Metaphysics is a term originally used by Aristotle, meta – means beyond, and it refers to the study of what comes after, or what goes beyond physics. It is therefore a science of the non-physical, energetic, and spiritual dimensions of life.
I am currently studying the metaphysics of Chinese energetic medicine (ancient Wu and Taoist teachings), Tantra, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
It is both confusing and enlightening to study these three systems at once. The language and systems they use seem to converge and harmonious ways at times, and at other times they seem to conflict or at least they discuss aspects which other systems make no mention of. Each system certainly has a great deal of information it propounds as true, and there is a certainty that comes from the depth and complexity of each respective system. Which is true? If each give different instructions on how to live, eat, pray, and die, which to follow?
In general, each system expounds an understanding of the nature of life and death, what this universe is, and by extension, what you are, and how each composite piece is related, and where it all came from.
At a fundamental level they propose a concept of unity, a source, an undifferentiated energy, be it the Dao, paramashiva, or any other name. From this ultimate undifferentiated creative energy there is a split, where one becomes two, which may be discussed as the taiji (yin and yang transformations) or Purusha (individual subject) and Prakriti (objective experience). There is then a further division into complexity often involving elements, some systems use four, or five depending on what they are discussing (note 5 elements in one system may not be the same 5 elements in another system).
It can be confusing to grasp each respective metaphysical understanding and hold multiple simultaneously, and yet, there is a beauty in this process. When the mind, more specifically my mind, attempts to understand complexities of seeming paradox the aspect of my mind, known as the intellect will become challenged. It is therapeutic to hit a point in ones thinking in which there is a seeming impasse in understanding.
To come against a mystery is a beautiful occurrence. It gives an opportunity for a deep insight to unfold. For insight is similar to solving a riddle, it’s often not a linear process of calculation, but rather there is often a point where the mind must restructure it’s very approach and its understanding of the question to explore a new pathway of knowing. When insight is viewed in the brain, there is a recruitment of entirely new brain areas coming online to help synthesize a new understanding.
The therapeutics of this process are similar to a Zen koan, which are riddles that are meant to be complex, like “what is the sound of one hand clapping”. A disciple is meant to sit with these absurd statements until a moment of satori or sudden realization (insight) hits them and restructures their understanding of the basic problem.
Life is this way. It is a Zen Koan. One can try and understand its metaphysics and they will run into a complexity, or a paradox, or a riddle. They won’t be able to solve in linearly or using the same intellect and understanding that they originally approached the seeming paradox with. One will have to surrender their current way of viewing the paradox and restructure their approach and synthesize additional pieces of their experience and knowledge to better understanding a way forward.
When there is a restructuring of a new understanding there is also self knowledge and growth that occurs. The growth that occurs from insight is not linear. It comes when an individual is willing to surrender their current way and find a new way.
My engagement in these studies of metaphysics is dual. There is a part of my being that desires to know…it seeks knowledge and understanding. And there is a part of me that seeks the great mystery, not merely for the insight that may ensue, but to come against the limitations of my knowing. For there are some things in life, such as death, love, and god which are eternal mysteries.
Anything that can be said or known about them is incomplete. That is why poet, philosopher, and all humans reflect on their nature from the beginning of time, and still there is no universal answers. Each moment of truth lasts for a time, to give a way forward, and then the great mystery is revealed again. Like peering deep into outer space, or peering into the atom, or peering into your own being.
It creates ‘awe’ in me. Awe being composed of one-part sublime amazement and another portion, pure terror. Like standing atop an erupting volcano, pure beauty beyond the senses capacity to take in, and a force capable of sheering the fragile spirit from the body.
Aho great mystery, knowable and unknowable.