“The Beyond” features prominently in mystic Otto Rank’s understanding of the human condition. Says Rank: “The individual is not just striving for survival but is reaching for some kind of ‘beyond.’”
Beyond is something we reach for. It is not there yet. One might say it is ‘eschatological,’ or in the future. Yet it beckons us, reaches out to us. It is that which we do not yet possess; yet it is reachable. But it calls for a reaching, an effort to move past one’s present condition.
The word “beyond” implies being yonder, being at a frontier, being at an edge, being on the edge, growing. Eckhart says: “God is delighted to watch our souls enlarge.” An enlarging of our souls takes us to our ‘beyond.’ Webster’s dictionary defines “beyond” as “a distant place usually within sight.” Being at the horizon. Adventure. Stretching. Something great to strive for, something great to welcome us in, to welcome us home. A homecoming. A return to our origins.
In Art and Artist, Rank insists that the ancients’ passion for developing our relationships to the macrocosm, so fully experienced by way of ritual, can be our passion today. Humanity’s will, that is its power of choice to create, is called forth by struggle and survival issues.
We are seeing this stretching and courageous choosing on the part of many today, including the Ukrainian president and those fleeing the war with their children and those in other countries volunteering to assist the refugees and open their doors to them—as well as those staying behind to assist others and to fight the invaders.
Rank applies this quest for the beyond to his very profession and for this reason his last book (published posthumously in 1939) was called: Beyond Psychology. (Of course he had in mind at that time moving beyond Freudian psychology.)
How does one move beyond psychology. “Man is born beyond the psychological era only through vital experience of his own—in religious terms, through revelation, conversions, or rebirth.”
Vital experiences take us beyond, wake us up, feed us with revelation and conversion and rebirth. Vital experiences are the experiences of ecstasy and union, joy and beauty, that no one can take from us.
These are mystical moments. Mysticism is our breakthrough moments of union, of ecstasy, sometimes hot or orange ecstasies, and sometimes cool or green, or green/blue ecstasies. They are what nourish the soul, for soul is, says Rank, our “power of rebirth.” They make us young again, new again. Eckhart says the first gift of the Spirit is newness.
What are some other synonyms for “beyond?” How about the following: transcendence, infinity, spirituality, cosmos, grandeur, immensity, mysticism, God, magnanimity, creativity, surprise, Spirit, eternal life, the “kingdom/queendom of God.”
Rank believed that we “negotiate with the problem of the Beyond” in at least two deep instances: Art and Love. There is an experience of union that overcomes separateness.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Otto Rank as Mystic and Prophet in the Creation Spirituality Tradition,” on MatthewFox.org
Also see Matthew Fox, “”Otto Rank on the Artistic Journey as a Spiritual Journey, the Spiritual Journey as an Artistic Journey,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophet, pp. 199-214.
See also, Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: Ray of Light from the Heavens. Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree with Rank that the individual is not just striving for survival but is reaching for some kind of ‘beyond’?
What examples of that can you offer?
Do you agree that mystical experiences are rebirth experiences that carry us beyond the “psychological era” to a larger view of the universe?
Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life
In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.