What the Heck Is Metaphysics Anyway?
Metaphysics is the study of spiritual philosophy and psychic phenomenon considered to be on the fringe of conventional science. ESP, Clairvoyance, and Telekinesis are frequently relegated to the shadows of mainstream belief systems. Interestingly, regardless of countless mentions throughout the ages, and across numerous cultures, it’s a daunting task for these kinds of phenomena to be recognized by the prevailing status quo.
Some Believe that Metaphysics Is Downright Spooky
Over the years I’ve taught many spiritually-based courses and sometimes I’m asked what the word metaphysics means.
The first time I was first asked about the meaning of metaphysics, I had to stop and think. I’ve considered myself a metaphysician for decades. In my mind, I thought I knew what this meant. However, I never put a description into words.
I thought on it for a while and came up with this:
Metaphysics: A Perceived reality is the illusion that there is nothing beyond what we experience with our basic five senses. Metaphysics gives us an inkling that there is something more!
Metaphysics is Philosophical Thought
Simply put, 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.
Let’s consider the idea of the Akashic Records. One of the first individuals to bring the Akashic Records to mainstream awareness in the United States was trance psychic, Edgar Cayce. After years of being a successful medical diagnostician while in a deep state of trance, Cayce started giving Life Readings for individuals. While in trance and unaware of what he was saying out loud, Cayce told people about their past lives and the reasons for being born in this lifetime. Perplexed and not knowing how he came by this information, Cayce was told by his Spirit Guides that the material came directly from the Akashic Records which Cayce unwittingly had direct access to. (The Akashic Records are thought by many to hold the complete lifetime records of all souls that have ever lived. These records exist in another dimensional plane.) Thus, the Akashic Records can be considered as a metaphysical concept.
When some individuals in mainstream society hear the word metaphysics, they might dismiss it as a strange and irrelevant bouquet of mumbo jumbo. A picture 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.
Anytime I’m in a bookstore or library, I usually make a beeline for the Metaphysical, or “New Age”, section first looking for anything new. In a new store, if I can’t find that part of a bookstore right away, I know it’s next to the section on 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 Is a Metaphysician?
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. Studies and beliefs can be philosophical or spiritual in nature.
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.
As mentioned, 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 Hard Science
Some individuals believe metaphysics is a part of the hard sciences, but this is not correct. While the ideas of metaphysics have driven many scientific investigations and theoretical pondering 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 never 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.
- 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.
- Popular modernmetaphysics: 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.”
- 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, we all tend to reflect on issues that touch on metaphysics. Whether we’re aware of the fact that we are touching in with metaphysical philosophical ideas to some small degree is doubtful. Nevertheless, the reality is that most intelligent humans at some time or another wonder about their role in this world and the universe that surrounds us, says that the idea of metaphysics isn’t as foreboding or weird as it sounds.