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date: 19 November 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the transcendent experience, which is defined as an ego-dissolving encounter with something greater than one’s self. The transcendent experience is cross-cultural and panhistorical. This chapter presents a model describing the evolution and function of various evolved modes of transcendence, such as group-directed transcendence, theory of mind (ToM) transcendence, aesthetic transcendence, and epistemic transcendence. It then discusses the susceptibility of these modes of transcendence to costly exploitation by selfish individuals. The ensuing sections discuss the relationship between transcendence and human development across the lifespan, and concludes with some thoughts on the epistemic and ethical utility of transcendence.

Keywords: transcendence, evolution, spirituality, mysticism, exploitation, religion

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