Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Ways of Knowing

The following comes from the influential Kheper Website created by Alan Kazlev

(Different Methods for Figuring Out Reality)

Compass of ways of knowing:
Listed here are some different methods that can be used to arrive at an understanding of reality.
Science(experimental approach to the physical universe)
Philosophy(the abstract mind)
Rationalism/Scepticism (not accepting realities that are not immediately evident)
Religion (faith in divine revelation and social tradition)
Mysticism (experiences based on spiritual techniques)
Esotericism(intuitive speculation on cosmological world-views)
Occultism(using psycho-physical technigues to access hidden realities)
Gnosis (innate wisdom and understanding)
With any one of these alternatives, there are innumerable such possible metaphysical paradigms and world views, or ways of thinking about or understanding the nature of Reality.  And of course each person thinks that their chosen opinion is the right one.  But even the most treasured explanations have many shortcomings and internal contradictions.  So why should one be preferred over the others?  Why be a Christian rather than a Sceptic, or vice-versa?
We can conclude that use of a method does not guarantee that the understanding will be a correct one.  Each simply constitutes a different paradigm or meta-paradigm, some better, some worse.


Science in itself is simply an experimental method for understanding physical reality.  It works by offering hypotheses that can be falsified.  It is a superb methodology for understanding the physical universe, but not really very good for appreciating non-physical things.


Philosophy is a way to understand reality using the rational intellect alone.  There are many different philosophical explanations - here are only a few.
  • Materialism, or Physicalism,  is the opinion that only the physical is real, and the denial of all supra-physical or spiritual dimensions of existence.   It is usually associated with Rationalism and Scientism.  [Subcategories include Reductionism and Epiphenomenalism]
  • Dualism believes that both physical and spiritual are real and distinct.  {Sub-categories here are Cartesian Dualism and Platonism (Soft Idealism)]
  • Holism, a compromise between Materialism and Dualism, asserts that both spirit and matter are real and interdependent.
  • Hard Idealism (Mentalism) is the opposite of Materialism - it denies the physical and only affirms the mental.
  • Subjective Idealism goes further and denies the existence of all otehr entities apart from oneself.
  • Pluralism adheres to the belief in a multiplicity of fundamental irriducable principles.
  • Monism in contrast claims that only the one Absolute Reality behind all phenomena (physical or spiritual) is real.

Religious (theological) explanations

  • Monotheism is the belief in a single supreme deity or "God" which is seperate from the world but which maintains a personel connection to His (rarely Her) creation.
  • Polytheism is the belief in a number of such personel deities
  • Kathenotheism says that there are many deities, but only worships one
  • Deism differs from Monotheism only in that the deity is distant and unconcerned with the needs of people.
  • Atheism denies the existence of any higher powers.
  • Agnosticism reserves judgment on the existence or non-existence of any higher poers.

Mystical & Yogic explanations

Mysticism and Yoga
  • Pantheism states that "God" is not different to the cosmos or nature.
  • Panentheism differs from Panthesim in that "God" both includes and transcends the universe.  It is more or less equivalent to Emanationism.
  • Acosmism is a form of monism that states that the universe is unreal; only the transcendent Absolute is real.
  • Theistic Monism is like panentheism except that it affirms that the one reality is personal in nature, or at least has a personal aspect.
  • Samkhyan-style (non-theistic) Dualism asserts the existence of two irreducable ontological principles - conscious purushas and nonconscious nature (prakriti)

Esoteric & Occult explanations

  • Manichaean-style Dualism asserts the existence of two warring and irreducable spiritual principles - Light and Darkness.
  • Emanationism teaches a chain of creation from an original source (A creates B, B creates C, etc), so that all phenomena are real, and constitute a specific sequence of manifestation from spiritual to material (the "Great Chain of Being").
  • Dramaturgism adds to Emanationism a dynamic temporal dimension by envisaging the cosmos or creation as a process of unfolding, usually proceeding from an original descent or Fall, through the present imperfect state to an eventual spiritual Redemption or transformation.


Sometimes one or more of these techniques are used together (e.g. philosophy and science, or science and religion, or science and mysticism).   Hence we have interdisciplinary approaches.
Triple Point - where science, religion, and philosophy meet Triple Point - Science, Religion and Philosophy
Laws of WisdomLAWS OF WISDOM - A Holistic Synthesis of Science and Religion - by R. C. L., J.D.- examines key laws from religions, esoteric traditions, psychology, and science.  Sources include Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Richard Wilhelm, Jean Houston, Charles Tart, Arnold Keyserling, Black Elk, Benoit Mandelbrot, and others.  The author, an experienced lawyer and researcher in these areas, applies the insights of legal analysis and clear thinking.
on-line essayThe Struggle between Christian Theism, Metaphysical Naturalism  and Relativism: how to proceed in science? by Jitse M. van der Meer  - a rather celebral (abstractly intellectual) on-line essay (at least I though so), but worth including because of the title alone  ;-)

Kheper index page
Topics index page
Paradigms main page

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