Sunday Homily: What Is Metaphysics?

Medicine Wheel by  Ravynne Phelan ©

Medicine Wheel by Ravynne Phelan ©

The Physics of First Principles

In my book, Pagan Metaphysics 101, I share some of the basic foundations of thought behind Metaphysics as a philosophy. Recently I’ve delved into this topic with others who label their path as Metaphysical, but after discussion were not aware of the origins of Metaphysical thought. And in particular, that their views of a “Christ Consciousness” as the foundation of Metaphysics is actually a fairly new evolution of Metaphysical philosophy.

But is that concept accurate? Do these principles come from the essence of Christ teachings? Or are they based in older Pagan concepts? Or could they be even older than that?

The typical path by some I’ve had this discussion with is to start by complaining about yet another spiritual path taking from pagan origins and re-branding it. It’s not the first time nor will it probably be the last time others modify something to fit their views.

Nor is it the only instance of others trying to distance themselves from what has been known before and practiced by pagans long ago. Trying to get away from the “negative” or “dark” practices of paganism isn’t uncommon, even if it’s misconceived. But I don’t think complaining or trying to vilify others is an effective way of educating misconceptions.

Everyone has a right to evolve their thought and views. But it’s also important to remember and understand where those views originated or came from. What inspired them and who brought them into the context in the first place? That’s where I like to begin the journey of Metaphysics.

The Understood Origins of Metaphysics
Physics is the study of the observed world. What we can see, observe and determine from watching the reaction or interaction of tangible things. What most would label as the physical world.

Metaphysics is the study of the unseen world. That which we believe exists. The word “meta” means higher and beyond. Here we’re talking about the concepts beyond physics. Thus the understood meaning of metaphysics is that it’s the study of the world beyond physical observation. In this definition Metaphysics is a philosophy of physics that tries to solve the questions that material science cannot. It is the study of life beyond physics, between physical and spiritual observations. Where did we come from? Who are we? Why are we here?

But is this an accurate understanding? Well that depends on how far back you go in history and view the research associated with the philosophy.

Aristotle by Lysippus,

Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippus, c. 330 BCE.

Greek Philosopher Aristotle is credited with being the Father of Metaphysics, because he authored works about physics and then work about what was understood and known about ideas beyond physics. Known today as Metaphysics.

As with many things in ancient history, what actually happened and what has become known are sometimes a little blurred. Aristotle didn’t call these books “Metaphysics”, he referred to them as “first philosophy.” The editor of Aristotle’s works placed his books in what he thought was an order of progression, Physics and then First Philosophy. It was Latin Scholars who misinterpreted this as the physics beyond physics and labeled these works as “Metaphysics”.

As a name, we can give credit to Aristotle, even though the Latin’s got it wrong. Because it was his writing and his concepts that gave form to the ideas for western cultures.

So that’s the name.  But what about the concepts. Aristotle stated that these ideas and thoughts came from others before him.
“Aristotle himself credited earlier philosophers with dealing with metaphysical questions. The first known philosopher, according to Aristotle, is Thales of Miletus, who taught that all things derive from a single first cause or Arche (Greek word with primary senses ‘beginning’, ‘origin’ or ‘first cause’).” ~ Wikipedia: Metaphysics

Right here we need to take a moment to remember that in Aristotle’s time and in the time of his earlier teachers and their heritage, the Greeks were Pagan. They worshiped a pantheon of Greek Gods, honored the change of the seasons, and employed various magik, insight and oracle/psychic professions as part of their every day lives, along with their spiritual concepts and understandings.

They did not honor or adhere to Abrahamic doctrine. So, no Christ Consciousness would be found here. But does that make Metaphysics a pagan philosophy?

Greek Metaphysics
The Greeks viewed the world as Particulars and Universals. Particulars are tangible things. An apple, a chair, a basket of apples on a chair. Each of these things have size, color, shape, and other attributes we associate with being physical things. Universals are abstract, love, relationships, thoughts, even the number 3 is an abstract thing. What gives 3 its meaning, is it’s association or relationship to a Particular. 3 apples in a basket. By itself 3 is nothingness.

Aristotle's Theory of Causality

Aristotle’s Theory of Causality

If we put this concept into a philosophical context think of it this way. Who am I? What is a soul? What is my purpose? These questions have little meaning if they are not related to something, such as the physical being. Then they take on some significant implications. Who am I in “particular”? What is my soul and what is our combined purposed (my physical existence and my soul) here on Earth?

Global Metaphysics
Now take a modern step back and look at all the history books we know about today. They would fill a huge library that would inspire awe within these early Greek philosophers and teachers. But they give us in the present, an ability to see the world and its history in a way the ancients were not able to view. They viewed the world by what they knew existed in their time. What was in the observed known world…to them.

That’s a key point to modern Metaphysics. We know there were other cultures in the world and that they too held their own perspectives of existence and it’s relationship to life, spirit and first principles. These were not concepts created by the Greeks alone or within a vacuum.

In fact there is academic and archeological evidence that many Greek philosophers traveled through the known world in their day as part of their education. To put into practice what they had learned at their University. They also met others who had traveled long distances and explored new lands. They talked with others in those new lands who had traveled farther and beyond the then known boarders. And those people brought back and shared information from other cultures.

Many of these expeditions to far off lands and cultures were not made by researchers or educated explorers intent on documenting what they found, where they found it and the details behind their discoveries. They were uneducated, illiterate sailors and slaves of merchant ships who were simply telling their experiences and stories of their last voyage. Their learning was oral and shared to entertain or to pass the time. Of course sometimes the imagination played a role to help the story-teller improve their situation. Perhaps a good tale would be rewarded with an extra loaf of bread, or an easier position of servitude.

Earth by Bill Frymier

Earth by Bill Frymier

So while we can’t point to myths and legends as factual historical events, many anthropological and archeological researchers agree there is some truth hidden in these types of stories. They’re worth paying attention to, even if they’re only used as clues that take you to other resources to search and investigate for facts. And that’s what we want to do with this part of our tale.

Plato employed this technique when he wrote his stories of Atlantis. He based his account on the stories of travelers and merchant vessels to document the far off land. In doing so, he gave us a glimpse of how these concepts of first principles were not unique to the Greeks. Other people from other lands were also asking these same questions. Where did we come from? Who were they? And what meaning do they have to the world?

This tells us that the basic principles of what we call Metaphysics, is actually Universal. It also tells us, these principles aren’t Christian, New Age, New Thought or any other spiritual or religious path. Not even Pagan. They are as basic as human thought. They are part of nature and evolution itself.

Practical Metaphysics
How each culture selected to answer those questions isn’t all that different either, but that’s where we can see the divergence of ideas. How we put concepts into practice, is where we begin to spread our wings and walk our own path.

There are in general, four perspectives of Life Cycle science. Pagans, such as the Greeks, Celts and various Shamanistic cultures follow the view of reincarnation. You live, you die, you become spirit, you are reborn and live again. You do so to attain enlightenment until you become one with Divine Consciousness. A slight generalization to simplify the description of our categorization. But bear with me.

Within the eastern cultures, such as those drawn to Hinduism, the concept behind Life Cycle science is one of Transmigration. The Soul-Mind leaves the physical body upon death and immediately enters another body according to past behavior and spiritual needs. There isn’t a moment of spiritual existence or embodiment. The transmigration of the soul from one to the other is instant.

In cultures that are drawn to Buddhist perspectives, this concept is one of Rebirth. Rebirth is the evolving consciousness upon death becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation. The consciousness in the new person is neither identical nor entirely different from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream.

Finally in middle eastern Abrahamic cultures, the Life Cycle science is based on life, death and spiritual existence in a Divine realm. Preferably one linked to Heaven and not Hell.

In each of these, the purpose of the spirit is to move forward toward evolution and enlightenment . Whither that evolution occurs over lifetimes, or through one life, the ultimate goal is to unite with that Divine consciousness in whatever form it takes for that belief system.

Earth by Koya979 at Shutterstock

Earth by Koya979 at Shutterstock

Who are we and what are we here for, is part of each of these concepts. Your karma, sin or some other word that means the same thing, determines your progression through life and the consequences that befall you  after the physical ends. Your evolution to enlightenment is tied to your physical existence, how you act, respond and treat others, yourself and the world around you. It all comes down to, living the best life you can, with kindness, compassion and love in order to move forward to a better existence.

Put this way, we can see how we are all much more a like in our views of spirit and spiritual matters than we are different. We have all built our concepts and practices on the foundation of natures First Principle questions. You can label those questions Metaphysical, but doing so is a disservice to those people who came long before the titles. Long before the teachings of Christ, Abraham and even the Pagans of Egypt, Rome, Greece and beyond.

These are principles of Nature. They are within each of us. They are not specific to any one path. And they join us all together, regardless of what path we follow today, or where we came from yesterday.

As the Dalai Lama once said:
I describe myself as a simple Buddhist monk. No more, no less. And I am one of the seven billion human being. Basically we are the same… your emotion, my emotion, your mind, my mind.., same physical. So I always look [at it] that way. We are the same.”  04/2012 Dalai Lama

Indeed we are the same. We each walk the path of trying to understand and implement First Principle concepts. We all walk the path of Metaphysics.

Many Blessings,
Springwolf 🐾

Additional Reading:


© Springwolfs Hanko

© 2014 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Homily: What Is Metaphysics?

  1. Thank you for your reflection. I need to apologize for sharing things on my facebook page not realizing the postings to your page. Please accept my apology.

    sincerely Best Wishes,

    Teresa Kilpatrick

    Sent from Windows Mail

    • Teresa,

      I share the posts on FB and other social media networks so people can share them. Not only to share the information, but it’s good marketing too. I’m honored you think my posts are good enough to share. Please feel free to continue to do so. I appreciateit.

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