What Exactly Is Metaphysics?

The Weird World of Metaphysics

A Perceived reality is the illusion that there is nothing beyond what we experience with our normal five senses. Metaphysics gives us an inkling that there is more!
~Carol Nicholson

• Do you consider yourself a Metaphysician?

• Do you actually know what Metaphysics means? 

I distinctly remember the day when I was ten years old that I discovered the metaphysical section in our small town library. It was stashed in a corner and had no nomenclature. Yet, I was immediately captivated by titles for such topics as past lives, famous psychics, mediums, and ghost hunters. It was like being in a candy store, and I knew then that I was in my real element! I left with my arms full of books and unknowingly began my lifelong journey into metaphysical studies.

Nowadays, anytime I am in a bookstore or library, I usually make a beeline for the Metaphysical, or “New Age”, section first looking for anything new. If I can’t find that part of a bookstore right away, I know it’s next to “Religion.” While browsing in the metaphysical section of a bookstore one day, the lady next to me shyly said, “So, you’re metaphysical too?” It’s as if she found a rare kindred spirit. I know the feeling.

What a Metaphysician Is

In formal terms, a Metaphysician is considered a philosopher whose area of study is metaphysics: the study of the fundamental nature of reality and existence itself. ‘Meta-‘ means beyond or transcending; so meta-physical means that which lies beyond, underlies or transcends the physical realm/world/reality. Being a Metaphysician has several levels of meaning. Studies and beliefs can be philosophical or spiritual in nature.

A funny story I often think of is when years ago when my sister and I were discussing our latest dates, she mentioned a man she went out with that proudly informed her he was” into metaphysics.” She laughed when telling me this, and I got the feeling she viewed him as somewhat weird and definitely not worth pursuing. Little did she or I know at the time she was talking to a future metaphysician!

So, What Exactly Is Metaphysics?

Metaphysics is a philosophical discipline that explores the nature of reality. It is a broad term that encompasses many ideas, thoughts, and beliefs that extend beyond the normal human view of things.

When some individuals in mainstream society hear the word metaphysics, they might dismiss it as a strange and irrelevant bouquet of mumbo jumbo.  A Vision may come to mind of that weird New Age Section in the bookstore hidden far in the corner frequented by flaky people. Being one of these frequenters, and not considering myself flaky one bit, I understand that a large segment of society does not fully understand the term metaphysics and everything it actually encompasses.

For me, metaphysics represents the mystical, supernatural, and spiritual aspects of life. Books on topics ranging from astrology, Tarot, holistic healing, psychics, mediums, palmistry, reiki, reflexology, the paranormal, Edgar Cayce Studies, Wiccan, the practice of magic, and similar topics of otherworldly interests. While each of these categories touches on certain aspects of metaphysics, it cannot be said that they can provide an inclusive definition of the word. Metaphysics is a much broader concept and includes a lot more in its totality as you will learn next.

Traditionally, the word Metaphysics originated in Ancient Greece, as a combination of two root words – Meta, meaning over and beyond – and physics. Thus we arrive at the word metaphysics which is the blending of the two terms.

According to Wikipedia, Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy investigating the fundamental nature of being and the world it encompasses. Topics of metaphysical investigation might include questions about our existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and potentialities.

Metaphysics, like many other fields of thought inquiry, contains some sub-categories, variations, and alternative interpretations. These subsets of the discipline arise naturally as time goes on, giving the entirety of the field many multifaceted and nuanced characteristics.

The use of the term “metaphysics” seems to have originated from the organization of Aristotle’s writings by Andronicus of Rhodes, who lived some three centuries after Aristotle’s death. Aristotle’s writings were arranged so that they immediately followed his work on physics. Here we have the first mention of “meta” physics or “beyond physics.” The name “metaphysics” has endured over the intervening centuries.

Metaphysics is Not a Hard Science

Many people think of metaphysics as a special area of the hard sciences, but this is not correct. While the ideas of metaphysics have driven many scientific investigations and theoretical ponderings into the unknown, metaphysics is not considered a separate, quantitative “science.” However, numerous foundational questions about metaphysics have indeed served as a speculative platform for the development of modern scientific inquiry and advancement. In fact, many sciences today originated with the thought of how and why things exist and work. If these ideas were not hypothetically pursued, we might still be living in the dark ages.

Three Subset Categories of Metaphysics

Like many other fields of inquiry, metaphysics holds some sub-categories and variations. These subsets have surfaced naturally over time, giving the entirety of the field many multifaceted and additional characteristics. There are three major categories discussed below: academic, popular modern, and pure and applied metaphysics.

1) Academic metaphysics: is the traditional, philosophical pursuit of understanding what is beyond reality. It has come to refer a specific area of inquiry within the arena of philosophy that addresses the “unknown” mysteries.

2) Popular modern metaphysics: encompasses the two categories of mysticism and occultism. Mysticism refers to “…Experiences of unity with the ultimate, commonly interpreted as the God who is love” (Anderson, 2002). Occultism refers to “…The extension of knowing by extrasensory perception beyond the usually recognized fields of human activity.”

3) Pure and applied metaphysics: a possible third category of metaphysics that postulates that theory is the knowledge that is attained through metaphysical inquiry (pure metaphysics) and the use of that knowledge in a meaningful and concrete way (applied metaphysics). (Anderson, 2002)

Is Everyone a Metaphysician of Sorts?

At some time or another in our lives, all human beings tend to reflect on certain issues of metaphysics. Whether they are completely cognizant of the fact they are “touching in with metaphysics” to some small degree is doubtful. Yet, the very idea that we all think about ourselves and the universe that surrounds us, proves that metaphysics isn’t as foreboding and abstract as it might appear at first glance.

In recent years there has been a surge of interest in the subject of metaphysics. Younger people seem to be flocking to its concepts for a better explanation of what life and our place in the Universe really is about and are perhaps are seeking to have a more spiritual understanding of life beyond the rational mind and perceived reality.

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