I am sometimes asked, “What exactly is a metaphysician?”
My answer to this is that the term has several layers of meaning. I have not come across these layers parsed out in a cogent way, but I have spent considerable time in arriving at an answer that captures the various dimensions of meaning as I understand them.
Catherine Collautt, Ph.D. explains her work as a metaphysician thusly: “A metaphysician is a doctor/healer who makes changes in the physical world through metaphysical (i.e. decidedly not ‘physical’) principles. As a metaphysician, I work the principles of mind (and beyond) to create powerful and lasting change in peoples’ lives…I am a practicing philosopher and healer, a metaphysician in both senses of the word.”
Her explanation provides a good starting point to explore this topic further.
Wikipedia cites Metaphysics as a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world. From this philosophical perspective, a person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysicist or a metaphysician. This is straightforward and in philosophical terms pertains to the study of first principles, the fundamental principles underlying everything, i.e. the ultimate nature of the universe.
The Spiritual Arts Institute has a somewhat different definition:
Metaphysics, which literally means “that which comes after the physical,” is the study of the spiritual root of physical life. In this way, metaphysics shares similar goals with other noble studies such as general spirituality, theology, philosophy, mysticism, theosophy, and ontology. This sacred undertaking follows a global tradition that goes back to time immemorial and is making a strong resurgence in modern times.
To the metaphysician, we are immortal souls, seeds of the divine who are created and sustained in love by God. This is our true nature. It is our soul that gives us our life and our consciousness. To achieve its full power and splendor, each soul must go through the process of spiritual evolution, gradually maturing into a fully developed, divine being. (http://spiritualarts.org/about-us/what-is-metaphysics/)
The prefix “meta” is Greek in origin (μετά-) and means “after” or “beyond.” In this sense and applying this prefix to levels of meaning suggests something beyond a traditional physician. Used in this manner, a metaphysician would have a degree of understanding, training, and/or thinking that is higher, or in some way outside the boundaries of what is typically associated with being a physician.
Merriam-Webster defines “physician” as, “a skilled health-care professional trained and licensed to practice medicine.” In my own case, I am an internist, trained in Allopathic or typical Western medicine. My practical application in using the term” metaphysician” medically, captures my ongoing quest to understand the fundamental principles of health and healing across many different traditions, healing arts, and modalities. Western medicine approaches incorporate a valid, yet biased methodology to health, wellness, and healing. I have studied a variety of other approaches and see value and truth in many non-Western modalities. In this sense, I have gone beyond my traditional training.
Integral Theory has itself been referred to as a meta-theory, i.e. a theory about theories. A fundamental principle of integral approaches is that they transcend and include other philosophical and theoretical approaches into a higher order system. The German philosopher Hegel described a dialectic of opposing ideas as a thesis and an antithesis. Integral represents the synthesis of these opposing ideologies into a unified coherent framework representing a higher order of understanding.
Scientific and spiritual explanations about the nature of the universe represent a dialectic and are frequently viewed as irreconcilable approaches. Both are subsumed in an Integral framework that transcends and includes the truths inherent in both scientific and spiritual ideas and beliefs about life, the universe, etc. In this sense, an “Integralist,” such as myself, would also be a metaphysician.
I feel a sense of fellowship with Dr. Collaut in both her description and application of what it means to be a metaphysician. But for me, it goes beyond the philosophical and medical aspects she describes. There is a certain hubris in my being a self-proclaimed metaphysician; however, I use the term with humility. The term, as I have described it, rather elegantly incorporates some of what I have come to understand about myself. In this brief post, I have tried to capture the many levels of meaning that resonate for me and delineate several dimensions simultaneously encompassed in the term, “metaphysician.