Cosmic Humor and Trans-Rationality – Two Signs of Enlightenment

From Seven Octaves of Enlightenment

Integral Deep Listening Pranayama

Cosmic Humor


I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

Groucho Marx

What is Cosmic Humor? Things get pretty funny when you stop taking drama or yourself seriously. As you learn to see that you are a figment of your own imagination that you created in order to have a stable, secure identity in the world, you can gently let it go, like clothes, possessions, work, family members or friends that don’t fit any more. This does not mean that you cease to care or stop having relationships with these objects, pursuits or people, but only that you stop being invested in them as defining you. Consequently, they cease to represent or speak to you. If other people judge you it is none of your business. Their conclusions and expectations can be pretty funny because people think that they therefore know who you are when for you, none of those definitions or descriptions define you anymore.

This stance could be construed as not caring what people think or refusing to recognize that what you do, say and feel reflects on who you think you are. Not so. You will continue to be colored and conditioned by these things, and the conclusions others draw from those associations have their legitimacy. Your object is to learn, observe, and see the delusion and drama in all of that without thereby concluding that life is mere delusion or that it is only drama. Neither extreme is correct. Taking either position will propel you into a self-protective withdrawal when in fact you have no self to protect.

While the progression from abundance through joy to awareness can be viewed as a transpersonal evolution of affect to broader contexts of clarity and wakefulness, the progression from cosmic humor through trans-rationality to luminosity can be viewed as a transpersonal involution to increasingly subtle affect and broader contexts of selfless receptivity. To the extent that inhalation at Octave 5 is representative of the via affirmativa, the affirmation of the sacred, so exhalation discloses the via negativa, the emptying of the self to more fully disclose the sacred.

At the first stage of this process of disidentification, chest exhalation, you focus at dropping off your emotional attachment to your sense of self, your identity, however your define it and fuel it, moment to moment. The more that you realize that you have an endless stream of perspectives which define you, and that all are holograms, meaning that one is just as legitimate as another, several amazing things happen. There is no longer any one, stable identity to defend or protect. Therefore, the idea of a self or selves or Self becomes humorous, a joke you have played on yourself. Your personalization of experience becomes poignant, tragic and comic, all at once. This humor does not dismiss or denigrate; instead, it honors, respects and reveres while letting go, detaching and accepting. It is typified by humor that pokes gentle fun at oneself, as when Nicholas Butler remarks, “The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.” Oscar Wilde takes the same tack when he says, “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”  Bob Monkhouse: “They all laughed when I said I’d become a comedian. Well, they’re not laughing now.”

Rather than self-depreciation, cosmic humor is humility. As Richie Norton said, “There is power born of humility . . . Humility, in business and in life, is a powerful asset and does not denote lowliness, unimportance, or self-deprecation.”

Does Cosmic Humor evolve too? Cosmic humor evolves as well, from jokes that indicate you don’t take your personality seriously, to those that indicate you find viewing yourself as an immortal soul, Atman, or a universal self highly humorous. You will notice a new lightness toward concepts of universal law, such as dharma, karma and even human rights and sexual morality. This is often interpreted as a statement of license or a belief that such laws no longer apply. This is a mistaken notion, a misconception, just like the perception that jokes about oneself necessarily reflect self-depreciation, abnegation or denial instead of humility. Just as a self continues to exist as cosmic humor evolves, as a functional tool, so do laws. The fact that they are viewed as of relative rather than absolute values or norms does nothing to negate their importance or usefulness for normal and healthy social interaction.

While you are identified with the drama of life at chest inhalation, at chest exhalation you are consciously letting it go. At Octave 5 you see that drama is tragicomedy, a play in which you take roles. You see that your identification with the reality of those roles is a choice and this awareness gives you the objectivity to see your investment as optional.

The more you realize that life is not about you, that life does not care about you, except to the extent that you are a vehicle or tool by which life wakes up to itself, the more you can enjoy the dance, go with the flow and laugh at yourself when you find yourself taking life or yourself far too seriously.

How do I grow into cosmic humor? To grow into cosmic humor think about those times in your life when you have most experienced outbursts of selfless, fearless absurdity. Look for cosmic humor in all four quadrants, in the activity of your thoughts and feelings, in the variety of characters and themes in your dreams, in your preferences and those things that you value throughout the day. Look for cosmic humor in your choice of activities, subjects of conversation, work, and relationships. See it in nature and in the variety of responses different people give to the same conditions, remarks or situations. Make a list. See if you can add to it. Such an exercise will cause you to be on the lookout for cosmic humor, which means that you will make more room in your consciousness for it.

It will also help you to grow into cosmic humor if you consider its opposite characteristics, such as fearing the criticism of others, blaming or discounting yourself. Any form of taking yourself, your ideas and your precious feelings too seriously is the opposite of cosmic humor. You can use your chest exhalations to move you into a state of awareness that includes yet transcends these qualities.


To me, absurdity is the only reality.

Frank Zappa

What is Trans-rationality? Trans-rational awarenesses or experiences are those that are absurd while you are having them, yet do not fit into either irrational or rational categories. They contain rationality but are clearly not rational. What looks absurd from one perspective makes perfect sense from another. Examples are the world as seen by Alice in Alice in Wonderland and the same world as seen by the hooka-smoking caterpillar or the March Hare. Almost any dream, when viewed from the perspective of your waking identity will contain absurd elements. However, that same dream, when viewed from the perspective of almost any other character in the dream will no longer appear to be absurd. What this tells us is that the judgment of absurdity says more about the limitations of the perspective of the perceiver than it does about the rationality, or lack of it, of “reality” itself.

IDL differentiates among pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational absurdity. Pre-rational absurdity includes beliefs that are clearly irrational, such as the idea that Lao Tzu spent eight or eighty years in his mother’s womb before he was born. A rational absurdity is a dog with hands instead of paws or the statement that two and two equals five. Such statements are rational because they do not involve beliefs and they are rationally absurd because reason is required to demonstrate why they are irrational. Finding meanings in death that are not belief-based, such as joy at experience free of filtration, is an example of a trans-rational absurdity. IDL interviews contain numerous examples of trans-rational absurdity. For example, the very idea of interviewing a hungry dream goblin that is wearing a bib and chasing you with a knife and fork seems irrational and prepersonally absurd, which in fact it is. However, when you actually interview the goblin its remarks are generally found to be not only rational and coherent but to reflect a world view or perceptual context that contains yet transcends your own. This is reflected by remarks like, “I didn’t want to eat you; I was just trying to get your attention.” Rationality will not yield this understanding; a trans-rational methodology is required to do so.

The trans-rational is different from the irrational because it transcends and includes rationality while irrationality does not ever rise to the level of rationality, so it cannot include it, much less transcend it. “Two and two is six” is irrational because it does not rise to the level of rationality, but it takes rationality to recognize how and why it is incorrect. “If you see the Buddha in the road, kill him,” is trans-rational because it includes a rational assumption, that external sources of spiritual authority are dangerous, and then portrays it in an absurd way, since you could not meet the Buddha on the road and if you did, the last thing you would want to do to an avatar of peace is kill it.

Zappa’s absurdity encompasses the irrational and has fun turning rationality into confetti. The question is whether Zappa’s absurdity also encompasses the trans-rational. While cosmic humor views taking things and drama personally as a joke, trans-rationality includes both reason and meaning but transcends them in simple and direct experience. For example, if you wake up in a dream you are doing something that scientific humanists viewed as impossible, delusional, or irrational until Stephen LeBerge proved the existence of the experience in the early 1980’s. Lucid dreaming itself is not inherently pre-rational, rational or trans-rational. Your level of development determines the level of clarity of your perception, but not the absurdity or rationality of the experience itself.

The trans-rational is a realm that includes reason and therefore is not irrational, but transcends it, meaning that while the trans-rational makes sense, it is not rational. Since it is not irrational nor rational but contains reason, only one option remains: it must be trans-rational or absurd knowledge, wisdom, awareness or perception.  This is not the trans-rationality of fools, tricksters, jesters or clowns, because these rarely incorporate the transpersonal. However, the trans-rational can indeed be contradictory. For example, Paul Mic says, “We understand nothing! If you understand this, You understand everything.” Of Socrates, the Oracle of Delphi said, “He is wise because he knows that he is not wise.”

If cosmic humor is a more or less feeling of selflessness, trans-rationality is more or less a consciousness of selflessness. The difference is in the profundity of the selflessness. You can laugh at your own attachment to yourself and still be attached to the idea of yourself but you cannot become disattached from a sense of self and still take it seriously. Therefore, trans-rationality includes and transcends cosmic humor.

Is trans-rationality “divine madness?” Does it involve disregard for common definitions of morality? For example, Salvadore Dali has said, “I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoic thought, it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality.” But trans-rationality is neither paranoic nor does it attempt to discredit everyday reality or generate confusion.

Is trans-rationality the same as “Crazy Wisdom?” Georg Feuerstein notes that “The crazy wisdom message and method are understandably offensive to both the secular and the conventional religious establishments. Hence crazy adepts have generally been suppressed. This was not the case in traditional Tibet and India, where the “holy fool” or “saintly madman” [and madwoman] has long been recognized as a legitimate figure in the compass of spiritual aspiration and realization. In India, the avadhuta is one who, in his [or her] God-intoxication, has “cast off” all concerns and conventional standards.” Chögyam Trungpa said, “Instead we explore further and further and further without looking for an answer. […] We don’t make a big point or an answer out of any one thing. For example, we might think that because we have discovered one particular thing that is wrong with us, that must be it, that must be the problem, that must be the answer. No. We don’t fixate on that, we go further. “Why is that the case?” We look further and further. We ask: “Why is this so?” Why is there spirituality? Why is there awakening? Why is there this moment of relief? Why is there such a thing as discovering the pleasure of spirituality? Why, why, why?” We go on deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, until we reach the point where there is no answer. […] At that point we tend to give up hope of an answer, or of anything whatsoever, for that matter. […] This hopelessness is the essence of crazy wisdom. It is hopeless, utterly hopeless.”

Is the ancient shamanistic prepersonal practice of interviewing animals and stones a trans-rational practice? This is a pre-rational practice that can rise to the level of rationality when the information is useful. “Of course, many of us shudder when we think of some of our companions who do talk with inanimate objects or invisible friends. Yet even here, I think that psychologists’ scholarly prejudices have often overcome their common sense and analytical skills. The point is not whether people talk to animals and plants, but the validity of the messages that are given and received. In other words, people picking up gibberish should be given therapy. When a person is told, however, that a certain plant, used in a particular way, is excellent for curing boils, stopping bleeding, or reducing fevers—and the cure works—that is another matter altogether.”1 While this may be a psychic or clairvoyant practice, it may or may not be access to a trans-rational state. We can see the similarity to interviewing dream characters and the personifications of life issues here. The action is on the face irrational, as both are clearly imaginary, yet the process itself is rational. What is communicated is almost always understood as rational, and yet the process is absurd, in that it transcends rational explanations and laws of logic.

Are parapsychological experiences trans-rational? No, because they may be had by pre-rational thinkers, like children, and do not require logic or reason in order to be understood. For example the following example of serendipitous or psychic events does not require a trans-personal explanation: “Grim omens…Premonitory dreams and waking fantasies prior to the events of 9/11”, and “synchronous experiences that saved their lives: people who reported inexplicable dread or sudden illness that kept them away from their jobs; people who ‘simply’ turned around and went home, inexplicably, before any of the events at the WTC or pentagon occurred.” Examples of animal communication fall into the same category.

How does trans-rationality develop? When we are young, both life and death are pre-rational, in that they present themselves as experiences that are prior to reason, reasoning, thinking or even belief. This is the way animals experience life and death; these experiences simply are. As we learn to think and reason, we develop the objectivity that allows us to distance ourselves from the immediate experiences of life and death. Life and death become rational. We tell ourselves stories about them to explain them and make sense about them and we create theories to justify our beliefs about life and death. As we develop into the trans-rational life and death begin to take on characteristics that are neither irrational nor are they reasonably explained or experienced through reasoning. We find that reason is woefully inadequate to handle our experiences with both. However, if we do not develop trans-rational ways to experience life and death, we are either thrown back on naive beliefs in the stories and myths we tell ourselves about life and death or else they become increasingly overwhelming. This overwhelm is a natural and necessary wake-up call. It is challenging us to open and broaden beyond our beliefs and our rationality. IDL supports this process by providing an ongoing dialogue with perspectives that are trans-rational in their outlook, values, and solutions. As you become them and experience life and death from their points of view you grow into trans-rational perspectives of your own.

How can I experience my breath and death as transpersonal? The trans-rationality of Octave 5 is not hopeless. Instead it says, “Trust that all sources of truth or enlightenment are trustworthy, in the same way that air and death are trustworthy.” Breath and death are essentially experiences; there is not much about them to either trust or not trust. The simple experiences of breathing and dying are prepersonal, equally available to all animals and people. Emotions and thoughts about the properties of breath and death and our interactions with them are normally non-transpersonal experiences, unless they are produced by a self that perceives the world from a transpersonal perspective. To experience breath and death as transpersonal requires the prior inclusion and transcendence of all successive perceptions of breath and death. They can then can become permanent, selfless experiences of ultimate meaning or sacredness. However, that should never stop them from making them sacred now, with this breath, by embracing all octaves of breath as sacred experiences.

How can one transcend their mind? The trans-rational is also transcendence of the noosphere, or world of the mind, including feelings, images and thoughts. It is commonly contrasted with the physiosphere, the world of sensory experience, and the “theosphere,” another word for the transpersonal. The implication is that with abdominal exhalation at the 5th Octave you drop your mind. At this point things are ineffable; it makes no sense to talk about emotions, affect or even consciousness. None of these are denied; you have simply moved to a context or point of view that honors all but transcends them in a sacred embrace.

Trans-rationality implies both the incorporation and transcendence of reason for a sacred purpose. By “sacred,” IDL refers to whatever opens you to your emerging potentials, your life compass and to the priorities of life itself. “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” is an example of such trans-rationality, which, when carefully considered, is not absurd at all but a profound, though metaphorical, truth. Georg Feuerstein cites 9th century Zen poet Han-shan as another example, explaining that when people would ask him about Zen, he would only laugh hysterically. Zen koans are designed to force the mind into trans-rational spaces to stretch our understanding of what “sacred” means by forcing us to include the secular and profane in it. This is exactly what occurs in the higher octaves.

Can dreams and dreaming serve as a gateway to trans-rationality?

While dreams are normally prepersonal experiences, we have seen that they can embody profound truth and opportunity for awakening. When we think about them, whether while awake or while in a lucid dream, we are having a personal level relationship with dreaming. A trans-rational relationship with dreams occurs when we identify with a dream toothbrush or other character and allow it to speak, because dream toothbrushes are imaginary and cannot talk, yet doing so assumes a grounding in both a prepersonal belief (that such a thing is possible) and a personal level rational methodology (IDL dream yoga, for example). When identification with any dream element is done with respect and in the awareness that what is being heard is life manifesting itself through some perspective, we are experiencing a trans-rational relationship with dreaming.

How is trans-rationality best and most easily learned? By doing IDL interviews. This is because, as mentioned above, the remarks of interviewed dream characters and personifications of your life issues generally include yet transcend your world view and any emotional attachment not only to your sense of self, but to any sense of self. This means that they make sense from a higher perspective even though they may not make sense to you. Consequently, repeated immersion in such perspectives expands your own so that you begin to recognize and appreciate trans-rationality.

Is the trans-rational irrational when it is experienced? No, it is only irrational when it is reflected upon apart from the experience. For example, when people have near death or mystical experiences they may be overpowering but they are not irrational. Such experiences are not absurd. Normal dreaming, a pre-rational experience, falls into the same category; dreams are typically not understood to be absurd until one awakens. Exceptions are dreams that are recognized to be absurd while dreaming, which is a symptom of near-lucid or lucid dreaming.

Are dreams absurd and irrational or trans-rational? When you see a broader context, one that transcends and includes both the irrational and prepersonal, the rational and personal, you have a transpersonal and trans-rational viewpoint, but it is not necessarily absurd. It will look absurd to those who do not share it, but this is irrationality, which is pre-rational. Another way of explaining this is in our common experience of dreaming. When you are having a dream an absurd experience is not viewed as absurd because you typically lack the objectivity of rationality that you have while you are awake. Therefore, you lack the objectivity to see that something is absurd and label it as such. However, when you wake up you may say, “That was absurd!” You mean that it was pre-rational and irrational. Such experiences are often accompanied with embarrassment that we could have been so naive as to not question their reality. This is what IDL means when it says that dream experience is typically regressive. However, when you interview characters in the dream you will often find that what looked absurd from your waking perspective was not and is not from those embedded perspectives. This is what IDL means when it says that dreams are not inherently regressive, even though they are commonly experienced as regressive by us. What they are is trans-rationally absurd, in that their rationality transcends normal waking assumptions about causal relationships and motivations, yet make perfect sense from the perspective of the character. 

How does considering the opposites of trans-rationality help to develop it? As tools for development, the opposites of trans-rationality are useful and important processes, but as sources of reality and life meaning they will keep you stuck in a painful bonsai-pygmy self-definition. These include logic, rationality, reason, habitual patterns of thought, feeling and action as well as reliance on unquestioned beliefs. IDL pranayama at Octave 4 encourages you to use your abdominal exhalations to move you into a state of awareness that includes both belief and rationality, yet transcends both.

What can I do to help me grow into trans-rationality? Look for it in your choice of activities, subjects of conversation, work, and relationships. See it in nature and in the variety of responses different people give to the same conditions, remarks or situations. Look for trans-rationality in all four quadrants, in the activity of your thoughts and feelings, in the variety of characters and themes in your dreams, in your preferences and those things that you value throughout the day. To grow into trans-rationality think about those times in your life when you have experienced it. Make a list. See if you can add to it every day. Such an exercise will cause you to be on the lookout for trans-rationality, which means that you will make more room in your consciousness for it.

1Bernstein, Jerome S. Introduction. Living in the Borderland: The Evolution of Consciousness and the Challenge of Healing Trauma. London: Routledge, 2005. xv-xvi.

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