Sunday Homily: Theology vs. Metaphysics

graduating wolf

The Academic Perspectives

The Labels We Use

People today don’t use their words as carefully as they should, or in my view, as much as they used to. Words have specific meanings because we need a shared commonality of perspectives within our speech in order to properly communicate and understand each other.

Today people put their own twist on words to mean what “they” think it should mean and that can distort that common understanding. Wars have begun this way.

That concept is one of the main reasons I’m really big on academic definitions of words, especially when writing. But sometimes it’s not enough to know the dictionary definition, but also where and how the word was first used.

Words evolve over time and new “slang” meanings are created as a result. Understandable. But some words mean exactly and only what they are or were originally defined as.

This week a fellow Minister posted an interesting thread about being introduced as a Theologian instead of a Metaphysician. Which brought up a discussion of the meaning of these words.

Rev. Robert shared this:
Theology is the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe. It is the study of divine things or religious truth; divinity. Theology has been called a Divine Science that is separate from organized religion or religious dogma. It focuses on understanding God and the many different forms used by man to explain how God interacts with all creation and humanity.

Metaphysics has been called a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being. But it is more than a philosophy, it is a search for truth, a Divine Science seeking to understand God and the workings of the Universe. Like Theology, it has been referred to as the Queen of all Sciences.

To me this description of Metaphysics is from a Christianized, Unitarian or New Thought perspective. It’s also one that I cannot connect with. So off to the dictionary.

The dictionary meaning as it is described by Aristotle’s writings defines Metaphysics as dealing with first principles, the relation of universals to particulars, and the teleological doctrine of causation. Where teleological is the philosophical doctrine that final causes, design, and purpose exist in nature. There is a first principle and a final cause to all things seen and unseen throughout the nature of the Universe.

Metaphysics:
– The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space. – Oxford Dictionary

I often describe Metaphysics as the study of first principles of the unseen Universe as a compliment to the study of physics. It is not in opposition to science and does not put forth its findings or results from the perspective of spiritual knowledge or understanding.

From this perspective, Metaphysics is not a study of any branch of religious view or perspective. It does not study an influence or connection to a God or Gods, but rather it’s a study of the scientific nature of all things from start to final cause.

Where as Theology is the study of spiritual perspectives, both in formal religion and in a broad view of spirituality. Today many people claim they are Spiritual, but not religious. Theology includes both formal doctrine (religion) and eclectic (spiritual) views.

Theology:
– The study of the nature of God and religious belief.- Oxford Dictionary
– the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity. – Dictionary.com

By this view, I’m both a Metaphysican and a Theologian. I make the effort to learn about all religions that cross my path to gain an understanding of the world in which I live in. But I also study topics that I’m interested in to learn more about my own spiritual path and beliefs. Especially when those interests come from a scientific examination of those beliefs. Modern science is not an enemy of spiritual beliefs, unless you’re unwilling to evolve your thoughts and views. Paganism works to expand our knowledge and our beliefs are often enhanced by scientific knowledge.

For instance, as someone who believes in reincarnation I found it very interesting when modern science proved that energy never dies. It fades, changes form and rejuvenates (or reincarnates).

As a member of the International Metaphysical Ministry, the teachings of Dr. Paul Masters holds a special meaning to students of modern metaphysics. Another minister in our group pointed out that he describes his teachings as “Theocentric Metaphysics” and that would make us “Theocentric Metaphysicians”. – Rev. Marla.

Theocentric:
having God as the focal point of attentionOxford Dictionary

The tenets of theocentrism, such as humility, respect, moderation, selflessness, and mindfulness, can lend themselves towards a form of environmentalism. It is a focus on the totality of the divine in the aspect of the godhead (God, Father, Holy Spirit) instead of a single aspect of that trinity.

Theocentricism is the belief that God is the central aspect to our existence, as opposed to, for instance, anthropocentrism (centers upon man) or existentialism (centers upon the experience of existence). – Wikipedia: Theocentric

The word was first used in 1885 by a priest who attempted to describe how people moved away from the “complete” view of Divine Spirit and began focusing on only one aspect, the aspect of Jesus. So this too is a view of religious philosophy from the Christianized, New Thought, Unitarian perspective.

I like the tenets of theocentrism. But these aspects can exist on any spiritual path, or on any path at all without a spiritual or religious perspective.

Humility is especially important for those who teach, no matter the topic or subject. I think it’s especially true for spiritual teachers. All this stuff we share, study and research is not new information. We didn’t create it, it has been known for centuries around the world. And this knowledge is held within each and every person, some simply haven’t remembered that they know it. There’s no need to take credit for helping someone open that knowledge within themselves. Yet I know many ministers/teachers who do exactly that.

Don’t thank me when you have an “ah-ha” moment; thank yourself. I’m only a guide that points in one direction or another. It’s up to you to see and comprehend. And from that, it’s your choice to learn what you already know and open that folder of knowledge within yourself or not. I have no control over that, so why should I take credit for your learning or understanding?

Respect for all things, seen and unseen throughout the Divine Universe is a primary tenet for modern Pagans. What can be hard is showing respect for those people, or things one doesn’t agree with. It’s ok not to hold the same perspectives as someone else, but at the very least respect their right to hold their view. Even if that view is bat shit insane. Respect means holding Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their feelings or views. But try to react and respond to their view with respect.

Moderation is a huge part of balance. Too much of anything isn’t good for you. Anytime we swing the pendulum from the middle we are allowing our inner ego to overshadow our perspective. In Pagan Metaphysics we see the purpose of our missions or lessons in life as an exercise in learning balance. We come here to balance our knowledge, experiences, karma and understandings. Through this process we learn and can attain enlightenment. Moderation is a major key to gaining balance in all things.

Selflessness is a word I have a problem with. It serves no one for us give of ourselves without regard to our own self interests. Which is what selflessness is it is having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish. There’s no balance in that type of action. We can be compassionate and caring for others and still hold respect and concern for ourselves. It shouldn’t mean giving someone the shirt off your back when it’s the last shirt you have.  For pagans this is an unbalanced view that holds everyone else up to a higher value or worth than we hold ourselves. And that’s not a good view for anyone.

Now of course as living breathing people we point to extremes when discussing concepts like this. What about the mother who selflessly puts herself in harm’s way to save her child. You could easily change out that word “selflessly” with “noble” as in having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals. A mother sacrifices herself not for selfless reasons, but out of unconditional compassionate love. A very noble action.

Mindfulness, is also a big one with pagans. What we think, say and do all have consequences and create energy. If you’re sitting at work and see someone you don’t care for walk across the floor what you think of that person creates energy that manifests in some way in the world around you. The very thought that “oh there’s that bitch, I hope she doesn’t come over here” is enough negativity that it adds to your other thoughts of that person over time and builds up blocks that will manifest in your life on a physical level. What you think creates how you feel, emotionally and physically. So thinking negative about someone, whither or not you think they deserve it, will create backlash within you and your world.

Each of these perspectives can be attained without any form of reference to a Divine force. It’s inclusive and doesn’t segregate any religion or philosophy from any other. We all want to feel included, part of something or connected to something. As incarnated humans we don’t like feeling alone or pushed aside.

What you call yourself is entirely up to you. But you may want to examine the words or labels you use in order to promote understanding. You can call yourself an orange as far as I’m concerned, but is that going to identify your views or perspectives to others?

Those who are working toward a path of leadership, no matter what that may be, should take time to examine all avenues and perspectives of their title or label. Those words will be a representation of who you are and what you’re about to those you communicate with in any medium. It’s your calling card, your introduction and it will form the first impression of you by those who cross your path. And one you want to be proud to hold.

 

© Springwolfs Hanko

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

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