“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.’”   

Reaching for the Light. Photo by Todd Rhines on Unsplash

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.  

Ukrainian pianist Iryna Manyukina plays a final rendition of Chopin in the ruins of her house in Bila Tserkva, some 80 kilometers from Kyiv, after it was badly damaged by Russian shelling. Video by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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. 

The grandeur of the heavens. Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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 Prophetpp. 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?

Recommended Reading

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.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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8 thoughts on “Rank on “The Beyond” ”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you ask us:
    1. “Do you agree with Rank that the individual is not just striving for survival but is reaching for some kind of ‘beyond’?” Yes I do. Many historians of religion in fact, believe that religion originally arose from the human sense that there had to be something beyond this life.
    2. “What examples of that can you offer?” In the prehistoric Neolithic period people buried their dead in fetal positions, with red ocher on their bodies, as if they believed the person would be reborn in the world beyond this one. And of course, we all know of the lengths the Egyptians went to prepare their dead Pharaohs (plus servants, animals, and others) to the world beyond this one.
    3. “Do you agree that mystical experiences are rebirth experiences that carry us beyond the ‘psychological era’ to a larger view of the universe?” AMEN !!! Especially when you think of “Breakthrough” in Eckhart’s views. To me, Breakthrough can be seen as what, in the East is called “Enlightenment,” or in our contexts “mystical experience.” And it does carry us beyond the ‘psychological era” where saints and mystics are seen as having mental problems, and they put them on medication so they will be “normal.”

  2. Avatar

    It’s noteworthy to point out both Jung and Rank, each at on time considered favored disciples of Freud, found disfavor with and broke with their teacher because both had a spiritual component encompassing larger views of reality than psychological models allow. Though of Jewish decent, Freud was an atheist when it came to the beyond, which limited his horizon to physicalism rooted in his early professional training in psychobiology. So both men broke with the more limited model of Freud, the way Jesus did with the limited and outdated Hebraic system, the way Matt Fox did with institutional religion. All students are to learn from their traditions, only to build upon and exceed, in a renewing way, what had gone before. Said Browning, “a man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

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      Jeanette Metler

      I see this movement of beyond, as a shifting within our conscious awareness and perception of reality. Within this reaching of beyond, there is a descending… a downward movement of our perception of reality moving beyond the mind into the heart and then further into the womb of being and living from the Fire Within. As our focal point of energy… that being our awareness of co-creative consciousness… moves in its descent along our chakra lines, our perception of reality changes.

      When our awareness of consciousness is not in alignment with these meridian lines, our perception of reality remains narrow and separate, lost in the confusion of stark dualities of things being black or white. Unable to move beyond this point of reason into multiple viewing points, ones perception becomes attached to the bias of blaming life or others for ones needs not being met. These ones then act out of this perception of being wounded and abandoned… giving away the co-creative power of their individuality, autonomy and freedom. Unwilling and unable to take responsibility for the reality that they are apart of co-creating, these ones then manifest disharmony, dissonance and destruction within the all and the everything of creation. This has been refered to by Mathew Fox as the reptilian brain, which others have refered to as the animalistic rather than human road. Mathew has also written of this in one of his books, Sins of the Flesh.

      When our focal point of energy is situated in this central chakra line… our perception of reality begins to unfold, evolve and emerge within our conscious awareness… and we become open, enlightened, able to perceive our oneness with the all and the everything of creation and the experience of being and living in the reality of Unconditional Love. Hence the importance of the East meeting the West in our times, as well as deep ecumenisism to be discovered through embracing other spiritual or religious pathways… which Mathew has also written of in his book, One River, Many Wells.

      Reaching beyond, is a movement of descending deeper in order to perceive the REALITY and TRUTH of the Universe. It’s the life long process of maintaining and sustaining our connection and alignment with the all and the everything… with the Source and the Womb of the Great Mystery, the Great Spirit of creation, that assembles us, as parts of its innumerable points of perception… where we become Oned With, truly seeing the all and the everything of creation, through the eyes of Unconditional Love.

      Throughout the many diverse and unique spiritual pathways and the traditions, values, purposes and meanings of rituals, ceremonies and practices within these, we experience the unfolding spiritual self growth and evolving development of this movement of reaching and emerging beyond our limited and finite human perception of reality. Throughout engaging with these transformative experiences, we descend into a greater measure of balance, harmony, and alignment of this sacred union with the expansive and infinite divine perception of reality… which is Uncondidtional Love!

      It is this Fire Within that we are all in the learning process of consciously kindling, of tending to, of nurturing, and co-creatively cultivating from within. And as one of the Desert Mothers apply stated, at first there is much smoke and many tears, before one begins to see beyond and perceive reality clearly… As it Is, Was and ever shall Be!

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    Beautiful Meditation Matthew! We have faith in Being and Becoming Loving Compassionate Oneness with one another and All of God’s ongoing Evolution/Creation in the Universe~Cosmos….

  4. Avatar
    Betsy N. Robinson

    Jeanette –
    Thank you for your profound comments. For me, it brought even more depth and meaning to Matthew Fox’s Inspirational Meditation. I know there will be a place for me to use all of these thoughts as we lay the foundation for developing what our Women’s Group at church hopes to create in the coming year as I take on its leadership position in May.

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