February 20, 2016
Some frequently used terms explained
Metaphysics and neuroscience. What exactly are they, and how do they relate to each other?
Here are some examples of dictionary definitions of the two words, but in the realm of personal development there’s a bit more to it than can be summed up in a single sentence.
Metaphysics: The philosophical study of being and knowing.
Neuroscience: The scientific study of the nervous system.
Metaphysics: real or imaginary?
‘Metaphysics’ can be viewed as those phenomena which fall outside the “laws” of the scientific method, particularly the laws of physics. For example you may assume that a God in all or any of its forms would fall into that category because, regardless of how many people believe in a God, science has yet to prove with empirical evidence that there is one.
The acceptance of a ‘Higher Power’ that was so pivotal in the recovery of millions of people from self-destructive addictive behaviour patterns could also be considered ‘metaphysical’ for the same reason. They believe it was instrumental in saving their lives, but conventional science would beg to differ. In fact there is a branch within a branch of science dedicated specifically to the study of how these people completely changed their mindset and were suddenly able to overcome a hitherto seemingly incurable condition. That branch of study falls under ‘Neuroscience’.
Neuroscience: do I need a scientific background to understand it?
No. ‘Neuroscience’, specifically with regard to personal development, encompasses areas like the new neural pathways built in the brain when you begin to form new habits. Neural pathways are, as the term ‘pathways’ implies, regularly ‘trodden’ routes taken between certain places.
Once these pathways have been established then unless you are making conscious decisions about your day to day actions, the subconscious takes over and you tend to do things the way you’ve always done them.
There was a time when you didn’t know how to put on a pair of socks, but eventually you learned and today you put on your socks just like you did yesterday, and I mean exactly like you put them on yesterday. It’s fair to assume you put your socks on one at a time, and I’m willing to bet that you put on your socks starting with the same foot as you always start with for the last 1000 or more times without even thinking about it.
Since you mastered the skill of putting on a pair of socks you have most likely put them on starting with the same foot every single time. The neural pathways involved in that activity are so well etched into your brain that putting them on starting with the other foot would feel most peculiar indeed.
Furthermore, there is a high chance that you start with the same foot that the person who showed you how to put on socks starts with. That is an inherited habit pattern and never was a decision you consciously made for yourself, and we will delve much deeper into ‘inherited beliefs’ and ‘paradigms’ elsewhere on the site as they are significant enough to deserve their own sections.
Different sides of the same coin?
Now somewhat controversially I would argue that for the purposes of personal development ‘neuroscience’ and ‘metaphysics’ are, in essence, the same thing. Bear with me and I’ll give you a scenario.
Imagine I have three new students. The first is into metaphysics in a big way, a real ‘Law of Attraction’ enthusiast (I shall dedicate plenty of time and space to that specific subject in other articles and areas of the site) who believes in an all-seeing benevolent Universe and some Grand Plan.
The second has degrees in biology, chemistry and physics, and would prefer things explained in scientific terms they can relate to.
The third has no strong beliefs either way and is only concerned with getting positive results from the lessons. I can teach all three of the students, singly or together, using exactly the same coursework and materials, for the same period, and by the time we are finished they will all have a healthy respect for each other’s point of view while still adhering to their own, and perhaps even have a deeper understanding of it.
The best part is they will all be reaping the benefits of what they learned without having to compromise their beliefs. Neither I nor the third student particularly care what the others believe. Whatever it takes to get you through the day! Nevertheless, what I teach and the way I teach it can be easily assimilated to run congruently with someone’s existing belief system, or none at all.
You don’t need to understand either to get going on your way!
I could, if I really wanted to, pick apart and explain much of someone’s beliefs in the metaphysical realm in terms of neuroscience, but I’d be the first to admit I simply can’t explain away all of it. I can’t and I wouldn’t want to because I myself have certain beliefs that came about as the result of the ‘miraculous’ events leading up to, and during, my sobriety.
I still talk to my own ‘Higher Power’ (or maybe just my Higher Self, it really doesn’t matter) morning and night and at other points during the day. I give daily thanks, and surely it helps to have somewhere to direct those thanks, wouldn’t you think?
That said, I don’t believe it is a prerequisite for starting out on the journey of personal development as there are plenty of proactive, practical steps to get you going on your way. It’s just that when you start feeling the urge to give thanks for how well things are going, you might feel a bit silly if you have nowhere even vaguely specific to offer them. That’s ok, later on there will be a more detailed explanation, with related resources, about that subject too.