Deviated Transcendence

Deviated transcendence is a form of false transcendence that seeks transcendence in the wrong places—it is an immanent transcendence, like looking for God within the confines of one’s own fishbowl. It comes from an inner void that opens up when human desire seeks its fulfillment in places other than its divine and metaphysical origin. Real transcendence is metaphysical in nature. According to Robert Hammerton-Kelly, who wrote a beautiful tribute to René Girard on his 70th birthday, “the void drives us to seek fulfillment from our fellow human beings, whom we mistakenly believe to possess the ontological fullness that we lack. Thus we fall into a war of desirefor empty prestige and hollow pre-eminence.

Deviated transcendence is what leads groups caught in a mimetic crisis to turn to the scapegoat mechanism, which is a form of deviated transcendence. It makes everyone caught up in the mechanism feel as if some transcendent power was at work to bring them peace; in reality, it was a function of their own violence and the false transcendence of their group psychology which makes them feel, subjectively, as if they have achieved something without having truly achieved anything at all.

Deviated transcendence is the reason that humans undertake strange diets and rituals—religious-like acts, even among the most secular of people—looking to transcend the paradigms of their existing metaphysical situation by any means possible.