The idea of transcendence is to get away from what we judge to be mundane and impermanent. Yet the very process can undermine the real goal, which is to eliminate suffering and bring equanimity to our lives. Transcendence can mean refusing to live in the present moment, refusing to acknowledge that we are the very stuff of this earth and sky, that we are intrinsically a part of everything we presumptuously want to transcend.

Thus the wisest sages carefully define transcendence in terms of the obstacles that block our perception of the interrelatedness of all things. Transcendence should not mean obliterating reality but informing and enlightening our perception of it. Otherwise, transcedence becomes dualism, a Manichaean rejection of the totality of reality.

Quantum theory has long shown that energy and matter are just two aspects of the same being. So it does us no good to reject the material — to transcend the material — in a quest for the non-material, when both are ultimately the same. We have to ask ourselves exactly what we think we are transcending.