Popular Practical Metaphysics

Meditation 117: Popular Practical Metaphysics

Knowing my interest in practical metaphysics, a friend suggested I search Google for it. Much to my surprise, I saw many sites devoted to the subject. There are differences, however, between my ‘philosophical’ approach and the more ‘spiritual’ approaches I saw on the web. What these sites have in common is a faith or belief in metaphysical principles as absolute truths. Possessing these truths, it is said, has beneficial practical consequences for a person’s life.

What will the practitioner receive by taking in metaphysical principles and letting them transform her or his life? Many benefits are claimed. They will help you become a vegetarian, stop smoking and never suffer another cold. It also enables you to visualize and affirm outcomes that you desire. The idea is that by a kind of sympathetic quantum magic, the world will provide what you need for an abundant life if you can just want it in the right way.

On the internet, practical metaphysics is identified with spiritual practice and truth. Spiritual “truths” are, in fact, metaphysical assertions that go beyond logic or mere sense perception. The sites express a connection between practical metaphysics and a Divine Mind, God, Universal Spirit or Cosmic Consciousness. In this view, prayer or meditation is a kind of metaphysical work. The sort of things one learns are like those taught by Swedenborg, the great spirit-seer of old. We will learn about unseen powers and how to commune with them. We will attain unity with God or Universal Spirit, overcoming the otherness that haunts our embodied existence. We will learn to program our minds to make the most of our lives. Practical metaphysics teaches that there is a reality that goes far beyond the world we experience in daily life. We come to know this reality more through spiritual practices than abstract teachings. We are to intuit or directly experience metaphysical “truths”, but such experiences cannot be described in mere words.

Popular practical metaphysics falls into the category of “self-help” strategies that have a spiritual component. The claims of the web sites take advantage of the second and third principles of “philosophical” practical metaphysics, but deny the first. The first principle is that we cannot prove or disprove the truth of metaphysical claims either through empirical research or logical demonstration. The second and third are that we have to adopt some metaphysical beliefs and that some of these will have practical consequences for our lives. These consequences play out by shaping attitudes, patterns of feelings and kinds of actions. They influence everyday behavior. How they do so will depend upon the theory one adopts.

For example, one approach is to distinguish a Higher and a Lower Self, access the Higher Self, leave the Lower Self behind and attain enlightenment. Another approach is to leave the Self altogether, both Higher and Lower, as as distraction from the Pure Light. Taking one path or the other will lead in different directions and arrive in difference places, or, mystically speaking, in the same place. Still, it is a choice whether to take one path or wander aimlessly about in life. A metaphysical stance can come from within or without. It can be refused altogether, but even a refusal to play the metaphysical game is itself a metaphysical stance. Perhaps one of the things that makes the human species unique is precisely the insatiable human appetite for metaphysical ideas.

Popular practical metaphysics has a wide ranging idea of what constitutes metaphysics. It includes occult magical practices, parapsychology, hypnosis, quantum physics, psychic contact with spirits and sympathetic magic. We can learn to experience the spirit world and influence the Universal or Cosmic Mind. These are heady thoughts that do not directly contradict Pure Reason. (They are not logically impossible.) Nevertheless, Kant was right to restrict Pure Reason to the world of sense perception and causal reasoning. There is no check upon our ideas once we leave behind all thought of the empirical world. From my “philosophical” point of view, what we find on the web about ‘Practical Metaphysics’ are assertions that metaphysical claims are knowable. On my view, we can adopt such claims but are unable to prove their truth conclusively.

Implicit in popular practical metaphysics is the idea there that we can have knowledge of metaphysical truths and principles and that they can be taught. Most of the sites invite the reader to sign up for a course that will make all things clear. Therefore, in the background is the thought that some people have a privileged knowledge of metaphysical reality, and that this knowledge can be conveyed to others who lack it. Yet the web sites do not all agree about the constitution of Metaphysical Reality. It seems to go unnoticed that one metaphysical system may totally contradict another and that there is no common yardstick by which to measure both. The appeal to experience is also an interesting feature of popular practical metaphysics. It is needed because when I impart metaphysical truths to another, I have to admit that they cannot be known in ordinary ways. The proof has to be in the experience. Does your life improve? Does a metaphysical belief put your heart at rest? Is your soul in less pain? Does it give you comfort regarding a loved one’s death or peace in the middle of the night? Does it help you find meaning in your suffering, in your unhappy childhood, in your troublesome marriage, etc.? Does it make your illness or loneliness or blindness more bearable? Does it help you to have compassion for others? Does it give you the courage to withstand multiple failures, and keep trying? There is no doubting the power of belief, but the honest thing to say here is “Your money back if you are not fully satisfied.”

  1. Dear Jeff Mason,

    Thanks for writing an article *activating* my brain on that topic and issue.

    For the record: I have lived with the principle of METAPHYSICS and long, long before Internet existed.

    The definition once *set* Oxford style/deliberation just described what in fact I *was born* with, therefore a confirmation I was, still am doing *the right thing*.

    That definition is:

    METAPHISICS = The Branch of Philosophy that DEALS with:
    And I am wondering whether considering ONLY that might just be the answer to you, on your road, in search of…

    The Ancient (Greek)Philosophers spent their entire lives doing nothing else but as ask exactly the same questions as some of us are doing today.
    Sometimes *they* agreed, did they not, and a some time, one follower of one great philosopher stepped out of his elite secluded comfort zone looking for more and/or different ANSWERS.
    Prior to these ancients there have been other *thinkers*, in fact probably since Adam & Eva.

    Returning to the defination of METAPHYSICS: how about that for perusal, a topic to spend a life-time *with*?

    In my situation: thinking, coming up with *a reply* or answer, and I prefer to believe through my own ability to do some *quality* thinking: well, thar makes sense to me.
    On occasions when there was no resonance: *yikes*, anxious to get on with it: okay, okay, slow down, sleep on it. What I also learned: when the student is ready *the teacher* ia available.
    I made good progress, learning, also and still *busy* trying to understand people, esp. why in my eyes they keep making the same mistakes, again, again.

    Most likely that is why I *was forced* to travel my roads, sail my ships (in uncharted waters).

    Dear Jeff: Based on practical experience over DECADES, and indeed probably already born (constitutionally) to proceed as I began doing since I had the official age of ADULTHOOD:

    I think that every single person on this planet needs to become his/her own best medicical supervisor, the BEST phycologist, the most enlightened PSYCHIATER.

    I think that every single person on this planet (somehow) needs a better INBORN program making whatever is needed FUN, not *scary*, bearing in mind that so many on the planet are still illiterate, hardly educated, and *not knowing*, stepping out of one’s comfort zone (even in barracks in the Sahara desert)is terribly scary.
    I did, not in my opinion because God, or the Devil, or one other Deity told me to or manipulated me, but in a practical way: ONE THING LEAD TO ANOTHER.
    But I have no proof that such is *the truth*.

    During the last 25 years, on my metaphysical road, however *just* living my own GOOD life, really the weirdest things have come my way.
    Some of them very interesting, like standing face-to-face with some incredibly powerful entities, looking like just any other male.
    And then, not even aware at that moment, trained meanwhile to *decipher* all mysteries.
    Note: I do this *my way* i.e. there is no other way for me than sitting down with a blank piece of paper and a pen, and work my way through: vibrations, frequencies, sounds – long-short waves, what not.
    Once it took me 9 full months on 1 *lousy* job, completed my brain then told me together with a major moon eclipse, which I did not know of until I saw it that same morning on tv.
    Another issue was the profet Mohammed: whilst I was living here in Islamitic Turkey, meanwhile used to how I *get to the bottom* of metaphysical puzzles.
    Note: I actually just love to work this way, until I get totally bored, so getting my teeth into the phenomenon Mohammed was not a chore.
    Okay, after a while, pff, happpy to do something more interesting, keeping me out of mischief. *off the streets*.
    Anyway, the next year, and again DURING the Holy month of Ramadan, again Mohammed as an issue came up. It was not until I had spent at least years – consciously, working on that issue during that holy month, that *the penny* dropped: Of course, now I see, I said, how stupid of me not realizing this earlier.
    That I *had* to do this and WHY, turned out to be an enormous surprise/shock fo me personally, however, once again: trained and metaphysically *armed* to the teeth meanwhile, I dealt with the emotions as the reult of my own conscişous perception.

    Bye Jeff,
    You have my email address, my profile is available on Google and just in case you feel you have the urge to ask me questions: please do.
    What I am saying: I have completed a 24/7 metaphysical education from 1987 to 2005, and knowing basic principles of being (s) is just about all there is to metaphysics, practical, spirirual and in every possible form.
    Such as:
    Good housekeeping, knowing what food one individual can actually use, digest. cleanliness, a good posture, the best shoes for one individual’s feet, keeping your bloodsugar – balance in check, under control, avoid dulling the SENSES.
    It is really not so complicated to do what metaphysically is right.

    Do you do the housekeeping, and as a professional?
    And do you *test* everyone in your surroundings on *allergies*, what food to avoid, for instance?
    Do you check whether *loved-ones* have parasites, worms in their stools?
    I know! That sounds really weird, but as soon as you are ready to consider such important (metaphysical) issues, you shall know, i.e. remember that someone once mentioned something like that *in a comment*
    Dr. Willy Holmes-Spoelder

    P.s. I am in a hurry, so please forgive *typo’s, no time to edit, wishing to get my comment out. WACHS

  2. Dr. Willy Holmes-Spoelder your comment was utterly confusing. Am I missing something here?

  3. Here’s a guru who says it’s all BS!

    A few quotes from U.G. Krishnamurti, called an unguru-guru follow. Hard to classify, but still falls under the “spiritual” label. Question is, does he satisfy Jeff’s 3 principles of practical metaphysics?
    The heading below is from Google, if anyone wants to see more quotes.

    No Way Out: Ug Krishnamurti quotes 🙂

    *It is terror, not love, not brotherhood that will help us to live together. Until this message percolates to the level of human consciousness, I don’t think there is any hope.

    *You love fear. The ending of fear is death, and you don’t want that to happen. I am not talking of wiping out the phobias of the body. They are necessary for survival. The death of fear is the only death.

    *’Be selfish and stay selfish’ is my message. Wanting enlightment is selfishness. Charity is selfishness.

    *My mission, if there is any, should be, from now on, to debunk every statement I have made. If you take seriously and try to use or apply what I have said, you will be in danger.

    *All gurus are welfare organizations providing petty experiences to their followers. The guru game is a profitable industry; try and make two million dollars a year any other way.

    The plain fact is that if you don’t have a problem, you create one. If you don’t have a problem you don’t feel that you are living.

    *Anything that happens in space and time is limiting the energy of life. What life is I don’t know; nor will I ever.

    *My mission, if there is any, should be, from now on, to debunk every statement I have made. If you take seriously and try to use or apply what I have said, you will be in danger.

  4. Interesting article Jeff.

    I’ve dabbled a bit..yes..

    One conclusion that may interest you is that there more layers to this game than most people realize.

    It is, for example, possible to change yourself by a firm belief in something completely irrational and non existent.

    The fact that one changes is not ipso facto evidence of the existence of the entity or ontology in which one has the faith. Indeed methodologies that require no faith at all, but merely practical steps that in themselves lead to changes in consciousness, provide more powerful investigative tools.

    This alone is sufficient explanation for 90% of what I would term ‘popular practical metaphysics’ – which I have described elsewhere in terms of the generation and self-sustenance of an emotional feedback loop that I have termed an ’emotional (personal) narrative’.

    The profane world runs on such narratives: they are the business of marketing, media, politics and popular culture. At this level the spin merchant is the cultural equivalent of a black magician: bending peoples’ beliefs and using their emotional vulnerability to form a world view that favours the practitioners’ personal selfish agendas.

    To transcend these structures is possible: Not easy, but possible. To do that the individual has to rescind, or be stripped of, his identification with structures based on firstly, emotional vulnerability, and secondly, belief.

    Belief can transcend fear, so that works as a sort of first crude step.. but transcending belief is far, far harder. And that is because belief is the fundamental foundation stone of rationality itself. In order to reason, one needs objectivity and a reified mental structure: However there is no rational basis to presuppose that either is a valid model to impose on the world – indeed the world itself is merely such a construct, of and by itself!

    (This assuming you take a post Kantian/Schopenhauer perspective, rather than a Realist’s, which I do, for practical reasons: Indeed there is little point in starting an approach to changing the world and yourself if you are convinced that it will and can have no real effect).

    Ergo, my proposition is, that what underpins rationality itself, is an implicit faith and belief in the realness of ourselves as distinct entities, and the realness of a world of phenomena.

    Further I would state (with no possibility of justifying what is a personal insight) as a proposition, that the shape of the phenomenal world is in fact nothing more nor less than the reflection of what we ourselves are.

    The fact that we find congruence in our ontologies, is then not evidence of an external order, so much as evidence of our own social natures: we like to synchronize our perspectives.

    Now, armed with this ad-hoc suite of propositions, that in themelves are understood to be merely useful approximations, what can we do in practical terms to achive personal transcendence?

    This does suggest techniques that are instantly recognisable from the plethora of quasi-spritual cults and relagions that abound.

    First of all, we have the ‘shock and awe’ techniques of shamanism. Rites of passage, that smash the childhood personality, involve the individual in abject terror, or awe, often with the assistance of powerfeul psycho-chemical intervention… abreactions that strip the individual of one world view and allow another to be claimed as the only possible antiodote.

    These are then also available as the rituals of baptism etc.

    Secondly we can have trauma inspired abreactions..battle fatigue, post traumatic stress and so on, or any deep emotional stress – from falling in love to complete loss of a loved one, can, it seems catapult people into unusual frameworks. The co-incidence and correlation between near death experiences and out of the body or quasi religious experiences, is highly suggestive…as is the incidence of quasi spritual experiences in the deeply mentally disturbed, or brain damaged..

    Thirdly we have the hermit style transitions… isolation, sensory deprivation, and deliberate mental focussing on prayers and mantras or the simpler Buddhistic style meditations, can also it seems catapult the practitioner into realms that are also characterised by ‘less material, more spiritual’ …

    I make no claims for the valaidity of knowledge gleaned from these states beyond the simple fact that they exist as experiences, by the way. For me the utility of such experiences is not that they ‘prove’ some alternative ontology, but that they *disprove* the mundane conventional realistic one. To fall prey to the belief that they do otherwise is to exchange a stable safe and useful worldview for what may be a far less stable and far less safe one.

    In short, the caution here is not to plunge into cultism, to grab onto some ontology simply because it means freedom from fear and a feeling of personal strength…flying spagehtti monsters may be ultimately comforting, but they represent no more than a lateral shift in consciousness..the trick is to go beyond belief.

    And that entails something more deeply disturbing than the existence or nonexistence of any particular God..it entails the possibility of the noxexistence of the rational self, itself!

    Because as I noted earlier, that Self is merely a reflection – if you like the necessary complementary part – of having a phenomenal world of experience. To lose the phenomenal world as an *objective* relationship is to lose its *subject* also.

    The valid point here is that even if not retained as a coherent experience, it seems that mystics do report that this is a survivable transition. The ‘all is one, one is all’ experience is well documented.

    So yes, indeed, there is a vast field here, of practical techniques, ALL of which work, to some extent, to catapult the Self into both different Subject/Object relationships, and finally into no relationships whatsoever…and ultimately the key to unlocking them is not the Belief in an alternative relationship, but the DISbleief in relationship itself as an externally imposed immutable way to interact with ‘whatever is the case’ by ‘whatever it is that interacts’

    That the experience of loss of total loss of relationship is achievable and survivable, is , in itself, weird. One has to ask the question, as to what it is that survives to reasssemble a rational world, post hoc. It is for this reason that many thinkers who gave gone far afield have concluded that in addition to subject/object which represents the phenomenal world where Reason reigns, another arational element must in fact be considered to exist, and they generally call that something like Will. Will, it is said, is the foundation stone that replaces Belief, as the actual basis on which the world is spun. Belief then becomes a dim reflection of that effect.

    Where this leaves us, restricted as we must be to rational discourse in a phenomenal world, is with a dim and fuzzy approxamate concept of a world in which all that does exist is Will, the Will of the individual and the Will of the world itself. Or is that simply the Will of all other ‘individuals’? it’s meaningless to go further: One accepts that the tools of rationality are, in fact, broken beyond repair, at this point. All we can say is that the nest way to express the forces that shape the world is in terms of ‘intention to become’.

    Is it worth actually dealing with this Will in a more raw form than we do as phenomenal beings in a phenomenal world? Is the path of the mystic actually worth taking even the first step upon? I have no answer. Merely a few pointers along the road for those who find themselves along it.. 🙂

    So, the map of the transcendent becomes first of all relinquishing, or being forcibly stripped of, first of all an emotional commitment to the phenomenal elements of consciousness, and secondly relinquishing , or being forcibly stripped of, the implicit sense of self that insists on the reality of the Self and its creation, the Phenomenal world.

    Having done so one encounters Will. The rawer form of belief and reason that generates the Self/reality pair.

  5. Dr. Willy Holmes-Spoelder

    Frankasd’s reply to a comment of mine was: it was utterly confusing (my comment), and was he missing something (content).
    I came across this quite by accident, checking the Google search engine, about ranking and *freshness*,coming up in the Google searchengine.
    Today, Easter Saturday 2012 (7th April) it is and my comment was dated 30th October, 2011. FIVE wopping months later, and I found FRANKASD’s reaction.
    What does it have to do with *Metaphysics* even Popular Practical Metaphysics, this reaction? Nothing probably.
    Does this comment meet the Google standard of freshness? It should do, since it is a new bit of information.
    I read the article causing me to comment again, then what I had written and honestly: *who cares* was my reaction,about Metaphysics in all forms, shapes and variations.
    Sorry *old boy* (frankasd) if you got confused, I enjoyed writing my comment at the time, but today I did not have the patience, desire, wish to stop on this page at all actually, yet I did (out of curiosity).
    Life is for the living, is my current slogan. New life as always happens in the spring is uplifting spiritually. Renovating, painting and spring cleaning one’s house and the premises, getting rid of all cobwebs, including those inside your own self: a rewarding cleansing, DETOXING experience.
    It is all part of practical metaphysics, but not too *popular*, because it involves spending money, effort, energy on *doing something* leading to HEALTHY improvements.
    So *metaphysics* after all? Who cares, except I.

    METAPHYSICS: a branch of PHILOSOPHY, dealing with BASIS PRINCIPLES & *K*N*O*W*I*N*G*.

    And Frankasd, should you somehow come across these words of mine: just a bit of rubbish: just stick to what Metaphysics has been described it is – and once that has sunk in, i.e. *connected* somewhere in the brain: well,then AUTOMATICALLY everything someone gets confused about either connects, falls into place, or gets discarded as *waste* (trash).

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