

  1. The knowledge attained directly by human being is through experience
  2. The human being experiences through his five senses
  3. To claim that a human being can experience the supernatural via another sense is in itself a religious claim that must be first proven/given reason to believe
  4. It is impossible to give evidence or reasons for (3). Hence (3) is not possible.
  5. Therefore, no human being can ever come to posses knowledge of the Transcendent unless it reveals itself to him

The second part of this argument would be to assert that this means any religious founder who claims to know the transcendent must always give proof that either

  1. He has been contacted by a being from the Transcendent
  2. Or that he himself is from the Transcendent world

Both of these mean that the person has to show miracles that are historically reliable (if we were not around at the time he was around). But that is for a different matter.

First I would like to see what the thoughts of people are on this matter. I was under the impression that the title should be obvious but I have encountered many who think its unreasonable to say such a thing. I would like to discuss that matter here.

The transcendent, by the very definition of the word, is unknowable through human experience because it is beyond the limits of human experience. It’s kind of like saying that a beautiful sunset is unknowable by a person born blind. Not really sure what there is to discuss.

A mere human being can do nothing apart from God. Nothing. All of our gifts come from God, every heartbeat and every breath are a gift. And when God so chooses, he gives some really great gifts and graces, whether we deserve them or not. For only a couple of minutes at the most, I was immensely blessed with the grace to feel the presence of Christ, a gift that I have treasured above everything else. He came to me in the form of the Eucharist, and the love which emanated from Him was so profound I can’t even begin to explain it’s immense beauty, how it literally felt like I was being “covered” in “waves” of pure love. I knew the moment I felt Him, how big of a sinner I was, how was it possible He was coming to me?! But at the same time, I KNEW that he loved me despite my weaknesses and sins, He LOVED ME!!! An experience like that cannot be “proven” to anyone else, nor was it experienced by any of my 5 senses. I did not taste Him, smell Him, hear Him, feel Him by physical touch, or see Him, but I know what I felt in my very soul and I definitely know it wasn’t because I deserved it. So can a person disover the Transcendent on his own? No. A person can die to self, open up to the Holy Spirit and pray from the heart to be given the gift of understanding the Transcendent, as God wills. I am so far from perfect but I do my best everyday to love God and to see the good in everybody, no matter what.

Exactly. I would have thought this trivially obvious.

But there are people who argue that persons like Buddha who claimed they were just mere human beings know the “way”. So a blind man has come to know the sunset, to speak in terms of your analogy.

Okay, I see where you’re going with this. I agree wholeheartedly. There are certainly many that believe the transcendent can be attained through human effort, or that the transcendent is found within us. There is a difference between objective truth and revealed truth. We cannot know the transcendent unless God reveals it to us. And even then, we are still limited in our human capacity to comprehend it.

Persons like Buddha did not have the help of divine revelation. They can attain a certain kind of peace through meditation, but they do not know THE WAY, who is Jesus. They just know “a” way.

Your point 2) is not quite correct, as we can experience via our minds (ie, dreaming). In fact, the mind, and not the eyes, skin etc. is where experiences are had, whatever sense mediates them.

So a transcendental experience could be had that involves a priori the human mind. IMNAAHO.


Well it cannot be “a” way either. It is just that, a way to attain an earthly sense of peace. Whether it reflects anything spiritual or not is something even Buddha cannot answer, logically speaking, no?

That is what I was trying to say. Buddhism is “a” way to a natural peace. Jesus is THE way to the fullness of peace and truth.

Hmm. But wouldn’t you still need to know that what you are having is an actual experience of the Transcendent and not your imagination?

What I mean to say is, if Moses simply heard a voice speaking to him, he would have less certainty that God spoke to him unless he received some form of an empirically verifiable help for anyone. Is that not the case?

For an example, by parting the Red Sea, Moses himself sees that he was not imagining things and that other men and women too are witnessing God’s promise to him. This is of course not relevant for the time of Moses since he would not have suspected a “hearing voices in my head” as a psychological condition. So God did not have to prove that he was actually speaking to him immediately. But the evidence was given nevertheless for us who live 2000 years later to still be able to grasp that Moses did not imagine it all in his head (by virtue of the fact that Israel was guided out of Egypt in a miraculous way by Moses (not to mention the plagues)).

In that sense I was thinking no one can actually claim to have experienced the Transcendent itself but can only experience a manifestation of it in the natural world and only learn through that manifestation (so a voice, incarnation, miracles).

My apologies. I misunderstood you the first time. Sorry about that! :o

No problem! :slight_smile:

Maybe a man who CLAIMED to be blind, could in actuality see the sunset :slight_smile:

If He starts describing one part of the sky at sunset to you in incredible detail, would you not at the very least suspect that maybe He is not so blind after all?

Maybe He claimed to be blind because the focus was the sunset, not Him

This is wonderful and I agree with it.

But God never stops guiding His servants. There is always more to do…

Exactly!! Scientific research (pioneered by the work of Dr. Sam Parnia) is increasingly coming to the understanding that the human mind is an aspect of human nature that is SEPARATE from the physical human body.

Look, I am not sure why this is so difficult.

If a person saw the sunset, they describe it and others can verify it. But with something transcendent, who is going to do the verification? That is why a person (blind) needs SOMEONE ELSE from the TRANSCENDENT (who is not blind) to tell them that it is correctly a (sunset) “WAY” that they see.

Which part of this is difficult or seems unreasonable?

So you are suggesting that a person discovered through empirical research that they can actually grasp truths beyond the empirical world? Does that seem like a reasonable statement to you?

You know this how? Did God reveal this to you?

lol no!!

I don’t suffer from vain imaginings.

Revelation of the Word brings spiritual transformation, to such an extent that thousands upon thousands would happily forsake their lives for this Word, rather than recant.

It’s one of the clearest signs of whether the revelation is a mere vain imagining or a Revelation from God.

Let me ask you the following.

Can we at least first agree that before assenting to anything as God’s revelation, we must first make sure that it is indeed from God?

Fixed :smiley:

I am fairly certain that I am able and capable to sin all by myself :o

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.